Trip to the Bay: Day 2: Berkeley and Oakland

Sunday was spent at church for most of the day. When we were members at the church years ago, my husband and I served on the kitchen team where we prepared lunch after service once every month. Our designated menu item was meatball sub sandwiches and  people either loved it so much they’d pack a ziplock bag full of meatballs to eat for lunch the following week or tolerated it enough to fill their stomachs as a snack/meal. It was known as a “church meal” and we wouldn’t order it or seek after it anywhere outside of church. As mentioned in a previous post, we last visited the Bay two years ago, and during that Sunday we happened to visit on the meatball sub Sunday and my husband and I had a good laugh about it. According to the church members, that was the last time they served meatball subs and they hadn’t eaten it since. That is, until we visited again this past July. Two years later, the meatballs greeted us as though it knew we were coming, welcoming us with its marina sauce and toasted bread. Just like the olden days.

Babies had turned into kids, kids had turned into teens, teens had entered college, and familiar faces were mixed with new. Of course, we had also changed…

After church, we stopped by Artís Coffee on 4th Street, a street we often visited for eye-shopping and walks. The coffee shop was new and spacious, although we couldn’t find any seating indoors because of all the people chatting or studying/working that Sunday afternoon.

We transferred hotels to Claremont Club and Spa for the last two nights. It was a nice hotel and they had some recent renovations done to their rooms. I especially liked the bathroom (not pictured) because it was white-marbled from floor to sink to shower tiles, and it looked very fancy and clean. But it was also very cold. *Note to self: for any house renovation, don’t install marble floors; instead, install floor heaters. ;) The hotel itself was massive and they had tennis courts that were always busy.

Later we grabbed dinner near the hotel, a local spot called La Mediterranee, which has good Armenian food. The reviews on Yelp aren’t great, but the food and atmosphere hasn’t changed, and personally, I really like it and I missed the cinnamon-y chicken cilicia. I’ve never found it anywhere else. After dinner, we stopped by our past favorite ice-cream shop: Ici. One time they had a flavor called ‘mint cookie,’ which was a mint flavored ice cream with oreo cookies blended into it. The cookies weren’t crunchy but almost chewy in texture. So good, but we had only tried it that one time and never caught it again on their rotating menu. Their solid and can’t-go-wrong flavor is the ‘earl grey’ but I also like their affogatos. This time around, I tried the ‘coffee cookie’ (I think that’s what it was called) and it was also very good.

We ate so much, we wanted to take a walk and enjoy the rest of the evening before heading back to the hotel. College Avenue would have been the ideal place since we were already there, but all the shops were closed by the time we finished our ice cream (I had forgotten how most shops close by 7pm), so we decided to head over to Lake Merritt in downtown Oakland. The sun was setting and people were out and about enjoying the last bit of the weekend, talking, dancing, walking their dogs, jogging, and even riding a gondola on the lake.

Trip to the Bay: Day 1: Cypress Tree Tunnel and the Golden Gate Bridge

For our anniversary we decided to take a trip to the Bay area for a 4-day weekend. Our last visit was two years ago and it seemed like a good time to visit old friends and familiar places. The Bay will always have a soft spot in our hearts and we are turning out to be the sentimental types.

We stayed at Emeryville Hyatt Place for two nights. The hotel didn’t exist when we lived in the area five years ago, so it’s relatively new and clean, and decently priced. They provided free breakfast every morning (as does the sister branch Hyatt House next door), so that’s a definite plus especially if you have little ones who wake up hungry. The rooms were spacious and clean and the staff were friendly even during its busy breakfast and checkout hours.

Saturday: Elaine was looking forward to seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, which was the only thing she knew about in San Francisco. Unfortunately, Karl the fog was back and blocked our view of the bridge. (Oh, that Karl!) We drove up to the viewing area across the bridge and our view turned out to be a grey-white wall. A typical happening for us, I’d say.

We hung around Sausalito for a quick break, grabbed a couple sandwiches to eat later, then we drove up to Point Reyes to see the cypress tree tunnel. I tried to incorporate a few new places to visit and eat during our trip, and the tree tunnel was one of them, recommended by my mother who visited in the 80s.

After the long drive to and from the tree tunnel, we headed back to the city to get a better view of the Golden Gate Bridge at Fort Point. Most people were heading to the overlook, but my tip would be to pass the area a little further down and drive to Fort Point (see the Seven Places to Gaze at the Golden Gate Bridge). It’s less crowded and you get a grand view of the bridge from water level.

The weather was cold and foggy, which is typical San Francisco weather, but we were exhausted by this point and didn’t feel like walking up and down the steep hills with an irritable toddler. So we headed back to Emeryville and grabbed dinner at Yuzu Ramen and Broffee. Local, low key, no line, good food. That’s one thing we really missed.

 

 

 

Seven Years

We got married on July 30th, 2011 in San Francisco. (Coincidentally, my husband’s favorite athlete, Stephen Curry, also has the same wedding anniversary as us).  When I calculated the years, I couldn’t believe it has only been seven years. It feels like twenty, at least.

I feel so old, as though I’ve aged at hyper speed the past few years and I’m suddenly fifty. I do feel fifty. And because I feel so old, I also feel like I’ve been married a long time.

Nevertheless,

God is good. He has deemed us worthy for this trial and to tread through it together. He has shown us how weak we are on our own, how dependent we are on Him, and how His mercy and love is ever present reflected upon in our marriage, especially in our weaknesses, as we have faced good days and difficult days together as husband and wife. This trial is not yet over and who knows how long it will be, but I am thankful the Lord has provided a faithful and loving husband who will be by my side until the end.

Happy seven years.

Engagement–present:

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Book Review: Harry Potter (1-7)

It’s hard to believe the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was published in 1997 in the U.K. (1998 in the U.S.)–20 years ago! To celebrate its 20 year anniversary in the States, Target has dedicated a special section in its stores to sell some wizarding merchandise. The truth is, I bought myself a pair of Hogwarts shorts in size XL for kids. They serve as comfortable pajamas. ;)

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I didn’t start out as a Harry Potter fan; in fact, I was pretty adamant about being anti-Harry Potter for a long time and refused to add to Ms. Rowling’s billion-dollar empire. I did try to read the first book a couple of times due to many friends’ persuasions, but it simply didn’t click each time I tried. At the time I was also reading a handful of heavy novels a week for my English major courses, so I refused to abase myself with elementary school level reading, which was what I thought (and still think) of the first book. I think the The Sorcerer’s Stone was written for a middle school audience (11-13 year olds), much like the characters themselves in Book 1, so the vocabulary, jargon, and character portrayals of Harry and his friends were not relatable and captivating enough to hook me into Rowling’s wizarding fantasy. It seemed too childish.

A year ago, a friend gifted me the entire set as a specially requested item from none other than myself. I requested it because I found more time to read and decided to tackle the series with fair-mindedness. I started again with The Sorcerer’s Stone, rereading it to give it an open-minded review, and I finally finished The Deathly Hallows a couple weeks ago.  It’s difficult to remember the details of each book since it has been a year-long feat, but here are my not-so-brief thoughts and review:

To enjoy the books, one must read and think like the characters at their progressing age levels in each book. Book 1 should be read how an eleven-year-old would think and read and Book 7 as an eighteen-year-old. Although witches and wizards are nothing new, the conjuring up of a magical world with new vocabulary, i.e., Hogwarts and its wizards and witches in the middle of London mixed with regular people (“muggles”), was a brilliant, if not novel*, idea, so kudos to J.K. Rowling for allowing the reader to imagine a parallel world where witches and wizards could live amongst us and by propelling the story with a unique problem set by the protagonist and antagonist.

J.K. Rowling creates great villains. Voldemort (Tom Riddle), the Dursleys, Draco (the Malfoys), Peter ‘Wormtail’ Pettigrew, Bellatrix Lestrange, the Death Eaters, some characters from the Ministry of Magic such as Dolores Umbridge, Rita Skeeter, the dementors, and even Snape. Their cruelty and irrational/evil intentions are often so compelling that you begin to hate and/or fear them. The twist was that you also began to feel compassionate towards a few of them because of their unfortunate pasts and turn of events. In the end, Dudley was shown expressing gratitude towards Harry in his own way, Dudley’s mom, Petunia, had a sad story, where as a little girl she too wanted to attend Hogwarts but was rejected because of her non-magic gene. Her bitterness towards her sister and Harry was understandable.  Draco and the Malfoys were characters that you kind of felt sorry for in the end. And Snape, not quite a villain but characterized as so until the end, was my favorite character for his complexity, loyalty, abilities, and unintended humor (Books 3 and 4 had some funny parts that made me laugh out loud).

The heroes, on the other hand, were dull, if not terrible. Harry Potter was probably one of my least favorite characters, alongside Ron, Hagrid, and sometimes even Dumbledore. Harry was plain egocentric. Book 5: The Order of the Phoenix, was awful, filled with Harry shouting most of the time. He is said to be sixteen years old, so I guess it makes sense that a sixteen-year-old would be so self-absorbed, confused, and annoying. In most of Book 1 and in several other serious situations in latter books, Harry seemed preoccupied with Quidditch than the problems at hand. In Book 7: The Deathly Hallows, Harry finally seems to have outgrown some of his egocentric ways, but he is nonetheless annoying most of the time. Ron and Hagrid were irksome because they were–how should I put it nicely–simpleminded. Even Hermione with her preoccupation with elf rights, and in Book 6 and 7 displaying her short-sightedness with serious problems in which Harry was disclosing, disappointing the reader because we expected more and because she ended up with Ron. What a cruel joke, Ms. Rowling! And Dumbledore–a ubiquitous figure who knew everything and controlled everyone like puppets under his grand scheme to bring down Voldemort. He is said to have cared for Harry Potter, but nothing in his personal interactions with Harry gave me that impression. A classic writing flaw where the author “tells” rather than “shows” (from the adage, “show, not tell”). Dumbledore seemed a bit too distant and omniscient in a way without much character or depth until parts of Book 7. His care for Harry seemed superficial. Of all the good characters, I liked Hermione (half of the time), Lupin, Arthur and Molly Weasley, and Dobby.

Lastly, let’s talk about the failure of love story-telling. Cho-Harry, Cho-Diggory, Ron-Lavender Brown, Hermione-Viktor Krum, Ron-Hermione, Fleur Delacour-Bill Weasley, Ginny-boyfriends, Harry-Ginny. If J.K. Rowling meant to portray all the flings as what middle school and high school romance really turns out to be, then she did well in portraying them in such a juvenile way. Books 4-6 were filled with them. The only love story that was believable and moving was Snape’s love for Lily (“always“), and even that story was subdued. The love stories for the main characters felt forced and shallow.

As a whole, I liked the Harry Potter series. But I wonder if I simply liked the idea of Hogwarts–a magical school with magical people, and a magical London/world. Major events and minor stories were well developed and tied together, but the love stories could have been so much better, if not, omitted. Story-telling was best in Books 3 and 7, and maybe 6. Book 5 was rubbish. Book 4 was a bit digressive. Books 1-2 were interesting enough. And that is my review.

My next blog post on books will feature love stories that are written well.


*Side note: Sabrina the Teenage Witch was sort of like Harry Potter but it was a T.V. show and Sabrina the witch was shown growing up as a witch in a normal high school. Studio Ghibli is also known for creating fantastical realms featuring child/teenage characters, e.g., Kiki’s Delivery Service, but there were no books, or none that I know of. The Chronicles of NarniaLord of The Rings, and T.H. White’s The Once and Future King are the closest comparisons to Harry Potter but The Chronicles of Narnia transports the characters in an alternative world where most of the stories take place, Lord of the Rings seem more suited for adults because of its complex themes and The Once and Future King takes place in medieval times. Harry Potter exhibits unique and original traits.

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Ode to Hair

I shaved my head over a year ago. Since then it’s been on a repeat cycle of growing back and falling out. It’s shedding again and I really miss having hair. Even a short bob would suffice. When I shaved it in March 2017, I didn’t think it was a big deal because hair was the least of my worries and I knew that it would grow back eventually. I didn’t realize I wouldn’t be seeing long hair until I got better. And only God knows when that will be. Will I ever have my luscious thick frizzy hair again?

People say my pixie cut is cute and I pull it off well, which is very kind of them to say, but I have not stepped out in public spaces with my head in view because of several reasons: it’s shedding and it falls everywhere, it’s noticeably thinning, and my visible scalp is so dry (a side effect to my current treatment that makes my skin, even my scalp, extremely dry) that it looks like I have severe dandruff. Otherwise I would flaunt the pixie. Since that is not the case and I am very self-conscious, I must wear a hat when I go out. I hate to admit it, but I am a girly-girl and sometimes I want to let my hair down, literally. Certain dresses and outfits look wrong with a baseball cap, fedora, or straw hat, and what about evenings when a hat looks kind of ridiculous. Sometimes I wear my wig to make nicer dresses work, but even then I have to wear a beret to make the hair look natural.

Hair, oh, hair,

Oh puffy jet black frizzy hair…

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As my sister would say (her maxim for 2016), “Life is real.”

It happens.

A fuzzy head with strands of grey.