micro-vacation

A micro-vacation, Part VII: Final gastronomical festivities

We are rounding out the micro-vacation by having a meal with the human female’s knittery friend and her family. A restaurant specializing in Turkish food has been selected. It is–I jest not–back in the same neighborhood with the pen emporium, the bookstore, and the ice cream sandwich truck. A whole city to explore and these mortals largely confine themselves to about ten square blocks. Pitiful.

Still, it might be interesting to try. By Heimdall’s shiny wind-up toy! What is that? The server has deposited a small bowl of aromatic green sludge upon the table. I don’t trust it. (Yes, it IS green, but look at it!)

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Sigyn! Sigyn, are you actually trying it? What is it? Oh, I see–a fragrant oil with herbs, for dipping this soft, flat bread in.

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Mmm. This zatar and pide bread– I like them!

Ah. Here are the entrees. They seem to consist of meat roasted on skewers, served atop some savory grains, with a bit of tart salad alongside.

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Sigyn wants to know what the white stuff is. (Nibble.) It is a salty cheese, Sigyn. Try it. I think you will find it pleasing. No, I think they called it "feta," not "fetid." Yes, I’m pretty sure. Mostly.

I think the humans are going to sit here and talk and laugh until they are thrown out by the waitstaff. While we wait, my dearest, would you like to sample a dessert? Let us ask for some of that sticky-flaky pastry the diners at the other table are enjoying.

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Look at all that syrupy deliciousness. I scarcely know whether to eat it or bathe in it! Ack! NO! Sigyn, I WAS JESTING! DO NOT WADE IN THE SAUCER, SIGYN!

One much-needed bath later and we have at last left the restaurant. The humans are visiting an exotic food emporium as their last stop before leaving town. It is an amazing place. Some sort of mechanical bread roller-coaster is taking balls of dough, moving them through an overhead oven, ferrying them above the shop floor, and sending them down to be bagged. The aroma is almost a meal in itself. The human female has picked out her favorite kind, rich with sesame seeds and flavored with something called mahlab. (The way that woman eats bread, it is a marvel to me that she is not large enough to stick in doorways.)

Sigyn, stay close. You could easily get lost in here. Fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, more breads, spices, wines, teas, and confections of every kind are piled tantalizingly on every side. I do not know what half of these items are.

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The human female is not buying any of these today, but she has had them before and says they are crumbly but delicious, if one likes cardamom. Do I like cardamom? I do not know. But apparently they have been making them since the Midgardian year 1942. One supposed they would have quit by now if these things were awful.

What have you there, my dear? Whatever it is, the recipe goes back even farther than the cardamom cookies.

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Loukoum… Loukoum… Where have I heard that before? I know! Sigyn, this is what is also known as Turkish Delight. Do you not remember, the traitor, Edmund, ate much of this candy when he was a guest of the White Witch in that book by Mister Lewis? Would you like to purchase some to try? Do you want the almond sort…

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…or this kind, with the green nuts and the green box?

Grrr. The human female refuses to buy either sort. Instead, she has selected from the bakery counter a dense, delicious-looking layer cake redolent of ground almonds and marzipan. If I know her, she is planning to eat it all herself. Just for that, I will have it tip over in the ice chest on the long trip home, so that its decorative swirls of almond cream are smashed. Serves her right.

The humans are checking out. Nothing remains but to climb back into the automobile, along with the CD’s, the books, souvenirs, and all the other clutter that this micro-vacation has generated. Have you had fun, my dearest? I have, too.

And I will finish off my little holiday with the looks on the humans’ faces when they arrive home to find that the cat (upon pre-arrangement with myself, kitty treats forthcoming) has left a nice juicy hairball in the middle of the living room floor.

There’s no place like home!

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A micro-vacation, Part VI: Excess and opulence to rival Asgard’s

After a lunch of quadruple-P museum cafe food (pre-packaged, pretentious, and pricey), we are ready to drive a mile or so, play “hunt the parking space” again, and visit another museum.

Can you guess which one?

This is the Museum of Fine Arts, and we’re here to take in an exhibit about the Habsburgs. They were a family who sat on thrones over much of the part of Midgard called “Europe” for many centuries. Their strategy seems to have been to breed enough offspring to marry into every noble family there was. Bouncing baby Habsburgs everywhere! Look, here are two of them. Brothers, I think.

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At first glance they appear to be friendly, don’t they? But look, you can see the older doesn’t quite trust the younger. This is all too familiar. Run, lad! Run away! Older siblings will make your life a misery! Plus, you’re probably adopted.

A wind trio is warbling period music in the gallery, just to set the tone. There are a lot of fine and fancy things on display. A carriage. A sleigh. Portraits. Costly, ostentatious, and uncomfortable furniture. Gold, silver, and other elaborate treasures. Observe this–a seashell encrusted with precious metals and Midgardian sea-deities. Decidedly vulgar.

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And that thing behind it is a jumped-up coconut. Gaudy, that’s what they are.

Sigyn and the human female are most interested in the textiles. There’s a rather splendid tapestry that is taking up one whole wall. Foliage, coat of arms, foliage, martial figures, more foliage, more arms, more foliage, blah, blah, blah. Asgardians don’t “do” coats of arms, so I find them to be so much incomprehensible geometry, but I can certainly appreciate good weaving. (Frigga is good at it.) The human female says that most of the plants are identifiable

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Even I can recognize blackberries and clover. Sigyn is in raptures.

There is also a great deal of embroidery. The human female is sort of moaning softly and Sigyn has her cute little nose pressed up against the glass, trying to see each stitch. She says the gold work is impeccable.

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It’s certainly neat. And I will allow that this is a striking uniform.

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Black and gold is always appropriate and tasteful, no matter the occasion (especially if there are touches of green.) What’s that you have over there, Sigyn? I’m trying to make out what the design is–

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The human male is saying it’s a golden sheepskin, something to do with a group of knights and nobles. “Good day, My Lord. Why, yes, I AM a member of Ye Olde Sheepe Carcasse Club.” Sorry–“Order of the Golden Fleas.” That’s Renaissance and Early Modern Midgard for you–all gold and shiny on the surface, but still making a big to-do about vermin-infested animal hides.

And here’s another version, a bit more skilfully rendered.

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You can see more of this garment here, along with a few others that are also part of this exhibit.

You know, Thor and his buddies did something similar when they were young and stupid, making themselves a super-secret little club whose emblem was a necklace made of silver herring. I changed their tacky jewelry into real herring at a feast once. As usual, there was quite a lot of alcohol about, and it was approaching dawn before anyone figured out where the fishy smell was coming from.*

Ah, family.

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*They all just thought it was Volstagg.

A micro-vacation, Part V: A lepidopteran interlude

There is one last exhibit to enjoy before we leave. This museum features a pocket jungle. It is warm, steamy, and loud with the noise of fans, a waterfall, and the delighted squeals of children–and the human female. The air is alive with butterflies of every hue.

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This one of the kind called "Rice Paper." It is extra-large and flappy.

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I think it looks as if someone forgot to color it in.

It’s hard to tell who is more attracted to the red flowers, Sigyn or the butterfly.

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Sigyn! Don’t move! If you are very quiet, it may come to you.

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Butterflies, being nectar-feeding creatures, are attracted to Sigyn because she is just that sweet.

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A micro-vacation, Part IV: Why we actually came to the museum

As much fun as the dinosaurs and saber-toothed cats are, the humans have actually come to the museum this morning to take in an exhibit about recent archaeological finds from China. Bronze Age stuff from two or three thousand years ago. (Back when Odin still had binocular vision.) Apparently it’s very different from anything else ever found.

This imposing fellow greets visitors to the exhibit. At seven feet or more, he’s an arresting presence.

Apparently we are to imagine him covered in gold and holding an elephant’s tusk. I don’t know. *I* think green is more imposing, and a scepter with a Mind Gem would be more intimidating… But that’s my schtick.

Oooh! Look at this. The identification tag says it is a tiger, but I think it looks more wolfy. (Which reminds me–I wonder how dear old Fenrir is doing?)

Sigyn’s favorite item is this very fine replica of an intricately-carved gold disk depicting birds in flight.

It *is* a pretty thing.

This jade knife, though, is more to my taste (green and pointy.)

Somehow, I think they will not have replicas of this on sale at the gift shop.

Speaking of jade, we have now finished with the ancient Chinese trinkets and have entered the Fabergé exhibit with all of its carved stone, gems, enamel, and gold. Sigyn, remember as you look around that all of these jeweled pretties belong to one family. They live here in Houston and have graciously lent their entire collection, including the famous Nobel Ice Egg, for display. Photographs scarcely do all this beauty justice.

Sigyn, of course, is immediately drawn to the carved hardstone flowers in their rock-crystal “vases.” The lily-of-the-valley blossoms are made of pearl,

while the gone-to-seed dandelion’s fluffy bits are rendered in natural asbestos fibers.

Dratted glass gets in the way of a really good look, doesn’t it? (Better photos here and here)

This triple bell-push features three little jade elephants:

Ehehehehe! Sigyn, look how fun! This elephant is a match-holder and striker. His body is made of a river stone. (Grrr. I HATE photographing through glass!)

I may not know much about art, but I can certainly appreciate the craftsmanship evident in all of these items. If there weren’t so many people around, I would take a little something as a present for my dearest. Sigyn, just in case I can locate the fire alarm, which is your very favorite piece?

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A micro-vacation, Part III: Nature study is an acceptable pastime

We passed a mostly pleasant night, though the inn’s occupants need to learn about a little thing called inside voices. The humans are a bit put out that the inn’s website omitted the fact that it is under renovation and that the pool is closed. (My coding/hacking skills improve daily. And NO ONE wants to see the human female in a swimsuit. <shudder>) They assume that the almost total lack of hot water may also be due to the ongoing work. (My plumbing skills improve as well. It amuses me that the front desk staff will bear the brunt of the complaints for something that is most assuredly not their fault.)

I think I may have finally broken Sigyn of the habit of trying to sample the little round or square cakes that sit by sinks in inns, so we are heading down to the free breakfast buffet. The human female is known to have decided preferences. I predict: scrambled eggs.

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Bingo. I also predict there will be a waffle involved. She is physically incapable of passing up a waffle maker.

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Augh! She’s doing it again–Observe that sloppy margin! That uneven distribution of syrup! She’s trying to drive me insane, I know it.

Our itinerary for this morning includes the Museum of Natural History. Sigyn is a nature aficionado, so she should be very happy. I’m less enthusiastic, because nature is often messy or smelly or bitey, but I have heard that this museum has a nice collection of fossils, which ought to be fairly innocuous. The incidence of ammonite attacks is practically nil.

Well, someone at the ticket desk has a sense of humor and a flair for the decorative arts.

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Aaaaaaaahhh! Sigyn, always tender-hearted, has discerned that this small reptile is suffering from a sore throat. Mister ticket-taker, you may want to call the vet.

Oh, my ears! This museum is large, lovely, very modern, and NOT designed with acoustics in mind. The milling Midgardian children are deafening! Cannot we go someplace quieter?

Seashells! Seashells are quiet. By all means, let us visit the malacological collection!

The human female likes the scallop shells best. They certainly come in a pleasing array of sizes and colors. Sherbet colors, if you will.

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Including Sigyn’s favorite, raspberry:

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But we did come to look at the dinosaurs. Which way to the Hall of Paleontology? Back through the pandemonium of small people? Sigh. Very well–lead the way.

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Sigyn likes the Dimetrodon best. (Dearest, have you ever considered broadening your horizons, color-wise?) While not strictly a dinosaur, Dimetrodon seems to be quite a favorite with this dino-loving crowd. Beastie, you are very lucky you lived during the Permian, because if you were around today, no doubt some enterprising soul would use your impressive sail as advertising space.

Ah, now this is a fine creature! Just look at those spines!

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I thought trilobites were smoothly segmented and boring. Oh, never have I wished so much to possess the ability to travel in time. What a fine steed this would have made! Especially since, with my magic, I could make it huge, and air-breathing….and flying.


Oh, dear. Sigyn has discovered the displays devoted to prehistoric mammals. The murals depict, in furry, winsome-eyed detail a plethora of ancient sloths and bears and other "huggables," to give a better idea of what the now-skeletons looked like in life. Yes, sweetie, the stripey horsies are cute. If they were extant, I would procure one for you.

But not this:

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A prodigoiusly-pooping rhinoceros with an under-bite, a behemoth who eats the landscaping? Not an acceptable pet. Or…wait. That is just the sort of animal most likely to annoy the human female. Sigyn, if I ever gain the power of resurrecting prehistoric beasts, I promise this will be the first one on the list!

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A micro-vacation, Part II: Bobbleheads, Bao, and Books

The mortals are working off their lunch by wandering around, visiting various shops. The male wants to do more fossicking about in the fountain pen store. Odin’s eypatch! Doesn’t he have enough of the things yet?! Sigyn would like to look around there again, but after the mischief I perpetrated last time, I think it’s prudent that I make myself scarce. To amuse myself, I have caused every single parking space in this part of town to contain a car. The humans have been forced to park in a space supposedly reserved for the clientele of another establishment. The human female is thus obliged to remain with the car so that it is not towed away. She is sitting on the curb, reading a book and trying to stay in the narrow strip of shade and out of the broiling sun. (Sweaty twice in one day–I’m on a roll!) She has not noticed yet that I have induced a couple of ants to crawl up inside her pant leg. Figuring it out in…3…2…1…

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Yawn… FInally! Here are Sigyn and the male, with another new pen and several inks. Now where are we going? Hmmm. Someplace called Third Planet. This requires some tricky navigation. It is one of those places one can see from the car but can’t actually get to. I have cleverly concealed the driveway, and it isn’t until our second trip around the block that the mortals see past my glamour and find a place to put the car.

What manner of place is this? Oh. I see. It is devoted to the high, noble, Midgardian art forms known as the comic book and the fantasy or science fiction novel. This grotty little shop is full, floor to ceiling and wall to wall, with flimsy books, plastic figurines, and other nerdly wares. Gah! My brother’s stupid Norse face is everywhere. Are my own glorious exploits not to be regarded? I am wounded. I am outraged! I am—

Oh, no. No. Nononononono, NO, NO!

I don’t know what is more infuriating–how utterly ridiculous they have made me look, or the fact that some moron believes that my noble visage is worth a measly $10.99. Human, if you buy it I will smite you so hard…. I do not say “please” often, but please can we get out of here?

More driving, more poking. It is now nearing supper time, and the mortals are once again dithering. They tried to eat at the promising-looking Japanese place which they have passed four times, but ha! It is closed, permanently. I am so ticked off at humans right now that I’d like to travel back in time and close it twice.
A decision has been reached. We are to dine at a place with the dubious moniker of “Fat Bao.” I suppose I should be grateful it’s not “Greasy Bao” or “Indigestion-inducing Bao.” Bleargh.

Oh. Now I comprehend. It’s “Fat” as in “lucky” or “prosperous” and “Bao” as in “soft, pillowy, dough balls of stuffy goodness.” I have met bao before, but these are quite different! They have been patted down, and rather than being stuffed, they seem to be wearing their filling on the outside. Imagine, if you will, the unlikely offspring of a bao and a taco… They should call them FLAT bao! The human female has selected one with chicken, green onions, and pickled carrots, while the human male has opted for fried fish. I am… doubtful, but they do smell appetizing.

To accompany the Flat Bao, the humans have ordered some werid sort of smothered fries. Look, Sigyn, you can scarcely see the potatoes under the bulgogi. Whatever bulgogi is.

On top of the fries and bulgogi (which turns out to be tasty Korean marinated beefy bits) is a boat load of cilantro and a second boatload of raw onions. Ehehehehe! Watching the human female trying to eat this from the bottom up so as to avoid the despised plant matter is most amusing!

Now that it is the humans rather the food who are stuffed and “fat,” it’s time to poke in one last store. We are back in the same neighborhood as the pen shop, poking in an emporium that specializes in used books, movies, and music. Apparently the human female is seeking to repair some of the damage I did to her precious CD collection, because she’s loading up with with Mozart and Renaissance polyphony. I have no idea where she’s going to put them, though, because the shelf back home is beyond full. She’s a greedy little hoarder, that’s what she is.

*Yawn* It has been a long day and I’m sleepy, but I’ve energy for one last bit of mischief. It’s only now, when the humans are so stuffed they couldn’t even read a menu, let alone eat another bite, that they discover a cute little food truck serving ice cream sandwiched between two big cookies. Oh, too bad! Nothing for it but to waddle back to the inn and hope the mattresses are comfy and the room is quiet…

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A micro-vacation, Part I: Something new in an old town

The humans are all in a tizzy because the new university semester is due to start soon. It means that shopping, dining out, parking, and navigating traffic are all going to become exponentially more difficult as the number of people in town skyrockets. Once classes start up, there’s really no taking a break until Yule. Therefore, they’ve been seized by the notion to take a mini-vacation now, while they can. Their destination is Houston, the large town to the south, where they plan to….wait for it… shop, dine out, navigate in traffic, and rub shoulders with some 2.2 million of their fellow Midgardians.

I didn’t say it was a good notion.

Sigyn and I have come with them. Sigyn, because she likes to poke about in bookstores and museums. I, because I have a few notions of my own about how to make this trip truly memorable, commencing before we even leave home!

We made a late start. For some reason the human female can never find that last thing she needs to pack. I’ve found that if I can hide just the right combination of things, I can have her in such a swivet that she’s tense and sweaty when she sets off instead of cool and relaxed. She’s extra wound-up today because a quarter of the home irrigation system is on the fritz again. (Last time it was a broken sprinkler head. This time I fried a controller. I like to mix it up.) The repairmen were supposed to come yesterday, but they didn’t, so she’s leaving town knowing that she’ll come back to beds full of dead perennials and a scattering of large, pale, crispy spots of lawn-mange. There’s such a thing as Plant Guilt, and she has it bad.


One of the purposes of this trip is to try to find her some long-sleeved shirts, some of the underthings she likes, and some shoes. She likes the little brown dress shoes she has, but I bespelled the hook-and-loop fastener on the left one so that it comes loose at the worst moments, meaning that the strap flaps dementedly and she has to scramble and hobble to do them up again. I have such fun watching her–it would be a shame if she found replacements. In fact, it would be a shame if she found anything on her list, so I made a few phone calls. Thus, the one store certain to have the shirts and underclothes has neither, and the shoe store has several cute options that do not fit. She’s thoroughly discouraged.

That’s a good morning’s work. Time for lunch! The humans are playing that “Where do you want to go?” “I don’t know–where do YOU want to go?” game that irritates me so profoundly. Therefore, I have selected the establishment in which we shall dine. It’s part of a chain, but the humans have not eaten in one.

I have chosen wisely. It is hot, crowded, and very noisy in here. The decor and advertising are rather aggressive.

The food looks…interesting.

Somewhere under the cheese, peppers, cheese, onions, and cheese, there is grilled chicken and a flat bread of some sort. Even without the “pico” that the human female asked them to omit (she maintains that PICO is an acronym for “Put Icky Cilantro On”), that is quite a lot of lunch. I don’t trust it.

I don’t trust this mascot fellow, either. Just look at him! Horns, a triple-pointed spear, and what is supposed to be a wicked smirk. Clearly, I am being aped.

Midgardians have a saying that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I find myself not much flattered, since I now know, to my sorrow, how inconvenient having a double can be. Sigyn, you must promise not to like him better than you do me. Even if he IS red.

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