Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What's in a Name?

As a female newlywed, I have a lot of work to do AFTER the nuptials have been exchanged.  To change my name, or not to change my name, that is the question.  And, this is a question I had thought long and hard about over the years.  In my twenties, my early feminist days, I was absolutely going to hyphenate - no question.  When I actually got engaged (in my 30s), my thoughts on this had changed.

I love my husband dearly, and am so proud and honored to be his wife.  Heck, the icing on the cake was that I actually got to MARRY my partner and best friend!  Simply put, I WANTED to take his name.  But, what to do about my maiden name?

My maiden name is a 10-letter Polish name, ending in 'icz' (it's pronounced 'its', in case you were wondering).  I used to dread the first days of school, when roll call would cause a bout of apoplexy when teachers came across my name -- it wasn't until college that my last name was pronounced correctly, and without the mildest of hesitation from professors.  In some ways, however, I think I'll miss finishing for people when they attempt my last name.  My maiden name has been my identity for 33 years, and it's not so easy to give up.  Everything I've worked for professionally is linked to that name, and that is definitely a difficult thing to let go.

I debated about changing my middle name, despite it being a family name, to my maiden name when taking my husband's last name.  While it wouldn't be hyphenated, my pre-marriage identity would still be there.  I wish I could tell a great story about me weighing pros and cons and going deep into meditation to aid me in my decision, but I can't.  The reality is this: I had the social security card paperwork at my desk, and when it came to the blank where I had to fill in my name, I simply shouted to my dear colleague (whom I trust in such important situations) over our cubicle divide, "Should I change my middle name or just change my last name?"  The response?  "Just change your last name.  Trust me, it will be a lot easier in the long run."

And that, my friends, is exactly what I did.  No flip of the coin.  No meditation.  No agonizing and going back and forth.  I am now in possession of a new social security card and my new, married identity.  I'm sure it will take time to remember to sign my married name and heck, even respond to 'Mrs.', but I'm happy with the decision.  And hey, if I feel an inkling of regret, I can always devise a plan to convince my husband to take my maiden name, right?   

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Dining Experience of a Lifetime: Espuma Restaurant in Zihuatenejo, Mexico

Where do I even begin?  For the last night of our honeymoon, Sean and I chose to eat at a restaurant, outside of the resort in which we were staying, and we chose Espuma.  Wow!  I had read about Espuma in a magazine provided in our room, but had NO idea what we were about to walk into.

We walked a short distance from our villa to the restaurant, which was pretty on the outside - nothing much to look at.  But, when we stepped through the doorway, we were immediately transported to another world!  Architecturally speaking, the restaurant is a work of art in itself (that's apart from the food!).  We were escorted to our table, which literally sat on the edge of a cliff overlooking the bay.  The way the table was situated, it created the illusion that the cliff dropped off just past the edge of the table.

Upon further inspection, we found that we were surrounded by art.  Fountains ran throughout the restaurant, and even in the trough, just past the edge of our table where the cliff began.  From the neutral tones to the modern decor, every single detail was intricately planned.  We looked up to find a projection of moving art high on the main wall above the lounge area.  The film was shot in sepia tones, and included people around the world (a man diving underwater and swimming with manatees, a woman in India frollicking with elephants, etc.).  Beautiful New Age music was synched with the film as it played.  Both Sean and I agreed that at that moment, we felt more relaxed than when we got a couple's massage on the beach a few days earlier!

Back to our table.  As the above photo shows, our table was cut from quartz (we think) and lighted from below.  This was the only light provided...and it worked!  The menu was a 5-course tasting menu, each ingredient so well thought out as to create both a harmony and balance of flavors in every dish.  This was, for me, the most incredible dining experience I've ever encountered.  With each course, our waiter would shine a flashlight onto our plate to describe the dish and then poof!  we were left to eat in the dark.  This only served to heighten the experience and ensure that EVERY one of our 5 senses was tuned-in to the experience.  All I can say is wow!  My resident foodie, Sean, ranked this in his top 5 dining experiences (which is saying a lot).  At the end of the day, this non-foodie was unbelievably proud to have picked the restaurant...!

A Break from the Norm: What We Read on Vacation

I work in publishing, selling books for a living, so much of my time is spent reading books for work.  Vacation is meant to be a break from work, so I try to allocate that time for reading books that I don't sell, as well as competitor titles.  I was happily able to read some wonderful books over my vacation! 

I started prepping for the tropics by reading J. Maarten Troost's, Getting Stoned with Savages.  (I should add that I love to read travel and food writing when I'm taking a break from fiction)  Wickedly funny, I found myself chuckling as J.M.T. catalogues his misadventures in the South Pacific.  If you're looking for a non-fiction read, by an author with a wonderfully self-deprecating sense of humor, you should check this out!  After reading, I brought it along on vacation, as I knew it would be something my husband would enjoy.

I was just getting started with Jennifer Egan's, A Visit from the Goon Squad, as I was leaving for vacation AND when it won the National Book Critics Circle award (great choice on my part!).  This is one of those times when I was GLAD to have left my electronic reader at home.  I quickly became enmeshed in the characters' stories, and took a brief glance around when other air passengers were told to turn off their devices -- those poor souls -- I got to continue reading!  I picked this title up at a client's recommendation, and was so glad that I did.  I got lost in the nostalgia of the 80s and 90s, and loved the sci-fi twist Egan adds to the (immediate) future.  If you haven't already, pick up a copy for yourself - you won't regret it!

My next read was Kristen Cashore's Graceling.  Graceling had been on my 'To Be Read' shelf for almost a year, after I picked it up while shopping at one of my favorite independent bookstores, Browseabout Books, in Rehoboth, Delaware.  I will begin by admitting that it took me about 100 pages to get into this book.  I'm not a huge fan of fantasy, but when it's done well, and has a strong (and believable) heroine, I tend to enjoy it.  Needless to say, after 100 pages I was hooked.  So much so, that I couldn't wait to get stateside to find a bookstore carrying the next book in English! 

Speaking of which, I was OVERJOYED to find that they had a Borders Express in the Phoenix airport (where we had a 5 hour layover)!  While they did not have Cashore's next book in the series, Fire, I was able to check out another, older title, from a competitor (I've been remiss in my reading) -- Scott Westerfeld's Uglies.  I had the opportunity to see Scott at last fall's Baltimore Book Festival and was impressed with his wicked sense of humor.  After reading just a few pages of Uglies I was hooked!

In between finishing Graceling and beginning Uglies, I picked up Kate Taylor's Going Hungry, which is a collection of essays by various writers (including Jennifer Egan) about their experiences with eating disorders.  While I thoroughly enjoyed reading the experiences of others who have battled the disease, it is not exactly 'light' reading (better to pick up, read an essay or two, and put back down).  So, I was in desperate need of some lighter YA fiction when I started Uglies!

What did my husband, Sean, read?  Well, Sean works long hours in the restaurant industry, and is a bit of a foodie (HUGE understatement), so reading is a bit of a luxury for him.  Don't get me wrong, Sean enjoys reading, and he's even co-written a book, but finding the quiet time to relax with a book is difficult.  At any rate, he picked up an advance copy of Gabrielle Hamilton's Blood, Bones, and Butter...and absolutely LOVED it!  In a nutshell, Sean described it as the female perspective and writing equivalent of Anthony Bourdain.  Well, I'm definitely sold on that!  I love Bourdain's writing and sardonic sense of humor -- I even used an excerpt from A Cook's Tour in my Masters thesis!

While my vacation is over, I already have a 'To Be Read' pile started for the next chunk of time that I have off...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Back to the Grind

This past weekend marked 3 weeks since getting married, and one week since returning from our wonderful honeymoon in Zihuatenejo, Mexico.  Thank goodness for that relaxing week, as both Sean and I hit the ground running when we got back.  Not only was I playing catch-up from being gone for so long, but we announced the release date of a highly anticipated title at work (= craziness).  Needless to say, I spent all of last week feeling as though I was trudging through mud (the pile on my desk, thankfully, has dissipated!).  Sean came back to an offer for a wonderful job opportunity with his company...in the Philadelphia area, so this has led to many conversations regarding our future.  There's still a lot we don't know (and are in the midst of discussing), so I don't want to say too much here, except the fact that this is a tremendous opportunity for Sean and, well...for the both of us in our new life together.  The only thing we can do, at the moment, is to sit back and see where the cards fall.  We are both confident that everything will unfold the way it's meant to happen for us...