Monday, December 31, 2018

Galloping Into 2019

Statue of Ferenc Rákóczi II, the Prince of Transylvania, in front of the Parliament Building in Budapest, Hungary
We have come to the end of another wonderful year.  We traversed the country, working when we needed to, playing when we could.  It passed quickly but the last few months were just spectacular.  

1. What did you do in 2018 that you’d never done before?
I was interviewed for a podcast.  I visited Organ Pipe National Monument on our way to Puerto Peñasco, a place I hadn't been in 40 years.  I finally hosted my best friend when she came out from Nashville for a visit, the first time she's ever been out to Arizona. I discovered the Family History Center Library in Salt Lake City, Utah and did some genealogical research - what a great time that was!!  After 14 years on the road, I finally went to the Jubitz Travel Center in Portland, Oregon.  What a cool truck stop and travel center that was! We moved a priceless art exhibit. And 
I finally went on that European river cruise I've been dreaming about!!!  I flew Business Class to get there.  Took a high speed train from Amsterdam to Paris.  Went to the Louvre Museum and saw the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and so many other amazing works of art.  What a great year!
The Venus de Milo at the Louvre Museum in Paris.
2. Did you keep your New Year’s Resolutions, and will you make more for next year? 
Well, last year I said I was going to lose weight.  Again.  And that didn't happen.  So I'm abandoning that plan this year.  Or maybe forever.  It's too much pressure.  I think this year I'm going to try to take up some kind of hobby, something that feeds the creative side of me.  That should be a lot easier than losing weight.  And since my husband bought me a Vitamix, a food processor, a stand mixer, an electric kettle, and a Nespresso machine this year, I don't see less eating happening in the future.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
No.  And there aren't many people I'm close to who are planning or anticipating births.  Whew!

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No one close to me, but we did lose quite a few celebrity legends in 2018 - Aretha Franklin,  Burt Reynolds, Stan Lee, Penny Marshall, Neil Simon, Anthony Bourdain, Stephen Hawking, Nancy Wilson (love her!), Vic Damone (who I once sat next to in an Atlantic City, NJ restaurant where he was dining with his wife, Diahann Carroll), Jerry Van Dyke and more.  And our Senator, John McCain.
A street in Bratislava, Slovakia.
5. What countries did you visit?
Ohhhhhhh, finally I have a great answer to this one!  Well, early in the year we went to Mexico to visit Rocky Point (Puerto Peñasco), but then in October, we went to Europe for almost a month, which included 15 nights on a European River Cruise, something I've wanted to do FOREVER! The countries we visited during that trip were:  Turkey, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Netherlands, and France.  Oh, and Ed hopped off the train to touch the ground in Belgium, but that doesn't really count.  

6. What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018? 

A hobby.  Geez, I really need an ACTUAL hobby.  I have to create something or I might just go crazy.   

7. What dates from 2018 will remain etched in your memory, and why?

My European vacation will stay with me forever.  Not only did I get to see so many places I'd never been, but I was able to experience Paris with my new husband and make some really great memories.  I finally did the river cruise I'd been longing to do.  And I had a great vacation with our friends, Marlaina and MacG.  
Marlaina, Ed, and MacG enjoying the rear lounge on our river cruise ship.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
All the walking I did in Europe.  Seriously, people.  You don't know what a monumental task it was for me.  I hate movement of any kind - I pick up my mail on the way into my driveway just so I don't have to walk to the mailbox - so all the walking I did, beginning with our first day in the airport in Los Angeles and not ending until 30 days later when I got home, was a huge change for me.  I kept track of how many miles I walked every day.  There were some 6 and 7 mile days, but on average, I walked about 3.5 miles per day.  I also lost 13 pounds while I was gone.  Those are two very big achievements. 

9. What was your biggest failure?

Nothing stands out in my mind, but I think it's because I just don't see things that don't work out as failures.  Also, I don't recall setting out to do anything this year that could have resulted in failure, so there's that.  

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I had a few sniffles, but nothing serious.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

My new iPhone.  It's bigger, so reading and surfing the internet is more enjoyable, and it has a great camera.  I love the portrait feature!
Ed cycling along the Danube River in Dürnstein, Austria.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
I'm going to bestow this honor on Ed.  He works hard and makes sure we have money to take care of everything we need and want.  He's patient, makes an effort to socialize with our neighbors (if that were left up to me, we'd know no one), listens to me (for the most part - when it's important), and makes sure to carve out time for himself to relax and unwind.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? 

Oh.  My.  God.  It's only one person - 45.  He's an absolute disgrace. 

14. Where did most of your money go? 

Vacation and retirement savings.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

The cruise!  And pretty much everything we were going to see in Europe.  Squeeee!

16. What song will always remind you of 2018?

Toward the end of 2018, I started watching Outlander and found myself singing the theme song.  Since I ended the year on that song, it's freshest in my mind.
It was originally a Scottish folk song, but it was altered by Bear McCreary for the show.  Here are the lyrics:

Sing me a song of a lass that is gone,

Say, could that lass be I?
Merry of soul she sailed on a day
Over the sea to Skye.

Billow and breeze, islands and seas,

Mountains of rain and sun,
All that was good, all that was fair,
All that was me is gone.

Sing me a song of a lass that is gone,

Say, could that lass be I?
Merry of soul she sailed on a day
Over the sea to Skye

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: (a) happier or sadder? (b) thinner or fatter? (c) richer or poorer?

Pretty happy, still the same generous size as last year, and with fewer dollars in my pocket after my Europe spending.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Laugh.  I realized that I don't do as much laughing as I used to.  I have a couple of serious friends, I don't spend time goofing off with my bestie anymore, and I haven't listened to any stand-up comedy at all this year.  I used to watch and listen to stand-up comedians - especially when Ed and I had Sirius Radio in the truck, but I got away from it - maybe grew bored of it for a while, I don't really know, but I need some belly laughs.  Soon. 

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

I can't think of anything I wish I've done less of.  Maybe laundry?  For two people, the washing around this house in endless.  I don't know where it comes from!

20. How did you spend Christmas?

At home with Ed, my mother, my brother and his family, and our friends Marlaina and MacG.   

21. Did you fall in love in 2018?
I think I fell more in love with traveling.  Well, not the actual getting there part, but the being there part.

Wooden shoes and tulips in Zaandam, Netherlands.
22. What was your favorite TV program?
My favorite TV show this year was "A Million Little Things".  The beginning of the story is sad, but the writing is good and I love the actors.   

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

Nope, the same asshole I hated last year.

24. What was the best book you read?

I didn't read anything even closely resembling a book this year, although I did get halfway through the audiobook The Hare with Amber Eyes, a story I learned about on one of our tours in Vienna.  

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

I didn't discover any new music this year. 
26. What did you want and get?
A Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer (yes, in Empire Red), a Kitchen Aid Food Processor, and a Nespresso Inissia machine with the Aeroccino frother.  In addition - and these are not things I asked for - I also got a Vitamix Blender and a Breville IQ Kettle (man, I love this thing!).  Looks like I'm going to be spending an awful lot of time in the kitchen this year.  

27. What did you want and not get?

Well, I want a new iPad, but I don't really need one so I can probably wait.  And I wanted IPL treatments but didn't get any.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?

The Greatest Showman.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVED it!!  It was released in December 2017, but I didn't see it until 2018. I've seen it four times so far and can't wait to see it again.  I'll have to watch it without Ed around because he's tired of the singing.  From me, not the cast.   

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

We were on the road, so didn't do anything special.  We had dinner and Ed surprised me with a cake.  

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

I had a lot of time off, I had an awesome vacation, I got great gifts, and I spent time with my family and friends.  I can't think of anything that could have been better.  

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2018?

Mostly pajamas. 

32. What kept you sane?

My very comfortable living room armchair.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

For sure, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.  Oh, what a beautiful day!

34. What political issue stirred you the most?The Wall.  The stupid, unnecessary, expensive, ridiculous, wall.  It's not needed, it's not going to be built, Mexico is not paying for it, and the assholes who want it need to move on to something more productive.

One of the many uphill cobblestone streets I walked in Europe.  This one is in Český Krumlov, Czech Republic.
35. Who did you miss?
After going to The Family History Library in Salt Lake City and doing some family tree research, I was really missing my grandparents and wishing I had asked so many more questions while they were alive.  

36. Who was the best new person you met?

Our neighbors, Bre and Eric.  The house next door, previously occupied by a very old couple, then a very old widow, finally went up for sale.  The people who bought it started doing a renovation - the interior hadn't been changed since the seventies - and suddenly, there was a flurry of activity in our normally very quiet cul-de-sac.  Ed was the first to wander across our front lawn to make their acquaintance.  He found a young married couple, around his age.  We've had them over for dinner once already and are looking forward to getting to know them better.  

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2018.

Don't wait for the circumstances to be perfect to do something.  Ideally, I would have liked to be in better shape to be walking around Europe.  I won't lie, I was concerned as to whether I'd be able to keep up with Ed and our friends, who walk at an Olympian's pace.  If I didn't go because I wasn't ready, I would have missed out on a really great trip.  I did the best I could, pushed myself in some cases, and tried very hard not to complain.  As a result, I had a really good time and made some great memories.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

Recently I've been listening to some of the songs from the Glee soundtrack (I used to be a huge Glee fan), and they did quite a few show tunes in the series.  One of the songs, from "Wicked", sung by Kristen Chenoweth (Glinda) and Idina Menzel (Elphaba) - both of who guest starred on the show - is called "For Good".  The lyric I like is: 

"Because I knew you, I have been changed for good"

Here are the rest of the lyrics:

I'm limited
Just look at me - I'm limited
And just look at you
You can do all I couldn't do, Glinda
So now it's up to you
For both of us - now it's up to you...

I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you...

Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good

It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend...

Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a skybird
In a distant wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you

Because I knew you

I have been changed for good

And just to clear the air
I ask forgiveness
For the things I've done you blame me for

But then, I guess we know
There's blame to share

And none of it seems to matter anymore

Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood

Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a bird in the wood

Who can say if I've been
Changed for the better?
I do believe I have been
Changed for the better

And because I knew you...

Because I knew you...

Because I knew you...

I have been changed for good...

And my slogan for the New Year...


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

2017: 2017 Saw A Snowstorm, A Penitentiary, And A Wedding
2016: 2016 Has Ended And It's Time To Breathe Again
2015: The Sun Sets On 2015
2014: Thanks, 2014. For Everything.
2013: I Am Gonna OWN You, 2014!
2012: Wrapping Up A Year Of Making My Own Sunshine
2011: Later, 2011!
2010: That’s A Wrap!
2009: Out With The Old
2008: Another Year, Another 365 Days
2007: All Good Things Come To An End
2006: The Symphony Of A Thousand Saws
2005: Suicidal Firewood

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Folk, People, Nation

Above, the Museum of Ethnography, the Hungarian national ethnographic museum, which sits across from the front entrance of the Parliament building in Budapest. 

The museum houses a collection of Hungarian folk objects from the 19th century. The collection includes pieces from everyday Hungarian life from before World War II, including pottery, costumes, boats, and furniture. Many of the objects are from Upper Hungary and Transylvania. Also featured in the museum are scenes from everyday Hungarian life around 1900. These include a model of a kitchen and a model of a church.

The guard (above and below) are standing on the grounds of the parliament building.   

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~2017: In The Weekend

2016: One More Day
2015: I Hope You Feel Small When You Stand Beside The Ocean
2014: Palm Print
2013: Give Me Ten Minutes, I'll Give You A Year

2012: Doesn't Look So Bad From A Distance
2011: They Really Mean It When They Say, “We Come To You”
2005: The Promised Land

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Assembling On The East Bank Of The Danube

This is the Assembly Hall of the House of Magnates at the Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest, Hungary. 

The current ruling party, Fidesz, is a national-conservative and right-wing populist political party that has dominated Hungarian politics on the national and local level since its landslide victory in the 2010 national elections. Viktor Orbán, the current Prime Minister, has been the leader of Fidesz for most of its history.  
The National Assembly consists of 199 members elected to 4-year terms.  Fidesz holds 133 of those seats.

The National Assembly has met in this building since 1902.

Every inch of this building is so ornate - I have more photos of the interior coming soon - I didn't know where to look first.  The ceiling? The arches?  The windows?   
Everything was gilded and glowed under the lights.  The Corinthian columns, the most lavish of the Greek orders, are topped by Gothic arches that become more ornate as they get closer to the ceiling.
And the ceiling.  Look at the ceiling.  Now it's not the most ornate ceiling in this building, but it's certainly beautiful.  
We were in the building during the late afternoon and didn't see any workers who weren't part of our tour, but I imagined working there must feel special since the parliament is considered to be one of the most important historic buildings in Hungary. 
Important enough to be covered in gold.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

2017: Winding Down
2016: Get Real
2015: The Swiss Grill Does It Up Alambre Style
2014: Another Day Gone
2013: No Snow For Winter AND Stupid Syfy Movies
2012: Winter Rest 
2011: Happy 5005!
2010: It Really Doesn’t Need Any Help
2009: The Day The Music Lived
2008: It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas
2007: He Raises A Valid Point
2006: Eddie In Stripes Friday
2005: Customer Service Vigilante

Friday, December 28, 2018

Bike Prep

Ed has been working this week on getting his bike ready for a trip out to the Imperial Sand Dunes in California, intending to catch up with my brother and nephews who are already out there.

It's been reaaaalllly freezing here, so he's not sure when he's going to go, but he's been packing the boxes, preparing the flags necessary to ride in that area, deciding on which things he needs to have, etc.

Personally, I don't get the appeal of riding in dirt all day, then sleeping in tents at night, but whatever.  It's definitely a guy thing.

I fear the day when Ed convinces me to sleep in a tent.  

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

2017: Nailed It!
2016: Enjoy The Ride
2015: Wavin' Howdy As We Pass Through
2014: It's Got To Be Under This Tree Somewhere
2013: We Don't Even Charge For Parking
2012: Somewhere In Eastern Oregon
2011: Lighting Up The Night Griswold Style
2010: Why Fall In Love With A Gingerbread Man When You Can Have His Cake And Eat it Too?
2009: You WILL Think Of God
2008: The Queen Of Copper
2007: Eddie Wears His Christmas Present Friday
2006: The Only Way I Can Tolerate Arizona
2005: I’ve Got Lips

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Sunset At The Oasis

The Oasis is a family-owned and operated assisted living facility in Tucson, Arizona that has been around for 28 years.

I don't know anything about the facility itself, I just know it sits directly across the street from my favorite Mexican restaurant, La Parrilla Suiza, a place I've been dining at for 25 years, and it's always caught my eye driving past it.

I love the building that faces the street - the color of it, the palm trees towering over it, the fence surrounding it.  It has a very retro look in my opinion.  
I took these photos this week, when we stopped at La Parrilla Suiza for dinner, just as the sun was setting.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Objects Are Closer Than They Appear

2016:  Freedom!
2015:  Whatcha Doin'?
2014:  Until We Meet Again
2013:  Remember The Christmas When...
2012:  Blame It On Weed
2011:  The Plum Is Missing
2010:  The Voodoo That You Do
2009:  Meet Me In St. Louis…If You Can Find It
2008:  We Don’t Eat Gefilte Fish But We Do Like The Multi-Cultural Birthdays
2007:  How To Picnic Like An Italian
2006:  Dead Ant, Dead Ant, Dead Ant, Dead Ant, Dead Ant, Dead Ant, Dead Ant….
2005:  The Cactus King

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

A Delicious Treat On My Day Off

It's very rare that someone other than me cooks dinner in my house.  Yes, Ed does man his smoker and is a master on the grill, but that's not the brunt of the work, nor does it take care of cleanup.  

Well, again this holiday season we had our friends Marlaina and MacG joining us and I was given a special treat while they were here - the night off!!

MacG made his much talked about Arroz con Pollo.  We've been hearing about this dish for years but have never had an opportunity to try it.  Until now.  

Let me tell you...not only was it so sweet to not have to cook, but it was even sweeter to eat a meal cooked by a friend that turned out to be amazing.  The chicken was done perfectly, the flavors were intense - the sweet paprika, the fragrant cumin - but not overwhelming.  The rice wasn't overdone, which I was surprised by since it was cooked in the pot with everything else, and the dollop of freshly made salsa verde added the perfect finish.

We often joke about MacG being a Renaissance Man and this meal settled the "Yes, but can he cook?" question.

Hell, yeah.  He definitely can. 

This is the recipe he used for those of you interested in attempting this yourself.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2017: Getting Used To It
2016: Really Old School
2015: Christmas In The Sonoran Desert
2014: Boxing Day Mani-Pedi
2013: Racing Toward The New Year
2012: I Need A Support Group
2011: No One Mentioned The Elephant In The Room, But The Zebra Was A Big Topic Of Discussion
2010: White Chocolate Melts Away
2009: An Appetizer With Heart 
2008: Angelic Eddie Friday
2007: Would You Like A Fried Egg With A Side Of Influenza?
2006: Cerrado
2005: The Best Gift Of All

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

A Beautiful Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from the most beautiful department store I've ever seen in my life - the Galeries Lafayette in Paris, France.

We stopped by the store to check out the view from the rooftop terrace but got the extra bonus of seeing their gorgeous Christmas tree.

The Christmas tree is placed under the gorgeous Art Nouveau stained glass dome in the center of the store.
The colors, the glitter, the gold, the lights, the music.  It was the perfect embodiment of luxury Christmas
The tree was suspended over the cosmetics department but can be viewed from any floor level surrounding it.  It was so opulent.  I could have stood there for an hour looking at the decorations and people watching.
When I heard about the Galeries Lafayette from a reader, it wasn't until I was in Paris that I realized I'd read about the Christmas decorations there once before - the year they did the upside down Christmas tree. 

They did a tree made entirely of paper one year, a Swarovski crystals tree another year, and a planetary themed one a few years back.  Click here to see past Galeries Lafayette trees.

And check out this link to see a video of this year's tree being erected.
Marry Christmas!  Happy Holidays!  Joyeux Noël!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 2017: The Best Gift Ever
2016: Bring Me Some Snow!
2015: Have A Very...
2014: The Christmas Table 
2013: Wishes To The Whole World 
2012: Merry Christmas! 
2011: Who Says Money Doesn’t Grow On Trees? It’s Christmas!!
2010: Christmas Time Is Here
2009: Commanding Attention Once Again
2008: A Meal Of Delicious Cheesy Goodness And A Day Of Good Delicious Cheeriness
2007: The Merry. The Moments. The Memories.
2006: I Love Your Bawwwlls!!
2005: Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas