Sunday, May 28, 2006


I think I've reached that point in my trip where my feet hurt from too much walking (let's not even talk about how they smell, shall we?), I'm sick of the sight of my clothes (and am starting to get confused as to which are clean, which are "airing" for potential second wearing and which need to visit a washing machine desperately), my eyebrows are starting to resemble early Brooke Shields and I'm having cravings for a time where I don't have to live out of a suitcase any more.

Which is a bloody good sign that I'm having a fab (if a little full on) time. Have been running round Chicago like a mad thing trying to fit everything in. Booked a Highlights by Bus architectural tour yesterday morning but they overbooked for the first time in forever so I volunteered to be bumped and got a refund and two free tours to make up for it. I know I wanted to be bumped on this trip but I really was meaning airplanes...

So I did the Historic Skyscraper walking tour instead then wandered across the road to oogle at The Thorne Rooms. Met up with Princess B and we spent the afternoon checking out the Chicago Public Library (the biggest public library in the world, apparently) where we took advantage of their free internet for travellers. Gotta love that.

Wandered up to check out The Magnificent Mile and were most restrained. Then we had a look at the Museum of Contemporary Art's Store (didn't bother going inside as there wasn't time and we saw the Warhol exhibition they are showing when it was at the Sydney MCA) and walked across to the lake to find a cinema. To see X Men III. Yay!

Picked up some dinner and then headed to Navy Pier to see the fireworks(and do some more culture as we stumbled across a stained glass museum on our wanderings).

Today was full or architecture with the delayed bus tour in the morning then I headed up to Oak Park for a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright's home and studio. I think I've had my full of architecture - my head is buzzing with images and information and even two bottles of Woodchuck Cider and a fine dinner at Bar Loius didn't help clear it.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Next time in New York...

There were many many things we didn't get to in New York. Amongst them were The Empire State Building (although I saw it from afar many times), The Flatiron Building, The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Coney Island (which I believe isn't actually open for the season yet anyway).On our last day in New York we (of course) had breakfast at the Wholefood Market to fortify us for the walking ahead then caught the subway to The Rockefeller Center so I could at least imagine I was iceskating there (I've always wanted to iceskate at the Rockefeller Center on Christmas Eve for some odd reason).Nearby was apparently the New York branch of Mary Quant but it mysteriously disappeared and we couldn't find it. Other places we didn't get to visit were the Museum of Arts and Design (which had a very fine looking exhibition on the Eames Armchair which I could see from the gift shop) and The Museum of Modern Art (which had an excellent gift shop with a Canberra made Fink jug for saleand a very small range of Muji products). We really were planning to actually visit MOMA but the queue was a terrifying length so we ran away.

We almost went on a sightseeing cruise but the times were bad for us so instead as a final New York experience we jumped in a taxi (unfortunately not
The Cash Cab) and headed for The Magnolia Bakery to pick up cupcakes for Nancy. None for us as we were all caked out by then...Wandered back across to pick up our bags which we'd left a the hotel and got sidetracked in Kiehls which was just round the corner. Princess B found some lovely new skincare products to take home and we both discovered rather acceptable coffee at the inhouse cafe, Mud.Even better, the coffee was free as we were browsing!

From New York we bounced back to Philly for the night where I had to try and fit all the crap wonderful souvenirs I had collected into my suitcase and we had to fit that, the dollshouse, Princess B's bag, me and Princess B into Joe's car for the trip to the airport. Eek!

On a random note, you've heard about that book where a guy
travels round Ireland with a fridge? I'm thinking I could do similar and call it All over America with a dollshouse except I'm not sure it would have quite the readership...

Anyway, here we are in Chicago which is a whole new story in itself. Still no way to load photos which I'm sure is frustrating you with lack of interesting things to look at as much as me not being able to share them.

Friday, May 26, 2006

New York Stories

So, finally, here's how we spent the rest of my birthday in New York after we got Spamalot tickets:

From Times Square we headed over to the New York Public Library which wasn't open yet, so popped off to visit Grand Central Stationand the Chrysler Building to fill in time. Back to the Library where B got a reader's card to add to her collection and we supported the Library by purchasing at their gift shop.

From there I visited M&J Trimming and another nearby button shop where I was very very restrained after realising I could order online.Birthday lunch was in Byant Park behind the Library - a beautiful park with lots of people-watching opportunities to be had.

By this time it was time to toodle back up to Times Square for Spamalot which was a riot (and I have the T shirt to prove it!) As a little aside, as we were walking up to the theatre there was a chap with a film crew walking in front of us blocking our way - turns out it was Taylor Hicks who just won American Idol.Birthday drinks were in order afterwards so it was back past The New York Library, up Library Way to (of course) The Library Hotel and up the lift to Bookmarks, the rooftop bar on the 14th floor for a Pageturner (me) and a Bookmark (Princess B).

Dinner was at The Empire Dinerchosen because a) it was a diner and b) it was black and white. My meal was very very yummy and washed down by a fine bottle of cider.And finally I ate a birthday cheesecake from Wholefoods Market in bed back in my room while watching crap TV. Which ended the best birthday ever. Big hugs to those who made it all possible: Princess B, Nancy & Joe, Sis and Mum and Dad.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Now and then...

To celebrate my birthday (and make up for the recent lack of pictures round here) let's go for a stroll through the decades... 10 years old and a typical "Pears Girl".10 years later at 20 with my pet rat Rodney (who had a name change to Rodnella when we discovered he was actually a she). Obviously I hadn't quite entered my black and white phase quite yet... And doesn't that hair style look strangely familiar?At my 30th birthday party which was an "A" party. I'm Aphrodite and next to me is Annie Oakey.

(New York was fabbo - too tired to describe it all right now!)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I will sing, sing a new song...

Just a quick post from the heart of Times Square where I have just bought two tickets for this afternoon's performance of Spamalot. Just don't ask how much they cost - I'm using creative accounting (birthday money + birthday money + birthday money + casino winnings = tickets that aren't really as outrageously expensive as they seem at first glance.

With two minutes of free internet remaining here's the expurgated version of yesterday: Central Park, Metropolitan Museum of Art (gift shop only), Guggenheim (yay! but boo that I couldn't see the outside)Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Central Park again, FAO Schwarz, Crate and Barrel then a stagger back to our neighbourhood where we found a Wholefood Market, picked up supplies and had dinner at the little dining table in our room overlooking the streetbefore climbing into our PJs and collapsing embarrasingly early...

Today I think we're sticking round midtown - MOMA, Empire State Building, NY Public Library, Flatiron Building and a little ribbon and trim place I've heard about.....

So far 40 isn't too bad ;-)

Monday, May 22, 2006

Corrupting the innocent

On the eve (of the eve) of my 40th birthday I did two things I've never done before. Well, actually quite a few more than two if you count going to Atlantic City (or "To the Shore" in local terms)and eating a funnel cakebut I digress.

While at The Tropicana I *gasp* gambled for the first time in my life. I used to have a real anti-gambling stand, so bad that I wouldn't even set foot in a casino but that got gradually whittled down over the past few years when I discovered a cruise ship is basically just a casino with added extras.

This weekend I decided I needed to embrace the whole Atlantic City experience and Nancy gave me $5 while suggesting that it didn't really count if it wasn't my money (I didn't inhale, really!). I walked away from the slots with $50!
Maybe I need to reassess this gambling stance....

I also had my first ever Starbucks coffee. Princess B and I were desperate for a decent coffee and thought maybe Starbucks would deliver. But, even with a double shot, our lattes were very very average. Not really worth breaking my self imposed Starbucks boycott for. I had been warned about the state of coffee in the US but somehow didn't believe it could be so dire. I went to a place for brunch earlier in the week and when they asked if I wanted a coffee I asked for a skinny latte and the waitress looked very confused and said "we don't have that stuff here".

With this run of unusual behaviour maybe next I need to also smoke a joint and have a large steak?
Seriously though, we had a fun time and caught up with Andy and Kelly and Kelly's Dad Bill over drinks, dinner, then black and white birthday cake and bubbles. I'm not even 40 yet and I've had two birthday parties and one birthday afternoon tea so far. How lucky am I??

Saturday, May 20, 2006

How to miss Philadelphia in one day

Today Princess B and I made it into the middle of town to see the important sights of the City of Brother Lee Love Brotherly Love.

First stop was the
City Hall followed by a tour of the jumbo sized monopoly pieces across the road including princess B's least favorite thing: The Iron.We also visited the jumbo dominoes (which The Shopping Sherpa tried to take home for her front lawn)the Love sculptureand the giant clothespinwhich TSS also wanted to steal and take home.

Then we went for a walk and got a bit lost so after asking a couple of friendly policemen we finally found the Information Centre and discovered (luckily) that the tickets for Liberty Bell and Independence Hall had all been taken. So we went and got some culture at the shopping centre in town then took the
Phlash on a loop up to try and find the animation exhibition which we discovered wasn't going to open til after we left town.

So we gave up on the culture and took the Phlash back into town where TSS visited the temples of H&M and The Gap before we strolled down Avenue of the Arts to South Street, a funky groovy area of town where we found a wonderful Wholefood supermarket with real food which caused much jubilation after a diet of brown brown and brown (of the wrong sort)

Princess B was after shoes but when we finally made it to the shop we discovered they were cheaper in Australia so we headed back into town past Library Street and onto the train back home.

Souvenirs purchased: 1 black cord hat, black beads, Princess tiara and sash(TSS). Princess tiaras (x 3), dark chocolate covered almonds and health bars (PB). Postcards: 0.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Back to life, back to reality...

Boo hoo hooo here I am back on dry land. Nancy and I wanted to sit on the floor, wrap our arms around one of a cruise staff member's legs and hold on for dear life wailing "We don't wanna leave" at the top of our voices as they dragged us off the shop. But we were good girls and didn't...

Yes, it was a nice cruise. (Glad you asked) We had a cabin with a window overlooking the Royal Promenade, an inside "street" with shops and bars and a cafe which was pretty much the heart of the ship. We had a pretty laid back time - slept in, didn't do a heap of activities each day and generally just hung out. I was fairly well known on the ship from Day One when I arrived with a pirate's hat on which I didn't take off all day. Even my security picture at the boarding machines had me with a hat and it was great fun seeing the double take on the operator's face when they saw it as I left and boarded in Bermuda.

Bermuda was pretty. We went "outside" (shipspeak for off the ship) the first day we were there.Spent the morning exploring
The Royal Naval Dockyard where we docked and chatting with a lovely Turkish chap in one of the stalls in the shopping precinct there. Then we took a local bus into Hamilton. At a cost of $4.50 this 45 minute trip has to be one of the best ways to get a cheap looksie of the island.In Hamilton I discovered a Marks and Spencer so had to see if they had the Extremely Chocolatey Biscuits Yarnstorm has been raving about. And they did (just don't ask how much they cost, OK??). While in Hamilton I also picked up a pirate T to go with my hat (Arrr me hearties!) and that was about it.

Took the ferry back across to the ship, had lunch on board then headed out for a locally brewed beer sampler pack at The Frog and Onion pubbefore checking out the (rather lame) onshore carnival that night. And getting a lovely temporary pirate tattoo to complete my transformation to Mad Pirate.The following day the weather was a bit iffy so we stayed on board, hung round reading, ate a bit, had a drink or two. You know, the usual...

Yesterday we were at sea all day so did an art workshop in the morning and in the afternoon we went to the ice showfollowed by a tour of the
onboard oceanographic and atmospheric labs on board.Then we had to (waaaaaaah!) pack.

And all too soon it was over and we were deposited back on the dock.

B arrives this afternoon to join me for the next leg of my adventures.

Monday, May 15, 2006

A typical day on board

View from our cabin with the two Betties and the cruise monkey

Greetings from Explorer of the Seas heading towards Bermuda - famous for its shorts.

Here's how today went:

10am: Wake up after being in The Chamber (gothic disco sans gothic music) til 1am10:30am: Shower and get dressed
11am: Breakfast at the Windjammer (fruit salad and yoghurt, cup of tea and rye bread with smoked salmon in case you are interested.)
11:30am: Check the lunch menu in the main dining room and the Windjammer. Decide we're doing the main dining room cause they have Pad Thai
Noon: Check out the stores12:30pm: Wander randomly round the ship
1pm: Go to lunch. Three courses including rice pudding with cherries for afters. Meet some cool people from New York.
2:30pm: Back to the cabin to recover from the thought of a three course lunch
3pm: Scrapbooking class with Nancy. Use all their stamps and paper to make cool stuff to use later4:45pm: Back to cabin to rest and create trip diary. Consider picking up a cookie or two to much on but remember it's formal night so go without.
5:30pm: In the shower and change into something black and slinky
6pm: Dinner. Another opportunity for 3 courses but I stop at just the mushroom linguine and the warm cherry and icecream pudding. Drink 2 glasses of rose.
7:30pm: Formal pictures.
7:45pm: Free booze at the Captain's cocktail party in the Royal Promenade.
8pm: Get picture taken next to cute captain who may as well be a cardboard cutout for all the interest he shows in being there...
8:15pm: Discover where the best place to stand to get first dibs on free champers is and take advantage of discovery
9pm: Stagger to "Wild, Cool and Swingin'" production show. Take up offer of free Blue alcoholic drink even though drinking something blue is against personal convictions....
9:45pm: Realise busting for the loo so climb over a couple of people and thread through casino to find toliets
10:00pm: Arrive back in theatre just in time for end of show
10:15pm: Head to Dizzy's Jazz Bar: Deck 14, overlooking pool and sea and stuff. Flirt mildly with bartender
10:30pm: Get overwhelming urge to visit blog before visiting gothic (in architecture only, dammit) nightclub.

Gotta go - this is costing 50 cents a minute!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

It may be 2:30am but I can't sleep :-(

Great - just as I was feeling so smug that I'd acclimatised to the change in time zones. Or maybe I'm just too excited about the fact that in approximately 8 hours and 15 minutes we're heading off to the port to board our cruiseship... Not that I'm counting or anything. Really!

So where were we? Ah yes - Target. shop store of trolley cart stealers. But I get ahead of myself. Target has been on my must see list for a few years especially since
Isaac Mizrahi started designing for them so it was with much excitement that I approached one of my retail meccas. Tried not to hyperventilate as I rummaged round in the Dollar Spot. Also tried not to sob as I realised one of the inherent problems of travelling overseas to arrive at your destination in spring - the fashion is usually crap as you hit that first flush of "Hey it's not winter, we'll make everything mint and lemon and violet and cutesy wutesy." Blerk!

We'd picked up a few bits and pieces - nothing hugely special and were wandering the shelves in the shoe section lamenting the fact that all the shoes I liked weren't in my size when we realised our cart had gone walkabout. We hunted high and low, sidling up to unsuspecting strangers to see if they'd taken a fancy to our stuff and had whipped off with it but with no luck. So we had to start from the beginning, which was probably a good thing as only the stuff we truly wanted we remembered we'd picked up the first time.

I shan't bore you with a list of what I ended up with (all rather odd things to be buying on the other side of the world, suffice to say) but will mention the premier issue of a magazine I bought called
Junk Market Style.Having just found the link for it the reason for a complete lack of subscription information in the magazine becomes clear. Bother!

But the excitement for the day wasn't over yet. Next stop was a dollar store which are far far superior to the $2 shops in Australia. Or maybe I just think that because I haven't seen the stuff 100 times before. Next door was Payless Shoes where I picked a very cute handbag up for a whopping $3 (plus tax, of course!) [Picture to follow] and final destination on the day's Private Tour was a supermarket where we picked up some groceries for dinner - mainly from the huge kosher section because the stuff there seemed to have much less in the way of mystifying ingredients listed on the labels.

(Coming up tomorrow: more highlights of Philadelphia including Walmart and Michaels!)

Saturday, May 13, 2006

I need your help!

Hello lovely blog readers (can you tell I'm buttering you up?)

I left Australia without actually arranging for anyone to definately tape Eurovision for me. My usual taping buddies now have DVD players so can't record from the TV any more :-(

So if you have the ability to record Eurovision for me next weekend (either on PAL video or DVD) I will be eternally grapefruit grateful. Suggestions of bribes in return happily accepted.

Yours in a panic

Friday, May 12, 2006

'Tis a strange place

I've had 12 hours of excitement and discovery since I arrived. (Let's not mention the more than 24 hours it took to get here, shall we?)

For instance, did you know:

1. American Airlines don't feed you? I didn't realise this til I was safely strapped in for my 3 hour flight from LA to Dallas and looking forward to lunch. I could have bought a snack box for $4 but it sounded completely unappetising and had turkey in it. So I arrived in Dallas starving. And Texas isn't the best place for a vegetarian to be looking for a little something healthy to eat... Got a great postcard of the airport, though (that last comment is loaded with sarcasm, by the way)

2. There really is a man on the moon? We flew into Philadelphia in a massive storm last night (which caused the captain to go for a bit of a joy ride for 40 minutes before deciding to actually land) and at one stage the clouds cleared and there was definitely a face on the moon. Or maybe I was in advanced stages of hallucination...

3. In America, you flick the lightswith up to turn on the light and down to turn it off.4. And in the bathroom you pull the tap up to turn it on.

5. Don't ask me how to turn the lamp off - my brain had gone into overload by the time it was explained to me.

6. Hours of fun can be had by reading the labels on the food and trying to work out what the heck all the ingredients actually are and, more importantly, why someone felt it was necessary to add whatever it is to, for instance, a pottle of yoghurt.

7. You can buy red bananas!8. Everything really is bigger here - the food packages, the shopping trolleys and even the fruit and vege bags at the supermarket.

9. Hours of entertainment can be had by noticing such differences and commenting on them . Cries of "really?!" and "Get outta here!" have been regularly heard this morning. Also fun is teaching Americans new words. So far we've done taradiddle (to get completely sidetracked on the way from point A to point B) and plonker (an idiot).

So what did we do on my first day in the USA? Went frugalling, of course!First stop in the morning was The Beehive Thrift Store where I bought some craft fabric for $4.50 total and a pile of Osh Gosh and Baby Gap clothes which I plan to sell on eBay upon my return to hopefully cover the cost of my cruise.Then we popped into The Lighthouse Thrift Shop up the road, dodging a crocodile of little people tied together by their wrists and going for a walk. "Hello Mum! Hello Mum!" they all chorused as we went past which was very very cute but a little disconcerting as I don't remember giving birth to a gaggle of little black babies 4 years ago.

Anyway, into the shop and we discover it is Bag Day. Which means you buy a large paper grocery bag off them for $5 and stuff it with as many clothes as you can. So with my canny packing methods we managed to fit almost a garbage bag full of designer babywear in the bag (plus a grey hooded sweatshirt for me as the forecast for sailing day is cold) for that price.

Plus I bought 4 pairs of baby sneakers for $2 each: Adidas, Nike, New Balance and Chuck Taylors.
Final stop for the morning was the Salvation Army where we cleared them out of designer baby duds before heading off to lunch...

(There's more but I've had the internet hang on me twice and reboot once while I was writing this so I will take it as a sign and tell you about our adventures at Target next post - Nancy sure knows how to show a visitor a good time!)