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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Birthday Weekend

This weekend marked my last day as a 31-year old and my first day as a 32-year old. Let me share how I celebrated both days through some pictures ...

We deliberated long and hard about what to do for the weekend but because of the cold weather, our options were limited. So we spent Saturday sleeping in, waking up leisurely, then driving to downtown LA for a historic walking tour of the city. Before moving to Torrance, I lived in LA for 3 years but have never really explored downtown. It is a fascinating place and many of the buildings are historical in architecture. Of course the diversity of people is quite fascinating too.

We had an early lunch at the Grand Central Market - (see below). It is an indoor farmers market with fresh and dried produce, bakeries, fruit stands and food stalls of every kind.

Here is a look inside. There were a number of interesting stalls serving all kinds of food - Chinese, Mexican , Japanese, Indian, Peruvian, Middle Eastern, etc., etc. All of them seemed authentic too. The food promised to be fresh as well since there were vegetable and fruit stands, spice stores, and bread stalls all over.

After careful deliberation, we decided to go for Middle Eastern food since it's one thing that's hard to find in Torrance. My hubby had the beef kebab and I had the chicken (seen here). The grilled meat in Middle Eastern food is not much different from other grilled meats I've had before - but what I love best is the long-grained, extra fluffy rice, the grilled tomato and the soft, warm pita bread.

We burned off our lunch by walking around Broadway and exploring small stalls selling a little of everything. When we got to 6th St. my hubby surprised me by telling me to go pick out my birthday present from one of the stores in the Jewelry District of LA. I could pick out anything I wanted from any store (and there are several blocks of them!) selling fine jewelry - if that's not a girl's dream come true, I don't know what is! Here is one of the stores we went into (see below).
After about 2 hours and about 300 stores/stalls, I chose a ring with 15 multi-color semi-precious stones (purple amethysts, green peridots, red garnets, yellow citrines, blue topazes, and a light blue aquamarine) set in white gold. It is very elegant looking and perfect since it came in just my size! I love my new ring - tried taking a picture but none of it came out well so you'll have to imagine what it looks like for now.

After exploring the city, we went home and dressed for dinner. We then met up with the family for my birthday dinner at Lucille's (one of my all-time favorite restaurants). The wait was long because it was a Saturday night and also because we had 16 people in our party. While waiting, we browsed the Barnes & Noble next door. We finally got seated past 8, but it was well worth the wait. Here is one of our appetizers - the appetizer platter for those who can't decide what they want (see below) with chicken wings, quesadillas, jalapeno poppers, chicken tenders, southwestern eggrolls, onion rings, and fried green tomatoes. YUM!
We had baby back ribs and barbecued chicken for dinner plus garlic mashed potatoes, shoestring fries, macaroni and cheese, baked beans and lots of fluffy biscuits with apple butter. Sorry I have no pictures since I got so excited eating I forgot to take one.

Here we are after the meal and after I blew out the candle on my birthday sundae. (Our server took the picture and apparently did not take a good one since it's so blurred!)
After dinner we went to in-laws' place where I opened my birthday presents. Again no pictures cause I was too excited over all my presents :)

On Sunday, my hubby and I drove to the Temecula vineyards to celebrate my actual birthday. Temecula is only an hour and a half away from Torrance but it seems like a world away. I love Temecula (city) and thought the vineyards (which were close by to downtown) were just as lovely as Napa and Sonoma.

Our first stop was the Maurice Car'rie vineyards (see below). I loved the charming buildings.

Inside, they had a lovely wine and gift shop. They also had a tasting counter where you could taste their house specialties. We bought my dad a bottle of Riesling (his favorite) and we also treated ourselves to a huge loaf of sourdough bread (fresh out of the oven!). The place was not that busy and it was great chatting with the staff who were all really friendly.

Next door to the gift shop was The Plantation House, a lovely restaurant with beautiful wood floors and furnishings, bright white shutters and a very laid back "southern style" decor. We met Larry Leonard, the owner, who congratulated us for being the last customers to order brunch (it was almost noon when we walked in). Here is my hubby's Salmon Eggs Benedict and potato pancake. I had eggs over easy, home-made sausage, fruit, and multi-grain toast (not as fancy looking).

Outside, the day was GORGEOUS (sunny but cool at 65-degrees). Most of the vineyards were barren (see below) because it is winter here! But you can imagine how lush they will be once Spring comes. I loved the orange groves too (to the left of the picture). Everything looked so postcard-worthy! And the view of the mountains ... just breathtaking!

Our next stop was the Ponte Winery (about half a mile away). See picture below. This was my favorite of all the wineries we went to. I loved how charming the place was especially the beautiful gardens behind the front structure. I could not take a picture since a wedding was going on and I didn't want to seem intrusive. But it was so beautiful - I actually wished I was still planning my own wedding since I would have loved to have celebrated it at the Ponte Winery gardens. Jojo said we'll just have to celebrate our future "daughter's" wedding there.

Ponte Winery had a great deli too with so many wonderful looking spreads, dips, jams, preserves, cheeses, breads. I was awestruck. We bought a jar of arugula and pine nut pesto and a jar of lime and mint marinade to take home.

We went to two other wineries (Wiens and Thornton and both were newish and not as expansive as the first two) before calling it a day. Our last stop was The Olive Oil Company which was in Old Town Temecula (another collection of charming, small town-looking shops). The Olive Oil Company boasted of fresh olive oil and everything you can imagine making with olive oil. They also had an olive oil tasting bar (we passed on that) but we did get a bottle of oil seeped with garlic cloves and a jar of sun-dried tomatoes with olive oil.

After a lovely day in Temecula and two great days of celebrating, my hubby and I ended the weekend by going to mass at, St. Philomena, our parish.

It was a great birthday and I thank everyone for the greetings, emails, text messages, gifts and phone calls. THANK YOU for remembering. Hope you guys enjoy these pictures and somehow get to share this special time with me too.

P.S. Belated happy birthday to my dear friends Karen (the 17th), Jogs (the 18th), and Tash (the 20th) and advanced happy anniversary to my mom and dad (the 22nd)!


Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday! - Monse

jol said...

One of your best blogs with vivid description and colored photos. I actually felt I was there for the celebration of your birthday. You certainly must repeat this kind of enjoyable affairs regularly. Again, wishing you the very best on your birthday and always!

jml said...

Great blog. Am looking forward to more entries such as this - with colorful pictures too. A wonderful and fitting celebration for another milestone in your life. A cool day, lovely landscape, quiet meals, a leisurely drive, special moments with a loved one, timeless memories - what better way is there to celebrate?

leslie Ty said...

To My Best Friend....

Happy Happy Birthday Jo :) wishing you a blessed year filled with love, peace and good health :)

My Birthday wish is for you to come back for a visit in Manila this year :) we miss you!!!!

oh...and I'm praying that you will have a baby soon :) i want to be a ninang na :)

love you! this blog! :) the food, your kwnetos and the pics!!!!

Joanne said...

Thanks everyone! It was a great way to celebrate a birthday. But you know what would have made it better ... having you all here!

Les, awww (clap-clap), na touch naman ako sa message mo. And na pressure ha! :) Am sure you'll be a great ninang - especially since you already are such a great "an-tey" (said with a British accent).

Anonymous said...

sounds like you had a fantastic birthday celebration, jo. :)