Ode to Arthur: a Haiku

Hurricane Arthur
A Cat 2 storm it was not
But it had some wind

The hurricane that got away

The hurricane that got away

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Eurotripping across the pond

A few weeks ago I went home to Illinois to hang out with the parents — I hadn’t seen my Dad in nearly a year, so I felt it was time to head back and enjoy the long weekend with me Dad.  It was amazing, we had a really good time, which included a 22 mile bike ride through my college town – it was the furthest I had ever biked – my dad calls this a mere warm up.  It was a perfect last minute planned trip home.

One of my connecting flights back to Wilmington brought me into Charlotte with a 2 hour layover.  What to do, what to do?  I started wandering the different terminals to find dinner, and finally settled on an overpriced sushi spot (it was really good!).  For dessert, I decided to head over to the Rum Bar in Terminal D for a pina colada.  I wasn’t flying the plane!  I sat up at the bar and a few moments later, the gentleman to my left asked where I landed from.  I answered and asked him where he was headed.  “Dublin, Ireland, with my friend here, ” he said pointing to the guy sitting next to him; both had been drinking heavily.  “Then we’re spending a few days in London.”  I smiled.  These were 2 of my favorite cities in Europe and I told him he would have a fantastic time – it was their 1st time out of the country.  They planned to drink their way through both cities and enjoy the sights.  They couldn’t have been older than their late 20’s.

“So, do you have any tips?” he asked.

“Well….,” I began.  I’m not really good at small talk and I had no idea what their itinerary was.  I mentioned the touristy spots in Dublin and then started inquiring about their trip.  These poor gentlemen had no idea about international travel.

I told them that most credit card companies charge a surcharge when using the card on foreign currency.  They also neglected to alert their credit card companies that they were leaving the country.  “Call them, right now, or you’ll use it about 2 or 3 times before they put a fraud lock on them.”  Their eyes got big as one of the guys got on the phone straightaway.  They were also misinformed about the Eurozone: England is on the British Pound, not the Euro.  They tried to tell me different, but even the Israeli guy sitting kitty corner from us, listening to our conversation was getting a chuckle out of that one.

“Where are you staying in Dublin?”  I asked.  “Not sure, we got a few leads on hotels,” came the reply.  I gave him the address to the hostel I stayed at and told him it was central to everything and my great experience there.  They had never experienced a hostel before, and as most Americans, they were leery about the whole experience.

“How are you getting to London?”  “Well, there’s a train thing -”  “No, use Ryan Air!”  They wrote all this down.  I explained what a “watering hole” (a bar) and “the tube” (the subway in London) was.  I also suggested this hostel in London.

We talked a bit more about travel and what to do and then it was time for my flight.  “Thank you so much for all the information,” the guy said as he shook my hand.

I then sprinted to my gate and I got there just as they were announcing to board.

I was glad I was able to help someone’s European adventure and save them from the pitfalls of international travel.  I keep wondering how their trip went, what kind of adventures and discoveries they had.  I never got their names.  I’ll never know how it all turned out.

Ah, but such is the life of a traveller and those you meet along the way.

Jamaican me crazy….

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My random, split second decision to leave the country to get some perspective on the “thorn in my side” and spend some quality time with my mom and sister lead me to the island country of Jamaica.

Now, I wish I could report that I did something noble like a mission trip or working to better the lives of the poor….but that was not the case.

You see, my little sister is getting married next year and has decided to do a destination wedding in Jamaica at a 5 star all-inclusive resort. They were on a reconnaissance mission and I was invited along.

While my sister and I were raised in the same house, we are as different as night and day. I travel light, I stay in cheap hostels around Europe, I like to get into the culture of the country I’m visiting. I swear there is some gypsy blood in me somewhere, as I’m always on the move. My sister is my complete opposite: she does not travel much, but when she does, she stays in resort areas with a suitcase that would last me months. All-inclusive translates into the cost of the resort includes all your meals, drinks (from water to liquor), and the use of their butler service. Basically, it’s like being on a cruise on land. This was my 1st foray into this mode of travel.

This was also the 1st time my mom left the country. I don’t count Canada. This is the only country my sister has visited. Again, Canada doesn’t count.

I ate meals fit for royalty. I drank like a sailor. Well, I wasn’t walking around intoxicated, but having a drink before lunch became the norm. There was a bar you could swim up to, which was awesome. And when you’re sitting in a meeting about floral arrangements for a wedding that’s not yours, a drink should be customary.

Best parts: spending a summer afternoon with my mom and sister. We sat out drinking and sunbathing by the pool, ordering fruity drinks, talking about everything. We laughed a whole bunch and enjoyed each other’s company. It was one of the most perfect moments we’ve had, bonding as mother and daughters. I wish I could have bottled it up and relive it when I’m old. I shared a room with my sister and wow that girl can talk! We had a lot of good conversation and I feel I got to know her better; she’s got a pretty good head on her shoulders. We tried our best to avoid each other when we lived under the same roof.

Worst parts: Driving to the resort. Jamaica is a very impoverished country. I felt guilty dining on lobster and steak and helping myself to a buffet all day when it’s obvious that the typical Jamaican does not have access to things I take for granted here in the States. It was very sobering. I wanted to venture out beyond the resort to explore the country as I do in Europe, but that was heavily frowned upon. With the poverty comes the crime: with my light skin, I might as well tattoo “American Tourist with Cash” on my forehead. $92 Jamaican = $1 USD. I’d be an easy roll.

While the resort was on the ocean, I did not like their beach. There were no waves, thus no surfing. The beach was roped off so you could only go out shoulder deep. I do not like being ‘caged’ in. All the sand there is imported….the natural landscape goes ocean-rocks-land. There is no ‘beach’ like there is here in the Carolinas. Kure is still my favorite.

I return next year with my General for the nuptials. And I must say I’m looking forward to sharing this experience with my husband.

The Mojito Garden

A few weekends ago, I learned that I can make a mean mojito.  So, inspired by my 2 large patches of mint out front, I started a “mojito garden” – which basically means I planted a few varieties of mint outside my back porch.  Rumor has it these plants also repel bugs like ants and mosquitos – even better.  Once everything fills in a bit more, I’ll post a picture of it….right now it’s just a few plants that are struggling to make it.

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Orange Mint

And I know – this is the cardinal sin of gardening.  “Wo to those who plant mint, for they lose their land.”  Mint is a bit like a 2 year old child.  And by planting said mint in the fashion I did, is like giving the 2 year old everything it wants when it wants it — aww, it’s cute at 1st, but then that 2 year old gets older….and you have a brat of epic proportions on your hands.  Give mint a inch, it’ll take over the next quarter mile….but with it in my sandy soil and lighting conditions from my yard of long leaf pines, I do have a bit of room for it to wander…..I think it’ll be okay.  I’ll have to cull the herd in a few years…..or have a mojito party for the whole neighborhood.

Currently, I have 3 varieties of mint growing:
* Spearmint (straight up, unadulterated mint)
* Chocolate mint (it smells heavenly)
* Citrus “Orange” mint (think mint and an orange had a love child)

They work amazing in a mojito….or tea.  When I bought the mint at Home Depot, the lady at the register said if I were to boil the mint in water on a stove with cinnamon sticks, it would make the house smell heavenly.  Haven’t tried it yet, but I will soon!

Here’s my secret recipe for the mojitos, compliments of the International Bartenders Association:
((you can make them virgin, just omit the rum – it won’t change the taste))

The General’s Wife Mojito via IBA
~1 shot of rum
1 shot of lime juice (I used store bought lime juice, but I plan on juicing some limes next time)
~7 mint leaves, any variety
1 tsp white sugar
sparkling water or soda water

Muddle (bruise) mint leaves in the lime juice in a tall glass – I used a wooden spoon.  Add sugar.  Stir.  Add rum.  Top with soda water (I also add ice).  Serve.

It’s perfect for a summer afternoon.  So refreshing and bikini friendly!

The Louisville Affair

I have something to confess.  I have a crush.

His name is Louisville.  He lives in Kentucky.

Granted, this wasn’t my 1st time meeting him.  I’ve met up with him (as friends) over a few weekends many years back when I was single.  There wasn’t a spark, it just was a nice common meeting.  This, however, was the 1st time I saw him as a married woman, and I must say I never noticed how handsome he was.  It was always dark when I saw him before….this time, in the fresh morning light of late August, he all of a sudden became interesting.

Louisville was a sweet man.  He smiled at me.  He played the most awesome songs on the radio (you know you’re with Louisville when you’re blasting “Lose Yourself” by Eminem in your newly rented Chevy Alero with the speakers phasing out).  He made me feel beautiful.  And best of all, he made me laugh.

“You see that exit there?” he drawls as I zoom by.
“Uh-huh.”
“You totally wanted that exit.  Your hotel is just down the street from that.”
“Whoa, crap!” I said.  “I’ll just turn around at the next exit.”
Louisville starts to laugh. “Dude, there is no turning around.  We’re going to INDIANA!”
“Oh, but I hate Indiana!”
Louisville smiled as we cross the Ohio River.  “Trust me.  I know where this road goes.”

And sure enough, 10 miles into Indiana, I turn around.  I found a Steak n Shake, so we stopped in for a quick breakfast and a milkshake.  As Lousville and I return to Kentucky, I dropped him off so I could spend some time with Alice – my friend from college.  Hanging out with Alice is always an adventure and this time proved no different.  Adventures for the day included crazy conversations, bakery runs, a solo Wal-Mart run for the most random items ever, and prepping the church for the wedding.  Because their janitor was a moron, he didn’t clean the floor properly.  And by properly, I mean at all.  So, I volunteered to mop the floor.  I haven’t mopped a floor like that since I was in high school, but it all came back to me rather quickly.

From there, I headed back downtown to this swanky joint to meet up with Louisville again before my friend/roommate Lydia would be joining me.  I changed into a sexy black dress and took some pictures with him (I totally showed them to my husband, too.  He didn’t seem to mind.).  There was a world festival going on right next to my hotel, so Louisville and I checked it out.  It made my heart so happy to walk hand-in-hand with Louisville, wandering from booth to booth with no plans or sense of direction.  He rolled his eyes when I commented that Germany was not represented outside of the beer tent.  Getting hungry, we decided to walk down 4th Street to where the action was.  We found a cute English pub that claimed to serve authentic English food.  It was so good, I still think about the Welsh sandwich I had on a pretzel bun.  Perfection.  We both ordered martinis and toasted the evening.  After being awake for so long, I needed to rest before heading out for the batchelorette festivities – which included this non-alcoholic sangria made by yours truly.  It rivals the real deal.

After some careful persuading (“Louisville, I’m married, you can’t come up to my hotel room.  Seriously.”), I agreed to meet him at the hotel gym early in the morning.  I snuck out before Lydia was awake.  While the view was breathtaking (it was on top of the hotel, some 18 stories up), it cost $5.  I told him I wasn’t going to pay that to run on a treadmill.  He winked at me.  “Pool?”  With my string bikini on under my gym outfit, we went to the pool.  It was closed for another 40 minutes.  “I’m not going to wait around, time is short,” I told him, as I had plans to straighten my hair for the wedding.  “Follow me,” he whispered in my ear as he lead the way.

I followed him outside.  “Where are we going?” I asked.
“Downtown,” he replied.  “You said earlier you wanted to explore the city a bit more, so let’s do it.  C’mon.”

Without a second thought, I took off in a steady jog, heading west on Main Street.  It was awesome.  I wished Wilmington had the money/foresight to fix up our downtown as well as this one was.  As I was running, Louisville started laughing at me.

“What?”
“You just ran over an on-ramp to I-65 and you didn’t even look behind you.”
“I did?”  Sure enough, he was right.
“You’re in the city now, gotta watch yourself.  Stop daydreaming.”

We wove down Market Street when the terrain turned into the industrial side of downtown.  So many restaurants here I wanted to try – so many drinks that have not been drunk.  I suddenly wished The General could materialize and enjoy this gorgeous city with me.  I felt almost guilty for having this awesome adventure and he wasn’t here to experience it with me.  Louisville and I jogged until the terrain changed and the people looked a less bit friendly.  We headed back to the hotel.  “I’ll catch you later, ” Louisville said with a quick peck on the cheek as he took off down the street.  I sighed a happy sigh.   This guy was getting under my skin.

The day of the wedding was perfect – so perfect, I really didn’t even notice the rain.  Alice and her groom were wonderful together.  Their ceremony rivaled my own (I liked her wedding more than my own!).  I was so happy to be a part of it!  That night, I spent the evening catching up with old friends and making new ones.  Louisville was in the lobby.  “I love how the lights of downtown dance in your eyes,” he said sweetly.  “Louisville,” I said sternly.  “You can’t come up,  I can’t go out on the town with you. Lydia and the girls are up there. And oh yeah, I’M MARRIED!”

Despite the fact I got next to no sleep in this city, Lydia and I awoke at the crack of dawn to drop her off at her car and for me to head to the airport.  I was a little sad I didn’t get to say good-bye to Louisville.  I arrived in the terminal (by using the kiosk in German, I was so proud of myself), and there he was, handsomely dressed with a big smile on his face.  I gave him a big hug.

“I sure am going to miss you,” I said.  “I didn’t expect this to happen, but it was so wonderful, and – ”
He cut me off.  “Shhhh, it’s okay.  I’ve been here a long, long time and you’ll be back.  And I’d love to meet your husband.”
“He’s totally coming next time.”
Louisville nodded.  “Until then.”
One last hug, and he was gone.  By this time they had announced my boarding zone.

And just like that, Louisville was gone.  I smiled at the city below as we reached our cruising altitude.  Oh, Louisville!  I look forward to our next liaison.