Sunday, 25 September 2011

Isn't it still September???

Just had my weekly call with my mother and halfway through, very matter of factly as though it was the most normal thing in the world, she asked...

"So what do you want for Christmas?"

I kid you not, she asked me what I want for CHRISTMAS!!!! That's December 25th the last time I looked.

"What? It's only September, I haven't given it any thought."

"Well you MUST have some idea."

"Um, no, not really, it's 3-months away."

"Well it will soon be upon us so have a think and let me know next week."

Good Lord!!

Friday, 23 September 2011

Admittedly I'm just showing off...

In the week since my parents returned home to England I've been making a big effort to get back into being healthy. Not that I was THAT unhealthy while they were here, I did go to the gym a few times and took a few surfing lessons, but I've been feeling like all the eating out and drinking - so much drinking - had taken it's toll and I was feeling a bit disgusted by myself. Long story short I was ripe for being coerced into participating in Project Fit, a corporate team weight loss challenge, as motivation to stick with healthier habits for a few months in the run up to the festive season and this week we had to go our initial weigh in.

I stopped by the gym this morning to have my measurements taken by some fancy pants machine, the 'InBody 230', a 'body composition analyzer' that spits out a bunch of measurements like Total Body Water - 66.5lbs in my case. Apparently this is good relative to my total weight of 121lbs and not a sign that I am retaining water or anything. "It's good to be hydrated," said my cute toned hottie of a 20-something trainer - your skeletal muscle mass - 49.6lbs in my case of which 24.3lbs is dry lean mass, whatever that means. I'm guessing it's my poundage excluding all the bones and organs and other icky stuff, but I could well be wrong - and finally your Body Fat Mass - 30.2lbs in my case, well within the normal weight range.

"These are the best results I've seen all day," said my trainer. I beamed until I realized that they hadn't even been open an hour and so he couldn't have seen that many people.

"And well...considering THIS," he exclaimed pointing to my age at the top of the page.

It's okay, you can say it, I'm 40, it's not catching if you say it out loud. I'm by no means embarrassed about it - even if it does make me a pariah in the online dating world, but I refuse to lie - in fact people are always so surprised by my age that I'm considering having "I'm 40 you know" t-shirts made so that I can reap the benefits of astounding strangers too, because everyone assumes I'm 35 tops!! Moisturize and stay out of the sun people!!

"," said Trainer Bloke "you're doing really well!! I see people in their 20s who are not as fit as you."

Check me and my body of a twenty-something, ha ha!! I was thrilled, although admittedly I am not the best participant for my team given the goal is to lose body fat and I don't have much wiggle room to decrease by much*. According to my print out I could stand to lose 2.9lbs, but "why bother," said Trainer Bloke, "everything is normal, just keep it up!!"

Being a big data nerd the results were all very interesting to me, especially being so positive. I felt fabulous after learning I was fit and healthy and exactly where I should be and bounced down to Starbucks after my appointment and indulged in a turkey bacon breakfast sandwich - apparently I need 1,261 calories just to stay ALIVE!! Lucky 5ft 7 Megan gets a good 300 calories more than me. The healthy eating starts tomorrow ;-)

*Surely these challenges should also reward people who start out healthy and stay healthy. It always feels like they are promoting weight loss a bit more strongly than they are promoting health.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Surf Lesson #9: swimsuit wedgies and a shell encrusted bum

So despite my concerns about being too exhausted for a 2-hour surfing lesson on Friday I managed to do pretty well and picked up where my last 2 lessons left off in San Diego. I'm pretty much at the point where I can balance well on the board with the smaller waves and usually manage to ride all the way into the beach, collisions with other beginners permitting; learning how to identify the right waves to go for, paddling into my own waves and collision avoidance are next on my list of priorities as far as lessons are concerned and I am hoping to take a few more private lessons with an instructor when I am back in Santa Monica in November, but until then I need to practice, practice, practice. Megan and I are planning to go out on the weekends - along with new found surf buddy Felicia who was also at Friday's lesson and is looking for people to surf with - over the next couple of months, weather and waves permitting.

I'm also learning a lot more about my preferences in terms of the equipment I am using, or should that be wearing!! Megan is quite gung-ho to buy herself a surf board just now, but to be honest I'm happy to rent boards for the time being until I get more experience, however I'm seriously considering investing in a decent wetsuit, because the thing I wore on Friday was just awful.

Now admittedly I'm quite particular about what I like to wear when surfing and my rule of thumb is generally the more coverage the better. I am not one of those women that you will EVER see surfing in just a bikini, because quite honestly parts of my anatomy have a tendency to make a bid for escape when I'm in the ocean and I have enough things to worry about when I'm surfing without the added anxiety that one, or both, of my boobs has popped out. Things just don't stay where they are supposed to, so at the very least I prefer a one piece swimsuit under a rash guard and board shorts, or better still, a full wetsuit.

Anyway the suits the women were given to wear on Friday were not my favourite. They were super short in the leg, exactly the same style as this Roxy suit designed by Cynthia Rowley which some of the women were wearing, although I'm not certain if the one I had on was the same brand...

...and, to add insult to injury, the suit had a tendency to ride up. I think the bottom of the suit I was wearing had ambitions to be a Brazilian style knicker, so I'd be lying on the board worrying about my bum cheeks hanging out, because it would ride up every single time I wiped out and more often than not it would take my swimsuit with it, so there I'd be smiling and waving back at whichever instructor was calling my to paddle back whilst trying my best to hold my board still with one hand, lift it over any waves that came my way and nonchalantly attempt to un-wedgie my swimsuit without anyone noticing what I was up to. Ugh, it was incredibly annoying. Who knew surfing would be so fraught with sartorial difficulties??

Anyway as a result of the challenges of the aforementioned wetsuit I now have some lovely cuts on my left bum cheek from coming off my board at the edge of the beach which was littered with thousands of broken pieces of shell. I'd successfully rode a wave all the way to the beach - yay me - when I spotted the shells and knew I was going to have to either step off the board onto the broken shells and risk cuts to my feet or fall into the water and land on my butt. In the seconds I had to make a decision I chose the latter - more padding, although in general I am not a woman with ample proportions in that area and frequent falls off my board onto my behind in shallower waters makes me hanker for padding of Kardasian extremes - however after I'd fallen my board carried on going - obviously, I am such an eejit for not thinking of that, lesson learned - and my, now exposed, butt cheek, thank you wetsuit, got dragged through broken shell pieces. I can tell you first hand that those little buggers are sharp!! I was still picking pieces of shell out of my left arse cheek 2 hours later when I popped into the loo after stopping at Blue Bottle Coffee on the boardwalk at Beach 106th St for a skim latte to warm me through. It's full suits only for me from now on!!

Just hanging on my board. My father took this photo about 10minutes before the end of my 2 hour lesson and I was completely exhausted and freezing cold in the short, thin 2mm summer suit after the weather in New York had taken an autumnal turn.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Ah Management!!

So all good with the parents now after the breadroll debacle. We made up the British way the next evening by not acknowledging anything had happened and making a cup of tea, however my friend Deesha had the following take on the situation...

"About the parents thing, I've started thinking about them a bit like they are kids. Makes it easier to deal. I totally get the freezer thing, but its also galling for them to be criticized on their own mistakes by someone who's bottom they wiped.

Its like a junior member of your team calling you out on some minor (according to you) error at work. The first instinct might be to deflect and offend instead of being defensive and apologetic. Hows my armchair psychology! :)"

I think her armchair psychology is pretty spot on, although this 40 year old thinks it would be nice if my parents could recognise I am no longer a child. I suppose in an ideal world we would all meet in the middle, which I suppose we are by ignoring the situation and moving on.

I am soooooo very sore today after getting back into my usual routine at the gym over the last 5days. I really wasn't expecting it to hurt this much as it's not as if I was totally inactive while in San Diego, I had 4x 90minute surfing lessons for goodness sake and surfing is quite a workout and uses similar muscle groups to the classes I take - chest and biceps for lifting the board over waves, core and legs for stabilization - but after 3 days at the gym I am seriously sore and if I forget and accidentally take a deep breath or sneeze....ouch!!!

I'm taking a day off from exercise today, but given how tired and achy I feel I am having second thoughts about the surfing lesson I have booked for Friday morning. Two days ago two hours of surfing seemed like a great idea, but this morning I was up at 5.15am to be in the office for a 7am call with a high level client from China, a meeting I was quite relaxed about since my team member had done all the heavy lifting on the analysis and would be walking through the presentation along with our media agency partners; I was just there to participate and hear the client feedback, no big deal, or so I thought.

Unusually for an agency call everyone was gathered on the conference call by 7.03am and making noises about getting the meeting started and..., where is the guy from my team?

I wasn't too worried at that point, since as I mentioned it's rare for a meeting to begin on time but nevertheless I sent him an "are you on the call?" email as the media agency kicked off the introductions.

5 minutes passed, the presentation was underway and no response from my guy....

At this point we're 3 slides away from having to make a contribution. I mute the call and phoned him from my Blackberry and....

....GOT HIM OUT OF BED!!!!!!

"Oh...shit," was how he answered the phone

"Damn right oh shit. Dial in to the meeting!!"

Jesus Christ, if I can get my arse out of bed at 5.15am, get showered, do my hair and take a 20minute cab ride to the office then surely he should be able to manage to fall out of bed at 6.45am and dial in from home.
I was soooooo not happy to find myself having to jump in and present something I oversaw, but did not work on directly, to a senior level client in China who had a lot of detailed questions, in fact I think it would be fair to say I was fuming!!

He was very apologetic when he arrived at the office around 9.30am and I imagine waking up to a phone call from your manager is not the preferred way to start the day, so I'm letting it slide this one time, but he did receive a stern "don't let it happen again." Given I'm a usually quite a relaxed manager and not prone to having to be stern I think he got the message that I was not in the least bit happy.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Ah Parents!!

So I've already had a big fight with my parents two days into the NY portion of their visit, lots of raised voices and doors being slammed. The neighbors must wonder what on earth is afoot*.

So what caused such a ruckus you may wonder...

...bread rolls!! Seriously people, bread rolls!!

Namely the fact that after I got home from a pleasant day of brunch at the unbelievably popular Penelope's Cafe on Lexington and 30th people - I was astonished to find there was a 40minute wait for brunch at 9.30am!! 9.30am!! - and then a stroll around South Street Seaport, which was freakishly devoid of tourists, although a few of the bars were pretty populated with firemen who'd clearly been observing the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks at Ground Zero - such an odd day, I couldn't watch the coverage because it made me feel as if I was reliving what it was like to be in New York in what was such a heartbreaking time. It really doesn't feel like it was 10years ago - and a walk through Central Park, I found the freezer door had been open about an inch and all the food inside had defrosted.

A bit annoying, but these things happen, no biggie and I told myself I wouldn't get irritated by it as I threw out a bunch of frozen fruit, fish, edamame, then whipped up some soup with a defrosted bag of frozen mixed vegetables and baked the 24 par-baked bread rolls from Fresh Direct that I'd just had delivered in an attempt to salvage a few things. All good, no big deal. They got back a few hours later and I mentioned what had happened and that I'd frozen half of the now baked bread rolls, but there were another 12 available for use - they like to make sandwiches for themselves if they go off for the day - in 2 sealed zip loc bags.

They cooked up steak sandwiches for dinner and used a bunch of the ciabatta rolls and I was making some tea an hour or so later and noticed the zip loc bags were not sealed. "Can you make sure these bags are closed so that the bread doesn't go stale and we have to waste it" I said and that was it, all hell broke loose. Apparently my comment was disrespectful and how did I not know the freezer was working properly before? "I put this fish in the freezer over an hour ago and it's not freezing, maybe your freezer is broken," shouted my father huffily, "look, this ice cream is still soft!!!!!"

"I'm not saying it isn't broken, I'm saying that when I got home the freezer door was open," I responded and that was it, they got a huff on about respect, refused to listen to all reason and went to bed.

Anyway when I got up this morning I checked the freezer and guess what, everything was frozen, so I'm thinking that after defrosting for 7+hours it just needed some time to do it's thing, but apparently mentioning the whole defrosting thing is taboo!! Seriously they are completely irrational.

On a positive note there has been a VERY cute guy about the office these last few business days supervising a redesign of one of the large conference rooms. Looks wise he really reminds me a LOT of the Creative Cutie - who I haven't seen hide nor hair of in MONTHS. Never let it be said I don't have a type!!!

*Not that they don't give me a run for my money. I once woke up and looked through the peep hole to see two police officers at my neighbor's door, with their guns drawn!! Um..what!! Nothing came of it of course, I'm not sure what was going on, but on occasion they can get pretty shouty!!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

What Are The Chances...

...of my parents being involved in not one, but TWO major US blackouts? They were visiting me in 2003 and got stuck out on Long Beach during the 2003 blackout in New York, and where were they when parts of Southern California, Arizona and Mexico were plunged into darkness on Thursday?? Why San Diego of course!! I'm starting to get suspicious that they've been walking around unplugging things they shouldn't have ;-)

Thankfully they were able to catch their early morning flight to New York on Friday without any problems, so now they're here. Somewhere anyway. I just got back from an 8am gym class and they are nowhere to be seen. I'm guessing they are doing laundry as there were mutterings about some such activity this morning, but who knows, they could be out causing mischief somewhere. I'm sure they'll show up soon.

Sadly as a result of the San Diego blackout something like 1.9million gallons of sewage was spilled and a number of beaches have been closed due to the risk of contamination, which means the 6th annual Surf Dog surf-a-thon has had to be rescheduled to the 25th September. How cute is that, I wish I could go!!!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Best Surf Lessons So Far & San Diego Zoo

Fantastic surf lessons with Ryder yesterday and today, I managed to get my footing correct and stand up on the board for like 10 to 20 whole seconds on multiple occasions and one time even managed to surf the wave right to the shore and then just stepped off the board all casual like into 6inches of water. Whoo hoo!! Admittedly the waves were more manageable these last two days, but hopefully it wasn't just that the surf was on my side, but that some of what I've been taught over the last 8 lessons has started to take hold. Whatever the reason anyway it was amazing, the only bit I didn't like occurred about two thirds of the way through yesterday's lesson when a kid, who looked to be about 12, paddled back down to Ryder and the other instructor who was teaching two guys near me and said "is that a shark?"

Um, say what???

Ryder asked to borrow my board and hopped on it and stood to get a better vantage while I, my brain not really connecting with the fact that I was still tethered to the board by my ankle leash, started to slowly edge backward toward the beach until the leash pulled me up short. Ryder and the other instructor looked at each other and shrugged. "I'm sure it was just a dolphin," said Ryder.

I bloody hope so. Having come across a headline only yesterday where some poor bloke in Western Australia had been bitten in half by a great white I was in no mood to take even the smallest of risks and it was with some initial trepidation that I continued surfing, although I was comforted by the fact that there were a ton of people out surfing that morning and they all seemed completely unfazed.

Anyway it's been a great couple of days and I am hoping I can continue this streak. I'm quite gung-ho to sign up for a few more practice sessions when I get back to New York.

The weather turned cold and rainy pretty a couple of hours after yesterday's lesson, so instead of blobbing on the beach for a few hours we took off to San Diego Zoo for the afternoon.

The littlest giraffe that can be seem galloping around between the larger two was born just 6 days ago. He's already 6ft 2 and 160lbs. His father is an impressive 18feet tall.

These guys are meant to be a whizz at mountains and can leap 6feet, nevertheless they seemed amusingly confused by the steps in their enclosure.

Does this look like a comfortable sleeping position to you? I've encountered some people on planes who seem to be able to sleep just about anywhere like this panda!! Lucky bastards!!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

A Day Off From Surf School

I took a break from my surf lessons today and after a hearty breakfast at Isabel's Cantina - the place was packed come 9.30am. They are such early risers these San Diegans; in New York we are more of an 11am brunch crowd - we took a bus to Old Town and then a cab to the Marriot on North Harbor Drive to pick up a hire car and then drove up the coast to visit La Jolla, Torrey Pines - where we stopped to relax for a few hours on the beach close to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography - up through fancy Del Mar, onto Solana Beach, through tiny Cardiff-By-The-Sea and finally stopping for a coffee and a snack at the Whole Foods in Encinitas before heading back to Pacific Beach for dinner at World Famous, which despite the popularity of the place - 45minute wait for a table - I thought was just okay. I much preferred the meals we've had at Cafe Chloe and Proper Gastropub in the East Village.

Anyway it was nice to take a break from surfing for one day as my whole body ached after two lessons, although the last lesson I had was fantastic, I really learned a lot. The school had assigned me to a different instructor on Saturday as I guess Ryder wasn't available, so I got Eli the lifeguard instead, who asked me what I needed to work on. After Friday's frustrating session where I could barely stand I was all about pop ups pop ups and pop ups.

Eli had a great eye for detail and gave me some good tips which improved things a lot, most significantly the fact that he didn't think I was 'goofy' footed, which is term used for surfers who ride with their right foot forward, apparently a less typical stance if you are right dominant, which I am.

"Who told you you were goofy?" he asked.

"Um, no-one, it's just the stance I defaulted to when I've popped up."

"Yeah, I don't think you're goofy, I think you're regular. This might be your problem. Let's try the leash on the other foot and pop up with your left foot forward."

I tried it and while it was weird after 5 lessons defaulting to having my right foot forward, it wasn't so weird that it necessarily felt wrong. He also taught me a different way of popping up which helped hugely. He said it's not about jumping up because that makes the board more unstable, instead I should "Push, twist, slide." So push up cobra-like on the board, twist my torso to the side I'm going to face while standing, but leave my hands on the board as I am twisted, it's kind of side plank-like, and then drag my front foot - my left foot in my case - forward into position between my hands and stand. Of course all that happens in about 2 seconds flat, but it really helped me to have it broken down like that when I tried to shift to surfing regular footed. I think the years of doing warrior ones in yoga make me want to default to having my right foot forward. The hardest thing for me is that you drag the whole side of your foot forward, whereas I want to lead with the ball of my foot. Eli's response to my doing that was, "were you ever a dancer?"

Apparently eleven years of ballet means that I lead with the ball of my foot, because my natural instinct is to be on my toes!! Hmmm!!

It was a very interesting lesson anyway largely because he had such a good eye for detail and was able to correct me more on what I'm doing wrong - surfing on the wrong foot, looking down at my feet too much to check positioning instead of forward towards the beach and not learning forward enough to weight down the front of the board, so many things - and I regained some of the enthusiasm I'd lost from Friday's lesson where I really struggled to stand, although Friday's instructor, Ryder, said that the conditions were really challenging even for more experienced surfers as there were 7-foot waves at Pacific Beach, much further out from where I've been learning the basics, but it's rougher water than I'm used to with strong rip currents and lots and lots of dislodged seaweed which gets tangled around my leash. Anyway I'm back with Ryder for my lessons on Monday and Tuesday, who is great, an incredibly sweet guy, although I did momentarily think about seeing if Eli was available again, but I don't think it would make much difference since I now know more about what I need to do, it's just practicing doing it.

My father on the other hand did not fare as well on his first foray into surfing. Despite being a strong swimmer and used to rough British seas he's pretty overweight and I think he underestimated how fit you need to be to surf, so he gave up on his lesson after about 30minutes vowing to get himself into better shape.

Exploring the USS Midway Museum.

A statue of Alfred Eisenstaedt's famous WWII victory kiss photo. I love that people's reaction to this statue is to re-enact the pose. You can see the couple of the left side trying it out

Watching the surfers and body boarders on the beach at Torrey Pines.

That's quite a large looking wave in the background. More advanced surfers were out there, but I could never manage to catch one of them in a photo before they wiped out.

Driving back down the coast along Highway 101

Friday, 2 September 2011

Helloooooo San Diego

So despite seeing not one, but THREE reports of large shark sightings I decided to go ahead with at least the first of the four surf lessons I had booked after popping into the surf school and chatting with the woman working at the office.

"If it wasn't safe we wouldn't go out." she said "We also teach children from ages 4 to 17 and we wouldn't put anyone at risk, but it's your decision so if you're not comfortable then that's fine."

True, I didn't think they'd be tossing 4-year old kids into the ocean as hors d'oeuvres, but still I couldn't help feeling more than a bit nervous.

Anyway at her suggestion I decided to at least take the first of the lessons and see how I felt. "You can always call me and cancel after that if you don't like it," she said.

It was fine, but I have to say I was tempted to cancel the next three lessons if only because it was completely exhausting. Southern California is experiencing large waves along with strong rip currents at the moment, so San Diego is under a high surf advisory until Sunday night and paddling out to a LOT more effort than usual just to keep the board heading straight into the waves.

And of course my instructor kept me safe and we only practiced in the shallower waters where the surf was strong, but probably no more than 2.5feet high, however I struggled to get to a good standing position and the whole experience was a bit disheartening to be honest, but I got some good tips from my instructor, Ryder, who gave me a lot more feedback than I've received from other instructors and also told me that the surf was challenging even for non-beginners. I'm not sure whether he was just saying that to make me feel better, but it worked, so I'm sticking it out and hopefully things will get easier for my 3rd and 4th lessons on Monday and Tuesday when the surf is potentially a bit calmer.

My 60year old Dad is joining me for today's lesson. This should be interesting!!

Kite surfers enjoying the wind and high surf off Pacific Beach