Category Archives: number one hubby

NYC3 – One cupcake at a time………..

You might remember that I recently went to New York City with my hubby. We were celebrating our anniversary.

Neither one of us can completely believe that someone else has put up with either one of us for two decades. So, we decided to celebrate – and celebrations require cake. No, really, it’s written on page 1 of the celebration bible. – right after “find a reason to celebrate”. Next, “find cake”.

Sweets aren’t really my thing and I have not gotten caught up in the whole cupcake craze – at least not until I found out there were carrot cake cupcakes being made in the cupcake wars. I love me some carrot cake. But, can everyone please stop putting raisins in them? Walnuts, yes please. Raisins, oh hell no. Not even the cute little white ones.

Anycake, we didn’t really seek any places out. We just stopped along our way at any place that had a picture of icing on its sign.

The first place was Melissa’s. She apparently can’t be bothered with an entire cupcake and just sells you bites of cupcakes with a tinee, tiny little dab of icing. And she, my cupcake-loving friends, is brilliant. They are delish….

They are so good, in fact, that if you drop one on the street, you seriously might be tempted to pick it up. Not that I would recommend that – but some people might do it. Not me. Other people.

I highly recommend the chocolate chip cookie dough and cinnamon varieties. Melissa’s is near Times Square. Lots of people were buzzing in and out with pre-orders. Large pre-orders. That tells me something. The natives even like them.

The next place was the Magnolia Bakery. It’s around the corner from the Today Show studio and Rockefeller Center. Please don’t ask me which corner – it’s just around the corner. Walk a block each way and you’ll (eventually) find it. Promise.

Their cupcakes look like this….

They are very pretty but this one was a wee bit dry. The shop is adorable and the staff is lovely, so that’s good. But, uhm, it is all about the cupcake.

Then we stopped at Juniors. It’s near the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. I loved the name and the feel of the place. These are the vanilla and reeses cupcakes. They were not so good. Sorry Junior, but the competition is stiff. You gotta step it up. I didn’t like these because they were just so dense and the icing was crisco-y. Not fluffy. I discovered I prefer fluffy. In fact, I roll best with cream cheese fluffiness.

Apparently, Juniors is famous for it’s cheesecake so it might not have been entirely fair to hold them to such a high cupcake standard.

And, just in case, you have never been schooled in the proper way to eat a cupcake. Take notes. Break it in half in the middle and stick the bottom on the top – like a sandwich. Then you can call it lunch. 😉 You will thank me later.

Next was Crumbs. Drum roll please. It’s the the creme-DE-la-creme of cupcakes. Angels might have been singing when we walked in. Maybe it was my stomach growling. I am not entirely sure. But there was line – that’s a  good sign, right?

And those wicked smarties had carrot cake cupcakes. Finally. And YUM!

Okay, these guys rocked the cupcake competition. They are fabulouso and awesomesauce. Each one was better than the next. Well, except for the mocha caramel one – I don’t do coffee, so mocha anything is a no-go for me. But the rest were so yummy. These were vanilla with chocolate icing, mocha caramel, carrot cake (the grand supreme winner of all things cupcake in New York City), coconut, vanilla with vanilla, and chocolate chip cookie dough.

Even the elevator guy at the hotel recommended Crumbs. And, thank God, they had an elevator operator at our hotel because pushing my own elevator buttons might just have put me over the edge. Seriously, that is a lot of work. 😉

Now I understand that you might be concerned that we ate cupcakes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and that cupcakes might not have been the healthiest of choices for all three meals. But have no fear, we ate real meals – the cupcakes were snacks. Tee hee.

If you go to NYC and have a hankering for a cupcake, go to Crumbs or Melissa’s. And if you want to bring back a little something for the blogger who pointed you in the right cupcake direction, carrot cake please.Oh, and, if you don’t mind, ask them to hold the raisins. Thanks.

Tech Support………..

My last few posts have been quite grumpy, so I thought it was time to lighten things up a bit. I received this email the other day and it turned my frown upside down and I thought you might enjoy it too. Unfortunately, I do not know who the author is so I cannot give him/her credit. So let’s just say anonymous has a great sense of humor.

Dear Tech Support,

Last year I upgraded from Boyfriend to Husband and noticed a distinct slowdown in overall system performance, particularly in the flower and jewellery applications, which operated flawlessly under Boyfriend.

In addition, Husband uninstalled many other valuable programmes, such as Romance and Personal Attention and then installed undesirable programs such as Rugby, Football, Sailing and Continuous TV. Conversation no longer runs, and Housecleaning simply crashes the system. I’ve tried running Nagging to fix these problems, but to no avail.
What can I do?
Signed, Desperate
………………………………………………………………………………………

Dear Desperate,

First keep in mind, Boyfriend is an Entertainment Package, while Husband is an Operating System.

Please enter the command: ‘http: I Thought You Loved Me.html’ and try to download Tears.

Don’t forget to install the Guilt update. If that application works as designed, Husband should then automatically run the applications Jewellery and Flowers, but remember – overuse of the above application can cause Husband to default to Grumpy Silence, Garden Shed or Beer. Beer is a very bad program that will download the Snoring Loudly Beta.

Whatever you do, DO NOT install Mother-in-law (it runs a virus in the background that will eventually seize control of all your system resources). Also, do not attempt to reinstall the Boyfriend program. These are unsupported applications and will crash Husband.

In summary, Husband is a great system, but it does have limited memory and cannot learn new applications quickly. It also tends to work better running one task at a time. You might consider buying additional software to improve memory and performance. We recommend Food and Hot Lingerie.

Good Luck,

Tech Support

(just as a side note – I do not agree with the mother-in-law comment – although I have seen it work poorly on other systems. 😎 )

Not Even a Finalist. Hmpf………..

So George Mason University was hosting this contest about the best couple’s story – you know, a “how we met at Mason” extravaganza.

I entered my story with Number One Hubby. We didn’t even make the finals.

But, I have my own blog. So there. You can still be bored to tears with how we met!

Violence in Film – A Love Story

I just know it is going to happen. At our 50th wedding anniversary, my grand-daughter is going to lean down close to my chair right before we blow out the candles on our anniversary cheesecake and whisper excitedly, “How did you and Grandpa meet?”

And just as excitedly, I will lean in closer to her with my hand cupped gently around my mouth and giggle into her tiny tilted ear, “in a Violence in Film class at George Mason University way back in 1989”. She will surely take a step back and wonder if I am hitting early Alzheimers.

My husband and I will simply laugh. Because that is exactly how it all started. I was an English major taking a film class. I (obviously) didn’t pay much attention to the genre when I picked this class. I was just trying to get one more requirement in and in a course catalogue filled with poetry and short story writing and literature and transcendental meditation classes, who would be worried about a simple film class focusing on violence? Clearly, not me. A Violence in Film class is just about the last class I would ever sign up for. It is even lower on the list than Shark Training 101.

Unfortunately, it did not all happen on a dark and stormy night because that would have made a great introduction to the story. Alas, it was actually a bright and sunny day at the beginning of the Fall semester. He was already sitting down when I walked into class on that first day. He was scrunched down in the seat, feet in the aisle, ankles crossed, and his blue tattered hat was tilted to just enough to the right. And he was cute as heck. He was an accounting major taking an upper level English class as an elective. Because that makes perfect sense.

Then I saw her. The teacher. Cynthia Fuchs. In fatigues and, if I remember correctly, she donned a strawberry blond crew cut. She looked pretty serious. Then I saw the syllabus. Violence in Film. Hmmm. I immediately wondered how many classes I was allowed to attend before dropping the class without GPA consequences. I wanted to stay just long enough to meet that guy, but not one short take more because the movies listed were gruesome – Taxi, Robocop, Blue Velvet. I would not have paid $5 to watch those shows at the theater and then suddenly I was about to let my parents drop a load of tuition dollars on this class because there was a cute guy in the back row. Excellent.

Professor Fuchs started calling out attendance. I waited and watched to see when he would raise his hand. This was my chance to find out his name.

Robert.

Here.

Seriously? Is that Rob, Bob, Bert, Robert, Robbie, or perhaps Bobby? Or maybe he goes by his initials. You gotta be kidding me. This might take more than one or two classes to figure out, especially considering the fact that every other class was scheduled as a viewing class where we would sit in the dark, in silence and watch a movie. A violent movie.

What I came to find out not so much later was that the cute guy in the tilted hat with the official first name of “Robert” actually went by his middle name.

I figured I would at least go to the next class. We were watching a movie. So, I packed my popcorn and my cranberry juice and headed off to class. The seat next to Robert/Bobby/Rob a.k.a. Number One Hubby was open. I took it. Maybe I pushed another student out of the way to get there, maybe not. But I got the seat. The lights dimmed, the movie started, and I carefully put one piece of popcorn in my mouth at a time and let it melt, slowly and quietly.

Then I heard, “Pssst.”

Really, was he talking to me? The dropping of this class and the making of our first date just might happen sooner than later.

I put my hand to my chest and shrugged my shoulders as if to say, “who me”. I might have even flipped my hair. A little. Maybe. Just a little.

To which he replied, “Could you please keep it down? It’s hard to hear the movie.”

Oh dear heavens. That is when I learned that my future husband was not only handsome, but also a smart arse. And thus the crush began.

We starting skipping the classes in which films were being shown and, instead, hung out in the Ratt. I vaguely remember beers and pizza being involved. Then we would have to rent the movie and it made more sense to watch it together. We’d go to the discussion class together and have our own discussions afterward. He liked the movies. I hated the movies. It was a match made in movie heaven.

We even worked side by side on our final papers. We had to create our own violent movie scene. And to this day, Number One Hubby will swear he got a better grade in the class than I got. And sometimes, for the sake of marriage, we let the little tales go so that one day we will be able to tell a Violence in Film Love Story at our 50th wedding anniversary party.

It all came together when he proposed to me, wearing that same tattered blue hat tilted perfectly to the right, in the Blockbuster video parking lot. We were creating a new story – not for homework – but for a lifetime.

How did you decide who to help……….

Talking to my youngest child is like having a conversation with a racketball – in the middle of an olympic match with gold medal implications. She comes at you from all different angles at one hundred and ten miles an hour. It’s really too bad that Johnny Cochran is no longer with us because she could have given him a run for his money.

The other day we are riding in the car – just me and her – on the way to swim practice. Her mind is racing about anything and everything and we have this conversation…

Angel: Mom, remember the other day when we were riding in the car and we saw that lady in the middle of the road?
Me: Yes.
Angel: Why was she there?
Me: She was asking for help.
Angel: Why was she doing it there?
Me: Don’t you want to give me your Christmas list? Seriously, now is a good time to ask for just about anything because I will promise the moon if we can talk about regular old 9-year-old stuff.

We saw this woman in Silver Spring, Maryland. She was begging in between cars at an exit ramp right off of 495 – one of the busiest roads in this area. She had a severe limp and was bundled up not so warmly on a pretty cold and very windy day. I asked the kids if they had any snacks. They didn’t. So we drove by carefully and quickly, leaving her standing still empty handed right in the middle of the road.

Apparently she made an impression.

Angel: How did you decide who to help?
Me: You mean that lady? We didn’t have any food to give her.
Angel: No, in India.
Me: It just depends, honey.
Angel: But sometimes you gave them money. And sometimes you gave them food. And sometimes nothing.
Me: (humming All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth.) Any progress on that Christmas list sweetie?
Angel: No, really. Remember, there was the one guy you gave money to. The one on the corner on the way to school. And then you stopped giving him money. How did you decide who to help.

That conversation made me realize that I still have a lot to reconcile and digest about living in India.

My husband suggested the other day that maybe we should stop talking so much about it with other people. It always seems to creep into the conversation and he thinks maybe people are tired of hearing about it.

Maybe.

But it is part of who we are now. It will come up.

And I hope to spend the next few weeks reconciling the effect that seeing so much poverty had on me. Some of the posts will surely be tough to read – believe me they will be tougher to write. And I will write them comfy and cozy from my office knowing that it is harder to exist in poverty than write about it from a distance.

But I do hope that we can stick through it together. I hope that I can articulate with clarity and compassion what we experienced in a way that captures your attention. Because simply clicking away from these posts will not diminish the existence and impact of poverty.

This should be fun, right?

15 milliseconds of (possible) fame………….

If you have been reading along for a while, you might remember that my family and I got to be extras on a movie set while we lived in India – just one of the many wonderful things we got to do on our adventure that we would have n.e.v.e.r. been able to do here. I was hesitant at the time to say what movie it was because I didn’t want our scene cut from the movie because info about it appeared on some (stupid mommy) blog.

However, the movie premieres today and we just might be in it.

Guess what the movie is – go ahead, guess…….guess…….guess. Yep, Eat, Pray, Love.

This is a frame that someone (who apparently knows and loves Peter) froze from the trailer.

Now, I want to be very clear that it is extremely possible that this scene got cut from the movie. It is a flashback wedding scene that was not originally in the book. But just in case it makes it – Hubby and I are sitting at the back left table and my kids are sitting at the back right table. Hubby and I are sitting with the main camera guy’s girlfriend (I know he is a super duper big deal and has a much more glamorous title than just “main camera guy” but I cannot remember what it is, sorry) and our kids are sitting with someone’s (maybe even the director’s) kids – so I am thinking we have a good chance of being in there. But I won’t know for sure until 7:10p when I drag my hubby to the theater. And you bet your arse I will write again tomorrow and let you know for sure.

About the book – I will be very honest here (shocking, right?) and tell you that when I started reading this book several years ago, I was not a big fan. I thought it was indulgent, selfish, and, because I had children, a husband, and a life I am happy with, completely unrealistic. The main character does not have children (if I remember correctly she is trying to get pregnant at the beginning of the story) and she decides to completely reinvent herself by leaving her life behind and traveling to Italy to eat, India to pray, and then on to Bali to love. That is so not going to happen in my world so I had a hard time making a real connection to the story. Plus the author came across as a little too impressed with herself – however this whole book thing is working out pretty well for her. Believe me, Julia Roberts isn’t knocking down any doors to play me in a movie so I will shut up on how much I didn’t care for the book right about now.

The experience was a lot of fun.

Hubby and I and even the kids actually auditioned for speaking parts. The kids had to pretend to be afraid of family antics at the Thanksgiving table – they have absolutely no experience with family antics so they were woefully unprepared and were not picked. I tried out for the role of soccer mom which I am woefully over-qualified for and I think they were afraid I might out-act the actual stars. And Hubby tried out for the part of the priest. And if you know him – stop laughing – it really is not that funny. Really, stop it.

The movie crew offered to send a driver to pick us up. I wasn’t too sure that leaving our house with our children in tow at 4am and driving off into the sunrise with a complete stranger in India was a great idea. We had our own driver take us. But once we got there, we got to go to wardrobe and makeup and hair – where they straightened my hair – pretty funny since I have paper straight hair and they put make up on me that made me look like either an 80-year old great-great-great-grandmother or a woman who doesn’t own a mirror. But the chances of you actually seeing my face or my hair are probably pretty slim. So here I am with my dear friend who loves me enough to wake up at 4am to come with. Smooches girl!

About Julia Roberts – I was frankly disappointed that she never even said hello to the group of us in the room. I think that would have been the nice thing to do since we all woke up at the crack o’dawn and sat in a very hot room all day to help make the movie. She is certainly very pretty and actually smaller in stature than I thought she would be. And her laugh is absolutely infectious. But she never once turned to us and said “thanks for being here guys – especially since I am going to make enough money on this movie to feed all of China”. Really? Hmpf.

As you can tell, the scene we were in was a wedding scene. So at one point, one of the directors thought it would be more realistic to have people “pretending” to take pictures. They gave cameras to the people in the scene who were associated with the filming so that they could trust that pictures would not end up on the internet (which by the by, I totally would not do because I know full well that would mean the scene would be cut, duh).

As I mentioned, we were sitting with the big guy’s girlfriend and she was given a camera. So, I asked her if she would use my camera instead. Brilliant right? Hubby was crawling under the table, very sure that we would be getting kicked out and he would have spent his entire day in the heat in a suit for nothing. It was probably as close as he has ever come to considering divorce. But she was delightful and used the camera. She even told me she was trying to get a picture with me and Julia in it together – she was really a liar, liar, pants on fire. She is actually a director in her own rite and was very careful to only take pictures without faces. But it was very sweet of her to pretend for the crazy lady trying desperately to break bend the rules.

And then, at the end of the day, she turned us in. Honest to God, I thought I was back in college trying to get into a bar with a fake id (and Dad – by that I totally mean hearing a story about a “friend” in college who tried to get into a bar with a fake id – you taught me better than that). Enter Bruno who could not flatten his arms against his body because they were so bowed by muscles. Hubby is giving me the death stare while Bruno deletes the pictures.

But, all in all, it was a fantastic experience. The beginning and end of a wonderful acting career – and, yes, hubby and I were each paid $60 for our time and extreme talent.

I will be back tomorrow to let you know if we made the cut.

Gujarat Haveli…………..

Most people who live in a foreign country want to take something special from that country back home with them to remind them of their experiences. Furniture seems a good choice because it’s also practical – of course I am also a big advocate of the impractical bejeweled souvenir as well. But I digress. Lots of our friends in Delhi have told me about the Gujarat Haveli and we finally made it out there. Holy home furnishings batman! Just on the FYI side of things Gujarat is a region in India and Haveli loosely means (very) lovely place to live and trade.

This place was amazing. It reminded me of antique stores (barns) in the U.S. but with way cooler stuff! I have absolutely nowhere to put something like this horse- but I love, love, love him. He loves me too – I just know it.

This table has brass elephants on the side.

Beautiful pots.

More beautiful pots. The one on the left is made of iron with leather braiding. The one on the right is wooden with brass trimming.

These are dowry chests. The brides family would fill these up with prezzies and they would be rolled with the wedding procession to the groom’s house. My youngest daughter had a hard time understanding all of it until I told her not to worry. She will surely marry someone who will be giving her gifts and if he needs a chest this big to fit them all in – so be it. 😉

He might just have to come home with me one day.

Either him or one of his cousins.

Most of these are the bottoms of Hookah pipes. The ones on either end reminded me of spittoons from the wild west days but the shop keeper told me they were for water. He said that at night you fill it with water then in the morning you drink it. You leave it over night so you get the benefit of the all the minerals in the metals. Not exactly the same, same as a spittoon.

Tres cool statues.

I would not sleep at night if this guy lived in my house.

Oh, the fabulous finds just went on and on.

This chair is for the boy, the girl, and the chaperon. But it would also be great for a game of duck duck goose.

This is a coffee table made out of an old door. Magnificent!

An old swing that doesn’t have to involve a chaperon. Must be for a married couple.

There were a lot of painted things. They aren’t my fave just because I am too practical and I cannot imagine trying to fit these into a room with other things.

And you know how I love my bells! Ding ding!

We left without buying anything – because there is also Sharma Farms that I have heard we should see – but clearly we have lots to discuss. I’ll let you know how it goes. Yes, you should start feeling sorry for number one hubby right about n.o.w.

P.S. I have gotten a few emails asking for the address (I had a super hard time finding it too) so for those of you who are local – here it is….
Gujarat Haveli
Mobile 98100 66925 (you need an appointment)
43 KM Stone Delhi
Jaipur Expressway, N.H.-8
Gurgaon, Haryana
email: kutch@ndf.vsnl.net.in
(I will leave it to them to give you directions – I might get you lost. 😉 )

The Great Wall of China……………

This past weekend we hopped over to Beijing to see the Great Wall of China. That sounds crazy, right? Well it was, kind of. I truly never imagined that I would “hop” over to China. But it was fantastic.

The Great Wall is certainly great. Construction of the wall began in 221 BC under the direction of the first Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi. Further construction was accomplished during the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644). It is now 4,000 miles long. Urban legend holds that the Great Wall is the only structure on earth that you can see from outer space – but the actual astronauts who have been in outer space seem to dispute that. I’ll go with what they said.

So the Great Wall is up, up, up on top of the mountain – that means if you want to climb it, you must go up a lot of stairs – and by a lot, I mean A LOT. We climbed stairs for about an hour and a half. That was mostly because I way dumbed us down and took a long time getting to the top. My kids probably could have done it in an hour no problem. But, did I mention, it’s a lot of stairs? And stairs that were built a very long time ago – so some are really tall and some are not so much tall and some are crooked. And the handrail was meant for people with not very long arms. So, it is not like stairmaster stairs or escalator stairs. It’s more like Dr. Seuss stairs. Tall stairs, small stairs, and crooked stairs too. Up some, down some, and over some too.

And I learned this about China. Most of the doorways in the older structures have a step within them. I was told this is because they believe that evil spirits are short and cannot enter a doorway with a step in it. Okay – I am not one to point out minor details – but if an evil spirit has to climb, let’s just say 1,000 steps to even get to the doorway, it seems a wee bit redundant to put one more obstacle before him. But, hey, better safe than sorry on the “keeping evil spirits out” philosophy!

We did not have time to go see the terra cotta warriors while we were in China – so it was fun that these guys were there. Too bad he wasn’t available to carry me up the stairs.

And I think you should heed this warning.

We saw these locks lining the walls. I wish I had known that they were the “locks of love”. Couples come and add their lock to the chain, then throw the key over the side of the wall. I would have totally done this with hubby!

There are a few pit stops along the way – a couple of places to buy a drink or an ice cream or souvenirs. But there is only one “bathroom”. So go before you go. Or you will be squatting for all the world to see. This picture will surely totally confuse some of my western readers. So, I will answer a few questions – yes, this is the women’s restroom. No, there are no doors. No, there is not toilet paper. Yes, it is at least inside a room – a room with windows – but a room. Yes, be thankful this is not a scratch and sniff blog.

The girls and I went in thinking it would be a good idea to take advantage of the facilities and then we decided that we could wait for a better option. But on the way back down, I wanted to get a picture for you dear blog readers. So, armed with my camera, I turned the corner to take a picture and a woman was – let’s just say busy – so, I quickly stepped back out. It was really hysterical when she came out and tried to explain to me what the “bathroom” was. I just said, “yes, I understand, bathroom. Just wanted a picture – not willing to actually use it.”

This is me – totally ready for the adventure…

And this is me about half-way up thinking “how much further?”.

Just a few tips. You don’t need to carry your purse. You won’t really need a lipstick at the top of the wall. A water bottle is a good idea though. And I did start off wearing a sweatshirt with a light sweater underneath with a t-shirt under that. I was glad to have the layers. We were there in early April and it was chilly starting off. But as we walked up more and more steps, we were glad to shed the sweatshirts. I was also happy to have my sweater to put back on as we went back down the stairs. It turns out going down is much, much easier than going up.

This sign either says “Great Wall” or “do you have any idea how many steps that is?”

It was interesting also to see that there were no first aid stations or anything like that. So, really be careful if you decide to take this hike. I am sure most people are fine – but take breaks when you need them – and do eat a good breakfast. Truly, just when I thought we were getting close, we turned around another guard tower just to find more steps. Steps that were going up.

The views were spectacular.

And if you do make it all the way to the top, cartwheels are absolutely in order!

And going down is much easier when you “slide” down. 😉

Wall in Wall it was a “great” trip.

Buyer Beware…….

You might remember that I had two friends come visit from the United States in February. We had an amazing time and traveled through quite a bit of India. One of the places we visited was Jaipur. One of the things you are “supposed” to do when you visit Jaipur is go jewelry shopping.

So, we went to the historical sites first – then on the the sparkly stuff. We eeeew’d and awwww’d and tried on lots of fabulous jewelry. We joked how marvelous we would look in this piece or that piece. We tried on necklaces that cost more than a car and we laughed.

We also bought some jewelry. Yep, you know exactly where this is going. Downhill fast.

I want to be careful here not to say that we were not completely swindled. We were taken advantage of – no doubt. But to be honest, my friends trusted me to take them to a reputable place and then we all trusted that we weren’t totally being taken. When we handed over our credit cards, we did it willingly and after negotiating much better prices than we were originally quoted. We even got some free gifts – and yes, that should have been our very first of several warning signs.

The jeweler we met was charming and I am sure he saw us coming a kilometer away – we looked just like tourists straight off the elephant ride and I am sure he smelt rupees. He was patient and explained everything to us. He joked with us and, oddly enough, it turns out  he way over charged us. And like I said, we were happy to pay him because we foolishly trusted him.

Our first mistake was listening to me. I trusted someone with a jewelry referral who has done well by me in the past. But I should have gotten several names and we should have absolutely gone to more than one shop. And my friends and I don’t k.n.o.w. jewelry. Sure we know what we like and we know our price (breaking) points – but we didn’t really understand how the two coincided. That is what we call a big fat recipe for disaster.

So we bought jewelry. And a decent amount of it.

In fact, this ring was so fab that I decided to bring it home. I planned to wait on the bracelet and get it for a special occasion – perhaps my funeral when my hubby learned the full details of the story or my friends realized how badly I misdirected them.

I know, it is pretty, huh?

When we returned to Delhi and spread out our sparklees, my friend noticed that the ring she bought for her daughter was slightly off center. So, we called our guy. No problem. He had a friend traveling to Jaipur the next day and we could just give it to him and the jeweler would fix it and, yes, he would make sure we got it back in time for my friend to return to America with it in hand. Just as charming as we remembered. Promises, promises.

We were slightly concerned about giving this total stranger a pretty expensive ring and were having a hard time believing that it would actually end up at the jeweler in Jaipur. But we were armed with the knowledge that we paid with credit cards and had some protection. That turned out to be about the only thing we did right – pay with credit cards.

That same night we went to a party. My friend was standing with her new bracelet on her arm and it simply broke in 3 places. Nope, she didn’t bang it against a wall – and no, a kid on a skateboard didn’t rip it off her arm while scooting by – and no,  monkeys didn’t fly out of the sky and try to steal it – it just simply fell to the ground in 3 places. She had been wearing it for all of two hours.

That was also not a good sign.

So I called the jeweler and explained that we were not happy. No problem. He would gladly fix it. We asked what would happen if my friend wanted to simply return the bracelet – now that we are none too sure about the quality. We were starting to second guess ourselves about 2 days too late. “Oh,” he said, “that would take about 15 days.” When we explained that was not the right answer because my friend was leaving in less than a week, he simply replied, “that is how it works here. Fifteen days. Or I could bring you cash.”

Holy sapphire Batman.

I had never purchased a large item on a credit card in India and I had not returned anything. So, I didn’t know if this guy was pulling a (nother) fast one or if that was just the way it worked.

There is a jeweler that a lot of expats use in Delhi and I suggested we give him a visit. While there, we asked about the value of our remaining items. The Delhi jeweler (who is well known and well trusted) said that some of the pieces we had he would not even buy – no matter how low the price. It turns out they were hollow and not solid gold/silver pieces – that apparently lowers the value s.i.g.n.i.f.i.c.a.n.t.l.y. hmpf.

So, just for giggles, we asked him to tell us what he would have paid, if he had been so foolish to buy them. None of the pieces appraised at even fifty percent of what we paid.

Yep, I know there is a double sided game going on – if we return the jewelry to jeweler A, we might just have some rupees to spend at jeweler B. But the appraisals were so far off from the prices that we paid. We felt sick to our stomachs and really angry. And of course, I felt the worst of all.

We also asked the Delhi jeweler what would happen if we paid by credit card and decided to return something. That part of the story actually checked out. It appears that it takes about 2 weeks in India to get a credit back on a return. Yikes. Yeah that would have been good to know as well.

(Just a side note – This makes jewelry shopping in India pretty fun though – because the jewelers will let you take pieces home and think about them without paying for them yet. They don’t like dealing with the hassle of returns, so they want you to be sure you like it. And even if a few months after purchasing something, you decide it’s not for you, you can just bring it back and exchange it.)

We left the Delhi jeweler after learning lots and trying on more fun stuff – shhh, don’t tell hubby that part. And we called the Jaipur jeweler. I firmly explained that this was no way to do business with Americans and that I would truly understand if the items were valued 20 or even 30 percent less what we paid – after all, prices are somewhat subjective. But, one piece appraised at 10 percent of what my friend paid. I was shaking. I was furious. And I told him so.

He tried to explain that the price of jewelry is in the eye of the beholder and I further explained that the eyes of these beholders were steaming mad. He (wisely) offered to bring cash to Delhi the next day and pick up the jewelry. Excuse me? You will do what? Okay then. So we set up a time and crossed our ever-loving, ring-encrusted fingers. We laughed that if he offered to reduce the price, we might just keep the jewelry. We did love it after all.

Hubby – ever the pessimist – could not believe that this guy was really going to show up. Now it’s a funny story – but then – hubby was none too amused. My friends had the luxury of having their husbands in the U.S . – 8,000 miles away – and not knowing all the details. Me, I had Mr. Pessimist in all his glory. Not that he didn’t have reason to be doubtful. It didn’t sound or look good.

But half an hour early – God Bless him – that jeweler pulled up in front of the house. He had American $100 bills and he returned our money and took the jewelry back with him. He did not even offer to reduce the prices. I think it was fair to say that he was as done with us as we were with him. It was a pleasant enough exchange that ended with us both agreeing that we simply weren’t meant to do business together.

After he walked out the door and we all started breathing again, my friend looked up and said, “any chance these are counterfeit”?

“Only one way to find out,” I said and we marched ourselves right back to the jeweler in Delhi and bought some replacement pieces.

I guess it really is hard to teach an old mom new tricks. 😉

Another one bites the dust…………….

Plain and simple – I stink at having staff in my house. We just fired our cook and his wife. And by “we” I totally mean “me”.

Just so you know I don’t get rid of staff willy nilly – please remember that we have had Ravi (our house keeper) since the day we got here a year and a half ago. And I am only on our second driver – and the first driver was simply reassigned within hubby’s company so he was not “fired”. We don’t have loyalty issues. But dang it. Another one bites the dust. And this was a two-fer.

If you haven’t been taking notes along the way while reading this blog, this is the 4th cook we have fired. Hubby fired the first 3 because I was just a big fat chicken and simply did not want to deal with it. So Francis and Rani were my first “fire”. I really, truly could have lived my entire life without firing someone. It’s not pretty. There were no cameras, no lights, no dramatic “cue music” like when Donald Trump does it – and certainly no applause. And they did not get to ride home in a limousine.

Francis and Rani have been working with us since October, when cook number 3 (Laxmi) got canned. My first warning sign should have been the day we hired them. They stood in our driveway and called Laxmi’s mother to find out if this was the house that Laxmi worked at and did she know they were interviewing new people. Thick as thieves these guys – literally.

I have been grappling with what to do about Francis and Rani for a few months. When we first hired them, we really liked them. They worked hard and Francis made excellent breads – which forever endeared him in the heart of number one hubby. But then I realized they weren’t honest. Francis was doing the shopping and on the way home from the store, he would rewrite the receipts to his benefit. They were not nice to the guards or the other people working in our home and they were making decisions that were not theirs to make. And they were stealing. They were smart enough about it – my earrings are all still in place but they would take little things that I probably wouldn’t notice.

Just one of the many examples of the things they did that was less than impressive was this – our guard stands outside of our gate in 110 degree heat. He does not get the benefit of the air conditioning like some of the other people who work here. Our guard asked Francis for water. Now, mind you, Francis and Rani used to fill up about 6 large soda bottles a day and take water home with them. But Francis said the guard could not have a glass of water. He never even asked me my opinion. Just decided all on his own that the man guarding my house and my family did not need to be hydrated, while he sat fat and happy in the kitchen with air conditioning. Let me just say this is probably what sealed Francis’ fate because it told me that his heart is black. How can you look at a person standing outside in the heat all day long and deny them a drink of water, especially when your cup literally runneth over? Especially when it frankly is not even your water.

Of course, there were many other things along the way that caused me concern. But the plum that broke the boss’ back was actually just that – a plum. Now, I know this will sound absolutely ridiculous to most of you and as I think about how to write the story so that it makes sense, I am not sure I will be able to find a way.

Most people who have staff here just accept that they will be dishonest sometimes, that they will take a few things here and there, that they just don’t look at life the same way we do. After all, we have so much and they don’t. And most people will argue that it doesn’t really matter if they take things from you as long as they don’t take anything important. A year and a half ago, I would have been incensed by that and argued the morality of it all. Now, I understand that it can make you crazy and if you just don’t think about it – then it is not a problem.

But even after having a long heart-to-heart with Francis and Rani about being honest and playing nice with the other staff, they still thought the rules did not apply to them. These heart-to-hearts are supposed to snap staff back in line faster than a rubber band and buy you a few weeks if not months of no conflict. But it was clear that Francis and Rani did not take me seriously and that they thought I am not the brightest bulb in the pack. Even after I explained to them that I know exactly what is going on in this house and, just because I don’t address something immediately, does not mean I am not aware of it.

Oh “yes, ma’am” they said with heads bowed. “Yes ma’am, yes ma’am, yes ma’am.” Augh.

If you are a parent and you have had this type of discussion with a child, you know just how I felt. It was pretty much “yeah, yeah, yeah” and they went right back to their antics. Immediately right back.

So, I waited until I knew that they had taken something and I asked the guard to check their bags. There it was – a plum. Along with half the contents of the fridge that I had actually given them. I cannot stand for food to go bad – so we give a lot of leftovers to our staff. (Which by they by, means that they are forever making too much food so that there are leftovers – see how this all works.) That day I had asked them to make sure to clean out the fridge and take home the leftovers. And when I walked in to the kitchen, I saw Rani’s bag with a plum in it. Completely separate from the other food. And no, I did not look through her bag – it was sitting on the counter and the plum was right on top.

Right about now, you are probably thinking, well you gave them food – how did they know the plum wasn’t on the menu. Trust me. They did.

Or you might be thinking – seriously a plum? Yes, because enough already.

As I said, there was a lot that lead up to the great plum incident of 2010. And I am writing this – not to get your sympathy or not to earn Francis and Rani your sympathy – but so that I can remember this. This blog is a great big “note to self” for me to remember my experiences here. Already, just a few days later, I am questioning my sanity. How did I let myself get so wrapped up in this? Why can’t I just let some things go?

And now I am left with a plum that is rotting and that cannot do laundry or cook dinner or wash dishes.

But, how can I stand in my own kitchen everyday and look at people who are dishonest and whose hearts are black and pull money out of my wallet to pay them to steal from me?

I will surely never reconcile this whole having staff thing.

Sufficient………….

Living away from home has been wearing on me these past few days. And today I decided to pick myself up by the purse strings and do some retail therapy. I have a lot on my list that I want to do before we go home for the summer and the weeks are closing in on me fast. So, rather than sitting around feeling sorry for myself, I decided that I should give a little of myself to others and do the charity work that I do best – shopping.

I went and got a few of these beautiful boxes made from broken bangles. Yep, they are nice, aren’t they? Nope, they did not have enough for me to get everyone a box. So sorry.

And then I went to Sundar Nagar. I had heard about it. I had read about it – one of my real life-slash- blogging friends wrote this about it and I was reminded why it was on my list of places to give back shop.  I am not sure why I had not made it over that way but I had not shopped there yet. Big. Mistake. What. Have. I. Been. Waiting. For?

My favorite thing was this bowl ‘o bells. I dunno why – but I have always loved bells. Maybe we lived near a church when my mom was pregnant with me. Each one of these has a different sound. Fantastic.

So I brought a few home. I can just imagine myself standing on my front porch in the U.S. ringing one of these bells to call my kids home for supper all June Cleaver-like. Ding ding ding – sweet children get your arses in here it’s dinner time. They will bring a whole new meaning to ringing in the New Year.

And I saw all of these gorgeous lanterns that you could probably very easily find in an Anthropologie catalog near you for at least 4 times the price.

And I saw these boxes too. Number One Hubby and I have an anniversary coming up very soon and I think 18 years of marriage (and a move to India) warrants these boxes appearing under wrapping paper in my hands very soon. Although I might hold out for something a little more sparkly,  that I did not pick out myself, and that can be more easily transported on a finger or a wrist. As of the writing of this post, my husband has his heart set on getting me a street puppy – which is neither easily transportable nor sparkly and is quite possibly the very last thing I would ever want. We’ll see how this plays out. I will be sure to let you know.

There are two shops right next to each other in the corner of Sundar Nagar. The shopkeeper of the first store gave me this guy when I was done overpaying for my items. He told me it was a gift to wish me good luck – but actually it probably is more of a celebration of his good luck in finding  me as a customer. 😉

And then I met this man- Fateh Singh – in the second shop I went into. (His shop actually had the bells).

I ended up sitting and talking with him for a very long time. His perspective on life was refreshing and I really needed a “what are you complaining about” kick in the bee-u-tee-tee. (That is “butt”.) He told me many stories – a few of which I will share in later blog posts. But the conversation that hit home the most was a twist on the good old “glass half full/glass half empty” trick question.

By way of history, there is a standing joke in our house about my husband’s answer to that question. So he immediately caught my attention when he brought this up. I joke that hubby won’t even discuss if the glass is half full or half empty until you prove to him, without a shadow of a doubt, that there is actually water in the glass. Hubby loves to play devil’s advocate – but that is another blog post entirely.

Anybowl, Fateh was demonstrating the singing bowls for me. I asked him if you were supposed to fill them with water. So, he demonstrated an empty bowl first, then filled it with water and made it sing again.

Then he said
Fateh: Let me ask you one question. Is this bowl half full or half empty?
Me: (I was so excited that I knew the “right” answer that I nearly fell out of my chair trying to raise my hand.) Well, of course, it is half full. Right?
Fateh: To say that it is half full means that it is also half empty. Why can it not simply be sufficiently full?
Me: Hmmmmmm

Now, if you are not a big fan of the Chicken Soup for Soul feel good philosophy, the significance of this might be quickly lost. But I as I sat with him, I realized that my perspective of my last few days was not helping me out one tiny little bit. There have been some stumbling blocks for sure – I miss my family and U.S. friends, we are almost out of American cheese slices, it’s hot as hell here, almost everyone who works in my house is a pain in the arse in one way or another, I am not getting much sleep, there is more of me when I really, really wanted there to be less of me, and yet I have all I need (and frankly more than I need in every respect except patience).

Sufficient is good. And I plan to start embracing it.

So remember, there is no price too high to pay for mental health -even when retail therapy is called for – sometimes shopping is the best medicine. Because when you help yourself, others will help you too. I went out looking for a simple distraction today and found a little peace of mind (and some great bells and bowls – cha ching!).