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Archive for the ‘break’ Category

This was the first Thanksgiving that I’ve ever traveled, and what a whirlwind trip it was.  My uncle recently purchased a house in Niles, Michigan, and we wanted to go out and visit him before the weather turned too cold for us wimpy Californians.

His house is so cool, especially the 2-acre grounds.  I imagined huge garden parties in the summer, my nieces running with wild abandon in the backyard, and sipping cocktails in lounge chairs.  At least, that’s what I’d do with the place if I had it.  Not sure if my uncle has those same plans, but maybe I can convince him.

The city of Niles, Michigan is very quaint, especially the downtown area, which is peppered with funky stores, antique “malls,” and old-time businesses.  They city is so much smaller than the one we’re from, so it was very interesting.  My uncle seems to be making some friends which is good.  The main thing that I noticed is that the people are much more conservative there than they are in the Bay Area.  Then again, I think most small towns in middle America are much more conservative than the Bay Area.  😉  The one example I have is that we went to a converted mansion in South Bend, IN for Thanksgiving dinner.  When we arrived in the dining room we ordered two bottles of wine – one white and one red – for the table of four of us.  You should have seen the stares!  The woman at the table next to us nudged her husband and sat there agape, as if we were slugging back wine by the gallon.  I looked around and saw that every other table in the room had either iced tea or water – no alcohol of any kind. So weird!

After a day and a half in Niles, we left for Chicago.  I had seen pictures, heard stories, but nothing compares to actually being there.  Chicago is a stunning, immaculate, architecturally gorgeous city!  I still think San Francisco is more beautiful, but I do love Chicago.  I wish we had more than two days in this fun, lively city.  I’ll definitely be back.

I could fill many more paragraphs with all of our adventures in the two day trip, but for now, I think I’ll let my 200+ photos speak for themselves.  I tried to get some artsy shots, so I hope you enjoy them.

Thanksgiving 2009 – Michigan & Chicago

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Today I should have cleaned the house, gone through cookbooks looking for new recipes, and done some laundry.  Instead I decided that since this was my first Saturday owning the new VW Beetle Convertible, I was going to take her for a spin.

My first stop was Michael’s, because what kind of Beetle owner would I be if I didn’t fill that bud vase right away?  I new I wanted a gerbera daisy, and I was hoping for a hot pink one, but they didn’t have much of a selection.  I settled on this one, and I really like it:

n502485425_2821887_7422427 It’s the must-have accessory that I needed to make the car feel like my own.

My next stop was Radio Shack, to buy an MP3 cord so I could listen to my iPod songs while driving.  I have tons of songs loaded on my iPhone, just waiting for a long car ride.

I’d decided on driving to Half Moon Bay, which is one of my favorite spots.  What better place for a convertible than the beach, right?  Half Moon Bay is a lot easier to get to (even though it’s farther) than Santa Cruz, because on a hot Saturday, everyone in my city heads over the hill to go to Santa Cruz to escape the heat.

I thought I’d take a “short cut” that my parents’ friend had told them about – taking Hwy 84 through Woodside to avoid the traffic on 92.  Well, the road was beautiful and lined with redwoods on both sides, but it was a scary, winding path that had my heart in my mouth a few times.  Come to find out, it was no short cut at all because it took twice as long and brought me right to 92 where all of the traffic begins.  Still, it was nice to drive along a beautiful road with “Swoon” from the Silversun Pickups blairing on the stereo.  It was along this road that I though of the Beetle’s name – Bettie!  Bettie the Beetle Convertible! Don’t you love it?!

The ride to Half Moon Bay was so beautiful that I just couldn’t resist snapping a few photos on the iPhone’s camera.  I know it probably breaks tons of traffic laws, but there wasn’t much traffic, and we weren’t driving too fast, so I took the risk, and I’m so glad I did.  The pictures are fantastic.  A bit blurry in some cases, but so gorgeous.

Once I got to Half Moon Bay, I headed directly to Granada Beach, which is my favorite spot.  It is the spot I used to go all the time to just get away from my life and clear my head.  I used to write in my journal while sitting on a boulder along the ocean’s edge.  So peaceful and tranquil.  It also happens to be the spot where the love of my life propsed to me many years ago.  (We split up over 12 years ago, but I still think of him and wonder “what if.”).  The spot holds so many great memories that I love going there.

Afterward, I headed into downtown Half Moon Bay to get something to eat.  There’s a little cafe that I like to go to because it’s very quaint and easy going.  The food is good and the prices aren’t too high.  I ordered a BLT, and it was delcious.  I didn’t realize how famished I was (it was 2:30pm) until I started eating.  I guess I was so taken by my beautiful surroundings that I wasn’t paying attention to my grumbling stomach.

I left shortly thereafter because I wanted to beat the traffic out.  As I was driving I just kept thinking about how lucky I am to live this life.  I have my health, my wonderful friends and family, and now I have this new, dream car.  Sure, I would’ve loved to have a cute guy sitting in my passenger seat today, but that’s not where my life is right now, and that’s OK.   I feel so blessed, and I don’t usually talk that way, but that’s really the only way I can describe it.  I’ve worked so hard for so long and struggled quite a bit to get where I am, but now I feel like I’m leading a charmed life and I’m so grateful that I’m able to enjoy it.

To see pictures of Bettie’s first trip to Half Moon Bay, click here.

BTW, as I was eating lunch I decided that I’m going to make “Adventures with Bettie” a regular feature on this blog.  I’m not sure how often I’ll post new road trips with Bettie, but I’d like to shoot for at least once a month.  There are so many fabulous places within an hour or two from my house that I really do want to take advantage of it.  Plus, getting out in the car and driving is so much fun and so calming to me.

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Ever since I started my weight loss blog, I’ve been writing much less frequently on this one.  Because weight loss is my main focus (almost like a part-time job), it makes sense that I have more to write about that topic than any other.  Still, sometimes I feel badly that this blog, the one I started blogging with, gets pushed back to second-class citizen status.

One thing that seems appropriate to write about here is how I’ve been doing on my quest to “get a life.”  Last August, I wrote a post where I vowed to take back my life and stop living to work instead of just working to live.

I’m happy to report that I am now a reformed workaholic.

It wasn’t easy.  At first I felt like I was really sloughing off on my duties at work.  “I really should go to the play this weekend.” “The students would really like it if I went to that football/basketball/soccer game,” etc.  Instead of feeding into this guilt trip I was laying on myself, I just said no.  I took myself off of the numerous committees I had been serving on and kept only those that I felt were the most important.

Did I feel like I was out of the loop?  Yes.  Did I crave being “in the know” the way I was when I served on lots of different committees and attended tons of school events?  Sure, sometimes.  But that feeling of being slightly out of the dialed in group was well worth the time and energy I found now that I wasn’t spending so much time and effort at work.

It was a strange year for me because CTLB, my best friend at school and one of my best friends in life, left.  I felt a lot lonlier than I had in the past 4 years, when were were “joined at the hip.”  But before you start feeling too sorry for me, I do have an amazing group of friends at school, and we all eat lunch together every day, so it’s not like I sit alone in my classroom and grade papers while I eat a stale sandwich.  (That would never, ever be me, by the way).  We also had a new principal this year, and that made for a lot of changes.  Good changes, but still, there were a lot of things going on this year that left me feeling out of sorts a lot of time time.

But my life outside of the work day was fantastic!  I found that I had tons of free time, and I used it to try new activities, reach out to old friends and make some new ones, spend lots more time with my family, and just enjoy myself by doing whatever I wanted to do – riding my bike, reading a great (or trashy) book, watching movies, cooking, etc.

It seemed idyllic until the school said they were looking for someone to teach a “summer school after school” class.  I saw dollar signs and knew that if I taught the class I would have the money I needed for a down payment on my new car AND I wouldn’t have to work this summer.  So, beginning after February break, I gave up 60 hours+ of free time and taught the class.  (This may not sound like a lot, but this is on top of teaching 5 other classes.  Not to mention grading and prepping for 6 classes).  It is something that I’m glad I did (for the money), but will never do again.  It’s just not worth giving up that much of my life.

All in all, I loved having my life back.  I felt like I was a better teacher because I could look at things from a well rested, happy point of view.  I plan on doing more of the same this coming school year.  Actually, it should be even better because I’m only teaching one honors class, which will dramatically cut down on my paperload.  Can’t wait.

Ok, enough writing, time to get out there and LIVE!

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Today was the perfect summer day!

The weather was 85 degrees – warm, but not too hot.  Earlier in the week the weather was really overcast, cloudy, and sort of cold.  Not conducive to feeling like you’re on summer vacation.

I started the morning with a WW meeting.  It had been more than a month since I’d gone, and let’s just say the absence showed up on the scale. (To read more about the meeting, check out my weight loss blog).

After WW, I straightened up the house a bit and then went to get the car washed.  The poor thing was disgusting, and I hate driving around like that, especially when the weather is nice.  I always feel so much better when the car is shiny and clean.

Then I headed to my parents’ house to pick up my dad so he could go with me to the nursery to buy some summer flowers for my house.  My dad is an expert gardener and always helps me plant new flowers.  I chose some really beautiful flowers that should do very well.  My house is shaded by two huge trees, which is nice for keeping the heat at bay, but not so great for choosing blooms – most of the flowers I love need full sun.

Window box - this is the view from my front door. Purple colius, yellow begonias, a spider plant (previously planted) and baby's breath ground cover

Window box - this is the view from my front door. Purple colius, yellow begonias, a spider plant (previously planted) and baby's breath ground cover

Front view of the window box

Front view of the window box

Close up of the window box flowers

Close up of the window box flowers

Pots of impatiens for the front stoop

Pots of impatiens for the front stoop

Flower pot and window box

Flower pot and window box

Full front view of my house (on the right)

Full front view of my house (on the right)

Once the flowers start to really take and are in full bloom (within a couple of weeks, I think), I’ll make sure to post updated pictures.  I love flowers, and I think this is definitely one of the harbingers of summer for me – planting the flowers in the front of the yard.  I love going out every other day (or so, depending on the weather) and watering the plants – there’s something very nurturing about it.  Just like cooking. It’s part of what makes a house a home.

After the flowers were planted, I made lunch for my dad and then brought him home once we had finished eating.  I love spending time with him this way.  He’s in his element outside, and he has so much expertise, so it’s really nice to be able to learn a bit from him about one of the things he loves.

When I got home, I decided that I’d take a short bike ride to the library to pick up the books I had requested.  Nothing is better than getting that email notification from the library telling you that you’re books are on hold.  Love it!  I didn’t realize that I had ordered quite so many books, though.  I had 9 hardcovers to fit into my bike basket!  Luckily it’s big enough, so everything fit – just barely.  It was great to bike the 2.6 miles roundtrip because it was just enough of a workout to get my blood pumping and make me feel alive.

Now I’m about to get ready to go out to dinner at Thea, one of my favorite Greek restaurants, with one of my old high school pals.  I’m so glad that she and I reconnected a few months ago because I really missed our friendship.  The thing is, nothing really happened – we just lost touch after high school as it’s so easy to do.  Thankfully, we found each other on Facebook (gotta love social networking sites!) and have gotten together about once a month ever since.

All in all, a wonderful summer day – I hope to have many, many more just like this one.

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Lately, I’ve been hearing that question a lot.  This is the first summer where I haven’t signed up to work, and I couldn’t be happier.  I’m looking forward to actually getting one of the full benefits of teaching – an entire 2-month period of time off.

My mom in particular is worried that I’ll get bored.  She knows me too well, because when I get bored, I start to spend money.  What better way to ebb boredom than to go shopping, right?  Well, not this summer.

This summer I plan to do nothing.

And by “nothing,” I mean that the plan is no plan. Nothing too specific. Mornings spent reading the newspaper while sipping coffee. Walking. Working out. Swimming. Biking. Lots if activity & focus on weight loss. Keeping the house super clean and organized. Feeling like every day is a Saturday, even when it’s Tuesday.  Thursday morning WW meetings. Seeing friends. Buying produce and flowers from the farmers market every Friday. Overusing my Netflix queue. Music in the Park. Cooking healthy, delicious meals for myself every day. Laying in the sun reading a captivating book. Shopping, but trying not to spend too much $.  Starlight Cinema.  Buying a new car in August when my current lease is up.  (I’m thinking a VW Beetle convertible would suit me perfectly).  A tiny bit if tweaking my current curriculum. And lots and lots of writing on this blog and BellaOnTheBeach.

Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.

— Henry James

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AM sent this to me last week, and I just got a chance to view it today.  Overall, I love the message that it promotes.  It’s a good reminder that I have so much to be thankful for and I should treat each day as if it were a special occasion (sometimes hard to do).

The video is 3:20, and is worth the time, because it may just give you a little perspective on life that you needed to be reminded of.

Enjoy the Ride

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I have been looking forward to this February break for longer than I can tell you (Ok, probably since we returned from the long weekend of Semester Break in late January). Things have been moving very quickly in my life, and I needed some time to just stop, relax, and get to all of the things that I’ve been putting off.

I want to savor each day of this vacation, and not let it slip by without feeling like I’ve truly enjoyed it. I’m kind of thinking of it as a practice-run for my summer vacation.

I know it’s only February and it seems silly to think about the summer now, but I’m really looking forward to taking the whole summer off.  It’s been years since I did that, and the one summer I did, I had a really short vacation – I finished up at one school in mid June, moved back home (from San Francisco), and started at a new school, which began in early August.  So really, I only had about 1 month off, and I spent a lot of it moving, setting things up, etc.  This summer the plan is to spend the days riding my bike, swimming at the pool at my parents’ townhouse complex, and reading books while lying in the sun.  Oh, and a few movies, I’m sure.  No stress, no pressure, just moving my body, getting healthy, and enjoying life.

But back to this February break.  The weather has been pretty awful – tons of rain (almost 3 inches in 2 days!), gray skies, cold, howling wind – not a lot of motivation to go out and make it a great day, if you know what I mean.  Which is good, because there are a lot of things for me to do in the house that I’ve been meaning to get to but haven’t had the time.

Some of my plans for the week:

  • Give the duplex a good, deep cleaning.  It’s been weeks since I’ve mopped the floors and it really shows.  Having a clean and organized apartment really helps me feel organized in my life, so this is a top priority.  In fact, I’m not going to do anything else today until I get this done.
  • Take a few long, luxurious baths with the new bath items I got from Hydra a few weeks ago with my sister.  My bathtub is rather shallow, and due to the fact that I’m rather large (ahem!), I don’t always think of taking baths because I can’t sink down and feel completely submerged in the water.  But I’ve decided that I’m not going to let that stop me from enjoying baths right now.  I can still get the aromatherapy benefits, the soft skin feeling, the bubbles.  So what if I’m not completely submerged in the water?  I can still enjoy it.  Plus, there’s nothing better than just letting all the stress go while you soak in a warm tub.
  • Get a pedicure. Originally I had planned on taking Neece to InSpa for her birthday gift (about a month late, but we’re busy women), but because the weather is so yucky right now, she said she’d rather wait and go when the weather was more flip-flop friendly.  I also told myself that I wasn’t going to get a pedicure until I hit my 5% with WW, and use it as a reward.  I haven’t gotten a pedicure in months, to safe money, and because it’s winter time, and I haven’t been showing off my toes anyway.  But I have an even coming up on Saturday, and I’m going to be wearing peep toe shoes, so I NEED a pedicure.
  • Hit the treadmill to start on my OYO (on your own) trainings for the half marathon.  I’ve been really bad about going on my own to do my practices, but I know that if I’m going to improve my time and my stamina, I have to get these OYO workouts in.  Plus, I haven’t listened to my iPod in a really long time (I’ve been doing a lot of at-home DVD workouts), so I’m going to look at it as a chance to listen to some great music for an hour while I improve my walking.
  • File taxes. Ugh.  This one is never a pleasure for me.  I did my taxes last weekend, and while I’m getting a small amount back from the federal government, I owe twice that amount to the state.  Dammit!  I really think that until I own a house (not sure when that will happen, if ever), I’m going to have to resign myself to the fact that I’m going to owe the state money each year.  I think I’m on some sort of hit list with them, ever since I owed taxes from my dot-com stock option days.  On the bright side, I don’t owe that much money, compared to previous years, so I guess that’s a blessing.
  • Add some pictures to the many frames I’ve bought. I have three really nice picture frames that I’ve purchased recently that have spaces for multiple pictures that still need to be filled.  I’m not sure what’s taking me so long add the pictures to the frames, but now that I have some time, I’m going to work on them this week.  Two of the frames are really cool shadow box types that have multiple layers; for those I want to use pictures that I took in Italy in 1995.  I have to make a trip to my parents’ attic to get them out, but it will be worth braving a little dust to make these picture frames finally look finished.
  • Spend some quality time with family and friends. Yesterday I got to see my sister and my nieces at my parents’ house, which was so fun.  My mom’s birthday is on Wednesday, and we all wanted to get together to give her our gift – tickets to see Wicked in SF and happy hour at a posh bar in the theatre district afterward.  My mom was thrilled with this gift, and I can’t wait.  We’re going to go March 29th.  My sister and I had seen Wicked before when it came to SF before it hit Broadway, and we loved it.  I know that the three of us are going to really have a ball that day.  I also have plans to hang out with a friend from high school whom I haven’t seen in almost 20 years.  We reconnected on Facebook (gotta love that site for those great connections), and have been meaning to get together.  She and her friends go to a local bar for karaoke on Thursday nights, and I keep telling her I’m going to join them.  Since they don’t get there until close to 10pm, I can’t go when it’s a “school night,” but since I have Friday off this week, I can definitely make it this Thursday.
  • Enjoy a good book, or two, and maybe a few of the magazines I have backlogged. I’m an avid reader, but I find myself in the familiar situation of having lots of magazines on the rack that haven’t been read.  I also have a few library books that are about to be overdue that I want to finish before I return.  I want to carve out a few hours (maybe later today or tomorrow), to sit and enjoy some quiet reading time.  I’ll make sure to update my GoodReads page so you can keep up, if you’re interested.
  • A bit of school work. A week before the break, I gave an assignment to my at-level juniors to write a “tall tale” in the vein of Mark Twain.  I asked them to use several comic devices in their writing.  They had a really fun time coming up with outlandish scenarios, so I’m looking forward to reading these.  The smart thing I did was make it a group assignment, so rather than having 35 stories to read, I only have about 15 or so.  I also have to write a syllubus for a “summer school after school” class I’m going to be teaching when school resumes.  It’s actually really cool curriculum that I’ve used with my juniors, so it should be an easy class to teach.  I decided to take on this extra assignment because I’m adamant about not working this summer (see above), but I want to make sure I have some extra money for a down payment on a new (to me) car.  My lease is up in August, so I’ll be car shopping.  I’m getting $2900 (before taxes) for 60 hours of work, which is a little over $48/hour – not too shabby.  Plus, because this class is geared towards seniors who have failed the first semester of English but need it to graduate, the kids should be very motivated to pass.  All in all, not much work to do, which is so different than February breaks in the past.
  • Attend an old-school Italian Dinner Dance. This one should be a blast.  My mom’s aunt & uncle belong to several Italian associations in San Francisco, and often buy whole tables for different fundraising events.  This Saturday one of their organizations is throwing a dinner/dance and we’ve all been invited.  I bought a really pretty party dress (I’ll post pictures later) and can’t wait to get all dolled up for the event.  I have a feeling there won’t be too many people my age at this party, but I don’t mind filling my dance card with dances with my dad, great uncle, and cousin (among the other gentlemen who might be there).  It should be a lot of fun, and it’s something I haven’t done before, so I’m looking forward to it.
  • Watch the Oscars! I love the Oscars – the gowns, the accolades for fine film making, the gossip – it’s always a fun event.  Once when I was living in SF, one of my friends threw a fabulous Oscar Party and it was so much fun.  In recent years, I’ve watched the Oscars at home by myself, which is also fine by me.  This year, I’m going to my parents’ house to watch it with them.  I’m hoping that maybe next year I’ll be able to have a little Oscar party at my house – I love getting together with friends, good food,  and strong drinks while dishing about the show.  Sounds like a plan in the making, right?

So there you have it, lots of plans for a great week off.  I’d better get started if I’m going to get it all done!!

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