Archive for the ‘Life List’ Category

Last night, a fun nighttime construction project started outside my window.  Jackhammers and those crazy bright white lights all gleaming and daytime-like at 3am.  I’ve been up since.  I know when I’m tired when I start working from my bed, laptop on pillow on blanket.  I’ve been here for 2 hours.

While I sit here on a conference call (being tired also makes me honest), a few updates.  It’s the fourth quarter.  In work it’s all we’ve been talking about for months (revenue, revenue!), and in life, I kind of dread the end of summer.  This is the first year I’ve made it through an honest to god sticky, smelly mid-Atlantic summer mess since college.  In more recent years, I’ve reveled and bragged about the days of perfect Maine summer weather.  So, I suppose I’m more prepared than normal to buck up and face the cold.  And I do have some cute jackets…

The end of the quarter also means I evaluate some of the goals I’ve set for myself for the year.  So, here we go, shall we?

Thus far, I’ve fully completed 12 of my 26 goals (just under 50%).  These have included visiting my sister in San Francisco, taking a class, and putting a savings in plan into place for my future travel goals.  There are several goals that will take all year to complete (i.e. read 75 books) that I’m still working toward.  It’s looking like this year that I will get to maybe 20 of my 26 goals.  I’ve also realized that some are not very measurable and therefore difficult to measure success.  I will try and work on that when I think through next year’s goals.

In addition to my ‘normal’ goals, I had a list of things I wanted to do in NYC this summer.  I’ve been updating my progress here, but basically the only things I didn’t do were kayaking on the Hudson and seeing Gotham Girls roller derby.  They’ll be at the top of my list for next year!

Oh, and I also walked across the Golden Gate Bridge, which was on my Life List – and it only took an hour (not bad for a life goal)!

P.S. As an avid reader (at least this year!), here are a few new recommendations if you’re itching for a great book: The Art of Fielding, Salvage the Bones, The Imperfectionists.  Only 15 more books to go before I wrap up this crazy goal (of course, the one I’m reading now is 500 pages…).



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Wow, I’m way behind on my writing here.  I have little Post-Its to myself for some things I’ve been meaning to translate to paper (or screen) but I literally haven’t had a moment to spare.  A few weeks ago I was bemoaning the fact that I hadn’t left the state in a couple weeks (I find it necessary to my sanity to leave the state as frequently as possible).  Fortunately, up here in the Northeast, leaving the state is easy, a 40 minute drive at the most. 

Then I had a slew of business trips and in the past 9 days I’ve spent a total of 20 hours on planes and spent about 15 hours milling around various airports.  I’ve been to the Pacific Ocean and to the heat of Southern Florida.  It’s been nice to leave the state, but as I rolled into the house last night after another long day, my own bed never felt so great. 

Ok, moving on. 

In my ongoing quest to watch some of the best movies ever made, I have a short term goal to watch 15 this year.  Thanks to Netflix, getting my hands on old movies that the library doesn’t readily carry is as easy as adding it to the queue.  For I must admit that while I’m always glad I’ve watched a critically acclaimed film after the credits roll, it is really difficult for me to open that little red envelope and spend two hours in the throes of old cinema.  And, multi-tasker that I am, reading the subtitles of some famous foreign film makes it nearly impossible to do anything else…no cooking, no browsing the Net, no letting the dog in and out every five minutes.

I decided that to make my film-watching less grueling, I would start watch a few of the newer films on the list, and this month I’ve watched two: Taxi Driver and Kandahar

I think I’ve seen parts of Taxi Driver before, but sitting down and watching it start to finish was definitely new for me, and I particularly liked all the Special Features on the disc that had new interviews with the cast about the making of the movie.  It’s clearly a classic and one that most people have heard of or seen, so I won’t prolong my drivel.

Kandahar, on the other hand, is a newer movie (2001) based on a true story of an Afghani woman (living in Canada) who travels back to Afghanistan to find her sister.  Part of the film was secretly filmed in Afghanistan during the Taliban regime.  Cutting to the chase, here’s my beef with this movie: while it is certainly interesting to get an up close and personal view of Afghani culture (particularly a lot of focus on the burqa, the full coverage that many Muslim women in the region wear), the movie gained most/all of its popularity after 9/11, though it was filmed and released earlier in the year.  So, in my opinion, the story and movie were fine, but my guess is that it ended up on TIME’s list merely because of its significance of both time and place. 

Ok, so I was just reviewing TIME’s List and what I’ve seen…and I’ve barely made a dent!  I’m adding more to my queue today and promise to move closer to my goal of 15 films ASAP!

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In my quest to read TIME’s best books ever written I try to read five a year, in the hopes that in 10 years or so, I will be fully cultured (is that even a word?).  The point of this little project is to continue to learn and stretch my mind, which often finds itself in the gutter reading books with pretty covers, and I hope I’m not the first person to realize that the cuter the cover, the trashier the book. 

I just finished reading The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood.  Written in 2000, it has been awarded several major literary awards, including the Booker Prize and the Hammett Prize, and is one of the most recently written books on TIME’s list.  My good friend Lisa adores Margaret Atwood, though I must admit that my previous attempts to read her have failed miserably.  As an author, Atwood is known as a writer of science fiction (thanks to the The Handmaids Tale and Oryx and Crake) and I have never read a science fiction book I’ve enjoyed.  In fact, I vividly remember struggling through Dune in eighth grade for my Humanities class and wondering why anyone would actually read such a book for fun.   

I was pleasantly surprised that this Atwood novel could best be described as historical fiction (with a dash of Canadian history, social commentary and political edge), with lots of plot twists and turns and I really, really enjoyed the book.  I couldn’t wait to get to the end, and I spent the better part of a weekend racing through the last 200 pages.

Here’s a quick five sentence summary (and I won’t give anything away): 

In the main story, two sisters grow up in rural Ontario, Canada as privileged daughters of a manufacturer.  Lots of tragedies ensue and they lose money and family.  The oldest daughter is married off for money, unhappiness reigns, and the younger sister dies.  In the story within a story, a wealthy woman falls in love with a poor wandering writer.  He tells her a fantastic fantasy story, but they lose each other in the end.  The End.

Wow, that summary is terrible.  Clearly, a 500+ page Margaret Atwood novel cannot be reduced to a short paragraph.  And why should it?  Trust me when I say that this book is worth your time and effort, and is much better than my summary suggests.  I promise!

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Veranda's communal restaurant, overlooking the Gulf of Thailand

I added this item to my Life List when I saw a TV show about this cool hotel in northern Sweden where you stay in tree houses all connected by raised rope bridges.  I always thought it would be fun and unique.  I didn’t actually think that during our trip to Asia I would be staying in one, but that’s sometimes how these things work out.

Bungalows this way...

Our hotel in Kep, Cambodia (The Veranda Natural Resort), is comprised of individual bungalows on stilts.  You enter your own bungalow from a wooden walkway (the walkways curve around every which way, so you can’t see the next bungalow), but when you enter, you realize that , in fact, your bungalow is a tree house.  I guess if your distinction is that the tree has to be supporting the room, than this doesn’t quite fit the mold, but I tell ya, looking down from our ‘room’ onto the forest floor sure made it a tree house for me!

The labyrinth of stairs that connect the areas of the resort

The bed has a mosquito net over it, there is a hammock, a little seating area, and while there is no air conditioning, electric fans abound, so it’s comfortable.  There’s also a full bathroom attached, though don’t ask me how they work that out logistically.

An honest to god mosquito net!

Our seating area

ok, the pool takes a little away from the whole rustic thing...

We both really enjoyed our time in Kep, and the Veranda really made it special.  Check out the website (linked above) but it doesn’t quite do the place justice.  We were sad to leave, but I was happy to have slept in a tree house!

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Angkor Wat just after sunrise

I’ve wanted to visit the temples of Angkor Wat since I first heard about them.  They are often heralded as one of the top few things to see in the entire world, and if you come to this region and don’t visit, you would definitely get some weird looks from your fellow tourists.  There’s good reason for its popularity.  The ancient city and temples around Angkor (and most famous, the temple Angkor Wat), are breathtaking.

One of the many faces of Bayon

During our one day visit to Angkor, we managed to blow through six of the fifty or so temples and we did not dilly-dally around.  Our day began at 5:30 when our hotel-arranged tuk-tuk driver picked us up so we could get to Angkor Wat for the sunrise.  Next to a visit to Angkor, the other major to-do item is to see a sunrise or sunset over the temples, so we took one for the team and chose the super early option partially because before sunrise you’re not yet sweating through your clothes.

Sure enough, the sunrise was stunning, although I will say the moment was a little less jaw dropping due to the throngs of flashing cameras.  Shortly after the first hint of daylight, Drew and I headed into the temple complex and for a few blessed minutes we were alone.  Alone in Angkor Wat.  It was a highlight of our day.

Drew with our BFF, the guidebook

During the rest of the day we saw some of the other biggies (Bayon and Ta Phrom) as well as some more off the grid temples (Ta Keo), and we both agree that Bayon, with all of its carved faces, was another highlight.  Ta Phrom, a temple that was used in the filming of the movie Tomb Raider, would be amazing to visit without the 10+ tour buses and flag-wielding tour leaders marching their groups through the narrow doorways.

Including a break during the day for lunch, the temple fatigue set in mid-afternoon and we were back at the hotel by 4:30.  A cold beer on Pub Street and some lotion for the sunburn was a solid end to the day.

Some of the crowd craziness...at 6am!

I do have one bone to pick with the entire Angkor institution and with our Lonely Planet guidebook, in particular (I remember that when my sister Michelle did this circuit a couple years back, she had plenty of guidebook complaints!).  You can visit the temples for one, three or seven days – you buy whichever pass you’d like when you arrive.  The guidebook highly recommends a full week of temple watching, and completely shuns anyone who could possibly prefer a single day of temples to get their fill.  I personally feel that one full day was absolutely enough Angkor for me…it’s stunning, don’t get me wrong, but every temple kinda looks the same, and if you start with Angkor Wat, it’s downhill from there on the spectacular scale.

Oh, and one more thing.  Price is definitely relative, and our visit was one of the most expensive things we’ll do on our entire trip, but compared to visiting Six Flags or going to a Red Sox game, it’s a bargain.  $20 for a single day entry per person ($40 for three days, $60 for a week, all in US dollars), and $15 or so for a private driver per day.  You can also rent a bike for a couple bucks if you’d like, though many of the temples are several kilometers apart and there’s the whole heat thing.  Of course, first you have to actually get to Cambodia, but that’s for another day…

P.S. Some of these photos were taken with my new camera lens, a 1.8 50mm that I got for my birthday.  I brought it all the way here basically for this one single day of photos.  It’s manual focus, which is kind of a pain during normal days walking around…but the results are amazing if you have the time and patience.

View of Angkor Wat in the distance...from another wat.

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#79 Conquer my phobia

I don’t really even know where to start this not-made-for-Internet story.  Ever since I can remember, I have had a pretty significant phobia – throwing up.  My phobia included not just me (the last time I threw up I was about 5), but being around other people who were either really sick or so drunk that throwing up was inevitable. 

I remember being at a party in college, and some people were playing beer pong all night.  This guy, aptly nicknamed “Fridge,” was so clearly beyond drunk that I knew it was a matter of time before he tossed his cookies all over the table.  Sure enough, from across the room, I saw the scene start to unfold.  I was so horrified and disgusted that I promptly left the party.  Another time, I was driving with a different college friend after he had had a long night drinking.  He was nervous he was going to get sick, so he sat in the backseat, and the driver was prepared to pull over if necessary.  Again, the closed car paired the close proximity to potential vomit drove me insane – I remember my heart beating in my ears and just pleading with myself that nothing would happen (it didn’t but the memory still haunts).  Oh, and there was a time my roommate had the flu so I hid in my closet while she got sick in her own private bathroom. 

Yes, it was bad. 

After 25 years of never, EVER throwing up, I pretty much assumed I would never throw up again in my life.  Why would I?  I had been through college without having ever been sick from drinking (it’s called knowing your limits, people!), and I had even had the flu.  I chalked it all up to the fact that I must have a strong stomach, and I just avoided situations where others could get sick.  This was particularly difficult when a co-worker of mine had a rough case of morning sickness, vomiting almost every day of her pregnancy. 

And then my 30th birthday happened.  Thanks to a surprise party with lots of cheap tequila paired with not a lot of eating, I threw up at 1am, one hour after turning 30.  In my bed.  The memory is a little vague, what with all the drinking, not eating and having been asleep for a couple hours.  Drew whisked away the comforter, dealt with the laundry, and I laid freezing on my bed feeling….AMAZING.  I can’t explain it any other way.  IT WAS AMAZING.  Where had this been my entire life?  What was I so scared of?  I felt so much better after having rid my body of gross tequila that I was relatively functioning the entire next day!

And yet.  A 25 year phobia is nothing to laugh at, and one minor incident that I barely remember hardly constitutes triumph.  Then our pre-Thanksgiving sleepover happened.  My sister, having recently begun experiencing ‘cold car induced gagging’ (that’s her official term), was helping unload our cold car of sleeping bags and promptly started gagging.  A few minutes later, as I helped blow up air mattresses in another room, word spread that her weird gagging issue had got the best of her.  My reaction?  Calmness.  And, for the first time in my ENTIRE LIFE, I went to check on her in the kitchen. 


So, I’m checking this stupid item off my life list.  No, I still haven’t thrown up from having the flu (which I have been assured is much worse), and no, I haven’t experienced another in-person puke fest that I have the ability to flee.  But the past week has been good enough for me.  Thank you, Universe, for bringing me vomit on my birthday.  It was the best present ever.

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Last month I went on a work trip to Washington DC.  Whenever I travel for work, I’m always the one in charge of the meals.  I do the research, make the reservations, etc.  I got this job because I’m usually the one in the group that cares the most about where we eat.  Sometimes, even if I’m NOT part of the group travelling, I’ll get asked for recommendations for restaurants.  It’s just part of what I do.

So, back to DC.  I was travelling with one colleague who had never visited DC, so I wanted to make sure to go to one restaurant near the ‘important’ buildings.  I didn’t have a lot of time to do research, so I just did the basics, and made a reservation.  The day I left, Drew asked about where I had made restaurant reservations – when I told him, he was shocked (understatement) that I had not made a reservation at one of Jose Andres’ restaurants in Washington DC.  Andres is a bit of a local hero/god, and we’ve visited one of his restaurants in Los Angeles – I wrote about it here.

yum, tapas

When I got to DC, I called Jaleo, Andres’ most famous local spot, and quickly changed our plans.  And, Jaleo is still located close enough to lots of famous, important buildings so we got to take a little stroll up the Mall when we were done. 

And, Jaleo was awesome.  Not quite as over the top as the Bazaar in LA but authentic, loud, and a menu so huge we got lost in plates and plates of tapas.  The sangria was also fabulous.  Later that night, as I recounted the evening to Drew on the phone, he asked me if we got the “wrinkled potato” dish.  No, we didn’t.  Oh, he sighed. It’s only the most famous dish on the menu. 

Can’t win them all!

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