March 2010

From the time I booked the vacation cruise (the day I decided on a 10lb weight loss goal) till a week after, I dropped 5 lbs. Most of that was likely water weight, it was just how timing worked out with my usual hormonal fluxes. Now the second week has gone by, and I’d lost…1. 🙁 That’s pretty discouraging, but I tell myself I still have 32 days from today to lose the final 4. (Now I sound like the Bruins the last time we made it to NCAA. =P)

I’ve been doing some pretty clean eating and stepping up the frequency of exercise. This weekend, I stopped by the mall just for something to do after I visited the dealership to get my car’s navigation system updated (hooray, I see streets again!), since Mr. W was off mountain biking in some local terrain. I tried on two pairs of nice work-friendly trousers in what I figured my size was, size 4. They both fit comfortably, and one was a little TOO comfortable. When I leaned forward, I could see straight down my butt. So I swapped it out for a size 2, which was still comfortable, and this time not so baggy. I went home elated, thinking I dropped down a size. 😀

When I hung up these new pants in the closet later, I casually checked the size tags of some other pairs of similar pants I had purchased years ago from this same clothing store. Those were all size 2! Did I then go UP a size to be comfortable in a pair of size 4?! 🙁

I wish I’d taken fat percentage measurements two weeks ago so I can tell progress for sure. I’m okay not losing 10 lbs on the scale if I’ve carved out 10 lbs of fat. It’s supposed to rain again Wednesday and Thursday, and Wednesday is one of my usual running days (M, W, F). Now I’ll have to run today, Tuesday and Friday to make up for the loss of Wednesday and Thursday, in addition to the gym at lunchtime. Another wrench in the gears right now is that I appear to be going through my third allergy attack, ever. My throat’s itchy and scratchy, I’m hacking out a lung, I’m dehydrated from the loss of fluid out my nose. Thank you, Santa Ana Winds and all the rain this year that has fed weeds and created pollen to be lifted from all the plants out there straight into my nostrils.

This creates a challenge, but this challenge will not be a blockade! I WILL run! I WILL strive! I will lose to win! *raising both fists triumphantly in the air* 😀
…I think I’m a little high from Claritin.

Thanks to the generosity of fiscal circumstance last year, Mr. W and I are getting a tax refund that will not only finance a pregnancy, but will afford a hedonistic vacation this spring. Maybe even a second one (we’re thinking Australia & New Zealand) this fall. I’m only going to address one item in this post.

We have discovered Paul Gauguin Cruises. Seven sparkling nights and eight turquoise days cruising on a luxury five-star ship in and around the lagoons and islands of Papeete, Raiatea, Taha’a (more specifically, the private islet of Motu Mohana), Bora Bora, and Moorea! It truly is a dream vacation, something I’d looked into for a honeymoon (which we never took, opting instead to pay for the wedding and house) but crossed off the affordability list. We’re getting a great deal; 2 for 1 round-trip flight fares, a huge discount off brochure price for the cruise. I decided on this over Europe, Asia and Australia because I figure those are places we can go in the future and even take our kid to, and we’re probably hitting Australia for a high-adventure vacation later in the year anyway (our spring is their winter). But I know I won’t be able to justify spending this much money on Tahiti if we have a kid to pay for, plus I don’t figure I’d want to be seen in a swimsuit after pregnancy. Which brings me to something else I’m targeting right now.

I’m giving myself till May to get in bikini shape for this Tahitian vacation of a lifetime. It’s probably the last time I’ll be able to romp about in a bikini (unless it turns out that I’m not able to get pregnant, in which case I’m gonna buy myself a wardrobe of bikinis to make myself feel better) on an extended vacation, so this one matters. I’m not too badly off…I figure I can drop 10 lbs of fat and be happy. I’ve been primarily vegan since booking this trip last week, and I’m getting off my lazy butt where exercise is concerned. I try to do SOMETHING every day. I took last week off and spent the second half of it in Vegas with Mr. W visiting his relatives, and we even hit the gym twice while we were there, as well as eating well, buying groceries for salads and low-carb meals to prepare ourselves while staying at his parents’ (his parents prefer not to eat our “health foods” so we supply our own). College roommie Diana and her boyfriend Eric happened to be there at the same time for March Madness, so we met up. Diana’s a hardcore gymrat, so I felt OBESE next to her.

Although I don’t expect to ever have such a low bodyfat percentage or pop out washboard abs like Diana’s, it did inspire me to push a little harder to reach my 10 pound goal.
While at swanky new Vdara Hotel & Spa’s rooftop poolside hanging with Diana and Eric (where they were staying), I overheard a portion of a conversation between some 20-something guys that made the top-10 list of turnoffs for me.
Guy 1: (walking back to his male friends from the poolside bar) This one chick was checking me out, but I couldn’t see her face. She had a good body, tho.
[Some conversation ensued that I didn’t pay attention to.]
Guy 2: The difference between you and me is that I actually have game.
[More conversation of this ilk while I rolled my eyes]
Guy 1: No, that’s bullshit. Blue eyes are totally better than your stupid brown eyes!
[Were they actually putting down each others’ eye color?!]
Guy 2: You have a really high opinion of yourself.
Guy 1: Well of course! —
Guy 2: I’m not saying it’s irrationally high, I’m just saying it doesn’t work when you walk into a room and chicks can tell you think so highly of yourself.
Guy 1: No, you’re wrong. Chicks dig confidence —
Guy 2: But you’re like an old, fat black guy who still thinks he has game.
Guy 1: No I’m not, cuz I’m not old, I’m not fat, and I’m not black!
Guy 2: I’m not saying you ARE an old fat black guy…

I finally turned around. WOW, these guys need a non-warped, non-circus mirror.

Last, last Saturday (yeah, I know, but I was waiting for Mr. W to load his iPhone photos into the computer) was Eddie’s birthday, so Mr. W and I joined the birthday boy and his brand-new wife Michelle (see above photo) and his brand-new father-in-law Mr. Michelle’s Dad at an Alhambra sushi restaurant. Eddie said that they knew the owner and it was great sashimi omakase, so I was instantly excited. Then I read up on the reviews of Toro Japanese Fusion Seafood and, well, some trepidation grew. The reviews generally raved about the sushi and sashimi, how fresh it is, especially the still-twitching amaebi (sweet shrimp), but complained about the slowness of table service. I wasn’t concerned about service since we were planning on eating at the sushi bar so we’re going to be right in front of the sushi chefs, but I was nervous about amaebi. It seems to be a part of the omakase set and a specialty of the restaurant. I’ve been edging toward being pescatarian because eating animals has been a growing concern on my conscience (ever since my experiences at the LA County Fair last October) and I’d like to be vegan, but can’t seem to wean off sushi. Live shrimp is sitting right there on that cruelty conscience line in my head.

The restaurant was a lot less hole-in-the-wallish than I’d expected. It was actually quite nice inside; clean interior with contemporary decor. Behind the sushi chefs at the bar, a projected slideshow of tropical waters played on the wall. I never saw the final tab as Michelle’s generous father (a weekly regular at the restaurant) insisted on treating, but I have a feeling we easily broke into the $1000s for the five of us. To start, we went through a giant bottle and a small bottle of an exquisite sake, a rare premium that’s hard to find outside of Japan. $200/bottle. Michelle and I, being female, got to sip and savor this sake. Mr. W, however, had to drink it like a man and shoot it, along with Eddie and Michelle’s dad. One time, Michelle’s dad looked over and saw Mr. W sipping the sake on his own and called him out, saying, “What, you don’t have friends?! Why you drink so sneaky like that? When you want to drink, you call out, ‘Hey, friends! Cheers!’ and we drink with you!” And so three shots disappeared into the guys’ throats again. Haha! Course after course of the omakase were handed to us, really unique stuff, like…

…fresh oyster with uni and black caviar. I know I said I’d never order uni again since the last 6 times I’ve had it, I’ve wondered why I was doing that to myself. But I was not going to refuse something that was specially made, and I did not regret it. The uni here was never served alone, so the creamy texture really did add something pretty great to the combination of food on the palate.
This below is amaebi sushi with a piece of uni on top, also delicious. In the bowl is (was) a Japanese potato cut into strips, served with bits of nori and some sashimi. Most of the fish and seafood are so fresh and delicious that no soy sauce/wasabi is needed; the delicate flavors are expertly brought out by light ponzu and lemon mixtures. The chefs advise you when to use soy sauce.

We watched the sushi chef bring out live abalone, slice them off the shell, and serve it sashimi-style to us. I’ve never had abalone like this, SO fresh. It had an interesting tough yet crunchy texture, and is so savory it was almost sweet.

The birthday boy was handed a surprise gift from the sushi chef: lobster dynamite! I’ve never known dynamite to be made from anything but crab and scallops. Wow, what a treat!

Now THIS…is something really special. Toro kama (cheek meat of fatty tuna) sushi. It’s a giant piece of sinewy toro kama layered on top of a fatty melt-in-your-mouth piece of toro kama for a texture treat on top of the wonderful mild flavor of toro, with a swipe of special wasabi sauce. You can order each type of toro kama separately, at $30 apiece. This double layer you see before you is $60 apiece. It was a giant mouthful of bliss. You can’t talk as you chew, but your eyes can roll to the back of your head in sushi heaven, as mine did right after it widened in surprise at the deliciousness I was experiencing. Apparently this is quite a rare specialty; it’s not often the chefs, when they go out to the fish market at 4am to search for the freshest catches of the day, come across such a find. When they do, they call Michelle’s father and alert him, as they did this day that we went. That’s how big a V.I.P. we went with. “BUY it!” he’d told them, saying he was going to have friends join him for dinner there that night.

Now here’s the disturbing stuff to warn sensitive viewers, like me. I have friends who order live sweet shrimp every time they go to a sushi restaurant and it’s fine, but I’m not one of those people. Here is video Mr. W took of just how fresh the amaebi at this place is. The first is the live shrimp in a bowl, about to be turned into sashimi.

I’m going to skip the video in between that one and the following one (because the one I’m skipping shows the chefs physically turning the live shrimp into amaebi sashimi, and I refused to watch while I was there, and I refuse to watch the video now. I’ve never seen this, but if you’d like to see it, maybe I’ll post it due to popular demand. I hope there isn’t a lot of demand.). So this next video shows the shrimp heads in a bowl of ice as “decoration,” and clearly they’re still alive.

And this final one is Mr. W eating his amaebi sashimi (served with black caviar). You’ll notice that he doesn’t realize that uncooked shrimp is soft, so he has, um, some trouble eating this.

*whimper* Are you guys disturbed enough to go Vegan like me? This meal, delicious as it was, was quite the jump start to my following weeks of veganism (which is exactly what I need because I’m aiming to drop 10 lbs before a May vacation).

I was so incredibly stuffed after dinner, I couldn’t believe it. Again, I was glad to be female, as Michelle and I were excluded from this little men’s only gem at the end: male virility seafood shot. Raw oyster, quail egg yolk, gobo root, dunked in special sake and ponzu sauce, topped with chopped scallions and 2 types of caviar. I’ve had something similar to know it’s delicious, but I had no room left after all the sushi, sashimi, soup and ice cream that night.

We staggered over to end the evening with a long chat and visit over at Eddie and Michelle’s new GORGEOUS Pasadena house. I love our friends.


Remember those lynx kittens? We visited them again, and here are both brothers:

I went to visit my baby niece Elle last month. Her parents bundled her up when they were about to leave.

Her parents took these of her, a few weeks before the picture I took, above:

She’s gonna be trouble! =) <3

(I showed the above 2 photos to Mr. W’s now-19-year-old daughter, and she said, “Oooooh myyyyy gaaaawd! What’s her ethnicity?” I explained that Elle’s dad is white and her mom’s Chinese. Daughter whipped out her cell phone and took a picture of Elle’s picture to take with her, saying, “Okay, you and my dad need to have a baby, like, right now.”)

If you don’t care for animals or babies, here’s something else for you.

Last furlough day, Dwaine took me to his tire place to get my car’s leaky tire patched (for free!), and here we are waiting for the tire to be done while enjoying some boba drinks.

My mom sent me a forwarded email joke with a picture of a little golden puppy. The following email conversation ensued:

Me: Don’t you want a dog? Can we get you a dog? How about a cat? Don’t you want a cat?
Mom: I love dogs, but I have never have pets in my life, I don’t know how to take care, and your dad refused to help! Also, I won’t be free for travel. Maybe wait until I am old and unable to travel, I can take care dog, cat and your children for you!

[Hmm, that was a very unsubtle hint about grandchildren.]

Me: Great! So now I know, when we want to travel, we can leave all the people and animals with you. Maybe we’ll get some fish, too. And a few birds. You don’t mind loud parrots, right? You’ll have a farm whenever we go on vacation.
Mom: Whatever! Ha!

What does that mean? So can I leave all my future animals and people with her or what?

Hubby and I hung out with Ann last night (the medium-rare Asian Ahi Tuna Burger with Asian Slaw and wasabi dressing at the Lazy Dog Cafe…YUMMOS!), and she mentioned that Dodo needs to make a guest appearance on my blog. There’s no better day for my spot o’ sunshine to cheer up my blog than today, given the last post, so I’m making it happen. But I’ve also got a lot of people to finish divorcing, so here is a quickie online conversation between me and my former jujitsu sensei, the ever-playful Ramon:

Ramon: Don’t you hate when your burrito falls apart in your hands? And you look like some kind of jackhole trying to lick/suck chunks of asada off your fingers while sauce runs down your hand?
Me: and people wonder why you have to get on your cell immediately to post something when you’ve got sauce all over your hands?
Ramon: then you get chunks of burrito on your cell, and someone calls you and without thinking you answer, then have chunks on your ear.
Me: And then to clean up, you unthinkingly start licking your phone as you’re talking on it and it shorts out and now you have to buy a new phone as people stare at you when you explain how your cell went out of service.
Ramon: And you’re so concerned with your dead cell that you completely forget about the chunks of burrito on your ear and in your hair and they dry and crust over and you look like a jackhole!!!
Me: And then you go home and realize you forgot to feed your cat this morning, and he’s looking at you with unusual interest.
Ramon: If only Cintastic!! Cats are good at cleaning things.
Me: tell me about it! Dodo’s at home vacuuming right now!

There you have it. #703 among the list of 1000 reasons to have a cat. Plus, they double as shredders. Reason #812. If Dodo were here right now, my courtroom assistant wouldn’t be having to look for a shredder that can handle 1000 pages of confidential medical charts.

The work day started with a sobering meeting. Our grim-faced bosses told their employees — court reporters, courtroom clerks, office support staff, courtroom assistants — that the economy, as we had known, has been the worst it’s been for a long time… and there is no visible light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve had mandatory furloughs the third Wednesday of every month for awhile now, saving the court system more than $10 million a year, but that is just a drop in the bucket given our state deficit. Layoffs have been staved off as long as the Courts were able to, and letters terminating service will begin arriving next week.

Expected number of layoffs next week: 329
Expected number of layoffs in September: 500
Expected number of layoffs next Fall: 530

This is about 1/3 of the work force in the Los Angeles Superior Courts. Layoffs will be determined by seniority, not job performance or any other factor. There will be courtroom closures. There may even be courthouse closures. Cascading (demotions) is expected. Because the Courts is funded 85% by the State and 15% by the County since consolidation (I KNEW I was against consolidation of the municipal and superior court systems), as opposed to the other way around before consolidation, the State’s problems, our district supervisor explained, are now the Courts’ problems. California has a problem — it actually has $20 BILLION little green problems annually through 2015, as projected by the California Legislative Analyst’s Office. The state budget passed in July 2009 created “an unprecedented annual shortfall of nearly $400 million” for the California trial courts, executive officer/clerk John A. Clarke wrote in a stark but informative 4-page email sent to all of us last Friday.

I think back to when I was first stepping into this job, 11 years ago. The boss of my then-current job had said to me, when I’d announced that I would be taking the written test for this position, “You’re not gonna get it. When the County hires, they’ve got their own people in mind.” I knew then that even if he and his condescending laugh were right-on, I would be quitting, thank-you-very-much. I passed the written test, took and passed the typing test (I think the requirement was only 35 wpm at the time), and my interview was scheduled. Meanwhile, I took my most recent trip to Taiwan. My dad’s army buddy, whom we’d stayed with for a few days, said to me in Chinese, “A County job is good! It’s a steel rice bowl!” Today, that rice bowl seems transformed to rice paper.

I’m not sure if 11 years is enough seniority. Just in this courthouse alone, I’m on the bottom of the totem pole, competing with others in my position that had been with the Courts since the 1960s. If I’m not laid off, it’s going to get much, much busier at work, with 1/3 of the work force missing and with the workload unchanged, if not dramatically increased due to economic hardship. Recession typically doesn’t drop crime rates, divorce rates, unlawful detainer numbers, lawsuit numbers. Part of the reason these lawsuits in our courtroom have been so inane could be partly because people are suing on a whim for just the chance at money, not because they’ve really been wronged. If I were laid off, though, I’d see this as an opportunity to do something I really want to do — this was supposed to be a 3-year job anyway. As much as that sounds like sour grapes, it could really be a blessing in disguise. I have other talents aside from file-stamping divorce judgments. Besides, the quality of life at work has gone down pretty dramatically since…well, since. People who know me know.

I flashback again to 1999, when I’d laid on my bed in my parents’ house, waiting for The Call, begging the forces that be, “please please please please pleeeease!” I look at all the people lamenting their workweeks and their jobs, and I think, “Didn’t you ever have a day like mine, when you waited for the phone to ring with good news, thinking ‘please please please please please?’ What happened to that person, who really really wanted what you’re complaining about now?”

In other fronts, looks like baby plans may be put on hold for at least 2 years, which just seems uncomfortably too long to not know.

On an online social forum just now:

Cindy keeps seeing signs everywhere that she shouldn’t bear children. Hubby claims it’s just cuz she’s “looking for them.”
* Chad: The thought of you having offspring doesn’t give me the creeps or anything, if you were wondering.
* niece Jessica: I want another baby in the fam =]] Your next, so stop looking for signs
* Christi: like what?!
* me: Chad – does the thought of ANYONE having offspring give you the creeps, tho?
Jessi – you guys aren’t done yet with baby phases at your neck of the woods!
Christi – okay, it’s not so much “signs,” as information and experiences from other people (suddenly everywhere, it seems) that make me wince, whimper, and yell “uncle.”
* niece Jennifer: Well you had a little practice with Lydia and you did fine. Once you have that little one in your arms the motherly instinct kicks in and it’s the most wonderful feeling ever! I agree…stop looking for signs!!!!
* niece Jessica: And I agree w. Jenni…It will all kick in when you are holding our little cousin in your arms =]]
* Claudio: Just keep any future children away from chia seeds and you’ll be fine.
[Sidenote: yesterday morning I announced online how my chia seeds-in-boiling-water exploded in their glass container and gave me a painful red burn mark on my thigh]
* me: See!! There’s another sign RIGHT THERE!! *pointing at Claudio’s comment* How can I pass on my nutritional values to my offspring if I have to keep them away from chia seeds? *chugging another mouthful of warm chia, which I stirred this morning instead of shook*
* Claudio: Tío Claudio will teach nutrition and core strength training… He is allergic to diapers, however.
* me: Okay, then you’re excused from having to wear one this weekend when we run.
* Claudio: I better still bring it. I am really only allergic to children diapers.
* me: Okay, then bring me one, too. It might be a looooong run.
[Sidenote: See? What kind of mother TALKS like this?!]
* attorney friend Albert: Cindy: How’s this for a sign? My wife and I have 0 kids; and 5 trips to Asia, about 10 to Europe, plus excursions in the States. So, you can pay for day care and school, or pay a travel agent to go somewhere fun with the hubby. Just sayin’!
* me: that’s exactly one of them, Albert. We’ve got two 2-week vacays coming up and we’re thinking, “We have to make these ‘good’ ones, cuz after that, all the money will be spent on baby needs!”
also, a lot of people around me are having issues parenting teenagers right now. That scares me.
* Claudio: Albert makes a very compelling argument.
* attorney friend Albert: Every parent I know has issues parenting; nobody is an expert, and you just go in and do the best you can. The fact that you are worried and concerned means that you’ll do fine as a parent. I’d avoid teaching the kid about the chia seeds, though; they’d prefer pizza from Chuck E. Cheese.
* me: NO FAST FOOD!!! NO!!!
Cheetos, maybe.
I’m totally concerned. I have a feeling that, since I’m neurotic (*sideglance at Claudio*), that once I pop the baby out into the world, I will never sleep at night again. Even if that kid is 25 and living in its own residence. I’ll be up at night wondering whether he/she got home all right from work and/or a date and/or the bar, and whether I ought to wake up and drive over to the kid’s residence just to check and make sure his/her car’s there so I know all is well. And while I’m there I’ll just peek in his/her fridge to make sure he/she has enough food and is eating the right things. And I may as well check the closets to make sure clothing is sufficiently warm and also to make sure there aren’t things belonging to an opposite sex in there.
(my mom did that, altho she did it in the open)
* attorney friend Albert: And that’s where a good husband comes in; to keep you from going overboard. But, like I said, there’s a lot to be said for being the cool aunt who travels and does all sorts of fun things. Tough decision, Cindy.
* me: What if my kid hates me? What if my kid thinks I’m a moron? What if my kid picks up bad grammar from hubby and does away with adverbs altogether? What if my kid inherits the bad temper from dad and the long memory from me so it stays angry all the time? What if my kid wants to go to USC? …omg, I can’t even think about the last one… *sob!*
* Joe: What if he’s a girl and not a boy and really confuses everything? What if you don’t know you have had a kid until years later, oh wait that’s not really possible for you, however what if? What if you adopt? What if you don’t stress out worring about all those little silly thing and hope for the best, expect the worst and take it as it comes? It’s the biggest mistery. Maybe it’ll be a Gator?
* me: Well, that’s the kind of thinking you do if you know you’re having a kid. While I’m making a decision, I get to consider more factors. I’m okay if it’s a Gator, then Aunt Jordan can keep an eye on him/her. I’m NOT okay with it being a ‘Cane.
* Chad: What if your kid is completely neurotic and worries about miniscule details he can’t control?
* me: Oh, crap.
* me: See, I can prevent all this by not having a kid.
* attorney friend Albert: At some point, your kid will hate you; that’s temporary. The kid may think you’re a moron, and that one may be permanent. Adverbs are overrated; do you really want your kid to talk like William F. Buckley? Anger merely means you care. And you should get down on your knees and thank Providence if your offspring has the gumption and good breeding to wish to attend USC.
* me: It was sounding good until the last line.
* attorney friend Albert: See! You’re soooooooooooo ready for parenthood!
* Joe: Are you prego?
* me: Joe – nope. which is why I’m weighing this stuff on the pro/con scale right now, while I can still do something about it.
* me: I think a lot of this comes from my not being the type of person I think a parent should be right now. I ought to have my act “cleaned up” if I’m gonna be responsible for raising and being a good example to another human being, but I’m not sure I can, or that I’m selfless enough to want to.
* Joe: Ok I concur with that. Quit the crack and focus on life and career. Good thinking. Thats your 1st step toward responsible parenting.
* attorney friend Albert: I think that you’re trying to be perfectly ready to be a parent. That’ll never happen. You can’t be a parent, and be a perfectionist. Those are mutually exclusive. Your child, while a blend of you and hubby, is a unique, sentient being, with drives all his/her own. You will screw up; you will make mistakes. But, if you try to do the best you can, and you love that child with all of your heart, that’s all any child can ask of any parent. Just lighten up on the Trojans, and really rethink the whole chia seed thing.
* Claudio: You are sooooo not neurotic. *sideglance*
* niece Jennifer: Cindy no one is ever ready enough to be a parent. It only matters that you do your best. A bond between mother and child is a strong one. It is a love that is like no other. It is unconditional. I never knew I could love someone so much until Lydia.
* high school acquaintance Danielle (who has published books on pregnancy): Adopt!
* me: Joe – thanks for the support.
Albert – that’s actually…really comforting.
Claudio – >=6
Jenni – I think that’s what my mom keeps counting on, but knowing I’m not close to her scares me about my ability to be close to my future kid.
Danielle – I did briefly think about all those little girls in China nobody wants cuz they want boys.

…I think this conversation is still continuing. But I have a baby shower to attend at lunchtime.

Oh, how could I forget? On Sunday before Disneyland, Mr. W and I went to a new-to-us massage place recommended to us by a friend of his. It’s not like the nice full-service Burke Williams or Glen Ivy I’m used to going to. There are no whirlpools, no cucumber lemon water, no sauna or quiet reading rooms. This place, called Blue Sky, is a small storefront on the second story of a three-story strip mall in Westminster. We were told it was run by Vietnamese immigrants but that it was “the best message” Mr. W’s friend ever had, and super cheap at $15/hour. So of course I was instantly suspicious of what kind of operation this place really runs, but even more mysterious is the information that the place has no separate or private rooms.

So we made an appointment for two for noon; good thing, because this place was PACKED when we got there. It’s a small open office space with three rows of massage loungers, 3 or 4 loungers per row. The receptionist in front checks you in, then takes you to an available lounger. The male patrons appear to be shirtless and in shorts; the females appear to be in tanktops. I say “appear” because once I laid down, I generally didn’t see much anymore, and the customers were all covered in large towels anyway. I had been advised to wear shorts and a sports bra, so once I got to my station, I stripped down into my minimalist running shorts and tanktop, and my belongings were hung on a peg on the wall next to me. I started in an upright seated position on an ottoman in front of the massage chair, and my feet were placed in a large bucket and soaked in a hot herbal bath as the therapist worked behind me on my neck and shoulders. I heard the guy who supervised and appeared to act like a manager or owner tell my therapist in Chinese, “All the things hanging on this peg are hers, keep an eye on it.” That’s how I knew to speak to the lady in Mandarin, since her English was pretty limited. Turns out everyone working there are Chinese (altho patrons appeared to be of all races), and had been trained as massage therapists in China. The firm and no-nonsense, thorough techniques of accupressure and massage, and even the foot bath were very similar to the massages I’d gotten in China (for more than $15 a pop there, I might add).

My sports bra proved itself to be an impedence to the massage, as the straps don’t move around much, so she asked if I minded if she moved it out of the way or removed it. I said it’s removeable (I’m used to naked massages anyway, altho I normally have more privacy in a room than here) and we discreetly removed it as I was covered with a terrycloth wrap. It was slightly uncomfortable as I lay face-down knowing I’m in the front row by waiting customers, but that’s the way of services in China — no-nonsense, no frills, very matter-of-fact. Nothing lewd, everything was business-like, and she wasn’t shy about hitting the glutes and upper thighs (over the towel), which I appreciated cuz if I’m sore from a workout, chances are my butt muscles are sore, too. The place had the air of practicality of a doctor’s office, except the lights were comfortably dim with soft instrumental music playing.

One of my peeves getting massages is that we end up paying something like $3/minute, and sometimes the therapist gives you 5 minutes to undress and then stops 5 minutes early to let you get dressed, so that’s $30 for nothing. Because there’s no locker room or leaving to let you get dressed/undressed, the hour-long massage was a solid hour. I got in the chair at 11:55a, she stopped at 12:55p. Big points. I also liked the firmness and thoroughness of the massage, altho she did keep checking to make sure the pressure was all right, asking if I wanted it stronger or if it were too strong. I liked that they didn’t tiptoe around “sensitive” body parts like my lower back and behind. It felt like a therapeutic session, not just a pampering rub-down.

As we returned to the front receptionist area to pay (Mr. W’s friend advised us this place is cash-only), we saw a few promotions. If you pay for each session individually, it’s $20 for the hour, plus tip (you tip the massage therapist directly). Or, you can buy 7 vouchers for $100 (just over $14 per hour-long session); or if you buy 10 vouchers (I think this is $130), you get 1 free (which averages out to less than $12 per hour-long session). Mr. W bought 7 vouchers, and we turned in 2 right away to pay for our current massages. The vouchers looked transferrable, so it’s a great gift or an easy way to introduce someone to this place.

Mr. W said that he was happy with this place and would go here from now on, and seemed to expect me to feel the same. He was surprised when I looked dubious. I explained that sometimes I just want to be in a calm zen-inducing environment where I can bond with a girlfriend or two in whirlpools or steamrooms, drinking honeyed tea as we waited for our massage therapist to come get us, and I liked the conversations I can have in the privacy of an individual room with my therapist. Then afterwards, I like the rainfall showerheads and the spa shampoos and bath gels and the hot water spraying me from four directions in the showers. Mr. W said men’s sections of day spas don’t have stuff like that, and he’d never bonded with his therapist like I do with mine (Scott, for example), so he prefers this cheaper no-frills Chinese place. I guess if I were sore from exercise and would like to just stop someplace on the way home from work really quickly, this place would be it. But if I want the package relaxation treatment and I want to enjoy some friendship, then I’d still go for “spa days” at Burke Williams or Glen Ivy. If you’re the shy type and don’t need sports massages, Blue Sky is probably also not the place for you.

I was sitting on the new couch with Mr. W over the weekend, deep into Season 3 of “Ally McBeal,” when it occurred to me how much I was enjoying myself. We had just come back from Disneyland (where it was too crowded thanks to a cheerleading competition event there), we were curled up with our strawberry lemonade silver needle tea, we have a roof over our heads, I had no worries, and my cat’s so low-maintenance that he pets himself. Dodo has taken to petting his own head with his forepaw when we pet his body. He’d lay on his side, purr, and then the little white paw would pop up and down as he pet the top of his head. Cutest thing.

Aside from Disneyland and Ally, we visited my parents’ house on Saturday. My mom was in the mood for a different sort of dinner so we made our own Vietnamese spring rolls. We’d pick up a sheet of the round dried rice paper, dip it lightly in plate of water, then take it out and put it on our own plate. Next, we’d layer on raw carrots, cucumbers, and cilantro, then add cooked mushroom, a meat and tofu stir-fry dish, some grilled fish, drizzle on some garlic peanut sauce, wrap it up in a roll, and pig out. Then we’d do another and another until we were full. At home, I had a crock-potted beef, vegetable and wild rice stew waiting.

Our biggest decision right now is where to go on vacation. We’ve got 2 weeks in spring and 2 weeks in fall. I’m kind of thinking of these as our last major trips before we’ll have to stop extreme vacationing for awhile, cuz I’ll be 34 this year and I don’t want to have a baby after 35 (the most recent trial we had that dealt with amniotic testing for Down Syndrome didn’t help ease the heebie jeebies for me. Giant needle? EEK!!). We were thinking of a simple vacation to Canada (Niagara peninsula) for spring, but my Canadian cousin Mark in Toronto warned me that their temperatures then would run about 40 degrees if we’re lucky. I don’t want to spend money to go somewhere where I’d be too cold to be outdoors. We can always go to Canada and visit relatives there with a baby in tow, so that can hold off. I guess we can visit family in Taiwan or go to Bathhouse Row in Arkansas with a baby, too. What Mr. W thinks we can’t do with an infant and therefore should do now, is Africa. Aside from the big lions I’m hoping to ride in Africa, the country doesn’t hold much appeal for me. He’s trying to convince me that terrorists will probably not kill us. I’m thinking I need to brush up on jujitsu if he’s not going to bring firearms. Or maybe I can just brush up on my animal communication skills. It worked for the natives in “Avatar.” Apparently animal friends will defend you at the last minute if you’re in need. I witnessed this in “Sheena,” too. I want to do New Zealand and/or Australia for a high-adventure trip which I definitely can’t do with a baby, but our spring is their autumn/winter. I think it’s narrowed down to this…
* Low budget: American River white water rafting (Mr. W wants to go for a week-long training course to get certified in being a river rapids guide, so our stay will be paid for by the school AND we’ll have discounted future trips, plus the potential to earn money if we take a group) in Spring, save up money to go to New Zealand and/or Australia for high-adventure land/great barrier reef exploration in the fall (which will be their summer).
* High budget: European highlights trip in spring (escorted tour that includes meals/hotels/transportation in London, Paris, Rome, Munich, Amsterdam…), Japan/China/Taiwan trip in fall. Or Australia.

Man, we could do high-budget if we hadn’t just bought that piano and sofa set. But I did discover the “movie ballad” accompaniment button on the digital piano on Sunday, and the fun I had with playing on that mode is pretty priceless.

What about Ireland?