NYC Tourist Adventures

Being on the east coast means that you never have to be bored, provided you have enough money and you’re not at work, in which case all bets are off. It’s funny to know that I could hop on a train at any time and be in New York City in only seven hours, give or take for parking and negotiating your way out of muggings in Newark.

But rather than explore the quirky side attractions that New York City has to offer, I prefer to go to the big, Yelp-approved things that are well-known for a reason. Like the American Museum of Natural History, the name of which I can never, ever remember. “Let’s go to the Natural History Museum!” I told James the other week. “No, wait, the… Museum of American… no, the Natural American Mu- no…”

But James knew what I meant, so after a complicated process of carpooling and trains and avoiding eye contact with homeless people, we found ourselves outside the museum place thing.

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On a Sunday, which meant there would never be a shot without half the American population in it.

When we used to visit our grandparents in California, they would take my sister and I to this place called the “Exploratorium,” which is a “public learning laboratory.” People of all ages can rampage through the premises, trying out all kinds of science experiments for themselves, to really get the feel of how science applies to real life.

Sadly, the Exploratorium has somewhat ruined museums for me, because in the back of my head I always feel that they should be more hands-on than they really are. When you first enter the History American Natural Museum, there’s a little weight calculator on the floor that shows you what you’d weigh on the moon, and it makes me wish the rest of the museum had as much interactivity.

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You do get to see some really neat (wax?) full-sized animal sculptures, though. Reminds me of Idaho, this one.

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Here’s the deer for you, Mom.

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I recommend attending the museum without a map of any kind, and try coincidentally missing all the corresponding wall signs so that you find yourself outside the Hall of African Mammals eight or nine times when all you really want to do is go see the dinosaur skeletons. It’s the right way to do the museum.

So it was by complete accident that we found the marine life section, and I’m not entirely sure I believed in the famous blue whale before then.

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But it’s there. Just… staring at you, when you walk in.

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It’s huge.

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So huge it requires two pictures, in fact.

I still haven’t figured out the optimal number of people to attend museums with. More than three feels like too many, because then it’s difficult to coordinate and set the pacing, but even an extra person besides yourself can be troublesome because you don’t want to hold them up by reading every informational poster along the way.

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It’s for this reason that I don’t know what this thing is, because I skimmed the plaque without really reading it and moved on. S’cool, though.

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I spent most of the time being sad that the marine life section didn’t have any live animals, and then I got to this part over here and realized I didn’t mind so much.¬†

After spending ~$30 on two museum meals (every part of which had the consistency of cardboard, even the beverages), James and I finally opened up a map on my phone and tried to navigate our way to the dinosaurs. I was temporarily very excited when I noticed they had a live butterfly pavilion, but my hopes were dashed when I realized I had misspelled the museum’s name again and I was looking at the map for something in California.

But after hiking up approximately fourteen flights of stairs (the only part of the museum that’s never crowded), we made it at last to the skeleton hall.

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Note: If you want good pictures of the dinosaur skeletons, feel free to Google it, because professional photographers have taken pictures when the hall is empty, with better cameras.

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Strangely, this little guy was less popular than the T-Rex.

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I’m pretty sure this guy is in the back of my profile picture.

At this point, James and I were achy and tired of elbowing through crowds to watch half hour videos on gold that hadn’t been updated since the 1970s, so we exited via the four floors of gift shops, purchased a little coffee and tea from a place not affiliated with the cardboard suppliers of the museum, and sat in Central Park for a while.

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View from the Natural Museum American Natural. It’s right across the street.

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It’ll be a lot prettier in the spring, but Central Park always amazes me. Heart of the city, and it’s so quiet, like the traffic barely exists.

That city is exhausting.

Basically Valentine’s Day

Today is Valentine’s Day, and instead of doing anything romantic or productive I’m nursing my tea and begrudgingly healing my Overwatch teammates, because I’m sick again for the third time this year. As in, since January 1st.

The problem with taking care of three to six small petri dishes is that you will be sick, all the time, always. Sick will become the background music of your life. I’ve complained about this in the past, but I’m complaining extra hard today because it’s preventing me from going out tonight, and also because I’m blaming my illness on the fact that I killed my Valentine’s Day gift.

You see, on Saturday I went out with James to explore the wonderful and terrifying city of Philadelphia.

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It has architecture.

We spent most of the day wandering around, drinking our various warm beverages and pointing out ridiculous works of modern art.

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I don’t know what to say about this one. It simply is.

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This isn’t modern art (probably), but I was hoping somebody would know what it was, since it was just hanging out on a ‘no parking’ sign.

And, at one point, we ran into humanity’s most creative torture device, the ice-skating rink, complete with five year olds that can skate better than you, and packs of teenage girls taking up half the rink while they check their phones.

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Naturally, we gave it a go. I blame my performance on the fact that the rink was bumpy, and also that I haven’t gone skating since I was a five year old that could skate better than everyone. James and I shuffled around the rink doing our best impression of old people who have kneecap paralysis.

We thought we might stop by to see Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, given that they were a mere two miles away by walking distance, but by the time we arrived we realized it was a Saturday, and desperate parents with bored children were flooding the area by the hundreds. So we saw the outside of the buildings instead.

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Pictured: Line of two hundred-some people waiting to get inside. We sat on a park bench and tried to identify which one of them was a Russian spy instead.

And as a ribbon on the day, James gave me the promised small Valentine’s Day gift, which was a lovely pot of (live) flowers and some coconut truffles. I tucked it all carefully into my car, and when I got home that night, I promptly forgot about them.

The next morning, I woke up sick. And I’ve been sick for three days now (but not nanny-sick; that is, sick enough to skip work). And when it finally occurred to me to go into the car and get my stuff, I realized that pretty tropical flowers don’t survive too well inside a car kept out in the thirty degree weather.

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Pictured here: My flowers wrapped in an electric blanket to try to thaw them out.

I discovered that these flowers are Cyclamens, and I found¬†an excellent website on how to care for them, which sadly assumes you haven’t already killed them. In particular, the website states “Cyclamen that are sold as houseplants are tropical and cannot tolerate temperatures below 40 F. (4 C.). And certainly not 30 F for three days straight.” I’m paraphrasing.

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I’m eating one of the truffles right now as I type this. It’s also frozen.

I think the moral of the story is that I shouldn’t be trusted with anything living when I’m sick. Certainly not the children I’m taking care of. So if I could have a day or two off, that’d be great.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all, and to all a good night.

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Get well soon, little Cylamen.

Valentine’s Day Cometh

If there’s one holiday I’ve never had much cause to think about before, it’s Valentine’s Day.

The reason for this is that my parents, the hopeless romantics that they are, preferred to save money instead of buying each other’s love, so Valentine’s Day was never celebrated at our house. When I took the nanny job and moved to the east coast, I was surprised to find that my employer’s celebrated every holiday, including Valentine’s Day, and gave gifts liberally to their nanny for each and every one.

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This is from last year. I spent a while just staring at it, as if it were one of those weird prehistoric-looking beetles wandering around my room.

But I’d never been in a relationship that coincided with Valentine’s Day, so it was never a holiday that stayed on my radar for long.

And then, weirdly enough, I started going out with James- have been for a month and a half, in fact- and Valentine’s Day became a looming possibility. I prepared my statement early.

“There are some girls out there,” I said to James a few weeks ago, “who say they don’t want anything for Valentine’s Day and then get upset when they aren’t given anything. I’m not like that. I genuinely don’t want anything for Valentine’s Day. Nothing. No, really.”

“Great,” said James cheerfully. “Got it. I’m going to get you something for Valentine’s Day anyway.”

“Ugh,” I said.

So for the first time in my life I’ve had to seriously consider getting something for somebody on Valentine’s Day. This should be easy when you haven’t been dating someone for long; you go into the store, you grab a mass-produced box of chocolate, and you’re done.

So when I was in Walmart the other day, the very subtle decorations reminded me that I should really be picking something romantic up.

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If I hadn’t walked past their eighteen red-lined aisles I might have completely forgotten.

The problem is that Valentine’s Day is meant for women and 2nd grade classrooms. Everything is cute and frilly and so terribly feminine. Oh sure, sometimes an effort is made to reduce the girliness factor of the product, but it’s usually unsuccessful.

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It’s… well… they tried.

So I spent a whole fifteen minutes of my life walking up and down aisle after blood-red aisle, wondering if they made a Valentine’s Day treat that looked cool for guys. (They don’t. They don’t make anything that looks cool for girls, either. Valentine’s Day is very uncool.) I was about to give up and buy a generic box of chocolates, when something on the next aisle over caught my eye:

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Nerd cups! Yeah!

James and I met playing D&D, so geeky things are the way to go. James is also a guy, living with a guy roommate, which means they have approximately three real plates and two wine glasses between them. It might have been kinder to buy him a whole dining set and some tasteful throw pillows, but a mug for his destitute kitchen was a stepping stone.

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There. Valentine’s Day is prepared for.

Now all I have to worry about it what my employers are giving me for Valentine’s Day. And Easter.

Bits and Bobs

If it seems like I’ve been quiet here lately, it’s only because I’ve been too busy being violently ill elsewhere. These kinds of things happen when you’re surrounded by public-schooled children.

On the other hand, I may have picked it up from someone other than my charges on the weekend. A friend of mine had a birthday party and decided we should all go play laser tag for it, all ten of us adults. We filed into that flashing, disorienting waiting room swearing that we would show Timmy’s birthday party no mercy, and it was just as well, because those seven year olds swarm at you like Day Z zombies.

We lost to a full team of under-tens on the second round, but I maintain that it was because they had five more players than us.

And on Sunday, I visited Philadelphia for the first time, to play a game called “Escape the Room.”

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Philadelphia sure is a pretty place. Here’s a picture of the buildings while I was stuck in traffic…

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And here I was stuck in traffic again…

Escape the Room is where you pay to be locked into a room and have to use your (probably non-existent) puzzle-solving skills to escape. While we were working on ours, called “The Dig”, we heard the people in the one across the way (“The Office”) run out of time and subsequently fail. You only have an hour to complete the room and find the key that releases you, and even with the generous hints the game-masters give you, it’s hard.

And fun. I highly recommend it.

I have no pictures of this because they didn’t want us to spoil it for anyone, but I’m really not that kind of person. The blueprints have to be aligned by the light blue shapes in the middle.

It was the next day that I got horrifically ill, so I could have picked it up while laser tagging or room escaping or merely nannying the night away. But now that I’m recovered and on tangent after tangent, let me tell you about the cookie you absolutely must buy:

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It says “Lotus” on the top, but don’t let that fool you.

These rectangular, gingerbread-colored cookies are Biscoff cookies, which I had not heard of up until now. They might be bigger in Europe, I’m not sure. Regardless, Alaska Airlines served them on the last flight I took with them, in a display of marketing genius, and I was so hooked that I used my previously purchased in-flight wi-fi to order three boxes of them right away.

They’re like… graham crackers in cookie form, perhaps. Very difficult to describe. But they taste incredible with tea. Or coffee. Or water. Or on their own. And, as cookies go, they’re not too calorie-dense. Not that I’ve really looked at the back of the packaging.

So I’ve been up to a whole lot of nothing worth blogging about. On that note, here is a picture of the grocery store ivy I purchased a few months ago:

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I’m sure at some point it must have crossed my mind that ivy would grow, but ow that it’s actually outgrowing the pot and the windowsill I’m not sure what to do with it. It’s not my house, so I can’t plant it outside, but I don’t want to just dump the thing.

Life can be hard at times, especially when you’re a plant in my terrible care.