Monthly Archives: October 2012

A Disruption in Your Regularly Scheduled Programming

This is not a TWM post.  Why?  Because my Macbook, which was conceived in the ever-so-ancient year of our Lord, 2006, makes super scary helicopter noises every time I attempt to load anything other than an email attachment and I fear a photo upload would send it to its grave.  It also cannot run two programs at once, bless it’s heartdrive, so I’m going to post my TWM whence I return to the sunshine-barren land known as the United Kingdom on Friday.

Until then, here’s a little update on where I am and what I’m doing:

I love to travel.  I’m not big on tourism and, generally, my favorite way to experience a new place is simply to walk around and observe the local culture.  I want to drink in pubs and eat with the locals, I want to walk the streets and window shop and get a sense of the local fashions.  I want to visit art galleries, walk through parks, meld into the background and observe.  Because I am enormously fortunate to work from wherever I have wifi, David and I have an agreement where, if it works with our schedules and finances, I will travel with him whenever he’s away on business.  This is a great arrangement because I get to see a new part of the world, and he gets to disappear and do work things.  It’s like having a private vacation all on my lonesome, with the added bonus of sometimes getting to eat at incredibly fine restaurants whilst networking.

It is through this arrangement that I currently find myself in the Costa Del Sol, living in a private villa and doing all my work in the leisurely style most recently exhibited by the Duchess of Cambridge- no photos please. 

This, my friends, is the view from my mobile office. 

Not bad.  Not bad at all. 

Now forgive me for sounding like a total prat, but this part of Spain, though lovely, doesn’t pique my interest in the way that many travel destinations do.  For one, it’s basically the same as being in Orlando, Florida except all the olds are English or German instead of from Nebraska.  For two,  warm destinations make me docile and sleepy and I’ve spent the vast majority of my time here completely dormant and/or sitting in the sun.  That being said, this is the most relaxed I’ve been since before my wedding [7 months ago] and I’m thrilled to be lathered in sun screen and drinking iced wine on the terrace for most of my waking hours.  Forget culture- I want relaxation! 

So, that’s what I’m up to these days.  What are you up to, dear reader?  Once I  have my base tan under control, I’m looking forward to going home and tackling an ever-growing to-do list (so much home improvement, so little time!), wearing knit sweaters, enjoying autumn and preparing for my Ma and Pa to visit!  But for now, back to the sunshine. 


Scotland Escape: Let’s Play Dress Up!

When I first saw Gargunnock House online, I just knew that I wanted to do something ridiculously fabulous there.  A couple weeks before we arrived, I emailed our friends Skye and Scott and recommended that we all bring something formal to wear in the house.  In our formal attire, we could stage a wonderful photo shoot in the home’s various rooms and gayly think back to our vacation- so full of mirth!- in our wee Scottish mansion.  

Without any real sense of regret, I am sorry to say that we waited until the very last evening to put on our formal clothes and prance around the house.  Regardless, we had a marvelously goofy time taking pictures of each other pretending to read whilst drinking Scotch, and trying our best to play the piano (which you’re not supposed to do, by the way).  Here is what transpired.  Enjoy!

And because I don’t know when I’m ever going to wear it again (unless David has a truly fantastic Christmas Gala to attend in the next couple years), I wore my Nicole Miller wedding gown for the occasion.  The cobalt blue silk gown is glamorous in every sense of the word and it was a great pleasure to wear it somewhere more refined than my own living room for once.

And so concludes my Scotland Escape.  Thanks for reading! 

Scotland Escape: Inside Gargunnock House

 As we were driving to Scotland, David wanted to make one thing clear: “This isn’t going to be some high-end hotel vacation, so don’t get your hopes up”.  Obviously.  In fact, I was fully expecting for Gargunnock House to be a giant old estate manor full of cobwebbed corners and lumpy beds.  Expectations for fun were high, but expectations for the spectacular were pretty nonexistent.  To say we were pleasantly surprised is an absolute understatement, for Gargunnock exceeded our every expectation*.

As we explored each of the rooms, we became more and more ecstatic.  Not because the house is ornate and lavish, but because it was wonderfully clean and had an authentic charm that made us feel as if we were stepping into a modestly wealthy estate house in the early 1920s.  most of the furniture was made of heavy wood and dated back to the early twentieth century and I was pleased to see not a single plywood IKEA piece in sight!  Original artwork hung on the walls as did an impressive amount of taxidermy that had been meticulously cared for over the years.  

Skye and I couldn’t help but run through the house with our cameras, filling our memory cards faster than you can say ‘cheese’.  Below is some of what we saw, but please keep in mind that these photos represent just a fraction of the home’s charm, comfort, and space. 

When I said in an earlier post that our bathroom was bigger than our bedroom at home, I wasn’t joking.  The en suite that David and I shared included a large shower/tub combo, a toilet (obviously), a sink that overlooked the fields at the back of the house, and an amour large enough to fit Narnia inside.  All the utilities were modern but were tastefully chosen so as not to detract from the aesthetic of the home.  Around the house, there were a few small water closets tucked away but there were also a number of equally large bathrooms with soaking tubs and inviting views.  I joked that I’d bathe in each tub before we left, but I never tired enough of my en suite to venture to try another. 

The house sleeps sixteen.  From what I remember, there are three rooms with queen-sized beds and five rooms with two single beds.  The rooms were simple and sweet, and though the flooring was sometimes a little wonky (like, some of the beds were on a slight incline, though not unlike my old Beacon Hill digs…), I think each of the rooms would have been charming to sleep in.

It is at this time that I would like to share a confession: seeing as there were only four of us sharing this home that accommodates sixteen, I will admit to sometimes being spooked whilst walking around at night.  It was just so large and truth be told, my imagination definitely got the best of me when I journeyed down a few dark passages….

Gargunnock house had three stairways (that we knew of).  There were two like the first stair pictured, which were rough and warn.  They were positioned at the front and back of the house and serviced those wings.  The grand staircase, which you see on the bottom, was the main stair and could be used to get to any floor in the house (or so we think).  There were a few sealed doors and ‘off limits’ parts of the house- which is probably where Mr. Rochester’s wife is rocking back and forth, humming to herself- so we can’t say for certain just how many stairs and floor the house actually has. 

This is the Large Sitting Room. Chopin was a friend of the family who originally owned the house and it’s believed that he may have played on that very piano.  Though this is not a fact, we are going to believe it is a fact and propagate the rumor’s circulation as such.  

I loveloveloved the library, obviously. 

More intimate than the Large Sitting Room and definitely working on a smaller scale, the Small sitting Room was cozy and inviting.  It’s also closer to the kitchen (which I stupidly didn’t take pictures of because I am an idiot), which is always a major advantage in my book. 

Though there were only four of us in the house, we decided to set the table for sixteen and have a feast in the Grand Dining Room (not the real name, obviously).  Our feast included homemade carpaccio (I know, right!), beet salad, roasted eggplant, and green beans and finished with fruit compote over ice cream.  I suggested we all dress for dinner and, as you can imagine, we had a spectacular time in our evening wear, dining under the gaze of many painted and glass eyeballs.  It was wonderful!  

Though all this looks like lots of fun (and it was), I’m still slapping myself for failing to take pictures of the servant bells in the laundry room (so Downton Abbey, I almost died), the Game Room (which consisted of a ping pong table and a lot of killed game hanging on the walls), the creepy bust that I mistook for a ghost, and the million other little things that made Gargunnock so wonderful.  If you’re ever venturing to Scotland in a group, I heartily recommend spending a few nights at the house- it does not disappoint.  In fact, it awes.

*Those of you who travel and rent homes/apartments often will know what a wonderful thing this is: the kitchen already had a corkscrew in it.  How many times do you go on vacation, buy a ton of groceries/wine, and then arrive to the house only to realize that you are corkscrew-less and have no way of opening your wine?  Too many times is the answer!  But not at Gargunnock, they have a corkscrew ready and waiting. 

Scotland Escape: Stirling Castle & Wallace Monument

As I’m sure you gathered from my TWM Scotland Edition, we drove into Stirling to do some of that tourist stuff that I hate so much but actually totally love on the Tuesday we spent in Scotland.  We were battling with our umbrellas all damn day, so I didn’t take as many photos and I’d have liked; what I’m really trying to say here is that I took a ton of photos but they’re mostly awful so you’ll just have to settle for these.  Okay?  Okay, great!  Now, let’s begin our tourist adventure at Stirling Castle.  

To be completely honest, I’m always far more enchanted by the landscape surrounding old castles than I am the ornate splendor of their bedchambers or the tapestries of their great halls.  There are few things I regard with greater awe than a stunning view, and from every corner of the castle wall our eyes met a truly humbling view of the surrounding city and beyond.

If I were ever to reign over anything other than my own home (and even there, my forces seem to constantly be under siege), I’m afraid I’d have to be called Kate the Terrible.  Terrible because I’d be terribly marvelous and throw terribly inappropriate parties!  And let’s just be real, sometimes I’d actually be terrible, too.  It wouldn’t be any fun to be royalty unless you were sometimes allowed to throw a royal fit, amirite?

After the hems of our pants were soaked with rain and we’d exhausted all there was to see in the cold corridors of the Castle, we decided to cross the city for a visit to Wallace Monument, which was constructed in 1869 to celebrate the thirteenth century hero, Mel Gibson.  Friends, when I tell you it was SO WINDY at the base of the monument, I mean it with every atom of my cold, chapped body.  A few spectacular gusts threatened to blow us clean off the top of the hill and the guard rail saved my life on more than one occasion.  It was intense; it was lovely.

The monument was closed for the day by the time we’d trudged all the way to the top, so we were forced to brave the elements as we took in the view.  When our ears began to throb from the cold, we decided to hike back down the ginormous hill and away to civilization (i.e. food and wine).  We were, however, pleased to have gotten some exercise for the day and all the walking, climbing, and standing in the wind made us ever so excited to fill our bodies with gloriously warm calories. 

Before we left, Highland Cow, the most well traveled highland cow in all the world, got his picture taken, too.  Skye and Scott have been dragging this poor little guy all over the UK and making him pose for all kinds of pictures.  Though we didn’t plan on his coming, we still gave him his own bed at Gargunnock House and agreed to feed him for the week.  In return for our hospitality, he told us jokes and educated us on all things Scottish. 

Now, my dear, there are many more Scotland pictures to look forward to.  On Monday, you will get a gimps at the inside of Gargunnock House (it’s cray) and on Tuesday you’ll be treated to a little something special/ridiculous.  Until then, be safe, be wise, and don’t compromise- unless, of course, it’s a really good compromise.  xoxo

Scotland Escape: The Grounds @ Gargunnock House

The grounds at Gargunnock House are expansive, lush, splendid.

When we first pulled into the house estate, we couldn’t stop laughing.  All this is ours?! we asked, disbelieving, as we took our luggage from the car and placed it in the entryway.  We arrived late in the afternoon and, while there was still light, we set off to explore the grounds.

A gardener lives in a home behind the main house and a team of green thumbs tend to the beautiful garden on the left-hand side of the house.  The garden is open to the public at certain times throughout the spring, summer and autumn, though we rarely saw another living creature other than a grouse or pheasant running to hide in the brush.  Gargunnock is so tucked away, I doubt many tourists make it a priority to stop in for a visit to the beautiful grounds.  Sheep grazed the pastures around the home and trees with trunks the width of my kitchen and roots buried deep within the earth blew secrets to the wind.  When we ran through the grass it sprang us forth, the earth a supple trampoline of the sweetest greenery and the air was fresh and dewy. 

As we wandered behind the house, we were pleased to discover a footpath that led us into the small town and, more importantly, to the Gargunnock Inn, a delightful country restaurant with a kind staff, charming pub, and (the best part) free wifi.   Though taking the footpath home through the dark woods after a couple pints seemed slightly more challenging than the reverse journey, we made it back safely to our temporary home with rosy cheeks and and a wonderful excitement that I can liken only to being nine years-old and waking on Christmas morning knowing that something mysterious and fantastic was waiting for you beneath the tree. 

If you think the grounds are good, just wait until you see the inside, dear reader.  Fabulous, indeed! 

Tuesday With Moi

Tuesday, October 2
Making Memories
  Yesterday was an exfoliation day.  I woke up feeling like I was shedding, so I pulled out my favorite scrubbing products and molted.  Kind of yucky, but oh so necessary!
Autumn is here and even though the weather basically hasn’t changed much from what our summer was like, it just now feels appropriate to break out the tall socks and boots and pair them with short wool skirts and fitted jackets.  Autumn, I love you!
This is the view from the train.  I was on my way to London to spend the day with my wonderful friends, Skye and Scott.  Even though we’d just spent a week with them in Scotland, it felt like I hadn’t seen them in ages and I was looking forward to exploring a little more of London with them. 
Rushing rushing, rushing through the city!
Now, I have a rule about doing touristy things: I will only do them with people who are visiting.  Why? you ask.  Because I am a snob, that’s why.
We took a river tour on the Thames and it was actually pretty fun.  The wind was terrific and it was nice to see the city from a different perspective.  That being said, I did see a dead dog floating in the river soooooooOOOoo that was gross.  Other than that, it was great.
Just happened to be right by Big Ben when the clock struck three. 
(Fun Fact: The bell inside the tower is actually called Big Ben, the tower itself was recently named after the Queen, of course. I learned all this on my river tour.  Cool, right?)
All our touring made us hungry, so we stopped in Franco’s for a nibble.  These sardines were divine.
And while the cappuccino was also wonderful (as was everything, really, including the service), the best thing about Franco’s was the fact that they were playing Winnie the Pooh audiobooks in the bathrooms. 
Walking walking walking.
Trying to decide where to go and what to do next.
After much deliberation and wandering, we found ourselves huddled under an awning as we sheltered ourselves from the rain and tried to establish some semblance of an action plan.
As we weighed our options, a fabulous young man stuck his head out from the doorway beside us and asked if we were coming in.  “Can we get a table if we’re only going to order cocktails?” we asked.  He assured us that we could sit at a table and enjoy all the cocktails we wanted, so we folded our umbrellas and followed him inside.
I hadn’t been in a gay bar for quite some time and I was jamming out to George Michael remixes from the chain-mail booth in which we were placed in no time at all.
Skye had an exceptional dirty martini.  Slowly, the restaurant began to fill, and we continued to settle into the leather seats and chat about everything and nothing.  It was just like the old days at the F.
David joined us after his dinner meeting concluded.  When the waiter came over to ask if we would like to dine in, we glanced at the time (what, nine already?!) and decided to take a peek at the menu.
Time always goes too quickly when you’re with good friends. 
As I snapped this picture, I realized David and I were cutting it dangerously close to missing the last train home to Hobbit Town.  We asked for the bill, said our goodbyes, opened our umbrellas and made our way to the Charing Cross. 
One of my biggest fears is falling asleep on the journey home and missing my train stop.
Luckily, it hasn’t come to that yet, but I did see a very sleepy man miss his stop once and my heart broke for him. 
David and I made it home just as the rain started to pour down in sheets.  We had a cup of tea and then snuggled into bed.  There’s nothing like a day of running around London to tire this lady out!
And that concludes my Tuesday in London.
Next Tuesday, I will be in Spain.
I know, I know, my life is fabulous.
But if it makes you feel any better, I only show you the good parts.
Speaking of the good parts, expect many more Scotland pictures in the next couple days!  I have so much to show you, dear reader.  As always, thank you for reading.

How Not To Behave

How Not to Behave: An E.S.M. Story

You’re dating someone with children- two sons.  You want to be accepting of them and you want them to like you.  To do this, you let a lot of things slide, like the fact that when they’re visiting the television is always on, wet towels end up on your leather furniture, and their suitcases erupt all over the floors of your tiny apartment.  These things are irritating, but tolerable.  You bring your journal and a bottle of red wine into your bedroom at night and write down your frustrations, take a few deep breaths, and then when you walk out of the room again, you’re smiling.  One night, as you’re walking to the car, the sons call shot-gun on the front seat, as per usual.  This time, your smile falters, you ask them to pause and then say, “Whenever I am getting in this car with you, I will be riding in the front.”  Your boyfriend gives you a knowing smile as you open the door opposite his and slide across the leather seat.  There’s a genuine smile on your face because it felt really good to stand up for yourself.

Eventually, your boyfriend becomes your fiancé.  You have a party with both your families and are glad to see them all cross county and ocean to celebrate your wedding.  Your husband’s sons are there, of course, and you’re touched by how considerate and sweet they are throughout the week.  You know it can’t be easy for them to see their father re-marry, so when you’re irritated by things they do, you bite your tongue.  You’re a newlywed and you’re too happy to be upset.

A couple months later, you move with your husband to his home country.  He wants to be close to his sons and you are excited to start a new life.  Things don’t go as planned, and you quickly realize your husband’s sons are drawing away from him.  Instead of addressing the challenges head-on, you become silent, do not voice any opinions, and fall into depression.  Your appetite disappears, your hands shake and you feel a great deal of guilt; you believe that it’s your presence that is pulling your husband’s family apart.  He kindly reminds you that you’re his family now, too.  You married a good man, you will get through this together.

Six months down the road, you find that you’re liking your new country, you make dreams for the future and have again found your voice.  One of your husband’s sons is going through a tough time, he tells you he has to move in with you.  He doesn’t ask, he just informs you that he’s coming.  After months of biting your tongue, you free it.  You tell him that he needs to ask to move in, that he needs to respect you, respect your home, and that the three of you need to learn to communicate better.  You tell him there are numerous challenges to this potential solution of co-habitation, challenges that range from financial to emotional and spacial.  That being said, you tell him that he is always welcome in your home and that you’ll work out a solution together, one that suits everyone.  You apologize for being upset and forward, but explain that you’ve been biting your tongue for months and months and that you, also, are working on embracing a more forthright form of communication.  You agree that you will talk about finances and all that other icky stuff the next day and then go to sleep, emotionally drained.

The next day things seem great.  You ask about a gig he has, and he answers, pleasantly.  You and your husband plan to talk with him at length that evening so you can work out a plan for the future together.  You plan to apologize to him during this later conversation, for you believe you could have said things better the night before and you want with all your heart to make sure the three of you are strengthening, not weakening, your relationship. That afternoon, you take a fourteen mile walk with your husband.  On this walk, you rehearse what you’re going to say in your head, you prepare yourself to be open and flexible.

The talk never happens.  After his gig, he says he’s spending the night at his  mother’s house.  He wants to sleep on a real bed instead of your sofa bed.  That’s what he says, anyway.  He’s had a cold the last couple days, and you think a real bed and some orange juice (or whiskey) is exactly what he needs.  You wish him well and you and your husband decide to postpone the conversation for later in the week.

An hour later, the phone rings.  Your husband answers and as soon as the shrill voice comes through the receiver you know it’s his ex-wife.  She is angry.   She’s also loud.  Your husband is on the defensive, saying things like, “Of course I love my sons,” and your eyes well up with angry tears on his behalf.  Her voice gets louder and then he’s saying things like, “Don’t say that about my wife.  You have no right to say that about my wife.”  Every part of your body begins to quake and your skin is hot like a furnace.  You can’t make out exactly what she’s saying, but when your husband says, “That is offensive, she is not a child,” you are ready to stand up for yourself.  Afterall, you’ve long believed that you are the wedge that’s pulling your husband away from his children and away from having a working relationship with his ex-wife, so you do something insane and snatch the phone from his ear and announce yourself.

“Hi, this is Kate.  I’m sorry we have to be talking under these circumstances…”  You begin to explain yourself- you’re rushing, afraid to breathe, afraid to stop talking.  You know you’re making a total fool of yourself, yet you continue.  Is this how politicians feels all the time?, you ask yourself as the angry words tumble forth.

At the end of your verbal mess, you hear a long inhale and the ever confident and condescending question is asked:, “Kate, are you a mother?”

Instead of answering with the obvious, “No, I am not,” you say something insane, “No, and that is why this whole Evil Stepmother thing is so fucked up.”

Again, that slow breath of disapproval, “Well, you have just proved everything my sons have said about you to be true.”  That is not a direct quote, by the way, but it’s pretty damn close and you suddenly feel like you’re going to vomit.  The voice on the end of the phone tells you you’re immature, childlike, ridiculous.  You are black-out angry, so you don’t completely remember, but you make a comment about her being condescending and then pass the phone back to your husband.  You wanted to make things better, but instead you made them a thousand times worse and you feel so much shame.  As soon as he hangs up the phone, you burst into tears.  Then you scream into a pillow, three times; the pillow is hot and damp with your breath and your throat is aching from strain.  Then you say many terrible things that you don’t mean because you are hurt and embarrased and feel as if you have no voice- and that the voice saying these ugly words is not truly yours.  You cry and your husband hugs you, but you do not feel relief.

Later that evening, you talk to your brother who is very patient and isn’t afraid to tell you when you’re being crazy.  He gives rational advice and listens to you vent about your frustrations.  After your conversation, you feel calmer and compose a simple email.  You don’t care what the response is, all you care about is telling the truth, explaining your objectives.  You keep it short, you keep it optimistic (which is true to your nature), and you apologize for being a total fucking idiot, though not in those words.  You say a prayer and hit send.  Then you write your feelings on tear stained pages before finally retiring to bed.  Sleep will not come easily, and when you do slip away your dreams are confused and angry. 

You wake too early the next morning, exhausted.  Try to remember:  You cannot let these things get you down.  Families fight.  Families are tough; they break and then they mend.  Promise yourself that you’ll look into getting a therapist as soon as the money comes in, and then curl yourself against the body of your still sleeping husband and close your eyes.  Do not cry about this anymore.  Pray about it, instead.