Decisively Defeated.

ann-ueno-someecardRick and I are members of an athletic club in Chicago that virtually has anything you would ever want to do in your life as relates to physical activity.  Seriously.  Want to jump rope for 60 minutes?  Yoga while swimming?  Shake your money-maker?  Tennis drills with your toddler? Yeah, I told you.  On any given day there are 10-12 classes BEFORE 7AM.  And on average, 60-70 classes per day.

So when Rick kept coming home, sore all over, after taking all sorts of random classes like “Buff Yoga” and one-on-one pilates, I was secretly jealous.  I needed to step up my game!  And come on!  60-70 classes per day?!  I’m going to be brave and start partaking in group exercise programs.  Oh and p.s., I am not the “group exercise” type of gal.  I run.  I do the elliptical.  Occasionally take a yoga class.  And if I am ultra brave, I may go to boot camp.  Otherwise, I consider it my alone time and I like to work out solo.  So the thought of pushing myself to engage in group classes that have names that make no sense to me was outside of my comfort zone.

I went to Vinyasa Flow to start.  I’ve done yoga.  I’ve done variations of yoga.  This should be a good start to ease into group exercise.  Well, let me say that when I saw 30+ people line up for the doors to open, I knew I was in trouble.  Oh yeah, and when the additional 30 or so people joined in and the extremely loud and upbeat music started, I freaked.  And for the next 60 minutes, I did more downward dogs than a human should do over the course of a year.  It was the hardest yoga class I’ve ever taken.  I sweated more than I have in, um, a long time.

But, ironically, that’s not the point of this post.  It actually has to do with Andanza.

Definition:  Andanza is a great way to spice up your cardio routine. This workout will get your heart rate up while you learn hot Latin dance moves. There is no advance registration for this class.

6:3opm – 7:30pm with Gloria Ayara.

Hmm, seems fun.  Different.  Spicy.  Not too difficult.  A little risky.  Fun dancing.  I’m in!

And then the class started.  And within about 4 minutes I received the confirmation that I completely suck at dancing.  You see, I never grew up a dancer and certainly didn’t grow up a Latina dancer.  I played sports out of my mom’s womb.  Tennis.  Volleyball.  Softball.  My mom was never a huge advocate of dance classes and programs and perhaps it was because she knew my handicap in this arena.

Okay, let me continue.  15 minutes into the class Gloria comes over with her rocking bod and killer moves, trying to teach me how to mambo and literally my coordination was around a D plus at best.  And she tried.  And tried.  And I failed.  And  failed.  And  then I laughed (but deep down was crying and mortified).  Meanwhile, women in the age range of 40-60 were rocking these Latina cha-cha-chas all over the place.

30 minutes into the class the other first-timer-white-not-Latina-lady made an exit.  She actually was better than me and left. the. class.  And it was there I knew God was humbling me.  Just FYI the definition of humbling is “decisive defeat.”  Oh yeah, I was decisively defeated all right.  And now I know why there are mirrors in those dance studios…to confirm that all those times in my life when I was dancing and thinking man oh man I have killer moves and look goooooddddd are all a lie.  Sorry, Ann, you are defeated.  The proof is in the mirrors.

But, I kept going and tried to make the best of 30 more minutes of vulnerability Andanza.  And I enjoyed the ride, regardless of the fact I could barely conquer the first 4 of 20 steps in the dance routine we learned.

As the class ended, the women were nice enough to do the “you did great for your first time!” sympathy rally and I looked at them, defeated, smiled and said thank you.

What did I learn?  Well, the obvious is that I really am not a good dancer and I SO appreciate J-Lo and Shakira far more than I did before attending Andanza.  But more importantly, I learned to embrace the moments of humility.  I could have left (and perhaps should have for the sake of those around me) but instead, I grinded out 60 minutes of complete lack of confidence and increased frustration not knowing how to do something.  I was SO uncomfortable but was reminded to loosen up, have fun and let God humble me on the dance floor 🙂


Birthday Highlight #3: The Outtakes

Because birthdays are about laughing, being silly and having fun.  No matter the age.



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Vacation in Cabo, Part 1: Rick Wins

…you obsess over admire and compliment her shiny, gold, oversized Jennifer Tuton necklace while at her house for dinner.  She tells you the brand and you jot it down on your iPhone shopping notes (because of course she’s okay with you getting it).  You enjoy some wine and good food together and leave her house feeling grateful for her friendship and completely forget about the fabulous necklace.  But she doesn’t.  She emails your husband (in this case, my husband, Rick) and says “hey, if you ever need to get [fill in your name here] a gift, she loved this necklace, here are all the details.”  You know she’s a good friend when…she helps your husband pick out jewelry for you.  As a side, Rick is awesome at a lot of things.  Picking out jewelry that suits me is not one of them. Sorry, honey.

The reason we are in Cabo in the first place is to celebrate our two-year wedding anniversary and to become glutenous, over-indulging in the mediocre chips and guacamole.  Nothing says happy anniversary like swollen fingers and feet from filling my stomach with 3-4 serving sizes of salty chips. (I am writing this post the morning after Rick and I had a ridiculously amazing meal leaving me full 12 hours later.  Oh and I am supposed to be doing Weight Watchers yet I literally have not found one healthy thing on one menu thus far in three full days here.  Even the salads surprise you will hunks of cheese and of course, at that point, I don’t want to be rude and not eat the hunks of cheese.  The people here get happy when you eat.  So, I guess WW is out the window and me pleasing the Mexicans wins.)

Okay, back to the reason we are here.  Our anniversary.  In Cabo.  At the Sheraton Los Cabos.  It was on October 29 and started with a knock on our door around 8am.  (We were already up talking about love, our marriage, things we love about each other, Rick was telling me how beautiful I was, etc.  No we weren’t. That was a lie.  Truth be told, I don’t remember what we were doing.)  To my surprise, it was a really happy housekeeper not here to make our beds, but to deliver two dozen roses to ME!  This was a first.  Fresh flowers in a hotel room!  I LOVE fresh flowers and when they are a surprise from Rick, I love them even more.  One point, Rick.  Zero points, Ann.  Well, I did give Rick a card first thing in the morning so maybe that counts as a half of a point.  Yeah, it does.  One point, Rick.  Half of a point, Ann.

The morning continues with pretty intense questions like, “Should we go to the pool or to the beach?” and “Should we wear a 30 SPF and build our tans throughout the week or risk getting burnt wearing only a 15?” and “Should we eat breakast on our balcony overlooking the ocean and hearing the waves crash into the shore or should we eat breakfast downstairs at the terrace restaurant overlooking the ocean and hearing the waves crash into the shore?”  We make some tough decisions and then spend our day soaking in the sun (we decided on the 30 SPF), reading, laughing and relaxing.

As it was our anniversary I had asked Rick several times what we should do for dinner.  Each time he casually brushed it off which I found to be annoying out of character.  When it comes to special occasions, Rick is admittedly amazing at finding great restaurants and mastering the art of surprise and delight.  But I guess since we were in Cabo and were already mentally in vacation mode, we would wing it.  And to be honest, I was 100% fine with that.  I was in 80 degree weather, with my husband, on vacation.  I was happy.

As we proceeded to the pool, we ran into Guillermo, the amazing concierge who helped Rick arrange the flower delivery.  I thank him for his kindness in helping Rick, Rick thanks him, he’s so happy we are happy…it’s one big anniversary love fest.  And then Guillermo proceeds to say “and Mr. Ueno, you are all set for dinner…everything will be perfect…” Hmmm, that’s weird.  I thought we were going to wing it for dinner?  I watch Rick uncomfortably trying so hard to tell Guillermo to zip it! while awkwardly moving his head and body (I think the language barrier was, well, a barrier in this context).  Rick had made reservations at the nicest restaurant at the hotel, De Cortez, for 8pm for us to celebrate our anniversary together.  Two points, Rick.  Half of a point, Ann.

We arrive at the restaurant to be seated at the best table in the house, steps from the beach, waves crashing, light breeze, 75 degrees, full moon over our candlelit, personalized setting.

I wouldn’t call Rick a romantic, but here and now, he was.  Ugh.  Three points, Rick.  Half of a point, Ann.  Wine list, amazing.  Dinner menu, ridiculously amazing.  Service, even more amazing.  It truly was The.  Perfect.  Anniversary.  Dinner.   I felt so special and it warmed my heart to think Rick went above and beyond to make this happen.  He gets extra credit it.  I think we are at at least five points for him now.  And yes, I am still at half of a point.  Wah wah.

Dinner was delightful and we both could have sat there for hours admiring the view and soaking in the serenity.  In that moment I mentally thanked God for Rick, our marriage and the gift of an amazing vacation.  The night truly was so memorable and just what we needed.  But, it doesn’t end here.

Moments later, the staff came over with complimentary personalized dessert. Hospitality, yet again, at its finest.

They put the dessert in front of me, naturally, and tell me it’s a really special dessert the chef personally made for us.  They directed me to be very careful cutting into this dome of chocolate.  “Ooooohhhh,” I thought!  This is fun!  It’s going to be one of those crazy desserts that blows up, lights up or oozes out some chocolate carmel goodness.  Whatever it is, I’m excited, my sweet tooth is dancing and everyone has gathered ’round, camera in hand, to watch me dig in.

I slowly take the fork and puncture the top of this deliciousness.  I cut more and more into it and think “hmmm, this is odd, the dome is hollow…where is the fire and sparks and ooze?”  The chocolate dome splits open and what do we have here?!


The fabulous Jennifer Tuton necklace that my dear friend Vaneesha emailed Rick about months ago!  One hundred points, Rick.  Half of a point, Ann.  Rick wins, for sure.  And before you start thinking, “gosh, I cannot believe Ann didn’t give Rick anything or do anything for him…” I do have to caveat this whole “Rick dominating our anniversary” with the fact that we did agree on NO PRESENTS!  The trip was supposed to be our gift to each other.  When I reminded Rick of this, his response was “I didn’t know if you were serious.”  Classic.

The evening ended with a night cap, cigars, live music and yet another surprise, this time courtesy of Sheraton Cabo.



I think I would say I am a spoiled brat at this point.  I think I would also say I will never forget our second anniversary in Cabo, thanks to Rick, Guillermo, Angelina, Anna Lilia, the staff at De Cortez and the team at Sheraton Cabo.  After two years of marriage, a new lesson I have learned is that sometimes I have to admit defeat and humble myself before Rick…Rick wins.

Happy Birthday, Ann Written Notes!

It was one year ago on a hot summer weekend in Chicago that I spent hours and hours learning how to use WordPress to create a platform to write about my life at the risk of embarrassing myself, and perhaps others during the process.  Wow, I have typed a lot of words during the past 365 days.  I look back at some of my posts and think gosh,  I must believe people have a lot of time on their hands to read a 1,400 word blog.  And oddly enough one or two people did have enough time on their hands and no, one of them wasn’t my mom.  So that’s good.

I also look back and think about how much fun it has been to learn something new and to share some meaningless and every so often, meaningful words (and photography*) with you. Writing my blog is truly a creative outlet that I love more than talking about writing a blog which was my pre-August 2011 creative outlet.  As Elvis says, a little less conversation a little more action.  If only we could remember that brilliant quote each time we are inspired to dream up and set goals.  #actiontrumpseverything

Anyways, to celebrate the big one-year birthday, I thought I would share with you some things I’ve learned as a blogger.  And if you are wondering why I am writing with a relatively sarcastic tone today, check out the book I am reading located on the homepage of Ann Written Notes.

1.  Don’t write 1,400 word blogs.  What people really want is 140 characters or less and videos of cats doing totally stupid things.

2.  When you write more than 1,400 words, realize at that point your audience is yourself.  FYI my next blog is more than 1,400 words. (Not joking.)

3.  Writing while traveling in India is something every blogger should do.  See Adventure in India Part One.

4.  Read other blogs.  (This is actual advice.)

5.  Calling people out in a blog is not only fun and makes people feel special or humiliated, it also guarantees at least one comment.  FYI in the blogging world, more comments equals a more successful blog.  That was a hint, mom.

6.  The best part about being a blogger is you don’t actually have to be a professional writer.  I find the more personal you are and the more your tone resembles truly who you are, the better the blog.  The heck with those grammar rules from middle school.

7.  It’s super fun when random bloggers from Germany like your posts.  And it’s even more fun when creepy weird bloggers (will refrain stating what country they are from as to not offend anyone from Tanzania) start following your blog.  BTW, nobody from Germany or Tanzania has engaged with Ann Written Notes…yet.

8.  I like to use the numbering functionality in WordPress.  Makes me feel organized and in control.

9.  If you don’t get a book deal within your first year of blogging, don’t give up.  If Carrie Bradshaw can get a book deal from her Sex and the City column (which was in a fake New York newspaper, FYI), you can totally do it.

10.  Based on my blog announcement in August of 2011 and me stating, and I quote, “My blog would be a rhapsodic potpourri of everything I love, everything that has a purpose in my life and probably some things that are completely meaningless,” I think I have succeeded.

To all of my dedicated and supportive followers and fans:  Thank you for your likes, for your comments and for all the love.  You are [sort of] the reason I keep writing.  The other reason is so I can have something to do on Tuesday nights and on most weekends.  Kidding.  [sort of]

Here’s to another year of Ann Written Notes!

*Note the picture of Elvis in this blog would constitute as meaningless photography.  If you viewed it as meaningful, I knew there was a reason we were friends!

My Parisian Birthday, Part One: Pretty Parisian Things.

Ahhh, Paris.  For at least 10 years, if not the entire length of my life (FYI, I just turned 32), I have had a burning desire to go to Paris.  No no.  Let me rephrase that.  I have envisioned myself boarding an Air France airplane (roughly 15 pounds lighter and 4 inches taller), carrying a fabulous vintage Louis Vuitton bag, wearing candy apple red Christian Louboutin pumps that totally kill my feet but I don’t care because I am going to Paris, my lips perfectly blanketed with Chanel Rouge Coco lipstick (as they await the indulgence of the French Bordeaux wine I will be served in first class because how else do you fly to Paris besides first class drinking a glass of Bordeaux?) and my oversized gold-rimmed Dior sunglasses still wrapped around my face because I am assuming that amazing French women wear sunglasses as they board planes.  Frankly, there is a good chance if the stewardess calls me “Ann,” I may correct her politely and let her know that my real name is actually Francina (variant of “Frances” meaning ‘From France’ or ‘free one’) or Audrey after Audrey Tautou, one of my favorite Parisian actresses, so she thinks that I am actually French.  Shoot.  Since I don’t speak French that might not work.  Okay, anyways…

Yep, that’s my vision.  I have fallen in love with Paris and frankly, almost all things French (movies like Amelie or Midnight in Paris, French restaurants like Balthazar or Cyrano’s Bistrot, any type of French art,  champagne, the language, the list could go on) for reasons I am still trying to figure out, especially as I have never been there.  Until now.  I am delighted to share that in just a few days, I will be boarding an Air France airplane (sans the over-the-top brand illustration mentioned above) and jet-setting to Paris for a romantic and celebratory long weekend with my dear husband.

And to that, I bring you, My Parisian Birthday, Part One:  Pretty Parisian Things.  After recently celebrating my birthday, I was showered with adorable French inspired gifts, as well as having treated myself to some French flare to get me in the mood for our trip (not that I need to be getting in any mood, it’s Paris for crying out loud).  But, the anticipation of the trip is half the fun.  Okay, maybe 10% of the fun.  Check out some of the pretty Parisian things below and get excited for my upcoming blogs as I share with you My Parisian Birthday, Part Two (and who knows, maybe there will even be a Part Three)!

1.  The below is the gift from Rick which is one of my most favorite gifts he has ever given me.  A frame-worthy French card (literally from Paris…he had a friend get it for me and mail it to the States) with a note written in French (I read 70% of it correctly believe it or not) and this fabulous and romantic Jennifer Meyer necklace that says “I love you” in French.  Husband of the year?  Yep, and it’s only March.


2.  Indulged in a St. Germain + Elderflower liqueur + Champagne cocktail at Bar 89 in NYC last week. Seemed very fitting.

3.  My two closest friends treated me to some pretty little lingerie and amazing antique metallic votes from Anthropologie Love, and, clearly very French.


4.  How cute is this My Little Paris book My sister gave this to me (already started reading it and offers some great ideas for local Parisian hidden gems) as well as the below Cake Vintage disposable place mats ,napkins and stationary.

Au revoir and until next time!

What’s the Deal With Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm?

Yep, I did it.  I wrote a blog about Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm.

Every so often, I come across something or someone or a new trend or an old trend brought back that stimulates curiosity and intrigues me to know more.  And for actually a couple of years, but more recently in the last three months, credited to my dear friend Maggie Pierce, the simple, yellow peppermint-y tubes of Burt’s Bees lip balm have my motor running.  This stuff is like crack.  Not that I have ever done crack, but it’s addicting, refreshing and momentarily satisfying which I would guess are all adjectives of crack as well.

How could something so simple be so amazing?  Well, let me tell you.

  1. Every time I use it I smile or laugh out loud because I visualize Magpie slopping this stuff all over her lips in a less than provocative, yet joyfully serious way.  If you ever want to get a laugh, watch Magpie apply Burt’s Bees.
  2. The minty flavor makes me feel like I don’t have to brush my teeth.  Okay, that was extreme.  But, I will admit that if I lube my lips with this stuff post lunch, most people give me the look like, “wow, I can’t believe she brushes her teeth after lunch!”  Nobody has ever said that to me but I am sure they will at some point.
  3. It moisturizes, it tingles and it has great consistency.  And no, I am not a Burt’s Bees sales rep.
  4. I live in Chicago.
  5. Let me elaborate on point 4.  It’s dry and cold around 253 days a year.  Chapped lips prevail.  And to that,  I have purchased $20 gourmet lip balms and $1 Wal*Mart brand lip balms for my cracked, dry, very unattractive lips and results = nada.  Naturally, that pisses me off because with chapped lips, it’s tough to pull off my awesome bright red Chanel lipstick that I paid far too much for.  Until Mr. Burt was introduced to me.  It works.  And if you see me wearing any shade of red lipstick in the winter it’s because my lips have been Burt’s Bees-ized.

If these reasons aren’t enough, let me direct you to the review site of the Burt’s Bees website (oh yeah, any lip balm that has a review section of their website clearly is winning market share).  Read it and weep.


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