Archive for June, 2012

Something about the onset of summer kicks my butt into healthy overdrive.  The brightly colored produce popping up in the markets makes me rethink my eating habits, the arrival of tank top weather makes me hyper-aware of my less-than-toned upper arms, and the sunshiny evenings leave me without an excuse to spend my weeknights curled up cozily on the couch.  So here I am, squirming uncomfortably in my too-tight skinny jeans, bound and determined to shape up.  I’ve activated my subscription to Barre3’s library of online videos, I’m logging more miles than usual on the old running shoes, and, Lord help me, I’m cutting back on my most favorite food group:  sugar.  Oooooh, how it pains me to put that last one on the list.  Because I don’t just have a sweet tooth, I have sweet teeth.  I crave it all – cookies, chocolate, ice cream, pastries, candy, sugar, sugar, SUGAR…I’m strung out, folks.  So like an addict truly committed to recovery, I told myself last week that I was going to cut it all out.  No mas.  Cold turkey.  That resolution ended up lasting all of eight minutes, because first, who am I kidding?  And second, do I really want to live a life riddled with so much self-denial?  I’ve adjusted my goals a bit and have settled on a couple of rules that feel achievable.

1) Quality over quantity*.  Cut out the high fructose corn syrup and the nutritionally empty sugar fixes.  I dug through our snack cupboard and threw away a box of Red Vines and a bag of Skittles yesterday.  It felt like such a shame to waste all those beautiful flavors of the rainbow, but if I’m going to stick with this, it had to be done.

*Birthdays, anniversaries, and major U.S. holidays may be occasions for both quality and quantity.

2) Fruit first.  If I’m craving something sweet, I eat an apple or a handful of berries.  If that doesn’t cut it, by all means, I can indulge in a good piece of chocolate or a scoop of ice cream, guilt-free.

I’m one week into this little experiment and feeling pretty good – those first couple of days of detox were pretty rough (picture me rummaging through my desk drawer during my usual post-lunch sweets craving, praying that there was a stray Starburst or an old Snickers bar tucked away in the recesses of my cabinet), but my cravings are gradually lessening and I’m hoping my energy levels will increase as I stick with this.  Besides, who needs all the flavors of the Skittles rainbow when red comes in so many juicy hues?

It’s a long drive to and from La Pine, Oregon, but after a fun-packed weekend like this one, we are reminded that it’s certainly a trip worth taking.  We rolled up to my mom and dad’s house late Thursday night and quickly fell into bed, weary from more than seven hours on the road, but looking forward to a couple of solid days of family time, relaxation, and life in the great outdoors.

Our hopes for this little getaway were met on all counts, starting with a leisurely jog through La Pine State Park on Friday morning.  It felt good to be so far removed from the city for awhile, to hear the whoosh of the wind through the treetops and breathe in the cool, fresh air.  It felt equally good to hole up indoors for the afternoon, reading and dozing and playing Uno and ping-pong while the rain fell outside.  This is the stuff of a perfect day off.

We had reservations on Friday evening for dinner at the Cowboy Dinner Tree – a super-rustic, super-charming little restaurant known for their home-cooked, family-style meals.  We made the drive waaaaay out there (seriously, this place is rural) and were seated in the cozy dining room, where horse saddles line the walls and the mis-matched tablewear reminds you of something from your grandmother’s kitchen.  We started off with a big bowl of salad and quart-size mason jars of lemonade, and things quickly spiraled out of control from there.  A tray full of dinner rolls, a pot of beef barley soup, and then, as if we weren’t already well on our way to being stuffed, the main course of chicken or steak (they keep their menu simple).  And they aren’t messing around – when you say chicken, you end up with an entire roasted bird on your plate, paired with a huge baked potato.  Ask for steak, and you’ll be given a juicy 30-ounce hunk of meat.  Follow that with triple-berry shortcake for dessert and pray that you’ve worn your pants with the elastic waistband, ’cause you’ll be leaving there with a couple of extra pounds in your belly…  And enough leftovers for lunch and dinner the next day.

The sun did us a huge favor and broke through the clouds as we headed back to La Pine, bathing the brush-covered plains in a warm, beautiful glow.  This is indeed the Oregon Outback – wide-open, kind of scrubby, and (it seems) relatively unchanged from when the first settlers made their way here over one hundred years ago.

We awoke on Saturday to the sound of raindrops on the roof and I feared our plans for a little fishing escapade would be foiled.  But that fickle high desert weather did us another kudos and by 10:00 we were standing in the sun at the edge of Twin Lake, rods in hand.  The fish weren’t biting at the lake, so we packed up after a couple of hours and decided to try our luck on the grassy banks of the Deschutes River.  This proved equally unfruitful and we ended up heading home empty-handed, but the morning wasn’t a total loss – it was a lot of fun to share in one of my dad’s favorite hobbies.  He gave me my first-ever fly-fishing lesson, showed me how to use a worm blower (equally useful and disgusting!), and reminisced with me about the first fish I ever caught when I just a wee five year-old.  It was one of those mornings that the credit card commercials would have deemed “priceless”.

We ate lunch and freshened up back at the house, then drove up to Bend to do some bumming around the “big city”.  We shopped a little, did some beer tasting at the Deschutes Brewery, indulged in nachos and fried zucchini at the Bend Brewing Company, and then walked along the banks of the lazy river where it runs through town.  We wound our back to the car through the booth-lined streets of the “Bite of Bend” fair – I wish I’d saved room for the barbecue and tacos and dumplings being served by the vendors.  I was full stuffed with our pub fare, until I saw the giant helpings of marionberry shortcake topped with whipped cream.  Suddenly, my appetite had returned!

We made one final stop before calling it a day, detouring to the Paulina Peak lookout to take in more of those gorgeous cloudy evening skies.  I like city-living, but life among the pine trees certainly has its merits.

A pancake breakfast this morning, a few more snuggles with Bernie, and then it was time to hit the long dusty trail back to Seattle.  I think I say this every time we visit La Pine, but that may have been the best weekend we’ve ever spent there, as it was such a perfect mix of sight-seeing and resting and quality family time.  Thanks, Mom and Dad (and Bernie)!  It’s been real.

We’ve got a full tank of gas, Florence + the Machine piping through the speakers, a back seat full of snacks, and we are officially on the road! We’ll be spending the next couple of days with my parents at their home in Central Oregon, and sweet lord of vacations, I’m ready for this little getaway. My weekend to-do list, which usually consists of things like yardwork and laundry, has been appropriately modified for the occasion and now looks like this:

– Snuggle up with Bernie, my mom and dad’s super-lovable Australian Shepherd.
– Challenge Shane to a ping-pong face-off and resist my usual urge to pout like a brat when he kicks my butt (although I may get some post-defeat satisfaction in seeing my dad open up his can of whoop-ass on my husband when the two of them go head to head).
– Dig into my stack of library books. I’ve got Life of Pi all queued up and ready to go.
– Catch a fish (and maybe it’s time I bait my own hook?).
– Drink my morning cup of mint tea with my mom while we engage in some solid heart-to-heart, face-to-face catching up.
– Rest, chill, relax, and veg. Repeat as desired.

Happy (early) weekend, friends!


Well, well – look who came to visit!

Yep, the Giants are in town and it’s been an action-packed weekend, starting on a Friday night spent with Jack and La Verne at Safeco Field.  We entered the park with the throngs of other fans clad in orange in black, stalked Buster Posey for a few minutes, and then settled into our seats with a beer and a couple of bratwursts.  It was grand.

Oh, and guess who hit an upper-deck home run at his very first at-bat?  Just sayin’…

The Giants were up by two in the sixth and things were going swimmingly until Jack started to feel not-so-good.  Not-so-good quickly escalated to almost passing out, and within a few minutes he was put into an ambulance, all of us fearing that the bleeding ulcer that knocked him down three years ago had returned.  The ER doctor confirmed that was the case, and so Jack has spent the entire weekend under close watch at the hospital.  Thankfully, he’s feeling better and should be back at home tomorrow, but it certainly wasn’t how we’d hoped the evening would end…  (Jack, this is me kindly asking you to take your medicine!)

Saturday started early as our c-group gathered at Quest to kick off our first (annual?) Denim Dash 5k.  Our church gives each small group $200 every year and challenges us to bless our communities, and we decided to use our funds to make t-shirts and host a 5k race, with the intention of raising money and support for the Bridge Care Center, a homeless support center that was founded by Quest a couple of years ago.  We would take whatever money we made and use it to buy jeans, as the Bridge is always in need of clothing donations.  Thus, the idea for the Bridge to Bridge Denim Dash 5k was born, and we spent several weeks working out the details, mapping the route, and soliciting sign-ups.  We had our qualms about how many people would actually show up on that gray Saturday morning, but by 9:00, over 75 adults and kids had gathered to support our cause.  Shane led everyone to the starting line, and they were off!

Brian dressed in his finest, wanting to be extra-certain that no one missed the turn-around point.  Well done, bud.

This photo makes me laugh out loud – slow down, J!  Little Zebo is looking exceptionally wind-blown…

Women who can run while simultaneously pushing a stroller and giving a thumbs-up should get a medal.

Our smiles are indicative of our relief over how well it went!

The event was a complete success – the rain stayed away, everyone had a great time, and we more than tripled our money, meaning that we’ll be able to stock the Bridge with a pretty hefty supply of jeans!  This may be the first of many more Denim Dashes to come…

Shane and I were both beat by the time we got home, so we spent the afternoon vegging out and taking a pretty epic nap.  We listened to the Giants game on the radio in the evening and felt compelled to get out and enjoy the sunset as Dave Flemming and Jon Miller raved from Safeco Field about how beautiful the sky was.  We jetted over to Beacon Hill just in time to see the sun fall behind Seattle’s skyline, feeling thankful for a day full of so much activity and so much relaxation.

Today was yet another baseball-centric day – the sunshiny weather forecast looked like it was going to hold, so drove back over to Safeco in the morning to buy tickets for the afternoon game.  Shane scored a couple of cheap seats on the upper deck, and we were left with just enough time to make it to the Capitol Hill Farmer’s Market for lunch at Kedai Makan.  We thought last week’s fare from this Malaysian food stand was good, but this week proved to be even better – braised pork over noodles and curry chicken over rice?  Yes, please!

We headed back over to Safeco and spent awhile watching MadBum warm up in the bullpen – he was lookin’ good!  Our hopes were high.

But dang it, the Giants just couldn’t pull this one out.  Unfortunately, all-star pitching won’t get you very far if the rest of the team can’t knock in some runs.  The Mariners walked away with the win, and we walked away with our shoulders slumped in defeat.  I told Shane I was disappointed that this was the last time we’d see our team play this year.  He reminded me that we’d be making a trip down to San Francisco when the Giants make the play-offs.  His optimism is so endearing…

We ended the weekend with a trip to the hospital to see Jack, grateful that he’s on the mend and has the support of a woman as strong and caring as La Verne.  I know this has been an incredibly trying weekend for both of them, but they were full of smiles and jokes when we walked into his room – their positivity is so, so admirable.  Now let’s hope the Giants have at least a bit of Jack’s resilient spirit – clearly our friend doesn’t need the stress of any more losses!

Contrary to what our Sunday afternoon nap schedule might tell you, Shane and I are a pretty active couple – we try really hard to stay fit and exercise several times a week.  And since we enjoy each other’s company so much (six years and going strong!), I’ve been looking for a way for us to work out together.  Finding common ground in the athletic arena has been tricky – Shane bails after about seven seconds of Warrior 1, so my yoga and Barre3 videos are of no interest to him, but he runs like a madman, so his slow and steady jog is my all-out, Cujo-nipping-at-my-heels kind of pace (after my last blue-in-the-face attempt to keep up with him, I decided we would not run together again unless I had a pair of rollerblades strapped to my feet or he had a 25-pound sack of flour strapped to his back).  I don’t really like biking, and he loves a Saturday morning 20-mile cruise around Mercer Island.  It seemed exercise was just one of those things we’d have to do separately, until he registered for the Seafair Triathlon and undertook the burden of learning how to swim.  He signed up for lessons at the public pool and joined my gym so that he could practice there.  I was on the swim team when I was a kid and hadn’t really done a lap since, but I offered to tag along and cheer him on.  And Holy Speedo!  I love being back in the pool! We’ve been swimming together a couple times a week, and I’m feeling great, enjoying the progress I’ve seen both of us make in just a few short weeks.  We’ve added a pool workout to our new Sunday routine, right between church and a visit to the amazing Malaysian foot cart at the Broadway Farmer’s Market (more on that in another post), and we felt so proud of ourselves today when we finished our longest distance to-date.  He’ll still go off and run his seven and a half minute miles, and I’ll still hold that Sun God pose ’till my legs shake, but the pool?  That’s our territory.

We booked a Sunday evening flight back to Seattle so that we’d have time to catch the 1:05 Giants vs. Cubs game in the city.  As we crossed the Bay Bridge, with KNBR piping over the radio and the sun shining overhead, my excitement mounted by the minute – I love me an afternoon at the ballpark.

We arrived in San Francisco a couple hours before the game so that we’d have time to catch up with my college roommate, Brieanne, and her darling little baby E.  And good heavens, that girl’s a heart-stealer – she sat contentedly in my lap while we chatted and was so easily coaxed into flashing us her winning smile.

As is usually the case with the wee little babes, she seemed to think Shane was the bee’s knees (no surprise there!).

Game time eventually rolled around and we said our goodbyes to B and E at the gates of AT&T.

We grabbed a beer and a couple of dogs, found our seats, and settled in for an afternoon with Barry, Buster, and the Boch.  And it was glorious – our seats behind home plate offered a perfect view of the bay, the sun shone like nobody’s business, and Barry Zito pitched like a champ.  It was one of those “absolutely no place else I’d rather be” kind of afternoons.  I might have even turned to Shane at one point and exclaimed, “This is even better than Paris!” – must have been the Blue Moon talking.

The game ended early (our boys weren’t messing around that day) and we had received a notification that our 6:30 flight had been delayed by a couple of hours, so we took advantage of the extra time and drove over to the Mission for a bite at Pizzeria Delfina.  I oohed and ahhed over the grilled asparagus and the pizza margherita while we sat at our little sidewalk table.  Shane and I tried to imagine ourselves living in this uber-trendy neighborhood and decided we’re not hip enough, but it was fun to dream…

Pizza craving satisfied, we walked over to Dolores Park to catch the last of day’s rays.  The lawn was absolutely packed; Shane and I grabbed a little patch of grass for ourselves and settled in for some the best people-watching we’ve ever done.  We saw hula-hoopers, soccer players, musicians, girls with bleached blonde hair and Louis Vuitton purses, girls with dreadlocks and oversized hoodies, people drinking champagne out of little plastic cups while playing fetch with their dogs, and it seemed that nearly everyone was smiling.  It was one big San Francisco happy-fest. And I was thrilled to be in on the action.

We headed to the airport as the sun went down, only to find that our flight had been further delayed – it proved to be a much longer trip back to Seattle than we’d hoped.  But eventually we made it to home sweet home, thankful for that otherwise perfect day in Frisco sweet Frisco.

Friday was devoted to preparing for Amanda and Josh’s big day – we had decorations to finish, tables to dress, and a rehearsal to get through. But before getting down to the nitty-gritty wedding prep, the ladies met at the salon in the morning to get our feet ready for our cute peep-toe shoes and strappy sandals. One hour later, we walked out with shiny pink toenails and matching freshly-pampered grins on our faces.

From there, we headed up to Modesto to set up the hall – Amanda was an all-star DIY-er when it came to their decorations and we were thrilled to see her hours of pinwheel-making and ribbon-curling come together. I was so caught up in hanging lanterns from the ceiling that I failed to get any photos of the finished product – but check out the back seat of her car prior to installation!

We ended the day with pizza back at Amanda and Josh’s, enjoying a chill evening spent in the backyard with friends and family.

After months of planning (and over a decade of dating) the wedding day arrived and it was show time! The ladies gathered in Modesto on Saturday morning for several hours of primping. We got our hair and makeup done, lounged and laughed with the impressively cool-and-calm bride, and finally, around 3pm, it was time to get that pretty lady into her lacy white dress.

And she was stunning.  Not just because of the flawless makeup and the darling feathers in her hair, but because she was so radiantly, contagiously happy.  The preview photos from her photographer capture just a glimmer of that unbridled joy.

We cruised around town for a few pre-wedding photos, Amanda tucked snugly up front with her dress smooshed all around her – getting her in and out of the car was no easy feat!

We rolled up to the hall just in time to rush Amanda through the back door for one last-minute primp session before it was time for all of us to make our way down the aisle.  I think I grinned through the whole ceremony, feeling so ridiculously happy for these two people I love so much, knowing they couldn’t be more perfectly matched.

We snapped a few more pictures after their “I-do’s”…

And then it was time to par-tay!  Mr. and Mrs. Mendes made their grand entrance into the reception and the next few hours were full of eating, drinking, and, most importantly, dancing.  Because Amanda loves to dance so much, and because she is the Pop Princess, she had choreographed a little show made up of snippets from one song from every year they’ve been together.  This is the tail end of it, when the wedding party busts in to join:

It was fun to get out on the dance floor with some of my favorite high school gals – kind of felt like prom again, only without having to worry about curfew or that awkward end-of-the-night kiss (growing up ain’t so bad after all!).

Cheers to the happy couple!  Wishing you a lifetime of grand adventures, cozy evenings at home, and plenty of dance parties in between.

Talk about a case of the Mondays – after four packed days in California and a much-delayed flight that got us home after midnight last night, today was loooong. But my droopy eyelids are a small price to pay for all the fun on our sun-shiney getaway. We made the trek down to Turlock primarily for Amanda and Josh’s long-awaited wedding day, but were able to squeeze in a couple of fun detours, starting with our Thursday trip to Yosemite. It had been years since either one of us had basked in the glory of Half-Dome, so we jumped in our little rental car (a Mazda 2, aka ‘The Rollerskate’) and headed east for the day. We arrived at the park late in the morning and decided to avoid the crowds at Mirror Lake and Lower Yosemite Falls, instead choosing to make the climb toward the Upper Falls. I raised my eyebrows when we picked up the trail guide and I saw the word “strenuous” next to the route Shane had chosen, but I was high on Vitamin D from all that California sunshine, so I played the part of a good sport and agreed to give it a go.  And good Lord, the combination of the heat (90 degrees!  do you know what 90 degrees feels like to a Seattle-ite?) and the steady elevation gain had us both huffing in about 8 seconds flat.  But we plowed ahead, determined to make it to at least the first lookout, and…wowsers!

And five minutes later…double-wowsers!

Energized by being able to see how high we’d already climbed, we kept on going, knowing the extra distance to the falls would be well worth it.  And nearly 2 hours and 2 liters of sweat into our hike, we arrived at a picture-perfect spot to grab a seat on a big flat rock and enjoy our lunch:  Yosemite Falls on our left side, Half-Dome on our right side, and a sea of blue sky overhead.  I have often raved about the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, but Washington ain’t got nothin’ on this place!

By the time we had finished our lunch and sufficiently soaked in the sun and the view and the roar of the water, it was time to head back down the mountain.  We made it to the trailhead in about a third of the time it took us to get to our rock (yes, I am claiming that lunch spot as ours) and decided to swing by Bridalveil Falls on our way out.  Bridalveil was beautiful but packed with visitors, making us doubly glad we’d spent the better part of the day getting off the beaten path (“strenuous” must be a major crowd-deterrent).

And with that, it was time to point the trusty rollerskate back toward Turlock.  What. A. Day.  And the fun was just beginning!  But dang these droopy eyelids – stay tuned for part 2…