Vale at 10 months

We went to Maui this month, and Vale proved again to be a relatively compliant little traveler on the plane. However, due to the slight time change and new environment, she woke up twice a night to eat for almost the whole trip. On the positive side – she pooped three times on the toilet, and took one step on our vacation. She loved playing in the pool water, splashing in the ocean waves, and visiting with the staff at Java Jazz cafe/bar.

Over the next couple of weeks after we returned from Maui, she added more and more steps, and we think she’ll be fully walking any day now. She has finally started to be amenable to solid foods once again, and is back to eating avocado. She also likes string cheese, Pirate’s Booty cheese puffs, celery, and unfortunately, cat food.

Her new favorite activities include tearing into the spice drawer and playing with her new alphabet flashcards. She also enjoys playing in the sand pit and turf at Crack Shack while her parents enjoy beers.

We attended a beer and cheese tasting at Alesmith brewing, hosted by our real estate agent, and decided to bring Vale along. She enjoyed a fancy, dry, gouda with excellent flavor crystals. She also tried and liked the triple cream brie, goat, and bleu. Unfortunately, she was not of legal age to pair these cheeses with the recommended Alesmith Nut Brown, .394 Pale, Horny Devil (Belgian), or Speedway Stout, respectively.

 

Vale at 6 Months

Vale spent her 6-month birthday in Cabo San Lucas in Mexico. She did not enjoy being dunked in the cold ocean water, but loved meeting friends on the plane and experiencing new sights.

She is increasingly mobile, and loves to scoot, turn, flip over, and put things into her mouth. She is able to sit upright in her booster chair, but gets bored after a while if she does not have a toy to keep her pre-occupied. She likes listening to numbers in mandarin and looking at ABC flashcards. These activities always bring a smile to her face.

She is still stubborn as ever about drinking milk out of a bottle, and her parents question whence this trait came.

She babbles constantly, including at 4:30 a.m. on occasion, which apparently is just a good a time as any for riveting conversation. She still laughs infrequently, and her sense of humor seems unpredictable (it may have been funny to her yesterday, but it won’t necessarily be funny today or tomorrow). When she does laugh, it’s a sort of a “heeeh heh heh” smirk/chuckle reminiscent of George W.

She has started paying more attention to her cat sisters, and occasionally reaches out for a pet (or a fistful of fur!), so they continue to be relatively wary and suspicious of her.

Vietnamese Coffee

Even as the more vivid details of our Vietnam vacation recede into the ever more distant past, something as simple as Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk can bring it all back on occasion. This past weekend, I took just a sip and was reminded of the days at our resort in Phu Quoc, when we developed a brief ritual of taking a seat by the window in the restaurant level of our resort, and starting the day with a small cup and saucer of Vietnamese coffee.

We followed our coffee with a combination of breakfast treats, including a pho bar and bahn mi. Aside from the smorgasboard of Vietnamese delights, there was a large selection of western morning foods as well, though we avoided the boring fare, like cereal. We concluded the daily decadence with an assortment of tropical fruits, my favorite being passion fruit, though the juicy dragon fruit and mango were equally memorable. The juices from these fruits trickled down the back of my hands, dried there, and interacted with the island sun, causing a strange dark patch to appear. I discovered that what I initially thought was a sunspot (expanding at a freakish rate) was actually a temporary tropical fruit scar when I casually consulted with a physician friend via Gmail.

While on the island of Phu Quoc, every morning, we ate and drank slowly in this way, enjoying the contrast between the smoky, dark coffee, and the pellucid, bright island atmosphere, treating ourselves to the ocean view and sea breeze floating in through the gigantic windows like a quiet new dream.

Daydreaming In Bed

Mom went back to work last week and we ended Friday on a good note. I gave in to my hunger and drank quite a bit at grandpa and grandma’s house. This put Mom in good spirits.

I still hadn’t eaten as much as I wanted so Mom fed me as soon as we got home. Her new thing is to feed me lying down while reading travel and food magazines and eating Life cereal. She was duped into buying year-long subscriptions to Bon Appetit and Conde Nast Traveler after seeing some $5 deal on Instagram and has been collecting idle magazines for the last 4 months. She finally found some use for them – reading while breastfeeding.

She still dreams of travel but makes fun of Traveler magazine even as she leafs through the publication wistfully. She finds the whole idea of “high-end boho”  – a term used by an author to describe one particular Marrakech establishment – ludicrous. She is also opposed to another writer’s recommendation to stay at the Park Hyatt Bangkok. We live just two miles away from a Park Hyatt, and mom and dad have attended rowdy holiday parties that end in the hotel’s lobby bar the last 2 or 3 years in a row, so she doesn’t see why she would go all the way to Bangkok and camp out somewhere so familiar. To be fair, the last time Mom and Dad were in Bangkok, mom was a recent law school grad with a ton of loans, so it’s not like she could have afforded to stay there anyway. Could it be sour grapes?

 

She sneered at a one-paragraph mention of Taiwan, which rambled on only about tea and featured an elderly Asian woman wearing a rice hat in a tea field. Of all the ways to represent Taiwan! However, she got a little nostalgic at the unexpected mention of one Greenbrier resort in West Virginia on the list of top resorts in the United States. She was suddenly brought back to her childhood, at the age of 7, on family vacation. Her dad (my grandpa) rented bikes and in the front of the Greenbrier lobby is where she first felt the freedom of riding a bike.

 

She considers most of the recipes in Bon Appetit rather unimaginative (read: it’s not Indian, Thai, Korean, Chinese, or insanely spicy) and definitely rolled her eyes at a picture of pasta plated in a bite-size serving on a 4-inch dish. She did dog ear some pictures of the Italian countryside and a hotel in Chile for Dad though.

I eat and eat and meanwhile, she drops Life cereal crumbs on my head and on the sheets. Later at night, while in bed, she will complain that she is being stabbed by crumbled pieces of Life. Dad will ask her if that is meant literally or metaphorically, while I dream noisily in my basinet.

???

As I near the end of pregnancy, I feel the old doubts of having children surfacing. I’ve spent the last several months treating this entire experience like an important project, with plans, research, classes, books, etc., so I thought I’d resolved such anxieties, but I suppose that is not the case after all. One would think the last 7 months of preparation would have served as a gradual transition, but it seems the impending due date only highlights the severity and certainty of this decision.

I used to be utterly freaked out by the idea of giving birth; that’s still somewhat the case but infinitely overshadowed by the fear that I won’t enjoy being a mother. I’ve had to make many lifestyle changes and compromises since December 23, 2016 but of course none of it can compare to what lies ahead. It seems like having to rebuild an entire life from scratch (mine).

I think my husband and I have built a special life together. I don’t mean “special” in the sense that we’re particularly unique, interesting, or superior compared to others, but 12 years together necessarily results in something irreplaceable and I could easily live another 12 years like this, or the rest of my life.

We met on a rainy night in February painted by the haze of alcohol. The friend who introduced us accidentally set something on fire at a party, after which we quickly made our departure, and I was so drunk I spelled my own name wrong when I entered it into my husband’s cell phone. We didn’t start dating until a year and a half later, because only Fools Rush In.

When I first moved in with him, the living arrangements could best be described as a small fraternity house nestled in the heart of suburbia, inhabited by gamblers and students who drank too much, joined by unruly dogs, and then our equally recalcitrant cat.

During my first year of law school, my husband quit his engineering job and became a professional poker player, so the summer after my first year, we leased our room in the house, and left the country for two and a half months. We rented an apartment in the suburbs of Barcelona, and he funded our trip with poker while I promised to undertake some domestic tasks while he worked. The “tasks” were an adventure in and of themselves, as I enjoyed every moment of Barcelona, including regularly walking 25 minutes to the grocery store (we did not have a car), where I could buy unfamiliar foods and practice Spanish. We fell in love with the city, but moved on to Prague, Milan, Rome, Tuscany, and Yellowstone National Park the rest of the summer.

For the duration of law school, I packed all my classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays so I could have 4-day weekends every weekend, and there were many trips to Vegas with free hotels, compliments of my husband’s card-counting days. When I unexpectedly was notified I was the recipient of a $32,000 merit scholarship I hadn’t applied for, we took tequila shots all night at a bar in Cardiff-by-the-Sea that now longer exists, and I jumped into the ocean with all my clothes on.

Eventually, we moved into a two-bedroom apartment by ourselves, in a neighborhood characterized by beach bums, dirty hippies, quirky stores, and drug use. Our complex was built in the 1970’s, and rumor has it the communal hot tub was built of an epic size because the complex used to be a swinger’s colony. The neighborhood has since gentrified and I miss some of its formerly bummy, disheveled, and unpretentious elements.

After I took the bar exam, we celebrated with an Asia trip to Taiwan and Thailand. We scootered through the canyons of Taroko Gorge and indulged in decadence on Thai beaches. In the first couple of years after I started working, we traveled to Kauai and hiked Mt. Whitney with his family, and I started paying down substantial amounts of law school debt.

We got married in 2013, 2 weeks after our 8-year anniversary in a ceremony officiated by a dear friend. We wrote our own vows and exchanged them in the glow of the southern Californian sun, and at the reception, through a series of small mishaps, many guests got unbelievably drunk. Two weeks later, we honeymooned in Bali, Macau, and Taiwan.

In 2014, we went to Colombia, where we ate ceviche on Cartagena beaches, hiked a beautiful national park, and walked the romantic alleys of Santa Marta at dusk. I took a picture outside the former residence of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and constantly had a Colombian beer in hand to counter the Caribbean heat. We spent one night in some of the worst accommodations I have ever experienced, and when I was awoken at 4 a.m. to roosters, cats, and dogs brawling in the streets amid human yells, 90 degree heat/90 percent humidity with a broken fan, and a broken bed, there was nothing to do but laugh at the outrageousness of the situation.

In 2016, we picked Vietnam over Greece and had a dream vacation at beach side resorts, daily all-you-can-eat buffets of Vietnamese breakfasts, luxurious city hotels, lush jungle retreats, and scooter rides in Saigon, Hue, Hanoi, and the Vietnamese countrysides. We took the longest cable car ride to the highest peak in Indochina and enjoyed the view as lone passengers in a car designed for 30 people with a 360-degree view of the valleys, rice terraces, and mountains of Sapa.

We drink, cook, hike, exercise, and laugh together. We’ve taken painting classes, dance classes, and played on a soccer team. We own a house and a condo together, refurbish old furniture sometimes, save for early retirement, and spoil our cats. We are very different in some ways and have been at each other’s throats yet are fundamentally so well-suited for each other that if I weren’t an atheist I’d chalk this up to fate.

Our years together have not been extraordinary in and of themselves (plenty of people hike, drink, and travel), but for me, the last 12 years has been characterized by little pieces of magic here and there, and everywhere.

When I was little, I was prone to impractical daydreaming. I would daydream of being a rock star or sprouting wings and flying, for instance. On the other hand I rarely contemplated much in detail about the specifics of my future life. My eleven-year-old self didn’t care to think about what kind of career, husband, house, kids she’d have, or vacations she’d take, beyond assuming that there would eventually be a job, a dude, and an abode in the mix on an abstract level, because that’s what adults do.

So what I mean by “special” is, it’s special to me, and if my eleven-year-old self was given a glimpse into this future, she’d be pretty damn smug and content, implausible fantasies of growing wings and flying across oceans aside.

Having a kid is supposed to be the “next” step, a higher level or deeper stage, but sometimes it feels more like we’re tearing parts of a great creation down and rebuilding it to be something completely different and unfamiliar.

So, what will the next 12 years be like? Stay tuned…

 

Dream

When your sleeping breath heaves out a tropical breeze

Whispering across the steady streams of my back the waves of my spine

The warm rhythm of ripples does not end until I am in a dream of

Hot white sand on my thighs palms rustling behind

And the cerulean crystal expanse before us is urging us to rise with the sun in paradise

So I blink

To find my lonely flesh

Stale without you

Bristling at the rain

Sinking under the weight and ash of the sky

Drinking Adventures in Denver

We were in Colorado for a family reunion last month, and flew in and out of Denver to get to Glenwood Springs. On our way back, we took the opportunity to enjoy some drinks in Denver. Denver is known for great beers, and I was excited to go to Great Divide. I’ve had the “I Believe” yeti sticker on our beer fridge for years now. We took an Uber from our hotel, which was obviously less memorable than the beer, since I can’t even give you the name of it at this point. (Hyatt? Hilton?)

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We had two rounds of tasters, including the Yeti Imperial Stout, of course!

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I hit up Yelp and based on a combination of proximity and good reviews, we walked to Jagged Mountain Brewing next.

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The beers here were also excellent, most notably a Belgian/IPA mix that was well-suited for both lovers of Belgians and IPA’s. Thereafter, we decided to try something a little different. We walked into Mile High Spirits, a distillery that specializes in flavored hard liquor. I was planning on consuming lots of Denver beers, but this ended up being a pretty fun experience. They had about 20 different flavors of liquors, with fairly normal ones like pineapple vodka and honey bourbon, and then some really weird ones like pickle, garlic, pepperoncini, and black pepper.

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Strangely, it was the weird ones that we enjoyed most. I particularly enjoyed the garlic and pepperoncini vodkas. The venue was also really cool because there was a large patio area with cornhole and other fun lawn games.

Yosemite 2015

Just because my last post was 2 months ago, doesn’t mean I’ve taken a break from diligently drinking beer. I had a series of crazy work days, followed by a beautiful and much-needed trip to Yosemite. We spent the night in Mammoth on our way up, and pictured above, I am indulging in one of my favorite Stone beers while hanging out in The Village. Unfortunately, once we actually made it inside a bar (specifically, the Lakanuki) the beer selection wasn’t so expansive and satisfying.

In Yosemite, we had the chance to stop at the Ahwahnee Hotel after a short hike to lower Yosemite falls. This hotel has a seriously gorgeous view and a charming mountain resort ambiance (as long as you ignore the fact the style is vaguely reminiscent of the Overlook Hotel from The Shining).

After enjoying some tea time with cookies in the Winter Room, we went to the bar and I ordered a Tuolumne Meadow IPA. I kept some notes on decent beers brewed by Mammoth brewing while I was there, but they were lost in the shuffle, or maybe on a hike. It’s OK; the beers were good, but none of the beers were as good as San Diego beers anyway. Yosemite is known for its breathtaking natural beauty, not brews:

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Oh, and as of recently, Yosemite is also known for the bubonic plague.

 

New England, Part II

This post was delayed quite a bit due to the duties and responsibilities of my real job, but….

A few days after New Year’s Eve, our friend took us on a beautiful drive into the mountains of New Hampshire. On the way up to Bretton Woods, we stopped by the Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewing Company in North Conway.

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I’m not typically a fan of fruit flavored beers (lambics are probably an exception), but the Miss V’s Blueberry Ale wasn’t bad. It was pleasant with just a subtle flavor of distinctive blueberry. I could see this being quite nice on a summer day. Their regular house beers included the following:

The Czech pilsner was buttery and smooth. Not usually a pilsner drinker, but this was more interesting than most.

The Bone Shaker Brown was nutty, and smelled like Fat Tire. Hints of maple and hazelnut. Smooth.

The Smoke House Porter was interesting in that you could definitely taste the smoke, which is fitting for a BBQ joint. It was chocolatey with some distinctive bitterness.

The Square Tail Stout was similar in style and taste to the Smoke House Porter, but thicker. It was similarly smoky and smooth.

Then, I had a few others (the ones listed in green on the menu) which were seasonals. These were actually quite a bit better than their regular house beers, as they tended to be more flavorful and assertive, but I wasn’t taking notes because at some point, you have to just concentrate on the drinking.

Colombian Beer

Just got back from Colombia. It was often 90+ degrees, with high humidity, so we ended up drinking a lot of lagers/light/yellow beers. The two most popular there are Club Colombia and Aguila. Aguila is comparable to Bud Light. Basically, undrinkable (in my humble opinion). Club Colombia is similar to a Modelo, and I rather grew to like it. Both these beers were cheap as hell. Street vendors were selling Club Colombia for around $3,000 COP (around $1.50). Aguila tended to be cheaper. It was around the equivalent of $1.50 at bars, while the Club would go for around $2.00 or $2.50 (definitely worth the extra $.50 to get the Club).

However, we did come across a couple of craft beer companies, including Apostol and Bogota Beer Company (BBC). Apostol, in my opinion, had the better brews. The Dubbel (below, left), got the Belgian flavors right. The Bock (below, right), was a black-lager type beer. It was good for the weather – dark and flavorful enough, but not too heavy. It still had a nice, light texture.

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Bogota Beer Company had the better marketing. Their beers have cute labels, featuring a vintage woodie car, and their beers have a trendy feel, if that makes any sense. We popped by the BBC restaurant/bar in Cartagena and had a couple of beers. Their style (the decor, labels, packaging, not the beer itself) is reminiscent of Karl Strauss. The beers there were a bit bland for me. I had the Monserrate Roja, a red beer, which was really on the light side of reds. The Chapinero Porter (see featured picture at the very top) was probably their best beer, but even that was really on the light or even watery side. Their menu featured some exciting-sounding seasonals, including an IPA, but they did not have them available when we visited.

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