Saturday, August 28, 2010

Is It Too Late to Start Over?

I have many, many careers that I so wish I had pursued (the main one being journalism) - cop, lawyer, and my favorite - restaurant reviewer. GET PAID TO EAT??? So, I have decided to just start blogging about every single restaurant I frequent (don't worry - I is poor, so this will only happen about once a year). Maybe...............just maybe one of YOU will pay me! How sweet would that be?!

What is my experience to do this? (Sometimes I think more than some of the reviewers I read.) I attempt to feed six people three times a day with quality, healthy, cost effective food. So, here is my very first review EVER! (Aren't you excited?)

LORENZO'S

http://lorenzosristorante.com/

I went to Lorenzo's last night with my husband. If you have never had the distinct pleasure of eating at Lorenzo's, picture a modestly sized kitchen and that is the size of the entire restaurant. It is located in a nondescript, some might say interesting strip mall in the medical center. You could easily miss this gem of a place. No matter how bright and sunny it is outside as soon as you enter Lorenzo's the light is soft and the windows are covered. If this sounds dark and dreary, it's not. It's romantic and at the same time comforting.

Because Lorenzo's is so tiny although you are always greeted by a waiter, waitress, bartender, or cook you are sometimes also greeted by fellow patrons. Don't be alarmed, and by all means greet them back! Get there before the lunch or dinner hour because once it fills up - there are no seats! Duh! Last night they were offering potential customers wine while they waited (outside in the strip mall), but I am not sure if that is always the case (or if any of those people even come back). We were seated right away and right away a friendly waitress was there to take our drink order.

I started with a lovely Merlot. Now I am no connoisseur, nor do I particularly like wine, so I love a restaurant where I can go in and not feel like a complete moron and just say, "I'd like a glass of Merlot, please." And I know that it will actually taste like a Merlot (as opposed to 90% rubbing alcohol) and I am not asked 1000 questions as to which region of the world would I like my Merlot to come from, etc., etc. Because, frankly, this makes me feel like an idiot and if I sense this is going to happen - I will just skip the wine altogether.

We were immediately brought our drinks and some garlic bread that was crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. The bread is sliced fairly thin so that it is approximately five inches long and about half an inch thick. Not only is the flavor of the bread heavenly - the size is perfect. If I had not been really hungry I would have just eaten the bread and drank my wine.

But, my salad and appetizer were coming, so I tried to practice self-restraint. The salad was good. Typical Italian - green, a few tomatoes, a few olives, a red onion, and a generous helping of Italian dressing. The appetizer we love is called Artichokes Pellicci. My husband is good at eating something one time and then being able to closely replicate it at home. So, truthfully, I eat his version (which is quite delicious) of Artichokes Pellicci at least twice a month. The real thing at Lorenzo's tastes like artichokes bathed in garlic butter and then baked so that the cheese on top forms a thin crust. It is served on your table in a hot plate. It is so yummy because you can taste all the flavors and they compliment each other - taste and texture - perfectly.

Last night I ordered one of the specials - Shrimp Corinna. This was a breaded shrimp, but not deep fried. It was served in a white wine sauce that had a hint of lemon. It was perfect. The slight crustiness of the shrimp along with its flavor was excellent in the lemony sauce. Loved the portion size, too. There was a side of pasta drenched in garlic butter. I love garlic butter, but if I had one suggestion for Lorenzo's (and believe me I can only think of one) it would be go easy on the garlic. I feel like a dragon for several days after eating there. I don't know if the pasta is home-made or not, but let me tell you this pasta is heavenly. It is light and airy pasta (not at all like the kind from a box that I cook up and serve at my house).

My husband ordered lasagna and the tomato sauce is amazing. Amazingly, it tastes like tomato!

For dessert we ordered a chocolate/walnut pie and tiramisa. I love all things chocolate, so for me this pie is pure heaven. It has a wonderfully thick lower crust (where you will find the walnuts!) and then an almost puddingy chocolate topped with a white cream. It's delish. I am not particularly fond of tiramisa, but I love the tiramisa at Lorenzo's because of the strong, rich caramel flavor. It is distinct and I like it.

So, that's my review. I highly recommend this restaurant. Here's my official rating key and rating:

4 stars = I love it and love to get a babysitter to go there or would risk taking the kids.
3 stars = I really like it.
2 stars = It might be better than eating at home depending on how tired I am.
1 star = I'll eat at home next time, thanks!
no stars = Give me my money back. Boo.

Lorenzo's:
Atmosphere - 4 stars
Food - 3 and 3/4 stars
Service - 4 stars
Worth the money? = 4 stars

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

185 More Days To Go

Remember when I was whining and moaning about summer ending? Well, let me just give you a TASTE of what the past two days have had to offer and I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

Yesterday started out well. Better than Sunday night when I had a post-Benadryl (don't judge me - I dose them the night before the first day of school because if I didn't - they'd be up all night) - I-don't-want-to-go-to-first-grade MELT DOWN on my hands. Whew. I am lucky I survived that. So, Monday morning was nothing in comparison..........................until we got to school.

And I will resist the temptation to seriously veer off course here and tell you how much I detest driving my kids to school on the first day (what kind of a mother is she???????) because there are 8000 cars in the teeny tiny parking lot and you have to park 20 miles away and walk with four kids to the school and you think to yourself the whole time, "I should have just WALKED TO SCHOOL."

The 23 month old (I had to re-write that SIX times because I kept misjudging her age) thought she was going to first grade with the first grader. This resulted in a hand clinging, screaming (baby), tears in eyes (first grader), scene that could have been taken straight from one of those terrible Hallmark movies about orphan kids who end up being separated. Jeez. I am pretty sure I had some other moms wishing they could have been in my shoes....................NOT!

I got an amazing amount of things (and notice how I say "things" because it is now Tuesday night and I cannot, frankly, remember a damn thing I did yesterday) done during the day Monday without kids. Then 3:15 rolled around. When I saw the bus (bus 621) I was shocked to learn that I had recorded the wrong bus number (429)on all the kids' forms "HOW WILL YOUR CHILD GET HOME ON THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL?????????" Well, thank GAWD for informed teachers, a bus driver who has known my kids longer than I am sure he would like to, and kids who know their address. But, needless to say they all got off the bus grumping, "MOM, you put the WRONG BUS NUMBER ON OUR FORMS." So, there went my, "Hey, dolls. I missed you so much today. I am SOOOOOOOO happy you are home and have been waiting in this chair for you to arrive!!!!!!"

So, fast forward to around 5:00 and we are still listening to classic rock, a compressor, baby screaming, three kids trying to do their homework, practice piano, and eat their snacks. Why did this all take until past 6:00? I don't KNOW!!! All I can offer in explanation is, simply - I AM THREE MONTHS OUT OF PRACTICE. So, we ate one hour later than I had planned, and by 6:30 I was GRUMPY and yelling. I will not describe the chaos that ensued, but I will say, "The idea of First Day of School Family Love was put to bed."

I resolved Tuesday (today) to make it a better, more organized day. 2:45 rolled around and I had: dinner started, two prints completed during the day, laundry organized, all the "stuff" (I want to use stronger language here, but there may be children reading) from my closet put somewhere so that the carpet could be ripped out, a mild organization to the chaos that has become my home, the YUKON WASHED (hallelujah and amen because that thing was DIRTY), banana bread baked, and I felt mentally ready to tackle the challenges of homework (and I was fully prepared to skip piano - if not throw the piano out the window). Nothing could ruin my day. Wait, what was that??? RAIN??? It hasn't rained in, oh, about 20 years in San Antonio. But, yes it managed to rain twice on my house between 2:45 and 3:15. It was just enough to dirty my Yukon which hasn't been clean since the 80's. But, I tried not to let it get me down.

So, the kids get off the bus and immediately upon entering our home (and I use that term loosely since there is now a full-time compressor in the 'dining room') my oldest girl child bursts into tears saying her ear hurts.

SAY WHAT???

This couldn't be happening. So, my senses kick into high gear and I call the doctor's office and am speeding down the road to the doc's in a matter of 15 minutes. Snacks? Who needs snacks when dinner is practically cooked? Homework? Do it in the car. Piano? Skip it. The workers? I told them to lock up and call me if they needed me.

We make it to the doctor's. One of the workers calls me just to make sure I have a key to my own house because they are leaving and should he lock up. He is so young he could probably be my son, and oddly it feels a little like that. I tell him - yes for God's sake lock up and GO HOME. Girl child is diagnosed with a middle and outer ear infection and the nurse tells me she has a fever of 101 and looks at me kind of disdainfully. Husband calls and says he is in the parking lot, so send out the other two children - he graciously tells me to 'keep baby' who is now screaming at the top of her lungs 'WANT TO GO HOME, MAMA' over and over because she thinks we didn't hear her the first 1000 times. The atmosphere at this point is positively joyful.

The sickie, baby, and I make it home and I frantically put dinner on the table (there is a God because remember up in about paragraph 2 I told you I had started dinner?). I then speed to the pharmacy to pick up meds. Of course, we are out of fever reducing medicine. Murphy's Law #108 for Parents - YOU WILL ONLY BE OUT OF FEVER REDUCING MEDICINE WHEN ONE OF YOUR CHILDREN ACTUALLY HAS A FEVER. So, I plan to pick that up as well.

Well, luck is on my side. Just kidding. It starts to POUR DOWN RAIN on my way to the pharmacy. Like it is something out of a hurricane chasers made-for-TV movie. I actually see a political sign BLOW across the road. I begin to question, how high is 101 because baby girl ain't gettin' no motrin. I am not getting out of the now FILTHY Yukon. I am going through the drive through. Sorry, baby girl.

I dropped off the medicine with my husband and screamed up the stairs that it was on the table. I quickly tried to make sense of the aftermath of dinner, put homework into backpacks (this was hard since I am still not exactly sure whose is whose), ignore the dust and grime that has pleasantly settled ALL OVER EVERYTHING and THEN I was off to Second Grade Parent Orientation.

I learned about being the parent of a second grader, but I found it hard to concentrate thinking of my baby sitting all day (in the desk I was now sitting in) with a fever of 101 and severe ear pain. I told her teacher after I was oriented that she would not be at school tomorrow. He apologized for not knowing and wished her a speedy recovery.

I got home just in time to get the last kisses of the night and find out from Husband that the fever went down to 99.8.

As I said when we started, I will leave you to your own conclusions. I will be with two children tomorrow. One sickie, one not. Not where I thought I would be the Wednesday of the first week of school, but it's just what happened. Because you know the old saying, "'Stuff' happens!" (Edited to keep my 'G' rating.) Happy hump day, my friends!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Misplaced

We are in her 'living room' if you could call it that. In a house this large, I am not sure what each room is 'formally' called. I am trying desperately to listen to what she is saying, clinging to the words one at a time. But I am finding that with each word that I am hearing, I am losing the overall point of what she is saying. It is sounding like, "You......know..........he...........likes..............art.............so................I................bought.............him............." I am thinking of my sister when she speaks. Which is odd to me at first since I cannot see what they might have in common. My sister is short in stature (but not attitude), with spiked red/purple hair. Her mannerisms are quick and purposeful. Her voice is authoritative and direct as if everyone she is speaking with is a potential employee or 'household hand.' She is fond of saying that, 'household hand.' These are people who assist her in running her household.

The woman who stands before me is in no way like my sister. Or, so it seems now. She is tall and blond. She is not what I would call pretty, but her face is somehow catchy. I look for features that I am attracted to, and I leave her face empty-handed. Her eyes are small and brown. Set close together. Her eyebrows do not look waxed or professionally done, although I cannot believe standing in this room that she does them herself. I cannot remember after I leave her face what her smile looks like. Her hair is cut expensively, yet I have seen her wear it numerous ways and I am confused by it. She has medium sized breasts (that do not look purchased) and her stomach is flat. Her body is firm, yet it does not look like she works out. She is still talking (describing all the art), but I am not listening.

My eye wanders over to a far corner of this 'living room' and there I spot high on a small wall what looks like a piece of coal in this gleaming, shiny room. Abruptly and uncharacteristically, I interrupt her with a "Ah-hm," feigning complete intrigue in what she has just said. She pauses slightly, and I take this opportunity to ask her about the piece of 'art' that I have seen on the far wall. "Which one?" she says. I point to where I am looking and I say, "The one that looks like it might have texture. It looks like it might be cut? Or there might be something which has been applied to it?" I am not sure now what exactly it is. Oil? Mixed Media? And I have presumptuously (and shockingly even to me) walked away from her and begun to make my way over to the art. When I am close to it I see that it is indeed an oil. It is simply a medium sized (I would say 16 x 16) piece of stretched and blocked canvas. It has been painted what looks like a washed rust color. There is a darker rust colored square placed in the lower left hand corner. But the square is not measured. It is not exact. It almost looks like it could be another shape. A heart? I am powerfully drawn to this work.

I read these words which are placed on the right side,

My father died when he was 42. I am 42.

They are more scrawled than written. The print is legible, but not neat or uniform. It looks like they are written from a dark, sad place. Then below that, "Love" and a word that I cannot read from where I am standing. It almost fades in to the painting. Is that an R? I have read these words before she has even started to cross the room and immediately I am picturing a man, heavily tattooed with a goatee creating this piece of art which has quickly and almost violently spoken to me in a matter of seconds. I am having trouble keeping tears out of my eyes. Ramon? I think this man is dark-complected. He has long hair and it is tied back in a ponytail. Where he is working it is dirty as if in his rush to create art he has not taken the time to clean anything. When he creates this piece his heart is broken. Or breaking.

She is beside me now. Before she can speak I hear myself quietly murmuring, "I have to know the artist. Who did this?" And she is saying, "Oh, that! Y'know funny story. I don't even know where that came from! I don't even know the artist! Dave and I were in a posh restaurant. No! Actually it was a hole-in-the-wall. Yes! It was Luigi's. We just love the pasta there! Did you know it's homemade? Anyway. We were eating there and I saw this piece leaning up against a wall like someone just left it there! Do you know I just had to have it? I called the owner - you know - he is Lorenzo - what's his last name? Not important! I told him - I just have to have that painting. How much do you want for it? And he gave it to me!" Again, I hear myself saying, "Well do you know who did it? And can you read that bottom part. It says 'love' then something I cannot read."

She makes a sound that is part laugh, part scoff? "I didn't even know it said anything till now! What's that say?" And then she repeats what I have already read.

My dad died when I was 42. I am 42.

She stops talking and is quiet. It is hard to read what she might be thinking. If she is thinking. I say quietly, "It's kind of sad."

We are interrupted then by a dog, or a child, or food burning.

I leave that place and I do not know who did that painting. But, I want to know that person. I want to feel that passion. Who did that? I want to know. I have to know.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Collision: Not by Accident

And my mother would tell me, "There are no coincidences. Only reasons we do not yet know."



Her t-shirt said, "Phat." He was born in 1957 (and by his own admission he had Dyslexia), so although he read her t-shirt he did not fully understand it. He noticed her, not only because she was in a neon pink t-shirt sporting a baby bulge, but because she was in a wheelchair. Although he knew the obvious explanation, he wondered for more than a second how she could be pregnant. He could not possibly know this, but sadly she wondered, too.

He had only stopped into McDonald's to quickly grab an iced tea and catch up on some paperwork before heading out to his client's home, so he tried desperately not to be distracted. But, unfortunately (or fortunately) he was finding it difficult to focus. He stared blatantly at her as she took an inordinate amount of time to count out her change.

As he often described his Dyslexia (to people with whom he had developed a rapport - a common occurrence because he was A Talker), words wandered around the page making the task of reading time-consuming and difficult for him. Before reading and processing, he had to first still the words. He did have two masters degrees (in architecture and engineering), so the general assumption was that he had found a phenomenal way of compensating. But, it was obvious to some (teachers mostly) that his thinking was somehow different.

His mind functioned uniquely and similarly to a filing cabinet. He observed and inventoried events and facts, carefully filed them away in his mind under appropriate and often cross-referenced headings, and was able to retrieve them later in uncanny and noteworthy detail.

He had noted precisely how she reached back for her handbag (he was born in 1957, so he didn't know another term except "handbag"), rummaged for and found a weathered leather coin pouch with a silver snap on top, and dumped out the contents of this bag onto her lap.

As it was taking her more than the usual amount of time to count her change, he surmised that she was of diminished mental capacity (later he would describe her as 'mentally retarded.........ation'. As if he could not decide if she was retarded in the past tense or now). But, she did finally count her change, wheel herself to the counter and distinctly and (unusually) loudly (this volume due to her diminished mental capacity) ask for a 'Diet Coke.'

She was helped and handed a cup.

He then watched (now fascinated and unable to take his eyes off her even for a second to pretend to glance at his paperwork) her as she stayed at the counter. He wondered why she was staying there and not proceeding to the Drink Station and was about to stand up (not entirely sure what he would do after that) and move toward her, when suddenly she jerked her head, and abruptly wheeled her chair back and around to the Drink Station. Cup in hand. As if she had come out of a haze. A daze.

He felt relieved and he wasn't quite sure why. But his relief was quickly replaced by a feeling he would later label as Frustration when at the Drink Station she was unable to actually reach the ice or drink taps. He continued to watch her as she sat there (because What else could she do?), not moving, not looking around for help. He would later say that he wasn't sure why he sat there just watching her sitting there for that many seconds because it hurt him. He would say it was almost painful for him.

Finally when he did stand to assist her with getting her drink he did so in a rushed, clumsy manner. It was as if the feeling he felt (what did he say it was, Frustration?) controlled his body movements for a second as he stumbled, some would say careened toward her to help.

When he did reach the Drink Station, he was unable to speak. So overwhelmed was he with Frustration? So, because he was unable to speak he motioned to the ice (to which she nodded) then he motioned to the Diet Coke (to which she nodded again). And he filled her cup.

He would relate this story to me later on my expansive front porch. Far away from McDonald's, we are ironically drinking freshly brewed and steaming cold raspberry iced tea. When at first he attempted to tell me this story he faced his chair toward mine in an awkward fashion and looked me in the eyes. I do not look people in the eyes that I do not know that well. It is too intimate. Too telling.

When the story is finished I have become riveted (but, I do not know why) and I am looking directly into his eyes. In fact, truthfully, I find I am unable to look away. I am unable to look away from these eyes that are unabashedly wet with tears. I notice suddenly (and wonder briefly why I had not noticed before) that his face is wet. Is this sweat? Are they tears? I am speechless and I am unable to look away from these eyes that at first I did not want to see.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Meet the TEACHER.............and one man.

We met Them last night. All three of them. We are going to experience a first for our family. S was the lucky winner and drew a MALE teacher. For an extremely shy and quiet second grade GIRL this can apparently be quite traumatic. He seems lovely (I know - not quite an adjective for a man, but I am only on my second cup of coffee so..................give me a break.) and funny. He attempted humor with S. Which, if you know S you know that it takes her about..........................two years to warm up to a person, so this humor failed miserably. But, it put me more at ease, and I had to hand it to him for trying. She put on a happy (and I write that to mean - she wasn't flat-out crying) face and made it through the rest of the teachers (her sister's and brother's), bravely weathered the BMX track, then promptly broke into a gush of tears upon arriving home.

Her first explanation of the tears was, "I just don't understand why Ms. T. (first grade teacher who she LOVED) cannot be my teacher again!" I told her that typically that doesn't happen. I then told her that I bet she would end up really liking her new teacher, and that having a male teacher was not the end of the world, and could quite possibly be a rewarding life-changing experience. I told her that in fifth grade I had my first male teacher and I ended up loving his class. To this she countered, "He's a boy, mom," through her tears. No argument there. "Yes, he is a boy, baby. But, not all boys are bad, right?" And to this a tearful, "Well........most of them are." Hmm. That's when I sent in the Big Guns. Her dad. At least he got her to stop crying. And even giggle a teensy bit. So, point proven. Not ALL boys are bad.........................Right?

As for the boy child. He seems to have landed a teacher who genuinely likes kids, is energetic and who seems to have discipline secured under her hat. Perfect for what he needs. And, as for the tiny girl SHE has won a gem. We are repeat offenders for her first grade teacher. A wonderful teacher who LOVES teaching and LOVES kids...........of all kinds. My baby girl is in for the treat of her life. I am SOOOOOOOOO happy about that.

As for the man. The jury is still out. I am confident that he is a wonderful teacher. Convincing my S of this is another matter. Winning her over may just take all year. Or, longer. ;o) Good luck Mr. D!

And THREE more days of summer freedom (not that I'm counting)! Enjoy, my friends.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Saying Goodbye to Summer

Please excuse my recent absence from my blog. I have been busy mourning the soon anticipated death of summer. If you know me well, you know that I love the freedom, carelessness, and heat of summer. If I thought my kids would actually listen to me, I would home school them. (Oh, wait. I'd actually have to know something then, too.) Because I do not want to spread my depression like the plague I have composed a short list of what I will miss. Appropriately titled.....................

What I will miss:
  • Sleeping past 5:30 a.m.
  • My kids.
  • Not having to think about lunch until lunch.
  • Sitting with my chair half in the Guadalupe river watching my kids try to catch minnows with buckets.
  • Saying, "Gramma used to say 'There are no boring things, just boring people,'" with a smug look on my face.
  • Not having a real agenda.
  • Going to the library in the middle of the day because we just finished the book we were reading.
  • Morning movies.
  • Four short people cuddling me in bed in the morning asking, "Is it wake-up time yet?"
  • Not having to wake up at the crack of dawn simply to get in a 40 minute run.
  • Drinking beer with my lunch because, "A beer would go great with this lunch." (don't judge me)
  • Sitting outside reading a great novel while my kids raise havoc in the ghetto pool.
  • Sitting in the front reading a great novel while the kids speed down the hill on their bikes.
  • Staying late at the track and not having to worry about getting all the small people on the bus in the morning.
  • Going the entire day without looking at the clock once.
  • Playing and talking outside till the last bit of the sun has faded and the kids are dead-dog tired and filthy dirty.
Happy 'start of school,' friends. Know that I am a little sad now, but will be forced to recover soon. ;o)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How Do You Like Your Coffee?

With an IV, please. Hello, my name is Monica and I am addicted to coffee. What follows is a cautionary tale about coffee.

As my husband and children will tell you, you do not want to know me before I have my pot-o-joe in the morning. I am not very nice. Or smart. This particular morning is a prime example of what I would be without coffee.

Part 1: I woke up fairly happy and bushy-tailed (that should have been a red flag). I decided to get my famous banana breads baking while still drinking my first cup of coffee. I thought this was an amazingly great idea since I would be multi-tasking and done baking before the temps swelled to 180 degrees. Note to self: There are no good ideas before coffee. I am blogging this so that next time I have this bad idea - I will remember this post and know better. So, I proceeded to put the ingredients together for my delicious bread (the same one I have been making for 20 years) while drinking my first cup of coffee and fielding questions from four small people, breaking up early morning fights, putting something to eat on the table, and checking emails. Had I taken the time to drink the coffee first this would have been simple. Ugh. Hindsight.

Part 2: Apparently SUGAR is a necessary ingredient when baking. I wondered why the dough looked weird putting it into the pans, but BECAUSE the caffeine was not fully running through my veins I just thought, "Hmm. That's weird." Not - "YOU FORGOT THE SUGAR, FOOL."

Part 3: When I pulled the pans out of the oven I had had my full pot-o-joe and immediately I knew something was wrong. They looked like.................hard dough. Yuck. Who wants to eat that? It took me all of a few seconds to realize I had never put the sugar in. Fantastic. I now have three loaves of cooked banana and flour.

Moral of the story: When you are thinking of being productive and you've not had your fix, STOP. Get your fix, THEN be on your merry way.

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