What’s German for murder?

Yesterday I was talking to someone at work who is turning the big 5-0.  She and her husband have decided to celebrate by going to Munich, Germany this year for Oktoberfest. She told me they are big craft brewery people and did the whole Oregon beer trail a few years ago and loved it. Because I can’t help myself and because I always think I’m helping, I told her my favorite Oktoberfest story from when Joe and I went to Munich for his 40th.

It involves this dude…

  
So before I tell you how my husband and I almost became a statistic – let me set the scene. Munich, Germany during Oktoberfest looks a little like New York City on New Year’s Eve – if it was only filled with Germans, Italians and Brits. The major difference is that this celebration lasts an entire week. My husband and I booked a hotel a few miles away from the actual fair (which is what it is. Rides, food, games, etc). It was the perfect distance – too far to smell the puke but close enough to see the hordes of people walking to their mecca morning, noon and night. Once in a while a sad, drunk dude held up by his two loyal friends would be walking the opposite way. It’s a 24/7 experience. You go to breakfast, you see drunk people. Wednesday at 4pm? Drunk people. But everyone’s laughing. Everyone’s friendly. Even the few Parisians we met there seemed to not hate us. What I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t feel unsafe or threatening like a frat party gone wild. It feels celebratory and fun.

Then you make your way into the fair and have to decide which brauhaus you’d like to tackle on that day. The set-up is that each one offers a different variety of beer. The reality is they all tasted like Peroni to me.

Our second day at the fest we decided to go into the biggest tent – the Hofbräuhaus. Imagine 9,000 people singing John Denver’s Country Road over and over again. At first you think it’s insanity – then after a stein or two you wonder why anyone would listen to any other song. Ever. 

Once we got in, we looked around like visitors at a zoo. There weren’t people hanging from the ceiling but it seemed like there could be and no one would have said a word.  There were no empty tables so we found a spot to stand and Joe went to go find us a beer. There were no bars – it was all table service. If you didn’t have a table, you weren’t getting a beer.  

We took a good walk around the tent and ended up back where we were. No seats. Here’s when it helps to have a husband who looks like he totally belongs in any German or Irish pub. These are his people. 

He walked up to a group standing near us enjoying some beers and asked how they were able to get served. That’s how it began. Immediately this 10 foot tall (really) mustached fellow put his arm around Joe and said,” welcome welcome! We will get you whatever you want!” He spoke English with the perfect German accent,” Welcome to zee festival!”. 

He and his wife, a formidable woman double my husband’s size, took us under their wing. No waiting in lines for anything for us! They seemed to know everyone in the tent. They had grown kids and grew up in the city of Munich. They asked all about us and our travels and how we were enjoying their country. After a few hours the group they came with left and we decided to go to another tent with them. Why not right? We had our own private guides! We felt like locals. Let me also tell you all that my husband is generous by nature. And like all generous people, when someone is generous to him, he feels indebted. Our new German friends seemed to get all the drinks for free all night, we never spent a Euro. 

At the next tent they started telling us about their business. They owned a small bar in the basement of their home. They lived about an hour out of the city. By now I was getting tired. No matter how much fun I’m having, there’s usually a point in the night when I’m done. And because I wasn’t a fan of the beer, I was also pretty sober. 

“You two should come to zee bar tonight! We jump in our cah and go, yes?”. “If you want hashish, we have zat too..”

Then I got even more sober. A basement bar. An hour outside the city. Drugs from a German guy who looked like a Bond villain. I looked at my husband who was laughing and smiling and basically ready to hop in this car. I don’t think he heard any of the details of our impending death and disfigurement. 

“Our cah is at zee back of zee tents”, said his wife in a deep baratone. I tried to give Joe my usual eye. The one I use when the kids are around us and I want to say,” WTF?!”, but he wouldn’t lock eyes. He was in a German trance induced by John Denver. 

I decided to make a big dramatic scene and prayed that Joe wouldn’t fight me on it.  As we walked outside the tent I grabbed Hik and said loudly,” so sorry! I’m not feeling well, we have to leave. Maybe we will see you tomorrow!” And we started walking away. No goodbye. No nothing. Joe just stared at me. It didn’t matter. I’d explain later. When we were safe.

Were they dangerous? Probably not. Did I let my imagination get to me? Maybe. But here’s what’s kept me alive for 43 years. When I hear a stranger invite me to their basement, I run for zee hills. You should too.

London Calling

Every year we take the kids on vacation the week of my husband Joe’s birthday. We pack our bags in the middle of a warm and muggy July and usually head somewhere even warmer and muggier. We’ve hit every all inclusive you can think of – Mexico, Jamaica, The Dominican. We go, Joe gets his Irish tan on – the kids have the run of the place – and I sit under an umbrella with my burka on – it’s great. 

We decided to do something different this year. The kids will turn 17 and 12 this fall. Gulp. 17 and 12. 17 and 12…sorry. Where was I? 

Anyway we took them on our very own Griswold adventure! It was fantastic. Usually I’m very loosy goosy about planning in my civilian life. At work things are planned out to the minute, so winging it is the order of the day with my family. But not on this trip. We had 2 travel days and 5 short vacation days to fit it all in. It was the Amazing Race of vacations – except no Phil at the markers.

Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, The London Eye, The Tate Modern Museum and Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guards was day one. I think I let them stop to breath a couple of times. We opted not to do a big red tour bus because my husband and I like to ride the local subways in Europe. So we grabbed a few Oyster cards for the Tube and pretended like we knew what we were doing. And for the most part we did – there was the usual  going east when we should have gone west goof up but that was to be expected. I can’t people watch and navigate at the same time now can I? 

The next day was a bit lighter, we ventured out of the city to see the Harry Potter tour at Warner Brother Studios. It was AMAZING. The actual sets, costumes and props used in the films. We geeked out big time (except for my hubby who has only watched about 15 minutes of each movie and then napped through the rest. This is also how he watched the Lord of the Rings series). After that we hit Camden Market, Abbey Road (of course) and the London Bridge. 

In the following days we squeezed in Picadilly Circus, Stonehenge, Bath, Windsor Castle, dinner at the oldest pub on the river Thames (which we now know to pronounce without the H), lunch at the first Hard Rock Cafe ever opened and a couple of good Indian curries. 

I’d give myself a solid B in planning – I would have given myself an A but there were some pretty nice flubs. I didn’t put together that our flight landed at 6am and the flat that we stayed in (we used Air BnB) wouldn’t be ready until 2. So when we showed up we were a bit, actually a lot, unexpected. The owner was gracious and sent over the cleaners to prep early. We waited outside while he cleaned one of the bedrooms and then all four of us, exhausted from the flight, fell asleep on one bed while he cleaned the rest of the place. 

We got up a few hours later, got dressed to hit the town and I immediately locked us out by grabbing the wrong set of keys. I blame jet lag. And Obama.

Then there was the visit to the Tate Modern, which was right next to Shakespeare’s Globe Theater – which I was dying to see. But we turned right instead of left and missed it completely. As the Brits say…bullocks. Or as Homer Simpson says, “doh!”.

But it was all fun. Even the flubs. The kids were troopers – even when we walked for 7 hours straight (and forgot to feed them lunch now and then). My husband earns a prize for the rainy day (the only rain we had all week) in Bath and hearing me talk about how Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth was filmed in the town (omg it’s the Red Lion Inn!). The English country side isn’t exactly what the kids wanted to stare at for a day – but they did it for me. I had to get my Jane Austen on. 

The other big difference between our vacations in the past and this year was the weather. We went from a 90 degree heatwave at home to a crisp 75 degrees or less a day (one of the days only got to 65). One of the guards in front of Parliament told us that London has four seasons a day. It can be warm, cold, wet and sunny at any given time. Except my son – who loves a good heatwave- we all loved LOVED the weather. I was perfectly fine wearing flip flops and a warm sweater every day. 

What wasn’t different about this trip was what my husband calls,”the unit”. The four of us. We know we have a small window left when we can still force our kiddies to spend this much time with us – and we’re milking it for all it’s worth. Cheers everyone.

(I took one billion photos – here’s just a few)

 Knock knock! I know you don’t expect us for another 6 hours but here we are!  
  
    
    
   

The London Eye

  

  

    
 All you Potter fans will understand just how freaking cool this was!   
    
    
 Abbey Road was smaller then expected and really really busy.    

    Kera having a proper tea. 
    Bath – wet and certainly not wild, but beautiful. On a side note we saw the “castle” that Nicolas Cage bought and then sold off because he owed so many taxes in England. Thought you’d like to know.


Me and my baby – and some rocks from 3,000 years B.C.   
  

He/We

Today is my husband’s birthday.

 I met him when he was 21. We got married when he was 26. We had our first baby when he was 28. We bought our first house when he was 31. We had our second baby when he was 33. We bought our second house when he was 36. We celebrated at Ocktoberfest in Munich when he was 40. We happily leaped into his new career as an entrepreneur when he was 44. 

This year he will see his first born graduate high school, his second born start middle school, his business hit the one year mark and our marriage hit the 20 year mark. 

All those numbers add up to my happy life.

Love you Joe. You haven’t changed a bit and yet you’re even better. How’d you do that?

   
  
 

Summer status

We’ve been on a roll. Or in a car. Or on a boat. It’s mid-July, summer vacations (for our kids) are in full swing. We’ve already hit bad traffic, gotten lost, forgotten things at home and gotten into fights in the car. We’ve had buckets of ice cream, been to margaritaville a few times, and had enough watermelon to feed a small melon-less country. In between summer fun my husband has been expanding his business and I have been working some late nights – but somehow it doesn’t matter in the summer! It’s not pitch black at 6. There’s no teacher’s note about something I’ve forgotten to send into school. People tend to be a little more relaxed and happy. It’s enjoyable.

My daughter has been moonlighting with my husband at his cleaning company – helping out and making a little extra money. I told her it’s great that she’s working with her dad because she needs to learn about the empire she’ll probably inherit one day. She didn’t laugh. I laughed. I think I’m hysterical.

In other news, as my son commented that we have been in a “boaty” mood. We spent 4th of July with my husband’s cousin Bobby who just bought the most beautiful boat. For weeks prior to our trip to see him I told people I was going to DC for the 4th. Because I really thought I was. Someone (my husband obvi) had told me DC. I’m sure of it. He’s sure I’m making that up. He said I never actually asked where we were going. I just assumed. That’s crazy. Why would I do that? Anyway we were nowhere near DC – we were in Soloman’s Island, Maryland. We passed DC and then kept driving another hour. It didn’t matter what land mass we were on because we spent the majority of the weekend on the water and it was beautiful. But in the future, I’ll confirm DC before I say DC.

Last weekend we were lucky enough to be invited by one of our good friends, April and Pat, to Pat’s childhood home in CT. This time I knew where I was going. It just so happened that they also just got a new boat. Thus our “boaty” mood. We always have loads of fun with them and this time was no exception – one of my favorite moments was hearing about a racist dog in their family. At first I thought they were kidding – after a few examples we decided I should probably never meet that dog – just in case. I also got to spend some quality time with one of their good friends (let’s call her D in case she wants to deny knowing me later) who reads my blog often. I’m not gonna lie. I loved that D remembered long-ago details of my life that I have already forgotten. I know other people would feel moments of panic and loss of personal privacy – I felt like Madonna. Thank you D for making my day so I can pretend people are actually reading and remembering my crazy blog. April is also a blogger so she totally gets it. Check out her blog (http://planetoftheapeblog.com/) to read more about racist and non-racist dogs.

How’s your summer? Are you having fun? Why don’t you ever talk back? Sigh. It’s ok. I love you anyway.

Here’s hoping you are having a “boaty” “beachy” “barbecue-y” good time. Here’s some random pics from my last few weeks. A sparkler…because why not? A picture of my girl working hard for her money. My hydrangeas because I’ve missed them so. And my boy…because why not?


  
  

Internet traps

I’m stuck on a plane for 5 hours. Even worse, I have wifi so I can’t miss one work email. To take my mind off work for a nano minute I decided to surf the internet. Which for me means the following in this order:
– People.com
– Huffington Post (entertainment section)
– Us Weekly.com
– D Listed.com
– CNN.com (week in photos, travel)

I can usually do all this in about 5 minutes or less. I retain nothing, but I’m quick.
But sometimes something online pulls me into a black hole. Usually that black hole is called Pinterest – but sometimes it’s not a fun ride. Sometimes it messes with my emotional state.
And I’m already half nuts.
Maybe it’s because I’m leaving the family for a week long trip but the photo below got to me. Actually it killed me.
A mother tried to smuggle her kid in a suitcase to Spain.
She sent him through the X-ray machine.
I don’t know the full story. Maybe she couldn’t buy a ticket. Maybe she didn’t have a visa for him. Maybe things were so bad at home that all of this was worth the effort. Maybe this was the last option they had.
Maybe I’m tired and overly sensitive. Maybe it’s because I’m pretty sure this little boy has been through worse. I dunno. I don’t know why I can’t stop thinking about this picture.
You know what I do know?
I have no problems. Zero.
This is what happens when I try to read things other than crap online. Lesson learned.

.

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A girl named Sue

A few years ago I was invited to join a group of gals on a girls weekend. They all grew up together or met in college and have stayed in touch since. I met one of those gals when she moved a few blocks down from me almost 7 years ago – and now I cannot live without her (or her family).

This past weekend was their annual trip and I joined in the fun.

We stayed in a cute little (actually it was pretty big) apartment right in the heart of St.Mark’s Place in NYC. Very hip. Very cool. Just like us :-)

I can’t go into too many of the stories because we are moms, teachers, responsible employees that love our jobs and, well, we did some non-mom, non-teacher, non-responsible things.

Here’s what I can tell you about… we ate some really good food. Drank some really good wine. Those were the two themes of the weekend in general. Where should we eat? Where should we drink? We went dancing! We hit a cool, hipster flea market in Brooklyn and saw a celebrity (Jesse Tyler Ferguson from Modern Family). We ubered all over the place. And we laughed. Boy did we laugh. Sometimes at other people, but mostly at each other.

One of the best laughs we got this weekend was at my expense (what’s new). I had never met one of the gals that joined us, she grew up with most of the other crew but this was her first time with me. Somehow during introductions on the first day, I missed that her name was Chris. I am almost positive someone said her name was Sue. Or I heard the word Sue and associated it with her, or she looked like a Sue or something. Doesn’t matter. Her name was Chris!

Now, you would think that during the next 12 hours someone would correct me right? Wrong. I must have had multiple conversations where I directed a question at Sue/Chris. “Isn’t this breakfast great Sue?”. “Sue, do you like the flea market?” “Sue, how many kids do you have?”. MORTIFYING.

Finally, after a couple of glasses of wine on Saturday night someone pulled me over and said,”who are you talking about? Chris?”. Shoot me now. Dead. Oh the horror! The horror! Then I started blaming.

“Why didn’t you tell me?!!” I shouted! “You should have told me”, I cried! But I know why no one told me. It was funnier this way. They are all evil. Including Chris/Sue.

Anyway – here’s some pics to take your mind off my stupidity. The first pic includes Chris (she’s the one smiling sheepishly on the right). There’s some prerequisite post-wine selfies. A shot of all of us at Supper. Which was this fantastic Italian restaurant where we had dinner. So we had Supper for dinner. Get it? Hilarious. To us.

There’s also a picture of the flea market  and some info about it if you want to check it out yourself, a shot of our friend Jesse Tyler, and a shot of one of the gals dancing with the Phantom of the Opera – who also happened to be letting off some steam at the gay 80s club we danced at all night (until 11:30pm).

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Mira Mira!

I got back from Puerto Rico last week. I made it home just in time to help my baby girl get ready for junior prom.
The 7 days onsite were a whirlwind of activity.
Business meetings, lunches, dinners – all a blur now. The only thing I remember is Arthur, our crazy local photographer who would show up every day shouting “Mira!!” Which means “look at this”, “watch”, “come on” and “hello” all at the same time. And when you’re really excited you say it twice!
I learned a few things in Puerto Rico.
I learned that every Puerto Rican can read clouds and tell you how and when rain is coming.
I learned that almost all the food contains pork. Except for plantains and yogurt parfaits. Just kidding. The parfaits have pork too. I think.
I also learned that most people just want to dance.
Here’s some pics from the week – and although Arthur didn’t take these photos I feel the need to shout,”Mira Mira!” to you all.
Here’s some of the spaces we converted….from this….

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To this…

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From this…

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To this…

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And you know I took pics of the food…

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And did I mention there was dancing?! Lots and lots of dancing!

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Gracias Puerto Rico.

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