Tag Archives: travel

Anthony Bourdain Day: What the Chef, Author, and Travel Guide Means to Me

NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 02: Anthony Bourdain visits the Build Series to discuss “Raw Craft” at AOL HQ on November 2, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Pont/WireImage)

Today is #BourdainDay. In honor of their friend on his birthday, chefs Eric Ripert and José Andrés are asking people around the globe to celebrate what Anthony Bourdain meant to them, and to us. Tony brought people together because he shared food – good food, cultural food, the art of preparing food, the act of sitting down with someone to enjoy food.

Like so many other fans around the world, I was heartbroken when I learned of Tony’s death on June 8th last year. I had been a fan from his early days of No Reservations. My husband and I both scour his collection of travel shows in preparation for any trip we take and always try to visit the restaurants, many of them small, family owned businesses, that he recommended. The first one we ever went to was Salumi in Seattle, WA. We got there early because we knew there’d be a line, and there was, one that stretched around the block. There were only two tables inside if I remember right, and you sit European style, sharing space and a meal with others. We ordered our sandwiches full of the shop’s own cured meats, and bought extra meat to take home. It was an exceptional, ordinary, simple meal.

When we visited Madrid, Spain, we hit up a place whose name I can’t remember. I don’t think it was on the outside of the building. It was a hole in the wall kind of place, again maybe five tables inside. We had the best plate of jamón y queso con juevos y papas fritas. It was small, it was simple, it was muy delicioso. We went there twice.

Tony brought joy to the act of eating. He believed there was nothing quite like sitting down to a meal with someone and talking. And he got, if you’ll forgive my pun, to the guts of the matter. I appreciated his willingness to discuss cultural and political topics on his shows. He knew that as a travel guide and host, he was both illuminating parts of the world for people, but also a part of their demise. He struggled with that. He was part of a crew that showed audiences mine fields in Laos, buddhist monk ceremonies in Thailand, and how to shoot a cobra’s heart in Cambodia. The very things that made people want to jet set away to someplace entirely new and different from what they know. And yet, tourism, as much as it can help a place, can break a place as well. I think that’s why showing the late nights, the locals, sometimes the underbelly, was so key to his style of travel. If you want to experience it, you can’t pick only the good parts. To appreciate it, you should learn from it. That kind of respect for the countries he visited is why I loved his shows, and why I was a fan of his.

I’ve also read several of his books and one of his cookbooks, Appetites, which I recommend if you’re a fan, as it’s full of the recipes Tony loved and made for his family. Like his show, his books capture the thrill of travel, the smells of the food, and the essence of the people he meets. He was incredibly observant to be able to portray these things so eloquently. A year ago in July, I hosted my book club and chose Tony’s memoir, Kitchen Confidential, as our book. I knew I loved Tony’s writing, but this book in particular hit a heartstring for me.

Kitchen Confidential is the story of how Tony became a cook, learning the ropes from a hard knock group of immigrant chefs in a tiny sea shack on the east coast. (The Portuguese sausage soup recipe mentioned in the book is in Appetites. I made it for my book club.) The book also follows him as he moves to New York and climbs the kitchen ladder into different roles. There’s a scene I love where he’s begging to be promoted before, he admits in the book, he’s ready. He’s talking to this hulk of a guy who grabs a pan with his bare hand and holds it for a second or two, his skin growing blisters, just to make a point. Until Tony can do that, he’s not ready to be a cook. And Tony’s like, that guy is crazy, but also, that is my goal now.

What I love about Tony, and that book in particular, is that he validates what it’s really like to work in a kitchen. Just as he did on his show, he illustrated the down and dirty parts of working in a hot, cramped kitchen, standing on your feet all day and sweating. My parents owned a restaurant for many years where my dad was the main chef, and reading Tony’s book was like stepping back in time when I would visit my dad at the restaurant. My mom and I would enter through the staff door, which went right into the kitchen, so a wave of heat would greet you. And like Tony talked about there are undocumented individuals or guys with foul mouths working in the kitchen. My dad gave second chances to a lot of people. Many of the guys who gave me piggy back rides or cracked jokes too loud in my dad’s kitchen were men that had served time or were down on their luck. They could be hotheads, but they were a family.

And so I hope that with all the TV shows, and the books, and the recipes left behind, we can stay connected. I hope his daughter finds a space within them and feels at home in the memories they offer, because that’s what he offered me through his book. I hope you enjoy them too. I hope you go out and grab some good food today, as his chef friends have suggested. It doesn’t have to be fancy, in fact, street food was more his style anyway. I’ll be doing that when I finish up work today.

To learn more about Bourdain Day, check out this post in Esquire with chefs Eric Ripert and José Andrés sharing memoirs of their dear friend, Anthony Bourdain.

Happy birthday, Tony.

“I write. I travel. I eat. And I’m hungry for more.” ~ Anthony Bourdain

 

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Recalculating: Our Overnight Hotel Stay at the Don Q Inn

When your husband offers to take you on a road trip for the weekend, you say yes.

At least that’s what I did. After all, weekends where the two of us aren’t working are rare. He said something to me like “blah blah blah… ‘travel,’ ‘wine,’ …blah blah blah ‘bookstore’…”

I don’t know, that’s all I listened to.

We hit the road after work on Friday and stopped in a small town for book and music store perusal. We spent longer in the music store which must’ve been the “blah blah blah” part I tuned out.

But all was well when we stopped for dinner at an amazing farm to table cafe and gorged ourselves on charcuterie, fine cheeses, and prime rib.

And we checked out a winery as well.

Vernon collage

We were unsure of what city we would stay the night in. There were a few in between our route that would have sufficed and we figured we’d just hotwire it – as in, use hotwire.com to find a cheap hotel, not actually hotwire someone else’s vehicle.

And that’s when I hit the jackpot.

Behold…the Don Q Inn!

Don Q Inn

That’s right, my little travel munchkins. I scored us a room at the Don Q Inn – Fantasy Suites of Your Dreams Hotel!

Joe was quite impressed with my knowledge and know-how of working the internet to find the most bizarre place for us to stay the night.

Let’s discuss the available amenities at the Don Q Inn, shall we? 

If you’re in the mood to wander a retired Boeing C-97 airplane that once flew in the Korean War and once was used in a car commercial with none other than Farrah Fawcett, you’re in luck!

The Don Q Inn has just such an airplane!

Boeing C97

And let’s face it, it makes the hotel incredibly easy to find from the road. 

Climb aboard and experience what years of abandonment and hopscotch patterns of bird poo smell like! Admittance is FREE!

Boeing C97-front

Joe inside the plane

inside the boeing C97

The Don Q Inn offers rooms designed to fill your deepest fantasies. Want to sleep in Sherwood Forest? You can! Rent a room with the bed nestled between real tree trunks!

Wondered what it’d be like to sleep in a hot air balloon? You can! Complete with accompanying cd of sound effects!

Perhaps you’re a traditionalist and want a heart shaped bed from Cupid. There’s a room for you too!

Extra bonus – many rooms come with their own whirlpool made out of copper cheese vats! Sure to impress your lover.

Standard rooms are available, each with their own eccentricities. Ours for example, had carpet on the walls and a giant cupboard that wouldn’t open where I think the zombies live.

Because we booked on hotwire, we didn’t get a fantasy room, but Joe – if you’re reading this – we have an anniversary coming up, and I think you know what I want. 😉

Act fast and book your fantasy suite now! (Inquiring minds always want to know what you’d pick, so do share your favorite room theme in the comments! Or better yet, design your own! … Though, how will you top personal cheese vats?)

If, like us, you only have a short while to stay, may I suggest exploring the interior of the hotel.

hotel lobby

The lobby is filled with vintage furniture and board games. Relax around the fireplace drum in a pick-your-own barbershop chair!

For the more adventuresome, you can explore the hotel’s 300 foot underground tunnel.

the tunnel

There are few things more romantic than a long musty walk through an unmarked, underground, low-lit, damp tunnel.

I like to outdo myself though, so I recited some of my favorite motivational quotes to Joe. You might know this one by Gollum.

“We’ll takes ’em to the tunnel, Precious. She can do it. She’s always hungry. She always needs to feed.”

It was a delightful surprise to learn that the tunnel, in fact, leads to a bar!

bar scene

Our last minute stay at the exotic Don Q Inn was all too brief. The staff was very kind and helpful. And there’s clearly more to explore here. I for one, would go back.

What would you explore first? The fantasuite? The plane? The tunnel?
Meet me in the bar and tell all! 😉
Happy traveling, road trippers! 

Love Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry (for sh*tting your pants)

This blog was originally published as The Devil Made Me Do It in June 2013 as a guest post for Renee Schuls-Jacobson‘s So Wrong blog series. It’s an embarrassing and true tale from my past that I think really portrays the finer details of true love and underpants. Some edits have been made to update the post.

*****

I am a picture-perfect citizen.

I pay my bills on time. I vote. I use hand signals while driving if one of my lights has burned out. One would assume I have control over my bowels.

Let me backup. My husband and I take a vacation together each summer. We’ve traveled to Portland, Oregon and eaten Voodoo Donuts; we’ve visited Toronto, Ontario and viewed the skyline from the CN Tower. Two summers ago, we decided to take a road trip out west. Starting in the Badlands, we made our way to Yellowstone National Park. It was a fabulous trip.

Except for the day we toured Devil’s Tower.

That August day, the temperatures climbed into the 90’s. Being a mature adult, I was prepared. I packed and wore sunscreen. I drank water all morning. I used the bathroom before we left!

It didn’t matter.

This is Devil's Tower

This is Devil’s Tower

We started our hike around the base of the tower. We weren’t too far in when I felt a rumbling in my gut. I asked to sit on a bench for a minute, pretending to enjoy the view. There was a fleeting moment when I thought to myself, “I should turn back… I COULD turn back… The smart thing to do would be to turn back.”

But alas, that’s not the way this story goes.

DSCF0724

This is me right before we started hiking when I still resembled someone in control of their digestive track.

It became crystal clear, halfway around the tower, that my mind and body were not at peace. In fact, they were in deep negotiation. And things were getting heated.

When the cramping got so bad that I had to sit down again, I started weighing my options.

1.) I could try to skulk off somewhere. I had every intention of doing just that if it wasn’t for the unsuspecting family giving their children piggy back rides nearby. There was nowhere far enough out of eyesight for me to go.

2.) I could stay on the bench and breathe. This wasn’t really working all that well so far, but a girl can pray. “Hail Mary, full of grace, the cramping is with me…”

3.) I could jump off the cliff’s edge and end my misery once and for all.

In retrospect, I wish I’d chosen the cliff.

Because that’s when I shit my pants.

“Sweet Virgin Mother, what the hell just happened?!”

The worst part was telling my husband (who was my boyfriend at that time) what had occurred. How would he ever look at me with any sense of romance or mystery again? I considered myself a dignified person. But I had just shit my pants! In public! And we were only halfway around Devil’s Tower!

Nothing – and I mean nothing – will ever compare to the cold, wet, mall-walker sprint that I made during my descent from Devil’s Tower. And my husband-then-boyfriend, wonderful man that he is, tried to cheer me up on our journey.

“You’re almost there! You got this! On the bright side, I don’t smell anything!” he shouted from a few yards behind me.

Making my way to the crowded public bathroom, I took note of the collateral damage. The underwear was a goner. I was just lucky I wore full coverage undies that day and not a thong.

I shimmied out of my underwear, wrapped my soiled mess in TP, and dumped everything in the plastic bin where women leave their feminine hygiene products. Then I said a little prayer for the park custodian, cleaned myself up, and walked back to the car no longer feeling feminine or hygienic.

So the moral of the story is sometimes even the best of adults crap their pants. But if you’re lucky, you’ll have someone by your side cheering you on with an upbeat, “You got this!” and “I don’t smell anything!” And when you find that special someone…

Ask them to buy you new underwear.

Undies

*****

There you have it, my dirty little secret. Has this ever happened to you?

Sweet Mother Mary, tell me I’m not alone!

Post Script… I thought it’d be a fun fact to share with you all that the desktop image on my laptop is a picture of Devil’s Tower. It reminds me to have a sense of humor about life…and to pack extra undies when traveling.

My Big Fat Secret Greek Wedding

Well the cat’s out of the bag now and we revealed our big surprise to our wedding guests and you that we’ve secretly been married for a month now.

Surprise!!! *throws rice confetti and releases the doves*

Here’s what people are saying about it:

“It was the best wedding I’ve never been to!”

“Most fun we’ve had at a wedding in a long time!”

“It’s so romantic and beautiful.”

“How did you keep it a secret so well? We loved it!”

We are eternally grateful that everyone supported our actions and thought what we did was romantic and dreamlike. It really was.

I mean, look where we were! Can you blame us?

DSC_0026Our wedding day in Santorini was relaxing. Since our wedding wasn’t until sunset, we actually lounged the whole morning, swimming and hanging out in our private jacuzzi with glasses of Assyrtiko wine.

I’ve heard that every wedding day has its minor glitches and mine involved my flat iron.

While we had planned ahead and purchased an international adapter plug, Joe had warned me about voltage conversion issues. So far, things had worked out when it came to charging our camera and my laptop. While getting ready for the big event, I plugged my flat iron in to use it to smooth my bangs down and planned to curl the rest of my hair.

Yes, I know that sounds weird. I use my FLAT iron to CURL my hair. Just trust me it works, and I like how the curls turn out better than with a curling iron.

I had recently just purchased a new flat iron as well. It was so beautiful, a shiny new red handle and it worked really well.

I was straightening my bangs when I heard this little sizzling noise. And about 5 seconds later I dropped the flat iron to the floor because that sizzle I heard was the inside of the HANDLE burning up and scalding my palm. VOLTAGE CONVERSION ISSUE!!!

This day is not about my hair. This day is not about my hair. This day is not about my hair.

Those are the words I repeated to myself in the mirror as I stared at my straight hair. They were followed by gratitude to the gods for the fact that I had smoothed my bangs and NOT begun curling my hair or else I’d have ended up with some half-headed poodle-ized catastrophe.

And my new straightener…ended up in the trash. 😦

In the end it worked out.

DSC_0028Joe also played a trick on me on our wedding day. We’d been talking the week before we left about our wedding vows and all he’d tell me about his were that he “had a good idea” of what he was going to say and he didn’t need to write them down because he didn’t want them “to sound rehearsed.”

Okay, fine. But know that I had stepped up my game when it came to writing wedding vows. When Joe and I first started dating, I was still in college and wrote a lot of spoken word poems. Some even, for Joe. It’d been years since I’d written one. As a meaningful gesture, I wrote my vows in a spoken word poem for him.

The morning of our wedding, we both had to rewrite our vows nicely on fresh paper because we’d only packed the rough drafts. So I wrote mine out on one end of our room, and he wrote his on the other. I finished rewriting mine, meanwhile Joe is still sitting there – slightly staring into the abyss, periodically writing something down.

That worm! Is he just writing his vows NOW?!!

So our wedding time came and I was unsure what Joe’s vows would be. I was half preparing for a bulleted list of nonsense.

DSC_0032His vows were perfect. They were heartfelt, meaningful to us, and touched on the things we both love and find important.

So what the heck had he been twiddling with for so freaking long?

My twerp of a husband was messing with me. That whole time he was sitting there pretending to struggle with his vows, he was scribbling Bruno Mars song lyrics on the back of the paper!

I’ll get you for this, my pretty!

Everyone we worked with from our Grecian wedding planner’s company was wonderful. We had so much fun laughing with them, enjoying our happy moment of foreverness, taking in as much beauty as our eyes would let us, and sharing cake and champagne with them as well as our hotel staff, who felt like our long distance Greek family members while we stayed there.

DSC_0080Makin’ it legal.

DSC_0103Say Aaaaaah!

DSC_0120Something blue.

DSC_0125Cheers to our Big Fat Secret Greek Wedding!

Thank you to everyone who supported us and our big surprise!
We so enjoy sharing our 2 special weddings with you all.

Have you ever kept a big secret from your closest loved ones?
How did it go over when you finally told them?

Top 5 Reasons To Go To BlogHer

This weekend I had the immense pleasure of attending Blogher ’14.

I can’t even begin to decompress and describe the mind bomb that is this conference. 4,000 bloggers, most of them women, in scenic California, partying it up, networking, and honoring each others’ voices.

I arrived in San Jose, CA on Thursday afternoon and was greeted by cupcakes (made out of lentils???) in a beautiful city. I ask you, does it get any better than that?

San Jose CollageWell yes, it does. Because there are keynotes. AMAZING, funny, gorgeous, talented, and freaking cool keynotes!

Who was on the list?

Jenny Lawson – who you may know as The Bloggess, and author of the hilarious memoir, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. I met her, and we talked about funny female authors, and we both just finished reading Nora Ephron for the first time, and she signed my book “Knock Knock, Mofo”. Isn’t she great?

Tig Notaro – the comedian best known for her stand up show discussing the humor and heft of having breast cancer. You can download free tracks of her stand up at her site here, including clips from her famous show, Live.

Arianna Huffington – as in the founder of The Huffington Post! Best speech of the keynotes; she was inspiring, charming, funny, and flawless. And you know what? I met her too, and I spoke to her in Greek! *seriously might faint just thinking how awesome that was*

Kerry Washington – the actor and activist. She shared behind the scenes stories from her show, Scandal, as well as why civil rights and philanthropy are so important.

Keynote CollageWhy go to BlogHer?

BlogHer is drastically different than writers conferences, in my opinion. When you go to a writers conference, there’s a pretty strict schedule of classes to attend. It’s more about learning, networking, and deciding about indie vs. traditional publishing routes. It’s awesome and definitely motivating, but different.

1. BlogHer is basically a giant party.

No I’m not kidding. That’s how it feels. Everyone is smiling. Everyone wants to meet people. Everyone wants to know what you blog about and which classes you attended, and which yogurt you picked in the Yoplait #tasteoff challenge!

Shocker! We picked Yoplait.

YoplaitThat’s me and the illustrious August McLaughlin
hanging out with a giant spoon. #GoodTimes

The Expo room with all the vendors is fun to bum around. And for those looking to write sponsored posts, the connections are yours for the making!

2. The Keynotes

See above. Then wipe the drool from your chin. I can’t wait to see who’s on board for next year’s keynotes.

3. Voices of the Year Community Keynote

If you want to hear the voices that are groundbreaking in the blogosphere, attend the VOTY celebration. I was in awe of these women. And I want to share them all with you. Here are the 12 Voices of the Year that spoke at the conference. (All were phenomenal, but I starred the ones that spoke the most to me personally.)

*Parri Sontag ~ Her Royal Thighness ~ Leisure Suits, Braces, and Beanies: My Life as a Dodgeball Target

Kristin Vanderhey Shaw ~ Two Cannoli ~ More Than Words

Tammy Soong ~ World’s Worst Moms ~ First Reason Not to Get a Tattoo: Your Mom Probably Has One

*A’driane Nieves ~ Butterfly Confessions ~ America’s Not Here For Us

*Meredith Bland ~ Pile of Babies ~ 9 Awesome Things About Having a Physical Disability

*Janelle Hanchett ~ Renegade Mothering ~ We Don’t Start With Needles in Our Arms

Phyllis Myung ~ The Napkin Hoarder ~ Sometimes I Still Wish I Was White

Ashley Garrett ~ Baddest Mother Ever ~ It’s All One Life

*August McLaughlin ~ August McLaughlin’s Blog ~ My Big Brindle Heart: A Love Story

*Grace Sandra ~ Grace Sandra’s Blog ~ Letting The Stupid Little Ni**er Go

Jenna Hatfield ~ Stop, Drop, & Blog ~ The Bridge That is Any Bridge

Lisa Page Rosenberg ~ Smacksy ~ The View From Here

4. Networking and Friendships

Business CardsHoly business cards, Batman!

There are 4,000 bloggers in one building and you get to hang out with them!!! I actually ran out of business cards.

Also, meet bloggers you follow online.

After using Twitter as a ginger beacon homing device, I met up with Aussa Lorens from Hacker. Ninja. Hooker. Spy.

Photo credit - Aussa Lorens

Photo credit – Aussa Lorens

You know who else I Twitter stalked?

Hege and Cotille from StitchFix! Photo coming soon as it’s on Cotille’s phone, but the girls will be sharing their photos from BlogHer and all the StitchFix fashionistas at the conference using the hashtag #StitchFixInTheWild.

*double squeeee* I even went out to dinner with them! And we leisured on Santana Row, San Jose’s trendy hot spot for restaurants and clothing boutiques.

But best of all was meeting fellow blogger, longtime friend, and founder of #GirlBoner radio – August McLaughlin!

August and Jess

Photo credit – August McLaughlin

Truth.

Truth.

5. BlogHer is literally a giant party.

The end of the conference is a big, outdoor party. And Rev Run from Run DMC was the dj. #ILoveThe90s

Rev Run Run DMC

Do you need any more reasons than that?
So, will I see you at BlogHer next year?

 

 

 

 

 

The Highlights and Hiccups of our Grecian Honeymoon

I’m baaaaaaaaack!

Kah-lee-MER-ah, Everyone! (That means ‘good morning’ in Greek! And yes, I wrote it phonetically, because I do not have the Greek alphabet on my keyboard, nor would most of you be able to read it if I did not do so.)

Thank you to Misty and Deanne for keeping you all company while I was away!

Greece was magnificent! We thoroughly enjoyed our pre-wedding honeymoon (yep, it’s backwards thanks to Joe’s gig schedule, but I’m just happy we got to get away).

The Highlights:

We started in Santorini, which was breathtaking.

DSCN1062I would like to go back now please.

We stayed in one of the southern most cities, Akrotiri, which is the historical part of the island. It was quiet and scenic as our room overlooked the caldera, with Nea Kameni (the volano island) right in the middle.

This is what breakfast was like each day.

DSCN0832I miss breakfast in Greece.

We rented ATV’s a couple times and cruised all around the island, checking out the northern most city Oia (pronounced Eeh-ah), relaxed in Perissa on the Perevolos black sand beaches, and headed down to the southern tip where we watched the sunset from the rocks around the lighthouse.

DCIM100GOPROOia

DCIM100GOPROPerissa

DSCN1140Lighthouse

Our next stop was Athens. We left the beaches and wineries of Santorini for the Capital city. We got lost – in a good way – on the streets of the Plaka. We buzzed about Adrianou Street and ventured out to dine in street cafes where we listened to local musicians and stared up at the Acropolis.

On one of the hottest mornings of our trip, we trekked to the Acropolis. And it was totally worth the heat.

DSCN1188Behind us is the Parthenon – the Temple of Athena, Goddess of War and Wisdom, and whom Athens is named for. The temple was completed in 438 BC.

DSCN1193Just one view of the city of Athens. The population is estimated to be 10, 767, 827 people!

We visited the National Archeological Museum, the largest in the country. My favorite room showed the items and murals found in ancient Thira (Santorini) in the ruins of Akrotiri – an ancient trade port that was covered for centuries by volcanic ash and uncovered in the 1800’s. We walked the ruins in Akrotiri, and had to wait till we got to Athens to see the murals that were recovered there.

DSCN1289

Famous Mural – The Boxing Boys

Did you all read Deanne’s guest post about the Greek Changing of the Guard? We did see the Evzones.

DSCN1316

We had a date night at one of the most famous outdoor theaters, Cine Thissio, which was built in 1935.

DSCN1219

And of course, the FOOD was amazing!!!

DSCN0831DSCN0852DSCN0925DSCN1007DCIM100GOPRO

DSCN1303DSCN1365

The Hiccups:

1.)  Shockingly, I’m sure to you all, we only got kind of lost one and a half times. The first was after our ship docked in Piraeus and we had to find the metro to connect to Athens and check into our hotel. This was all after 9 o’clock at night, so it was dark out and there weren’t any signs for the metro that we could see.

We basically got there by meandering the city and following some other tourists for a bit, all while dragging our luggage along. We were hot, sweaty messes when we finally checked into our hotel. Oh…and I had what I thought was motion sickness, but ended up being vertigo, so I threw up a bunch that night!

2.) Yes, I got vertigo – actually still have vertigo – and that made touring Athens interesting. We had to take several breaks throughout the day for me to sit and cool down and start believing the walls and pavement were not in fact coming after me. For the record, vertigo sucks.

3.)  The second time we got lost was our first full day in Athens. We had a map of the city, which was in English, but once you venture away from the main streets of the Plaka, most street signs are only in Greek, so the map didn’t help a ton. And it was also 99,000 degrees Celsius. Yes, Celsius!

We were literally wandering inside the very mouth of Hades!

4.) And this one is minor, truly. But, I did get me some sun poisoning in Santorini. As any good ginger knows, being in too much sun will cause one to self combust, and sauntering all over that beautiful island caused my arms to break out in some form of minor hive-age.

I paid a visit to a pharmacy in Fira where a very kind Greek woman helped me purchase what I hope was Grecian benadryl and anti-itch cream. The “Greek-adryl” box was entirely in Greek and her only counsel on the drug was to take it for 5-6 days. I didn’t know the dosage or whether the stuff was non-drowsy or what, so I resigned to only taking it at bedtime, wherein I seemed to conclude that it was in fact the drowsy version. It worked wonders on our final flight home in which Joe tells me there was some serious turbulence and a lightening storm that I completely missed. 😀

The anti-itch cream made me laugh as it was in Greek and Grenglish? My favorite part of the tube is where it read that the cream helps with “the itch of elderly people” followed directly by “contact with jellyfish.” It was most comforting to know that if I came in contact with either an old person or a jellyfish, I was covered itch-wise.

That’s our story! All in all, a very happy honeymoon!
As they say in Greece, “Cheers” or “Yah-mas!”

DSCN0873DSCN1041Ready to do a helmet wearing PSA if asked!

DSCN1067Yah-mas!

Are You Manly Enough to Wear Pom-Poms on Your Shoes?

By Deanne M. Schultz, @DMSwriter

*****

Now that Jess is gone for a couple weeks, it’s a good time to talk about pom-poms. Specifically the kind worn on the ends of shoes. If your grandma knitted her own slippers, she may have stuck pom-poms on the toes just for a sassy affectation, happy about the way they bobbled around as she did her housework.

For those of you who don’t know, Joe and Jess are on their honeymoon in Greece, and if they hit the right part of Athens, they’ll see men wearing pom-poms on their shoes. These guys goose-step around, too, which only adds to their allure. Thankfully there’s no ouzo involved.

When we were in Athens a few years ago, we spotted these guys at Syntagma Square. Our tour guide told us that they were Evzones, members of an elite force that guarded the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. And man, were they serious about their duty. They marched back and forth with such ramrod precision that I felt slouchy and undignified in their presence. When they met at the top of the stairs and executed an abrupt turn and marched down, a lady in our group grabbed her camera and started snapping away.

Greece 1Woe be unto her, because the Evzones kept goose-stepping rigidly forward, plowing right past Camera Lady, who almost bit the dust in her zeal to get a good shot. I imagined her, limp and bloodied on the sidewalk, a fuzzy pom-pom sticking out of her nose.

Really, what was the deal with those things? They seemed frivolous and unnecessary, almost humorous when compared with the semi-automatics the Evzones carried. Now those babies I took seriously. They elevated the goose-stepping to a don’t-mess-with-me meanness that made me gulp.

And when I found out that the Evzones’ shoes weigh seven pounds and have nails under their soles?

Boy, Camera Lady was just lucky to be alive, is what I thought.

Our tour guide told us that in the 1800s, when the Evzones prepared for combat, they would hide knives under the pom-poms. If they were captured in battle – fwip! – out came the knife, ready for action.

Greece 2Cool, I thought, mentally elevating the status of the lowly pom-pom to Fuzzy Defender of the Faith. Someone else in our group, a Mr. Historical Know-It-All, challenged our tour guide, saying he heard the pom-poms were used to keep water from leaking in the seams of the shoes. Sorry, buddy, I thought. Water leaking in?? What a yawner. Knives were much more interesting, and gave the soldiers a sinister presence. Water leaking in made them sound like practical gardeners.

So, Jess and Joe, if you’re reading this, head on over to Syntagma Square and check out the Evzones. Hoist an ouzo in their honor, and if you’re secure in your manhood, stick some pom-poms on your shoes when you get home.

Just don’t goose-step around the front yard.

*****

Deanne SchultzDeanne M. Schultz is currently working on The Green Hornet Suit and Other Musings, a book that takes a wry look at life as she sees it. Her hope is that her writing inspires and helps others, moving them to connect with those around them. She blogs at dmswriter – witty weekly writing to inform and entertain.

It’s All Greek To Me

In one month Joe and I leave for our honeymoon in Greece.

Yah, I know we’re doing it all backwards. Our honeymoon is BEFORE the wedding. When you marry a musician, you’re subject to working around their gig schedules.

As such, I’ve been practicing a few essential Greek phrases to help us when we arrive. I can say ‘hello, how are you, what is your name, it is a pleasure meeting you.’ I’ve also practiced ‘thank you, please, and pardon me.’ But what I’m most proud of is the following phrase which I have practiced for three days:

Which translates to:

I’m sorry. I don’t understand. I don’t speak Greek. Do you speak English?

I think it may come in hand.

I have also checked out a number of books on Greece to review the history and mythology I love.

Earlier last week, I forced my fiance, Joe, into going to a free skin screening because he often plays at outdoor festivals and I wanted him to get sun care tips from a dermatologist. (Because he rolls his eyes at me when I share them.)

After speaking with the doctor, Joe texted me:

Dr. W says I “have the skin of a Greek God.”

Great. I will never hear the end of this.

Of course that night, as we’re brushing our teeth, Joe begins to flex and show off his chest.

Joe: You can call me Zeus.

Me: Ok Zeus, pop quiz. Who was Zeus’s wife?

Joe: Athena

Me: No that’s not right. Who was Athena?

Joe: Goddess of wisdom!

Me: And?

Joe: Other stuff…

Me: She was Zeus’s daughter, and also the Goddess of war. Now, who was Zeus’s wife?

Joe: Mrs. Zeus

Me: *face palm* Hera. His wife’s name was Hera.

I think maybe I should do the translating on our trip.

Have you ever learned a new language? How did it go?

What’s your favorite place to travel? And where do you want to go next if you could anywhere in the world?

The Art of Eating Rice Cake, Or Mistakes Made While Traveling Abroad

I’m a little over halfway in my To Be Read Pile Challenge. Which is saying a lot since last year, I think I only finished 4 books? This year I was more strategic with what I planned to read. I made my list a mix of humor books, book club books, and ones that have sat on my bookshelf too long.

My 2014 To Be Read Pile

  1. How Did You Get This Number by Sloane Crosley
  2. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  3. One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus
  4. Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster
  5. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  6. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  7. Crash Into You by Roni Loren
  8. She Got Up Off the Couch by Haven Kimmel
  9. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  10. When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
  11. Bonk by Mary Roach
  12. The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin

I have some reviews to get up here yet, but I’ve finished reading 8 books already!

One of my favorite authors to read is David Sedaris, and I recently finished When You Are Engulfed in Flames on audiobook, which in my opinion, is the BEST way to read a Sedaris book. He has the greatest voice and often reads his work aloud – even drafts – which I think is fascinating. He is then able to tell his agent what lines got the biggest laughs by the audience. Very cool.

In this book, Sedaris talks a lot about living abroad and his relationship with his partner, Hugh, as well as the eclectic group of neighbors they’ve had over the years.

Over the course of their lives together, David and Hugh have lived in New York, France, and Japan. When I visited my friend Amy in South Korea, I spent hours practicing basic Korean phrases out of a language book I’d checked out from the library, only to arrive and find out I’d memorized them with the totally wrong pronunciation. Certain consonants sound very different in the Korean alphabet than they do in English. The letter ‘G’ for example, often takes on the sound of a ‘K’ in Korean.

I greatly sympathized and heartily laughed while reading David’s recount of being the dumbest kid in Japanese class. I loved that his teachers were still kind and encouraging to him, patting him on the head for being the dunce that he was, surrounded by a class much younger than he.

One day I was shopping in Insadong Market by myself and I stopped in a beautiful second floor tea shop to journal about my trip and watch the crowds of people traverse the street market below. I ordered a Green Tea Latte and what I thought was a delicious pastry of fried dough with cinnamon and sugar inside. Amy and her boyfriend, Lin, had bought one for me earlier in the week and it was a yummy treat.

100_2000I thought THIS is what I ordered.

Instead, what appeared on a plate before me was what I would describe as a melted patty of rice cake. Now, to be quite clear, rice cake is NOT cake. And it’s consistency is pretty chewy even at room temperature. The tea shop attendant also gave me the tiniest fork I had ever seen.

Not wanting to be rude, I picked up the fork made for fairies and tried to cut a piece of the rice cake off. It was so gooey, I ended up wrapping it around my fork like a spaghetti noodle, making giant rolling waves with my arm. It just kept winding…and winding!

Once inside my mouth, the rice cake coated my teeth so that my jaw was sealed tight by this taffy-like food. I ate about half of…whatever it was I ordered. When I later described the food to Amy and Lin, neither one had a clue.

Much like David Sedaris, I live life in an experimental manner, a sort of “well, this is what I said I  wanted so best to make everyone think I’m an expert at eating it.” But as the rice cake cooled, it stuck to the plate and I had to use my fairy fork to drag the stuff across it and wind it still. There was no grace or expertise about it.

I highly recommend David Sedaris’s book, When You Are Engulfed in Flames. It is a fantastic read for anyone who adores humor books and for lovers of wanderlust everywhere. The best part about travel is that you accept adventures. You could end up like David, sitting in a French hospital waiting room – naked. Or you might just accidentally order rice cake. 😉

*****

Thanks to all who left loving comments for my friend, Cat, last week. Your encouragement warms our spirits.

Now how about you? What are your favorite funny books or travel moments?

 

 

Where in the World is Jess Witkins’s Happiness Project?

Hey Gang! I’m back in Wisconsin (or Canada, as Tiffany calls it). 😉

I had a fabulous road trip out east and so much fun sharing cryptic photos with you guys trying to guess where I was. Here are some of the highlights!

*****

Our first stop was the Columbus Ohio Zoo, one of the best zoos in the nation. It’s the zoo where Jack Hanna works. I didn’t know this beforehand, but the Columbus zoo takes in many baby animals that other zoos can’t support, and those are the ones Hanna takes with him on tour, like to the David Letterman Show. While we were there we saw 2 baby snow leopards and a 12 day old gorilla.

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Day 2 brought us into Cleveland to the Rock N’Roll Hall of Fame!

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Jimi Hendrix Stage Outfit

Jimi Hendrix Stage Outfit

John Lennon's Visa Card, Grammy Award, Passport and Glasses

John Lennon’s Visa Card, Grammy Award, Passport and Glasses

Elvis Presley's Studded Jumpsuit

Elvis Presley’s Studded Jumpsuit

Next stop was in Wheeling, West Virginia for a fish sandwich at Coleman’s Fish Market! Mmmm

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Joe and his aunt, who was our wonderful tour guide in Wheeling

Joe and his aunt, who was our wonderful tour guide in Wheeling

P.S. This happened. And it was awesome.

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Arriving at our main destination, we parked in Washington D.C. where my longtime friend, Amy, showed us around the area!

The Lincoln Memorial - Still has scaffolding up as they remove the paint from a recent vandalism attack.

The Lincoln Memorial – Still has scaffolding up as they remove the paint from a recent vandalism attack.

Korean War Memorial

Korean War Memorial

Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial

Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial

At the Capital

At the Capital

We took a day trip over to Baltimore, Maryland and Guess. Who. I. Met!!!!

Misty Laws and Me - Bonding over Gremlins!

Misty Laws and Me – Bonding over Gremlins!

And then Joe’s cousins taught us how to shell and eat THESE!!!

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Day trip to Mount Vernon, touring the Washington’s Home!

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DSCN0655DSCN0662We also humbly walked the paths inside Arlington National Cemetery to honor our brave soldiers from past and present.

The eternal flame at President Kennedy's gravesite.

The eternal flame at President Kennedy’s gravesite.

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Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Making our way back towards the midwest, we hit “The Strip” in Pittsburgh as well as Kennywood Amusement Park!

Joe's Idea of Heaven - An olive bar in the Pittsburgh Macaroni Co.

Joe’s Idea of Heaven – An olive bar in the Pittsburgh Macaroni Co.

Riding the ski lift into Kennywood

That’s our trip! All happily hosted and fed along the way by Joe’s family across the country! Wonderful hospitality! We hated to say goodbye.

*****

Last but not least, the announcement of the From My Bookshelf to Yours contest winner is: Amber West! I’ll be touch soon for you to claim your book title of choice! Congrats, Amber!

Fill me in! What were you up to while I was away?

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