Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bahamas Cruise : Day 1

Well the excitement started right as we opened our eyes and started getting ready to leave for Miami to board our ship. We kept reminding each other "don't forget this" and "don't forget that" when Rose reminded me of something very important that I forgot... my passport. I know, the one thing that was bolded and highlighted in all e mails and the one thing we kept talking about the entire time leading up to this day. So I rush downstairs to tell my mom and my sister Rachelle who set everything up and I think at first they thought I was kidding. Then Ron overhears me and says "I forgot my passport too!"

The fun was just beginning.... ok, not really. Ron and I were both on phones and computers trying to get in touch with someone at the cruise or the passport office in Miami, hoping that maybe we could get a quick passport when we got there before getting on the boat. Yeah, right. So finally we all just got in the car and started our 3 hour trip to Miami and continued the phone calls and comp work in the van (thank god for broadband cards). I can tell you the entire 3 hours Ron and I were trying to figure out how we were going to get our passports since all the paperwork and documents clearly state: Passport required to board, no exceptions. But to make a long story short.... we finally came to this plan: Have my friend Vanessa in L.A. get our passports (and we had to call a locksmith to get into my place), then take it down to the Delta terminal and have them fly our passports to Miami which we would pick up at midnight that night. Then we would get a hotel room at the airport hotel, stay the night and fly out on the earliest flight we could to Nassau and meet everyone there. Believe it or not- the plan was in place and we were ready to have to spend all this money to meet everyone for just part of the cruise.... however--- we get to the cruise terminal and all they made us do was sign a piece of paper stating that we didn't have our passports and then let us on! We were so relieved that we could be with everyone so all of this stressing for the last 5 hours ended up being for nothing! We were just so happy to be on the boat and get settled in our rooms which were bigger than we thought they were going to be. Here is a picture of our room and the 2 beds on the top fold down into the wall. Me, Rose, Ron and Roger shared this room and if you look closely, you can see the towel they folded into a pig and would have a new animal in our room everyday. I was really surprised about how roomy these cabins were! After we dropped off our luggage we had to do a safety drill using the life vests and that lasted for all of 20 minutes and we were finally able to relax, dance to some cheesy music they were playing on the Lido deck and have some dinner in the Sensation dining room and drinks! The boat was really nice and had several pools, a volleyball court, a basketball court, a casino, shops, a large theatre for shows and very LARGE buffets everywhere, 24/7. Ouch. That should be illegal. Especially the midnight Mexican buffet on Saturday night. After dinner (4 courses that felt like 14), Rose, Roger and I went to see the live "broadway" show that was playing in the Palace Theatre that had some latino theme. It was very interesting to say the least. The dancers were very animated, but not so "broadway" and the singers seemed out of tune more often than not (especially the chick who looked like a man). It was entertaining though (and did I mention free?) and we came back the next night for more- but this time it was an 80s theme. By the end of the night.... we were exhausted. Up at 6am, a 3-hour drive to Miami, a stressful morning, waiting in line after line checking in, getting settled on the boat and in our rooms and as always- eating until we couldn't move. But all in all, our family was together and that's what mattered. This was a great way to spend the Thanksgiving holiday and we have our mother to thank for that (it was her idea!). We can't complain- cruising to the Bahamas in November... not too shabby.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just wanted to say Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! I am here in Melbourne Beach, Florida at my sister Rachelle's house and this is a shot of her "backyard"! It's a beautiful day here, a bit cold actually (colder than Cali!) but its getting warmer by the day. We leave bright and early in the morning to go on our cruise to the Bahamas and I think the adults are more excited than the kids! I know I won't be blogging when I am on the cruise so I thought I would post something quick before I left.

Its really nice to be here with my family.... it makes me realize just how much I miss being close to my parents. But I am most thankful for my family- who have been there with me through thick and thin, and there has been a lot of "thick" these past couple of years. I am also thankful for my friends, even though you are all scattered everywhere since Katrina hit... I know we don't get to talk everyday, but I still think about you guys often and hope you are all well.

Be safe and take care this Thanksgiving holiday. Love, Riza (Picture below is with my nephew Lucas)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Great Birthday Weekend

Just want to say thanks so much for everything this past weekend! Rose and Roger came in town and it was nice to have the 4 of us together on my birthday- that made the weekend the most special. We really missed you Rachelle, Dan and mom and dad but I know that we will all be together in a few days and can once again celebrate everyone's birthday again!

Friday night, we went to the Laker's basketball game at the Staples Center and this was the first time I had ever been to the Staples Center, but the second Laker's game (first one was at the New Orleans Arena when they played the New Orleans Hornets!) The next day, we had brunch at The Terrace Cafe right on the beach in the Venice area. We rode bikes down to the restaurant since it is just down the street from where I live. After we ate, we rode our bikes on the strand on the beach and stopped to take some pictures on the water and then rode down all the way down to the Santa Monica pier. Eric was nice enough to buy us tickets to ride the roller coaster and we had such a great time! You can never have enough time down by the beach and before you knew it, the fog was rolling in and we had to start biking back to my place. When we got back, I opened the door and to my surprise.... I found a big present sitting in the middle of my place! They got me a really nice beach cruiser for my birthday!!! I was so suprised and I love the bike!!! We showered and hung out at my place and had some drinks before heading to my friend Mike's who hosted a little get together to have some more drinks before heading to the restaurant. He lives really close and so we parked there and walked over. We ended up having dinner at "Jame's Beach" right near the beach, which was delicious and had such a great atmosphere (thanks to my friend JD's recommendation)!

I am sure we will post more pictures from the weekend on flickr but I just wanted to post a few and to say thanks again for making my birthday so special and for coming in town to celebrate my brithday with me. You don't know how much it meant to me. I love you all!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Stephanie's Birthday

Last Saturday night, it was Stephanie's birthday (sorry for this post so late on my blog, but nonetheless-- here it is!) Right after that crazy night, I had to jump on a plane to San Francisco and am actually writing this from Sacramento (I'll be back in LA tomorrow night!). We had such a great time! We started at Geisha, a fantastic sushi restaurant in Hollywood and got to meet all of Steph's awesome friends. Funny thing was that there were 4 of us that were Filipino and one girl that was 1/2 japanese and 1/2 chinese, Erin, but you know- we were all family! I do have to give a shout out to our token "white girl" Mori... she can totally hang and was a ton of fun! I also got to see Casey, who I met on one of the first weekends I was in LA at the Getty and hadn't seen since. We hit it off when we first met and I just love her to death. Stephanie is so lucky to have such genuine people in her life who she has shared with me and who are so incredibly funny! The other girls were really cool and here is a shot of us at dinner at Geisha. We had some fancy drinks, did some shots and at the end, they brought out a nice little birthday treat for Steph- that we all devoured. We were almost too full to dance.... so we got up and started walking to the next destination.
We ended up getting on a list for a bar called The Mansion.. and it certainly didn't look like that from the outside! We patiently waited for our person to come get us and bring us in and we got seated in the "reserved" section (I know, we are so important). We danced for hours, laughed a lot and had many drinks! After our feet were too tired to move anymore... we found ourselves at "Pink's", yes, I did say Pink's. I pass by this place all the time and every time we pass it, there is a line wrapped around the place... ALWAYS! Ask anyone in LA about Pink's and they will know exactly what you are talking about...and its literally like a hot dog stand, sort of like a bigger "lucky dog stand" in New Orleans! We ate every bite of our hot dogs and were really ready to get in bed and pass out! It was such a great time and Vanessa, I can't wait until your birthday! Can you say Philippines? We should do it!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ethan and Stephan

This past Sunday, I met Ethan and Stephan for breakfast at the Rose Cafe on Abbott Kinney and it was sooo great to see them! Its been a while since I've seen Stephan- since I was in Chicago last- and Ethan I should see more since we both live in Cali-- but you know how that goes. I also got to meet their friend Eric who moved here a year ago from New York! I am excited because both Ethan and Eric are divers, so we are going to plan a trip to Catalina so that I can take them to dive in the kelp beds for the first time! I just wanted to give them a shout out... and we wished you were there Cil and Jon! Hurry and come back to Cali...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Sunday on the west side

I am currently on the plane going from Nashville to San Diego but I thought I would write down some thoughts. This past Sunday morning, I met up with some friends at the farmer's market on Main street in Santa Monica-- my first farmer's market experience out here. I thought I would blog about it because its just unbelievable the "scene" at these markets... and they offer more than just food.Vanessa and her daughter Norah, my friends Aarti and Pervesh and their daughter Nikita and my friend Mike and I headed to the farmer's market to shop around and then get some brunch. When we got there late morning, the place was packed! We just went through a cold spell (you know, in the 70's) but that day, it had warmed up to about 90 degrees! People were fighting for patches of shade and standing under tents to eat their food and avoid the sun. It was a beautiful day nonetheless and it showed in the amount of people that were out that day.

Much to my surprise, this farmer's market not only had your typical produce stands, but they had lots of different food booths-- and not elephant ears or bags of peanuts-- but booths that served full on omlettes made to order and crepes made the same way. The lines were really long so we decided to send Pervesh down the street to a nice little brunch place to put our names on a waiting list while we enjoyed more of the market. In the front were pony rides for kids (yes. real live ponies) and also set up in the middle of the market was a stage for music and people dancing all around. But it wasn't just any kind of music- it was a brass band!!! It was so refreshing to hear the sounds of New Orleans, seeing people of all ages and races dance around and there were people even wearing the "re-new orleans" shirts. If you closed your eyes and listened to the band, it was just like I was back in the Big Easy. However when you opened your eyes to look at the band-- there was one thing that wasn't quite so right... the players were white!

After we left, we went to get some brunch and all got our fill! It was great food and the atmosphere rocked- we got patio seating and it was just awesome being outside on a Sunday morning. After we ate, we walked down to the beach which was all of two blocks away and played in the sand, walked down to the beach and soaked up some rays. As we were ready to leave, Mike and I decided to walk home.... which may seem like a long way- but time went by so fast as I was in good company. We took Main Street all the way to Abbott Kinney and stopped along the way to look in shops (I loved that groovy Hawaiian furniture place!) eat some gelato and peruse the nursery for some new plants! Ahhh..... you have to love Sundays on the west side.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

My friend Mike

I just wanted to give a shout out to my friend Mike, who was one of the first few friends I made when I got to LA. Its interesting the people that come in and out of your life, but I am really glad that Mike and I crossed paths. He lives out in Venice Beach where I live, so its been nice having a "neighbor" in the area.... and someone who I can mooch some wireless signals from since I didn't have internet until last week. He's my "411" to places to go around the hood and once I get a bike, I'll be joining him on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday mornings at one of the many awesome farmer's markets in the area. Just recently, Mike lost his father to lung cancer. He was diagnosed a few weeks ago and the docs gave him 6 months to live. Mike called to tell me he was going to go see his dad and hang out with his family for about a week. On his way back to LA, he got the call from his mother that his father had passed. I just want him to know that he is always in my prayers and that even though we have only known each other for a couple of months, I consider him a very good friend of mine.

I just share this story because it's amazing how things can change so much, so fast and in me and Mike's case, our lives have both changed in just a couple of months. When I first got here, I was living on my brother's couch, jobless and having no direction in my life. Thanks to people like Mike that helped me even a bit- directions somewhere, traffic advice, even using your internet... because without friends like that, I would not have been strong enough to adjust to life as it was (and still is actually). Now that I can stand somewhat on two feet, I just want you to know that now I can now be strong for you and if there is anything you need me to do, just call my name and I'll be there (are those lyrics to a song?). Ok seriously, that goes out to all my friends that need just a little extra love and attention right now. Who am I kidding? We all need it all the time.
Here is a picture of us at Santa Monica beach after we spent the day at the farmer's market on Main street in Santa Monica earlier that day and had a nice brunch. The picture above is also from the beach... it was a nice day with good food, good shopping, good weather and good company.

Kayaking in Redondo Beach

This past Saturday, my friend Eric and I tried to venture out to do some kayaking in the pacific. We were all psyched and Eric found the place to rent the kayaks on the Redondo Beach pier, which is really close to where he lives in Hermosa Beach.We met Ron and his friend Melissa at Tony P's, a great sports bar on the water in Marina Del Ray before we headed to Redondo beach. We walked along the pier which was hopping with cute bars, restaurants and shops and at the end there is a kids playground. They have paddleboats you can rent, different excursions you could go on like glass bottom boats, etc.. and kayaks.We step up all ready and comes to find out, we can't take the kayaks out of the harbor! We were bummed but we took the kayaks out anyway because there is about a mile of harbor where you can paddle along the banks and see all the boats, check out the restaurants from the water and the best was getting close to these platforms where there were a ton of seals! It reminded me so much of the galapagos but these were some of the biggest I had ever seen. I got really close and parked my kayak and they started going crazy. Then I saw a duck caught in fishing wire so I helped untangle him... my good deed for the day.

It was a ton of fun that day and I recommend it to anyone who lives out here- go check it out! I've decided though that I am going to buy my own kayak and take it out in the pacific next time.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Have safe travels Amanda!

Thursday night, Amanda landed in LAX all the way from New Orleans and my flight from Monterey landed just an hour after hers. We met at baggage claim and it was so great to see Amanda after all this time... we hadn't seen each other for over a year! After getting my car and finally getting to the restaurant, we got to Baja Cantina around 11pm and were starving and ready for a margarita! We were so tired but it was good to catch up and even made a couple of friends at the bar!

The next day, I had to work but afterwards, we went for a run down by the beach and like always, the weather was perfect! There were so many people out blading and running... good times. After our run, we went back to my place to get Amanda packed up- she was just in town overnight because she was catching her flight later on that night to head to Australia for at least 6 months. She was granted a visa to work for 4 months and then is able to hang out for another 2 months but who knows, she may stay longer. Amanda decided that she wanted to try living somewhere different so she is going over there and has no idea where she will stay or where she will work. She is my new hero... I am so excited for her! As a going away present, I treated Amanda to a massage and it was her first professional massage ever! We had massages at The Massage Place (definitely recommend that place for all the LA folks- and ask for Dave at the Venice Beach location on Main street) and then after, headed to Lily's for dinner. By this time, it was time to take Amanda to the airport so she could catch her red eye flight to the land down under. I am so proud of her and hope that while she is there, I will be able to come visit. Be safe Amanda and definitely keep in touch.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Its a small world

Finally, a girls night out! These pictures were actually taken last weekend when Vanessa, Stephanie, Dena and I went to a really nice dinner at Beachwood right down the street where I live (delicious martinis!) and then headed out to Abbott Kenney for a few more drinks! It was a really fun night and randomly, we met someone from New Orleans! Turns out that he saw Vanessa's driver's license while we were waiting in line to get in and then stopped us on our way out. His name is Sam and he works at Kaiser with Emma... and we found this out when he told us he used to live in New Orleans and was a resident here. I knew the odds were pretty high that they knew each other. Then I told him that I used to live in the Los Feliz area with Emma and then he said, are you Riza? He knew Emma and Ron and put two and two together and there you have it... It just shows you what a small world we live in, even being in LA.

NBC Studios in LA

My boss Dave came in town yesterday to go with me to meetings at the NBC station here in LA. The meetings went well and I am looking forward to working with this group! While we were there at NBC, we got to see the studios where they film the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Access Hollywood and some of the places where they tape Days of our Lives! We ate lunch at their cafeteria on site and I was amazed by how this studio was like its own little city- with a hospital on site, its own bank, gym, etc... On the way there, we passed through the parking lot where the celebrities park and saw where Jay Leno parks and of course, he was driving one of his many cool cars! Here is Dave posing with the cool car. We were offered some passes to go see a live taping to both The Tonight Show and the Ellen Degeneres show so I hope to take them up on that really soon! Dave, you will have to come back on another market trip and this time, we'll have to do some "fun" stuff! Plan on staying an extra day.. or two.. or three!