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!

drive empty highway lane

Friday Exploration

pexels-photo-5988878.jpeg
Photo by Łukasz Kondracki on Pexels.com

I watched a documentary this week on Prime called the Bikes of Wrath. Five young Australian guys who loved John Steinbeck’s book, The Grapes of Wrath, decided to retrace the trip. On bicycles. They started out with about $400 which was the equivalent of what the Joad family had when they set out. They traveled 2,600 miles on Route 66 from Oklahoma to California over 30 days. It doesn’t really work, though. These guys are well educated, fairly affluent and competent guys from another country. They are welcomed time and again by locals putting their best foot forward. People living in poverty hand them money and food and provide lodging and care. They are overwhelmed with generosity.  Because they are making a movie? Because they are non-threatening? Because they are white? Because they are male? I must say I did not have a very positive experience the time I got lost in Amarillo, Texas in the 70’s. Maybe times have changed….

I love the British Baking Show as much as the next person. But Mexican Week? Really? Brits making tacos? It was somewhat amusing to watch. They had no idea. Even the judges were a bit embarrassing in their ignorance. Luckily this week they were back on task.

Speaking of Brits and embarrassing moments… How about that Prime Minister? Five weeks must be some kind of record.

I spoke to a woman last week who said she is convinced our doom is imminent. Within the next 20 years. Climate change will destroy us all. Pollution, disease, financial collapse, food and water shortages. I think there is something in our brain that deflects all of that. When I was little, my mother was all over that. Fifty years ago, she worried about teeming landfills, water conservation, power shortages, and communicable diseases. I guess she was ahead of her time. Or was it because we lived in developing countries where all that existed already? I’ve read my share of science fiction. I know what is possible. Why can’t politicians have brains? Why can’t policy makers wake up?

Enough. Deflect deflect deflect.

And now for something completely different… (click for larger view)

I leave you with something sweet.

Lemon Sponge Pudding

Combine:

3/4  cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. grated lemon peel
1 1/2 Tbsp. soft butter
3 Tbsp. flour
2 egg yolks, beaten

Add:    

1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup milk
(Mixture may have curdled appearance, but no matter)

Beat:    

2 egg whites until stiff and fold into mixture.

Pour into buttered 1.5 quart casserole.

Place in pan of hot water

Bake at 325°F uncovered 40-45 min or until set (1 hr).

Serve warm or chilled.  I like it warm!

Friday’s Thoughts

October 14, 2022: First snow. Pretty early for that. 33 degrees F. this morning.

Angela Lansbury died this week. I spent years watching endless murders in small northeastern towns with her solving every single one of them. She was very good at it.

I’m reading a Dan Brown book – Inferno. You know Dan Brown, he wrote the DaVinci Code. Tom Hanks starred in the movie. I think Tom Hanks was in Angels and Demons as well. As I read the book, I picture Tom Hanks racing around looking for clues. But the thing I really love about the book is that the first half is set in Florence and then they move on to Venice. He races around Florence through the Boboli Gardens to the Pitti Palace and across the Ponte Vecchio and out into the Piazza della Signora. Then he works his way over to the Baptistery of St John next the grand Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. All places I have been to and remember fondly. I’m right there with him. And then to Venice where I remember standing in the middle of St Mark’s Square and a pigeon landed on my head. I hate pigeons to this day.

Øresund Bridge Credit: Amjad Sheikh

The New York Times had an article this week – 36 Hours in Stockholm. I read it with interest because I am toying with the idea of going there for just a couple of days. The article seemed reasonable enough. Museum, gallery, food, night life, shopping, parks, food, parks, more food. I always like to read the comments. A lot of them were not complementary. They listed all the things left out. The blandness of the country. The immigration problems. The crime. The lack of crime. And of course, the article failed to mention the Abba Museum. How could that be? I must admit none of it really lured me in. But I do live in Minnesota, so….  Probably not all that different. I might fly to Malmo and take a train across the 16 km Øresund Bridge to Copenhagen. Now that sounds like fun.

Speaking of food, I have my favorite Indian restaurants around town but last night I tried a new one called Spice and Tonic. I love pakoras so we ordered some vegetable pakoras to start with. They brought us paneer pakoras by mistake. They let us have the paneer pakoras for free and brought the vegetable ones a bit later. A pakora is like a fritter. The vegetable is mixed into a batter of chickpea flour, spices and water and then deep fat fried so it is crunchy on the outside. My friend kept calling them critters. But the paneer pakoras were not a hit with me. Paneer is the home-made cheese often used for Indian dishes. This was a long tube of paneer, battered and fried. It was just too much. Maybe if it had been made up into smaller pieces, I would have liked it better. We ordered Chicken Makhani, Chicken Tikka Masala, Vegetable Curry, and Garlic Naan. They were all delicious.

Thoughts Random Friday – Queens and Tatas

Balmoral Castle (Stuart Yeates from Oxford, UK, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Well, the world is ending. It is starting. The beginning of the end. Europe is in an energy and economic crisis. Queen Elizabeth died. China is still in lockdown. California is burning up. Canadians are stabbing each other. And they still haven’t arrested the Big D (Delusional) trump (I live in hope). More random crazy shootings. I had a brief happy moment when I saw that Bannon was indicted (apparently he raised money to build a wall?…. and there was no wall?….  seems like a such a small thing…  smile). And that was just Thursday… 

Queen Elizabeth. End of an era. Seventy years on the throne. It is going to be quite a transition. Is King Charles up to the job? I guess we will see. (As you will remember Charles I was beheaded and Charles II lived in exile for a while so not great precidents.) Elizabeth II has been there my whole life. I went to British school when I was little and met Prince Phillip on the polo field when I was a giggly second grader. He was very gracious and shook my hand while I tried to curtsey in my blue jeans. In 1993, I went to work for the British Embassy in Moscow. Soon after I started, I attended a reception and met Princess Anne and her husband Commander Lawrence. She was surprised to come across an American and even laughed at my jokes. In 1994, Queen Elizabeth was the first ruling Monarch to ever set foot in Russia. She and Boris Yeltsin attended a performance of Giselle at the Bolshoi. I was also in the audience. She wore a green flowered outfit and a tiara. It was quite a night. Pro or anti monarchy, you have to admit she was a force.

Michelle Obama (GALLERY HENOCH)

On a lighter note… I thought the painting of Michelle Obama unveiled at the White House this week was exceptional. Very well done. Artist: Sharon Sprung.

So, last week I went in for my annual mammogram. All very routine. A few days later I got a call to make an appointment for additional screening. This morning I went into a breast cancer center for my appointment. That was scary enough but the waiting room was a stark sterile large room that made me want to bolt for the hills.

I then went in for another mammogram. From there I sat in a smaller version of the bleak waiting room. And then it was on to the ultrasound machine where I spent about an hour being probed by several people and waiting by my myself in a very uncomfortable position. The doctor came and went twice. He sent me back for another mammogram. By the time I saw the doctor for the final time I had been probed for about two hours. He told me he just wanted to be sure. He certainly was thorough, I’ll give him that. The verdict? Come back in six months. Haha… Good thing I’m not the worrying kind… Actually it is fine.

And now the weekend beings. I might have a glass or two of wine!

Cheers!

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.