Archive | fun…what a concept

is there nutella on the path to enlightenment?

We leave for India Wednesday night. Our flight leaves Abu Dhabi at 10:30, a good two hours after the boys’ bedtime, which should make for some lovely pre-flight bickering. We arrive in Delhi, conveniently, at 3:15AM. I think that even my children may be too tired to squabble at that hour, but who knows. Perhaps they’ll rally and stage a re-enactment of the Sepoy Rebellion at the luggage carousel.

India floats in my mind in a cloud created from long-ago readings (and re-readings) of MM Kaye’s steamy historical romance The Far Pavilions, Rohinton Mistry’s brilliant  A Fine Balance, a smattering of Forster, and Elizabeth Gilbert’s yogic enlightenment.  There’s a little “Slumdog Millionaire” thrown in for good measure, and then the whole mishmosh gets wrapped in brightly patterned cloth and tied with sparkly mirrored thread.

In other words, I know pretty much nothing.  Liam and Caleb are all “elephants! Taj Mahal! Red Fort! Elephants! Tigers! Taj Mahal!” So pretty much they don’t know anything either.

We’ve done some homework: my copy of the Lonely Planet guide to Delhi, Agra, and Rajasthan is as well-thumbed as a holy book; indiamike is now bookmarked on my computer. The boys have flipped through a few India books, and they’ve looked at some websites, but nothing more than that.

This trip is the first Big Trip of our Middle East Adventure, so we’re doing what we can to cater to the tastes of the under-eleven set: we’re staying at hotels with pools for post-touring jumping around; we’ve booked a little tiger-spotting safari in Ranthambore National Forest (erase visions of bwana in a tent doing a Hemingway—it’s a jeep that drives through the jungle for a few hours, then dumps us back at our hotel); we’re going to Jaipur to ride an elephant to the Amber Fort.

Actually, who am I kidding? Our itinerary seems perfectly designed for the closer-to-fifty-than-you-want-to-admit set, too.  It’s my first trip to India and I’m not ready for too much “off the beaten path” this time around. Next time, maybe, but at this point, I’m flying Low Expectation Airways.  I want us all to see a glimpse of this amazing part of the world, become a little more aware of the educational and economic privileges we take for granted, check the Taj Mahal at sunrise off my life list, and then…well, after that, I just want to survive nine days, two boys, one husband, shared hotel rooms, and a LOT of trains.

Husband toured around India and Pakistan decades ago, in the post-college haze of youth and energy. He stayed with distant relatives or slept in youth hostels (or youth hostiles—there’s a reason god invented the B&B, and it was to save us from the youth hostel).  Husband wandered through cities, hopping trains whenever and wherever he wanted. He was, you know, Finding Himself.

Finding Yourself is easy (sort of), when you travel alone. I’m pretty sure that I’m not going to have a yogic “aha!” moment on this trip, the way Elizabeth Gilbert did when she stayed at an ashram, in the “Pray” section of Eat, Pray, Love.  Finding enlightenment is a whole hell of a lot more difficult when you’re traveling with emergency jars of Nutella and peanut butter in your suitcase.  If I were to write a book about this trip, I might call it “Please EAT, Love,” and in it I would answer the burning question of whether a seven-year-old boy can survive for a week on nothing but rice and nutella.

I’ll let you know when we get back.



Hey! Look! Over there! A super-cool button that links to lovelinks! Click the button and maybe you’ll find yogic enlightenment. Or at very least some super-cool blogs to read! Click over, read the other writers, then come back on Thursday (or Wednesday night) and vote for your three faves! You don’t have to vote for me, but your chances at reaching a more advanced state of being will be improved if you do!

Continue Reading · on November 1, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, Children, expat, family, fun…what a concept, Travel

Qasr Al Sarab

Husband and I decided on a splurge during our visit to Abu Dhabi – a splurge underwritten by some research monies he has for an article he’s working on (seriously! About Arabian Sands, a book written by an Englishman who wanted to map the part of the Arabian Desert known as Rub Al Khali, or The Empty Quarter.  This section of desert is shared by Saudi, UAE, Yemen, and Oman, and is larger than France, Netherlands, and Belgium put together.  It has more sand than the Sahara, even though in square miles Rub Al Kali is smaller.  More important than any of those facts? It’s stunningly beautiful.  Gobsmackingly, jaw-droppingly, did-you-see-that beautiful).

Underwriting—or as we like to call it, corporate sponsorship—firmly in place, we made a reservation at Qasr Al Sarab.  We reserved a car service to drive us out there—it’s about two hours outside of Abu Dhabi city, and neither of us are equipped, legally or psychically, to drive in the UAE.  First surprise: when you reserve “a car” in New York, you get some version of an over-scented Lincoln Town Car.  Here? We got a beat-up Toyota station wagon with anemic air conditioning.  We also got an upclose and personal introduction to highway driving, Arab style:  drivers pass one another whenever they want, wherever they want, with a simple flash of headlights to indicate their intentions.  The vehicle in front slides over to the right (without slowing down), the driver behind speeds up into the lane of oncoming traffic (regardless of traffic in other lane), goes around the too-slow vehicle in front, and then slips back into the correct lane.  I stopped watching after a while because I didn’t want my panicky gasps to distract the driver and get us all killed before we arrived at the resort.

Wait. “Resort” is TOTALLY the wrong word for where we arrived after our death-defying desert drive.

We arrived at…time out of mind? A place out of time? The corporeal equivalent to you-have-been-reborn-as-Brangelina? Continue Reading →

Continue Reading · on November 26, 2010 in environment, fun…what a concept, Travel

Happy Birthday To Me…


Okay, my birthday was last month, it’s true. But for the last few months, I’ve been going in and out of the Village Tannery eyeing (and yes, occasionally fondling) their leather bags because the satchel I use on my teaching days (my “grownup” satchel, as opposed to the ratty old canvas totes I use for crashing around the city)  gave up the ghost in August. The straps simply shredded beyond the point of repair. 

The Tannery has been a village institution for more years than I can remember–and it’s a bit of a vanishing breed: one of the last stores where the designers and craftsmen work right in the shop making things that are one of a kind.  When I was in graduate school, I used to walk past the original store, which is still on Bleeker just off of 6th Avenue, and wish that someday I could replace my beat-up backpack with one of their creations. 

Today “someday” finally came.  Months of wandering in and out of the store, chatting with the shopkeeper and designer, looking at the artisans in the back of the shop, where they make the bags (yes! hand-made by actual hands, in an actual store, in the actual city where I live. amazing); months of thinking “who am I to afford such a bag?”

Well…my birthday came and went, ushering me firmly over the hill into my late forties;  and mom sent me a little  “happy happy” money and so did dad, and then my sweet sister (who doesn’t live in the city) went to the trouble of getting me a Tannery gift certificate for another little chunk, and then Husband and I went to lunch today (discounted because of Restaurant Week)…we were right around the corner from the shop, I’d had two bloody marys with lunch (never  shop after drinking, let that be the lesson) and…

To paraphrase Jane Eyre:  Reader, I bought it.

This photo can’t do it justice. The leather like buttah, baby; the saturated color of the straps; the attention to detail (two slanted zipper pockets on each outside edge, a phone pocket inside, another zipper pocket inside–and did I say that the zippers are dark green?); the fact that if anything goes wrong with it ever,  the owners will fix it free of charge.

It’s enough to make a girl happy about going to work.

Continue Reading · on February 5, 2010 in fun…what a concept, NYC

Dinner and a Movie? Nah.

ticketsThey announced the Oscar nominees yesterday and on that list of ten (10!) best picture nominees I’d seen exactly…one.  The animated one with all the balloons.  (Shockingly, the two other movies I’ve seen recently,  “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” and “Twilight: New Moon” were absent from this list of cinematic glory.)

It’s not that I dislike the movies. I love going to the movies.  I like the theater, too.  It’s just that on my own private ranking system, very few things measure up.

My ranking system isn’t stars or rotten tomatoes or thumbs up-or-down. Nope, my system is much more crass than that: it’s money. If Husband and I “just” want to go to the movies, for instance, even without getting a bite to eat or a glass of wine beforehand, our evening costs us close to $100:  two movie tickets at $12.50 and approximately three hours of babysitting at about $15 an hour, plus maybe a little extra if we get home late and offer to pay for the sitter to take a cab home.  It’s about 70 bucks.  Now tell me, seriously, are any of the movies on that list worth that much money?  (Husband is fairly sure that “Avatar” is worth all the money in the world but I just can’t bring myself to be excited by a movie that my nephew described as “Dances with Smurfs.”)

As for theater? Don’t even get me started. Given that the cheapest seats for most good theater–on or off Broadway–start somewhere in the realm of $50, we’re looking at about a 200 or 300 dollar evening.  I coughed it up in order to see Cate Blanchett in “Streetcar Named Desire,” which was, granted, an amazing experience. Husband tells me that there are lots of amazing theatrical experiences out there – and I know he’s right–but at two hundred bucks a pop, it’s a drag when a performance is only so-so, or even (as is all too often the case) downright dreadful.

Me? I’d rather spend money on going out to eat. Somehow even a mediocre (probably over-priced) meal in a restaurant makes me happy, for the simplest of reasons: I didn’t cook it, I’m not cleaning up after it, and no one is demanding that I leap up to get him more milk some salt another napkin more ketchup dessert now.. I mean please… as soon as I sit down.  

Sarah, in the LA Mom’s Blog, talks about whether a dinner engagement is “sitter-worthy” and I guess for me, most meals out are sitter worthy.  A dinner out with friends–a dinner without discussions of logistics and homework, a meal without mediating between squabbling siblings–that to me is money well spent.

So you go to the movies and I’ll meet you later for dinner so you can tell me all about it.

Continue Reading · on February 3, 2010 in fun…what a concept, NYC

You Say Bricolage, I Say Mash-Up

IMG_0835.JPG“It’s a badguy warship coming in…shphfffththththpphfff POW but WAIT here comes the rescuers with the light saber and now the camel will ride across the planet and argh… “

And thus do Caleb’s battles commence, every evening after school or after breakfast, or pretty much whenever. The time is always right, it seems, for an adventure, an explosion, or some sort of violent confrontation.

Playmobil figures are a pretty recent addition to this lego-heavy household; Caleb got a few different sets for his birthday in August and now it’s his latest addiction.  But this new love doesn’t mean that legos and star wars have been replaced. Oh no.

What it means is that all the worlds are linked, pretty much seamlessly: light sabers are wielded by Roman centurions riding camels against the medieval siege wagon manned by a police man carrying a double-headed battle ax. These figures are, collectively, known as “guys,” and Caleb adores them all.

Derrida said once that every discourse is bricoleur–from bricolage, a term that originally meant using found objects in ways very different from their original purpose.  In regular person’s terms, think “Killing Me Softly,” from the Fugees or, for that matter, lots of what gets sung on Glee.

Who knew that my five-year-old was such a philosophe, eh, creating his own narratives regardless of what’s pictured on the packages.

Those little bits of molded plastic offer him hours and hours and hours of play-time, almost always on his own (except when Liam deigns to dip a toe back in the world of imagination). I know Caleb is hoping that Santa has a direct line to the Playmobil factory–and I realize that when ‘the guys” get packed away for good, I’m going to be sad to see them go.

(And–toy alert–if you’re a playmobil fan, you might want to look FAST at the Momtrends website, where she’s featuring a Playmobil contest, among other goodies.)

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Continue Reading · on November 30, 2009 in fun…what a concept

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