Monday, August 30, 2010

What I learned in Europe

My two weeks in Europe were an amazing experience that I'm so thankful for. I hope I can return one day soon and see Spain, France and more of Northern Europe. To conclude my vacation recaps, I thought I'd put together a collection of my thoughts, lessons and tips.

What I learned about myself...
  • One thing I am excellent at is deciphering light rail and train maps. I think this is due to my year and a half working for a transit system.
  • I cannot drink enough water when walking around all day!
  • I can easily adjust to 8-hour time differences :) Both arriving and coming back home were a breeze.
What I learned about bathrooms... (Yes, I learned so much about bathrooms that it needed its own section!)
  • Don't ask people where the "restroom" is, because they'll have no idea what you're talking about.  "Bathroom" has a better chance of being understood, but call it the "toilet."
  • Look for signs that say "WC" if you're searching for a public toilet. This is more common than the man/woman icon. I never would have known this!
  • Don't expect to find seat covers. You're not going to, so just get used to the germs.
  • ...and when in the Greek islands - don't even expect toilets! The public restroom in Fira is a hole in the floor that you squat over. Just call it an adventure!

Other things I learned...
  • In Greece we were a little worried that no one would speak English and furthermore, all the signs would be in Greek. In Italy, even if signs are in Italian we at least know the alphabet and enough Spanish to figure it out. Greek is completely different! However, wherever we went, signs were mostly in Greek and English, and most people spoke at least a little English.
  • They say the time differently in Europe. 4:30 would be "four thirty" in the U.S., but in Europe it's "half four," "half five," etc.
  • Many hotels and hostels only accept cash - no credit cards so you need to be prepared for that.
Read all of my vacation recaps...
Day 1: Travel
Day 2: Dublin, Ireland
Day 3: Dublin, Ireland
Day 4: Antrim Coast, Northern Ireland
Day 5: Venice, Italy
Day 6: Rome, Italy
Day 7: Rome, Italy
Day 8: Ostia Antica, Italy
Day 9: Athens, Greece
Day 10: Santorini, Greece
Day 11: Santorini, Greece
Day 12: Santorini, Greece
Day 13: Athens, Greece
Day 14: Dublin, Ireland
Day 15: Travel

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bachelorette party

My bachelorette party was yesterday! We had the best time!
Five of us met at my house in the morning,
then headed to Sonoma for a day of wine tasting.

Rose surprised me with all of this bride gear.
She is the best Maid of Honor!

Our first stop was Roche in downtown Sonoma.

After our tasting there we had a picnic outside
with lots of delicious food!

Next was Roots in Sonoma.

They have these awesome giant adirondak chairs and we took way too many pictures with them!

Then we went across the street to Gloria Ferrer, where we split a bottle of champagne. They have a great view of the valley.

Cline Cellars was next.

And the last stop was Jacuzzi Vineyards. We drove back to Sacramento and invited the boys to dinner at Mikuni.

Sake bombs! Probably one too many... I felt it today.

I had such a great time with my friends, sister and mom!
I'll be honest: I was really disappointed that more of my friends didn't make it. Some people cancelled last minute and it sucked.
But in the end I had an amazing time and a group of 5 was the perfect size for wine tasting.

20 days until the wedding!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Europe Day 15: Travel

The very last day of my trip consisted of all travel. I left the hostel and took a bus to the airport at about 5 a.m. I said goodbye to Rose, as she was staying in Europe for several more weeks (p.s. read about her interrailing adventures! She went to Berlin, Krakow, Prague, Interlaken and Paris after I left).

I flew into JFK in New York and had a layover there for a few hours, then back to San Francisco. Because of my cold, the air pressure during landing was unbearable for my ears! :(

James picked me up at SFO and it was good to be home! I loved the trip and all the experiences it allowed me, but it's always nice to sleep in your own bed again.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Europe Day 14: Dublin, Ireland

My last day in Europe :( And sadly, I was too sick to enjoy it as much as I wish I had. We really wanted to go out to the pubs like on my first day in Dublin, but that was a no-go. But it was okay. We slept in and then went out for an Irish fry, which is a traditional breakfast with lots of delicious, greasy food! My favorite was the black & white sausage.

We walked around Dublin a little bit and I bought this awesome sweatshirt, and gifts for people back home too.

Day 1: Travel
Day 2: Dublin, Ireland
Day 3: Dublin, Ireland
Day 4: Antrim Coast, Northern Ireland
Day 5: Venice, Italy
Day 6: Rome, Italy
Day 7: Rome, Italy
Day 8: Ostia Antica, Italy
Day 9: Athens, Greece
Day 10: Santorini, Greece
Day 11: Santorini, Greece
Day 12: Santorini, Greece
Day 13: Athens, Greece

Europe Day 13: Athens, Greece

Our ferry got to Athens about 6 a.m. and we went to meet Sam at her hotel. Because I was so sick, I slept there while Sam & Rose went to get breakfast. That sleep was so needed!

After checkout time Sam went to the airport to fly back home, but we were staying in Athens until that night, then flying back to Dublin.

Rose and I did more walking, sitting and talking. We also did some shopping and I got this painting at the Athens Flea Market.

It still needs a frame but it will live in my home forever and remind me of this fabulous trip! I was also very proud that I was able to haggle with the salesman and pay only 15 Euro when he wanted 20 Euro for it. I saw similar paintings for that much when we were in Athens previously, so I knew it was a fair price.

In the late afternoon/evening we took a bus to the airport (we would have taken the train but the workers were on strike!). We flew to Dublin and arrived around... midnight, maybe? We were staying at the same hostel as previous nights.

Day 1: Travel
Day 2: Dublin, Ireland
Day 3: Dublin, Ireland
Day 4: Antrim Coast, Northern Ireland
Day 5: Venice, Italy
Day 6: Rome, Italy
Day 7: Rome, Italy
Day 8: Ostia Antica, Italy
Day 9: Athens, Greece
Day 10: Santorini, Greece
Day 11: Santorini, Greece
Day 12: Santorini, Greece

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Santa Cruz weekend... last one before the wedding!

We drove to Santa Cruz this weekend for the last time before the wedding. On Friday we both worked half days so that we could make it there by late afternoon.

First Appointment: Meeting with our reception coordinator and day of coordinator at our reception site. Both ladies were super nice, and we made some decisions that made me so excited for our big day! Our wedding day is going to rock!!

After that meeting we checked into our hotel, the Quality Inn, which was really nice! We'll probably stay there in the future. It's about half a mile to downtown, so we walked to dinner to avoid parking.

Dinner was at Kianti's, which is the restaurant that's catering our rehearsal dinner. We're having pizza and lasagna, so that's what we ordered and OMG yummm! Especially the lasagna. Love. It.

We went this weekend to listen to the band playing at the restaurant where our reception is. One of the great things about having our reception there is that they have a live band every Saturday. It's in the bar, which is right next to our private patio. Basically we have free entertainment, which is great! The bad thing is that we can't control who is playing, but we're carefree people and had faith that they wouldn't book crappy bands.

So last night the band that's playing on our wedding day was there. After our dinner we drove back there, had a few drinks and listened to the band. They had cool blues-type music that was fun.

I'll be honest - last time we went in March, that other band was a lot more fun and better for dancing. But our band is good and everything will be fine!

Here goes my first blog video. Tell me: Would you dance to this? Maybe if you had some free booze?? It's okay if nobody does, as long as they're having fun!

That was last night. This morning, we met with our bakery about our wedding cake. We got to taste the flavors and decided on princess torte: sponge cake, whipped cream and raspberry filling.

Then we went to check out locations to take pictures before our ceremony. We decided that the beach right next to our ceremony site is perfect and super convenient. And freaking beautiful. So I'm really excited to be there with our amazing photographer!

It was overcast in the morning, but sunny in the afternoon.

Then we headed home! We're super tired! I love getting home Saturday, so I still have Sunday to have a normal weekend.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Europe Day 12: Santorini, Greece

Sam went back to Athens early because she was sick and what we were about to do on day 12 was a horrible thing to do while sick! I started to feel sick the previous night as well, and this day I had a really bad sore throat and all-around exhaustion.

We had to check out of our hotel during the day, but our ferry back to Athens didn't leave until midnight. Luckily the hotel let us leave all our luggage there while we killed time in Santorini all day.

We hung out by the pool through lunchtime, and the hotel staff graciously let us eat lunch there even though we had technically already checked out.

Then, we took the bus to Fira. We found the beautiful side of the city that we didn't know about previously. So pretty!

We essentially sat on benches, walked around and talked for hours and hours. I was feeling really bad. Later in the afternoon we bussed to Oia to watch the sunset again.

We walked around the other side that we didn't see the previous day and ate dinner at a restaurant with a great view.

We watched another beautiful sunset.

After sunset, we took the bus back to Kamari (after a switch in Fira) to get our luggage then head down to the port. That late at night they don't go to all the stops... before they stopped right in front of our hotel but this time they dropped us far away and told us how to get there.

It was far! And it was completely dark. So even if we recognized our surroundings from previous days, it looked so different at nighttime. Somehow we found the hotel. I really don't know how!

We took a taxi to the port and waited there until our ferry came at midnight. Then we tried our best to get a night of sleep on board, in our airplane-like seats.

Day 1: Travel
Day 2: Dublin, Ireland
Day 3: Dublin, Ireland
Day 4: Antrim Coast, Northern Ireland
Day 5: Venice, Italy
Day 6: Rome, Italy
Day 7: Rome, Italy
Day 8: Ostia Antica, Italy
Day 9: Athens, Greece
Day 10: Santorini, Greece
Day 11: Santorini, Greece

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pad Thai

This dish turned out so good, especially for my first shot at Thai food! I went to the Asian market by my house after work tonight and found all the ingredients I didn't already have for $12. But that includes the $5 peanut oil that will last me the rest of my life!

The recipe says that it makes 4 servings, but it was more like 8. I'm excited to eat leftovers for lunch tomorrow.


  • 1 pound bean sprouts
  • 6 oz. pad thai rice noodles
  • 4 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice (I had a lemon so I used that)
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce (Doesn't smell like fish at all! I was so scared but it's not gross)
  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup chopped peanuts
  • 1 cup chopped green onions (Which I just learned are also called scallions, FYI :)
  1. Have all your ingredients chopped/grated and close to you before starting, because you have to cook them pretty quickly.
  2. Blanch the bean sprouts for 30 seconds. Now, I'm not going to claim that this is correct, but this is what I did based on my Google search results... never before had I blanched anything! I used my pot that has a steamer built in (a la picture on the right), but if you just put the sprouts in boiling water I bet that would work.
    • Put enough water to cover the sprouts in the pot, and bring to a boil.
    • Put the sprouts in the steamer (or directly in the water?), close the lid and leave it on for 30 seconds.
    • Remove the sprouts and rinse well, then set aside.
  3. Bring the water that was already used to a boil. Cook the noodles for 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Drain the noodles and rinse with cold water.
  5. Beat the eggs in a bowl with a pinch of salt.
  6. In another bowl, make the sauce: Combine lime/lemon juice, ketchup, brown sugar and fish sauce.
  7. Heat the peanut oil in a large wok or frying pan. Add the garlic and cook for a few seconds.
  8. Add the pepper flakes and carrot, and cook for one minute. Set the carrot mixture aside.
  9. Put the eggs in the same pan that was just used, and scramble them.
  10. Add in the carrot mixture, sauce, bean sprouts, noodles, peanuts and green onion. Mix well and cook until heated through.

James and I both loved this, and I even think it would be great to make a few hours before people come over for dinner, then just heat up on the stove when they arrive. It was a lot more work and ingredients than I usually prefer but I'm going to make it again anyway.

For dessert I also picked up mochi!

T minus one month

It's almost wedding time! In exactly one month I'll be surrounded by all our friends and family, celebrating our marriage.

Amazingly, I'm calm and stress-free. Excited, but not nervous. I do have some last things to do, but I'm taking them one project at a time and slowly finishing them!

This weekend we're headed to Santa Cruz for the last visit before the wedding. We have final appointments with our reception venue, day of coordinator and bakery.

Next weekend is my bachelorette party!! We're going wine tasting in Napa and Sonoma... I am so excited!

The weekend after that is my second (and last) dress fitting, the weekend after that is a friend's wedding, the weekend after that is our wedding! This next month will fly by.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Goal #74: Celebrate with James when he passes the PTA exam

My fiance is now a State of California licensed Physical Therapy Assistant :) He passed both tests that were required two weeks ago and received his license last week. To celebrate, we went to see The Undulations on Friday night at Zinfandel Grille. Honestly we would have gone anyway because we love that band, but we turned it into a celebration as well!

We had nachos and margaritas at Rose's house beforehand, then just ordered some appetizers to split at the restaurant. The band recognizes us now because we've been to so many shows, and talked to us. After Zinfandel Grille we went back to Rose's place down the street and hung out until late!

See my list of 100 goals to accomplish before my 30th birthday here.

Monday, August 16, 2010


The wedding's getting closer and I'm actually running out of projects! I have just a few things left. Here's what I worked on this weekend.

These signs will be placed on the first two rows of seats at the ceremony, reserved for our immediate family.

This is on our dining room chair

This is the chair we'll have at the ceremony

I also made this sign for our "card jar," for lack of a better word. I picked up this big vase thing at Ross for about $8 several months ago. I think it's really cool! It'll be placed on our gift table at the reception.

J also nailed stakes onto the signs I made so that they can be staked into the dirt at strategic locations.