Category Archives: Observations

The 4 C’s of Travel… And an F

We all know about the 4 C’s for diamonds, but what about your vacation– possibly a diamond in the rough; hopefully, not a lump of coal!

Some factors we should consider are Cost, Climate, Compatibility (not just you and your companion; also you and your itinerary) and Comfortable Shoes.

Add to these, the F factor: flexibility.

As I wrote last week, DH and I found ourselves in a bit of a bind. We’d committed (and pre-paid, thank-you-very-much) to 3 weeks in a small cottage in North Devon. Which might have been lovely, except:

  1.  Cottage was too remote, with no phone service or Internet
  2. Cottage was eternally damp, due to being in a microclimate
  3. Cottage was not near ANYthing, necessitating lengthy drives along perilously narrow roads with locals who knew where they were going careening towards us at breakneck speed. DH was not amused.

We came back to the cottage one day last week (when once again the TV was on the blink) and had a heart-to-heart. The upshot: “We’re miserable, let’s get the hell out of here.”

First idea, since we’re due in London on the 31st: Pick somewhere else, e.g., Somerset or Salisbury, and go there. But then, a brainstorm: Why limit ourselves, if we’re leaving early anyway?? Where haven’t we been that would be a short flight away? And voila (sorry; can’t find accent marks in my iPad!), a new plan: tomorrow we’ll head to Copenhagen for 3.5 days, somewhere neither of us has been before and it’s been on our bucket list.

So. We’ve booked the hotel, gotten opera tickets (a shared passion), and done next to no research. BUT! It can’t be worse than sitting in that dreary cottage!  Right?!?

Flexibilty! Never feel you have to stick with a hotel, destination etc. if there’s any way you can afford to make  a change.

We may still want to kill each other after a month of togetherness, but at least it will be in a new setting.

Have  lovely week! Xx, Alisa

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Admit It: I’m Addicted to My Devices

DH and I had a genius plan that hasn’t QUITE worked out as imagined: (Has this ever happened to you?, she asks…)  Rent a house in the English countryside for a month and use it as a home base from which to explore, so as not to eat out every meal and be able to live more like locals.

The fly in the ointment is that our cozy little cottage has no WiFi, no phone signal, and a currently non-working television.  In an emergency we could use a provided key to unlock a landline in one of the outbuildings…. Somehow, this does not inspire confidence.

As a result, we can check e-mail, bank accounts, etc. only sporadically. I like to imagine I can do without these updates, as I survived many decades before we all had cell phones and iPads, but the pathetic truth is that I’ve become used to immediate access when I need a recipe, map, random facts, or an Amazon Prime download. And I like it that way.

My parents and grandparents used to fret about the “good old days” but when I look back, I see only major improvements since my youth. For instance:

1) Flat irons. Back in the sixties, if you wanted straight hair a la Francoise Hardy or Jean Shrimpton, you literally ironed it. With an actual iron and ironing board! The alternative was to wrap your hair around a giant beer or coffee can until it dried.

2) Microwaves. What a brilliant way to reheat coffee, let alone cook a potato. I truly don’t care if radioactive waves are shortening my life as long as I can have a hot cup on demand.

3) Google. I don’t begrudge one cent of the money those gazillionaires have made. Not having to go to the library or plow through 400 volumes of the encyclopedia when I want to know something is priceless.

4) 500+ TV channels. I may only watch three of them but I have OPTIONS, dammit!

5) GPS. Maps are great, but having a cheery voice tell you when to turn left or “recalculate” is infinitely better than hearing the same information from an exasperated spouse.

What mod cons do YOU depend on?

Happy weekend, all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Ask If You Don’t Want Me To Tell You

We recently ate at a pleasant Italian restaurant; a day or so later, having been contacted by OpenTable to post a review, I wrote something short and positive.

At least I thought it was positive: 4/5 stars for food/ambiance/value and 5/5 for service, which was terrific. After all, this wasn’t an undiscovered Michelin gem, just a perfectly nice little restaurant with an undistinguished décor and limited menu. I’ve eaten out enough to know what “outstanding” means – from Tour D’Argent in Paris in its heyday to our local pub, which has consistently excellent grub. And, hey, I’ve got the extra pounds to prove it!

Almost immediately, I received a very defensive reply from the chef-owner, wanting to know why I’d given him a “bad” review. (My comments about the “lovely little restaurant with delicious house-made pasta” apparently hadn’t been sufficient praise.) So this led to a series of back-and-forth e-mails in which I explained that one reason for my rating was that the bread was disappointing. As regular readers will know, I take my carbs seriously: flabby, squishy white bread is not ok – though I expressed this as, “I prefer a firmer crust and texture”, attempting to be diplomatic.

The point is, I wasn’t trying to be mean or snarky – but if you ask for feedback, you should expect feedback, not a gold star for trying. (This being the problem of an entire generation getting trophies merely for showing up.)

Which led me to think about other situations in which it might be unwise to ask questions if you don’t want to hear the answers. A classic is, “Where is our relationship going?” Now, if a woman is asking a man, chances are that if he were about to propose, she would know it. If he’s asking her where they stand, well, sorry dude but she’s not that into you, as they say.

I don’t know if gay etiquette is any different, but humans being humans I’ll go out on a limb here and say that, in any relationship, if you don’t know where you stand you can assume it’s on shaky ground.

It’s the same at work. A good manager will praise what’s going well and offer constructive criticism to make you better. Be honest: If you were 100% perfect you’d probably be the CEO, or have retired by age 40 to your yacht in the South Pacific.

In other words, be careful what you ask for.

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Fall Lineup

Every year, the new TV season looks more and more like the previous year. Meanwhile, the networks order fewer and fewer episodes. Because, guess what – there’s much better programming on Netflix, Amazon Prime, BritBox, etc.

The problem is that network execs keep mining the same territory. Currently there are countless shows set in Chicago (Why not Dubuque or Roslyn, folks?) Dozens of shows about firemen, lawyers, and doctors. No wonder TV big shots keep rebooting classics like Murphy Brown and Magnum PI, and moaning that they’re losing share to reality shows.

There are tons of underrepresented professions that are full of drama and excitement. Here is my (Free! Unsolicited!) advice to the networks. If you guys start now, you can have your pilots all wrapped up in plenty of time to make it big next September.

Plumber’s Crack: Wise and witty plumber fixes sinks, toilets, broken hearts and dysfunctional families – one visit at a time. (You know this is fantasy because when is any household repair fixed in one trip?)

Lab Rat: Drama about the trials, toils and tribulations of a young assistant in the local college’s biology department. Academia is a fertile area for romance, backstabbing bosses and obsequious colleagues trying to get promoted even though the raise will be miniscule. Come on, people – it’s not just about law and med school!

Garbage Day: A mystery. In the search for the truth, intrepid garbage collector plows through all kinds of disgusting junk to find exculpatory evidence.

Techies: What better source for a new nerdy dramedy than a 60’s high school audio-visual club. Imagine the tension between the prom/football cliques and the guys without whom nobody can watch health ed instructional documentaries.

The Brazilian: Warm, caring aesthetician waxes philosophical as she hears all the intimate issues facing her clients. Every episode has a neat ending. Potential spinoff: “Eyebrow Guru”.

Play It As It Valets: Mix a swank resort, snooty guests, fancy cars and underpaid valets and you have a recipe for trouble!

Oh, the possibilities are endless.

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Images from Pixabay.com

 

 

 

 

Good News Monday: Oryx and Eagles and Bears, Oh My!

Happy Labor Day, US friends!

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Today’s heartening item is that several animal populations are finally on the upswing, including

  • Bald Eagle
  • Arabian Oryx
  • Gray Wolf
  • Northern Elephant Seal
  • Brown Bear
  • Giant Panda
  • Humpback Whale

Unfortunately, no politicians have been added to the endangered species list.

 

A Love Letter to a Younger Me

Recently, my friend N sent me a collection of letters I’d written to her the summer we were 14. Talk about cringe-worthy!

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Note: Bob the postman played along; our correspondence continued all summer!

One thing I learned was that my writing style hasn’t evolved much since my teens. That was a bit scary. Also, that I was completely boy-crazy, which did not come as a shock.

These were my major interests:

  • Trying to sort out what appealed to boys and which girls they liked.
  • The Mets baseball team (I had no memory of being such a fan) and the Beatles, especially George. (I was obsessed.)
  • Sailing and tennis lessons. I never got very good at either, but apparently had fun: “Sailing is terrific, but I almost capsized last lesson! It was a panic – I turned too far & we almost turned over. Boy! Was my sailing instructor MAD!”
  • Trying to ascertain whether a 16 year old could possibly be interested in a 14 year old. (Spoiler: We did get together the next summer.)
  • Bad boys in general: “Last year, K got stoned once on the golf course with O, & also got picked up (with O) for trying to steal a car!!!!” I had a major crush on K, who was gorgeous. (I’ve always been a sucker for a pretty face. But a guy who got stoned at 13? That was a surprise.)
  • Obsessing over whether I should say Happy Birthday to K: “Will he think I went to a lot of trouble to find out when it is? Or should I forget it? (We’ve known each other for 13 years.) I really don’t know. He might think I’m chasing him. And I’m not positive that’s his birthday. If it isn’t, he’ll think I like him (which I do, but he shouldn’t know, exactly.) If I don’t, he may think I’m stuck-up, or a snob. If I do, he might think I’m chasing him. What to do?????”
  • I wasn’t a complete airhead. I read a lot (in one letter, I recommend Huxley’s Brave New World) and played chamber music (cello) and chess. And I loved my summer science classes, especially when K and I were paired for dissection and swapped different fish parts on purpose to create two new species. OK, maybe that was less about science and more about the cute boy, but still….
  • Money went a lot further in the 60’s. I was paid $2.50 for 4 hours of babysitting three little kids.
  • I was a staunch Democrat: “J is such a jerk. He swears like anything. p.s. He’s for Goldwater!!!” (I was outraged.)
  • Boy-girl parties were a washout. Most of the boys wouldn’t dance.

As I was laughing, I developed a deep affection for this young teenager:

  • I was enthusiastic.
  • I was a good sport.
  • I was a loyal friend.
  • I had a sense of humor.
  • I loved to write.

So,

Dear 14-year-old Me:

You are a great kid. Some boys will like you. Some won’t. It will all work out; you have nothing to worry about. Develop your talents, try lots of new things, keep making friends, and enjoy the next few decades.

Oh, and you will always be obsessive; try to channel it constructively!

Love,

Older, Wiser, Adult Me

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