Thursday, July 31, 2008


I'm not sure really how it happened, maybe it was just by chance or just how I was born to be, but I was nerdy from the start. Nerdy in the academic way which somehow inevitably leads to also being a bit stunted socially. It probably didn't help that I was not allowed to stay at sleepovers past 10pm or so, thereby negating the whole "sleepover" aspect of the party, and was told by my parents (when I questioned this) that the hosting parents just end up tying the children up and putting them in the closet next to the vacuum cleaner anyway.

In elementary school, being nerdy hadn't yet taken its toll on my social life (I was still invited to all the sleepovers, even if I never did actually sleep over), and I loved it. I loved picking up on all the nuances of the teacher--when she put her bunny fingers up indicating she wanted silence, I was the first to do as Simon Says. When it was time to clean up, I did it the fastest and always maintained a visibly neat workspace with all my sharpened pencils kept tidily in my panda pencil box.

Every week we brought home white legal-sized envelopes containing a week's worth of schoolwork for our parents to review (and maybe ooh and aaah over) which then had to be returned the next day bearing a parent's signature. Every week I made sure to have my dad sign it so I could return it and claim my reward of 2 Skittles. Often before bed, stressed out, I would realize my dad hadn't yet signed the envelope. I would demand he signed it. He would look over at me and tell me I could sign it myself. And I would tell him I couldn't sign it, that he had to sign it, that that's what the teacher said had to happen. So he would sign it.

Back then 2 Skittles seemed like the world! Heck, I couldn't even score 1 Skittle at my house.

My idea of a great summer vacation was joining the Summer Reading Program at the library where if I read 50 books that summer, I would be awarded a certificate for a free personal pan pizza. I lived for that reading program. And I never, ever fudged how many books I'd read. Actually, it never even occurred to me to lie about it and maybe to even fill out forms for my brother and sister too and claim their pizzas for myself!

And I always, always got my teacher a Christmas present. Usually some mug or desk trinket from Cost Plus that my mom helped pick out. When I received thank you notes, I would relish what was written on the inside.

One year I got Ms. Imada a mug, a pound of coffee and a king size Snickers bar (they were her favorite). Her thank you note read, "Sobrina, thank you very much for the Christmas gift! Snickers are my favorite. I cut a small piece off of the Snickers bar every night for dessert--there's so much of it!" I imagined Ms. Imada at home, tasked with consuming a whole King Size candy bar--unwrapping an inch or so of bar, cutting off a piece, sitting at her kitchen table to chew and mull the day over, then wrapping it back up and putting it back in the fridge for tomorrow. Now, of course, it seems a bit far-fetched that someone could make a candy bar last longer than 30 minutes.

This morning for some reason, I got to thinking about all this and thinking about why I turned how I did. And I think my old yearbook inscriptions have a lot to do with it. Every year, after getting our yearbooks, I rushed around trying to get all the teachers to sign it. And afterwards I would run away to read what they had written in my own privacy. I remember they were all great, bold and magnificent. Things that commended my great work for the year, the pleasure I was to have in class, and they always mentioned what good things they were sure I would accomplish the next year. This left me with a glowy-face feeling and was the perfect end to every school year, while the promise of another awe-inspiring yearbook inscription amped me up for the start of the next year.

I didn't read every students' yearbooks, so I can't attest to what teachers wrote in theirs. But maybe if all teacher's wrote great things in every kids' yearbook it just might be what students need. I should share this with the future educators of America. I'm seeing Irene this weekend, I think I'll tell her, who can then tell her cohorts, who can then adopt it as a key point in the Stanford education program... we are sure to see a drop in drug use, teenage pregnancy. And maybe a rise in summer reading program registrations...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Spring Turns into Summer

A Disneyland visit. Is it just me or does this remind you of a High School Musical poster? We could be the new kids for a High School Musical 6: After the College Years.

Someone didn't get the memo that bum-bench sleeping is not allowed at the happiest place on earth. Or maybe it is allowed because it is the happiest place on earth...

God bless her.

Spring is good for hiking, before it gets too hot. Here we're at Quicksilver.

I want to have a huge kitchen window one day. So huge it will take up most of one wall. Outside there will be heavy, bright green foliage kind of like this.

One summer I visited a beautiful house in Seattle. There were old maps covering the kitchen walls, the bathroom was painted red, pots and pans were hung from the ceiling around the stove, but the best part was the kitchen window just behind the dining room table. It looked like some vivid 3-D wallpaper with the tall, bright green bamboo growing right outside. Anytime we were inside I would secretly be admiring and enjoying the house and our host would be constantly running inside to yell at us that it wasn't raining and we should go outside to take advantage of it before it started to.

I don't do well in extreme heat. I think it increases my anxiety level and I also am prone to heat exhaustion. Right before taking this picture I was convinced all the deer were running in the opposite direction as fast as they could because a mountain lion was close behind us all.

Sure, I smile now. About 10 minutes after this I thought I was going to die. No one was around and the tunnel vision and desperate need to breathe and throw up at the same time consumed me. I wanted to drop to my knees and crawl back to where we started, but decided against it because I could see in Alan's face he was starting to get really worried.

My new bike. A vintage Peugeot.

When it's sweltering outside, nothing beats having an ice cream sandwich. Unless it's eating it while floating down the cool waters of the American River. Surprisingly semi-rafting/paddling/swimming/floating/toe-dipping/otter-watching will tire you out. Just take a look at what it did to Nubs.

Lokda and Scott -- his 13th birthday (Scott's, not Lokda's). Now that he's a bona fide teenager we should probably stop with adding the extra consonant at the end of his name, but when you're introduced to someone from the first day of their life as Scotty, it's hard to change ways.

Something about Lokda, he photographs so handsome.

One of my favorite things about summer is the fruit selection.

And the endless possible ways to eat them.

It's really hard to take what you're doing seriously, especially when you're trying to do work, when you have someone snoozing off on your work (while you're working on it) in sheer mockery. If Pagoda could talk, I think he would meow with his eyes barely open, "Why do you need to make a living anyway? Why don't you just find some nice people to take care of you, feed you and give you attention all day like me? Then you could nap in the middle of the day and not feel guilty about it at all."

On Blogs

Time off from working has its advantages. For one, I have an increased amount of time for leisure reading, especially blog reading. As I am getting deeper into the blogging community, I've realized that I'm reading the big names in blogs, which is fine because they are good and well-written and I look forward to reading them, but I really wish I knew of and could read the work of burgeoning bloggers because it's nice to know (if you are one of them) that people are reading what you write.

When it comes to reading blogs, I am somewhat particular in my tastes. Well, not really. They just have to keep my interest and there should be a limit placed on posts that read "I don't really have anything to write today" and that is the whole post. If that is the case, then there really is no need to blog at all for that day, is there? Unless it is done in an interesting way, reminiscent of the act at the circus where the man walks out spinning fire and then eventually eats it and is still alive and not cooked through afterwards.

Here are the big name blogs I've been reading. I consider that a blog has made it big when you can advertise enough on your blog to allow you to quit your day job and make a living out of blogging. Like dooce. This lady makes me laugh out loud nearly everyday. And not in that fake, contrived laughing out loud reserved for those jokes you don't understand but pretend to and so must laugh out loud. She makes me laugh in a surprised sort of way, like I am almost not expecting to laugh at all that day when all of a sudden I read her latest post and a rip-roaring guffaw comes out of me and then I am clutching my computer and wheezing and pointing at it and looking at whoever is sitting next to me to try and get them to read it too.

Or sweet-juniper. Also makes me laugh out loud and is really well written. Both blogs are written by people who know how to take a good picture and have really cute children.

Both make me want to have my own babies.

I also think your blog has made it big when it is in the top 1% of all blogs, like Stephanie Klein's. I am probably the last person to discover her blog, but I just found it, and she has an interesting story to tell, so I thought I'd share.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Light at the End of the Treadmill: Wharf to Wharf 2008

Fridays in middle school were the worst because Fridays were the day we all had to run one mile in P.E. class. Some ran 6 minute miles, some ran 12 minute miles, some ran 15 minute ones and some got pushed down on the track by jr. high bullies. I was some combination of these.

You hear about runner's "second wind" or the amazing adrenaline rush from running in races. You hear how it's all about beating your PR (runner lingo for personal record.
Why not PB for personal best, I ask), that that alone is motivation enough.

I didn't believe in most of this. Running is a sort of painful exercise and one that I've done off and on and back on again. It's almost like seeing an ex-boyfriend. But if anything, I like a good challenge and so recently I found myself back on with running. It should be noted that with my asthma, short stride and my tendency to overpronate, I am no natural-born runner. I know people who could wake up one day after partying until the wee hours of the morning the night before and run a 1ok without breaking too big a sweat. I, however, am not this person and to prepare myself for my first 10k at Wharf to Wharf, I began a self-prescribed training regimen consisting of long runs each day. Now, when you're not a fast runner (as I am not), all your runs over 3 miles long become your long runs.

On race day, we pinned on our numbers and congregated with all the other runners by the boardwalk. After 20 minutes of stretching our legs, Nathalie and I stood next to the sign for 9-minute miles. I am pretty sure in a more stringent, follow-the-rules type race I would not have been placed in the 9-minute mile group, but this was Wharf to Wharf and all bets were off.

The first mile was the hardest. After the gun went off (or a bell? the sound that signaled everyone to begin is still a mystery to me...) walkers stood in our path. And this is why I stood in the 9-minute mile group--to have a better chance of getting around all the people in front of me who should have been in the 15-minute mile group.

Looking back, the 2nd-6th mile are all a blur. In my memory, it even seems somewhat effortless. This is probably because when I train alone, despite my best efforts not to, I zone in on my breathing (heavy) and the slap-slap-slap of my feet on pavement (loud) and when combined with the need to constantly swipe away my profuse sweat from running into my eyes (annoying) it all seems so effort-

But running the course of the race, there were people all around, so many people that you don't have time to think about your breathing, much less to even think about stopping. The stunning, scenic route also helps a ton. At parts we were running right by the beach, and when not running by the beach, we would be running by beautiful beach homes (possibly my second favorite thing to run next to). Throw in locals with babies and signs cheering us on or spraying us with water and bands playing every 0.3 miles and you have a race that was not only one of my best runs, but the most exhilarating fun I've had in a while. And to top it all off, I ended up running pretty darn fast for my own self.

So now I see the light and can appreciate why people enter races and why I've been training this whole time. It's an amazing feeling, euphoric even. It's like that kind of playing you did when you were a kid where you forgot yourself and you played so hard that you sometimes forgot to eat or pee. But you're not just playing, you're actually
running a legitimate amount. (A legitimate amount defined as any distance that would make you think twice about walking if you were in the mood to get out on a walk for ice cream).

Pictures to be posted soon...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Blogging Tip: How to do a strikethrough

Sometimes when blogging, nothing would be more perfect than utilizing a strikethrough through something you just said. Blogger Perez Hilton does this often in his posts, and when he does, it gives us insight into what he was originally thinking before he decided to cross it out and correct himself.

Try it for yourself in your next blog post.

To do it, type this in (without the asterisks):

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Wedding Lesson: Part Two

In high school, there were the kids who did and the kids who didn't. I was somewhere in between with a strong propensity for doing more rather than not doing at all. There was the promise of getting into college far from home that encouraged the taking of AP classes, the joining of sports, working on the school paper, delivering A+ group presentations and assuming leadership roles in after school groups and clubs. I did do all these things and quite efficiently, too. Because somewhere along the way, and much to the chagrin of my planner-type parents, I learned the skill of pulling last-minute miracles.

And although I have learned so much since then, it's good to know that some bad habits skills stick with you for life and haunt you kick in to high gear when you need it most. Like when you are a co-hosting a bridal shower. Even if it is bridal shower #2.

The night before the shower, Nathalie and I sit down to discuss our plan of attack. Actually, we are already sitting down because we are driving back from a shopping trip to find her a new party dress for her birthday. Our discussion is less of a discussion and more setting a time for the next morning to meet up and get everything we need at the store. We decide to meet at 8:30 a.m. the next day which will give us a semi-tight, but not cutting it too close, 3.5 hours to get groceries, drive the half-hour to get to the shower's location, wrap prizes, cook, set up, and do some moderate decorating before guests start to arrive at noon.

At 9:30 a.m. the next morning, Nathalie calls me and the first thing I hear is, "SOBRINA! THE SHOWER!"

I think she is playing a joke on me, the one where she pretends I have overslept and forget to give her a wake up call as she herself is prone to oversleeping. She doesn't tell me the time but speaks with an urgency that makes me think the success of our shower hangs by a thread. I hang up and note the time and remember that I was supposed to have written a story for the Left Right game, one of the three games we will be playing today. I remember the night before thinking, Oh I'll just wake up early and do it in the morning.

With 2.5 hours left before shower time, I decide we are cutting it quite close.

By the time we arrive at the house to start putting everything together, it's 11 a.m. With so much left to do and being tight on time til noon, we stop to unbotton the top button of our pants to help us breathe easier.

As I'm reading the recipe for how to make the chocolate fondue, about 8 aunts, uncles, brothers and cousins show up to help us. Good thing no one has much faith in our shower throwing skills.

By the luck of last-minute miracles, we get everything done and even impress ourselves with our mimosas at the ready for arriving guests, served out of a giant oyster shell punch bowl.

The spread.

One of the games we played was the Create a designer wedding dress for your model with only 2 rolls of t.p. The fashion show was my favorite part.

You can catch a glimpse of the giant oyster punch bowl on the right.

And in case you're wondering, the other two games we played were the Purse game and the Left Right game. I believe it's also called the Mr. Right game. It's a very good game for customizing to your particular bride-to-be. Here is the generic version, just in case you are preparing to throw your own shower soon:

Friday, July 18, 2008

When shady is spelled with a capital S.

I have strong gut feelings about a lot of things a lot of the time. And usually my gut is right. Lately my gut has been nagging me to ask my ex-landlord for my security deposit EVERYDAY. Because if I don't, I'm pretty sure he will not send it to me through the niceness (forget that the return of said deposit is mentioned in a legally binding contract we signed) of his own heart. Recently he's assigned his assistant to take care of his slumlord tasks, such as returning my deposit back to me.

After the fifth time of checking in with her to see where my deposit is, I check a sixth time with her. Let's call her SLA, short for SlumLord Assistant. This is how it goes.

Me: Hi SLA, I haven't seen the deposit yet. Just checking to see what the delay is.
SLA: I apologize for the delay. SL (short for SlumLord) was away for a bit, but I'll send out the $600 to you today. SL took out $100 for cleaning. I just need your address so I can send it to you.

Me: Actually, the deposit was for $735, so if the cleaning was only a $100 deduction, the deposit should be for $635. Anyway, please send it to me at [here I leave her my physical mailing address, not an address to a worm hole, a galaxy far away or some online banking address.]

SLA: OK, you're all set! We just did online bill pay to you. Here's the confirmation number: Cvh-1345-Yh87.

Me [thinking in my head]: What the .... online bill pay?? What the hell does that even mean?? A confirmation number is only good if you know what it's confirming?!

Me [in response to SLA]: So does that mean you sent it to my bank account??

SLA: No, it was sent to your PO Box.

Me: ...

Some terrible punishment really should befall slumlords and those who help them in their dirty work. Something really terrible and awful, like they should be chained to tables and forced to do telemarketing at dinner time, between the hours of 5-8pm, and they will only be fed or allowed to use the restroom when they have achieved a successful transaction. A successful transaction will be defined as the telemarketer receiving consent to call them back every day that week during dinner time to discuss other great products they can get to lower their mortgage payments or ways they can work from home and make up to $100k a year or novel ways to enlarge one's penis or other fantastic offers of the same quality.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Wedding Lesson: Part One

You've heard it before that people can be separated into two distinct groups by one thing or the other. The same is true of women and weddings.

It can be said that there are 2 kinds of women in the world -- those who dream of the big, white dress and walking down the aisle (specifically an aisle comprised completely of passion pink and ivory rose petals imprinted with her monogram in goldleaf) and those who don't. Or perhaps the latter category of women are actually all in the former category and just don't know it yet. Perhaps they are one and the same as The Knot subscribers they scoff at, but maybe this feature of themselves lies dormant until their own wedding is upon them.

I think (or more accurately, I fear) that it is more likely that secretly all women want to have the wedding with the moment. The moment where the organist or pianist (or perhaps harpist if we allow ourselves to get trendy) stops the music and everyone perks up in the hush of the room and the bride walks in like a vision with dewy skin, hair curled to perfection, white teeth and a captivating designer gown. I never thought I was the girl to dream. I never knew wedding dresses came in varying shades of white or that multiple parties were thrown before the actual wedding date. I had heard of registries but never before utilized one in my gift selection process. I never knew all this, so I thought I was not this girl.

But maybe I am that girl... I find myself a changed woman from the bridesmaid I was 7 months ago. Back then, the idea of going shopping for a dress in a pastel color with some variation of a great big bow attached to it was less than thrilling. Now I find myself calling specific steps in the invitation making process. (I'll admit it, that was me in the invitation making party that said "I call the sprinkling of the beads!")


Speaking of invitations, they were my first exposure to the real meaning of extravagant. If you are anything like me, someone who thought they knew what extravagant meant, then you are in for a real eye-opener, as far as this wedding goes. Which happens to be my first wedding experience, if you don't count the time when I was 7 and a flower girl in my aunt's wedding which I faintly remember, much too faintly to be taken seriously.

Heavy stock envelopes and decorative stamps are a thing of the past. Sending invitations in boxes is quite "en vogue" and demonstrates to your guests that you are hip and of the wedding moment.

A 7-fold technique was employed to achieve this look.

This picture showcases the gentle smattering of crystal beads.

Yes, that is really a photo stamp you see on the return envelope for the RSVP card.
It is almost too cute. I'm not sending mine in so I can treasure it forever. And also because I keep forgetting to. I hope Denise will let it slide seeing as how I'm in the wedding and all and she should already know I'm coming.

Denise's dress at Bridal Shower #1 and my wrapping paper would become, unbeknownst to her, the inspiration for the invitations for Bridal Shower #2.

This is the invitation we created for Denise's 2nd Bridal Shower.
The theme was frenchy, hence the authentic French phrase at the top.

The glittering gold eiffel tower is embossed -- something new I learned in the arts & crafts department. If you've never embossed before, do your craft a favor and learn how, you'll thank me later.

If you're lucky, perhaps someone will make you a life-size replica of your future spouse. Life-size replicas are perfect for bringing to company Christmas parties when your spouse has to work late or also just to sit next to you at your bridal shower.

You can also expect to experience glee (this is the word I would use to describe the look on Denise's face) at your bridal shower. Apart from being appreciative that someone is throwing you a party, you can also be appreciative of how easy Macy's made it for your guests to find and use the registry.

People can hardly resist life-size replicas. They are arguably even better than the real person the replica seeks to, well, replicate. For example, if this were the actual Justin sitting here, I doubt all 5 of us would have asked to take a picture with him.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Saturday night

It's a common belief that women love to dress up and love anything necessitating dressing up. For my own share of bummy days, I do love to have a good dress up now and again. But I have found the exact opposite to be true with boys.

Our departure to a fun and fruitful night in lovely Man Jose has been delayed. By none other than Alan's deep resentment of my alerting him that what I meant by "you have to wear shoes" is not "put on something that doesn't flip or flop" but to actually put on some dress shoes. Combined with my telling him to put on a collared shirt, he laid down on the bed. Face down. I have never seen someone so downtrodden.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A bachelorette cruise holds many lessons.

As we made our way off our Royal Caribbean cruise ship, I vouched two things:
1) to never listen to Alan again about cruise ship demographics
2) to never get married

Before setting out to sea, Alan would say things like "have fun with all the old people," which led me to believe that the bachelorette cruise I was headed for was going to be laden with restful activities good for the soul -- like sunbathing poolside, drinking apple juice or Metamucil-infused cocktails and maybe some time spent at the blackjack tables. Turns out our cruise ship was actually a ship from back in time and it carried loads and loads of bleach blond, pushed-up, cleavage-revealing cougars who were once the women of Girls Gone Wild glory (or something like that).

And from our current dock location, young men in their twenties boarded. Young men with girlfriends, wives, babies, a year left in college, you name it. But there was something about the escargot served at dinner or the allure of the late-night pizza bar that caused age lines to blur and cougars and young lads to connect at the face, in a fierce and most fascinating session of making out.

This was no cruise ship for oldies.

And this was also no big matter to me, who should be making out with whom. Older, pushed-up cleavage was still cleavage to be had --so rock on cougars and boys with braces! But all other boundary lines also seemed to blur on the cruise ship. Had we been tricked onto a filming of the seedy Fox show Temptation Island???

Alas, sadly I cannot further detail the rampant reality-tv show-like shenanigans that happened as my shirt duly notes "what happens at the bachelorette party stays at the bachelorette party."

Can you tell which one is the bride-to-be? (Don't let the floss deceive you.)

Temptation Island at Sea

It was a big boat.

The start of shenanigans.

Here, Nat and I take time out to re-enact the Titanic scene. Sometimes I think it's hard for Denise to come to terms with the fact that she's related to us. You've heard of balloon animals, but have you heard of towel animals?

Our daily nightcap somehow always turned into heavy flannel pj's (the footed variety) wearing not just a nightcap but socks, gloves and a deep blue velvet robe.

Notice how Denise is the only one with her sunglasses on, as if she's Lucy Liu incognito? At night we would flank her as she walked to dinner or to the bar and stop people when they came up to her. We would hold up a hand and say things like, "Ms. Liu is not signing autographs tonight." (OK, so we didn't really do this. But I wanted to.)

Do you see the resemblance?

And here is a picture of part of the Conga line I started.

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