Lilypie First Birthday tickers

Lilypie - Personal pictureLilypie First Birthday tickers

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Memorial Day Weekend

Our 3-day weekend started earlier than usual. Thursday night, Jojo and I threw a backyard barbecue for some of my friends who were visiting L.A. The group was made up of folks I knew from way back in high school – Jeff (one of my best friends), Tim, and Kris. Some that I met a few years ago – Yam (Jeff’s sister). And some I just met that night, Wendy (Tim’s wife) and Cassie (Kris’ wife).


Backyard Barbecue (From left to right: Kris, Yam, Wendy, Cassie, me, Tim, and Jeff)

It was really nice seeing such familiar faces after so long (well, maybe not Jeff, since he was at our wedding!) and welcoming them to our home. It was a bit surreal though - since I’ve known these guys since I was 14, yet have not seen them in so long, and now we were sitting around a table with our spouses, well, it was kinda strange for me. Nice but strange. It was great catching up with them and also getting to know the rest better -- Yam, Wendy and Cassie are all super easy to be with. We barbecued ribs, sausages, corn and had a pitcher of Sangria to wash it all down. Kris and Cassie left that night to stay at their aunt’s place – but the rest of the group was staying with us.

Friday, they all headed for Six Flags, while Jojo and I had to go to work. But we did meet up for dinner that night. After careful deliberation, we decided to go to Red Lobster (Wendy had never been there and wanted to try it). Now, I’m not at all blaming her for choosing Red Lobster cause there was no way she could know that we would be having the worst seafood dinner ever! The food was awful! The calamari rings were tiny and overcooked, the trout was bland, the fried shrimp was lost in all that batter, and the crab legs were obviously frozen and reheated. Plus our server was so sweaty (yes, you read that right) and so out of breath all the time - doing what god only knows! The only saving grace was the lobster tail – which was ok - and the fudge cake for dessert – which was good and complimentary.

Saturday was shopping day and we (together with my brother, Jules) headed up to the Camarillo Premium Outlets. There we met up with some of my brother’s grad school friends – as well as half of LA County. The stores were very crowded, the lines were very long and parking was crazy. But the sales made up for all that. Inspite of trying to set meeting times and places that kept changing and looking for one another throughout the day, I did manage to get a couple of interesting things (Nine West sandals, Liz Claiborne sweater, Eddie Bauer shorts and shirts for my hubby, etc). After 6 hours at the outlets, we were all pretty shopped out and drove back to Torrance. We gad dinner at everyone’s favorite place – BCD Tofu House.

Now, as usual, Tofu House did not disappoint – you can’t go wrong with soon tofu, beef ribs, and pork bulgogi. We did over-order (which is usually the case when Jeff and I get together) but everyone was hungry so it worked out well. Every time we have out of town guests, Jojo ad I bring them to Tofu House, and every time we sit down to dinner, we ask them if they think franchising Tofu House in Manila would be a good idea. FYI, we have never brought anyone here (and believe me we have brought a LOT of people) who did not think it would be an awesome idea! I guess this will be Jojo's and my PLAN B.

After dinner, we headed over to the Rolling Hills Centre theaters to watch X-Men 3.

SPOILER ALERT!
It was the worst of the 3 X-Men movies I’ve seen. First of all, the title should have been “Wolverine Saves the Day” and second, they’ve killed everyone off. Anyway, suffice it to say we all left the theater quite disappointed about the way the movie ended.

Sunday was Costco shopping for pasalubong and pabilin. Later that day, our friend, Marc, from Phoenix stopped by (he was in LA with his cousins for the weekend) to attach our brand new digital thermostat thingamabob. Marc joined us for mass at St. Philomena and dinner at Hof’s Hut – where the food was so-so. The ribs were really good (we had to order a second full rack mid-way) but the Asian chicken wrap was pretty bad and so we pretty much just picked out the chicken pieces.

Monday we joined the family for a Memorial Day barbecue at Tracy and Jojo’s place in Cerritos. We are still drooling over the pot roast they served! It was the hit of the day. After quick stops at 99-Cent Store, Walmart and Island Pacific Supermarket, we dropped off the last of our guests at LAX before heading home.

That night, over bacon and tomato sandwiches, I was telling Jules and Jojo how much I enjoy having guests over. It’s like my mini-vacation without having to go anywhere. I like having people stay over. I’m proud of our home and glad when people tell us it’s charming, and cozy, and nice. I like waking up to a house full of people and having dinner conversations. I like cooking for groups. I like planning things to do and having people to do them with. I like the change in routine and getting to do things we normally don’t do. I like staying up late and talking. I like hearing laughter around the house. I like how being a tour guide allows me to play “tourist” as well. But best of all, I like being surrounded by family and friends.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Time

Why is it that time seems to stand still when you are waiting for something or stuck doing something you dislike? And why is it that time flies right by when you are doing something you enjoy? What’s up with that?

I mean think about it …

There is a huge difference between five minutes spent:
Sitting in rush hour traffic
VS.
Finishing up the last few minutes of your long distance phonecard.

There is an enormous difference between an hour spent:
Trapped in the world’s most boring staff meeting
VS.
Having lunch with a friend you haven't seen in ages.

There is a gigantic difference between a day spent:
Making a hundred cold calls for work
VS.
Shopping for the perfect pair of shoes at the mall.

There is a ginormous difference between a week spent:
Waiting for a call from a company you applied at
VS.
Bonding with your family while they are on vacation in LA.

I swear time stands still when you are stuck in traffic, in staff meetings, making cold calls, and waiting for stuff!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Belated Happy Birthday Jules!

Belated Happy Birthday, Jules! This is a double celebration for you. First, graduating with an MBA from Marshal Business School. And now, turning 28 :) Am so glad I got to be part of both. Wishing you the best and hoping that you land the job of your dreams real soon. I have faith in you and know that there are only good things in store. Am so proud of you too :)



Scenes from Jules' barbecue party last Friday.


My brother, the host!


My brother, the bartender!


My brother, the karaoke singer!


My brother, the ladies man!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Not So Happy

When my brother was much younger, my mom would often ask him how his day at school went, and there would be some days when he'd say he was "not so happy". Today, I kinda felt that way. Marc, Mark, Jojo, Jules and I saw off both my sisters who were heading home to Manila.

To Atsi and Cubby, my sisters and best friends, I'll miss you guys. The last few weeks were awesome having you both around. Thanks for helping me out around the house so much and for taking the time to share your joys, worries, and hopes with me. I know I'll see you both real soon.


Since I am feeling a tad low, I thought I'd cheer myself up by posting two pictures of two of my favorite days.

The first was our evening picnic at the Redondo Beach Pier. In the picture are Atsi, Mark, Joy, dad, mom, me, and Booy. Not in the picture, but somewhere nearby - Jojo, Marc, and Jules.

Here are the original 7 J's in Disneyland. (Jim, dad, me, Joy, mom, Atsi and Jules)
I just loved this day.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Saving Rave

Yesterday was a TERRIBLE day for me. It started out pretty innocently. Woke up, went to work with my hubby, returned phone calls and finished some letters that had to go out by noon. Joy came over around 1 and we had sushi in my office. Then things kinda/sorta went downhill from there.

Joy and I headed for FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandise). My sister is interested in enrolling in their Merchandise Marketing / Product Development program and I was accompanying her to meet with the school’s Admissions Rep. As we circled the block, I found an empty parking spot on the south side of the campus (Olympic St). What luck to find parking, right in front of the school, in downtown LA, in the middle of the day! Joy and I were quite proud of ourselves.

We dropped coins in the meter and I double-checked the sign, which read “2-Hour Parking”. All set. Joy’s meeting went well. We took a tour of the school, which although on the small side was quite impressive. We met some students, discussed the program, and got our questions answered. The program my sister is interested in sounds perfect for her and I just know it’ll be awesome for her. I was so proud too since my baby sister really impressed the Admissions Rep. Joy had to take an English test – a formality since she is an international student. While she was being tested, I decided to go drop some more coins in the meter – even if I had over half an hour left - just to make sure.

When I walk out to where we parked, my car was gone! At first I thought I must have parked on the wrong side of the building. But I see the Asian Fusion café at the corner and know I was at the right spot. My second thought was that my car was stolen. So I walk up to the security guard and ask him if he saw anything strange. He smiles and points to the sign, which I thought I read earlier. It did say “2-Hour Parking” but beneath it, it read “Between 10:00 am – 3:00 pm”. I look at my watch and it’s 3:15 pm. What’s worse the last line of the sign reads “Tow Away Zone”. Rave, (Jojo and I have named my car “Rave” -- cause I drive a Toyota Rav-4) has been towed away!

After I meet up with my sister, we end up calling a cab to drop us off at the lot where my car has been impounded. The taxi arrived in 15 minutes. And our funky Jamaican driver takes us to this seedy part of LA where the lot is located. You know you are in a bad neighborhood when the streets are deserted, there is graffiti everywhere, there are make-shift tents set up by homeless people in the alleys, and the properties are locked behind 12-foot steel gates.

Once inside, I talk to this unfriendly and good-hygiene-challenged man, who informs us he needs my ID and car registration. We walk inside the lot to get the registration from my car and I feel really terrible about seeing Rave in the middle of the lot of unclaimed, towed-away cars. I search the glove compartment and pull out my registration. We walk back to the office and hand it over. Same unfriendly man says this is the old registration and he needs the new one. Now, call me dumb, but as far as I know this was the only registration I had. In Manila it’s referred to as “rehistro” and this is what we kept in our cars. After going back and forth from the lot to the office and searching every nook and cranny of my car, I turn up with nothing. The guy said it was the piece of paper that comes with the annual sticker that the DMV mails to us. I call Jojo who says that it is most likely at home. So we’re stuck. I can’t take Rave out of the lot without the registration. The registration is at home. I can’t go home to get the registration without Rave. ARGH! Luckily Joy is there to help me get a grip, we call the cab company again and take another cab home. It’s now 5:30 pm and traffic is awful so there’s no way I can get the registration and drive back to the lot to free my car. I call my brother who was in a meeting in USC and ask him to pick Jojo up (since we drove to work together and I was suppose to pick him up after the FIDM meeting).

I felt really awful and frustrated. First, I was 15 minutes (15 MINUTES!) late and I get a parking ticket, not only that, my car gets towed away. All in 15 minutes! Last time I locked my car keys in the car, I couldn’t get a cop, a parking attendant or a tow truck out to help me for over an hour! Second, without my car registration, Rave was spending the night in an impound lot in the worst part of LA. Third, Joy and I had gotten ripped off by cab companies that had meters that were running even as we were stuck in traffic.

This morning, Jojo and I headed over to the same lot – got lost on our way to and from there – paid the ungodly amount and finally freed Rave. As I was computing how much I spent yesterday and today, I almost had a nervous breakdown. The only things that helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel throughout this horrible ordeal were my hubby’s calm, level-headedness and my sister’s sunny optimism and sense of humor. Thank God for them! But really, the total cost comes to this:

Cab fare to the lot - $11.00
Cab fare from the lot to the house - $48.00
Towing fee and overnight costs - $170.00
L.A. City Parking ticket - $65.00

Saving Rave – Priceless!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Our Family Vacation in Pictures

Warning: Pictures are posted at random.

These are pictures taken from 3 different cameras and I'm too tamad (lazy) to organize them in a particular sequence that would be logical. Maybe one of these days when I have more time. For now, my dear readers (most of whom are in the pictures!), enjoy the photos.

First up, my hubby and I by the little chapel at The Alpine Village, right after our champagne brunch.


Most of our days start like this, lots of waiting around. What can you expect with 3 bathrooms and 10 people? (Side note: the painting behind me was our First Year Wedding Anniversary gift from mom and dad - who brought it all the way from Manila).

Dinner at Tofu House where my parents presented our dear friend, Marc, with a pendant for graduating summa cum laude. Here's Joy presenting the pendant to him after my dad's inspiring speech which included the price of gold in the world market and how the pendant will protect him from harm.

Here with the other Mark at The Shoreline Village in Long Beach.

Trolley ride in Sta. Barbara (this was the 105-minute city tour). Here we are still warm and toasty - by the end of the tour everyone was too cold to smile. (Especially Joy who insisted on sitting at the edge the whole ride).

Dad and mom at their favorite spot at home. This is the little bench we have right in front of the house where they hang out and have coffee every morning. Aren't my parents the sweetest? Once they even saw two wild peacocks grazing our yard (I am not making this up!).

My baby sister and I modeling the Margarita mix dad got for our barbecue.

Joy, mom, dad, Jim and Atsi on their Mexican cruise. Heard the food on the ship was awesome.

Our pre-Mother's Day celebration at home. Here are the 5 of us (Jules, Booy, Joy, me, and Atsi) presenting mom with her Mikasa gift set.

Shopping in Camarillo. We had one hour and so everyone hit the stores running! I've got to hand it to mom who covered the most ground and got the best stuff!

Posing at the Hollywood-Highland mall right before we went on our museum visit. Ripley's Believe It or Not museum that is! Our lame attempt at compromising with our parents who wanted to visit LACMA and expose us to some type of culture :)

One of our many barbecues in the backyard. Here we are hungry and waiting for the steaks!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Last weekend

The weekend was quite bittersweet for me. On one hand, it was happy since I had the chance to spend some more time with my family. I took the day off last Wednesday and we spent it shopping at the Citadel Outlets in Commerce. Thursday was our final backyard barbecue. While Friday (another day off for me) started with a quick lunch at Mongol King (my family loves Mongolian BBQ) before heading for Jules’ graduation cocktails at the Town and Gown Hall at USC, followed by his graduation at the Shrine Auditorium. The event was long, the weather was warm, and the place crowded, but we didn’t mind since we were all so proud of my brother for having completed his MBA and doing such a great job. Congrats Jules!!! We had a late, late dinner to celebrate at The Chart House in Redondo Beach. I love the ambience of The Chart House and even if the food is so-so, the Hot Lava cake at the end of the meal was worth the trip! Finally, on Saturday, we woke up late and lunched at Thai Tiffany (a wonderful hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Lomita that has the most authentic Thai food I’ve had this side of the world) and then back home for some last minute packing and bonding before heading to LAX. (I was secretly thrilled that their flight was delayed. This gave us more time together even if it meant hanging out at the airport, having McDonalds for dinner, playing silly games, and Duty Free shopping.)

But on the other hand, it was also sad since we had to see my parents and Jim off. Luckily Joy and Atsi are staying for one more week. Otherwise I think it would have been horrible to see them all off at the same time! For me, the worst part of any visit, is coming home from the airport to an empty and much more silent house. I know I’m being dramatic but seeing my mom’s half-filled glass of Coke on the kitchen counter, Jim’s white plastic slippers in the living room, and the dining table without dad’s notebook all made me incredibly sad. To take my mind off this “feeling-sorry-for-myself” mood, Atsi, Jules, Joy, Marc, Mark, Jojo and I decided to go watch a movie at the Rolling Hills Towne Center. We made it to the last full show – half the group watched Poseidon, while my group watched Mission Impossible 3. MI3 is of course not going to win any great film critic awards but it was a great way to get my mind off feeling bad that my folks and baby brother just left.

I can’t believe that 3 weeks has gone by. When I first told my co-workers that my family was visiting and staying over for three weeks, they all said “OMG, 3 weeks!!!!! That’s crazy.” I think they meant it in a “how-will-you-survive” kind of way. But for me it was more like “OMG, 3 weeks!!!!! That’s crazy” but in a “that’s-way-too-short-a-time-to-spend-together” kind of way.

Thanks dad, mom, Jim, Joy, Atsi, Jules, & Jojo, who made the last 21 days awesome, fabulous, and wonderful all rolled into one! Am thrilled that Atsi and Joy are still here. Jules and of course Jojo too. Mom, Dad, and Booy, I miss you guys already. Here’s looking forward to our next grand reunion, which hopefully will come sooner than planned. :)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Third Weekend in L.A. - part 2

Okay, so where was I with my weekend update? Ah, yes, Saturday. We had lunch at a really good Korean BBQ place called Korean Garden Buffet in Cerritos. It was heaven for my highly carnivorous family. All-you-care-to-eat barbecue (chicken, pork, beef, beef ribs, pork ribs, spicy chicken, and more), plus a host of Korean side dishes (kimchees, pickled veggies, salads, tofu soup, sushi, etc), and also fried rice, noodles, and seafood too. Not to mention soft-serve ice cream for dessert and all for only $12.99 per person. On the upside, the food was really good and the value for money was quite excellent. On the downside, we all ended up smelling like grilled meat for the rest of the day. But that’s a small price to pay for such a good meal :)

After lunch we split up into three groups. Group 1 was dad, mom, Jim, Joy and Marc, who headed off to the Cerritos Performing Arts Center to watch the Broadway production, “Oklahoma”. Group 2 was Atsi and Mark who headed to the South Bay Pavilion to do some shopping. And Group 3 was Jojo, Jules and myself who headed home. Jules had to study for finals, Jojo took a nap (he has been trying to recover from a really bad cold), while I had a book club meeting to attend.

Side note: the book club meeting went very nicely. We talked about Mitch Albom’s “The Five People You Meet In Heaven”. I love this book and had suggested it to the club. But a few days shy of the meeting, I was having second thoughts. Since the book touched on several sensitive issues: death, the after-life, spirituality, love, and disappointment, I had worried that perhaps it would be too “heavy” for a group of ladies who barely knew each other. Admittedly, in the beginning it was a little bit awkward, there were pauses, hesitant looks, and shy smiles. I think everyone was trying to feel their way around the group before talking about their thoughts and feelings. But later on, the group started warming up and the conversation was much less stilted and there was much more sharing. The ladies really started opening up and talking about private, intimate and heartfelt things. It was nice and I really felt very comfortable with the group. Two hours flew by and we ended the session with everyone saying it had gone better than expected. I’m so glad.

The family re-grouped at home around 7 pm and we were trying to decide what to do for dinner. Some wanted something light, others were hungry for a real meal. Some wanted to stay in, others wanted to eat out. We finally decided to compromise and get take–out food. From there on it was easy to decide on getting Panda Express for 3 reasons: it’s quick, everyone loves Chinese food, and my baby sister, Joy, has a cute fascination with eating out of those take-out boxes. And so, it was Panda Express for dinner and a round of Scrabble and Scattergories after that.

Sunday was our adventure into Chinatown and a dim sum lunch at Empress Pavilion.
As always, there was an almost hour-long wait for a table, the servers were their typical rude and abrasive selves, and the place was as noisy and as crowded as ever. But despite that I still say that in L.A, Empress serves the best and the largest variety of dim sum and so in my mind, it’s worth the aggravation. After lunch, we walked around and found the weather had turned quite warm (the sun was out) so that’s my family’s cue to head indoors.

The afternoon was spent shopping in and around Torrance. I am proud to say I bought my dad an attaché case for work. It’s very hard to buy my dad presents. First, because he has a very particular taste. Second, because it’s hard to buy a man who has everything something. And third, cause he never lets us pay for anything! Never. Seriously. Every time we go out, my dad pays. Any time. Any where. He will only let us pay if we absolutely insist and if it’s “small” stuff. That’s how generous he is. Imagine this, the other night we were at Walgreens and he wouldn’t even let Jojo pay for a bag of cough drops! Anyway, back to the attaché case, I was really thrilled that I could finally get something for my dad that I know he likes and will get to use. I am calling the case his “Mission Impossible” case. Picture the attaché cases used in the movie (the one that is handcuffed to some bad guy’s wrist cause it contains deadly nerve gas), that’s kinda how it looks. Very sleek and stylish!

Our last activity for the day was a waterfront picnic at the Redondo Beach pier (complete with hummus, sourdough bread, cheese, and chips from Trader Joe’s, and a bucket of good old KFC). I guess to some of the people strolling the pier, we were a sight to see, we were the only ones picnic-ing in the cold weather, at around 7 pm, in our coats and scarves. Most families were packing their stuff to go home since there was a definite chill in the air and the wind from the water was blowing quite strongly. But then again, I’ve said this before, we are a very heat-wary and sun-averse family. You’ll notice that in my recent posts, I talk about us barbecuing in our backyard at night rather than during the day -- when it’s cold rather than sunny! I know, it is a bit odd but it works for us.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Third Weekend in L.A. - part 1

Recovering from a 3-day weekend is tough. But recovering from a 3-day weekend spent with my family is tougher. It’s hard enough having to wake up to a buzzing alarm clock, especially if you feel you’ve barely had enough sleep. But what’s worse is waking up after spending three very enjoyable and relaxing days and knowing it’s back to the real world! But I shouldn’t complain. That’s life. Today is Monday. I have to think positive! I can at least spend today relieving an awesome weekend and looking forward to the next one.

Our weekend actually kicked off last Thursday night. We (the 8 J’s and the 2 Marc/k’s) had another backyard barbecue (this time we had beef ribs, steak, tossed salad, grilled corn, and a bottle of Riesling). Aside from just getting together and having a good meal, that night was our family’s way of celebrating Mother’s Day. We are doing it 2 weeks early since on May 14th, my mom and dad will be on a plane flying back to Manila. And since we wanted to make sure we got to celebrate with mom, we decided to do it ahead of schedule. Right before we had frozen cream puffs for dessert, my brothers, sisters and I headed inside to prepare a homemade card and our gifts (we got my mom a 4-piece Mikasa serving set with a really lovely Hibiscus-pattern).

I could tell my mom was really happy with the gift and as I read the card aloud, I could tell she was extra touched with the beautiful things we wrote for her. At least I hope so! Mark, Marc, and Jojo captured the moment with lots of pictures (which I will post eventually).

Friday was another very special day for me. Probably one of my top ten most favorite days of all time. How could it not have been so special? After all, we all spent the day in the happiest place on earth – Disneyland! I know it may sound corny to some people, going to Disneyland with your whole family, especially at our age. But it’s hard to explain how my family really does enjoy each other’s company even if we do have different interests and personalities. And yes, we’ve all been there before (except for dad), but this time it was extra special cause it was our first time to be there all together.

We did the “family” stuff like the Tiki Room, It’s a Small World, the Monorail, the Haunted House, watched the 3-D show “ Honey, I Shrunk the Audience”, etc. Surprisingly we were able to convince my dad to try Indiana Jones’ Adventure -- which he kinda/sorta enjoyed but found a bit unnerving too. The rest of the braver souls did the usual -- Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Railroad, Space Mountain, etc. But my favorite part of the day was watching the Disney Parade and later on the Disney Fireworks (all to celebrate the park's 50th Anniversary). I think my family agrees, especially since some of us got quite emotional at this point -- right, Mom? :)

I totally believe that everyone still has an inner child - no matter how old, cynical or indifferent one becomes. And sharing a part of that Disney magic is just one wonderful way of drawing that inner child out. It was amazing because everyone seemed equally enthralled by the parade, the music, the costumes, the firework displays, and just being there -- it didn’t seem to matter if you were six or sixty. We went home very tired but all very happy too.

More on our weekend soon.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Second weekend in L.A.

Today is my SIL’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Tracy! Welcome to the 30-somethings club :) Hope you have a great day and a wonderful year ahead. And am glad you had a good time at your party last Saturday. We did too :)

Speaking of last Saturday, here is my post on last weekend’s activities.

When Jojo and I got home from work Friday evening, our home was bustling with activity. My family had arrived from their 5-day Mexican cruise and had taken over the house! Mom was in the kitchen, cooking (as usual), Joy was helping her out, Jim was watching tv in the family room with Marc, a good family friend of ours, who was visiting from Arizona (he has been Jim’s best friend since 5th grade), dad was at his laptop, Jules was in his room, while Atsi and her friend, Mark, were chatting in the living room. (Headcount: we are now the 8 J’s and the 2 Marc/k’s.) Amidst all that, it would have been tough to decide where to eat, so I made the executive decision to go to one of our favorite places for dinner: BCD Tofu House.

As usual, Tofu House did not disappoint. The grilled ribs were succulent, the soon tofu soup was perfect for a cold night, the bibimbap had just the right mix of fresh veggies, the pork bulgogi was spicy, and the tofu salad was just the right way to balance out the meal. Again, there was way too much food (as is often the case with my family), but by the end of the meal, we amazingly managed to finish everything – I think good conversation, lots of laughter, and good natured bantering around the table does help whet one’s appetite!

Saturday started out with an amazing spread my mom whipped up for breakfast. All my favorites! Sinangag (garlic rice), tuyo (salted fish) in garlic and vinegar, Spanish style sardines, sunny-side up eggs, breaded fish fillets, and hot n’ spicy spam. We all lingered around the breakfast table since everyone pretty much wakes up and moves along at their own pace in the morning. In our family, breakfast is pretty much between 7:00 am – 11:00 am.

Finally, after everyone managed to get themselves ready, we were all set to go shopping and headed over to The Avenue (Rolling Hills Estate Mall). This is one of my favorite malls (open air, not crowded, almost brand new, and a nice place to spend an afternoon even if most the stores are rather pricey). But what I like even more is the drive going there. Driving thru Palos Verdes Road is a beautiful and scenic drive. Sprawling ranch-style homes surrounded by white picket fences, gorgeous pine trees, and horse/bike trails line the ascending and winding streets. It sort of reminds me of McLean, Virginia (one of the more picturesque places I’ve always admired).

Anyway, we pretty much spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon there. Did some shopping and stopped for slices of Red Brick pizza before heading back home. My hubby and I went to Tracy and Jojo’s place in Cerritos to help prepare for Tracy’s birthday party, while the rest of my family had other plans for the afternoon. When my brother called to let us know they were back home, Jojo and I drove back to Torrance, picked them up for mass before we all headed back to Cerritos to re-join the party. It was a fun evening, with more traditional Filipino food (Pinoy-style spaghetti, Kare-kare, Bicol Express, Dinuguan, Lumpia Shanghai, Leche Flan, etc.), good company, and of course, entertainment provided by my adorable nieces and nephew.

Sunday was spent in Santa Barbara. We had a very good seafood brunch at Moby Dick’s, right on Stearn’s Wharf. Bowls of creamy clam chowder, lunch specials (battered clams, scallops, shrimps, and potatoes), and Caesar salads. After lunch, while waiting for our 3 p.m. city tour, we browsed some of the stalls showcasing artwork by local artists. The artwork although pretty eclectic was quite interesting. When it was time for our tour to begin, we boarded a trolley reminiscent of the cable cars in SF. The tour, which was narrated by a charming gentleman, was 1 hour and 45 minutes long and took us to several different places in and around Santa Barbara. We drove thru the coast and headed towards Montecito, saw several homes of the rich and famous, caroused thru hotels and casinos, stopped briefly at the Mission Church, drove by the Santa Barbara zoo, and the botanical gardens. The tour also included a drive along Downtown, thru some of the more famous and historic streets and landmarks, before heading back to Stearn’s Wharf. I think city tours are a great way to see the sites of a city especially in this case since we only had a limited time to explore the place. And the 105-minute tour was just the right length to spend riding an open-air trolley cause by the time the tour ended, we were all too-cold to go on (especially Joy, who was freezing since she wanted to sit at the farthest end).

After Santa Barbara, we headed back south on the 101, did some speed-shopping at the Camarillo outlets, since my dad gave us exactly 1-hour to shop, before calling it a day and heading back home.