Friday, May 30, 2008

The end of the tour

Our last day was spent in Portsmouth, NH. We spent the day at Strawbery Banke. It's a Colonial settlement with homes dating back to the 1700 and 1800's. At some point, most of them had been turned into duplexes and rentals. They were about to be torn down during urban renewal plans in the 1950's, but were saved and turned into this museum. The most interesting home retained one half of the duplex as it was in the 50's and the other half was restored to the way it had been in the 1800's when it was a store. The whole deal was similar to the Folkemuseum outside of Oslo.

From there, Heidi dropped me off at my sister's house, where I stayed through Memorial Day with my adorable niece and nephew. Here's my niece running across the bridge at the park, which she did about 100 times and when it was time to leave, she threw a fit because, I presume, she wanted to do it 100 more times. The other main activity of the weekend was reading Star Wars books to my 5 year-old nephew. He's already totally into Star Wars and told me several times that Luke Skywalker is his favorite Jedi. When I babysat on Monday, we acted out a light saber fight with him as Luke and me as Darth Vader. If I did Darth Vader's breathing wrong, he corrected me. When that got old, we did a blaster fight--he was Han Solo and I was a Storm Trooper. Good times!
I've been back in the city for a few days now and I'm trying to keep busy. Tuesday, I attempted to get caught up on Lost and I was unsuccessful, so no one tell me what happened in tonight's finale! Wednesday I saw the Indiana Jones movie finally, and then went to see a B'way show. Both were okay.
Today I went to the NY Transit museum in downtown Brooklyn, then made the schlep over to Williamsburg to try a restuarant that Heidi has had on her radar for weeks. When we arrived, we were told that they closed between 3:00 and 5:30, and we got there at 3:20! I had to rush back home because I was hosting book club tonight. I had cooking and cleaning to do and all of it was done at the last minute, but luckily, Leolani was here to help me.
Tomorrow is my last day of vacation. I know this sounds terrible, but I am dreading going back to work on Monday! Usually after three weeks off, I am really happy to get back to real life. But right now, real life is not good. And by real life, I mean work stuff. I don't know how I'm going to deal with the next two months. Seriously. Just thinking about it makes me depressed.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The tour continues... days 2 and 3

I forgot to write about my new favorite thing, which is GPS!! Heidi had the great idea to get GPS for the trip and it was so worth it. Of course, it didn't take long for us to start yelling at the voice, which we named "Betty," saying things like, "OKAY!! I KNOW!!" and "You already said that!" and "Where's the turn, you idiot?!" Even though we found it to be very helpful, computer voices are still really annoying.

So, we left The Balsams, plugged the new address into the GPS and headed southeast towards Portland. On the way, we passed Norway, Maine, so I took a picture by the road sign. Did I trick you? Did you think that I was actually driving a car to the country of Norway?

We stayed in a B&B a few minutes from Portland. When we pulled up, we saw the most hideous papermill across the street from our B&B and I was so turned off. But then we saw the view from the other end, which was a peaceful river. Quite a difference, but luckily our room faced the river. We learned (because, you know, these are the things I think about, and therefore ask lots of questions) that this home used to belong to someone connected to the papermill and was later turned into a guest house for people that came to visit the papermill. They stopped using it for that purpose in 1999 and it stood empty until 2006 when the current owners bought it and turned it into a B&B. They bought it completely furnished and didn't change a thing about it--just cleaned it up. We even ate off of the Lenox china that had belonged to the original owners. It was a really beautiful old home and we loved it! At first, Heidi was not so sure about the whole B&B thing. I have done it lots of times and it's my favorite way to travel. The first night, we were the only ones there, but the second night, there were three other couples there. Once we got up the first morning and had the whole place to ourselves, sitting on the porch looking over the river, I think she came around.

After settling in, we went into town and walked up and down the main street in "Old Port" about 50 times because we couldn't decide on a place to eat dinner. And when I say "we" couldn't decide, I mean Heidi couldn't decide. We ended up at a little dive where we got some seafood and sat outside on the pier. Heidi wanted steamers and also got fish and chips, and after paying and finding a seat, she was told that they didn't have steamers left. She was so disappointed, she got muscles instead and since they weren't really what she wanted, she got onion rings, too. Once all the food came, she went... What the...?? What have I done?? But then it was too late!

The next day went to see some lighthouses in the area. But first, of course, we ate lunch at another seafood restaurant that had delicious food and whoopie pies, as well as this fantastic view of the ocean. We had been told by our hosts that instead of paying to park at the state park for $20, we should just go to this restaurant and park there, and then you can see the two lighthouses in Cape Elizabeth (conveniently located on Two Lights Road). I'm so glad he told us, because you can't actually go into the lighthouse, you can just look at the outside and the water, which we did here for free while we ate our delicious lunch. After that, we climbed on these rocks before moving on to the next lighthouse, the Portland Head Light.

At The Portland Head Light we learned that this is the most photographed lighthouse in the US. I also thought it looked really familiar, and then I opened my cell phone and saw a picture that I had downloaded of an Edward Hopper painting of this lighthouse. I tried to go to a Hopper exhibit last summer at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, but the exhibit was sold out. Instead, I was able to download this lovely painting onto my phone. Almost as good as seeing the exhibit.

That night, we went to buy tickets for the new Indiana Jones movie (only $7.50 at the ONE movie theater in Portland), but after eating dinner, decided we were too tired and went to get a refund. I am really getting old! Instead, we went home and watched "My So-called Life" on DVD because Heidi's never seen it and I got it for Christmas from my friend, LT. Indiana Jones vs. Angela Chase and Jordan Catalano. Who would you have chosen?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

New England -- it's not just about dessert

You know the other day when I posted that my friend, Heidi, is "a bit of a food snob"? Well, I take it back... she's a total food snob. Valerie asked if she would be offended by that term. I just laughed and said, "No. I tell her that every day." but just for good measure, I thought I'd ask Heidi. She laughed and said that she did not mind, but prefers the term "foodie."

Anyway, as we planned our vacation, we didn't really know what we wanted to do, we just knew we wanted to get out of town and visit some beautiful places. She found this place in New Hampshire called The Balsams and I really wanted to go to the Maine coast. So we did a bit of both.

We planned to stay two nights in The Balsams. We knew that it was really far north, almost to Canada, but we didn't realize it was going to be so remote. It was a beautiful resort in the middle of nowhere. Seriously. Even our GPS couldn't find it. What people do there is arrive... and then don't leave. The resort had a ping pong table, a pool table, old-school video games, board games and lots of books. There was a pool, but it didn't open until Memorial day and a golf course, but we don't play. There's also skiing, which isn't that useful in May. Other than that, people check in, eat all their meals there and hang out all day. It's pretty much like Dirty Dancing. We had dinner in the tavern because the dining room was being used by some county executives for a conference or something. We would have had dinner there, anyway, because jeans are not allowed in the dining room, which of course we didn't know beforehand, so we only brought jeans with us. Well, that's not entirely true. I also brought a jean skirt!

The next morning, they were having another conference in the dining room -- teen pregnancy prevention, which was a preacher shouting like a cheerleader at teen-agers to guard their goods. (I hope it works!) As we were eating, an older couple stopped by our table as we ate breakfast. (again, very Dirty Dancing.) They asked if we had been to the resort before, to which we said no. They said that they had been to this place several times for Christmas and were surprised (and not happy) that these two conferences were going on. They pretty much said that they did not think that this was a good vacation place for young gals like ourselves and asked about our plans for the rest of the vacation. After telling them that we planned to head back south to Portland, they left, but then came back, a map in hand, and told us that we should see if we could check out early. I was ready to stay for the two nights, as planned, and figured we'd have a great time hiking or biking or whatever else we decided to do. However, I wasn't keen on the idea of eating every meal at this place and there weren't many choices outside of the resort. And then it started raining. Heidi went to the desk and asked what there was to do in town. The woman behind the desk started laughing. Next, Heidi asked if there were restaurants that we could try or a movie theater. Again, she laughed. She then asked about shopping.... more laughter. The woman behind the desk then told us that we could go to Wal-Mart or Rite-Aid, but we'd have to drive an hour. Heidi then decided to take the old couple's suggestion to check out early. The woman, after laughing at us for a few minutes, said, "Well, usually we don't do this, but if you can check out by 12:00, I'll let you." We went upstairs and called the B&B in Portland to see if they could take us early. When they said yes, we said, "Let's get the hell out of the Balsams." After less than 24 hours, we checked out. We took a short drive up a mountain to where the golf course is and a view of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Canada. And then we were off to the next place....

Monday, May 26, 2008

A First

I went to church with my sister and her family yesterday. Sacrament meeting was all about the Young Men of the ward -- they gave all the talks and did one musical number (which, of course, was just the leaders singing). One of the YM started out his talk by saying, "Today, I'm going to talk about service. defines service as... "

It was like one of those moments in the movies when they make the sound of a needle jumping off a record (an old reference, I realize, especially in comparison to this very modern reference). First, I paused and thought, "Did I hear that right?" then I just started laughing and Valerie and I looked at each other like, "Kids today!"

where the light is

this is the concert I was supposed to go to back in December.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

All kinds of pie

I spent the past few days driving through New England. We started in Connecticut where we picked up our car, drove through Vermont, stayed over night in New Hampshire, then it was on to Maine for two nights, then spent an afternoon in another New Hampshire town and finally ended up at my sister's place in Boston.

The first day, we stopped for lunch in Vermont at a restaurant that Heidi found on a website called She's a bit of a food snob, so it wouldn't occur to her to just grab some McDonald's on the way. She found this restaurant that she figured we'd hit around lunchtime. We had sandwiches, mac and cheese and two kinds of pie -- three berry and walnut maple. We took the pie to go because we were so full. Once we got to the resort where we were staying, we realized this place was a little fancier than we thought, and that we were used to. But that did not stop Heidi from asking if we could turn the TV set to American Idol, bring our own pie into the restaurant to eat and order ice cream to go along with it. When I said I was too embarrassed to do it, she went back and forth, but finally said, "This is America. We should be able to eat our pie wherever we want." Although at first the servers seemed a little put out by us that we were (1) wearing jeans and (2) wanted to eat from the tavern menu instead of the dining room menu, they cheerfully obliged us.

The treat we discovered in abundance was the whoopie pie. We stopped at a gas station/convenience store somewhere along the way in Vermont. I saw these whoopie pies in the store, and just had to get one to eat along the way. I decided to try the maple flavor and it was goooooood! I have had whoopie pies before, but not as big (lots of cake, lots of cream) as the ones we found in New England and had never seen any variety in flavors other than the traditional chocolate. I had no idea that they are so plentiful. After googling it, I found that it is, indeed, something that can be found lots of places, but is attributed to New England and especially Maine. It turned out to be the thing to do in each town we went. In Portland, ME, we even had a whoopie pie cake. Luckily, they are much harder to find in NYC, so I won't be eating any more for a while. I'll just have to go back to cupcakes, but I'm going to try to abstain for a few weeks because I really overdid it the past two weeks.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Office quote of the week (5/15 season finale)

Oscar: Ryan's big project was the website, which wasn't doing so well. So, Ryan, to give the impression of sales, recorded them twice. Once as office sales and once as website sales, which is what we refer to in the business as "misleading the shareholders." Another good term is "fraud." But the real crime, I think, was the beard.

I love this quote because it is like my obsession with other people's hair. For example, in talking about the FLDS and all their problems that have been in the news lately -- polygamy, marrying off teenagers to old men, sexual abuse, etc., I am totally obsessed with the badness of the women's hair. I just learned that they are not allowed to cut their hair! I got chills.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Mexican vacation

So, the basic rundown of my vacation is this: I went to Playa del Carmen with my friend, Dawn, and was there for a week. As soon as I walked into our room, I freaked out! We were literally staying right on the beach! Here's me on our balcony, which I could (and did) jump off and walk 10 feet to our chairs. The other view is our room from the beach... we were the balcony to the left of the woman standing on the sand. To the left of our room was the spa where we had massages while we listened to the ocean.

Mostly we stayed at the resort by the pool or the ocean. I had my 45 sunscreen at the ready and plopped myself under an umbrella for most of that time. Tuesday, May 13 was Dawn's birthday, so to celebrate, we took the ferry over to Cozumel and went snorkeling and then took a taxi to some ruins on that island. The whole area is full of Mayan ruins, and we decided to visit one of the sites during the week. We chose the site on Cozumel due to the fact that it is called San Gervasio, which reminded us of Ricky Gervais. When we approached a taxi driver and asked him to take us there, he first gave us a blank look, then realized what we were asking about and said it properly in Spanish. I guess we said the name just a little too close to the Ricky pronunciation. He took us in his taxi, waited for us there, and then drove us back to the ferry, offering up lots of facts about Mayans, which he proudly told us he was. He said over and over that he was born on the island and planned to die there. I said, "Well, I live on an island, too, and I'll probably die there, too." I thought it was something we could bond over, but he didn't think that was very cool. When we got back to the resort, we bumped into some men that we had befriended earlier in the week. They had just gotten back from a fishing trip and caught 20+ fish and asked us to join them for dinner. So we had fresh, delicious mahi mahi for dinner, and it was the best meal we had all week! We celebrated with a cake after dinner (I wanted birthday flan, but I wasn't in charge) and then went back to our room and watched a few episodes of "Freaks and Geeks" on DVD. A great day!

The other trip we had planned was to an ecopark called Xcaret. We walked around for a while in the heat, looking at plants and animals. Then we ran across a little "river boat ride" and thought this might be a nice way to cool off. We got on this boat that had about 4 rows of Mexicans, one row of British old people in front of us, and we were in the back. The Brits had bad BO and every time the tour guide opened his mouth to speak to the mostly Spanish-speaking audience, one or all of them yelled out, "ENGLISH!" I hid myself in the back to avoid being associated with these ill-mannered Anglos. Finally the boat was released from the little dock and moved at a snail's pace around a little circle so that we could be one with nature... we saw two birds and a turtle.

After this impressive display of nature, I was starting to lose it. It was so freakin' HOT and I was getting in a worse and worse mood. I was trying to be careful because Dawn has not seen this side of me before, but I think she was feeling the same. We decided we didn't give a crap about seeing any more animals if it meant walking more in the dust and the heat and we went and changed into our bathing suits. We headed to the underground rivers that run beneath the whole park and jumped right into the 60 degree water! It was glorious! We drifted and swam for about 30 minutes or an hour--I don't even know how long. There were a few points that we were in almost complete darkness, but the top of the caves were high enough that it didn't feel claustrophobic or anxiety-provoking. It was so soothing, I wanted to go to the beginning and start again! Once we had cooled off, we ran to see a few things before the evening show.

The show was Dawn's reason for wanting to go the park. However, after going to similar shows based on local culture in both Brazil and Thailand (think: depressing baby elephants), I was prepared NOT to be dazzled by the spectacle. After watching a hockey game with a ball of fire instead of puck, which is supposedly a Mayan game, and another soccer-like game where they bump the ball with their hips instead of their feet through a goal, I was starting to think "I KNEW IT!" The second act, though, was full of Mexican music and dancing. The thing that struck me most were the beautiful costumes. So, I was pleasantly surprised to say that I was wrong and the evening was totally worth it.

The next morning, we got up, I went for a dip in the pool, then packed my wet suit in my suitcase and it was over! All in all, I only got a bit sunburned and was disappointed after going for scuba diving lessons but was told the water was too rough to take the boat out. Other than that, it was the perfect relaxing vacation.

Mixed blessing

My last day of work before my three week vacation was completely insane. You know how people sometimes say, "I was so busy, I forgot to eat lunch"? Well, my reaction to that statement is always, "Not possible." However, on Friday, May 9, it happened. I was so crazy busy, I actually forgot to each lunch!

I told my last client of the day, who sometimes acts like I'm a one-woman drop-in clinic for her problems, and our regularly scheduled appointment should be postponed if she has to do laundry or her daughter's hair (which takes 2 hours to do), that I had to meet her at 4:00 because I was leaving at 5:00. For three weeks. No questions asked. I got so busy that I didn't even go to get her until 4:30 and we met until 5:30 and then I proceeded to work until 8:00 pm and even then only left because I HAD to get a bikini wax before my vacation so that I wouldn't scare anyone on the beach. So, at 9 pm, I'm all buffed and waxed polished as they are literally closing the door behind me at the salon and I decide that since I haven't started packing for my 8 am flight... in fact, haven't even done my laundry yet... that I should just splurge and take a cab home.

On the way home, I talked to my supervisor on the phone, who had been calling me all day and this was maybe the only opportunity I would have to speak to her. Once I got home, I paid $30 to the driver (the reason I never take cabs) and as I continued my conversation, made sure I had all my stuff, including a bag that held my favorite summer shoes that I wanted to bring with me to Mexico. I put a load of laundry in (up and down 5 flights of stairs), then started packing, then moved the stuff to the dryer (up and down 5 flights of stairs again), then continued packing, and then realized that I couldn't find my favorite shoes and started cursing like a sailor. I was going over it in my mind, visualizing myself grabbing my bag, holding my cell phone to my ear, acting casual while I continued to talk to my supervisor but really was freaking out because it was 10 pm and I had so much to do, putting my wallet back in my purse, closing the car door, and walking to my building. I figured I must have dropped it in the lobby, so I put my shoes on, went down (5 flights of stairs) and looked in the lobby. Didn't see it, so I came back upstairs (5 flights) and still didn't see it, so I went back downstairs (how many flights?) and went to the street and still didn't see it. Then I thought I must have just left it in the cab and I was again cursing myself for not only paying $30 on a cab, but also because now I'd have to buy a new pair of shoes to replace the ones I lost. I came back upstairs (do I need to say how many flights?) and continued packing.

But then... I smelled something... so horrible. I started sniffing around my room, which led me to my closet, which led me to the shoes I had just taken off... and I found the smell. I stepped in dog crap on the sidewalk!! After cleaning off my shoes, I put all the stuff I used to clean them in a bag, went, once again, down all those freaking stairs to the basement, opened the garbage cans... and there on the top was my bag and my favorite shoes!! I pulled my shoes out, put the dog crap in, and went back up to finish packing! I must have dropped the bag in the lobby and in the time it took me to realize that I had lost them, my super must have found them and thrown them away. No one has ever been so happy to step in dog crap!!

And that's the long story of events that started out a lovely week in Mexico. (I still had to go downstairs to pick my laundry up out of the dryer, though.) Now I'm back and have another short trip planned to New England at the end of the week, and another week of vacation that is still unplanned. And I don't care what you say about me taking three weeks off together. I work really hard!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Things I forgot to take on my vacation to Mexico

  • hat
  • sunglasses
  • beach bag
  • Dramamine
  • sunscreen (I have some but needed more)

Pretty much a disaster, anyway you slice it.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

30 Rock quote of the week (5/8)

A quote from tonight's show, a dialogue between "Cooter Burger" and Jack.

Cooter: We have a meeting with the Appropriations committee, like, now.
Jack: No, I'm not prepared.
Cooter: I know, I'm not drunk, either. But we'll manage.

The Office quote of the week (5/8)

Michael: Yeah, I'm trying to lure these kids into my booth. But kids are wary of being lured these days. Thank you, Dateline.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Sakura Matsuri

LT and I went to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden yesterday for the Cherry Blossom Festival. It was supposed to rain all day, but instead, it was just grey, damp and cold, but the blossoms were beautiful.
I went a few years ago when I first moved to the city, and basically it was just a bunch of Brooklyn hipsters with their kids. This year, we were surprised to see that it has turned into the equivalent of a Renaissance Festival for the kids that like the Japanese cartoons Naruto and, I'm sure, a lot of other ones that I know nothing about. I recognized Naruto because I have a client that is obsessed with it and spends his sessions drawing characters and scenes from the show. The kids dress up like characters, and stand around in circles, talking to each other, like teens do best.

The Office quote of the week (5/1)

The best part of this episode was Pam wearing her "back-up glasses" and then taking them off, so that she had to feel around for the phone and put her face two inches from the paper when she was writing. I love it, of course, because that's me. I happened to have misplaced my glasses a few weeks ago and was wearing my ugly back-up glasses this week.

However, since that is not a quote...

This one comes from Dwight, when he was negotiating the car price with Andy: Here are your options. You can sell it off for parts, drive it off a cliff, you can donate it to a person that you'd like to see die in a car crash, or you can sell it to me and I'll use it on my farm and it will be towed by a donkey.

30 Rock quote of the week (5/1)

The return of Floyd was not quite as momentous as the return of Dennis, but another great episode. Would you choose a sandwich over a guy? As the airport security person said it's cliche for the woman to go to the airport to try to talk to the guy before getting on the plane, but to stop to eat a sandwich first? "That is less cliche." It made me so happy that the first flashback of Liz Lemon freaking out about someone eating her food was about mac and cheese.

So, the quote of the week was hard to choose (of course). I have a few options, all from Liz Lemon this time.

I want to be top dog for once, instead of just dog.... For once, I am not gonna be Jan Brady, I'm gonna be Marcia, dammit! (followed, of course, by the football to the face.)

I got a company-wide email from the new CEO that was just a link to cats wearing bow ties. Is everything okay?

So, this girl, what's her lower back tattoo? A Chinese character that she thinks means peace but it really means 'I have chlamydia'?

After all the references to global warming in this episode, and with Jack now the "Homeland Security Director of Crisis and Weather Management" who thinks the season finale will have to do with some kind of weather catastrophe?

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Damn you, McDreamy!!

Tonight, I had plans with Heidi to go to a movie. When we showed up at the theater, we found that the ONLY movie playing at the theater was Made of Honor, despite the fact that there were other movies listed both online and on the marquee. We figured out that the reason for this is that the theater had been hijacked by the Tribeca Film Festival. So we stomped out of the line, and briefly debated if we should just go see it, since we were there. Heidi was somewhat interested, but I just couldn't bring myself to pay $12 for this movie. We decided to walk down a few blocks and see if there was anything playing at the Union Sq. theater, but there was nothing that we hadn't seen already or wanted to see that hadn't already started (I can't walk into a movie after the start time, although there are always 20 minutes of commercials and previews). Next, we walked east to the next closest theater, which, we found, had also been taken over by TFF and the only regular movie playing was... guess what... Made of Honor. We asked one of the people working the festival the reason, and she said that they had originally booked the entire theater, but then gave up one of the theaters because it was opening weekend for Made. At this point, I'm ready to die (I was carrying a lot of crap and had just walked almost an hour with it all) so I decided to help myself along by seeing this ridiculously premised movie.

I will say one thing, though. It really makes New York look beautiful. It also makes Scotland look beautiful, which I suspect isn't hard. It renewed my interest to return there and really explore the whole country. Someday....

I know I'm a total snob when it comes to movies and I should just take this one for what it is. But seriously, if and when you see it, and you see a scene with a horse, just remember I warned you!!

Friday, May 2, 2008

More BBQ

Last week, a friend told me she heard of this new place, Wildwood. The next morning, I saw a piece about it on NY1. Later in the day, another friend forwarded an email about it to me. I decided it was a sign that I should try it out.

Here's my review:
Ribs, good.
Beans, good.
Cornbread, good.
Mac and cheese, gooooooooood!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Two Final Seasons

The two NY baseball teams are getting new stadiums so I decided I should go to a game at Shea and Yankees stadiums while I can. Well, really, I got free tickets. Both games happened to be in the same week. I went to see the Mets lose to the Braves on Friday and the Yankees lose to the Tigers last night. If I was superstitious like LT, I would think I was the reason for both of these losses. The thing I like best about this experience is that I got free tickets and free transportation to and from the game (well, free because I have an unlimited Metrocard). However, I spent $20 on a sandwich and soda. gotta love it! I might go to another game this season, but not until it warms up.

I decided that Yankees fans are so annoying. Imagine sitting with a group of frat boys yelling "Boston Sucks" throughout the entire game. Go ahead and call me disloyal. I can take it.