Swing for the Cure

A tennis tournament with my friends to benefit a cause near and dear to my heart? Sign me up!

Our club had the first annual Swing for the Cure this weekend, and what a fine time it was. The weather was sunny & warm, the mood was festive, and the teams were all decked out in pink. There was lots of bling, including some super cute blinged out fingernails.

There were so many different combinations of pink tennis outfits — tie dye, hot pink, light pink, black with pink…it was quite the rosy scene.

It seems fitting to have a tennis tournament that raises money for breast cancer outreach because both tennis and cancer can be epic battles. Hand-to-hand combat is required at times in both. Yannick Noah said once “I have always considered tennis as a combat in an arena between two gladiators who have their racquets and their courage as their weapons.” Guess what? Cancer required combat, too, and I’ve strapped on the gladiator mentality more than once, with courage as my main weapon.

I hadn’t realized just how many parallels can be drawn between tennis and cancer until now. Both require stamina and strategy. Both can be seen as a battle. Neither ensures any guarantees — the best player doesn’t always win, and sometimes the player does all she can and does everything right but doesn’t clench victory. Billie Jean King said that tennis is “a perfect combination of violent action taking place in an atmosphere of total tranquility.” Ever stepped into an infusion room of an oncology clinic? It’s serene with soft colors on the walls, nurses with soft-soled shoes, fluffy and warm blankets if you feel a chill, and it’s perfectly acceptable to close your eyes and doze off. Meanwhile, poison drips into your veins — literally — or an injection sends a powerful hormone into your muscles to circumvent the wiring in your system and shut down your ovaries. Violent action in an atmosphere of total tranquility.

Pete Sampras said “It’s one-on-one out there, man. There is no hiding. I can’t pass the ball.” Was he talking about tennis or cancer? Could be either one. Could go either way. It is definitely true of both. There have been few times that I felt like hiding along my cancer “journey” because I’m a “grit your teeth and get through it” kind of girl, but there’ve been plenty of times I wish I could pass the ball. Let someone else take over for a while.

My good friends at Fiat of Clear Lake were generous enough to sponsor the Swing for the Cure tournament this year. A very nice and much-appreciated gesture, for sure.

In addition to laying down some sponsorship cash, they also brought one of the special-edition Pink Ribbon Fiats out for everyone to see.

How cute is this car??

Fiat teamed up with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation to come up with this cutie. Available in white or silver, the Pink Ribbon Fiat features a pink stripe and a pink ribbon on each side of the 250 special-edition cars, along with super-cool interior designs. I may need to get a set of these floor mats for my car.

The pink stitching around the leather seats is so fine! It’s not on every area of stitched leather, so it accents the interior so nicely. Any more pink and it would seem overdone.

The pink ribbon along the side stripe isn’t in-your-face loud, but conveys the message quite nicely.

“The Fiat 500 Pink Ribbon edition offers a unique and stylish way to express their support, help fund breast cancer research and ultimately drive change,” said Laura Soave, head of Fiat North America.

My partner Julie and I were ready to drive change, for sure. We posed for our team photo then headed onto the courts to beat up on breast cancer.

Fiat is donating $1,000 per vehicle purchased, with a minimum of $50,000 to the breast cancer foundation.

I’m so glad Fiat chose to partner with the BCRF. I’ve said my piece about my disappointment with that other breast cancer organization. Yes, that other organization has increased awareness, decreased stigma, and paved the way for lots of effective change, but the BCRF wants to take all that a step further:

“The mission of The Breast Cancer Research Foundation is to achieve prevention and a cure for breast cancer in our lifetime by providing critical funding for innovative clinical and translational research at leading medical centers worldwide, and increasing public awareness about good breast health. Currently, over 90 cents of every dollar donated goes to breast cancer research and awareness programs.”

That’s good stuff.

Here’s more:

“The BCRF was founded in 1993 by Evelyn H. Lauder as an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to funding innovative clinical and translational research. In October 2011, BCRF will award $36.5 million to 186 scientists across the United States, Canada, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, Australia and China. With exceptionally low administrative costs, BCRF continues to be one of the most efficient organizations in the country and is designated an “A+” charity by The American Institute of Philanthropy, the only cancer organization to achieve this.”

Great friends, a day of tennis, and a good cause — it doesn’t get any better than that.


Weekend review

So it’s Tuesday, and I’m still recovering from my weekend. Lest you think it’s because of all the wild partying I did, let me set the record straight. My brain has decided it’s time to be back to “normal” after my latest surgical procedure (whatever the hell “normal” is), but my body says it still needs more time. Going about what used to be everyday business for me still wears me out. As much as I try to fight it, it’s true. As much as I want to pretend it’s not so, it really is. And as much as I hate it, it’s reality.

Friday started with me spending 2 hours trying on bras. My brain decided it’s time to start wearing a bra again; to pretend to be “normal” and be like every other girl out there. My body, however, said, “Nah, normal is overrated so we’re gonna fly our freak flag a little longer.” If you think it’s hard to fit a square peg into a round hole, try fitting an elliptical boob into a standard bra cup.

Friday evening was Macy’s mock swim meet, to prepare all the kids who now swim year-round but who have never participated in a swim meet. My little fish knows what to do at a meet, so it was old hat for her, but not for the hordes of screaming masses congregated around the pool. After my looooong, unproductive session in the dressing room, being around tons of hepped up kids wasn’t my idea of fun. As luck would have it, there was a lounge chair at the end of the pool, so I grabbed it and thought longingly of an ice cold Negro Modelo. My “luck” was short-lived, as the area near my chair was where all the swimmers gathered to line up in their heats. No wonder that chair was available. Now I needed two Negro Modelos.

After a very long 2 hours, we were released from one of my personal versions of hell, and we skipped on over to the next neighborhood for some pizza & fellowship with Boss Lady and the Rajah. Good times, and I don’t mean just the bottle of champagne I had to myself.

Saturday morning was my much-anticipated return to the tennis court. I won’t say my game hasn’t suffered in the last several weeks because you loyal readers are much too nice to lie to. Let’s just say that the elliptical boobs wreaked havoc yet again and that my tennis game is all kinds of messed up. Who knew it would be so hard to serve with half a breast in one’s armpit? A good time was had by all nonetheless, and I did manage to rock a few nice passing shots despite my multitude of double-faults.

After tennis we had to skedaddle across town to buy not one but two cars. Ok, we didn’t have to, but we did. We got some rain Saturday for the first time in a coon’s age–about three months, to be exact–and while there are some people who would say something smart-alekey about the odds of Houston finally getting a good deluge on the same day we buy two new cars, I am not one of them. The fact that it hasn’t rained in Houston enough to measure since June 22nd but poured buckets on my new car day didn’t bother me one lick.

After two weeks of driving the adorable red Fiat 500C everywhere I could, I made it legal, and she is now mine, all mine.

Yes, she really is that cute in real life.

The dealership has a 50 club for the first 50 Fiat buyers, and I’m officially in it. I got to sign the canvas on the wall, and I may change my name to 21. If Chad Ochocinco can do it, why not me? If anyone is ready for a fresh start, it’s me.

Our reward for our super busy day was sushi and fantastic cocktails with two of my favorite people, Thad & Yvonne, at a new restaurant. The blood orange martini was sublime, as was the gigantic platter of sushi. 

I still can’t decide which was my favorite, but it may have been the special red snapper sashimi we had before the gigantic platter. If you go there, ask for Sonny for your waiter. He was knowledgeable about the sushi, but more importantly, he recommended we order the martinis without the simple syrup but with extra alcohol. My kind of guy.

Sunday there was more fun to be had, with a trip to the Metropolitan Food & Entertaining Show at Reliant Park. The highlight of the show was seeing Paula Deen in the Celebrity Theater. Listen, y’all: she’s a hoot. I’ve seen her show on Food Network a few times, and I’ve tasted her recipes at potlucks and cocktail parties, but to be honest, I don’t follow her because I’m afraid that if I eat the way she cooks, I won’t be able to fit in my chair to write this blog. Yes, she does love butter, but there’s more to her than fried food.

Namely her outsized personality. She’s funny, warm, and honest. Even though we were surrounded by 2,500 screaming fans, she made it feel like we were sitting around her kitchen table chatting. Her husband, Michael, was with her, as was his brother Hank and a chef. Just offstage was Hollis, who I gather is her bodyguard. He just got some new teeth, and she encouraged the camera to zoom in on him so he could show them off. I got the distinct impression that Hollis isn’t one for a lot of smiling, and Paula likes to poke at him a bit.

Clearly, she and Michael have a great relationship, and the banter was flying between them. During the Q&A session, Michael proved to be as quick-witted as Paula had said he is when an audience member asked Paula if she remembers the very first thing she ever cooked. Before she could answer, Michael said “Dinosaur!”

It was hard to get a good shot of her, even though we had good seats; this will have to do. If you’re a foodie like me and are wondering what she cooked, the answer may surprise you. She didn’t cook anything. The guys did all the cooking so she could visit. They made bacon-wrapped chicken thighs, macaroni & cheese, and apple cake. The food wasn’t the highlight: Paula was. It was like an evening at the Improv, and she had the audience roaring with laughter.

She reiterated that she’s not a classically trained chef, saying, “I ain’t a chef, I’m a cook, baby!” Talking about the food the guys were cooking, she said it was “so good it’ll make your tongue want to slap your brains out.” And she said she loves Texas girls because we have “the biggest hearts, the spirits, and the biggest hair.”

Paula Deen is one smart cookie. And that was one fun, but tiring, weekend.


Fiat fever!

I’m very fortunate to have a good and generous friend in the car business. Thanks to the Rajah, I have been tooling around town this week in the hottest car to hit the streets in a long time — the Fiat 500C. It’s even better than the <a title="I Fiat 500 I drove a while back.

I am in love. The industry’s talking heads have lots of good things to say about this car, namely that “the cutest car just got cuter” with the addition of the fully-automatic canvas soft top. The 500C is super cute, super fun and super chic. I love every single thing about it, which came as a bit of a surprise for this card-carrying member of the “bigger is better” SUV club. Downsizing from a Tahoe loaded with more features that I even know how to use to a Fiat that could practically fit inside the bed of a pickup truck is extreme. And fantastic. And liberating. Oh so very liberating. 

I’ve had so much fun driving this zippy car. I’ll admit, I just wanted to drive it but wasn’t even considering buying it. My Tahoe is cool and comfy and big enough for a family to live in, but after driving the Fiat I realized the Tahoe is not fun. Or zippy. Or chic. It’s nice looking, luxurious, and functional, but not fun. And don’t we all need more fun in our lives?

I’m not a die-hard convertible lover. Trevor has had several convertibles over the last 15 years, and I have to say I’ve never loved any of them. Every once in a while, on a beautiful day, it’s fun to take his car, but I never wanted a convertible.

Until now.

The Fiat’s 3-way power retractable roof changed my opinion about convertibles.

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The 2-layer canvas roof is awesome. With the push of a button, you have 3 options for topless excitement: sunroof, in which the top slides back from the windshield; panoramic, in which the top slides back further to open up the roof over the back seat; and the full monty, in which the entire roof folds itself accordian-style into a neat stack above the trunk. This effortless motion is quiet, smooth, and fast. And the best part: you can operate the roof while driving up to 50 mph. If raindrops start falling on your head, no need to pull over to put the top up, just push the button as you keep on truckin’. Multitasking at its finest. The rear window is glass, and it covertly slides out of sight when the roof opens. Another super smart feature is that when the roof is open and you need to access the trunk, the car automatically moves the neatly-folded pile up a bit and out of the way, allowing full access to the trunk. If only everything in life worked that smoothly.

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Perhaps the best part of the 500C is that when the top is open, the roof rails stay in place. It’s quiet and you’re less exposed to road noise, allowing for normal conversation and stereo volume with much less wind. It’s having your cake and eating it, too: you still get the convertible experience without the wind-blown hair. 

The divided side-view mirror on the driver’s side is nice too. The smaller pane of glass shows a more remote view of the traffic behind, so changing lanes is safer. The specs are in line with what you’d expect from a small, sporty car. The engine is a 4 cylinder, 84 cubic inches (whatever that means). The 16 valve engine has 101 hp. The 6-speed automatic that I’m driving is plenty zippy in the 40 to 50 mph range, which is the majority of my driving. On the highway, you’re not going to win a drag race with a bigger car with a more muscley engine, but you shouldn’t be drag racing on the highway anyway. The top speed is 110 mph, which is plenty fast even on Houston freeways. This little beauty weighs somewhere around 2,550 pounds and I’m no car expert but am guessing its lithe frame accounts for its zippiness. (I think I just made that word up but am granting Fiat full permission to use it in promotional materials.)

It may be small, but it’s safe. With 7 airbags, I feel very secure, and I like that the 500C earned Best in Class for rear seat leg and shoulder room, as well as Best in Class for interior sound quality. Another safety feature is the Blue&Me, Fiat’s collaboration with Microsoft that provides hands-free mobile access in the car. As long as your phone is in the car, whether on the dashboard or in your purse, you can make and receive calls using the in-vehicle, voice-activated Blue&Me system.

The gas mileage makes me want to dance, then drive around all day. It sips instead of guzzling (hear that, you greedy Tahoe?). The standard transmission gets slightly better gas mileage than the automatic, at 30 mpg city/38 highway, but the automatic is no slouch at 27 mpg city/36 highway. Even with my limited radius of driving, i.e., noncommuter driving, I was filling up my SUV to the tune of $80 to $90 every week or 10 days. The Fiat can go, go, go on its petite 10-gallon tank. I always dreaded filling up my SUV, not only because of the cost but also because it took forever to quench that beast’s thirst. The Fiat fill-ups are quick & easy, just the way I like it. 

I haven’t attempted this pose, because I don’t actually own the car yet, but this chick at the 500C launch party in England makes it look tempting.

Supermodel Elle Macpherson has the exact car I’m driving, except her steering wheel is on the other side. She’s a loyal Fiat owner who’s been quite outspoken in her love for these cars.  “I love the Fiat 500C, it has that sexy, cool, Italian thing going on!” 

With all the color combinations and the retro styling in the interior, it’s as much a fashion accessory as a car. Here’s the inside of Elle’s 500C, which looks just like mine except for the stickshift and the steering wheel on the right sideHere’s mine.The bone-colored leather steering wheel is so fine, and the shiny red accents across the dash are the most stylish thing in the car world. 

George Clooney is a Fiat fan, too. Check this out.

In one article I read about the Fiat 500C, the proclamation was made that “If you like being the center of attention, never has the price of admission been this low.” This car most definitely gets people’s attention. I’ve seen drivers craning their necks to get a better look as we drive; several times I’ve come out of the store to find someone taking a picture of the Fiat in the parking lot. I’ve answered lots of questions (how does it drive? what’s the gas mileage? how much do they cost? what colors are available?) and happily introduced the curious people in my neck of the woods to this cute little car. 

At the New York Auto Show, the 500C was called “relentlessly adorable” and it was said that its “oddball modernism still astonishes.” It’s “super-chic, super-stylish, and effectively retro.” Nice. 

I read another review that had this to say about this little Fiat: “The new 500 is remarkably similar to its predecessor with a flowing and harmonic design which softly mutters – rather than screams – retro. In flowing Italian. The end result of Fiat’s effort is a car that people smile at – on the streets, in parking lots and in traffic jams. Not many cars can be called ‘sweet’, but the Fiat 500 can definitely satisfy any automotive sweet tooth.”

If you need a sweet little Fiat, get with the good people at Fiat of Clear Lake. Tell Joey and Donald that you need a dose of Fiat fun. Ciao!

 

 

 


I <3 Fiat!

This week I’ve had the pleasure of driving a Fiat 500 from Clear Lake Fiat. Oh, how fun!

I love this car.

It’s so cute, so fun, so zippy.

It’s way better than a Smart Car or a Mini Cooper. Much more stylish, and it gets a lot of attention.

I’ve had tons of people ask me this week what kind of car it is. The waiter at my favorite Malaysian restaurant chased my bud Sharon & me outside after lunch because she left her credit card. He took one look at the Fiat, parked right in front, and asked if it was electric. No, not electric but way cool. He expressed in his broken English that he lusted after the Fiat. Big love. I can’t count how many times someone has commented on the Fiat this week.

It’s a teeny little thing. Way smaller than my gas-guzzling SUV. It’s super fun to drive, with its tiny size and rockin’ engine, it feels and sounds like a high-performance sports car. I can’t help making the “nunnn nunnnn” sound when I hear the engine rev; this car is made by the same people who make the Ferrari after all.  I feel like Mario behind the wheel. The other day with Payton in the front seat, we were just like Mario & Luigi.

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Lest I sound like a traitor with all the Fiat love, let me state that I do like my SUV. It’s big, it’s comfy, it wraps me in a loving embrace of protection from any unpleasant jarring or ruts in the road. It allows me to tower over other drivers (something I secretly really dig), and I feel safe in it. But this little Fiat is something else. It possesses few attributes of my SUV but is so much fun I don’t even care. It’s zippy and carefree. Doesn’t everyone want to live a zippy, carefree life? (Get a Fiat, and you can!)

It has a super-tight turning radius and I can whip in and out of any parking space, even if I’m going “up the down staircase” as my sweet mama used to say. Sometimes I park my big ol’ Tahoe at the end of the row of parking spaces and trek to the door of the store, just to make sure I can get in and out easily. No such worries with the Fiat. Any parking space, any time, and no adjusting necessary. 

The hatchback is so lightweight I can easily reach it and shut it with one hand, while the other hand is laden with my tennis bag, a cold beverage, bags of groceries, or the ever-present iPhone. My SUV’s hatch is so wide and so heavy it doesn’t even have a strap for shutting but rather a button to push to close it automatically.

This would be a great car for a teenager. I’m no teenager, but I covet it as my wheels when I’m free of kids, carpool, a Costco haul, baseball gear, and all the flotsam & jetsam that weighs down a suburban mom.

Man, even the wheels are cute on this little baby.

There’s not a car on the market that matches the 500 in stylistic expression. This car scores major style points. The interior is decidedly European, with the seat-adjusting controls on the right instead of the left. Never fear, though–the steering wheel is on the left side. You might start speaking with an Italian accent, but that’s up to you.

Everything inside the Fiat is designed to be stylish and fun. Check out the teensy little dashboard, all rounded like a race car. 

The gear shift on this particular Fiat is automatic, with the option to paddle shift, or shift gears without having to clutch. Personally, I like to clutch as it allows one to peel out if one so chooses, but the paddle shift is a nice option if your hands tend to be full while driving, or if you’re on an incline. 

To paddle shift, you push the gearshift straight down, near the “D” and the plus and minus at the bottom, which allow you to shift and downshift. How many times can I use the word shift in my text? Shift, shift, shift. If you don’t want to paddle shift, push the gearshift down and to the right, and the smart little Fiat will shift for you. It’s the best of both worlds, really.

One word of caution about the Fiat 500: the gas tank is small. Like the rest of it. No junk in the trunk here. The tank is 10.5 gallons. I think my SUV uses that much gas just to get out of the neighborhood. Fuel economy is fantastic in the Fiat: upper 20s in town and mid-30s on the highway. 

One of my favorite things about the Fiat is the round headrests in the backseat. How cool are those? Super chic.

Chic, and safe, too. The European version of the Fiat 500 was awarded a 5-star crash rating, and the US version has had several safety-minded upgrades, making it even safer than the 500s across the Pond.

I’m loving the Fiat. I haven’t even thought about driving my SUV for a week, and once I do, I expect to feel like a stranger in a strange land. I’ll be channeling Gulliver and wishing I was Mario instead.