In-N-Out burger time

In-N-Out burger time
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On the way to San Jose, we made a brief stop in Gilroy to grab a quick lunch. I suggested In-N-Out since Hip2bDaughters have never tried their burgers and weren’t even keen to try. A burger is a burger is a burger, Mom, they tell me. True, I wouldn’t suggest going to just any burger place myself. But you can’t live here and not have tasted In-N-Out, know what I mean?

They’ve been around since 1948, that should say something! They’re always packed. You can almost never get a table, and the drive-thru is miles long. And what’s not to love about their 1960’s theme – colors, concept, even down to the staff’s uniforms, it’s like stepping into a Grease movie!

So in we went. It was sardines inside!! There was no way we were going to get a table! So we decided to take out and even then, we got moved around quite a bit while waiting for our order. People just kept coming in the door.

In and Out

We were planning to eat our burgers on the road so as not to waste time. Seriously, I have no idea how to eat a burger while driving. I’ve never tried and I’m not sure my car would appreciate becoming a piece of red and yellow modern art. So we ended up eating in our parked car with the windows rolled down. It was a beautiful cool day!

3 burgers

I had a hamburger, the young ladies had cheeseburgers. I wish I’d ordered the cheeseburger though, it looked bigger and tastier but cost like only 30 cents more, haha! Oh well, next time! And remember to ask for their grilled onions, they’re freakin’ tasty!

burger

Now the Hip2bDaughters can say they’ve been to In-N-Out and even admit to loving their burgers, so tasty yet affordable. We’ve been back 3 times since. Looks like I’ve created monsters again!

The white wall

The white wall
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I’m back! From our little vacation to the Bay Area. It was a cold, gray day when we headed out to San Jose. Mind you, this wasn’t your regular gray winter’s day, it came with thick fog. Regular fog is fine, I’m used to that. But we ran into several patches of fog so thick that visibility was like 200 feet. We’re talking complete whiteout here!!

Pretty weird!! I felt like I was driving straight into a white wall. I couldn’t see anything beyond the front of my car. That’s how bad it was! All I had were the white lines on the road to guide me. Beyond that, I couldn’t see a thing!! Not a thing! Whenever a vehicle passed by, its tail lights would disappear in a flash and then it’s back to that white wall again.

It’s a strange feeling. It’s like you want to get out of it quick. You’re hoping the wall will open up at any moment. But you can’t speed up. In fact, I slowed down so as to keep a safe distance between me and any vehicle that might just be in front of me which I couldn’t see. You wonder where everyone else is, and if they can see you. You hope they’re not speeding. And you wonder how long that wall is going to go on for. Just pretty weird!!

But by the second patch of blind fog, I was beginning to consider myself quite a pro at it. I slowed down. I kept going. And I was glad when I finally emerged from it. It’s just like they say, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, you know there’s a clear road beyond the fog. 😀

Bringing hip back

Bringing hip back
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Hey guys, I’m back. A bright sunny hello from California *waves*. I’m sorry I went MIA without warning. It wasn’t intentional. Honest. Life happens sometimes and I got disconnected from the online world, literally.

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Listen, I’m gonna keep it short here for now. I need to decompress for a bit. But I’m so excited I’ve got so much to tell you guys, so be sure to stick around…

Bus rides – the good, the funny, the forgettable

Bus rides - the good, the funny, the forgettable
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It’s hard getting used to the fact that I don’t have a car right now *bawls*. So the bus it is, if I’m to go a little further than where my legs would take me. Riding bus is never without its drama though. For me, at least.

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Imagine me stepping into the bus, saying hi to the driver only to be greeted with silence, or a disgruntled hmmph, who then proceeds to hit the accelerator, sending me hurtling forwards, bag and umbrella flying – before I can grab on to the rail. That’s me straight out of an action comedy! Oh well!

So I find a seat and bump along and I’m recalling my teen years when I had to take 2 buses daily to get to and from college. In the absence of queues, and courtesy in the third world, or bus doors even, I literally had to fight to get on the bus. Not that I was ever very good at shoving and elbowing which explains why I would often end up being one of the last few to get on… if I can even call it that. To this day, I swear I still have PTSD from hanging out of moving door-less buses and being pasted against the windscreen of the bus. Not funny!

Then there was that time adventurous lil me hopped on a bus in Australia to go check out the Queen Victoria mall in Sydney. This was before the days of GPS and smartphones. I asked the bus driver where I should get off and he wasn’t very helpful. Maybe he was having a bad day. I tried asking some of the passengers and they were all having a bad day. Sometimes, you just can’t win.

Then there’s the story of my first bus ride in California. I was new in town and didn’t know my way around. One day, I took a bus to the university to settle some admin stuff. On the way back, I watched helplessly as the bus sped past my stop before I could ring the bell. I panicked and stumbled to the front of the bus to tell the bus driver that I’d missed my stop. I’m not sure what I expected him to do except maybe to let me off at the next stop.

But you know what? Instead he told me to sit back down, then he turned around and announced to everyone on the bus that he was going to circle back so he could drop me off at my exact stop. An even bigger surprise was that everyone on the bus was okay with it too! I know, I couldn’t believe it either. The whole bus took a turn back just for me. H*ll yeah! Talk about the kindest bus driver ever, and such an agreeable lot of passengers too, bless them.

So these are some of my bus stories, the good, the funny and the forgettable. They’re always fun to tell. Do you have a bus story to share?

Disneyland throwback

Disneyland throwback
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Hey guys, I wanted to do a bit of a throwback here and share with you some holiday photos taken at around this time a couple years ago.

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The giant Christmas tree that greeted us as we entered the happiest, er dampest place on earth. Not even the grey skies nor the Californian winter nor the incessant rain could dampen our spirits as we trooped in 3 mornings in a row.

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Eating ice cream on an outdoor bench on a cold and rainy night waiting for the Disney holiday parade, what an experience… and to see living, breathing Disney princesses and their Prince Charmings wave and nod at us. Totally worth it!

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The Pirates of the Caribbean ride which we rode so-oo many times we lost count. Even the guy manning this amazing river boat ride was starting to recognize us and give us weird looks like, hey didn’t I just see you get into the boat 10 minutes ago? We got there so early there was no one ahead of us in the usually mile-long line, and once we even got the entire train of boats to ourselves, heh!

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The parade went on and on, brightly lit float after float, bringing to life all of my teens’ favorite Disney storybook characters they grew up with. Priceless!

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And if we were obsessed with the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, we completely went off our rockers with the Aladdin show at the Hyperion theater at the California Adventure Park. Once the show was over, we went back in line to watch it again… and again… and again. After about the 6th or 7th time, even Aladdin recognized us and waved to us from up there on his elephant!

Sweet memories!

10 hours straight

10 hours straight
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If I was completely sleepless on the flight to San Francisco, I was completely knocked out all the way back. No sleeping pills. No alcohol. Nothing. Barely had we settled down to watch the live feed of the plane taxiing down the runway for takeoff when I was out like a lightbulb. Gone to Lalaland. Just like that. Into the deepest and sweetest of slumbers…

… only to be awakened by a faint nudge from Raine to signal that dinner, or supper (not that it mattered which) was being served. I stayed awake – barely – just long enough to down a few bites of that chicken cacciatore which I didn’t even taste, by the way. And then I was gone again.

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I’m not sure if sleep is a strong enough word to describe such sweet, uninterrupted slumber. Except for a couple of zombie trips to the bathroom, I slept for 10 straight hours… on a 12-hour flight!! I awoke refreshed but famished, and just in time for this breakfast which, as airplane food goes, wasn’t half bad. Maybe I was super-hungry but that muffin was yums, not to mention the tubs of ice-cream they served afterwards. Can you imagine airplanes serving Haagen-Dazs? I love it!

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All through breakfast and my second cup of coffee, I was glued on Identity Thief. Jason Bateman is the genius cutie (still have a leftover crush on him!) but I found Melissa McCarthy super-annoying! Even more annoying was that 10 minutes till the end of the movie, our dear pilot took my movie off the air saying he was preparing to land. Heck, I got 10 more minutes to go, why don’t you just circle around? Bummer.

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So that was that. I didn’t get to see the ending. Bleh, but I was in no mood to complain since I got nicely caught up on beauty sleep and that’s all I cared about 😀 .

Sleepless to San Francisco

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Tell me, what can be more frustrating than hopping on a long haul flight, full of anticipation that you’ll have time to catch some zzz’s and maybe a movie or two, only to have all of your grand plans dashed to pieces by one person? Just one person.

That little old lady in the window seat next to you.

Harmless enough, right? Wrong!

She was clearly on a crusade to keep me awake for the entire length of our 13-hour flight! If I’d even so much as dreamed I was going to catch a single wink of sleep, I was sorely mistaken. Every time I closed my eyes, she would do something to wake me up!!

If she wasn’t stabbing my ribs with her elbow, she was knocking her knee into mine. I mean, seriously, who sits flapping their knees open and shut non-stop like a chicken flapping its wings?! If she didn’t have her reading light shining down on me, she was flagging down the attendants asking for stuff. She tried to ask me stuff too but happily we didn’t speak the same language so her attempts hit a dead end.

If she wasn’t refusing her pre-ordered vegan meal, she was asking for chicken in the middle of the night. Seriously, is chicken even vegan?! If she wasn’t playing with the buttons on the remote, she was gesturing to get up every half hour to go to the bathroom, or to walk up and down the aisle and make a nuisance of herself, or something, which was fine by me so long as she would just go find somebody else to annoy.

All this fidgeting and going back and forth! And in a sari too! I wondered if she might have some sort of hyperactive personality disorder? Seriously! And the fact that she was totally unabashed and unapologetic made it even more annoying. She even had the audacity to openly hijack my spot in the bathroom line, the one I’d been standing in for 10 minutes!

As soon as the plane landed, she sprang out of her seat (literally) and if she could’ve, she would’ve swung over our heads Tarzan-style to get to the aisle. She gestured for us to get out of our seats and step out to the aisle which was near impossible, considering that everyone else had spilled out by then to make a dash for their carry-ons.

Even as she was gesturing us to make way for her (the little control freak!), she was pointing furiously to a young man a few rows away to unload her bags off the overhead. Not sure if she even knows the guy because he looked positively shocked! Once she got on the aisle, she fought to get ahead of us by elbowing Raine in the ribs and sending her staggering backwards, backpack and all. I kid you not!

What an absolutely crazy 13 hours that was! You can only imagine my relief that we’d finally landed. To be honest, I generally enjoy interacting with people of different countries and cultures when I travel. But this woman wins “The Most Annoying Fellow Passenger of the Year” award hands down.

Happy tummies at Yoshino’s

Happy tummies at Yoshino's
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Six teams of horses couldn’t keep me away from Yoshino’s. I’ve been patronizing this place since my college days and it’s really an amazing feeling to be able to take my kids there now to eat where I used to eat like 20 years ago.

We went to Yoshino’s three times so that must really say something about how much I love their food, and prices. Their Calamari Rings are soft and succulent, and even though we know full well that their mains are huge, we can still never resist ordering this.

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This dragon roll is a must for us. Look at the length of it, all 10 rolls of it, and that jumbo shrimp as the head and tail. Normally I don’t like to mention prices, I don’t have anything to prove, but I’ll make it an exception this time because this delicious dragon roll the length of the Amazon River is only $12!

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Compare that with what we’re used to here. The most we get are a measly 3 or 4 rolls with an inedible shrimp head and tail for probably the same price or more. See the difference!

sushirolls

I had their lunchtime Teriyaki Special every time in the 3 times we’ve been there. I tend to stay away from teriyaki anything because I’ve always known it to be extremely salty. Not this teriyaki chicken. I’m totally converted. The chicken is succulent and the teriyaki sauce is sweet and actually fragrant. The salad is just out of this world as is everything else. And this entire bento box the width of a shopping cart for a freaking’ $12. Now tell me this is not the most incredible deal for a most incredible meal ever!

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If you know me from reading this blog, you know I’m one extremely picky diner and I don’t sing praises very often at all. But as you can see, the servings are huge and they don’t skimp on quality. See why we couldn’t stay away? And in case you’re wondering, they’re not paying me to say any of this. It’d be nice if they would but hey, all I’m sayin’ is that this is my all-time favorite Japanese joint, that’s all 😀 .

By the way, Yoshino’s was the only Asian food I ate in over a month. Just this, nothing else. Asian food is great and everything, just that if it’s there, I’ll eat it; if it’s not, I won’t necessarily miss it 😉 .

Late lunch at BJ’s

Late lunch at BJ's
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So we’d been running around and ended up doing a late lunch at BJ’s Brewhouse which, according to Steev, is perpetually packed with long lines stretching all the way out of the building. We’d been turned away once before because the line was too long. We were lucky this time as the lunch crowd had left.

Lunch turned out to be quite a laugh all because we had a funny server who commented that we were “ordering A LOT” and thereafter repeatedly remarked that he “wouldn’t be surprised if we couldn’t finish everything” and that we were “eating too much”. It’s true we were letting our groaning tummies call the shots.

We started with Crispy Calamari which was a heap of breaded calamari fried crisp and served with spicy marinara and lemon garlic aioli. Yummy because we were hungry but otherwise, it’s nothing really special.

bj_calamari

I’m so crazy about Clam Chowder that I ordered it every where we went. This was a huge bowl and totally scrumptious.

bj_clamchowder

The Texas-style Chicken Fried Steak with mashed potatoes, gravy and steamed vegetables was interesting.

bj_chixsteak

If I wasn’t a fan of angel hair before, this Scampi Pasta totally won me over. There’s a whole mix of textures here – succulent shrimps, delicate angel hair bursting with flavor and a rich sprinkling of Parmesan and parsley. Loved this.

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Heard so much about Parmesan Crusted Chicken and now I can confirm this is really good. This was pan fried to perfection and went really well with the white cheddar mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. Loved this also.

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And our server was right, we did order too much but pigs that we were, we practically cleaned up everything but still had leftovers.

Same name, only better

Same name, only better
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We eat at Chili’s quite often (well, we used to) so it’s not like we absolutely had to eat at Chili’s while on vacation. In fact, I’d rather try something different. But sometimes, you go with what’s nearest and most convenient, and you might just surprise yourself that even though the name of the restaurant is the same, the menu choices and customer service is so much better.

We ordered the Bottomless Tostada Chips. This generous bowl of guac was rich, tasty and the avocado was chunky in sharp contrast to the chips which were thin and crispy. Heaven!

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Compare that with the wallpaper-textured chips at the local Chili’s which comes with only salsa. You want guac, dream on 😐 !!

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I had to have my pasta. The Cajun Pasta is penne with creamy garlic Alfredo sauce and chicken marinated in Cajun spices. Loved it. It was rich and creamy yet full of flavor.

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Mango-Chile Chicken is new on their menu. I usually steer clear of ordering anything that comes with rice. I mean, what’s with the rice? I went over a month without rice and I still didn’t miss it.

But this rice was so beautifully cooked you could see the individual grains, and it had a subtle fragrance. The chile-seasoned chicken topped with spicy mango vinaigrette and “their mango salsa prepared with house-made pico de gallo and avocado” was refreshing. And look at that mountain of steamed broccoli, green and soft.

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Compare that with this local serving of Chili’s chicken with… can you spot the 2 pathetically yellowed, overcooked pieces of broccoli? Ya, that!

barbecue chicken

Anyhoo, to finish off our meal in style, my kids suggested ordering this. Ta-da, the oven-baked Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie topped with a rich vanilla ice cream. Personally I’ve never seen a cookie this size. Such sweet decadence that my waistline says ouch 😉 .

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But it’s all good. We tucked it all in. Such a great meal with (surprise!) no leftovers!

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