Thursday, May 21, 2009

Welcome back, Java!

Boy, I miss food.

You see, my doctor took it all away when I came down with bad stomach problems last year. Seems my penchant for ridiculously hot Buffalo wings with a French fried chaser has left some holes in my digestive tract. Sigh.

I’m on the world’s worst bland diet, like plain rice, saltines and apple juice. And while he has slowly allowed me to let some things back into my culinary repertoire, all the good stuff is still a no-no. Like anything spicy, fried, fatty, breaded, rich, covered in cream sauce, doused in chocolate, caffeine-laden, or, God forbid, having any alcohol content.

You know, all the things that make life worth living.

The worst thing was no more coffee. I sat bolt upright up on the table for that little announcement. Are you kidding me? No coffee?! I’m a writer, for Pete’s sake, and a third shift paramedic. A nightcrawler by all description. He could have just taken away, oh, I don’t know … oxygen maybe.

I tried to be good. But it’s so very hard.

So I actually got up and danced a jig this week when I got reluctant permission from the doc to enjoy one 8 oz cup of java per day. Look out world. The problem is, I have been deprived from that smooth, silky, wonderful goodness for so long that now all coffee tastes just plain ordinary to me.

The mission begins. I’m on the hunt for Tampa Bay’s best local cup of coffee (NOT Starbucks or D&Ds). I’m talking all the little book nooks, cafes, diners and roach coaches. Even your Aunt Edna’s living room. Bring it on!

So, fellow local shop-a-holics, pepper me with your suggestions! I’m taking a coffee tour of this great area no holds barred and taking no prisoners.

Whether the doc likes it or not.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

There's no place like home

Ah, summer. Backyard barbecues, Clearwater Beach traffic, ten-minute afternoon thunderstorms, and the dreaded family vacation.

The kids will be out of school soon and itching for something to do. So upon us once again are the months when families plan a trip to one locale or another, cram three weeks’ worth of activities into seven days, blow their entire savings, and come home needing a vacation from their vacation.

The last one we took brought us clear to Tennessee, with dreams of mountains and lakes and cabins. One look at the brochure, and we loaded everybody up in a van and headed out on the open road. I mean everybody. My in-laws, my huge, angry husband, his brother and sister-in-law, the children and all the dogs. In a van. On the highway.

These things always sound like a better idea than they actually are.

We drove an ungodly amount of hours and spent a couple thousand dollars to sit in a tiny cabin that wasn’t ours (sans air conditioning) in the Land of No Cell Phone Signal. We expected to be imbued with the beauty of nature. Instead, there were fights, mosquitoes, and a rental boat no one knew how to operate. By Day Three, I tried to get in a cab to go to the closest airport to fly home.

And we were broke at week’s end.

In the face of the Great Recession of late, I find it hard to believe families can afford to take off for a little R & R. There has to be another alternative.

What about a vacation at home? A “stay-cation?” Seriously. Follow me on this for a minute. It’s possible to create a getaway experience at home, still do a ton of activities and not break the bank:

1. Get into the mindset by blocking off the dates to go into vacation mode.
2. Have a budget and don’t stray.
3. Put away ALL THINGS ELECTRONIC i.e. PSPs, iPods, laptops, BlackBerries, what have you.
4. Go off the beaten path and find places around Tampa Bay you’ve never had the time to see, like museums, aquariums, art exhibits etc.
5. When planning, go online and look for coupons to print out.
6. Eat out! No cooking allowed. You’re on vacation.
7. And no cleaning, no laundry, no routine things!
8. Buy a couple of souvenirs.

Yeah, it’s not the same as cramming the family into a rental car and blowing two grand at the Orlando attractions, but just think how relaxed and rejuvenated everyone will feel at the end of the week … and not be in debt.

We’ll be the guinea pigs. I’ll let you all know how it goes!