Saturday, March 28, 2009

What About the Right of Words?!

The definition of the word vegetarian goes like this:

According to Webster Online: one who believes in or practices vegetarianism;

According to quoted by Google: eater of fruits and grains and nuts; someone who eats no meat or fish or (often) any animal products;

And according to the Wikipedia, Vegetarianism is the practice of a diet that excludes meat (including game and slaughter by-products), fish (including shellfish and other sea animals) and poultry. The Wiki also adds that “the reasons for choosing vegetarianism may be related to morality, religion, culture, ethics, aesthetics, environment, society, economy, politics, taste, or health.”

So, as all of you probably say right now: you knew (as I did) that vegetarians are people who consume (for their food intake) anything but animal products, or, for the most part, don't consume animal products that come from slaughtering the animal. At least, that’s the common belief!

I was puzzled, this week, when one of my friends sported a pair or shoes that had this inscription on the bottom of them: “suitable for vegetarians”. My other very sharp and sarcastic friend blurted out: “What? They (meaning “the vegetarians”) eat the shoes?!”.

Well, yes, according to the above definitions, that was a perfectly legitimate question, and I think the note on the bottom of the shoes was awfully presumptuous!

Vegetarians are a class on their own right only according to what they eat, consume, for food?! Or so I (we?!) thought. Isn’t this a bit of overly-specific, even forced advertising, perhaps?

Because, see, if I am one of those vegetarians that chose that path “because of my health”, or “environment” (as The Wiki mentions), I have nothing against killing the animal: I just cannot eat it, because it’s unsafe for my health, or it’s simply not available in my food chain. So this very specific advertising becomes all of a sudden so odd, it borders the ridiculous?! Or it might be just me …?!

Sure, I get it, if the shoes “said”, “suited for animal rights activists” or “suited for PETA members”, or “no animals have been hurt in the production of these shoes”, like makeup does nowadays – that would have made sense, but … “vegetarians”?!? That’s a bit of a misuse of the word “vegetarian”, and a pretty big assumption, I think.

And if the above mentioned options would have been “too long” for the cool imprint (see picture), then, either don’t bother using the wrong word, or wait until … the English Dictionary comes up with a new word for people who would support fake leather: "animal non-killers”? “animal lovers”?! “animal protectors” ?! “antirealleatherpersons”?!

You figure it out. But don’t butcher the poor word “vegetarian”. It’s done nothing to you!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Carrot Joke

Did you all hear "the carrot joke"? Did you? Well, if not, here it goes:

Two carrots were walking down the stairs together. One of them was paying no attention to the steps, and he tripped, fell down the stairs and hurt himself really badly. The other carrot called 911, and took the hurt carrot to the emergency room.

After a few hours of surgery and medical investigation, the ER doctor comes out to talk to the healthy carrot and he says:

"Well, I have good news and bad news."

The healthy carrot was waiting with bated breath to hear the fate of his poor, hurt, friend ...

The doctor continued: "Well, the good news is that Mr. Carrot will be OK: he will live, the fall didn't threaten his life. The bad news is ... he will be a vegetable for the rest of his life".

So, now you're supposed to laugh. Or at least think the joke was cute... Yeah, I know: it IS a silly joke, indeed. Nothing amazing about it, right??

The amazing fact about the silly joke was the man who told it to me. My group of volunteers was wrapping up a dinner preparation and serving for Urban Ministry, a homeless shelter, and the man who told us the joke as we were walking out from the charity event was a security guard at The Shelter. This was a man who sees the worst, darkest side of life, every day. No, not death. But struggle. Need. Hunger. And hopelessness. And even despair.

And yes, in the midst of all that, he found energy and purity in his heart, I thought, to tell us "the carrot joke". His laugh was loud and plenty. He told us his 9 year old daughter woke him up that morning to tell him this joke, and he found it so funny, he wanted to share it! I can only imagine that little girl's curly head swaying as she tells her daddy the joke, her giggles getting the man through his hard day, at The Shelter! Such a blessing!! And how his paying attention made his day easier to take on, maybe?!

And that was one of the life's biggest lessons for me, and made my (lately) incredibly pessimistic and negative self snap out of it, and wonder: am I wasting precious time on trite matters, and is life really not too short to worry about small things like co-workers' moods, and managers' inadequacy, and the state of North Carolina being short on cash and me not getting the tax return till June?!

Made me really wonder: did I miss a day in which I did not smile, if not laugh out loud, healthily and happily, as that security guard, at the simple, little things that are plenty around us, IF we pay attention?! And was that not such a shame and waste if I did?!

This silly joke, and the tall, dark, uniformed man visibly in love with his daughter, or with what she brings to his life, an island of happy, and calm, and love, in the midst of chaos and despair, made me stop for a moment and re-assess.

And I just wanted to share, as I thought we all could use a silly joke. Lately.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Movie (Low) Expectations

Everyone that knows me well, knows that I have zero patience. For anything. A place where I test my patience the most is the movies. There, for a couple of hours, there is nothing much else to do, but watch the screen in the dark and hope not to fall asleep. That's one reason I always buy popcorn at the movies: keeps me busy. Somewhat. Movies are like time out for me! Feels like punishment, anyway.

So, it doesn't matter what I watch, if it's at the the theater, it'll be somewhat painful! In this predicament, it really pays off, though, to be pleasantly surprised. My favorite movie experiences, then, are when I go in with low, low, low expectations and I leave ... somewhat satisfied.

This was the case this rainy Sunday, when one of my best friends, B., suggested we'd see Taken. I told her I could see anything, because I wanted some girl time, and to get out on a sad, crappy weekend, but I could not see: gory, horror flicks, no make belief, or sci-fi BS, and no bam-bam-bang-bang boy type, a la Matrix movies, either. I suggested a chick flick. She came back with two choices: Benjamin Button, and Taken.

We both agreed that we'd rather wait for the first one on video, since it's 3 hours long - she doesn't have that time, I don't have that kind of patience; so that was an easy give-up. I was skeptical about Taken. Our friend, C., had reviewed it for us , and I know that typically C. and B. have similar movie tastes, so I figured at least one of us will be happy there! As far as what I would get out of it, though, I was dubious! After all, they made me watch Jackass 2 a couple of years back. I still have nightmares on that one! After reading his review, I thought to myself: "great, a bam-bam-bang-bang movie, when I said NO such thing. *sigh*".

BUT ... for the most part, I trust my friends. Well, except for Jackass, of course! I am probably one of the few Americans who don't read movie reviews! I don't, because I don't believe in waste of time. And most times, that's what they are, to me. I watch trailers, I don't read reviews. There is a difference. I have found movies with great reviews to be shallow, and lame, for my tastes, and the ones with poor reviews to be masterpieces, in my view. So, yes, like everything else, I am picky about my movies! And hard to please! Tell me a movie got an A, 5 stars, or 5o billion red tomatoes in whatever review you're reading, and following and that leaves me as cold as the 40 degree rain that we've had this weekend.

Anyway - I digress....

So, we go to see Taken. Because, like I said: I trust my friends. We're friends because similar tastes and standards brought us here. So ... I trusted C. And also, I trust Liam Neeson! I figured, he could not have signed a contract "that" bad, and the movie had to have something going for it.
And it did.

Yes, it was a "boy movie". Guns, and violence, lot of shooting, and lots of blow ups, and car chases, the works! But I liked it. For three reasons: one: it had a (real) story; the European trafficking of women (and children) is a theme close to home, and my heart! It's not some make-belief crap!

Two: all the violence, and chase scenes, were believable. The way they got around, they found information, they chased each other, they killed each other, required nothing more than current technology and manpower. It didn't require computers and "Dick Tracy watches" (thanks, B.!). I absolutely hate movies where you need 30th century technology to solve a mystery, but the whole time, they look as real as the next day! Sure, it's nice to dream! But ... since I like real stories, that's not something I enjoy. This was ... current. Relate-able stuff!

And three: it had Liam Neeson in it. And even in a second-hand rated movie, as my brother in law called it, he delivers! I have followed him since he was a nobody (in a British TV series, I watched in Romania when I was very young) till when he gave us Oskar Schindler, in Spielberg's masterpiece. He delivers, I think, and although he can play a decent range, he keeps being the same ol' Irishman, I expect in him: brief and mindful speech, hot temper, respectful if you respect him, kinda-guy.

Sure, the movie failed to explain to me how he never got punished for all the mess he did create in Paris. But hey, even I know movies (for the most part) are fiction. So, I am happily writing those explanations off to ... it being a movie, after all! And as we all know: these things happen in movies.

Like my friend, C., said: don't expect Taken to get any Oscars, but it's a good break from the routine, if you're looking for a getaway!

PS: the writing was not even half as lame as my most recent viewing of New In Town, either.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


By complete chance, I was witness to this conversation, while on my hike last weekend. It’s not in the least made up. Two strangers, I’ll call them Kathy and Cindy, about 35’ish year old, both accountants, approached me on the trail, sort of out of pity, because I was hiking alone. And after the usual politeness, of what your name is, what you do for a living, they just went off on their own rants, and I was a mere spectator of it all.

There they go:

Kathy: “That tree is totally twisted. It cannot make up its mind which way to go. See, how it grew toward the valley, and now it’s growing towards the hill? It must be a woman, not knowing what it wants!”

Cindy: “What do you mean?”

Kathy: “You know: that’s what men tell us, that we’re moody and we never can make up our minds.”

Cindy: “Well, I can tell you that men are just plain stupid. That’s what I can surely tell you. They are the ones who don’t know jack sh^t about what they want. They want us for the sex, up and down, all day and all night long, but then, when we want them for the emotions, they say that’s too complicated, and they get out. That’s what they do! They’re idiots! What is there so complicated about emotions? Is it rock science?! No, it isn’t! It’s just plain talk! I wanna tell you how I feel about you, and how I need you, and you’re going to turn the football game up and ignore me, and if I push, you walk away because that’s too complicated! That’s a bunch of bull crap!”

Kathy: “I hear ya, and that’s why we’re on this hike today: because we’re fed up with them! Both mine and hers are idiots. So, we wanted to get away and not put up with their sh^t today.”

Cindy: “You don’t even know where to meet them no more. You meet them at a bar, you meet them online, at the office, through your friends, they all suck! None of them wants the real thing anymore. Everything is too damn complicated to all of them. Now, Kathy here, she’s a true online dater perfectional. She surely is. She’s been on everything and she’s been doing this for years. And she’s still not finding anything. But one thing I know for sure: as much as my now boyfriend made me mad this week, I’m back on Plentyoffish(.com). I surely am! I’m back at it!”

Kathy: “Well, the one I have now, I met on Great Expectations. And usually I met some good people there, but this one’s a dead beat! See, I am looking for something long term, but he don’t want anything like that. He just wants something now. I just don’t know why you’d pay all that money for it, and just want sex for it. What is wrong with you?! “

Me: “How much are you paying for Great Expectations?”

Kathy: “Well, they want to sell you for years at a time, and it’s like $2000 for a year, or $3000 for two, but I talked them into a $600 for 6 months deal”.

Me, dubious: “600 DOLLARS? For a dating site?!”

Kathy: “Well, yeah, but you don’t get all the junk that’s on MySpace there. Or the goobers on PlentyOfFish. I really met some interesting folks. Although, I’ll have to say, there are some stupid folk on it, too”.

Cindy: “They’re all stupid, girl! All of them!”

Kathy: “Well, I did meet this one guy, he was from DC. And we talked online, and I was tired of all that typing, so I asked for his number, and he gave it to me, and we talked for months. Then, one day, he told me he’d come down to see me, because he was feeling like we were falling in love, bla-bla-bla (she’s rolling her eyes in disgust). And he bought a plane ticket to North Carolina to see me. I was really shocked. So, then he came to my house, and then, he told me he had bought the plane ticket for this other girl, that lived in Charlotte, but then she backed out on him at the last minute, but he still had the ticket, and had to use it, so he came to see me instead.”

(Cindy and I are about to faint laughing)

Kathy:” I am telling you, Cindy’s right: they don’t know jack sh^t of what the hell they want. One minute, you’re in love with me, and one minute I am your back up plan?! I even tried to kiss him, just for testing, but he couldn’t kiss worth a damn either, so he slept on the couch and I never saw him again. Nor talked to him”.

She shrugs. And I shrug now, too, nodding my head in disbelief, and deep thinking. And I thought I was the only one having dating nightmares.

It turned out I was not alone on that hike, after all. On that hike, or otherwise…

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Where Heaven and Earth Meet: A South Mountains Park Trip

You have often heard me comparing woods with cathedrals or churches before. Truth is: I go into woods for the same reason I go to church: I feel closer to “something bigger than myself”, something eternal and awe-full, call it “Nature”, call it “God”, something that my left brain cannot quite bring itself to define or comprehend, but which it helplessly and happily surrenders to.

It’s a feeling of accepting, of letting be “had”, and of completely letting go: there is no such thing as trying to control your environment when you’re either in church, or in the woods. You just become vividly aware of how much you’re part of a continuously moving world, a world that doesn’t begin nor end with you, but a world you’re just a spec in.

The awareness of your finitude becomes acute, and you’re letting the big, wide continuum guide your pace and flood your senses with new sensations, feelings, smells, noises, and new fears … And through this a-typical experience, one becomes richer, and more aware, one becomes refreshed and ready to see the routine world with new eyes.

I love any kind of walk in the woods. But the trails that I find quite by accident or the ones that are tucked away somewhere far, with no other noise then the river, and the wind through the trees are my favorite. And I just wanted to share with you my most recent journey to a park that till yesterday was foreign to me: South Mountains State Park in NC. About 40 miles, give or take, off I-40, towards Hickory, this park is remote and quiet, very smartly built for access of any kind, beautifully kept and although made to accommodate most disabilities, or transportation (foot, bikes, horses, cars), it preserves a wildness about it that makes it unique and, keeps it “natural”.

I will let the pictures tell the story of walking along the High Shoals Falls Loop Trail: as the name suggests, the trail loops around the High Shoals Falls: one side of the trail takes you right along the Jacob Fork River, all the way up to The Falls, and the other side takes you trough the quiet and majestic woods all the way back to the paved streets of civilization. When I say “majestic”, I am not just using a cliché: the park boasts elevations of up to 3000 ft, so the entire time you’re trailing, you have the feeling you are either at the bottom of the world, or on top of it. The river has cut through the mountain a deep and narrow path, and everything above the river seems canyon-like steep: it’s quite impressive indeed.

Due to the major snow storm that North Carolina has seen only a week ago, the river was swollen up in all its glory, bouncing happily from boulder to boulder, and giving you a spectacle to remember for the eyes and the ears.

Enjoy, unfortunately, without sound … !

The long trail ahead: starting out. Notice the tallness of the trees and maybe the steep path.

This amphitheater looked desolate in the middle of nowhere. I was not sure what the purpose of it was, but I liked the way it just stood there, lonely, awaiting a crew and an audience. I loved the wood and how it complemented the environment well.

A first look at the Jacob's Fork River: wide and noisy.

Some of the roaring water closeups were fascinating! I hope you agree.

They had built these wooden overlooks, which allow you to watch the river, and its path from above. Notice the height of the mountains in the background - where the Falls form.

Several wooden bridges, trunk upon trunk, and plank of wood upon plank of wood, lead your path towards the Waterfalls. The marriage of wood and rock is perfect harmony!

The "middle falls", although not as tall as the top ones, were an amazing spectacle, of water force unbound: the bouncing of the torrent was breathtaking. Rhododendron bushes were watchfully guarding the path of the river, awaiting for the first blooms.

The water drop in the middle falls.

Huge mossy boulders guard the path towards the top falls: menacing, blocking the sky, and intimidating. They even "warn" you on your way up that these boulders have vertical cuts through them, which makes them very brittle in case of an "earth shattering event", they call it.

Thanks to the snow storm, The Falls were amazingly abundant! The observation deck, as you can see was drenched, and so was my camera. I finally made it to the top! Almost!
Walking across the "big waterfalls", onto the other side ...

A look from above The High Shoals Falls, right before the drop.

A quiet puddle, in the river: crystal clear and fresh. Cold, too!

Since the return trail was away from the river, and thus I had no distractions ... I started noticing some of the other richness that The Woods had to offer:
the perky rhododendron buds ...

... evergreen holly bushes ...

... a "twisted" tree. One of the (woman) hikers remarked: "Wow! This must be a female tree: it cannot make up its mind which way to go". I, of course, beg to differ.

Another man-made wonder: a "maze" to prevent cyclists and riders from using the trail. I was not convinced of its efficiency.

And back to the human world, leaving the rocky beauty behind, tucked away in the mountains, where it will keep itself fresh - till the next visit.

For a complete view of this trip, and much, much, much more photos, please visit The Wander World Photo Album, where The South Mountains State Park chapter has its new home. And thanks for visiting with me.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Retail Hell

An intolerant observation of our shopping centers ...

Every time I chance upon a day off, I try to squeeze in some retail time. Not because I love shopping. Quite the contrary, in fact. But because, honestly, unless it sorta "happens"(like a day off during the week), I almost never purposefully go out shopping. I shop for groceries twice a month, and for some "oops, I forgot that"-s maybe once a week. But to consciously plan a weekend or a day for just shopping - now, that's foreign territory to me.

But every once in a while, I'd take a day off from ... life, and I have to fill it up with "something", and it's usually to catch up on belated birthday presents, and name day presents, and refresh my worn-out wardrobe with items on sale, hopefully.

But it's on days like yesterday, when shopping kind of "happens", that I am reminded WHY I hate shopping. All sorts of mishaps in the retail world that test my very little patience is why! And when I say "very little", I mean, almost non-existent.

It started with the bagel shop in the morning. I ordered an asiago parmesan bagel, not toasted, with lite veggie cream cheese. I was coming from some lab work, for which I had to "fast", and I was starved, at 10 AM when I hit the store. To my surprise, when, I unwrapped the sandwich, I found a plain bagel, toasted, with melting butter on it. Nothing to ruin your day like the wrong order to hit your taste buds - almost! Now, how can you mess up THAT bad??

The only more frustrating thing than a mess-up was ... that there were just two customers at the time in the store. Two! Me, and another one. Somehow, they handed us the other one's sandwhich... I at least ordered mine in, and not had to drive away, and find out I got the wrong order at the second light, like the other person did! There is something to be said for not being in a rush, I guess.

Then, I headed to Wal-Mart (I know, you cringe), for my twice-a-month big grocery run. It was empty, which is something I am not quite used to, and most of everything I needed was on the shelves, which is, again, a rarity. So, I was chipper throughout the shopping part. But Wal-Mart will make sure it's crap, and remind you of that, even if just on your way out: when I was checking out, my poufy-loofa-kinda-cleaning- ball-thingie would not ring on the scanner. The attendant at the scanner promptly grabbed the poufy-loofa-kinda-cleaning- ball- thingie out of my hand, and told me: "It's not ringing. It's not in the system!". Just like that: "Not in the system". Period. Done. She just put it on her counter, and was sucking on lollipop. It was not like she was calling someone for help. The God of Wal-Mart scanners, maybe?? It was not like she was busy, either - remember the store was empty, and I was the only customer at the time, at the self-check area. Just me.

I scanned the rest of my order, all 40 other items, I told her the price was $0.94, but she was patiently sucking away ... while I was waiting; making eye contact, and trying to convey, that "hey, you've got my merchandise, just punch in the price, and give it to me, genius!!" ... I finally rang my total. Paid. My poufy-loofa-kinda-cleaning- ball- thingie was still on her desk, and she was still sucking, and as I was wheeling the cart away, she didn't as much as make eye contact with me... Hhmmm... I guess I was not going to buy the poufy-loofa-kinda-cleaning- ball- thingie yesterday! That's for damn sure!

I went baby clothes shopping next, to various stores, more high end than others, and I ran into an issue of baby sexism, I guess: there are tons of princess dresses for toddler baby girls! You can dress you baby girl up to look like she's about to go to The Prom, or her Oscar party. Satin dresses and tulle, in any shape, color, and size, for babies between 6 months to ... 4 years! No tuxes counterparts for baby boys, though. The boys have to look like preppy Oxford grads: light denim beige pants, button down shirts and vests! That's it, for boys! And then the poor fools grow up and hear us give them crap that they're not dressed properly when they show up at our sister's wedding! Well, HOW can they learn, when our retail world dooms them to preppy instead of elegant?!

Then, I hit the bookstore. That's always a source of bitter, sarcastic notices for me, because I notice books! And I do shop for books! Now, that's a retail store I would go into more than twice a year. More than twice a week, sometimes, in fact. So, I am picky there!

Some of the marketing practices there make me wonder ...
For instance I don't believe that Southern writers get it: if you keep putting little girls looking like children in the 50's, with home made dresses on, falling out of the sky and calling it a memoir, the trick is only going to work so many times! You keep doing that, and people (me) are going to say ... "oh, another one of those tearjerker trailer trash books".... Yeah. No! Too obvious of a marketing gimmick, dude! That only tells me you're copying another best seller, and you've got nothing new to offer. It doesn't make me buy you! Rethink!

Then, to the Barnes & Noble staff: if you're going to put books that have the "bargain $4.98" sticker on the front slapped on them, please don't put them under the section "New Arrivals"! "New arrivals" are supposed to be exciting new books, we have never heard of, but are interesting and worth looking at, and worth buying, not has-been-s which are not selling. Again: rethink!

And finally, I've got two new driving laws for ya: if you're a retiree, or a soccer mom, you have no business being on the road in rush hour! None! I wish they made a law for that! These folks have nowhere to be, and no rush to get anywhere. They're taking their ol' good time, on a two lane - two way street, and that should just be illegal! If you're retired, or a stay-at-home mom, get your slow a** vehicle on the road after 10 AM, after 6 PM, and stay off the roads at lunchtime!

Also, in shopping centers: no soccer moms stalling traffic while trying to figure out who has non-poisonous peanut butter for the drooling toddler for lunch! You're a soccer mom who treats the road as their own driveway - you have no business eating out for lunch! Zero! You want to take your own time, then since you're at home ALL day long, can you make yourself useful for once and make a sandwich, please???!!! And yes, invite all the other soccer moms that you're trying to meet at Friendly Shopping Center over, and share the sandwiches with them! You all should take turns in doing that. It's fun. Trust me!!

That was my day off, in the retail ... hhmmm... heaven of Greensboro... yesterday.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

An International Weekend

It started out on Friday, with a dinner at my favorite sushi restaurant, on Tate Street. Every time I need a quick pick-me-up after a long week at work, or just one miserable day even, I head to Sushi Republic with a good book or a trashy magazine in my hand. I order a couple of "complicated rolls", I call them, a beer, and some soup, and I just let my body melt, with the flavors, and the disco beats, and the unique experience of watching the sushi chefs.

I am fascinated with sushi chefs. Not just because I think they're truly artists, painting a masterpiece of flavors, and of visual beauty on empty plates, but I love watching their bodies move. I am not sure why I go to a sushi restaurant to relax, unwind, and take it slow, when the very thing that relaxes me is nothing but constant, unbounded energy and motion. The chefs move with the speed of a Tokyo street crowd at rush hour. I am sure you watched the arial views of Tokyo and you saw all the people moving in millions directions, it seems, at enormous speeds. The sushi chefs do the same thing, in my eyes. There is constant moving. Even when they stand, their muscles, it seems, are moving, and always ready for the next nervous impulse to send them off into a new direction ... And in ten minutes or less you get a masterpiece, and you feel such guilt devouring it.

Dinner was a success, as always. After reading "The Story of Sushi" , I am trying to order more "Japanese", authentic sushi, with no crunchies, and no mayo or aioli or even eel sauce or any kind of "sauce" - I have learned that those are actually made for the American market. The traditional sushi is rice, seaweed and fish. Maybe wasabi, not always, and ginger on the side. It'a hard to get the Japanese sushi and not feel like you're wasting your money: it seems so un-interesting... But I did get a red snapper roll, which was not red at all. Very white, indeed.

Then, Saturday, I had to go visit the new IKEA, in Charlotte. I have wanted to go for years, as my sister, who lives in Montreal, furnished her home twice from that store, and I love everything she has. I knew I was going to love it, but I didn't realize how many memories it will bring back. The furniture, and the decorations are so ... European. I love their use of every inch of space, and it made me miss home. We don't have huge houses in Europe. We don't even have closets at all, in Romania, at least. So, we need furniture to address storage issues, as well as be tasteful. I love the way they marry the practical with the beautiful. I love the clean lines, and how there is a touch of "different" and "interesting" into everything, from a curtain which makes a statement to a drawer knob for the kitchen! Of course, I love the prices!!My friends were saying that the couches and armchairs were too small. But I loved that! I absolutely hate sectionals! And the recliners !! - oh, me: such grotesque overspending of materials! I know, I am not a good American, but I love the space to flow, and the air to flow in the space, not trip at every inch because of the oversized furniture!

Oh, I loved Ikea! I remembered my beds, from back home, which all had storage underneath, for the bedding, made me miss mom's home, where all the kitchen cabinets have glass on the doors, to make them look bigger, and all the doors have glass in them, too, for the same reason: to make the rooms and hallways feel bigger and to let the light flow; it reminded me of my aunt's bedroom, with wall to wall wardrobes.

It made me, once again, feel guilty for all the space I bought into when I bought my town home. Way too much for me! And it reminded me: you don't need square footage to have everything you need and then some. You need a careful planning of the space you have, and you have enough.

I loved the Sweedish meatballs and the gravy, as well - both a first for me. I have never had gravy like that: it was like a foam, creamy and delicious, not greasy and guiltful like the American one. The smell of smoked salmon in the cafeteria made me almost pass out. I love smoked salmon! I did buy some herring, but I have not broken into that one just yet. That's a rare treat, for one day when I want to travel back to Sweden once more and I won't be able to drive to Charlotte.

Sunday was supposed to be yoga day, and I was happy for the opportunity to travel to India, upon that occasion. But the weather had its own mind, and the class was canceled. That didn't prevent me from moving right along in my reading Patanjali's "Yoga Sutras" for most of the Sunday, anyway, and thus I emerged myself in the culture and philosophy of letting go, and being happy in the now. The ultimate relaxation treatment indeed for the end of a taxing week.

Sunday morning, I cooked, mostly Romanian (and Greek), with lots of garlic, potatoes, meat, veggies and garbanza beans... So, another trip to Europe it was. All while listening to a great new find (thanks, J.!), a band called Luminescent Orchestrii . I am not sure what kind of music to tell you that they do ... but it's Romanian, as much as it's Gypsy, and Bulgarian, and Serbian, at the same time. I'd call it Balkan, but I always hate when people consider Romania a "Balkan country". You can listen for yourself and make up your own mind. It made me miss parties with lots of dancing and drinking back home, when everyone's happy, dancing, and knows how to dance, or at least ... how to have fun.

I am so grateful for all these mini-trips this weekend. I will feed myself from the flavors, sounds, images of these distant places, recreated close to home, for another couple of weeks or months to come. And this way, the pain of not actually travelling, will be numbed once again.