See ya later, Texas (hopefully).

I’m sitting in the airport as I write this. We left the hotel at 4:30 AM expecting to catch a 6 AM flight, only to arrive at the airport to see our plane was delayed by FIVE hours. Thanks for the heads up United/American/US Airways. Five hours would have gotten me four more hours of sleep, a workout and breakfast. I would have been a lot more pleasant to those customer service agents I waited four, five, and two minutes*, respectively, to talk with — after, of course, the really fun game of yelling into the phone:

“What would you like to do?”

“Check reservations.”

“Ok, would you like to change existing or cancel?”

(Thought: Neither, I want neither of those options. I just want to know if I can get out of Texas.)

“No.”

“I don’t understand. Would you like to change existing or cancel?”

“Customer service.”

“It sounds like you want to talk to customer service, but what about these options?”

(Thought: Screw you, I want a real person.)

“CUSTOMER SERVICE.”

… and the phone goes silent. Repeat x2.

I’ve spent the last four hours reading, thinking about whether I want a parfait with 45 grams (!) of sugar or a suspicious looking egg patty on an oversized bagel**, updating my Pinterest boards, writing this and people watching. People watching can be fascinating, especially at airports.

One thing I will never, ever understand is why women wear heels in airports. I love a nice pair of heels, but you wouldn’t find me in even the most comfortable Clark wedges (Yes, I have Clarks. Don’t judge, they’ve really upped their game for the younger crowd). It’s just not practical when you have to walk a mile between terminals. I wonder who they are trying to impress — the pilot, TSA, fellow fliers? What happens when they have 5 minutes to catch their next flight and the terminal is in another state? I’m pretty sure running in heels is only safe for Hollywood (and even then, I wonder if they use stunt doubles — I would fall on my face). I just want to shout, “For the love of God, woman, wear some flip flops and change when you get there!”

So west Texas is flat. Like, really flat. And dry. And most unexpectedly, dilapidated. The landscape is littered with forgotten homes in states of unimaginable disrepair and businesses that look like they haven’t been touched since they were built in the 60’s. But the people are nice and they say things like “britches” and drink sweet tea. I’m happy they finally got some rain to give their crops some life. Something needs to look lively down here.

My greens report: I managed to eat something green every day we were here — and none of it was fried. Although I won’t lie to you, a lot of it came in the form of guacamole. Our options were basically Mexican, steak and potatoes or something fried — they don’t really do “light” meals in Texas***. I can’t wait to get home and eat an apple… a baked sweet potato… or brussel sprouts… or greek yogurt… hunger is setting in…

And our flight just got delayed another 70 minutes. American Airlines, we aren’t friends right now.

* I shouldn’t complain about the wait time. I’ve waited much, much longer for an airline customer service rep.

** Instead, I opted for Sabra hummus and pretzels. It was literally, the most unprocessed, edible looking thing in the airport (the banana-bread ripe bananas made me gag). But I’m getting hungry again and we haven’t boarded for our flight yet.

*** I did have something called Mexi-Cauli at The Crafthouse Pub in Lubbock (that place is amazing if you ever make your way down here). They used very small pieces of cauliflower (shredded or finely chopped) as the base, then added black beans, corn, pico, cheese, roasted chicken and avocado. I’m totally going to make this at home. Maybe I’ll even trick Jay into eating it. 🙂

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Better Late Than Never

January 18-25 Queensland and New SouthWales

Friday we  flew to Brisbane and visited the Deere office.

Saturday we went to the (Steve Irwin) Australia Zoo. We saw alligators (one was over 80 years old!) and crocodiles; the African Safari (literally, I think… at least it felt like it, I may have been delirious at that point) with zebras, giraffes and a rhino; and of course, kangaroos and koala bears! Our first time through the kangaroo area we were a little apprehensive. There were no fences, only a few obvious rules, like don’t kick the kangaroos, don’t ride the kangaroos, etc. It seemed so strange that you could just walk up to a kangaroo and it wouldn’t just get up and punch you in the stomach.

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They look cute. Don’t be fooled.

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I think I make this face a lot, but koalas are mean little buggers when they aren’t sleeping.

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One lonely rhino.

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This time around we were brave enough to touch them. Barely.

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We went to the beach. We walked around Brisbane. We drove all over Australia. Blah blah blah… We flew home. I got food poisoning. It  was super awesome. Not.

LAX is the worst (just in case you missed that in the first AUS post).

 

Answers to your burning questions:

The food was actually quite good, but I was a little disappointed in the produce (it wasn’t nearly as good as M&S). I ate a lot of salmon. Gotta love those Omega 3’s!

No, I did not get a tan. I am no more a bronzed goddess than Snow White (nor will I ever be, let’s be honest).

I went through almost two bottles of sunscreen. Yes, dermatologists everywhere would be proud.

I learned some Australian slang. Budgie smugglers = speedos. HAH.

Australians are nice… and they like America. Win-win.

 

I Ate a Fly Today

There are flies everywhere in this part of Australia. EV-ER-Y-WHERE. The Aussies have even perfected a subtle two-handed wave to keep the flies out of their faces. I, on the other hand, did much more flailing. I’m sure it’s considerably less efficient, but I just couldn’t stand it; it’s hard to concentrate with things crawling all over you.

Today, as we were taking a picture in our cool safety vests at the dealership, Jake noticed a fly on Amye’s face. In slow motion it went something like this:

“Aaaamye, youuuuuu haveeeee a flyyyyy on yourrr face,” says Jake.

She turns her head slightly and brushes the fly off her face.

I turn towards her to look, with my mouth wide open in a smiling/laughing position.

Zoom in on the fly. The buzzing gets louder and…

BOOM.

Fly down the throat.

— End Scene —

I didn’t even have any water to wash it down with…

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Rewind 13 days…

January 12-15: New Zealand

We arrived at our fancy pants hotel early, but luckily they took pity on us and let us check in anyway. Probably because we smelled; no amount of deodorant or perfume could have helped that situation. After a few hours we regrouped, made our way downtown and had lunch overlooking the pier. We learned quickly that “entrees” in Australia are the equivalent to “appetizers” in the US. No worries though, we supplemented our small lunch with a cup of gelato. (On a side note, Australian sorbet is creamy. Weird, right?)

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The Auckland Domain was gorgeous. What a wonderful place to spend a lazy weekend afternoon! The area was built around an old volcano and we walked the entire park looking for it. However, after consulting the map we realized we had already passed the volcano. Turns out they don’t have to look like mountains… or anything really… it was a little anti-climatic.

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After our walk we enjoyed afternoon tea at the hotel. Needless to say, we were a little under dressed.

Enjoying tea time. The cups were empty, ps.

Enjoying tea time. The cups were empty, ps.

The fine fare served with our tea.

The fine fare served with our tea.

Sunday afternoon we drove to Hamilton (this made for a shorter drive in the morning). We took a nice walk along the water then had dinner at a local place. I had a salad with Kumara — ever heard of it? It’s similar to a sweet potato and it’s freakin’ delicious. Since I’m not willing to smuggle them through customs, I’m going to see what HyVee can do for me.

Pretty and delicious

Pretty and delicious!

Monday we had our first customer visit then drove back to Auckland.

Some NZ countryside.

Some NZ countryside.

Tuesday we flew from Auckland to Adelaide. We used Air New Zealand for that flight as well. Let’s not talk about it.

January 15-18 Southern Australia

We got to Adelaide to find out we had a 5+ hour drive ahead of us (after a 4 hour flight). I got a lot of reading done in that five hours. I only felt a little bit bad about being anti-social.

We stopped at Penfolds Winery on our way.

We stopped at Penfolds Winery on our way.

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We sampled a few while we were there, too. Yum.

Wednesday night was a real treat. We stayed at a lovely “motor inn” called The Duke. Not.

It was awful. It was a motel — aka doors to the outside — it smelled terrible, and each room had a can of Raid (which was absolutely necessary, as we saw multiple bugs crawl across our beds). Amye and I actually shared a room that night (too creepy to sleep alone in that place) and I refused to shower because the bathroom grossed me out. On top of all of that, I later learned that the old man behind the desk had made a comment while I was perusing the menu… it went something like this,”Sorry, honey, but I’m not on the menu.” Goo.

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Thursday we visited a vegetable grower. It was a great visit, but then we opted to take a ride in the “ute” (utility truck) for a tour of the farm. In my dress and tennis shoes I climbed into a seriously dusty truck with something barely resembling AC. It was 45+ Celsius that day, which is somewhere above 113 F. It literally felt like we were standing in an oven. I really don’t know how Slyvia Plath did it. I was toast (literally) after 5 minutes. Do you know how much sunscreen I have used on this trip?!

I didn’t feel very well after that ride.

Southern Australia - hot and dry.

Southern Australia – hot and dry.

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They had road signs for kangaroos and koalas. They also had road signs that read, “Tired Drivers Die.” Yikes.

After the tour we drove back to Adelaide and stayed at a beachfront hotel. It was about a gazillion times better than The Duke. The problem was, as I was walking along this beautiful beach at sunset, trying to “stay in the moment,” all I really wanted was a nice, long bath in my nice, clean hotel room. I had to wash The Duke off of me. And the dirt. But mostly the Duke.

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January 18-25 Queensland and New SouthWales

…you will have to be patient…

Made it. Barely.

First, I apologize for not posting a single picture from our Italy trip yet. I’ll slap myself on the wrist for that one. However, I have a trade for you: I’ll give you Down Under for Italy. That makes us even for now, right?

Yes, you read that correctly. I said, “Down Under.” Three weeks after my return from Europe I got on a plane bound for New Zealand. Crazy? Yes. I had planned to avoid all acts of travel and tourism until our honeymoon, but when the boss men asked me if I wanted to go on a 15-day trip to the southern hemisphere, I figured it would be stupid to say no. However, I was really dreading the travel. I AM SO tired of airports (and all the hassle that comes with them). Our first two flights actually went very well, minus a few obnoxious people flying to Denver — I tried to tell myself they were on their way home, they couldn’t possibly be Iowans, but I’m not so sure. By the time we got to LAX we were tired and ready to be on the last leg of our trip. We arrived knowing we would have to leave the terminal to get our last ticket, as well as go back through security; we weren’t looking forward to either activity. Besides the fact that LAX seemed to be pretty poorly marked, the employees were about as helpful as the signs that didn’t exist. They should have handed out maps as we departed the plane.

We waited nearly 20 minutes for a shuttle to take us to the international terminal. After that ride I was certain I had picked up the flu, tuberculosis, and whooping cough. The amount of sick people breathing and coughing on that bus made me want to take a bath in hand sanitizer. Goo. After we pushed our way off the bus we had to find the Air New Zealand counter (you have to go up a floor, didn’t see a sign for that either) and get in line. After a significant wait we went up to the counter with our passports and smiles. Smiling always seems to help — it says,”I’m a friendly, innocent, naive girl that would never carry anything suspicious onto a plan.” It didn’t help this time. The guy threatened to not give us our tickets if we couldn’t produce documentation that we would be leaving New Zealand. While Amye was prepared with all of the paperwork, our flight from NZ to Adelaide (AUS) did not show any proof of purchase. Our “itinerary” wasn’t good enough. At that point, I was fuming. While I stared daggers at the man, I let Amye do the talking. Who knows what I would have unleashed on him… Needless to say, he finally gave us the tickets. I’m pretty sure my death stare convinced him.

We made it to our gate in time to eat a quick dinner and then boarding started. We thought we would be good to go from this point, but once we got near the plane a lady stopped us and asked us to take off our backpacks. She said something about checking the weight, if they were too heavy, they would have to be put under the plane. That was my last straw. There was no nice left. They would not tell me my bag was too heavy when people were rolling on over-sized carry-ons. They either let me on with my bag or I was going home. Seriously.

After all that complaining, I can say two good things about Air New Zealand: they had a very good movie selection and the food was above average. The downside of the food service was that every time they served a meal they made everyone put their seats in the upright position. While this may not sound like a such a big deal, let’s talk about when they served “dinner”. We departed at 9 pm from LAX and did not get served until I was in my second movie. C’mon, people, that’s somewhere around 2 AM CST time — let the people sleep! It seems far more rude to wake up people up, then to make them eat dinner with a reclined chair. Plus, the tray didn’t move whether the chair was upright or reclined. I still don’t understand that.

My goal is to write about the rest of our Down Under adventures tonight. Check back soon 🙂

Here are some pics from Auckland Domain (NZ). I apologize for the overexposure – the pictures don’t do it justice (and I was too lazy to photoshop them).

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Things I have learned in England

1. Tea is also another word for dinner. How do I know this? One night Jay got home later than usual from soccer. I asked what the occasion was and he replied, “My ride made his wife tea tonight so he was able to stay out later.” I was seriously confused. If it only took a cup of tea for an Englishman to make his wife happy, they must think America is full of… Jay quickly explained that “making tea” is the same as “making dinner”.

2. It’s not “Mom”, it’s “Mum”. I’m not sure what they call the flower. I suppose they use the proper English term, Chrysanthemum.

3. I feel like a complete and utter slob when I eat around English people. They are masters with their forks and knives. I tried to imitate them once, but after a few dropped utensils and the pile of food in my lap I gave up; it’s quite clear that my left hand is worthless.

4. An example of how they use “whack” in a sentence: “We’ll just whack it in the oven.” No, they are not referring to hitting a baseball into the oven (they were actually talking about mozzarella sticks).

5. Last night we got wankered, not hammered, at the Christmas party.

6. English breakfast is literally a heart attack on a plate: eggs, bacon, sausage, black pudding, beans, mushrooms, and a tomato (thrown in for good measure).

7. Everything is called pudding: All desserts are called puddings (yes, even cheesecakes and brownies and ice cream). Yet, they also have black pudding (so not a dessert), white pudding and Yorkshire pudding.

Black pudding = a hockey puck of dried animal blood

White pudding = a hockey puck of dried animal fat

Yorkshire pudding = they say it’s pancake batter in a muffin tin, but it don’t taste like my Momma’s pancake batter (it tastes more like a Pillsbury roll). Either way, this is the best of the three.

8. They expect you to walk on the left side, drive on the left side, but stand on the right side when you are on an escalator. WTF.

9. Boxing Day is the December 26 in England. It’s a bank holiday (as in everyone gets the day off), but nobody actually knows what the holiday is about…

10. A Christmas cracker is not a cracker at all. It’s actual a candy-shaped cardboard container that has a small bit of explosives in it (hence the “cracker”), as well as a tissue paper crown and a Cracker Jack toy.

Notice how using the oven is not on here?

See you all soon! xo

It’s Time

1. I had a minor meltdown a few days ago. It started with kale:

Kale chips have been on my list of to-try’s for awhile now. Even though I knew I would hear some moaning and groaning from Jay, I had decided that last night was the night. Mostly because of the “best by” date on the package, not because I couldn’t put off the excitement of trying salad chips and hearing Jay complain that “real” chips taste better.

I followed the simple instructions and stuck them in the oven, then busied myself with the BBQ chicken. After about 10 minutes something didn’t smell right, so I checked the “chips”. Yep, you guessed it, they were burnt. No, apparently I still haven’t figured out how to work the oven. Instead of getting upset about it, I just turned off the oven and shut the door on them. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

Then I tried to improvise and create a kale salad, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the oven. I wasn’t mad (it’s not like I burnt chocolate chip cookies); I was annoyed.  I gave up on the salad and threw it in the trash. My heart wasn’t in it.

As I was hastily putting the ingredients away, the blueberries fell out of the fridge. The day before, the grated parmesan had fallen out of the fridge. Both spilled all over the floor. That was it. It’s one thing to spill cheese, but the blueberries put me over the edge. I LOVE blueberries.

I wasn’t a crying kind of meltdown, but I said some bad words…

“#$&**@ *#%%$ &@$#”

“You’ve got to be kidding me!”

“%^$@”

“I need to go home.”

“I need an oven — 0ne I can work.” (You don’t really need subtext on this one…)

“I need a normal sized fridge. This fridge is stupid.” (Subtext: If you put the fridge temperature up too high it leaves a nice 3″ thick coating of frost on the back, but turn the fridge down and nothing stays cold. Leave it somewhere in the middle, and the stuff in the back freezes. AKA both the parmesan and the blueberries were near the front to avoid the freezing and too close to the edge).

“I need a dishwasher.” (Subtext: Not just a normal-sized dishwasher, but a working one. Our dishwasher hasn’t work for over three weeks.)

“I just need to go hooooooome.”

2. I’ve been wearing the same clothes for three days now. Sort of. I’m trying to avoid laundry. Now you are probably thinking to yourself, “who doesn’t avoid laundry?” But I feel like I’m starting to smell like the people at the gym…

3. On another high note, I’ve resorted to stealing body wash from the gym. I am soooo not buying another bottle of Dove.

4. I just ate noodles, frozen (it was too close to the back) shredded cheese, and tuna for dinner. Our food supply is quickly dwindling and I refuse to eat take-out every night.

Barcelona

We had a rough start to our Barcelona trip…

Our flight was delayed and the abnormally loud noise coming from the airplane during take off was a little disconcerting. I made sure to read the emergency card from the seat pocket in front of me.

The taxi driver ripped us off by about $20; he claimed “no habla ingles” when it came time to pay the bill. How convenient.

The tapas restaurant recommended to us by the hotel charged us $10 PER scallop. I’m thinking there are some kick backs going on — send over the dumb Americans who can’t argue what the menu says (sorry Senora, my Spanish failed me) and we will give you 10%. They weren’t even that good.

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On the upside, the trip did get better. Barcelona is beautiful and surprisingly clean (cleaner than Reading), considering their steep unemployment rates. No worries, I won’t get political on you. No one wants to talk about the Eurozone crisis or the fiscal cliff or global warming on this blog.

We started our Saturday off by finding a small bakery for breakfast. This, of course, came after a 10 minute debate and four menu checks; I really just wanted oatmeal, but I had to settle for white bread, ham and cheese. I know, I know… the poor girl traipsing all over Europe is complaining… But seriously, you don’t understand, it took me a week to get right (if you know what I mean) after France. No one wants that. On a side note, I’m convinced the only reason Europeans actually stay fairly slim is because they have to walk EVERYWHERE (because they definitely don’t eat healthy). Besides the fact that cars tend to just be a hassle in the city, have you seen how people drive here? Walking is safer.

After our meal we walked to La Sagrada Familia, but just as the tourist books had said, the line was unbearably long. We just weren’t motivated enough to get up early to beat the crowd. Our bad.

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It was a monstrosity.

It was a monstrosity.

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Instead of wasting half our day in line, we walked through the park next to the church; apparently it’s the place to be on Saturday mornings for anyone over 60. The old men were so cute, I just had to take some pictures. This first game looked like a combination of horseshoes and bowling, but they also had some mean games of bocce ball going on as well.

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We wandered down to the water after that. Jay loves the ocean. Personally, I don’t like any bodies of water in which I can’t see the bottom. It’s partly a texture thing; I’ve never been fond of stepping on slimy things. It’s also a shark thing (for oceans anyway). I blame this (somewhat irrational) fear on a memory I have from visiting my great-grandparents in Florida. I was out on the beach playing at dusk and someone said, “Don’t go into the water, the sharks come out now.” That may not sound like such a bad thing to say, but it was terrifying for my four-year old self. This fear is constantly reinforced when I hear of people getting their arms bitten off, or worse, DYING from shark attacks. I don’t care what the chances are. Yes, I know lighting kills more people. But have you seen shark teeth?

Speaking of fish, we stumbled upon a very cool (but smelly) fish and fresh food market.

I prefer my fish without their eyes... or heads... basically I don't want to be reminded they were alive.

I prefer my fish without their eyes… or heads… basically I don’t want to be reminded they were alive.

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The first night there we also had shrimp with our over-priced scallops. They had brown juice dripping out of them that smelled awful; I could barely choke the thing down. Shrimp may be one thing that I prefer bleached and processed.

The first night there we also had shrimp with our over-priced scallops. They had brown juice dripping out of them that smelled awful; I could barely choke the thing down. Shrimp may be one thing that I prefer bleached and processed.

These looked tasty.

These looked tasty.

I should have taken a picture of all the fruit. That was my favorite — the mango was a-mazing! Once we had our fill we walked back to the hotel to take a load off and shower before dinner… turns out Barcelona is kind of big… and we got a little lost… and European maps suck (because there are no grid structures, just a lot of stupid round abouts).

That evening we were ready to leave for dinner at 6:30 in hopes that we could eat in an hour and then catch the fountain show. Plans had to be altered when we walked to the restuarant and realized nothing even opens before 7-8 o’clock because no one in Spain eats that early. Damn. I was hungry and the old guys were laughing at us. After a snack at the hotel bar we decided to reverse our plans, fountains then food. Even though Jay complained the whole way down to the fountains, and I had a headache, they were definitely one of the coolest things we saw in Barcelona. Our pictures will not do it justice, but the smaller fountains line the road leading up the big fountain at the end (you can see it’s pink in this photo). Behind the large fountain there are three different sets of stairs leading up to the art museum, a wonderfully old building that looks quite grand at the top of the hill.

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I found this kind of amusing.

I found this kind of amusing. Convenient placement.

 

At the Olympic Park

At the Olympic Park

 

Olympic track stadium.

Olympic track stadium.