Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Looking Back

I know that I said at the beginning of 2009 that the new year is really no different than the year before. New Years Eve is any other night to me. But it does give us a way to separate periods in our lives. I am happy with my accomplishments and always will be. If I die now, I won't be disappointed with what I have done. I have a good life.

What I learned in 2009:

1) Americans love to blame people. It is classless and unsophisticated. Madison people are pretty good about not doing that. Here is an example:

"You gave him the wrong directions and he got lost!" - not classy (And very typical of the American culture)


"He got lost" (We aren't blaming anyone here. See the difference?)

2) Family is so valuable.

It took me a while to get here. After years of living geographically close to my folks, I never took advantage of it. I didn't see them that often. At least I don't think I did. I didn't always talk to them that much, either. Living 500 miles away from them, I am now declaring "family time" with the local family and convincing my boyfriend to do the same. We are always having family time. And I am proud to say that my sisters are my best friends.

3) You don't always need to be near all forms of communication.

My boyfriend taught me to travel without my cell phone and without checking e-mail. I highly recommend it. I am now working on leaving my phone at home when I go out. I do not need to be reached all of the time. That's how it used to be, right?

4) Madison - Simply the Best

The best choice I ever made. Moving here.

Best books I read in 2009:

"The Help"

"The Girls from Aims"

"My Sister's Keeper"


"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime"

"Olive Kitteridge"

My next posting will feature my favorite blog postings from 2009.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Solo Travels to Montreal

My trip to Montreal was a great experience. While looking forward to six days and five nights of vacation, some were doubtful that I would enjoy a vacation alone, but I did.

While staying down town, across the street from McGill University, my hotel was in a great location. I chose it based on the following: Good ratings on tripadvisor, I wanted a boutique hotel, I had a certain budget and I needed a workout room. (I didn't think outdoor running was going to work there).

After learning that the Bodies Exhibit was a few blocks from my hotel, I was excited to go. Somehow I missed it while it was in Cleveland but jumped at the chance to see it on vacation. Explore the interior and exterior of real preserved human bodies. Everything is exposed, including a room of unborn babies throughout the pregnancy. If you have the chance, I recommend the exhibition. These are real bodies. (beware)

The irony of that scientific exhibit had me thinking after I walked around McGill University and wandered into the Redpath Museum. Marine Vertebrates are on display as you enter the building. After looking at them, I thought how common it is for us to look at the skeletal systems of other mammals but not humans. Take the Field Museum, for example. There is an entire area dedicated to mammals that all look like (maybe they are) taxidermy. Walk into the bodies exhibit and you think how odd and eerie it is to look at a preserved, mortal human being.

I explored Old Montreal on my second day. Architecturally, this was my favorite area. It definitely has more of a "European" feel to it, although the french Canadians will tell you that Montreal does not look like Europe. The narrow, brick streets, cathedrals and tiny stores make it a cozy part of the area. I visited Notre Dame-de-Bon-Secours, one of the oldest churches in Montreal. Because the cathedral became a pilgrimage site for sailors, wooden ships are still hanging from the ceiling today.

I was late getting to the Beaux-Arts Museum. I didn't have as much time in there as I would have liked. Not until I moved to Madison have I enjoyed looking at furniture at art museums. (I am surrounded by a ton of furniture stores and live across the street from the Modern Art Museum). They had some fantastic modern furniture through the century. They also had a 1984 IBM computer on display!

St. Denis and Mt. Royal were my favorite streets to wander. There are a ton of fun local stores to browse around. I was able to find suitable gifts for my beloved sisters (my best friends).

Yes, Montreal is freezing this time of the year. My heart (which is no longer heavy) has been set on going there since 2006. My family visited there in 1985. I was ready to go back as an adult. I chose to move to a cold state from a cold state. And I can tolerate the cold weather. Finding a flight for under $500 from Wisconsin was another story.

Racing against the sunset at 4:10 every day, I would try to get as much of my outdoor walking out of the way as possible.

My favorite restaurants:
Le Cafe Vert (I believe that is the name)
Aux Printemps - Vegan, casual and pretty tasty.
Olive and Gourmando - Everything about this place was awesome. I went there for lunch and was seated at a community table. The food was fantastic, as was the decor.
Le Cagibi - A very, very casual place. Vegetarian. I went there for dinner, not knowing how casual it is. There are old couches, an old tin ceiling and hipsters all over their Macs. The food was delicious.

The above three places are all vegetarian friendly (if not exclusive). You know what you are eating and you can pronounce all of the words.

As a solo traveler, I would talk to the people around me, if I was in the mood. I did make friends with a Greek man who has lived in Montreal for seven years. He is trilingual. We went out for drinks one night. I found him to be very interesting and we spoke about our travels and he attempted to force me into speaking french. (They all told me that I have a cute french accent - that is credited to two authentic french teachers at Hathaway Brown School).

If you like to travel I do recommend you try a trip alone. I would do it again. But next time, I probably wouldn't go for as long.

A Bientot!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

My Heavy Heart

Sitting at the Memorial Union last Friday, eleven days ago, I looked around the cafeteria and thought about all of the students who will soon be leaving for vacation for a month, give or take. A lot of them looked international. "They must really miss each other, but somehow, they get by" I thought to myself. They make it through long periods of time without seeing each other. I can do it, too, I think. My boyfriend, sitting across from me says, "People are going to think we broke up!" I am sitting there crying. Today is the day he is leaving for sixteen days for his trip to India. And I am dreading the "good-bye."

How my feelings have changed as much as they have, I can't explain. If you look back to my rules, you will see that I think it is so important to avoid putting your friends on the back burner when you start dating. I cannot emphasize this enough. As I call myself a "serial dater," I was so very cautious about this relationship in the beginning because I wanted to create a life for myself in Madison that did not require a man at all times. I made a life outside of him. This means that I have a lot of friends. I have a lot of my own hobbies. I do not rely on him all of the time. But I have grown to really value us. And with all of these people in my life and things to do, I crave my alone time.

Three years ago, I decided that I wanted to go to India. When I met my boyfriend and mentioned that to him, he said he wanted to go there, too. He posts his annual goals on his blog. Something that I should do. His India trip was included on that list. (One of his 2008 goals was to, "Find a great girl to date" which he said he accomplished - he must be two timing). I was excited that I met someone who was interested in going there. But I am not ready. And I am glad I am not there, to be quite frank.

And the worst part of him going was saying "good-bye." Because I have my own life that occupies so much of my time. And although I miss him, I am so not dependent on him, that I am too busy to think about it a lot of the time. And you know what they say - "absence makes the heart grow fonder." This has been good for us.

Tomorrow, I am taking my own separate vacation to Montreal. This is my first solo trip and I am very excited. I am thrilled on the weekends when I can decide exactly what I am doing, without having to beg people to be flexible. This will be very enjoyable for me.

So, the lesson learned is to make sure you have established a life without your partner. It makes you more independent and happier in general. Studies have shown the importance and significance of having good friends.

Until then, have a great week. I am sure I will write about my trip upon my return.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Madison; Population What?

How can it be that in a town of 225,000 people, everywhere I go is packed with people? I first pointed this out the first weekend of November. When we went to the last outdoor farmers market, the Environmental Film Festival and a pizza place all in one day - and every place was crowded. It was a beautiful day. And even though it was gorgeous weather ad everyone was outside, I couldn't believe how many people (like us) decided to spend an hour and a half indoors at a movie. The Festival was free - so that does explain a lot. (Everyone is happy to take advantage of free entertainment these days).

Since then - everywhere I go, I observe crowds of people. Plan B. Warren G. State Street. Barriques. The Coop (also known as the Willy Street Co-op). Breakfast places. Movies. Parks. My God, I went to the dog park, out in the country, and people were parking on the lawn, due to lack of parking. I went into Marigold for their Sunday breakfast (they recently started serving brunch on Sundays) and the line was out the door!

You would think that this wouldn't be the case in a gloomy recession.

Let me tell you about Plan B - not the birth control - Madison's latest night club. An LGSBT friendly dance club recently opened up on Willy Street. Positive reviews are circulating the neighborhood. It is one of the few "dance clubs" in town. After a lovely Christmas party, we ventured over there last night. We were an eclectic group, ourselves: Myself (a young, self proclaimed "agnostic" and the reason I do not blog about that is because it would upset one of my parents. Not my Dad) wearing the legging/mini skirt/ugg look, (picture little Jewish girl. Or coastie) My overachiever/workaholic/highly hilarious girlfriend (Think Miranda) Her boss - a wildly intelligent/fun loving/divorcee and our other girlfriend - a very Catholic/extremely conservative/red wine drinker. Here we are - age range is probably 47-29 and we had a BLAST. We danced the night away and the place, well it was packed.

The commerce is something to be desired by many other cities. I could imagine many other places are itching for the business that is done in this small town. You do have to figure that some of these populated areas include college students, post docs and the like, not counting as residents.

And why haven't I been blogging more? I am getting stuck in crowds of people attempting to do my holiday shopping. Which isn't working at all. So I decided to take it to cyber space. Which takes as much time. Because you have to read all of the reviews.

Goal for 2010: Take the blog to the next level!

Next Posting: A sad good-bye I had on Friday December, 4th.