Thursday, January 1, 2009

2009: Lucky and Looking Ahead

The Chinese calendar rules 2009 the year of the Ox, but this year I'm taking a few pointers from the elephant, too.

Elephants are signs of luck and longevity in India and China cultures. Many elephant statues are made of jade, thought to have its own luck providing powers, and a stone I hold near to my heart. Elephants are known to be "large and powerful, intelligent, useful, and long-lived" thus leading the pack as a symbol of strength, wisdom, happiness, and longevity. Elephants are religious symbols in the Hindu faith; in Sri Lanka, crawling under an elephant's belly is said to protect you from the evil eye and drive away your protects you from the evil eye while driving away fears.

There is a wide-spread belief that a lucky elephant holds its trunk pointed up. I plan to follow the elephant's luck and always walk with my head held high and looking ahead in 2009.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008: Year in Review

In approximately 12 hours, we'll be celebrating the start of a new year and saying goodbye to a forgettable 2008.

I would spend time reviewing the year and personally saying goodbye to the bullshit that I survived, but instead of recapping it's best to look forward. There were some positives, which I'll gladly highlight:

Travel: Rome, Nantucket, London, New York, San Francisco, Washington, DC and more...
Job: I'm fortunate to have a dream job
Career: I'm fortunate that my dream job is aligned with my career goals, and there is more coming...
Family and Friends: The best.
America: President-elect Barack Obama

I can say I'm eager to enter 2009 - I'm excited about the possibilities and the adventures that lie ahead. I'm entering the new year making one promise to myself: To say "yes" a little more and take advantage of all of life's possibilities.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Concept: One Day Coast-to-Coast Travel

Airlines are having intense fare sales right now and it got me thinking, "where could I go, and how much can I really afford to spend?"

At dinner last night I was chatting with a friend about Virgin America's new flights from Boston. For a limited time, Virgin America is offering discounted one-way fares on Boston flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco to celebrate their new route.

"For that fare, you can fly out that morning, have dinner in L.A. and then fly back that night for less than you'd spend at a nice dinner in Boston," my friend said.


That would be rather fun, and different. If I take the 7 a.m. flight to Los Angeles I arrive at 10:35 a.m. I can spend the day playing in L.A. then take the 9:15 p.m. flight back and be at work the next day. It's an intriguing concept...

Virgin America is famous for its in-flight services, so the long coast-to-coast flight wouldn't seem so bad given the computer games, in-flight chat systems and mini-bars on the plane. It would be fun to say I flew to L.A. for dinner.

I may not be Julia Roberts, but that doesn't mean I can't portray "Pretty Woman".

Anyone want in on this crazy idea?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

On Vacation: Day 2

I am off of work - or at least, off of the office - until Jan. 5. I have one week to finish off this year - and what a year it's been.

Today, I woke up to grey skies and raindrops. I made a cup of coffee, checked email, balanced my checkbook and organized my bills. BFF called - she's in NYC with her in-laws (who are from France) and just left Stage Deli - one of my favorites. I miss New York - can't wait to go in a few weeks.

Flipping through the channels, I tuned into the original, "Annie" - a classic. I love Albert Finney.

The movie ended and I opted for a run. I don't mind running in the rain - the streets are clearer and so is my mind. I ran 2.3 miles and came home. Well, I walked half of that distance, but made an effort to run the hills and walk the flats.

Home, with dye on my hair. I refuse to go into 2009 with greys. Meeting my friend Undercover Blonde for cocktails at 5pm.

Time to wash the dye out.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Longing for Elsewhere

Yesterday was the perfect day in the neighborhood. The sidewalks were empty, the streets were quiet. Not a rumble around. It seemed like the entire neighborhood was mine. Today, it's all back to normal.

People are walking aimlessly and paying no attention to the other people on the street. Not walking, slowly strolling. Not paying attention, particularly to the little old lady using a walker to get down the icy streets she's known since she arrived off the boat 80 years ago.

I long for somewhere else.

I miss the sound of the sun setting in Selema, Portugal over the cliff rocks and the slow pour of a Chianti from a sidewalk cafe in Rome. If I close my eyes I can see the bright lights of Paris and the whitewashed buildings of Morocco. It's time to travel again...

Happy Birthday, Dad

"I'm gonna watch you shine
Gonna watch you grow
Gonna paint a sign
So you'll always know
As long as one and one is two
There could never be a father
Who loved his daughter more than I love you"

-Paul Simon, "Father and Daughter"

And Then There Was Burberry

I woke today determined to get mine... whatever that may be. Following the rose-throwing attacks of yesterday, I was set to make things even today - I needed to feel better and beautiful, and save a couple dollars doing so. First stop: Banana Republic.

I had recently purchased myself a couple pairs of my favorite Banana Republic pants and a cape/sweater/shawl, only to learn this morning that all three items were now an additional 30% off the sale price. I waited patiently outside the front doors of Banana Republic and was greeted immediately at 10 a.m. by the store manager, who graciously helped me. We returned all the items and re-purchased them at the discounted price. Total amount of money saved: $150.

Next stop: Saks Fifth Avenue. Normally, I don't find anything I need at Saks, but I was in the mood to just browse. When I don't feel like buying, I go to Saks and trade buying for trying. I usually model something in the form of a Valentino handbag, but as I entered the department store all bets were off, for Saks was having a ridiculous sale. I opted for the gloves, handbag and accessories department. I need new gloves, so I figured what the hell...

I walked the isles feeling the cashmere and wool blends, trying on gloves and hats and debating the colors that would go best with the items in my closet. Black is obvious. I hate pink. Purple would be great, but the only purple gloves they had weren't to my liking. Maybe if I get a purple scarf the purple gloves won't look so bad. New approach: Find purple scarf.

Scarf FOUND! Scarf snatched by faster shopper. Dammit. It's a sign, I thought, and started toward the sunglasses case. I shouldn't spend any money on sunglasses - I break them or lose them. Always. But laying there on top of the sunglasses case was a rich purple cable-knit scarf. Hm. I picked it up and quickly realized it wasn't just any lush purple cable-knit scarf, but it was the Burberry cable-knit cashmere/wool purple scarf that I had adored.

It was just lying there, untouched and unharmed. No kinks in the yarn or pulls in the knit. Just the perfect extra-long scarf. And it was on sale.

Original price: $595
Sale price on tag: $359
Price with discounts: $108
Total savings: $487

I was on a high, so I held the scarf close and moved along to make sure I didn't miss anything else this spectacular. I grabbed one last item, which remains in the box. It's a gift for a friend who reads this blog often. One of her favorite designers was on sale today so I bought an early-birthday present (with returnable gift card) - I couldn't pass up the price, and this friend would appreciate a good sale.

New Day, New Shopping

They are calling it the bigger-than-Black-Friday shopping day. I am calling it, "get your ass out of bed and go shopping day!"

It's 8 a.m. and I've already purchased a white wool blazer and black sequin top. I've updated the flight and travel news blog (news: the DOT will reduce the number of flights allowed at New York's LaGuardia airport) checked my email for any last-minute content crisis (there are none) and called Dad to wish him a happy birthday (he was already in the car heading to the malls).

It's time to get up and get shopping - or at the very least, window shop my little heart out.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The (Un)Christmas Spirit

I often wonder what goes through people's minds, especially around the holidays.

I woke today and turned on the news. Lead story: Gunman in Santa Suit Kills Three at L.A. Party. I won't dignify the title with a link to the story, because it's just wrong. What could have been so wrong with this person? As I left the apartment today, I found myself asking the same question about people I ran into on the street.

I left my apartment at 1:30 and made my way to the 2:20 p.m. showing of "Slumdog Millionaire." I had my iPod on and turned up louder than usual... maybe it was because I really loved the song that played on 'shuffle' mode, maybe because I was subconsciously tuning out the rest of the world. I made it to the end of the block and a white pick-up truck was approaching. A 20-something year-old man slowed down and waved a bouquet of roses at me. I turned around to see who was behind me. He kept yelling something, but I couldn't hear. I shook my head and held up one finger - the universal 'one minute' signal - so I could turn down the music. Maybe he was looking for someone? Maybe he was lost and needed directions.

As I took the earplugs out of my ears in enough time to hear him yell, "...ungrateful bitch! Merry fucking Christmas!" just as he threw a bouquet of one dozen roses at my head. The roses landed in the middle of the street and I just stared at them.

Stunned and confused, I picked up the roses in hopes of finding a card with an address. No card. No address. I placed the roses on the snow bank and walked off. There was something so un-friendly about the beautiful bouquet that I couldn't take them with me. I could have given them to a homeless person, but something stung inside and I couldn't bring myself to walk with them.

I walked to the movie theater wondering what could have possibly happened that this man thought it was OK to throw roses at me and call me an ungrateful bitch. Maybe his girlfriend just left him. Or his wife. Maybe he had a fight with his family. Maybe there was no one else to give the roses to. Maybe he should have just thrown them out.

I arrived at the movie theater and found a quiet spot on the left side near the wall. It was a row with only two seats, so I was either going to get lucky and have the seat next to me for myself, or have to share the row with a stranger. Enter: the stranger. He was a nice enough older man, and we made small talk for three-minutes until the lights went down.

The theater went dark, and I began to cry. I don't know why. What a year it's been. I'm tired. Maybe I was crying because I miss my family. Maybe I was crying because I don't. Maybe I shed a few tears because the first time I received flowers from a man this year, he was a stranger in a pick-up truck who called me an ungrateful bitch. There was a part of me this year who craved a warm body next to me in bed. Many of my friends say I have a life they envy - carefree and no strings attached. There is a simple pleasure to being unattached, but that same part of me wished I woke up this morning to a loved one handing me a gift. Instead, a stranger threw thorns.

I had a voicemail after the movie. It was one of my cousins in New York calling to tell me she missed me. I miss her, too. I don't regret not driving to New York this year, but I will make a concerted effort to get there more next year.

I'm home, safe and sound. I have a bottle of Barolo breathing and an amber candle scenting my apartment. I'll throw in a frozen pizza for dinner and enjoy the comforts of my home, sweet home.

Lyrics of the Day

Merry Christmas, Sis.

"Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light
From now on,
our troubles will be out of sight"

-Sung by Judy Garland, from the movie "Meet Me in St. Louis"

Merry Christmas to All

When I woke up yesterday morning, I looked at NORAD to track Santa's whereabouts.

At about 7:30 a.m., Santa was off the coast of Russia.

I spent most of Christmas Eve working on last-minute work items before heading over to my dear friend's house for an Italian feast with the kids. I've known the family for 10 years, helped raise the kids and love Christmas traditions with the family. I typically spend Christmas in upstate New York with my uncle, aunts, cousins and kids, but this year I'm at home. The weather forecast isn't particularly wonderful and I'm a bad driver on a good day, so we figured out the odds and decided it was better to just stay put. So, I stay...

I waited oh-so-patiently for the cab I called 40 minutes ago to pick me up. Apparently, the cab meant for me picked up another passenger... good thing I called back to find out where the cab I was promised in 10 minutes was in route. The dispatcher apologized and said another cab was on its way. Patiently, I wait... and the UPS man appears.

A big brown box. My name. Banana Republic. Santa had come early! If the first cab had been on time, I would have missed my Banana Republic early-delivery. In the box: one cashmere sweater, one sweater-cape, two pairs of favorite pants. There was no time to open the package because the new cab was approaching.

Christmas morning: Coffee in hand. "A Christmas Story" on TBS. Big brown box from Banana Republic waiting to be opened ... and it's just for me.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Toast to the Holidays

What's more fun than festive cocktails at holiday season? Laughing (or laughing at) the stupid things you (or your co-workers/friends) said, thanks to the festive cocktails.

New York Times writer Glenn Eichler penned a piece about the great things that come out of people's mouth after a couple adult beverages. His opinion piece, "Really, It's the Booze Talking," Eichler offers up some of his favorite alcohol-enhanced comments of the year past.

Sadly, I'm quite certain some of these lines came from my mouth just last week...

Glenn, if you're reading, stop following me around with a tape recorder. The line about living next door for 10 years was an awesome conversation starter (even though I know where I've lived for 10 years). And my friends did confirm that I was wearing pants at the holiday party.

Disclaimer: I firmly believe that one shouldn't be held responsible for what one says after one has been drinking with one's co-workers. Once alcohol enters the room, all bets are off.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday Lines in the Neighborhood

The neighborhood is hard at work preparing for tomorrow night's big feast. Around here, Christmas Eve is the second-biggest night of the year (second only to St. Anthony's Feast).

The turkey is primed, the quail is stuffed, the lamb is braised, the ham is plumped, the fish is marinating, the vegetables are stewing. Lines of people grace the streets waiting for their favorite coffee beans, candy for the kids, pastries for the adults, and mistletoe to hang at the door.

Most people are friendly and step out of line to help the older patrons pass by on the icing sidewalks. Some younger kids still don't appreciate the older generation. It doesn't ruin the mood. Neighbors wave and wish one another a merry Christmas. Hands are extended for good greetings and warm wishes. Smiles are everywhere, mainly among the wrinkled faces of the grandparents who wait anxiously for their families to dine together around the dinner table - a common tradition that sometimes gets lost throughout the year, but always finds it way back at Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Holidays at Home: Loneliness or Necessary?

Is it a bad sign that this holiday season, I just want to curl up on my sofa in front of the TV, open a good bottle of wine and watch old movies? thinks something is wrong with this...

They've labeled my 'hibernation period' as loneliness. I call it necessary.
I love my family. They are the most important thing in life. My friends in Boston have extended invitations to spend the holidays with their families. But for a solid 24-hours, I think there is nothing more peaceful than time alone.

I love walking around the neighborhood on an empty morning when no one is around. The streets are calm and clean, and it's quiet. It's meditative and reflective. It's what I'm doing this Christmas.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Playlist: Snowed In

When you're stuck indoors...the Sunday "Snowed In" playlist.

From the Bedroom: Early Sunday Morning

The snow is stuck to my window screen, blocking the magical view of the city I love to gaze at from my bedroom window. The wind swooshes past the windows sending shivers through the old wood of the apartment building. It's winter in Boston.

I joined "date night" with my friend and her husband last night. Mo at the convenience store told me I looked nice when I stopped in for a bottle of wine to bring home and sip after dinner.

Sleep is at a minimum again these days. I'm longing for another trip, but New York City will be the next escape.

Debating laying in bed a little longer, or admitting defeat to the night and braving this cold, windy and snowy Sunday...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

You Know You've Had Too Much to Drink When...

  • You have to ask "who left the lights on?" when you wake up in the morning, and you live alone, and there is no one else in the apartment.
  • You don't remember where you put your pants, but you can swear you walked home with pants on.
  • You wake up laying diagonally across the bed with no pillows and only one sock on your foot, and wonder why you can't move your neck.
  • You want to throw things at the guy downstairs who is shoveling the snow because every time he hurls the snow to the curb, the sound hurts your brain. (thank you, nice man, for shoveling the snow.)
  • You wonder where the extra $20 came from, and then decide it's better that you not know.
p.s. Good news: I found my pants. They were in the bathtub... which is an entirely other problem, I presume, but I'm in no shape to work through that problem today.

New York, New York

Thanks to JetBlue's 9-hour sale, me and the gals are heading to NYC for a long weekend in January! The airline tickets were only $80 round-trip. That means more money to spend on a nice hotel.

NYC in the snow - one of my favorite times of year to visit the city.

Walks around Rock Center.
Hot knishes from the street cart.
Off-Broadway plays.
Late-night cocktail lounges.
Foggy windows in the bar at the Marriott Marquis.
Central Park.
New York.

These vagabond shoes, are longing to stray Right through the very heart of it - New York, New York...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Meat of the Matter

How else will we connect if we don't put ourselves in the position to connect? That is the question my friends have posed to me since the announcement of my new crush.

My friends have explained the importance of making myself noticed by the butcher. So today at lunch, I walked with Bail down to the butcher shop to get meat. Bail and her husband are meat lovers and welcomed the opportunity to help me meet the meat man. We walked into the butcher shop and stood among at least a dozen people, also waiting for their meat. After about 15 minutes we thought it might be better (and more to my benefit) to come back later.

Back at the office, I was informed this plan is due to fail. Why would Bail go in for her own meat when I can get the meat for her and meet the meat man? One problem: I don't know the first thing about meat.

We busted out the Great Meat Book and Bail made her list:

- One rabbit cut into five or six pieces.

- Two lamb shanks.

- Four pounds of stock bones/joints.

- A single marrow bone split down the middle.

- One hanger steak

I stood staring at this meat list and thought, "Who can eat all this meat?" But I don't know from meat, so off I went in search of the meat.

The meat market was empty, save for the owners and one patron. I walked in and the meat man greeted me,

"Oh, you came back?" he said.

"Yes, of course." I said.

"What can I get you?"

I rattled off my list.
Rabbit? Yes. Lamb shanks? Yes. Stock bones/joints? No. Single marrow? No. (screw the hanger steak, I thought).

Off he went to prepare my meat.

He did not address me by my name. He cut the meat, he wrapped it up. He said, "Can I get you anything else?"

(you can get me a few things, lover, but they aren't found in that freezer)

"Nope, I think that's it."

He calculated the total.

"Anything else?" he asked again.

(think, quick, witty, something)

"Nope." I said.

"$42" he said.

I handed over my money. He said 'Good to see you,' and off I went with my bag of meat.

Home now... thinking of all the things I should have said...

So it got me thinking? Why do women wait for the signals before acting on their impulse? What would happen if we just acted and hoped for the best? Who is to say what the right signals are? If we wait too long, do we miss them?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

How Did He Know My Name?

I've lived in the neighborhood for 11 years. Same apartment. Same landlord. Same neighbors. This block is one of the last dying breeds in the 'hood.

For 11 years, I've said hello to the man who owns the fruit stand, the family who owns the coffee shop, the cooks at the restaurant, and the butchers next door. Admittedly, I look forward to saying hello to the butcher next door.

For 11 years, the response has been "Hi, honey," "Hi, sweetheart," "Hi, dear," - it depends on who is doing the hellos, and it's very old-school Italian. I would find it insulting if an average Joe off the street greeted me with "sweetie", but from him, I don't seem to mind. For 11 years, it's never bothered me.

Finally, after 11 years, he greeted me with my name. Instead of "sweetheart", "cutie," "love," or "dear," I was me. It stopped me in my tracks. Not only because the sound of my name sounded perfect from his mouth, but also because I have no idea his name!

In 11 years, I've never walked into the butcher store. I don't have a problem with meat. I just don't know how to order it. Or what to order. Or what to cook. Or how to cook it. So, I never went in to the store. For 11 years I walked by, and was always greeted with a hello. Now, it's personal.

How did he know my name?