Tuesday, January 17, 2012

LBC Party, Sour Beer, and Other Adventures

On Friday night the Mr. and I threw a final party at our condo. The theme was "The Long Beach Experience" and it was so much fun!

We saw a lot of friends we hadn't seen in a while and I think people enjoyed our creative "Long Beach" theme.

As part of the party the Mr. wanted to do a Tequila Tasting, which was actually a huge hit! We sampled 7 different kinds of tequila (the Don Julio Anejo was my favorite). We even had scoresheets that I made up on the computer. Here's all the tequila in our freezer before the party started...

PS - We have A LOT of tequila left so if you ever want to drop by for a margarita let me know.

We also did a "Long Beach Visual Trivia" competition. I printed out pictures of 10 Long Beach landmarks/items and people had to guess what they were to win a small prize (Starbucks card).

This one was easy. It's the Queen Mary!

Visual trivia is a lot fun and the best part is that people can't look up the answers on their phones very easily.

Continuing with the Long Beach theme we also had handcrafted “Long Beach Longshoremen Burgers" and regional “Hipster” microbrew beer (I forgot to take pictures during the party because I was having too much fun).

Speaking of beer, I recently tasted "Sour Beer" for the first time and loved it! So I hunted some down at BevMo and had a couple of bottles of this Sour Beer for the party. Yum!

Have you ever tried Sour Beer? I guess it's an up-and-coming trend. The Week magazine (which I actually read every week) even did a little special on it last month.

A couple of weekends ago we drove down to Oceanside to have lunch with my parents. On the Oceanside Pier there were several of giant pelicans that clearly had no fear of people. Here is my Mom and a pelican that's almost her size!

Speaking of beasts... I often try to take pictures of our cat, Judah, but he rarely looks at the camera. A couple of days ago I caught him basking in the morning sun and snapped this pic with my phone. Consider your soul stolen, cat!

When I became a follower of Jesus almost seven years ago I bought an NIV Study Bible. If I have my way it will be my bible for the rest of my life. But recently the cover started to really peal and fall apart, so I covered it with some words and pictures I cut out from magazines and then "laminated" it with clear tape. I think it looks pretty nifty and it's not falling apart anymore. Crafting win!

And finally, because it's random/funny, here's a picture of a co-worker and I with "mustaches" at recent work party. Hers is actually a fu manchu, but you get the point, we're ridiculous. I'm so lucky that I work with such fun and funny people.

Monday, January 09, 2012

2011 and 2012 Books

2011 was my best year for reading yet. I read 18 books!

Here is what I read...

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
My rating: 5 stars out of 5
My full review here

The Help by Katheryn Stockett
My rating: 5 stars out of 5
My full review here

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
My rating: 3 stars out of 5
My full review here

The Pact by Jodi Picoult
2 stars out of 5
My full review here

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home by Rhonda Janzen
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
My full review here

Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
My full review here

Something Blue
by Emily Giffin
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
My full review here

Cutting for Stone
by Abraham Verghese
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
My full review here

Last Night at Chateau Marmont by Lauren Weisberger
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars
My full review here

Sacred Marriage by Gary L. Thomas
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars
My full review here

The Secret Gift by Tedd Gup
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
My full review here

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
My full review here

The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands by Laura Schlessinger
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
My full review here

Faithful Place by Tana French
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars
I just couldn't get into this book for some reason. The plot didn't interest me and the "Irish" was hard to understand.

Who Moved my Cheese By Spencer Johnson
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
More of leaflet than a book. Easy little allegory to read.

Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
A good read but didn't like it as much as Something Borrowed and Something Blue. I did like seeing some of the same characters from those books though!

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
My rating: 1 out of 5 stars
Even though I loved Freedom I didn't like this book. It had no plot and the characters bugged me. I quit about 1/3 of the way though.

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Great book! Interesting characters and crazy plot twists.


In 2012 I plan to read these 12 books plus a few others for my book club that have not been decided yet.

January - One Day by David Nicholls

February - The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

March - The Nanny Returns by Emma McLaughlin

April - Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

May - First Break all the Rules by Marcus Buckingham

June - On Mystic Lake by Kristin Hannah

July - Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

August - The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

September - Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs

October - The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

November - The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond

December - Wishing and Hoping by Wally Lamb

What was your favorite book in 2011? Have you read any of my 2012 books? What are you reading in 2012?

Friday, January 06, 2012

From a year of no change to a year of certain change

On New Year’s Day I commented to the Mr. that I felt like 2011 was a year of no change.

That was odd because if you had asked in late 2010 about what I thought 2011 would be like I would have said it was going to be a year of massive change. But it was not.

Instead we lived in the same condo, with the same jobs, with the same friends, cat, church, routines, etc. A lot of our vacations were even repeats of vacations of the past (Arizona, Oregon, Missouri). Even my job project change in July turned out to be not much of a change at all. My new project/client was so similar in terms of the people, company, and project objectives that sometimes it felt like I never left my old one (except for the insane workload I carried). In fact 2011 was one of the least change-filled years of my life. It wasn’t a bad year, but looking back on the year I felt like I couldn’t point to anything defining about it, like it was just kind of a “stuck” year.

Well I feel like God heard my comment and said, “You want change, eh? I’ll give you change!”

Earlier this week we found out that we are going to be moving.

This is something we’ve been planning for a while, but the pieces are finally coming together to make that move happen SOON. It will likely be a multi-phase move, which involves getting to pack up multiple times this year (lucky us!). I promise I’ll share more details on the whole thing later when we know more.

This move is sure to be a catalyst for a lot of change in our lives – it opens the door all kinds of personal and professional opportunities (for the record, neither of have any plans to leave our companies at this point but there may be some internal role/project changes for one or both of us). One of my biggest regrets was buying that dumb condo at the ripe old age of 24. For the the first time in along time we’re no long tied to a property or a city, and the possibilities for us are really endless.

There are so many unknowns this point, and this type-A girl is doing her best to roll with it and have fun. Enjoy the adventure, enjoy the ride. That’s what your 20s are supposed to be all about, right?

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Caribbean Cruise Part 4: On the Boat (and final thoughts on crusing)

On our cruise we had three full days at sea, and all of our nights were at sea except our Puerto Rico night.

During the days we spent our time working out, sunning, reading, swimming, playing games, and eating, eating, and more eating.

We also got massages one day and attended a few of the "Celebrity Life" events (cooking show, Bermuda Triangle lecture, etc.) The massage was good but WAY overpriced and the Celebrity Life events were generally mediocre at best.

We did enjoy some of the evening events like the Cirque show and the Christmas show.

I most enjoyed just relaxing during the days at sea. We had a lot of quality time as a family playing Upwords and Hearts together. We had a balcony room and I really liked sitting out the balcony reading and looking at the sea.

(obligatory shot of the daily "towel art" in the room).

I really enjoyed our nightly dinners at the special "Aqua Class" restaurant, Blu.

The food in Blu is supposed to be a little more healthy and gourmet than the regular dining room. I liked the food in Blu a lot, but I thought overall it was A-/B+ food (but that was way better than the buffet lunch food). I think it's really hard to have good food that appeals the masses and can be made in mass quantities, ya know? Maybe I'm a little bit of a food snob. :)

Blu was a gorgeous restaurant with great service. Loved this chandelier.

My parents and us brought a bunch of our favorite wines onto the ship and payed the corkage fees at Blu to drink them with dinner. We had some killer wines (Hope & Grace, Opus, Cakebread, Tantara, Beckman, and an Italian Brunello). Here we are with a bottle of one of our favorite wines, Beckman Estate Syrah.

Note: Email me if you want my cruise booze smuggling tips. :)

It's no secret that I love dressing up, so I really enjoyed the formal nights.

My Mom does too, because she bought The Mr. and my Dad matching tuxedo vests for the first formal night. So fun!

My little family on the second formal night.

The ship was decked out for Christmas. Loved all these lights!

And this gingerbread house was huge and amazing!

Actually the Celebrity Eclipse was a beautiful ship in general. It's brand new and state of the art. It has lots of cool art and great decor in the social spaces. I loved this giant turquoise flower.

Overall I liked cruising a lot, but not sure if I'd do it again soon. I think I'd rather just stay at beautiful resort on an island (like St. Kitt's for example). Here are my pros and cons of our cruise trip...

Pros: Easy vacation for a group with different interests, great way to see multiple places in a short amount of time, effortless traveling, limited planning needed for meals/activities, gorgeous ship, good excuse to dress up every night, more fun than a standard resort hotel, cool amenities like free room service and unlimited ice cream all the time.

Cons: Feels a little like mass-produced "luxury", food is often quantity over quality, night life was pretty much non-existent, on-board activities were hit-or-miss, felt constrained by ship's schedule so sometimes time in port sometimes felt rushed, and Celebrity was constantly trying to "upsell" you on beverage packages, extra events on board, specialty dining, future cruises, etc.

Have you cruised before? Do you agree with my pros and cons?

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Caribbean Cruise Part 3: St. Kitt's

In St. Kitt's we started the day off early with a rainforest zipline adventure.

This was another cruise-affiliated excursion and we loved it.

The adventure started with a terrifying jeep ride up the hills into the rainforest. I literally thought the "jeep" was going to tip over and/or I was going to fall out of the back. Look how thrilled I look.

But I survived and the ziplining was great!

The Mr. clearly had no fear as he held on with only one hand.

The views from the ziplines were so pretty and the zipline was just the right amount of thrilling. The only scary part of ziplining is the "end" of each line. Look at me all balled up in the "breaking" position. Ha!

The views were great! Beautiful forest with the ocean in the distance.

I was glad that I got my parents to do it with us. Here they are racing on the zipline. Go Mom!

After the final zipline a little boy brought his baby monkey over to us! I guess there are monkeys all over St. Kitt's but they are not native to the island.

So stinkin' cute!

After ziplining we took a taxi over to Frigate Bay to spend the afternoon on the beach (Frigate bay is near the St. Kitt's Marriott).

There was an adorable beach bar with cheap cheap Caribbean beers that we thoroughly enjoyed.

And there was a man selling fresh coconuts on the beach. We bought one from him and he sliced it open with a machete for us. Now that's some fresh coconut water!

I loved St. Kitt's so much. The rainforest and the beach were both so beautiful and the island didn't feel that crowded or touristy. I'd definitely love to go back someday.

Tomorrow, I'll conclude the cruise recaps with our days at sea!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Caribbean Cruise Part 2: St. Maarten and Newlywed Game

St. Maarten was our second port. For St. Maarten we booked a "Kayak and Snorkel Adventure" through the cruise ship, that was great!

We didn't take any pictures on that excursion because we didn't want to get my camera wet, but we had a lot of fun. We kayaked all around a big bay and then up to beach where we then jumped in the water to snorkel. We saw a ton of beautiful fish out there

After our excursion we walked around St. Maarten (Dutch side of the island). There's a great little area by the beach with cheap beers where you can walk around drinking and shopping. That's definitely the Mr's kind of shopping!

There were some fun reggae bands playing too.

I really liked St. Maarten and thought our time there was too short. I would love to go back see the French side some day.

The night after St. Maarten we showered up and had a nice dinner on the ship.

After dinner we went to see (and try to get on) the "Newlywed/Not So Newlywed Game Show" that was happening on board the ship.

We we didn't get picked but my parents did! They were the "old married couple" (married 38 years!)

It was HILARIOUS! For them and for me!

I was shocked how well they knew each other and at some of their answers more racy answers! My Dad even knew my Mom's bra size. Very impressive, Dad!

They didn't win. They couple who'd been married 2 years won. But they got a nice tote bag and a lot of laughs as their consultation prize.

When we got back to our room that night the little monkey we'd bough in St. Maarten was tucked into bed by the turn down service. So cute!

Tomorrow, St. Kitt's!

Monday, January 02, 2012

Caribbean Cruise Part 1: Puerto Rico

Our first cruise destination was Puerto Rico (I'll recap our days at sea at the end).

This was view from our stateroom as we sailed into Puerto Rico. Pretty!

Old San Juan and The Fort from the ship as we waited to disembark.

We got off our ship and took a ferry over to the part of Puerto Rico where the Bacardi Factory is. This was the view of our ship, The Celebrity Eclipse, from the ferry area.

Then from the ferry it's a short cab ride to the Bacardi Factory. It was really easy to get there so if you ever take a cruise to Puerto Rico, don't pay for an excursion to Bacardi, just go on your own.

The first stop on the tour is a pavilion where you get taste several Bacardi rums. I tasted Bacardi 8 straight and Bacardi Apple with Pineapple juice. Yum!

My parent enjoyed their samples too.

Then you take a little tram for the main tour.

The first stop is a room with the original Bacardi bat. There they told us all about the history of Bacardi, Cuba, rum, etc.

Look, a Bacardi Christmas tree!

Then the tour goes on to some barrel rooms and rooms with artifacts where you can't take pictures, but here's a picture right before that part.

The tour ends with a mixologist who tells you how to make the perfect Bacardi Mojito and other libations.

Then you can go the gift shop and buy rum and anything you can imagine with that Bacardi bat on it. We bought some of the limited reserve rum that (for now) is only available at the Bacardi factory. Sweet!

After the Bacardi tour we explored old San Juan.

The Christmas decoration were fantastic!

Then we had food/drinks at Barrachina in San Juan where apparently the Pina Colada was in invented!

Super cute pace and yummy drinks!

Overall I liked San Juan a lot. It was fun, clean and had some really cute streets (the architecture reminded me of Pirates of the Caribbean). The Bacardi tour was something cool to do if you're there but it's not "must see" unless you really like rum. All and all, San Juan was probably my least favorite destination of the three islands we went to. I guess I was hoping it would be more tropical and less of an urban city. But it was fun place to spend time in and see nevertheless.

Tomorrow, St. Maarten!
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