NYC girl

I am flying to NY today for a five day stay, and instead of feeling giddy, I am feeling a little sick because when I got home from work at 10pm last night, I thought it would be a great idea to watch the Oscar telecast on DVD while drinking half a bottle of Cava and eating chocolate for dinner. Yea. Great. Packing? Wasn't really a priority and still clearly isn't since I am writing my blog instead of bustling around my room trying to gather things together. No matter. Tom said he'd prefer it if I showed up with an empty suitcase anyway. Baby might get his wish.

Tom's brother is getting married on Friday, and while we discussed me walking into the church late, with a burning cigarette in hand and a Euro sneer and giant sunglasses on my face, I will behave. It isn't that we aren't excited for the wedding, but when you travel across an ocean to be a + 1 sort of guest, it is tempting to bring on the drama just for fun.

I'll keep you posted...


Google Earth

I have been sitting in front of my computer for two hours, eating chocolate mini-eggs in my bathrobe and saying, "Wow man." over and over like Dennis Hopper in Sunday morning drag.

If you haven't downloaded Google Earth to your computer yet, you should. It is free and one of the coolest things I have ever seen -- truly using the internet to show how tiny and interconnected we are. You can map locations all over the globe and "fly" from one location to another. I went from my apartment in Amsterdam (I could see the bike racks two buildings aways, so I knew right were it was) to Tom's apartment in New Jersey (the Galaxy Towers had been mapped about 6 times already, so I went right there). That is what makes this so great -- when you add a location -- say, The Green Kitchen Diner in Guttenberg, NJ, the global map stores it for everyone else to see and use. So this map of the globe is getting compartmentalized on several levels: landmarks, cities, businesses, homes, parks, etc. I even found mom and dad's house at Black Butte. It makes my brain hurt and buzz all at the same time.

And this brings up an interesting point about privacy. When I can sit at my kitchen table and zoom all over the planet, looking at specific places belonging to specific people, how private can any one of us be? Do the Muslim women who live behind me and who cover their faces just to change the laundry hanging out their windows know that they are being photographed by satellites? That the top of their head may show up in a future map?

Anyway. Download the program and dream about travel. Even if you can't get on a plane, you can fly around and see just how amazing this tiny planet is.


How I managed to get to this point in my life without experiencing the deliciousness that is Raclette baffles me. Raclette is a cheese, but it is also dish that depends on cheese so much that the pans have special compartments just for the proper melting of said cheese. And there are special scrapers for getting the melted cheese out. The cheese has accessories. Like a dairy dream car.

At this point you might be thinking, "Sounds like fondue. I don't understand what the big deal is (I just typed that in a snooty accent)." Well Mister Doubty vanDoubterson, let me tell you what else is involved in eating Raclette. Meat. Yes. And not dipped in hot oil meat, but individually grilled pieces of meat that you get to cook yourself on the pan that sits over the mini cheese saunas.

And this brings me to the most wonderful part of all. Since each guest is responsible for cooking their own meat, everyone has the perfect reason to disengage from the conversation and stare at the chicken when they need to. I am a huge fan of any meal that helps cover up moments of social awkwardness through the act of grilling. This is why barbeques are so popular.

It was a great night at Dario and Marika's last evening. The food, obviously, was a hit, and the company was good fun.

Oh. And did I mention that you POUR THE MELTED CHEESE OVER LITTLE POTATOES? C'mon.


Happy Birthday Pisces

Oh the funny. The very, very funny. Thank you Mr. Theo Alto for introducing me to Mr. Harvey Sid Fisher -- you have enriched my life once again.


Geeking out

I may well have reached the height of geekiness last night when I saw The Decemberists at Paradiso. What makes a concert experience truly geeky?
1. You are part of the huddled masses at the doors when they open.
2. You strategically place yourself in the optimal seat for band view, sound quality and minimum interference by tall people in front of you.
3. You see people you know, but are so scared of losing your seat that you don't go say hi.
4. You sing loudly and with great enthusiasm to every song. And clap. And chair dance.
7. You give an audible, "WOO HOO" when the band mentions Portland.
5. You buy the t-shirt.
6. You tell the bass player, "Great show man" as you pass him by while riding your bike home.

It was a great show. A great show. I think it cracked my top 5 of all time concerts, but I can't be certain yet. Next up? The Shins on 5 April. If their new album is any indication, this show should be epic. "Wincing the Night Away" makes me grin like an idiot every time I hear it.

What else. Work has been nuts. I made popcorn tonight -- the old fashioned way with oil over the stove. I managed not to burn anything or set off the smoke alarm. It was delicious. I have missed popcorn. Thinking about bringing an air popper back with me in my suitcase.


Gung Hai Fat Choi

I am celebrating Chinese New Year night watching a repeat telecast of the Grammy Awards and eating green curry. Note to self: use half the amount of green curry paste that is called for on the conveniently translated instruction sticker. My lips are burning. What is Kanye West wearing? You are at the Grammys and you are wearing a hoody? A hoody? Pul-ese.

Today I went up to the Buddhist temple in Chinatown and bought a candle to burn on the alter (alter? I might have made a giant cultural mistake right there...) for good luck. There were tons of people up there today and many fireworks going off. I then discovered a proper Asian grocery store, "Oriental World" where you can find a vast array of delights, including the green curry paste mentioned above.

It has been in the 50s for a week and definitely feels like early spring. I rode around the town a bit and took some photos of random things. I was charmed by this city once again and taken aback by how familiar it is becoming. I officially reached 8 months of living here and am beginning to look forward to doing things again -- can't wait for summer.

Oh my. Rascal Flatts should never be allowed to play, "Life in the Fast Lane." I love the Grammys for the odd pairings. It is like Snow White dancing with Rob Lowe every single year.


13 years!

It is my nephew's 13th birthday tomorrow and I can't quite believe it. I can remember the day he was born amazingly vividly, despite waking up that Sunday morning on Stacy's couch after a pre-Valentine's day pink wine-in-a-box night where I played, "Desire" by U2 over and over on her record player. I called my answering machine from her kitchen and heard my brother say, "Congratulations Aunt Katie. You have a new nephew." I went home, brushed my Jane Mancini (thank you season three of Melrose Place) haircut and drove the Ford Escort Pony to the hospital where I met this little tiny baby boy who has grown into a charming, funny, talented young man. Time flew.

News from the Dam: Tom was here for over a week and it was great. We went out a bit, bowled with people before the Superbowl, played some pool, ate some food, saw some friends, laughed a whole bunch and enjoyed being together again. It snowed on Thursday and that was completely cool. Very pretty to see the city covered in white. It melted after a few hours, so it never got a chance to get slushy and dirty. Work is very busy, as usual, but good. I go to New York in two weeks for Tom's brother's wedding, so I don't have many days to get through before I get to see him again. Then I get back and have just a few weeks before going to Florence with my mom and then just a few more weeks before Paris with Jonna. And then it will be spring!

Oh. And speaking of. Tulips are ridiculously cheap here already. I bought 50 tulips for 5 euros! And then spent 6 euros on a vase large enough to hold 50 tulips. I imagine that by April they will be throwing tulips at you, begging you to take them away.

And the last tidbit: Big Balls the Cat and I have been establishing quite the relationship. He sits on the fence and we chatter back and forth, and then I give him food. Hitler the Cat is a little threatened.

Here is a piece of graffiti that is showing up all over town. Cool, no?


Strong Legs

The moment you discover that you have girlfriends in your corner in a brilliant moment indeed. Not a, "I love you sooooo much" sort of moment, but more of an, "Ah ha. Wow. Cool" sort of moment. That happened to me tonight when I got calls and notes left by girls I work with when they thought I was caught in a tough meeting at the same time we were all supposed to be going to dinner. I wasn't in a meeting and I was fine, but they were concerned. It surprised me and made me feel all sorts of good inside (and a little Sally Field -- You like me, you really like me!)

When I finally got to dinner and had my glass of champagne in hand, I proposed a toast to "strong ladies", but they thought I said, "strong legs." Huh?

After laughing (at me and with me), they raised their glasses and we collectively decided that toasting to strong legs is a good code for being willing to stand up for yourself and defending what is right and what is fair and not being afraid to say it (to be honest, this was an unspoken collective decision -- they might think "strong legs" is code for being brave enough to wear plaid stockings, but it is my blog, so my interpretation rules). Perhaps I discovered my Amsterdam legacy tonight. Years from now, project managers will be toasting to strong legs and not even know why.

And speaking of strong ladies...one of them lost her dad yesterday after a long battle with Parkinson's. If you get a chance, please raise a glass to my dear HotGirl, and take a moment to treasure your steady hands, good balance and clear mind. STRONG LEGS everybody!