Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Things I Forgot or Like About Hong Kong

  • Everywhere you need to go - you have to walk through a shopping mall to get there. This includes grocery store, work, church, subway station, 7-Eleven, and Mrs. Fields cookies.
  • When heading towards people coming toward you - go left to avoid a collision because they drive on the left.  Only Americans veer right.
  • Tall buildings are really, really awesome.  Especially when viewing them from across a body of water.
  • People still wear surgical masks.  And they have a hygiene check point at the airport when you arrive. 
  • The old folks do tai chi in the park every morning.
  • Really good queueing, especially while getting on the jam packed subway in the morning.  And the people who hold the STOP signs and whistles to regulate traffic kind of crack me up.  I found an example at this site.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Tumblr Site

So yeah, I started a Tumblr, even though I don't really know what it means or why I should use it.

But I'm going to try it out while in Asia to post pics from my email/phone app, etc.

It's here: http://laurenhoya.tumblr.com/

Friday, March 18, 2011

Food, Food and more Food!

I think all I did last weekend was eat.

Friday - LDS workgroup lunch at In N Out
Friday night - America's Tacos and the Mountain of ice cream
Sunday night - dinner at Grandma's
Sunday night - dinner at Anne's with Alexis and family who were in town

And in the middle there on Saturday - Devoured.
The Phoenix Culinary Festival.
Only the best restaurants from the area.  With food.  Everywhere.

From The District:
Cheesy corndogs with violet mustard, a philly cheesteak and apple cotton candy (which is amazing)!


Modern Steak had a Wagyu beef and lobster slider.

The Arrogant Butcher had an interesting sweet pea dumpling with bacon and peanut butter mousse (which was excellent, and I don't love peanut butter like many do).

I really want to go to pasta Tuesdays at Cibo, especially after trying this pasta with boar sausage!  St Francis had the cauliflower soup with a raisin emulsion.  

Bruschetta from all sorts of places with all sorts of stuff.  I maintain that Postino is still the best, and I resisted even going to their table since I eat there so often.
Green - the vegan place had a chocolate hazelnut dipped vegan marshmallow which was actually amazing.  No photo though.

Shannon enjoyed the cotton candy, maybe a little too much.  I think we went back for 3 or 4 sticks of it, and tried to get some to go.

The famous chef from Barrio Cafe, Ms Silvana herself, did a demonstration and her personality was probably the favorite at the event.  People packed in to see her.  Then I had to go try her stuff - it was the most tender and delicious meat ever!
They had a bbq to go, set up on a bike.  Brilliant idea.  An even more brilliant idea would be to go eat there soon - who's in?

Shannon and I paced ourselves so our stomachs wouldn't die.  We got there right as it started.  Food, then art break.  Food, then art break.  We did pretty well - I think we got our money's worth.

Below - colored art, enormous, all paper.  Like a bunch of sticky note pads turned sideway and smushed together.


The cool LED light pitch black room that you can get lost in.  Might be a favorite.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

March Madness

Holy moly, I love March Madness.  The Big Dance.  The upsets that have already happend.  I have a million things going on right now, but I finished my bracket picks in the nick of time.

Stayed late at work today, going to keep working late tonight.  I'm going to be in a room on Monday morning in front of 40 people and I need something significant to say.

As I pondered what to have for dinner, CRD reminded me to eat something that I can't get in Asia.  Cheesecake Factory popped to mind and was made even better by the fact that I found a long-lost giftcard with a significant amount left on it.  Hello, factory chopped salad and chocolate mousse cheesecake.  You can keep me and Excel company for a couple hours tonight.

My sis-in-law's family has been dealing with a serious brain tumor surgery today; that's been on my mind all week, in addition to this trip prep.  All is well though, I am relieved to hear.

Checked into my flight tonight; it's cheaper to upgrade to first class where no bag fees exist, than to check two bags.  Hello seat 3B.  I'll land at LAX just in time to race to the Georgetown Alum watch party in Santa Monica to see my Hoyas beat VCU.  Can't wait!  I doubt that CBSsports.com works in Asia; I'm sad I won't see the rest of the games.

And finally, I think I am going to do this in Thailand.  Doesn't it sound amazing?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Delirious Delorean

Whenever I need a pick me up, I watch this video.

Keri G and I went to see these guys last fall, and this dancing Basque keyboard electronica master kept the energy up all night long.


I don't think he can be topped.  His clogging moves are unparalleled!  

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Umm....

So I'm playing around with Tumblr, thinking that it might be good for email blogging my trip, though I don't see why I can't do that with this site, too.

Anyone have any expertise?  I think I'm getting old and don't understand this new micro-blogging thing.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving! Or the Best Holiday of the Year.

I do think that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and I doubt that will ever change.  It's always a 4-5 day weekend, food, friends, family, football, etc.  All the good stuff.  Over the last decade I've spent most Thanksgivings with friends, maybe only going home to my parents once or twice.  It's almost weird to be with family now; seems much more normal to hang out with friends who aren't traveling home.  Anyway.

I'd already decided to head back to Oklahoma for Christmas for the first time in a couple years, so I wanted to head north to visit Tay and Court since they had to work over Christmas and couldn't travel (ah, the joys of being a nurse).  I also decided to bring MCB - our first trip together and first time meeting the family.  I've never taken anyone home to meet my parents (the thought makes me shudder), so this was a nice casual start with just my brother.  No parents around makes it a lot easier.  Even though MCB and I grew up in the same town, I don't think he had ever interacted with my parents.

Utah is sort of a place that freaks me out, but I do find it awesomely beautiful and filled with lots of friends from all parts of my life.  I kind of like when things converge like that.  I made plans to see as many people as possible.  It was only slightly weird when lots of those people are really good guy friends and now you're bringing along a boyfriend and it's lots of testosterone in the room and I was unsure how it was all going to mix.  All went well, thankfully.  How can it not go well when you kick it off with a visit from The Holy Bearded One?

Oh, before that - Utah was supposed to get hit with a crazy blizzard, so my flight was the last flight allowed to leave Phoenix on that Tuesday - all the rest were cancelled.  I seem to have all sorts of problems when I fly to Utah.  Flight was super turbulent, and since the wind was coming from the south and you have to land into the wind, we had to fly across the lake, turn around and come back over it, with crazy, crazy cross-winds.  The plane was teetering nose to tail, rolling side to side, and left wing in front, then right wing in front - every axis was moving.  Not awesome.  The lady next to me tried telling me that flying into SLC is always like this and it's no big deal, but I was super relieved when we landed.  Thing is - it didn't even really snow AT ALL that night.  Wack.  Except it was like 7 degrees the whole time.  SEVEN!  Not good for an AZ'er.

Ok, so Corey and I lost touch for a few years; I left DC, he left DC, moved around, enrolled in law school, deleted Facebook or something, but our mutual love of Dr Pepper brought us together once again!  Turns out he lives very near my brother, and he braved the "crazy blizzard" to come over and have dinner at my brother's place.  We spent a good while making all sorts of faces in front of the fireplace.  This is a good one:

Taylor and Courtney had just added a new member to their family - Max, the GIANT schnauzer.  He is enormous.  And the awesomest dog, except that he would later eat MCB's phone and all of the Christmas treats that were left on the neighbors' doorsteps.

On Wednesday I met up with a lovely friend and roommate from Georgetown, Ms Shannon, with whom I'd also lost touch for years!  She had transferred out of Georgetown, went on a mission, and ended up in grad school in Provo.  Seriously - it'd been like 7 years since I'd heard from her.  I love roommate reunions.

Courtney and I spent the rest of the day shopping while I waited for Josh to arrive much later that night (I guess some people don't get nearly the vacation/flex working days that I do?  Hmmmm...).  He'd shipped all his snowboarding gear to my bro's house earlier in the week since I'd promised him a snow day or two.

Thursday - the big eating day!  I have zero pictures from this.  We drove up to Courtney's parents' house in Sandy to eat with their family.  I'd met many of them at my bro's wedding the year before, but I really only know Courtney's immediate family.  And poor MCB, he knew no one but me.  But what a champion!  He had our whole table cracking up at one point - I swear I think he's the funniest person ever.  He even entertained the younger kids.

We also had to do the "write something you're thankful for on a piece of paper and put it in a jar."  Little did we know they would all be read aloud anonymously after dinner, one by one around the room, and everyone had to guess the author.  Clearly MCB and I were at a disadvantage.  For my thought, I had written something totally generic; but when I worriedly asked MCB about his, he just said everyone would know it was him.  I sort of panicked at this point.  I adore his humor, but sometimes he can be a little out there, and I had NO idea what he wrote.  I waited and waited, and finally towards the end, someone read aloud, "I'm thankful for my job, my health, and my beautiful girlfriend, Lauren."  Cue the Awhs.  And he turned beat red.  Everyone thought he/we were adorable.  Cause we are.

Our plan for Friday was to hit the slopes.  Taylor had to work and Courtney would be off shopping with her sisters, so MCB and I could take the truck and be on our way.  Except on our way home from turkey dinner, the truck got a major flat tire.  Huge hole in the side.  There was no way to fix it that night; Taylor had to be at work at 5am the next day, and the only remaining car was a tiny Honda that we had to split between us.

All in all, it worked out.  I got a lazy day at home with MCB and the dog, Taylor made it to work, and everyone reunited in SLC for some shopping, dinner and time with cousins and friends.  We met up with my cousin Julie and her husband Jesse, plus my dear friend Adam who did a brief stint in Phoenix for medical school and is still a close friend.  Dinner = mole at Red Iguana.




After dinner, Taylor and MCB froze in garage for a couple hours putting the new tire on the truck.  I don't really think they knew what they were doing, but they managed to get it all back together.  Which meant we had wheels and time to rush up the mountain on Saturday before flights home.
We locked poor Max in his cage and took off for Brighton, one of two resorts that already had a ton of snow that early in the season, as some resorts weren't quite open yet.

Courtney grew up on the mountain, she's awesome.  Taylor's been in Utah for awhile now and has a good teach.  MCB lived in Colorado for awhile and got really good.  Me, not so much.  And I ski, not board.  I knew it was going to be a painful day, but I took one for the team.
It had been a couple years since I'd been, but I decided not to spend the extra $ on another lesson, since I probably won't be going again anytime soon, and really how much can you improve in two hours?  I've just accepted the fact that this is something I will never be good at.  MCB has full permission to take snow trips without me.  I will remain in the spa where I belong.

I spent the morning alone on the easy slopes, but everyone insisted on doing one run together.  Sigh.  MCB is a patient teacher, but next time I'll insist that he leave me.  It's just better that way!  I had some nice ski-imprinted bruises on my leg when I got home.

All in all though, great Thanksgiving.  I survived bringing someone home to meet part of the family, saw lots of friends, ate good stuff, and maybe I'll have to make it an annual tradition.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Mary Coyle Mountain

All seven pounds were consumed by 13 people. Nine flavors, three toppings (fudge, caramel and double marshmallow) plus nuts. Wow.

Mary C, we'll miss you when you're gone in May.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

7 pounds

Preparing for the mountain of ice cream at Mary Coyle.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

This Week, Happiness Is

5 Free Songs on iTunes - I really hope no one forms a profile about me based on ny download choices, because it's music I may not want to be caught purchasing.  But it's free (and may include keh-dollarsign-ha).


My new JCrew Ashbury bag.  It is a thing of beauty!  It mostly sold out super quickly, but I was able to get one on final sale.

The handle makes the bag.  I am in love with it. 

Eating my way through the Phoenix Culinary Classic at the Phoenix Art Museum this weekend (and hitting the gym hard after).

And finally - giving myself something to look forward to in August - tickets to see Robyn and Katy Perry!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

China and All Its Goods (and Bad)

A couple weeks ago I ordered a new iPod touch for MCB as a late V-present, and as a "I'm glad you're coming to Asia with me and you're going to sit on a 14-hour flight by yourself, so here's something to help you occupy your time" sort of gift.  He's been slow to update his ancient iPod.

I ordered it on a Wednesday, maybe just before noon.  I had it engraved, so this was a personalized deal.  By Wednesday evening I had a tracking number, and since I'm obsessed with tracking packages, I quickly noted that it was coming from a factory in China.  Estimated arrival date - maybe 7 days?

He had it in his hands by Friday early afternoon.

48 hour delivery from China.  Through Memphis, TN.  Then back to Los Angeles.

Amazing.  Way to go China factory workers and FedEx. We Western capitalist societies thank you for your efficiencies and cheapness.

Then last weekend I watched this excellent documentary, Last Train Home, about Chinese migrant workers and their decisions to split up their families in hopes of earning more money to support them.  I had to rethink my appreciation for their always-working factories and instead turn my attention to the plight of these workers.

Never again will I complain about being stuck in an airport.  During Chinese New Year when they head home, sometimes they stand in a plaza for 5 days in bad weather, waiting to get on a train.  Just so they can spend two days on a train, another few hours on a bus or boat, only to reach home to see their children, one time a year.

I can't imagine any sort of life like that, yet hundreds of millions of people do it every year.  Go watch it.  Netflix Instant.  Fantastically done.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

State Fair! Fried Food!

Back to the updates - goal to catch up before leaving for Asia in a couple weeks.

For some reason I love going to the State Fair every year.  The people-watching is unparalleled.  It's also the one time of year I look forward to dining on Indian Fry Bread, though I skipped it this year because all the other fried food options were insanely delicious.

First stop before the Demolition Derby - food stop #1.  It was happy hour and prices were slashed on food, so we decided to sample a small serving of the fried zucchini.  Lucky for us, the person in front of us in line ordered the regular order of friend zucchini, decided it was way too much, and walked away.  Fair worker didn't want to throw it away, so he offered it to us.  Score!


Next up, my first Demolition Derby ever.  Despite growing up in redneck country where these events probably happen on a regular basis, I have never attended.  It was fairly awesome.
Demolition Derby from L Dubbs on Vimeo.



My favorite grocery store had quite the clever ad campaign going.  Kudos to good marketing placement.

No visit to the State Fair is complete without a Ferris Wheel ride.  It was joyous.


Food stop #2.  Keri had received some coupons as part of her fair season pass - buy two, get one free.  Of course we had to sample!  Fried Oreos, friend cheesecake, and fried Snickers, I think.  Cheesecake - eh.  It had been frozen before and was really cold in the middle.  Not all that special.  The Oreos however - bomb diggity!  Really, really tasty.


I think I'd already eaten one corn dog earlier in the day, but when we saw the sweet potato version, we had to try it.  Food stop #3.  I think it sort of tasted like cinnamon yams and got all weird when I put mustard on it.  Iffy, for next year.

Keri tried to break a dish.  It's hard than it looks.  The balls you throw weigh nothing, and the plates are not fragile in the least.  No prizes for us.

We thought we were done eating, but seeing all those turkey legs roasting and smelling delicious prompted us to make one more stop.  Throw down like a Viking and eat one!
Remember - we split all that between four people.  However, Mr Mike below tackled a FOUR pound burger alone.  He was able to eat three of those pounds, and probably could've finished had he not eaten two plates of spaghetti before coming to the fair.  Quite a spectacle to behold.


The next week I went back to the Fair for one more visit - this time the draw was not just Demo Derby, but MOTOR HOME DEMO DERBY.  I cannot explain to you how awesome this was.  I didn't have my good camera either, so the crappy cell phone pic will have to suffice, unless you feel compelled to go google this.

Something about watching these motor homes crash into each other is epic.  I had no idea it'd be so great.  They're so fragile; they start to fall apart right away.  The back door flies open, couch cushion fly out, siding breaks off, the entire thing sways to the side, off it's squared frame.  Wow.  I will definitely not miss this next year.

And of course the winner did a victory lap and tried to haul that thing over the big dirt ramp in the middle.  I didn't think he was going to make it.

A final highlight - the free concerts at the fair with washed up stars.  Billed as "Old School Jam," it included Montell Jordan.  We all know the song.  He will never escape singing it!  Though I did read that shortly after his fair performance he decided to leave singing.  Yes, I did see one of Montell Jordan's final performances.  Aren't you jealous?



And lastly, some pretty sunset pictures from last October, because AZ sunsets are the best.




Back to Bulgaria with some Amsterdam

After a long day of driving we made it to Plovdiv. We had booked an Airbnb place with a Bulgarian guy - took us a minute to find his apartme...