Posts Tagged restaurant

That’s How We (Lobster) Roll!

Back in the summer of 2014, Mr. HalfFull and I traveled to Maine. Without a doubt, we ate a lot of lobster.

During one meal, we had lobster three different ways — lobster roll, a whole lobster, and lobster bisque. Later that evening, I think we also had lobster mac & cheese. Lobster four different ways in a day was not overkill for us!

While in Maine, we ate lobster rolls almost daily and definitely acquired an affinity for them. Since we didn’t travel this summer, Mr. HalfFull hatched a plan to try a lobster roll a week in Northern Virginia.

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Wading our Way to the Winery

Travel can often lead to unforseen obstacles and unexpected delights. Toward the end of our stay in Uruguay, we experienced both.

Narbona Wine Lodge vineyard

vines @ Narbona Wine Lodge

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5 Things I Missed in South America

Sometimes you get used to things — things that seem commonplace and make your daily life easier. But some of those things were missing on our South American Adventure.

This is merely based on my experience of eight weeks in three South American countries — Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile. I can’t speak for all of South America or even the totality of the countries I visited. But these are the five things I missed most during my travels…

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The Language Barrier

With only a semester of Spanish in college, I served as the language expert between me and Mr. HalfFull on our South American Adventure. We are decidedly not fluent speakers. So over two months in Spanish-speaking countries, frustration, ridiculousness, and perhaps even some learning ensued.

HalfEmpty vs. HalfFull

Chocolate Grandmother

In typical halfFull fashion, Mr. HalfFull poses with his Chocolate Grandmother.

The language barrier further highlighted our halfFull and halfEmpty tendencies. I wanted to understand everything and communicate with ease, whereas Mr. HalfFull didn’t take himself too seriously and had fun making up his own words.

I cringed each time I made a Spanish error and tried to replay what I should have said in my head. But somehow Mr. HalfFull was able to laugh and didn’t stress much.

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Baby, I’m Back!

Did you miss me? I missed you too. Yes, both of you!

Fantasy Football Draft

My brother and Mr. HalfFull drafted a San Diego Chargers player, so of course the jerseys came out for additional shenanigans. Too bad you can’t see Mr. HalfFull’s ridiculous championship ring in this photo. The commissioner wears three massive rings, so don’t start a fight with him during the draft!

Realistically, I knew I hadn’t blogged here in quite a while. But it really hit home last weekend before Mr. HalfFull’s Fantasy Football Draft.

He and his crazy friends do a live draft every year. One year, three of the guys (and some wives, including me) flew to Indiana for the draft!

But this year, the draft was at our house. Before the appointed draft time, I went out to dinner with the guys (and then disappeared until the following morning to spare my sensibilities). As we were chatting and catching up over dinner, my husband’s friend said that he reads my blog…or rather, he used to read it when I posted. Woah!

Two things struck me during this conversation. First, on the half full side, it’s awesome to have a third reader! Now I can address my readers as “all of you” instead of “both of you.” The second overwhelming feeling was embarrassment at my dearth of blog posts.

Posting Apathy

Why haven’t I posted more regularly? Well, there are lots of reasons.

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The Benefits of Marriage

Mr. HalfFull and Ms. HalfEmpty enjoy the sunset on their first day of marriage

Mr. HalfFull and Ms. HalfEmpty enjoy the sunset on their first day of marriage

As you’ve been watching various tax forms appear in your mailbox, perhaps the marriage penalty has come to mind. But even this half empty thinker knows there are some benefits to marriage!

One of those benefits is sharing food. (Of course it’s not the only or best benefit, but stick with me…)

I don’t cook. Of course, I could cook. But I don’t enjoy it. Perhaps it has to do with my affinity for order and cleanliness. Cooking seems awfully messy for my taste!

gourmet foods paper

It looks like I learned something about cooking at some point in the 90s.

That isn’t to say that I never cooked. In high school, I got an A in Gourmet Foods. (I got A’s in everything, but that’s not the point!) We cooked and baked all sorts of things that I would never dream of making now. We made pumpkin pies from real pumpkins with crusts from scratch…ridiculous!

We even separated whole chickens. I don’t think I’ve ever purchased a whole chicken in my life. I realize it’s cheaper, but it seems impractical for a single person, especially one who doesn’t like dark meat.

Recipe binder title

Mr. HalfFull’s mockery of my high school Gourmet Foods binder

I’m lucky to have found a partner who enjoys cooking and grocery shopping. Knowing my dislike for the kitchen, he finds it terribly amusing that I still have my Gourmet Foods recipe binder from high school. He even made a label for the binder reading, “Ms. HalfEmpty’s A+ Recipe Binder, Circa 1995” and constantly ribs me for my scores over 100% inside.

binder tab

The first tab of my “A+ Recipe Binder” for Quick Breads showcases my more than perfect score. Ha!

Last weekend, Mr. HalfFull commented that I’m becoming quite the “microwave chef.” You may think that’s an oxymoron, but my usual microwave cooking involves a bag or a box that goes in the microwave, followed by me pushing a few buttons. Sometimes I even have to uncover and stir in the middle of cooking. What a process!

But when I was lauded as a microwave chef, it was far more complex and a creation of my own. Mr. HalfFull bought a plastic egg cooking container for the microwave. Some of you (like my mother) may be freaking out about plastic leaching chemicals in the microwave. But most of my self-prepared meals are in far less sturdy plastic containers, so it doesn’t phase me.

Microwave Egg Cooker

Don’t worry, I cracked the egg before I cooked it!

The egg container allows me to cook a fresh egg without additional oil or butter and without creating splatter on the stove! After cooking the egg with spices, I added it to bread and various cheeses, and stuck the concoction in the panini machine. Thus, earning the title microwave chef (even though I used two kitchen appliances)! Yes, it was delicious.

Since my cooking skills and desire are in the low to non-existent range, Mr. HalfFull and I enjoy eating out. This gives us the opportunity experience a benefit of marriage — being cute and sharing meals. It also affords us the chance to take more risks when ordering because we know we’ll have a fallback. When done correctly, it can also help us save money and eat appropriately sized portions (instead of restaurant-size portions) with variety.

But sometimes, we go all out. Like on New Year’s Eve, we went to one of our favorite local restaurants and each ordered the prix fixe tasting menu with a small plate, main plate, and sweet plate for each of us. So instead of a 3-course meal, we each got a 6-mini-course meal!

If you’re thinking about eating healthier and have a partner (married or not) to split with, check out the ideas in my meal sharing post for Northern Virginia Magazine.

  • Do you enjoy cooking? Did you always or did you grow into or out of it?
  • Does cooking an egg in the microwave make one a chef? =)
  • Do you share meals?

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Engagement, Wedding, Anniversary, and Happily Ever After

Last week was Obama’s 20th wedding anniversary, and this week is my 3rd.  Mr. HalfFull and I celebrated last night with dinner at the restaurant where we celebrated our engagement in 2008.

Tidal Basin

Ms. HalfEmpty and Mr. HalfFull at the Cherry Blossom Festival on the evening of their engagement. Does Mr. HalfFull look nervous?  He’s about to propose!

Our actual engagement occurred the night before while watching the fireworks at the Cherry Blossom Festival in DC.  Mr. HalfFull told me that he didn’t want to make a dinner reservation because he was sure that would be dead giveaway.  Instead, he opted for a brunch reservation the next morning.

I was led to believe that this brunch would be just for the two of us to revel in our engaged bliss.  So I suggested that we stop at my parents’ house on the way to show them my ring.  Mr. HalfFull, who usually loves to visit my parents, kept throwing out reasons why the timing wouldn’t work.  It seemed strange, but I went with it.

When we arrived at the restaurant, I saw a car that looked just like my dad’s parked out front.  Mr. HalfFull assured me that lots of people had Lincoln Town Cars, but I was pretty sure it was my father’s license plate.

Once we entered the restaurant, I saw a big round table with my parents, brothers, Mr. HalfFull’s sister from Pennsylvania, and her son.  Everyone was in on the plan, except me!

Engagement Brunch

Surprise brunch with our families the morning after our engagement

But I was right about one thing:  it was my dad’s Lincoln Town Car!  I guess Mr. HalfFull didn’t specify that they should park around the corner, or at least not in the most prominent spot.  Way to be secretive, Dad!

Isn’t it interesting how proposals are all about half-truths, lies, and secrets?  That’s how a brilliant, surprising proposal is crafted.  But those behaviors spell disaster for a marriage!

Fortunately, we got some better marriage advice over the summer when we visited my aunt and uncle in North Carolina on our drive home from the beach.  We were lucky enough to join them for dinner along with another couple; the dinner conversation was delightful.

Aunt & Uncle

My aunt and uncle spontaneously started dancing during dinner on my wedding day.  Must be love!

During dinner, each couple explained how they met and started dating.  My aunt didn’t seem to be very interested in my uncle when they first met, but he made sure to tell us about her “cute butt.”  He reiterated that comment several times to our amusement and embarrassment.

The other couple met in high school where they both played violin in the orchestra.  He was a 17-year-old 1st chair violinist, while she was only 14.  When she accidentally knocked over the bridge on her violin, the teacher instructed him to help her fix it.  She was so enamored with him after the first fix, that she decided to purposefully knock over her bridge so he would have to come back again.

Both couples have been married for over 40 years, and still seem quite in love.  Interestingly, they both gave the same marriage advice: rely on each other.  They stressed the importance of resolving problems together, rather than outside the marriage.

I think Mr. HalfFull and I have relied on each other for years, and hopefully will for years to come.

  • How do you feel about the secrets that led to your proposal?  Does the end justify the means?
  • Do you enjoy hearing how couples met?
  • Do you look to older couples for advice?
  • What marriage advice has resonated with you?

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One Day Layover in Madrid with my “Dog”

We arrived in Madrid early in the morning after our overnight train adventure.  Officially, our hotel check-in was at noon (which is pretty common elsewhere in the world, but is usually 3 PM in the US).  But we were so tired after missing a night of sleep that we hoped they would have a room ready for us when we arrived.

They did!  We enjoyed glorious slumber in a fully reclined position (including our feet) with clean sheets, an abundance of pillows, space to spare, and silence.  Beds are so wonderful after trying to sleep in a full train compartment.

Laundry

On this leg of the 30/40 World Tour, we only had a day in Madrid before joining VaughanTown early the next morning.  The program organizers told us that laundry service would be very expensive at the hotel in Gredos, so laundry was one of our priorities. With 3 pairs of underwear, laundry was a consistent concern on our 10-week trip.

We asked at our hotel in Madrid; they didn’t have weekend laundry service.  We wouldn’t have gotten our clothes back until Monday, but were leaving on Sunday.  So we scoured the internet for local laundromats and wrote down the addresses.

We had 3 laundromats on our list.  Surely, one of them would be open.

Lavanderia in Madrid

Closed lavanderia disappoints Ms. HalfEmpty

The first one no longer existed.  We walked up and down the block, but it was long gone.  The second laundromat was still in existence…yay!  But it was closed for the entire month of August…boo!

Isn’t it amazing that much of Spain takes the entire month off?  Plus, they get siestas when they are working!  I think I need to move.

We still had one final laundromat opportunity.  The third time’s the charm, right?  As we approached the third establishment, it looked open.  Our excitement started to build when we saw people inside!

If you remember our laundry experience in New Caledonia, speaking the native language was rather important in a laundromat.  The same was true in Spain.  Between bumbling our way through Spanish (difficult) and reading the signs on the wall (much easier), we learned that they were getting ready to close and were also closed on Sundays.  So once again we wouldn’t get our laundry back until Monday; by then we’d be long gone.  Super bummer!

So we ended up taking our dirty laundry to VaughanTown and planned to do some sink washing.  Apparently, there are many people who are not able to bring clean laundry to VaughanTown despite the warnings, so there was a special announcement about laundry when we arrived.

Before we were even allowed to check into our rooms, Mr. MC gathered the group in the meeting room to go over a list of rules.  Mr. MC was a young humorous Brit, so don’t think it was a long boring lecture.  There were definitely lots of laughs.

One rule concerned laundry:  we were not allowed to do laundry in the bathtub and turn on the jets.  Hahahaha!  A DIY washing machine with agitator!

I know that rules only exist because it happened before.  So I asked Mr. MC about this afterward, and learned that pair of underwear got clogged in a jet during a past session.  How embarrassing is that?  I wonder if the person reported the broken jets or if the hotel staff found the rogue underwear after check-out.

Lunch

Our short trip in Madrid (this time — we’ll have more for you after the VaughanTown posts, Tracy) wasn’t a total bust.  One of my dear friends from home introduced me to her friends from Kansas City who now live outside Madrid.  Mr. and Mrs. Missionary met us for lunch at El Museo del Jamón.

El Museo del Jamón

Mr. HalfFull with Mr. & Mrs. Missionary at Museo del Jamón

As we learned in Barcelona, Mr. HalfFull is unable to resist hanging legs of meat.  I think they make him feel like a manly hunter.  So how could he resist a restaurant called The MUSEUM of Ham???  A museum where you could eat the exhibits!

He was irrationally excited.  In fact, I think he picked our hotel because of it’s proximity to El Museo del Jamón.  Plus, Mr. & Mrs. Missionary didn’t object, so the location was decided.

I’m not sure if Mr. HalfFull realized El Museo del Jamón wasn’t really a museum or that it was a chain restaurant.  But it was inexpensive and the tapas weren’t bad.

The company was great.  We learned that Mr. & Mrs. Missionary had just come from the protests in Puerta del Sol.  As part of the 15-M Movement (because it began on May 15, 2011), young Spaniards occupied the square to protest high unemployment and the political establishment.  Earlier in the summer, they had erected a tent city like the Occupy movements throughout the world.

Mr. HalfFull and I aren’t religious and we didn’t know that Mr. & Mrs. Missionary were missionaries before we met them.  But we were pleasantly surprised to find that they were not singularly focused proselytizers.  We had great conversations on a range of topics.  I don’t think we discussed religion at all.

¿Cómo se dice “Dog?”

Perros No

Mr. HalfFull pretends to tinkle by the “Perros No” sign

I often call Mr. HalfFull Dog (or Dogg, Dawg, etc.).  I’m quite bad with names, but I don’t think I started calling him that until we were married.  So I doubt it was a name placeholder (like the way my dad calls all 4 of his children “Baby” because he can’t remember our names).  I think Dog was in the media at the time and it just stuck.

So in the French-speaking countries on the 30/40 World Tour, like New Caledonia and Mauritius, I would call him Chien.  Of course, in Spain I had to call him Perro (and practice my rolling Rs).

Walking back to our hotel in Madrid, I saw the perfect sign.  It read “Perros No.”  So of course, I had to have my dog pose with it.

Anglos

Eurobuilding 2

Ms. HalfEmpty @ Eurobuilding 2

Our final activity in Madrid before heading off to VaughanTown, was to meet the other VaughanTown volunteers (aka Anglos) at a tapas reception the night before our departure.  Free food and drinks are always a great way to gather a crowd, but this was probably a brilliant idea to make sure everyone could find Eurobuilding 2 and not be late for the early bus departure.

I was surprised to find that many Anglos knew each other and had already been to VaughanTown.  Many of them were expats from the UK and US living in Spain, mostly as English tutors/teachers.

It seemed like an interesting mix of people.  We were nervous and excited about the upcoming week at VaughanTown.

  • When did you most appreciate a bed?
  • Have you ever lost an article of clothing in a laundry attempt?
  • Have you met a friend-of-a-friend abroad?
  • Do you have a silly name for your significant other? 
  • Have you considered living and working abroad?

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Encounters of the Strange Kind

Barcelona street performer

Street performer on La Rambla in a costume inspired by Guillermo del Toro

Encounter 1: La Rambla

We saw many street performers in Spain.  Most of them didn’t perform so much as pose in outrageous costumes.  As we walked down the tree-lined promenade that is La Rambla, we stumbled upon a rather intricate and scary costumed man.  The outfit was really quite impressive and almost dared you not to stare!

Encounter 2: La Rambla

Afterward, I had an unfortunate encounter on La Rambla.  Remember how I told you about my “poop finger” in the United Arab Emirates?  For those of you who recently joined us, “poop finger” was a henna tattoo with a blob of brown on the end of my finger.

bird poop on foot

Poop on Ms. HalfEmpty’s sandaled food on La Rambla

My encounter on La Rambla was not with a tattoo artist, but with a bird.  A bird who gave me “poop toe.”  Poop is a really funny word until someone else’s is on you!

Ms. HalfEmpty after "poop toe"

“Poop toe” made Ms. HalfEmpty super half empty!

“Poop toe” did not help me see things half full.  I was a grossed out Ms. HalfEmpty.

Of course, it wasn’t a total disaster and was much easier to remove than “poop finger,” which took weeks to fade.  But it still made me feel gross.  All day, I thought about when I could get back to the hotel to disinfect my foot and shoe.

Encounter 3: The Subway

Burger King ad in subway station

Spain thanks us for a heart attack on a bun

On our way back to the hotel via the subway, we saw a huge billboard underground thanking America.  Well, you’re welcome Spain!  How lovely.

It all seems pretty awesome…until you see the full advertisement.  It’s a Burger King ad for the Rodeo Whopper.  Instead of raw onion, they put fried onion rings INSIDE the sandwich!  Of course, the sandwich also contains a beef patty, cheese, bacon, and the oh so American barbecue sauce…wait, don’t forget the mayo.  Yes America, thanks for spreading unhealthy eating and obesity to the rest of the world.  Nice work!

dessert @ La Masia Del Rocxi

Ms. HalfEmpty with EVERY dessert @ La Masia Del Rocxi

Encounter 4: Dinner

That night for dinner, we went to a lovely restaurant, La Masia Del Rocxi.  I think menus are one of the toughest things to read as a tourist who is unfamiliar with the language.  There is so little context, and each word counts.  Sometimes in my own country, I have to ask my waiter what a particular word on the menu means.  Perhaps it is a special cooking technique or even a spice I’ve never encountered.  The potential for unknown words is endless.

Now multiply that potential by my lack of Spanish and you have a nightmare for my server.  We asked so many questions about the menu and tried to scope out dishes on the tables of other diners.

By the time dessert rolled around, I think we had fully exhausted our waitress.  She didn’t even ask us what we would like or bring us a menu.  Instead, she brought us EVERY dessert!

Encounter 2 + 4

I guess you win some (dessert), and you lose some (poop toe).

  • What wacky street performers have you encountered?
  • Have you been pooped on?  Where were you?  How quickly were you able to clean it?
  • How do you feel about the Burger King ad?
  • Have you had trouble communicating at a restaurant?

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Wandering Through Barcelona

You may be wondering if we did more than sleep and attempt to buy train tickets in Barcelona.  Yes, we did!  Eventually, we ventured out of our hotel to see the sights.

Barcelona side street

Many of the homes in Barcelona had shutters or fabric siesta shades to block out the afternoon sun. I love that the culture is so focused on naps!

When we first left our space-like sleep chamber, we ended up on a nearby side street with various fruit shops.  We would stop into one and buy something that looked deliciously ripe.  Then we would go outside to eat it just in time to visit the next shop.  I’m sure the store clerks were annoyed that we were only buying one piece of fruit at a time, but it saved us from carrying anything (and saved the environment from one more bag).

Ham Shop in Barcelona

I’ve never seen so many legs on display!

We did not enter the meat shop on the same street as the fruit stores.  But we did spy through the window.  Leg after leg of meat hanging by the hooves was quite a sight to behold.  Legs of meat aren’t as immediately edible as fruit, so it wasn’t so practical to pick one up on this outing.

Our initial process of sightseeing was basically to wander.  We had a map and general direction in mind, but stopped whenever we saw something of interest.

Perhaps our tanned skin made us look a bit like Spaniards or perhaps we carried ourselves with purpose.  But it was a bit comical when other tourists would ask us for directions as we wandered.  We didn’t even speak Spanish!  (Incidentally, this also happened to me on a trip to Mexico.  Natives would start speaking to me in rapid fire Spanish.)

CaixaForum

A neat line of mopeds and motorcycles in front of CaixaForum, a social and cultural center in Barcelona. Moped drivers were quite the daredevils, darting in and out of urban traffic!

I thoroughly enjoyed our somewhat aimless walk. We saw some beautiful architecture and panoramic views of Barcelona as the sun set.

near Place St. Jordi

Ms. HalfEmpty pauses amidst the beautiful scenery near Place St. Jordi

As we started walking back toward the hotel at 10:30 PM, I felt a rumbling in my tummy. That 1 PM lunch wasn’t going to keep me full forever!

We stopped into a restaurant and asked to be seated outside.  It was such a lovely summer night.  We had just been in winter in the southern hemisphere for much of our summer and then experienced the extreme heat of Dubai, so night in Barcelona was just the right temperature for dining al fresco.

But we were the only people outside and the servers looked at us funny when we asked.  Maybe they were annoyed that were creating more work for them.  Outside is a longer walk with more doors.

Palau Nacional de Montjuïc

Mr. HalfFull and Ms. HalfEmpty below Palau Nacional de Montjuïc. Fortunately, we captured Mr. HalfFull’s good side in this self-portrait! But both of my sides are good, so that’s why I’m centered. =)

After our 3-course lunch, of course we had to have a 3-course dinner.  Again, this one came with wine.  We had recovered enough by this point to partake.  But there was SO. MUCH. FOOD.  Just look at the appetizers they served us!  We still had 2 more courses after that.

appetizers in Barcelona

Ms. HalfEmpty starts another 3-course meal with appetizers. Yes, those are JUST the appetizers for TWO people!

After finishing our meal, we laid down on the sidewalk and rolled back to the hotel.  No wait, that’s just what I wished we had done.  We stumbled home full and happy, ready to sleep in preparation for another day of eating our way through Barcelona.

  • Do you make an effort to buy fresh fruit while traveling?
  • Do you prefer to see meat in small packages or full legs with hooves?  Do the hooves freak you out or is it a good natural reminder of the source?
  • Do you prefer to wander or have a plan while traveling?  What about in life?
  • As a tourist, do you ever get mistaken for a local?
  • Do you seize opportunities to eat outdoors?  Even when everyone else is inside?
Palau Nacional de Montjuïc

Palau Nacional de Montjuïc sits atop a hill with a beautiful view of the city below

view from Palau Nacional de Montjuïc

Panoramic view of Barcelona from Palau Nacional de Montjuïc

view from Palau Nacional de Montjuïc

View of gorgeous towers as seen from Palau Nacional de Montjuïc at sunset

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