Friday, July 29, 2011

Happy Friday.

I like to end my week on a positive note. Pure entertainment, ladies and gentlemen. Say what you will about Jimmy or Justin, but try to say this isn't highly amusing.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The sad truth is that nothing is the same.

I'll preface this post by saying that I was lucky enough to spend a week in Norway in 2005. I was taking tourism marketing classes abroad outside of London when a few friends and I decided to visit my extended family in Oslo and another little coastal town.

Oddly enough, the day after classes started in London on July 5, 2005, the city erupted in a terrorist attack of its own. I wrote a little about that here and also wrote a column when I was still in college about it, in The Plainsman. I'm going to post the clip as soon as I find it.

Aside from Norway being an obscenely cheap flight on Ryan Air, and the lovely family I had to visit there, another big draw to visiting the city was its relative safety. With London and Madrid both experiencing devastating attacks within a year of each other, Scandinavia seemed blissfully off the grid. And it was - absolutely lovely.

We went sailing in beautiful weather to different spots on the coast. We stayed up until midnight with with brightly lit skies and went sailing in the middle of the night. We ate seafood stew and amazing cheese and caught up with relatives. One of the absolute highlights of my trip was visiting downtown Oslo. My cousins - aside from looking like European royalty - were incredibly welcoming hosts. They took us all over - we saw the government buildings that were attacked Friday, the national museum, the royal palace and lots of gorgeous parks and green spaces with the most amazing public sculptures.

I hate that this happened in Oslo. Just like I hate that it happened in NYC and London and Madrid. Regardless of whether it's Norway's Oklahoma City (which it clearly was) or Norway's 9/11, the fact still remains that we live in trying times. No country is immune and no population is safe. It's a bit of a dark thought, but true nonetheless. Norway, I am thinking of you and remembering the amazing experience I had.

I hate it that there are so many bitterly opposing (and alarmingly drastic) opinions at play there - and in so many places, in Europe, here, everywhere... I hate it that this happened to your beautiful country, and mostly, I hope that this doesn't change the overall open, accepting nature of your people.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

I want to be in your gang!

Do I really need to SAY anything more after that?!

Things that glow

One of my absolute favorite things about summertime in the South is the lightning bugs. We had them in Southern California, too - they were called fireflies there - but I don't think they came out at night en masse like they do down here.

Last weekend I was in D.C. celebrating the fourth. We were on the way to a cookout when we drove by an empty lot between houses that was completely alight with the incandescent insects. I love phosphorescence in all of its forms, and that's what this post is all about.

Also handy because then I don't have to talk about my job search or the fact that J currently lives hundreds of miles away...
Synchronized fireflies (ahem, lightning bugs) in the Smokey Mountains of north Tennessee and North Carolina.
I originally saw this piece in Southern Living yesterday in the dentist's office (heh) but since I couldn't find that article online, here's the phenomenon covered in the New York Times.

Basically, a whole slew of male lightning bugs blink in unison in order to attract females. Apparently it's like a symphony of lights. Not sure if it impresses their women, but I would love to see this. The NYT piece covers the bugs in Elkmont, Tenn., during the first two weeks in June.

The Dismalites of Dismal's Canyon outside of Phil Campbell, Ala.

Dismal's Canyon is also where they filmed the backdrop for When Dinosaurs Roamed the Earth on the Discovery channel

I actually have seen the dismalites before. We had a group trip in 2009 to see them and enjoy the canyon for a weekend. They have campsites as well as a couple of lovely cabins and a swimming hole. The canyon (and the dismalites) are the major attractions, though.

You go on a guided tour after dark in the summertime to see the tiny bioluminescent worms. Gajillions (this is an official count) of Dismalites light up the sides of the cave walls like a starry sky.

image via

Also, Dismal's Canyon is home to Burr's Hideout - apparently where Aaron Burr hid out for days after he shot Alexander Hamilton. Lots of old graffiti on the rocks too. Definitely worth a visit.

Cave graffiti at Dismal's dating from 1936

Phosphorescent plankton on the beach at Dauphin Island, Ala.
I've been fortunate enough to see this one, too, as a part of a field studies class I took my senior year of high school to Dauphin Island Sea Lab. My friend, Dustin of Spawning is Imminent (why can't I find your blog anymore, Dustin? Please explain this to me) was lucky enough to study there for a summer in college.

At any rate, it was amazing - standing in the complete dark and kicking up the sand in the surf. The entire area surrounding your toes lighting up as you disrupt the plankton.

Dauphin Island is a barrier island and quite remote - not very many city lights. So serene, and the glowing sand makes the experience otherworldly. I'd love to go back. No photos, unfortunately.

This completes my shortlist of favorite things that glow. I have no idea why I found it necessary to write this post.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hi, I'm 27 and I live with my mother.

It's not so bad, really. She brings me coffee every morning with frothed almond milk. I actually get to work on time because of the coffee-in-bed ritual.

She's an excellent cook and great company. And she helped me clean out three years of abandoned hobbies and detritus friends have left behind from house parties and get-togethers. I feel guilty about that, but am so thankful that she was here.

So, it's been a while since my last post, and definitely not for lack of activity. Life activity increase = blog productivity decrease. C'est la vie.

I've been up to a lot! J finished grad school in December (yay!), schlepped through months of unsatisfactory work (boo) while searching for a satisfactory first-career job. He got an offer in May (yay!) right around our first
anniversary. Who can believe I didn't blog about that one?!

J gave me some truly gorgeous anniversary flowers - birds of paradise, lilies and others - pictured here in case I never get around to dedicating a post to our anniversary... which is entirely possible.

Anyway, after months of anxiously awaiting news, a company that makes yogurt offered him a job! After ages of waiting, the usual "we need you to start... YESTERDAY." occurred. Chaos ensued.

Our anniversary trip to New York City turned into a frantic apartment search. We found a place; signed the lease; came home; rented a 22-foot Penske truck (her name was Penny) with a tow dolley; loaded
almost all of our worldly possessions to said rental; drove in lightning storms and heavy construction maxing at 55 mph and listening to a crappy suspense book-on-CD through Tennessee, Virginia, D.C., Maryland, Delaware and finally Jersey; unloaded in the rain in New Rochelle, N.Y. (27 minutes by express train to the Big City and home of Dick Van Dyke on his show, apparently - things you learn from old people); unpacked; visited with our friends Christina and Daniel; and proceeded to sleep through three alarms and two phone calls from the airport cab driver at 4:45 a.m. on a Sunday morning.


I eventually made it home, exhausted, just in time to work on Monday to a cat on hunger strike. At my mother's house.

It's only temporary.

Holy hell, I need to find a job. I'm working on it.

It's only temporary.

More to come...

In the meantime:
  • this is hilarious
  • J started a blog! About food! We can blog together. Because, obviously, we don't live together right now.
  • It's only temporary.
  • I'm looking for work. if you're hiring.
  • Charles is eating again. Her backbone still feels like a xylophone, but she is definitely perkier and eating her nom again. Phew.
Did you know that there are mobile truckers' chapels at certain truck stops?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I want to walk Scotland.

I just have to find the vacation time to make this happen.

I have been completely absorbed in the Outlander series about a time-traveling British woman from WWII era and her life with a 17th century Scottish highlander. Sensational? Bodice-ripping? Yes and yes. But also really absorbing and quite historically rich. I've learned all of this stuff about 17th century Scottish uprisings and early American colonial history.

Anyway, now I've romanticized the Scottish highlands and want to visit. And then I see this in my Washington Post travel email. I need to go. I need to take 18 days for vacation and walk this. They say walk, not hike. I may not be the most outdoorsy, but I can walk for millions of miles. Just don't ask me to jog or run and I can go forever. AND you don't even have to camp - there are B&Bs, self-service cabins, hostels and inns all across the trails.

Courtesy of the Washington Post - check out the rest of the slideshow (!!!) You'll want to come on this adventure with me.

This reminds me of another incredible book I read quite a while back - It's Not About the Tapas (hm, by the looks of that Amazon link, Ms. Polly Evans writes a whole series of travel books. I will be checking those out...) - that made me want to bike Spain. But walking seems a bit more accessible. The author of the Post piece is a food writer for crying out loud. That makes him like me. If he can do it, so can I. I mean, the hardest bit on the trail only has a two-hiking boot difficulty meter. Out of five. This is doable.

I'll even compromise. the first leg of Brian Yarvin's trip is the long-distance West Highland Way that only takes eight days (or stages), according to my the impressive Scottish walks website.

The West Highland Way was Scotland's first long distance route and remains by far the most popular. Stretching for 150km from Milngavie on the edge of Glasgow to Fort William at the foot of Ben Nevis, the route offers a fabulous introduction to the Scottish Highlands. Those wanting to add an extra days walking could even begin in the heart of Glasgow, reaching Milngavie by following the Kelvin Walkway.
I can take a ten-day vacation. I'm thinking anniversary trip. Thank you, Outlander series, in your historically titillating excessiveness, for reigniting my wanderlust. I'm going to make this happen. Just give me time. And help me figure out how to somehow include a kayak excursion to further pique J's interest in this enterprise...

If you're into this travel fantasy (hey - it'll eventually become a reality!) stuff like I am, this WaPo newsletter had a Europe guide that also featured renting a house in France, cycling through southern Portugal and exploring Ukraine's ancient walled city. I have some more article reading to do :)

Oh! Also - A Town Like Paris. Another travel daydreamer's must-read. The author moves to Paris to work a Parisian government job (sadly, probably not so cushy anymore...) and totally immerses himself in la vie Francais.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Time to roll up those Snuggie sleeves!

I love Airfare Watchdog.

If I recall correctly, I started using the website because it's what our bustling Huntsville International Airport (International - ha!) uses for fare alerts. It's great - I have a ton of alerts set up for fabulous places and three times weekly, I get email pings about especially low fares from Huntsville to a number of my preset, specified locations. New York, San Francisco, Chicago, anyone? Yes, please.

Anyway, like many of the new web-based offerings, the Airfare Watchdog crew are pretty witty writers. I received an email this afternoon that made me want to shut my mini blinds extra tight when I get home tonight.

Hi there Melanie,

Gosh, is it March already? Time to roll up those snuggy sleeves, get off the sofa, and start planning your big spring getaway, if you haven't already. So where will you be thawing out come May? Take a look at our latest finds from the Huntsville area and see what's up for grabs...

Their "insert contact name here" email marketing campaign got me dead on this time. Thanks for calling me out in front of everyone. I'll forgive you this time, low fare finders. I will suffer a lot for you letting me know that there are $138/rt fares from Nashville to Chicago right now.

Maybe it is time to shed the Snuggie and venture out of hibernation.

Charles likes the Snuggie too.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

the water pilgrimage.

I just had the weird sensation of realizing that someone has been observing my daily habits, finding them unusual and trying to help me be a little more normal.

Let me explain.

I work in a really really super nice building.

The nicest building I've ever worked in over the (short) span of my working career thus far. When I move and continue working other places, it'll still probably be the nicest facility I'll have ever worked in. There's glass everywhere. Shiny marble. Fabulous modern furnishings in a four-story atrium and a little cafe serving breakfast and lunch.

There are scores of support staff that man that cafe and clean the building (including the bathrooms, all of them, at least three or four times a day.) It's ridiculous. But I am not complaining - it's also lovely.

Anyway. I have these habits. I think they're good ones. I drink a ton of water. Possibly a gallon a day; not entirely sure. I used to go fill up my trusty plastic cup at the water fountain right by my office. One day, or operations director saw me and said (I kid you not), "WHY, pray tell, are you drinking out of the water fountain?! You do realize that we have nice, filtered, refrigerator water in the break room across the atrium, don't you?"

Well, no I didn't, actually. But I guess since the water fountain is off limits (except for guests - they don't get the good stuff?), I'll start walking across the way for my many times daily fill-up.

So, for the past year or so, I've been trekking across the atrium, from my office to the break room across the way to fill up my water cup. I've really started to enjoy it - my office is nice as far as offices go. I have a secondary window that looks out on to a hallway, through another office and finally out an outside window. I get light of day, indirectly. I have a door. But the atrium. You saw the photo. Now, it's a break I look forward to - getting up, stretching my legs, checking out the action in the atrium (that's where visitors come) and enjoying the full sunshine you see in the fully glassed-in area. Plus, I walk like, half a mile a day, to and fro between office and break room.

This morning, my little routine was interrupted by a really pleasant lady who works in the cafe.

"I see you walking way over there at least 25 times a day," she says. "You know the cafe water is triple-filtered, right? And cold? Why don't you just come get your water from the kitchen?" She says this all very patiently, as I'm obviously a tad slow to be walking a half mile per day just for water.

So anyway, I feel obligated to explain to her that I skip the water fountain because I was encouraged to drink the filtered water. I'm not a water snob, I insist. A little fluoride is good for a person.

In summary:
  • Water fountain (is less than) filtered breakroom water (is less than) super awesome triple filtered chilled cafe water.
  • I am a weirdo who drinks way too much water, walks too far for it and thinks she's too good for the water fountain.
  • We have entirely too many water options. I mean, seriously.
Sigh. Sometimes I wish I could just be odd in peace without people noticing my little quirks and trying to help me out. Although, it is kind of touching that they care.

And, I apologize for sharing the weird again. I do think this little exercise will help dissolve the writer's block I've been experiencing while writing pages for our annual report. So this has been beneficial after all. I think I need a water break first, though...

OH! And so this isn't a total loss. I give you, Barcelona:

EF - Live The Language - Barcelona from Albin Holmqvist on Vimeo.

Hm. This isn't my favorite of the series but it still makes me insanely travel-jealous. We wanted to go here for our honeymoon but realized that there was a bit of a cash flow issue for a weeklong (or more) Euro trip. We had the best vacation we've ever had in Vegas, thanks to a family friend. But Barcelona is still on the bucket list. And it sure would be nice to go there while I still look decent in a swimsuit. Although, I'm pretty sure I never looked like the girl in the video. Seesh.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


EF - Live The Language - Beijing from Albin Holmqvist on Vimeo.

(By the way, these all came from the ModLife blog, which is almost always interesting reading.)

I am fairly sure I'm more of a Europe girl than an Asia one, but this does make me want to explore the asian side of things as well... Can you study abroad for work? Sigh.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Oh, to be a study abroad student again...

EF - Live The Language - Paris from Albin Holmqvist on Vimeo.

And there are more... I believe I'll share them one at a time since I am the worst blog poster ever lately. This will give anyone who happens to look at my blog something to daydream about :)