Does the Christmas card automatically pushed out have any value??

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

I have come to realize once again that the modern world has distracted me from myself.

For this reason, when it came time to prepare for Christmas day, I let my wife stay in bed so that I could partake in the ritual of hunting the Christmas ham and gathering the holiday side dishes.

My plan was simple, I would be up before sunrise, go to the gym and then about 6am make my way to the Honeybaked store armed only with my wits, the confirmation number my wife provided and my credit card.   This would be glorious!

Then I overslept a little.

I woke up about 5:40 and feeling the aftereffects of too many consecutive days at the gym.  I moved down the hallway, much the way my 85-year old father does, a little hunched over, shuffling and moaning all the way.  Physical aches and pains be damned, after a session of foam rolling (and checking Facebook, read the morning blog posts) it was time to get the whole hunter/gather thing going.

I resisted the urge to plug the Honeybaked store address into my GPS.  True hunter/gatherers of old did’t use GPS systems to track their prey.  They use the sun and the stars and their knowledge of the lay of the lands.   So I did what my ancestors did, I put my coffee in a travel mug, memorized the address and used Google Maps to develop a plan to get to the hunting grounds.

I was uncomfortable driving someplace new without computer guidance; that probably means it was good for me. I became aware of exactly how dependent I’ve become on satellite-assisted navigation for even simple trips.  At one point, I felt like a modern day Prufrock asking myself, “do I dare to take this exit?”  As I came off the freeway, I saw a street sign with the block number at the bottom. I remember those things!  Back in the old days, they helped guide us to our final destination.  Thank goodness for the ancient wisdom that provided us with these markers.

About a quarter-mile up the road, was the Honeybaked store in a little front pad of a shopping center.  They had opened earlier than advertised and there was no line as I drove in around back to park.   There was a small line by the time I made it back to the front of the store.  I stood in the freezing cold (61°F) California winter morning watching the sunrise with the other hunter/gatherers feeling somewhat like I was in nice version of a scene from the soup nazi episode of Seinfeld.

Inside the Honeybaked Store
Inside the Honeybaked Store – Turkey and Ham for YOU!
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;

One of the successful hunters leaving the store was offering up her coupons.   All of the hunter/gatherers apparently had these coupons already in hand.  Reluctantly and shamefully, I admitted that I was not as well prepared as EVERYONE else and accepted the coupons which entitled me to $12 off if I added a side of turkey and three sides.  This was a hunter/gathers dream, not to be passed up for my foolish pride.

The line processed quickly and before I knew it, with the swipe of my credit card, I had exchanged my confirmation number for pints of apple cranberry sauce, creamed spinach, ambrosia as well as huge side of smoked turkey and a 7lb. ham.

Outside the Honeybaked Store
Outside the Honeybaked Store

As I left the Honeybaked store hunting/gathering grounds I was surprised by the number of late sleepers were lining up the block.  Their fate was to get the less desired hams and turkeys for my early rising brothers and sisters had laid waste to the preferred bounty.   I felt sorry for their children that they had to be born to such laggards.  Those poor children would never know exactly why this Christmas didn’t shine as bright as it should have.

As I secured the bounty on top of in the back of my car, I took a taste of the smoked turkey.  It was seasoned in sugar and was just a delight.  During the drive home, I thought about how easy this all is.  It’s easy to get from point A to point B.  It’s easy to get a meal prepared and table-ready.  Heck, it was car-ready.

It’s easy now to find store locations and get directions and so on and so on.  Does the struggle add to the accomplishment and meaning of putting dinner on the table and the other accomplishments of life? I know we used to waste lots of time and energy looking for places, but did that struggle make us a bit smarter, wiser and more appreciative? If one day Christmas dinner magically appeared on the table without us having to work for it, would we value it?

For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

~Wordsworth
 
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Does the Christmas card automatically pushed out have any value??

Cashew Chicken Pizza: Only at Mission Pizza & Pub in Fremont, CA

In the little city of Fremont, California, just north of San Jose, in an unassuming little strip mall near the 660 Freeway, sits the amazing little pizza and brew place, Mission Pizza & Pub. One could drive by this place for years and never stop in. That would be tragic.

Kyle's Cashew Chicken (My Favorite)
Kyle’s Cashew Chicken (My Favorite)

The restaurant differentiates itself with creative and flavor-filled pizzas. Pictured above is my personal favorite, the cashew chicken pizza also featuring feta cheese and lots of garlic.  This is a pizza that is made to savor small bite by small bite.

Amit's Mission Masala (Spicy)
Amit’s Mission Masala (Spicy)

Our veggie pizza selection at my last visit was delicious. Someone realized that the onions and possibly some of the other veggies were added after the pizza was cooked, injecting another dimension to the flavor.  This particular pizza was spicy; luckily, Mission Pizza has a wide selection of good craft beers on tap to go with their unique pizzas.

Vince's Salmon & Pesto
Vince’s Salmon & Pesto

The thing that I enjoy the most about Mission Pizza is that it is the perfect place to get to know people.  It has been my experience that when people walk into the restaurant they “get” the place and they just relax. The pizzas take a while to cook which leaves ample opportunity to soak in the ambiance.

The menu is usually the first topic of discussion as people read about the salmon and Pesto pizza or the peanut sauce and shrimp pizza and their brains are stimulated trying to imagine what the pizzas would taste like.   Then the beer selections make for a nice next topic of discussion.   Then things just start to flow.  I’ve been there with several groups and it’s always a memorable experience.

The staff are friendly and helpful and for the most part, they stay behind the bar and invisible to the customer’s experience.  By that I mean the staff don’t hover, there is no sense of rush and there are no interruptions, which is refreshing.

Mission Pizza & Pub on Urbanspoon

Cashew Chicken Pizza: Only at Mission Pizza & Pub in Fremont, CA

Day 7 & 8: The Edinburgh Half-Marathon 2013

Last month, during my two weeks abroad, I ran the Edinburgh Half-Marathon for the second time. This experience was much easier than the first; but we shan’t dwell on that tired old story.

Running in Europe has historically been a solitary event for me. I have never had the opportunity to run with a friend I didn’t make at the start line.  For this race, I had the pleasure of being  joined by the International Woman of Mystery (I♀oM), blogger, runner and traveler extraordinaire.

Oddly enough, I♀oM and I met on Saturday after we both flew to Edinburgh on different flights from Amsterdam.  We arrived at Hollyrood Park on the exact spot where I picked up my bib in 2011.  Unfortunately that was not where bib pickup was in 2013 – so we had to go searching (my bad).

Hollyrood Park
I♀oM in Hollyrood Park

Hollyrood Park is a thing of beauty.  Much like my many pictures of Half Dome, the image above is one of two dozen I have of the same rock face all taken from about the same angle.  Hollyrood Park, like much of Scotland, is always too beautiful not to photograph.

After some shopping, Mexican food, photos and playing a long game of find the right bus stop, I♀oM and I parted company.  Being so far north the sun stayed high in the sky, making the well-aged day seem younger than it  actually was.  The sun was still high in the sky at 9pm when I went to bed and my hotel room was just as brightly-lit when I woke up early next morning in a panic thinking that I had overslept.

A Beautiful Day in Edinburgh
A Beautiful Race Day in Edinburgh

Race day was beautiful and warm.  After walking out of the hotel at 6am I made a U-turn and changed into much lighter running clothes.

Due to a bit of a muck-up on behalf of the local constable, I♀oM made it to the race a bit later than planned. The nice thing about that was that there was no time for her to get to her corral WAY at the front of the race, so we both started at the back of the pack.  It was refreshing to have someone new to run with.  I have raced with my wife and with SugarMagnolia, but this was different because this person was going to run away and leave my butt behind.   It wasn’t going to be a 13 mile chat, it was more of “too hip, gotta go, see you at the finish line!”, and I was very happy with that.   I was able to have a comrade at the start and end, but still be able to have my own semi-private experience without feeling anti-social.

Running by the Scottish Parliament near Hollyrood park
Running by the Scottish Parliament near Hollyrood park in 2013

The race began near the center of Edinburgh and worked its way back to the Scottish Parliament, by Hollyrood Castle and Hollyrood Park.  Interestingly enough despite swearing that I wasn’t going to take pictures, I took pretty much the exact same pictures as I took in 2011, except this time with a much fitter-looking crowd.

Hollyrood Castle in 2011
Hollyrood Castle in 2011

About a mile into the race, I lost sight of I♀oM and was on my own in this the middle of this crowd.  The first four miles of the race were downhill and like the rest of this race, they went way too quickly.

Yet another Hollyrood Park Picture
Yet another Hollyrood Park Picture – Click for the full effect

After leaving Hollyrood park, the course was a mostly unremarkable mix of residential, commercial with a hint of industrial.  Then the race transformed.

When I ran the San Francisco Marathon, I was excited during the first five miles as I anticipated that first glimpse of the  Golden Gate Bridge. Having run Edinburgh before, I had that same sense of giddiness after passing mile 4 which was just before the course reached an inlet to the North Sea.

Elevation Profile - Edinburgh Half
Elevation Profile – Edinburgh Half

The North Sea was strikingly beautiful.  It was like seeing my bride turn the corner on our wedding day.  After that first glimpse, it became a matter of enjoying this moment of my life, because it was only going to be about a mile and a half long at best.

I was, for that time period , the luckiest person in the world, because I was blessed with being in that exact spot on the earth with the ability to not only to run the distance, but also to be able to appreciate how short it would be.  It was also cool to know that I♀oM had seen it too, all be it, a half hour or so earlier, when it wasn’t nearly as awesome as it was in that moment when I saw it.

The North Sea
Click for the Full Effect

After leaving the beach the course traveled into Musselburgh (pronounced mussel-borough).  I was looking forward to seeing the city sign again as when it occasionally pops up on my digital picture frame, it always makes me smile.  I swore that I would not take a another picture of it.  I took another picture of it.

IMG_1160

At the mile 8 marker some sadness set in because there were only 5 miles left in the race.  I hadn’t run much over the previous 3 weeks and I felt strong and happy.  I felt like I could have run the full marathon that day with no trouble a ‘tall to use the vernacular. Nothing hurt and the running was effortless. It was all joy.

My Favorite Picture from 2011

The last 5K of the race ran through this little village full of supportive, fun Scots.  I joked and laughed with the bystanders along the way.  I didn’t want this race to end. This race filled my soul and I wanted to go on forever, yet every flow has its ebb.

I finished the race with a good hard sprint to the finish line.  After a few pictures and some stretching,  I went to bag check and found that someone had placed a German beer in the side pocket of my backpack.  Not quite sure how that happened, but what SWAG!  After a few “where are you?” texts were exchanged,  I♀oM and I followed the crowds to the double decker buses that hauled us back to the city.

All Good Things Must Come to An End
Every flow has its ebb

When the bus arrived in Edinburgh and came to a complete stop, many of us runners stood up and groaned in unison.  It was like a choir of old men going “uhhhh” on cue in the key of G.

I♀oM’s navigated us through the streets of Edinburgh to the preappointed eating place, the Whiskibar on the Royal Mile.  I was impressed and more that a little envious of her sense of direction.  When traveling, it’s usually my role to get my party from point A to point B, even when I have never been in city before. I had never realized how stressful that can be.  It was refreshing to have a companion who could without effort walk us up to the bar like it was her home town.

The Whiskibar

As it was two years ago, post-race lunch consisted of  fish and chips.  After I finished my lunch on my previous visit I saw this wonderful presentation of haggis but was too full to try it.   This visit, being fully aware of what it was made of and counter to the advice of  I♀oM, I tried and enjoyed the haggis appetizer.

The Haggis at The Whiskibar
The Haggis at The Whiskibar

There is an old Scottish expression, that “Eagles flees alane, but sheep herds thegither“, and within a few hours of our meal, I♀oM flew off; as  I♀oMs oft do.

When thinking about signing up for a race, that race immediately has two dimension defined, location and distance. If I say “The Paris Marathon” you get the where it is and the how long it is.  Then the mind forms that initial impression of the event might be like based on ones perception of the city or the route.  Some research might help refine the sense of the future experience.  But it is that time between the corral and the race recovery where the runner paints over that black and white canvas with rich colored memories of the places and the people and the food and the friends.  All that being said, as my 2011 race was in already in color, my 2013 Edinburgh Half Marathon was in 3D Dolby™ surround-sound.

I♀OM and Me after the race
The I♀oM and the happiest man in the United Kingdom
Day 7 & 8: The Edinburgh Half-Marathon 2013

Day 1 – Airport 2 Dunkin’ Donuts

Time away: 9 hours. One flight is 10 min behind me the next is two hours ahead.

Newark Airport means I have flown overnight and it also means a very unhealthy breakfast at Dunkin’ Donuts. California has many blessings, but DD isn’t one of them. I decided to indulge in a pumpkin muffin today.

The flight in was packed. I was in a middle seat between a very large man and a suit who didn’t think the rules about shutting off ones mobile device applied to him.

It’s 5:35am. Emails from Europe are coming in. Need to get some more Euros, Pounds and Swiss Francs.

Next stop, Philly. I need to be back here at this airport in 35 hours.

Yankees lost. Game 5 tonight.

How is your Friday going?

 

Day 1 – Airport 2 Dunkin’ Donuts

Salmon Saturday: Chipolte Veggie Bowl with Smoked Salmon

Salmon Saturday: Because there are so many great ways to prepare salmon and someone has to start writing them down.  Take these ideas and make them your own.

This weeks post was a bit of an on the fly idea. We stopped at Chipolte on the way home from the mall and I ordered my usual veggie bowl.

I order the bowl because just adding the tortilla adds 290 calories, 9 grams of fat and 670mg of sodium.

Once home, I chopped up some Alaskan smoked salmon from the store and added it to the bowl to add a little more protein to the meal.

The flavor from the veggie bowl masked the flavor of the salmon, nut I could still tell it was there.

Have a good week!

First draft posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

Salmon Saturday: Chipolte Veggie Bowl with Smoked Salmon

Salmon Saturday Afternoon: Salmon with Pesto and Pasta

Salmon Saturday: Because there are so many great ways to prepare salmon and someone has to start writing them down.  Take these ideas and make them your own.

It’s about 6:30am on Saturday morning and I have no Salmon Saturdays ready to launch.  I have ideas of what I could write, but nothing really inspired me to write this month.   Then I saw Kat’s Friday Food round up and the picture of Great Grandma Turano’s Meatballs   and then I knew what I was going to write about and what I was going to have for dinner tonight.

A few months back, I had lunch with wife at Lascari’s grill near my work.  The special that day was a salmon with pesto sauce served with a side of pasta.   Sounds great, right?

This dish should have been advertised as a pasta dish with a side of pesto salmon.  The pasta sauce had a tangy rich flavor that more than made up for the the unremarkable salmon.  I am guessing that the salmon was previously frozen and very little went into preparing it prior to it being grilled.   The pesto sauce added nothing to the flavor and it sat there under a green death shroud.  I suspect this was once an inspired creation developed by a chef and edited by a bean-counter, who in his attempt to cut the total cost concomitantly destroyed the product.

One has to decide if the flavor is going to come from the fish, the pesto sauce or both.  In this case, I would probably lean on the pesto.  If I were to make this at home, I would start with a fresh piece of salmon.   The only reason I would use frozen salmon or farm-raised salmon is if I had a killer pesto sauce that I could trust to pull off the meal.
Now, back to Lascari’s…..

This one dish aside, I will say that the food at Lascari’s is always good.  The portions are filling and there is usually leftovers to take home.

What really stands out in my mind about Lascari’s is their commitment to the community.  Having had a daughter in Pop Warner and High School competitive cheer, Lascari’s has always been there to help the teams in the area with fund-raisers, both in their restaurant and on-site at football games and cheer camps.  I have had my fill of fund-raiser food over the many years.   Lascari’s is the one place that will always provide a high quality tasty meal.

Lascari's Italian Grill on Urbanspoon

Salmon Saturday Afternoon: Salmon with Pesto and Pasta

Salmon Saturday Afternoon: Grilled Salmon from California Fish Grill

Salmon Saturday: Because there are so many great ways to make Salmon and someone has to start writing them down.  Take these ideas and make them your own.

A few weeks back I reviewed the Cajun Salmon Salad  from the California Fish Grill.This week, we tried the Charbroiled Salmon.  The Charbroiled  menu options include Swahi, Salmon, Trout, Tilapia, Ahi, Mahi Mahi, Catfish, Swordfish, Shrimp, and Barramundi. All charbroiled items topped with either garlic butter sauce or cajun style and presented with coleslaw, bread and the choice of fries or rice.

Charbroiled Salmon from the California Fish Grill

My first impulse was to go with the cajun spiced salmon, but as I reviewed a few cajun salmon ideas recently, I decided to go with the garlic butter.  The garlic butter was nice, but a bit bland.  I didn’t really taste the garlic at all.  I enjoyed this light meal and I wished I had gone with the cajun seasoned option.

The grilled zucchini was quite good.   It was cooked perfectly.   California Fish Grill does do great side dishes.

This place is always a good place to sit down and have a nice meal, no matter if you like salmon, ahi or catfish. Everything is good.

California Fish Grill on Urbanspoon

Salmon Saturday Afternoon: Grilled Salmon from California Fish Grill