Concerts Concerts Concerts!

Weezer and Panic! at the Disco:

Last month was a fun one, filled with concerts.  I recently got to see Panic! at the Disco and Weezer at Bayfront Park.  I always get a kick out of seeing what sort of crowd comes out to see a particular band.  In this case there was a lot of young girls wearing those mom shorts that are in style for some reason.  The opening act was Andrew McMahon, but we pretty much missed his entire set waiting in line and getting through security to get into the venue.

It was my first time seeing Panic! at the Disco, and my second time seeing Weezer.  I have to say Panic! at the Disco kinda stole the show.  I have never seen them before and they are really a fun band to watch.  The concert was days after the tragic shootings in Orlando and the lead singer of Panic! at the Disco, Brendon Urie, came out in a rainbow cape as a tribute. I thought that was pretty cool.  He was very gracious and thanked everyone for coming out and commented on how much of an influence Weezer was to him.   The band was a cool mix of rock, pop, ska, and piano melodies.  The highlight of the show was when they played Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.

Panic! At The Disco
Panic! At The Disco

Panic! At The Disco

After that, it felt like maybe they were stalling for Weezer to come out.  They played about 3 more songs until Weezer came out.  Weezer was awesome as usual, but I think they had some sound issues.  Some of those guitar high notes pierced my ears.  But they were great to watch live.  They played all their hits from all their albums and did a few mixes to squeeze all them in a short time frame. I was a little disappointed their set seemed cut short.  However, I left pretty content with the night.

Weezer
Weezer

Weezer

The Cure and Twilight Sad: 

More recently, I was able to catch The Cure.  They also had their show at Bayfront Park.  This show had a mixed crowd of older people, yuppies, goths, I even saw an adorable baby with headphones on to protect their little ears.  We were able to catch the opening act, Twilight Sad.  They were pretty good. Definitely a goth type band.

Twilight Sad
Twilight Sad

Finally, The Cure hit the stage.  They played all their hits, people were swaying and dancing and singing along.  It was a really good show.  The band did not show their age when it came to their performance.  Robert Smith even got emotional at the end, being that it was the last stop of the American tour.

The Cure
The Cure

The Cure

The Cure

 

Book Review: Lux Book Series

Lux Book Series

For the past few months I have been in love with a new book series, The Lux Series.  It’s a romance/sci-fi, young adult series, written by Jennifer Armentrout.

It all started with Obsidian.  I downloaded the audio book on a whim and loved it!  The story revolves around a young girl named Katy.  She and her mother just moved all the way from Florida to a new house in West Virginia.  Her mother pressures her to go out and make new friends.  So she walks next door to slyly ask for directions and introduce herself. Well guess who opens the door? Her shirtless, totally hot, new next door neighbor, Daemon.  Unfortunately, their first meeting did not go so well.  Daemon, was rude and cocky as can be.  Of course that is just the beginning. Katy, heads to town with Daemon’s directions and runs into his sister Dee.  Dee will eventually become Katy’s best friend.  But Katy is not completely oblivious that something is a bit off with the town and her new neighbors.  The truth is eventually revealed about their alien origins, and the plot thickens.  Their race has their own enemies. And what about the government? Are they friends or foe?

One of the things I like about the book series is that Katy is a bit more independent and brave than other female protagonist in other series.  However, her need to do what she wants, and to act in contrary to any of Daemon’s advice always gets her in trouble.  But of course the constant bickering and sexual tension between her and Daemon is what also makes it a great romance novel.  You are constantly wondering, are they going to get together? Are they not going to get together?  Are they going to have sex already?  Get it over with already! But that is the fun part of reading these types of books. It’s all about the build up.

Daemon is a great character, he is cocky, arrogant, great body (just look at the book covers!), but of course a kind heart…swoon.  Once you get to Origin, you are treated with his point of view every other chapter.  In fact, I liked reading the book so much I ended up buying Oblivion which is Daemon’s point of view of Book 1, Obsidian.

Since it’s a series, all the books pretty much end in cliff hangers leaving you wanting to read more. But luckily they are YA books, so the dialogue is in modern English and slang, so you breeze right through the books.  For you Twilight fans out there, it will be a funner, more erotic read.  Jennifer Armentrout even pokes fun at the books at one point:

“Will you show me what you really look like? You don’t sparkle do you?” – Oblivian

I don’t want to spoil anything for you guys, so go read them!  You can also look up more information and other books written by Jennifer Armentrout’s  on her website.  I’m definitely looking forward to reading her other books.

I’m currently, in the middle of reading Opposition, maybe I will update this post once I’m done.  If you have any comments, or have any other book recommendations, leave a comment!

Thanks for reading – Gio

  • Obsidian – Book 1
  • Onyx – Book 2
  • Opal – Book 3
  • Origin – Book 4
  • Opposition – Book 5
  • Shadows – Prequel – This is Dawson’s story
  • Oblivion – Obsidian, but from Daemon’s point of view (The ebook comes with Obsidian, Onyx, and Opal)

 

 

Brew at the Zoo 2016

Sample Mug
My Sample Mug

Last Saturday I finally got to go to the New Times & Zoo Miami Brew.  I have been very curious about these type of beer tasting events.  Overall I had a good time, but It was a bit different than what I had imagined.

So this event is referred to as Brew at the Zoo, but it should really be called ‘Brew Adjacent to the Zoo’.  I’m sorry to say we did not see any zoo animals that night 🙁

My friend had invited me along with some of her friends that had purchased the tickets as a group discount for $25 each.  We ended up meeting up at the Zoo Miami parking lot. We saw people tail gating and pre-drinking before the event and were giggling and thinking that was redundant.  Later, we found out exactly why people were pre-drinking. Once the event started, we followed the crowd to an entrance along the right side of the Zoo.  We also received sample mugs as we walked in (they were adorable). The event was on an open lot adjacent to the zoo parking lot.  It reminded me of going to a food truck event.  Instead of food trucks on an empty lot, there were beer vendors.  There was a ton of people, and each little stand had a big line.

We sampled several beers from Magic Hat, Ballast Point, Wood Chuck, MIA Brewery and a few others.  Some tasted pretty good and some were pretty bad.  Around 9 or so, Arrested Development took the stage and some of the people went to see the show.  Someone in line told us that they came to the Brew just to see them.  They sounded great from a distance, but I honestly missed it all.  We ended up standing in line for some arepas and pinchos (pork kabobs).  The food was delicious, but basically those were the only food options.  By the end of the night we had really only sampled about 7 beers due to the long lines.

Overall,  I had a pretty good time.  I went with cool people, and the food was also good.  But of course food is not included in the ticket price.  But I guess I’m not too big on the beers we sampled.  Also, it would have been cool to get admission to the Zoo and walk around. The musical guest was a bonus to me.  I didn’t even know there was going to be one.  So in the end, I am not sure if I would pay for a full ticket price of $40 and up.  It would seem more economical to try a new bar and order a few pitchers.  But if you are curious like I was, getting the group discount (I believe it was a Groupon) would be your best bet for the next Brew at the Zoo.

Thanks for reading, and as always leave a comment – Gio

Swensen’s Beer Party

Swensens Glass Window

Last week, me and a few other bloggers were invited to a special tasting event at Swensen’s. Swensen’s has been located in Coral Gables by US 1 since 1971.  They have revamped their menu, adding fresh new items and ideas, including craft beers and gourmet burgers for a more gastro-pub type menu as opposed to a diner.  The owners along with their dedicated staff have been busy coming up with delicious new combinations of Adult Shakes as well, pairing some of them with their latest selection of craft beers.

Our first tasty treat was a truffle oil mac and cheese.  We had a few options of beer to try, Brooklyn Blast from Brooklyn Brewery, La Rubia from local Wynwood Brewery, Pineapple Sculpin from Ballast Point Brewery just to name a few. But I decided on a cider, Kopperberg Premium Cider. This is definitely, the best cider I have tried so far.  It taste and looks similar to pink champagne. Bubbly, and sweet, with a light fruity flavor.  I think it was a good contrast to the mac and cheese since it is heavier and bit more salty.

Truffle Mac and Cheese
Truffle Mac and Cheese
Kopparberg Cider
Kopparberg Cider

Our next menu item to try was dolphin fingers.  They were battered and fried, but very tender and light to eat. They were served along with a lemon garlic aoili sauce. The sauce was a delicious flavor boost to the dolphin fingers.

Dolphin-Fingers
Dolphin Fingers

Next, the awesome staff from Swensen’s brought out duck confit sliders.  They were deliciously made with their in house Asian BBQ sauce and ranch sauce.  The meat was super tender and juicy.  I guess I can describe the consistency as similar to pulled pork.

Duck-Confit
Duck Confit

So you think I would be full by now.  Yes, I was getting there.  But then they brought out their Nica Burger.  Guess who is Nica?  Me!  These sliders were made with Angus beef patties, slice of Nicaraguan style fried cheese (queso blanco), crema (yogurt type sauce), a sweet plantain, and Nicaraguan style cabbage salad (repollo).

Nica-Burger
Nica Burger

In between all this food tasting, I tried another beer.  This time a Monk in the Trunk.  According to our very nice server Riky, it is comparable to maybe an AmberBock.  It was not too hoppy or dark, but not as light as a bud light or similar beers.  So I liked it.

Monk-in-the-Trunk
Monk in the Trunk

Our final food sample, was a mac burger.  It consisted of fried mac and cheese of course, a hamburger patty, bacon, and was topped with a pepper-jack cheese sauce. I think the cheese sauce was my favorite part of the burger.

Mac-Burger
Mac Burger

For desert we sampled their new Adult Shakes:  Cafe Con Leche and Bananas Foster shake.  The Cafe Con Leche Shake was made with Cigar City’s Maduro Brown Ale and their delicious coffee ice cream. The Bananas Foster shake consisted of bananas, warm caramel, and Due Soft’s Caramel Cream Ale.  They were both delicious.  I can’t wait to go try more flavors.

Cafe-Con-Leche
Cafe Con Leche Shake
Banana Fosters Shake
Banana Fosters Shake

I had a great time and left very full and satisfied.  I would definitely recommend anyone to stop by and check out their new menu items, shakes and selection of craft beers.   The owner would like to keep adding more in the future as well.  Not only is their food good, but their staff is very polite and friendly.  This includes Chef Carlos Laherra, who came out to greet us, and our awesome server Riky who came up with many of the shake combinations.  They have even updated the music selection that plays while you eat.  Alternative bands like Pearl Jam, and other indie bands were playing while we ate.  It was a nice atmosphere and as always, it was nice to meet other bloggers and try new things.

Swesen’s is located:  1586 South Dixie Highway, Coral Gables, FL 33146

My trip to Japan

FujiDay

Well I know it’s a bit late, but I just have to write about my trip to Japan. It was great. I can’t express how nice it was traveling to a country that I find so interesting. My awesome friends Monica, Ben and little Alma were gracious enough to let me stay with them and were my travel companions for the trip. I cannot thank them enough for showing me around and taking care of me while I was there. <3

So let’s start from the beginning. Although my trip was mostly great, it did not start off smoothly . The first and biggest mistake was arriving to the airport with the wrong passport! I had grabbed my expired passport and didn’t notice I had the wrong one until I had made it all the way to the airport! So me and my friend Erik (who also deserves a giant thank you for driving me at 3 a.m. to the airport) ran back to the car, drove back home as if we were starring in a Fast and Furious movie, and drove all the way back to the Ft. Lauderdale Airport. We made it just in time. Weirdly enough the plane boarded and left almost an hour early because the pilot wanted to beat the bad weather in Canada. I didn’t think planes left early, but you learn new things every day.

It was about a 4 hour flight to Toronto Canada where I had a 3 hour layover. It was snowing when we landed, which was pretty cool. I hadn’t seen snow in 14 years and I forgot how cold it could be compared to Florida.

Toronto Airport
Toronto Airport

The airport was nice and modern and had tables with charging stations to recharge your gadgets and each one had it’s own tablet you can use. Although it was nice, I was very tired and lacked sleep. This is when the 2nd incident occurred. I almost missed my flight to Japan AGAIN!. I had been sitting by the wrong gate dozing off when all of a sudden I heard on the loud speaker that there was a last boarding call for Haneda Japan! Oh my god! I ran to the gate they were talking about and was basically the last person on the plane. Doh!

Artic Circle
Outside my window I could see the Artic Circle.
Pokemon Plane
The first cool thing I saw when we landed, a ANA Pokemon plane.

At last,  I finally made it to Japan and the Wood family was there waiting for me.  We stopped by a cool sushi restaurant in the airport with a conveyor belt full of sushi dishes, circling around the bar.

Sushi Bar with conveyor belt.
Sushi bar with conveyor belt.

After dinner of random sashimi, sushi rolls and delicious miso soup we made our way out of the airport.  Until I realized I didn’t have my purse! OMG!  I ran back to check the bathroom I had stopped at and it wasn’t there.  So we we went to check the information desk.  They didn’t have it, and directed us to another desk.  After a minute or two of freaking out, my name was in the loud speaker.  They had turned in my purse.  Whoever found it was nice enough to turn it in and all my money, passport and items were in tact. Just another reason why I like Japan and the Japanese people so much.

Luckily the rest of the trip went pretty well.  Our first adventure besides shopping (which I loved, because everything was so cute) was a trip to Kamakura and the local temple and shrine there.  It was a pretty big area with a lake, several buildings, museum, stage and some food vendors.

Kamakura Temple
Kamakura Temple

Kamakura Signs

Alma and looking at pigeons
Monica and little Alma checking out the pigeons
Ladies in kimonos
The ladies walking ahead of us were all wearing pretty kimonos.
Snacks
Taiyaki Snacks…mmm

We ended up staying a few days in Tokyo.  On the first day in Tokayo we went to Odaiba where Gundam Front Tokyo was located.  Besides the life-size Gundam, Odaiba was basically a big fancy mall.  It had a Hello Kitty store, Round1 Arcade, and tons of other stores and food.

Gundam Front Tokyo
Gundam Front Tokyo

Another part of Tokyo we visited was Harajuko where we went to Yoyogi Park.  Unfortunately, we were a bit too early to see all the Cherry Blossoms blooming, but we did see a few.  I was hoping to see the younger fashionable teens that are known to hang out there, but we didn’t see any :(.

Cherry Blossoms
Cherry Blossoms
Couple under a blooming Cherry Blossom
Couple under a blooming Cherry Blossom

Afterwards we went to Takeshita Street which is famous for it’s fashion and shopping.  It was extremely crowded there but had tons of cool clothing boutiques and other stores.

Harajuko
Takeshita Street in Harajuko
Clothes
I thought this shirt was random and funny.
Another random shirt
Another random shirt.

For lunch we went to Kawaii Monster Cafe, which is one of the theme cafe’s Japan is known to have.  This one was really cool, colorful and trippy.  It was kind of like eating at a rave, or electro club.  The Harajuko girls working there also had a show for the crowd on their merry-go-round.

Kawaii Monster Cafe
Kawaii Monster Cafe. This merry-go-round moves.
Harajuko Girls
The Harajuko Girls at Kawaii Monster Cafe
Kawaii Monster Bar
Kawaii Monster Bar

While in Tokyo, we also walked around Shibuya and went to a mall and several other stores.  As we were walking around we accidentally passed through the famous Shibuya cross walk. All of a sudden the lights changed and people came from every different direction.  It was insane.  Tokyo is awesome!

On our first day or so in Tokyo, Ben and I went searching for some ramen.  We ended up in a tiny restaurant with a just a bar to sit at.  For the most part, restaurants have pictures and ordering is easy.  But this time we couldn’t read the machine where you ordered from, so we just took a guess and pressed a button.  I believe mine ended up having pork in it.  It was good nether the less.

Asahi
Asahi
Ramen
Ramen

Our next adventure took us to the Ghibli Museum. It was a cute and small museum.  The decor and architecture was whimsical with tons of sketches, a theater where we viewed a short film, and random things to touch and read.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t read most of the captions.  As a side note,  you have to make reservations for tickets for the specific date and time you want to visit.  The museum gets pretty packed, so I am guessing that is how they keep things from being too chaotic.  Overall it was a cute place to visit if you are a fan of Studio Ghibli movies and their characters.

Ghibli Bus
Bus to the Ghibli Museum
Ghibli Museum
Ghibli Museum
Robot at Ghibli Museum
Robot statue at Ghibli Museum

After Tokyo, we hopped on two bullet trains for a 5 hour ride to Hiroshima.  This is where my JR Pass came in handy.  If you are ever planning a trip to Japan and plan to take a bullet train, it is well worth it.  It is basically a discounted train pass for tourist.  You will need to buy the pass at a Japanese travel agency before your trip though.  (For more information you can click here.)  Riding a bullet train looks and feels like you are in an airplane.  I was slightly queasy, but they are super convenient.  A lady with a trolley comes around selling snacks and magazines, and there is a separate car with bathrooms and smoking areas.

Bullet Train
Inside the bullet train to Hiroshima
Fairy Boat
Our ferry to Miyajima Island

After a short ferry ride to Miyajima Island we arrived to our awesome Ryokan at the Seaside Hotel.  Ryokans are traditional Japanese inns usually with tatami-matted rooms and public baths.  We dropped off our things and went to explore the island.  Miyajima is known for the feral deer that wander around the island.  We saw them every where and they are not shy to go up to tourist.  The island was beautiful and had so many things to see. There are several temples, shrines, walking and hiking paths.  It would have been well worth staying longer.  I would highly recommend everyone that visits Japan to make a stop here.

Miyajima
Miyajima Island and the great Torii gate.
Ryokan Hotel Room
Our awesome Ryokan hotel room.

Our stay included a traditional dinner and breakfast.  The dinner included an assortment of seasonal food from raw fish, fried tofu fritters, deep-fried oysters, soup, and custard pudding.

Traditional Meal
Traditional Meal
Deer and me
That deer knew what was up.
Inside Miyajima Temple
Inside Itsukushima Shrine
Itsukushima Shrine
Itsukushima Shrine with the 5-storied pagoda in the background.
Torii-Gate
The Great Torii-Gate
Buddah Statue
Buddha Statue

Shrine

The next day we visited the Hiroshima Peace Museum.  The museum was very morbid and sad, but very interesting at the same time.  It had pictures, mementos from the victims, stories and even touchable displays.  As the generation that witnessed and experienced the effects of a nuclear bomb first hand are passing away, one of the museums goals is to ensure current generations don’t forget the affects of war, nuclear weapons, and the importance of a commitment to peace.

Life size replica of A-bomb
Life size replica of the atomic bomb, Little Boy.
Blast Radius
Model of the blast radius

You can easily walk from the museum to the adjacent Peace Memorial Park and other sight seeing locations.  Unfortunately, it was a cold and rainy day that day (40 degrees).

Pond Of Peace
Cenotaph for A-bomb Victims
Childrens Peace Museum
Children’s Peace Museum

The children’s peace museum was dedicated to Sadako Sasaki and the children who were affected by the atomic bomb.  Sadako was only 2 years old when the bomb fell. Unfortunately, she passed away from radiation related leukemia when she was 12.  While she was sick in the hospital she would fold paper cranes to keep busy.  Since then, children and people from all over send and leave paper cranes at the monument.

PeaceMsg
Peace Message

I found it interesting that the monument of the hypocenter where the bomb exploded was in a random alley next to a parking lot.

Hypocenter
Hypocenter.
Hypocenter Plaque
Hypocenter Plaque
A-bombDome
A-bomb Dome as we crossed the bridge.

After a short taxi ride we were at Hiroshima Castle.  It is a replica of the original castle destroyed by the A-bomb. We were able to go inside and explore.  We also went to a really nice mall nearby where they had a wonderful view of the city from the food court.

Hiroshima Castle
Hiroshima Castle

Hiroshima was definitely a wonderful place to visit.  Even with the terrible weather it was the highlight of the trip.  From our train ride, stay in Miyajima, to all the fascinating and sad stories.  The city itself is beautiful, rebuilt, and surrounded by mountains.

After Hiroshima we headed back to home to Yokosuka, and spent the rest of the trip planning a birthday party for little Alma.

Beach
A nearby beach by Yokosuka, where my friends live.
Beach
Another view of the beach.
Almas Bday
The Woods at Alma’s 1st Birthday Party

My trip back home to Miami was thankfully uneventful.  It was so nice visiting Japan.  It was just what I needed after being laid off from my job.  The people are so nice and friendly. It was nice spending time with my friends.  Everything I ate was delicious as well.  Japan itself seems so efficient and convenient. For the most part you can catch a bus or train to wherever you would like. There are vending machines at every corner and quickie marts all over where you can buy almost anything.

I would highly recommend that anyone visit Japan.  I didn’t even talk about their cool toilets and clean restrooms! Maybe learning a little bit of the culture or language before hand would be a good idea.  Next time I go, I would like to be more prepared to have an actual conversation with someone. Hehe. But overall it was a great experience. Hope you enjoyed the post and if you want to leave a comment, I love comments!  – Gio

FujiSunset
Mt. Fuji in the distance.

We’re Moving

Hi Everyone,
I am in the middle of changing host and migrating the website. Some of my older post might look a little off since I’m exporting them from Blogger and updating the look, but newer post should look fine from here on out.
Thanks for visiting.
Gio

Movie Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

 

Batman v Superman:  Dawn of Justice

**This review contains spoilers***

We have all been waiting for the Batman vs Superman to come out.  It is finally here and I got to see it.

I am so disappointed.  How can a movie with two of the biggest comic heroes be so boring.  I have seen a lot of praise for the movie saying that it’s a drama and that it was done like a ‘real’ movie instead of a comic movie, but that doesn’t mean the movie had to be so long and drawn out.  ‘Real’ movies can have good dialogue, suspense, well defined characters, and a great companion score.  It lacked so many of these qualities that I have to blame the director, Zack Snyder.

The story continues from Man of Steel. Superman is a controversial figure as people argue whether he is a good or a bad guy.  Bruce Wayne/Batman sees him as a threat to the planet and is set on taking him down.  However, Lex Luther has his own master plan and plays the two heroes against each other.  The plot itself is pretty simple and I have no problems with the story line.  However, getting to the actual battle took forever.  The suspense was minimal as Bruce Wayne/Batman sneaks around Luthor’s place to find information on the ‘White Portuguese’.  There is also a car chase/gun fight that tries really hard to be interesting but fails.

And then there is poor emo Clark Kent/Superman who is flying around saving Lois Lane and trying to be the good guy while everyone has a problem with him.  I felt bad for him, I wish they hadn’t made him so emo.  Other than putting his mother in danger, there is just not enough anger spewing from him for you to ever think he would take down Batman.

Now, it doesn’t matter what movie, comic book, or animation series Lois Lane is in, she is always getting in trouble and I usually cannot stand her.  So I can’t even give her a non-bias review.  I did sorta like her is Man of Steel though.

Poor Ben Affleck.  In my opinion he was pretty good as a Bruce Wayne.  He did what he could with what he was given and of course he is a really good looking chap.  Bruce Wayne/Batman lacked a personality in this movie. He didn’t strike me as a playboy or super grumpy.  He was just out to get Superman.  The movie loosely associated Batman’s rage against Superman because of the destruction caused during the battle with Zod in Man of Steel.  One of Wayne’s office buildings was also a casualty of the battle and causes the deaths of countless employees.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t do much good if you don’t actually feel anything for these mostly unseen employees.  And the one employee you do see, is kind of a douche.

Now, Alfred on the other hand was a pretty cool version of a butler.  Jeremy Irons played a great version of him. He had funny sarcastic lines and was Batman’s partner instead of just a butler.

Unfortunately, I didn’t like Jesse Eisenberg’s version of Les Luthor.  In this film, Lex is a very quirky and eccentric young business mogul, almost to the point that he seemed mentally unstable.  I much prefer him as a serious and sophisticated businessman/scientist whom you can never tell exactly what side he is trying to play.  I wonder if this was a personal choice or whether he was directed to act like that?  Overall, he lacked as a villain.  I felt they needed to add something more sinister…
Oh wait, there was another villain.  For a total of like 5 minutes of the movie!

The one great thing about this movie was Wonder Woman.  She kicked ass!  Even the music changed when she finally descended into the scene.  The music truly fit her character as if you were about to watch an old Roman/Greek battle at the Colosseum.  I especially liked the use of most of her weapons.  Her lasso was badass!  I wish she had been in more of the movie.

Although Dawn of Justice was a big disappoint overall as far as action and suspense, I will definitely see the next one.  The movie decisively gave small glimpses as to who will appear from the Justice League in the next movies.  And the story dips into The Death of Superman comic, and I’m sure fans will want to see how it concludes.  As a fan, I would recommend seeing the movie for yourself just so you can watch the next one without missing a beat. But I can’t say it was good.  It was more like a filler you put up with because you want to see the conclusion of the main story line.

Closing Chapters

Today is Sunday.  Supposedly, this is my last week at my job.  A 10 year chapter in my life is about to close.  I’m sorta glad it’s closing though.  If you don’t make changes in your life, life will force change on you.  I feel like these past few months, maybe the entire past year, has been a big good bye.  I lost a close friend as well.  I will never be able to joke around with him again.  It made me think that I don’t put enough effort into my friendships.  We had drifted apart so much with out me realizing it until it was too late.

And of course, I get the ‘gloomies’ or that is what I usually call it.  This past year was a doozy.  I also got dumped for the 89327843930342th time.  And the gloomies came back with a vengeance.  Like a giant tidal wave of extreme sadness.  It felt like someone was squeezing my heart all day and night.  No thanks to work either.  Despite being a quiet shy person, I am pretty good at picking up people’s emotions.  Everyone around me had their own anxieties and worries about the future.  But things eventually come to a head.  And my gloomies have been getting better.  

So in order to roll with the punches and do something cool, I decided to buy a plane ticket and go to Japan.  Maybe it’s not the most responsible thing to do at the moment, considering that I am soon to be jobless.  But traveling can be so therapeutic.  And when else am I going to have so much free time and a cool friend to visit in another country?

Did I say therapeutic? I forgot I have to get on 2 planes to get there.  I regretted hitting the submit button the second I did it.  Haha. I’m kidding, but not really.  The last time I was on a plane, I thought I was going to die.  We had a missed landing and I literally prayed to land safely.  And now I”m going to get on a 20 hour airplane ride. I truly am crazy. Oh well, that is part of the adventure I guess.

When I get back, hopefully I will feel like I can start fresh.  Maybe with a new philosophy on life?  Probably not.  But I will eventually have to get a new job and meet new people.

I also have been, taking some classes.  And my Masters application is just sitting there at FIU waiting for a final approval in Aug/Sept.  I already know that by the time that rolls around, I may change my mind completely again.  But that is the whole point of life.  It’s a big roller coaster of ups and downs. Decisions and indecision.  I wish everyone well.  Hopefully the next time I update, I will have pictures all the way from the other side of the globe.  See ya…or how they say in Japanese…Ja ne! 😉

South Beach Food Tour

Statue by bar Bolivar
This past weekend I was lucky enough to find myself at South Beach for another culinary tour by Miami Culinary Tours.  I had a great time on the Wynwood Tour, and the South Beach Tour did not let me down either.
Our first stop and meet up location was at Bolivar Restaurant on Washington Avenue.  Our tour guide Elizabeth was waiting outside to greet everyone with energy and a big smile.
As we waited for the rest of the tour participants to arrive, we were quickly served a delicious drink called Refajo.  It is made from a combination of Aguila beer and a cream Colombian soda.  It was so tasty! I can probably compare the flavor to pink champagne.  It was bubbly and sweet with a tiny taste of alcohol.

Once everyone arrived, we were seated and served our first meal.  It was plate with a beef and potato empanada, a spicy jalapeno dip, and Peruvian passion fruit ceviche.  Although, I’m a local and Hispanic, I have never actually tried ceviche.  Oh my god!  It was so flavorful.  How have I been living in Miami with out ever trying it?  Well this one in particular was great.  It had fresh red onions, cilantro, lime, passion fruit juice and sway fish.  The spiciness of the empanada, dip, and the ceviche was delightful.  To top things off, we were given a shot of Colombian aguardiente.  I thought it was similar in flavor to maybe a shot of Jager since it always reminds me of black licorice.

 

 

The restaurant itself was very nice, with a large bar area, lounge area and restaurant style tables.  At the far end there was even a small stage for a band to play.  Bolivar has a nice lounge feel during the day, but I bet has a cool playful feel at night with live music.

Once we were done with our first meal, we took a short walk to Ocean Drive to our next stop, Lario’s On The Beach, a Cuban cuisine restaurant. Elizabeth let us know some background on the restaurant.  It is own by the famous singer Gloria Estefan and her husband Emilio.  It was recently renovated, and much of the details were decided by Emilio.  It is truly a unique and elegantly designed restaurant.

Once we were seated we were served our main dish of Ropa Vieja and Mariquitas with a mojo dipping sauce.  Ropa Vieja literally translates to old clothes.  It is a shredded beef in a marinade and mariquitas are fried green plantains, or plantain chips.  Being a local, I have had this dish many times.  But I have to say it was very delicious, probably the best I have yet to try.  It may have been the mojo dip which added an extra flavor to the Ropa Vieja and plantain chips.  As a side dish we were given chicken croquetas and Sangria to compliment our meal.

 

 

 

This sculpture was made from instruments donated by other celebrity musicians.
Our group waiting to be served. Check out that picture of Emilio.

 

 

After our meal, we took a walk further down Ocean Drive and we stopped to talk and admire all the great Art Deco architecture South Beach is known for.  Elizabeth gave us some more history behind the architecture and South Beach in general.

 

After a brisk walk we were at our next stop, The Tides.  The Tides has a restaurant and bar located at the lobby of the hotel.  The decor in the hotel was beautiful.  It had huge art deco lamps, fancy leather chairs with canopy’s, it even had large art pieces temporarily on display.  Once we were all seated, Elizabeth detailed some of the ingredients we were about to sample in our next meal.  She even passed around some of the spices to smell.  We were eventually served a bright dish of delicious curry chicken and Israeli couscous. The couscous tasted very similar to pasta and the sauce had an almost cheesy flavor.  It was a unique dish made especially for our tour and it was delectable.  We were offered a choice of Italian Ponot Grigio or Chilean Malbec for our beverage.  I chose the Ponot Grigio and it was nice and light.  It balanced the spices of the meal.

 

 

Hi!  This is me and the cool turtle shell molds above the bar.

 

We took a short stroll to our next destination and passed through ZOcean Hotel.  This Hotel had the coolest decor in it’s lounge area.  The ceiling had peekaboo panels looking straight through the pool above and there was a large chess game and dominos to play with.  It looked like a nice spot to hang out night by their bar.

ZOcean Hotel’s lounge seemed like a nice chill spot.
After we cut through the hotel we reached our destination at Block’s Pizza Deli.  They served us a vegetarian dish this time, it was a pita sanwich called a Panouzzo with spinach, kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese and homemade pesto.  I’m not usually into eating vegetable dishes, but this was such a flavorful sandwich.  I thought it was a great choice instead of one of their pizza’s. Although their pizzas looked yummy and ready to be popped into the oven.  I can’t wait to come back and try them.

 

Mmm…pizza…
For our final stop we walked just a few more feet to Espaniola Way.  It is a small block of Spanish style buildings and store fronts.  It is such a cute section of town.  We went to Miami Gelateria for some delicious gelato.  We had our choice of several flavors displayed on a spinning carousel of ice cream.  I chose Tiramisu.  It was excellent, not to sweet, smooth, and chunks of tiramisu with a light coffee flavor.  The Gelateria had the cutest ice cream shaped tables and chairs outside.  It was a nice way to end the tour.  What a lovely day.

 

 

I would recommend the tour to anyone being local or not.  As a local, I have never actually been to any of these places.  It is always a treat to do something new and learn new things about a place you have lived in for years.  I can imagine it being even more of a treat as a tourist.  Not to mention how nice everyone you meet on the tour is.  So check out the South Beach food tour. Miami Culinary Tours has several tours, so I can’t wait to go on the Little Havana tour next.

 

Coral Gables Art Cinema: Secret Celluloid Society

 

Lately, I have been frequenting the Coral Gables Art Cinema for some of their after hours showings. The after hours are hosted by the Secret Celluloid Society and usually start around 11:30 p.m. As the name may imply, the movies they show are older and/or rare movies on 35mm film.  The Celluloid Society also goes out of their way to make the shows interactive.

 

 
Hedwig and the Angry Inch

The first movie I was able to check out was Hedwig and the Angry Inch.  I had no idea what I was getting into.  My friends told me it was a fun musical.  Oh boy, was it an interesting musical.

The movie is about Hedwig, a transsexual rocker who is touring the US with her band.  She tells her life story from when she was a young boy in Berlin to how she got to the US in her current situation.  Her band is basically following the same tour dates of Tommy Gnosis, her former flame who stole her songs. The movie has humor, heartache, great music and great costumes.

As a special treat, the Celluloid Society was able to get Stephen Trask (the song writer of the movie) and a guest singer to perform before the screening.  Not only that, we had a sneak peek behind the scenes of the Broadway musical and cast.  At the end of the night we also were given free Hedwig shot glasses.  It was definitely a fun and different movie going experience.

Little Shop of Horrors

I remember I had seen Little Shop of Horrors when I was little.  But for the life of me, I could not remember anything about it other than there was a big talking plant in it.  So my friends and I decided to go see it.  It was a much darker movie than I remember.

The story revolves around Seymour Krelborn, a nerdy florist.  He works at a failing flower shop along with Audrey his co-worker and love interest.  After a miserable day of no sales, they suggest to Mr. Mushnik (the owner of the shop) that they put a unique plant he bought and has been taking care of at the front window display.  He calls the plant Audrey II, and business starts booming once they put it on display. Unfortunately, Seymour finds out the plant can only stay healthy and growing by drinking human blood.  As the plant grows in size, it becomes more and more blood thirsty and the dilemma ensues.

Steve Martin plays the role of Audrey’s antagonistic and abusive dentist boyfriend.  And there are also other cameos from famous comedy actors.  The music is fun and the characters are silly and exaggerated.  You can tell this was at one point a stage musical.

Once again, the Celluloid Society made the show interactive and their crew acted out some of the scenes, along with the help of a cute Audrey II puppet.  The version of the film we saw that night had the original ending.  In this version, Audrey II ends up being cloned from its cuttings and they take over the city.  Even the military seems helpless against the plants.  I can see why the ending was changed to a happier ending.

House



House was another movie I had no idea what I was getting into.  Just watch the trailer below and you will see what I mean.  Before the movie started, the Celluloid Society had up on the screen a electronic/new wave group inspired by the movie.  I expected this to be a scary Japanese horror movie from the 70’s.  What I saw felt like it may have been a bad adaption of a manga or anime.

The story centers around a young girl named Oshare a.k.a. Gorgeous, and her friends.  (Yes, they all have nicknames.  My favorite was Kung fu).  Oshare is expecting to spend her vacation with her dad, but is really distraught to find out they will be joined by her father’s new fiance.  This prompts her to write to her estranged aunt, and asks her if she can come stay with her instead.  Her aunt quickly replies that she has been waiting to hear from her, and she is more than welcome to come stay with her.  So Gorgeous and her friends decide to go to her aunt’s house since their plans were also canceled. At her aunt’s house, they catch up, and the girls start settling in.  Unfortunately, strange things start happening and one by one, the girls start disappearing.

I kept hoping the movie would get scary at one point or another, but it just kept being silly.  For example, their chaperon gets left behind because he trips and gets a bucket stuck to his butt.  Also, along the way, the girls meet a very strange watermelon salesman. The scary parts just ended up being wacky and the out dated special effects did not help.  I saw one review where it compared the movie to Scooby Doo.  I can see how they can make the comparison.  So I guess you can tell, I didn’t like it.  If you are into weird, wacky movies, or even anime, you might like it.  However, I was disappointed it wasn’t scary.  In the end, I guess you can describe it as a comedy horror movie.

Overall, I recommend you check out the after hours shows at the Coral Gables Cinema.  For the month of October they will be showing more horror flicks you can check out.  The Secret Celluloid Society makes sure to put effort into making the screenings fun and unique.  Whether the movies are older, not well known, or foreign, it’s always a good time.