Monday, April 28, 2008

Weekend Rewind

Busy, busy and busy. That's the short version.

For the full recap, read on.

Friday
The best man at our wedding, Mr. Metro, was visiting from England, so a group of us got together for dinner and drinks. Dinner was at James' Beach, a casual little restaurant in the heart of Venice Beach. Jim said his beef and potatoes were just okay, but my shrimp tacos were super yummy and came with a very generous side of guacamole. Mmmm!

After dinner, we headed to the otheroom. A trendy chic wine and beer bar with a plethora of drink choices, it seemed to be the place to be and be seen that night. However, it's far from an intimate scene, which made actually talking to the guest of honor difficult at best. Frankly, I think I'm just over the whole trendy bar scene. I am so much happier either chilling at someone's home or at a local watering hole where you can actually converse with your friends instead of spending the whole night shouting "what?". Oh well. The upside is that Mr. Metro is back stateside in a couple of months so we should get a chance to hang out more then.

Saturday
I actually managed to wake up at a decent hour and headed to the gym for an hour of step aerobics. Felt so good! After showering and getting pretty for the day, the hubs met me for lunch at the mall, udon for him and a wrap sandwich for me. I think his udon trumped my sandwich though, even with the ridiculous heatwave this weekend.

Jim headed back to the apartment to get a little work done, while I stayed at the mall and did some shopping. Save for a new pair of black work pants, I left empty-handed.

Later that afternoon, we made a run to Costco to pick up some essentials (paper towels, napkins, etc) and to let me price out food for Sporty's bridal shower next weekend. More about that later. ;)

By this point, we were both tired and still hot, so a quick stop at Baja Fresh provided dinner. While eating, we watched Sports Center and caught up on the day's sports (Lakers took Game 3 and are just one game away from sweeping Denver. Wheee!) before heading to bed relatively early for a weekend.

Sunday
For some unknown reason, I was up at 7:30am. WTH?! It was pointless trying to go back to sleep as it was already getting warm in the apartment. The upside to getting up so early? You can get so much done!

After having breakfast and watching some TV, I walked to the gym, ran 2 miles in the air-conditioned building and then walked home. I also did 4 loads of laundry in the morning, caught up on some more DVR'd shows, walked to the grocery store and did the shopping for the week. At this point, I looked at the clock and it was only 2:30pm! Craziness.

The rest of the afternoon was spent having lunch at home, folding laundry, chatting with Blondie about next weekend's shower, cleaning the bathroom and just trying to stay cool. For dinner, I tested a recipe that we're using for the bridal shower. While it was mostly good, I'm glad I tested it first, as there are a few changes I'll need to make.

And before I knew it, it was 9pm and time to call it a night. I curled up in bed with a new book (Jodi Picoult's The Tenth Circle) and read until I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore.

All in all, a very productive weekend!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Exciting movie news

In light of all the recent posts from my blogger friends about ' My Sister's Keeper' from Jodi Picoult, a book that I also love, I decided to check out her website. Look what I found:

"My Sister’s Keeper film news: During a brief visit to the LA set last week I had the pleasure of meeting many of the actors, and watching them work. Cameron Diaz and Jason Patric are brilliantly portraying Sara and Brian Fitzgerald - you’re going to be very impressed. As for the Anna and Kate’s characters, Abigail Breslin and Sofia Vassilieva are such remarkable little actresses that they literally had the entire crew in tears during one particularly emotional scene - an assistant was handing out Kleenex! Kudos to Nick Cassavetes, the very gifted director who is working all this magic. I will be going back to the set soon, meeting the rest of the actors (including Joan Cusack and Alec Baldwin) and will post more about my second visit - I can’t wait!"

I had no idea they were turning the book into a movie. Group outing when this hits theaters, anyone?!

Monday, April 21, 2008

So many memes - Part 2

The second meme tag was from Emily at Don't call me gringa. This meme was a list of questions to answer and then to tag fellow bloggers to play along as well.

What was I doing 10 years ago?
I was just about to finish my first year at UCLA, which means I was likely flipping out about a chemistry or physics midterm. It was a great first year, but the workload was really stressful!

5 snacks I enjoy
* Chips
* Ice cream, in all its forms
* Cheese and crackers
* Cake
* Fried foods

Things I would do if I were a billionaire
* Donate money to my favorite charity organizations
* Travel with my husband
* Quit my job and volunteer full-time
* Buy a house

5 jobs I've had
* Paper filer/errand runner for a dental office
* Sales girl/cashier for Nordstroms
* Office manager for a dermatologist
* My current job

3 bad habits
* Biting my nails
* Not flossing regularly
* Eating ice cream after far too many meals

5 places I have lived
* Bay Area, Northern California
* Los Angeles, Westside
* Redondo Beach
* Mid-Wilshire Area

5 things I love about Los Angeles
* The beautiful weather
* The beaches
* Year-round fresh, yummy produce
* The expanse of activities
* The large and diverse population

I tag everyone to play along!

So many memes - Part 1

I was recently tagged by 2 different bloggers to participate in memes. They are both *fairly* new to the blogoshpere, so I wanted to be sure to play along. The first tag was from Diabolina at My Super Sweet Fashion Diary. This meme was to tell 6 unspectacular quirks about yourself. I think I might have done this one already, but here goes anyways:

1. I still use an old school 3-ring organizer to keep track of my life. As much as I love techie stuff, there is something about writing in an organizer that is so much more fulfilling than just typing in appointments.

2. In high school and college, I couldn't drink coffee without milk or cream in it. When I started dating Jim, however, he never kept cream in his fridge so I'd have to choke down my coffee black. And now? Well, it's just not a real cup of coffee if it has milk or sugar in it. ha!

3. I don't eat it very often anymore, but when I eat cup of noodles or cheapy ramen I always put red wine vinegar in it. Sounds icky, but it's soooo good.

4. Before going to be at night, I always lay out my clothes for the next day, pack my gym bag and I usually make my lunch. I'm so sleepy the mornings that if these things weren't done the night before, I'd never get out of the house on time.

5. I love reading in bed for a few minutes before I fall asleep. It relaxes me and helps put me in a mellow mood before bed.

6. I consistently weigh myself every morning, without fail. I don't always like the number that I see, but I like keeping myself accountable.

If you'd like to participate too, please do so! :)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Game 1: Check!

The Lakers played their first playoff game this afternoon and I was fortunate to be in attendance. Not only was it Gasol's first playoff game, but it was mine, too! :D Unfortunately, poor Jim had to work all weekend and wasn't able to take any time off today for the game, so my brother lucked out and got to go with me instead.

The Staples Center was all decked out for the event.

As were the fans. I've never seen more Kobe jerseys in one place before. And since I like trends, I'm even considering one for myself. Hehehehe ;)

Tip-off was at noon and I was shocked to see the arena more than 75% filled. For most home games, the stands are only around 50% filled by the time the game starts, with folks trickling in throughout the first quarter. I guess the playoffs brings out the best in the fans. Who knew?!

The game itself was fantastic! Gasol was on fire (36 pts), as was Odom (17 pts) and Walton (16 pts). Kobe managed to get through the first half with something like 4 or 6 points, but came alive in the second and finished with over 30.

The crowd stayed in it the whole time, standing up throughout the game to applaud a phenomenal play or boo the refs for a crappy call. So fun! We also had 2 super rowdy, but fun, guys sitting in front of us that acted as our section's designated cheerleaders.

Late in the 4th quarter, the technical fouls started, one each for Kobe and Kenyon Martin. And before the final buzzer rang, Alan Iverson was actually thrown out of the game for 2 technicals. I'm telling you, this series is gonna get dirty at some point.

And just like that it was over -- Lakers take Game 1.

I'm hoping the Lakers take the series in 4 so they can get a bit of a rest before facing either Utah or Houston in the second round -- neither of which will be an easy team to conquer.

GO LAKERS!!

Day 7: Acclimating to Cusco

We finally get to sleep in -- woohoo!! Granted, it was only until 8am, but still. Due to the extra sleep, there was no time to grab breakfast at the hotel, so instead we ate at the Lima airport. Again. Thank god the food court had multiple options, all of which were decent.

A quick bite and then we were boarding a plane to Cusco. The city is located high in Andes (almost 11,000 feet above sea level) and is the usual stopping place before tourists head out to Machu Picchu. Since the high altitude can wreak havoc on people not used to it, we decided to spend an extra day in Cusco to help our bodies acclimate before the Inca Trail hike. We also took meds for possible altitude sickness and were advised to drink copious amounts of coca tea.

Landing in Cusco is craziness. Pilots actually have to be specially trained to land there due to the high altitude and circular landing pattern. Kinda nuts, really. I didn't think I'd notice much of a difference right off the plane, but I was wrong. My chest felt a bit tight and trying to take a deep breath was, um, interesting. I'm sure it's much the same feeling you get when you go to Mammoth, but seeing as how I haven't been there, I can only speculate.

A representative from our hotel met us at the airport and arranged a taxi for us. She had the driver set the rate and then informed us of reasonable taxi fares in and around Cucso if we chose to use them during our stay. Quite sweet of her.

Cusco is a really cool-looking city and completely different from Lima. After spending several days "roughing it" in the jungle, we opted for a nicer hotel for our time in Cusco -- Hotel Libertador. A beautiful hotel centrally located in the heart of downtown Cusco, the lobby alone blew us away.

While checking in, we had our first cup of coca tea, served complimentary 24/7 in the hotel lobby. It's reminiscent of green tea, so it was very pleasant to drink.

Our rooms were equally as pleasant, especially in light of where we'd spent the last week.

The hotel staff were so friendly and helpful, from the doormen and the front desk staff, to the waiters and cleaning crews. We felt very well taken care there. The rates to do laundry at the hotel were steep, but the staff gladly recommended a local shop just a 5 minute walk from the hotel for us to drop-off our clothes that afternoon with pick-up the next day.

Once we got our clothes were taken care of, we set off in search of a snack. Jim had scoped our a local cafe in the main square, Plaza de Armas, that afforded good views of the area and yummy food to boot. Off we went!

The Plaza de Armas is quite beautiful and T-dogg and I were all over taking pics while the boys figured out where the cafe was located.

We finally got our bearings and it was time for some food! While there were many items on the menu that looked delicious, I think we all missed having dessert in the jungle so we opted for sugar... and lots of it. Apple Pie a la mode, chocolate filled wontons and lots of lattes to wash it all down.

We also used our prime seating overlooking the Plaza to snap some more pics.

And how were the desserts we ordered? See for yourself:

With our bellies full of sugar, we took off to explore more of Cusco before dinner. We spent about an hour wandering around and then headed back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.

Again, after our jungle adventure, we felt like splurging a bit on dinner, so we opted for MAP Cafe, located in the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art. The museum and restaurant both stay open late, so we decided to wander through the art galleries before our dinner reservation.

Our first stop was the gold and silver rooms which were very purtty.

We also saw all sorts of cool vessels, masks and other assorted works of art. While the museum was pretty small, their collection of exhibits was extensive. Jim couldn't stop shaking his head though at the "narratives" below each piece of art. Instead of factual, they were much more editorial, basically telling you why you should like the art. Very strange.

The MAP cafe is located in a glass box in the middle of the museum courtyard. Very modern and sleek.

The menu reflects traditional peruvian dishes, with a nod to more modern "foodie" notions. Dinner itself is prix fixe and includes an appetizer, entree, dessert and glass of wine.

But first, an amuse buche - a small piece of bread topped with tomato, olive and cheese. So good!

Appetizers:

Scallop salad - The scallops were only meh. The rest of the salad was really good though.

Alpaca roast beef - Tastes almost identical to roast beef from a cow.

Trio of soups - T-dogg said these were excellent.


Entrees:
Confit of Cuy (aka guinea pig) - MoP had this and said it was good, but "tastes like chicken."

Chicken with potatoes and olive sauce - Jim loved this and pretty much cleaned his plate.

Beef Tenderloin with red wine quinoa - The beef was good, but the quinoa was excellent. Different from anything I've tasted, but a nice compliment to the beef.

For some reason we neglected to photograph dessert, oops. Overall, the meal was really good. I should note that as soon as we sat down for this meal, I started feeling sick to my stomach. :/ So, while I enjoyed dinner, I didn't love it, but I think most of that stems from how I was feeling and not due to the quality of the food.

We closed the down the restaurant and the staff looked relieved when we finally left. Everyone was exhausted and after high-tailing it back to the hotel, we were all asleep soon after our heads hit the pillows.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Running Fool

Can't remember whether or not I blogged about this, but our group wasn't chosen for the Nike Half-Marathon in the fall. I was really bummed at first, but as I've said before, sometimes things happen for a reason.

Last week, I signed up for the 3 Day Breast Cancer Walk for the late fall with another good blogger friend, Alyssa. We are stoked and there will be much more written about this in upcoming weeks. My original plan was to train for the half-marathon as well as the 3-day walk at the same time, but after reviewing the training schedule for the 3-day it quickly became apparent that it would be almost impossible to do. The recommended training is intense -- 6 days a week switching between easy and moderate training walks, strength training and cross-training. I've heard that even though you're only walking, your body (especially your hips and feet) still takes a beating and you should prepare yourself as much as possible.

So, for now, my half-marathon plans are being placed on hold. That being said, I still want to run a 5K before I start training for the 3-day in June. I've been following Hal Higdon's 5K program and will be done with it by the end of May, just in time to run a real race before my 3-day training begins. Wheee!

Tuesday was my first 2 mile run day -- yeah, I know it sounds wimpy, but it was a big deal to me. I'm running around a 12 min mile, which means I ran for almost 25 minutes straight! The kicker? My ipod ran out of juice just before I started my run, so I was without any entertainment, save for the TV in the gym whose sound I couldn't hear. And as much as I was dreading it, I found that I fell into a zone faster than I normally do and it was actually a very pleasant run. So weird! The only downside is I think I got a little overzealous towards the end and my shins and right ankle have been "talking" to me ever since. Poo.

My long term goal is to take a small break after the 3-day walk and then start training for a half-marathon for spring or early summer 2009. It kinda sucks that I can't do it all at once, but sometimes you just have to prioritize and take things one at a time.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Day 6: Goodbye Amazon

Our last day in the jungle had finally arrived. Sad! We had time for one more early excursion and then it would be time to finish packing, eat a quick bite and make the 3 hour boat ride back to Iquitos.

And what did we choose for our last excursion?

Why, swimming in the Amazon, of course!! :D

Okay, okay, it was actually the Tahuayo river, not the actual Amazon, but close enough. We boarded a motorboat, went about 15 minutes up the river and dropped anchor. That was then our "swimming pool." Wheee!

I'm sure many of you are wondering whether that was safe, as the Amazon is known for some pretty icky creatures that hang out in the water. When we asked about piranhas, our guide said "Sure, they're there, but don't worry. They don't like tourists!" Hmmm.... The boys were also very nervous about the Candiru fish (aka, "penis fish" featured on Grey's Anatomy). This led MoP to wear special swim trunks under his board shorts and for Jim to actually use masking tape to close off the legs of his shorts. When the guides found out what he was doing and why, they laughed hysterically and then informed the boys that the fish is only found in the Amazon river, not in its tributaries. Another possible crisis averted!

I had already been very clear that I was not going in first. So, the boys made poor T-dogg jump in. And then proceeded to just stand there and watch to see if anything happened to her before them joined her. Men!

MoP and Jim soon followed and then I slowly made my way down the ladder and into the water.

As strange as it was to be swimming in brown jungle water, it was also really peaceful and relaxing. The water was cool, but not cold and the current slowly moved us down the river without us having to think about it. After treading water for a bit, we each grabbed lifevests and sat on them so we could just float around. Aaaah!

Towards the end of our time there, our guide motioned to us to look behind us, and there we saw more cresting river dolphins. We guessed they probably swam right underneath us without us every knowing they were there. So cool!

Our time in the river went by far too quickly, and before we knew it, we were headed back to the lodge. Before lunch, the four of us thanked Anselmo for his time and expertise and tipped him to show our gratitude. A short while later, he came back to the boys and thanked them profusely for the gratuity and said how he would not only be able to help his family with the money, but that he was sharing it with the other guides and that everyone was grateful. It was nice to see that such a small sum of extra cash had such a large impact. We guess that the guides themselves (who actually do all the work) see very little of the money that the lodge receives from each guest, so any extra tips really help. We also had time to sneak in one last group pic.

Once we were back at the office in Iquitos, we had about an hour to kill before the van would take us to the airport. While some of the group ventured out to the market again, I wasn't feeling great, so Jim and I stayed in and chatted with the other guests that opted to hang out in the air-conditioned office with us.

The flight to Lima was uneventful (always a good thing) and we were back to the Sheraton around 8pm. For dinner, we met up with a friend of MoP. He had met and married a woman from Peru and they happened to be visiting that week. They met us in the Miraflores section of Lima, a much more touristy and well-kept area of the city, for dinner, drinks and conversation. They are such a sweet couple and I was instantly drawn to how nice and welcoming they were to all of us. We left the ordering to them, which lead to a parade of tasty dishes that we ate family-style. Sadly, no pictures as we were all exhausted and it took what little energy we had left to eat and make conversation.

I think we were all bummed that we hadn't planned to spend more time in Lima, as we were off again the next morning for the mountains. It's definitely a place that I'd like to visit again, though this time with more than 2 short nights to experience the city.


A few final thoughts about the Amazon:

The Tahuayo lodge was a great place to stay; our guide was wonderful, the staff bent over backwards to make the experience enjoyable and our fellow travelers were an interesting and friendly bunch. Even though the majority of the staff only speak spanish, they go above and beyond to try and communicate with the guests. Using my rusty spanish, which at times was more "spanglish" ilicited a smile and a warm, appreciative response. Obviously, it isn't for someone who doesn't like getting dirty or is totally skeeved out about bugs and wildlife, but otherwise, it is an amazing place to visit. Since the lodge is so removed from civilization and there is no internet, television or phone for distraction, you're really able to unwind and relax in a way that is near impossible even at upscale luxury resorts. The excursions were all fantastic, but even just reading in the hammock room or playing cards in the dining hall was memorable and gave the whole trip a laid back feel.

I can't believe how much I learned while I was there. There were times when it almost didn't feel real and during a few of the canoe rides it felt like we were on the jungle cruise at Disneyland, it was that perfect and pristine. The Amazon is a place that I didn't think I'd ever visit, but am so glad I had the opportunity to experience it. There isn't anything about our trip that I'd change and I'd highly recommend the Tahuayo lodge, if you're considering a trip there yourself.