Friday, July 24, 2015

July 4th in St. Helena

My friends and I didn't really coordinate big July 4th plans, so we decided to go to Napa Valley. Napa Valley is one of my favorite places. It's essentially the equivalent of Palm Springs to an LA resident. Only a 2 hour drive out of the SF/Bay Area to a tranquil, quieter environment with delicious cuisine.


My wingman "S" went to college and found a job out there, so it's only natural that we would make frequent visits to her in wine country more often. She actually had to "work overtime", which consisted of photographing her company's float for the Calistoga July 4th parade. Although I don't have the photos to prove it, Calistoga is an adorable small town with unique shops along a main road, a surrounding neighborhood with beautiful homes, and avenues lined with trees. We snagged these amazing seats at the hotel bar of the adorable Mount View Hotel & Spa. It felt luxurious to have a fantastic view of the parade, seats in the shade, cocktails and charcuterie.


S had to feed her roommate's dog, so we rushed home after the parade. Her name is Matilda, and she's a big, cuddly bear.


Not many places were open on July 4th, but I was so lucky to find at least one spot, which was R + D Kitchen in Yountville. Holy crap this place is amazing. When I called, the only slot available for a party of 5 was at 9:30pm. I said I needed to consult with my group and that I would call back. When I called back a short 2 minutes later, the hostess said a party canceled and we could do 5:30pm. PERFECT!

We got there early and enjoyed cocktails on their amazing patio. We had gorgeous, warm sunshine and a large table with an even larger umbrella. We would have stayed outside for dinner but they wouldn't serve their meals out there :(


I didn't photograph too many photos of our food, but I had to for this plate. This is the Spicy Tuna "Osaka Style" and it was freaking delicious. Honestly, EVERYTHING at this place is delicious. 


Post-meal, it was only right that we take a photo in front of this vintage flag they have near the kitchen. The waiter didn't have too many facts on hand, but he did say it was from 1861 when Kansas became a state!



After dinner, we headed back to S's house to chill, and then we decided last second that we should try to catch some fireworks. Sadly, from her home in the hills above St. Helena, there were no views of fireworks. Next time we need to stay in Downtown Napa or Calistoga.


The next morning, S took me to her favorite breakfast spot in St. Helena: Gillwood's Cafe. Deliciously strong (and fair trade/organic) coffee and Eggs Benedict served in these perfect dishes to ensure that the Hollandaise doesn't get away from you. I saw a guy next to us drizzle his leftover sauce over his hash browns. BRILLIANT.

I'm convinced all you need for a happy life is nature, good weather, and amazing food and drinks. Thank you S and Napa Valley for taking such good care of me. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Cure for Cancer

Over the past half century, we've split the atom.

We've spliced the gene and we've roamed Tranquility Base. 

We've reached for the stars and never have we been closer to having them in our grasp. 

New science, new technology is making the difference between life and death and so we need a national commitment equal to this unparalleled moment of possibility. 

And so I announce to you tonight that I will bring the full resources of the federal government and the full reach of my office to this fundamental goal: 

We will cure cancer by the end of this decade.

-The West Wing

Monday, July 20, 2015

First Military Care Package!

I sent M his first care package...

...And he had only been gone for about 2 weeks. And he's stateside. And we've had fairly regular phone contact. We're both just goin' for broke and I'll do anything to help make his life easier while he works towards his dream job!

We've been together for nearly 6 years so I'm not a pathetic, anxious girlfriend. I think I just have a shopping problem. I have more fun shopping for other people rather than spending money on myself.

Anatomy of a Good Care Package:

1.) Protein - Jerky, Protein Bars, Sunflower Seeds
M is working out A LOT and he's not allowed to take or use his usual post-workout protein powder. I tried to provide him with high-protein snacks that he can enjoy before bed if he gets the munchies especially since the chow hall is not available all the time. A thing about the sunflower seeds: they were cheaper, higher in protein, carbs, and fats, and lower in sodium than almonds! He said they taste "Okay" so I might need to find an alternative or another flavor.

2.) First Aid - Moleskin, Band Aids, Waterproof Band Aids, Alcohol Swabs, Pain Meds, Foot Powder, Neosporin
Basically, his workouts wreck his feet, and then he spends a lot of time in the water. I try not to send too much, just the little essentials.

3.) Body Care - Carmex, Exfoliating Gloves, Deodorant, Toothpaste
I recently discovered the exfoliating gloves and they are magic. Small, easy to pack, and they make showering fast and easy! It's so simple to just lather soap on your gloves and just scrub over your body real quick. So much more practical than just smearing soap or body wash with your hands or using a big loofah. They're seriously life changing. M swears by Carmex, he LOVES the Trader Joe's toothpaste, and we both swear by the Trader Joe's deodorant.

4.) Other - Trolli Eggs, Sharpies
Sharpies because you can always use a Sharpie. And Trolli Eggs because they're an amazing mood-enhancer :P

What NOT to Send!
Gummy vitamins, they will melt into a glob
Vitamins or supplements unless you check with them first!!!
Chocolate or anything else that will melt
Liquor or cigarettes
Batteries
Porn
(Pretty self explanatory)

What I should have included:
Costco baby wipes
Elastic bandage
Racquetball (for rolling over small muscles)

Palm Springs

Since M was gearing up to leave for his military thing, one of his closest friends coordinated this weekend rendezvous in Palm Springs. M and I lived used to live in Pasadena and the rest of the group lived in San Diego and surprisingly enough, driving to Palm Springs from either Pasadena or San Diego is about a 2 hour drive for either party! So convenient. It was the perfect meeting point for all of us and we called it "The Golden Triangle".

 M was already in Pasadena, so I flew down to Burbank from San Francisco to meet him. It was extremely stressful flying standby, and I was so grateful to get on a plane. I would have been inconsolable if I didn't make it to this get-together.

It was the middle of June, and most tourists avoid Palm Springs in the summer. We did have hot weather but not having to deal with any crowds was an absolute plus. Also, there was a fire near Big Bear so it was all red skies and raining ash for a day. The haze in the sky actually helped protect us from the heat for a while.

We stayed at this apartment/vacation home building called The Twist. Adorable furnishings and the most attentive resident manager ever! It's next door to a coffee shop, a tiki bar, and walking distance to many shops and restaurants. It's a quieter location but right off of the main road as well.

 While we were waiting for the last of the group to arrive, the early birds had dinner at Workshop Kitchen + Bar. Sleek and hip dining space with a farm-to-table menu and exquisite cocktails. On their menu, history tidbits about the cocktails are listed beneath the name, which I love.

Once everyone arrived, we immediately hit up the bars, and I don't have any pictures of that :/ This was the next morning. In fact, most of the time on this trip was spent watching the boys play Smash Bros. This was their weekend, and they wanted to play Smash. We would only leave the room to eat and drink.

 M doesn't like to pose for pictures so we have to force him.


On our first full day together, we got brunch and bottomless mimosas at Oscar's Cafe & Bar. Bottomless mimosas make you do strange things.


I'm missing more photos but this was taken on our drive back. We had one final brunch together and then went our separate ways. However, M and I had to drive straight back to the Bay Area. Saying goodbye is the worst!

I would definitely recommend traveling to Palm Springs in the early summer! Most of the crowds have stopped coming in, and although it's hot, most time is spent indoors with air conditioning. It's totally manageable. We felt like we had the whole town to ourselves!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

On Getting the Mirena IUD

So, I got an IUD yesterday.

I guess that's a bit personal, but I thought I'd share my personal experience with those that are considering it!

Since it's kinda icky, more details after the page break.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Another Disneyland Trip! And on Disneyland Military Tickets...

At this point, M and I's Disneyland photos are starting to look the same. We're trying to be more adventurous by at least eating new foods from different locations, but we generally have our FAVORITE things that we like to stick to. Every. Single. Time. We generally did the same things on this trip, but with a few new things here and there. We watched the new fireworks show and the Paint the Night parade AND ate our first turkey leg! Definitely not doing the turkey leg again. Tasted like ham and the tendons were difficult to work around. Would have tasted better if we could buy some bread and cheese and make a sandwich!

 Me and M LOVE LOVE LOVE the live musicians that can be found scattered around both parks. We always make an effort to stop and watch them. There aren't many people that hang around to watch musicians, so it always feels like a special performance! These guys, located near New Orleans Square, have beaded necklaces that they'll throw at audience members. 

 Mid-day cocktails at Carthay Circle. It was exciting to get a "Diamond" martini instead of the classic sphere, however, the diamond ice cube melts much more quickly! Carthay Circle Lounge is the best spot in California Adventure if you need to step away from the madness. Air conditioning, relaxing music, and comfy lounge chairs await you. It will make you feel like you've been transported out of the parks.

 Another flag retreat ceremony!

 I heard rumors that Disneyland may be retiring these band members. I hope that's not true!!! Flag retreat will not be the same with a tape recording!

 Me and M camped out for 2 hours for the Paint the Night parade. We took turns leaving our spot to use the bathroom. I wandered through this shop and found a $3500 Swarovski Mickey Ear hat!

 We got a fantastic view of the parade. I didn't have to deal with any tall people obstructing my view! (The fireworks was a whole 'nother story) Paint the Night is a ridiculously awesome parade. The amount of technology and creativity infused into the floats and costumes exceeds any other show. I was seriously in jaw-dropping awe the entire time. I highly recommend!

***

About Disneyland Military Discounted Tickets!

Currently, Disney Parks in California offer a 3-Day Park Hopper for $132. Over the past couple years, there have been changes for the expiration dates and the prices, so as of right now, you can purchase your tickets and use them until December 20, 2015.

The 3-Day Park Hopper does not require you to use the three days consecutively, so my boyfriend and I like to spread the three days out over the course of the year and see the different holiday decorations. We typically go one time in the spring/summer, once around Halloween, and once around the holiday season. However, since next year's promotion hasn't been announced, any tickets you purchase just need to be used up by December 20!

You will need a military ID to purchase the tickets, and they can either be purchased at the ticket kiosks at the park, or at one of those shops on base. 

Military personnel can buy up to 12 tickets throughout the year. If you're buying them for a friend, the military person has to be there on the first day to check them into the park at the turnstyles and show their military ID. During that first check-in, your photo will be taken (like any other Park Hopper ticket holder), and then you can enter and exit freely.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask!


Monday, July 6, 2015

Colorado Springs

A week after my dad, M, and I returned from Florida, I quickly did some laundry and packed my hiking day pack to prepare for another weekend trip to Colorado Springs! This time, the travelers included myself, my dad, and my sister. We all agreed that we would pick one thing to do on this quick trip.


 We arrived in the afternoon and drove one hour from Denver International Airport to Colorado Springs. Since nothing was else was open around 4pm on a Sunday, we completed my choice activity first with a comfortable walk at The Garden of the Gods. Millions of years ago, the rock formations were created by forces exerted upon the earth along the fault lines. I don't think my pictures quite capture how huge and vertical the formations were! The sunshine was gloriously warm and yet we could see snow capped mountains in the distance. We chatted with a park ranger who said just yesterday it was stormy with hail! Us Californians brought the sunshine.

The next day we completed my dad's choice activity, which was a bike ride down Pike's Peak! The company that we utilized for this excursion took such great care of us. I wrote a lengthy review on their Yelp page because the three of us were just blown away by how amazing the staff was. We literally could have just come with closed-toed shoes. They provided cold weather gear, helmets, water, lunch, safety rundowns, snacks, and so much more. If you need something to do in Pike's Peak, I HIGHLY recommend Challenge Unlimited Bike Tours.

 After our bike tour, we all agreed on heading down to historic Manitou Springs to kill some time. Although my photos don't show it, Manitou Springs is an ADORABLE little town littered with shops and businesses. The town had winding roads and buildings with beautiful architecture. We all agreed we needed some post-biking beers to celebrate.

 For my sister's choice activity, we visited the Olympic Training Center! As a huge fan of the Olympic games, this tour was a dream. We got to see the wrestling room, shooting, the pool, the fitness center, the sports medicine room, the basketball courts, and the men's gymnastics gym. So worth it at just $5 a ticket!

 I loved my trip to Colorado Springs. Apart from the 1 hour drive from Denver airport, all these activities were no more than 30 minutes apart from each other. I had a great time and would love to go again and try to see and experience more outdoor activities.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Love What You Do


Not the best picture, but it's a special moment. 

Candid picture of myself volunteering as a Producer/Director of my local Thai Cultural Center's annual show.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Space Jam: Day 2!

Day 2 of our trip consisted of the actual induction ceremony for the astronauts!

M, back on our NASA bus to take us from the hotel to Kennedy Space Center.


You know it's real when your face is on a banner!

First, we were led to a small room inside the IMAX Theatre to enjoy lunch before the ceremony. It was definitely casual and intimate! We had a lot of time to mingle and chat with everyone. My dad and I got a photo with Hall of Fame inductee Rhea Seddon and her astronaut husband Hoot Gibson. They are the coolest couple ever. Safe to say they are me and Max's #relationshipgoals

 In the bottom right-hand corner, you can see retired astronaut (and last year's inductee) Arthur Chang-Diaz eating lunch on the floor! Astronauts are pretty chill people!


Following our lunch reception, we walked back to the Atlantis center (where we had our pre-gala reception the previous day) for the Induction ceremony! I can't get enough of sitting underneath huge machinery. Those grey squares are the tiles of the Atlantis.

Here's a photo of Kent receiving his medal!

 Once the ceremony concluded, all the astronauts in attendance were asked to come to the stage for a group photo. You best believe I stood on my chair in a skirt and heels to get this shot!




Following the ceremony, we walked to another building for ANOTHER reception! I think I visited the dessert table 3-4 times. There was also an open bar and everyone had a great time now that all the formal stuff was over! We had a wonderful champagne toast to celebrate the inductees and continued to mingle and chat for an hour.

 Once we got back to the hotel, I quickly changed–heat plus heels equals painful swollen feet–and rushed downstairs for Dr. Rhea Seddon's book signing! I'm about halfway through Go For Orbit and it's a fascinating read. She was selected by NASA in the very first group of female astronauts; that's Sally Ride's group if you need a reference! She shares her unusual career and life choices (for a woman at that time) and the struggles she faced. Starting with going to med school for surgery and working in the ED...female doctors couldn't even hang in the doctors' lounge! Then at NASA, despite the fact that all astronauts were required to attain a certain number of hours of flight time, many astronaut wives refused to let the female astronauts train with their husbands! I've just reached the part in the book when she finally arrives in space and I can't wait to continue. 

***
Overall, this trip was a dream come true. I got to hang out with the coolest, most inspiring people on the planet, and everyone was so nice! All weekend I was surrounded by extremely intelligent and brave astronauts that have done so much for humanity during their travels to space. I feel like this fire in my soul was ignited as I continue to pursue my dream job of being a nurse. I must continue to work as hard as these astronauts have done during their careers so I too can leave my little mark on this planet. I've been on many little adventures here and there but I don't think anything could top this weekend.

***
M's shirt: Ministry of Supply
M's trousers: Ministry of Supply
Shirt: J.Crew
Skirt: Lulu's
Heels: Lulu's
Aviators: Oakley

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Space Jam: Day 1

Earlier this June, M and I traveled to Florida for a once-in-a-lifetime event. M's cousin, a retired NASA astronaut, was selected to be inducted in the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame! 

We knew it was going to be costly, especially with the event taking place during the peak travel season in Florida. However, when you take a second to ask yourself, "Do I have any other astronaut family members that will potentially be inducted into the Hall of Fame?", you feel really stupid for even considering NOT going. Zero excuses and no regrets for this trip.

M and I got in at midnight on Friday and immediately went to bed. We spent Friday-day exploring Downtown Disney!


We only had a few hours, so we only made time to eat and quickly walk through DT Disney World. We ate at the T-Rex restaurant, which is essentially like Rainforest Cafe but with dinosaurs. Well-decorated and immersive. Every 15 minutes a meteor shower takes place!

After wandering DT Disney (I didn't buy anything, phew), we made the drive from Orlando to Cocoa Beach. Once we got to the hotel I immediately began getting ready for the gala!


First, about the dress. I initially bought a simple forest green jersey wrap dress with a plunging neckline and slits. It was what I would call "understated glam". Later I grew nervous that it wasn't worthy of an elegant, black-tie gala. The anticipation of not feeling confident or appropriate at the gala was killing me, so I purchased this clearance gown from Promgirl.com (yes, seriously), and it arrived ONE day before our flight. I remember furiously checking and refreshing the tracking even though it was shipping over the weekend, haha. Fresh from the box, the bodice fit perfectly, but the mermaid skirt...it was ridiculously poufy, extra long, and wouldn't fit in my carry-on bag! I had to remove the crinoline, cut and hem 8" off the skirt, all while studying for my last final. It was exhausting and immensely stressful, but I finished!!!


We stayed at the Marriott in Cocoa Beach, which was the hotel accommodation for all the other astronauts' families. Kennedy Space Center provided the busses that would shuttle us to and from the hotel and the space center for the numerous events that took place over the weekend. It was a luxury to not have to drive, and it was also a pain to get on the bus in my gown. 


Once we arrived, we had a 1 hour cocktail reception in the Atlantis exhibit. It was so much fun to eat and drink under a space shuttle and view the various exhibits! Drinking in a museum is probably one of my new favorite activities. It was also our first time seeing all these accomplished astronauts, and they were dressed in tuxedos and just mingling with everyone! I wish the reception was longer. In retrospect, I think everyone, including the astronauts, enjoyed the less-formal events of the weekend.


M and I unintentionally purchased gifts for each other. I selected this silk screen-printed necktie with constellations for him. My gift from him was a crystal earring set of the big and little dippers. Yay for themes!


Once cocktail hour ended, we were shuttled from the Atlantis center to the Saturn V center for our gala dinner!  The Saturn V carried out all the Apollo lunar missions! It was mind-blowing to be dressed up, eating dinner, and getting tipsy under this scientific marvel that contributed so much to mankind's exploration of space.


I loved this butter presentation!


This is the only full-outfit picture of the boo and I.

Gown: Terani [similar]
M's suit: Bar III
M's necktie: Cyberobtix
M's shirt: Ministry of Supply
M's Suspenders: Tommy Hilfiger
Dipper Earrings: Think Geek