Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Next Adventure Race

Last night I registered for The Annual Gilmore Adventure Race in Prescott on September 20th. Irene is my teammate again. We are doing the beginner level course which is 12-15 miles of orienteering, trekking, mountain biking, and of course the mystery events. I guess this would be a good time to re-learn how to ride a bike.

Bikes and me - we're not friends. As a kid, I was always nervous with the way that you lose control of your steering when you go through a sandy spot on the street. When the neighborhood kids rode everywhere, I was always at the tail end of the pack because I was too scared to ride as fast as the rest of them. As an adult, during my very brief stint as a mailman, I failed the bicycle test during training. They put a bunch of phonebooks in the front basket of the bike and you had to ride a course. I just could not get that bike to turn without tipping over. Embarrassing.

And now I have paid money to ride a bike. In a race. On a mountain. I'm an idiot.

This picture from last year tricked me into thinking that it was something I could do. The steep, rocky, mountain biking stuff was certainly in the backwoods where there weren't spectators to take pictures, but I'm going to keep believing that the whole bike route will look like this:The mystery events from last year included going over an A-frame, which is a lot steeper than the ones in agility trials! It seems like these big, stong men shouldn't be having such a hard time with it. They also did something with a frisbee. Hopefully they won't repeat the frisbee game, as I'm even more hopeless with a frisbee than I am with a bike. I try to flick the wrist, I try to keep my elbow stationary and do everything people suggest, but I really have no body control and the frisbee always goes careening 90 degrees off from the direction I intended.

Sorry, Irene - it's too late for you to back out now.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Yodeling in Spanish

You know how sometimes when you talk too fast, your beginning consonants get switched and you end up with "ceginning bonsonants"? Or sometimes it happens in the middle of a word and you get "connosants". It happens to me all the time. I should probably try to talk slower.

There is a mexican guy that plays soccer with us named Uriel. When you give it the proper spanish pronunciation, it is said: OOH-dee-ell. Let's say it out loud together right now: "OOH-dee-ell". Very nice.

After we played last night, a few of us were sitting on the bench rehashing the game and I'm talking too fast and I loudly proclaim something about Udele. Now, let's say that out loud right now: "OOH-de-LAY". Huh? I look at Christy. She looks at me. Huh? What? And then I pointed out, "You know, like how they would say it in Austria when the hills are alive with the sound of music." Christy was with me on the Sound of Music even before I said it out loud - since we sometimes share the same brain and we always share the same sense of humor.

After the first round of laughter, we broke into a rousing edition of "High on a hill was a lonely goatherd, Udele, Udele, Udele-hee-hoo" until we started laughing in that high pitched way that is almost silent and you can't breathe and you can't stop crying and you end up with a head-ache and a stomach cramp, which is one of the greatest, purest feelings in the world.

Perhaps you had to be there? Either way, you can't go wrong with this video:

I bet that'll be in your head all day. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Positively Moaning With Pleasure Over Our Buttery Bits

Alternate Post Title: I've Got 14 Minutes and 56 Seconds Left

My friend, Sarah, writes for the New Times. She does not write cheesy romance novels, though based on the title of this post which is a quote from her latest food blog posting, she certainly has the knack!

And this time her blog posting mentions me by name so I've racked up two more seconds of fame.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mini Updates

  • I have four families who are potentially interested in Scarlet. Of those, some are more interesting to me than others. The home visits start this week. I've got high hopes for a happy ending.
  • My friend, Mrs. Cookie, is having a baby any day now. ANY DAY NOW! I can't believe it's actually happening. I just hope she waits until after we have lunch today.
  • The results of our Adventure Race have been posted. Our official time was 2:44:55. We finished 30th out of 50, so we beat 20 other teams! Next year our goal is to be in the top half.
  • Getting engaged is sort of like yawning. If you see someone else do it, you have to do it, too. A lot of people I know have been yawning and now it seems everyone I know is yawning. I am excited for all the upcoming weddings - I LOVE weddings!
  • The slow summer pace at work has sadly been replaced with the madcap fall-winter-spring pace. I am simultaneously working on 20 events, 4 of which are huge events. This is about double what I can actually handle in my work week. I feel the overtime a comin'.
  • Remember when Tomorrow won the soccer championship last season? Have you noticed that reports on the team have been conspicuously absent lately? Yeah, well, that's because tonight is the last game of the season and we have won zero games. ZERO. Not a one. How embarrassing. Brad and Laura will be returning for next season so maybe Jamie will have some support on the team and we can redeem ourselves.
  • 2 months until Travel Troupe heads to Brazil. Yippee! I love vacation!
  • I have rejoined the land of the living. My cell phone, which sadly died in the river during the adventure race, has finally been replaced. I am now reachable again! And Pat and I both have shiny new phones and a shiny new 2-year contract with Verizon. I hope I don't hate them.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Scarlet Needs a Home

It's almost time for Scarlet to go up for adoption at the Humane Society. Right now there are 107 dogs up for adoption at the Humane Society. And though Scarlet is wonderful, she will be easily overlooked at the shelter. She is not small, she is not purebred and she looks very similar to about 10 other dogs there. So, last night I created this video to showcase what a super girl Scarlet is. I have posted her on our email classifieds at work and have asked others to do the same. Hopefully I will be able to find an adopter for her before she returns to the shelter.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Costume Party? Halloween? No, It's Co-Ed Book Club

In case the members of my co-ed book club are getting jealous of all the pictures and mentions here of my girl book club, I figure it's only fair to share the craziness I get to enjoy every third Wednesday of the month. I dig every girl and guy in the book club, but I'd specifically like to shine the spotlight on our most enthusiastic member.

Jamie really gets in to the books, as you will clearly see.

We read Under the Banner of Heaven (it's about Mormons. Jamie is NOT a Mormon):

We read Geek Love (it's about circus freaks and the main character is a bald, albino, hunchback dwarf):
And this month we read Treasure Island:
In addition to dressing up for the book, Jamie frequently makes CDs for us that are relevant to the book or whatever holiday it is. When one girl's spouse heard the Valentine's Day "love song" CD that Jamie created, she was almost forced to quit book club because the spouse couldn't understand why she'd want to spend time with such depraved people. Jamie also brings us themed party favors. When we did a book about India, he brought everyone bindi stickers for our foreheads and desserts from the Indian grocery store. For our one-year anniversary he brought birthday cupcakes (mmm, cupcakes!) and made a CD that had a song about each book we've covered.

Jamie has finished every single book we've read, which is more than I can say. I just could not get through Gig or The Astronomer on Mars. And though Jamie hated Dune and really disliked some of the others, he's no quitter.

Don't quit on me, Jamie. You are a super-star. Whee!

He also does the helicopter at every meeting.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Wuss? I am not!

Because I am slightly crazy, I signed up to do a 12K Adventure Race with my friend, Irene. Yeah, that's about 7 1/2 miles - which is pretty damn far for a girl who can't run even 1/2 mile! (This is true - I once tried to run with Laura to the park that is 1/2 mile from my house and I could not do it.) The description of the event sounded so fun - a team of two trekking, map reading, completing mystery events and adventure tubing - that I was able to overlook the fact that I hate to run.

Today was the race day. The race was held out near Saguaro Lake at the Salt River, which is an hour from Central Phoenix. Since registration was at 6:30 am, it was a very early morning. If my former triathlete partner, Irene, hadn't been with me I would have left as soon as I got there. It was very intimidating and I was completely nervous that I had gotten in way over my head. I was not prepared to race for 7 1/2 miles!! But the info on the event said that even the last place team would have fun and I figured someone needed to prove that assertion. Our goal, however, was to beat at least one team - and then we'd ask them if they had fun!

The first phase of the race included five tasks that you could do in any order. Three were hiking -we were given an aerial photograph of the area with three locations marked as checkpoints. These checkpoints were not far from the event staging area and all followed trails making them easy to find, though one of them was straight up a steep hill. I don't think that this part of the race was included in the 12K. The other two tasks were the mystery events. One was to find two specific license plates in the parking lot and write down the color of their cars. For the other we each were given a Nerf golf ball and a tee and we had to balance the ball on the tee and walk to a cone and back. If the ball fell off the tee, you had to start over.

These first five tasks were relatively easy. Once completed, we had to turn our original map in for a new map. The new map was a topographical map of the area with four checkpoints that needed to be reached in order. These checkpoints were not on trails - you had to find them using the map. Irene is a good map-reader and did a good job of getting us to the locations. Personally, I would have followed the people in front of us or aimed towards the locations where I saw people up on the mountains. Irene was having none of the lemming behavior, however. She was the navigator and she was not about to let us follow a team who might not be going to the correct location. We went up and down so many mountains I thought we would die. We walked through the scrub brush (remember, no trails here!) and scratched the hell out of our legs. Irene walked too close to a jumping cholla and a large section attached itself to her arm. I felt like such a boy scout because I had extra socks with me that we used to hold onto the cactus and nail clippers which we used to cut it off.

The first checkpoint was the most difficult. The map showed it being 1/8 of a mile from the river, but it was definitely further so we undershot it a bit. The second checkpoint was not as hard to find, but was a bit of a trek. The third checkpoint was also not too hard to find at the top of the third peak, but we chose to go straight up a ravine to save time and distance. We may have saved distance, but we did not save time. Going straight up was a rather slow, tiring process. The last checkpoint was to return to the staging area, which was down and back up and down the peaks we had already climbed. Again, I would have just followed the teams ahead of us, but Irene would have nothing of it. Irene's navigation got us to the first checkpoint better than my lemming-tendencies, but I think following the leaders to the last checkpoint would have saved us some time.

When we arrived back at the staging area, we had another mystery event. There was a course with 5 buckets, each containing a different colored rock. I was blindfolded and Irene had to stand off-course and direct me to each bucket until I had collected the 5 different rocks. We kicked ass at this challenge. Irene is very good at directions and I am very good at following. We were then given inner tubes which we had to manually inflate with the air pumps we had been instructed to bring. We then walked (the true competitors were still running at this point) with our inflated inner tubes and our life vests a half mile or so to the last mystery event. Here one member of the team had to do a bolo toss - where you toss a piece of rope with golf balls on each end at a little ladder and try to get the balls to stick on a rung (similar to the picture here). Irene tried it first, but gave up quickly, thinking that it would take her a while. I did it 3 times before I was successful and off we went another half mile to the final checkpoint - the river!

The river was cold, but it felt soooo good at that point. This is a picture of the area where we were on the river that I found on the internet - it's a lot more full this year than it was when this picture was taken. We tubed about a mile back to the finish line. On the way we passed two groups of wild horses. The second group had three foals. After we passed, we turned and watched them as they crossed the river. It was really cool - I wish I had my camera.

We finished the race in under three hours. The winners did it in an hour and a half, but that's okay - we weren't trying to win. We were trying to not come in last. And congratulations to us! We beat about 15 other teams!! WOO HOO! We weren't even close to last! Yippee! I really surprised myself with my stamina. I did not get overly tired and I never wanted to stop. I ran a lot more than I thought I was capable of. I was worried that I would hold Irene back but that was not the case. I definitely held my own. I am not the wuss I thought I was.

Subbing Is Fun. Agility is Fun. Monsoons are Fun.

I played hockey on Thursday. I'm not officially on the team anymore, but I am on the sub list. My friend David is out of town so I took his spot on the roster. It was so different from my last hockey experience during last season's playoff game where I was responsible for 5 goals against. Ergh. This time I didn't shoot any pucks on our goalie and I even managed to block a few shots and interrupt a couple plays. I made half-way decent passes to my teammates. I still am the weakest player on the team, but for this game I wouldn't consider myself a liability. And most importantly I had fun! If all my hockey games were like that, I wouldn't have quit.

It might have helped that I was in a really good mood going into the game. Right after work I took Frankie to drop-in agility practice. And though he didn't do very well - he was very distracted by the wind, the smells, the everything - we had a good time hanging out with the agility folks and enjoying the weather. It was the first big monsoon storm of the season. When we started running it was probably about 98-100 degrees. An hour later it had dropped significantly. We got three runs in before the rain came, and it came hard! We stayed for a while to see if it would taper off and allow us to run some more, but it never stopped. Finally, we made a dash for the car and headed home.

It was raining so hard, it was like bad special effects from a low budget film: The shower is on full pressure for a good rain. Then the props guy adds in the sprinkler, shaking it around so the rain is going every direction. Then another props guy starts throwing buckets of water, for the solid wall of water effect. Much of the drive home, I couldn't see anything at all. The roads were 6-12" deep with water on the flat surfaces, much deeper in the intersections. It rained this way for almost two hours but stopped by the time we left for hockey. I do love a good monsoon.

If you are doing the math - leave work, then go to agility, then rain for two hours and then hockey - you will realize that it was a late night! Our hockey game was scheduled for 10:30, but didn't start until 10:50 because the storm had knocked the power out at the rink for a little bit, delaying the game times. I didn't get home until 12:40 am. It was a late night, but a fun night!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Georgie Sees A Ghost

Georgie in her normal state - buff, tough and short:
Georgie sees a ghost - Ahhhh!:

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

What is the What

I just got home from another fabulous book club meeting. Have I mentioned how much I love this group? Yeah, well, it can't be said enough - I love this group!

Some of the highlights that made tonight's meeting interesting:

  • Jen, the evening's hostess, is fostering 4 very cute kittens and their very cute mama.

  • I can touch my elbows together behind my back but no one else can.

  • Jen and I are the only ones who cannot touch our toes.
  • Grace can touch her palms flat to the floor even while wearing super-high wedges! Kiri is pretty dang flexible, too.

  • Grace tips over if she tries to balance on one leg with her eyes closed - which is a sign of having an old brain.

  • Suzanne could balance on one leg with her eyes closed all day - a sign of a young brain.

  • Kendall's college roommate had an unusual talent that is too crass for me to discuss here. One member of our book club also has this talent.

  • Sarah cut her hair and it looks great!
Oh yeah, and we talked about a book. We read "What is the What" by Dave Eggers (who went to my college at the same time I did, who is the object of Kiri's latest crush and who is known personally, though not favorably, by Sarah's boyfriend.) This book is the novelized autobiography of one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, Valentino Achak Deng. It's told in the present as Achak is being robbed at gunpoint in his Atlanta apartment and then bound and gagged. In his mind he tells the attackers his story from his pre-war life in southern Sudan, through his time walking across Sudan as a 7 year old boy, being shot at, attacked by lions and starving in a group of 300 other boys, to living in refugee camp for 10 years in Kenya and finally to his resettlement in the United States.

This was the most amazing thing about tonight's book club (and its not the fact that we can go straight from an intelligent discussion on the plight of the Lost Boys and the merits of the fictionalized autobiography right into a showcase of our flexibility and wacky talents):

Yep - for the first time in recent memory, EVERYONE liked the book, including, Kiri, our habitual naysayer. Kiri is a genius who seems to have read every book ever. While she claims to like many books, she likes very few of our book club reads, mostly due to the stereotypical caricatures that are made of the protagonists. This definitely is not a bad thing - all opinions are welcome. But this time - hey, Mikey, he likes it!

The meeting did have its low points, too:

  • Suzanne is moving to Utah and this was her last book club.

  • The hits keep coming - Grace's move to California is pretty much completed and this was her last book club, too.

  • Here's the kicker - this was our first book club without our Lilipolean, leader of all. Sad, sad times.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

I Didn't Go to ASU...

...but my husband did. Every once in a while he gets nostalgic and wants to go walk around the ASU campus and Mill Avenue to reminisce and to see what's new. Today was that day. We left the dogs at home, because 110 degrees is just a little too hot for paws on sidewalks.

We ate lunch at a new place since our last visit, a restaurant called Bison Witches. It's supposed to sound like Buy Sandwiches and I suppose it does if you say it fast and with some creative emphases. For $7 we got a full bowl of soup in a bread bowl, a very large half sandwich and a bag of chips. Not a bad deal and very yummy, too! Even though it was a Sunday afternoon in July at a campus restaurant, the place was packed. Campus was empty, Mill Avenue foot traffic was almost non-existent, yet this place was hoppin'.

After lunch we walked through campus and Pat pointed out the buildings where he had classes and buildings where he didn't have classes and buildings that used to be parking lots and the Taco Bell that fed him 90% of his college meals. It was so hot that I walked on the grass whenever possible because I could feel the bottoms of my flip-flops melting. ASU truly has a lovely campus. If I hadn't been so narrow minded at age 17, I would have gone to ASU, too. Somehow, it never occurred to me to leave the midwest. I probably would have done a lot better out here than at the University of Illinois, since here I wouldn't have skipped classes due to it being just too cold to get out of bed and REALLY too cold to think about walking to class.

If you were thinking that my lunch was a bit suspect as it contained no dessert, don't worry - we found a cute little place called Cookiez Ice Cream Sandwiches. They had about 10 different kinds of cookies and 10 ice cream flavors. We got the basic chocolate chip cookie with vanilla ice cream and topped it with hot fudge. Mmmm, yummy!

Best Pizza in Phoenix

I love Spinato's. LOVE IT! Pepperoni is my usual topping of choice, but at Spinato's it's sausage every time. The sausage is slightly spicy, the sauce is slightly sweet, and together it is heaven. Doesn't this look yummy?

Friday, July 4, 2008

Things I Should Be Embarrassed to Admit

  1. Before hiking last Sunday at 5:00 am, I ate Hostess Donettes on the way there and I ate a Ding Dong when I got home. Then I went back to bed.
  2. I wore a dress or a skirt to work every day this past week, but I only shaved on Monday.
  3. The other day a friend of mine called because she was at the grocery store and couldn't find the Cool Whip. She knew I'd be able to direct her faster than she could find a store associate (she was right - it's in the freezer aisle halfway between the checkout and the back of the store on the north side, 2nd and 3rd shelves up.) Mmmm, Cool Whip.
  4. I eat out for about 90% of my meals.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Spontaneity Meets Procrastination

This is the dichotomy of my personality. One half spontaneous, one half procrastinative.

Spontaneous Me
Last Tuesday Patrick found out that Chivas de Guadalajara was playing MLS's New York Red Bulls at the Cardinals Stadium the next night. (Publicity for this event was non-existent, but I won't go off on a rant about that right now. Well, ok - maybe a little one: How much effort would it take for the promoters to contact the 4 or 5 soccer venues in the Phoenix area? A flyer, an email, a phone call? How about youth soccer organizations? It's not a far stretch to imagine that people who pay to play soccer might also pay to watch professional soccer. Ergh. Okay - back to the original topic.) Pat called me at noon to see if I could look into getting tickets for us and his friend from work.

The game was posted on the Stadium's website and you could buy tickets online via TicketMaster. In my opinion, TicketMaster is the spawn of Satan. Ticket prices are usually reasonable to begin with, but then you have to pay a TicketMaster fee, an administrative fee, a delivery fee (even if you're using will call), a processing fee, a resident fee, a supplemental fee, a contingency fee, a flat fee, a retainer fee, a referral fee, a club fee, a team fee, and a membership fee, and in the end your ticket price has almost doubled. I called the stadium and found out that group tickets could be bought over the phone for a discounted price and NO fees. Yippee! Now I just needed to get 15 people together.

I started at 2:00 pm and by 10:00 am the following day, I had compiled a group of 20! What a fabulous group of spontaneous soccer-loving friends I have! Or maybe I just know a bunch of people with no social life. Either way, I love it when an idea comes together so quickly. Everyone showed up for the game and everyone paid me. I have to admit to being surprised - I expected some flakers and some moochers.

Procrastinative Me
I've been meaning to post about the game for a week now. Let's see what I can remember...

The game was really fun. The stadium's lower level was only about 1/3 full, which is quite a difference from the sold-out Mexico v. USA game last year. (I'm not the only one bothered by the lack of publicity. This is a comment from azcentral.com: "There was absolutely no promotion/advertising for this game. Thus, 0nly 30% of the expected sales occured. I'm not much of a marketing genius, but a frikkin lemonade stand in front of the stadium with a sign that said "FUTBOL HERE" would have been more promo than what was offered. I think there is an opening today for "promotional director" in Glendale, if you can manage a lemonade stand then the job is probably yours!")

But still, Chivas fans showed up in force. They were wearing the jerseys. They brought flags and drums. They were wearing Mexican wrestling masks, though I didn't really understand why. One of my Mexican friends, who is also a Chivas fan, had no explanation for me. His brother, who is not a Chivas fans, said it wass because they are embarrassed to be rooting for Chivas and they don't want to show their faces. My curiosity led me to google it. Apparently, since Lucha Libre (the real version of Jack Black's Nacho Libre) is so popular, Mexican soccer players started donning the masks when they were celebrating goals - one player had his mask in his shorts for the whole game and pulled it out when he scored. He must have been watching lots of American football players celebrating touchdowns and needed to try to match the idiocy. The practice has now been banned by FIFA, but the fans have carried it on.

The New York Red Bulls won 2-0. I don't think this was because they were the better team, but more because Chivas didn't even show up. Chivas gave up on every 50-50 ball, they barely ran at all and only had one shot on goal all game.

This did not matter to the Chivas fans in the section next to us. They had huge banners and signs. They cheered and chanted and danced and banged their drums for the whole game. The chants had choreographed moves - for the first part they'd wave their arms, then they'd jump in place, then back to the arms. Honestly, they never stopped. I'm pretty sure that they were so sore the next day that they had to stay in bed. Even when their team was down by 2 and there was only a minute left in the game, these people were cheering away. It appeared that the excitement of getting to see their team play was more important than their team winning. That is pretty cool.

Next up - Mexico v. Egypt or Chile on November 12th at Chase Field. Imagine how big a group we can get if I start planning now. Who's in?

Doggie Dinnertime

There is a dinner ritual at my house for the dogs that I think is cute and they think is torture: they are not allowed to dive into their food until I give the okay. Frankie even stays in his "spot" while I get the food from the bin in the garage. What a smarty-pants! Georgie has let me know many times and in many ways that she is incapable of a stay. And since she failed the Canine Good Citizen test for that exact reason, I've decided to believe her. For now.

Do you like my soccer socks? Sexy, I know.