Havana, Cuba

February was a whirlwind of traveling: three cities, two different travel companions, two beaches, in only in seven days! I sipped on frothy butter beer in Diagon Alley with other aspiring wizards in Orlando, Florida. From there we rented a car and experienced my first toll plaza and turnpike as we cruised cruised down to Miami. We witnessed a beautiful wedding for our Seattle friend, worked on our vitamin D, and got up close and personal with an iguana. From South Beach, I parted ways with those friends to meet up with another buddy on foreign soil in Havana, Cuba.

Havana nights, y’all? $3 mojitos are cheaper than the water, so ensure you’re properly hydrated before you’re arrival, if you catch my drift…

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My hometown friend flew across the country on a whim to explore Havana with me for only the weekend!

In hindsight, ALWAYS book more time than you think you need, we needed many more days to do it all, but better to leave wanting more than overstay our welcome?

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This Seattle girl hadn’t seen sun in over 3 months, it’d been so long that I almost forgot items you need for sunny days, i.e. SUNGLASSES. I whipped those bad boys out for the first time in 6 months and happily glued them to my face. 

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Seeing the sunshine was like seeing the world in color for the first time or a child admiring their first crab on a beach. Feeling the sun beating down on our shoulders in the afternoon after months of stale grey weather was pure bliss.

 

MONEY
Havana is only a 50 min hop from Miami and you can buy your visa at the gate. Bring all cash, as Havana is a cash economy. 

Beware! 

Once you run out of cash you are out of luck and better start washing dishes to earn your ride home. Bring extra.

INTERNET
Wifi is essentially non-existent in Cuba. They have unmarked wi-fi plazas, you’ll know you’ve found one when dozens of tourists and locals alike are: facetiming; skyping, reading news, or talking on the phone in a middle of the street. Thomas and I both felt that the forced disconnection from the rest of the world was a highlight of the trip. How often are you REQUIRED to be present because you’re left with no other option? Never.

Our phones were only used for offline translation, photography, music, notes, and calculations. Whatever else was happening in the world did not matter because we couldn’t respond or take any action, entirely stress free, that feeling is priceless.

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LANGUAGE
My Spanish is arguable rusty. Communicating with our AirBnB host was a challenge and we learned a few phrases along the way. Although she spoke 0 English, she laughed about the language barrier,

“Ellas español egual mi ingles” 

There are places to stay that do offer English speaking hosts, but we were looking for authenticity on a budget. It was perfect, we ordered breakfast every morning and had a surprise egg variation thanks to our miscommunications. (We’d do it again)

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Most Memorable Sight
The fort (Castillo de San Carlos de la Cabana)! Once we deciphered from our host that there is not boat (we later learned, yes, there perhaps is a boat) to the other side of the water we planned our day around this attraction. We planned to watch the cannonball firing reenactment that night. 

This was worth the trip! 

We arrived just as the rain poured, but luckily, cleared out as the reenactment began, 9:00 P.M. on the dot.

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I stood on the ledge of this fort, but knowing my reaction to loud noises, one misstep i’d be off the ledge and a few hundred feet. I repositioned myself in the crowd to watch the firing.

Highly recommended! 

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We also stopped at the revolutionary museum, swung by the Rum Distillery, attempted to club at the Art Factory, and enjoyed many delicious meals.

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Book your flights! Tour Cuba before it changes (for the better) and enjoy a tech free vacation.

WTF Does Ethiopian

Where’s The Food Club (WTF) is back for round 2!

This week the winning cuisine vote went to Ethiopian, we threw a dart and Yelp suggested Ras Dashen. 57 reviews, one $ out of five, and a solid 4.5 stars provided the group confidence that this restaurant would meet our “high” expectations. Not two minutes into our reservation a friend asks the general group, “So, this is like Indian food, right?” (We obviously do our research beforehand). This guide, by the Houston Press, provides great background information for your first Ethiopian dining experience.  I wish prior to dining I’d known what the Injera (bread) was and why we used it as our utensil.

The Injera is made from Teff flour, it’s naturally gluten free and provides high levels of iron, , fiber, and calcium, and it’s almost a complete protein. The Ethiopian culture is onto something, health benefits from your utensil AND no silverware to wash after dinner. I was wary beforehand, but count me as an injera convert.

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To make things easy on our dining staff we ordered 3 large combination platters that included meat and vegetables and a round of appetizers. Our platters included cuts of lean beef or chicken cooked in Ethiopian butter, with onions, peppers, jalapeños, and herbs, and a variety of sautéed greens We also sampled all of the lentils that were seasoned in garlic, ginger, and herbs.  I wish I could tell you in detail what was spicy or had great texture, but the beauty of family style is the fact you have NO idea, and you’ve just gotta go for it.

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We tried to fit our leftovers in a single to-go box with little success the first try.

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10/10. Would go back. Much like. Staff be fun.

 

 

DTFWTF

When your friends start a food club, (Where’sTheFood?) it seems like an appropriate time to return from a blogging hiatus.

The inaugural event took place at a local dumpling house, Din Thai Fung, commonly known to locals as DTF. Please, don’t mix that abbreviation with any others that may appear in UrbanDictionary.com. If you’d like your potential tinder dates to know you enjoy DTF, you should spell it out, “I enjoy boating, coffee, and Din Thai Fung.” It could easily be misinterpreted for the wrong acronym in that situation. I’ve diverged from our topic, back to the food club update.

Our group was a mix of seasoned dumpling eaters and those that enjoyed their first dumpling experience. The lucky waiter assigned our table was in great spirits to be serving a table of 8 at 8:30pm. This was also fortunate for us, as we were the rowdiest table in the room. “When I say Sake, you say BOMB!”

“SAKE”

“BOMB”

“SAKE”

“BOMB”

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Simultaneously, the table slammed SakeBombs and drowned the table in spilled water glasses and dropped forks.

Our waiter, returned, cheered on the team, and provided us a fresh set of everything fallen or drenched.

Dumplings arrived within 10 minutes of our drinks. Piping hot stir fried rice, vegetables, and a variety pork dumplings covered our table and we persevered, but soon hit our limit. Those little dough balls are deceiving, the expansion rate must be two fold, it’s amazing how fast they fill you up.

If you’re ever to visit DTF or any dumpling house, I recommend dining with at least three friends. This give you a chance to order a larger variety and experience more of the menu in a visit. And, make sure you do sake bombs.

Our food club “WTF” Rating:

14/10. “Would go back.” “Great Sake.” “Much Like.”

 

 

 

‘Tis The Season: Weekend Review

It’s December 4th and the holiday season is in FULL swing here at “The Penthouse.”December is my favorite month of the year. This is solely based on the fact that it’s encouraged to wear huge comfortable sweaters to parties. These sweaters are generally of the “ugly” variety, and lighting candles every night is more socially acceptable. The melting wax fills our apartment with cinnamon and cedar aromas to help us fully embrace the cozy holiday vibe.

This past weekend was packed to the brim with activity. I’m sure if I wasn’t able to fit another holiday activity in this month, I’d be content with the last couple of days.

Friday night was spent watching an amateur hockey match with friends (ok, not at all festive). I drank a hot toddy that evening and that has Winter written all over it,  I’d call that festive, right?img_0615

The next morning I picked up an americano with a splash of eggnog and spent all afternoon hunting for the perfect Douglas Fir to act as our Christmas tree. We drove to  two different U-Cuts outside of King County before we found a decently priced tree. 6′ and $37 seemed like a steal after a defeat from the first tree farm. Can you believe people will pay $80-$95 for a tree every year? I LOVE Christmas decorations, but you have to draw the line somewhere.

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We drove home and I rushed to throw dinner together before I met up with other friend’s for the ballet. We dolled ourselves up and Ubered down to the Pacific Northwest Ballet. Watching the dancers glide across the stage made me miss my ballet days. It’s amazing how much more appreciative I am about about the work and technique after having experienced it myself. If I had all the time in the world, I’d love to get back out and twirl around on my toes, someday! We finished the night obligatory pictures in from the the PNW Ballet’s Christmas tree, a hot toddy, and in bed by 12:00.

 

The afternoon was spent at my friend’s choral performance. She’s apart of a community audition choir, it’s all ages and all members have had a large amount of choral experience in their life. Needless to say, they filled the room with beautiful rich tones. Though, most of it was in Latin. Who knows what they were saying, but it sounded great.

To cap off the weekend my roommate and I finished putting up the tree. The tree stand struggle is real. How many 26 year old’s does it take to successfully put up a tree?  Answer: Only 1 if you read the directions correctly the first time, but a couple hours and 2 girls if you neglect the directions…live and learn?

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And now it’s time to hustle. It’s Monday and time to put on pants that aren’t intended for yoga and hopefully pack a lunch.

Cheers!

Time Flies

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Time flies when you don’t write anything!

I’d love to do a recap post, but how to condense an entire year into a few hundred words is beyond me. Instead, I’ll provide a couple of bulleted highlights and move forward with my year and plans to blog. Always look forward and don’t look back, right?

  • I turned 26 and went indoor sky diving.
  • Adopted a cat and I call her Poppy (Popstart, Popstar, or Pops)
  • Ran Ragnar NWP again this year
  • Vacationed in: Hawaii, NY, New Orleans, and Crater Lake

I’m sure there were other notables from the year and maybe I’ll  later rediscover pictures to share. Until then, why don’t we start with, “Hello, nice to see you again.”

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Cheers,

Michelle

Day in the Life #1

Everyday is different, but this is a glimpse into last Wednesday.

7:00 Alarm #1. Roll over, turn on light, turn on coffee, scroll through email and instagram.

7:30 Make lunch, “bake” Shakeology protein pancake for breakfast, fill water bottle, and turn off lights in the apartment.

7:40 Slip on shoes and out the door with breakfast, work clothing, and lunch packed.

8:00 Arrive at office gym and tuck my life backpack into a locker. It’s a “sunny” Seattle day and I head out for 3 miles along the waterfront.

 8:45 Shower and head upstairs to my desk by 9:01. I always make it to my desk in a more timely fashion when I workout in the morning. I say hello to the only other 2 currently at work.

9-11 Eat breakfast, answer emails, prep devices to ship to our next conference.
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11:00 Snack on almonds and visit our upstairs helpdesk to unlock my account.

12:30-1:45 Head out for a rare lunch outing with co-workers. I hit my step count before 1pm (And for the first time in a week!)

2-5 Work, work work

5:20 Start walking home in a hurry to buy last minute supplies for my painting class. Snack on an Oreo filled donut and jerky (weird, yes).Oreo-doughnut-top

5:50-6:40 Drive, sit in traffic, take wrong turn, park, and arrive to painting class ontime 10 min late. Thankfully, the parking attendant was precise with directions and I found the building fast.

6:40-9:00 Join two friends as we learn to blend landscapes and colors this week. One of my friends is incredibly talented and may as well be a pro, we joke we’ll pay for lessons in glasses of vino.IMG_5260

9:30 Eat dinner using my free Chipotle coupon! Burrito bowl FTW! I went the sofrita/carnita route with lettuce, rice, veggies, salsa and no guac because they had already sold out.
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9:45 Pick up stuff from my boyfriend’s and then head home to pack for a weekend in Whistler with friends. I’ve only snowboarded once in my life, so I’m opting for 1 of 3 days boarding.

11pm Pack and eat chocolate leftover from my Hawaii trip. Swap out clothes from the suitcase that I’m repacking for Whistler.

12:30 Go to bed FAR later than usual. Lights out!

Currently: Typing this in front of the fireplace in Whistler.

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Cheers!
Michelle

Long Flight Travel Tips

Flights are long, even the short 2- 2.5 hour flights can seem long if you aren’t prepared. Every person travels differently and has different needs to meet, but one thing we all agree on are the need for entertainment and snacks.

I spent 6 hours in flight from Seattle to Honolulu last week and had to adequately prepare to entertain myself for the duration.
Traveling with a companion is always my preference, but more often than not I’m flying solo in coach class.

This week I packed enough snacks to act as lunch enroute to Honolulu.

Beef or Turkey jerky, an apple, mixed nuts, and chopped veggies, and a Luna Bar for my departure. Pictured below are a few goodies leftover from my departure and a couple new items.

New Snack Find Alert!
Somersaults Dutch Cocoa are nut free, full of fiber, protein, and low sugar. A couple small handfuls of these baby bites will quiet a growling stomach and keep your energy level.

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When I don’t plan/pack snacks I opt for the Mediterranean Picnic Pack.
Hummus, dark chocolate, and olives are my jam.

Pre-download Music, Podcasts, and Movies.
Currently I’m listening to
Boss Girl Creative
Grammar Girl
This American Life
Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me

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Always test your downloads without wifi!

Entertainment:
Books: If you’re a reader books can draw you in and help to pass the time
Notebooks: Draw, doodle, write
Sleep: Sleeping is never the most comfortable on a flight, but a few zzz’s are a nice way to rejuvenate

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Traveling without a companion I’ll often times still get to know my seat mate, but rarely do we talk for the flight duration. It’s always interesting to hear someone’s story, where they’re from, going, and the in between.

Spark Notes Version:

  • Pack Snacks!
    • Include fresh food with your chips/cookies!
      Suggestions:Apples, berries, carrots, snap peas
  • Entertainment!
    • Podcasts, Movies, Music (pre-download and TEST!)
    • Books 
    • Sudoku, word searches
    • Notebooks for writing or sketching

Finally, if you want to do some last minute work, your tray table can be a temporary cubicle.I  don’t endorse this idea, but better to work on the plane than during vacation.

Happy Travels.

Cheers,
    Michelle

Week in Review

Week in Review: 1/18-1/24

The longest weeks seem to be the weeks that are only four days long. I took PTO Monday and stayed with my friend an extra day in LA. I returned to work Tuesday with back to back meetings and more deadlines than anticipated, but busy days make work fly!

 

Monday: Travel Day
Tuesday: TIU booty workout + BADI -trade work training
Wednesday: BADI -trade work training
Thursday: 1.5 mile walk and walking around town
Friday: Upper-body lifting session
Saturday: 4 wet miles around SLU: training run
Sunday: BADI
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BADI is my favorite workout class, it’s the kind of class that doesn’t feel like you’re working out. It’s technically a “transformational movement class,” but I call it a pop and oldies Zumba class. Look for an in-depth review of BADI in the the near future.

 

Saturday night my friend and I spent time in our old college town visiting a friend, and revisiting our old favorite restaurants. The Red Hot  “Craft beer. Hot Dogs. No Jerks” They serve hot dogs/sausages for both plant based and meat eaters, these dogs are uhhhhMAZING. I always fancy a Tacoma dog (based upon the original Chicago dogs) or a Rajin’ Cajun (spicy andouille sauce, bbq sauce, southern style slaw and onions). No matter what you choose, you can’t go wrong.

 

The Red Hot has grown from a small bar of a mere 6 tables and a 7 barstools, to a new location of ~13 tables, and triple the bar seating capacity.  It’s a seat yourself style establishment, so I recommend perfecting your “scout, hover, and swoop in” to secure a table when you head here for a beer or hotdog. It’s a relaxed atmosphere that draws the afterwork crowd and college students alike. This food stop is a must-visit on your next trip through Tacoma.

 

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My friends and I bounced between two other bars after fueling up on hotdogs. We sampled a few beers, or in my case a “Not Your Dad’s Root Beer” hard root beer. We played a few bar games and called it a night around 11:30pm because staying up past 11pm has become difficult nowadays.

 

Here’s to one more full week of craziness at work and then 6 days off in Hawaii.

 

Are you a traditional hot dog eater?
Or do you prefer all the bells and whistles on your dog?

 

Cheers!
Michelle

Hello, from the other side!

Hello, Hello, Hello! I’m so glad you found me at my new home!

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Tacoma Aroma Eats.wordpress still exists, but I was ready for something fresh. It will be nice to take an occasional walk down memory lane and view my college adventures, but it’s a new chapter of life. 25, ya know? Time to move onwards and upwards at my quarter century mark.

I’m still tinkering with the overall layout, but I’m thrilled to have you join me on this “new” adventure.