Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ford Fiesta Second Mission - Geocaching

Spoiler alert: See the video BEFORE you read!

Earlier this month, Brad and I went on a geocaching mission that really helped us get to know some parts of town up close and personal. Geocaching is a modern-day sport, a hide-and-seek treasure hunt that utilizes GPS technology.

ford fiesta miami geocache GPS garminIt's easy: get yourself a GPS device (Ford sent us a Garmin Nuvi), visit the geocache website, find some geocaches in the location of your choice, download the coordinates and go! There are literally hundreds of geocaches all over Miami-Dade County and if you ever got bored, you could start leaving your own.

A geocache is basically a plastic, waterproof container with stuff inside it like a log book and small trinkets, toys or other easily moveable objects. A travel bug is a toy or object that geocachers move around from one cache to another. You're encouraged (though not obligated) to leave something behind. The fun part is searching for the cache. Of course, finding it is even better!

In this sleuthing process, you're supposed to be subtle and discreet, avoiding the attention of muggles -- people who don't know about geocaching and might think you're nuts poking about in bushes and what not.

ford fiesta miami coral gables riviera parkFor our mission, I wanted to focus on geocaches in my neighborhood (South Miami/Coral Gables) but also take a little excursion down to Miami-Dade's agricultural zone, the Redlands.

We started at Riviera Park, a patch of green and Royal Poinciana trees across Publix, right near the border of South Miami by Red Road. We totally sucked at this one! The GPS put us right on the high-traffic corner of this urban area and it was impossible to be subtle. We did find that the City of Coral Gables left the phone switchboard WIDE OPEN for anyone to tamper with ... hello?

Next stop, historic Pinewood Cemetery on beautiful Erwin Road. An important pioneer family, the Wagners, lived nearby in the 19th century. The original home still stands, but I've yet to confirm with historian Dr. Paul George about its exact location.

Anyway, this lush area is home to one of Miami's first cemeteries. Old timer Miami folks, some of them even civil war veterans, rest here. The site has been beautifully preserved with native vegetation and features the live oaks festooned with clingy Spanish moss that are common around here. It's a lovely, peaceful place for a pleasant stroll in the shade. In case you get all creeped-out by the thought of walking over dead bodies, don't worry -- the tombstones are not particularly prominent and if you didn't know it was a cemetery, you might think it was a park. Here, tucked by the roots of a tree, we scored our first geocache -- but I won't tell you EXACTLY where it is!

(Note: At this point in the adventure, we figured out that when you get out of the car, you're supposed to change the settings on your GPS from automobile to pedestrian. This way, you'll get a far more accurate reading.)

ford fiesta miami geocacheAfterward, we headed to Pinecrest Gardens, the former grounds of Parrot Jungle. This FREE park is one of my favorite places in the world and one of Miami-Dade County's best kept secrets. The grounds are lavish -- all manner of tropical specimens, including a unique Talipot palm, as well as the biggest banyan tree you'll probably ever see (and walk through!) -- are just two of the main botanical attractions. We found our second geocache here, but again, I won't spoil the surprise. (It's bad enough we caught it all on video and camera.)

At this point, we had worked up an appetite and headed down to the Redlands for a key lime shake at Robert is Here. Brad also indulged in his favorite food -- boiled peanuts. We tried to find a geocache at the Everglades Outpost wildlife refuge, but didn't have any luck, so we went straight to El Nachito, a great, little inexpensive Mexican restaurant near Homestead Air Force Base. Tucked away in some nondescript mall, seemingly in the middle of nowhere (the area remains desolate after Hurricane Andrew), El Nachito is worth the trip for authentic, fresh dishes. (Read more about El Nachito over at Miami Beach 411.)

Geocaching or not, do yourself a favor and follow the same itinerary for a great day tooling around urban Miami's most densely forested region at little cost except for gas and food. Pinewood Cemetery and Pinecrest Gardens are two very special and FREE Miami locations for enjoying a beautiful, subtropical natural environment, in spite of the fact that both are located within residential neighborhoods. Trust me, after you see these locations you'll think South Beach is a barren concrete jungle! Also, skip the Turnpike and take Old Cutler Road down to the Redlands, too. Finish it off with some delicious Mexican food at an affordable mom-and-pop restaurant. If you go, tell the owner, an army veteran, that those crazy Ford Fiesta people sent you!

As for geocaching, I gotta tell ya, I'm hooked! And I'm definitely going to continue geocaching, even beyond the scope of this Ford project.


June's Ford Fiesta mission theme was technology and as far as GPS is concerned, I'm sold. Even though I'm one of those persons with internal GPS (I have a great sense of direction), I use the device all the time now.

Other places to stop and enjoy greenery, but not free: Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and Deering Estate. FREE: Matheson Hammock, including the nature trail on the west side of Old Cutler Road. Also, Pinecrest is not designated as an official Tree City USA for nothin' ... the title was awarded by the National Arbor Day Foundation.

Want to travel virtually? See a Qik video of Pinewood Cemetery I shot in March, unrelated to this mission.

By the way, my leg is doing much better! I'm off the cast and I've actually driven the car a few times, but I'll save that for another blog post.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Food: Kafa Café

kafa cafeEbe Tedla, owner of Kafa Café, shows off a pot of aromatic Doro Wot.

You first heard about Kafa Café from me when I volunteered at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden's Mango Festival last year. Kafa Café was a vendor at the event, serving such great Ethiopian food, I went back for seconds the next day of the festival.

Kafa Café opened two years ago in midtown Miami. While waiting for permits from the City of Miami to serve beer and wine for dinner, and while revamping the kitchen to accommodate a large exhaust fan above the stove, the restaurant focused on American-style breakfast and lunch service.

Fast forward to May, when I attended the 100 Days of Obama event held at Kafa Café and enjoyed yet another plate of incredible food. Ethiopian cuisine is now available for dinner, which is something I'd been looking forward to since last summer.

It paid to be patient. As owner Ebe Tedla told me: "We weren't in a hurry. We wanted to do things right."

And right they did. Kafa Café is just east of the tracks in midtown, on the periphery of the Design District. While the locale is small and unassuming, the food is far from it. I like to think my palette is sophisticated, but not jaded enough, to ever tire of such bold flavors. Even Thai, which I love, seems to pale in comparison.

Ebe told me he hired and flew in a cook from Ethiopia to oversee food preparation, though members of Ebe's family, including his co-owner sister, are involved in running the restaurant. Dry ingredients, such as beans, spices and teff, the grain that makes Injera bread, also come from the mother country.

ethiopian foodAt the Obama event, I was just as impressed as I was at Fairchild last year when I sampled a platter of all the Ethiopian classics. Injera bread is spongy and slightly sour; shaped like a tortilla, it helps mop up all the sauces, lentils and vegetables made with fragrant spices -- garlic, ginger, red peppers, tumeric -- to name a few.

All served up on a plate, Ethiopian food may look sloppy to those not yet seduced by its heady flavors. And the idea of using Injera as well as your fingers instead of cutlery may be a turn off to dainty eaters. But trust me, each item on that plate is clearly distinguishable, bite by bite. And as for eating with your hands? No different than pizza or fried chicken or petit fours! Get over it and dig in. (Cutlery is also available, of course.)

ethiopian honey wineEthiopian Honey Wine helps wash it all down and if you like sweet, you'll be in heaven. Imagine something slightly lighter than honey itself, well-chilled, providing the perfect compliment to the savory food.

Now, I'm a heat freak when it comes to spices, but the food I sampled was not overwhelmingly spicy at all, which is good news for those who prefer moderate to low heat.

Ebe and his family take great pride in their work. He told me he was happy to host the Obama event because he feels compelled to be connected with the community. "We help each other," he said. By offering an inexpensive yet abundant buffet, and by hosting the event at the restaurant, Ebe helped support a number of community non-profits looking to recruit volunteers.

In a city with come-and-go restaurants, it's refreshing to see a hard-working family supporting local causes and providing great food at reasonable prices. As of today, you won't spend more than $15 on any entrée.

My favorites: Doro Wot (chicken with berbere, a red pepper sauce with seasoned butter) and the Kik Alitcha, (split yellow peas). The Yatakilt Wot (chopped cabbage, carrots and potatoes), as well as Gomen Wot (collard greens), make the perfect accompaniments.

The food at Kafa Café is delicious and even more so because it's home-cooked and unpretentious. We like that kind of thing around here! For me, it's like comfort food with an exotic twist. Come here enough and I'm sure you'll feel the same way.

Kafa Café serves some Ethiopian items at lunch, but the full menu is available only at dinner.

Kafa Café
3535 Northeast Second Avenue
Miami, FL 33137
(305) 348-0114
Breakfast 8:30 am - 11:00 am
Lunch 11:00 am - 2:30 pm
Dinner 5:00 pm to 10:oo pm
Closed Mondays


A sneak-peek behind the scenes in Kafa Café's kitchen with owner Ebe Tedla and other members of the family.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Book Review: Ignore Everybody by Hugh MacLeod

Today represents a career milestone for my friend Hugh MacLeod. June 11 is the official launch of his print book, Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity. This 159-page hardback is classic Hugh -- words of wisdom and wit studded with his business card-sized cartoons.

The book is based on a series of blog posts Hugh published at Gaping Void, collectively titled How To Be Creative, which has been downloaded over a million times.

There's something to be said about seeing the old blog posts in the form of a book. It sure is nice to be able to hold these little nuggets of wisdom in your hand, which is a fitting product, considering that Hugh originally started out by drawing quirky cartoons on the back of business cards.

Rewind back to New York City, circa 1997. Hugh had a freelance copywriting gig that turned into a permanent job. In his early Manhattan euphoria, Hugh hung out in bars and drew on the back of business cards because it was a portable and practical art form: " ... there's a lot to be said for an art form that fits easily inside your coat pocket." He handed out his drawings freely, to anyone who was interested. And once back in the UK by 2001, he started blogging, sharing his art and writing with the world.

Hugh's book reads like a collection of sutras followed by an explication, often in the form of a personal anecdote. You can read this book from beginning to end, but you can also open up any random chapter, sit back and let the lovely thoughts linger, like a good scotch on your tongue. Return to the book, time and time again, for inspiration.

Hugh tackles the obvious subjects that shore up for many creative types: ignoring those negative voices (the ones inside your head and the ones coming from others), recognizing and honoring your creative passions, prosperity consciousness, loneliness, frustration, boundaries and most importantly -- sticking to your guns, being true to yourself, no matter what the obstacles or maybe precisely because of the obstacles.

Hugh encourages readers to develop their own "creative sovereignty," which is something I whole-heartedly believe in. If you are really driven to pursue your art, no matter what it is, you will find the way to do it and not dilly-dally with distractions: "If you're arranging your life in such a way that you need to make a lot of fuss between feeling the itch and getting to work, you're putting the cart before the horse."

But it does take time to figure it out: "The most important thing a creative person can learn professionally is where to draw the red line that separates what you are willing to do from what you are not."

I admit, it's easy for me to relate to everything Hugh says, because I'm in the same creative zip code, more or less. But that's besides the point -- what I love about this book is that it's refreshingly practical and accessible -- open up any chapter and you've got a nice little thought-provoking "aha!" moment, perhaps accompanied by a much needed "wake up!" slap on the wrist. Hugh's not coming from some lofty ivory tower, but from a real process of hard work and grit. He's not preachy; he's simply sharing what he has learned along his path.

It all boils down to being an efficient human, somewhere along the path of being creative and making a living. Hugh's book can be inspiring to many, even those who are not drawing or writing. The forty keys to creativity are applicable to many situations.

(By the way, Hugh continues to draw cartoons, but his work has evolved beautifully -- full size prints, some of which I've seen in person, are available for purchase online. My favorite so far is Fred 44. Oh, and he has also been known to draw cartoons on arms.)

Kudos to Hugh. We're looking forward to the next one!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Holy Papi Chulo! Hurricane Season Boyfriend 2009

storm photo by pelleb No mojito here. Perfect weather for a Dark and Stormy (rum and ginger ale).
Photo by Pelle B

We're about one week into hurricane season and Miami has already seen some epic storms blow through town, leaving South Beach more bloated than a hungover tourist, which proves once again that no one should ever be complacent about these crazy little things called hurricanes.

Last Friday was a weather reality check. Hail, pelting rain, lightning and quick, rising water took the barrier island by surprise and was less welcome than Kim Kardashian's camel toe, believe it or not. Multiply that by ten, and keep "Club Storm" open for a few more hours, and you have yourself a world-class weather disaster destination.

Oh, and speaking of things that should never happen (like camel toe), it seems that part of of a ceiling structure at the Fountainbleu Hotel collapsed, which makes us believe that Paris Hilton was the head engineer in the bazillion dollar remodeling project of this iconic Miami Beach property. Perhaps it was just pasted up with paper-mache and fake eyelash glue?

In any case, time will only tell how many hotels and condos are not built up to hurricane code, if the whole city falls apart after a couple hours of serious rain. Taxi drivers sitting on the roofs of their cars. Traffic backed up on the causeway for hours. Whew! A typical summer cluster fuck afternoon thunderstorm wreaks such havoc on Miami Beach ... imagine a threatening mass of horror looming over the Atlantic!

So in true South Florida fashion, instead of actually building safe structures at the edge of barrier islands and improving civic engineering, let's muster all our resources and avoid hurricanes altogether ... which brings me to the big announcement. Who shall be this year's Hurricane Season's Boyfriend?



You see, this year, we aren't just going to pick a Hurricane Season Boyfriend. We're going to pick a Hurricane Season Man of God. And who, my friends, who better than this than Father Alberto Cutié? He not only got his wafer, he got to eat it too!

father alberto cutie god bless himJust look at him! There he is ... it's so obvious he's got a private mobile phone line to G-O-D. He'll keep our beaches storm-free and the lifeguard stands standing!

Father Alberto Cutié, a man of the cloth who makes women stick their tongues out in hopes of receiving enlightenment, was caught in flagrante delicto by paparazzi while he was fooling around on a beach with his lover. The scandal broke about a couple of months ago, right before hurricane season. Coincidence? I think not. God does work in mysterious ways!

The holy man has since moved on and is spreading the word of God through the Episcopalian church, currently as a lay minister. Rumor has it he will also marry his lady friend.

You see, at this point, we don't want to prepare for hurricanes! We want a sexy hunk to actually pray to God and keep those suckers from reaching our shores. Good Lord! Even though we know Holy Papi Chulo is getting some, surely he's not succumbing to earthly delights every red hot second of the day. For Christ's sake, he's Father Alberto, not Ron Jeremy!

All of that celibate energy can go toward a good cause, so let's pray the hurricanes away. And who better to finger those beads against these menacing storms than someone who inspires tempests of passion in the hearts of devoted women?

And who are we kidding? Truth be told, in the real spirit of Christian compassion, we don't give a shit if the storms hit somewhere else, we just want to breathe that collective sigh of relief: "Whew, thank God it wasn't us this time! Holy Papi Chulo, crack open that wine and come minister to me!"


There are other reasons I chose Father Alberto. God has good taste and is a practical deity. Those nice biceps bulging through those crisp white cotton shirts? They're just just right for putting up shutters. But Holy Papi Chulo also has the gift of gab, which means he can rally volunteers and help those in need, like people who lose their homes in storms, as well as single sex-starved women -- you know, real emergencies.

And what's more, if the man was willing to engage in carnal knowledge on the sand (what? that's another way of saying Sex and the Beach, people!), what kind of blessed communion wouldn't he be willing to do during a storm? After all, if he can own his mistake in an act of contrition, 'fess up and marry his lady friend, he's already doing a lot better than some assholes out there who act holier-than-thou but don't have a blessed bone in them. Surely, this is clear evidence of God's handiwork!

At the very least, us single ladies can fantasize about this while the tiles are being blown off the roof. Look, what better cloth to hide under in times of peril? Call it the Frock of Ages.

I'll stop now ... before God strikes me down for bad puns.

I wish everyone a healthy, happy and uneventful hurricane season. I also wish everyone a healthy, happy and eventful sex life now and in all weather situations. That includes you, dear Father Alberto. God bless.


I would like to thank those who nominated other great machos for this season. These were:
I nominate myself. I also accept the nomination and promise to do my hardest to be a good HB.

Where is a picture of you and Vin Diesel?! With this much heat, you need a man who will be able to handle the Manola hurricane inside!

Manola, Your Hurricane Boyfriend has to be Father Alberto Cutie, everyone's favorite naughty priest....but you're going to have to share him with the beach woman.

Ashley Jude
If I was a gal, I'd nominate that wild and wacky Russell Brand or so intellectually funny Eddie Izzard to hunker down with. Brits are always good for this — funny, kinky, sometimes intelligent, like moi. And like a box of chocolates, you never know. . . Oh, and Hurricane Barracuda is a great name. But how about Hurricane Izzard? We just have regular quakes over here. . .so good luck with Hurricane season!

I nominate Dean Winchester from Supernatural on the CW- he can kill demons, he can certainly handle Hurricane Barracuda!

I nominate Johnny Depp - A timeless classic, at least in my mind. He is fiercely sexy, intellectual and quirky, all of which would culminate into hours of deeply passionate, creative..... conversation (get your mind out of the gutter! well, no, you know what I was really going to say) Best of all, he is from here, so he isn't afraid of any little hurricane!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Ford Fiesta First Mission - Memorial Day

fiestamovement miami ford fiesta south beach memorial day
Brad and I had a few hours to laze and tool around, a great deal of patriotic sentiment and what's more, $300 to spend. But on a rainy Miami Memorial Day, what could we do? And me hobbling around in a cast boot. Pfft!

Brad picked me up in South Miami and we drove toward South Beach. On the way there, we detoured to Key Biscayne, hoping we could have a late lunch at No Name Harbour in Bill Baggs State Park, but guess what? We couldn't get in to Bill Baggs! Since when does a state park pull a velvet rope? Oh yeah -- that and much more: police cars blockading the park entrance. Hello? I thought it was only South Beach that was on lock down!

OK. Then Brad mentioned Jimbo's. I said I'd never been to Jimbo's. Oh boy. I might as well have told him his grandmother wore army boots or something, because he gently slammed the breaks, made a fabulously smooth turn (the Fiesta does have a great turning radius) and off we were east bound on Virginia Key to this squatter's village (aka beer and smoked fish joint) by the bay water's edge.

Now, I had hung out here many times in my so-called youth -- there used to be a limestone quarry near the sewage treatment plant that my friends and I called "the moon" because it was a crater-like space, surrounded, as it was, by nothing more than the sky, stars and moonlight above on bright nights. This was a really groovy yet creepy place. Unbelievably, in spite of the the fact that Virginia Key is flatter than a flapjack, you could actually drive your friend's Mustang down into the crater and then rev the engine vroom! vroom! to go up out. This semblance of hilly countryside was the place we used to escape to, back in the mid- and late-80s, for drinks, smokes, smooches and what not.

I thought I knew this place like the back of my hand, but no -- apparently Jimbo's has been around far longer than that. Never mind that I used to pee on the water's edge, but that's another story. Oh, and I absolutely, never, ever, ever made out with a cute guy here either. I swear!

Well, wouldn't ya know! While at Jimbo's I bumped into an old high school buddy. His name is N and he used to be an Adonis who ran the rickshaws in Coconut Grove. (Actually, he still looks pretty hot, but I never made out with him.)

I also bumped into a few other characters, but these asked me for money. If you go to Jimbo's, make sure you bring extra cash for those special, unrequested souvenirs that support the local economy, and of course, you'll want a cold beer or two, a game of Bocce Ball and some smoked fish.

I really liked Jimbo's. These places keep Miami real -- it's like Fox's meets Gilligan's Island -- and then some.

Afterward, in our search for continued yet patriotically-minded hedonism, Brad and I headed toward Rusty Pelican. Now, it seems that they only serve a partial menu between lunch and dinner, so we had to settle with cocktails and appetizers. The view of Biscayne Bay was beautiful, in spite of the thunderstorm and the Disney-like Polynesian decor. Somehow, I felt, that we were still in Gilligan mode, with Thurston Howell playing host.

But this romance with a beloved 60s TV series would soon end as we rolled down Rickenbacker Causeway toward Biscayne, the epicenter of all things Miami cool and modern. Through a waning yet nasty thunderstorm, we drove through the boulevard of Mary Brickell's dreams and headed toward South Beach, where we were determined to find a parking space on Ocean Drive during the busiest and most controversial day of the year.

But actually, by Monday afternoon, what with the gross weather and all, it wasn't so bad. Yeah, there were a lot of dudes wearing pants down to their asses and I saw way more cellulite than I might see in a infomercial "before" graphic, but you know what? Who gives a shit? If you're going to wear it, fucking OWN IT. And everybody I saw on the beach that day was so owning it, even if some of it was vulgar. I'd rather see ten so-called imperfect bodies inhabited by happy souls than ten so-called perfect bodies inhabited by plastic personalities.

Anyway, Brad managed to find a little space on Ocean Drive where I could get out of the car and hobble over to interview Sam Feldman of Veterans for Peace. The memorial was moving, sad, utterly beautiful and confusing among the revelry just across the street. It represented a crazy juxtaposition of life and death.

Well, after that whole experience, Brad and I had a major dilemma: we still had money to spend! So, being totally over the Ocean Drive crowd (we were expecting major eyewitness news drama, but there was none), we headed over to The Delano, where it was as dead as the batteries on my dildo!

Mind you, I did meet an interesting and somewhat tipsy British tourist though. He took verbal note of my fedora and my cleavage, and insisted on taking my photograph, yet he refused to have his photograph taken because (I swore to secrecy!) his brother is a famous film director of photography who has nothing to do with Madonna's ex-husband.

Oh -- and Brad practically made out with the white fur throw that covered the divan inside the lobby. But other than that, the Delanus was pretty uneventful.

From there, we decided to hit Tantra, a restaurant neither of us had ever been to (Tantra just seemed way more interesting than Joe's Stone Crabs, at this point). We enjoyed a fabulously delicious, filling meal (Brad's was vegetarian) and incredible service, even if the bartender forgot to rinse out the shaker for my martini (an issue that was quickly resolved). Mind you, tantra "purists" may find the menu description of the practice a bit kitschy, but the food, however, will fool no one with its flavor and preparation.

If you're romantically inclined and in the mood for giving your taste buds something delectable, go there with the idea that it's food foreplay. Call ahead and make sure you dine early before all the club bullshit. You really should go there to enjoy the food, the decor and most importantly, each other.

Anyway, can you believe we walked out of here with money to spare? Unbelievable! We actually didn't manage to spend our budget and this included valet parking at The Delano! And you thought I was kidding when I said you could do South Beach on $5000 a day! Tsk, tsk!

Our first Ford Fiesta mission, including the collaborative work afterward on the video was a great pleasure. I'm so happy I recruited Brad on this project. Not only does he drive like nobody's business, he's also a great video editor. I'm totally looking forward to the next mission ... and by then, I may even be driving the car (if I can wrestle Brad off the steering wheel)!



"Antartic Moon" courtesy of Danosongs.com