Sunday, June 30, 2013

Fluffy Cottage Cheese Pancakes

These are the softest pancakes I have tried. They are really easy to make and they taste great. When I make something else, like today, I only use half of the recipe, which is enough for two people. For the recipe click here.

Today I paired them with an old time recipe from my grandmother: sweet plantain omelette. To make this childhood dish I used one sweet plantain, fried it first, then put the egg batter (four eggs), let them cook for about 5 minutes and then finished in the broiler frittata style.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Maroosh - Mediterranean Restaurant

Overall rating:

My friend KRE celebrated her birthday at Maroosh. We had a table for 11 people in the center of the room. The waiters and the manager/owner were very accommodating and the service was excellent.

Let’s talk about the food. Everything in the menu is delicious. A way of selecting the favorites is by personal taste. I cannot leave this restaurant without having the fried cheese, the falafel, and the hummus. I have also tried the tabouleh and the kibbeh. The ingredients are fresh, the combination tasty, and I believe, being no expert, each dish is authentic Mediterranean food. 

Maroosh’s menu has a variety of small dishes and entrees. For the first time I tried the lamb kafta kabab. I thought it was really good – I am no fan of lamb. Usually, we would order various small dishes; this way we could try different ones in each visit.

On weekends there is a belly dancer. The ambiance is relaxed, great for a night out with friends or significant other. All the times I have been to Maroosh I enjoy the food, music, and dancer, and I leave feeling satisfied and a bit happier. To visit their website click here.



Thursday, June 27, 2013

Casola's Pizzeria & Sub Shop

Overall rating: 

It was the second time I visited this place. I was in the mood for a real burger – one with seasoned patties, sauces other than ketchup, and plenty of taste - , and we were already in Coral Gables.

Casola’s is a very simple place, which could use additional cleaning. They offer pizzas, subs, and burgers. I have only tried the burgers with French fries. They were delicious! Burger was tasty, a little greasy, and interesting. Casola’s opens late and only accepts cash.

Service: Self-service


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Top Ten Wednesday (TTW) - Characters I could not stand

Inevitably, good stories and novels have characters who rub our skin the wrong way. Paradoxically, this talks well of the writer as it means that he/she was capable of strongly bringing to life strong personalities even if the readers could not stand them.
Not all unpopular characters are the villain in the narration. Lastly, it is a matter of personal taste. I particularly do not like senseless or unscrupulous ones… and then there are those that no matter what they do or say I just cannot bring myself to enjoy.
As always the order is only numeric and not by level of dislike.

1. Dolores Umbridge – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Dolores Umbridge was one of the few characters that I disliked as soon as she appeared in the story. Starting with her physical appearance and ending with her malicious personality. Even as a write this post, I feel as if someone is scratching the blackboard with nails…

2. Nils Bjurman – Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. 

Nils Bjurman is the typical man who would take advantage not only of a woman but of a defenseless individual. He also had so much anger stored inside that it inevitably came out in the worst possible way. I imagined him drooling like those mad people or animals that cannot contain themselves. I could not help the strong desire to hit him or kill him.

3. Bella – Twilight Saga.

When Bella met Edward that first day at school she thought he was one of the most handsome guys. She could not help wondering why he would fall for her. I can understand that any teenager would feel this way at the beginning but not for such a long time. Bella felt inferior to Edward. Also, Bella gave Jacob mixed signals about her feelings for him. My friend L warned me about it; I just did not think it would be at that level. I had to take several deep breaths while reading the story.

4. Nadine Karros – The Litigators.

Nadine Karros was the litigator lawyer hired to fight the class lawsuit presented against Nadine’s client, a powerful pharmaceutical company. She embodied that rare breed of women who have it all: she was beautiful, successful, rich, and to make matters worse, fit… I think I need to say no more.

5. Amina Mazid – The Newlyweds.

Amina married an American man to escape her native Bangladesh. What bothered me was the fact that the reasons for the marriage were not clear for him – he thought Amina was in love with him. For this reason I could not connect with Amina. It was almost impossible to feel sorry for her and her family. Maybe it did not help that I did not like the book that much either.

6. Vladimir Girshkin – The Russian Debutante’s Handbook.

Vladimir was a mama’s boy who was tired with his life, his work, even with his girlfriend. He was never able to stand up to his mother. Even when he decided to do something rash and go to Eastern Europe to help a gangster setup an illegal scheme he could not escape his lukewarm manner of acting in life. It was easier to be on the gangster side than on Vladimir’s.

7. Margaret Beaufort – The Red Queen.

Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII king of England, cruelly fought for his son’s throne. She did not rest until her son was put on the throne, and did not spare the life of anyone, including young boys, that could be obstacles to her mission… and all the while praying to the Virgin Mary for the life of those she loved.

8. Andrew – Little Bee.

I have to admit that my dislike for this character is somewhat ambivalent. Andrew was comfortable in his English lifestyle, apathetic to his wife’s struggles and desires. In an effort to reignite their marriage, Andrew and Sarah, his wife, went to Nigeria where they first encountered Little Bee. At that moment both Sarah and Andrew were in front of a very real life situation. Sarah did what she thought was best while Andrew could not shake off the status quo.

9. Stephen – Eat Pray Love.

I know Stephen is not a character in the traditional sense of the word as he is someone who exists in real life. His behavior is fitted for a novel, though. It was especially disturbing and annoying when he referred to himself in the third person. When a kid does it, it is cute; when an adult does it, it is creepy.

10. Florentino Ariza – Love in the Time of Cholera.

Florentino Ariza is the quintessential character who is stuck in the same time and place pursuing an illusion and an impossible love. In modern times he would be the incarnation of a man with an avoidant attachment style – nothing more noncommittal than to fall in love with someone in a difficult situation to correspond that love. Tenacity is a good quality, but at some point one has to move on, and walk on a different path. In my friend K’s words “Dude, move on!” 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

From Liloveve's Blog - Catching up with our students - Sandy Rubin

Catching up with our students - Sandy Rubin

I would like to present you a dear friend and great jewelry artist, Sandy Rubin. As you will see in this post by Liloveve, Sandy has been making and creating jewelry since she was in college, always experimenting with different materials and techniques to create original pieces that would please the eye and soul. 
You can also visit Sandy’s page in Etsy and Facebook

Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende

Overall rating: ★★★★
Eliza Sommers came to Rose Sommers’ life under questionable circumstances. Eliza’s origins did not seem to weight as much as Rose would have thought… as soon as she saw the baby in the box wrapped in a man’s sweater, Rose knew her life would change forever. Rose would love and educate Eliza like her own daughter. Nobody in the house of Valparaiso was allowed to question or to tell Eliza how she came to live in the Sommers’ house with Rose and her brother Jeremy.
Eliza grew up between the refined manners of Rose and the smells of Mama Fresia’s (her nanny and cook) kitchen. Eliza developed a keen sense of smell that would preserve her from certain occupations later on in her life. When Eliza turned 16 years old, she met the man that would make her world come upside down. She knew it the minute she smelled him. That man would forever change her destiny and make her understand that things could only be that way.
Daughter of Fortune is the first book of an unusual trilogy. It is the first book but it was not the first one written by Isabel Allende. It seems that the trilogy happened almost by accident in a circle that came back to where Ms. Allende started her career as a novelist. This is the second time I read this book; my goal is to read all three back to back to have the complete story with a good understanding of the families and their relationships.
Daughter of Fortune starts in the beautiful city of Valparaiso (Chile) in the year 1843. The characters’ adventures, fortunes, and misfortunes take us to California during the gold rush – San Francisco, Sacramento, and other smaller cities –, to China, briefly to England, and extensively aboard different ships that navigated the route between Valparaiso and California, New York, and Europe. 
The story is so beautifully written and extraordinary that it would be almost impossible not to fall in love with Rose, Eliza, Tao Chi’en, and some other characters. Others, like Agustin del Valle, would be more difficult to love… but their presence would be fully felt. Daughter of Fortune is a great novel of love, resilience, entrepreneurship, honor, family, and some unusual subjects for the time like female power, interracial relations, and questioning the truth about God and the Catholic church. 
The book is available in paperback.  
Originality: ★★★★
Beauty and use of language: ★★★★

Monday, June 24, 2013

Inferno by Dan Brown

Overall rating:★★★
Robert Langdon wakes up in a hospital room in Florence with a bullet wound in his head and with some days lost out of his memory probably forever. He has strange visions of Hell as described by Dante in his famous classic book The Divine Comedy. Robert cannot remember why and how he arrived in Florence, why or who shot him, and he is supposed to be doing in Florence outside of his usual trips to the Renaissance city. 
All these questions will be answered as Dan Brown walks through the cities of Florence, Venice, and Istanbul. The mystery involves details of Dante’s Divine Comedy especially the poem related to Hell. The villain, obsessed with both the Divine Comedy and world overpopulation, creates the reasons for Robert Langdon being summoned to Florence, for people following both Robert Langdon and our evil man, and gives enough reason for world leaders to worry about his plan. 
Inferno is an entertaining reading. The action is concentrated in 48-72 hours, which can be overwhelming for some people. I personally prefer novels whose stories and action happen in a longer time period to be able to assimilate and enjoy each character and their personal tales. Reading Dan Brown’s book is an entertaining way of reading an encyclopedia. The writer succeeds in picking the readers’ curiosity. Other than that, the novel does not have any other value. The writing is not particularly beautiful and the characters do not have any depth or real philosophical ways to see life. I would expect that a movie would come out based on this book. If I could turn back time, I would wait for the movie instead of reading the book – there would not be a big loss of details or events, it would take less time, and probably the visual effects and photography of such beautiful cities would be more impressive on the big screen than on the pages of Mr. Brown’s books. 
The book is available in hardcover and Kindle.
Beauty and use of language: ★★

Friday, June 21, 2013

Pastelaria de Belem - Belem, Portugal

When you visit the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos in Belem, Portugal (and even if you don’t go to the monastery), a visit to Pastelaria de Belem is a must. The pasteis de nata are a little piece of heaven in your mouth. They are sweet but not cloying. It’s impossible to have only one. Even as I am writing this review, I close my eyes and I can feel the taste, the texture, the softness… I better not think anymore or I will have to get a ticket and get me some pasteis… To visit their website click here.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Cabo Blanco Restaurant

Overall rating: ★★★★
I have been several times to this place. It is really convenient for lunch. The service is fast and they have many lunch specials both Cuban and Peruvian. Some of my favorites are sauteed calamari, skirt steak, and the fish. Waitresses are nice and prices are very affordable. To visit their website click here.
Service: ★★★★
Value: ★★★★

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Top Ten Wednesday (TTW) - Books that made me lose my time

1. Twilight Saga

I have to admit that all four books are entertaining but they provide nothing more than knowledge about vampires and werewolves. Also, Bella’s self-esteem is mostly absent giving female readers yet another reason to feel insecure… just saying.

2. Breakfast with Buddha

This book is a pseudo Buddhist book. If the reader has never heard of Bhudda it could be an easy and entertaining introduction. The novel is somewhat engaging and can only be helpful if you are planning a road trip from New York to somewhere in the Midwest and would like to know some of the restaurants on the way.

3. The Great Gatsby

I know this is one of the classics of American literature but honestly I tried to see what the point of the story was and I could not. I did not go to high school in the states – maybe it was explained in the English class – but other than the luxurious life of Gatsby, the bad event, and the fact that he got away with it, the novel did not provide much else for me.

4. The Newlyweds

I was drawn to this book because the story was about a mixed couple – an American man and a woman from Bangladesh. I am in a mixed relationship myself so I was hoping to connect with the story immediately. Well, I was wrong. Their marriage was strange – it was not arranged but it seemed that it was not for love either. The writer portrayed the Bangladeshi woman as opportunistic and the man as someone with no feelings. There was an unexpected twist but it was so bizarre that in my humble opinion it did not fit in the story.

5. One Minute Millionaire

The intention of this book is supposedly to help the rest of us become millionaires. Although some of the tips may be useful most of them are very hard to apply. Also the writer tries to appeal to those readers who use their right-side of the brain with the same message in the shape of a story… I do not want to be impolite, let’s just say I’m glad a left-sided brainy.

6. Acres of Diamonds

Suffice to say that this was a complete waste of money and time. The positive? It was a short book.

7. The Sea Wolf 

This one is supposed to be another classic. This one is about a tyrannical boat captain on a voyage from San Francisco to China. I guess the only thing one can learn from this book is how evil a man with power could be.

8. As a Man Thinketh

As in Acres of Diamond, reading this book was a waste of time and money. It is also a short book so the damage was not too big.

9. Russian’s Debutante Handbook

I read this book recently. The story was not engaging and I kept reading with the hope that something would happen. Well there was brief action towards the end of the book. It was not worth the wait and time.

10. The Worlds I Love (Los Mundos que Amo)

This is some interplanetary story with which I could not connect. Maybe readers who like science fiction may enjoy it… it was not my cup of tea.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

El Corral USA

Overall rating: 

In all my trips to Colombia even those that were merely layover I made an effort to go to this burger place. This chain opened recently in Miami. Of course I had to go and check it out. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it tasted very close to the ones in Colombia. Burgers were very tasty; French fries are delicious. To visit their page click here.

Service: Self-service


Monday, June 17, 2013

Miami Art Cafe

Overall rating: 

This small café in downtown Miami is perfect for a quick lunch. I have been there a couple of times and it is always good. The last time I was there I had the chicken avocado wrap. My friend K had the combo of soup and quiche; according to her both really good. Service is fast, waitresses are nice… good food for the price.



Sunday, June 16, 2013

Whole Wheat German Pancake with Pears

Today’s brunch was a particular type of pancake. For starters the result is only one big pancake instead of a stack. This one is baked as opposed to fried for regular ones.
This recipe is tasty, light, with the right level of sweetness. The pears provide a unique texture. If you prefer you could convert from German to Dutch by changing the pears for apples.
Simply delicious…
For the complete recipe click here.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Sirocco Mediterranean Restaurant & Lounge

Overall rating: ★★★
We went to this restaurant a couple of days ago. I had bought a Groupon so we decided to take advantage before expiration. After reading some of the reviews I have to confess that I lowered my expectations to the minimum. Thankfully, our experience was good at Sirocco. Our offer included one appetizer and two entrees.
We ordered the falafel for appetizer. They were very good, fresh, and tasty. It comes with tahini sauce making an interesting combination of flavors.
For entrees we ordered the lamb kebab and the seafood risotto. The kebab was average. The seafood risotto had an unexpected level of spiciness (not too much); I personally liked it.
Would I come back and pay full price for the food? I am not sure. The food was good, not great. As many of the restaurants in the Hard Rock Café area, proportion of price vs. quality is not the best. The same food could be found somewhere else with higher value (better quality at the same or lower price).
Service: ★★★
Value: ★★

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers

Overall rating: ★★★★
Alan Clay is 54 years old. He is on the brink of bankruptcy and had to restart his career. Alan is a skilled salesman trained in the time of American manufacturing and door-to-door vacuum cleaner selling strategy. He has not been able to fully adjust to globalization, and to the fact that ‘Made in USA’ is an extinct species.
Alan’s most recent job sent him to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as part of a group to present to King Abdhullah a new technology that would allow the Saudis not only to videoconference but to have the other party “in the room” in the shape of a hologram.
Dave Eggers, the writer, does a great job of bringing Alan Clay to life. Even though I am not part of the same generation and life path as Alan, I immediately empathize with his predicaments. It was clear that Alan was going through a midlife crisis. He was lost; he could not clearly see his purpose and next steps.
I particularly liked the description of the everyday life, society, and culture in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. KSA is one of those places that is almost mystified by all the restrictions imposed by not only the king but a very rigorous interpretation of Islam. In the book I could clearly perceived the visitor’s constant fear of violating a rule by doing something completely normal like shaking the hand of someone of the opposite gender, and the adolescent behavior of people who by nature want to do all that is forbidden.
Hologram of the King was an entertaining reading. In some passages I would look up and reflect on the situation. The language is simple and clear for the most part, although I came across some words for the first time: stasis (the stagnation in the flow of any of the fluids of the body), asunder (into separate parts or pieces), and juggernaut (large, overpowering destructive force or object).
The end of the book was abrupt. I liked that some questions remained so the reader could imagine more than one possible ending. Mine is a happy one.
This book is available in paperback and Kindle
Originality: ★★★★
Beauty and use of language: ★★★

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find and Keep Love

Overall rating:  
This book explains adult attachment theory. According to Amir Levine and Rachel Heller’s, the writers, research there are three types of attachment styles: avoidant, anxious, and secured. Each of these style definitions is intuitive. Avoidant people believe that intimacy is a loss of independence; anxious are usually preoccupied with the relationship and worry about the ability of their partner to love them back; and secure people are the ones that feel responsible for providing happiness and stability to their partners, feel comfortable and seek intimacy, usually are warm and loving, and for the most part do not play games.
For me it was very interesting to know about this theory and these attachment styles. The book addresses how to spot each style in the people we meet and how to not let our own attachment style boycott potential good relationships.
Of course the book does not address all questions. For example, I wondered as I read the book, if attachment styles could vary depending on the partner. In other words, was it possible that partner A behaved avoidant with partner B, and secured with partner C? The writers suggest that our attachment style is mostly stable during our adult life, and at the same time, it is plastic meaning that certain behaviors could be modified or controlled to obtain more satisfaction of current or potential relationships.
The message was clear. I believe this book could be helpful for everyone regardless of gender and relationship status. For people in a stable relationship, knowing about attachment style theory could help understand each other, take things less personal, and mold the bad habits so both partners become satisfied in the relationship. For people who are looking for a partner, attachment theory is very useful to on one hand, spot early on those styles that do not match, and on the other hand to know their own symptoms of either preoccupation, desire to flee, or the need to get close, and use / modify them to their advantage in building a new lasting relationship with the correct partner.
This book is available in paperback and Kindle.
Applicability to real life: ★★★★
Comprehensibility: ★★★★

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Top Ten Wednesday - Places to go in the Americas

This week we will talk about places to visit. As many of you know one of my passions is to travel. I am a curious person by nature and I am very interested in seeing other places, getting to know the culture, the food, the people, some of the history… and of course to capture all that in pictures.
For this week TTW I would like to present to you the top ten places you can’t miss in the Americas. These are the classic ones like New York City – I think is always good to have a refresher. Since this is based on my personal experience, I would love to have your comments and/or suggestions I may have missed or don’t know yet to add to the list. This time, the order would be from North to South.

1. Alaska, U.S.

Alaska is one of those places where nature is at its best at least in the summer. I recommend doing this voyage at least once in a lifetime. There are so many parks, natural habitats, and fauna to see… do not miss a whale watching tour and a ride on a dog sledge. These experiences are unique especially for people who come from places closer to the tropics.

2. Niagara Falls, Canada

In my humble opinion, it is important to visit Niagara Falls at least once in a lifetime. It is one of those natural wonders that can be stared for hours and still be amazed. Once there, close your eyes and just listen to the power of the falls as the water crashes against the rocks. The boat ride is a must; it may be the closest one can get to the cataracts safely. Whether you go to the American or Canadian sides, it is a unique experience everyone should have.

3. New York City, U.S.

NYC is an overwhelming city. Every time I go, I get the sensation of having so many options and things to do that I don’t know where to start. Of course, for the first time it is necessary to do most of the touristy activities like Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the museums, Central Park, Broadway, and Times Square. For the subsequent visits one can take the path less traveled and see NYC from the perspective of the locals. I have been lucky enough to have experienced both tourist and local visits.

4. Chicago, U.S.

I can only talk about Chicago in the summer. What a pleasure to walk admiring the buildings, Millennium Park, the river, and the lake! There is so much to see in this city starting with a must architectural tour on the river or lake or both. Do not miss Chicago Cultural Center, Millennium Park, the art on the street, and if in the mood, a couple of rooftop parties famous during the summer. There are usually free concerts both in the park and in the CCC. People are usually very nice and polite, more so than in other big cities.

5. San Francisco, U.S.

San Francisco is one of the favorite spots for honeymooners. Although I did not go to San Francisco under this category, I can fully understand why. It is a romantic city with the great combination of mountains, ocean, and architecture.

6. Mexico City, Mexico

There are so many sights and activities to do in Mexico City… Located at 2,240 meters (7,350 feet) above sea level, Mexico City houses art jewels like the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Government Palace with Pedro Rivera paintings, and one of the most complete and biggest museums I have visited: the National Museum of Anthropology. A curious note is that Mexico had an emperor and empress, Maximilian (from Austria) and Charlotte (of Belgium) from 1864 to 1867. Their palace is a must sight to visit in the Chapultepec park. Outside of the city there are other interesting attractions such as Frieda Kahlo’s Blue House, and the Teotihuacan ruins.

7. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

One of the most visited beaches in the Caribbean, Punta Cana is a must for those who prefer calm sea, and drinks, good food, and parties in the hotels. A beach vacation, especially in an all-inclusive hotel, is a non-hassle activity ideal to rest, recharge, and completely disconnect. The water in the beach in Punta Cana is usually warm, clean, and inviting. At night, I especially enjoyed seating on the beach and listening to the waves… very calming.

8. Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu was voted one of the Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. This site is overtaking. The combination of the imperial city with the Andes creates an effect that is overwhelming for the visitor. There are many activities around the site such as a guided tour of the ruins, a hike to the Wayna Picchu, and a several-day hike of the Inca trail. I only visited the ruins and it was an amazing experience.

9. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro has a something for everyone. For the soccer fans there is the visit to the Maracana Soccer Stadium where you could see the famous soccer player footprints such as Pele’s, Ronaldo’s, and Kaka’s. Those who prefer the carnaval there is the Sambadrome Marques de Sapucai where the parade of the different samba schools take place during carnaval in Rio. Of course, the main attractions are Pao de Acucar (Sugar Loaf), the beaches (Ipanema and Copacabana), and the Christ, among others. It is worth the visit.

10. Patagonia, Chile

Contrary to Alaska, when I arrived in Patagonia, I had the instant feeling of being at the end of the world. Since there is less infrastructure than in Alaska it is more difficult and probably more expensive to reach to the Patagonia region. I visited the Chilean side but in my opinion this region, whether on Argentina or Chile, is worth the visit. In my experience this is the ultimate communion with nature. It is not an inviting landscape but I particularly got the feeling of being special, one of the few, and at peace. Guides in the region emphasize the importance of protecting the environment and certain activities like salmon fishing is done with the least harm to the environment as possible (e.g. catch and release). Do not miss a trip to the glaciers and to see the Magellanic penguins.