Archive for December, 2005

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Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays to everyone! Merr…

22 December 2005

Merry Christmas!

Happy Holidays to everyone!
Merry Christmas to all of you out there who celebrate Christmas!
Have an enjoyable time and be sure to Eat, Drink, and Be Merry!

Cheers!

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UPDATED! How to Get a Tan in the Middle of Winter…

20 December 2005

UPDATED!

How to Get a Tan in the Middle of Winter

The hubs and I just got back from a short holiday to Miami. We initially planned this trip in late October, but then Hurricane Wilma hit and we had to reschedule our flight plans twice. So we reschedule for this weekend and succesfully flew out this past Friday and got back in tonight. We stayed at my parents’ condo which thankfully had no structural damage whatsoever from the hurricane. All the adjacent highrises near our condo had several windows blown out. Luckily, the only damage to the condo was water damage and mold to my parent’s bed and bedroom walls. Otherwise, nothing was broken.

The hubs and I had a great time relaxing in the 80-degree weather. It was a welcome change from the 15-degree weather we have here in the East Coast. In Miami, we had the chance to unwind, relax in the pool, sunbathe and even get slight tans! We ate tons of food, hung out together, and had a great time –just the two of us. This is probably out last trip together alone for a good while!

All I Want for Christmas is….You!

I can’t believe Christmas Eve is only 4 days away! I am almost done with my Christmas shopping. I only need to buy one more thing for one special person, but other than that, all I need to do is wrap presents. The hubs is asking what I want to Christmas, but our little holiday together is nice enough. I told him we can just go on a baby clothes shopping spree as my present, but he knows that I like to open something up on Christmas day. So here’s a list of things I would be more than happy to get for Christmas:

  • Anything from our baby registries at Buy Buy Baby and Target (I really don’t need anything, but the baby certainly does! And I’m getting slightly worried that we may not be able to get the essentials.. e.g., car seat, stroller, changing table, etc.)
  • Anything from my Amazon Wish List
  • Gift certificates for Barnes and Noble; Starbucks; and Amazon are always appreciated.
  • Gift certificate to Bliss or Salon Spa 5 (I am in need of a prenatal or post-natal massage for my achy back! A nice facial would also be superb!)
  • National Amusements Movie Theater Passes for the hubs & I
  • Diapers for the baby (it’s never too early to stock up)
  • Ok…I’m also trying to save up for a Walkmill. I’ve begged my parents and the hubs to help chip in but they just brush me off! I figured I can use it to help me shape up after the baby in the comfort of my own home. So for those who are interested, I am currently trying to save up funds to buy a Walkmill. Let me know if you want to contribute =).

But the only thing I’m really praying for this Christmas is that we are blessed with a healthy, happy baby when the time comes!

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Pregnancy Progress and Other Potpourri Third Trim…

11 December 2005

Pregnancy Progress and Other Potpourri

Third Trimester: I am officially 7 months pregnant. Only 2 full months and a few weeks to go until the kid pops out! I’ve gotten much, much bigger and gained a lot of weight since my last picture. I usually take a picture during the half-way mark of each month, but neglected to take a photo when I was 6.5 months pregnant. Oh well. In any case, I think you can see the difference between the first picture and the second picture.

5.5 Months Preggo
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7 Months Preggo

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3D Ultrasound: I got suckered into getting a 3D/4D ultrasound. Okay “suckered” isn’t the exact word –more like, I followed the trend-du-jour for soon-to-be parents and plunked down some cash to see what our little bunny may look like. I got it done at A Womb with a View and it was pretty neat. A 3D ultrasound is actually just like a normal 2D ultrasound, except that they use a computer program to “fill in the blanks” and add volume to create a 3D image. It was a cool experience altogether. We got some images of the little bunny, however, the baby kept his hands (and even a foot) in front of his face for the entire time! So we don’t have any full facial images. They even gave me juice and moved me around to try to entice the kiddo to move, but I think he’s just camera shy! I told the hubs I thought the baby looked like him. (I have a feeling the little bunny will end looking like the hubs!) In reality, however, most of the babies all kinda looked alike since they use the same program to create volume and add dimension. The 3D package comes with a video of the whole procedure, plus a CD with all the 3D images. You also had the option of finding out the s*x of your baby, but we opted to remain in the dark (you’ll notice I use “he” for the baby but we really don’t know). The video they gave us though has the information in it! All we have to do is watch! We’ll see…if I get really desperate, we’ll pop it in the VCR on Christmas Day as a “gift” to us. Here are some 3D images:

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Maternity Leave and Financial Woes: I’m planning on taking a 6-month leave from work during the third or last week of February since I am due on March 2nd. Of course, I’ll ultimately have to see how I’m feeling at that point, but I did want to work up to the last possible minute so I can earn money. I’m already feeling the “financial crunch” and I haven’t even left yet. As I mentioned before in my blog, my goal this year was to finish off my credit card debt once and for all. Alas, I haven’t quite made it yet and when I stop working, I won’t have any money at all to pay it off! I’d love to just buy baby stuff and decorate the nursery, but I have to worry about my bills which sucks. I will be out of an income for approximately 4 months or so (maybe longer if I decide to take more time off). The hubs at least will take care of the household bills, but I am worried about how to take care of my personal finances when I’m out of a job! *Sigh* At least I have the baby to look forward to!

It’s Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas! It seemed December just crept up on us! I wasn’t feeling very “Christmassy” until we got some snow last Friday. We got about 6-8 inches in the morning and I took off work because the hubs was worried about me driving. By the time the snow stopped falling, it was about 11 am. The hubs told me not to shovel and just stay put but I had to shovel all the snow in order to get my car out (the hubs shovelled in the morning, but when the snow stopped, it looked like he didn’t go anything!) So I shovelled away and it took me a good hour to dig my car out, shovel the driveway and sidewalk, and put some salt on the ground. I did a pretty good job, though my back hurt like a mother later that night! But I didn’t mind getting some physical activity.

This past weekend, I picked out a tree, decorated the tree and the house, and began the whole Christmas experience. I addressed and sent out a majority of our Christmas cards, bought a few presents (mostly on-line), and packed up gifts that need to be sent out. Christmas is my favorite holiday and I enjoy it a lot. I’m even hosting Christmas dinner this year with both our families coming over to our little home. I can’t wait! And just think, come next year, I can’t believe we’ll be parents!

Our tree (partially decorated)
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Have a good week folks!

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A Wedding, Harry Potter, and Rock-and-Roll Tales …

6 December 2005

A Wedding, Harry Potter, and Rock-and-Roll

Tales from a Wanna-Be Rock Star: This past weekend was pretty cool. My weekend started Thursday night when my band played CBGBs. We were initially scheduled to play at 10:30 pm, but we got bumped down to midnight when they added another band. CBGB’s is a well-known venue in NYC (and the rest of the country) for rock music. The venue itself garnered much attention these past few months because their lease was expiring and they would be forced to shut down. A lot of bands came out to try to save CBGB’s. However, they still don’t have a lease at this point and it’s open on a day-to-day basis.

I’m very happy to be able to say that we played at CBGB’s despite a less-than-stellar performance. First off, we haven’t practiced as a group since our last gig on Nov. 10th. So that’s almost a whole month of no practice. Secondly, CBGB’s requires you to bring your own equipment (though they do have a PA system, mikes, cabinets, etc.) Unfortunately, we didn’t have a lot of high-tech gear. So we brought in our cheapo 50-watt amps and hoped for the best. The other bands before us had towers, cabinet heads, cool equipment and the whole-nine! Oh well. Lastly, the band right before us, ‘Rebel Scum’ was really impressive. They played great music that is sort of in the same vein as Bloc Party, Radiohead, and Oasis, etc. They were quite polished and musically accomplished. What I hated the most was that they were all still in high school! The only reason they got into CBGB’s was because they were the band! I am so jealous of them! I felt our band paled in comparison. Boo!

On a positive note, we weren’t booed off the stage and a lot of our friends came out. The hubs even made it to the show despite the fact that we didn’t go one until almost 1 am! (He couldn’t go the last time). It was also my first time on an elevated stage with lighting and everything. I did feel like a rock star –though a reluctant one at that. I need to work on my stage presence and learn to feel more comfortable. I did feel comfortable towards the end, but I’d like to be more of a rocker and dance around (although it’s not easy to move around and play guitar when you’re almost 7 months pregnant!). The hubs took the following pics. You can also click here for a quick movie clip (don’t know if it’ll work though… I’m not very tech-savvy!)

On Stage
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Outside Snapshot
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Our next gig is on December 30th –this is my last gig before I go on “maternity leave” from the band.

Harry Potter: I finally saw Goblet of Fire this past Saturday. The hubs was nice enough to accompany me because he knows I’m such a big fan. I saw a digital projection of the film and the effects were great. Unfortunately, I have mixed feelings about the movie. I don’t think it came out as seamlessly as Prisoner of Azkaban. I do keep in mind the fact that Goblet is a longer story and that things had to be cut out due to necessity. While I was entertained, I don’t think it captured all the fine nuances of the book because of the cuts they made. While still faithful to the book, I thought the movie moved too briskly and jaggedly to try to get at all the major events in the story. I would’ve liked to see Winky and Dobby; Sirius with more than a cameo; and at least see a glimpse of the Quidditch World Cup game! But the movie was cool and exciting nonetheless. I loved the Yuletide Ball scene, the dragon challenge, Viktor Krum (hotness!), Cedric Diggory (hotness!), the scene at the graveyard, Madame Maxine, and Rita Skeeter (hilarious!). All the characters came to life for me, and I loved watching the whole thing unfold.

Wedding: I went to my friend Monique’s wedding last night. It was the first wedding I have been to in which I skipped out on the ceremony. I always make it a point to go to the ceremony because that is the whole point of a wedding. However, we just weren’t able to make the afternoon ceremony. I did enjoy the reception though. Monique and I went to law school together, but we didn’t get to know each other until we became law clerks at the same courthouse. She and I hung out with 5 other chicas and we keep in touch even though our clerkships ended in 2003. We had a blast at her wedding. I ate tons of food (including 2 servings of the bananas foster dessert!), danced away with my friends and the hubs, and momentarily forgot that it was a Sunday night!

Lawclerk Reunion
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With Chris and Jill
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With the Hubs
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Postcards from Italy: Part II Roma, Day 4 We arr…

1 December 2005
Postcards from Italy: Part II

Roma, Day 4

We arrived in Rome via train at about 2 pm. The train pulled into Stazione Termini –a major hub. From there, we decided to take a cab to our hotel. Luckily, a “tourist assistant” helped us out and told us that a cab to the area we were staying at should only cost us about 10-12 Euros. Once outside, we went to the taxi queue and met up with a cab driver who told us it would be 25 Euros just to go to our hotel! The hubs and I told him “no way!” and ignored him. We found a cabbie who took us to our hotel for no more than 10 Euros. Central Rome is mapped out in 16 different areas. We initially stayed in the Via Veneto area –a quiet and relatively peaceful area that features a lot of the bigger hotels but is very near to some of the major sights. We stayed at the Excelsior Rome for 2 nights, and then moved to the Hotel Giuliana (which I picked out). The Hotel Giuliana is a budget hotel with very lovely proprietors (it’s family run and the lady of the house is so nice!) I only recommend it if you really need to watch your wallet but expect it to be one level down from a Motel 6! Hehehe… Okay, it wasn’t so bad, but I guess I was pampered by staying at a 5-star hotel! Notice the difference between the 2 hotel rooms:

Westin Excelsior Rome

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Our Room
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Hotel Giuliana

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That night, we walked around Rome and explored the sights near us. We went to the Fontana di Trevi –a beautiful fountain that was completed in 1762. Tradition has it that a coin thrown into the water guarantees a visitor’s return to Rome.

Trevi Fountain

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We also went to the Spanish Steps located in the Piazza di Spagna area. This is an area teaming with tourists; the steps overlook Via Condotti, a small street with all the high-end boutiques suchs as Gucci, Prada, Louis, Bulgari and more. The steps are also adjacent to the Keats-Shelley Memorial House where Keats stayed until his death. Afterwards, the hubs and I enjoyed a nice dinner near our hotel and then stayed in to relax.

Spanish Steps
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Piazza Barberini (by Via Veneto)
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Roma, Day 5

The hubs and I went to visit Santa Maria della Vittoria, a Baroque church near our hotel that contains one of Bernini’s most famous works: The Ecstasy of St. Teresa. The church was amazing and filled with beautiful works of art. I could just imagine going to church every Sunday in such a lavish setting –our church back home is quite plain compared to the churches in Italy!

The Ecstasy of St. Teresa

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Ceiling Fresco
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Afterwards, we went to meet up with Girlie & Luke and go on our organized tour of the “Highlights of the Eternal City.” We took the Metro (Rome’s version of subway system) and got to our destination with no problems. Our tour started at 2 pm by the Colosseum, and it was a long, tiring, yet very fun and informative tour. It was supposed to be a 3-hour walking tour, but we didn’t finish until 6 pm! Our tour took us all over Central Rome and we were able to see all the major must-sees of Rome: The Colosseum; The Arch of Constantine; The Forum and the Palatine; The Victor Emmanuel Monument (nicknamed “The Wedding Cake”); Hadrian’s Temple; The Pantheon; The Capitol; and The Trevi Fountain (which we checked out the day before). The tour ended at the Piazza Navona which features the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi and an Egyptian obelisk designed by Bernini. We were very exhausted by the tour’s end yet still trekked back to our hotels which was a good 20-25 minute walk.

The Colosseum
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The hubs and I by the Colosseum
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Arch of Constantine
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At the Forum
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Temple of Julius Caesar
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The Pantheon
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Dome of the Pantheon
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The “Wedding Cake”
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We had dinner that
night at Giovanni’s, a quaint neighborhood restaurant in Via Veneto that is famous for its’ osso bucco and roast lamb. I was famished and certainly tried the osso bucco which was definitely yummy! Afterwards, we headed back to our hotels for a good night’s rest.

Roma, Day 6

Today was our tour day of the Vatican City. What an adventure! We were supposed to meet up with our tour guide at a Metro station by the Vatican by 10:30 am. When we got to the station, there was big sign saying that the workers were on strike and that the trains were closed from 9:30 am –3 pm! It was 9:45 am when we got there so we had no choice but to take a cab. The cab ride to the Vatican was fairly quick and cost us less than 10 Euros –not bad. The adventure started when we ended up waiting by the meeting point for 30 minutes with no one there. At first, we thought the tour was just running late because of the strike. Finally, I called the tour operator who said that our group had already left for the Vatican at 10:35 am! This was bullshit since we got to the meeting place by 10:25! In any case, we ended up running to the Vatican Museum (the first stop of our tour), getting in queue with everyone else (and the line wraps around the museum!), and me running to the payphone and frantically calling the tour folks asking to see if they could contact our tour guide who was already inside! Bottom line: after a lot of huffing and puffing, we got in the museum and miraculously saw the rest of our group right at the beginning of our tour. Yay! The rest of our tour proceeded without incident.

The Vatican Museum is full of beautiful artwork. It contains classic Greek and Roman art, early Christian and Medieval Art, the Sistine Chapel, and other great masterpieces designed by Raphael and others. I highly recommend using a tour guide when visiting this place since there’s so much information to digest when you go through. Furthermore, the place is packed with tourists! Mind you, November is considered an off-peak season and it was still very crowded! So I suggest going during this time rather that in the summer when everyone else goes!

Words can’t really describe the amazing artwork you’ll see inside the museum and it’s many rooms and halls. You’ll definitely have to see it for yourself! The Sistine Chapel was a little smaller than I had imagined, but still grand! Pictures are not allowed inside the Chapel itself, but the hubs was able to sneak in some pics (as most people did!). The Sistine Chapel is the very same room where voting of the new Pope takes place. After the chapel, you are ushered into another hallway that is connected to the Pope’s apartments and goes through to St. Peter’s Basilica and Square. We saw some Swiss Army guys along the way who were guarding the private rooms. They were hotties, I must say!

Michelangelo’s Fresco – Sistine Chapel
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Creation of Adam
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The last stop of our tour was St. Peter’s Basilica –a grandiose church full of lavish art and impressive works such as Michelangelo’s La Pieta. Saying it is huge is an understatement. Again, you have to see it for yourself. In the middle of basilica stands the Papal Altar (where only the pope may celebrate mass) with a canopy over it designed by Bernini. The Papal Altar is built upon St. Peter’s tomb which is directly beneath it. There is also a high altar designed by Bernini with a beautiful sculpture and stained window. After our guided tour was over, we went to the catacombs beneath St. Peter’s Basilica where we were able to see the final resting place of the Popes.
St. Peter’s Basilica
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Michelangelo’s ‘La Pieta’
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St. Peter’s Square
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Tomb of Pope John Paul II
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Tomb of St. Peter (as in the apostle!)
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Afterwards, we had a late lunch at La Rupe Tarpea, a restaurant in Via Veneto (near the Barberini train station). I had the best pasta dish there –spaghetti in cream sauce with porcini mushrooms, peas, and salciccia (sausage). I highly recommend it! And the prices there are quite reasonable as well!

Roma, Day 7

In the morning, the hubs and I went to the local supermercato to buy souvenirs. I always make it a point to go to a supermarket for good deals –especially edibles. I bought chocolates and biscottis for friends. Then we met up with Girlie & Luke to go visit the tomb of the Capuchin Friars. Underneath the Santa Maria della Concezione are a series of crypts where generations of Capuchin friars decorated the walls of five vaulted chapels with the bones and skulls of their departed brethren. In all, some 4,000 skeletons were used to create the displays. Very eerie. Unfortunately, picture-taking was not allowed as well.

After the quick visit, we went to Piazza di Spagna since Girlie & Luke have not seen the Spanish Steps yet. We strolled around, ate lunch, then attempted to go shopping on Via Nazionale –a major avenue with tons of stores. No luck for me since I couldn’t even try on clothes (which I guess is a good thing since I didn’t spend much!). That night, we ate at La Rupe Tarpea again and had our last meal in Rome. After the meal, the hubs and I walked back to our hotel and got caught in the rain and hail! Yes, hail. What a memorable last night!

Roma, Day 8 – Our Last Day

We got up early, packed up the rest of our stuff, then headed back to Stazione Termini to catch the “Leonardo Express” –a train that goes directly to Fiumicino Airport. We got there by 10 am, with plenty of time to spare for our 1 pm flight connecting flight to Milan. I don’t know why they detoured us to Milan, I guess that’s why our flight wasn’t too expensive. However, the flight they put us up did not leave enough time for the actual transfer! We landed in Milan at about 2:30 pm, which is the boarding time for the flight back to Newark Airport! So we booked it and ran out as quickly as we could. Alas, we couldn’t even look at the shops in the Milan airport! I saw some great purses as we ran towards our gate. We made it to our plane with only a few minutes to spare! Talk about a close call! The flight from Milan to Newark was more than 8 hours long and I was determined not to sleep so that I’d be right on schedule when I got back home. We arr
ived safely. Unfortunately, we couldn’t say the same thing about our luggage since it got lost along the way! So we had to file a claim with Alitalia and arrange for our luggage to be delivered when it finally arrived. We didn’t get our luggage until this morning –when a guy banged on our door in the pouring rain at about 1:30 am!

I also caught a bug on the flight back home. Perhaps it was the stale plane air that did it, but my throat was on fire the whole way home. That night, I could hardly breathe and had to put some Vicks on my nose! I even took a sick day on Monday to recuperate since I was sneezing and was severly congested. I got back to work on Tuesday with a foggy head, but with great memories of my Italian holiday!

For more pictures of our Italian holiday, click here (although the captions are still not up!)

SIDENOTE: So my band got a gig at guess where…..CBGB’s!! I’m very thrilled! Talk about a freaking kick-ass venue! We are playing tomorrow, Dec. 1 @ 10: 30 pm! Do check us out if you’re in the area! For more information, please visit our website! I can’t wait, although I do wish we had time to practice as a whole beforehand! We haven’t played as a group since our last gig on Nov. 10th! Wish us luck!

Song of the Day:
Plastic Passion by The Cure
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