Love, 15, 30, 40, game- my passion for tennis

The picture above is me with Pete Sampras, a famous American tennis player from the 1990’s. He is one of my favorites. We ran into him at the movies one night. Max had seen him around town a few times, but it was my first time. My heart started beating super fast as I spoke to him. “Mr. Sampras I am a big fan, can I have my picture taken with you?” I had a Blackberry phone back then so the photo is not so clear, but I have one!!! Afterwards I went into the restroom and couldn’t stand still in line I was soo excited. The girls next to me asked what was going on and I explained. I don’t faint or care much about all the Hollywood stars walking the streets of Los Angeles; I’m all about tennis players.

I started playing tennis when the rackets were still wood. Aluminum rackets were out by then but my dad gave me a wood one. I took lessons at the local club when I was 13 years old. I started going to watch live tennis a year later. At the time they held the ‘US Clay Court Championships’ in downtown Indianapolis. I would go watch that each year with a girlfriend who also enjoyed tennis. The surface later was changed to hard courts, and subsequently renamed to the ‘US Men’s Hardcourt Championships’, which made more sense because the tournament was held in the summer after the clay court season.

I continued to play during college with a friend on campus. I also continued watching tournaments on television or live. Living in Los Angeles there are many tournaments that pass through town- the men’s professional tour, the women’s professional tour and a large tournament with both the men and women out in Indian Wells, California which is a little over 2 hours outside of the city.

The first male player I followed religiously was Mats Wilander, then Pete Sampras, and now Roger Federer. Women players that I’ve enjoyed are Chris Everett, Monica Seles and Justine Henman. I actually met Monica Seles with the kids when Matteo was a baby at a book signing here in Los Angeles; it was a great moment!

Max and I’s first date was a tennis date too! At the time I played every week with a friend and he lived in the same apartment complex. He asked me if I’d like to play doubles with him and an Italian friend of his and the rest is history! We played tennis on our honeymoon in Maui early mornings before exploring the island. We have not played together on the red clay courts out there in Italy at the tennis club he used to belong to, but next time for sure. It is another item to take off my bucket list.

My bucket list also includes going to watch all four Grand Slam tournaments in New York City, Paris, Melbourne and London. The Grand Slams are the largest annually held tournaments for the tennis professionals where they can gain the most ranking points to be higher in the computer standings at the end the calendar year. I missed the French Open one year as I just happened to be in Paris for vacation and didn’t think about the tournament until after the fact!! We will one day plan a holiday weekend in New York City first and attempt to see the other majors from there.

I hurt my knee earlier this year and have only played a few times on the courts at the nearby university, but now that I’m thinking about it I should start playing a few times a month starting in 2013. I mentioned it to my husband the other day and will set up some court time with my girlfriend too.

Topic tomorrow: Braving the Rose Parade in Pasadena at 8:00am in 40° weather

(day 21)

Why can’t I keep my house clean??

Household Cleaners

When I was single I cleaned pretty regularly and my apartment looked good. I had nice décor and never minded when someone stopped by. I used even clean Max’s place spot cleaning his carpets for those little stains that would show up. Fast forward two years and we’re married- the apartment still looks pretty good. Fast forward another two years and we have Malina in the picture.

I contacted a friend about his housekeeper shortly after returning from the hospital with Malina and in less than a week we hired Flora. She was great. I couldn’t speak with her because she only spoke Spanish, but Max who has a nice Spanish would call her and set up all the dates for me. She would come twice a month and kept our place looking great, plus she did laundry! I loved her. After settling into motherhood we eventually let go of Flora. I was on my own. Lots of dusk started to pile up. Max has always helped with vacuum duty as years earlier a vacuum ‘attacked’ me and I never took to them again.

Fast forward about another one and half years and we had a new housekeeper named Sylvia who came monthly. She also was recommended by a friend. I forgot how much help a housekeeper was and didn’t realize their value until two years later when I stopped using her service. I had called one day and she didn’t call back. I had to clean the place myself. It was time consuming, but I did it and I did an awesome job with it. She called me weeks later saying she had gone on vacation to Central America and at that point I decided that I could save money and do the cleaning myself. That takes me to present day. I’ve been cleaning myself for about 1.5 years now!

Why can’t I keep my house clean?? I think the answer is because I don’t have someone cleaning the place for me!!!!

I do the deep cleaning once a month and probably should do it at least every three weeks. The dust is a nightmare and for some reason I just don’t clean it until it’s that cleaning day, or days I should say. I often take two or three days to clean the whole place. We have toys all over and the kids are super messy with all their trinkets. I do keep the house in order though putting things back into their place daily, so that should count for something.

We will move sometime in the new year to a different place and at that point I’ll be calling Sylvia again to come help. A housekeeper is really good person to have available, and helps free up time to do other things like play with the kids!

Topic tomorrow: Love, 15, 30, 40, game- my passion for tennis

(day 20)

I’ll take a beer over a girly drink any day

Beer Flutes- Firestone Walker Brewing Co....

I had my first drink as a teenager. In college I drank a bit more. I have tried many types of drinks in the bar and at parties, from daiquiris to mixed drinks, but have always returned to beer.

In college I did like drinking a little tequila sometimes in Mexico; I believe that it was an atmosphere thing. We’d go down to San Diego and then drive the additional 30 minutes to the border of Mexico to visit “TJ”, a short name for Tijuana, for dancing and drinking from the ages of 18 years old to 20 years old since they have a lower drinking age. We’d hop in a taxi to the street Avenida Revolucion and the party would begin from the many bars and night clubs to pick from. The waiters in the bars would go around with cheap tequila, pour a little bit down your throat, shake your head back and forth, and blow whistles. Youth, that seems so unappealing now!

My girlfriends in college also preferred beer. To this day we still are beer drinkers. Last year we did a micro-brewery beer tour with Santa Barbara, California as our home base. We had a great time leaving our husbands and kids for two days, one night and meeting up for girl time!! Most people visiting this area are looking to do a ‘Sideways Tour’ (based on the movie “Sideways” which visits the wine country of San Ynez Valley), we were not. Being the organizer of our tour I opted for a beer tour. I later found out that one of my friends was now allergic to hops, which is a flavoring agent and key ingredient in beer. Yikes!!

I found a nice 2 bedroom suite hotel in downtown Santa Barbara for us to stay. We began our day by eating lunch and having drinks at a Mexican restaurant near our hotel. Returning to the hotel to our hired limousine awaited us to begin our private tour. We stocked the limo with beer, wine, snacks and music. Cruising around Santa Barbara, Solvang and Buellton we visited some great breweries and wine bars. After visiting a brewery in Santa Barbara city limits we headed on the road to my favorites of the day:

1. Firestone Walker Brewing Company in Buellton. We had appitizers here, some great beer flutes, and great conversation. I also picked up some stuff in the souvenir shop. I highly recommend this spot.

2. The Wondering Dog Wine Bar in Solvang. They have a mix of beer and wine. I chose this spot for my friend now allergic to hops. Solvang is a cute Danish town so it was nice to see the surroundings from our limousine and be in the downtown district.

We returned home after 7 hours of fun touring the micro-breweries of the Santa Barbara area. We dined, danced and had a great evening catching up. I cooked breakfast in the morning; we did a hike, and headed back home. Can’t wait until the next tour— so far we’ve done wine tour in Napa and Sonoma counties, and a beer tour of Santa Barbara and San Ynez counties, maybe next time it’ll be a club tour of Las Vegas!

Abroad I’ve tried some good beers too. Favorite types/locations include:

1. The framboise beer I first tried in Belgium. It’s a raspberry beer, not too sweet. Can be bought in other countries (including the USA) as well.

2. German beer is always good, especially when drunk in Germany. The best location I’ve experienced was at the Hofbrauhaus in Munich, Germany. I visited here on my first Europe tour after college and we had to down a liter of beer in a little over an hour. That experience along with eating a giant German pretzel is still a great memory.

Right now I have some beer in the refrigerator waiting for a nice evening to drink. I definitely don’t drink all the fancy beers out there, but I’ve definitely moved away from my Budweiser days.

Topic tomorrow: Why can’t I keep my house clean??

(day 19)

Having fun at Camp Snoopy, Knott’s Berry Farm

Knott's Berry Farm Summer 2012

In Southern California there are three amusement parks in a very close proximity. The most famous is Disneyland, the next well known would be Knott’s Berry Farm, and a smaller park for kids is Adventure City. I have been to the first two parks and my focus of today’s blog is Knott’s Berry Farm.

Max and I went to Knott’s Berry Farm once on a whim when seeing a two for one coupon in the Sunday paper. It’s a great amusement park for adults. There are plenty of roller coasters and great food. The park was originally opened as a restaurant in the 1930’s around the famous fried chicken that Mrs. Knott’s made. What started out as a chicken place and then gained fame from the boysenberry and other yummy jams, then added a few attractions, and then later rides to pass the time while waiting in line sure has grown.

In 1983 a kids section of the park was opened and named Camp Snoopy. I first visited Knott’s Berry Farm with my kids two years ago on a play date with a girlfriend, her husband and son. My kids loved it although Matteo was somewhat scared of some of the rides being just under 2 years old at the time.

Knott’s Berry Farm is the ultimate affordable family fun membership destination in this area. Disneyland is great, but so expensive, especially since the 40% increase on passes that they put into effect this past summer. That brings me back to Knott’s Berry Farm; our current membership is $240.00 which includes 3 annual passes and parking. This is a great deal considering that we go at least once a month.

Camp Snoopy has it all for small children: Balloon Race, Camp Bus, Charlie Brown’s Speedway, Huff and Puff mini-mining cars, Log Peeler, Lucy’s Tugboat, Red Barron airplanes, Rocky Road Trucking Company, Snoopy Bounce, and Woodstock’s Airmail. There are more family rides throughout the park outside of the Snoopy themed area.

Please note I am now allergic to horses!! I’ve taken the Butterfield Stagecoach, a horse ride (real horses) with a stage coach, twice now and both times after the ride started sneezing, had my throat close up and my eyes water for 10 minutes. I have tried sitting inside and outside of the coach with no luck, oh well!!! Also please note my kids are afraid of the Calico Railroad, a steam train that goes through the park, because of the bank robbers that go through the train trying to hold the passengers up. My son still will not do the log ride, the Calico Mine Train, or watch the Mystery Lodge show due to fear.

Today we’re off to Camp Snoopy for the last time of 2012 with friends. I am looking forward to another family fun day surrounded by Charles Schulz’s famous Peanuts characters at Knott’s Berry Farm.

Topic tomorrow: I’ll take a beer over a girly drink any day

(day 18)

Will we have a place to stay in New York City?? It’s time to ring in the New Year

Times Square

At 21 years old I had always wanted to see New York City. I lived in New York State at the time at the completely opposite side of the state in Buffalo. I went home to visit family in Indianapolis, Indiana for the holidays and had planned a visit out that way with my girlfriend Katie.

It was a bad weather year because on the first leg of our trip we had great difficulty going from Indianapolis to Buffalo. We ended up stuck in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for 12 hours. When we were finally on a plane I so wished we were going directly to New York City, but we only returned to Buffalo.

We were supposed to have a place in stay in New York City. My friend Katie’s grandmother had a little studio in Greenwich Village in the borough of Manhattan on Bleecker Street for $125 a month rent. You have to love rent control!! Her grandmother was sick at the time and had relocated to Indianapolis, but the family had kept the apartment. Some family friends in the area supposedly had the key we could use.

The trip to “the City” was long. We took the 12 hour regional train ride that stopped in every little town between the two destinations. Passing through the towns of Rome and New Amsterdam I thought of their counterparts in Europe. What a long train ride after the airport delay and dealing with the snow of Buffalo. I have to say it was all worth it. Arriving to Penn Station I was amazed by “the City”. What a wonderful place. So much energy, so many people, so much to do. And we were there for New Year’s Eve!! Wow, something to take off my bucket list.

Luckily we were able to make contact with the family friends with the apartment key in the middle of the night and slept comfortably that evening. The apartment had so much character and was located in such a great neighborhood with lots of history. I loved the corner store as well where we would get fresh bagels that were delivered daily from the borough of Brooklyn.

New Year’s Eve we hit the streets to celebrate a tradition that started in 1907, the ball drop in Times Square to mark the turning of a new year. Off to Times Square we went. Being young the cold was not an issue; we were wrapped up in warm clothes and the large crowd all packed together helped to keep us warm too. I met the nicest people from around the world. Of particular I remember a couple from London who had celebrated there and then flew to “the City” to celebrate in Times Square. I also remember seeing Paul Shaffer from “The Late Show with David Letterman” hosting his own show near our location. We had lots of fun, used lots of energy, and had lots of good vibes with the crowd to bring in the New Year.

I almost moved to the apartment on Bleecker Street that year, but in the end I ended up back in Los Angeles. Katie’s family ended up giving up the apartment since no one was ever going to live there again. I’ve visited New York another 3 or 4 times since and have never felt that same energy of that New Year Eve’s experience. I’ll probably never make it back there again on December 31st, but I can say I did once celebrate the New Year in one of the best places to celebrate the holiday in America out there!!!

(day 17)

Topic tomorrow: Having fun at Camp Snoopy, Knott’s Berry Farm

Another Year of Making New Year’s Resolutions

New Year's Day 2012

We had a great Christmas. The kids were beyond happy as were Max and I. It was exhausting wrapping all the gifts the night before, and the kids first came to visit me at 4:30am to see if it was ‘wake up time’. At 5:30am we were up and the day began 30 minutes earlier than normal for me and hours earlier for Max.

Now that we have celebrated Christmas it’s time for the next holiday, New Year’s Eve & New Year’s Day. New Year’s Eve will be easy, make sure the house is clean to end the year on a good note, have a little prosecco wine and go to bed early. If I wake up during the night I’ll watch the ball drop in New York City. New Year’s Day we’ll venture to Pasadena, California to watch the Rose Bowl Parade with a friend who lives locally if it is not bad weather. I’ve never had time to watch it live and the kids haven’t been either.

Everything is set for my new year, everything that is except New Year’s resolutions. I have made so many over the years. I have never kept one. Is that how it works for everyone?? My common resolutions have been exercise more, lose weight, find time for myself, special projects for the year, etc., etc., etc. I could make these my resolutions this year, but I won’t.

This year’s resolution has already begun, writing my blog for a year straight. I’m only up to week 3 now but I’m off to a good start. I wrote down a few topics to blog about, but wonder will I have enough for 365 days? Of course I will!! I have had so many experiences to blog on. The challenge for me will be to have the time to write. Let’s see if I can really do it.

Topic tomorrow: Will we have a place to stay in New York City?? Time to ring in the New Year.

(day 16)

Ear Band-Its aka (also known as) a Johnny Mac

Matteo wearing a Johnny Mac

When Malina was little she had constant ear infections. When Matteo was almost two he had an ear infection that would not go away. It was so bad that he ended up with antibiotic injections in his bottom and was deemed a candidate for ear tubes. A month later we went in for the surgery and the infections ended.

I went into the procedure area with him and held him as they put him under anesthesia. My little boy was in my arms and lifeless after less than a minute. I also saw these two small ear tubes that were to be inserted into his ear drums.… so tiny, but so beneficial. When Matteo woke up from surgery he was a little terror, very out of it. My smart phone was a big blessing then as playing with it calmed him down. The surgery was two years ago this upcoming March and he has only had one ear infection since.

The hardest part of living with tubes was keeping water out of Matteo’s ears. The doctor had said that it would be extremely painful for him to have water enter the tubes. The biggest challenge came from bath time; washing his hair we needed protection to keep his ears safe. In addition being a family that loves to swim we spend quite a bit of time in the water. The doctor suggested we buy ear plugs and an Ear Band-It to keep the plugs in place. Online I ordered some right away.

He was back in the pool within weeks and he spent a little over a year wearing this contraption. I gave the Ear Band-It another name because when Matteo wore it with his long hair he looked like a very young John McEnroe. John McEnroe is a famous American tennis player who peaked in the 1980’s. At that point in his career he had long poofy hair and wore a head band to keep it back while playing tennis, and his nickname was Johnny Mac. My son looked very similar to him when wearing his Ear Band-Its. The name stuck.

I kept in close range of Matteo for the period that his tubes were in to make sure his Johnny Mac stayed in place and when the tubes fell out automatically but stayed in his ear we visited the Ear Nose and Throat specialist to have them removed. To this day when we see a child with an Ear Band-It we refer to it as a Johnny Mac.

Topic tomorrow: Another Year of Making New Year’s Resolutions

(day 15)