Sep 24, 2014

my claim to fame

I have one claim to fame. One. This is the kind of thing I save for moments with new people or at parties where there is dreaded awkward silence, and it always instigates lots of interest and questions and even admiration.

Once upon a time.... I was Taylor Swift's waitress. 'Once upon a time' being a looong time ago. For reference, she was dating Taylor Lautner at the time. And her hair was still crazy long and crazy curly.

You may want to know: why am I blogging about this now? Today I was reflecting on my life history while ironing socks as my seven-month-old took a gloriously long afternoon nap and realized I have never recorded the one thing I may always be known for.  So this post is directed to my posterity: Your great-great-great grandmother was Taylor Swift's waitress. You don't know who Taylor Swift is? Google her. You still have Google, right?

So here's what happened (in excruciating detail):

I was living in Lawrence, Kansas and working at one of my favorite jobs of all time, Jefferson's Restaurant (Peace, Love and Hot Wings!). It was nearing closing time on a slow weeknight. Our manager, Sarah, was making up little slips of paper for each member of the waitstaff to draw: if you chose the one with the star, you got to head home early. She was interrupted with a phone call. We waited a little impatiently as she spoke with a customer, who was obviously asking about business hours. Sarah suddenly had a startled look on her face. She ended the call with "okay, see you in a little bit!" and the entire staff groaned. We were closing in half an hour, why would she encourage someone to come for dinner, inevitably order the most complicated menu item and stay way past 9:00?

She explained: "I think Taylor Swift is on her way." The guy on the phone had indeed asked about business hours and stated he had a party of 10 that would like to make reservations. Sarah informed him that our restaurant did not take reservations, and was in fact closing soon, but we would be happy to serve them if they arrived before then. The guy said "What if I told you Taylor Swift was a member of the group?" Sarah hesitated, but immediately assured him we would stay open for business and be glad to save a table (in the nearly empty restaurant).

There had been rumors that Taylor Swift had been visiting campus that week. Her best friend, the red-headed girl in this music video, attended KU on a swimming scholarship. She came into Jefferson's often. We knew her as "Taylor Swift's best friend who was in that music video". The best friend was a dreaded same-side-sitter with her boyfriend, but that's another story for another day.  So Sarah knew there was a slight--maybe even good--chance that this caller may be telling the truth, and we had better prepare in case he was.

So the slips of paper that were intended to free one of us waitresses were jostled in her hands for one of us to pick who would serve Her Majesty Taylor Swift. And guess who chose the piece of paper with the star? Bet you can't!

I'll be honest. I'm not a huge fan of Taylor Swift's music.  Neal is at least five times the fan I'll ever be. He loves the song "We are NEVER GETTING BACK TOGETHER!" especially the part "like, ever", and once we watched the movie Valentines Day and he laughed hysterically at all of her scenes as I criticized her lack of acting skills. I will admit, her songs are very catchy and I do know pretty much all the words to the most popular ones (read: all of them). Also, I follow her in instagram, but that isn't true fandom. What I am a fan of is meeting famous people, which has only happened to me one other time, in 9th grade, with LaVar Burton of Reading Rainbow at a William Allen White book conference (nerd!), and let's be real. I didn't meet him, I saw him.

So I was both thrilled and nervous when I realized I might get to take Taylor Swift's dinner order.  We all anxiously waited and sure enough, a posse strolled in with tall, beautiful, famous Taylor Swift in company.

This post is getting alarmingly long so I'm going to give you the cliff notes:

  • She had a big number 13 (her favorite number, as everybody knows!) in glitter on her right hand
  • She kept her blonde, curly head down, scrolling through her phone most of the time. She didn't talk much, or seem very interested in the people she was with. I couldn't see who she was texting but I was SURE it was Taylor Lautner.
  • To eat: Chicken tenders and french fries from the kid's menu. Honey Mustard for dipping sauce. Only ate one chicken tender, did not want a to-go box. As I was entering her order in the computer, Sarah was reading over my shoulder and I said defiantly, "I am letting her order off the kids menu", which was strictly forbidden of customers over 12 years old. She just laughed.
  • To drink: Diet Pepsi. I was too nervous and mesmerized by her beautiful, curly mane to grab her a refill, so I convinced my co-worker Morgan to do it. I also convinced her to deliver her meal. So basically...Morgan ended up being Taylor Swift's waitress. And I don't think "convinced" is the appropriate word here. Morgan had the confidence to reach around the golden curtain of hair and set the perfectly cooked chicken tenders down and say "here you go, Taylor!" What?! First name basis? I can't even mention her in this post by just her first name. Morgan's the name, confidence is the game. 
  • Taylor Swift paid for her friend's meal, (the friend also ordered off the kids menu) so I think the total was 7ish dollars. She paid with a 20 and told me to keep the change. So she left me an approximately 186% tip. 
  • Jefferson's walls and ceiling are absolutely covered in $1 bills. There are layers of these bills, decorated in marker by thousands of customers (am I making you want to rob the place?). Sarah brought Taylor Swift a dollar and some markers and politely asked if she would be willing to decorate one. And she did! Taylor Swift is quite the artist (as all of her instagram followers know) and made an "it's a love story" dollar bill that we all admired for some time after she had left.
There it is. Everything you'd want to know about being Taylor Swift's waitress at a wing joint. If you're wondering why I didn't get a picture with her, just remember that I was too scared to even refill her Diet Pepsi.

You would be intimidated by that hair too.

Sep 22, 2014

We've been up to... good. Obviously.

Last week we took a little hike up Arthur's Seat (a very extinct volcano!) with Marisa and Paul. It was super foggy so we didn't have much of a view, but the mist itself was beautiful. We had a lot of fun, and Eleanor did great until we reached the summit, which was quite cold. She had some makeshift mittens (socks) on her hands, but her face was exposed and it was windy. So we scurried on down after just a few minutes up top.

Neal has mastered the 'summit pose'.

Marisa is moving back to the US tomorrow! Sad :( She's been such a huge help to us as we've made this transition.

On Saturday we took the train to Preston, England with our new (also ex-pat) friends, Dallin and Becki Barker. They have the most adorable family-- 3 (almost 4!)-year-old twins and a 15-month-old--all girls! Becki and the kids were actually on our flight from Chicago to Edinburgh (her husband had arrived a few days prior to get settled a bit) and they were just in front of us in line to board the plane. The next Sunday, we saw her sitting in the lobby as we walked into church! Dallin is also here for grad school-- getting his masters in HR at University of Edinburgh. Obviously we have a lot in common, and planned a temple trip so we could take turns going through as they watched Eleanor and we watched their girls. We took the train, and it was so much fun!

Out the train window: not *the* bridge from Harry Potter, but cool nonetheless

The girls did so well all day. Eleanor was in heaven watching the older kids play.  It's so hard for us to get a giggle out of her, but she just thinks "big kids" are hilarious. The twins, and her new hero Deaun, had her cracking up. The last half hour on the train home was pretty entertaining--all the girls were hungry, past due on naps, and approaching bedtime, and they were deliriously tired and giggly. It was kind of an exhausting trip, but so worth it. Hooray for new friends!

We also had Stake Conference, and of course it was wonderful. Our Stake President is way young--like 34 young--and he's been President for 5 years! Crazytown. After church, we put Eleanor down for a nap and Neal and I both just crashed. She usually naps for one hour max during the day, so we didn't set an alarm and just figured she would wake us up shortly. Three hours later I woke up, groggy and confused, and looked at my phone to check the time. It was 4:53PM. I was so out of it, I could not figure out what day it was, and I was 95% sure it was actually Monday morning. I shook Neal in a panic and asked what time he had class. I thought my phone must have reverted back to Kansas time or something because there was no way that was right...could it be that we had slept until dinnertime on Monday?? Was Eleanor alive? It took me a good 3 or 4 minutes to remember that we had laid down for a nap and it was Sunday afternoon. It was the worst and best feeling in the world! I hate to nap through an afternoon like that but obviously the three of us needed a good chunk of sleep. And I was so relieved we hadn't slept through an entire day. So we made some chicken curry for dinner and took a walk for some fresh air.

It's fall in the 'hood.
Monday has been full and busy. My mouth is dry because I've spent the last two hours talking on the phone to family members back home. We have a magic jack number that is FREE to call from the US, so if you want it, message or email me and we can chat!

My student has fallen asleep while studying after a long day of class + internship thingy. I can't bring myself to wake him up. But I can bring myself to take a sneaky picture.

Yep, that's this blog post! Now I'm going to hit 'publish'

Sep 18, 2014

The Scottish Referendum

Today is a day that will make Scottish history.

Back when Neal was filling out his application for grad school, he turned to me and said excitedly, "Dani....we will be there for the referendum!" To which I blinked. "The what now?"  I struggle to follow American politics, let alone those in other nations. I'm a little ignorant when it comes to global affairs. But I'm working on it! So he explained.  A referendum to vote on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom has been in the works for years. On September 18, 2014 (TODAY!), Scotland citizens vote either "yes" or "no" to a simple question with a not-so-simple answer: Should Scotland be an independent country? Both "Yes Scotland" and "Better Together" campaign groups have been rallying like crazy over the last year, and it's been in our face from the moment we stepped out of the Edinburgh airport. After we signed our lease, our landlord said "Oh, and I left you a bit of reading on the coffee table". It was a booklet on Scottish independence. I quickly realized what the blue and white "YES" pin on her jacket meant.

I try to imagine what it would be like if my home state, Kansas (rock chalk!), were voting to secede from the United States. The craziness that would ensue. Scotland has been part of the UK for more than 300 years, longer than the US has been a country.

I am by no means an expert on the referendum. I've listened to the arguments on both sides and these are a few of the points each has to make: (I repeat..I AM NOT AN EXPERT!)

Better Together:
  • There are strong cultural and family links within the UK
  • Scotland is economically stronger as a part of the UK
  • Scotland will be able to flourish more globally from an economic standpoint if it has the stability of the UK
  • Scotland has more influence on international affairs as part of the UK
  • Uncertainty of how Scotland will be treated in relation to the European Union
  • Unlikely that the UK would accept a currency union with an independent Scotland

Yes Scotland:
  • Democracy and self-determination; Scotland's population will possess full decision-making power in regards to the political affairs of its nation
  • Nuclear disarmament; Scotland could address the issue of removal of Trident nuclear weapons
  • "It's Scotland's oil"-- Scotland has oil and gas reserves worth up to £4 trillion
  • Re-industrialization of Scotland via renewable energy
  • Protect the NHS as the UK is moving toward privatized health care 
  • A "cultural reawakening" by the opportunities and confidence brought about by Scottish independence


Notice his hat :)

 We seem to see a lot more "YES" propaganda than "NO THANKS", which is why I only have taken pictures of "yes". But, the last Ipsos Mori poll shows 50% said they would vote no, 45% said they would vote yes and 4% were still undecided.  The vote is open to those 16 years of age and up (which I think is awesome). Can you imagine the responsibility and weight of casting a vote like this? I get the chills every time I think about it.

A bakery in Edinburgh has been selling cupcakes as an informal poll. The question mark is for undecided voters. The final poll from the bakery showed: YES - 43.5% NO - 47.7% UNDECIDED - 8.8%

I've only been here a few weeks, but if I were able to vote with the little knowledge I have on the subject, I would vote "YES."  Scotland's future should fall in Scotland's hands. It won't be smooth sailing--it will take a good while to become a solid, established government. But what an opportunity! Anyway, my opinion really doesn't matter at all. It's up to the nation I've already fallen in love with! The results will be announced tomorrow morning.

Sep 14, 2014

Stirling or Bust

On Saturday we spent the afternoon in Stirling, a city about an hour's bus ride from Edinburgh. The day before our trip, I did some research on the area, via the all-knowing Wikipedia (I still feel like I'm doing something wrong when I look stuff up on Wiki because of the repetitive lectures we got in college about inaccurate resources, etc.), and it is full of history.  Meh, so is everywhere else in this dang country. ;) There is so much to see and do in Stirling, and while we got a killer deal for a bus ticket (£4 round trip! For comparison, it costs £1.50 to take a 5 minute bus, one way, downtown), our time was limited to just a few hours in the city.  So we decided to just visit the Church of The Holy Rude and Stirling Castle. Andre, a cool Brazilian in Neal's MBA program, came along. We had so much fun getting to know the guy. Three cheers for new friends!

Church of the Holy Rude- the coronation of James VI, King of Scots, was held here.

Beautiful cemetery behind the church
William Wallace memorial. No time to hike there of course, but we will be back just for that!
Stirling Castle

Eleanor, Queen of Scots, appears to be ordering the beheading of her own mother.

Renaissance carvings were straight up creeepy.

But then again, so is my child.

I just fell in love with this city. It's so close to Edinburgh, we plan to make several return visits! (We seem to say that everywhere we go..)

Fuzzy portrait of our little group. We need to get our blasted Nikon repaired so I can take not-iPhone-pictures!

 Not pictured: the most delicious, piping hot plate of haggis, neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes) from a local pub. It was to die for! I think I'm going to get a little brave and attempt to make haggis at home this week. I really have no choice, as chicken costs £6 (over 10 dollars) for 3 teeny breasts at my supermarket! Chicken is officially a delicacy in the Lutz household.