Bye ’11, Hi ’12

A few favorite memories from 2011:

Having my parents over for brunch and playing Scrabble

Celebrating the Feast of St. Catherine in Siena, Italy

Watching the sunset from our balcony in Positano

My birthday in wine country

Picnicking by Lake Edith in Jasper, Canada

Burning Man: biking late night with Colin all the way to the trash fence and discovering art in the deep playa

The BBQ we hosted in LA

Ordering half the items on the menu at the Shake Shack, then dancing with Keith until 2:30am at the Industry Bar in NYC

Taking my nephews shopping at Toys ‘R Us

Belting out tunes at a piano bar in Phoenix

I’ve given quite a bit of thought to my resolutions for 2012, but the list keeps growing and I’m already starting to get overwhelmed. That’s not good!

I want to read more which is a cinch because I’m a fanatical reader to begin with and 2 book clubs keeps me busy.

We’re planning a trip to Morocco in the first part of the year and I’ll be in NYC in May for work, but I want to do so much more. I’m trying to get the ball rolling with friends and asking them for places we can go together fairly easily. Anyone else up for Portland, New Orleans, or Austin?

I say this every year, but I swear, we’re going to volunteer this year. I’ve got action items scheduled in my calendar to ensure that we do that. We’re a couple blocks away from Glide. Plus I’ve had my eye on an organization that does outdoor activities with mentally-challenged kids on weekends to give their parents much-needed time off.

Last time I went to the doctor for my first physical in years, the nurse asked how many hours a week I exercised. I told her I didn’t exercise. She furrowed her eyebrows, no exercise? No. I run a race every quarter so you can say I exercise, I dunno, an hour every quarter? Not sure how hard that is to write down in my medical record, but you’d think I’d given her a quadratic equation to solve. So on that front, we’re locked down for a couple races already. I’ve also ratcheted up my flexible health spending dollars so I can do acupuncture consistently. Loving that.

As much as I love eating and trying out all the new hot spots, I’m on a mission this coming year to discover all the places that are yummy that are inexpensive. Yesterday, I discovered a coffee spot one block away that also serves the BEST banh mi vietnamese sandwiches for $3. I’m already thinking of hitting them up every morning before I go to work. Fresh Brew Coffee at 882 Bush Street. TO-DIE-FOR. Park in front, stick a quarter in the meter, and get your meal to go.

But the one thing that I’m resolved to do is this: practice. In my formative years, I was always practicing something: piano, dance, a foreign language. Every day, I want to practice something, anything. And that’s where I’m getting confused. Should it be writing since I could surely practice that craft more.

I thought about learning the very practical Spanish language, but someone told me (and I fervently agree) that to really become fluent in a language you must move to a country where that is the main language. Otherwise, you’ll never really get it, or you’ll lose what you learned because you’re not ingrained in it, so that’s a waste.

I thought about taking an art class like painting, but I’ll probably be more frustrated than interested.

Also thought about taking up dance, but to practice, you need a big open space and our small apartment wouldn’t make that easy.

Lastly, I discovered a singing class two blocks down taught by an actress who teaches in SF and LA. Get this, she has all her students take singing classes first even if all they want to do are her acting classes. Something about how singing helps you project and become more aware of your body. Fascinating. We’ll see how much she costs.

So many options…so much ahead for 2012. Extremely excited.

Italian Honeymoon: Parting Thoughts

I have a bunch of international friends vacationing in Portugal right now. Since I can’t be there to party with them, I thought I’d reminisce on my honeymoon.

Last I wrote, we were slurping gelato all throughout the Italian country side. We ended our trip on the Amalfi Coast with four nights in beautiful Positano which I think was the best of all those coastal cities: Capri (too wild), Amalfi (too touristy), Ravello (too sleepy). Before I dig into the last leg of our vacation, I made a few observations in my journal about the trip to Italy in general.

No eggs for breakfast. During our two week trip, I did not see a single egg at the breakfast table. Nothing scrambled, nothing boiled. Nada. Italians really like their carbs because there was plenty of muesli, yogurt, biscuits, toast. Nibbles of cheese, sliced meats. I am big on eggs. BIG. I like them in my salad, sandwiches, but most importantly, I like them with breakfast. 2 eggs over-easy, corned beef hash, buttered wheat toast, and hot cocoa. That is my weekend breakfast. No substitutions. Eggs for breakfast must be an american thing. And bacon, I think that’s an american thing too.

PJP2. Pope John Paul II. Oh the Italians are fanatical about their beloved Polish pope. Did the people of Italy get the memo that there is a new pope in the Vatican? I find it ironic, and also touching, that Pope Johnny who was the first non-Italian pope elected since the 1500s has his portrait plastered on hotel and restaurant walls across the country. Sidenote: I saw the Pope waving in his pope-mobile when I was in the Philippines back in my teens. I wish I could find that picture I took of him.

No ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs. Maybe it’s because I’m environmentally-spooked, but I don’t mind using the same bedding or the same towels. We use the same towels every day at home, right? I wanted to tack a sign onto our door telling the cleaning people not to waste their time or earth’s resources. I even snagged a cleaning lady on our floor and gestured NO CLEAN ROOM. NO CLEAN. IT’S OK. SI? She nodded, aye si, no clean. Lo and behold, we came back to a stripped room with new bedding, new washcloths, new towels. Aye, yay, yay.

I’ve already talked about my disappointment with Italian wines and how they don’t have a single non-Italian wine in the whole boot country. And no spices either, Sheesh. Can an all-american girl get some Sriracha, Cholula, or Crystal sauce to spice up my meal? Damn, I need to sweat when I eat.

In Positano, we had a lovely ocean view room at the adorably sunny Villa La Tartana. I made sure to give them a stellar review on TripAdvisor.com. It wasn’t one of those $400/night places either; I swear it’s the best value in all Amalfi. It was so nice to wake-up to the waves crashing, have breakfast on our balcony, then end our day with a bottle of wine watching the sunset. That is all I really hoped for during my honeymoon and it’s exactly what I got at the end of the trip.

Plus I finally got the food that everyone raves about when they talk about Italy. The seafood was divine: scallops, seabass, shrimp, mussels, sardines. I don’t normally think in terms of calories or what’s healthy, but when I’m stuffed, I’m stuffed. I’m not trying to win any competitive eating awards. But there was no holding me back. Stomach distended on the verge of belly ache, I plowed through like a bear preparing for hibernation. I’m never going to eat like this again! Bring it!

My very worldly, totally in the know friend aka Fredly gave the best recommendation for a restaurant on the island of Capri. It was away from the main thoroughfare. The waitresses only spoke Italian. We were introduced to the owner/chef in the kitchen who was cooking our order. We sat outside in the garden smack in the middle of fruit and vegetable patches. And the food? TO-DIE-FOR. We got another order of seafood linguini; it was that good.

To sum up the fairy tale, Italy does not have the friendliest people. Italy does not have amazing attractions. You see one duomo, you’ve seen them all. And that includes the Vatican. The art? What art? I’ll match your David with our Thinker in front of the Legion of Honor.

But that coastline with the vertical cities and fresh off the boat seafood? Unbeatable!

Money Monday: Urban Outfitters

Back from two weeks in Italy and suffering serious jet lag. I woke up at 5am and wasn’t able to go back to sleep so I came into the office. What a productive little employee I am! Many more posts on the honeymoon later.

Did you miss me? I know my dad did. He asked me yesterday why I had stopped blogging. 1) I had spotty internet access. 2) I was on my honeymoon. 3) I got plain damn lazy. But I’m back. Shout out to my dad for reading my blog. Hi Dad!

It’s Money Monday post-Italy so today I’m going to relay a story from a dinner we had in Positano.

A family of three (dad, mom, and college-aged daughter) was sitting behind us having a serious discussion. Here’s what I overheard.

Daughter: I’m upset because you’re making me out to be a bad person. I’m not a bad person for wanting, for asking for these things. A new computer is not a big deal.

Mother: You just bought a couch.

Daughter: Mom, I use that. I use that every day. I needed that.

Mother: What about all the charges on your credit card from Urban Outfitters?

Daughter: Clothing is not a big deal. I’m going to get a job when I graduate. If there’s a shirt I want, I’m going to buy it. It’s not expensive. It’s Urban Outfitters!

Mother: (in hushed tones) Your spending is out of control. It has got to stop.

Daughter: No it’s not. Stop making me out to be a bad person.

Father: That’s it. From now on, we’re going to have to set boundaries on your spending.

I have several observations about this exchange. The daughter is not at fault. Yeah, her spending is out of control, but it seems like her parents had never done anything about it. The parents are enablers. Enablers are the guilty party.

The situation had clearly deteriorated so much that the mother felt she had to pull an intervention. Now? How many credit card statements later? What an idiot. And the dad talking about setting boundaries. Again I ask. Now? You’re going to set boundaries after your daughter has spent the better part of her childhood spending frivolously? Shame on her parents for not being more disciplined to begin with.

Also, someone needs to set this girl’s head straight. She said she was going to get a job after college. Has she read a single news article about the state of our economy? There are professionals with years of experience who are jobless. I may be wrong about her, though. If she’s an engineer or computer science major she probably will get a job right away. But then again, I don’t think those types shop at Urban Outfitters—if they shop at all.

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