Thursday, May 27, 2010

pack like a pro

Our Rome-to-Venice train tickets arrived via UPS the other day. RailEurope includes all sorts of good information with the tickets, like buying a phone card, using your cell phone overseas, and a TravelSmith catalog in case you need to buy some no-wrinkle clothes for the trip.

In flipping through the catalog, I came across one of their many travel tips entitled "Pack Like a Pro."

I am not a pro packer. I always start out with good intentions but it quickly gets messy. I remind myself constantly of that travel wisdom: pack what you think you need, then take out half; but invariably I go with my own travel wisdom: pack what you think you need, then add half more again, just in case.

There is never an emergency and the "just in case" clothes remain unused.

TravelSmith gives the following list if your trip is less than 1 week:
- 1 shirt per day
- 1 lightweight jacket and/or layering sweater
- 1 skirt or pants for every 2 days
- no more than 2 pairs of shoes
- 1 pair of underwear for every day
- 1 raincoat

Never mind that I rented apartments in Rome and Venice with washing machines, specifically so that we could do laundry along the way. Never mind that the cruise ship has laundry facilities.

My packing list for a trip of less than 1 week would look sort of like this:
- 1 daytime shirt per day
- At least 2 layering sweaters that will color-coordinate with any outfit
- 1 skirt or pants per day
- 1 nighttime outfit for every 2 days (or maybe every 3 days if I push it and the outfit doesn't smell like the restaurant in which it was worn, smoke, etc)
- at least 2 pairs of shoes, maybe 3
- 2 pairs of underwear per day
- umbrella

Now that doesn't even include pajamas, socks in case my feet get cold at night, swimsuits (for ship purposes), etc. And that doesn't take into account the fact that we're traveling for two weeks. (Note to self: you will have laundry facilities along the way.)

This packing would be much easier if I wore black all the time. I could rule out at least one color-coordinating layering sweater at a minimum. And black shows less dirt so maybe I could go for one skirt or pants per every 2 days.

But who wants to wear black every day, all day, especially in the summer?

The other issue is that dressing in Europe, and Italia in particular, is far more imposing than my normal get-up. I mean, I know Isabeli Fontana and I both were Gap, but she could pull Gap clothes off in Rome, whereas I will look like a frumpy, dumpy American that fell off the turnip truck on the streets of Rome.

I am making a concerted effort to look polished on this trip. And that means I'm wasting a lot of brain cells on my packing. But I think - besides overpacking which will surely happen - I'm getting there. I'm only taking one pair of shorts (to be worn only on the ship and not on the streets of any European city) and a lot of cute linen dresses (that have loose waists for maximum comfort during our stuff-your-face marathons). I might even be able to get it down to one layering sweater.

On second thought, maybe I should underpack. I always tell myself I can just buy whatever I need when I get there if I forget something (but of course, with my overpacking, I never have the need to buy anything). If I "forget" a few essentials, think of the possibilities!! I could make new friends who go by such names as Fendi and Gucci, Armani and Prada. Throw in some Versace and my wardrobe could be complete. After all, "when in Rome"...

a Zaxby's run

Today I was kicked out of my rental house so the real estate agent could participate in a "progressive lunch" open house for other real estate agents to see the house. Don't even get me started on the complete annoyance of living in a rental house that's up for sale. That is best left for another post.

I ran some errands to buy some stuff we need for our Italy trip. Did I mention we're going to Italy shortly? That's also best left for another post.

I had to be out of the house between 11am and 1pm so I stopped by Zaxby's for their new Roadhouse Salad, which I can't recommend enough.

I got in line behind an older woman who was ordering for herself and her ancient mother who was waiting in the booth. Her mother wanted wings, but apparently "cannot eat even the teeniest, tiniest bit of spicy, so I need to know what is the very mildest sauce you have."

The cash register lady said "well we have "mild" which I'd say is our mildest."

That seemed entirely logical to me.

The woman didn't think so. "Are you sure there's no spice at all in that? Because I think she had that once and it might have been too spicy for her."

The very patient cash register lady then suggested that maybe her mother would like teriyaki or honey sesame on the wings as they really weren't spicy at all and had an entirely different flavor to normal "spicy" wings.

The woman decided that honey sesame wings would be a good choice.

Oh, and her mother also wanted an order of the spicy fried mushrooms.

To the cash register lady's credit, she did not point out the incongruity in the order. Or laugh. Which gave me great respect for her.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

quote of the day

"I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well." Diane Ackerman

we're gonna gain weight

Mac announced to me the other day that "we're gonna gain weight in Italy from eating all that spaghetti and pizza and gelato".

Budget Travel is my most favorite travel magazine to read, and this month they fortuitously featured "eating like a local in Rome". They chose 5 restaurants and picked a best dish at each one. The best dishes are as follows:

1. Rigatoni cacio e pepe: rigatoni drizzled in olive oil, with black pepper and a small mountain of freshly grated pecorino cheese
2. Tagliolini al tartufo: a bowl of fresh pasta topped with a generous helping of rich black truffles from Abruzzi or Umbria and a touch of olive oil
3. Pasta alla mafiosa: heaping bowl of rigatoni corti tossed with tomato sauce, eggplant, and creamy ricotta
4. Spaghetti alla gricia: a bowl of warm spaghetti piled high with freshly grated pecorino cheese, cracked black pepper and several chunks of salty, perfectly fatty pancetta
5. Rigatoni all'Amatriciana: rigatoni with mildly spicy tomato sauce with pancetta

Um. Yes.

To all of them.

I will have the elastic waistbands packed.

Monday, May 24, 2010

a weekend at the beach

Mac and I spent this weekend at the beach with Caroline, Willie, and Isabel (aka my future D-I-L). It was a relaxing and perfect escape from real life - great friends, great food, great fellowship. I, for one, could have stayed forever.

For the blessings of good friends, Lord, make us truly thankful.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

life is precious

In March I posted about the father of a boy on Mac's baseball team who was fighting brain cancer. Sadly, Jim lost that battle on Tuesday. He was 36 and married to a fantastic, compassionate, STRONG woman for 10 years with whom he shared two young boys.

Fight everyday for healthy relationships in your life and for your own good health. Every other blessing is icing on the already sweet, rich cake.

Life is so precious and there are no guarantees.

a very fun television debut!

the boys goofing around before they go live

Nick Salvucci, aka my "in" (on the left, not sitting), explaining how all that computer/sound equipment works

Port City Live anchor Matt Bise multitasking with the boys watching

Matt Bise is really funny - and he was so good in his interaction with the boys

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

the story of my beautiful Naot shoes

Last August I bought a wonderful pair of Naots, which are the most comfortable shoes I've ever owned and I think the most expensive shoes I've ever bought. This isn't saying much for many people, but I'm not an expensive shoe person so it's saying a lot for me. You can read about the purchase here.

The saleslady told me she'd owned her pair of Naots for something like 11 years, so I counted on a long relationship with these beauties. I wore them all winter with socks and tights and they continued to feel like bedroom slippers.

Until the leather on the inside of one of the heels wore through and the shoe literally rubbed me the wrong way.

I didn't really notice this until I could lose the socks when the weather warmed up. And then I realized it quickly when a big blister formed on my heel.

I did a quick fix by affixing an industrial-sized band-aid on the inside of the heel. But I didn't feel like that was a long-term fix for the queen bee of my shoe wardrobe.

I decided to contact Naot to see how they suggested I fix the shoe. I googled NAOT and got the website for the American distributor (Naot is an Israeli company). I sent an email and heard nothing. So I called the helpline number and spoke to a woman who told me I could take the shoes back to the store where I bought them. I explained that wasn't realistic since the store was outside of Boston and I was in South Carolina. She was fresh out of suggestions after that.

So then I sent an email to the Israeli Naot office. I've heard nothing from that attempt.

I decided I'd just have to live with the band-aid solution.

Until this weekend when I saw an ad in the Charleston paper that said the Naot factory representative would be at the Folly Road location of Phillips Shoes on Saturday.

When I read this, I was sitting at the pool and knew I wasn't going to make it to Folly Road before the rep left, so I decided to call. The rep was at lunch, but I spoke to the store manager who assured me the rep would call me when she was back from lunch.

And the rep did call back, but unfortunately didn't have many suggestions other than to take it to a shoe repair place to see if they could patch it somehow or to affix a heel pad on the back. She did tell me that as a goodwill gesture, the manager of Phillips wanted to offer me $20 off my next shoe purchase. How nice is that?

The manager called me back later and got my mailing address, and the mailman brought me two $10-off certificates yesterday.

So here's a HUGE shout-out to Phillips Shoes and particularly to the manager at Folly Road. You totally rock and I will be in there soon to enjoy a little shoe shopping.

happiness is...

...making a recipe that starts with placing ingredients "in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment" and you finally have an electric mixer that actually has a paddle attachment. I love Pinky.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

tune in tomorrow

Mac is joining his fellow Tiger Cub Scouts for a tour of a local tv studio tomorrow. It's run by one of those big, humongo churches here and hasn't been picked up by many of the local cable companies. I had a small "in" with a news producer there because they did a piece on the corn maze last fall. I have so few "ins" that I felt empowered making the connection for this visit.

Today I bought my "in" an assortment of Ghirardelli chocolate bars as a thank you. But I am now eating one of them. I decided I needed it more that he would miss something that he didn't even know he was getting. I'll just have to put more tissue paper in the gift bag.

This chance to appear on live tv makes me hope that Mac won't be given the opportunity to speak. It's sort of like the feeling I have when we go to my mom's church and I know Mac will go to the children's sermon at the front of the church. I've learned to make him promise that he'll keep his mouth shut because he has been known to talk on and on and there is potential to say something that will embarrass all of us.

It also reminds me of the time that my sister got to go on the long-defunct local children's show, Happy Rain, as part of a birthday party. Happy Rain was a non-native American woman who dressed up in very stereotypical native American clothing and had a children's variety-type show. She would not be very PC by today's standards, I'm afraid, but she was a not-to-be-missed event when we were kids. The show must have been live because I distinctly remember watching it while my sister was away at the taping. When it was her turn to talk, Happy Rain asked her about herself, and she said she lived on a farm. Happy Rain asked her if she had horses and she said she did.

We sat at home, speechless.

We never had horses, even though I begged for a horse.

Happy Rain asked her the name of the horse, and I can't remember what she answered, but she told Happy Rain the name of the horse that allegedly lived on our farm. It was something like Star or Black Beauty or some other children's novel sort of horse name.

We sat at home, speechless.

Not only did we not have a horse, but we certainly didn't have a name picked out for an imaginary horse.

I'm sure she just froze at the moment. She knew the truth, but she also knew what Happy Rain thought the answer was supposed to be. Happy Rain wanted her to have a horse on her farm because for crying out loud, if Happy Rain had had a farm, wearing her headdress and leather beaded dress and braided hair, she would have surely had a horse named Star or Black Beauty.

And what a conversation killer if my sister had answered truthfully.

HR: "So, do you have horses on your farm?"
Sister: "No."
HR: "Alright, let's move on to the next little girl."

I mean, really. Where do you go from there?

And this is my fear with Mac. He does love to talk and he finds himself extraordinarily interesting. If given the chance, he could go on and on for hours with this host. So that's why I hope they tiger cubs are seen and not heard so much!

If you're bored silly beyond all belief or you just want to see the cutest 7 year-old in the whole entire world (or at least my whole entire world), you can see Mac LIVE on the 6pm show tomorrow night on WLCN (either on cable network Knology or at and then click on the Watch Live button.)

Monday, May 17, 2010

one other random musing

Yesterday morning when Mac and I headed out to church, we saw this sign:

It's hard to read it, but it says "Beware of Gator".

Okay. Duly noted that there is a gator lurking around the pond right in front of my house where my child rides his scooter and bicycle and where we play baseball.

We came home from church and the sign was still up.

Today the sign was gone. Is the alligator gone? Or did somebody remove the signs because it's a bad real estate sales pitch for people first entering the neighborhood?

The geese have also mysteriously disappeared. Coincidence? Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe it was just time for them to move back north. But we are steering clear of the ponds in the front of our house because I don't want Mac or me to go the way of the geese.

random Monday musings

1. When the day outside looks like this: there's no guilt in staying inside and planning for Italy. Three weeks from yesterday Mac and I will be wheels down in Rome.

Although the apartment in Rome is booked, I have yet to find the right (read here: affordable) place in Venice. I've got some good options now. One of them originally said the minimum was 3 nights (and we only have 2 there), but the owner emailed back and said we could "boom" the apartment for just 2 nights. Not sure what he thinks we're going to do, but we might just boom it there for 2 nights!

2. Doesn't Mac look adorable as a batter at Saturday's game?

3. Only 9 days left of school and then we're moving on to the second grade. WOW. Still not sure what school we're going to second grade in yet, but surely that will become evident sooner rather than later!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

a close-to-perfect Saturday

a 9am baseball game where Mac's team won 13-2

the playground and lunch with BFF, her husband, and her daughter (who is my future daughter-in-law in case you didn't know)

the neighborhood pool - we ended up staying for 3.5 hours because a school friend and neighbor showed up so Mac was entertained and I read - lovely

apres-pool chocolate milkshake for Mac and strawberry milkshake for me

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

the most wonderful field trip...EVER

Today the first-graders went to Beachwalker Park at Kiawah for a field trip. Now I always go on every field trip, so I'm not a johnny-come-lately in the field trip department. But this is definitely one I wouldn't have missed and I am so glad I didn't.

The field trip included two programs conducted by naturalists or marine biologists or some such experts employed by the Charleston County Parks and Recreation Department. These young women and men were excellent - full of energy, brimming with knowledge and with an extraordinary capacity to engage young children.

The first program our group did was "Secrets in the Sand". Each child got a shovel and a strainer and they dug in the sand in a tide pool and at the water's edge and found all sorts of "treasures" in the sand. Then the naturalist explained all about the food chain in the ocean and the food web. Fascinating stuff.

The second program was "Seining the Sea" where two naturalists dragged a seine through the ocean and came in with their catch for the children to sort through. The catch included all sorts and sizes of hermit crabs, a spitting mad blue crab, a flounder, a speckled crab, an anchovy, seaweed, and a bunch of other stuff. It was soooo cool and the kids (and the parents) loved it.

The weather was perfect, the programs were perfect, and the day was completely perfect!!
finding secrets in the sand

making a clamshell, complete with a pinky siphon

preparing the seine

one angry claw-clacking crab!

my description: Mac and his friends studying intently the seine catch
Jimmy's likely description: Mac surrounded by pretty girls on a beach. Awwww yeah!

Checking out an anchovy's mouth

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mother's Day around these parts

My Mother's Day started last Thursday when I got a lovely bouquet of flowers from the man that made me a mother. I love, love, love gerbera daisies and I love, love, love getting flowers from the UPS man, but I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE being remembered by my man. Gerbera daisies and Pinky

Then on Friday I went to Muffins for Mom with the 1st graders at Pinewood. It was a lovely fiesta, complete with a beautiful, tear-inducing song and followed by being served muffins, fruit and orange juice by our beautiful children.

At Muffins for Mom, Mac gave me the most beautiful handmade book all about moi and a pottery medallion necklace that he made in art class. He was so proud of everything and that made it all the more special.

On Sunday, I hosted a Mother's Day lunch at my mom's house. They say it takes a village and I had the great pleasure of cooking for the village that made me the wife and mother that I am today. It was an unusual opportunity and I loved all the prep work, all the grocery shopping, all the cooking, the planning, and the sharing. It was a labor of love and I wish I could cook for this village all the time.

At the lunch, Mac presented me with a plaque that Jimmy had made for me. It turns out that I did win the MOTY, at least from the person whose vote counts the most. I cannot believe that he went to the trouble of finding a trophy shop and having this thing made. Am I lucky girl or what? The MOTY taking a photo of the MOTY

So from the MOTY in our house to the MOTY in your house, Happy Mother's Day. I hope your celebration rocked as much as mine did.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

it might be love...

I have been having a not-so-great week. One of those weeks where nothing's really wrong, but just where nothing's really right either.

I decided in the throes of feeling funkarific that I needed to buy myself something that I have wanted for at least 9 years, if not more. I distinctly remember 9 years because we had a lot of discussions with the Watsons and Kennedys about this particular item when we lived in Maputo. They understood my deep, desperate desire for the item, but I just haven't been able to bring myself to part with the money.

Until today.

The retail therapy worked.

The funk has been lifted, let me tell you.

Today, at Bed Bath & Beyond, I purchased this beautiful, gorgeous, sleek, heavy, sturdy piece of kitchen equipment:

I am in love with this new member of the family.

(Oh, and Jimmy, you don't need to buy me anything for Mother's Day. I took care of that today. Thanks. I love it!)

(For the record, Jimmy has told me to buy this for the last 9 years because he's heard about my desperate longing for at least that long.)

After running a lot of errands, I finally got home in time to quickly unpack her and ooh and aah over her gorgeousness before I had to go pick up Mac. She is something else and she makes me want to mix up something right now.

Pink is just about my least favorite color in the whole world, but KitchenAid donates $50 from each purchase of a Cook for the Cure mixer to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Breast cancer research is near and dear to my heart as my mom and aunt have both conquered that dreadful disease. So while I wanted red, which is my most favorite color in the whole world, I justified a charitable contribution with the purchase of Pinky.

Yes, her name is Pinky, as in Pinky Tuscadero from Happy Days. Both Pinkys are tough girls, meant to work hard and play hard. And Pinky Tuscadero loved the Fonz so how can you go wrong with carrying on her name???

This is going to be a long, drawn-out love affair (or at least longer than my last stand mixer, who never had a name and died an unceremonious death.) I expect great things from Pinky and she will be put to use starting this weekend. Until then, I'm going to keep dusting her so she stays all shiny pink!

Monday, May 3, 2010

wait a minute, Mr. Postman

Today I saw a postal truck pull out really fast in front of a rapidly approaching tractor-trailer. I guess all the windows were open - it was hot outside - because the next thing I saw was a letter flying out of the postal truck! I drove past it as it fluttered to the ground, and it looked like just a mass mailout postcard, but what if it had been something really crucial and important to somebody?

What if it were a love letter that could change somebody's life?

Or Publishers Clearinghouse notifying somebody that they'd just won a bazillion dollars.

Or a longlost relative contacting somebody to get back in touch after a long time.

Or even just a reminder for a dental appointment.

Now it's getting ready to be run over out in the middle of Central Avenue during rush hour traffic. That's kind of sad to me.