Travel · Uncategorized · Vienna

Vienna (Preview Note)

 

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
The calendar pages are indeed flying off like crazy. A week ago we came back from a long weekend in Vienna, and next week we go to Normandy/Brittany.
Still haven’t written my notes on Vienna. That will come shortly. Meanwhile, here’s a visual overview :

Vienna St. Stephen's Bell Tower
Vienna, view from St. Stephen’s Bell Tower

 

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Uncategorized

The Right To Bare One’s Arms

This is the day and age of the Selfie Photograph.  Gone are the days when a camera was a major purchase for an entire family; and long forgotten are the time when only professional photographers would have a pretentious tripod on which to perch that precious camera.   Cameras are now everywhere — in our bags, in our person, pockets, integral features of our little army of handheld gadgetry — Do we have phones with cameras?  or are they cameras with a phone feature really?  Cameras are so commonplace that everyone has the capability to document their lives every day, many times over.  We snap away and post the places we visit, the common or unusual sights along the way, the things we eat, the outfits we tried, the outfits we wore.  “OOTD” (a.k.a. “#OOTD, a.k.a. Outfits Of The Day) photos are displayed by stylists, fashionable types, celebrities and trendsetters, —  all the way to those irritating trying-hard wannabes who spew fashion advice as if their readership are idiots who know nothing about dressing themselves (pointless — this is the age of the individual expression and quirks).   And who needs a tripod when you can extend your arms to take that self-portrait, as often as you like and can?

Byproduct of this love affair with the camera is the hand-on-hip (HOH) pose. It has been called the “chicken wing” or the “tea pot”.  This postural affliction that affects women and girls of every age.  A world-wide phenomenon of sorts, strangely enough.  Anytime a camera is trained to take a shot, The Pose is assumed almost instinctively –arm crooked at the elbow to form a small diamond between arm and oblique (chicken wing or teapot handle up).  Needless to say that pose also entails arching one’s back (upwards, and sidewards) to cut and define a clear angle on the waist.  This, I must say, is not a look I really enjoy.  The said “pose”, once the monopoly of fashion models and starlets, has since trickled down to Reality TV stars, the famous-for-being-famous, and now it is EVERYWHERE.  Just look through the Newsfeed of your FaceBook page.  Or possibly, take a look at your own photos.

Per se, I have nothing against The Pose.  I just don’t think it is an entirely flattering stance or look to affect, at any age:

1.  The pose doesn’t look good on little girls or kids.  It’s creepy.  It’s Jon Bennet Ramsey-ish.  It’s just doesn’t look right.  Kids should enjoy their childhood and days of play.  Save the attempts to look saucy or beauty pageants for much later, should they wish.

2.  The pose doesn’t look good on college kids and younger adult women either, especially if they do it ALL THE TIME.  Diane Von Furstenberg once tweeted the advice that the hands on hip look makes one look like a starlet, and not the star.  I couldn’t agree with her more.  The pose just smacks of trying too hard (to be what?  Glamourous? Sexy?  Cool?  Real Housewives of Hollywood-ish?  or just simply “trying too hard”?).

3.  The pose is not a very professional look –unless you’re a fashion model, Paris Hilton, part of a girl band or a reality TV star.  Imagine seeing a shot of your lawyer or your surgeon with that pose all the time. Comfortable with that? I thought not.

4.  The pose is not a very good look for women of a more mature vintage (ha!), either.  I have seen many of that going around.  It can be an amusing look, but let’s face it, it’s not exactly elegant.

Perhaps it is because I think this way that I have never taken to affecting this pose.  In most of my shots, one or both my hands are either in my pocket(s), folded in front of me, or joined behind my back. Awkward poses of the unsure? Perhaps. But that’s how I like it, eversince.

Uncategorized

Reality Check (from city to village)

Over the weekend, the British hubby and I headed out for dinner, not because it was “date night” or anything like that but just because I declared war on any more cooking and dish-washing for the day.  People here in the UK seem to generally dress-up more when going out for dinner compared to Americans.  It’s most likely because eating out here is for the most part luxury (at the very least it is not cheaper than eating at home) rather than for convenience — meaning bone-tired, no desire to wash or cook, let’s head out to the local restaurant.  So when in Rome, bring out the toga.  I made sure I had on killer heels despite the cold, put on a stylish coat and my make up was right.  I have yet to purchase those furry, fake eyelashes British women would have you believe they are born into, but on the whole I was spruced-up and decently ready for a beautiful night out with the hubby.  Shortly after we get on the road, I begin to notice an odd stink in the car.  I began to sniff and look around — trying to figure the source of this funk.  Did the hubby leave yesterday’s lunchbox overnight at the backseat?  Did a rat find it’s way into the car and died?  The hubby noticed my fuss around the car and asked what was going on.

Me :  There is a strange stink in this car and I am trying to find the culprit.

Hubby (very calmly) :  That’s probably the smell of manure fertilizing Farmer’s Geoff’s farm at the back of the house.

Me (with that flash of enlightenment):  Oh yeah.  Manure and a farm.  I forgot about those.

And so the process of reorienting myself to the change in geography and lifestyle continues.  :)

Life · Road Signs · Travel · Uncategorized · USA · Work

Meanderings

In a few days I will be headed home to the UK, and I can’t wait.  The best thing is always that moment when I finally exit UK Immigration and look through the sea of faces for That One. :)   Yeah, home is really where the heart is.  I have been musing today about how little I blog while I am in Chicago, or while travelling around the States.  I seem to dive in getting my nose dirty in books and papers, catching up with friends, finding ways to bask in the new and get back in the groove of the familiar, running around doing 3,000 things.  In short, I blog less wearing my “Miss Chicago hat” than when I am on the other end of the Atlantic “missing Chicago”.  Which really makes me think whether this whole blog needs a change of direction.  I have ideas swimming in my head.  And re-packaging, and a new related blog which may involve providing my loyal readership of four (one of whom is my husband) with US Immigration and Nationality laws tidbits and updates, may be forthcoming.  Oooh, lucky you.  (really….).

On a side note, I have a professional collaboration possibility in the UK the off-ing.  It’s not employment, and at this point in my life, anyway, “employment” is not something I am interested in.  (Did I tell you my Indian name was “Bindher Dandhat”?)  I like the freedom of being on my own.  I got an (unexpected) invite from them, but the proposal on paper seems ideal.  The talks are scheduled for the day after I arrive in the UK.  I take the train to London the next day, and am keeping my fingers crossed on that one.  My Jewish and Chinese sides tell me to keep all other details under wraps.  Wish me luck. :)

This is a picture of where I was over the weekend. I drove quite a ways to Eureka Springs. The trek was not what I expected. It was on the mountains and I was on 36 miles of steep and curvey roads. I drove through 15 mph hairpins, if that gives any indication of why I was mostly thinking.... what would this drive be like in the WINTER when covered with snow? Boooo. Scroll your pointer over the picture to find out the name of this place.
British "stuff" · British Food · British Traits · Lost In Translation · UK · Uncategorized

Ambivalently Proudly British

“Really rather good”

Originally uploaded by MissChicago

The Brits rarely hardsell anything. They are the masters of underplay and understatement. And even when they must toot their own horn, — what in the cut-throat world of marketing — they seem to be reluctant about going all-out.   I found this packaging on Marks & Spencer’s Rich Team Cream Fingers quite amusing: “Really rather good”. In America, there would be no qualms about something being “ooh oom good” or “finger lickin’ good”. But M&S proudly declare these little sweethearts to be, uhm …. “REALLY RATHER Good”.  “Really rather” sounds like an oxymoronic pair of adjectives that cancel each other out.  But somehow, knowing their British origins, it adds to its charms.  That tendency to false modesty which really translates to “Go on, YOU tell us it’s really good, because we’re not going to!”.

They are proud in their humility.  Proud that they are not proud”.  ~  Robert Burton (British Clergyman) 1574-1640.

Uncategorized

Match Made In (Football) Heaven

I’ve always been a big FIFA World Cup fan.  Maybe moreso excited this year with the much anticipated match between, — what else — England vs. USA.* (Last time the 2 countries played against each other was in 1950 in Brazil, a terrible upset for the English team).  The match takes a special dimension for me now that I’ve moved to England, which makes me somehow torn between allegiance.

England and America, it is obvious to me, has more than just a common language separating them.  It’s the general attitude which undoubtedly developed from their respective histories and culture.  It’s obvious in the build-up to tomorrow’s big game.  On the one hand is England, undeniably one of the World Cup’s strongest and finest, yet going into tomorrow’s match with some trepidation and unwilling to be totally optimistic of a win.  On the other hand, young Team USA, the true underdogs with the never-say-die, anything-can-happen attitude.

Look at how each country cheers its team.  In contrast to the USA’S “GO TEAM USA!”, England’s is, uhm…. “Come on England”.

and

Yeah, tacky mannequin

almost as if begging to extract a performance from its players, a plea for the team to please not let them down.  “Come on, England” is not as gung-ho as “Go Team USA”…. its a call to fight that is an acknowledgement that the game is their’s to lose, — but please hopefully not.

It’s very interesting to see this difference in attitude.  And while overconfidence can translate to arrogance, and reservation can translate to tentativeness, here’s hoping that the good sides of these traits come out tomorrow.  That would make the game more interesting.  A strong team that stays watchful of giving its best, against a team with still something to prove to prove something.   Makes for an exciting fight tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I struggled to find a shirt in this town (or even in this country) with a USA logo, but I found accessories to go with my white shirt, jeans and red shoes tomorrow.  Here —

Happy Game Day!

Food · UK · Uncategorized

Eating Like You Brit It

I have a list of places in Britain to see, which we strike off as we go.  C has truly been “forced” to stop and smell the roses — slow down more and visit the wonderful places in his own country, with me around.  Which is a good thing.

So last weekend, we headed out for a day in the Lake District.  One of the advantages of being “centrally located” in the UK is that going North, or South, is equally within manageable distance.  Just strike out and go.  Anyway, as an old friend who travels often to Europe with the Navy often says, “you can’t lost in an Island”.   That brings me comfort that if at any point my car should hit a big body of water, I can just say “ooops” and turn back.  Not knowing which particular town, village or city around The District to stop at, we randomly chose one from our faithful reference, the Reader’s Digest Travel Guide to Britain (yes, how sophisticated, no?).  Finger stops at — ta dah! — Windermere (idem sonam — “Wind the Meer”), punch that into the SatNav” (English translation for “GPS”), and yes, we’re good to go.

When we got into town, we parked our car and decided to walk towards the Lake — which is probably a good idea considering we were in THE district.  My impressions:  Clean and beautiful.  The terrain of Windemere busily curves up and down, left and right.  So different from the flat, rigid grids of Chicago.  We had a nice sun and a friendly winds, the day was perfect.  A lot of people out,  — fabulous. :)   I loved the simple, sturdy architecture of the homes facing the lake, and their beautiful windows that view out to the Lake.  And of course, the Lake.

Love the windows above the entrance that spans two floors

Boats! 4019872550_cc5e0cf6c9

4019095259_b300d9504a 4019842560_64c78a155b

At some point in the about 2 mile walk down to the Lake —

“Are you peckish now?”

I swear.  I do NOT speak English —

“Am I WHAT?”

“Peckish.  PECK-ISH.”

“Peckish? oh THAT Peckish.”

English translation :  “feeling the beginnings of hunger.”  Mental note to self:  Really need to add that to growing arsenal of English words/vocab.  And how coindental that right in front of me I should see a sign for “award-winning CORNISH Pasty”.  Nice association.  Cornish — which I usually associate with “hens”, paired with “peckish” pangs.  And importantly, I’ve never had a Cornish pasty.  Thank you, Cornish Corner Cafe Bar & Takeaway for my giant Pasty —

CORNISH PASTY 002

Yeah, nice and fat.  Nicely overloaded with stuff.   And the view inside the little devil —

CORNISH PASTY 003

That was delish.  And yeah, the “mushy peas” on the side as well.  A bit like baby food, but good.

4019838910_2e0796ac0d We will be back to this area.  Next time, we’ll pick another town, which I am sure will be equally beautiful.  :)

Fitting In · Life · love · Uncategorized · Weather

Don’t Try This At Home

An overcast day in a beautiful semi-rural village on the outskirts of Manchester (England).

Outside, the leaves begin to fall, with a big chunk of burnt orange and yellows defiantly clinging to the branches, — thanks to a lingering Indian summer.

Inside, the house is too quiet and still.  And here I am by myself in the study looking out as Geoff*, (*that’s how what sounds like “Jeff” usually turns out to be spelt here), the English farmer, and his German Sherpherd do their routine back-and-forth walk on the field beyond our fence. 

In the background, iTunes randomly and perhaps coincidentally plays the perfect setback:  Elgar’s “Nimrod”.  And, being that time, It hit me.  I felt It creep in softly.  That which I knew would surreptitiously and very treacherously come one day.  I just did not think it would be today.  — “What the frick am I doing here in this part of the world, by myself, forcing myself into a very particular jigsaw puzzle shape to fit in?”  “What wind possessed me to marry in my 40s, to move away, and to exchange the familiar for constant second-guessing?”

Luckily, there was a  faithful box of tissues beside.  And between sobs I nagged myself to stop this silliness.  And you have an appeal due for filing in Cali on Tuesday.  Stop now and starting working.  Thankfully the clouds — I mean the ones hovering inside my head — did not tarry.  I blew my nose, took a deep breath, exhaled, and fired up the laptop. 

Moments later the hubby walks in, clueless to that bit of internal struggle, and I say:  “I really would like to have blueberries with my coffee.”

“Did they have it in the Co-Op?”

“Yes, they did.  2.89 for an itty-bitty pack.  But I want some.”

“Let’s go get you some then.”

“Ok.”

“You go get dressed.  I’ll wait in the car.”

And so it came to pass.  I have my two little boxes of blueberries.  And no more tears.  And I think to myself, “THIS boy — who always put priority to what makes you happy — is why you are here.” 

In a different life, this morning could’ve continued with me blueberry-less and still questions-ful.  In a different life, I could be sad, for real and not just because of the weather’s sleight-of-hand, or Sir Edward’s tendency to the melodramatic.  And so again, I exhaled.

Take it from me.  Stay away from Elgar, and the Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” on gloomy, lonely, quiet, autumn mornings.

Saved the day
Saved the day

 

"The View"
"The View"

 

Outside the British Consulate in Chicago.
Outside the British Consulate in Chicago.

 Postscript :  In any case, Carried Bradshaw, too, married in her 40s.  All in the name of love, and closet space.

Entertainment · Fashion · Holidays · Travel · UK · Uncategorized

Dressing The Part

Down to my last 2 weeks before I head back for the States, I’ve been tagging along with the hubby up to Scotland — where he works on his projects (with power generation plants) and I ….. I also do work, and try to make the most of the time difference with the US by doing touristy stuff while America sleeps, and then rush back in time to catch them during their work hours.  :) 

These weeks in Edinburgh are particularly well-timed because of the ongoing Edinburgh Art Festival.  We’ve booked a hotel in Falkirk, which is a convenient midpoint for the hubby to drive off to work and for me to catch the train to Edinburgh (or even Glasgow).    The train to the city is a bit pricey at 7.80 GBP roundtrip off peak (they call a roundtrip a “return” here) which roughly translates to about $13-14.  That’s about half an hour train ride each way.  Not cheap, compared to commuter fares in Chicago.  Imagine if you had to commute to work everyday.  And the peaktime tickets are even more expensive.

But anyhoo, the Royal Mile in the city was packed with street performers last week. 

The Royal Mile -- where it all happens.
The Royal Mile -- where it all happens.

 Almost every other person you bumped in is in a costume (“fancy dress”) of some form, either because he/she is part of a performing act, selling you stuff, or just being their funky fashion self.   So so so much fun.  Here are a few views:

Signs of the Times
Signs of the Times
I don't understand this either.  They were signing and making robotic moves while they moving forwards.
I don't understand this either. They were signing and making robotic moves while moving forwards.
Lost Angel?
Lost Angel?
Wooden puppets Hansel and Gretel
Wooden puppets Hansel and Gretel
ooooh yeah. :)
ooooh yeah. :)
Tails
Tails
.... and more tails (that's Beauty and Arielle--- uhm, I think)
.... and more tails (that's Beauty and Arielle--- uhm, I think)
a little bit of, literally, street art
a little bit of, literally, street art
Cyndi.... is that you?
Cyndi.... is that you?
she's enjoying the attention.... :)
she's enjoying the attention.... :)
Hansel and Gretel on the little makeshift stage
Hansel and Gretel on the little makeshift stage
air bikes
air bikes
Readying for her mime
Readying for her mime
You are knighted.
You are knighted.
Dressing “normal” feels so abnormal this time in this City.
Fitting In · Uncategorized

As If I Knew Anything About Building Cars

This is from a note I wrote on my Facebook page a couple of weeks ago, when I was down in Silverstone with the hubby for a long weekend (Wednesday night to Sunday).  Hubby was Head Judge in one of the events (Presentation — which is the part where the students presented the business viability of the car — manufacturing and investment proposals, etc.)  at  Formula Student UK (Click here for a hornbook overview of what it’s all about).  The Event is HUGE — or “colossal” — as the Brits are wont to say.  I was impressed with the quality of the work product as well as the determination of the students, the intensity of the competition, and the dedication, commitment and passion on the judges and organizers.  Although I wouldn’t even know the difference between a monkey wrench and an electric drill (ok, so I exaggerate), here I was — the one God overlooked when He was giving out Technical Skills — joining in the hustle and bustle of a racecar building and designing event.  I must say that wasn’t too difficult really.   I had fun, met quite a few interesting people, and even got to sit in a few Presentation Judging sessions.  Also, as part of my role (read: “efforts”) as the new kid on the block, or perhaps the proverbial stranger who moves in to stir the town, — I helped out with some of the Judges doing legwork.  Believe me, VERY “leg” kind of work.  From picking up sweets for a hungry one, to helping to source a “calipher“,  to running down to Central Post to have exchange one of their radios for running out of batteries.  Yeah,  I guess when you have to fit in, you will do (close to) anything to fit in.  Sometimes I remind myself why I have to do this; smile, and press on, even with a different accent.

So here is my little journal entry, — and note the little connection to Charles Dickens tucked in.  :)

Last night was the last of 4 in Silverstone. I’m all “motor’d out” with the event (Formula Student). Imagine almost 24 hours of motor-talk all the time. Dinners the past few nights have been with MotorSport engineering gurus. It’s challenge enough to catch the accent. It’s worse that I could not understand the topic they talk about. But I am learning, and I can’t wait to get away and stop talking engineering and cars.

So this morning we checked out of The Saracens Head, our nice little hotel in Towcester (pronounced “Toaster”). It thrills me lightly that this hotel figures in Charles Dicken’s “The Pickwick Papers”. It’s a nice place, huge bedrooms and comfortable beds, and best of all, the service had been awesome.  Really, the  customer service in this hotel is to “US levels” — which I mean in a good way. Everything is more “can do” and “let me get it done for you as quickly as possible” with no complaints and no frowning in front of the customer — instead of the usual “I’m sorry, I’m afraid I can’t help you”. This is quite a welcome surprise.