Hamburger Helper and SpaghettiOs

Dehydrated and canned foods are not very common in Colombia. I think the only thing I ever saw come out of a can there was tuna and back then I was really not much of a fan. Out of a box the only thing I can remember eating is Jell-o.

Back in College one of my friend that was Italian mentioned that he had never had SpaghettiOs to everyone else amazement. I stayed quiet and observed the rest of the conversation, but for many of my other friends growing up was full of canned, quick foods. I tasted SpaguettiOs once and almost puked. I am not adverse to ramen noodles or mac and cheese, both of which I learn to eat during my college years.

My family does not eat out very often. Not just my immediate family, but also my extended one too. The food we eat at home is excellent an home cooked meals are great, but learning about other foods from all over the word has certainly enriched my life. Hamburger Helper is not bad, is something quick and it does not taste horrible. I know most chain restaurants use similar ingredients for some of the meals you get, and cooked fresh is pretty relative in most places you eat out at.

I have not had Hamburger Helper in some time now, not even home cooked mac and cheese (can any of these foods be considered home cooked?) but am also pretty used to canned beans now and think they taste pretty similar to regular beans depending on how they are prepared. TV dinners are something I tried but did not like at all and have never really been part of my diet. So I am pretty curious now. For us our quick dinners are either pasta or rice and beans. What are some of your default dinners? do they include canned, frozen or out of a box food?

Christmas Eve

I like learning about other cultures, specially traditions. I am now an American and have participated in many of the holiday traditions here, mostly the face stuffing goodness that this holiday season brings. I do miss the Colombian Christmas celebrations back in the motherland. My family in Chicago still keeps some of the traditions and has added some new ones from here, but missing the smell of fireworks during perfect 75 degree nights is hard to recapture.

Christmas in Colombia was a neighborhood affair. People take their sounds systems to the street and a block party is on. Fireworks big and small are going off all around while everyone stays up until midnight. It is truly a time for friends and family to share and get together to celebrate the meaning of the holiday.

This will be the first Christmas while living in Chicago in over six years and it could not be any sweeter. My wife loves the concept of family as much as I do. My cousins are almost adults and very cool people to hang out with. I now have a nice and nephew to spoil and cannot wait to see them opening presents.

It was pointed out to me over and over that I talked way too much about Chicago. While I have missed the food and places I like to hang out with, what I truly missed was the people. My family and friends mean the world to me, and having my family close for these occasions is great. I do miss the people both in Michigan and Kansas City where I have been for the past six years. I never thought being back would feel so much like coming home, but it does.

I hope you are spending the holidays with the people that are important to you. Cherish those relationships, because my friends, that is the true definition of wealth, having people to share special times like this with you.

Happy Holidays!

Avatar (****)

I’m not a James Cameron fan boy. What man can be cool with the man that married one of the most bad ass chicks in movie history, remember Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2. She should have continued making movies and kicking ass after that. He almost redeemed himself with the series Dark Angel that really catapulted Jessica Alba to stardom, but again she had not done much action since. So while Cameron does have a history of making the women he portrays in films kick ass, they seem to not do much of it in other movies after. I cannot be too mad at him since he also gave us First Blood and Aliens, and it is in the process of bringing the manga Battle Angel Alita to live.

This piece of work is truly movie magic. Sure, the story might be over simplistic, the theme and many movie elements borrowed but as far as direction Avatar will become a masterpiece.

The colors and textures in the movie don’t feel like CGI even if the colors are extremely unnatural. He managed to create a tropical paradise that looks even more spectacular at night.

I had never seen a 3D movie before and since we had the option we decided to pay a little more. It was absolutely worth it. The action sequences are as excellent as the ones in Terminator.

It is not a short movie, but the time went by extremely fast. The movie might have been a little slow at times but you cannot notice since you are drooling at the amazing imagery in front of you.

There is not much I can say about the movie or the story without pretty much giving it away. So I will just tell you to go watch it, enjoy it, and be truly entertained.

Ham Not Welcome

I want to begin this post like every single good post begins with, a disclaimer. I don’t have to worry about where my next meal is coming from, or if I can afford groceries. I am very thankful and aware of how lucky I am for that. I am also in no way being ungrateful for the holiday gift that I received that is compiled in this post. This post is for entertainment purposes only and even though it is true, details have been left out to protect the innocent.

When we lived in Kansas City, besides our cats, it was just Bea and I. None of our animals eat table scraps, so Bea and I were the sole consumers of food in the house. For the holidays, someone higher up in the company where I used to work was nice enough to send us a Honey Baked Ham as a holiday gift. It was a nice token of appreciation.

The problem is that it’s just Bea and I, and we had a close to 20lb ham. I remember Bea saying, isn’t that a little big? I said, well, we’ll make sandwiches.

Day One
We knew there was a package coming because we were asked if someone would be home to sign for a it. We said yes and it arrived. I did not get to say hello to our new family member until I got home and it started taking up half of the fridge on that lovely day. The honey made it smell wonderful, the glaze was crispy and delicious. Bea had never seen a spiral one before and I said no fear this is cool, took a couple of big pieces of Ham for dinner. I think we even got fancy and made side dishes. It was a glorious moment.

Day Two
Ham Sandwiches are AWESOME
I even had ham for breakfast, it was so good. I came home for lunch and had a nice ham sandwich and planned on even having it for dinner. The thought of possible gout did not even cross my mind.

Day Three
Even though we had been eating ham for two days, we were not making a dent on that monster. It was laughing at our consumption levels. Our attitude was, hey it won’t go bad for a while.

Day Four
We decided to just not eat ham for a couple of days. We figured that we were just working on the big side of the thing, that as the with got smaller we would do better progress.

Day Five
What’s for Dinner
Mustard. Yes, that’s right. If you put enough mustard on ham it will not taste like ham. I am also coming to the realization that bees are evil and their honey is just some weird serum that tastes nasty.

Day Six
We can chop the ham and make it into other food. We can make all types of potato salads and other good tasty dishes. We won’t taste the ham! It won’t be bad. Oh yes it will, I can still taste that darn honey.

Day Seven
We are going to have a party! If enough people come, we should be able to get rid of it all. Bea found the perfect recipe to make these little tasty sandwiches that tasted delicious to everyone, but we could barely stomach because of their ham content.

Day Eight
Even after hosting a party for over 10 people we still had almost half of the darn ham. Would it be bad if we just dump pounds worth of meat? None of our friends want to take any home. We don’t have family here to have another sandwich party.

Day Ten
The ham mocks us. It laughs at us every time we open the fridge. I think even the milk tastes like honey ham for being stuck in there with the monstrosity. We wish it could be donated. We cannot possibly just dump it, can we?

Bea did not want to witness it, I did not want to do it, but we had to let it go. There was still a considerable amount of ham left, but the honey ham smell was almost repulsive to us now. I took the final piece and dumped it. It was gone, to never return again. So if you ever want to give us something eatable for X-mas, cookies, pop corn are cool. NEVER HAM!

Asking For Help

My Grandfather was a wise man, one of the many lessons he shared with my father and made it all the way down to me was the saying “bring me a sick man, not a dead man.” It was a simple way to rationalize that you don’t let problems get out of hand before you ask for help.

I grew up being very independent and it is a big part of my nature. I experienced life for many years just trying to do things on my own and professing self reliance as the best way to accomplish things. American society certainly fosters the growth of individualism and can do attitude. Then different events in my life made me realize that I was never alone and that even when someone says “you can do it!” just the simple fact of cheering you on is help you are receiving. There is no rule that you have to accomplish everything in life alone.

Community is a concept that I think was lost completely during the 80s and 90s. When Hilary said “It takes a village to raise a child” and people nodded someone should have slapped them. We need to be able to know these common sense things and not have them feed to us by politicians, we should be getting them from our own family or support structure. Our society should not wait until their kids get to college to get their “world view” and learn about diversity, community and other people. We need to recapture our sense of community.

I had a very interesting conversation with Melinda’s husband that left me with many thoughts, one of them that I wish we would have had more time to chat. We discussed how agricultural communities needed one another throughout the year and self reliance was not part of the deal. You needed your neighbors during harvest season. The true kicker though is that community is more significant than just someone to help with the heavy listing. Your health and quality of life are improved thanks your community.

I am a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell as an author to the point that I was even accused of joining a cult after reviewing Blink. On his book Outliers talks about the phenomenon of how a community made a group of people very healthy. I have also read an article about how having a true friend to have a beer with and discuss your problems with makes you happier than being rich. All of this is pretty irrelevant if you don’t know how or when to ask for help.

Relay on those around you, share your thoughts and gain perspective. I believe blogs and online interaction are changing the word by creating new virtual communities that provide not just a sense of belonging but a group of people that care. I am super excited that my friend Dan is having a child this week, maybe even as soon as later on today! and thankful that he is one of the many people that are part of my community and extended family. Don’t wait until your problems or worries become to big, share them with those around you. It is one of the keys to happiness.