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8 simple ways to improve health
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live-well-health-manifesto Since last year’s personal health discovery, I’ve had fits and starts with making permanent - and hopefully beneficial – changes to my lifestyle. While I’m still not 100% there, I’ve already made several small adjustments and have begun to see noticeable benefits. Those results are encouraging. They’re also evidence that I don’t have to make this ‘reclaiming health’ thing overly complicated. I just need to exercise some common sense and a little bit of commitment. Since I know that I’ll occasionally need a reminder of what it is I should be focusing on, I decided to pen my own personal health manifesto. Wanna hear it? Hear it goes….

  1. I have to be my own health advocate. A doctor is not an all-knowing source of medical wisdom. He/she is a practitioner. And practitioners of any craft are as much students as they are adepts. I have the responsibility to educate myself on my own body and conditions so that when I meet with the practitioner, I can engage in thoughtful dialogue and Q&A with him or her and challenge (respectfully) the info he/she provides. We are a team. I should not just take what is said or prescribed as Bible truth. I should use that as a launching point for further investigation, so that when I next meet with him / her, we can continue to plot a course to optimal health for me together. If my chosen practitioner is not open to this type of relationship with me, I should choose another.

 

  1. My body is itself a store of wisdom. If I quiet myself and listen, really pay attention to it, I will receive tons of clues about what might be causing dis-ease or imbalance within me. I was gifted with intuition to do this work, and I should make a conscious effort to strengthen this gift by paying attention to outward signs of inner distress or well-being. My skin, hair, nails, weight, emotions, eyes, teeth, gums, bowel movements, and menstrual periods are all readily accessible and easily observable external signs that give me clear clues as to how I am doing inside. I should not ignore these things or think of them as yucky, messy, gross, or inconsequential. I should pay attention and note any significant changes in them. I should seek out tools and reliable educational materials that allow me to accurately interpret what these changes could be saying about my overall health.

 

  1. Diet (i.e., what I put in my body as food, fuel, or sustenance) is of paramount importance. The KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) method applies here. The simpler the food, the more beneficial it is to me. The more the food looks like it did in its original state, the better it is for me. If it comes wrapped in plastic, encased in cardboard, Styrofoam, cellophane, aluminum, or glass, it is probably less beneficial than things that don’t. I should avoid those types of food as much as possible, but where I can’t or don’t want to, I should both: be very aware (by reading labels) of what extra / unnecessary / unhealthy ingredients are coming inside that package; and be sure to balance consumption of those foods with other, healthier choices. I will limit my consumption of foods prepared by strangers. It is my belief that the closer my relationship to the preparer of the food, the more likely that food is to be good (or at least not bad) for me. I will prepare my own meals as much as possible. I will plan ahead by stocking my fridge / cabinets / workspace with foods that are good for me, so I am not forced to make bad decisions due to limited options.

 

  1. ExerciseMovement is essential. Because I am not an athlete and never plan to be, nor am I a supermodel (though I could be… lol!), I refuse to become obsessed with points, pounds, number of reps, number of calories burned, miles logged, etc. My only obsession will be making time daily or at least 4 out of 7 days to get in the movement that I enjoy, that brings me pleasure, and preferably, that causes me to break a sweat. For me, this includes: dancing, gardening, stretching, dancing, swimming, hiking, biking, stretching, dancing, and stretching. Also – sex is exercise. Especially when done with a partner, and especially when done right.

 

  1. Nature is a source of regenerative energy and healing for me. Its cycles mirror my own internal cycles of birth, growth, death, and rebirth. I must dedicate time to interact with nature on a daily basis, whether by combining it with my physical activity (e.g., hiking, gardening, walking), by meditating on some aspect of nature (e.g., a tree, squirrels playing in the yard, a vase of fresh cut flowers), or incorporating nature into or acknowledging it as I go about my daily routines (e.g., taking lunch outside, touching a leaf as I pass, observing the movement of the clouds overhead).

 

  1. My mental diet is as important as my physical diet. The information and ideas I consume have a direct impact on love-your-lifethe health of my mind and emotions. I will make conscious decisions about the books and magazines I read, the websites I visit, the TV programs and movies I watch, and the conversations and friendships I enter into and foster. This does not mean that I will only consume info or ideas that I agree with, but that I will limit intake of such info that leaves me feeling distressed, anxious, uneasy, or causes an uptick of negative emotions or associations about myself, others, or the world around me.

 

  1. Vices. I like to stay up late. I like to drink. I occasionally like to smoke. I like to drive over the speed limit. I tend to stress. I recognize that none of these things are beneficial to my health, especially if done to a level of excess or overindulgence. At this point, I don’t think I can or want to eliminate any of these behaviors 100%. I accept the inherent risk I am assuming by not being able to do this, and plan to at least minimize / mitigate that risk in the following ways:
    • If I stay up late (or don’t get enough sleep) one night, I will go to bed early the following night and/or sleep in late the following morning, and/or incorporate a nap the following day or days.
    • I will not drink during the week. If I find myself at a weekday event or occasion where alcohol is a factor, I will opt for my non-alcoholic beverage of choice (grapefruit juice and tonic water).
    • I will try to limit smoking to ‘special occasions’ (e.g., 2-3 times / year). Since I’m especially tempted to smoke either when stressed or when drinking, I will ask myself these 3 questions when the temptation arises: 1) is this worth a new wrinkle? 2) is this worth an increase in blood pressure? 3) is this worth dying for?
    • When I recognize stress in myself, I will either: remove myself from the stressful situation, reframe the situation in a more positive light, or focus on my breathing (i.e., taking several deep breaths until I feel the stress is reduced or eliminated.

 

  1. I will practice self-acceptance and self-forgiveness. Not beating myself up for falling off the wagon or experiencing setbacks, but using such experiences to reflect on what caused the setback and what I need to adjust to get back on track.

Do you have any healthy reminders for yourself? How do you keep yourself on track with your health and wellness goals? cheers, k

photo: 100_2230 by echoesofstars, on Flickr

photo: Reminder... by redwood 1, on Flickr"

wake-up call: how i got real about my health
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finding-a-healthy-balance

I don’t deal with sickness well. Whenever I’m called upon to visit an ailing friend or relative, I’m the awkward person in the room. I don’t know where to look or what to say. I just feel uncomfy about the whole business and literally struck dumb.

So you can imagine how I reacted when I went in to one of those urgent care centers for a persistent sore throat almost one year ago today and the doc-in-a-box shared some unexpected news:

"Ms. Solomon, your blood pressure is extremely high."

Me to him: “Really?”

Me to self: “Well, no shit, doc. I just fought Atlanta traffic to get here after a long day of work.”

Him to me: “I don’t mean just a little high. I’m talking stroke-level high.”

Whoa. Now he’s got my attention. Stroke-level high? What the!?

“In fact”, he continued, “If your blood pressure is this high consistently, you’ll be dead by your 45th birthday.”

Gulp. Gee. Thanks, doc.

After reluctantly letting me leave(he seriously considered sending me to the ER), and reassuring me that the sore throat wasn’t an infection, the doctor advised me to monitor my blood pressure several times over the next week or so, and if it remained elevated, to go see my primary doctor.

I left, stunned. What did this mean? I mean, I’d been stressed at work recently, but… I didn’t think it was this bad. I know high blood pressure doesn’t run in my family, and though I’d put on a few pounds and treated myself out to dinner and drinks fairly regularly, I wasn’t exactly an unhealthy eater. Plus, I’d just visited my GYN 6 months ago and my blood pressure was normal. This guy’s tripping. I just need to meditate, enhance my calm, and everything will be back to normal soon.

Except… it wasn’t. I followed the boxdoc’s advice and checked my blood pressure at a nearby pharmacy a couple of days later. It was high. And when I checked again a couple of days after that, and a couple of days after that, it was still way higher than normal. Like… way.

The boxdoc’s words kept reverberating through my head, ‘Dead by 45.’

Even though I had insolently and defiantly quipped at him when I walked out of the door, “See ya on my 46th birthday,” I couldn’t deny the simple truth.

I was scared.

 

Coming to Grips

Over the next few weeks, my emotions were all over the place.

I went from a numbed state of shock: “Why is this happening to me? Is this really happening to me?”

To avoidance: “This isn’t happening. I’ll just not think about it. I mean… I don’t even feel sick.”

To morbid fatalism: “Would it really be so bad to die young and leave a good-looking corpse?”

To finally sucking it up and searching for and visiting a doctor who talked to me, let me cry, reassured me that this wasn’t the end of the world, then scheduled a few diagnostic tests and prescribed some little pills and sent me on my way.

pills-and-billsAfter the tests, which revealed no physiological abnormalities and left me with as many questions as before, I was faced with a daily regimen of pill-taking and a nice stack of medical bills. Both of which pissed me off.

It was then that I confessed to myself that if I to reduce my reliance on pills and avoid even more medical expense in the future, I’d really have to suck it up and take a long, hard look at the factors in my life that had very likely brought me to this point.

 

Skipping Breakfast

Most mornings, my breakfast routine consisted of a cup of coffee. And on a good day, two cups of coffee. After doing lots of research on the benefits of eating breakfast (namely: improved focus, weight loss, reduced risk of heart disease), I determined that this was one of the first things I’d need to change.

 

Eating Out

As a self-proclaimed bon vivant, I consider it almost a duty to try new restaurants and cuisines as often as possible. Plus, I write about food. And how can I write about it if I’m not out experiencing it as much as possible? Yet, when I was honest about my food experiences of late, I had to admit they often left me underwhelmed. And in my desire to try the most interesting- or exotic-sounding or most highly acclaimed items on a restaurant’s menu, I was often consuming the worst food they had to offer from a health perspective. And I was doing this multiple days a week. It was time for me to reclaim my meals by re-entering my kitchen.

 

Too Much Alcohol

I drink. I drink when I’m stressed. When I’m happy. When I have writer’s block. When I celebrate a new gig or the loss of an old one. When I wanna feel sexy. When I wanna appear witty. When I want to calm my nerves after a hard day at work and when I want to be the life of the party on the weekends. And, all of my friends and associates drink too. As with my food interests, I’m always looking for unique or not-so-common cocktails, beers, wines, and liquors to imbibe and share with others. At every event I attend, whether it’s an after-work happy hour, a gallery exhibit or a casual backyard barbecue, alcohol is almost always a central component of the festivities. And my social calendar is often quite full with these types of gatherings and events. I had to find some way to cut back.

 

Smoking

While I’ve never made a regular habit of smoking, the habit I picked up in college continued to linger, and I’d often find myself lighting up when drinking heavily or when around friends who also smoked. My doctor minced no words when I told her about my occasional smoking habit. Her words, “Oh, no. You don’t smoke anymore.”

 

Not Enough Exercise

The most movement I got on many days came from a mild morning walk with some neighbor friends of mine. Certainly not enough to get my heart rate up, break a sweat, or lose weight. I’d often spend the rest of the day sitting in front of a computer, often only getting up to take care of biological necessities.

 

Reliance on Quick Fixes

In the past, when I’ve admitted to being out of balance, say, due to an excess of partying, or a really finding-a-healthy-balance2decadent holiday season, I’ve tried to get back in balance by focusing my energies on the opposite extreme. For example, I’ve used the Master Cleanse (or lemonade diet) to ‘get back on track’ several times. If you’ve never heard of the Master Cleanse, it’s essentially a fast where you consume nothing but a mixture of lemons, water, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup for anywhere from 5-21 days. While it does take a great deal of willpower to do such a fast, and while such fasts are touted for eliminating accumulated toxins from the body, I knew I could no longer rely on quick fixes to provide lasting effects. Proving that I could subsist on spicy lemonade for 5 or more days didn’t change my day-to-day behaviors, my approach to relating to my body, or my discipline to make the right decisions and sacrifices on a consistent basis. I realized that using such binge-and-purge tactics to achieve balance was akin to bouncing up and down repeatedly on a seesaw and assuming the net of the bouncing movements would produce a state of balance. When, in fact, to achieve balance – either on a seesaw or with my health – I would need to find a centered spot that produced the desired effect, then move very little to stay in that space.

 

Other Conditions

I – like many other women (especially African-American women) have suffered from symptoms of fibroids and estrogen dominance for years. Neither my doctor nor any of the other medical information sources I’ve perused had been able to give me any solid or conclusive guidance on what to do to fix this issue (you may remember a previous post on this topic). Yet, intuitively I felt that there might be some connection between the estrogen dominance and my high blood pressure. At a minimum, I felt that the healthy balance changes I planned to implement could only benefit this condition as well. I also made a note to find ways to deal better with daily stresses both on and off the clock.

 

At the end of all that reflection, I simplified the changes I needed to make into the following equation:

Current Health + Exercise + Improved Diet + Consistent Effort – Alcohol – Stress = Healthy Balance

 

It was clear that I had a lot of things that needed working on. And I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. But it was a journey that I was willing to take, and it’s one that I look forward to sharing with you.

 

cheers,

k Photo: Balancing Act by Digitalnative, on Flickr

Photo: Interest's Conflicts by CarbonNYC, on Flickr

Photo: Seesaw by nzgabriel, on Flickr

work is play – what I learned from kickball
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At the ParkWhen I get the opportunity to work with larger, corporate clients I often hesitate, even cringe. My main reason for deciding to pursue a non-traditional career was because most corporate cultures are just too dysfunctional for my tastes. Bad behavior, internal politics, and power plays are often rampant in corporate environments, and no matter how long I usually succeed in avoiding them, I eventually either get pulled into them or fed up with them. Besides, I have my health to consider. Even though corporate gigs tend to pay well and offer more perqs, what good is it if I’m increasing my stress and blood pressure in the process? In short, I’m not dying to work.

Which is why I’ve (at least for now) decided to work as an independent contractor (aka, freelancer). As an independent, I’m essentially a company of one, so any dysfunction is all my own. I can deal with that. But the downside is that as a freelancer, I often work alone. In my home office. With no one else for company other than the voices in my head. As entertaining as those voices are, the truth is I like working with other people. Especially if they’re smart and talented. There’s something very motivating, inspiring, and well… fun about working on a common objective with people who have the talent and the drive to make it happen with you. I guess you could say, I like working with people who take their work seriously but don’t take themselves seriously.

That’s the basis of my primary philosophy about work: ‘work is play’.

I tend to view work very similar to the way I viewed recess in elementary and middle school. Back then, the playground game of choice for me and my classmates was kickball. We’d play every day without fail. It was less a game, and more like a recurring chapter in the ongoing daily saga of our pre-teen lives. Two people would be appointed team captains, and the captains would choose teams, making sure each team had a couple of really good kickers, a pitcher, at least 1 person with a good throwing arm, and some really, really fast runners. Once the teams were decided, the rules of play were agreed to – no bunting; you have to tag somebody out, not hit them with the ball; the foul zone was between the edge of the pavement and the monkey bars. Eventually, play would begin. Each game had its high points and low points, conflicts and petty arguments. There would be hilarious moments when something ridiculously funny would happen, and when recess ended, we’d recount the game’s highlights long after that day’s winner and loser had been decided.

Reflecting on those playground sessions has helped me realize some important facts about work and working that I consider fundamental principles of my ‘work is play’ philosophy. Namely:

The best teams have a diverse mix of people. If everyone on the team were the same type of player, it wouldn’t be much of a team. The teams that I’ve had the most fun with and learned the most from were those that were made up of people with backgrounds, cultures, and interests quite different from my own. Besides, it makes water cooler conversations a treat, to say the least.

 

School Playground Rules

Be clear about the rules can you live with / without. In kickball, some of the rules were standard for the game itself, others evolved as we played the game repeatedly. It’s only by playing a few games that you get a feel for which rules you prefer and which ones you absolutely have to have. I tend to prefer working in situations where the rules of play aren’t as rigid as most. Flexible work hours, casual attire, a short commute – these are some ‘rules’ I prefer, but aren’t absolute deal-breakers. But frequent travel, lack of autonomy, and weekends in the office are work rules that just don’t work for me.

 

It’s just a game. Play stops being fun when games are taken too seriously. The game is a part of life. It isn’t life itself. You are not a great person because you are a great kickball player, anymore than you are a great person because you are a high-level executive. The position you hold in the game is not the source of your power or strength or worth. It is the qualities and traits that you bring to the position. If and when the game ends, you will still possess the qualities and traits that make you who you are. In short, the game should neither consume nor define you.

 

The game can go on without you. You don’t always have to be in the game. I remember a period during middle school when, instead of playing during recess, I would sit by myself and read or write in my journal. This went on for months. Then one day, I decided I’d had enough and went back to play. Not much had changed with the game since the last time I’d played, and I returned to the daily routine as if I’d never left. It’s okay to sit out a few rounds, if you need and want to. Take time away from the game to do something for yourself, with yourself, or by yourself – especially if it’s something that will make you a better player when you return to the team. Not only can the game go on without you, but you can go on without the game.

 

After-game reflection is almost as important as the game itself.Locker Room Conflict was an inevitable part of almost every playground kickball game. Occasionally, tempers would flare so high that there would still be tension after recess was over. Fortunately, the class immediately following recess was one in which our teacher would take time to help us work through any unresolved issues. Because our class was so small and close-knit, it was important that our relationships remained intact. Our teacher (a truly wise woman), gently forced us to reflect on our own behavior and that of our classmates, so we could grow in our understanding of each other, and ultimately go back to play another day. Taking time to reflect after every job or project is essential. It gives me the chance to assess how well I performed, what I might do differently next time, and what lessons I learned from any conflicts or issues that arose during play. After-game reflection is the #1 way to get better each time you play.

When I think back on those childhood kickball games, I realize that all of those playground maneuverings, all of the wins and the losses, and the occasional accidental injuries were teaching us how to work together, how to navigate relationships, and how to achieve a common goal with a group of not-so-common people. For me, work serves the same purpose – it’s the ‘playground’ where I show up to contribute my talents, to learn something, and to have fun in the process.

Once you’re able to approach your work with the mindset of play, you open up the potential for some serious learning experiences, simply by not taking everything so seriously. In work as on the playground, you have the ultimate say in what game you’re playing and what rules you play by.

cheers, k photo: At the Park by Bob B. Brown, on Flickr photo: School Playground Rules by jem, on Flickr photo:Locker Room by katerha, on Flickr

perfect recipes from my imperfect neighborhood
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neighborhood street sign

Talk to someone in intown Atlanta for longer than 5 minutes, and you’re going to get asked the question.  You may even ask it yourself just to get it over and done with. For Atlanta intowners, the question is the equivalent of the doggie butt sniff.  Sure, it may seem a little intimate for a first meeting, but it’s expected amongst our kind.

“So, what neighborhood do you live in?”

About half of the time, the response I get when I answer to the question goes something like this:

“Oh. *gulp* That’s nice.”

You see, I live in a transitional neighborhood. Which in ATL-speak translates as:

A neighborhood – primarily occupied by low-income and elderly blacks – with severely depressed property values and higher-than-average crime rates that is slowly becoming populated by middle-class professionals with active social lives who want a good deal for their real estate dollar.

Living in a neighborhood like that ain’t no bed of roses. Hm. On second thought, it sorta is a bed of roses. There’s a lot of sweet-smelling good things about the neighborhood - neighbors who actually talk to each other, kids playing in the streets, and friendly older people who’ve lived here for multiple generations. There’s also our little community garden.

On a recent visit, I picked a small handful of dill from the shared herb garden a few streets over, simply because it smelled so good. As soon as I had a whiff, I got an instant craving for salmon and rushed off to get some. One of my favorite ways to eat salmon is pan seared with a little dill and lemon butter. I especially love the crispy, seared crust you get when you order pan seared salmon at a restaurant, but wasn’t exactly sure how to achieve the same result at home. A quick search on the interwebs though, and I was in business.

Perfect Pan-Seared Salmon with Dill

pan seared salmon with lemon butter dill sauceIngredients:

2 salmon filets, skin on

1-2 sprigs of fresh dill, roughly chopped

1 clove garlic or 1 shallot, chopped

juice of 1 lemon

1 ½ tbsp butter, softened

1-2 tbsp cold butter

olive oil

salt and pepper

Pat the salmon filets with a paper towel to be sure they’re dry. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Spread softened butter on both sides of the filets. Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet on medium-high. Add filets, skin side down and cook for 5 minutes. Flip with a spatula and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes (for medium doneness).  Remove salmon and set aside.

Turn the heat down to medium, add the garlic or shallot and sautee until light golden brown. Add lemon juice to the pan, using the spatula to scrape up any bits left behind. Remove the pan from heat, add a tablespoon of cold butter, and stir constantly until it melts completely. Add the dill, and salt and pepper to taste. Top salmon fillets with lemon slices. Pour the butter sauce over the salmon filets and serve.

Thanks to the Gastronomer’s Guide for this technique. It yielded the best salmon I’ve ever cooked at home. A golden crust on both sides, and the neighborhood dill was the perfect accompaniment.


But back to the bed of roses that is my neighborhood. In addition to the often-overlooked flowers that come with living here, there are the all-too-obvious thorny frustrations. We have less than our fair share of quality services, restaurants, and retail outlets, and more than our fair share of shady characters, and absentee landlords. Not too long ago, one of our neighbors’ homes was burgled. Since they don’t make Hallmark cards for such occasions, and since my neighbors had not-so-subtly hinted how much they loved fried chicken, I felt the neighborly thing to do was to whip up a batch for them. Sinking your teeth into some crispy, juicy fried chicken can help ease the greatest of pains. Even the pain that comes from some roguish bastard stealing your Xbox.

 

Perfect Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Ingredients:

3 lbs of cut chicken pieces

1 carton of buttermilk

¼ cup mixture of ground herbs of your choice (I use: marjoram, thyme, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper, and nutmeg)

1 onion, sliced

3 cups of flour

1-2 tbsp seasoned salt

2 cups of canola oil

a large paper bag

Rinse and pat dry the chicken pieces. Liberally season with the ground herb mixture. If you really want to get up close and personal with the bird, rub the seasonings into and under the skin. Place the seasoned chicken in a large bowl and cover with buttermilk. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight (8-12 hours).

The next day, add the flour and seasoned salt to a large paper or plastic bag. Drain the chicken in a colander, and add a piece at a time to the bag, shaking well before adding the next piece. Let the chicken rest from 15 minutes to an hour (the longer the chicken rests, the crispier the outer skin will be).

Heat canola oil in a heavy skillet on medium-high. The oil is ready when a pinch of flour sizzles instantly when dropped in the oil. Add the chicken a piece at a time until the pan is full, but not too crowded. Cook for 12-15 minutes on one side, adjusting the heat as necessary so that the skin achieves a golden brown color, but doesn’t burn. Using tongs, flip to the other side and cook for another 10-12 minutes or until golden brown and juices run clear when you pierce the chicken. Remove chicken and allow to cool on a rack or drain on paper towels. If you have problems getting the chicken done on the inside, finish cooking the chicken in the oven at 375 degrees until desired doneness is achieved.

The amount of time invested in making this chicken is absolutely worth it. The result is tender, juicy, well-seasoned chicken with a crispy, golden crust. My neighbors seemed to really like it, and I like to think that it helped them forget about the recent theft for just a few finger-licking moments.

Yep. My little neighborhood is certainly no Pleasantville, but some days it’s absolutely perfect.

cheers,

k

photo credits: adamrice, andriesss

 

 

how to lose like a winner
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A couple of weekends ago, I got invited to watch a friend’s daughter compete in the National American Miss pageant. I’ve known this young lady since she was a toddler, and over the years I’ve watched her blossom into an awesome little woman. She’s bright, energetic, savvy, and beautiful to boot. You know, one of those kids that makes you feel confident about what the next generation will be able to do with their infinite potential. So I was thrilled to join her parents in the audience to hoot and holler like a madwoman whenever she appeared on the stage.

That night, we watched all the contestants do their opening numbers and have their individual moments in the spotlight. We also watched watch as girl after girl got picked for various and sundry titles – Miss Congeniality, Most Likely to be a Top Model, Most Likely to End Up as a Trophy Wife and Get One Helluva Divorce Settlement when the Dog of a Husband Gets Caught Cheating (or something like that). Even with all her charm, poise, and intelligence, our girl didn’t get a single trophy or accolade, and she didn’t even get to move on to the next round of competition. Needless to say, we were crushed. She, of course, was even more crushed. After she’d changed back into her street clothes, she joined us to head to the car. She held up pretty well for a few moments, then the tears came. “It isn’t fair,” she cried. “They weren’t as good as me!” she protested. And we agreed, clucking over her and consoling her like dutiful supporters. There wasn’t any use in trying to rationalize the outcome of the pageant to her. Even if there had been a rational explanation, it likely wouldn’t have made a dent on her emotional state. So, I thought that the words her mother offered her were the best that could be said at that moment. She simply told her daughter, “Baby, it wasn’t your time.”

No doubt, losing sucks. Hard. Especially when it’s something you’ve worked hard to get, or something you feel like you’re naturally more qualified to have. So when you don’t land that job, or you get passed over by that girl or guy you had your heart set on, or someone else snags that grand opportunity that you know was meant for you, it makes you want to scream at the top of your lungs, “It’s not fair! They weren’t as good as me!” It’s irritating as hell to see the lesser-qualified get your moment in the spotlight, with the crowd cheering and the fair maiden planting a wreath of laurel leaves on their unworthy head. When it happens more than once, you may stop screaming outwardly and start whispering inwardly to yourself: “Maybe I’m not good enough. Maybe I don’t know what I’m doing. Maybe no one will ever want me.” Even the most confident and self-assured person has their moments of uncertainty when met with a consistent stream of losses.

I thought back to one of the girls in the pageant who had advanced to the next round that evening. It was her fifth year in the competition, and she’d never made it beyond the first round before. Yet she kept showing up every year. Kept donning the glitzy gown, kept flashing the perfect camera-ready smile, and kept being sent home with nothing to show for her efforts. I wondered what she must have felt like after two years of not winning. After year three? I wondered how she even mustered up the energy and optimism it took to come back for one more chance at winning, though she was a repeat loser. By the colloquial definition, this girl was insane. She kept doing the same thing and expecting a different result. But eventually, after five long years, she did get a different result.

So how exactly do you distinguish the insane person from the winner-to-be?

"Sometimes losing is a wake-up call in disguise, a universal conspiracy that’s letting you know that you’re chasing the wrong dream..."

Winners recognize that there may not be any logic to the fact that they lost, but they take the loss as an opportunity for assessment.  A time to prepare themselves for the win that will inevitably come. After a loss, winners ask themselves the following questions:

Am I losing because I’m playing the wrong game?

If you’re going after something that doesn’t align with your purpose or your true values, why would you want to win? Sometimes losing is a wake-up call in disguise, a universal conspiracy that’s letting you know that you’re chasing the wrong dream, and you need to set your eyes on a different, more fitting prize. If you feel certain that what you’re after does align with your purpose, it’s much easier to deal with temporary losses on the way to your goal.

 

Am I losing because I'm not yet prepared to win?

and the winner is
and the winner is

If you were to get that job, land that cutie pie, or be granted that opportunity, are you currently prepared to make the most of it? Do you have the skills to maintain the thing you’ve won after you’ve won it? You’ve heard the stories of lottery winners who are penniless only a few years after their big win, because they had no money management skills. It’s almost impossible to believe, but it happens all the time – and not just with the lottery. Winners take time after a loss to continue to hone their skills. They visualize what they’ll need to do after the win to make sure they’re ready to perform when it happens. Winners know that a gift given to the ill-prepared can easily become a curse.

 

Am I losing because it just isn’t my time?

So you know for sure that you’re after the right thing. And you know that you’re well-prepared to maintain that thing after you’ve won it. So what gives? Why do you keep losing? Well baby, maybe it just isn’t your time. While you’re fuming about how unfair it all is, maybe there’s someone else out there who had just as much right to the ‘big win’ as you did. They may have waited longer or worked harder, or maybe it was simply ‘their time’. Maybe you’re like that year-five winner, and you’ll have to lose many times before you win. Just remember to re-assess, re-equip, and reapply yourself… even if everyone else thinks you’re insane.

As it turns out, our girl made it through the pageant ordeal without too much emotional or ego damage. After a post-pageant dinner out, she was mostly back to normal. The following week, she got an unexpected phone call. It came from a talent scout who’d seen her at the pageant and wanted to know if she was available for other opportunities.

So let that be a lesson to all you losers out there. The next time you lose, go ahead and have a good cry, check to make sure the makeup is still ok, then treat yourself to something tasty.

And know this… your day is coming. Maybe even sooner than you think.

cheers,

k

photo: total loser by bamzin

photo: ...and the winner is by notsogoodphotography

foodie travel: highlights of savannah’s food scene
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Ah, Savannah. That historic city that simply drips with Southern charm. It’s a place where you can slow down your pace, pick up a drawl, commune with ghosts, and revisit the past. If you’re an art lover, you’re in luck, since the students and staff at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) have fostered a vibrant arts community there. Beach bums will feel right at home on nearby Tybee Island, and history buffs will hardly run out of facts, figures, and folklore to ruminate over. But this one is for the foodies, the eatatarians, the lovers of good grub and drink. Because if there’s anything that Savannah is serious about, it’s eating and drinking. Like any self-respecting Southern dame, Savannah does have her secrets. The locals don’t go to the same places that the tourists do, and when they do, they know better than to suffer ridiculous waits or fall for the tourist specials. So if you know someone in Savannah, get in touch with them before you arrive and ask them to show you around. But if you don’t, the following compilation of some of Savannah’s best restaurants, bars, and other gastronomic diversions should do you just fine.

Where to Stay in Savannah: Hilton Desoto
On my last two visits to Savannah, the Desoto has been my home base of operations. It’s not so much that the rates are spectacular, but you can’t get a much better location. The Desoto is smack dab in the middle of downtown Savannah, and it’s walking distance to almost every place on this and most other lists of places to see and what to do in Savannah. Ask for a room with a balcony – the view of downtown Savannah is beautiful day and night, and the ocean/river breeze doesn’t hurt.

for craft beer

The Distillery - Casual atmosphere, respectable brew selection, friendly wait staff. Happy hour specials that get you $1 off all draft brews. The menu features standard pub fare with flair. http://www.distillerysavannah.com/

savannah-the-distillery      savannah-the-distillery-beer

 

for bbq that’s finger lickin’ good (not great)

Wiley’s Championship BBQ – Where’s there’s smoke, there’s usually good ‘cue. I didn’t smell any smoke when driving up to Wiley’s, but the barbecue was still pretty decent. The sauce comes in regular and spicy. The sides are a little more refined than most ‘cue shacks. http://www.wileyschampionshipbbq.com/

savannah-wileys-barbecue3      savannah-wileys-barbecue4

One-of-a-Kind Savannah Souvenirs: Shop SCAD
Shop SCAD is like a mini art museum, except you can take the art home with you. Unique and quirky handcrafted gifts, wearable art, paintings, cards, and housewares are on display. All of the art is made by SCAD students and alumni. http://shopscadonline.com/

 for posh provisions

Parker’s Market Urban Gourmet – there are plenty of Parker’s gas stations around Savannah. But the one at the corner of Drayton and McDonough in downtown Savannah is decidedly different. Even from the outside, it’s hard to tell that this place is a gas station. And inside, you feel as if you’ve stepped into a new Whole Foods concept. Parker’s boasts a respectable wine section, craft brews, a gourmet hot bar, and high-end packaged goods. Grab some items for an impromptu gourmet picnic under the shade of Spanish-moss-covered trees in one of the nearby historic squares. Open 24 hours. http://www.parkersav.com/parkers_market.cfm

savannah-parkers-urban-market      savannah-shop-scad

Savannah’s Historic Squares
Downtown Savannah is peppered with 24 historic squares, each one named for a notable historic figure or event. Grab yourself a box of chocolates and head to Chippewa Square… that’s the one where the bench scenes from Forrest Gump were filmed.

 

for crabgasmic goodness at a bargain price

Fiddler’s Crab House – Savannah’s selection of peel-and-eat seafood restaurants is surprisingly underwhelming. Fiddler’s is slightly above the rest of them for one reason only: the Monday night all-you-can-eat crab leg special for under $20. The joint ain’t fancy, and it’s smack dab in the middle of the touristy Savannah River Walk, but the crab is fresh, perfectly steamed and plentiful. http://www.yelp.com/biz/fiddlers-crab-house-savannah

savannah-forsyth-park-fountain

Hit the Bricks: Savannah Tours and Transportation
At some point you’re going to want to walk off all the good grub you’ve been shoveling down your gullet. Fortunately, Savannah is extremely pedestrian-friendly. For $13, you can download a self-guided walking tour of Savannah. Of course if you’re totally lazy or you’ve tied on one too many, Savannah’s free Connect shuttle will get you anywhere you need to go in historic downtown Savannah.

for saying hello to your little friends

The Crab Shack (on Savannah’s Tybee Island) – They advertise as if they have Jesus on the menu. But in reality, the food is just ok. The service, equally so-so. And the open air, beachy dining experience would be nice, except for all the stray cats skulking about, and the sand gnats making an all-you-can-eat buffet out of your lower extremities. So if you absolutely must go to this tourist trap, bring some cover for legs and arms. Those little buggers can get vicious ‘round dusk. http://www.thecrabshack.com/

savannah-the-crab-shack 

for fresh baked breakfast

Harris Baking Company – Nothing starts the day off as well as a good breakfast. Harris Baking Company offers a mouth-watering selection of fresh-baked breads and pastries, good quality coffee, and a pleasant environment to mull over the morning paper. It’s perfect, not-too-heavy fuel for a long day of Savannah sightseeing. http://www.harrisbakingco.com

The Other First Lady of Savannah’s Food Scene
Paula Deen undoubtedly put Savannah on the culinary map - which explains why so many people flock to The Lady and Sons, her iconic restaurant that features classic southern fare. The food at The Lady and Sons is damned good, but if you’re looking for a more authentic southern dining experience in Savannah, Mrs. Wilkes is your best bet.

 

for food like grandma used to make

Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room (Cash only!) – Every time I think of Mrs. Wilkes, I have to drop my head and shake it back and forth like an old woman in church. Partly because of the trials and tribulations I had to go through to get there. But mostly because of the sweet glory that awaited me when I finally made it in! The wait for Mrs. Wilkes can be 1-2 hours, which you’ll spend standing outside in a line that snakes to the end of the block. Use the time to get to know your neighbors, since you’ll all be dining together at that big, bountiful buffet on the other side. Once you’re seated, the aunties start bringing the food. A head-swirling array of bowls heaped high with true Southern classics: rutabagas, succotash, turnip greens, cabbage, mashed potatoes, rice and gravy, black eyed peas, green beans, sweet potato soufflé, carrot salad, macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, bbq pork, sausages, biscuits, and cornbread… and that’s just a sampling of the dishes presented. Each is a textbook demonstration of how these Southern soul food staples should taste. Halleluuuu! http://www.mrswilkes.com/

savannah-mrs-wilkes      savannah-mrs-wilkes-dining-room

 

notable mentions:

Here are a few more places that I haven’t yet visited but have gotten glowing reviews from trusted foodie friends.

Eat Like a Savannah Local: Off the Beaten Path
For more restaurants and attractions that may not show up in the Savannah tourist guides, check out: http://www.savannahoffthebeatenpath.com/for a compilation of Savannah restaurants and watering holes that locals love and visitors often overlook.

Seafoodlicious – Rumored to serve up some of Savannah’s best low country boil and blue crabs. It’s located in an area that’s not as aesthetically pleasing as downtown Savannah. But you’re here for the food, not the scenery. http://www.yelp.com/biz/seafoodlicious-savannah

Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House – Paula Deen’s other Savannah restaurant, co-operated by her brother Bubba http://www.unclebubbas.com/

bar.food – Asian-fusion bar food, serious nightly drink specials, and an urban chic vibe http://barfoodsavannah.com/

Zunzi’s Take Out and Catering - gourmet salads, sandwiches, and more for lunch on the run http://www.zunzis.com/

cheers,

k

mistress didi - crusader of classic fetish

**Disclaimer: some of the links and topics contained in this post are of an adult nature. If you find such information objectionable, go watch a cartoon. :)**

Bondage, BDSM, fetish, kink. When you hear those terms, images of whips, chains, leather, and latex may immediately come to mind. Less innocuous terms like freak, pervert, or deviant, are often used to describe the participants in the bondage and fetish scenes. Many people are confounded, some are intrigued (even those who won’t admit it), and others are downright repulsed by the set of behaviors classified as modern fetish. But there is at least one woman who is dedicated to preserving fetish and BDSM as an art, not only for the beauty of it, but for its therapeutic benefits as well.

Her name? Mistress Didi. Had it not been for the annual Hedonism art show at Apache I attended a few months back, our paths might never have crossed. After the show, which featured live performances and installations by several local erotic artists, I had questions. Who were these artists and performers? Did they have day jobs? What path leads one to take the stage or pick up a paintbrush as an erotic artist? I set out to find answers, and when I came across Mistress Didi, I felt that I’d found a reliable source for them. Instead of the usual graphic and provocative imagery on other fetish websites, Mistress Didi’s site provides page after page of information that is an unlikely blend of spiritual philosophy, basic manners and etiquette, and of course, fetish culture. Her emphasis on quality and artisanship in the culture has led her to coin the term classic fetish, of which she is a very vocal proponent.

After a few online exchanges, Mistress Didi - a petite little firebrand with a demeanor befitting a Mistress - agreed to let me interview her so she could explain more about the spiritual, therapeutic, and artistic aspects of classic fetish.


What do you think is the biggest misconception about fetish? That it’s not consensual and that it’s a psychological deviation. In the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition) fetish is literally classified as an abnormality.

That’s sort of ironic, since you consider fetish to be therapeutic. Can you speak about how you’ve added a therapeutic aspect to fetish? What sort of challenges or blocks do you feel fetish can help people overcome? You make decisions about who you are in your life. You have to like who you are. So many times, we choose things based upon others telling us that we will be accepted or like based on their criteria. People are massively mind controlled by religion, the media… but it’s about being responsible for your actions, and living life to enjoy it. I have my philosophy of spiritual hedonism which is my religion that I invented. I figured, hey, if L. Ron Hubbard can invent one then I can too! And mine is a helluva lot more fun than his! (laughs) But my thing is about being responsible for your actions. Whatever you choose to do, be responsible for that 100%, live life to enjoy it and spread that joy. Party on!

Hey, what else is there, right? What if? That’s my motivation. What if? What if the world does end in 2012? What if something falls out of the sky on top of my head? What if this is my last inhale? When I die, I don’t want to go, “Oh hell, that sucked”. I wanna be able to say, “Alright, that was pretty cool!” I recognize that I am a sadist by nature, but I also know that as a Libra, I go to extremes. Like all my charitable work, all my healing work in my vanilla life is one end of the spectrum. And then my expertise in the sadistic arts is the other end of the spectrum. However, as I was saying to you earlier about responsibility… I’m not one of these people that has some kind of egomania going on and is picking up a whip and just flailing it ridiculously. I studied with qualified practitioners and experts in their particular genres, and I know what I’m doing. Plus I have an extensive knowledge of human physiology and human psychology and I’m always enhancing my education. I owe that not only to myself, but to the fetish community. Because if you’re gonna go out there and call yourself a dominant, then you need to be in control of your reality, your own personal space, your own domain.

That’s quite powerful. But you can take that outside of the fetish world. The thing is that we are taught to react rather than respond. Reaction is irrational and it’s designed so we can take the focus off of our responsibility. When you respond, that requires conscious choice and a decision that you make that you can live with yourself.

So how do you respond to the mainstream’s misconceptions about fetish? What I’ve decided to do is create better fetish. What they call fetish now are these screaming, screeching parties. At these little screeching parties with all these kids who think they’re gonna tell ME about domming… what they don’t know is that I’m old enough to be their mother, I just look better than they do. And there’s a reason for that too. Their whole concept of S&M is stand and pose. They like getting dressed up – god knows I do – but that is not the end of it all. They have no etiquette, they have no manners. Some people think fetish is kink. Fetish is not just kink. Fetish is not just about sexuality.

There’s a more ancient, historical aspect to the term, right? If you look at the word fetish in the dictionary, you will see that. In indigenous cultures, these people took a physical thing that embodied the representation of how you were working spiritual energy and how you were focusing that. How u connect with the higher God energy to manifest things in your life.

Fetish (definition) - A fetish (from the French fétiche; which comes from the Portuguese feitiço; "artificial" and the Latine facere, "to make") is an object believed to have supernatural powers, or in particular, a man-made object that has power over others.

French philosopher Michel Leiris simplifies the original definition as, an ‘objectified form of our desire’.

Another misconception about fetish. People think that you go to one of these parties and someone is gonna beat you. No, no, no! If that happens, you need to complain to somebody and have the offender thrown the hell out. Because the creed is safe, sane, and consensual. I see all kinds of abominable things happening at these parties and that’s why I don’t go. I have my own parties and with the exception of the one on June 4, they’re all private. And because that behavior is fostered and allowed to breed like a cancer in our community, that’s why I wrote, “How to Properly Present Yourself to a Mistress” and offer it as a free book.

You mention on your site that your book is also useful for people who aren’t necessarily into fetish? Absolutely. I tell people to use this for their kids. Because all that it is is common courtesy and social graces. Now, if we taught our children in kindergarten 2 things. Body awareness so that they would be able to do a check-in internally, do some deep breathing or other techniques instead of fidgeting because they’re uncomfortable. And if we taught kids that it’s ok to acknowledge that I’m angry or I don’t like that. Acknowledge that and realize what else you can do with that. You don’t always have to be…  well, for lack of a better word, you don’t always have to be a d*&k! You can choose to take the high road even when others are being low-lives. That’s one of the things I teach in Domina 101.

Is that what separates classic fetish – the protocols, the courtesies, and the rituals? My brand of classic fetish goes even beyond that. I call it classic fetish because we’re taking it towards the highest beauty. Have you ever seen a pair of shoes that takes your breath away and it’s a magical moment? I grew up in the fetish scene, so what it’s deteriorating today is disgusting and its deteriorating because there’s these little hoochies working in a dungeon and they think they can put the word Mistress in front of their name and that puts them in the same category as someone like me.

First of all, they’re not really dommes. They are subbing to some idiot guy with a pimp mentality. That’s why I call them ‘hoochies with whips’. The reason that we even have the distinction of classic fetish is because people have decided to abuse something that was beautiful.

How would you suggest dominants or aspiring dommes who don’t just want to be ‘hoochies with whips’ educate themselves? What about vanilla people who want to begin exploring fetish? For aspiring dommes, there are tons of seasoned dommes out there to learn from and there are organizations like TES (The Eulenspiegel Society). They should also check out my articles: The Importance of Rituals and Protocols, and Domme vs. Dumme. For newcomers to the scene, there is a website called The BDSM Resource Center. It’s a really good resource for fetish or I should say BDSM education. Fetish includes lifestyle stuff like people who just enjoy certain articles of clothing. BDSM is bondage, domination, sadomasochism – it is an actual physical expression. It’s a very physical thing.

Are there certain tools and techniques that every fetishist should have in his or her toolkit? Yes! Have a basic knowledge of First Aid. Become CPR certified, definitely own a First Aid kit. Know how to handle burns, cuts. Have safety rules. And always play with a phone nearby, in case of emergencies. I think everyone should go to a safe party - where you can actually talk to people whose lifestyles are a part of this culture. And these people are a much higher caliber versus going to a loud disco where the music is so loud you can’t hear anything. When I see people playing in these clubs where the music is so loud… that to me is very irresponsible, because you can’t see the danger signs.

As an African-American in the fetish / BDSM community, are you something of a unicorn? Do you find that there are any racial divides or misunderstandings within the fetish community? There’s a huge black culture in the whole BDSM thing. People give folks - especially those who are into being slaves or submissives a lot of flack for that. Like, given our history, how could you want to be a slave? But they don’t understand that this is a completely different concept from the slavery that we understand as a part of African-American history. That was completely non-consensual.

Talk about some of the classes you offer? Which is your most popular? Transcendent trampling. Because when I trample it’s a sight to see. That’s my own specific technique. When I teach that, first I start out with a basic anatomy course. Which muscles can take weight bearing, where are the places that you should never apply pressure. Where is the carotid artery... don’t lean on that! (laughs) because I was a dancer for years, when I trample, it’s a work of art.

I seem to get a lot of response for Max Wax, my waxplay course.  Now the vanilla women are really funny. They want to know all of this stuff, but if it’s not presented to them in a way that they feel they won’t be judged, then they can’t get with the program. So I have a course that I call Role Play 101 – and it’s really just a basic introduction on how to spice up your sex life with your honey.

Where would you like to see fetish go? Ten years from now, do you think you’ll still be involved in fetish? Oh, absolutely. This is a part of who I am. I think folks think it’s something you do on the weekends. This is part of who I am, not just how I am. Most people don’t realize that who they are can be quite lovely… how they are is quite wretched.

To be a dominant means you choose how things are for your comfort and your ultimate well-being in your life. People don’t like that. They think it means you put on 8-inch heels and walk around with your butt hanging out, but I only do that on special occasions and only for special people. And no I DO NOT have sex with my playmates. This is not a sexual thing for me. This is a connection between two people on a level that is spiritual, physical, emotional, mental and is totally transcendent. And because I have that experience on a regular basis, I see how many people are not having it, and that’s what's missing from what is considered fetish in the mainstream today.

It’s not necessarily for everyone else. But I say, don’t knock it until you try it. There are things that you’ll discover that you don’t like, and you just have to understand that that’s what YOU don’t like. Just try not to judge what other people do like. And there’s some nasty stuff out there – very unhealthy stuff. I don’t understand how folks get into it. But I try not to judge it, I just make my choices not to indulge with them.

At this point in our talk, Mistress Didi’s dog, who she calls Li’l Doggie enters and asks for a treat. She shares that Li’l Doggie – who she got from an animal rescue - doesn’t have much longer to live. She moves on to tell me about another dog that she rescued previously that had been abused.

I took him, in a short amount of time, from being in a place of extreme fear to being able to sit on strangers’ laps. And that, to me, is dominance. Because I created an environment for him to become as beautiful as he could be, and to love life as much as he could. And that is what BDSM is for me. That’s what I believe the goal of being a dominant is. You don’t just have someone in your life because you can. It should be a mutual evolutionary process.

We move on to talk about other things like: her future plans to open a private fetish club in NYC (contact her if you're interested in investing), RuPaul's Drag Race (she's a fan), and the fact that she feels this season's RPDR winner - Tyra Sanchez - is a good role model for his son.

I'd love to meet her. Tyra accepts who Tyra is. Tyra says to the world, this is how I express myself and how I love living.

How dare someone tell me how we should love. Look what their way of loving got the world.

For more information about Mistress Didi and her brand of classic fetish, check out her website, her blog, or follow her on Twitter.

cheers,

k

20 things mama used to (and still does) say
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I was listening to WABE the other day and the announcer asked for listeners to call in and share things that their mother always said that they still remembered. I didn't get a chance to call in and share my memories, but in honor of Mother's Day, I thought I'd share them with you, Dear Reader. Here goes...

1. It’s better to have and not need than to need and not have.

2. There is a difference between being a woman and being a lady.

3. Always be observant.

4. Your beauty may open a door, but your brain will keep it open for you.

5. The streets will always be there.

6. If you ever feel you want to try drugs or alcohol, come to me first. (yeah, my mom’s progressive as hell!)

7. Bedtime is at 9:30 pm. (progressive, yet ridiculously strict!)

8. Always take 2 quarters with you, so you can use the pay phone if he acts up on the date. (obviously before cell phones!)

9. Never go for the HMO option.

10. Real ladies keep their shoes on all night (for those of y’all who like to wear those heels you can’t walk in).

11. As long as you live under my roof, you will do what I say.

12. Never say, "I don’t know" when I ask why you did something. Say, "Because I wanted to". You should always know why you did something.

13. Y’all called me up to the school for THIS? (when I got in trouble for saying the word ‘penis’ on camera in high school)

14. Don’t be the one who is influenced. Be the one who influences.

15. People didn’t expect much from you because I was a single parent. Just shows you that you shouldn't worry about what people expect.

16. I got you this far. I’m done raising you. The rest is up to you.

17. I guess I have to cut the apron strings at some point.

18. Alright, queen. don’t forget I am yo’ mama! (said when we ‘argue’)

19. Aren’t you lucky to have such a beautiful muuuther!? (I am, by the way)

20. You know I always got your back. (and I got yours, mama!)

What are some things your mother used to (or still does) say?

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there. We hear you, even when we're not listening ;-).

cheers,

k

8 steps for turning your craft into a career
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Your day job is what pays the bills. So you get up every day and go to work faithfully. But secretly (or maybe not-so-secretly), you harbor a passion for some other work – your craft – that one thing you feel like you were destined to do with your life. The only problem is, if you were to jump head first into pursuing your passion, you might not be able to keep the lights on. So, maybe you should just give up on that dream of yours, right?

Wrong. If you’re focused and willing to put forth a little extra effort, there’s a way for you to make it happen. While there’s no guaranteed path to success, here are 8 steps that will undoubtedly help you transform your part-time hobby into a full-time career.

  1. Educate Yourself - Either enroll in a paid course or do some targeted self-study. Buy books and read articles in industry publications. You need to get very smart about the history, and current and future trends of the work you want to do. Is there a viable market for what you want to do? Also, get a feel for what goes on behind-the-scenes of the craft - those things that you'll have to do that aren't necessarily related to the craft itself. For instance, if you want to be a writer, you need to learn how to write pitch letters. If you want to be a musician, you might need to learn about putting together a press kit or music copyright law. Find out what average salaries or pay rates are in the field. This step alone may make you second guess your decision to pursue your craft as a full-time career.
  2.  

  3. Carve Out a Niche - How do you do your work differently? Are your products and services for a certain type of person or audience? What can you do with your work that's totally unique? Develop your own persona, your own set of offerings that's just a little bit different than what's already out there.
  4.  

  5. Build a Resume - Whether you want to work your craft as an employee or as a business owner, you'll need to show that you're experienced. Early on you may not have a lot to put on a resume, so seek out volunteer or non-paying opportunities that will give you that experience. Look at previous jobs that may have required you to use the same skills, even though you might not have had the exact title. If you have the time and energy, consider moonlighting or taking some one-off projects or a part-time gig in the field you’re looking to break into.
  6.  

  7. Join a Flock – Seek out a trade association, industry organization, or just a network of people who are doing the same work. Be active, ask a lot of questions, let people know that you're trying to break in to the industry, ask for ways you can lend your talents to the group, offer to take people out to coffee, to collaborate with them on their next project. Above all, be genuine with this group. They'll be like your new family.
  8.  

  9. Tell Everyone - Tell everyone you know - friends, family, former co-workers, the guy who makes your coffee at the corner café – about your ‘new’ line of work. This is for two reasons: 1) so you get comfortable claiming your new career, and 2) so people you know start seeing you as this person. Ideally, you should get some self-promotion tools in place - business cards, a website or blog - so you can showcase your talent to the world.
  10.  

  11. Define Your Prey - Clearly define who your target customer is or what type of organization you want to work for. How far are you willing to travel? How many hours do you want to work? What types of people do you want to work with? What kind of salary are you willing to accept? Get clear about what it is you're actually looking for, and then...
  12.  

  13. Go Hunting - Talk to contacts in your network that can introduce you to your target clients. Hang out in places where your clients hang out (be sure to bring your self-promotion items with you), meet people and follow up with them, even if it's just for personal reasons. This step is about building the relationships that will get you closer to your ideal client or type of work.
  14.  

  15. Be Patient Persistent - If you're lucky, you may achieve success overnight. If you're patient, you'll wait as long as it takes for success to come to you. But if you're persistent, you'll realize that it takes both time and consistent effort for you to reach a desired level of success, and you'll continue to do the work required to meet your goals.

Have any other tips for how to make your part-time passion your full-time career? Drop 'em in the comments.

photo credit: Tony the Misfit

cheers,
k

how to do atlanta - jeju sauna
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The communal bath house is a relaxing tradition that’s found in many cultures, but most Americans would raise an eyebrow at the notion of visiting a 24-hour Korean spa. Rest assured, it’s not that kind of affair, even though the hot-pink neon signage out front might make you think otherwise.

$25 gets you a locker and unlimited access to the facilities at Jeju, plus a standard-issue, one-size-fits-all short set that evokes images of Logan’s Run. If lounging au naturale is your thing, the gender-separate locker rooms have showers, steam rooms, and soaking pools, and for an extra fee, you can have one of the older lady masseuses smack you up, flip you, and rub you down.

You might opt to literally spend the night in the large common area, which boasts 7 different therapeutic saunas – like the Jade room and the Charcoal Room, a large swimming pool, and a quick-serve Korean snack bar. Just a few hours at Jeju makes for a happy ending you don’t have to be ashamed of.

cheers,

k

Jeju Sauna 3555 Gwinnett Place Drive Duluth, GA 30096 www.jejusauna.net

how to do atlanta - visit the beltline
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Usually, if you want to get to know a city, you visit monuments of its past. But if you really want to get to know Atlanta, you can also take a tour of its future. The Beltline—a multi-year, multi-billion dollar urban renewal effort—is also a symbol of the things Atlantans love most about their town: its historic neighborhoods, urban green spaces, and its legacy of rising from the ashes. Today, the Beltline isn’t much more than 22 miles of abandoned, overgrown rail lines. But enthusiastic tour guides will lead you by bus, bike, or foot on a journey behind the scenes and into the future of the South’s brightest city. Don’t expect pristinely picturesque scenery. Like the future, the beauty of the Beltline is less about what you can see with your eyes, and more about what you can imagine in your mind.

cheers,

k

View other Atlanta travel stories on Trazzler...

y we remember - current perspectives on the future of black history
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The name of the comedian escapes me (Chris Rock maybe?), but there's a standup skit about Black History Month that, unfortunately, is a pretty accurate summation of the Black History curriculum that I and most of my peers received in school: 

"Once upon a time there was a thing called slavery. Some time later, Martin Luther King was born...." 

While that synopsis of Black History education was grossly exaggerated for comic effect, it still wasn't too far from the truth. Throughout elementary and high school, each February was the time for recounting the familiar narrative: we were once slaves, we were once denied the education and opportunities that other Americans were given, and had it not been for the illustrious leaders of the post-Reconstruction and civil rights era, we might never have made it through. Then we'd sing We Shall Overcome three times, listen to an excerpt of Dr. King's I Have a Dream speech, learn an African dance routine, and return to our regularly scheduled educational programming in March. While I always enjoyed hearing the familiar stories and speeches, I began to notice that, each year, the gap between the era of Black history I was being taught about and the era of Black now I was living in kept growing wider and wider. 

It wasn't until I made it to college - where I enrolled in a freshman World History course at Clark Atlanta University - that I got a more comprehensive understanding of how Black and African history figured in the larger context of human history. On the first day of class, the professor walked in, headed straight for the blackboard, picked up a piece of chalk and drew three figures. The first was a straight line. The second was a circle. And the third, a straight line that then arced back upon itself. It was only after he'd finished his drawings that he addressed the class. 

"This," he began, pointing to the straight line, "represents the European worldview. Everything is about forward progress." "This," as he motioned to the circle, "represents the Asian worldview. Everything is cyclical and eventually returns to where it began." "And this," referring to the straight-line-arc, "Is the African worldview. Ever moving forward, but always drawing on the lessons of the past." I would later recognize the straight-line-arc being represented in the Adinkra symbol of the Sankofa bird. Sankofa being a word in the Akan language that means 'go back and get it', referring to the idea of taking the wisdom of the past and using it to make progress toward a beneficial future. 

It occurs to me that many of us are still celebrating Black History Month the way were taught in elementary school. We recall those icons of the past, laud their praises, recount the stories, and sing the old hymns for 28 days, then it's back to our regularly scheduled lives in March. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we should stop talking about Malcolm, Martin, and Rosa. But the 'old way' of approaching Black History Month has caused it to lose some of its relevance in the now. We African-American artists, intellectuals, activists, and entrepreneurs are the ones who are creating the history that future generations will look to to help them guide their own progress. And now that we have 'gone back and gotten it'... what do we do with it today? 

A couple of my contemporaries have dedicated these 28 days to answering that question in their own ways. One, by spotlighting today's diverse leaders of new media, and the other by issuing a unique call to action for the latest tragedy to hit the Diaspora. 

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Wayne Sutton, Social Media and Community Strategist at Twine Interactive (an internet marketing firm), has launched 28 Days of Diversity on his blog, www.socialwayne.com. Each day in February, Sutton will highlight an individual who is a leader or influencer in IT, the web, new media, etc. In an industry that has too few brown faces, this is a huge way of exposing those that we might not ever hear about otherwise. Case in point: today's spotlight is on Atlanta-based blogger, video producer, and media consultant, Amani Channel. In addition to being the founder of Visual Eye Media, Amani is also the community manager for PBA's Lens on Atlanta, and in his spare time (yes, that's sarcasm) he blogs at www.myurbanreport.com. Keep an eye on Wayne's blog for more folks you should meet this month. 

stir it 28

Bren Herrera, an Atlanta chef and food writer, is rallying the global community of food bloggers, chefs, restaurauteurs, and foodies to raise funds for victims of Haiti's earthquake via Stir It 28. Stir It 28 is a prime example of 21st century community activism, leveraging new media in a 3-part campaign to raise $50,000 within 28 days. 100% of proceeds will be donated directly to Share Our Strength and Yéle. The fundraiser is a multi-city collaboration between Hererra, who blogs at Flanboyant Eats, Chrystal of The Duo Dishes and Courtney of Coco Cooks. Read all about Stir It 28 and how you can participate

(You'll be hearing more about Stir It 28 from me soon, as I'll definitely be participating!) 

cheers, 

k

how to do atlanta - ms ann’s snack bar
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photo credit: www.burgerbeast.com People – especially Southerners, and especially Southerners in the ‘hood – have a tendency to exaggerate.

Hey, man! You seen Tiny lately? That boy done got big as a house!" "Don’t say?" "Yeah, I saw him last Tuesday and I swear fo’ God you could land a plane on his backside!"

Exaggeration and braggadocio are simply part of the parlance of the South and especially of those well-known Southern ‘hoods like Kirkwood – home of Ms. Ann’s Snack bar and – as the red painted words on the side of the building will tell you - home of the “World famous ghetto burger”. Now, I’m not certain if people in other countries have heard of Ms. Ann or her monstrously sized burgers, but due to a 2007 article in the WSJ, the ghetto burger received national acclaim as the nation’s # 1 burger. ‘Nationally Renowned Ghetto Burger’ doesn’t quite have the same snappy ring to it, plus the shack-sized snack bar probably doesn’t have enough room for all those extra letters, so… world-famous it is. Regardless, both the burger and the woman are famous enough in local circles to have become the stuff of legend, and since rumor has it that Ms. Ann will be hanging up her spatula for good this month (not the 1st time that rumor has surfaced, mind you), I felt it was my duty to pay her a visit before the legend became history.

I approached the screen door of the snack bar with a feeling of trepidation. Ms. Ann’s reputation preceded her, and the image I’d painted of her in my head was somewhere between the Soup Nazi and the Great Oz. I’d heard of her long list of rules prominently posted above the counter, and had been repeatedly warned with tales of what happened to those who dared not follow them – a fate that could range from being yelled at to being thrown out. I couldn’t remember all of the rumored rules, but the ones I did remember seemed simple enough: no talking on cell phones, no cussing, no babies on the lunch counter, the standard no-shirt-no-shoes-no-service, and the most important of all: if there are no seats available at the 8-seat lunch counter, do not come inside.

Unfortunately, when I arrived, the counter was full, but an elderly couple was preparing to leave, so I took a seat on the worn white patio furniture in the snack bar’s ‘waiting area’.  On a previous attempted visit, both the counter and the waiting area were full, and the wait was up to 2 hours. Needless to say, I felt lucky to only have a few minutes pass before going inside.

Once there, I claimed one of the open stools at the far end of the counter and took a few moments to soak in the scene. That prominently displayed list of rules, as it turned out, wasn’t so prominent after all. It was mostly obscured by framed photographs of previous diners – local politicians and figures of note – with time-faded signatures and words

photo credit: Atlanta Journal Constitution

of gratitude scribbled in the corners of each. Behind the counter, I spied the legend herself, a cocoa-colored, wiry older woman who was moving rather nimbly between an impossibly small griddle loaded with impossibly large hamburger patties, and a dilapidated fridge stocked to the brim with burger toppings and large plastic jugs of tea, lemonade, and red punch. On the opposite wall of the restaurant was another framed picture, this one larger than the rest – a black-and-white graduation photograph of a young Ms. Ann… smiling. On one of her passes from griddle to fridge, Ms. Ann stopped to chat with a couple and their two young daughters that were seated next to me. During the exchange, the smile appeared again. I was beginning to wonder if I had stumbled into the wrong Ms. Ann’s Snack Bar. Maybe this was a Bizarro Ms. Ann that had no rules and treated customers with a smile instead of a snarl. Just then, she stepped over to take my order.

"What you gon’ have?"

A little more brusque than I would have expected anywhere else, but the tone was really to let me know that if I was going to be one of these indecisive or overly picky customers, she was not going to be the one to indulge me. It was just the reality check I needed to convince me that I was indeed in the right place.

I had originally planned to order the ghetto burger – a monstrous, structurally unsound assembly of two burger patties topped with sautéed onions, chili, bacon, cheese, lettuce, and tomato – but after watching my dining neighbor struggle with his, I decided to opt for a more sensible selection: a cheeseburger, fries, and a lemonade

I’ve always been a fan of watching my food being cooked, it’s about as close as you can get to cooking something yourself, plus it’s an opportunity to see the skill and love that the person preparing your food puts into it. You get a greater sense of appreciation and connection to the end result than you do when your plate of food just magically arrives from somewhere in the back. Once you’ve seen Ms. Ann hand-shape those huge beef patties, slap them on the grill with all of the finesse of a mustachioed Swedish masseuse named Helga, then move back and forth in the narrow cooking space behind the counter with the automated assurance of someone who’s been doing this for ms-ann-cheeseburgerdecades, you will most certainly appreciate the end result when she sets it in front of you. My cheeseburger – topped with sautéed onions, lettuce, and tomato – almost completely filled one Styrofoam plate, while my order of fries - dusted with seasoned salt - filled another. I took my first bite of the world-famous, nationally renowned burger, and found it to be… good. Was it the best burger I’d ever had? Was it, for that matter, better than something I could have made in my own kitchen? Not really. But it was good. Well seasoned, well done, topped with fresh ingredients, and so large that even with my most earnest attempt, I couldn’t possibly finish the whole thing.

In Latin American, Caribbean, and Asian countries, street and neighborhood food vendors are a prominent feature of the dining-out landscape. The personalities of the proprietors are often as much of a draw as the food itself, and those that stay in the game for years usually become larger-than-life personas as a result of the local lore surrounding them. By contrast, the majority of the American dining public has abandoned neighborhood food stands in favor of a more anaesthetized, highly styled eating experience. So the fact that Ms. Ann is still holding her own after 37+ years, and continues to draw crowds of locals and visitors alike, proves that she and her ghetto burger are most definitely legends. No exaggeration required.

cheers,

k

Ann's Snack Bar 1615 Memorial Dr Atlanta, GA 30317 (404) 687-9207

how to do the mayan riviera - tulum
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Tulum

About 15 minutes west of Coba, is Tulum. Tulum has a casual, beach-bum sort of vibe, and is home to a large number of small, independently-owned 'eco hotels' situated closely together along a stretch of Tulum's white sand beach. By eco hotel, they mean: no AC, solar- or wind-generated electricity from dusk to dawn only, and simple but comfortable accommodations. Almost all of the hotels along the strip offer some type of massage service, yoga classes, Mexican astrology reading, or energy work. There was even a sexual liberation conference going on at one of the hotels close to ours. When we entered the hotel zone, one of the first things we saw were two girls (obviously not Mexican), hitchhiking for a ride down the road. "Nice," I thought. "I have arrived in Mexican Hippieland".

We had chosen to stay at Sueños Tulum, a 12-room hotel near the south end of the hotel zone in Tulum. Each villa at Sueños is themed after an element of nature: Sol (Sun), Tierra (Earth), Lluvia (Rain), Selva (Jungle), or Luna (Moon). We were in the Selva building, which was a nice treat since the room was decorated with my two favorite colors - yellow and green.

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They really took the décor to the next level here. Though I felt sorry for those poor villagers at the bottom of the bowl and all the uh...stuff they have to put up with.

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  You could literally throw a rock and hit the ocean from the deck outside our room.

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When we arrived, we were greeted with our complimentary welcome drink... best margarita I've ever had. 

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The beach in Playa del Carmen was great, but Tulum was even better. The sand was softer, and the beach itself was wider, and certainly more picturesque. Plus the lounging beds for Sueños guests were so relaxing.

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While Sueños has an on-site restaurant, we found their menu to be a bit pricey, so we headed to downtown Tulum for souvenir shopping and dinner. Most of the shops are feeling the pinch of the slim tourist crowds, so even though a lot of the shops offered the same wares, we tried to spread the love around a bit. My favorite store was a little arts boutique called La Joyas de Adelita. Vicente, the owner, sells a variety of high-quality handmade jewelry made of natural stones, and there's a good variety of original artwork - paintings, photography, etc. - from other local artists for sale as well. I got a really nice necklace for my Mom and a small print of a painting by Alejandra Mendoza for myself. The caption translates as, "For the trips you haven't  made (yet)".

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On our second day in Tulum (and the day before we were to return home) we resolved to pull ourselves out of bump-on-a-log mode and at least make a trip to the Tulum ruins. While there was no swinging from vines, The Mayan ruins of Tulum definitely looked like a scene from an Indiana Jones movie, with its ancient, crumbling stone structures set on a cliff overlooking the electric blue waters of the Caribbean. A beautiful sight, and since it was so hot that even the iguanas were scrambling for shade, we joined the rest of the small crowd frolicking in the waves after we finished our tour. I suppose I could have rappelled my way down to the beach, but I didn't wanna show off, so I just took the stairs.

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After the ruins, we spent a couple of margaritas worth of time back at Sueños, before heading off for our sunset massages at the nearby Maya Tulum hotel. They have about 10 masseuses on staff, each of whom has a different set of ninja-massage techniques they specialize in like Reiki, Yoga Thai, and Mayan Sobada or Yoot Keene - a kneading, abdominal massage. It was a perfect wind-down for the day.

The night before, we realized that the lack of AC in our room required us to sleep with the sliding door open to let some air in. On our final night, I decided to kick the au natural sleeping up a notch and took to the hammock outside for the night. With hardly any surrounding ambient light, the stars seemed close enough to touch, and I drifted off to sleep with the strong ocean breeze rocking me like a baby in a swing.

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I think either my mother or grandmother or both used to say that if you leave something behind somewhere, it means you really wanted to stay there. While packing for our departure, I discovered that I'd left a pair of flip-flops at La Selva Mariposa. Before we pulled out of Sueños, I had to send the beau dashing back in to retrieve my cell phone that I'd left charging in the reception office. About halfway to Playa del Carmen, I realized that I still had our Sueños room key hanging around my neck, and in the airport duty-free shop, I almost lost my passport when I set it down for a moment while browsing the aisles. It seemed like the schizophrenia had reared its ugly head again. Part of me was all set to return home, while part of me obviously wished I never had to leave.

suenos-hands

cheers,

k

how to do the mayan riviera - coba
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Coba

Coba is about 40 minutes south of Playa del Carmen - a straight shot down the 4-lane Highway 307 that runs along the Caribbean coast of Mexico, much like I-95 runs along the coast of Florida. It was an easy drive on well-paved, uncrowded roads, but the speed limit signs were a bit of an oddity, going from 100 km/hr to 40 and back to 100 within the span of a ½ mile. Plus, there were several 'topes' or speed-bumps in what seemed to be totally random spots in the road, but other than that, the drive was non-eventful.

Coba is to the east of Tulum, so it's set in more of a 'jungle' setting. I put quotes around the word jungle because when I think jungle, I think lush, dense tropical foliage and a variety of flora and fauna. The jungle setting of Coba is drier, and more hardscrabble, but considering the rainy season is just about to start, I suppose that should be expected. We'd originally planned to only stay in 2 places, but when I saw the pictures and reviews for La Selva Mariposa during my pre-trip research, I did not want to pass up the opportunity for a visit.

La Selva Mariposa (The Jungle Butterfly) is a bed and breakfast owned by Moe and Lou Pintkowski, an expat American couple from Colorado. To say that the place is beautiful sounds almost trite. La Selva Mariposa is, quite literally, an oasis in the desert. There are only 4 guest rooms on the 2.5 acre property, and each room has been crafted to blend in seamlessly with the surrounding natural environment. The walls are made of local stone and plaster, the roof is in the traditional thatched-palm palapa style, there's a Mayan temazcal or steam bath onsite, and just off to the side of each room is a small cenote-inspired pool with cool, clear water cascading over rugged stones. Natural and opulent have never blended so perfectly together. Our room even had an open-air shower...bliss!

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In desperate need of rejuvenation, we spent the entire time at La Selva right at our room, lounging on the hammock on the porch, taking a quick dip in the pool, and eventually falling asleep to the sound of falling water and mating frogs on the other side of the screened door.

The next morning, Moe made us a delicious breakfast of yogurt, granola, fresh fruit and scrambled egg tostadas with cotija cheese and a slew of toppings. I don't even like scrambled eggs, but I ate it all. Ok, I ate it... most. After breakfast, there was more heavy lounging and a half-hearted discussion on which adventurous excursion we might try to make before leaving Coba, but in the end we concluded that making our way to the beach in Tulum would be adventure enough.

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We set out early in the afternoon for our third destination. With all that talk of adventure, we had worked up an appetite, so when we spied the neighborhood 'grilled chicken guy' out on the road with his grill at full blaze, we decided to stop for lunch.

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Don't know if you can tell from this picture, but Gaspar the Gallo Griller also has a full grill in his mouth. The chicken business is obviously doing well.

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to be continued...

how to do the mayan riviera - playa del carmen

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When it comes to defining the perfect vacation, I admit I'm a bit schizophrenic on the issue.

Part of me wants to flex my Indiana Jones muscles and swing from jungle vines, jump off cliffs and trek through virgin forests. Part of me wants to submerge myself in all the indulgences that I usually only dip my toe in, and still another part wants to make like a bump on a log and do nothing more than watch the world go by before my half-lidded eyes.

Strangely enough, none of me has ever expressed the desire to head for a place that's been designated ground zero for a possible pandemic, but that didn't stop me or the beau from boarding our flight to Mexico for my birthday trip. You see, we well-raised Southerners don't just abandon our neighbors when they're sick. No siree. What we do is pack up a bowl of homemade chicken soup and bring it right to them. So we boarded our flight with a heaping serving of optimism tucked into our carry-ons to share with our neighbor to the South.

Playa del Carmen

Our first stop on the 6-day trip was Playa del Carmen. About 40 minutes south of the airport in Cancun, Playa is sort of like the Virginia Highlands to Cancun's Buckhead. Where Cancun is known for its non-stop frat-boy party atmosphere, Playa del Carmen attracts a more laid-back, bohemian crowd. At the south end of Playa del Carmen is a gated beachfront community known as Playacar, which includes several vacation rentals and all-inclusive resort properties. We were booked to stay 2 nights at the all-inclusive Riu Tequila in Playacar, but after pulling up to the first Riu property - Riu Yucatan - and asking the security guard, "Donde esta Riu Tequila?" I got, "Esta cerrado". Er? Cerrado? I gave the guard my 'whatchu  talkin' 'bout Luis?' look, and he directed me to the front desk for a full explanation in English.

As it turned out, of the 5 Riu properties located in Playacar, only the Riu Yucatan was not 'cerrado' and everyone who had reservations at the other resorts had been consolidated into one. Even then, the property was probably only at about 60% capacity. Apparently, not everyone shared our optimism about the flu scare. Fortunately though, the change was a bit of an upgrade, since the Riu Yucatan was located directly on the beach.

After settling into our room, indulgent me began to get restless at the thought that an endless supply of free liquor was only steps away, so we made a beeline to the poolside bar. Before the end of our second drinks (note: at an all-inclusive, time is measured in number of drinks consumed), we met and made fast friends with Jen and Rico, a couple visiting from Dallas. Jen and I hit it off when we quickly learned that we were both Geminis, and shared similar tastes in music.

The next day and a half at the Riu was a pleasantly muddled blur of dips in the ocean, visiting the bar, sunning on the beach, visiting the bar, eating, visiting the bar, napping, and visiting the bar. For some reason, I even forgot my camera in the room a couple of times. Must have been the sun. I was still able to get in a few shots around the resort though...

 

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an elusive agouti

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it's rum thirty!

yellow + sun = red

... I also learned that the proper way to kill 'la cucaracha' is to light it on fire and slurp it down with a straw.

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But most importantly, I learned that sometimes you just gotta know when to say 'when'.

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The guy in the photos above is actually a trained professional. He's from Belgium. I hear they start drinking in kindergarten there.

On our last day in Playa, we decided to give the Riu's so-so buffet a break. We headed out with Jen and Rico to La Floresta, a restaurant recommended by one of the Riu resort staff who lived in Playa. La la-florestaFloresta is well-known in the area for its seafood tacos. In fact, there's not much more on the menu. There's a choice of crab, shrimp, fish, or marlin taco, plus ceviche and 'cocteles' and beer. Rico is Mexican-American, and speaks fluent Spanish, so he quickly informed our waiter that we would be having one of everything. In less than 5 minutes, a slew of the tastiest, freshest seafood tacos began arriving at our table, followed by unbelievably large servings of mixed seafood ceviche and a large mixed seafood coctel - which included shrimp, octopus, scallops, and oysters in a sweet-tangy tomato based sauce. I'm actually getting kind of sad writing this, as it seems so very, very unfair that I have never experienced anything quite like that meal before, and will probably have to go back to Mexico to experience it again. Everything was very simply prepared so the freshness of every ingredient from the soft corn tortilla to the seafood that tasted like it had just swum onto the plate, was highlighted. I added nothing to the tacos other than a few drops of the 'sweet-jesus-that's-hot' green habanero sauce on the table. When la cuenta arrived, I was surprised to see that our whole meal came to $50 USD. Yep - 2 orders of ceviche, 1 large coctel, 8 tacos, chips and salsa, and beer... for about $12 per person. Sigh.

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After lunch, we did a little shopping in the pedestrian-only area of Playa del Carmen, before bidding Jen and Rico goodbye and heading south to our second destination, Coba.

 

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After the all-inclusive bingefest, I was glad to be heading for a more rural setting.

to be continued...

how to do atlanta - where to find the best fries in atlanta
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I know I shouldn't love them as much as I do, but...I do. I mean some people like french fries, but I truly love them.  You know, kinda like an addict truly loves crack. Ask any friend of mine who's made the unwise decision to reach for a couple of fries from my plate. Let's just say, no one has ever done it more than once.

This weekend, I happened across Meredith Ford's latest list of the 5 best fries in Atlanta. Of course, being the fry fiend that I am, I made a mental note to check out a couple of the places on her list whose fried taters I haven't yet sampled (Shaun's and Porter Beer Bar), but there were others that I was surprised made the cut (Steak and Shake? really?). After reading, it inspired me to pen my own list of Atlanta restaurants with the best fries.

Check 'em out and let me know if there's some other places you know of in the city where I should be fueling my addiction.

5. Five Guys Burgers and Fries

Something about the whole Five Guys fry experience is just, well...dirty. But that's part of what makes them so good. Oh you're just gonna throw the fries into a little styrofoam cup? How delightfully low-brow! Grease stains on the bag? But someone might see...oh hell, I don't care. Give 'em to me, give them all to me! Let them spill over the cup into the bag. Let the cajun seasoning stick to my fingers so I have to lick it off. And when I'm done devouring them like I have absolutely no home training, hand me a napkin so I can ever so daintily dab the evidence off my lips. Nothing to see here, folks. Keep it movin'.

4. Eclipse di Luna

Here's where Meredith and I definitely agree. This authentic tapas restaurant serves up fried potatoes with a Spanish flair. Eclipse di Luna's patatas bravas are chunky cut, covered in a saffron-hued seasoning mix, and served with a side of romesco sauce, which is sort of like a spicy aioli. Ay, que sabrosos!

3. Corner Tavern dsc01907

Honestly, the fries at Corner Tavern are only slightly above average. But what pushes them to such a high place on my list are the dipping sauces, of which there are six to choose from. An order of the never-frozen, skin-on spuds comes with your choice of not one, not two, not three... but FOUR dipping sauces! My faves are: curried ketchup, BBQ, and Thai chili (I usually double up on this one).

2. Cafe di Sol  

The shoestring potato often gets the shun from me. Mainly because most places just don't do them right. They're either so thin that they fry up hard and insubstantial; or they're underseasoned and just taste like... shoestrings. Cafe di Sol, however, avoids both of those missteps. Their hand-cut shoestrings are just thin enough to get a good crispy exterior, but thick enough so you still enjoy the mouth feel of the fluffy interior. They're also liberally seasoned with a mixture of what I think is garlic, salt, and pepper, and sprinkled with fresh chives. I effs with these crabcakes.

1. The Shed at Glenwood

The reason for The Shed at Glenwood claiming the #1 spot in my list can be summed up in three words. Black. Truffle. Powder. A light sprinkling of this earth-colored pixie dust takes an already spectacular fry to drool-worthy proportions. The Shed's taters are made like the traditional Belgian fry (should it really come as any surprise that the folks who give us such great beer would also have such good fries?). Cut into batons and fried twice - once on low heat and once at extremely high heat - the result is a crispy fry with a luxuriously creamy interior. But thankfully, even perfection isn't good enough for The Shed. Chef Lance Gummere makes them absolutely decadent by adding black truffle powder - which retails for around $15 an ounce. But it's worth every penny. The powder imparts a rich, umami flavor that's almost like eating meat. OPULENCE! Thank you Chef Lance! And shouts out to the Belgians. Oh, and uh...good looking out, pigs.

cheers,

k