Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Sugared Up

Only 35 trick-or-treaters tonight. I have no explanation for such a paltry showing, as it was beautiful weather out. I had 75 treat bags prepared, so, yeah, I'm pretty disappointed. But I'm sure all Brian's college friends will be thrilled when Larry and Rachel drop 40 of those off with him on Friday. Because, yes, Rachel (she of the decapitated animal heads and clogged toilets) is going on college tours the next two days. I don't know how that happened. Seems like only a year or so ago, she was four and we were sleeping with the car keys under our pillows because we were convinced she'd try to drive our cars.

No lie, people. No lie.

We decked out the house (well, the kitchen, anyway) in honor of the holiday:

We don't get to use these place mats much

Both Theo and Susie carved jack-o'-lanterns this year. Susie was thrilled she wasn't the only one doing it. It's hard being the youngest (I mean, aside from the fact that she's spoiled as heck).

A witch and a cat - we're very original

The friends we invited over (their daughter went trick-or-treating with Susie) brought me GORGEOUS flowers.

Blood roses - perfect for Halloween!

And I am so buzzed on Almond Joys and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, I can hardly see straight.

So. Much. Candy.

Friends of mine handed out activist treats:

There seems to be a message here...

In non-Halloween news, my part-time editing job has been keeping me busy, because it's college application time and apparently everyone's kids but mine pay to have their college essays professionally edited. I've always railed against the whole college application brouhaha (12 or more applications? REALLY?) and the way that upper middle class students have an edge in the process, but now that I'm profiting off that? Hey, it's totally cool.

I got to use the word "brouhaha." That makes me happy.  That, and approximately gazillion Almond Joys. Excuse me, I'm going to go see if any are left...

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Of Hikes And Hauntings

Larry's birthday was the 10th, and he had the whole next week off (during which he had such scintillating activities planned as watching someone install storm doors in our basement), and Susie and I said, "Oh, heck, no, it's still 80-something degrees and humid here and we can't figure out what to get Dad for his birthday, so let's give him a vacation!" We Googled "houses for rent in Bar Harbor," which turned out to be quite cheap the third week in October, and we called Auntie Kate to see if she were up for meeting us (since she lives up that way), and next thing you know, Susie and Larry and I are in the car and heading north.

I mentioned this plan already, but it was so long ago, I'm giving you a refresher. And let's just give a big shout out to Theo, who returned from Israel just in time to be Rachel's chauffeur and chef so we could pull this whole thing off.

Now, something always goes awry on our family vacations. I accept that. Nothing is ever as great as we hope it will be, right?

WRONG. This week broke the mold. The vacation was perfect - I mean, aside from the fact that Susie was convinced that the house was haunted, but I don't blame her. The rental was a hundred years old, with the requisite dark wood moldings and claw-footed bathtubs and ROCKING CHAIRS IN THE BEDROOMS, which Susie and I refused to look at at night, because we were both sure they would be moving.

Also, there was the locked door in one of the bedrooms, which we assumed led to a storage closet for the owner's use, until we looked up at the side of the house one day and noticed there was a window we couldn't see from the inside. So we refused to look at that, too, because we knew a face would appear there, and then we'd have to use our phones to alert anyone inside that they should GET OUT, but when we'd open our texting app, there the face would be, staring back at us.


Our imaginations sort of ran away from us, I guess.

But, aside from the time spent worrying about spectral beings from another plane of existence, things were awesome. We went hiking every single day, and - as is Acadia's wont - we were treated to breathtaking views everywhere we turned. Just like what we had seen during our summer camping trips there, only now there were splashes of fall color making the scenery even more scenic. And it was less crowded, so we didn't have to worry about finding parking. And the air was magnificent - cold and brisk and downright rejuvenating after all the incredibly soul-sucking humidity we had suffered through since May.

Only the best photo I will take in my entire life

Oh, and did I mention? We weren't camping. No watching Larry get stressed out about pulling the trailer, no having to go hide while he attempted to back the camper into our spot, no hoarding quarters so we could have hot showers, no trips to the laundromat every 3 days. It was WEIRD. Is this how normal people vacation? I LIKE IT.

Here, have some more scenery, why doncha?

I climbed up here.

I feel sort of bad, because I don't have any funny stories to tell you, because nothing went wrong. I know, weird, right? These normal-people vacations could be very bad for my illustrious blogging career, I guess.

I can live with that, though. Really, I can.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Traveler, Know Thyself

People were commenting "Amazing photos!" on my previous post and I was all like "Huh?" I went back and looked and thought, "Wow! I actually saw that stuff!" Which, well, you'd think I would have already realized, but no. Because here's the problem with traveling in the Middle East: there's too much to see.

This stuff is EVERYWHERE
Seriously. You're walking around and by the time you've viewed your gazillionth stone wall from antiquity in the space of an hour, you're all, "That's nice. But where CAN I get some coffee here?" It's just too overwhelming. You walk up a modern-ish city street and realize that the building you're standing next to is pretty darn historic-looking, and hey - so's the one on the next block! And over here! And pretty soon you've got a camera full of pictures of stone buildings and you have no idea what they all are.

Look, I never said I was good at traveling, okay?

Theo rented a car a few different days and drove us all around. We saw I don't know how many interesting stone villages perched on the sides of mountains. But it was enough that we stopped noticing them. We saw mile upon mile of breathtaking desert hills (I've got the photos to prove it); but, sadly, we got used to those, too. So what stands out is the weird stuff, like the Chinese restaurant menu printed in Hebrew (we ate there in Be'ersheva):

At the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, what caught my eye was not the stone manger where the Baby Jesus (supposedly) lay in swaddling clothes or the centuries-old paintings on the walls, but the thoroughly modern vending machine just outside the old stone walls of the building:

Baby Jesus never got a soda, I'm pretty sure 

Food took on an overarching importance during this trip. Yom Kippur, we inadvertently fasted, because I was trying to act like a savvy traveler by purchasing food at a deli counter in the local souk (market) the day before. That evening, after the sun had gone down and all the stores had closed, Susie and I sat down with great anticipation to our little feast, a variety of salads and pickled vegetables and some bread. "We'll have enough for tomorrow, too!" I announced happily, proud of my ingenuity.

This is what disappointment looks like.

Reader, we hated it. All of it. Nothing tasted right to our American palates. And now we were staring down the barrel of an entire day with NOTHING TO EAT (except for the hostel breakfast, which Susie was becoming sick and tired of). To add insult to injury, 2 youngish guys sat down next to us at this point and pulled out their own dinners: a pint of Ben and Jerry's each, and also a bag of chips.

I repeat, American ice cream and potato chips. People, this was the equivalent of waving a juicy beefsteak in front of a couple of very hungry puppies.

They both enjoyed their repast as Susie and I tried not to stare too longingly in their direction. We were both thinking the same thing: Why hadn't we done that? After all, there was a convenience store right next to the hostel (closed now, of course). But no - I had to be trying to act like Miss World Traveler and shop where the natives shopped.

And that, my friends, is when I gave up trying to impress myself and Susie with how to be a traveler. Because, really, I'm not. Not a good one, anyway. I don't know what half my pictures are of, my stomach was dying for American food halfway through that trip, and watching me try to figure out the Israeli money was enough to erase Susie's last shred of confidence in me.

And, yes, as soon as that convenience store opened the next evening, Susie and I were in there, buying some Ben and Jerry's. It's a good thing to live without pretense, right? Tell me I'm right.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Jerusalem, Mostly

Let's see, where to start? First, I've been pretending that it might someday (SOME DAY) be autumn, with brisk breezes and cool frosty nights. Else, why would I even try to knit anymore, in this 80-something heat with its mosquito-laden humidity, on what should be a refreshing October day?

It's difficult to even imagine needing these.

But, see - I am knitting. Because someday (SOME DAY) the mercury will drop below 70 and I will remember what it's like to love the outdoors again.

Until then, however, I'm outta here. Larry had some leave to use up and Theo came home from Israel yesterday, willing to drive his teen sister Rachel where she needs to go while Larry and I (and Susie) escape from this poor excuse of an autumn by driving north. All the way to Maine north, that is - if the cold won't come here, we'll go find the cold.

So, yeah, I get to go away AGAIN - that's twice in 2 months, which is some sort of record for me. Wouldn't it be nice if I posted some pics of the last trip before I go gadding about again? Yes, yes it would.

Nachos - Susie and I pretty much licked that plate clean.

You weren't expecting that, were you? We ate this on our last day in Israel, in Tel Aviv, and it was EXCELLENT. I guess, after almost 2 weeks of hummus and felafel and weird-tasting cookies and cucumbers (for breakfast, mind you), we just needed a little taste of home.

Oh, we tried to be adventurous foodie travelers, we did! All the hostels offered the traditional Israeli breakfast of hummus and cucumbers and yogurt and tomatoes and bread with too-sweet jam (all sweets there are too sweet) and olives. Olives for breakfast! We held up for about a week, and then I noticed Susie (who really had been trying her best) wasn't eating anything in the morning and that really affects her energy and cheerfulness levels, so I caved.

Which explains why, on Day 8 of our trip, I was faced with a fellow hostel-dweller turning to me at our communal breakfast, where everyone was chowing down on healthy Middle Eastern food, and saying, "Ben and Jerry's ice cream for breakfast? Really?" after my daughter left the table.

I had some, too. I'll admit it.

Hey, she was happy. And energetic enough to walk the ramparts of the Old City that morning, too. Where I expected to take lots of photos of very old-looking, picturesque buildings, given that I would be getting a birds-eye view of an ancient metropolis, right?

I don't know about you, but all those satellite dishes really ruined the "ancient" vibe for me. Also, the solar panels. Oh, and the Little Tykes set:

Antiquity meets modernity

But walking through the Old City itself, with Theo and his girlfriend a couple of days earlier, we managed to pick up on that feeling of antiquity. Didn't hurt that we were stumbling over ruins everywhere we turned:

A lot of stuff like this

And this...
And we saw the Wailing Wall, but we didn't even try to approach it, as it was the day before Yom Kippur and all. Popular, is what I'm saying. Think Times Square on New Year's Eve. Only, uh, less profane...

This is as close as we got
Besides, Theo needed to get some coffee. Which he found at a shop in the Armenian Quarter where the owner said, "Strong coffee? Yes, this is strong. My friend, this coffee is what resurrected Jesus!"

Everyone's a comedian, I guess.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Job Security

[Cautiously cracks open door, peers around]

Hello! Anyone still here?

Really? Well, just let me move these suitcases over a bit and, uh, dust off this chair, and...let's see...hang on a second while I vacuum up this spider colony on the keyboard...

So! Yes, I'm back. And I know I'm supposed to write all about the airplane ride and the trip and Susie and everything, which is probably why I haven't managed to do so yet, because OMG overwhelming...but first. FIRST, I have to tell you about last night. Because my mind works backwards, I guess.

Obligatory travel photo - Jaffa on the Mediterranean Sea

Knit Night is Wednesday evenings. And I often arrive much later than my friends because they don't have kids at home and I do and I have to cook dinner for my family before I leave the house. Because I'm a great mom like that.

Actually, I just feel guilty and I don't want Larry munching on peanuts and nothing else after a hard day at work.

But a knitting friend who shall go unnamed (but it is she of the iPad-dropping fame) said, "WHY are you cooking dinner on Wednesdays? You were gone 2 weeks. Did anyone starve? Didn't they manage? You can skip making dinner one night a week!"

So yesterday (Wednesday) rolled around and I thought, "You know, they did manage. Badly (think, yeah, peanuts), but still...and I've cooked dinners the last 3, yeah, I'll drop Rachel off at work and go straight to Knit Night. They'll be FINE."

Seriously, there was rotisserie chicken I had pulled off the bone and left in the fridge. There was a piece of leftover frittata I had whipped up on Tuesday. There were leftover boppies, from the night I had made meatloaf. There was even some apple crisp from the day before. I'm telling you, I've really been rocking this meal preparation gig lately.

All in full view in the fridge or on the counter...

And there was also bread, and cheese, and eggs. PLENTY OF REAL, EASY-TO-PREPARE FOOD. Food that Susie makes every day. But there was also, left on the stove to cool a bit before being put away, a pot full of just-made chicken stock, with the bare bones from the rotisserie chicken and the old (and now very overcooked) celery and carrots and onions still in it. "Larry will know to put it in the fridge," I thought. "I can strain it tomorrow and then make some matzo balls to go with."

So I left the house, secure in the knowledge that I had provided sustenance for my family and could hang out guilt-free with my knitting friends.

Good lord, I'm stupid.

Turns out, Larry got home and asked Susie what was for dinner. She said, "I dunno - I think Mommy made you some soup." Whereupon they both went into the kitchen and stared down at the unstrained broth with the CHICKEN CARCASS floating in it, along with the limp veggies, and decided that, yes, that was Larry's dinner.

You know, words fail me at this point. I just want to say to my knitting friend, "You were wrong. They can't manage. And it's a good thing I didn't leave a pot of wool soaking in Kool-Aid dye on that stove instead."