Recent Journeys

Two weeks ago (good grief, how does time go so quickly?!), I was on vacation. I needed it. Spring has been sluggish for me. I’ve had a hard time getting a rhythm going so I looked forward to a change of scenery for a week to just give myself a chance to re-set.

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Seriously, he’s adorable and never stops moving (nor has he learned where a camera is yet LOL)

I started out my week with family. My nephew is already getting ridiculously big and has the best smile. I even successfully stayed alone with him while his parents had some pool time. Yes, he was mostly asleep for that time but small victories people. I am not a baby person. We also went and frolicked at IKEA for an afternoon – I do enjoy a good walk through IKEA even if the crowds are ridiculous.

I then went off to Walt Disney World for a few days. This was big for me as it was my first official solo trip in which I was on my own for the entire time. I kind of adored it. I didn’t have to worry about anyone’s whims but mine. I could go on attractions I hadn’t been on in forever or wait in lines for those that I enjoy but the others could care less about. I could decide to watch the parade or the night shows or go do something else while those went off. I didn’t have much of a plan. Which for Disney these days means I knew exactly what parks I would be in, what attractions I would be riding, what shows I would watch when and where I was eating at all times. But I didn’t know what I was doing in between my plans and that was delightful.

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The food in Pandora is pretty (and tasty too!)

I will note I got to see all the new things at WDW and I enjoyed them all. I’ve heard a lot of mixed things about Animal Kingdom’s newest land, Pandora, since I got back (I managed to avoid most spoilers before my visit) and I have to say, I agree at times and other times I wonder if I visited a different place LOL as those bloggers and podcasters. Pandora is small but that’s the point. Disney Imagineering is trying to create a very personal, intimate experience with Pandora and I think they mostly succeed. There are kinks to work out but there always are with new attractions. Pandora is gorgeous; easily one of the loveliest things I’ve seen come out of Imagineering in my lifetime. It is different from day to night in a way we haven’t seen in the parks before. Both the official attractions are gorgeous; one worth the wait and one not in my opinion but that is usually the way of it right? For me, Flight of Passage was incredible. I think next time I ride Soarin’, I’ll feel like I’m on an antique. It was grandiose and yet so much…my experience. I rode a Banshee; there were other people in the room at the time but I couldn’t have told you they were there. I flew; I felt that animal breathing underneath me. I don’t know how they did that but I adored every minute of it and would happily wait for it a couple times next trip to do it again. The other ride? Has an audio animatronic to die for. It’s beautiful in every sense of the word. It’s also really short. Far too short for the amount of time you wait to board your boat. And also, any bets on how much time passes before that audio animatronic has technical problems? We’re still waiting for the yeti to be fixed…At least Everest has a ride without the yeti. Take away the Shaman from that ride and you just have a really short pretty boat ride.

I critique because I love of course. I always want them to keep moving their ideas forward and keep wowing me. But keeping what they have up and running is important too. Wowing me was certainly on the menu with Happily Ever After at Magic Kingdom. That show is incredible. And overwhelming. There was almost too much going on; I didn’t know whether to watch the fireworks or the Castle projections. So, repeat viewing is a must for this show (as is getting your spot at least an hour early; I was used to Wishes where I could stroll up 30 minutes before and get a good spot so this threw me a bit). I missed the narrative of Wishes a lot; HEA is just sort of an compilation of greatest hits and current favorites. I ADORED that Hunchback of Notre Dame got some serious love from this show; a lot of “forgotten” or often overlooked Disney characters poked their heads up in this one and I can only applaud that. The Disney geeks will always want more of that for ourselves and also so we can share those movies with the new generations. Yes, I love Frozen but it was nice, like I said, to see Quasi get his moment center stage too.

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Best part of the reunion was hanging with this crew for the weekend

After I let my inner eight year run rampant, I headed north so my inner 20 year could re-visit undergrad. It was time for my ten year reunion at Gettysburg College. I find it so hard to believe it’s been ten years. In so many ways, I feel am the same kid who lived there for four years and in so many ways, I know I am not. I especially loved getting to room with my Senior year roommates again and just be around friends for a weekend. I am coming up on five years in Tallahassee; the longest I have lived anywhere since finishing undergraduate studies at Gettysburg and I’m feeling that a bit. It’s hard to describe exactly. I enjoy my work a lot; always have and I like Tallahassee but I’m still working on making it home and one of the things I’ve never quite succeeded in doing is finding a solid core group of friends here like I always had at home or in school. It’s different now of course; so much of my age group is married and has young children and doesn’t have time, or make time, for friendship outside of those groups. Which is fine and I understand. It’s just…it would be nice to have some of my oldest friends closer geographically for sure. So, I clearly just need to travel to visit people more. The whole student-loans-take-over-my-bank-account lifestyle will just have to take a hike and I’ll fly around and visit people instead.

So, that is what I have been up to. I need to do a reading round-up here and share a few recent recipes (as well as an experiment with Hello Fresh!) here too. I’m hoping to get back on a schedule on so many things (cooking! reading! exercising! blogging!) so fingers crossed I can. And oh yeah, work travel next week to add a challenge to scheduling should make this interesting per usual.

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The Best Beach (Question of the Month)

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North Central Shore, PEI

I am not a beach girl. I love water; would cheerfully live on the water if at all possible (I’m thinking a house boat would be awesome). However, I loathe sand. With everything in me. I hate that it gets everywhere and that no matter how well I rinse my feet off, there will still be sand on them. No matter how much I shake out my towels, there will still be sand on them. For a neat freak like me, it’s sort of the worst thing ever. I also burn to a crisp in the sun pretty easily. I bathe in sunscreen which helps for maybe an hour if I’m lucky before I need to bathe in it again. So, beaches have tended to not be my thing. I live in Florida now and can still count on one hand the number of times I’ve been to a beach in the last four years, including a trip to the red beaches of Prince Edward Island.

So, maybe for me, the best beach is the one of memory. I have very fond memories of my first time spent next to the Atlantic Ocean (or at least the first time I remember). We were staying in Cocoa Beach in Florida for a day or two before catching our first cruise ship. There were shells in the sand, like little treasures to find. I was a big rock collector at the time (growing up along the Great Lakes with their rocky shores, rocks were my shells) so it seems to me that this was the sort of beach I’d only read about in fairy tales and I loved it.

Another beach I remember fondly for a very different reason is Omaha Beach in Normandy. I visited as part of a high school trip my senior year. I still have the little film canister of sand from where I stood on that beach, looking up and marveling at the cliffs. Wondering what on earth had possessed them to think they could make it on D-Day; awed even more by the fact that they did somehow make it work. Later in the same trip I collected a small emptied hotel bottle of sand from the beach at Cannes but I hold the sand of Normandy a bit more dear.

Which brings me back to the red sandy beaches of Prince Edward Island. I should have emptied something to bring some of that glorious sand home with me. I sat and read on that beach and for a moment, lived out a childhood dream of dancing with Anne and Diana on the sand dunes as the sun set over the gulf. It was worth the amount of sand I had to shake out of my jean jacket later.

I will admit to a great fondness for the beaches on Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island and I’ll admit even Panama City Beach is slowly growing on me (I went swimming twice last week when I was there for work; I felt like I should alert the media or something). So I am deeply unqualified to really chime in on the best beaches but I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about the ones I remember fondly.

Round Up of the Last Month

Life always seems to get in the way of me blogging. It never fails but I lose a month!

So, what have I been up to? Well, a good two weeks, I had a miserable cold. You know those awful late spring/early summer colds that make you wish it was still cold and rainy out so the rest of the world has to be miserable with you? I had one of those and the thing just would not go away. I still have a slight runny nose from it. Not fun.

From my Instagram feed, Miami Beach last week

From my Instagram feed, Miami Beach last week

I am also just back from a week long trip to Miami – my first. I was there to attend and present at the Society of Florida Archivists Annual Meeting but I also got to see South Beach and Ocean Avenue and frolicked for a bit at Books & Books (I have become a bookstore tourist and I see nothing wrong with that). I liked Miami more than I expected to but most of my time was spend in the Coral Gables/Coconut Grove area so it was really nice. I also want to import their lovely sea breeze that was omnipresent while I was there. Tallahassee could really use that as we never have a breeze.

I have also been running…well, jogging…well, mostly walking and then sort of jogging. My sister has talked me into a 5K on July 4th here in town so I have to get myself into some sort of shape to run/walk that without dying. It fits in nicely with my new health/fitness goals after the lecture to end all lectures from my doctor last physical so it’s not a bad thing but I still loathe running. Tell me runners, at some point will I stop hating it and learn to love the bomb?!

And, as usual, I have been reading though not as much as usual. When I am sick, I tend to simply want to lie like a slug on my couch and indulge in marathons on Netflix. This past cold it was Kitchen Nightmares and America: The Story of Us for some reason. However, I finished a few:

The Club Dumas which left me sort of eh in the end. On Goodreads, I noted “I think I missed the point of this book. I did like it but I’m not sure I could tell you what actually happened in the end…” Now, about a month after I read it, I only vaguely even remember what it was about so clearly it did not make a lasting impression.

Jane Austen and Food was delightful. It was a scholarly book of essays – read like someone’s dissertation spruced up a bit for publication but it was fascinating. Jane doesn’t tell you much about her characters and food but what is there was neat to see dissected into what it means and relate it back to what we know was Jane’s relationship with food outside her novels.

I sneaked in a Hercule Poirot, Dumb Witness, that’s been in my to-read drawer of my nightstand one night. Agatha Christie is always a good idea.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett was the book I picked up when I saw her speak at the very rainy Tallahassee Literary Festival we had back in April. Here’s what I said on Goodreads: “This is quite lyrical; the story itself is a bit odd and ends rather abruptly with lots of loose ends (not my favorite thing at the end of a book – I like tidy endings) but it didn’t erk me terribly here because it’s delivered well and also fits the tone of the book. It’s a slow story, beautiful and meandering so the fact that it goes out quietly is not surprising and fits well with its story and characters.”

Then I read three books that were kind of eh again – one actually just made me mad in the end and another one I didn’t even finish because it annoyed me so much so they will go unnamed and unnoted.

I just finished The City of Dark Magic last night. It was fantastic. And hard to describe really at the end of the day. The back cover calls it a paranormal rom-com suspense novel. It also has a healthy dose of the ridiculous in it and was a bit raunchier than I usually read but I really enjoyed it and it made me laugh out loud a lot – always the sign of a good fun read.

I am deviating a bit right now from my reading goal for the year (one fiction, one non-fiction) because the to-read drawer of my nightstand is overflowing. I’m going to take some time to read through those now but I will pepper it with non-ficition when I feel like it. Like the next book on deck, The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage. I’ve been waiting for this book to come out for what seems forever so no way am I waiting to dive into it (plus it’s due back at the library so the other books can chill on the nightstand for a bit longer!)

Well, that’s summer then…

I will admit, the fact that it is September literally shocked me. Summer went so fast! It helped that I was very busy for most of it and had lots of fun times but that also meant I apparently didn’t have time to blog. I have reasons.

Up a tree. Photo credit to my awesome cousin Jodi
One, summer was, as I said, busy! I got to go home when the temperature was above 40 degrees which means dinner at the Loop, races in Oswego, ice cream at Byrne Dairy and especially an awesome, no holds barred feast up at Grandma and Grandpa’s camp. It was awesome! And then I went to Orlando to hang with a super awesome family which meant actually having children with me at the Disney parks. This was novel and so much fun and slightly nerve wracking because at times, in case you’ve never visited a theme park of any kind in the summer months, it was CROWDED. The amount of people required capital letters. But, we had a blast and rode lots of rides and ate lots of food and just had a fantastic time at Disney. I then turned right around and left for New Orleans for a conference but I did get to see some of the city but it’s on my “really need to go back and spend days exploring” list because I really only had a day to see the highlights and that wasn’t doing it justice. I did get beignets and coffee at Cafe du Monde though and it is as tasty as they say. I always like when things live up to their praise.
Two, work. I love my job, I really do but we were very busy this summer. Hopefully, sometime this fall people will start to see the fruit of all our work when our new digital library site goes live but until then, I don’t have much to show for everything we’ve done but know that we worked hard this summer on lots of stuff and hopefully this fall we’ll get some awesome things to show for it. One of the downsides of my job though is a lot of hours in front of the computer screen meaning the last thing I often want to touch when I get home at night is my laptop.
Three, I think I am officially in a bit of a reading slump. I haven’t been reading very fast or very much. Nor have I been that interested in what I’ve been reading. I am hoping to get back on track this fall and into a reading routine again. That always helps me stay on track with books even if they aren’t holding my attention very well.
Four, something about summer just means I go out for an hour and then spend four in front of the TV. Not good. I was hoping to get rid of cable (and temptation) but a frustrating couple of phone calls meant it would cost me more to pay for just internet instead of my current bundle (how twisted is that?!) so cable stays. However, a reading routine and books I actually want to finish will help me kick the cable habit I have developed! Also, the start of the fall TV schedule will help as when I know there is a show I want to watch at 10, I make the effort to read from 8 until 10.

Sigh, so good. Beignets and coffee at Cafe du Monde
I also am debating a movie re-watch of all my movies and blogging about it. This is both an effort to do some cleaning of my DVD collection (would I want to watch this ever again?) and also an effort to blog more about movies AND books again. We’ll see if this fall works out for that or if that becomes a winter project (or at least as wintry as it gets in the South – autumn is just depressing because I really miss all the colors)
And recipes too should be making a reappearance here! I actually think I have a recipe to share that I just never did this summer so I will try to dig that up and share ASAP. I did just try a new dish last week but it was kind of blah so not sharing that one. Again, I am hoping to get back into a routine this fall and cooking is on the list to make a priority!
Happy Fall everyone!

All Nighter

I never pulled an all nighter in college. I was one of those annoying students who finished papers and take home exams days before they were due. I can remember two late nights. One was on an essay for my Working Girls class. Not that kind of working girl mind you, the class took a look at the portrayal of women and work through the 19th and 20th centuries. I’d not done well on my first paper for that class so I did what I often did in cases like this, blew the second paper into major dramatic proportions. I needed to nail it; it needed to be the best paper this professor had ever read. I had gone to the library to start work on it in the early evening but I got into a groove and just kept working and writing and suddenly it was 2AM and I was still in the attic of the library. Not a big deal really but it happened to be I lived quite a walk from library at the time so the walk was perhaps not something I should have been doing. The other time was actually before the last one though I remember it less vividly. I’d been getting no where on a paper. I didn’t know what I was trying to say in it or where I wanted to take it. I was frustrated and annoyed. So, I did the only thing I could think of; scrapped it. All four pages of useless pratter I’d managed to write and started over. At 11PM. My poor roommate. However, once I didn’t have to worry about what I’d said before, I was able to make headway and once I started making headway, I didn’t want to stop for fear I’d run into a roadblock if I walked away. So I got about half the paper done before I was confident I knew where I wanted the rest of the paper to go. All this to lead up to a story about Walt Disney World. Bet you didn’t see that coming.

Heading into MK at 11PM

I missed the first 24 Hour event in the Parks. I was in Florida at the time but unable to justify taking the day off, driving down and dealing with the crowds. So, I lived vicariously through my Twitter feed and was bummed I missed it. When the Monstrous Summer All-Nighter to promote the upcoming release of Monsters University was announced it just so happened to fall on a weekend I was already planning on visiting. So I talked my sister and her newly minted fiance into going when I got to Orlando after driving down from Tallahassee at 9PM. To start with, I think our timing was off. We managed to arrive just as Wishes! was going off which meant the pakring lot at MK was still full as the first mass exodus from the park had not occurred. Instead, we were parked at Epcot and left to work our way to MK. The line for the monorail was mammoth so we opted for a bus to the Contemporary and then a walk to MK. It’s funny to see the park packed to the gills at 11PM which is about the time we finally made it in the gates. They had already run out of buttons and t-shirts so no souvenir merchandise for me which saved me money. We did make it for the second showing of Memories. Because of the lighter crowds in the Hub, we were able to get closer than usual and really enjoy the detail of the show.

Full Moon over Cinderella Castle

We then booked it out of there to avoid getting caught by the 1AM showing of the Main Street Electrical Parade. However, the park packed. The wait for Big Thunder Mountain was more than we were willing to wait (it would have put us on the ride at about 2AM) so we hit up Haunted Mansion and The Little Mermaid. The full moon lit the park in both a cool and eerie way. I was thinking it was a good Kingdom Keepers vibe. After Mermaid, we decided the other lines were longer than we wanted to commit to (I’d had coffee before coming so I was wide awake, my sister and her fiance however were fading fast) so we headed for our last stop – ice cream. At 2AM. No better time! The Eye Scream Sundae, special for the event, was delicious. I went for the Mint Chocolate version complete with a white chocolate Mike circa University disc. Just as we finished eating, the dance party in front of the Castle was getting started. A DJ was setting up to keep people awake and moving as they entered the home stretch. We danced out way down Main Street and started the long trek back to our car at Epcot. Taking the monorail in that time of night was fun though – seeing Epcot getting spruced up for guests the next day.

All in all, I am glad I went and experienced one of the 24 hour events though I don’t know that I’d need to attend another one. A fun novelty definitely but not something I need to do again.

The Glamour of Train Travel

From Goodreads

I love traveling by train. We took it down to New York City for my 18th birthday and I fell in love. On my first trip to France, a few months later, we did the overnight train from Paris to Toulouse and even had a berth on that train, sleeping three high in the tiniest room imaginable. It was like an adventure and we had so much fun trying to shove our 6 almost to bursting suitcases into the compartment. When I studied abroad, the train was our way of getting around England and we even took the train to Paris from Waterloo (though the Chunnel was less than cool – I mean, it is just one long tunnel after all). I often did the overnight train from Chicago home during my years in Ann Arbor. This was mostly brought on by cheap train fares and my need to avoid air travel for a bit after several really bad flights in and our of Baltimore during my undergrad years. Plus, there is something so wonderful about the train. Settling into your larger seat with leg room, plugging in your lap top and watching episodes of West Wing as you cross Indiana and Ohio. You can see the landscape too, traveling at Christmas was wonderful; seeing the decorations on the houses, catching glimpses of the trees lit and parties happening as the train goes through people’s backyards. There is something wonderfully voyeuristic about train travel in that way.

So, imagine my excitement when I was looking for my Travel/Geography book for the summer challenge when an internet search led me to Paul Theroux’s The Great Railway Bazaar. Theroux gets on a train in London and goes all the way to Japan and back traveling as much by train as possible. He does this in the early 1970s so the book is quite dated but the magic of train travel never gets old. Theroux is quite likeable as a traveler and willing to speak to his fellow passengers and conductors, to learn as much about where he is as he can. Something the reader must appreciate because the entire book then feels like you’re traveling alongside Theroux.

He crushes a few dreams of mine. Apparently, at least in the 1970s, The Orient Express has lost a lot of the glamour you think it should have and that decades of fiction have saturated it with. You learn that the idea of the Trans-Siberian Railway, the longest in the world at over 6,000 miles is a better idea on paper than in reality. Or I wonder if doing the Trans-Siberian in the dead of December on your last leg of your journey when all you want to do is get home was perhaps Theroux’s problem at that point. Because for the most part, he’s an enthusiastic traveler who braves the unstable railways of a Vietnam not quite out of the war yet, who willing goes off the beaten path to see what he can find. He’s a lot braver than I would be so as a reader, I get to experience things I wouldn’t if I’d tried this trip myself.

I did find myself wondering what this trip would be like now, almost forty years since Theroux made it. Are the cars on the Indian Railways still as posh? Are the dining cars still just noodle booths throughout much of Southeast Asia? What are your companions like on the Trans-Siberian now that communism has failed in Russia? It would be a fun experiment – a lot more expensive these days I imagine than in the 1970s when it seems to have been fairly cheap to travel by rail (and still is in Europe so maybe this holds true everywhere?). Perhaps some day I’ll have four months to spare to try to navigate two continents by train. One can only hope.

Greetings from Denver

The last half of April was a whirlwind of traveling for vacation and traveling for work. It has left me exhausted and sick as a dog. To top off my tour, my flight out of Denver back to North Dakota was cancelled last night as North Dakota was experiencing some lovely spring weather (aka a blizzard dumping a ton of snow and accompanied with strong winds). It was actually a relief when they cancelled my flight as I did not want to fly a 30-seat turbo prop plane into that weather.

So luckily I have friends in Denver, the ones I’d just stayed with the weekend before during my mini vacation over Easter, who agreed to come get poor stranded me at the airport. They had been spending the day up in the mountains though so I had some time to kill. As my cold got progressively worse, I entertained myself by watching the arrivals area at the Denver International Airport. It reminded me of my many viewings of Love Actually. All I needed was a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and a comfy blanket to make the comparison complete. It’s funny but there really IS nothing more fabulous than watching an arrivals gate at an airport. People are inevitably happy, laughing, and smiling. No matter what bad things might happen in the next few minutes, what arguments might arise as these people make their way to the cars, buses and taxis awaiting them, for those first few moments, life is good.

It was enough to make me feel less rotten for a second. And then I realized I couldn’t breathe through my nose again and went to hunt up another tissue from my dwindling supply that I had with me.

I did finish a book on my travels that I need to write up and review for you. I also have been meaning to write my impressions of the new Jane Eyre movie up for you as I saw it last weekend when I was in Denver. I’ll add it to my growing to-do list.