Forty hours in New Orleans

It's like Disneyland, but with a lot more alcohol.

I’ve been a little lax on blogging. I’ve been out and about doing some cool stuff like taking a super quick trip to New Orleans for a wedding. Sean’s former ZogSports (intramural football) teammates, Tony and Christina, got married on May 12th.

I arrived on Friday. Sean picked me up at the airport. He flew in the day before and had an extra day to party and reunite with his New York friends. We dropped my stuff off at the hotel, Maison Dupuy, and walked around the French Quarter for a little bit.

Beignets at Café du Monde

Café du Monde

We had café au lait and beignets at Café du Monde and stared out at the Mississippi for a moment. Later that evening, we met up with several others for a delicious dinner at Emeril’s Delmonico.

Afterward we went to a club to meet up with the groom and more friends. We didn’t hang out too long since I was tired, still recovering from my cold and not really up for enjoying the New Orleans nightlife.

Pouring outside our window

On Saturday we had brunch near the hotel and then shared some beers with friends in a pirate-themed bar. I felt like I was at Disneyland with the pirate and French Quarter thing going on. We didn’t do much that afternoon except get ready for the wedding since we weren’t too interested in walking around in a storm.

Mr. & Mrs. Buglione

Tony and Christina’s wedding was a lot of fun and worth the too-quick trip. They had a short ceremony at Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was the first time I attended a Catholic wedding that wasn’t a full Mass; they just did the liturgy (readings) and vows. The reception was held at Maison Dupuy. Since the courtyard was still wet from the rain on Friday and Saturday, the party was moved to two smaller ballrooms indoors.

Highlights from the wedding:

Tony sings a song he wrote for Christina

– Tony sang/played a surprise song he composed for Christina. It was really sweet. Tony’s mom asked Sean how he was going to top that.

– The excellent band of about a dozen musicians and singers. They played covers of current pop songs and old rock hits but it wasn’t cheesy at all. They were great and once I started dancing I couldn’t stop. I guess when you’re in New Orleans there’s no shortage of great live music.

– The food. They set up a buffet of hors d’oeuvres, gumbo, roast beef carving station, fruit and cheese. Judging by how I felt the next morning on the flight home, I liked the food and champagne a little too much.

Suit up My Wedding Date

– My handsome date.

Teal twins!

– Being teal twins with Jen (totally unplanned). I think the color suits us well.

Go Dodgers!

– Dancing and partying with the NY crew. I hope they bring the party to our wedding, but leave the Yankee fandom out of our decorations. Sean really liked the groom’s cake.

Second Line through the French Quarter

– The second line through the French Quarter at the end of the party. It’s been a dozen years since I’ve been in a parade with a brass band. Last time, Rose Parade 1999, was much different since I (a) didn’t need to play my trombone and (b) wasn’t in a band uniform. Instead I just marched/walked to the music and waved a white handkerchief as is customary. Since it was a Saturday night, there were lots of spectators cheering on the wedding party as we circled several blocks in the French Quarter.

Second Line through the French Quarter

When we arrived back at the hotel, we danced a little more. I’m really glad my purse was big enough to hold a pair of flip flops. I wouldn’t have made it back to the hotel in my heels.

Adios, NOLA

We only got a few hours of sleep before waking up at 5 am to make our 7 am flights. Ugh. The trip home was not fun.

All non-iPhone pictures borrowed from Sean since I forgot my camera.

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A few days in Lake Arrowhead

Lake Arrowhead sunset

Early last week, my brother Adrian called and asked about my plans for the week. He was on vacation from one job and spring break from the other. He and his girlfriend, Alexis, had rented a condo up in Lake Arrowhead and invited Sean and I to join them for part of the trip.

“We’ll probably be just sitting around eating, drinking and relaxing.”

I liked the idea of going up to the San Bernardino Mountains. I used to go pretty often in high school and college with church and school groups, but it’s been nearly 10 years since my last trip with family. I wasn’t sure if I could get away during the busy first week of spring quarter, but I was able to leave early on Thursday and take Friday off. Sean and I drove up Thursday afternoon. Traffic was light due to the holiday weekend.

Capirotada - so delicious!

We made a pit stop at my mom’s for to-go burritos and capirotada (Mexican bread pudding, a Lenten tradition). I’d been craving capirotada for weeks and dug into some leftovers my Madrina Chilo left behind when she visited my grandparents. I’d like to believe she knew I was stopping by and left this for me because I’m her goddaughter.

Highway 18 up to Lake Arrowhead

We arrived at the condo just in time to enjoy some views of the lake at sunset from the balcony.

First view of the lake from the balcony

Adrian and Alexis were great hosts. There were no luchador fights, just a lot of smiles and good drinks.

First game of Taboo

Ping pong time

First round of king's cup

As Adrian promised, there was a lot eating, drinking and games. We played card games, Taboo, Uno, ping pong and king’s cup. It’s a good thing we were all staying in the condo since no one was going anywhere after king’s cup.

Brief walk along the west end of the lake

Brief trip to Lake Arrowhead village for food & drink

The condo is right on the lake and is a short walk away from Lake Arrowhead Village. Each day, we walked along the lakefront path to the village for groceries and drinks. On Friday evening, Alexis’ co-worker and friend drove up, our group grew to six.

Looks nice, but it was still cold

It was a little too cold to kayak or go swimming in the lake, but we did spend a lot of time on the balcony just staring at the water, sipping sangria and enjoying some time in the sun.

Good Friday sunset over the lake

Although I’ve been to Lake Arrowhead many times, I’d never stayed so close to the lake. We didn’t take advantage of the proximity due to the cool weather, — there was still some snow on the ground — but it was nice to be able to walk out from the bedroom and be immediately by the water.

Alexis and Adrian

I’m thankful to the little brother and Alexis for the hospitality.

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Joshua Tree National Park trip

Swoon.

While a bunch of Angelenos were all excited about a rock from Riverside County making a very slow trip to the LA County Museum of Art (LACMA), Sean and I decided to go to Riverside County and see some more impressive rocks… and trees.

Making pictures

In the middle of the week, I suggested taking a trip to Joshua Tree National Park to celebrate our second anniversary. A few things made it attractive: neither of us had visited; it’s close (2 hours is close in Southern California); it’s inexpensive; and it’d offer lots of great views/sites to photograph. About the first one, I’ve been to the Coachella Valley and Palm Desert several times with friends and family but I’d never been to the park. My Mojave Desert camping experience had been limited to Kern River. Sean was down.

IMG_9780

We headed out Sunday morning and arrived in Joshua Tree early in the afternoon. Our first stop was at the visitor’s center to get more water and some maps. Our plan for the day: lunch at the Hidden Valley picnic area; exploring the Hidden Valley nature loop; and then hanging out at Key’s View until sunset.

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NY vacation and engagement party eats

Sean and I didn’t have much of an agenda for our NY trip. There were only a few things we wanted to do and see. Of course, some of those things were food related.

We arrived on Wednesday night and went straight to the future in-law’s home in Long Island. We were very hungry as we’d only eaten breakfast and snacks on the plane. Sadly, JetBlue stopped carrying Munchies. That was one of my favorite parts about my monthly flights to/from JFK. I actually complained about it on the customer satisfaction survey. Kenny (future brother-in-law) picked us up form the airport. On the way there he told us Mrs C (fMIL) had made a steak dinner. It was delicious. No, I don’t have photos.

We took advantage of being near a Dunkin' Donuts

A few hours later, we were ready for dessert: Dunkin’ Donuts. LA transplants, especially those from NY, have a lot of valid reasons to complain about LA. One of those is often the lack of DD. We used to have DD, but the donut market was already saturated with mom and pop shops and Winchell’s. Although you can’t go to a DD in LA, you can buy a gift card at drugstores or grocery stores. Sean ate a few vanilla donuts. I tried a few of the season flavors (pumpkin, apple spice), but my favorite is still the simple glazed donut. We had DD a few more times on our trip.

On Thursday night, we went out to dinner with friends for Filipino Food Nite at Tito Rad’s in Queens. I missed the first Filipino Food Nite, but was glad for the second. We ate family style and had several dishes including: fried calamari, lumpia (yum!), chicken adobo, pork adobo, sisig, pancit, tuna, and plain white rice.

Chile relleno meatballs at the Meatball Shop Butternut squash

The Meatball Shop was the only restaurant on our to-do/see/visit list. We went on Friday afternoon, our first day back in Manhattan. Luckily, there was no wait. I had the special, the chile relleno meatball. It was less spicy than I expected and they were a little stingy with the perfectly spicy tomatillo salsa. I tend to load my tacos with cilantro, and was sad that it could barely be tasted in the meatballs. I had butternut squash with ricotta and candied walnuts on the side.

Ziti pizza

On Friday evening, we attended a birthday party at the Mercury Bar. The bar is two doors down from Pizza 33, which Sean recommended. Rather than eat at the bar, we stepped out for Ziti pizza. The pizza was too dry, adding red pepper flakes helped. It wasn’t the best pizza I’ve had in NY, but it was certainly enough to fuel some drinking and dancing.

Cherry tomatoes Engagement party food

Jerk pork one of several meat/seafood dishes Fried chicken

On Saturday night, the future in-laws hosted a small engagement party. Although Sean’s met most of my extended family, I’ve only met his parents and brother. Mrs C did a great job cooking up a variety of Jamaican dishes for the party. I’m not too familiar with Jamaican food. I’ve had a few typical dishes (e.g., beef patties, jerk chicken, oxtail soup, red beans and rice), but still have a lot to learn. The menu for the party included: jerk chicken, jerk pork, BBQ ribs, fried chicken, mussels, salmon, oxtail soup, a paella-like seafood and rice dish, a few different types of rice, mac n’ cheese, green salad, beef patties, saltfish and crackers, and green beans. I know I’m forgetting something.

Plate 1 of 2: ribs, salad, jerk chicken, salmon, green beans, rice and mac n cheese

Despite filling up my plate twice, I didn’t get to try everything. There was a lot of food leftover which we ate for the next couple of days. My favorite was the very tender jerk chicken and jerk pork. It was quite spicy (much more than the one Sean occasionally makes).

Very potent rum punch

I washed this all down with some wine and later some very sweet and potent rum punch and rum cake.

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Labor Day weekend in Napa and San Francisco

Grapes

Sean and I spent Labor Day weekend in Napa and San Francisco. It was a fun trip and I’m glad I got to see some Bay Area friends. I used to go up monthly for school. Most of those trips were day trips, but I occasionally had time to hang out with friends.

We arrived in San Francisco on Friday afternoon and headed out to Sonoma. Despite rush hour holiday traffic, we made it just in time for Suzzy and Terry’s wedding rehearsal dinner. It was fun to reconnect with Sean’s NY friends who I hadn’t seen since December.

Cattails

The next morning, I did my long run in the neighborhood near our hotel in American Canyon. I found myself running along the American Canyon wetlands. After brunch, I too Sean back there to check it out before getting ready for the wedding in the afternoon.

Vineyards at Gundlach Bundschu Winery

We split a cab from Napa to Sonoma with some friends staying in the same hotel. Suzzy and Terry’s wedding was held at the Gundlach Bundschu Winery on the edge of the vineyards. It was a short and sweet ceremony where they both spoke about the importance of their families.

Sean in suit = swoon

Afterward, we cooled down with many glasses of white wine and snuck in to the cool cave between the vineyards and the patio where the reception was held.

Suzzy & Terry's first dance

Suzzy and Terry had a fun and low key wedding. We danced and drank more, took pictures in the photobooth and then boarded the shuttle to the after party bar/club. We got a ride back to our hotel with the same cabdriver. Taking a cab was definitely worth it.

Crissy Field... there were a lot more dogs around than you can see in this pic

The next morning, we checked out of the hotel and had a quick picnic lunch at a park. We drove to SF and decided to visit the Golden Gate Bridge since Sean had never been. We parked in the Marina and walked from Crissy Field to Fort Point and then on to the bridge. (Thanks to Alex for the idea.)

Golden Gate Bridge

As expected, it was cold, windy and crowded on the bridge, but worth the view. We left the Golden Gate Bridge and headed over to our hotel. We checked in and then took BART from Union Square to the Mission where we met up for burritos, a mini Mission mural tour and ice cream with Rio.

La guerrillera

As soon as we came out from the 24th Street BART station, I thought it would be nice to check out some of the Mission’s famous alley-filled murals. I didn’t even have to bring it up to Rio as he suggested it as a good way to walk off our dinner.

The "we're so hip and urban" faux engagement shoot

Sean and I took the opportunity to take some “hip and urban” pseudo engagement photos.

Rio is awesome. Can't you tell?

Rio and I tried to be serious.

Vanilla + sprinkles for Sean

We ended our evening in the Mission with some ice cream at Mitchell’s Ice Cream. It was delicious.

On Sunday, took BART in to Berkeley for lunch with our friend Mariam. I’ve been reading Mariam’s cooking/travel blog for a while, but never tried any of her delicious dishes. This time around, she offered to make lunch. We were too hungry to stop to take photos of any the food. Good thing Mariam has photos and recipes on her blog: sesame chicken, Chinese chicken salad, clams with black bean sauce, and spicy eggplant. We were stuffed, but we couldn’t turn down an offer for ice cream, Turkish delight, and Iranian tea. It was nice catching up with Mariam about travel and puppies.

We left Mariam’s apartment and took BART back to San Francisco. After picking up the car at the hotel, we made a quick trip to Nob Hill (Bob’s Donuts!) and then drove to SFO.

I wish we would have had a little more time to catch up with friends, but the weekend went by pretty fast. There’s always next time. We’ll be sure to bring warmer sweaters and coats.

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