Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Post Vacation Transition

Mike and I both returned home from our respective vacations on Saturday evening. Alex went right from the airport to a friend's party and then got picked up by his Dad for a few days vacation in Pittsburgh. Even though we were tired, we wanted to get the most out of the vacation time we had left, so Mike and I went for a late dinner at the Standard Tap. After dinner, we walked next door to North Bowl to meet up with friends in honor of Joe's 30th birthday. Joe definitely had a blast on his birthday and we're glad we got to celebrate with him.

On Sunday morning after a tasty brunch at the South Philly Tap Room (best grilled cheese ever!), we drove down to Milburn Orchards in Elkton, Maryland to pick some cherries. At first, we were discouraged by trees with lots of old and moldy cherries, but eventually we found some good trees and ended up with a haul of nearly 6 pounds of white and black cherries. We finished off the weekend by meeting the other members of our dinner club at Harmony Vegetarian Restaurant for some tasty vegan dim sum. It was nice to see friends and prolong our vacation just a little bit longer before going back to work on Monday.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Disney Vacation Round-up

Since my last post, our family vacation to Disney World has ended, but I wanted to share some of the highlights. After a fun day at Epcot on Monday, the whole family went to Blizzard Beach, a ski-themed water park, on Tuesday. We all enjoyed the relief from the heat. Most of us rode Summit Plummet, the second tallest and fastest free fall slide in the world and clocked in between 50 and 60 mph!

Kristen and Steve had to leave on Wednesday afternoon, so while they did a little outlet shopping with Mom, Dad, and Kelly, Joey and I took the boys to the Magic Kingdom. I must say this was the worst part of our trip. It was SO crowded that even the outdated boring attractions had 45 minute waits. A big disappointment was that Space Mountain is closed for renovations. However, we got our Fast Passes for Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and enjoyed those rides, along with the Buzz Lightyear ride, the Monsters Inc comedy show and the Haunted Mansion. By about 3pm we were done, and enjoyed the rest of the day at the pool. That evening, the boys went to see Transformers, and Mom, Kelly and I hung out at Downtown Disney, did some dancing and ate some amazing Ghiradelli sundaes.

I drove Joey to the airport early Thursday morning and then Kelly, Andrew, Alex and I headed to Animal Kingdom bright and early. We got to ride the newest roller coaster, Expedition Everest, several times and also did the River ride, safari, and the Bugs Life 3D show. By the late afternoon, we had covered all we wanted to see, so we headed back over to Blizzard Beach to cool off.

Friday was our last day at Disney and we started the day auditioning for the American Idol Experience at Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM). Alex and I didn't make the show, but we had lots of fun watching the other contestants. We had a full day at Hollywood Studios with multiple rides on the Rock N' Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror, some shows, and lunch and arcade games at Pizza Planet. We ended the day watching the finale of the American Idol Experience with the 7 winners of the shows throughout the day and then went home to get our last bit of swimming in before leaving on Saturday.

We had a really fun time with the whole family in Disney World and it was especially fun to catch up with our old friend, Andrew. We've already begun discussions on the next family trip!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Kim's Vacation So Far

Since Mike posted about his trip, I felt that I should add a little something about my vacation. On Saturday morning, I headed to Minneapolis for the wedding of my good friend from grad school, Melissa. The wedding wasn't until 4pm so I had some time to hang out at the hotel with some other Chicago friends, Gina, Eric and their almost 3 year old daughter, Nora. I thought Nora might be shy around me, but she was totally friendly and playful even though she hadn't seen me for a year!

The wedding was beautiful and I was so glad to be there to wish the best to Melissa, Phil and their daughter, Delaney. It was great to catch up with several old friends from Chicago. We danced the night away at the reception to a really fun live band. I took lots of pictures which you can check out on Facebook.

On Sunday morning, I got up early and headed back to the airport and caught a flight to Philly where I hung out at the airport for a couple hours, met up with Alex and then boarded another flight to Orlando for our family trip to Disney World! Alex's friend from Aurora, Andrew, joined us and we just hung out at the house Sunday evening, swimming and catching up.

For our first day at Disney, we went to Epcot and hit all the major attractions. I think our favorite was Soaring, which is a pretty amazing flight simulator. Though a definite hi
ghlight was our stop to fake Germany in the World Showcase for some brats, pretzels and beers. We're having a great (though hot) time so far in Florida and looking forward to a fun week with the family. More soon!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

First Day of Vacation!

Today is Kim and My first day of vacation. I dropped Kim off at the Airport this morning at around 5 am, and then directly from Philly International, drove to outside DC in Alexandria, Va to pick up Kenny for our trip to the Great Smoky Mountains. I got to his house before 8 and I drove southwest towards Tennessee. We stopped once in Lexington, Va, home of the Virginia Military Institute to grab lunch. The town was very nice once we got to it, but the school looked like a prison, every building had the same rectangular architecture and beige stucco exteriors.

After a few hours, we stopped to get gas (I'd averaged 29 mpg up to that point!) and Kenny took over driving duties as I napped. Finally, after a couple breaks, we made it to our Interstate exit by 4:30, and took the opportunity to check out Bass Pro Shops' Outdoor World, which was an enormous outfitter right at the base of the Smokies. I bought some more fishing supplies I didn't need and ended up buying a 3-day trout fishing permit ($33.50), which I found out wasn't required since you don't need a trout permit to catch trout in the National Park, just the regular permit ($16.50) so I ended up giving the State of Tennessee an extra $17! I'd better catch some fish now.

We had some of the Smoky's best BBQ, Bennett's Pit Bar-B-Que, for dinner, which honestly wasn't better than BBQ that I make. Kenny had the great idea of making a little man out of the left-over bones from the ribs I had from dinner. I think that we did a pretty good job, but you can be the judge:We turned in early to get plenty of rest for a full day of fishing and hiking in the morning.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Bat in the House

Today, I was scared more than I had been in a very long time when a bat surprised me in my basement while I was doing laundry. I was downstairs watching TV and doing the wash when a big black blur came flying down the staircase and into my basement. At first, I thought it was a pigeon by its sheer size, but the erratic flying and silent flapping informed me otherwise. When I saw the bat, I immediately thought of the Office episode where Dwight traps a bat in a trash bag over Meredith's head. However, I did not have ready access to a trash bag so I picked up the next best thing--a throw blanket!

After trying to chase it around, I saw a laundry basket on the floor and picked that up instead to try to corral the flying rodent. As the bat flutter around, I managed to shriek a couple times and stumble onto my butt before I managed to knock the bat from the air and hit it with the basket. It fell to the floor and I threw the basket over it. I didn't see the bat move after it hit the ground, so I think I dealt it a lethal blow with my expert basket swinging. I grabbed a pair of leather gloves from my utility room, picked up the dead bat and put it in the trash I was taking out for pick up tomorrow.

A flying bat turned an otherwise quiet night of laundry into a scene from a horror movie, but luckily I triumphed in the end, although now I feel bad about killing a bat that probably wanted out of the house more than I did. I had thought about taking a picture of the bat for the blog, but I thought better of it, plus I wouldn't want a permanent visual reminder of a flying rodent in the house I am trying to sleep in tonight.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Inaugural Game Night

For the past several months, Kim and I had a standing date on Wednesday to get together at her house for dinner and Lost. Megan, Ihab, Joey, and some of our other friends would frequently come to watch Lost with us. But now that there are not anymore Lost episodes, we thought it would be fun to still get together for dinner and games.

This time we thought it would be good to make Mexican food since it is cheap, delicious, and can be quickly made after work. We made rice, bean, bell peppers, guacamole, spiced ground beef, grilled chorizo, and the normal condiments. Aileen brought a tasty green salad from produce she got from her Co-op. To drink, I used fresh strawberries we picked on Sunday to make Strawberry-Lime Margaritas. Megan brought Choco-Tacos to finish the Mexican theme with dessert.

After a very satisfying dinner, we settled on playing Taboo. Ihab had never played this game before, but did pretty well save for one round where Kim buzzed him 4 times and he netted a total of -3 points. I hadn't played Taboo before either but it was fun and definitely something I would play again. At some point during the game, Kim got the clue word "Hostage" and with Ihab watching her, she gave hints such as "a Muslim would do this," and other words that Ihab took offense to!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Jenny Lewis at The Trocadero

Earlier tonight, Kim and I went to see Jenny Lewis and her traveling band at the Trocadero Theatre in Chinatown on 10th and Arch Sts. I tried to bring my new camera, the Nikon D90 into the event, but the security guards told me that any camera with a detachable lens is considered a professional camera and thus I would need a photo-pass. So unfortunately, like the Bonnie Prince Billy show, I had to drop the camera off in the car. I need to find out how to get credentials so I can bring my camera into shows.

However, being camera-less did not detract from a great show by Jenny and her band. We arrived at the show a little late because of a great dinner of ziti, meatballs, and strawberry pie we had at home with Joey, but we still managed to get seats upstairs where we could see the stage and hear perfectly. Kim and I both heard every song we wanted to hear from Jenny's albums, as well as a great rendition of "Silver Lining" from her main band, Rilo Kiley's, last album, Under the Blacklight. We also enjoyed the new songs Jenny performed, which we both felt were more in-line with early RK album's energetic and catchy pop rather than the bluesy alt-country of Rabbit Fur Coat.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable show and I will definitely want to see Jenny Lewis/Rilo Kiley again next time they are in Philly.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Stuff Mike and Kim (and Chinese People) Like: #4 Pick-Your-Own Fruit

Today, Kim and I took advantage of great weather to pick strawberries at Linvilla Orchards in Media, Pa. The 30 minute drive out to the country was nice and the orchard was very easy to find, just off of US 1 on Knowlton Road. We parked by the farm stand were treated to a hayride to the picking field about a mile away. Since early June is the peak of strawberry ripeness here in the Mid-Atlantic, we were expecting the cream of the crop and we were not disappointed. From my extensive strawberry picking experience as a child, I knew that the best ones would be far away from where people first arrive. We ended up picking about 10 pounds of strawberries for a cost of about $25.

Driving home with a tray full of strawberries, we had time to think about what to do with them all. In the end, we decided to eat some fresh, use some for strawberry margaritas, and make a fresh strawberry pie.

When we were children, my mother would often take us to pick fruit on the weekends, especially on Sundays after church and before Chinese school. I have many vivid and happy experiences from these occaisions. There is even video from when I first learned to talk, where my entire family picked about 100 pounds of black cherries.

I don't know why it is that Asian people like picking fresh fruit, I even talked about this with our co-worker Lili on Friday. I think the general consensus is that Asian people often come from places where many fresh fruits aren't always readily available, as is the case with my parents in Taiwan. And also, temperate climate fruits like cherries, strawberries, and apples are often very rare and expensive, so luxury associated with them.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Casual Viking, Chimeras, Cold Cave, and Love is All at Kung Fu Necktie, 6-3-09

Last Night, I met up with Aileen and Erme to see the R5 Production show, Love is All at Kung Fu Necktie, a new bar in the Northern Liberties that hosts really intimate concerts. KFN is very convenient by public transportation--is just one block north from the Girard Street Stop on the Market-Frankford line, but I decided to drive since the show was likely to run long. The bar is a converted rowhouse with the first floor containing the bar and booth seating in the front, and the stage for the bands in the backroom. Upstairs they have an art gallery as well as staging for the performers.

We got there at 9pm and had a beer, while the first opening band, Casual Viking, was playing their set. We weren't really paying attention, but they played non-irritating background music for us to talk over. After the Viking's set, we walked up to the stage to see the next band, the Chimeras. The Chimeras were surprisingly good; a quartet which features Joe Cocker-like performance from the lead singer and guitarist, Walkmen-esque jangly guitars, and crooning reminescent of Dylan. They were so good they trigger an infectious bout of raised fist pumping. The next band, Cold Cave, was pretty cold and empty. From the time they took the stage until the finished, half of the crowd that stood by the stage had left to have drinks at the bar. We didn't know if Erme would make it through the show since she had to get up very early that morning, but Cold Cave was not good enough to end our night with.

We eagerly awaited Love is All through 3 opening bands and where utterly shocked when they took the stage because just minutes earlier the sax player, who was wearing a vintage Eagles tee, was standing directly in front of us with a drink watching the previous band. The lead singer, Josephine was hanging out in the front of the bar selling merch, and several other band members were just chilling around the bar before their performance.

Love is all put on a great show though. They play this high energy, dance-pop, that I would describe as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or Grand Ole Party on Swedish methamphetamines. My favorite song was one about the guitar players flat that started with the line, "There's dust in every corner..." which drew laughs from Aileen, Erme, and me. The band was just fun and the audience, even the too-cool hipsters were dancing and jumping around.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Hundred Push Ups Training Program

So one of my New Year's Resolutions was to be better about working out. And though it took a little time, by this spring I'd really figured out a good routine. I think one of my biggest problems was finding the time to actually go to the gym so I've started working out at home. Mainly, I'm using videos by Jillian Michaels that totally kick butt. But sometimes I get bored with the same workouts and one night while searching for some alternatives, I came across the Hundred Push Ups Training Program. Basically, it's a 6 week program where you do increasing sets of push ups 3 days a week and by the end you're supposed to be able to do 100 consecutive push ups. Now, this was really appealing to me because as I started doing Jillian's workouts, I realized that am pathetic at push ups and one of my goals has been to increase my upper body strength.

The first part of the program is to perform a test to see how many push ups you can do at the start. I did this with Kelly and Mom while we were in Richmond for Memorial Day. I did 14 modified (on my knees) and Kelly did 14 regular push ups (yes, she's more hard core than me!). Mom was having some trouble with form and gave up on the challenge right there during the initial test. But Kelly and I have moved on and once I told Mike, he joined in too. I mentioned it at work and inspired one of my co-workers to start doing push ups in the lab! So, if anyone else is inspired, check out the site and join us!

I'm not sure that I'll ever be able to do 100 consecutive push ups but I'm going to give it my all. Look for an update in July to see if we did it!