Monday, August 25, 2014

everyday am shuffling

There are days I can't help analyze how messed up is the structure of the modern world.  I think about days past of people spending lazy afternoons visiting friends or relatives, drinking tea, chatting, reading, or just doing something they enjoy - like riding horses, gardening, painting, or any sort of hobbies.  Why is it that I'm only seeing that in movies these days?  Sometimes, I feel like I'm slowly being programmed by the society and the whole work force to be a workaholic.

Fresh out of college, I didn't really care much about top dollars and my career.  Work was just a means to get some spending money so I can go out with my friends, travel, and enjoy life.  Now, I'm starting to feel afraid that getting deeper into course of my career, work and pay is starting to become central to my life.  Is this just a phase?  I really don't want to be one of those people who devote too much time to their career and less time enjoying everything else that life has to offer?  Is it part of maturity or is it a natural thing?

To this day, I feel that part of me is still this young person who wants the world to be my playground.  I don't like to live my life around stupid rules and follow some trends.  I like to live on what feels right and natural.  I love to laugh and take in each moment like it's the last.  But, why is it that people seem not happy with that.  They keep on trying to shape me on whatever ideals they have and expect me to just follow. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

the Bible - a Lent project

I usually try to commit on doing a personal project or offering for Lent each year - may it be a simple volunteer work or donation, to fasting, to a prayer tshirt project - which was the last thing I did couple of years ago, before I had our 2nd child.  This year, I wanted to revisit and finally finish reading and reflecting on the Bible from cover to cover.  I've attempted it many times but failed to really understand what I was reading. I hope that in a year's time, I would make a tremendous progress on this project.

I usually get into a deep religious conversation with one of my co-workers, who is a devoted Ethiopian Orthodox.  His faith can move mountains but I feel that it's too rigid at times. I do admire his dedication.  He always reads the scriptures, fasts, and attends a 3-hour+ service on Sundays - on their feet, standing up - the entire time! I told him that I would probably faint if I attend their service.  He also told me that there are about 15 books that was not translated and put in the Bible. So, I guess I wouldn't actually be able to read the entire scriptures.  Maybe I'll find those 15 books translated in google :)

Reading the Bible is very engaging but some of the stories (like those that involve adultery, killing, and abuse) can make you sick on your stomach.  I have to admit that I can't help question what's in the Bible as I read. I do have doubts and still not sure where my faith stands - as far as the stories told.  I just feel that God is more open-minded, forgiving, reasonable, and not as serious :) I always talk to God on my prayers and I always think of Him as someone who is cool and friendly, whom I can tell my deepest secret and worst offense without worrying about going to hell or getting punished. In my heart, I know Him and feel His presence in my life and I'm happy with that.  I continue seeking His meaningful message from different places to feed my soul, tune up my ways, and to continue to grow.  It's easy to start feeling comfortable with ourselves and fall into bad practice, without knowing.

I found this book, A Prayer Journal by Flannery O'Connor, and suddenly, I felt like someone finally put into words what I usually find myself thinking, wishing, or feeling when in prayers.  It writes beautifully what goes through our head as we worship. "She craves artistic mastery and is desperate to get close to the divine, two congruent ambitions... What we see in these pages is a writer on the cusp of creative achievement, a pilgrim with a fierce and hungry heart." - Cathleen Medwick. I can't wait to read more.

Friday, January 10, 2014

it's a working mom's world

Back at work from maternity leave and struggling to get things together between work, taking care of the kiddos, and myself.  Two babies later, I have a deep appreciation of personal time.  I can't even go to the bathroom without wondering what my 2-yr old is up to and praying he's not putting the blanket over his 4-month old sister.  But they are the most precious thing to me and it's like falling in love all over again.  You will make all the sacrifices and more in exchange of just knowing that they are safe, healthy, and happy.  Okay... the slobbery kisses, hugs, and darnest things they say make a lot of difference :)

But, everytime I look in the mirror and see those tired eyebags and how sloppy I look in the morning after restless night shifts and stumbling around, I can't help ask - "Did I make the right decisions?" I can't help but reminisce how fun it was when I was single. Everything is exactly where and how I want them to be - a squeaky, clean, organize house with minimal expenses. Nowadays, I'll be lucky to have a day without losing my eyeglasses or finding things exactly where I left them (or where they're supposed to be).  When I go shopping, I go home with mostly kids' stuff - diapers, clothes, baby gears, etc. Not to mention that daycare expenses take a huge chunk off my paycheck.

My husband does his best on being a dad. With kids, our relationship goes on a side line. We manage to escape for a short day trip on special occasions. But, day to day becomes a matter of making it on time at work and pick ups. Night time is all about planning for what the kids will need the next day.  Makes you wonder how most marriages thrive and couples get to have a robust relationship.

I try to keep my personal interests going - ripstik, running, rollerblading, dancing, and browsing pinterest for creative ideas. I always have an eye (and ear) for investing - no matter how bad I get with some of them. I have to admit, I've made mistakes and questionable decisions in the past that I still regret. But, I get impulsive in investing and between family distractions and lack of rest, I make bad calls sometimes. But, no matter how stressful the stock market gets, I can't stay away. Just have to live with the consequence and hope that luck will be in my favor.

Any physical activities that will give me an adrenaline high is worth the pain.  I'm not too anxious with postnatal weight loss.  Although with my sister's wedding in July fast approaching, it's starting to feel like a goal I need set. 

On top of everything else, I can't help but plan my next trip or a get together hike with friends. My mind is like a training coach that won't shut up. Always asking what's next, what's best, what's on the To Do list, options, ideas, etc. Then, there's the occasional criticizing and loathing of people around you just because you need to point a finger on someone when you're having such a horrible time dealing with all these stuff. Aaargh! You see - I'm a BIG mess.

If I am to work on a resolution this year - it'll be to quiet and calm my brain and just live healthy, not worrying about expectations and retirement and saving more money. It's annoying and might not be even worth it since who knows how the economy will screw you up in the future.  They always do and the average people always pay the steepest price.  In this mess up society where the priority is NOT on things that matter (health care, education, global warming, etc) - you can see why I'm a mess.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

bucket list

  1. visit the modern 7 world wonders (3 more to go: Petra, Taj Mahal, and Great Wall of China)
  2. do a missionary work on a third world country (health clinic, emergency respond team, sanitation)
  3. train and complete my first triathlon
  4. adopt a child
  5. write a children's book
  6. learn to be a really good singer
  7. audition for a tv competition (American Idol or American Ninja :P )
  8. have a great viewing of Aurora borealis (Alaska or Iceland)
  9. hike Mt. Everest
  10. space travel (hope it'll be much less than $250k in the future)
  11. present a talk on TED on anthropological ideas to improve problems in our society

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Our Baby Girl's Journey

It has been an interesting, challenging, and miraculous experience with our new baby Audrey Luisa and it was all worth it. During the first trimester, my husband and I were pretty stressed out after our initial 1st and 2nd screening turned out positive for down syndrome. It was after four months that we got a confirmatory results from non-invasive testing that it's negative for down syndrome. That was a huge relief from all the unnecessary anxiety. During those months, our son, Raphael, had fever, cold, and couple of emergency trips to the hospital (one from eating wild mushrooms in our yard and the other from a bad asthma attack). Between the first trimester morning sickness, taking care of a sick child, work commute, and work itself - I was exhausted and it only takes a few weeks until I got sick myself for almost three weeks. I had to take antibiotics, which got me worried with the baby. And then, each time I have a bad cough, I pretty much pee on my pants from having the baby push down on my bladder. Poor baby had to suffer through it, too.

On the second trimester, Raphael was still getting a fever for few days at least every other month.  Fortunately, the morning sickness went away and things got a little better.  My due date was my birthday - August  26th. I had a mixed feeling about it - happy that I'll always have our child to celebrate my birthday with in the future and 'not so thrilled' with not having my own 'special day'. I was already seeing lots of pinks and kids parties on my future birthdays.

The last couple of months were worrisome on the baby's test results. Two months before the baby is due, my OB found out that I have polyhydramnios - too much water in the amniotic sac (around the baby). So, they tested me for diabetes, which turned out negative, and put me in 30-45 minutes non-stress testing (NST) to monitor baby's heart rate and volume of liquid, twice a week! Trip to the hospital twice a week on your third trimester is very inconvenient, especially if you have to get back to work ASAP.  The last scare we had was during my 9-month ultrasound, where the screening shows that there may be problem with the size of the two of the four heart chambers and that there may be a narrowing in the baby's aorta. This is usually seen in down sydrome. If it's a real case, then the baby would have to have a heart surgery after delivery. Once again, we had a whole week of restless days and nights - worrying, praying, and just plain scared. Fortunately, the fetal echocardiogram showed that the baby is normal and the pediatric cardiologist didn't find anything wrong with the baby's heart. Thank you, Lord!

I guess, it's all this stress and anxiety that got me to labor early. I filed for maternity leave one week before the baby is due to get some down time to prepare and get things in order. But, our little girl is just ready to be with us and stop all these worries.  Tuesday, on my last week of work, the midwife told me that I'm 4cm and 80% effaced. She advised me that I shouldn't go back to work. I had an extended monitoring due to some heart rate drops on my NST. The doctor even recommend that I should get induced! Unfortunately, Raphael had another fever the day before and I really want to get home first and take care of things before getting admitted. I was glad I have a doula to talk to and put my mind in perspective. We're going to try natural birth and being induced will only put me in the likelihood of a C-section. I had a C-section before and there is a very small percent chance that the previous surgery might tear. It's a risk that I've decided to take.

 After couple of hours of monitoring and seeing the baby's heart rate stabilize, they finally let me go home. I had a good 3-4 hours at home before I actually got in active labor and checked in that afternoon. Meanwhile, I was able to take care of all the last minute paper work, phone calls (at work), our hospital bag, giving instructions to my mom on Raphael, and getting a little bit of rest.

Polyhydramnios worked on my advantage that I wasn't feeling the contractions as bad or as intense as they were. I was smooth sailing even when I was already 8 cm. It was after they rupture my water that the real pain sets in and I was delirious! It really helped to have a doula around to coach me through and offer different ways to manage the pain. I got into pushing for almost an hour but with no sign of crowning and having a "lip" blocking the baby's head, I decided to ask for some epidural. It turned out to be a wise decision. The baby was unknowingly on Right Occiput Transverse (ROT) position and I had another three hours of pushing before the doctor decided to do a vacuum-assisted delivery. The vacuum popped out of place the first try and my husband almost lost hope since the doctor would only give it three tries. It was the most painful ordeal I've ever been. I felt like it was the end of me and that I was being tear to pieces. I wish I had more epidural in my system! But, I was overjoyed to have our baby girl brought into my arms and hear her cry. It was a very monumental experience and there's this feeling of triumph that makes me feel like, "if I was able to get through this, I can get through anything".  Everyone was pretty amazed that I was able to pull through this whole journey and I find it unbelievable as well that it's more like a miracle.

Audrey Luisa was born at 38 weeks but at 8 lbs and 6 oz, I'm thankful she arrived early! She's such a sweet baby.  She sleeps a lot and got into breastfeeding easily. The past two weeks had been pretty easy taking care of her.  I'm also amazed with how his 21-month old brother, Raphael, is handling the bonding and adjusting period with the new baby in the house. He has been real great. Kinda shy at first but now, he's always asking about the baby and gets worried when he hears her cry. I'm surprisingly and happily thankful on how great things turn out to be. I've expected so much worse but things are close to perfect right now and I hope they stay this great for a while.

Friday, February 8, 2013

raising a good, happy child

Now that I'm 3-month pregnant with our 2nd child, I have very little energy left after a long day of work and commute to spend with our 14-month old boy, especially when he's tired, needy, and fuzzy. I usually let him run around the garden and watch cars and the kids riding their bikes. Some days, I even bring him to the park and at the bookstore. But, winter makes it extra challenging to find activities. So, to keep him calm and deal with his boredom, we recruit youtube nursery rhyme videos and songs - hoping that it's a good thing for him. Besides, there seems to be no TV policy in the daycare so this shouldn't hurt.

But I do realize how we can easily fall in the 'working too much' pit and start spending less quality time with the kids. There is not a day that I don't ponder on what can we do as parents to make sure that our kids would have good moral values, strong character, great personality, healthy, and happy. I've heard many stories of good parents who've had problems with their kids just because they end up hanging out with the wrong group of friends or boyfriend/girlfriend or just bad luck. And it doesn't help that we're living in a non-communal society and with very little network of relatives to seek help from.

Today, I talked to an accomplished, well-respected PhD at work and was surprised to find out that he came from such a dysfunctional family. My first question was - how did you manage to set yourself apart and become successful? He's main answer was - I spent a lot of time away from them and with other people I look up to. Looking back into my own experience, I felt like that's one thing I can totally understand. I compensate for what I can't find in my own family by hanging out at friends' house and having dinner with them and going on trips with them. As I matter of fact, it's probably one of the main things that I looked for in my previous relationships. And I was glad I did. I wish I can thank them for it.

I do hope that we'll be able to provide our kids a happy, loving home that they can be proud of.  But, even then - I would probably still encourage them to be more well-rounded and be out there to meet people from different walks of life and to surround themselves with positive influences. It's probably good for them to see both the dark and bright side of life to make a choice on how they want to shape their own. I just hope that they will be open for guidance. And that they would always have the drive to continue growing to be a better person and have the heart of a philanthropist.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Life of Pi - living with the tiger(s)

I enjoyed the Life of Pi very much on 3D. The effects really brought things to life. It made me wonder what it'll be like to spend days in the middle of the ocean - watching the skies be one with the water, witnessing the beauty of marine life, and experiencing the fluorescent glows of planktons and jellyfish. It will be quite an experience. How come I don't hear cruise ships rave about these things?

I applaud the movie for bringing religion in the spotlight as something integral to one's existence. That it's acceptable to be in any religion as long as you understand and truly believe in it. I personally think that spirituality is a lifetime quest. The answer is within each person and it's okay to have doubts and to question. That's how we grow just as we gain knowledge from examining facts.  We are gifted with wisdom to guide as through this journey. And I believe in a forgiving Father who would be happy seeing His children grow in faith than blindly accepting ritualistic ceremonies and not understand the real meaning of His Words.

What struck me the most in this movie was what the tiger represents, which is anything or anyone that you see as an obstacle in your life. I felt like I finally understood why there are people and situations in our lives that make us feel miserable. I used to think that "if only so-and-so is not in my life", "if only I have great parents" or "if only I was born to this and that" ... I would have achieved my greatest potential or would be much happier, etc.  All these wishful thinking were once what I thought would make a great difference in my life. But, I was wrong.

Everyone and everything that I despised and viewed as a hindrance in the past were all that made me who I am today. They were my inspirations and the source of my strength. There are some who made me aware of what I do NOT want myself to be. Some challenged me to prove my strength and character. Still others, kept me going - thinking that I can one day be so far away from them as possible. But, that can never happen. The lessons I learned from people and experiences would always be in my memory and they would forever be my teachers. I found the sense of gratitude, happiness, closure, and acceptance from this realization. I think I also finally learned to forgive those whom I've held grudge against. I can now honestly say that I'm proud of everyone who has been a part of my life and made it beautiful, bountiful, and meaningful.

Friday, August 17, 2012

plate half empty

Whenever people ask me why I wanted to run a marathon at this stage of my life, where between working, taking care of a baby, running the household, and managing a rental property takes most of my time, I smile and think of all the wonderful things that my training has done for me.

I lost blood when I gave birth and I'm still anemic and has low blood pressure to this day. Being a new mom is exhausting and soon enough, I have back pain and tendonitis on my wrist. Then, I'm back at work after three months and was stressed out from studying for ASCP-M exam. Fortunately, I passed! I'm pretty sure I can credit running for this, too. For keeping me sane and healthy.

Few months ago, I started exercising again so I can feel the "good pain". I miss the feeling of being sore after a good work out. Then, my husband and I hiked more to prepare for Yosemite's Half Dome. Next thing I know, I'm signing up for a marathon. These days, I'm even thinking of doing a triathlon for my next major event (maybe after kid#2). It's amazing how things just snowball into bigger and greater goals.

Initially, I just want to do it for my health and to do a fundraising with my baby - that way I can start building good karma for him. The more cancer patients I meet and stories I hear, the more I get drawn into really putting all my efforts and pulling my inspiration from raising funds to find cure for blood cancers. This whole experience has given me so much more than what I have given back. Running gave me the sense of freedom (me time), strength, energy from the feel-good adrenaline, and shaped my character and personality. I met new friends and aspire to inspire people to live healthy and R-U-N!

I'm fortunate to have a supportive family who can help me with the baby and let me have the time I need to train. Above all, I'm thankful to all the family and friends for their kindness and generosity in helping me raise funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. May God bless their heart :)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

a run to find a cure for blood cancer



Hi folks!
I am raising funds for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) as a participant in their Team In Training program for the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco on October 14, 2012. We are raising funds to help stop leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma and myeloma from taking more lives.

I am completing this sports endurance event in honor of all individuals who are fighting blood cancers. I dedicated myself in this cause in honor of my grandfather who lost his battle with cancer in 1994. I looked up to him as if he's my own father growing up. He has the biggest heart that goes out to the poor. Now that I'm a new mom, I realized that my son and the future generation might face the same challenges in finding cure for blood cancer. I'm also running on behalf of our honorees and in memory of those who have found peace. You would be inspired by their stories and commitment to find the cure. Whenever I think I just can't run anymore, I think of them and of how our fundraising can help finance the search for cure and give more hope to those who are affected by blood cancers.

This cause is for everyone who understands why we are in a race with time in finding a cure and how it can save lives. Success cannot be achieved without work and we can't work towards our mission without funding. And that's where we need your help.

I hope that you would support our mission by making a tax deductible donation and help advance the research for cures. It would be greatly appreciated. Also, please forward this message to as many people as you can to encourage them to donate as well.

Please visit my web site and donate at http://pages.teamintraining.org/sf/nikesf12/raphy

You can also check out my training log and progress at http://www.dailymile.com/people/jocel_tablante

Thank you for your support!

Hugs,

Joselita & Raphael Joaquin

GO TEAM!Train. Endure. Achieve.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

multitasker anonymous

Having a baby is a humbling experience to a notorious multi-tasker like me. Before I went into maternity leave, I made a list of things to do from home repairs to taking classes and tending to financial stuff. I thought I'd be bored at home watching the baby sleep. It turned out to be quite the opposite of what I expected. I was glued to the baby's every move - from napping, to feeding, to pooping. I can't even go to the bathroom or groom myself the first couple of days unless I hand the baby to my husband or my mom. And of course, all the oxytocin and other hormones partying in my system didn't help either. They made me more emotional and paranoid with how the baby is doing. I get stressed out hearing the baby cry while pumping, which made it more painful to pump. It gets really crazy when I'm super exhausted because that's when I easily fall into tears in frustration when I just can't put the baby to sleep and he's just being fuzzy after I went through the list of what he can possibly want - diaper change, feed, play, nap, etc.

After a while, I just end up realizing that it really takes a village to raise a child. I have to take all kind of help from other people so I can have me-time and be able to run errands and slowly cross off some items on my 'to do' list, if at all possible. I've also been reading new-mom blogs and parenting magazines. One article mentions that moms who embrace the idea that it's a balancing act do better with postpartum depression than those who see themselves as a "can do it all" super-mom.

Since we're planning to take a vacation to the Philippines for a family reunion at the end of the year, I planned on returning to work sooner. Now, I really need to trust other people to take care of our baby and not feel guilty about it. I slowly trained myself to be okay being separated from the baby. I started slow but now, I can actually leave him at my mom's house for a few hours while I run errands. Now, that I'm more relaxed, I'm also starting to be less forgetful and more focused and I think that our baby can sense that. I feel that he's working with me whenever I'm doing something while taking care of him. At this minute, I'm writing this blog while I rock his car seat on the floor and sing to him. He coos back happily with Pandora radio blasting to some french cafe station. Yes, I'm getting more efficient and productive with multitasking and baby Raphael is A-okay.

My social life probably narrows down to texting while in the bathroom and chatting on the phone while doing laundry and marinating meals for dinner but I'm happy that I can go out at least once a week to hang out with friends and go out on a date with my husband without feeling guilty and not sacrificing bonding time with our baby. I still worry about whether or not I'm providing him a good environment that stimulates learning and socialize him enough with his cousins. But now, I understand that having other people help take care of him also provides him a chance to interact and learn from them.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

my husband's thoughts on our newborn

When I look at my newborn son during a 3am feeding, I'm enthralled by the wide range of facial expressions. The giggly smile, the furrowed brow, the squished about-to-cry look, and the big-eyed "ooh", all seem to march across his face at random. I wonder what is he thinking? Is he thinking anything? His brain is still basically empty, right? So his imagination and emotions can't really deviate too far from the basics of "me hungry" and "me sleepy." And yet sometimes I can see in that furrowed brow some kind of worrying about the future…even if it is "when can I sleep?" or "what the heck is this itching going to stop?"

I'm probably projecting my thoughts onto Raffy, much as we project human thoughts onto dogs with expressive faces. The difference is that at some point I know my son's thoughts will be his own, and I have a big role in determining how healthy or normal those thoughts will be. So I wonder how to teach him to be everything I want him to be. Namely, happy, friendly, calm, kind, generous, and thoughtful. Teach by example the books say…be the man you want him to be, Ghandi would advise. I would agree. Even if I don't know how he learns things, if I am good man and I spend a lot of time with him, he will be good too.

But I know there is something in Raffy that is already predetermined. Sleeping giants passed down through DNA, waiting to stir given the right stimulus. Hearing a stranger on the street shout could make him timid for years, or seeing two squirrels playing outside our window could make him an extrovert in high school. I believe there are switches in the brain that can be activated. My job as a parent is to try to flip on all the right ones, and switch off the bad ones that are turned on by accident. I will do this to the best of my ability, but as with every parent, my son's actions both right and wrong, will inevitably surprise and frustrate for years to come.

So this my philosophy of how my child will be shaped. Of course I'm not the only one doing the shaping. My wife is the sun and the moon to him right now, and my mother-in-law's voice is more familiar than mine. How does he decide who to listen to for the important stuff? How does he decide what is "home"? Will hearing tagalog give him comfort? Will kisses forever calm him down? What is he learning from these two when I'm not around? Are we teaching him different things and maybe confusing his little brain? Why is he screaming when he was happy 1 second ago? What do you want, little buddy, I wanna help but can't understand you!*

You can see how the questions spiral out of control rather easily. In the end, 3 am will roll around again, and physical exhaustion will signal my brain to rev down. I'll console myself that at least you're thinking about these questions, which is a good sign I love for this guy. But I also know that we can never know exactly how, what, and why he will decide to absorb something and make it a part of his lifelong personality. I can only do my best and leave the rest in God's hands.

*We've since watched Oprah's interview of Priscilla Dunstan on 5 words babies use to communicate and hopefully we'll be able to interpret Raffy's cries better.

Monday, December 26, 2011

the 'unexpecting' world of parenthood

When I was pregnant, my husband and I borrowed and read many books, articles, blogs, etc. I signed up for thebump.com to network and read other new mom's experiences. We attended childbirth preparation classes, caring for newborns, and lactation classes. But, nothing can truly prepare you in becoming new parents.

Our baby was born 10-days late and he was a big baby at 8lbs and 10 oz. I tried to go for natural labor but after two hours in transition without any improvement with the dilation (I was stuck at 7), I had to ask for epidural because it became unbearable with every minute of strong contraction. I think the epidural may have slowed down the labor and it made me stay in bed instead of being able to walk around. My water did not break so they had to break it and my contractions were not strong enough to get the labor going so I was given Pitocin. I had an emergency C-section after 14 hours of labor and about half hour of pushing. The baby's heart started going up and his head started to swell so there is no option other than C-section. If I had to do it again, I would have asked for them to give me less of the epidural so I can still feel some pain. When I was pushing, everyone can already see his head crowning but I can not feel anything and that might be one of the reason why I wasn't able to do a better job pushing.

I also had complications during recovery, they can't get my heart rate down and my blood pressure up. I also lost blood from bleeding and it took them a while to get my uterus down to the right position, by the navel. We were stressed out the last day of stay at the hospital. They had me on iron drip on iv to bring my blood count up. They can't discharge me and I might have to get blood transfusion if my blood count continues to drop. Fortunately, it stabilized a bit the following morning so we were able to go home.

The first week was a big adjustment for my husband and I, even with my mom's help. The baby was awake every 2-3 hours to feed or get his diaper changed and stays up to play. With the pain from surgery, lack of sleep, frustration (when he's being fuzzy), being stuck at home, and just not being able to get things done - I can understand how some moms end up having baby blues or feeling depressed. I started feeling teary and cry for no reason. Thank God for a supportive, understanding husband, a dotting mom, and for having my family close by to help us with running errands. My advice for husbands is to not be as demanding and paranoid, offer as much help, and treat your wife kindly. Hire a help because you'll need one, unless you can handle just being next to the baby all the time and not getting as much sleep and things done. You can enjoy spending time with the baby more if you have some rest so ask and get help, when you can. For couples, snuggle when you can and be loving to each other. Make time to be together, even if you have to bring the baby in the dinner table with you. And celebrate special moments - anniversary, baby's first, etc with each other.

Newborns have a stomach the size of a pebble when they're born but if they want to feed, let them eat. Don't always stick with what the book says. When they cry, just go through the three things they need - milk, diaper change, or sleep. Of course it's different if they're sick. Our baby is actually a good baby. He easily falls asleep when I take him for a walk in a bjorn or when we take him for a car ride. After having a full meal and a good burp, he can sleep for up to 4 hours. But, it's better to wake them up to eat instead of waiting until they're too hungry so they'll be not as fuzzy. We still have to figure out how to relieve his snorting.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Preparing for the baby: Baby necessities

With all the enticing advertisements and baby products out there, it's easy to make the mistake of accumulating too much, and most often, unnecessary stuff even before the baby is born. It's good to make a list of products that might work or read consumer reviews so you'll know which to get when you need it. My husband and I also went to a 'prego palooza' to check out what's out there and get some free samples. It was fun and educational. We learned our options in using cloth diapers and the pricing and services available.

We were fortunate enough to find friends who are willing to hand us down and lend us baby clothes and gears that we'll need, which saved us hundreds of dollars and time in figuring out which will work. Bottom line is that your mommy friends have been through it all so listen to their recommendations and borrow what they tell you will work. Babies outgrow everything too soon and you don't want to keep on filling up space in your garage with more boxes.

Here are some of the things I recommend that you should try to borrow (or find used ones) the first few months:
  • infant car seat and folding stroller
  • Baby bjorn
  • boppy nursing pillow (to save your tired arms from holding the baby)
  • drying rack for bottles and bottle brush, ice packs
  • baby tub
  • rocking chair or glider
  • free infant formula (sign up online and collect coupons)- we loved Similac advanced, which is a soy-based and closer to breast milk
  • diaper bag (Kaiser gave us a really nice one with great design and organization)
  • pack and play with changing area OR a crib that converts into a toddler bed
  • baby mobile and a soothing white noise maker
  • a baby swing (to put him to sleep)
  • baskets and collapsible, organization boxes/crates for baby clothes and stuff - The Container Store has a lot of choices and very affordable. You might also try to find one for the car.
  • Best book: Baby 411: Clear Answers & Smart Advice For Your Baby's First Year- check out the local library or Amazon.com
  • Diaper Genie - I still have to figure out how to make my own bag or reuse plastic bags since the bags are pretty expensive (2 for ~$15). The best way to save money on disposal bags is to only put diapers with poop in the Diaper Genie. Pee only diapers can go in the regular waste basket since they don't stink.
  • Nursing cover, baby blanket, and play quilt or blanket
  • baby clothes, bibs, hats, shoes for different months (0-3, 3-6, 6-9, to 12 or 18 months). One reason why you need to keep things organized. Also, prepare for cold weather by stocking up on few thick, warm clothes/jumpers or covers.
  • Breast pump, except for the accessories (for good hygiene) - membrane/bottle set-up
  • baby monitor

We had three baby showers. One at home and two from work (at my work and my husbands). Instead of using baby registries, we asked for diapers and baby wipes instead. Other great baby shower gifts are:

  • Desitin diaper rash ointment
  • Vulli Sophie the Giraffe Teether
  • convertible high chair: Fisher-Price EZ Bundle 4-in-1 Baby System
  • Safety accessories for cabinets, stair gates, etc.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Double Dip Recession

Lately, I've been avoiding the papers because it's depressing to read. Everything is about the bad economy and how it can only get worse. There are gold jewelry thefts and baseball fans going crazy and picking fights at the stadium. I think that these are the signs of times. People are unhappy and crimes are on a rise. The 28% tuition hike the past few years are unbearable (and unaffordable) to most students. It's bad enough that education in California is in such a bad shape. Now, students who survived the rotten educational system can't even afford to go to college. All these make me feel that California may not be the place to live and send my kids to school in the future. I fear that it will only become more unsafe, more expensive, and more unreasonable to live here.

As much as I love the bay area and the fact that we're doing just fine, I just can't stand how bad things are sometimes that I can't help but start planning (and looking) to moving to another state. As a matter of fact, all I think about when it comes to my kid's future is boarding school and a university outside of California. I don't want to constantly worry about safety and standard of learning.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

My Travel Map at TripAdvisor.com


baby bump

We were in Hawaii when I first had my morning sickness and symptoms that made me feel that I think I may be pregnant. I was always tired and dizzy. It was weird to go snorkeling when the fishes look so psychedelic! It was a trip. We waited until we get home before I got my test done and sure enough, we're pregnant! The first three months were rough - with morning sickness, fatigue, weight gain, food aversion, and nausea. Fortunately, most of it went away by the time I hit my 2nd trimester (14th week), which was a blessing because we have a trip planned for Costa Rica around that week.

I felt wonderful when we were traveling in Costa Rica. We went hiking to La Fortuna waterfalls, checked out warm springs, hanging bridges, Arenal Volcano, and of course, wildlife and birds! I love swimming in the warm water in the sandy beach of Manuel Antonio National Park. My favorite part of the trip is the one that includes zip-lining 9 cables, rappelling, and tarzan swing. It was a great, memorable trip! ... and we only spent ~$500 each for one week. We got our airfare free from AAdvantage points we saved up and since it's off season, we got away with good deals on lodging,local transportation, and some tours. Food was a little expensive but didn't burn too much hole in our pockets.

The past few months, we've been busy attending weddings, birthdays, get-togethers, and working on our yard. It's great and make time flies. I'm doing my best to not feel bored. That's when I start feeling all the pain and weird stuff from the changes that my body's going through. I'm now on my 20th week and we just found out that we're having a boy! We're so happy and always praying for a safe, healthy baby and delivery. I hear many stories from friends and co-workers and I hope that I'll have an easier time with no complication. I have 3 different due dates - Nov 16, 18, or 23rd. I hope it'll be before Thanksgiving. I really want to spend Thanksgiving at home with family and friends.

Most of the time, I find myself counting days. I've already made a list of other things that can keep me preoccupied: gardening, working on my photobook projects & travel blogs, house work, cooking, and of course - exercise. I have a house blessing to take care of this month of July, on top of the Saturday birthdays that we have to go to. Summer is here and although there are a lot of things I can't do, I'm sure I can always go swimming or hang out at the beach or bbq with friends.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

home sweet home...

After three months of working with couple of lenders (LendingTree.com & Fremont Bank), we finally got our loan for a house in Pacheco that we made an offer to last November. Since we're trying to start a family, we figured it might be worth it to live closer to my folks despite of the longer work commute (and rising cost of gas). Also, it was a great investment with a low $/sqft and the house is very lovely and spacious. The previous owners really took pride of their ownership. Even the home inspector can't help but admire the additions and works they have done to the house. The garage is basically the only project that we've had to take care of at this point.

Getting the loan was an exhausting process. I had a hard time qualifying with my brother because I already own a house and my income is not high enough to cover two mortgages. Since I just recently started renting out my place in Hilltop, I don't have the income stated on my tax forms yet. It was hard to show to them that the rents pretty much covered the mortgage and expenses at that house. Fortunately, my uncle, who is also my real estate broker, helped me negotiate the terms of the loan and process the paperwork. I had to put down a huge down payment but at the end, I'm happy with our low, fixed rate (4.75% for 30 yrs) and from the commission I received from the sale. I love my uncle. He has always been there for me - as a mentor, a friend, and the sweetest and funniest uncle one can ever have. He has such an adorable family, too.

We've started packing and moving our things. Fortunately, after consolidating our stuff, we have enough furniture that we just have to find couple of used ones from Craiglist to furnish the rest of the house.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Soaking up the Sun

The past couple of months, I've made couple of trips south. My co-worker, Abigail, and I went to Palm Springs for a long weekend and hiked Joshua Tree National Park. It's such a great place to take a break from the cold winter months. It was warm and sunny and lots of outdoor activities. Then, few weeks ago, my husband and I celebrated his brother's birthday at San Luis Obispo. Had an amazing visit at Hearst Castle, although we got hailed at the Elephant Seal colony nearby. The rest of the weekend was sunny so we were able to enjoy Pismo & Grover Beach and a hike up Bishop Peak. I had the most fun at the Oceano Dunes. It was my first time to go sledding down endless sand dunes. I love it and can't wait to do it again.

Lately, I've been getting addicted to Groupons and TravelZoo deals. I just paid $15 each for two surf & wetsuit rental deal from Pacifica. I also bought a paintball ticket for $15 for 3 hours. And got tempted to buy into couple more offers. OMG, I need to restrain myself and not get too excited from seeing all this half off offers. It's just too convenient to purchase stuff when they have your credit card on file when you log in! AaargH!

We found a $79 Travelzoo Teatro Zinzanni deal and our friend Katherine and her husband, Ron, treated us for a dinner and a show at Zinzanni in San Francisco for our wedding gift. It was a lot of fun! I was so surprised to see one of my favorite youtube act come to life as we watch this couple do a pole dancing tango. The rest of the show was fun-tastic!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Year 2010

I can't believe it's almost 2011. I don't want 2010 to be over just yet but there's just no slowing down time. Lots of things happened since my last status update:
  • Alejandro's grandma, Lola Flora passed away in August :( I realized what a wonderful person she is and how she touched a lot of peoples' lives in her own humble way and cheerful, optimistic personality. It's very inspiring to know her from people's stories.
  • I had a great time at Academy of Science's Thursday nightlife on my birthday. Friends came to celebrate with us and it was really fun! Alejandro got us an indonesian cooking class at Kitchenonfire.com in Berkeley. I love the techniques they showed us on getting the most flavor from herbs and spices.
  • Celebrated my Lola Tindeng's (my dad's mom) 90th birthday in Las Vegas on the July 4th weekend. We decided to go to Utah's Zion National Park and Arizona's Antelope Canyon the same week. It was an unforgettable, fun-filled adventure!
  • In October, we had our most-awaited trip to east coast and South America. We were in New York, Boston, and Massachusetts for one week - visiting friends and checking out local happenings. Finally get to visit Harvard and hang out at Widener library. In South America, we spent another week in Cusco and Machu Picchu in Peru. Cusco will forever be in my heart ~ warm people, quaint, colorful town, and cute alpacas! Then, we spent our 3rd week in Brazil at Rio de janeiro and flew to see Iguacu Falls. We had quite an adventure crossing the border to see the Iguacu Falls side of Argentina, which I find more interesting and have more to offer. It was unbelievable!
  • For halloween, I took Alejandro to Great America's crazy halloween mazes. They outdid themselves with the decorations and shows and all the costumes. We rode the super fun roller coasters and drop zone! Terrific rides!
  • Saw Aida playing on the simulcast at ATT Ball Park in SF. Great view, lots of fun!
  • Was reminded of what life should be about by Dr. Bob Moorehead's "Paradox of our Time".
  • first wedding shower I've ever attended at work turned out to be my own wedding shower! My co-workers made origami cranes for our wedding and put together a wonderful wedding shower in our office area. They're so glad to finally meet my fiance, Alejandro.
  • I had a small bachelorette party at Castro's the Cafe and we had a lot of fun :) I was initially planning a pole-dancing class or a trapeze class but everyone was busy with the Thanksgiving weekend.
  • After months of planning (and budgeting), we finally had a beautiful and memorable wedding day in December. It was unforgetable and fun! I feel like I spent more time bonding with family and friends during the set-up and preparations. It definitely gave my sister and I a chance to spend more time with each other. To me, it was a perfect wedding with all the dreams and visions I have coming true. The best part is having so many people lend us a hand in making it all happen. Most of the stuff we had were borrowed, used, and consumed so we feel good that very few waste went to the landfill at the end of the day. It's a good karma. I was so touched with how great things turn out that I wanted to start a class in DIY (Do-It-Yourself): wedding on a budget.
  • Lola Tindeng passed away in the Philippines on the hour of our wedding. I overheard my dad screaming on the phone right when we're in front of the church but I didn't find out until after our reception as we gather at my Uncle Virgil's house to offer some prayers. Many people comfort us by saying, "she was there with us in spirit". May she rest in peace.
  • We signed up with ourwishingwell.com for our wedding in place of a registry. Unfortunately, they charge both our guests and ourselves when it's time to put in and withdraw cash gifts. So, we strongly recommend finding other sites or other ways to receive cash gifts toward your honeymoon or other wishes, like gifts of photography, etc. We like the idea of gift cards to support local stores and/or your favorite shops, as well as donating to charities.
  • We were in LA for Christmas, my first Christmas away from my family. But, I had a lot of fun - playing charades, guessing games, 'bop-it', and SET with Alejandro's family. We also went to see the Wayfarer's Swedenborg Church in Palos Verdes and did some whale watching at the Interpretive Center close to it.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Wedding to Remember

Wedding planning and preparation became a very memorable experience for my hubby and I mostly because it was a DIY (Do It Yourself) with help from family and friends. Initally, we were planning to have it at Mira Vista Golf Club up in El Cerrito hills. It has a beautiful deck with a panoramic view of the city and eastbay. When it's foggy, it feels like you're up in the clouds and the trees and landscape is just very dramatic. They quoted us close to $10,000 for about 80 guests, which was okay. However, after the food tasting, we didn't really think that the $45/guest was worth it. We decided that if we're gonna spend that much, we might as well plan a wedding that we really wanted, which includes a church wedding and a nice venue for the reception. The church required at least 6 month notice and to attend seminars and such. It took us a while to find Albany Memorial Building for our venue (~$1200). I fell in love with the ornate wooden beams that are colorfully painted and decorated with big, old lanterns. We originally have our hearts set on a Mission theme and the church and venue pretty much fit what we're looking for as far as ambiance and warmth.

One of my bridesmaid's brother-in-law sings for a church choir and his voice will bring tears in your eyes. He sang some tagalog songs for our wedding and everyone finds him amazing. Instead of having our party catered, we decided to order and pick up food from couple of Filipino restaurants and an Indian restaurant and ordered the food we love. We served empanada and turon for hors d'oeuvres and for the main dishes, we have pakora, chicken tikka masala, naan, rice, sisig, and filipino bbq. The Filipino food was a hit and we didn't ordered much but we had a lot of left overs! We hired two servers who also picked up the food and helped with cleaning.
We spent 3-4 hours the day before setting up the venue with unique table arrangements, colorful table covers, various centerpieces (colorful potted plants, origami cranes, candles, petals), colorful chinese and star lanterns on the stage, and with our guestlist/wish bowl with colorful scrapbook cards for the guests to write their messages. I framed the card that we received from the Pres. Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, when we send them our wedding invitation, next to our wish bowl. It was funtastic! Everyone helped put things together - from picking up rental supplies to setting up all the decorations and final touch-ups. We were so tired after the preparation but I still managed to get my mani-pedi before the wedding rehearsal and dinner that night.

It was slightly rainy the morning of our wedding. My ex-roommate made my bouquet and bridesmaids' bouquets and I was so glad she was there to help put people in their places and help me with last minute stuff. My bridesmaids were wearing different color dresses (yellow, orange, red, purple) and my orange bridesmaid was running late. Fortunately, they my hubby's cousin, who happens to be wearing an orange dress, and had her march with the rest of the entourage. It always crack me up to see the picture and realize that by the time I marched to the alter, my orange bridesmaid already sneaked in to her post. How funny!

There are a lot of memorable things in our wedding, including our slideshow, our money dance, our first dance (which I choreographed - thanks to YouTube), our multi-flavored Kara's cupcakes tree that everyone adores, and our spontaneous last dance (to the song "At Last") where everyone coached us to dance in the stage. I actually bought a $10 "The Promise" figurine for our cake topper because it's very decorative and something we can always put in our home and remind us of our wonderful wedding. At the end, our photographer (who charged us $600 for 2 discs of photos, including retouched and engagement pictures), took more pictures of us at the playground and back alley, which turned out real well!



Overall, there are so many things I really enjoyed with this experience - all the bridal shows, freebies, and delicious food on sip-and-scan events at bridal registry parties (Macy's, Crate and Barrel, Bloomingdales) we attended, my last minute bachelorette party at the Cafe in Castro, SF, shopping for dresses and customizing a $400 trumpet/mermaid dress I got at David's and Bridal, and putting together all my creative ideas to design my own wedding. I'm very grateful to my very supportive (and understanding hubby) and to all our family and friends who helped materialize my plans and design. I'm also glad that I found wix.com (to put together our wedding page) and weddingwire.com (which has amazing tools and the seat planner was unbelievably super handy!). Other resources we used are: evite.com,Weddingchannel.com, Avon Brides, Michael's, Real Simple.com, Martha Steward, Herecomestheguide.com, local cupcake bakery, Rock-climber cake topper, VistaPrint.com (for save the date postcards and final inviations), Michael's and Joan's for ideas on favors (luggage tags, ornaments, herbal potted plant, bottle stoppers, lanterns).

Monday, August 9, 2010

awareness

It's unbelievable how much difference awareness and acceptance can do for a person to finally commit to change. While knowledge is purely knowing, wisdom is to truly understand and to actually be able to "walk the talk". Now I truly understand how knowing the truth can set you free and how having an open mind can help one start the process of healing and change.

There are people who were born and endured a diffucult life, surrounded by negativity and bad experiences. It's just bad luck. And only few are able to survive all these challenges or at least find a way out of it. But how do you undo what took years of shaping? How do you help someone who's messed up when they don't know or accept that something is wrong with them? It's not entirely their fault that they turn out as such. It may be their parents or lack of education or poor role models.

It's hard to help these people and it's sad that most of them are actually blaming the wrong people and things in their life as they constantly search for a reason why they feel and behave certain ways. This is where I honestly believe on how programs and support groups can really help these people seek the answer they need and start renewing their life. Some find religion as their redemption. Some may find it in simply understanding who they are, their weaknesses, and what it is that's causing their problems in relationships and with their behavior.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Everyday Injustice

Last Monday, on my way to work, I had a bad car collission with an uninsured driver. I was on the main street toward the freeway ramp when she came out of a side street, without stopping on a stop sign, to make an illegal left turn. I saw her rolling down a small hill one block away from the street she's on and made an eye contact with her later on. Then, about one car away from her street, she decided to step on her gas and cross my path. I slammed hard on my brake but it was too late. My airbag deployed and the smoke inside the car was suffocating. I rolled down my window and tried to get a good look on her license plate as she took off. I had to push hard on the driver side door to get out because it was jammed. I drove my car a little bit towards the center of the road so as not to block the incoming traffic. I was driving a 2000 Nissan Frontier truck and she has a gray SUV-type vehicle. My car was in really bad shape. I hit her in the middle of her SUV to the rear-tire. I'm surprised she was able to continue driving.

By the time I crossed the street to the sidewalk, there's a lady (Paulette) parked on the side of the street who gave me her phone number to be one of the witnesses and a guy (Damon) who's on the phone with the police station, reporting the hit and run driver. He was also able to get the license plate number of the driver. A few moments later, another lady approached me and said that she witnessed the whole thing, too. She was on her way to drop off a friend at work. She dropped her off then came back. Then, another guy came back after following her to note the direction she's going in and license plate number with the cops. I was really amazed on how many witnesses came forward to give their information. I was still in the state of shock but it was comforting to know that somehow, I was not alone. I realized how important it is to be a witness and that it really makes a lot of difference to the victim.

Two cops were there - one to investigate the accident, the other to note the crime (hit and run). About half hour later, the crime policeman got another call and it was for another hit and run by an SUV that matches the description and the license plate number of the hit and run driver. I was alarmed that there's a driver out there who's hitting so many cars and continue to be at loose. After the firemen checked on me and getting my car towed, one of the cops drove me home and later showed up in our apartment with a set of pictures. He had me try to ID the driver. But, since she was wearing sunglasses and it's hard to really distinguish all her facial feature, I wasn't able to pinpoint the driver but instead just stick with the description I remembered - dark, long hair and caucasian or hispanic ethnicity.


My boyfriend had a similar accident few years ago. Since it's an uninsured driver, he tried to sue her but she declared bankruptcy and was able to walk away from all her responsibilities. Fortunately, my insurance will cover up to $3500 + costs of towing (after we pay the $500 deductible). As much as I wanted to try to sue this driver, I'm a little hesitant in that I might end up spending more time and money and not get anything at the end. I'm thinking of getting hold of the other victim and team up with her in collecting from the driver.

These days, I'm slowly realizing that you can never get justice if you get into an accident with an irresponsible, uninsured driver. These drivers are REAL criminals and they can get away with it by filing bankruptcy! Meanwhile, you have to pay for more costs (no matter how good a driver you are) - fee to get a police report, your insurance's deductible, your lost time from work, and in the case of a body injury - your medical expenses and consequence of it all. It feels like the court and the cops only provide information and push papers instead of actually finding justice for the victim(s). This reminds me so much of some of the stories I read from my Anthropology class before. In other societies, there's just a mediator and they ask the person responsible for the damage to work and rebuild what they broke and pay with harvest (vegetables, crops) what they can't pay with labor. Now, wouldn't that be a much fair solution?

Now, we're just talking about car accidents. How about victims of scams, poor product and service, and other crimes. Honestly, I'm so fed up with what they call "customer service" with cell phone and digital cable and other service providers. I highly recommend reading some of Laura Nader's work in Anthropology: Harmony, Ideology—Injustice and Control in a Mountain Zapotec Village (1990), The Life of the Law: Anthropological Projects (2002) , and (with Ugo Mattei) Plunder - When the Rule of Law is Illegal (2008). They narrate shocking truths that we're all aware of but no one really did anything to get the due justice. Everyday, as we let our rotten system just "do their job", we continue to play blind and go along with it and be an everyday victim of the ruthless society. We need change and it's as simple as stopping this "faceless" resolutions and start confronting criminals (or corporations) face-to-face and determine the proper means of getting the justice we deserve.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

finding a mellow life

Since the beginning of this year, I've been trying to slow down and restructure my habits. It's not until my last trip to Florida that I realized how I should work on dealing with stress and anxiety. Lately, I noticed that too much expectations from the trip and lack of time to relax made me enjoy the trip less. We were so preoccupied with budgeting and trying to get as much done during the trip that we didn't really get into the vacation mode. So, next time, I should indulge myself a little more on down-time and just chillax* I decided to try to get back to basics , stop multi-tasking, and focus on simplicity, curiousity, and open mind so that I'll be less anxious and frustrated. One of my goals is to really get into meditation. It has a lot of good health benefits. Also, I was told to pursue what fascinates me - perhaps a hobby or an ambition, and to follow that passion. It's rare to find.

I shared these with couple of people I know who are having problems with their relationships. I figured, maybe they should focus on something else in their life - like their health or a new hobby. One thing that's common to the two of them is that they're bored and desperate to feel loved. What they're doing is wrong but they can't stop it because of the thrill and the temporary sense of happiness and it's almost like an addiction to something that's bad for you. They're craving for it and they're so vulnerable that they can't stop. So, I advised both of them the same thing - to do what is right (for the sake of karma or that it's a sin). Chance that they'll listen is slim but I pray that they'll stop before it's too late.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Albany, CA

I'm all moved in to a new apartment in Albany, CA (along the shop-lined street of Solano) and I started biking to work last week. Thursday, May 13th, was bike-to-work day. It's nice to start your day with a beautiful bike ride along the coast through the bay trail with a great view of the city, wildlife, wetlands, and the quiet morning breeze. I also pass Point Isabel's dog park along the way and I'm such a dog-lover! I can't help but smile when I see one.
It's nice to be in a walking neighborhood where I can pretty much walk to anywhere - the cafes, the theater, shops, restaurants, banks, post office, wine store, galleries, etc. It's such a sweet location. But, there's no internet at the house right now so I have to go to a cafe each time to log-in. It's kinda hard. I'm getting sick of ordering coffee and tea just to be able to get a code to connect to the network. I also realized how the internet is such a huge part of my life.
I'm constantly checking the stock market, finding tenants and taking care of financial stuff for my house, craigslisting items we need, listening to music, watching movies, reading the news, checking emails, updating personal and travel blogs, finding new job opportunities... and the list goes on. I feel so paralyzed without it and I'm just bored out of my mind sitting at home unable to do anything. I think I spend enough time with friends and families and activities and my mind just have a list of gazillion of things to do and most of them can only be accomplished online. It's kinda sad but I guess that's just how it works. The only time I can be (almost) tech-free is when I'm on vacation or traveling.
Since I have to move out of my house, I have to rent out all the rooms and I have to do a weekly maintenance / clean-up and deal with any problems they have (and going to have) at the house. It's more work and I'm just scared that I might get really burned out after a while. I can't wait until I can sell (or pay off) the house.
One of the major problem we have is our internet and TV service. ATT dsl cable is just so slow and has been causing a lot of problems. So, I started eyeing offers with Comcast and guess what, they have couple of things in common - they're both ridiculously expensive and their customer service is just horrible! I called Comcast to get more info. on the packages they have advertised online and instead of answering my questions, they wanted me to get help through the online live CHAT on their website. Unbelievable! So, I had to call my friends and ask them instead on whether or not I need to pay the $8/box/tv for the TV cable (answer is yes) and if they'll provide a modem/router for the dsl cable (answer is no). This made me wonder what the heck is going on with consumer products and services. How can they get away with ripping us off and charging more fees for each tiny option they can offer? Next thing you know, they'll be charging us for the air we breathe (I'm pretty sure we're already getting charged for air space).

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Let's catch up!

Wow, it's been a year since my last posting. Time flies! I thought 2009 is not a good year for me so I was really looking forward to 2010 Year of the Tiger for a change. The past year and early months of 2010 have been interesting.
  • I started the new year with a trip to Mazatlan, Mexico (January 2010) with some friends from work - Abigail, Laura, Jon, and Francine. It was a fun and relaxing vacation!
  • I have to thank Facebook for reconnecting me with old friends, classmates, schoolmates from the Philippines and wherever they are now in the world. I am so looking forward to visiting them in the future. Besides, I've always wanted to visit Dubai, Japan, and stay longer in Italy.
  • My beloved grandma Charing passed away in July 2009 so I had to head back to the Philippines. The four days of wake was tiring but it was the only time since I was a child that I get to meet all our relatives, catch up with old friends, and spend time with family. I learned a lot about myself, my mom and her family, and how different Laguna will be without my lola. There was a big flood throughout the Philippines few months later. The cemetery was covered with water and all I can think about is my grandma. May she be happy in heaven or wherever she is. I hope she knows how much we deeply love her.
  • Got promoted to Public Health Microbiologist II in July also. Unfortunately, they started the 3rd Furlough Friday so I lost most of the 5% increase that I was going to get for the promotion to that furlough.
  • I turned 30, August 2009. My roommates took me to Belden Place in SF for a wonderful dinner. My boyfriend took me skydiving in Lodi. For his October birthday, I got us a month of fencing class and took him to ride the mechanical bull at Saddle Rack in Fremont.
  • Hiked Yosemite's Half Dome to raise funds with a trek group. Unfortunately, a guy committed suicide on top of half dome that day so they closed the cables and we weren't able to finish the last 400 ft. It was a great weekend. It's so nice to be with a group of strong-minded, fun, active women.
  • We had the best Halloween costume ever! I dressed up as Bay Bridge and Alejandro was a hippie Caltrans worker. It was a last minute idea after they closed the bay bridge for one week or so due to a broken cable that hits couple of cars and raised safety issues with the S-curve.
  • I got engaged October 2009 and we started planning our wedding for May 2010. The wedding preparation experience has been really fun and stressful at the same time. So, earlier this month, we've decided to postpone the wedding later this year. Going to bridal expos, shows, registry parties, and getting lots of freebies and trying out food and deserts, as well as visiting chapels, churches, parks, venues, and all the lovely places have been my favorite part of the planning. However, it gave us too many options that it gets harder to decide or settle with a decision that'll make everyone happy.
  • On top of that, we've been house-hunting. The fact that each of us owns a house made it a little more complicated. We're more conservative and indecisive with finding a home that will be a great investment as well.
  • We've also took a few premarital courses and counseling to help us deal with some problems and differences we have as a couple. It helped a lot to voice out how we really feel inside, communicate what we want, and settle some fears and doubts.
  • For Thanksgiving, we stayed with Gabriel's family in San Diego, checked out the San Diego Zoo and Wildlife Theme Park, old town San Diego and spent a day in the beautiful Balboa Park. We also had a chance to visit La Jolla beach and Mission Bay. Then, spent Thanksgiving watching Pacquiao VS Cotto at Alejandro's uncle's house in Pasadena. On our drive up, we stopped by Solvang and San Luis Obispo. The Bubblegum Alley is just unbelievable!
  • Adopted a guinea pig (Barry) and named him Shrek. He's my 3rd guinea pig and he is so smart. However, because of my busy schedule, I decided to have him be a school pet so he can spend time playing with children and be in school :)
  • To take a break from all the planning and work, we took a 5-day vacation to St. Petersburg, Florida. It was going to be a camping trip with lots of beach and art galleries and sun. However, we were only able to camp one night because the Easter season packed the most popular camp sites (Koresh & Fort de Soto). We end up checking in to some hotel and motel, instead to save money. It was a great trip, though. We get to swim with the manatees by Crystal River and I really love the town of St. Petersburg (with the Church that floats in the ocean) and the old-town (New Orleans-style) of Ybor Centro in Tampa. The Sunrise Easter service by the beach was fantastic!
  • The more I think about my engagement, the more I get reminded of the Wishing Chair that I sat in Smith Tower during my Thanksgiving visit in Seattle. They said that any unmarried woman who sit in that chair will be married in one year. I got engaged in less than one year after sitting in that chair. I googled up that chair but didn't get much info.
  • I started playing more Mahjong with a Meetup group and Pandemic boardgame with friends from work. Also, I finally had a chance to play badminton at GGBC in Emeryville.
  • We had Christmas caroling with "Hatid Biyaya" foundation to help flood victims in the Philippines.
  • Saw "Wicked" and "Fiddlers in the Roof". I can totally relate to Elphaba!
  • For Valentine's Day 2010, we decided to stay at the International Hostel at Fort Mason and enjoy a weekend in San Francisco. Watched Winter Olympics at their cafeteria.
  • I have so many friends having babies this year. Baby shower is just so much fun with lots of games and good food.
  • House-sit Jeremy & Ariel's house in Claremont. I love their black labrador, Mischa!
  • It was my first time to see myself in a perfect hourglass figure with a corset I tried in Dark Gardens, SF.
  • Picked up my grandma from LA in March. That was the first time I've ever been in a long drive with her. Down south, we really liked Hermosa Beach and the A capella semi-finals.
  • First time to drive a 28-ft Uhaul truck to help friends move.
  • Found Emeryville's NHI massage school as the cheapest place to get an amazing massage!
  • Finally met some Kiva microfinance lenders through a social night with the fellows in SF.
  • Marlone's wedding in Alameda became a small Tablante reunion. It was nice to see and catch up with relatives.
  • Picnic Day at UC Davis followed by a trip to Cache Creek Casino and Resort.
  • These days, I'm trying to get back to studying for my GRE and cooking my favorite Thai (pad thai, spicy seafood coconut/lemongrass soup), Indian (samosas, tandoori chicken/tikka masala, & curried vegetables), and Mexican food (chicken poblano with chocolate mole).

Friday, May 1, 2009

Home Projects

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Lately, I've been trying to figure out how to rearrange the furniture I have in my bedroom and living room so that we wouldn't have to end up sitting in the floor close to the TV. You'll think that the easiest solution will be to move the seat closer to the TV. But it's actually the size of the rooms that's creating a problem. I'll have to put the couch or the TV in the middle of the room to create a good viewing distance. Anyway, I'm working on it. But, for my bedroom, I started looking for a comfortable, nice-looking chaise lounge and I think I found my dream chaise (shown in the picture). Yup!

I also started couple of after-work projects at home. I planted some old garlic, dyed my faded jeans, cleaned my ceiling fan, re-organized my storage and travel souvenirs, started a photobook, tried to figure out how to fix our central AC, and disassembled and tried to fix my broken Sony Cybershot digital camera. I didn't realize how messy it is to dye clothes in a washing machine. I read an article online about using 2 navy blue Rit dye + 1/2 black Rit dye powder to dye 2 faded jeans and get a dark denim color. You can add a cup of vinegar during wash cycle to make the color last. I tossed in another denim jacket with the two jeans. I soaked the fabrics in the dye solution for 30 minutes before starting a wash. Then, I have to run the machine again until the water runs clear to get the rest of the stain out. Overall, it turned okay but I thought that it's probably not worth the labor. I learned a lot from disassembling my digital camera. It's really a work of art and kind of intimidating at first. Everything is packed tightly and looks fragile that I keep on thinking how I can easily break a part or two. But, it's already broken to start with so what do I have to lose. I dropped my digital camera during a trip and now it's lens won't open or close completely and it just keeps on making this buzzing sound. I read online that to fix it, you have to find the motor and either turn it off so that your camera will stay open or fix it somehow to realign it. I've taken out so many tiny screws, which I taped together so that I won't lose them. I was able to manually open and close the lens once or twice but after couple of power on and off, it got stuck again. But, at least, there is still hope - unlike our central AC. Our AC stopped working last summer. I can hear and feel the blower but no cool air. I got couple of quotes to find and fix the refrigerant leak within the unit, which is probably in the condenser, and recharge the freon and it costs about $2500. I was told that I'm better off with a new unit since even after they fix it, there's a high chance for it to leak again. So, I decided to eye another option. I spoke with my roommates and we all agreed that it's better to just have an individual AC in each room. That way, we can save money by not having to cool the whole house. Besides, most of us are gone on the weekends. I started looking for portable AC with about 14000 BTU and they run from $300-$500, which is probably not that bad. I only need two and that will cost me less than half of the cost of fixing our central AC. Also, I cleaned my ceiling fan and it really helped a lot in making the air cooler! I can't imagine how dusts can actually affect how your fan works but they do. Anyway, I hope I'll make better progress with all these projects I started. I have several others on my list, like painting my porch and setting up a mahjong night at my place.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

ApRiL Fools' horrifying tax season - no laughing matter

It's tax season again and it's been a learning experience for me. The last couple of years, I had our CPA prepare my tax forms because it was a little complicated with my home and mortgage, stocks, and real estate activities. This year, I decided to do it on my own since it's no difference from last year and I thought I'd use my last year's tax forms as a model. Besides, since I claim high exemptions (and get more monthly take-home salary that way), I know that I won't be getting a lot of refund, if there's any. So, I decided to save that hundred something dollars CPA fee and do it myself. You can deduct tax preparation fees along with your unreimbursed employment expenses (e.g. union fees) but it only helps when it adds up to more than 2% of your Adjusted Gross Income and ofcourse, the excess is the only thing that can help. Anyway, this year, due to the Paper Reduction Act, I did not receive any 1040 and 540 in the mail. I have to order them online. Unfortunately, I have to prepare my brother's tax forms too so I have to place an order twice since they only allow you to order one booklet/form per person. At first, I tried to print the forms I need from the IRS and Franchise Tax Board website. But, I find myself making several trips to the computer as I complete a form. The instruction packet wants me to fill out more forms (Schedule D-1, form 8863, etc.). It only took me 15 minutes to do a rough calculation on my federal and state tax and get an estimate of how much refund I'm getting (thank God!). But, it took me hours to actually gather up all the forms, carefully read and follow the flow chart-like instructions, and finally fill out the worksheets and forms. Whew!

Unfortunately, things are not going well with my roommates. They both have to foreclose on their houses. One of them did it in 2008 so she has to declare it in her tax forms this year. The other one did a short-sale last February so it will not affect her tax-wise until she has to do her tax next year. The one who did a foreclosure in 2008 got a 1099-A and a 1099-C (Cancellation of Debt) forms. She hired an IRS attorney to prepare her tax so she doesn't have to worry about it. Unfortunately, there are a lot of things that the lawyer was uncertain about after he prepared her tax forms. There are a lot of shady area with IRS forms and instructions as far as the foreclosure process. See IRS Publication 4681 for more information on Cancelled Debts, Foreclosure, Repossession and Abandonment. Fortunately, the Bush Bill that allows forgiveness on foreclosure (instead of having the debtor declare it as income) is in effect until 2010. However, the California 540 instructions are much worse! I went through the booklet instructions and the forms from beginning to the end and did not find any instructions as far as foreclosure. This is her biggest worry. The attorney did not take into account the 1099-A and C that she got this year when he filed her CA-540 form. So, she was able to get some refund. However, if she actually have to declare it in her CA-540 as an income, she will have to pay about $16,000 something dollars! I told her to get a second opinion from a CPA lawyer instead of an IRS attorney and to also check with the Franchise Tax Board office in Oakland. I checked out mymoneyblog.com but they don't have anything that's specific to California taxation. I really feel bad for my roommate and my other roommate is already stressed out with her next year's tax. I just pray to God that I wouldn't have to go through this myself in the future and that my roommate will finally get their forms figured out and not have to pay any ridiculous sum of money and if they do - I hope that the IRS/state won't go after their retirement savings.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Prayer T-shirt Project


Whenever I take Bart or any public transportation and whenever I see an interesting shirt, flyer, or billboard, I can't help but check out what it says. With the rapidly changing world and diminishing moral values and people losing spiritual meaning in their lives, I thought that for Lent, it will be great if I can make a Prayer T-shirt. When people read the prayer, they get to pray as well. And maybe, it will give them a chance to stop, think, and be thankful for what they have. Hopefully, it will bring them that light-hearted, warm feeling that we usually experience when we solemnly pray. No matter who you offer your prayers to, it will remind anyone to reflect. Either way, it's better than wearing a shirt that says "Mrs. Timberlake".
Right now, I'm trying to put together a good design for my prayer t-shirt. It's a shirt with the "Lord's Prayer" at the back and a Tagalog or Spanish version in front and on each side of the shirt is the name of the prayer "Padre Nuestro" or "Ama Namin". I hope I won't get in trouble with other religion / denomination. When I called a shirt screening / printing place, they quote me $105 for a shirt or $120 for 10 shirts. This is for just a basic white shirt with black font (sizes don't cost extra). Fortunately, I was able to find more people to buy the shirt with and also someone who may be able to make the shirts at a cheaper prize. They're devoted Catholics and they thought that the prayer templates will be great for future fund-raising events. That's great but at this point, I just really want my prayer shirt. So, I surveyed other options such as Kinkos, Walgreens, and other shirt-printing places that make company give-away shirts. The cheapest way that I've found so far is to find an iron-on decal. Now, I just really need to find a good graphic template to use.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


The Rest of 2008 ...
It has been a while since my last blog entry and several wonderful things happened since then.
  • I took a Cultural Anthropology class last Fall and it puts me more in the global mindset or perspective on the diseases of civiliation and effects of globalization in people's lifestyle and culture around the world. I started writing a paper in it and I'll post it in my blog soon.
  • I joined Eastbay MUD Dragons' dragonboat team in April for the Annual Paddle for Life: http://bayareadragons.org/content/view/17/36/
  • I was in Europe for three weeks in October and visited France, Spain, Italy, Turkey, and Greece. I'm still working on updating my Traveler's blog at http://jocel.travellerspoint.com/ Check it out for some cool tips and ideas on traveling.
  • I spent Thanksgiving in Washington with my friends Grace, Arvin, Buenda, and her family. That was my first time to be in Seattle and it was one of my best Thanksgiving! At last, I finally get to see Chihuly's glass work in Tacoma's Museum of Glass. Dale Chihuly's The Laguna Murano Chandelier is really amazing. The glass bridge has a lot of his work displayed in a glass roof (section of the bridge) and in shelved glass display case.
  • I finally learned to make a Parol (Filipino Christmas Lantern) from a workshop and joined the Parol Lantern Festival this year in San Francisco.
  • I spent Christmas in San Francisco. It was a free day at the Jewish Art Museum and I joined the foreign film group to watch "A Christmas Tale" afterwards.
  • I finally joined Facebook and migrated most of my Friendster 411 there. Also, I started taking Jiujitsu and started playing guitar again.
  • 2008 is a big year in some places and for a lot of people. Olympics was held in Beijing. Manny Pacquiao won three times this year (against Marquez, Diaz, and De la Hoya). Arnel Pineda debuted as the new singer for Journey in February 2008. Eight is such a Feng-shui number that 08-08-2008 became a dream date for a lot of weddings last year. My best friend in the Philippines, Kathie Rose, got married in August and my cousin Marvilyn got married in December. My friend Ceijey had her first baby this year, too and he's sooo cute.
  • Barack Obama defeated John McCain in November and became the first African American president of the United States.
  • The sad and scariest part of 2008 is the ongoing recession - stock market crash, housing market bubble burst, rise of unemployment, and distress in global economy. Even at work, California state budget cuts is putting a lot of stress as far as dropping wages and furloughs. There was a mandatory 2-day furlough (unpaid time-off) each month for state employees that they'll start enforcing in February until June 2010. This ofcourse translates to about 10% wage reduction for me plus, no promotion or raise. Bummer!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Living La Vida Loca - California-dreamin'


The bay area is just so interesting. Each city offers so many different things to see and do. If you want to find great places to visit, eat, check out, etc - Yelp it! Go to yelp.com and see what other people has to say before you hit the road or open your wallet. Here's my own yelp reviews: http://jocel.yelp.com/

Other places to check out is the 2008 Webby Award Nominee: http://weekendsherpa.com/archives/. Find your next weekend adventure! For international travel or out of state travel, check out the newsletters at http://www.away.com/

Here are some of my favorite spots in the bay area:

  • North part, there's Napa and Sonoma - Cornerstone Gardens, Jack London's house, COPA and downtown Napa, shopping outlets.
  • By the coast: Fort Ross, Mendocino, Fort Bragg, Bodega Bay. I love the campsites at MacKerricher State Park, where you can go tide-pooling and whale watching. The Samuel Taylor campground is also nice and closer to Point Reyes and it's where you can actually see salmon swim upstream. Tomales Bay is the perfect place to go clamming and watch manta rays and tiger sharks swim.
  • Hike to Alamere Falls and jump into the Bear Lake on your way back to cool off.
  • Best places to surf are at Pacifica Beach, Bolinas, and Santa Cruz.
  • On the Marin County side of Golden Gate: Sausalito (bike and ferry to SF), Corte Madera's Ring Mountain, Muir Woods, and downtown Mill Valley.
  • Bike route from San Francisco Ferry Bldg to Sausalito - I look forward to sunny days when I can hop in and Bart to San Francisco and bike my favorite loop/route in the city. Get off Embarcadero and bike towards the Ferry Bldg, where you can shop their farmer's market and arts and crafts booths on Saturdays. Head to Fisherman's Wharf from here. On your way, you'll see Coit Tower and there are steps/stairs trails that can you lead up there. The steps start near Battery Street and across Levi's Museum square. Coit Tower marks the end of Lombard Street. If you decide to drive up to Coit Tower, follow Lombard Street and it'll take you to the some of the favorite spots in SF. The Crooked Road is actually part of Lombard Street, which eventually leads you to the Golden Gate. Just before getting into Golden Gate, you can get off Lombard and check out the Fine Arts, Exploratorium, Crissy Field beach, and the rest of Presidio. My bike route actually passes to this area. Anyway, when you get to Fisherman's Wharf, you can check out the sea lions (which migrate in July-August) and the classic arcade Museo Mechanique and hear the fat lady laugh! Behind this museum are other museums that exhibit submarines and torpedoes. After you get your clam chowder, bike past Ghirardelli towards the marina area where you'll find this small hill. On the other side of the hill is Fort Mason and from here, you can see the Golden Gate bridge. Head towards the Golden Gate bridge. Soon, you will see the Fine Arts' dome and exploratorium across the street and Crissy Field beach on your right. Follow the road adjacent to Crissy Field (entrance to the Presidio). Crissy Field is a good place to rest and watch dogs play as well as windsurfers launch. There's also a good view of the Alcatraz from here. If it's too cold outside and you want to get some coffee and be indoor and still be able to enjoy the view of the water, check out that little museum near Crissy Field (and next to Sports Basement - which I think is the best place to shop for outdoor stuff (backpacks, gears, etc) plus they have a ping pong table where you can play while you wait for your friends to finish shopping). From here, you can continue biking towards Golden Gate bridge (just follow everyone else). There's another hill that you need to climb up to get to Lincoln Avenue where you'll find the trail to the biking area (left side of the bridge) to cross the bridge. Once you cross the bridge, it's all downhill to Sausalito, which is on the other side of the freeway. Enjoy the rest of the day in Sausalito. The last Ferry, where you can take your bike with you back to the Ferry Bldg in SF, leaves at 5PM so make sure you don't miss it and always check the time schedule as soon as get to Sausalito so you can plan your stay around it.
  • If you feel like taking the Bart and Cable car to Fisherman's Wharf from Powell and Market, don't forget to check out Bloomingdale's fancy food court (across Briston Farms) and Westlake Dome at the top floor. Across the street, catch a 3D movie at Metreon and check out the waterfall in the garden and the Jewish Art Museum. Each year, they also have great car shows and exhibits at Moscone Center. Yerba Buena is fun - Ice Skating, Bowling, and more!. There's also outdoor ice skating at Embarcadero andUnion Square during the holidays. Bayanihan Cultural Center (6th and Mission) is the place to go in November for their free holiday lantern workshop. Powell and Market is where you'll find group of people (young and old) playing chess.
  • Inner Richmond: Irish bakery and European food market (as well as Russian Cinderella restaurant) off Geary. Yummy dumplings at Clement St. Philippine Consulate home is just around the corner.
  • Golden Gate Park: California Academy of Sciences, top floor of De Young Museum (by the other gift shop), Legion of Honor, Japanese Tea Garden pagoda, and Stow Lake.
  • San Francisco Zoo and the Great Highway - Cliff House and the remains of the bathhouse
  • San Mateo Convention Center, surfing at the Museum, South San Francisco target shooting range, El Camino Real Filipino restaurants, and Tanforan mall.
  • Glen Park
  • Daly City Lucky Chances Casino
  • SF Nightlife: 1984 CatClub, sfclubs.org, Mehjool at mission and 20th St. Broadway St. in SF. Boot-town /Little Italy. China town and Japan Town.
  • Eastbay (Concord/Antioch/Walnut Creek): Black Diamond Mines Regional Park, Waterworld, Mt. Diablo, Lindsay Wildlife Museum, Heather Farms, downtown Walnut Creek, Vasco Road caves. For kids, take them to Pixie Land (amusement park) and the Jungle. Indoor rock climbing at Diablo Rock.
  • Berkeley Indian Rock and Rose Garden, Tilden Park and Brazil Bldg.
  • Lake Chabot, Chabot Planetarium, Oakland Zoo, Mormon Temple, Jack London Square, Rockridge, Lake Merritt Boat Club, El Cerrito Plaza and Pool.
  • South Bay - Hayward to Carmel

  • iFly, Union City and all the Filipino food (Gerry's Grill)
  • San Jose - Santana Row and Winchester Mystery House. They're right across each other. Santana Row is the perfect place to hang out (but not to shop). Enter Valencia hotel and proceed to the 2nd floor lobby. Next to the elevator is a narrow hallway. On the right side of the hallway is a really nice lounge/bar with a balcony that overlooks the streets of Santana Row. On the left side is a beautiful courtyard with patio seating and outdoor heat lamps. There are also fire pits to keep you warm. The lighted water cascading falls are awesome at night. Then, grab some delicious desert at Cocola (a block away) and challenge your friends to some outdoor chess by the wine bar in the center isle and move that gigantic 2.5-feet pawn with your two hands across that huge floor chess tiles. There are so many places to check out around here, such as the Saturday farmer's market and pet parades.
  • Also, Rosucrucian Egyptian garden and museum (Naples Ave. - couple of blocks from the Rose garden and not far from Santana Row).
  • Nightlife in downtown San Jose - Spend the day at the Tech Museum and the Modern Art Museum and party all night club-hoping and bar-hoping at all these awesome clubs and bars that downtown has to offer.
  • Citybeach, Fremont - the place to be if you want a sporty-gym where you can play sports indoor with family and friends. Try your skills in rock climbing, volleyball, basketball, ping-pong, bouce or just lay back with playing pool/billiards, air hockey, foosball, and another one of those gigantic, floor chess. They also have a grill/bar where you can recharge with some delicious food and drinks.
  • Skyhigh, Santa Clara - trampoline/exhibition gym anyone?
  • Great America and Raging Water
  • Gilroy Garlic Festival
  • Santa Cruz - Lighthouse Beach (best surfing - W. Cliff Dr.), Boardwalk, Mystery Spot, Seabright Beach bonfires.
  • Carmel downtown, Mission Carmel, and the 17-mile road to Pacific Grove and Monterey.
  • Yosemite and Mono Lake
  • Bear Valley and Alpine Lake - outdoor rockclimbing.
  • Also, Saratoga Mountain Winery and Turtle Creek. Gold mining at Sonora. Dead volcanoes and caverns at Volcano, CA
  • Snow is just few hours away at resorts like Boreal, Heavenly, Alpine Lake, Bear Valley, and NorthStar. Then, cross over to Nevada and check out Lake Tahoe and casinos in Reno.

    On your way to LA or just outside LA:

  • Santa Barbara (Old Spanish Days Festival), Pismo Beach
  • Hearst Castle in San Simeon (along highway 1), San Luis Obispo, and Solvang
  • Mission San Fernando, Mission Hills (north 5/405 intersection)
  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Dana Point whale watching (75 milles south)

    Some of my favorite spots in LA (other than Disneyland, Hollywood, and Universal Studios)

  • Getty Museum in town off 405 (free admission). Cool Tram Ride and great view and gardens!
  • Getty Villa in Malibu (reservations). Also in Malibu, Zuma Beach, Paradise Cove, and Malibu Creek State Park for camping
  • Malibu ocean kayaking (also at Mothers beach - Marina del Rey)
  • Santa Monica 3rd St. Promenade, Boardwalk Pacific Park and Rides, Muscle Beach, Point Dume Beach. Cheap eats at S.M.
  • Segway rentals at Segway L.A. on 1660 Ocean Blvd. Santa Monica, Horse back riding (in the Santa Monica mountains)
  • Venice Beach (you can rent bikes), street performers, muscle beach
  • Beverly Hills Park at end of Rodeo Dr., the City Hall, Beverly Hills Hotel, Polo Lounge
  • Trolley tours of star homes Hollywood or downtown, Baldwin Hills or get a $5 map of star homes (Beverly Hills Rodeo Dr.)
  • Griffith Park and Observatory (reservations now required). The new Oschin Planetarium show is the best!
  • Near that area: Greek Theater, Bird Sanctuary, Los Angeles Zoo (parking site for Griffith Observatory/Hollywood Bowl)
  • Gene Autrey Western Museum + Travel Town (railroad museum)
  • West Hollywood, Walk of Fame/Stars (3 ½ miles round trip), Graumin’s Chinese Theater, and Hollywood Bowl concerts (arrange parking first)
  • Ford’s Theater (across the 101 from the Hollywood Bowl) smaller shows than the Bowl
  • Hollywood Wax Museum and Kodak Theater tour, Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum (across from wax museum)
  • Mulholland Drive
  • Hollywood Park Race, Forum, horse racing, and casino.
  • Haunted Hollywood Tour
  • Museum of Tolerance
  • Hollywood sign hike and pics, L.A.pics
  • Paramount Pictures Tour (9AM), Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Walk of Fame
  • Studio tours: Universal/City Walk or Warner Bros., NBC, Disney, Dreamworks
  • La Brea Tar Pits and Page Museum on Wilshire @ Fairfax
  • Farmers Market at the Grove. Go to Charley’s Café in the Farmer’s Market. Go the closest booth at Fairfax and W. 3rd.
  • Exposition Park Rose Garden (USC)
  • MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) and LACMA
  • Walt Disney Concert Hall (downtown)—stunning architecture!
  • Downtown L.A.-Lummis house, Angels flight
  • China town, Korea town (karaoke), Little Tokyo
  • Dodger stadium baseball game, Home Depot Stadium
  • Lakers Basketball at the Staples arena
  • Huntington Beach Surfing and Surf Museum (they spend a lot of time and money on constant activities)
  • Foose Auto Design (See Overhaul’in TV Show) and Huntington Beach boardwalk
  • Petersen Auto Museum (car “rallys” from Huntington Beach - see the stars cars and the Ferrari collection)
  • Huntington library and gardens (San Marino)
  • Volley ball and tournaments (Huntington Beach)
  • USC and UCLA football, LA Coliseum or Rose Bowl
  • Redondo Beach and Pier
  • Orange County
  • L.A. barhopper mystery bus, L.A. Open at Riviera Country Club, L.A. Equestrian Center
  • Big Bear skiing
  • Palm Springs golf and tram ride
  • River Walk and L.A. River Gardens
  • Citadel Outlet Mall (Commerce, CA)
  • Commerce Casino Club (Commerce, CA) and Bicycle Club Casino (Bell Gardens, CA.)
  • Cerritos Titanium Library
  • Disneyland (Anaheim)
  • Knotts Berry Farm's roller coaster rides, 6 Flags/Magic Mountain
  • Water parks-hurricane harbor, soak city, raging rivers
  • Long Beach: Aquarium of the Pacific and Queen Mary (haunted ship/hotel)
  • Catalina Island, catamaran to Avalon out of Long Beach or Newport beach, concerts and the casino - service now available out of Marina del Rey (Helicopter Service $150. now available out of San Pedro)
  • Hike up Mt. Lee and visit Bronson (Batman) caves
  • Rose Parade in Pasadena
  • Norton Simon Museum (Pasadena)
  • Santa Anita race track, and L.A.. Botanic Gardens -Arcadia, CA.
  • Mt. Wilson observatory-(UCLA astronomy-Cal. Rt #2))
  • Gondola ride at Naples Island (Alimitos Bay)
  • Renaissance Festival
  • Rockwalk at the Guitar Center
  • Graumans Egyptian Theater
  • El Capitan Theater
  • Dominator ship wreck hike
  • Tilmann Japanese garden (San Fernando Valley)
  • San Bernadino Route 66 classic car show (Sept.13-16)
  • Descanso Gardens (La Canada)
  • Brand Park/Glendale library
  • San Antonio and Temecula winery tours
  • Lake Arrowhead

    Other places to check out or for dining:

  • Beach bonfire—monthly specials (free wood and hotdogs)
  • Helicopter tour of L.A, indoor skydiving
  • Fashion district-(11th St. + Santee), L.A. Fashion week (bargains)
  • Melrose Trading Post (Saturdays only)
  • Eat at Pinks, Pinkberry, or In-and-Out Burger. Pink Hotdogs is very popular with all different combinations.
  • Bob Morris’s Paradise Cove Café, Sunday Morning Brunch (North of Malibu maybe 5 miles—look for Paradise Cove signs)
  • Spago in Beverly Hills, great Wolfgang Puck restaurant. You might meet Wolfgang
  • Ivy, Kitson (on N. Robertson), Hotel Marmont,
  • Club at Hyde, Area, Teddy’s, Priviledge, Les Deux, Parc, Mood, Skybar, Roxy, Tryst, Whiskey (a-go-go), The Spyder Club, The Viper Room, House of Blues.
  • Beverly Hilton, Trader Vics, Sparkles
  • Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf + Tito tacos (Culver City)
  • Eat at Mr. Chow’s or Koi or Yamashiro
  • Fred Segal (this is mostly for women and gay guys I guess)
  • Papa Christo’s Thursday Greek Dinner (pico/normandie) - Real Store with restaurant attached. This authentic experience including belly dancer and classes for the ladies won’t last in it’s present shape too long as it is sold out on Thursdays. It’s inexpensive and Chrys’s Daughter graduates from business school next year and if she has any sense will turn this into something bigger. Make sure to make reservations for the Big Fat Greek Thursday Dinner and not just plain dinner.
  • Mel’s diner (Hollywood and highland)
  • Bob’s Big Boy—Toluca Lake-Riverside Dr.-(Friday nights only 5 to 10:00)
  • Marina Del Rey Dinner Cruise-Hornblower Co.
  • Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles Diner
  • Canter’s Deli or The Pantry
  • Eat at Mortons (Pam is closing at the end of the year)
Trips I'll always Remember:
  • El Paso Texas and New Mexico: White Sands, NASA Space Center, Rosswell UFO Center
  • Las Vegas and Grand Canyon: free shows and themed sights at Cesar's Palace, Bellagio, Paris, Venitian Hotel, Wynn, and mardi-gras like shows at Rio. Check out the Lion habitat at MGM, the flamingos at Flamingo's, and the tropical fishes and sea horses at Caesar's Palace. The best rides are at New York New York roller coaster and Stratosphere's XScream.
  • Tour of West Grand Canyon: skip Skywalk and head out to Guano Point (see previous blog on Grand Canyon). Camp and see Angels Bright trail in South Grand Canyon.
  • Washington: Tacoma's Glass Bridge and Chihuly's Glass Museum, Seattle's Pike's Place and Smith Tower in the Pioneer Square, Mukilteo Lighthouse and Boeing Tour, Tulalip Resort and Casino by Seattle Outlet stores.
  •