Travel the world without leaving your couch thanks to Netflix

My husband I just returned from our first extended vacation together since our son was born in 2010. I know…WHY DID WE WAIT SO LONG?

IMG_1031Anyway, I almost ruined the vacation by using the wrong name on my ticket (maiden/married name, tomato/tomAHto), lost my voice and my husband tried to kill himself by eating tainted food. IT WAS A DREAM! Seriously!

If you have the chance to visit Montenegro and/or Bosnia-Herzegovina, I highly suggest you go!

Alas, we are back We were excited to return home and throw open the door to our sticky-handed kid. Well, I was, Mr. Swirley was still trying to kill himself.  But, in proper Annie fashion, I am now afflicted with the terrible disease known as wanderlust.

At 2 AM this morning, I totally wasn’t looking up flight prices for a trip abroad in April 2016. It was 2:30 AM. I also switched on the TV to speed up time and stumbled into some Netflix goodies that will no doubt sate my hunger to travel until just about Spring break next year. Next stop, Ghana or bust!

1. The Idiot Abroad – Ricky Gervais and friends underwrite the costs for their “token idiot friend” Kyle to travel the world. They then revel in the ensuing chaos. It’s a little mean-spirited and a lot of funny; should I admit that I often sympathize with Karl’s pessimism? Watch it for the commentary and scenery – thank me later.

294512. Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover from the Travel Channel is the perfect mix of local culture and food. The show’s quick pace keeps viewers entertained (and salivating) as “he [Bourdain] has only 24-48 hours to unleash an unpredictable story about a place, a people and their food.”

Bourdain, I don’t understand why we can’t just swap lives. The rotisserie chicken we bought this evening was PHENOMENAL…you’d totally love it here.

3. Enjoy checking out local, foreign food without having to sack up and eat it? (poor Mr. Swirley learned the hard way on our trips to Turkey and Bosnia) The Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods has you covered.

Join host Andrew Zimmern as he travels the globe from Uganda to Madagascar and all the way back to Pennsylvania (what? Yes) to introduce viewers to a wide range of regional cuisines and respective cultures.

4. In order to re-live our vacation, I strung together a bazilion shaky, three-second videos and created a rough movie of the trip. Realizing it wasn’t exactly up to par, I sought out movies filmed in Montenegro and BOOM, November Man popped up.

The formal summary goes something like…”An ex-CIA agent (Pierce Brosnan) emerges from retirement to protect an important witness, but he soon discovers that old friends can make the most dangerous enemies.”

I don’t know about all of that, but it certainly made me nostalgic for, um, last week.

5. Along the same vein, check out Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol and II. CIA moles, biological weapons, short guys…whatever. What I’m focused on is all that pretty scenery in the background. Take in England, Czech Republic, Spain, Australia and more without having to balance precariously from a ceiling harness unless you are trying to be all stealthy in eating treats before the kids are asleep.

I swear they have sonar.

screens.film.kolya6. Speaking of Czech Republic, Kolya (Eng. subtitles) is a simply wonderful film that also highlights the beauty of Prague and that whole human spirit thing.

Summary for you lazy asses: Franta Louka is a concert cellist in Soviet-occupied Czechoslovakia. He also loves the ladies…a lot. Alas,  Louka loses his place in the state orchestra and needs to make quick cash repay debts. How? It’s easy, marry a Russian bride in exchange for payment.  Yet she has different plans and quickly emigrates to West Germany where she moves in with her lovah. Oh, and that five-year-old? She ditches him with grams. Obviously the kid’s old babushka’s time is short on this earth and the he moves in with his step-papa, Kolya.

“…that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day.’

Even if you hate looking at pretty European cities, you’ll like this movie. Also, what the Hell is wrong with you?

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Some flies are too awesome for the wall.

If my computer moves any slower I am going to punch it square in the screen. Good G-d, you would think I am trying to back up ten million gigs of data while removing programs, running ITunes and penning a blog entry. Shut your hole.

I don’t know if you heard about it, but members of NATO are meeting in Chicago and according to every news outlet in existance, the city might be wiped off the face of the planet. If that happens, I take back being mad at Ellis for possibly misplacing my tiny external hard drive that contains our ENTIRE music collection. I would also like to take back actually storing all of our music on a tiny hard drive that a toddler can so easily hide.

Oh, so this week’s misspending adventure- $XXX on daycare services that went unused. I am not sure if that really counts as the “getting locked out, losing the car keys, buying a security camera that costs as much as the grill you are guarding” type of situation, but it’s still spending money on “services” not utilized. Why is EK not at daycare, you ask? Because he is one giant scab. Seriously. It is probably the most pathetic thing I have seen in a while (yes, I know children are starving, puppies are drowning, etc. etc.) I would post a picture of EK vs hand, foot mouth round 2 – but it might make you cry (unless you are empty inside). We have spent the past few days consuming a diet comprised solely of ice cream/Popsicles whilst whimpering, snuggling and pretending to work (I am speaking for all three of us). And of course, we have also sequestered ourselves to the house for fear of turning every kid in Chicago into a crusty, drooling babe. It’s great. Has your kid ever told you “mama, I sad?” or “mama, mouth hurt”? If they have, you know it is pretty much the worst thing you can hear next to, ” Mom, I don’t know why my answers on my 12th grade math test look like my boyfriend’s handwriting” (cough cough). So instead of grossing you out, I will instead let you judge me on being an excellent parent by melting my son’s brain on day three of lock down (i.e., allowing him to watching Sesame Street ALL DAY LONG.) I am pretty sure his eyeballs fell out since he stopped blinking around 10 AM.

I think it is fair to say Mr. Swirley is the better parent of the two of us. And I am OK with that fact.

Luckily for everyone involved, EK was healthy this past weekend while he hung out with the Ds and we spent time with family in LA. It was the first trip since last summer that Mr. Swirley and I ditched our child and although quick (and sadly, for the purpose of saying farewell to a beloved family member), it was beyond a blessing to spend some time with family…and participate in/bear witness to conversations like the ones below.

Here is a video of me getting in trouble but I can’t tell you why.

ABCs from the sweetest Italian cousins ever! 

How many Earleys does it take to fill a bathtub? And more importantly, how often did they bathe? Really.

Facts learned/reinforced while in CA:

1. Santa doesn’t exist (whispered to me by a little pixie of a girl who shares Ellis’ name)
2. Public bathrooms are so out in LA. Having to go to the bathroom while in a public place is so in  for me.
3. My family is the best. Insane, but the best. It is actually pretty amazing how eight siblings can differ so much in terms personality yet remain incredibly loyal to one another and their respective families. Touching, actually. So many (crazy) stories that never seem to get old (e.g., tying each other to trees + firecrackers, beans up noses, driving cars from the passenger side seat, etc. etc.), and enough rolled eyes to power a small town.
3.a I need to be more active in maintaining relationships with said family members…a confusing game of dice and talking until late at night (well – 11 is late for us) is much more fulfilling than “liking” a status or a quick email.
3.b. Annual visits to Cali are in the works. Suckers.
4. My uncle Rich is rock-solid. The rest of his family isn’t too shabby either.
5. I am so very grateful to be a part of all of this.

Ms.  Shierra. I drove her crazy the entire weekend.
Uncle Pat, Aunt Donna and Uncle Henry
The entertainment.
Cooking cousins is way better (and more socially acceptable) than kissing cousins.
Hardy hargh hargh. And Dad’s sorta, kinda twin.
Cousins, uncles and “special friends”
Trouble with a capital “T” and they’re minus three.

And three more Earleys will be added to the mix when they move from Italy to LA next month. I would send prayers their way, but I have a feeling they will do just fine.

Pop quiz hot shot

True or False

over the past few days I…

1. Contracted some sort of bug immediately before I left for DC and wanted to die starting nine minutes into my first outbound flight through yesterday afternoon.

2. Somehow used 5GB of data on my phone since my plan rolled over 12 days ago, yet I have not had it on for the past month because the battery runs out of power one second after I turn it on. So that is pretty sweet.

3. Got a bloody nose and dripped it all over the beige carpet in my coworker’s new condo.

4. Continued to be a terrible house guest by stealing toothpaste and a literal handful of shampoo from my coworker’s bathroom.
              a. I undressed while still holding said handful of shampoo.

5. Bitched and moaned about our work retreat being a waste of time and then ate a big old slice of humble pie served to me family style by the folks out at the Airlie Conference Center.
              a. I thanked my boss (in front of my coworkers) for organizing the retreat and let him know that it wasn’t at all the waste of time I predicted it would be.

6. Packed a work cardigan but no shirt to go underneath it.

7. Slept in sweatpants dotted with dried nosebleed blood.

8. Got into an argument with a US Airways flight attendant at the Philadelphia airport on the way home
               a. Apparently I am wrong to assume that a flight attendant dressed in a US Airways uniform standing at the desk next to the gate from which I just exited is there to help customers locate connecting gates. I am not paraphrasing when I write that she said “I am a flight attendant trying to work. Go look at the screen.” What she neglected to tell me is that the screen only shows flights going to cities “T’-“Z” so that was super helpful when I was trying to find my Chicago flight.

9. Dropped my jacket sleeve into the Philly airport toilet.

10.Unintentionally (?) left my jacked on the plane.

11. Was that creepy person staring at a baby on a lady’s lap for oh, I don’t know, an hour straight. I found out he was 10 months old and I can’t even remember Ellis being that little. That was five months ago – FIVE! Do I need to take Aricept to help me with my memory? Am I losing my mind? Does the guy sitting across from me reading the weird harlequin sci fi novel have awesome sunglasses on?

12. I am wearing loaned earphones the size of the moon

13. Shenanigans aside, I am still in an incredibly good mood.

If you answered true to all of the above questions you win today’s prize.  It’s a choice between buying yourself something special for baby J’s birthday (courtesy of your bank account) or a flight home delayed 2.5 hours! Wait, evidently I have already claimed the latter offer.

Dustbunny Ranch

If you ever visit, you will likely receive an email similar to the one below. Basic take away is that I am the world’s worst hostess.
Dear Thornleys –

What up? So I just checked your arrival times (I like to wait until the last possible moment to know any details about people’s visit) and I see you get in at 4:25 PM Thursday. So I should expect to see you Saturday sometime in the late afternoon.

A few things you should know:
       –   Although I have known about your visit for the past however long, I will wait to clean until you are wheels down. Thus, fingers crossed Libby won’t have to wade through dustbunnies to get to her bed but I cant promise much more than that. 

        – Our walls are covered in marks. It may look filthy, but many of the marks are from me trying to clean smaller marks off. Note to shitty developers – don’t use flat paint. Note to stupid buyers – don’t buy from scumbag developers. Moreover, don’t be so stupid.

         – We have 12 gallons of milk in our fridge. Don’t ask why.

 … Santa sightings blah blah.

 John Hancock – we can go up to the top and have an 8.00 beer and take in the views.
 …. more tourism ideas.

Or we can just sit around and stare at each other.

Hugs and kisses,
Annie

Things I neglected to do prior to/during the visit:
– grocery shopping. Yes, not like it’s crucial for a hostess to feed her guests. Ellis pitched a fit in the produce aisle so that is far as we got.
– make dinner. I diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and fried up some taco meet…only to have it taste like garbage. Failure. 
– put the duvet cover on the comforter. I count this as a half-failure because I:
1. washed the duvet.
2. put clean sheets on the bed.
– use my turn signals. I am a real jerk driver.  I decided my guests should know about this as I repeatedly signaled one millisecond before it was time for us to turn. I am pretty sure they hated me for that.

I am sure they can point out more of my mistakes, but those are the one that really stand out to me. 

I did arrange for a sitter for Friday night and proudly announced that to our waiter during dinner. So that was a minor success. But in general, if you come to visit in Chicago, keep your expectations low and everyone wins.

I just gave Ellis an early Christmas present (his own pots to bang together) because he is being so annoying. Maybe he is just trying to get my attention as I am sitting at the computer.

If I ever die, do me a favor. Go on Oprah and tell the world that I loved kittens.

We are back from our first trip away from Ellis and all three of us survived. I am pretty sure he didn’t notice we were gone, but as you probably expected (though I surprised myself) he was sorely missed by yours truly. Mr. Swirley and I constantly asked each other “I wonder what Ellis is doing now”…because he leads such a wild and exciting life. Apparently so do we if that is the only thing we have to say to each other. We did manage to have some fun in Boston while stepping over piles of Bruins fans’ vomit and kicking garbage into Boston’s lovely gutters. Maybe I should rewind.

Last Wednesday and Thursday were epic. I don’t even really remember them. Something to do with a two-hour trip to Ho-Ho’s, lunch at Whole Foods, class at Gymboree, packing, cleaning (sort of), picking up the car and some other stuff. You know what else I didn’t remember? Ellis’ food.

Yes. After packing up every item in the house and stuffing it all into our recently repaired RAV-4, we drove out to St. Charles (an hour away) and unpacked the car. Twenty-five outfits? Yep. Ten hats? Of course. A bag of blocks? Why not? But no food. NO FOOD. What kind of mother am I? I remember a blog post I read a while back written by my cousin. Well, really it’s my cousin’s wife but I call her my cousin because I feel like we are related. Anyway, she wrote about how whenever she felt like she had a handle on this motherhood thing, she would go and do something crazy that would take her down a few notches. Forgetting your baby’s food has to rank pretty high on the scale of screwing up. So after calling Lady Jayne and NVS and enduring a bit of ridicule, I gathered some info on formula and crossed my fingers. Evidently this is something they expect us to do and don’t know why I am surprised. Touche, NVS, touche.

Friday morning I smelled Ellis’ head one last time and headed out to O’Hare. I have a random tid bit with regard to the O’Hare bathrooms. For those of you who don’t know, the bathroom toilet seats boast a plastic toilet seat cover that changes every time you wave your hand past the sensor thing. Up until this weekend, I was 99% sure that it was a bunch of BS and that cover just goes round and round in a circle but you think it’s super hygienic because there are sensors and movement involved. So this time I decided to test my theory and ripped the plastic. I then realized that I could very well break the mechanism by doing such a thing, but it was too late. I am happy to report that the tear did not show up again so we are good to go to the loo at O’Hare without fear of trading germs with the dirty French lady that arrived an hour ago.

Anyway, on the the way to the airport, I emailed Lady Jayne and asked her to take care of Ellis if we die. I don’t really know if that type of thing would hold up in court, but since we are irresponsible parents and still don’t have a Will, I thought it was worth a shot.

Boston was nice. We figured out the T, went for a walk in Boston Common and successfully avoided most Bruins fans. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy for all the Mass. fans, but they sort of ruined the colonial Boston experience we were hoping for. We did sneak a harbor cruise in because what else should you do when you are a tourist?

Swans and a the world’s shortest suspension bridge ( Boston Public Gardens)

Boston Common House backs the Bruins
Mr. Swirley following the red brick road

View from the harbor

Then we went to a wedding. It was exceptional. Markypants and RR (and their families) were lovely hosts and the venue was spectacular. Four singers, oysters and desserts as far as the eye can see. Uhmazing.

“Look at all the fun you missing, Mark!”
The lovely bride and her papa

Married!
The picture doesn’t do the tent (or the band) justice.
Mazel Tov!

And it wouldn’t be a five star wedding without a photo booth.

G’town (Law). Holla! Sort of.
Us with the photo booth guy. I thought he was as much a part of the wedding as the groom.
We made it until midnight and were the first people on the shuttle home. Then came grandparents. In that order. Dear Lord. The next morning we hiked it to the Silver Line and were at the airport an hour and a half early. According to Mr. Swirley, that is barely enough to time to get on the plane. An episode of “White Collar” later (what? don’t judge. It was a free Itunes download) and we were almost home. We picked our car up in lot E (aka Indiana) and managed to get lost on our way to Mrs. D’s house…not like we live in the Chicagoland area or anything. A swim with EK (he likes to think of pools as large cups from which he drinks), some Father’s Day dinner and back home again home again jiggety jig.

Wedding #4 is this weekend in Milwaukee. That’s Algonquin for the “good land”.