Tuesday, November 29, 2005

More Holiday Cheer

I'm trying really hard to get into the swing of things for Christmas! I think I'm getting sick again, so please say a little prayer for me--I don't want to miss another month of things with another cold!

We had a great Thanksgiving holiday--we went to Matt's Dad's house for the day and played a fun Christmas Mystery game: "Who Killed Santa Claus?" It was fun dressing up and playing the different roles and figuring out clues! Vivi worked extra hard and got all the props and even made some fake Santa legs that were laid out under some packages to complete the theme!

I'm really sad we missed seeing Matt's mom for the holiday, but at least we did get to see her recently for her birthday party. Friday we made dinner at home for my parents and we even got to do a little holiday shopping this weekend!

This week it's the dreaded leftover turkey week! I had turkey on Sunday and Monday, and turkey soup on Saturday and Tuesday! Tomorrow I think it'll be quesadillas for a change (dare I make turkey ones?)

I wanted to share a couple of fun holiday photos we took over at Fashion Island on Sunday. It was such a beautiful day there! Going there to see the 115' tree (really—that's not a typo—it's a live tree and it's really that big!) will really put you in the mood for celebrating! If you look closely into the ornament you can see our reflection. Matt is like most Californians and wearing shorts to enjoy our beautiful Southern California sunshine. I'm always cold, so you can see me wearing a long-sleeved sweater and hat to keep warm in the frigid 65* weather!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Something's up with Jack!

Well, thank you Disney for helping me get my Christmas Mojo this year!

I have been feeling pretty darn stressed and not looking forward to Christmas at all. I thought I would be super-organized this year and do everything as early as possible, but then I got that darn cold. I'm still trying to get over it completely and it's been almost five weeks! Five weeks—how could it have gone by so quickly!? A bonus is that I stopped eating refined sugar when I got sick and it has been that long since I had any candy! The longest I've ever gone in my whole life! I'm trying my hardest to hold out until Thanksgiving, so wish me luck. Every day it is a little harder to resist, since I am feeling better now!

So anyways, since I've gotten sick I haven't done anything useful and the big day is closer and closer! And I am more and more stressed and turning into a regular humbug!

Tuesday night Matt and I went to Disneyland right after work so we could see the Haunted Mansion decorated for Christmas. I really love The Nightmare Before Christmas and think Danny Elfman's soundtrack is pure genius. It is one of my favorite albums of all time (and how can you resist a skeleton disguised as Santa?) I love the whole skeleton-Christmas theme of the movie and am in love with the thought of my beloved Haunted Mansion all dressed up! I've never actually seen it before this, but this year we have season passes so we could go.

Seeing the way Disney decorates Main Street really perked up my holiday spitits. They have a huge gold-festooned tree right in the town square that is really festive. I told Matt that it was prettier than the Fashion Island tree in Newport, but he didn't agree. After all, FI flys their humongous tree in from Norway (or wherever) each year and the Disney tree is fake. So Matt does have a point and he sure won that round! Real-tree-goodness always trumps plastic in my book. I know—call me a murderer and a tree killer, but I like a real tree!

Everything looks festive right now at Disney and the Haunted Mansion was so much fun. I loved the spooky-looking herald angels they have in the snow-filled graveyard—too cool! The Mansion was great fun despite the cutsie details they added. After all it's for kids, so I won't complain about a little cuteness for the holidays! So, thanks again, Disney and especially to you, Jack Skellington. I appreciate the Christmas boost.

On a side note, my blog got tagged by Nicole ! It's a fun game some people are playing on a message board I am part of . Thanks, Nicole for visiting my blog! My challenge was to post the 11th line of the 23rd or most recent post. I've been a little stressed out and under the weather, so finally, here it is: "along the path that leads between all the different temples. As we walked ". So stop by Nicole's blog and say "hi" if you get a chance. She has two cute kitties and it's worth a visit just to see her little furry friends!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Chased Out with a Rake!

I thought I'd share another of our Japan stories to make you smile. It's hard being an obnoxious tourist in a country so different from our own I tried hard to learn some things before we went; I read etiquette books and guide books, but I guess we can't help being American buffoons wherever we go! I apologize to the Japanese people for staring at people on your trains, laughing like hyenas in public places and just being morons while we were in your beautiful, refined country!

Kyoto has many beautiful temples and is a wonderful city to visit. We especially wanted to visit Daisen-In Temple, which has a Zen rock garden that is “designated as the special scenic beauty” and is part of a large complex of temples. There are majestic pine trees and historical buildings along the path that leads between all the different temples. As we walked we were captured by the beauty of it all. We saw a temple where the main gate was closed, but some people were entering through a miniature door where you had to bend over to enter. I smiled at the charming Alice in Wonderland feeling of it all and we happily bowed as we shuffled through. Johnny’s girlfriend and Japanese guide, Manami was with us so we felt like all was well.

There was a tiny garden complete with blooming plum trees and a small cemetery off to the side. I took a photo of the tombstones and Manami was shocked that I would do something so unlucky! Oops—I didn’t know that it was unlucky and I promised not to do it again. Right after that is when disaster struck, proving her point. We strolled out of the cemetery where the other people were praying and decided to look at the serene Zen garden that was there. Daisen-In did not allow photos, so I took a photo of this garden instead. We breathed in the tranquil surroundings oblivious of our transgression.

That’s when he noticed us. The groundskeeper saw us and did not like our presence one bit. He yelled at us in Japanese and Manami tried to apologize. We decided to make a graceful exit, but it was too late. We were clustered around and trying to file through the narrow pathway that led to the miniature door. The man was coming closer and he had a rake. He was madder than hell! He shook his at us rake and shouted as he ran. We trotted faster, trying to reach the sanctuary of the exit before he got to us. He shook his rake over his head. We ran faster and scrambled to get through the door. Finally we had made it to safety. Whew!

Later that day Manami told us that she didn’t think we were supposed to go in there, but since we wanted to go she thought it would be ok. Luckily we all escaped without being “raked!”

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Devil’s Dance Floor!

Her breath began to speak
As she stood right in front of me
The colour of her eyes
Were the colour of insanity
Crushed beneath her wave
Like a ship, I could not reach her shore
We're all just dancers on the Devil's Dance Floor

Well swing a little more, little more o'er the merry-o
Swing a little more, a little more next to me
Swing a little more, little more o'er the merry-o
Swing a little more, on the Devil's Dance Floor
Flogging Molly~

I am completely and totally in love with the band, Flogging Molly. They are my favorite thing in the world right now—I listen to them over and over again. I have three CD’s in my car and pretty much all the time I am singing along and trying to dance while I’m driving. Many a traffic-jammed and gridlocked night have I gotten through with a smile because of the Mollys. Their brand of Irish Punk is just the thing to touch my heart and soul.

I recently saw them at the House of Blues in Anaheim—my second concert alone, and both of solo jaunts have been for the love of Molly. This time I wanted to get close to the band so I could watch them play and see their faces as they were working their magic. I decided to stand at the fringes of the pit, right against the sound booth. It had been a long time since I’d been in any pit—since the 80’s to be exact! But I wanted to feel the closeness and the passion of the music. I wanted to live and breathe the music with the crowd around me—dancing and flowing with the rhythm.

I had to wait almost 3 hours in my spot while the two opening bands played but it was worth the wait. Finally the show started. I was hot and dehydrated by then, but I didn’t care. The center of the pit swirled with madness, like the eye of a hurricane. The serious punks were dancing and gyrating to the music. I saw flashes of people before my eyes—like a movie where they show the heart of battle with all the noise and confusion. It was hard to focus on any one thing; there was so much going on at once. Through the whole thing my compatriots and I kept things moving. Push, push, PUSH! to keep from being crushed under the weight of sweaty angst-ridden fans. Dancing when I could, I spent most of my time pushing the punks back into the fray and let out the occasional “oomph” when someone crashed into me a little too hard. I was glad I had the wall at my back and this was a fairly tame crowd for a punk band.

A lust for life and love for the music filled the room. Push, push, OOMPH! Sweating and laughing the whole time as I pushed, I was in another world filled with wondrous hard-hitting Irish jigs. My face was red and I was sweating from exertion, but I felt alive and ready for anything. I felt a bond with every one there, especially the ones working the wall; I felt like our exertions served to keep the band playing. It was hard to dance but I managed a few steps now and again whenever I could catch my breath! Push, push, JIG! I could make out glimpses of the band as I was screaming along with the lyrics. The room took on a dreamlike quality as I saw the punks dancing and circling in slow motion to one of the ballads; they never stopped their expressive, almost violent movements; just slowed them down to match the beat. Push, push, LAUGH! As I smiled and felt the true joy of the music empowering me, I felt drunk from the pure joy of it all.

I enjoyed the camaraderie with my fellow-pushers. Some of the punks we’d let rest near us for a few moments. Then their time was up and they were ready to go back to the whirling steps of the melee. Some punks we tried to push back immediately—we wanted no part of them in our little haven. A small man with curly dark hair kept pushing against us. I christened him “Carrot-top” for his long shaggy bush of a head. The girl next to me and I both grimaced each time we had to push him away because we hated touching his sweat-drenched hair. Her boyfriend aptly re-named the guy “Chia-pet” and we all tried to keep him away from the wall. We gasped when a huge man came into the pit. He looked like a Sumo-wrestler and we knew we could never push him back into the circle. Luckily he didn’t come close enough to put us to the test. We quickly pushed away “too-drunk-to-dance” guy, hoping he wouldn’t lose his whiskey before he got away from us. We helped “tattooed guy” off the floor. We pushed and pushed and pushed in time to the music. We sang along and had a blast.

I picked up a lost shoe and tossed it into the center where hopefully its owner would find it again. I swayed and hopped and laughed and sang. I was definitely enjoying my time on “The Devil’s Dance Floor” as they sang pirate songs and sailing songs and Irish songs to touch the heart. Finally the time was up and the band had to leave. I was drenched in my own and others’ sweat. I was exhausted from standing and pushing, but my heart was full. I staggered to my car and drove home with merry tunes in my head to keep me company. I can’t wait ‘till Flogging Molly comes back to town so I can dance and feel alive again.

Monday, October 24, 2005


Sorry if everyone thought I dropped off the face of the Earth. I've been sick for the last two weeks and I feel just BLAH! For two weekends I did absolutely nothing! I read some and made a few cards and that's it. I ate lots of toast because heating up soup was too much work. Luckily, Matt took care of me and made me lots of hot tea, listened to me coughing, and slept on the couch with Random a few nights so he wouldn't disturb me if I finally was able to sleep.

Ah--I was hoping I would bypass the normal cold and flu season, but hopefully this will be it for the year. Now it's off to try to get through another day at work whilst wishing I was home in bed! Can you believe it--I've been up since 5am and now it's almost time for me to leave for work and I haven't even showered. Off I go!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Oh Craps!

Friday night I learned how to play craps. Maybe I should be honest and say that I played for three hours and still don't understand how to play! Working in the Internet department doesn't usually allow for lots of perks unless you count hanging out with troll-like programmers a benefit. But since I am in charge of the Advertising Operations for the site, I got invited to our annual Advertising Event. This is where we entertain Media Planners for different ad agencies and have a forum to answer questions about our site. The daylong meeting is followed by a fun event where we get to know each other a little better.

This year we got to take a cruise of Newport Harbor and practice our casino skills. The last casino night was our company Christmas party and I did an abominable job at roulette, so I decided to jump in and try my hand at craps. Our cruise started at sunset on a beautiful fall evening. I could see the rosy glow of the light playing on the sparkling water. The buildings gleamed and a thousand fairy lights created the mood. I could smell the fresh sea breeze and a hint of boat fuel added to keep things real. I had a drink in my hand (Sapphire & Tonic; extra lime!) and a smile on my face.

That's the last I noticed about the scenery or the boat—I had found the Craps Table! Luckily the dealers at these events are patient and will show you what to do since nobody's using real money. He was explaining all the ins and outs of the game, but I didn't have time to listen. I was the girl with the dice. What I did learn was never say the word "seven" at the table: It's unlucky. To be safe, I didn't say any numbers, just in case! I didn't want to ruin anyone's luck. I put some chips on the table where he told me to, and then I rolled the dice, added chips, and rolled again. This was fun. I'm good at rolling dice. I got to roll for a good while before it was the next person's turn. So I learned the routine. Put some chips, wait for the dice, place more chips, have the dealer place more chips. I'm not sure what any of it means, but I learned to yell whenever they called a good number. Especially when they called one of my lucky numbers and I got more chips. Woo-hoo!

I had so much fun and wasn't the only person at the table who ate standing up while watching the dice and cheering. Three hours flew by and I couldn't believe it was time to stop. As I turned in my chips for raffle tickets, I thought about Vegas. Now that I'm an expert I should try my luck there. Or maybe I'm better off going home and kissing the cat!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Do You SHABU!?

If you've never tried Shabu Shabu, you're in for a treat! It's a Japanese meal where you cook your own dinner in boiling water. Of course, since you are doing all the work you will pay for the privilege, but it is worth it to try something different for a change. You've probably never heard of Shabu before, but if you're near a large city there might be one nearby that you never even noticed. We have driven past California Shabu Shabu numerous times and even ate in the restaurant next door several times. We never knew Shabu existed! That is, until we went to Japan and got to try this tasty meal for ourselves.

Last week we finally went to our local Shabu shoppe and had a great time. The owner is from Osaka, Japan so he's friendly and he really knows what's up! Traditional Shabu is finely sliced beef, but the Cali version can also include chicken, pork, or scallops. You are served a plate of your meat of choice, along with some fresh veggies and tofu. The meal is simplicity itself—dip your piece of meat into the boiling pot using your chopsticks and swish it around until it is cooked. Then you can dip it into one of the two sauces provided and enjoy. When you're done, there are noodles you can cook in the meat-flavored broth and they are tasty too! Of course, since this is a Japanese meal you are served rice and a bottle of Kirin beer will go nicely too.

Shabu is a perfect date because it is unusual but not too creepy or scarey. It's also great if you are on a low-carb plan and tired of the same old meats and veggies. It's fresh and healthy and enjoyable, despite the good-natured bashing it got from the movie "Lost in Translation." Try it for a change and see if you agree that cooking your own meal can be fun. The best part is that you don't have to do dishes afterward!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Hey Sailor!

Lately I've been obsessed with sailors! I inherited a bunch of photos of sailors from the 40's that were in my great-aunt's scrapbook. I don't know who any of the men are, but most of them had a name next to the photo. They are small photos that look like they were taken in automatic photo booths. They were cut out crookedly and given as a memento of a soldier on leave. I love the antique metallic sheen on the surface of the photos. The scratches, fading and discoloration on the surface only seem to give them a richness and flavor of mystery. I imagine stories about each one and imagine what thier lives were like. Did they die in the war? Did they meet their true love in NY port? Maybe they had a family and a long, interesting life just as my great-uncle did. I'm not even sure if these were my Uncle's friends or friends of my Aunt. I'm guessing that they were taken near Brooklyn, since that's where my Aunt and Uncle lived.

The names give so much character to the photos and seem almost quaint today! Names like "Hartzel", "Baxter" and "Mac" make me feel like I'm living back in the swing era. I wonder if Leo was really as shy as he looks in the photo. Was Perry a lady's man? Did Ed give his sweetheart some candy and red roses before he boarded ship again?

What about Clude? His photo is so different from the others. It must have been taken in a studio; it is a pose full body shot with a painted background. He looks so wistful, I wonder what he was thinking about when the photo was taken.

I just finished putting them in a matchbox-style album and I feel happy knowing that they have a permanent home. It was so rewarding to work on something completely frivolous that just cried out for attention! For some reason I just *had* to do this project--those poor photos almost got thrown away by my mom's cousin, but I rescued them so they could be loved!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

An American Classic

Here's a musing about a car. I took this photo at my cousin's wedding last year. It was a rainy day and his '55 Chevy looked so good against the grey sky and raindrops! The text below is actually journaling I wrote for a scrapbook page about the car. I'm still not happy with the page, so I'll share the journaling and the photo!

Oh, what feelings our cars evoke! A vehicle like this deserves to be babied; polished and loved until it becomes a part of the family. Matt B's fully-restored beauty reminds me of the blue and white '55 Chevy Bel Air that mom had when I was a kid. It was an old "clunker", but I have so many fond memories of it. I remember the time we drove to San Francisco and points north—just me & my mom together with all her clothes on hangers strung across the back seat! I remember childhood nights; falling asleep on the way home and pretending to stay asleep so I would have to be carried inside.

I was still so young when someone stole that perfect car and I cried and cried when we had to get another one. I knew things would never be the same again; the new car was a practical Japanese economy-mobile. My whole life seemed to change in an instant and it wasn't for many years that I could again appreciate the love of automobiles that we Americans seem to share. [note: I think mom's old car gave me a love for classics and now I'm lucky enough to work in a place where I see beautiful American classics like the one in the photo every day.]

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Restaurant Humiliation

Well, another year of (almost) dodging the bullet! Joe's Crab Shack is an awesome place to take somebody for their birthday. As long as it's not your birthday! This is a fun, happening kind of place. Fun music, interesting decorations all over the walls and ceilings, a party atmosphere—you name it! Every so often the staff stops working and turns up some loud disco tunes and dance for everyone's entertainment. Every so often they announce another birthday sucker!

Yep. The birthday sucker. Some poor schmo who got suckered into the restaurant with the promise of great drinks and tasty crab legs. Someone whose friends or family want to have a good laugh at their expense! Someone...well, someone like me! Matt promised me if we went he wouldn't tell them it was my birthday. I really wanted those tasty crab legs! Oh, those crab legs are so gooooood! And there is the most wonderful view of the boats in Newport harbor. Gorgeous sunset view. And mmmmm...did I mention the tasty crab legs!? I trusted my darling husband to keep our dirty little secret!

Apparently Matt forgot his promise about the secret birthday thing and the first thing he did was tell the waitress: "It's Lianna's Birthday" YIKES! Did he really just say that!? "Honey, you promised you wouldn't tell--oh, I don't want them to do that to me!" As we were discussing the matter over some delicious crab ball appetizers (ohmigoodness—try the crab ball appetizers—they are divine!) the first birthday sucker got her just deserts! They dressed her in a knight's outfit, complete with helmet, cape and a sword. She had to gallop a fake pony through the restaurant while the entire restaurant sang the birthday song!

Now, I'm a good sport who's willing to do silly things and be the butt of everyone's joke, but it's my birthday, for gosh-sake! I figure I need a little break on my birthday! I had already spent a good part of my day wearing a tiara and sparkly lei for the enjoyment of my co-workers! This was supposed to be a nice dinner with my husband. You remember—sunset...boats...tasty crab legs.

The next time the waitress stopped by, he told the waitress that I didn't really want to be in the spotlight. "Oh, no problem!" she said. Whew! Now I could relax and enjoy my main course! My husband was definitely a hero, now. Then he told me the reason he called off the public humiliation: He didn't have the camera with him! Oh, goodness—I am soooo glad he didn't bring the camera! While we enjoyed the crab (I got the Garlic King Crab Legs and he got the BBQ flavored ones) we watched several other birthday revelers. An 18-year old who got to wear a wig and ladies sweater had to tour the restaurant with a walker. A young girl dressed up like a superhero with a mask and had to skip her way around. Oh, I was positively giddy as I sang for each person to wish them a happy day!

Then came the pie. What delicious birthday meal is complete without a piece of Key Lime Pie. Mmmmm—pure heaven! I LOVE Key Lime Pie! So while I was innocently eating my pie, the servers came to give me my turn at the birthday festivities. GULP. (But you promised I was to have none of this!) Luckily, they took pity on this sour old lady and only sang for me! The whole restaurant sang for me. The staff sang the birthday song backwards, if you can believe it! (This is something you should definitely see at least once in your life.) So as I was feeling every eye upon me and almost regretting my love for crab, at least the servers made me laugh to ease the pain of being the birthday girl. And they didn't make me march around the restaurant dressed like Little Red Riding Hood or some such tom-foolery. And now I have another year to go before I have to dodge the bullet of restaurant humiliation again.

Thursday, September 08, 2005


Well, I decided to start off my blog with an old story from our trip to Japan. We went for 2 weeks in March and stayed most of the time with Matt's cousin, J. in Osaka. I apologize if you've seen this one before--it's an oldie, but (I think) still a goodie!

The bathroom in J's apartment is the size of an airplane bathroom except it has a tiny bathtub attached. Honestly--when I got on the plane to go home there was actually more room to move around in the airplane bathroom! There's hardly any room to move around in the tiny apartment bathroom and it's even hard to sit down to go potty, it's so small--you have to sit kinda sideways because your knees will bump the door! Getting dressed in there is a special challenge. Japanese tubs are normal width, but only half the length of an American tub and they are as tall as your knees. Luckily for me J had a Western-style toilet and not a Japanese-style squatter!

I had all my clean clothes for the day on the floor while I was in the bath because there was just no other place to put them. All my dirty clothes were in the washer. When I got out of the bath, the drain flooded the whole bathroom with about 4" of water! It would've flooded into the apartment, but the way the bathroom is built, there's a 5" lip that you have to step over to get in the room so it held the water in. All the walls and floor of the bathroom are fiberglass like a bathtub, so it didn't ruin anything...

...Except for my clothes. I had placed them on my slippers on the floor before I got in the bath. Everything was sopping wet! With stinky bathwater all over them and black stuff and hair from the drain in everything! I had more clothes I could wear, but no underwear! Those were all in the washer. J. doesn't have a dryer--he just puts clothes on the balcony to dry. It was starting to rain. All my stuff was wet with no way to dry even though the weatherman said it would be sunny.

So the gallant guys decided to rescue me by **frying** my clean, wet underwear! Yup. They put them in a frying pan and dryed them over the stove! It actually worked pretty well, except they got scortched in a couple of places! One place burnt clear-through, so now I have burn marks and a hole in my underwear too! Ha ha--what an adventure!