Saturday, June 29, 2013

So We Have Reached the Halfway Point (and the promised 6-month photo)

I'm going to post this photo of a cute little fluffy bunny because I seem to have very little control over what images end up on Facebook when I post my blog links there.  Sometimes I can choose and sometimes it just automatically puts the first image on the blog in the news feed.  I don't need my progress photo to be seen by everyone I know on Facebook, so I'll make sure the first image is not of me.

Now that we have that out of the way, let's talk progress.

I'm not happy with how far I have come in the past six months.   I have put in a good effort, but it hasn't been good enough.  I am faithfully doing my workouts and reading my lessons every day, but I slack off way too often on my food habits.  This has meant that my weight and my measurements have stagnated.  This week's lessons were supposed to inspire me, but instead they sort of depressed me.  They were about how compliance guarantees success and how we should be looking at how far we have come.  I don't feel I have come very far.  I had hoped to be halfway to weight goal by now and another 3 or 4 inches smaller.

I was also rather disappointed in my performance with the past workout phase.  I felt so powerful and strong in Phase 4.  Phase 5 has humbled me enormously.  The coaches are trying to steer us in the direction of doing full pullups.  The workouts started with band pulldowns and then went to reverse rows.  Now we have to do pullups with an assistance band.  I use the tightest band available and I still can't lift my face above the bar more than once.  It feels sort of pathetic. I'm not sure I can still do 25 pushups at a time either.

I finally emailed my coach about my despair.  She was supportive and reminded me that it's in my hands if I follow the plan or just fall back in my old patterns.  She keeps telling me that she can see the progress that I'm not seeing in my photos.  She also gave me some worksheets on planning and goal setting.  In the coming week we are getting a week off from any habits.  It's supposed to be a time to rest and refocus.  I hope to use this week as constructively as possible. and simply work on all of my past habits.

There is so much to consider when it comes to my expectations of where I should be and where I want to be.  What do I truly hope to gain from this program?  What do I think I will ultimately look like?  I posed this question in another post.  What if I lose the desired 30-40 pounds and find that I lose my boobs and butt?  What if I end up with much worse?  I found this rather interesting and provocative photo shoot by a woman who lost 160 pounds.  What she accomplished was tremendous, and she deserves praise for both her accomplishments and her bravery, but I can see how she might feel unhappy.  When we lose weight we hope to look like a skinny celebrity or fitness model.  The reality can be quite different.  Most of us who undergo weight loss programs can't afford plastic surgery.  Loose and sagging skin is a likely outcome for many of us.

I dream of having a smoking hot body when I'm finished with this program.  Even if I lose all of the weight I want to, I might end up looking worse than I do now.  I'm no spring chicken.  I think I'm very lucky that weight training has so far prevented me from developing bat wings on my arms and from having a saggy butt.  Being child-free has helped my big belly stay above my waistline.  I still have other flaws that could potentially be exaggerated by weight loss.  My skin is clearly aging.  Too many years of wearing as little clothing as possible in the sun is slowly causing the skin on my arms and legs to buckle and wrinkle.  There is a little "texture" on the backs of my arms and thighs and between my legs.  (Reason #312 I don't have a tattoo:  What looks good on smooth taut skin will look quite different as skin ages, sags, and wrinkles.)  If I lose a significant amount of weight the results of skin aging might be magnified instead of diminished.  Even if my skin still looks reasonably firm, it won't look the way it would have looked if I had managed to lose this weight at 23 instead of 43.

So why do I care so much about losing weight?  I'm healthy right?  I eat well and exercise like a fiend.  What more should I ask of myself?

I have to look at it this way: If I didn't care at all about how I looked, I doubt I would take care of myself the way I do. I'm sure if I weren't concerned about my weight and bodyfat, I would not be so devoted to exercising as I am now.  I would be somewhat active.  I would certainly still ride.  I might dance.  I would definitely go swimming every chance I had.  I simply would not devote the time at the gym that I do now.   I also know my eating habits would be horrible. I would likely still eat fruits and vegetables, particularly in the context of my love of cooking.  I just wouldn't branch out and try many beyond a certain few I have always liked, nor would I be so obsessive about making sure I ate a certain number each day.

I'm not one of those people who naturally gravitates towards nutritious foods.  I'm sure if I didn't care about my weight my breakfasts would be full of heavy starches or bacon and egg sandwiches, lunch would be pizza or giant deli sandwiches or takeout Chinese, and I'd probably make lots of pasta dishes for dinner -frying things to my heart's content.  I would have cookies every day for an afternoon snack and ice cream for dessert every night.   I would never see a reason to eat a salad if tastier options were available. The one positive side to that would be that my friends and family would be very happy as I would bake much more than I do now.

I have been trying for years to reshape my body, and in the process I have whipped my body into pretty good shape, and cleaned up my diet to some degree.  I know I eat better than most of the population.  When I hear about how the average American drinks gallons of soda in a week, or acres of pizza in a year, I can feel smug that I rarely have either one of those foods.  I never buy foods with added sugar unless I am specifically buying dessert (which I keep to a minimum).  I do my best to keep processed foods out of the house and the processed foods I do have (like cereal or fake milk) are Kevin's and I don't touch them because I see them as his.

Knowing that I might have unrealistic expectations about how my body can look, I feel it might be time to reframe the goal.  This isn't about how lean I can be.  This isn't about how sexy I can be.  This isn't about how thin I can be.  This should be about how healthy I can be.  My body is a reflection of what I put into it and how I treat it.  Can I treat it better?  Can I put better stuff in it?

Anyway, for now let's just focus on the progress I have made.  How far have I come?  What do I look like?

Here I am at the halfway point.

I really am finally seeing a difference between this photo and the one I took at the beginning of the year.  I think I can stop that despair thing.  Maybe the progress isn't terribly dramatic, but there is progress.

Pounds lost: 10.2
Inches lost: 13.5
% Bodyfat lost: 7%

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Week 23- whole foods (note lowercase letters)

I didn't lose anything this week. I will not hit my June goal. It's my own fault.  For the past 3 days I completely skimped on this week's habit.

This week's habit is to eat whole foods only.  (That's whole foods, and not Whole Paycheck.)  In other words stick to fresh foods, foods without labels, foods that don't come pre-packaged unless absolutely necessary.  I strive to eat that way normally, so even though this is considered a "stretch goal," it's not new to me.  I have always believed if it comes in a bag, box, or can, we should avoid eating it. 

There are always gray areas when it comes to whole foods though.  Canned beans, canned tomatoes, dairy, and intact grains are often considered acceptable in a whole food diet.  This week I did include some of these foods such as dairy and steel-cut oatmeal (never rolled or instant). We will try not to talk about the bread and cake at Malcolm and Penelope's graduation party, or the snacking on leftover cake... Next week I am going to try to go full-on paleo.  I will not eat any grains, dairy or legumes.  Whatever controversy there is about the legitimacy or sustainability of a paleo diet, I know stripping down one's diet to the basics has had some very positive effects on my body in the past.

I think it's kind of funny how LE lulls you into thinking the program is easy for two weeks and then sneaks up on your with some really difficult habit.  We go from "create and use a sleep ritual" to "drink only calorie-free beverages."  The next week it's as simple as "take a branch chain amino acid supplement after a workout" and then hits me with, "eat only whole foods." Let's see what nice easy habit they give us after next week.

I had plenty of positives this week.  I am not getting myself too down about the slip-ups on the habits and the lack of weight gain.  Things are happening with my body.

Monday I went to the park to do my new "sprint-and-whatever" workout.  First, even though I have only done this workout twice before, the sprints were becoming easier.  I didn't feel as if my lungs would collapse after a sprint.  Second, my pants kept falling down!*  They were truly way too big on me.  I bought those pants the week I was stranded in Chicago two years ago due to a blizzard.  It was the week after Christmas and I was the heaviest I had ever been in my life (about 15 pounds above where I am now).   I think one of the reasons why the sprints seemed easier was that I couldn't run fast when I was trying to keep my pants up.

Also this week I was at the gym and one of the older guys who has been working out there as long as I have commented to me that I had lost a lot of weight.  Then he said, "You look a lot better than you did two or three years ago."  That just left me asking to myself, "How bad did I look two or three years ago?"

A bonus is that I'm competing in a horse show tomorrow.  It's a schooling show, so I don't really have to dress for it, but I still want to look nice.  I have no show clothes that fit me anymore (I stopped doing horse shows when I was still in my twenties and then I was using a jacket and ratcatcher I had bought in my teens.)  My skinny mother lent me one of her dressage shirts.  It fits.

Next week is the biggie.  We have the trifecta.  In addition to usual weekly measurements and weight, I also have to take photos and do bodyfat measurements.  Yikes.  I hope I see improvement.

*Free to good home: one pair black, capri-length Lululemon workout pants, size large.  Good condition.  Do not have see-through butt.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

More Random Thoughts

I hate pullups.

Lesson learned: Don't let the first 10 minutes of your ride get you down for an entire lesson.  Sometimes your horse needs a few minutes to get into the zone.  You can turn that ride around.

Reason #36 to keep Facebooking to a minimum:  Those ad-based posts.  Some of those ads are for the dumbest, spammiest products ever.  What's worse is that people comment on them.  Why would you want to be involved in a comment thread on an ad?

Autocorrect is so funny.  I tried to write "spammiest" and it kept trying to rewrite it as "spam modest."  Modest spam always wears a can.

Am I the only person who loses herself in LinkedIn?  I look someone up for a purpose and then find myself interested in that person's contacts and then I see who those people's contacts are... Truly we have reached the state of six degrees of separation.  I am amazed at how people I know are connected to each other in ways I never would have guessed.

Two commercials I hate:  1. Subaru commercials - all of them.  2. Those Charmin commercials.  Sure the bear thing was funny in the early days with the play on what bears do in the woods.  Now showing a washing machine and saying, "This is one way to keep your underwear clean and our toilet paper is the other way," is just nasty.  Also "enjoy the go" is not a great tag line.

I sit in the office in my summer dress freezing in the air conditioning.  The men are all too warm in their suits, so they take off their jackets.  Why can't one of them be gallant and offer me the jacket he quite obviously isn't using?

Some people are just addicted to anger.  Have you ever noticed that?  They find one thing to be angry about, and sometimes it's justified and righteous, and the next thing you know they have to find another dozen issues to be angry about.   Some people are just not happy unless they're angry at something or with someone.

Are liberals lazy bums who don't want to work and collect public assistance, or are they wealthy elitists who are out of touch with real Americans?  I'm still trying to figure that one out.  Also, which one am I?

I need an excuse to call someone "a complete kneebiter." ("Smeghead" will also suffice)

Now that we have removed all of our clothes, shoes, and accessories out of the closet, how will we ever get it all back in?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Week 22 - Officially Halfway

This is the official halfway mark of the program.  So far I am down 10.2 pounds, 10 inches, and 4% body fat.  I didn't lose a full two pounds this week, although I think I put in a good effort.  I barely lost any girth either.

I am looking at the end of the month.  That is my personal unofficial halfway point.  I am looking at this journey as the course of a whole year and not just the weeks of the program.  That's why I am still looking at the second half of June as a chance to lose 4 more pounds and be halfway to my goal weight.  Also, at the end of the month I will be finished with the current workout phase, have another series of photos, and I believe another bodyfat measurement.

Then I considered two very important points.

The first is I'm becoming too obsessed with the scale.  LE has four methods of measuring progress.  The scale is one of them.  The girth measurements are another.  The bodyfat measurements are yet another.  Then we round it all out with photos for a visual picture of what's happening.  What else am I seeing besides what I see on the scale.

The other  point is that I'm becoming obsessed with the time I have left.  I keep thinking, "What can I do to make a change before the program ends?"  That's a very good question, because the program will end.  What if I don't make my goals before the end of the year?  What if I do?  After a year of forming habits and doing intense workouts, should I just stop what I'm doing?  Of course not!  I will need to come up with a plan though for my post LE life. 

I would hate to not make a dramatic change by the end of the year because it means I will definitely not win any prize money, but I have to accept that not being where I want to be at the end of the year is a possibility.  I have motivations beyond the prize money to either get to my goal body, or maintain the goal body I have achieved.  A month after the program ends I have my Costa Rica trip.  I'm going to want to stay on track for that.  I'm sure I can find other motivations once I return from the trip.

Precision Nutrition started out as just a DIY program.  They still sell the materials for that on the website and I might buy it so I always have it for reference.  Nerd Fitness is a great website and has some good workout programs for sale.  I might try them too. 

But I suppose the point of the program is the name of my team.  Today, not Tomorrow.  So it's on to another week and another habit and hopefully just a tad more progress.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Week 21 - What Would It Take?

I am very pleased to have lost three of the five pounds I gained.  I suppose much of that weight was water weight.  I am now down about 10 inches as well. I had sword I would follow every habit to the letter this week.  I didn't exactly do that, but I followed them enough it seems.  My progress might be slow, but it's happening.

I'm not sure if anyone who is following this blog read my post for Week 20.  It's here on the blog, but if you use Facebook to follow my posts, you probably missed it because I never got around to posting it on Facebook.  If you are that desperate to read it, just scroll past the long-winded "What I did in San Francisco" post.

I am almost 6 months into the program.  I'll be hitting the halfway mark.  At the end of the six-week workout cycle I'll have to take photos again.  What will I see?  What do I hope to see?  Where do I go from here?

I wanted to be halfway to my goal weight by the time the year was half over.  That would be a total of 15 pounds (well, 15.5 really since my goal is to lose 31 pounds or you could say 20.5 since my fantasy goal is to lose 41 pounds).  I am down 9 pounds right now, having lost as much as 11 pounds on the program and gaining back two.  I asked myself this week, "What would it take to get to the halfway mark by the end of June?"

I know exactly what it would take.  It will take almost complete compliance.  It will take a willingness to prioritize my goals over food.  It will mean never slacking off on my workouts and doing each one fully and with intention.

Coaches and mentors keep saying the second half of the year is where the real progress happens, so let's see what happens.

The new habit this week is to take a branch chain amino acid supplement after every workout.  This is a pretty simple one, which I guess is supposed to give us a breather after spending two weeks drinking calorie-free beverages.  They claim it's supposed to help with recovery as BCAAs are supposed to help maintain muscle tissue.  My lessons this week have been all about recovery and what different activities you can do to recover.  They have even changed the workout cycle.   Since it's a six-week cycle, on the fourth week we actually scale back with the weights and do more active recovery on the non-weight days rather than high-intensity workouts.

Now that I don't have dance class anymore, I have to find some fun activities to do for active recovery.  I can go back to taking long walks in the neighborhood, but that can get old fast.  I used to like Rollerblading and my skates are sitting in my car trunk collecting dust and exhaust fumes.  I just need a good place to skate.  I used to like Kensico Dam, but the last few times I was there the path hadn't been well-maintained and the pavement was becoming too rough and bumpy to skate.  SUNY Purchase is better, but I'm not confident enough on skates to deal with those hills.  Maybe after work I should head to Central Park and "hike".  I have also considered keeping up dance classes by going to the Broadway Dance Center where I can take classes on a pay-as-you-go basis.  I have been considering taking a class in something I have had no experience in like contemporary or perhaps take another try at my first love, ballet.  I am reluctant to take ballet because it requires minimal clothing.  I don't feel good enough about my body right now to appear in public in just tights and a leotard.  I can reconnect with my Kinect.  Also, it's been a while since I last sat down and did a full-length yoga session.

On to Week 22.  Let's see if I can get down another two pounds this week.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

San Francisco Trip Recap

Day 1+ - The night before we left didn't give us any good omens. There was a bad storm that partially knocked out our power. We knew that the battery backup for our FiOs was dead, but we thought we had disabled the low battery alarm. When the power went out, we could not stop the low battery alarm from beeping. We would stop it for a little while and as soon as we were asleep for a while, it would go off and beep incessantly again. We finally called Verizon and begged for help. Somehow they managed to tell us how to remove the battery. It was not the best night's sleep.

The worst seemed to be over in the morning. We made it to the airport in good time and there were no issues with our flight. We flew Virgin America for the first time. I had hoped Virgin America would be a domestic version of Virgin Atlantic. Sadly it's not. On Virgin Atlantic the food, booze, and entertainment are free in coach. Not so with Virgin America. Only non-alcoholic beverages and a few cheap snacks are free and there are no free movies. One cool option they have though is you can order food from your seat and pay with a credit card and they will come and deliver it to your seat even if it's not service time.

We made it to San Francisco in good time and got a taxi to our hotel. Our driver made sure to tell us all of the ways San Francisco is superior to New York. We stayed at the Omni in the Financial District. It was a charming place and a bit more high end than the kind of hotels we usually stay in. We had doormen letting us in instead of automatic doors for example. Kevin was a little disappointed in our room. He had booked a room on the 14th floor hoping it would have a good view, but the view was just the backs of buildings. It was too early to check in when we arrived, but I had made lunch reservations at a nearby dim sum restaurant, so we secured our bags and went to go pig out.

We had quite a view uphill outside the hotel.

After lunch we checked in and went for a walk. We walked through the Embarcadero Center. The stores were all closed, but it was nice to walk through all of the charming courtyards and gardens on the roof. On the other side there was a flea market going on, so we browsed that a bit before heading to the Ferry Building. We took some pictures of the bay and headed back. I went to the gym for a badly-needed workout and headed back to our room and lay down. Jet lag had taken its toll at this point and we could not stay awake. We went to bed really early that night.

Day 2 - I was wide awake and refreshed at 4:30 AM.  Darn that jet lag! There was not a whole lot to do with my morning. As soon as it seemed like a decent hour, we went out in search of breakfast. This was easier said than done. San Francisco is a city that, unlike New York, sleeps. I had noticed on Sunday afternoon most businesses were closed. The theme continued on Memorial Day Monday. We had no desire to eat in the hotel restaurant because the cost was ridiculously expensive. The concierge managed to locate an open cafe for us.

Later that morning we set out on the Embarcadero for Fisherman's Wharf, making sure to behave like tourists and constantly stop for pictures. We started out at Pier 39. We bought a city pass and used it to view the aquarium. As aquariums go, it was kind of mediocre, although the jellyfish were cool and so was the underwater tunnel. We also made sure to drop in on the sea lions.

Our city passes had tickets for a sightseeing ferry that also departed from Pier 39. We had some lovely views from the water of the local sights such as Alcatraz, Ghiradelli Square, the Jeremiah O'Brien, and the Golden Gate Bridge. It was too bad it was foggy out. It was also kind of cold and rainy. It wasn't a great day to be out on the water.

We had lunch at a restaurant at Pier 39 and continued our way to Fisherman's Wharf. One of the best parts of the walk was a stop at Rodney Lough's photo gallery. He is a brilliant photographer who shoots gorgeous landscape photos, many of which are in national parks. This was right up Kevin's alley.

Once we arrived at Fisherman's Wharf, we considered touring the Jeremiah O'Brien and the submarine, but the admission was really more than we wanted to pay. We checked out the Musee' Mechanique, which is a museum containing arcade games and amusements from several eras. They are all still in operation too. I was a little freaked out by Laughing Sal but I had to take her picture anyway. It's fun to step back in time when amusements were simpler.

We really couldn't stand the crowds at Fisherman's Wharf anymore, so we decided to hop a cable car back to our hotel. We picked it up at the turnaround where it goes on to a rotating platform and is manually turned in the other direction.

After a brief rest at the hotel, we set out for a walk through Chinatown. We browsed some of the cheesy shops for a while and decided to call it a day.

When we felt hungry later on we had the same problem with dinner that we had with breakfast. Nothing was open. We ended up at a Thai restaurant with mediocre food and a strong desire to get all customers out the door quickly.

Day 3 - The holiday was over so we could finally find plenty of places for breakfast. That was a relief. We had booked the boat to Alcatraz that morning. We decided not to walk and used our Muni pass to take the bus to the pier. We had to pick the bus up at the Ferry Building. The big farmer's market was going on and I wished I could browse it, but I didn't know how long it would be until the bus arrived. I had no worries there. It was a very long and drawn out wait.  What made it even more fun was that while I was standing there at the bus stop when I smelled something...interesting. I wondered where the smell came from and if it might be residual from some activity from the night before. I turned around to trace the source and to my surprise I saw a guy openly smoking a joint right there. I decided to stand elsewhere, but the damage had already been done. Pot smoke tends to make me feel like someone is tickling my lungs with a feather dipped in ashes. I spent the next few minutes having a dandy coughing fit. Another auspicious start to a day. (Yes, you are supposed to read sarcasm in there.)

The bus took so long to arrive that I think we would have arrived sooner if we had walked. I have to say after this week I am thoroughly unimpressed with the SF transportation system. It's incredibly slow and inefficient. I never thought I would come to appreciate the NYC subways so much.

We finally reached the pier, boarded the ferry and we were on our way. We enjoyed the audio tour and the walk around the gardens. It is such an interesting little island. It has the beautiful bay views, the lush gardens, and abundant wildlife (seagulls nest everywhere) and it is all juxtaposed with the unpleasant and now deserted prison and the ruined buildings.

Walking through there is fascinating. The audio tour is narrate by actual former guards and inmates, which makes it feel very authentic. They take you through all aspects of the prison and prison life from what it was like for the inmates to what life was like for the guards to what life was like for the families of employees.

After a very cold ride back to the shore, we took a taxi to the Coit Tower. It was a nice clear day so we thought the views would be great for photos. Unfortunately the window openings are covered in smudgy glass so the photos we took were a little hazy. We walked back to our hotel from there. It was all downhill so it was an easy walk. We strolled through North Beach on our way down, checking out some interesting shops. Once we were back to our room I headed back to Chinatown for a little while to find some gifts for the folks back home.

We booked our first high-end restaurant that night. We had a lovely dinner at Perbacco. We had to make it an early night since we were leaving early the next day for Yosemite.

Day 4 - Yosemite Day! This was the reason we came to San Francisco in the first place. I had booked a tour two months before with a small group van tour company. The night before I received a rather distressing phone call attempting to bump us and put us on a tour with another company. I would have gladly done it if the tour were comparable, but the other tour was on a large motor coach. I had specifically booked the original tour because it wasn't a large motor coach. I raised a stink and they honored my original reservation. At 7AM we were on our way.

Our guide Mitch was quite a character. When I first got on the van he exclaimed, "Rachel!" As if I were an old friend he hasn't seen in a while. He drove like a maniac. He narrated through the city as he picked up the other group members. It was helpful to see and experience a bit more of the city. Mitch didn't do too much to get us all interacting with each other unfortunately. I like these small group tours for the camaraderie they tend to foster. We didn't have too much of that.

After stopping at a lovely farmer's market for snacks and a grocery store to pick up a picnic lunch, we arrived in Yosemite around midday. Mitch drove us to some beautiful viewing spots and then we had three hours to explore on our own. Yosemite is beautiful, but it's not the easiest park to navigate. The trails are very long and not always well marked and the maps are not easy to read.

Kevin and I did the best we could with the time we had. We started by viewing the lower falls. I tried to climb as close as I could to the water's edge before the rocks became too wet and slick.

We hiked a bit around the Merced River loop from there. We had views of Half Dome, but we were too far from El Capitan. We were still able to take some good shots of the river, meadows, and rock formations. At one point we came to a calm part of the river where several children were wading. You know me. I can't resist water and I was quite warm in my hiking boots and heavy socks. I could not resist taking them off and cooling off a bit. I couldn't do it for very long though. It was a warm day, but it was still early in the season. Wading in the Merced River in May is like walking barefoot in the snow.

At the end of the day Mitch collected us and took us to some viewing spots for El Capitan and Cathedral Rock. We were able to spot climbers going up the rock face.

We returned to the city in one piece despite Mitch's driving. It was pretty late as the entire day was over twelve hours round trip. We had a late dinner and went straight to bed. We had another long day ahead of us.

Day 5 - Today we had scheduled a wine country tour. I was lucky that I hadn't scheduled it with the same tour company as the one we used for Yosemite. The group was a little bigger (they used a mini bus instead of a van) but at least our driver drove sanely.

We started our tour in Muir Woods. It was our only chance to see the redwoods this week. I wish I could have had more time there as the trails are beautiful and quite extensive. The trees block out much of the sunlight, making the paths rather cold, but the is something so stunning about the way sunlight filters through. I could not take enough pictures.

After the woods we drove along the Pacific Coast Highway and ended up at our first winery, a very small operation called Mayo. We sampled three wines there: sparkling, white, and red. I found them all to be rather interesting, particularly the Chardonnay we sampled. Kevin wasn't fond of any of them, so we didn't buy. They partially age the Chardonnay in oak and while I normally am not fond of oaky wines, I liked the distinctive flavor and texture of this one. Kevin thought the oak was way too much.

We stopped in the Sonoma town square for a lovely lunch. Then it was on to the next winery.

We crossed the border into Napa for the Madonna Winery. This is one of the oldest wineries in the area and had been family owned since 1922. We had another tour and then tried at least another five wines. This time we purchased a Pinot noir rose and had a little fun browsing the gift shop.

The final winery was Cline, which was also the largest. They set out a tent in the garden for our tasting. I had my first Viognier along with several other wines that I was becoming far too tipsy to remember. What really impressed us was a red dessert wine. They gave us some chocolate to taste alongside it. Not only did we purchase it, but I'm already planning my next dinner party where I plan to make an intensely chocolate dessert to serve with that wine.

On the way back we drove through Sausalito. We didn't stop, but we had the option of getting off the bus and taking the ferry back to the city. It might have be interesting as we could have had a little time to walk around, but it was getting late in the day and I think we had our fill of touring. We were rewarded for staying with the bus by driving to a viewing spot with a perfect view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Day 6 - Kevin and I were on our own once more. We headed to Golden Gate Park. We wanted to see the DeYoung Museum and the Academy of Science and anything else the park could offer us in a single day. We were fed up with the public transportation, so we took a taxi. It seemed like a very long taxi ride. The route from the hotel to the museum seems pretty direct on a map, but didn't feel too direct on the drive. We think the driver was taking advantage of us. On the good side, he went through Pacific Heights, so it was nice to view that neighborhood with all of that beautiful Victorian architecture.

We started at the DeYoung. We were very lucky to be there when we were. They had a special exhibit from the era of the Dutch masters. There were rooms full of interesting engravings and then finally into the gallery of paintings, which included The Girl with the Pearl Earring. Sadly we could not take pictures. We explored the museum a bit more after that and headed across the courtyard for the Academy of Science.

We had lunch in the museum restaurant and then checked out the rooftop garden, the planetarium, the rainforest rooms, and of course, the African penguins. We browsed the aquariums a bit, but we had had enough of those earlier in the week. The afternoon was winding down and we wanted to see the Tea Garden.

We had a pleasant walk around the Tea Garden, but I managed to fill my memory card while taking pictures of it. I found myself frantically trying to cull my photos so I would have more room. I was able to throw a few more photos in there. The Tea Garden was fitting counterpart to the crowded and noisy Science Academy. I would have liked to have seen the Botanical Gardens, but it was rather late. With no taxis in site, we had to tough it out on the bus to go back to our hotel. I will say that this time we didn't have to wait forever.

Most of the early evening was spent packing. It's the second worst part of travel (worst is unpacking and doing the vacation laundry) but it has to be done. We had a late dinner reservation at one more fine dining place so we could end our trip with a bang. A glass of wine, some live music, and a good steak is a fitting send off.

Day 7 - It was an early morning departure. We said goodbye to our beautiful hotel with its friendly and helpful staff and took a taxi to the airport. Our plane departed on time and soon we were home.

Then it was time for that vacation laundry!