Sunday, December 26, 2010


When I first decided to make a list of things to accomplish in my thirtieth year, I was partly motivated by a desire to have a suitable answer to my dad's yearly, "Any reflections?" question.
As usual, I’ve been procrastinating, putting off writing out my reflections because I don’t have anything particularly profound or earth shattering to report. My reflections, therefore, are mostly just a handful of observations, a few things I’ve noticed or realized over the course of the year.  I like lists, so a list it is.

1.     Turns out, I don’t like horse races. Like, at all.
I never even wrote about the day that Tom and I went up to the races at Del Mar. It started out great. It was Reggae and Beer Fest day at the races, so there was a giant beer tent and a Jimmy Cliff concert scheduled for after the last race. I had fun picking out which horses to bet on (based on their names, naturally) and I even won a few bucks during the first few races.

Then it turned awful. During the sixth race, Fantasy Free got squeezed into the inside rail and fell down right across from where Tom and I were standing. After the fact, I realized that I had inadvertently documented the horse's fall. This was my first attempt at taking pictures of the horses in action and I was still trying to figure out the appropriate settings to use, so it's very blurry. Watch number three - the jockey with the white silks. 

It quickly became clear that something was seriously wrong when track employees drove on to the track and set up screens on both sides of the track in an attempt to shield us all from the reality of what was happening. 

I couldn’t stop crying.  I realized that despite, or more accurately because of, my love of horses, I had no business being at the races. As I stood there, beer in hand, tears streaming down my cheeks, it occurred to me that horse racing was actually rather against my core principles. Who knew? Apparently, I have core principles. One of those principles is that it is wrong to use animals in ways that result in their deaths for the sole purpose of our entertainment.

2.     I don’t read enough.

I love reading. I really do, always have. But for some reason, I have not made time for it. I set out to read thirty books this year, and I actually read only nine! And one of those was a Young Adult book for school! Granted, I read that one four times because I read it aloud to all of my classes... Still, I used to read more books than that in any given summer.  The Piano Teacher, Pride and Prejudice, Siddhartha, If You Want to Write, On Writing, The Pearl, The Digital Photography Book, The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and Fallen Angels.

3.     I enjoy taking pictures and writing so I should make more time for these things.

That’s it.  Pretty straightforward.

4.     Telling the internet that you’ll do something is a pretty good way to make sure that you’ll do it. Some of the things that I did this year because I told the internet that I would:

{A little volunteering}
{Comenzó a aprender español}
{Rode in a hot air balloon}
{Watched a sunrise}
{Had a wine-soaked picnic in Napa}
{Watched a concert from a kayak}
{Completed a race}

5.     I don’t have to do things that I don’t want to do. Every top 100 list told me that I had to see Full Metal Jacket, and the Netflix DVD sat next to the TV for weeks, but I just never wanted to watch it. Maybe some day I’ll be in the mood for a graphic depiction of the horrific violence of the Vietnam War…I’ll watch it then.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world!

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did NOT die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!

{Photo by WhoWatches}

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I think it's here to stay.

I am still working on my official thirtieth birthday reflections, but in the meantime - how awesome is technology? I'm sitting on the plane right now with full internet access. For free. Maybe not so free when one takes into account the $50 in baggage fees that we had to pay this morning, but still...

I took these pictures as we were preparing to land at LAX just before seven o'clock this morning.

I edited these pictures somewhere over the Gulf of Mexico.

I will publish these pictures to the worldwide web just before we touch down in Tampa.

Technology also improves travel in other unexpected ways when it allows one a nonviolent means for venting frustration brought on by rude, oblivious, and otherwise unpleasant fellow travelers. I am, of course, referring to the surreptitious iphone photo of the offending party and the subsequent Facebook post in which the subject's manners and hygiene are publicly critiqued.

{This fellow removed his sweaty hiking boots to reveal filthy, putrid socks. He then proceeded to talk loudly to his mother. On speakerphone. We could have tolerated the noise, but the overwhelming smell of foot necessitated our finding news seats.}

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Birthday Festvities Part II

 Aiming to get my thirties off to the right start, I dragged myself out of bed at 5:30 on the morning of my birthday and headed to the gym. When I got home, my husband, the one who normally struggles to get out of bed by 8:30, was beginning birthday breakfast preparations. By the time I was out of the shower, he was plating up French toast and scrambled eggs. It was delicious and the perfect way to start the day.

{Excuse the horrible picture. I only had patience enough for one snap before digging in.}
 Breakfast, however, wasn't my only present of the morning. After clearing the plates (I know! Cooked for and cleaned up after...I could get used to this), Tom handed me a gift bag. After digging through the tissue paper, I pulled out a fancy new 70-300mm lens for my camera!

{Please excuse my crazy, wonky-eyed correction doesn't always improve a photo.}
At this point, all I wanted to do was go on safari and use my new lens to take all sorts of pictures of distant, unsuspecting creatures. Sadly, I had to go to school, and for some reason, the administration frowns on teachers lurking in the shadows and taking pictures of the students with a telephoto lens. So I went off to school where a student from last year popped into my classroom to wish me a happy birthday. How she remembered, I have no idea, but it was a lovely surprise. My first class sang me happy birthday, flowers arrived at lunch from Husband of the Year, and my normally rowdy last class of the day took it easy on me because news of my birthday had apparently made the rounds. All in all, I didn't half mind working on my birthday.
{Getting flowers at work is the best.}

After school, I went home to prepare for dinner at an undisclosed location. And by prepare, I mean I painted my nails while watching Oprah. Tom arrived an hour or so after me with yet more flowers (calla lilies this time) and a bottle of the same bottle that he brought with him the first time he came to visit me five years ago. I'm tell you, this guy is good.

Just as we were about to head out the door for dinner, Tom finally revealed our destination - Bertrand at Mr. A's. I had been wanting to go there forever, so I was incredibly excited! Mr. A's is one of those fancy pants restaurants that always makes the list of San Diego's best fine dining establishments, so we definitely needed an excuse to make a visit. Turns out that turning thirty is as good an excuse as any.

{Pre-dinner Champagne toast at the bar.}

Before ordering (but after opening the wine, naturally), Tom presented me with yet another thoughtful gift. After what must have been hours of combing through the thousands (?) of pictures that I've taken over the last year, he put together a sixty-plus page book of a representative sample. It was the perfect gift. Knowing me as he does, he figured that I would want to have an album to commemorate the (attempt at) a year of daily photos but that I would procrastinate and put it off until it no longer seemed worth the effort...sad, but true. It was really fun to go through the book and recall the day that I took each picture. The pages of the book are organized by theme and are also a great reminder of some of the things on checked off of my list over the last year.

As if the book hadn't made me weepy enough, Tom had also thrown all of the birthday cards I had been waiting to open into the gift bag on our way out the door. As I opened the cards and read the incredibly sweet and thoughtful words of my closest friends, I couldn't help but be overwhelmed with gratitude for the amazing women who I am fortunate enough to call my friends. 

Dinner was long and lovely. We had an appetizer of grilled prawns and king crab legs over an avocado and papaya carpaccio. I told you - fancy pants. Then I had a butternut squash and scallop risotto and Tom had rack of lamb. After dinner we lingered over an extra glass of wine and a Happy Birthday dessert plate.

{Sorry for another lousy picture - I was trying not to embarrass myself too much by setting off my flash in the middle of the fancy restaurant.}
Before calling it a night, we went out to the patio to enjoy Mr. A's famous views.

I couldn't have asked for a better kick-off to my third decade. Once you turn thirty, every night is like this, right?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Request

Dear Mr. Assange,
How about wiki-leaking something useful? I mean, this stuff isn't exactly earth shattering. I can tell that Kim Jong-il is "flabby" just by looking at him, and I have only a vague grasp of European politics, but even I could have told you that Medvedev "plays Robin to Putin's Batman." Ok, maybe I wouldn't have come up with that specific metaphor, but you catch my drift. I'll give you Gaddafi's "voluptuous Ukrainian nurse;" that is some juicy stuff!

But, come on, give me something I can use! How about using your magical "hacktivist" powers for good and trying to uncover the Army's apparently top-secret time table for returning soldiers to their hometowns following year-long deployments?? That, I could have used! You, however, chose to "uncover" the fact that many Middle Eastern countries are concerned about Iran, and yet the actual date when my brother will return to Vermont remains an ever-shifting mystery. As a result, I sit on the other side of the country with an unused plane ticket. So, give it some thought, will you? Try to reveal stuff we can use because right now, you're less Woodward and Bernstein, more Perez Hilton. While we're at it, if you're taking requests, I would love to know what the trick is for scoring tickets to the Oprah show on days where she gives stuff away and how old Rachel Zoe really is because I'm just not buying  thirty-nine.
{Mr. Assange, this picture was taken three years ago! Please tell me that this is not what 36 looks like.}


P.S.: The cut and color was a solid move.

Birthday Review - Part I

When I sat down to write this, I fully intended to wrap up the birthday week with a short recap of all the festivities and a few reflections thrown in for good measure. Then I spent almost an hour working on a recap of all the awesome that was the day before my birthday, so I decided that I would have to turn the birthday sage into a multi-part series. This seems more than a little self-indulgent, but what isn’t self-indulgent about writing about yourself non-stop for a year? It’s been a big build-up to thirty, and I’m going to give the event its due. So there.


On Birthday Eve, Tom and I headed to my parents’ for birthday/engagement celebrations. There was champagne and wine and a delicious celebratory dinner of seared tuna, grilled asparagus, Greek salad, and of course, birthday cake à la Ben and Jerry’s mode.

Following dinner, Tom and I were presented with ridiculously generous birthday gifts. I suspect that this was a purposeful attempt to lessen the crushing despair that is sure to come when we truly realize that our twenties are behind us. I kid, my parents made fairly convincing arguments that the thirties are great, and Mo even pretended that she’s looking forward to them. Whatever the motivation, it was an embarrassment of riches.

Mo presented me with a gift certificate to the Intimacy boutique, home of the illustrious Bra Whisperer. Not only does the Bra Whisperer have the Oprah stamp approval, she trained under the Queen of England's Royal Bra Fitter! [Editor’s Note: That last fact was taken from an article titled “Bra Whisperer is San Diego’s Breast Friend,” so judge the credibility as you will.] I am more excited than I should admit to go find out if I am among the 85% of women currently wearing the wrong bra size!
{Tell me all your secrets Bra Whisperer.}

I was still riding high on thoughts of meeting Oprah’s bra guru when I unwrapped the first box from my parents. Months ago, I asked my mom if, for my thirtieth birthday, Tom and I could use a week of their timeshare trade program, so I was stoked to unwrap a voucher for just that. As I’ve said before, my passport is getting restless, so I was so excited to be able to start thinking about possible destinations. There were, however, still two presents left to open, one for me and one for Tom. We unwrapped them to find a pretty, suede travel jewelry case and an international adaptor respectively.  Being a huge fan of the theme gift, I was impressed – well done, Mom!  Then I opened the case, and Tom looked more closely at the paper his adaptor had been wrapped in. These cute, travel-themed gifts came with vouchers for airfare as well! I could not have been more surprised/overwhelmed/speechless with gratitude. 

 It looks like my passport is going to have a lot less to complain about in the very near future! Needless to say, the last night of my twenties was filled with happy, hopeful dreams of all of the travel possibilities to come next year and in all the years that follow. Thanks again, Mom and Dad. Not just for the gifts, but also for instilling in me a love of travel adventures. I don’t know how I got so lucky.

{My family rocks. I can't wait until we are six (er...nine!) again.}

Thursday, December 9, 2010

It's Official

I am thirty. 

I'm still working on reflections and a recap of what has been an amazing week of celebration... I feel very loved.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Weekend Celebrations

Friday night we met up with Mo and Buckley to toast the newly engaged couple. There was a lot of laughing and a lot of champagne.

I'm thrilled to see these two looking so happy, and I'm more than a little excited to start talking wedding plans!

On Saturday, there was more champagne and more celebrating when Tom and I headed to Palm Springs to celebrate our joint entre into our thirties. We arrived at the Viceroy around one o'clock and the early check-in, free upgrade gods smiled upon us. As soon as we arrived, the super accommodating staff handed us glasses of champagne, ushered us to our pool-view suite, and conspired with me to hide Tom's fabulous, top secret birthday present in storage until his actual birthday on Sunday.

The Viceroy has a hip, Mad Men kind of feel. It's decorated in mostly black and white with splashes of bright yellow; the whole place is very swank.

{The living room and bar of our fancy pants suite}
{The bedroom was all white, very soothing. You know, to recover from all the stress of relaxing by the pool.}
{One of the pools}

We had lunch by the pool and then returned to our room to find a fruit and cheese platter with a Happy Birthday note from the Viceroy staff. Big points, Viceroy, big points.

As it turned out, Palm Springs must have known that we were coming because they scheduled their Festival of Lights Christmas parade for Saturday night.

Later, there were more drinks...on the house (again, well done Viceroy).

After that, it was Christmas movie time. Nothing like ringing in your thirties with The Family Man.

Sunday was Tom's actual birthday, so I started the day by presenting him with the thirty gifts that I have been planning since early September.

{Thanks to Tom's parents for providing the photos of him through the years.}

I tied a different childhood photo of Tom to each of the gifts and had fun listening to him explain the story behind each one.

Because I'm not that creative, roughly half of the thirty gifts were scratch off tickets...

{Despite all of the scratching, the only success was a win of one free ticket. We'll have to see how that plays out.}

Then came big reveal number one.

After the presentation of the ipad, Tom was appropriately overwhelmed and fully believed that the birthday gifting was over. We headed to the hot tub to enjoy some fresh air before hitting the road for the trip home. At some point, I made an excuse to return to the room only to return to the spa area with the big birthday surprise - a 1967 ('63?) Gibson ES45 that had been safely tucked away for several months courtesy of Uncle Donald. Now those numbers and letters mean little to me, but according to my husband, this is one badass guitar. Much planning and generosity on Uncle Donald's part led up to this point, and I couldn't wait to present the guitar to Tom... My parents had escorted the guitar home from Spain in October, and I had been dying to tell Tom about it ever since. It was well worth the wait.

Please excuse the photo sequence; I wanted to make sure that Uncle D could vicariously enjoy the gift bestowing experience...

{Yes Tom, you really get to keep it.}
At this point, the day was pretty already a guaranteed success, but we topped it off with Sprinkles cupcakes just the same.

{Happy Birthday, Baby!}

My birthday followed right behind Tom's, and it turns out that I have the best husband, family, and friends that a girl could hope for.... Plus,I succeeded in securing some reflections this year. More to follow...