Sunday, January 24, 2010


I've always been bewildered by the idea of a cruise - fascinated about how a boat could encompass so much - restaurants, casinos, pools, spas, theaters, miniature golf, hundreds of rooms to house thousands of people. I just couldn't wrap my brain around it. Well, last weekend my wonder became a reality as I embarked on my first cruise.

After a 5am wake-up call and four hours of sleep (good thing we stopped at Coffee Bean on the drive down), we arrived in Long Beach for our cruise to beautiful, tropical Mexico. Oh wait, we were only going to Ensenada, so replace beautiful and tropical with ugly and booze saturated. Nonetheless, we were all excited for our adventure!

Everyone except Josh. Ready to board our ship.

Welcome to Carnival's Paradise

We encountered a few mishaps prior to actually being able to board the ship - such as me and Ray not being on the master list of people for the cruise. So, we were held behind as the rest continued on through security. After a short wait, they found us in the computer, and we were able to continue onward. However, as soon as we caught up with our friends, we were once again at a standstill. One of our friends (I won't mention names) was flying down from Seattle and meeting us on the cruise, so he had us carry on a backpack for him. Well, he didn't mention to us that he would also be carrying a knife in that backpack. Let's just say security won that one, and Kari (what a good friend) had to take the knife back to the car, and then go back through the entire security process. But, eventually we all made it onto the boat!

Our dungeon...I mean, room...

We boarded the ship on Friday late afternoon in Long Beach and woke up in Ensenada on Saturday morning. Everyone but Jess and I rented dune buggies and spent the morning exploring Ensenada in such fashion. Jess and I chose to wander around downtown Ensenada instead. After being jipped into paying $2 to take a shuttle a whole two blocks, we arrived in downtown Ensenada. We lasted about 30 minutes before we realized we had seen it all. There are only so many shops you can wander into before you realize that they are all selling the exact same cheap jewelry. So we walked back to the ship and spent the rest of the morning lying on lounge chairs eating soft serve ice cream. We later met up with everyone else for lunch in downtown Ensenada. Let me just say, it can get crazy down there.

Hello Mexico

Those palm trees are about as tropical as it got...

Mango Mango - where we had lunch on Saturday

Authentic Mexican Food

Prior to going on one, I had heard two main things about cruises: the rooms are really small and you will eat a lot of food. Both turned out to be true. While I won't say that it was the most amazing food I have ever had, I will say that the dinners were probably my favorite part of the cruise. We dressed up every night (us girls, excitedly...the boys, begrudgingly) and feasted like royalty! Um, can I just say how much I loved the fact that you could order whatever you wanted on the menu. For free. Well, I guess I paid for my food when I paid for the cruise, but there's something about not paying when you are actually eating. And for an indecisive person like me, the ordering process is perfect. Oh, so that Mahi Mahi looks good on the menu...but that steak also sounds delicious. Hmm...don't know which one to choose. Oh wait, I don't have to pick because I can just order BOTH entrees. Amazing. Yes, same process works for appetizers and dessert. I definitely loved being able to double dip at dinner. The first night I had Mahi Mahi and this pumpkin pot pie (it had some fancier name). Second night was lobster and shrimp (with some spectacular mashed potatoes - I may have overreacted when I had my first bite of them). Third night was a crusted veal and a seafood pasta. And let's not forget to mention the chocolate melting cake that we all indulged in every night. Here are some pictures from dinner each night.

Dinner - First Night

Dinner Night Two - Formal Night

Last night's dinner

Apart from the food, the other great part about dinner is the servers. You have the same two servers every night, so you totally build a relationship with them. They know your name after asking you your beverage choice the first night. Plus, they dance for you every night, which I must say was quite entertaining. So, meet Nelo from the Philippines and Gregery from Romania - they totally completed my dining experience on the Paradise cruise ship. (To see their dance from the last night, click here)

Dancing on the first night

Sunday, our last day on the ship, was spent at sea and was all-together relaxing. We spent the morning reading on lounge chairs on the deck of the boat. Unfortunately, there was no sun to tan us. We also soaked in the spa and just hung-out (oh, and ate...of course). It was a great day spent with friends.

All in all, the cruise was a great time. I'm so glad I went. However, I don't know how much of a 'cruise person' I am, and I'm not dying to go on another one anytime soon. Maybe if the weather was warmer or the destination was nicer, I might say differently. But, while I loved going with my friends and had so much fun with them, I wasn't that into the entertainment the ship provided. I like having more freedom to do whatever I want and go wherever I want and being on a boat limits that to an extent. But now I know...and my questions about how they cram so much onto one ship are finally answered!

Oh, and I just bought my plane ticket to Austin - will check that one off my list on June 4th - 6th!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Wine Country: Check

While I am no expert connoisseur, I do enjoy a good glass of wine. Up until this past weekend, I had been wine tasting three times. The first was in college for my 22nd birthday when a bunch of my college friends rented a limo for the day and went wine tasting in Paso Rablos. Here is a picture from my first wine tasting experience.

next wine tasting adventure was in October of 2008 in good 'ol Lodi (yes!) Every Fall they have what they call School Street Stroll, where all the local wineries set up booths in the stores in downtown Lodi. It's such a blast and a fun, different way to wine taste.

Trav, me, Steph, Jeff

And lastly, I went wine tasting for my 25th birthday last February. I had originally wanted to go to Napa for my 25th birthday, but opted for the local wineries of Livermore since it is closer and would be easier for more of my friends to come. It was such a fun (and beautiful) day, and I definitely want to do it again!

At White Crane, my favorite (thus far) in Livermore

However, I have always wanted to wine taste in Napa (or wine country), so when my friend Kristina planned this for her 26th birthday, I was so excited. A group of 13 of us went to three different wineries. Our first stop was Matanzas Creek. The grounds are beautiful, as it is tucked back in the hills. I want to go back in June when their lavender fields are in full bloom - we saw pictures and it is breathtaking! One of Kristina's friends has an uncle who works here, so he gave us a tour and then set up a lunch for us in this darling barn at the winery. So fun. Favorite wine pick: 2006 Cabernet. Here are some pics from Matanzas Creek.

The group for the day

Everyone needs a goofy picture

Homemade soups, bread, and brie for us in the barn

The second winery we went to was J. Keverson. The ambiance here was great, and it definitely had more of a rustic feel. They were so friendly here and even had a mural on the wall where you could paint your own picture. Stinee definitely took them up on this offer (see pictures below). I usually prefer reds, but their 2007 and 2008 Chardonnay were awesome - if you like Rombaur's Chardonnay, they picked their grapes from the same place for the 2008 Chardonnay. Below are pictures from J. Keverson.

Me and the birthday girl

Friends since middle school (some of us longer)

Stinee's finished product

Our last stop was Trione. Trione has only been open for a year, and it is really nice. I mean, really nice. We didn't get to spend too much time here because we were running behind schedule, but they definitely treated us like royalty during our short stay with them. They set us all up at this huge dining table, and it was totally an 'intimate' wine tasting experience. Again, I would love to come back here in the summer when the weather is nice and sit out on their nice back deck. My favorite pick was their 2006 Cabernet (which probably explains why it is a $75 dollar bottle of wine - Tim learned that the hard way). Below are some pictures from Trione.

The entrance

The table they set us up at - it was awesome!

All in all, it was a great day with old friends. I'm so thankful for these friendships. And, we're currently in the process of planning our trip to Austin this June - that'll be another one to check off the list!

Friday, January 1, 2010

30 Things Before 30

About two months ago I was inspired to create a list of 30 things I wanted to do before I turned 30. It all came about one Saturday afternoon while my friend Jess and I were having lunch. (May I also note how much I love the fact that she is the one who inspired my list - so appropriate!) She was telling me about a conversation she had recently had with our friend Joe. Jess' 29th birthday was approaching, and Joe had mentioned to her how she should make a "30 Things Before 30" list. As Jess was telling me this, all I could think about was how I wanted to create such a list. I instantly became consumed with the idea. For the rest of that day, I couldn't stop brainstorming ideas for my list.

There are many reasons why I think I became so excited about this potential 'project.' First, I've found myself stuck somewhat in a routine over the last year. Now that I'm in my third year of teaching, things have 'settled' down for me somewhat over the past year as I've adjusted to my new career. I love how things are more stable for me now (and I'm sure those that have journeyed with me the last three years are even more thankful for this - love you all), and so I'm finding myself craving more adventure to 'mix' things up in my life. Secondly, I think it's easy to put boundaries around our life and to imagine that our life might look a certain way at a certain age or point in time. I know that for myself, I had certain expectations about what my life might look like when I was 30. True, I still have four more years until I turn 30 and a lot can happen in four years, but I don't want to live life holding onto an expectation. I've learned to let go of what I've imagined my life might look like and start embracing other possibilities. So, why not start that process?! Thirdly, I love doing fun things AND checking things off lists! With four years to go until I turn 30 (I don't turn 30 until February 7, 2014), I have a serious chance at checking 30 things off my 'wish list' of things to do!

With that, I've spent the last two months brainstorming, researching, talking with friends, and creating my list of '30 Things to do Before 30.' This list has gone through many drafts and revisions, but I think I am fairly confident that this is the final product. Since it is my list, I have given myself permission to edit this list over the next four years - I might discover something else I really want to do, or I might lose interest in something that is already on the list. Nonetheless, over the next four years, I am adamant on doing 30 things that I have never done before!

So, without further-ado, I present to you my '30 Things Before 30' list: (Yes, it is categorized - would you expect anything less from me?)

1. Austin (completed June 4-6, 2010)
2. Boston
3. Thanksgiving in New York
4. Greece
5. Africa
6. Cruise (completed January 2010)

California Tourism
7. Alcatraz
8. Wine tasting in Wine Country (completed January 9, 2010)
9. Monterey Bay Aquarium (completed April 7, 2010)
10. Hearst Castle (completed August 8, 2010)
11. Lighthouses of California (from San Francisco to Santa Barbara)

12. Skydive
13. Hike Half Dome (completed June 17, 2010)
14. Run a half marathon (completed October 3, 2010)
15. Triathlon
16. White Water Raft
17. Hot Air Balloon
18. Ski in another state

19. Read 5 Classics
20. Read The Chronicles of Narnia
21. Listen to all of Mark Driscoll's archived podcasts
22. Memorize a chapter of the Bible
23. Take a Bible class

24. Sharks Game (completed November 20, 2010)
25. 5 concerts of my favorite bands
26. Live orchestra/symphony
27. Circus

Personal Development
28. Cooking/Baking Class
29. Learn to sew
30. Start a blog (completed January 1, 2010)

With the publishing of this post, I have now officially marked the first item off my list: Start a blog. I actually set up this blog in October of 2008, but never found a good enough reason to actually write a post - I mean, my life isn't *that* interesting. However, I am excited to use this blog to share my stories as I check things off my list, plus as a means of sharing other random or exciting happenings in my life. Hope you enjoy the adventure...