Wednesday, November 30, 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 arrived 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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POSTED BY KAT AT 11/30/2005 08:06:00 PM | 0 COMMENTS

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Postcards from Italy: Part I

Here’s a recap of my Italian holiday. We left NYC on November 19 and came back on November 27th. We spent 3.5 days in Florence, and 3.5 days in Rome.

Firenze, Day 1

We flew in to Rome and got a connecting flight to Florence. We arrived in Florence at about 10:30 am. From the airport, we took a bus ride to the city center (about a 20-minute ride). From the bus terminal, we walked to our respective hotels (about a 10-minute walk). The hubs and I stayed at the Westin Excelsior Florence, courtesy of the hubs' Starwood Points. We had a luxurious and spacious room which had a view of the Arno River. It was conveniently located near the major attractions. After we checked in, we definitely needed a rest due to jetlag –after all, 11 am Italian time is really just 5 am Eastern Standard Time! We agreed to meet up with Girlie & Luke at their hotel and go to the Galleria dell’Accademia to see Michelangelo’s famous “David” sculpture. Before that, we stopped by a small caffe’ for a quick bite. I had my first taste of an authentic caprese and an Italian hot chocolate. YUM! The Accademia was a small museum which is easily manageable without a tour guide. Seeing “The David” was a great experience. Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to take pictures in the museum (unless you do it on the sly). However, there is a "fake David" in the Piazza della Signoria that you can take pictures of!

View from our Hotel room
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'Fake' David by the Piazza della Signoria
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Firenze, Day 2

The hubs and I woke up early for our tour. I booked an organized tour of Florence’s major attractions through Art Viva. On the way to our meeting point, we stopped by a pasticceria for a coffee and quick bite. We sat at a table, and I had a coffee and 2 chocolate cornettos (croissants) and the hubs had an apple Danish and a glass of OJ –this cost us 20 Euro! But more on this later…just remember what we paid!

Our walking tour was 3 hours and took us all over Florence’s major points of interest as well interesting little things that are off the beaten path. Everything is fairly concentrated in the city center. There is no need to take a bus to go anywhere since you can just walk anywhere. The tour was very informative and our guide was great. You get a nice feel of the Italian Renaissance as you walk down the streets of Florence. We were able to see the famous Duomo, the Strozzi Palace, the Palazzo Vecchio, the Ognissanti church (where Boticelli is buried), and a slew of other great sites. Afterwards, we went to the Mercato Central (as recommended by our guide) to check out a fresh market and get a cheap yet authentic lunch. I recommend going to the Narbone eatery within the Mercato Central for a great, hearty lunch that will cost you less than 10 Euro. It’s a very popular spot for workers in this district.

The Duomo
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Painting Within the Duomo
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Ponte Vecchio
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Firenze, Day 3

In the afternoon, we took a guided tour of the Uffizi Gallery courtesy of Art Viva. The Uffizi Gallery was previously used by the Medici Family to conduct their business. Now, it is a large museum that houses major works such as Boticelli’s 'Birth of Venus' and gorgeous paintings by Raphael, Caravaggio, and other great artists from the Renaissance period and beyond. This is definitely a museum in which a tour guide would come in handy. Reservations are also required before you go (especially during peak season). When we went, it was only slightly crowded since we were traveling during an off-peak time. And alas, picture-taking is also not allowed (although my friend Girlie was able to sneak in some shots!).

Hall at the Uffizi Gallery
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After the tour, we also visited the Basilica of Santa Croce. St. Croce is a gorgeous church that houses the tombs of great figures like Michelangelo, Leonard Da Vinci, Galileo, Dante, Machiavelli, and more.

Santa Croce
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Tomb of Dante
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Tomb of Michelangelo
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Afterwards, we strolled around Florence and went out for hot chocolates at a pasticceria called Rivoire (by Piazza della Signoria). I highly recommend this pasticceria for the best ciocolatta con pannas around! This is also when we realized that the Italians charge extra if you sit at a table versus just standing up by the bar to drink your coffee. This is why the hubs and I paid so much for our breakfast the other day despite having only coffee, juice, and pastries! For example, at Rivoire, if we had sat at a table, the hot chocolate was 7 Euros! However, we got wise and stood at the coffee bar and only paid 3 Euros for our hot chocolates. No wonder all the Italians we see all ate on the go by the bar!

So my traveling tip to you guys in Italy is if you’re going to a café, eat by the bar (where they make the coffee, etc.) unless you want to be charged extra. At restaurants, prices are normal and most of them include servicio (which is the tip).
Piazza della Signoria
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Firenze, Day 4

The hubs and I packed up to go Roma for the next leg of our tour. Meanwhile, our friends Girlie & Luke arranged a trip to nearby Bologna to get a tour of the Ducati factory. We walked back to the bus terminal and bought our tickets to Rome. We took the Trenitalia and booked second-class seats to Rome –total coast, 52 Euro for the both of us. We had nice leisurely train ride along the Tuscan countryside and got to Rome in about 1.5 hours. Not bad at all.

To be continued... more pictures to come...
POSTED BY KAT AT 11/29/2005 08:31:00 PM | 0 COMMENTS

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Ciao Bellas! Viva Italia!

1) passport –check!
2) Italian visa –check!
3) Flight reservations –check!
4) Hotel reservations –check!
5) Clothes –uhm…I'll work on the packing later!

So the hubs and I are going to Italy for Thanksgiving week. We're going with our friends Girlie & Luke, and we're leaving this Saturday! I'm very excited about the whole trip since I've never been to Italy before. We'll be flying into Florence and then taking the train down to Rome. We plan on staying in Florence for 3 days, do a day trip to the Tuscan countryside or to Pisa; and then we're spending 4 days in Rome. We're flying back on the 27th just in time for the new work week (ugh).

I plan on relaxing on this holiday. I've been under so much stress lately because of work. I've said it before and I'll say it again: you'll find yourself with double the amount of work right before you leave for a holiday. In this case, I have a huge trial coming up, and I'm trying to prepare my hardest before I go. However, I will definitely make sure to savor this trip. It's one of the very few trips we have planned pre-parenthood and I want to take advantage of it!

I've already pre-booked a few sightseeing tours in Italy to get ourselves more organized. I'm all for organized walking trips so you don't have to spend any longer than you have to trying to find the major sightseeing stops. I like being efficient. This way, someone will show you where the sites are and you get a guided commentary to boot! I booked the trips via Art Viva and they come well-recommended!

So far, I haven't packed a thing, but I plan on doing a lot of the packing on Saturday morning. Hehe. I know, last minute, right? But I usually never pack in advance –I like to pack the night before and I make a very comprehensive list so I don't forget anything or overpack.

Harry Potter News

Before I go, I really, really, want to see the new Harry Potter movie. I'm a HUGE HP fan. Not only have I read all the books (and waxed poetic about them with anyone else who's read them), but I've seen all the movies on the day it came out. I know I should just wait until I get back to watch it (that way, I have something fun to look forward to), but I really, really want to see it on Friday. If I can't watch it on Friday, I'm debating on whether or not to catch an early matinee showing before my flight on Saturday! Yes, I am that obsessed. Hm...what to do?

Nonetheless, I will certainly have fun!

Happy Thanksgiving to all those celebrating! While you're dining on turkey and stuffing, I'll be having delicious, authentic Italian food! Ciao!

Song of the Day:
Plastic Passion by The Cure
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POSTED BY KAT AT 11/16/2005 07:09:00 PM | 0 COMMENTS

Friday, November 11, 2005

It's Showtime!

Plastiq Passion had its' debut gig last Thursday, Nov. 10th at the Grand Central Cafe in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It's the first time I ever played on stage in front of an audience!

We had a midnight time slot and had to check in about an hour before showtime. The band went there separately --I drove with my friend Girlie and got lost in Brooklyn! We drove around in circles trying to find the joint, and we eventually found it with the help of a guy who drove us a map. When we got there, the band before us was setting up and the band before them was trying to pack up their stuff. All in all, there were 4 bands scheduled to play that night. We all played varying genres of music. I believe the first 2 bands were on the heavy metal/industrial side, and then the band before us were more pop-rock/classic rock. Then there was us --I would describe us a garage band that plays alternative/emo rock verging on being folksy. I was pretty floored by the band before us who had a pretty tight set. But everyone told us we'd do fine.

We had a lot of friends there to support us. Jes (our frontperson/vocals/guitars) and bassist du jour Carl (her brother) brought their posse; Tara (our drummer) brought her own peepz who drove from upstate NY just to see her! My friends also came out to show their love. Special thanks to Girlie (who drove from Connecticut!), the Party Posse, The Caroll Gardens crew (George & Rich), Laurie and Eric (who drove the whole gang over in his party van), Alex, and Steve (who took most of the photographs posted below).

I was damn nervous and couldn't even look out at the audience when we first got up. This would've been a perfect time to down a couple of shots of tequila. But after the first song, I mellowed out since it was basically a bar full of friends (and random strangers I figure I'd never see again). We had a pretty good reception and all our friends were yelling words of encouragement the whole night (granted, they were all pretty drunk as well!). Even the bar managers said they dug us, bought us a round of drinks, and said we would definitely book us again. The bar manager even put out a bucket for tips and we earned $32 that night!! Hehe! Pretty soon, I may be able to quit my day job! Sweet!

All in all, we had a crazy, wacky, kick-ass time! Jes and Carl's friends were so funny and rowdy that they instantly put us at ease. And afterwards, people we didn't even know complimented us and said we did a good job. I know we definitely need improvement, but it's nice to know that people think we have potential and dig our unique sound. I'm really looking forward to playing more gigs! And there may be another one around the corner!

My friends, Phil & Christina couldn't make it to the show...
So they sent these gorgeous flowers instead!
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Flyer for the Show
(with our name spelled slightly wrong!)
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Plastiq Passion
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Action shots of the band:
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Carl & Jes
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Kat on the Mic
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Tara & Carl

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Check out the Solo:
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Posing after the Show
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Song of the Day:
Outsiders by Franz Ferdinand
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POSTED BY KAT AT 11/11/2005 10:13:00 PM | 0 COMMENTS

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Kat’s Day Off!

I don’t have work today courtesy of Election Day. It’s so nice to have a day-off mid-week so you can run errands. And since I'm not eligible to vote yet, I thought I'd do other productive things. Here’s my to-do list in no particular order:

  • Go to Chinatown for lunch and visit my favorite noodle dive: Wonton Garden (haven’t been there in years!)

  • Pick up my passport and visa from the Italian Consulate (Viva Italia! Only 11 more days to go!)

  • Visit my friends Trish and Rol and their uber-cute bebe Alex –as well as check out invitations that Trish kindly ordered for my baby shower.

  • Walk around Soho and the West Village for some form of cardio (and shopping I might add).

  • Come back home and do some housework (like clean up my desk full of bills and junk mail).

  • Buy groceries since there’s nothing in the fridge.

  • Go to the cleaners to alter my brand new Citizens of Humanity Maternity jeans (yes, I actually splurged with the help of a $70 gift certificate…but I live in jeans outside of work so I think it’s worth it).

  • Play guitar and go over songs for Plastiq Passion's first-ever gig this coming Thursday! (ye gods…can you say terrified? Although since it’s a midnight show, I highly doubt anyone will be there!)

Okay, I best run off and actually get ready. Have a great week everyone!

Song of the Day:

Between Us & Them by Moving Units

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POSTED BY KAT AT 11/08/2005 10:49:00 AM | 0 COMMENTS

Friday, November 4, 2005

To My Bestest Friend...

Happy Birthday to the greatest guy,
Who makes me happy and makes me smile
He’s always patient, supportive, and kind
He’s also intelligent with a brilliant mind
He’s always hard-working, trustworthy, and fair
He does all the housework, yes even my share!
He hardly gets mad, and always knows what to say
Whenever I feel crabby, or had a bad day.
He’s sweet, he’s loving, and hilarious too,
Happy Birthday my hubs, I love you!
POSTED BY KAT AT 11/04/2005 08:20:00 AM | 0 COMMENTS

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

10 Not-So-Cool Things About Being Pregnant

10. People will fawn over you and force you to make small talk.

9. People will share their pregnancy horror stories with you –whether you like it or not.

8. People will always have 'advice' to share with you –whether you like it or not.

7. You will not be able to fit into your favorite outfits.

6. The selection of maternity clothes –cool ones will be expensive and the ones you can afford will be on the crappy side or will be styles you normally don’t wear.

5. Bending over to tie your shoes or pick something up will leave you huffing and puffing.

4. You will feel fat and big.

3. Not being able to snowboard.

2. No meeting up with friends for drinks or going out for sushi or raw oysters (unless you’re really daring!)

1. Realizing that the baby will have to come out in some way, shape, or form! Yikes!

10 Cool Things About Being Pregnant

10. People will treat you much nicer than before. Even folks who barely said hi to you before pregnancy (BP) will take the time to ask how you are doing.

9. You can always ask your friends or co-workers “are you going to eat that?” and they more than likely will give you some of their food (although I already do tend to ask that BP).

8. Gaining weight is a good thing and something you actually have to do!

7. You can eat all the ice cream you want (although this applied to me BP as well).

6. You can get away with doing less housework! (The hubs has taken over the cleaning of the bathroom because of the fumes from the cleaners we use).

5. You don’t have to work out as much as you did before (in fact, you shouldn’t do cardio that will raise your heartrate to over 140 bpm! In my case, I just turned into a couch potato.)

4. Your boobs will get bigger (although it hasn’t happened to me yet. I’m still waiting!)

3. Shopping for new clothes is a must!

2. Baby-related prep work: thinking of how to decorate the nursery; buying little baby outfits; creating a baby registry; thinking up of baby names; dreaming of the baby...etc...

And the number ONE cool thing about being pregnant is….

1. You don’t have to suck in your gut after a big meal!

All kidding aside, so far my pregnancy has been a breeze. I never had any morning sickness to begin with, and so far, I haven't broken the scale in terms of weight gain (although I'm sure I'll double in size later on). I'm pretty energetic and I'm not more tired than usual (although I know I should really do some form of physical activity). And I'm really trying to eat better. I *try* to eat at least one fruit and 3 types of veggies a day (I won't even mention the amount of junk food I ate on Halloween!)

I actually joined a prenatal yoga class and it started today. It was a better experience than just doing my prenatal yoga DVD at home. For one thing, it was cool to see other preggo women since we all come in different shapes and sizes. I think I am huge for someone who is only 22/23 weeks pregnant, but like they say, every pregnancy is different and you shouldn't compare yourself to others. Still, I think I've ballooned! See for yourself!

Me at 18 Weeks (4.5 months)

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Me at 22 Weeks (5.5 months)

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Song of the Day:

Do You Want To by Franz Ferdinand

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p.s. HAPPY 15th BIRTHDAY to my Li'l Bro Mikey!

POSTED BY KAT AT 11/02/2005 10:09:00 PM | 0 COMMENTS

who is kat?

a wanna-be rockstar with mediocre guitar skills | mom to rockstar baby | guitarist in a band | 30 but not grown-up | this is all about my musings. music. motherhood. and mayhem.

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