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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

First Wedding Anniversary

Last Sunday (the 18th) my hubby and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary. I must admit that I am still amazed that a whole year has already passed. It has been an incredible year so far. I think we both managed to adjust to married life surprisingly well. Yes, there have been ups and downs. Of course, we have had our good days and our bad. But in all honesty, Jojo is and will always be my best friend, my partner, my inspiration, and the person I would choose to marry all over again.

Jojo gave me a beautiful pair of earrings – tri-band style - with a row each of deep red garnets (my birthstone), light green peridots (birthstone for August – the month we met), and white sapphires (just because of the color, I guess). The earrings were a perfect match for a ring he had gotten me several Christmases ago. So now I have a set. It was really a very lovely gift and a really thoughtful gesture. (A special shout out to my mom too who helped my hubby with the earring design and had her jeweler custom-make the pair).

I have a gift for him too but he still has not had time to pick it out. Of course it is computer/technology-related so I dared not pick it out myself! :)

We celebrated the day with a brunch at home with family. Incidentally my SIL and BIL – Tracy and Jojo (yes, her hubby’s name is Jojo too!) were celebrating their second wedding anniversary on the same day. So it was really a double celebration. After brunch, which pretty much lasted all morning till mid-afternoon, my hubby and I went to mass and then did some Christmas shopping.

OMG, let me tell you, Christmas shopping on the last weekend before Xmas is a crazy, crazy experience! But that’s a whole other story …

Friday, December 16, 2005

My week in review

This last week has been very busy. One of my main responsibilities at the company where I work is to provide compliance training for our client companies. Inevitably the end of the year is a hotbed of activity here, since most companies are rushing to get their training done before yearend. So this week, I have been doing workshops daily for different companies.

Monday and Tuesday of this week I was up in Redding doing back-to-back workshops for a casino/hotel there. It was my first time in Redding and I was very impressed with the pristine surroundings, the natural beauty of the place, the charm of its small town, and the wonderful views of Mt. Lassen, Mt. Shasta, the Sacramento River and Shasta Lake. The highlight of my trip was crossing the Sundial Bridge, a walking bridge with a frosted glass bottom that allowed me to look down the Sacramento River and see salmon swimming upstream! That view made up for the fact that I had to be up at 4 am and take two plane rides to get there (side note: the second plane was a 20-seater plane that had propellers). The weather was very cold but the warmth of the people in that town certainly made up for the drop in temperature.

On Wednesday I did a workshop for an international fishing company, which was just as interesting. After facilitating the seminar, they took me on a tour of their facility and I got to see their fishing vessels up close, their warehouse where the live fish are sorted and processed, up to their freezing facility where the seafood are blast frozen for export. It was interesting to learn that modern day fishing (at least for some) has evolved from using fishing nets out in the open sea – this company had large pipes that pumped in the fish straight to the company warehouse. Apparently catching fish using a net agitates the fish, and added to the travel time to and from the boat, loading and unloading the fish, all that results in a high mortality rate for the catch. So for smaller seafood (found close to shore) like sardines, mackerel, squid and shrimp – the seafood are pumped in thru these pipes. I forgot to ask whether getting sucked into a pipe is less agitating for the fish!

Thursday I did two workshops, my morning workshop was for the executives of an aerospace company. This was held in our office so nothing interesting to report here. My afternoon workshop was for a company that manufactured crates, panels, and transport materials for airports. While I did get to visit their office, there was hardly anything interesting about seeing all the plastic and metal bins in their warehouse.

Today, Friday, I have a workshop this afternoon for a Japanese food manufacturing company. I checked out their website and they import a few of the Japanese brands that I absolutely love (among them instant ramen noodles!). The company also runs several local Japanese fast food places. Here’s hoping this is one workshop where I get to go on tour afterwards. Of course, I wouldn’t mind getting some samples too! :)

So that’s been my week so far … it’s been interesting but tiring too. Thank God it’s Friday! :)

Friday, December 09, 2005

Bits and Pieces

So many things have been going on lately that it’s been a struggle to post anything on my blog. It’s too bad though cause there are so many things I would like to write about. To start off, my parents left for Manila exactly one week ago. And I think it’s taken me roughly this long to get over their leaving :(

On our last night in Torrance, my mom outdid herself and created a special dinner (lamb chops with a rosemary-garlic-breadcrumb crust, grilled salmon with melted butter, and her special Caesar salad). But what was extra special that night was the bonding my dad and I had over … furniture assembly. Yes, you read that right. Furniture assembly!

My dad who is a brilliant financial guru, an exceptional business master, a self-made man is a lot of things – but mechanically inclined I’m afraid he is not. And of course, me, being his daughter, well, I’m pretty mechanically-challenged as well. But earlier that day we purchased a coffeetable and a half-moon console table. Both tables are made with a combination of mahogany wood, wrought iron, and a stone/slate tabletop. Very beautiful in the showroom, quite heavy in the box, and a little bit daunting when we emptied the contents in our garage.

But let me brag about this for a moment, after about an hour’s work, with only our positive attitude, sheer determination and an electric screwdriver, we put together both tables – best of all – they were standing and we didn’t have any screws left over! My mom, brother and hubby were suitably impressed.

Right now, with my parents back home, I still feel like they are with us in Torrance – there’s a freezer full of prepared food care of my mom, and of course, both tables my dad and I put together in our living room :)

In other news, may I also brag about my hubby landing a job with a new company? He has not wanted me to post about it sooner since he wanted to make sure he was all settled in before I made any major announcements. It’s been two weeks – I think that’s way enough time.

As I’ve posted a number of times, my hubby is an IT genius (and it’s not just my wifely pride talking here). Anyway, he is now working as an IT Specialist (a.k.a. the main “go-to” guy for anything computer related!) for a company that produces Japanese manga and anime. Talk about a match made in heaven! Jojo is so passionate about IT and his number one interest would have to be anime comics, cartoons and video games. It’s perfect for him. Imagine doing what you like to do and what you are good at for a company that produces products you really enjoy. It would be like my getting a job as a personal shopper at Macy’s or becoming a food critic for major restaurants or doing corporate training at Disney. I just keep hoping that everything continues to work out for him.

In still other news, my auntie Julie and uncle Raniel are visiting us right now and will be staying till Monday. So we’re playing host and hostess once again. That’s always fun.

The one sad note is my brother (who lives with us) is on Xmas break and is heading home to Manila for the holidays. It’ll be a great vacation for him especially since he’s really been burning the midnight oil with all his studying lately. Of course, we will definitely miss him! The house will definitely be a little quieter and a lot emptier, there won’t be any delicious home-baked brownies for a while, but it’ll also mean no old newspapers lying around for the next three weeks. Bon voyage Jules!

Today is also my BIL’s birthday. Best birthday wishes to you too. We’ll see you tomorrow and really do some celebrating! :)

And on Monday and Tuesday, I will be flying off to Redding (north of Sacramento) to do two days of training for a casino/hotel up there. Looking forward to it and hoping that maybe I'll get to see some snow. Does it snow over in Redding???

Happy weekend everyone!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Bay Area Trip (Day 5)

Sunday, Day 5, was actually the last day in the Bay Area for some of us (my hubby, brother and I). We all started off with a quick breakfast at the hotel and drove about an hour and a half to Modesto. Now, in all honesty, there is not much to see when visiting Modesto (a quiet, residential town east of San Francisco). This I found out when I googled “Things To Do In Modesto”. I think the town is best known as the hometown of Laci Peterson and Chandra Levy (both highly sensationalized missing person cases that turned out to be murder cases). But the main purpose of our visit was to see my Uncle Junior and Auntie Lillian (my dad’s first cousins and our wedding godparents), who are two of the nicest people I know. Definitely on our "favorite-relatives-list".

When we arrived at Uncle Junior and Auntie Lillian’s place, we were impressed with the beautiful grounds where they lived. Their home was in the midst of a fairly new, gated subdivision that was quite charming in itself. Of course, the man-made lake that flowed between the homes (and right in their backyard) was pretty cool too! But what we all liked best was their very charming and very warm home that truly spoke of the kind of hospitable and gracious people that they are. Auntie Lillian has an amazing Santa Clause collection that would give The Christmas Store in Sausalito a run for its money!

We had lunch at a Chinese New-York style buffet place that served everything from sushi, to oysters on the half shell, to Dungeness crabs, to pizza and to soft-serve yogurt. There must have been 5 long tables with every kind of American-Chinese dish imaginable, not to mention different kinds of salads and desserts. It’s hard not to like places like these because there is literally something for everyone.

After lunch we browsed a local 99-cent store before we (my hubby, brother and I) had to head back to the Oakland Airport to return our rental car and catch our evening flight to LA. My parents were staying for two more days with my aunt and uncle. Lucky them!

Bay Area Trip (Day 4)

SATURDAY, Day 4, started off with a drive to Sausalito (minus my brother who stayed behind to do some studying). The drive was about an hour long and was pretty uneventful if not for the beautiful view of the bay and our momentous crossing of the Golden Gate bridge.

Sausalito is one of my favorite cities in the world. It is truly a beautiful place, wonderful views, perfect weather, and filled with small art galleries, craft stores, boutiques and souvenir shops. There are a number of fine dining restaurants and small cafes. The paths are lined with cottage-style homes (with a very New England fishing village feel). I used to daydream about getting married in Sausalito. I pictured a small intimate wedding in a little chapel overlooking the water, surrounded by tall Redwood trees and sloping hillsides. The reception would start with cocktails by the Sausalito marina overlooking a magnificent sunset, followed by a lovely candlelight dinner at “The Inn Above Tide”, a nearby four-star hotel that despite being quite modern I have always found quite charming.

Of course, when I moved to LA in 2002 and was in the midst of planning my wedding in 2004, I had so many things to take care of and so many people to accommodate that my dream wedding in Sausalito was next to impossible. I did have a lovely wedding in Long Beach though – but that’s another story.

Anyway, when we arrived in Sausalito, we strolled around the marina and visited The Inn Above Tide. It was a very cold day despite the bright sunshine. We had brunch at The Winship Restaurant. After chowder, salad and sandwiches, we explored the little city and visited a number of boutiques. We visited art galleries and antique stores. We browsed thru tourist shops selling local items perfect for souvenirs. Mom stopped by a glass store and bought glass garlands. And my hubby and I bought a bag of saltwater taffy for friends. We looked inside crafts stores and marveled at the artistry of local craftsmen and artists. Of all the shops, our favorite was this delightful little store called The Christmas Shop. True to its name it sold all things Christmas from exquisite ornaments to elaborate wreaths and Christmas trees. It was really filled with such beautiful pieces. I ended up buying a little gold stand and several crystal ornaments (santas and snowmen) to adorn my living room table. Of course, my mom selected several ornaments as well.

Our last stop before leaving was Lappert’s Ice Cream Shop. If you have never tried Lappert’s Ice Cream, you are truly missing a wonderful gastronomical experience. Lappert’s is Hawaiian ice cream, truly rich and decadent that comes in delicious tropical flavors – like mango, guava, Kona coffee, macadamia nut and more. Of course they have the standard favorites like chocolate, strawberry, and others as well. My hubby and I shared three scoops of Kona coffee, Hawaiian dark chocolate and peanut butter. My folks shared three scoops of blueberry, strawberry and banana. As I mentioned earlier, it was a cold day and the wind from the bay really kept us all bundled up, but we still managed to finish our ice cream to the last bite.

We then took the scenic route (a.k.a. “got lost”) to Berkeley where I gave my dad the grand tour starting with my very first apartment – my first home away from home, it was as old and grungy as when I first lived there – but I loved it. My mom, who had been there before, said it best when she jokingly called it “as ugi as ever”. We drove by some of the places where I used to hang out, cruised by the buildings where I had my classes, walked thru the park (farmer’s market) where I bought my produce every Saturday morning, and visited some notable Berkeley landmarks. My brother met us shortly before we went to mass at St. Joseph the Worker – same place I went to mass every week I lived in Berkeley.

After mass, the weather had turned very cold and my dad wanted a place that served hot noodle soup. I thought of this small noodle house called Long Life Noodle on Shattuck Street where my friends and I had very good Asian noodle bowls on strictly student budgets. But turns out the place didn’t have a very long life of its own as we found it had already closed down. We then decided to drive to the nearby Ranch 99 complex in the outskirts of Berkeley where we had a really good hotpot (do it yourself place where you either grill your own food or cook it in hot soup)) dinner at Coriya HotPot Restaurant.