TCK

Four Days in Alexandria, VA

We arrived in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, on Thursday afternoon. Our first goal was to get some snacks to tide us over until dinner. We decided to walk and I managed to get us lost going the wrong direction and we walked several miles out of the way. From then on we took Ubers.

Three of us from high school met up for a long weekend. We are part of a group who meet up fairly regularly and have a great time together. Because of Covid, we hadn’t seen each other for several years and our rendezvous was way overdue. I flew in from Minnesota, Jen came down on the train from NYC, and Daisy flew up from Florida. Our first night we met up with some local friends at Mia’s Italian Kitchen. I’m sorry to say my food was not the best, but others at the table raved about their choices. So maybe it was just my choice. Anyway the best part was the ceiling.

We stayed up until 2 in the morning catching up at our AirB&B. I don’t know what we talk about or how we can have so much to say but we just never want to stop once we get started. My friends from boarding school are like my family.

The next morning my roommate from the 11th grade was retiring from USAID and she had invited me to her retirement ceremony. I attended virtually and was a little late arriving but it was awesome to see how many people thought she was awesome. Although she spent her whole career at USAID she had a varied and rewarding time, living all over the world.

That night we met up with her and a bunch of other people at our All Class Reunion at the Cosmos Club in Washington, DC. It was the first time we had attended one of these parties since Covid and they mentioned this was was the largest group they have had in several years.

You never know who you will meet at those parties. We ended up down in the lobby with two women named Pam who were several years older. One was from Venezuela, my friend is from Venezuela, and a group of recently graduated kids who were going to Georgetown also were from Venezuela. It never matters if we knew each other at school or what ages we are, we always seem to have a connection and sense of camaraderie.

We managed to pry ourselves away and ended up at a Whiskey Bar in Chinatown. It was chock full of very young people. From there we went back to the AirB&B and only stayed up until 1:30 am. We had a reservation for lunch at 2 pm the next day.

Old Town Alexandria has a Trolley that runs up and down King Street all day long. And it is Free. It was perfect for our needs. We jumped on the trolley and took it all the way down to the waterfront. A few blocks away is Ada’s on the River, a very nice restaurant right on the Potomac River. We managed to get a booth by the window and a view. Lunch was good but don’t remember what I had. I was eyeing the crab cake but at over $40 dollars decided to pass.

I lived in the area for about 14 years so I have seen all the sights a million times but my friends were eager to head to the Mall and take it all in. We took an Uber to the Lincoln Memorial. After watching several wedding photo shoots and saying hello to Mr Lincoln, we headed down the Mall to the Washington Memorial, stopping at the Vietnam Memorial and the WWII Memorial along the way. We can report there are restrooms at the Washington Memorial. We walked by the new African American museum but it was closed. The sun was pretty much gone by this time. Walking up 14th street, we spotted a rooftop bar at the Hotel Washington and decided to go for it.

It was pretty crowded but we pushed through all the way to the far side of the bar and found stools at the window facing the White House. We each had a drink and Daisy said she would pay for it. Haha. I then remembered why I had only been there once before. It cost over $60 for three drinks. And they weren’t fancy drinks. But the view was fabulous.

We had to be out of the AirB&B by 10 am the next morning so we had a fairly early night. Our brunch reservation was for 10:15 am at the Union Street Public House in Old Town. The restaurant was completely empty when we arrived but the bar was full of people watching the first day of FIFA.

From there it was back to the airport and home to reality.

Some shots around Alexandria:

Fun Friday

Not really fun but possibly. Looking at the world through a screen door. That could be fun. Looking at the world full of snow through a screen door. Getting more fun. Funner. Wonderlandy. It is pretty driving around town seeing the trees covered with white.

A light snow fell for most of this week. Reminded me of Moscow where it snowed constantly all winter. A weird thing was that the snow in Moscow never seemed to accumulate. It took me the longest time to figure it out. Big trucks came out at night that looked like giant crabs. They had two arms in the front that scooped all the snow into a feeder and onto a conveyor belt that took it up and dumped it into another truck behind. These trucks took the snow outside the city and dumped it into the countryside so there was never snow on the streets or sidewalks. What you ended up with was mainly ice. Black ice. I fell down a lot. 

These are the trucks that push the snow into big piles so the ‘crab’ trucks can gobble it up.

So I signed up for Social Security. I guess I am ignorant but I discovered something. Once you hit your full retirement age, you can collect Social Security and work as much as you like. I always thought there was a limit to what you could earn until you were 70. But not the case. Not that I want to work but good to know. 

The orange one is back. At least the press isn’t falling all over him like they used to. I hope it stays that way. I was reading today that Biden has a whole team at the White House working on ‘managing’ all the attacks that are sure to come. Sad. 

Have a great weekend! Don’t think too much…

Armistice, Veteran, Poppy, Remembrance Day

photo of poppy field
Photo by Elina Sazonova on Pexels.com

Happy Veterans Day. Or Armistice Day. Or Remembrance Day. Or Poppy Day.

I went to a British grade school in Mexico City.  We wore a uniform.  I was 7 years old. In November of my first year, kids started showing up with red paper poppies pinned to the lapel of their blazers.  I had never heard of Poppy Day but I loved the color added to the otherwise mundane clothing.  I bought one and wore it even though I didn’t understand why. I looked forward to it every year. That splash of red.

It was the 11th month, 11th day, 11th hour when hostilities ended.   It was the end of the First World War, the war to end all wars. Poppies bloomed all across the fields where the battles were fought and lives were lost. A sea of red.

My first trip to Paris was over Armistice Day weekend. I was 16, and wandering around on my own. The city was empty. I was the only person at Napoleon’s tomb. I remember it was snowing that day.

In Washington, DC, Veteran’s day always meant Rolling Thunder. Motorcycles from all over the country converged on the Vietnam Memorial. They used to parade down to the Mall from Virginia and Maryland. You could hear them all morning. I was there for the 25th anniversary when they expected 500,000 motorcycles. It was impressive.

Dreamers

Soldiers are citizens of death’s grey land,
Drawing no dividend from time’s to-morrows. 
In the great hour of destiny they stand,
Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows.
Soldiers are sworn to action; they must win 
Some flaming, fatal climax with their lives.
Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns begin
They think of firelit homes, clean beds and wives.

I see them in foul dug-outs, gnawed by rats,
And in the ruined trenches, lashed with rain, 
Dreaming of things they did with balls and bats,
And mocked by hopeless longing to regain 
Bank-holidays, and picture shows, and spats,
And going to the office in the train.
by Siegfried Sassoon, Selected Poems (1968)

I voted on Tuesday. I was relieved the red wave turned into a pink drizzle.
It also got dark this week. Short Dark Days until the end of the year.

We made this yummy cake earlier this week. It is gluten free in case anybody cares.

Almond Cake

4 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
2.25 cups finely ground almonds (I use almond flour)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Separate eggs into 2 large bowls.
Beat yolks, gradually incorporating 3/4 cup sugar
Fold in the almond flour

Whisk the egg whites until foamy.
Gradually beat in 1/4 cup sugar
Continue to beat until stiff

Stir 1/3 egg whites in to almond mixture, then carefully fold in remaining egg whites in 2 batches.
Pour batter into buttered 9-inch cake pan and bake about 30 minutes.

Allow to cool.
Dust with powdered sugar.

Friday Randomness

After a week of 70 degree weather we are back to our normal 40 degrees. Everybody was over the moon about the warm sunny days. Obsessive me could only think about climate change… But apparently we had this weird weather back in the 1970’s as well. 

I received an email the other day from a former schoolmate. She was referring people to an article by Julian Fellows, the actor and writer of Downton Abbey. In the article he talks about the summer before he went to university. His aunt was living in Colombia and wanted to start a summer camp. She needed help. So his mother volunteered him and he got on an oil tanker and spent 21 days crossing the Atlantic (his father refused to pay for airfare). During the trip he decided it would be a good opportunity to re-invent himself and go from a dull boring person to a confident interesting person. He succeeded and continues to tell a humorous account of the summer. You can read the full article if you are interested.  https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/oct/03/julian-fellowes-once-upon-life

The funny part is that his aunt was the Librarian at the school I went to in Bogota, Colombia – Colegio Nueva Granada (CNG). His adventure took place in 1966, but she was still librarian in 1972 when I arrived on the scene. Two of her sons and another girl from the school helped run the camp along with Julian. The camp kept going in several iterations for years after.

I think I have mastered Wordle. I pick a random word that has at least two vowels. Next I either have to find other vowels or the most common way of placing the ones that are correct. Then I go through the alphabet to find the most likely (usually unlikely) word that fits. I have done it in three tries all week. But it is work. And I usually feel let down at the end. It is such a small non-accomplishment.

My 102 year old father tested positive for COVID this week. He says he feels fine but is bored out of his mind since he has to stay in his apartment all the time. I went to see him the day before he tested positive so now I am waiting for my results. I have no symptoms so fingers crossed.

My son arrives today for a visit. It looks like this will be on the menu.

Swiss Steak is a method of preparing meat, usually beef, by means of rolling or pounding, and then braising in a pot of stewed tomatoes, either on a stove or in an oven.   

No wonder there are hundreds of recipes for Swiss Steak. This recipe comes from my mother and I have enjoyed it for many years.

2 lbs round steak, in serving pieces
1 large onion, sliced

Brown steak dredged in flour in hot fat with onions, salt and pepper.

1 pt tinned tomatoes (1 15.5 oz can) I use crushed tomatoes
1 cup water
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp dry mustard
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon juice
dash pepper and paprika
Pour over meat in a skillet (covered)

Bake in 350 degrees F oven for 2 hours (or more) I have also made it in the crock pot. The meat should just fall apart. It goes well with mashed potatoes.

Enjoy!

Exploring Scotland

Edinburgh 1980

I am currently planning a trip to Eastern Scotland. It reminds me of the time I went backpacking in Scotland 40 years ago. I’m sure much has changed and my experience will be different. Here is a look back.

My cousin was studying in London that summer and I managed to talk her brother into going to Scotland with me. I flew in and spent a couple of days with her before her brother arrived. We didn’t really have a plan but just jumped on the next train to Edinburgh. Across from us was a family from Santa Barbara, California. The wife was British but hadn’t been back to the U.K. in 17 years. The man seemed bored to death and kept wanting to talk but didn’t have much to say. He was a carpenter. The guy sitting next to me was from the San Fernando Valley and very serious, no personality or sense of humor. Toward the end of the trip we got lucky and a Scotsman sat down across from me. When he found that we really didn’t know where we were going he started hauling out maps and planned an entire trip for us in the western islands. He told us about good places to go and it was great!  He was a really nice guy. Half the fun of travel is the people you meet.

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness

From Edinburgh we took the train to Inverness. We couldn’t get into the youth hostel so we ended up in a bed and breakfast. The owner served us tea between 9:30 and 10 pm so we met the other person who was staying there, too. He was a teacher from Hong Kong. He spent his days taking organized tours. The following day we took the bus to Drumnadrochit and walked from there to Urquhart Castle right on the Loch Ness. There wasn’t much left of the castle because it was blown up to keep the Jacobites from staying there (long story). I did not see the Loch Ness monster. Big disappointment (haha).

Back in Inverness, we went to the Old Market Inn Pub and had a few beers. One drunk Scotsman sort of latched on to us. He mainly just wanted to talk – anybody would have done but we were willing to listen. He was interesting for a while giving us some Scottish history and his very strong opinions. After a while somebody got up with a guitar and started singing folk music, which we quite enjoyed.

From Inverness, we took the bus through the mountains past glass still lakes and beautiful forests to Fort William. The youth hostel was at the foot of the highest mountain in the U.K., Ben Nevis (4,400 ft.). A New Zealander latched onto us at the youth hostel, which was a good thing because he had dishes and silverware. We were totally unprepared. I think he was homesick. We ended up taking him into town and waving goodbye at the bus station like he was our son going off to war. Poor guy. We spent a couple of days relaxing and soaking up the beautiful countryside before heading out to the west coast.

Iona Abbey

We were lucky, it rained very little that summer. The only problem we had was on the Isle of Skye. The public transport was rather meager so we were trying to hitchhike but got nowhere and, of course, it started to rain and we got soaked. Back on the mainland, we worked our way down the west coast. We spent several days in Oban and took ferries to Mull and Iona. And finally found our way to Glasgow. I fell in love with Scotland and decided I wanted to go back and tour the upper peninsula on a motorcycle …actually on the back of a motorcycle.

Downtown Chester

On the way back to London, we stopped in the old Roman town of Chester on the Welsh border, and at Stonehenge and Salisbury. It was market day in Salisbury and there were people everywhere, crowding the streets, too many people. I was tired by then. Youth hostels are cheap but you don’t get much sleep. The woman above me had snored all night. Still, I was able to enjoy Salisbury Cathedral, finished in 1258 and an impressive Gothic building. We listened to the music at evensong. By that time, I was exhausted.

We took the boat from Great Yarmouth to the Hook of Holland and a train on to The Hague, the Netherlands. We got off at the wrong station and had to walk forever but finally managed to hook up with my parents and ended up staying in their new, empty apartment.

(excerpt from Expat Alien my global adventures)

This time the plan is to go to Dundee and Aberdeen. Any tips?

Random Friday Thoughts

It’s Friday. Another week slipped by. I found a website that is unfortunately no longer active but it is still accessible. It is called TCK Town Magazine. It has five years’ worth of TCK stories. They are well written and engaging.  And if you are a TCK you will definitely relate. 

It is hard for me to think about being in the middle of a draught when I am surrounded by 10,000 plus lakes but there you have it. We have been in a draught. And now it has rained twice this week. Everybody is very happy. I’m happy because it has cooled down a lot. 

I came across a book called The New Russian Poets 1953-68. My house is full of such things. I usually ignore them but I saw this one and I didn’t ever remember seeing it before so I picked it up just to take a look. I actually found a poem I liked by Yevgeny Vinokurov: 

And In A World 

And in a world, where all is frontier, 
All merely boundary and barrier, 
You are, fathomless infinity, 
At least a consolation. 
…There’s a gleam of blue that shines 
Through a crack in the barn wall – 
Here already is your witness: that 
Not everything is so plain and flat. 

Sitting next to it on the shelf was The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. I had never seen it before either. It looks like something I would enjoy. I’m going to put it aside for a read later. 

Shifting gears… I recently came across a postcard of a tour my family took in Tokyo. My brother told me we were in Tokyo twice and took tours each time. I dug around and found some more Tokyo photos. It is clear we were different ages. He also gave me a pin he had that the tour group gave out. I looked up the JTB company and it is still going strong.

This first group must have been from 1959.

These two photos are from 1962. You can see that it says “Pigeon Bus Tours”. Hato is “pigeon” in Japanese and stands for peace. These bus tours started in 1949, and have been very successful showing close to a million tourists around each year.

Happy Friday.

Birthday Week

Looks like six??

I usually post something on Sundays but yesterday was my birthday so I took the day off. I had a nice lunch with my father and then just lounged around. I took my car in for an oil change this morning and walking home it felt like fall. Crisp and cool. Strange weather for August. I’m sure it will change again. Climate change is very strange.

So my toilet stopped working. Well, it runs constantly which is not good. But whoever designed my bathroom was pretty much nuts. They put this counter top right over the toilet so you can’t access the tank. Plus they put in this pressurized mechanism that is all encased in plastic so you really can’t access it. Not to mention the fact that it is a hideous green color. I’ve had to get somebody to take out the counter top and install a new sink and toilet. So I ordered a new sink and it was too small for the cabinet I have so I am going to have a new cabinet as well. It is kind of snowballing. I tried to find a contractor but I ended up with the building maintenance guy because the contractor I talked to who sounded so positive and gave me so much hope, totally disappeared on me. Why are contractors such elusive characters?

I am completely obsessed and overcome with my upcoming retirement. I am constantly planning what I am going to do “once I retire”. Somehow don’t think it is too healthy. Be here now …. and all that. But there you have it. I’m constantly planning and replanning and rearranging all the trips I want to take. And all the projects I have. “Oh, I can do that once I retire”. “I will have time to clean out that closet once I retire”. Totally nuts. So what do I do instead of cleaning out that closet? I let dust accumulate on everything and lie on my couch watching “Brokenwood Mysteries” on Acorn.

Of course I do have to go to work in the meantime…

Anyway, have a good week! Maybe something cool and interesting will happen. (My constant dream.)