Archive for the ‘vacation’ Category

But it’s so much nicer to come home

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

We’re back! And so far it doesn’t look like jet lag should be too much of an issue: I’ve been up since 8 AM this morning, which is a little later than usual for me, but only by an hour or so. Karsten is still sleeping, but this is fairly normal for a Saturday morning. He’ll probably be up soon, if my schedule was any indication.

Here’s the details of the sleep schedule, for those who are interested in jet lag avoidance:

We were up late on Thursday night at a bar called Velvet Lounge (kind of a gay bar, apparently, though a very mixed crowd), and didn’t get to sleep until 3 AM. Then Friday, as is my habit no matter how little sleep I get, I woke up sometime between 6 and 7 AM. Our flight out was at 6 PM (mind you: that’s 5 AM Central Standard Time). Around 10 PM China time, I started getting really sleepy, so I gave in and slept for about 4 hours, and then was awake until we got home around 10 PM Central time (which is 11 AM China time).

So I got to bed around 11 PM last night and was up at 8 AM this morning. Seems not bad for having been 13 hours off schedule for the past week.

ANYway, enough of that. I’ve missed the last few days’ worth of updates here, but it was a wonderful trip. I felt like we did just enough sightseeing to get a feel for the place and the culture without wearing ourselves out. That was balanced with getting a taste of living like locals (or at least like ex-pats) by doing things like going grocery shopping, etc. And that was balanced by getting out to lots of great restaurants and eating some of the best food of our lives. And all that was balanced by a comfortable amount of time in our friends’ modestly luxurious home, which gave us a very relaxed feeling of being on a sort of staycation.

Or perhaps more meaningfully, it also felt quite a bit like being on a cruise, where there are comfortable periods of time spent relaxing and enjoying the amenities of the ship, interrupted by excursions and sightseeing, all highlighted by wonderful food.

I think that’s a pattern that works really well for me, so maybe I’m a cruise-type vacationer after all. Only I think I prefer big city ‘cruises’ over tropical islands. I suppose that makes me weird, but hey. I’m just not that crazy about hot sun and sand, whereas exploring urban areas never gets old.

I guess, like anything, it takes experimentation to learn your ideal vacation style. I think we got pretty darned close to perfect on this trip. (Sure, it would have been better if I hadn’t been sick for the first third of the trip, but even that wasn’t as bad as it could have been had we not been staying in such a wonderful home.) And we both loved Shanghai enough to go back, which is saying a lot considering 1, how many other interesting destinations there are in the world, and 2, how long it takes to get there and back. But it’s an endlessly fascinating place and we only spent a little bit of time exploring its neighborhoods. We could easily do another two weeks there and not get bored.

So maybe we’ll try to squeeze in one more trip before our friends come back to Nashville or move on to wherever they’re going next. Or maybe we’ll put it on the list for some future year and just look for an apartment to rent or something. It’d be a totally different experience without a Chinese-speaking friend to guide us (so I should probably improve my own Chinese skills beyond numbers and simple greetings and ‘bu yao’ or ‘don’t want’ which is immensely useful in the shopping areas) and without a driver. But it would almost certainly shed more light on what it’s like to live in Shanghai.

At any rate, I would love to publicly thank Paris and Charles for their warm and wonderful hospitality and for not only putting up with our vegan pickiness but for making sure we were well taken care of. Because Paris spent all week with us, we enjoyed the luxury of having a trusted and knowledgeable guide as well as the wonderful company of a friend. Thank you so much, Paris and Charles!

And now: back to our normal lives, with taxes to file and deadlines to meet. But also kitties to pet and friends to see and favorite places to go. Vacation life is good, but our home life is pretty darned nice too.

Shanghai while sick, days 2 and 3

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

This has been an odd vacation: I’ve been struggling with still being sick (I came down with a virus infection less than a week before we left) and with having no energy due to weirdness with the timing of taking my Synthroid.

The Synthroid thing really threw me — hard. Here’s the thing: this is a medication you’re supposed to take at the same time every day. And for me, I’ve found that I need to wait at least an hour and a half after taking it before eating, and then wait at least four hours before taking my calcium supplements, which interfere with the effectiveness of Synthroid. But I have also found that to go back to sleep after taking Synthroid seems to concentrate it in some weird, intense way, so that I wake up jittery like I’m on speed or something. So trying to juggle all those restrictions and requirements while 13 hours off my normal schedule? Not easy. I initially tried just taking it at the same actual time (about 6 AM CST), which meant evening here, but that meant I was trying to fall asleep when I was just starting to feel energized. Yesterday morning that meant that I woke up (well, I never really slept) all shaky and with my heart racing. So I waited through the time difference and switched to taking it first thing this morning, and am just now starting to feel more normal, but I’m still a bit weak and woozy.

So I have truly been in the apartment almost the whole time we’ve been here. The only exceptions were on Saturday morning when we went out for a walk around the block (which wore me out) and for lunch when the driver took us to a Thai place for lunch, and we briefly walked around the Xantiandi area (which also wore me out). Yesterday I just resolved to stay in all day and let myself recover so I don’t ruin my whole week with this half-assed weak crap, but yesterday was also the day I was hardest hit by the Synthroid timing discrepancy, so while I was off my feet almost all day, it wasn’t exactly restful.

Nonetheless, I think the virus infection is almost gone (I still have slight sinus congestion and a trace of a cough, but it’s very minor) and I expect I’ll have my strength fully back within a day or two. Of course, we’re only here three and a half more days. So I’m going to try getting outside today, and see how it goes.

Shanghai skyline

In the meantime, I have to say, if you’re going to be stuck indoors, our friends have an awesome place to be stuck. I’ve taken a few pictures from their panoramic picture windows and have played with ColorSplash on the iPhone with the one shown above. More pics are here, and more will be added in the coming days, I’m sure.

Day 1 in Shanghai, in incomplete sentences

Friday, March 13th, 2009

Idea borrowed from Jae from her updates about her most recent vacation. I love the idea of documenting highlights, but not bothering to write up whole sentences and paragraphs to describe what can be 90% summed up in loose phrases.

Day 1:

Survived 14 hour flight with massive head congestion: blew through 3 pocket packs of kleenex; stayed high on Sudafed; read several chapters of ‘War and Peace‘ (seriously!); watched ‘Burn After Reading‘ (good stuff); ate too much; slept a bit. Happy reunion with Paris at airport (Charles is away on business but will be back Saturday mid-day). Introduced to Tom, their driver. Rush hour traffic into town.

Tour of apartment (wow!) & shown to our guest room suite (wow!). Paris should win awards for being super-thoughtful friend and hostess. It helps that their place is amazing.

Much-needed sickie nap for me while Karsten & Paris chat over snacks & wine.

Dinner of vegan fried rice and dumplings with tofu & spinach (and more wine), prepared beforehand by housekeeper apparently despite confusion because  “egg is not meat” so it should have been OK to include. She did an awesome job anyway. Can’t wait to meet her and thank her for such a delicious meal.

Amusing overview of content on Chinese TV stations. Introduced to ‘True Blood‘ - watched first 2 episodes. Alan Ball is a genius. Belgian chocolates and yet more wine. Paris points out that we can see The Bund from where we’re sitting in the living room. Have I mentioned their place is amazing?

Off to bed. Cozy with Karsten. Not a bad night’s sleep.

Day 2? Coming soon.

Yawn.

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

I had stress dreams all night about work. Not just work, but, um, well, strategic issues that influence the future of the company.

Maybe I already need another vacation?

Lessons from our cruise vacation

Monday, April 7th, 2008
  • Next time you think you’re signing up for a veg*n cruise, check to make sure you’re not in fact signing up for one on holistic health and macrobiotics with just a hint of patience for veg*ns.
  • However, if you do find yourself on a holistic/macrobiotic/veg*n cruise, you will eat far, far better than you initially fear.
  • Eating gourmet five-course macrobiotic/veg*n cuisine for three meals each day will make you feel healthy and light and pure, but will still probably add the Cruise Ship 10 to your bottom line.
  • Having the opportunity to hear doctors and macrobiotics experts and yogis and monks speak on all aspects of physical, emotional, and spiritual health is amazing; being at sea while having that opportunity means missing a lot of classes in favor of hanging over the side railing on the pool deck watching flying fish in the ocean.
  • SPF 70 sunblock only blocks the sun when it’s actually applied to the skin, not just sitting in the bottle in the cabin while you’re on the pool deck watching flying fish in the ocean over the side railing.
  • I burn easily. And then I do not tan; I beige. I am, therefore, sunbeiged.

The vacation that keeps on giving

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

You may have noticed I haven’t been posting in the last week. I didn’t want to make it too obvious when exactly we were going to be gone, but Karsten and I were in Paris for our 10th anniversary and in Amsterdam for his birthday.

We were scheduled to leave last Friday and arrive Saturday morning, but as it happened, we encountered a major traffic jam en route to the airport and missed our flight. About 30 or 40 minutes before the flight was scheduled to leave, while we were still only a few blocks from home, I knew we weren’t going to make it and called Expedia. The next few hours were a grueling exercise in trying to coax compassion out of apathetic customer support specialists. The ones at Expedia tried to pass me off to Air France, and the ones at Air France tried to pass me off to Expedia. Because we’d missed our flight, there was a sense that we would not be able to rebook it, but because we’d been on the phone with both Expedia and Air France prior to the flight’s departure (thanks to the aforementioned apathy and pass-the-buck-ism of each support department), there was a sense that we might be able to be reclassified and get on the next flight out. But it took losing my temper with a supervisor at Expedia and breaking down into sobs while exclaiming how important this trip was to me and my husband before that guy finally took pity on us and helped us change our itinerary. Cancelling the trip was an option, but without having, say, a medical emergency as an excuse, we would have lost most of the money we’d already paid for the trip due to the late notice of the cancellation. So we paid through the nose for new tickets, left Saturday mid-day and arrived in Paris on Sunday morning, one day later than planned and a lot poorer. But — I kept thinking — at least we weren’t in the accident that caused the traffic jam in the first place. There’s always perspective in that.
Anyway, you might say the trip was off to a bit of a rough start. And it was costing us more money than planned, so it had a lot to live up to.

Overall, it was truly wonderful — it really was — but parts of it were also really hard. Travel can be so exhausting, you know? And between jet lag and noisy hotel rooms (our room in Amsterdam overlooked a busy alley right near Centraal Station, so it was pretty much bustling all night), neither of us slept well most of the time.

Breakfast at cafe facing our hotel (with striped awning)And everything was SO expensive! I couldn’t get over how much meals were costing us. We weren’t being decadent but we also didn’t want to be overly frugal. Still, a modest sit-down dinner with an appetizer, a main course each, and a glass of wine each (which was almost always cheaper than soda, for perspective) ran us €45 — or about $65! — more than once. Usually, though, we were cautious about eating very little, and my loose-fitting clothes attest to that. Well, they attest to that and all the walking we did.

But we found so much to love about Paris, even when a waiter rudely refused to serve us, and even when our hotel front desk staff wasn’t technically proficient enough to help us with printing out the vouchers for our Metro and museum passes, bless their French hearts. And we both loved Amsterdam, even with all the ignorant, boorish Americans hooting and whooping it up, and even when a pickpocket almost got me but was thwarted by a random bike near-collision that made me turn my head in time to see the would-be thief sneaking up behind me.

Palais du Luxembourg and the Jardin du LuxembourgParis was big and loud and busy and dirty by day, but in spite of all that, still way more charming than, say, New York, and by night it was seductive and sly. We walked EVERYwhere, and even though we walk a lot here, my feet are still recovering. It was intense. We had no agenda; we just wandered where we felt like wandering and asked each other often what we wanted to do next. The afternoon we spent in the Jardins du Luxembourg was one of the most relaxing times I’ve ever spent. I sat on a bench with my Moleskine notebook and wrote poetry and random observations while occasionally looking up to enjoy the manicured gardens and fountain pools, and Karsten wandered the grounds watching people and studying the artwork.

Paris Apple Expo 2007My Mac-loving friends will appreciate that we found out about an Apple Expo going on last week in Paris, and we decided to stop in for a quick visit on Tuesday. I needed a travel adapter for my laptop’s power cord anyway, and that seemed like as good a place as any to pick one up. It was kind of a boring expo, though, so I don’t have much else to report about that. But I went to an Apple Expo in Paris! I think that earns me some serious Mac geek credentials.

Like I said earlier, though, there were parts that were really hard. Partly, I’m sure, because we were so exhausted and overwhelmed, Wednesday evening — our anniversary — turned sour unexpectedly and we fought bitterly. We so rarely fight that it’s always extremely hard on us when we do, but then to fight in the context of this much-anticipated vacation on this much-anticipated anniversary milestone was a big hurt and a big disappointment to us both, I’m sure. And all that anticipation was no doubt a culprit in feeding our hopes and expectations for how the trip would turn out — and I’ll be completely honest: mine especially. But eventually we found some resolution, got a little sleep, and like the grown-ups we strive to be, got on the train to Amsterdam the next morning, trying to make the best of it, trying not to let this over-hyped, over-anticipated, over-priced vacation be completely ruined by all of our best intentions.

Amsterdam canal cruiseUnsurprisingly, things started out rough in Amsterdam on Thursday, since we were operating on so little sleep and still, I’m sure, a little raw from fighting the night before. But by Thursday evening, we’d relaxed and settled into a pretty good groove and on Friday we were back to our old selves, laughing and having a great time enjoying each other’s company.

By Saturday morning, when we dragged ourselves and our heavy bags to the airport to fly back home, I was starting to feel sick and sore, with a slight burn in my throat. We were both drooping with exhaustion. I took an Airborne tablet and drank a lot of water on the overseas flight. But by last night, on the flight from Newark to Nashville, I was getting sicker and unable to keep my eyes open at all.

I woke up today with a searing burn in my throat, my head full of congestion, and my body aching all over. I’m most miserably sick, but I’m very happy to be home. And don’t get me wrong: I’m also incredibly happy that we took the trip. We experienced so much that we wouldn’t have wanted to have missed. And for all the headaches, frustration, disappointment, and hurt feelings, we are genuinely more in love than ever and I sense that our relationship is stronger for all the good and all the bad we rode out together. We never lost sight of how much we love each other, and that celebrating that was the reason for our journey anyway. Some of the best moments we had were when we remembered that most clearly: making each other laugh in the Louvre; daydreaming about — and then laughing about the unlikelihood of our enjoying — selling our house in Nashville and moving into a tiny apartment in the Latin Quarter; leering tipsily at each other over champagne; reminiscing about the beginning of our relationship while looking out over the rooftops of Paris; and so on, and so on.

Those are the memories I’ll be trying to keep with me. We can grow on those. The other memories are useful to grow from, but after that they’re not helpful anymore. I hope and believe we’ll be able to get what we need out of them and move on into even deeper and more meaningful times in our lives together.

And hell, if that’s what comes of this trip, that was worth going through anything for.

[More pictures are up at Flickr.]

Unexpected efficiency: the government edition

Saturday, July 21st, 2007

Karsten and I both just went through the rigamarole to get our passports processed, and although we have several months before we’re planning to take our European vacation, we’ve heard enough horror stories about delayed applications that we decided to pay the premium for express processing. It was definitely pricey (I think it added something like $100 between the two of us) but it was worth not taking the risk that we would have had to skip the trip.

Anyway, long story short: Karsten’s passport arrived two days ago, just a week and a half after he sent in the application. I’m seriously impressed.

(Of course, mine has yet to show up. Watch it take, like, 10 weeks.)

Catch-up tricks and Halloween treats

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

So if you love me, you noticed I was offline for about a week. Lie and tell me you love me, dammit.

On Thursday, my employer took us on an overnight retreat to a cabin on a lake in Alabama. We did some “strategizing” and then got really, really drunk.

On Friday, one of my coworkers and I decided to stay an extra night at the cabin and get our respective spouses to come down and stay with us. It was great fun for all five of us: Karsten, me, the other couple, and their parrot. Their parrot, in fact, may have had more fun than anyone. He even developed a crush on me, I’m afraid.

Good thing he didn’t see me on Saturday night in my cat costume.

Oh yeah, so we got back on Saturday just in time for several Halloween parties, which we graced with our costumed presence. You already know my costume — here was Karsten’s:

Karsten & coworker Jim at a Halloween party, 2006

He was a hillbilly hockey player, or something like that. The ballcap he’s wearing says “Country Western Hockey Tournament” and he found it at a thrift store. It’s real! You can’t make shit like that up. His hockey stick is homemade, and it says “Puckfucker 1000″ down the handle. The mullet wig, however, makes the costume, in my opinion.

Oh, and that’s my coworker Jim grabbing Karsten to keep him from escaping the camera. Jim was a futuristic gay spaceman from the 1950s, or something like that. (Not that Jim is gay, really — only the tight silver gym-queen shirt he wore under his spaceman suit was gay.) He wore a suit covered in duct tape; pretty classic.

Some other costumes seen: witch, devil, zombie vampire, cheerleader, French maid, King Kong & blonde, pirate… oh, and Japanese anime characters. LOVEd that.

Hope everyone’s been doing well… and missing me. Lie and tell me you missed me, dammit!

The year in review

Wednesday, December 15th, 2004

Borrowed from and many others; edited for stuff I care about answering. I linked to a lot of stuff throughout; my apologies if any links lead to where you, dear reader, cannot follow.

Review of 2004

What did you do in 2004 that you’d never done before?

Ran a road race. It was the Park Forest Scenic 10, and it was quite the learning experience.

Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I did, for the most part.

I wanted to run a half-marathon (13.1 miles) but I only ran a 10-mile race. Still, it’s close.
I’m doing OK with the three goals around my nutrition.
I haven’t really made much progress on my guitar playing.
I have sort of made more time for songwriting.
The debt is effectively gone.
And I’ve done better with organizing my wardrobe, but I’m planning to address this in the new house in a major way.

What would you like to have in 2005 that you lacked in 2004?

More time with friends, more time for songwriting, more money to spend on fun things. I’m starting to get closer to attaining all of these, and I want that trend to continue.

What date from 2004 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Work dates come to mind first: March 29th, when we launched our product to the corporate campus; November 15th, when we shut down the legacy product.

And, of course, November 2nd.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I dunno, maybe writing 15 songs in 30 days, even if that fell far short of my 30-song goal.

What was your biggest failure?

I can’t think of anything significant. I feel good about that.

Did you suffer illness or injury?

I injured my knee doing a 10-mile run on May 31st. I probably already had an injury, but the long run flared it up. That turned into iliotibial band troubles, which led to hip troubles, which led to possible bursitis and a prolonged break from running. I stopped running for the month of June, but spent July and August training for the Scenic 10, and I wasn’t fully recovered. I laid off for the rest of September, October, and ran a few miles in late November before realizing I still wasn’t recovered. I probably won’t be running again for a few more months, much to my frustration and dismay.

What was the best thing you bought?

My Clie.

Where did most of your money go?

This year was all about finishing up the debt repayment. And since I’m such a Quicken addict, I can give you percentages. Aren’t you excited?

The vast majority of it went toward paying off a single credit card. (23.94%)
Another large sum went to taxes. (13.53%)
Then rent. (9.27%)
Then another credit card. (7.99%)
Then savings for future house renovations, 401(k), and downpayment, respectively. (7.67%, 6.20%, 5.79%)
Household expenses. (4.58%)
Another two credit cards. (3.06% and 2.59%)
Groceries. (2.11%)
Car stuff. (1.66%)

Ain’t we got fun?

WAY down the list, you start to see things like:
Vacation (0.99%) - but this includes the trips to Chicago for my dad’s chemo treatments. Whee.
Songwriting (0.66%) - we’ll spend more on this in 2005 when we record some more demos.
Dining (0.65%) - we don’t eat out much.
Entertainment (0.50%) - and most of that has probably been spent in the past month.
Recreation (0.12%) - this includes my race fees and running shoes. Whoop de doo!

What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Our new kitten, Bopper.

What song will always remind you of 2004?

“Live Like You Were Dying” written by Craig Wiseman and Tim Nichols and recorded by Tim McGraw.

What do you wish you’d done more of?

Take vacation time. I worked a hell of a lot of hours. All that overtime certainly helped pay off the debt, but I have serious knots in my shoulders to show for it. Our in-town vacation, while fun, wasn’t nearly enough.

What do you wish you’d done less of?

I wish there’d been no reason for all those trips to Chicago for my dad’s treatments. But I’m glad I was able to be there and help out, and I’m certainly grateful to for generously volunteering to watch our kitties during one of those trips. And when I say I want less of it in 2005, I mean that I want my dad to be healthy again.

What was the best book you read?

“About A Boy” by Nick Hornby. Much better than the film, although I love Hugh Grant (or “Huge Grunt,” as Karsten and his sister refer to him) in just about anything.

What was your greatest musical discovery?

I don’t know, really! Maybe it was the discovery that I can, in fact, write lyrics to existing melody. Not that I haven’t done it before this year, but I usually choke when faced with a melody I have a lot of respect for.

What did you want and get?

Pre-qualification for the mortgage I wanted. I’d say “a house,” but we haven’t quite signed the paperwork yet.

What was your favorite film of this year?

It may be 10 years old, but I just saw “Before Sunrise” a few months ago, and I loved it so much. “Before Sunset” was very good, too, but it felt a little contrived whereas “Sunrise” just felt spontaneous and beautiful. Wow.

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

My birthday hasn’t come around yet in 2004. I’ll be 31 on 12/23.

What is at least one thing that would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Not having to deal with my sister’s ridiculous crap on top of everything else.

Who did you miss the most this year?

My good friend and former co-worker, Tom Johnson. He’s a nut, and I love ‘im, and I miss hanging out with him.

Who was the best new person you met?

No one but Karsten has ever made more of an impression on me in a shorter span of time than has. I was hoping to find good friends this year, and he’s a great find and a definite keeper.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2004:

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, keep a brave face, and enjoy yourself every minute you can. Life is short and precious.

(Actually, I’m sure I learned that long before 2004, but it’s a lesson I keep learning again and again.)

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes
You just might find
You get what you need

"What I read on my summer vacation" by Kate O'

Thursday, July 29th, 2004

Finished reading Nick Hornby’s How To Be Good last night. I haven’t read anything else by Hornby, but I enjoyed both the film adaptations of About A Boy and High Fidelity, and in the commentary for the latter, the Weitz brothers talked about how easy it was to make that film because of the great writing in the book.

So I thought I’d start with one I haven’t seen on film yet, and that was probably a good idea: no comparisons to make about how the story develops, the characters arc, or why the adaptation did this or that. Purely on its own merits, I think How To Be Good is a very well-written book, if a bit challenging in spite of its pervasive humor. Challenging in the sense that it’s like reading distilled anxiety on every page. (And hey minnaleigh: the narrator is, in a sense, unreliable. She’s flawed, for sure, and her flaws render the retelling of events that could be depicted in a very charitable, almost saintly way instead as very nearly malicious. Fascinating stuff, that.)

Overall, I recommend it. Just don’t read it when you’re on vacation. ;-)

Vacation, day #6

Thursday, July 29th, 2004

We received word from our apartment property manager yesterday that they were doing some work this morning requiring us to move our car from the lot by 8:00 AM, so it seemed like a good morning to go out for breakfast. Headed over to Murphy’s Loft Cafe (formerly the Red Rooster Cafe) for day-old muffins (only $1!) and coffee & juice. We enjoyed the opportunity to sit outside and leisurely sip our drinks.

Then, since all clothing at Salvation Army is 50% off on Wednesdays, it was time to do a little thrift shopping. Didn’t really find anything, which is just as well since I just bought a zillion new-to-me articles of clothing a few weeks ago.

Alright, now this is kind of embarassing. I had a coupon from the back of a Kroger receipt for a week free at Curves, which is right down the street. I thought, hey that’s convenient — I won’t have to go the office and I can still work out. I didn’t know. I swear I didn’t know! I thought it was a gym. It’s not a gym. It’s some kind of demented 30-second rotation half-hour fitness program and weigh-you-in and take-your-measurements thing. I listened politely to the woman give me the tour of the place but as soon as she said “Alright, let’s take your measurements!” I said “I don’t think I need to waste any more of your time. I don’t think this is right for me. I thought it was a gym. I was looking for treadmills. Cardio equipment. Things like that.” And she said, “Yeah, I can look at you and see you don’t need to lose weight, but I didn’t want to say anything.” She didn’t want to say anything? Until what? Until I actually did lose weight? That place is weird. Weird weird weird.

So anyway, I left, but I was all psyched up for a workout, and now I had to decide if it was worth it to me to go to the office and risk feeling stress on my vacation just to work out. And then it dawned on me that I could run in Centennial Park instead! But I was nervous about that because I haven’t run on pavement since my injury. And then I remembered that I had my rollerblades in the trunk. So I got good and warmed up by rollerblading five laps on the mile loop and then felt comfortable running two laps.

Got back home, showered, dressed, and went out with Karsten to Kalamata’s. I ordered their baba ghannouj for the first time, and it was wonderful. Nice and smoky, just the way I like it.

Went furniture-browsing (”furniture-ogling” is more like it) at Nouveau Classics and 2 Danes. Must get rich so I can afford cool mid-century modern and contemporary Scandinavian furniture in my home. Someday.

Dinner at Tayst. Yum! We started with the Chickpea Cake, which was served in some kind of delicious sauce. I can’t remember how it was described on the menu and I know I can’t do it justice, but it was unbelievably good. Followed that with the Bibb Salad with (I think it was) fennel-infused walnut oil vinaigrette. For the entree, we split a very elegant baked potato with vegetable spears marinated in a ginger sauce and served in a half-red, half-yellow pool of gazpacho and ginger sauce. I finished with a scoop of raspberry-black licorice sorbet, which was just about the best thing I’ve ever tasted. It was spectacular, although Karsten says it was a bit dada for his preference. Still, he had to admit that the service was outstanding and even if the menu was a bit pretentious, the service certainly was not.

After dinner, we decided to swing by the Commodore Bar & Grill, which is one of the writers’ nights venues that became popular after several of the other ones mysteriously shut down last year within several weeks of each other. Anyway, after all this time, we’d still not checked it out. We ran into a friend who was playing a feature set tonight, so that was a nice surprise.

And then it was back home. And now I’m getting sleepy. It’s been a good, long day.

Vacation, day #5

Wednesday, July 28th, 2004

Cheekwood rocks the house. Can’t believe we’ve lived here this long and yesterday was our first visit. I knew it would be nice, but that’s as far as my expectations went: “nice.” In fact, it was spectacular. Beautiful. Tranquil. Loved the sculpture trail. Loved the Japanese garden.

So we bought a “Family” membership, which means we now get in free as often as we want, and we can bring two guests with us. And we plan to go back frequently. Yay!

Lunch was at Baja Burrito (as was dinner, thanks to the magic of huge burritos and reheated leftovers). We gave up on trying places we’d never been before: they were all turning out to be so disappointing!

And I mostly finished my CD ripping project. I have a small stack remaining, and they should be finished by the end of today. Feels great to finish a household project finally. I’ve had so many of these kinds of things in limbo for, well, for years, really. Should have done this vacation at home thing a long time ago. Maybe not a whole week, maybe that amount of time is too much. But a few days and a weekend, that should do it. I’ll have to plan for that again in maybe a year or so.

Uh oh.

Monday, July 26th, 2004

I miscalculated. Last week, I anticipated that I’d be eager to do really long workouts this week, and Karsten and I planned that he’d skip his daily run for the week as his vacation and I’d do super-long workouts each day as mine.

There’s just one problem: the gym is at the office.

Now, I knew this, of course. But I still figured it would be no problem. After all, the gym is in a different building from the one where I work, and if I went there a little later than my usual time (no reason to start my workout at 6 AM when I’m on vacation) I probably wouldn’t even run into the usual crowd, and so no one but the security guys at the front desk would need to be the wiser.

But I woke up this morning — well, more to the point, I slept in until 7:30 and then woke up this morning — with no desire to follow the same patterns I do every weekday morning. I feel like working out, but I want to do it here. Or outdoors, nearby. Work’s not far away at all, but it’s the fact that I’d be driving the same route that I do every day… you know. It’s tedious.

So I dunno. I’ll do my usual stretching/yoga/dance thing that I do throughout the day every day, and maybe I’ll do a concentrated dance workout or something. But for today, at least, I’m not going to the gym.

I’m sure I seem to be making a big deal out of nothing, but it’s incredibly, stupidly difficult for me to find ways to relax. I thought the extra-long workout would be relaxing, but it seems that it’s more relaxing to not have to drive to the office. At least for today. There’s always the rest of the week.

Vacation, day #3

Monday, July 26th, 2004

Yesterday was another peaceful morning of organizing MP3s and writing songs. Finished a draft in the morning — that felt good. Organized my office and closet somewhat.

Then it was off to a god-awful lunch at U.S. Border Cantina, a party-hearty Mexican place apparently popular with Vandy frat boys who drink too many margaritas on Sunday afternoons to leave peacefully. Ugh. Never going back there again.

A little grocery shopping at Wild Oats, and then home again. I was determined that it would be a restful day, in spite of the efforts of Vandy frat boys.

We ate pasta for dinner and watched America’s Sweethearts, which is one of the DVDs we bought for cheap at The Great Escape. It was better than I remembered. The ending was a little smarmy, but I laughed out loud several times prior to that.

I’ve been using some of this vacation time to rip the rest of my CD collection so I can sell it and be done with it. I’ve made a lot of progress, but I have probably over 100 to go.

Vacation, day #2

Sunday, July 25th, 2004

I’m counting yesterday as the start of my vacation ’cause that makes it seem longer.

Spent a lazy morning organizing my MP3s. I deleted a bunch I never listen to and swapped in some new workout music onto my Clie.

Went out for lunch at Cafe Coco. Disappointing. Greasy. Pricey. Small portions. (I only ever eat small portions, but I like to take home leftovers.) But we sat outside and that was nice.

Next stop: The Great Escape outlet and the main store. Finally found The Thorns CD and for only $3.99! Also picked up some super-cheap DVDs and a book on how various songwriters got inspired to write certain songs. I love books like that.

Quick trip to the zoo for Ice Day! Many of the animals got frozen treats appropriate to their diet, such as bloodsicles for tigers and fishsicles for otters. (The otter looked as eager for the treat as Karsten was to see the otter eat it.) Karsten’s favorite animals there are the meerkats and mine are the clouded leopards — and neither of them seemed to have been given any icy treats that we could see, so that was kind of a bummer.

Picked up our holds at the library, some goodies at Kroger, and then swung by Big Lots for some English muffins. Karsten noticed that they had the Kellogg’s Strawberry Mini-Wheats with the AAdvantage miles again, so we bought all 25 boxes of them. I felt like Adam Sandler’s character in Punch-Drunk Love buying all the yogurts or whatever… but it really makes a lot of sense when you break down the cost per mile. And you’re getting all that tasty cereal, to boot!

Cooked up some homemade pizza for dinner and watched “Nicholas Nickleby,” which was OK, but not fantastic.

And now I’m posting this update while munching on Strawberry Mini-Wheats. I have enough of them to eat them all the time. :-)

Vacation evening #1

Saturday, July 24th, 2004

Last night we kicked off our Nashvegas vacation by hanging out on the Demonbreun strip. For non-Nashvillians, this strip (pronounced something like “duh-MUN-bree-un” or “deh-MON-bree-un” — no two native Nashvillians pronounce it the same way) is what used to be a line of so-tacky-they’re-funny gift and souvenir shops. Now they’re so-trendy-they’re-not-even-cool bars and restaurants. Like Christopher Pizza Company, where we ate dinner, and Caffeine, where we had coffee and juice afterward. It’s great people-watching, though — some of the best this town has to offer. And last night, Gary Allan was scheduled to play at an outdoor concert series for one of the bars, so the strip was mad packed.

We got bored with it eventually and couldn’t think of anywhere else we were dying to go, so we went home and watched our DVD rental: “Along Came Polly,” which was OK, but it was very obvious that it was the same screenwriter who did “Zoolander” and “Meet the Parents” — he rehashed a good many gags. Jennifer Aniston was great, though. She made a role that could have been a little hard to get across — someone flakey and commitment-phobic — seem endearing and credible.

Oh, and I gave myself a mud mask facial last night, too. That was nice. Except Karsten made fun of my mint-green face. Bastard. ;-)

Not sure what’s on for today yet.

A day and a half to go. But who’s counting?

Thursday, July 22nd, 2004

Mentally, I’m already on vacation.