Browsing Archives for November 2009

The Old Gimlet Eye

November 12th, 2009

Last weekend we attended a little party at a neighbor’s house and I brought the ingredients to make vodka gimlets.  I have wanted to try making this drink ever since I did some research on the word ‘gimlet’ for the breathlessly exciting segment of my blog known as ‘word o’ whenever‘ which used to be called ‘word o’ the week’, but things quickly went down the drain when I realized that I could not keep up with the relentless demand every seven days of finding a new word, learning the definition, re-writing the definition in my own words… and see… SEE… SEE how uninteresting that is!  I almost fell into a coma just writing about it!  Imagine trying to actually DO that every week!  Maybe I should have called it ‘word o’ the WEAK’.  Strangely, as soon as I let myself off the hook (at which I am an expert) and changed the name from ‘word o’ the week’  to ‘word o’ whenever‘, I suddenly cared again!

Go Figure!

I love making my own rules!


I was searching for something to wear to this little shindig. For some reason the usual ensemble of jeans, t-shirt, and ratty sweater was not going to do. I ransacked my closet for something just a tad more interesting. Something that did not shout forty one year old, rapidly decroding, matronly, flesh packet. I was hoping instead to find something that said





But no too TRENDY!

But sort-of TRENDY!

How about TRENDSETTER!?!


How about MOTHER and yet so not a MOTHER!

What I really was looking for was an outfit that said - VODKA GIMLET!

I found it!

My mom’s orange double knit polyester evening gown with a floral festooned coordinating jacket!

And LOOK!  You can also use the jacket for a Thanksgiving tablecloth!

Or draperies!

Or an area rug!

Or a very festive wall hanging!

To make a vodka gimlet, you will need vodka, limes and sweetened lime juice.

My friend Kim will demonstrate how you make the gimlets (against her will I might add).

Basically there is measuring….

And pouring into an improvised shaker.

And shaking with your hand over the top of the cup.

Because our neighbors did not have a ‘real’ shaker.

In fact, no one at the party owned a shaker.

This completely shaker-less world in which I live caused me to ask the following searing questions…

Who does buy those shakers?

And what kind of people are they?

And why don’t I know any of them?

And how do I find them?

And are the people who have shakers in the shapes of penguins and race cars a subset of shaker owners?

Or are they all the same group?

Then Kim squeezed a lime around the rim of the glasses…

And poured the gimlets into martini glasses with lime wedges on the sides.

You can find the recipe that we used here.

And then I gave the old gimlet eye to the CD.  Actually – that is not much of a gimlet eye… that is more of a ‘withering’ look.  I can do a much better gimlet eye.  You’ll just have to trust me on that.

And please note the fabulous belt!

Do I not totally rock that belt!

Where is the decroding matronly 41 year old flesh packet?

Where I ask you?

It is impossible to decrode while wearing that belt!  It is like a magic belt! Plus it is so unbearably hot to wear two layers of double knit polyester against your waist that you can literally feel the flesh packet melting off of you.

Bring back the polyester double knit!

Such a multi-faceted fabric…

Hot, thick, sturdy, itchy, fabulously versatile, and just plain uncomfortable too.

The perfect fabric for evening wear!


The Evolution of Man

November 11th, 2009

The train stations in London and Paris are some of the most architecturally pleasing structures I have ever had the pleasure of frantically walking through, desperately worried that I was going to lose one of my sons, wishing my crazed husband would just slow the hell down, and wondering if I was ever going to get to buy a cup of coffee or a buttery pastry at one of the little shops that line the long corridors of the stations.  We spent most of our time in Europe either in the stations or on the trains (subway, metro, tube, underground, railway etc).  Just getting from one place to another in London and Paris was a big part of the adventure for our family, as in our small town the only public transit system –  is the school bus.  


We purchased six tickets called the ‘London Pass with Travel’ several weeks before we left on our trip.  The London Pass is a plastic card that got us into just about every attraction in London and included all of our daily travel on the buses, tube and trains for one price.  If you can manage to see two sites a day, you will break even with this card, but if you can get to three or four or five or SIX sites a day, you begin to see the attractions for free.  Which would explain the frantic pace that the CD kept us all on while we were there.  Once we broke the three attractions barrier, we were suddenly on a free vacation!  It did not matter if we were starving, exhausted, lost, dehydrated, dejected, mute, blind, deaf, unable to walk, shaking violently, screaming, sobbing, broken to bits, wailing and waving our hands like lunatics, hallucinating, comatose, or dead – we were still going to see one more attraction.. one more.. ONE MORE… C’MON KIDS!  It’s FREE!  




And so we got back on the subway and rode from one end of London to the other – attempting to see everything that we possibly could.  Not because we wanted to, not because it was interesting to us, and certainly not because we had ever even heard of it, but because it was on the London Pass and it was now FREE.

By the way, ‘Mind the gap’ is a phrase that you will hear every nineteen seconds while you are in the London subway stations.    It is a lovely way of saying, ‘Hey you!… Yeah you… You big dummy!… Watch what you’re doing!  And don’t fall in the hole between the train and the platform when you step onto the train!’



Because of the London Pass with Travel – we spent an enormous amount of time on the tube.  In fact, I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that we spent most of our time in London on the tube.  London is a huge city and the attractions are far flung.  We would descend into the bowels of the subway, board the underground trains, disembark, crawl back to the surface amid huge throngs of people, walk for a few blocks to our destination, tour the site, and then it was right back to the subway to see the next site.  As you can see in the above pic – it was plaid shorts day on the London Underground.  


A few interesting London Subway moments…

At one point I stopped briefly in a narrow corridor to look for my youngest son and a twenty something male behind me said ‘Stop right there why don’t you?” in that extreme, glib, understated English way.  I was causing a traffic jam, but my baby!  Anyway – his very nice British accent and his aloof, emotionless manner was so pleasing, that I didn’t even mind his annoyance with me.  

Another time I watched a young ‘punk’ couple step onto an escalator.  The guy hurled himself down the steps as it was not a busy time of day.  The girl screamed at him from the top of the escalator ‘Wait the f… up!” The guy came to an absolute stand still and turned to wait for her as she tromped down the stairs with her spiky hair and her biker boots making an absolute statement of punk girl rage.  It was a very edgy London moment for me.  I savored it.   





We also rode the railway, every day on our commute from Pete and Ilona’s house in the suburbs, to the city.  This is a London train station called King’s Cross which is the same station that Harry Potter used to board the Hogwart’s Express.  It was under construction while we were there.





But the construction did not prevent us from finding Platform Nine and Three Quarters and disappearing into Harry’s world for a few seconds… even if it wasn’t on the London Pass.



I think if I ever visit London again, I will purchase a ticket on a tour bus that drops people at the various destinations and picks them up every hour to take them somewhere else.  That way, we could actually see the city as we were travelling from place to place.  Riding on the underground was fun, but it would have been nice to see the ‘upperground’ too.




Getting in and out of the stations and on and off the trains was also an adventure in insanity for a bunch of small town Kansans.  Jack (my seven year old) rode for free, but in order to get him past the turnstiles, he had to walk in front of me and we both had to hurry through the gate at the same time  I would slide the ticket into a slot and wait for it to pop up at another location. I then had to grab my ticket, hustle through the turnstile in 1.9 seconds, all the while pushing Jack ahead of me before the gates locked up again.  By the end of our time in London, Jack and I were a well oiled machine in taking on those turnstiles and making it through with time to spare.




On another occasion, it was rush hour and the subways were packed.  We were trying to get to St Pancras to catch the Eurostar to Paris.  We had all of our luggage with us, making us a very unwieldy group.  A train came, and I boarded first, turning around to see my entire family still standing on the platform.  There was no time for me to get back off or for them to get on.  All I could do was watch as the door shut and my husband shouted, “We will catch up with you later!”  I was in a complete panic. I was on a subway in a strange city.  We did not have cell phones as the international call plan is extremely expensive.  I am hurtling through a tunnel miles away from my entire family.  When the train stopped, I made the decision to get off, hoping that when the next train arrived, I would see my family and be able to jump on with them. Amazingly, that is exactly what happened!  The next train arrived, there were my kids, my husband, our luggage, all visible through the windows of the train.  I hopped on and we continued our journey to St Pancras together.  Phew!  



This is St Pancras Station where we eventually boarded the Eurostar to Paris.  This station literally throngs with people.  It is crazy and confusing, but also a very beautiful and dynamic space. 






We left London and the London Pass behind and boarded the Eurostar, the high speed train that goes underneath the English channel.  

We thought that the Eurostar would be fancy, as the tickets cost approximately one arm and one leg, but it was not fancy, at least not our seats.  It was however, very fast. The entire trip from the center of London at St. Pancras to the Gare Du Nord station in central Paris – took less than three hours.  My children were very disappointed to discover that the trip did not include any sightings of whales.   



And then you arrive in Paris…



And everything changes…




As you can see, the architecture is very different.  There is also a damn site more sunshine and color (retro green, gold and black). You feel like you are in a 1940′s movie set.  Also – there is the panicky realizations that English is not the language of choice.  But do not fear!  The Paris Eurostar station comes with helpful people that stand at central kiosks and are there just to assist helpless travelers.  It still took us over an hour to figure out how to get from this station to our hotel, but we would still be there if we had not been assisted by several genuinely helpful and friendly Parisians.  





This is a Paris subway.  

Shown here with fierce plaid shorts and the unbelievably brave decision to mix it up with pink and navy stripes.





The platforms are very beautiful and absolutely covered in thick subway tiles…




And glamorous posters….






Gorgeous trim details…






Even the ceilings are covered in tile.






Entertainers of all ages hop on and off the Paris subways and sing for their supper. This child was singing ‘La Bamba’. He had a microphone, music player and an amplifier on a small cart with wheels. After his song, he passed a cup around. These Metro musicians were always a little nervous, looking for a police officer out of the corner of their eyes and ready to disembark at the first sign of trouble. I saw panhandlers of all types on the run from the law in various parts of Paris with their mountains of Eiffel Tower key chains rattling as they fled, or their music carts beating in time behind them.


After a few days in Paris it was back on board the Eurostar for the last leg of our trip in the English countryside.

And yes, it was striped shirt day on the Eurostar.  And no, I did not make them wear them.  And yes, I enjoyed the matching shirts thoroughly.


Can we leave the Eurostar without a visit to the dining car?

Not in this family you can’t.  






And then we rented a car… and took a crash course in round-abouts and driving on the wrong side of the road.
But that is a story for another day.