Thursday, September 28, 2017

What is a Sinkhole?

In case you would like to learn more about what is a Sinkhole and how they are repaired please visit the link below.

What makes Pizza so great?

Okay so I’m am not Italian, though you really don’t have to be born in Italy in order to appreciate a delicious slice of pizza. Right? But my quest is what truly makes a pizza so great? 
You may get very different answers depending who you are asking and where in the country you are asking that question. New Yorkers swear that their pizza is the best in the world, folks in Chicago argue that they have a better pizza than New Yorkers and then again you have “creative” people in California saying that their pizza is the best. 

So that didn’t help my quest at all. Going back to the basics, is the dough delicious and does it have the right texture or enough air bubbles in the crust? Was the sauce balanced in flavors and acidity? Were the tomatoes fresh, imported straight from Italy or were they canned tomatoes? Was the mozzarella fresh or was it imitation cheese? Then the other question is how many toppings is the right amount? Can it be just simple enough how they do it in Italy? Or is it possible to have over 10 toppings on your pizza and still be a delicious pizza? Is there supposed to have a lot of olive oil floating on top of your pizza or olive oil dripping on the side of the plate? Are you supposed to eat pizza with utensils or are you supposed to eat with your bare hands? 

And to be honest with you, that just depends on who you are. Food historians say that in honor of Queen Margherita in the mid 1889, a pizza maker in Napoli created the what we now know as pizza. The pizza maker garnished the pie with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil, to represent the national colors of the Italian flag. 

Then about one decade later in New York, a gentleman by the name of Gennaro Lombardi started selling pizza pies wrapped in paper for the local factory workers. The pizza pies became very popular because they were easy to carry around and even easier to eat during lunch time without using utensils. Plus it was also a very affordable meal for the factory workers to purchase on a daily basis. 

Now, I have had the privilege of eating pizza in Italy and also in Lombardi’s in New York and they were very different and they also had their similarities. But the truth is that it basically comes down to your opinion. It’s more complex than a simple taste test. It depends where you were born, because if you grow up eating pizza made with Ketchup then guess what, you will battle to the death in argument with someone that grew eating pizza made with fresh tomato sauce. 

A recent visit to pizzeria called Gigi’s Pizza and Pasta located in Spring Hill Florida made me discover what truly makes a great pizza even greater. This was my first visit to Gigi’s pizzeria because I was invited their by a dear friend of mine. The pizza pie was simply amazing it had an amazingly crisp crust, it wasn’t burnt or undercooked. The amount of toppings was just right and the quality of ingredients was superb. It wasn’t too greasy, but it did have the right balance of grease in my pizza. I was surprised on how delicious this pizza really was.

But what made me stumble upon an epiphany on what makes a pizza so fascinating is not if it’s a deep dish pizza, or if it’s thin crust or if it has a kazillion topping on it. I discovered that what makes a pizza so amazing is that you get to enjoy it with a friend. Eating pizza alone is fine and dandy, but it’s even better when you eat it with another person. Try to think of the last time that you had pizza. Was it while watching a football game at a friend’s house? Was it at a tailgating party? Was it at a kid’s birthday party? Was it at the beach watching the sunset with a cute date? I am willing to bet that it was while you were hanging out with someone else. So that was my discover on my pizza quest. It’s not just the taste of the pizza but the moment itself of you creating new memories with friends. That’s why pizza has continued to grow in popularity throughout a century. My pizza experience was awesome because I shared it with a friend. 

And in case you like to go visit Gigi’s Pizzeria, 12505 Spring Hill Dr, Spring Hill, FL 34609


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

I Was Born Inside a Restaurant

Yes, you read correctly. I was actually born inside a real restaurant. My family has owned restaurants in Honduras for many generations. When my mother was pregnant with me and her water broke, it happened inside my parents’s restaurant. Honduras didn’t have a call center for medical emergencies in those days, plus the nearest hospital was way to far of drive to have placed my mother’s life in danger and mine for the same matter. So my father help my mother deliver me into the world by natural vaginal birth with no drugs and no pain killers. You can say that my father was my mother’s Midwife. He assisted in the entire childbirth process, he even cut the umbilical cord and did everything that a real doctor would of done at that time. 

In the old days, when people lived in remote areas they had to know a little bit of everything specially in survival skills. So going back to me being born in a restaurant is not just a figure of speech, that’s exactly where I was born. I spent the first seven years of my life living, playing and growing up inside a restaurant. 

Luckily for me, I was born in a fascinating part of Honduras. The town is called Rio Coto, it’s was named in honor of my family. My grandfather had invested most of his fortune in a real estate and he was brilliant in investing a large piece of land along the coast line. My family’s restaurant was and still is located right on the beach, there is a beautiful river on our property that ends in the ocean. Behind the restaurant are these huge mountains with spectacular views of the whole bay area. You can even see Guatemala from the mountain’s top.  

Since a young girl growing up in my parent’s restaurant in Honduras; I saw the world from an interesting perspective. I was able to interact with people from all over the world and this enabled me in understanding different cultures, personalities, and different moral values of people. I have always enjoyed meeting with people from all walks of life. I have learned a lot from interacting with a broad range of people in all types of scenarios and circumstances.

My philosophy is simple; treat others in a way that I would appreciate to be treated in return.  Though over the years, I have also learned to treat others in way that they would like to be treated, because what works for me may not work for them so I have to try to meet them in their comfort zones. It is not always easy, but I have learned from experience that if you keep your cool in any kind of uneasy situation(s), things can only get better. 

I have an extrovert personality. Meaning that I am friendly, outgoing and very energetic. I enjoy social gatherings and enjoy meeting new people each day. I believe in working to the best of my mental capabilities and giving my best efforts in what ever I do, whether it is in life or work. I am passionate about life and I care about making those that surround me feel great about them selves. I’m a reliable, honest, loyal, socially responsible person and I also believe in leadership, unity and life long friendships, and most of all integrity. I try to live my life in a way that would make my children and family proud of me. I am a firm believer in Karma, so I try to send out good positive energy and keep a well balanced life style. I am detailed oriented in everything that I do but I am not perfect. I take my work seriously and I let it show throughout my work. Punctuality is very important to me because it shows that you are respectful to those whom are waiting and counting on you to arrive on time. With that said, unfortunately life gets in the way and I might arrive a few minutes late but not on purpose. I am a firm believer in using good manners with everyone that I come in contact with. 

I like getting involved in charity events when ever possible. It feels great to give back to those in need. I take pride in what I do and I attempt to guide others in acquiring the same values. Life is short, so I am trying to live life filled with integrity, honesty and a little fun along the way.
But the most important thing for me in life is taking good care of my family and spending quality time with them. Friendship is always very important to me because friends are extended family. Having fun with family and friends is nutrition for the soul. And most of all, I believe in God and in Jesus. Like I mentioned before, I try to live a well-balanced life. While remembering my origins and I have clarity on what path I would like for my destiny to guide me in this journey called life.

So in my case, being born inside a restaurant was a good thing because it has helped shape my mentality. I can adapt to almost any situation and still keep a positive attitude while doing it. I have always been involved in culinary hospitality and now that I am enjoying a new career as a real estate professional, I can still apply all those skills into the real estate industry. And in the end, it doesn’t really matter what your destiny has chosen for you to do in life, what matters is how well you do it. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Ready For The Next One

The Good, The Bad, & The Scary
Living in Florida comes with a lot of wonderful experiences, endless supply of bright sunny days for relaxing on a beautiful beach or catching a nice tan by the pool. Endless supply of golf courses and backyard BBQs every weekend with friends and family. Spectacular nature trails surrounded by an abundance of wildlife, and amazing sunsets every day of the year. But living in Florida also comes with some disadvantages such as dodging hurricanes every year during Hurricane season. It becomes sort of like second nature to the residents of Florida especially the locals living in the coastal areas. 

Though with the insanely unprecedented event that was brought by Hurricane Irma, it had everyone stressing out more than usual. What I did notice was that the friends and neighbors that are relatively new to Florida were the ones freaking out the most. And that’s completely understandable because for them this was a completely new and scary event on which no one had any control over nor could it be predicted with exact accuracy. Even with all the modern technology that we have regarding on how to track the path of a hurricane, Irma proofed that we still can’t predict mother nature. Mother Nature can and will do what ever she pleases and all we can do is fasten our seat belts and enjoy the ride. 

What we learned
So now that the hurricane Irma has come and gone, I interviewed roughly around 20 of my friends and neighbors to see what they learned from preparing and dealing with hurricane Irma. My interviews included people that have been living in Florida all their lives and I also interviewed people that are new to Florida and that have never lived through a hurricane before. The reason why I also included long time residents in Florida is simply because after dodging hurricanes, you sometimes become numb and forget what’s it like to face a real life threat like a beast of a hurricane. A natural catastrophe with unprecedented damage and destruction is never to be taken likely. And I also wanted to interview people that are new to Florida because I was intrigued by what they learned from dealing with a hurricane for the first time. 

I discovered that they were similarities in both groups and also major differences that were expected from the beginning. The hurricane experienced group learned that they underestimated the path of distraction of hurricane Irma. They admitted that they should have done a better job a preparing for the storm. They also learned not leaving things till the last minute was one of the most important things that they will now keep in mind for next time. 

The second group of people that had never experienced a hurricane before, provided me the most feed back. And this is what they learned from dealing with a hurricane for the first time~

“I would not watch the media as closely to avoid getting myself into such a panic.” 

“This hurricane taught me that no matter how worried I am or how much the news spreads panic, the hurricane will do its business and there is nothing we can do but wait and see what happens. There is no reason to panic because things can change at the last minute and it's too unpredictable to panic.”

“Next hurricane I would make sure to have battery operated fans as well as extra flashlights.”

“I learned that people are so good to each other in times of crisis. Neighbors helping neighbors, strangers online offering support and supplies- it was very inspiring. I also learned that hurricanes are SUPER unpredictable and deciding whether to stay or go is not as easy a decision as I used to think when I lived up north!”

“I'd work harder at not second guessing my gut, trust in our decision to stay or go, accept it and NOT panic.”

“Should of bought a generator. Not wait till last minute to buy water and board up windows.”

“I learned that it might be worth the investment in having Hurricane Shutters installed” 

“I learned after gaining 5 pounds, on NOT buying all my favorite snacks and junk food for the next hurricane.” 

“In dealing with a hurricane for the first time ever, I learned that I should have met my neighbors a long time ago. I have been living in my neighborhood for one whole year now, and I didn’t know my next door neighbors at all. The sad part was that we finally met and they are all very nice people. And they have helped me in my time of need because our block was with out power for one whole week, and my next door neighbors had a generator and they shared their generator with us. That was incredibly nice of them.” 

“I should of had a huge cooler with plenty of Ice, for when our power went out”

“We made the mistake of decided on getting out of town at the very last minute, so we were stuck in traffic longer than what we had anticipated.” 

“I learned that for my next hurricane, I will buy those plastic floor covers because I had to enter some of my patio furniture into my home and they leaked some of that rust onto my nice carpeted floors and now my carpet has rust stains all over. I also should of pre-washed some of the patio furniture because I had a bunch of little frogs and lizards all over my living room during the hurricane”

“Social Media helped my stay connected to my family and friends. This helped with the stress of dealing with a hurricane for the first time because I didn’t feel alone.”

“Simple pleasures that go under appreciated everyday, were greatly missed when we went without power for 5 days. It felt like an eternity.”

“I learned that even though we live in one of the best countries in world, hurricane Irma has shed some dim light on the extreme raw poverty that some people have to live with on a daily basis in our own beloved state of Florida” 

In perpective
It was interesting to me hearing and reading what many of my friends new and old, have learned from dealing with a hurricane. The fascinating fact is that no matter how much we think we know about something, we never stop learning. No two experiences are ever the same, each experience brings to insight that hopefully make us better prepared for the next one. I learned that letting our guards down is also a good thing because we need to allow other people to enter in our lives and we need to learn to co-exist with one another. 

At the end of the day, most of us were worried that our homes were going to be blown away. We were worried that the damages brought by the hurricane would bring down the value of our homes. We worried that living in a flood zone, that our already pricy flood insurances would sky rocket again. We worried that our old roofs would not survive the storm or would start to leak. We worried that the neighbor’s junk from his backyard would fly into one of our windows. We worried that the tourism is Florida will dwindle due to the hurricane’s aftermath. We worried that our home went for sale into the real estate market at the wrong time. We worried that the housing market will suffer due to the intense media coverage of Hurricane Irma. 

But surprisingly those pre-conditioned thoughts have shifted to, thank God that we were able to afford home insurance this year. Thank God that we survived the hurricane. Thank God that we still have a home left. Thank God that all we lost was the electricity. Thank God that I finally met my next door neighbors in a time of need. Thank God that my family is safe and sound. Thank God that now we can start the road to recovery and help those that were not spared from Hurricane Irma’s destruction. Thank God that…

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Hurricane ~ Don't Get Caught in The Storm Unprepared

From Personal Experience: 

I have had the opportunity of experiencing many hurricanes from growing up in Miami. My first one was Hurricane Andrew, and I learned a lot over the years on how to ride out a hurricane safely. From my own experience and from the professional tips of local news stations here are some helpful tips for dealing with a hurricane in Florida. 

Board up your windows with shutters or pre-cut plywood days in advance before the storm arrives. Try not to leave it for the same day as this can be very time consuming, unless you have invested wisely in accordion shutters. Inspect the outside surrounding of your home. Bring in any loose items, such as garbage cans and lawn furniture, flower pots and children’s toys. Look for any debris in the yard that can act as a projectile during high winds. Check your storage sheds to make sure they are firmly attached and in sound structural condition. Trim any weak tree branches that are positioned near any windows of your home, which could be broken off by high winds and cause property damage. Inspect your roof and overhang to look for signs of wear or damage. Have your roof inspected to make sure the roof sheathing is well-connected. I would recommended to do at the beginning of the hurricane season. Prepare and test your generator a few days before a storm strikes. And make sure that you have plenty of gasoline in case you need to use the generator after the hurricane passes. Some people recommend filling a clean bathtub with clean water in case the water goes out for days. But I would not recommend this if you have small children. 

Simple but good tips: 
Take pictures of everything inside your home. Also take detailed pictures of the outside of your home, even your roof if possible. Write down important phone number in a notepad in case your cell phone gets damaged. Get extra cash handing in case you need to go shopping once the storm has passed. Store important documents in waterproof containers or zip block bags. Keep a luggage with clean clothes in case you need to leave your home in a hurry. Let your family or friends know what you plan on doing during and after the storm passes.Keep in touch with your next door neighbors specially if they are elderly. If you have children buy fun board games to keep them distracted. Bring out old family albums, this helps keep everyone entertained during the hurricane. Find out where is the nearest police station or fire station in case of an emergency. Be informed of what shelters are available in your area in case your home gets damaged. Keep empty buckets in case you get leaks inside your home. And keep clean towels in handy in case you need to dry things

One of the most important rules to keep in mind before, during or after a hurricane is to NOT panic. People tend to be at greater risk when you enter a panic mode because you are not thinking clearly. If you plan ahead, you will limit your stress level and those around you. 

Once the hurricane begins, the eye of the storm can become one of the most dangerous part of the storm because it will become calm all of sudden. It might even look like a nice sunny day outside. And people feel that it’s safe to go and explore or inspect the outside of the home. This is extremely dangerous because the hurricane conditions will change in the split of a second. And flying debris can come out of nowhere. Try to stay indoors until the authorities say the the storm has passed and that it’s safe to venture out. 

Even when the storm passes, after the storm moves away you are not out of the path of danger. Many lives are lost after a storm has moved away because live power lines can be hiding in mercky waters among other hidden dangers. Place close attention to your local authorities and news stations. 

Keep a list of important phone numbers written in a note book where you can easily find it. For example the direct phone number to the fire department closest to your home, the poison control center, the local electric company in case an electricity transformer explodes, the phone number to the nearest police station in case you need special assistance. And even the phone number to the hurricane center in case you would like stay informed of the exact location of the storm. The most important thing is not to call 911 with non-life threatening calls. One of the biggest problems that I 
remember from Hurricane Andrew was that people kept calling 911 for non-emergency calls. And it made it difficult for the people that really needed emergency assistance to make it through the busy operators. So try not to call 911 unless you feel that your life is in grave danger. 

Plus also keep in mind that it doesn’t matter where in the world you find yourself living, every state and every country has their own natural disasters such as: Tsunamis, Earthquakes, Volcanos, Tornados, Wild Fires, Snow Storms, Floods, Sand Storms, and so on. So think of from a positive view in that at least with a hurricane you have plenty of days to plan ahead. And try to be nice to others while shopping for supplies. 

Watch the news stations if you still have power during the hurricane but try not to become obsessed with the trajectory of the storm. Keep your news intake to a limit, over exposure may cause unnecessary anxiety to you and those around you. If you have small children, you can pretend that you are going camping inside your own home. Make it look like an adventure, so that your children don't feel scared or nervous.

Please note that I am not pretending to be a Hurricane expert, these tips are only based on my own personal experience in dealing with numerous hurricanes in all my wonderful years of living in Florida. Remember not to panic and if this is your encounter with a hurricane try to enjoy the experience. Try to immerse your self in examining nature’s strength and fury “from inside your home”. And like what people always say during these type of events "prepare for the worst and pray for the best". Below is a simple but helpful supply list on preparing your home for a hurricane. 

Hurricane checklist: 

Batteries in various sizes
Flashlights, one for each room if possible. 
Candles just in case your batteries run out
Battery operated radio/tv 
First aid kit, make sure that the items are not expired
Duck tape
Battery powered clock 
Plastic bags
Fire extinguisher
Manual Can opener
Blankets & pillows 
Clean clothes 

Fun snacks, chips, cookies, non-perishable foods 
Water bottled water 1 galloon per person per day
Bottle juice or even gatorade
2 coolers filled with ice in case the power goes out
Canned foods like tuna kits, Vienna sausages, beef jerky, be creative
Dry pet food for at least one week

Insect-repellent sprays
Medicine for more than one week 
Children's medication 
Feminine hygiene items
Baby wipes are great for everything

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Importance of Supporting Small Local Businesses

I am a huge advocate of supporting small mama and pop restaurants for many reasons. It might be because I am a retired Chef, now a thriving real estate professional in Tampa Florida. So I understand both sides of the coin. I know from first hand experience all the hard work and commitment that it takes in owning and working in a restaurant. But I also understand from a real estate point of view on why it's vital for local communities to show more support to small privately owned restaurants.

They are sometimes hidden gems in your local communities. Showing support for local restaurants ensures that the character and eccentricity that make your home town uniquely yours stay in business and thriving. When you dine locally, you are saying, hey I'm glad that you're in my community and I choose to support you over a large industrialized restaurant.

What happens in your community stays in your community. Independently owned restaurants are more likely to get their ingredients and supplies from local growers. So in return these small privately owned restaurants keep our money locally also. The more money stays in our local neighborhoods, the stronger our community maintain their property value.

You would be surprised on how affordable dining locally can be. It's conveniently because you don't need to waste gas since you are choosing to dine within your own neighborhood. With gas prices always rising, dining local is a smart way to cut down on your transportation budget. Leaving more money in your pocket for giving your waitress a better tip $$.

One of the biggest attractions towards small privately owned restaurants is very simple yet the most important factor in my humble opinion. Customer service. When you visit a small mama & pop restaurant often, you will notice the difference. There are exceptions to every rule, though from my own personal experience as a Chef and restaurant owner myself, generally speaking you should expect that a smaller business will provide better customer service. Once the owner and his staff recognizes you, you will start to receive a more personalized, hand-on noteworthy customer care. They might even start treating you like family. Which is the whole point of dining out locally in the first place. You are searching for an evening of enchanting your palate with exquisite dishes that you won't find anywhere else.

Local small restaurant owners understand the importance of keeping you wanting to return again and again. So for them it's vital in making sure that all your wants are kept satisfied. On many occasions, the restaurant owner will come and say hello to your table to make sure that your dining experience is a memorable one. And if you are not happy, they will go out of their way in ensuring that you are pleased with their service and their delectable menu.

I am always searching for new local restaurants to visit, so if you have a local hidden gem shoot me an email and share it with me. I would love to check them out.