Cambodia Better Bring It

24 Feb

Ugh. I’ve been slacking on the blogging. I know. The thing is, I had to run all over town to find shorts. In February. In D.C. where the high temps this month have regularly hovered around “freezing your leg hairs off.”

(Also, I’ve had a lot of big deadlines to hit in the past couple of weeks. But let’s just blame the shorts, shall we?)

But we’re leaving this week for our annual Poe Super Birthday Extravaganza Trip to Far Flung Destinations–and this one is going to be a doozy.

This tradition began in 2008, when XFE was in Rome for work right before my birthday. We cashed in some miles and I met him and some of his co-workers over there, and had a merry old time eating lots of pasta, going to lots of museums and drinking lots of wine. And, of course, going to a soccer game (a tradition now whenever we travel to Europe).

The next year, XFE and his co-workers were in Japan, again, right around my birthday. In fact, I spent my actual birthday on the flight coming home. We did not see a soccer game but we did go to the opening day of a sumo wrestling match in Osaka. And ate lots of sushi, including sushi for breakfast after visiting the Tokyo Fish Market.

Tokyo Fish Market

That’s a lot of frozen sushi, which actually sounds quite gross.

Gambate

I don’t know, how do you sumo??

Every year, XFE has outdone himself, planning a bigger and better birthday trip. For my 40th, it was Australia. Two years ago, it was Peru. Last year, South Africa where I stroked a cheetah (YES, a cheetah!) and ate lamb’s brain at one of the world’s best restaurants.

South Africa Safari

Yep, just chilling with an elephant. No biggie.

South Africa cheetah preserve

That’s a cheetah, with my pudgy paw all up on it.

This year, it’s Cambodia (with stopovers in Singapore and Hong Kong). I know, right? I would not argue with anyone who says that I’m spoiled. I would lose that argument every damn time.

Oh, pardon me, I meant to say, the Kingdom of Cambodia. That is, apparently, the official name. Pretty bitchin’.

I am beyond excited. But I will say, it’s hella hot and humid in those places right now. So, I needed a couple of pairs of shorts, particularly since we’ll be visiting the very dusty, very hot, Angkor Wat. I want to make sure I have as much exposed pasty-white skin as possible to attract all of the mosquitoes in the area, and keep them away from my beloved trip planner, XFE. Love = sweating + risking yellow fever.

I don’t really know what to expect from this trip. I always like to say that we actually get to take a trip three times: once during all the excitement and anticipation of the planning stage. The second when we’re actually there, soaking it all in. And the third when I get to come back and write about it all. In fact, those amazing birthday trips (along with the non-birthday timed trips we tend to take as well) is what led to the creation of this blog. I wanted to document and remember all the amazing places we’ve been together. Even Peru, where my intestines tried to escape my body repeatedly.

You can't tell, but this not-so-young lady is wondering where the nearest bathroom is.

You can’t tell, but this not-so-young lady is wondering where the nearest bathroom is.

But because of the fluctuating nature of freelancing, I haven’t really gotten to take that first part of the trip. A lot of the planning has been carried out by XFE. He’s the one who found a spa for us to go get massages our first day in Siem Reap. He’s the one who found and arranged a fun-sounding food tour in Hong Kong called the Won-Ton-A-Thon.

We’ve actually put off a lot of the planning specifics, figuring we’ll use our 20-hour flight on this ridiculousness (YASSS to miles travel!) to figure out more details. Between stuffing our gobs with caviar and bossing our butler around, of course.

How on earth can they be gazing into each other’s eyes when there’s so many other things to see on this airplane??

Then I realized — when I was working in an office and not very happy with my work environment, I would spend a lot of my free time daydreaming and researching our upcoming trips. Now that I’m my own boss, I seem to be a bit more focused and productive. Hence, no daydreaming and a lack of blog posts, as well.

Which makes this trip kind of exciting. I haven’t ruminated it to death. I’ll be seeing everything with fresh eyes. Sure, we might miss some neighborhood or hot restaurant that we would have known about if I’d just spent more time on TripAdvisor, but I’m looking forward to just being blown away by the strangeness and the newness and the overall foreignness.

I haven’t even really thought out my packing list. Which is why, while the rest of the greater Washington D.C. area was out chipping ice off their sidewalks on Sunday, I was running around a mall trying to find sweltering-weather appropriate gear.

Why didn’t I pack some anti-malarial pills? (nice shorts, btw)

And, while I’m typing this, I’m supposed to be packing. XFE has been packed since Saturday.

Guess I better get to it.

The Inherent Romance of a Hypothetical Near-Death Experience

18 Feb

(photo via 1000 Awesome Things)

I know I declared romance to be all but dead just last week, but I wanted to share a recent text exchange between myself and my spousal equivalent, XFE. I think it perfectly highlights how love (and concern for your partner’s welfare) can continue to bloom despite distance, bad dining choices, and self-inflicted injuries.

Sure, it’s not the passionate stuff we used to send each other 10 or so years ago, but just knowing I can inadvertently scare the bejesus out of XFE on a moment’s notice is it’s own kind of small thrill.

Let me set the scene: XFE was hundreds of miles away on a mid-week work trip in a town with limited dining options. I have made dinner for myself at home, courtesy of Blue Apron.

This fairly typical, totally normal text exchange illustrates a couple of things:

  • Fried sage is a lovely and tasty garnish, but deceptively dangerous.
  • I am prone to choking (true.)
  • XFE is a very tolerant boyfriend who is used to high drama and hyperbole.
  • Cats are horrible EMTs; ergo:
  • I will probably die at home alone from a freak choking incident only to be found by XFE days later with a cat nibbling on my toe. (My biggest fear).

XFE: Took the crew to Ruby Tuesday for dinner tonight.

Me: Nice. Did you get fries?

XFE: No, I am having a salad, fish tacos and ice t

Me: If you come home and I’m dead, it’s because I have a piece of fried sage lodged in my throat. On the left hand side. Just scratching and stuck.

Me: Thanks, Blue Apron.

XFE: Try some water.

XFE: R u going to be ok?

Me: It’s just annoying. I’m not coughing or choking or anything.

XFE: Well, the “I’m dead” might have indicated it could have been more serious.

Me: Sorry. It was really annoying.

XFE: Glad ur ok

Me: I think I’m gonna make it. Call off the 911. Petunia finally showed up to seek her dinner, so I feel like I’m in good hands.

XFE: Glad to hear HR has u covered.

Me: You know it. Whew.

Me: Also, I burned my thumb. Knew I shoulda ordered pizza.

XFE: Sorry to hear. R u ok?

Me: Yes, it was actually really good. Now I’m watching a documentary with Toons. Bye.

Friday Links: Anti-Valentine’s Edition

13 Feb

A love story for the ages.

To quote some crazy dude in Japan’s Revolutionary Alliance of Men That Woman Are Not Attracted To: “The blood-soaked conspiracy of Valentine’s Day, driven by the oppressive chocolate capitalists, has arrived once again.”

I really couldn’t have said it better myself. Although, I do confess a certain fondness for chocolate capitalists.

Some links to help spread the love:

Book Clubbing: Author Takes Celebrity Diets for a Spin

11 Feb
Gwyneth surrounded by, but not reading, books.

Gwyneth surrounded by, but not reading, books.

I haven’t done too many book reviews on the blog, but I assure you, I do read. And not just US Weekly and Life and Style either. Why, I’ve even been known to pick up a Vanity Fair at the airport once in a while.

I kid. I actually read a lot. I used to get in a good 45 minutes of reading every morning during my approximately seven-mile commute to work on the metro. You read that right: 45 minutes to go 7.2 miles. So, yeah. Lot’s of reading time.

But for the most part, I don’t really review them on the blog. Way back when, I did review this tome of excellence by Gaga’s ex. And a recent book suggested by former running partner Amy definitely falls into the same genre/category of silly and celebrity-focused enough to be reviewed on ThePoeLog. (That is indeed a genre. You can see it on the New York Times Best Sellers List right under “Paperback Graphic Books,” which sounds scintillating but in actuality is like, comic books.)

The book — “I’ll Have What She’s Having,” is an in-depth exploration on how to map social behaviors. I’m kidding. That’s a different book. With the same title, but by a group of like, professors of anthropology.

No, no, no. The book I read is by a very attractive New York writer who is celebrity-and-diet obsessed. But in a good way.

Over the course of a year, author Rebecca Harrington tried 14 celebrity diets, ranging from Cameron Diaz to Sophia Loren (talk about two different body types).

The results are kinda meh.

First off, let me say, I am not at all a diet person. Never been on one. I’m not really much for denying myself. I know that drinking wine and eating delicious buttery bread every night is probably not a recipe for weight loss. Oh well.

And, I don’t look at celebrities and models and think I should look like them. I’ve never been susceptible to that type of societal pressure for some reason. There’s them and then there’s us. I have a pretty good idea of the effort and deprivation that goes into looking like that, and I’m just not interested. So maybe I’m not the ideal audience for a book like this.

I will say, this is an easy read. Takes about an hour and a half, start to finish, max. The chapters are very, very short. In fact, I got the feeling that I was essentially reading a series of blog posts, not an actual book. It cost me $5.99 for the Kindle edition, and I still think I probably spent too much.

The concept is pretty cute and Harrington is funny, but she’s a bit repetitive. She often mentions that working out like a celebrity is HARD. I feel like this is maybe not news?

Harrington is also far too brief. She starts a diet and then it’s just over. You have no idea from the outset how long she’s going to stick with any particular diet and she combines the days, so it’s just a blur. Like I said, short chapters. Maybe because she was weak from hunger and couldn’t type any longer.

There are a couple of takeaways —

  1. Being a celebrity sucks. And it always has, even if you were Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy, or even Karl Lagerfield (and can I just say how refreshing it was to read about at least ONE guy who admits to having to diet to stay thin?)
  2. It takes a lot of work to be Hollywood thin. You basically have to deny/starve yourself. Which sucks when you’re rich and famous and have access to all of the wonderful food of the world.
  3. My favorite diet was Sophia Loren’s because basically it was just all about portion control (but not portion control like Victoria Beckham. Poor Harrington tried her “five hands” diet, which basically means you eat a lot of protein but all of it around the size of your palm. So five handfuls of food a day. Yikes.) But yeah. A cup of pasta, not a whole pot. Makes sense to me.
  4. Gwyneth Paltrow can, apparently, cook. Even though it’s all healthy and macrobiotic or whatever, Harrington really seemed to like Paltrow’s recipes the best.
  5. Worst (at least from the sounds of it) might be a tie, in my opinion: Beyonce’s Master Cleanse or Greta Garbo’s celery loaf. Since Harrington couldn’t even get past the smell of the cooked celery loaf to taste it (and who could blame her), we’ll never know the dietary effectiveness, but it does sound vile.
  6. Don’t take book recommendations from former running partner Amy. Actually, it does make for good blog fodder.

shirt

Now that’s a diet I can get behind: pork.

The Unlikely Entrepreneur of Reality TV: Big Giant Swords

9 Feb

I’ve been neglecting someone on my little blog here. A group of people really, near and dear and close to my heart.

My reality TV friends.

Don’t worry. My non-husband-for-life XFE and I have been watching tons of crap on television. I mean, it’s winter, after all. And both “Vanderpump Rules” and “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” are on right now. What else would we be doing?

One of our current favorites is “Big Giant Swords” on the Discovery Channel.

When XFE first told me about it, he said it was called “Big Ass Swords,” which would have been a way more awesome title, if any executives from Discovery are reading this. No? Ok, then.

But, where “Big Giant Swords” falls short on naming-bad-assery, it is not short on entertainingly weird charm.

Irish Mike of Big Giant Swords

This, by the way, is your lead character in the show. Irish Mike.

Here’s the description, in case you couldn’t tell what it was about by the name:

“Big Giant Swords” is an American television series that premiered on January 13, 2015 on the Discovery Channel, The program follows sword maker Michael “Irish Mike” Craughwell as he and his associates create custom over-sized swords from scratch for his clients. Episodes focus on the creation process of one or two commissioned weapons as the team attempts to complete them to the customer’s satisfaction in a set time period.

Craughwell first began making giant swords in 2003 as a hobby and models many of his works after swords found in video games and other fictional media. Craughwell first garnered attention for his creations after posting videos of himself wielding the weapons on YouTube. He is based out of West Tisbury, MA on the island of Martha’s Vineyard.

Suffice it to say, this Irish Mike guy is quite the character. I am DYING to know what other folks around Martha’s Vineyard think when they see this guy rolling past the boutiques in Vineyard Haven in his tattered black t-shirt and his leather apron.

(While doing a bit of research, I came across this Yelp review for a shop in Tisbury. Apparently, the Poe-llows line of ridiculously priced pillows needs to be stocked at this store. Clear some shelf space, Midnight Farm).

Irish Mike is very socially awkward and yet, somehow, he’s able to get his crew of varying skill and talent abilities (ranging from the very talented, and maybe bald –well, we never see her without the headscarf—blacksmith Jamie to the practically useless cameraman Ameri-Mike – who really should consider wearing a headscarf. And investing in some hair product. His frizz has got me all worked up.)

AmeriMike from Big Giant Swords

Photos from YouTube and Discovery Channel.

Wait. What was I saying? Oh yeah, he’s got all of these not-so-charismatic guys to work for him basically for free. Or for the love of the craft. Or because there’s nothing else going on in Tisbury, and this shit is entertaining. Whatever.

But it all works. Mostly because, they, like him, are a bit of a group of social misfits, so you can tell they just get each other. Even as they avoid eye contact and mumble to each other.

And, well, the swords are really, really cool. I’m not really into swords, or LARPing or fantasy stuff, but these things are pretty amazing works of art in their own barely-functioning right.

One of the things we really like about the show is that it feels like Irish Mike is kinda in on the whole joke of the situation. He realizes this is a ridiculous way to make a living. His FaceTime discussions with his potential clients range from awkward to slightly derisive to totally jiving together on fantasy nerd stuff. Perhaps more than anything though, he just wants to get off the computer and get to work on his latest grande scheme.

But where Irish Mike’s personality really shines when it comes time to test the swords. Because he actually cares whether or not they could–ostensibly, if the client were a giant and incredibly strong–work. It’s during these bits that his desire to be in the spotlight and flair for flamboyance really comes out. So far, we’re about three episodes in and he’s already set himself on fire while slicing through gasoline-filled coconuts being hurled at him through the air. He’s also dressed up like Zeus and another time like swamp monster that rises out of a lake to demolish a row boat. And, when making videos he doesn’t have to interact with anyone, which you can tell suits him just fine.

So, check out the show (full episodes are online), watch some of his YouTube videos (the one of him lifting a 106 pound axe is pretty funny), or read his thoroughly charming yet very, very nerdy Reddit AMA.

I’m rooting for the guy. I hope Irish Mike can continue to exploit the ridiculousness of his current situation and make a great, sustainable business out of his hobby. It gives me hope for my Poe-llows.

Friday Links: Snow Art and Snatched Crowns Edition

6 Feb
snow penis

Nobody said this was a family-friendly blog.

  • Airline workers kill time by drawing a giant dick next to one of their planes. This actually sums up perfectly how I feel about winter. Plus it reminds me of the infamous “Below Deck” episode where the chief steward made blanket art in the shape of a penis but insisted it was a misinterpreted rocket ship. Man, I miss that show.
  • But guess what IS coming back!! Get your sweet tea iced and set your Tivo’s for March 9 for a preview episode, and March 16 for the full “Southern Charm” assault on the senses, y’all.
  • The Chief Jefe of Poe Communications and Mattress Merchandising Inc., and my personal-boss-for-life XFE has always wanted to stay at an ice hotel. I prefer not to sleep with my teeth chattering throughout the night. So just for him and his thwarted dreams, here’s a roundup of ice hotels by OMGFacts.
  • It’s hard to drag yourself out of bed when it’s 6 a.m. and 17 degrees. It’s even harder when you’re bed is heavenly. The ladies at Cardigans and Couture know: It’s all about the bed. We actually have the same mattress (Westin’s Heavenly mattress) and it is pretty awesome.
  • Following up on the Christmas break wine heist at the French Laundry, Central Texas has a brisket bandit on the loose. No word on if they prefer the “packer” or the “flat” cut.
  • Required reading for our cat, Petunia: Neurotic people probably make pretty great pet owners, according to a new study on overbearing pet parents. Now get over here and let me smother you with hugs and kisses.
  • My favorite story of the week: A Brazilian beauty pageant runner-up snatched the crown right off the winner’s head. (Oh yes, there’s a video. Things get catty around the 1:50 mark. The crowd goes wild). And she’s not sorry about it at all, as you can tell by this amazingly awesome quote in a Brazilian newspaper: “What I did was not on impulse, [it] was to show Manaus, Brazil and the world, that money cannot buy everything. I didn’t do it for me but for other candidates … She didn’t deserve the title.”

The Quiet Charm of Positano in Winter

4 Feb

There’s just something about a beach town in winter. It’s a curious blend of melancholy and hope. Melancholy because the whole town is a bit deflated. It’s purpose and reason for existence is still there (the beach, the ocean) but the spirit, the visitors, are nowhere to be seen. It feels hopeful because, well, obviously, the people will come back again and the town will come alive again.

At least, that’s how it felt in Positano.

Positano

After an early morning of gazing in wonder at Pompeii’s penises, we left the quickly growing crowds of tourists (seriously, go early. You’ll have the place to yourself) and headed off for a drive along the Amalfi Coast. It was predictably gorgeous scenery: a thin thread of a twisty road clinging to cliffs, the blinding blue ocean backdrop giving you a sense that you were about to drive right off those cliffs. No road shoulders, so no opportunity to stop and look at the tiny presepe (nativity scenes) nestled into roadside caves all along the way.

We saw these tiny nativity scene setups for sale in a market in Salerno. People set these up in roadside caves all along the Amalfi Coast. They look like little graveyards or roadside tributes or something.

We saw these tiny nativity scene setups for sale in a market in Salerno. People set these up in roadside caves all along the Amalfi Coast. 

(It now seems funny to me that word: presepe. So close to precipice, as in flying off of…)

We crawled along Positano’s sidewalk/street until we found a Tetris-style parking garage. Then we went off to be charmed by the little beach town.

During the summer, Positano is mobbed with thousands of visitors flocking in from nearby Capri or Sorrento or Ravello. But on a misty, chilly (by Italian standards. Really it was in the 50s) day in early December, it wasn’t busy at all. Sure, there were a few other tourists poking about, but not too many. I’m guess going to a seaside resort town in December does not top the list of a lot of must-do activities when one visits Southern Italy.

So you could really just meander through and soak it all in.

Meandering in Positano.

The architectural details were still lovely.

Positano entry

There were still flowering vines clinging to brightly colored walls.

Positano

Most businesses were closed for the winter, their wooden doors shut tight. But a few places were open to sell their world-famous, brightly painted ceramics and limoncello to stalwart tourists.

Positano graffiti

Positano graffiti

You could still walk under the canopy of arched branches, and imagine what it’s like when the sun dapples down through them.

Positano

The beach was fairly deserted, and all the little fishing and pleasure boats were piled up waiting for spring. We sat and watched a couple of dogs chasing each other up and down the beach in total freedom without having to dodge a bunch of people. Dogs don’t care if the sun is shining or not: a good beach is still a good beach.

Positano boats

You can see the happy beach dog in this grainy picture.

Most of the beachside restaurants were closed and boarded up, their patios draped in heavy plastic. If you closed your eyes and let the sound of the waves carry you, you could imagine what it’s like here in the summer. The murmur of conversation and laughter, the tinkling of plates and silverware, the shouts of waiters. But then, you probably wouldn’t be able to hear the ocean if the place was crowded.
Positano in winter

We slowly made our way to one of the few open restaurants for a nice, leisurely, wine-filled, seafood lunch. No need to hurry. There’s nowhere to go. No one’s waiting for us to vacate our table. There are no shops we need to get to before they close, no mobs of tour buses dumping yet more people onto this charming little seaside town.

Positano lunch

The people will come back again. But for that day, Positano was all ours.

Positano winter

Positano beach in winter.

Here’s a much more informative overview of Positano, should you ever want to go.

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