Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Monkeys and mosquitos and snakes... Oh My!

T minus 18 hours and we'll be on a red-eye headed to Lima.

30 hours after that, we'll be in the Amazon Jungle.

HOLY CRAP!

Jim and I have been in full-on last minute travel prep mode for the past couple of days, trying to make sure we have everything we need for the trip and tying up loose ends at home and the office. It's pure craziness in our house right now.

We made (what I thought was) a last trip to REI on Saturday for 100% deet, travel sized TP and other assorted goodies that we had forgot to purchase along the way and combined the outing with a stop at his parent's house to impregnate our clothing with insect repellant. Did you know that permethrin is some seriously toxic stuff? You're not supposed to breathe it or touch it or come into close contact with it while it is in the liquid form. And yet, as soon as the clothes are dry, it's supposed to be totally fine. WTH?! Everyone seems to say that the stuff is safe, so we'll see. Although, at this point, if it'll keep the mosquitos sorta at bay, I'm game.

Sunday was a mad packing day (after a fun morning of walking and brunching with some lovely ladies and one seriously cute baby!) that ended with almost everything packed up in a duffle or backpack. I thought we were about done. Wrong.

Monday night I tossed and turned all night wondering whether we had everything, what the weather was going to be like, etc. While the jungle is going to be hot, humid and rainy (hence, "rainforest"), Cusco is supposed to be cold and rainy. I kept having these visions of us freezing our mosquito-bitten buns off while we're there. So, of course, another trip to REI Tuesday night was in order for some light weight fleece pullovers that could be layered over our shirts and under our jackets and gloves for Jim (as he couldn't find the ones that he swore were somewhere in the apartment).

Tuesday morning, Jim decided that the waterproof camera case I've been bugging him about for months, was in fact, a good idea and we should get one before we leave. And while I was getting ready for work, I realized that I actually did need a hair cut before the trip. Okay, so now Tuesday night is packed with trips to REI and Sammy's Cameras as well as getting my hair cut. Awesome.

It's now Wednesday morning and I can sorta see the light at the end of the tunnel. I'm trying to cut out early today so I can finish straightening the apartment and finalize things at home. We're having dinner with his parents and then we head to the airport around 10:30pm. I'm totally excited, but still can't even wrap my head around all of the crazy things we're going to see and do over the next 10 days.

Not sure how much internet access we will have, but lots of fun pictures and recaps when I return! Hope everyone has a Happy Easter and a great end of the month. See ya'll on the flip side!

Friday, March 14, 2008

When the husband is away the wife will... be lazy

Jim has been away on a business trip for the past 2 days and I had a list of stuff I was going to get done in his absence. Let's take a look at the proposed list and the current status of each item, shall we?

1. Exchange skirt at Banana Republic. Check
2. Pick up the dry cleaning and put it away. I picked it up, yes, but I only brought half of it actually into the apartment. It's now lying on the floor, still wrapped in plastic. The other half is still hanging in my car.
3. Make dinner/use up the leftovers. Wednesday night I could barely muster the energy to make a sandwich. Last night I had cheese and crackers for dinner. Neither of these things were said 'leftovers.'
4. Unload the dishwasher/tidy up the kitchen. I've been using the clean dishes from the dishwasher, but the bulk of them are still sitting there, waiting to be put away. As for the tidying part, the dirty dishes are stacked in the sink (since there is no room in the dishwasher), which must count for something, right?
5. Catch up on my DVR'd shows. The box is still at 88% full.
6. Get to bed at a reasonable hour each night. Midnight on Wednesday and 11pm last night. That isn't even reasonable on the weekend for me, much less a work night!

I'm blaming my lazy ways this week on the time change. Thank god it's Friday and the weekend is almost here! Hubs is home tonight for dinner so hopefully I can get my act together to actually get stuff accomplished over the next 2 days.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Happy (early) 30th Birthday Sweetie!

I wanted to make sure I did something really special for the husband's birthday this year. Not only is turning 30 a big milestone, but he has had some real sucky birthdays for the past several years due to school and work commitments always getting in the way of being able to do something cool. Booo!

But, what should I do? He doesn't have much time to have a hobby, so a gift geared to that was out. I tossed around several ideas including throwing a big party or taking him on a surprise trip. However, nothing really felt quite right. And then I remembered something he had mentioned while we were at a Lakers game earlier in the season. He looked down on the court and pondered out loud, while his eyes glazed over like a kid in a candy store, what it would be like to sit courtside and to actually have your feet on the the wood. Hmmm....

I jumped on the internet and started investigating. Could I even get tickets? Were there any left this late in the season? If there were, would I have to sell a kidney to afford them? And so on and so on. After a lot of research, multiple calls to a ticket broker and putting my eyeballs back in my sockets after seeing what courtside seats actually cost, I managed to make it happen! A once in a lifetime opportunity for my wonderful husband for his birthday --- we had coutside seats for the upcoming Lakers game vs. the Toronto Raptors. Unbelievable!!

Jim has been on cloud 9 since I told him about them a couple weeks ago. And everytime we'd see a game on tv he'd get all googly eyed and say "I can't believe we're going to be courtside in a few weeks!" You and me both babe. :P

Before the game, I scoured the internet for any first-hand accounts of what it's actually like to sit courtside at a Lakers game. And I couldn't find a darn thing! So, with that in mind, I'm trying to emulate WeeMo with this post and give a very detailed account of the evening. It's gonna be long and picture-filled, but it was just too special of a night not to fully share here.

Arriving at the stadium
Staples Center opens 2 hours before tipoff for VIP ticket holders, so we arrived shortly after 5:30pm to try and get as much time in in our seats as possible. However, we didn't realize that the lower levels aren't open until closer to 6pm. To kill time, we headed to concessions on the premier level and had a quick dinner of cheeseburgers, fries and coke. Neither of us were wild about chowing down during the game so this worked out perfectly. I'd love to show pictures of our meal, but I hadn't yet started taking pics. Oops.

Getting to our seats
After dinner, we hightailed it back down to the VIP entrance and were directed to go down the super secret staircase, go through the double doors and then head right. Um, okay. At this point, the camera was pretty much glued to my face.


We'll take what's behind the doors thanks.

Okay, it just got really freaking cool.

Nope, I lied. This is cool!!


From the time you go through the double doors, your tickets are checked at least a half dozen times until you get to your seats. I think we were both in complete shock as we entered the tunnel and then headed to the court. It's all just surreal. I mean, it really is just a basketball court and yet, after watching so many games at home and in the arena (but from mid-level seats), it's a lot to take in that you're actually standing on the court. And yes, we were this excited and still hadn't seen any players yet. Ha!

I had been told that our seats were "across from the visitors, around the 3 point free throw line." Um, yeah. Not so much. Normally, I would have been pissed at the false information, but I was having trouble doing anything besides grinning like a cheshire cat and Jim was looking the same way. Ultimately, our seats were just past the baseline, which was fine. And Jim got his wish -- our feet were firmly planted on the wood of the court.
Feet on wood. It still hasn't sunk in at this point.




Warming Up
From about 6-7pm, several of the guys from both teams were out on the court warming up and taking practice shots. We were some of the only people in their seats (for obvious reasons -- we were determined to milk this experience for all it was worth!) and it was really relaxed. The calm before the storm, if you will.



Chris Bosh was doing a shoot-around for at least 20 minutes right in front of us. He seems to be rehabing a knee injury right now and while he didn't play in the evening's game, it was really something to see him practicing his shots and working with his trainers right in front of us.

The man is really tall and incredibly athletic. He also had on cool shiny shoes.

And what a nice guy. As he was leaving the court, we saw him sign at least a half dozen autographs for kids and adults alike. Made us both smile to see that.

After the unofficial warm-up ended, there was a break in the action and then both teams took to the court for the official pre-game warm-up. You can usually feel the excitement start building at this point as more and more people file into their seats. Last night was no exception.

The Canadian and American National Anthems soon followed.

And then the starting line-up introductions for each team.


With 'I Love LA' playing in the background, the Laker Girls rock out and get the crowd pumped up.

Yes, I <3 the Laker Girls! They are amazing dancers and there was always a small part of me that wished to be one. Not that it was ever gonna happen, but it was a fun thought to have. Before the Laker Girls took their place on the baseline, I guess it dawned on Jim that they were going to be sitting right next to him.
Jim: So, the Laker Girls are gonna be [pointing] right there, huh?
Me: Yup.
Jim: [with a big goofy grin on his face] Wow. It's even better than the Spearmint Rhino!

We were celebrating his birthday afterall, so I decided not to smack him. Hilarious.


And now it's time to start the game!

First Half
The starters for each team trade "pleasantries" with each other...

and then get down to business.

The Lakers played defense on our end of the court for the first half. Jim and I basically didn't speak the entire time as we were just trying to take it all in. We were both amazed at how athletic the guys are and how physical the game is up-close. There are so many details that get lost even when you watch the game on television. Those guys move so damn fast and play really, really hard. The fouls that look minor on tv look brutal when they're 6 feet away from you. You also realize how much the guys talk during the game; to their teammates, to the opponents, to the refs, hell, even to the fans! And Kobe's facial expressions are fantastic. I couldn't keep from laughing everytime he'd shoot the ref a "Really? REALLY?" look when he didn't get a call he was expecting--- that is, until Jim told me I had to stop laughing as he was afraid Kobe would come over and take it up with him. hehehe! There is so much going on that it is almost too much to take in at once. Maybe if those are your regular seats you get used to it, but I think we both felt the entire game was overwhelming (in a good way of course!)

About mid-way through the 2nd period, Phil put Coby Karl in the game. He only played 7 minutes, but his 3 pointer, 2 rebounds and 1 blocked shot doesn't really tell the true story of how well he played and how much he helped invigorate the team. This from the kid that has played very little all season and looked like a fish out of water when he did play. At one point, he was going for a loose ball and the ball wound up in the lap of the guy next to me and Coby wound up practically in Jim's lap with his hand on his knee, steading himself. Folks, he was close enough that I could see the freckles on his arm. Jim and I were on tv for a split second when they showed the slow motion replay (we taped the game and watched it later), but you can visibly see both of us flinch as he came in for a landing. Once he went back to the court, Jim turned to me, completely deadpan and stated "Dude. Coby Karl just touched my knee. I'm never washing it again." I couldn't stop laughing!

While Jim and I didn't do a lot of talking during the game, we're both pretty vocal, yelling out comments such as "Nice!" or "Come on, you gotta take that shot!" or other similar things. We're not obnoxious, but you can definitely hear us cheering or jeering, depending on the play. Eventually, the guy sitting next to me turned and said "Wow, you really know your basketball, don't you?" Why yes I do sir! I get this every so often from guys (young and old) who are surprised that I can actually "talk sports." And I always take it as a compliment, especially seeing as how it's something that Jim is quite proud of. :)

And what about the celebrities off the court, you ask? Nick Lachey and Matt Leinart (with his baby in tow) trotted past us to their seats in the lower level as did Andy Garcia. We also saw Nick Cannon chatting with some folks courtside during halftime. And, it's not a Lakers game without the their #1 celebrity fixture:

The Lakers ended the half up by 6. Wheee!


Half-time
There is a private bar that is only open to courtside ticketholders that we briefly checked out. We were under-whelmed. Maybe if you had a group of friends there to hang out with it would be fun, but being just the two of us, we much preferred the vibe on the court, so we made our way back to our seats and just hung out.

The Lakers warmed up right in front of us before the second half got underway. So Cool! Great opportunity to get lots of close-ups of the guys seeing as how they were just a few feet away. Again, Jim and I were pretty much silent just taking it all in.

Second Half
Yay, the Lakers were now playing offense on our side of the court! So so great. Like I said earlier, the athleticism of the players is unreal and getting to see D Fish pull up for 3 pointers and Kobe drive to the basket just a few feet from us was something neither of us will ever forget.

I'm telling you, they're all more impressive in person, but especially Kobe. He is just in a class all his own. [I know the same can be said about many other players, Jordan in particular, but since I never got to see him play like this, I'll just stick to making these comments about Kobe.] Jim noted that I basically had the camera glued to my face whenever Kobe came within 12 feet of us. I don't really think he's exaggerating :/ I'll spare you most of the 1800 pictures I have of him, but a few can't hurt, right?

Oh, and he had on cool shoes, too!

Jim said he didn't want to drink too much because he didn't want anything affecting his memory of the evening. However, he also said that having a beer courtside might be one of those things that you look back on years later and just can't help but smile. Mid-way through the 3rd period, we made that happen.

Before we knew it, the game was over and the Lakers had won! YAY!

It all went by way too quickly! But, Jim was so happy with everything and said that it was a perfect birthday gift. I was thrilled to be able to do something so over-the-top for him as he is always so good to me and has been for years.

Happy 30th Birthday sweetheart!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Ready to Run

I'm really making a concerted effort to tackle this running thing head on. Since I already workout regularly, I have a lot of clothing that will at least get me started, but I wanted to make sure I was set with good shoes and had a music set-up that would motivate me when I start dragging.

Last fall I went to get fitted for shoes at Road Runner Sports in Torrance on the recommendation of a few friends. While the guy that helped me was nice, I wasn't thoroughly impressed with the whole experience. I also wasn't really shopping for running shoes so much as just a good shoe for general fitness. I learned that I needed a neutral shoe with lots of cushioning. Fair enough. However, my biggest complaint was that they only stock one, maybe two shoes in narrow widths and even then, they didn't carry most of them in my size (10.5 narrow).

In an effort to try the whole shoe fitting thing again, I tried FrontRunners in Brentwood. I had heard great things about this place from my step instructor. While everyone was very nice, they had only ONE shoe that they stocked in a narrow width. ONE SHOE! ugh. Although, I did feel a bit better when I looked at the sale table and saw these little babies on it:
They actually had my size and I scooped 'em up! Which led Jim to remark "Good job honey. I'm sure you can just run in those. They'll be perfect." Hmph.

I've now decided that while not the most popular places for buying running shoes, New Balance South Bay and Zappos are really my best bets. I've had the best customer service at that particular NB store and Zappos shipping and return policies are my besties. I have a pair of shoes that I've run in a few times and they are comfortable and offer quite a bit of support, so I ordered another pair in the new spring color so when my blue ones give out, I have replacement shoes ready to go!


After hearing great reviews about the Nike+ system, I decided to jump on the bandwagon. I remembered Jim and I had each been given the 1G ipod nanos as wedding gifts (engraved and all), but we had never used them since we already had ipods. Well, seeing as how the Nike+ only works with nano model, this was a perfect opportunity to give mine a whirl. And after using an Apple giftcard to purchase the Nike+ sport kit, my financial outlay was basically zip. Yay! I'm still need to get it all set up and finish putting my playlists together, but that should be done in the next few days.

The only downside to using the old 1G nano is that the armband that accomodates the Nike+ sensor has received pretty tepid reviews. I've heard that the new armbands for the 3G are fairly good, but no such luck for the older models. Ah well. I think I may get one anyways and see how it works. I'm just bummed that I don't have a lot of options. :(

Once I start running outside regularly, I'd also like to snap up some athletic sunglasses and a mesh hat or visor. But I think I can wait a bit on these fun accessories.

And I'm really thankful that my recent injury was a bicep strain and not something affecting my lower body. Even though I need to lay off the weights for a bit, at least my running schedule doesn't have to be altered. :)

Bring it on!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Tidbit update

So, all that pride that I had earlier in the week about almost being able to do a real push-up? Yeah, about that....

My right arm might have been very sore on Thursday and even more so on Friday. And I might have woken up Saturday to a swollen lower arm and elbow. And possibly after a quick trip to urgent care I might have been told I have a lower bicep strain :/

Yeah, not so sure how happy I am about those push-ups now.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Tidbits

It's been sort of a boring week. Which, quite frankly, I've loved. Although it doesn't provide a whole lot of blog fodder. So, instead, how 'bout some random thoughts and comments! And yup, I'm still stuck on bullet points! :D

* I started watching Eli Stone when it debuted a few weeks ago and I still really enjoy it. Yeah, it's not a 'real' lawyer show and it has it's cheesy moments, but I find it quite charming. So sue me.

* I had a weights session at the gym last night with my trainer. It was much harder than normal and I'm still really feeling it today. One happy note: It's only taken me 2 years, but I'm thisclose to being able to get to 90 degrees doing real push-ups! He hasn't let me do "girl" push-ups for weeks now, saying that I'm strong enough to do real ones and what do you know, I guess he's right. It's a stupid little thing, but I'm feeling pretty proud of myself this morning.

* I lost my darn mind this week and signed up with an amazing group of girls in OC and LA to run the Nike Women's Half Marathon in the fall. Nothing is set in stone yet, as it's a lottery system on who will be allowed to run, but I'm excited about it nonetheless. I'm by no means a runnner, but what better way to prove to myself that yes, in fact, I can run, than with a group of other similarly motivated women. I'm stoked!

* As if the above isn't crazy enough, I'm also working with another blogger friend, Alyssa, to get signed up to do the 3 day breast cancer walk in November. I'm equally excited about this as I've wanted to participate in this event since college and just now have everything together enough to actually join in the fun. Again, so stoked!

* Monday afternoon I picked up my husband's 30th birthday present! There is a long story behind it, but I don't want to share details quite yet. I promise one heck of a blog entry about it next week though. I honestly can't figure out who is more excited about the gift, me or him. :)

* It's almost Friday! Thank God!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Weekend Round-Up

Why is it that the weekends always fly by far too quickly? Ah well. All in all my weekend was pretty great. Jim took Friday night, all day Saturday and Sunday evening off from work and we hung out -- always fun! And since I'm still loving bullet points, here goes:

Friday
* Jim and I actually had lunch together! Amazing. We only work about a mile from each other, but his schedule is so crazy, I can count on one hand how many times we've seen each other for lunch. He picked me up, we dropped his car off to be washed at his building and then headed off to get big deli sandwiches and chips. So great!
* After work, we headed down to the ILs house to hang out for a bit and check to see how his mom was doing after surgery. She looks good, but really tired. Jim couldn't stop saying how sad he was for her :( The first doctor she saw said she'd be in a cast for 6 months, the second doctor (who did the surgery) said 6 weeks, so she is thinking that 3 months is probably more likely. Poor thing!
* For dinner, we met up with our Peru travel companions, MoP and T-dogg, for some peruvian food and to discuss the trip a bit more. We all tried ceviche for the first time (spicy but tasty), enjoyed our saltados (lomo and camarones) and T-dogg attempted to make Pisco Sours for us. They are pretty strong (almost like a bourbon margarita) and we think a somewhat acquired taste. However, we're all on board though for giving them another try once we get to Peru.

Saturday
* Since Jim wasn't working, I ditched the gym and we headed to John O'Groats for some grub. The wait was suprisingly short and the food -- huevos rancheros for both of us -- tasty as always.
* Next stop, REI to try and purchase the last of our travel supplies. Notable purchases include headlamps (I snagged the last pink one!), rain jackets, sunscreen with deet and permethrin to make our clothes insect repellent. [Can I just say that reading the back of the permetrin bottle is a little scary?! That stuff appears to be crazy toxic. Yikes! Although, if it'll help us not get eaten alive by mosquitos while we're in the jungle, I guess I'm game...]
* Finding shoes for Jim for this trip is proving a bit difficult. After finally convincing him to get his foot measured, it confirmed what I have suspected for awhile now -- he has a wide foot. Add to the mix that we're looking for a lightweight trail shoe with gore-tex (that comes in a wide width) and things get even more complicated. Between the two of us, shopping for shoes is just hellacious. He thinks he found a pair that will sort of work, but we're still looking for other options. Good times.
* Lunch was In N Out. Need I say more? :)
* We had to make a quick stop at his office to pick up some notes he needed for the next day. Downtown was buzzing with all the folks there for the marathon. It was actually pretty cool to see downtown so active and vibrant. Kinda sad that it's not that way all the time.
* Dinner was a simple salad since we were still stuffed from lunch. While munching away, we caught up on another episode of Lost. So good this season!

Sunday
* I was up bright and early to meet up with some LA and OC ladies to support of a group of the OC nesties (Diane, Andrea, Cat, Kim, Jess and Aline) that were running the LA Marathon.
* After gathering everyone at Union Station, we made our way over to Phillipe's for some french dipped sandwiches and assorted side dishes. I seriously never get tired of this place!
* Once we all had full bellies, it was time to make our way to the 26 mile marker to wait for our 6 ladies to run by. Thanks to WeeMo, we were in a prime spot to see them round to the corner and start the last 0.2 miles. They all ran by like champs and we were so very proud of all of them! Better recaps with pictures have been written by WeeMo, Kate and Wan.
* I finally got home around 5pm and what did I find? Why, my very sweet husband cleaning the entire apartment, top to bottom. I was shocked and so happy. I usually take care of all the household chores because of his work schedule, but every so often, he'll get in a cleaning mood and go crazy. He is such a keeper!
* After the apartment was sparkling, we capped off the evening with dinner at Loteria. I had the usual nachos with shredded beef while Jim tried the tacos (roast pork, shredded beef and stewed chicken). Everything we've tried here is just fantastic and that night was no exception. If you haven't tried this place, it's a must the next time you're at the Farmer's Market.

Yeah, I guess we squeezed quite a bit into our little weekend. :)