28 December 2008

Holiday Hangover

I guess the holidays are not technically over. We have the last (and, in my opinion, the most overhyped) one this week, then a long weekend, then it'll all be over.

I, for one, will be happy when they're over! Mine have been nice...pretty mellow, lots of hanging out with the pooch trying to stay warm, but my body has just about had it. The late nights, the parties, drinking, and...the eating. It's not even that I've eaten that much, it's just that everything I have consumed seems to have little to no nutritional value.

Take Christmas Eve...cookies for breakfast, chips for lunch, brownies for snack, then a somewhat decent meal (only somewhat because I had filled up on too many appetizers first). Day after Christmas? Brownies for breakfast, two pieces of bread and ice cream for dinner.

I am trying to be good, but am going to be forgiving for the rest of the year. Then, like everyone else, will detox next week.

25 December 2008

Christmas is Here!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas.

And here, I present the greatest Christmas song of all time...

22 December 2008

No Rhinocerususus

Top Christmas song #2.

Yes, the video is kind of creepy, but the song is the bestest.

20 December 2008

Smiling's my Favorite!

In honor of the holidays, I am sharing my favorite movies/songs. If you don't like it...well, too bad. I am doing my best to get into the holiday spirit this year, because it's just not happening for me.

Elf, though just a few years old, is a total classic. It astounds me that Will Ferrell can keep his wide-eyed innocence throughout the film, and play this part with such unabashed joy.

My favorite favorite scene is when he hears Santa is coming. I can vaguely remember being so in love with the idea of Santa when I was a child, that my brother and I could barely sleep. One of the few times we would get along -- Christmas Eve -- we would giggle and chat before bed, then in the morning sit outside my parents room until it was ok to go in. All the while, we would be daring each other to go into the living room to check for Santa, did he come? Did he eat the cookies? My parents would make us sit on the couch so they could go check and see what the big guy brought us, and we would wiggle and be jumping out of our pjs until we were allowed to go in.

For me, this clinches the movie. That Ferrell is able to capture the excitement we felt as a kid, and show it to us as an adult is absolutely amazing to me.

18 December 2008

I Don't Want a Lot for Christmas

We are counting down the days until Christmas...having grown up with Christmas music blaring from the beginning of December through the big day, I have quite a repertoire of faves.

This is one...if you are not up dancing by the end, you need to check your pulse.

16 December 2008

On Anger

The end of the year always makes me rather introspective...even more so than normal. I love it when, this time of year, I find something that speaks to me so deeply. On the day that I read this story, it so fit how I was feeling, and, upon continuing through the book, I wondered if the author had somehow gotten into my head.
Hard to Admit and Harder to Escape by Sarah Manguso
Story #1
I'm angry at the drawer, which has failed to close again, and I'm angry at the person, who has disappointed me once again. But really I'm angry I consented to believe in carpenter ghosts and that I consented to love an asshole. It was I who committed the real injustices. When I figure that out, I'm so angry that I'll surely give up, but I do not. I'm too angry. I want to keep myself alive so I can commit further injustices against myself, the self who has already committed such injustices against me.
Aside from me just being in that kind of mood that day, I think this passage so perfectly describes what it is about anger that really gets to us...yes, we can be angry at other people, but deep down, we are angry at ourselves for allowing these things to happen. It is hard to get our head around that fact, which only makes us angrier.

Yet...we go on to open ourselves up to others over and over again. If we don't, it would be such a solitary life. But when we do, we also open ourselves up to the pain, and when it happens, we become angry all over again. It is a never ending cycle of masochism, apparently!

Can you tell I am totally in love with these books I am reading?

15 December 2008

To Me, You are Perfect

So rarely is a holiday movie made that doesn't hit you over the head with holiday cheer.While those movies are great, they are often so unrealistic, they just make you more depressed than you already are over the holidays.

Love Actually is one of my favorites just for this reason -- it is dark, at some times even painful, much like the holidays themselves. There are a few scenes that I absolutely adore...the one where Laura Linney is so excited to bring her crush home, only to really be crushed shortly after when her priorites get screwy. And also, the one that really gets me, is the scene where Emma Thompson realizes her hubby is cheating on her. She is visibly shaken, and trying to keep up the brave fight in front of her children, so she escapes to her room to heave the cry that only a broken heart can cause.

But yet, amidst all the saddness, there is a bit of light. A hidden bit of perfection.

14 December 2008

Fighting the Good Fight

Lately I have been thinking a lot of regret. My goal has always been not to regret that which I have done in life...after all, if I've tried it, I can only learn from it, right? I have made mistakes, for sure, and made some very poor decisions, but I can't say I really regret them. How do we learn if not for mistakes, for trying new things? Often things that could be regrettable, like, for me, not staying longer in college along with my friends, end up happening for the better, in this case, it allowed me to go live in Spain and travel and figure out who I am. So really...regret has no real use, right?

But then I read this, by David Eggers (from How the Water Feels to Fishes)
The Fights Not Fought
She could not remember where she ate dinner the night before, or whom she had met last week in that walnut-paneled room. She could not recall the names of the streets where she once lived, or the date of her own father's birthday. But she could remember the fights she did not fight. There were so many, and they haunted her with a stabbing, shaming pain. People had told her to choose her battles, and she had chosen some, and neglected others, and now the neglected came to her like an army of lost children. She should have chosen them all, she thought to herself, as she buried another friend. She should have chosen every one.

I think I have mentioned this before, but the last 6 months or so have been a little strange...full of reminders of the brevity of life. These events have really made me re-evaluate my actions, my attitude towards this crazy life. They have also brought to my mind the fights I didn't fight, and made me think of impending fights that should be battled. These are the fights that could end in something beautiful, something fantastic. They could also end in great explosions and failure.

But if I never take up the fight, how will I know which are those that end in the fantastic?

03 December 2008

Love the Colbert



Fighting the absurd with the absurd.

02 December 2008

The Days of Mixed Tapes

Back in the 80's and 90's, making mixed tapes was an important past time. I can't count how many I have in my parent's garage (though my mom probably knows, as she asks me to get rid of them almost every time I go home...sorry Mom!), most of them taped from the radio. When I got a new stereo and a CD player, I graduated to making tapes of songs from the CDs I owned...probably a little Janet Jackson mixed with some Trash Can Sinatras or something.

But the ultimate validation came when someone finally made ME a mixed tape. Making a mixed tape was not something to be taken lightly; songs were carefully chosen to set a mood, convey a feeling, introduce someone to something they wouldn't otherwise listen to. To me, getting a mixed tape made me feel so special. Seems silly now, but back then...

The first mixed tape I ever got was from my friend Howser (well, his name was Doug, which we changed to Doogie, which I changed to Howser, as in, M.D. He humored me). I think I had stolen borrowed a tape from him, which had an odd mix but I just loved. He decided it was time I listen to better music, which to him, was punk. So he made me a tape called "Intro to Punk," which had a variety of covers on the "fun" side and awesome music on the "serious" side.

I loved that tape.

We sat together and listened to it, him explaining the various bands to me, making me listen to the words...all the words. When we'd see a poster for a show, he'd point it out and we'd go. I must say...it was much easier to have someone tell me what to listen to!

That tape got me through college and then some. I am surprised I didn't wear it out. When I was having trouble with my lacrosse coach, I would put it in the Walkman, go to the Wall, and throw the shit out of the ball to the rhythm of Samiam's "Bad Day" or "United Cigar" by Good Riddance. They had the perfect anger rhythm, and I got super strong...too bad my coach hated me and still wouldn't play me (um...not bitter or anything).

Somewhere along the line, the actual tape got lost. But not too long ago I found the tape case with all the songs listed, and have been able to download a lot of them. I've been listening to them lately, which causes me to look crazy walking down the street, whipping my head around to the beat. It also makes me want to be back in Yosemite 35K dissecting every part of every song. Oh, and it makes me want to go play some lax, too!!

01 December 2008

2 Minute Rule

Most people who know me know I am not the neatest person on the planet. I may try, but my surroundings are usually filled with piles of paperwork, clothes, shoes...all stuff that I could easily put away and just don't.

Recently, I was at lunch with a few coworkers, and we were talking about a class we had all taken together. At the end, we had to write ourselves a note, reminding us of a change we committed to making for 30 days at work. Mine had something to do with finding creative solutions before just saying no. My coworker's was the 2 minute rule -- don't put off something you can easily do within 2 minutes.

Interesting approach, I thought, and decided to apply it to my housekeeping. It only takes a minute to make my bed, to hang up my jacket, put my shoes in my closet...and it has totally changing the way my place looks! It looks so much better, neater, and I don't get so frustrated!

I am not perfect. It is easy to put it off, and sometimes I do. But it has totally changed the way I think about things. I love it!

27 November 2008

Happy Thanksgiving.



It has surely been a year of change, and I feel like there are many reasons to give thanks.

This time last year I was a complete mess. Thankfully, I was able to get myself out of that situation and move onto something else. In May, I got the opportunity to head back to Sevilla for the first time in 10 years, and reunite with my amigos muchos. It was so much fun, and much too short a time. How I miss them and those days, and still now, six months later, my desire to go back to Sevilla has not subsided.

I am especially thankful that Americans wised up and made the better choice for our country, and, while it was a bittersweet day here in California, I am hopeful that something good will come out of this all.

My family has remained healthy throughout the year, with a new addition since last Thanksgiving and some excellent accomplishments. And my personal life I think, is going in a good way. We'll see on that one.

While we have a steep road ahead of us, I have hope that we will all reach the top together. I wish all of you a very happy Thanksgiving.

24 November 2008

Help Make Dreams Come True!

Prom season is around the corner, and it is a pivotal part of high school for many teenagers.

Prom can be cost-prohibitive for many teens; The Princess Project strives to help lessen some of that burden by providing prom dresses and accessories for young women who otherwise could not afford it.

We are throwing a "Grant Wishes" party...check it out!








14 October 2008

Rough Road

The events of the last week had me really questioning humanity.

It started with the campaign, which took a really vicious turn. I was hoping, given the state of the world right now, that we wouldn't get into a character/scare-tactic arena with this one. Oh, I was wrong. Not only were there lies being spread, but the fear that has been instilled in us since 9/11 was preyed upon once again. Watching the news and reading the papers...it made me sad that people still think the way they do, and think that it is ok to shout racial epitaphs at people. Why the hate?

That is the other thing that gets me, and really hit me last week...that the people saying they are living a good Christian life really live a life of hate. The God I believe in certainly doesn't hate, and the Jesus I learned about in school lived a life of love and acceptance, not hate and "maybe I'll tolerate you."

Anyhoodle, then, the same day this is all going on, the Wall Street probe (probe, heh) broke the news that Lehman execs took millions of dollars in "bonuses" as their company was failing. Aren't bonuses only to be used when your company is doing well? And, a memo was released that had them laughing off the option of foregoing their bonuses for the year. Meanwhile, thousands lost their jobs and the failure of one of the oldest companies in the USA helped serve as a catalyst for worldwide economic failure. (yes, I know it wasn't the only reason, but it sure didn't help quell any fears and set off a panic)

I live with the belief that people are good. Even those who, on the surface, don't treat me or others well, I like to think that deep down there is a goodness that is for some reason in regression. It really knocks me for a loop when people blatantly disprove this notion of mine. It happened several times last week, and it was really disheartening.

Then came my birthday and the stock market crash. One of the worst days in history for the Dow. Happy Birthday to me:-)!

02 October 2008

Debate This

I will admit...I enjoyed a bottle of wine during the debate. I also enjoyed G-chatting with my pal Robin throughout the grand event.

Our IMs went something like this:
annie: WTF is she talking about
robin: WhoTF knows
annie: YES
robin: YES
annie: OMGOMGOMG
robin: seriously?
annie: how many calories in a bottle of wine
robin: global warming?
annie: nice suit!
robin: OMG. What is she talking about
annie: no he didn't
robin: no he didn't
both: are people really so stupid that they'd believe this?

It was a way more entertaining debate, even without the wine.

25 September 2008

Required Reading: Walking With the Wind


Sometime last year, my Uncle told me he had a book I would love. My Uncle understands me pretty well, so this piqued my interest. I asked him what it was about, and he said it was written by a guy named John Lewis, and it was about the Civil Rights movement. I told him I would check it out sometime...then he said that my cousin, his son, said he felt like he wanted to be a better person after reading this book. My cousin is a pretty good guy, so I figured this must be some kinda book.

They were right.

The first 2/3s should be required reading in every American history class. It is a first-hand account of the Civil Rights movement, focusing especially on how much of the success was a result of grass-roots efforts. It also went into the politics behind the movement -- which, yes, there were lots of politics at play.

I feel like we didn't learn much about the movement in my classes. Maybe a little about Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. This book opened my eyes in a way no other book ever has. And it gave me a new way to look at people with whom I disagree, whose ignorance astounds me.
We are entering a huge time in our history, where we have the opportunity to make progress or move backwards. There is an eerie similarity to the Civil Rights movement and what's going on now. When zealots on either side of the coin obscure the issues, and use false reasoning to progress their cause. As we move to a place where more and more rights could be taken away, it is important we look back at this very recent history (John Lewis, the co-author and one of the leaders of the Civil Rights movement, is still serving in the Senate). All of this just happened about 40 some odd years ago.

Now's our chance to move forward. I just hope the best choices are made, and that in 40 some odd years, we look back at the "big" issues now with disbelief.

23 September 2008

Oh, the Horror

Most people who know me know I don't embarrass easily. I can probably count on one hand the times I have been embarrassed:
  1. Sitting in Sister Joan's office, and having to recount what the boys in my class were up to in front of my parents and Monsignor Lucid. This was true shame at its worst...and I hadn't even done anything wrong. To this day, it still makes me a little red in the face.
  2. The day my dad started talking to the bum outside of my brother's graduation because he knew the bum and the bum's girlfriend. And there were people I knew standing in line in front of us...
  3. When I first brought Luca to the vet because he had a little infection in his private area... I was in the waiting room with a bunch of good looking guys and their big dogs, and the nurse shouted at me, asking what was wrong with my little dog...and I had to decide to use proper terminology rather than "his wee-wee is infected."
  4. Today, going into the doctor's office and having to tell her my leg -- which was swollen to about twice the normal size -- was a result of playing kickball. Yes, kickball, and yes, I am an adult (or so they tell me).
While she kept her cool when I was in the office, I bet she had a good chuckle when I left. I mean... adult, swollen leg, kickball...I tried to soften it by saying I had played soccer when the original injury had occurred, and she kept referring to soccer, so I think she, too, was trying to avoid the whole kickball issue. It was nice of her, I thought!

21 September 2008

Adios, Semana Loca

This week was a bit of a strange one for me...I won't go into too many details, but suffice to say there was a lot of random stuff that happened, none of it related, as well as the craziness in the markets which made us all run at top speed all week at work.

Last night we had a lot of fun, starting with end-of-season party for the sports club I work on (or, as I was told, where I am a very important person), and then going on after that to other bars and general fun. I would have been happy had it ended there...

But it didn't.

No, the week ended with me completely jacking up my leg, and me being a big crabby baby over it. Granted, whatever I did is not good, and I am going to have to reevaluate things in the morning to see if I need to get into the doctor, but still. It didn't help that I got approximately 4 hours of sleep last night, and was not feeling 100% this morning... so that didn't help the mood. But then, my first jog of the kickball game told me something wasn't right. The first kick gave me another hint, and as I started to run, the leg completely tightened up and I was done for. I stopped, my team yelling at me to run, and just laid down. What a wimp, I know, but I don't think I have ever been in that kind of pain from an injury; the serious, I-think-I-may-throw-up-and-just-want-to-cry-and-hope-no-one-notices-everyone-leave-me-alone for-a-minute-kind of pain.

Yuck. Let's just say, I will not be sad to let this week go!

20 September 2008

Duerme en Paz, Gata Gata


On Wednesday night, my parents had to put my cat to sleep. She was old -- about 18 -- and clearly getting slower each time I saw her. The last time, she had lost a lot of weight and I remarked to my mom, "wow, she doesn't have much time left." Earlier in the week, my mom mentioned that Gata hadn't been eating, so there was fair warning. Still, I didn't expect it to affect me the way it did.

We were never a cat family. I wanted one badly, but my brother had bad allergies (and I ended up having them, too) and my parents said no. Still, about 16 years ago, this furry friend started showing up in our backyard, and my dad fed it. Her owners put up signs about a lost cat, but when we called, they said they didn't want her, just to know if she was alive. She had been ours ever since. Her official name was "Handsome Stranger," apparently a line from an old movie.

For a while she split time between our house and the one behind us, where I am pretty sure she partook in whatever drugs the son was doing. She was about as mellow as they come, and this really showed when playing with her best friend, our dog Bocci. We would yell, "Gata Gata," and Bocci would go after her, putting her head in his mouth, pushing her around. Then, when she was tired of it, she would just swipe at Bocci's face, and he would run away and pout. She would let the kids pull her tail, chase her around...and she would then come back and cuddle with her.

She has been mad at me for the past 1.5 years, ever since I brought the little poochie into the house. She had been my cat, and now I had disrupted that. But she would still try to commandeer my lap whenever Luca gave her the chance, because, in the end, she was still mine.
I am rambling a lot, I know, but her death really signaled the end of something for me. She was around for 16 years of my life...before I went to college, and when I came home. She was the last thing that my parents, brother and I really shared; now any pet that my parents may get will be theirs. It just feels weird.

RIP Handsome Stranger.

17 September 2008

The Sky is Falling!

If there has ever been a time in my life where I could imagine Chicken
Little running around, worried, that time is now. The market has been
insane, debt is all around us, and these elections are ridiculous.

In a time of such instability, I would really like to see our
candidates stop focusing on stupid sh*t like lipstick and really tell
me more about their policies. I want them to tell me how their
leadership will protect my 401k and my savings (and my job!). How they
will help the world market, which is also suffering (mi media naranja
in Sweden just said her interest rate is in flux because of the US
market).

I am terrified of what is going to happen in the US over the next few
months (don't get me started on the next 4 years). I wish the media
would start focusing on what's real, and what it means to those of us
across America should either of these dudes get elected.

11 September 2008

A Day to Remember...And a Time to Move Forward


We'll never forget, they say. But the saying also goes, "those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it," or something like that.

So let's truly learn from the past and move forward with the knowledge that it is time for a change in America.

10 September 2008

Travel Bug

I know it has only been, what, 3 months or so since my last trip...but I have the bug, and I have it bad.

The last time I remember having such a strong urge to travel was in 2005, when, after watching Under the Tuscan Sun, I just decided to book a trip to Argentina. Last year, I had a similar, but not so as great an urge, and, right around now (12 Sept, in fact), I was heading off to Italy.

These days, it seems, everything reminds me of Spain. I went to the SFMoMA the other day, and saw the Frida Kahlo exhibit. It totally brought back memories of the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. Walking around the other day in Golden Gate Park, going to various touristy spots like the Japanese Tea Gardens reminded me of wandering through Sevilla. The hot weather helped with that, too.

I am not quite sure what to do. Perhaps a holiday trip somewhere...Costa Rica or something.
I haven't really been traveling for work, save one overnight trip to Boston, so I think that adds to the urge. While I am not the best flyer, nor do I like airports much or the logistics of getting places, I do love being there, experiencing the smells, sights, and people.

20 August 2008

Le Sigh

The weather here is crappy, and it is making me crabby.

It is now mid-August, bordering on late-August, the weather should be improving. This has not been the case. This morning it was overcast and misty, but humid as all get out. I could barely breath. The sun poked out later in the day, but the fact that we are still wearing wool jackets this late into the summer is absolutely ridiculous.

It is making me unmotivated and pissy. The toe issue didn't help, but now that I can put on a shoe perhaps I'll feel a little better.

17 August 2008

A Final Thought...

So my favorite part of the Olympics - swimming - has now come to a conclusion. It makes me a little sad...outside of the Olympics it is pretty difficult to watch high-caliber swimming, but also a bit happy, as I can get to bed at a decent hour! Don't get me wrong, I will still be watching the Olympics, just not with the same vigor I have been.

As I watched the finales last night, I thought about the week gone by I was once again truly amazed and inspired. From the awesome Michael Phelps, to the totally awe-inspiring Dara Torres, to the swimmer in one of the unseeded freestyle heats who finished the first Olympic swimming race for his country, to the Israeli swimmer whose father died a few days before his race...these are just a few stories among many.

For two weeks, the world gets to take a pause from the horrible, and just concentrate on something remarkable and, for the most part, positive (except when the athletes test that way). These are people, from all walks of life, who have reached the pinnacle of their sport, and are just giving it their all.

Yes, many are naturally gifted. As Torres says, she has a fast twitch reflex that helps her in the sprints, but she still has to work her ass off to get where she is. The dedication that goes into reaching the Olympics, in pretty much any sport, is something I cannot even fathom.

So I say, good on you, athletes!

On a more shallow note, I noticed last night that the swimmers wear different suits depending on what stroke their doing. The freestylers seem to wear those RZRs, the breaststrokers wear suits that only go to their knees, and for the men, the butterfliers wear just pants. I would like to put in my vote that the men always opt for the pants-only option. The display there is also awe-inspiring!

13 August 2008

Boy or Girl?


As you know, I am having trouble NOT watching the Olympics (case in point: it is 11.30pm on a school night, I had toe surgery today, and still cannot stop watching until this damn relay is over). But, I am starting to have a problem...

The problem is with these Speedo RZR suites. If i happen to leave the room, and come back in to a new race, and miss the intro, I often have no clue if it is a men's race or a women's race.

(yes, I know if I look hard enough, I can tell... but the camera doesn't always pan down that quickly)

Those suits flatten out even the most buxom of ladies. Couple that with the swim caps and goggles, and, well, who the hell is swimming?

I don't mind that they wear the suits. I think technology evolves, and sports evolve, and you have to use what you can as long as it is available to everyone (and legal). The problem I have is that they are fug, especially on the men.

While I am at it, I don't understand why they are taking away our eyecandy, either. Swimming used to be the time when we could admire the lovely male form, all cut and freakishly strong and smooth. Now, they cover themselves with these old-fashioned looking ladies' suits. Men still get beach volleyball, which is almost pornographic. What do we ladies get in beach volleyball? Men with dorky tanktops and baggy shorts. UNFAIR I say!

I don't care if this is shallow. I love the sport of the Olympics, but I love the pretty, too. And I am feeling jipped here.

12 August 2008

Is He Human?

After watching days of Olympic coverage, this is what I have been wondering about Michael Phelps. The dude is breaking records left and right, and never looks tired at the end of the race.

Finally, tonight, after swimming the 200 Butterfly, he looked pooped. The man has done a bunch of races already, so his body must be getting a little tired. Until tonight, it didn't look like it. After he touched the wall, setting yet another World Record, he did not look so spritely.

I am a total Olympic-a-holic right now. I want to be home watching them all day. I am staying up way to late watching the "live" program, then getting up and watching whatever I recorded in the middle of the night, resulting in running late for work. I have been cheering and crying for the swimmers (still a sport dear to my heart). Beach volleyball...I am digging it.

I've been a little freaked out by the synchronized divers. And the itty bitty mens gymnasts. I mean, those dudes are little. And freakishly strong. I watched some weird events at like 2 in the morning on Monday... I can't remember what they are, but they were odd.

2 more weeks?! Both a blessing and a curse.

13 July 2008

SLO life

Last time I was in SLO, it was a little rushed. We arrived late Friday night, and left early Sunday, with a little partying in between. I so wanted to stay longer, but it was not possible then.

This time, I wanted to make sure I had time to bum around the town. One of my lacrosse teammates tried to rally us; since we don't often make it to the November alumni game, maybe we could get together on our own. An excuse to go back to SLO, and to see my former teammates? Count me in!

Luca and I left on Friday morning. We hadn't been on a road trip this long, so I was excited to see how he'd do. He sat in his little bed the whole way down and slept. we got down here quickly, and were able to check into our hotel right away. The hotel freaked the dog out. I am not sure why, but he crouched down and sniffed and panicked for a good while. It was funny.

We spent the next two days walking around and checking things out. I went back to campus, walking past my old dorms and to my old classrooms. They all seemed so far away from one another when I was in college...but really, they're not. Maybe I am used to walking further now, or maybe in college I just wanted things to be within 10 feet or something. The campus has changed a lot, new buildings, new fields...new parking structure where our fields used to be. It was fun to walk around, then back to the hotel, passing all the places where I attended parties. Hard to escape those!

Unfortunately, not many laxers were able to make it down here...but a few were. Four of us met at Firestones on Saturday afternoon. I hadn't seen Lisa or Holly in 10 years, and Colby in about 5, and it was so fun to catch up and tell stories of the old days. My cousin was with us, and I think she got bored with our "remember when" talk. Too bad for her, it was fun for us. Colby and I then went over and had a few beers at Frog & Peach...we sat outside, which I don't think ever knew about in college. It is so pretty out there, overlooking the creek. Later, Colby was nice enough to invite us over for dinner and a movie. Thanks again, Colby!

Now I am getting ready to head home...every time I come back here, I remember why I love it. I can't wait to get back down here again.

30 June 2008

Why I Love my Dog

I have been sitting here, poised to write, but unsure of the topic. Meanwhile, my pooch was rolling around on "his" chair (this chair was not supposed to be commandeered by the pup...so much for those plans), happy as a clam. And, this made me laugh.

After almost a year and a half, this dog still makes me laugh on a daily basis. And, he has changed so much since I first brought him home. A lot of the changes seem to have come on lately, and it is awesome. He is so much happier now, and much more comfortable here at home. When someone comes into the house, he gets excited, rather than running and hiding. If it is someone he knows, he gets even happier and runs up to try to get that person to pet him.

And, the petting. It used to be, he wouldn't leave my side, even when people called him. Now, if someone will pet him, he is their best friend and wants nothing to do with me. He will jump from lap to lap, and cuddle like there's no tomorrow.

Some days, he runs around the living room, digs through his toy box, and then tosses his toys all over the place. If I throw a sock, he tears after it, and then hides it. A sock...I wish I could get that excited over a sock.

This may not be the most interesting thing, but Luca has been such a fun light in my life, and I had to share. I love this little guy!

24 June 2008

Nostalgic for the '00s? Already?

VH-1 is currently running a series, "I Love the Millennium." Similar to its "I Love the [70's][80's][90's]" series, this one takes a nostalgic look at the trends that changed the early Aughts.

WHAT?? Is it really time to get nostalgic about this time? I don't get it...I thought they were pushing it with the 90's, as we're not even 10 years out of them. Don't get me wrong, I love watching them, but I don't have enough distance yet from my bad high school hair to get too weepy over my plaid shirts and baby doll dresses (yes, I wore them both. No, you may not judge).

I get that VH-1 knows they have a hit series on their hands, and they need to do things to keep it relevant and top-of-mind. I am a marketer, I get it. That is why the three 80's series worked...they had enough material, distance, and kitsch to knock it out of the ballpark.

But the year 2000? No. Too soon.
'

20 June 2008

Sweltering in the City

It is a cool 90 degrees here (maybe 85 now that it's almost 8.30pm), and there is no place to hide from it. Which is actually ok by me; for a few days I can handle, even celebrate the heat. And, since on my recent trip the weather wasn't as warm as I would have liked, I am trying to get those good rays as much as I can.

It was so warm here today it actually reminded me of Spain. This happened earlier in the week, too...my friend and I went to the movies, and were hungry when we left. There was nothing open near the theater, so we went near his house. The area, at 10pm on a Tuesday, was packed. People still eating dinner, taking a paseo...so much like in Spain. It was a lovely warm night, too, which we don't get too often here.

I had a bit of wine left over from last night, so I thought, how nice would it be to have a tinto de verano? And, then it got me thinking, yes, I can have a tinto and some olives. As the day wore on, all I could think about was Spanish food. Because it's hot, I couldn't really imagine cooking anything...but...I could do tapas of olives, and cheese, and tomato and olive oil. So that is just what I did. I got some Spanish Drunken Goat Cheese (Cabra Emboracha?), Manchengo cheese, a baguette, and a mixer for my tinto (in Spain, we would use Fanta, but the Fanta here is much sweeter, maybe because of the corn syrup? So I got lemon flavored mineral water.).

I walked the dog then prepared my feast. Cut up the bread and tomato, spread with olive oil, salt and pepper, sliced the cheese and put the olives in my cute new dish from Spain. Then, of course, I poured my tinto, which was delicious with the mineral water. I must go find orange mineral water now! I sat and ate, savoring every bite. As I was eating, I turned on the movie Volver, so I was surrounded again by Spanish.

Se hecho de menos Sevilla, y Espana tambien.

08 June 2008

Being Home

I've been home now for a week...catching up on sleep was tough, especially since I had a work trip thrown in there, but I am finally starting to get back into the swing of things!

There are some things I don't miss about my travels...I don't miss being shoved all the time. I don't miss not having toilet seat covers. Having to find public restrooms got a little old after a while. The smoking, well, I don't miss that either. Having no schedule or structure, that is tough for me. And I don't miss missing my Luca.

But, there is so much I do miss. I miss the fashions -- both clothing and hair (MULLETS galore!). I miss wandering around, finding hidden surprises around each corner. I miss the Spanish men paying me compliments as I walk down the street. I miss taking a paseo after dinner, strolling down the Santa Cruz of Sevilla and passing under the looming shadow of the Cathedral. I miss wandering the streets late at night (or early in the morning, if you will), and encountering random bursts of flamenco music. I miss my friends, with whom I shared a special city, and who I look forward to seeing there again in 2018. I miss observing people -- tourists, locals, workers, vagabonds -- all trying to find their way. And, I miss the randomness that happened throughout my trip -- seeing the king, being on a flight with a famous futbol player, watching some robbers sprint down the street after breaking into a store.

It is nice to be home, but do love my second home of Spain. I felt at peace there.

29 May 2008

El Ultimo Dia en Barca y Espana

Today was my last day on Barcelona, and I had absolutely no plans. I finally dragged myself out of the hotel at around 10.30am, and upon stepping out, was greeted with the bright, warm sun!!! Weather.com had forecasted cloudy weather, but hooray, they were wrong. This was by far the nicest weather day I've had here; around 70 degrees with no clouds or wind.

I first visited the Palau Guell, a palace designed by Gaudi. Like many places in this city, they are currently working on some restoration, and only the bottom was open. But that's ok, because it was FREE!

Then I somehow ended up in front of la Seu, the cathedral. I have never been inside, so I went. It is really beautiful inside, and I guess it is partially dedicated to St Eulalia, which was the proper name of my great granny. That's pretty cool. Oh, it was FREE, too.

The sun was just blazing, and it was the perfect time to do something I rarely do here -just sit. I found a cafe with tortilla espanola (I had to have one note before I left), and sat there for two hours. The sun felt so good!! It was really fun to watch all the people, too.

I then decided to eat my way through the rest of the day, then walk to burn off the crap I was eating. First, my last falafal. I am so going to miss those... I haven't found anything like the ones here back at home. Then, a mcdonald's sundae, my favorite treat on the road. Then I walked until I got lost and found my way home again.

Now I'm at dinner, with a waitress who has a cigarette dangling from her mouth. CLASSY. I am in no way cool enough for this bar!

28 May 2008

Language Barriers

Language is a funny thing. Sometimes we all just want to communicate with someone, and will do whatever it takes to do it. Today I overheard a conversation between an Argentinian and a Russian; neither spoke the other's language, but both were alone and really wanted to talk.

As for me, my head is spinning. I couldn't get my head around portuguese (although I could read it ok), and in Sevilla, I was around my friends who spoke Swedish and Swiss-German, in addition to us all speaking Spanish and English. Now I'm in Barcelona, where they speak Catalan, but most people also speak Spanish...and, well, my brain is starting to mix it all up! People think I am local, and ask me for directions in Spanish/Catalan, and today some woman thought I was german and started speaking to me in her language. But, no worries dad, I am using Spanish plenty. (although, my English now is getting really bad!)

The sun was kind of shining today, so that was a great thing. I first went to the Picasso museum, which is pretty amazing. I prefer some of his earlier works to the cubist ones, and there were a lot at the museum. Then I started walking, and about 2 hours later, I ended up at Montjuic. This is a huge, beautiful mountain that overlooks the city. There was, randomly, a beach volleyball tournament going on, so I sat and watched that for a while. Then continued my walk though the mountain to the Olympic Stadium, and to the Castle, which I hadn't seen before.

Well, I still haven't seen it because I was pooped by the time I got close and didn't want to walk anymore. I took the funicular down and the metro back to my hotel. And I participated in the great Spanish tradition of siesta for a few hours.

Once awake (kinda), I did done shopping, then had dinner at a place called Princesa. Appropriate, no? I finally got to drink a few glasses of cava, hooray!

One day more before I return home; time has gone so quickly.

27 May 2008

The Rain in Spain

Let me clear something up... The rain in Spain falls everywhere, not just mainly in the plains. The weather throughout this entire trip has been marginal at best, gloomy and wet at worst. It is supposed to rain for the next 3 days, too. Sigh.

Today started early so I could catch my tour bus. I didn't realize there was no hairdryer in my room, so it started off as a bad hair day. Not good. Our first stop was Torres winery. We took a tour first by this little tram. They gave us headphones, and the tour guide was a prerecorded voice.

When we got into the caves, the music soared and it was all very dramatic. There were weird screens with a movie; I felt like I was at Disneyland on that silly winnie the pooh ride. Then, our tasting was one rushed glass, and a push to the store. This family also has a winery in Sebastopol - Marimar, I think. It was overall pretty disappointing; maybe I got spoiled by last year in Italy.

Next it was off to Montserraut. This is a very important place in Catalynya during Franco's reign; the boys choir were among the only groups allowed to keep catalan alive. It is very beautiful, set high on a mountaintop. You wonder how they got up there in the first place!

I was prepared to be wowed, like at the Vatican, but I wasn't. It is lovely, but again, it felt more touristy than sacred. I could only watch the boys choir for about 10 minutes - there were just too many people. I did find a nice walking path, so took that for a while. As we were leaving, the rain started announcing itself; good timing!

Our final stop was Sitges, a beach community right outside of Barcelona. I think had the weather been better, it would be awesome. As it was, rain dropped for most of our stay, and it was windy. There are lots of bars, and it kind of reminded me of Miami Beach. I wish the weather had been nicer!

We're now on our way home, and it seems like the weather is ok. I think I will grab dinner and a drink before heading home. Fingers crossed it doesn't rain tomorrow!!!

26 May 2008

Adiós Sevilla, Hola Barcelona

It was definitely hard to leave for the airport this morning. I said goodbye to Pernilla last night, which, not easy, and Kim and Stina very early this morning. The weekend flew by so fast...I felt like I did last time I left Sevilla, homesick for it before I was even gone; but at least this time everyone else was leaving, too, so I didn't feel like the fun times there would go on without me. I don't know if I'll make it back before our 20 year reunion; I sure hope so!

Now I am in Barcelona. I took a long nap when I got here (luckily, my room doesn't have a TV, otherwise I never would have left). When I woke up, I was starving, so went to look for the falafal place next to the Kabul, where I stayed last time. It's not there any more, but there is another one around the corner. I don't know what it us about falafal in Barcelona, but I can't get enough.

I headed up La Rambla, and found myself in the tourist office, booking a tour for tomorrow. I will go to montserraut, sitges, and a winery. Mom, you'll be happy to know that I didn't stress about the price (too much). That leaves tomorrow at 8am and goes for 12 hours... It should be fun!

I decided to keep walking up to La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's unfinished church. Though I have been there twice before, I went in to see what has changed. They've really made progress in the last 5 years; the inside is much more finished than I remember. I wonder if it will ever be done, and if I'll be able to see it then!

25 May 2008

El Ultimo Dia en Sevilla

Despite getting in at around 2 last night, I was up and out of the flat rather early (sleeping on the sofa doesn't help matters). I really wanted to find a painting for my condo, so I wanted to check out the market on front of Las Bellas Artes. I am disappointed to report that while there were some beautiful paintings, nothing really suited my place.

Rafa and Anja were leaving today, so I wanted to make sure to say goodbye. I headed back to the flat, where I also ran into the girls, and we went to breakfast after saying goodbye to the Grafs.

After breakfast, we went through el barrio Santa cruz to get to the alcazar. On our way, stina & I heard a marching band, so followed them to a nearby restaurant where they apparently surprised the management and the patrons! We eventually made it to the alcazar (I really suggest getting lost in the barrio, you find some fantastic treasures).

I didn't visit the alcazar whole I lived here, but I really wish I had. It is absolutely beautiful. It reminded mr of the Alhambra in Granada, but a bit smaller. They ask you to be quiet, which offers a nice reprieve from the busy streets. We stated and hung out in the gardens for a while, which... I wish I had known about this place when I was here!!

I went over to meet the Alm family at the Catedral, but unfortunately it was closed. Que pena! I had really hoped to go back in.

We are drawing to the end of our time here in Sevilla. It has really been wonderful.

Chillaxing in Sevilla

We are currently sitting in the piazza of pernilla's hotel, savoring our tintos and some dulces. Life is sure sweet here in sevilla!

Last night we had a great time walking down memory lane. We went to La Carboneria, a place they used to hang out to watch flamenco (I don't remember going there). I had spent the day much like I had spent my time while I lived there - walking around checking things out. I was a bit tired, 6 hours of walking will to that to you.

24 May 2008

Segundo dia en Sevilla

Day two in sevilla started out with a trip to the supermarket to get some cava and the ingredients for tinto de veranos. I lugged those
back to my hotel, packed up my things and headed over to the apartment we had rented. After checking in, I sat in the plaza and waited for
Kim and Stina, who were to meet me at noon.

They rolled in at about 12.45, and by that point they let us into the
apartment. It is a really cute place, perfect for the weekend. We dropped our bags and went to find our old teacher, Reyes, who is still
teaching at CLIC.

Unfortunately, we were too late; she was already gone. So we shopped instead, and then went to Las Columnas, where we had spent many a morning and after school hour drinking, eating, and hanging out. The guy who worked there ten years ago was still there, but they had fixed up the park and it looked so different!

Soon it was back to the supermarket, where we ran into Pernilla, Jens,and kids. Then off to meet Rafa, Anja, and Leandro by the Catedral.

We kicked off the night at a roof bar, where the clouds started rolling in. We had a great view of the Catedral, which was sounding its bells every 15 minutes or so. Dinner was crazy... 3 kids running around, and 7 adults trying to remember what tapas we ordered. Finally the kids pooped out and were sent home with the spouses, and the Sevilla 5 remained.

It was really like old times. We finished a few bottles of wine, and talked about how we were all a little scared to come come back here, because we weren't sure if it'd live up to our memories. So far, it has.

It soon started pouring; we made a mad dash through the rain the get home. After hanging out in the apartment for a bit, it was time to send home the visitors and go to bed!

23 May 2008

Primera Dia en Sevilla

I found out a little more about the festival yesterday. From what I can tell, it was the festival of the Corpus Christi. When I have a chance, I will look it up and let you know more. One interesting thing, though...they cover the ground of the procession with rosemary. I couldn´t figure out what it was at first, I thought it might be incense. But then it dawned on me...the heat had started to cook the rosemary a bit, so the whole area smelled like it. It is a very nice smell, though it made me crave Aunt Trish´s potatoes.

As I was walking around yesterday, I saw the King of Spain! I happen to be walking by the Alcazar (I was lost, again), which I think is still used as a royal residence, though I could be wrong on that. I saw a procession of cars go in, but didn´t think much of it. I read my map wrong, so had to turn around, and on my way back we were all shooed out of the way by the police. A procession of cars went by, and the man in the first car waved to us. It was the king! I had just been watching a show about his very cute son (some couple got married the same day as the prince, and then had a baby on the same day...this is, I guess, big enough news here to deserve a talk show appearance), and they had showed a picture of the king, so I knew right off the bat who he was. This was confirmed by the guy standing behind me, freaking out about seeing "El Rey." The Infanta Elena (princess) was also with him. My front desk guy didn´t believe me, but the paper confirms he was in town yesterday to inaugurate a statue or something.

Pretty cool, huh! I have now seen the King of Spain and the King & Queen of Sweden. Now if I could only get close to Prince William or Harry... (I kid, I kid)

22 May 2008

Tinto de verano

When I lived in sevilla, we drank tinto de veranos all the time. They are essentially a wine cooler - red wine with Fanta. Today I had one with my tapas dinner... Served by a bartender that looks like Javier Bardem. Que bueno, no?!

En Sevilla... Una fiesta loca

Luckily, I was able to check into my hotel room when I arrived, even though it was about 5.30am. Sevilla was still buzzing...when I arrived there were street closures and a party still happening at catedral, a club that opened 10 years ago when I was here!

Apparently, today is El Dia de Sevilla, or something; it's acity-wide holiday. I had every intention to go watch the procession, as it either started or ended ( or both) right outside my hotel. I fell asleep instead.

I had planned to take a day trip to Cordoba today, so I finally got up from napping and got ready to go. I was not in any way prepared for the maddness outside. I think every Sevillano is in the barrio Santa cruz. Because of the holiday, everything is closed, so I couldn't go to the tourist office for a map. Instead, I got my bearings and headed to El Corte Ingles (of course), figuring it at least would be open.

I was wrong. It was closed, too. So I started walking, and soon found the street on which I used to live (pictured). I remembered the area clearly, although it has changed a bit. Still trying to find the train station, I got myself completely turned around, and ended up back at my hotel. Heh.

They gave me directions, and I fought my way through the crowds (really... Think bay to breakers combined with st. Patty's day/union street fair and you almost get a sense of the crowd), finally arriving at the station at around 2pm. Unfortunately, I had just missed the train, and the next one's not for another hour, which just isn't worth it. I sat to write and now will head back downtown.

The weather is pretty perfect. Not cold like Lisbon, but not deathly hot. I am hoping by the time I get back to the hotel, the crowds will have gone home for siesta. I was right! They were gone!

The Bus

I don't have the greatest history of long haul bus rides. The last one I took, in Argentina, I spent 15 or 16 hours (it was only supposed to be a 12 hour ride, max) trapped in a winsow seat next to a poopy baby. My expectations were not so high, then, for this 7 hour overnighter.

While not as big a nightmare as Argentina, it still stank... Literally. The gentleman next to me smelled of mothballs and sour breath. He was unhappy from the get go, and wanted to make sure we knew. He fidgeted the entire ride, including when we stopped to get food. The way he was acting, I thought for sure he was getting off at one of the early stops - when he had a very loud phone conversation at 1.30am, I thought he was telling someone he'd be there soon.

This was not the case, though. As we approached Sevilla, and after he had picked his nose clean (seriously), he jumped up and prepared to run from the bus. It was a good 10 minutes before the stop! I guess he needed to be the first one off. Once we stopped, he ran and blocked the luggage compartment, moving everyone's stuff until he could find his own. I almost had to hip check him to get my own bag!

Lisboa: El Fin

I spent most of my last day in Lisbon in the area called Belem. It is down on the water, and has some of the oldest sights in Lisbon, as well as the president's residence. I went into the monastery, which had a beautiful church, but didn't go any further because of the massive tour groups (mostly Portuguese kids and Germans).

It was soon time to eat, and I resumed my search for liguicia. I must have looked at over 50 restaurants for it while in Lisbon. (the front desk worker at my hotel even tried to fond me some) I finally found a place with it listed on the menu! I was so excited...but, when I sat down and asked for it, the guy looked at me like I was crazy and said no. As if they would actually have something listed on their menu! After lunch I went and got a pasteis de belem, a really famous and delicious custard tart type thing. Yum!

There were two monuments down by the river that I wanted to see - the monument to discovery and the belem tower. I could not, however, figure out how to cross the street (there was a fenced railroad track in the middle). I finally figured it out, only to later find the stairway that led underground. Anyway, it was SO windy by the water, looking at these things wasn't much fun. I saw the monument (which is pretty awesome), but, as I was heading to the tower my bus arrived, so I jumped on it. Oh well!

Mybus didn't leave until 9.30pm, so I spent the rest of the day wandering aimlessly and shopping. Before I knew it, it was time to head to sevilla!!

Lisbon is a beautiful city; it reminds me a lot of buenos aires. Lots of old, historical sights, but it isn't as well taken care of as other parts of Europe.

21 May 2008

The Trouble with Portuguese...

...is that I cannot speak it.

Most who know me know that I am really good with languages. I pick up Swedish ok when I am there, and Italian, too. But not Portuguese. I am having an impossible time with it. I can say thank you, which I knew before I got here, but beyond that? Nada. Even when someone says
something to me, and pronounces it correctly for me, I can't get it. Oh well, I only have a few more hours here!

I started my day in true "katie" fashion - bright and early. It is a beautiful day, so I figured no chance of them cancelling my tour. I hopped on the first bus and headed out. Because I was so early, none of the momuments were open yet, so i decided to continue on the bus for the full circuit. It took about 1 hour, and ended at el corte ingles. Hooray!

If you find yourself in Lisbon with a web-enabled phone, you may want to head into el corte ingles. While I would never encourage sponging off of someone's unsecured wifi (ahem), you just might be able to find access there. Just sayin'. I stood around there for a bit and checked my email; I probably looked creepy as I wasn't even looking at any merchandise. As I walked out, it dawned on me that I probably could have gone to the cafe or something, instead of just standing there looking like an idiot.

I am now waiting around for my tour bus again, to take me back to the Belem area. The bus is supposed to come every half an hour, but their sense of time seems to be different than mine. While in Belem, I want to try the famous custard pie thing, and try to figure out a way to
cross the faux Golden Gate Bridge and go up the faux Christ the Redeemer statue. Apparently the views are awesome.

20 May 2008

Whoa

I just ate dinner... About 25$ for salas, a huge steak with side, and wine. It feels like Argentina!!

Port!

I am currently at the Solar do Vinho do Porto Lisboa (turns out it wasn't closed), the main place in Lisbon to taste various ports. So far, I am on glass #2 (pictured above). To taste, it is as little as 1euro! And, the give you a full glass! The first one I tried I really liked, and they sell a bottle for about 10$. I am tempted to get some to share in sevilla!

Lisbon: Day 2

Looking out my window this morning, I had a hard time telling if I was still in Lisbon or if I had been magically transported back to SF. I saw the "Golden Gate Bridge," and it was covered by fog. It was almost surreal!

I had a rough time getting out of bed this morning, but once I did, it was off to take one of those hop-on, hop-off bus tours. I walked over to the starting point...only to find out it was cancelled today because of the weather. This makes absolutely no sense to me, as the weather is just a heavy fog, but, I guess this is cause enough for this company (I saw other open-top tours happening, so I wonder what the real deal is). This forced me to remap my entire day. Not a bad thing, I just wasn^t prepared for it!

So far I have walked around Baixa and Chiado, and up to the Alfama. Saw the Sé (cathedral), which was pretty boring looking from the outside, but inside had a beautiful nave and altar area. Then when up to Castelo Sao Jorge, which offered one of the most magnificent views of Lisbon. It was stunning, really. Now I have gotten myself lost on the way back from the Castelo; I am hoping to hop on the #28 tram that all the guidebooks/shows recommended. It looks pretty cool.

The weather canºt make up its mind...hot or cold, misty or dry. It is a bit of a hassle having to pull the sweater on and off, and on and off again. Oh well. Hopefully while I have been sitting here, it has cleared up a bit and I can work on my tan. (donºt worry, dad, I am wearing sunscreen!)

19 May 2008

Arrived in Lisbon!

After a brief stop in Frankfurt (well, I guess not too brief... I had time to have a big german beer and all-beef sausage, even though it was 10am), I arrived in Lisbon.
The picture is the view from my hotel room. Look familiar? (if you can't see it well, it looks just like the Golden Gate Bridge).

It is about 5pm here now, so I won't be doing any extensive touring today, but I am going to go check things out a bit.

18 May 2008

At the Airport

I'm at the airport, waiting in the security line. I am disappointed that they made me check my luggage (because the flight is full, they are being really limited with how much you can carry on... I was over by about 1kg, or 2lbs).

I really hope my luggage makes it; they checked it through to Lisbon so we'll see!

This security line is a bit of a clusterf***. People all over the place, and no one there to direct traffic. The line is poking along, but at least it is moving! There is a woman in front of me with a large plastic water bottle, which I thought weren't allowed through security. I'll be interested to see if they let it through.

16 May 2008

The Countdown Begins...Really Packing This Time

Luca has decided to park himself across my stomach as I sit and write this, so I apologize for any jumbles. I think he knows I am leaving him in two days!

So my bag is almost packed. It seems really empty, though, so I am wondering what I am missing?

It is seriously half empty. All that's missing is my camera chargers, makeup, and possibly one more skirt. But that won't fill up much...I must be forgetting something, right? I guess I'll find out when I get over there, huh?

12 May 2008

Europe 2008: Packing Up

When I first booked my tickets, mid-May seemed so far off. I felt like I had a ton of time to wait, plan, wait some more, get ready. How the heck, then, did mid-May sneak up on me so quickly?

I spent this weekend taking care of things around my house, since it is my last weekend before I leave. And, I know I'll have a lot of work to do at work this week, and there are meetings each evening, it seems, so I need to be prepared.

This doesn't work all that well for me, a known procrastinator. I like to do anything but what I need to be doing. However, I am now down to crunch time, and I need to get moving. So I cleaned up, made my list, and started to do laundry. This week, I'll do the shopping I need to do for last minute items (like earplugs and sunscreen), and make sure I have all the little items I need.

All my tickets have been booked, all my hotels reserved. I am still debating on a few tours, but have a little time on those. I think my list is pretty thorough, and hopefully I won't forget anything important!

And, this time next week, I will be landing in Lisbon for my Portuguese adventure!

11 May 2008

Wildflower 2008: On the Race

Well...I finished!

Back in January, a few friends and I were talking about Wildflower. One was trying to convince the other to do the Mountain Bike Triathlon course. I said, I would do it! It sounded like fun...I had only experienced Wildflower as a worker, and that was 10 years ago, so it would be great to see what it was like on the athlete side. And...why not do a triathlon?

I actually never thought I would say that. Much in the same way I said I would never do a half marathon (or more), I am sure at some point I emphatically said I would never do a triathlon, no matter the distance. This is why I try not to use the word never anymore; it always comes back to bite you!

My attitude towards training was as it has been in the past: not that interested. I swam a few times, ran once or twice, and rode the spin bike a lot. That was probably the most I did. But, I went in feeling good and just wanting to have fun.

My biggest mistake was probably not renting a wetsuit, but instead borrowing my friend's surf suit. I figured, 1/4 mile, what did it matter what type of suit I wore? This decision came back to bite me. I had never put on a wetsuit, much less swam in one, so I had no idea how different a surf suit is than a tri suit. Trust me: big difference.

I lined up along with all the other old ladies in my group. I jumped in the water to get a feel for it, and thought, hey, not bad. Soon, it was countdown time. 5...4...3...2...1...go! I jumped in to start my swim, and almost immediately, felt a tear in my right shoulder. The wetsuit was bearing down on something, and not allowing me to get any range of motion. So I started to doggie paddle, and tried not to drown. Apparently, with tri wetsuits, they thin out the joints so you can actually get a full stroke in. Lesson learned!

It took me longer than I thought it would to get out of the water, and unfortunately, I had to use my legs a lot more than I had wanted to, so I was starting to get tired by the time I got to my bike. I changed, got on the bike, and headed on out.

The bike course was a lot hillier than we thought it would be. I also learned that I have no confidence on my bike. I was scared to go downhill, scared to build up the momentum I needed to get up the next hill. I also have no idea what gears to use. Another good lesson learned.

The bike took me a bit longer than I thought it would, but soon I was finished and ready to run. Thank god! I was hoping the Cal Poly kids at the turnaround would have a beer for me, but no such luck. I finished strong and crossed the finish line. Whoo-hoo.

I had a great time with the tri, and although I didn't go fast, I did finish. I can't wait for the next one!

07 May 2008

Wildflower 2008: On the Road



This past weekend, I headed back down to my old stomping grounds on the central coast. Specifically, to Lake San Antonio, for this year's Wildflower Triathlon weekend. Last time I had visited this event, I was 21, in college, and, happy as a clam (drunk) most of the time.

Although it felt familiar heading down there, we did one thing I had never done before...stopped in one of the small towns on the way. Gonzales, to be specific. This town is about 20 minutes or so south of Salinas, and is one of those blink and you miss it type of places. We pulled over to get ice and last minute supplies.

The off the freeway strip mall was anchored by a big, over-air-conditioned supermarket, and bookended by a Dairy Queen and McDonald's. There was, of course, a Starbucks as well. The desolation of the area made me a little sad, on one side, a freeway, and on the other, stillness as far as the eye could see (with mountains in the distance).

As someone who grew up near a large city, these small towns baffle me a bit. What is there to do? Where do people work? In places like these, are they largely dependent on people who are heading to the lakes, or traveling on 101?

I don't know...there was a quaintness, that's for sure. Out in front of the supermarket, there was an old-fashioned horse that you could ride for only a quarter.

28 April 2008

Workin' For a Living

Some days, it is really hard to get up and go to work, even when you like your job.

Take this morning. The Luca is over at my parents' house, so I should be able to sleep better. No such luck. Instead I had the weirdest dream...I dreamt I planned a fake wedding, with no groom, and everyone came to the boat on which I was having my wedding, and I had no groom. So I was looking around for someone to marry me, just for a few minutes, I figured, to save face. It was the WEIRDEST dream. And because of it, I woke up quite a lot. It was disturbing.

When it was time to go to work, I was exhausted. Two nights of little sleep does not a happy person make. I arrived at work and just wanted to pull a George Costanza, setting up a napzone underneath my desk and curl up. It was one of those days that I just had to plug through, but it was rough!

22 April 2008

Sevilla!!

La Clase de Reyes, 1998

In one month, I will be heading to Sevilla to meet my companeros de clase. None of us have been there in 10 years, when we all lived there, went to class, and hung out at El Capote (above). Four of the five folks meeting in Sevilla are in that photo (Pernilla is missing...she was in another class).

How much has changed in the past 10 years? It will be interesting to see. We all last met 5 years ago at Pernilla's wedding. It was late December in Sweden, so very cold, very snowy, and very fun. It started with a yummy home-cooked meal at the Prince's guest house (the hostel we stayed in, next to the castle Pernilla & Jens got married in!). It ended with New Year's Eve together, and having a great time lounging around La Casa Azul on New Year's Day.

The First Night, 2001

What will it be like to see each other again, in the place we first met?

Who knows? But I am excited to find out!

20 April 2008

Grammar Police

The introduction and prevalence of the Internet seems to have brought with it the desecration of the English language (I assume others, as well, but I mainly only go to English websites, so...). Beyond just spelling, the massacre goes well into grammar and usage. I get that language is a living thing, but there are rules, and they are there for a reason.

One that I have seen over and over: "I could care less." It should be, "I couldn't care less." It doesn't make sense. If you could care less, it means you do care a little. Sars over at Tomato Nation covers it, and other grammar blunders, well.

13 April 2008

Pale Legs on Green Grass

I am currently at the park, enjoying this beautiful day while waiting for my friend. It is the first hot weekend we've had in a long time, and we're all trying to make the most of it.

Mainly, by trying to get a tan.

Skin cancer be damned, everyone (myself included) seems to like the glow of sun-kissed skin. There are people lining the hill at the park in swimsuits, on beach towels, taking a nap and soaking up the sun.

I doubt many remembered sunscreen, instead opting to get a good "base." and tomorrow, as we all return to work with red faces...I wonder if we'll regret this decision.

07 April 2008

Early Morning Sunshine


Dateline: Sunday morning, 6.30am...the alarm goes off. I am scared for a moment; is it a work day? Why am I getting up this early?

And then I remember, it's a race day! I slowly get out of bed (I had done a core training class on Saturday, and man, my abs were killing me), and dig through my closet to find my running clothes. Luca is very excited, he thinks he, too, gets to go for a run. Instead, I take him for a quick walk around the block, and dash to make it to the starting line on time.

The Presidio10 starts at Chrissy Field, which can be a little cold and very windy. Start time was a bit of an exception - the sun was breaking through and the wind was dying down. The first group, running 10 miles, took off at 8am. As they left, the 10K-ers lined up to start a little warm up, a few stretches, and to stand close to keep warm!

At 8.30am, the gun sounded and off we went! This is one beautiful course. Most of the 10K takes place on the Golden Gate Bridge, which is one "tourist attraction" that never, ever loses its luster for me. It is epic in every way imaginable. Usually, it is really windy up there, but it was peaceful and rather quiet. On the return route, San Francisco was to my immediate left, and as we were crossing the sun was starting to burn off the fog and the City was coming to light. I dare anyone to look at that view of the City and not be in awe of the beauty. It has to be one of the more dramatic modern skylines.

I could see the finish line in the distance, but what a tease that was! There was still almost a mile to run. I finished in pretty good time - much less than I thought it would take me! Pretty good for being so sore and not having run in a long time.

Despite my unhappiness at having to get up, when the race was over, I was sure glad I did it. I accomplished more before 10am than most people would all day, and for a good cause (the race raises money for The Guardsmen, a local philanthropy group, and the Ashlyn Dyer Foundation for brain trauma). Overall, a pretty awesome way to finish up the weekend.

06 April 2008

Have Your Pet Spay or Neutered

This past Friday, Oprah brought light to an issue about which many people are ignorant: Puppy Mills. This is a horrifying practice, one which makes me truly question humanity.

I know the readership of this blog is rather small, but this is an important cause to me. As an animal lover, it pains me to know that there are thousands of puppies being born in horrifying conditions, living their lives in tiny cages practically on top of the mother that birthed them (who, likely, has never left her cage, ever, and has had litter after litter). These animals are also inbred, leading to birth defects and congenital problems. They are then shipped out to pet stores (or, purchased on the Internet by unknowing and excited new owners).

In addition to puppy mills, another huge problem is people not spaying and neutering their pets. This leads to pet overpopulation, and many of these pooches end up in the shelter and many meet an untimely death. If pet owners were responsible and took care of their pets, we would see a big decrease in canine euthanasia.

I got my Luca from a dog rescue. I have told this story before, but he was one of the lucky ones; he got picked up by Rocket Dog Rescue because the shelter he was at could not adopt him out. The SPCA didn't want him. If not for Rocket Dog, he may have been put to sleep. I encourage everyone to first turn to a rescue or shelter to adopt their next pet (there are rescues for all kinds of animals, from dogs and cats to horses and bunnies). If you must have a purebred, make sure to meet the breeder, as any good breeder would want to meet you, as well.

Please, if you are thinking of adopting a pet, please understand what that means (there is actual work involved...but the rewards are endless), and please think twice about where that pet is coming from.

13 March 2008

Coming Soon...

It has been a while since I wrote, I know! Horrible.

I am working on a few things, and hope to have some updates on here soon.

Hooray!

26 February 2008

Long Time...

Woah, I have let a little too much time pass since my last entry.

I am pretty excited right now, as the weather has turned and started to warm up. After a stormy week, the sun is shining, the puddles have dried up, and the trees have started to stand up straight again.

It is fantastic.

18 February 2008

The SLO Life



This weekend, the family all hit the road and headed down to San Luis Obispo to celebrate my cousin's 21st birthday. It is where I also spent my 21st, so being back down there brought back some great memories.

I headed down with my cousins on Friday night after work. Car rides are never so long as when you're stuck in traffic, then have to take the long boring highway in the dark. But my one cousin had also graduated from SLO, so we were both so excited and rambling on and on about our memories, I am sure much to the chagrin of the driver. As we crested the grade and headed to Woodstocks, we could barely contain our excitement.

Neither of us could believe how the town had changed. Progress, I guess, but I miss the old time quaintness of it. I am sure if I were still a student there, I would love that there is now a Banana Republic and Abercrombie. But for this old-timer...not so much.

We headed out to my cousin's to escort her to the bars at midnight...upon walking in we increased the average age at the party by quite a few years. Or, as my cousin said, "Man, we are OLD." We had a drink or two while there...sharing a half tray of ice between the four of us, and finally got out to the bars.

Some things just don't change...it was like flashing back to college but watching it from the outside. Everyone just looked so young, and those who weren't, who were perhaps in their late 20's or older, looked ancient by contrast. Despite the cold, there was a lot of skin showing at all the bars. The bouncers think they're the coolest things to grace the planet, and, really, time to get over yourselves.

The highlight of the evening came when, upon last call, we realized we had no way to get back to the hotel. Calling a cab would have been the easy solution, but, we forgot we were in SLO. I don't remember seeing a cab once in my entire college career, much less using one. We called for about 20 minutes to no avail; then my newly 21 year old cousin had a brilliant idea - call her dad. Which she did, and then she headed on her merry way to get some food. This left the 4 of us "grown ups" standing on the street, waiting for our Uncle to pick us up. Some things are priceless.

05 February 2008

Super Tuesday

First we had a super exciting Superbowl on Sunday. Now? Super Tuesday, which has been equally as riveting.

There is an excitement in the air. Regardless of the outcome, we are living through history. Barring some random event, the Democratic nominee for president of the USA will be a first. And, hopefully, our next president will also be a first. This is an incredible moment in history, one which, in 20 years, we'll look back upon and think, "what was the big deal?"

Everyone was walking around today sporting their "I voted" stickers! If you didn't have one on, you got a questioning glance (when I was at the gym, the trainer asked if I had voted, because she didn't see my sticker...it was on my work clothes!).

Change is gonna happen. I can feel it.

04 February 2008

About a Year Ago...

... Luca came into my life. I first started fostering him on 31 January, and adopted him on the 6th of February.

Now, as he lays across my lap after trying to get me to stop typing, I wonder what my life was like without him. It is strange. There are times when I wish I didn't have to rush home after work, that I could just stay out with my friends, but the trade off is worth it.

Happy anniversary, dear Luca Pietro!

29 January 2008

The City by the Bay

It was a wild weekend. SF was visited by a group of friends from across the world- we had England, Boston, New York, Washington D.C., Cleveland, Seattle, Portland, and Los Angeles all represented at our fun meet up (and, of course, those of us from the Bay). This group braved the rain and cold to have a terrific time.

It started on Thursday for me, when I picked up a group at the airport. It was, of course, raining, which was really disappointing because I realy wanted to show off my city! The rainy weather continued on Friday, but that didn't seem to deter me, or the rest of us. Photographic evidence shows me having a grand old time boogie-ing down that night. Saturday I awoke with quite a headache, but also a date at The Rock.

I have only visited Alcatraz one other time, when I was about 19. This time, it was a night tour. We landed at the dock just before the sun started setting. We got lucky, too; the weather had cleared up and we were able to see the stunning skyline of San Francisco! Alcatraz has a creepiness about it...it isn't really scary, it isn't really sad, just a weird feeling kind of takes you over when you arrive. As you think about the prisoners, you can't help but wonder what it was like for them to see the City just a little over a mile from them, pristine and free. That view, and knowing you couldn't get over there, was punishment enough, I would think! After our tour we headed back out for the evening. I didn't feel well, but I did hang in there until last call. This must have been some sort of record for me, of late!

Sunday was a lazy day lounging around my house. We watched Superbad, ate pizza, and laughed about the limo ride the night before.

It is always amazing to me that a group of people from all over the place, bonded by our love for and research of travel, can come together like we've known each other forever and have a great time. It is, I think, a real testament to the people involved. I can't wait until the next time!

28 January 2008

Isn't it Romantic

I recently listed to a This American Life podcast from earlier last year called The Break Up. Included in this awesome piece is a discussion on romantic songs. And the focus of that segment is a girl who, along with her then boyfriend, loved the song "Against the Odds" by Phil Collins (I think that is the right song). So, when the boyfriend broke up with her, she tracked down Phil Collins and wrote a song with him.

It got me thinking. With the approaching nightmare of Valentine's Day, it got me thinking of what makes a song romantic, what makes a love song work. Is this something subjective, that varies from person to person? Or is there an objective measurement of love songs?

So I pondered this, and came to the conclusion that it is pretty subjective. There are songs that you hear that you just know will be someone's wedding song ("Still the One" by Shania Twain, "Unanswered Prayers" by Garth Brooks, "Rock Whitcha" by Bobby Brown...), but to me, those songs often seem really cheesy and trite. There are ones for me which just stop me in my tracks, mainly for the lyrics, but I doubt others would deem them romantic.

I love "M&M's" by Blink (before they added the -182). When I was in college, I would listen to it over and over again. But I think it was made more special by the fact that a friend of mine put it on a mix tape he made me, as the last song, and then asked me had I listened to the tape all the way through (man, the brilliant conversation of college freshmen). I still wonder why he asked me that, but hearing that song brings me back to the bright spot in a really rough patch. I am going to play it right now.

There is a song from the Love Actually soundtrack called "Songbird," that stops me in my tracks every time. The voice is haunting, the melody gorgeous and the lyrics telling. It makes me long for something missing in my life, and would someone play it for me, I think I would melt.

Not to go on too much longer, but there is also one called "Ballad for my One True Love," by Mason Jennings. It is a bit folky, but we can all only wish for someone to write us a ballad like that.

So what makes a good love song? What makes it romantic? Opinions welcome.

Monday Answers

From Monday's a Bitch...

1.Which song reminds you most of the 90's?
Probably "These Are Days" by 10,000 Maniacs and "Tubthumping" by Chumpawumpa

2.Do you remember where you were when you heard about Kurt Cobain?
I was in Seattle visiting some people my friend and I had met at Close Up. I still have the paper from the day after...we left on the day of the funeral, otherwise we would have gone.

3.Were you ever known to sport a fanny pack?
I probably wore one, but I never really liked 'em.
4.Which 90210 character was your favourite?
DYLAN McCAY 4-EV-AH

5.Do you own a troll doll?
I don't think I do anymore.