Monday, December 29, 2014

an impromptu trip to Reno

The year is ending on a high note as my parents and I went on a two-day trip to Reno for a concert over the weekend. The trip was almost completely free. :-)

I'll start with some background: my mother frequently writes for a Chinese culinary magazine called Distinctive Taste. The magazine's general manager recently gave away two tickets for a Denise Ho and Shirley Kwan concert to each of the major contributors. The hotel costs were covered, meaning it was an all-expenses-paid vacation!

Day 1

The first stop was Eileen's house in El Cerrito as we had some things to give her. The Tangs were thrilled to see us even though we couldn't stay long. Our party also went to the Costco in Citrus Heights for gas and samples, as well as an antique store in the area. It wasn't too late when we arrived in Reno despite the traffic.

We went to the Grande Exposition Hall to pick up the tickets after checking into Silver Legacy Reno. The venue was conveniently located just across the street. I had planned to explore the hotel on my own or play RuneScape while Mom and Dad attended the gig. However, the general manager saw me with my parents and gave us a third ticket so we could listen to the concert together. That was definitely super nice of him.

The three of us played the slots for about 15 minutes before returning to the venue. The attendance was huge. Everyone was given glow sticks at the door; that was really cool. The songs were largely in Cantonese; although we didn't understand most of the lyrics, the concert was fairly enjoyable.

The event lasted longer than expected, ending 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

Having had so much fun at the casino the day before, we decided to hit the slots again after lunch. Our luck wasn't spectacular as we lost around $36 in total, but as the saying goes, the house always wins. Well, almost always.

Speaking of which, 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 soon time to begin our drive home. Dad found three antique stores along the route; Mom bought some fine china that she liked, along with several high-quality sweaters. As per tradition, 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 some bad Yelp reviews, but we ate there anyway as it was pretty late.

Conclusions

While I'm not a big fan of concerts, this one was no doubt memorable. I'd say playing the slots was overall the best part of the trip even though we lost a record $36 this time. The vacation was quite awesome despite being only one night long, especially considering that most of the costs were covered. I've posted some pictures on Flickr.

Currently listening to: "Dela" by Johnny Clegg

Monday, December 15, 2014

an exciting and well-earned holiday break

After finding out I had several vacation days that don't carry over to next year, I've decided to take the rest of December off. It's certainly nice to relax after working so hard!

Christmas break is looking to be really awesome. The Tangs have invited my family to lunch at a nice restaurant in Berkeley this Friday. Mom has also received two free tickets to a Chinese concert in Reno and definitely won't pass that up. Last but not least, three other families are coming over for New Year's Eve. I'm so excited!

Currently watching: Maleficent

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thanksgiving long weekend report

"The thing about Thanksgiving is that it makes you wish you had a bigger stomach." -- Ruth

The long weekend was awesome as my parents and I went to two gatherings and ate lots of good food. It had to be one of our best breaks ever. Read on to find out more!

Thursday

Thanksgiving was pretty fun as our family friend Henry had us over for dinner. Given that it was going to be a busy evening, I spent much of the afternoon listening to online lectures. There was some free time afterwards, during which I watched Superman: Unbound on the Amazon Fire TV.

The party itself totally rocked. The nice thing is that there were several young people; not only were Henry's daughters Ruth and Connie both home, they also had one of their cousins and a couple of friends over. I certainly enjoyed meeting them.

Of course, no Thanksgiving party is complete without lots of tasty food. The Changs treated us to lobster and crab while the Tings brought a turkey dinner from Whole Foods Market. Mom made some of her famous red bean buns as Henry has always been a huge fan of her cooking. The seafood was by far the best part of the meal, although there were all kinds of other good stuff, such as Ruth's homemade butternut squash soup. I was so full that I didn't get to try everything!

The girls invited me to play board games with them after dinner. Let me tell you, Cranium is damn hard if you don't have Wikipedia memorized. We then played Scattergories, and the hilarious thing is that Ruth's boyfriend Steven kept coming up with all those dirty answers. I guess being less than classy has its merits because Steven ultimately won. All of us had such a good time that the party didn't end until well past midnight!

This year, I'm thankful for all the great things that happened in the summer, particularly my cousin Connie's wedding in Pasadena. It was something I had eagerly anticipated, especially considering that I never get invited to weddings. Seeing Connie get married wasn't the only highlight; the San Francisco field trip and my 10-year high school reunion were also quite exciting.

Friday

The local Chinese newspaper had a coupon for a highly-rated Indian restaurant in Millbrae called The Third Eye. The deal was too good to pass up, so we went there for lunch. The coupon turned out to be valid only for dinner, but that wasn't an issue because there was another discount. The buffet was limited but otherwise delicious. I'd say The Third Eye is worth a future visit.

Having done so much the day before, I studied for most of the rest of the afternoon. The evening wasn't too bad as we watched the 1949 film Le Silence de la mer for Henry's film club.

Saturday

Being short on groceries, the three of us went shopping at Costco in the morning. From our experience, Costco usually has lots of samples the weekend after Thanksgiving. There were relatively few samples this time; however, that's probably because we arrived a little earlier than usual.

Later in the evening was the film club meeting. Everyone had a good time discussing Le Silence de la mer while enjoying the snacks. This felt like an extension of the Thanksgiving party to me. I got a bad headache afterwards for some reason, but that fortunately went away after a good night's sleep.

Sunday

I spent much of Sunday studying as the rain made it impossible to go hiking. On the other hand, I had the opportunity to watch Dawn of the Planet of the Apes on the Amazon Fire TV in the afternoon. While I liked Rise of the Planet of the Apes more, Dawn was nevertheless a good movie.

All in all, the Thanksgiving break was absolutely amazing. I can't wait for New Year's Eve. In the meantime, I've posted some pictures from the long weekend at Flickr.

Currently watching: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes