Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Going Going Gone

Have you ever been to a real-life auction? Sure, you’ve seen them in lots of movies and commercials, usually with some poor slob accidentally winning an auction for a useless and really expensive item because they made inappropriate gestures during bidding.

I went to an auction last Sunday for repossessed homes and I can tell you first-hand that it was fun and exciting to be there. Yes, the man at the podium really does talk fast, but unlike the movies/commercials it is a busy affair, with people constantly moving around the room and several men making hand gestures on the floor. Not all auctions are like this of course, but with the property values coming down some people snapped up good values, and others like me came to watch the action. The organizers ended up having to ask people to leave on account of the fire safety laws, so I only watched three properties being auctioned off. But man it was exciting! Rene and I witnessed a house in Anaheim being sold for $330K even though the market value was $528K – amazing! My friend Marina, who also attended the auction (but got there early and registered, unlike me who was late and wasn’t officially registered) gave me the low-down afterwards: on average, properties sold for 40% less than their market value, and the properties Rene and I were eyeing in Pasadena ended up being sold for 30% less than market value. I am hoping this trend will continue onto the next year when Rene and I are ready to buy a house (fingers crossed!).

We didn’t stay long after being asked to leave, so I went with Rene and my Mom to downtown LA to have breakfast and run some errands. Downtown LA is not my favorite place to hang out during the weekends on account of the homeless dudes – it’s nothing against them, some of them are probably very nice people, but some of them are very loud and scary-looking. I always think safety first, and make it my mission to get out of there as fast as I can.

We cruised the area surrounding the convention center and marveled at all the new condos and apartments being built. They are really nice but my concern is that the area is still rough; the area between hobo town and nice lofts is one or two blocks, too close for my taste. As we were passing through Little Tokyo we saw a street fair and decided to have a look.

Turns out there was a Nisei Festival taking place in Little Tokyo, with organizations like the Optimist Club, LA Firefighters, and LA Sheriff setting up booths, along with local clubs setting up games for fundraising. Rene and I bought this wooden frog that makes a frog sound when you run a little stick through its backside; we got it to annoy our dog. For some reason Chuy does not like instruments or toys that make noise; he goes berserk when I play sounds from our bird book. Our bird book is the coolest book ever – each page has a picture of a bird and a little blurb about where they come from, along with a reference number you punch in at the side so you can hear it sing. When I press the play button, he tries to find the sound within the book. It is endearing and funny.

We browsed the booths and shops at the festival and also saw the drum competition. I’ve never seen a Japanese drum troupe perform in perfect unison, punctuated by solos within the group. It was fun watching them and it looked like they were having a lot of fun. Something about their synchronicity brought tears to my eyes; this also happens to me when watching people dance, when the people are making the same exact movements in unison. Yes, I do tear up a tiny bit sometimes when I’m watching So You Think You Can Dance. Yes, I am such a dork. Does that happen to you too?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Mission: Accomplished (at least mission #4 anyway)

Guess what I did this Saturday? Why I visited another mission of course (as if the title didn’t already give that away, man I make it so easy!). Rene and I went to see Mission San Gabriel Archangel (#4 of 21) in beautiful San Gabriel, California. I dressed up as Nicole Ritchie for the occasion, in a short dress complete with oversized sunglasses (minus baby bump). I hope I did Nicole proud.

Before we visited the mission, we lunched at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles
, my favorite restaurant in Pasadena. If you haven’t been you should definitely check it out; without question they make the best fried chicken in LA. As you know, I have certain rules about food I do not break, namely having anything sweet in my entrée. Hence, I do not like any salads with fruit added, I do not like orange-flavored chicken, and I hate raisins in my main dish. I like to limit the sweets to dessert, which I enjoy tremendously, sometimes more than the entrée itself. But I digress. The reason chicken and waffles work reason is this: I always eat the chicken first as an entrée and have the waffles as dessert. I do not eat them simultaneously - genius. You should try it! And don’t worry about feeling out of place in that restaurant, especially the one in Pasadena. I have seen people of all races eat there without any eyebrows raised, and I have been there plenty of times (enough to know not to show up after church on Sundays). If you don’t believe me look at the picture of N’Sync in their glory days on the wall. Man that Justin Timberlake was rocking some baby jeri curls back in the day!

So it turns out that the mission was located only minutes away from my beloved Roscoe’s. We found the area after a short commute on surface streets. On the way to the mission is a lovely street with restaurants and mom-and-pop stores. Rene and I checked out a shop called Sol y Cortina which sold handcrafted household items and clothing. We fell in love with their beautiful ethnic mirrors, all of which were priced under $200. Sadly, no mirrors came home with us but we will definitely come back when we are in the market for a beautiful red mirror like the one I saw that day.

As we walked further down the street, we came across this beautiful little theatre called the Mission Playhouse. At first we thought it was the mission and started snapping away in front of the fountain and the entrance. We finally figured out that it was NOT the mission by processing these clues: there was no cross atop the structure, there was a ticket booth on the side, and there were movie posters displayed in Chinese at the entrance. Yep, this was not the mission. Don’t laugh but it took me ten minutes to figure that out. Sometimes I am such a dork. Also, this adult recreation center on the side kind of gave it away too; in church it’s called a rectory or something, but definitely not an adult recreation center. Do you know why this would be a recreation center just for adults, and not for everyone? Hmmm… Anyhow, it turns out the mission was just around the corner but in the other direction.

On our way to the entrance, Rene and I spied a group of teenagers taking pictures for a Quincenera on the church lawn and decided to spend time observing them (code for checking out that incredibly heinous outfit the birthday girl was wearing! Sadly, we took no pictures). Since when did gold and red princess gowns come back into vogue? Honestly, that outfit, complete with the poodle hair, would’ve made me cry at 15. I feel sorry for the poor girl for having such unfortunate photographic evidence of that look!

We finally made it to the mission after our break. The mission façade, like the other missions, is pretty simple. It’s basically beige stucco with large wooden doors. It wasn’t laid out in the shape of the cross like San Juan Capistrano (or SJC as I like to call it; kinda catchy, huh?) but rather was like an “L,” with the church in the bottom with the campanile (fancy word for bell tower, see I learned something in Italy!) and museum on the side.

You enter the mission through the gift shop, or at least I did, since there was a wedding in progress. This is probably how they get you to pay the $5 entrance fee, since it’s hard to walk through the gift shop without them noticing you. When you first enter the mission grounds, the first thing you notice are the gravestones with a huge figure of Christ on a cross in the middle. It didn’t feel creepy seeing all those headstones since they were arranged so neatly and many, if not all, of the deceased were priests who used to work at the mission. The huge Christ figure didn’t bother me either since it was surrounded by grass and fruit trees. Overall, the effect was peace and tranquility. It’s nice to see the church pay tribute to those who served it during their lifetimes. Rene specifically told me not to smile while we took pictures, so instead I look pouty and pissed – thanks Rene. It would’ve been better if I wasn’t in the picture at all.

Right after the graveyard is a little museum dedicated to the mission’s history. There were lots of pictures of the local Indians, called Gabrielinos, on the walls, along with their art work and tools. What really excited me was the exhibit of a mission bedroom from the 1800s; on display was this beautiful, ornate headboard depicting the Virgin Mary. Can you imagine sleeping with that image above you? It must’ve been such a luxury back in those days to have a bed, let alone such a beautiful headboard.

After marveling at the artifacts in the museum, Rene and I strolled to the garden, where three artists were painting. One was using an angel statue as the subject, the other a person they came with, and the third a really large desert plant. Of the three, the one painting the desert plant had the best picture, so we took a shot of her working under a beautiful tree with yellow blossoms. Past this tree is a model of all 21 missions that were constructed by elementary school kids. Seeing this only reminds me of my shortcomings in 4th grade – no way they made those on their own! Come on –I couldn’t even figure out how to make one wall, let alone a whole model. And what kid puts stucco on the mission? Seems a bit too complex for me… they definitely got help.

To top off our visit, we went inside the church itself and saw a baptism in progress. I noticed that the parishioners definitely use this church – first the wedding, now a baptism. Perhaps there was another wedding on tap so Rene and I sat down for only a few minutes to take a picture of the altar.

That’s it for mission #4. Stay tuned for the next mission!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Buda Buda Buda Buda Shakin’ Everywhere

What do you think about when someone mentions the city Budapest? What about Hungary? For me, these two places brought to mind goulash (customary Hungarian fare) and Attila the Hun (blood-thirsty conqueror who lived around 500 AD and may have ridden elephants). Notice how I always think about the food first?

Anyway, my trip to Budapest was my first foray into the former Soviet Bloc, where people used to spend most of their day standing in line for rations. That being said, I was a bit nervous about visiting Budapest. My friend, the lovely Miss Lisa-Kim, was working in Budapest during my trip to Paris, so my friend Erin and I planned to visit her while getting in some sight-seeing. What a brilliant plan!

Being the planner that she is, Erin quickly found two tours we got excited about: a bike tour of Budapest (because who doesn’t like bike tours? They are the best kind!) and a night tour
that took visitors to illuminated sights, talked about vampire lore, and gave out wine at the end! Plus, we were going to catch up with Lisa-Kim, one of our favorite people. It looked to be a very busy and fun weekend.

Unfortunately the weather had other plans in mind. On the day we left Paris it was raining delaying our flight by four hours. We ended up taking off at 11 p.m. on a little plane with propellers and only 15 rows of seats (I kid you not). When was the last time you took a plane with propellers?! To top it off, flight was turbulent from start to finish, making it difficult to sleep, read a magazine, or do anything besides grip your armrest. I felt lucky to still be in one piece after we landed.

The arrival process was fairly simple – customs was fast, restrooms were easily found, and there was an ATM! Hungary hasn’t been admitted as part of the European Union yet, so we needed Forints (HUF for short) to get around. We followed Lisa-Kim’s advice and followed signs to Zona taxi. (Side note: you are planning to visit an eastern European destination sometime in the future, please be aware that taxis are notorious for ripping off tourists. You should definitely contact your hotel and/or spend some time investigating reputable taxi companies. You don’t want to be doing this at the airport at 1 a.m. I don’t remember how much it the fare cost but it was a flat rate to the city, posted on the Zona taxi signs.) We rode in a Mercedes sedan… with a driver we were convinced was trying to kill us. I did mention that it was raining that night, right? Apparently Mr. Taxi Driver did not notice, because he stepped on that accelerator like this foot was made out of brick and took the turns like a Formula One driver at 60 mph. I put on my seat belt as fast as I could and made my peace with God. Thankfully, the scariest ride of my life ended after 20 minutes. Apparently taxi drivers drive this way so that they can catch another fare back at the airport.

After the taxi ride from hell, we pulled up to the very posh Le Meridien Budapest and met the hotel clerk, Attila (it turns a lot of men in Hungary are named Attila). That picture to the right was my room. In addition to the high ceilings and huge desk, the bathroom had heated marble floors – oh my! After a long night of traveling and almost losing my life to an overzealous taxi driver, the heated marble floor and a bathtub so large it almost required a lifeguard, really perked me up. I think I may have shed a few tears while taking a bath – business travel accommodations are so awesome!

Like I said, Erin and I had high hopes for Saturday but the rain remained. The rain stayed throughout the weekend, with intermittent showers and bouts of thunder and lighting at night, which was fun (but not really). Normally Budapest has nice weather this time of year but we picked a bad weekend to visit weather-wise.

Our friend Lisa-Kim came to visit us on Saturday morning, and after our reunion and gift exchange (she gave me a Hello Kitty keychain from Coach, hello I love this woman!) we set off on exploring the city, overcast skies be damned. At this point we decided to hang out with Lisa-Kim instead of taking the bike tour; we didn’t want to get caught in the rain while riding a bike.

From our hotel we walked to the area known as Castle Hill. Budapest is actually comprised of two main areas separated by the Danube River. The first is Buda, where Castle Hill is located, and the other is, you guessed it, Pest (pronounced Pesch), where the commercial part of the city is located. I think Buda was where the aristocrats lived and Pest was where all the traders/peasants lived back in the day. I did not have an official tour guide on this trip so I really couldn’t tell you. I did, however, have Lisa-Kim who knew all the good places to eat, which was even better. Anyway, to go to Castle Hill you need to cross one of the most famous sights in town called the Chain Bridge (yes, that is Erin at 6'1" and me, the Hobbit, at 5'3"). It’s even more spectacular at night when the lights are on.

Once we reached Castle Hill we took the funicular, which is a cross between an elevator and a cable car used for steep slopes, up to Buda Castle. Once there, we explored the castle’s courtyard, wandered through a marketplace where I bought a hand-made sweater for Vivi, and explored the area surrounding the castle. That was where I met Attila and his falcon. For 1,000 Forints you could take pictures with this gorgeous specimen of a man and his bird. Isn’t he dreamy? I love a man in two-tone tights and dreadlocks.

The lovely Lisa-Kim and Erin inside the funicular.

Castle Hill garden

My boyfriend Attila and his little pet

Me and Lisa-Kim

After our jaunt through Castle Hill, we went window shopping and found the same necklace a very chic French girl at the office owns that Erin and I had been admiring. Since she lived in Paris and all, we didn't think she'd mind if we copied her style, and it was $20 well-spent. I get compliments on this necklace every time I wear it. I wore it the very next day since I liked it so much; you can see me wearing it at the picture below in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica.

Exhausted after our day at Castle Hill and window shopping, the ladies and I went out for dinner at a quaint restaurant whose name I can’t remember. What I do remember is ordering goulash (Hungarian beef stew), which was delicious, and red wine, which was exquisite. It was the perfect meal after a day of walking around and seeing the sights.

It rained on our way back to the hotel so Erin and I called it a night and made plans to have brunch with Lisa-Kim the next day (again with the food!). That night the trinity came: thunder, lightning, and their sister, rain. I watched them from my cozy hotel room as I caught up on my e-mails and settled in for the night. Sometimes it is good to have some down time.

The next day we met Lisa-Kim and Cristiano (whom we also met in London) for brunch. Did I mention how posh our hotel was? Apparently, it is the place to have Sunday brunch, and it did not disappoint. Over the course of two and a half hours, the four of us had three full courses plus dessert, not to mention all the Bellinis we could drink (it was a buffet) – pure heaven. After we were done, we managed to waddle out of the restaurant to see St. Stephen’s Basilica. This church was named in honor of Stephen, the first king of Hungary, whose mummified remains are housed in the church. It is the tallest building in Budapest and was completed in
1905 after 54 years of construction because of the dome’s collapse in 1868. It was very large and ornate inside, and it was humbling standing in the presence of such a beautiful church.

St. Stephen interior

Cupola at St. Stephen

In front of St. Stephen's - notice how my new necklace compliments the yellow shirt

Our last activity in Budapest was visiting a fancy wine store for souvenirs; a lot of the other shops were closed on Sunday. I bought two red wines and Hungarian liqueur called Unicum. Unicum is made from black licorice and is very strong, but Rene and I haven’t tried it yet; we love the packaging and are still waiting for the perfect occassion to drink it. For now, it sits atop our fridge, waiting for the day it will be poured into a glass.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Around the World

One of the things I miss most about my old job is the amount of travel I used to do. In the past two years my work has taken me to:

Dulles, VA
New York, NY
Las Vegas, NV
Atlanta, GA
Charlotte, NC

London, England
Paris, France
Hamburg, Germany
Madrid, Spain
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Rome & Florence, Italy
Copenhagen, Denmark
Prague, Czech Republic
Budapest, Hungary
Gold Coast, Sydney & Melbourne, Australia

Looking back on all these locations I am amazed at the amount of travel I have done, especially within the past year. I wasn’t assigned to all these locations; some I visited during my weekends off (this is a nice perk when traveling abroad – since they can’t fly you home, they pay for your hotel stay and food anywhere you choose to go during the weekend), and some I visited after my work stint was finished. And some I visited because of a conference, very exciting!

Now that I will not be doing extensive traveling any time soon, at least not the kind I used to do, I sometimes reminisce about those trips I’ve taken and the fun I’ve had in those cities.

I originally got the idea for this blog when I visited Italy and regaled my friends and family with my adventures (well, more like what I saw and what I ate, which was always along the line of something really old (saw) and pasta/gelato (ate)). I’ve realized, after sending everyone 11 e-mails at least 2 MB in size, that perhaps a blog would be nicer. That, and my mom nearly went blind trying to open all those pictures I’ve attached in the e-mails.

So what I’d like to do from time to time is post my experiences about a particular place that I perhaps haven’t told you about. This will be a good way for me to write down my memories of the place before I completely forget them – and also show you some pictures.

Stay tuned and prepare to hear about Budapest in my next post!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Who's the Big Dummy Now?

I know I've referred to my dog as a Big Dummy in the past but lately behind those vacant eyes is a dog that knows how to get what he wants and he's finally figured out a way to get it.

Take tonight for example. I had no idea Chuy understood the word walk. My dog Princess, bless her soul, knew this word intimately and would get excited whenever she heard it. At some point we even started spelling it out just so she wouldn't get so hyped up (luckily for us, she never learned how to spell). Apparently Chuy, unknown to us, also knows this word, and got a little excited.

What happened next is an annoying development that's been taking place this past week. He whines. Chuy whines, and cries, and taps you with his big paws in order to get his walk. It is incredibly annoying but incredibly effective. I understand that he's been alone all day and he wants his 30 minute walk NOW, but it's annoying to be heckled by your own dog for a walk.

Friends, my dog is a diva.

On a side note, while out on a walk with Chuy tonight, we took a picture of this bus. Wouldn't that be a great bus to ride?

Wouldn't it be great if you could say It's Friday, let's get on board the party bus!


You're taking a cab? Me, I'm going on the party bus!


Yes, it was me you saw having fun aboard the party bus!

Really, the great phrases are endless. I even found myself trying to come up with more as I was trying to get to sleep last night.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

New Living Room Setup

On Friday afternoon I felt so inspired by our new den setup that I decided to re-configure our living room furniture and dining room table and chairs, just to mix it up a bit. What do you think of the results?

The only thing missing is wall decor, which is always hard to pick. I mean, I have a million pictures on my computer; which one should I frame and display? Stay tuned for results of Project: Decorate Wall.

Mission San Juan Capistrano

Rene and I made plans to visit San Diego on Saturday: first to see the San Diego Mission (first mission in California!), then the Balboa Park Botanical Garden, Sunset Cliffs beach, and a nice dinner in SD to cap off the day. Unfortunately our late start, combined with the crazy traffic on I-5, forced us to make other plans. As soon as we saw the sign for San Juan Capistrano we got off that poop sandwich of a freeway and decided to visit Mission San Juan Capistrano instead. This mission is world famous for the swallows that migrate to the town in March every year (and leave in October). Apparently it is a sight to behold.

Mission San Juan Capistrano is the 7th of 21 California missions. Rene and I are planning to visit all 21 missions, and this is our second mission. Living in the valley we have passed the San Fernando Mission dozens of times but that I don't count that one because we have never seen the interior or taken pictures in front of the church. Anyway, the lovely people who oversee SJC kept the original structure of the mission, which was built in 1776 by Friar Junipero Serra. In addition to the church, there is a compound that housed the religious order and a garden area where crops were grown for the residents. Now the mission is a museum and can be rented out for special events. On the day we visited tables for a wedding reception were being set up. It must be great celebrating a marriage inside the grounds of this great place.

The first thing Rene and I noticed while wandering the grounds were the size of the doorways - Rene could've been Yao Ming's size back in 1776 judging from the small door frames. Even I looked tall standing right next to them! All the doorways in the mission were this size, so Rene had to duck under each entrance to make sure the frame didn't clock his head. These doorways reminded me of Castle Sant'Angelo in Rome. They are roughly the same height and width, which got me thinking - would I have been considered a tall girl back in the day?

The mission grounds were beautiful. There were two big fountains with koi fish and lotuses, one by the front entrance and one in the middle of the mission courtyard. The grounds were landscaped with rose bushes, succulents, and native California plants. They also had some crops growing on the side of the mission: corn, artichokes, beans, squash, and herbs like rosemary and fennel.

The crown of the mission is the church, and this one is beautiful. The altar is from the baroque period and it was originally brought over from Spain. According to the mission guide, this was the first church were Friar Serra gave mass. Although the church is small and only contained a few rows of benches, the altar was pristine and gorgeous, and the benches were originals from the 1700s (no doubt priceless antiques by now). This blend of ornate and simple gave the church a comfortable vibe, and some worshippers said a few prayers while visiting the church.

Outside the church is a small courtyard with a fountain, and this is where Rene and I took a break from the sun. After we regained our energy we visited the gift shop and more of the grounds. Here are some pics:

After we got back to the car, I thought that maybe our detour to SJC was meant to be: check out my necklace. As I've said earlier, SJC is famous for its swallows. To me, the fact that I am wearing a swallow necklace is a sign that I was meant to visit this mission today. That, or the I-5 had too many accidents that caused horrible traffic. I think the necklace as a sign is a more plausible explanation.

After our visit to the mission, we took PCH home and the 405 home (curse that I-5!). We ate dinner at Cafe Brasil, one of our favorite restaurants. I love having the ranchera meat with salsa, beans, plantains, and fresh passionfruit juice to wash all the goodness down. I've been coming to this restaurant since 2001 and I never tire of having the same thing.

After dinner we made a quick stop at Ross to look for a new lamp shade. Besides having low prices (the lamp shade cost $6.99!), Ross is great for unique finds. While browsing through the household section Rene found a Spode plate depicting the Vatican and Castle Sant'Angelo for $5.49! This is a great addition to our Roman sourvenirs and will be mounted on the wall next to the framed map of Rome. I was so happy that I decided to take a picture of our find in the store. Yes, I am a geek.

Take Me Out to The Ball Game

On Friday night, I went to see the Dodgers play the Colorado Rockies with Rene, my sister Vieve and her boyfriend Ken. Unlike the $10 nosebleed seats, the tickets we got were close to the action. A big THANK YOU to my cousin Sharon for giving me the tickets and the preferred parking space (which was awesome). We felt like big spenders at the game.

This was Rene's first baseball game. For some reason he has never been into baseball; for me, it's because baseball broadcasts are boring. However, I must say that watching a game on TV and watching a game live is like two different animals. The live games are NEVER boring - in addition to the non-stop action on the field there is always something to watch or read on the jumbo screen. And when you get a tired of that, there are always Dodger dogs or ice cream malts to eat. I was fully entertained for three hours.

Game highlights: After Jeff Kent hit a home run in the second inning, the Dodgers scored four more home runs and led the game 5-0 until the fifth inning. Unfortunately this was the time I chose to buy my Dodger dog and ice cream malt and heard all the excitement as I was paying for my food and putting ketchup on my hot dog. I had rotten timing!

During the game there is something called the "Kissing Cam" - basically couples are shown on the jumbo screen with their faces inside a heart. Most, if not all, couples kiss and it is very sweet to watch this on the big screen. The best part came when the last couple was shown on the screen. At first, the man and woman looked embarrased to be on the jumbo screen, and it looked like the guy was avoiding the woman. Then a big message flashed on the scoreboard that said, "Alesandra Will You Marry Me?" and the guy got down on one knee. How romantic! She said yes, they kissed, and the whole stadium cheered. Who ever said there's no romance in baseball? This may have happened last year when I went to see the Dodgers (again, courtesy of lovely cousin Sharon) but to me it never gets old.

There was no break on the action until the seventh inning stretch, my favorite part of the game. This is my favorite part because everyone in the stadium gets up, stretches, and sings Take Me Out to the Ball Game. A baseball game just isn't complete until you sing this song, and I was having a lot of fun singing off-key like the other drunk people in the stands. There was also a wave going throughout the game, and I must've gotten off my seat three or four times for the wave. Unfortunately you can't experience these things when watching the game, and it makes the experience so worthwhile. Here are some pics:

The Dodgers won without having to play the bottom of the ninth inning, and we had a great time.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Finally, a Desk to Call My Own

Rene and I were tired of our den's setup, and today we did something about it - well, mostly Rene did something about it. I moved a few boxes around and re-arranged stacks of magazines and stayed out of his way.

Behold! I now have room in the den for my tiny desk and laptop. Directly above my desk is a framed map of the world in case I ever want to know what Uruguay's capital is (it's Montevideo!). Being a geography geek and a lover of travel, I can look at this map for hours. I hope that by the end of the year I wil have memorized all of the countries of the world and their capitals.

What Does the Color Sherbret Look Like?

When J. Crew refers to a color as sherbret, please keep this in mind.

I had imagined sherbret being darker in color, a vivid red perhaps, not ORANGE. Since this is a final sale, eg not returnable, I made the best out of the situation by throwing on a cute brown belt and peep toe platform shoes. But are they enough to salvage the outfit? Stay tuned!

That smile on my face is not one of amusement; I always smile for pictures. I am really crying inside.

UPDATE (8/16/07 3:34 PM)

I'd like to send a shout-out to my friend Erin for saying that she liked the pink/orange look of the dress - thank you! Someone else in the office said they like the dress - bless her heart!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Paradise Cove

Sunday was a beautiful LA day. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the beach beckoned for us to come. Rene and I packed our bags and hopped on his motorcyle for Paradise Cove Cafe to have lunch and go swimming (him, not me - I was thinking of just hanging out and reading books). Paradise Cove Cafe - the restaurant has a nice ring to it, no?

Fast forward to the restaurant waiting area 30 minutes later - the wait for a table is two hours! Are you kidding me? I was really peeved and was about to tell the hostess no thank you but Rene stopped me and said that we should hang out for while we waited for our table. I wasn't thrilled with having to wait two more hours to eat, but sometimes we just have to make the best out of the situation and not whine so much (well, I still whined a little bit to get it out of my system and soldiered on).
While Rene swam I sat on the beach reading my book. The weather was so gorgeous - pleasantly warm and sunny - that I didn't mind putting my thoughts of food aside. Lazy days like these remind me of why I love living in LA and why everyone in the South probably hates us. 90% humidity, anyone?

After an hour spent on the beach, Rene and I went back to the restaurant for our table. We were starving and ordered fried calamari as appetizers, and charbroiled halibut for me, clam linguine for Rene. The portions, especially the calamari was huge, and it came in a huge martini glass - nice touch! However, the food was not awesome as I had hoped but okay, and to be honest it wasn't worth the wait, but the atmosphere was nice and the view was great. When the bill finally came I was surprised to learn that our meal cost $75 plus tip - yikes!

Next time I think we'll bring some PB&J and avoid the exhorbitant bill. At least we got a postcard out of it.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Venice Canals

We got up early on Saturday morning to have Rene's motorcycle tuned up in Culver City. Chuy came with us so that he could get his morning walk while we waited for the motorcycle to get fixed. We parked near the beautiful neighborhood overlooking the Venice canals and took a walk.

I've lived in Los Angeles for 15 years now, and although I've passed this area a few times, I have never actually walked around the neighborhood. The houses are very well-maintained, and all of the backyards have low walls to capture the view of the canal and the surrounding houses. It must be so nice to live here and get a view of the canal early in the morning. It must also be a pain at the same time because there isn't very much privacy in the backyard; the yards are small and people walking on the sidewalk can see everything. I guess that's the trade-off. We had fun taking in the scene and took some pics during our walk:

Mr. Chuy was not happy about being picked up by Rene for a picture. He was sniffing around and was too distracted to pay attention to us, so Rene took matters into his hands and hoisted him up for a photo. By the time it was my turn, Chu Chu was a little mellower but not very pleased. He had tons of fun, and we even walked all the way to Venice Beach.

During our walk, people kept wanting to pet Chuy and kept telling us that he is the cutest dog ever. I tell Chuy everyday that he is the cutest dog in the whole world but I'm biased because he's my dog. I guess everyone else feels the same way I do.

Chuy was knocked out for the rest of the day.