SOUTH OF THE BORDER

Little did we realize there were so many varieties of Latin American foods in the DFW area, other than Mexican. So, this month we decided to explore a few varieties and “traveled” to El Salvador, Peru and Columbia.

Our first stop was at Salvadorian Cuisine in Richardson.

Our thought was to get a sampler plate, but in retrospect a better way to do this would have been to research the signature dishes of each country beforehand so we would know what to order. The sampler plate here was starch, with a side of starch and a starch chaser. It included a corn tamale, a sweet potato tamale, and a pupusa which had primarily corn or potato in it. Plantains broke it up a bit but this was not our favorite stop.

Next we went to El Portal in Carrollton for some Columbian treats.

We ordered the recommendation of the waitress, which was Bandeja Paisa. This has become so popular in Columbia that it is known as its national dish. According to the Uncover Columbia website  “Traditionally, a Bandeja Paisa consists of two types of Colombian sausage, ground beef, rice, red beans, a fried pork rind called chicharrón, an arepa, a plantain, a slice of avocado (you know, to be healthy) and a fried egg to top it all off.” The sausage we had was quite delicious as were the beans. We didn’t much care for the chicharron and the tiny, tiny steak tasted okay but was definitely not a show stopper. The arepa is a corn patty and should really have been filled with something; on it’s own it’s quite plain. So a mixed review from us.

Our last stop was our absolute favorite.  We went to Peru and visited Lima Taverna in Plano.

We split two appetizers: beef empanadas and chicken skewers. Both were absolutely delicious.  After eating we chatted with the waiter who told us they have been open for 5 years. He was very friendly and brought us a complimentary sample of their “tiger’s milk,” which is what their ceviche is made with. Ceviche is what they are known for and seafood is extremely popular there. We will definitely want to go back, preferably in the evening as they have Latin dancing at night and that would be great to watch.

AND JUST SOUTH…..

Though this is not south of the border, the sampling wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t stop at Southern Recipes down the row from Lima Taverna to sample their pies. We had one coconut meringue and one lemon meringue. Barbara was curious to see if the lemon would come close to the one at S&D Oyster House in Dallas, which is the best she’s tasted. Ironically, when we were kids our mom was known for her wonderful lemon meringue pie but we never tasted it as the thought of meringue was “yucky.” As it turns out the coconut was okay but the lemon meringue had a little too sweet lemony of a taste. As a side note, we were amazed at the pricing on their menu. You wouldn’t know inflation was at work as they were charging a good 50% less for breakfasts than any of the other restaurants we’ve been to lately. So we do intend to come back and see how they fare.

NEW AUTHORS:

Barbara: Matthew Sullivan and Jason Rekulak

I read Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan. I love books that take place or revolve around either a bookstore or a library, so this book fit the bill. It kept me interested and wanting to go to the next chapter, with characters that were appealing. Aside from a character study there was also a mystery in it. Highly recommend.

The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak is a YA book. I find that when a YA book is good, I just love it and find it charming. This book, while not amazing, held my interest and the two main characters were both awkward and found common ground. It was about friendship and opportunities, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

REVISITING

Last month, we decided that we needed to revisit a few of the places and restaurants we really liked that we had discovered via “the ABC life.” Since we were already heading to Carrollton, we stopped off at A Honey of A Deal. We both thoroughly enjoyed this boutique shoppe and remembered they had unique gift items and great looking clothes. The prices on the clothes have really jumped from a year or so ago, but we each found an item that called our name. Barbara loves her new dish towel and Laura totally relates to her new wooden block sign. And yes, those two were a “honey of a deal”.

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SIPPING AND SAMPLING

New activity – Eat There or Be Square McKinney Food Tour

We always enjoy a good food tour and this month we were lucky to go with our Newcomer Friends of Greater Plano on a Food Walks of Texas tour in downtown McKinney on the square. Tour leaders always make or break a tour and ours was a definite “make it.” He called himself Tall Paul (and yes, he was). With his amazing memory, he was able to regale us with interesting historical facts and figures as we ate our way through the day. A couple of items we found particularly fascinating were the story of the origin of the name Squeezepenny, Texas (wouldn’t you love to live in a town named Squeezepenny?) and the mystery behind a tiny little door, big enough for a mouse to get through, on the bottom outside of a shop on the square.

We stopped in seven places, where we sipped gin martinis, guava infused mojitos and a delightful drink called a Beehive that was a marguerita with jalapeno salt on the rim and sampled a sandwich with peach chutney, a Cuban sandwich, pork and bacon, a fresh oyster on the shell, pie, cookies and truffles.

We stopped in seven places, where we sipped gin martinis, guava infused mojitos and a delightful drink called a Beehive that was a marguerita with jalapeno salt on the rim and sampled a sandwich with peach chutney, a Cuban sandwich, pork and bacon, a fresh oyster on the shell, pie, cookies and truffles.

Don’t expect to eat dinner when you’re done with this tour! (Although embarrassingly enough we eventually did.)

Learning Center

The story behind the origins of the word “quiz” is so good that we really wish it was true – but it probably isn’t. Legend has it that a Dublin theatre-owner made a bet that he could introduce a new word into the English language within a day or two (the amount of time differs in different tellings of the story), and that the people of Dublin would make up the meaning of the word themselves. So, he wrote the nonsense word “quiz” on some pieces of paper and got a gang of street urchins to write it on walls across Dublin. The next day everyone was talking about it, and it wasn’t long before it became incorporated into everyday language, meaning a sort of “test”, because this is what the people thought the mysterious word was supposed to be. According to the telling of the story recorded in Gleanings and Reminiscences by F.T. Porter (written in 1875), the events of this humorous tale unfolded in 1791, and this is where the story becomes less convincing. The word “quiz” was used earlier than this date, to refer to someone who is eccentric or odd (hence the word “quizzical”); it was also the name of a yo-yo-like toy popular in 1790. That said, it’s still difficult to find a compelling explanation for the origins of this word, so perhaps there is an element of truth in this excellent story after all.

If you had to introduce a new word in this way, what would it be?

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TWO SILLIES AND A SERIOUS

LEARNING CENTER

Laura: Raining Cats and Dogs

The expression “raining cats and dogs” is commonly known to mean that it is raining extremely hard. It’s quite a popular expression – in fact, there’s even a kid’s joke about it:

— It’s raining cats and dogs!
 —I know. I just stepped in a poodle.

As with most phrases, this one has several different origins, two of which are the most often cited. The first explanation claims roots in Norse mythology, where cats symbolized heavy rains and dogs were associated with Odin, the god of storms. The second version originated in 16th century England, where houses had thatched roofs and served as one of the few places where animals hid to get warm. Sometimes, when it would start to rain heavily, roofs would get slippery, and cats and dogs would fall off. Thus, if someone were looking, it would appear that it was raining cats and dogs. There is even an illustration in the previously-unheard-of-by-me- but-now-I-must-read children’s book: Raining Cats and Dogs: A Collection of Irresistible Idioms and Illustrations to Tickle the Funny Bones of Young People by Will Moses.

Activity – Song Silliness

Barbara: I enjoy almost every genre of music and I always listen to it in the car. The other day I heard a song “Drinkin’ Beer. Talkin’ God. Amen” on a country music channel and thought wouldn’t it be fun to listen to a lyric and in my day- to -day life make that lyric happen? (Those of you who know me would not think that was odd).

So that is what I set out to do. And of course, the first one I chose was the chorus from the song above which is “Sittin here, drinkin beer, talkin God, Amen.” While keeping my intent a secret from Laura, I went with her to have pizza and suggested we have a beer because it goes really well with pizza. Then I started talking about the book I just read, “Stranger in a Lifeboat” by Mitch Albom which led to a discussion of what we would do if someone claiming to be God actually showed up. And voila! There we were, sitting here, drinking beer and talking God, Amen! It really tickled my funny bone and I’m going to see if I can repeat the experience with more songs.

Movie or Series Theme: Rwanda

Laura: Black Earth Rising is a political thriller about the modern repercussions of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, where up to 1 million members of the Tutsi community were killed by Hutu extremists. Produced as an eight-episode limited series on Netflix, it focuses on Kate (Michaela Cole), a genocide survivor who was adopted as a young child by an international lawyer. Kate now works as a legal investigator with her mother and a lead prosecutor played by John Goodman, and it is Kate’s quest to discover everything she can about her past, no matter the emotional cost. The series is a tough show to watch, as it deals with atrocities, the brutal nature of political arrangements, raw emotions and complex relationships. Although this series was perhaps a bit too melodramatic at times, it deals with a subject that is all too often overlooked and, therefore, understood by far too few. For that reason alone, I’m thankful I watched it, although Michaela Cole’s and John Goodman’s performances are definitely worthy of attention as well.

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QRS READING CHALLENGE

We feel productive getting back into the ABC Life and are moving forward with our reading challenges for Q, R, and S:

  • Jot down favorite quotes from the books you read this month. (Remember – one of each of our Resolutions was to read a book per month). That should be sort of easy as both of us are drawn to interesting quotes.
  • Read through a cookbook and choose at least one recipe to try from it. Decide to keep or donate the book.
  • Make a spine poem or saying.

Laura:

Quote: I jotted down a quote from the book I am currently reading: When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal. It’s not the most profound thought and it definitely doesn’t cause deep contemplation, but it lined up perfectly with my feelings and so it made me pause and smile: “I saw a Starbucks on my travels, but it seems kind of pathetic to visit a brand I know perfectly well when I’m seven thousand miles from home.”

Recipe: I love this challenge – mainly because I have so many cookbooks that I couldn’t possibly use them all. And let’s face it: can every recipe for a crockpot pot roast be that different? Well I decided to tackle this challenge by trying two recipes from a cookbook that I haven’t picked up since I bought it two years ago: Stress-Free Family Meal Planning by Kristen McCaffrey. Kristen is the founder of the much admired website Slender Kitchen. I chose a recipe that used chicken sausages because I had a package and needed to use it pronto. The Ultimate Breakfast Scramble was great – easy, tasty and quick. It’s the kind of recipe that you do once and you’ve got it. Plus I intend to try her Cheddar-Apple Chicken Burgers which uses lean ground chicken and grated apples to see how the flavor of start-from-scratch compares to store bought.

Spine Poem: This challenge, while fun, was quite challenging for me. Few of my books have a verb in the title so it was difficult to put something together. Fortunately I had several library books that I was able to use to complete the little silliness below:

Barbara:

Recipe: I picked one of the many seldom used cookbooks off my shelf, Foolproof Fish, and tried two recipes. Both of the recipes (Roasted Snapper and Vegetables with Mustard Sauce and Roasted Cod with Artichokes and Sun Dried Tomatoes) came out quite deliciously so back on the shelf the book goes!

Quote:  One of the 6 books I read in January contained a quote that I liked: “I’ve often wished I could turn back time and do things differently, but maybe it’s better to start anew than to go back in time, and hope you have the courage and wisdom to make different choices.”  I think I agree with that; so many other things could change based on changing your bad decisions from the past that I wouldn’t want to risk it.

Spine Poem: Making a spine poem was a lot of fun. Luckily, I have a bunch of books on my bookshelves to choose from. I found just the combination to create odes to the two men in my life:   Steve, My Late Husband of 32 years, and A.D. who brought romance  back to my life:

ODE TO STEVE

ODE TO A.D.

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Quite Raring to Start back up

It seems like every time we try to get back on track with the ABC life something gets in our way. This time it was Covid preventing us from doing the things we wanted to do and – on the other end of the spectrum – travel plans kept us from doing things together. But we’re back in business and catching up by making three or four letter months (Q, R, S then T, U, V and finally W, X, Y, Z) until we reach the end of the alphabet for this abc round.

Barbara: Q is for Quarantine 

Whenever I watch television shows about prison, I can’t help wondering what that would feel like. I now have a new personal definition for prison and it is quarantine. After having a wonderful experience in Norway doing so many things that were out of my comfort zone – ice fishing, snowshoeing, dog sledding, etc – I wound up testing positive for the dreaded COVID-19. Luckily I had no symptoms whatsoever but because of the positive test had to spend the rest of my vacation and five days more quarantined in a small room – first on the ship and after that on land. I couldn’t leave my room, couldn’t have any visitors, no one could even come in to give me something, and once on land I was completely without any people I knew in a strange country. I know that doesn’t really compare to prison but it was amazingly isolating and if not for the frequent calls and well wishes from my friends and family I don’t know how I would’ve made it. Needless to say it will be a long time before you’ll hear me say “leave me alone“

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READING CHALLENGES

Since we are both bibliophiles, we have signed up for quite a few book related newsletters or emails. One of the ones Laura gets is from Book Riot and last month they talked about a Reading Challenge for the year.

We took their list and modified it a bit to come up with 24 challenges and found a letter of the alphabet to highlight in each challenge so that we can do two a month.

Since this month is Q/R, the month’s challenges will be:

  • Jot down favorite quotes from the books you read this month. (Remember – one of each of our Resolutions was to read a book per month). That should be sort of easy as both of us are drawn to interesting quotes.
  • Read through a cookbook and choose at least one recipe to try from it. Decide to keep or donate the book.

At the end of each month we will report back on the success or failure of this challenge.

Let us know if any of you join us in the challenges!

REVISITING

One of Barbara’s resolutions for 2022 is to revisit some of the restaurants we found and enjoyed during our ABC Life dining out so this month – since they have a very large outdoor dining area – we may revisit Rock & Brews to again experience their Purple Rain Drops (mini beignets filled with melted chocolate and topped with whipped cream and raspberry sauce).

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RARING TO RETURN TO THE ABC LIFE

A Quick RECAP


The bad thing about taking “a break” from something is that it is often tough to get back into the groove. But now we are determined to return to our ABC Life because we’ve gained so much from it already.

We started to look back at some of the things we did, ate, learned, read, etc. and most of them we would not have experienced had we not been following the ABC Life. As a matter of fact, we intend to REVISIT the restaurants that we have gone to and said we loved….and then never went back. What?!

The first thing we are going to do since it is a New Year after all, is:
22 for 22: Our New Year’s RESOLUTIONS


We’ve decided to categorize them into Personal, Health and Home. Here goes:

Barbara:

Personal (9)
Plan dude ranch trip with family
Revisit restaurants we discovered and loved on the ABC Life
Go on more day trips and overnighters with Laura
Plan trips within U.S. to take with A.D.
Go to Yoga Retreat in the Pines
Plan weekly recipes on Sunday mornings
Scan medical directives and send to kids, A.D. and Laura (never like to think about this but it’s a must do)
Polish all my silver jewelry that has gone black during the pandemic
One book a month; one documentary a month

Health (5)
Go to exercise class or use treadmill, starting at least twice a week
Cut down on sweets, especially at mah jongg
Drink 8 glasses of water to minimize cramping
Cook more fish recipes
Participate in more Wonder Woman walking trails

Home (8)
Go through bookcase of cookbooks, pulling out recipes to try, and attempt to get rid of some of the books
Organize paperwork in office; make folders for upcoming trips
Clean out filing cabinet in garage and go through some of the shelves
Clean out the bottom of the downstairs bathroom vanity
Review Texas Highways magazine and update spreadsheet with cities/places of interest for ABC Life
Review items in Safety Deposit box
Go through Eric’s closet and get rid of most of the stuff on the shelves
Finally figure out how to remove the vines stuck on the Hardy Board planks of the house.

Laura:

Personal (9)
Go to Yoga Retreat in the Pines
Take more day trips and overnighters
Plan more family vacations
Keep up with daily planner: include “this made me smile today” and daily spending sections
Write weekly menu plans in notebook: then use it as 2023’s yearly meal plans
Find something new I’m passionate about (hobby, cause, etc.)
Schedule more purposeful “me” time
Clean up email inbox
One book a month/one documentary a month

Health (7)
Build an exercise plan: at home, at a studio/gym and walking routine
Reduce sugar intake
Return to juicing habit and/or smoothies
Prep fruit and veggies for quick grab as snacks
Visit a Farmer’s Market bimonthly
Drink more water: devise a system
Find new healthy “take-out” resources

Home (6)
Organize/update key records and documents
Keep up with Ultimate Home Checklist
Tackle a full house declutter: aim for room-by-room plan and monthly concentration
Do a monthly “eat from pantry” week to keep items moving and prevent out-of-dates
Replace refrigerator
Reduce amount of food waste: set up system to not forget about food to use up

The 22 for ’22 is based on the author Gretchen Rubin’s yearly challenge. Like Gretchen, we will try to accomplish our 22 but we are using them as goals or as a “wish list” – not as a “must do” list. Feel free to join us by creating your own 22 for ’22. We’d love to see what you have planned for this year.

Happy New Year

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QUITE A YEAR

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The ABC sisters are taking a break this month due to family festivities and other commitments.

During this month, however, we will be toasting to the culmination of one full year as co-bloggers. We joined forces at Q and now we’ve just finished with P. That’s 26 months of enriching our lives one letter at a time. When we restart, we will be enriching our lives TWO letters at a time! So next up will be Q and R, with a bunch of Quirky Relatives leading up to it!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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P PACKS IT IN

New activity – Ruth PAINE House

Barbara – Most people I know can tell you where they were when President Kennedy was assassinated and have heard and seen a lot about Lee Harvey Oswald and all the theories regarding this horrible event. However, I had not heard of Ruth Paine nor did I know much about Oswald’s wife, Marina. So a visit to the Ruth Paine home was very educational. Ruth was separated when she met Lee and Marina and the two women took to each other immediately. When Lee thought Marina should return to Russia, Ruth offered to have her and her child stay at her home while Lee looked for work and the ladies became fast friends. I was so surprised to hear that Ruth, who is still alive but lives in California, still receives hate mail. That kind of boggled my mind, even that she would get any hate mail in the first place. The docent told me that Marina remarried, and she doesn’t give out her address, which makes sense.

The house is very modest. You can see it only by appointment as it wouldn’t be fair to the people in the neighborhood to have a lot of people coming in and out. They have recreated it to look just as it did in the 60s and there is still one original piece of furniture still in the living room. Stepping into the house is like going back in time. All in all a worthwhile morning.

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Movie Theme – PERFECTIONIST, PSYCOPATH

Laura: This month I chose the move “Dismissed.” This 2017 film is billed as a horror thriller so I thought it would be fitting to watch given it’s Halloween month, plus it deals with the theme of being a perfectionist and a psychopath. The lead actor, Dylan Sprouse, was terrific and very believable as the seemingly charming, brilliant student who demanded perfection (straight As or else!) and who gradually becomes more and more creepy and evil. However, although the roughly 90 minutes weren’t a complete waste of time, I felt it shortchanged the viewer. While it delivered tension and some scary moments, it could have had less clichés and explored more deeply some of the issues it raises: strong student/weak teacher, the problems of being a perfectionist, manipulation among friends to name a few. If any of you are familiar with the website Decider and its “Stream It or Skip It,” the latter gets my vote.

New Author – Camille PAGAN

Laura: Just as important as being in the right frame of mind for a book is being at the right stage of life. Camille Pagan’s novel, I’m Fine and Neither Are You, examines truths and boundaries in a young mother’s marriage and friendships. It’s full of insights and thought provoking ideas and I imagine it would be a very satisfying and fulfilling read to someone who was in similar circumstances as the main character. I have long passed this stage of life and so although I recognized this book’s value, it didn’t move me as much as I would have expected…kind of “been there, done that” situation.

Media Travel – PERU, PRAGUE AND PHUKET

Laura: One country and two cities might seem ambitious but this armchair traveler loves to leave the confines of my town and travel abroad. First I watched the film “Peru: Tesoro escondido”. It showcased the natural riches of Peru and painted a beautiful picture of the diverse landscapes of this amazing country. Unfortunately, it made me sad since I realized I would most likely never get to travel there. Then I switched to a visit to Prague via Rick Steves’ Europe, Season 8. Prague is a beautiful city but it was very reminiscent of other European cities and without actually being there to experience the sights and smells first-hand, it was a disappointing viewing. And then came Phuket, a city in Thailand. I discovered a delightful series streaming on Netflix: Jack Whitehall: Travels with my Father. Jack is an English actor, comedian and writer and his father Michael is a television producer and agent. Their travel documentary/road trip comedy series is a fun and engaging way to see different places and laugh/squirm/snicker at some of the silly and awkward situations they encounter. I thoroughly enjoyed my half hour in Phuket and learned about local food, beaches, customs and sports. I plan to watch all five seasons of this series but, since the order doesn’t matter, I most likely will choose my episodes as they fit in the “ABC” life.

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“P” IS PROGRESSING NICELY

New activity – PAPER ART

Barbara – I’ve lived in the DFW area for over 25 years but hardly ever venture into Fort Worth so I hadn’t yet been to its Arts & Culture neighborhood. But learning that the Amon Carter Museum was having an exhibition called “In the Night Garden” featuring Paper art, how could I not go in “P” month? The two artists featured were Houston based Natasha Bowdoin and Pakistani-American Anila Quayyam Agha.  I LOVED Bowdoin’s art, the main piece being the title of the exhibit and which was paint on board with cut paper and vinyl mounted on moveable supports to resemble a theatrical backdrop. “For Bowdoin, nature is not merely a subject; it represents the idea of transformation.” She uses literature as her muse. 

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Agha’s art was paper cut out, pastels, embroidery and beading on paper and was also quite beautiful. This one “suggests the sewing circles her mother established in Pakistan as a forum for women to gather and communicate in a restrictive, patriarchal society.”

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If not for the ABC Life I would never have discovered these wonderful artists!

New author – Katherine PANCOL

Barbara: I started and aborted many “P” authors this month until I finally came upon “The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles” by Katherine Pancol. I enjoy reading books about sisters (naturally). In this book Iris, the more vivacious and wealthy sister, commits to writing a book which she asks Josephine, her self-effacing, struggling sister, to write for her in exchange for the money. The author has a good style and so I enjoyed the story and all the supporting characters. While I would never take advantage of my sister (and vice versa), it was believable in this instance. The only negative for me was that I was extremely frustrated with how Josephine lets everyone use her; I wanted to shake her. But I guess that means the author did her job.

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