Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Oxford Fries

Don't even ask.
Apparently in England, this is the late night snack of choice. Chips (fries) with ketchup and god-knows-what-else. Is that mayo? I hope not.

This is a WanderFood Wednesday Post.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

'Boozy' Adventures in Sainsbury's

Love going to grocery stores abroad. You never know what you'll find. Like "Boozy Steak & Ale" in a can.

This is a WanderFood Wednesday post!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Street Food in Pushkar

Possibly my favorite food picture ever, because it's so not about the food.

Taken in Pushkar.

This is a WanderFood Wednesday post!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Please visit my new professional writing website!

As you can see, this blog is neglected. That's because I've been working on my new shiny professional writing website. I haven't quite made the URL switch, so until I do, please click here to find out about my writing services and background.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Feels like I've been away for a long time

I feel like I've been out of the country for the last three months. Or maybe "down the rabbit hole" might be a better description. But Alice has returned from Wonderland and couldn't be happier to be back! She gets to see her boyfriend again during waking hours, she gets to expose her pale skin to sunlight, and she gets to go back to writing. Life is good.

I've been making a list of all the things I want to do after I'm finished with event planning for Habitat for Humanity, which I will post here since that is a more appropriate place for it. But for this blog, it means finally finishing the India posts. I've got more to say about India, and now I have the time and energy to say it! Posting will start up tomorrow so I can bump that darn Christmas dog story down. It's disgraceful for a writer not to post on her own blog in three months.

What can I say? I was having tea with the denizens of Wonderland. They keep a girl very busy. 

Friday, December 24, 2010

Dog’s Gifts – A Christmas Tail

One of Pokey’s first memories was of being in a very dark place. It smelled like cardboard. He remembered seeing little points of light shining through the darkness, and the crisp scent of prime pine peeing territory mingling with the smells of paper and boxes. Then, the ground, walls, and roof began to shake and the darkness was torn away with loud shredding noises by a very excited little girl. The puppy looked up at the girl, who squealed as if her tail had just been stepped on.

Pokey looked up from the little girl to the towering fir tree piled around with lots of boxes and paper bits. If the little girl would just let him go, he’d be glad to mark the turf for her.

Many years after the puppy grew into a larger, older, somewhat crankier dog – still with shoe button eyes and far too much personality for his diminutive size – he remembered that day. And, he came to learn its significance. Every year, the little girl (who had grown a few inches up and a few inches out and kept leaving the pack for weeks at a time) and “Mom” recreated the scene. They put up the tree. They put out the boxes. And every year since the year of his birth, they celebrated him.

He appreciated the effort.

Pokey knew that when the tree went up and the boxes went out, it meant that his people would worship him appropriately again.

He was given gifts, which he tore open with his quick little paws and flung into the air. The people tried to grab his toys, but he was always a little too fast for them. His success rate of keeping his toys away from his people made him very proud.

 He was given treats – biscuits, but also bits of cookies, graham crackers, steak and chicken. He wished he could impress upon his people that he would prefer Pizza on his special day, but his people could be very dense sometimes. Usually though, they understood.

When he was taken for walks in the weeks leading up to his special day, his people dressed him in a red and white ceremonial coat, which he did not like. It itched.

This year, Pokey was ready. The tree was up, the boxes were out. And he was sniffing around the tree for his annual offerings. He knew them by the sound of their special crinkly paper and by the scent of fuzz. Sometimes he was thrown off by faux fur trim on people clothes, but his worshipping people didn’t allow him to drag their clothes around. He didn't know why they were so picky. He searched and searched, but couldn’t find the gifts that were due him.

He looked up at the little girl, ears pricked forward, and stared at her, willing her to understand that he wanted his presents NOW. She looked back and said “Nooooo, way wa bill blahbarro.” He understood “no,” but didn’t like it. He turned to “Mom” and sneezed at her, which usually got a reaction. She looked at him and made the same incomprehensible noises. He didn't understand. This was his day. They had celebrated him since he first came into their world in one of those tree boxes. And he wanted his presents.

Pokey was frustrated.

But not to worry. Because if Pokey had a calendar hung at terrier eye-level, he would have realized that the day on which his people celebrated him was tomorrow. It was only Christmas Eve.

Merry Christmas to All, and Remember: Dog is Watching.

If you liked this Christmas tale, take a look at The Story of Yule from last year!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Livescribe Story: Lauren VanMullem, Journalist

A little over a month ago, LiveScribe asked me to be part of a special marketing effort to show people how others use SmartPens. They flew me to Phoenix to interview me on camera - The Journalist! - and here is the end result. Me, on film. No, I'm not gunning for a career in broadcast journalism. I was so nervous I could hardly make my facial muscles smile in front of the camera. But, my many years of theater and classical voice training came through in the end, and goodness knows I am a ham at heart.

A word about my Rita Skeeter magic SmartPen: The thing not only records audio as I write, but it records my actual handwriting on the page and saves it to my computer. If I lose the notebook, it's backed up. If I want to draw something to remember it better, I can do that and see it on my computer screen later. Mostly though, I use the SmartPen for interviews when I want to capture the spirit and spontaneity of the conversation. You can't do that if you need to ask your interviewee to slow down, or repeat the brilliant sentence he or she just said (they never can). The best example of the SmartPen in action is my recent Solvang Brewing Company feature for the Santa Barbara Independent - I never could have caught that last anecdote if I was writing it down by hand.

I also use the pen to record my 94 year old grandfather's family stories, like of how he and my grandmother met, and his years serving in China after WWII. And did I mention that the LiveScribe notebooks come in pink?

Love my LiveScribe pen.

Friday, December 10, 2010

What Happens in Jodhpur, Stays in Jodhpur

We had dinner at the hotel. The hotel staff set up tables, chairs, and a long buffet on the grass in the courtyard by the pool, almost like a wedding reception. Classical Indian musicians in turbans with long curved mustaches played drums and sitars and sang. A group of children looked down at us from one of the second-story balconies and greeted us with waves and smiles. It didn’t take them long to want to come down and see us close up. Their older sister, a sweet beautiful young woman of around 20, brought them down, and she begged us with that irresistibly musical lilting Indian accent (how I envy those women their voices) to join her and her siblings in dancing to the music on the lawn.

We were so tired from climbing all over the fort that it took a lot of convincing. But she was so charming and warm that a few of us capitulated. I felt like an awkward creature trying to dance. My British body doesn’t move well. It just clunks around unless I’m dancing in a strictly European style – I look right at home with the waltz. I’m just saying, don’t ask me to show you any of my Bollywood dance moves when I get home. What happens in Jodhpur, stays in Jodhpur.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Blue City of Jodhpur

October 21st, From Varanasi to Delhi to Jodhpur

The flight back to Delhi from Varanasi was out of a small airport outside of the city. Our bus trundled to a halt about twenty minutes away – we were told that there was a traffic accident ahead.

When accidents happen in India, the driver is blamed. We were told that an angry mob attacked the driver and beat him. As we passed the scene, Marci and I saw men carrying a covered body on a stretcher. We weren’t sure if it was the driver or the victim of the accident.

The Varanasi airport was chaos. Indians would tell Beth directions for where we were supposed to stand, what documents we were supposed to have, what forms we had to fill out – and then they would tell her the opposite of what they had just said. We were ordered to stand in several different places without any apparent reason. They were confused, we were confused, and that’s India for you.

Everyone gets frisked before boarding, and the woman frisking us was completely baffled by under-wires. Beth thinks of me as a very calm, agreeable person, which just goes to show how well I can hide anxiety and rage – both of which were triggered in the airport. I had a fantasy of ripping off my bra and shoving it in the security woman’s face, saying “See, you idiot woman – this is a bra!” But, as always, I kept quiet. My face flushed, blood rushed to my head making it feel tingly, and I felt dizzy, sick, out of control, and really pissed off. I tried to take deep breaths and stop my eyes from tearing up because that would only add embarrassment to the situation. I wanted to be the fearless traveler, and Indiana Jones doesn’t have panic attacks.

Sitting on the plane, I thought of the stories I had heard of Indians sacrificing goats before takeoffs, and my Indian friend’s warnings of air-travel. I prayed for a safe flight, as I always do, and the plane rattled into the sky. Rickety airplanes don’t hold near the terror for me that airports do – I never said I was logical.

We spent the night at the Park hotel in Delhi again. Two of the ladies and I ran out to find an ATM and buy extra luggage to carry our increasing purchases. Luggage is sold on every other street corner in all sizes and styles. Sarah, my shopping fairy-godmother (previously mentioned here), helped me negotiate on a duffel bag big enough to hide a side of beef. She smiled at the seller, talking fast in her high feminine bubbly voice, her blond hair bobbing up and down as she nodded in agreement with herself that the seller really should lower his price, and gave him a list of reasons why. By the time Sarah was done working her magic, she had the price down to 800 rupees ($17.84)*. The luggage seller didn’t know what hit him.
*Yes, Setal, I know that $17.84 is a crap price for a dusty duffel with broken zippers, but for white female tourists it’s pretty good!

The morning of October 21st we were off to the airport again for a domestic flight to Jodhpur. Delhi’s airport is much better than the microcosm of Hell that is the Varanasi airport. The domestic terminal even had free internet kiosks, so I was able to email my mom and boyfriend and tell them that I wasn’t in the train wreck near Agra that happened earlier that morning. They hadn’t even heard of the train wreck, but it was in all of the papers in Delhi.

In Jodhpur we were met by our guide and tour bus outside of the airport. They greeted us with marigold and rose petal leis – and more importantly, bottled water. Jodhpur is a desert on the border of Pakistan, so the air is dry, dusty, and very hot.

We took a large air-conditioned tour bus to Mehrangarh Fort, a fortress on a hill that overlooks the entire “Blue City” of Jodhpur. Half of Jodhpur’s homes are painted bright sky blue. The trend began when the Brahmin cast painted their houses blue, just to let everyone know who lived there. Now, the trend has trickled down to anyone with enough money to buy paint. The other half of the houses are the ginger color of sandstone. Sandstone quarries are just outside the city, so they build everything out of rock; the fort is no exception. Even the lace-like screens covering the women’s floors from view are made of carved sandstone.

Forts were vital, especially in this region bordering Pakistan. Jodhpur was on the camel trade route and was a particularly important piece of real estate. Many forts were built to keep the Rajahs safe. We climbed to the top through gilded rooms of marble, hand painted floors, tapestries and carvings. We saw bejeweled elephant saddles and elaborate cradles for baby rajahs. We saw paintings done during the height of the rajahs rule, showing them hunting on horseback with hawks. In fact he English Jodhpur riding pants came into fashion because one of these Rajahs was an accomplished horseman. He invented the pants and liked them so much that he wore them on his travels.

While the Mehrangarh Fort is the main tourist attraction of Jodhpur, we got the feeling that we were the main attraction. Few westerners come to this part of India, and we got a lot of stares and requests to have our pictures taken with people’s children. They seemed to think that we were really cool – just us being there was exciting to them – and the feeling was completely mutual. With their beautiful saris and gorgeous children, we thought they were really cool too.

From the ruddy stone towers, I could see the whole city and into the dry hills surrounding it. As sunset approached, the Jodhpur practically glowed blue.