Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hot Fun in the Summertime...

This morning, after reading way too many blogs and news articles about McCain's VP choice, I decided to put my money where my mouth is. I made a donation to Obama's campaign.

I was Skyping with a friend in the US and watching CNN International (multi-tasking!) when yesterday's announcement was made... my jaw dropped. I won't tell you which emoticon we both used, but it was immediate and unanimous.

My first thought was, 5 kids? My mom had 5 kids... she barely had time to go to the bathroom and this woman could potentially be "a heartbeat away" from the presidency? Then I found out the youngest was born in April, with Down Syndrome? I'm sorry. My priorities would be with my family. I'm still shaking my head in disbelief. What is he thinking? What is she thinking?

Here's what some other bloggers are thinking... I found a few to share with you. I just needed to have a little chuckle.

From the "Funniest Blog in America" McCain Taps Palin of Alaska After First 37 Choices Turn Him Down:

"I know Vice President isn't a glamorous job," Sen. McCain admitted. "You mostly go to funerals of foreign leaders, unless you're inventing the Internet like Al Gore or running America like Dick Cheney. But the job is frankly what you make of it, and I would have thought I could find someone who had some sort of stature or name recognition or even came from a state where there are more electoral votes than caribou."

A few comments from Jack Cafferty's blog:

KS from KS (August 29th, 2008 3:31 pm ET): She’s gonna whip Biden in the swimsuit competition during the VP debate.
Laura from SF (August 29th, 2008 3:38 pm ET): Grandpa and his Alaskan pistol-packin’ mamma are gonna save the world from terrorists...oh boy!

This comes from Wikipedia*:

"She and her father would sometimes wake at 3 a.m. to hunt moose before school..."

I guess we can all see where that 3 a.m. phone call ad will be going now... [gunshot heard echoing in the background]...

*This just in... Apparently there has been a lot of recent editing to Ms. Palin's Wikipedia entry. Here's a link to her bio prior to the announcement.

From Gail Collins:

"This year, Hillary Clinton took things to a whole new level. She didn’t run for president as a symbol but as the best-prepared candidate in the Democratic pack. Whether you liked her or not, she convinced the nation that women could be qualified to both run the country and be commander in chief. That was an enormous breakthrough, and Palin’s nomination feels, in comparison, like a step back."

From Tim Kaine: Real Time with Bill Maher

And one more: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Those summer days...

Friday, August 29, 2008

Cruising into middle age...

The big 5-0 milestone has been reached and it ain't so bad. As the saying goes... consider the alternative!

The birthday excursion to Switzerland was quite enjoyable. The weather was a bit iffy for a Saturday evening dinner cruise, so we opted for a Sunday lunch cruise on the lake which lasted for 3 hours. We got off the boat feeling like it was over a little too soon, (the weather was perfect!) so we drove to Lausanne and caught another boat and did another three hours, this time accompanied by the above bucket. Cheers!

This past week has been spent working by day and watching the Democratic Convention by night, thus the late post. Last night I stayed up until 5:30am to see the entire closing event and watch Barack Obama accept the nomination. I know I posted this before, but I remember back in 1992 when Bill Clinton accepted the nomination, my first real "involvement" with politics. He was inspiring and even back then it was time for a change from the first Bush. I think both Bill and Hillary did the right thing by putting their dreams aside for the better good of the Democratic party.

Watching the speeches this week has given me a new sense of hope, that perhaps the US can pick itself up and dust itself off and go forward. Hopefully, come November, those of us living abroad won't have to once again say, "But I didn't vote for 'him'!". (I guess you know my affiliation by now!)

That said, whatever your party choice, I hope you are all registered and that you will send in your absentee ballot. If you need help getting registered, or want some information on how to vote from overseas, visit the AARO website and click on Voting. (When did I become such an activist?)

I think Barack Obama's message of looking forward and not turning back is appropriate for this milestone. It is time for new beginnings... because, like I said earlier...

Consider the alternative.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The sound of silence...

Or, clam up! There is a theme here... bear with me.

I spent my formative years on the north shore of Long Island. Summertime evenings meant steamers and beer. I haven't done that in years... with that in mind, I had a hankering for bivalves the other night and found an easy recipe on for clams with a white wine and freshly squeezed lemon juice sauce tossed with pasta. The above photo is the end result of my clam cooking foray. I used palourdes... I guess I should have known by the price that the tinier (and much more expensive) clams would have been better. What do I know? On this recent US trip, I brought back several cans of Gorton's chopped clams. I can't get canned clams in France. (Maybe now you will understand why I was happy to pay the $50 overweight baggage charge on my return flight from hell. Lord knows, I didn't want my baggage contents spilled all over the check-in area for the world to see...)

Anyway, the finished dish looked great, however, the clams were rubbery and I ended up dumping most of them... totally unsated. Which got me to thinking about lobsters. We had such a great lobster dinner at Anthony's in Boston. So, I went back to Carrefour with a bon d'achat for 22 euros in hand and bought a lobster. It came to 1.76 euros (merci, bon d'achat!). It was a big lobster, but, as I later discovered, it had just shed its shell and was beginning a new one. So, soft shell, tender, not much meat, but the flavor was there and I enjoyed it.

How does this tie in with the sound of silence?

This is the golden week in Paris. In my quartier, everyone is gone. There is no street noise at night. No traffic, no 2am pedestrians (you know what I mean!). No crowds at Carrefour, you can actually cruise the aisles! No garbage collection at 6:30am on a daily basis... heck, I don't even look twice to cross the street! There's no one here! So what am I gonna do? Get out of Dodge!

This weekend I am turning 50. The big one. The "halfway there" mark... When I tell people how old I am they say, no way! (I think it's just the fat cells keeping the wrinkles at bay.) I'm heading back to the land of happy cows, Swiss precision and green vistas. I'll be staying with a friend and we plan to do a gourmet dinner cruise Saturday evening on Lake Geneva with champagne ordered for midnight. (Hangover free on Monday!) Bliss.

Can I hear you say yeah??

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wooly bully...

Well, much like the song Wooly Bully, my sojourn in NY was fast-paced...but very enjoyable. I managed to get a lot done, but I could have used an extra week to do/see stuff that was not on the "to do list".

First. My friend Hayden moved back to New York after many years of living in Paris. She is now the co-owner of a boutique called Hayden & Alice at 385 Amsterdam Ave between 78th and 79th. I didn't get a chance to see her and when I had a day available, she was on a plane to Paris! Stop by her shop and say hi! Tell her QB sent you!

I just want to mention this... I came back from an afternoon at Macy's... yes... I know... one post was all about consumerism, etc. But, I don't normally shop like that, I had a list and at least I was boosting the US economy! Anyway, I came back to the hotel, collapsed on the couch and turned on the tube. For whatever reason, I landed on C-SPAN and stayed there. It was a recorded show from the NOW convention in Maryland. I happened to tune in just as they were honoring the recipient of the Woman of Courage Award. It went to Barbara Hillary. I was truly inspired by what she had to say, how she said it, and what she has accomplished in her life. Her one bit of advice was "have a goal". Very interesting woman.

On Tuesday of my second week I was picked up by a friend and we headed over to Lambertville, NJ to meet with an artist, Timothy Martin and his wife. Timothy is quite a talented and unique character, you will be hearing more about him here in the future. We had a wonderful afternoon with them and then headed over to a B&B called Woolverton Inn. On the way there, we passed by a glass studio and we both said, "Hmmmm!".

So, we checked in, dropped off the bags and headed back up the road to investigate. I'm glad we did. We met Geoff and Karen Caldwell, the owners of Sunflower Glass Studio. At first we weren't sure if anyone was there, but Topper (the English Springer Spaniel) greeted us at the door and Karen rushed about turning the lights and fan on for us. We got the tour of their studio, with works in progress. As if glass wasn't enough, Geoff is soon to hang his shingle as an astrologist AND you can catch him on YouTube singing the blues!

We asked about restaurants in the area and they recommended DeAnna's. Thank you for that tip! Great ambiance, fab food and tucked away so you really need to know where it is to enjoy it. If you are in the Stockton/Lambertville New Jersey area, stop by and say hi for us!

After NJ, it was time to head up to Boston for the Crosby, Stills and Nash concert. My friend Tobi and I rented a Prius... we paid for the extra tank of gas thinking it would be easier to just drop the car off than to try to find a station in NYC. We never once hit a gas station there and back and drove it in on fumes! What a car! Comfortable ride (once we figured out how to turn it on!) and we averaged 44.7 miles per gallon (according to the computer screen on the dashboard. Also liked the live view when you put it into reverse. Order yours now!

We met up with my aunt and uncle who were making their way back to North Carolina from Nova Scotia. We had dinner (get the lobster!) at Anthony's Pier 4... Anthony's has been around for years, the walls are lined with autographed photos going back decades.

The next night was the concert, great show, CSN did so many of the favorites, including a 'new' one called Lay Me Down written by James Raymond, David Crosby's son. Wonderful evening, the Bank of America Pavilion was 'outdoors' and the weather was perfect!

All too soon it was time to head back to NYC and get packed to go home to Paris. I really would have liked to stay one more week, if anyone would be interested in an apartment swap next year, let me know!

Let's not be L-7, come and learn to dance...

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Come fly with me...

I come from a flying family. My grandfather had his own plane. My grandmother (post-divorce) took exotic vacations and flew around the world. (I have a piece or two of her old luggage.) My mother learned to fly, then she married a pilot. My uncle flew, my brother was an air traffic controller and built his own planes. I was a flight attendant... Flying is in my blood. However, it feels like the lifeblood is rapidly draining away on the tarmac. What has happened to the airline industry? Where's the glamour? Where's the elegance? Where's the privilege of flying? This return trip from the US made me feel like I was plopped into steerage class from hell. The TGV is looking real good these days.

I booked this trip to NYC well ahead of time with plenty of options to choose from. I chose to fly a European airline (Swiss), as the news this past spring was all about excess baggage and weight charges being assessed on the US carriers. I also wanted to up my mileage with the program I am signed up with (Star Alliance). I could have gone direct from Paris to JFK on Air France, but with no miles being accounted for. (I now have enough for a free round trip ticket or a round trip upgrade.)

I also got a deal on the hotel by booking the entire trip through In some ways, because I booked it myself, I expected a few disappointments. I must say that the hotel (Eastgate Tower Hotel) was wonderful. Thank you to Carol, Jerry and Najeste for a wonderful stay. The staff could not have been more helpful. For three weeks I felt like I was at home abroad.

Open comment to the woman at the check-in counter at Swiss Airlines in JFK on 31 July. First off... if you hate your job so much, move on. Some one else would be happy sitting in your seat. Your attitude does nothing to promote the face of the company you represent. Second... Honey, I can count. When you insisted that you gave me a window and an aisle (F & G) and I asked you to recheck and you said "what's the problem?" ... the problem is that when I worked for the airlines, I had to know the seat configuration for every aircraft I was qualified on. 2-4-2 = AB-DEFG-JK. Your configuration. That's why I asked. Third, even though I was technically under the overall baggage weight limit for 2 passengers, (there wasn't much more that I could pack into the guitar case or the smaller duffel bag) why couldn't you be gracious enough to accommodate that in your assessment of our bags? We had weight to spare, but because one bag was over by 4 kilos, you made me pay the $50 overweight baggage charge. Merci.

And when did the carry-on baggage weight limit kick in? Carry-ons are now limited to 8 kilos?? So, the theory here is that as long as my carry-on bag passes the initial weight test and I can stroll through the x-ray machines without my liquids, I have every right to march into duty-free and purchase 50 kilos of (insert your favorite beverage here) without being fined?? Okay. Cool. Just so I know the rules. By the way, it would be nice if you would wear your ID with pride so we would know your name, and not tucked inside your shirt. Good or bad, tell the truth. All the time. Be proud of what you do.

I will go into a bit of detail on the actual NYC trip activities in the next few days. There is a lot I want to share; really good, fun stuff. But right now, I'm dealing with jet-lag and I promise to get over it as quickly as I can. Until then...

Let's fly, let's fly away...