Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Back from the Golden State

Hello, hello!

I just spent three weeks in my home state and despite it being my longest chunk of time, I took it at a more relaxed pace. Unfortunately, that meant skipping a trip up to San Francisco which I was hoping to do, but I guess there's never enough time!

Note to self: August is the most expensive month to buy a ticket home. I actually ended up choosing a flight that had an 8-hour layover in Seattle, which ended up being awesome. I totally want to go back and check out more of the city!

My friend, the Smart Engineer, took a few hours out of his busy weekday to pick me up and take me around. What a great friend, right? But you know what, he's an AWESOME friend because he took me to eat at this place called Skillet Diner (Shoutout to Erica, you must know about this place, right?):

I'm drooling as I post this

Can you imagine a more perfect "first meal in the USA": fried chicken, crispy bacon, pancakes and a side salad. I think the salad is meant to alleviate your guilt about everything else, but man, it was perfection!

University of Washington
He then took me around certain key sights, such as this pretty picture at the University of Washington.  Apparently, that fountain (above) is like, 40 feet deep!  

Where is Seattle Grace Hospital?
He also took me to see a great view of the city where I was hoping to catch a glimpse of McDreamy or McSteamy (I'll take either one). Don't know what I'm referencing to?  O_O!  That makes me sad and I'm not sure if we can be friends...

I'll have to come back again!

I continue with my journey to LAX where my cousin picked me up; the following couple days were filled with jet lag, food, and sunshine in Long Beach and Orange County:
The Doctor taking me to Bruxie
I admit, I ended up getting another fried chicken and waffle sandwich combo when she took me to Bruxie.  Dudes, it's awesome; the waffle is so light and perfectly crispy that I don't even want to peel off any of it (because seriously, sometimes there's just too much bread).

I also got to see my Aunt, who is a seriously amazing cook, and my Uncle who had an impressive crop of okra for me to admire:

Look at how perfectly brown that gyoza is!
My handmade gyoza, ready to be fried
My uncle's homegrown okra are massive
The grand plan of the first weekend was a "Cousins Weekend Extravaganza!" aka "Cousins Weekend Sh*tshow" filled with wholesome activities like: cooking, eating, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, playing with teh kittens, and attempts at making our own custom T-shirts. 

Here are a few snapshots from the weekend. I actually have tons more, but I left my SLR camera at Merin's (of course). I'll upload them probably never:

Mika's ridiculously delicious blueberry muffins


Monterey is seriously beautiful, though. The weather was not too hot and the ocean looked moody. If you're lucky, you can spot sea otters holding hands and cracking clams on the kelp beds!

Waves of grass
The moody ocean
Mika and Jon just chillin'
Oh wait, the kittens!  How could I forget, Adam and Heather have been caring and finding homes for a litter of new kittens:

Jeanine giving so much love

Of course, the bulk of our day consisted of cooking and eating. Because that's what we do best: 

Skewering bacon-wrapped shrimp
What's up?
By the way, how rad is Jeanine's T-shirt? It is actually the most annoying quote in the whole series, but it's still pretty awesome. 

And seriously, if you don't know what I'm referencing, we definitely can't be friends. 

The finished product
Preparing grilled corn
Molly found a new napping spot
The gang
I actually have a couple awesome group shots on my SLR but...yup, left behind in California...

Later that evening, we were trying to make some cool T-shirts (like Jeanine's GOT shirt), but of course I had a brain fart and eff'ed up:

These f*ckers even confirmed the spelling when I asked beforehand!  

Me: Wait, is it an "es" or an "os"?
Them: Uhm, what do you think?
Me: Es, no, os, yeah, os...right? 
Them: Uh, yeah...yeahhh...yes
Me: Ok, cool.
Me: ...FUUUUUU!!!!!!!!

Luckily, I'm effing clever:
Just kidding, I'm not clever, but it was either going to be "Los Angelost" or "Los Angeloser".

One of the things I was super excited about was the new exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  That place is awesome and is so creative in how they display their exhibits.  It's seriously a labor of love, that place, and I highly recommend if you're ever remotely nearby. 

Right now, they have a new exhibit called "Tentacles", which is about creatures like squid, octopus, cuttlefish, etc. It's so rare to see these guys in action, even when diving.  The exhibit is only around for a few years so go check it out!  Before this exhibit, they had a river otters one, which was super playful and fun. 

This octopus was in an 360 degrees aquarium so you could see it from all angles.
They didn't even seem real, just floating there!
Cuttlefish that changed colors
Me and Mika
Neon jellies!
Group shot
Before we left, we celebrated Merin's belated birthday with homemade tiramisu, so delish:

Happy Birthday, Mer!

I would say that the drive down Big Sur and PCH is one of the most beautiful. It definitely takes a few more hours than the 5, but makes for some great photo ops:

Driving down Big Sur
Me and Merin

Throughout the week I was able to catch up with some friends (and family, of course):

Cassie and I at Hermosa Beach
Look at those clouds!
Hermosa Beach
So puffy!
We also went paddle boarding in the Redondo Beach Marina, my first time!

Redondo Beach Marina

I really wish I could have taken some photos from our adventures in paddle boarding, it was really a highlight in my trip!

I spent a lot of time in Orange County soaking up the sun, padding boarding, hiking and generally enjoying the beach bum life:

Kristy and I with matching hats
Private beach in Laguna
BBQing some sweet peppers at the beach
A short sunset hike with Kristy
Of course we had a few drinks when the sun came down and managed to pull out a couple of my favorite people, including one of my favorite couples eva!
Shawn and Reggi
Thanks for coming out!
My makeup guru
Bobby and Kristy
But really, California is all about the outdoor activities. 

Oh, you mean me doing activities? No, I mean watching hot guys compete in a volleyball tournament!

I wear hats now
Sorry, I took a selfie
Manhattan Beach
A bit of dancing in the evening
Just kidding, I did do some activities, remember: paddle boarding!  And also a bit of hiking.  I've been wanting to do the Hollywood hike for a while now and finally got to go with another one of my favorite couples who are super into fitness (but I asked them to go easy on me):

You can baaarely see the Hollywood sign
It felt higher at the time!
We actually got stuck because we apparently took a trail that was not actually a trail!  I really don't understand how that happened because a lot of people must have beaten this non-trail down before us.

We ended up having to get down from this "cliff" (ok, not quite a cliff, but it felt like it) and I ended up sliding down on my side and knocking a guy hard enough where he (and I) started bleeding. 

After that misadventure, we checked out the Griffith Observatory where the skies were having a bit of a cloud party.

If you want to do this hike, I would suggest going early because parking got crazy. 

I was supposed to go to San Diego where I had all these grand plans of meeting up with friends I haven't seen in ages and go surfing, bar hopping, paddle boarding, hiking...

but then I got some sort of food poisoning and was rendered helpless. Ugh, awful.

Going fetal
Fortunately, the girls came to me once I recovered and we caught up over brunch (of course). 

Bloody Marys and a Mimosa
Before I knew it, my 3 weeks was almost over and I had to try and squeeze everything into 1 check-in and 1 carry-on (boo, Delta, 2 check-ins should be standard!).

Someone asked me, during this trip, "How do you do it?" (in regards to staying abroad for so long)

To be honest, it gets harder and harder to leave home each time. It's been 4 years now and I really miss my friends and family back home. I can only imagine that it will get harder once everyone starts having kids. 

Anyways, time for me to sign off. I'm not particularly pleased with the poor commentary/narrative but I am trying to be more consistent.  I still need to catch up with my trips to Kyushu and Korea! 

Until next time...! 
No makeup selfie (sorry, again)

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