Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Back from China!

We're back!  The trip was absolutely amazing.  China is one of the most interesting places I've ever been (and not at all what I expected based on general expectations and a single trip to Hong Kong about a decade ago).  Light years ahead of the US in some ways, medieval in others.  The food was way better than I'd expected.  The sights were things I'll never forget.  More than anything, my biggest impression of the country was the size -- of the country itself, but even more, of the population.  The cities are huge.  We got back to Dallas, left the airport to go home, approaching the downtown heart of the city in a cab by night, and we both thought, oh, how cute, small town America.  Honestly, I think we could have been driving into Manhattan, and it would have seemed like a small town.  But there are just people everywhere.  Things feel crowded.  Not always in a bad way (sometimes in a bad way though). 

I promise many more posts soon about all different parts of the trip.  But for now, it's a major game of catch-up at work, and a major game of unpack-repack at home.  Over the summer, I tried hard to make the most of a few lazy weekends because I knew the last 4 months of 2012 would be like this -- go, go, go.  We landed very early this morning, and we fly to Milwaukee tonight for one of my brothers' weddings this weekend.  Yikes!  But it will be great to get to tell my family all about the trip and spend the time with them, though since I will be working remotely Thurs and Fri, it won't just be an extension of the vacation. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Texas State Fair Beyond the Food

A few random other pictures from the rest of the fair...

Little baby chickens (or ji, as I will be saying right now in Chinese!):

Fried food awards for this year:

The cutest pig at the fair:

Little hungry piglets at the fair: 

A longhorn, I guess a Texas fair staple: 

At first I thought cow and calf, but actually a zebu (and calf, or whatever a baby zebu is called):

Another shot of the pig that was just so cute:

Past fried food awards, wish 2005 had photographed better: 

Boris, the big pig:

Information about Boris (a new pig every year is named Boris and displayed apparently):

A Texas VW:

And there you have it, the fair, beyond the food, in pictures.

If all goes according to plan, I'll be back from China this week and doing non-pre-written posts! 

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Difference Between my Husband and Me

Just an observation (writing now to share while we're on vacation in China; hopefully back to the US this week!).  I've noticed it multiple times, but notably at the State Fair recently.

When my husband and I confront a table like the one below, a group setting with strangers, a table with two seats available surrounded by people who likely know one other person at the table, but not everyone else, I will sit down and talk to my husband.  If someone asks me a question, I'll answer it, but I'm not going to engage in conversation with someone I don't know. 

My husband, on the other hand, will sit down and talk to me as well as to those strangers around us.  He sometimes interjects into other conversations, always answers questions directed to them, says things to the table in general, rather than just to me. 

I'm glad he's so friendly, approachable, social and out-going. It's just a funny difference that I've noticed. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Texas State Fair

A picture-heavy post I'd been meaning to share since Sept. 29, the day hubby and I went to the Fair.  In the rain.

But the fair is the fair.  When it's a lovely day, there are all kinds of things to enjoy.  When it's a rainy day, food becomes the real standout. 

A few photos of what I enjoyed...

Setting this to post while I'm in China on vacation.  Bet that trip is going to lead to some VERY interesting food recap posts!! 

Nachos, with special Texas-shaped chips.  Do all states do this?  I don't think I've ever had nachos at the Wisconsin state fair, the only other state's that I attend somewhat frequently.

Alligator.  I didn't eat this, but hubby did.  He said it was delicious, likely due in large part to the sauce:

A butter sculpture.  Not really something I ate, but food-related (and see below for the butter I did eat):

My all-time favorite food at the Texas State Fair, the fried butter, garlic flavor.  To me, it tastes like the best piece of buttery toast you can imagine. Sooooo glad the fair is only once a year!

Another view of the Texas nachos, in front of a stranger who let me push them away from me to photograph on my crappy phone...

My baked potato.  I ate almost the whole thing and it was very good.

My first food of the day, non-Texas shaped nachos, just beans, cheese and jalapenos:

Very, very glad the fair is only once a year, and that I had 20 miles of running on the schedule for the day after we went! 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My Best Drunk Story, part 6

After a week plus of telling this story, if anyone is reading, you must be ready for the end.  Plus, I have to wrap it up.  We'll be back from China in about another week after you read this! 

After I realized I had not actually murdered anyone the night before, I decided I'd go get something to eat and make my way to my brother's hotel. 

I got dressed and grabbed my stuff.

No umbrella, no coat, no camera. 

But more alarmingly, no money, no credit card.

And most frightening of all... no passport.

OMG.  What had happened?  And more importantly, what was I going to do?

I looked in my guidebook and found out that there was an American Consulate in Poznan.  I decided that they might be closing early since it was Saturday, so I hustled there.  On foot, you know, since I didn't have any money for a taxi or a bus.  But trying desperately to be there before noon. 

Success!  I got to the Consulate at about 11:45. 

Unfortunately, the Consulate was indeed closed.  The noon closing time was solely a figment of my imagination, or maybe aspiration. 

I cried and cried to the guard.  He eventually told me that if my passport was lost or stolen, I would have to go to the embassy in Warsawa to get a new one.  And he advised that the next day they would be open was Tuesday, because Monday was a holiday (Columbus Day, as it turns out). 

I had no idea what I was going to do.  I had no idea how I would travel to Warsawa without a passport.  I had no idea how long it would take to get a new one.  I had no idea if I'd make it back to the US on time.  I felt like I was up a creek without a paddle. 

I was hungry, thirsty and broke.  So scared of being stopped and not being able to produce identification.

I walked toward my brother's hotel.  I got there, and his roommate was awake, but my brother was dead to the world.  We hung out talking for a while.  Well, not so much talking, as I was crying and he was trying to sound sympathetic. 

Finally my brother woke up and I told him what had happened.  Of course being his sweet self, he said not to worry about the "being broke" thing.  He'd loan me money for the rest of the trip.  But of course he had no helpful advice on how to get an expedited passport that day since the embassy was going to be closed for the next several days. 

Eventually, my brother and his roommate got dressed.  We decided we'd walk back toward the dance club to see if I could get my coat and my camera back.  My brother told me what had happened to the umbrella, which I then vaguely remembered, so that was gone for good. 

At the dance club, we were able to get my coat, but the camera was no where to be found.  And the coat pockets were empty, so even though I hadn't been hoping the passport and credit card would be there, there may have still been some tiny sliver of hope.  It was now fully extinguished.

We walked on in search of food. 

We ordered some pastries and my brother paid for my breakfast.  His roommate also ordered and went to pay for his.  He reached into the pocket of his jeans, and surprise... he pulled out my passport.  Along with his passport, his money, my credit card, and my money. 

We talked about it for some time, but neither of us had any clue how he'd ended up with all of that stuff.  But I literally cried with relief.

It was all okay.  And that is why the night ends up as my best drunk story, and not the worst drunken disaster of my life... 

Good times, good times. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

My Best Drunk Story, part 5

Parts 1-4 were set to publish last week, while we're in China on vacation, so here's the finale...

I woke up the next morning, October 2003, in my hotel room, alone, feeling very foggy.

No immediate cause for concern.  I had a headache, and I was thirsty.  So I started to get out of bed.  I'd gotten my pajamas on, I noticed, but my clothes were in a big pile (usually while traveling, I try to fold up what I wore in case I need to re-wear, but this was toward the end of my trip; next stop was a few more days back in Germany, then Paris, then home). 

I got up to go to the bathroom and the first thing I noticed was that there were major red streaks along the white walls.  What in the world....????

And then I realized that my hands were COVERED in blood. 

Let the major panic set in.  I've never been a violent drunk.  Heck, I've never been a violent sober person.  I don't think I've been in a physical fight in my entire life with anyone other than my brothers.  And that was long ago and I totally love my brother who I'd been hanging out with the night before and I figured there was no way I would have hit him or he'd hit me.  But at the same time, at that point in my life (let's call it big-law-head), I was quite impatient and had little tolerance for "fools."  Easily irritated would be a better way of describing it. 

That left me with essentially one thought.

I'd killed someone.

Presumably a stranger.

In Poznan. 

While in a drunken stupor.

OMG.  I sat there, staring at the walls, and at my hands, trying desperately to see what I could remember about the night before.

Drawing blanks, except what I recounted in part 4. 

I was feeling ill, not from alcohol.  What in the world had happened?  And what was I going to do?

I went to the bathroom to wash up.  First things first. 

There were blood smears on the sink, so maybe I'd tried to wash up the night before? 

Finally, completely inadvertently actually, I saw myself in the mirror. 

My face was also a bloody mess, but the answer was immediately apparent.  I'd clearly gotten a bloody nose.  As soon as I realized that, I had a flash of recollection.  Walking into the room, alone, drunk, laughing.  And there was a tiny half inch step up to get to the beds and the desk after you walked past the bathroom.  I'd hit that tiny step and launched myself face-first into the bed frame.

A small miracle I hadn't ended up knocking out teeth or with a broken nose. 

Floods of relief washed over me.  Unfortunately, that didn't last long.  To be continued...

Monday, October 22, 2012

My Best Drunk Story, part 4

Part 1, part 2, and part 3 have posted earlier this week.  You know, keeping the blog "current" since I'm betting we won't be able to get to websites like blogger in China. 

Anyway, in this awesome memory/non-memory story, we're finally in Poznan, Poland, and the night of the best drunk story of my life is underway. 

I found my brother and his roommate at the bar, even though I got there a little late.  His roommate was an American he knew from college, who I kind of knew from meeting him a couple times. 

It was a weird sailor-themed non-gay bar.  Feeling safe with my brother and another guy nearby, I started drinking, matching my brother and his friend shot-for-shot, beer-for-beer. 

We left the sailor bar and got food from a little stand outside.  I remember spilling a little sauce on my shirt and laughing so hard about it that some drool also ended up on my shirt. 

Oh yes, I was wandering into sloppy drunk territory.

We walked to a dance club, and along the way, my brother for some reason hurled my umbrella up on top of a building.  We all thought that was hilarious. 

We got to the dance club and were required to check our coats.  For some reason, I put my camera in my coat pocket when I checked it.  You know, drunks don't always make smart moves.

And then we danced the night away.  Details are sketchy, but one very clear memory remains -- dancing very suggestively with my brother's roommate to Black Eyed Peas's "Where is the Love?"  And I was so glad my brother was no where to be found. 

I remember thinking hmmm, I'm single, I think he's single, he's only what, seven years younger than me (keep in mind, I'm 28 at this point, so 7 years is a pretty critical difference). 

From there, the night kind of fades to black.  I know it was insanely fun, and I know I stayed at the club until it closed and then got back (alone, fortunately) to my hotel.  

The funniest part of this story is part 5 -- the aftermath.  Coming on Monday...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

My Best Drunk Story, part 3

Part 1 posted two days ago, and part 2 was yesterday, part of my series of pre-written posts while hubby and I are hopefully enjoying the wonders of China not on a tour... 

We left off with my arriving in Poznan, Poland, waiting to meet up with my brother.  We were supposed to meet at track 4 of the train station again, and this time we had two separate meeting times, but no back-up meeting place, because neither of us had ever been there so we had no idea what church or other landmark might be a good meeting spot.

Fortunately, my train arrived in Poznan and I was happy to see that the train station was like pretty much every other train station in the entire world, except apparently Munich, with track numbers beginning at 1 and going up from there.  So I found a seat on a bench at track 4 and I waited. 

The first meeting time came and went. 

I was irritated.  I decided to leave the train station and go find a hotel, assuming his no-show meant that he had decided to go to Amsterdam instead. 

It was a long trek to the hotel, so I got there and checked in, and it was already time to head back to the train station for our second meeting time. 

Unfortunately, I hadn't paid close attention to how long it took me to get to the hotel, so the walk back to the train station (though I tried to jog some of it (I was NOT in good shape at the time)) ended up getting me there about 15 minutes after the appointed meeting time.

No brother. 

Shoot.  I was banking on the idea that he'd decided to go to Amsterdam with his friends and not meet me in Poznan.  So I left the train station to find an internet cafe.  I figured I'd send him an email expressing my irritation, and I could check my work emails, and probably find a phone to call my mom and at least let her know the status.  She again was our designated information repository.  When I spoke to her, she had no update from him, but I left her the name and phone number of my hotel in case he called to get it. 

All that took some time. 

Then I leisurely walked back to the hotel and was quite surprised to find there was a message waiting for me when I picked up my room key.  The note said that my brother had called, told me where he was staying, and said to meet him at a bar near his hotel at a time that was only about 15 minutes away when I got the message. 

So I hurried up to my room to get dressed and head back out, in search of some sailor bar in Poznan. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My Best Drunk Story, part 2

Part 1 was posted yesterday, here's the continuation.  We left off on a rainy night at Oktoberfest in Munich.

The next day, my brother and I got to Oktoberfest early, secured seats in a tent, and proceeded to drink more beer before noon than I have rarely done before or since (I suppose the days of some horse races in law school come to mind, but other than that, morning drinking is rightfully rare for me). 

I came thiiiiiiis close to eating meat.  They had these roasted chickens for sale and they smelled so good.  And to make it more difficult, there weren't great vegetarian options.  I think my primary food that day was baked potatoes and soft pretzels.  I somehow refrained and my vegetarian purity remained intact -- at that point I'd been a true vegetarian for about 2 years.

After the full day of enjoying Oktoberfest, we took the train back to the town where my brother was living.

We hung out, saw the town, spent time with his friends, etc. 

Then I left solo to go back to Munich to work a couple days, and then to Poland.  It was a new country for me, and my brother couldn't leave for as long, so I went alone.  I spent a few days in Krakow, one of my favorite cities in the world.  Beautiful churches, a fun little hotel with a kitchen and friendly people that I met and ate with, a gorgeous castle, and caves under the castle.  Then I went on to Warsawa (Warsaw in English, Varsavia in Italiano, which sounds much closer to Polish in my mind than the English version of the city name).  I didn't like it there as much -- the main things I remember were staying in a boat hotel (right on the river), and The DaVinci Code.  Yes, I was one of those idiots who takes a compelling book on vacation in a new country.  I couldn't put it down.  I remember reading on a Warsawa bus and missing my stop.  I remember wanting to spend my days in that awful boat hotel where I could read in peace.  I remember forcing myself to go to parks and to the zoo so at least I'd be outside in Warsawa while I was reading. 

From there, I took a train to Poznan, where I was due to meet my brother -- at track 4 of the train station again.  Apparently the Munich jinx wasn't enough to make us pick another track number.  But I wasn't entirely sure he was going to come.  I really wanted him to, but a bunch of his friends were going to Amsterdam that weekend, and he'd never been there and wanted to go.  I'd already been to Amsterdam years earlier, and I had no real desire to go back, especially compared to having extra time to explore somewhere new (Poland). 

To be continued...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

My Best Drunk Story, part 1

I'm writing this about a week before we leave for China, and this way I'll post it while I'm gone and won't be able to take it down if I reconsider!  Plus this will be long enough that it will fill up a few posts that someone could read over the course of days. 

So based on the conversation with my brother about our top three drunken nights ever, this story was fresh in my mind and I figured I might as well put it out there.

In October 2003, my brother was studying abroad in Germany.  I went over to visit him for a while.  We did Oktoberfest in Munich, I worked a bit from my firm's Munich office (this is when I still worked for one of the biggest law firms in the world), we spent some time in the smallish German town where he lived, we made a long weekend trip to Poznan, Poland, and we spent several days at the end of the trip with his roommate, his girlfriend, and several of his other friends in Paris (and I worked some from my firm's Paris office). 

Back in '03, using my cell phone in Europe wasn't an option, so communication was difficult.  To further complicate matters, my brother didn't have a cell phone.  My brother and I were first supposed to meet up in Munich.  Before I flew to Europe, we arbitrarily decided to meet at track 4 (binario quattro for the Italian speakers) of the main train station at 11 a.m., at noon, and then at "onion domes" church at 3:00 as a last resort.  I flew uneventfully to Germany, got to Munich, and headed to the train station for our meeting. 
At 10:55, I frantically realized there was no track 4 at the main train station.  WTH?  It blew my mind.  The first track there was track 5, and it went all the way up to 30 or something.  There are tracks 1-4, but they are apparently for small local trains and aren't in the main train station.  So I had no idea what to do.  I decided to wait at the entrance to track 5, hoping to find him as he also searched in vain for track 4. 

As of 11:15, no brother. 

But with only 45 minutes to kill before our next meeting time, I didn't have many options.  I think I just hung out at the train station reading. 

As of 12:15, no brother. 

So I left the train station and headed to the church, grabbing lunch along the way.  I also called my mom, since we'd designated her in advance as a repository of information if something was wrong.  Unfortunately, she hadn't heard from him, so she had no idea if he was on his way, if he'd found the mysterious track 4 and was waiting there, or what.  I was starting to get really worried I wouldn't find him, and I had no idea what I'd do if I didn't.  I knew the name of the city he was living in, but I didn't know his address, and I really had no idea if he was on his way to meet me or not.

At 3:00, sure enough, there he was!  Happy. 

But then we got to talking and it changed to not-so-happy.  Turns out he'd just overslept and missed the first two trains he planned to take.  In his mind, no big deal, we had a third option for meeting up.  I was fairly irritated that I'd wasted all this time waiting for him and he hadn't bothered to wake up and get on a train where he could go back to sleep.  It was a day I could have worked or spent enjoying the vacation, instead of traipsing around looking for him.  Sigh. 

But I got over it.  We proceeded to go to Oktoberfest, where it was too late at night to get into a tent, so we sat outside at some picnic tables with a bunch of Dutch guys.  Did I mention it was raining that night?  We were drinking and singing.  In the rain.  I clearly remember holding my hand over the top of my glass so I wouldn't get rain in my beer.

Very fun night. 

But not my best drunk story.  That happens later on this trip.  Further details tomorrow...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Party School

Since if everything goes according to plan, I am currently on vacation in CHINA!!!!, I wrote this post at the end of September and figured I'd share it while I'm gone. 

The other day, my brother sent me this article, indicating that U.Va. was ranked by Playboy as a top party school.  He laughed, and said it made him think about the night before my law school graduation, which he ranks as one of his top three drinking moments of his life (he was 17 at the time).  It made me laugh about that memory and think about my own top three drinking memories.  Why not share?

So the night before my law school graduation, I went to a bar with three of my younger brothers and a bunch of law school friends.  All my law school friends were about 24-25, I was 24, and my brothers were 21, 17 and 15.  We all drank.  I kept a close eye on the youngest two brothers to make sure nothing was too out of control.  And I actually told the bartender to cut off my brother who was 21, but to no avail.  He kept being served.  I figured it wasn't a huge deal.  No one was driving anywhere (except a friend who wasn't drinking and was our ride home), and no one was approaching alcohol poisoning levels, and C'ville in general is a pretty safe city, plus we were in a big group. 

Well, eventually it was closing time, and about 9 of us (including me, three of my brothers and the guy I was dating at the time) piled into a very average sized car.  I remember being piled up in the back seat.  Our completely sober friend drove and the first stop was the apartments where my family was staying, since that would unload 3 people from the car.

At U.Va., since it's a college town, there aren't many 9 month leases, so most law students who go to various cities around the country for their summer jobs are stuck paying rent on an empty apartment for those months.  At the law school, it's kind of tradition that first and second year students will let third year students rent the furnished apartment for family attending graduation.  Since I have a pretty big family, we'd rented at least 2 apartments, possible more, I don't remember exactly.

When we got out of the car at the apartments, my 21 year old brother could not be corraled to go inside.  He is a very funny drunk (well, at least he was at the time, I've seen him be aggressive and boisterous other times since, but generally he laughs a lot and is very friendly when intoxicated).  He was making funny noises and walking in circles.  He's pretty lean, but even at 21 was well over 6 feet tall and physically stronger than me.  Eventually, my then boyfriend and a couple of the other guys got out of the car and we all managed to herd my three brothers into two of the apartments.

I had a talk with my 15 and 17 year old brothers.  Under no circumstances were they to let our folks know that I'd let the drinking happen. 

Well, the next day was graduation.  As the story is told to me, my mom went to wake up my two youngest brothers -- and completely contrary to every fiber of their beings, they popped right out of bed and got ready for graduation.  Usually, completely sober, it takes a small army and multiple air sirens to get them out of bed and moving.  Boys that age sleep hard!  So she was very suspicious.

And my dad went to wake up my 21 year old brother.  I remember very clearly that he'd been sleeping in a very good friend's vacant apartment, staying on the couch.  He had apparently vomited all over.  Carpet, couch, coffee table, wall, trail to the bathroom, toilet, and bathroom floor.  And it appeared he'd gotten sick multiple times.  Needless to say, he did not make it to graduation.  There was no rousing him.

So on the day of my law school graduation, my mom was livid and barely speaking to me.  I am still floored at why it was in her mind MY responsibility to manage someone who was TWENTY-ONE and buying drinks with HIS OWN MONEY.  But you know, such is life.  Water under the bridge now and a story we all laugh about. 

But my brother who was 17, as I said, ranks that night as one of his top three drinking memories.  My law school friends are awesome, Charlottesville bars are great, and my family is a lot of fun.  Plus I think he had fun hitting on some of my female friends. 

The whole conversation prompted me to think about my all time three favorite drinking memories.  Two clear stand-outs are Poland and Blender.  The third needs some more consideration, but top choices are Mardi Gras or Valpo.  If I have time, I'll have to write them up and share.  Because who doesn't like reading about others' drunken nights?  Haha, actually, they're fun memories for me and I probably would read a similar post if someone I liked wrote it.  Why not?  It could be content for while I'm in China! 

Thursday, October 11, 2012


The journey is officially underway. Just a test to see if I can really post from Beijing. We spent the day today in the Forbidden City. Absolutely amazing! Traffic, crowds, language barriers, all disappear for those moments when you turn a corner and get a spectacular new view!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Gauge of How Busy I Am

I have noticed there is an eerily accurate predictor of how busy I feel when I am at work.  The microwave on our floor is about 20 steps from my desk chair (out of my office, across the hall, into and through the file room).  I counted. 

If I am microwaving something for 85 seconds and I am very very busy, I feel compelled to go back to my office and work until it beeps.  On days I'm not so busy, I wait near the microwave, sometimes for up to 3 minutes (anything longer than 3 minutes though, I've noticed, even if it's not a busy day, I'll go back to my office). 

Lately, since we're paring down our food inventory at home in preparation for our trip to China -- you know tomorrow!!!! -- I've been eating these frozen lean cuisine snacks that we keep in the freezer just for days we're out of fresh food.  Usually when we have real groceries, I make two wraps in the morning of spinach and blue cheese crumbles folded into a tortilla that I eat at work, usually one around 9:30 and the other around noon (I tend to eat lunch around 1:30).  But now, given our lack of groceries, I'm eating these LC frozen things -- spinach artichoke dip with pita, garden vegetable dip with pita, or broccoli cheese dip with pita.  For the record, the broccoli cheese one is infinitely more delicious than the others. 

Each one of those snacks, you microwave the dip for 85 seconds, and then the pita for 25 seconds. 

And today, I walked back to my desk to get an extra 60 seconds of work done while waiting for the dip to heat up.

And I actually considered walking back to work for 15 seconds while I waited for the pita bread to heat up.

Yes, I feel like I'm so busy an extra 15 seconds of work would help. 

I suppose it's ironic that I'm giving myself 10 minutes to write this blog -- but I'm actually now waiting for my secretary to bring me a ton of files to dive into. 

I am very ready to be on vacation!  This is crazy! 

I really have no idea how I will get everything done that needs to be done between now and departure time. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Perpetually Late

In life in general, I hate being late. Not saying it doesn't happen, but I hate it. I feel like it's so disrespectful.

But right now, I feel so overwhelmed, that I feel like I'm perpetually late. Working out is the only thing I do on time lately, and that's because I start at 5:15 or 5:30, so it's the first thing on the day's agenda. But then I try to do so much at home that I'm late for work. Then I try to do so much at work that I'm late for the evening's errands. Then I finish the errands and I'm late getting home, so I'm late to bed. Then it starts all over again. And to make things even worse, the stress is getting to me -- I fell asleep last night, woke up around midnight to use the bathroom and then could not get back to sleep for more than two hours.  I kept thinking primarily about stuff I have to do at work, but I also kept thinking of things that need to get done in terms of the trip. 

More since I need to type out this list than for any good blog reason, this is what needs to get done before we leave for China, which is in less than 48 hours: 

dropping off our mail key for our neighbors (tasking to hubby),
make final revisions to wills (today!),
signing our wills (tomorrow on a late lunch break at work I hope),
leaving a packet with important documents, alarm code, etc. with a friend (need to prepare tomorrow),
returning library books,
depositing checks (tonight after work),
going to the pharmacy for antibiotics, Pepto, etc. to take with us,
wrapping and delivering my godson's birthday present,
shopping for a coat to take with me (lunch break today?),
shopping for primary walking shoes (lunch break today?),
registering with the state department (tasking to hubby),
making sure the runners I coach have their plans for the next couple weeks,
setting up all bills to be paid (tonight I hope),
cleaning out the fridge (tasking to hubby),
taking out the trash (tasking to hubby),
shop for a wedding gift for a wedding a few days after we fly back (and coordinating with at least one of my brothers if we're doing a joint gift),
get a dress for that same wedding (lunch break today?),
make a list of US and Italy addresses for the lucky recipients of our postcards from China,
unlock my cell phone to use abroad (tasking to hubby),
advise credit cards of trip,
make a trip-it with the flights and hotels and our contacts in China,
email my friend in Beijing to let him know when we'll be there,
email two friends in Shanghai to make plans to meet up when we're there,
have our air conditioning vents and dryer vent cleaned (scheduled for tomorrow morning),
pick up prescription for an inhaler,
reserve a hotel in Xi'an (have it down to two choices),
put together all my marathon registration info so a friend can register me for the Berlin 2013 marathon (for which registration opens while we're in China),
wrap my husband's birthday presents,
plan a semi-special early birthday meal for hubby (his birthday is while we're in China, but he needs to open gifts from me and my folks before we go since I'm not bringing that stuff with us),
get a written statement in Chinese indicating my allergies (and ideally another one saying I'm a vegetarian),
check on why my 401k now seems to have quarterly fees attached to it (this can wait until we get back but damn, it's been on my list to do for about a month and it needs to get done, stat),
change the address on a National Geographic subscription that we bought for a friend for Christmas (who then moved) (this can also wait til we get back if it must, but the first issue of the subscription is Dec, so it needs to be corrected within the first week of Nov),
make a list of emergency contact info to take with us,
copy our passports and visas to have a spare copy in each suitcase and carry-on,
get my work laptop fixed so the stupid trackball thing gets turned off (asking IT guy tomorrow),
pay for the closet repair that happened yesterday (need to email to get invoice and tell him we need it now if he wants to get paid this month).

And that's not counting all the work stuff -- two major reports, one report update, ideally wrapping up settlement negotiations in two cases, approving all my retained attorneys' bills, getting all my electronic filing to my secretary, setting up out-office messages for email and voicemail, setting up two new cases, retaining counsel for two cases that have gone imto litigation, plus dealing with the usual flood of stuff that happens daily.

And of course there's also the "ideal" pre-trip stuff -- changing the sheets on the bed so it's clean when we come home, doing a quick clean of the house, etc.  I hate coming home to a disaster, so it would be awesome if that stuff could also magically get done.

And we need to figure out how we're getting to the airport.  Kind of important.  But a cab will work as a last resort.

And I need to add a spin class tonight to the list -- without doing heated yoga, I feel like a whale.  I think an evening exercise class will help me sleep and preserve my sanity.  That's assuming I can break the perpetually late cycle and leave work tonight before 7...

OMG. Deep breaths.  I'll just print this blog post and start checking off tasks, beginning with work tasks.  And now my mind will be able to focus, since it's all written out in one place!

Monday, October 8, 2012

FMM: Inside Your Home

I had a busy but unexciting weekend.  Lots of packing to get ready to go to China ... this week!  OMG!  After about a year of contemplating the trip and many, many months with dates on the calendar, it's finally here.  Soooo much to do still.  I spent lots of time Saturday studying Chinese in my last cram session.  Sunday was lots of closet cleaning and packing.  I'm not actually packed, but I think I've chosen all the tops I'm taking with me.  And I'm excited because I'm taking about 6 "disposable" tops.  Things I was thinking about donating I am going to take with me, wear, and leave in China.  Hopefully housekeeping can find a good home for them.  But it will let my suitcase gradually lighten. 

This week is going to be crazy.  About a million things to do -- dropping off our mail key for our neighbors, signing our wills, leaving a packet with important documents, alarm code, etc. with a friend, returning library books, depositing checks, going to the pharmacy for antibiotics, Pepto, etc. to take with us, wrapping and delivering my godson's birthday present, shopping for a coat to take with me, shopping for primary walking shoes, registering with the state department, making sure the runners I coach have their plans for the next couple weeks, setting up all bills to be paid, cleaning out the fridge, taking out the trash, shop for a wedding gift for a wedding a few days after we fly back, get a dress for that same wedding, and probably about one million other things I haven't even thought of. 

But it's Monday and I'm eating breakfast, so one more Friend Making Monday before the trip.

If you’ve taken part in FMM then you know the rules. If you’re new, please take a moment to answer this week’s question on your own blog then add your link in the comments section here at: so we can all see your FMM questions and answers. Please invite your blog readers to add their links here too so everyone has to opportunity to be seen. The idea is to connect with other awesome bloggers so take a moment to post your own FMM post and comment on a couple of other posts. Now it’s time for this week’s topic!

Inside Your Home

1. Do you live in an apartment/condo, townhouse or house?  We live in a condo but most people would assume it's a townhouse.  It's a 3-story walk-up, sharing one wall with our next door neighbors.  Lots of people don't know the difference between a townhouse and a condo -- the distinction is who owns the land under your unit -- if you own it, it's a townhouse, if the HOA owns it, it's a condo.  Ours is a condo.  There are a total of 7 buildings, and about 40 units.  First floor is our garage, the laundry, and guest bedroom and bath.  Second floor is living room, dining room, kitchen, pantry, half bath, and small porch.  Third floor is master bed and bath and a bigger porch. 

2. What is your home’s coolest feature?  It's located in one of the coolest parts of town, lots of restaurants and shops right out the door, but no homeless people right out the door, which you get downtown.  We have the perfect balance!  Inside the house, having 3 toilets is nice -- when we both have to go, or so we only have to clean a rarely used one if company is coming.  We have an open second floor plan that we like.  But best of all is probably the master bedroom and bath -- very spacious. 
3. Do you enjoy DIY projects? If so, what are you working on now?  No.  We actually had a shelf collapse in our guest room closet last week (maybe due to the earthquake?).  Hubby attempted to reinstall it, and I promptly piled all my heavy stuff on the top shelf, and less than an hour later, it came crashing back down.  So now we have two workers downstairs installing it for us!  The extent of our home DIY projects recently was to install a garbage disposal.  We wait for my dad to visit for everything else.  He's very handy.

4. When using the dishwasher do you use powder detergent or liquid?  Both.  We use those tablet things.

5. Do you have a TV in your bedroom?  Yes.  Used to be very small until about 3 weeks ago, then we got a bigger one from a friend that was supposed to go on our second floor, but it was too big for our armoire, so now we have a huge TV in the bedroom. 
6. Is your range gas or electric? Gas.  Since I bought new, I got to choose exactly what I wanted! 
7. How often do you sweep/mop/vacuum?  Neither of us sweep much.  One of us mops the kitchen floor about once a month maybe?  I vacuum every couple weeks, whenever it seems to need it. 

8. What is your favorite place to shop for home furniture and accents? We have a Crate & Barrel and a Z Gallery each about a block and half away, so that's usually where we go. 

9. Do you decorate for holidays?  Always for Christmas, not really for anything else. 
10. If you could have HGTV come in and redo one room in your home which room would you choose?  Our guest bedroom.  Right now it's a mishmash of furniture and clutter, no real style.  I love the rest of the house. 
Now it’s your turn to answer this week’s questions! Don’t forget to come back and link up in the comments. Happy Monday, friends!

Friday, October 5, 2012


Funny that I just posted yesterday about noticing that I seem to be getting more grey hairs.  And back over the summer, I noticed that when wearing flipflops, I walk down the stairs like an old lady.  And yes, on Monday, I posted about having made a recipe for overnight bran muffins (a recipe I got from my mom, but totally delicious, but eating bran muffins makes me sound like I'm about 80). 

Well, now I officially have two facebook friends who are deceased.  Yet another thing that makes me seem older laterly. 

One has been since last October -- my local bestie's younger sister.  I posted about that when it happened (and my subsequent musings on her husband's return to the dating world).  That FB page is now being used by her husband to tag pictures of their young daughter, who looks so much like her mom that it hurts my heart. 

But now, as of this week, I have another FB deceased page among my friends -- someone who was a friend in junior high.  Still not completely clear on how he died, but it sounds like he mixed some prescription BP meds he was taking with too much alcohol and his heart stopped while he was sleeping, he never woke up.


I guess that is what happens as you age and your circle of friends and acquaintances expands.  Hope his family is getting through the grieving process as well as they can. 

I don't feel like 37 is old enough to have friends die.  It seems like that should be reserved for when you're well over 50.  I wish it was... 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Hair Color

I may be in a small minority of women in the US, but I have never colored my hair.  I have pretty average brown hair.  Lighter in the summer, a bit darker in the winter.  Possibly getting lighter in general over time.  But always all natural. 

When I was younger, my mom wouldn't let me color my hair.  I hated that rule sometimes (actually, most of the time for several years), but in retrospect, it was probably good that I learned to like myself the way I was.  But oh how I wanted blond streaks. 

Then when I got older, I was on too much of a budget to do it.  $10 for hair color at the drug store or $100 for hair color at a salon was better spent on pitchers of beer or other such nonsense. 

Then I became a real grown-up with a real job, and I felt like I was too busy to do it.  When I worked at a big firm, it felt like it was hard to find time for any personal stuff, let alone something that involved being at an appointment at a designated time.  It was funny, because I wasn't the only one with that issue.  Several friends colored their hair and if something major happened at work when they were due for an appointment, roots would show and grow until that crisis passed and finally we could leave work before 8 p.m. and actually have free time on the weekends.  Seeing how much work it was to maintain, and how visible it would be if I failed to maintain, discouraged me from ever attempting to have my hair colored. 

Now I finally have a great job so I feel like I have the money and the time that if I wanted to color my hair, I could, and it would be reasonably well-maintained.

And it's on my mind because I seem to be finding more and more grey hairs.  They seem to grow in the exact same follicles.  I can tell because they start to show when they're about 1-2 inches long, and I immediately try to pull them out.  But I think more and more follicles are going grey. 

But I'm not sure I'm going to do anything about it.  I think I definitely would if I lived anywhere other than Dallas, but the things I hate most about living here are what make me want to not color my hair -- this city sometimes seems very shallow, materialistic, superficial, image-conscious and artificial. 

And I feel like if I colored my hair, I'd feed into that.  Heck, why not just get implants and lypo then? 

Part of me really wants to just age naturally.  Sure, I want to keep working out and trying to eat well, taking care of myself in general, but if my hair turns grey, I kind of want to let it turn.  Part of aging gracefully and accepting myself for who I am.

And it helps that I'll always be about a decade younger than my husband!

But at the same time, I have a friend from high school who I haven't seen in at least 15 years, but I think (from tiny FB pics) that she has gone grey and not colored it, and while she looks great, in some ways I just feel like I'm not old enough to have grey hair yet.  It surprises me to think that a friend my age would have completely grey hair. 

I suppose if I keep pulling out the few that I find (always regrowing in the same spots, and expanding to new spots), I can fight it off for a few more years.  And if I'm grey in my 40s, I'm grey in my 40s.  And if I give in and color it, so be it. 

Where things stand right now -- I hate finding grey hairs but I hate more the idea of doing something "fake" to prevent them.  Wonder how long this will be the case. 

Random Thursday thoughts. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Marathon Cancellation Upside

I think I found another good thing about the fact that the National Congress of the Communist Party of China will be meeting in Beijing in mid-October and thus, as announced a couple weeks ago, the Beijing Marathon will not proceed as originally scheduled.

There are a couple things I always do when I travel to somewhere unfamiliar (i.e., somewhere abroad that is not Western Europe).  I look at the weather, and I check the state department website for travel advisories (and for vaccination recommendations).

Well, for this trip, in looking at the weather, somehow I stumbled on some air quality readings.

For every single day I have looked at Beijing, the air quality alert has either been "unhealthy for sensitive groups" or "unhealthy."

Unhealthy for sensitive groups means "People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion."

Unhealthy means "People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion; everyone else should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion."

The best I've ever seen is moderate, and unfortunately I've seen a lot more "very unhealthy" than I have moderate.  Very unhealty means "People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should avoid all physical activity outdoors. Everyone else should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion." 

Thankfully, I have not ever seen "hazardous" which means "Everyone should avoid all physical activity outdoors; people with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should remain indoors and keep activity levels low."  Maybe if I'd been checking over the summer...

Interestingly enough, what I looked at (showing mostly unhealthy or unhealthy for sensitive groups) were the readings from the US Embassy in Beijing -- the readings from the Ministry of Environmental Protection the People's Republic of China consistently show good (which I equate with the US readings of good or maybe even moderate).  Sometimes I wish I would magically become completely fluent in Chinese in the next week so that I could pick up on all kinds of information spin like this while we're there.  We already discussed that it would be particularly interesting if we were able to see US election coverage there.

Anyway, based on that air quality info, and since I have asthma and hubby has some heart issues, I suppose it's best that I not run the marathon in that air, and he not run the 10k or half-marathon (he hadn't committed to doing either, but I was planning on convincing him to do one of those races).

So there, I have found another bright side.  I'll add it to the list:

No permanent lung damage from prolonged and heavy exertion in unhealthy air.
No sore legs to limit Great Wall hiking.
More time to see Beijing as a tourist.
No packing running clothes or gu.
No worrying about race morning logistics.
I can drink and eat whatever I want on hubby's birthday instead of worrying about a morning race.

Does that counter-balance the negatives?

I trained my ass of to run this marathon.
I will not be able to effectively train for another marathon while I'm there.
We spent thousands of dollars and all my vacation days to plan this trip around this marathon.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Hmm, sometimes I think I am the densest person in the world.

Today, to work I wore this skirt: 

And then I had this for lunch: 

Can you guess what the problem is?  ARGH! 

I actually don't even think the fact that I added a serving of peas and made the frozen meal overflow was the issue, it was more my lack of fork coordination. 

It's one of my favorite skirts and this totally sucks.  Now I have to wear it for the rest of the day with this huge red splotch on it, accompanied by several splatters.  At least I don't have a meeting or anything.  Maybe I can just camp in my office.  Unfortunately I'm sure I'll need more water, the restroom, and doubtless need to ask my boss a couple questions...

Monday, October 1, 2012

FMM: Uniquely You

My weekend was not too exciting given that I wasn't feeling great.  Friday night we missed going to the Greek festival due to both rain and feeling lousy. 

Saturday there was no stopping us though, it was our one and only chance to hit the Texas State Fair this year.  I'll have to post pictures.  It was rainy, but that kept the crowds down and we had a good time.  I still felt like my lung capacity was low because I'd been sick, but I was able to spend half the day walking around.  But I seriously had no exercise whatsoever, not even yoga for 2 straight days!  I seriously can't remember the last time that happened.  Actually, I went from the time I finished my run on Thursday (about 6:30 a.m.) all the way through until Sunday at 5:30 a.m. with no exercise.  That's basically 3 days.  Yikes.  No wonder I feel like a slug.  Can't wait to get back to yoga tonight. 

Sunday I had my last 20 mile run on the schedule and it went so well -- a small miracle and a clear sign I'm kicking this upper respiratory infection out.  The rest of the day Sunday sucked.  There were two small eartquakes here Saturday night, 3.1 followed by 3.4.  No idea if it's related to the earthquakes (which we slept through), but a shelf in our guest bedroom closet (and the attached hanging rod) came crashing down.  That was all of hubby's clothes and way too much of my crap.  Ugh.  So I spent most of the day Sunday pulling stuff out of the closet, organizing, buying supplies so we can hopefully reinstall the shelf.  Then last night was a neighborhood gathering, which was nice -- glad I was feeling better, and it was fun to talk to some neighbors we didn't know before.  But spending the day dealing with the closet was not what I planned.  I'd wanted to spend the day shopping for Christmas gifts (right after we get back from China, we fly home for a wedding, so if I can take some gifts with me then, I can save major money on shipping and checking luggage when we go for Christmas).  But instead the day was spent buying new brackets, stacking clothes and bins, etc.  Ugh.  Oh well, such is life...

If you’ve taken part in FMM then you know the rules. If you’re new, please take a moment to answer this week’s question on your own blog then add your link in the comments section here at: so we can all see your FMM questions and answers. Please invite your blog readers to add their links here too so everyone has to opportunity to be seen. The idea is to connect with other awesome bloggers so take a moment to post your own FMM post and comment on a couple of other posts. Now it’s time for this week’s topic!

Uniquely You

1) Do you prefer to talk or text?  I guess it depends.  Two years ago, I definitely would have said "talk," but I'm starting to like texting more and more.  I guess it depends on the purpose of the communication -- to convey info, I'd say text.  To connect, talk.  But even with my brothers, to whom I love talking, quick texts now and then are nice too. 

2) How often do you make your bed?  I make it Sat-Wed usually, then hubby makes it Thurs and Fri usually -- our rule is the last one up makes the bed.  That's usually me! 

3) What sounds do you hear right now?  Today Show is on tv in the background.  I can also hear my oven fan cooling down since I just made "overnight bran muffins" and pulled them out and turned off the oven.

4) List three things that you always carry with you.  My phone and water.  That's about  it.  I'm usually near my car key -- either it's in the house, in my purse at work, or on me when I'm running.  I'm pretty much usually at home, at work, in the car, running, working out or at yoga -- and those last 3 activities mean I have very different things with me than the first few activities.  I hate carrying much stuff when I run. 

5) What are your favorite TV shows?  Hmm, the Office, Law & Order, Dallas, Grimm.  But I'm not really watching tons of tv lately. 

6) Is there a hobby that you’d like to devote more time to? If so, what is it?  Is "photo-albumming" a hobby?  I don't want to call it scrapbooking, but I'd love to spend more time putting prints into albums, and I'd also say cooking! 

7) What is your favorite drink?  I mostly drink water, but I really love a martini called the "big daddy" at the 5-star restaurant that's about a block from our house.  We don't go there often, and they have a new recipe for it, but I like the way they used to make it (absolut mandarin, absolute citron, simple syrup, sweet & sour), so I ask for an old school big daddy when I go -- unless I have one of my old favorite bartenders, then I don't even have to ask.  I'm impressed they remember me from when I used to go pretty often many many years ago. 

8) Share a couple of cool facts about your family. Everyone is healthy and in great shape -- all my brothers run or bike and lift pretty regularly, their wives all look like they could be models, my folks are active with yoga, running, biking, etc.  Everyone gets along pretty well -- two sisters-in-law had some kind of tiff a few years ago, but it's all good now.  I seriously can't believe how lucky I am to have such an awesome family.  I love them lots and they're lots of fun. 

9) List one thing that you will do for yourself today.  Hmm... I already went to boot camp (and after being out sick for two sessions last week, that was a big step for me).  I will go to 90 minutes of Bikram yoga tonight after work, and at work I'll start plowing through my to-do list since we leave for China next week!!!! 

10) Share something that you’re thankful for today. Prednisone!  Gotta love drugs.  It's  nice to live somewhere that I don't have to deal with being sick for weeks on end.  I can go, get meds, and start feeling better quickly. 

Now it’s your turn to answer this week’s questions! Don’t forget to come back and link up in the comments. And try to say something to someone new this week. There are some pretty cool people connected here. Happy Monday, friends!