Saturday, May 31, 2008

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Traveling Companion

It's that time of the week - injecting a little geographic exploration into an otherwise sedentary life.


In my myriad of travels over the years I've had the pleasure and displeasure of traveling with others. There is something about traveling with another person which can make you hate them or love them - let's hope it's the latter. Traveling alone can also have its plusses and minuses too.

I've traveled a bit on my own at various times - either for plesaure or work - and have found it to be both freeing and confining. After a stint on a kibbutz one summer I took off and backpacked around Israel by myself. No pesky companion to keep me from rising early to hike up Masada and see the sunrise. Alas, no companion either to accompany me out at night to walk around Jerusalem's Old City or to accompany me around the wall of the city. Both situations place a single person at risk of mugging or worse. I also ran into a similar problem while traveling for work in Morocco - a single woman out alone at night is thought to be a prostitute. Not sure what I would have been subjected to had I tested this theory.

On the flip side, traveling alone often afforded me the opportunity to meet new people, as I was not bound to any particular companion. In Benin for work, I spent most evenings at the hotel tiki bar by the pool chatting with the bartenders (in French!). Joining me were several other work travelers - an American selling a plane to the head of state and an Australian commodities trader loading a ship with cottonseed. I learned a lot about international commerce! In Savannah, I sat at the communal tables at Mrs. Wilkes' Boarding House and met conventioneers and couples touring the town.

My travels with my sister are legendary and in some ways I found a new friend - we got to know each other in ways that staying at home don't reveal. How fast are you willing to run for a train? Would you eat something you couldn't pronounce or recognize? In how many languages can you say "ooh, that jacket is so cute, I wonder what it costs?". Two friends of mine and I backpacked around Europe on a tiny amount of money but we survived with each other's help. When one friend accidentally put contact lens cleaning solution in her eye, we other two navigated the Greek bus and medical system - in German! To this day, I don't doubt any one of us would travel miles to help the others.

Nowadays I'm traveling with my husband and it's been a learning experience. We complement each other well - something we had to learn over time. He's a planner and I'm more laid-back. There was some friction at first but then we realized how well we work together - one made the reservations, the other agreed not to criticize the choices. Hasn't steered me wrong yet.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Rhymes with Hoover...


For more Singular Saturdays go visit Jenn in Holland.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


It's that time of the week - injecting a little geographic exploration into an otherwise sedentary life.


Yours truly is going to be out of town for a little while - about 10 days - for an Alaska cruise. No doubt future posts will be filled with stories about icebergs and polar bears or whatever else is there. Black bears? Moose? Maybe I need to do some research before I go.

Leading up to this trip, people have been asking me "are you EXCITED?" - maybe less of a question and more of a statement. Well yes and no. I'm sure the natural beauty of Alaska is something else - or so I'm told. And I do like nature. Love Switzerland's Alps and Glacier National Park's winding roads and Ireland's cliffs.

But what is fascinating obsessing me more these days is the cruise itself. I've never been on a cruise ship before - unless you count the overnight ferry from Italy to Greece where I slept on the floor with my backpacking buddies. I've been on river "cruises" - a three-hour tour. A three-hour tour. But never a floating hotel.

I'm not really a cruise person. That I know of. While people I know have been on many cruises - mostly Caribbean and warm weather - it's not necessarily a vacation I would choose for myself. I'm used to hauling my bag from hotel to hotel. Struggling to lift it onto a train (sometimes as it pulls out of the station). Packing and unpacking at each destination. Relearning my surroundings every few days. Finding decent restaurants. Walking miles between monuments.

Hmmm....might be a nice change of pace.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Schoolhouse Rock

This post brought to you by Soccer Mom in Denial - posting every Monday on a different musical memory.


I was reading a Washington Post series on childhood obesity in America. The series is going on all week and is looking at a number of aspects that encourage obesity in children - cuts in federal funding for physical education, lack of grocery stores in poor neighborhoods, etc.

How children (and parents) learn about basic science, math, and civics concepts reminded me of Schoolhouse Rock. I don't know if it's on anymore but every family should have a copy of the entire series. Everything from planets to adverbs is covered (I know you're all singing "Lolly, lolly, lolly" right now)

Oftentimes in my job I find myself discussing a piece of legislation because it affects what we do. People are impressed with my thorough knowledge of the legislative process. They think I have inside information because of my husband. Really, I'm just singing the tune, "I'm just a bill sitting here on Capitol Hill". And don't I look smart!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Too Much Rain, My Plants Are


For more Singular Saturdays go visit Jenn in Holland.

Friday, May 16, 2008

If Women Ran the World

I came across this interesting piece in the Washington Post about economic revival after the Rwandan genocide.

There are at least 3 take home messages here:
1) women are highly reliable at paying back loans
2) women devote a great portion of their income towards their families
3) women are innovative in developing and furthering businesses

Just goes to show you...women are awesome

Thursday, May 15, 2008

You Gotta See This!

If you regularly read this blog you'll note that I stay away from political commentary, despite deeply held views (which I won't reveal here or here or here).

But my husband came home with this one today and I just couldn't resist.

Frickin hilarious!

Things That Are Younger Than John McCain

call me ageist.

at least you can't call me a racist.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Jenn in France

It's that time of the week - injecting a little geographic exploration into an otherwise sedentary life.


My sister Jenn made it to France! She just moved from Indonesia - quite the series of flights. With a cat, no less. She'll be staying with Mom and stepdad for awhile until she figures out her next move - in France somewhere doing something.

I have fond memories of hanging out in France and Europe with Jenn. Way back when, oh about 15 years ago, we went on a trip there - just before I went to grad school.

On our flight over there we were crammed into our seats waiting for dinner. The steward comes by and says "chicken or beef". Jenn's reply "the chicken, how is that prepared?". His response "it's airline food, it's microwaved". Gotta love her gift for conversation.

During the flight over I come to find out that shen had not really ever traveled alone in Europe, without our parents. By this time I had backpacked around Europe with little money and had done quite well (I survived!). I would show her how to read the Eurail schedule and she would duly chase after departing trains - demonstrated by the time when such a thing occurred as we ran around the Bern bahnhof and leapt onto a moving train. Like something out of a movie. Only nothing romantic about it.

We learned that we could both communicate in French. Both. As in together. She would ask the questions and I would listen for the answers. This worked quite well, except one short bus trip where the driver didn't cooperate with our little 2-person act. So we ended up seeing the town twice. No big loss, it was very pretty.

Her gift for languages was also evident on a trip to Italy. Her love of food, sense of style, and appreciation of art were in abundance. As well as her ability to mix up words. While she had nailed down "please!" she couldn't quite recall the difference between "door" and "check". My follow up was "we'd like the check first please. And then we'll go out your door."

And since our first travels together she has been to more places, and lived in more countries than I ever will. I like to think I was her teacher. And now I'm her student.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Dance Moves

This post brought to you by Soccer Mom in Denial - posting every Monday on a different musical memory.


My calves hurt.

Friday night some friends came over and, after much wine, we put on 80's music. Both I and our friend (the husband in this couple) live in households where our music isn't always played so much. We suffer in silence...

But not Friday night. Somehow we won out and the tunes started playing. And then we started dancing. Mostly bouncing. Because if you remember the following songs, you remember that the main dance move is just bouncing up and down. Mostly with your arms at your side and your head bopping back and forth. Sometimes you gesture with your arms along with the music.

Bizarre Love Triangle - New Order
I Melt With You - Modern English
Our House - Madness
Mirror in the Bathroom - English Beat
Friday I'm in Love - The Cure

Lots of bouncing up and down. Just like the high school dance.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Fear of Flying

It's that time of the week - injecting a little geographic exploration into an otherwise sedentary life.


This week's post isn't about places I've been - it's about the journey. As they say, sometimes that's the more important part of the experience.

Not when you're afraid to fly.

As a child I can remember loving air travel. Airports were amazing - those boards that went clickety clack with different destinations could keep me captivated for hours. days. Trips to Kennedy airport to pick up visitors were magical.

Once on the plane I easily passed out. More often than not, I would miss dinner and breakfast on our trips to Europe. Mom always made sure that the chocolate from my breakfast tray was saved (loved KLM!). On the flight to England for my semester abroad in college I fell asleep before takeoff and woke after landing. All night long, boisterous college students laughed and talked around me. Who knew?

I remember when it all changed. Shortly after the crash of Swissair Flight 111 I started to get panicked on flights. It was mild fear at first and continued as such for several years. Sometime in the last 4 years it escalated.

I now understood what a full on panic attack felt like. It wasn't nausea that gripped me, it was sheer terror. Any little bump or noise would increase my already rapid heartbeat. My face burned, my palms and the bottom of my feet were sweaty. I didn't want to get off the plane, I just wanted it to land. Now.

As you can imagine, this hasn't made my travel-heavy life any easier. On our honeymoon in Tanzania we took small planes everywhere - very small. Somehow I felt okay. I felt closer to the ground and that was comforting.

Other flights have not gone as well. I've tried different psychological techniques and medication - both work at times. Sheer exhaustion seems to work the best. I can fall asleep. I don't need to know what's going on. I just don't need to know.

Alas, this fear doesn't exactly work with my career - but then the career chose me long before I feared flying. I won't stay home for something like this. I want to see the world.

And so it goes... just keep breathing.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Just Can't Get Enough

This post brought to you by Soccer Mom in Denial - posting every Monday on a different musical memory.


We just got a new Harris Teeter in our neighborhood. For where we live this is a very BIG deal. Our choices up until now have been some pretty lousy Safeways - all the no-carb cake you can eat. And a Whole Foods - for when I want to empty the bank account. I don't totally hate these other stores - it's just that when you live in a good neighborhood in a major city, having healthy food choices that don't bankrupt you is nice. Don't get me started on how ill served poorer areas of the city are.

On Saturday, I was in HT in the produce section amazed at my choices. And then I heard it, like a voice from Heaven...

Depeche Mode. Seriously. On their music system.

I don't need to shop anywhere else.


And check me out on Looking Into. Photos from sunny Miami.

Sunday, May 04, 2008


Lately, with spring upon us, I've been thinking a lot more about flowers. Here is one creation of my own - a pear Frangipane tart. Gorgeous and not as hard to make as you think. We're bringing it to a friend's house for lunch.

And here's another one - a creation of God's or Mother Nature's or a pretty talented horticulturalist's. Stunning.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Couldn't Sleep, Our Senile Cat was...


For more Singular Saturdays go visit Jenn in Holland.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Play Ball!

DC has a new baseball stadium - to go with the baseball team we acquired a few years back from Montreal. The Nationals - thank goodness so many other names didn't stick, although the cheer "Go Nats!" is a bit pornographic - are at the bottom of their division but that's okay. We're just happy to have a local team. Hauling our butts up to Baltimore to see the Orioles was getting a bit tedious.

In the same way other cities have built new stadiums (note aforementioned Orioles and others) DC built a new home for its team. Luckily, the same city that had the brains to elect and re-elect Marion Barry several times, and that doesn't exactly have any money ($50 million and counting stolen by the tax office), didn't pony up for this park. Business taxes will pay for it.

For a few years, the team played at the old RFK stadium which was really built for football. It has the unfortunate quality of capturing sunlight and heat. Good for winter sports, not good for summer in a swamp.

We were fortunate enough to visit the new stadium last week with friends who have season tickets. And, oh, they are sweeeet. They decided to opt for a sort of club level. We had access to a lounge and seats with padding. Yes, padding. So comfy. And warm on a cold night.

Being DC, the team and stadium really play off the theme of the Nation's Capital. The food stands all have names like Pentagon Pizza and there's even a Ben's Chili Bowl stand. During the 4th inning stretch there's the traditional race of the Presidents. Teddy Roosevelt, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln race around the field. For some reason Teddy always loses. I have no idea why.

The Nats beat the Braves in a very exciting game. Still bottom of the division, but who cares. We had only a short metro ride home. Heaven.