Monday, May 31, 2010

Roses

I recently discovered that we have this crazy rose bush in our backyard.

Pretty, I love roses! Though they're kind of growing crazy and I had to cut back the bush from our fence gate, then cut up all the branches to go into the trash, and I got lots of thorn pricks in my hands, even wearing gloves. :(

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The other thing I discovered is that our tree is "escaping" from our backyard fence- one of its branches grew through one of the fence holes, and now that "branch" is so big, the wire is cutting into the branch. I might be worried about the tree but instead I'm more worried about our fence, which looks like it might be pulled out of the ground by the tree soon if we don't cut the wires ("soon" being relative to tree growth). On the other hand, I don't feel like buying heavy duty wire cutters just for this one purpose. Hmm.

And I just noticed how heavy I "was" on the "double" quotations in that last paragraph... reminds me of this site, which is pretty funny- "check" it out. :)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday Meditation: Pablo Neruda



SONNET LXIX
Pablo Neruda

Maybe nothingness is to be without your presence,
without you moving, slicing the noon
like a blue flower, without you walking
later through the fog and the cobbles,

without the light you carry in your hand,
golden, which maybe others will not see,
which maybe no one knew was growing
like the red beginnings of a rose.

In short, without your presence: without your coming
suddenly, incitingly, to know my life,
gust of a rosebush, wheat of wind:

since then I am because you are,
since then you are, I am, we are,
and through love I will be, you will be, we’ll be.

Photo credit

Friday, May 28, 2010

Book Review: Annette Vallon

Annette Vallon: A Novel of the French RevolutionIf you're visiting from the Book Hop, welcome!

Summary from Goodreads:

Set amid the terror and excitement of the French Revolution, James Tipton's evocative novel is the story of a woman who has for too long been relegated to the shadows of history: Annette Vallon, William Wordsworth's mistress and muse.

Born into a world of wealth and pleasure, Annette enjoys the privileges of aristocracy, but a burning curiosity and headstrong independence set her apart. Spoiled by the novels of Rousseau, she refuses to be married unless it is for passion. Yet the love she finds with a young English poet will test Annette in unexpected ways, bringing great joy and danger in a time of terror and death.

Told in sparking prose, Annette Vallon captures the courage and fearlessness of a woman whose dramatic story illuminates a turbulent and fascinating era.


Annette Vallon: A Novel of the French Revolution by James Tipton


My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book is really 3.5 stars for me. I liked it, but it didn't grab me. Annette is a very strong woman for her time period. She's captivating and fun to read about. But although the summary of the book might make you believe this is a love story with the poet William Wordsworth, it's really not- it's merely one part of Annette's adventurous and passionate life (although it actually did make me want to go read some Wordsworth poems). However, this might be a benefit and not a disadvantage- Annette doesn't let a relationship define her life- she's able to stand on her own.

My one complaint is that I'm not sure I entirely believed Annette's "voice" was an 18th century voice- a lot of the writing felt more modern to me. I wasn't always convinced she would say the things she said or do the things she did. Nonetheless, she was an interesting central character. And I loved her relationship to her siblings.

View all my reviews >>

Primping the Deck

One of the best parts about living in Baltimore is all the rooftop decks. When we went house hunting last year, the rooftop deck at our house definitely sold the place for us... especially because (1) you get to go up a spiral staircase to get up there, and spiral staircases are cool, and (2) you can see the harbor and sailboats from up there (and now that we have new Ikea patio furniture, we use it even more!)

One thing we maybe didn't think much about: maintenance. Parts of the deck were slightly green with mold and I noticed that the wood was starting to look weathered and gray. I have no idea when it was last sealed, but it definitely looked like it had been awhile. We thought about sealing it ourselves, until I started looking into it. Rooftop decks are not very accessible in terms of staining, plus we would need to powerwash the deck first, plus... we actually have no hose outlet thing outdoors. Things were getting tricky.

So who did we call? Grime Busters! Joe was very nice and he came over to give us a free estimate. We had another company give us an estimate too. Let's just say, sealing your deck ain't cheap. Then again, time is money, and I knew neither Kevin nor I wanted to spend the next several weekends powerwashing and sealing the deck, especially since we have no idea what we're doing.

Here are the before and after photos- I think they speak for themselves! So much better....

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We're definitely ready for some summer entertaining now. :)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Dining Review: Elvis

For those of you reading on RSS readers, you should visit my new page! I have a new "About" tab explaining, well, what I hope for the blog to be about! Also check out my new "dining review" section and "book review" section from the home page tabs!

Elvis

1022 Light St.
Baltimore, MD

This place was just okay. We tried the steak tacos- actually the steak was quite tasty and flavorful. But, everything else didn't seem terribly fresh- slightly wilted lettuce, over-liquified refried beans, quite bland rice. It's some place I might go if I wanted reasonably priced and quick Mexican in Fed Hill, but not a place I'm going to be craving. I prefer Tortilleria Sinaloa.

Elvis on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Madison (part 3)

On Sunday, we went for a delicious breakfast in downtown Madison called the Marigold Kitchen. Here is my review:

"What a terrific breakfast find! If I lived here, this would be a favorite for sure. My sister and I shared the breakfast sandwich- though it looks simple, it is unbelievably delicious, with borsin cheese being an inspired addition. We also shared one of the specials, the strawberry pancakes with vanilla marscapone cheese. Wow, it was fantastic! I wish there had been more of that delicious marscapone. Even the tea is special- you get your own little pot. You do have to pray to get a table here on a weekend morning, but it's worth it even if you have to wait. Next time I'm in Madison, I'll be back!"

Marigold Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Then, we took a little visit to the Madison zoo. What's kind of amazing is that the zoo is completely free! Not sure how they pull that off. We spent a really long time looking at the surprisingly fascinating prairie dog pen. Haha!

Then we got a little goofy:

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I feel like I really capture the spirit of the lion. But, my dad was really the best as the polar bear cub:

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My mom took this really great picture of a barred owl they had out- this little guy was awesome!

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Then it was time for my parents to go to the airport, so my sister and I walked around in the woods at the Arboretum some more- it was cool how quickly you became immersed in the forest:

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My brother and Sara then took us to lunch on State Street, and then to a really cute little tea place- how come Baltimore doesn't have more tea places? Really, I love them so.

Less than 48 hours after we arrived, we were back in the Milwaukee airport, flying home. A short trip, but so worth it- I love when I can do fun trips like this, particularly since time with the whole family is few and far between! (I did miss Kevin though, who wasn't along for the adventure this time).

I hope you've enjoyed following our mini-adventure!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Madison (part 2)

One really cool place my brother showed us on our surprise trip to Madison was the Arboretum. First of all, it's huge, and must span for acres- with many different kinds of forests and wildlife. Andrew took us to the frog pond first- where, at this time of year, there were literally thousand of tadpoles swimming in the algae-covered waters- as well as a few tiny frogs poking their heads up. Must be lonely to be one of the first ones!

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Then we went to another area where all different kinds of trees had been planted next to each other- trees of every shape and variety. It was pretty fascinating! My parents liked this very round tall tree:

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Then we had fun with dandelions. I wish I could post the little video we made, but I can't seem to get it to copy correctly, so pictures will have to suffice:

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We then got to see my brother's apartment- although he's since moved out to go to Chicago. Still, it was nice to see where he lived for 3 years. I had actually packed up a blow-up mattress so we could crash on his floor.

We got drinks and then went to a quite tasty Mediterranean restaurant for dinner, and celebrated my mom's birthday with presents. It was fun!

The final part up next...

Monday, May 24, 2010

Surprise! We're in Madison (part 1)

A few months ago, my sister and I were talking about how we wished we could go to my little brother's graduation from law school, and how it would be a great weekend to go because not only was it his graduation, but also my mom's birthday. Andrew has been living in Madison for 3 years and I had yet to see his apartment, or try any of his favorite restaurants or haunts.

So... we decided to surprise everyone, and we each bought tickets- her from Denver, me from Baltimore- to Milwaukee. Only Andrew's girlfriend Sara was in on the surprise. We almost blew it a few times in the weeks prior to our trip, but somehow the surprise remained intact. So last weekend I flew out bright and early on Saturday, waited in the Milwaukee airport for about 30 minutes for my sister to show up, and then we picked up our rental car to drive to Madison.

Sara had been texting us with their current location, which was presently at the Madison Farmer's Market. Sadly, right as we found parking, she texted us to say they were leaving again, this time for a lunch locale. We decided to grab some flowers for my mom from the market, and then went on to the pizza place.

We debated on how to actually surprise them, but in the end we just stormed the restaurant. :) It was really funny to see their different reactions. My mom screamed like a mass murderer was coming towards her, getting the attention of pretty much everyone in the restaurant, while my brother and dad just looked totally confused. When they finally accepted they weren't dreaming, we sat down and had a delicious pizza lunch.

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The rest of the day, we did some fun Madison things- hiked out to the Point on the lake, for one:

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Madison is a lovely place once winter is gone. :) There are so many lakes and parks and there's a great college feel.

Next up, part 2!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday Meditations


Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

Billy Collins

Photo from http://artslink.wordpress.com/2009/08/12/poetry-poetry-poetry/

Friday, May 21, 2010

Book Review: Still Alice

I'm participating in the Book Hop this week. If you're visiting, welcome! I usually have new book reviews every week.

Synopsis from GoodReads:
Alice Howland is proud of the life she has worked so hard to build. A Harvard professor, she has a successful husband and three grown children. When Alice begins to grow forgetful at first she just dismisses it, but when she gets lost in her own neighborhood she realizes that something is terribly wrong. Alice finds herself in the rapid downward spiral of Alzheimer's disease. She is only 50 years old. While Alice once placed her worth and identity in her celebrated and respected academic life, now she must re-evaluate her relationship with her husband, her expectations of her children and her ideas about herself and her place in the world. Losing her yesterdays, her short-term memory hanging on by a couple of frayed threads, she is living in the moment, living for each day. But she is still Alice.


Still Alice Still Alice by Lisa Genova


My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Wow, I loved this book. I am not a crier- the last book I can really remember crying from was the series finale of Harry Potter. This book had me crying- at 8am. On a plane. Not even kidding.

It wasn't just that the story was sad- this book about early-onset Alzheimer's could just have easily been overly sappy or dramatic. It was just that this book felt so real. Alice could have been my friend, or my mother- or heck, she could have been me. I related to her extremely well. Every part of the book seemed so realistic to me- the reactions of her husband, her children, and herself to her diagnosis just felt entirely convincing. And in their realness, the book became utterly heartbreaking. The disease makes Alice confront her feelings on death, what makes life worth living, what makes us "us" without memories; in doing so, it makes the reader confront her own beliefs.

The book did make me feel slightly paranoid about my own memory- I swear I couldn't remember some of the neurology quizzes after just reading it the page before! I hope that's not a sign...


View all my reviews >>

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ikea Patio Furniture- Yay!

I'm hoping to write about my adventures last weekend soon, but first...

We finally got some patio furniture for our deck! This is exciting not only because we'll have somewhere to entertain guests, but Kevin and I will also have somewhere to sit and be civilized with a table (yes, our rowhouse is so small we can't actually seem to fit a dining table anywhere in it). We usually eat on the couch.

I searched and searched for a good, reasonably-priced set. Home Depot had free shipping for awhile, but even with free shipping, the most reasonable sets were in the $500 range. Craigslist had a few options but we'd have to figure out how to transport lots of furniture in one car. Ace Hardware had some options but they were strangely expensive, along with Target.

Finally... Ikea! I'm not sure whether this is a new department or not, but my friend at work recommended her Ikea patio set, so I looked it up, and I found both great prices and nice wood furniture. We went with the Applaro set. We got the table, which normally seats 4 but extends for up to 8 people, the bench, 2 armchairs, and 2 folding chairs (we figure if we actually ever have 8 people we'll bring up two extra folding chairs that we already own from the basement).

I love it! The wood is acacia and really is lovely- I went over it with a coat of lemon furniture oil to protect it from the elements, though it's supposedly durable and highly suited for outdoor use. The "leaves" hanging down on the side extend out if desired. Take a look...

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Lawrence Welk Show

These videos seriously make Kevin and I crack up. I have no idea why we think they're so funny (is it the tiny hands? the giant forehead? just how ridiculously weird it is?) but it's like tears-streaming-out-of-your-eyes kind of laughter.



We were excited when they opened with it for the Betty White show!


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New Blog Url!

Thanks to everyone for taking the time to vote! The new url is:

www.lifewithkarma.com

or lifewithkarma.com

Please use this from now on. But, the old address should redirect you to this address (at least in 3 days from now). I'm still not sure what this means for RSS readers, but I have this blog in my own reader so if anything is not working I'll let you know.

Yay, I love having a custom .com name!

I'm also hoping to make some improvements to the appearance of the blog soon.

Quick Banana & Peanut Butter Ice Cream


This recipe is delicious, healthy, and so surprisingly creamy that it's hard to believe there's really no cream in there. Note of caution: you really need a food processor to make this- I don't think it would work with a blender.

Three Ingredient Banana, Honey, and Peanut Butter Ice Cream
from Serious Eats

For one serving:
1 large ripe banana
1 tsp peanut butter (or more, if you love PB like me)
1 tsp honey

Peel banana and slice into chunks. Spray cookie sheet and put the chunks on tray, covered lightly with saran wrap. Freeze.

Once frozen, put the banana in the food processor with the PB and honey. Puree until creamy, stopping to scrape the sides if necessary (careful- it will take a little bit of time- it stay chunky for awhile then suddenly turns into ice cream consistency).

Serve! Be amazed at how much it tastes just like ice cream! And it's delicious!

Picture from Kristen Swenson

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Book Review: Dark Lover

Yep, this book is called Dark Lover. If it sounds like a cheesy romance, well, basically it is, though it's maybe a little better. It's about (surprise) vampires.

Dark Lover (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #1) Dark Lover by J.R. Ward


My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I liked the first half of this book a lot. Good build-up of both the plot and the romance. And I liked Beth in the beginning. But then it kind of fell apart for me in the second half. It just got overly mushy and cloyingly romantic. Things were resolved too easily. While this book is in many ways a more "adult version of Twilight" than the Sookie Stackhouse series, I've realized that whereas teenagers can get away with being melodramatic and overly possessive, the same qualities are very unappealing in adults.

Also... umm, this is going to sound shallow, but a blind pale vampire with long black hair soooo does not turn me on. I pictured more of a Christian Bale type character and secretly shuddered anytime the long hair was mentioned.

While all in all it was a fun mindless read, I'm not sure I'll read any more in the series.

View all my reviews >>

Friday, May 14, 2010

Little Brother, Lawyer

Congrats to my little brother, who is graduating from law school today! I can't believe it's been three years since we were out in Chicago for his graduation from college:



I'm proud of you, little dudie! (yes, it's an unfortunate term of endearment).

I haven't mentioned it yet, but it's a big year for a lot of people in our lives. Aside from my brother getting his advanced degree,

(1) My sister and her husband are moving to Taiwan for two years! I'm going to really miss them, but hoping I can visit at some point. My sister is promising to try to be a good blogger when they go so we can follow their adventures online.

(2) My sister-in-law and her husband are having a baby in just about a month! That means I get to be an auntie. :) I've been very sad to miss most of Christine's pregnancy, and we probably won't be seeing a whole lot of our new little nephew, but we will take our time when we get it. :)
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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hanging at Home

We haven't been terribly exciting lately- I've spent a lot of time doing some home improvement type projects (or paying other people to do them- even better; pics to come soon), and Kevin is busy with his neurology section. So here are some pictures from around the house!

See? They don't always hiss at each other:

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My handsome husband:

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Dining Review: Byblos

Byblos Lebanese Restaurant
1033 Light St
Baltimore, MD 21230

This new place in Fed Hill is great. The owners are friendly, the food tastes very fresh. I had the falafel combo platter- beautifully presented with sides of hummus and tabbouleh. I'm normally not a fan of tabbouleh but theirs rocked. The hummus was delicious as well. The falafel, while unique and lovely-looking, was a bit too dry inside- the one minor negative about the meal. Kevin tried the beef schwarma sandwich and was a fan.

I'm sure we'll be back!

Edited to add: I've since been back several times. I absolutely love the snoubra combo platter- though just a warning, this delicious potato concoction is served cold. It is so delicious though! I've also had the beef schwarma platter and it is so good- particularly with both the hot sauce and what I believe is tahini. Yum! This place is definitely a favorite of mine....

Byblos  on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 10, 2010

Asparagus & Smoked Salmon Salad

This is a new favorite for lunch. It's easy to throw together the night before. I actually cook the asparagus and make the dressing on Sunday and then use it through out the week. And this salad has crazy good ingredients, healthwise and tastewise.

Asparagus: A very good source of folate, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A

Salmon: An excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, low in calories and saturated fat, high in protein, good source of selenium, niacin, and B12, phosphorous, magnesium, and B6. Anti-inflammatory, promotes cardiovascular health.

Spinach: protects against osteoporosis, heart disease, colon cancer, prostate and ovarian cancer, and arthritis. Full of anti-oxidants. Rich in potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A, and folate.

Here are the ingredients:

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And the recipe:

1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup pecans, broken into pieces + 1 tbsp sugar
1 bag baby spinach
1/4 pound smoked salmon, cut into 1 inch chunks

Lemonlicious Dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Place asparagus in the pot, and cook 5 minutes, just until tender. Drain, run under cool water, and set aside.

2. Place the pecans in a skillet over medium heat. Cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until lightly toasted. In the last minute, add sugar, stirring frequently to coat the nuts and prevent burning.

3. In a large bowl, toss together the asparagus, pecans, spinach, and salmon. Try other add-ins too, like chopped apples, mandarin oranges, chickpeas, peas, etc.

4. In a separate bowl, mix the olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper. Toss with the salad or serve on the side.

I'm not a huge fan of fish normally but because this recipe uses smoked salmon and because there's lots of other yummy stuff, it's a great way to get your omega-3s.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day...

....to my wonderful Mom! This is the first Mother's Day I've missed in a looong time, but I hope she knows I'm still thinking about her today!

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Friday, May 7, 2010

Baltimore Kinetics Sculpture Race

Last Saturday we rolled out of bed to see the start of the Baltimore Kinetics Sculpture Race. I guess the goal is to build a sculpture that a team of people drive- I think the race length is 15 miles, all over the city, and then must also be able to travel in water. It starts in Federal Hill, at the American Visionary Art Museum, which is really a piece of work itself.

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Yes, that is a giant pink poodle, which I believe must be a regular contender, as I've seen this very poodle recently at both the Visitor Center and the art museum. There were also two caterpillars, a frog, a safari, an elephant, a snake, and two versions of this fish:

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I love the people in the car chatting with the people driving the sculpture- you can tell, at least during this first little leg, things don't move too fast! Here's the Univ of Maryland platypus:

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Everyone gets dressed up so it makes for some excellent people watching- all just steps away from our door! Sometimes it's so fun to live in the city. :)

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Landscapes

I was putting together some landscape photographs this last week for the Pioneer Woman contest- not that I'd ever have a chance to win (I think last time I looked there were like 60,000 photos submitted)- but it's fun because you post your photos on Flickr and sometimes get some feedback about them. I've realized I've been to some really beautiful places!

Glaciers in Alaska:

Blue Future

Beaches in Maine:

Mirror

Hidden gems in the Collegiate Peak Wilderness area in Colorado:

Colorado Rocky Mountain High

Bergen, Norway (that hike was a killer though):

Bergen, Norway

Varenna, Italy:

Varenna, Italy

Stowe, Vermont:

Stowe, Vermont

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Book Review: Columbine

Columbine Columbine by Dave Cullen


My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I was a college freshman at CU-Boulder when the Columbine high school shootings occurred. Maybe because I was just a year removed from being in high school, or maybe because my own high school was just a couple of miles from Columbine, or maybe because I had friends who had graduated from Columbine themselves, but I've always been a little... intrigued/horrified/awed by this tragedy.

This book is maybe the best compilation around of all the facts from the Columbine massacre. It's told in a very readable, fair, and journalistic manner.

I realized there were many things I misunderstood about Columbine, which the author points out was quite common because of how the county officials and the media handled things after the event. Namely, (1) the two killers weren't outcasts or bullied; (2) they didn't target anyone in particular; (3) the vast differences in psychology and personality of the two killers; (4) the myth of the Cassie Bernall story; (5) how royally messed up many parts of the tragedy were handled by Jeffco.

This book was cathartic. It had me on the verge of tears at some points, fuming at others, and it finally led to some kind of answers for "why" this happened: the psychopathy of Eric Harris and the suicidal wishes of Dylan Klebold. It surprised me that I felt a lot more sympathetic towards their parents by the end.

I would really recommend this book- it's a fascinating and moving read.

View all my reviews >>

Monday, May 3, 2010

Dining Review: Trinidad Gourmet

418 E 31st St
Baltimore, MD 21218
(410) 243-0072

I have a thing for Caribbean food, and this place is delicious, and inexpensive.

We shared the fried plantains (yum!), a double (basically two pieces of fried dough with some kind of delicious chickpea mix in between- try it with hot sauce), a veggie roti (soft delicious bread filled with potatoes, pumpkin, green beans, cauliflower- yum!), and the jerk chicken sandwich (actually I didn't get to try that one because my husband wolfed it down so fast- he really liked it!). We also had the sorrel to drink- quite tasty and unusual! All for $21. Not a fancy place by any means, but really delicious food.

I wish this place was closer to us but if we're ever up in that area I know where to go!

Trinidad Gourmet on Urbanspoon