Menu Of Life
Become A Fan

View My Stats blogarama - the blog directory Signup to Bukisa, Get Paid For Publishing your Knowledge!

A Road By Any Other Name

I have spent the last three days touring Northern Italy. Before you get too excited and start expecting colorful accounts of local culture and cuisine I must warn you that 90% of that time has been spent hurtling along autostradas in a miniscule Fiat. Most of the main artery roads in this region are only two lanes wide however there is no traffic because the Italians have a system: All trucks stay in the slow lane BY LAW and everyone else travels at 150 K in the fast lane. If you don't have the stomach for that you can sit in the slow lane doing 50 K with the trucks. No overtaking except by cars and on the LEFT ONLY. The system actually works because EVERYONE follows the rules. Unlike Florida where the system seems to be pick a lane, travel any speed you want, don't use your indicators and overtake constantly on whatever side takes your fancy. If that methodology is ever adopted here the whole country will be in gridlock.

My favorite travel quote is " Tourists don't know where they've been and Travelers don't know where they're going" (Theroux.) I'm not sure I fall into either category on this trip, but I've been FAR less concerned about where I've been OR where I'm going than I have about arriving in one piece. My furniture supplier (and driver) has spent the majority of our fast lane experience dialing his cell phone or fiddling with the GPS. By the time we got to the factories I was a jittering wreck and having knocked back a welcome shot of expresso, even more hyper than usual. After examining expert craftsmanship and correcting a few minor errors it was back in the car for another two hours of TORTURE to the next location. We went to Verona but I didn't see the Teatro Romano and we went to Padova but I didn't see the oldest university in the world. So despite a delicious rustic pizza in a restaurant patronized only by locals I was feeling VERY deprived. Thankfully yesterday afternoon the supplier took pity on me and drove me (slowly) through some picturesque little towns in the Friuli area. From a castle high on a hill, gazing down at ancient stone houses with red roofs and stunning landscape I was swept off my feet by the perfection of it all and could finally ask
" Did my heart love till now?"

Today my reward for surviving another hair-raising re-run of Speed without a word of complaint, is a trip to a local food store. Cutting me loose in a place stuffed with parma hams, speciality pastas and chocolates is going to be disastrous for my waistline and my baggage allowance but I DON"T CARE. I plan to spend a small fortune on things to take home so that next weekend I can Dish It Up Italian style. Does that make me a traveler or a tourist?

Somewhere in Northern Italy


Sister Jude of the Traveling Rants

Delta Flight 98 to JFK is still on the runway and I have already had enough of this journey. Bad weather is the arch enemy of efficient airport operations and now seems to be a regular feature of our lives regardless of what season we are traveling in. This April day was no exception; torrential rain started at 5 am, a good indication of the trials ahead and ensuring a hair-raising but slow ride to the airport.

I have lived in Florida for ten years but this is my first departure from Fort Lauderdale and it's not an experience I am planning to repeat. Terminal 2 makes some of the third world airports I have been in look like NASA. Checking in was sheer TORTURE, not enough staff and broken self service stations. The departure lounge food outlets are HORRIBLE, no Starbucks in sight so I paid $11 for a (bone dry) tropical chicken sandwich and undrinkable coffee. The only tropical thing about the sandwich was the fact that it was assembled in South Florida. The Tannoy system wasn't working properly so the announcers were all talking over each other and it was impossible to hear your flight being called. There wasn't a spare seat anywhere (unless you were willing to sit next to a tantrum throwing toddler.) As the airport had been closed for two hours (due to lightening) and many flights delayed or cancelled the lounge resonated with the sound of passengers shouting into their cell phones and DEMANDING to be re-routed so they would not have to spend one second longer in the chaos. 

I realize that all of the above would try the patience of a saint but some passengers are unnecessarily rude, obnoxious and aggressive. I just got my head bitten off by a crusty old retired brigadier type and his pinch faced wife who thought I was trying to cut in front of him when all I was trying to do was make my way through a group waiting to board at the adjacent gate. Even my sincere apology delivered with british accent was not enough to placate them. These people need to get a clue, the british INVENTED queueing we do NOT cut in line.

We are now airborne and moods have improved considerably (probably due to the complimentary wine) Unfortunately I am still digesting the disgusting sandwich so I will not be sampling the exquisite looking chicken cobb salad and fruit plate on offer for lunch. Never mind I am too busy to eat anyway as I have internet service at 35,000 feet! It may still be chaos down on the ground but up here we have blue skies and I'm in cyberspace heaven. Going to make the most of it before the next bout of madness at JFK.


The Problem With Principles

It's all very well announcing huge decisions to change your life for the better but most of us mere mortals cannot sustain these major long term alterations for various reasons. After watching the film Food Inc. I was absolutely adamant that I would make the following changes:
Shop only at Wholefoods and farmers markets.
Eat fish and vegetarian meals at least six nights a week.
NEVER eat meat anywhere unless I knew where it came from.
Never EVER again eat Lean Cuisine or any other processed frozen food.

For three weeks I stuck rigidly to my plan. It didn't seem that hard at first, I got into the routine of shopping on Saturdays and cooking healthy food for the whole week at the weekend. I got very inventive with vegetarian meals and didn't miss meat at all. By week four there was some reckoning to be done:
The increased food bill was unsustainable
I put on SIX pounds from all the extra dairy (that was compensating for a meatless diet.)
I was totally fed up of spending the WHOLE weekend cooking.
My friends thought I was boring and difficult because I wouldn't eat out with them or eat meat at their houses.
The kids came home and didn't want to eat the weird food.

Little by little I found myself returning to my old lifestyle. Just like my resolutions to lose weight and exercise more I had started out with goals that were unrealistic. I should know better. I am well aware that a small long term change is far better than a big short term change. Of course not everyone understands this. My husband for instance was BITTERLY disappointed that my principals were being kicked to the curb because HE wasn't doing ANY of the hard work and he was reaping all the benefits of my gourmet vegetarian meals. He also lost SIX pounds because he wasn't pigging out on the cheese.

I think what I have really learned from all of this is that next time I make a life changing decision I am going to keep my BIG mouth shut during the initial phase while I decide if my plan is both viable and sustainable. Consequently I will not be telling anyone that I am on 1,000 calories a day until I lose ten pounds.


Bad Hair Year

Bad hair day is the understatement of my life.
Someone once told me that the older you get the more you need to spend on your underwear. WHAT NONSENSE! the older you get the less people are going to be seeing your underwear, what they ARE going to be looking at is your hair. Higher maintenance is a sad fact of aging and where hair is concerned this is both costly and time consuming. As of this moment my mop is at an all time low, the result of using a box of (less than) Perfect 10 which not only failed to cover the grey but turned my roots a fabulous shade of day-glo orange. I just could not face buying another dye kit and repeating the whole process so I am ashamed to admit that I have been seen out in public like this for TWO WHOLE WEEKS. I have such lovely friends that no-one breathed a word but I KNOW what they were thinking. Of course now that two weeks have passed I have the day-glo orange stripe PLUS the new grey roots showing through, it really is a most original look. I have been torn between the following solutions to this problem:
a) Go to VERY expensive hairdresser to put it right.
b) Go to cheap hairdresser to put it right and accept the fact that although my hair will look  fine I will have half an inch of black staining on my forehead for a week.
c) Buy some Clairol and try do it again myself.

The expensive option would be the winner but for the fact that I am so fed up of spending a small fortune on something that only lasts a matter of days. Why have we not invented a way to stop hair growing? My new grey growth is like a persistent weed, showing through more or less as soon as I have got rid of the black forehead. So it's off to the cheap hairdresser and then, since it's now summer and I don't wish to subject my friends to my gnarled long and chipped toenails, a pedicure. I really don't have time for all this primping perhaps it would be better to buy a few frillies from Victoria Secret? I could wear them on my head and no-one would even notice my hair.


Designer Dramas Part Deux

One of the hazards of working at VLD in the Fluffie department is the ongoing appearance of things sweet and fattening. The large number of sales reps. that continually beat paths to our door know the way to our hearts is through our (rather large) stomachs. They woo us with muffins, bagels, chocolate covered strawberries and danish pastries. They entice us with Lunch and Learn seminars (more emphasis on the lunch) and offer to take us out for Mohitos and Sushi if we will give them twenty minutes to peddle their wares. This is a pretty effective way to get your product in front of VERY busy people who are bombarded with requests for appointments. Even when our deadlines are looming we still need to eat so we can justify  a few minutes away from the presentation board/keyboard to wolf down a designer salad or a slice of CPK. The problem is we Fluffies are all battling with our weight and our diet efforts are too easily sabotaged by wise salesmen bearing edible gifts. So when a visit is announced a series of shrieks and groans echo through the office (Shrieks of delight at the prospect of something delicious and groans of despair as we all tally the damage to our waistlines.) Another hazard of this phenomena is the fact that we are only eight people in an office of thirty and although we are really good at sharing (well maybe not the chocolate covered strawberries) we haven't quite mastered the loaves and fishes thing. The result being quite a few irritated co-workers who came late to the trough (aka VLD cafe) and found nothing but crumbs. Not all the reps. bring food which is just as well or our department would be 'expanding' at an alarming rate. We also welcome those who make us laugh (our souls need feeding too) and of course those who help us do our jobs well. Most of our regulars know all the rules but for the few that have not yet got the message here are my guidelines for being the perfect sales rep:

1. NEVER EVER EVER show up without an appointment.
2. Don't pester us continually with phone calls. Think of the relationship as a love affair and it's better if we do the chasing. (But don't play hard to get.)
3. If you say you will send the sample THEN SEND THE FLIPPING SAMPLE.
4. Unless it's urgent contact us by e-mail. Calling to find out if the catalogue you mailed arrived does not constitute an emergency.
5. Sometimes we are so busy that even champagne and caviar is not going to get you through the door, be understanding, PUSHY IS NOT GOING TO MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE.
6. If you are drop dead gorgeous we are probably going to see you so we can spend the rest of the day discussing which singleton in the office we can pair you off with. If you are not, bring food.

This blog would not be complete without a word of thanks to all of you who stood by us through all the lean times and kept giving great service even though you hadn't had so much as a sniff of an order for YEARS. The tide has turned and we are delighted that your dedication paid off. Let's eat.


Fortune Cookie

I am not horribly superstitious but I AM risk averse. So despite the fact that all airports are now open and there have been numerous flights completed safely, I am far from thrilled about my trip to Italy on Monday. I tried everything possible to get out of it but to no avail. This evening I was starting to feel a little better about the journey when I arrived home to find the paper from a Fortune Cookie lying in my driveway, this is what it said:
" It is sometimes better to travel hopefully than to arrive."
REALLY?  SAYS WHO? Because there is no question that I DO want to arrive. I am racking my brains to come up with a deeper more positive message in this declaration but I am seriously struggling so if anyone out there can help me out with this one I would be most grateful. I know I am being a bit pathetic and normally I don't have a problem with flying but I have a trust issue with the CAA's decision to (and I quote) "Change the engine tolerance levels for the safe levels of ash ingestion into aircraft engines." In other words let's move the goal posts so we can all get back to making some dosh. I WONDER WHICH EXPERT GENIUS CAME UP WITH THAT IDEA?

It just seems obvious to me that economics and not safety was the driving force behind this change. Most people I have spoken to about this issue feel perfectly confident that there is nothing to fear but then those are probably the same people who happily ride roller-coasters and go pot holing when you couldn't pay me a million dollars to do either. The main reason I don't want to die in a plane crash is that it's too fast. If I am going to die I want all my ducks in a row, so I would choose a long drawn out (but hopefully not too painful) ending with plenty of time to put my affairs in order before drifting away peacefully, over a short and completely unexpected catastrophe. OK enough of these macabre thoughts, I need to focus on something positive like the fact that if I do manage to travel hopefully AND arrive, I will be rewarded (after 4 days inspecting 200 pieces of furniture) with a free day in Venice, the most romantic city in the world. Unfortunately I will be ALONE!


The Parent Trap

There are certain points in the life of raising a child that you look at the product and know you did a good job. These thrilling moments are few and far between because most of us are constantly analyzing our parenting techniques and berating ourselves for the all the horrible mistakes we made. We live for the future when whatever nightmare phase we are going through will be over and then we look back with nostalgia to all those same stages, when our kids were 'so cute'. It seems that every generation finds new and inventive ways to make parenting more challenging (torturous.) My husband is always telling me stories about his own childhood (circa 1955) when his mother dressed them and shoed them out the house with instructions to be home at 6 o clock sharp for dinner. Today sending a nine year old out into the wilderness for the day without a snack and a cell phone (and instructions to call home EVERY HOUR ON THE HOUR) would be grounds for social services to step in and remove the children. Don't get me wrong I am not suggesting that we allow our kids to roam the streets (malls) answerable to no-one and no doubt getting into a ton of trouble but I just find it sad that we gave up so much for so little. Today's parents are judged as bad if they are too involved and worse if they are not involved at all. We are trying to maintain a balance between imposing OUR values and still allowing our kids to fit in with THEIR peer group, a feat that is about as easy as walking on water. 

When I was young my parents never had to worry about what I was doing on the internet or watching on TV. There was no threat to my innocence from Poggles Wood, Jackanory or any of my other favorite TV shows. I had to ask permission to use the house phone and because even local calls cost money, I kept the conversations brief. At work this week I was listening to my friend (with kids younger than mine) agonizing over her worries about the content of text messages being sent by her eleven year old and another friend distraught that her son had just passed his driving test. It brought back all the memories of battling with my sons over time spent on the computer, cell phone usage, sensible driving, curfews and numerous other issues that I am so happy we don't have to discuss anymore. 

I can honestly say that I loved it when we lost power for a few days after hurricanes. We were all trapped at home and in the absence of anything electronic I knew exactly where my boys were and what they were doing; either up in their rooms, reading or outside in the street kicking a ball around with other neighborhood kids. My whole day was spent finding ways to feed everyone with whatever supplies we had in stock that could be adapted for cooking on a gas grill, this was just as creative, challenging and rewarding as anything I do at work. Although I'm sure the novelty would have worn off eventually, I spent a lot of time pondering how much easier it would have been to have had children when this was normal. I know I am guilty of romanticizing the past, the truth is that raising kids was probably tough in any decade if you aspired to doing it well. However what is clearly different now is that parents have little to no control over what their teens are exposed to. Unless you are planning to move your family into an Amish Community then you better face the facts. The minute they have computers and cell phones the battle is on.(Notice I am not even mentioning TV because it is SOoooooo 2009)

I am not completely against all things cyber, I am also aware of how advances in technology have benefited my offspring. They have skills and knowledge that I couldn't have dreamt of at the same age and they seem to be dealing just fine with this crazy world. OK yes they ARE surgically attached to their iphones which is most annoying but on the other hand if not for their input I couldn't have launched this blog. So whatever issues you are dealing with right now take a good look at your kid and if you like what you see enjoy the thrill of that fleeting moment and know that you are doing a pretty good job under the circumstances, because tomorrow for sure you are going to be beating yourself up about SOMETHING.





Saved By The Volcano

I can't be the only person who was thrilled to have a flight cancelled by the events of Ash Thursday. The trouble with making plans of any kind is that more often than not life throws a spanner in the works and you find yourself committed to following through on what no longer makes ANY sense. Not having learned my lesson two months ago (after I tried to incorporate meeting up with my mother in Madrid while on a business trip to Europe) I planned to spend next weekend in London with my father at the end of a furniture inspection trip to Italy. As my departure date approached it became clear that the whole mission was going to be an ABSOLUTE disaster. Aside from the London experience which was not panning out as I had hoped, I would have been leaving behind a really chaotic situation in the office and relying on a colleague (whose friendship I did not want to lose) to clean up the mess. The trouble was I needed a really good excuse to cancel or postpone the trip so I'm sure you can appreciate my euphoria when I woke up on Thursday to the news that every airport in the United Kingdom was closed. It's nice to know that my requests for salvation are heard by the Powers That Be although I concede the solution was a little extreme and I do feel really bad about all the people who got stranded thousands of miles from home. I know of a British family who are currently trapped in Lanzarote. They were renting one of the villas my friend manages and spent two glorious weeks on the island talking non-stop about how they were dreading going home. They LOVED the place SO much they wanted to relocate permanently but as soon as an act of God prevented their return to the misery of their normal existence they became outraged and belligerent about their plight. They have now stopped bickering and are barely speaking to each other. We can probably all relate to this; the end of a perfect vacation and the thought of returning to fifty weeks of hard work before the next one is usually not a cause for celebration. But although it's great to re-unite children, parents, and grand-parents under one roof for two weeks of fun in the sun, having the experience extended INDEFINITELY would be somewhat stressful and it's easy to understand how the volcano might not be the only thing erupting.

If this saga continues much longer there may be a market for life swapping; I can see a good business opportunity in matching stranded families to each others homes/lives. If you are open to change it could be fun. I suspect it is also a good time to buy shares in companies that run boats, trains and limousines.