Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New York Pole Dancing

I took my second intro class with New York Pole Dancing today and I am so hooked! It makes such a big difference to know what you're doing a bit more, and just not feel like an idiot through the routine. The spins are coming naturally and the climb is not as torturous as before. Surprisingly, wearing über high heels made it a lot easier and ... is it strange if I say more natural? I mean, let's face it, the, um, original practicioners of these moves crafted them in Lucite heels, so I think we should go with tradition.

I've decided to go with New York Pole Dancing because a) they gave me a 10% off coupon and I am cheap; and b) the scheduling is more flexible than Shockra's and I need that with this crazy life I'm currently leading. S Factor was always out of the question for me since I'm not made out of money. But I don't feel that I'm "settling" for NYPD. I prefer their fuss-free approach. I've spent a big chunk of my life dancing ballet and jazz, so I'm way more comfortable with a technical, classroom approach. I liked how NYPD just gets down to business: you warm up, you learn a routine, and you're done for the day. I would recommend S Factor for someone who's always been curious about pole dancing but is maybe a little more inhibited, because they have a really great way of drawing you out, making you feel comfortable, and easing out your inner sexpot. But if you're already uninhibited and just really want to learn this skill, I think NYPD's the way to go.

So as soon as I get the logistics sorted out, I intend to sign up for a 10-class package. I'm so excited! A tiny bit obsessed too, maybe, since I've spent the last hour looking through the videos on the NYPD website and browsing through You Tube. I actually found a video of NYPD's owner, Wendy Traskos (also pictured above) doing this jaw-droppingly sexy and skillful routine. Oh, and another mind-blowing factoid: can believe she's dancing to a song by the New Kids on the Block?! Who knew those guys could still bring sexy back?

Can't wait for my next class! Climb & Spin, here I come ...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Surfing's in Vogue

Today while I was looking up places to take surfing lessons in Montauk, I stumbled upon a story in this month's Vogue on surfing. I haven't read Vogue in ages so I don't know what direction they're heading these days, but surfing was the last place I thought they'd go. And as if that wasn't strange enough, they devised this scenario where Hamish Bowles and Blake Lively learn how to surf from Rob Machado. Very odd. The article is called The Swell Life and if you get morbidly curious like I did, you can check it out by clicking here.

If anything, at least the Mario Testino-shot spread is nice to look at. Though it's tough to suspend disbelief and accept seeing Hervé Léger and Versace body con dresses on the beach.

I'm in total A.D.D. mode lately where I seem to keep finding myself simultaneously researching surf camps, running watches, hiking trails, dance poles, braised short rib recipes and Mexico vacation packages. More than twice a day I think to myself, "What mess have you gotten yourself into Celine?" But every time I cross one more item off the list and conquer one more challenge, the sweet taste of victory just becomes ever more addicting! So I guess I'm destined to run myself to exhaustion until May 21, 2011.

By the way, if anyone has recommendations for places in Montauk to take surfing lessons at, I would loooove to hear it. Research is driving me mad!

Hitting the sack. Wishing you all a fruitful and hopefully not too sweltering hot week!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Next Adventure: Road Trip to the Grand Canyon

It's really happening! Yesterday partner-in-crime Kate and I sat side by side with our Macbooks at Soy Cafe in the West Village, counted to three, and clicked the "Purchase Tickets" button. We're flying to Vegas on the last week of August to embark on a road trip through some amazing national parks until we hit one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World: the majestic Grand Canyon.

We've set aside seven days for this The 1-Week Grand Circle Road Trip, and are in the process of planning painstakingly to make sure we can hit all the spots and throw in some nice hikes. There are so many elements to this trip, from booking a car (a stick shift, if possible) to reserving camping spots and researching hiking trails. But it's totally worth the effort because there are some pretty amazing things to see out there.

The first stop is Zion National Park in Utah ...

... followed by Bryce Canyon National Park to say hello to some hoodoos ...

... then check out Capitol Reef National Park's wrinkles and domes ...

... then make like we're in the middle of a Western film at Monument Valley ...

... and at long last, stare slack-jawed at the Grand Canyon!

It's going to be a lot of work, but I know it'll be worth all the effort. Thank you Kate, for joining me in the madness. It will be a trip to remember America by!

Monday, June 21, 2010

I get high with a little help from my friends

I was basking in the afterglow of our amazing skydive all day today. Several people asked me, as they do every Monday, how my weekend was and what I did. How cool is it to respond to that with, "My weekend was fantastic. I went skydiving yesterday!" There's a millisecond of a pause where people blink and you can almost see a thought bubble over their heads saying, "Did she just say skydive?!"

I'm sure my friends Monica, Gina and Fiel shared in this pleasure too today. It was so awesome to jump with them. There's no way I would've been able to do this alone, so I have them to thank for helping me make that leap. All the jokes and never-ending chatter kept me from running far and away into the sunset.

Tonight the rest of the pictures started going up on Facebook, and I've spent the last few minutes just giggling over the funny memories and gasping at thrilling images. Check out Monica's and Gina's amazing skydive shots ...

We had one videographer each so some of them were able to capture the moment of the jump. In these pictures you'll get to see the amazing videographers who leapt with us to immortalize the moment. The first shows me just as we all jumped from the plane, while the second is Monica bidding the plane adieu. How wild is it that Monica's videographer is just right in front of her as she falls?

And the before pictures, with all of us looking surprisingly calm and happy, despite having just signed away our lives.

Good times, you guys! I am so glad I had a great group to jump with. I do hope that when (not if) some of you adrenaline junkies out there finally get the chance to take the leap, you'll have some equally nutty friends to join the fun and share this phenomenal experience with you. Thank you Gina, Fiel and Monica for being part of this awesome ride!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

#5: Skydive—check, baby, CHECK!

And it's done.
It was absolutely, positively one of the most incredible experiences of my life. My jaw still drops in disbelief at the thought that I jumped out of a plane today at 14,000 feet.

Gina, Fiel, Monica and I set out for the 2-hour drive at 10:30AM. I felt a little bad for Fiel who had to put up with the nervous chatter of three women from Manhattan all the way to Gardiner. After stopping for a quick lunch, we headed for The Ranch, where the temperature was steaming hot, the grass was nice and green, and the blue skies above were dotted with parachutes. My nervousness dissipated upon seeing the colorful parachutes floating gracefully to the grass. But it flared up again as we essentially signed away our lives with the waiver that had stipulations like "I understand that I can die" for us to initial. Once we started getting ground training from real live human beings though, I felt a little more calm.
My instructor was Jorge, a.k.a. Antonio Banderas. He's originally from Columbia and like the rest of the instructors, has a wicked sense of humor. Carolyn, who briefed us earlier on safety procedures, told us that the instructors have upwards of 10,000 skydives each under their belt (I blank on the exact numbers she gave because as you can understand, my priority at the time was focusing on not making a run for it). So when I met Jorge, I asked him, "How many jumps have you done?" With a straight face he said, "Yours will be my second. After your jump I get my certification." Another instructor joked around with our married friends Fiel and Gina. Fiel told him that Gina gets everything if anything happens to him, at which the instructor turns to Gina and says, "Let's talk later. We can work something out." 

Oh, and let's not forget the priceless gem of the day:

Jorge: So this was your idea?
Me: Yeah.
Jorge: What made you think of it?
Me: Well I have this list of 30 things to do before I turn 30 next year, and skydiving is on it.
Jorge: You should add me to that list.

My jaw dropped and then I burst out laughing, but as shocked as I was, it was a nice reprieve from being flat-out petrified. Only a charming Latin man responsible for keeping me alive during a 14,000-foot skydive can get away with a cheeky line like that. 

Before we knew it, we were rushing to the runway, getting our harnesses tightened up, and climbing into the 20-seater Twin Otter aircraft charmingly labeled Freefall Express. It all happened so fast that there was really no time to think about backing out. I just found myself seated on the floor of the plane right by the door, and we were taking off.

As you can tell from the massive grin on my face above, I was giddy with excitement during the whole plane ride. I was afraid I'd be whimpering on the floor in tears, but I was grinning like a fool the whole time. Okay, maybe being crammed in next to a hot West Point Black Knight skydiver may have had something to do with it. And it was helpful too that I had this Antonio Banderas doppelganger proffering some very Zen thoughts like, "Remember, this is a beautiful, once in a lifetime experience. Don't be scared. Make sure you enjoy it." Plus, there's always the one-woman comedy show that is my brain, where this thought process somehow brewed: "Hmm ... why did I wear leggings today? They're comfy and all, but what if I get some crazy camel toe while skydiving? Oh my god, how mortifying would it be if every single picture of my skydive shows a massive camel toe?! What a waste of $99!" Yes, this is what goes on in my head when I'm put in a life threatening situation.

And then, just like that, we were at 14,000 feet and all the advanced skydivers seated in front of me started methodically dropping out of the plane. See ya!
I knew I was gonna be the first of our group to jump since I was seated right by the door so I decided I wasn't gonna do much thinking and just go with the flow. I followed Jorge's instructions to stand up, walk to the door of the aircraft, and like we practiced rock once, twice, and ...
... we're off!
The first few seconds of free fall was like an out of body experience. I felt no panic, no fear. I didn't even scream. I was in a trance really, stuck in a looping mantra of, "Oh my god, this is unbelievable." It didn't feel like I was falling at all. The wind whips at you with a force you've never felt before, but you feel like you're just suspended in the air. At some point, I finally woke up to the fact that I was actually doing this. I was skydiving! And at that realization I had to let out some whoops of excitement. 
As crazy as all of this already was, the most surreal moment for me was to have the videographer, Laszlo, swoop in really close to us to take pictures and footage. It's amazing and all to have a video and photos of this experience (the video is actually pretty cool, not cheesy), but being able to interact with another free-falling person during the dive was also an amazing experience. He was so close I could've reached out and touched him. These guys were phenomenal. I told Jorge, "You have the most incredible job in the world." He agreed.
It felt like a good period of time before we hit 6,000 feet. At this point, Jorge moved my hands to do the "baby wave," the signal to other jumpers that we were about to open up our parachute. During the briefing I thought my mind would go completely blank during the jump and I wouldn't be able to do squat. But I was actually sufficiently focused and managed to pull the ripcord as instructed. With a whoosh, the parachute opened, we slowed down, and everything fell completely silent and peaceful. 

"You should take this moment to say thanks to whoever it is you worship for this gift," Jorge said.
"Absolutely," I replied. 

He pointed out the mountains in the distance, the streams below, the fluffy clouds above, and the impossibly blue sky we were floating in. Then he asked if I wanted to help steer the parachute and do some turns, which I actually did. It was pretty fun to spin around in the air, though I have to admit that after awhile I had to concentrate hard on not getting completely dizzy. It must have taken just minutes for all of this to happen, but it felt like a wonderfully long time of just flying. Absolute bliss. 

Finally, Jorge had me practice the landing, and seconds later, my tush was safely on the grass. 
"I'm alive!"
Soon after, my friends landed one by one, and we all rejoiced in the fact that we had done this absolutely crazy thing, and came out of it in one piece. We were flushed with adrenaline during the skydive and after hitting the ground. But on the ride home, our bodies started to feel the effect of the craziness we had put it through. There were moments of feeling nauseous that we attributed to all those turns we did on the parachutes. And quite frankly, I am exhausted from the stress and excitement of it all. But as I write this entry and rehash the amazing experience, I feel all warm and fuzzy inside, with the satisfaction of knowing that I did something truly amazing today. And I will treasure the memory of it for the rest of my life.  

And the pole dancing addiction begins ...

Today I took my first turn at the pole at S Factor with my partner-in-crime, Kate. We only learned the firefly, but I must say, it was an incredibly liberating and exhilarating feeling to take a spin around that pole! 

The S Factor Intro class is definitely a great way to start one's exploration of pole dancing, especially if you've got some inhibition to shed. I danced ballet and jazz, and was a cheerleader for a chunk of my life so I'm not exactly shy. But this is still an entirely different way to move and takes some getting used to. The setting is perfect: the lights are dimmed way low and there are no mirrors so you can't catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and get a sudden attack of self-consciousness.

We started with stretching and strengthening exercises on the mat. I thought it was clever how they pretty much trick you into doing some core exercises based on Pilates but make you feel sensual doing it. I almost burst out laughing at one point though when Barbara had us doing this move when you're down on all fours, slowly raising your bum up the air without lifting your chest from the floor. She looked smoking hot while doing it but I almost ate it at the mat and hit my nose in the process. Yes, I'm in need of a lot more practice.

They also taught us how to do "the walk", which was fun and sexy for the first minute. But after awhile I guess I lost my rhythm and started to get wobbly, and I had to stop from bursting into hysterics. It was fun to rehash that with Kate all afternoon over beers, but I don't think I can or should "unleash" my stripper walk on the world just yet.

The most fun part is, of course, the actual pole dancing part. We learned the firefly, which  consists of swinging your leg to hook the pole in front, and with that momentum you somehow go airborne and twirl around the pole, hopefully slowly and gracefully to the ground. It was a really fun move, and I wish we could've done more but that was the extent of pole-dancing for the intro. 

The last part of the class was a routine that involved some shimmying against a wall and actual crawling on the floor, which I must admit gave me a Little Miss Sunshine flashback for a second. But in all, it was very fun and definitely liberating to let go of inhibitions and, let's be honest, slut it up.

The instructors, Maggie and Barbara, ended the class by doing some amazing routines. Maggie impressed me because she was quite heavily pregnant but still spinning around that pole like she was weightless (On a side note, what is it about pregnant women showing me up these days? Last week it was Paula Radcliffe running like the wind, this week it's Maggie floating like a feather while I clomped around like an elephant). Barbara was just breathtaking. She is so amazingly sexy, graceful and athletic, and I have to say seeing her dance today is a major motivator for me to keep on learning pole dancing. Plus I wanna have this amazing assuredness and confidence that she has, which only comes when you're pretty much sex on legs like she is.

As much as I loved my S Factor class though, I can't find it in me (or in my bank account) to cough up $440 for 8 classes. I just really can't justify that price in my head. I know the classes are for 2 hours per session, which is longer than most classes offered in the city. But I'm really more interested in the pole dance part of it, so I could do without the first hour of booty shaking. It was great to do the intro (especially because I only paid $20 rather than the normal $40 price, thanks to Groupon) but I'll shop around before I even entertain the thought of taking more S Factor classes.

Next Friday I'll have my first of two intro pole dance classes with New York Pole Dancing. We'll see how that goes! But I'm pretty sure, today's class is just the first of many, many, many more to come.  

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Been There, Loved That: Bea and the ING New York Marathon

As far back as when we were wee high school girls dressed in Goldilocks-esque uniforms, I already knew Bea Locsin was made of strong stuff. Bea is one of those physically gifted people who's just good at everything she tries, whether it's cheerleading or football. But even though I've known about her strength and stamina since we were in our teens, I am still in complete awe of what she is doing these days. When she's not busy working as a money broker in ICAP Phil for the Interest Rate Swaps desk, Bea regularly trains for and competes in triathlons. These days she's got her sights set on conquering the big one: Ironman Zurich in July—that means powering through an 3.8km swim, 180km bike run and 42km run, in case you didn't know! Back in 2008, she accomplished one of my most daunting 30 Before 30 goals, which is to run in the ING New York Marathon. She has some really amazing anecdotes and incredibly helpful tips for wannabe marathoners like myself, so I thought she would be a perfect "Been There, Loved That" feature. Read on to find out more about Bea's ING New York Marathon experience and what it's like to live life in the fast lane.

What made you decide to do the New York Marathon?
Doing a marathon before I die was on my bucket list of things to do. After getting into triathlons, I knew this was going to be easy to cross off my list. In 2008, I found out that a few of my team mates from Polo Tri got slots to the NYC Triathlon in November. Perfect! I’ll have friends to do my first marathon with! Thing is, my friend already used up all the slots to the race ING had given him as a premier client. So, I went online and tried my luck in the lottery. Luck was on my side!

How did you prepare for it?
I got notice of my slot to the race in May or June. With 6 months to go, I was pretty lax about it. I first prepared for an Olympic distance triathlon (1.5km swim, 40km bike ride, 10km run) race in August. Training for that helped me get back the fitness I lost from surgery the previous year. My friends running NY with me were all seasoned runners, having ran at least 1 marathon each at under 4 hours! My goal was just to finish. Given our different levels in running, I couldn’t follow their program so I bought a few books and got a coach. I would see my coach in the track once or twice a week where he would give me structured interval training. Training on the track was very helpful because it gave me an accurate gauge of how hard I could push and for how long. Basically, I was running 4-5 times a week. 1 interval, 1 tempo, 1-2 recovery runs and 1 long run. I continued biking and swimming as well. I found that biking and swimming actually helped me recover faster from the hard workouts as well as aided in injury prevention.

When and how did you get into racing, in general? What was your fitness level like before you started racing?
While I was still in school, a friend of mine, Tricia Chiongbian was already doing triathlons. She told me many awesome stories about the experiences she had training and racing and I was keen on trying it out myself. However, at that time, I was still going out a lot, having fun. I didn’t get around to preparing for my first race until 2007. I decided to join the sprint distance race at the upcoming Subic Bay International Triathlon and I found 2 other friends to train for it with me.

I had been active all my life doing gymnastics, boxing, playing football, volleyball and golf. But as soon as I got a job after college, the hours I spent working out lessened. I would get busy and sometimes too tired to do anything after a full day of work. I was no couch potato but I would say that before preparing for my first sprint race, my fitness level was average. Oh, and I was still smoking a lot.

What was the experience of running the New York Marathon like?
As my first marathon, the NY Marathon will be hard to beat…

  • Walking from my corral to the starting line in Staten Island, I saw someone wrapped around in my red wool Baguio blanket that I had already discarded in the waiting tent
  • Seeing my friend, Niels, on the course. I didn’t even know he signed up!
  • Getting a few cheers saying, ‘Go Alaska!’ (I’m no Eskimo! I was wearing my team uniform and one of our major sponsors is Alaska Milk.)
  • Running with Borat, Rocky Balboa, a lighthouse and a flamingo (Some people ran all 42km in costume … Borat guy ran in a 1 piece neon green thong and it was 40 degrees!)
  • Seeing my family cheering for me somewhere along Central Park, Mom screaming her head off (using the athlete tracker, they were chasing me/looking for me since somewhere in Brooklyn but didn’t find me until 5km or less to the finish. Nice to have seen them at one point nonetheless)
  • Crossing the finish line (I'm done! Yipee!)
Low Points:
  • Mixed feelings here … Hit the 21km mark somewhere in Queens/Queensborough Bridge in 2:10, which was well within my target time (Yahoo!) BUT shortly after, I started to cramp
  • Cramps got worse somewhere in 1st Avenue and the Nineties. I couldn’t run. Even the left side of my face where I had surgery cramped up. I thought I was getting a stroke or something. Scary!
What makes the NY Marathon different from any other race you've done?
The NY Marathon is the only race I’ve done that had a Gospel Choir outside a church somewhere in Brooklyn (Solid!), a school marching band somewhere in Harlem (Cute!), thick, thick crowds of people cheering for you (many races have very minimal spectators) and best of all, no other race allows you to run through the 5 boroughs of one of my favorite cities in the world

Top 5 most memorable races:
  1. Ironman 70.3 Philippines (Super fun race and I came in 2nd in my age group. Personal Best)
  2. NY Marathon
  3. Ironman 70.3 Singapore (My first half ironman)
  4. SUBIT 07, my first race (I was on a borrowed mountain bike and I didn’t even know how to change gears!)
  5. The Tour of Friendship is a 5 day bike race ... a mini Tour de France ... biking from Bangkok to remote parts of Thailand, all in all over 600km of racing in 5 days. Super intense since the girls had to bike with all the men. I crashed on the first day and suffered the last 4 stages with a minor back injury, placing 3rd on the 3rd stage of the race.
Any tips for newbies like me who are attempting the NY Marathon?
  • Don’t do too much too soon. Build up your mileage slowly.
  • Listen to your body. Adjust your training plan accordingly. If you are tired or not feeling well, skip the workout and don’t feel bad.
  • Make sure to have at least 2 pairs of shoes while training so that by race day, the shoes you will wear won’t have worn out soles!
  • Figure out what nutrition plan works best for you. Try using whatever will be given out on race day while training (I think they serve Powerbar gels, bananas and Gatorade every year)
  • Find out what motivates you. This will come in handy on days when you’re too lazy to get out of bed and on kilometer 35 when you are just about to hit ‘the wall’. (During races, I end up talking to myself sometimes… Using Lance Armstrong’s motto: “Pain is temporary. Quitting is forever.”)
  • Have fun out there :)
How has all of this changed your life?
Getting back into a systematic and organized training regimen has dramatically altered my lifestyle. I now wake up and start my day at the time I used to go home! I have stopped smoking and though I binge on junk every now and then, I eat healthy stuff all the time, lots of fruits and vegetables and no red meat. Training and racing has helped me become more focused and driven, making me want to do even greater things for myself.

How do you maintain balance in your life while training so seriously for these races?
That’s one thing I try not to be—too serious when it comes to my races. I definitely put my eye on the prize, whatever it may be, but I believe that in everything, there should be an element of fun. It’s no fun when all you do is work, swim, bike and run. I’m a people person so I make sure to spend time with my family and dog and hang with my friends, though in more sober settings nowadays.

How do you unwind after a major race?
It’s all about the post recovery meal! Besides using that to unwind, it’s an incentive, something I look forward to. I plan out where and what I am going to eat. I also like getting massages. They’re the best!

What's the next big thing for you to conquer and how are you preparing for it?
I have 2 things to conquer. The first is finishing my race in Zurich. I want to be part of the official Iron(wo)man club. The second is getting myself into a good MBA program by next school year. That will be a dream come true.

In all honesty, reading Bea's account of the marathon has me somewhere between itching to hit the pavement and feeling sick to my stomach with fear. But I'm sure that all her hints will certainly come in handy over the next few months. Thank you SO MUCH for being part of my little project Bea. I'll be rooting for you to kill it at Ironman! Good luck!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Just Dessert

As always, my first shot at knocking something off my list began with 20 minutes of me thinking, "You're really not very good at this, Celine." It's actually not that complicated to make these Molten Chocolate Magic cakes, but let's just say I'm not exactly hardwired to give boulangeries a run for their money. 

First of all, I completely forgot to buy sugar! So I found myself wandering the deserted and mostly shuttered Wall Street area on a rainy Sunday in a seemingly futile quest for the sweet stuff. I did eventually find some sugar but found the expedition so stressful that I forgot to pick up vanilla ice cream to go with the chocolate cake and came back with a six-pack of Blue Moon instead. I may not be hardwired for whipping up freshly baked croissants for breakfast, but you can always count on me when it comes to foraging for beer.

Ok, maybe I'm being a tiny bit overly dramatic here. Once we actually got to the baking, I wasn't entirely disastrous. I didn't burn anything or anyone while melting the butter and chocolate. I separated yolks from whites without too much drama. Each ramekin remained in one piece. At no point was the kitchen floor covered in a sea of flour as I dusted the molds. I did, however, find out that my phenomenally weak arms do not have sufficient juice for whisking those eggs into a frenzy. It must have pained Mitch to watch me try for five minutes before she just grabbed the bowl and showed me how it's done. As you can see from that picture way down below, I tend to whisk in slow motion with a dreamy smile on my face while Mitch gets down to business. And so it was that I learned my first valuable baking lesson: when a recipe presents the choice of using a whisk or an electric beater, just use the damn electric beater. Why? Because the last time I checked, my name wasn't Nigella Lawson.

It was great to have someone who really knew what she was doing beside me as I attempted these molten magic cakes. Had it not been for Mitch, I would've easily botched up a few things. For one, when she mentioned tempering, my reaction was, "Huh? What's that?" For the folks out there who are as clueless as I am, tempering means slowly streaming a hot liquid into eggs so that the liquid is incorporated into the mixture without actually cooking the eggs. If Mitch hadn't been around, I guarantee you'd be looking at pictures of chocolate scrambled eggs right now, rather than chocolate cakes. But since she was there to save me from myself, I have this to show. Tadaaa!

The reviews were good as far as taste was concerned but I definitely need to work on presentation. Dusting the ramekins with flour made the cakes look sloppy so I would either use cocoa powder the next time or serve the cakes right in the ramekins. No matter what I do though, I'd better not skip the ice cream next time. The general consensus was that the dessert would be so much better with ice cream.

I have to say though that this is a pretty good choice for my five-course meal end goal. This dessert can be made ahead and just popped in the oven when it's time. And really, it's so little effort for something that tastes so yummy. It's definitely the perfect pick for a relatively inexperienced cook with a crazy ass goal of eventually putting together a five-course gourmet meal.

Speaking of said crazy goal, Mitch came up with a pretty cool idea for completing my gourmet five-course meal challenge. Since my approach to this challenge has been to coerce my chef friends into teaching me how to cook stuff, Mitch thinks it would be funny if my "final test" was to cook for all five chefs who taught me my dishes. And then, they get to critique me, as if I was a Top Chef contestant. Intimidating as hell, but that truly would be the ultimate test, don't you think?

There's no shortage of ways to dig myself into an ever deeper hole ... 

Photo credit: "Inspired" photo by the beautiful and impossibly talented Bads Corpuz-Perez. Thanks again to you and your hubby for letting us take over your kitchen!
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