Sunday, December 30, 2007

2007 In Pictures

2007 Mosiac, originally uploaded by eallwardt77.

Once again I am copying Mandi with a review of 2007 in pictures. I did have a picture from every month, the hard part was choosing which picture to use!

From left to right, starting on the top row:

1. Snow! 2. View of the Houses of Parliament from the London Eye (reminds me of Peter Pan). 3. Me, Diane & Stacy in front of Cinderella's Castle. 4. Tulips (Skagit Valley Tulip Festival). 5. Roman Acqueduct (Segovia, Spain). 6. New Car. 7. Siblings. 8. Bike Start (Danskin Triathlon). 9. Footprints in the Sand (Cabo). 10. Seahawks game (not a lot of pictures from October). 11. Chili Bouquets (Venice). 12. Holly.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

It's not that bad

This morning started off fairly normal. I woke up to Chloe howling, putzed around, took a shower and set off for the park. I hadn't been to Seward Park in awhile so decided to go there instead of Marymoor Park. I started off on the path. I've slowly been working up to running 2 songs, walking 1 and was able to keep up the pattern for the entire 3 miles. I started back towards my car and the first thing I noticed was there was a lot of broken glass on the ground on the passenger side of my car. My first thought was I don't remember that glass being there when I parked. I wouldn't have parked there. My trepidation increased as I got closer to my car. The passenger side window on my car was completely shattered. My heart dropped. My entire life was in my car. I got in and thankfully the only thing missing was my gym bag. It was at that point I started bawling. From what I can tell what must have happened in a matter of seconds - smashing my window and grabbing the gym bag. So a smash and grab job. It wasn't like this was a deserted place, there were several cars and people all around. A woman came over to me as I was sobbing and gave me a hug and told me the same thing happened to her daughter the previous month. She advised me to call the police. I did and made my report. The funny part of the story was when the police operator asks how much the gym bag was worth. The bag was an old Enron bag so I made a quip about did he want the actual value or the eBay value. He laughed and I laughed. With it reported, the next step was getting my car fixed. Of course since it was Saturday not a lot of repair shops were open. Aside from the window being shattered, there was some slight damage to the window frame which meant the one glass place I found that was open couldn't fix it and the one body shop I found that was open couldn't fix it either. However, I did find a glass & body shop recommended by my insurance which I will be calling first thing Monday morning.

Honestly - was it really worth it? All you got was a pair of sneakers, workout clothes, shampoo, maybe 50 cents, a hair band and a few other sundry items.

I debated whether or not to post this as in the grand scheme of things, it is so insignificant. It is an annoyance, I do feel violated, but I'm safe, I still have my car and most of my possessions. My car is insured. I need to go buy a new pair of shoes and some toiletries and a new gym bag. I think about my former co-worker who just lost her 8 week-old son, my aunt & my cousins who are preparing to say goodbye to my uncle, and a broken car window is not that bad. I wrote this to get my feelings out and process what happened and I decided to post it as this blog has evolved from a place for me to write about my trips to more of a chronicle of the events in my life. It really wasn't that bad now that I have processed it and when I figure out the lesson I should learn from this, I will let you know!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

White Christmas!!

Over the hills and through the woods to Aunt Patty's house we went for Christmas Eve. Charlotte (my cousin Gale's daughter) brought over her early Christmas gift, a Hannah Montana signed poster! My Aunt Patty told me I would have liked Hannah Montana had I been Charlotte's age. Sorry to ruin the illusion you have of me as a sophisticated adult Aunt Patty, but not only do I know who Hannah Montana is, I have a couple of her songs on my ipod. It was a fun evening, with a few more people than normal as my sister & Kris joined us.

My brother can be quite creative when he wants to be. Several years ago he began creating duct tape bows for presents. They have become quite elaborate over the years and this year were even multi-coloured!

Christmas morning came early, but fortunately not as early in years past. We opened presents at the respectable hour of 7 am, mainly watching Chloe playing with her toys. I'm not sure when the tradition of going to the movies on Christmas day started for our family, but it has been going on for years now. This year's movie was The Great Debaters. As we left for the movie theater, it had started to rain, but there was a little snow mixed in! There was a huge crowd waiting for the elevator to the movie theater so we decided to take the stairs (yes I counted - 101, give or take a few). The lobby of the movie theater was jammed!! The line was snaking all the way around and back. My dad and my brother are not the most patient people so we decided to forgo the movie this year. As it turned out, Chloe's guardian angel convinced us to go home as the burner had been left inadvertently on. Who knows what would have happened had we not decided to come home early!!

On our way home from the movies it started to snow - big, fat flakes - and started to stick just a bit to the ground. Seattle style White Christmas! The snow did not last long, but Chloe & I enjoyed it while it did.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Christmas is my favorite time of year. I've been having a problem this year getting into a more "Christmas-y" mood. I've been playing my Christmas music, enjoying the Christmas decorations and lights but I still haven't gotten excited it is Christmas. And here it is the weekend before Christmas.

Something I have wanted to do for awhile is buy the person's coffee in line behind me. So today, sitting in my car at the Starbuck's drive through I realize what better time to commit my random act of kindness than a couple of days before Christmas. I pull up to the window and tell the barista I will pay for the order behind me. That simple and small act has done more to put me in the Christmas spirit than anything else - it was a great feeling! And hopefully I made someone else's day, but really the joy I got from doing it was enough for me.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Saturday & Sunday

So this is a modified & combined "What I Did All Day" post. Paying attention to the details takes some work on the weekends! I'm not sure what happens to all my time!

4 something am Wake up. You have got to be kidding me. It's the weekend!!! Roll over and go back to sleep.

5:40ish am Get out of bed and head for the shower. It is the weekend but I am meeting a friend for coffee at 8 and if I get up now I can go for a run/walk.

6:20ish am Leave and head towards the park.

6:56am Start out. It's a little darker than I thought it would be but the path is lit. I'm wondering if this was such a good idea. But I'm only going 2 miles so I figure as long as I pay attention I should be fine. The sky starts to get light almost immediately and it isn't long before I run into other runners.

7:24am Arrive back at my car. Head towards Starbucks.

7:40ish am Stop at the office to change pants. I had brought an extra pair and good thing as it had started raining and my pant legs were fairly wet. The Starbucks I am meeting my friend is fairly close to my office so it made sense to stop there.

7:50ish am Arrive at Starbucks and see my friend walking across the parking lot. We get our drinks (mine is a cinnamon dolce latte, non-fat & sugar free) and chat.

8:26am Leave Starbucks and head towards my favorite store in the world, Target. Take my time shopping.

10 ish am Head towards Seattle. I've got an appointment at 11:30. Since I've arrived early I walk around and enjoy being in Seattle. I absolutely love Seattle during Christmastime with all the decorations and lights.

12:34pm I'm done with my appointment and I've realized I forgot to buy Chloe (and Sera, Jensen & Samson - the other dogs) their Christmas presents. Head to Petco before going to the grocery store.

4 something pm Arrive home. Yeah, still have no idea where all the time went either. Watch the second half of the Husky basketball game (they win - barely!).

5 something pm Read, play on the internet, start selecting pictures for a 2007 photobook. I've wanted to do a yearly scrapbook but that hasn't happened so I'm debating doing a photobook instead.

9:11pm Go to bed.

5 something am It is still the weekend and I can sleep in but I'm not. Go back to sleep.

6 something am Decide to actually get out of bed. I have been lying there and falling back asleep for 5 or 10 minutes and then waking up, then falling asleep and then waking up.

7:20am Take Chloe outside to do her business.

7:49am Leave for the race.

8:07am Arrive at the race. Pick up my packet and head back to my car to drop off my jacket and the information I don't need anymore. Put on my race shirt. Leave and walk back to the race area.

9:30am The race should be starting but we've been informed there is a slight delay.

A little while later The race starts and off we go. It isn't long before everyone spreads out.

1 hour, 44 minutes, 51 seconds later I cross the finish line!

12:18pm Arrive home and check the website - my time has been posted.

12 something pm Watch the end of the Seahawk game (they lose). Watch end of the Indianapolis game and the then the end of the Dallas game while rolling coins for my dad.

2:40pm Make a stir fry for a late lunch. Chloe does not like it when I use the oven and hides upstairs.

3 something pm Post my race results blog. Play on the internet.

4 something pm Go through my closet and come up with several bags of clothes to donate.

5 something pm Watch tv, and just generally veg. I got up and I am definitely a little bit stiff.

I'm about to post this so I'll predict what the rest of my evening will be like.

8:00pm Watch the finale of Survivor. I'm hoping either Amanda or Courtney will win. Actually the only person I don't really want to win is Todd. To me he tried to go for the over the top, showy moves in order to show he was the mastermind, even if the moves didn't make sense. But we'll see what happens. The jury can always surprise you.

9 something pm I'll probably go to bed before the end of the show. Thank goodness for DVRs!

On the first K of Christmas

I love the 12Ks of Christmas race! People dress up, ranging from Santa hats to full out costumes, including an angel on top of a Christmas tree. I arrive on the early side and pick up my shirt and timing chip and then get in line to use the real bathroom before line gets horrendously long. I stretch and people-watch until the announcer tells everyone to line up by their pace. I go back to the 12+ minute mile. I know I'm not the fastest person and I have no desire to get run over, and I don't think people want to have to run me over to get around me. And it's a chip-timed event so my time won't start until I cross the start-line. After a slight delay we were off! I did okay alternating between running and walking, run one song, walk for another. Although I do admit I probably walked a little more on the uphills even if it was time to switch to a run. As I was nearing the finish line, the 1K Kids Dash was also heading to the finish line. It's pretty sad when a 3 year old is running faster than you are!! Although he might have been 4. I always have 2 goals, the first being to finish, and the second is not to finish last. I didn't finish last, but was one of the last finishers. The only problem being one of the last finishers is sometimes that means there are no more goodies. There were no more bottles of water left, but Starbucks was there and I did have myself a mini Peppermint Mocha. By the time I got home the times had been posted. Isn't technology wonderful? I guess my third goal is usually a time goal and this time my goal was to finish in under 2 hours. I finished in 1 hour, 44 minutes and 51 seconds. I'll take that!

Saturday, December 15, 2007


My director told me one of the comments she received on the presentation was "What is different about Emily? Something is different but I can't put my finger on it." My director responded with "It's the bangs." I got my hair cut about two weeks ago and wanted something a little different. It's not that different and with the end of the year coming up I figured if I didn't like it by the time I emerge from the year-end process they will be mostly grown out. Again, it's not that big of a deal but since most of you who read my blog don't see me on a day to day basis I thought I'd at least post a photo of my new 'do.

Friday, December 14, 2007


4:54am Wake up. I could fall back asleep. I lay in bed willing myself to go back to sleep until my alarm goes off.

5:33am Give up trying to fall back asleep and as my alarm will be going off in about 15 minutes anyway decide to just get up.

6:27am Check my blackberry. There is a message from Germany. My company is owned by a German company. Receiving a message from the Germans is not always bad, I tell myself. But this one is marked URGENT. I scroll through the message. It is not bad, per se, it sounds as if there is some miscommunication. I'm not sure if it is on our side or theirs.

6:32am Leave for work.

6:44am Stop by Jamba Juice. Friday mornings I usually treat myself to a Mango Mantra with fiber and matcha. I've realized that I can be really high maintenance when I order my food. Add this, substitute that, remove this.

6:56am Arrive at work. Realize I should probably take the stairs. One, two, three… I always seem to count the stairs.

6:58am Get to my desk. My computer is still on from yesterday as I left it on so a program could finish installing over night. Forward on the email from Germany to seek clarification. Answer a couple other emails.

8:50am Receive validation on how to respond to the email from Germany. Validation is very important to me. In fact, it's become a joke that I need validation. And then last year we took a personality profile at work and it said in my profile "seeks validation" so I was validated in my needing validation! :)

9:00am Meeting to go over a project I just cannot get my head around.

10:00am Meeting is over and I’m back at my desk. Work, work, work.

11:23am What's for lunch? This is probably one of the big decisions we make on a daily basis. There is not a lot around our office so it is a matter of figuring out where, who will pick up, etc. Jessica is going to Red Robin for lunch and so we "volunteer" her to pick us up lunch when she is there. She imagines she'll be done with lunch around 12:30 - 12:45 so I will call in the order and she will pick it up! Whew, that is solved. Of course this would be a non-issue if I could get my act together and bring my lunch to work but who are we kidding? It's another high maintenance order as I substitute a side salad for the french fries.

12:50pm Jessica is back with lunch! Yay! I am starving.

1:28pm Vickie comes back to my desk with a part of the answer on the project I'm having problems with. It's not completely solved, but it is closer.

6:23pm Shut down computer and start to leave work.

7:03pm Actually leave work. As I was leaving I started talking with my boss and we started planning for next week.

7:08pm Was having a hard time convincing myself to stop by the gym when I was leaving at 6:30, now that it's 7 really don't want to but I didn't go yesterday or the day before so decide to stop, even if it is just for 30 minutes. Do 30 minutes on the elliptical. My ipod shuffle was in the J's (Jonas Brothers) and ended in the L's (Lenny Kravitz). Do a couple of sets with the free weights.

7:51pm Leave the gym.

8:06pm Arrive at home. Post Thursday's What I Did All Day. Do a little internet surfing and catch up on several blogs I like to read.

9:12pm Post Friday's What I Did All Day and then head for bed.


I'm a little late on Thursday but here it is!

3 something am Wake up. This waking up at 3 is really getting old. Go back to sleep.

4:41am Wake up. Lie in bed trying to go back to sleep.

4:48am Give up trying to fall back asleep and get up. Head to the shower.

5:38am Realize I probably shouldn't have left picking out what I was going to wear to the Christmas party at work until the last minute. Try on several different tops before finally deciding. I start looking for the shoes I was going to wear and realize that when I went through that whole clean out the closet phase awhile back, I got rid of some shoes. One pair having slightly higher heels than I normally wear which is perfect for when I wear my slightly longer dress pants. Oh well. Nothing I can do about it now. Will suffer with my pants dragging on the ground.

6:03am Drink my protein shake and finish getting ready.

6:18am Leave for work.

6:32am Arrive at work. Decide to take the stairs since I didn't workout yesterday and most likely won't today either. (It's only 4 flights or 68 total stairs.)

6:40am Computer is all booted up and ready to go. Look at my calendar and remember I've got an 8:30 meeting. Prepare for the meeting.

8:01am Get email from the VP there are Christmas treats in the breakroom. Debate going to get one. Remember there will be treats at the 8:30 meeting and decide to wait until then.

8:30am I had requested a slice of the gingerbread loaf from Starbucks to be brought in for the meeting, which it was and it was yummy! I'm not even going to look to see how many weight watcher points it was.

9:09am Meeting is ended and I'm back at my desk pulling out the a project that has me stumped to see if a day away will help me to see why I can't reconcile.

11:32am Leave for department meeting at the Meydenbauer Center. I left early as downtown Bellevue traffic is never fun and then add in Christmas traffic!! But I was able to use the new carpool only NE 6th exit which dropped me off a block away and cut out a lot of the side streets. Which is why I arrived early....

11:44am Arrive at Meydenbauer. Upstairs, we realize we are the first people to arrive. People start trickling in. My boss declares that everyone must sit by someone not in their functional group. This will be interesting to see how many people actually follow directions. For the most part people are mixed up. I am an observer so I sit back and watch. The thing about it is, in general, people want to sit by someone they know and you usually know the people you work with closely which is why I migrate towards people in my own group. It's not that I am trying to be exclusive, it's who I am comfortable with. It is good to mix it up and have people outside of their comfort zone. Lunch is finally set up and we can eat.

1:00pm Meeting starts. There is an email funny that circulates every once in awhile about BS Bingo - basically corporate buzz words. You mark off when these words are said in meeting in an attempt to get a bingo. We've talked about actually putting together one for our meetings but never have. But I still play a modified version in my head. It may be a little juvenile but it helps me pay attention. I try and listen for the word "du jour", which until recently has been mitigate, and count how many times it is said. You could count on mitigate being used several times during a meeting. It was not said once yesterday. I'm trying to figure out what our new word du jour is but I'm not sure. I think it might be coordinate.

3:00pm Meeting ends. I head back to the office to change into my holiday party top. After changing into my top I realize I liked it better this morning, but as it's the only top I brought, I wear it.

3:40pm Head for the Christmas Party which is out in Issaquah.

3:57pm Arrive at the Christmas Party. It is at a wine bar which is going for a European atmosphere. It may be trying a little too hard by labelling the bathroom the "WC". It's actually a very nice place - a little out of the way, but very nice. The appetizers are yummy, especially the mini hamburgers. And they have a very nice chianti. I'm not much of a wine person but I know I like chianti (I also like syrah or shiraz - couldn't tell you why, I just know I like them). They have a chianti on the menu so I have a glass. When at a wine bar... The rest of the evening is spent in a mixture of schmoozing, mingling, and chatting with various different people. You are not usually going to find me on the dance floor unless I'm with people I'm super comfortable with. Especially not at a work function, but I did make an exception for one song which was Justin Timberlake's SexyBack. There is a story behind this - last year we were in a very intensive project and they put everyone working on the project in the backroom and we would play music. Somehow SexyBack became our theme song which is why I did get out on the dance floor for that one song.

8:51pm Leave the party. Drive home. Realize exactly how tired I am.

9:13pm Arrive home and pretty much go straight to bed.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Mandi is doing a week-long series, What I Did All Day. I thought it was really interesting and a great idea so I thought I'd do it as well.

3:39am Wake up. For whatever reason, I am having the hardest time fully recovering from jet lag. I keep waking up really early. Lie in bed until I fall back asleep.

4:50am Wake up and this time get out of bed. Head to the shower.

5:30am Finish up addressing the last few remaining Christmas cards. Finish getting ready. I am doing a presentation today to my department about what I do so I practice one more time in the mirror.

6:05am Leave for work.

6:17am Stop at Starbucks. Lately I'm all about the cinnamon dolce latte and the non-fat, sugar-free version is only 2.5 weight watcher points!

6:30am Turn on my computer and wait for it to boot up. Run through my presentation. I've noticed that when I do the presentation without my notes I do okay but with my notes I can't trust myself and I keep referring to them. Hopefully this will all be sorted out before its time for me to do it for real. My computer is now booted up so I scan through my new emails before practicing again.

8:30am Go to the back room to run through the presentation with Jake. This time I practice standing up and realize that I keep shifting on my feet. Hm, need to work on that.

9:00am Back at my desk, I tweak my notes just a bit. Try to get other work done. That doesn't work out too well. Read through my notes again.

10:10am Find an unoccupied office and do a run through with several of my fellow presenters.

11:00am Walk down to the Terrace building to help with the set-up.

11:45am Start the ice breaker. Okay, we're only about 5 minutes late at this point. Not too bad. No one could hear me though when I tried to announce the ice breaker. Hopefully part of that was because they were all still talking and getting their lunch. Will really need to speak LOUD when it's my turn.

12:15pm Walk up to the front of the room that has suddenly gotten a lot bigger and there seems to be a LOT of people. Were there this many people just a minute ago? Here goes nothing…

12:28pm Sit down after my presentation. Wait for nerves to settle down. Listen to the remainder of the presenters. Yes, all of this was for less than 15 minutes. So why was it such a big deal to me? I have never been very good at public speaking and frankly it terrifies me. This was to a large audience and I was representing my group and so I felt a lot of pressure to do well. Plus, I realized later, I had the added pressure of the set-up and the ice breaker and I wanted to make sure the ice breaker went well. Overall, I think the presentation went okay. I thought my part could have been a lot better, but it could have been worse so I'm trying to be happy with how it went. I'm just grateful it is over!

2:00pm Head to Red Robin for a late lunch. I couldn't eat beforehand - my stomach was all in knots.

2:48pm Back at my desk. Start preparing for a meeting tomorrow morning. Work, work, work.

4:42pm Leave work and head down to the bar to meet up with several of the other presenters. I pretty much knew this day would be a waste in the end. Way too much nervous energy in the morning to do anything other than practice. And afterwards, needed to decompress just a bit, and didn't really want to start anything new as everything on my plate at the moment is somewhat involved. Plus I just feel drained.

6:13pm Leave the bar. Contemplate going to the gym but decide against it. Head to Target to pick up bubble wrap and a couple more boxes.

6:56pm Arrive home. Start wrapping and assembling the boxes that need to go out in the mail.

8:57pm Crash. I cannot keep my eyes open at this point. The other side of waking up early, is the fact that I'm usually in bed by 8. This week has been the exception as it has been closer to 9. Hopefully I'll be able to at least start sleeping later in the morning.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Brought to you by the letter "H"

It's the last weekend before the 12K. Which means realistically this morning was my last chance to do a long outdoor run. Yesterday was a cold day, but sunny. This morning? Snow! But unlike the slushy, wet mess last week, the snow this morning was light and dry. There were several sets of footprints in the snow when I started out and a lot more by the time I turned around. It snowed the entire 5 miles. I'm not as ready as I could be, but I'll finish!

I love putting my Ipod on shuffle. It is an endless source of amusement to me what song will come up next. The shuffle I'm on now is actually going alphabetically by artist. It took me awhile before I realized it was doing it alphabetically. Today I was on the "H" section. It started off with some Hard Fi, a lot of High School Musical in the middle, and ended with Hillsong. Yes, an endless source of amusement!!

My day ended with a massage. Ahh....

Monday, December 03, 2007

Roma, Venezia, Firenze, & London

Day 0/1
Wow! November 14th already? Diane met me at my house and my mom drove us down to SeaTac. I had used miles to upgrade to business (so worth it on long flights!) and so we enjoyed the amenities of the lounge while waiting for our flight. British Airways is in the process of upgrading their cabins and we were on one of upgraded planes. It was nice!! The beds fully reclined, we had a library of movies to choose from, and a warm comfy blanket. The flight was fairly uneventful. After landing, we walked around Heathrow to pass the time until our next flight to Rome. I ended up with the dreaded middle seat, but I was so tired I was still able to fall asleep. It wasn't long and we had landed in Rome and I got the first stamp in my new passport! We arrived at the train station just in time for the next train into Rome. Because we were both tired and I wasn't sure exactly where our hotel was we decided the easiest way would be to take a taxi from the train station to our hotel. Before this I can say I've never really worried too much about a taxi ripping me off - I always make sure to get an official taxi and I've never had problems. We got into the official taxi line and took the next official taxi, or at least the next "official-looking" taxi. We got to our hotel, well across the street and down a little from our hotel and the driver said the cost was €20! I was expecting €10 not €20!! But I was tired and I hate confrontation so I didn't say anything and we paid him. I looked up taxis in Rick's book and sure enough, it should have been around €10. Oh well - it's only money.

The hotel was located on the second floor and the elevator looked a little intimidating (at least to me) so we drug our suitcases up the two flights of stairs. The hotel room was large, and directly off the reception desk. The bathroom, the shower in particular, was tiny! But it was clean and in a good area. We rested for a little bit before deciding to explore. Our hotel wasn’t too far from the Colosseum so we walked towards the Colosseum before continuing on to the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain where we threw our coins in the fountain to ensure our return to Rome. We were hungry by this point and tired so we walked back toward our hotel. We ate at a restaurant I'd eaten at before. Their margherita pizza was just as good as I remembered! At this point we were exhausted and so went back to the hotel.

Day 2
During the night I discovered the beds at the hotel were heat-sucking beds! It's as if the bed sucks all the heat from your body into the mattress then radiates it back - the mattress gets really warm. Heat-sucking bed aside, the rest of the night passed peacefully and before I knew it was time to get up. The tiny shower proved interesting but mangeable. Breakfast was served in our room and consisted of various rolls, yogurt, and a cappuccino. We finished breakfast and stepped outside to discover it was raining. We made our way to the Colosseum. It really is amazing to me how much of that structure is still intact. Next was Palatine Hill. We walked around looking at the ruins and avoiding the puddles that were quickly forming. At the back of the Palatine Hill area we were able to see Circus Maximus in the distance. There is really only a well worn track left of what used to be an impressive arena that held chariot races. We made our way back to the Forum and walked through what used to be the center of Roman living. We visited the Mamertine prison, where legend has it both St. Peter & St. Paul were held prisoners. It was really interesting to visit, plus it was indoors which allowed us to get out of the rain. The rain was really coming down so we ran up the stairs through the back entrance to the top of the Victor Emmanuel monument and stopped in the café to take a break from the rain and rethink the plan for the day. Granted, we are two Seattle girls and should be used to the rain but it was coming down pretty hard at this point and with the wind an umbrella would be useless. Where was the guy selling ponchos? The rain had abated when we finished our drinks and we decided to head back to the hotel to dry off. When we left the hotel the rain was still at a little drizzle so we decided to keep with our original plan, with a slight deviation. St. Peter in Chains was fairly close to our hotel so we walked up the stairs to the church. As we are walking up we were saying we’ve done pretty well avoiding the puddles. And with excellent timing we step into a huge puddle!! Oh no. So much for avoiding puddles. We reach the top of the stairs only to find the church was closed for lunch. We continued on to the Pantheon where I was happy to discover there was no construction. The last few times I’ve been there scaffolding has been up. We went over to Piazza Navona before stopping for gelato! Yum! It was on to the Trevi Fountain where we again threw a coin in to the fountain. We walked up to the Spanish Steps and debated walking up to the top, in case we decided to come back at night. We decided to walk halfway up the stairs. We walked up to the Piazza del Popolo. From there we took the metro over to Santa Maria della Vittoria to see Bernini’s sculpture of St. Teresa in Ecstasy. We then took the metro back over to St. Peter in Chains which was open this time! There was a mass going on in the corner while we were there. It’s funny but it took me a second to realize it was in English (as opposed to Italian or Latin). We walked back over to the Spanish Steps and this time climbed all the way to the top (135 stairs). It was when we paused to take in the view we realized exactly how tired we were. We took the metro back to our hotel and had dinner at the restaurant near our hotel. We topped it off with gelato (yes, that would be the second time we had gelato today – I’m on vacation!!).

Stair count: 60+ x 2 up to St. Peter in Chains and 135 up to top of Spanish Steps (not to mention climbing halfway up earlier in the day)

Day 3
It was still on the chilly side today, but at least no rain! First stop was the Vatican Museums. I figured there would be a line, but as it was in the middle of November, I didn't expect a long line. Boy was I wrong! When we joined the line it was almost back to the entrance to St. Peter's! Guides were offering tours which would let us bypass the line and were warning that at this point the line was around 2 hours long. We decided to stick it out in line and fortunately the line moved along. We only ended up being in line for a little over an hour. We were probably about halfway through the line when this couple cut in line in front of us! As previously mentioned, I hate confrontation, but I also hate "cheating" which is basically what they were trying to do. What to do? I'm also passive aggressive, which showed when I told Diane to follow me and we basically cut in line in front of them. So while they did cut - at least it wasn't in front of us!

Finally inside we got in line to buy tickets. Diane was in front of me and the cashier asked if she was a student. She said no, but he replied yes and gave her the discounted student rate. I step up thinking he might do the same for me. Yeah, no. I paid full price. We made our way through the museum until finally we reached the Sistine Chapel. Stepping inside, it takes a minute for the grandness of it all to sink in. We stand around gazing up before taking the "secret" exit which opens out right near the actual entrance to St. Peter's instead of winding your way back through the museum and then walking all the way back to St. Peter's.

Stepping inside of St. Peter’s I am overwhelmed at the sheer grandness of the basilica. We toured the basilica before sitting down to rest. Feeling rested, we began the climb up to the top of the dome, taking the elevator to the base. The climb wasn’t actually too bad, I think partly because there were so many people in front of us it was slow going with frequent stops. We reached the top and were trying to take a Diane & Emily self portrait when a guy comes up to us and says he’ll take our picture. Diane gives him her camera and he decides where we are isn’t going to make a good shot so he starts walking back and climbs up on a post to get a better angle. He has us move around until he is satisfied with the shot and finally takes the picture. We thank him and then look at the picture. I’m not sure what he was looking at when he took the picture but he just barely got us in the picture. Oh well!

Not sure what to do after St. Peter’s we decide to make our way to Ostia Antica (ancient Ostia). Ostia was a port city which was abandoned when Rome fell and was covered up over time by mud and silt. I really enjoyed Ostia because you can really explore and climb all over and imagine what life would have been like once upon a time. We were almost through to the end when the guides told us it was closing and we had to leave. We turned around and headed back to the entrance, stopping off at the theater to “take a bow”.

Back in Rome, we decided to try a restaurant in Diane’s book. We took the metro over to Piazza del Popolo and found the restaurant. Unfortunately it was closed. We walked over to the metro near the Spanish Steps and went back to the hotel. We walked around and found a restaurant nearby. There was only one other couple there when we got there which was a little worrisome but by the end it had filled up. The food was good! We finished up the day with a gelato.

Stair count: 323 to the top of St. Peter’s

Day 4
It was our last morning in Rome. After breakfast we took the metro to the train station and picked up our tickets to Venice. A little background on Venice, or my feelings on Venice: I don’t like Venice. The last and only time I was there it was super hot and crowded. While that wasn’t fun, it wasn’t enough to turn me off Venice. What did that was the smell and the garbage. Venice is very smelly and dirty. Diane really wanted to go to Venice and I decided to give it another chance. When we got there I was happy to find it wasn’t as dirty or as smelly as I remembered it. We took the water bus to our hotel, which was down the tiniest street! We were shown up to our hotel room, which was very red. We got a map and directions from the hotel clerk and started off towards the Rialto Bridge. Venice is very picturesque with all the canals and bridges. We found our way to Rialto Bridge, doing a little shopping on the way. We twisted and turned along the little streets over to St. Mark’s Square. After doing a little more shopping we wandered back over to the Rialto Bridge and had dinner outside along the Grand Canal. Yes, outside even though it was really cold! We had tiramisu for dessert (instead of gelato). We started off back to the hotel and got lost. Backtracking we ran into a couple who was also lost. A couple streets down we found where we had made the wrong turn and continued on to our hotel. We ran into the lost couple again – it looked as if they were still lost. We finally reached our hotel. It was so hot in our room! We couldn’t get the air conditioning to work and I broke down and opened the window. But thankfully it wasn’t too smelly! It was after I had been in bed for a little while I realized my skin was still so cold! The side of my body that had been closest to the water at dinner was the coldest. Where is the heat sucking bed when you need it?

Day 5
When we first had looked around the hotel room, we had noticed we didn’t have a traditional hair dryer but we figured it would work. It did work – sort of. It was more of a hair blower than a hair dryer but it was better than nothing.

Stepping out of our hotel room we could smell breakfast wafting up the stairs! They had rolls and yogurt, but also fruit and cereal. After breakfast we checked out and left our bags and started walking towards St. Mark’s Square. The basilica was first on our list. I really like the Byzantine influence evident in St. Mark’s. From there we went to the Doge’s Palace, a very interesting mix of Gothic and Eastern styles. Unfortunately the Bridge of Sighs and the prisons were closed for renovations so we weren’t able to see them. Next up was the Campanile, which had an elevator. Hooray! No stairs! The ticket we bought for the Doge’s Palace allowed us to visit the Correr Museum, across the square. This museum has a lot of Venetian history and art. The exciting moment came when Diane leant a little too close to a sculpture and set off the alarm! Oh no! She stepped back and the alarm shut off. We took a makeshift “tour” of Venice via the water bus from St. Mark’s Square to the Rialto Bridge. We stopped for gelato and then for a late lunch. A little backwards to have dessert before lunch but again I’m on vacation! We did a little more shopping before heading back to the hotel to pick up our luggage and head to the train station to catch a train to Florence.

My verdict on Venice? I would visit again, always in the off-season! It’s not in my top 10 and it’ll probably be awhile before I would visit again but I would visit again. And I’d definitely stay in the hotel again! It was my favorite of this trip.

We arrived in Florence and walked to the hotel. It was late by this point so we called it a day.

Day 6
Our breakfasts continued to get better. This morning we had the normal rolls, yogurt, fruit & cereal, plus meats and cheeses! After breakfast we started off towards the Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David. Every time I see David, I get a little ga-ga. I’m so impressed with all the details, especially the hands! The Duomo was next and then we climbed the bell tower, instead of the dome. It was 50 steps shorter, less crowded and gave us a great view of the dome. About halfway up the bells rang which was pretty cool and very loud! We continued on to Santa Croche and then on to Palazzo Vecchio, once home to the powerful Medici family. The original David used to stand outside this palace but now there is a fake David in its place. The next stop was Ponte Vecchio which was not Diane’s favorite ponte! I really like Ponte Vecchio (it is one of my favorite pontes) so it became a joke that Diane was not as impressed with it. After doing a bit more shopping we took the bus up to Piazzale Michelangelo for a view of the city and a view of another fake David. I’m always nervous about taking a bus but I feel so accomplished when I arrive at my destination. I don’t know what it is about a bus that makes it different than the metro. We got back down and found a restaurant near our hotel, recommended by Rick. We realized after a bit they stuck us in the back with all the other tourists. The food was good and the cappuccino had a heart in the foam. According to Rick, Florence has the best gelato in Italy so after dinner we started hunting for gelato. We finally found a spot open which was more expensive but it was our last night in Italy and we had to have gelato!! And what’s better than gelato and tiramisu? Tiramisu flavored gelato!!

Stair count: 414 up to the top of the Bell Tower

Day 7
We had breakfast before heading over to the train station to catch the train to the Pisa Airport where we caught a plane to London. We took the train into London and got a taxi over to our hotel. We relaxed and watched television for a bit before heading out to find a pub for dinner. We got directions from the concierge but didn’t find the one he directed us to but found another one. I had fish and chips and split a stick toffee pudding with custard for dessert. It was really yummy! We realized after we had started eating it we hadn’t taken a picture of the dessert. It had started pouring outside so we ran for it. We reached our hotel and called it a night.

Day 8
We took the train out to Leeds Castle. On the train we noticed the weather was fairly gloomy and it looked as if it could rain. We got to the castle and in the gift shop they were selling ponchos. Knowing if we bought one we probably wouldn’t need it, but if we didn’t we probably would, we erred on the side of buying the poncho. We walked up to the castle, which is extremely picturesque. We toured the castle which is still in use today. We had lunch at the castle restaurant. Diane had pork & apple cutlet with potatoes and I had a lamb & apricot dish, also with potatoes. Halfway through our meal we realized today was Thanksgiving and both of our dishes were appropriate with the side of potatoes! Unfortunately I didn't think about taking a picture of our food until after we had already eaten.

The castle also had a maze. We did okay at the beginning but then got off track. Who knows how long we would have wandered around in there if we hadn’t overheard the guide telling someone else the secret of the maze? We didn’t quite hear the whole secret so instead we followed the ones that had heard the secret and soon we were at the middle!

We made it back to London and took the tube over to Westminster Abbey thinking it would still be open but it wasn’t. We walked across the bridge and went on the London Eye. Before we bought our ticket we used the restroom at the London Eye - they have the coolest hand dryers ever! You put your hands all the way in and slowly draw them out and your hands are completely dry! They need more of these hand dryers!! We were the only people in line and a pod was coming up so we thought for a second we'd get a pod to ourselves but they wouldn't let us on saying they needed at least three people. So the pod went by - empty. A few more people came and we were able to get on the next one. I love the view from the London Eye – it reminds me of Peter Pan.

When we finished at the London Eye, we took the tube over to Harrods to do a little shopping.

Day 9
Last February, when Jana and I were in London, we found this cute little restaurant near our hotel - The Muffin Man. I think we ended up eating there just about everyday! Some point later in time (I forget when) I was reading Something Blue by Emily Giffin and to my surprise she also mentions The Muffin Man and from what I could tell it was the same restaurant. How does this all tie in? Well, our hotel this time was in the same neighborhood (and by in the neighborhood I mean a brisk 10 minute walk down the road). I had talked it up to Diane and so we trekked over there for breakfast. I remembered they had great paninis but wasn't sure about having one for breakfast. But one of the other customers was having a panini when we arrived so I figured I should go ahead and have one as well. And my excuse? I'm on vacation, of course! Good choice - it was yummy!

After breakfast, we took the tube to Westminster Abbey so we could actually go inside this time! Touring the Abbey we saw the oldest door in Britain, dating back to the time of Edward the Confessor. Making my way through the church I overheard two kids complaining that they couldn’t read anything because it was all in Latin. Part of me completely sympathized with them, but part of me was thinking your parents took you to England – enjoy it! Later I overheard another kid (different family) talking about what he was seeing. Two very different attitudes – I’d like to think I would have been more like the second kid but I’m not so sure.

We walked over to Buckingham Palace just in time for the changing of the guards. We took the tube over to St. Paul’s. There was a teacher there with her class touring the church. She was really good! Her explanations were really interesting and entertaining. We wanted to join her group! We thought about doing the stairs at St. Paul’s but decided against it. We took the tube over to the Tower of London where we found out we had just missed the last Yeoman warder tour so we decided to wait and do the Tower of London the next morning before we had to leave. We took the tube over to Piccadilly Circus where we did some shopping and had our first eggnog latte of the season. We were going to try and find a different pub for dinner but couldn’t so we ended up at the pub we ate at the first night.

Our friend Jamie had been in Barcelona for work and was spending a few days in London and we met up with her and a few of her co-workers and their friends for a drink at a pub just a few streets over. It was on the other side of the street where we had been looking! I guess we should have looked on the other side of the street!

Day 10
Last day! We ended up deciding to see how we felt in the morning whether or not we wanted to hike over to the Tower of London or not. It ended up being not. We finished packing and checked and made our way over to The Muffin Man for our last breakfast on vacation.

In a lot of ways the best part about a vacation, for me anyway, is the planning and the anticipation. The vacation itself is always great but once it starts I know it will end. Which is probably why I take so many trips! :) I need something else to look forward to! So until next time….


Sunday, December 02, 2007

Training - 2 weeks to go!

This isn't my trip report. But it is coming!!

A few weeks ago I signed up for the 12Ks of Christmas race. My training started on a good note but then I went to Europe and my training was derailed. I've been to the gym a few times but my plan was to go out and do 5 miles this morning and then it started snowing last night. It was still precipitating this morning - snow mixed with rain. I thought about just getting on the treadmill but, for me anyway, there is a huge difference between being outside and being inside on a treadmill. I like to at least do one or two workouts in a week outside, especially when I am training for a specific event. So I bundled up but decided to cut it down to 3 miles. I didn't notice the cold too much until I stopped. And can I say I love my heated seats!!