Thursday, September 25, 2008

Post-it-ology 101-

This is my friend Mike, and he and his friends are in the Youtube 3M post-it contest TOP TEN! Because their video has so much more crazy awesome than all the others, click here, find their video Post-it-ology 101 and give it the "thumbs up" to vote. If they win, I think they win $10,000.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Crowded Anniversary Suite

So, with JJ safe at his destination and me still unwilling to contribute to night-time driving, Kyle may have been left to his own nocturnal devices. Considering the jetlag he was still tackling, such an excursion would have been less safe even than traveling during the day with cranky wife and kids.

Thankfully, Chris and Emily had taken the weekend off to celebrate their anniversary anyway, and came to our rescue by allowing us to invite ourselves on their vacation. We agreed to chaperone their trip to San Francisco in exchange for them taking a shift at the wheel during our drive home from Utah. A few Red Bulls later, we were all safe and sound back in El Dorado Hills. After a homemade meal and a power nap, we were on toward the bay!

Since this was Chris and Emily's anniversary and all, we opted to leave the kids at home under the care of Mish, Carol, Ma, etc. I was apprehensive about leaving Didi behind, him being a surefire Mama's boy and all, but Ma was selfless as always and encouraged us to have our first child-less vacation ever (unless dates at the Cougareat count).

No, I don't miss China, but if I did, I would miss haggling with vendors. Emily and I tried a few of our best bargaining techniques, complete with broken Mandarin, but alas the same turquoise necklaces cost 15 or so times more on American soil. Inflation, man.

Chinatown conjured similar emotions--I am still too fresh off the boat to miss China, per se, but some of the sights and sounds were too familiar to arouse anything but comfortable, warm memories. Some sights could easily have been seen in China itself...

And others definitely reminded me that I am very far from China. Okay, so the man's a little outrageous in his claims, but allelujah that he can protest whatever he pleases on these streets.

This was Kyle's first time to the bay area. He took about five million pictures of the city, half of which were of the bridge. Thank goodness for digitals.

Without the burden of children (and when you're engaging in such an activity, yes, they are a burden), I relented to join the three cycling enthusiasts across the Golden Gate bridge via tandem bicycles. It sounded fun, romantic, athletic. Sure, I hadn't ridden a bike in over a decade (minus a biking mishap in MN last year), but remastering the technique would be, obviously, like learning to ride a bike again.

Emily and Chris (who are so hardcore that they own eight bikes and special underwear for long-distance rides) were all smiles, even during the uphill turns.

My ischeals, on the other hand, were begging for relief after about five minutes. I don't remember riding a bike being so excruciating when I was ten. I basically felt like only my bare skeleton was separating me from the seat. No amount of artificial padding could suffice. And no, I could not even pretend for the camera to be enjoying any of it.

And thanks to the fog, there was no end in sight.

And then Kyle had the gall to complain that sitting on my hands was throwing his steering off balance. Wouldn't you know that he actually asked me to walk back to the bike rental on the way home so he could ride faster? (Actually, I was happy to be off that thing, though I looked pretty pathetic sauntering through town bikeless and sporting a helmet. Kyle had to dump me to get the rental back in time.)

Off the bikes, we spent a lot of time browsing San Francisco's most famous attractions, and the other half of the time trying to find them.

The line to ride a trolley car was longer than Disneyland's Splash Mountain, but without having to entertain toddlers, we actually enjoyed the wait, playing a few rounds of "ten fingers," during which Emily disclosed the statement, "I have never kissed less than fifteen boys." Of course that's not what she meant, but, like any good friends, we'll never let her live it down.

I guess a lot of San Francisco's charm comes from the variety of people walking its streets. Kyle stopped to hear every street performer play, particularly if it was jazz.

What I found hip and appealing, of course, was the shopping venues. If you think Anthopologie's lantern display looks cool monet, check out the close up:

They're made of old and discolored Chinese texts! When I have a maid to do the dusting, I will definitely build my own lantern library.

One of the trip's highlights was fine dining over a live jazz performance. I ordered a French dish with the most amazing sauce, and Kyle gazed with unwavering adoration at the musicians. Eh, l'amour.

Next stop: the redwoods at Muir Woods.

We drove over to Sausalito the next day, which I was disappointed was not Little Italy, nor were there any affordable eateries or gift shops open after six, but a talking parrot did hit on Emily, so it wasn't a complete loss.
I think this is where Full House was filmed. You better believe Kyle wasn't about to miss this one. (You're hearing the theme song start now, too, eh? Ahh-ah-ah-ahhhhh...)

I thought I was so mischievous tricking Chris and Emily into giving me their flip flops that I promptly tossed over the cliff. Unfortunately, I had already given Emily my own feeble shoe. And actually, the bottom of the cliff was the beach we were heading toward, so my victory was fleeting, but I still got a thrill from the childish maneuver.

Yes, it's the Pacific Ocean, but it's still a beach, and somebody's still got to get wet.

Thank you for the morbid information.

It was a honeymoon/anniversary weekend to remember. (Chris bids farewell with a lovely arabesque.)

I had a few days to recover before we embarked on our next vacation to the suffocating state of Arizona.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Fun and Games

Well, there's no more dodging reality for me. It has been nearly two months since our return to the homeland, my string of vacations has come to a close, my taste buds have acclimated to all the comfort foods I'd been craving, and so I find myself here, wondering where the momentum will take me next. For now, I will call this place my home. My bags are unpacked, though my bed is unmade, and I will try my best to fight that nagging feeling of remaining yet unsettled.

(This is the view from our back windows. Yes, I feel a little like Belle proclaiming, "I want much more than this provincial life!" as she rushes beyond her cottage into a gorgeous, pristine wilderness. Unless, of course, that was all a mirage. Too bad I cannot claim such an excuse.)

As for my eight-city tour, we best address it in pieces. Part one of the anthology: A trek to the Salt Lake Valley.

There are many feats my predecessors have accomplished that, rather than give me courage and determination to achieve the same, make me more desirous than ever to pursue the lazy alternative. Our trek-to-Utah transportation is an example. I know many parents and children alike have survived twelve-hour road trips in broad daylight. To them, I say what many say (with mild sarcasm) about my natural childbirth philosophies: "Good for you!"

Meaning, I was simply unwilling to make the voyage during the kids' wakeful hours. Yes, this is selfish, considering that I was also unwilling to take a turn in the drivers' seat. However, after inhaling a few highly caffeinated beverages, JJ and Kyle were feeling pretty enthusiastic about our journey. Speaking of which, they also found an endless supply of sweet tunes on the radio and chatted like school boys about this or that rev or solo, while the rest of us slumbered peacefully in the back of the van.

(Yes, we took Mom and Dad's van, since our car window decided to choose the day before our departure to roll down and refuse to roll back up. I really thought Mish and Carol's carboard/duct tape replacement window was ingenious, but Kyle and Dad had to be all particular about how it was violating silly little things like laws and visibility and safety and stuff.)

Sure, the boys were exhausted after an "all-nighter," but in exchange, I was not burdened with the stress of entertaining the kids (who had not yet conceded that in this country, carseat safety restraints are unavoidable), and thus was able to be a nice person that day. We were welcomed warmly by our good friends the Williams', whose cheery basement apartment served us well as a temporary abode. Marilyn is a natural Mom and Grandma and was so accomodating that it almost seemed like she liked cooking for and cleaning up after us. Ellie affectionately calls her "Grandma Mare" and proudly reported that she has THREE Grandmas. (aka spoiled)

We were also fortunate enough to catch my old roommate Cathi and her husband Bryce before they moved to Maryland. We dined at Cafe Rio with them and Kallista and Dave and were able to chat and reminisce for a few hours. I have to say that, considering how young I was when I was married, I sure have a lot of fond memories of being a single at BYU, many of which I owe to that year I spent living with Cathi and Michelle. Even now nothing makes me giggle like our quote wall.

We also spent a few days in Salt Lake with Chris and Emily, and the six of us couldn't get over how easy and positive our conversations and activities were in an American setting. Plus, Emily was agreeable enough to accompany me through my first post-China, All-American shopping tour at an outdoor mall. I could hardly get over how appealing western fashion is.

(Chris thankfully took about 10,000 more pictures than us and I just received a cd of them today, so better pictorial highlights will be coming soon.)

Of course, the primary justification for our visit was to attend our bosom friend Mary's wedding in Bountiful. Being with my two Mee-haws (Sara and Mary) was wonderful, and I was relieved and grateful that I approve of yet another one of my friends' husbands (though he didn't even ask my permission before proposing to her-- what is this generation coming to?).

Not to mention that Sara and I got to brush up on our expert floral designing skills. We took the BYU course together back in the day, and though narrowly securing our desired letter grades, we simply had a creative touch that can't be measured or quantified. Illustration #1: we did all the bouquets and flower arrangements for the wedding.

Illustration #2: Mary's parents handed us two delicious but hiddeous cheesecakes, victims of several fissures. Through utilization of the exotic Japanese Ikebana techniques, we turned the cracked cakes and leftover daisies into a tranquil exhibit of harmony between earth and the heavens. Anyone who sees it as more messy and artistically indecisive probably just doesn't understand Japanese culture the way Sara and I do.

Meanwhile, Ellie was attempting to secure an American BFF. She had her eyes set on Amy, a five-year-old, who nurtured her like a good older sister until the other five-year-olds grew weary of the tag-along. They dumped Ellie on us several times before we realized she was being intentionally ditched, not just getting lost. It was Ellie's first real taste of social rejection.

Love hurts.
It was a beautiful wedding, of course, and we were so grateful that Mary postponed the date until after our return so we could make it. ;-) In return, I decided to make myself an honorary member of her wedding party and dressed the same as all of Mary's relatives. She was too nice to tell me that she'd cc-ed me on that memo for the sake of the itinerary it included, not the wardrobe instructions.

With JJ safely and securely back in his Provo apartment, you may be wondering how we traversed the wilderness back to Sacramento. Stay tuned for part two of the post-China adventures anthology: The Crowded Anniversary Suite.

Friday, September 05, 2008

"Bradley Rubik"

Prepare yourself to be rocked to the core by the amazing Bradley:

Mastering "the cube" is a favorite pastime of my former students (and I confiscated many of them in my days at the Korean school). Bradley, though, has to be the best I've seen. Watch again his spider-like fingers spin a web around its prey as he manipulates this puzzle.

It must have been the added pressure of his teacher filming him solve the cube (or the intimidating faces I made to break his focus while masterfully scrambling it for him) because he was very disappointed with his time: 27 seconds. His best is 0:15, so 0:27 is quite laughable.

A few days earlier, I saw him practicing with his friends with a blindfold on. Yes my friends, he not only memorized all the colors of the scrambled cube, but remembered the new combination of colors with every twist (though it took significantly longer- 8 minutes). Unfortunately, he mixed up a few squares along the way, so when he removed his blindfold, the colors were still off. Most of us, I bet, struggle to solve a Rubik's cube... with our eyes open... in any amount of time.

Kudos to Bradley for being so algorithmically bombastic.