Saturday, February 06, 2010

January recap

Well, I'm getting closer to the present! One more monthly recap and then I can continue on at a normal pace...I hope. Let the stories begin!

New Years Eve was a blast. Despite having to work my normal hours, it was pretty quiet so I was able to help my mom get ready for her party and make a pasta dish to take to our evening event. Briana came over to hang out with Christopher as Nick swooped me away to an engagement party of a family friend. We only stayed at the engagement party for a little bit as we had another party to go to with his close friends. We rushed back to the house so that we could change into our nice evening wear. Even though it was just at a friend's house, we all wanted to dress up for the occasion. I love dressing up! Unfortunately, I order my dress from Delia's to late so it didn't come in time. I was able to wear it to see Wicked a few days ago, but it would have been perfect for New Years Eve. Oh well, now I have two new dresses instead of one! I scoured the mall for an appropriate dress and managed to find one that I liked at this store called Papaya (Papaya dress). It wasn't the best quality, but it fit the bill and was a good price. I had also purchased one from Macy's, but decided to return it because it was really similar to the Delia's dress, kind of pricey, and Nick didn't enjoy the giant flower that was attached to the sash. That was the part that I liked since the rest of the dress was just plain black. There were just too many things working against the dress for me to warrant keeping it.

The party itself was a blast. Nick looked awesome in his suit and we had tons of fun. My dad said that he would pick us up so that we could drink safely. The hosts, Will and Lindsay, live out in Pacheco so it wasn't that far away from my house. Boy, what a night. I've never really gone home inebriated before, but I guess there is always a first time for everything. The night was spent playing board games and chatting. Before we knew it the ball was dropping.
Nick, Jenelle, Frank, and the back of Lindsay's head

Lindsay, Frank, Jenelle, Nick, Will

The next day we had our New Years dinner at Uncle Tom's place. We headed to their house early and then over to a restaurant near him. The food was good as usual, but it wasn't Mr. Fong's. I guess they changed hands and it's not as good as it used to be or something like that. Whatever the case, it was tasty as usual. Briana came with us and was very brave about trying every dish. Kudos to her! I don't think we had anything really abnormal on the menu, but if you're not used to seeing a chicken or duck head sitting on the platter then I expect that it's unusual and slightly intimidating. We also drank so much tea that on the drive home we had to stop in Walnut Creek at a Safeway to go to the bathroom. I had to go so badly I felt like I was young and going down to Disneyland again. I was literally running to the bathroom.

To my surprise, Nick had suggested that the both of our parents meet before his parents had to leave to go back to Kuwait, which is what we had planned for the next day. Since we always get home early from my mom's side of the family's engagements, I had time to watch tons of Glee and hem the pants that I wanted to wear for our brunch. I had gotten the pants from the Gap right when I moved home, but never got around to hemming them. I figured this was as good of time as ever to hem and wear the pants.

The next morning we went out to Emeryville to the Ranch 99 mall for dim sum at Asian Pearl. I was sooo tired. For some reason my dad just had to get his car checked for smog that morning when we were supposed to be out in Emeryville by 10:30am. So they got me up at 8am and we headed to our mechanic's place in Bay Point. That took all of 30 minutes and also got us closer to the freeway than from our house. After leaving the mechanic's we ended up getting to Ranch 99 around 9am. Nick's family hadn't even left the house yet! I don't know why we had to wake up so early! It's just a good thing that I had a nice large coffee to keep me going. By the time we met them though, I was starting to droop. The brunch was nice and our parents seemed to get along well. There were only a couple of silences when we were piling food in our mouths, so I'm going to take that as a good sign. Everything was very polite and civilized. My dad didn't even wear his velcro belt! Now that's saying something.

Since we were out in Emeryville, my parents wanted to go to the Northface Outlet in Berkley. That took forever. First of all, it was a mad house in there. My parents were searching for jackets to keep them warm on their China seemed everyone else was searching for clothes suitable for a mid-winter China trip as well. It took so long. I ended up getting a fleece and then went walking around looking for a place to go the bathroom. I had consumed a lot of tea. While I was on my hunt, my parents bought a couple of things at the outlet and then searched for me. I had gone down the street to a little shop with a nice little bathroom. At first I pretended like I was shopping there and then snuck into their bathroom. While in there I got a call from my parents trying to locate me. They headed over and my mom found herself a nice vest for China and my dad used the bathroom too. I guess I didn't need to pretend I was a patron after all because my mom bought the vest and me a pepper spray keychain. My old one got confiscated at the airport a while back. Then, as if the stuff from Northface and the little shop wasn't enough they headed to some used outing wear place across from REI. We searched around there and then went across the street REI. I did benefit from this trip. I got myself a nice Marmot jacket that is really warm. I love it! I couldn't decide between the Northface one or the Marmot. Josie and Del had the Northface ones and I really liked them, however when I tried them on, the Marmot was significantly warmer than the Northface brand. They look pretty much the same except that the Marmot had an extra two pockets and was a little more expensive. Haha since my mom said she'd get it for me I got the Marmot. I will not disclose the price. Feeling good about that, but still really, really tired, we headed back to the car and then back to the Northface Outlet to return my fleece jacket and get another jacket. I decided that I didn't need the Northface fleece if I had the Marmot. This portion of the trip took some time because my parents were trying to figure out what jackets the wanted. My mom ended up getting a big puffy jacket and my dad a fleece to go under the snow jacket that he already has. We were finally ready to go and I slept in the car all the way home and then for a good two and a half hours once we got home. That night I ended up going to Target to get Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince on blueray because it was over 50% off. It was the last day of the sale so I had to go get it. Since Nick has the PS3, I chose to get the blueray because it was only $2 more than the regular dvd and it came with a regular dvd in it also. We stayed home and watched the movie while Nick went out with some of our friends. I was just too beat to go out anymore that night. My parents, of course, fell asleep during the movie.

The next day, Sunday, we went as a family to go see Avatar. Since I had been raving about it, we headed out to Pleasant Hill so that we could watch it in 3D. We had a late lunch at a nice Italian place by the theater and then headed to Ranch 99 to get crab. MMMMMMMMM...... We had crab for dinner, which was very yummy and then I went to Nick's to watch all the extras on the blueray disk. Movie, seafood lunch, and seafood dinner... now that's quality family time if you ask me.

If you're interested in the HP extras, I can tell you, they're just okay. I was pretty excited about them, but I wish there was an entire commentary for the movie. For some reason HP movies never have that! They talked about the new theme park that's opening this year. From what I heard back when I was still listening to HP podcasts and reading HP news they're only opening part of the theme park this year and then continuing work on the other half. The park is at Universal Studios in Florida so I'm thinking that I'll just wait to go out there after they are finished. I'd like to wear my robe, but I think I'd melt in that humidity.

The next week was pretty quiet. My parents were getting ready for their trip. Nick and I had a date night on Thursday where if I'm remembering correctly, we went to go get Mexican food and then went back to his house to watch Avatar: The Last Airbender, which turns out to be an awesome cartoon put on by Nickelodeon. (Although, now that I think of it, we might have just stayed in and made dinner. Whatever the case, we had a date night where we ate Mexican and watched cartoons at some point in January.) Even though it is American produced, in my head I consider it to be an anime. There are a lot of anime features in the cartoon and there are tons of Chinese characters all over the place. The whole thing was based on martial arts and the artists did a great job of portraying different styles. It also helped that one of the main characters was voiced by Rufio (Dante Basco)! I was nothing short of addicted to it. It tapped into that part of my brain that had me obsessed with Sailor Moon. There is actually a movie coming out based on The Last Airbender. Nick refuses to see it in theaters because there aren't any Asian actors cast. I agree completely. I think we will be downloading it to watch. All the cast members are Caucasian and Indian! There are so many good Asian actors out there. I don't know why they didn't cast any of them. Anyway, if you get a chance, there are probably reruns of the original cartoon on Nickelodeon and I highly suggest watching it. It is a really well done cartoon with a great storyline. Christopher watched the whole series too because we got him hooked.

That Friday before my parents left, Nick and I went to pho. Mmmm... pho. I love the stuff. Frank and Jenelle came over to watch some tv with us after they went out to dinner. Originally we had planned with them to go out to the City and pick up Wicked tickets for ourselves and the kids the next day, but then the kids couldn't decide what they wanted to do. We were hoping to go out there to get the tickets at the Orpheum to avoid handling fees and the go to Uncle Victor's restaurant. That whole plan fell through, which I was not pleased about at all since we had put aside a whole day to go do that for the kids. Nick and I took a little break after that because I wanted to spend some time with my parents before they headed off to China. I'm still a little bitter that I wasn't invited to go and got put on teen-sitting duty. On top of that, they got to have dinner and a nice long conversation with Juni and Ron while they were there!

Sunday morning we woke up a the crack of dawn to take my parents to the BART station. They didn't want us to drive them all the way out to SFO. Christopher and I went to the grocery store after that and then to Ikea to look for a new carpet and coffee table for our living room. Right before we left, my parents found and purchased a new sofa that they wanted. I was more pleased than ever. Even though our old couch served us well, it was just plain falling apart and needed to be retired. So that day we were excited to get new stuff for our family room. We spent almost three hours at Ikea because we couldn't find the rug that we wanted. They only had one of the rugs we wanted and we needed two to compensate for the size of the room. After standing in different lines and batting my eye lashes at one of the guys who worked there (my short, almost non-existent eye lashes) we got a second rug because someone had just returned it. Thank goodness for big smiles and faux damsel-in-distress tactics! I don't want to set foot in Ikea for a few years. That place is a madhouse. We headed back to our neck of the woods for some Pho and then rest. Christopher did his homework and the we started on moving the furniture. I don't know how long it took us to figure out that the old sofa needed to go out through the backyard. It was foolish, but a little funny at the same time. There was so much junk and dust under the couch. We found three bouncy balls, an old nasty almond, Legos, pencils, paper clips, and lots of dust bunnies the vacuum couldn't reach. That was one night of cleaning. Christopher vacuumed while I mopped. Then while he put together the shelves that are acting as our coffee table, I taped together the two rugs. We've decided that the "coffee table" is to big for the area since they're actually supposed to be shelves. However, since they do provide a lot of tidy storage space we're going to clean our the garage (some day) and put them out there for all of our cleaning supplies. For now, the makeshift coffee table works. It was a little sad to see the old sofa go, but it was so worth it.

Christopher and I actually function really well without our parents around. The only thing that I really didn't enjoy was getting up to take him to school. I would literally wake up at 6:40am, make his lunch, take him to school, and then be back in bed by 7:20am. It actually made it easier for me to get up for work. I guess my body just thought that I was taking a nap between 7:30 and 10:50.

On Tuesday Nick and I went to a cowboy murder mystery dinner at Will and Lindsay's place. It was quite fun. I wore Christopher's leather belt and found my mom's red handkerchief to tie around my neck. I had been to a murder mystery before, but this was much different. The other one had scripts for each person to read and was very elaborate. This one was more carefree where each person went around talking to people and saying certain prompts. It was a lot of fun and I hope we do it again soon.

Another reason I wanted to have the family room set up and the sofa delivered was for our dinner party that we were having on that Saturday. Originally I was thinking of having just the girls over for a wine night, but then I decided that couples would be nice. Then more and more people were invited and we had a potential 17 people coming. I believe only 13 showed up, but we did have quite a few people in our house. We had tons of food and plenty of left overs. Nick made a ton of sweet potato fries and I did buffalo chicken for sandwiches. The spices had everyone coughing, but thankfully it settled down after I was done. The night before Nick and I spent a significant amount of time prepping food. He did most of the chopping of veggies while I cut the chicken into thin slices. I love cooking with Nick. He's great at precise cutting where as I would normally hack away for a "rustic" look. After all of the work we did and our guests showed up I totally forgot to take pictures at the actual dinner! The only picture I have is of our easy ice cream cake made out of ice cream sandwiches, whipped topping, and fudge sauce.

There are three layers of ice cream cake here and then we put more whipped topping and crumbled Heath bar on top. We literally worked as a team on this one even though it was so simple. Nick would unwrap the sandwich and then I'd pull it out and lay it down in the pan. I would plop down whipped topping and he'd smooth it out. We work well in the kitchen together.

The menu consisted of a kielbasa appetizer, meatball appetizer, cheese and salami platter, dip with crackers, sweet potato fries, buffalo chicken sandwiches with homemade blue cheese dressing that Nick made, ice cream cake, and lots of booze. In preparation for all the girls coming I got a whole bunch of wine from Costco. I haven't been so sick from drinking since last year's Celery Christmas party. Whew. The next day was saved for recovery and Avatar: The Last Airbender (which I'm writing all the way out because I talked about Avatar the movie in the last post). It's a good thing that before I got sick I had a spurt of energy and cleaned everything up. Some of our friends didn't leave until 4:30am because they were Rockbanding so I was super tired when I went to sleep.

During the week had been bent on cleaning up our study from all the clutter on the floor so that we could pull out the sofa beds in case anyone couldn't drive home. They weren't needed, but at least our study is clean! Mostly there were just old bills that needed to be filed and books that needed to be reshelved. It didn't take me that much time since I split it into a couple nights of work. It's so much nicer in there now. We can actually sit in there and watch tv without tripping over something or stubbing our toes. I was really hoping to get my my mom and dad's room finished also so that if we had a lot of people stay that they could stay in my room and I could sleep in my parents'. I didn't complete my parents room until after the party. They were so surprised by how clean it was. Goodwill has plenty of our stuff now. Hehehe. I have no problem with purging for other people. I literally found magazines from 1985. I was a year old then!

Anyway, so the Monday after the party I wasn't feeling well. Thankfully, Christopher had the day off for Martin Luther King Jr. day so I didn't have to take him to school. I'm not sure if I was just having a two day hang over like my friend Linda suggested, but I was miserable. I was so tired and cold which made me feel like I was coming down with a bug. Nick took care of me though. After two hours of work I called it a day and slept for a few hours. I had some weird dreams that I can only imagine to be fever dreams. I know I usually have weird dreams, but these were really, really weird. After I slept for a while Nick got me hot water and some bread so I was feeling much better. By the end of the night I was pretty much back to normal.

That Friday I picked my parents up from BART and then we all went to pho as a family. I usually don't get to take off for lunch since I only work six hours a day, but I was able to go this time since Dave (my coworker) knew that they had been gone for a while. It was nice going out as a family again. Even though we had our freedom and the house stayed clean after I tidied up, it was quiet without them in the house. Sure enough, as soon as they came in with all of their luggage the bar that I cleared off for my party to actually use as a bar was filled back up with junk and their suitcases were strewn all over the family room. They were pleasantly surprised by the study and the bedroom, though after my dad let out a big "Whoa" he turned around to look at his pile of magazines and books on his side of the bed and said "Hey, where's all my stuff?!" So far the room has stayed pretty tidy. Nothing has really started to pile up in there yet except for a few snow camping items that will be going back out to the shed. Hopefully they can keep it clean! It took me almost four days to complete it. Once I got through all the initial stuff that Christopher and I put in there when we were cleaning out our rooms (the study and the master bedroom is where we put our stuff when we don't know what to do with/don't want anymore) I felt accomplished, but then I hit the layer where there was unfinished stitchery and fabric that my mom had started getting ready to get rid of but never did. Well, I helped her with that! I also found a brand new back rest that we probably had gotten for my dad as a gift and he wanted to use his old ratty one. So while they were gone I pulled the new one out of the box and hid his old one. I should throw the old one out since he seems to have accepted the new one into his life. It was so sad looking. All the fabric was ripped and the mechanism that you put batteries in so that it vibrates had fallen out. It was just a floppy, old piece of foam. Now he has a nice new one that isn't falling apart or looks like it's a hundred years old. I found treasures in that room. Hah!

After they got themselves reacquainted with the house and I finished grinning about my accomplishments, I went back to work and started reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Abby, Bonnie, and I decided to read this book for our book club. The book club was my idea and of course, I procrastinated. On Saturday I went out to Da Bin Lo with Nick's extended family and then had to go home to read! I felt like I was back in school again. I didn't finish the book until 5am Sunday morning and then had to wake up at 8am to get my food prepared for our book club lunch. Since the book's setting was in Jackson, Mississippi I decided to do a southern fish fry. It went well except that at some point I had knocked the fryer so that it turned off the coils. I had no idea what was going on for a while, which set the cooking back a bit. The fish was a bit salty, but I thought that it was pretty good for someone like me who doesn't like fish. Next time I'll make something I'm familiar with like lasagna or pot roast.

I think that for next month's book club we decided on The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee. Hopefully I like this selection better. I had some major issues with the one of the character's voices and the style of Stockett's writing. Abby and Bonnie really liked the book, but I wasn't super impressed. I thought the plot was well thought out and the storyline was pretty good, I just took issue with the way Stockett presented a lot of it. I think that if you're looking for a Civil Rights Movement book that is somewhat light hearted, this is the book for you. But I have to say, Stockett is no Toni Morrison (The Bluest Eye, Sula, Beloved) or Alice Walker (The Color Purple, Meridian). Now those ladies know how to write a Southern women novel. I thought that Stockett did a good job with her research, she had me convinced at least, but I just wasn't thrilled with the way she put it down on paper. Though I do have to say, she had some really good lines that impressed me. For instance (everyone pull out your copies of the book, heheh) on page 171 right before the line break she had one of the best kissing scenes I've read in a long time:

"Right in the middle of the Robert E. Lee Hotel Restaurant, he kissed me so slowly with an open mouth and every single thing in my body--my skin, my collarbone, the hollow backs of my knees, everything inside of me filled up with light."

I thought this was wonderfully written. "...the hollow backs of my knees" particularly stood out to me because of its preciseness. She could have simply said "the backs of my knees" but by adding the descriptive word "hollow" it makes the image more complete. It makes me wonder how long it took her write that sentence. The reader has the illusion of actually being there with the character. Even more, the description and close narrative brings the reader into the situation where one feels almost like they are the narrator and that they are being kissed it the Robert E. Lee Hotel Restaurant. This one sentence made the whole book so much better for me since there was one section early on in the book that really irked me. I will not pick it apart on my blog just so that I don't bore you all with my analysis. Nick has already had to endure it for you all as I was chatting online with him while reading.

Besides the fact that I didn't enjoy the book much and my fryer mishap, book club went really well. We only really talked about the book for about 15 minutes and then sat and talked for about eight hours straight. You wouldn't think that we had just seen each other a month ago! It was nice to have some girl time and to hear about what's been going on for them. By the time we were done I was exhausted. My mom helped me clean and then I showered and had a nice glass of wine. I sure was pooped out.

Finally, on the last weekend of January I went up to Tahoe with Nick, his cousin Dennis, and his cousin's friend, Glen. Dennis had a complimentary suite at Harrah's so we all piled in there Chinese style. We moved couches around so that we could blow up an air mattress and then didn't get any room service so that they wouldn't see the bed. We went up Friday night after I got off of work. Nick and I watched Dennis and Glen play Paigow for a while and then headed back upstairs to go to sleep since we were heading out at 7 30 to Sierra for some boarding. It was a great half day at the snow. I had one little spill on the bunny slope during my warm up, but that was about it. Dennis was probably thinking "This is going to be a long day" after my fall, but I was able to keep up well enough. My knees just couldn't hold up any longer around 11 30 and I was afraid that I was going to seriously hurt myself. It's a good thing Nick and Dennis have season passes so they didn't care if we left early. It was also getting really crowded with people who seemed like they knew how to control their boards and skis less than I do. At least I can avoid running into someone if I see them coming. We saw a full on collision with a snowboarder and skier. It was like the snowboarder didn't even see the skier standing there! That was our cue to leave.

After picking up some KFC for lunch we headed back to the hotel. When we got back to the room the guys watched the winter X-Games while I passed out on the air mattress for a good two or three hours. Nick and I had plans to go to the Harrah's nightclub called Vex in the evening so I needed to rest up. At some point while I was sleeping Dennis and Glen headed down to play Paigow and Nick fell asleep. After we both were fully awake we all went out to dinner at Chevy's and then back to the hotel. Nick and I got dressed up but decided not to go to Vex. There was a $20 cover charge per person that I wasn't willing to pay. We just walked around for a while and headed back to the room early to watch tv and read. We're reading Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential together. It was a nice trip and very relaxing. When we got back on Sunday I decided that I needed to update my shoe collection after seeing what all the gals in the casino were wearing so I started looking on the internet for shoes. What a day! We had a big buffet lunch and then online shoe shopping in the evening. It can't get much better than that. The weekend went by way too quickly.

By midweek (now into February) I decided on these three shoes:

Dollhouse Hugo Cuffed Platform Bootie

For some reason I think that these little elf-like shoes are cute. Since these were rather affordable compared to some of the shoes I was eying I decided to get them.

JS by Jessica Oscar Patent Leather Pump

At our New Year's Eve party, Lindsay and Jenelle convinced me that everyone needs a good pair of red shoes. I don't wear red that often, but I thought that I should invest in a pair since I do wear a lot of black and gray. It took me a long time to find a pair that I really enjoyed. I wasn't thrilled about the patent leather, but I think they look better than a lot of the ones I was seeing. I guess I didn't have to get them, but since I liked them I figured, why not? I'm hoping to get these before next weekend's Chinese New Year dinner so that I can wear them for good luck. Hehehe

MAXSTUDIO Mondial Leather Cut Out Pump

These I just plain liked! I got them in black so that they match with more stuff, but I really enjoy the gold too. If they weren't $100 each I probably would have gotten them in both colors. (Sorry, don't know what's going on with the formatting here. It won't change back to normal size for me.)

Works Cited:

Stockett, Kathryn. The Help. New York: Penguin Group, 2009.

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