Hello, reader friends – it’s been a while.  Apologies for my absence.

So, the latest not-so-new news around here is that both DT and I are currently unemployed.  Ya.  Both.  Unemployed.

Both of our contracts ended last month, so we find ourselves in this rather unexpected, transitional, limbo-y place.  It’s the joy of being a contractor.  No matter how much you try to mentally reconcile that the job [probably] isn’t going to last forever, when you find out it’s ending, it’s like UGH.

We both really loved our jobs, our teams, our workplaces – I talked to a lot of people about this.  How there’s not only the panic and “Oh CRAP”-scramble element to losing a job, from a logistics and practicality (and $$) standpoint, but also a kind of grieving that takes place when you felt so invested in something that gets taken away.  Both of us would have stayed on for years if given the chance.

Well, anyway.  That is that and here we are.

Here’s what a typical day for us looks like [outside of something magical like an interview taking place]:

  • Get up, make a pot of coffee
  • Hole up in the basement with our laptops, DT on the chair/ottoman, me on the couch
  • Look/apply for jobs all morning
  • Go for a run
  • Shower/likely put pajamas back on
  • Or put real clothes on (“real clothes” lately means a fleece and yoga pants) and run errands
  • Revisit job sites in the afternoon
  • Catch up on the DVR (it’s still been crummy outside so we haven’t enjoyed the weather much)
  • Oh look, it’s 5:00.  Where oh where has the day gone….

It’s such a strange place to be….DT and I have never, ever been home together this much, for this long.  Sooooooooo much time together.  It’s become kind of a joke (and a song, if we’re being honest), but sometimes I’m shocked we haven’t strangled each other yet.

The cats (and chickens), however, are LOVING that we are around 24/7.  Exhibit 1A at this very moment:  35 pounds of wheezing, comatose felines, curled up at my feet on the couch.  We no longer have to wonder what their days are like.  They’re filled with a whole lotta NOTHING.

Friends have asked if we’re getting a bunch of long-awaited projects done, house-related or otherwise.  Welllllll, no.  Not really.  That’s the funny thing.  We have all the time in the world, but the job hunt is all we can think about, all we can currently plan for – it’s like time just stands still, and we can’t move until we have this figured out.

In other words, the blue tape all over the house where we need to touch up paint (for the past three years) has yet to be addressed.

I have this fancy new camera to learn how to use but I haven’t picked it up once.  I will, but I need to be inspired and I’m just not right now.

I have several blog posts on my mind, but honestly haven’t felt any motivation to do much here with this other big thing to resolve.

We don’t really want to go anywhere, or do anything, because either would most likely require spending money and without any coming in, well….we’re trying to be prudent these days.  With the exception of a few lottery tickets, but you know.  I don’t think I need to explain the rationale there.

However.  I finally got that way-overdue oil change AND our coffee maker received a thorough cleaning with several cycles of vinegar.  See?  We can dig deep!

We’ve also made great strides on the hot sauce front.  If there’s something to be thankful for with this imposed hiatus, it’s given us solid time to navigate the impossibly tangled web of certifications, licenses, applications, and approvals required to start up a business like this.  Gah!  We’re inching closer and closer, though, and it’s been such a wonderful distraction.  Our little silver lining right now.

I kept bugging DT to make a list of “Things We’ll Do to Celebrate New Jobs” with me.  When we went to write down a few things, we just sort of sat there and scratched our heads.  Yes, we could rattle off some restaurants where we’d like to make a toast, or our default something-to-look-forward-to of planning a trip, but really all we hope for is a reason to celebrate.  A return to our version of normal in the foreseeable future.

It’s just such a roller coaster!  One minute everything feels promising and light, the next feels like a heavy dead end.

DT has had some great prospects pop up and we’re waiting to hear back (crossing fingers and ears and eyes and toes).  I have resumes out all over the place, also waiting to hear back.  So we’ll see.

It’ll all be okay!  We are okay.  Totally not trying to be mopey or whiny here.  DT and I are so lucky to have an immense network and support from our family and friends.  This is just a temporary glitch and we’ll be back on our feet soon.

Now, after all this babble….I hope this finds you well and gainfully employed. :-)

Thoughts for the Day

More words of wisdom from The Happiness Project Journal on this Tuesday….

“When one loves, one does not calculate.” – St. Therese of Lisieux

“One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy.  One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

“Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring.  Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.” – Simone Weil

“There is an “I” in ‘happiness’.”

“Happiness does not reside in strength or money; it lies in rightness and many-sidedness.” – Democritus

“Don’t always worry about being efficient.  Exploration, experimentation, and digression don’t necessarily look productive.”

2014 Fiery Foods Show

You heard all about our quick visit to Albuquerque….now, let’s talk (and see) about the Fiery Foods Show!

Fiery Foods Show tickets

Welcome to 2014 Fiery Foods Show

The show opened to the general public (i.e. us) at 4:00 on Friday.  We had tickets for both Friday and Saturday, so used the first night to do a preliminary lap and scope everything out.

Fiery Foods t-shirts

Pucker Butt of South Carolina – Ed grows ridiculously hot peppers.

Pucker Butt 2

Pucker Butt 1



The proud Fiery Foods attendee!

hot candies

Spicy candies

jalapeño holders

Jalapeño holders – these are nifty!


2014 FFS, Friday night

Palo Alto Firefighters Pepper Sauce – all proceeds go to Palo Alto Firefighters charitable fund.

Palo Alto Firefighters

Humboldt Hotsauce – we live on Humboldt Avenue, so….cool!

Humboldt Hot Sauce


Chile Pepper magazine

Sticky Sweet

Los Pollos Hermanos!  Lots of Breaking Bad references noted in Albuquerque and at the show, as you might imagine.  I dig it.

Los Pollos Hermanos

DT and me, 2014 FFS

Wrapping up Friday with a nightcap.

We did two rounds on Saturday.

Intergalactic Bread Company and Space Sauce of Santa Fe – right out of the gate.

Intergalactic Bread Co

green chile pesto bread


Sweet and Saucy from Colorado – oh geez.  Please give me an entire jar, or ten.

Sweet and Saucy

Brilliant idea – a local radio station had a booth outside the convention hall, giving away ice cream sandwiches and popsicles.  A very needed cool down after all the HEAT!  (I also just appreciated the treats. ;-) )

ice cream sandwich

Saturday found the show much more populated.

FFS - Saturday

My Daddy’s BBQ of New Mexico – this was good stuff.

My Daddy's BBQ

Casa Noel

chile pepper guy

Chile pepper guy

Golden Toad – their sauces had DT sweating.

Golden Toad

Captain Thom's

Sauce Goddess

Chile Pepper Institute


Pretty chiles!

Frog Bone 1

Frog Bone 2

Yampa Valley Sauce Company – sauce blends of avocado/habanero and strawberry/habanero….both very interesting and beautiful color.

Yampa Valley Sauce Co

Yampa Valley's Habacado

The hottest peppers in the universe

Cervantes 1

Cervantes 2

Little Bar Double


SaSo – chatted with some nice guys and enjoyed their sauce.


DT sampling

Horsetooth Hot Sauce – DT found a local/MN connection with them.  It’s small world after all.


Horsetooth hot sauce

Phil's Gourmet Sauces

Jimi pepper

2014 FFS - Saturday night

The anxious anticipation of unwrapping a popsicle follows….

me and a popsicle 1

me and a popsicle 2

me and a popsicle 3

Black Market Salsa

Cheers!  Cranberry vodka samples.

Cheers! Vodka-cranberry samples.

Simmie J’s – these guys had a bullhorn and were hilarious.  

Simmie J's

chile pepper guy 2

There’s the chile pepper guy again!

me and chile pepper guy

We had such a blast!

It was a little overwhelming at first – there was just so much.  I’m glad we had both Friday and Saturday to take it all in (although for future shows I think we figured out we can get by with just one day).

Everyone we talked to was so nice and no two sauces were remotely alike – it was great to be able to try everything.  There is a lot of passion and spirit behind all of these businesses and their products, it was exciting and inspiring.  Maybe someday Hellraising Hot Sauce will have a booth at the Fiery Foods Show….?  Perhaps!  In the meantime, this was the place to see some of the best of the best, while having quite a lot of fun (and setting our mouths on fire). :-)

This is definitely on our calendar for next year – we already can’t wait!

Spicyland in Albuquerque

I must admit, I needed a bit of a spelling lesson for Albuquerque….Al-bu-quer-que!  There, that’s not so tough.

DT and I made a quick trip to New Mexico last weekend, my first time in this fine state!  Our mission was clear:  attending the 2014 Fiery Foods Show at Sandia Resort and Casino.  We stayed on site – the hotel is really quite impressive, as you will see.

So….remember Hellraising Hot Sauce?  Yes, well, we’re still working on that little project (hopefully more to come soon!).  The Fiery Foods Show was an opportunity to do a little fact-finding, see what others in the industry (“the industry” – fun to say that!) are doing, and glean some inspiration.

Here, our accommodations:

Sandia room 1

Sandia room 2

Sandia room 3

Sandia - TV greeting

Loved the custom room greeting!

Sandia room 4

Sandia bathroom 1

Sandia bathroom 2

Sandia tub

Sandia bathroom 3

Sandia bathroom 4

We had a beautiful view from our room and saw some really amazing skies over the course of three days, starting with this.  The Sandia Mountains are right there.

Thursday sky

Thursday view

After settling in a bit and shaking off the flight, we set off to explore.  Sandia’s lobby is massive and leads right into the casino.

Sandia lobby 1

Sandia lobby 2

Sandia lobby 3

Sandia casino

Sandia exterior 1

me, outside Sandia 1

Presenting, Sandia!

Sandia’s grounds also include a golf course – a sandy one at that.  The terrain here is so different from what we see in Minnesota – mountains, desert, dusty, tumbleweeds….we left behind three-foot snow drifts!

Sandia golf club

We took a cab downtown and strolled down Central Avenue.

Downtown ABQ 1

It was quieter than we would have imagined.

Downtown ABQ 2

Downtown ABQ 3

We ducked into Maloney’s for some beers and a snack.

Maloney's 1

Maloney's 2

Maloney's 3

After Maloney’s, it was about a mile and a half walk to Old Town.

Old Town ABQ 1

Old Town ABQ 2

DT in Old Town Plaza

DT, Old Town ABQ cannon

Old Town Cat House

Of course we would like this! ;-)

Old Town is filled with quaint little nooks like this….if my feet hadn’t been aching with blisters from new shoes (rookie mistake), we would have meandered for hours.

Old Town ABQ 3

Old Town church

San Felipe Church

Old Town ABQ 4

We stumbled into QBar in the Hotel Albuquerque, smack-dab in the midst of their happy hour, how fortuitous.  Following our vodka/tonics (DT) and Sauvignon Blancs (me), I waited in their glowy lobby (see issue with feet/shoes above) while David made a dash to St. Clair Winery, upon recommendation from the super helpful gal at the front desk.

Hotel ABQ 1

Home ABQ 2

Vino for the room!

St. Clair wines

Had a little trouble with this cork…. :-\

red wine cork

St. Clair wines 2

Friday morning’s view:

Friday morning view

Friday morning view 2

We continued to roam around Sandia on Friday before the show started at 4:00.  Their pool was closed for the season (bummer), but the hot tub was open.  We played Yahtzee on the patio. :-) [Another slight unexpected for us, although we had checked ahead....the weather was actually quite cool while we were there, around 40-50 degrees.  Which was about a 30-40 degree improvement from where we came, so nearly anything was better.  And windy - so windy there in the foothills.]

Sandia hot tub

Sandia pool

Sandia pond

Sandia in the distance


Saturday was overcast and rainy – clouds covered the tips of the Sandias.

Saturday night view

Saturday night view 2

DT and I loved our visit to Albuquerque, as quick as it was.  Our biggest lesson:  we should have rented a car.  And stayed just a bit longer.  And 6 am flights on the way home immediately cut the trip short.  So, I guess three lessons.

Since the resort was a bit removed, we had to rely on cabs to/from downtown and Old Town on Thursday.  At ~$35 each way – well, it wasn’t feasible to do much more than that first day’s jaunt, so we felt a little stranded once we returned back to Sandia.  Of course Fiery Foods consumed a lot of our time thereafter, but with a rental car we would have had the option to come and go as we please without such a hit to the travel budget.  (Note:  Sandia Resort has a free shuttle to/from the Albuquerque airport – very slick.)

Also – Breaking Bad fans?  I would’ve loved to take a spin though the neighborhoods of Walter and Skyler, Hank and Marie, and Jesse Pinkman.  The ABQ location addresses can easily be found – we could have done our own little tour.

Also – Santa Fe is only about 60 miles away, an easy day trip or little bonus add-on before or after Albuquerque.  I hear it’s lovely there.

But that’s okay!  This was a great scouting mission and we’re already plotting our 2015 return.  Our lessons learned will be put to good use.  So until then….

Saturday night view 3

Goodnight, Albuquerque….we’ll see you next year!

The Inner Workings of My Vacation Brain

Is it obvious from this post that I have travel on the brain?!  Always.  Always.

As I was editing photos and writing about South Beach and our cruise over the past couple of weeks, I relived all the fun, anticipation, and excitement we had.  I loved it, yet felt pangs and yearning in my heart to be transported back immediately.  But as I got to the ports on the latter half of our trip, I also felt the sadness and anxiousness I know I was feeling as the end drew near.

Can you grieve a vacation?  Are there stages one must pass through to finally reach acceptance?  And does one ever really accept that they are not still on vacation?  I began to deconstruct and dissect my mental journey before/during/after our vacations (because this is important stuff, guys ;-) ).  DT and I have talked about this before, but I really started to think in terms of a timeline.

Here’s how my mind works:

Six months out:  Not really even thinking about vacation much, probably because the weather is still decent where we live and we haven’t been sitting in a polar vortex for two months (in the instance of a winter getaway).

Three months out:  Inching closer, starting to become more real.

One month out:  The countdown is officially ON!  Any plans made for dates after we get back seem like an honest eternity away, and frankly, a little incomprehensible.  Life becomes segmented into “Before Vacation” and “After Vacation.”  And I don’t want to think about “After Vacation”!  So it’s kinda like it’s a black hole that’s not even there….

Three weeks out:  Early stages of packing-thoughts begin.  Start to think about leaving the house for a week, who will take care of the critters, what do we need to do before we go?  A checklist is born.

Two weeks out:  !!!!  Two weeks away!  Preparation to be away from work begins, more serious packing consideration unfolds, I’m basically beside myself.

One week out:  !!!!  Holy buckets, one week from now we’ll be THERE!  Crossing things off my checklist, the guest bed has started to become littered with piles, tackling chores around the house so it’s not left in shambles.  But the darker side – I’m already mentally preparing myself for it to be over.  Isn’t that sad and stupid?  I’m already thinking about how excited we’ll be in one week, but in two weeks….it’ll be almost over!  Gosh, I’m sick.

The week before we leave:  !!!!  Out-of-office preemptively set at work, last minute errands, clean up food in the fridge, critter/house care has been arranged and confirmed, piles on the guest bed have grown, suitcases are dragged out (and the cats have done multiple, thorough inspections on these foreign objects).  I’ll be honest, I get a little stressed out before we leave.

The night before we leave:  DT and I have a tradition of happy hour after we leave work on the eve of a vacation.  A kickoff, if you will.  By now he’s printed out all our documents and confirmations, we’ll go home and fill our suitcases, set the timer on the living room lamp, one last-ditch effort to eat leftovers or any other perishables in the fridge.  No fewer than two alarm clocks set, cab called if needed.  We probably won’t go to bed early, who can sleep at a time like this?!

Vacation day is here!  It’s likely been a wake-up-get-dressed frenzy, tend to the animals once more, load the car/cab, a final house walk-through.  I will fret all the way to the airport whether a light was left on, the door was locked, a faucet was left dripping, I forgot to do or pack something.  I’m so excited….and yet I’m a basketcase.  DT can only shake his head.  The plane ride(s) is/are usually a blur – usually because we’re on such an early flight.  But then, we arrive!  To me, in those moments of the first day, it honestly feels like how could this ever end?  Oh no, it will NEVER end!

The first few days:  It takes me/us a while to become fully immersed in our time away right off the bat.  It’s hard to get into that “We’re on vacation and we literally have zero accountability and can do pretty much whatever the heck we want for the next __ days” mindset.  And when I say “hard” I don’t mean as in hardship, or “poor me/us.”  I mean it really is a mental shift to pull away from real life obligations, schedules, routines, and responsibilities.  We’ll look at the time (even though we have nowhere at all to be) and say, “Omigosh!  It’s only __ o’clock!”  Time kind of stands still when we slow down to the groove of vacation.

The midway point:  Then time begins to not stand still.  We’re having fun, and time flies when you’re having fun, man.  When the days we’ve been gone begin to outnumber the days left….sad.  It’s definitely a mental turning point in the vacation.  That I do not like.  But we press on, we must make the most of our time!

The last couple of days:  Bummer.  Big, big bummer.  Vacation depression has set in and the trip we thought would never, could never end….is ending very soon.  In our desperation to keep the spirit alive, we turn to plans for the next vacation.  It’s the best defense!

The last day:  DT and I always try to go out with a bang and we’re usually successful.  It’s part denial, part savoring, part saving the best for last.  Or something like that.

The trip home:  Sigh.  We must plan another vacation pronto.  On a positive note, it is always nice to be home.  Nice to be back in a routine, back in our own bed, back with the critters, back to normal eating and drinking schedules (i.e. not total and complete gluttony).

The first week back:  I do the thing where I think “A week ago we were….”  At first it’s a painful exercise until I get to the end of the week and realize the trip was coming to a close and I’m probably mentally a way lot better now.  Oh, and we’re plotting the next getaway seriously.

That’s pretty much my journey, thank you for coming along with the crazy.  I must absolutely declare how fortunate DT and I have been for the travels we have experienced.  I never want to sound ungrateful or minimize the opportunities we’ve had.  Every one has been a-MAY-zing and we’re very lucky to be able to spend a week here and there every now and again.

It’s just that we LOVE IT SO MUCH!

But as much as we love and look forward to these trips, and as much anguish as I may talk myself into having when it’s over, I know in my heart of hearts, there is no place like home and we are every bit as lucky to have that.

Now, if our home was on a tropical island in the middle of the Caribbean….

Hmmm. ;-)

Spicyland in Grand Turk

Grand Turk, our fourth and final port!  Waahhhh! :-(

arrival to Grand Turk 1

This was our second visit – it was the first port on our very first cruise back in 2009.  A hurricane had recently rolled through, so much of the beach was destroyed and in disarray.  Five years later, it appeared to be restored.

arrival to Grand Turk 2

arrival to Grand Turk 3

It was another beautiful day – we couldn’t have asked for better weather on this trip, we were so lucky.  I loooove zee blue skyyyys!

Grand Turk pier 1

Grand Turk’s port is pretty easy to navigate:  disembark the ship and walk to the beach.  Like this!

Grand Turk pier 2

Welcome to Grand Turk

Grand Turk beach 1

I loooove zee bluuuue water too!

Grand Turk beach 2

Pretty okay with this view.

beach chair view

We spent some time lounging on the beach, it was a very popular place.

Grand Turk weather station

The conch was hot that day! ;-)

Then we wandered up to Margaritaville for a little pool time.  It too was a popular place!

Margaritaville pool 1

Margaritaville pool 2

two ships 2

After Margaritaville we took a walk on the other side of the beach.  A much more desolate, quiet vibe over there.

Grand Turk beach 3

Conch shells were everywhere.

Grand Turk beach 4

DT, Grand Turk beach


DMT+LAT forevaahh

DT and me, Grand Turk

It was a very nice little stroll.

Grand Turk beach 5

Grand Turk beach 6

Grand Turk beach 8

Then it was time to board the Glory one last time before our return to Miami.  Waaahhh!

DT and me, Grand Turk pier

Friday night’s sunset was pretty unbelievable.

Friday sunset 1

You just don’t get to see that every day.  Well, maybe you do, and if that’s the case I hope you never take it for granted!

Friday sunset 2


Friday sunset 3

Friday night towel friend

Friday night’s little friend stole my sunglasses.


After a relaxing last day at sea, we were graced with this moody dusk sky.  I love the gradients of color.

last night 1

last night 2

I love my travel buddy too.

DT and me, last night

DT and me, last night 2

Ohhh.  Why does it have to END?

DT and me, last night 3

We love it here.  I think we will always love it here.

last night sky 3

Goodnight moon.

last night moon

2014 cruise:  The End.

Spicyland in San Juan

It was a beautiful sky as we approached San Juan Thursday morning.

entry to San Juan 1

entry to San Juan 4

entry to San Juan 2

entry to San Juan 3

Actually kind of overcast for a while – I [incorrectly] assumed our day of walking about town would be one under the clouds.

San Juan shore 1

San Juan shore 2

San Juan shore 3

San Juan shore 4

view of fort

San Cristobal from the ship

Oh no – it turned out to be a sunny and toasty-HOT afternoon.

Our cruise three years ago left from San Juan, but we stayed on the other side of town AND my suitcase was misplaced on its way from Minneapolis to Miami to San Juan.  So the fun night in the city before boarding the ship the next day was completely stressful and frazzled and NOT FUN, with calls to the airline and tracking what we could online.  Oh, and I had no clean clothes. :-( Anyway.  Here’s round two!

(And, just for clarity….there are no pictures of me here because, well….my husband does not take pictures of me.  So, you know.  I know.  We’re working on it :-) )

fort entrance 1

From the port, it was a less-than-10-minute walk to Castillo San Cristobal, the largest fortification built by the Spanish in the New World (not the fort you saw in the photos above – that is Castillo San Felipe del Morro, or El Morro).

Construction began in 1634 (1634!) and finished in 1790.  While El Morro was built to protect the city from attacks by sea, San Cristobal’s 27 acres defended against attacks by land.

For a $3 entrance fee, we more than got our money’s worth on this visit.

fort entrance 2

You guys, this place was pretty amazing.  So old and such rich history, with tunnels, lookout posts, cannons, moats, uh….a dungeon!

tunnel 1

tunnel 2

main plaza 1

Main plaza


The first tunnel we entered

view 1

View of the sea


The dungeon!

The idea of a dungeon just seems so….primitive and archaic.  It’s crazy to imagine people were actually held here.

dungeon 2

dungeon 3

dungeon drawings

Wall drawings by prisoners

dungeon 4

Back into the light!  We found our way out of the tunnels and explored San Cristobal’s sprawling grounds.  As you’ll soon see, the views are absolutely spectacular.

fort green 1

fort view 1

fort green 2

fort watchtower 1

fort watchtower 2

Sentry box

waves 1

view of second fort

View of El Morro

fort green 3

fort green 4



Hello little green friend

coastal view 1

capital 1

capital 2

Capitol of San Juan

fort green 5

View back to San Cristobal

coastal view 2

DT, vista

drawbridge, kind of

fort cubby


Dry moat

Under Cover

Main firing battery

Main firing battery

cannon balls

WWII Observation Post

observation post view 1

View from observation post

observation post in the distance

narrow path

The long, narrow path to the sentry box

view out

view of San Juan

view of San Juan 2

steep climb

Fire Observation Deck 1

fire control station 2

Fire control station

180-degree view….

view out 2

view out 3



spiral staircase 1

Steeeep spiral stairway

spiral staircase 2

DT, spiral staircase

fort bunk 1

Troop quarters

fort bunk 2

water well

Water well



Wowee.  DT and I spent about two hours at San Cristobal and could have easily spent another two.  If you find yourself in San Juan, definitely make time to see one or both of these old forts!  The history lesson and incredible views are so well worth it.

We wove our way into and around Old San Juan on our way back to the ship.  Such a pretty part of the city – narrow, cobblestone streets and bright, colorful buildings.

Old San Juan 1

Old San Juan 2

I just love those wrought iron balconies….especially with little pops of flowers!  So European.

Old San Juan 3

Old San Juan 4

Old San Juan church

This street made us think of Charleston or Savannah:

Old San Juan 5

Old San Juan 6

So did this.

Old San Juan 7

It was such a great day in San Juan, I’m so happy we could explore this port.  I’ll count on a return visit someday!

Coming up….last, but certainly not least, our day in Grand Turk.  Sad!  The cruise is almost ending! :-(

Thursday's towel friend

Thursday night’s little friend


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