Friday, October 29, 2010

Epcot Food & Wine Festival II

Then it was on to the World Showcase and the start of the Food & Wine Festival. Timing worked out well, since it was around 6pm by then, and we were hungry. We technically walked the Festival backwards, but we'd actually recommend doing it that way.

Our first stop was Charcuterie & Cheese, which isn't specific to any one country, but specializes in wines & cheeses. We had the Nueske's Charcuterie Plate, which had smoked beef, duck, and ham with bread. It was all good, but the beef in particular had a nice flavor. I also had the sample of Prosecco, a peach sparking wine by Martini & Rossi. It was nothing special.
Canada was next, where we shared the Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup (one of our favorites of the night) and tried the Inniskillin Pearl Vidal Icewine. Now, we adore icewine but rarely have it because it's expensive. It was wonderful here, tho a little thick (also not uncommon with icewine). I wanted to stop at Ireland for the Lobster and Scallop Fisherman's Pie, which was absolutely scrumptious. It had carrots and onions in it, and the scallops were plentiful. It was topped with a baked mashed potato, and I'd probably call it my favorite item, tied with the cheese soup. Jonathan liked it, especially because he had a big lump of lobster in his bite!

Morocco was a bit of a let-down, as we went with the Tangerine Mimosa Royale, which wasn't anything special. Tasted like you'd expect, and was a bit pricey for the serving size.

I think Jonathan's favorite was probably Australia. He had a grilled lamb chop with roasted potato salad and red wine reduction. I tried it, but of course I don't really like lamb. I thought the potatoes had a nice flavor, despite the red wine drizzle. I had considered getting the Lamington from that station as well, but it turned out that the chocolate-covered butter cake was also covered in coconut, so I skipped it.

Then it was on to Germany! We were really looking forward to that one, and honestly would've ordered everything on the menu (except the two beers) if we weren't pacing ourselves! They had 4 Rieslings to try, and since Jonathan enjoys Riesling, he was hard-pressed to choose one. He went with the Gunderloch Diva Sp
ätlese, which ended up being rather sweet, and even I enjoyed it. We also had a Nürnberger Sausage in a pretzel roll, which came with a wonderful mustard and was delicious (and probably the largest portion for the price that we had anywhere). Again, I had planned on trying the Apfel Strudel with Werther's Oiriginal Karamell Sauce, but was told it was covered in nuts, so I refrained. Our next stop was South Korea, where we couldn't resist the Barbecue Short Ribs with steamed rice and cucumber kimchi. The ribs had an excellent flavor, and I thoroughly missed the Korean sauces, since it's been so long since I've had that. I was getting pretty full, otherwise I would've dived right into finishing off the rice (which was sticky like sushi rice) and the cucumber (which was plentiful). We actually paused after that to take a restroom break and to ride the Maelstrom, which is Norway's ride (and my favorite in the World Showcase). Again, no line. The ride wasn't as great as I remember, and they've also added a 5-minute film on Norway at the end of it, but we didn't stay. There's also a possibility that the film isn't new, but neither of us remember ever seeing it before.

After some deliberation, Jonathan tried the Grilled Pork Skewer with Farofa at the Brazil kiosk, which he enjoyed. Farofa is really ground up spices covering the pork, making it incredibly dry in your mouth, LoL. I thought it was kinda bland, especially since it was supposed to be a "rooty" flavor.

I was really excited about the Desserts & Champagne booth, and had planned to order two out of the three items. At this point, Jonathan was feeling like something chocolate, so he was probably going to order the third item. I was getting concerned about running out of money (we had picked up a Disney gift card earlier to make transactions faster), but it turned out that at that station only you could get all 3 items for just $3.50! That settled that! I dove into the Strawberry Angel Verrine, although Jonathan did try the middle part of that layered dessert, and found it to be very good. I enjoyed the Pear Streusel Pudding cake much more than he did, too. He did eat the bulk of the Dark Chocolate Sensation (kinda like a brownie bite with chocolate mousse on top) tho, which was fine with me.
On our way to find a nice place to watch the fireworks, we stopped at the Puerto Rico location and got a Bacardi Frozen Torched Cherry Colada. It was very creamy, and probably the least coconut-ty colada I've ever had. It was a nice way to finish.

I had never seen IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth before, since I've always left Epcot before closing time the other 4-5 times I'd been there. Jonathan remembered it quite well, and had a nice spot picked out where we could see just about everything (it's fireworks plus an on-the-water display plus various buildings on the water light up as well). I wasn't all that impressed, but I suppose it's good to know what else is out there (I've always been at Magic Kingdom at the end of the day when I've park-hopped, so I see their beautiful display above the castle). I tried to take a bunch of photos, but most didn't turn out so well.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Epcot Food & Wine Festival I

You may remember that Jonathan and I volunteered in Trenton back in January as part of Disney's Give a Day Get a Disney Day program. Well, we finally decided to use the day we got! We got a much later start in the day than we wanted to, but ultimately didn't miss much. Our vouchers even got us free parking (we don't think they were supposed to), so I was really excited when we started making our way to the park.

Redeeming our vouchers at the window was pretty straightforward, although it did take a little more time than I was expecting. Disney has also upgraded to using plastic cards instead of paper, so they don't tear and get wet and mangled in pockets and such all day, which was nice. We even got Volunt-Ear buttons to wear, and several Cast Members thanked us for volunteering. We were also stopped by a couple other visitors who chatted about their experiences volunteering as well.

We chose Epcot because of the Food & Wine Festival that takes place in October and November. I had never been before, but Jonathan went a few years ago. As you may already know, about half of the park is a "Word Showcase," featuring rides, pavilions, foods, films, and other things from various countries. During the Food & Wine Festival, additional countries are on display, and each has a kiosk where they sell small portions of authentic cuisine and drinks. This is where the fact that our tickets and parking was free comes into play... we spent about $50 on food and drink. But it was delicious! Everything was wonderful, so we have no regrets. And besides, places like South Korea and Ireland are not at the top of our international travel list, anyway.

We entered the park and checked out the Food & Wine Festival Welcome Center, where we picked up passports to be stamped at each country. This is a new thing this year, and I'm really glad that we did it, since it tells which foods you got and it makes for a nice souvenir. If you had an annual pass and went often, it would also help you remember what you've tried if you were trying to sample something from every country.

After that we headed to the Nemo ride, because I've heard good things from a lot of people, but had never been on it. We walked right on (well, there might have been a 90-second wait, LoL). It's styled like the Haunted Mansion over at Magic Kingdom, in that you're in a cart on a conveyor belt going through various rooms. However, this is mostly CGI, whereas Haunted Mansion is very little CGI. It was cute, but we were clearly in a car that got the tail-end of the audio, so the timing wasn't the best. It's not really worth riding multiple times, but if there's no wait, why not?

We got off and looked at the manatees, which is always fun.
Then we went to The Land (Nemo is in The Seas), where we saw that the line for Soarin' was over an hour, and there were no more fastpasses left for the day, so we skipped that. We tried out Living with the Land, where we walked right on. It's a 15-minute boat tour that takes you around to see the greenhouses and aquaculture areas where Epcot gets a lot of the fish and vegetables that they use in the restaurants in The Land. It was pretty neat, and since it would change depending on what they're growing when, definitely worth a repeat trip.

We headed to Imagination! where we walked right onto another ride, called Journey into Imagination with Figment. Figment is an animated dragon. The ride is kinda trippy, and probably the worst one we went on all day. If you have kids, however, I bet they'd like it. Figment's jokes are for six-year-olds.

We immediately went into Caption EO, which is a 3D film from 1986 that features Michael Jackson as a space captain on a mission, where he gifts music and dance to the enemy. George Lucas was behind it, and there was an interesting making-of documentary that we watched beforehand.
We also wandered through Innoventions a bit, but the only cool things had lines, so we passed. If there was time later, we planned to come back and ride the segways and stuff, but there ended up being no extra time.
Next post will focus on the deliciousness of the Food & Wine. :)

Friday, October 22, 2010

"Tell Me About Sunnyvale"

I think that our upcoming living situation is of greater interest than our past few because we're going to be there longer, and because we actually got to choose our set-up this time. So, it makes sense that people ask us to talk about Sunnyvale, which is the city that we're in the process of moving to. I thought I'd take a post and talk about the city, which we're both really looking forward to living in.

When we describe where we are in California, we always talk about Silicon Valley in terms of San Francisco. However, Sunnyvale is actually a suburb of San Jose, the 10th-largest city in the country. Sunnyvale has a population of 131,000 as of 2000 (but less than half are registered to vote!), so it's not exactly small in that respect. However, it's only 22 square miles (Port St. Lucie is 77 square miles for comparison). It has a Mediterranean climate, and natural disasters are few. Tornadoes are incredibly rare, there's no blizzards or hurricanes, and while there are earthquakes, many are not measurable (tho we did feel one when we lived out there last time). Sadly, there has only been measurable snowfall twice on record, and most recently was in 1976.

the green part is what's considered Bay Area, to give you a state contextthis is a blow-up of that green area, showing the different counties of the Bay Area. Santa Clara County is considered "South Bay Area"This is a blow-up of just Santa Clara County. You can see Sunnyvale in the northwestern area, southeast of Mountain View.

The history of the city is all over the place, and it wasn't actually a city until 1912. Native Americans were first, then the Spanish. Fruit farms and canneries were a big deal for a long time. World War II changed that, and that's when the high-tech stuff began. That's how we got Mexicans... everyone else left the farms to work toward the war effort, and we needed labor. The very first Pong arcade game prototype was in Sunnyvale, in a bar called Andy Capps, which is now Rooster T. Feathers (we've driven by it many times, but have not been inside). Most of the orchards are gone now, but there are still some city-owned ones.

Lockheed is the largest employer in the city, and there's a bunch of other big-name corporations in the top 10 as well, including Yahoo, Northrop Grumman, and Palm. More than a quarter of the population has a degree higher than a Bachelor's, and 67% went to college. Something really cool is their Public Safety system. Sunnyvale is one of the few cities in the United States that cross-trains policemen, firemen, and EMT workers so that everyone can perform all three jobs. Isn't that neat? I mean, I bet it's a heck of a lot more work, but I like the concept. Another unique thing is that the library isn't through Santa Clara county. Instead, the City of Sunnyvale has its own library (Mountain View had this too, but we just never realized it).

Crime is actually rare in Sunnyvale. It consistently ranks on the Top 10 Safest Cities for its size, on the list put out by the FBI. For its population class, it was in the Top 5 from 1966-2004! Burglary and robbery are at one-third of the national risk.

Okay, I think that covers the basics, LoL.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Little Cute House on a Little Cute Street

From the first time we saw it, we've called it, "the corn house." Nope, it's not bright yellow. Nope, it doesn't have popcorn walls. Nope, it doesn't even have giant green leaves that you have to peel back to get to the door.

Across street there's a cornfield. We didn't even know that they grew corn in California.

It was the first house we looked at on that the first day of house-hunting. It was also, coincidentally, the one that Jonathan went back to tour and take photos of. It won out because of its space, mainly. It's not near super-near a train station, not just outside a downtown, and, although it's close to an expressway, it's still a little off-the-beaten-path. It's just under 6 miles to Jonathan's office, so 10-15 minutes by car, and he has already looked at ways he can bike it. Our nearest Caltrain stop is now the Lawrence (just a mile away on foot), which is two stops south of our old one in Mountain View. We can still get to San Francisco in an under an hour and a half, so that's good. It does, however, put us into a different "zone" for ticketing, making it $15.50 each, roundtrip. I was about to complain, and then I remembered that after the price-jack in Jersey, our NYC tickets jumped to twice that amount, so I guess we're good, LoL.

So... yeah. I'm posting this to let you know that we've found a place to live. Jonathan has done the paperwork, the movers are lined up, and the lease starts Friday. It may take up to two weeks for the things to get there (and we believe it could take longer, since we've seen it take longer on previous moves with fewer things), but once we have a date, we'll book my flights so I can be there when it's all delivered. I'm really excited to set things up and peruse the area for other things to fit the house. It's definitely going to be a fun project, since it's very different from the house we live in when we're in Florida. So, I leave you with some photos. I plan on writing about Sunnyvale this week as well, but otherwise there may be a lull in posts as things are in transit (plus, I've been swamped with revisions for the past week, and expect them to take another week).
this is the front of the house. I blotted out the house number for privacy, but of course once we're set-up we're send out the address to friends and family.
This was originally the front door. See, the garage was originally a carport, and this was off the carport. Since that area is now enclosed, this door connects the hallway to the "converted garage," which we are planning to use as a workshop/rec-room/not sure what else. The window on the left goes into the living room.
here we are on the other side of that window. You can see the nice hardwood floors. Back in the corner you can see the dining room, and we have this cute open-shelf thing extending the wall which I'm looking forward to filling.
this is the kitchen. Its not the greatest angle, but you get the general idea. That window over the sink looks into the front yard (if you look at the top photo again, it's the window on the far left.

I don't have photos of the bedrooms, and only a dark one of the bathroom. I personally haven't seen any of the laundry room, so there are going to be a few surprises all around. Anyway, I'll post some more after I get out there and after we're settled a bit, but this does give a general idea for you guys.

Oh, and in case anyone wants to visit, we do have three bedrooms, one of which is going to be a dedicated guest room, so c'mon out!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Seth & Harry's Bar & Grill

You know how there's a restaurant in every town that keep changing hands? In Mountain View it was UWink. I can think of 3 places in Port St. Lucie that have had this happen, LoL. In Fort Pierce, that restaurant in the Sabal Palm Plaza has been a bunch of different things, too. In Melbourne, it's On Tap. Then it was called Grill 192. Now it's called Seth & Harry's, but it might have had another name-change in there, I'm not sure.

Joe, Bryan, and I went to Seth & Harry's on a Thursday night for a late (8pm) dinner. I was not really impressed in any way, but the guys both thought it was okay. My biggest gripe would be the service. Our waitress wasn't clear on the menu items (particularly when she told me they had crinkly fries... they were straight), came by rarely, and we ultimately sat around waiting for the check for more than ten minutes.

We had the chicken nachos as an appetizer. It was one of the only menu items without a description, and when I asked what was on them, the waitress didn't know. We ordered them anyway, asking for black olives on the side if they were supposed to come with some. They were okay. They were served with a spicy salsa verde and some sour cream. The chicken was kinda pulled apart, as in not sliced, but not as in pulled chicken. The chips were tri-color, and the cheese was standard nacho.

I had the guacamole bacon burger, no lettuce, with fries. As I already mentioned, the fries were not what had been described. There was also lettuce on the burger... and no bacon. It already was cheeseless, so it ended up being a rather strange combination. I took half home, and it was much better with a layer of mashed potatoes, LoL. The fries were plain, and I didn't really care for them... with no flavoring, they could have at least been crunchy.

Joe had the French dip with coleslaw (though he did not order coleslaw, and was hoping for fries), and didn't have anything remarkable to say about it. Bryan wanted a buffalo chicken sandwich, which wasn't on the menu. There were buffalo chicken sliders, and they were able to create one large sandwich instead. He also had the fries as a side. Contrary to my opinion, Bryan liked the fries. He ended up ditching the bun to focus on his sandwich toward the end, so it must have been pretty good.

I don't really recommend the place, but they weren't all bad.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pennsylvania Highlights & Favorites

I know. We moved away a month ago and I'm still coming up with things to say about PA. But, as our readership grows I thought it might behoove us all if I pointed out some of the greatest parts about our 14 months in Pennsylvania. So, I've created a list of sorts, with links to the original posts if you're interested.

Our First Phillies Game was only about six weeks after we moved to PA.

Spending a weekend in Amish Country for Labor Day Weekend 2009.

Jonathan's parents and uncle joined us for a trip around the area to see the foliage in October.

We went to New York City to see the Halloween Parade.

We went to the Army-Navy football game.

An amazing Christmas light show we went to just down the street from our apartment.

Atlantic City in the winter and in the summer (day and night).

New Year's Eve in Times Square.

I learned how to curl like they do in the Winter Olympics.

We went snowboarding in Pennsylvania.

We won tickets to a Nets basketball game.

We spent a wonderful weekend on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, seeing lots of the sights.

This wasn't in Pennsylvania, but we took a three-day cruise from Port Canaveral to Nassau have a fun going-away party for our friend, Ebad.

We went to the US Send-Off game for the World Cup.

We spent the 4th of July in the very place the Declaration of Independence was signed - Philadelphia.

Although there are a bunch of theme parks in the PA-NJ area, we managed to spend a day at Hershey Park when Jonathan's company got tickets. We also did ChocolateWorld.

We did a short weekend trip to Delaware & Maryland.

And, of course, all of the times we went to NYC for sights and shows.

- - - - -
I find it particularly amusing that, of the 18 posts above, 1/3 are dedicated to various sports (and I do mean various. baseball, football, basketball, soccer, curling, AND snowboarding).

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese

While I was out in California for the weekend, we managed to take in four rounds of Asian food (impressive when you consider I arrived at 5pm Thursday and left at 9am Monday). Three of them were new places (the fourth was our beloved Sushi 85), and none were worth going back to, so all the reviews are lumped together.

Thai Spoons was very close to the hotel, so we ate dinner there after I got in. The place was pretty deserted, but pick-up orders became popular toward the end of our meal. There was a credit card minimum so we ordered an appetizer - which ended up being the best part of the meal. The Thai Shrimp Rolls were simple: fried shrimp in rice paper. But the "sweet & sour chili sauce" with which it was served made a great accompaniment. I had pad thai, no peanuts. The fried tofu in it tasted like egg, and the chicken was kinda strange. It also lacked a sweet flavor, and I'm not even sure I ate half of it. Jonathan had curry. He didn't finish it, but didn't take it home, either.

Pho Nam on El Camino (I specify location because it's kinda a common name) was some of the worst pho I've ever had. And that's all they make... they don't specialize in any other Vietnamese dishes. We ordered shrimp summer rolls to go with it, but they had purple cabbage or something inside that made them taste funny, too. I added a whole lime's worth of juice and hardly tasted it. I added five ice cubes and it was still too hot to eat. Most of the pieces of chicken had dark spots on them. It had plenty of cilantro and green onion, but too much mint. Jonathan didn't eat as much of his as he normally would, either. But, honestly, I was rather distracted by how strange mine was to ask him what he didn't like about his.

Dim Sum King is in the plaza behind Pho Nam, and that's how we found it. It's really like a fast-food dim sum place, in that there's a menu, you order and pay, then you take it to-go. There were a few tables, so we stayed to eat there. We got chow mein (average, a little oily), shrimp dumplings, stuffed pork dumplings, pork potstickers, and an egg roll. The shrimp dumplings were a little thick, but good. The stuffed pork were sweeter than I was expecting, and I could only eat one. The pastry part just killed me. The potstickers were average, but the sauce wasn't anything special, and I think that usually makes the difference. The egg roll was gross... I think I ate half before giving up.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Halloween Haunt at Great America

We did manage to make time for a night of fun while I was in California. Similar to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios in Orlando, California's Great America has a Halloween Haunt. Basically, the park is open late at night (in this case 7pm-midnight), with some rides open. The focus of the event, however, are haunted houses (called mazes at Great America), scarezones (where they have people stationed to try and creep you out), and shows. The shows tend to be all over the place, and generally change from year to year. In Orlando, everything has a general theme that changes each year. In California, there are a bunch of themes, one for each attraction, really. And it seems that they don't necessarily change too much each year, as Jim and Viv went there two years ago and said that at least two of the mazes were very similar to last time.

We did six of the seven mazes (the final one required doing the log flume ride, and it was only 65 or so out, so we weren't feeling getting wet). We did the best one first, but most of them were pretty well done. Now, I should mention that we went on October 1st, which was opening night for the season. So, not all of the kinks were worked out for spacing and timing and stuff like that, which might have had a big effect. CarnEvil was the best, mostly because it makes for a good maze theme. Toy Factory was another fun one, and it seemed pretty long. Club Blood was kinda boring. Slaughterhouse was kinda gross. Werewolf Canyon could've been better. CornSTALKERS was neat, but the set-up was strange.

We walked through all four of the scarezones. In two of them, the creatures got extremely close to you (much closer than they would in Orlando). The other two were kinda sparse, but Jonathan proposed that perhaps the park re-positioned some of the creatures to the more populated areas of the park. The themes were only slightly apparent.

There are four shows. One is a percussion show, and we tried to see it over and over, but since it moves throughout the park and has no set performance times or places, we were never able to catch it. Another is a hypnosis show, which we skipped. Another is a "freak show" which we skipped since everybody's been to a carnival or flipped through Ripley's Believe it or Not, LoL. We did see the musical show, called FANGS. It's about vampires, and it's REALLY bad. Skip it if you're considering it. It was absolutely ridiculous, ran 6 minutes over (and it's only 30 minutes to begin with), and poorly written. They even used "monologue" where they should have used "soliloquy."

We only did a few rides, and various selections of us skipped out on all but Deck Flight, the inverted roller coaster. Jim was the only one who went on everything, LoL. Jonathan and Jim had the entire Viking Ship to themselves, so they sat at opposite ends, which was pretty cool. Jim & Viv walked right on to the Grizzly, as there was no line at all! They got front row (we skipped it because we don't like the shakiness of wooden coasters), so it was probably an interesting ride at night.

I didn't take many photos, but there were some nice decorations throughout the park (unlike Orlando, the regular season is closed, so they don't have to decorate every night). One particularly crazy installment was a lifelike dummy in an electric chair which goes off every five minutes or so.

Overall, if you get a good deal, it's worth going to. We only paid $25 each because we had a coupon (retail is $40 each). We were able to do everything we wanted to, and we got there late AND left early. Of course, it helped that we had been to Great America before. (to read about that adventure, here's links: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Traveling & House Hunting

So I flew out to California for five days for a house-hunting trip. Jonathan didn't have to work Friday, so I got in Thursday evening and left Monday morning before he went to work. Time-wise, it worked out pretty well. It's difficult to be on a different timezone for a few days, but no biggie.

I flew Continental, which was different. It was (note the past-tense, since they turn to pay-for-food on the 12th) still a full-service airline, so I was treated to a meal/snack each leg of each flight. The first leg on the way there and the second leg on the way back served a turkey sandwich, simple with lettuce on a whole-wheat roll. It also came with a bag of Fritos and a packet of M&Ms. The second leg on the way there was a delicious chicken pocket with three kinds of cheeses, peppers, and taco sauce. It came with chips, baby carrots, and a kit-kat bar. The morning flight on the way back was honey-nut chex, an apple muffin, and a box of raisins. The turkey sandwich was average. The chicken pocket was great (made by Stefano's, but apparently not sold in stores. I looked already), and carrots were a nice addition, but they were getting ready to turn, I think. The cereal was okay. The muffin was too crumbly.

Had a few small hiccups in traveling, but nothing major. I only had about 30 minutes to make my connection on the way there, but luckily it was just a few gates down. When I landed in San Jose, the strangest logistical thing happened: when you exit the airport to get picked up, the traffic goes to the left. In every other airport I've EVER been in, it goes to the right. So weird. On the way back, we land in Houston but there's no gate available, so we taxi around for about 20 extra minutes. Plus, my gate was in a different terminal, so I was hiking it. I was supposed to have over an hour, but between the taxi time and the travel time, I arrived at the gate as they began boarding economy. When we landed in Orlando, they took their time pulling up the jetway, but I wasn't in a super hurry by that point so it didn't really matter.


Finding places, narrowing down places, looking at places, and making decisions on places is a lot of work. Especially when you're in an area that doesn't have a local website that lists everything out and allows filtering by certain qualifications (Tallahassee had this when my friend Heather and I were shopping for a place when we were in graduate school). And, since we weren't limited to a certain area in a single city (Sunnyvale, Mountain View, San Jose, and Santa Clara were all fair game), the numbers of places were staggering. Plus, add in the notion that we were looking for apartments OR houses for rent.

We made lists. We put pins on a map. We took notes. We drove around. Some places got eliminated just by driving by. We took tours of others. We called others. We made appointments. On and on and on.

Utilities were a factor - there are two different companies that handle electricity in that area, and one is cheaper than the other, but only available in the city of Santa Clara. Some places average your water bills by building, others measure it individually. Some places have shared water heaters and others have their own. Gas versus electric stoves were a factor, too. Air-conditioning was a factor, as it's not standard out there. Location and traffic were factors (we were hoping for something near a train station that would also allow Jonathan to avoid the major freeways to work). I also wanted someplace safe (areas of San Jose, in particular, are prone to break-ins and stolen cars) and clean (the apartment complex we liked the best when we toured ended up being riddled with bugs when we read reviews).

We had to have two bedrooms (or more). We had to have washer/dryer in-unit (although I started to compromise on this a little when things started looking bleak). We had to have a dishwasher (and there was no way I was compromising on that). We were pro-elevator if it was a higher floor, but that wasn't necessary, either (though people seemed to think we should have a definitive stance on this).

One of the main problems with apartments was that they wanted to push amenities we didn't really care about. Like pools (sure, they're nice, but not necessary), patios (um, if there's not enough space for a table and chairs, it's useless. and we certainly don't need two patios of useless size, either), hardwood floors (love 'em, but not a deal-breaker in any way) and fireplaces (yeah, it's nice. but it's California. We didn't turn the heat on at all when we lived there in January-February-March). And whenever you're asked what you're looking for, and we don't have a particular floor preference or care what direction we're facing or prefer a specific area within the building, they get surprised. Look, square footage of living space is our biggest priority. If you show me a bedroom I can't get both a bed and a dresser into, it's not going to work. If you show me a three-bedroom place that's UNDER 1000 square feet, it's not going to help. We'd also like a bathroom large enough where you can bend down to pick something off the floor, or perhaps be able to brush your teeth with the door open.

We narrowed down places more than anything else. And we've come up with decent back-ups, but we're both hoping that something better will work out. And it still may, as we have outstanding requests to see several more houses, which Jonathan will have to manage on his own (he saw one yesterday and was so thorough in his photos and video that I was able to recreate the floorplan and only had a single wall out of place). I'm rather shocked in general over how slow people are at getting back to you... it seems like some of these people aren't actually all that interested in renting, LoL. Or, perhaps they're overwhelmed with responses, but somehow I'm not getting that vibe. Similarly, you have to give a lot of information to take a tour (I guess so they can make sure they're not letting a felon case the joint), and we were expecting a bombardment of emails or phone calls in the days after, trying to make a sale. Not one person has contacted us, which is nice because I don't like pushy salespeople, but it's also bad, since it means they genuinely didn't care if we want to live there or not.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Travel Wishes for California

As we sit here on the precipice of a new stage in our lives, Jonathan and I have been making a lot of lists. Lists of things we want to do. Of websites we want to own/build. Of business ideas we might employ. Of things we want in our future home (not our upcoming home, but further in the future). And, of trips we want to take while we live in California.

For the time we lived in PA, we did a lot of trips along the Eastern Seaboard. This made sense, since flights and fares are less when you live in a certain area. We never accomplished all of the trips we wanted to take, but no biggie. With modern medicine, we have about 60 or 70 more years to do so, LoL. However, we wanted to have a list of trips to take while we lived in California (aka trips in the western part of the country) so we can better space them out and plan them. So, I present you with things that we hope to do in the coming years, and hopefully we'll be able to write about each one.

- Alaska. Specifically by cruiseship.
- Hawaii. Probably by cruiseship as well.
- The Grand Canyon. Complete with a ride to the bottom on horse/donkey/etc.
- The Hoover Dam. Probably during our next Vegas trip.
- Los Angeles/Hollywood.
- Salt Lake City/Park City, Utah. The snowsports out there are supposed to be amazing.
- Yosemite.
- Mount Rushmore. We don't have a heck of a lot of reasons to go to South Dakota, so this one may get streamlined at some point... but for now it sounds exciting.
- Vancouver. I think it sounds like an amazing city, and although last year would have been interesting because of the Olympic aspect, it should prove to be fascinating nonetheless.

anyone have any other suggestions for places to visit out west? We've thoroughly done Seattle. And we've done San Diego. We did the major San Francisco sights when we lived in California last year. We went to Napa. We've been to Tahoe (tho we will surely go again).

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Things PA Taught Me

The 14 months we lived in Pennsylvania were amazing. We saw a lot, did a lot, and learned a lot. I kinda wanted to make a list of things that I learned while living there, as a tribute to living in the area.

- Buying clothes without tax all the time is awesome.
- You don't know how to drive until you've driven in the northeast. Jug handles, no left turns, stop signs on on-ramps, merges with no time, ice, snow, cutting people off, the whole nine yards.
- Trains are so handy! We've both taken trains before, and took them multiple times into San Francisco when we lived in California last time. But driving ten minutes to park the car and then take the train into NYC was beyond handy. Same with Washington, DC. Trains really need to come back in style.
- how to shovel a car out of the snow. similarly, how to properly scrape a windshield.
- how to re-book a flight when Mother Nature decides a blizzard will prevail.
- Lesson planning. I had my first *real* teaching job here.
- some new dramaturgy responsibilities. I had my first *real* dramaturgy gig here, too.
- is a great resource. I joined several groups and became regular members of two of them. This also allowed me to learn the wonders of games like San Francisco Cable Car, Settlers of Catan, Dominion, and Straw.
- there's probably a lot more, but that's all I can think of right now, and I did want to write this much before I forget, LoL.