Saturday, October 29, 2011

On a sad note...

On June 9, 2011, we said goodbye to our sweet baby boy, Nacho. He had been with us for over 16 years, which seems like longer than it feels when you're at the end of it. He was so tired, and I know it was his time, but I miss him every day and can still hear his footsteps in the house from time to time.

I will miss you more than you can ever know. Rest in peace, baby boy.

Wow, um, yeah...

So clearly I did not make it back after our Russia trip. Nor did I ever report back on 2009's Chinese New Year party. Or last year's for that matter. Since it's been, uh, MORE THAN TWO YEARS since I last updated this blog. I probably should just give it up, but that would be admitting defeat. And frankly, I don't even have an excuse other than sheer laziness.

So let's try again, and let me start by getting my three readers (oh hell, I know - at this point even my three readers are long gone) caught up on the last 2+ years of my life.

In May 2009, Che & I spent eight days in Moscow and St. Petersburg and had a great time:

The next month, we went to Texas for our nephew's HS graduation. This is the same nephew who was born when Che & I were in college, and now he's halfway through with his undergrad at our alma mater. Where does the time go?

In July 2009, we spent a long weekend in Oregon enjoying good friends, good food, and glorious summer weather.

Later that month, we got some exciting news!

About a week after we learned the news, I left my hectic, stressful private practice job for a less hectic, less stressful government job - perfect timing what with baby coming and all. In between, we enjoyed another long weekend with great friends, great food, and glorious summer weather, this time in San Francisco:

The rest of the fall, winter, and early spring was busy spent preparing for baby's arrival, which happened at 5:04 a.m. on March 3, 2010. Welcome to the world, Iris Mariana!!

Since then, well, it's been an exhausting, exciting, exhilarating, exhausting (wait, did I say that already?) whirlwind. I didn't realize how fast time can fly until my daughter was born. Sometimes, it feels like it was just yesterday; other times, those sleepless, struggle-filled early days seem like a lifetime ago.

What I do know is that my "baby girl" is now 20 months old (yeah, I became one of those annoying people who counts time in months), and while still exhausting and challenging, most days are a joy. She's the light of my life that I never knew was missing until she came along.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Wow.  Where the hell has the time gone???  

I started to compose who-knows-how-many different blog posts to kick off 2009, and none of them came to fruition.  Now here we are coming up on MAY, and I seem to have missed the window to blog about my New Year's resolutions, my Chinese New Year party, another gorgeous bouquet I received from my sweetie at Valentine's Day, my birthday celebration, our Spring Break trip to Philadelphia, or any other multitude of things that have happened in the last four months.  

In any event, here we are, three days away from our first big trip of 2009.  On Saturday, we leave for Houston and from there, to Moscow.  We'll spend two days in St. Petersburg and six in Moscow, and I can't wait.  April has been, far and away, the single most stressful month of my life.  I am in desperate need of a vacation, and at this point, I don't even care if it's one where I sit in a hotel room for 8 days and do nothing but watch movies or read People.  I promise to post a trip report and photos (unless of course we DO end up doing nothing but sitting in a hotel room and watching movies), and I also promise to return to my Chinese New Year party, however belated it ends up being.  I missed blogging about it last year and don't want to make that mistake again.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Long time, no post.

I know, it's been awhile since my last post. Life has been crazy and hectic and busy and insane. And by "life," I mean work. But when work takes up 12+ hours of your day, then it basically becomes life.

And this time of year is busy enough anyway, just on its own. With Thanksgiving so late this year, Christmas has snuck up on me. And here I am, barely a week away from getting on a plane to fly home to Houston for Christmas. I did get a little holiday candy-making done last weekend, but cards have yet to be signed (much less mailed) and I have packages that are not going to mail themselves either. Why can't Christmas be in January this year?

For now, though, I'm enjoying a short visit from my bro who I will see again in a week.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The holidays are upon us.

I know this because peppermint mochas are back on Starbucks' menu. And I had my first one of the season yesterday. I love this time of year.

I know, my life is sad.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Las Vegas

I just returned from my first trip to Vegas. It is likely to be my last. I'm apparently one of the few people in the world who doesn't think Vegas is the shiznit. Fortunately, I was accompanied by maybe the only two other people who aren't enamored with the glitz and glam of Sin City and were perfectly happy to shop, eat, and laugh. After all, that was the primary focus of this Girls' Weekend: great shopping, great food, great company.

Sharon & I arrived at almost the exact time Lisa's flight from Oregon arrived, so we met up in baggage claim and then waited in a long-ass taxi line to get to our hotel. We were not staying on the Strip, since that (again) was not the purpose of this trip. And I'm glad. I would have hated being in a hotel that is a tourist attraction and constantly packed with mobs of people streaming through the lobby, casino, restaurants, bars, etc. The only reason to be in a hotel, IMO, is because you're staying there. Hotels are not a destination. They're a place to sleep. But then again, it sounds like I just don't "get" Vegas. And don't get me started on the nastiness of having to walk through smoke-filled casinos just to get to a restaurant. In a hotel I'm not even staying at. UGH.

Anyway, we dropped off our stuff at the Courtyard by Marriott at the Convention Center, then caught a cab to Mandalay Bay, where I had chosen The Burger Bar for dinner. It's actually in Mandalay Place, the "mall" between Mandalay Bay and the Luxor. Great choice. I had an awesome sampler plate of sliders, including a buffalo slider with caramelized onions that turned out to be my favorite. And an amazing strawberry shake. Yum. Afterwards, we walked up the Strip, gawked at the scantily-dressed and drunken people crowding the streets, joked about the people who must think being in Vegas is just like being in Paris, or Venice, or Rome, and eventually caught a cab back to the hotel.

Friday morning we decided to pick up a rental car, after spending more than $50 in three hours on Thursday night for cab fare. It turned out to be money very well spent. We picked up our car at the Riveria, where the nice Hertz woman upgraded us for free and waived the fee for us to return the car to the airport. She seemed surprised and excited for me when I told her it was my first trip to Vegas. Good thing I didn't also mention how much I was hating it there. ;) Then we were off to the Premium Outlets, arriving just before they opened at 10:00 and hitting Starbucks for a caffeine jump start to our power shopping day. Who knew we would be closing the place down 11 hours later at 9:00! For the record, that was not 11 hours of straight shopping. We did take a break for lunch in the food court and a late-afternoon Dairy Queen sweet treat to hold us over until dinner.

Dinner was on the way back to the hotel, an unassuming strip center Thai place called Lotus of Siam that was just off the strip. It turned out to be one of the best Thai meals I've ever had, and that includes the meals we had in Thailand last month. EXCELLENT. The three of us shared a generous cup of tom yum kai soup, a Thai salad, crab fried rice, pad thai, garlic squid, and musaman curry. We cleaned up surprisingly well -- the shopping must have really worked up an appetite. The food was all incredible, the service was a bit on the slow side, but the prices were very reasonable. In fact, we walked out with a total tab of less than what each of us spent the following night at Nobu. For much less food. That was ten times better.

Day One's shopping haul:

Saturday was another bright and early day. First stop, Zappo's shoe outlet. It turned out to be a total bust on shoes, but I found a great purple cocktail dress that I didn't need in the slightest. I reluctantly hung it back on its rack and said I'd come back for it if I was still thinking about it in the afternoon. From there, we headed to lunch and then the Las Vegas Outlet Center for more shopping. I was still thinking about the dress, so we stopped back by Zappo's, then back to the Premium Outlets for returns and more shopping. We rushed back to the hotel to change for dinner, then off to the Hard Rock for our 7:30 dinner reservation at Nobu.

We all wanted sushi, so I did my due diligence to find a great place for dinner. But as with nearly any place, you can ask 20 people for the best sushi place in Vegas, and you'll get 20 different recommendations. I figured we couldn't go wrong with Nobu. Our server tried to guide us to the hot and cold menu items, but we were really just interested in sushi rolls. In his defense, he did warn us that they were good but nothing special and that for the "Nobu experience," we should go with the hot and cold menus. We did order a couple of things off the cold menu, then mostly stuck with sushi rolls. And he was right. They were good, everything was very fresh, but they were nothing particularly special. And especially not for the cost.

Lisa & Sharon at Nobu:

Sushi rolls at Nobu:

We skipped dessert at Nobu and headed to the Fontana Bar at the Bellagio, where we were meeting up with other friends for drinks. We snagged a table on the outdoor patio, where we had a great view of the fountain show every 15 minutes on a gorgeous evening.

Julie & Glenda were ready to shut the bar down, and I was still disappointed from not getting dessert, so we left them at the bar and set off in search of something sweet. We were guided to Jean Phillippe Patisserie at the Bellagio, and I was rewarded with the best chocolate gelato shake I've ever had. It was TO DIE FOR. Sharon's Nutella and banana crepes were pretty damn good too, and I'm not even a fan of crepes. Stuffed and exhausted, we headed back to the hotel and hit the sack.

Chocolate fountain at Jean Phillippe:

Best. Chocolate. Shake. EVER.

Sunday morning was spent trying to cram ten times more stuff than we arrived with back into our suitcases. Lisa was modest with the purchases so she was fine. I did OK, if you count carrying a briefcase onto the plane stuffed with 8 pairs of shoes OK. Sharon's situation was rough. Her suitcase was full, she had my outside luggage pockets filled to the brim, and it was looking like her "carry on" was going to be a triple-lined paper shopping bag overflowing with about 50 pounds of clothes. After a mediocre breakfast/brunch at the Sidewalk Cafe at Bally's, we dropped off Lisa at the airport and bid her a safe flight home. Then Sharon & I headed back to the outlet stores one last time, where she bought an extra suitcase to haul all her crap home. We had a little bit of time to kill in the late afternoon and went back to the Burger Bar for more excellent sliders and shakes. Stuffed and broke, we finally headed home.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Introducing Jeb and Tookie!

Don't ask about the names. Che came up with them. He said they look "hickish," and I guess Jeb and Tookie are hickish names?? Anyway, given that he wasn't thrilled about them coming home with me, I figured the least I could do was let him name the boogers. I got vetoed on my choices, which were Bunsen and Beaker.

Sara is not a fan so far, and they are not at all fond of Nacho, but I think in time, they will all learn to live peacefully. At least that's my hope.

Don't ask me which is which. Despite all efforts, we have yet to find any distinguishing markings that will allow us to tell them apart.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I hate being sick.

There is little I hate worse than being sick. It just throws everything in my life out of whack (eating, sleeping, exercising, working, EVERYTHING) and even the smallest of colds can take me weeks to recover from 100%. I don't even know what I have, but everyone (but me) is pretty sure it's not the bird flu, SARS, or the hanta virus. Probably just a cold or a sinus infection. But that on top of mild jet lag on top of trying to return to real life after two and a half weeks of vacation sucks.

The in-laws returned home today. It's nice to get my house back and feel like I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, without disturbing anyone else, but they were a godsend, both while we were gone and before/after our trip (especially with me being sick this week). And I'm sure Nacho and Sara are super sad that they no longer have someone at the house 24/7 to let them out whenever they want to go. Grandma and Grandpa will definitely be asked to return for future long trips, if they can be bribed to come back. They were the best housesitters we've had.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Days 16 and 17: Headed Home

This was our last day in Hong Kong, but a full one as our flight didn't leave until almost 11:00 p.m. We had planned to go to the Zoological and Botanical Gardens, which we missed the previous day due to the communication gap with our taxi driver, but I wasn't feeling up to it. I think I'm actually sick, and not just with allergies.

Instead, we met Jay & Cheron for dim sum at Tao Yuan Restaurant in the Great Eagle Centre in Wan Chai. Fortunately we had Cheron there to order for us, as the dim sum menu (which was ordered off a menu like sushi, not off of the more traditional dim sum carts) was all in Chinese. We had a delicious sampling of soup, dumplings, vegetables, and sweets, my favorite of which was the chicken soup with dumplings and cabbage. Afterwards, we headed back to Mongkok, where Che & I needed to pick up a new piece of luggage. After spending the morning in the hotel packing up, we realized that two of our three checked pieces would be over the allowed weight limit on Singapore Airlines for our return flight to Hong Kong. Cheron & I went off in search of a bag while Jay & Che hit the Fish Market one last time.

From there, we headed back down to our tailor in Tsim Sha Tsui to pick up our clothes. They fit great! My dress will be perfect for next year's Chinese New Year party. We did a little more last-minute souvenir shopping, then Che & I went back to the hotel to collect our stuff and repack our luggage. From there, it was off to the airport. We took a taxi to the Hong Kong MTR station, where there is an Airport Express line to the airport. However, all of the major airlines have ticket counters at the MTR station, so you can check in for your flights, get your boarding passes, and, best of all, check your luggage in! That way, you can ride the train in comfort to the airport carrying only your carry-on items and not worry about having to transport large suitcases as well. Very convenient.

The flight to San Francisco left just before 11:00 p.m. Hong Kong time on Saturday. With the time change, though, our 12-hour flight would be arriving in San Francisco at about 8:30 p.m. Saturday, SF time. We had booked a hotel room at the San Francisco Airport knowing it would be too late to get a direct flight home. We knew we couldn't sleep the whole return flight because we needed to get off the plane and pretty much be ready for bed in order to adjust our sleep schedule as quickly as possible. So we stayed up long enough to eat dinner on the plane and watch a movie, then napped for a few hours, and we were awake for the last 4-5 hours of the flight. By the time we arrived in San Francisco, got our luggage (why is it that baggage claim in every other country is so much faster than in the US?), cleared immigration and customs, caught a shuttle to the airport, checked in to our hotel, showered, and ate room service for dinner, we were pretty much winding down and ready to call it a night. Success on avoiding jet lag!!

Or so we thought. We both woke up Sunday morning at 4:30 a.m., wide awake and ready for the day. So we watched a movie in the room, went downstairs for breakfast as soon as the restaurant opened, then leisurely showered and packed our bags up for the last flight of our trip - home to Phoenix!! We arrived home mid-afternoon on Sunday and were just as excited to see the animals as they were to see us. And then the fatigue hit me. I was ready for a nap by 4:00, but Che talked me out of it for about an hour and we spent the hour showing his parents our trip pictures. By 5:00, I couldn't keep my eyelids open any longer, so at 5:30, I laid down for a nap. I got up at 7:00 thinking I would eat dinner, catch up with my in-laws, and maybe watch a movie, but a half hour later, I was ready for bed for the night. I got a good night's sleep and got up Monday morning bright and early at 6:30 a.m. feeling pretty well rested but officially sick with a cold or sinus infection, not sure which yet. So I'm hoping that the worst of the jet lag is done. Otherwise, it's going to be a very long week.

Day 15: Victoria Peak

Woke up with a scratchy throat and head/sinus congestion. Either the pollution is finally getting to me or I'm getting sick. Just before lunchtime, we headed out by taxi to the Victoria Peak tram terminal. Victoria Peak is the highest point on Hong Kong Island and is one of the wealthiest residential neighborhoods in Hong Kong. The tram is a funicular railway built in the 1800s that is still in operation today and transports people from the Central District of Hong Kong the 1.4 km up to Victoria Peak, with a few intermediate stops on the way. At the top, there is a shopping mall of sorts with some dining options and, on the top level, a Peak observatory that offers amazing 360-degree views of Hong Kong.

We got off the Tram and had lunch at Tien Yi, a Chinese restaurant located just one level below the observatory. Our table was right next to the window and we had a spectacular view of the city while we enjoyed a prix fixe dim sum lunch. Everything was delicious. Afterwards, we headed up to the observatory and walked around the terrace looking at views of the city from all angles. When we were done, we took the tram back down to Central.

From there, we tried to hop a cab to the Zoological and Botanical Gardens, but we kept getting English-challenged cab drivers, none of which could comprehend our destination (even with me pointing to the location on a map). So we headed back to the hotel instead and got cleaned up. We took the MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui and returned to the tailor for a fitting on our custom clothes. Then, I decided I was underdressed to meet our friends Amy & Erik for drinks at a swanky bar later that night, so I went off in search of a new outfit. I settled for a new top and shoes, which drew attention away from the ratty jeans I was wearing better than the t-shirt I had on. We were fairly far north in TST and needed to get back to the waterfront area quickly (not to mention I was wearing new shoes) so we tried to hop a cab and struck out again with the language barrier. Although this time, we had an English-speaking cab driver who clearly understood me when I said "One Peking Road," but kept asking for the address. Um, that IS the address -- ONE PEKING ROAD. He didn't get it, so we ended up high-tailing down there on foot.

Aqua Spirit is located on the top floor of One Peking Building (located at, yes, One Peking Road) and has awesome views of the Hong Kong Island skyline. As it turns out, though, the views were even better from Amy & Erik's apartment nearby. We had some drinks and appetizers, then went off in search of real food. We ended up at a restaurant close to where Amy & Erik live and had delicious and inexpensive late-night noodles. Amy & Erik were kind enough to invite us over for an impromptu visit at their apartment, which was incredible. They live on the 60-some floor of an apartment building in Kowloon, and from their balcony (which is a little high off the ground for me, but I did step outside and look for a bit while clutching the handrail tightly) they have breathtaking views of the Hong Kong Island skyline. It would be so easy to sit in their apartment every night and just be overwhelmed by looking outside the window. Their apartment is large by Hong Kong standards (and US standards in many big cities as well) and just gorgeous. We had a blast hanging out with them and hearing about their lives in Hong Kong as American expats. But we long overstayed our welcome and headed home by taxi after 1:00 a.m.

The tram to Victoria Peak:

Dim sum lunch at Tien Yi:

Views from Victoria Peak:

Che getting fitted for his new suit!