Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Home of the "7 Pound Breakfast Burrito"

Yes, you heard that right -- a seven pound burrito!  Where is this behemoth burrito served, or more importantly, why is it even made? To find out those answers I'll show you one of my favorite places to eat Mexican food when I visit my children in Denver, Colorado:

It is Jack-N-Grill, at their flagship restaurant located at 2524 N. Federal Blvd in Denver -- seven blocks north of Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium on the east side of Federal Blvd. Here you can taste owner Jack Martinez's delicious New Mexican style Mexican cuisine, flavored with his fire roasted spicy green Socorro chilies.

The Jack-N-Grill has won many awards, as you can see by their wall of proclamations.  They are especially proud of being voted #13 in a poll conducted by The Travel Channel as "Americas 101 Tastiest Places to Chow Down Countdown."

Their menu is full of a selection of moderately priced entrees.

My family and I enjoy their assortment of combination or sampler plates.

We also like their selection of giant burgers. The Food Network Magazine included a Jack-N- Grill burger called "The Jaurez - South of the Border Monster Burger" in their best burgers issue of "50 States 50 Burgers."

My son loves their New Mexican Posole -- it is cooked with no meat, but green or red chili and a choice of shredded beef, chicken or pork, can be added.

But the star attraction is their giant 7 pound Breakfast Burrito, introduced as a "Can you eat it all?" challenge in 2003.  It is full of 6 pounds of grilled potatoes, 12 scrambled eggs,  1/2 pound of ham, 1/2 pound of cheese, onions and chilies--all wrapped in burrito shells and smothered with chili sauce and cheese. You can watch a video of it being made on this Youtube video.

A whole family, or group of friends, can order one 7 pound breakfast burrito to share.  If you take the challenge to eat it all by yourself, however, there are two rules: there is no time limit, and you are not allowed a bathroom break.  If a man finishes it, he does not pay, and he gets a photo of his face on their "Wall of Fame."  If a woman finishes it, she does not pay, and she also gets her photo placed on the "Wall of Fame," plus she gets to eat at any Jack-N-Grill for free, for life!   About one in twenty people that take the challenge are successful in eating the whole burrito.

The Travel Channel's "Man vs. Food" TV show host Adam Richman took the challenge and failed!  He ate a little more than a half and then threw in the towel. You can watch a time lapse video of his attempt on The Travel Channel on this link.

So, what do you think?  Could you eat it all?

I'm linking this post to the following blog events:

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

"YES!" to the Mother Of the Bride Dress!

When I helped my daughter say "Yes!" to her wedding dress last August, that she purchased for her upcoming spring 2012 wedding (you can read that on this post), the whole process was relatively easy. She happily found the dress of her dreams in one afternoon. Therefore I wasn't too worried at the time about finding my dress as the future Mother of the Bride.  I wanted to diet and exercise first, to drop a couple dress sizes if possible.  I felt like I had plenty of time to get that accomplished and began going to the gym.  Unfortunately, because of many unforseen events, I didn't lose as much weight I had hoped for.  I knew, however, I could no longer delay finding a dress as the wedding is now just a few months away.

My son's wedding  in 2004

I was still hopeful that the process would be painless.  I was able to find a dress for my son's wedding with relative ease, in a local dress shop eight years ago.  Of course, it helped that I was younger and thinner in 2004. I loved the Jasmine/Jade brand dress I wore, as it fit so perfectly right off the rack.  I didn't need one alteration!  Unfortunately, the dress shop I bought this dress from was no longer open, so I knew I would have to look elsewhere this time.

I was very excited to now be the Mother of the Bride, and wanted a very special dress. A quick Google search on the internet for "Mother of the Bride dresses, New York City," bought a plethora of links to formal dress web sites, both in online stores and "brick and motar" stores. I began a online Pinterest  "Mother of the Bride Dresses folder -- click here to see that--so I could save all my possible choices.  All the dresses I have pictured on this post can be found with their web source link if you go to my Pinterest folder and click on the dress and then click on it again when it opens to a larger photo.

I wore a navy blue dress for my son's wedding, so I thought a dress in a shade of pink would nice for my daughter's wedding.  I liked the scarlet pink color of the dress on the left in the photo collage above, but I didn't care for the fact it was sleeveless, with a bolero style jacket. I liked the middle dress color quite a bit, and at first glance I thought it had three quarter length sleeves, which was what I wanted. Then I remembered that the bridesmaids would be wearing purple, and this color was too close a match. Plus, on closer examination it didn't have sleeves, but another bolero jacket look. Perhaps a similar, but slightly darker shade of raspberry pink would be nice, like the dress on the right? I wasn't so sure such a form fitting dress would look attractive on my plus size figure.

I decided to refine my search and look for "plus size Mother of the Bride dresses." The plus size dress on the left in the collage above was nice, but I didn't want the color navy again, and this dress was only available in that shade.  Another search, this time for "MOB plus size dresses with three quarter length sleeves," and I found a few dresses such as the one above on the right.  Ah, this style is closer to what I had in mind. Dress selection can be limited for "in stock" dresses both online and in stores, so I looked into how I could order a dress I liked in another color. Oh, oh! It seems many dress designers require 12 -14  weeks, or more, to make a special order unless a "rush" cut is done for $50 to $100 more than the price of the dress!  Even with a rush cut it would make delivery of the dress very close to my daughter's wedding date.  I started to get nervous!

Since my Mother of the Groom dress was a Jasmine/Jade design dress, I decided to concentrate on their web site. I loved the teal color of the dress in the middle, but again, it had a bolero jacket.  I just don't think a bolero style jacket is complimentary to a plus size woman.  The jacket is meant to be removed after the wedding ceremony, but I would want to keep it on all evening to hide my less than toned arms, and it doesn't look very comfortable to me. I liked the style of the other Jade dresses in the collage above that short sleeves, but I knew I'd have to try them on to see how they would look on me.

I really, really, liked this La Belle design dress! The style and sleeves were what I thought I wanted. I began to call stores to see if they had this dress and the Jade dresses I liked in stock so I could try them on, as I hesitated to buy anything online without seeing how it looked on me.  What I found was that most dress shop owners do not reveal what dresses they have in their stock, but they all insisted they could help me find the dress of my dreams if I came in.

So I spent rhe week visiting stores where I squeezed and cajoled my figure into too small or too large dresses, with price tags that were double or triple for the price of the same dress online! I can understand that stores have high rent and employees salaries to pay, but it was hard for me to understand why their prices were so very inflated.  If you saw a dress priced at $400 online, would you feel happy paying over $1,000 for the exact same dress in a store?  One "plus size only" dress shop actually had all the dress designer labels replaced with her own labels, and all her dresses seemed to have been ordered very long, as almost all the dresses I tried on in her store dragged on the ground. I felt suspicious that this was her way to earn extra money on alterations. It seemed like they had quite a few deceptive practice to me, and I left that store quickly.

One fact I learned was that many formal dress stores only carry a limited selection of a brand's dresses, so finding a design online does not mean the store will have it available to try on. If you really like many of the dresses of one designer it pays to look for one of their "trunk shows" events, held at different shops at different times of the year, as that is the only way to have an opportunity to try on all the current seasons dresses of that designer.

The entire process of finding a dress was harder than I thought it was going to be, and I was spending quite a bit of time searching online and in stores.  I finally found a beautiful dress, and it surprised me!  It was different from all the dresses I looked at online.  I actually picked it to try on because I liked its teal color very much. Sometimes finding the right dress is pure serendipity!

Here is a sneak peek....

It's a Jasmine/Jade brand dress, in a beautiful teal color.  I even found my shoes and clutch bag in the same store.   I am so relieved to have finally said "Yes" to the dress!

Linking this post with the following blog events:

Mosaic Monday
Pink Saturday

Thanks to the blog hosts!
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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

As I wrote in my last blog post, two friends and I are beginning  to follow walking tours in the book
"Walking Brooklyn: 30 tours exploring historical legacies, neighborhood culture, side streets and waterways." by Adrienne Onofri. The first tour we decided to follow was a one and three-quarter-mile walk of the Clinton Hill neighborhood, bounded by Classon Avenue, Willoughby Avenue, Vanderbilt Avenue, and Gates Avenue.  In the late 19th century this neighborhood was one of the most prestigious addresses in Brooklyn, after Brooklyn Heights. Charles Pratt, Brooklyn's wealthiest resident at the time, a partner in Standard Oil with the J.D. Rockefeller, and a local philanthropist, built his mansion in 1875.  A number of Pratt's fellow tycoons, such as Pfizer, Bristol, and Liebmann (owner of the Reingold brewery) followed Pratt to "The Hill."  Pratt's biggest construction project was Pratt Institute, which I profiled in my last post.   Pratt's Higgins Hall is seen above.

The New York Police Department's 88th Precinct is housed in this unique 1890 brick building with a high conical tower. It was designed by George Ingram, the Assistant Engineer for the Brooklyn Department of City Works, in the mid-1880s, when he undertook to design the basic framework for new precinct houses in Brooklyn. The 88th Precinct (once called the 4th precinct) building remains one of his most visible designs still in use today.

The Convent of the Sisters of Mercy has maintained a presence in Brooklyn since 1855. At one time it housed both nuns and orphans who were under their care.  The facility was in need of extensive repairs, so the sisters sold the property and it is undergoing a conversion to an office building. This New York Times article tells the poignant story about the last nuns to leave the property. It will continue to house the Dorothy Bennett Mercy Center, a program that offers educational opportunities for the youth and elderly of the community.

Emmanuel Baptist Church, located at 279 Lafayette Avenue, was built in 1887 by Charles Pratt, a devout Baptist. It has one of New York's most spectacular church interiors, a rich mixture of stained glass, wood and elaborate stencil work, but unfortunately, they do lot allow photography inside.

The large building at 320 Washington Avenue is still inscribed "Graham Home For Ladies"  The home was founded in 1851 by John Graham, Esq. He donated this beautiful plot of ground upon which was built this noble 5 story brick building in the Greek Revival / Italianate style.  It operated for over a century, but after it closed the building deteriorated into a "fleabag" hotel.  Now that this neighborhood has become gentrified again, this building has been rehabilitated into expensive luxury condos.

A public playground and park are next door on Washington Street and Lafayette called Underwood Park, named for the typewriter mogul, John Thomas Underwood (1857-1937),  whose mansion once stood on this property.

Waverly Avenue held the carriage houses and stables for the wealthy, and many of these buildings have been converted into homes and private garages.

The Charles Pratt House at 232 Clinton Avenue, that was built in 1874, is a freestanding example of the transitional Italianate/neo-Greco style dwelling. It is now the Founders Hall of Saint Joseph's College.  Pratt also had mansions built directly across the street for his three sons as wedding presents.

The house on the left in the collage above, 241 Clinton Ave, was built by Pratt in 1890 for his son, Charles Millard Pratt. It is now the residence of Brooklyn's Roman Catholic Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio. The house in the upper right, at 229 Clinton Ave, is the Frederick B. Pratt home, now called the Caroline Ladd Pratt House. The house in the lower right, at 245 Clinton Ave., was the home of George Dupont Pratt, and built in 1901.  It is now part of Saint Joseph's College.

This beautiful classic Gothic Revival villa, at 284 Clinton Ave., is a rare gem.  It was the former William W. Crane House and was built in 1854.

Right next door at 278 Clinton Ave is a Queen Anne house, with Neo-Greco elements, circa 1884.

These two-century-old structures that stand side by side are, on the left, the Brooklyn Masonic Temple, at 317 Clermont Ave, assembled in 1908 by two architectural firms, Lord and Hewlett and Pell and Corbett, as a replica of King Solomon's Temple.  Only two other temples of this kind have been erected; one in Colorado and one in Egypt.  Next to it, with the address of  300 Vanderbilt Ave.,  is the very ornate Queen of All Saints Church, was built in 1911.

The left side portion of this yellow clapboard house, located at 200 Lafayette Ave., was built in 1812.  The rest was added on in the 1850s. It is one of the oldest houses in Brooklyn.  It is variously known as the Joseph Steele or the Steele-Brick-Skinner House, for its various past owners. It was built when Brooklyn was basically farmland with a few suburban villas. The Steele House is prized for being the largest and best remaining example of a wooden suburban mansion in the transitional Greek Revival/Italianate style now standing in any of the five boroughs.

Clinton Hill also contains many blocks of beautiful brownstones....

...and many other outstanding homes of all styles of architecture. 

My friends and I really enjoyed our walk and learning more about the history and architecture of the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn.  We look forward to our next neighborhood walk this week!

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Walking Brooklyn -- Pratt Institute

Two friends and I have decided to get more exercise by following walking tours from the book "Walking Brooklyn -- 30 tours exploring historical legacies, neighborhood culture, side streets and waterways" by Adrienne Onofri. Our first outing was to the historical Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, an area that was not well known to us, but one we were curious to see.

One of the places the tour took us to was through the front gates of Pratt Institute,  a private art college located at 200 Willoughby Avenue, in Brooklyn, New York. Pratt is one of the leading undergraduate art schools in the United States and offers programs in Architecture, Graphic Design, History of Art and Design, Industrial Design, Fashion Design, Jewelry Design, Illustration, Interior Design,  Digital Arts, Creative Writing, Library and Information Science, and other areas.

It was founded and endowed in 1887 by Charles Pratt (1830–1891), who was an early pioneer of the natural oil industry in the United States. An advocate of education and the arts, Pratt is credited with recognizing the growing need for trained industrial workers.

The enclosed landscaped 25-acre campus contains many historic buildings, which include a library, an athletic center and student residential buildings.

The entire Brooklyn campus is home to the Pratt Sculpture Park, the largest in New York City, and has featured sculptures by such artists as Richard Serra, Donald Lipski, and Mark di Suvero. The Pratt Sculpture Park is curated by Professor David Weinrib and was recognized as one of the 10 best college and university campus art collections in the country by Public Art Review in 2006.

Some of the interesting sculptures we saw on the campus.

A full slide show of the sculptures can be seen on the Pratt Institute website on this link.

Buildings on campus include the Library, Dekalb Hall, ISC Building, Main Building, North Hall, East Building, Student Union, Memorial Hall, Machinery Building, Chemistry Building, Engineering Building, Pratt Studios, Steuben Hall, and the ARC building. Many of the building were built between 1885 and 1936, and are on National Register of Historic Places. The library at Pratt Institute, which was opened in 1888 to serve not only students but the general public as well, was the first free public library in Brooklyn.

Pratt boasts the oldest continuously operating, privately owned, steam-powered electrical-generating plant in the country. The facility's historic value was recognized by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and named a National Mechanical Engineering Landmark.

 The generating plant is open for public viewing and was fascinating to see.

The Chief Engineer, Conrad Milster, was nice enough to explain all the history of the plant generator which was used for many years to generate electricity for the institute. The generators are no longer used for power, but they are still hooked up to the steam plant and every once in a while they are powered up to keep them functioning, in case they are needed.

Mr. Milster's office looked like a Norman Rockwell painting! My friends and I "oohed and aahed" over his antique roll top desk.

In fact, we were impressed with the museum quality of the entire building's artifacts that were on display.

Another fact I found charming about the engine room was that it is home to many of Pratt's legendary residential cats.  Their photos, names and personality traits were listed on a poster on the wall, as well as some of their award ribbons which they won at cat shows, as you can see in the photo collage above.

One of artist Robert Indiana's iconic "LOVE" sculptures in Pratt Institute's sculpture garden.  

I hope everyone had a lovely Valentine's Day today!   I also want to thank everyone who gave me suggestions and tips about hair products in my prior post. I found them all very helpful. My "Ladles of Love" giveaway winner that was chosen by Random Generator today has been announced on the original post.on this link.

On my next post I'll continue the walking tour of Brooklyn's Clinton Hill neighborhood, so I hope you'll join me!

I'm linking this post to the following blog events:

 "Outdoor Wednesday" blog event on Susan's blog A Southern Daydreamer.
"Alphabe Thursday" for the letter "M" on Jenny Matlock's blog, as Pratt Institute is very much a museum of art and architecture

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