Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Unconditional Love?

On Thursday I had to take Tsui in to the vet for a couple vaccinations. I've had great luck with the Marina Veterinary Clinic there on Lombard. I purchased their insurance and so my 3 vaccinations, 4 months of Frontline and annual check-up was only $100. How happy am I? She's healthy and my wallet isn't empty.

But they print out things for my doggie record and on it is a thing about how great dogs are - like they need to convince us pet owners? One reason to have a dog, according to this blurb, is to know unconditional love. And I'm thinking, really?

Yes, my dog adores me, but seems to adore me more when I have food that I will be giving her. Marc's boxers don't (yet) love me unconditionally, but they are warming up - how long does it take for unconditional love to develop? And yes, Tsunami adores me, and prefers exclusive love, as she chases down the boxers if they dare ask for some of my affection. Hmm, maybe that's why they are so slow to warm to me? And does possession count as unconditional love? I'm not so sure. And then there is Austin and his cantankerous ways. He only likes his cuddles at specific times. Others he gives you a bit of a back-off growl. Which begs the question, does unconditional love have time restrictions?

Anyway, it is time to feed the mob of loving dogs.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Settling In

This weekend I moved. It was a week long process... starting with last weekend having Marci & Aaron go on a long trip to Mom's to get my desk and some boxes that had been there for the last two years. I was happily reunited with my photo album collection (there wasn't space in the loft for them). I enjoyed looking through them and equally happy to stow them again.

This weekend I got the rest of my things from Ruthie's as well as a long day yesterday where I got my things from Greg's. Amazing how it all played out - I got things and just focused on getting our new home in shape so much that, by 10 PM I thought the activities of the morning had occurred the day before.

Today we had the annual winter brunch with Dwight, Carolyn, Julie, Warren, Beth & Mom. As usual, Dim Sum was on the menu, then they all came back to see my new home. Marc was a total champ. He was charming at brunch, enjoying himself with the company even after we did 3 solid hours of prep work before dashing from the house to return the U-haul before heading to Walnut Creek for lunch. Tin's Tea Lounge is definitely worth a return visit.

The house appears to have gotten a thumbs up. The dogs are all settled in. The towels put away. The mirror hung. We still need another set of book shelves, but the console table in the middle looks great with my maternal photo series on top. My mom brought me photos of me as a baby.

I'm exhausted, ready for a pre-bed bath. Even after 1 day, this house feels more like my home than any since I lived on 34th Avenue.

Friday, January 23, 2009

New Horizons

Wednesday night Marc and I attended one of our regular charity functions - Bingo night for the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Much fun to be had, as we helped raise money for charity, got to hear a cappella singing and possibly win cash & prize bags. Much fun. Unlike many, attending a fundraiser that monthly raises over $4,000 for good causes does not assuage my need to give back to the community, instead it heightens my sense that I'm not doing enough. This feeling may be accentuated also by my listening to Barak Obama's Audacity of Hope book, which reminds me that we are all in this together; there are few simple answers and I'm really blessed in life.

But we had taken little Tsunami into the city, as we're still suffering from her inability to restrict her elimination to the garden. She will not pee at the city apartment, so we decided to take her there while we were going out instead of leaving her crated for 6 hours.

So, we attend the event, run back to the apartment, load up things to move (I'm relocating to the country estate) and headed out. I had little Tsui on my lap and was absently conversing with Marc, being too tired for deep thought. Tsui rearranges so her little head is hanging over my legs and then starts heaving. I think it is just a coughing thing until I pet her and my hand gets slimy. Oh dear, I turn on the light. I have small dog vomit all over my jeans.

I turn to Marc, "Do we have any towels in the car?" Not wanting to spend the next 30 minutes covered in puke. We did, I had left a travel pack of kleenex in the center console after our Thanksgiving trip. I couldn't believe it - I wasn't repulsed or disgusted. Not sure if that had to do with my level of exhaustion or that I'm really, honestly, truly an adult now. A few wipes and things were almost back to normal.

However, my tired mind did start churning and I wonder if I was really ready for motherhood. I mean, I recall being repulsed by the gross things my friends would do with their children and wonder how they could do that and still have an appetite. But here I was, not a gurgle in my tummy nor a tightening of the throat at that special gag reflex spot. Instead I was focused on my sweet dog and hoping this isn't the start of her getting car sick. Or did she eat something at the city house? All concern, no repulsion. Strange.

We do change our focus as we age. 10 years ago I would spend a summer weekend on a party boat on the delta, now, my summer trips are to visit cousins. Saturday night I'm looking forward to a long night of sleep, not a hot night at the clubs. The shift happens slowly, finding that I ddon't need to hyper social, "blow off steam" or hit the hottest restaurant. Instead, I crave reading time, gym time, family time. What I found exhilarating fun in my 20's, can now drain me. I didn't think it could happen. Give me a dinner with Marci & Aaron, a walk with the dog pack or Marc & a bubble bath - I think my raving days are done.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I know I shouldn't be happy, but...

My first job out of college was a total and complete nightmare. I was young, eager and so jumped at the opportunity to be a Marketing Assistant. Unfortunately I was so eager that I took the job despite the warning sign that the woman who had the job before me hadn't been there a year and had nothing positive to say about the manager, Marnie Sharpe.

I jumped in to the job. I worked hard. I tried my best. Marnie was mean, manipulative and all around nasty. My mother gave me a book, "How to Manage Your Boss." but it didn't help. I was so stressed out I was having stress induced migraines weekly. I had nightmares about the woman - which continued for about 3 years after I left the job.

I almost threw up the morning I handed in my resignation. What a bad start to my career. It was the dot-com era and I felt so lost & behind. My girlfriends had all gotten good jobs and were doing great things.... I had been suffering under this manager.

But today I learned that karma does come around. She got nailed for insider trading:
I couldn't be happier. I just wish I could sue for 16 months of my life back.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Long Road Home

Sunday we woke up in Bournemouth to a chilly day. Uncle Ian got us fixed up with some breakfast & tea. The family was having their regular Sunday, Great-Nan was getting picked up from the home and they'd have a nice dinner at Nan's house. We were going to have to leave early, but we did get to see Great-Nan. This time I learned that she sent the kids to Scotland during World War II. Also, she'd take Marc to the school yard, "And he'd run round & round."

We, Marc, Jordan & I, got on the road heading back to North London. The drive was pretty quick. We listened to Jordie's CD's. Duffy was one and the other was the girl that sings, "I Kissed a Girl" and "Hot & Cold". Good stuff.

Back in North London, we dropped our bags & little brother and got back on the road heading to Marc's father's for a traditional English dinner. Mr. Cohen wanted one last visit with his son. We did had a wonderful meal of Lamb, roast potatoes and veg. After dinner we had traditional Christmas Pudding which was fantastic. When I got home, I had to go look up a recipe. It sounds like I'll need to make them in October and then tend & soak it until Christmas. Should be fun! That and I'm going to need a steamer - I have to steam the pudding.

Dinner was great. We did some post dinner Wii Fit and then headed back to North London. By then we were exhausted and both had a bit of work to do. Thankfully there was ample tea and shortbread cookies.

Monday we were back about London. We did a social and retail whirl. We were going to see Westminster Abby, but when we got there, we found it was nearly $15 to get in. I was so horrified that I refused. This is the Church a very well funded organization. There have been taxes levied on the citizens of England for centuries to support it, to fund the building of their churches and now the see fit to charge visitors entry. Vile.

So we went into St. Martin in the Field. Which was a nice church, very clean & plain. I did feel compelled to step into at least one church while in Europe. Almost every trip to Europe involves a church - one that I had studied and had not yet seen.

After our brief bit of holiness, we were across the street to the National Portrait Gallery. There we caught the Annie Leibovitz exhibit that I had missed when it was here in San Francisco. I really enjoyed it. However, some photos were a bit blah. I didn't care for her family photos - they could have been snapshots of any family.

Also showing was an exhibit of prize winning portraits from through England - a fitting viewing before the onslaught of kings, queens, princes, princesses and countless nobles who hang on the walls above. What stood out - portraits of Queen Elizabeth, and a painting by Boldini of Lady Colin Campbell, Gertrude Elizabeth Blood.

Next was the National Gallery - and I should note, that going into the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery was free. Seeing St. Paul's is not. Disgusting!
But we did a run through early Modern art - about 6 or 7 rooms - the Gallery is SO very rich and we had only limited amount of stamina, having already viewed the Portrait Gallery. We were hungry and found a nice Lebanese restaurant for a light snack, seeing as how we had a monster dinner that night, we opted to be moderate. We did visit Pinks and I got a shirt for Marc, he bought several others.

We made our way home on the tube and got picked up by Marc's Mother. We dropped his mother and then headed to Tesco for a shopping spree of goodies one cannot get in America - like special Cheddar and chunky Kit Kats. Got to the house, grabbed Jordan & Mum and then set off to the restaurant where were ate a Chinese feast fit for twice the number of guests. Once home we started packing and paused about 1 AM.

Tuesday we were up about 4:30 AM, scrambling with the packing and trying to fit everything into our cases - which was a challenge. We did get the spice rack home, gifts and books and cheese and so much. Ron had generously agreed to take us to the airport. It was a 45 minute drive in sub freezing weather. Thank you Ron!!

Heathrow was much easier to manage. We were stuck with middle seats, as we wanted to sit together and we're able to get an isolated pair on the window side. But our flight was delayed and we got books in the book store - like we need more reading material. I got a book about the year 1000 in England. It was broken up into Calendar sections and I really enjoyed it, got to November before we landed. Traveling with Marc is unbelievably easy and fun. Never is there tension; he knows how to navigate airports (better than me!) and is just pleasant the entire time.

We watched "Forgetting Sarah Marshal" together on the way home along with "Ghost Town" and some other things. I got a few hours of sleep. We both ate too much food. Premium Economy is the way to go - seats that aren't distractingly cramped, decent food and TV/entertainment for the entire flight.

We got home, got into the car, drove to the City House to get a few things, went on to Dad's to get Tsunami and then headed out to the Country House. I think we ate a burger for dinner... so strange to wake up in England and dine at local joint at the other end. But collapsing into the big, soft king bed with my own pillows as best.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

New Years Day to Bristol

So, this chronicle of my England trip is getting delayed and segmented such that my loyal readers might find it similar to a Victorian serial novel, but with fewer plot twists. Thank you for continuing to read on - I know that Clemency has been eagerly awaiting her cameo in this story. And today I can happily provide it.

New Years Day I woke up in the wrong place. I opened my eyes and saw a plank ceiling painted white, ornate furniture that doesn't belong in a hotel and realized quickly that I had passed out at Rob & Tam's last night. I turned my head to see Tam sleeping next to me. My hand went to my throat to feel that I was till wearing my scarf. My first thought, "Oh S**t! Where's Marc?" Clearly not my finest moment.

Tam wakes and tells me where Marc is and I keep thinking, "this isn't how 2009 is suppose to start!!" But I scurry back to the hotel - nothing like walking fast in stiletto heels with a solid hangover. My key doesn't work in the door, but Marc kindly lets me in just the same. I shower and we chat and head back over to Rob & Tam where the rest of the gang enjoyed a hearty English breakfast with beans, sausage, bacon, toast and more. I nibbled on toast and enjoyed sprite in a successful effort to keep my fickle stomach happy.

But we get home and promptly nap - making for an enjoyable and utterly unproductive January 1st. Once up, we got Chinese that I - don't tell Marc - found not that exceptional and a bit greasy. But it was food and I could finally eat. I think we spent the rest of the day on the computer, as both of us had work that needed attention.

January 2nd Marc took his mother to her work and returned. He tells me she does like me - yippee. We packed-up and headed off to Bristol, via Stonehenge and side roads. It took about an hour to get to Stonehenge. And it was odd. Yes, it was smaller than I thought it was. Yes, there are big stones sticking in the earth. No, we have really no idea why the ancients did this. Yes, there are calendar properties to the stones. I was cold from nose to fingertip to toes. Photos were taken.

Off to Bristol and an thoroughly enjoyable drive through the English country side. I was reminded of the country around Smith College - the landscape really is similar, except that England has fields and such.

We made it to Bristol about sunset and boy were we hungry. Clemency now lives in a lovely house with her boyfriend Dave. Their friend Chris also lives there. She kindly provided us with a cup of tea and enough chocolate to kill a cow. Soon after Chris came home with Andy, Elane and a GIANT mount of chips from a fish & chips shop. YUM! We enjoyed some, freshened up and then headed out to the Windmill.

Evidently there are several types of pubs. The Windmill was a free house (they serve more than just 1 type of beer) and, due to food service & layout - it is classed as a snug. Speaking of food service, I got the Lamb Stew and it was fantastic. Just perfect. I had seen many little lambs while driving through the country side and was very pleased to get to eat one for dinner.

After our pub dinner and several rounds of drinks, we migrated back to Dave & Clem's place. As we weren't quite ready for bed, we got treated to Spaced - a TV show by the creators of Shaun of the Dead. Very funny. More tea and some chocolate and soon we were blowing up the air mattress and tucking ourselves into bed.

Then came Saturday - the Day Without Vegetables. Waking up at Clem's we enjoyed tea pre-trek to the store for croissants and goodies for breakfast. Clem and I got to enjoy some girl-girl time catching up and attempting to one-up each other in various departments of our lives. Our walk was over some Bristol hills and the views were really spectacular.

Not long after Breakfast we had to head out to Bournemouth. I wanted to drive during the day so that I could see more countryside. Being so far North and the start of winter, the sun was setting by 4 pm. Along the was we got some petrol and a Scotch Egg. My new favorite food - hard boiled egg in some thick coating (Marc now tells me it is sausage meat - who came up with that?? oh never mind, here's my answer) then deep fried. Yum.

We made it to the Great-nan's home before closing time and got in a quick visit. It was a pleasure to meet her. The matriarch of Marc's maternal family. She wasn't sure who I was, stated her misery and asked that we send her daughter Pat around. In all, a successful visit. I am very glad I got to met her - she turned 102 a week ago.

We continued around the town and landed at his uncle Ian's where I was treated to a through dog mauling by Bernie. Not my favorite thing, but I was missing our canine crew, so the licks & love was nice. Also at Ian's was Marc's little brother Jordan. We gathered up the crew and headed to Nan's house where we got the fish & chip orders. Finally I would get to try the British National Dish. Yippee!

Dinner was a yummy white wine, some pickle-things and my own dish of fish & chips. It was great. I polished it off with love. For desert we had pie of some sort. I enjoyed the chats with Nan's husband, Barry - who worked at Xerox for years. We also bonded over our respective visits to Hong Kong. He went when he was in the service and Hong Kong was part of the Empire.

Back to Ian's where I was given more wine along with a solid dosing of shortbread. That sensitive tummy came back and I crashed early only to have Marc get me some antacids. Thankfully they helped and I feel into a sound sleep. Ian providing us with a warm, very warm room and a soft bed. A bit thanks to the Bournemouth clan for their welcoming and love. Oh - but I can't forget Buster, nan's amazingly fat shi-tzu. I almost took him with me - a "I've never been fed" cuddly teddy bear of a dog.

Tomorrow the final installment. I promise.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Monday, Tuesay & Wednesday in England

Where was I? I think we stopped the London tails with Sunday afternoon.

Monday Marc & I woke up early and Marc made me an amazing breakfast of sausage in a toasted beigel. Not long after we were bundled up and on a morning train to London. The ability to get around with ease via public transportation in England is such a blessing, albeit costly. We started on the National Rail and then changed to the Victoria Line and popped up above ground at Green Park.

Our first stop was the Starbucks where we paid an inane amount of money for our standard order... my double, non-fat, no-whip, tall peppermint mocha and Marc's decaf non-fat, no-whip, 5 pump grande. Could you get more annoying than that order? Not sure - but I was floored that they charge the same in pounds as they do in dollars. Yikes! But we had our fix and were on our way to Buckingham Palace. Or kinda not... we got a bit turned around and took the long way to the Palace, with a plesant peek into Hyde Park and then a stroll down Constitution Hill.

The Palace was the Palace and there were guards so we made our way to The Natual History Museum where there was a non-controversal Darwin exhibition. I say non-controversal, as I expect that such an exhibit in Tulsa might generate some controversy. Nevermind it simply being a chonicle of Darwin's life and how he reached his discoveries, I'm sure some wacky Church Elder would ignore the exhibit and demand some ode to Creationism be included.

That said, we enjoyed our educational hour and took to Hyde Park. As I walked, I imagined all the people who've passed there before. I think there was a scene in some Oscar Wilde film and I want to say that Minnie Driver on a horse with a parade of fashionalble Londoners all riding almost like a parade. Not sure if it was Hyde Park...

Anyway, we made it through Hyde Park, saw the Marble Arch, braved the crowds on our walk down Oxford Street, turned on New Bond and went down to fashionable Jermyn. We stopped at a Chinese Restaurant for our late afternoon lunch before a dusk roundabout walk to Covent Garden. I drank it all in, the scenes, the company, the energy of it all. Just delightful.

Back at home we had the obligatory tea & cookies while fussing about until Marc's mother got home.

Tuesday morning was task focused with a run to Marks & Spencers to change some money. We were then home and ready for Roy to pick us up. We were going for a long day of socializing with Marc's wider circle of friends on various pubs off Liverpool Street. We drank and ate from 2 pm to midnight when we had to make a mad dash for the last train back to North London.

Wednesday, the last day of the year - we started off sleeping in and then enjoying a large English breakfast with bacon and sausage and toast and eggs and PM sauce. I didn't finish mine. After breakfast we took a nap in prepartion for the evening's enjoyment. We were off to Jeungalur's - a comedy club in Watford. We were at the front table and were thuroughly taunted by the 1st & 3rd comedians. I got to meet Tam, Rob's wife for the first time. She and I both might have had a few too many drinks. I think her liver was stronger than mine, however. But after the comedians, we danced and welcomed the new year. Much joy was had by all.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

England does it better

On Dec. 27th I landed at Heathrow. For the first time I was smart about travel - no make up getting on my cross-planet journey... instead I had it all ready so that I could cover up the dark circles from the flight an hour before touch down. Marc said I looked amazingly fresh for someone getting off a 10 hour flight. Success!

But more than that, Marc and his dad were there to pick me up and take me on a wild ride across London to the Far East Side. Since we were coming from the West (Heathrow, we did a drive through London on the North side of the Thames). We saw the Eye, the Tower, amazing architecture and more than I can now remember.

We stopped in the old neighborhood to get pie, mash & parsley eel sauce - aka liquor. I was thrilled... real pie & mash. We got to the snug house of Marc's father & step-mother, Linda. Tea was served and then lunch of pies & mash. The sauce was poured on my plate before I could test. Good thing for me, I liked it all. Also good for me, I had just had a marathon 2 days of eating with Christmas Eve at Dad's and Christmas day at Brendan's house. I got 3/4 of the way through the mash down along with all but a few bites of my 2nd pie. Needless to say, I was done - only a couple hours of nodding off on the plane with a big lunch - I was out cold for 2 hours.

They got me up and ran me back to make a run for beigels. Marc's father is Jewish, more by family than practice and they have special bagel shops, beigels. And yes, they were good. We had them with corned beef and a healthy serving of bubble & squeak. Thank you Linda! I had knocked out two traditional English dishes, loved them both within 8 hours of setting foot in London.

Our evening was filled with me getting trounced with Who Wants to Be a Millionaire... The theme for this trip: Despite the language, we are not from the same culture. Such little things, the phrasing of thoughts, words and little social things. Lucky for me, I didn't get too dinged for not knowing what Princess Stephanie said to the media that caused hubbub - something like Nuff-off!

Sunday we were up to a yummy breakfast of beigels and eggs and tea. Lots of tea. Then to the graveyard to visit Marc's grandparents and put the stones we had picked up for them on a beach walk with my mother. I was sad that I didn't get to meet Rosie, his recently past grand-nan.

Sunday night was a walk about Cuffley, where Marc's mother lives and where we've spent most of our time. North London - and I say not a city, as there are fields and livestock. Our walk took us past the parental home of Posh Spice - very fun. I got a taste of cider at the local pub. What struck me there was how similarly the teen boys looked to my local teens.

Alright - time for bed. I'll write more tomorrow.