Saturday, March 14, 2015

Australia tidbits

If there were a way to sum up how young white men dress in Sydney, Australia, it would be summery metrosexual. So many peg-legged pants and shorts that seem a little too short paired with tattoo sleeves and Birkenstocks or flip flops.

Okay I take that back. That was in a particular neighborhood reminiscent of Bushwick or Greenpoint.  But there are still a lot of shorts and Birks. Lots of shorts on women, too. I looked like a middle aged German man wearing capris. Oh well. Gesundheit.

Australia gets the concept of drinking water with your alcohol. Almost every bar we went to had a reservoir of water which patrons can help themselves to. In one bar's restroom was even a sign reminding ladies that water with your beer helps keep your head on straight. Sponsored by Diageo no less.

Many bars are located in what were formerly hotels or are still small boarding houses upstairs. "The reason dates back to late nineteenth century when, after pressure from conservative Christian groups known as the Temperance Leagues, new liquor legislation were implemented with a lot of restrictions, one of them forcing pubs to also provide accommodation. The presence of a few rooms (rarely used) and the "hotel" name then gave some impression the rules were being followed."

I can't be the only one who hears kangaroos referred to as roos by an Australian and assumes those are the babies. Kanga is the mom, obviously.

I'm so in love with passion fruits. They are the funniest little fruits -- a crunchy slushy in the ugliest shell.

Despite the news of Uber gouging desperate people trying to flee the hostage situation in Sydney a few months ago, Uber is not that well known in Sydney or Melbourne. Every driver we got was brand new to the job, some by only days. All were exceedingly polite and offered us mints and water.

It's hard to pick what to drink when everywhere we went there was such good beer and wine to drink. Australia does some lovely dry Rieslings, I discovered.

A lot of cool bars in Sydney are in hotels. Either former hotels or ones that have some simple lodging available -- old school pub style apparently. Don't quote me on this. That's just what I've pieced together.

Tasmania has the most micro climates I have ever encountered anywhere. When it rained, which was every day, it was only briefly and usually while it was sunny as well.

After practicing driving on the left in Scotland, it was much less harrowing this time. I even did it, with relatively few mishaps. I admit that I did turn into a grocery store parking lot on the right side of the road. I'm sure I got dirty looks but no one was hurt.

It didn't help that in the car we rented, the windshield wipers and the turn signal were reversed. Every stressful turn included a bit of wiper action. That was just a given.

See more photos here.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Scotland in a nutshell

Scotland is not typically a destination of choice in January, but I highly recommend it if you happen to find yourself needing to go there in the middle of winter (which is what happened to us). Jeff had to do research on whisky (it's whisky over there, not whiskey like it is the US) for his book. He was going to go in November, but I didn't want to miss a trip to Scotland so I asked him to postpone until after my job ended.

I've been to a lot of snow-covered places, but Scotland wins hands-down at wearing its snow the best. Somehow it manages to snow there almost every day, but not a lot and some of it melts off, so there are not huge, dingy banks of snow on the side of the roads. And driving isn't too treacherous. It is rather scary, however, to drive on the "wrong" side of the road for the first time on snowy roads. We survived that and only got stuck on a giant rock when Jeff tried to eat an ice cream while driving. That might work with an automatic transmission, but you'd have to be an octopus to manage that with a manual. Luckily, we were on a farm when it happened and a kindly farmer was nearby with a tractor.

I'm not a fan of whiskey or whisky so after tagging along to a few distilleries I went off on my own, which really is the perfect scenario anyway since I love having my own time to tool around on trips and Jeff had his own adventures driving down narrow country lanes in search of whisky.

Cullen skink is smoked haddock in a milky broth with chives. Doesn't sound too appetizing but after trying it in two different restaurants I am sold on in wholeheartedly.

Bar tabs aren't allowed by Scottish law, to keep people from drinking too much. If you order food, however, it is allowed. The legal alcohol limit in Scotland is only 0.5, whereas it's 0.8 in the rest of the UK and in the US. That's like one beer. At one of the distilleries Jeff visited, he was told they don't give tastes to anyone who is driving as that will automatically put them over the limit.

There's no rhyme or reason to where people park or pull over. This seems to be a pan-European phenomenon that I will never understand. I saw someone parked in a bus stop, facing the opposite direction as the cars on that side of the road.

One day Jeff dropped me off in the small town of Grantown (pronounced Granton) while he went to a distillery nearby. First I took a walk down a lovely snowy path and then I poked my head into a cafe that didn't look too inviting so then I poked my head into a bar. Three gents were sitting there and they welcomed me happily. One was named Norman (last name of Grant, whose family is original townsfolk). The one with the mustache is Davie (don't ever call him David) and the third one is Iain, who had a voluminous beard. Davie's partner owns the bar but he works it when she's out. He kept up with the rest of us in beers, however.

They wouldn't let me buy my beers and they kept me thoroughly entertained. The only other bar in town is the Craig but they assured me it was not as good as the Claymore. I believe it! These 3 tease each other mercilessly. I get the impression most Scots are like that. For example, to tell Iain apart from another bar patron with the same name, he is called Upside Down Iain since his hair is below his head. There are various things they bet on in the bar and he always writes his name as U.D. Iain now. "It was easier to just go along with it," he said.

I was so eager to try a local speciality, squat lobsters. But, sadly, they are only available in the summer. A fish and chip shop owner told us it's just not worth it to prepare them in the winter for not much demand. And they aren't exported due to their delicate nature. Some day we'll have to come back in warmer weather, check out some of the islands and eat squat lobsters.

I managed to nearly eat my weight in other types of seafood, however. Smoked trout, smoked haddock, salmon, fried pollack, fried shrimp. And all local!

Women eat heartily in Scotland, thank goodness! Although if one is feeling less hungry (due to all the other eating), waitresses will try to tell you that you haven't ordered enough food. No salad for main courses! Maybe you want the haggis, too?

Speaking of haggis, it's fairly palatable, but I can't get over its components. Beef and ale pie is more my speed.

I will possibly never be able to see a “TO LET” sign without mentally inserting an i.

I sure love the existence of half pints. Not so much real ales, though. I just can't get used to beer being served that warm. Sorry, beer aficionados.

You know how in many parts of Europe if you want to drink water you have to order a bottle of if and even so it tastes funny? Well, in Scotland not only does hardly anyone buy bottles of it, but the tap water is top notch!

The only real downside to a wintertime trip is that there are going to be days that are just too yucky for being outside. Luckily in Scotland there always seems to be a welcoming pub or old bookstore.

The name Craig is all over Scotland, mostly as parts of longer words. I have never seen most of my name on so many signs! It was fun introducing myself as Craige as well, especially to the gents I met in the bar in Grantown.

So, that's Scotland in a nutshell. I absolutely want to go back, perhaps in slightly warmer weather, because I need to have those squat lobsters and because the ferries to the islands run only about once a day in the wintertime and I'd love to get out to the islands. Otherwise I'd absolutely go in the wintertime again!

Lodging:
Apex City Hotel, Edinburgh
The Gatehouse B&B, Inverness
The Ranald Hotel, Oban
CitizenM, Glasgow
Edinburgh City Hotel, Edinburgh

Monday, November 10, 2014

In which I learn doctors aren't magicians (part 2 of my infertility story)

If you missed part one, you can find it here.

When I first went to see a specialist about why I wasn't getting pregnant I hardly told anyone. It was taboo. It was inappropriate. It was nobody's business. It was embarrassing. It was unprofessional. And there were also a million other reasons for why I was sure I couldn't tell anyone. Friends who were pregnant were right out. People at work were mostly out. Extended family was out.

I know many other women who have had difficulty or have not been able to conceive. But everyone I knew who had trouble seemed to have had a diagnosis. Either blocked Fallopian tubes or endometriosis or ovarian cysts or something along those lines. My diagnosis was: for some reason the few eggs I have aren't growing. As it turns out, there are many mysterious reasons why some women can't get pregnant.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Best laid plans (my infertility story, part one)

When I was a kid I imagined that I would get married at age 28, have 2 kids and live in a white house with a front porch. I got married 3 weeks into age 29, so not too off the mark there. 

Then the idea was to start having kids a few years later. We bought the condo and I was worried that it wasn't big enough for a baby (because babies take up soooo much space). And so I said we should wait a little longer and Jeff agreed that was wise. He had a rough time with turning 40 and worried that a baby needed a dad who was at a certain point in his career which was not the point he believed he was at. Babies are so demanding! With all their wanting two-bedroom apartments and dads with perfect jobs. 

Needless to say, it wound up being 7 years after we were married before we convinced each other that maybe a baby could forgive us those things. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Decode me

Do you ever wish for someone to decode you completely? Everything that makes you tick -- the good and the bad -- to be laid out in black and white. Why must we settle for creating those blueprints ourselves, when we are so hindered by what we hope is true for our best selves as opposed to what is truly true of our real selves? How can a person possibly describe herself completely, know herself fully, from the inside? When we look down at ourselves we only see a portion and even with a mirror it's an incomplete view. Certainly we can't describe ourselves completely from this angle. She possesses great empathy and is kind to all, I would begin. But that's not how it appears from the outside, they say. No? Then you tell me how it appears. We see you as an extrovert. Oh don't be ridiculous. I'm a complete introvert. Really? But you do so well in social situations. That doesn't mean... Oh never mind. Maybe I will just do this description myself. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Going toes up

I have begun using a technique to fall asleep and it works miraculously well. I start with my toes. I think about them, from the outside, from the inside. Then I work my way up my feet, my legs, doing the same at every pause. As I do this often one of my legs begins to spasm. It starts in my knee and it tenses up momentarily and then let's go again. I find it works best to just go with it. It's doesn't hurt and it doesn't last long.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The promotion

I got a promotion. I honestly didn't expect it to ever appear. I was certain that it was just a carrot on a stick in front of me and I was the fool for not realizing it. My superiors would probably say "how could you have doubted us??" But things that are promised don't always come to fruition. Remember when I was on the brink of booking my plane tickets and putting my cat in quarantine so that I could head to Singapore for a year or two? It took me a long time to stop wondering who put the kibosh on that. I finally realized that it matters not in the least.

But this is real. An email went out explaining my new role (senior editor, social media) and the congratulatory emails began rolling in. That was the best part: all those coworkers, many of whom I barely know, telling me how well deserved this promotion is. If I could just bottle that up now…

It is so funny how these things turn out. Last week I was miserable all week. I worked late every night and still had so much unfinished work. I felt like everything I did was wrong. And then on Friday I got word of my promotion. I admit: I burst into tears. (I was working at home.) I suppose my unhappiness all week was related to how much effort I'd been putting into my new role even before I officially had it. I was told in the fall to do the job I want to have to prove I can do it. As much as I hate sports analogies, I think that's "be the ball" or some shit, right?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

My years as a young mole

I get a little sad when I remember my grade school as it was when I went there since it's nothing like that now. The school is still standing at least, but it's nothing like it was in the 1980s.

A lot of the school was dank and dark. Lots of my grade school memories are lit only by weak light bulbs. In my memory the whole school was in a basement. Is it possible that much of it was only a single story and all my classes were underground? That seems strange so perhaps I just don't remember those well-lit upper stories.

The lunchroom was in a semi basement, halfway under ground, with windows near the low ceiling. Even as a kid those ceilings were low. I only have a couple fragments from that cafeteria.

1) We could buy ice cream treats for a pittance. My favorite (and still is when it comes to those sorts if treats) was the chocolate cookie crumble covered vanilla one on a stick.

2) In that cafeteria in the 2nd grade, Amy R. quizzed me on who my favorite band was. I didn't have a favorite band. My only source of music at that time was a stuffed dog with a little radio in its belly.

3) In the back of the cafeteria was the lounge for the upper schoolers. I think we were allowed in there to use the vending machines but I'm not sure. The older girls would use it as their smoking lounge.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Oh now you tell me

I caught a glimpse of the top of my head in the harsh light of the work bathroom and realized I have several obviously grey hairs. I've gotten pretty damn far without any noticeable greys and now here we are. Every dark brown haired woman I know who's my age has been covering up her greys for years. I always thought silently, "sucks to be you! I guess I'll never go grey." (Denial is one of my abilities.)

When I went for a haircut a few weeks ago, my hairstylist said, "Damn girl, you need to keep up with your highlights! Unless you're going for the ombré look." I made an appointment to get them done and then I cancelled because I had to work late and I was thinking, you know, maybe I'll just grow them out. And it takes sooo looong to get them done.

But that was before I saw the greys. I've had way longer than most to figure out my stance on going grey but I never came to a decision. I could easily say well them's the breaks and go natural if it weren't for the fact that I get them for free in exchange for doing the salon website. So really I'm just whining about not wanting to sit through it.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

City pride!

After almost 7 years living in this apartment I finally compiled a list of all the places we go to, pick up from or order from for dinner. This way when it comes time to choose, it won't be the usual dance of what do you want I don't know what do you want well do you want Italian I don't know what about Chinese I guess you decide. Enough of that!

It's comforting to see the same people over and over on the PATH train platform. There's the woman who has the blue purse I like but now she's switched to a brown one with fringe that I don't like. There's the woman who's always reading a first gen Kindle. There's the woman with the long skinny braid who carries the same water bottle I do.

I recently passed the Kindle woman while out running. I felt like giving her a high five as I jogged by or even just a wave. I wound up smiling and she looked right through me. I suppose it's possible that seeing one's fellow commuters out and about town is not as comforting to everyone else.

I also find it comforting to see progress on new storefronts in my town. Progress! Our town is getting even better by the day! Sometimes I question whether living here is worth it and then I see a sign for a grand opening of an indie bookstore and even though if I buy books, I buy them on Amazon, my heart swells with city affection. I resolve to buy books from the store when I can and to definitely patronize their cafe instead of Starbucks even if they don't serve those gigantic cups of iced tea that I love. City pride trumps caffeination! Right?