Saturday, July 26, 2014

Pasadena trip report + congratulations to my cousin Connie!

"Are you sure he's not an undercover NSA agent?" -- me asking Luc about the videographer

The weekend has been awesome as we went to Pasadena with my aunts Jill and Yu-Hua for Connie's nuptials. This was very exciting as I hadn't been to a wedding in almost 18 years. It was great to touch base with the Shiehs again after they moved to Southern California almost three years ago.

Though we were also invited to the rehearsal dinner, I regrettably had to decline as it would have been difficult to extend our stay given the short notice. However, that's not a big deal as the most important thing is that we got to celebrate with Luc and Connie.

Day 1

We started out early due to the possibility of congestion in the L.A. metropolitan area. Except for a stop at Casa de Fruta so Jill and Yu-Hua could look around - and lunch at Burger King - the 350-mile drive was uneventful. Contrary to our expectations, the traffic in L.A. turned out to be light and didn't cause any delays.

Luc and Connie decided to have a courthouse ceremony and forgo the traditional bridal party in the interest of time. Though I had told Connie we'd be there, that didn't happen because checking into the hotel and dressing up took longer than expected. This could have been avoided by going directly to the courthouse, but Mom felt showing up dressed inappropriately would be worse than not showing up at all.

The reception began around 5 p.m. at a small restaurant called POP Champagne & Dessert Bar. The place was crowded as there were over 60 guests, many of whom were related to Luc. I got to meet several of Connie's friends, Luc's extended family and Cathy's boyfriend Gene. Aside from the parents and a little girl named Bella, most of the guests were my age. The only downside is that there was no dancing as the venue had limited space.

Dinner consisted of two passed appetizers, followed by assorted beef sliders and macaroni cheese with truffle oil for the main course. The Shieh and Danziger families then shared stories about the couple during the toasts. Dessert included crème brûlée, churros and pavlova. The newlyweds later thanked us for coming before cutting the cake.

Because Luc's aunt Armelle helped plan the wedding and was a huge Star Wars fan like Connie, there was a Millennium Falcon cake topper. I'm a Star Wars fan myself and thought it was a nice touch. Although the cake was delicious, all of us were so full that Mom and I shared a single slice!

On the whole, the evening was fantastic. It's too bad my father couldn't be there. Dad was tied up with an important work project and also didn't want to pass any germs around from his cold. He nonetheless showed up at the end of the night to give Connie his blessings.

Day 2

I had no more than three hours of sleep and was totally exhausted. The excitement and the sugar rush from last night were probably the reason. It wasn't just me because Jill was so tired that she decided to skip the free breakfast. I took the opportunity to get level 83 crafting in RuneScape while she slept in.

Luc and Connie had invited us to join them and their friends on a field trip to the J. Paul Getty Museum. This would have been nice, but the plan was canceled due to my aunt Cynthia not feeling well the night before. Therefore, my father took us to Old Pasadena instead. He says this was his favorite part of the trip.

Cynthia felt much better in the morning and invited us and Luc to her place in L.A. for lunch. The Shiehs had a large home with three floors. It was nice to relax and hang out with my cousins while waiting for the food to arrive. The lunch made for wonderful family time. Dad knew quite a few mother-in-law jokes. ^_^

Cathy and I accompanied Cynthia back to Pasadena as my aunt had to pick up her car. Cynthia was kind enough to take me to the Fair Oaks Pharmacy & Soda Fountain after Mom told her I wanted to go there. Though the ice cream looked tasty - especially in the hot summer - consuming so much sugar in such a short time seemed like a bad idea. I had also just recovered from a cold and didn't want to risk getting sick again. The Fair Oaks Pharmacy is definitely a place I'd like to revisit in the future.

Jill and Yu-Hua have decided to stay with the Shiehs for the rest of their time in the U.S. It was hard to part with my aunts and cousins. The three of us hit the road shortly afterwards as Dad didn't want to arrive home too late. Despite the traffic, the drive back to the Bay Area was fairly smooth. Our adventure ended with a nice dinner at Il Postale.

Conclusions

The reception at POP Champagne & Dessert Bar was easily highlight of the trip. Seeing my cousin get married was one of the most special moments in my life. So without further ado, congratulations to Luc and Connie. I wish them nothing but love and happiness as they begin their life together.

There is so much to do in Pasadena. I've always been interested in science and had hoped to visit the Jet Propulsion Laboratory - which wasn't very far - but that wasn't an option because the facility is generally only open to the public on weekdays. The city is also home to a number of Route 66 attractions, including the Fair Oaks Pharmacy & Soda Fountain. Looks like we'll have to go back to Pasadena soon!

I'd say my biggest regret is missing the ceremony at the courthouse. The only consolation is that she says it's not a big deal. Another downer is that Dad was unable to come to the reception, but at least he was able to join us for lunch afterwards. I'm also a little bummed that we had to miss the rehearsal dinner. Sometimes not everything goes to plan.

Now that we're home, the post-vacation blues have set in. On the other hand, the memories from Connie's wedding will last a long time. Feel free to check out my pictures and videos from the trip.

Currently listening to: "Wake Me Up" by Avicii

Monday, July 14, 2014

a weekend getaway to Reno

"All right, everyone, let's get to work." -- Dad at Rail City Casino

Summer is off to a good start as two of my aunts are visiting from overseas. Figuring we had to do something fun together, Dad took all of us to Reno and Tahoe over the weekend. Intense heat aside, this was an enjoyable vacation.

Day 1

The first stop was Solano Town Center in Fairfield so my aunts could have a look around. There wasn't anything they needed, but it was nice to stretch our legs. We arrived in Roseville around noon, and the nearby Maidu Regional Park was the perfect spot for a picnic lunch. Though the weather was warm, the park had a large shaded pavilion. The picnic made for great family time.

The route took us through Auburn and Truckee. Given that it had gotten hot outside, Jill and Yu-Hua opted to stay in the car. Because my family had been to both places, all of us decided to continue on.

Dad checked us into Hampton Inn & Suites Reno after a long drive. Our suite was spacious and had more than enough room for everyone. Jill and Yu-Hua relaxed at the hotel while the rest of us went to buy dinner at the nearby WinCo Foods. The artisan flatbread from Leonardi's Pizza was delicious!

We went to Grand Sierra Resort in the evening so my aunts could get a feel of casinos in the U.S. Seeing that the slots at Grand Sierra Resort had low payouts, Mom suggested going to Rail City Casino in Sparks instead. The five of us played the penny slots at Rail City Casino for around two hours and actually ended up winning a few dollars. This was my favorite part of the trip.

Day 2

All of us got up fairly early as the heat made it hard to sleep. The historic Virginia City awaited us after a nice breakfast at the hotel. Considering that Virginia City was a highlight of our trip to Reno and Carson City five years ago, my parents thought Yu-Hua and Jill might be interested. But because it was already really hot - and most of the stores weren't open yet - our stay here was short.

We then went back to Rail City Casino to play more slots and watch the World Cup final between Germany and Argentina. Luck wasn't on our side this time as yesterday's gains soon disappeared. I can't say this was unexpected. As the saying goes, the house always wins. Or at least almost always.

The plan was to check out nearby casinos and look for hiking trails in the area. However, none of us wanted to stay after the weather turned out to be even hotter than the day before. Dad made a quick stop in South Lake Tahoe so my aunts could get pictures. There were more people on the beach than we've ever seen. How they could stand the heat is beyond me.

The heat soon became unbearable, at which point we decided to head back to the Bay Area. The five of us had a short rest at the Nyack Shell convenience store before leaving the mountains. I bought a bag of potato chips and some much-needed ice cream.

Our final stop on the way home was WinCo Foods in Vacaville for groceries. Jill and Yu-Hua were impressed by the size of the store. Dad wanted to have dinner at a dim sum place in Fremont but later found out it had permanently closed. Therefore, he took us to a Chinese restaurant in Milpitas instead. The crazy thing is that the power went out in the middle of the meal. Oh dear!

I'm guessing the heat caused the outage. It was hard to see the food until Dad brought in a flashlight from the car. This kind of ruined the mood but was also an interesting experience. Sometimes it's these little mishaps that make a vacation more memorable. At any rate, the outage seemed to affect just one particular area and didn't give us any other problems.

Conclusions

The biggest downside of the trip was the unexpected heat wave. The high temperatures made it difficult to spend more than a few minutes outside and often caused our plans to change. That said, everything else was awesome. Although the car rides were uncomfortable due to the cramped space, having companions always makes traveling much more enjoyable.

On the whole, I'd say the best part of the trip was playing the slots at Rail City Casino. This was our first time traveling with Jill and Yu-Hua since our visit to Taiwan and China seven years ago, and their company made this trip especially fun. Be sure to check out the pictures from our vacation.

Speaking of which, my cousin Connie's wedding is in two weeks. Jill and Yu-Hua are again joining us as we head to Pasadena. I'm super excited. :-)

Currently listening to: "Summer" by Calvin Harris

Sunday, July 6, 2014

4th of July weekend report + summer plans

I had a nice 4th of July even though we didn't do much.

Kicking off the weekend, my family had lunch at Tomatina in San Mateo on the 4th. The plan was to go to Il Postale in Sunnyvale, but the place was inexplicably empty even though the doors were open. There was absolutely nobody inside, not even the employees. Heaven knows what was going on.

At any rate, the food at Tomatina was quite good. The restaurant had several TVs tuned to the World Cup match between Brazil and Colombia. This made our lunch even more enjoyable.

We visited some antique stores on the way home as Mom wanted to shop for fine china. This was somewhat exhausting as we made several stops. All of us were too tired to go anywhere to see fireworks, although I pulled a few party poppers after dinner.

The rest of the break was uneventful. Because it was fairly hot outside, most of my time was spent studying Android. On the other hand, I reached level 85 magic in RuneScape yesterday afternoon. So there's that.

2014 summer plans

The fun doesn't end here: my aunts Yu-Hua and Jill are coming over from China on the 12th and will be staying with us for a few weeks. The plan is to take them to Reno this coming weekend. This will be followed by a trip down to Pasadena for my cousin Connie's wedding two weeks later. I haven't been to a wedding in almost 18 years and am definitely looking forward to this one.

August is full of events as well, starting with the annual Lab126 family picnic on the 9th. Henry's film club is taking a field trip to San Francisco on the 17th. Last but not least, there's my 10-year high school reunion at the end of the month. So yeah, I'm extremely excited for the summer. :-)

In other news...

On the subject of weddings, happy sixth anniversary to my cousin Anne and her husband Lawrence!

Currently watching: Batman: The Animated Series - "Birds of a Feather"