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Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
That's What She Said
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Saturday
Oct082005

Caught On Camera

Brace yourselves. Really. Woke up to the following text message from my Mom.
"Went to film Jordy's (my nephew) first football game. Was completely traumatized for life. Caught a snippet before I could shut it off. Your tape was left in the camera??!!"

The tape my unsuspecting mom is referring to is The Surge and my attempt at porn stardom. Within the confines of our humble Brooklyn abode, of course. When we set out for New York from Utah, my Mom generously loaned us her digital recorder. Well, actually I forced her into lending it to us as it was I who gave it to her as a Christmas present in the first place. She finally came for a visit last week and, as planned, took the camcorder back home with her. In my hurry to pack for London, I must have left a cassette in the player, The cassette, unfortunately, starring The Surge and myself in all manner of nekkid horseplay.

It was about two months ago. As I was feeling frisky, I agreed to humor my always frisky husband. Moments later, we were off in Pam and Tommy land. After each 'episode', we'd turn back the digital recorder and watch ourselves in all our glorious glory. It was anything but a turn on.
"Look at my ass jiggle!"
"Do I really look like that?"
"My boobs! They are flopping and flapping like a ballon in the middle of deflating!"

The Surge rather enjoyed the whole entrepreneurial affair. As for me, after watching my jiggling joggling bum and flopping and flapping boobs for all of thirty seconds I decreed from there on out, the only private porn I'd be making would feature me securely on bottom, effectively securing my bottom to the couch. And so, once again, we strategically placed the camera on the counter and went to town. I liked the result of this last attempt all right. It's not something I'd go back and view for kicks, mind you, but it was interesting to give it a go. Now I'm left to wonder which version my Mom laid unlucky eyes on. She's just texted me, "I think over time and therapy I'll be okay".
Friday
Oct072005

One Hour in Harrods

We push through the gold etched glass doors, leaving the hustle and bustle of Knightsbridge behind, innocent to the beauteous bounty that lays ahead. Like entering a portal into another dimension. From clammy, nearly gray colored air tinged with chill, to vivid colors with posh perfumes rushing forward to welcome us to Harrods.

That the owner of Harrods is Egyptian is reflected in the architecture of this London gem of a department store. Ornate carvings rear to life from solid, gargantuan marble walls. We are in the Egyptian Hall, and for all I know about Egypt, this tomb could very well resemble the interior of a pyramid itself with its' gold trim and massive arches. Humungous hutches crouch against walls, filled with dazzling displays of Lladro, an homage to the ancient tradition of porcelain. These finely handcrafted porcelain figurines from Spain occupy shelves, all individually lit, demanding undivided attention like the spotlit star of a Broadway play mid-monologue. The Surge and I follow our noses from The Egyptian Hall to the food sections.

Such an array of magnificient decadence I've not yet seen in my nearly three decades on earth. Meat, Fruits & Vegetables, and Desserts each occupy their own grand room. Stuffed to overflowing with all manner of ravishing food item accoutrements. I am hypnotized by the most beautiful confection creations I've ever beheld. Sparkling display cases containing miniature masterpieces. Tiny desserts resplendent with glossy fruits, drizzled chocolate accents. Each elegant sculpture, tantalizing in the soft light.

I can nearly taste the sweet sumptuousness of the Red Raspberry Chocolate Tart on my tongue. I linger near the case, then like a kid in a candy store, this adult in a dessert shop crouches next to the banquet of baking and presses her face against the glass. Silently, I whisper the names of each delicate dessert, one more succulent sounding than the next. Cafe Religieuse; a light choux pastry filled with coffee flavored creme patisserie and finished with coffee fondant. I peer at the diminutive dessert for ages, admiring every carefully crafted swoop and swirl of rich, dark chocolate before sliding my eyes to its' neighbor, Ms. Strawberry Choux Bun.. a light and flakey pastry filled with fresh strawberries and a liberal sprinkling of golden toasted almonds to finish. I exchange wide-eyed, eyebrow raising grins with a six year old ogling the same row of pastries and move on to the next work of art. Lavendar Valencia; this dessert with a femme fatale of a name. For that's what she is.. a chocolate enchantress. She uses her milk chocolate caramel mousse to lure you in. Once she's got you in her sticky clutches she gives her heart to you. A lavendar brulee center on a Dacquoise sponge base that has you begging for more when she's gone. And the icing on this petite cake? A praline glaze that will have you licking your lips in bittersweet chocolate agony over the memory of the sweet seductress that is no more.

I make my getaway, toward the eclair counter, and pause to count the many kinds available. Pistachio, Green Tea, Tonka Bean, Ilychee and of course, all the usual suspects like chocolate, strawberry, vanilla and the like. That's when the smell of rich, chocolate envelopes me like a pair of cozy flannel pajamas. I see The Surge then, beckoning me to the source of the aroma. It's a chocolate fantasy of decadent indulgence.

Willy Wonka has nothing on Harrods chocolate counters. Chocolate squares in all shapes and sizes.. Combinations of nougat, caramel and nuts oozing soft, luscious centers with flavors such as mint, smooth vanilla, and rich coffee then bathed in milk, dark or white chocolate. The delectable delights include Chocolate Rum Truffles, Passion Armande, Sucree Salee, Truffe Paillette Cafe, Fabiola..

Having overdosed on visions of milk chocolate baths by candlelight, The Surge tugs me toward his favorite; the meat displays. On our way we pass a full sushi bar where dozens of Brits are whiling away the rainy lunch hour. The delicate din of silverware clattering against posh plates laden with fresh fish accompanies us until we turn the corner.

Todays Market; Dutch Veal, Scotch Beef and English Pork Mince. Butchers in full regalia labor beneath meat hooks laden with heavy shanks of animal flesh. Generally not one for the raw meat, I decide the whole affair is elegantly barbaric and leave The Surge to observe what he calls 'The coolest job in the world'. Entranced by the cleaving, chopping and carving, he barely notices me moving on.

The Vegetable and Fruit Section is a rainbow of colors. Each fresh piece polished to high sheen then tucked into burlap filled baskets that are nestled into mounds of clean, sweet smelling hay. I am eying exotic and extravagent sounding concoctions (tins of caviar - 2,000 English pounds! Streamlined, clear, glass bottles of cordial, ginger beer) when I nearly topple a carefully stacked pyramid display of fresh Welsh Mountain Honey. The fragrance of baking bread wafts into my nose and proves to be my breaking point. I extricate The Surge from his visions of owning a butcher shop and we work our way upstairs.

Past luxurious fabrics, and sharp suited saleswomen, dodging posh perfume sprayers, Nicole Farhi, DKNY, Roberto Cavalli, Dior, Armani.. we make our way to our ultimate destination, The Harrods Christmas room.

From the contemporary starkness of high end designers to a festive frenzy.. Multi colored lights, twinkle every which way, splashing color onto ornaments on display, refracting, and sending rainbows all around. The lights have been wound around the room, Chevy-Chase-in-A-National-Lampoon's- Christmas-Vacation-style.. Even Santa himself would scratch his snow white head in wonderment of it all. High on perfume, The Surge and I clutch each other in delirious dizziness.. Everywhere you look, spangles and sparkles catch your eye and beckon you come closer. Christmas music dances throughout the room, partnering with the lights to the beat of The Little Drummer Boy or the happy chimes of those familiar Jingle Bells.

We've decided to buy one Christmas ornament for our tree.. Oh, the deliberations! The drama! Which one will it be? There are balls of silver and gold, purple, pink, red, green, yellow and every hue in between. Matte, glossy, orbs with designs etched in, those with a sprinkling of snow, a powdery sugar finish that looks so tempting you almost venture a lick.. Finally! We settle on red and silver and exhaustedly make our way outside..
Wednesday
Oct052005

A Night To Remember

It's rare to meet someone who inspired you to do what you love. Musicians, artists, authors.. Mostly, you listen, watch, read their art and love them from afar. Let them lead you by example. Last night, I met one of mine.

I first read High Fidelity in my early twenties. It was the first book narrated by a man that really grabbed me, aside from classics like Dickens, Hemingway, and the like. I got my hands on High Fidelity, read about Rob, his life, his girlfriend, his music shop, and couldn't get enough. It was a brilliantly written novel about why men are the way they are. It opened up a whole insight about the opposite sex for me. Gave me a peek into their inner dialogue.. and yes, sometimes they are outright assholes.. but more often than not, they're just as confused as women are. I was blown away. I immediately searched out everything written by this Nick Hornby bloke. That ultimately lead me to Fever Pitch, How to Be Good and About A Boy. I had consumed all these books before I met The Surge.. And one night, as he saw my Hornby section of books he casually commented, 'I know him'..

Turns out Hornby is a fan of The Surge's. And so.. I got to spend my first anniversary dining with Nick Hornby and his beautiful family. And he's everything you'd want one of your favorite authors to be. Kind, funny, witty, intelligent, articulate, and a fantastic family man. At moments I would float above my body,remember my young self reading Nick Hornby and never in a thousand years think I'd be spending my first anniversary in London, at his dinner table. Wow.
Tuesday
Oct042005

One Year Ago Today...

One year ago today a girl took a chance on a guy. One year ago today that guy took a chance on the girl. One year ago today they bought ten dollar rings from a mall kiosk. One year ago today they drove into the Utah mountains and secretly got married. One year ago today the judge said (en francais) "you may now kiss the bride". One year ago today they honeymooned on gift certificates at the Red Lobster in Sugar House. One year ago today they made love for the first time as man and wife. One year ago today.
Tuesday
Oct042005

Hair of the Dog That Bit Ya

If that's the case, then I hope some enterprising Brit has Cosmopolitans for sale at 10 in the morning. Overdosed on the pink drink last night. Went poshing yesterday in Mayfair, the wealthiest most expensive neighborhood in London. Copped a squat at The Audley Arms on Mount Street, catty corner from where Madge buys her bird hunting gear when she goes riding with Guy. Ordered up fish&chips, poured a liberal dose of malted vinegar across the whole affair and went to town. Must admit I liked the chips more than the fish but it was all tasty. I even liked my side of mushy peas though that could be the most unappealing name for food ever, aside from spam.

After the fish feast we sauntered down Oxford street. Rush hour soon made sauntering an impossibility. The crushing crowd made us feel like little fish, swimming upstream, against the tide..

24/7 with the same person is an exercise in fortitude.. An exercise we failed on many occasions yesterday. The Surge and I were growling at each other a fair amount. One of us would say something the other one would jump on.. Then we'd spend the next half hour dissecting who said what.
"Where are we going?"
"You said you wanted to leave Queensway."
"No, I just said I was tired of crowds."
"Well, we're in London, deal with it."
"I know, but it's also my vacation and I don't want to be Ms. Tourist all week."
"Fine. Do your own thing then!"
We are improving. Neither of us stalked away in an effort to prove a stupid point. I think The Surge would feel bad abandoning me in a strange city. The griping and swiping didn't last long, however. I suppose that sort of thing is inevitable when you're with someone every second. The Surge is a remarkable tour guide and has a story for every corner. Stories about kings, queens, artists, musicians.. he knows London in a way that bored natives don't. I love seeing it for the first time through his eyes.