Sunday, November 30, 2008

NaBloPoMo: I did it!

...and on the 30th day, we rest.

(And clean the house, do laundry, grocery shop, cook, and -- at 8:00 tonight -- work.)

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Aaaahhhhhhhh... Now THAT'S What I Call Total Relaxation!

For my birthday, and as a belated birthday present for Kat, Elisabeth treated us three girls to a day at the Olympus Spa (for women only), "where the medical techniques of the East meet the relaxation techniques of the West" and where the mind, the body, and the spirit are nurtured. I'm still fully under the influence of the most relaxing day I've had in a very, very long time, so I'm moving about as quickly as an exfoliated sloth.

With my Google Map in-hand this morning, I followed directions to what I thought would be a large gym-type facility. After "Miss GPS" scolded me twice for passing my destination, I saw the words "Olympus Spa" on a nondescript corner building that looked more like a warehouse that a luxury spa.


Good thing, too -- for maybe this secret will be easier to keep!

(OK, that's not true; I want you all to know about this place because we all deserve such peace and serenity -- not to mention physical hedonism.)

When Kat and I arrived, Elisabeth was waiting for us, having already paid for not only the full use of the facilities for her and Kat (I was free because they have a get-in-free-on-your-birthday deal!), but for two treatments for me, the Korean Body Scrub and Korean Body Moisturizing.

Each of us was given a light cotton robe, a cap for our head, and two towels. On our way into the spa we left our shoes in the front room and then headed down a bamboo-planked hallway to the locker room, where we left our clothes behind for the day and donned the light cotton robes and caps. Elisabeth, who had been here with a fellow student, then gave Kat and me a tour.


The first thing we noticed when we entered the lounge was a profound sense of calm and quiet that permeated our surroundings. Although women moved from place to place, there was no sense of hurrying, no sense of crowding, and in fact, very little sense of time. The word that immediately came to mid within my first few moments was "community." Even with only quiet whispers and very little verbal communication, the sense of sisterhood was palpable.

olympus lounge

Surrounding the lounge are a series of heated rooms. One room has sea sand underneath a layer of canvas. It's heated to about 150 degrees. making the sand feel like a warm day at the beach. (The audio of waves and seagulls help too.) "Sand and variety of crystals on the wall provide complete fomentation that relieve arthritis, irregular menstrual cycles, severe cramping, and light headedness." I don't know if all the spa's health claims are true, but to tell you the truth, I don't care; all I know is that every inch of this place feels rejuvenating and healing.


Next to the sand room is the salt room, which is heated to 140 degrees and features sea salt underneath a layer of canvas and Calcite crystals on the wall. "It is designed to alleviate a range of respiratory and skin conditions, including asthma and psoriasis, and to reduce the effects of stress."


We spent a while in the meditation room, where the 90 degrees of dry heat and the peace and quiet just melted my stress away. "Underneath a layer of bamboo, the floor is made of Elvan stones, which offer unique properties that provides comfortable and relaxing environment."


My favorite room, though, wasn't heated at all. The Cabin Room, at 70 degrees, is awash with the musky scent of its pine floors and walls. The Olympus Journal book is available to write and share your thoughts with other women from all over the world. (I did write -- about how the negative body image and self-loathing I've had lately seemed just plain ridiculous in this quiet community of beautiful women of all shapes, sizes, ages and nationalities.)


After we visited the heated rooms, we went to the pool room and, along with all the other women of so many different shapes and sizes -- from petite to extra large -- and of so many ages -- from newly pubescent teens to very old women -- we disrobed and for the next few hours we, like everyone else, were unabashedly naked. What I noticed immediately was that there was no palpable sense of body issues, no shame or embarrassment, no modesty and no pride. We just were, in all our nakedness, a community of women, quiet, respectful, peaceful, relaxing women. I have rarely felt so comfortable in my own skin -- and that's saying a lot.

The pool area consists of four pools -- one is 90 degrees, one is 104 degrees, one is even hotter, and one (with a waterfall) is very cold. It is invigorating to move from pool to pool, relaxing in each... except, of course, the "shocking" cold pool!


There are a variety of tubs in the pool room. The first one is actually a well, rather than a tub. Mugwort has been used for hundreds of years in Korea and is "known to be effective in balancing women's hormonal levels and contains natural antibiotics and sterilizers that help keep your skin healthy and young." The idea here is that you dip a large bowl into the warm mugwort "tea" (there's actually a large "teabag floating in the well!) and then pour it -- or have someone else pour it -- all over your body. It feels truly glorious!


Once we'd explored for a while, it was time for my first treatment, the Korean Body Scrub. I've heard this described as "really angry Korean woman trying to get you really, really clean." While it's true there is a lot of vigorous scrubbing, I'd hardly say my masseuse was angry! In fact, she was an incredibly sweet lady -- with very aggressive sandpaper mitts!


After she'd scrubbed and re-scrubbed and exfoliated and permeated every single square inch of me (even behind my ears, I kid you not!), she poured buckets and buckets of hot water on me and then lathered me up completely with the softest, smoothest soap I've ever felt in my life! It was heaven and I swear, I'll never again have a western massage, which I always felt was too rough and punishing and not really relaxing.

After my scrub, Kat and Elisabeth and I visited more rooms and pools (all included with the entrance fee), and then it was time for my Korean Moisturizing Treatment. The best way I can describe that is this:


First, I was doused, literally and liberally doused, with warm olive oil, which was rubbed into every inch of my skin. Then I smelled honey! I'm not sure exactly what it was (not the real, sticky honey) -- probably another moisturizing cream, but the warm honey rub was added to the olive oil and I was already in heaven.

Then -- and this was the best part of the entire day -- my hair was wrapped in wet towels of different temperatures and my face was first rubbed with the honey moisturizer and then was covered with a thick masque of very cold, fresh cucumber skins! By this point, I was so relaxed, so completely removed from any stress, that I literally felt like I was floating! For about 20 minutes I was left alone like that -- hot towels and oils on my skin and cold cucumber on my face, and I must have fallen asleep... or maybe I was just floating. The treatment ended with a foot massage. Can you imagine -- a no-guilt foot massage! Yes, this was definitely heaven!

After my treatment, Kat, Elisabeth and I put back on our robes and went into the tea room to peacefully sip jasmine and barley and corn tea before heading to Claim Jumper for dinner. (We could have also had a meal at the spa's restaurant:)


Within the first hour at Olympus Spa, we decided that this mother-daughters treat will just have to be something we do regularly -- and for only $35 for the use of the pools and rooms for as many hours as you want per day (treatments are extra), this is a very affordable way to rejuvenate after a busy week at school or at work.

So from now on, the third Sunday of every month is spa day! With this to look forward to every month, I really think it will be easier to get through the daily stress of my job!

Thank you, Elisabeth, for the greatest birthday present ever -- time with my girls and hedonistic bliss, all in one! I love you!

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Relaxation Anticipation

Tomorrow, I'll be spending the day here, compliments of Kat and Elisabeth!


I can hardly wait!

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Before, During and After Turkey/Tryptophan


Aleks and Peter. (Notice Peter's t-shirt: The "W" refers to UW, Aleks' school. We are definitely a house divided!)


Elisabeth and Peter:


Peter and Kat:


(And Peter's usually the one who ditches the camera!)

Mother and daughter:


Husband and wife (yeah, he does, in fact, think I'm a bit odd!):


Tom with a mug that reminds us all of his happy dad (rest his soul):


Blake (Elisabeth's friend who's just like family) and Elisabeth:


Elisabeth freaking her dad out (YES, of course she's just kidding!!):


The "boys":


All six of us!



Aleks can hardly wait:




And after:

(Shhhhhh... tryptophan at work!)





Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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Shasta's Thanksgiving Day Post

Woof! Shasta here.

Carol and Tom have been in the kitchen for about 24 hours straight, cooking stuff that smells delicious but that I can't have until later tonight, when it'll look grody but still taste delicious. I can hardly wait!

While the chefs prepare my evening meal, I thought I'd post a little ditty about what I'm thankful for. Of course I'm thankful for Tom, who speaks my language -- or thinks he does, because when he sees me, he always says "woof, Shasta!" And I have Carol trained to throw the ball for me the second she gets home, before she's even put her things down, so I'm thankful for her. Auntie Elisabeth always falls all over herself when she first sees me, getting me and everyone else so riled that it takes me hours to calm down -- and that's when she doesn't take me on a field trip. On field trip days, I can hardly calm down all day! And yeah, I love Peter because he plays mind games with me, thinking he has me trained. Actually I have him trained! And then there's my mommy, Kat. I love Kat so much that sometimes I can hardly contain myself -- literally! I love sitting on her lap and having her rub my belly. That, my friends, is sheer bliss. I can't even put words to how much I love Kat -- because I love her THAT much, but also because I'm not great with real words. Aleks is just plain chill, so yo -- love's the word there.

So yeah, this bitch loves her family.


But I've fallen in love recently with another family, too. May I introduce...

Jack and Nora, my other family:




...and Nora...


and me:


Jack, and Nora, and me!


Jack and Nora are Rebekah's pets kids. And Rebekah goes to the same office that Carol disappears to every day, so instead of spending days with me, like she used to, Carol now spends her days with Rebekah. I'm not even jealous, because sometimes -- like last weekend, when my family went away to Vancouver, I got to spend the whole time with Jack and Nora and Rebekah!

I got me some lovin'! See? Mutual lovin'! It must be the red hair, dont'cha think?


Jack and I did some major chillin'!


Chillin' and lovin', lovin and chillin'...


And Nora had this thing for my tail. Or is it that my tail had a thing for Nora? Heck, I dunno, I'm just a dog. But either way...



Peh! Puh! Oh, peh-puh-yech!


When my other family came to pick me up on Sunday evening, I acted kinda excited because I knew it would make them sad if I didn't -- but between you and me, I was bummed to leave Jack and Nora and Rebekah.


So if you really want to know who I'm thankful for (in addition to my main family, of course), I'd have to say it'd be my fellow ginger-head, Jack, and the sweetest baldy-head baby, Nora and their amazing, wonderful, smart, beautiful mommy, Rebekah, who project-managed my entire visit so admirably.

Thanks to my other family this Thanksgiving!


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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Live from Mumbai

Marco says (11:23 AM):
Please pray for our city
Carol says (11:23 AM):
Oh Marco!  I AM!
Carol says (11:23 AM):
Are you OK?
Carol says (11:24 AM):
Is everyone accounted for?
Marco says (11:24 AM):
We're all ok
Carol says (11:24 AM):
It's still happening!
Marco says (11:24 AM):
all accounted for--M, S, D, R
Marco says (11:24 AM):
It's quite scary
Carol says (11:24 AM):
Coordinated... planned. 
Marco says (11:24 AM):
Carol says (11:24 AM):
Are you in the city now?
Marco says (11:25 AM):
Nope, I'm at home
Carol says (11:25 AM):
Stay home.
Carol says (11:26 AM):
Who (from work) lives downtown?
Marco says (11:26 AM):
We'll be monitoring the situation and will decide a course of action tomorrow
Carol says (11:26 AM):
I'd imagine it wouldn't be a good idea to head to the office...
Marco says (11:26 AM):
D and P, but the attacks have happened all across Mumbai.
Marco says (11:27 AM):
It started off downtown, but has spread to the suburbs as well.
Carol says (11:27 AM):
People are crazy.  99.999% of people are wonderful -- and the other few ruin it for everyone!
Carol says (11:27 AM):
Carol says (11:27 AM):
Spread to the suburbs?  The same terrorists?
Marco says (11:27 AM):
It's happened across 9 locations across the city!
Carol says (11:27 AM):
Stay home.  Please don't go anywhere!
Carol says (11:27 AM):
At the same time?
Marco says (11:28 AM):
At almost the same time. It is most definitely coordinated
Carol says (11:28 AM):
It's now on CNN.  At first, when we first heard of it, we couldn't find it on the news.
Marco says (11:28 AM):
Firing with AK-47 rifles and explosions
Carol says (11:28 AM):
Like, buildings exploding??
Marco says (11:28 AM):
Marco says (11:29 AM):
There have been two explosions in two iconic hotels in downtown Mumbai--the Trident and the Taj
Carol says (11:29 AM):
People with American and British passports at the Oberoi Hotel have been taken away.  So scary!
Marco says (11:29 AM):
And several cases of firings from drive bys--at innocent pedestrians
Carol says (11:29 AM):
Holy shit!  Who are these people?
Marco says (11:30 AM):
No idea. Two have been shot and two captured, so more will be know after they're interrogated
Carol says (11:31 AM):
We will have all of you in our thoughts all day.  None of us can work now.
Carol says (11:32 AM):
Glad Internet is keeping us in touch.  Power not affected?
Marco says (11:32 AM):
Power is fine, but phone lines are jammed
Carol says (11:32 AM):
I'll bet.
Carol says (11:32 AM):
Hey, can I blog this IM?
Marco says (11:32 AM):
Sure thing
Carol says (11:33 AM):
Please do keep in touch and let us know how things unfold.  And do try to get some sleep tonight, if possible.
Marco says (11:33 AM):
Will do
Carol says (11:34 AM):
Is your family OK?  Have you been in touch with all cousins, siblings, etc?
Marco says (11:34 AM):
Yes, everyone is Ok
Carol says (11:35 AM):
Breathe... the rest of the world is concerned for Mumbai and has all of you -- all millions of you -- in our thoughts!
Marco says (11:36 AM):
Thank you, we're praying hard at this time.
Carol says (11:36 AM):
Huge hugs!

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Day-Dark and Night-Bright

This was the view out my sun (ha!) roof at high noon today:


It was dark, or close to it, ALL day today in Seattle.  And it drizzled.  Incessantly. I can handle rain and I can handle mist, but a constant cold drizzle is just downright depressing!

The bright point of the day was actually when it was completely dark outside (not that it was all that different than the noon sky):


Now isn't that a GAS?!

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Get Involved!

So... in blog maintenance news, I am proud to announce a few modifications to my sidebar (oh, the power of NaBloPoMo!):

  1. You can now easily subscribe to my blog in your choice of reader. (Scroll down to "Feed Me.")
  2. You can now "follow me." That sounds like the same as subscribing to my blog, but hey, I'm all for multiple ways to make a friend. (Scroll down to "My Faithful Readers" and join up!)
  3. There's a heading called "I Love Blogging Awards." OK, that's really not new at all. It's been there forever. And ever. But I have nothing new to add to it. Sigh. (Yes, shameless, I know.)
  4. You can follow me on Twitter. That's just kinda sorta new, but what the hell -- how often do I talk about my sidebar?!
  5. I renewed my subscription with NeoCounters. This is the only blog widget I actually spend money on. Do you think it's worth it? Does anyone other than me really care who reads my blog, from where?
  6. There's a link to my LinkedIn profile. OK, I admit -- that's not really all that new either.
  7. Did I mention the heading specifically for blogging awards?

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

We Took a Short Weekend Jaunt to a Foreign Country. (OK, it was Canada, but still...)

We live only about two hours from the Canadian border, so every so often, just for fun, we like to head north for a weekend vacation across the friendly border. This time we celebrated Aleks and Kat turning 19 -- which is the legal drinking and gambling age in Canada.  Awful parents that we are, we thought it'd be fun to take them out for their first legal drink and to their first casino. 

Because of the rules about photography in the casino, those are pretty much the only photos I didn't take!  Here are some that I did take:

Headin' northward:


This is the Peace Arch at the US/Canada border...


...where you sometimes have to wait in line for a while.  And sometimes when you sit in the car for a while you have to pass the time.

This is Tom's thumb that he bashed a few weeks ago when he was building the shed.  OUCH!


Kat and Elisabeth thought I was taking a picture of them!  Ha!  See the Peace Arch in the background?


This the real border, the official border -- the place where we were asked weird questions like "is this your car?" and "what do you do for a living?" and "where is [our home town]?"


Vancouver, British Columbia is a massively huge city full of high rises! This is driving into downtown:


Our hotel, the Sheraton at Wall Centre, was one of those high rises:


Look at the view from our room (this is a "stitched" panoramic photo)!  You can't see them in this photo, but the snow-capped mountains in the background were crystal-clear.

viewfromhotel stitched

And if you look straight down the mirrored building from the balcony -- which only my camera, not I, did -- you see this nausea-producing sight:


Aleks took a nap in the hotel room, but the rest of us decided to explore Vancouver's beautiful Stanley Park:


The totems:


The view of North Vancouver (and the mountains) from the park:


Lions Gate Bridge:



Looking back toward downtown at sunset:


Mermaid and friend enjoying the sunset:


Man (with bike) enjoying the sunset:


And running man sculpture, enjoying the view:


After our trip to Stanley Park, it was time for a night on the town with our newly-turned 19-year olds. First we had dinner at a great Thai restaurant and did some requisite family goofing off:

Mom and daughters:


Father and son (we missed Peter, who was still at school... but surprised us just an hour ago by arriving home a day early for Thanksgiving!):


Goofy Kitty!


Unfortunately, photos weren't allowed at the Edgewater Casino that evening, but suffice it to say that a great time was had by all.  (And although not much money was lost, no money was won, either.)

We were given a little gift from the casino -- a mug and hot chocolate mix?! -- and decided to document that as proof of the evening:


When we got back to the hotel, Kat and I konked quickly, since we're not night owls like the rest of the family.  Elisabeth, Aleks and Tom, though, headed back out and came home with these photos:



We barely got up this morning in time to check out of the hotel by noon, and then headed right home because mid-terms had to be studied for and work with Mumbai had to be done.

The line at the border heading into the US was long and slow, allowing me enough for me to take a few more photos:





And by the time we finally got moving again, the sun was setting in the west, far off the coast of way-north America and way-south Canada!



It was a great weekend and tonight we're all tired.  But we'll definitely be back to Canada -- next time, hopefully to Whistler... or to my preference -- Banff!

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