Saturday, August 29, 2009

Jenny visits her sis for an extended sister-date.

From July 16-20, 2009, my darling youngest sister, Jenny Boo, visited me, my cat, and my cute lil' apartment. The 16-year-old flew on her first solo flight, thoroughly enjoying herself with her iPod and books, and was met by a very enthusiastic me with my gorgeous artsy sign:


(I've called her Boo since she was 4? 5? She still answers to it, so I will keep using it!)

We got Ruby Tuesdays take-out, relaxed, and played with Faraday:
Farad likes his Aunt Jenny!

The next day, I had to work a bit. She amused herself at home with Farad and Darleen (ahem my MacBook). In the evening, we had a surprise-ish birthday dinner for Luc, after helping him move into his new apartment! YES. I put my sister to work on her second day here. She had fun (I think) meeting Meg, Luc, Malissa, and Chaim--and they seemed to think she was pretty cool, too.

Saturday was our AWESOME adventure! As any hostess in Princeton should do, I took her to New York. We and our coffee waited in the Junction for the train:

Waitin' for the train!

We decided that Jenny didn't want to see Shrek the Musical:
Jenny does NOT want to see Shrek the Musical
She'd rather stick with our original plan of seeing Wicked. ;)

Upon arrival at Penn Station, we started our walking tour. We headed down to Magnolia Bakery, stopping for a while in a random street fair. It was terrific--Jenny bought several earrings, and I found one of those wrap-dresses which you can wear 230498 different ways (but I have yet to wear it period). At Magnolia, I got a white cupcake with buttercream frosting, and she got something mocha chocolate. As usual, they were amazing, and we couldn't finish them.
Magnolia Bakery!

On the way back uptown, we stopped in the Fashion Institute of Technology's Fashion Museum. I highly recommend it--it's free!! The displays are few but fun. We also stopped for lunch at a random cafe.

Of course, we spent several minutes taking pictures in Times Square. Jenny LOVES photography, and does a very good job! She also LOVES New York. :)
Jenny adores this city.

We both bought $8 sundresses, which are ADORABLE.

We wandered up to Central Park, and spent a couple of hours strolling, sitting, reminiscing, and photographing:
Sisters enjoyin' the Park
Central Park Statues

So, McDonald's is trying very hard to promote its McCafe drinks, so hard that I received coupons for free espresso drinks in the mail from them. Jenny got an iced mocha:
They were barely worth drinking for free.

And I had a latte. WELL. While an interesting concept--home of the Big Mac offering specialty coffee drinks--they were worth drinking only because we didn't pay for them. In fact, we didn't finish drinking them. Sigh.

In any case, they gave us a much needed caffeine boost before our evening's entertainment:

WICKED!!! I saw this two years ago, and fell completely in love with it. I can sing most of the songs for you. For Jenny's 16th birthday, I promised to take her to a Broadway show. She'd only seen Phantom of the Opera, and, excited by my enthusiasm, set her hopes on Wicked. It's a good thing I love the chick so much--Wicked tickets are NOT cheap!

We sat in the sixth from very last row in the balcony, but we were centered, so we had a terrific view. Jenny adored it!! I enjoyed it this time around, too. :)
The Dragon and Me!

We caught the train home and crashed.

Jenny slept in late, while I got up early and ran a 5k. :) Afterward, we dressed up in our cute $8 dresses and drove out to Lambertville, NJ, a super cute little town with fun shops and cafes. We had delicious salads at the Full Moon Cafe:
Jenny and her $8 NYC dress peruse the menu.

At home that evening, Jenny and Faraday bonded in new and strange ways:
Fierce Veggie Warrior Princess

What ARE you going to do with my vegetables??

Sadly, it was all over too soon. She packed:
Nooo Boo don't leave me!!!

I kissed her gorgeous cheeks, and sent her off on her way!

At Newark to say goodbyyye. :(


Thursday, August 27, 2009

What ELSE did I do this summer??

I did too much for me to give each the honor of its own post [except for Jenny's visit--David got a full post, Jenny will get a full post]. Here then, is a summary, in list and picture form. :)

1. Soon after I returned, I adopted the most darling ball of fur ever, Faraday! Faraday was born on March 17th, 2009, and taken along with his mom and siblings to a shelter, where they were put on the execution list. The Feline Rescue Mission saved them, and an acquaintance of mine fostered them until they were old enough to be adopted. I took him home on June 27th, when he was about three months old. He is amazing and we are perfect for each other! :)

Baby Farad, a couple weeks old:
Baby Faraday

Couple days after I adopted him:
He really likes to sit up there!

Couple weeks ago:
Beautiful Maan

2. July 4, 2009
We had a 4th of July BBQ at Josh's, and the men grilled as was their manly duty:
The men doing their manly BBQing duty.

3. All Summer
Our PPPL grad student softball team, the Tokabats, did an amazing job this year. In only our second year of existence, we made it to the playoffs, lost our first game, won the second, and finally succumbed and were eliminated, but not before securing our spot as #4 in a league of 15! :D


4. July 10-12, 2009
Meg's sister, Martha, just graduated from college! Luc and Meg were driving up to Little Compton, RI, for her party at the family beach house (oh yes--they have a New England family beach house). Josh and I somehow weaseled ourselves an invitation to the party, if we came as hired help! :D Josh and Luc grilled and I made salads and served and refilled appetizers. We had a delightful time meeting their (huge extended) family, playing ladder ball, croquet, and kickball, and enjoying the ocean air. Sadly, both Josh and Luc hurt themselves playing kickball--Josh twisted his ankle, and Luc badly hurt his toe. This put them on the DL for softball, but they are both fine now. :)

5. July 19, 2009
Amanda and I ran in the Eden 5k in Forrestal Village! I improved my time to about 30:00 (down from 33ish). I can do it time. :)

Eden 5k

6. July 24-26, 2009
Luc, Meg, Josh, Malissa, Chaim, and I re-invaded Meg's family beach house up in RI, this time for total relaxation. Mart and I ran 8.5 miles Saturday morning, and felt pretty darn good about ourselves. We all sat on the beach, kayaked in the ocean, played ladder ball, read, buried people in the sand, and ate for the rest of the morning and afternoon. In the evening, we played epic croquet, which dissolved into Luc and I epic lightsaber-battling, while Josh refereed, and no, we didn't break anything! The group also played a lot of Settlers of Catan, slept, cross-word-puzzled, and even practiced some softball. We had an amazing time!

epic lightsaber battle in Little Compton, RI

The Traditional Croquet Mallet Beach House Picture

7. August 8, 2009
Josh, Luc, Meg, Kelsey, Greg, and I toured NJ (and PA) wine country in a hired van with driver for Josh's 28th birthday. Our first vineyard visit was unsuccessful, as it apparently has been closed for years. However, the next three were open and willing to give us tastings.

First vineyard of the day!

8. August 12, 2009
Kelsey (OH YEAH! Kelsey got a job at PPL and moved here permanently in June! I'm so happy to have her here!) and I took a gaggle of this year's crop of interns to Plays in the Park's production of Singing in the Rain. James, our amazing friend, played Roscoe Dexter/Sid Phillips. We had an incredible time hanging out for three hours beforehand, eating food and amusing ourselves, and then watching a terrific show!

Plasma Kids Wranglers!

9. All the time:
Luc, Meg, Audrey, and I are making good on our goal of running in the Disney Marathon! Luc and I made it to 12 miles last week. That's right. We ran for just over two hours. Straight. We are all loving, like seriously, even though there have been some casualties: my toenails. Did you know that you should get shoes that are 1/2 size bigger than normal when becoming a long distance runner? Well, you should... ;)

Just a reminder, we're running for charity, and could use your support!.

10. August 23, 2009
Rachel and I baked intense cupcakes, and were VERY proud of them!
Rachel thinks hers is pretty cute, too!!
Our ladybug-infested sunflower garden
Faraday and Faraday

Whew. It's certainly not been a BORING summer!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Morocco Closure

So, folks, you've read about our whole crazy awesome Moroccan and Spanish adventure!

Here's a bit about my first full day back (June 21, 2009):

I had massive jetlag, and was at Wegman's by 7am to buy mostly produce!

I went shopping at 7am and bought mostly produce!

I ate FRESH GRAPES and drank water!!

I stuffed my Fes camel leather footstools with newspaper, polyfill stuffing, and winter sweaters:

I stuffed my Fes camel leather stools!

And the Crew got back together for a BBQ and souvenirs!
Josh and Luc were pleased with Fezzes from Fes:
Josh and Luc like their Fezzes from Fes.

And Meg loved her Fes scarf:
Meg likes her Fes scarf!!

In conclusion, here's a list which Bethy and I compiled in the back of my journal as we went along.

"Possible Status Messages", or "Awkward Group-Situation 'Cool-Fact-about-our-Lives' Question Answers":
1. used a squatty potty
2. was filmed on camera talking about the potty
3. sat on a rooftop in Africa, journaling
4. got detained by Moroccan Border Police
5. ate french fries covered in scrambled eggs and tomato sauce
6. saw the world's only octagonal minaret
7. drove through the Moroccan drug capital
8. ate chicken spicy cocoa puffs
9. rolled boulders down an African hillside for seven hours
10. rode in a pickup truck with five other girls through a Moroccan hillside, causing a scene
11. slept in a bed with three cockroaches
12. rode a donkey to get water from a river in Morocco
13. dug a septic tank in the Rif
14. played with a palm-sized toad in North Africa
15. pushed a truck up a hill
16. had a flat tire on a dusty Moroccan highway near Tanger
17. worked with rebar and spread cement for a roof
18. got locked out of a house in Fes, even though we had a key
19. was given a tour by a French/Arabic-only speaking cousin
20. was detained by the MoPo (for a second time) for at least 30 minutes, over our "Realtor"
21. was offered a Moroccan husband
22. was interviewed as to the state of my "hot flashing" [hahaha in the Fes pharmacy demos]
23. ate at the McDonald's in Fes.
24. was greatly appreciated by Moroccan men.
25. ate Magnums at 1:30am in the Fes train station while watching a brush fire and being ogled by 20 men
26. was kicked out of a restaurant in Madrid for only wanting dessert
27. had an amaaaazing time getting to know a new culture, new people, new food, and a fabulous new country!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Travel Log, June 18-20, 2009

****Madrid pictures HERE****

[Written June 19]

We are relaxing in Madrid, doing exactly what we hoped so much to do: enjoy AC, views of the bustling city, and iced caramel machiattos. We are, in fact, in our second Starbs of the day. Don't worry--no McD's, but forgive us for being tired of cafe au laits and cafe con leches or branching out and perhaps losing the gamble that is ordering what you don't completely understand. SO GOOD.

[Written June 20]

Well, folks. Today is it. We are having our last Spanish meal at...Starbucks on Gran Via [I am sensing a theme] and are flying HOME in a few hours. Praise the Lord and al hemdu Allah.

This has been beautiful, weird, eye-opening, and crazy. My body has finally cracked--nothing sounds good to eat, nothing digests normally, and I am STARVING but can't eat. Even my coffee must be choked down. I will go home and drink beautiful NJ tap water and fresh grapes ONLY for at least two weeks. OH MAN I crave FRESH GRAPES [underlined three times].


Finally in the plane!!! Almost ready to fly out of Madrid, on the way HOME! After Starbs, we returned to Hostal Greco to check out. Our hostel was fab--it's a former brothel [actually, I wrote "formal brothel" in my journal, but I know what I meant], recommended to me by Meg and reserved for us by Alberto the Spanish PPL intern. The cute older couple who run it only speak Spanish--thankfully, in person, my Spanish is good enough to get by. :) Bueno. B and I had a double room and our OWN bathroom with REAL shower (not just a shower head next to a toilet). I was actually surprised to see two twin beds--not one queen. We had a lovely balcony, but as it was freaking hot, we stayed off of it.

We easily found the airport, Beth's friend Angela (returning to the states from nine months in Spain), and more coffee. The only hold up was at check-in: security was thorough, and needed details of our trip through Morocco. Took a while to explain...(I was pleased though--the guy saw my henna-foot and said "Oh, you've come from Morocco!" Si! :D)

Angela and Beth in the airport:
We found Angela!

Now, we sit. I tell you of Madrid.

June 18th, 2009

The flight from Tanger was fine. I slept. In Madrid, we found the metro, talked to a nice info guy, got a map, and navigated the train system no problem. It is like the DC metro.

Once at our stop (Tribunal), we began walking in the wrong direction. Using only Spanish, I got directions from a guy and we found our hostel. In spite of the reservation being made sans credit card number and only for "Jess", they expected us!

Yay Hostal Greco!
On our balcony, next to the hostel sign!

After a rest and shower (oh beautiful shower), we set off for an early-for-Spain dinner at 7pm. We certainly opened the restaurant. The fixed 3-course menu was fab. My jamon y tomatoes on toast, red wine, and cheesecake were fab. After, we found hostel, chatted a ton, and then zonked. Well, as much as we could with the heat and pounding partying from the bar next door. Sigh.

On the plane

Just watched "He's Just Not That Into You." It is insightful, appropriate kind of for now, and really funny! I like Putumayo's Israel CD in US Airways' music selection.

June 19, 2009

So, second day in Madrid. We got up around 9am and left around 9:30am for Starbucks. Oh how lovely! Sandwich de jamon y queso y un caramel machiatto. Mmmm. Then, armed with Top 10 Madrid, we set off on a walking tour of Center City. We walked along Gran Via and saw domed Metropolis, walked around Plaza de Cibeles and down Paseo del Prado. We saw the Prado and Catedral San Jeronimo, but didn't go into any art museums. We crossed to Parque del Rique and got ice cream bars (not Magnums :( ), which we ate on the grass, and compared Morocco and Spain. Conclusions: they are very different. :P We saw tons of cleavage, women in coffee shops, and healthy dogs on leashes doted on by people.

Breakfast in Starbs:
Breakfast: Starbucks

Beth in Plaza de Cibeles:


No Westies:
No dogs

Catedral San Jeronimo:
Me and Catedral San Jeronimo

Ice cream, farmer's tan, and non-Morocco-clothes:
Farmer's taaaan!!!!

We walked through the park to the Palacio de Cristal, passing by billions of fountains. The palace is just a big glass building by a pond. We admired two black swans and a host of turtles--most swimming, one sunning himself on the steps.


Inside the "palace", there was a person-sized stuffed rat and a panda hanging from the ceiling while rain/nature sounds played. Huh. We think it was "modern art"...

Inside Palacio de Cristal

We continued up to a great big pond by a huge monument to some king. We hung out taking pics for a while, trying to avoid taking pics of naked statues. That's hard, man.


Further up, there was a whole series of adorable whimsical creature statues:
Oh there's another!



We exited the park via the Plaza de Independencia, and found lunch along the way to Puerta del Sol. Surviving on Spanish, we ordered semi-blindly and got:

Me--cod (?), lettuce and tomato salad, empanadas.

Beth--fries, eggs, hamburger sans bun.
Beth got...french frieds, eggs, and meat.

Anecdote: We ate SO many fries and eggs in Morocco. On the flight to Madrid, we said we didn't want to eat them ever again. First night, Beth knowingly ordered fries, eggs, and sausage. She then promptly swore to never do that again. Very next meal (after breakfast): oh yes. Fries, eggs, and meat. Silly girl.

We also drank a tasty and refreshing cerveza.

Puerta del Sol was under massive construction. We did see the statue that I maintain is a bear kissing a mushroom cloud:
Famous statue of a bear kissing a mushroom cloud.

Right??? What ELSE could it BE??

Continuing on, we found Plaza Mayor, and wondered vaguely why Minnie and Tigger were available for pictures.
Bethy and Plaza Mayor
Why is Minnie in Plaza Mayor?

It was HOT by now, and we were dying. We made it to the Catedral and Palacio Real, where we actually paid and went in. We saw Charles IV art exhibit and walked through the lovely and gaudy palace rooms. (We couldn't take pictures inside.)

We chilled in the Palace Cafe for a while, drinking fizzy water and eating our 2nd ice cream bar of the day. Mine: a Magnum variety called Frac. HAHAHAHA. It was vanilla ice cream with dark chocolate coating. (Battlestar Galactica fans should know why that's funny.)
Fizzy waterrr!

We walked home from there and collapsed in the room for a while. Night's goal: TAPAS.

Who KNEW that bar hopping for tapas was so HARD??

We stopped in one that was rec'd by our book, but it didn't open for another 1.5 hours. We found a good one with great red wine. (Fyi, "rot" is "red" in GERMAN, not Spanish. Ahem.) We got a cheese platter and gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp). YUMMY.
Gambas al ajillo

Now, the first bar was open. [Remember: it was in the "Tapas" section of the guidebook.] We returned, entered, and were startled by a spiffily dressed doorman who popped out of a room and rang a bell signaling that we were walking up the classy wooden staircase. Huh. Another spiffy man greeted us and led us through a sophisticated fancy dining room, in which there was only one older couple dining. He lit candles on our table, gve us a roll, fancy butter, and the wine list and menu. WAIT. The menu has no tapas. The wine list has 57 Euro-[Huge Number]Euro wine bottles. Shooot. We decided to get only dessert, because we couldn't afford/didn't even want a full meal. (And were too embarrassed to just leave.) They stared at us as we investigated the wine list in horror. When two waiters brought us unsolicited appetizers, we had to stop and say "Ummm we JUST want dessert and wine."

They stared. "Oh no, Ma'am. This is a RESTAURANT. You must EAT. It is not possible to just get DESSERT."

'Scuse me? The dining room's empty, your desserts are 13 Euros, and you won't let us buy them? FINE. We slunk out. Whatever. Malish. Snotty jerks.

Next, for our final tapas attempt, we stooped to the other extreme. This bar had a leg o'pig hanging by the register. This bar had only two young women patronizing it. (Ok, it was 8:30--very early for Spain.) This bar's two tenders were smoking on the job.

We ordered red wine. For the record, it was not very good. Beth got another cheese plate, and somehow I thought "salmon with blue cheese" might be good in a dive bar. The salmon was not cooked, slapped on blue cheese, spread on hard toast. Beth laughed hysterically as I cut up the toast and removed each salmon piece from each bread piece individually. Well, I laughed hysterically when we waited for her cheese plate (after I received my salmon). just has to cut up CHEESE and put it on a PLATE. Right? We watched our server
1. take a shot,
2. drink an entire beer,
3. and go out for a smoke.

When it did arrive, it was mostly blue cheese, which she hates, and I had had plenty already.

Tapas fail:
Tapas FAIL.

Oh goodness. We left most of both dishes untouched. FINE, SPAIN. We admit defeat by your tapas.

Thankfully, we ran into MAGNUMS. Yes. We had a third and thankfully final ice cream bar of the day.

We enjoy Magnums.

By the end of the night, we compiled a List of Foods to Never Eat Again:
1. Fries
2. Eggs
3. Chicken
4. Ham
5. Ice cream bars
6. Bread
7. Cheese
8. Pastries
9. Muffins
10. Cafe au lait
11. Mint or other tea
12. Cooked vegetables
13. Melon
14. Potatoes

We think that leaves:
1. Broccoli (raw)
2. Grapes


We walked home through the red light district. They were really obvious. It makes me so sad for the women who are reduced to that.

We once again incoherently and hysterically chatted in the room and tried to process this trip. How WILL we explain it to everyone? Really? We tried to agree on our story, cause the truth is too weird. Once again, I say, al hemdu Allah for the land in which we understand and are understood, at least mostly, in spite of its and our faults. Going away is fun and refreshing, but home's best, folks.

June 20, 2009

This morning, we Starbsed. Nothing sounded good, so I went with a plain croissant. Eew. Even to that.

We packed, checked out, and you know the rest!

I did find it amusing, that on the US Customs form, I had to check YES, I WAS in contact with livestock. Oh DONKEY. How I heart thee. Not.

Now I am watching Valkyrie.


I love going through US Customs. At least the two times I've done it. They are so NICE. My guy said, "Hello, Darlin!" He asked how long I was gone, when the last time I was on that farm (from my customs slip), and said "oh that's fiiine" and crossed out the "yes" for livestock and farm and wrote "no". Then, "Safe travels home, dear!" YAY I AM HOME!

I hugged Angela and Beth goodbye, called Meg and Luc for a ride, and got a smoothie. Yea non-bread-or-egg-product!

I am determined to not sweat things. Life is hard. My life is pretty easy. The Lord is my Shepherd. He will lead and guide me. I need to work hard, be a good friend, and love people. I am infinitely blessed. Uncountably. Thank you Lord for my AMAZING trip, Please keep me from forgetting it, and let me continue to show Your love and use the resources you've given me so much of!!!

****There will be one more wrap-up post.****