Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Little German Coincidence

So, a friend of a friend posted this video on Facebook the other day and there may have been some references to it being a little bit "Bollywood". It's not Bollywood - at all - jusst in case you were wondering. ;)

No, it's actually German reggae, or something closer to that. But what really caught my attention (besides the fun dance and costumes), was that I recognize the voice of the singer. It took me only a minute or two to verify that it was Peter Fox (I've mentioned his song Haus Am See here before).

Peter Fox must be really famous, even though I have limited exposure to him. That seems like the only explanation for him being the singer in the two recent songs that I've liked in German.

Here's the song on its own. The title means, "Shake Your Bacon". They lyrics may leave something to be desired, but the beat and tempo are pretty good. :)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Adventure Cats!

We've reached the point in time where we can let Peaches outside fairly comfortably without a leash. She eagerly runs down the stairs and then waits at the garage door for me. Out the door she typically sniffs the fresh air happily and either proceeds to scope out the grass or simply sit and enjoy the outside atmosphere.

I follow a website called "Adventure Cats" - and somewhere in the back of my mind I want Peaches to be an Adventure Cat. But we've definitely got lots of road to travel before she can comfortably handle even a bit of what these cats do. For example, 

(Buck Canyon Kitty Adventure)

Amazing, right? Although the cats sleeping happily on the dash are the farthest from what Peaches does in the car (unhappily meows).

But, in another attempt to improve her mental and physical health, we've recently started experimenting with how she gets her food. We're still too lazy to do anything like timed/proportioned meals, but we've read that cats are happier when they have to work for their food. As in, puzzles to get food. There are thousands of food toys you can buy with this in mind, but a simple DIY method that we've been trying out is to simply place her food in a brown paper bag such that she has to reach in with her paw and pull it out to eat it. The initial idea was to also crinkle the neck of the bag to make it harder, but she had trouble with that - just pushing at the end of the bag with her nose where the food was. Minus the crinkled neck, it is working really well! Surprisingly well. And it is cute. She typically walks up to the bag, sticks her paw in, and pulls out a food morsel - and then repeats it. I don't know that she loves it, but she seems alright with it. Though she sometimes cheats!

Friday, September 16, 2016

A Very Odd Phone Call

I just had one of the most bizarre conversations I've ever had.

Context: I gave a presentation this morning for a group of teachers on a program my work offers. I gave the presentation with a woman who I worked with a few times over the last school year at the school she works at. And she's a really nice woman. We sat together for the remainder of the presentation time (about two hours) and did a few activities together - all very pleasant interactions.

This afternoon I received a call from her - on my cell phone. I was very confused at first - and I don't usually even pick up calls from numbers I don't recognize. But it was local enough that I went ahead and picked it up - and it was her!

This is about how our conversation went down:

"Hi, Geneva! This is Brenda. Are you at work still or finishing up soon?"

"I'm still at work until about 6:00 PM, but I'm totally ok to talk with you."

" I actually am not calling about the Golden Rule Project...actually, I wanted to ask you some questions"

"Oh! Ok - go for it."

"So, I have some really cute boys and - I should probably check first to see if you're engaged - or married!"

"Oh, my goodness! I am actually married!"

 "Oh, well, I'm glad I asked!"


"Was that the main thing you wanted to ask about?"

"Yep, that was it."

"Oh, ok, well, sorry!" (I shouldn't be apologizing for being married to a great guy, but what do you say to that?!)

"No worries - I'm sure you've got a cute guy."

"I do!"

"You tell him he's a lucky guy."

"I will!"

It was simultaneously extremely flattering, and extremely awkward!

Also, very amusing.

It took me a little while to figure out how she got my cell number, and then I realized I'd emailed her it earlier in the morning when I wasn't sure whether I was in the correct location for the presentation. Mystery closed!

Cedar City Half Marathon

This past weekend (September 9th-11th) I traveled down to Cedar City with one of my former roommates - AnnMarie. AnnMarie grew up in Tennessee, but during the years we were roommates, her family moved to Cedar City - a much more convenient location, even if it is still a bit of a drive.

The plan/reason for this trip was a.) to run the Cedar City Half/5K, and b.) to celebrate AnnMarie's 30th birthday! AnnMarie is the oldest of seven kids and visiting her home (where six out of the seven siblings were there, plus her parents and niece and nephew) definitely brought back the memories of being at home with my siblings growing up. It feels like it has been SO long since we were mostly all at home and young enough to bicker and tease. But it was definitely a fond nostalgic feeling/memory.

We arrived on Friday evening after an unusually long drive (for the distance we were covering). AnnMarie got lost coming to pick me up (which worked in our favor as the UPS driver didn't arrive with my present for her until just three minutes prior to her own arrival at our home). We took the long way to get gas in Provo and then had to backtrack so her brother (who we'd picked up) could leave a key he'd forgotten to leave. And then there was an accident about half an hour North of Cedar City that caused a ten(ish) minute delay. Oh! And we stopped at Rowley's Red Barn in Santaquin for apples, peaches, and delicious apple cider slushies. Honeycrisp apples at $.99 a pound. How has no one ever told me about this place before?

Saturday morning we woke up early and got dressed and had a quick breakfast before arriving at the race finish at 5:30 AM so we could be bused up to the race start lines up the canyon. AnnMarie and her sister, Heidi, had originally signed up for the half marathon, but after a series of problematic situations for training (which resulted in very little training), both opted to run the 5K instead. I, having not run a half marathon yet this year, decided to stick to that distance even though I've never had poorer training for any half marathon that I've run. My goal was to finish in under two hours and thirty minutes. I wasn't going to push myself or feel any pressure, I was just going to go with my pace and have a good time.

And I did!

I boarded the bus, chatting with the runner who sat beside me as we headed up, stood by one of the fires for a few minutes, used the restroom (only time I did - always fortunate, as having to stop and use the restrooms during the race is never my favorite), and then spent most of the rest of the wait time by the fire, slowly peeling off my outer layer. The race was set to start at 7:00 AM, but most of us didn't realize that the actual start line was almost a third of a mile further up the road. Long story short, the race started late as the runners all realized this and made their way up. I plugged my headphones in, turned my music on, started my Endomondo tracking, and went for it.

The Cedar City Canyon is beautiful. Not very different from several of the other canyon halfs I've run, but beautiful all the same. I completely tuned in to my music and ignored everything but the music and the scenery. And I felt great. Really great - as in, surprisingly great. A few of those songs I posted about a few weeks ago? They were perfect running songs. I felt amazing until about mile 10, at which point my hips started to hurt and the lack of training started to kick in. But I kept on, now alternating short walking breaks with running. I don't typically like to walk at all, but as I said, I'd put no pressure on myself to finish quickly or anything.

In retrospect, I do wish that I'd pushed myself a little more in those last three miles. Why? Because if I had, I totally would have broken two hours. Honestly, it probably could have been a personal record for me if I'd been able to keep my pace at what it was for those first ten miles. As it was, I finished at about two hours and three minutes - way faster than I'd anticipated. And, I hurt. And, I still hurt (a little). But it was one of my most enjoyable runs to date. Very fun. I was able to sprint at the end - always a good sign.

AnnMarie and Heidi's 5K went well and they arrived back just after I finished the half. We spent a few minutes taking photos, a few minutes as I rolled my legs out, and then headed home for showers, food, and naps. We mostly hung out for the rest of the day along with celebrating AnnMarie's birthday. Her mom had made a beautiful brownie Pooh Bear cake complete with a homemade Pooh figurine reading some of AnnMarie's favorite books. :) AnnMarie and I are pretty different, but our enjoyment in books is very similar. With this in mind, my gift for her was a copy of The Rithmatist - one of the few Brandon Sanderson books she hadn't yet read.

Sunday morning we went to church with her family, had lunch/dinner, and then headed back North. The drive home went much more quickly - in part because I read The Rithmatist out loud in the car as we drove. Such a fun book.

It was a great weekend. I definitely felt a sense of accomplishment from the run. Spending time with AnnMarie and her family was also very enjoyable. But admit that I was pretty happy to be at home again with Brandon and Peaches. There's no place like home, right?

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Comic Con 2016!

Our friends Kirsten and Ryan let us know this past Thursday that they had an in on some free tickets to Salt Lake Comic Con! We were immediately interested in going with them, though we know we'd already scheduled enough other things that we'd only have a few hours to enjoy it Saturday morning/early afternoon. But we went and it was worth it!

There were more pictures taken by Brandon, but I've just got the couple that I took for now!

When we got there we spent a little over an hour just watching people walk by outside by the TARDIS. So many fun costumes!

Of course, as soon as we got inside and wandered for just a few minutes, we realized we were all hungry so we went back outside to the CupBop food truck that was hanging out across the street. Delicious! Back inside we spent most of our time just wandering amongst the venders - enjoying all the interesting things for sale and people watching at the same time. 

Generally at these type of conventions the artists frequently take pop icons of various types and stylize them in their form of art. A few of our favorite artists were Ukiyoe Heroes (traditional Japanese styled drawings), Chris Voeller (cleanly stylized cards), Cult Classic Posters (clean posters), Jenny Parks Illustration (cat themed), and Super Emo Friends (sad, but funny). We came home with three of the Super Emo Friends drawings framed (Link, 10th Doctor, and Flick from Christmas Story).

A few more fun encounters!

We headed out late afternoon to take a break for about an hour and then head south with Grant and Lauren to an evening at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. We sat on some blankets on the hill and just listened to all the wonderful stories told. Very fun - though it was a little chilly before the evening was over! 

Punta Mita: 48 Hours

Now, to be completely fair to us, while we may have only been in Mexico for about 48 hours, our total travel time stretched the entire trip total to close to 65 hours - still a quick trip by almost anyone's standards. but if was fun and enjoyable and we're very glad we went.

Why did we go in the first place? Well, back in December I was invited to my old work's Christmas movie event (The Force Awakens) and while there, they tossed out about a hundred little footballs and Brandon caught one that coordinated with a gift certificate for a two night stay at the Four Seasons Punta Mita.

(As a brief aside, I do not enjoy the hussle that equates to catching ones of these footballs when the manic throwing begins. I swear the lady on my left was trying to catch footballs that were headed for people two to my right. Essentially, that's not the type of competition I enjoy, and I apparently have more of a bubble than I thought.)

Fast forward to April of this year, we were trying to lock down some dates to stay at the Punta Mita close to our anniversary and that just wasn't going to work. So, we spent a week or two looking at flight fares for weeks later in the year and this past weekend was the time! Inexpensive airfare and no other plans.

And, as things go, it came quickly! August was here and then the end of August!

Our weekend leading up to our day of departure (Sunday the 28th) was busy as we had Duane and Shauna in town on Friday night and then spent the morning/early afternoon with them at the Farmers Market and then REI (we got lots of fruit and yummy food and then a few items for Thailand). We mostly packed Saturday night and then were free to get up and go on Sunday morning without too many more preparations. Peaches was all set with food, water, and a clean litter box, and we were away!

From a tip from Duane and Shauna, we got a good deal on parking our car at a hotel near the airport for much cheaper than the economy parking, with a shuttle to and from the airport. We had a few minutes to wait before the shuttle was ready to leave, so Brandon had a bite to eat in their little breakfast area (the food may not have been very good). Our driver to the airport was very nice - a man who was originally from Pakistan but whose family/extended family had immigrated to the US more than twenty years before. At the airport we checked in, and, because we hadn't been able to choose our seats before (for whatever reason) were assigned Economy Comfort seats as well as Sky Priority boarding (just a little bit sooner than normal). With it being a direct flight, it was pretty good.

We arrived in Puerto Vallarta and went through customs and immigration. For those of you who haven't traveled to Mexico recently, once you go through customs, you walk through a gauntlet of timeshare sales area where if you give anyone the time of day, they try to get you to come to a promotional meeting. We did briefly get caught by a nice gentleman who tried to get us to sign up for a one hour promotional meeting and we politely and cheerfully told him we had almost no time there and an hour plus transportation to and from his location wasn't worthwhile for us (plus, the offer of cigars and tequila hold little sway over us). We then got caught by a "taxi" guy who tried to tell us that $70-$80 was normal for a transfer to our hotel (about an hour away). I firmly told him no, that I was sure that was too high (I'd read a recently updated website that told us that taxis to our hotel zone would run 800-900 pesos or $45-$50). He told us it wasn't and I told him that we would keep looking and if we didn't find any that were close to 800-900 pesos, we'd come back. He followed us over to the ATMs (where we spent the next ten minutes struggling with the ATMs and how much we need to take out in Pesos) and then tried to convince us again as we exited the building. I held my ground - and he finally relented (and even shook my hand over my determination) and agreed to give us a taxi for 900 pesos (he took 200 there and the taxi driver would get 700 when we arrived at our hotel). The taxi driver asked for the money right away but we said we'd give it to him when we arrived and he didn't press us on it (we ended up giving him 800). And though the car was a little rickety and slow and not very well air conditioned, it was a good drive and we had good conversation with out driver. We even shared our dove chocolates with him and he seemed to like them.

When we arrived at the first gate to the resort property (there was still a second gate specifically to the Four Seasons) the guard pretty much greeted us by name. It was impressive. They've got their stuff figured out as far as who is arriving when (at least in the slow season). Once to the actual resort, we were welcomed in with cool lemon-scented chilled hand towels and hibiscus juice as we checked in on the veranda (seriously - it was cushy). We then had a golf-cart tour of the property and were delivered to our building/room. As rooms go, it doesn't really compare to our crazy nice room at the Grand Coral Beach in Cancun (it is unlikely that we'll stay in that nice of a room at any point in the near future), but it was still very nice. All the things you need in a room and a lovely view of the ocean.

We got into our swimsuits and headed down to the beach. The resort is set up in such a way that you do a fair amount of walking. Never very long distances, but everything is sneakily tucked away in jungle and trees, isolating each thing from every other part of the resort. We walked down to the beach, getting into the ocean, and finally ending up at the lazy river tucked up a little ways away from the ocean. We quite enjoyed the lazy river. We headed back to our room and got cleaned up and then headed to dinner! For our first dinner we went to the Bahia. They served us some bread/bread sticks (rosemary!) as an appetizer and then our main course (which we split) was a Saffron Seafood Risotto - Mussel, Shrimp, Calamari, Chorizo. The shrimp was definitely the best part. We finished it off with some chocolate fondue. And then as we left we discovered the Game Room! Ping Pong, Air Hockey, Pool, a movie room, and just about every game consul you can think of times four or five (with different games on each one). Basically, it was awesome. We played a few different games and then called it quits for the evening and headed back to our room.

Monday - our only full day - began late-ish with a quick run on the beach. The beach wasn't particularly long, but we wanted to get a good look at the 18th hole on the golf course. This particular hole was set out on an island maybe 100 meters off the end of the rest of the golf course. They had special boat/golf carts to get to it. Anyway, running along the beach was very difficult and I had very little patience with the waves that kept making it more difficult.

Off to breakfast, we ate at Ketsi (we had both our breakfasts here). I think Brandon had the shrimp burrito while I had the Mexican french toast. It was some of the prettiest french toast I've ever eaten - made with a baguette. It wasn't quite as delicious as it was beautiful, but it was good. After breakfast we headed back to drop off some leftovers at our room and then back down to the beach. Honestly, here the order of things starts to become a little blurred. Maybe we went to the infinity pool first? And then to the beach? Regardless, we spent most of our time in the water. Around lunch time or mid afternoon, we got some yummy gelato to tide us over till dinner. I had mint chocolate chip and I think it was probably the best flavor they had (though perhaps not the most interesting flavor). Again, what we actually did is hard to say exactly. We went back to the Game Room for awhile, visited the Lazy River again...we kept busy - in a relaxing manner.

Around 6:30 PM we headed to dinner - kind of an early dinner for us particularly since we were on Central Time. This evening we chose to go to Aramara. And of all our meals thus far, it was our best. Our eyes were slightly bigger than our stomachs, but only just. We started out with edamame and the Hot Rock - Marinated New York Strip, Daikon and Carrot Salad. This was pretty cool as they basically brought us a super hot rock and we cooked the thin meat strips right on it before making little tacos with the cooked strips and carrot salad. With the hot rock we had a scorpion roll which, as sushi goes, was ok. Not amazing, but good. Our main course was Five Spiced Half Duck - Curry Apple Slaw, Orange Coriander, Hoisin, Daikon, and Warm Soft Flour Tortillas. And it was fantastic. Very yummy. We could have been done then. Each of those courses was small enough that we werent' crazy full. But...dessert! We got a souffle sampler (chocolate souffle with ginger ice cream, vanilla souffle with vanilla ice cream, and pina colada souffle with a similar ice cream) and a molten chocolate cake (with frozen yogurt with mint leaves). Ones of those last dishes alone would have been more that enough. But they were both so good!

Context: We took home a tiny tin of tortillas. This was the giant bag they gave us to transport
the tiny tin in. 

After dinner we got back in our swimsuits and spent the next hour or two in the infinity pool watching the sunset (and taking lots of goofy pictures) - very beautiful across the ocean.

Tuesday morning we woke up bright and early (not really - I think it was 8:00 AM) and got breakfast again at Ketsi (I had the waffles this time and Brandon went with the eggs benedict - the better choice the morning). Brandon had gotten a Miami Vice (Pina Colada and Strawberry Daiquiri) the morning before and this time I got that and he went with a straight Pina Colada. Yummy sugary drinks. For some reason we attracted the bees at the meal and we watched one fall to its demise in my Miami Vice (I tried to save it). We kept the next bee out of the drinks but let it drink up the maple syrup left on my plate. Very interesting to watch.

We hurried back and put our swimsuits on for the last time and decided to spend the end of our time there in the lazy river (such a chill place) as a.) we like it a lot and b.) it was mostly in the shade and we wouldn't have to put sunblock on. Also, I think I forgot to mention that all over the resort they had huge bottles of different types of sunscreen/sunblock - all complimentary. Basically, sunscreen heaven for me. :)

And then it was time to take showers and check out! Our ride back the airport was a little more expensive than our ride to the airport, but so much nicer. It was a large black SUV with plush leather seats and (once again) cool lemon scented towels with ice water. But it was also something of a less interesting ride back to the airport. Closer quarters make you more friendly, I guess.

Back at the airport we checked in again, bought some chocolate, had lunch at the Bubba Gump restaurant there, and were on our flight! We were seated next to Diana Lee, a very interesting woman who had just spent a month in Puerta Vallarta (she owns a home of some kind there). She told us she was a stunt person on a variety of TV shows (most notably Blacklist, Law and Order, and Bluebloods) and was very interesting to listen to! Brandon and I watched Keanu on that flight as well - an absurd movie, but quite entertaining (and probably much improved with the airplane edits they'd made).

We'd found out at the airport in Puerta Vallarta that our connecting flight from LAX to SLC was delayed. So, when we arrived at LAX we quickly hurried through customs and immigration, back through security, and hurried to the gate across from our own which happened to be an earlier flight to SLC. We checked with the agent there to see if there was any way for us to switch flights since ours was delayed. And he did! He said that technically, our flights were of such a type that they weren't supposed to be able to alter them, but that because our flight was delayed and there were so many available seats, he'd gotten approval to do it. We were thrilled as it meant we'd get back to SLC around 9:15 PM instead of midnight. Plus, we had a whole row to ourselves. We were back in SLC very quickly and caught our ride back to the hotel (the brother of our ride to the airport) and were home before 10:30 PM! Peaches was thrilled to see us and we showered her in our love and affection. :)

Quick, busy, but very fun!