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Archive for June, 2008

Yesterday I got my new beach cruiser bike! It isn’t red, like I thought I was going to get, because they didn’t have a red one in stock, and the owner said that it would be at least a month before they could get one. He showed me a picture of it, and it was nice, but a bit flashier than I had wanted. Plus, I figured that if they were out of stock, that must mean that a lot of people have red, and I wanted my new bike to be distinctive.

They did have a pearlized peach Nirve bike with brown accents that I fell in love with. I know I said that I wasn’t a pastel kinda girl, but when I saw this bike, I knew I had to have it! It’s got a really unique, retro look that I love. They had the perfect wicker basket, but it was out of stock. The owner said that they’d have more in by next weekend, so I’ll go back and get one then.

I was a bit worried as I rode the bike in the back parking lot – I think college was the last time I actually rode a bike, so over 10 years ago. The old saying is true, though, you never forget how to ride a bike. I’m still a bit tentative on it, but I know that with some time and practice, my confidence will grow and I’ll be just fine. I also bought a helmet, just in case. I plan on using it when I’m riding farther distances on city streets, because you can’t be too careful.

I was so excited by my purchase that I had to go to my parents’ house (they live really close to the bike shop) to show them the new bike. I expected them to oooo and ahhhh over it, because I was so in love with it, but they didn’t. Apparently my timing sucked because they had just watched a news report that claimed that our county is one of the most dangerous in the Bay Area for bike riders. Great, now they’re paranoid! They went on and on about how they thought it was a bad idea, how I wasn’t as young as I used to be, and how it was really dangerous. I felt like a 16-year-old who brings home her first car, only to have the parents lecture on and on about the dangers of driving. I left their house totally deflated. (Today my mom said that she had had a bad day at work and was in sort of a negative mood, and she was only saying those things because she cares about me, which I know is true. She said that she was happy for me and that she thought it was another great way to get some exercise and enjoy myself).

But, I was still really excited about my new bike, so when I got home and brought it out of the car (quite a struggle), I immediately went to my next door neighbors’ house to show them. They had the perfect reaction – so happy and elated for me. NC even said that she wanted one just like it. They both commented how the color of it was so unusual and cool. It made me feel great. Not that I need other people’s approval, but when you make a fairly significant purchase that you’re jazzed about, it’s nice to get a positive reaction, you know?

I hadn’t taken the bike out for a real spin until this afternoon. I was still really tentative with it when I rode it down the long driveway of my house, but as soon as I hit the sidewalk, and then went onto the street, it was just like old times. I felt amazing with the wind whipping through my hair and the sun on my face. (I didn’t put my helmet on because I was just taking a quick ride around the neighborhood. I’ll definitely wear it for longer excursions, though). I rode the bike all around the quiet, residential streets of my neighborhood, and I got quite a few comments along the way. “Nice bike!” “Great exercise!” “Cool cruiser!” It was so fun to go down these streets that are all around my house, but that I never have the need to venture down when I’m driving. I love the relaxed nature of riding my bike.

One thing is for sure, riding a bike outside is nothing like doing the elliptical machine in the gym! I was out of breath within 10 minutes, and knew that I should probably head home before long. My total bike ride was probably about 15-20 minutes, but I felt as sweaty and winded afterwards as if I had done 30-45 minutes of cardio in the gym. This is going to be great exercise for me.  Especially when I get to the point where I can ride the bike to the gym and then workout.

I decided to name my bike Lola because the style is called Rio. I thought of the famous actress, Dolores del Rio. A derivative of the name Dolores is Lola, and I think Lola totally fits the bike. I was originally going to call it Betty (the Beach Cruiser), after Betty Page, one of my favorite pinup girls.  I think Lola is a better fit for the bike, though, don’t you?

Ok, so without further ado, here are some pictures of Lola:

Lola in all her peachy glory in the front of my house!

Close-up of “Rio” emblem.

Even the tires on this bike are fancy. They have imprints of flowers on them.

I can’t wait to take Lola out on a long ride and really explore!

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I just got my first paycheck from my summer fellowship, and it’s burning a whole in my pocket! I’m really excited about this one, because it’s my “mad money” for my upcoming trip to Boston/CT! I’m going to put most of the money aside to save for my vacation expenses, although my airfare and hotels are already paid for. 

But, there is something that I’ve earmarked some of this money for. A beach cruiser! I’ve been wanting to get one of these bikes for the past few years, but never had the extra money for one. They’re not that expensive, really, only about $300 or so. These past few summers, all of my summer fellowship money has gone to pay for grad school, so it’s fun to actually have some extra funds to spend on something I’ve been wanting. I’m thinking of this purchase as a graduation/birthday present to myself. 

I’m planning to go to a few local bike shops and compare prices on the cruisers. But to be honest, I’m not much of a comparison shopper – once I see something I like I buy it. I hate driving all over town looking for the best price when the thing I know I want is at the first store I go to. Frugal I’m not. I know I want to get a red one, just because I think it fits my personality. (Definitely no pastel bikes for this gal!). And I’m definitely getting a basket, so that I can ride the bike to the grocery store or farmers’ market and carry my purchases home. Plus, they just look more complete with a basket. 

The thing that most appeals to me about beach cruisers, besides the style of them, is that they are meant for cruising. They’re not made for speed, off-roading, or adventure trails. They’re for meandering the backroads of a neighborhood, or well, cruising on a beach. I can’t wait to take this bike out and explore my neighborhood from the vantage point of a slower ride. Not to mention that the exercise will be great, too. 

I’ll definitely post a picture of my own bike when I get it (I’m worried that I may have to order the one I want, thus delaying my gratification, but hopefully they’ll have one in stock). For now, here’s a picture of one that I like (imagine it being red, rather than orange, though):

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This summer, one of the things I’ve vowed to change is the way that I buy vegetables. 

Growing up, we always went to Cosentino’s Market to get the freshest veggies possible during the non-summer months. Owned by a local Italian family that had acres and acres of orchards and produce, they always had wonderful produce.  In fact, the store’s official name is Cosentino’s Vegetable Haven.  How sweet is that? They always had all of those hard to find Italian vegetables that my mom liked to cook.

During summer, we got most of our vegetables from our own backyard garden, or the garden of my Nana, who had everything under the sun growing in her garden. We’d have tons of tomatoes, peppers of all sorts, Italian cucumbers, zucchini, corn, and string beans, just to name a few. We also fruit trees of every sort. I loved summer because it meant that we could go into the garden and find whatever we wanted to have for dinner that night. 

When my Nana passed away, the bounty was less plentiful. Then my parents moved from the house we grew up in (with the huge yard) to a townhouse with no yard, but many patios. My dad still grows tomatoes in wine barrels, but it’s just not the same as having a huge garden. 

So, this year rather than going to the supermarket to buy vegetables, I’ve decided that I’m going to get all of them from farmers’ markets. It’s almost as good as having your own garden, and I like the idea of supporting local businesses. Plus, I’ve been trying to eat organic, whenever possible. It’s all part of the healthier lifestyle I’m trying to sustain.  Plus, I’ve decided that I’m going to treat myself and buy myself fresh flowers each week, just to liven up the living room and bring some of summer inside.  Farmers’ markets are a great place to find gorgeous flowers that are reasonably priced.  

Part of my quest is to go to all of the local farmers’ markets I can.  I’ve been to 3 so far, but there are at least 3 or 4 more in my city that I’d like to make it to at least once this summer.  One is a few blocks from my house, but I’ve never been, I’m almost ashamed to say.   I can’t wait to venture into this unexplored territory that would unearth the treasures of summer. 

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I love to read.  No matter how much I have going on in my life, I always have a book (or two) started.  I feel strange if I don’t have a current read sitting on my nightstand or tucked into my bag. My bookshelf is filled to capacity with all of my precious treasures.   

I can’t even begin to calculate the amount of money I’ve spent in the last 10 years on books.  Sure, I buy most of them from amazon.com, so I save some money there, but still.  It adds up.  I’ve justified this by saying that collecting and reading books is my hobby, which is true.  Some people collect antique cars, so by comparison, buying books is cheap.  I almost never regret my purchases, because I enjoy most of the books I choose to buy.  

But lately I’ve been wanting to read some beach books/chick lit.  Since many of these books are often hit or miss, I haven’t been so eager to shell out the $11-15 for each one.  

Then I realized that I live really close to a beautiful, newly-renovated library.  Why not get my books there? Now that the library catalog is online, it should be a snap to reserve the books ahead of time and have them waiting for me when I get there.  Plus, they’re free, so why not?

It’s been literally 20 years since I’ve checked a book out of the library.  Well, a book I’m reading for pleasure.  There were many books I checked out for grad school, but those don’t count, since those were school related.  

So the other day while work was a little slow, I logged into the library website, searched for a few titles that I was interested in, and found them.  Many of them were at different locations than my neighborhood one, but I found out that I could get them all transferred to my branch.  How cool is that!  A few of the titles I wanted were on hold, but I put my name on the reserve list, so we’ll see how long it takes to get them.  

Yesterday I got an email from the library, telling me that my books were ready for me and would be held until June 30.  So as I was driving home, I stopped at the library and picked up my books.  How exciting!  The best part of picking up my books at the library was seeing a few little kids there with their parents.  They seemed so happy to get new books, and it warmed my heart.  

I think I’m going to try to use my library as much as possible this summer for my beach books/chick lit.  If I like the books well enough, I’ll buy them so I can add them to my collection, and if I don’t like them?  Well, I’m not out any money.  This library thing is genius!  (Don’t you love how I act like this is a new invention, rather than a system that has been around for hundreds of years in America?)

I have until July 14 to read the 4 books I checked out, although I can always renew them. Here are the titles I got, just in case you were wondering:

  1. I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley
  2. One for the Money by Janet Evanovich*
  3. Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich*
  4. Three To Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich*
*I’m not a huge mystery lover, but I’ve heard some good things about these books, so I figured I’d give them a try.  

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Today was my neighbor NC’s wedding. She and her fiance are two of the best people you could ever want for neighbors, and I was really flattered that she had invited me to celebrate this special occasion with her.

Because of the fasting, and the fact that I wouldn’t have known anyone there, I told her that I’d love to go to the wedding, but that I didn’t think I’d go to the reception. Plus, I told her, she wouldn’t have to pay for a dinner for me. She said she was perfectly fine with that.

I was really looking forward to seeing her and J get married. I knew she was going to be a beautiful bride, and that the ceremony was going to be special.

So after running lots of errands today, I finally started getting ready for the wedding. I was wearing my fun party dress that I wore for the Sex & The City party, had my hair in a fun half-up/half-down updo, and was feeling pretty despite the 99 degree temperature outside.

I drove to the church and arrived at the parking lot at 4:42pm. The wedding started at 5pm, and I was completely confused when I didn’t see another car in the lot. What was going on? Why weren’t her friends and family here yet? What the heck? I know she told me it started at 5pm, and I knew I was at the right church, so where was everyone?

I called AM because her sister CJ was in the wedding. I knew that AM or CJ would be able to tell me if I somehow got the time wrong. Maybe it started at 6pm, but I was almost positive it was 5pm.

I got on the phone with AM and told her the situation, saying that I was wondering where everyone was. She stopped me mid sentence and said, “Bella, Bella wait. The wedding was YESTERDAY!” What?! On a Friday? Oh shit, I had missed it. And then it hit me, the memory of NC telling me that they booked it on a Friday because it was going to be less expensive to have the reception on an “off” day. Dammit!

Here I was all dolled up and no where to go. And not only that, but I had missed their wedding. What a terrible neighbor. I’m sure she didn’t miss me at the wedding, but I’m also sure she wondered what happened to me.

I quickly called and left a message on her cell phone telling her how terribly sorry I was for my stupidity, and hoping that they were having an amazing time on their honeymoon.

Only to me, I tell you.

I definitely didn’t feel like the brightest crayon in the box today. Ugh.  Hopefully my adorable wedding present will make up for it.

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When I went to CTLB’s surprise goodbye party last week, I met lots of her SF friends. One of them, Mike, and I were outside sharing a smoke and talking about music. Mike is the drummer in the band Midnight Strangers, and told me he was playing a show on Thursday at Grant & Green. He asked me to come, and I said I’d love to.

Mike and his girlfriend are awesome people. Really affectionate and warm; the kind of people who make you feel like you’re somebody special. They’re both from Boston, and I don’t know if that has something to do with it or not, but everyone that I’ve met who’s from there has been awesome.

But I digress…

When Thursday rolled around, I was thinking about skipping the gig, even though CBCB and BeachGirl said they’d like to go. You see, I woke up with cramps and knew that the next day, Friday, I’d have to go in to work. The show wasn’t starting until 11pm in SF, so that meant it was going to be a really late night. I didn’t think I’d be up for it, especially with the way I was feeling in the morning.

BeachGirl texted me and said she was looking forward to the show. I replied and told her that because of the cramps and the early morning the next day, I thought I was going to bow out. I sent CBCB an email telling her the same thing. When Mike sent out an email to a bunch of friends (including me) about the show, I replied telling him that I didn’t think I was going to make it because I had to be at work at 9am the next day.

And then it hit me.

How many times this year have I stayed up the entire night grading papers or writing papers for grad school? How many times did I go into school the next day after pulling an all-nighter doing something that I dreaded? If I could stay up all night to do some terrible task, why the hell couldn’t I stay up all night to do something fun? I am on summer vacation – this is the time to live it up and enjoy life while I don’t have any real responsibilities. If not now, when?

At that moment I decided that I was going to the show! I called BeachGirl and told her that I had changed my mind and wanted to go to the show. Actually, my exact message was, “I decided to stop being a pussy. I’m going to take a Midol when I get home and I’ll be ready to go at 9:30, so meet me at my house then.” I called CBCB and told her the same thing. Then I emailed Mike and told him to disregard my last email because I was coming to the show!

As I was getting ready to go out, I was so proud of myself for deciding to have some fun and live life.

We headed to Grant & Green, which is in North Beach. For those of you who aren’t familiar with SF, North Beach is the Italian section of the city, home to many famous places including Steps of Rome, Vesuvio‘s, and City Lights Bookstore. So much history in one little section of the City. It is also one of the most difficult places to find parking in a city that is known for bad parking. Also? There are tons of hills in North Beach, so even if we found a spot a few blocks from the bar, we’d most likely have a huge hill to climb as we were heading in or out. Not a fun proposition, let me tell you. As we were driving around and getting frustrated, CBCB pulled onto Grant, right in front of the bar, and I couldn’t believe what I saw next.

Right in front, literally a step outside the front door, someone was pulling away from rockstar parking! It was like a sign from the universe confirming that I had made the right decision in coming out that night. We pulled into the space and CBCB asked the bouncer if it was ok to park in the spot, and he said, “You’d better!”

The show was awesome. Midnight Strangers‘ music is sort of surfer-rock. Go to the link and have a listen for yourself. Seeing them live was so much fun, and the best part was the expression on Mike’s face when we got there. He was so happy to see me, gave me a huge hug, and a kiss on both cheeks. He said that he loved my enthusiasm and knew that I was a true friend who stuck by her word. His girlfriend soon joined us, grabbed my face in both of her hands and said, “this face! You’re so beautiful!” I swear, being around these two is good for the ego!!

The night was amazing, and it just goes to show that sometimes you’ve got to do things that are fun, and deal with the lack of sleep later.

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This is, by far, the best summer fellowship I’ve ever had! I can’t believe that I was thinking about not doing a fellowship this summer — I would’ve missed out on so much. 

Not only are the people here all really warm and welcoming, but they gave me a MacBookPro to use – exactly like the kind I have at home. Oh, how I love Macs! Not only that, but I have an office, not a cube. It has a door and everything! Mind you, it’s between my boss’ office and the department conference room, but hey, the door does offer some modicum of privacy. So, when I’m chomping on my noisy carrot and celery sticks, the people all around me don’t have to grit their teeth and be annoyed. I can just close the door! (It’s the little things, folks). 

Yesterday I went to a “dialog” which is basically a department meeting in which they explain some new project or technology that one of the people in the group is working on. The dialogs are open to everyone, from any department, and I thought about how wonderful transparency like that is. 

Then today, I was asked if I wanted to sit in on a teleclass about how to write better headlines. How cool! The class was hosted by Michael Stelzner and featured Michel Fortin as the guest. The class was full of amazingly straightforward information and tips that I can definitely take back to my journalism class. The woman who asked me to attend, who writes most of the copy for the website at the company I’m working, also loaned me several great books, including: On Writing Well by William Zinsser. It’s THE preeminent book on how to write non-fiction. I can’t wait to browse through it and see what I can learn – maybe you’ll even notice a difference on this blog.   

I am amazed at how much this position is going to help me inform and improve my teaching. Now, I know that’s supposed to be the whole point of these fellowships, but up until now it hasn’t worked that way for me. All of the fellowships I have had in the past used skills I already had, and didn’t really help me learn any new ones. Yes, I got to practice different things, but I never truly learned anything at my fellowships that I could directly use in my classes. I guess it’s also because I teach English, and most of the jobs are so closely related to math, science, and technology. This year, though, EVERYTHING seems to apply. The redesign of the internal marketing site is going to help me with my yearbook and journalism layouts, as well as my new task of keeping our school website up-to-date. And this writing element… well, it’s just phenomenal. 

I’m sorry if I seem like a loon for getting so excited, but I think I am actually experiencing what most of the other teacher fellows in my program usually do each year – strong applications to the classroom, as well as building a skill base that is useful for the future.

So, did that headline grab you? Maybe the class I just took paid off? 😉

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