Tuesday, July 31, 2007

No Reservations

I know I'm late in the game with this, but hey, I don't have cable. But as a foodie with Internet access and a love for travel, I can't ignore the TV perfect match for people like me: No Reservations. Follow chef Anthony Bourdain around the world as he gets into such interesting situations like arm wrestling Viking descendants and dancing over poles in Vietnam. And then there's the food.

Bourdain is a man after my own heart. His zest for travel is exhibited through his willingness to try anything once, a travel rule I believe in. Sure, you might not be thrilled try the local delicacy, barbecued spiders, but there are several good reasons to do so. For one, it's a once in a lifetime experience, and food tells a story about the culture you're in. Also, it's just downright polite. I was raised not to turn my nose up at a meal that anyone else has prepared for me. And it makes a great story. Who else in your circle of friends can say they've slurped on porcupine?

The other reason to check out this series if you haven't already, beside seeing the scenery and life of another place, is that it's funny. Bourdain has the sort of sarcastic, self-deprecating humor I have when I travel. I also look like a total idiot as I try to fit into new places too! 'Oh, look at you dancing the flamenco, so gracefully... whereas I look like I have ants down my pants and I've elected to stomp them out.' Similar episodes occur with Bourdain, as he gruffly chuckles and pokes fun at himself.

So if you're wondering what to flip on, I highly recommend No Reservations. And you don't have to wait too long. The new season is just around the corner.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Goal Setter

Financially planning... sounds as fun as a root canal without pain killers. I know, I know. But listen, I really advocate for these next few tips:

  1. Make a list. Jot it down, ladies! I know it sounds elementary, but putting down your goals can help you stayed focus. Think about your long term goals (saving for retirement, paying down credit card debt, buying a new car) and your short term ones (holiday shopping, a flight to Mexico in a few months, new clothes for the season). Having them down will help you identify what you are putting your money toward. And that will help you...
  2. Pay yourself. Change your attitude about savings. It's not that locking money is getting rid of it. It just means you can't swipe your debit card and pay for those shoes that are sale for only $168. It does mean that you are putting money away so that you can live a better life in the future. Sipping 'ritas in Cozumel, not worrying about that debt that's hanging over your head sounds dreamy, doesn't it?
  3. What's $5? Start thinking about each dollar as a unit that can go toward your goal. Maybe $8 for lunch at that cute bistro doesn't sound like a lot now, but if applied to your travel fund, it can add up soon. If you're saving for the holidays, think about what that $8 can buy you during holiday sales (a nice sweater, a spa gift set, maybe even 3 or 4 DVDs!). Assign your dollar amount to a goal. For a week, apply that thinking: "Sure that latte is $3, but I could use that money toward those heels," or "I'd rather put that $8 toward this Christmas," and "I know that top looks cute now, but for $22, I bet I'd rather have that money go toward my trip next summer." Add it up; that's already $33! You'll see a difference soon.
  4. Have fun. Don't strap yourself so tight that you don't feel like you can have a good time. It's okay to go out to dinner or buy some new make-up. But keep it to a minimum. You're more likely to save if you feel like you can still let loose and you aren't just putting away until you die.

Food for Thought

Behold, my new addition: a widget from Tastespotting. I was turned onto Tastespotting via a reecent entry about gloriously photographed food on Epicurious' blog. While I'm still a bit too bashful to throw the street term around for this new fad, I find the general idea quite delicious. The great thing about great food is that it appeals to so many senses, not just taste. Think of all those times that your dining mate gets their order and you marvel, "That looks good!" Our eyes and nose assess our food first, and so it's no wonder that we enjoy looking at food, even if we aren't going to eat it. Enjoy the view!

Done with Dining Out?

After much debate, I'm seriously reconsidering dining out. What used to be a pleasant outing and a chance to sample good cuisine in a nice atmosphere has turned into a stressful experience that robs my pocketbook and my schedule. Often, the food isn't that tasty and is way overpriced. Finding a decent meal in a nice place with nice service is also a challenge. Maybe this city is too hip for me, but whatever happened to the helpful server?

My friend Bethany visited this weekend for her birthday. Because of time, we went out for lunch at a Pan-Asian chain (Fine, I'll name it: Pei Wei). While my lunch of Dan Dan Noodles, something I'd never had, was good, it was essentially soy sauce, spice and cornstarch with noodles and chicken. Hardly revolutionary, and for the price ($7), hardly worth it. Then for dinner, we went out for Mexican food, at local chain Baby A's. It too was sub-par. My plate of enchiladas suizas were NOTHING to write home about. The rice and beans were mediochre, there were no tortillas of any kind, and the margarita was strong, but lacked the punch of lime I crave. We opted to sit on the patio because inside it was dim and had suspiciously wet floors and smelled of cigarettes. Outside, the music was blaring, and smoke wafted everywhere. I'd also like to add that our server was cocky and not at all helpful.

Why pay for that sort of thing? I find much more delight in cooking these meals myself, and I feel my loved ones would appreciate it more. Am I too harsh? Or is the restaurant business really lacking lately?