Happy New Year
1 January 2014, back home in Minneapolis MN USA
The year is looking up already — I was upgraded to first class on both flights home from Reno, and my car was right there at the airport, where I asked Tomery to leave it. My niece made a very short trip back to Minneapolis, then drove to LaCrosse WI to attend a college friend’s wedding. She used my car, and to save time for both of us, I had her leave it with valet parking. Best $30 I ever spent!
My friend Lois in Northfield isn’t feeling well, so I’m not going there today as I had planned. I worry about her health, which has never been the best, and now she’s 88. I’ll call her from DC to see how she’s doing.
It was nice to have some unscheduled time to work around the condo. Also did a second interview about the project in Kosovo. Seemed to go well, but I’m still not sure this is the right time to take off again.
I've started to knit regularly and completed a hat for myself, to match my white scarf ... and to be sure I'm visible when I walk at night. My down coat is dark.
It’s winter, therefore the main topic of conversation in Minnesota is the weather. As well it should be at the moment. Prediction is that the wind chill will be -50F (-46C) in the morning. At the moment it’s -15F, and the wind is howling, and I’m sure the wind chill is far below that. This arctic blast is going to be here for a while. Glad I leave for DC tomorrow afternoon.
Eating out is a good way to forget the weather, once you’ve traversed the sidewalk from car to restaurant door and ordered an Irish coffee or good red wine. So, your weather and dining report for the week:
Thursday evening Jan and I went to Red Stag to celebrate her birthday albeit a bit late. I had the most exquisite scallops, and scallops aren’t my favorite seafood. Her small steak was a bit more than the medium rare she’d ordered. The waiter was very gracious about getting another and did so quickly.
After water ex yesterday, I went to my nephew Chris’ new apartment where he made me a light eggs-and-toast breakfast and a great pot of coffee as well. The kid can cook! Didn’t get a chance to see Jen as she works on Saturdays. But the apartment is beginning to look like a home. They bought a lovely L-shaped sectional sofa that’s the same color as Lily, the cat.
For lunch yesterday, Marilou and I did “Christmas” at the restaurant at Macy’s/Ridgedale, a favorite of both of ours. Since I had a gift certificate we could use, we shared a flourless chocolate torte after our salads. In the evening I went to Linda’s birthday open house, always a crowded and fun evening. I only nibbled fresh hot veggie pizza and a few cheeses, no sweets. And since I was driving and the roads can be treacherous at this time of year, I stuck to water and a diet cola.
And tonight my sister and I had small plates at Marin downtown, which is becoming a favorite spot to both of us. She had a delicious, thick mushroom soup and flat bread; I opted for ginger lentils and roasted veggies. All very tasty, well presented and with wonderful service.
I made a hat for Alijah, my nephew Craig and his fiancee April's son. Craig took this photo of Alijah modeling.
7 January, Arlington VA
Well, I’m not getting much of a break from the cold here in the metro DC area, as I had hoped. While I waited five minutes for Inga to drive from the cell phone lot to the airport last night, the wind nearly knocked me over. And it hasn’t improved much today. Arlington schools started two hours late. When I walked Mickey, my 8-1/2-year-old charge, to his bus stop this morning, it was a major brrrrrr despite how bundled up we both were. Aideen, his mom, actually leaves tomorrow. I came a couple of days early to get oriented to school schedule etc.
Spent some time on the phone with the NGO that’s bidding on the Kosovo project. They’ve asked to bid me as chief of party, and I’ve agreed after being assured they can work around my commitments. The woman I talked with doesn’t expect much “action” before April, which will help. I should be able to do all, or at least part, of Scotland in June … all this assumes they get the contract and USAID approves my nomination.
Nothing like having a kid around to make a person prepare a real dinner! No more hummus and tabouli or popcorn for me. Tonight we had lamb burgers and mashed potatoes, two of Mickey’s favorites.
After much waiting on hold and explaining to a Help Desk voice that sounded 10 years old, someone finally returned my call from my former employer. I need my past basic wages for the 1420 form for the USAID project. Completed the form and emailed. They want to include me and suggested an agreeable salary. One of the project people called to congratulate me and said that he’d send the proposal for my comments.
I picked Mickey up after school, and we had dinner at a nearby restaurant, then walked over to Ballston Mall to see the animated film “Frozen.” The theater was closed due to a “burst pipe.” Would’ve been nice if they’d posted that on their website where I checked for viewing times. We returned to the building, got the car and drove to Potomac Yard where the film was also playing at a slightly later time. The navigation app on my iPhone is great. Despite traveling during rush hour and in the rain and dark, we made it safely, wasted some time on playing solitaire on my iPhone, then enjoyed the film. It was 10 pm before we got home.
3:50 am and we were blasted out of our beds by loud intermittent whoops. It took a minute to concentrate over the noise and hear a calm voice announce that a “fire incident” had been reported in the building, and we were to exit to the outside via the staircase and not an elevator. The blasts and message kept repeating as Mickey threw on some long shorts, his shoes and coat, and I grabbed the mobile phone from the table and put my fleece and coat on over my nightgown. Thank heavens for slip on shoes. The apartment door is self-locking, and I’ve taken to placing the keys on the security lock so I don’t lock us out. We’re next to the staircase, so locating and walking down was easy. Kid, keys and wide awake now, down to the main floor and out the front. Surprisingly not many people there, considering this is a 10-floor condo building with 20+ units on most floors.
We heard the fire trucks as more residents came down and out to the sidewalk, trying to stay warm and chatting amiably for such an early hour. Fully prepared fire fighters entered the building and took an elevator to the 9th floor. Ah, that must’ve been where the “incident” originated. I wondered if only 9 and 10 were evacuated until the fire department could verify the problem. After about 15 minutes, we got the “all clear” and an elevator full of people took an express ride to the 10th floor. Back to bed until Mickey came bursting in to announce it was 8:10. His mom was to call … and in fact had called. I didn’t hear the Skype ring because I forgot to disconnect the earpiece last night.
We spent several unproductive minutes trying to get a good connection; we could hear her, but she couldn’t hear us. I instant messaged her several times. She finally called on my mobile, and Mickey had a chance to chat for about half an hour.
Later in the day, Mickey and I took Liam and Roan, my friend Regina's sons, with us to the Air & Space Museum out by Dulles. Then we went back to Regina's for dinner. Mickey had a great time making two new friends.
What a gorgeous day! After talking to Aideen on Skype, we walked to IHOP for breakfast, then drove to the supermarket for a few necessities. Later we drove to a shopping plaza with a Target store and walked from there to a bank ATM. With Target’s hacking problem, I decided I’d use cash for my purchases. And it was a nice day for walking the couple of “blocks” to the bank and then back. Purchases in the car, we walked back to Target for a thirst quencher, bottled iced tea for both of us. One of my purchases was a Scrabble board game. Mickey had shown interest in my online/iPhone Scrabble games, but I thought that would be too challenging for a start. Better a good, old fashioned board game. We played in the evening with me showing him some words he could use that he might now have thought of — qi, xi and xu being among my favorite two-letter words for Scrabble. We also discovered ae which I’d never thought to try before, but there it was in the dictionary on my Scrabble app.
Mickey and I returned to school last evening, and he participated in “Kids’ Marketplace,” a game that teaches children about money. Each child is given an envelope with a photo of their occupation, their money take-home in Monopoly money and a card on which they can allocate money to expenses. Various shops etc. are set up around the room — housing, food, health, fun, even chance for those unexpected things. the kids get a sticker for each allocation and write in the amount to be spent. Mickey was a carpenter with $200 to spend. He did a nice job and even allowed some funds for a car breakdown.
Tonight I picked him up early and we traveled just south of Alexandria to see Ewa and her baby daughter Amelia. I worked with Ewa at Women for Women. Recognizing her name as Polish early on, I emailed her in my basic Polish, but we never met until today. It was a lovely time talking and seeing the baby.
Heard about the Minnesota Orchestra settlement on the news yesterday afternoon, and this morning it’s in the Washington Post. And saw it online in the New York Times. Nice to know that acrimonious disagreement is over and that something other that something other than our weather and Michele Bachmann can make the right coast news.
18 January, Baltimore MD
Windy and colder than I’d expected. I had a free night in my hotels.com account, and decided to bring Mickey here to see the National Aquarium and the Maryland Science Center. Also arranged lunch with Glenn and his girlfriend. Glenn and I worked in Macedonia at the same time and have kept in touch. He was most recently in South Sudan, leaving just ahead of all the trouble.
Off to the hotel pool for a while …
|Mickey at the Science Center|
20 January, Arlington VA, Martin Luther King Day
I think I’ve broken a toe. Yesterday, as I was drying my leg while resting my foot on the toilet seat, it slipped onto the ceramic tile floor. Ouch. But not a huge pain. Later in the day, while we were waiting for the start of an introductory film to the “Mummies of the World” exhibit at the Science Center of Maryland, Mickey stepped backwards right onto my sore toe. Very big ouch. It continued all day as I hobbled around. When we got back to Arlington, I took off my shoe and sock to find a very swollen, blackish toe next to my left big toe. No wonder I’d been in such pain all afternoon. I used a back of frozen mixed berries to reduce the swelling, and it felt much better by bedtime. Today it still hurts but I should be up to our field trip — a visit of the Mormon Temple in Kensington MD. The temple is an awesome structure that you see from the freeway. Looks a bit like Cinderella’s castle in the Disney films. I passed it many times driving to Baltimore with David and Inga and have always wanted to see it. Mickey expressed the same desire. My friends Alexis and Marcus who live in Silver Spring may go with us, and we’ll all have lunch too. They have the day off. So off we’ll go shortly.
Tomorrow I’m hoping we can go to the Mall, the one in DC with all of the Smithsonian museums and memorials, on the Metro. Mickey has another day off … but a “winter storm” is predicted for Arlington — 2 to 4 inches of snow! Hear that, Minnesotans. Since it was so cold before I left Minneapolis, I am actually prepared with boots, hat and flannel-lined trousers.
No school today … too much snow for this part of the world where plows are scarce and drivers all seem to be from Wisconsin. (That’s a Minnesota joke. We blame all bad driving on Wisconsinites. But when snow flies, the MN natives also seem to have forgotten that snow and ice require slowing speeds.)
|Mickey made a beautiful snow angel|
Yesterday Mickey and I ventured via Metro to a movie house in Clarendon to see “The Nut Job,” a new animated film, and connected with a friend of his. Cute movie for kids but the best part was the closing credits. An animated Psy-like character as well as all the animals from the film danced Gangnam style throughout. South Korea had been a supporter of the film.
When I went online to buy tickets, I noticed that the eight-plex theater, part of a big chain that also has theaters in MN, had only seven or eight rows. When I arrived, I was saw why — rows of extra wide leather recliners with two cup holders built into the flat, wide arm rests, not the usual rows of theater seats with attached plastic cup holders.
This morning we did some housework, then Mickey played at a friend’s house in the afternoon. Oh, and we did get to see the Mormon temple on Monday, after lunch with Alexis and Marcus … not the temple itself, which is closed to visitors, but a replica in the Visitors Center. Then we went to the Audubon Sanctuary and walked the nature trails for a while. Nice to be outdoors in reasonably good temp and weather before the cold front hit us again.
24 January, Bethesda MD
Aideen returned from Africa this morning with a bug of some sort. No, not roaches in her suitcase, something more sinister in her gut. She was in excruciating pain, so I insisted on a trip to the ER, where we spent the afternoon getting her examined and treated. Probably a parasite but won’t know for sure until Monday. In the meantime she’s on antibiotics and pain killers. We picked Mickey up at school, ordered Chinese for dinner, then I took a cab to Inga’s in Bethesda. Aideen was in no shape to drive, and Inga was out with the girls. The cab was far less expensive than I’d anticipated.
Inga and the girls were at home when I arrived, having shopped the closeout sale at Loehmann’s in Friendship Heights. I’ll be here until I leave on Sunday. I think Antonia has grown an inch or two since I saw her last, and Franciszka has started driver’s ed. Inga seems to be doing well and will start an interior design course at the Corcoran next month. Good move — she has an incredible design sense.
Inga, Tosia and I went to the cemetery where David's cremains are buried. It's a beautiful spot, even with all the snow. Afterwards we met Adam, an artist friend who emigrated from Poland about 25 years ago, for lunch. And after that, Antonia and I went to the Newseum where I took her picture in front of a section of the Berlin Wall.
27 January, Minneapolis MN, amidst Polar Vortex 3
Sounds like a sci-fi film, but it’s a weather phenomenon which is why at 8:38 am, it is -17 F (-27 C) here with an expected high of -8F (-22C). Someone please remind me why I returned here to live? Ah, yes, family and friends, all of whom like me are huddled up at home keeping warm and thus we’re not socializing much.
No school today. Too cold. And I think every family was at the downtown Target. Having totally forgotten about school closings, I ventured there by car after my water ex class and breakfast with friend Ted this morning. The parking lot was full! I drove up to Northeast and ordered new glasses — Kevin will put new lenses (something digital) onto an old set of bows and nose pieces. He also repaired my favorite pair with the purple bows, which I’m now wearing again.
Ted has introduced me to a couple of new listservs for books. I especially like the most recent one called “BookBub,” since Bub is my sister’s nickname. It offers inexpensive books for Kindles and other e-readers. He also recommended a biography of the late actor Robert Mitchum that I’ve ordered. With all the books I ordered while in DC, I should be set for this long, cold winter!
Snowbound … or at least, not taking the car out today. We got about six inches of snow last night and this morning, but the sun is shining now. Lots of radio warnings about poor driving conditions and not driving unless absolutely necessary. Nice to be retired; my sister’s drive time this morning was more than an hour, not her usual 20 minutes.
I’ve used the indoor time to catch up on two hate-to-do tasks — shredding months of mail and cleaning off the dining room table of mail, sorting and filing. Also did a load of laundry so I could dry some pieces and increase the humidity in the condo. I don’t like the sparks that were flying too often when I flip a light switch.
Today was a snow emergency day, and the plows came down my street fairly early. Unfortunately the guy who plows our driveway didn’t. The snow pile in front of the exit was too tall and wide for my low-to-the-ground Ford to traverse without getting stuck, and I missed water ex. Later I was to meet nephew Chris for breakfast. As I went to the garage, I checked out the window and a neighbor’s van was stuck on the icy snow mound. I grabbed a shovel and between us, we got her dug out. Then I stopped traffic so she could pull out safely. I dug away the rest of the snow to ensure I could get out to breakfast.
In the afternoon the sky was clear, the sun was out and the temp was cold. My niece Michelle picked up her mom at the airport, then me, then we drove to Cambridge to pick up her husband Jon at their cabin. Off we went to nephew John’s wedding in Brainerd.