31 December 2007

Ciao 2007. Benvenuti 2008.

2007 is almost over...it is hard to believe only a year has gone by since I last made resolutions. Where did the time go?

It seems like so much has happened this year, some good, some bad.

In late January, I got my little poochie. He has brought me so much joy and laughter, part of me wonders why I waited so long! But then I think, timing is everything, and it was the right time. I think having him has helped me handle a lot of the stuff I am going through now. We had one little hiccup when he ran away from my parents

During the summer, I had my first real houseguest, Natalia, from Australia. Having her here was awesome...we took a day trip down to the Monterey Bay Aquarium (with Stacey, and Luca), and then had an incredible weekend in Vegas. It was so fun to just enjoy Vegas, especially with someone who had never been there, and not have to work!

Before I knew it, it was time for the big Italy trip! A whirlwind ten days or so in Rome, Florence, Tuscany and the Cinque Terre...it was really fun, and since my return, I have longed to go back. I think about moving there almost every day, and wonder if it would be the right thing for me. Now that I have my Italian passport, perhaps it is. As long as Luca could come along for the ride!

Now it's the new year (I started writing this in 2007, and finished up in 2008...funny how that happens), and I am looking forward to a fantastic 2008. I have some things I need to deal with at the start of the year, but I think things can only get better.

Happy 2008, y'all!

30 December 2007

R.I.P. Aunt Annie Marie

Yesterday morning, I got a call that both surprised me and didn't, at the same time. My mom said she had bad news, that my Aunt Annie had passed on.

It wasn't that surprising, as she was 91 years old (I think) and not in the best of health. She was all there mentally, but physically, not so much.

Still, it surprised me as she was pretty adamant about when she was going to go. Her daddy had lived until he was 96 (!), and so was she. Last I was there, she told me since she only had about 6 or 7 years, she had to start getting rid of things; this was about 3 years ago.

Aunt Annie lived in Texas her whole life, and was a southern woman through and through. She still got her hair and nails done each week, full makeup when you saw her Presentation was always very important to her, even when her body didn't cooperate so much. Her mind was like a steel trap, she remembered all the details of her parent's courtship, life growing up...she spoke for quite a long time when I visited and it was really interesting.

She had been rather lonely this year. Her husband, Rupert, died many years ago; a few years ago her sister Adelia passed away, and not too long ago Adelia's son also passed away. Aunt Annie and Uncle Rupert never had children, and none of the family lived very close to her. I would like to think she passed on thinking good thoughts, and that's she's now back with Adelia and my grandma, having a grand old time.

Rest in Peace, great Aunt Annie.

27 December 2007


I missed a few days on here, but I hope that your holiday has been a spectacular one!

Whatever you celebrate, if anything at all, I hope you at least got a day off, and some quiet time to reflect on the year. For me, this was a lovely holiday filled with family and friends I hadn't seen in a LONG time (since high school)! I ate a lot, slept a lot, and just lounged around.

The holiday was also very good to Luca. Not only did he start getting along with his new best friend, my dad, but he got completely spoiled. It was pretty awesome for us all!

Thursday Answers

From 3x Thursday...

1. How did this holiday season treat you? Are you glad it's over? Why/why not?
I had a really nice holiday season...I can't say that I am happy it's over. It was a really fun time hanging out with my family and friends I haven't seen in a long time.

2. How as your health been with this busy time? Did you get sick?
My health has not been the best. I am tired all the time, clearly fighting something off, and I tweaked my back, which stinks!

3. Now that the chaotic holidays are done with, what are you going to do now?
Are they over? I feel like they're not over until New Year's. I need to clean clean clean!

23 December 2007

A Christmas Miracle!

Since adopting Luca, he and my father have had a rather contentious relationship. Despite the fact that Dad feeds him, walks him, and takes care of all of his other needs while Luca stays with my parents, Luca was scared as heck.

Until yesterday.

We came over to begin our holiday stay. My dad was in the kitchen, and offered Luca a treat. And...Luca carefully walked up to him, and took it from his hand. This was a first. Luca took the treat and ran away to eat it, but then came back for another one! And he has let my dad pet him and didn't run away.

This may not seem like much, but considering how hurt my dad's feelings always seem to be when Luca ignores him, this is a huge step. Almost a Christmas miracle, methinks!

19 December 2007

Sloppy Shopping 2007

The Second Annual Sloppy Shopping Extravaganza occurred this past weekend...and it was great! An evening of hanging out, drinking, shopping, drinking, and eating with the gals - how fun is that?

This year had a particular highlight. We got to meet Dan Lauria, known to most of us as Kevin Arnold's dad from The Wonder Years (or, Jack Arnold). We bombarded him at the bar, and he was gracious enough to humor us for a good 15 minutes. After the fact, we all felt bad for interrupting his night, but I have to say he was extremely kind to us.

Thank you for humoring us, Mr. Lauria. You made our night!

The Trouble with My Dog

You all know I love my poochie. But, his actions these days, have made me not like him so much.

There is some construction going on next door, and I think right now they are doing foundation work. For the past week, each day, I come home to a nice treat left by Luca, perhaps two. Usually, one in the laundry room, and one on the rug. It is really fun, and a lovely way to end my day.

This is more an anxiety problem than anything, I think, so I don't know what to do about it. He definitely knows he is in the wrong...when I step near any of it, he cowers and hides. I wish I could protect him from his fears!

Wednesday Answers

From Daily Three

1. What is the worst natural disaster to affect the city in which you live? Were you living there when it happened?
I think the 1989 Earthquake...perhaps the 1906 was worse, but the 1989 one was the one I lived through and it was horrible.

2. Do you know if there are sex offenders living in your neighborhood? Are you concerned about it?
I am sure there are. I don't worry about it too much...I worry more about the gangs across the way.

3. If you were elected to your city council, what would be the first item you would want to vote on (go ahead and be creative)?
Cleaning up the streets.

17 December 2007

Oh Christmas Tree

Tis the season for a pretty tree!
I had the great pleasure of getting mine through a local organization, The Guardsmen. They hold the lot in a huge warehouse, which is freezing. But, they do their best to keep you warm by giving you a drink or two! It is a great way to browse trees.

Unfortunately, I am either a horrible waterer or my stand isn't the best...my tree is about dead. But it looks lovely!

11 December 2007

Tuesday Answers

From Tina's Tuesdays...
1. What is your all-time favourite holiday movie?
A Christmas Story ("Fra-gi-le...it must be Italian")
2. What recent release is a must have on your list?
Love Actually
3. What are some more of your favourite holiday movies?
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
All those claymation movies

09 December 2007

When Dogs Attack.

Today I while I was walking with Luca, I had a nice little scare. We were nearing a coffee shop, where I was going to go in for a delicious peppermint hot cocoa. I saw this woman tying up her dogs - a rather large boxer/pitty looking one, and a small Chihuahua mix. She walked into the shop, and I could see the larger one was interested in Luca already. Figuring he was secure, I tried to veer around him, taking Luca to the edge of the sidewalk.

The big dog got loose from his leash, and lunged at us.

I pulled Luca, trying to lift him up and get him out of the way of this dog. My poor little guy was dangling by his harness, while the big dog was trying to climb up me. It all happened really quickly, and while I was trying to push the big dog away, the little dog somehow got completely off the leash and went into the coffee shop. Luckily, a nice woman came up and got the dog's leash to pull him off of me, and another guy ran up, clearly ready to take the dog down if he needed to. Then he went into the shop to try to find the owner

I stood there with my dog in my arms, and this big dog continually lunging at/jumping on me. I don't think he was aggressive, I think he wanted to play with Luca, but it was scary. Finally, the owner came out and kind of laughed about it. I guess I should have said something about her dog lunging, and being more careful, but I think I was stunned. I just hope I thanked the people that came to help me!

And my poor Luca...when we walked away, I tried to put him down, and he wouldn't let me until we were a few blocks gone. He had quite a shake up! We are both ok, I have some scratches and bruises where the dog jumped on me, but other than that, fine. Whew, I am so thankful it turned out ok.

Love at First Sight...again

Yesterday I got the opportunity to meet my new baby cousin.

I must say, I am completely smitten with him.

I went over in the morning, and got some selfish me time just holding him and staring at him. For a while, I held him on my legs so I could get a good look at him. He just slept and made faces and maybe a quick noise now and then. It was so flippin' cute.

I can't wait until I see him again!

06 December 2007

Rain Comes Falling...

The rain has finally hit us! It has been so long...we had a sprinkling of it last week, but now it's a real storm! Yay!

I am glad it is happening during the work week and not on a weekend. It always stinks when it is nice all week and you're cooped up in the office, and then you get to the weekend and bam, the rain hits.

We need the rain, too...things have been too dry.

I do hope that it moves out tonight, though!

04 December 2007


This weekend, I had the distinct honor of being one of the first to meet my new baby cousin. Knowing that my cousin was about to "pop" any minute, we have been on babywatch since after Thanksgiving...even though she wasn't due until this coming Friday.

I got the call while I was at brunch on Sunday morning. Cousin was in labor, there was still some time. Knowing labor can sometimes take a while, I got a few things done before heading to the hospital. On my way down, I got another call that things were moving quickly, and I stepped on it! Little did I know, we still had a few hours to wait!

After what seemed like forever to us waiting, and I am sure to the mom & dad-to-be, my brother and cousin snuck down the hall to have a peek. They came running back, having seen the new daddy holding the brand new baby! Soon after, my cousin headed down the hall to gather us all in to meet the newest member of our family.

It was quite a special day!

Tuesday Answers

Word association from The Music Meme...First song/artist/album that comes to mind...

Johnny Angel

Strong Enough

It's the End of the World as We Know It

Oh What a Night

Creep by TLC


We got the Beat

Bad Day by Samiam


New Shoes

03 December 2007

Monday Answers

From Monday's a Bitch...

Jamaicin' Me Crazy
1.Would you ever put your hair in dreadlocks?
2.Got any sun-holidays planned for this winter?
I wish. Depends on a few factors...I would love to go to Mexico for a long weekend!
3.What's your favourite rum based drink?
Skinny Pirate (TM Susie's friend) - Captain & Diet
4.Do you like reggae music?
5.What's your opinion on the legalization of marijuana?
It would be a great way to increase tax revenue! And, really, how is it any worse than most of the alcohol that's out there? I don't get it.

30 November 2007


Baby, it's cold outside!
It's only November, and already the heater has to be turned on. I think it is supposed to be in about the 30s tomorrow morning. that may not sound cold to some of you, but to me, it is!

This weather is so weird, though, I bet next week it will be in the 90s or something.

28 November 2007


I read with great sadness the story of the young woman who recently committed suicide because her MySpace boyfriend no longer wanted to speak to her. It made me even sadder, and angry, when it came out that the boyfriend never existed, instead, he was a fictional character made up by a mother of another young woman down the street.

So a grown woman, an adult, a MOTHER, set out to crush a young lady. I am sure she didn't do it with the intent to off the girl, but essentially, that is what happened. How an adult makes the type of decision to torment a young woman, well, that is just beyond me.

I know kids do that to one another. Kids are mean. But we grow out of it. We become adults and learn to pick on someone our own size (or, you know, get over it). What is broken in this woman that she would engage in such activities?

I hope she gets her comeuppance.

27 November 2007

Teenagers Today

On my morning walks, I often find myself walking the same path as a gaggle or two of teenagers, heading to their school at the top of the hill. The other day I noticed that, though these teens are growing up in a totally different day and age, in essence, they are the same as we were back in the day.

The school at the top of the hill is private; not sure if it is also of some religious group, as well. But the kids where uniforms. The girls are in skirts - which they are trying to hike up as far as they can (I guess that will never go out of style)- trying to express their individuality with tights, shoes, socks, anything that they can get away with. I also see the sneaky makeup...I am familiar with those sly ways.

And the boys, walking down the street with their weird, moppety hair, all gangly and pimply, many just getting used to their bodies and doing what they can to not be noticed. Wrinkly shirts are the typical accessory to their uniform pants.

Regardless of how the world around them has changed, they remain teenagers. Their smart mouths that try to make them seem older are just masking the fear and insecurity we all felt at that age. It is so nice to know some things don't change.

22 November 2007

Happy Thanksgiving.

Today is Thanksgiving...for me, my favorite holiday. It is one of togetherness, of being appreciative of what I have, and gaining perspective.

The last year has been a bit of a trial for me. I mention him a lot, but I am so grateful that Luca, my little bug, got brought into my life. It was almost serendipitous...had I waited one more day to contact the rescue, or gotten the other dog that was at the apartment, my life wouldn't be the same. His cute little wiggly self has helped keep me sane during a time of personal crisis.

I am thankful for my friends, my family, and my health. I feel so lucky to have gotten through this year relatively healthy, without the big sicknesses I seemed to be getting prior to starting acupuncture. I am grateful for this beautiful earth on which I get to live, and want to make sure I am doing what I can to help preserve it.

Wishing you all a very healthy and happy Thanksgiving.

21 November 2007


A most excellent piece of advertising. !Viva Argentina!

When I was in Argentina, I was amazed by the level of passion towards the government (good/bad). Not only that, they went beyond just complaining (again, this can be both a good and bad thing). With their new government in place, I am interested to see what's going to happen. This particular commercial, brought to my attention by a coworker, was really interesting because it flipped the script, literally! I wish I had the creative mind to come up with something even close to as good.

20 November 2007

It's Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving made it's debut in 1966. That is over 40 years ago. How proud Charles Schultz must have been to know he was leaving such a great legacy.

And the program still resonates. From the funky funky music, to Peppermint Patty's very boyish voice (was it always this boyish? did I just never notice as a child?), to Marcy's infinite wisdom...it is all so great. And the underlying moral lesson - be thankful for what you have, will not lose its importance anytime soon.

But, I wonder if it is a bad thing that many times, when a grown up speaks to me, I still hear the "wha-wha-wha"?

19 November 2007

Oh, Barry.

Barry Bonds got indicted. You know I am not Bonds fan, but...

They say they've had this evidence for years. So why now? Also, why is this a federal case in the first place? Why is my tax money going to find out if there are steroids in baseball and if people are lying about it (DUH). If MLB wanted to investigate, fine, let them pay.

But, if they are going to go after Bonds, they need to go after every one of the other guys who have lied about this. And, as far as his records go… I feel like you have to look at this in the context of the game at the time. And that context = steroids. Just like other drugs were prevalent in other times, so are steroids now. Does that make it right? No. But if you are going to take this away, best to go back and investigate all the other records, too.

Fact is this…hitting a baseball is one of the hardest feats in sports. Hitting that ball well, even harder. So with or without steroids, he is a pretty amazing baseball player. (even if he is a huge-headed jerk)

18 November 2007

Where is it?

Here he is, chewing up the devil's horns. His own are apparently hidden.

I know he had a little accident in the house. I found the mat in my laundry room as a little wet, so I washed that, but it still smells. Where is it? I can't find another spot anywhere.

I am going to have to get rid of that mat. Apparently, no matter how many times I wash the smell out, he still thinks it is ok to use it as a restroom. I just wish I could figure out where else!

Are You Your Mother?

Today I was looking around at various things at my house, and I realized...I am totally my parents. I use the same brand of soap I used growing up (that my parents, and brother, also use), Dawn dishwashing liquid (again, same), Tide detergent (same yet again), etc. Do I use it because it is the best? I don't think so...I am just used to it. Every once in a while I look at other things, a way to stray from the norm, and it doesn't happen. In part, I have allergies and am afraid trying something new will leave me with some nice hives, but I think, in part, it is easier to stay with what you know.

Is this a bad thing? An unusual thing? I doubt it. Take a look around your place, then, look at your parents. I bet there are more similarities there than you would think!

13 November 2007

Tuesday Answers

From Ten on Tuesday:
Ten Songs that Bring Back Memories (and why)

In no particular order:

1. TubThumping (chumpawumpa) - This reminds me of walking into Madison's in SLO, and most of my senior year of college

2. Hang on Sloopy (the mccoys) - A family "band" at the River played this one when I was younger, and it always reminds me of summer

3. Hold on to the Nights (richard marx) - sitting in the back seat of the station wagon, thinking about the boys we're crushin' on at the River

4. Everybody Hurts (REM) - this song came out at the perfect time, my senior year of high school, and in a weird way, brought a lot of us together

5. The Search is Over (survivor) - my first slow dance

6. These Are Days (10,000 maniacs) - my senior year of high school, a few good times

7. Stay (lisa loeb) - my angry post-high school song, I loved belting this out in my car while thinking about the cute boys

8. Bad Day (samiam) - this song still helps me get through a bad one

9. M+Ms (blink-182) - my friend in college made me a tape, and this was the last song on it; always reminds me of him and good times

10. Depende (jarabe del palo) - brings me right back to Reyes' class in Sevilla

11 November 2007

Lust for Life

Today is Veteran's Day here in the USA, and there are a lot of remembrances going on all over the country. I was sitting watching the news, and they mentioned a particular soldier who, according to his family, "Loved to live."

And it got me wondering...1. is that a given that we all "love to live," and 2. would this be something people can say about me at the end of it all.

I think deep down, we all have an affinity for life. If we didn't, the population wouldn't be as out of control as it is.

But...do we all live it like we love it? There are times when I personally question why I am here. I can't honestly say I love life every second of the day, in particular, at times like this where it seems like trial after trial comes to me. I wonder if, when I meet my end, if, "She really loved life" will be something said about me. I really don't know. Lesson learned.

10 November 2007

Fall-ing Down.

I guess Fall is officially here. I am happy about it; I was starting to run out of summer clothes I like. Plus, cute jacket season is here!

I have to say, though, it is quite a shock to the system. It was about 80F last weekend, then Monday rolls around, and brings a week of mid-60 or so temperatures. And, at night, it drops even lower. Just seems a little crazy!

It also brought around the end of daylight savings. I like that the sun comes out a little earlier, but I have a hard time with it going away so quickly, too. I know it is just a matter of time to get adjusted, but it just makes me long a little bit for the long warm days of summertime.

09 November 2007

Friday Answers

Courtesy of Friday Fill Ins:

1. Plans and schedules guide me.

2. I'm happy when things are in order .

3. The last thing I drank was wine left over from the other night .

4. One of the most valuable things in my life is my general health .

5. I like pineapple on my pizza.

6. Dear November, please see me through the rough .

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to clarity, tomorrow my plans include getting my haircut and Sunday, I want to go shopping!

04 November 2007

Monday Monday

No, it's not Monday yet. But in a few hours it will be, and again starts another week! Lately I don't know how I feel about that; life seems to be passing a little too quickly for me. I try to put myself into my happy place, thinking back to a point where I felt at peace. As I hiked the Cinque Terre, I felt that peace. I ended my 9 km of mediation at Riomaggiore, a stunning little inlet town. The glassy water, the lack of cars all over the place (there were cars, just not like in some of the bigger cities), the feeling of having pushed my body for a few hours...it just felt good.

I find myself thinking often of Italy, and wondering if it wouldn't be fun to live there for a while. Now that I have my citizenship, it is a real possibility. Or, a real something. I mean, I have a mortgage (I guess I could rent my place out for a while) and a pooch (who I would take with me). Maybe it's something that would have been more of a possibility when I was younger, I don't know.

For now, I'll just go to my happy place in my head, and try to again find that peace.

Sunday...Happy Day

On days like this, where things just don't seem to be going my way, there is one thing guaranteed to make me happy...and that is my little cuddlebug. Look at that face! Could you resist him? Even when he is sitting on the middle of the keyboard, licking my fingers so I can't type, or chewing up one of my favorite hats with glee, he still makes me smile. He seems to know when I am not feeling the hottest, because he'll rest his little head on my leg and sigh.

I do think dogs have some sort of intuition with their owners, or at least we like to think they do. And sometimes, that is good enough.

Summer, Summer, Summertime...

...or not.

It is Fall, right? We just changed back to standard time last night, which definitely means it is a new season. So how come it is almost 80 degrees here? We usually don't get summer this late, generally that happens earlier in the month. I can't believe how warm it has been this weekend.

Global warming?

02 November 2007

Friday Answers

From Five on Friday...

1. They say elephants never forget. Would you compare your memory to that of an elephant or gnat?

I am somewhere between a gnat an elephant. Half the time I can't remember anything, but then I remember the most random stuff. it is weird.

2. What kinds of things do you find it easy to remember?

I find it easy to remember things my friends tell me, random pop culture references, and things I probably should forget (like grudges and what not).

3. What kinds of things do you find it difficult to remember?
I have a hard time remembering what I had for lunch that day, tasks, things I need to bring somewhere or tell someone.

4. How does your short-term memory compare to your long-term memory?

Short term is horrible these days. Long term is in pretty good shape!

5. How do you commit things to memory? Do you use tricks, songs, images, word associations, or other little mnemonics?

I use lots of lists...lots. I put my keys next to things I need to remember. I write it on a sticky and put it on my door. Lists, lists, lists. And even then, sometimes I forget.

It was a Graveyard Smash!

Halloween came and went this year in San Francisco with barely a boo. They shut down the Castro party, which, while probably ultimately good, was kind of a bittersweet goodbye. It was kind of an SF institution, although in the past few years it had become more of a commuter-troublemaker party.

I myself hung out at home on Halloween. I guess I am not much in a party mode right now, which is ok. On Tuesday, I took Luca to the park for a little costume party. It was cute...he hated his costume so he just tried to shake it off and then ran over other dogs. He's such a bully. He found a few dogs who fought back, which he loved.

Isn't he adorable!

29 October 2007

Who Let the Dogs Out?

Or, more aptly, who gave him the run of the house!

Yesterday, Luca and I headed down to enjoy a lovely day at Golden Gate Park. It was somewhere in the 70s here, which is remarkable for this time of year. We were so excited! Because we were going to be there for a while, I brought him a little baggie of treats (really, kibble).

It was a fun day of beer and sloshball (for me), and scavenging picnic food (for him). Upon arriving home, I left the backpack on the floor, but was careful to zip it all up, as I know he is nosy and likes to go through the bag.

I thought I was safe! But, upon arriving home today, I found my backpack (which is not light) dragged to the middle of the floor, and the little treat bag, open and empty. The dog had gotten the bag, dragged it out, figured out how to unzip it, and dug out the snacks!

I guess he is a little smarter than I thought!

28 October 2007

Meet Me at the Crossroads

When life is at a crossroads, how do you know which is the right one to take?

I have been thinking about this quite a bit lately. Things seem to be traveling down one path, but then I hit a spot like this, where there are arrows and options leading me in different directions. And sometimes, I think this is a fantastic thing, very much a "world is my oyster."

But, more often than not, I feel conflicted about hitting these crossroads. I am not sure how to approach it. While options and opportunities are great, sometimes it is hard to figure out which are good and which are bad. Is one of the roads the one that will lead me on the right path? How far will I go down the wrong one before I realize it?

And, since I have left, I also wonder...which one leads to Florence (or back to Italy)?

Life in the Fab Lane

I have caught this Kimora Lee Simmons show a few times, and I must say, I am totally sick. I think some of it is put on for the camera, but, seriously, how this woman thinks it is ok to treat people the way she does, I don’t know. She thinks talking down to people and then smiling makes it ok, and her “cute” act doesn’t cut it. And, I think she is more famous than she really is. And it is unfortunate, really.

I admire what she’s been able to do with Baby Phat, and always have much respect for women who can head up a company and do it well. But, if this is how people get to act when they are successful, may I never achieve success.

She is currently being shown a house in the 4.5M$ range…her response? The price is a little low. ARGH!

I think she’s trying to be cute and I am so down to earth, look at my silly demands, but it really makes her look like a rather frivolous woman and undermines her success in the business world. I sincerely hope she acts differently when the cameras are off.

24 October 2007

Oops I Did it Again!

It's October, which for me means another birthday, busy at work, and, the Nike Marathon. I am proud (and in a little pain) to say that I finished the race again this year, despite not training, again - which is not smart, I know!

It was a little chillier at the start than it was last year, which kind of surprised me because it was such a warm weekend. I lined up with my friend Stacey and her friend Katie, and we somehow stuck together despite being shoved along with the hoards of women trying to get to the start (apparently, not understanding the meaning of "chip time"). With 23K people running, the start was a little chaotic, and Katie and I quickly got separated from Stacey. At the mile mark, she decided to wait for her, while I knew I needed to push on in order to finish.

This has to be one of the most beautiful courses in the world. As I ran down the Embarcadero, the Ferry Building quickly becoming a distant backdrop as we headed towards the Golden Gate Bridge. The sun began to rise, and usually I would say the fog started to burn off, but there was no fog to be seen. The sun was at its full peak as we hit Chrissy Field, right before the Presidio Hill.

Although it was starting to warm up, the hill was very shaded, and you could feel the cool ocean breezes cutting through the trees. This hill is a mile long, and the first one we hit...it's a little painful. I had to walk this one. I hit the top and then started to head down again.

As we ran past Robin William's house, Kaiser Permanente was there, handing out oranges. This, to me, was the most welcome part of the race. Then it was back up the hill and out of Seacliff, finally hitting the Luna station and getting some much-needed calories. Finally it was down the hill again, running past the Cliff House and Ocean Beach, and into Golden Gate Park.

By this time the heat was really rising, and the shady cool breezes of the Park were really welcome. As was the Ghiradelli chocolate station by the Polo Fields. I almost started crying as I saw the 12-mile marker, as I knew I had once again made it. Mile 13 came quickly, and before I knew it, I was rounding the corner back onto the Great Highway and over the finish line.

This race brings out a weird mix of emotions in me. From the start, I am holding back tears looking at the pictures and dedications on all the shirts. It makes me think of my grandparents, who were the reasons I started these races in the first place. Then I have to remember to not cry, because I can't breath very well when I do! Throughout the race, these waves come to me... then the waves of pain hit, and I am trying not to cry from them. Then, as I round to the finish, I am again hit with emotions that, holy smokes, I am going to finish again. (and am kind of sad no one's there to see it)

All in all, it is such a fantastic day. It is worth the pain, the three days of not being able to walk, to have such a fulfilling experience.

20 October 2007

Finally It's Happened to Me...

After being in my place for almost a year, it has happened...I am now fully unpacked!

I have had three huge boxes of mainly books stacked in my front closet since I moved in. It hasn't been easy for me to find a bookcase I felt would work in this place. Even those that were really pricey didn't seem quite right (not that I wanted to spend a lot of dough on it). I ordered one from IKEA about a month ago, but the shipping price was only five dollars less than the entire bookcase, so I said thanks but no thanks.

Today my dad kindly took me to IKEA with his truck, and we got the bookcase! Giddy up! We then set it up, and I unpacked all my books. It is pretty full already! Luckily I got a smaller one to put up in my bedroom, so that will hold a few of the overflow books.

I feel a weird sense of contentment right now, knowing all the boxes are finally gone. And it only took a year!

17 October 2007

Voices Carry

I am sitting here watching one of the many shows I now watch on Wednesday nights (are you sensing a television theme here? I just realized this), and a commercial for some wildlife preservation or something came on. And the voice? The voice is that of Campbell Scott, also known as Steve "I was no where near your neighborhood" from Singles, one of the greatest grunge movies ever.

I am not sure whether to jump for joy or feel a little embarrassed that I knew, almost from the first word, that it was Campbell. How can I remember his voice when I can barely remember what I did yesterday? Why does his voice resonate while I can barely remember what my grandmothers sounded like, even though I heard them much more than I ever heard him? It is really weird, and kind of ooking me out.

Mr. Telephone Man

After my posting the other day about Comcast, I went on a little search for a cable-over-IP solution (or whatever it may be called). And I found something. AT&T U-verse seems to offer this type of thing. I think it is brilliant.

Looking at the line up, I would get a lot more stations for the same price I am paying now. The drawback is for some reason HBO is not included in all those stations...in fact, for every package, you have to pay more for HBO. Weird, right?

I am now on pins and needles waiting for this service to come to my 'hood. I found out today Comcast is upping my rates again, for no real reason that I can tell (they say they need to upgrade...I think they just own the corner on the market right now and want to make as much money as they can before more competition moves in). It is pissing me off...

15 October 2007

Not so Comcastic

I hate Comcast.

I pay a ton of money each month, mainly because I am a total TV addict. And I would do this happily, if my cable box worked right, if it didn't stop intermitently, usually at the most crucial point in the dialog. I call it blinking, and my cable box seems to be doing it more and more often.

I know I need a new box, but the office is all the way across town, and isn't that easy to get to. Plus, I work all day, and don't have a ton of time to get over to them. If I were to set an appointment to get them over here, there is a huge window of time, and...again, I work all day!

Comcast has such a corner on the cable market out here, they can pretty much do whatever they want, and charge whatever they want. There is no real competition...yes, there is the Dish, but that requires putting ugly equipment on the outside of my residence (which is currently not allowed anyway, but I wouldn't want it). Will there be a time when I can get "cable" TV through my internet line? I have a T1, it should be adequate. And cheaper. Fingers crossed this will happen soon!

14 October 2007

I Think We're Alone Now

This weekend, I was alone.

This past week was a little hectic. After a weekend that included a super fun wedding and a baptism, I woke up Monday and was not feeling so hot, but hoped it would burn off during the day. No such luck. After work I headed over to the East Bay to have a birthday dinner with my family. It was nice, but I was definitely coming down with something! Tuesday, at 5-bright-and-early-a.m., I headed to the airport to get on a plane to Chicago. I had been so excited about spending my birthday there, planning on going out to a nice dinner to celebrate. Instead, thanks to the cold, I was knocked out on my bed, curled up with a bag of Doritos. I spent the rest of the week trying to sneak in a nap here or there while in Chicago at a conference...a tough spot. Being "on" is always a little tough for me...being "on" while sick is quite a hurdle!

Friday rolled around, and I was still not feeling even close to par, but I needed to get home so I could fly out on Saturday to another wedding. I arrived at the airport, and as we were getting ready to board, we were told there was a mechanical issue on the plane, and we would be delayed. Time ticked on, it got later, and I felt worse. It didn't help that I was worried about the wedding; I was really looking forward to going! I finally had to make the decision that it wasn't going to happen - not only did I have no idea when I was going to get home, but I was still really sick and needed to take care of myself. I still feel bad, but it was the right choice.

Because I had planned to be away, Luca was at my parent's house, and they had planned to take care of him for the weekend. So I let them. Again, I felt a little guilty, but it was the right choice.

I was able to get so much done without my little bug following me around. I scrubbed the floors, I ran errands, I cleaned the little corners I can never get to, I did wash...it was great! I was able to relax and nap, to sleep in, to go straight to bed without taking him for a walk. I really missed him, but it was a nice reprieve! Every once in a while I would look over to his corner and realize he's not there!

I was super excited to get him back today, and he was very happy to get back into the house and run around, making a mess of everything I worked to clean up! I love it.

Sunday Answers

From Patrick's Place - Sunday Seven

Name seven items in your “junk drawer.”

1. Scissors
2. Change for the laundry (although now it is just nickels and dimes, it seems)
3. Lots of pens
4. Post-it Pads in bright colors
5. Wine corkscrew/opener
6. Champagne lid thingy to keep out air when I can't finish a bottle
7. Nail file

Carrell Overkill?

Several times this weekend, I have seen commercials for Steve Carrell's new movie. They replay over and over a scene where his character gets pulled over by a cop, and he replies with a clever retort under his breath.

It is a very Michael Scott response.

It got me thinking...are we experiencing a little Steve Carrell overkill?

I think he is fantastic. The Office is one of my favorite television shows, I loved The Forty Year Old Virgin, and I thought his performance in Little Miss Sunshine was great. But...maybe he should take a break. His is a comedy best appreciated in smaller doses, to me at least; he gets a television show once a week and perhaps should do one movie during the summer. These things should probably not run simultaneously.

I get that he's the current "It" boy, but I would rather his career last a while, instead of being oversaturated to the point of disinterest.

03 October 2007

Chicago Here I Come!

I leave for Chicago in just a few days. Yay!

I always like visiting that city. Something about it feels really comfortable for me; I think if the weather wasn't so drastic, I could definitely live there.

My trip will follow a kind of crazy weekend...including a wedding that should be very, very fun, and a baptism, which means, Church.

I hope I survive the weekend in one piece! I have a feeling the wedding will be awesome.

30 September 2007

Visions from Above

A few photos from my recent trip...ceilings of the Vatican.

Green Italy

One thing that surprised me as we were moving around Italy is how environmentally conscious it seems to be. At our first hotel in Florence, the lights in the lobby and hallway were all motion-activated, turning off after about a minute of non-activity. In the next hotel, we could only turn on the lights and air conditioning when we were in the room, as the special card to activate it all was on the keychain. This is especially impressive, because while in hotels it is so easy to leave the air-co cranked up and the lights on even when outside of the room.

Apparently, the Italian government only allows hotels (or perhaps it's the whole population?) to use air conditioning during particular months. I wish our government would try something like this! It would make people at least think twice about their energy consumption.

The other piece of the puzzle was the small car. I didn't really see any trucks/SUVs while there. Mostly, I saw those small Ford Fiesta-type cars, and the Smart Cars (which are hilarious). I don't know how safe I would feel on the US streets in such small cars, mainly because there are so many huge cars with people driving like idiots that I would be afraid of being crushed. But, when that's all everyone is driving, it seems like a good deal to me.

Of course, there are the many public transportation options, and the cities are easily walkable...and there is also a culture which encourages the evening stroll rather than hopping into a car.

Hopefully, this trend will catch on in other countries, especially the USA.

24 September 2007

Home Again

We're home!
The rest of Rome was great...on Saturday we left our hotel at about 9am, and didn't return until around 9pm. We walked all but about 3 hours of that!

We first met my coworker, Claude for breakfast near the hotel. She was in Italy for a wedding, and since we knew we'd both be there, we decided to meet up while in Rome. It was great to see her; she was taking off later in the day for Tuscany. Lucky girl! Then we went across the river to the Travestere area of Rome, where we walked around for a while, then stopped for lunch. Since the restaurant kitchen didn't open until noon, and we were there at about 11.45, we passed the time with a bottle of prosecco!

Travestere isn't too far from the Vatican, so we walked down there so that Pernilla could at least see it. The line for St. Peter's was too long, so we just looked at the outside. It really is amazing.

Then we began walking in circles. We wanted to shop, so went back to Corso, but then decided a better place was up near the Vatican. I like to walk, so it was ok by me, but our path to get there was kind of crazy! When we got to the shopping street, we weren't finding many stores, so we stopped to get a drink. In Italy, as in Spain, they usually serve food free with alcohol. It is a nice tradition that I wish we had here...at any rate, this particular place served us the biggest plate of mini-sandwiches and other delicacies with ours. Then, when we ordered another drink, they wanted to bring us a whole other plate! We said no thanks...but almost licked the plate clean. I guess we were hungry.

We saw a bunch of people with "Coin" bags...Coin is a large department store in Italy, a bit like Macy's in the US or El Corte Ingles in Spain. We went in with the plan to meet back up in 20 minutes. By chance, I wandered into the home department, and proceeded to buy all sorts of things for my place. I knew my bag was already bursting, but I couldn't resist this stuff. I am excited to start using it!

It was finally time to head back to the hotel, so we headed back via the Spanish Steps. The sun was setting over Rome, and it was quite beautiful. On our way back, we decided to stop for dinner...we ended up at this horrible place. The food was ok, but the service...very un-Italian. The servers were hovering and the minute we put down our forks, they would try to take our plate away. It's not like there was anyone waiting to sit...but we laughed about it on the way home!

Our flight left at 11.15am on Sunday morning (that's 2.15am in California), and we finally arrived in San Francisco at about 7.25pm (that's 4.25am, Monday, in Italy). It was a really long trip back, complete with us having to run to catch our connecting flight because customs was so backed up!

Thanks everyone for checking in on us while we were away! I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it. I keep it up even when I'm not traveling, so check in once in a while!

21 September 2007

Days 8 & 9: Regressa a Roma

Sorry, I mix up the Spanish & Italian.

After a long four hour train ride, and an instance, upon entering the hotel in Monterosso where my aunt, with whom I have spent the last 9 days, didn't recognize me, we arrived in Rome. It was a quick walk from Termini to our hotel to meet my Swedish friend Pernilla.

It was great to see her, and she even came armed with Prosecco, our favorite drink of this trip. We hung out in the hotel for a bit, drank, and headed out to find the Spanish Steps & Trevi Fountain.

We found 'em both pretty easily (despite what the maps say, everything here seems to be pretty close), and ate dinner by Trevi. Our busboy asked my aunt to be his girlfriend. I am not sure if she caught it the first time but finally, he kept repeating himself, she understood. It was a nice dinner, I am getting a little sick of the carbs so went for chicken, which was fine. We sat around for a while longer then went back home to bed (Pernilla had a very early flight from Stockholm).

This morning I got up first, got ready, and tried to find an internet place. You would think, this being a HUGE tourist city, that this would not be so difficult. The opposite is true. The EasyInternet place, which the website says is open, is not. Then the place nearby that said it was open at 8am, was still not open at about 8.40am. Aye dios mio, Italianos!

We went down to the Colosseum and were caught by a tourguide on the way in. We decided to go for it, because it is much better to have someone telling you what you're looking at than try to figure it out for yourself! After that, we fought through the WC line, and then met up with another "free" tour of Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. That one was super helpful; without it everything would have just seemed like rubble.

It was time for a little drink, so we found this restaurant owned by a Swedish model (Pernilla had read about it in her magazine). It was nice to get out of the heat for a little while, and the three of us had a bottle of Prosecco. Yum. We were all very happy after that as we headed to the Pantheon. We may take another tour tomorrow night that will take us around to some of the things we haven't seen.

It isn't as hot here as it was the other day, or as hot as in Florence and Monterosso. It got pretty cool last night and I anticipate it doing the same tonight. It is a nice break!

We have one more day before we head home. I will try to write but since Internet access is so tough here, I can't promise anything! Ciao!

Arrivedercci Cinque Terre

Our last night in Cinque Terre was really nice. We went to the "Fast American Bar," and the owner, Francesco, was great. He poured us all sorts of great cocktails, and talked to us for a long time. We had a lot of fun with him, and when he asked us if we were coming back later, I said, "Maybe." He said, "When an American girl says maybe, she means no." Heh.

After that, it was home for me...I was really tired from my hike. Pebbles walked around some more and came home a while later. I had to deal with my bag, which is starting to burst at the seams. I packed up and crashed out pretty early.

Our train for Rome didn't leave until around 11am, so we had time on Thursday morning to poke around town a little more. I found the best foccaccia I have ever had on this little side street. I was so excited I went back to buy more for the train trip. I wish I could vacuum pack the stuff and bring it back to the States!

19 September 2007

Days 6 & 7: Bella Cinque Terre

I apologize in advance for this being short; the only internet place in Monterosso is wicked expensive. Thanks for all your comments...I guess being bossy works:-). My responses are at the end of this little entry.

We finally left Florence yesterday afternoon. Pebbles was a little sad - she really loved Florence. It is a great place to walk around independently...once you learn the grid system you can find almost anything, and I think she really liked that! We set on our way, in the rain, to Monterosso, the most northern town of the Cinque Terre. The ride was not close to as plush as the ride had been to Florence, and we couldn't find the first class car, which meant no airconditioning. We were greated by the bright blue ocean and slightly overcast skies when we arrived; it was absolutely beautiful.

This must be the home of Foccaccia or something, because it is everywhere. And it is delicious. We had a drink and some bread, then walked around the town. After a while it was time to eat dinner (yes, more food...it is hard to keep your calories up with all the walking you do here!), and then Pebs decided to walk around the town a bit. She is becoming quite the independent traveller!

This morning I set off on a walk through the CT. It is a 9km walk, and I had heard some of it was difficult, so with her cold, Pebs decided to visit the towns another way. Very smart decision. I had no idea the hike would be so tough. The path from Monterosso to Vernazza, then Vernazza to Corniliga was really difficult. It was hard to do it with healthy lungs, much less ones filled with phlegm. I met lots of people along the way, and avoided many with their stupid walking sticks, as well. These paths are super narrow, and these folks have these ski stick like things, take up the whole path, and won't move out of the way for anything. Here I am on the ledge, while they are taking their sweet time, making sure their stick is firmly planted. Ridiculous.

About 5 hours later, I arrived at Riomaggiore, completely exhausted but in awe of the beauty here. I took the train back to the hotel, and Pebs followed in shortly after. She had done some of the walk (the part she did was really beautiful), and took the train to the other cities. She just loved it all. We headed to the beach for a while, I swam in the Med, which felt really good after such a long day!

Apparently Pebbles found an American restaurant here in town, so we're heading there for dinner. I should be signing off now...but let it be known, if you want a lucrative business venture, set up an internet shop in Monterosso that doesn't charge inane rates (1Euro for the first 10 minutes, 10cents for each minute after).

To Nico...thanks for the Grappa clarification. I was going by what the guy at San Donato told us, and he pointed to a pile of skins and said they were for grappa. That's as much as I knew about the stuff! To Christine - I thought they were a reaction to something, too, but the distribution of them, and our tour guide telling us about tiger mosquitoes, lends me to believe they are bites. I'll try to stop at a Farmacia on my way back to the hotel...although at this point they look more ugly than they feel (and I didn't realize I had so many on my face!). Thanks again, y'all!

18 September 2007

Attack of the Bugs

Anyone out there? Leave us a comment and let us know:-) (how's that for bossy)

I swear I am bound to get malaria from all the bug bites I have. You may think I am exagerating, but...you can trust there won't be many pictures of me from this trip because I have huge welts all over my face. I also have a bite on the palm of my hand, the other side of my hands, arms, legs, shoulders, back. It is ridiculous, and I have no idea how to stop it.

Pebbles also has a few bites, but I don't know why so many are deflecting onto me. It is starting to depress me, and make me a little sick from the itching. Pebbles also seems to have a cold, which stinks. I can't tell if that is why I don't feel well (may have caught it) or if it is just the bites.

Stupid Italian mosquitoes. I am hoping it is better in Cinque Terre.

We are off in just about an hour to hit the beach. Yay!

Day Cinque: Continua

The whole point is, the Medici were frickin' rich, and that's how they could afford to do all this sh*t.
- American guy talking in front of the Duomo in Florence
Ok, so to continue...we went to a small family winery yesterday, which was much different than anything I've seen in the US. First off...everything is so old and spread out, to get the wine from the presses to the aging vats, there is a tube that runs right in the middle of the villa, above ground. The cellars were rather old school, and there was just one bottling machine for over 100K bottles a year. Still, it was very charming.
First, Federica, one of the owners, talked us through how they did things at the vineyard. They should have been harvesting yesterday, but because of the rain they couldn't. Then, it was time to eat, which thank god, because I was starving. The food was all home made, and all grown either at the farm or within 15km. It was absolutely delicious. I even ate the salami, which...I shouldn't have. At the table there was a Chianti table wine, as well as the white Vernaccia. And, there was plenty for all of us to drink at least 3-4 glasses, which everyone did (and, if we ran low, Mauro, our driver, would just go get more).
This was a great group of people, and we had a fun time talking and drinking. Then came the biscotti & vino santo, a sweet dessert wine into which you dip your biscotti. Yum! Then...Elizabetta brought out the grappa. Three kinds, to be exact. No sooner had she poured the first one for us that we were told to shoot them, and my ears, throat...everything was on fire. It tasted like gasoline. Always one to give it another try (when it comes to alcohol), I tried the second one. Again, I was like a dragon with the fire I was spitting. I think Pebs gave up on that one. Then the third, which looked more like the vino santo so I thought, oh, it must be sweet. Damn, I was wrong, wrong wrong. I was also very drunk by that point, as was everyone else at the table.
We did a little more touring, which... kind of wish I hadn't because I saw how the grape skins were dried (grappa is made from the skins), which is to just set them out next to the fields. Ick. Then, we got to taste more, which is just what we needed. This farm also produces Olive Oil, and we tasted that by sipping it directly from a glass. We were told this is the correct way to really taste olive oil. It was the best I have ever had. Yum!
As we left, we all kind of realized, "Oh, sh*t, we still have to go to Siena! Maybe we should just keep drinking." We piled in the van and off we went to Siena. By this time we, as a group, had bonded, so rather than take off our separate ways, we all went together to the Duomo. This was absolutely beautiful. The amount of intricacy involved in these churches here is mind blowing. And, the floors were uncovered, which I guess only happens for 2 months a year.
We were all pretty tired when we met back up with Elizabetta. She had been helping Robert from Scottsdale on a best man's speech he had to do in Italian. Apparently, he's gonna need a lot of practice in the next few days. On the way home, I fell asleep somewhat, and when we got back we had to change the dinner plans we made with Bill & his wife, but we may see them again in Rome. I was just too tired to go out any more. I love how that happens.
It was back to the hotel for me (then a quick stop at McDonalds...I know, I know, but I am pizza/pasta/gelato-ed out), and wandering around the streets for Pebbles. I think she is going to be sad to leave Florence, although Cinque Terre will be beautiful. I am looking forward to some hiking and relaxing beach time!

17 September 2007

Day Cinque: Grappa Grappa and more Grappa

It is actually for the better, methinks, the way the whole Siena/Tuscany thing. I think driving around would have been hard, because I am not sure how the navigating would have turned out.

We woke up early this morning to the sound of the pouring rain. We were supposed to head off on a tour of Tuscany, so I wondered how the rain would affect things. Luckily, it had pretty much cleared by the time we got ready to go...but the threat was there. I had booked this Saturday, and wasn't quite sure what was in store for us, and wasn't to excited about the thought of walking around in the rain. We lined up outside of the tour office, and waited with a bunch of other people for our guide.

Then out came Elizabetta. A native Tuscan, Elizabetta had traveled around quite a bit in her youth (her father was in the UN) before re-settling in Florence. Her English was pretty perfect, and she was quite fun and sarcastic with us. She first tried to tell us we were off to Pisa & Lucca (which made me think of my poochie, and others on the bus groan with the thought of going back to Pisa). Of course, she was kidding.

On the way to San Gimignano, Elizabetta explained the history of the place to us. We all got to talking about it and ourselves. There was Ginger & Jeff from Georgia...Jeff had surprised his wife for her 50th bday with a trip to Europe. Suzannah and her hubby from North Carolina, who had just retired. Bill & his wife, from Washington. Rob & Danielle, who own a restaurant that sounds so good in Scottsdale, and a guy from Canada who we hung out with but never learned his name. It was a really fun group.

We walked around SG for a while, which is a really pretty & well-preserved town. Then it was time to go off to the wine tasting place...

Oops, it looks like they are closing down the internet place. I'll write more tomorrow. Is anyone reading this? Y'all can leave comments!

Day Four: Fiesole and More

On Sunday morning, rather than going to Siena as we had first planned, we decided to stay here in Florence. In the long run, this was the best decision, but I digress.

We got up, packed up our stuff, and moved to our new hotel, the Hotel California. Yup, that is really the name. As I mentioned before, I woke up all nice and swollen from the tons of mosquito bites I seem to have. It sucks. So we moved over then went to find the bus for Fiesole.

Fiesole is a beautiful hilltop down right outside of Florence. We went through it on Friday when we were doing out city tour, and since we decided to stay longer, I thought it would be nice to go explore. The day was hot and really muggy. We headed up there on the bus, which was super crowded after about one stop. Luckily, we got on at the train station and were able to get seats. For about 20 minutes, we took the windy road up to the hills.

I guess it was originally a place where rich Florentines went to escape the city. Supposedly, it was also a place to escape the heat. This was certainly not the case on Sunday. It was HOT up there! I was not in the best of moods due to my swollen eye, but tried to get into it as we hiked up to see the view. It was stunning, if not hazy. As I took pics, I had no idea how they'd turn out...with the haze and the eye issues, I was just hoping to get something. We'll see when I get home.

We headed back down the hill and went our separate ways. I think Pebble's likes that she can wander around Florence by herself and feel ok. It is a pretty easy city to navigate, and since there are so many tourists around, safe when you stay on the main streets. This has helped her to get to know the city, and given us time to ourselves, which, as a normally solo traveler, I definitely need.

I made her choose and direct us to the dinner place...she wasn't very happy about that but I stood firm. We ended up at a place at the Piazza Republica. It was fine... a bit overpriced, as any of these places in the main piazzas are, but the pasta was fresh as could be. Then she wandered off again - she's becoming quite independent - and I went to the book store. I finished the book I brought (which was really weird), so got one about the history of Florence, which is much more interesting!

16 September 2007

Mosquitoes? In Italy?

I am sure they have always been here, but I have never thought about biting bugs in Italy. And, I have come to find out, they are here and they LOVE me.

In Rome, as I was sitting in the lobby of our hotel, I got bit on my arm and legs. The bites itched like crazy, but I didn't think much else of it. Since arriving in Florence, even more bites have appeared...I assume from that stupid bug in our room that won't go away.

Then, this morning, I woke up with one eye swollen halfway shut, and the other with a touch of swollenness. I look pretty. And a few more bits on my chin, and then across my cheek. It is all quite lovely.

Even in the days of the evil poison oak, I don't think my eyes ever swelled up. It is somewhat painful, and feels really weird to the touch. And I don't like not being able to open my eye.

So, I wonder...will these mosquitoes ever leave me alone? I guess only time will tell. I certainly hope so; there's little less attractive than someone walking down the street, unable to stop scratching herself!

When Wine Attacks

You know that moment before an accident happens, when you realize it is going to happen, and try to avoid it, but then it happens anyway, and probably worse than what had happened if you had done nothing?

Yeah, that happened last night.

We had a fabulous dinner with our new friends Rich & Paulette, and at the end, we were talking about losing passports - Rich's daughter had lost hers once in Barcalona, and freaked out in much the same way I did (or so it sounds). For reasons still unknown to me, I was waving my hands around or something, and realized I was about to knock over my glass of wine. I tried to stop it, tried to catch the glass, and doing that just made it fall harder, spraying wine all over the table, all over Paulette, and onto Rich's shirt. It was no ordinary spill, folks. This one went all over Paulette's face, too.

I was horrified! I wish I could blame it on having too much to drink, but that was sadly not the case, it was just me being clumsy. Luckily they both took it in stride, but it was so embarrassing!

15 September 2007

The Great Luggage Saga of 2007: The Finale

The luggage is finally here.

I have no idea where it's been for the last three days, or how it finally got here, but it did. The amount of runaround to deal with this problem is unbelievable. The fact that United, in order to transport it to Florence, no longer had it in their system and thus almost washed their hands of it, is unacceptable. This morning, the contracting company told Pebbles that the case was closed because she had her baggage. We looked around, and she looked at the clothes she'd been wearing for the past 3 days, and refuted that claim.

It's finally here, though, safe and sound. United will be hearing further about this, and getting some receipts for the several cab rides, new clothes, etc.

Thanks again to my Uncle Lenny for helping us out so much!

Day Tre: Multo Firenze

First off, a few things. 1. the US$ to Euro conversion bites. Big time. You only get about 1 Euro for 1.40$. 2. The drivers here are crazy. 3. The people walking here are crazy. Middle of the street with 5 vespas coming at you? No problem. We'll just cross the street right in front of them anyway.

Due to the luggage situation, I decided to change our plans a little bit. Rather than go to Siena tomorrow, we're just going to stay in Florence an extra two days and then head to Cinque Terre. Mom, you'll be happy, I won't be driving a car here. So I spent the morning cancelling reservations and making new ones (the hotel we are currently in, the Florence Dream Domus, is absolutely lovely, but it is bank-breaking for 4 nights, so we are moving on tomorrow), and trying to find a good tour so we could still see the Tuscan countryside. Not ideal, but the one I found looks great. This way, too, there are more people around. Mixes things up a bit. While I did that, Pebbles went shopping to find some clothes and shoes, just in case her bag didn't show up.

We met up at the Accademia, where we had a tour planned for the gallery. While waiting (the way things run here makes me laugh...it is often just a big clusterf*ck of people- excuse the language but there's no better way to describe it - trying to find the person in charge, who couldn't care less that we are looking for them), we met a nice couple who would also be on the tour. We got to talking and it turns out they are from Danville. Upon talking further, we found out that Paulette, the woman, is originally from San Leandro, and knows several people I know (including the mom of a girl I played soccer with for years, and the old cheerleading coach who's now a teacher at O'Dowd). Small, small world! We finally found our guide, and off we went.

We were definitely spoiled yesterday with Elvio. Federica, our guide today, just couldn't cut it. I don't know if she was new, but her grasp on English was a little rough (which would be fine if the information she was presenting was interesting or accurate, which it wasn't so much), and she kept getting off track from her point. It was worth getting the tour to skip the line, which was crazy long, and almost worth it to check out The David...seeing the sculpture in person is absolutely amazing. That someone could carve such a thing, and that it could sit outside for a century or more and not be too weathered, is really mind-blowing. But, they charge you 13Euro to get into the museum, which holds little else of interest other than the David. If the tour had been better, my attitude towards it probably would be too.

I wandered off at the end of the tour. I needed to use the restroom and needed to run away from Federica. Several other members of our tour had the same idea, and I saw them out on the courtyard where I went to enjoy the sunshine. I went back in to get Pebbles, and Rich & Paulette had asked us to join them for dinner. So we'll be doing that tonight, which is great.

Pebbles & I had lunch overlooking the Duomo, and then went our separate ways - me to book the tour/shop, Pebbles to find her luggage/shop. I wet to the market by our hotel and got a few things; the most exciting was this beautiful purse. I bargained a little, and got the price I wanted. I assume it's a fake, but it is really lovely and the real one, in the store, costs 3 times as much. Score!

Now we're just hanging out, taking a break before dinner. I forgot how much walking you do when traveling...I was basically on my feet from about 9am to 5.15pm. Yikes.

The Great Luggage Saga Part II: Ineptitude Boogaloo

No, the luggage is still not here.

After several calls to various agencies, and to United, we were told that the luggage was on a flight to here in Florence. Two trips to the airport contradicts this statement. In short, we don't know where the hell the luggage is.

I have to say, my aunt is being a trooper. She finally went to buy some new clothes, and I think that's what she's doing right now. I don't understand how the airlines use such antiquated systems to track luggage, and it is no wonder so much gets lost. Anyone know how much they need to reimburse her for the inconvenience of 3 days with no luggage...I know it is something even if the bag eventually arrives...

14 September 2007

Day Two: Off to Firenze

This has been a long day! I am now sitting at the computer in our hotel, which is snail slow it is an old computer), and they have the air-co on full blast, which is really unnecessary.

At any rate, one thing I love about the hotels in Europe is that they provide breakast. Now, I am not usually a big breaky eater, but when it's free, why the hell not! Plus, it is fun to see what a typical breakfast is. This morning, it consisted of bread (sadly, not the most delicious white toast ever - that honor still goes to the place in England), a variety of meats, some cereal, tomatoes, cheese, and pastries. I immediately went for the bread, cheese, tomato combo, with olive oil. It was delicious!

It was time to head off to the train station. After we were unsuccessful locating the bag, we hung out at the train station and waited for our late train (I had the impression that trains were always on time...I was wrong). We had seats in the first class cabin, which was fantastic. They lounged in a way that didn't infringe on the person behind me's space, which is what the airlines should do. It was a quick and easy ride through the Tuscan countryside. Pebbles commented that it looks like Napa....it does, just seems to be hillier.

We got to Florence and made our way to the Florence Dream Domus, this centrally located, although on the 3rd floor with no lift, hotel. It is pretty darn adorable. Once we got in our room, we were able to locate the bag. With that, we were off to walk around, get some gelato (yum!), and go to our tour.

The tour was great. I am not a big fan of organized tours, but sometimes, they are necessary. They brought us first via bus to Fiesole, which boasts one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen, ever. I wish we had more time here so we could go visit further. We then went back to Florence and walked around the ancient center. Elvio, our tour guide, was very good, and obviously very passionate about Florence. He said he was originally from Venice, but has lived here in Florence for 22 years and loves that he gets to help others understand what a great city this is. How fun!

We ended the tour with 2 hours in the Uffizi. Talk about an overwhelming amount of information. Elvio went really in depth with his favorite and what he considered the most important paintings, taking us from the early days through the Renaissance. It was like a condensed art history class - fabulous! My mind is still spinning from all the info.

So now I am back at the hotel. Pebbles went to collect her bag...she told me not to come so I guess she needed a break. Which is fine. I think she gets frustrated because I am rather quiet, which is the norm when I travel. I am trying to be better and get adjusted to traveling with someone, but in general I am quiet, and moreseo when traveling...but I'm trying!

The Great Luggage Saga of 2007

My wish to you all...never lose your luggage while abroad, at least not while flying United (I can't help but wonder if this would have been easier if we were on Al Italia or something).

So last night, Pebbles called the number provided at the airport. First, though, she had a lot of trouble using the phone in our room, and the front desk wasn't very helpful (although they were fine taking our money for every attempted phone call). We finally got through using Melissa's cell phone. After a very long conversation, we learned that they hadn't been able to locate the bag, and maybe it would arrive tomorrow, but maybe she'd get it in a few days. This was upsetting news, and Pebs was on the verge of losing it (remember, too, we had been flying all night and out all day, so...tired!).

I had my trusty Premier Exec card handy, so I went upstairs and tried another route to find this damn thing. After another series of frustrating calls (for some reason, the calling card I was using went mute when I called 1.800 numbers), I got a hold of my uncle Len (thanks again!) and he three-way conferenced me in with the support line. We got on the line with a nice rep from India, who had a hard time understanding me (the irony!), and FINALLY were told that the bag was going to be in Rome this morning at 8.50. Then they'd get it to us in Florence.

We called this morning and confirmed, yes indeed, the bag had arrived. And that it would arrive in Florence this evening. But then, it may be 2-3 days before it got to us at the hotel in Florence. Which is, according to the books, about 5 km away...Yes, 2-3 days to go about 3 miles. Apparently, they are using the horse and buggy method here. We said we'd go get it.

Needless to say, United will be getting a few calls and letters about this. I may have to put my coworker Valerie on the case, because she is awesome at that stuff. I expect reimbursement for the transport to/from the airport, at the least. I understand they got it to Italy as soon as they could, but to then make us wait another 2-3 days because the couriers only go when they have a whole bunch of bags is extremely poor customer service.


I am have been encountering two challenges since I've been here...1. Hard to let work go. 2. Hard not to speak Spanish.

The first...I know I need to just let it go, but my anxiety is through the sky that I forgot something, or who knows. I know I am not that important, things will go on fine without me, and that I did the best I could to wrap things up...still I get a pit in my stomach every time I think about it. Perhaps this will subside over the weekend when I know no one is in the office.

The other...I think because my last few trips have been to Spanish-speaking countries, and that is what I speak (as opposed to Italian), upon arrival my mind immediately went into Spanish mode. I have been doing ok with a little Italian, and I understood it ok when the taxi driver was talking to me (or, at least, I got the core of what he was saying), but man, I want to speak something other than English! It is good to kno, thought, that my rusty brain still remembers a thing or two!

Dinner Italian Style

Last night we met the daughter of one of my father's business associates. Melissa is studying out here in Rome, lucky girl, and was kind enough to join us for dinner. She was also kind enough to let Pebbles use her cell phone, after a frustrating experience trying to get a hold of the luggage people. More on that later, but let's just say I hope you never lose your luggage on United while abroad.

We went to this cute place right by our hotel to eat. One of the waiters was hanging around outside the restaurant, and when he saw us looking at the menu, encouraged us to go inside. He was adorable, so we complied.

The restaurant was one of those so typical in Europe...on the smaller side, intimate, lots of wait staff hanging out. The first one to approach our table spoke no English...when I tried to ask him what the cost of some prosecco included (glass, bottle, half bottle), he had no idea. Cue the non-verbal communication, pointing to the price, then to my glass, then the hands up in the air with a questioning look on my face. Turns out, it was for the whole bottle.

Our actual waiter could speak English, which was good. He was also very sarcastic, although he didn't understand the word. It was a nice and delicious dinner, complete with a bottle of prosecco that was super yummy.

After that, we headed back to the hostel and I crashed before my head hit the pillow. I was exhausted!

13 September 2007

Rome Day One

We're now here in Rome...I am pooped.

We checked into the hotel, which, despite telling us we were ok with early check in, did not have any rooms or any real apologies. We had to wait a few minutes for a room, which is not what we wanted but oh well, it's just one night. Pebs is just excited it has a bidet, although I don't know that either of us would know how to use it.

After I showered, we were off to the Vatican. It is a lovely day here in Rome, warm but not too hot, so perfect for walking after such a long flight. Have to get moving! I followed the map and got us here eventually...a few side streets and twists and turns later. But here we are in Vatican City, which is such a lovely site.

One thing that amazes me is how people process what they're seeing, if they really do. They walk into the Sistine Chapel, or St. Peters, or the other museum areas and just start taking pictures. Rarely do they stop and just look at what they're shooting. They just go go go. I wonder, when they look back, will they remember what they saw because of their pictures, or because they actually saw it? I think the former. (and, I am guilty of this, too, although I have gotten better)

It is striking how rude people are, and not just Americans (in fact, I have barely noticed them). Huge groups of tourists - Spanish, Italian, German, and more - push their way through the lines, the rooms...even not letting a wheelchair get through. It is really unfortunate and surprising. We'll all get there eventually, do they really need to push?

I lost Pebbles in the Vatican and then kept getting in trouble by the guards. Who knew you couldn't lean on the nice marble ledges. Isn't that what they're there for?

And We're Off

First off, let me apologize for any weird spelling/grammar...I am not used to this keyboard.

We left at the crack of dawn on Wednesday morning. Our van driver was even a little early...I had been hoping he'd be late so we wouldn't have to sit at the airport too long, but no dice on that one. We got the airport, checked in, and soon enough it was time to go.

Before we knew it, we were in DC and getting ready to board our flight to Rome. Pebbles could't get over how big the plane was. We lucked out with some seats with a huge amount of legroom... it was nice to be able to move around. And, we had crew seats in front of us, so no one was there most of the flight (not that it would have mattered, there was that much leg room). We had our own personal little TVs...Pebs started laughing right away at Shrek III, but then midway through turned to me and said she was totally lost on the storyline. Having never really seen a Shrek movie, I had no idea they were the least bit complicated...but...

The flight was rather uneventful, which is always a good thing. I fell asleep for a little while, thankfully. At one point, I went to use the restroom...it was a huge one. Definitely one that has been used, comfortably, a time or two for the Mile High club.

And so...the resolution to the great luggage debate of 2007. I had told my aunt to pack light, and pack so she could carry on. Last time I checked my luggage in Europe, it was lost, and there is nothing worse than being stranded without clean clothes. She forewent my advice and decided to check her luggage...which is now lost. Hopefully we'll get it in Florence tomorrow.

Then our poor driver got a ticket because he was waiting for us so long. I think he got it figured out, but...no luck from the get go.

11 September 2007

Almost Time!

In just a few hours, we'll be heading off to Italy. Tonight my mom had us over to dinner...it was quite funny. My brother managed to convince my aunt that her iPod wouldn't work in Italy, and several other things. Someday she'll learn to not believe him.

So tomorrow we're being picked up bright and early at 5am to be shuttled off to the airport. Yikes. I should go to bed!

07 September 2007

Just a Few More Days!

I haven't been posting much, and that is totally my bad. Work has been crazy, and, I have been planning my big trip!

In just a few days, I leave for Italy...whoo hoo!!

I will be trying to update this while I am gone. Since I am going with my aunt, I am sure there will be lots of good stories to tell. I just can't wait. And, not only will I get to go see parts of the country I've never seen, and hang with my aunt...my dear friend from Sweden is going to come down and meet us for a few days! Yippeeee.....

02 September 2007

Getting Props

My brother was on a new Cartoon Network show last night with his basketball business, Triple Threat Academy. Yay, Tony!

Doo-Wa Ditty

This song has been stuck in my head for a few days. I tend to sing it when something is annoying me, and I just need to stop thinking about it...this song helps.

26 August 2007

Sunday Answers

A little free association from Luna Nina

1. Uneven :: Life
2. Wonder :: Amazement
3. Spider :: Web
4. Emma :: Friends
5. Swing:: Child
6. Orbit :: Gum
7. Flirt :: Me
8. Donation :: Need
9. Veil :: Wedding
10. Atmosphere :: Dying

20 August 2007

Monday Answers...

From Monday's a Bitch.

1. What percent of your pants are denim?
I would say about 30-40%. I only have a few pairs of jeans.

2. What are your thoughts on the WWE? Entertaining? Irritating? Worst invention ever?
I grew up with WWF...and had a love/hate relationship. Love, probably because of the soap opera aspect; hate, because my brother and cousins used to practice the latest moves on me. I think what is going on now is very tragic.

3. Have you seen any movies recently that you would consider to be in the class of "greatest movies of all time"?
I don't think so. Wedding Crashers -- which isn't too recent -- will go down as a classic, along with Old School, 40-year old virgin, etc.

4. Have you ever denied having a livejournal/blog?
No. I may not tell people the name, but if they google me they'll find it.

5. If you were able to travel anywhere in the world, with any two people (alive, dead, real or fictional) as your traveling companions, where would you go, and who would come with you?
I think I would like to go somewhere with my two grandmothers. I am not sure where I would take them, but I bet the two of them together would have been a hoot.

17 August 2007

Friday Answers

BeliBlog poses some interesting questions...

Q1 - Back Seat Driver: When sitting in the back seat of a car, do you have a preference of which side--passenger or driver--you sit on? What if you were the only passenger sitting in the back... would you have a preference then? Related question: As the driver, do you have a preference of which side a lone back seat passenger sits?

I prefer to sit on the passenger side when I ride in the back seat. If I am alone in the back, I'll usually sit on the passenger side...although occasionally I'll sit in the middle if I need to be involved in the front seat conversation. As the driver, if there is just one person in the back seat, I prefer them to be on the passenger side.

Q2 - Lawsuits: A member of the Rutgers women's basketball team sued Don Imus and CBS on Tuesday, claiming the radio personality's sexist and racist comments about the team damaged her reputation. Kia Vaughn's lawsuit says Imus and his former co-host Bernard McGuirk, along with CBS Corp. and CBS Radio, are legally responsible for damage done to her character and reputation. Do you agree that Vaughn's character and reputation were damaged by Imus' remarks and that she has legitimate cause for action against the caustic radio host?

I think this society is a little sue-crazy.

Q3 - Recall: Toy maker Mattel announced this week that they are voluntarily recalling millions of units of toys because of "impermissible use of lead paint and risks associated with small, high-powered magnets." Have you been affected by Mattel's recall? If not, when was the last time you were directly impacted by a mandatory or voluntary product recall?

I have not been affected by this recall. I believe there was a voluntary recall on my car a few years ago, and I brought it into the shop and had it fixed.

Q4 - Impressions: If you could get away with it and do it extremely well, whose voice would you impersonate for an entire workday?

Barry White would be fun.