just… breathe.

What’s so much better? I am.

Not sure if you recall my previous post about my withdrawal efforts, but I’m getting there. Pharmaceuticals are a bitch, and I’m staying away from the damn things from now on. I’ve been doing some reading on Paxil, and although I really appreciated the almost immediate relief it gave me, I wonder now if it was worth it (and wonder if my relief would’ve been effected just as well with a sugar pill. Who knows?).

If there’s one thing I should’ve learned by now, it’s that no matter how crappy things are, they will always get better. Always.  Time will take care of it, usually. Not the inevitable counting of minutes, days, hours but some applied effort, some time to take a deep breath, some time to see the arc of the story unfold. Usually, things become clearer, right?

Breathing is the key for me these days. I mean, how many times have I counselled my daughter – take a deep breath, relax – while she was in the midst of a spasm? How many times have I seen that breath turn into instant and an almost magical soothing of those tortured muscles? How many times do I have to see that until I take my own good advice and take a few deep breaths myself?

I don’t doubt that there is better living through pharmaceuticals. Not at all. For me, though, I’m starting to have a sick feeling that the drugs are worse than the condition for which they were prescribed. For me, I think that maybe a more holistic approach will work. I don’t have a condition that has to be treated with medication; it got me through a bad time, and then it caused a bad time. This is a common story, and I’m lucky that I’m not dependent on these drugs in order to function in the world.

So, no. I’m not saying that breathing, or warm baths, or a walk around the block are solutions entirely. What I can say for myself, though, is that all three of those things seem to be helping me. They’re helping me a lot. One reason they’re helping is that I finally decided that I needed the help, if that makes any sense.

These days I’m not pretending to work at relaxing. I’m really putting in the time, and it’s making a difference.

Imagine that. Just… breathe.


And now for something completely different…. Mr. 761 and I are leaving for  two weeks tramping around Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Montenegro. We’ve planned some of it, but are leaving much of the Montenegro leg of the trip to our whims. It’s a little wee country so we’re going to wander about and stop where something grabs our fancy.  So far, what we have planned is to fly into Sarajevo and spend several days there. We’ve arranged for a room in a pension right in the old town – not grand, but will serve our purposes. I plan on being out and exploring most of the day.

After a few days in Sarajevo, we’ll be  travelling down the coast to Dubrovnik, Croatia. I’m

Dubrovnik: a walled city. A gorgeous Adriatic coast line, and no cars. Such loveliness!

especially excited about this one. We can’t rent a car and drive through three different countries, really, so we’re going to bus/train it down to Dubrovnik.

After Dubrovnik, we’ll wander over to Montenegro (train?) and then rent a car and really explore. We’ll have about a week there and then Mr. 761 goes back to KAF from there, and I fly home to Canada and the breathtaking autumn in Nova Scotia.


More Montenegro

MORE Montenegro!

Now, I have to admit that while breathing is helping, the planning and anticipation of this holiday is also helping. I can’t lie to you about that….

This will be the second trip that Mr. 761 and I have ever taken together (I do not count driving to Disney in Florida with the kids, as much um… fun as that was. Sorry kids!). We decided on these places because they are new to both of us – it’s so much fun to explore and discover these new places together, I think. Mr. 761 will keep up a running dialogue with regard to food and atheism and toilets; I will do my best to wax on about the history and beauty and food and romance. Between us, we’ll be able to give you all a fairly complete (if quirky) view of this part of the world…. stay tuned.

He will, alas, go back to this:

while I return to thislifted from the internet

Doesn’t seem fair, does it?

Some articles of interest:

Portland, where my sole now resides

lifted from the interweb, I didn't take this


Portland Maine is so pretty, and I really didn’t expect it. I don’t know what I did expect, but not this pretty jewel of a town with gorgeous shops, superb restaurants, and world-class service.

We stumbled upon this, really. We got sick of driving (it’s no fun once the sun goes down) and made Portland our destination. We were kind of tired, and a bit sick from the junk food we ate in the car (Coke? Pepperoni? Hickory sticks? Really? What were we thinking?). Ugh. I shudder to recall it, but somehow the food one eats on a road trip, in the car, doesn’t count, right?

We drove up to the second hotel we saw (the first was full, the valet told us) and ended up

nice, but ours was blue

at the Portland Harbor Hotel. Pretty rooms, working wifi, a fabulous bathroom with a deep soaking tub and gorgeous marble, shower, and great service. A good hotel makes me very happy, as does a toothbrush holder on the counter – a germ-fighting nicety that not all hotels think of, but a detail that will actually entice me back when I find myself in Portland again.

Silly? Perhaps, but the devil is in those details.

We literally stumbled upon our restaurant last night as well. Those cobbles are quaint, but not great for two relatively clumsy people…. We dined at Street and Co., and they gave us the best meal we’ve had in ages.

I wrote about it last night on Facebook, still in the thrall of that buttery perfect sole:

Started with salad of frisee with house cured bacon, poached egg and mustard sauce. Oysters, the moist delicious ever, and a simple but divine sole francaise. I dragged it out as long as possible, but eventually there was no sole left. It was so good I mourned it pre-emptively, halfway through dinner. Vanilla bean panna cotta with currants for dessert. Chardonnay to start and a black sambucca to finish.

That’s really all there is to say. Except that I want to reiterate my love of those oysters. I like them, but wouldn’t go out of my way for them, you know? The ones I had last night were quite possibly the best ever, and I might go out of my way for those ones.

Off to breakfast now, some rambling around the waterfront (kitchen store, anyone?) and then on to Connecticut and my Nieces 761.

Box 761: Upper NY State edition

The last time I wrote, we were leaving the gentle environs of Canajoharie NY. Dear reader, we were pretty happy about that (please, no offence to any Canajoharians reading this). Then, of course, we drove through a torrential rain to Rochester. An okay hotel that had illusions of grandeur, and with the exception of a few minor points, pretty good nonetheless  (note to Housekeeping: my sheets had blood stains on them. Ew).

We had thought to explore Rochester and spend some quality time in the Flower City, but true to form we lost interest in sightseeing, in the greater interest of getting back on the road. It was a dull day out, and Rochester looked kind of like it was tired.  We ended up driving along the scenic route beside Lake Ontario, but found that it wasn’t particularly scenic…. the Lake view was obscured by trees for most of it. It was largely deserted though, which was great — our very own private highway!  Our destination, we decided, was Niagara Falls. We both knew that the US side of the Falls wasn’t as good as the Canadian, but figured we’d at least drive through the US side, so we could compare.

we wanted to lick the plate

On the way, we stopped for bathroom break.. I feel guilty when we stop and just use the restroom, without at least buying a bottle of water or something. The place we stopped smelled divine — garlic, tomato, fresh dough, oh! it was lovely. Mr. 761 thinks it’s the best pizza he’s had ever. I stuck to basic pepperoni (which they did correctly, with the pepperoni on top of the cheese, so it got crispy). Mr. 761 had steak and mushroom pizza: dough brushed with garlic and olive oil so it was moist and flavorful, shaved steak, crispy/succulent mushrooms, some onion, and just enough cheese. He was very happy. This paragon of pizza making is in Youngstown NY. Looks like a bit of a dump, but they make magic with their pizza.

Talk about dying towns! Niagara Falls NY was not a pretty sight, my friends. It was sad. Full of shuffling people, bench-sitters, and road construction. Every street in the freaking city seemed to be

Whirlpool Street, everywhere!

named “Whirlpool Street”… it just didn’t make sense. They had detour signs that went nowhere, dead ends, and one street that, after dutifully following the detour signs, turned into a parking lot for an apartment building. I tell ya, we’re lucky we got out of there! AND, we never saw the falls. It was a bit surreal, and very cranky-making.

So, we finally found the bridge to the promised land Canada, were waved through customs, and figured we’d do Niagara Falls right — park, wander about, maybe go to the wax museum (tradition, of course).  We didn’t manage the wax museum, because the crowds were horrendous, the prices were overly-high, and it was just, well, kind of sad. Nobody looked happy! It was like, I dunno, the Sad Amusement Park, with Falls. It started to get depressing pretty fast.

We did see this holiday-maker, though. Anyone care to explain the get-up? I saw her up close, and guess her age…. 20? 30? nope. Circa 60, if a day. Fascinating!

Wow. That's all I can say

There’s loads more to write (quilt show with Mr. 761!!), but that’s all for now. We want to go out and enjoy our holidays. Will write more later. Apologies, too, if the photos are a bit wonky — having trouble compressing them.

1000 Kms, more or less

Lake Winnipesaukee, Meredith NH

Dateline, Meredith NH.

Our initial plan was to leave early Sunday morning. We spent much of Saturday waiting. We aren’t good at waiting, and it finally dawned on us that we were allowed to leave whenever we wanted to. A flurry of activity, and we were out of the house and starting down the driveway by 4:15 pm.

In keeping with our intention to drive the blue highways through New England, we took the “scenic route” to Truro, and then set Saint John in our sights as our destination for the evening. It was a pretty drive, gorgeous day with storybook fluffy clouds in a bright blue sky. As the sun went down, and we got a bit crankier, we drove into the outskirts of Saint John. Lots of construction, exits that were blocked, loads of traffic…. arrgh!! On top of it all we felt slightly poisoned by the bag of chips and kettle corn we were eating (and the weird fizzling Skittles we ate… kind of like soap, but oddly entertaining). Crankiness ensued.

I guess it started going downhill when we couldn’t decide if we wanted to find a hotel in the downtown or on the west side (to ease our leave-taking the next day). By the time we realized that downtown was probably a good idea, we realized that the exits were blocked by construction and we were then pushed along through a toll that Mr. 761 resented mightily, and into a fairly unsavoury part of the city. Mr. 761 could wax on for days about ineffective signage etc., but I think it comes down to poor research (as in, well, none) on our part. If we’d done some advance planning, we wouldn’t have spent the night in the Country Inn and Suites (“sounds quite swanky, until you realize the country they had in mind was Belarus” said Mr. 761). It was, well, serviceable. One of the tv’s was a bit temperamental (had to warm up), the room had a slight odor, and there was no shampoo, but it was okay. For a late dinner we went to the non existent hotel restaurant Sobey’s down the road and bought a weird collection of food that struck our fancy. We then ate it in the room, with plastic knives and forks we cadged from friendly Steph, the night clerk (who was, oddly, still there at 10 am this morning when we left).

Really, I kind of liked it. No pictures because in my haste to leave Berwick I left my SD card in my laptop, which I didn’t take (Mr. 761 brought his). Dang, I hate when I do that.

Today we (okay, I) slept late till about 8:30. We considered eating the continental breakfast at the Country Inn but it was not appetizing, nor was there enough room for us to even be able to reach the mini-box of cereal on the shelf. I drank an apple juice and we left, waving at the large people in their nighties, smoking on their “patio” behind the hotel.

Beautiful day, happy people. We’ve driven through Maine at a fair clip, but it didn’t feel rushed. We were going to stop in Bangor, but it looked closed today so we continued on to Lewiston/Auburn (sort of a twin city). Mr. 761 had an excellent Best Bitter and an even more excellent “Blueberry Courage” Beer from a little brew pub. Home-made shepherd’s pie and flaky and wonderful fish and chips filled us up.

I found a store and bought an SD card and a better map, and we were off again. We decided

Lake Winnipesaukee from our window

to stop in daylight today, and chose Meredith NH. I’m very glad we did — it’s a gorgeous little place. The hotel we chose, really the first we saw, is called The Inn at Bay Point – one of 4 in a loose complex around Lake Winnipesaukee — a lake which is not only beautiful, but fun to say. The Inn has what we’ve decided is “upscale tourist kitsch”, which is perfect.

Lamps shaped like boats, and comfy sitting areas on the porches and a nice quirky inn keeper. We’re considering a walk around town, but can’t decide. Considering the restaurant

downstairs, but may instead choose room service. Mr. 761 went out and got himself some beer for the room and brought me back the best ginger beer I’ve ever had: Gosling’s Stormy Ginger Beer.

We haven’t stopped for any antiques or yard sales (saw only a few, the whole way here). Well, we tried to stop at an antique store in Maine, but he took down the Open sign as we drove into the parking lot. Sigh. I’m sure we’ll see more tomorrow.

Am very happy for text messaging today — daughter sent a picture of a dress she got to go to a dance, and it was so nice to be able to see it. It made me a bit sad that I hadn’t been there to help, but even if I were at home at Box 761 I wouldn’t have been able to…. she’s away at work all summer. It didn’t bother me until today, when she sent me that picture, and I wonder now if the fully empty nest next year will be as great as I thought. Something to come to grips with this year, I guess.  I miss you, kid. Have a good time at the dance!

Tomorrow’s route is more blue highways, from here to Rochester NY.

More Places My Husband Hates (and a few he Likes)…

"Put it on my list, Joanie"

I’ve been thinking about yesterday’s post — it got more “hits” than any other post I’ve written. It will definitely be an ongoing thing, but I have to wait for the pearls to drop from his lips, so I thought I’d revisit some of the places he’s discussed with me in the past.

In no particular order, some of the places on Mark’s List of Places he Hates:

  • Morocco: “I went to buy a scone in the market, Joanie, and one of the raisins on it flew away.
  • Disney World
  • Egypt: “I went to the pyramids. I was underwhelmed. What the hell have they done in the last 2000 years?”
  • Canadian Tire
  • Casinos (“Reno, the saddest town in the world.”)
  • Camping: why would someone want to sleep outside when they have a perfectly good bed at home, or a hotel?
  • Picnics: food and the outdoors do not mix. This is a fairly firm rule.
  • Church: he does not believe in a “great big invisible magic guy in the sky” or a “sky pixie.”
  • Bathtubs: does not like to have a nice long soak “in my own dirt? why would I do that?
  • Sudan (this deserves a post all of it’s own, someday)
  • Spain
  • street names in Hawaii: “every street basically has the same name… a collection of h, w, k, and a’s  in random order in a four-syllable word with a lot of superfluous letters.”

Oh dear, I can’t go on….

Though apparently “the whole UK has issues” too.

Places He Likes

He likes a few places too.  A few probing questions got these answers:

Germany: “Great place; Everything worked. I ordered food in a restaurant and got pork… on a bed of pork!

“Every bar there is like being in a pirate movie!”

Gibraltar: “Joanie, every bar is like being in a pirate movie.”

It’s a start, right?

Places My Husband Hates (“Put it on my list, Joanie”)

"Put it on my list, Joanie!"

Well, hate is a fairly strong word. But he’s a guy with fairly strong opinions. He works in Kandahar, and has to travel quite a bit. He has strong opinions about the places he travels to, through, and away from.

He sends me pithy comments about these places, and I find them pretty funny. Even when he’s not trying to be funny, he is. His brain works in a way that makes me laugh, and even when I might not agree with him, I see his point. Because he’s a rational man, on top of it all.

He hates places because they’re dirty, or dusty, or boring, or too old, or not old enough. He does not suffer fools at all so sometimes a place will be tainted by his dislike of the people there.

But all of this hate isn’t from his being an essentially hateful person — far from it. It all stems, I think, from his concern that the world isn’t organized the way he thinks it should be. People aren’t logical, and this confuses him. He’s speechless (almost) when faced with people doing, or living in, places that don’t make sense.

He is comfort loving, which means that when faced with a place that isn’t comfortable, he of necessity doesn’t like it. But if that lack of comfort comes from a nonsensical (to him) reason, then he moves to hating it.  On the other hand, if there’s comfort, but no soul, it’s probably also on his list.

Today’s note:

After another sweltering walk around Dubai’s ostentatious ugliness, I’ve decided that the only word to describe this place is “horrible”. Best thing about it is it ain’t KAF.
Add it to my list Joanie.

Joan There’s always the diamond souk… you could stay nice and cool in there for a while.

Mark While the thought of haggling with sweaty muslims appeals to me no end; I’m afraid the lure of my air conditioned 5 * hotel room complete with cold beer is overwhelming.

That, and it’s part of his schtick. He has always aimed toward being a curmudgeon when he gets older. I think he’s on his way.

He’s an atheist, a rationalist, a logical sci-fi  reading (“it has internal consistency, Joan”) comfort-loving smart-mouthed guy. I have started a Facebook page here – it may turn into a blog eventually, I’m not sure. All I know is that I want to keep these comments in a safe place, because god knows I’ll have to look them over when I try to plan our next trip….

That said, there are some places he does like, and Box 761 is one of them. He’s home tonight, so I may not be writing as much for a while.