Picture Pages

Here are some photos for your viewing pleasure, all of them taken with my brand new Sony CyberShot camera I received for my birthday. Speaking of which, it was a great day. I came into work to find two baskets of flowers on my desk, another basket filled with body lotion and jelly beans (my friends know my cravings..for jelly beans, not body lotion), and a gift certificate to Barnes and Noble.

And then my husband had this delivered: an enormous box filled with Dippin Dots ice cream, which is possible my favorite food on the planet. In my city, you can only buy Dippin Dots at ballparks, the mall, and movie theatres. It's not sold retail, because it has to be kept at -109 degrees Fahrenheit, and it would melt in a normal freezer. But this box came packed with dry ice and 25 individual packets of Dippin Dots in vanilla, chocolate, Rainbow Ice, and strawberry cheesecake yogurt for me and my co-workers to scarf down, which we did. And I had some leftover, as you can see.

When my sister was here last weekend, she, my mom, and I went crib browsing. Can I just say that I had no idea there were so many choices in places to stash a sleeping baby? Gawd. Anyway, Karrie spied these, and immediately purchased baby's first kiddie couture. Apparently, says the fashionista, these are really good quality kids shoes, and a designer label in baby footwear. And of course, the real reason they were purchased: they have ladybugs on them. To read the story of the ladybugs and their significance in my IVF cycle, go here.

And finally, my first "belly shot." For your safety, I am fully clothed, to prevent you all from rearing back in fear from a glimpse of the naked belly. Here's me on Tuesday at 18w2d. Please ignore my messy kitchen, and the horizontal stripes. Who designs a maternity shirt with horizontal stripes anyway?

I'm 30! Now Let's Talk About You

So today is my birthday. I'm officially 30. I am not a "20-something." I no longer have at least an age bracket in common with Jake Gyllenhaal (but Jake, if you're reading this, you can still call me!). I may have need for a cane sooner rather than later. But that's...okay.

If you're a frequent visitor here, you know I've posted often in the last few weeks about some memorable experiences of my 20s. I took a class in London. Then I moved to London for five months. I went to graduate school, got married,
visited NYC umpteen times, and endured two years of infertility treatments and underwent IVF, which resulted, miraculously, in the baby I'm now carrying. And to top off the decade, I celebrated last weekend with family and friends at my surprise birthday party.

Are you still with me here?

So today instead of focusing on me and my birthday (because let's face it, ya'll are probably tired of hearing about the last decade of my life by now anyway), I want to hear about your best birthday memory. Was it a quiet celebration? A big bash? Was it 20+ years ago when you were a child or was it last year? Do dish!

And in case you're curious, the picture you see is me on the morning of my 4th birthday. My mom always used to make a humongous deal of both my sister's and my birthdays. She baked birthday cakes in the shape of dogs, bunnies, dolls...really, whatever was striking our fancies in that particular year, and then spend hours hand-decorating them with tiny piped frosting flowers. I was fond of Madame Alexander dolls for many years, which sound like something you'd see in the red-light district of Amsterdam or performing on stage in Vegas, but which were actually quite lovely and beautiful dolls, very unlike those seen in their current offering on their website, which look extremely "tarted-up" and scary. Pictured is one such doll. Apparently at four, I was still fond of the color pink.

30 in 30 Project: My Last Day at 29

My 30th birthday is tomorrow, March 30th, although it feels like my birthday was last Friday, given my surprise party. While I'm not embracing 30 with open arms, I do feel like I have a different perspective on the year than I did even a few months ago. I'm in a good place in my life.

I have a house I love and I live with three adorable "fur children" who despite my grandma's fears about them sitting on and smothering my future offspring, are actually very well-behaved and docile kitties.

I have a husband whom, although he has his moments, cares enough about me to not only throw me a wonderful surprise birthday party, but to make me laugh every day of my life.

I have a job that although it will never be my dream job (as I believe so very few people ever get to realize this) is tolerable and provides me flexibility, along with a manager who is very supportive and great to work for.

I have a close family who would do anything (and I do mean anything) in the world for me, who provided me with a rare, unique, and wonderful childhood, and who weekly provide me with enough leftovers to ensure the only cooking I need to do involves the "Reheat" button on my microwave.

I have wonderful friends, a few of whom I've known for 25 years, who are always there for me, and who have supported and loved me through all of my life's phases.

I have a strong sense of who I am as a person, what I believe is important in the world, and of those things that define my belief system.

I have fought the hardest battle of my life for the past two years in dealing with infertility, and was lucky and blessed enough to come out on the other side with a pregnancy.

And last but not least, I have made some wonderful "blog" friends in the last year of my 20s, and I feel so honored that you return day after day to read my ramblings here!

Goodbye 20s. Hello 30s. I'm excited to see what you have in store for me.

"So Where are the Jugglers?" My Surprise 30th Birthday Party

On Friday night, my husband told me we were going to the Memorial Art Gallery to attend an open house for Young Audiences, a group of performers, artists, singers, and jugglers who visit elementary schools as part of students' art curriculum. As the Enrichment Teacher in his elementary school, it's part of my husband's job to preview and book these individuals to entertain the students. Spouses were invited, so he asked me to come along.

What I ended up attending was not the Young Audiences open house, but my very own suprise 30th birthday party attended by 35-40 people (my entire in-town family, my sister from Seattle, and my closest friends). I was completely and totally surprised, and I like to pride myself on knowing everything...all of the time. It was held in the gallery's restaurant, Cutler's.

It was a fantastic party, that apparently had been in the works since last fall. My husband didn't go to work on Friday, as I thought he did. Instead, he took the day off to pick up my sister from the airport, pick up my cake, confirm last-minute details at Cutler's, and hang out with my sister, mom, and grandma at my great aunt's house. He came home at the normal time, so I never suspected a thing.

I had so much fun, and it truly felt like I was at my wedding all over again, albeit on a much smaller scale, since so many different groups of people from my life attended my party. I generally have a hard time being the center of attention, but almost immediately I relaxed and thoroughly enjoyed myself. #4 even behaved (although not for the entire weekend, but that's a tale for another day) by taking a ton of pictures and burning them to a CD, which we played during a family dinner on Saturday night.

So I now feel like I've entered 30 (albeit six days early) in style. I no longer feel like spending the day in bed with a blanket over my head mourning the loss of my 20s. Instead, I feel very blessed-to have a wonderful husband who put so much time and effort into this party, to have a family who continually makes me feel loved and valued, and to have long-time friends to celebrate life's milestones with.

A few people who read this blog attended my party, so to Marie, Jenny, Karrie, and Rich-Thank you! I can never say that enough!

The invitation my husband sent out. This picture of me has been taped above my grandma's stove for as long as I can remember.

Walking up the stairs to my party, my dear husband behind me. "These people don't look like jugglers to me!"

Me and my girls. Black hides the "other" girls pretty well.

Karrie used that same tongue to lap up that glass of wine in front of her in 40 seconds flat.

Me, taking a bite out of the 21st century (finally) with my new digital camera, courtesy of my mom, Karrie, friend Jenny, and husband! Whoo-Hoo!

The very cool paper the digital camera was wrapped in, made by Karrie, of course. The pictures are of all the people who chipped in to buy the gift.

The best t-shirt I've ever owned. I'm wearing this shirt home from the hospital, because unfortunately, there's no way it's fitting me now.

Me, the party-thrower (my husband), and the best gift I received, an unexpected visit from my sister.

WCB #42

Let me tell you a little story about a kitty named Claudia.

One day last year, Claudia's dad brought her to school with him for "Bring Your Daughter to Work Day." Claudia's dad was reading his students "Charlotte's Web," which captivated Claudia's attention. Once the story was over, Claudia began to beg her dad for her very own pig, whom she wanted to name Chester.

Claudia's dad told her that she already shared her home with two other kitties, including her mother, Chubbie, and her brother, Louie, and that there really wasn't room in the house for a pig. He told her to wait until Christmas, and he would see what he could do.

Christmas came and went. Claudia did not receive the pig she so desired.

And she's worn the expression of pure disgust and loathing you see in this picture ever since.

For more pictures of kitties, who hopefully look happier than Claudia, head over to Clare's.

Coming soon: My dear, thoughtful, and sneaky husband threw me a suprise 30th birthday last night at our local art gallery's restaurant. My sister Karrie is here from Seattle! It was a wonderful party of family and friends, and I feel much-loved this morning. Stay tuned for a full recap, probably Monday.

Navel Gazing

Since "coming out" at work earlier this week, I've noticed a strange behavioral quirk developing in my co-workers. They don't maintain eye contact me with when we're talking. Instead their eyes stray...frequently...to my belly.

If I'm walking down a hallway one way, and a co-worker is walking toward me in the opposite direction, I'm smiling in greeting and looking at that person's face. My co-worker is staring at my stomach.

When I'm in someone's office talking to that person, I again maintain eye contact. Oftentimes that person's eyes are shifting from my face, to my belly, to my face, and back to my belly.

Funny thing is, there really isn't all that much to look at yet. And if I'm wearing one of the bigger maternity shirts I own, you can't even tell there's any bulge at all. I just look, well, fat. Some of the empire waist shirts do show a hint of the belly, but nothing that I would deem...mezmerizing.

Are they afriad the baby is going to emerge from my stomach like something out of Alien and attack them? Are they afraid I'm going to go into labor right before their eyes?

What in the hell are they staring at?

30 in 30 Project: The Lullaby of Broadway

I must confess-I am a musical theatre geek. Now mind you, I have absolutely no talent in this area myself, despite having many musically talented friends. But I am an absolute sucker for a Broadway show. And in my 20s, my love of all things musical really took off.

My core group of friends in high school were all, in one way or another, involved in our school's musical productions. Whether it was tootin' on the flute in the orchestra pit or acting on stage, I went to see them in a lot of shows. And I grew up around theatrical productions as well. My mom used to take my sister and me to children's theatre all the time, and we went to see The Nutcracker around Christmas each year.

Throughout our dating and married years, my husband and I traveled to NYC and Toronto quite often to see Broadway shows. We've seen Rent seven times, making us Rentheads, I believe. We've also seen Wicked, Phantom of the Opera (I've seen it three times), Cats, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Lion King, Les Miserables, Art, Hairspray, The Producers, 42nd Street, Mamma Mia (twice), Titanic (not so good), I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, Fame, Grease, Movin' Out, and others that I'm forgetting.

We saw Montel Williams (yes, the Montel Williams) at Hairspray and Rudy Guiliani at Mamma Mia. We met one of our favorite actors from the Toronto production of Rent outside the theatre where it was playing. We have multiple soundtracks from the musicals, and we take them on long car trips to sing along (remember, I already said I was a geek, so... I know). For me, there's nothing quite like sitting in a darkened theatre, listening to a live orchestra, and watching a huge, splashy, and colorful story unfold on stage.

Now that I'm approaching 30 (Gulp. A mere 8 days away now), I still love musical theatre as much as I always did. I'm so glad I've had the opportunity to visit NYC so many times and see as many of these shows as I have. Something tells me my annual Broadway pilgrimages to the holy land are going to be few and far between in the coming years.

I've Outed Myself

Yesterday, I outed myself to my manager at work. Part of me wanted to keep my news a secret indefinitely. Just as it was when we told our families, disclosing the news of this baby would make the whole thing seem just a little more real once my employer knew. And each time we tell someone new, it adds another level of responsibility to my pyramid. I can't help but feel scared as well. I'm 17 weeks now. Is it possible we're really going to have a baby in five months? Forgive the pun, but it still seems inconceivable.

I went into his office armed with a proposal outlining the time I want to take off from work (14 weeks total, two of which will be unpaid) and my request for a work schedule once I return (I want to work at home full-time for the month of December to transition back into things, and then three-four days a week with one or two days a week in the office, starting in January.)

When I told him the news, he was very happy for me, and very supportive. I handed him the proposal and told him to think it over and that we had plenty of time to talk about my future work schedule. I can't see him saying no, since I already work from home two days a week now, I always get my work done, and my job as a marketing writer very rarely necessitates me being in the office in the first place. Plus, I just received a glowing performance appraisal last week. So I'm hoping he'll agree to what I want.

I wore a maternity shirt to work for the first time yesterday, although it was one that hid the growing belly pretty well. It was absolute bliss to be comfortable in that shirt all day long after attempting to stuff myself into shirts that I was barely keeping buttoned "up top." So now those shirts are moving to the far end of my closet. The poncho I was wearing to work at least once a week can now make an only occasional appearance, instead of being a primary part of my work wardrobe. And sadly, my beloved green winter coat, the one I love so much, and have received so many compliments on, is retired to the closet as well.

Apparently, it's time to embrace the stretchy panel, the "roomy and billowy" buttondown work shirts, and bras designed to fit Dolly and Pamela. Bring it on.

Can I Get an Amen?

I've never understood the Log Cabin Republicans, a national group of gay and lesbian Republicans. Yes, you read that correctly: Republicans. Who are gay. And lesbian. You'd think there could never be a more paradoxical group of individuals, right? I just don't get it. How can you belong to a political party whose leaders by and large despise you as a human being, and who are doing everything in their power to make sure you can never exercise any of 1,400 legal rights granted to married heterosexual couples in the United States?
Andrew Sullivan is a Log Cabin Republican. If you're a fan of Real Time with Bill Mahar, you've likely seen him on the show. Now, I disagree with a lot of what he says, obviously. But, to be fair, he didn't support W in the latest election, and he's very critical of the administration these days, as any thinking person should be. And a few days ago, he posted a little nugget on his blog that redeemed him slightly in my eyes. My friend Andy sent this post to me, the summary of which is as follows:
"In Annapolis, Maryland, at a hearing on the proposed Constitutional Amendment to prohibit gay marriage, Jamie Raskin, professor of law, was requested to testify and he did so.

At the conclusion of his testimony, a right-wing senator rose to say, "Mr. Raskin, my Bible says that marriage shall occur only between a man and a woman. What do you have to say about that?"

Professor Raskin replied, "Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You did not place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible."

The room erupted into applause."
This is one of the most intelligent things I've heard in a really long time. Now, I wonder if Jaime Raskin is married?

30 in 30 Project: Gettin' Hitched

In early July of 2000, after dating for almost 3.5 years, my boyfriend (now husband) proposed on the dock of our favorite B&B on Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes, in upstate NY. My sister painted the dock as one of the watercolors she slaved over for the tables at my wedding reception, and you can see it here.

He concocted quite the elaborate plan. We had been visiting this particular B&B for years, as we enjoyed visiting the wineries that surround the lake, and of course sampling our fair share. And on the weekend he proposed, we had a big group of our friends staying at the B&B with us. As soon as we got there, he was anxious for us to take a walk. We strolled out onto the pier, he asked, and I said yes. And immediately after returning to the B&B and celebrating with our friends, I whipped out my calendar and began planning. It's my anal-retentive, every-detail- must-be-PLANNED-OUT side, you see.

By the time we returned home at the end of that weekend, we had a guest list of about 215 people, three possible dates, and our bridal party members selected. I wouldn't say I morphed into Bridezilla, but I knew what I wanted for my wedding, and more importantly, what I didn't want (butt bows on the bridesmaid dresses, a garter dance, a bouquet toss, or the words "man and wife" used ANYWHERE in the ceremony).

I had my wedding planner book in which I logged receipts, appointments, and a timeline for booking each and every vendor. Within one month of our engagement, we had the church, reception hall, and florist booked. We had six friends and relatives standing up for each of us, plus two ring bearers (my twin cousins) and one flower girl (my little sister).

My husband likes to tell people that I planned the whole wedding myself and that all he did was show up, and in a lot of ways that's true, although he did come to all the important appointments with me, including the meetings with the florist, the cake-tasting, and of course, the pre-marital counseling required by the Catholic Church. But by and large, he was happy to surrender the reigns to me, and I was happy to take them. Control and I are very, very good friends.

August 4th, 2001 was a hot day, in the low 80s, and after 13 months of planning, I was very happy to see that everything went off without a hitch. Looking back, 25 seems so very young to be getting married, although I didn't think so at the time. There was a whole lot more I could have experienced out of life as a single person, but luckily, my husband shares my love of travel and adventure, so it's worked out that we've traveled our path together instead of apart.

We'll celebrate five years of marriage together this year, approximately three weeks or so before we'll welcome our first baby. And while we certainly have our differences and our disagreements, I can't imagine being married to anyone else.

The members of the gigantour wedding party, some of whom read this blog. Feel free to out yourselves, if you wish.

The reception place, whose decorations I absolutely love. If you look on the website of the reception place, which I linked above, you can see more detail of how it looked, since we worked with the same florist who designed the wedding on the website. Oh, and the woman in the center is my dear grandma.

One of several cookie cakes. MMM.....Italian cookies.

The end of a very long day.

16 weeks, 2 days

Things in babyland are going well. Almost too well, because I am still feeling, to a certain extent, that it's just a matter of time before the second shoe will drop. Each time I use my trusty doppler to locate and listen to the baby's heart, I breathe an enormous sigh of relief. He/she is still alive. Still growing inside me, although I haven't felt the baby move yet.

According to the weekly email update I receive, at just about halfway through my 4th month, the Beastie is 4.5 inches long, weighs 3.5 ounces, and is about the size of an avocado. This week, he/she is growing toenails, and although the eyes are closed, they are moving around inside the eyelids. In the next three weeks the baby will undergo a huge growth spurt, doubling in weight and adding inches to his/her length.

I'm hopeful that the baby will make itself known to me sooner rather than later. Since I'm not showing to the outside world yet (although I've given up the last of my non-maternity pants, and stuffing my gigantour boobs into anything but loose-fitting maternity tops is no longer something I'm interested in doing, except for work purposes, because I still haven't told them) and I haven't felt any movement, I feel at times oddly disconnected from what it going on inside. But I've heard so many people say that once you begin to show, and once you feel the baby move, everything becomes so much more real. I'm looking forward to that.

This past week marked my first experience with round ligament pain. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about: as the uterus grows, the ligaments and muscles surrounding it stretch, causing sharp pains in your lower abdomen. These seriously hurt, and I called my doctor's office to make sure the pain was what I thought it was. Luckily, they assumed me that it was very common, to take some Tylenol, and get some rest. I've had them off and on for the past week.

We had the family dinner at my great aunt's house that we usually have on Sundays on Saturday night instead. Everyone is so, so excited about the baby. The Beastie is all anyone seems to want to talk about, and although I am thrilled about their elation, I feel this enormous sense of responsibility for their happiness. I know the miscarriage rate is low in the 2nd trimester. My heart tells me that after all we've been through to have this baby, God is protecting him/her. But while my husband and I can talk freely about baby plans now, it's still hard to hear my relatives talk about diapers and names and shower plans and ultrasounds. I'm so glad to be bringing so much joy to their lives (especially to my grandma's), but I don't want to be the cause of more sorrow for them either.

On the lighter side, my next ultrasound is scheduled for April 5th. The last time we saw the baby was at 8 weeks, so he/she will definitely look a whole lot differently at 19 weeks. As of now, we're not planning on finding out the gender, despite everyone urging us to. I'm a planner, but I also like surprises. We'll see if we can hold out.

WCB #40

As I've mentioned before, things are monetarily tight in my household these days, as we've started to think about the enormous amount of dough we'll need to shell out to feed, clothe, and care for the Beastie once he/she is born.

Luckily, we are the proud parents of three selfless cats, who have volunteered their time and talents to the cause.

This is Chubbie. Her talent is turning tricks. She's well-groomed, disease-free, and even spayed, so your male kitty can frolic with her without consequence. And for a very reasonable price, she'll give your cat a night to remember, or at least 30 seconds or so.

Give her a call. You won't be disappointed.

For other adorable pictures of kitties, check out Clare's.

30 in 30 Project: Full-Time Office Drone, Part-Time Student

Part of my original plan when I finished my undergraduate degree was to go on to grad school immediately afterward. I wasn't ready to face the "real world" of 8-5, workplace drudgery quite yet, and I really wanted to pursue a Master's degree in English Literature. I didn't want to teach, but I wanted to continue taking English classes. To do what with, I had no idea.

I started doing some research in the fall of my senior year, and I took the GREs. My number one school choice was NYU. Moving to NYC was (and still is) a dream of mine, and NYU has an excellent graduate program in English. Unfortunately, my research turned up the very depressing news that there was no way in hell I could afford to go there (or to any of the other schools I was researching) without taking out a very big loan. I had managed to get through my undergraduate years without student loans, and I decided that I'd need to find another way to get my degree.

And so, I moved to London for five months instead. And upon returning from London, I began looking for a job in publishing. Liberal arts degree in hand. In a small city with a crappy economy. I was a substitute teacher for awhile while looking, and in the process reaffirmed my lifelong belief that I would be the world's worst teacher if I pursued teaching as a career.(Somehow I think school administrators would look down on corporal punishment in the classroom. I have neither the patience nor the tolerance for bullshit that many teachers need these days.)

And three months later, through a connection my fabulous favorite undergraduate English professor made for me, I landed a job as a copy editor at a computer publishing and training company. After about six months there, I was eligible for that company's tuition reimbursement program. The company would pay for my Master's degree...as long as it was related to my job.

So this presented a bit of a challenge. In order to receive the tuition money, I had to write a description of why each class I took was directly related to my job, and how it would help me become a better employee. Now, if the Master's degree I wanted to pursue was in Instructional Design or Technical Writing, then these classes would be a logical extension of my job as a copy editor. But this wasn't the case. My classes had titles such as "20th Century American Writers: Toni Morrison" and "The Poetry of Elizabeth Bishop." Hmmm...

So I summoned up all the powers of bullshit in the land, and somehow concocted masterful descriptions of how doing all the writing required in these classes would make me a much better copy editor, and eventually a good technical writer, which was my chosen career path at this particular company. And much to my surprise, the powers that be at my company approved each and every class... to the tune of several thousand dollars in tuition per class.

I was very lucky to have extremely accomodating managers, and they let me take some of my classes in the middle of the work day. Since the graduate English program at my chosen university was designed as a year-long, full-time program, most of the classes offered were held during the day, and not at night to accomodate those who worked during the day. So I often left work at 1 or 2 in the afternoon, sometimes twice a week, to attend classes. And it was an absolutely incredible experience.

To work full-time in an office environment, no matter how much you claim to love your job (I assume there are people out there who do, although I wouldn't know), at times can suck the very life out of you. There is no free thought (after all, you're working for "the man" and not for yourself), and the cubes and strange co-workers, the non-sensical rules and the lack of creativity allowed is soul-sucking more times than not, or at least it is for me.

But to be able to leave that environment and enter that of a college campus two or three times a week for 3.5 years was liberating. When you're in a college classroom, free thought is encouraged! You get to hear other peoples' unique ideas and they're not shot down in a blaze of glory because they're thinking "too far out of the box." There is no taking discussions "offine," there is no coworker sitting next to you hocking lugees so ferociously that you're considering erecting a tent over your own cube for protection. My graduate student days made me realize that I am not what I happen to get paid to do for a living. I am not my job. My job is what pays my bills, but at my core, I am comprised of thoughts and ideas and beliefs like those I contributed in the classroom. And that's a lesson I'll never forget.

It took my over three years, attending classes part-time, to finish my Master's in English. But when I did, I felt an enormous sense of accomplishment. However, please don't ask me if I'm acutually using my graduate degree right now because I'll have to lie and say I am. And I don't like to lie. Ever. ;)

Book Review: Julie and Julia

I just finished reading Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell. It's the non-fiction tale of 29 year old Julie Powell, a secretary living in Queens, who is hurdling full-speed ahead toward 30 (sound familiar?) and is completely unhappy with her life. She's dissatisfied with her job, hates her tiny apartment, and has PCOS and is dealing with her doctor telling her that if she's planning on having children, she better have them now.

She travels home to Texas to stay with her parents for awhile, and ends up thumbing through her mother's 1961 copy of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. And an idea is born. To give her life some purpose and direction, she takes on the project of tackling every recipe in the book (there are 524) in the span of one year. She decides to blog on the experience, and almost immediately, her Julie/Julia blog develops a cult following of readers cheering her on.

I absolutely loved this book. Julie Powell is honest, self-deprecating, irreverant (she swears while cooking...a lot), and never takes herself or the act of cooking Julia Child's complex recipes too seriously. This isn't a cookbook with some commentary thrown in. It's more a tale of Julie Powell's project, her drive to get it done, and her life with her husband, friends, family, and blog pals as she plows through the recipes.

Now, I will say that as a former vegetarian, and still non-red-meat-eating girl, some of the recipe preparation was a little hard to read. Julie prepares kidneys, calf brains, strips marrow off of some creature's bones, and kills live lobsters. But it was part of her project, and it had to be done.

This book is a must-read for every food blogger, and a fun, quick read for everyone else. I think everyone who reads Interrupted Wanderlust will find a little bit of themselves in Julie.

If you've followed my "30 in 30" retrospective thus far, you know that I took a three-week class in London as a 20-year old college senior, and this experience resulted in one large bite by the travel bug. I returned home with graduation on my mind, and London in my heart. I knew I had to go back.

I started researching ways to live in London as an American and work, so I could, well, afford to live in London, and of course travel outside of London whenever I could. I applied for a work visa. I found an organization that helps young travelers find jobs. I made a week-long reservation at the same B&B where I had stayed while taking my class, so I'd have a place to crash while looking for a place to live. And then in April of 1997, I started dating my husband.

We had been friends for years, having worked together in the video department of our local mega-grocery store chain. Friends became "more than friends," and we started our relationship. By that time, my plans for moving to London were in full gear. He never once suggested I stay home, or made me feel guilty for leaving him for so long. In fact, he encouraged me to pursue my dream, and I'll always be grateful for that.

So, in August of 1997, he sent me on my way, with sappy mix tape (remember those?) in hand. I flew across the pond with my friend who was going to complete a semester abroad at the University of London. When we arrived, we both checked into the B&B for a few days.

Here's a picture of me, sitting on the bed, looking a bit homesick.

I started looking for a job and a place to live right away. It turns out the job search wouldn't be too difficult. I went to the headquarters of the employment agency I had found, and saw on the job board a posting for a full-time position as a marketing assistant for a company that repackaged and resold recycled printer cartridges to businesses, which was right up my tree-hugging alley. I set up an interview, and they hired me, which to this day I find surprising since I had not a lick of marketing experience. Then again, my job essentially required me to take orders over the phone, stuff brochures into envelopes, and to make the boss coffee. But I didn't care. I was living in London! I was working in London! And I could afford to eat at Pizza Express!

Now I only needed a place to live. Luckily, that same employment agency had a housing board. I made several appointments to see apartments. Most were extremely dirty and scary. However, based on what I could afford, I figured I'd have to make some concessions. I took an apartment in North London, near Camden. It was a huge place, where six other young people lived. I soon realized I had moved into my own Real World experience, minus the cameras, of course.

My apartment is the brown building in the center. My room was the one on the bottom floor, to the right of the door, and had a nice big window facing the front of the street.

My roommates were from all over the world. There were two Canadians, one French guy, one girl from Italy, another guy from Australia, and Nikki, who became a close friend of mine, from South Africa. It was such as incredible cultural experience living with all of them, and so much fun as well. I remember being fascinated watching Nikki and Matilde, the girl from Italy, roll clove cigarettes on the kitchen table. Nathan, the guy from Australia, would make marmite sandwiches that looked repulsive to me, but he loved them. And the Canadians brought a taste of home with them, since their accents, for the most part, sounded just like me.

Here's a picture of some of them in our kitchen, plus me and my husband, when he came to London to visit me.

One of the most incredible things I witnessed when I first arrived in London was the fact that the city was in mourning. I arrived in London three days after Princess Diana's funeral. There was a subdued air about the city, and everywhere you went, shops and restaurants had tributes to the Princess taped to the front windows of their businesses. My friend whom I flew over with and I went to Kensington Palace, where Princess Diana had lived. And what we saw is still to this day imprinted in my mind as if I just saw it yesterday. Yards and yards of flowers, piled five feet high, placed in front of the gates of her former home. You couldn't get anywhere near the front gates, not because of guards, but because the massive amounts of flowers prevented you from getting anywhere close. And despite the many thousands of tourists and Londoners stopping to see the tribute and to take pictures, it was absolutely silent around Diana's home.

I'm 5'2". As you can see, the flowers from my vantage point are at my eye level.

And so I lived and worked and traveled all over the U.K. (including trips to Cambridge, Oxford, Brighton, Salisbury, home of Stonehenge, and Liverpool). I also spent several weekends in Scotland, and a four-day weekend in Ireland, which was absolutely incredible. We visited Dublin, Galway, and then the breathtaking Cliffs of Mohr in County Clare. Here's a photo of Nikki, my South African roommate, and me in front of the Cliffs. Notice the complete absence of any fence to prevent you from falling over the edge!

Living and working in London was an experience I'll never forget. I haven't been back since, but someday I hope to return to the place that will always hold a special place in my heart.

Shhh.... I've Got a Secret Lover

I've got a secret lover. But please don't tell my husband. This man is highly intelligent. His tongue-in-cheek witticisms make me smile and laugh. And he has this uncanny ability to bring to light hypocrisy and ridiculousness wherever it may lie.

Granted, he's old enough to be my father. Perhaps even my grandfather. But let's face it, when your views on the world are as spot-on as his are, one can overlook wrinkles, and dentures, and galoshes.

Wanna see his picture? Here he is:


Wanna know what started our love affair? Here you are:


Now, get your eyes off him. He's mine forever.

30 in 30 Project: London Calling

Both my undergraduate degree and my master's degree are in English Literature. As a 20 year old undergraduate senior attending a small state university, I was completely enthralled with one of my English professors. She was brilliant. She was sarcastic. She was a feminist. She taught both intercession (January) and summer classes in England.

I took as many English lit. classes with her as my schedule would allow. She spoke often of the classes she taught in the U.K. She encouraged her students to take one, so we could see the places that inspired the writers we were reading in her classes. I was sold. I had never been abroad before, and I wanted so badly to go. The only issue was the cost.

My college tuition was split three ways. My mom paid a third, my dad paid a third, and I paid the remaining third with a scholarship I had earned, plus my wages from my part-time job. There was no way I could afford a class in England, as much as I so desperately wanted to go. But then my mom stepped in, and gave me my college graduation present six months early. She gave me the best gift I ever could have hoped for: she introduced me to travel. And my wanderlust was born.

In January of 1997, I took a three-week class called "Literature and London Museums," taught by my beloved favorite professor, in the U.K. My seven classmates and I stayed in a B&B and were served toast in a cute little silver toast rack for breakfast. My professor held classes in the British Museum, the Tate Modern museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Windsor Castle, The Tower of London, Westminister Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, and many other cultural areas in and around London. And we didn't just stay in London either. We traveled and had classes in Bath, site of the Roman Baths, York, where beautiful Yorkminster Abbey will stay forever etched in my mind, and Dover, where the amazing white cliffs dwarfed us all.

And we were even allowed some free time to take trips on our own. A group of us went to Paris for the day, and another group of us later went to Edinburgh.

This three-week class opened the world to me, as I realized how much lay outside the insulated little universe in upstate New York where I had grown up. It created in me an insatiable desire to travel. To experience new cultures. To expose myself to different world views. To see in person the places I had only read about before. And in many ways, this trip defined my 20s for me, as I spent the next 10 years trying to cram in as much travel as I possibly could afford to do.

When I returned from my class, I knew I was forever changed. I started making immediate plans to return to the U.K. following graduation in May, and I did exactly that. I left in August 1997 to spend five months living and working in London, and traveling around the British Isles. But that experience is a post for another time.

My classmates and me (first row, on the left, with the black hat on) in front of Windsor Castle, just outside of London.

Me in front of Tower Bridge, London.

Me in Trafalgar Square, London.

Me in front of the Pizza Express in York, a very fancy chain of pizza restaurants all over the U.K., and home to the second best pizza I've ever tasted.

My classmates and me (I'm dead center) in front of the entrance to the Louvre Museum in Paris.

30 in 30

Approximately 30 days from now, on March 30th, I'll turn 30 years old. In many ways, this upcoming 30th year will mark many milestones for me. With a little luck, I'll become a mother for the first time this year. And I know this will change my life forever. My work situation will likely change this year as well, if my manager, who doesn't yet know that I'm pregnant, allows me to work from home three or four days a week, so we won't have to seek daycare for the baby. And I'll no longer be able to say that I'm "in my twenties." I'll have to skip to the next bubble on personal identification surveys-the one that reads "30-35 years old" instead of the "24-29" bubble I'm used to filling in. The horror!

In many ways, though, 30 doesn't seem that old to me...anymore. There was a point, oh, probably as recently as eight or nine years ago, when 30 seemed ancient. My mom had a four and a two year old when she was 30. My grandma, God love her, had four kids, including a ten year old, my mother, and another on the way at 30. But I think 30 is the new 20. I certainly don't FEEL old, although I have my days just like everyone else. And I have more than a few grey and white hairs on my head, which are certainly annoying (I wonder if I have any of that purple hair dye left lying around?). But I feel, for the most part, just the same as I did when I was much younger, although my hips and thighs certainly aren't those of a 20-something anymore, and especially now.

I feel like I should somehow chronicle, or perhaps pay homage to, my twenties before I bid them adieu. So, for the next 30 days, I'm going to write about some of the notable experiences from my second decade of life. Some you may find humorous (and I've already made a headstart on those) and some not so much, but I hope you won't mind coming along for the retrospective ride that will comprise my "30 in 30 Project."

Let the countdown begin.

Quick Snapshot:

  • 34-year-old writer and
    mother to a daughter
    born in August 2006 following
    IVF and girl/boy twins born in October 2008 following FET. Come along as I document the search for my lost intellect. It's a bumpy ride. Consider yourself warned.

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