August 2009

Today, my marriage turns one year old. We didn’t do anything spectacular over the weekend; his parents drove down for a quick visit to show off their new Prius. All of us had tried convincing them to get rid of their two clunkers and get something they didn’t have to continually sink thousands of dollars into to fix, and they’d always insisted they couldn’t afford a car payment at this point. But they did it! We’ll all have more peace of mind knowing they’re not gonna be stranded again in 115 degree desert heat in the middle of Vegas.

After my in-laws left on Sunday, Mr. W and I went to have dinner with my parents and my cousin Olivia’s family. It was nice to see my nieces again, they took some beautiful professional portraits on their recent trip to Asia that made them both look like beautiful fairy tale princesses. I should’ve gotten Nikki to send some to my phone. Maybe I can still do that, since the digital images were downloaded into her cell phone.

And this morning, of course, I am at work. We have no evening plans. It’s funny that people remember our anniversary; all week I’ve been asked by coworkers what our big plans are for the weekend for our 1-year. I told them “nothing,” and they all looked surprised. It’s expected to not be a big deal to Mr. W, but for me, it’s my first year of my first marriage and it’s an anniversary and women are all about anniversaries, right? Eh. I explain that I’m too practical to buy into Hallmarkish hypes, and that since we got married on our 3-year anniversary, we’ve been celebrating this date for 3 years already. So what’s a fourth year? Plus, our anniversary used to always fall on a Labor Day long weekend, and this year it didn’t as the long weekend is next weekend. Mr. W offered to do something for next weekend, but I wasn’t much help in the way of suggestions with my shrugs. I would’ve done the champagne dinner and eating the top layer of our wedding cake thing, but we don’t have that layer. At the wedding we gave permission to the Garden to cut and serve all 3 tiers since we didn’t need the extra calories anyway, but I found out afterwards that they’d saved the top tier anyway as there was enough cake to go around. Unbeknownst to me, they went to the groom to ask what to do with the top tier, and he told them to toss it. My grandma was nearby and not only is she not wasteful, but she had a huge sweet tooth, and offered to take the cake. He gave it to her and she happily indulged in our anniversary cake for the entire week following our wedding. I actually didn’t even have more than the photo-op mouthful of cake during the cake cutting, and wish I’d gotten to experience more of our cake, but I’m glad I don’t have to eat an entire cake at this time because I can’t afford the calories.

The reason I’m watching my weight is because I have upcoming events in which photographic evidence will be taken, recording the state of my waistline a year from my wedding, and I’m well aware of people’s bets and expectations that I will plump up immediately following the wedding. In the next 2 months, I’ll be attending my cousin Diana’s baby shower, cousin Jennifer’s bridal shower, bachelorette outing and wedding, taking a trip to Florida to meet up with Jordan and Flat Coke so we can hang out at Clearwater Beach (swimsuit!), then to Vegas to meet up with Jordan and her new beau for a weekend, then Mr. W and I will fly to Chicago from there with a road trip back to Vegas stopping by Yellowstone and other sites of interest. If I’m gonna splurge on something before all those events, it will NOT be on food.

It will be on a digital SLR camera. I’m considering the Nikon D90, Nikon D5000, and Canon Rebel (but unsure what models to consider). Any opinions?

Due to recent conversations, photos, videos and shows I’d happened to stumble upon, and things I’ve randomly read, I’ve had a hankerin’ for New Orleans food for months. Crawfish, in particular. I’ve never had boiled crawfish, but I’ve been curious. Mr. W felt like going out for dinner last nite, so we did an online search for local authentic Creole food restaurants near us. We found one about half an hour away near Newport Beach called “JACKshrimp.” Turned out their crawfish was seasonal, meaning only served during Mardi Gras. We found another menu item of interest, however. It is the restaurant’s namesake: “shell-on gulf shrimp in Jack’s savory spicy sauce with french bread for dunking.” Sounded like Killer Shrimp, one of our favorite restaurants that we don’t get to very often because it’s deep into downtown LA territory in Marina del Ray, so we decided to try JackShrimp in hopes that it’d be a good local substitute for Killer Shrimp. I still remember the first time I had Killer Shrimp, and the glowing faces of friends who shared that evening with me. JackShrimp’s broth didn’t really compare; it was very lightly flavored and did have some fire as an afterburn, but mainly was melted almost-frothy butter. If it’s bland to me, it must taste like water to everyone else. But low-sodium is a good thing, considering all the fat I was taking in. The serving was also smaller and cost more. We decided Killer Shrimp’s recipe is still king, except…

I found out yesterday that on my birthday this year, while I was busy feeling myself turn 1/3 century old and checking for white hairs and wrinkles (while being relieved that I didn’t find any) and making jello shots for my upcoming party, Killer Shrimp closed its doors for the final time. There is no more Killer Shrimp, anywhere. This was the last remaining branch. According to gossip on Yelp, the owner the business building opted not to let the restaurant renew its lease, and the proprietors of the restaurant have not indicated any plans to reopen elsewhere.

Oh, Killer Shrimp, there were imitators that didn’t come close to your succulent secret recipe, how can you now forever deprive the world the experience of you? There are friends whom I’d intended to introduce you to, and now they’ll never know the warmth that is the Cajun burning in their stomachs after an hour basking in your Creole love. I blame myself for only intending to bring these friends and not having taken more initiative to have actually brought them; I blame you for not warning us of your impending death; I blame my friends for not more readily availing themselves to me to embrace you. Why? Whyyyyyyyyy?! *shaking fist in air*

I’m thinking that achieving happiness isn’t so much about having something, but about not having something. The absence of pain, of negative stimuli, of excessive fat cells (heh), of drama, of other people’s bad influences, of feeling like the power to control your emotions has been handed over to a careless someone else. This means that something Anny wrote recently is true: everything that you need to be happy, you already have at this moment. Just lose the excess crap.

I’m pretty darn happy these days.

1) Come here in the morning, before the mood for the day has been set.
2) Turn on your computer speakers.
3) Click ‘play,’ below.

(“So Systematic” by David Choi ~ I’m a big fan.)

The jujitsu bike ride and campout was a lot of fun. Mr. W and I stayed at the campsite on our own Friday night, waved the other people in on Saturday morning when they dropped a couple of cars and their camping gear off at our sites, then they carpooled back to the Sensei’s office to bike back to our house, as Mr. W and I biked home to wait for the same group to meet us at our house. When they did, we all as a larger group biked down to the campsite again. Everyone helped each other set up camp and tents, and we hung out as a group of 12 or so for the next 24 hours. The next morning, people dispersed as needed with a few remaining to come home with us and hang out at our Lake for some swimming, sand volleyball, and kayaking. Photos abound from this event, and they’re plastered all over the social networking site we’re on. I’ve learned that the next time I go camping, I need to bring a makeup kit with me. Yuckers, man!

Wednesday was our second furlough day. I didn’t expect it to beat the way I spent our first furlough day last month — watching Dwaine bully bees at the beach — but it was close. It started with a dental visit 60 miles away in Pasadena. Dentist Andy is a childhood friend (we grew up together, he’s bridesmaid Sandy’s brother) and the best dentist I’ve ever had, so the usual angst that accompanied prior dental visits wasn’t present. They always take blood pressure before any work, and mine was something like 115/75 with a pulse of 58. “Are you falling asleep on us?” his dental assistant prodded me. I was this relaxed despite having discussed with Dentist Andy that he may have to pull out a wisdom tooth this visit. Actually, he never used the word “pull.” He characterized it as “you’d feel some pressure, and we’ll just roll it out.” How soothing. Turned out, as they were working, that it didn’t require an extraction so he just patched up the tooth. While I was laying on my back with metal all inside my mouth, Andy said some nice things about me. His assistant commented on how easy I was to work on and how cooperative (apparently some patients whine, complain, can’t hold their mouths open, keep moving their heads, etc) and how calm I was, and Andy said, “Cindy’s always been like that, though. If there’s something that needs to be done, she just, does it. You know how some people complain about life? Cindy just lives it. She knows what she needs to do in a very no-nonsense way and takes care of it.” I was touched but couldn’t comment on it, either in agreement or protest, or I risked splitting my tongue on the drill. It didn’t occur to me he knew me well enough (despite having known me 27 years of my life) to make such a statement about my personality, and I can’t even assess its accuracy, but I liked that he thought that of me. =) Totally made my dental visit. Less than an hour later, Andy returned me into the waiting room, where Mr. W was waiting for me. We figured that since this visit was all the way in Pasadena where we have rare occasion to be, he’d come along for the day and we’d hang out there.

So we strolled in Old Town Pasadena, wandered into interesting bookstores and mysterious-looking tea shops, bought some cannisters of rooibos looseleaf tea, visited new outdoor malls and entertainment centers, had lunch, walked through a Pacific Asian museum and learned things like how China silk is made and how the Indian god Ganesha got his elephant head. We didn’t get home til late evening, after the long drive and the Audiobook version of “The Time Traveler’s Wife” had put me to sleep. (I was farther along reading the novel than he was in the audiobook anyway, so I didn’t miss anything.)

Saturday, we went to another Lake concert event. The opening band is a new favorite of mine, “Plushgun.” Three young musicians from New York, full of energy, very friendly. I liked their music instantly. It’s something like The Cure meets electronica with a touch of punk, and it reminded me of what I call “Diana-music,” reminiscent of happy and carefree college days with college roommie Diana. (Obviously it wasn’t carefree to us when we were living it, but in retrospect, ah, those were the days!) I bought their newest CD for $10. It will now be my driving music, since I’ve found that I can’t stand any of the music I currently have anymore. I need new music free from prior associations. The main band, “No More Kings,” performed a category of music I’d never heard of before, “comedy rock.” They’d introduce songs like, “This is about what happened with the guy who got kicked in the head with a standing crane kick” (“I heard the devil whisper in my ear…Sweep the leg, Johnny! Sweep the leg, Johnny!” a la Karate Kid); “This song is about what happens after you die, and you inevitably come back as a zombie.” They were a barrel of laughs, with even a song about Kitt, the talking car in Knight Rider. The lead singer told us, “I used to make a cassette tape with my voice saying, ‘Hello, Pete.’ I’d stick the cassette into my car, so when I started the car it’d say, ‘Hello, Pete.’ And my friends would be all, ‘DUDE! Your car just TALKED to you!’ …But it would only work once per friend.” They also had a song about playing Dungeons and Dragons (“It’s a critical hit! I made 90 double damage with it!”). As soon as the lead singer informs us it’s about D&D, he turned to the band members and said, “This is the first time I’ve admitted to a live audience that this is what the song’s about, I’m such a geek.” But with the lyrics, people would’ve likely figured it out anyway. Both bands were a barrel of laughs.

Sunday, Mr. W and I went through a bunch of home decorating and home improvement warehouse stores looking for materials to build a zen garden. He’s always hated a little plot of dirt in front of our house right next to our front door. Plants don’t stay alive there and he finds the little quad an eyesore. I’d suggested a Japanese zen garden, and we scoured our local shops for items to put in there. He got six 50-lb bags of white playground sand, a weed liner to place underneath, a crystal gazing ball with bubbles and splashes of color in the middle like an artpiece which would represent a koi pond to us, a pair of Chinese guardian lions, a bone-colored statue of an Asian tower. When we got home, I knocked out on the couch (what is wrong with me and this lethargy?) and woke 3 hours later to his, “Look at the zen garden I made you!” He’d dug out the dirt, put down the liner, smoothed the sand over, set up the decorative items, and raked patterns of ripples all around the objects. Ideally we’d have a bridge, tall scraggly rocks and maybe a bonzai tree, but it was definitely a start.

Last nite, I met up with Ann and Michelle at Monterey Hill restaurant for dinner after work. (“You’re going WHERE? That’s a DATE RESTAURANT!” Michelle’s fiance Eddie had apparently complained to Michelle when she’d told him about our dinner plans. “Are you SURE you’re not meeting guys there?” Haha. Eddie’s in Taiwan right now with his family so he had to be jealous from afar.) It was the most geographically widespread dinner I’d been to in awhile; I was coming from Norwalk, Ann from Fountain Valley, and Michelle from Alhambra. All three of us had been to the nice view steakhouse before, but it’d been many years for each of us (we counted it by way of “3 boyfriends ago,” “5 boyfriends ago,” etc.). Ann and I arrived while it was still happy hour, so we each sipped on a glass of champagne while indulging in the bar’s free meatball and veggie appetizers as we waited for Michelle.

Michelle soon arrived and we were walked to our window table by the host. As soon as we sat down, Michelle pointed repeatedly somewhere to her left as she mouthed something that Ann apparently understood. I had Michelle repeat her miming so many times I’m surprised she didn’t just slap me. Turns out, I can’t read lips. Something about green monster? Was she pointing at two Asian men seated alone to her left in a booth? Or at the table with two women with the one man closer to us? Did people give us dirty looks as we walked in? “Green monster” meant jealousy, right? I asked Ann, who was seated to my right, what Michelle had said. Turned out she was trying to tell me The Incredible Hulk was seated to our right, a bit behind Ann. I turned and looked, and there sat Lou Ferrigno.

Michelle dug through her purse and soon a pink camera emerged. “We should go ask him if we could take a picture with him,” she suggested.
“Yeah, with all of us!” Ann said.
“But he’s trying to eat, he probably gets this all the time,” I hesitated.
“Yeah, I feel bad bothering a celebrity when he’s at a restaurant,” said Michelle, wavering.
There was a pause as we all reconsidered. And then Ann said, “Oh, he should be flattered! He’s a HAS-BEEN!” We laughed, but decided let him finish eating. Just in case we miss him, though, I leaned over Ann as she tried to lean back out of my way and snapped the above photo with my omnipresent cameraphone. “Geez, you’re not discreet at all!” Ann noticed. See her right shoulder at the corner of that photo. It turned out that Ferrigno’s party finished and walked out while we were doing our girl gabbing, so if I hadn’t snapped that photo, you all would’ve just had to take my word for it that we ate dinner with The Hulk. (With, next to, near, it’s just semantics, right?)

The three of us had a great time bonding and laughing over dinner. Here’s my dinner in particular:

I’d been craving lobsters for awhile. Thoughts of an old Rosarito, Mexico trip and the bargain lobster tail dinner I had there have been causing me to salivate for the past week. When the dinner bill came, the three of us Asian girls realized we had something else in common.
“Just tell me what I owe, I can’t do math,” Michelle said.
“I can’t do math, either,” I admitted, looking to Ann.
“I hate math, it was my worst subject,” confessed Ann.
“Mine too!” Michelle and I chimed in.
Michelle continued, “And people think just cuz I’m Asian, that I’m naturally good at math. And I’m really not.”
“I get that, too,” I shared. “People tend to push the tab at me.”
Ann and Michelle referred to their calculators as necessities.
“I took the most random courses in college just to avoid having to take math to fulfill my math and science GE requirement. I even took Oceanography,” I shared.
Michelle and Ann both looked up at me in surprise. “I took Oceanography, too!” they each said, and I had the feeling they took it for the same reason I did.
Michelle and I struggled through the bill some more and griped more about our pathetic math unskills, and I was vaguely aware of Ann next to me digging through her purse like a dog trying to bury a bone in its yard. Soon, Ann produced a small white thing in her fist and announced, “I have the PERFECT THING for this occasion.” We looked. It was a button that read:
I’m Too Pretty
to do Math!

We all shrieked in delight. We left making plans for a future slumber party with chick flicks, popcorn, wine, and jacuzzi at Ann’s place. (We were responsible drinkers that night; Ann and I stopped at our singular glasses of champagne, and Michelle nursed one glass of red wine the entire night.)

This weekend: bike ride and campout with the Jujitsu Peeps!

Last Friday, Mr. W’s Rocker Brother flew in from Vegas to spend the weekend with us. He happened to have the time off when our Lake featured the Robert Cray Band in the free sunset concert. I’d never heard Robert Cray’s music before, I only knew of him as a blues musician that Rocker Bro had paid good money to watch in concert before. Oh, and that Mr. W had been turned on to Robert Cray by his ex brother-in-law (who remains one of his best friends to date). Then recently Flat Coke & Flies mentioned that she liked his music as well.

On our way home from work Friday, an old pickup truck to our left on the freeway decided to change lanes abruptly to be in front of us. Unfortunately, that’s also where a motorcycle was. The truck cut off the street bike at an angle, not seeing him, and the biker ran his front tire into the side of the truck. The truck swerved back into his own lane, but it was now too late for the biker, who flipped his motorcycle forward, then flipped forward head-first over his bike, and landed on the ground. Everyone stopped in their lanes, including the red pick-up. The motorcyclist staggered on the ground, trying to get up, then fell back down on his right side. After ascertaining that no one was going to run anyone over, Mr. W ran out of the car and to the biker, leaning over him. I stayed in the car and called 911, gave the location on the freeway, and described the accident, asked for immediate paramedic help. I told the operator the biker is conscious as I see his foot move every few seconds, and that traffic was starting to flow again in the right lane but that the left two lanes were blocked by the red truck, us, and the biker in front of us in our lane. Another biker on a Harley rode up to the pieces of Yamaha street bike and offered assistance, and I later learned the Harley rider is a fireman paramedic. The firetruck arrived in minutes with CHP soon following in tow. That’s a bad way to start a weekend. Stats show motorcycle-related accidents have skyrocketed this year. Mr. W later told me the kid in the street bike thinks he may have a broken shoulder or arm as his right side was numb, but that he didn’t think he hit his head (he was thankfully wearing full protective head- and body-gear) and thinks he could just go home. Not the time to be stoic, Asian boy. The guy in the rusty red pickup truck was an older (maybe late 40s or early 50s) Hispanic man who was chainsmoking through the entire fiasco, and I was surprised to see he had a woman (wife?) as a passenger, who never got out of the car. I try to look over my shoulder when Mr. W’s making lane changes, just to check his blind-spots and prevent things like this.

Soon, Mr. W dropped me off at home to make dinner and he was on his way to pick up his Rocker Bro at the airport. I’d hoped he told his brother about this, as his brother’s primary transportation is also by motorcycle. But in talking with Rocker Bro afterwards, I was relieved to find that he appears to be very conscious of the road and other (blind) drivers, and that he rides conservatively. We chatted over lasagna, French bread, and pinot noir. Rocker Bro hadn’t eaten anything but breakfast that day, knowing I’d have lasagna ready when he arrived. He was VERY gracious in his compliments about my culinary skills and had three large helpings. (Spicy Italian sausage w/fat drained, 4 kinds of mushrooms, zucchini, black olives, spinach, onions, tomatoes, red bell peppers, fresh basil.)

The next morning is the Saturday of the concert. On concert days, we reserve spots on the Lake by using picnic blankets, and the Lake hands out different colored wristbands at random at 6:30 a.m., and then picks the sequence of people for dibs by randomly drawing of wristbands. My wristband, black 8, was called first so I went in and put my blanket down right smack stage center on the grass. Mr. W’s wristband was called 3rd and I managed to move my blanket over so that he set his down next to mine for a huge lot right in the center. Here’s a photo of the stage from our location:

We went back to the house, Mr. W made healthyish cinnamon-oatmeal-flax muffins for breakfast, and then we drove to the Lake to leave Mr. W’s car there for later (early prime parking). While we were there, the three of us kayaked for an hour and got some upper body exercise in. Then we walked back home for lower body exercise. I drove us to a late lunch of Fuddrucker’s in my car, we stopped by the store to get some alcohol for the Lake, went home and changed, then we bought some KFC grilled chicken and walked back to the Lake to watch the concert.

I loved the opening band, a bunch of old guys named The Missiles of October. We were amused as soon as the drummer walked onstage in his gray hair and gray mohawk that had the top half sprayed bright blue, put on his reading glasses, and sat at the drums. They were phenomenal, fun, energetic, and could sing and play. They received a standing ovation and did one encore song. I even went and bought their CD after their performance.

Then, Robert Cray. I’m not sure what happened. I fell asleep. Maybe it was because it got dark. Rocker Bro later said that Robert Cray isn’t as good live as he is recorded, that he didn’t seem to “feel” his music; it felt to Rocker Bro in the last concert he’d gone to, too, that Robert Cray seemed to just be doing a job. He still got a request encore and did an encore set.

I think Mr. W had a good time, though, because not only did he stay awake, but he had so many coffee martinis that I had to drive us home. Haha.
Sunday, the three of us drove to Dana Point beach and walked around the rocks trying to find tidepools to peer into. The tide was too high so all we did was do some balancing acts on the many rocks, admire the waves, chat, comment on the many shells and the precarious positions of rocks on the cliffs, and make our way back. I got thigh-deep in warm ocean water and was glad for my water shoes. We had a lunch of paninis at a local healthy panini grill restaurant, then got home right in time for my former jujitsu sensei, Ramon, to call and say he was around the corner from our house. He was test-riding this weekend’s jujitsu bike ride/campout event from his office to our house. I invited him and his wife (following him by car) to our house, we sat and had a drink as they cooled off in our backyard, and they were off to do the last leg of the bike ride, from our house to O’Neill Regional Park (the campgrounds). We soon took Rocker Bro to the airport for his flight home.

Great weekend, I hope he had fun!

Yesterday was Mr. W’s first day back at work since mid-February’s heart attack incident. Because we moved so far from work, we carpool to work, so it was nice to have the carpool lane back now that I wasn’t driving on my own anymore. It wasn’t as nice to have to leave the house 90 minutes earlier than I had been, in order to accomodate Mr. W’s different work hours.

Speaking of work hours, mine were all mucked up yesterday because in order to accomodate a juror’s need to leave for a meeting at 2:30p, my judge shortened our lunch by half an hour, and then advanced lunch by another half hour to give more time to the trial in the afternoon before the juror had to leave. That means there wouldn’t be enough time for noontime gymming. I decided I may as well get an oil change, then. So yesterday morning, I dropped Mr. W off at work, dropped my stuff off at work, drove to a popular mechanic that just about everyone in the courthouse uses, dropped the car off, and then jogged the 1+ mile back to work in time to change, put on my makeup, and be in my seat well before trial began. At lunchtime, I couldn’t get a ride since everyone else’s lunch hour doesn’t start until 12 and ours was moved to 11:30, and I didn’t have time to wait since our lunch was shortened, so I took a brisk walk over to the auto shop. I would’ve jogged again, but it was about 95 degrees outside and I didn’t have the time that day to mess around passing out from heat exhaustion. I did find that my quick pace almost exactly doubles my jogging time. I picked up my car and drove back to work in just enough time to change and slide back into my seat before trial began again for the afternoon session. The good AND bad thing about this was that my total caloric intake up to that point was 0.

I got such a great deal on my oil change (<$60 as compared to the dealership price of $200+) that Mr. W wants to get his oil change there, too. So this morning, we drove his Prius in to work, again, he was dropped off, then I dropped my own stuff off, drove to the mechanic, dropped Car #2 off, jogged to work, changed, slid to my desk. And now we're in trial. But we have our normal lunch today, so Mr. W is going to walk with me to pick up his car, and then we'll have a mini lunch date. Ah, the romance of skipping through a gang-infested city to pick up a car, hand-in-hand, singing tra-la-la. (I didn't even use my iPod any of the times I jogged back to work, because I wanted to be able to hear if someone were coming at me, and because I didn't want to get jacked for my Shuffle.) I did think, as I ran through the cool air and very sunny morning earlier to make it back into work by 8am, that morning runs are pretty nice and I was going to miss not having the excuse to do this jog in-between oil changes.

1. Test shot, just to make sure the place was photographable before we told the whole family to come on down.

2. All the family we could get together in Vegas that weekend.

3. All the family, take 2.

4. We also did couples shots all over the playground. This was ours.

5. The four brothers, probably just like when they were kids.

6. The four sons and their mommy and daddy.

7. My parents-in-laws’ grandkidlets plus two great-grandkidlets by their moms.

8. Our unit.

As an aside, this was the first time I heard Son refer to us as “a family.” It was in the context that he thinks “we’re the athletic family.”
9. The newest addition to the family, Lydia. I like this photo also because of the proud-papa look in dad’s face. (He was hiding back, not expecting to be in the photo, thinking he was just there to prop his little girl up for a single portrait shot.)

10. Speaking of really cute pictures, my in-laws!

As usual, rest mouse pointer over photos for captions.