Wednesday, January 30, 2013


 Hello! I've been back from my trip home for a week and a half now, and I was hoping that Jeff would forget   I said I would write a blog post.  But he asks me every day when I'm going to post something, so here you go.  I want to start by saying that I spent the entire 2 weeks at home in complete awe of the amount of amazing people in my life.  I have no idea what I've done to deserve them, and I can only hope that I get a chance to return their kindness. I knew I had a good life in Indy before I left, and I was constantly reminded of this during my stay.  Also, I took no pictures so I had to steal from those that did.  A big thanks to them as well.
In case you weren't sure where Indiana was.

We'd been living in England all of two weeks when I booked my trip home to Indiana.  I knew I would need the break.  Living in a foreign country isn't easy.  Everything is harder than you think and nothing comes naturally.  This doesn't mean that I don't like living in England, but I do miss the ease and familiarity of living in the US. Life without a job and a car can be very boring and isolating.  I'd been looking forward to this trip for months, I even had a countdown app on my phone.  I woke up before the alarm on departure day, and Jeff dropped me off at the Manchester airport with more than 2 hours to spare before my plane took off.   The airport stresses me out, so I love to be there early.  The more time to deal with all the lines, the better.  I'm not relaxed until I'm sitting at my gate reading a gossipy magazine and eating peanut butter M&Ms carrot sticks.

If you read this blog regularly (which you should because it's awesome), you'd know that something goes wrong at the airport every time Jeff and I travel.  But since I wasn't flying into a small European country where I don't speak the language, and I wasn't going to have to figure out how to pay for and find a bus to get to a hotel once I landed, I thought this trip would be the exception. But of course not!  I walked in to find a huge, overflowing line of people at the American Airlines counter.  They had a full flight to Chicago and a full flight to New York scheduled to depart within an hour of each other.   The kiosks that print boarding passes kept running out of paper.  The baggage belt system for the entire airport was broken.  The boarding pass scanner at security was broken also.  It took nearly two hours just to check my bag.  Every flight out of Manchester left late that day.

Thankfully my arrival was much better than my departure.  I was greeted by my parents and sister holding up a glittery sign with my name on it.  I've always wanted my name on a sign at the airport, and this one even had Mini Eggs attached to it!

I hate my nickname, but at least it's in glitter.

We headed to Valpo, where we spent the rest of the day playing cards and eating Mexican.  The next night (Friday) my family had planned a "garage party" for me, which is exactly as it sounds.  The garage was heated and decked out in Christmas lights,  corn hole boards were set up, pizza was ordered, drinks were poured and a plethora of family members were in attendance.

Fronczak Garage Party.

It's instinctual to lean in, even though it's entirely unnecessary.

I have no idea how to get pictures side by side.
Out at a bar, taking shots.  Normal Saturday night for this family.
Saturday morning was my favorite part of the trip home.  I woke up to my sister demanding I come out of my room.  When I finally gave in, my family was in the living room yelling "Merry Christmas!," presents were under the tree, and the Jimmy Buffet Christmas cd (a Fronczak family favorite) was playing.
They had recreated Christmas!  I couldn't believe it!  I'd been telling them to just leave me out of Christmas this year since I wouldn't be home and couldn't really bring them gifts or bring back any gifts.  I'm so glad they didn't listen.
The "Christmas" morning mess.

After a great weekend with my family, I headed down to Indy with my sister and brother for the rest of my trip.  I picked up my rental car and spent the next 5 days driving myself to Target, Panera, and CrossFit Indy North (CFIN).  I spent more time socializing than working out, but I had lot to catch up on and was in rest mode due to an upcoming competition.  My trip home happened to coincide with the third annual Great Lakes Invitational, which is a competition CFIN hosts every year.  I had competed in the two previous GLIs, and since a Team category was added this year I decided to give it a go.  My three teammates were all good friends and people I had competed on a team with before.  Doug, Matt and I were on the Bee Team at Regionals last year and "2Bunz" Linsday and I were on the very first CFIN Regionals team the year before. How could this not be fun?

The competition started Saturday morning with 3 minutes for all four team members to establish max reps bench press at a designated weight.  The weight for females was 125 pounds.  The two times I'd practiced this I'd only gotten 1 rep.  Which I was fine with  because my former 1 rep max was 135 and I hadn't really done bench press in the past 8 months due to an elbow inury.   But thanks to my teammates yelling, I got three reps!  My day was made, I could quit now and be happy.  That was not an option, so onto event 2.   This event was done in guy/guy, girl/girl pairs and included overhead squats, overhead carries, box jumps, and pullups.  It was perfect for 2Bunz and 2Gunz, she loves overhead squats and I love box jumps and pullups.  Our team did great and we were off to a good start.
Box jumps.  One of my favorite CrossFit  movements.
My teammate Lindsay  repping out 110# overhead squats

We all headed to our camp of gym bags and coolers to refuel and rest before the next event.  This is when the universe decided it had shown me enough love and kindness.  I got up to walk and felt a stabbing pain in my ankle.  I couldn't put my full weight on it or walk normally.  Considering the next event had double unders (jump rope in which the rope passes under your feet twice each jump) and buddy carries (carry your partner on your back and a 65# barbell with one hand for 200 feet), this was not good.  But my years as a competitive gymnast taught me to ignore pain, so I continued on.  I wasn't about to let my team down.

Matt having a blast being carried by Doug.
Fellow CFINers Vic and Gina.  I love their intensity.
Doug falling off Matt.  
Buddy carries make for great photos.  I didn't even try to make those last two pictures side by side.  It just happened.    

We made it through and finished the day in 6th place.  Our goal as a team was to get to the final event.  To do so, we had to finish in the top 6 after 6 events. (Three events Saturday, three on Sunday).
I woke up Sunday morning and was still in a world of pain, so I had my nurse friend and fellow CFINer Sarah tape up my ankle.  Between that and a massive amount of painkillers, I was able to get through the first event-a clean and jerk ladder.  My fellow teammates are crazy strong and did very well-this moved our team into 5th place!  Next up was deficit handstand push-ups followed immediately by a spring/lunge combination.  Lunges suck.  They will make your butt sore for days.  Add a 95# barbell in the front rack position and you're really screwed.  Add an injured ankle and you should probably just go home.  But  between the adrenaline, the painkillers, and the ankle tape, I could barely feel my ankle at this point.  I hobbled through it as fast as I could.  Thankfully that was the last event before the field was cut from 30 to 6.  

Deficit handstand push-ups.  Another favorite of mine.

My teammates yelling at me not to put the bar down during the lunge/sprint event.
Results were posted and we were in 9th, thus not making the finals.  To be in the top 10 is no easy feat, and I'm very proud of my team.  I had so much fun spending the weekend with my friends and cheering on all the other competitors.  However, I can't help but notice that this is where I've ended up in every team competition I've ever done.  Close, but not quite there.  You'd think it'd be easier to mentally handle each time, but it's entirely the opposite.  I don't like to let competitive exercise get me down, especially something as silly as not being able to do a 7th workout in 2 days.  So I did what any sad woman would do and surrounded myself with friends, pizza, and a movie about male strippers, "Magic Mike."  (Horrible movie, I don't recommend it.)

Team Never Was.   Love you guys!
My ankle was swollen and angry Monday morning, so I went directly to the walk-in Sports Clinic at Methodist hospital.  Within 90 minutes I'd seen the doctor, gotten an x-ray, an MRI, a boot and depleted my health savings account.  I was thankful this happened in the US and that we were forced to keep our US health insurance.  If this had happened in England I'd probably still be waiting to see a doctor.  The worst part of this injury is that it leaves me home bound.  I have to walk at least a mile to get anywhere from my house in England, and that is not going to work with a giant boot.

Glitter boot.
Monday night was my second favorite part of the  trip home.  A while back I had mentioned to my friend Marne that I really missed big, fat American steak.  So she got together with our CFIN friend Kevin from Ruth's Chris steakhouse and they planned a special dinner for our CFIN crew.  Twenty-five of us enjoyed a private room, appetizers, wine, and the most amazing 3-course steak dinner.  I could go on forever about how awesome this night was, but I won't.  Mostly because the majority of the conversations that night should not be repeated.  I don't have any pictures because I was too busy drinking wine, stuffing my face, and laughing until my cheeks and abs were sore.  I wish Jeff could've been there, but I suppose this gives us a reason to plan another dinner when we return to the US in August.

After two weeks of stress free, care free life in the US (other than ankle injury), it was time to head back to England.   I was looking forward to getting back and planning the next round of European adventures.  Me and my boot survived the long flight and arrived at Manchester airport early Friday morning.  Jeff was picking me up and decided to park the car and come into the airport to help get my 100 pounds worth of luggage through the British snowstorm and to the car.   It was as if England could sense my relaxed state of mind and wanted to immediately destroy it.  We got stuck in the parking garage for 30 minutes due to a mechanical error with the parking ticket dispenser.  We ran out of wiper fluid on the drive home in the snowstorm and had to stop to buy some.  Not a big deal but when you need to use the car manual to learn how to pop the bonnet (hood), it gets annoying.  (You have to open the passenger side door to see the lever.)  Also, when you've been traveling for 20 hours with no sleep, anything is annoying.  Then Jeff tells me that the boiler in our house is broken and therefore we don't have heat.  Our house was 42 degrees when we walked in.  Welcome back.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Welcome to 2013: London Trip #3 and a Notts NYE

It's 2013 which means we have less than seven months remaining before moving back - that's only 28 weekends left - no more room for lazy Sundays.  We must keep exploring!  

Generally speaking, I'm not a big fan the year "2013" in terms of reading and writing it.  It just looks awkward, no symmetry or evenness.  Now I didn't think of this myself, but I read that 2013 is the first year since 1987 where there are 4 different integers.  I was just a youngster then, so it's a brave new world, indeed.

Nonetheless, it will be a great year of new experiences, and I look forward to every moment.  I turn 30 in a few weeks, so it's high time I start thinking about what I want to be when I grow up.

This weekend, however, will be pretty low key.  I dropped off Kerry at Manchester airport a few days ago for her flight back to Indiana to visit family and friends.  One advantage of not working is that you can travel after the holidays when prices drop 30%.  She has promised me to take pictures and write at least one post about her experiences!  In the meantime I'm just going grind through the next two weeks to research and save up for some trips we are planning this spring.  That said, I thought I'd spend a few minutes to document the tail end of the holiday break, since it was a doozy.

We planned a budget day trip to London on Dec 29 - the itenerary was to catch the 6 am train from Derby to put us into London at 7:30.  Tour some free attractions and mueseums, grab a lunch, then catch the return train at 4:30 to be home for dinner.  Unfortunately there was a derailment which meant we had to take the bus to Leicester, hop on a later train, and get into London around 9.  Feeling entitled, I went to the ticket counter to try to argue my case to change my return train to a later  time - there's a train every half hour, but cost goes up for these high demand times.  However, since I bought our tickets at the discount "no refund" rate, everyone was generally unhelpful and just kept passing the buck.  Having burned another 30 minutes walking around St. Pancras, I cut my losses.  We topped up our Oyster cards and made our way to Greenwich.

"Weel done, Cutty-sark! And in an instant all was dark."
As usual, I don't find out much about a place until after I visit.  So, I just read the Scottish poem Tam o' Shanter, from which the clipper ship was named.  "Cutty sark" is Scots for what is essentially a shirt that is too small for the wearer.  In the poem, a man is riding his horse drunk when he stumbles on a bunch of dancing witches.  He hides and watches the witch Nannie dancing in her skimpy shirt, until he can't contain himself and shouts out "Well Done!" giving away his hiding spot.  Basically this poem from 1791 was the inspiration for the movie Porky's.  

Anyway, Cutty Sark started out shipping tea from China, sailing around Africa.  After the Suez canal opened, steam ships were more cost effective so it switched to running wool shipments from Austraila, where it was popular for its speedy delivery. You can guess what its figurehead was...

Not much support there, Nannie
We did not pay to go inside the Cutty Sark exhibit since there were plenty of free things yet to see, so wandered around the grounds of the Royal Naval College for a bit.  We got to try on some jousting armor, which doesn't make much sense to have at a college, but as a Purdue engineer what do I know?  The school used to be a hospital for naval veterans, so that's probably a good reason why it has the museum/tourist attraction aspect to it.

From the college we strolled to the Royal Observatory, again sticking to the portions which did not require admission fees.  The work done here in the 18th century is beyond impressive.  I have a casual interest in both astronomy and maritime history, and here is where it all ties together.  I apologize in advance if the next few paragraphs get a bit nerdy.

Ships needed a way to know their location in the open sea using the stars as reference, and thanks to the hard work from gents like Flamsteed (born in Derby), Halley, and Bradley, among others, they figured it out here.  It's only fair that we recognize this place as the modern datum of time (Greenwich Mean Time) and space (Prime Meridian, 0 deg longitude).   In the end it's all relative, isn't it?  This line is determined by the location of the transit telescope which tracks star positions, so it's as good as any.  Certain things just work better when we're all using the same reference point.

You know, I just read that NASA is looking into the possibility sending a robot out to snare an astroid and put it into orbit around the moon so astronauts can "safely" practice landing on it.  Reference.  I wonder what Sir George Airy would think of that?

Bradley's original meridian was used for 134 years, it's 20 milliseconds off from the current meridian, which moved when Airy upgraded the transit telescope in the 19th century, and everyone had to buy new maps.

An early copy (2nd edition?) of Newton's Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica on display.  Flamsteed got a lot of help from Newton in the early days of the Observatory, but they had a big falling out because Newton and Halley published Flamsteed's star records without his approval.  Flamsteed went out and bought all the copies and burned them.  Newton and Halley were buddy-buddy, so as head of the Royal Society, I can't help but think Newton played a role in getting Halley the spot as successor to Flamsteed as Astronomer Royal.
After a fascinating time at the observatory, we wandered over to the National Maritime Muesum for a quick walkthrough.  This was an unscheduled detour, but I just couldn't resist.  You know with my wife away, I should go back again and take my time.  

After we grabbed a quick lunch near the Greenwich Market at Noodle Time (I was pleasantly surprised), we headed back to central London for our final stop, the British Museum.

Weather was less than perfect, so going to a free museum was a popular option on this day.
I should have called it a loss and spent more time in Greenwich.  By the time we arrived at the museum, we had less than an hour before we needed to get back to the train station!  We didn't even have time to listen to Rick Steve's complete audio tour which only covers the most popular highlights of the museum, haha.  Oh well, we did make the best of it, and I was blown away by the artifacts here.  Seriously old stuff, and I was able to appreciate what we did see thanks to the audio tour.   We caught the highlights from the Egyptian, Assyrian, and Greek sections of the museum.

I don't know why I'm putting pictures here because the internet is littered with them.  But more than anything, appreciate the crowds which rivaled Birmingham's Christmas market minus the drunkeness.

The ego of Ramesses II
Assyrians were badass tough guys; they were all into hunting lions and not too friendly to strangers

A Greek vase for drinking parties, depicting drunk saytrs doing their version of keg "stands".  And you thought the Cutty Sark name story was raunchy.

The museum is pretty close to St. Pancras station, so we walked to catch our train.  I was happy to do so, as you see interesting bits of London you'd miss spending all the transit time underground.   This way you get a feel for the city as a whole, instead of feeling like you're a whack-a-mole.  And to see St. Pancras from the outside was a nice surprise, you might mistake it for a cathedral.

St. Pancras at night
Moving along to New Year's Eve, we attended a house party with our friends from the gym. A huge shoutout goes to Athalie, for hosting and putting on a really fun night and letting us crash in a spare room.  The celebration had a Disney theme, so I bought a Mickey mask that made me look creepy.  Kerry had a Minnie mouse ears headband.  I ended up in a monkey suit at some point later in the evening.  Te night got progressively more interesting from there, with many details escaping me at the moment.  Nothing to be ashamed of however, it was relatively tame compared to the stories behind the ancient Greek vases or 18th century Scottish poetry.

Not sure what Disney character I am, but Happy New Year anyway!