Archive for September, 2008

And we’re back

In today’s fast-paced world, 10 days out of the country seems like months. In just 10 short days, Paul Newman died, B-list stars Travis Barker and DJ AM were almost killed in a plane crash, and the stock market collapsed. We did manage to catch a replay of the presidential debates while we were gone, and caught up on the groan-worthy Palin/Couric interview once we got home. Heaven help us should that woman ever become president. I digress.

So about our trip. In a word? Awesome. And I mean that as in, it was awe-inspiring and at times, overwhelming even. How can one even comprehend all the greatness that was seen in a trip that included the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, the tombs of Michelangelo and Galileo, the ruins of Pompeii, the Colosseum, and the Roman Forum? I find it hard to imagine what life must have been like in the late 1700’s during the Revolutionary war, let alone 79 A.D. when Mt. Vesuvius erupted and consumed the city of Pompeii. We’re talking a difference of a couple of hundred years versus a couple of thousand years. Mind-boggling.

And because of that, just one blog post dedicated to our trip would surely not do it justice. Instead, I’ll break it up a day or two at a time. And here we go:

Day 1 – Our flight left STL around 4:30 in the afternoon. We had a short layover in Newark before beginning our 8 hour trek overseas. I managed to sleep (uncomfortably) most of the way. My poor husband was only able to sleep for about 2 hours. We had another short layover in Paris that morning. So short, that I didn’t even have time to grab a cappuccino or a souvenir from DeGaulle airport. Our final leg of the flight brought us to Barcelona around 2pm local time. Knowing we would need to exchange cash for Euros, we got in line. But apparently the line for currency exchange is also the line for tax reimbursement for duty free shopping. Or something like that. All I know is we were surrounded by Russians with stacks of receipts, hoping to collect money from the bank window. This slowed the line down considerably, resulting in us finally getting our Euros – at the pitiful exchange rate of about 60% – about an hour later. We hopped a cab and arrived at our hotel around 3:30 pm.

This was our hotel.

Not bad, huh? To the right, just behind that bush on the ground floor was our suite. I’m not sure if we were upgraded, since I didn’t technically book a suite, but here are some images of our room:

The private balcony.

Along with our private hot tub, which we did not use. Wasteful, I know.

View of the courtyard from our balcony.

And a view of La Segrada Familia, also from our balcony. Inside the room, we have the sitting area (not pictured but on the far right)

And also the bedroom.

Behind me on the wall was our second flat screen TV, which would be great, except all the channels are in Spanish. So our two TVs were not used much.

Ah, the bathroom. You can tell a lot about a place by its bathroom.

I know what you’ree thinking. “Is she really going to dedicate the majority of her first post to a hotel room she stayed in for less than 24 hours?” And the answer is, “Yes, I am.” Because if you ever decide to go to Barcelona, especially if you’re staying over prior to boarding a cruise ship, I would highly recommend the Miramar Hotel. It’s close to the port and the views of the city are simply spectacular.

See what I mean?

Excuse the tired eyes. We tried to freshen up as soon as we checked into the room, but sleep deprivation is a difficult thing to hide.

After a quick appetizer of patatas fritas (fried potatoes, or fries) and a glass of wine at the hotel’s outdoor bar overlooking the city, we made our way down to the port via taxi.  

This is the Port De Barcelona building, directly across the street from the Columbus monument.

We wandered around the port area, passing through a large wine tasting event, and eventually stopping at a local restaurant for some dinner. Dinner time in Spain is usually around 9 or 10 pm. I had the popular Spanish dish, paella, which is seafood and Spanish rice. After dinner, we made our way back down the port, but stopped when we noticed a street completely ablaze on our right. I tried to take a picture but it didn’t turn out. Basically, giant sparklers were being set off in the street with crowds well into the hundreds gathering around and drums beating in the background. Then, on the port side, fireworks that would rival any 4th of July display erupted behind us. We stood watching in amazement for about 30 minutes before the festivities – at least the big fireworks display – ceased. The street sparklers had moved one street over and were still going strong. This all happened around 11pm, and yet the streets still looked like this:

It may not look like much here, but I swear there were more people than at Times Square. People were everywhere.

Once we returned to the hotel, I tried to capture the city lights.

It’s hard to make out in this smaller version, but in the larger version you can see the Columbus statue on the left. Beautiful.

After a long two days of travelling and taking in our first sights of Europe, we finally went to bed just before midnight.

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And we’re out

In less than 12 hours, I’ll be in Europe. Bon Voyage!

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Nothing new to report. I’m still flip-flopping between feelings of excitement (for the trip) and feelings of anxiousness (over all the shit I still have to do before we leave). I’ve been updating the list I made in the previous post, so check back there to see my progress.

Actually, now that I think about it, I do want to talk about something. I’ve been really down about my weight lately, especially this last week. Maybe it’s just b/c Aunt Flo is visiting, but sometime about 2 months ago, I noticed I’d gained a couple of pounds. Then a couple turned into 10 even though I was trying to eat better and had been exercising regularly. I’d love to blame it on something like thyroid or slowed metabolism but the truth is, my metabolism has always moved at a snail’s pace, so any slower and I’d be dead. I can only blame myself, though I’m not really sure where I went wrong. I was working out and trying to watch what I eat. I wasn’t a Nazi about it by any means, but I wasn’t doing anything differently and for the last few years I’ve always been about the same weight, give or take two lbs. Now? I’m about 5lbs. away from hitting my “fat days” of college. I’m just frustrated. I wanted to look good for this trip considering this is kind of a once in a lifetime trip for us. I wanted to feel good about the pictures and about myself since I’ll likely be in a bathing suit. And most of all, I wanted it to be romantic. And girls, I know you feel me when I say there’s nothing that makes a woman feel less romantic than feeling unattractive.

I guess 10 lbs. wouldn’t be so bad if I had been happy with my weight before. But I wasn’t. I never have been. I’ve always considered myself about 25 lbs overweight. Now it’s closer to 35 and I feel like all the hard work and good eating I’ve practiced was a complete waste. In June, I went to the gym 14 days out of the month. Same with July. But when I weighed myself in August? I couldn’t believe the scale. I tried eating less, and drinking more water, but the scale hasn’t gone down. Frustrated, I completely gave up the gym. I’ve gone walking or running at the park a couple of times, but I haven’t been to the gym in about a month. I know giving up is not the answer, but when you put so much effort into something only to receive the opposite in results, it’s frustrating. And please spare me the “muscle weighs more than fat” mantra. I know that. But that doesn’t explain why my clothes are tighter and why my thighs now have dimples.

In the last week I’ve had to stand in front of a dressing room twice. And both times, when I looked at myself in the fluorescent lighting, with nothing on but a thong, I wanted to vomit. I’ve never been satisfied with the way I look, but I’ve never felt so dissatisfied that I wanted to cover it all up as quickly as possible.

Something else I noticed? Fewer looks. When I was about 20 lbs lighter than I am now, I used to get hit on all the time. By strangers of course, and not every single day, but usually a couple times per week. I didn’t mind it usually, as long as I wasn’t being harassed. It gave me confidence. I would walk a little taller, stick my boobs out a little more, and go home singing along to the radio.

I haven’t been hit on in more than two months. Not even by truckers while I’m driving down the highway.

Of course my husband still compliments me on a regular basis but I can’t help but feel down about it all. And with the trip just a couple of days away, it seems silly to start a diet right now.

I didn’t really mean to write all of this, but it just kind of, came out. I’m not looking for sympathy comments or advice on how to lose weight. I just want to vent, because for the first time in my entire life, I’m feeling defeated by this whole weight issue. Usually I would just tell myself “work out a little harder and more often, eat a little less, drink a little more water, and you can lose the weight.” I always felt that my ideal weight was within reach if I would just muster up the will power to get myself there. I always felt like I was in control. Now, I feel like my body is totally out of control and I have no idea what to do about it. And if we’re being completely honest here, I don’t want to do anything about it until after the cruise. I never intended to limit myself for this vacation but I also never intended to be this heavy either. I wish they made confidence pills so I could just forget about all of this until we come back home. Then I’ll just start back at square one, counting Weight Watchers points, guzzling bottles of water, and hitting the gym.

Too bad alcoholic beverages cost extra on the ship.

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Four days.

That’s how long I have to:

  1. Pack 10 days worth of outfits and toiletries
  2. Print all of our travel info DONE
  3. Find our boarding passes for the ship (did they send them? do I have to print them from online? I DO NOT KNOW!) Travel agent emailed me and showed me where to print the documents online. We’re all good now.
  4. Get caught up on laundry so I can take care of item #1.
  5. Make a list of people we need to buy souvenirs for so we don’t forget anyone
  6. Find (and pay) a dog sitter. This item alone is nearly causing me to have a conniption.
  7. Arrange for the mail to be held Thank goodness for USPS.com.
  8. Hand off all of my currently-working-and-urgent projects at work
  9. Mail three different birthday presents to relatives
  10. Find transportation to and from the airport
  11. Finish Water for Elephants. DONE
  12. Lose 10 lbs. Who am I kidding?

I still have no idea how I’m going to get all this done, on top of all the things I need to finish at work, but I have a feeling I’m going to need a vacation from all of my vacation planning. Someone bring me a very strong drink. Stat.


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Because it’s Friday and I just love Fridays (both the day, as well was the restaurant), I figured I would take a moment to talk about some of the other things I love, besides my new camera of course. 


I’m about 35 pages from the end of this book. It’s an easy, enjoyable read and if I didn’t have a husband who is greatly annoyed by bedside lamps, I would already be finished with it. It’s not a life changing book or anything (not unless there’s something spectacular in those last 35 pages) but it’s good.

Okay, I realize it’s lame to blog about my love for a cleaning product, but I can not get enough of the bald man. I use the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser on everything! Tile, sink, shower, walls…It’s the only thing that works to get the grout in my kitchen floors cream colored again instead of the brown it usually resembles after a month of shoes and muddy paws walking all over it. Which reminds me, I should probably clean my floors before we take off for vacation. There are few things that annoy me more than coming home to a dirty house.

Though this pic is about two years old, Sam Adams Octoberfest still tops my list of favorite beers. If it wasn’t raining here in the Midwest, we would pick up a case tonight and sit out by the fire pit. Instead, we’ll probably pick up a six-pack and just sit on the couch and watch The Sopranos.

Speaking of…

Not since high school have I ever had the luxury of HBO. We’re basic cable kind of people. Actually, we’re Blockbuster kind of people, which is why I’m now into watching TV shows on DVD. I figured I’d start with The Sopranos to see what all the hype was about a few years ago. And so far, I’m loving it. So is my husband. In fact we nearly got into it last night over this damn show because after watching an episode, we realized the next episode on the disc was actually the season finale for season 2. Oh the suspense! It was almost 11pm and hubby wanted to stay up and watch it. I (aka the voice of reason) said we should go to bed and save it for the next night. Eventually, I won the debate, but it took some convincing.

So tell me, what are you loving today?

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New Camera

Last week I told you I was in the market for a new camera and that I was considering a Canon. Everyone had wonderful things to say about Canon which only reconfirmed my decision to buy one. And buy one I did.

It all started with this PC World article rating the best point and shoot cameras. Rated #1 and also listed as the “best buy,” the Canon Powershot A590 IS had everything I was looking for in a camera. Image stabilization, 8 mega-pixels, 4x optical zoom, and apparently very easy to use. The best part? It was on sale at Best Buy for only $150. Also on sale? 4 G memory cards. Score!

The only downside is that it is a bit clunky in style and is not as sleek looking as some of the Kodak cameras I saw at Best Buy, and really not even as convenient to carry as my Nikon, but I’d rather have a great looking photo than a great looking camera.

I took my new toy out for a test drive last night after work. We grabbed the dog and headed to a lake near our house. My first subject? Ducks in the sunshine.

Next I found a quiet cove at the corner of the lake.

By the time I took this next shot, it was getting quite dark and the moon was shining brightly.

You can barely make out the outline of the two fisherman.

As we finally neared the car, I stopped, turned around, and captured these last few fleeting moments of sunlight on the lake. 

So far, I’m pretty happy with my purchase. I need to do a bit more reading and familiarizing myself with my new gadget before it becomes my new BFF on our trip to Europe, but I think it’s safe to say that old Mr. Nikon will be sitting this vacation out.

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Just a note to say…

My husband is being very romantic these last couple of days, and I don’t think it’s just because of our mini-anniversary. If we weren’t already married, I’d think he was about to propose.

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Four Years

Yesterday marked four years since the day I met my husband. For those that don’t know the story, we met on the basketball court of our old apartment complex. Just two strangers who happened to live in the same complex, striking up a conversation late one September evening. Who knew such an innocent conversation could turn into something so wonderful?

A couple of days later, I had promised some work friends that I would go to a town festival in Illinois, so I invited him along. This is the first picture I ever took of the two of us – with my camera phone.

Note the crappy quality. Thank goodness technology has improved since then. Also note my hat, which I thought was very trendy and cute at the time, but my husband told me – months later, of course – that he greatly disliked my hat. Whatever. He still married me.

So four years. Looking back, and realizing it hasn’t been a very long time in the grand scheme of things, I’m still amazed at how much life has changed for us, but in a good way. Two apartments, two cars, a house, a wedding, and a dog later…and here we are, happy as clams. (side note: are clams really happy? Has anyone ever asked a clam? Then how do they know? Moving on…)

With all of the trips and money burning we’ve been doing lately, we decided to keep the celebration simple. No cards, no presents, though I did come home to find three gorgeous roses in a vase on the kitchen counter. Just dinner at our favorite restaurant (Longhorn), a stop by Blockbuster (Sopranos, season 2), and a relaxing evening on the couch. It doesn’t get much better than that.

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Two Weeks

Exactly two weeks from today, my husband and I will embark on our first overseas adventure. For those who haven’t stared at my itinerary like I have for weeks now, I’ll tell you that we’re flying into Barcelona, then boarding a cruise ship that will take us to Malta, Naples, Rome, Florence, and Nice, France and back to Barcelona. See map:

But before we go, I need to do some serious shopping, and I could use help and/or suggestions. So far, my list includes:

For the cruise:

  • Comfortable dresses. Since the temps will likely be in the mid-to-high 80’s, I’d like to wear something cool, but still appear dressy enough that I don’t want to throw my camera into the ocean after seeing myself as a walking, sweaty mess. Dresses – especially cotton summer dresses – have a nice way of making one look effortlessly pleasant.  Any good sales on summer dresses going on right now?
  • Comfortable shoes/sandals to go with said dresses. If possible, I’d like to stay away from heels entirely.
  • A new camera. My current camera has a bad nighttime habit of flashing 10 times before taking the damn picture. And if you move even a millimeter, the picture comes out all blurry. So I’d like to find a camera that takes good night shots. I’m leaning toward a Canon but suggestions welcome.
  • Also, any advice on how to avoid motion sickness on a cruise ship? I take Dramamine for plane rides occasionally, but is there something different I should do for cruises?

For the plane ride:

  • Neck pillow
  • A good book. I started reading “Water for Elephants” last weekend on the plane ride to/from New York. Now I’m more than halfway through it and will likely finish it before the trip. So any suggestions on books that would be great to read while touring places, like Italy and Spain, would be much appreciated. Part of me wants to just re-read the first third of “Eat Pray Love”, the part where she’s experiencing Italy. Or maybe the “DaVinci Code” and read about Rome. Any others?
  • Will also be digging out the portable DVD player and making sure our iPods are charged to the max.

Any other suggestions on things to take or tips to keep in mind while on a cruise or visiting Europe? We’re complete newbies – both to Europe and to cruises – so advice is definitely welcome here.

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I notice it every year. September never fails to produce the undeniable scent of cool morning dew and fading oak leaves. It’s the smell that reminds me of nylon backpacks and freshly sharpened pencils; of shaded bus stops and squeaky school bus gear shifts; of a new pair of sneakers and a couple of crumpled dollars shoved in my pants pocket for lunch money.

That smell reminds me of so many fond memories that it’s hard to associate it with just one. Year after year I started school with equal amounts anticipation and excitement. So thrilled to see my friends after a long,  hot summer. So anxious to see how the summer changed last year’s crush, and contemplating the likelihood of needing to scope out new crush prospects. So eager to meet my new teachers and listen to what they have planned for us throughout the year. Did I mention I was a bit of a nerd?

I remember spending one late summer afternoon at a friend’s house, decorating our folders with markers and stickers for our various classes. Science classes always had green folders. English was usually orange or yellow, and History was typically blue. Hey, we may be nerds, but we were colorful, expressive, and organized nerds.

I was one of the lucky ones. Though I moved houses a couple of times, I was fortunate enough to be able to stay in the same school district, only changing schools when I made the leap from elementary school to junior high and junior high to high school. I knew just about everyone in my graduating class of 250 students and though I was never one of the popular kids, I was never teased by those that knew me growing up. I have to say, high school was pretty darn good to me.

I thought about all of this on the way to work today. I couldn’t help it. That smell just has a power over me, making me reminiscent of my school days, and for a split second, I admitted to missing those times and a feeling of loss swept over me. It’s been nearly 10 years since my last first day (college doesn’t count). But as I turned the corner from the elevators and flipped on the lights to my office, I could smell the scent of coffee wafting from the end of the hall. I always considered coffee a very adult smell, and it immediately brought me back to the present, the now. I powered on my computer and glanced down at my black peep toe pumps as I slid my chair closer to my desk, ready to start the day.

Except I couldn’t help but notice…The desks sure have gotten a lot bigger since my high school days, and the notebooks and pencils are a lot fancier. And a smile grew across my face as I thought about how impressed my high school self would be with my adult self. Looking around at the pictures on the walls and the award on the shelf, a yoga mat in the corner and heels on my feet…yeah she sure would be impressed alright.

If only she knew how often I fight the urge to draw in bubble letters on my manila folders.

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