New Thing #30 – Bikini Wax

Sorry – no pictures for this one!  I’m not going to go into extreme detail either.  But I will say that getting a bikini wax hurts!  My bikini area was noticably smoother for quite a while after I had it done, so I do understand the reasons some people choose to wax over shaving.  But for me, it was a bit too painful, so I probably won’t do this again unless it’s for a very special occasion.

New Thing #29 – Miracle Berries

I read once about berries that change your taste buds to make sour things taste sweet, and since I heard about them, I’ve wanted to try them.  So I gathered a few friends and a lot of different foods and we magically transformed our taste buds!

It actually isn’t magic.  It’s really a protein the bonds to your taste buds.  And it doesn’t change the taste of everything; it just makes sour things taste sweet.  The berries themselves are small and resemble a cranberry, except that they are oval-shaped instead of round.  You are supposed to eat the flesh and skin of the fruit and swirl it around your mouth for a moment and then the effect lasts about an hour.  So I laid out an assortment of fruits, vegetables, cheeses, beverages, and other foods, and we started tasting them.

Fruit seemed to be the best.  You could suck on a lemon and it tasted like lemonade.  Limes tasted like candy.  I usually hate grapefruit, but it tasted pretty good.  Oranges and strawberries didn’t taste much different; they just tasted like the best orange or strawberry you’ve ever had in your life – all sweet and no sour!

Vegetables did not seem to be affected.  Even a tomato, which is quite acidic, did not taste different to me.

We also tried a few beverages: wine, beer, and some juices.  A nice wine just tasted like a cheap sweet wine.  Lemonade and cranberry juice were also both very sweet.  We had a few stouts that tasted really good with a sweetness that they don’t have usually.  I’d read a tip that mixing a stout with lemon sorbet would make a drink that tasted like a milkshake.  I didn’t think it tasted like a milkshake but it was good.  I might have to try that one time without the berries and see how it is.

Cheeses tasted much the same, but magnified.  The texture seemed creamier too, although I doubt that’s true.  It just seemed that way.  I also tried some hot sauce and that just tasted milder.  And we had some sour candies that tasted sweet as we expected.

It was a fun experience to share with my friends on a low-key evening.  But there are also many other interesting uses for these berries and products made from them.  For example, diabetics could use the berries to satisfy their sweet cravings.  Also, chemo patients report a metallic taste that the berries can help overcome.  You could use the berries to help a child’s medicine taste better or to spice up a diet.  Or you could play a practical joke on someone and trick them into eating the berry without knowing it and see how they react.  So many fun and worthwhile uses for miracle berries!  I recommend trying them!

New Thing #28 – Sponsor an Orphan

Everyone changes the channel when one of those “Sponsor a Child in Africa” commercials comes on, including me.  It could be because we feel guilt about not helping others in need.  It could be because the images make us sad.  I always want to help, but I’m skeptical about large organizations.  I question how much of my donation would actually go to help the children.  So I decided to donate to an organization that I know all of my donation will go to helping the children.  I know the people who run The Pines Orphanage in South Africa, a home for children who have been orphaned by HIV or AIDS.  Phil and Alana Carmichael and their children have been friends of my family since I was a child.  My parents have even visited the orphanage so I know the good that they are doing.

QueenThis is Queen (not her real name, but one her sister used to call her and she prefers to continue using it). She’s 13 and lives at The Pines. I’m very excited to be helping her.

If you would like more information on The Pines or want to sponsor a child, feel free to leave me a message or you can visit this site to donate any amount you can: www.myaimi.org.

New Thing #27 – Take Public Transportation to Work

In large metropolitan areas, it’s usually pretty easy to use public transportation, but it can be tough to get around in a smaller city with less public transportation.  I decided to give it a try in Boynton Beach to see if it was easier or cheaper for me to get to work with public transportation.

There is a bus system and a train that runs north/south throughout Palm Beach county, so I checked them both.  I happen to live with a bus expert.  My boyfriend is a teacher and the kids in his high school have to ride the city buses, so he helps them find their way quite often, and he helped me find my way as well.  I’m lucky because I happen to live and work along the same main road, so there was just one bus I had to take, no connections.  My boyfriend also happened to have an extra bus pass, so he gave that to me.  All-in-all it was pretty easy for me to prepare.

Let’s compare the cost:

It costs $4.50 for an all-day pass or $60 for a monthly pass.  I usually spend $120 in gas per month, so riding the bus would save me $60 a month, or $720 a year!

Now let’s compare the time:

It took me 10 minutes to walk to the bus stop.  I was on the bus for 30 minutes and then it took me 10 minutes to walk to my work.  So it took a total of 50 minutes.  It usually takes me 20 minutes to drive to work each day.  So it would take me an hour longer each day to get to and from work by bus than by driving.  That’s 20 hours each month or 260 in a year!

I also have to factor in the convenience of having a car at work.  I happened to choose an interesting day to ride the bus because I got to work and our internet was down.  For an internet company that doesn’t really work, so they sent me home right away.  I had to run to catch the 9:30 bus or I would have had to wait another half hour for the next one.

On the flip side, I was able to catch up on my reading while on the bus, which I wouldn’t have been able to do if I had driven to work.  This was a nice perk, but not a necessary one.

For me, it doesn’t really make sense to ride the bus.  But it’s nice to know that if my car breaks down I can find my way to work without it.

 

New Thing #26 – Pedal Tavern

As I stared out the window while sipping on my margarita, I saw a bunch of people sitting at a bar in the middle of the street.  And the bar was moving!  Turns out, it’s a pedal tavern!  It looks like a trolley car with bike seats and pedals on both sides and you can drink your heart out while pedaling all around town.

The one I went on was $30 to reserve your seat and you could bring your own drinks on board.  Then we made frequent stops at local bars along the way.  We stopped to drink at the bars, but also to rest our legs.  It was much harder than I thought it would be to pedal that thing around town.  There were a few of the seats over the wheels and the bench in the back that didn’t have pedals, so you were lucky if you got to sit in one of those seats.  It took some leg power to get the tavern moving, especially when going up a hill.  Even though my legs and butt were sore the next day, I really enjoyed the experience!  It was fun to meet the other people on the pedal tavern with us, and we also met a lot of people who were walking by, taking pictures, or asking questions about it.  It was certainly a unique way to see the city!  I’d recommend it!

New Thing #25 – Nashville

Some of my best expereinces have been travelling, so when my best friend asked me if I wanted to meet her in Nashville for a weekend, of course I said yes!  I’ve driven through Nashville before, but I don’t really count it as having been there before (and since this is my list, I make the rules).  So exploring the city of Nashville is my 25th new thing.  We stayed right downtown and had a great time!  I did some of my best people-watching there – it’s a great town for that!  The crowds range from teens to septuagenarians, so it’s interesting to see all those people mixed together at the same bars.

The second notable thing about the city is that there is live music everywhere and always!  We went out for breakfast on a Sunday morning and there was a guy playing an accoustic set.  Mid-day meal?  Yep – there was a live band.  Walking down the street?  A guy was playing his guitar on a corner.  It’s really an awesome city if you love music!  And almost all of it that I heard was really good too!

Even though I’m not big into country music or it’s history, I did feel like I should do something as a tourist to learn more about what made Nashville so great.  We went and toured the Ryman Auditorium, which used to be the Grand Ole Opry House.  It seemed like a really great place to see a show as the accoustics sounded amazing!  It was also interesting to see all the history and past performers that have performed there.  I now understand why it is revered as one of the greatest stages for musicians to play.

I didn’t know that Vanderbuilt University is right in the heart of the city.  And it was beautiful seeing all the fall colors on the leaves.  I can imagine that it’s a great city to live in if you can get over the fact that everyone wears cowboy boots.  🙂

New Thing #24 – Healthy Muffin vs. Regular Muffin Taste Test

I love to bake cupcakes and muffins and I recently heard that you can substitute applesauce for oil when baking to make it healthier, so I decided to set up a battle royale between a healthy muffin and a regular muffin.  I decided to use a muffin mix box partly because I was lazy and partly because I didn’t want to mess up the muffins by making them from scratch.  I divided the mixture in half and used 1/8 cup of applesauce in one part and 1/8 cup of oil in the other.  There are 480 calories in that amount of oil and only 25 in the applesauce.  I ended up with more batter from the applesauce portion.  I’m not sure why.  I thought I measured half correctly, but maybe the applesauce just doesn’t mix together as small.  After baking them at the same time, I tried them both to see if they tasted different.

There is definitely a difference in the taste and the texture.  The oil muffins are definitely fluffier than that applesauce muffins.  I thought the oil muffins tasted a little sweeter than the applesauce ones.  But the applesauce ones don’t taste bad.   And if I wasn’t comparing them, I probably wouldn’t notice anything strange about the applesauce muffins.  A difference of over 450 calories is a lot, so if you’re trying to be healthy I would definitely recommend trying this method. I think the next time I will try substituting half the oil with applesauce and get the health benefits but still get the taste.

New Thing #23 – Cook an Artichoke

I love artichokes, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually eaten a fresh one.  I’ve only had the hearts, canned or from a jar.  The prickly outside seems so intimidating, so I never prepared on myself.  I thought this was a good time to face my artichoke fears since I’m almost 30.  I used this recipe to cook it in the crockpot with lemon, wine, and garlic (http://theproducemom.com/2012/03/11/crock-pot-artichokes/).  It was really easy to prepare, but it did take 3 hours to cook in the crockpot.

I’d always seen roasted artichokes served in restaurants where people pull off the leaves and scrape the edible part off with their teeth, but I’d never actually done that myself until last night.  I rather enjoyed eating that part of it.  I like food that is eaten with one’s fingers.  Once I had peeled all the leaves off, I cut the artichoke in half.  I thought I knew what an artichoke looked like, but I was completely surprised when I opened it up!  I had no idea about the stringy part that gets removed called the “choke.”  Once I removed that, I ate the artichoke heart and I was completely disappointed.  It didn’t taste like the ones from cans or jars, and it was not very good.  The texture was nice and eating it warm was great.  I think I might use fresh artichokes if I were to make a hot spinach artichoke dip.  But mostly I guess I’ll just stick to the cans and jars from now on or let someone else prepare it for me and see if they cook it better than I do.

New Thing #22 – Belly Dancing

They just started offering a Belly Dancing class at my gym, so I thought I’d try it even though I’m a pretty terrible dancer.  It turned out to be a lot of fun!  The teacher is a professional dancer named Akasha (her website is www.dancersofthenile.com) who teaches classes all over South Florida.  I happened to be the only beginner that day.  The other 3 ladies there had been belly dancing for 3 years so I did feel a little uncomfortable at first, but they were so nice and Akasha was very good at integrating me into the class without taking away from their routines.  As I mentioned, I’m a pretty terrible dancer so I didn’t expect to be good at this, but I had a blast!  She taught me some of the basic moves and it was quite entertaining to watch myself in the mirror while trying to get my body to do what I wanted it to.  It’s not easy to move your stomach, chest or hips without moving your head or shoulders.  They were working on a routine that involved dancing while balancing swords on their heads and it was pretty impressive!  Since I was new, they gave me a scabbard to practice with so I didn’t hurt myself with a real sword.  We also learned a routine with veils which was a lot of fun and not as difficult as the sword-balancing.  I had a great time and would definitely go back to a beginners class so I can figure out how to shimmy and undulate without looking like an idiot!  🙂

New Thing #21 – Schnebly’s Winery

When I told a friend that this winery was on my list of new things, she asked “How is drinking wine a new experience for you?”  Drinking wine is not something new to me, but this was a new experience because all of Schnebly’s wines are made from 100% tropical fruit!  Also, I’ve never toured a winery before, so that was a new experience as well!

The winery is located in Florida City, which is that last city before you hit the keys.  So it’s kind of a hike, but I’ve heard really good things about it, so we decided to make the trek.  It was definitely worth it!  When you walk in, you can purchase bottles of wine or a tasting.  If you get a tasting, you go to the bar and the bartenders let you choose the wines you want to taste.  I chose coconut, lychee, guava, passion fruit, and Cat 3 (a combo of guava, lychee and starfruit).  My friends had a mango wine, but I’m not allowed to drink that one because I’m allergic.  😦  The coconut wine had a buttery flavor, which I didn’t like, but I can see how it would pair well with seafoods.  Most of the wines were very sweet.  They had an avocado wine that was more dry, but I didn’t try that one.  The lychee was too sweet for me.  I liked the combo flavor of the Cat 3 (the name is a nod to the frequent florida hurricanes).  Guava was good, but passion fruit was my favorite because it had a tartness to it that the others didn’t have.  They also have a brewery there, but I didn’t try any of the beers.

Once we did our tasting, we wandered outside to check out the grounds.  It is absolutely beautiful there!  They have coral waterfalls, waterways with koi fish, tons of tropical foliage, and huge chiki huts.  We found out in the tour that they are not hawaiian tiki huts, but chiki or chickee huts made by local Mikosukee and Seminole indians that are built to withstand hurricane winds.  One chiki hut holds 500 people and I’m told they have awesome karaoke on Friday’s and a live band on Saturdays.  The bartender told us they had a crowd of almost 900 there the night before.  So I can imagine it’s quite a party!  You’re allowed to bring your own food and drinks or they have a catering company that serves barbeque.  It sounds like it would be a fun time at night or a great place to hang out for an afternoon with some friends and a few bottles of wine.  It’s a shame that it’s so far away!  But it’s certainly a place that you could stop at on your way to or from the Keys!

The tour was a bit long, but we found out a lot about how the winery started and the plans they have to make it a big destination (complete with an ampitheater since the Hard Rock is planning to build a casino nearby).  They also are waiting on a liquor license to begin selling some tropical fruit liquors.  One of the most interesting things I learned is that most tropical fruit wines are made of mostly concord grapes imported from elsewhere with some tropical fruits added in.  Schnebly’s uses starfruit as their base and it’s all grown right here in Florida.  I also learned that some alcohol’s such as Arbor Mist (one of my favorite cheap drinks from college) is made from potatoes with artificial flavors added in.  I think I’ll definitely pay more attention to what’s actually in my wines from now on.