Monday, December 29, 2014

an impromptu trip to Reno

The year is ending on a high note as we went to Reno over the weekend. The reason for going there was to see a concert at Silver Legacy Reno. The trip was essentially free. :-)

I'll start with some background: my mother has been writing for a Chinese magazine called Distinctive Taste for several years. The magazine's general manager recently gave each contributor two tickets to see Shirley Kwan. The nice thing is that the costs were covered. In other words, this was an all-expenses-paid vacation!

Day 1

Though transportation was provided, my family decided to drive to Reno ourselves so that we could travel at a more leisurely pace. The first stop was Eileen's house in El Cerrito to give her some things. The Tangs were thrilled to see us even though we didn't stay more than a few minutes. This was followed by a stop at Costco in Citrus Heights for gas and samples. Dad also took us to an antique store in the area so Mom could look for china. The rest of the drive was pretty smooth despite the traffic.

We checked into Silver Legacy Reno before going to the Grande Exposition Hall to pick up the tickets. I had planned to explore the hotel on my own or play RuneScape while Mom and Dad attended the concert. However, the general manager saw me with my parents and gave us a third ticket so we could go together. That was so nice of him. Thanks, George!

The three of us played the slots for about 15 minutes before returning to the venue. The attendance was so large that the seats quickly filled up. The free glow sticks were a nice touch. Of note is that the songs were mostly in Cantonese. Though we didn't understand the lyrics, the concert was enjoyable.

The event lasted longer than expected and ended around 11 p.m. All of us were too excited to go to sleep just yet and spent another two hours at the slots before heading back to our room. It was well past 1 a.m. when we finally got to bed!

Day 2

The slots were so much fun that we returned to the casino after lunch. Our luck wasn't spectacular this time as we lost around $36 in total This wasn't too surprising because - as the saying goes - the house always wins. Well, almost always.

On another note, Mom and I bumped into Lily from Henry's film club while at the casino. I also got to meet her daughters Jessica and Jasmine. Talk about a small world.

It was then time to start heading home. The trip was far from over as Dad found three antique stores along the way - where Mom bought some china and several sweaters that she liked. The three of us also went to WinCo Foods in Vacaville for groceries. The last stop was a Burger King in Fairfield for dinner. The place had bad Yelp reviews, but we ate there anyway as it was pretty late.


This was our first time attending a concert in over four years. It was definitely a memorable experience. However, the best part of the trip was the slots. That was pretty fun even though we lost a record $36 this time. The vacation was quite awesome, especially considering that it was almost completely free. I've posted some pictures from our trip on Flickr.

Currently listening to: "Dela" by Johnny Clegg

Monday, December 15, 2014

an exciting and well-earned holiday break

I've decided to take the rest of December after finding out I had lots of vacation days. It's so nice to relax after several busy months!

I'm really excited for the next few weeks. For starters, the Tangs have invited us to lunch at a nice restaurant in Berkeley on the 19th. This will be followed by a trip to Reno just after Christmas. Though we had planned to stay home for the holidays, Mom received two free tickets for a concert at Silver Legacy Reno. Last but not least, three other families are coming over for New Year's Eve. So yeah, Christmas break should be awesome.

Currently watching: Maleficent

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thanksgiving long weekend report

"Thanksgiving always makes you wish you had a bigger stomach." -- Ruth

I had a great long weekend as we went to two gatherings and ate lots of good food. The break was definitely pretty awesome. Read on to find out more!


So our family friend Henry invited us over for Thanksgiving for the first time ever. It was a busy day as there were many things that needed to be done. Mom prepared the gifts while I listened to online lectures. I later watched Superman: Unbound on the Amazon Fire TV before we left for Henry's house.

There were several young people present - not only were Henry's daughters Ruth and Connie both home, they also had two other families over. I enjoyed meeting their cousin Janet and her husband Howard, the Tings and Ruth's boyfriend Steven. Our family friend Grace was there as well, although she left early as the Lius had other things planned.

Of course, no Thanksgiving is complete without tasty food. The Changs prepared lobster and crab while the Tings brought a turkey from Whole Foods Market and several side dishes. Our contribution was Mom's famous red bean buns. The seafood was easily the best part of the meal, although everything else was delicious too, such as Ruth's homemade butternut squash soup. I was full before I could try all the dishes.

Janet's family left after dinner as their daughter had to go to bed. The girls then invited me to play board games, to which I gladly obliged. Let me tell you, Cranium is damn hard if you don't have Wikipedia memorized. One thing for sure is that it's a great way to exercise the brain.

Scattergories was also pretty fun. Ruth, Charity and I formed a team while Connie, Eric and Steven joined the other. The whole thing was hilarious, especially with Steven's dirty answers. I guess being less than classy has its merits because Steven ultimately won. Everyone had so much fun that we didn't leave until 1 a.m. On the whole, the party totally rocked.

I'd definitely like to thank Henry for having us over. Speaking of which, I'm also thankful for the other great things that happened this year, particularly my cousin Connie's wedding in Pasadena. It was something I had eagerly anticipated, especially considering that I never get invited to weddings. The day trip to San Francisco and my 10-year high school reunion were also nice.


The local Chinese newspaper had a coupon for a popular Indian restaurant in Millbrae called The Third Eye Restaurant & Bar. The deal was too good to pass up, so Mom suggested going there for lunch. The coupon turned out to be valid only for dinner, but that wasn't an issue because the lunch buffet was already discounted. The selection was limited but otherwise delicious. The three of us took a stroll around downtown Millbrae before heading home.

The rest of the day was uneventful. I studied for most of the rest of the afternoon, although we watched the 1949 film Le Silence de la mer for Henry's film club. That was an interesting movie.


The morning began with a stop at Costco as we were short on groceries. From our experience, Costco usually has many samples around this time of the year. However, because we arrived earlier than usual, there was barely anything available. Oh well.

We had a quick dinner before heading to Henry's house again. Everyone had a good time discussing Le Silence de la mer while enjoying snacks. This felt like an extension of the Thanksgiving party to me. The not-so-fun part is that I got a bad headache afterwards. Blah.


The headache went away after a good night's sleep. The plan was to go hiking somewhere, but thanks to the rain, the soggy trails changed our minds. I spent most of Sunday listening to online lectures but still got to watch Dawn of the Planet of the Apes on the Amazon Fire TV in the afternoon. Though I liked Rise of the Planet of the Apes more, the sequel wasn't too bad.

All in all, the break couldn't have been better. I can't wait for New Year's Eve. In the meantime, feel free to check out my pictures from the long weekend.

Currently watching: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes