A Spot of Fatigue

The other day, as we passed through the thin strip of privacy trees separating our house from the neighbor’s, one of my charges looked at me and asked, “Nanny, what’s the name of these woods?”

And I said, “Uh, I don’t think forests have names anymore after they become suburbs.”

And then I was sad.

It was one more drop in the bucket that made me realize, ultimately, that I can’t stay here on the east coast forever. For one thing, all my family is over on the west side of the country, and here it’s much more crowded and takes considerable effort to get out into any kind of nature.

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But I found a Little Free Library today, which doesn’t happen nearly as frequently in rural areas.

Also, my job is starting to look like this:

Mrs. Parent: “The kids aren’t picking up anymore! They’re leaving toys everywhere! We need to get them to clean up after themselves, I can’t walk without tripping over toys. This house is always a mess.”

Me: Well maybe we should, I don’t know, give away a few hundred of their toys so that we bring their number down to a reasonable thousand or so, it might be easier to make this place look clean. “I’ll work on that.”

Not to mention, in my free time, I find myself leaving the house to wander aimlessly through parks and malls because it’s better than staying in the house, which is very loud. Some combination of three to six boys and two X-Tra Loud parents yelling constantly from 6:00 to 9:00 every day is keeping me from relaxing, no matter how much I try with my Celtic zen music and my mug warmer supplying me with perpetually warm tea.

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Sometimes malls have things like puppies for adoption, though. So there’s that.

So I’ve decided now that in a year I’ll be moving away. I’m not sure where to yet, but it will be an adventure because I’m a well-off white twenty-something with an extensive support system and safety net.

Three years of full-time nanny for three to six boys will look fantastic on my nanny resume, because normal people can’t fathom having that many kids and usually look very alarmed when I mention it. If I wait it out, save up money, and leave somewhere in early 2019, things will go great.

Provided I can keep my mouth shut and sweat my way through another miserably humid east coast summer without driving my car off a bridge in search of cold relief.

One day at a time.

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This mug warmer is truly a life saver, I should say. Everyone likely to make a cup of tea and then set it aside and completely forget about it should have one.

The Ireland Trip: Kilkenny and Dublin

It’s high time for me to finish procrastinating on the Ireland posts so I can start procrastinating on regular posts instead, but that’s not the reason the Kilkenny and Dublin are lumped together here. It’s actually because I have only one good picture of Dublin, which I will get to in a bit.

So on our second to last full day in Ireland, we drove from Killarney to Kilkenny, which was nice but mostly forgettable. Driving across southern Ireland can be easily summed up by two things: Green fields, and traffic circles.

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At one point we went through fifteen traffic circles in twenty miles. It’s not so great when you’re still not good at the low gears in a manual.

We arrived in Kilkenny around noon, and parked our stuff at the Kilkenny Hotel, which was big but quite nice.

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The bigger hotels in Ireland can best be described as: Impersonal, but with a better breakfast service than you will ever find in the States.

And then we popped out to explore the city, which at first, I didn’t like. That’s because Kilkenny was the first city that didn’t seem to cater exclusively to tourists. There were chain stores, busy streets with traffic jams, fast food restaurants, and all the cool bits of history had been impatiently built around because Irish people don’t have time for 300 year old buildings when they’re everywhere and blocking good building sites.

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This tower is inconvenient and blocking a perfectly good parking lot.

Wandering around, it was clear the place had charm, but more so the farther you went from the somewhat garish main street, which I didn’t think to take a picture of and which I now regret.

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Entirely by wandering, James and I stumbled across St. Canice’s Cathedral, which was absolutely beautiful but which we were too cheap to pay the fee to see the interior. The round tower was climbable, but also for a fee.

And we were still cheap.

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The graveyard was free to explore, though. Most of the graves were worn down and unreadable, like the books I’ve had since childhood.

And then, running low on ideas and eating lunch in a restaurant that was only mildly charming, I started Googling things to see. We settled on the Medieval Mile Museum.

Going purely from my entirely fallible memory, the Medieval Mile Museum was a very new construct, built in the bones of an old church. The place had been stripped down and the inside was spacious and largely unrecognizable as a church, but it showcased the artifacts and tombs found in and around the place very nicely.

IMG_20170630_165642110An example of the way they displayed the old tombs. There were a few of them scattered throughout the museum, and covered in glass so you could stand on top of them if you wished.

On the tour we took, our guide told us that the bones of the main street of Kilkenny had been around since approximately the 12th century, meaning all the McDonald’s we walked past had been built into ancient city structures. The ‘Medieval Mile’ aspect encouraged you to walk from St. Canice’s to… I don’t remember, some other historical destination, but we had inadvertently wandered all over the thing already, so we didn’t do it again.

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The museum had a nice view of the Kilkenny rooftops at the end of the tour.

The only thing we did go back and see was the Black Freren Gate, which we had missed. It’s the only part of the old Norman walls still standing.

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And it’s just another part of everyday life in Kilkenny.

At this point we headed back to the hotel, stopping briefly at another massive church along the way. I don’t even remember the name of this one, but the priest had stopped by briefly for some priestly business and greeted us with a cheery hello. We pretended we were there for spiritual reasons rather than to take pictures, but I don’t think anyone was fooled.

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And then we settled back into the hotel for the night. The next morning we were set to drive from Kilkenny to Dublin early so we could take in a portion of the city before our flight the day after.

We had a wonderful full Irish breakfast with more of their curiously fat bacon, loaded up our trunks and packed it all out to the car. As we popped the trunk, I noted that someone had smashed a bottle on the ground nearby, the blue-green shards lying between our car and the next.

And then James went to get in the driver’s seat, and it turned out the glass was from our window instead. Someone had broken the window and stolen the only thing of “value” from our rental car, the GPS.

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This was a terrible situation, you see, because it meant we would have to be adults. Adults who did things like called the car rental company and brought in the police and alerted the hotel. That’s what adults do. And at 21, I’m most certainly an adult, and my parents were in a different country, so I couldn’t call them for help.

So we notified the hotel, who were shocked because they had never had such a thing happen before, and the head of security was more of an adult than us and called the Gardaí while I reported it to the rental company.

The Gardaí came to take the report. Despite being Irish, it was like something out of a British comedy. There were two of them, a genial joke-a-minute older fellow and a younger no-nonsense woman. While she wrote up the report, the cheerful fellow noted that we couldn’t be Trump supporters because, you see, we knew how to drive a stick shift.

(The Irish people were not happy with Trump during the week we were there, because he had said something vaguely sexist to an Irish reporter a few days prior. It was all over the Irish news. I remember watching it and thinking ‘That’s all?’ which is a terrible thing to think.)

He also noted that the GPS was a ‘Never Lost’ GPS. “Well,” he said, with several elbow nudges, “It’s lost now, eh?” And then he turned to the lady Garda to repeat the joke. She made me sign some papers.

The hotel took over then, and had a housekeeper meticulously clean off the glass from the inside while they gave us complimentary hot drinks. They were very nice and very apologetic.

Kilkenny didn’t have a branch of our rental company, so we were fortunate it didn’t rain- much- when we finally got on our way and drove our windowless car for two hours to Dublin. We were about three hours behind schedule and the Dublin branch of the car company was closed by the time we arrived, so we cleaned it of all valuables and threw it into a parking garage overnight, where mercifully it came out all right, presumably because the resident criminals could already crawl inside to see what was in there.

Meanwhile, we discovered that Dublin reminded us an awful lot of Philadelphia.

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Except for the classic river shot.

It was very crowded, and we saw more diversity there than in the entire rest of the week combined. We had a few hours to kill before we had a reservation for an evening event at Dublin’s “oldest pub,” so we just wandered.

Right into the middle of a massive pro-life rally and the counter pro-choice protestors.

We went into a Supermac’s to hide for a while. Supermac’s is an Irish fast food place. We had done a great job of eating at small local joints all week, so we decided to try the fast food in Ireland. Supermac’s, it turns out, is remarkably like McDonald’s, just less salty.

I added salt to my food. I’m an American.

I didn’t take many pictures at all, which I regret, but we were exhausted and if we stopped to take a picture of something we were bowled over by aggressive pedestrians, rather like residents of New York City.

We headed then to “An Evening of Food, Folklore, and Fairies” at The Brazen Head, which I would have taken pictures of were it not so crowded. It was Saturday night, and the pub was packed with bodies, lots of whom were already drunk. From what I could barely see, it was an agreeable place.

We were ushered to the quieter upstairs, where four large tables had been squeezed into a medium room. About half the people seated were Irish, mostly from places besides Dublin, and the rest were tourists from America, Germany, New Zealand. Our story-teller, Ollie, was captivating. He might have been a fairy, there’s really no knowing. He told us stories all throughout dinner, and then brought out a guitar and urged us to sing some traditional folk songs with him.

At the end of the night, an Irish lady who had been at our table pulled us aside. “My husband and I were curious,” she said, “what brings two young folks like yourself to a traditional Irish storytelling?”

I babbled for a bit about loving the culture and the music and the mythology, and she seemed bemused, but offered, “You were quite good earlier. You knew all the songs!”

I’ll be riding on that compliment for the rest of my life.

 

The next day, we packed up early so we could turn the car in and deal with the consequences. The consequences, it turned out, were to the tune of 300. If I ever go to Ireland again, I’m buying insurance for the rental car.

Then, tired and fatter, we returned home. There was a disappointing lack of stone fences everywhere, but at least everything wasn’t so claustrophobic.

The Ireland Trip: Killarney

Our second city in the week was Killarney, and, being a professional Ireland traveler with four whole Irish cities under my belt, I can honestly say that Killarney is probably the best of the lot.

Mind you, to get there we had to drive an additional few hours from the Cliffs of Moher, and it was a great hardship because we had to keep passing beautiful ruins and be reminded that we didn’t have anything of the sort in America.

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In the space of two hours, you’d see upwards of five stone ruins, and that’s just if you kept to the “main” roads without ever following the tempting motorway exit signs that promised an abundance of castles.

Killarney won me over immediately because the hotel had an electric kettle for tea, something which the Galway hotel did not have. As it turns out, the Galway hotel was a bit of an anomaly, because all the rest of the hotels had one as well.

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With little cookies and everything. As it should be.

James and I were walking around the town as late as eight or nine at night, and marveling about it. We really didn’t imagine that Ireland would be that much farther north than where we had come from, but it didn’t begin to get dark until around ten and started to get light again around four.

This would have been unbearable for me if it had ever been sunny. Fortunately, the clouds hid me in darkness.

When we were wondering towards the hotel for the night, we noticed that there was a massive church spire of some kind rising over the back of it. It was very eye-catching, because there really isn’t much in Ireland that’s tall in any sense of the word.

So, without any phone usage, we just went looking for the structure.

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The back streets of Killarney were cute. And this is about 9:30 at night.

The spire, we discovered, belonged to St. Mary’s Cathedral, which was probably my favorite cathedral in Ireland simply because of the spontaneous late-night adventure we went on to find it, chasing the sight of the steeple over the rooftops.

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In fact, the spire was too tall for my phone too capture without cutting out some part of it, be it length or width-wise. Beautiful thing, though.

It was too late to go in, but the gates were all open so we circled the thing anyway, because if Ireland really wanted to keep nosy Americans out they’d lock up better.

Killarney was also the first place I tried black pudding, something I’d never wanted to do because, frankly, it sounded gross.

It was gross, but that’s because it tasted like meatloaf, and I hate meatloaf. Yes, even your mom’s meatloaf. All meatloaf, stop asking.

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James loved the “full Irish breakfast” option, because it was consistently the most artery-clogging dish to be found.

Killarney had an adorable and very touristy main street from which James and I purchased a great deal of Bailey’s ice cream, which is possibly the highlight of my ice cream experience in life thus far.

But the greatest part of Killarney, according to me, Killarney expert, is the Killarney National Park. At least, I think that’s it’s name.

From the hotel, we could walk around two miles to get to Ross Castle, through beautiful fields and the first real amount of trees I had seen in one place. And there were mountains in the background! Mountains, Gandalf!

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Sure, you had to frequently move off the road to make way for one of the horse and buggy tours, but that was nicely reminiscent of Lancaster PA. 

On the way to Ross Castle, for no reason that I can think, I started laying a penny out on the forest path every fifteen feet or so, creating a neat little trail of shining copper. Then I moved to nickles, then dimes, then a solitary quarter. I don’t know why, I think I was bored. Regardless, I know I would have been thrilled to find a trail of Euro coins in the woods in America.

Ross Castle, meanwhile, met my low castle standards.

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There’s really no telling what it used to look like, because the tour we took of it covered the fact that until recently no one cared what happened to a castle that their family happened to own, and they tore bits down or put new bits up, but the restoration they had done to it in recent years was very good. I couldn’t tell where the old parts stopped and the new parts began.

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Along with the tour, you were allowed to climb over almost every inch of the place. No guards or cameras or even ropes to keep us off parts, on the assumption that we’d be respectful and think carefully about our actions.

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Nah.

No pictures were allowed on the tour, which was very informative and surprisingly fun. Our tour guide was very excited that I had a question about the place- namely, which part of the roof had been torn off to avoid paying taxes on the place.

It was the top part.

People will do anything to avoid paying taxes.

I don’t think he ever got many questions on his tours, he seemed notably more energetic after that.

Nice fellow.

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I took a quick picture out of the top window of the castle anyway, for rebellion’s sake.

When we walked back to the hotel, all the coins I had put down were gone.

The next part of our Killarney experience was going to see the Torc Waterfall. We piled into the tiny car and made our way through tiny streets and down tiny winding roads through the very large forest, following our unreliable GPS for Torc Waterfall. At one point, we came across a fork in the road, where the GPS told us to go to the left and all the official signs told us to go right, so we went right and discovered that the parking space for the waterfall was filled to the brim with tour buses.

So, turning around, we went back down the other fork. We drove, and drove, and drove. It was very narrow, and there was nowhere to park along the way and no signs, so when we began to approach the point on the GPS we parked the car on the first tiny flat space we found alongside the road and walked from there.

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This was the first place we’d been that was really devoid of people.

It was a bit of a walk, but fortunately, we had brought our newly-acquired Irish whistles with us, to the despair of the local wildlife.

But we passed the point on the GPS with no sign of the waterfall, and at this point we had climbed quite high, so we figured we must be above it. We kept walking for a bit, but the road went on through the trees, so instead we decided to climb down through the woods, something many enterprising people had already done, judging by the widened deer trails.

So, as many stupid young people do before they are lost forever and eaten by wildlife enraged by the sound of poorly played Irish whistles, we decided to cut down through the woods to the other road, and walk to the waterfall through there.

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Actually, it was quite nice.

About halfway through we realized it would be Hellish to climb back up, but we figured there was no use in stopping just then, so we kept going. And, miraculously, we came right out into the full parking lot- now obviously mostly empty- and the official path straight to the waterfall.

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6/10 as far as waterfalls go, 8/10 because it’s in Ireland.

We were hanging about near the waterfall, dreading the steep hike back up through the woods, when we realized the paved path from the parking lot to the waterfall didn’t end there- concrete steps on the hillside disappeared up into the forest. Figuring we could follow it as far as possible, we started to climb.

We climbed for a long time, and started to veer very off course, which made us nervous. At last, though, the path reached flat ground, and split off in different directions. We took the one that brought us in the general direction of the road with our car.

It deposited us into a parking lot above the waterfall.

The place where we had given up and crashed through the forest instead was hardly two hundred yards down the road, around a bend.

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Ireland looks a lot like the Pacific North-West sometimes. Okay, only in Killarney.

To celebrate our stupidity, we went to “Ireland’s only Lord of the Rings themed pub” for dinner.

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The fake grass really makes it.

We had read a poor Google review about the place before going, claiming that it was only “vaguely” Lord of the Rings themed, and barely had anything to do with the series at all, but as James later remarked, it turns out they were just mad that the place didn’t directly transport them to Middle-Earth. In reality, it was about as LOTR-themed as a place could get while still being a regular pub.

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It was very green, though, and hard to photograph. If you squint, you can see the Elvish inscription on the ceiling.

We spent our last night in Killarney drinking “Hobbit Juice” and “Frodo’s Lager.” John tried a shot called a “Nazgul,” which was appropriately menacing. The live music started around 9:00, and when it was all said and done we walked back to the hotel when it was still light out.

Too much daylight around there, if you ask me.

An Irish Vacation

When it comes to vacations as a nanny, you are entirely at the mercy of your employer’s work schedule. You can’t very well say “I’m going to head out for a week next month” if you don’t know that they can get that week off, because if they can’t and you go anyway the children will be left to their own devices and will start a cruel and warlike society in your absence.

Instead, I typically take my vacations wherever I can get them, and they’re frequently a surprise. When Mrs. Parent caught hold of me one day and announced that there was a week at the end of June I could take, it sent me into a panicked frenzy because I only had a month and a half to book plane tickets to somewhere, and plane tickets cost lots of money when you order them a year in advance. Ordering them a month in advance means they cost several lots of money.

I was going to fly back to Idaho to see my family, the way I did last year, but it suddenly dawned on me as I was browsing plane tickets that I could go anywhere. Just… anywhere.

So I booked tickets to Ireland.

I’ve always wanted to go, you see. I can’t claim to have more than a drop of Irish blood in me, but I’ve always devoured any scrap of Celtic mythology, history, or culture I could get my hands on. Even those stupid touristy things. I will buy literally anything with some Celtic knotwork on it; if you engrave it on a toilet I’ll take five.

I was going to go on my own, but my boyfriend James has a lovely job that’s highly flexible and pays well, which is what you get when you’re very intelligent and go to college instead of nanny school, so he was able to come along.

I stressed for a good three weeks about all the interesting places I wanted to see, before I realized there was no way to plan it all and I had better just do all the neat tourist destinations my first time around, on the basis that they’re popular for a reason. In the end, I contacted an Irish travel agent, Maria, who set me up with a rental car, maps and guides, and hotel reservations in four different Irish cities.

I highly recommend a travel agent if you’re completely clueless. They’re used to it.

Our plan via the travel agent was to arrive in Dublin on Monday morning, and to go from there to Galway, and from Galway to Kilkenny, and from Kilkenny to Killarney, and then back to Dublin again, for a total of seven days. We would do this all via rental car, which James had to drive because I’m not the minimum age of twenty-four.

James puts up with a lot.

We took an overnight flight out on a Sunday, because my employers had me working that weekend. We flew with Aer Lingus, and while I dislike receiving countless unrelated emails from them, I have to admit that they’re one of the better airlines I’ve flown on.

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For instance, we got a real meal while we were on that flight, completely for free, in addition to their later free snack and tea service. This little meal included a roll, a cauliflower salad, a great pasta meal, and a little strawberry cream desert. Having only ever flown on the most terrible airlines, this was incredible to me.

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Each of the seats also had a built in TV screen, featuring free movies and games, with an attached remote/controller, and free earbuds. James and I were stunned. We kept expecting a paywall to come up when we selected a movie, but no. Free.

I specifically booked a window seat as we flew in, and it was worth it for the views of Ireland in the morning light. Funnily enough, I don’t think I ever registered just how populated the island is. When I used to speak about living there, my dad said “I think you’ll find that it’s smaller than you realize,” and he was right. You really take the vast distances between things in the U.S. for granted.

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All of it’s like this, at least in the middle-south. I don’t think we ever drove through a part that didn’t have at least one house visible somewhere int he distance. It’s fields and fields and fields.

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Not that it’s not beautiful. Like the Shire all over. That’s a golf course, but even when it’s not a golf course, Ireland’s a golf course.

I’ll cover each of the cities whenever I can force myself to get around to it; I took a lot of pictures and most of them were terrible, so it requires some sorting. Just know that I highly recommend Ireland, but I also recommend going for longer and speaking to more people and learning more than we did. We’ll do that the second time around.

 

Hippie Lite

In the past couple of weeks I’ve gone completely earth-mother. Fully tree-hugger. If I were any more of a hippie I’d be high and in a drum circle somewhere.

I exaggerate, of course, but I’d imagine my sudden interest in the zero-waste movement has got my employers looking at me like I’ve sprouted dreadlocks and toe rings.

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I hung these up in the bathroom and when Mr. Parent came in to check the (broken) towel rack, I swear he gave me a Look for the rest of the day. It’s just Tolkien! Everybody knows Tolkien! What’s the matter with Tolkien?! Tolkien!

I’m not really that hardcore. I’m tentatively exploring the zero waste movement by giving up the things that most dedicated zero-waste people hardly even think about anymore, and I’m complaining the whole way. Who knew there were so many uses for paper towels? Why do all the really tasty foods come wrapped in plastic?

So reusable shopping bags, of course, and reusable produce bags, and refillable liquid soap containers to buy liquid soap in bulk, and a slightly crushed soul.

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I’ve been using up my old plastic and disposable things before starting on the new reusable items, because just throwing the old stuff away is sort of everything the zero waste movement has ever been against. Everything that can be recycled will. This stuff will stretch.

I’ve collected a lot of neat reusable items recently, some of which aren’t pictured. These are things like:

  • A metal safety razor instead of plastic disposable ones. This is, hands down, the most terrifying of purchases. Every time I pick that thing up to shave with, the back of my mind is saying “NO! What are you doing?! All that’s keeping thin metal from slicing your skin is the angle at which you’re holding the handle!” It’s been fun.
  • A few unpackaged soaps and whatnot from Lush, which is the first step in my soap journey, the next step being making my own and the step after that being forgoing soap altogether to live in the woods and bathe in dirt. The charcoal tooth tablets are also from there, and there’s nothing like painting your teeth black to really clean them up.
  • Reusable menstrual pads. Yes, you have to soak them and wash them out like they’re reusable cloth diapers. Still, given how much plastic I’d be going through otherwise…
  • A metal water bottle! Golly, did you know that you can save money and plastic just by not using money to buy plastic water bottles?
  • Bulk sugars for my (now) bulk tea. I… really miss individually packaged teabags, guys. They were so neat and easy, especially the Bigelow stuff. Turns out, you can recycle the box and the teabags themselves, but not the individual teabag wrappers. It’s been rough.
  • Cloth napkins and cloth “unpaper” rags for cleaning.
  • Wool dryer balls! Pros: Your clothes do dry faster with the woolen balls separating the layers in the cycle. Cons: They really don’t do well soaking up the static. Anybody who tells you they’re as good as dryer sheets doesn’t remember what it’s like to have dryer sheets.

I’ve also been doing things like buying fresh bread from the local bakery, instead of bread that’s wrapped in plastic and then, carefully, wrapped in another layer of plastic and tied off with a plastic end. The key thing about small local bakeries is that you can usually coerce them into putting the fresh bread right into your reusable bag, and they’ll come to remember you as the crazy regular with the toe-ring dreadlocks, but hopefully in a fond way.

This vague interest in the zero-waste movement has also helped to curb my impulse spending. But… not entirely. Exactly. Really.

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It was just really important that I get this teacup holster from the steampunk convention, all right? Look, it’s all reusable! That makes it okay to spend an obscene amount of money on!

Mind you, there will always be some things I can’t trade out for reusable and non-plastic. Pill containers, for instance. Computer things. Deodorant that’s not in some weird powder form.

Also the makeup brands I know and love. You can’t make me give them up. I mean, unless someone has some better suggestions that are under $10. It’s cheap because the brands don’t care who or what they have to steamroll to get it here!

Tea for Two

If there’s one thing I recommend in life, it’s to surround yourself with people who are classier than you. People who will force you to go to the opera, for instance, so that you can feel like you don’t have a cultured bone in your body and aren’t even sure how to properly shout words of encouragement after a performance.

Or people who are so particular about where they have tea that they will drive a full two hours to a special tea room just to have it there.

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But they sell books like this there, so it’s worth it.

I have a friend named Katrina who is the closest thing to a mythical being that I’ve ever known (besides my father. Hi Dad!). Katrina will float into a room in flowing lace dresses and stripy socks. Katrina will bring her own tablecloth to a Panera Bread to class up her meal and protect her board games from surface residue. Katrina’s apartment is a greenhouse with taxidermy thrift store finds and moon sigils. Katrina may be an actual witch.

And Katrina loves tea just as much as I do, which is why we went out and had some as fancily as we could. I threw on the most intricate outfit I could, which happened to be almost entirely white, and this was good because Katrina’s outfit was almost entirely black and we looked like chess pieces.

Fancy chess pieces.

Tea was at Teaberry’s, a tea room in a restored Victorian home, and every inch of it was covered in tea-related decorations.

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Every.

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Inch.

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Teaberry’s seats you at an elegant table, and gives you a charming teacup and a beautiful menu, and lets you be completely overwhelmed by the variety of tea available to you. That first page of the full-sized menu is all tea, and only the beginning. After perusing the intimidating options (“Teaberry’s Black Rosehip Almond-Infused 417 Year Old Ginger-Spiced Ming Dynasty Loose-Leaf Chai”), I settled for something that was probably “Black tea, no spices.” I’m not adventurous.

We also ordered soup and mini sandwiches, because mini sandwiches are The Law in a tea house.

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The soup is also served in a teacup. No two teacups are alike here.

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The variety mini sandwich pack. Every mini sandwich you could every want with your tea. Also mini quiche.

Looking around, at least half of the other guests had attempted a garden party outfit or at least their Sunday best. A few men even had top hats, though I’m not certain if they borrowed them from Teaberry’s itself. In fact, in the middle of the meal, Katrina looked at me and said very firmly, “While you’re here, be sure to visit the bathroom. It’s worth it.”

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The bathroom was worth it.

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I already have far too many hats of my own, but I considered trying to smuggle a few out under my dress.

With the overwhelming amount of options available, we ended up packing most of our meal home, and Katrina grabbed a blueberry scone to go, because scones in a tea room are also The Law.

Teaberry’s also has a separate gift shop where you can spend an outrageous amount of money on tea-related things you never knew you needed, like the aforementioned Shades of Earl Grey. I bought nothing only because I had just spent all my money on my meal, and besides, I really didn’t need a twelfth teacup for my room.

Not at $25, at least.

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.