Friday, July 30, 2010

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Shrimp Salad and Lipstingers

Recently went down to the Florida Keys for a girls weekend. It was just what the doctor ordered. Very relaxing, a little bit silly, with lots of good food and drink. While lying on the couch watching the Food Network, saw Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) make a delicious roasted shrimp salad. It was full of orange flavor, dill and red onion. I was so inspired, we bought the ingredients at the local grocery store the next day and whipped it up. It took ten minutes to make, was delicious and even better the next day. I served it with grilled pita bread, but it would also be lovely in an avocado half. I bought the shrimp already cooked and de-veined, instead of roasting them. And, just to let you know, the shrimp from the Keys, rescued from the Gulf of Mexico, were delicious. The perfect drink to serve with this would be a Lipstinger, a drink I recently tried while sitting by the pool on fourth of July weekend. It was made with New Age White (an Argentinian wine with a little effervescence), poured over crushed ice, with a squeeze of lime. The fizzy wine and tart lime is what "stings" the lips, but what a sweet sting it is! Unfortunately, I neglected to take a photo of the lovely shrimp salad, but here are photos from dinner our first night there- and the recipe for the shrimp salad. Dinner that night was conch fritters, salad and watermelon gazpacho with feta cheese. And wine. Lots and lots of wine.

Shrimp Salad

2 1/2 pounds cooked shrimp (12-15 count)
1 cup good mayo (I used Hellmann's)
1 TBL grated orange zest
2 TBL fresh OJ
1 TBL white wine vinegar
1/4 cup minced dill (take off the stalk and chop)
2 TBL capers
2 TBL red onion, chopped

Take tail off shrimp. Mix rest of the ingredients for sauce. Add shrimp. Put in fridge for at least 30 minutes. Serve at room temp. Yum.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Happiness vs. Positive Feelings

Read an article in the Business section recently about how money can buy happiness. It happened to be on the same page as an article about how the economy is stalling. Kind of ironic. This economy seems to be one step forward, two steps back. The study about happiness was the largest study ever done to examine the relationship between income and well-being. It included more than 100,000 people in 132 countries. The conclusion? Making significant money makes people more likely to say they are happy with their lives overall, regardless of age, sex or geographic location. Having money, apparently, makes you feel more satisfied with your life overall, rather than making you "feel good", in other words, having positive feelings. Positive feelings (more of a day-to-day reaction) is affected by factors like: feeling respected, being in control of your life and having a good social support of friends and family.

"Money can make you feel better in a limited way," said Barbara Fredrickson, a psychology professor at University of North Carolina. "But positive feelings like enjoyment and laughing can do a whole lot more." So what is the lesson to be learned, the upside to this down economy? Even if you can't improve your wealth by leaps and bounds at this time, you can create positive feelings each day. Do something you love, that gives you respect and control of your life and keep a tight circle of friends and family for support. Namaste.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Upsides to the Down Economy/ 10 Great Road Trip Flicks

If you can't make a Road Trip this summer, you can surely watch a great Road Trip movie. Here are my, completely subjective, selections for Best Road Trip flicks. One more advantage, you never have have to hear "Are we there yet?" or "Stop looking at me!" during this Road Trip.

1) Vacation Kind of the holy grail of Road Trip movies, the Griswolds make their trek to Walley World and hilarity ensues. Poor Aunt Edith.

2) It Happened One Night One of my favorite movies, with Clark Gables and Claudette Colbert in their prime. Winner of 5 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, a classic romantic comedy. They don't make 'em like this anymore.

3) Easy Rider Two hippie bikers travel cross country, from LA to New Orleans, in search of America and their place in it. Peter Fonda and recently deceased Dennis Hopper star in this counter culture classic.

4) Two for the Road My film professor's favorite film, starring Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney as a couple in a troubled ten year marriage, traveling across the south of France. Kind of cynical and depressing, great score by Henry Mancini.

5) Thelma and Louise Another one of my favorite movies. Reminiscent of Terence Malick's Badlands. What starts off as a carefree road trip, ends with a plunge off the Grand Canyon.

6) Sideways A soon-to-be married bachelor and his friend have a last hurrah and travel to California's wine country. The scene where the English teacher (played by Paul Giamatti) goes off the deep end and drinks the dregs of the spit bucket is hilarious. Merlot sales declined rapidly after this film's release.

7) Little Miss Sunshine A little girl who doesn't fit into the traditional category of "beauty pageant" material, travels with her family in a VW bus, to pursue her dream. A suicidal uncle, brother who has taken a vow of silence, self-help Dad with issues and grandfather with a penchant for strippers and heroin, round out the eclectic family unit. At least Mom is sane.

8) Smokey and the Bandit Burt Reynolds and Sally Field star together in this Southern Fried road trip that put the Pontiac Trans Am on the map. A guilty pleasure of Alfred Hitchcock!

9) Honeymoon in Vegas Maybe not the most traditional road trip movie, but engaged couple Jack and Betsy do make the trip to Vegas, then Hawaii and back to Vegas. Loved the Elvis impersonators and James Caan. Sarah Jessica, pre Sex, plays Caan's deceased wife (tan, blond and trash-romance reading) at the beginning scene by the pool.

10) Rain Man Tom Cruise before he went crazy, and Dustin Hoffman playing Autistic, before autistic was well-known, drive across the country and bond as brothers. "Let me let you in on a little secret Ray. Kmart sucks."

So ladies and gentlemen: "Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night!"
Margo Channing in All About Eve

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Upsides to the Down Economy/ How to Eat

Just finished reading an Oprah-plugged book, Women Food and God. Seems like Women God and Food would have flowed better, title-wise, but whatever. It pretty much all boiled down to The Eating Guidelines, which was, of course, listed at the end of the book. I can save you twenty four bucks and a couple hours of reading by giving them to you here. The theory the author, Geneen Roth, proposes is that if we really listen to our bodies and eat what our bodies are telling us to, we will reach our natural set weight and never have to "diet" again. It kind of boils down to common sense and the old adage of "watching what you eat". Well, not just watching it, but really watching it. I don't know if I really buy this theory since last night my body told me to eat potato salad and pickled eggplant for dinner and salted popcorn with Milk Duds for dessert, with a Klondike bar thrown in for good measure. Also, nowhere in the book does it mention exercising, which even if it doesn't contribute to significant weight loss, does make you feel better, tones your body and is psychologically beneficial. So, while I don't buy the whole theory in Women God and Food, one thing that has surprised me is how much I eat standing up, or even walking. I am normally a stickler about sitting down at a table to consume a meal, but for some reason while I'm snacking, I oftentimes eat on the go. I realized this as I found myself yesterday throwing grapes and Baked Lays into my mouth (on separate occasions) while walking up the stairs to my bedroom. It is completely mindless eating, in the worse sense of the word. One of the guidelines is to "Eat sitting down in a calm environment." I once heard Hilary Clinton say on the Rosie O "Donnell show that calories eaten while standing up didn't count. I guess she was wrong. Without further ado, The Eating Guidelines.

1. Eat when you are hungry.

2. Eating sitting down in a calm environment. This does not include the car.

3. Eat without distractions. This includes: radio, TV, newspapers, books, intense or anxiety-producing conversations or music.

4. Eat what your body wants.

5. Eat until you are satisfied.

6. Eat (with the intention of being) in full view of others.

7. Eat with enjoyment, gusto and pleasure.
P.S. I feel like eating bacon. Is this my body or my brain telling me this? I shall resist.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Florida Theme Park Deals

More good news about Florida deals in the Business section today. Busch Gardens in Tampa is introducing "Play & Dine All Day", where park goers get to eat as much as they want at the six casual-dining restaurants at the park. Since eating at theme parks seems to be where guests spend unexpected dinero, this sounds like a good deal. It's $74.95 for adults and $64.95 for kids for a one-day admission and the food, and can only be purchased on-line. Booze is not included and this deal goes on through Labor Day. At Disney World, the park is extending an offer where guests who book select hotel packages can get free dining plans. The food, unlike Busch Gardens, is not unlimited, but this deal goes until almost the end of the year. SeaWorld, also in Orlando, is offering $5 kids tickets through its "Sea World Cares" program. Proceeds go to an animal-conservation charity of the customer's choice. Probably not a bad idea for SeaWorld to do a little P.R. after its Killer Whale incident. So there you have it. Universal, having opened Harry Potter's World, is offering no discounts and my sister, who just visited, warns to stay away, at least for this summer. Lines are so long (even at the stores), it is ridiculous. So, once again, here is evidence there is such a thing as a free lunch (and breakfast and dinner), after the purchase of certain theme park deals.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Miami. See it Like a Tourist

We've had relatives visiting this past week, so it was a perfect time to see Miami like a tourist. We laid out on the sandy shores of South Beach, ate dinner on Lincoln road and took an air boat ride in the Everglades, something I've always wanted to do but had never actually done before. Although there were some scary moments with "Ernie"- our air boat Indian guide/driver- we made it out alive. Sometimes, we live in a place and never take the opportunity to experience the amazing, fun attractions and activities it has to offer. Out of town guests give us the chance to do that, and to see our city with new eyes. During the summer, a lot of attractions (like the Seaquarium and Jungle Island) offer discounts to Florida residents. There are also discounts on hotels this time of year, the off season. We were lucky, because most of our activities were low or no cost. Going to the beach was free (except for the parking and the waters we bought), walking down Lincoln road was free (but the restaurants tend to be expensive) and the Everglades was a national park with minimum cost. The airboat ride, though kind of expensive, was definitely worth the cost. Even our trip to Viscaya was free, because we got tickets from my mother-in-law who belongs to the Viscayans. So, here's another tip: Hit up family/friends that can get you free passes to museums/attractions. There used to be a famous ad campaign for Miami that commanded "Miami. See it like a Native." I would like to revise that slogan for us natives and say "Miami. See it like a Tourist."

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Take a Road Trip

What could be more All American than a Road Trip? After celebrating Independence day, nothing says independence more than the ability to hop in your car and take off for whatever destination fits your fancy (or fulfills your fantasy). I have wanted to rent an RV and travel across this great U S of A for as long as I can remember. About fifteen years ago, I flew to Denver and drove back to Miami, on a road trip with my Mom. What an adventure that was! My son's girlfriend, Shannon, just made a similar trip, from Miami to Colorado with her mother. Both of our trips included stops at Graceland, the hallowed ground for Elvis fans; both of them also included AAA. I took Shannon to get a Trip Tik mapping out her drive, as well as Tour Books and maps for all the states she was driving through. AAA really came in handy during our road trip, as we ran out of gas one day and had a flat tire the next, both on Route 66. I love my AAA card and think it is definitely worth the money. Besides the Roadside Services it is known for, AAA membership entitles you to "Going Places" magazine, discounts on hotels, attractions and movie tickets and certain stores. They also offer different types of insurance and have a travel agency with discounted packages. I have the AAA Plus, which entitles you to four 100 mile tows a year. One long tow, and it's paid for itself. I've also gotten AAA cards for my kids. For me, AAA is like those old American Express commercials. I wouldn't go on a road trip without it.