Tag Archives: travel

Torres del Paine. Day 1.

“There you are!” Jared appeared around the corner and walked down the grocery aisle toward me. “I’ve got a bag of lentils, five packs of minute rice, peanut butter, a loaf of bread and a dozen eggs. What did you get?” I said nothing but held up a box of red wine. He furrowed his brow. “Lea, it’s five days. And we have to carry everything.” I put the box back.

“Good point. Five days is a long time.” I picked up the larger, 2L box and put it in my basket next to a bag of dried kiwis. “I’m ready.” Jared frowned and tipped his head to one side. “I’ll carry it!” I proclaimed and promised, “You’ll be so glad we have it.”

Neither of those statements proved true. Less than half an hour into our five day hike of The W in Torres del Paine I was sure of only one thing — I could not do this.

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We had completed a three month circle of South America and this was to be our story’s climax. I did not pack appropriately. I carried actual dishes with us, packed an extra pair of shoes, insisted on scrambling fresh eggs every morning and let’s not forget the aforementioned wine, which I drank from a travel wine glass. Because that’s a necessity. I will say this for 26-year-old Lea, she had class.

She lacked foresight, however, and among her many luxuries, failed to pack her poncho. In Patagonia, there are two cardinal rules — you say “buenas” to other travelers on the trail and you never forget your rain gear.

So there I am, drunk and wet. Just kidding, I was sober and the sun was beating down on my tender Irish skin when I shouted “break” for the 11th time in under an hour, the first hour, of what was to be a 5 day, 50ish mile hike through the mountains. Jared stopped 20 yards ahead of me and sat down. I inched my way to him, cursing every cigarette I ever smoked. When I finally arrived, he insisted on taking the wine out of my pack and carrying it, in his hands, for the next 8 miles.

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We eventually made it to El Chileno, our first camp, just before sunset. Jared rushed to set up the tent while I prepared our dinner of lentils and rice, pesto flavor tonight. We are a divide and conquer couple, functioning at our best when we have separate tasks to complete. I poured a glass of wine and offered it to Jared, who shook his head. “I think I’m getting sick.” I worked to contain my eye roll because OF COURSE HE WAS SICK. Jared has always, since toddlerhood, been an extremely clean child and has grown into an adult with the immune system of a homeschooled preteen. I used to put pennies in my mouth.

More wine for me, then. So much more wine that I fell asleep without brushing my teeth and woke up in the middle of the night with a bladder too full to ignore. Reluctantly, I ventured into the darkness, fumbling with my flashlight as I wandered toward the outhouses. While I grew up camping in a world where you can just pee in the woods, etiquette on the trail demands the patronizing of facilities where available. So to the spider den I went. Upon hearing a rustle among the silence, I instinctively turned my light toward the noise and saw two steely blue eyes staring at me.

My heart started beating in my chest and the sensation from my bladder dissipated. I knew there was wildlife in these woods, just as I know snakes live in Texas. I still wasn’t expecting to see a wolf on my way to the toilet. In my still-tipsy stupor, instead of doing whatever you are supposed to do in the case of dangerous wildlife encounters, I ran back to the tent and decided my bladder could wait until morning.

That was Day 1.

Day 2 began 45 minutes later as we rose to hike, in the dark — almost vertically, to see the sunrise over the Towers.

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Worth it, right? Just kidding, this is from Google images. We hiked for 2 hours in the pitch black to see this view as the world got lighter but the sun never rose.

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My sweet partner, in all his joyous glory, would be deterred neither by the cold nor the fog, nor my profligate disregard for luggage space. We were energized and ready for the rest of the hike, which would prove to be a beautiful if painful stripping down of the material self and absolute reliance on one another. Day 2 was the best and the worst day. It was the day I finished the wine.

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Pad Thai Recipe

I do hate to tell a lie. So if I’m being honest, I wasn’t the biggest fan of pad thai prior to visiting Thailand. This may be due, in part, to the fervor with which my person loves this dish. If nothing else, I am what could be described as “needlessly defiant” and his absolute obsession with it made me go “meh” to pad thai whenever it was suggested. With all that said, I’m never one to turn down a new experience, so while traveling I tried this dish. I tried it both in restaurants and from street carts and I urge you to take any snobbishness you may harbor and throw it out the window because the street cart pad thai was infinitely superior to the restaurant pad thai. It was fresher and cheaper, plus you get to eat it at the nearby picnic tables with cold beer watching all the tourists mosey along.

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We were lucky enough to take a cooking class in Chiang Mai where we learned the traditional way of making this delicious noodle-based dish. Upon returning home (and waiting an appropriate amount of time, since we were a bit fed up of Thai food in the weeks following our trip) we decided it was time to put those cooking skills to use! I was able to find most of the necessary ingredients in my regular market; I began by chopping the bean sprouts, scallions, garlic, chicken and tofu:

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Garlic, scallions, bean sprouts, tofu

Then I put on the noodles to boil while heating up the skillet. The noodles should only take a few minutes to cook, so keep an eye on them!

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Boil rice noodles.

This process of cooking it all up takes a little finesse and pay attention, cause it happens fast:

First, heat regular vegetable or canola oil over low heat, then throw in the garlic to flavor the oil. Then add the chicken and tofu, cook for about one minute. Next break an egg (if you’re into that sort of thing) and add oyster sauce and fish sauce, then crank up the heat. Now, add the noodles to the mix, followed immediately by a tablespoon on water. This is a very important step, but a little scary. Do not be afraid! Forge ahead and add the rest of the veggies. Give it a stir or two and BAM! It’s done.

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Cook it all up.

The entire process only takes about 5 minutes once the pan is hot and it is well worth it. This dish is traditionally garnished with peanuts, red pepper flakes and lime. All of that, as always, is completely up to you!

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Add red pepper flakes.

What’s your favorite Thai or Asian dish?

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Texas Eats, from Austin to Abliene

I spent 10 days in Texas this May, which were glorious in many ways, but specifically in the family and the food. Since nobody wants to hear me get all mushy over my family, I’ll focus on the food! I enjoyed several delicious meals during this trip, but I’ve selected three to share with you today. The first is of my very favorite restaurant in the world and a common favorite amongst Austinites: Magnolia Cafe. Mottos include: “Everyone Knows, Everyone Goes” and “Sorry, We’re Open” (they’re open 24/7).

Ever wonder what your dying meal would be? I don’t. It’s this.

Queso with black beans, pico and avocado: “Mag Mud” — We’re married.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every meal I have here begins with their house favorite: Mag Mud. This consists of chili con queso, a Tex-Mex staple, along with black beans, pico de gallo and avocado. It’s quite simply the most delicious thing I’ve ever had anywhere. I generally continue my meal with the chicken enchiladas and I double up on the black beans cause, as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t care for rice. I’ve had enchiladas all over the country, although having them all over Texas is enough to establish my credibility when I say these are the best. THE BEST.

No trip to Texas is complete without steak and potatoes…

… and a Shiner Bock!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My trip continued from Austin to Abilene to see my sister, Kate, graduate from college. I enjoyed this drive with my grandma and best friend, Velma Rae. On our first night in Abilene, Kate wanted to show off her town a little, which began with a beautiful meal at the downtown steakhouse: The Beehive Saloon. Here I enjoyed a deliciously tender strip steak with a loaded baked potato: the food of my ancestors. And, of course, no Texas trip is complete with a Shiner Bock.

An old-school country-style gospel band entertained us!

I did not take this photo, I was too hungry — Click to read the blog I borrowed it from.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Texan through and through, Kate knew where she wanted us all to go for her graduation dinner: The Clyde Pizza House in Clyde, Texas, which has a reputation around town for being the best pizza in the area. I’m here to tell you this may be the best pizza in most areas, and I’m saying that as someone who, if not for Magnolia’s enchiladas, would choose pizza for her last meal. I know pizza and this was in my top five best pizzas ever. The crust was unlike any other I’ve had. The best part about this meal, besides the company, was the wonderful family band that played old gospel tunes… brought me right back to riding in a pickup truck as a little girl 🙂

My life and my love are in New York, but my heart remains in Texas.

We will be reunited some day.

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