Thursday, August 31, 2006

Yay South Beach!

I am happy to report that in the two days I've been on the South Beach diet, I have lost 4 lbs! Yes, yes, yes, I *know* it's just water weight. But I'm happy anyway. As Heather just put it, 4 lbs of water weight still isn't comfortable to carry around.

I did finally get my rear out of bed this morning and go walking. Not running, mind you... the glow of that activity has faded in my memory. Like beating your head against a wall, it feels great when you stop (and the next time you consider the wall, you wonder, why would I even start beating again?) But a nice 3 mile walk, in the fresh COOL morning air (it was 74!) does feel good, and I had Mitch's MP3 player with a "book on tape" to listen to. I'm listening to "Belgarath the Sorcerer" by David and Leigh Eddings-- a flashback to my high school reading tastes! And then this afternoon I'll play racquetball for 2 hours, so that will help.

Sadly, I had to delete all the photos of Heather's darling baby Hannah from the blog this morning. I received a "concerned" email from her father James. Apparently I am a dunce when it comes to blog etiquette because I didn't ask permission to put her pictures up for the public. (Though I think from the dearth of comments, etc on this blog that really only 6 people besides myself even read it-- my aunt and uncle in Virginia, Kaan and Jana, and Shelley and Janet. So, sorry guys, hope you saw Hannah before she was censored.)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

My visit with Heather, James and Hannah

This is Hannah Mei W----! She's 13 months old.

(photo deleted at request of parent)

I just got back Monday night from a four-day visit to my best friend, Heather, and her husband James, in Madison WI. They brought Hannah back from China in May, and it was about time for me to meet her. Her Chinese name is Ling Wan-Ji. All the babies in her orphanage were given the surname Ling, and Wan-Yan is the county she was found in. The diminuitive "Ji" means "little girl," so her name meant Little Girl from Wan (-Yan). Her middle name, Mei, means "beautiful." I flew into Chicago O'Hare and Heather and Hannah picked me up. It's a quick drive, about 2 1/2 hours, so we got to chatting right away.

Of course that night we had lots of fun watching her enjoy Heather's good spaghetti. Surprisingly, she did eat much more than she wore.


The four of us also explored Madison's amazing Farmer's Market on Saturday morning. It's HUGE! It surrounds the state capitol completely-- basically 4 enormous city blocks full of fresh veg and fruits, honey, preserves, fresh baked goods, flowers, and other goodies. This is one of the fresh corn stands.

And this is a flower stand, with the Hmong proprietor (I think):

This is Heather, and Hannah on her potty chair. (She wears diapers but only as a 'just in case'-- since birth she's been using the potty with increasing reliability. Since she was adopted she's had two poopie diapers, total!) Sorry if that's too much information for you... but the parents in the audience may be interested.


This is daddy James.


This is one of the two family cats, Millie. (Althea is not nearly as fond of Hannah. Millie tolerates and even enjoys the not-so-gentle "petting," as she seems to understand that Hannah is some sort of hairless, unbalanced, large kitten.)


So... what else can I say about my trip? There was only one blight on the joyous occasion. I checked my bag (because I inanely brought sample size shampoo and conditioner!) at the curb, where the skycap lady was offended by my lack of a tip. She was insulting and rude and basically ordered me to leave with a dirty look, and refused to give me her name. Her ultimate revenge? My bag was "mistagged" (OOPS!) and sent to Minneapolis. Where it remained for 3 days, it seems. Long story short, American Airlines was never able to conclusively locate my bag (it was like Schrodinger's Cat) yet somehow it managed to travel to Madison within 12 hours of my departure. Phew. I was rewarded for my patience though-- American gave me a $200 voucher (which is what my ticket cost in the first place) plus $75 towards incidental expenses (which covered the underwear and clothing I bought.) Hooray!

It was fantastic getting to see Heather's charming house (a 3 bedroom with a finished basement and a big gorgeous yard) and to spend time with her and James. She also forced me to eat lots of a rice krispie treat that sounded kinda funny when she told me about it-- but after the first bite it was more like forcing me to let go of the pan. Recipe:

1 cup white sugar, 1 cup light corn syrup, 1 cup peanut butter. Bring sugar and syrup to boil in saucepan, stir in peanut butter off heat until melted.

Stir into big bowl (measurement unknown) of rice krispies-- spread into greased 9x13 glass pan. It was the texture of a rice krispie treat before it sets, or like very thick brownie batter.

Melt in microwave 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips and 1 cup butterscotch chips. Stir until blended, then pour onto rice krispies. Spread evenly to edges and refrigerate a few hours.

It tastes like a crunchy Reese's Cup. The 9x13 pan was gone in less than 24 hours, between the 3 of us eating at all times :)

James also treated us to a pancake breakfast fit for queens on Sunday morning. Heather and I picked up her friend Amanda (they're starting their third year of law school in a week, and she lives near campus about 15 min. away) and brought her over too. There were chocolate chips, pecans, apples, cinnamon, raspberries and blueberries for jazzing up the cakies, plus cantaloupe and juice... it was lavish.

Alas, my indulgence over the weekend resulted in a lavish expansion of my posterior. So, Heather, Mitch and I are joining together on the South Beach Diet, starting yesterday. I'm eating lean turkey, fat free/sugar free yogurt, low fat string cheese, plain almonds, lots of salad and veggies, and not really loving every minute. Theoretically though I will lose 8-13 lbs in 2 weeks, and then I can start slowly adding whole grains back to the meals. So we'll see.

Anyway, I have a deadline, brief due Friday-- so I better get back to work.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A funny...

This was sent to me this morning by Shelley (a devout Republican, Christian, and non-prejudiced woman.) Please don't be offended, I am not saying that all Muslims are terrorists, all flight attendants are ugly, all hetero men like strippers, or anything else.


In an effort to bolster sagging patronage and profits, the following strategy has been proposed:

Replace all female flight attendants with some good-looking strippers! What the hell? The attendants don't even serve food anymore, so what's the loss?

The strippers would double, triple, perhaps quadruple the alcohol consumption and get a "party atmosphere" going in the cabin. And, of course, every heterosexual businessman in this country would start flying again, hoping to see naked women.

Muslims would be afraid to get on the planes for fear of seeing naked women.
Hijackings would come to a screeching halt and the airline industry would see record revenues.

Why the hell didn't Bush think of this? Why do I still have to do everything myself?

Bill Clinton

Monday, August 21, 2006

I'm beat!

I had a very, very busy weekend and despite getting plenty of sleep I'm still tired.

I can't even remember if I ran Friday morning, but I think I did. Friday night we taught at Copa and then went to the Soul 2 Sole anniversary event. Of course things got started late, so the performances were just beginning when we arrived around 11:30. An Austin group who shall remain nameless tortured the audience with a tawdry, slutty exhibition without any salsa dancing whatsoever... it was all hip-hop music, and basically the 4 ladies just wagged their behinds and shook their boobies like topless dancers. It was embarassing, especially because they'd gone to the Puerto Rico Salsa Congress 2 weeks before, and we were all wondering if they'd put Austin on the map with that frighteningly tasteless display. The Jack-and-Jill competition was fun to watch.

The social dancing was all right the first night-- the hotel didn't have the A/C up high enough so everyone was dripping wet with sweat, and the wooden floor was sticky as heck. I had a miserable dance with O. who slung me around like a sack of potatoes, and a similar dance with C. C. keeps doing these checks with his leg, and if he doesn't execute it right you end up being kneed in the solar plexus. Oof! It's no fun dancing with men who are only out to show off their skills, regardless of the abilities and level of their follower. I had the nicest dance yet with I. though-- it was the first time I actually could understand all of his leads, and he was pleasantly mellow throughout. Mitch and I ended up leaving around 2 because it was just too dang hot though.

Saturday morning I got up at 8 and ran the 3 mile loop in my neighborhood. Of course, I ran/walked/ran/walked. At 10 we met with a gentleman about installing solar panels on the roof. As we traipsed around the backyard, the very lush green spot (in the middle of a sea of cornflake-colored and -textured hay) reminded me we have a sprinkler system leak that needs attention. My tomatoes are doing pretty well in their pots-- my heirloom Yellow Pear plant has one to be harvested tonight. I chopped the basil off at ground level a week ago and already it's booming back to life so I think I'll be making more pesto soon. I made a nice coffeecake with apricots and cinnamon swirled in the middle and it turned out very well. Mitch and I pigged out at Texadelphia for lunch-- I ate an entire large Philly cheesesteak-- and then shopped for a while before going home to nap. Mario B (fabulous salsero from New Jersey) taught a shines workshop at 6pm that Mitch and I enjoyed. Afterwards Mario joined us for dinner, with Jerome from Houston and his cousin from Miami. We ate at Mi Colombia and I nibbled an empanada that was quite tasty.

Saturday night we arrived quite late at the event (12:40) and missed every performance and the finals of the Jack-and-Jill. At first I was completely in watching mode, not really needing to dance. I got suckered into dancing with C. again and he did a much better job until the very end. I danced with a fairly inexperienced lead from San Antonio, J., who will be moving to Austin in 2 weeks for school. My favorite dance of the whole night though was with Mario B-- so smooth, good at telling where my ability level is and pushing just a little, but not so much that I get off balance-- and when it was over I jumped up and down saying 'do it again! do it again!' (my favorite way of expressing complete happiness with a dance.) Of course after having that good of a dance, my next one was better than normal too, and fortunately it was with Mitch, and the last dance I did for the night. So it all ended on a happy note.

I crashed very hard that night, and only woke at 11:30 because Mitch was getting everyone together for lunch at Hula Hut. I tried a drink called a Grass Skirt (coconut rum, melon liqueur, and pineapple juice) which sounded better than it was, but the hamburger was, as usual, fantastic. We said goodbye to Jerome and his cousin and went home to relax. After practicing the shine Mario taught for about 30 min, I collapsed on the couch to read and Mitch worked in the office.

This morning I bailed on running (and last night had emailed Alan to bail for the whole week.) I will run in my neighborhood the rest of the week, but it's just too hard to have this deadline hanging over my head and try to accomplish all my work getting into the office at 10am. I have to be running from 6-7 to get to the office around 8. Ugh.

So this is a short week for me and probably my last post for a week or so-- Friday through Monday I'll be in Madison WI with my best friend Heather who just adopted a precious little girl from China. This is Hannah when she was 7 months old; now I believe she's 13 months old.

(photo deleted)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Aloha Aloha

Just got back from an office party-- Aloha Aloha, to say goodbye to our summer clerk and to say hello to a new attorney-- and the food was fantastic! I don't feel too bad about actually eating some either, because I was exhausted after racquetball yesterday, and I'm going to be exhausted again tonight after another match with Antonio. So I ate several tortilla rollups (with ham, pineapple, honey, green onion and cream cheese) and some teriyaki chicken with a spicy mango salsa, and a chunk of pina colada cake, and fruit salad (pineapple, orange, kiwi and banana).

My muscles are not recovering fully from my exertions, I can tell, and I'm glad to take a rest over the weekend. I'm pushing myself pretty hard, I think, but I feel a healthy measure of pride in my accomplishments. Maybe not "couch potato to 5k in two months" as I'd hoped, but definitely a change from zero physical activity most days to 1-3 hrs of it most days.

We will have a houseful of guests this weekend as 3 more salseros from Houston are joining us now. I am looking forward to the dancing this weekend, but oddly enough I'm not at all crazy about tubing down the river. Last time it was okay, but I got cold about halfway through, and the drunks were annoying as heck. Why spend the time and money is kind of my position. I'll wait and see-- if Mitch really wants to go and be social, I'll follow along, but I'm not the motivator for this adventure.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Shelley Harper

Check it out, I'm spreading the blog germ :) This is one of my best friends ever, Shelley, who went to grad school with me (and Janet) in Virginia. Now, she, Janet, and I are "The Committee" and we meet every year in a different city over Presidents' Day Weekend. Shelley is the blonde, Janet the brunette. (Guess that leaves me to be the redhead)

And here's her blog:

Shelley Harper

Quite the busy week...

I have gotten precious little done at work (well, little *work* done) but I don't know where the time went! I do spend some time watching salsa video clips and trying to imitate the moves, but no more than a normal lunch break.

Last night, I helped Mitch teach a private lesson with Andres, a very sweet young guy who has a thing for a girl he met while salsa dancing. He's thus a very motivated student :) Been running consistently every morning, which feels great. I've lost 2 lbs, not as much as I'd like but better than nothing. This weekend will be quite busy because Alex's group is having their anniversary event-- Thursday in San Antonio, Friday and Saturday here in Austin. Should be some good dancing!

This afternoon I'm playing racquetball, then I have to make some goodies for the Aloha-Aloha party in the office. (Saying goodbye to our law clerk, saying hello to a new attorney.) We're also saying happy birthday to all the August babies, but don't ask me how to say it in Hawaiian (I looked it up on the internet and passed it on to the banner team.) I'm going to make white chocolate chip-macadamia nut cookies and tropical fruit skewers (pineapple, banana, mango, starfruit and kiwi.) And don't forget, it's Wednesday, so you know what my dinner will be-- Hut's Hamburgers for two-for-one night! Yum!

Late late tonight our friend from the Valley, Rosie, will be arriving at Mitch's. She's in town for a work-related conference, and she'll stay with Mitch through the weekend to enjoy the salsa. Friday our friend from Houston, Dr. Jerome Carter, gets in too, so it will be a full house and lots of fun.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Friday night I attended the memorial for Drew Lippolt. It commemorated his birthday, theoretically, but I found the ceremony to lack much of the emotional power I expected... Sachi (his widow) read a nice little speech which did bring tears to my eyes at the end, but that was the greatest degree of sadness I felt. It was as though I have grieved so much for him that I didn't have any tears left, and his presence in my life was still too distant to spontaneously recreate much joy. All that was left for me were the low-level pleasures of seeing old friends, reminiscing, and enjoying the sunlight (while trying to stay in the shade, ironically).

Afterwards I flew home, did the speed-shower routine (shower, dress, and do hair and makeup in 21 minutes), ate a quick bite, and zipped to Copa for salsa class. My boss and her husband attended (with mixed results-- she picked it up pretty quickly but he needed a little more time) and the group as a whole was good. Kenny from the Valley came, so I had two good salsas with him, and one reallllly long chacha that wasn't so good... a couple of crazy dances with Roy, and one dance with Sidney which turned out pleasantly because I asked up front for a beginner's dance. Next weekend should be great fun with lots of dancers in town for Alex's event. And the following weekend I go to Wisconsin to see my best friend's new baby adopted from China!

Saturday we did errands, went to Bastrop, and relaxed. Sunday morning I actually got up and ran/walked around my neighborhood and on the riverwalk. Sunday evening I had a private lesson with Azucena at Mitch's house... I videotaped it, thank goodness, because she gave me a lot of material to work on and watching the tape will keep me busy practicing for a while. Now I finally have the breakdown for the cute little "thing" I see Magna Gopal doing all the time... so I have no excuse not to learn it. I also did the Magna spins video while waiting for Azucena to arrive, and my spinning is much better than it used to be.

Got up this morning and ran-- though I didn't feel like I did as well as last Friday, it turns out we got to the bridge about 5 min ahead of our usual time! So that was fun and very encouraging. And I'll be playing racquetball with Antonio today 4-6pm.

I have a deadline today and a brief due in 3 weeks that I haven't started yet, so I may not post again for a while.

Friday, August 11, 2006


Yesterday I went to the podiatrist -- paid $30 to hear that yes, I lost both toenails, but yes, he agrees they look healthy and are healing well.

Last night for some reason I didn't get sleepy until 1:30ish in the morning... thinking I would never be able to drag myself out of bed at 6:30, I emailed my running buddy and bailed. Strangely though I woke up without an alarm at 6:20, and I decided to run anyways. I ran a LOT farther on my first stretch-- I think because I didn't have to talk, so I didn't feel as out of breath. I had my little MP3 player with a book on tape, and ran along happy as a clam. I wouldn't mind running by myself in the future-- but feel bad about ditching my buddy. So anyway, it was a nice morning run and I feel like I ran as much if not more than normal. Which is good, because last night I made brownies to give to Ben for his trip to Boston-- turtle brownies (pecans and caramels tossed into the batter, as well as chocolate chips)-- which always involves spoon licking (and I leave quite a bit of batter in the bowl explicitly for me.)

Another favorite song now... "Periodico de Ayer" by Hector Lavoe, one of salsa's great vocalists.

So I'm leaving work early today to take my birthday check (Thanks Uncle Louis!) to go shopping. (Don't worry, half goes to savings.) Then the Drew memorial at 7, and then home to eat, and get ready for salsa class at 9.

Ciao and have a good weekend....

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Movin' right along..

What a great birthday! My running buddy brought me a card and a chocolate brownie powerbar (lol-- I must talk about brownies a lot. It was pretty tasty to my delight). My friend Amanda surprised me at work with flowers (including irises, her favorite, and stock, my favorite) and a card, and my godmother sent me flowers too! I played racquetball for 2 hours and went to Mitch's house, where I was surprised with some lovely silver earrings and Godiva chocolate truffles! Dinner at the Treehouse was good, too... I splurged and ate good French bread with olive oil and garlic, cheese tortellini, a big salad and a yummy glass of valpolicella.

I must have been pretty pooped that night though, because I slept through my alarm and missed running. Made up for it by playing racquetball with Ben, our last game before he heads to Boston on Saturday, last night. Afterwards Mitch and I did our 2-for-1 burgers night at Hut's. I did run this morning though, and it felt great! I am running for longer and longer each time. Today was Alan's birthday so I brought him a card; he's running the Moonlight Margarita 5k tonight so not sure he'll want to run tomorrow morning.

This is a picture of me at the lake earlier this summer, taken by one of the student interns in my office.

Just found out my friend Julie is having neck surgery on Friday! Two herniated discs and they'll have to resect some bone from her hip into her neck, fuse two vertebra, etc etc. UGH! She wants to come to my happy hour tonight but I hope she just takes it easy at home.

So anyway, today I have a podiatrist appointment to check up on my toes. I lost both second-toe nails, and this morning the blood-blistered one lost the blood-blister part (basically like a scab.. no pain, no mess.) My toes look pretty ugly esp. because I cut all the nails really short and they're unpainted, unpolished, unloved. I think he's also going to recommend I have orthotic inserts made to counteract my pronation. I just want to continue being comfortable with all my new physical exercise, yet still be able to wear flipflops every day to work (smile). After the appointment I have happy hour at the Dog & Duck to catch up with friends... then tomorrow is the dedication ceremony for Drew Lippolt's tree at Austin High, and salsa lessons afterwards (my boss and her husband are going to come out so no pressure!)

So that's the report for now.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Happy Birthday Me!

34 years young today, whoohoo! Had a nice run this morning with my friend Alan, playing racquetball with Antonio this afternoon after work, and then Mitch is taking me out for Italian to celebrate. And fortunately I have lost some weight-- I ate whatever I wanted for the last day and a half in San Diego, but I'm back to being careful and healthy now. (No more cheesecake :) )

Mitch installed new speakers in my car while I was gone, and they sound so much better it's astonishing. I am borrowing various salsa CDs from him and wishing my drive to work took longer. I can't play them on the computer CD player at work, it keeps skipping, so it's a treat at the start and end of the day.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Salsa in San Diego..

So I spent Thursday evening exploring the salsa scene in San Diego with my coworker and fellow salsera Carla. On advice, we went to the Cafe Sevilla in the Gaslamp District to check out how things are done in San Diego.

The club is in the basement of a tapas restaurant, and we'd planned on eating dinner there. Unfortunately the waitlist was quite long, so we went up the street and had a brick-oven Margherita pizza. Cafe Sevilla offered salsa lessons at 8:30 so we made sure to get there in time. The cover was $10 but the lesson was free (and good thing, too.)

There were probably about 80-90 people taking the class, the lady teaching it was obviously no salsera, and I was deeply disappointed. It was a circular style of salsa, and Valerie (the instructor) taught jazz turns (turn left from the right foot, right from the left foot) which are really counterintuitive. She also taught the women to turn while going backwards, which was awkward and difficult as well. Topping it all off, she had a screechy voice and was overly "chipper" so the non-salsa people would be convinced that what they were doing was fun!!! sexy!!! exciting!!! [Yech.]

Fortunately the class only lasted an hour and I bailed when she started teaching merengue. The club was extremely dark and warm, but the band sounded good, and I had a few good dances. I won't go into detail about the bad ones, except to say there were a few, but overall it was a positive experience. Most everyone dances on1, a substantial proportion of them have no clue about timing, and there's a lot of cumbia too. It is great fun to go to a new place with new people, and try different patterns with different leads, instead of same old, same old. Things improved a bit after 12:30 or so because people started to go home, and I did have more decent dances until the club closed at 1:30am. I was literally soaking wet (my shirt was wet as though I'd been caught in a rainstorm, gross!) and my feet were sore, but it was worth it.

So, here's my shoutout to the good dancers I enjoyed getting to know in San Diego-- Corey Strong and Noah Kunia.