Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Dreaming & Hoping Of Brighter Futures

I am what you might call a frustrated entrepreneur. I do a lot of thinking and I have a lot of business ideas, just not the money to act out on them. Its not that I am all that interested in money, I like money and what it can provide as much as the next man, but it is way down on my list of priorities of what's important in life. My business ideas tend to be more inspired by the spirit of potential, rather than monitory gain for myself. I see things that are being underused or undervalued and sometimes I just want to give it new life.

When I first came to Salt Lake I was surprised at how empty the Downtown area was. There was hardly any shops in the center of the city of any note, and you didn't see too many people walking around it was unlike any city center that I had seen before. It has since been improved by the LDS Church's investment in the up market City Creek shopping mall that opened this year, but for years Salt Lake City had nothing to entice people away from shopping at the malls in the suburbs, other than a few restaurants here and there. That lack of focus on the downtown area by the city planners meant a lot of business just shut up and closed leaving empty buildings in their wake.

Seeing buildings like that just makes my mind work overtime. I see potential instantly. However I also see reality. Getting something to survive in such an environment when others have failed before them is a hard task. Yet my mind will just continue to tick tick tick like a Mumford and Sons song beat until it comes up with something that could bring new life to that building or area of town. It is frustating as hell because I don't have the money to make any of these ideas work. I hate it, sometimes I wish my mind would just shut up and leave me the hell alone. In another life I would be like one of those crazy homeless people you sometimes see,  talking to myself and in the same breath telling myself to 'shut the hell up', all whilst falling over my shopping trolley probably. Thankfully I am not quite that bad, yet, but my mind frustrates nonetheless.

That said I really do have an idea right now that I really would like to make work. There is a building near downtown that has been lying empty for what looks like at least 15 years, probably more, but in truth I have no idea I've only been here 3 and half years myself.  For all intensive purposes its pretty soulless building that in its current state really brings the area around it down. Its just a large empty unit with broken windows that looks like it at one point had an industrial purpose that has long since moved on and the building itself has now lost its purpose. Obviously noone has seen much in it since, not when there is newer more modern alternatives elsewhere.

Yet when I look through those broken windows I don't just see bricks walls, metal rafters in the roof and a huge empty concrete floor. I see people. I see the people that once used that building. I'm like the little boy in The Sixth Sense - I see dead people.Yes the wife really should be worried that I might just be that close to cuckoo land.

Seriously though I'm European in my outlook. I see the ghostly remnants of a buildings past use and it makes me sad when I see a building empty like that and that area of town becoming run down. I don't want to see that building demolished by the city to be replaced by another and then 40/50 years later that replacement building suffering the same fate. This building isn't exactly an architectural masterpiece that needs to be saved but it is here now, it could be reused now that gives something back to its city and neighbours.

Salt Lake City isn't what I would call a big city. It has a little more than a third of the population of Glasgow, and yet it is the biggest city in Utah, and is probably bigger than any city in Idaho or Wyoming, its neighboring States. So with that in mind I think it should have a big city mentality. It should have a downtown area that draws people in from those states.

I see something in that small empty industrial unit that could help give SLC a little kick in that regard. People are getting interested in food like they haven't done for decades. With the internet, foodies have evolved. People want good food. Some want to know where there food is coming from. Many want to know its local. Others want specialised food, or just want to try new things. That empty unit with its large concrete floor could be a market for meat, fruit or veg or fish traders, or a mixture of all three if health and safety allowed. It could predominantly be for local businesses but also bring in a few specialised traders from the neighbouring States to fill up the space. It could be a place where the small spread out SLC Jewish population finds its Kosher food. Where I could find good quality lamb or Bacon. Where South Americans could find producers thats are willing to cater for the demand of specialised cuts of meat. A one stop shop for all the restaurants of the city to visit in the early morning before cooking in the evening.

Whilst it will mostly be for local people to use, it would also help the city to get a reputation as a place to find good food, which could over time help the city grow its reputation in travel and food magazines as well as the blogosphere. That in itself could only help to revive downtown further with time.

A building used for that purpose shouldn't need too much in the way of investment, and it probably won't make my family rich from rental space on the floor to small traders but I can't help thinking that it would make life in downtown that bit more lively and richer as a result.

Now how to get this rolling......Eh!

Friday, 28 September 2012

I love my Wife. I love my food. I am a man of simple pleasures but it doesn't get much more pleasurable than that. Sadly though when my wife and I first got together I realised that she didn't have a healthy relationship with food. It was obvious to me when we went out and about that she loved her food. But it was a love that was guilt ridden at home. A meal at home could consist of a salad that would take a couple of days to eat. I never have been much good at eating like that. Once I get started I tend to have a very healthy appetite, and as much as I love eggs, I don't think I could put up with many more eggs than we had in the first few weeks we were together. It seemed early on in our new relationship my wife was eating for the sake of eating and not for any enjoyment. I could understand why, she worked hard to lose some weight before we met and had no intention of putting it back on. After years of feeling like the fat girl since her teenage years she was finally feeling like she was in a shape that she was proud of and here was I coming along trying to spoil it.

I of course was trying to do no such thing. I just love food. I love my wife. I love seeing her enjoy something as much as I do. I wanted to see her enjoy her food again without vilifying it or having a sort of Jekyll and Hyde dysfunctional relationship with it. Food for me wasn't about counting calories (granted I am flaco) but about flavour, about combinations of foods that we enjoy and crave. I wanted to see my wife enjoy food for its flavour and not worry so much about what calories it may contain. Granted though I don't just love food I love good food, as much as I like eating out I love a good home cooked meal. A meal where I know what's in it. I wanted her to introduce me to Chilean food  and the months that followed she did so. It might have taken a few weeks to finally stop eating eggs at home, but 3 years in my wife's relationship with food as grown in leaps and bounds. Her love for food, and cooking,  has come on so much that she has ambitions of kicking the day job aside in a few years and opening her own restaurant.

Even today though she will have issues with her body. There are good days and bad days and sadly in the bad days she doesn't see how far she has come form her earlier adult years and how she is no longer that girl that she still sees in the mirror. I can be impatient at times when she sees one girl looking back at her and I look to the photographs of her bigger days. She left that body long ago. Whereas there are times when my wife struggles to love her body I love my wife's curves. I would much rather watch her enjoy her food and stay the shape she is than starve herself on eggs or yoghurt and cottage cheese and watch her lose 30 lbs. I would much rather watch her ambitions fly than see them trapped inside a cocoon. I am proud to watch her grow and proud that I have in my small way nurtured it.

Happy Birthday my dear, we're both far from perfect but I'm proud of and love the journey we have taken together the last 3 years or so. Let's keep travelling, improving, growing and aging.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

And So The Neighbours Were Right - Almost!

As the leaves begin to fall the garden is starting to finally get some rest bite from the hot days of Summer, it was 89 degrees even just yesterday. When we first moved here all the neighbours said we couldn't grow a garden here.

Too much shade, too much snow in the winter, seasons too short was the reasoning.

That first year they were pretty much right. The garden hadn't been used in any capacity in years other than as an adventure playground for the voles underneath the turf. I spent much of that first year taking out the badly laid turf that the landlord had put in not that long before. I felt somewhat bad about it but the voes had dug tunnels underneath and the was falling down holes here, there and everywhere. It was then we were concerned that the kids weren't eating as well as they should so I thought taking out the grass that was most affected by the voles and making a vegetable garden would be a good idea. The neighbours of course thought it was a crazy idea.

I soon thought so too when I discovered underneath the grass was the same rocks that our driveway was made from. What should be an easy enough job of taking out the grass and adding compost took me a good couple of months of pulling out stone after stone to put it right. That made a short season even shorter. Tomatoes didn't ripen until they were sitting on plates on the kitchen table at the end of October.

This year was going to be better. After all I did much of the preparation work the year before. There wasn't even all that much snow until Spring. Soon, even that small amount disappeared and I was stuck in planting Basil, Cucumber, Peas, Spinach etc to get the garden filled with cold weather crops while the Tomatoes and Peppers were growing under a light in the spare bedroom. Two to three weeks into the Spring weather and Summer temperatures were here already. The basil not fully underway yet, disappointingly curled up and died. The Spinach thrived. The peas started off well enough before they decided screw this was beans weather. The few peas we did get were really tasty but ultimately were just a tease of what could have been. The cucumbers didn't do anything. Again the cabbages started off well enough but as the temperatures got hotter and hotter and summer went on and on they too seemed to be coming to nothing. One cabbage here, and another there would be like a magnet for white fly and would get pulled by the roots to save the other crops.

Neighbours 2 and 0.

It got to the stage that I was feeling guilty using so much water at night when the rain wasn't falling. I would water one  part of the garden one night, and another part another night but no where near enough considering the mercury was hitting between 95 and 104 daily.

Then finally late August the night time temperatures started to ease. Thats when the cabbages that had survived the whitefly attacks began to grow once more. Beets and Shard matured. Carrots were lifted and soon discovered to have so much more flavour than bought carrots that I was chastised for not planting more.

Then worthy of a Mormon miracle Cucumbers I had long given up on started to appear. Now I'm wondering what the hell to do with so much cucumber.


 Cucumber - yes cucumber. Sikkim cucumber to be precise. Yet to taste this asian cucumber but it should be an interesting change.
 Pattypan squash.

Seems that despite this long hot summer you can grow a garden here after all. Lets call it - Neighbours 2, Me 1, for now. I already have my instructions for next year. More carrots, more shallots, and that i'm sure is just a start and with a bit more experience with the conditions I should be able to call it a draw next year.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Summer Is Over

The long Hot Utah Summer was a struggle to get through but now that that the cooler temperatures are returning  the days are a lot more pleasant. No matter the season we are blessed to live where we do. Drive 15 minutes one way and we are in Downtown Salt Lake, drive 10 minutes the other way and we can take the dog for a walk in puppy heaven.

Actually we can do that pretty much by walking outside beyond our back garden but this area that we like to walk is exceptionally beautiful, and the dog practically cries as we get closer to our destination. We don't know whether to laugh at that or not, she really is a pathetic little mutt.

  The Fall colours definitely arrived earlier this year, with the long hot summer and no rain many of the trees in the slopes behind the house changed in early August when the trees just seemed to give up. Thatsaid there is still plenty of colour around, it just might be over sooner than last year.

 I love the reflection of the leaves in the water here, so much I had to capture it twice.


With late evening strolls like this just on our doorstep why would we want to live in the suburbs with all their identikit boxes and no trees.

Now if only we could get the money together to buy some of the vacant land that we have our eye on here here life truly would be sweet.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

I wasn't too surprised that the Belarussian Shot Putter was stripped of the Gold Medal for doping. When I turned on the recording and watched the putt being thrown in the air I was seriously questioning the accuracy of the commentator in regards to whether I was watching the men's or the women's event. It was only when I saw the next contestant step up that I realised the commentator was right and I was wrong. It wasn't the haircut, or the face that threw me, it was the build. I really thought she just looked like a big burly man. So when it turned out that she failed a drugs test it wasn't a surprise in the least.

Finding out that the winner of the long distance walk from Beijing couldn't defend his Gold medal because of a failed drug test now that is just ridiculous, almost pathetic. I know its an endurance sport, but come on what happened to good old fashioned practice?

Watched For Two Weeks And Missed Out

First of all I was pleasantly surprised at how good a job London did at hosting the Olympic games. I have to admit my expectations were not high.

Looking back I previously thought London was a strange choice for hosting the Games when you consider that London had already hosted the Games twice previously.

I also felt a tinge of pity for the city of Manchester considering they had tried and failed in two bids to host the two previous games. However with hindsight I do think that London was the perfect city in the UK to host the games, for one reason and one reason only, London has no qualms about spending money. Whereas in other areas of the UK, and Scotland in particular we are very apologetic about it, almost to the point that our ambition is hampered by it. London though will hear the arguments against spending money on this aspect, or that, and will go ahead and do it anyway.

Anyway enough about London, the Olympics is not about cities, its about individual stories. Its about stories, of attrition, of triumph, of overcoming the odds. Sadly TV producers here seem to miss this point. American tv coverage is boring. The vast majority of the time you sit in front of the box you get the opportunity to watch America winning. You don't even get top to see a proper introduction of every competitor competing in the race or sport. You get to see the Americans, and the expected favourites challenging for the medals, but sometimes the stories of players, supposedly just making up the numbers can be just as interesting. The Olympics isn't just about a few amazingly talented Americans, its about the world, its about every competitor, good or bad, giving it their all.

Luckily I was exposed to the BBC coverage in Olympics past. So I've seen plenty of Brits win medals. But whilst those Brits were winning or losing I would also see other unbiased coverage. I've watched as Africans have ran, and won barefoot. I've saw American gymnastic girls celebrate as they win gold when one member of the team has a perfect landing whilst breaking ligaments. I've seen so many amazing stories of Olympians in the past, not every one of them winners, that feed my hunger for watching ever four years.

Now I realise the BBC have an advantage over NBC in that they don't have to supply time for adverts in order to pay for the Olympic coverage. That does allow more time to show other competitors competing and their stories too. However I do think NBC have opportunities in their schedule to be a little more world focused.

I like beach volleyball, but I have no interest in watching USA 1 play USA 2. I know in such a game USA won before a ball is hit.  I would much rather have Ryan Seacrest do a short piece on lone female Afghan representive. The story of Tahmina Kohistani even making the games which a few years ago would be unthinkable under the Taliban is remarkable. Its even a story that should interest Americans. It brings home a good news story regarding the war in Afghanistan and terror. Here is a woman competing for her country when before she wouldn't have been allowed to have a proper education. Just in case people why people in middle America might be interested in such a piece it could be highlighted in the story that American men and women have given their lives and allowed this opportunity to occur. A short story on Tahmini might have then brought the coverage of the volleyball to a conclusion. Instead I had to read about it online.

The story behind the Olympians is more interesting to me than Phelps winning against people he was expected to beat.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Que Rico!

Falling in love with a Chilean woman in the US introduced me to new delights in the other love of my life - food. Food from the Spanish speaking part of the world was sadly lacking in my diet before I met the wife but we soon put that right.

Street Tacos

They might be cheap, simple and they might be available in every street corner in the Spanish speaking side of town but a good street taco hits the spot. I pity the fool who'd trust Taco Bell before the street vendor.


Just thinking about it now makes my mouth water. Probably my wife's mouth too if she is reading this. Ceviche is so very fresh. Very thinly sliced fish, cured by the citrus of lime and lemon, and is served with crisp red onion. It tastes like summer, well it would if the kids weren't so fussy.

Porotos Granados

I may be seen to have the Mexican job and the brown wife but my bum can not handle beans like a Mexican. That doesn't stop me loving beans. Especially when the wife makes the very Chilean dish Porotos Granados. I'm Scottish so I was brought up with a lot of soups but this sopas is like nothing I had before. Its freshness is indescribable if the person your are talking to hasn't had it. It could be the basil, the coriander (cilantro), the butternut squash, the lima beans or everything combined but I can't ever stop at one bowl of this soup no matter how full I may be.

Lomo Saltado

My first ceviche was a Peruvian ceviche after spending so much time in that restaurant we had to try other dishes. One dish that I had to have just about every time we went there was lomo saltado. It seems a simple enough dish just thin strips of marinated sirloin with tomato, rice and chips but so damn good. Thats the thing about Peruvian food they are simple enough dishes but so damn tasty.


Probably the first Chilean meal the wife ever made me and quickly went to the top in favourite food lists. Yet another soup, this time instead of being vegan like the Porotos Granados is made largely of minced meat, grated carrot, potatoes, and thin strips of pasta with a very unChilean dose of spicy chilli powder to give it a kick.

Chicharron De Pescado

One of my favorite dishes as a child was scampi. It was the first full adult sized meal I had when I was 3. My mother made the mistake of giving me some off her plate and then I scoffed down the rest. Scampi is just breaded shrimp and Chicharron De Pescado is a similar Peruvian meal that substitutes a mild flavoured light fish for the shrimp.

Tres Leches Cake

Being Scottish I not only have a love of soups but I have a very sweet tooth. One of my favourite dishes in the many Mexican grills around town has got to be the Tres Leches cake. A sponge cake soaked in evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream. Delicious. I could probably have two or three and a whole lot of strawberries in one sitting.

Now that I am thoroughly hungry I should probably make lunch.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Pictures May Follow Over the Coming Months

Looking at my garden today you wouldn't know it but I've never really been someone that grows too much of my own food. Working 6 or 7 days a week on other peoples gardens it was just too much effort to come home and do some more on my own garden at night. I would basically design my own garden with shrubs that required little maintenance but the bare minimum of weeding, and trimming and leave it to do its thing.

Then I got a wife. Who hadn't really had a garden. Who didn't really get to see too much of what I did for a living. And who loved food and is great in the kitchen. Thats when I decided I needed to introduce her to a new experience and so what if I was tired at night after working under the hot Utah sun during the day.

We love our food shows on TV and The F Word made me realise that a lot of us have become disconnected from where our food comes from, certainly our kids have. By growing what little we can of our own food we can choose our food for flavour and not just by looks. Supermarket tomatoes just aren't the same. Our kids can become connected with where our food originates and maybe have more interest in eating some veggies, and less ketchup.

I've also found that by growing our own food my wife gets excited by the "cute" and I get excited about gardening again though her excitement. Its no longer just how I earn my living and an aching back. I am rediscovering my enjoyment and passion through her discoveries. It seems that good gardeners make a good complementary team with good chefs.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

A Stubborn Person Deserves A Stubborn Dog

We've had the dog about 8 months, and yet we've only just got to the stage where we can trust her to go on walks with us without the leash (assuming there is no cars, cyclists or skateboarders around).

With tricks she can be pretty good (as long as there is something in it for her - usually bacon treats). We can get her to sit (which also generally works as an emergency controlling command when a car is coming when she is off her leash), lie down, roll over, take, beg and give me five (although with the use of two paws it more like ten).

We cannot get her to stop her attacking our socks. Although I suspect somechileanwoman might have trained her to attack socks deliberately. It's somewhat of a convenience that they both happen to hate socks.

Lately I've been trying to teach the dog fetch. I'm failing miserably. One thing I'm learning from this dog is that she does not do anything she does not want to do. Sure she will fetch the ball belonging to another dog. But not because she wants to play fetch. She doesn't even want the ball.The little slut just wants to be chased by said dog. I say slut, but really she's just a tease. Any time any boy dogs show any interest in her lady bits she soon shows them thats not part of the deal. Good girl.

Anyway I thought maybe I could teach the purpose of fetch away from all other distractions.

Not a chance. She will run at the thrown object, and then decide its beneath her to bring it back and go on a sniff fest instead.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

When winter finally draws to an end its usually a sign for us as a couple to think of where we might go to at the beginning of summer. Moab is a popular choice for us as we it was where we had our first holiday together and it helps that it's only a few hours away. However we realised last year that going away for our wedding anniversary meant two things, its damn hot at the end of May, and very crowded, with it also being Labor Day weekend so maybe this year we will have to go somewhere and leave Moab for later in the autumn.

It might be a chance this year to go further north and discover another part of the US, perhaps Wyoming or Montana where we won't see too much of this of thing. But now that these two foreigners are here it would be nice someday to discover for ourselves what treats all the 50 States have to offer.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Ready To Spring Into Action

By last year's standards its been a mild winter. There wasn't much snow at all this year.

Typically though, just when I thought I might have the chance of returning to work the weather would take a turn for the worse. One snow storm would come and go, to be followed by another.

I'm done being housebound. I am so over walking the dog for a couple of hours during the day just to pass the time.

I am ready for life to kickstart once again. I want an end to winter.

I'm not going to lie and say I'm ready for 95 degree weather once more. Far too Scottish for that, but I do want 60 hour work weeks. I do want BBQ's in the back yard. Home made burgers with fresh garden tomatoes.Corn & Hot Sauce.