Friday, August 31, 2012

Meet Our Neighbors

The house we bought was purchased probably 80% for the location. We have a large lawn slightly under two acres with lots of trees and best of all, neighbors whose houses are a reasonable distance away. We met most of our neighbors already, all of whom are retired couples and very nice. But these neighbors showed up soon after we moved in and have been almost daily visitors every evening before dusk. Mostly we just see the doe and her two fawns but once I have seen a small six point buck too. They come out and graze on what greenery still exists for about fifteen minutes or so and disappear into the trees again.

For right now, I am enjoying them but we haven't started a garden or done any landscaping yet either. When that times comes, I'm going to have to deal with them by building a fence or other methods. Our new town has an in town archery season on deer and one of my new neighbors offered to hunt any deer that were becoming a nuisance. It is amazing that in my relatively short lifetime, deer have gone from a rare sight to being thick as flies and are deemed pests.

Our backyard slopes down to the trees that you see in the background and to a very steep ditch to the left. It them goes steeply back up hill across the ditch to where our street meets the main road. The main road runs behind those trees leaving them into an increasing wedge shape. I haven't down much exploring of what is in those trees because it is full of poison ivy and ticks right now. Later this winter I would like to go out there and see what is in there. But for now, I'll leave it to the deer.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Legos In the Park

Lego Butterfly

My mother-in-law stayed with us for two months this visit, a record. Over the two months, I learned to bite my tongue and find my own fortress of solitude to retreat to from time to time to regain my sanity. Also fortunate, I was still employed back then so I could at least get away for eight or nine hours a day. Despite all this, my mother-in-law did a lot of packing and unpacking which was great even if we still can't find stuff. So to reward her, we took a small trip up to my alma mater, Iowa State University.

Mainly we wanted to visit Reiman Gardens which had a Lego exhibit going on but also to show her were I went to college, lived, and pretty much spent almost a sixth of my life. (That fraction is sadly getting smaller these days.) We arrived during a gentle but persistent rain so we had to drive around for a bit until it quit but when it did, there weren't many people at the park for a Saturday so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. We walked around for a couple hours enjoying the plants and Legos and just about the time we were wrapping up, it started raining again. Perfect timing. So here are some pictures of the trip, mostly of the Lego sculptures. What I wouldn't have given as a kid to build something that big out of Legos is I had that many Legos.

Lego Rose

Lego Hummingbird

Lego Fox and Hare

Lego Lawnmower

Lego Birds

Lego Pond Paraphernalia

Lego Gardener

Lego Sprouting Acorn

Lego Dragonfly

Lego Bison

Lego Bee. In the background was a nifty Rube Goldberg contraption that we sat and watched for almost and hour. 

Lego Flower

Monday, August 27, 2012

Cleaning Out My Camera

Moving Day
While cleaning out my camera, I noticed that I hadn't uploaded pictures in awhile and had a bunch taken with blogging in mind so I might have a few posts from things past over the next week.

Because I have a bum knee and my wife is pregnant, I compromised when we moved and hired someone to load and unload all our worldly possessions even though we boxed it all up ahead of time. I must say it worked out quite nicely. After researching a bunch of companies and options, we ended up going with a local company that coincidentally had just moved the real life Radar O'Reilly the week before. The two men rented a U-Haul truck, lined up some strong backed teenagers and filled this truck and a 16-foot trailer, the latter one twice to move everything. They did a great job and were very pleasant to work with.

It was funny though that people I asked would always recommend them, hesitate a bit, and then say they were gay. I did get a few comments at work about them packing my... well this is kind of a family blog so I'll just leave it at that. Regardless, they were real professionals and I would recommend them to anyone in the area.

I'm glad that moving day is now a fading memory and I hope it doesn't come around again very soon.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Falling Up the North Shore

Earlier this spring when I was digging out photographs of waterfalls for my book project, I got the hankering to go back and revisit those falls. The last time I had seen any of them had been over 15 years earlier and my wife hadn't ever seen them in person. So after leisurely getting around, we headed north along the shore.

Even back in the day when I had spent time there, the traffic had been bad. It is a narrow twisting road that follows the shore and it never fails that you get behind someone going extremely show and causing dozens if not more cars to trail slowly along behind. For me, it is hard to concentrate on on relaxing when you have to keep attention on the car in front of you so closely. This trip however, we beat much of the traffic out even at our leisurely pace and when we did find a huge string of traffic, I would set the cruise a few miles per hour and let them pull away much to the frustrated people behind me.

We visited Gooseberry Falls which is perhaps the most well known waterfalls along the North Shore and were fortunate to beat the rush. We only had to share the park with a couple dozen people but by the time we were hiking out, there were literally several hundred people all heading towards the falls.

One of the big things that I noticed is that the park service has really developed the area since my last visit. Almost every falls had large buildings housing restrooms and information on the area like which refrigerator magnet best represented the beauty. The trails, once narrow compacted dirt trails over slippery tree roots had been replaced by compacted gravel and even paved in the case of Gooseberry. Though the trails were improved, once you got north of Gooseberry, the traffic died down considerably and because the trails to the falls got longer, the number of people to contend with also drastically reduced.

By error on my part and confusing maps that did little to show where one was, we ended up missing the bottoms of the most of the waterfalls we visited and instead saw them from their tops. This provided me with a different perspective and also helped to reduce the number of people around us to almost zero. For some reason, most people don't want to hike further uphill than they absolutely have too and that was alright by me. We spent several house upstream of one particular falls and saw nary a person as we read, threw rocks and sailed stick boats through the rapids.

Because we spent most of the morning and early afternoon relaxing, we decided to relax and spend the rest of the afternoon swimming and the three of us, four if you count the one in the oven, did just that. We finally drug our wrinkled hides out of the water to drive down the road to a BBQ place we had seen and enjoyed another great meal.

No trip to the North Shore is complete without a stop at Betty's Pies. We got two slices to eat with our lunch later on. I got Lake Berry Crunch and my wife 5-Layer Chocolate. Both were divine.

Upper Gooseberry Falls

Middle Gooseberry Falls

Lower Gooseberry Falls

I loved the way this tree was clinging to the rocks.

While admiring the above tree, I saw this wasp nest hanging in the branches. I wonder if the wasps sense how precarious their situation is?

This photo was of the Caribou River on our hike back to the falls. I think it is where I took a black and white version of the photo 15 years earlier and which used to hang on the walls of our old house. Right now it it boxed away but I wanted to take this picture to verify my belief.

Tettegouche Falls in shadows unfortunately so I couldn't get the best picture. My previous pictures from 15 years ago were all taken down at the base of the falls to the left.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Doing Duluth

Our first full day of vacation passed partly by us and by the time we ate our breakfast and left the motel, it was almost nine. We ended up going back down to the harbor shore where we went on one of those tours of the harbor via boat. The first part of it outside the confines of the harbor was pretty lame and as we made our way back under the lift bridge, I was thinking foul thoughts about paying good money for the whole thing. Fortunately, most of the tour was yet to come insides the confines of the harbor itself and that I found very fascinating.

When the tour was done, we stopped at what was once the largest fresh water aquarium at least until they replaced one of their fresh water tanks with a salt water one. We did this to keep Little Abbey entertained a bit and it turned out to be highway robbery. There was very little of interest there for us adults but for Little Abbey, she had a ball playing with a plastic boat in a scale model of the Great Lakes as she worked the various locks along the way.

We ate lunch at the Duluth Grill which evidently was featured in the cable television show Diners, Dives and Drive-ins. The food was outstanding and though I don't have my normal picture of it, I enjoyed my BBQ buffalo strip sandwich and homemade onion rings immensely. In fact, those were the best onion rings I have ever eaten. As fate would have it, we randomly stopped at another diner featured in the same television show a couple days later. More about that later.

Because it was a vacation and we had been working pretty hard at relaxing, we went back to the motel for a round of naps and then spent the rest of the day down at the shore watching my daughter enjoying the cold water, reading and looking for interesting pieces of driftwood which there were plenty of around. I'm thinking about shellacking them and perhaps putting them in a glass container somewhere around the house where I can refer to them from time to time and remember just how relaxing that afternoon was.

General Mills cereal plant. 

I believe they said this was the largest grain elevator on Lake Superior. I was convinced.

Harbor tugs waiting for action

Humongous windmill turbine heads ready to be shipped. The blades were sitting a couple docks down but I couldn't capture a good picture of them. 

Ferrite pellet loading dock. The magnetic particles were mixed with clay and rolled into pellets which were hauled out to this dock by train and dumped. Empty ships could then pull up, those vertical shoots lowered and in a matter of minutes, the ship would be full loaded. This particular dock may have been over a quarter mile long.

Our tour boat parked between the pedestrian drawbridge and that large boat in the background which was an old lake boat turned into a museum. I didn't pay for the privilege of touring it.

About the most interesting thing I found at the aquarium were these fish outside the aquarium.

We had seen this Chinese ship out on the lake waiting for a captain familiar with Duluth harbor to be boated out to drive this boat in earlier during our harbor cruise. By the time the Chinese ship came in, we were up in the hills of Duluth overlooking the harbor. Hidden by one of the vertical towers of the lift bridge is the lighthouse pictured in Monday's blog post.

Enger Tower which is where I was when I snapped the previous picture. It gave me butterflies in my stomach when I reached the top and saw how far it was down to the ground. All I could wonder was when was the last time Duluth had seen an earthquake.

There was no shortage of driftwood along the shores of Lake Superior. I found many knots in these clumps which leads me to believe some of them had been floating for so long that the only thing that remained were the harder, more densely wooded knots.

Monday, August 20, 2012

North Shore

Sunday afternoon, I finally sat down to think about where we would be going on vacation the following morning. I should have put more thought into it but things were just too busy and besides, with time on my side, limits about where we could go pretty much opened up to everywhere. I love the southern shores of our country along the gulf but it is much too crowded for me to relax fully. I've heard of the Jersey Shore but have no desire to go there more than my brief drive by earlier this year. So I went to the shore that everyone in these parts refers to and knows simply as the North Shore.

The North Shore refers to the part of northern Minnesota from Duluth to Grand Portage that forms part of the northern boundary of Lake Superior. It is rugged, wooded, not very developed and had lots and lots of waterfalls. What could go wrong. So Monday morning, we packed a few bags and headed north stopping for the night in Duluth.

I have driven through Duluth many times but have never stopped, not even once so this time I decided to rectify that situation. We holed up for the afternoon in a cheap motel and then headed down to the harbor for supper and a walk along the water. Dinner was great and we parked near the well known lift bridge and had our walk. We checked out lighthouses, the lift bridge itself and even made our way to the beach facing the Lake on a thin peninsula of land that stretched out into the harbor. Little Abbey got to wade in the cold waters while the Mrs. and I sat in the sand reading books and relaxing. It was really hard to drag ourselves away to our motel room but we did knowing that we had a full day of exploring planned for the following day.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Updates From My Busy Life

Wow! Lots has happened in a short amount of time. I have way more time to blog these days and I find myself doing so less just because I've been so busy. So here is an update post to update all my readers on a few things.

My wife, after two months of studying after graduation, finally took her test for board certification in this state and no doubt passed with flying colors. Her words were that she just didn't want to pass, she wanted to PASS! We should find out in a month or two.

So with a wife home everyday for the next few weeks and me being a full time man servant to fixing up the house, we have been making lots of progress on fixing up the house. I don't have any one room completed yet but when I do, I will be sure to post some pictures for you all to take a gander at.

My mother-in-law finally flew back to the Philippines which is currently flooded in a Noah like way these days. No word on whether she made it through the floods up to her mountain home but she was with my brother-in-law and his family along with her sister so she was in good hands. Overall, it was a pretty good two months while she was here and she did lots helping us pack and unpack while I focused on the fixing things part. It also freed up my wife to study for her test by also being the entertainer for Little Abbey.

The day after we saw her off at the airport, we cleaned up the fixing debris from around the house just in time for my grandparents to stop by for a night. They are visiting everyone on their way back to their home in Florida and wanted to see our house. Grandpa gave me the thumbs up on the house which is always good to receive though he probably said twenty different times over the course of their stay that we certainly had a lot of work to do. I broke the news to them that I was unemployed and that I was going to be spending lots of time working on the house this fall and winter and I think that made them happy. 

While talking with them over breakfast, my grandfather asked what the name on his coffee cup stood for and my wife answered him. It was a business name of a company that my wife's uncle owns down in Texas. It involves managing people in the healthcare industry and my uncle-in-law has been very successful running it. Suddenly a spark lit up in my brain and it has been percolating there all day. Why don't I propose to my uncle-in-law to open up a branch up here in Iowa where we have nothing like it? I ran it by my wife who surprised me by saying that her uncle has been wanting us to do that for a long time. So now, I am suddenly excited about the possibility of fulfilling my dream of owning my own business that I can run from my home and it is in an industry completely removed from the manufacturing engineering world. 

But first, before I do anything, I am going to spend some quality time fixing up the house and enjoying my time off from any kind of job. By the time you read this, we may be gone on a little mini vacation of sorts just to get away from life for a few days. We can't go far because we have to be back by Friday to hopefully close on our old house. So if my blog is vacant for the rest of the week, that is why. That's it for updates.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sleeping Easy Thanks To Good Bones

We are now three weeks into this house and I'm sleeping easy. When we purchased our last house, the one that we hope to close on sometime next week, it didn't have a lot of detail stuff to work on but the longer I lived there, the more I realized that it had structural deficiencies. I'm not saying that it will someday fall into a pile of sticks but it was built with substandard methods and materials and it showed here and there. All were things that couldn't easily be fixed without investing way more than could be gotten out of the house.

Our new house is full of detail work that needs to be done everywhere, so much so that I have a hard time grasping just how much. Everywhere I look there is a door handle that doesn't work, a faucet that doesn't work, a light that doesn't work, etc. But and this is a big but, the structure seems rock solid and well built. In other words, it has good bones to work with and I'm relishing the task of fixing up all those cosmetic things. 

We have all the boxes unpacked, at least of those things we deem essential, and the upstairs is pretty much functional if you look past all the cosmetic stuff. The downstairs still has a lot of boxes but many of them are non essential stuff to someday weed out or will be unpacked as Littler Abbey ages and then sold or given away when she outgrows them. At least a dozen boxes are awaiting for some custom built bookshelves. 

Those things can wait though because tomorrow, I am going to start a several week process of going room by room painting everything head to toe and then fixing all those broken electrical outlets, lights, etc. as I put the room back to order. Once all that is done, then those larger projects such as built in bookcases, perhaps a garage addition, kitchen remodel will happen. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Joe the Plumber I'm Not

My days now generally fall into a set routine. I sleep in to the previously unheard of when I had a job time of seven and after breakfast, spend some time in the garage trying to get things hung up, put away and organized. That usually lasts for only an hour or two before the heat drives me back inside to spend the rest of the day tackling a huge list of little fix-it projects that I have.

This past Saturday, I made my way down the list to the kitchen sink. When we bought this house, there was a water stain in the room downstairs we are calling the office. It was right below the upstairs kitchen sink and when my wife inspected the cabinet underneath, we could see why. Someone along the line had let a leak go for so long, that it had rotted out the bottom of the cabinet to where it had collapsed. Their fix had been to cut another board to throw over the rotted board.

I cut out all the rotted wood that I could get too with my jigsaw and rebuilt up the base and cut out a new 'floor' for the cabinet. Just as I screwed in the last screw, I noticed a wet spot on my new woodwork. After some inspection, I saw that the metal flexible hose for the spraying attachment must have a leak somewhere along the line and it was time for a new faucet.

Fortunately and as you will also see, unfortunately, the town we live in has one of those big box stores for stuff like that and about forty minutes later I was home with a new faucet. I didn't have many to choose from since I have only a single hole instead of the more standard three holes found in sinks. But the one I bought was one that I really liked anyway. After much contorting and struggling to get myself wedged head first under the garbage disposal and various other piping, I got the new faucet installed in the holes and then realized that I needed a fitting to connect the new plumbing to my existing plumbing.

Assuming (making an ass of me) it was standard pipe threads, I drove to the local hardware store, about halfway between home and the big box store, and soon had three fittings to get me from the small size to my larger existing size. It didn't work. Upon closer inspection, I saw that the faucet had different threads so I went back to the local hardware store. After much head scratching, puzzling, and asking various people, they finally admitted defeat. So I drove to the box store where I had bought the faucet and after much struggle, finally found someone who knew something about plumbing and fittings. He determined that I had flare threads and sent me on my way with another $15 worth of fittings. I once again went home only to find out that they wouldn't work either.

By this time I had invested almost six hours of time struggling beneath a sink in a contorted position or pondering huge racks of fittings in plastic bags arranged with little rhyme or reason. I had enough and it was getting close to closing time. So I uninstalled the sink faucet, packaged it up along with all the fittings and returned them. Once again, I found myself pondering the meager selection of single hole faucets and finally made the determination that I liked the one I had the best if only I could find the correct fitting. So I did what I probably wasn't supposed to do. I grabbed another brand new box, cut it open right there in the store, extracted the faucet with the weird fittings and walked clear across the store to the pipe fittings department and after much searching, finally found the illusive fitting I had wasted all day looking for. For reference, it was a compression thread without the ferrule or nut.

Back home, I installed the faucet for the second time and soon had everything hooked up. I turned it on only to find out that it leaked. I undid, retaped, and retightened and fixed the leak. I dried up everything and put a paper towel under the sink as I ran it awhile to verify that I didn't have a slow leak. When I looked back under the sink I saw one little wet spot on the paper towel. After much inspection, I saw that the gate valve that was probably original to the house and which I had opened and closed numerous times throughout the day had a slow leak where the stem meets the body. By then I was beat, the stores were closed and I don't have the tools or hardware to fix it. So I did the only thing I could do, I put a container under the valve to catch the leaks. I just have to remember to empty it now and then until I can get it fixed but that is for another day.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Three Biggest Stresses In Life

I once heard from someone wise, my mother, that the three biggest stresses in life were changing jobs, changing locations and having a child. I thought earlier this summer that we had all three in the bag. My wife graduated from residency and was starting a new job, hence the buying of a house and moving. Somewhere along the way we decided to get pregnant before we got too old and we succeeded in that endeavor too. I thought we were done but life has a way of surprising you.

I had a job that I loved mostly because I was in an employee owned company and we didn't have many employees when we started. Since I have started, the original group of employees, less than three dozen, have purchased several more companies and expanded the business dramatically to the tune of about 25% a year. All the shares I have collected over the years have secured my nest egg and for that I am fortunate. But over the last year or two, things began to change. We were getting big enough and the right mix of people were given power and things started going downhill. There was a lack of communication and I felt like I was at times spinning my wheels in the mud when working on projects that used to get full support from everyone. I wasn't liking my job anymore though I still loved the company.

So when my boss retired, I thought long and hard about how to fix the company and my suggestion was to hire someone over all the different areas who didn't have a vested interest who could force the communication. I mentioned it in the right ears and soon, we hired just such a person. Unfortunately, he was someone whom I have worked with in the past and whom I knew was hired to do one other thing besides force communication and that was to chop a few heads.

Although I only met with him a handful of times over a couple weeks, I began to regain my enthusiasm for my job because everyone of the things that I had felt needed to be done were started. Communication was improving and my wheels were starting to move on solid ground again. We were finally on the right track. Then the new guy, after being there for two weeks, called me into a meeting which when I walked into it saw that it was just with him and the Human Resources guy. I knew right then my goose was cooked and it was.

It wasn't the first time we had laid off people but it was the first time we laid off people during a banner year of profitability so I was a little shocked at first. They were gentlemen about it and so I was allowed to go back to my desk and pack up my stuff and carry it out with dignity. I said goodbye to my colleges, arranged a goodbye lunch the next day and headed to my new home. My new commute of 20 miles to work would last only four days.

I wasn't the only one laid off so I have company. Of my peers, I am definitely the most able to handle the financial blow of losing the bread winning job of a marriage since by the time my severance runs out, I wouldn't have been the bread winner anymore anyway. I have been laid off before so I have had previous experience which really helps with going through all the emotional steps of being laid off. I went through all of them pretty much before I even got home to tell my wife.  I had a lot in savings despite just writing a huge check for a house and still waiting on the check from the sale of my house in a couple weeks. In short, other than not getting up and going to work 5 days a week, things are pretty much the same in our household right now. I am very fortunate and I have been giving my thanks to God a little extra these days for leading my down this path.

My wife also took the news well, especially it is the second time in our life that I have had to break that kind of news to her. She was more concerned about my sanity but I don't think she needs to be. I think I'm taking it quite well and have enjoyed my first week and a half of being unemployed (though still being paid thanks to a generous severance package). In fact, I am already on tasks that I thought I might not get to until later this fall and I've lost nearly ten pounds already. I attribute the latter from a relatively sedentary job behind a desk and in a lab where there were always chairs handy to one in which I have literally been sweating my butt off for six hours a day. Granted I have been enjoying my after lunch nap but even with it, I have been working my muscles a bit harder. That muscle in my head might start atrophying but I'll worry about it later.

I'm not sure what the future will bring for me but right now, I am looking forward to finding out. For now, I am hanging up my engineering skills and don't plan on using them in the foreseeable future, at least in the manufacturing industry which has been sour on engineers pretty much since I graduated college. I am going to work on fixing up our new house full time, instead of the planned nights and weekends, probably into this winter. By then, our new daughter will arrive and I will be a stay at home dad while the wife goes out and earns our bread doing what she loves. Since she didn't take her first choice for a job so that I could stay close to the job that I loved and now no longer have, if she doesn't like it here, we certainly can move a bit more easily than before.

Long term, I am contemplating remaking myself into something other than an engineer. I have several ideas for starting up hobbies/businesses that I love to do but couldn't justify it when I had a salaried and golden shares in a fast expanding company. But that is out there a ways and I first have to get used to all our other changes first. If there is an Olympic record for changes in a year, I would like to see someone who can beat two career changes, a new baby and buying and selling a house through a mortgage broker from hell. I have a feeling that I now have the gold medal in that category.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Littler Abbey

I've been making thinly veiled hints for many months now about upcoming changes to my life. Most were known, one turned out to be unknown. The time is right to start unveiling some of those changes and so I start out with perhaps the biggest one seen in the above picture. Yep, we've done it again and taken it upon ourselves to create a new life. Welcome to this blog Littler Abbey, or at least until I come up with a better name.

Littler Abbey is about five months along in her mother's belly and is kicking up a storm by tapping out signals that I can't understand on her uterus walls. It feels kind of creepy to me to have something squirming inside you, perhaps because I've watched too many Alien movies or perhaps it is just a guy thing. Whatever the case, it feels reassuring to my wife and I'll take her word for it.

Littler Abbey still has a while to bake yet until completely done. But we are slated to bring her out to cool sometime around the first week of December. Big sister Little Abbey is very excited about the developments and is practicing her big sister skills on a daily basis.

I am doing pretty good considering that I am adding one more girl to a house full of girls. I keep telling myself that at leas the shopping is already done for clothes and such for at least the first six years. I also relish the fact that I get to eat my dinner in peace (and while warm) at restaurants while my wife takes the two girls to the restrooms at a fairly frequent clip. On the flip side of the coin, my gray hairs, of the ones I have left, will start appearing twice as fast when they both reach dating age. Fortunately I hope I still have a good six to eight years to come up with a strategy on that I can fine tune on the first before the second one arrives at the age where teenage boys suddenly become interested in only one thing.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Mi Padria: Take Two

In my mind, I wrote about eating at Mi Padria in the urban jungle about a year ago. It was my first experience with Ecuadorian food and due to the waitresses suggestion, we ate from the buffet. The food was good but like always, I suspected that if we had ordered off the menu it would have been much better tasting. Large quantities of food kept warm for long periods of time just lose flavor, texture and appeal. So on one of our final outings up in the Urban Jungle earlier this year, we decided to try it again and this time order off the menu. (Note: I cleaned out my cellphone camera to come up with some posts ahead of time while we transition to our new home.)

The picture at the top of the post was I think a beef empanada which is a fried turnover. It was very delicious though I think next time I will go with the chicken version which I think will go better with the somewhat sweet dough that surrounds the filling.

I wanted to get something really authentic to Ecuador so on advice from the waitress, I ordered Ceviche de Cameron seen above. It is cooked shrimp, tomatoes, onions, and peppers mixed with a citrus juice and served cold garnished with toasted corn. The civiche was excellent though I think I could have done without the toasted corn. I just felt like a cow crunching that up amidst all the other much softer stuff in the bowl.  Besides the rice that came with it, there were three patacones which were fried slices of green plantain.

My wife ordered the Arroz Marinaro which is a medley of shrimp, crab legs, clams, mussles and vegetables served over yellow rice alongside some fried ripe plantain. I much prefer the ripe plantain she had to my gree plantain which wasn't nearly as sweet. 

Though we don't normally order desert, we did this time. And as the above wonder was carried out to us, many heads turned and as the waitress made her way back up front, I heard at least two people question what we had gotten. It was Coconut Fried Banana and it even better tasting than it looked if that was possible. The coconut breading on the bananas was outstanding. The only drawback is that I had to eat fast so that I could get some ice cream to go with it since that and the strawberry is all my six year old daughter would eat.

Over the last three years, I have had many great culinary experiences up in the Urban Jungle, enough that I know I am going to have to go back from time to time even if I don't have any excuse other that just to try some new foods. Fortunately in our new house, it is about an hour and a half drive down four lane roads.