Sunday, March 26, 2006

Congraduation Amy!

After five+ years of hard work, intense studying, and incredible dedication, our friend Amy has finally graduated from the Traditional Chinese Medicine program of Yo San University. And we couldn't be more proud of her.

Amy and co-graduate Sabrina pose with one of their instructors after the graduation ceremony. (03/26/06)

Having been friends with Amy since we began working together in 1994, I have seen Amy do — and succeed at — many careers. She's done everything from being a magazine editor, an advertising copywriter, a tai chi instructor, even a Tupperware party host.

Amy with four of her favorite men: Joe, James, Tim and Everett. (03/26/06)

But I can personally attest that never before have I seen Amy have such personal pride and joy in her work than she has had in practicing traditional Chinese medicine. She has found her calling. And we were happy to help celebrate at her graduation ceremony.

Tim and James pose with Amy's Aunt Cindy — who believe it or not is a regular reader of the James and Tim Blog. (03/26/06)

Congratulations Amy — we're proud of you!

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Amazing Birthday Race

All right. No more dilly dallying. It's time for my ass to simply sit down and finaly write about my unforgettable birthday party. The reason for the delay: there's so much to write about, I don't know where to start! In fact even sorting through the 220 pictures taken that day was challenging.

Let me first begin by saying that Tim really knocked himself out with this one. The theme: Amazing Race, Orange Edition.

The envelope containing our clues. (03/19/06)

Tim played the host, while the rest of us were divided into two teams: Team Maverick and Team Squishy. Team Maverick members included: James, Christine, Jon and Joe. Team Squishy members included: Everett, Tom and Amy. And with nothing nothing more than our IDs and a $20 bill in our pocket, we were off.

First leg: Go to Olde Towne Orange and park. Team Maverick is off to an early lead on this one.

Christine, of Team Maverick, takes a ride around the Orange traffic circle. (03/19/06)

Second leg: Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, where the team member with the best taste buds had to select a treat for James. Whichever one he bit into first wins the leg. Although Team Maverick made it inside the door first, Amy, of the sneaky Team Squishy, cut in line and asked for a free sample.

Amy, of Team Squishy, had the talented tastebuds needed to complete the second leg of the Amazing Race, Orange Edition. (03/19/06)

Third leg: The Orange Plaza fountain in the middle of the traffic circle. Our task was to take four pictures in front of the fountain. The most creative team wins that leg. Although Team Squishy arrived at the fountain first, Team Maverick got off to a better start on the unique photos thanks to Christine's creative art direction.

Can you figure out what James, Christine and Jon were doing in front of the Orange Plaza fountain? Neither can they. (03/19/06)

Fourth leg: Clue: "Only a princess would tolerate this when finding her prince." Answer: Frog's Breath Cheese Store, where team members had to buy something they think James will enjoy. Team Maverick selected a nice artichoke dip. Team Squishy selected a Mojito Rimmer. Team Squishy maintains their lead!

Amy, and some random couple at the cheese store, pose with the infamous mojito rimmer. (03/19/06)

Fifth Leg: DETOUR ... Write vs. Might.

Team Squishy chose Write, which required that they take an included birthday card around the Plaza and have 20 different people sign it. After stealing a pen from Frog's Breath, they were off, even heading into O'Hara's Pub to find people to sign the card — including the bartender.

Uh-oh ... hope this doesn't turn out like the last time Everett went to O'Hara's Pub. (03/19/06)

Team Maverick, running in second place, made the strategic choice to select Might as an opportunity to pull ahead of Team Squishy. This task required that the teams (1) Form a three-person pyramid in front of Orange City Hall, (2) Take a self portrait at the Metrolink station, (3) Take pictures inside the men's and women's restroom at Rutabegorz restaurant. As it turned out, Might took a LOT longer. Looks like a Team Squishy victory is unavoidable.

Ask for a human pyramid in front of Orange City Hall, and you get a human pyramid in front of Orange City Hall! (03/19/06)

Sixth leg: Leave the Circle and head to The Block at Orange. The clue was "We all lost this years ago". Answer: Virgin Megastore. Once inside, team members had to buy something that screams "James." Team Maverick's Joe selected a guitar chord chart. Team Squishy selected a dirty magazine. Team Squishy wins the leg! :)

James holds up his nifty Guitar Chords poster at Virgin Megastore. (03/19/06)

Seventh leg: Go to Hilo Hattie: The Store of Hawaii, and shop for something for James. Best selection wins the leg. Team Maverick selected paper umbrellas for drinks, while Team Squishy selected li hing mui preserved plums, which were one of the worst things I've ever tasted. Team Maverick wins this leg by a mile.

Christine and Hawaiian Hello Kitty smile at Hilo Hatties. (03/19/06)

Eighth leg: Lights, Camera Action. Atop the AMC movie theater are celebrity photos. Take one picture of each team member posing like the celebrities. This went went to Team Squishy if only for Amy and Tom's recreation of the Gone With the Wind kiss.

Not exactly Scarlett and Rhett, but kudos for trying. (03/19/06)

Final leg: The clue card said "It's the drink you can chew." The answer: boba drinks. With the money we had left over, we were to treat ourselves to boba drinks from James' favorite place to eat before heading back to the pitstop. Team Squishy made it there before we did, even picking up a boba drink for Tim. Unfortunately for them, Team Maverick's mango-flavor boba drink for Tim went further in scoring bonus points than the greenbean boba Team Squishy selected for him.

Rocky, at Tan Hoang Huong Vietnamese restaurant, serves up some mighty mean Boba drinks. (03/19/06)

First team to arrive at the pitstop (James & Tim's house) was Team Squishy, who were victorious over the hard-working but not cut-throat-enough Team Maverick.

A very tired Team Squishy is the first to arrive at the pitstop. Congratulations Squishies! (03/19/06)

While all that was going on, Tim prepared a fabulous turkey dinner with all the amenities — stuffing, potatoes, vegetables, biscuits and a nice selection of wines. The night was concluded with birthday presents and a fantastic cake with rasberry filling and cream cheese frosting.

Although only one team can win the Amazing Race, Orange Edition, I have to admit, Team Maverick did themselves proud. Way to go guys. (03/19/06)

Thanks again Tim for planning such a fantabulous event. It was a birthday I'll never forget!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

New Fridge

In the past couple of months, we began noticing some problems with our refrigerator. A couple of times it leaked water. And there always seemed to be a constant layer of ice in the freezer, no matter how many times we chipped it out. Finally, we started noticing that it was running a lot. And loudly. That made it official. It was time for a new one.

We can't complain. The old one — which Tim had before I was in the picture — provided more than 15 years of service, which isn't bad.

Before. (03/18/06)

Besides, it finally gives us an opportunity to get that brushed-nickel, French door fridge that we've been eyeing for the past couple of years. It cost us some nice scratch, but let's just say thank God for tax refunds! :)

After. (03/18/06)

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Nine Years Later ... Quidam

We finally got to see Cirque du Soleil's Quidam — an event nearly nine years in the making! Here's the story. On my birthday in 1997 (just two months after we met), Tim bought two tickets for us to see Quidam together at the Santa Monica Pier (how sweet was that?) ;)

It was the perfect gift, since he knew I was a Cirque du Soleil nut. The only problem was that he unknowingly purchased the tickets on a night when I was scheduled to be on the East Coast for a trade show my employer-at-the-time was sponsoring. Although we managed to find someone to buy the tickets from us, we never re-purchased tickets for a later date.

Fade out. Fade in. It's nine years later, and Quidam has made its way back to Southern California after a world tour. This time I wasn't about to miss it.

Thanks to my cheesy camera phone, you can barely see the Cirque du Soleil tent on the left, with the LBC as the backdrop. (03/12/06)

This time it was in Long Beach, which is actually more convenient for us than Santa Monica. And man oh man, was it worth the wait!

Cirque du Soleil was right next to the Queen Mary, shown here in a picture with my camera phone. (03/12/06)

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Friends, Food and Fun

Our friends Christine, Cassidy and Jean were in town from San Diego, spending the weekend with Eric and Dana. Just to avoid confusion, let me clarify that Eric and Christine are brother and sister and that Jean is their Mom. These were the folks with whom we went on that cruise to Alaska in July 2004 (along with fellow blogger Laura B and a couple of others). Since they were all so nearby, we decided to meet up for dinner and have a mini Alaskan cruise reunion.

Our pals Dana & Eric. (03/11/06)

The location was Table Ten in downtown Fullerton, which is a nice little restaurant district. We were glad to see everyone, especially Jean, who has been battling cancer. In fact when we saw her last August, she was undergoing chemotherapy. Thankfully the treatments have appeared to work, and the doctor says everything is looking good, bless her heart.

And our pals Cassidy & Christine. (03/11/06)

They are really fun to get together with. There is always lots of lewd humor (and lots of laughs). As expected, we had a great time.

And then there's Eric & Christine's hilarious Mom, Jean (hamming it up for the camera). (03/11/06)

Four Thumbs Up for Porto's

We went to a great place for lunch in Burbank. We were up that way for our tax appointment and decided to have lunch with our pals Tommy and Christine afterward. They selected a new place that just opened up near them: Porto's Bakery.

This is Porto's. We forgot the real camera that day, so you'll have to settle for a cell phone pic. (3/11/06)

Porto's Bakery is a family-owned and operated Cuban bakery and cafe that has served Glendale and its surrounding communities for over 35 years (yet in that entire time, I had never been there before, even when I lived in Burbank years back). The Burbank store is their first ever expansion to a second location. And by the looks of the crowds inside, it appears to be a hit.

The place is crazy busy. It was almost like being in the first McDonald's in Moscow, or the first KFC in Beijing. Seriously. It was nuts!

But the food was worth it all. The pastelitos (Cuban meat pies) were incredible, and paved the way nicely for my Pan con Lechon, oven-roasted pork with Spanish-style mojo (garlic dressing) on Cuban bread. The plantain chips and dulce de leche latte complemented the meal nicely.

And then there was dessert: Selected Cuban pastries. Yum. We'll definitely be going back there.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

One Hella Crunk Oscar Party

Sunday was Tom and Christine's Annual Academy Awards Party — a long-standing tradition since crowding around Tom's tiny TV in our San Francisco State University dorm room back in 1990. In fact, in its 16-year history, we've had a nearly-perfect attendance record. The only time we missed it was five or six years ago, when the awards ceremony coincided with the same weekend Tim had surgery.

We sampled some great nominee-themed food this year. (03/05/2006)
We sampled some great nominee-themed food this year. (03/05/2006)

Personally, I thought the awards program was kind of a snoozer this year (albeit, with some interesting highlights, like Dolly Parton going head-to-head with Three 6 Mafia for Best Song). But the party itself was off the hook!

We had all sorts of yummy treats. (03/05/2006)
We had all sorts of yummy treats. (03/05/2006)

And let's not forget all the good food, which was da bomb. As always, each food item represented one of the nominated films, including:

  • For Munich, MUNCH bars and a blood-strewn, bullet-marked sour-cream chocolate cake with cream-cheese frosting and marzapan Olympic rings (thank Christine for that item).

My favorite item was the
My favorite item was the "blood" stained Olympic cake representing Best Picture nominee "Munich." (03/05/2006)

  • For Crash, a tray of cross-ethnic food representing L.A. culture, including taquitos, egg rolls, pita & hummus, and barbecue potato chips.

  • For Brokeback Mountain, James' Brokeback Baked Beans and Tim's Sausage and Weenie Medley (and for dessert, a few Heath bars for good measure).

  • For King Kong, Monkey Bread, an amazingly addictive buttery cinnamon concoction that simply melted in your mouth (courtesy of Laura and her friend Eva).

    Matt going for thirds. (03/05/2006)
    Matt going for thirds. (03/05/2006)

  • For the red scare-era Good Night, Good Luck, pinko punch, red zingers and red hots.

  • For documentary winner March of the Penguins, iceberg-lettuce salad wedges with dressing.

  • For documentary nominee Murderball, a Murder Cheese Ball with Crackers.

Tim and Eva won for having the least correct predictions. (03/05/2006)
Tim and Eva won for having the least correct predictions. (03/05/2006)

Saturday, March 04, 2006

James' Shabu Shabu Birthday

Yep, I'm another year older now. 37 to be exact. To celebrate James' birthday season, which runs from today until the 19th when my official party takes place, Tim took me to breakfast at Coco's. Then after some shopping, our friends Everett and Joe joined us for a trip to the movies where we saw Transamerica.

James and Tim get ready to dive into their shabu shabu meal. (03/04/06)

Afterward, the four of us went to The Block at Orange where we had dinner at Koji's Sushi and Shabu Shabu. It was our first time having Shabu Shabu, which is where they bring you veggies, raw noodles and raw meat that you cook yourself in your own personal pot of boiling water. It's definitely an experience, although be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to eat, since it takes considerably longer than a regular meal.

I got the around the world combo, which had (clockwise from top) sushi-grade salmon, chicken breast, shrimp and beef. (03/04/06)

In addition to the shabu shabu meal, we also got a couple of sushi rolls, including our favorite: soft shell crab. Delish!

I may be old, but I really don't think I'm AARP material. (03/06)

On a side note, I do find it a little ironic that on my actual birthday, I receive a letter letting me know that I am eligible to become a member of the AARP. Oy vey!

Diamond is Forever

Last night our friend Jon and I went to House of Blues in Anaheim to see Super Diamond, which is, like, the best Neil Diamond tribute band ever. I had seen them a few times in the mid '90s, and just as it was then, Super Diamond didn't disappoint.

House of Blues, Anaheim. (02/2006)
House of Blues, Anaheim. (02/2006)

They covered many of my favorites (Girl You'll Be a Woman Soon, I Am I Said, Love on the Rocks, America), some of my not-so-favorites (Red Red Wine, Forever in Blue Jeans), Neil Diamond classics (Cracklin' Rosie, Sweet Caroline, Cherry Cherry, Shilo, Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show, etc.). In fact, there were only a couple of Neil Diamond hits that I could think of that they didn't sing (Solitary Man, I'm a Believer, Brooklyn Roads, etc.)

If you ever get a chance to check out Super Diamond, do.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Everett Turns 36!

We were invited to a small birthday party in honor of our friend Everett's 36th birthday. The location was Rutabegorz in Tustin. It's actually one of our favorite restaurants — their Curry Chicken Wrap and Garlic Chicken Salad are amazing.

Everett shows off his trademark grin at his birthday dinner. (03/02/06)

Ruta's is located in a historic building that was constructed in 1914 by the son of Columbus Tustin, the town's founder. It's one of the oldest buildings in town, and first served as a general store. It has since been home to many various businesses, including a classroom for local school kids during the Great Depression. It was placed on the Register of National Historic Places in 1994.

Celebrating Everett's birthday at Rutabegorz in Tustin. (03/02/06)

We had a great time there, and then headed back to Everett's house for presents and cake.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Nando & Erica in Town

My cousin Fernando and his wife Erica from Las Vegas were in town spendng a few days in Santa Monica. So we met up with them for dinner at Tim's favorite English restaurant, Ye Olde King's Head Tavern at 116 Santa Monica Blvd. It's a great place where you can get such delights as shepherd's pie, toad in a hole, brum fish cakes, and the best fish and chips in town. Plus they have alcoholic ciders on tap (my personal favorite is a "Snakebite" which is half beer, half cider).

Fernando and Erica stop for a photo at Santa Monica's 3rd Street Promenade. (03/01/06)

I was glad to hear from Fernando and Erica. It's been a few years. In fact, each of us had lost each other's contact info. But Nando and Erica were in Chicago recently to visit family, and he got my phone number from his grandmother (who is my mom's sister). We had a great time catching up with them.