Snails Triumphant: Asian Garden Night Market, Westminster, CA, USA

Posted: August 16th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Series: Summer California, Travel Tales | No Comments »



On a search for balut, a Filipino delicacy consisting of a fertilized duck egg, Rick stumbled across the Yelp page for Asian Garden Night Market in Westminster, CA.  That Friday night, we drove to Westminster, commonly known as Little Vietnam.  We knew we’d arrived when the scent of smoke drifted through our open car windows.  Strung lights shimmered in the dark, illuminating the three or so rows of stalls set up in the parking lot of a larger shopping center.  We parked on the street and wended our way through the crowd gathered around the stage, Vietnamese music drifting in the air. 

We’d come in search of dinner, so, aside from snapping a few photos, our feet headed straight to the food stalls along the perimeter.  So many choices.  Such limited space in our stomachs.  How could we choose?  Unable to resist the glorious combination of meat and grease, we settled on pork skewers as our amuse bouche.  The older men manning the grills barely spared us a look as they shoved two pork skewers in a folded-up paper plate.  A younger man took our money with a distracted smile.  The skewers were burnt black on both ends and oil spots dotted the paper plate.  The pork tasted like sweet marinated heaven, warm and savory against my tongue.  While our teeth finagled all last remaining morsels off the stick without impaling our throats with the pointed end of the stick, we browsed the other non-food stalls.  Many sold discount clothing and sparkly discounted jewelry.  A large toy stall at the end provided children with boxes of tiny paper-wrapped packets that, when thrown on the ground, made loud cracks of sound.  Throughout our whole time there, not once did the symphony of sharp sound-bursts stop, the ground littered with discarded white papers.  A stall full of elegant bonsai stood near another one demonstrating a lemon juice spritzer, the owner watching each passerby with speculative eyes. 

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Harry Potter Dinosaurs and Space Monkeys-Discovery Science Center, Santa Ana, CA, USA

Posted: August 8th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Series: Summer California, Travel Tales | No Comments »

My phone buzzed with a text message in the middle of the day stating "…any plans this Sunday?  BofA free museum weekend this weekend!".  My eyes lit up.  Free.  Museum.  Uh, yes please!  Through the flurry of ensuing texts and a phone call from A.Y. when he took pity on my pathetic text messaging plan, we decided on the Discovery Science Center.  That second Sunday in July, after church, A.Y. drove over to our apartment to pick me up.  Rick declined our grand scientific exploration in light of his recent ocular surgery, lying with sunglasses in our dark living room like some mysterious vampire. 

When we arrived at the parking lot, we goggled at the huge black cube hanging off the side and the rocket pointing straight up the sky.  Then further shocked when we discovered the free parking, normally $4.  Free admission ($15.95/adult) plus free parking.  A savings of practically $36.  Our Asian hearts wiggled in glee.  We passed a large contraption clanking in perpetual motion on our way to the front counter.  Whipping out our Bank of America debit cards, we compared old pictures taken a decade ago and told each other we hadn’t aged a day.  The woman at the front barely glanced at the pictures before handing us our tickets. 

Waist-height kids ran every which way, narrowly missing our legs.  A science presentation started off in the corner and we stayed to watch for about five minutes before all the other displays around distracted us.  We busied ourselves building fortifications for an exhibit of castles sponsored by Lego, then wandered through to the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibit.  There, we poked and prodded everything we could touch and peered closely at everything we weren’t allowed to touch.  I became motivated to work harder, surrounded by the physical manifestation of a single man’s thoughts.  If he only had twenty-four hours in a day and lived a normal lifespan (by our standards), then I had no excuse for whining about how little time I had to accomplish my dreams. 

We climbed to the second floor, the stairs guarded by a fascinating harp with invisible strings.  The second floor contained all the year-round exhibits.  We pinballed through all of them, exclaiming over each one, then distracted by the next.  A large sphere hung in the middle of a corner room, video projected on it so that it changed from moment to moment, from Jupiter to Saturn to the hurricane patterns or the turtle migrations of Earth.  For a long time, we sat on the benches set along the perimeter, watching the globe change color and resting our aching feet.  

A.Y. herded me towards the huge dinosaur land outside, and we braved the hot afternoon sun walking through the innards of a brontosaurus.  We watched children rushing around to various objects set around the area, tapping them with a plastic wand.  Sometimes the object moved, revealing the delicate tracings of a fossil or a hidden crystal.  Sometimes, the object blared out, "This is not part of your quest," startling the poor child into dashing off again.  I wondered if the students at Hogwarts would’ve studied dinosaurs in a similar manner.  Finally, the hot sun took its toll on me and we took shelter inside the big black cube surrounded by the explosive whooshes of water rockets shooting high.  The walls of the cube were perforated, so we could stare out at the busy patterns of the freeway. 

Near closing time, we made our way back inside.  A.Y. laughed as I created a stop motion film involving two astronauts and a space monkey a la 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Ending our adventure through a fake plastic supermarket, we found it a good transition back into the real world. 


Bank of America Museums on US
First FULL weekend of each month
Museum hours vary

**This Travel Tale is part of the Summer California Series, where we try to enjoy all the goodies Southern California has to offer before we take off on our trip.

Geeks Galore: the Zelda Symphony of the Goddesses Concert, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Posted: July 11th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Series: Summer California, Travel Tales | No Comments »


On a balmy Los Angeles night, we drove up the winding path to the Greek Theater for what promised to be a unique combination of geekdom and high culture: the Zelda Symphony of the Goddesses concert.  Rick, a big fan of the Zelda franchise, having played many of the Nintendo console games while growing up, was super excited when he heard there was to be a one-night-only concert of Zelda music in Los Angeles.  Before the concert began, we sat outside at a picnic table chowing down on crisp Chinese chicken salad and sweet teriyaki buffalo wings, watching clumps of people make their way towards the theater.  It was an unusual mix of clothing choices: suits & little black dresses, jeans & t-shirts, and self-conscious cosplayers. The cosplayers, dressed up as Links in his signature green and pointy ears or Zeldas with her elaborate gowns or other minor characters, preened and posed in the crowd of people milling about, eyeing each other’s costumes and taking pictures with the rest of us without the inclination or courage to dress the same. 

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Summer California Series

Posted: July 10th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: News, Series: Summer California | No Comments »

We have less than two months left in sunny Southern California before we embark on our adventure.  I’m a born and bred Southern California girl, and I know I’ll miss the unique atmosphere permeating the air.  Rick’s the same way.  Though he wasn’t born here, he’s spent most of his life in SoCal.  So, during one of our planning meetings, we decided to make a list of everything we wanted to do & see & experience in California before we get on that plane to Bangkok.  I thought it would be fun to make a series out of it, not only for our own record, but as fun ideas for those who are interested in the same activities as us.  Hope you enjoy it!