Monday, December 31, 2012

Year-End Report

2012 turned out to be one busy year, both in travels and in general.  Let's see how the year shaped up to be:

HIGH
  • Travelled to India, Bangladesh, Mexico, Honduras and Belize.
  • Ate and drank in New Orleans, what a beautiful city.
  • Romantic get-away in the wine country in February.
  • Enjoyed the giant sequioa trees and the charming Victorian houses in Eureka for our May roadtrip.
  • Celebrated my birthday with my in-laws in Bangladesh - first time ever.
  • Hiked and cave tubed in Belize.
  • Drank the most wonderful tasting PINA COLADA of my life in the western end of Roatan in Honduras at the Half Moon Bay resort.
  • Had a lovely dinner at Cafe Curbside.
  • Baked my first successful brownie.
  • Participated in outreach for the homeless in a project called Tenderloin Project where we collected essentials and packaged them in individual reusable pouches/bags.
  • Took a 2-hour tour of Hongkong - which only whetted my appetite for the island country.  I wanna go back there.

LOW
  • A loved one was diagnosed with the big C - she's doing well after the surgery where the doctor told her all the cancer cells are gone, but will still need to undergo more chemo.  Praying hard.
  • Unable to unclutter my bedroom and garage.
  • Failed to read books.
  • Did not try to learn to knit.
  • Unable to complete needle work project.
  • Did not do much gardening or decorating.
  • Did not go to Yosemite this year :(
  • Zoom lens broke :(

GOALS:
  • Complete cross stitch project.
  • Learn how to sew and knit.
  • Send out Christmas cards.
  • Take a week off on Christmas to fully prepare for the day.
  • Clean out the garage.
  • Weed out my wardrobe.
  • Read a book, seriously, any book not just my usual type of books.
  • Find a way to make money out of my hobbies.
  • Make candles.
  • Make potpouri out of my lavender bushes.

I do not foresee many days of traveling in the coming year, athough there are 2 cruises that needed to be taken next year, both however are 7-day cruises each.  That only accounts for 14 days.  But who knows, 2012 wasn't a travel year in the beginning, but turned out to be one. 

The goals I set for myself this year are quite doable.  I bought a planner/journal on the weekend so I can jot down what needs to be done and what has been accomplished. 

Happy New Year.

Friday, December 28, 2012

2012 Survey


2009 Survey

2010 Survey

2011 Survey

In 2012:


Did you do something you would never do?

>>Rode an elephant. Cave tubing.



Did you keep any New Year's Resolutions?

>>I never make any so nothing to keep.



Did anyone close to you give birth?

>>No one.



Did anyone close to you die?

>> Yes, my friend's mom died. My other friend's bro died too. I don't know the ones who passed, but they are family to my friends. A lady from church Judy passed away. She even came to a football viewing in my house a month or so before her death.



Did you visit any countries?

>> Yes. India. Bangladesh. Hongkong. Mexico. Honduras. Belize



What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?

>>A child of my own.



Will any date from 2012 stay etched in your memory forever?

>>I can't think of any one particular date.



What was your biggest achievement of 2012?

>>I won a cruise from a raffle.



What was your biggest failure?

>>Lack of self discipline and lack of stick-to-itiveness when it comes to pursuing goals.



Did you suffer illness or injury?

>>Same old, same old.



What was the best thing you bought in 2012?

>>I didn't make a big purchase, so I cannot think of one.



Did your behaviour changed over the year?

>>I felt like I became more whiny, must change that.



Where did you spend most of your money?

>>Travels, bills and cat food and vet fees.



Are you happier than this time last year?

>>I should be.



What song will remind you of 2012?

>>Nothing comes to mind



What do you wish you would have done more of?

>> Diet and exercise. Crafting and reading.



What do you wish you would have done less of?

>>Whining.



What did/will you do for Christmas 2012?

>>Church and then visited a friend in the rehab facility.



Did you fall in love in 2012?

>>Yes, I fell in love with the Mughal architecture of India.



Did you get your heart broken in 2012?

>>Yes. The Newtown shooting broke my heart.



Favorite TV program of 2012?

>>Same shows each year with new ones like Revenge, Once Upon a Time, Scandal, Person of Interest.



Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

>>Nope



What was the best book you read and/or movie you saw?

>>I really liked SKYFALL a lot.



What was your greatest discovery?

>>That New Orleans is such a fun city to visit, great food, marvelous architecture, pleasant weather, fun party city and very friendly to walkers.



What did you do on your birthday and how old were you?

>> Was in Bangladesh. My in-laws got me flowers and cake, friends came over with food, and hubby made pancit.



What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

>>Having a baby.



How would you describe your personal fashion concept of 2012?

>>I don't have a fashion concept. Mostly frumpy.



FRIENDS:



Who was the best new person you met?

>>Monica is considered new because I only knew her one day prior to this year. This year we went on vacation for a week together so I got to know her better.



Who did you wish you did not meet?

>>No one.



Who was your bestfriend?

>>My husband



Who was your enemy?

>>Laziness and procrastination. Lack of focus and direction.



Who do you miss?

>>My girl friends from high school and college.



Who will you never forget?

>>The 2012 San Francisco Giants, the World Series champions.



Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.

>>Pray then pray some more.



What will you always remember about 2012?

>>Busy schedules, church meetings, church activities, church plannings. India and Bangladesh vacation.



ASPIRATIONS FOR 2013:



What do you want to do in 2012 that you couldn't in 2011?

>>Have a baby..



Any resolutions?

>>Walk, move, exercise. Craft. Read.



What is different about 2012 than 2011?

>>Lots of good things, I hope.



Anything you want to change about yourself for 2012?

>>Reinvent myself by adopting a new positive attitude towards life. Get involved with the community more.



Do you want to make more friends in 2012?

>>Absolutely!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas


Merry Christmas to all!

How was your Christmas? Ate too much? Partied like it was 1999?

It's a pity that another Christmas came and went and I haven't had enough time to enjoy it. Every single year I tell myself that come Christmas I'd make time to just soak in the atmosphere, delight in the joyous season and basically just enjoy the season.

This year however the timing of December 25 was quite difficult to maneuver whatever fun I had in mind. Christmas Day fell on a Tuesday. In between two working days. I never had the foresight to take days off before or after the day or both. Also I just took off 11 days at the end of November into early December, that I thought it wouldn't look good on my work record to take days off for Christmas.

And so I never got to enjoy the season again. While the shopping part is well taken care of well in advance, the other logistics related to celebrating this most festive occasion needs more planning and fine tuning.

I have not driven around the neighborhood and watched the yards decorated with wonderful and colorful Christmas lights and scenes.

So next year through God's grace, I intend to take a week off during Christmas time. I fully intend to enjoy the birth of Christ.

Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Twas a rainy weekend.

My favorite thing in the world is a rainy and cold weekend where I could spend the day curled up in bed or in the couch watching tv or reading a book or both with both cats in my lap.

The past weekend was rainy and cold, super cold for this California resident. Nonetheless I had to run some errands. No lazing about in the house watching Pride and Prejudice for the nth time.

Saturday started with a trip to the vet for Emma, who had a follow-up after her emergency visit the past Sunday. I found this clinic that's not too far from us that people on Yelp seem to regard highly. So I chose this clinic and made appointments. Unfortunately on Saturday Emma's records from her emergency visit were not faxed over to the clinic despite my phone call requesting said records to be faxed ASAP to the new vet.

Thus, Emma's visit was somewhat limited to physical examinations. The vet examined her thoroughly and talked us through the possibilities of Emma having stones versus just having UTI, if that is what she have so far.

In the end, the vet wrote script for another round of general antibiotics, since Emma was responding positively to the first round. I raised concern about back-to-back dosage, but the vet assured me that it's okay and normal for pets to take antibiotics longer than the humans do.

Upon returning home, mom and I went on in the rain to run her regular Saturday errands, which consists of eating outside (Chow King that time) and getting some supplies (food).

It was gloomy all day so it got dark way too soon. When we got home from the errands, it was very late afternoon and time to just laze about the bedroom with the tv on and the laptop on my lap and the cats bodies touching my legs as they slept.
Sunday again was busy. I really wanted to skip church at least one Sunday, but well I didn't. We got out of church nearly noon and decided to drive to Napa just in case there are still any fall colors left to photograph. Last year we hit paydirt when we drove out to Napa the day after Thanksgiving and saw the valley gorgeously donning fall colors. I knew this time it was a lost cause but the hubby was adamant. I reasoned that it had been raining all week to begin with and add the fact that it's late in the season to still have colors. But he was unyielding.

The trip was originally planned with another couple, so he rang them up as we were leaving church. However, they weren't in the mood to go out for a drive. Who could blame them, the weather called for cuddling by the fire, with some football on tv.
And so we drove out to Napa and no fall colors, just as I expected. But we managed to stumble upon Bouchon bakery and the Marketplace shopping complex just across from it. We explored the Marketplace first hoping there was some eats and coffee to be had, but the no food stalls, only stores selling clothing.

So we crossed the street to Bouchon and entered the crowded little place, got some coffee and yummy pastry to go. We drove out farther until we didn't want to go any further at all.

We turned back and spotted some vineyards still carrying some fall colors so we stopped to photograph them in the rain.

Leaving Napa, we drove out to our next destination for the day, in Alameda, where our department Christmas Party was being held. It's amazing that I've lived here for 2 decades and still haven't been in this part of the Bay Area. It's lovely and we showed up at the party, took photos, ate and drank, and stayed for a bit, then said goodbye.

The day was not over yet for us because we had some shopping to do. We were supposed to go to 2 different stores, but after going to Costco where we got the bulk of our items, we decided not to go to the second store. It was late after all, I was hungry and tired and cold.

This weekend, we'll be having our family Christmas lunch. I suggested the date because Christmas day is Tuesday and we have no vacation before or after the day, it would be difficult to stay up late :)

I got my Christmas gift from hubby. We both picked it up at Costco last Sunday. It was the same one that I said in the previous post that I'm not getting for Christmas. I actually got it.

Hope your Christmas celebration is filled with love from family and friends.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Almost Christmas

IMGP2011

So it's just a week before Christmas, basically. Are you ready? Are your gifts wrapped? Or not done with the shopping part yet?

Apart from the hubs swinging by the drug store yesterday to get the boxes of chocolates on sale for the mailman and the garbage man, we have not done a single shopping trip yet.

Despite this, I only need to pick up a few gifts. This is the good thing about shopping early. I shop all throughout the year for great deals and stock 'em up in the garage. Come Holiday Season, we open the box full of goodies, which are clearly marked with names btw, so that it's just pull out of the box and into a gift bag, slap some tag and voila, ready to gift. Less fuss, doncha think?

Still, I'm nervous about going to the store this late in the season. I've learned from past mistakes you see. I just hope this year, many people have completed their shopping and the stores wouldn't be too crowded. If there's one thing that ruins the holiday cheer for me is the crowded store.

Anyway, my gifting has been toned down every year. Not only is this saving me a good deal, but it is also helping my recipients lessen their clutter. You know the people I give to are my family. For all intents and purposes, they have everything they need. I give what they need, not what they want. Although if what they want falls within budget, I give that too. I don't want to give them something that would just gather dust somewhere in their house.

Since I feel that they have nothing they need materially, I can take liberties with some crazy gifts sometimes. But I always give out practical gifts anyway. Household things that I myself would want to keep.

I started bagging some gifts a couple of nights ago, so our tree doesn't look empty anymore. It will definitely have less gifts underneath it than years past, because well I don't whimsically just shop anymore.

As for parties, my company is giving one this year. Actually, it's my manager who's giving a party outside of work and we'll drop by for an hour or two just to show up.

Tonight our friend from church is having a surprise party at Chevy's for his 75th. A big treat from his son, whom I never met. But the b/day boy and his wife are friends of ours from church and we're just pleased that we were invited. No matter what people say about Chevy's and my dislike for chain restaurants in general, I like Chevy's especially the mango margarita. But I won't be having that tonite, as I will be driving home. I'm meeting the hubby at the restaurant tonight. We'd be there straight from work.

Our family made tentative Christmas luncheon plans, but I need to get in touch with everyone to finalize such plans.

I am hoping that I can do a little baking for the Holidays. I'm thinking either scones or lemon bars.

Ham for Christmas? Seems like a no-brainer. However, I'm leaning towards turkey. Didn't get enough turkey on Thanksgiving.

Futile to think I'd still get to see Breaking Dawn in the cinema. Gotta wait for the DVD, sigh!

Throughly enjoyed SKYFALL last week. It may easily be my most favorite Bond movie of all time.

Saw THE VOW on DVD. I can't help but fall for Channing Tatum, what a hunk!

I wonder if I'd get the Giants DVD package for Christmas? Wonder no more - I'm definitely NOT getting it!

Emma's (my cat) recent medical worries had put a damper on the Holiday cheer. Taking her to the vet this weekend, hoping that no surgery would be required to remove the stones that showed up in the tests when we took her to emergency hospital last Sunday.

Do not have the excitement to listen to carols this year.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

And we cruised the Caribbean

November is a very nice month for cruising in my opinion. The weather is pleasant and mild and even the humidity in places in the Caribbean is quite manageable.

We sailed for a whole day. Our foursome pretty much joined most of the activities on board and snacked our way through the day.

Our first port stop is at Costa Maya in Mexico where the four of us signed up for a tour of the Mayan ruins Chacchoben. We joined 6 others in the van and travelled an hour to get to the ruins. Having seen the ruins at Chichen Itza I would have to say that visiting this is nothing compared to it; however, there is one ruin where you can climb up on top, which is pretty cool. Everyone seemed to be here though as the place was crowded quickly. As soon as we boarded the van to take us back to port, the rain came down in buckets :)

The next day, the ship docked in Belize. This was hubby's birthday too. While we were on the tender that would take us to port, we inquired about cave tubing tour from one of the employees of the boat. He said he know somebody and there's another couple interested. So our tour became 6.

We travelled over an hour into rural sceneries to get to the cave and the river where we will be doing the tubing. When we entered the "park" and the van parked, we were asked to change into our bathing suits. I wore something that was okay to get wet, I had change of clothes afterwards.

We began the tour by getting our tube (salvavida) and our headlights. Our footwears were inspected and one lady in our group needed to rent water shoes because she was wearing the wrong shoes (flip flops).

Afterwards, we carried our tube and hiked thru gravel-lined path in the rainforest; crossing the same river twice. By the time we reached the same river the third time, we were ready to enter the cave and began the tour.

The river and cave setting was so magical. I hated the fact that I didn't have camera with me. I don't care if it would get wet, I should have brought the little one.

We floated on our tubes inside dark cave infested with bats, cold river water and quiet except for the many tour guides and tourists who were floating alongside us :)

That was one true blue fun experience. I could stay in the river for a whole day, heck even a week and be content.

On the drive back to the port, we stopped at CHEERS bar and restaurant where we grabbed some snacks. We had enough time to shop at the port area and so we did. I get so inundated by the same old souvenirs they sell everywhere, so I browsed and made sure I got the mandatory ref magnet that I collect. While the other couple shopped some more, the hubs and I stopped at a restaurant to try conch ceviche and fish tacos. That is where they found us and shared a bite with us. Afterwards we browsed at the stores some more.

The next day we were in Honduras. Roatan is a small island and that's the part of Honduras we visited. We signed up for island tour and we got to see as much of the island. We met some local kids in one stop and decided to get them some candies at a grocery store and returned to their place to give it to them.

Hands down best pina colada I've ever tasted is in Half Moon Bay resort and restaurant in Roatan, western end. Fresh pineapple juice, fresh coconut milk and lotsa booze. Two thumbs up.

Our last port of call was Cozumel. Okay so I have misconceptions about Cozumel. Before coming here I thought it's one of those made-up for tourists town with all shopping and I wouldn't like it. It is a made up tourist town, but I liked it, hah!

We didn't stay in Cozumel instead took a 45-minute ferry ride to Playa del Carmen (outstanding beaches, I wanna go back) where we would sign up for a tour of Tulum ruins, another Mayan ruins. This ruins however faces the water and the beach area is to die for, unfortunately we didn't have time to explore the beach. The ruins though is fascinating, they all are.

We got another full day at sea the next day so we again participated in everything.

Our boat docked in New Orleans and we were out of the boat by 10 am. The hubs and I walked leisurely from the port to our fabulous hotel in the French Quarter where our friends were waiting for us to have a little tour of the French Market. New Orleans is walker friendly, especially this part of town. Sightseeing on foot is advised.

I must say that New Orleans is really fabulous. The food. The music. The arts. The architecture. The shopping. What more could one ask for. As a bonus, we got wonderful weather the entire time we were there.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I'm back and ready to tell a story

I'm back from my 11-day vacation for 3 days now and I'm ready to tell a story. So grab a seat and get comfy. This could get long, very long.

Thanksgiving was a blur this year. I'm thankful for so many things, both the good and the bad that happened this year. The good brought joys to the heart and the bad always come with lessons in life.

Anyway, my plans for Thanksgiving initially were to have a simple Thanksgiving dinner at home. As a family, we don't normally gather for Thanksgiving, only Christmas. Hence I always invite people who have nowhere to go to for Thanksgiving. In the past I have a motley crew of guests.

This year though I was a bit hesitant to extend invitation to friends because I know that I would need to be rested on Thanksgiving because our vacation starts the day after Thanksgiving.

With that in mind I didn't send out any invites, but we had bought all the fixings for the meal including a 20-lb turkey. No way are we able to finish that just us, so I called brother #4 and invited him and his family over a few days before the holiday. I knew his family doesn't do anything on Thanksgiving. That is exactly the reason why I didn't extend an invite to my other family members especially brother #2 who always have a spread on Thanksgiving.

At the last minute however, brother #4 called to say that his daughter and her family are coming over for Thanksgiving and if we would be able to join them. My niece was sick and would need surgery a few days after Thanksgiving and because of this we couldn't say no. I told my brother that I have a whole Thanksgiving feast ready to cook. So I told him I'd cook everything (well technically the husband is the cook) in the house and haul it over his the day of. Furthermore I instructed him not to get any turkey because, well I have enough for everyone.

So that's how our thanksgiving played out. 3 out of 4 brothers came to lunch, we ate with gusto. I marveled at how my nephews seem to have mastered the art of baking. Joe made us wonderful cheese biscuits, he bragged courtesy of Food Channel. Brian made a delicious sweet potato souffle. Even my niece's 7-year-old daughter made a dish. Her contribution to the table was the cranberry sauce. We told her that this year is the beginning of a tradition. She would be expected to make the sauce every single year.

We made a quick exit after a few hours because we were going to have friends over for dinner. We have some food at home and our friends joined us for dinner. They do not do thanksgiving, it's a cultural thing I suppose.

On Friday, brother #3 drove us to the train station; instead of going all the way to the airport by car, we opted to take BART. It's easier that way. Our plane took off on time at 1 PM. After an hour and a half we were landing in picturesque Salt Lake City. It's gorgeous from up there. Another hour later, we were boarding our flight to New Orleans!. We arrived in N.O. around 10 PM, immediately boarded the shuttle to the car rental, chatted with friendly locals at the car rental place who pointed us to the best eats in town we have to try and then decided to drive on local streets instead of the freeway to our hotel because we were scouting for a grocery store. We found a Winn-Dixie (don't have it in Cali) and got some essentials - sunblock, conditioner, lotion, vodka :), and frozen food for dinner.

It was past 11 PM when we drove up to our hotel and checked in. We were surprised at how lovely our hotel was, better than we expected for the price we paid. The parking however was another story, because although they have a parking lot in the back, it fills out too quickly.

We were meeting our friends in New Orleans, they flew in on Thanksgiving from New Jersey. We planned to take this trip together, but didn't talk about the hotels we'll be staying. Turned out our hotels are next to each other. Go figure.

On Saturday while our friends took a segway tour of the city, we decided to do a DIY of the city. We went to the Garden District, drove around ogling beautiful houses, stopping at the famous cemetery and was tempted to join a tour currently in progress, but I didn't want to cheat. I told my husband that we'd shoot and then google for information later.

Afterwards we drove out some more discovering churches and parks and the riverfront shopping area including the Mardi Gras museum. We parked the car a few blocks away and met our friends at the riverfront mall food court. We shared lunch and hurricane (a cocktail muy delicioso), then walked from the Riverwalk to the Mardi Gras Museum, which is a few blocks away. Browsed there, went to the riverfront, took pictures, then decided to walk from the museum to where we parked our car. Turned out there was a thousand blocks from point A to B, however, New Orleans is a walker friendly town and there's plenty to see.

Eventually we got to our parking and we loaded up the car so we could drive them to the garage where they parked their car for the day. But we hit so much traffic that the guy decided to go on foot to fetch the car. He would drive the car to the hotel and we'll meet him there. From there we would take one car and hit the nightlife of French Quarter.

French Quarter is party central. In my humble opinion as a party pooper, it is crazier than Vegas. Bourbon Street filled with people, all with drinks in hand in party mood. We walked around until we found the brewhouse that was recommended to us. There was a wait of 20 minutes so we sat in the bar and ordered 2 of the beer tasting menu, 5 different beers. Then decided to get something else, a cheese plate. By this time we lost our appetites for what the brewhouse had to offer so we cancelled our seating, and moved to next door Hard Rock Cafe. I know it's not our style to eat here. But remember we were with another couple who love to eat here.

I was almost full from the beer and the cheese plate, so hubs and I decided to split an order of fish and chips.

We walked some more after the dinner and then time to go back to the hotel.

Sunday we were embarking on a Caribbean cruise for 7 days. Check in starts at noon. We woke up early to see the sights. Being a Sunday the streets of New Orleans were empty. We returned to French Quarter, went to the cathedral and Jackson Square, drove out to the riverfront and French Market, then plugged in the city park in our GPS and drove around the beautiful and spacious park with old oak trees that have long graceful limbs. We saw a wedding under a picturesque oak tree, very romantic.

Then the hubs dropped us off at the port while they returned the cars. This gave us girls a time to chat. Here's the deal. I've known this couple for a very short time. One day to be exact. I knew them for one day 3 years ago in another cruise. We went on a day excursion with them in Cairo visiting the pyramids. We were in the same Mediterranean cruise. That excursion consisted of 11 people including us, 9 of which are our facebook friends. So via facebook we kept in touch; hence we were able to plan this cruise with them.

Technically I don't know them, because I probably have exchanged a dozen words with them prior to this trip. But from the very beginning it seemed like we were old friends. There was no awkwardness, only catching up, can you believe that?

So the time we were waiting for the hubs to return, we chatted furiously and shared future travel plans.

The hubs returned and we got checked in without any hassle. Now off to the cruise.

Will tell you all about it soon. Needless to say, I need a vacation after the vacation because I'm very tired :)