Thursday, February 28, 2013

West Coast Girl in an East Coast World...

We've been on the East Coast now for almost one month.  I lived out in Brooklyn for about half a year when I was a just out of college, but ran away as soon as the weather started to cool down.  Yes, I am wimpy like that. Ever a Californian, I like my sunshine regular and my beaches close so being here in Winter was kind of a big thing for me. However, after spending close to 8 years in LA, I was ready to move out of California, possibly for good.  I was burnt out, ready to see less plastic surgery and have less of a compulsion to check TMZ.  Lindsay Lohan can go about her life without me examining her every move...It's not that we've escaped all that just yet, but I'm more dazzled by the experience of watching snow accumulate as opposed to seeing David Duchovony at my local Starbucks.  We are less than a week away from our one way flight out to PR so I thought I'd sum up my East Coast experience.  Here are some of my observations:

Yous Guys Talk Funny
Being out in Jersery, there were a few instances that I had to make a real effort not to laugh because the accent was so stereotypical.  It was AWESOME but comical and well, hilarious.  It's amazing I didn't pee my pants in Atlantic City.

In PA, yous guys use "yous guys" regularly to refer to a group of two or more.  I had never heard this before I came here.  They also say water as "Wood-er" as opposed to what I am used to "Wah-ter".  It's not NY, Jersey or Boston.  The PA accent is it's own thing.  

In Maryland, the accent was sooo different even within the same state.  Baltimore is undeniably urban but outside of Baltimore, you hear a real Southern type drawl.  My mind=blown.  

Real Winters are Pretty
So many of the everyday sights I see out here are gorgeous.  There has been a lot of snow and I couldn't shake the feeling that it was Christmas.  I have a very distint feeling I get around the holidays-it makes me want to eat cookies and pies and drink hot drinks (hence tight pants, arrgh!).  I noticed I had that feeling early into this trip and I wondered why my brain was not computing that Christmas had come and gone.  Then it dawned on me, everything looked like a Christmas card.  I was living inside a Christmas card!  It's snowing outside right now and I feel a sense of glee.  It takes a lot of effort not to propose making a batch of Hot Buttered Rum daily.

Here is a link to a recipe for it:

One day, I'ma marry you HBR....xo

But I digress...and a month in, the novelty has certainly started to wear off and I'll admit growing a bit weary of wearing three layers of clothes that don't fit right, cold feet, chapped lips and the fact that I seem to lose one of my gloves every other day.

Good thing that we are moving to a tropical island in the CARRIBEAN!!!! Yee-haw!

Yous Guys Got BIRDS
I cannot believe how many cool birds I have seen here.  Bright red cardinals, tons of  Blue Jays, Red Breasted Robins,Woodpeckers up the wazoo and the Tufted Titmouse.  I have included the following photo of the Titmouse here, just in case you were mistakenly picturing Mighty Mouse wearing a push-up bra:

Zorra has really enjoyed watching the birds from the windows.  It's her favorite reality show on Nature's TV.

Strange Meat Products
Every region has their own particular food stuffs and the East Coast is traditionally known for things such as Cheesesteaks (called "a steak"), NY Pizza (a "slice"), and soft Pretzels.   There are also some other things that any East Coaster would know but that I had never heard of.  You've got your Creamed Chipped Beef, which is a dried beef product that is shredded and cooked up with a creamy type of gravy and likely served on top of toast.  I've seen this item on just about every diner menu in PA and eaten it numerous times for breakfast cooked by Tommy's sweet grandmother.
Pork Roll is some kind of spam, ham, bologna, salami hybrid.  It's also commonly eaten for breakfast, sliced and pan fried.   It may also be eaten on a sandwich, known here as a "Hoagie" and pronounced "Hou-gie".

I have saved the best (or worst maybe?) for last when I present to you, Scrapple. If the Scottish have Haggis, well then East Coasters have Scrapple.  It would be great to pretend that Scrapple was a spicy blend of chopped Granny Smith apples and nuts and served on top of delicious hard cheeses but dear friend, that is not the case.  I'm trying to open my mind to eating more organ meats for health reasons but I have still not been able to bring myself to try any of this strange and sometimes gelatinous substance.  Originally of Pennsylvania Dutch origin, Scrapple is made of bits of pieces of pork not suitable for anything else.  It is then blended with things like cornmeal or wheat flour and turned into something of a pork mush.  The stuff I see at the store looks really gross but apparently, there is a woman in Freeland (the Pocono Mountain town where we are currently staying with Tommy's dad) who makes it without any of the weird fillers.  I would try her scrapple.  Maybe.

I think that's all of the observations that come to mind for now.  It's been a great trip and we still have a lot going on these next few days.  We took the early part of this week to get all of our stuff packed and now, we are really just spending a few more days of quality time with family.  We head out to Redding, PA (home of Jon & Kate Plus Eight) tomorrow to visit the other side of Tommy's family (his mom, stepdad, brother and sister) until Sunday.  

We are looking forward to that and know that before we know it, we'll be on a plane flying to this:
We've logged a ton of miles (over 3000 from LA to here and at least 1000 since we've been here) but it was certainly worth it to enjoy true quality time with family and friends.  Thanks to everyone for their incredible hospitality and warmth.  This West Coast girl has enjoyed all that you have to offer.  
We are so excited to get our new life going and can't wait to share it with everyone!  
Tommy is going to do a post on the Pig Butchering experience---very interesting!--and I will probably write next after we get to PR.  

Hasta Luego Amigos and thanks for reading.  xo, Juni

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Endings and Beginnings

Hey Everyone-
It's been a few weeks since we left LA and I am just getting around to posting our first entry here.  What a journey it's been so far!  For anyone just discovering this blog randomly, my fiance, dog and I left our lives in Los Angeles behind to go open a restaurant in Puerto Rico.

How did that come about, you ask?

Well, we'd been talking about it for a while since we were both getting a little burnt out in LA.  We planned a trip to PR in October of 2012 and decided that we were going to take the plunge and move there.  Tommy had been a number of times in his life but this was my first time.  I fell in love with the place immediately, he had loved it forever.  It was also an amazing trip since Tommy proposed on the last day we were there! Here is a picture of us immediately post proposal in Old San Juan.

You can see one of Old San Juan's historic Forts in the background.
So we got back to LA and started formulating the plan.  Within the next few weeks we had both informed our employers that we would be leaving in January.  We also had to sell most of our belongings.  It was a TON of work but we're both really happy with how things went.  There were some uncomfortable nights sleeping on the floor right at the tail end though.  Here is a picture of the apartment on the last night:
our "bed"

Everything we now own...

We decided to spend about a month on the East Coast visiting with Tommy's family before we fly out to our new life in PR on 3/5.  We decided we'd kick that off with a cross-country drive from California to Pennsylvania.  All of our stuff went into a Cargo Van and we we're off! 

Zorra had the best seat in the house!

We had to get to Tommy's grandparent's house in New Jersey before Feb. 10th so we had to make the trip a pretty fast one.  To anyone who is curious, or doing this at some point, here is how much we spent:
Cargo Van Rental from Enterprise (Unlimited Mileage, One week Rental w/Insurance)-$1400
Gas-$700 ish
We only spent the night in one hotel, which we cannot say enough good stuff about-The Red Roof Inn in Gallup, NM.  Super clean, cheap and really sweet people running it.  The other nights we were graciously accommodated by dear friends-see pics below:

First visit was with Derek and Kerry in Taos, New Mexico.  She is a tattoo artist and he is a body piercer and they are old friends of Tommy's from Baltimore.  They also make Thai Fishing pants and handmade soap---so eclectic and talented.  We are convinced they are the coolest couple in Taos. :)

The longest leg of the trip was the 16 hour drive from Taos to Westwood, Kansas to see my dear friend, Shayla Mendy.  I was so tired when I got there that I forgot to take pictures of her lovely family--she has two adorable kids and a super awesome husband.  I did get some pics of their very cute house the next morning, which was quintessentially charming in true Kansas style:

After Kansas, we headed to Indiana to see our favorite old neighbor, the one and only Chuck Fry.  We love our little Chucky. He greeted us with open arms when we arrived late late late and took us to breakfast the next morning at Macadoo's.  I kept thinking about the character, Woody from Cheers who was from Indiana.  Everyone seemed nice, unassuming and kind.

Zorra went crazy in the snow.  Loved it!

outside Macadoo's

Tommy and Chuck plotting our route to PA.  
Having never been on a cross-country drive before, I was really interested in the changing landscapes and discovering the little cultural nuances that made each state different.  New Mexico was very interesting because I had honestly never seen so many Native Americans before.  I'm not sure I saw a single Non-Native when we were there.  Seriously!  Driving through the midwest, (when not near a major city) was a bit depressing.  The towns seemed very desolate and decent food was realllllly hard to come by.  If you know me, you know I'm a bit of a health nut and I was going crazy trying to eat something other than fast food.  It was a little depressing when the "best" thing I could find was a corn dog, no joke....That being said, there was a lot of charm in the towns where we saw our friends and the stress level was so far below what we had accepted as "the norm" in LA.   Anytime we hit something someone defined as "traffic" we had to chuckle.  The pace was slowing down and I couldn't have been happier.

It was now Tuesday, February 5th and we were right on schedule to arrive in Freeland, PA at Tommy's dad's house.  Thankfully, it was the shortest leg of the trip at only 9 hours (yikes) and we arrived to his back country cabin around midnight o'clock.  We were so happy to be able to stay in one place, even if only for a few days.  Tommy's dad is a true mountain man--he is an expert hunter and gardener and he is off the grid for the most part.  It wasn't hard to bring a rustic quality to the photos I took.

this Cali girl had to buy some Winter boots!

The bird feeders have been providing a lot of incredible nature type excitement!

And that, my friends, is the story of the beginning, or the ending or the ending of a beginning....something like that.  We went on to successfully cook a feast for Tommy's grandmother's 80th birthday party, see some of the leftover devastation of Superstorm Sandy and visit friends in Maryland.  Upcoming adventures may include butchering a pig...Stay tuned!