Holidays, over.

Candy Surfer

Gingerbread house detail

Sorry, it’s been real quiet here on this blog, lately. A few holidays, a trip to the home state, some bigger changes at work, a trip to Mexico with the in-laws, and the passing of another calendar year have happened! I can offer these recommendations, as fruits of the above:

Travel Tips

  • After what feels like 45 years of waiting, I finally did Seattle’s Underground tour, and with three good friends. It was worth it but I felt strangely disappointed to not see a single rat, especially as the reason I hadn’t done the tour yet is: Mom always said it was too filthy. We did get dripped on and were probably grateful to have had our tetanus shots, recently. Good fun with history!
  • The Humphrey (Southwest & Sun Country Airlines) Terminal now has not only a Surdyk’s outpost (yay! Decent airport food!) but table service at same. Bravo! This makes allowing tons of time for TSA madness almost tolerable.
  • kiskadee

    Great Kiskadee

    The Yucatán peninsula in Mexico is still a lovely, tropical place. While doing our best to get some R&R, we did see some beautiful birds, all new to us: the Yucatán jay, the Great Kiskadee, the tropical Mockingbird. We also saw our fill of perennial favorites: brown pelicans, chachalacas, a little blue heron, some magnificent frigatebirds, and American flamingos. My recommendation: bring the binoculars! Also helpful: my Audobon Birds iPhone app, and this terrific webpage that lists and illustrates birds that you can find down new Cancun (some are not in the Audobon app, which just covers North America).

Keeping sharp

  • All that airplane and airport riding means: I’ve read a few books. Faves include: The Left Hand of Darkness, The Book Thief, The Bookseller, and Billy Collins’ book of poetry, Aimless Love.
  • I got an iPad mini for Christmas. Which means I have an alternative to my Nook Color for reading library e-books. And hallelujah, it is so much easier now, browsing, downloading, and for the most part, reading library books this way! The St. Paul Public Library offers a few ways for you to borrow e-books; I’ve found that the 3M Cloud Library app works very well, though it isn’t quite as versatile as the Nook reader, from a reading experience standpoint – the typeface and search options could be a little more robust. However, more often than not, I have my iPhone on hand to do Wikipedia lookups, when needed. LOVE THIS APP!
  • Our Mexico trip afforded us another visit to the group of flamingoes parked (as in, fed) at the resort. Did you know that a group of flamingoes is called a “flamboyance”? This probably isn’t the first time I’ve posted about collective nouns, but it’s such fun. Here’s a list of them.
  • Some friends may be shocked to hear that we didn’t leave the resort at all during our recent Mexico trip. There’s much to see and do in the Yucatán, though it can be complicated to organize an excursion, and we’ve done most of them. Alas, it was true that we kept within the confines of the 3.5 mile loop of new wooden walkways around the resort. We did find something fun to keep us occupied in between happy hours,  multiple-hour book reading stints, and a couple marathon CodeAcademy sessions for me: a Spanish language class, held by the pool. Carla, our most excellent and friendly resort activities director, and her colleague Armando did a daily class in conversational Spanish. Steve and I got so into it that we followed a tip from a fellow classmate and downloaded an iOS app called duoLingo, and we’ve been keeping up with the daily practice with it. I even managed to make the server smile with an idiom (“Barilla llena, corazón contento”), at breakfast our last mornin. I’m hoping I stick with it enough to comfortably handle the El Burrito Mercado cafeteria line – or to manage a more complicated excursion, the next time we are down in Latin America.

“Yummy” sounds better in Spanish

  • I am still loving the tiny spiced skirt steak tacos we get at the shady food stand by the golf course in Mexico. Why are corn tortillas so big, back here in Minnesota?
  • My favorite bite down there, however, was a scoop of the Belgian chocolate helado (ice cream/gelato). So rich!
  • For Christmas, Steve received North, the cookbook produced by the chef at Dill Restaurant, in Reykjavik. He’s been working through a few of those complex, fascinating recipes and our biweekly shopping adventures have become even more … adventuresome. A few weeks ago he made rye crackers out of rye bread. This week, we hunted down skate and soy lecithin. The skate dinner (last night) was delicious! Poached skate has a texture kind of like raw catfish or cooked fettucine. The flavor – enhanced by my Montana Gold tea, of all things.
  • We continue our exploration of Asian (mostly Vietnamese) noodle places in the Twin Cities. Last weekend we enjoyed a great lunch at Trieu Chau Restaurant on University Avenue. Oddly enough, neither of us ordered pho, so we couldn’t compare it to that at other places, but we left with bellies full of noodles, meats and vegetables and plans to return for some pho.

That’s about it for now. Good travels and winter wonder to you! Feel free to leave any recommendations here, for noodle places in St. Paul. Or for anything else!