Updates – I’m late on updates. Last weekend was fabulous, despite a series of Keystone Kops moments on my part. I felt like I woke up with "born to fumble" printed on my forehead. But I digress.
Thursday afternoon, Bob’s attempt to purchase a new car came to a head. I ended up having to co-sign the loan (no big deal – heck, we’ve got a mortgage together!) This was because in the eyes of the bank, he does not earn sufficient income to carry both the entire mortgage AND the entire car loan. Notice anything odd? Like the fact that there are two people and two incomes on said mortgage? I speculated that it was because the mortgage is automatically deducted from his account, not mine. But when he asked, they told him that if I had applied alone, they would have considered ME to be solely responsible for the mortgage. Does this make sense to anyone? The lady at the bank commented that they don’t do many car loans because everyone does them as a home equity loan these days. Maybe because of our extended trip to The Bad Place of finances, but I find the idea of tying my car payment to my house to be unnecessarily risky. Yes, you can deduct the interest that way, but if anything happens with the car loan they can come after your HOUSE. I’m just too paranoid for that. My financial angst aside, the practical aspect of this is that at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday I found out that I had to leave work at 3:30 in order to drive home, get my husband and his license plates, bring them to the bank (which is 3 miles from where I started), sign everything, then drive him down to the car dealership to actually BUY the car. Oy. But it all worked out, and he now has a shiny new silver Ford Focus ST. Which he drives MUCH too aggressively. I await the first ticket with bated breath.
The good part about this was that it made him available to drive to Philadelphia on Friday. We assembled and hit the road at approximately 1:30. The drive was unremarkable, aside from my husband’s ongoing attempts to get us killed and the fact that new car smell makes me physically ill. We made an on-the-fly decision to go straight to the restaurant, which turned out to be the correct choice. Thank goodness that Sue had printed out maps! Bob and I lost us off the Mapquest directions almost immediately, and her maps got us back on course. But let me ask – is there a rule against pulling the car over to look at the map while the vehicle is stationary? Is this a guy thing? But we eventually found the restaurant, found parking close to it (!) and had enough time to walk around the block before our reservation. There was a neat little anarchist’s book store called, cleverly enough, "The Wooden Shoe." We didn’t go in – I’m just too uptight, middle class Republican for that, but the window was... interesting. I also learned that the use of sabots for mucking up the machinery goes back to the Industrial Revolution. I’d thought of it as a WWII phenomena, because I remember my friend’s father talking about being a boy in Nazi-occupied Belgium and using their sabots to break the machinery. He was quite smug about that, even forty years later, as I recall.
The restaurant we went to is called Marrakesh, and was fantastic. It’s down an alley, with middle-eastern style tile and paint on the exterior and a heavy carved wooden door with a big brass knocker. You have to knock on the door, and they let you in and welcome you to the restaurant. The lighting is very dim until your eyes get used to it, and it’s decorated with fabric and pillows and lanterns. The seats are low platforms with pillows, and they had large metal trays mounted as tables at about knee height. It has all the atmosphere of lounging on the floor with pillows without actually having to get down there. The hostess washed our hands with rose water, spread towels on our laps, gave us our choices for the third and fourth courses, and turned us over to the host who offered us pita bread and advice for how to eat our meal with it. Did I mention that this was an almost entirely utensil free meal? Then the food began to roll out – seven courses worth:
1st: Salads – eggplant in tomato sauce (served warm), cucumber salad with a vinegar sauce, and carrots with coriander. The cucumbers were my favorite.
2nd: Appetizer – something called a B’stella. This is a kind of philo dough pie that had chicken, nuts, almonds, eggs, all kinds of spices, cinnamon, and was topped with powdered sugar. It was FABULOUS. Despite our resolution not to fill up early, we cleaned the plate on this one. I have GOT to find a recipe for it.
3rd: 1st main course – We chose the mild chicken with lemon and olive, rather than the spicy chicken with cumin. I don’t know if that was the correct choice, but it was outstanding. The skin was lemony and delicious, the chicken was moist and falling off the bird, and I burned my fingers because it smelled and tasted too good to wait for it to cool.
4th: 2nd main course – We picked the lamb with almonds and honey over the beef shish kebob. The lamb was very good, but not the same quality as the chicken. Of course, if the order had been reversed I might be raving about it. After this much really good food, your sense of what’s "good" gets a little skewed.
5th: 3rd main course – couscous with vegetables, chick peas, and raisins. This one actually came out with spoons! It was couscous. I like couscous, but it wasn’t anything special.
6th: Fruit – just that. A basket of fresh fruit. At that point we were pretty full, so we picked at the grapes.
7th: dessert – the best baklava that I’ve ever had. Moist and sticky without dripping down your hand, and so rich that even I only wanted one piece. That was followed by hot mint tea, which actually tasted of mint and didn’t just smell like it.
Somewhere during either the chicken or the lamb (I forget) the middle-eastern dancer came out. She was very, very good. Aside from the fact that her hip and torso work was *gorgeous*, I was impressed that she managed to perform in an aisle three feet wide without either clocking one of the guests or getting her veil in anyone’s dinner. It was funny – you can tell the scadians. All the other guests are looking at the belly dancer, and the three of us were analyzing technique.
The whole dinner took about two hours, and it didn’t feel either rushed or drawn out – they have the pacing down very well. And the best part? $25/head. $25!!!! Wow. HUGE kudos to Sue for suggesting that we eat there. I can’t wait to go back.
Checking in at the hotel was the first in a series of snafus. The category here is "how many things can Kris do wrong in the span of one weekend?" Way back when I reserved the hotel, I reserved two rooms online. The confirmation came through for three. So I cancelled the extraneous third room. My belief is that this was the root of the difficulty, but I don’t know for sure. When we arrived they had a reservation for... one room. They did have enough rooms, but we ended up at opposite ends of the hotel. Bob and I sat and went over the directions and the maps, and I passed out. He claims that Saturday morning he heard my alarm go off. I didn’t hear a thing. My question is this: if he heard the alarm, why didn’t HE get up? Hello? There are two nominal grown-ups here, not just me. I did wake up – just as we were supposed to be walking out. Grmph. So much for being a responsible adult. Long story short, we left the hotel about 30 minutes after we’d planned.
Next snafu: I did something wrong while I was reading off the directions to the Science Institute, and we ended up on the wrong bridge. It was recoverable, but I was annoyed with myself. Regardless, we got to the Institute in time, and also in time to get a space in their parking garage. That was a blessing all by itself. I do have to admit that unlike most of these places, the Institute website had outstandingly good directions.
Third snafu (for those keeping count): tickets. I printed out the e-tickets that they sent me. I printed out the tickets for the audio tour, NOT the exhibit. In my defense, I went back and checked when we got home – I printed the only thing they emailed me, and assumed it was an all-in-one. Not reading them more carefully was my error, but there was also an error at the ticketing end. So we spent time walking back and forth: from the entry back to Will-Call, who looked me up and printed us tickets; from Will-Call back to the entry where they wouldn’t scan; from the entry to the box office to ask for authorization; then from the box office back to entry with a manager type who said "yes, everything is fine." While it was annoying, I have to say that everyone was very nice and very helpful.
We’ll get to the fourth snafu in good time. It’s a doozy.
The Tut exhibit was wonderful. It was a little different than I had expected. I knew that it was a mixture of artifacts from the Tutankhamum find as well as earlier finds, but there were a lower percentage of Tut items than I had anticipated. That said, it was very rich, and I’m very glad that we went. They tied the artifacts to his family, and presented them in chronological order, so you started with his (presumed) grandparents, progressed to his (presumed) parents, and then got to his items. Egyptology isn’t really my thing, but some things particularly struck me. Hinges. Only one little ivory box had any hinges. Everything else had a set in lid, with a lip on one side that would catch it for a secure fit. I was stuck by the gilding on the "gold" coffin. It’s gilt wood, and apparently the gilding process hasn’t changed at all. I could see the red bole under-layer, and I could see where the sheets of leaf overlapped. It was interesting to see, and it made me reassess assumptions that I hadn’t realized I’d been making. I’ve had this idea in my head since seeing the pictures of the ’78 show that all the gold things were, well, gold. Solid gold. The reality is that many of them are made with a substrata, often wood, and then that has been gilded or encapsulated. It makes sense when you think about it, but it wasn’t something I had analyzed before. It brought things down to a more human scale for me. The hall with the statue of Akhenaten was very well done – you looked down a long colonnaded hall and up at the head of his statue. Very striking. The pieces from Tut’s tomb were spectacular. I’m sure someone with an interest in that era could wax ecstatic over details, but I was mostly just looking at the pretty stuff. Sometimes I’m a real heathen.
Then it got exciting, except it didn’t really. I reached around, and my purse was open. I *never* leave my purse open. Partly it’s because that’s asking for trouble, but mostly it’s because I have a long-standing unfortunate tendency to dump it upside down. So never, never, never, never is it open. Not even at home in the living room. But my purse was open. And my wallet was not in the top any more. I rummaged though – checkbook, calendar, camera. No wallet. It had been right on top of my camera. I’d like "panic" for $500 please, Alex. We even went into a well-lit gallery so that I could check. No wallet. Bob looked over my shoulder. No wallet. So we talked to security. Who sent me out to the main security desk. Who put me in touch with their on-site police officer. She went out to the car to get a report, the security guard went off to get his manager. I was upset – more worried about identity theft than the money, honestly. I was also trying to figure out how you get new identification when you don’t have any identification to get the identification. I’ve done this once in my life – it’s a nightmare. NEVER lose your wallet.
So while people were converging on me I decided that I was going to be thorough. I was going to EMPTY my purse. Just to be sure. Long story short – there was my wallet wedged into a bottom corner. Can you die of embarrassment? I’m not sure, but I’ll tell you that you can sure WANT to. I fell all over myself apologizing. I *hate* inconveniencing people because I’m an idiot. <sigh> Everyone was very gracious, but I know that *I* was thinking "stupid b****." Oh well. You apologize and move on with your life. After the adrenaline rush I picked up the exhibition catalog, a book about cats in Egypt, and a Bastet canopic jar. Tashi’s ashes have been in a floral tin since last year, and I wanted a nice jar for him. It’s possibly a little morbid, but he was my boy and I miss him. We caught lunch in the cafeteria, and mutually decided that we were *not* going to hit the fine art museum, because we were tired and museum-ed out. The upside of leaving Philly earlier than anticipated was that we were home with enough time to accomplish something. Off we went to Lowes. We found a light fixture that we both like for the half bath. We found appropriate accessories that go nicely with it. One problem purchase accounted for! Sunday I painted the half bath. I even painted the wall we’re going to tear open because I wanted to see how it would look, and I think that it’s going to look lovely. I really like the yellow and cream in there.
Monday I gave everything in the bathroom a second coat. After that was done, the three of us took the cabinet doors off in the kitchen. Sadly, it looks better by just taking off the existing icky doors. Tuesday I puttied all the screw holes, and discovered that we need a girly-girl in the house. Wood putty removal from the fingers is accomplished with acetone, but we don’t have any because I don’t paint my nails. That process was messy and annoying, but at least it’s done. Sometime that evening I noticed that the wood in the cabinet was bleeding through the paint AND the special stinky primer. So I gave it another spot coat of primer and beat feet out of the room before the fumes could do me in. Wednesday we were out of the house. Yesterday I was supposed to sand down the cabinets, but instead we went to Costco and got a really good deal on a new pedestal sink for the downstairs full bath. "Another bathroom?" I hear you say. Yes. Another bathroom. I hadn’t planned to work on that bathroom any time soon, but with Costco you have to jump on good prices when you find them, and this was a nice sink for a very nice price. So now I have a sink in my garage.
Tonight I need to sand down the kitchen cabinets, as much as I don’t want to. After the experience of trying to scrub them when I was first painting the kitchen, I’ve decided that mechanical grease removal is the order of the day. If I were *totally* delusional, I’d posit the idea that maybe I could get a little priming done tonight also. But frankly, I don’t think I can type that and keep a straight face.
The plan for the weekend is to strip the wallpaper glue, prime and paint in the alcove behind the washer and dryer; to prime and paint the kitchen cabinet carcasses; and to build, prime, and paint as many new cabinet doors as we can. I’m hoping to be hanging the doors on Monday. We’ll see how far we get. We have a finite collection of clamps, and that’s the limiting factor.
I’m daunted by this project, but it’s going to be SO worth it.