12 August 2009

Health Care - My Two Cents

There is a lot of noise going around right now about Health Care. Town Hall meetings across the country resemble mosh pits more than anything else. Friends on Facebook are arguing on each other's walls. Twitter is a buzz with people voicing opinions and tweeting URLs to back up their points. Late night comedians are having a field day with the whole thing.

I decided that I would state where I stand on this whole debate unequivocally here. On my blog. Where I have some control over the amount of space I devote to this topic.

I support Single Payer Health Care. I have been a supporter for some time now. I have three close friends whose health care stories have influenced my decision, but along the way, I have met many others. I would not deny care to any of the folks that I have met, but private insurers would and have.

Let's start at the beginning (a very good place to start):

My friend was rushed to the hospital with kidney failure. A diabetic since childhood (Type 1), her kidneys had finally given up. Her insurance company will only pay for her to have one new kidney. Her transplant team insists on a new pancreas as well since that will help ensure that the kidney lasts. She has been on dialysis three times a week for the past five years! She can't afford to pay for the pancreas. The only way she could afford to have the transplant her team wants is to become destitute and go on Medicaid.

Another friend was shopping at Home Depot with her husband when a pallet full of pavers toppled over on her crushing her leg. My friend was rushed to the nearest ER where she sat waiting for many hours. The ER was not particularly busy, but that hospital didn't want to treat her because, as a schoolteacher, her insurance wasn't good enough. Her husband began calling other hospitals til he found one that would treat her. 30 hours later, she was finally treated.

Lastly, my cousin was nearly killed (technically she was dead) when she was hit by a drunk driver and crushed in her car. Her medical bills were enormous and the driver was under insured. She lives in a state where attorneys are entitled to one-third of the settlement regardless of what the insurance had paid for without suing so even if she sued successfully for full payment of her medical bills, she would still be short the money to pay them. She ended up having to sell her house to pay her bills. She was left with life-long pain management and other now pre-existing conditions that make her uninsurable.

For myself, I have worked a corporate job for most of my life and I have always had insurance through my employer. But after losing my job, I was not able to make the COBRA payments. If not for the Obama administration's current subsidy of COBRA, I would not have health insurance right now.

Single Payer Health Care provides health care to all citizens regardless of employment, pre-existing conditions, or ability to pay. Patients have free choice of doctors and hospitals. Care is co-ordinated through a Primary Care Physician. Co-pays and premiums are established based on ability to pay. Any care that is not medically necessary according to the Primary Care Physician can be obtained by waiting a prescribed amount of time &/or paying an extra fee. Prevention & Wellness are stressed as these are real money saving ways to provide health care. Chiropractic, Acupuncture, and other alternative treatments are also covered.

I have supported the Single Payer movement here in CA, both with my time and my wallet. I supported it when I was fully insured by my employer and when I was uninsured because I couldn't afford insurance. I am happy to say that Senator Mark Leno has taken up the reins and authored SB 810. I encourage everyone to read it:

CA SB 810

There are two current bills in the US Congress. One is HR 3200. Dennis Kucinich has written an amendment which would allow states to keep or enact a Single Payer option. The other is HR 676 which is the National Health Care or Medicare for All bill. You can read that bill here:

HR 676

The important thing in the current Health Care debate is to not be swayed by the media coverage of riotous town hall meetings. The important thing is to keep your eyes on the target: Health Care Reform. I encourage everyone, including our President, to take the time to read the various bills pending before Congress and to write to your representatives to let them know how you want them to vote.

You can find your representatives here:

US Senate

US House of Representatives

Remember, your elected Representatives work for you. So be a good supervisor and tell them what you want them to do for you!

04 August 2009

The End of Funemployment

Today I accepted a Part-time job so thus marks the official end of Funemployment. I need to find a second part-time job to supplement the income. But I am excited at the possibilities that this new job has in store for me.

So I hope to write more inspiring blog posts in future!

26 July 2009

Oeufs En Cocotte

For those of you who are vegans, or otherwise don't eat eggs. You might as well stop reading right now.

This post is about eggs.

I have always loved eggs for breakfast, especially poached eggs. When I was little, my favourite breakfast was either a soft-boiled egg with toast soldiers or toad in a hole (my mother's version was an egg fried in bread). On special occasions, I would get oeuf en cocotte - an egg baked in a ramekin with butter & cheese.

When I was married, I sometimes made toad in a hole but I made oeufs en cocotte a lot. My then-husband also had his grandmother's egg poacher which we used quite a bit.

Since I've been divorced, I've made soft-boiled eggs, and toad in a hole, but I had not made oeufs en cocotte. Until today.

I began reading "Julie & Julia" which my aunt had given me for Christmas several years ago (while it was still on the NYT bestseller list) but which I had just not gotten around to reading. Since the movie is coming out, I decided that I had better get to it.

Of course, Julia Child loved eggs, butter, cream, and cheese which are exactly the ingredients of Oeufs en Cocotte. Julie Powell, the author, makes them frequently in the book, calling them the perfect dish.

And then this morning, I was inspired to make them when one of the people I follow on Twitter complained that no matter what he tried to do with eggs, they always end up scrambled. I found an easy recipe and tweeted the URL back to him. Then I proceeded to the kitchen to make them myself. Because if there's something I nearly always have in my kitchen, it's the ingredients for Oeufs en Cocotte.

Here's my recipe:

Preheat oven to 450 F

In a ramekin, place 1 tbsp of butter (if your ramekin is large enough for two eggs, use 2)
On top of the butter, crack 1 egg (or 2)
On top of the egg, put 1 tbsp of cream, creme fraiche, 1/2 & 1/2 or sour cream (or 2)
On top of the cream, put 1 tbsp of grated cheese of your choice (or 2)

Place ramekin in another baking dish, fill the outer dish 1/2 way with hot water. Place in hot oven and bake for at least 10 minutes or until the eggs are done to your taste.

Remove ramekin from baking dish and place on serving plate. Salt/pepper/parsley to taste. Serve with toast. Makes one serving per ramekin.

Easy Peasy!

It was delicous btw.

25 July 2009

Defrosting the Minibar

Look to your left. No, not my left, your left. Do you see those lists in the sidebar? Have you noticed that they have new titles? Well, that is in honour of Minibar's 10 years in Los Angeles.

Minibar is my favourite band - you see them right there at or near the top of my list of bands that I have seen this year (LPs I Scratched Over Time is the heading). I first met Simon Petty and Sid Jordan who are one-half of the 'bar in Finn McCool's in Santa Monica. My friends were regulars there on Thursday nights and had been trying to get me to go for about a year, but I had another commitment. Finally, it was one friend's birthday and she was having her party there so I went. I was hooked. That was about 6 years ago and since then I have been to as many gigs as possible.

I have seen Minibar play all over the US - either alone or as Pete Yorn's backing band, and sometimes as both.

I've been thinking a lot about the time I've spent seeing Minibar lately. They had their "10 years in LA" show last night at Largo. It was phenomenal. I videotaped it so I hope we can all enjoy it for years to come. A week from this Thursday, Sid & Simon will play their last regular gig at Finn McCool's. I am hoping to make it one last time.

In the time since I have known them, they have gone from being four bachelors sharing an apartment to three out of four being married (and no longer sharing one apartment - in case you were wondering). Oddly, everyone but Malcolm seems to have more hair.

I just wanted to say "Cheers" to the four of them.

08 July 2009

The Russians Are Coming!

For some reason, I am gaga for Russian art in many forms. I love the music, the poetry, the plays, the operas, the literature. It can't be genetic since, despite the name of this blog, I'm not Russian. I do love melancholy things though so maybe that's the connection.

This musing was brought on by my trip to hear the Philharmonic perform selected works of Sergei Prokofiev. So I thought I might mention a few other Russian artists that I truly love.

Modest Mussorgsky wrote my favourite piece of classical music by a Russian composer: Pictures At An Exhibition. He also wrote Night on Bald Mountain which is featured in Walt Disney's Fantasia and the opera Boris Godunov.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is probably the most famous Russian composer, especially if you are a ballet lover. I was lucky enough to be selected for District Honours Orchestra the year that the entire Nutcracker (not just the Suite) was on the performance schedule. I also love Swan Lake & Sleeping Beauty. And who doesn't love the 1812 Overture performed with live cannons & fireworks! He also wrote operas based on stories by Alexander Pushkin - my favourite opera of all time "The Queen Of Spades" and "Evgeny Onyegin".

Anton Chekov is a favourite playwright. I especially love "The Three Sisters". And though some may scoff at Leo Tolstoy and avoid his books, I really did love "Anna Karenina". It was sort-of Jane Austenesque, except that it was Russian. Anna Akmahtova and Alexander Pushkin are favourite poets.

In school, I made a film set to Igor Stravinsky's "Firebird". Hmm. I wonder if I gave Disney the idea to use it for "Fantasia 2000". Probably not.

The strangest connection I have with Russian art, though, is with the Rimsy-Korsakov piece "Scheherazade". As if my name wasn't odd enough, my pet name at home was Scheherazade. Go figure. At least it's a nice piece of music.

So, even if Shostakovich Tone Poems aren't your thing, maybe there's a Russian artist out there that you would enjoy.

03 July 2009

Happy Birthday America

On this, the eve of America's 233rd birthday, I wanted to reflect for a bit on people that I am grateful for having served America.

My cousin Tom. He's a career military man. He served in the first Gulf War, in Bosnia, and has done two tours in Iraq. We are in a cluster of cousins 8 months apart in age. He is the oldest and I am the youngest. He is my hero.

My father. He was drafted and served in World War II. He never left California, though. I have his discharge papers that state "Foreign Service 0 years 0 months". He was stationed near Sacramento and had dinner every Sunday with his mother.

My friends Don & Elizabeth. They met in the Vietnam War. (How many people do you know who can say that?) He was a Naval Aviator. She was an Army Nurse. They met at a dance at an Air Force Officers' Club. Recently, they went back to Vietnam on vacation with some of their buddies from the war. I admire them greatly.

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!

Happy Independence Day!

25 June 2009

Tsarina's Black Bean Stew

I was going through my pantry the other day and discovered that I had some dried black beans that I hadn't used yet. I thought I would make a stew since I also had some beef in my freezer. But what else? I searched for a recipe and finally decided to just make one up.

FYI - though I used beef, any kind of meat could be used. If you are vegan or vegetarian, omit the meat and feel free to add the equivalent amount of TVP or Kale or Spinach or anything else you might like, but wait until the beans and potatoes have cooked thoroughly.

1 T Olive Oil
1/4 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup chopped peppers (green/red/yellow/orange - whatever you like)
3/4 lb. meat in chunks (for vegans - substitute an equivalent amount of vegetables or TVP)
4 cups sliced potatoes
4 cups drained & rinsed black beans (dried beans should be 4 cups AFTER soaking)
1 cup mirepoix (diced onions, celery & carrots)
1 qt vegetable stock
1 t garlic powder
3/4 t cayenne pepper
3/4 t dried thyme leaves
1 cup wine (whatever you're drinking with dinner)

In stockpot, saute onions, peppers & meat in oil (for vegans - omit meat) until onions are clear and meat browned. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Cover & Simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. (Vegans - add additional vegetables or TVP near end of cooking time) Add Salt/pepper/parsley/chives to taste. Serve w/sourdough bread & green salad.

Makes 6 meal-size servings.

12 June 2009

The Employment Discouragement Department

Well, that's not really their name. But the EDD - the dispenser of unemployment benefits in the state of California is quite a discouraging group of people.

Here's my latest story - My last check from them only paid for one week and not two. I received no notice of any kind. I'm not sure I would have agreed with their reason, but I did expect them to have one! I emailed them and asked for an explanation stating that I was not sick and I was available to work. That was Monday of last week. I had planned to give it until Tuesday of next week before physically going to the Jobs Center to use the Magic Red Phone. (I wanted to wait five business days and I have an interview on Monday.)

Today, my roommate came home from work early and she said "You have mail from the EDD and it's from the Adjudication Center so it's probably not good." She knows whereof she speaks as she was unemployed for two years and had many letters from the EDD.

I opened it and they have scheduled a telephone interview for me for July 1st. So that means 5 weeks without any money if they hold my benefits until after the interview! On the back of the notice are the questions they plan to ask. All of my questions have to do with my ability to work. HUH?

  1. Do you have a health condition that keeps you from working?
  2. Have you been under a doctor's care?
  3. What kind of work are you looking for?
  4. Can you accept work now?

I emailed them back and, accepting full responsibility for the confusion, stated that I must have mis-marked my continued claim form for that week as I have been ready, willing, able & available to work every single day since becoming unemployed.

So I will be going to the Jobs Center on Tuesday and using the Magic Red Phone (the only way to talk to a human). Because I certainly can't afford to wait until after July 1st to get any more money.

The good news is that I had an interview yesterday and I have another one on Monday so it's entirely possible that I will be employed by July 1st.

07 June 2009

Mea culpa

I am so sorry, Gentle Readers, that I have been neglecting my blog. I didn't even finish telling you the stories of my trip to Ireland. The big reason is that I lost my job unexpectedly and after that didn't feel much like blogging. Then I decided to write a blog about looking for work and I have been writing there and not here.

So I am sorry.

But something happened this weekend that I definitely wanted to share with you.

I was with a friend on a long drive and we hadn't seen each other in a while and we were catching up on all of our news. I was talking about some of the jobs I have been applying for and especially about my trouble writing cover letters for some of the positions last week. I decided to recite the letter I had written for a job at one of our local museums. All of a sudden, my friend shouted "Stop! Enough! You're Hired!"

Then both of us laughed so hard. It felt so good.

And that's when I remembered that I hadn't written anything in this blog since I lost my job. I will try to do better in future.

31 March 2009

Soccer or Rugby or Whatever

After leaving Kilmainham Gaol, we hopped on the city bus to Trinity College. Then we walked over to Merrion Square and found Ken's real address. After that, we walked back to St. Stephen's Green.

March is a wonderful time to walk through St. Stephen's Green. Everything was blooming. It was Saturday so the families were there with their children. Lovely!

We walked back to the hotel following the Luas. We got back in time to have a nap before dinner. Oh how precious nap times will be on this vacation.

After a good hour, we head out to find a place for dinner. We know there is a match tonight between Ireland and Bulgaria. Two of our party are at Croke Park to see it. But we aren't sure what sport. We think it is probably Football (soccer). As we try to find a place for dinner, we run into a lot of crowded places. Finally, we come upon a lovely bar/bistro. The front part was packed, but the back (which has no few of any TV screen) was empty so we had dinner. I had probably the best salmon of my entire life!

We were there about three hours because the poor bar staff were completely overwhelmed with the crowd. It was indeed football and the final score was 1-1.

We met up with the gang in the hotel lobby for a bit and then headed up to bed.

Tomorrow we are off to see the countryside.


Our first full day in Ireland. We were up and breakfasted and decided to set out on an adventure before boarding the bus. We had gotten Ken’s address from Chris and thought it would be fun to find the house and snap a photo of the door. We walked down to the canal and then followed the canal.

It was a beautiful walk. We saw a heron and a cormorant. We saw the locks and even a historical marker. After a bit, we came to the Leeson Bridge which I recognized from my last trip to Dublin. We turned on to Fitzwilliam Place and continued in the direction that I had gotten from our driver. That’s when I noticed that I had lost a glove. My first indication that all was not going swimmingly. When we came to the street, we were a bit confused because the odds and evens are on the same side of the street and also because street names can change at every block. Ken had told us that his house was no longer a house. But we were surprised to see what was there.

We took a few photos and then hailed a cab back to the hotel. Back in the room, I remembered that I had put the address in my phone. We had been on the wrong street! We decided to try again later in the day if we could.

We boarded our coach for the ride out to Glasnevin Cemetery. This is where many of the patriots from the Easter Rising are buried. It was quite something to go out there and I would not have done it otherwise. On the way back in to town, our driver asked if anyone wanted to see Kilmainham Gaol. There were 13 of us that did. He pulled over near The Patriots Inn and dropped us off.

Five of us walked up to the Gaol directly. The other 8 held back a bit. As we were about to go in, I asked the desk if they could accommodate 13 on one tour and they sold us all tickets for the same tour. We went to the tearoom for a cuppa and then toured the museum until our tour time.

Our guide was very good and knowledgeable about the penal system, prison reform, etc. and not just the history of Kilmainham. I won the prize for knowing that “In The Name Of The Father” had been filmed there. I showed Chris Mrs. Plunkett’s cell and snapped his photo. Barbara & I actually stepped into a cell and closed the door. It was kind of creepy to do that.

As we were leaving, Chris & Rob hung back in the entryway. Suddenly, they began to sing “Grace”. It was amazing. People walking by on the sidewalk stopped to listen. People stepped out of the museum to watch. It was quite something and definitely a moment I will not forget.

Your Place or Mao?

Our first night in Dublin, we all went to Cassidy’s Bar for a drink. I was scheduled to meet my friend Mark’s friends Kate & Collum for dinner but didn’t have a firm time and place so I went along to Cassidy’s as well. My first drink in Ireland: a glass of Guinness. I was severely teased for drinking a glass and not a pint, but I held my ground. I didn’t know what the evening had in store and wanted to pace myself. Plus I hadn’t really eaten anything at all since the Aer Lingus dinner the night before.

While at Cassidy’s, Kate texted me to meet them at the Fitzwilliam at 7:30pm. I took my leave of the group, but Suzanne decided to stay and see what the evening plans turned out to be.

It was only a short walk to the Fitzwilliam which is a very nice modern hotel on St. Stephen’s Green near the top of Grafton St. We met in the lobby (after a bit of kerfuffle) and decided to try one or another of two Asian places close by just off Grafton St. The first had a line at the door so we move on to the second.

Mao – an Asian fusion bistro – is a great place to eat in Dublin or Dun Laoghaire. I know it’s in at least those two places and maybe more. We started with cocktails and appetizers. Collum had an Erdinger (non-alcoholic beer) and Kate & I had gin & tonics. Collum & I had the Honey Sesame Prawns and Kate had the Chili Squid. Kate originally offered us to try her squid but we never got the chance as she wolfed them down declaring them DELICIOUS. The prawns were sweet and crunchy on a bed of rocket with cilantro lime dressing for a sweet/spicy mix.

For mains, Collum had water and Kate & I split a bottle of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. It was smooth and wonderful. Collum had the Tempura Sole, I had the Mango Chili Duck, and Kate had the Chili-Lime Tiger Prawns. We had a choice of noodles or rice. I chose the rice and the others the noodles. Again, we all polished off every bit of food & drink declaring everything very tasty.

The surprise was the dessert menu. They had Cheesecake, Ice cream & Sorbet. We had one of each. Not what I might expect with Asian food, but delicious.

After our dinner, they drove me back to my hotel. Some of the gang were still in the lobby, but it had been a long day and it was time for bed.

Busy day tomorrow!!

27 March 2009


I am in Dublin. There is free wi-fi in the room so I thought I would log on briefly to re-cap the goings on so far.

Suz and I had business class seats for the flight from LAX to Chicago. We were chatty with the ticket agent and we think she upgraded us. We got our American miles on that flight.

In Chicago, we went to the Aer Lingus counter and they confirmed that we had an aisle and a middle seat which wasn't too bad, and they gave us our United miles. Also very good! There's no food past security in that terminal so we went to the Food Court. I opted for Pizzeria Uno, Suz went to the Hot Dog place (but didn't get a dog) and the others visited the Golden Arches.

We landed 30 minutes early, met a nice woman in the line to go through Passport Control. The Immigration Officer was chatty and asked me if I was "here to do a bit o dancin' & drinkin' with the band". We met up with the guys in the arrivals hall.

We teased Rob that he was there to kiss all the girls "Hello"! But it was great to see all the old friends from the last trip and meet some new friends as well.

We are on Bus #1. Which I promptly dubbed the "Girls Gone Wild" bus. Terry liked that!

Democracy seems to be in action as we have voted on nearly everything that we have done so far. Bus #2 was doing their own thing as well. Our driver/guide is Keith (keet). He is nice, flirty, funny. Already started working for the end of trip tip!We voted to have a tour of the city and then go to the hotel. We voted to get off the bus twice. First stop was St. Patrick's Cathedral. I hadn't seen that last time so it was great to stop and walk around. Mass was going on so we didn't go in.

Our next stop was Trinity College. We walked through the college to O'Connell Street. Went to Eason stationers to use the loo and Suz & I bought Irish dictionaries. Our first souvenirs! Then to the GPO to see the site of the 1916 Easter Uprising. I mailed two letters and bought stamps for postcards. Walked back toward Grafton Street and stopped at a shop that sold postcards & other trinkets. then went to the bank, then headed up to the "Tart with the Cart" - otherwise known as Molly Malone.

Molly is at the foot of Grafton Street. We walked up a bit and saw a busker singing just like Glen Hansard in "Once", then it started to rain so we headed back to the bus, stopping briefly at the sweet shop for Cokes and Aeros.

Keith suggested that we might want to go to the cemetery where Michael Collins et al are buried tomorrow instead of going to Trim Castle. He is going to talk to the other driver and we will find out in the morning what we are doing. Maybe we will split up and do both. We had already decided not to go to Trim as the others really want to see Kilmanhaim Jail & Guinness. Keith said we would stop at Kilmanhaim on the way back from the cemetery.

Then we drove around Dublin a bit more and came to our hotel. Good news & bad news: only some of the rooms were ready. Margaret & Sally's was, but not ours. So we were sitting in the lobby and Terry was walking around passing out room keys as they came available. He came by and said he didn't have anything for us but a smile. We said that was okay. But he walked over to the desk and came right back and said "you are going to want to kiss me now" and handed us our key. Our luggage was not too buried in the pile so we claimed it and are now in the room.

We are freshening up, taking a short nap and then heading out later. I've texted Mark's friend Kate and I am planning to meet her tonight or possibly tomorrow.

This is going to be a GREAT vacation!

19 March 2009

Caution! Rant is coming!

I don't mean to disparage men in general. But what are you guys thinking? Every corner I turn these days, there's some crazy man lurking...

I feel like Helen Hunt in "As Good As It Gets" lately (If you don't know what I mean, then maybe you should rent it).

I almost want to climb up on my Feminist soapbox and scream at the top of my lungs. But instead, I am just going to blow off all my steam right here right now.


Okay. I'm done. I feel better. I return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

17 March 2009

Luck O' The Irish

Just a quick recap of St. Patrick's Day. I had one rather unlucky thing happen but then I had two very lucky things happen. I think that means I came out positive in the luck department which is only right.

The positively luckiest thing was that Viv Campbell showed up at the pub tonight to jam with PJ. How cool is that?

I hope that you, Gentle Reader, had a wonderful and memorable St. Patrick's Day!

11 March 2009

Dateline Dublin

I have decided to take my laptop with me to Ireland. A variety of reasons contributed to this decision. First - I will have Internet in my hotel room for 6 of the 8 nights of my trip. Second - Last time I was in Ireland, I filled up my 2GB card and had to switch to a film camera the day we were in Killarney State Park which also explains why there aren't any photos of that to post on Facebook. Third - and this is probably most important - I just got my tickets yesterday and I will have a three hour layover on the way to Ireland and a six hour layover on the way home. Both in Chicago. I figured, at the very least, I could entertain myself at O'Hare.

I can't promise to blog, Facebook, or tweet every single day. But I will do my best.

Adh mor!

04 March 2009

Everything Old is New Again!

Today was my first meeting back on the 411 Team for Employee Events & Activities. I was Member of the Year in 2006, but had to leave the team when I was laid off. I just made the application deadline for 2009! WHEW!

It was great to see old friends and new faces. I am really looking forward to all of the events we will do over the year. My only sadness was seeing the people who weren't there because they have been laid off recently.

ML, JD, MD. I missed you!!!

27 February 2009

Mother definitely doesn't know best.

Today I had an email from my mother. Someone forwarded her my LinkedIn profile and she wrote to tell me how disappointed she is in me and my career.

Isn't that nice?

She actually said that she wouldn't have paid for Film School if she would have known that I would become a Financial Analyst (after working in the movie business for 17 years).

I'm just wondering. If she paid for my education, why do I still have student loan debt? Must be nice to be Bi-Polar and have selective memory.

Thankfully, my mother is not my only relative and I have pretty much cut her out of my life. I guess I am going to have to cut her all the way out. The rest of the family has, but I have been holding on to a few strands because, well, she's my mother.

OK - I'm done venting.

25 February 2009

Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday and I have been toying with what I might do in observance of Lent (which I believe begins as soon as I go to my church's Ash Wednesday service so I still have some time).

In the past, I have given up (among other things):
TV - not too hard really
cussing - a disaster - I think I cussed more
chocolate - pretty hard
alcohol - really easy
sweets - too broad of a category.

I have also done something instead of given something up and that worked better for me. One year, our church had a calendar of activities and each cost something and I put the money in a jar and on Easter Vigil the money was donated to Lutheran World Relief. That was really fulfilling. Another year, I made a point to think one positive thought each day about my mother (you have to know me to understand this one).

This year, I am thinking of spending one hour each day in Lent going through the things I never use, books I never read, and clothes I never wear and donating them to charity. I am holding on to a lot of things. And what are they really? They're just things. I think by spending time each day physically putting aside these things, I can reflect on how much more important God is to me than all of these things.

Besides, I can't give up alcohol. I'm going to Ireland. Though I am probably going to participate in the Great American Meat Out on March 20th.

I'll let you know how it goes...

18 January 2009

Pools & Pedicures

Saturday was our laziest day of the whole vacation. We spent 5 hours at the pool and the most exciting thing we did was get poolside pedicures.

We slept and swam and that was the extent of our day.

But hey, we are on vacation!

Cabo Wabo

Friday morning I had the owner's breakfast. I ended up being there for five hours because after I upgraded they offered me a bottle of champagne and K came downstairs to have a little and they latched on to her. I was done in 90 minutes and the rest of the time was her. I told them she didn't have a credit card and when I was in the restroom they got her to call home and get the number. I think that was a little underhanded, but she told me last night that she is pretty sure that she will cancel as soon as we get home (she has until Friday).

We were there so long that they paid for our taxi to/from the sunset cruise.

The cruise was nice, except we were at El Arco at the completely wrong time of day for pictures. All of the pictures on my camera of us in front of the Arch are bad. So don't ever take Sun Rider Tours if you want a picture of yourself at the Arch at sunset. They are not at the Arch at sunset but so long before that the sun is directly behind the person having their picture taken.

The best part of the cruise was that we chased a pod of humpback whales. The video that I shot didn't turn out, but they were singing and that was REALLY cool.

We stayed out on the Pacific until sunset, then they came back in to the bay and it turned into a booze cruise with tequila being poured down the throats of anyone who would volunteer for it and line dancing and the lot.

After we got off the boat, K looked like death warmed over so we made our purchases as quickly as we could. This is difficult with a brain-injured person. She told me who she needed to buy for, but every time we walked in to a store she would pick up something for someone she had already bought for or hadn't mentioned. I let her buy the thing she wanted for herself but not the people who hadn't been on her list. I also wouldn't let her buy anything for someone she had already bought for unless it was very small indeed. Two hours later, I was exhausted and told her I needed the next taxi we could find.

We found the stand right in front of Cabo Wabo. Grabbed the first one and headed back to the resort.

A very exhausting day.

17 January 2009

Mi palapa es su palapa

Our first full day in Los Cabos. I am up at dawn. I made coffee and watched the sunrise. Very beautiful & relaxing.

I was just going to run down to La Plaza (the deli) when K got up and suggested we go to the Mega since it was cool and she was awake.

We walked up there and spent two hours as she shopped for souvenirs, groceries, etc.

I finally had to tell her that I was hungry and I needed to go back to the room.

We came back. I had some lunch. She had a few bites and we headed down to the beach.

The beach wasn't crowded at all and we had our choice of palapas. We laid out on the chaises longues for 4 hours! We had bloody marys and margaritas. We watched people riding horseback and guys playing volleyball. We even shopped from the vendors who walk the high tide line.

Then we went to the hot tub for about 15 minutes (one cycle of the button) and then back to the room to change for dinner.

It's K's birthday and we decide to dine at Flor de Noche - the poolside bar. We were sitting there at sunset having mojitos and iced tea. A wedding was taking place on the beach. It was lovely. We had chips & salsa, prawns & steak brochette. The waiter took our picture. Did I say it was lovely?

We watched them turn the lights on the palm trees and light the fire rings. Then we headed back up to the room.

K went to bed pretty soon after that. I watched "In Bruges" which I had brought with me from home. I had trouble figuring out how to get the DVD player to work until I realized that it wasn't plugged in to the TV. DUH! Anyway, I didn't really care for the film. It was just too violent. If it wasn't for the witty dialogue, I would have given it 1 star, but I gave it 2.

The busiest day of our whole trip is tomorrow: Owner breakfast, Drive in to Cabo, Sunset Cruise to El Arco, & shopping.

15 January 2009

Mucho Gusto Cabo Azul

My cousin is turning 45 this year and she wanted to celebrate some place warm so I reserved my timeshare at Cabo Azul and we were off!

This is her first vacation since her accident. She flew to Ohio for her 25th reunion but that was one flight, stay with family, and only 2 days. This is 6 days, two flights, at a resort, in another country. She's very brave.

She only had one flight schedule to Cabo that worked for her. In order for me to meet her at the airport, I had to leave LA at 9:30am. For some unknown reason, the shuttle picked me up at 5am. We got to LAX and I was checked in, through security, and in line at Starbucks by 5:45am. Three hours until boarding!!!

Can I just pause for a moment here to say that I rarely have trouble with security lines? Is it because I travel frequently and am used to the system? Is it because I am always a little bit early for my flights so I don't have to panic, rush, etc.? I don't know. At least I always have a book or sudoku puzzle or my iPod to keep me company.

Most of the folks at my gate were going to Chicago. I felt sorry for them in their heavy winter coats and sensible shoes. I felt even sorrier when their flight originally scheduled to board at 6:30am was delayed for boarding until 8am and the gate agent said they would go out to the tarmac and wait for up to 90 more minutes for clearance to Chicago due to bad weather in the Midwest. They told people to use the bathroom and purchase food prior to boarding as the food and facilities would be limited on the aircraft. Some of the people complained vociferously as if the gate agent could control the weather in another part of the country. Seriously!

While I was waiting, I chatted with a very nice young man on his way to Basic Training in South Carolina who was waiting for a flight departing from the second gate. It's nice to know such polite and focused individuals still exist in our country. The military has always been a career path in my family and in this day and age, young people don't often consider it because the world is so dangerous. I wish him well and, even though I didn't get his name, I will remember him in my prayers.

The gate for my flight changed three times before we actually boarded. I didn't move the first time as the boarding area was still close by, but I moved for the second and third times. When I moved after the second gate change, the flight previously at that gate was going to Chicago and that flight was moved to another gate for our flight. So all of the people in heavy coats left, and the people in shorts and sandals showed up.

The final gate we moved to was kind of small, but there was a flight crew so I was optimistic. We boarded and took off quickly. The flight wasn't full so the aircraft was cold and so many people asked for blankets that the flight attendants asked the captain to blast the heat. I commented that since we weren't going to Chicago, some of us may not have dressed for a cold airplane. The flight attendants were amused.

We landed in Mexico about 20 minutes early which was great for me since K was already there. I got through customs "no Problem". We changed some money and then we headed off to face the onslaught.

If you have never been to Cabo San Lucas, there are many people in the airport exit area who try to get you to sign up for their timeshare presentations. Of course, they don't tell you that's what they are doing. They even impersonate the shuttle services! K was very glad that I was there with my firm "NO". We had been instructed by the hotel that our shuttle service would be wearing a certain colour shirt and would have our name on a list. So I was able to tell the most aggressive person he was wearing the wrong colour. They shouted that we needed to see them for our welcome package and I said that it was waiting for us at the hotel. Then we walked into the second arrivals hall where another man told us that we needed to have him call our driver and I said "I was told not to talk to you" and he said "That's rude". But I was starting to get that Tangier feeling so I just walked straight out the door. K was very happy that she could just follow in my wake. The best thing that our concierge told me was that our driver would be waiting right outside the door where I could see the blue sky over my head. And there was a young lady with a clipboard and a sign and the right colour shirt waiting in such a place. She had our names on the list, said we would need to wait for a few others to check in and so I fetched a couple of Cokes and we were set.

In the shuttle with us were a family from Chicago and were they glad to have left there! They are staying here so we may run into them.

We checked in with a tiny bit of drama. The resort front desk doesn't take debit cards which is what I had brought (you have to leave a security deposit). K thought she had brought a credit card but couldn't find it in her luggage (panic starting in). Fortunately, we had enough cash so we were able to do that. Of course, first thing K did after we got to the room (and paused to take in the luxuriant surroundings) was completely unpack everything and then phone home to see if she hadn't picked it up off her desk after all (she hadn't - it was lying right there - so at least it wasn't lost or stolen!)

And speaking of the room, it is GORGEOUS. Our villa is in the Tierra building. All of the buildings are named: Alta, Brisa, Arena, Mar, Sol, Tiera, Luna

The hallways are exterior and from our door, we can see the mountains and look down into a garden (we are on the 6th floor). When you walk into our suite, you enter into the kitchen which is quite large with full-size appliances. Just past that is the living/dining area and a veranda that goes across the whole unit. This great room is large enough that you could have a whole family here. The sofas sleep two adults or three children. There is a TV with a DVD player in an armoire.

Through a sliding door are the sleeping areas. There is a full bath with walk-in shower. Next to that is the "Romantic" room. It has a fake window which I think is kind of pointless. A view of the mountains from this room would have been nice. The ceiling is draped so that it feels as though you are sleeping under a canopy. There is a queen-size bed. There is no TV in this room. The master bedroom is the other side. It has a whirlpool jacuzzi tub, a walk-in closet, a full bathroom with walk-shower, a king-size bed, a sliding door to the veranda, and an armoire with TV.

K chose the romantic room because she wanted to be under the canopy, but she said she would like to switch tomorrow night for her birthday. She's the birthday girl so that's fine with me.

We popped downed to the market and deli to check things out and buy a few things to have in the room. K was excited when she found they had her Vitamin Water.

We changed and went out to the pool. K laid in the sun, but I went straight to the hot tub. After about 20 minutes, she got cold so we decided to order dinner from the bar (instead of eating there) and take it back to our room. K really wanted the veggie wrap and we hadn't seen that at the deli.

The meal was great. The guacamole was the best I have ever had in my entire life (and I've had a lot of guacamole). It was better than chocolate! The veggie wrap was delicious and K actually ate most of it and some chips and guac, which is great because she hadn't had a lot to eat.

Then we called it a night. Neither of us had had much sleep the night before. I was lying in my bed and my legs were aching and my back was aching and I thought "Jacuzzi tub" so I fill it up and turn it on and the water went EVERYWHERE! I kid you not! I think it was designed to be used by two people and if someone is not blocking one of the jets, they quirt up and out and all over the room. Not really a good plan. I mopped up the water with the two jacuzzi towels and one of the bathrobes. Thankfully, we agreed to the Owner VIP package which includes fitness center, Newspaper and daily linen refresh!

The last thing that I did before turning in was activate our Internet access so I can blog and tweet while we are here.

The best thing about this whole trip is that we only have two things that are scheduled. The first is the Welcome breakfast, which we are having on Friday since they don't offer it on Thursdays. And the sunset cruise to El Arco, which we are hoping to schedule for Friday or Saturday, but will do on Sunday if we have to. Other than those two things, we are doing nothing.

The best vacation of all.