The Pumpkinization of America

A few days ago, I posted a little tidbit on Facebook that I feared might get me fired from the Internet. Or from living in America:

I ducked my head and waited for the backlash. I know that PSL Nation is a loyal bunch and they show little mercy.

When I came up for air and peeked online, I found that, interestingly, I’m not alone. That I have allies in this pumpkin overdose disdain. Allies who have some strong opinions. Turns out there are more of us out there than I imagined.

So here’s where this post gets divisive. I mean, you either embrace the pumpkin movement or you wish for its swift and thorough demise. Maybe we can all get along in the end, but first allow me to vent.

 

First of all, if you are Team Pumpkin, let me just say upfront that you win. I totally lose and you totally win beyond the shadow of a doubt. OK? And the truth is that I envy you at this time of year. It must be fucking awesome to be bombarded with a new food option in your flavor of choice every 12-16 seconds. I love chocolate like it’s my paid job and, at this time of year, my options are practically nil in comparison.

Don’t believe me? Let’s just take my Monday morning mid-September errands as a frame of reference:

–Stop #1, Starbucks: Yeah, this is where America’s Pumpkinpalooza started, and we all know it. It’s ground zero for pumpkin flavored treats. And I know by now that, come Labor Day through Christmas, I’m going to be ordering the sole drink in my Starbucks location served up by the barista that’s not a fucking PSL. In fact, I think they called out my beverage today by incredulously saying “Kim? Kim? Your grande NOT PSL is ready.” This was followed by stark silence and then a collective gasp of disbelief by the 39 PSL junkies ready to tackle each other for their seasonal crack with a side of pumpkin cake pops.

 

–Stop #2, Bagel Store:  It’s hard to fuck up a bagel, especially in the greater NYC metro area. And while I could pass on such common favorites as the Everything or the Cinnamon Raisin varieties, I think they’ve earned their place in the line-up over the years. But this morning, as I waited my turn to be served, I had to listen to this mother/daughter exchange:

“I think I want the pumpkin bagel with the plain cream cheese.”

“Or, you could get the plain, or the sesame bagel, with the pumpkin cream cheese.”

“Or I could get both.”

“Pumpkin bagel with pumpkin cream cheese? Do you think that will be too much?”

It was a real dilemma they were facing. Honestly, it was a good thing I had already obtained my Starbucks {non-PSL} caffeine fix so that I was able to tolerate this conversation without an inappropriate outburst. I mean, I don’t know what kind of options these two gals were facing for their remaining meals today, but I hope they pulled through.

 

–Stop #3, Trader Joe’s:  I love me some Trader Joe’s seasonal items — but — holy shit. Based on my rough calculations, the store’s inventory is currently 89.8256% pumpkin-based. Pumpkin Butter, Pumpkin Pancake Mix, Pumpkin Spice Country Granola, Pumpkin Ice Cream, Pumpkin Macaroons and — wait for it — Pumpkin Doggie Treats.

OMG, can we please fast forward to the holiday season with the peppermint overdose aisle? Because now, I can’t even enjoy any of the free samples at TJ’s — and that means I have to make my own breakfast at home. Which is bullshit.

 

–Stop #4, Doctor’s Office:  I swear I’m not making this up. I was in the waiting room, when the man next to me phoned his daughter to tell her he had indeed found the Pumpkin Spiced M&Ms at the grocery store. I honestly thought I was being Punk’d at this point. Who messes with something as pure and good and right as M&Ms, for fuck’s sake? Free the M&Ms!

 

–Stop #5, Internet:  By this point, my morning errands were completed, it was clear that it was me against the Pumpkinsphere. I arrived home and set about my urgent tasks {aka firing up the computer}, only to have my senses attacked by an email from Pinterest pointing me to their suggested seasonal boards. Among them, of course: EVERYTHING PUMPKIN.

Like a moth to the flame of defeat, I clicked on over to see what inspirational culinary treats awaited me from the Church of Pumpkin Disciples:

  • Pumpkin Cheesecake Crepes
  • Pumpkin Crisp
  • Boozy Pumpkin White Hot Chocolate {With key words like “boozy” and “chocolate,” I’ll admit it gave me pause — but, still, no.}
  • Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
  • Pumpkin French Toast Bake! {exclamation point is theirs, not mine — clearly}
  • Pumpkin Pie Martinis {Hmmmm. Yeah, still no.}

It goes on and on and on. And beats the issue to death. As Pinterest tends to do.

Anyway. It’s no use. Operation Pumpkin Domination just getting worse every year and it’s apparently the new world order {fall edition}.

But don’t feel bad for me. Because you know who I feel bad for? Apples and their fan base. Apples were the perennial darling of autumn. But that shit’s over. Yeah, sure, many of us go apple picking and we eat apple pie and a few similarly flavored items. But, if we’re being honest, apples got screwed over by pumpkins. Big time. And their day is done.

The whole thing is fascinating, really. I should just be grateful that another member of the gourd or squash family didn’t obtain this level of stardom. Can you imagine?

So, I guess I’ll conclude my rant with a thin and insincere congratulations to Team Pumpkin. Enjoy your season in the spotlight, folks. Because, before you know it, PSL and all its culinary cousins will be a distant memory.

And I will be all hopped up on peppermint bark and lattes.

 

 

 

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The Dessert Bar Baby

During pregnancy, there’s a whole host of resources you can seek out about your unborn child’s development. They really run the gamut. You have the casual, woman-to-woman-insider-advice. You have the straightforward medical stuff. And you also have the more alarmist and stiff guides to pregnancy that would have you wearing a Hazmat suit to get a pedicure.

I’ve noticed a disturbing common trend in several of these resources. Not the constant reminders about how your body will morph into an unrecognizable expanding vehicle of life. No, I’m talking about how they measure the size of your unborn child each week by comparing it to a piece of food.

For example, in the last four weeks, my kid has been — respectively — the size of a mango, an ear of corn, an average rutabaga, an English hothouse cucumber and a head a cauliflower.

What the fuck kind of buffet do these writers frequent?

An average rutabaga? Incredibly helpful.

English hothouse cucumber? Where do I find one of these? HOW BIG IS MY KID? I have no idea. And isn’t this starting to sound racy?

I guess I’m not foodie enough to grasp my child’s development. And I suspect I’m not alone.

Also, what kind of marketing jackass decides on these vegetable representations? Am I supposed to be excited about a head of cauliflower?  “Ohmygod, I cannot wait until my little garden salad is born.”

No, my kid sounds shriveled up and smelly. Oh God, there goes my pregnancy gag reflex.

If you want to get my attention about the size of my child each week, try this: Compare him/her to a highly appealing dessert item instead.

Let’s compare models.

Week 23

THEIR WAY

“Your baby is more than 11 inches long and weighs more than a pound (about as much as a large mango).”

MY WAY

 “This week, your child is the size of a magical, zero-calorie double fudge scoop of ice cream wedged between two rich, freshly-baked chocolate, chocolate chip cookies.”

 

Week 24

THEIR WAY

“Since he’s almost a foot long (picture an ear of corn), he cuts a pretty lean figure at this point.”

MY WAY

“Good news/bad news: You are what you eat! Your adorable kid has taken on the size and shape of that chocolate eclair you doubled down on at the Italian bakery this weekend.”

 

Week 25

THEIR WAY

“Her weight — a pound and a half — isn’t much more than an average rutabaga, but she’s beginning to exchange her long, lean look for some baby fat.”

MY WAY

“Your sweet unborn baby now resembles a masterfully crafted portion of tiramisu. Have you had your gestational diabetes test yet? Yes, you with the blog over there and the relentless sweet tooth.”

 

Week 26

THEIR WAY

“He now weighs about a pound and two-thirds and measures 14 inches (an English hothouse cucumber) from head to heel.”

MY WAY

“Holy shit, your kid resembles a pile of churros. If you are not excited about this baby now, I don’t know what to tell you.”

Week 27

THEIR WAY

“This week, your baby weighs almost 2 pounds (like a head of cauliflower) and is about 14 1/2 inches long with her legs extended.”

MY WAY

“This week, your baby is the size of that giant bowl of rice pudding you had a few nights ago. Actually, that’s not true — we all know that bowl of rice pudding was more in line with the size of a toddler.”

Doesn’t my way sound much more relatable? I know it makes me feel more connected to my child. And to my full panel maternity yoga pants.

I think one thing is clear: When I’m looking for a follow-up project to I Just Want to Pee Alone (You’ve bought your copy, right? See how I slid that in there?), I have a clear future in pregnancy guide authorship. Or tri-state dessert reviews.

In the meantime, I have a lot to look forward to. I’m about to hit Week 28 — when my child will weigh as much as a Chinese cabbage. I mean, an extra-large pound cake with chocolate frosting.

 

 

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Disney World Planning Fail

Every December 26, I get the Post-Christmas Blues and, to combat them, I begin to plan our family trip to Walt Disney World in March.

I followed the same timetable this year and got my flights/hotel squared away.  Then I made the mistake of blowing off the dining reservations until last week — an ungodly seven weeks prior to our arrival.

This is pretty much Disney Armageddon.  The End of Days.  The Death of Tinkerbell.

Now, before you Disney veterans begin breathing into a paper bag, I should tell you that I know better.  I’m a seasoned WDW traveler.  And while I’m not the WDW Extremist who books my trip six months in advance, I have found that two months out is generally OK if the dates don’t coincide with Spring Break.

I just procrastinated with the dining this year.  And now I’m paying for it.

I don’t believe in planning every single meal at WDW in advance, but there are key restaurants/experiences I want to nail down ahead of time.  And then there is some ratio where I’m willing to wing it with some fast food-ish (aka Quick Service Dining) options.  That’s OK.  If it’s part of the plan to do that.

Let me illustrate exactly what you don’t want:  No plan at the stroke of 5pm, when your kids declare they are starving at the same moment that everyone else in Central Florida reaches the same realization.  

Because, at that point, you are left with these choices:

–Accept a hot pretzel as your fate for dinner, served by some 15 year-old in an awful costume who chirps, “Have a magical day!”

–Wait on some line for 45 minutes to eat at The Craptastic Desperation Buffet.  {I don’t think that’s the official name, but I’d have to check.}

 

Not willing to fully embrace this destiny for three meals a day over five days, I have come up with some alternate coping mechanisms for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

1.  Research a secret loophole for using FastPass in restaurants.  Screw Space Mountain, I want the front of the line at Chef Mickey’s breakfast.

2.  While in a crowded, enclosed space {presumably, waiting to go on a ride}, start a loud and highly plausible rumor about “those unfortunate findings” in the kitchen of Cinderella’s Royal Table.  “I mean, at first I thought the mice were part of the act, but…”

3.  Begin to fabricate false memories of how tasty the buffets were.  Maybe that dried out meat and side of Goofy pasta really was worth the $30 per person.

4.  Wonder how long the family can subsist on the illegal stash of cereal bars I have smuggled into the park {ssshhhhh, they’re watching}.

5.  Drop hints to the kids that eating lunch with a Disney character is overrated.  Suggest that Mickey and Cinderella are egomaniacs who  steal children’s french fries.

6.  Rationalize the money we are saving by sacrificing sit-down meals.  After all, a series of $8 hot pretzels is way more economical, paving the way for the irrational purchase of various overpriced memorabilia in the shape of mouse ears.

7.  Secretly scheme a pregnancy-related blood sugar crash in front of my favorite Disney restaurant during peak dining hours.

8.  Tell my family that, starting on this vacation, we’ll be juicing as part of a new health kick.  Assure them that the dizziness will pass.

9.   Consider cheating on WDW with dinner at Universal.  Risk being locked out of our WDW resort upon our return.

10.  Embrace the Vacation = Ice Cream philosophy to an extreme by feeding the family those delicious Mickey-shaped ice cream bars at every meal.  Praise myself for the parenting knowledge to offer significant dairy supplemental value to my growing kids.

 

There.  I feel better already.  I think these strategies will work, if it comes down to it.

But, just in case, I’m on hold with the WDW Dining Reservations Line as I type this — ready to execute my alternate plan:  Begging.

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Lessons From the Pumpkin Spice Latte Shortage

 

You guys.  It’s safe to go outside again.

The Great Pumpkin Spice Latte Shortage of 2012 has ended.  Apparently at some point last week, Starbucks declared the “pumpkin emergency” to be over and PSL was once again in plentiful supply.  Soccer Mom riots nationwide were narrowly averted.

It’s all going to be OK.  No Lululemons were torn in the fracas.

Personally, I was not one of the victimized masses of this near-tragedy.  Mostly because — sssshhhh — I don’t really get the whole PSL rage.  You can have my ration — I just want my high-maintenance grande, skim, no foam latte.  And probably a cake pop.  OK, two.

More broadly, I’m not an advocate of the Let’s Flavor All Possible Fall Food & Drink Items With Pumpkin rage, which seems to grow more extreme every year.  Growing up, I remember pumpkin pie and, well, that’s it.  Now, you can’t get away from gourd-infused recipes.  Pumpkin cream cheese.  Pumpkin ice cream.  Pumpkin-stuffed-pumpkin with a side of pumpkin sauce.  You want to stroke out?  Enter “pumpkin recipes” on the search bar of Pinterest.  It’s like another universe to me.  But this is a rant for another day.

Because I want to get back to PSL-Gate.  During the acknowledged shortage, there were customer tweets of rage, as well as national news coverage and official PR responses from Starbucks.  Oh, and eBay sales of alleged PSL mix.  Yes, really.

Had this not been resolved quickly, I fear we were mere days away from a rogue high school chemistry teacher going all Breaking Bad and cooking his own PSL for illicit distribution. {Not a bad business model, incidentally.  Maybe getting ahead of the curve and setting up your own Peppermint Latte Mix cooking crew now could pad your pockets with some extra holiday cash, in the event of a similar shortage.  Get your hands on a stash of those red seasonal Starbucks cups and, guys, you are in serious business.  You are the Walter White of overpriced holiday coffees.}

Anyway, it was close call, indeed.

If you or someone you love was affected by this issue, I hope you came through it OK with a satisfactory back-up beverage.  But now that things are settling down, I’d like to reflect on how an event like this could genuinely fuck up some real holiday season delights.

Imagine, if you will, a shortage of these must-have items:

  • Tryptophan.  Sweet Jesus, it’s bad enough that Thanksgiving falls a mere two weeks after the election — at which point I will be breaking bread with many a family member on the opposite end of the political spectrum.  If I can’t count on a post-turkey fit of narcolepsy, I will have to rely solely on liquor to get me through the day.  Again.
  • Egg nog.  This one may stir up debate — egg nog is divisive, no doubt.  Personally, I’m firmly in the pro-nog camp.  This may take the starring role of all the holiday food and drink items in which I vastly overindulge in the name of “It’s only once a year.”**  So while it’s true that an egg nog shortage could potentially bank me about 16,000 calories to use elsewhere, it would be missed.  And then I’d have an unwieldy rum and nutmeg surplus.

                      **where “once a year” = two full calendar months, on a daily basis

  • Any and all items in the Trader Joe’s holiday candy line-up.  What else will I eat while I stress out about the following night’s Elf on the Shelf placement?  Oh yes, I’m looking at you, Peppermint Waffle Cookies and Candy Cane Joe-Joe’s.  Wait for me in  aisle 4, loves.

These are the shortages that would really cause some medium to long-term damage for me.  And, yes — clearly, all holiday spirits, specialty drinks and wine fall into this category.  I figured that went without saying but you can’t be too careful.

I’m feeling a little panicky now, I have to admit.  If this could happen to PSL, what else is possible?  I mean, we’ve already been warned about a likely worldwide bacon shortage in 2013.

What next?

Stock up on your favorites, I say.  I mean, we don’t have to go all Hoarders in the grocery/liquor stores.  Use common sense.  Make a reasonable effort to look like you have some self-control and discretion.  Even if you’re screaming on the inside.  Stay calm and slowly, selectively, fill up your cart.

Let’s learn from this tragedy and take back some control over our favorite holiday treats.  Before it’s too late.

Now get going.

 

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The Male Mind in the Grocery Store

“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”

“Be careful what you wish for.”

“Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.”

If we were playing $10,000 Pyramid, these would all be clues I could give you to describe a recent singular event here.   And we’d both be wearing plaid polyester.  In the Winner’s Circle, of course.

Contrary to popular belief, the answer to my clues wouldn’t be “Bad Cliches My Mother Overuses.”

No.  It would be “Things I Have Been Mumbling to Myself After Sending My Husband to the Grocery Store With the Kids.”

My back was out again last week.  Which played out nicely in avoiding things like laundry and grocery shopping.  My husband was more than helpful.  And I really shouldn’t complain that he did the grocery shopping.  I shouldn’t.

Because that would be bitchy and ungrateful.

I won’t complain.  I’ll just document what items came back with him.

 

 

If anyone needs me, I’ll be working on getting the Entenmann’s figure down to 5%.  It seems more productive and enjoyable than complaining.

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Celebration & World Domination

 

 

It’s birthday party time around here.

Don’t worry — there are no kids’ birthday cake disasters in the works.  And I’m not still attempting to extend my 40th {well, not much}.

Nope.  This birthday belongs to the blog.

That’s right, folks — The Fordeville Diaries meets The Terrible Twos.  I’ve somehow learned to crawl and walk over the last two years in Blog Land — so now I guess it’s time for unpredictable public tantrums.  Let the fun begin.

This is my 208th post on this site — 80 of which were written in the last year.  I won’t bore you with everything that I covered in the last 12 months, but here’s the Reader’s Digest recap:

  • We unknowingly undertook the longest basement renovation in modern American history — pending final ruling from the people at The Guinness Book.
  • I drank wine.
  • I dreaded turning 40.
  • I embraced turning 40.  This entailed taking my deep denial on a series of road trips, both domestic and international.
  • I almost kicked our General Contractor in the kneecaps somewhere around the eight month mark of the basement project.
  • I drank wine.
  • I had an apocalyptic swarm of bees in my yard, which resembled a National Geographic episode and a scene from Candyman. Which led to self-imposed house arrest and, ultimately, more wine.
  • I began to deny the very existence of our basement.  Except that I was dragging dirty clothes to the laundromat for six months.
  • I kept the 40th birthday party going.
  • I harbored an unhealthy amount of rage toward my basement.*

{*Note: The final, final approved basement inspection JUST OCCURRED LAST WEEK.  So if your wager on the completion timeframe of our “5-week” project was 54 weeks — you win!  What you’ve won exactly is still TBD, but I have a ton of items in our storage pod you can choose from.}

 

Now that you’re up to speed on the riveting excitement of my life, I’ll tell you a secret —  in the spirit of the blog’s birthday:  I never get tired of writing here.

If I had more spare hours in the day, I would spend many of them doing exactly this.  The blog is one of my favorite things in the world.  And every time, with every post, I’m so thrilled — and sort of surprised, and certainly lucky — that someone will read it.  And even comment.  And then — sometimes — come back to read more.

Some posts are better than others.  And it’s always fascinating to see which ones generate more comments and traffic {all you closet 50 Shades fans, I’m looking at you.}

These are my favorites from this past year.  Because a birthday is a good time to look back.

How to Lose Your Will to Live at the DMV

The Days Are Long

Out of the Office

Lawyering Up

Say It With Tape

I Might Be Scared of These Families

Hibachi PTSD

The Problem With House Hunters

 

A birthday is also a good time to look ahead.  And though the terrible twos can be tough, I’m confident we can get through them together.  With wine, of course.  And coffee.  And some unconventional parenting.

If you want to celebrate this birthday with me, I’d love it.

What’s that?  You want to bring a gift to the party?

Oh no, I couldn’t possibly accept a gift.  I don’t really need anyth–

Wait a minute.

I know what I really want.  And you can help me get it.

 

***************

FORDEVILLE WORLD DOMINATION!

***************

 

I’m kidding.

Mostly.

What I mean is this:  I love to write this stuff, but I’m bad at promoting it.  Really bad.  There are bloggers who excel at catchy, attention-grabbing titles and witty tweets to spread the word and attract more readers.  I’m more like, “Uh, hey, if you guys have time and aren’t totally busy, maybe you could read this.  I hope you think it’s a little funny.  OKthanksbye.”  

I was never a marketer by trade.

So, remember those Faberge Shampoo commercials from the 80s?  “And then she told two friends, and she told two friends.  And so on.  And so on…”  {If your answer is “Oh those were made before I was born,” just keep that to yourself, ok?}

That Faberge Effect is the best gift you could give me.  If you like what you see around here — please pass it along to someone else who might enjoy it too.  Because if my chronic mis-steps in parenting and, well — life in general — can help make one person feel less crazy, more normal and like Mother of the Year — then my writing is not in vain.

Not a fan of the Faberge model?  How about this instead:  If you’re not already following along on Facebook, please do.  Because you get exclusive bonus features* over there beyond my blog posts.  If I were a real blogger, I’d have some birthday giveaways or contests or something for all of you.  The truth is, I’m just not that organized.  But I suspect you already knew that.

{*Bonus features = mainly snarky photos about my kids or life in suburbia.}

But in all seriousness — thanks so, so much for your readership, your comments and your support.  And your wine suggestions.  You guys are fabulous.

So, if you’ll have me for another year, I’ve got a lot more up my sleeve.  I can’t reveal everything, but I’m told that good marketers use teasers.

  • Will we renovate the kitchen next?  Or maybe tear down the whole house?  And who will live to tell?
  • How will Señor and I resolve our legal battle around the annual Halloween costume debacle?
  • In which states will my kids vomit this year on road trips?
  • And — last but not least — how many people will I accidentally poison through the new couples’ dinner club I’ve joined?

You’re all on the edge of your seats, aren’t you?  I can feel it.

Year Three awaits.  After I have some celebratory cake and wine.  Join me, won’t you?

 

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Three

Three years ago today I had this meeting for the first time.

Like every child does, my daughter stole my heart the moment I saw her.

Today was all about her.  Turning three.  Or maybe twelve.  It’s hard to tell sometimes.

 

You may know that I get a little nuts with my Birthday Cake Baking Guilt affliction.  But I let it go this time — mostly because my daughter didn’t have a strong opinion about it.  And, like most aspects of parenting — if I can get a loophole clause, you bet I’m going to use it.

So I outsourced the cake.  Which considerably slowed down my aging process.  Order, pay, pick up.  Wow.  That’s 40 hours of my life I got back.

But look who is calling my bluff.

At three, she is ready to take on the world.  She has a distinct sense of adventure.  Of joy.  She is her brother’s biggest fan and also his greatest agitator.  And, she has enviable comedic timing.  She’s not just in on the joke, but she’s in charge of it.

She is well on her way to taking over this household.  And then, possibly, the universe.

Happy birthday to my sweet, sweet girl.  I’m so excited to see what this year brings you.

Right after you recover from today’s sugar overdose.

 

 

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De Madrid al Cielo

 

 

I think I might be ready to accept the fact that my vacation is over.

It has become increasingly obvious over the last few days that the laundry and grocery shopping are not going to get done on their own.  So I suppose it’s time to put my Spanish holiday in the “this happened a million years ago” files and return to real life.

But.  Let me just say, it was a heavenly trip.

In fact, there is a popular phrase in Spain that sums it up:  De Madrid al cielo {“From Madrid to the heavens”}.

Meaning, once you see Madrid, heaven is the next best thing.  And I get that.

As I suspected, Madrid did not disappoint.  Yes, of course some things have changed in the 19 years since I lived there, but so much is just as I remembered it.

I was gone for a week.  It felt like a month and it felt like a day all at once, if that makes sense.

If you don’t mind, I think I’ll just dump a bunch of photos on you.

* * *

The trip was sort of divided into phases, which worked out really well.

Phase One:  The Good Old Days.

I flew over with my close friend Rebecca, who had studied there with me back in 1993.  We had 48 hours there together, and we walked every inch of the city — taking it all in and remembering old times.

We also met up with our Spanish friends, whom we hadn’t seen in 19 years.  These guys were so good to us when we lived there — they showed us their city and taught us how to act like Spaniards.  And they basically partied with us every night of the semester.  They were dear friends.  Rebecca and I knew what a special time that was for us, but I don’t think we ever understood how fondly they remembered it as well.

So imagine, all these years later, to be able to see them again, and to meet their wives and sons.  To hear about all they have been doing.  To see that they are still the kind, generous souls who want to make us feel at home in their city.  Their hospitality was beyond measure, and it was amazing to feel as though we could pick right back up again.

And strangely, I found my Spanish coming right back to me in conversation.  On day one, I was hesitant and intimidated.  By day three, nearly fluent.  Which I totally did not expect.  Could I pick up every word?  No.  But I had an 80/20 rule that worked out pretty well, as long as I didn’t miss a key point in that 20% gap.

 

Phase Two:  24 Hours in Zurich.

While the impetus for the trip was to celebrate Rebecca and me turning 40 (though she still has a precious few weeks holding onto 39), the timing also worked out spectacularly that our dear friend Alicia — also part of the original study abroad group — just had her first baby.  In Zurich.  So, what’s a little side trip?  We were already across the ocean, right?

I’d been to Zurich once before to see Alicia.  It’s a fascinating place.  Not only is it textbook-gorgeous, but, as Rebecca said, it’s like visiting the future.  Everything is super-clean and super-efficient.

The irony of this is not lost on me.

It’s always great to have the three of us together, though it happens so infrequently.  Nothing is off limits in our chats.  You know those friends?  The ones you can have TMI girl talk with at turbo-catch-up-speed?  It was that.  A little unfortunate for Alicia’s boyfriend, whom we may have traumatized.  But he was a total trooper.  We had a fabulous and much-needed 24 hours together.

 

Phase Three:  The Newbies Arrive.

Rebecca had to fly back to the US from Zurich, and I headed back down to Madrid just as my husband and our friends from Boston arrived for the second half of my trip.  Of the three of them, none had been to Madrid before.  So it was in my hands to show them the city and make sure they loved it as much as I do.

It’s fun to be a tourist.  To walk and wander and discover something fabulous at every corner.

 

To join silly bus tours.

 

Oh, and to stop every hour or so for food and drink.  Because it was flaming hot.  About 104 degrees.  Basically, it was the Sunscreen Olympics I’d been training for my entire life.

So I ate and drank my weight in the following:  Spanish ham.  Churros con chocolate.  Cafe con leche.  Wine.  Cheese.  Times one thousand.

And we had some culinary adventures too.  Like eels.  And sea urchin.  And blood sausage.  Delicious, every one of them.

Truly, the Spanish lifestyle is one I could embrace in earnest.  They know how to live.

{Side note:  Why has nobody made a fortune off of a proper churros franchise in the US yet?  How the hell has this not happened?}

Anyway.  My husband loved Madrid.  So did our friends.  I couldn’t have asked for anything more.  Except, maybe, to have the Euro Cup Spanish victory occur one week earlier, when we were still there.  Instead, we watched at home with Spain’s newest fans.

 

* * *

So now I’m back and, somehow, my kids seem to have grown six inches each and appear a year older.  It’s funny how a week will do that.

I feel somehow like I never left home, while I wash dishes and pack lunches for camp.  And at the same time,  I feel myself still clinging on to the photos in my mind of my week-long adventure.  It’s odd how a place can feel so close to you and so far away.  How real life automatically hums and buzzes back into gear while your memory holds onto what was a temporary alternate reality.  Sometimes you need those photos just to prove to yourself that it actually happened.  That you were really there not that long ago.

It’s a strange feeling, the re-entry to real life.

But, above all, I feel lucky.

Lucky to have gone.  Lucky for how well it worked out.  And truly lucky that Spain has stayed in my soul after all these years.

 

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Morning TV & Mr. Zero

I’m having a little problem with re-entry into the real world after my week in Spain.

Where is room service to clean up this mess?

Where is my wine with lunch?

And, for the love of all that is holy, where are the churros con chocolate for breakfast?

{On a related note, does anyone have a tarp or a drop cloth I can wear for the next few weeks?  Preferably something lightweight.  Just until I shed the 671 vacation pounds and am able to resume life with buttons at the waistline.}

But I’m not ready to post much more about my trip yet.  Because that would mean it happened in the past and it’s over.  And that can’t be.  So please indulge my denial for a day or two.

Let’s instead talk about current events.  Two in particular.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to raise a health care debate.

1)  Ann Curry: Don’t Let The Door Hit You in the Ass on the Way Out

I mean, who says Christmas only comes once a year?  Finally, I can resume watching my morning show of choice after a year-long, self-imposed exile.  I returned from vacation to find out that, at long last, the NBC News execs had come to their senses and dropped Ann.

It was like getting a pet unicorn.  Wrapped in a rainbow.

OK, now go ahead and be mad at me.  I know, I know.  Poor Ann.  

Here’s the thing: I’m not saying she’s not nice.  I bet she’s lovely to have dinner with.  And I do love her hair.  Yes, I feel sorry for her — it has to be brutally embarrassing to lose your job this way.  Except for that, um, $10 million parachute.  That might cushion the blow, if it were me.  I’m shallow like that.

BUT.

I’m sorry, she was a terrible fit for the job.  I actually felt physically uncomfortable watching her.  I suspect that, over time, her bosses also felt the same way.  But instead of enduring the publicity associated with firing her, I’m somewhat convinced that they have discreetly been trying to kill her off for the past few years instead.

  • We need someone to scale an actively erupting volcano and report from its mouth:  Let’s send Ann.
  • That incoming tsunami needs someone on low-lying ground to see the impact:  Get Ann a small dinghy to report from.
  • Angelina Jolie wants to convince America she has a soul:  Ann will go visit the belly of the beast.  Or its exposed leg.

But Nine Lives Curry just kept on bouncing back and showing up for work.  And screwing up every other word on the news.  So the messy public firing eventually happened.

That’s just one theory, of course.  Call me prone to exaggeration.

And fear not, Ann Curry fans.  She will still be all over NBC.  But I can safely digest my morning coffee again, which is nice.

 

2)  Nora Ephron:  Say It Isn’t So

Far more sad is the news that Nora Ephron passed away.  What an amazing writer.  Silkwood.  Heartburn.  Sleepless in Seattle.

And of course, When Harry Met Sally.  It was the first movie I ever went to see more than once in the theater (four times, to be precise).  Maybe because it borrows heavily from my very favorite movie, Annie Hall.  Or maybe just because it’s so smart and continues to be one of the key romantic comedies that set the standard.

When I went to grad school for screenwriting (see: “How to set money on fire”), I tried so hard to write a decent romantic comedy.  And it’s incredibly difficult to do.  I suppose that’s why I’m sitting on my couch typing about basement renovations and pre-school.

Anyway, Nora Ephron did it exquisitely well.  And since I never miss an opportunity to swap movie quotes with other willing participants, can we just talk about When Harry Met Sally for a minute?  Here are some of my favorite lines from this movie.

  • “How long do you like to be held after sex? All night, right? See, that’s your problem. Somewhere between 30 seconds and all night is your problem.”
  • “Mr. Zero knew you were getting a divorce before you did?”
  • “Sheldon can do your income taxes, if you need a root canal, Sheldon’s your man… but humpin’ and pumpin’ is not Sheldon’s strong suit. It’s the name. ‘Do it to me Sheldon, you’re an animal Sheldon, ride me big Shel-don.’ Doesn’t work.”
  • “Eventually things move on and you don’t take someone to the airport and I never wanted anyone to say to me, ‘How come you never take me to the airport anymore?’”
  • “Someday, believe it or not, you’ll go 15 rounds over who’s gonna get this coffee table. This stupid, wagon wheel, Roy Rogers, garage sale COFFEE TABLE.”
  • “Six years later, you find yourself singing ‘Surrey With a Fringe on Top’ in front of Ira!”
  • “Oh but ‘Baby Fish Mouth’ is sweeping the nation.”

And, let’s not forget…

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OK, so maybe that’s not a quote as much as the entire end of the film.  But still.  It never gets old.  {Plus, I got married in the building where they shot that scene, so I have a real weakness for it.}

So thanks, Nora Ephron, for doing what most of us could never do.

 

And can we all pretend that I’m still on vacation?  Thanks.

 

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I’m Really Going

 

Well, it’s almost here.  My big trip.  The one I am giving myself for that 40th birthday celebration I keep extending.

I’m off to Madrid for a week!

I can’t even believe it.

Here’s the thing:  Madrid has a special, special place in my heart.  I studied there for a semester in college and fell in love with it.

Like many others who studied abroad will tell you, I think this may have been the best time I ever had (except, of course, for meeting my husband — and having my kids — and whatever else would cause someone to be offended by omission).  I went with four other classmates and we were together all the time.  Not only because we liked each other and needed all five brains to form a Spanish paragraph, but because we shared the smallest apartment in the history of the world.  And I stand by that statement after living in New York City for 16 years.

It was a crazy and lovely time.  We learned to speak Spanish (mostly).  We attended class from time to time.  We traveled around Europe with backpacks as long as our bodies, sleeping on train station floors and staying in highly questionable youth hostels.  We wreaked havoc on various foreign cities.  The world seemed to be quite literally at our feet.

But above all, we had a love affair with Spain.

It’s a place that has just stuck with me, and I’ve been wanting to go back for 19 years.  But it never happened, for various reasons.  There were other places to go that I’d never seen before.  There were logistics.  And kids.  And work.  And bills.  And life.

But now, I’m going.  With one of my best friends, Rebecca, who was in that original study abroad group with me.

Here we are, amidst our 1993 European escapades.  Apparently, we thought that a mere scarf would make us look less American and more fashionable when standing outside the Roman Colosseum.

Notsomuch.

This time we’ll try not to look like unfashionable twins.  And we’ll shower more than we did the last time.

We’re also meeting up with two of our native Madrid friends who showed us the ropes of their great city back then.  I’ve kept in touch with them sporadically via Facebook, Twitter and {thank God} Google Translation.  So it will be fabulous to see them all these years later.

And then we will see another one of the original Study Abroad Five {aka “Somos cinco“}, who now lives in Zurich.

And my husband will come over for part of the week too.

And our good friends from Boston.

It’s a pop-up birthday party in Spain.  I feel so, so lucky.

It’s hard to know what it will be like to go back.  What I mean is that obviously it’s different to visit a place than to live in it, to know it day in and day out.  When we studied lived there, we had our daily routine, a way of life dictated by attending school.  {By “attending school,” I mean planning the next excursion over cafe con leche and churros when we should have been in class.}

But a seven-day visit, almost 20 years later, is surely going to be much more touristy in nature.  Just the highlights.  Although we will likely be found with cafe con leche and churros pretty frequently again.

In my mind’s eye, I remember how magnificent Madrid is.  Very chic and yet very traditional. I remember the Spanish sky.  I remember the food.  The coffee.  The people.  The wine.  The cheese.

I’m going.  Holy shit, I’m going.

Yes, I’ve built it all up in my head from nostalgia overload, though I highly doubt Madrid could disappoint me.

And of course, we all know that Spain is experiencing some serious economic issues right now, which is very unfortunate.  However, I am taking it as my personal challenge and responsibility to jump-start the economy through seven days of wine and cheese consumption.  Possibly with a side of shoes.  I can do it.  I know I can.  Rebecca will also be contributing substantially.

Then there is the issue of language.  My Spanish is rusty, to say the least.  I was once nearly fluent.  Now I can get by.  Kind of.  My husband does not believe me — he thinks I’m being modest.  So let’s just say he’s in for quite the surprise when I can only manage to order us a taco or direct him to the bathroom.

But, thankfully, I have been watching enough Dora and Diego with my kids to get some key Spanish skills back, though the topics at hand are somewhat limited.  For instance, I can basically name all jungle animals, which will help if I see an urban tiger roaming the streets of Madrid.  And I can also name a few landmarks, Dora-style {“Lake, cave, murky mud puddle — say it with me!”} in Spanish.  But also wine.  And cheese.  And, “Excuse me, how much for those stunning leather shoes that will look terribly out of place at pre-school drop-off?”

But I’m going.

I’ve been conditioning myself to leave my kids for a full week.  And they’ve had enough behavioral episodes recently that I feel pretty good about bidding them adios for seven days.  Of course I’ll miss them, though.

But I’m going.  My SPF 5,000,000 is packed.

I have visions of urban roaming with no real agenda.  Just some wandering, some wine, some food.  Taking it all in.  Relishing a very different place for a week.  Embracing a break from the daily grind.  Remembering a nearly perfect time in my life and being grateful to revisit it with my husband and good friends.

I doubt I’ll do a blog post while I’m there, mostly because my hands will be too sticky from the churros to type.  But, fear not, my international data plan is purchased.  So if you want to follow along, I will definitely be posting photos on Instagram and Facebook.  They will probably include various shots of cheese, and perhaps Rebecca and I revisiting our favorite spots.  And my husband’s confused face when I’ve directed him to the wrong restroom, as he finally realizes that my Spanish is que horrible after all these years.

But I’m going!

This turning 40 gig may not be so bad after all.

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