Monday, December 27, 2010


We've had an incredible snowfall here in MA.
This morning, our kind neighbors trudged their way over and snow-blowed our driveway. I help shovel as well, and discovered I left my back seat window open. A snow storm in my car!

It is amazing to me the way snow seems to absorb all noise. It's so incredibly peaceful and calm. I wish I was snow! But not once it got all slushy-dirty. Then I wouldn't care for it anymore. But the peaceful sound-absorbing part, yes.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Some Christmas Videos

Mom, Dad and I had a very nice morning together yesterday. And the dogs were a hoot with their presents, too.
Sorry, these are unedited.

This was quite funny, because if we took the squeeker away from Oliver and put it in the middle of the room, he would go get it and walk back under the tree to nestle it in with the other presents!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A teenager’s simple act elevates all - The Boston Globe

A teenager’s simple act elevates all - The Boston Globe

Adult Truths

Forwarded to me by Amanda. I found it quite funny...

1. Sometimes I'll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is. 
2. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.

3. I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.
4. There is great need for a sarcasm font.
5. How the heck are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?
6. Was learning cursive really necessary?
7. Map Quest really needs to start their directions on # 5. I'm pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.
8. I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.
9. Bad decisions make good stories.
10. You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you know that you just aren't going to do anything productive for the rest of the day.
11. Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blue Ray? I don't want to have to restart my collection...again.
12. I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten-page technical report that I swear I did not make any changes to.
13. I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.
14. I think the freezer deserves a light as well.
15. I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more kisses begin with Miller Lite than Kay.
16. I wish Google Maps had an "Avoid Ghetto" routing option.  
17. I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.
18. How many times is it appropriate to say "What?" before you just nod and smile because you still didn't hear or understand a word they said?
19. I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars team up to prevent a jerk from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers and sisters!
20. Shirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants? Pants never get dirty, and you can wear them forever. 
21. Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, finding their cell phone, and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey - but I'd bet everyone can find and push the snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time, every time. 
22. The first testicular guard, the "Cup," was used in Hockey in 1874 and the first helmet was used in 1974. That means it only took 100 years for men to realize that their brain is also important.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Some recent vacation fun!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

On a Walk We Go

This video is about a month old now but still very share-able. This is Bootsie freaking-out because she knows we are headed to Breakheart for a walk.

Note Oliver's calm and collected indifference.

Oh Christmas Tree

My family has a habit, a weird coincidence really - drama happens more frequently around the holidays in our home than at any other time of the year. Or, maybe it just feels that way because life around the holidays seems so much more hectic. To paraphrase, my Dad was hospitalized last week. He is home and on the mend now, but Dad being in the hospital left certain essential tasks flapping helplessly in the freezing breeze.

Enter the Christmas Tree Challenge. Eric stepped forward and offered to help which was great because Dad's Sweet Pickles Van has died and the newest vehicle he acquired hasn't been given an inspection sticker yet. Or an inspection to go with the sticker. Eric's helpfulness combined with his strength and his sweet El Camino (the car that thinks it's a truck) made him the perfect fit for the task.

So, on Saturday, Eric, his son Kiki and I headed out to West Newbury to find a Christmas tree and chop it out of nature to bring it home, decorate it and let it dry out and die before kicking it to the curb (funny how even when I think of it that way I still don't feel an ounce of guilt. Oh, how I love Christmas!)

We headed to the tree farm I'd found online to find it to be a tree farm suitable only for the residents of Munchkinland. I told the owner I needed a big tree. "Like, how big?" he asked from underneath his dirty Santa hat. I told him nine to ten feet. "Not a chance" he grumbled at me, then went on to tell me I wouldn't find any here of that size, or any of that size at any or the area farms.

I found this unlikely considering we come to this area of the state every year for our tree. Dad had recommended we check around the perimeter of the farm and Eric took this to heart, "Your dad said they could be around the perimeter, so we'll check the perimeter!". And so we did. We checked checked every inch of the Munchkinland farm and found only more Munchkinland trees.

We went on the the next farm, my anxiety increasing. We pulled into the next tree farm and asked the owner, standing there in the middle of an empty field, if he might have what we were looking for. He said he was sure we could find what we wanted here.

So, we trekked across the field and into the woods into the Shrek tree farm. All of the trees towered above us. The owner had told us that we were welcome to cut the tree higher up and we would be only charged for the top, but the trees were so tall it was difficult to determine if the top part would even work.

"I'm having fun!" Eric said in earnest, his seven year old son patiently in tow occasionally saying things like "Where's the saw?" and "I wanna cut something down!"  Eric went on to tell me he could tell I was stressed but that he was fine. I appreciated that because tree-choosing was a serious matter to me and I didn't want to come home with a lame-o tree.

After wandering for a while and wringing my hands for longer, I spotted one and said "That one!"

And down it came and home it went.

Down she goes!

Loading her up!

She hung over the edge a bit.

The real way to bring home a tree!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cartagena, Day 3

Today is our last day in lovely, lively Cartagena.

In the morning we wandered up the street from our hotel in search of the Crepes and Waffles restaurant we'd spotted the day before. In our conversation, we walked passed it by a few blocks (which is very "Ugh"-inducing in the oppressive tropical heat). Doubling back, we were very confused to find it wasn't open until noon anyway, "Maybe waffles are a lunch thing here?" Eric wondered. 

We went back to our hotel and had a very nice continental breakfast there even though they told us it was only served until 9:30 and we arrived around 10:30. "Remember, time is only a mere suggestion here" Eric reminded me. Indeed.  The restaurant was a funky modern place, with artwork on the walls that reminded me of the cartoon art in the movie Osmosis Jones, except all the characters in the art were all very busy and important, rich, and living in Switzerland, apparently. We found them quite amusing. The dining room was clean and white with modern furniture and orange table clothes.
the funky art of Cartagena Millenium

Today we checked-out the wall surrounding the city more closely. Such a beautiful sight! The buildings in Cartagena are so colorful! Blues and reds and yellows in all shades. In preparation for the tourist season which starts in a few weeks, repairing and painting was going on all over the city. The walls of the buildings seem to crumble in the breeze and we wondered what caused it; simply the ancientness of the city itself? The salt air? The blazing sun or maybe the materials they use to repair are not very resilient?  It was a mystery to us.

from the top of the wall looking out of the city.

so many beautiful doors with the little doors to enter through!

repairs on the inside of the city's wall.
these little statues were sold all over the city. Replicas of the work of Fernando Botero.

The narrow streets continued with their liveliness, but today, Saturday, there were more tourists in town, brought in by the bus-loads.  The narrow streets leading into the plazas throughout the city seemed to purge-out foreigners. We explored the neighborhood of Getsemani as well. Clearly not as well cared-for as the main part of the city, Getsemani is a "rougher" part of the city.
shooting in Getsemani

there was lots of wild graffiti throughout Getsemani. And stray dogs, of course (at left).
How could I forget that we managed to get in a swim!?

In the evening we headed out again for a night on the town, starting with dinner at Oh La La Restaurant. The food at Oh La La was not French, not as far as we could tell. It wasn't very good either. So, after eating our fried cheese (which looked like fried spam but really, it's cheese so still very eatable) and mozzarella with what appeared to be canned sun-dried tomatoes, we moved on to enjoy our main course at Son Pedro's. It was there that Eric made a confession to me - although he does go to the bathroom when he says he needs to, he also uses it as an excuse to be nosey and look around places he's never been before. So, this time, he used his "bathroom break" as reconnaissance and reported back to me that on the other side of the restaurant is a bisutecki/hibachi grill thing going on.

Our last night in the city ended with more people watching and strolling. The street performers were out along with all the tourists.

I really loved Cartagena. I was so disappointed to not get more time there. I should know this about myself but alas, I seem to always forget - I need time to adapt. I was just starting to feel that I understood the place when we had to get on a plane for home. Our hotel was just becoming home away from home and I was just starting to "get" the cadence of our days when it was time to turn right back around again.

As brief as it was, it was a trip I won't soon forget. No mudslides or drug cartels as Joan Wilder experienced in Romancing the Stone, and I was pleased to be able to return with soties of interesting people, food and sights, rather than crazy scary adventures people were concerned I might have. Aside from the creepy crazy guy who followed-us a little too closely one night after pulling a quarter out of his pants, I felt really quite safe!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Cartagena, Day 2

Eric and I woke early and got our day going. We went for a walk through the city a bit, drinking some juice and picking-up some freshly cut fruit sold by the local vendors.

Breakfast juice

As mid-day rolled around (and it did quickly thanks to my need to switch hotels) we caught a cab out to La Boquilla. La Boquilla is a small fishing village north east of the city past the airport. The inhabitants are descendants of slaves originally brought over from Africa to build the city's forts and walls. Their main source of income nowadays is from fishing and tourists from nearby Cartagena. 

When our cab driver pulled into the neighborhood a young man began running next to the car. It was clear that we has trying to get the cab driver to pull over. As his damp blue soccer shirt flopped in the breeze and his short dreadlocks bounced, he tried to direct us to a restaurant. We were quite sure that once we chose one the young man would tell the restaurant owner that he'd brought the clientele there in hopes of earning a commission. The guy ran next the to cab for at least a mile before Eric chose a spot and had the driver pull over. All of the restaurants looked the same; one large hut on the beach after the other. This area was extremely poor, that was clear. It was a week day, so the place was deserted as well (Sunday is beach day and it's on Sunday that La Boquilla is flooded with locals and more tourists). 

We sat down at a plastic table and asked for a menu as the legs of our plastic chairs sank into the sand. When the menu came, it was brought by our young runner (he did earn himself a job!). Our menu had no words - it was a tray of fish to choose from. We negotiated our fish and shrimp and how we wanted it cooked (fried fish and garlic shrimp) and after making our order, we left the table to go for a walk. It was a simultaneously sad and interesting place to see. Children in school uniforms walked with purpose along the beach, stray dogs meandered and played, tumbling over each other, and a few locals relaxed in the huts, occasionally lifting themselves from their perches to ask us if we wanted a massage or if I wanted my hair braided. Fishing boats sat on the beach and hammocks were tied wherever there was a place for one.

Our cab driver takes a nap.

Before we got out of the cab, our driver asked how we would get back. Eric told him we would catch another cab or take the bus. The driver offered to stay while we ate and drive us back for the same price it cost to get us there. We agreed that this would be fine, and so, our cab driver fell fast asleep in one of the hammocks while we ate our delicious meal, which was likely made in the restaurant owner's home by his wife. 

After a really tasty meal (I learned how to eat a fish that isn't in fillets!) we woke our cabbie and headed back to our hotel just as the afternoon rain started. At the hotel, I took a long nap before we got ready to go out for the evening.


By evening, the rain had stopped and we went to a very nice, shi-shi bar in the Hotel Santa Clara. Such a grand building with it's huge doors, archways and open halls! After enjoying the ambiance there and the people watching (are they on a date or are they business colleagues?) we took a cab to a restaurant which Eric had heard good things about. Standing in the door of the restaurant was a policeman, "Do you have a reservation?" he asked in spanish. We told him that we did not. "We are full!" he told us, proudly. We glanced over his shoulder into the empty restaurant, shrugged at one another,  and walked on to find someplace else to eat.

Our stop for drinks.

"Quebracho", which means "broken", was a wonderful Argentinian restaurant. The first thing you notice about the dark and moody place is the years of built-up dripping candle wax collecting in massive mounds and running down from a few spots in the walls and from candelabras in the lobby. The next thing you notice is the strange art and the almost almost tacky collections of photographs of famous people too. The strange art continued, according to Eric, in the bathroom, except it graduated into naked lady pictures and one pornographic cartoon (I think Mickey and Minnie were participating in unmentionable acts). But the food was excellent and the service was friendly - helping me figure out that I wanted a Coke Lite, not a Diet Coke (handy for the rest of my trip), and magically appearing with a massive steak knife when Eric started to struggle with the abnormally small knife he was initially given (envision a grown man using a knife from Barbie's kitchen and you'll get a sense of it. It was not steak-friendly!).

Oozing candles!

Add caption

When dinner was done we wandered the streets some more. 

Music comes out of everything in Cartagena; It's coming out of the windows, it's seems to come out of the food, the walls, the cobblestone streets and even your drinks!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cartegena, Day 1

After yesterday's fiasco, I was sure to leave even earlier today to get to my airline in time enough for the people checking us in get a game of Farmland in and get me to my flight on time.

It was great to see a friendly face in Eric when I arrived, and after a week of rain (and still managing to get himself a severe sunburn) and nearly being eaten alive by bugs while staying at a rural beach of Boru for many days, he was happy to see me too.

The first thing I noticed about Cartagena was the crumbliness of it. Everything seemed to crumble, as if the walls couldn't handle all the music coming from everywhere and they just began to break from the decibels. Tiny taxis everywhere and crazy traffic. Not a ton of it, just crazy people diving the cars. Lots of beeping, too. The people of Colombia seem to beep for any reason they can think of and many they can not. It became a bit of a joke between Eric and I; I'm coming through! MEEP! MEEP!... I might be coming though - MEEP! MEEP!...You think you are cutting in but your not - MEEP! MEEP!...I'm behind you! MEEP! MEEP!... I'm in front of you! MEEP! MEEP!...Don't think about crossing the street in front of me! MEEP! MEEP!... Why are we sitting still!? MEEP! MEEP! I feel like beeping! MEEP! MEEP!... Look at me! I'm driving a car! MEEP! MEEP!...I watch The Jersey Shore! MEEP! MEEP!

Eric's fluency in Spanish amazed me. We would hop in a cab and he just knew how it worked; the right questions to ask (about price for a ride) before getting into the cab. He seemed to completely understand what everyone was saying, and he could respond with ease. I could understand quite a bit, but Eric not only knows the language but the culture.

On the cab ride there, he seemed concerned about my dazed state. He would ask me questions or tell me things and I would "What?" him almost every time. I never realized (now I know it's because so much of my traveling, as little as I have had, has been on my own) that it's because I was taking everything in. It was as if my brain couldn't handle observing and communicating at the same time. Poor Eric. He was a good sport about it, joking about spending all his time with me talking to himself because I was in my own world; this new world.

I was exhausted from travel, and we made our way to our hotel. A beautiful old place called Don Pedro De Heredia, in the heart of Cartagena.  It had a beautiful courtyard and a view of the city from the roof. We dropped off our things and went off to explore, getting lost wandering the streets and people watching. We went to a restaurant/bar built into the wall which surrounds the city. It was such an interesting sight - a man deejaying with his stereo and speakers set-up in the wall's ancient crevices. We were amazed that there wasn't some kind of law against it.

I was discombobulated from the long day and it's delays, not to mention the fact that we both felt slighted because I should have arrived 24 hours sooner, but in an attempt to rise above my crankiness we wandered the beautiful city some more, taking in the music and the dancing in the plazas. Street vendors of all kinds were scattered about; food, trinkets, paintings, even Colombian versions of payphones- stations called "Llamadas" where there sat a person with a collection of cell phones who you would pay to use one of said cell phones. Often the phones were attached to a wooden table with string, so the caller couldn't take-off with the phone. Horse-drawn carriages klip klopped through the tiny streets, sharing them with the pedestrians and the MEEP! MEEP!ing cars and taxis.


The hotel, while beautiful in it's antiquity and history, had dark rooms with fluorescent lighting. And the shower was a problem (for me, anyway - Eric didn't care). It was like being tinkled on and the temperature would change without warning from scalding hot to very cold. "You can't expect much from such an old place" Eric reminded me, "Think about how good the plumbing will be in your house 300 years from now if no updates are made."  It was a good point which failed to curb my whining. I learned something that I suspected has been the case for a very long time...While I like to think of myself as a tomboy, I am actually an annoying, unaccommodating princess. The next morning, we changed hotels and I was happy as a clam at the funky, modern Hotel Cartagena Millenium, which was a short taxi ride outside the city in Boca Grande, and was only a little bit more expensive.  And my nice boyfriend didn't mind at all.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Planes, Train, and Automobiles...

and yet I'm still not at my destination.

I was excited about this trip. A visit to a city and country I've never been to; Cartagena, Colombia. Eric has been there for a week now and I was to meet him there this afternoon. My flight out of Logan was at an ungodly hour of 5:30 this morning, but Dad was kind enough to drive me in. There was a line at the Spirit Airlines counter. About 30 people ahead of me. I didn't think much of it because of the early hour and my early arrival to the check-in. It soon became clear however that the women behind the counter took acid that left them convinced they were doing their job while swimming in tar (or as my mom wondered later - perhaps they were on strike?).

They moved at a snail's pace, taking an average (and I'm not even exaggerating) of fifteen to twenty minutes checking each person in. The line finally got down to about fifteen people and it was quite obvious we would not make our flight (we were all going to Myrtle Beach and then on to various places from there).  A few people that the women had checked in even returned from the gate after being missing the plane.

We stood there for much longer, waiting for our turn to see what they could do to rectify the situation. When it was my turn, I stood there for fifteen minutes in silence (the woman, too) before I finally said, "What's going on?"  She told me that they were waiting for their manager to return their call and tell them what to do. Really? You need to be told what to do? I thought to myself that the answer seemed obvious.  I stood around for another twenty minutes before she said, very quietly, "We can get you there tomorrow"  I told her that there was a United flight (everyone was on their PDAs and iPhones checking other flight options) leaving in a few hours that would get me there this evening. After mumbling something to me, she ambled over to the on-site manager to ask if she could do this, then returned, shaking her head (slowly of course) reporting back to me that she could not.

I turned to the manager a few stations down and did something I don't recall ever doing in public to a stranger before. FLIPPED. MY. LID. "That's completely unacceptable." I told him. He told me they are not authorized to buy flights with another airline.

"That's completely unacceptable!  Your inability to be efficient is not our fault!  I'm not going to arrive in Colombia tomorrow afternoon so that I can be there less than 48 hours and then turn around and come right back again!" In truth, I would be there more than 48 hours, but not much and I was tired and my math sucks even when I'm not tired.

"Maybe you can extend your vacation." he suggested hopefully.

"I have to go back to work on Monday. You need to provide me an alternate flight!"  I told him I should at least be getting a refund. He said there was nothing more he could do. He could give me a refund (if I didn't take the trip).

After I stopped yelling, I had of course upset myself worse so I started to cry. (Not, like, flailing hiccuping crying, but crying just the same. Sheesh) And the woman behind the counter just kept looking at her screen silently, hitting some buttons, etc. I think maybe she was playing Farmville. About fifteen minutes later, she gave me my info for the flight I would be on tomorrow. A few stations down, a man trying to deal with the flight of his wife and their 2 year old got pissed, "Are you even going to apologize for this? Are you even going to apologize to her!" he pointed at me as I blubbered (quietly and stoically, I said!), "You need to at least have some communication! You need to at least look at your passengers and tell them what is going on. No one has said anything to any of us in this process!"  All I could think was that I don't care so much about an apology as much as I cared about getting to Colombia today.

Don't apologize. Just fix it.

So then I waited. I sent my dad an email asking if he could pick me back up and to call me when he got the email. I waited seemingly forever while the turtle-ladies finished up torturing the last few unlucky (non-traveling)passengers (the woman trying to get to Bogota with her two-year old now would not be flying out til the 5th!).  When the manager was done with all the rest, I took my turn. I apologized for raising my voice to him and I asked if any kind of compensation could be made. Throw me a bone here, man.

He gave me a refund for my baggage and roomier seats on the way there and on the way back. And he moved Eric to the roomier seats with me (we weren't going to be sitting next to each other initially on our return flight). Not that I'm not grateful to sit next to Eric, that is, if I ever make it there to begin with, but whoo-hoo. Baggage reimbursement? Lame.

I asked him how I could be sure this wouldn't happen tomorrow morning, too. He told me that as long as he's worked there, this has never happened, but that basically I should come in even earlier. When he told me that he now has to report to his boss what happened, the woman behind the counter, standing next to him mumbled something to him about the computer not letting them assign the seats.

Really, lady? And it didn't occur to you to have the courtesy to lift your head from your mesmerizing screen-saver to say to all of us in line, 'I'm sorry, but we're having problems with our computers. We're doing the best we can'?

Yes, I know there are policies about delaying flights and yadda yadda. I don't care. Not my problem. If I'd shown up late or something this would all be much easier to stomach. But I, and my dad who is very sick with a cold and kindly got up at a crazy hour to haul my ass here, was not late.

When I was done at the kiosk it came to me that my best bet was to take the subway home. It was still so early and even if Dad was available to come get me, he would now be getting into rush hour traffic. So, I hopped a bus which took me to a subway which switched onto another subway. I checked train departures on my phone, but the timing wasn't right and I'd have to wait over an hour for another one from North Station to Wakefield. So, I went to Oak Grove, just missed the bus to Wakefield and again would have to wait an hour for the next one. So, I asked the cartoonish cab-driver with fire-engine red hair in his jalopy how much it would cost to get to Wakefield, and I got in.

It reeked of cigarette smoke and there were three warning lights glowing on the dashboard.

It was kind of perfect. Oh, and did I mention that I had on lightweight pants and a lightweight sweatshirt because I was supposed to be tropics-bound and not traveling around Boston on the subway in winter?

So, my point is that I would not recommend Spirit Airways. Just sayin'.