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.

Next Stop in Italy: Siena

Alrighty now, back to Italia. Remember we’ve done 2 nights Venice, 2 nights Florence, 2 nights Greve-in-Chianti, and now it’s time to blog about my namesake’s home, the medieval town of Siena. I was named after St. Catherine of Siena so this place holds special meaning for me and my parents. Interesting fact: Siena’s patron saint was a writer which means I’m totally following in her footsteps, though I’m certainly no saint! We had the pleasure of celebrating St. Catherine’s feast day in Siena. The city was decked out in flags and there was a big parade with guys dressed up looking like jesters. I couldn’t stop giggling, watching these grown men in tights.

Driving into Siena drove us C-R-A-Z-Y. There were all these roundabouts, limited driving zones, and numerous permit signs for parking. There isn’t a parking situation in SF or NY that’s worse. We were driving around in circles, trying to find our hotel which apparently was next to a church. It was a hell of a time! I was swearing, Dean was swearing. The church bell’s ringing. And there were all these Filipinos walking around with bright orange visors that read CATHOLIC TRAVEL.

OMG, I nudged Dean. “We’re in Italy and look at all my people wandering around.”

My parents tipped me off to a website called You can book cheap accommodations in monasteries all over the world. There were a ton in Italy, but only one in Siena. It turned out to be a retreat center instead of a monastery, but we appreciated the cheap lodging. Oh and the 2am curfew and the separate twin beds. Thanks Mom and Dad, it appears you don’t want grandchildren.

I won’t bore you with details, but of all the churches we went to in Italy the Duomo in Siena was the best. It’s made of distinct black and white marble inside. There was artwork everywhere, even all over the floor. There was a library inside that reminded me of the Sistine Chapel with colorful paintings on the walls and ceiling.

Siena was charming, but I can see why people come to visit during the day then leave. You can tour the Duomo, St. Catherine’s Sanctuary, and hang out in the main square over the course of half a day. That said, my best meal on the trip up to that point was a dinner in Siena and we discovered a local hot spot called the Tea Room.

Dean had read about it online. We tried to find our way there, but got lost. Always willing to ask for help, Dean bypassed an old woman sitting on a park bench. He approached a young couple (teenagers perhaps) and showed them the address. With the way they reacted, it was clear they knew the spot. They spoke little English and bantered back and forth on how to communicate with us. Dean and I were perplexed, not understanding an Italian phrase they kept repeating to us. Someone said something in English. We looked up thinking someone was calling out from one of the apartments above. “Follow me.”

What? We kept looking around.

The old woman on the bench grunted, “Follow me. They’re saying follow me.” The young couple smiled with affirmation. That’s it! They led and we followed as they walked us to where we needed to go. Those old people sure are wise.