Tim Foolery

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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Southeast Asia Trip — Finally Booked

Yesterday morning we finally booked the final hotel for our upcoming trip to Southeast Asia.  I won’t get into travel specifics — while I am pretty open online, I don’t want people to have my itinerary while traveling. Let’s keep it a bit private, shall we?

I will tell you that we have hotels booked in Hanoi, Saigon, Bangkok and Phuket.  We are staying in places that range from local hotels to large international chains.  Each room we have reserved gives us a private room with a bathroom.  I don’t do the whole “toilet down the hall” thing.  From the TripAdvisor reviews, each of these hotels look great.

We did decide to splurge and book a room at the Peninsula Bangkok. A colleague stayed here about 6 weeks ago and he really loved the property.  While we won’t have much time here and we’ll be spending most time exploring the City, I’m pretty excited to stay at this hotel. I’ve read that is is arguably the second best Peninsula in the world.  We shall see.

This trip is coming up in less than 6 weeks. I cannot wait to get into the heat of Southeast Asia.  But before I make my first trip to Asia, I have a few domestic trips to take.  Early next week I am going to Los Angeles for the night and then later next week I am going to Palm Springs with the bois for a longer weekend.  By the end of January I will have earned 18,450 Elite Qualifying Miles on United — well on my way to keeping Premium Executive (or whatever the new United is calling it this year).

When is your next trip? Are you heading someplace warm or cold?  Do you try to find luxury hotels while on the road or do you prefer to spend your money on experiences while visiting new locations?


House Redesign — Second Floor Landing (Photos)

As I said before, I tasked my mother with decorating the upper floor of our home. After two and a half years, she did nothing.

I decided to finally setup up and add some decoration to the public space upstairs.  I added six white photo frames with white mattes a couple weeks ago.  I struggled for a week or two to figure out what pictures I wanted in the frames.  I printed a few dozen photos from Snapfish (while using a 50% off coupon, no less).  I decided to focus on travel photos.  I wanted to find balance but wanted high quality photos, so I could really only use travel photos from the past several years (2006 and later) as my digital camera prior to 2006 was of pretty poor quality.

I focused on five recent trips: Chichen Itza (September 2009), Portugal x2 (September 2010), Paris x3 (September 2011).  As I said before, I was surprisingly awe struck by the Eiffel Tower — so I’ve used two photos.

I’ll quickly walk you through the photos and why I chose them, starting with the upper left photo. This is from Paris and was just a 3 minute walk from our hotel — it’s the Place des Vosges. It’s a wonderfully quiet square where I had my first pain au chocolate in Paris. I was alone exploring the area and just loved it.

The next picture is looking across the Douro River in Porto, Portugal.  I’m not a big boat or water guy, but this was just a great day and I found my love or Port Wine this day.  My favorite Port House is just a few meters from where I took this photo — technically the exact opposite view of this photo. This day in Porto was a bit frustrating when we were living it, but it ended up being one of my favorite days on the trip.  I had never enjoy Port Wine before this trip — before this day. Now I always look at the Port options on restaurant menus and consistently review the Port shelves at wine shops.

The third picture on the top and the first picture on the bottom are both of the Eiffel Tower. Both are taken from under the Tower. The first is a close up on the supports and details while the second is almost a full view up.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — the Tower really shocked me, I do dig it.

The next picture is also from Portugal.  It’s of the Pena Castle in Sintra Portugal.  We had a great day of hiking and exploring this little City just outside of Portugal (of course we got lost a couple times en route). I just love the colors of this place. It was situated on a hill with great views of the surrounding area. The grounds were quite lovely and allowed us to have a nice walk up to the castle itself.

The final picture is of the largest pyramid at Chichen Itza a few hours outside of Cancun Mexico. This trip, unlike the other trips memorialized here, I was with EAD and JFB. We decided to take a private tour of the Mayan Ruins – in lieu of a public tour.  Best option ever.  It was BLAZING hot that day — and JFB and I sweat like pregnant nuns under normal circumstances — if you make us walk around in 43C weather, we are drenched.  We also had one of my favorite meals I’ve ever eaten this day.  Another fabulous day. This trip really kicked up my interest in Mexican cooking — ask anyone who had a meal at my house the 15 months following that trip — you were eating something with a bit (or a lot) of Mexican influence.

I didn’t realize the theme from this photo collage until I started writing it up for this post.  These photos aren’t just a cool picture that I like. These scenes have played a big roll in my life recently. My biggest concern with these photos now…I don’t get to see them all that often. I only go upstairs once or twice a week to clean Lilly’s box.  Oh well, I still enjoy it.

Have you put some new photos on the wall recently? Did you use a stackable coupon at Michael’s to give an under designed area in your home a new look?  Do you frame your own vacation photos?  Do you love Paris as much as I do?

2011 Travel Year in Review

As 2012 begins, I decided to compile my flight stats for the year.  While these numbers aren’t impressive for some, it’s definitely the largest numbers I’ve put up before. I’ve flown more miles in a given year, but not  as many long hauls or foreign trips.

Total Miles Flown: 53,906
Miles Flown on United: 42,292
Miles Flown on Others: 11,614
Total Miles Earned: 104,405
Total Miles Redeemed: 265,000 (including intra-Africa, gift for JDE and Business Class to Asia)
Number of Legs: 28
Number of Airlines: 2 (United and South African Airlines)
Number of Countries Visited: 6 (Canada, UK, France, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia)
Number of Continents Visited: 3 (North America, Europe, Africa)

2012 will have me adding to some of these numbers too.  So far, I have 3 countries on the list (Canada, Vietnam and Thailand — I won’t count Japan because we are just visiting the airport).  I’ll be trying at least three new airlines (ANA, Thai, Vietnam Airlines).

Do you track your annual travel stats?  Have you increased your travel this year? What about next, are you queued up to set a personal goal?

** Update ** I completely forgot about the non-flying, non-United miles I earned.  I participated in the US Airways Grand Slam this year and while I didn’t earn as many as I thought I would…I need to plan better. I earned 49,832 points – which I intend to use on a future Star Alliance Premium Award booking.

I also earned 11,427 American Airlines miles just by signing up for email sale notifications and eating out, using their Advantage Dining Program (register credit cards and use them at restaurants…BOOM, free miles). 3,500 miles on Virgin Atlantic — signed up for email notifications and another promotional sign up.  I earned 4,600 miles on Delta through various sign up/email promotions too.  Finally, I earned a whopping 25 miles on Virgin America from Top Guest.

What I’m Cooking…Chicken Cordon Bleu

I love America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country on PBS.  They test a recipe dozens of times to make sure the version they demonstrate on television is really the best.  I’ve made a dozen or so recipes from ATK and have been pretty impressed.  I can’t imagine working in their kitchen — I have a passion for cooking and for food, but I am not as methodical as these folks are and I know I don’t have the patience that they do. I couldn’t do it.

Tonight I made, what the ATK folks called Foolproof Chicken Cordon Bleu.  I have never made this from scratch.  My mother use to get the prepared (but uncooked) Chicken Cordon Bleu from the meat case — which I really loathed.  It tasted fine and my parents really like it, but it just seemed like an easy way out — and for someone who loves to cook it just didn’t do it for me.

So, tonight I followed the recipe exactly and I must say, it was easy and extremely delicious.  I ate way to much food tonight and still feel quite full.

I paired the Chicken with mustard roasted red potatoes.  The mustard in the chicken breading and the potatoes were different enough, but melded quite nicely.  Finished the meal off with a spinach, tomato and yellow pepper salad topped with EVOO and a purple basil vinegar.

I think I might over salt things in my every day life — so I would suggest putting a dash of salt on the fully breaded breasts right before you put them in the oven.  Too much?

Do you like ATK?  Where do you find your favorite recipes?  Do you dig Chicken Cordon Bleu too?  What did you make this weekend and what are you planning to make this next week?

What I’m Cooking…Chocolate-Cayenne Cocktail Cookies

Last quarter I was quite busy and didn’t have much time to read my regular magazines.  By regular magazines I mean the ones I subscribe to, including Food and Wine.  I don’t like to keep clutter in my home, so when I’m done reading a magazine I toss it.  If I find a couple great recipes in Food and Wine, I’ll pull that page out of the magazine, put it in a folder until I want to use the recipe.  If the food turns out good, I will transfer the recipe to a 3×5 card and put it in my recipe box (I will rewrite the whole recipe). If the recipe sucks, I toss the page in the trash.  If it is okay, I’ll keep it in my folder and try it again.

I pulled 7 recipes from the November 11 issue of Food and Wine and decided to make one immediately.  The idea of the Chocolate-Cayenne Cocktail Cookie really sung to me.  My favorite thing now is super dark chocolate with a bit of spice and some sea salt.  These three ingredients work so well together — they just make me smile.  I also chose to make this because I’m trying to bake a little more — I really hate to bake, but I want to push myself to try new things.
The recipe was really easy to make and unlike most baking options, I had all the ingredients in my pantry.  I pulled out my Kitchen-Aid, which I’ve had since 2007, but haven’t used it all that much — maybe 2 dozen times in 5 years.
The cayenne pepper added quite a bit of spice to this treat.  I love spice paired with chocolate, but I think this recipe had just a bit too much pepper.  Pulling out about half the amount I think would reduce the heat to the right level.

I also think the salt didn’t add enough…well, saltiness. It’s possible I didn’t use the right size of sea salt flakes, or something like that.  I think I would add a bit more salt to the top of this, before baking next time.

This definitely wasn’t a dessert cookie — it wasn’t billed as one either.  I will definitely make this again — I actually have the second half of the dough in my freezer right now and will use it again in a few weeks when I have people over for dinner.  I am glad I didn’t bake the whole recipe — I can tweak it a bit with more salt before baking.

I, of course, had to partner this with a glass of Kopke Port.  It worked well and did put a bit of a smile on my face.