Category Archives: Just Musing

The Missing Thirteenth Floor

One of my favorite things to do while staying in a hotel is look for quirky attributes. I always enjoy seeing where a hotel or residential building has chosen to omit the 13th floor – labeling-wise anyway. This is very commonly done in the United States due to many travelers’  triskaidekaphobia, or fear of the number 13. In my experience, hotels with a 13th floor most often just label their 13th floor as the 14th floor. Here is an example from the restored Mather Tower in Chicago, currently home to the Club Quarters and River hotels:

I added a black-and-white filter to the photo to help reduce the glare from this shiny gold elevator panel.

Check out the bottom row. I added a black-and-white filter to the photo to help reduce the glare from the shiny gold elevator panel.

Hotels in the gambling mecca of Las Vegas cater to more than just domestic travelers’ superstitions. A sign of the city’s popularity with Chinese tourists can be found in sprawling casino resorts, which often omit any floors that would begin with the number 4 entirely – meaning the hotel may not be remotely as tall as your floor number leads you to believe!

Comment Policy Change

A quick note: I have been doing some “dusting” around this blog lately – cleaning up links sections, for one – and likely will do more in the next few weeks. One big change: Due to feedback from a few readers, I have made changes to the comment policy so that you no longer have to leave your name and email address along with a comment. Please do not leave comments without leaving your name (even though you can); it will go straight into my spam folder. You do not need to worry about providing an email address at all, but if you do, please use a web mail address you’re currently logged in as, or it will ask you to confirm that you’re using an address that belongs to you.

Have fun and thank you for reading and following, even though I haven’t been the best continuous updater 😉

Just briefly

Life is really frustrating lately. I don’t have much time to write stuff in here anymore. I mean, I’m sure I could find some, but then that would be one less thing I’d be able to do later that should take precedence. That’s all I can really say about that.

I had a great Memorial Day weekend. And I’m up to close to 60,000 words of my book? Or something. I haven’t been able to work on it much at all over the past few weeks, so who knows. I don’t know why I feel so good about having written that much already, I just do. I feel like in the end it’s a waste of time and I shouldn’t be doing it when I should be doing something else, but I enjoy it and it’s a stress reliever. Also, if I don’t finish, I’ll never know how the story ends. I joined Scribophile, which is like a social network for writers that allows them to critique one another, but now I feel like a jerk because I haven’t been able to critique my virtual “friends”‘ work as much as I would like.

I’ll have more posts up soon about weddings, events, reviews of more stuff I got sent, bla bla, eventually, including hopefully a new travel post: Eric’s work schedule just got released and what do you know, he (probably) has another three day weekend off this coming weekend when I’m leaving to go to our friend’s beach wedding in Nags Head. A mini-vacation is sorely needed for both of us so now we’re scrambling to get him a rental car (he will have to drive down after me), book the catsitter, and see if we can add an extra night to my reservation at the inn. He may not be able to be accommodated at the reception but at least he can come down and get some rest. He works his butt off the rest of the time, so it would be great to get him down to the ocean.

More stuff later … again, eventually 🙂

Happy Monday

I am over this cold weather.

I have been doing lots of wedding stuff; I’m making two trips with all my lovely bridesmaids to help them pick out their dress styles at David’s Bridal next month, and we’ll get some dinner, and I can’t wait! We also need to choose some engagement photos to place on our save-the-date magnets, in the newspaper, with the invitations, and on the wedding website. I’m also going to write up some biographies of my bridesmaids and put them up there with their pictures, and then I think Eric will probably do the same with his groomsmen.

I’m still working on my book. It’s the easiest thing I’ve ever written in my adult life which could well mean it’s a big ol’ piece of crap, but it’s fun and stress-relieving, so I’m not sure I care in the end. I’ve been doing some research on some of the locales mentioned and questioning friends and they’ve all been quite helpful. I only wish I had more time to work on it.

Eric and I are starting to officially plan our next big trip (after our honeymoon). This time we will be visiting the fabulous country of … the United States of America (my personal favorite)! For years, I’ve been dying to make a road trip down the entire length of old route 66 – from Chicago all the way to L.A. I’m really hoping we can do this next summer instead of waiting till 2014, but we’ll see! I’ll need a good amount of leave that I may not have, but if I don’t, I can swing a couple days unpaid leave. This is one of the great trips of my dreams, and it will be nice and romantic to have Eric to myself for a whole two weeks as we explore the U.S. together. We don’t get to spend as much time together these days due to our schedules, so the thought makes me happy. (He can’t come with me to a friend’s beach wedding in June which makes me sad :()

I’ve been cooking up a storm. It’s my new favorite hobby other than writing. I make breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and snacks. I chop, blend, mix, bake and somehow it all comes out okay. I am starting to feel genuinely comfortable in the kitchen; I come home from work and whip out the dishes and gadgets I have and curse the ones I don’t have (and then put them right on my wedding registry). My favorite snack dish so far is homemade garlic pita chips and peanut butter hummus; experimenting to find just the right amount of peanut butter has been a delicious task for Eric (my taste tester) and me. I’m saving a lot of money and calories and keeping us well-fed and have lost some pounds, to boot. It’s very easy to make a large batch of one dish, like my old favorite standby turkey chili, and stretch it out for several days’ meals. I rarely eat pre-packaged foods anymore and now when I do I can’t help but notice how salty they are. (This is coming from someone who loves salt.) I’m working up from easier stuff to attempting a really complicated giant Greek dish that kinda scares me because I could easily screw it up if I’m not careful. I could use a heck of a lot more counterspace for that one though.

I’m teaching myself to program in SQL; it’s pretty easy.

Fiona Apple is playing a couple of shows around here in May and I can’t wait. Just about one of the only songs you can get me to sing by myself at karaoke is a Fiona Apple song.

Less Than 8 Months … whaaaat

Less than 8 months to go, and I’ve really been coasting with this wedding business. Eric and I are very excited, but we’re also very busy … with normal life stuff. We did get some incredible engagement photos taken a couple weekends ago, courtesy of our good friend, the multitalented Evan Valentine (evanvalentine.com). He and his wife Jaime (one of my very best friends) ate at Ray’s Hell Burger with us in Rosslyn. Then we made visits to some favorite Arlington spots: Dark Star Park, Gravelly Point Park (out by Reagan Airport), and the rooftop garden at our apartment building. Finally, we got some shots on the balcony of our apartment, where Eric proposed to me. We had a good time and the pictures came out really nice, with some hilarious outtakes, too!

I’ve been to some fun places and done some fun things lately, so maybe I’ll eventually write something about that. I’ve made all these rough drafts that I just left sitting. I have also been writing an entirely new book. The idea just came to me one day and I went nuts with it and wrote 20,000 words in about a week. I wish I’d had that same motivation when I wrote my last book during NaNoWriMo! I’m now up to nearly a full 25,000 words. This novel has been much more fun for me than the last because I honestly have no idea what’s going to happen. Every time I start working on it the characters spring to life in my head and show me what’s occurring as I type. So right now, I only have the vaguest idea of the denouement. I could stand to do a little travel around the country to strengthen some of the storyline (due to locations I’m not familiar with), but basic research will have to do for now. Now, I’m truly not that good of a writer, but I enjoy it and it’s a great stress-reliever and fun hobby. I could probably better spend my time on more pressing matters, but it’s hard to stay away from the keyboard. I have another friend working on a novel, so we may try to meet up at coffee shops and have “writing nights” in the near future.

I went to my first Body Pump class last Friday; it’s a lifting class – you use a mat, a step (to lay on, like a bench), and the bar with weights. It was very difficult but so much fun that I greatly enjoyed the challenge. At the end of the class, the instructor announced, “Congratulations, you’ve just done 800 reps!” I intend to keep going, although it will require me to get up at an ungodly hour. Ugh!

Coming up soon (but don’t I always say that?) … more wedding stuff, a couple book reviews, recommended beauty products, some travel articles from all over, hotel review, and a disgusting, hideous exploration of the life of the house centipede and his many apparent benefits … ugh. And I think I might have a giveaway for y’all as well. 

I Don’t Know What’s Going On

I’ve had a rough time the last couple of months. I am often too tired and/or busy for writing these days, so I’m looking to rediscover my motivation as well as my writing skills! I have soooo many things I need to get to work on in the writing arena and I feel like a bum for letting it all slide. You wouldn’t believe the number of half-finished travel posts I have saved on here. That’s not even covering all the future plans I had that have been placed on the back burner, but little choice with those.

I did plan a special Halloween getaway for Eric and I for Halloween weekend, one of our favorite times of the year. We will be in Williamsburg for Busch Gardens’ “Howl-o-Scream” event. We got a nice package deal that was VERY economical, and will be there for two nights. As an extra, Eric bought us line-skipping “Quick Queue” passes for all the rides and haunted houses! I’M SO EXCITED! 🙂

Had another low-key weekend. Went to personal training and then a movie – we saw “The Thing” which isn’t a remake, but a prequel to the first movie (although technically that was the second, since that itself WAS a remake). I know, why is it called The Thing then? Why not call it “The Thing: Awakenings” or whatever dumb dramatic title they could come up with? Well, in the end the copycat title was even less fitting because the film itself was pretty bad and did no justice to its chronological predecessor. In fact, it’s one of those movies where the more you think about it, the worse it was, haha. Even if it had been fabulous, the moviegoing experience by itself was probably one of the worst I have ever had. The good part is it’s funny now. Eric and I always laugh about these things later.

Saturday was okay; ran a ton of errands in the Centreville area and had lunch at Whole Foods, then met my sister for our getaway at Spa World. We had a good time and even figured out where the ladies’ nap room is (and made good use of it). It was really crowded though because there it was the last day to use the most recent Groupon (which I forgot to get). I came home and packed in more errands that I didn’t have time to do that week because I was working late.

On Sunday I was, predictably, exhausted. Slept as late as I could, got up and did some work for a bit, went to a dinner and game night with several friends.

New recommended quick eats item: Stouffer’s Corner Bistro Stuffed Melt and Soup. You get a bowl of soup and a square-shaped Hot Pocket-like stuffed sandwich. My current favorite is Creamy Tomato Basil Soup with Ham and Cheese Melt. There are also a few other choices. All make perfect comfort food. (Calorie counts vary; the one I mentioned is 380 calories.)

When You Know Them Only Through Their Music, and Love Them Just the Same

Is it possible to grieve a celebrity you’ve never met or known?

I hear it said sometimes that it is ridiculous to do so. “Why are people so upset that Michael Jackson died? It’s not like they knew him,” a coworker I’ll call “Mr. Babbles” said to me, a day or two after the iconic singer passed away. I tried to explain, but it fell on deaf ears.

When someone makes art that means something to someone, it doesn’t matter if that person ever meets the artist. The art speaks to you. You know the talent and therefore it matters little if you know the person, because you know what they meant to you. Selfish? Perhaps … but perhaps not.

There’ve been many celebrities whose deaths, untimely or not, saddened me simply because I knew and recognized their art. Michael Jackson is one; Frank Sinatra another; Heath Ledger a third, and on and on. But real grieving? I suppose there have only been two celebrities who really struck me with a genuine, sincere form of grieving. Not depression mind you, but a sadness that still feels a little sharp sometimes. Perhaps some will say this is irrational. But when Joey Ramone passed away from lymphoma when I was 19, I cried and cried. An adoring fan of the Ramones since my early high school years, I had read so many interviews and books and magazine articles, watched so much concert footage, played so many albums so many times, even chatted via email with the creator of the Ramones logo and “Ramones muse” – that in a way I did feel that I knew him. At times when I felt incredibly alone, Joey’s voice was the one that spoke to me for some reason and made me smile again. Crazy fan? No, but definitely an appreciative one.

When Eric called me from work last July and asked me if I had heard about Amy Winehouse, I knew instantly why he was asking. I didn’t cry, but I was stunned. As time went on, this feeling turned to genuine sadness and reflection. You see, I love soul music. And I loved Amy’s music especially because she was so honest and unabashed when she sang. Sometimes playful, sometimes heartbreaking, she wrote songs about her real life – put her way, not some radio-friendly way. Every word was brazen, bare, sometimes vulgar; the accompanying music inspired by Amy’s idols, people like Donny Hathaway and Ray Charles. I knew the words to every song on both of her mainstream CDs and I kept them spinning in my car constantly. How many times did I belt them out on the hours-long drive to Blacksburg from Arlington? And as the years went by and Amy went from a healthy-looking girl to a gaunt waif, it was unbearable for many people who wanted Amy in the news for her incredible Grammy-winning talent, not her strange and likely drug-induced behavior. We loved Amy and we wanted to hear more from the real Amy, not this strange Amy who was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. We didn’t know her at all, but perhaps we felt like we did because she sang about her life so honestly.

In the last few months it seemed Amy was getting back on her feet, not all the way there yet, but sober and putting out music again, and feeling peaceful. Her family, with whom she was extremely close, believe Amy may have passed away from an alcohol detox seizure rather than a drug overdose as had been assumed. In fact, posthumous tests showed that no illegal drugs were in her system when she died. It is with a great sadness that I said goodbye to Amy, one that still lingers and makes the sound of her songs in my car a little bit different.

(You can listen to Amy’s last recording, a duet called “Body & Soul” with Tony Bennett, below, or you can listen to another song of hers at my original post here.)

So, ultimately, is it silly to grieve for someone whose art we adored? Only if it is silly to adore the art in the first place. And can you truly appreciate the art without appreciating the one who made it?