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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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I know 1989 was 20 years ago, but from the constant hugs, huge smiles, and squeals of delight at seeing each other, you’d have never known it.  My 20th high school reunion was last night, and what a fun time it was.

Last year, when I first thought about going to my 20th reunion, I was quite anxious.  I hadn’t gone to any of the previous reunions, mostly because I didn’t think enough had happened in my life to warrant it.  I mean, at 5 years I was still in my credential program, so how much had changed?  At 10 years I was too busy working at Yahoo, and feeling a bit down about life because I didn’t have a boyfriend/husband to bring.  But I knew that I had to go to my 20th, because it would be so great to see everyone, despite feeling like I wasn’t looking my best.

Sure, it would’ve been amazing to have lost 140 pounds and look skinny.  But that wasn’t the case, and I didn’t want to let my weight stop me from attending what was sure to be a great night.  So, I joined the reunion planning committee, dealt with the “mean girl” syndrome that seems to have followed a few people into their adult lives, and made sure that we were going to have the best reunion possible.

As much as I had hoped to lose at least 20 pounds and feel even better about myself, it didn’t happen.  But none of that mattered as soon as I started getting ready.  I had a great dress that looked nice and was comfortable.  A fabulous necklace that added a funky flair, and shoes that put that much-needed splash of color into the outfit.  I’d gone to have my hair colored earlier in the afternoon, so my wild curls were blown out into a nicely coiffed ‘do.

As soon as I arrived, I knew it was going to be a wonderful time.  Everyone greeted me so warmly, gave huge hugs, and thanked me for helping to plan it.  The compliments flowed about everything – my makeup, my hair, my necklace, my dress – these girls had me feeling like I was a superstar.  I felt so confident and so happy, which was so nice.  It was really as if the 20 years hadn’t gone by and we were all back in high school just hanging out on a Saturday night.

Most of the girls (I went to an all-girls school) left their husbands and boyfriends at home, which made it feel even more like a night back in high school.  The few husbands that were there seemed to enjoy the hilarity of it all.  The old personalities soon emerged, and I’m sure it was wildly entertaining to see their wives the way they looked back in high school.

The best part of the evening was the slideshow of old photos from when were were in high school.  Other than a few inches in the waistline and a few cans of hairspray holding together our ‘dos, most people looked the same.  I was shocked to see that throughout my senior year as I was growing out a short 80s haircut, I seemed to be sporting a ‘fro.  Well, that’s what happens with curly hair, I guess.  Seeing all of us in our old plaid uniforms and penny loafers definitely brought back so many memories.

Outside on the pool deck as we sipped cocktails and enjoyed old stories, you could truly see that our sense of community hadn’t changed at all.  One of the husbands commented about how confident each of us looked back in high school, something that he never found in the girls who went to his co-ed school.  And it’s true; going to an all-girls school did instill in each of us a sense that we could do anything, be anyone, and accomplish whatever we wanted.  Nothing was off limits or too far out of reach.  And it showed in the great things that each of us has done with our lives.  We’re all still hugely confident women today, and we can thank our old alma mater for that.

The night passed by in a blur.  I think all greatly-anticipated evenings do, though, don’t they?  I wish I would’ve been able to talk to more people, caught up on more lives, and made my way through more of the groupings, but there just wasn’t time.  It was a fantastic reunion, and I’m so glad I went.

Here are a few photos from the night.  I wish I would’ve taken more, but I was enjoying myself too much.  Still, it’ll give you an idea.

My 20th High School Reunion

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Yesterday I had a fantastic Saturday:

  • Zumba in the morning
  • Headed to Los Gatos to pick up our latest wine club offering at Flemming Jenkins with Ish.  We stayed for a free tasting, just because.
  • Lunch at Willow Street Pizza to have their amazing summer salad special – skirt steak with peaches and goat cheese on mixed greens with a balsamic vinaigrette.  Yum!!!
  • A quick trip to Benefit to buy some new lipsticks.
  • A trip to Walmart to look for workout clothes – more about this on Bella on the Beach.

I was gone from 1:20pm to 6pm.  I was so tired when I got home, but as soon as I drove into the driveway, I noticed that my back door was open.  Not just unlocked, but OPEN!

At first I thought someone had broken in, so I quickly went through the duplex and saw that nothing was out of place.  (Well nothing that I hadn’t left out of place to begin with).

Which means that I left for hours without locking my door!!!  Stupid!!!!

I know exactly what happened, thinking back.  I was running late to meet Ish and I was trying to put the windguard up in the back of the convertible so that I could have the top down on the freeway without ruining my hair.  I couldn’t get the darn thing up (gotta read the manual) and I finally said, “F-it, I’m so late as it is, I need to go NOW.”  I remember putting the windguard in my little pantry area, and I thought I closed the door, but I definitely don’t remember locking the deadbolt.  One of the “tricks” with my back door is that it doesn’t close unless you really pull it.  I must’ve thought that I did, but I obviously didn’t.  When I looked at it, the bottom lock was “locked,” but that doesn’t really work unless the door is closed.

The thing is, I always lock my doors.  Always.  Always have.  Growing up, we lived in a really affluent area of the city with a very small crime rate, but we always locked the doors as soon as we came in the house.  Even in the middle of the day when we were all home.  I continue that habit at my own house, and always have.  Better safe than sorry.

Now what’s heart-warming about what happened yesterday is that even though my house was wide open and asking for someone to come in and steal the many valuable and expensive things I own, no one took a thing.  I live in a neighborhood that has a ton of foot traffic, much of it by homeless types who look like they’ve just gotten out of some sort of halfway house.  Some of them look crazy (literally), but they’re generally harmless.  Still, I make sure to keep things locked up, because you never know. It was such a relief to know that no one came in and took anything.  People respected the house.

I’ve always felt safe at home, and now I know that I truly am. That said, I still plan on locking the doors, just to be sure.

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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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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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(No, this isn’t my try at speaking like Bostonians).

A shot from outside the theatre; I was going for "arty," did I succeed?

A shot from outside the theatre; I was going for "arty," did I succeed?

On Mother’s Day my sister and I took my mom to see Wicked at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco.  LC and I had seen the musical a few years ago, before it hit Broadway.  We loved it then, and knew that if it ever came back to SF, we were going to take my mom.

We originally wanted to buy the tickets to the show for my mom’s birthday, in February, but the first decent seats that were available just so happened to be on Mother’s Day.  We asked my mom if it was alright with her for us to go, and she said, “Absolutely!”

After a nightmarish drive across the Bay Bridge (which was actually nothing more than normal weekend bottleneck, bumper-to-bumper traffic), we got to the theatre with no problem.  I drove around once looking for parking, and then happened upon the most rockstar space almost by accident.  It was literally only a block from the theatre.

The Orpheum Theatre is a true beauty.  It harkens back to the 1920s, and I can imagine the wild and wonderful shows that were put on during the time of the Lost Generation.  The theatre is so striking that it almost becomes its own character within any production.

For those of you who haven’t seen Wicked, what are you waiting for?  It is truly one of the best shows I have ever seen.  It’s definitely my favorite.  Not only is it witty, it’s dramatic, and a sharp social commentary that can be applied to so many modern-day situations.  You leave the show wishing that you had the chance to be friends with Elphaba (or, at least I did).

It was a day that I will remember for years to come.  Because we got to see  wonderful production, but also because it was spent with the two women I love most in this world – my mom and my sister.  Both of them help me become the person I hope to be.

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