Archive for the 'away from home' Category

The meeting of the Mums

By this time tomorrow, The Brit and I will be arriving in Boston and getting ready to celebrate the Thanksgiving Holiday with our brothers, both of whom live there. This is convenient as it means we get to kill two brothers with one stone, all while we eat one bird…wait. You know what I mean.

We’ve been looking forward to this trip for months now and when The Brit and I each mentioned it to our respective parental units earlier this year, they decided to join in the holiday fun too! So, Mamacusa and The Love Muscle are flying in from Portland while Lulu and The Brit’s stepfather will be flying in from England…along with The Brit’s aunt, uncle, and two family friends, also coming in from England. Considering our families have never met (with the exception of our brothers in Bean Town, of course) I figure we’ll need a few ice breakers to loosen everyone up. So, first up on the agenda? KEG STANDS AND BODY SHOTS!!! Woo hoo!!

Mamacusa, in all of her excitement, text messaged me the other day asking what to wear to Thanksgiving dinner. I told her to wear something nice…like some slacks and a nice top or something. Hopefully she didn’t take that to mean her MC Hammer pants and that one mesh/spandex halter top, because I REALLY hope she leaves that outfit at home this year.


Oh, how I heart NY

I’ve just returned from a weekend of fun and debauchery in NYC with a bunch of college friends. This was completely different from any given weekend of fun and debauchery we had in college in that, this time around, we were all at least financially stable enough to leave the pizza guy more than a one cent tip. Otherwise, it was pretty much as obnoxious a time as I can remember having in college.1

Ever since my first of many encounters with NYC, I’ve loved it. Something about the pace…the energy…the vibe…the potential for a cat-sized rat to saddle up next to me on the subway and rummage through my purse for a snack with its new and improved opposable thumbs…so EXCITING!

And just when I thought NYC had revealed to me the full and overwhelming extent of her charms…just when I thought she couldn’t possibly feed me a better slice of pizza or lead me to a better boutique sale in soho…she shepards us to a bar that not only has a respectable local beer selection but skee ball as well. SKEE BALL!! (The moment I laid eyes on the skee ball machines I was immediately transported back to the flat-chested days of my awkward and ill-fashion-sensed youth…these were the days when wet dreams were filled with images of trips to Chuck E Cheese’s just to play skee ball. Well, that and, let’s be honest, to crawl around in that slab of fake swiss cheese big enough for King Kong.2) It was a good thing that we left that bar when we did (after just a few games) because I’d just run out of one dollar bills (skee ball ain’t free, baby!) and I was fixin’ to do some pretty shameful things for the chance to play just one more game.

THEN, when I didn’t think things could get any better than hurling balls into concentrically larger rings for points while under the influence of alcohol, NYC takes us to yet another great bar. And then goes and challenges my dear friend, El Pepino, to an impromptu dance off. A perfect stranger vs El Pepino, lots of improvisational gyrating, a full circle of an audience on a make-shift dance floor cheering and clapping the two of them on, and a victory for El Pepino. I thought that kind of shit only happened in the movies. But no. That kinda shit goes down in the East Village, yo.

Oh, NYC, you sly mynx, you. You spin me right ‘round, baby, RIGHT ‘ROUND!!!

1. Though, to be truthful, between the Margarita Mondays and the Forty Fridays we had back then, I don’t remember much.
2. What can I say, my love of dairy runs deep.

Otherwise my dining room might have been a frilly, embroidered nightmare!

I’ve just arrived back in London from a mini-holiday in Budapest with The Brit, Lulu and The Stepfather. And despite the uncharacteristically wonderful weather in the UK the week prior, I’d been battling a cold all week long, staving it off with dosages of vitamin C and zinc that could likely kill a small hippo. But the flight to Hungary just pushed me and my virally ravaged mucous membranes over the edge. And suddenly, there I was, in Hungary, stuffed up and half def…surrounded by paprika’d salami and paprika’d goulash and paprika’d paprika and with only half my taste buds firing! Oh, the injustice!

Furthermore, there were two unfortunate realizations I came to when we arrived at our four-star hotel on the Buda side of the city in the Castle District. One of them being that the room The Brit and I were to share had two single twin beds rather than the requested double bed (apparently the Hungarians are a lot more like the Cleavers than I initially thought1) and the other being that I’d forgotten the small bag with my comfortable, sensible, sporty red Puma sneakers in the guest bedroom in Walton (which is, decidedly, NOT in Budapest). Instead, I had brought with me the bag with the slightly less than sensible high heels, which, I quickly discovered, were perfect for getting stuck in between the cobbles and the stones of the cobblestoned streets. Repeatedly.

In an effort to make the most of the day, we all went for a walk about the Castle District. Me in my highly impractical shoes and everyone else in their sensible “trainers.” And, just as we’d arrived at the Fisherman’s Bastion (after climbing many many steps) and were standing, overlooking the Danube, the first of many more raindrops began to fall. It seemed that things, as the Brits are keen to saying in situations like these, were beginning to go pear shaped. (Or, alternatively, and more up my alley, things were beginning to go tits up.) We ducked into a small café for some cover, a round of salami sandwiches, and warm apple strudel. And over some post-strudel coffee it was decided that we’d take advantage of the bad weather and go to a Hungarian bath house.

This proved to be a great decision.

We went to the Gellert baths and the place was absolutely stunning. The cathedral ceilings and the ornate, colorful tiling, the fountains and statues and gargoyles spewing water, the disorienting maze of steam rooms and massage rooms and rooms with successively hotter thermal pools (the hottest of which was 38˚ C)…it was all so unlike anything I’d ever seen before. The four of us tried out all the different temperature pools (well, truthfully, only The Brit was lunatic enough to dip into the 8˚ C pool to cool off after the steam room) and we all settled into the 36˚ C pool in the end. And let me tell you, nothing clears the sinuses like a hot bath with a bunch of near-naked Hungarians! Nagyszerű!2

Things thereafter began to look less like a pear and more like a pear strudel. (They make strudel out of everything over there.3) The weather improved and a twin bed turned out to be good for cuddling.

We all thoroughly enjoyed our three day weekend in Hungary. There was much quality time spent with Lulu and The Stepdad…over meals dominated by portion sizes of meat that seemed excessive and yet so very delicious…over long walks throughout the city and its monuments…over local beers at points overlooking the Danube river at sunset or at points along the bank of the Danube at Tea Time (which, for the purposes of this trip, were converted to Beer Time)…over the ferry ride to the nearby town of Szentendre…over shopping amongst the many stores chock-full of paprika and locally-made marzipan and local Hungarian wine and let’s not forget all of the embroidered niceties!

This segues nicely into the point I want to make about embroidered things. There’s something strangely enticing about them…almost like milkshakes that have a trace of crack in them to keep you coming back for more. Hungarians embroider absolutely everything…tops, jackets, purses, pillow covers, hankies, napkins, table cloths, doilies, underwear (presumably). Now. I’m not normally an embroidered, frilly hanky kinda gal. I’m more a take-this- ripped-off-end-of-this-here-partially-used-paper-towel-to-weep-your-eyes-out-with type. But something came over me as I stepped into shop after shop of folky, brightly colored embroidered items of a largely decorative and therefore, largely unnecessary, nature: I became obsessed with purchasing embroidered things. And I didn’t just want one thing. I wanted lots of them. Somehow one thing just wouldn’t look right if not surrounded by other things that were equally embellished. It was obscene, my insatiable hunger for Hungarian needlework. And luckily for me, my ability to purchase anything that I would have regretted was crippled only by the paralyzing indecision I experienced when trying to decide between the yellow embroidered doily or the red…the blue embroidered tablecloth or the white…the red embroidered pillowcase or the other red embroidered pillowcase. Seriously, I’m convinced those Hungarians put CRACK in their embroidery. I got out of there alive and only having purchased a couple of embroidered cloth bread baskets in the end but it was a close call!

And aside from a small incident involving the aforementioned highly impractical footwear, the aforementioned cobblestone streets, and a twisting of the ankle resulting in a rather dramatic and public fall, I’d say the weekend was a grand success! I knew, in fact, that things had gone well enough, when, as I lay there in the moments following my graceless union with the pavement, wincing and gasping in pain, it wasn’t my life that flashed before me but the thought that I hadn’t yet purchased all of the folky embroidered doilies that I absolutely needed. MUST! HAVE! DOILIES! STAT!!

Thank goodness the shops were closed and we had an early flight out the next morning!

1. Thusly, they lost a bit of my respect and about two of their stars in one fell swoop.
2. This means “Great!” in Hungarian but don’t ask me how to pronounce it properly!
3. Mind you, not once did I complain about this.

A British Brand of Politeness

A political conversation over dinner with The Brit’s godparents the other evening…

“…his presidency has been utterly catastrophic. He’s an absolute idiot!” Godparent #1 said passionately.

“Oh, do be gentle,” Godparent #2 said signaling toward me with a discrete nudge of the head, “this may be a sensitive subject for our guest, seeing as she is American!”

“Dear,” Godparent #1 said, “that’s as gentle as it gets when discussing Bush!”

Needless to say, Godparent #1 and I got along quite well indeed!

Ooh, how so very English!!!

I arrived safe, sound, and with a full bladder to London’s Heathrow airport on Friday morning…and allow me to be the first1 to inform you that queuing up in Immigration is no quick venture! It took me nearly 90 minutes!! What utter rubbish!!! And when I finally got to the desk of a rather stern looking immigration officer…

“And where do you plan to go while you’re in London?”
“The restroom.”
“Sorry, the loo.”
“Right. And after that?”
“Sorry! Walton on Thames.”

And off I went to meet The Brit’s Mum, Lulu, who was there to meet me. (The Brit was set to arrive on a flight much later on that day.) After a quick detour to the restroom loo, we threw my belongings into the boot and were in Surrey in no time at all. And after a shower and a quick kip, I was a new woman.

The Brit arrived shortly thereafter and got himself sorted. This involved a shower and a pint. Or four. And a positively gorgeous dinner with Lulu, his stepfather, aunt and uncle that evening.

The following morning, we packed our small bags, grabbed our brollies, and headed for Newbury (properly pronounced: “Noooooooooooooooooooooobry”) for a proper English countryside wedding. There are precisely 4,325,218 roundabouts between Walton and Noooooooooooooooooooooobry. (I was counting.) And, considering I’d only been to London and Manchester before (and 8 years ago at that) I didn’t know what to expect of Noooooooooooooooooooooobry…chalk and cheese, really! I do love London, but it was quite lovely out in the English countryside. I donned my very best frock and The Brit his most presentable trousers and suit jacket (we were looking more than a bit swish, to be honest) and off we went! I thought I’d be out of place without a proper hat, but instead I was out of place for lack of a fascinator!2 Despite my glaring Americanness, the wedding was quite lovely and highly enjoyable. The bride and groom (friends of The Brit’s family) clearly got on like a house on fire, the location was stunning (a beautiful weekly boarders school set amongst rolling hills and a large pond), and the food was gorgeous. There were sausages, and a proper English roast with Yorkshire pudding, wedding cake and tea and biscuits, and bitter and pims and fizz and pims with fizz. (And a bit more pims with fizz after that.) Bloody hell, but people (particularly the blokes) were getting pissed left and right! And just when I thought the whole thing was going to get out of control and go tits up, it was over. Spot on!

The next morning we had a bit of a lay in…a bit too much of one, actually. I was gutted to find that I’d slept right through the traditional English breakfast. I was quite looking forward to some blood sausage black pudding and beans! But alas, the drive out to see Stonehenge (I’d never been) on the way out to dinner with The Brit’s godparents more than made up for it.

It appears I’m now going to be dragged, kicking and screaming, to a Star Wars Exhibition3 and on a day when the London Underground might grind to a halt because of strikes! No way to escape the exhibition!?! What pants! If I survive that, there’s a show to go to in the evening and then a week full of plans to meet some of The Brit’s mates from boarding school and uni. And maybe even a blogmeet and a meet-up with some American friends of mine who are out here for work!

What fun!

1. Perhaps I’m exaggerating just a bit…maybe the second or third?
2. This shall be quickly remedied before the next wedding I have to attend. Oooh, but what will the Americans think????
3. I’ve mentioned that The Brit is an absolute freak about Star Wars, right?


The madness featured here is mine and mine alone. It does not, in any way, reflect the madness of my employers, colleagues, patients, nutty family, or my colorful friends. The privacy of my employers, colleagues, patients, nutty family and colorful friends is sacred & deeply respected, so no names. All words Copyright © la cubana gringa, no method, just madness 2006-2010. All comments © their authors. Don't steal; it's not nice. (And my Grandfather knows people.)

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