30 January 2010

Riviera Maya: The Wedding

We woke up a little worse for the wear on our first full day in Mexico. I had a full fledged cold. I still had no voice. And neither of us felt rested. Still, life on the resort had to go on. We went to breakfast, only to find out it was lunch time. I don't remember what we ate, but we were soon back in our room, testing the hammock and making important (pool or beach) decisions.

Me in the hammock.

The courtyard in the middle of our building.

Something to do besides drinking & lounging.

We ended up at the beach. I'm not one for uncontrolled bodies of water. The Gulf of Mexico should be considered as such. There were rocks in the water, a strong undertow and pounding waves. It was terrifying. Jesse was thrilled. He loves water. He loves to watch it. He loves to listen to it. He loves to allow it to beat him up. It makes him so happy. And it makes me happy to watch him. Fortunately for you, I like to share.

I did splash a little, despite being laid out by a few waves, I had a good time. And then it was "go" time. We showered, dress, and met our group in the courtyard. We traveled by trolley to the church, which happened to be in the neighboring resort right across from Galaxy. I wish I could give a flowery description here, telling you how the bride floated and the groom beamed. But that's not how it happened for me. I sat in the pew and tried to absorb it all. There were mothers crying and men in suits sweating. Kelsee looked great. The priest was sincere in wishing happiness. Two people were bound by religion and Mexican law. To me, it was a ceremony and the people involved were happy with it. I was happy for them, but felt no personal longing or connection. At the end I asked Jesse if he had been moved into wanting to get married. He said he didn't know if he even wanted to go to another wedding. We're kindred.

Jesse & I just before the wedding.

The ceremony was very quick. Pictures were a different story. I thought the photographer was great. She was mindful of shadows and had a lot of ideas. She took a lot of group photos. And when she wasn't, group members were taking their own photos. I'd say there are 2,000+ pictures of us on that beach. They're all awesome - because pictures taken on a beach can't not be awesome.

Eventually we took the trolley back to the church for a reception. We sat outside under the setting sun with a full bar and a mariachi band. It was perfect - until the mosquitoes found us. I hadn't dealt with mosquitoes like that since Fargo. It never dawned on me to even bring mosquito repellent. I literally paid for my rookie travel mistake with blood. And then it was dinner time.

We ate at the steakhouse at the resort. I ordered chicken. It was salty, but otherwise good. There was glass clinking, speech making and friend thanking. Then more picture taking. We changed into our swim clothes and met the newlyweds at the beach. The group hung out for a while, and then we all paired off. The moon was nearly full. The water was warm. We were vacationing. It was serene.

29 January 2010

Riviera Maya: Friends

One of my favorite things about Jesse is how much he loves water. Sure it presents a challenge when he doesn't understand my fear of drowning, but when he's alone in his element he has so much fun. I could watch him frolic forever. And that's mostly what I did that first afternoon on the beach. I brought books for reading and a notebook for writing but when presented with a moment to myself, I did neither. I just relaxed. It's as awesome as they say it is.

"Bring it."

Coatis. These little guys were in any wooded area on the resort. They look cute, but I never turned my back on them.

Judging by absolutely nothing at all, we decided it was time to find Ryan & Kelsee. Each building at the Iberostar Paraiso Maya has a concierge. We found ours, got their room number, and caught them "home," eating chicken nuggets. I wish I had taken a picture of the nuggets. They turned out to be among the best foods at the resort. I can't explain it. And I choose not to dissect it. I'm sure they wouldn't pass muster for the golden arches, but they were seasoned and they were good. And they were only available via room service. A delicious mystery wrapped in flour.

We chatted with Ryan & Kelsee until it was time to get our keys. During the walk to the front desk, we learned the restaurant that wasn't on our map was actually not part of our resort. Iberostar has three or four resorts lined up along the coast. Each resort has its own bracelet. Our bracelet allowed eating at all, drinking at most. The resort next door didn't allow children, which explains (at least to me) the retiree feel of the place.

Our room was perfect. It did not overlook the coast like in my vision but everything else was as I wanted. There was a happy towel-animal waiting for us. We had a patio (with hammock) and a bed that looked really comfortable. That last part turned out to be an illusion but at the time we were pleased. We unpacked and headed back down to the beach, because that's what one does at a resort.

We met the rest of the wedding part and during introductions I realized I didn't have my voice. I can only think of one other time when I've lost my voice and even now I'm not sure I'm not imagining that. In case you're wondering, it is indeed embarrassing to have to say "hi, nice to meet you. I don't normally sound like this" repeatedly. But my socializing / drinking / fun-having abilities were not affected.

We had dinner at a Japanese restaurant. That means sushi and teppanyaki for all. Jesse seemed to enjoy the sushi although he would later say it wasn't that good. He (and a lot of other people) would also order Saki and not like it. I stuck with margaritas. I saw no reason to be even more adventurous.

The fixings.

Part of the process.

The end result.

We wasted some time at a bar after dinner until the grand pirate show. Someone had enlisted our groom and while we had no idea what the show entailed, we knew it would be an embarrassing must-see event. We were right. Ryan and the other lucky pirates had to do a variety of physical stunts. There was a pillow fight. There was a Michael Jackson dance-off. There was beer drinking through a straw. There were push ups and there were sexy dances. In the end, a guy from Kansas City won. And he probably deserved it. I had never seen anyone drink beer through a straw as if it were lemonade.

Our final stop of our first night was at Galaxy, a Star Wars themed disco. I can't explain it. But it had something for everyone in our party and was therefore perfect. We drank and danced all night. I cannot convey how much fun I had. It was what some would call "a blast." Eventually we went home, ordered nuggets from room service & passed out. There was to be a wedding the next day.

28 January 2010

Riviera Maya: Food

First order of business on our vacation: food. We were so hungry. I think there were peanuts on the flight, and we had our own peanuts, raisins and granola bars. But we wanted hot, filling, delicious food. I should have taken pictures of the lobby. I should have gotten panoramic shots of sculptures. I should have documented that sweet & fruity drink they gave us while we filled out information cards. But I didn't. We were hunters. We studied the map and headed east. We stopped at the first restaurant we saw, ordered and ate. Once our collective blood sugar was up, we realized two things. First: we were significantly younger than everyone else in the restaurant. Secondly: we had no idea where we were.

The name of the restaurant was on the menu. It was not on our map. I read the whole thing about the shopping areas, buffets, restaurants and exercise areas. The place in which we were did not exist. Imaginary or not, we were served food & drinks and were able to fully decompress from the trip.

I grabbed giant grapes, which I intended to eat until Jess reminded me I should not be eating the skin. You know, just in case.

Giant grape compared to margarita.

A prawn meeting his destiny. Jesse would suck the juices from his head and be very pleased with the taste.

Yes. I had a cocktail with my vanilla ice cream & raspberry sauce. It's my version of a digestive gamble.

I admit, the food was not very satisfying. But we weren't there to eat. We were there to vacation. And just outside the restaurant doors, we stepped into a Corona commercial. There's not much to say about it. It was beautiful. Waves were crashing. Birds were chirping. Jesse was splashing and I was sitting.

It's very difficult for me to relax. I see every moment as an opportunity to accomplish. I push until I'm drained, and then I'm disappointed with what I did not do. The best way (I've learned) to get me to do nothing, is to take me away from home, away from my phone and away from the Internet. Basically put me in a place where there is nothing I can accomplish. Riviera Maya is such a place. And while Jesse frolicked among the waves, I sat and painted my toenails. If that doesn't say "vacation, I don't know what does.

27 January 2010

Trek to Riviera Maya

We were dragged (kicking & screaming) to an all inclusive resort in Mexico.

Remember Ryan & (my one mention of) Kelsee? They got married this year in Riviera Maya. It was a small wedding & we made the guest list. Naturally we felt compelled to attend. We saved. We booked. We packed our bathing suits.

We left San Francisco on a chilly January night, leaving our jackets behind. They would only slow us down. We had a 20 minute walk to a 30 minute train ride to our red-eye flight from San Francisco to Houston. We had exit row seats, which gave us great leg room. But I think the extra space opened us up to an extra draft. We were freezing for the entire flight. And then we were cold and grumpy at the start of our 3 hour layover.

We didn't want to eat. I had a cup of tea and packaged lemon juice that literally made me gag. It was nearly too uncomfortable to sleep. The seats against the window let in a draft. The armrests weren't quite tall enough for comfortable leaning. Our bags weren't quite full enough to be comfortable pillows. The seats weren't quite close enough for me to put my feet up across the aisle. And suddenly the sun was up, and we surrounded by a bunch of Texans ready to let loose in Cancun.

Lesson: always bring a blanket & neck pillow for traveling.

Flight attendants checked our passports and we were Cancun bound. We filled out all our customs forms, raced to the customs counter as soon as we exited the plane, and got through the Mexican border without incident.

We found our travel coordinator(s) who put us into a van with two other couples heading to different resorts in Riviera Maya. It was a full service shuttle bus, featuring beer. Jesse bought two because it seemed like the right thing to do - until he remembered we were going to an all-inclusive resort where the beer was free. He didn't need to spend $6 on two Coronas. Still, it was an experience to be had and he had it.

I think the drive took 20 - 30 minutes. I'm not sure because there was no clock and we had not turned on our phones. We were just about to be on vacation! We checked in to the resort (no card needed for incidentals) but our room wasn't ready. We were taken to a changing area, where we took off our pants and put on our bathing suits. We handed most of our belongings to strangers and that was it. After a train ride, flight, layover, flight and shuttle, we were on vacation.

16 January 2010

Welcome. And Until Next Time

You may remember my swim coach, Coach Becca. Turns out her goal in life was not to be just my swim coach. I know, I was surprised too. Becca wants to be a sports reporter. She loves sports. She loves reporting. I know nothing about the former and have no desire to do the latter. But Becca & I are different. And sometime after Christmas, she got a job as a sports reporter. So once again this business brought me a friend and took her away.

Becca left in late January. Jesse & I decided to take her out to dinner. He picked Palomino, which looks nothing like the website suggests. Palomino is known (at least in my circle) for having a great happy hour. So Jesse & I thought it only proper we show up early and sample. We sat outside, had some drinks and ordered three appetizers. It should have been noted the appetizers are built for sharing. We had potatoes Gorgonzola, brick oven roasted mussels, and king crab & artichoke dip. Jesse finished the mussels by his lonesome and therefore could not help me finish anything else. Everything was delicious and we were full just in time for dinner.

Two of my friends from Las Vegas (Julia & Jon) happened to be in San Francisco that weekend. I invited them to dinner and we all had a great time. Afterward, we walked through the Financial District and over to a bar in North Beach. Bar #1 had a band with two dedicated fans. I got the impression the lead singer wanted to put the "rock" in "rock n roll," but never fully committed. He was wearing tight, apparently stone-washed jeans that laced up the sides. But he was also wearing an over-sized t-shirt, backwards baseball cap, and white sneakers. I imagined he ran out of steam putting on those pants and just could not recover. We left.

We then went to The Board Room (of guest bar tending fame) and played "Never Ever Have I Ever." It was interesting. First of all, I don't think I've ever played a drinking game at bar. I also can't remember the last time I played that particular game. I mean there aren't even cards involved. But instead of asking "why," we asked "why not," and played. We learned a few things about each other and were decidedly tipsy when we called it a night.

Becca went home and then to North Carolina. We pointed Jon & Julia toward their hotel (because his iPhone wasn't) and they spent the rest of the weekend touring before going back to Vegas. Jesse & I set our sites on Mexico.

09 January 2010

Lessons in Dog Sitting

I know a woman named Tracy. Actually, I know three. The Tracy in question graduated from the The University of Alabama. She studied accounting and French and has a Toy Poodle named Jacques. When the the University of Alabama went to the BCS Championship this year, Tracy's crimson roots tingled and she had to go to Pasadena to watch the game. Her primary dog-sitter was in Hong Kong visiting family. Her secondary dog-sitter was in India, also visiting family. Tracy needed a person in America to help.

That is how Jesse & I came to dog sit.

Tracy asked me if we could watch Jacques for two days. I asked Jesse and -- after intense questions (doesn't he have to poop), he agreed. Tracy brought Jacques over on a Wednesday night. She established an emergency bathroom for him. She took out his favorite toy and his treats. He ran around sniffing and testing his speed. And when his back was turned, Tracy left. No hugs, no words, no advice. She slipped out as if he wouldn't notice, never doubting he would. He went up to the door and looked. And then he looked at me as if to ask if I would kindly let him out to follow. I acted like I didn't understand, and scooped him on to the couch. He sat without protest, but kept his eyes on the door until a better distraction (named Jesse) appeared.

Jesse tried to get to Jacques' "tough" side with some doggie roughhousing. Results were mixed. While Jacques did not growl or attack, he did exert his male dominance over a stuffed animal. So we saw who was boss. Bedtime came & it took about five seconds for Mr. dogs-belong-outside-and-not-on-the-furniture to say "we can let him up (onto the bed) can't we?" Jesse went on to justify it to himself with "he just came from the groomer," and "you're okay with that right?" I was and it happened. Jacques slept in bed with us, and was cozy.

There's not much else to report. We walked him. We fed him. We cuddled him. We had a taste of having a pet (or a child I guess) and decided we're not ready for either. Bama won and Tracy came home. Jacques left with all of his teeth & paws and without any obvious signs of trauma. Success.

05 January 2010

"2010 Will be Contained"

2010 is here and as Joel told me in a text, "2010 will be contained." He was responding to my new organizational canisters but I think the sentiment can apply to anything. I made grandiose resolutions last year. I did not keep any of them. I made even fewer charitable donations than ever before in my adult life. I'm healthier, but I am not the svelte picture of health I wanted to be. My balance on one of those credit cards that were frozen (for only 6 months of the year) is only down $700. I can offer solid excuses. I was supporting two people with one income for a lot of last year. I allowed myself to soften & plump over the winter holidays. My overall debt is down significantly and I've gotten rid of one of those cards entirely. Still, I'm not where I wanted to be and while I am not pleased, I can't say I'm too unhappy. We had a lot of fun at the end of last year.
Looking ahead, this year is about choices. We've decided to choose time with friends and family over lots of other things. We're going to try to travel more, while saving money. We're confident it can be done if we make the right choices. So one could say my resolution for 2010 is more face time.

We are going to go back to Fargo, because we miss it. It's been a while since we were there together and there are lots of people we miss.

Two of my brothers (Derek & Ty) are coming to visit San Francisco in March. It's been years since we three were together and this trip will be our first excursion without our dad. It will be a party.

We also have a new brother. His name is Jordan (formerly Jarred) and I have yet to meet him. We're scheduled to bond in July, when my dad & Deva get married. I'm excited about that, because the best kinds of babies are the ones you can give back to their parents.

I've also been invited to Dayana's 5th birthday party. She told me she was inviting everyone and that I should come for a play date. Her birthday is in June so I have time.

2010 will bring some adult entertainment too. We're planning a great camping & fishing trip. I'm really excited for that. Jesse's dad has outfitted us with just about everything we need to fish (we have to get our own bait and licenses), so we're planning to go once it gets a little warmer.

And a little bit down the line - almost on the 2011 calendar - we are going to New Zealand. We now know someone there (Angie) and that's all we really needed to prod us.

So 2010 is going to be great, and maybe a little overwhelming. But we have built in vacations, so it will be 100% fun. And I'm really excited.

03 January 2010

The Transition to 28 iii: Lunch & A Movie

28 started with a phone call from my dad at 5:56AM. I was not born at 5:56AM (or at 8:56AM on the east coast) so there was no reason for my dad to be calling at such an hour. I didn't make it to the phone in time and I didn't call him back right away. Even on my birthday, I'm less than pleasant first thing in the morning. I opened my card from Jesse & my presents from Joel (who wasn't even there to see my happiness). We had a light breakfast and went to the gym. It was Jesse's idea and it was a good one.

We're off to Mexico for a wedding later this month and bathing suits will be worn. Other than that, I took December off from exercise. I first called it "race-recovery." The plan was to exercise, but not run. Then it became "don't use the leg with the sore IT band." And then it was "anything that doesn't both legs is boring." The holidays came and so did parties and treats and other plans. When all was said, done, wrapped, shipped, and opened -- I had exercised no more than three times. I felt gross. So the gym was a perfect idea.

My actual birthday was an afternoon date night. We went to eat at Pizzeria Delfina. Again, I had never heard of it and again I was the only one. It's in Pacific Heights - which is a neighborhood full of shops and eateries. I told Jesse we could never live that close to unique eateries AND a Johnny Rockets that delivers. We'd be fat and broke. But totally well fed.

We added ourselves to the waiting list but as you can see, it moved pretty fast. Jesse had mussels for an appetizer. We drank lemonade and ordered the Brocolli Raab & Panna Pizzas. They were both excellent, but the Broccoli Raab was a little too salty for me. It was still great, but I reached for a drink after every slice. And generally I don't drink while I eat. It's just a thing I don't do. Don't judge me.

Our date night continued with a movie at the Sundance Kabuki Cinema. Aside from having Robert Redford's face all over place, the theater has a full bar and food service. Our tickets cost the same as they would for any other theater, but we got to sit on a balcony and have drinks. Word to the wise if you ever go: the front row of the balcony isn't as great as it looks on a touch screen. There's a safety bar. And once you recline, that bar blocks the bottom of the screen. It's just enough to, I don't know, block subtitles.

We enjoyed the movie (Sherlock Holmes) and of course wish more success for Guy Ritchie. We happen to enjoy most of his work.

Our date concluded with a (long) walk back home, where Jesse prepared for his first day of work in the new year and I prepared for a hair appointment. My fantastical princess weekend wrapped as subtly as it started and I enjoyed very minute of it. I asked Kate to remind me of my birthday fun any time I told her I was annoyed with our hero. You can feel free to do the same.

02 January 2010

The Transition to 28 ii: Pretty Woman

Jesse & I made our own delicious breakfast on my last day of 27. We had pancakes, scrambled eggs & toast. You may be saying to yourself, I thought you didn't like eggs. You're right. I don't. But they are an excellent source of low calorie protein and since I don't eat most breakfast meats, I need something to go with my morning carb festival. So I ate the eggs, scrambled with a lot of cheese and topped with salsa. Cheese & Salsa really can improve almost anything.

The big present for turning 28: clothes.

Anticlimactic? Certainly not. They needed to be bought. And that would not have been done if not for Jesse.

I strongly dislike shopping. I can not stress that enough. I have a short, round torso in a world designed for the tall & slender. I have long legs and basically hidden hips. My shape has changed since I've lost weight. Now most of the excess pounds hover around my tummy, like a life preserver. My shape makes it tiresome to shop. My inability to justify prices makes me argue every purchase with myself. Shopping is a chore. It's not nearly as fun as cleaning. And even though I should have gone sooner, I didn't. It somehow wasn't fun until Jesse was buying.

We hit four stores and spent oodles. It was still stressful - Jesse just sat in one store for an hour while I tried on stuff that would look good on anyone else. It was tedious, but worthwhile in the end. I got everything I wanted. I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. As Joel pointed out, that made me the whore. And that didn't bother me whatsoever.

We had dinner at our favorite Chinese restaurant and walked down to Ghirardelli Square for dessert. I had never eaten there and I still haven't. The line was ridiculous. Overpriced sundaes are apparently where it's at. We came home & tried to watch an artsy French movie. It was so bad, I'm not even going to name it. I ended up watching Lord of The Rings: the Two Towers - which is my favorite of the trilogy. So the evening was a success.

01 January 2010

The Transition to 28: One girl's birthday story

Back when I was 27, Jesse & I celebrated the end of 2009 on our roof. It was cold -- which also means clear in the Bay Area. We had bootleg champagne and were genuinely happy to see 2009 go. Jesse's right, it wasn't a terrible year. There were a lot of highs. But there were a lot of lows as well. He says we're stronger because of it. I think that's accurate. I know I'll live the rest of my life working to not have to go through a year as rough as 2009. Watching 2010 arrive, I felt motivated. I felt in control. I was ready to get to it, whatever it is. As I had to go to work, that served me well.

I worked until 7AM New Year's Day. Afterward, we set out for a nice breakfast at La Boulange and were denied. I'd say we tried two other restaurants before we happened upon Mama's in North Beach. I'd never noticed it. I'd never heard of it. I was apparently the only one. Mama's is a big deal. On a typical day, the line is wrapped around the building. Early on the first day of 2010, the line was small enough to be contained indoors and we hardly had to wait at all.

I've been asked to describe the food and I can't. It's intricate. It's fresh. It's diverse. It's unique. I had french toast made with a raisin - almond bread, chicken - turkey sausage, and home fries. Jesse had beans with a poached egg and some other stuff. I'm not a big fan of eggs or beans. So when I saw them on a plate together, my mind shifted to the delicious business happening on my own plate(s).

It was really good. I want to go back. Naturally that means (from now on) this line will always be there. Harrumph.

After breakfast, I cleaned. I don't like to start a new year with old dirt. That's just silly. So I did real cleaning - the kind where you move things, get underneath them, even decide if you really need them. We had accumulated a lot in the last year. And we have no room for anything extra. I put on some music and honestly had fun getting rid of the old, wiping the dusty, and washing the dirty. Jesse helped in the best way he could - he left. He was happy to not have to help and I was happy to not have him mess up any of my progress. It was a grand morning & afternoon. Having worked that morning, I was in bed by 8PM. Happy New Year. And Happy Birthday Weekend to me.