Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Favorite Things: Extra-Curricular Activities

Day 3 of "My Week of Favorites" Countdowns: 
Sarah's Top Five Free Time Activities of 2011

5. Sing-A-Long Sound of Music at the Castro Theater.  A few years ago, I sang-a-long with Grease, which was fun and all, but my heart belongs to the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic.  I've been on the Castro Theater's e-mail list for years, patiently awaiting the notice proclaiming, "Yes! Sarah! Soon, you will be able to sing, er yodel, along with Maria about the Lonely Goatherd".  Two of my favorite cousins, a like-minded friend, and a couple CouchSurfers joined me.  We sang about raindrops on roses, warm woolen mittens, and brown paper packages tied up with string.  Somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good.

Cousins! + the Wurlitzer dude playing Rodgers & Hammerstein of course
photo credit for Wurlitzer photo: my wonderful cousin, Melissa Mayes
photo credit for Cousins! photo: a kind stranger

4. Fantasy Football.  2011 marked my third endeavor into drafting and managing a fantasy football team.  I originally joined two years ago because Ben's league needed an even number of teams, and apparently they were having a tough time finding #8, so I reluctantly agreed.  Sure, I liked watching actual NFL games, but I knew nothing about this so-called fantasy football.  Seasons 1 and 2 were full of heartache and disappointment (for a freakishly competitive person like me, who expects to win everything she attempts, even if she knows nothing of the "how-to"), but definitely enough amusement and excitement to go for a third try.  I'm quite proud of how much I've learned and applied, and I had a good feeling going into this season.  So back in August, I dubbed this year's squad The Charm.  The third time is, well, you know . . .

sorry for the fuzzy screen shot; I blame Yahoo!

3. My Birthday Balloon Walk around Lake Merritt.  Using my birthday as a day to spread cheer, both to friends and strangers, is an annual ritual of sorts.  In 2011, I decided we would walk around the lake with bouquets of rainbow-colored, heart-shaped balloons.  Because, balloons are pretty darn magical.  (See: UP and The Red Balloon.)  To elicit maximum merriment, I encouraged friends to give balloons to children we encountered on the path.  The number of smiles I saw > the number of balloons we started with.  :]  

photo credit: Marianne Szeto

2. CouchSurfing.  In case you've no idea what I'm talking about—in a nutshell: folks from all over the world, who are willing to host people in their homes, create a profile on the CouchSurfing website.  Folks who wish to "surf the couch" of said willing hosts, make their own profile, and browse profiles looking for a good fit.  The surfer sends the potential host a couch request, and if the host accepts, the host and surfer arrange a time and place to meet.  Ben and I stayed in twelve different CS homes while we were in Europe this autumn.  And I was completely charmed by the whole experience; I am not exaggerating when I say it restored my faith in humanity.  Our hosts exuded natural hospitality, and made me feel completely home in a foreign land.  I learned so much about the daily lives of the locals.  Most hosts provided breakfasts, a few even cooked us dinner, and some either joined us at their favorite restaurants or at least recommended their favorites.  All of them served as expert translators, transportation advisers, and insiders who shared more "off the beaten path" locales to check out.  Emmanuel in Brussels taught us about Belgian chocolate and beer; Tamara in Katsheuvel cooked us pannenkoek (Dutch pancakes) and gave me dry, wool socks when we arrived on her doorstep soaked to the bone; Lena in Essen guided me on an epic bike ride through the hills and along the Baldeneysee (a reservoir surrounded by gorgeous hills); Verena and Markus in Munich cooked us some spätzle (egg pasta), recommended we visit Starnberger See (a stunning lake), and forced us to wear their lederhosen and dirndl (see evidence below); Jacques in Berlin took us on a walking tour and showed us amazing street art in an alley I'm sure we never would have stumbled upon on our own; Ermanno in Copenhagen took us to a free viewing of Pan's Labyrinth at a centuries-old church (granted, the subtitles were in Danish, but it added to the international feel of the evening!); Late and Sõlvi in Copenhagen let us play with their crazy-yet-adorable kitten when we were missing our cats somethin' fierce.  I could go on, but I'll just say that I am forever grateful for the experiences gained through CouchSurfing, and I would not hesitate to host one day.  When I have a couch of my own.  :]   
me + Lena; secret spot in Berlin; earning street cred in Munich;
psycho kitty in Copenhagen; Belgian beer options; Jacques + Ben

1. Mini-adventures with Ben, my partner in whatever the opposite of crime is.  Yes, we traveled around Europe together, which is not a very mini-adventure.  And he was the ideal travel partner.  Anywhere I wanted to visit or eat, he joined enthusiastically.  I dragged him to not one, but TWO theme parks, and nary a complaint was heard.  And let's just say that I'm not sure Ben would've chosen to go to quite so many museums had he planned every outing.  But, really, even when we're back in the States, one of my favorite ways to spend time is doing ordinary stuff with Ben: running around Lake Chabot, drinking bubble tea and playing board games, discussing fantasy football strategy, playing with the cats, even just reading side by side.  When Ben's around, all this stuff seems not so ordinary.  :]

Kinderdijk, Delft, Paris, Versailles, Versailles, London

What were your favorite extra-curricular activities of 2011?


  1. Favorite extra-curriculars, eh?

    3. Definitely running in Tough Enough 2010 in Santa Barbara with the Ghosts of Goats Team.

    2. London. Not the plane ride, but seeing another the other side of the Atlantic was inspirational and I cannot wait to do it again.

    1. Every new person I met and every conversation I had. So many strangers have shot my life's trajectory in different directions, opened my eyes to new ideas and new perspectives, and given me a new hope (not to sound all Star Wars-y or anything). Is that an extra curricular?