Trip Bits: After it’s all over

Read the whole Trip Bits series.

Departing my last three international excursions, I’ve carried home a particular present: illness. I seem to have a knack for it.

Usually it comes to me on the last day, right before I’m about to get on a long, overnight, international flight from which there is no escape for 6+ hours. And at high altitudes in a cramped space with 300 other people is just where you want to be with an achy body and a stuffy head.

But it’s (sort of) my own fault. I pick vacations where I’m going to run hard and hardly sleep. No lollygagging on a tropical beach — there’s too much to see! to buy! to eat! Continue reading

Monday Musings: On weddings, childhood reading and lips.

Happy Monday to you.

I went to a wedding this weekend in Greenville, S.C., a place I’d been through — maybe even slept in — but never really explored. It was a blast. Picture a bunch of north-of-30-year-olds who think they have the stamina (and livers) of 22-year-olds. That’s all I’ll say. But the town is a find. It’s cute and quaint and walkable, with a proper main street actually called “Main Street.” It’s also a foodie town — every restaurant, even the burger joint on the corner, was phenomenal. I don’t know why I haven’t been more often.

Last week, I read that one of my childhood idols, E.L. Konigsberg, passed away. I hadn’t thought of her in years, but the news still made me take pause. Her book “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler,” was one of my favorites growing up. I don’t remember much more than two kids running away and camping out in the Met Museum in NYC, but I know I loved it. Right up there with “Have You Seen Hyacinth Macaw?” and “The Westing Game.” I need to own and re-read all of those again, I think. Continue reading

Monday Musings: On childhood, book movies and gelato.

Happy Monday to you. I’m back with more random, wacky things on my mind.purple_flowers

Finally (finally!), spring weather seems to be breaking through. This weekend down south was only slightly cool but gloriously clear and sunny, which does loads for my mental and physical health. Don’t mind me while I go roll in the warm grass like Oliver does, reveling in spring. I just wish we didn’t go straight from freezing to sweating this year.

I finished reading Divergent, by Veronica Roth, this weekend. Have you had the pleasure? It’s great. Really creative and suspenseful, and I highly recommend it. It’s of the same genre and post-apocalyptic undertones as the Hunger Games series. And therein, I guess, lies the scary part. These books are for young adults — meaning pre-teens and teenagers, right?. Books about killing and war and sex, even. Hey, when I was 15 I was reading questionable things too. But more like romance smut from the vaults of Danielle Steele and Judith McNaught. Not dark, violent books about evil people who want to take over the world. I’m just sayin’.

Speaking of books, it’s starting to bother me when a popular book that everyone’s read becomes a movie. Think Gone Girl or Fifty Shades of Grey. It seems a waste to recreate a story that everyone already knows. To me, it destroys the magic, replacing all of the imaginative visions I created with Hollywood’s interpretation. And it becomes so much more about who’s going to be cast than about the words or the work. I prefer when an obscure book becomes a movie — think Perks of Being a Wallflower and Silver Linings Playbook. Then I can read the book to fill in details. But I suppose my definitions of “popular” or “obscure” are relative.

Mad Men season 6 premiered last night. I’ll tell you how it’s gone for me by the time you’re reading this. I watched it live, but also recorded on my DVR. I will spend all day today reading through the TV writers’ and fellow viewers’ analyses. Then I will watch the whole thing again tonight or later this week with fresh eyes. Because it’s visual literature, remember? I know, obsessed.

Have you tried Talenti gelato? You can probably find it in your supermarket. All I have to say is this. Salted Caramel gelato with chocolate-caramel truffles mixed in. I have no other words.

Have a good week, all.

Monday Musings: On Oscars, beets and more Downton Abbey.

Good Monday to you. As we recover from our Oscars hangovers, here are some of the random, wacky things on my mind this week:

When the book “Life of Pi” came out several years ago, we tried to read it for a book club. But none of us made it past page 10, since I remember it being a little … abstract. With all the hoopla about the movie at the Oscars last night, I’m wondering if it needs a second chance. Have you read it? The whole thing, I mean. What do you recommend?

I went to dinner with six friends recently, and every single one of us loves beets. That’s odd, no? Surely not the statistical norm.

Have you all recovered from last week’s shock ending on Downton Abbey? ***BEWARE: Spoilers afoot.*** Luckily, I was able to watch it as it aired, though I already knew. When DA was airing in the U.K., The Daily Mail was not polite enough to bury their spoilery headlines, so I accidentally read about both Sybil and Matthew, but just not how it would go down. For the entire episode, I sat on pins and needles waiting for the figurative (or literal) axe to fall — and I was pretty convinced something was going to go terribly awry during the Scottish hunt. Alas, it’ll open up a new chapter. DA is filming Season 4 now so let’s hope we don’t have long to wait.

One thing to know about me: I almost always say the wrong thing, or at least it seems that way in my head. Call it social anxiety or whatever, but I can trip over my words or they can come out in totally the wrong tone or level of confidence I intended when I’m caught off guard or meeting new people or intimidated. Well, the other day my boss introduced me in a meeting as “Whitney Houston.” Thank the good Lord — other people do it too!

Isn’t it weird how you can stave off a cold with stress? How you don’t really start to feel unwell until you start relaxing? Well, my saving grace — given my recent travels and lack of sleep — is Zicam. The orange melty ones. That’s prevented me from getting sick about 17 times in the last 4 days. A miracle product.

Have a good week, all.

When the night falls.

It’s been five days and 17 hours since the clock (well, Congress, really) bestowed its yearly gift: an extra hour of “daylight savings” time.

(Actually, I suppose it’s just letting us borrow that hour for the next six months. Or giving back what we borrowed then? Hmm, chicken or egg.)

This “fall back” doesn’t usually discombobulate me as much as the “spring forward,” but I’ve still been a little off kilter this week. Continue reading

A book I just can't stop talking about.

2012 is shaping up to be a banner year in the reading department. In the last month alone, I have burned through five full novels, a food narrative/cookbook and two unabridged audiobooks. Now I’m furiously working my way through a sixth novel before a book club deadline next weekend. I’m sure that pace can be attributed to my recent downtime, but also to a pent-up, post-school need to voraciously consume words, characters and stories.

Some of the selections have been enjoyable, some not so much. But one title was so special that I’m going to have to add it to my top 10 of all time, if not top 5. It is Ann Patchett’s “State of Wonder.”

I can’t always explain how I find the books I read, though Julie’s theory that books find you when you’re supposed to read them usually holds up. In that vein, I somehow came to reserve “State of Wonder” at the library. I know friends have posted it on Goodreads in the last year, and perhaps I also saw it on a “top” list from an email newsletter or newspaper book review. No matter its delivery, I haven’t been so engrossed in a book in quite a long time.

Keep reading »

The post with too many names.

Here it is. I’ve made it all the way to 100 posts! I can’t imagine how in the world I’ve found 100 things to write about in the last two years, but I hope you’ve found them interesting and informative, enough to keep reading at least. So, at this milestone, let me thank you again for faithfully reading and for allowing me to feed my soul a bit with writing.

When I first envisioned this post two weeks ago, it was going to be called, “Distraction is the best medicine.” I had just received some pretty earth-shattering news, the true magnitude of which didn’t hit me until a few days later. Luckily, I was headed out of town to celebrate my mom’s birthday, looking forward to being enveloped in the arms of family and welcoming the distraction of celebration, fun times and happy faces.

A few days later, I could have called the post, “When it rains it pours.” My 94-year-old grandmother fell and cracked three ribs, my mom was scheduled for foot surgery, my great-aunt (also in her 90s) entered the hospital with bronchitis and my aunt took ill with pneumonia.

It felt like our family was falling apart. So the more appropriate title became, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Keep reading »

On the road again.

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope 2012 has been treating you well so far.

My past several weeks have been spent relaxing, communing with family and friends, baking, clearing out the DVR and being generally productive during my days off. As is always the case at the holidays, I’ve also spent most of that time on the road. I’ve crisscrossed the Carolinas several times to see a friend’s new baby, to stay with family at the holidays and this weekend to recuperate at the beach after one week back at work. (Because, wow, it was a slap in the face after so much vacation.) Those are roads and routes I regularly drive, and I’ve usually been content to call friends or listen to whichever radio station is in service to help pass the time. Until now.

My friend Angie is an avid consumer of audiobooks, and frequently buys or rents them when she makes long trips. While I’ve always been a book reader, I was never all that interested in audiobooks. When I flew for work a couple of years back, I did take advantage of some free Audible selections and sporadically listened to them on my flights or on walks to work. But I was never hooked. There’s just something about a real book, holding the paper in my hands, absorbing the words on the page and completely concentrating on the story as I build it in my head. I viewed audiobooks as unnecessarily expensive, intangible, listened to while multitasking and, worst of all, abridged.
Keep reading »

Letting it flow.

Sometimes I get really bored.

It’s not that I don’t have a TON of things to do:  working full time, finishing my MBA, exercising my puppy, attending meetings and volunteering. Trying to pay attention to all of my loved ones. Dishes. Laundry. Sleeping. But I can find myself in a rut, trapped in endless days of running and routine. Boring.

My friend Melanie once told me it’s my restless Gemini nature, that we’re prone to boredom and need constant intellectual stimulation. That was after I complained of being so bored one Saturday that I put together a puzzle. (Yes, it was that bad.) And I was living in NYC of all places, home of continual sensory overload.

I do love learning new things, having thought-provoking conversations over wine or coffee, being in school (though not the homework), reading interesting articles on the web. But sometimes I’m just so exhausted by my own schedule that I’m only capable of laying on the couch staring blankly at a television for 12 hours. It’s then that I realize I need a jump-start, and soon. Keep reading »

Reading List: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

During school, I read for fun at a snail’s pace. But luckily I was able to knock out a big chunk of “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” during my recent beach escape.

A few weeks ago I finished “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” which was amazing. So amazing, in fact, that I was up until 5 a.m. one night reading it (on a weekend, thank goodness). I was initially engrossed by the general suspense, but then once I read “the scene,” I had to turn on all the lights and tv until I passed out from exhaustion. Keep reading »