Monday, February 20, 2012

Two dinners for Valentines Day

For some people, they get all touchy when I ask them if they do anything on Valentines Day.  I start getting some response like "we don't need a day dedicated to showing our love for each other, we show our love everyday of the year, yada yada yada...."
I'm sure we all show our love everyday to our loved ones, but it doesn't hurt to have an excuse to celebrate holidays and special events right? Isn't that why celebrating Christmas and birthdays was invented? Just another excuse to goof off, exchange gifts, and have a good time? =D

Also, since this is our last year celebrating Valentines without a screaming, pooping baby, I figured that I wanted to do something a little more special.

For our Valentines Day, we decided to do not one, but two things:
1.  Have a nice dinner out, on a day that is *NOT* Valentines day, to avoid the inflated prix-fixe Valentine menu prices)
2.  Cook a nice meal at home

Notice how everything that I like revolves around eating?  =)


We chose to have our nice dinner out the Sunday before Valentines.
We knew we wanted to dine somewhere with a nice view of the sunset over the ocean, but all the places we looked in Santa Monica were ridiculously priced.  After going down south on the map a bit, we found the restaurant, Kincaids, (located on the Redondo Beach Pier) with pretty decent reviews on Yelp.  This was perfect, since we've never been to the Redondo Beach Pier either.
Part of the Redondo Beach Pier

We made dinner reservations for 5pm (since the sun sets at 5:30pm) so we can get a view of the ocean during the daytime, during the sunset, and in the evening, assuming we ate our meal slowly. =)
Prior to our dinner reservations, we walked around the pier, bought some ice cream, and got startled by giant pelicans.

that pelican wanted Jeff's ice cream

 This pelican gulped a fish down whole! You can see the fish in his mouth, getting swallowed

For dinner, the food was only OK (I don't know what all the Yelpers were raving about.  It was really only mediocre), but at least the ocean view was quite nice.  Also, I got to try my very first key lime pie for dessert, which I really enjoyed.
FINALLY! My very first key lime pie.  I wish the lime to whipped cream ratio was inverted


For our nice at-home dinner on Valentines day, I made surf & turf (lobster tail and rib eye steak -- our favorite cut!) with mashed potatoes and asparagus on the side, and chocolate-dipped strawberries for dessert.
The meal was very fast and easy to make and it came out delicious.  I wrote up how I made the meal on my cooking blog.

Unfortunately, it was kind of a bad thing that the meal took less than 30 minutes to make!
My plan was to have the meal almost ready when Jeff returns home from work. His commute normally takes 15-20 minutes, so I planned to start cooking when Jeff leaves work, that way, the food will be ready in 10-15 minutes after Jeff arrives home.

Jeff texts me at 6:40pm saying that he is leaving work.  I start cooking the potatoes, pruning the asparagus, and butterflying the lobster tails.  I pop the lobster and asparagus into the oven... hmm... still no sign of Jeff.
The lobster and asparagus were done so I decided to start cooking the steaks, since the oven was already hot.  Of course, now in hindsight, I probably should have simply started the steaks once Jeff arrived home. 
It's 7:30pm, and still no sign of Jeff!
I call him, thinking that maybe he got held back at work.
NOPE!  Apparently, Valentines Day caused A LOT of evening traffic.

The lobster and steak was getting cold, so I put them into the oven to keep them warm, but left the oven door ajar to prevent the oven heat from overcooking the meat.  That was the best idea I could come with. 
I really have no clue how to keep meat warm without overcooking it/drying it out.
Jeff finally arrived home around 7:45pm.
It took him 1 hour and 5 minutes to drive 5 miles!  A commute that normally takes him 15-20 in typical after-work traffic!!  Ridiculous!

I served dinner immediately and despite it looking quite delicious, it was actually quite hard and quite cold.  =(
Oh well... it was the thought that counts I guess. 
And the food was still decent.... since we love lobster, steak, mashed potatoes, and asparagus anyways...

So there you have it. 
We had two mediocre.... not so spectacular but still decent.... dinners for Valentines Day.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Baby Shower!

Our baby shower was last Sunday (which also happened to be Super Bowl Sunday.... whoops.... so we ended up having a baby shower/super bowl party), and we had a great time.  It was great seeing people I have not seen in a long time, and it means a lot to me that people are willing to take time out of their busy schedules to be at my baby shower.  I only wish that we had more time to chat with everyone!

My sister hosted the party and the party really came out a lot nicer than I expected.  When the time comes for me to return the favor for her, I don't think I can pull off a shower quite as nice!
From Baby Shower

We had about ~32 people total, which is a pretty large crowd to squeeze into our moderately-sized living room.  I was concerned that not only would people not fit, but there wouldn't be enough seats for everyone.  Our couches seat about 8-11 people (depending on how "friendly" you are), and we also pulled 6 dining chairs and 3 office chairs into the living room as well.  So that is a grand total of 19 seats,  which means that a total of 13 people would be seat-less!
But in the end, it all worked out and I think it was due to people taking turns standing and also people trickling in at different times.

From Baby Shower
We set up some tables and lawn chairs in our front yard for the activities and games since we thought that people wouldn't fit and burst out of house.  That didn't happen so a lot of the games were done indoors, but we still did the "decorating-onesies" activity outside, since it's messy anyways.  I really love all the creative onesies that people made -- who knew all my guests were artists?
From Baby Shower

I already blogged about all the food served during the shower on my cooking blog, so go over there to read about that.  In a nutshell, we served "afternoon tea" food such as: sandwiches, scones, bite-sized desserts, and Darjeeling tea.  We also served fresh fruit, lemonade, and sangria (alcoholic) to add more variety. 
Some guests thought that the food was catered/ordered, but nope!  It was home made!

Grace also ordered this really adorable cake from Kee Wah Bakery.  How did she know that fresh strawberry Chinese cake was my favorite?  ;)
From Baby Shower

I really didn't expect there to be any decorations (to be honest, I forgot that homes are typically decorated for parties), but Grace bought balloons and streamers to decorate both the indoors and outdoors of the house.  Credit goes to Grace, Kevin, Brenda, and Jeff for doing all the decorating.  =)
From Baby Shower

For the games, I truly hate stupid baby shower games like the "no crossing your legs and arms during the baby shower" game (how is that even a game?), or the "let's see who can eat 'poop' out of a diaper the fastest" game, or the "let's feed each other baby food while blindfolded" game.
Grace kept the games on the tasteful side and did the "baby mad libs" game, the "who can drink out of the baby bottle the fastest" game, the "guess mom's tummy size" game, and also did a diaper raffle. 
(I really like the "list the baby name of animals" game (you know me, I love animals!) but unfortunately, we had no time for that.)
Grace and I made prizes for the games and we had so many left over!  Makes me wish we designated more winners.
From Baby Shower

After all the games and activities were over, people mingled and stayed behind to watch the Super Bowl game.  Chips, salsa and carrot sticks were served.
I was surprised by how easy clean up was.  I'm glad with so many people over, people were still able to keep the house fairly clean. 
However.. we did find 1 random strawberry jam smudge on a door........

To view all the photos from the baby shower, go here:
Baby Shower

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Free Yogurtland!

Don't know if you heard, but on Monday, Yogurtland was giving away free yogurt from 4pm-7pm.
I did not hear about the deal until about 6pm that evening, so after ruminating back and forth whether to go or not, I decided to head on over.  After all, I do love Yogurtland!

I really expected there to be not a long line, since I figured, I didn't hear about the deal sooner so perhaps no one else heard about the deal either.
Nope, turns out, the line was huge and I had to wait around 40 minutes.

I made sure to get my money's time's worth and get myself a nice big helping of froyo:
 (a girl in line behind me helped me get my yogurt this tall!!)
I have to admit, I felt a bit silly and embarrassed walking out with such a greedy portion.
I made sure to drive home carefully so I wouldn't create a yogurty mess in my car.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Brand new front entry door

Last week, we got our front door switched out for a new one!  The switch also included a brand new doorjamb, threshold, and other door-related terminology.  =]

The end results?
  • The front of the house looks noticeably nicer!
  • The living room is much warmer now that there is no draft
  • The front door does not look nasty, filthy, and gross.
  • More light enters the home
  • The door locks properly
Makes me almost wish we changed out the front door sooner!
  A picture of our old front door removed, waiting for the new door to be installed
We decided to go with a fiberglass door because wooden door is way too high maintenance (sand and re-stain every few years), is heavier, and warps depending on the temperature. I can imagine a lot of traditional people preferring wood, simply because wood is "nicer" and "fancier", but I really don't see how killing trees is "nice", and I also go with what is practical.
We didn't want a steel door since they are "colder" and dents very easily.
The benefits of fiberglass are:  they won't crack, warp, swell, rot or peel, are up to 3x stronger than their wooden counterparts, do not need the constant maintenance, and are resistant to attack by insects and microorganisms.

We could have gotten a fiberglass door that looked just like a wooden door (with the wood grain) but we decided that a white door is good enough.  A white door makes our dark living area seem brighter and is much more affordable.  My only "must have" was that the door needed to have the half-circle glass window at the top.  I think windows on doors are so pretty but I didn't want one where it allows people to peek into my house, so the half-circle glass at the very top of the door fit the bill!  The window also allows light to enter our home, which we really need.  I hate that our house is so dark.

Ready to see the Before and After photos??

 The door is filthy and the threshold is a wreck

Door looks much nicer!

 And the threshold has been fixed too!

Broken doorjamb.  The previous owner busted it, and we tried to "fix" it.
This prevented the door for locking properly sometimes.

Door jamb is intact and good as new!  Does this mean our door will lock properly now?!

View of the filthy backside of the door, wrecked threshold, and damaged moulding


Nice and clean!  And light streams in too =)

 The black security door screams "ghetto".
The door also did not go all the way to the top,
so it did not stop mosquitoes from entering during the summertime.

The front of our house suddenly does not look scary ghetto.
We will need to get a cute, white screen door before the summertime to keep out mosquitoes and flies.

Despite our original door being a "standard sized" door (which is 80" x 36" x 1 3/4"), our doorjamb was not standard sized.  It was cheaper to just custom order a door that fit our doorjamb, than it would have been to change our doorjamb to fit a standard sized door.
It took about 2.5 weeks for our custom door to be made and delivered, and the door-install guy took about 3 hours to install the door.
I was very happy with our door-install guy.  He was very resourceful and was able to transfer our existing doorknob onto the new door, despite the doorknob missing pieces and was improperly installed on the original door (so it was difficult to remove!).  He also was able to rebuild our threshold by using some existing threshold pieces that he dug up, combined with some new material, and he did it without charging us extra!  (we were supposed to figure out/build the threshold ourselves!).  He also did the door installation without getting a fine layer of dust around the entire house, and actually left the work area cleaner than when he arrived.

I'm glad the entire process went smoothly and I did not have any complaints  (I always have something to complain about, so that says a lot.  =D).
We estimated around $1K for the entire project, but I think it came out closer to $800.  Very successful indeed!