Thursday, March 29, 2007

Hey... Beep, Beep!

I'm tooting my own horn here. Beep, beep! I'm 1/3 of the way to my weight loss goal and I'm very excited. I'm still doing the South Beach Diet, but with a few personal modifications. I lowered the protein intake a bit, because I'm prone to kidney problems and because I don't eat mammals. (How could I eat a furry friend? Fins and feathers aren't as charming for some warped reason that I've rationalized.) I also eat a Dove dark chocolate square just about every day. Studies have shown that the antioxidants in dark chocolate are good for you and that chocolate makes for happy brain chemicals. I'm ignoring any studies that refute this information, because those wacky scientists are just being contrary to get published. I also allow myself one semi-decadant meal out each week.

I'm going to the gym three times a week. With my ipod in place, I while away the calories on the elliptical machine. I do pushups and lots of crunches. I go to yoga once a week, though I'd like to practice yoga more. I've started walking a few miles in the evenings with Chad again at least twice a week.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Spa - aaahhhhh....

One of my favorite, and very generous, Furry Godmother clients gave me a half-day gift certificate to Lake Austin Spa back in December. I finally used my gift certificate yesterday. I got a massage, a soothing facial and had lunch at the cafe. The grounds of Lake Austin Spa are beautiful. Finding your way out to the spa is a little trippy, both in distance and in the vibe of the surroundings. You have to drive through this very Stepford Wives kind of master-planned community called Steiner Ranch. I am so glad that Chad & I have made our home in central Austin. We fought the social pressure to have a bigger house for the same price out in the suburbs. I think I'm allergic to the suburbs and master-planned communities. Anyway, once you get through Stepford Ranch, I mean Steiner Ranch, then you drive through some road construction to arrive lakeside at the spa. The spa grounds are landscaped with all sorts of native plants and fragrant herbs. The spa was pretty and nice-smelling, outside and inside. Recordings of nature sounds and serene music played throughout the treatment rooms and lounge areas.

The one discordance at my half-day at the spa was the overwhelming presence of a gaggle of birthday guests. I get the feeling some of them couldn't read, because they ignored the signs that were posted every 12 feet declaring the spa a quiet place for relaxation. They all had on silly, plastic tiara headbands and were ready for a hootenanny! I did my best to ignore these women until one of them threw the privacy curtain open on my post-massage shower. I was there in my birthday suit, and said, "excuse me," and tried to close the curtain quickly. Plastic tiara lady still had the curtain in her hand and stood gaping (the trips to the gym are paying off, I guess) while apologizing and trying to explain that she thought she had put her things in that shower. My mom has this saying, "they act like they've never been anywhere." Which means that the party in question lacks good manners and social skills. I think it applies here.

For those of you in Austin, I highly recommend that you browse Cissi's Market next time you're lounging around SoCo. One of my favorite previous clients, Victoria Lynden, was the creative vision behind this lovely coffee shop / deli / gourmet shop. Chad and I went this weekend for a look. We had coffee and a toffee crunch cookie (don't tell the South Beach Diet police!) The Kohana (Hawaiian) coffee was great. Cissi's Market is gorgeous inside with well planned, understated merchandising. Some of the items are a bit pricey, but it's good stuff. You don't want to fight the crowds at Whole Foods Market when you can get your indulgent items and coffee or lunch at Cissi's Market. The shop is named for Victoria's late mom which I find very sweet. And I'm NOT just saying all of this because she's the one who gave me the spa gift certificate, or because her dogs were my favorite canine clients!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Cut the Cake Already! (Our Trip to Los Angeles)

I feel that four hours should be the socially mandated duration for a wedding reception. Nine hours is excessively long for a wedding. I'll explain the source of these revelations. Chad and I went to Los Angeles for our friends' wedding. We really like these friends, and are genuinely happy to see them get married to each other. The venue, the Oviatt Penthouse in downtown Los Angeles was a beautiful marvel of Art Deco opulence circa 1927. However, the ceremony was outside on the rooftop and many guests were unprepared, lacking sunglasses. We thought the wedding, which began at 3:00, would be over by 8:00. When we covertly ducked out at 8:15, the cake had not been cut, the dancing had just started, I had the beginnings of a headache, and the word was going round that the happy couple had the venue until midnight. Really?! I'm not a big fan of any kind of pomp and circumstance, but I can usually whip myself up into a convincingly festive mood for about three hours. Four hours is a stretch, but I can sometimes plaster that smile on if there is promise of birthday cake or wedding cake. Mmmm... cake. Please, as a public service to all humanity, cut the cake before the four hour mark.

Two years ago, when Chad and I went to LA together for the first time, it was nice. We stayed at the Ambrose Hotel in Santa Monica. The hotel was lovely, with zen-like decor, Aveda shampoo & body washes and a free shuttle around town. Santa Monica was lovely with the beaches, the Promenade shopping area and the good restaurants. The whole area was lush with landscaping. My BEST friend from college, Karen Starr, met us for dinner two nights and played hostess, showing us around Santa Monica and Venice. We also met up with our friend in Pasadena who hosted us for a night and showed us around Pasadena.

This time around, our trip to LA was relaxing and nice, but not as splendiferous as our last trip. We arrived Thursday morning. We walked around downtown LA and saw the Design Institute fashion school. We also explored clothing designer showrooms in the Cooper Building which were not open to the public, but did allow us to press our noses against the glass walls and marvel at the lovely displays.

Our Pasadena pal was supposed to meet us Thursday night for dinner, but stood us up. We still haven't heard from him. Boooooo... We ate at one of the hotel restaurants that night, which was gross and expensive -- a double disappointment. The hotel itself, the Wilshire Grand, was nice with a big room, a pool and a 24 hour gym. It's located in downtown LA. Downtown LA is not that fabulous -- very much a corporate jungle of tall buildings and chain shopping.

We DID get to cross paths with Miss Universe, Zuleyka Rivera, who is a lovely woman and very funny judging from the laughter coming from her group. She was in town for some pageant, and stayed on the same floor as we did, dining each morning with us in the "executive lounge" (famous for the good, free breakfast and free Diet Cokes all day.) I also ran into Miss Universe in the gym. She's a hearty, curvy girl versus being a size-zero twig. She's my new hero.

Friday we ventured out to a salad place for lunch and to a bookstore. We found a yummy Peruvian-inspired restaurant called Cuidad for dinner. The ceviche was delicious and South Beach Diet friendly. I spotted Joel Madden from the band, Good Charlotte, there. He looks smaller in person.

After dinner Friday night, we went to a wedding-sponsored welcome party at the Point Moorea Tiki Bar which was housed in the hotel. The guests of honor were an hour late to their own party. (Gasp!) We made polite chat with some friends of the groom's parents' while awaiting their arrival. We stayed for another hour after the couple arrived, but then both needed our beauty sleep as we were still operating on Texas time which is two hours later than California time.

Saturday was the afore-mentioned marathon wedding.

Sunday was fun-day! Karen Starr came through with a fun day of activities in downtown LA that we would have missed if left to our own devices. We got to meet Karen's steady boyfriend, Matthew, who is very nice and fun. We had lunch and traded house-remodeling stories. Karen & Matthew also have a 1950s home, but are much braver than we are. Matthew knocked out a kitchen wall recently and is opening it up to the living area. Karen let him. Both very brave! After lunch, we walked past the Walt Disney Concert Hall to the Museum of Contemporary Art for a feminist art show entitled WACK! As a woman, I'd love to be able to say that I liked the show, but we all ended up making fun of it, which was fun in its own way. We detoured through Little Tokyo for sushi and "crazy milk" before trekking up Broadway (yes, there's one in LA too) to ogle a movie shoot in progress. Then it was time to hug Karen and Matthew goodbye and go rest. Sunday night we ordered room service and watched Deja Vu (the Denzel Washington mystery-thriller.)

Monday was travel home day. I am not a fan of the LAX airport. There's a certain sense of seething anarchy waiting to erupt there that makes me uneasy. The check-in area is very poorly planned and the security lines are long and chaotic. I think we'll fly into the Burbank airport next time, head straight for Santa Monica, stay at the Ambrose and hang out with Karen & Matthew. Oh yeah, and not count on any cake-cutting for our carb fix!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Fences Make Good Neighbors... for Peeking!

Our little dude, Sonic, has made friends with our two back door neighbors. They are Beagles. Sonic and the Beagles stare at each other and sniff each other through the knot holes and slats in the fence. It's achingly cute and sweet!

South Beach Update: It's Day 10 and I've lost 6 pounds. I feel a little low energy, and have been cranky from the carb-withdrawal. I love carbs! Good (whole wheat bread, steel-cut oatmeal, fruit) and bad (bagels, cupcakes, chocolate); I miss them so! On Wednesday morning, I'll be done with phase 1! I plan to celebrate with a piece of whole wheat toast and a golden delicious apple. Phase 2 will be much easier.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


This full-time work thing really puts a damper on my blog reading, TV viewing, socializing and leisure reading! I've been pushing papers and fielding phone calls at the art school for the past week to help them with the annual onslaught of parents trying to pawn their kids off to art day camps for the summer. Some of these preschool parents get downright tearful when I deliver the bad news that the summer day camps are all full. I don't blame them if the racket in the background of these phone calls is any indication of how their days are spent. I hear kids bickering, doors slamming, wee ones whining, dogs barking, other phones ringing, musical instruments being abused and in one case, glass shattering. Yikes! Is it awful that I love kids, but don't want my own?

I'm halfway through the ultra-restrictive Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet. I spend a good portion of my day chewing crunchy vegetables. I am counting the hours until I can eat an apple and a slice of whole grain toast in Phase 2. (No fruit, no sugars, no baked goods of any kind, no carrots, no "bad" fats of any kind are allowed in Phase 1.) Chad has been kind of doing the diet with me. I say "kind of," because he ate a sandwich bun Saturday and had squash (a forbidden vegetable) tonight. I should be glad that Chad wants to be supportive and act in solidarity with me, but it's actually quite irritating. He is thin and muscular and does not need to lose weight. It bugs me that he would deny himself yummy things and be so disciplined when he doesn't need to, and probably shouldn't. My inner-irrational-angry self (she sounds fun, huh?) feels like he is mocking this HUGE sacrifice I've made in my eating habits. It's as if he's saying, "What's so hard about this? I'm thin and muscle-bound, and I'm having no trouble sticking to this diet." To which I reply, "Aaarrgh! Eat some bread and sugar, skinny boy!"

I'm glad that my job and Phase 1 of South Beach are both temporary, because I'm getting a touch cranky!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Manhattan is Dirty & I'm Busy

Wow, it's been a long time since I had a free moment to update this blog. Sonic enjoys climbing over the newspapers and mail that I need to sort.

1. We are safely home and NOT moving to New York City. Interesting place to visit; not where we want to live, not even for just a year. I have such a sense of peace about this decision. I love my cozy-cute 1952 house! I love Austin! I love my friends here!

2. I got a temporary, full-time job helping out at the art school where I worked back in 2000 - 2003. It's fun being back there and helping them get through a busy time, but I'm glad it's temporary.

3. I started the South Beach Diet -- should be named the South Bitch Diet! (Sorry for the bad language, relatives!) I need to lose weight and develop healthier eating habits. This diet is very sensible, and I'm not starving, but I am currently in "Phase 1" which is super-restrictive. Phases 2 and 3 will be much easier, but I am craving a tortilla like nobody's business!

So here are photos and a few of the things we did in New York City last week:

We arrived on Wednesday, February 21. We stayed at the gorgeous corporate apartment. It's bigger than our house! Centrally located on 5th Ave, the apartment boasts 2 master suites, 3 bathrooms and a huge, open, modern kitchen and living area. The only downside was that the owners of Chad's company hosted a reception party Wednesday night for the New York office employees at the apartment, so we didn't get to bed until kind of late.

Thursday I shopped and explored Chelsea and Union Park while Chad worked. The snow piled up on the sidewalks was filthy-dirty. That filth clings to your pants cuffs and coat tails. Now I understand why New Yorkers wear dark colors from head to toe. I thought they were all just depressed, but the dark attire hides the dirt. ICK! I met Chad in the evening and we attended the New York office-warming party to celebrate the new digs. I shook hands and smiled and nodded and tried to make jokes and ask people about themselves and it was SO BORING. I am a bad trophy wife. After schmoozing the business connections at the party, a smaller group of us went out for Mexican food. New York does NOT have good Mexican food -- go figure!

I poured my heart out to one of the New York office girls about how much I miss Chad when he travels, and she seemed to be sympathetic to my situation and was very complimentary of Chad. Later, I rounded the corner just in time to hear this same girl urging Chad to get a divorce and be "an eligible bachelor in New York City." Yeah... she's off of my holiday card list!

Friday I finally got Chad all to myself! We ate at a very hip, yummy restaurant disguised as a coffee shop / diner. Chad is pictured outside of it. Can you feel the irony oozing out of this place?

Chad and I explored some cool stores and walked for miles.

We went to the Modern Museum of Art. Chad liked this painting because it matched his shoes.

Saturday we went to lunch at the Union Square Cafe. We saw the 2:00 show of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. The show was schmaltzy-cute, but fun. We walked home through Times Square.

We found a few blocks of Broadway around 28th Street that are to be avoided in the future at all costs -- scary and apparently where you can buy drugs. Yikes. My best advice in these situations is to keep walking purposefully with your head up, because these unsavory characters can smell fear. We pretended to be confident and they didn't bother us.

Saturday night we met up with Carolyn, who used to live in Austin. We hung out at her very cute, but very tiny apartment in Lower East Village. The shower was seriously in the kitchen! I thought that was a false stereotype about New York City apartments, but it's true! Her rent is the same as our mortgage and we have about 800 square feet more of living space. Carolyn took us to a great Indian restaurant for dinner -- YUM!

Sunday we ate lunch at Lupa, one of Mario Batali's (of Food Network fame) places. Chad, who was born in Italy, loved it. After lunch we explored SoHo shopping. It started snowing, so we went back to the apartment to rest. We got a take-out pizza for dinner and watched the Academy Awards. I braided Chad's hair and gave him silly cornrows. Anything to avoid going out in the snow!

Monday I flew home and Chad flew off to Ohio for a work meeting. We're both home now and need to do some laundry!