Thursday, March 29, 2012

London in my Pocket

With the unseasonably warm temperatures we had been experiencing in the month of March,
     I had not been accustomed to wearing a coat. 
It was my "go-to" coat - the perfect weight and style for most occasions.  
Plus, it did not require dry cleaning.
I could throw it in the washer and dryer a million times ( which, I have),
     and it would come out unscathed.

It was quite chilly when we left the restaurant,
     and when I put my hands in my coat pockets, I felt it there.
Almost three weeks after my return from Europe, a little reminder was left behind.
Like a favorite wallet, the edges were slightly bent and worn, from the amount of use.  
It molded in my hand, as I squeezed it, and I could feel the coolness of the plastic, outer sleeve.

Before I pulled it from my pocket, I knew what it was, and I smiled.
My backstage pass, my golden ticket, my ride on a "magical mystery tour" . . .
      it was the Oyster.
The Oyster Card is an affordable way to travel around London,
     and can be used for most forms of public transportation. 
We used ours primarily for the buses and the Tube ( underground Metro ),
     and we did not step foot on the streets of London without it.    
Mine was always kept safely inside my right-hand pocket of my "go-to" jacket -
     the one that does not require dry cleaning. 

And, there it was . . . . . . still. 

When I pulled it out of my pocket,
     I read the words on the front of the sleeve for the very first time:  
London in your pocket : Priceless
I couldn't agree more, I told myself.
And, with a smile, I put it safely back inside my right-hand pocket, 
     where it belonged.  

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


I left all of my electronics behind.   
I did not bring my laptop or my cell phone,
     and since I do not own an ipad (or iphone or ipod ),
that pretty much covers it. 

I DID bring a hair straightener, but I will leave that for another story.

I figured, if a story came along,
     I would jot down a few words in a notebook.

Which, I did. 

It looked something like this:

Trying to get to our seats on the airplane (French foreign exchange students) - 
 "go that way, go this way, go around, go over".
Sponge Bog Square Toilet
Speaking of toilet . . .  "To Let"
Voice in the elevator . . . my Rosetta Stone for learning a British accent - 
"Going Down" , "Floor Four" . 
Man at the pub who "let a loud one loose".
etc., etc., etc.

I wrote two full pages of this. 

The problem was, I missed my laptop.

I was . . . I AM accustomed to writing my stories almost immediately 
      after they come to me.  
The inspiration hits, and like a bad case of the runs, 
     I RUSH to my laptop before it's too late.   
The only difference is, if I wait too long, there is nothing there . . . nothing left.  
The opposite of ( pardon my English ) "shitting one's pants".    

Sometimes, if I sit long enough (at my computer), 
     I can bring some of the thoughts and words back.

But, it is not the same.   

It is not as good . . . not as real . . . not as RAW.  

Not only that, but there is a "flow" between my brain and my fingers, 
     as they tap the letters on the keyboard -
a flow that allows me to type my thoughts
               just as quickly as they fly into my brain.  

And, though I enjoy writing by hand - the "art" of a pen or pencil, as it etches across the page, 
     it slows down my thoughts, impeding my progress.    

So . . . 

     on my next trip, 
          I will definitely be bringing my laptop, 
so that I can type up my stories, as they happen.   

So that I won't miss 
     a single thing. 


Monday, March 12, 2012

No Yappy Dogs In London

There are no yappy dogs in London.

There are short dogs, and long dogs;
     scruffy and smooth dogs.

Low dogs, and tall dogs;
     lean dogs, and stout dogs.

Black dogs, and white dogs,
     and brown dogs, and gray dogs,
and work dogs, and play dogs,
and "dogs at high tea" dogs,


there are no YAPPY dogs . . .

      in London.   

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Stiff Upper Lip

Sitting in a cozy little restaurant by the bar,
     where the bartender measures each drink before pouring it into a glass,

I suggested we play a game. 

     "Find ONE person that will make eye contact with you," I told my partner.  

Since we had arrived in London, I witnessed, first hand, the expression "stiff upper lip".  

Stiff Upper Lip:  Remain resolute and unemotional in the face of adversity, 
or even tragedy.

But, what's so tragic about walking down the street, or into a pub?  

One, after the other, after the other . . . people walked past, looking straight ahead -
             no awareness or concern for others around them,
and no interest, whatsoever, in making a . . . CONNECTION.     

     "Kind of cool, actually, " I said.  "I feel like I am invisible. 
                                                              Like some sort of super hero."

I had this overwhelming feeling to stand up and perform some strange display of behavior.

But, I didn't.   

Being the only American in the bar, I did not want to end up on YouTube.   


Friday, March 9, 2012

Unchartered Places - Part II of "The Chocolate Croissant"

So, a funny thing about my elliptical.

I have had it for YEARS, and ( probably because of my lack of patience with electronic devices )
     I have still not explored all of its potential.

Not even close, actually.  

In fact, the only program that I have used is the one that says "Quick Start".

Just get on it, and go. 

No thought required.  

But, today, since there actually IS no program labeled "Burn Off Chocolate Croissant",
     I thought I would search for something that came close,
and noticed a button labeled "Workouts Plus".

THAT sounds like a "Chocolate Croissant" burning workout, I thought  -
          the "regular" workout PLUS the extra 320 calories I need to burn off. 
I pressed the button to look at my options, and stumbled upon . . .  

                    "Around the World".  

Fresh off my visit to Europe, this one sounded PERFECT.  

I entered all of the necessary information ( age, weight, exercise level, length of workout ),
     and pressed "start". 

And, wouldn't you know, the first stop was . . . . . . EUROPE!

Then Africa, then Asia, then South America . . . 

The only problem was, no pictures.

My only visual was the little red dots on the screen -
     less dots for flatter ground, and more dots for hills and mountains.

So, I had to use my imagination.

Maybe that's where the "PLUS" comes into play.  

I wonder how many calories a good imagination can burn? 

I am going to imagine . . . . . .

A   LOT.  

( Imagine Picture Here)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Chocolate Croissant

My daughter asked me to pick her up some Trader Joe's frozen chocolate croissants.

So, I did.   

The next morning, I walked downstairs to find a small hunk of dough sitting on a pan,
     and the oven on pre-heat.
I thought I'd help her out, so I took the croissant box out of the freezer,
and read the directions.

               Step 1:  Place frozen pastries, seam side down . . . 
                           on a very lightly buttered or paper lined baking sheet.  


               Step 2:  Allow uncovered croissants 
                            TO SIT AT ROOM TEMPERATURE FOR 9 HOURS


     "Ha-ley!" I hollered up the stairs.
      "You were supposed to allow the croissant to sit out overnight!" 
My daughter came downstairs looking very disappointed.  
She looked at the box and said, in a very determined voice,
     "I'm going to try it, anyways."   

               Step 3:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

               Step 4:  optional egg wash ( not necessary ) . 

               Step 5:  Bake 20 - 25 minutes

               Step 6:  Cool about 10 minutes 

I looked at the clock, and noticed that she did not have enough time to cook the croissant, 
     even if it wasn't . . . . . . frozen.   

     "That's why I put the temperature a lot higher," she remarked. 

With a raise of the eyebrow (unlike the dough),
      and a smirk on my face ( I probably would have done the same thing ), 
I said,  
     "It will be an experiment!"  

Ten minutes later, the lump of dough ( though, slightly golden) did not look much different.   

"Don't think it's going to happen," I said,
                as she took it out of the oven, looking defeated.   
"You can try again tomorrow.  Remember to take it out of the freezer tonight."

She left the croissant sitting on the tray, on top of the stove, and left for school.

Several hours later, I was passing through the kitchen (on my way to exercise), 
     and thought, I'd better do something with that croissant. 
And, as I contemplated whether to save or dispose of it, I decided to try a bite.      

     "How bad can it be, really?" I said to myself.  

I put it in my mouth, and . . . . . . wowwww.

SOOOOOOOOO . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .good.

I mean, REALLY good.

I took another bite, and another.  

I peeled away the layers and the gooey chocolate and ate bite after bite after bite.    

It was SO good that I simply could not stop eating it, until it was gone.  

I pulled the box out of the freezer (again), and looked at the calorie count. 

320 calories per croissant.  

"Okay, then!" I said, 
     as I walked downstairs, where my elliptical was waiting for me, 
and searched for the workout program that read, 
"Burn Off Chocolate Croissant".   

It was worth every bite.  

Monday, March 5, 2012

House Number 13

Alarm goes off at 6:15 a.m.

Kids off to school, and I am full of energy, which is not like me AT ALL.

Especially, at this time of day, but it is 11:15 in London - almost lunch time.  

While I was away, Charlie spent time at "Hotel Little River" ,
     where he became accustomed to four walks a day. 

Before my trip, I was becoming a bit neglectful of his leash time,  
     and vowed to make more of an effort, upon my return. 

Charlie is so happy when I put on his leash,
     that he is literally pushing himself off the wall, doing flips.

Leash!  Leash!  I LOVE my leash!  
Walk!  Walk!  I LOVE my walks! 

As we walk through the neighborhood, however 
     (Charlie trying to make his mark on every mailbox,
light pole, and street sign), 
      I find myself quite bored and uninspired by my surroundings,
and imagine my mornings in London.

  ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

After showering in the teeny tiny shower,
     and dressing without bumping into the walls,
my partner and I would take the two person elevator
down from "floor four" ( said in a British accent ),
into the cozy little lobby, where we would hand the friendly desk clerk our key.

What a great concept, by the way - drop the key off at the desk when you leave, 
     and pick it back up, upon return.      
 Not to mention, the key is attached to a twelve inch long 
Indian braided tassel - 
one that looks as if it was attached to the end of a grand scaled piece of drapery, 
     which makes it very easy to locate, 
and equally easy to not mistakenly walk out the door with  
(or, as they say in London - "take away").  

Open the doors to outside, and we are immediately placed amongst the living,
     where people are strolling to and fro, and up and down
the semi-quiet side street of London, just a block off the main drag,
where we walk in search of breakfast.

The hotel serves breakfast between 7 and 9 a.m., 
but we were only able to make it once, 
     as our East Coast minds told us that time of the morning was just 

My partner's parents live in a flat just a few blocks from the hotel,
     and after picking something up at a local market or restaurant
( fresh baguettes, smoked salmon, prosciutto and cheese,
                               fresh squeezed orange juice ),
we would walk towards house number 13, where we would share our food
     in return for French pressed coffee and good company.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So, as Charlie and I walk through our neighborhood in Fairfax,
     I imagine all of this.

We return to house number 4339, where there is nobody waiting.  

I cook myself some eggs,
     and drink my "pure & natural, never from concentrate" orange juice.

I do have a French press with which to make my coffee.

And, as I pour myself a cup, this brings me comfort and makes me happy,
     as do the memories of my trip,
     like our morning fresh-squeezed orange juice and crusty baguettes,

are still fresh (in my mind).      

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Room With a View

I love the bathroom in my hotel. 
It is small, with a shower barely big enough
     to bend my elbows to wash my hair,
and shaving my legs is a challenge.
The walls angle downward towards the loo,
     and if you are too tall or not paying close enough attention,
you are liable to do damage to your head.  
But, there is a window with a view of the rooftop that cranks open,
     allowing in the fresh air and the sounds of the streets of London. 
I love the bathroom in my hotel.  

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Streets of London

For the last eight days, I have been in a different place.
Lots of places, really.
     London, Holland, Belgium, France . . . . . . and places in between.
My first visit to Europe EVER.
Only took me 43 years.
With three children at home, I feel slightly guilty taking this trip so far away and for so many days,
     but it was they who ultimately encouraged me to go "spread my wings".
And, I am ever so grateful to my wonderful children for doing so.      

Right now, I sit in a charming little, cozy little Lebanese restaurant in London.
We stumbled upon it this morning for breakfast,
     and when I had the urge to sit comfortably somewhere to spend time with my writing,
the atmosphere and perfectly sized plush leather chairs called us back for a visit.  
Unbeknownst to us, there is a private room in the back, just big enough to seat five -
     a rustic, dark wood table, with bench seating, all around,
covered in rich colored tapestries of burgundy, gold, and black.
It sounds very dark, but the large, roof top window just above, allows in the sunshine
and a view of the soft blue sky.
Spanish music is playing in the background, and if I close my eyes, I am not sure where I am.
London, Lebanon, Spain . . .
      and my head still in the clouds from a trip to Holland and Belgium - where am I ?
It doesn't matter.

Victor, the young restaurant keeper with warm eyes and a generous smile
    (who has family in Chicago, but no time to visit),
pops his head around the corner, just often enough to see to our needs.      
A nice strong coffee and a freshly squeezed orange juice sit on the table, to my right.  
And, all is good in the world. 
Day after day of doing and walking and and looking and driving . . . and this is exactly what I need.
So much to take in, and now a time to sit and reflect in this quiet little alcove,
     while the streets of London bustle on by.   

My little haven in London - talking with my girlfriend on the phone.