Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I'm Excited

I'm excited at the prospect of leaf-peeping drive this fall.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Blah, Blah, Blah

Friday again, another end to another work week, and an end to the first week of school.  I am well aware that kids are back to school even if I don't have one at home.  I pass by the elementary school on the way to the freeway so yes, I do get the slow down by the school every day. 

While technically there is still a whole month's worth of summer left, the return of school in session has somewhat cancelled the rest of the summer and fastracked us into fall.  Now here I am again wondering where summer went. 

We have been really lucky with our summers.  If I remember correctly, this would be (knock on wood) three summers in a row where the temps were cooler than usual and the number of days where our heat index went up way north were limited to a handful.  I guess it's the "normal" weather pattern here in this side of the bay.  But I'm real thankful just the same.  I cannot even imagine the torture that the rest of the country had suffered due to overwhelming summer heat.  I was watching the news one day and the meteorologist said that it was the 40th consecutive 3-digit temp in Texas.  Whoa,  a whole month + of 100 F or more in successive days?  That's a lot of hot!

But I guess they are used to it by now.  They all have AC out there I presume.  The houses in my neighborhood were built in the 1980s including mine and they are not equipped with AC, because well, we are close to the bay and the temperature does not really rise high enough to require an AC.  Plus, when we do have successive days of oppressive heat, it doesn't last long.  A week tops, then our natural airconditioning kicks in, in the form of a fog bank. 

And so this summer I am cooped up in my little hole working.  I just realized I badly need a little break.  Doncha worry I am getting it in a couple of week's time. 

Meanwhile a little shake up at work.  Now you know I hardly share anything about work situation, because I don't like to put that part of my life up front and in print.  I'm quite sad that the people I work closely with are going to be gone.  One has left a couple of weeks ago and the other is due for retirement at the end of this month.  They do not belong to the same department as I am but my job is closely link to theirs. 

I am sharing it here because it's part of my documentation process.  I have to make a mental note to get her flowers next week. I appreciate all her guidance and tutelage and her teamwork.  She's a great leader.  Far too young to retire, except that she's worked here a looooong time.  She is qualified to receive her full retirement benefits including the medical benefits.

I just hope they hire her back on a part-time basis, otherwise, it's going to be hell where I'm concerned.  My boss even said we're looking at rough sailing here for a while.  Yeah!

Change gears here.  I have a new crush.  A travel crush.  I mean a travel destination that just captured my heart.  I was watching my Netflix rental 2 nights ago and I was besotted to the location of the movie.  The movie is THE AMERICAN.
And the location is Castel del Monte in the Abruzzo region of Italy.   This is what wikipedia has to say about this gorgeous village:

Castel del Monte is a medieval and Renaissance hill town and comune in the province of L'Aquila in northern Abruzzo, Italy. Located in the heart of Gran Sasso mountain range, the town is set into a steep hillside nestled beneath mountain peaks near the high plain of Campo Imperatore. Castel del Monte sits opposite the ancient mountaintop fortress of Rocca Calascio and faces Monte Sirente in the distance. It is located in the Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park.

Cobblestone streets, Medieval architecture, scenic views.  Oh yeah, the movie is good too.  Classic Clooney.  The movie is actually based on a novel, A VERY PRIVATE GENTLEMAN by Martin Booth.  Note to self, check this book out. 
Happy weekend everyone.  Stay safe. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My Love Affair With Roses

Ever since I can remember I have always been fascinated by roses. I love them. Rose trees, rose bushes, rose vines, ground cover roses, fragrant ones, singles, doubles, any kind.

While we have a few rose plants in the house, my husband was not agreeable to planting only roses in the garden. I do love other flowers too, but my love for roses remain at the top of my list.

What's not to love with these?

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Note To Self

Take time to smell the trees. It's good for the soul.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sometimes There's Nothing To Say

My cousin was diagnosed with cervical cancer, stage 1 and had radical hysterectomy. She's looking at chemo and radiation. Nothing to say but pray.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Movies Lately

I was reading back some of the posts here lately and noticed that I haven't done one regarding the movies I have seen lately in a month's time.  And so this is that post.

KNIGHT AND DAY:   I saw this on HBO before Netflix so I took it off my queue.  This is a "romantic action comedy" movie starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz.  There is nothing to this movie that is appealing.  Maybe the actors, who are both good looking and trim and fit and have good smiles and teeth.  Other than that the movie was rotten and I'm not just saying that. It had gotten a "rotten" rating from Rotten Tomatoes. 

THE KING'S SPEECH:  Via Netflix.  A well made historical movie about King George V and his battle to overcome his stammering.  Marvelously acted film that gave one of my fave actors Colin Firth an Oscars.  Helena Bonham Carter as Elizabeth the king's wife and Geoffrey Rush as the speech therapist also were recognized for their wonderful perfomance. 

Honestly I thought I'd be bored since historically I am bored with historical movies, but this one was the exception. 

RED:   Via Netflix.  CIA operatives now retired are forced to return to their old habits when one of their colleagues' girl got abducted.  I found the movie funny.  It has some moments in it, but all in all I think this movie is mainly for entertainment purposes. I don't think it has any ambitions to be anything but that and oh to make money of course especially since the casting is fabulous - Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Mary-Louise Parker, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren.  That's a cast don't you think?  I wonder how it fared in the box office?

THE TOWN:   Via Netflix.  An adaptation of the novel Prince of Thieves.  This movie is all Ben Affleck - as the lead actor, director and co-writer.   A well acted movie that garnered supporting cast Jeremey Renner an acting nod for Oscar Best Supporting category.   The movie is about friends from the dangerous streets of Boston who held up a back and taking the woman bank manager as hostage.   When they escaped, they release the hostage, but not before she saw a distinguishing tatto on one of the robbers.  Then the Ben Affleck character followed the bank manager, befriended her and fell for her.    This is the kind of movies I want to see Ben Affleck in. He excels in scenerios like this. 

NO STRINGS ATTACHED:  Via Netflix.  Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman in a story of friends with benefits.  I'm sure the movie FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS is 95% similar to this movie.  I found it very entertaining and it actually got my undivided attention.

BLUE VALENTINE:   Via Netlfix.  Critically acclaimed movie starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams about a marriage that grew apart - she was bored and he was dissatisfied in their sexless life living in rural Pennsylvania.  I really enjoyed the honesty portrayed in this film.  Scored high marks on my rating sheet.  Plus the actors were superb in this movie.

GREEN HORNET:   Via Netflix.  One word - FUN.

LITTLE FOCKERS:   Via Netflix.  You know I enjoyed it.  My husband and I were laughing at this third installment of the Focker saga.  The critics weren't too kind in their reviews though.

LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS:  Via Netflix.  Animated movie about owls.  This movie made me really appreciate the joy of owning a Blue Ray player.  And the theme song at the end of the movie when the credits were rolling was really good.  Plus I won when I guessed it was Carrie Underwood who was singing.  My hubby was not buying it that the voice belonged to Carrie U.  Not only did Carrie sang the song, she also wrote it.  I just forgot the title, anyone knows?

GROWN-UPS:   Via Netflix.  An Adam Sandler laughaton!  My husband is a big Adam Sandler fan so we have this, but I must say this one movie is really fun for me too.  Nothing really outstanding, but a good use of your free time.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Good/Bad Weekend

Can't wait for the leaves to change colors!

Poor blog, you are neglected aren't you? I have been really uninspired lately. I cannot string words together to make a sensible paragraph that people would read and understand, hence the weeklong silence.

However, I know I owe you a post so here goes.

I had a busy weekend, interesting really. It was my birthday last Saturday and here's how I spent the weekend.

Got woken up by phone call from in-laws overseas calling to greet me a very happy birthday - they never fail to remember important dates, am so blessed.

Left the house about 11 am and had breakfast/brunch date at Waffle Stop, the one I like to have breakfast at. I've taken my mother to eat here over the years and only last Saturday did I realized that the name of the restaurant was Waffle Stop. You know what I thought its name was all these years? Country Waffles. Duh! The sign says Waffle Stop, Country Cooking. So apparently I mixed up the sign and came up with my own name for the restaurant.

Like always I ordered 2 sunnyside up eggs, a side of hash browns, and wheat toast. My husband went for the omelette. He couldn't finish his order so we had a little to-go box. I knew I could finish that food I ordered. It's the same one I get each time I eat breakfast here. And the same quality of food they serve each time. Plus I simply like the fact that they have the same crew/servers for like forever. I like it when people who do their jobs wonderfully keep their jobs.

It was nearly 12 noon when we got to the church. I had to go there because Sunday was my day to dress the altar and we dress the altar on Saturday for the Sunday service. However, there was something going on inside the church. I had to wait for them to finish; they finish at 12, thankfully.

Then another problem, I misplaced my key to the sacristy. Thankfully, my fellow altar guild member Marguerite was at church meeting with some people about finances (she's also our bookkeeper) so she opened all the doors for me :)

It wasn't a meditative time for me this time, cleaning up the altar and preparing all the items needed for the service because there were a lot of people still loitering about the church.

But I managed to complete the task in the least amount of time.

And then we drove to the city for a little visit to the Farmers Market. We encountered a little jam on the roadway since the Giants are at home, plus it's always traffic in the weekend around here anyway.

We arrived at the Alemany Farmers Market nearly 1 pm and the whole place is starting to shut down. We knew that! But the good thing about coming during this time is that many of the veggies have lower prices so we snag what we need at a discount, which satisfied our budget-conscious pockets.

Lunch was next in the itinerary. From the Farmers Market we drove to the Mission District. I love driving around the city, so many things to enjoy, the architecture, the restaurants that we passed by, the people going about their daily life.

We easily found the place, and luck of all luck, we had snagged a street parking. Of course street parking cost an arm and a leg, but still we got parking :)

Esperpento was the site of my birthday lunch with hubby. We both have dreamt of eating there since we heard of it from Check Please Bay Area, a local show about dining about town. It's a Spanish/Tapas restaurant. When we entered the place (it's a 2-storey), I easily felt at ease. I loved the cool ambiance and the casual atmosphere. Walls were decorated in Spanish plates and posters and there is a clock on the wall showing Spain time.

When we got there there were four other tables that were occupied, the rest were empty, but this was a small restaurant to begin with. It was past 2 when we sat down and read the menu. I love tapas or small plates. It's like having only appetizers. That's what I love. I'm not an entree kind of diner. Give me appetizers and I'm all set and happy.

We first ordered a sangria for moi and Barcelona beer for hubby and we got some tapas:

Gambas ala Plancha - grilled jumbo shrimp
Cazuela de Pescado con Almejas - snapper and clams cooked in spanish sauce
Patatas Bravas - spicy potatoes
Escalivada - roasted eggplant, peppers, and onions
Jamon Serranon - canape of Spanish cured ham on toasted French bread with tomato and olive oil
Estofado de Conejo - rabbit stew

We also ordered a side of rice, which we never touched, it's sitting in our refrigerator right now.

Small plates can easily fill you up, it did us. The gambas were good, but the ones we tasted in Barcelona were superb. The snapper and clams in tomato sauce was wonderful as well. We sopped up the liquid with the free bread they give. The patatas bravas was excellent, I love the spicy aioli. The roasted eggplant was yummy too. The rabbit - well I'm going to say it, it really did taste like chicken. If I didn't know I'd say I was eating chicken. The canape was likewise very good.

Overall, this was a good meal. I would be coming back here if I find myself in this neighborhood someday. Plus all those food and chocolate mousse for desserts and the drinks only came to about $50.

We had to take some home on a to-go box. I was not hungry when we came in, but believe me I ate more than I needed that day.

We left the restaurant and put more coins in the parking meter, left the food in the car, and walked around Mission. Walking around Mission is wonderful, it's like a different place. I felt I was transported to a Hispanic town, it's no longer San Francisco here. It's Mexico, it's Honduras, it's El Salvador. This is a vibrant neighborhood, restaurants next to each other. We walked several blocks for an hour and spotted 2 of the restaurants we wanted to eat at. Now we know where they are located.

In our itinerary for the day, we also included a little sunset watch on the waterfront, but the day was windy and cloudy and very cold I didn't think there was sun all day and I reckoned no sunset to speak of either.

So we went to Chinatown instead. We walked some more in search for a wind breaker. My husband was shopping, I thought it was for him. It was for me for our upcoming trip. I don't need a windbreaker, I'd rather get those cheap ponchos for when it rains.

On the walk back to the car, I found myself in need of a bathroom. You know Chinatown, there isn't any public bathrooms. You have to be a customer. Since we were stuffed still we didn't go to any restaurant, but we passed by a bar and so we ordered a Chinese Mai Tai and I got to use the facilities :) and enjoyed a wonderful libation.

After we crossed the bridge, hubby asked if I wanted some desserts, like the chocolate mousse at the restaurant didn't happen, so I said yes. WE both had this little bakery in Solano Ave in the city of Albany in mind. We got us a little breakfast bun and a slice of brownie. That was worth the drive.

Sunday was church and I got to feed the church members as it was also my day to host coffee hour.

After church, my mom took me and hubby to have some Chinese lunch at this little known place in El Cerrito. Mostly Chinese come here. On Sunday, I saw an African-American couple, us, and a white guy. The rest were Chinese. The food is wonderful, my mom loves it here. We had 5 different dishes, so there were to-go boxes too. But the minute we left the restaurant I started to have a little stomach gas pain. My husband wasn't feeling so well either. Too much MSG probably.

We went to drop mom off then off we went to buy some tools, power tools :) and then it was time for COWBOYS AND ALIENS. If you haven't seen this movie, I suggest you go and see it. It's a well made movie with outstanding cinematography.

The bad part about the weekend? I didn't get to blog at all :(