Monday, January 24, 2011

A serious lack of motivation...

What a Monday!
I had high hopes for the day, not just including some alliteration, but this afternoon, I've felt as though a vacuum sucked away whatever energy I might have had, so here I am, totally enervated*. I do blame this major lack of energy on the pile of exams that surround me and through which I've started to wade. They are like mushrooms after rain - just springing up like that.
Oh, wait, my students took their mid-term exams today. So THAT'S why I have exams to grade.
Seriously, I can't complain (my max class size this year is 16), but after a few days of zero work about which I boasted shamelessly, I now feel as though I've been kicked in the head.
And so, after initially planning a bike ride, then down-sizing that to a run and a swim, I ended up either sitting on the sofa or at the table for much of the afternoon, contemplating a nap. I am happy to report that I resisted that temptation with a great effort, but I might have to take a break in an half hour (after this current break) and watch an episode of "Law and Order". There must be one on TV right now!
I promise whole-heartedly to go for a run tomorrow. Promise, promise, promise. And I didn't cross my fingers or toes when I wrote that.

*To enervate - One of my favorite words, although I think I like it because many people confuse it with "to energize" and use it incorrectly. Thus, I feel smart and smug and petty for my correct usage.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Blissful birthday!

I realize that it is completely self-indulgent to admit how much I enjoy my birthday, but this IS a blog about my life, so how much more self-indulgent can I get? At least I don't update my facebook status every hour with some inane detail about my life! Also, how often does a birthday fall on a Saturday? I just calculated and realized that the next time I have a Saturday birthday, I will be into my FIFTIES. Thanks, Leap Year - you suck.
But never mind the future. I fully enjoyed the big day, and there were celebrations leading up to it and then on the day itself, and I may highjack the yosemite getaway next weekend as an extension of my birthday. Did I mention the term "self-indulgent"?
The San Francisco trip jump-started the celebration with lunch with a friend who gave me an awesome present (a blank book and stationery - she knows me well). Then, as the week wore on, my mood turned blasé about my birthday and I verged on grumpiness. How could the celebration be better than last year's? And how could I deny the fact that I was inching closer and closer to the big FOUR-ZERO (not yet, not yet!).
On Friday, I tutored students, got my ass kicked in PT, and then got down to business with this birthday business. A cupcake was eaten, and some Carnitas and Al Pastor tacos and margaritas disappeared. Michael and I met up with a friend from work at Malo's, a too-hip for us cantina. We used to frequent Malo's FAR too often, but we hadn't been there for well over a year. Their chips and salsa, tacos and margaritas still pack a punch and satisfy those deep cravings for salt, grease and tequila. Yum!
Saturday was filled with loads of ME time - a quick-paced (for me) 10k run followed by a pedicure. For dinner, Michael and I once again ventured out of the Pleansantville 'bubble' where we live, heading to the super chic, cool and pricey side of West LA in the form of Comme Ca, a French brasserie. We hung out in the bar, enjoying drinks and splitting a few appetizers there. The drinks were GREAT! I started out with the "Honey Bee", a rum and honey drink that was surprisingly smooth and not too sweet at all. We then transitioned to red wine, each of us ordering a glass of wine from Chinon, which reminded of us our trip to the Loire this past summer. Ah, food, wine and memories! As for the food, it was excellent. A scallops dish and salmon tartar were definite stand-outs. It was an early night out for us, as we returned home to cupcakes and ice cream, but we both agreed that we must plan a return to Comme Ca!
One final note about the birthday weekend - for the first time since September I had NOTHING that I *had* to do in terms of work. No papers to grade, homework to check, classes to plan, quizzes/tests to write... Through some serendipitous turn of events, the gods smiled upon me and this was the weekend before the language final exam. So, there was nothing to prepare for Monday- the tests are written, copied and ready to be distributed and taken. I will have piles to sift through starting tomorrow morning (right around 10:30), but what a blissful weekend!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

24 Hours in San Francisco

So, those 24 hours now seem like ages ago, especially considering the brutal reality to which I have returned. Wasn't I gloating earlier about how wonderful January would be? Well, it is and it isn't. Somehow, seniors have started to behave as though they were entrenched in the second semester when that is FAR from being the case.
But as to our brief interlude in San Fran - it was less than a week that we blissfully indulged and celebrated in that fair city, so I can't complain. A friend's 39th surprise birthday party prompted the trip and celebration. I must confess that I was skeptical that her husband would pull it off, but he did! The theme was "American Idol" with the "American" changed to her name. He reserved the bar at Yoshi's, a jazz club and Japanese restaurant in J-town. She was very surprised, and many people from different parts of her life were there - and from different places too!

Obviously celebrating her birthday was the highlight of the evening, but I must admit that the fact that Public Enemy was playing AT Yoshi's made the evening that much more entertaining and amusing. We did not see the concert, but the crowd was an interesting assortment of characters. The middle-aged white guy with dreadlocks down to his ankles comes to mind! (A side note: I absolutely HATE the white people with dreadlocks phenomena - it doesn't look good on anyone!) I did not muscle or elbow my way into the concert area, which was very separate from the upstairs bar, but Michael and a few other people pleaded with the bouncers to let them just get a glimpse of Public Enemy. They were all very happy to report that Flava Flav still rocks the big-clock-on-a-chain look. Those guys must be SO old!
Here they are in their better days:

We ended the evening with a glass of wine at our hotel, happy that we were there together rather than hanging out at a hotel bar with work colleagues or something even more morose on a Saturday evening. The hotel experience was a nice change from the Motel 6, our most recent 'lodging' of choice during our road trip. The bed was crazy comfortable, the view looked on the Bay, and I swam for about 35 minutes alone in a lovely pool. What could be better?
On Sunday, we met a friend of mine and her boyfriend for brunch at a small café/bistro in a part of the city that we didn't know existed - South Park, which has nothing to do with the more famous "South Park". After a brunch over crepes, eggs and great conversation, we stopped by Bloomingdale's. I tend to shy away from Bloomie's because I don't feel that I'm that fancy, but I had a gift card that I needed to spend and I was shopping for dressy black shoes which I found. Total score.
Our final stop in the city was in the Marina district - we had read about the Wave Organ, a funky and cool "must-see". The "Wave Organ" itself did not impress us, but the walk there and the views of the Bay were very satisfying.

We also saw the Farmers Insurance Zeppelin, which we found funny and mildly significant, seeing as how we'd never seen it before in our lives until a few weeks ago when it was parked over the Rose Bowl, and then there it was in San Francisco! And, yes, it was the same one since it is only one of three zeppelins in the world. I would like to interpret it as a sign, but I hesitate to search for deeper meanings in what is probably just a random but cool coincidence. Who knows though - maybe we are to ride in it one day?!
It was hard to return to LA and back to reality. I always feel that way after weekend trips, but it is particularly acute after a trip to San Francisco. Obviously we don't have to deal with the day-in and day-out living in such an urban city, but there is so much to love about San Francisco. It might always be the city of my dreams.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Oh, January, how do I love thee?

Let me count the ways...
I do feel that I should be less gleeful about the month of January, but after the initial and totally BRUTAL re-entry to school/work, we then have to endure MLK weekend which is quite the gift. A three-day weekend that follows so closely on Christmas and New Year's heels? Oh, please, torture me some more! And then, while our students endure mid-term exams, the teachers celebrate and enjoy what is truly the best time of the year - mid-term week. Actually, some teachers also enjoy finals week, but I don't have that luxury because I will have to accompany the twelfth grade class on their senior trip, a final farewell to their high school experience.
But back to mid-terms week which will officially start on Wednesday... That's right, Tuesday is the ONLY full day of class for the next two weeks. Bliss, oh bliss! Yes, I will have to proctor an exam a day, sitting in a room for two hours, making sure (on occasion) that students are not cheating, and then I will have to grade through a pile of exams. BUT, I will have much freedom to go to the horse races, eat lunch or brunch with friends, get a pedicure, go to the gym, take a nice, long bike ride, prepare for a trip to Yosemite.... Life will be good!
And in the meantime, I will pack tonight (quickly) for San Francisco! Michael and I depart tomorrow and return on Monday. A good friend will be turning 39, so her husband is throwing a surprise party THIS year rather than next year since that would have been too obvious. Unlike our last trip to NoCal/SF Bay area, we will be unaccompanied by our dogs. As much as I love to travel with them, it is a bit like traveling with children. So, we will be free to go out to bars and to stay in a fancy-schmancy (for us) hotel! After the lovely Motel 6 stays with our dogs, almost anything is fancy, but this place LOOKS like it really is nice. Michael and I slum it pretty regularly, and I don't mind staying in cheaper places. However, I also love a nice hotel experience, so this WILL be a total TREAT!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Week two of 2011 already?

I suppose that I feel more or less fully 'entrenched', for lack of a better word, in the new year by now. I finally looked at my list of "things to do in 2010" and realized that I flopped at most if not all of them. I did start to run again and even 'raced' a few 10k's - not sure if my experience really qualifies as racing, although I did try to run fast at the end of each race. Also, I baked my first cake in 38 years totally by scratch, icing and all. But the other lofty goals, hopes, plans? All for naught.
So, this year, is it cynical to declare that I have zero goals or resolutions for the new year? Well, it's a bit of a blatant and outright lie since I have signed up for several races, running and otherwise. Also, I have to submit goals for work - in order to be evaluated - so that is a task that I cannot eschew.
I suppose, then, that I will list a few hopes, wishes and plans:
- Continue to run and to bake. I would state further running goals/hopes/expectations, but considering that my knee has (again) been a bit off, I'll hold off on those. As for the baking, I want to try my hand at bread. REAL bread, that is.

- Understand my bicycle a bit better; take a class and learn how to change a tire and figure out how the bicycle really works.

- Go on a multi-day backpacking trip; nothing too crazy, but at least 3-4 nights in the wilderness so that I can enjoy beautiful places like Pear Lake in the Sierra:

If this seems like a lean list, I have plenty of ideas and even some plans with true foundations already laid. Work-wise, there will be shifts and even major changes in the next 9 months. More about that later, like in a few months.

In the meantime, it has been quite the day - we had a feral cat stuck under the house, making horrible sounds. And, at school, I asked some students who were outside my office playing and singing an "original song" to sing elsewhere. What is this? I don't work at the "Glee" school! I don't even watch Glee!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A new addition to the household

At the moment, I don't feel like I'm doing much of anything that can be called "adventure" so here is to the quotidian! After the trip to Colorado, we've hunkered down for the 'winter'. Oh, wait, we are headed out of town for 2 out of 4 upcoming weekends - excitement!
Back to the hunkering down idea, however. January of course is filled with new resolutions, well-meaning hopes to transform one's life. Our major household change is a bit transformational.
And what would that change be?
Well, we did re-arrange the dining/sitting area, but that flopped, so we went back to the original scheme.
The other change - ta-da: CABLE TV.
That is right. We caved. This could be an auspicious or inauspicious beginning to the year or some omen about our marriage. We no longer want to hold hands and talk over candle light and NPR. Over the holiday break, Michael called me the perfect girlfriend (not wife) as we sat in a Motel 6 (we were on the road and they let pets stay), eating pizza, drinking beer and watching an NFL game. I've decided to fulfill the role of 'perfect girlfriend' as much as possible this year.
Okay, we won't indulge in too much beer and pizza, but we did totally give in to cable because of sports. It sounds lame even to me, but I actually love to follow sports. Usually, I read the sports sections of various media outlets, so I know when to be properly outraged over the NCAA's unfair treatment of teams (Go Boise State! Boooo Ohio State!). I dutifully followed Rafael Nadal, one of my favorite players for years, reading up article after article about him. Now, I can actually WATCH all of this stuff! My only regret is that we did not get cable last year for the Olympics and the World Cup. Instead, I spent hours upon hours at the gym, watching TV there and wishing that I could compete in the biathlon.
As I wax poetic about sports and cable, I will also say that it is so strange to have cable in our house. We were pretty adamant for years about not having cable, partly because there are tons of channels with nothing of interest to actually see/watch, kind of like eating junk food. I continue to adhere to this notion, seeing that we had cable installed on Tuesday and, with the exception of a few minutes of the end of the Daily Show, we haven't even watched it, turning to Netflix instead.
I am also wary of cable because I happen to *LOVE* the original and now-defunct "Law and Order" series. Lame, I know. The danger of this show is that one can almost always find a "Law and Order" marathon at any time of any day. So, I could probably spend endless hours watching old episodes of "Law and Order".
To combat this weakness of mine, I have decided that I will refrain from learning how to work the cable box and remote control. It will be this "THING" that exists but does not contaminate my nice little NPR-world. Almost as if I've put my fingers in my ears and I'm saying la-la-la-la so that I can drone out the annoying noise that someone else is making.
Until, of course, I do find that "Law and Order" marathon or March Madness begins!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Farewell to old trends!

So, I'm a day late (or two days late) and definitely a dollar or so short, but I have a brief list of items, trends, ideas, people that I will not miss in 2011. While they still may present themselves far too often for my liking, I will personal scratch them off my 'acceptable' list.
For starters, I'm totally over and done with the tight/skinny jeans or leggings tucked into boots look. Part of my issue, I know, is that I see multitudes of female students who are all dressed THE SAME WAY. For the past months, people (students) have thrust that look upon me at least twenty times per day. While I am aware that there are worse fashion trends, like the cropped top + low rider pants which meant that I could see every female students' thong, a look that was prevalent a few years ago, it's the pervasiveness of the "look" that has exhausted me. I am definitely suffering from "boot + pant" fatigue.
Moving on... I wish that I were responsible for this tirade against the expression "Just sayin'" but that honor goes to Scott Simon of NPR (of Saturday morning's "Weekend Edition" fame). I loved his twist on famous quotes with "just sayin'" added to them. So, yes, I think that I can do without that expression for a lifetime.
In terms of people, the list is too long to enumerate, but I will say that Kei$ha, Brett Favre and Sarah Palin top the list of people who, if I had my way, would be sucked into a black hole and disappear forever. Is that totally unfair that I lumped Kei$ha in with Favre and Palin?
Finally, I can't say how happy I am that it is a non-election year. By the first of November, I definitely suffered from election/politics/news fatigue.
Oh, I can't wait until the Iowa caucuses get goin' in just a few months' time as we gear up in 2011 for 2012!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A typical new year's post

So, it IS 2011 Common Era. We brought in the new year/ended the old year by going to a cheesy but fun Italian restaurant (no, NOT the "Olive Garden") with another couple. We aren't great friends with them, but it was a very social and fun night. Especially considering that we drank a magnum of good cabernet with dinner. Once we returned home - at the very late hour of 9:45 or so - Michael and I finished the evening toasting each other over French 75's and listening to Louis Armstrong. We probably fell asleep around 10:30. Ah well!
For our very exciting new year's day, I made blueberry pancakes which were damn good, and we then followed them with popcorn and Diet Coke while watching True Grit. Michael now suspects that I have something for Jeff Bridges since the last movie we saw in the theatre was "Crazy Heart". Obviously we don't get out enough! Anyway, back to "True Grit". I am a predictable sucker for the Coen Brothers' movies, and this was no exception (last year's "A Serious Man" WAS an exception, however). It ranks up there with "Miller's Crossing" and "No Country for Old Men" in my book!
As we drove home, this huge thing was hovering over the Rose Bowl:

It's a ZEPPELIN! It's in the area for the Rose Bowl, which is/was today. If that doesn't augur for a good year, then I don't know what does.