Archive for February, 2013

Cruising and Dining

Monday, February 18th, 2013

The biggest highlight of any cruise is the food. We had all kinds of food throughout the trip. When we got tired of the long buffet lines, we went to the main dining hall to be served. Since it was also all-you-can-eat, we decided that it was a more relaxing atmosphere for us. We even started coming here for breakfast! We changed places often. On this night, all the guys sat together on one side.

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This is SM and HB enjoying a piece of steak together. They are obviously quite happy with their order!

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Here is Andy getting ready to tackle his steak and Meiling looking on delightedly. The look on his face is priceless!

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As for me, by far my most favorite dish was the lobster and shrimp! I even had two orders. The lobster was juicy and scrumptious, especially dipped in melted butter. The shrimp was one of the tastiest and most flavorful I’ve had! I will not forget this memorable dish.

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Though we did not go all-out to dress up, we did manage to put on better clothes than the casual ones we usually wear. On formal night, SX and I had this picture taken. Notice the necklace!

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At Sea

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

On the day that the ship stayed out in the sea, we were free to just wander around. We separated from the rest of the group. We mostly stayed in the room to nap, explored the ship and its amenities, including the gym, casinos, and bars. Of course, there was the buffet that everyone enjoyed. This afternoon, we were invited to listen to Steve playing the piano. He made friends with Tony, one of the staff workers who was playing the piano in one of the lounges. Tony was gracious enough to let us use the room so we could listen to Steve play the piano for us. He played broadway musical songs and some Chinese folk songs. Tony played some contemporary pieces as well. It was nice to have met a friend on board.

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We found out later that Tony was a break dancer and that he was going to perform that night. He invited us to watch him. And so, after the formal dinner, we headed to the area and watched him and his partner entertain the crowd with his breakdancing moves. He was an amazing dancer and he absolutely charmed the crowd! After the show, we came up to him and he welcomed us warmly and invited us to take a picture with him. Here he is showing off his moves in front.

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What would a cruise be without the folded towels shaped like animals? This was waiting for us when we came back in our cabin. I think it’s an elephant. Whatever it is, it elicited an “awwww…” from me when I saw it. And of course, I just had to take a picture!

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Ensenada

Saturday, February 16th, 2013

In the days leading up to the cruise, SX kept saying that he was not going down for an excursion in Mexico. He complained of the price, the street conditions, the safety, etc. I did not feel strongly either way because I did not mind staying in the ship and just lounging around. But our group was so enthusiastic that we decided to go along with them. We reasoned that we weren’t going to pay for a tour guide so it was going to be inexpensive, at least. We were just going to walk around on our own. What ended up happening was that we had to take a $3 round-trip bus ride, which was not too bad. We were able to do some window shopping along the streets of Ensenada. And it was such a beautiful day!

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We saw signs in Spanish, local restaurants, street children selling gums and toys, and all kinds of shops that sell souvenirs. There were so many vendors and peddlers! Definitely a tourist spot! One of the funnier moments was when we saw this man standing on a corner with his toddler. We were admiring how cute the baby was and he blurted out, “This one’s for sale, too.”

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I bought my customary refrigerator magnet but not much else appealed to me. At the very last minute, near this place where they sell large Mexican hats and where we took this picture, SX made a deal with a vendor and bought me a necklace. I did not ask for it, but it was a nice-looking one, and I wore it to dinner because it was formal night that night. What a thoughtful husband!

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Carnival

Friday, February 15th, 2013

We had been planning this trip for a few months now. After taking everyone’s schedule into consideration (mine not included, of course), we decided to do it this President’s Day weekend, which also happened to be more expensive than the regular cruise price. But it was one of the few times that the whole family could be together and we had to take advantage of this reunion. After all, it’s not easy to fly in from China and New York to California without taking advantage of the great weather! Here are the happy cruisers getting ready to get onboard!

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Whenever we tell people that we’re going on a cruise, it seems that they always refer to the recent mishap of another Carnival cruise line stuck for five days in the Gulf of Mexico. It was big news the few days before we were about to leave. While I was not worried at all, it was amusing to hear the unspoken concern from people who comment on it. It was fascinating to read about what happened on that cruise ship, and I imagined what I would do if I were one of the passengers there. It didn’t really factor into our enjoyment. I was going to eat, sleep, and enjoy the amenities of this floating hotel!

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Valentine’s Day

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

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I don’t know if it’s going to be a yearly Valentine practice, but my husband got me roses again this year. They were beautiful red ones, my favorite. I was touched by this romantic gesture, especially since he is not prone to being romantic. We both believe that true love is shown not in flowers nor candies nor even expensive dinners, but in the everyday gestures of kindness and grace. As far as I’m concerned, everyday is Valentine’s Day! However, I did file a complaint. Last year, before we got married, he got me a dozen roses. This time, he only got me six. When I asked him why, he said that the dozen ones in the store did not look as fresh. He’d rather get me a few quality ones than a dozen of the dryer ones . Okay … I’ll accept that answer. I couldn’t help but jokingly ask him if he’ll get me three roses next year, to which he answered, “If the economy picks up again, maybe it will go back up to twelve.”

Early Valentine

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

We had an early Valentine’s celebration because, for the first time in many days, we had the evening all to ourselves. Everyone went to the basketball game and we had alone time, finally. SX gave me three choices for restaurant. He had a sentimental reason for each one. That was sweet and thoughtful of him. It was an easy choice for me not so much for sentimental reasons but because I hadn’t been to the place before: Tommy Bahamas in Newport Beach. I ordered Baby Back Ribs and SX ordered Shrimp Pasta. The food was good, but what was better was the ambience and intimate feeling of being alone together. I personally relished the time and felt more relaxed than I’ve ever been in a long time.

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After dinner, we took a walk around the plaza. We went into shops, looked around, and just had a leisurely time exploring. Neither of us had been there and we both agreed that it was like being in a new world because it’s so different from our area. Just the parking lot alone was a revelation. There were rows of Mercedes Benzes and BMW’s. We even saw a Rolls Royce. It was such a rare sight that we had to take a quick picture. One from the front angle …

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… and one from the back.

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We also spotted a restaurant called Gulfstream. I wanted to see their food choices so we walked up to look at their menu. Right when we reached the front door, we saw Arte Moreno, the Angels Baseball owner! When I saw him, I nudged SX, but I don’t think he recognized him. When Moreno walked past us, I managed to squeak out a “hello” but I don’t think he heard me. Even if he did, maybe he didn’t care to respond. Anyway, that was quite a highlight for that evening. That was the kind of town we explored tonight!

Dinner Guests

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

We invited dinner guests over tonight for some homemade food. This family’s mother is away in Taiwan. The father admits that his daughter has been complaining about his cooking so I’m sure he’s thankful to have a break. We did not disappoint. My in-laws outdid themselves once again by spending the whole day on very specific menu items. And once again, we came away really full that evening. It had been a while since we had gotten together with this special family. They have done much to support us and their friendship means a lot. The other purpose of the dinner was to discuss logistics and get excited about going to the Clippers game the next night. Since they were carpooling, they had to coordinate their schedule. At the end of the night, we sat around the living room to relax, have tea, and chat. While flipping through the channels, lo and behold, there was a Lakers game! They finished watching the game before they left. But it wasn’t really the game that mattered but the fellowship. It was good just to spend time with them. For what its worth, the Lakers won.

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Positive

Monday, February 11th, 2013

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Even sunny skies have gray clouds that occasionally bring rain. Conversely, there is a silver lining in every dark cloud. In either case, we can choose our attitude. It has definitely been a struggle, but I choose to stay positive. There is always Hope.

Chen Family

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

The Chen family New Year’s party is a homemade affair, and there can be no other way. Not only are my in-laws averse to eating at restaurants in general, they absolutely love cooking and hosting people. They spent a whole day preparing for this meal, flitting about the kitchen and the dining room. This is what the table looked like an hour before the guests arrived.

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When everyone was finally seated, there were ooohs and aaahs over the food — all made from scratch. We had two different kinds of soup and eight courses altogether, not counting dessert. For such a small gathering and a relatively small table, we certainly chowed down our share of New Year’s food.

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After the meal, we had a time of fellowship. Being the musician that he is, Aaron wanted to show us a bass ukelele on Youtube. The majority of our guests were also music lovers, so we just naturally gathered in a corner to watch on the iPad.

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Further into the evening, when the party broke into even smaller groups, I hung out with Molly and her mom. We talked quietly together and caught up on life. This was after I showed her a couple of games on the iPad which I think she enjoyed. I wonder if I’m doing her a favor or doing her a disservice by tempting her to Bubble Mania and Fruit Ninja?!

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Co Family

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

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We got the call just a few days before the actual event. At first, we weren’t sure if we could go, and it actually surprised me that everyone agreed to it even though my parents would not be there. The Co family gathering this year was a really small one, but since grandma was going, it was a significant get-together. As usual, she was fashionably late. She had an infection on her leg so it took her a lot longer to get ready. I felt sad to see her so frail. During the meal, she could only drink soup and she was subdued. When one of my cousins (her favorite) called from Virginia (he couldn’t make it because his newborn baby girl was sick), I could tell she was buoyed but looked sad, almost weepy, after they hung up. Regardless, it was still a happy reunion for the rest of us. I sat next to Daphne and we had a lot of catching up to do.

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Props to my cousin and Auntie for putting this event together in such a short period of time. They ordered the food and made all the phone calls. They did the head count and made sure everyone had a seat on the table. Altogether, we filled up two tables for this year’s Chinese New Year party. Not bad for a first time event planning project!

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