Long days and the deception of work

When my morning alarm goes off, I jump up with a start thinking that I’ve overslept because the sun’s shining so bright it’s like high noon outside. I stumble across to my cell phone at the other side of the room and whew, it’s only 6-ish. To those of us who’re constantly complaining that we don’t have enough hours in a day to get everything done, these unseasonably, incredibly long summer spring days are a dream come true.

Getting an early start knowing you have a full 15 hours of daylight ahead of you is a great feeling. While it’s technically not quite summer yet, Summer seems intent on elbowing Spring swiftly out of the way. And if our air-conditioning weren’t acting up so often, that great feeling might easily be a superlative. Except the darned thing keeps blowing hot air instead of cold.

So between toasty temperatures and cranky AC, we figured we really must do something about it. We did the next best thing: jump in the car and drive to San Francisco to escape the heat. Well, okay, the heat was one thing but our real excuse was the Memorial Day sales. Now if you’re a serious shopaholic, you don’t just stand there doing nothing when it’s raining discounts and promos out there.

Two productive days of retail therapy later, I’m happy to report we have a few, not many bagfuls of spoils to show for our hard work. Shopping is work? You’d better believe it! Do you know how many pairs of jeans I had to try on before I found my one true love? And don’t even get me started on the shoes. Sifting through rack after rack, shelf after shelf, hunting down your size, waiting in line for the fitting room clutching armfuls of clothes, yeah!

But it’s only when you get into the fitting room that’s when the real work (or workout, depending on how you look at it) begins. You’re doing countless squats trying on a pile of jeans and your ankle socks keep coming off with your jeans and you’re doing countless bends to get them back on. At some point, I hear someone saying, to heck with these socks, I’m leaving them off. But not me, I hate stepping on the cold, sandy floor and getting my bare feet dirty… so I keep on keeping on with the battle of the socks!

So yeah, it would seem, and I’m not even going to fault you for thinking, that it’s been all play and no work around here lol. If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you’ll know that around here, the term ‘work’ often takes on meanings that are worlds away from how others may view it.

Peace out… uttered with tongue in cheek.

In-N-Out replay

In-N-Out replay

The next morning, we were back at the stores at opening time. Right on the dot. There’s no time to waste now! Needless to say, we spent the entire morning doing what we do best.

Just for the heck of it, we decided to have lunch at the same outlet where we had our first taste of In-N-Out. From experience, we know this (and many other) In-N-Out’s are perpetually swarming with people, practically any time of day. There was just no way we could get a table inside, and even if we could get a table outside, we wouldn’t have wanted to sit in the sun.

So we took the drive-thru which if you’re thinking is much faster, it’s not. The line is like miles long but at least we get to karaoke and dance to k-pop in a/c comfort. On the way out of the drive-thru, we noticed a family having an In-and-Out picnic under their SUV hood out back.

So you see In-N-Out lovers can get pretty creative. We ate ours in the car too right there in the parking lot the first time we were here. Except this time, the parking lot was full, and so with our cheeseburgers, fries and free water…

In-N-Out replay

… we drove straight back to the stores, parked in the only spot we could find which happened to be in the semi-shade of a very skinny tree, wound down the windows (the sun may be blazing outside but the air is still pretty cool at 11:00am) and had a picnic in the car.

In-N-Out replay

Mmm mmm mmm! Tell me, how can a $2.35 cheeseburger taste this good? Oh man! I may not eat burgers very often but when I do, this is it! The only burger I’ll eat, no matter which side of the planet I’m on. ’nuff said.

In-N-Out replay

Vietnamese-Thai noodles x 3

Vietnamese-Thai noodles x 3

In the early evening, we took a break from an afternoon’s ‘hard work’ and headed out for dinner at Saigon 2 Siam, an Indochinese restaurant we’d discovered on our previous trip to Gilroy. Back then, we’d gone back there two nights in a row to savor their tasty fare, and this time, we’d been so looking forward to eating there again.

What we hadn’t anticipated though was how popular this place had become. It was the only restaurant on the strip with a crowd waiting outside. Bah humbug! and we thought WE were early! Man, it wasn’t even officially dinner time yet!

We asked the staff how long the wait time would be (because we needed to get back to ‘work” and didn’t want to waste any time lol) but he couldn’t tell us because there was no actual line. At any rate, we left our name and phone number for him to call us when a table became available.

Which obviously wasn’t gonna to happen since the staff were all so ultra busy no one was keeping track of who got there first. Usually people would be honest and not cut the line but since the crowd looked hungry and touristy, well, who knows?!!

A half hour later, we went back to check. Thankfully a family was slowly, ve-ry ve-r-ry slowly gathering up their reluctant kids to leave. And when they finally did leave, they left a table strewn with mountains of tissues and the floor littered with rice! And we had to wait some more for the staff to clean up their mess.

Outside the crowd was growing. The poor staff were trying hard to stay calm and serve while we were trying hard to tell our tummies to keep the noise down with tiny sips of the cucumber-infused water they’d served us. Yes, water is free and free flow, and it being cucumber-infused is a definite bonus.

We fell in love with their Drunken Noodles on our last visit. It was crazy delicious. So naturally we had to order it again. Sadly though, it didn’t taste quite the same. I’m guessing they’ve tuned it down. It’s now milder, much sweeter, and not fiery enough for us (should’ve asked them to up the fire index, darn!).

Vietnamese-Thai noodles x 3

Speaking of sweet, the Pad Thai was way sweet and not quite the expected tangy, savory taste. The color too was somewhat unexpected. We were fairly stuffed by the time we got to this plate and had to box the leftovers and find a way to finish it later.

Vietnamese-Thai noodles x 3

Now after our recent Vermicelli Bowl discovery back at Hipville, we were thrilled to see it here on their menu and ordered it immediately. So glad we did. It was simply delicious. Love the presentation too.

Vietnamese-Thai noodles x 3

So with dinner out of the way, we sped back to the stores to continue our good work. Yes!

Labor Day shopping expedition

Labor Day shopping expedition

After lunch in Carmel, the only thing we could think of was shopping. Yes, the Labor Day sales in Gilroy were calling and we couldn’t wait to get started. We’ve been holding off all retail therapy for months waiting for this!

We did go a little crazy though. Wait, a lot crazy especially when we burst in and saw this…

Labor Day shopping expedition

… and this *rubs hands together with glee*.

Labor Day shopping expedition

We were dashing in and out of the outlet stores scooping up armfuls of clothing and making a beeline for the fitting rooms. Disgraceful, isn’t it? But there was no time to waste. The monsters (no, not those monsters! I have a brood of non-conformists) have been unleashed. We spent the entire afternoon hard at work, stopping only for the occasional bathroom break and dinner, of course (more on that in my next post).

You know, the thing about this trip is that we didn’t have our guys tagging along which kinda meant we could take our time and not have to feel bad for keeping them waiting. Guys don’t shop like us. They rush into the store, glance around, spot something they like, briefly throw it on, it fits? okay, they grab all the available colors and vrooom, they’re right up there at checkout! And they’re done and wondering why the heck we’re taking so long!! Can you relate? Tell me you can.

Ya so we were at liberty to be fickle-minded and make a second round to the same stores to have another look around in case we missed anything the first time. I know, and this is exactly what we call shopping. A girl can’t be expected to make up her mind instantly. She has to run stuff through her Sorting Hat, ask her girlfriends for a second opinion, ya know, and wonder which color looks better on herself.

And so we went back after dinner and by then, the sky was dark and the temps had dipped. Still we saw no reason to let that stop us from carrying on… um, till closing time! Goodnight for now, we’ll be back tomorrow!

Labor Day shopping expedition

Lunch in Carmel

Lunch in Carmel

Over the long Labor Day weekend (was that really 2 weekends ago? wow), we snuck out of town early one morning just after sunrise on our little road trip to Gilroy, CA. Our mission: to catch the Labor Day sales… what else? But before that, we decided to make a quick turnoff to Carmel-by-the-Sea for lunch.

Lunch in Carmel

If the thought of lunch in Carmel, dinner in Gilroy somehow conjures up images of lunch in Paris, dinner in New York, well, this would be the poor man’s version. Gilroy and Carmel are less than an hour’s drive from each other, so we’re not exactly talking jetset here lol. Nevertheless, good try!

I’ve been to Carmel many times since college. You know, there’re places where no matter how many times you’ve been there, it’s still that same old sleepy town of beautiful houses, quaint stores, narrow streets, gnarled trees and uneven sidewalks. It seems nothing ever changes there. And it’s nice, seeing everything as you remember ’em from the first time.

Carmel sits on the California coast with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. On the drive in, I’m eagerly anticipating glimpses of houses and picket fences partially hidden from the main road by leafy vegetation and angled driveways. I admit I’m a diehard romantic and everything about this little town could’ve come straight out of a romance novel.

Soon the residential road gives way to artsy-craftsy stores with lattice display windows and painted doors lining the narrow cross streets. The next thing that hits you is that everyone is out walking their dogs. Yes, everyone! Okay, maybe not the people milling around outside the little hip restaurants patiently waiting for a table.

Lunch in Carmel

It’d be nice if I could remember the name of the restaurant where we had clam chowder, and fish and chips when Hip2bDaughter1 was three years old. I don’t even know if it’s still there. Probably not. But the Italian owner was so nice he gave Hip2bDaughter1 extra packets of those little saltine crackers he saw her reaching into my packet with her chubby little fingers, and there was none left.

On our last trip here 3 years ago, we discovered Flaherty’s. Quite by accident. They served the best lobster linguine carbonara we’ve ever tasted. In fact, we started with one serving and just had to order another because it was tha-aat good! And the owner, an older bearded man, promised us free ice cream on our next visit when we couldn’t stop raving about his food.

And this is what we’ve come back for this time. Sadly though, they seem to have changed owners because, heck, that one-in-a-million lobster linguine ain’t on the menu no more *bawls loudly and stomps feet*! There’s just no way! Devastated, we resorted to ordering their crab carbonara instead which tasted weird because of those, those pesky green onions in it!!!

Lunch in Carmel

I mean, who would put green onions into pasta and WHY?!! You know what, I associate green onions with Asian food and I would rarely, if ever, use it in Western cooking simply because the pungent flavor of the green onions would overpower the subtle aroma of the Italian herbs. So what kind of pasta would that be then?

The million dollar question is, what are those chopped green onions doing in that pasta? Well, we think we may have figured out the answer. We could be wrong but it’s probably to appeal to the palates of Chinese tourists so that when they see those familiar old green onions, they’d think, hey, there’s green onions in this so it probably tastes like Chinese food!

Aargh, I don’t get it! The very premise of spending so much money traveling to far-flung lands is to experience the different cuisines and cultures and everything else that’s new and unfamiliar. Take in a breath of fresh air, know what I mean?? It completely defeats the purpose of going all that distance only to snap a few photos and eat the same old stuff you’ve been eating every single day of your life! Am I making any sense here? Lol!

Anyways, back to my story. I had to have my clam chowder, of course and I honestly wasn’t prepared to be as disappointed as I was. This was clearly a case of too much potato, too little soup.

Lunch in Carmel

As for the fish and chips, the fish was fresh and flaky. Very nice. I would’ve loved to have eaten more but between the three of us, there wasn’t quite enough to go around. I guess we hadn’t taken into account the fact that Carmel being a touristy place, the portions might be a little smaller than what we’re used to.

Lunch in Carmel

Still we had a pretty good lunch. The weather was so nice – around mid-60F which meant we could walk around in light, long-sleeved tops – that we decided to stroll around town for a bit before we left for Gilroy.

Have you ever been to Carmel, CA? Did you find any good restaurants you’d love to visit again?

First things first

First things first

Just a hop, skip and jump, and we’re back in Hipville! The first thing I noticed when I stepped off the plane was how cool it was in LA. I think the temps must’ve been in the 70’s with a cool breeze blowing in from the Pacific. For a moment, it felt more like spring than smack in the middle of summer.

My first cup of coffee came out of desperation a Keurig coffee maker. Wide awake at 4 o’clock in the morning due to the 15-hour time difference, I could either try to go back to sleep except I’ve been lying there for an hour and clearly nothing’s happening. Or I could down a cup of freshly dripped coffee to shock the jetlag out of my system.

First things first

Along with lack of sleep always comes pangs of hunger. I swear a great deal of energy is expended by the body in trying to deal with the confusion of the internal clock. This, by the way, is a great time to catch up with all that food I’ve been missing.

First stop, Baja. I tell ya there’s much more to that grilled shrimp salad than meets the eye. Each mouthful is like music to my tastebuds. That’s how much I’ve missed Mexican food. Sorry about the glare in the photo. We were seated by the glass wall and the mid-morning sun was pouring in.

First things first

Next stop, Round Table. Notice how the toppings go all the way to the very edge of the pizza instead of stopping short, leaving a 1-inch outer ring of plain pizza dough with zero topping.

First things first

And it’s open season for fruits again. I really needed to take a break from Korean pears (inside joke lol) but ended up buying a 6-pack of apple pears (not in picture). Talk about old habits.

I also bought a huge watermelon which was so juicy and sweet we devoured half of it in just one day. Strawberries and blueberries are in season too, so plump, sweet and inexpensive. Happy days!

First things first

Flowers and fake apologies

Flowers and fake apologies

So there I am at LA Airport with lots of time on my hands. The place is huge, ever busy, ever crowded. Trying to find a seat to park yourself and your baggage is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Traveling in entire villages seems to be the thing these days, which means there are no seats left for the rest of us. Hel-llo, does your backpack need to have its own seat?!!

After walking up and down 5 or 6 times, I finally spot a partially hidden seat between a man and a woman. Unsure if the man understands English, I ask the woman instead if the seat beside her is taken. It isn’t, whew! At last, I finally get to park myself somewhere.

And do nothing.

I confess I’m one of those rare dinosaur types who isn’t perpetually glued to technology. or peace-signing for the hundredth selfie. So there really isn’t much to do at all except maybe text my kids. And people-watch. Or attempt small talk with the nearest person to kill time. On a good day, a random person might even initiate small talk with me.

I look over at the lady on my right. She seems friendly enough but she’s glued to Facebook on her laptop (duh!). But then, I notice her gazing occasionally at the people streaming by. Suddenly she turns to me and points, “See the guy with the flowers?”

I’m like, where but he’s vanished into the crowd. It’s such a busy place and people are just going wooosh every millisecond! After a while, everything becomes a blur.

Flowers and fake apologies (Image credit: dvo.com)

“I hate people who try to suck up to you with flowers and a fake apology,” she continues. I don’t know what it was about the guy that gave her that idea but “Yup, I have to agree,” I reply, wondering who, in her life, she’s talking about.

Honestly, I don’t know which is worse, a fake apology or no apology at all. Apologies are as rare as blue diamonds with some people. So yeah, if ever there’s one uttered, fake or otherwise, I’ll take it, thanks!

“If they’re not really sorry, sucking up with a bunch of flowers ain’t gonna cut it,” she goes on. “I know what you mean,” is my simple reply. 네, 사과에요 lol! I totally get where she’s coming from. I’m certain now that someone in her life’s been a jerk. Turns out it’s her ex. I gather that’s exactly why he’s her ex.

The man beside me leaves. Instantly a whole village swoops in to grab his seat – grandparents, parents, grown siblings and their offspring. One of the women quickly settles into that one seat with her son on her lap while the village spreads out around her, all talking loudly. The hyperactive boy wriggles around and kicks my leg.

His mother sees it but says nothing. No apology. Not even a fake one? This would be the perfect time to teach the next generation some manners. But no, she was just going to let it go and now that boy is going to think it’s okay to kick someone and not apologize.

My new friend gazes momentarily at them and shakes her head. They’re getting louder by the minute. We continue talking and laughing but have to raise our voices to hear each other above the din.

I give her a small bag of red velvet cookies from my bag. She chomps on them while I nibble on my jam sandwich from home as we exchange notes about hobbies and interests. And there we were – two tired travelers in one crazy huge airport bonding over cookies and fake apologies within that short space of time.

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