Monday, April 26, 2010


I would definitely give myself points for a BUSY day today and also a few pats on the back for all that I accomplished:
- Pick up donuts for the entire senior class (small school, so we're not talking about a thousand donuts here, but still).
- Go to Medical Center for 7:30 am appointment; leave by 7:50! It took me a while to figure out that the 7:30 appointments are the BEST because there are no appointments before that time, and therefore the 7:30 patient should get in and out.
- Drive home, change into professional garb and actually try and succeed to look "cute" today - skirt and cute knit top. Points for me.
- School, school, school. No actually "teaching" moments today because I gave tests and an in-class essay. Therefore, I should be grading all week long. Fun.
- Physical Therapy from 4:00-5:30 or so.
- TJs.
- Cook dinner - a new pasta dish which was a roaring success and there are leftovers for tomorrow night. Even better!

Despite the fact that this seems to be an ordinary Monday for me, piling on the accomplishments, crossing off one task after another, it was NOT. First of all, Mondays always contain the disaster potential - bad mood, jamming copier, asshole colleagues. So, it's a plus when I encounter none of the above on any given Monday.

So, in addition to a decent mood, a copier that worked like a charm and colleagues that were not overly irritating today, my check-up with the knee surgeon went better than stupendously. He asked me to do things that I have been doing for ages (or the past month) in PT, like squat with one leg as far as possible and then, the really hard task, jump on my left leg. No, I'm not graceful and I need to work on my arm coordination so that it's a natural movement, but I have the strength in my leg to hop around on it. YEAH! So, he asked me what activities I wanted to be doing, and I gave him my list:
- Backpacking and wicked hiking
- Biking (unclipping, maybe even falling down)
- Skiing in the winter
And he said YES, YES and YES! He was also quite surprised (or feigned surprise) at where I am in my recovery, post ACL-surgery (way back in September).
What a way to start off the day!
And I ended the day with my LAST PT APPOINTMENT! Not in a forever sense because I'm not that naive and I know that life happens and that I'm a klutz, but I'm strong enough to fly away from the nest! For my graduation, they gave me a "Catz" T-shirt. While a grey t-shirt with black lettering does not communicate the gravity of a cap and gown, I feel like I really deserve it. After all, I worked hard to 'graduate'!
I know that this seems like such a minor event in the grand course of a person's life, but I almost feel that I have been more conscious of working at this and towards this moment than even finishing graduate school (lame comparison, but whatever). It's been healthy for me on many levels to make this recovery a priority for the academic year, and I hope, I really do hope, that I can remember the importance of a personal goal each year and of working towards it.
Okay, enough deep thoughts.
I'm off to read "The Quiet American" by Graham Greene in bed. Can't wait.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Rainy days and enchiladas

This is a belated post, since it's now Saturday and I'm looking forward to a weekend of some socializing, some running errands and some work. The work week is now fully in the past tense, but I wanted to share the highlight:

Wednesday afternoon, I found myself grumpy for no particular reason and definitely feeling uninspired. Perhaps it was the rain and chilly temperatures, which at least made a fire welcome, but still! It's mid-April! I just had my toes done! I am ready for warmer temperatures, sandals and cute skirts! We are well in the midst of the fourth quarter, seniors misbehaving and teachers losing patience, the end is near but not near enough. A bit ennui has set in.
So, to my great delight and surprise, when I walked in the door, I saw a slight miracle. Michael had taken it upon himself to spend the afternoon cooking, putting together home-made (not the tortillas, but most everything else) chicken enchiladas with salsa verde, black beans and yellow rice. To me, this is total comfort food, and it hit the spot Wednesday evening as we tucked into an amazing meal, watched some "Foyle's War" and listened to the rain fall outside.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Bathing Suit Season

Yeah for Fridays! And for this one in particular.
The week back after a vacation is always brutal, despite the fact that the vacation really did (I swear!) rejuvenate me and give me lots of time to rest and relax, both of which are necessary to me if I want to function at a reasonably high level. A student today said it best as she summed up the week, "It's been fast but loooonnnnnggg". Amen to that!
I did duck out a bit early, after teaching my last class outside in the sun, and I got a pedicure which is ALWAYS a treat. I swear, before I lived in California, I think that I had experienced a total of two pedicures in my life. I moved when I was 29, by the way. And then, when I moved to the LA area at age 32, maybe I had treated myself to a few more (let's say 6). Living in LA, the whole pedicure-thing, while not a necessity for me, is a bit more routine. These days, I'm hopeful that the mercury will push past 78 degrees, I'll don a pair of flip-flops and then, voila! Everyone will admire my toesies. That hope must have inspired the pedicure this afternoon. I am happy with the result - my toes are now a lovely shade of "spicy persimmon". Whatever.
The other item that came up today was a new bathing suit. Yippee!
Okay, I actually don't really love running around in bathing suits (I'm, like, glow-in-the-dark-pale, so it's a scary experience for the public), but I did need a decent bathing suit. My last one, which I really liked, has been either: a. all stretched out from too much use or b. it's just too big for me now (I say the former, Michael says the latter). At any rate, I needed a suit whose bottom wouldn't fall down when I dove into the pool (yes, that was my old swim suit). Since I happened to be close to the Patagonia store....
I decided to just "pop" into the store. Luck would have it that in addition to all of their cool prints, which I loved but didn't want to experience for myself, they had a great two-piece black suit that seemed super-duper sturdy while being cute at the same time. The top is pretty much like a jog-bra, but with a nice shape, and the bottoms actually cover my entire ass. Add a pair of awesome board shorts and I am SET for the next few summers.
Bring it on, because I can't wait!
This, by the way, is a radical change for me - I used to try to never put myself in a position where I actually had to wear a swimsuit. But I then decided that such an attitude was stupid and rather limiting. Especially living in CA and trying to experience something of that "outdoorsy" lifestyle (which has fallen by the wayside since August - oops). But seriously, it makes me happy that I'm comfortable enough with myself at almost 40 to not care about wearing a swimsuit and to actually relish finding one that is, to me, awesome. It also makes me a bit sad that I didn't have the same carefree attitude when I was 15 or 16. Maybe one has to experience that adolescent awkwardness to get to THIS point?
At any rate, I'm ready for some beach/lake/river action - if not this year the next - kayaking, rafting, canoeing, swimming, maybe even surfing one of these days!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Reviews: Reads, viewings and cultural events

This could possibly be my last "I-had-tons-of-fun-and-relaxed" type of an entry for a long time. Not "forever" long, but let's say six weeks long. Maybe, if I'm really optimistic, only 4 weeks long?! May 14 is the BIG DAY, after all, the day that my students take the Spanish AP Literature Exam and then I don't have to worry about that class or those test results until July. By that point, I hope that I'm sitting in a cafe in Spain or France, drinking a café which is then followed by some red wine. Life will be good and I won't care that/if my students (who are all brilliant, I must add) end up with 2's on the AP and I get "sacked" as they say in Britain.
Okay, back to the more recent present, enough with the fantasy!

On to the reviews. Since I've had time to myself, I have actually tried to be somewhat "cultural".
First of all, I finished a book that I needed to read for the school 'book club' (yes, we are all nerds) in which I occasionally participate. It frequently depends on the selection, but this one was great and I would highly recommend it: The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead. It was a fascinating read, and I think I need (just like The Wind-up Bird Chronicle) go back and re-read the end. I was totally devouring last Sunday night, staying up until 12:00 am which is pretty insane for me! It was a great read, seemed to take place back in the 50's but is pretty indeterminate and could almost be present-day if you let your mind wander and imagine. It definitely intertwines themes of race, groups, and beliefs with a suspenseful story, a strong and interesting protagonist. I would, if you couldn't tell, HIGHLY recommend the novel. I'm considering exploring some other works by Whitehead, hoping that they won't disappoint.

Next on the agenda, the visual arts: LACMA's "American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life". Really, I should say that it's the Met's exhibition here at the LA County Museum of Art, the Getty's poor stepsister which I happen to like more than the Getty, but that's another topic. Anyways, it was a first-rate exhibit with some really wonderful paintings. I was a bit disappointed that there weren't more (or any?) works by the Hudson River School, which I've grown to admire and love thanks to Michael's input and influence. BUT but but, there were some just amazing paintings by Winslow Homer. Just gorgeously wonderful. This image doesn't do it any justice at all, but I thought that I would show "The Veteran in a New Field" (1865). There were also some wonderful Sargents, but not enough. Never enough!

Following the exhibition, Michael and I went to Lotería, our favorite Mexican place in LA. We need to try some other places, but this is just SUCH a good favorite. We split enchiladas, one in salsa verde, the other in salsa roja. Yum yum!

Finally, because I haven't had to stick rigidly to a morning routine, my evenings have been freer, and we've enjoyed several movies over the past ten days or so. We started with "An Education" which I liked much more than Michael - I just thought it was so interesting on different levels and well-acted. Perhaps it's because I am IN education and I work with high school students that it rang true in a way? Also, I remember myself at 15, 16, 17... Awkward and geeky. Good times.
We also watched "The Queen" - I know, it's been five years or so? Not the best movie, but I love Helen Mirren, and I did think that she was amazing. What was even funnier was that Michael Sheen (not the American guy) plays Tony Blair, and we realized that he was in "The Damned United" which we enjoyed.
"Men Who Stare at Goats" - Not the best movie in the world, but it had a great cast (I'm a sucker for Jeff Bridges and some of the other members of the cast) and some funny moments. Overall, a silly premise, but that's okay.
"The Professionals" (1966) - Also somewhat silly, in that 1960's-Western-type-of-a-way. Again, a great cast, although did Burt Lancaster ever REALLY act?! Some great lines, my favorite being "-You bastard. - Yes, Sir. In my case an accident of birth. But you, Sir, you're a self-made man."

If I only I were that sharp on my feet. I'd be a self-made woman.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Going over to "the other side"

I realize that the term "the other side" has many connotations. It could mean dying, to give it a rather existential meaning, or it might indicate a physical or geographical barrier, like the "Wall" that our government has erected (porous though it may be) between our country and the one that lies to the south (that one being Mexico, of course). It also has a sci-fi meaning, for those of us who grew up on the first Star Wars series back in the 70's and early 80's. You know, going over to the "Dark Side", joining up with the forces of evil and all of that.
I have my own interpretation of what the "Dark Side" is, and I think that we have officially crossed over into that territory. Now that we've done that, we can't go back, we are lost forever and ever.
No, no, I'm not talking about brandishing a lightsaber or using the force to wreck havoc in the universe, although both of those would be fun!
It's something a bit more innocuous but just as transformational.
I'm talking about COSTCO. Michael and I joined up as of yesterday, became members of the club of mass consumerism.
And what's worse? I'm totally excited! I think we're going to fill up an entire room (we have an empty one of those) with supplies that we buy - rolls and rolls of toilet paper and paper towels, boxes of crackers, cereal and cookies just waiting for us to devour them, bottles of Listerine, boxes of soups, tons of contact solution. Hell, maybe we'll even buy tires for the car and just keep them on hand?! It almost makes me want to have a child or a dozen critters, just so that I can use and abuse the card as much as possible.
I can't wait!

Okay, on a more serious note - are there other people out there that reluctantly became giddy Costco members?! Is it a bit like Whole Foods - a store that you love to hate or hate to love? Or am I just making too much out of this small step?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

"Drill, Baby, drill!"

No, I'm not actually talking about the Obama administration's energy policy - although that IS a scintillating topic these days - but rather my teeth and the two visits to the dentist (three, actually) in a mere two weeks. Sigh.
One of my biggest fears is going to the dentist. Ever since I was a kid, I had not-so-great teeth. Genetics actually did play a role, I can blame this partly on my mom. Plus, I don't know how anyone can go to the dentist without fear after seeing even just a snippet of "Marathon Man"! Talk about combining some of my deepest fears in one movie! It didn't help, however, that my fear and loathing of everything teeth-related drove me far away from dentists for several years (or a decade). A few years ago, I decided that since I have insurance, it makes no sense to not take care of my teeth, especially as I get older. Also, the stress dreams about my teeth shattering provoked me into some sort of action.
So, last week I went to the dentist to have old fillings re-filled (they were probably 25-years-old, but I had no idea that you had to re-do fillings!). I was very impressed with how calm I was throughout the process, and I didn't harbor ill feelings towards the dentist, even though I bit my almost-still-numb-tongue while eating dinner and had a huge wound on it for a few days. Gross, I know.
I didn't think about the nagging pain for most of last week, and I was adept at pretending that my headache all weekend wasn't caused by a toothache. I know what it means when one has a serious toothache at this point: Root canal, baby! Yesterday afternoon, however, I broke down and called the dentist about the pain. I woke up this morning not feeling so much pain, but I still went to the dentist, who then referred me to a specialist. I was supposed to call the specialist ASAP, but since the pain wasn't quite so bad, I decided that I didn't *really* need to see him/her. Until around noon, when the pain kicked right back where it had left off. Dull, throbbing, causing an earache and a headache, pushing up into my brain so that all I could think about was: PAIN.
Ugh. Made the call, they gave me an emergency appointment at 5:00, I took some tylenol with codeine (don't most people have that hanging around the house?) and got through the afternoon quite fine. I almost finished grading some papers too! By 5:00, I had convinced myself that the tooth wasn't so bad, but I did go to the specialist (endo-something) quite cheerfully because I didn't think that anything would actually HAPPEN today.
Ha ha ha. That's a funny thought, in retrospect. He looked at my tooth, poked around, and then told me that I needed a root canal. Duh. I knew that, but I just hadn't wanted to accept it. I asked about an appointment next week, and he informed that he would be out of town. He then delivered the final punch - "You can do it now or you can do it in three weeks, but the result is going to be the same."
So, 45 minutes and several hundred dollars later, I had a dead nerve, a puffy mouth, and a sense of relief that I had acted somewhat like a grown-up and had actually taken care of myself.
I will say, however, that while my fear of dentists and dentistry has not increased over the past few weeks, I am okay if I don't go back to the dentist for a while. A loooonnnnggg while.
That, unfortunately, is not in my future since I have at least two appointments in the next four weeks. Sigh.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spring Break Getaway

Yes, it is officially spring break 2010 and I am back home, sipping French-press coffee this morning, finishing up a bowl of cereal, and ignoring several piles of papers on the kitchen table that I need to get through at some point. "Back home" as of yesterday afternoon, after a wonderful eating and drinking tour of the San Francisco Bay area. Not that it was officially an eating and drinking tour, but it seemed to unfold in such a way. Eating and drinking interspersed with lots of socializing, it was one of the most ideal weekends in the Bay area that we've enjoyed in ages.
In fact, Michael and I haven't been up to the Bay area together in almost two years. We've each been up a few times without the other to visit friends and family or go to a conference or biking clinic, so a trip together was long overdue, in my opinion.
We pushed off early-ish on Friday (but not too early) and headed north to Monterey, our first stop for the weekend. On the drive, we enjoyed the wildflowers which were in full bloom, coloring the hills with bright reds, yellows and purples. It's rained so much this spring that everything is SO green - we definitely took in all of the colors that we could. It was a brief afternoon/evening in Monterey. I used to live in the Monterey area which is a great place to visit but not the best place to live if you are 30-something and single. Still, I'm a bit nostalgic about the area now, and we both love to visit it!
We stopped off at our favorite wine tasting room - Talbotts - and then went to a second tasting at Bernardus. All of the tastings were super fun! These tasting rooms are in Carmel Valley, which is usually a bit sunnier than on the coast of Monterey, but it was a grey, overcast day, even in that part of the peninsula. We spent the evening with some friends and stuffed ourselves at one of my old favorite restaurants, Peppers. After dinner, we slipped into a food-induced coma at the very early hour of 9:00-ish!
Saturday was a VERY busy day, starting in the South bay, heading to the city and finishing up in the East Bay. We stopped off and visited family for brunch (waffles, eggs and bacon), then pushed on to San Francisco where we visited some friends who live smack dab in the city, right by the ubiquitous Alamo Square Park. They don't live in one of the "Painted Ladies", as the row of Victorian houses is known, but they are a block away from the park.
After an afternoon that involved sitting on a stoop and drinking a beer, we pushed off to Berkeley. Most of my trips up to the San Francisco area involve the city with visits to Marin, so it was something new and different to be in Berkeley for the night. We were adventurous with our food choices, eating at an Ethiopian restaurant with some friends of Michael's. I think that it's been well over five years since I've had Ethiopian food. I don't know if I'd eaten REALLY good Ethiopian before, but this place served tasty food, which we destroyed over the course of the evening! We ended the evening back at Damien's place, drinking some wine and playing with their cats.
On Sunday, we drove around different neighborhoods in Berkeley before heading to another neighborhood just north where we would be spending the night some friends who are new home owners. On schedule for the day: A day trip to Napa. It was a great trip, despite torrential rains. We first stopped off at the Oxbow Market in Napa which is a bit like the Ferry Building in San Francisco, except that it's much smaller. The four of us shared a bunch of oysters from the Hog Island Oyster Company (they were SO good!) and then moved on to eat burgers and fries. Michael and I, fortunately, split the burger. After lunch, we ventured on in the rain to explore some wineries, but there were few and far between that were actually open due to the Easter holiday. Still, we enjoyed plenty of wine, and our final stop was "Mumms" where we decided to buy a bottle of champagne (or sparkling wine, since it really isn't champagne from France) rather than do tastings. While we were sipping on the wine/champagne, Michael took a picture of one of the servers who looked sort of like Bernie Madoff (I emphasize "sort of").

After a fun evening that involved more food and a breakfast that consisted of chicken and waffles, Michael and I left the East Bay area around 10:30 am Monday morning. Let me go back to breakfast though...
Chicken and waffles - a combination of which I had heard much but never dared to go there. I was still quite trepidatious about the combination, but it was amazing! And why wouldn't it be? Golden waffles, crispy fried chicken, home-made gravy and high-quality syrup. Michael actually made the decisive order, but I helped him finish them off.
Last stop before we returned to the city for the evening: Marin. We met yet another friend, and headed further west, to Point Reyes Station. It definitely falls in the category of a "quaint little town", overrun with tourists, like us. Still, we enjoyed the block-and-a-half that is the town. We had originally planned a hike somewhere along the coast of Point Reyes, but the Sunday rain and wet ground deterred us. So, we enjoyed a relaxing lunch at Stellina, which was a treat.
After lunch, we headed back to San Francisco and checked into our hotel for the night - we stayed at a surprisingly nice place, the Mark Hopkins. It is right at the top of Nob Hill, and our room was on the 16th floor, so we could appreciate the views when we looked out the window towards the East Bay.
Before heading south yesterday morning, we made one final stop: Dynamo Donuts. This may have been THE reason for the entire trip. For well over a year I had wanted to try a donut from this place after reading about their "Bacon Maple Donut". Yum! It was easy to get on and off the freeway, and the stop did not disappoint at all. Despite my high expectations, it totally exceeded whatever I could have desired. They served VERY good coffee, and we ended up trying three donuts: Chocolate spice (brushed with chipotle dredge!?!), Apricot Cardamon and, of course, the Bacon-Maple donut. Can you tell how excited I am?

And here is the rather incredible bacon donut:

Now that we're back home, it's time to eat like normal people do (no more bacon on a daily basis, that is), spend lots of time with our dogs and grade papers. Ah, back to reality!
Not that it's a depressing place to be. I was just as happy when we returned to our sleepy little town as when we departed on Friday morning. This trip actually felt like a vacation, despite all of the running around, because we really relaxed and didn't spend each day tied to a tight schedule. What a fun time we had!