Posts Tagged ‘California’

Happy Thanksgiving!

Yesterday marked the first Thanksgiving that I have ever had to spend without my family. Despite missing my family like crazy, I think our expat celebration in the UK turned out quite well! It definitely brought a bit of home across the pond.

We made it a potluck celebration, so everyone brought their favorite Thanksgiving dish. I was slightly worried that we wouldn’t have enough food, but we actually ended up having leftovers, which was pretty amazing! Check out some of our goodies (wish I would have taken more pictures!) :

Lindsay’s Pumpkin Pie! Note to those celebrating in the UK: stores don’t sell canned pumpkin here. You have to buy a whole pumpkin and actually mash it and make a real pumpkin pie… a bit intense. Fortunately for Lindsay (and for everyone involved in the eating process), her lovely mom shipped a can + evaporated milk + crusts across the pond. Mmmmm!

Here’s Aaron cutting into his fierce Turbaducken, which was essentially a turducken (duck inside of a chicken inside of a turkey) with layers of bacon, andouille sausage, spinach and stuffing inside. It was definitely a feat (12 hours of roasting + ridiculous prep), but I think Aaron definitely ran away with MVP. His turkey looked great plus it fed EVERYONE there!

I made a vat of candied yams since sweet potatoes are my most favorite food in the world! Unfortunately, the bag of marshmallows were a mix of pink and white (the only ones I could find in the store!) and I had to use the pink ones because there weren’t enough white to cover everything. Thus, my potatoes look like a Valentine’s Day dish instead of a traditional Thanksgiving fare. Still quite good!

With Sean & Wen, a couple of our guests! :)

This picture of Ronan & Pooja is probably my favorite of the night! Love these two <3.

I’m so thankful for everyone that came and celebrated, it definitely felt a bit like celebrating with the fam. To everyone back in California: miss you, love you and hope you had an amazing Thanksgiving!



Nana’s Pre-Birthday Birthday!

For some reason unbeknownst to me, the world has decided to wake me up before 630A both weekend mornings. Not that it much matters anymore, honestly, because every morning is like a weekend morning for the next few weeks: aside from a couple of mid-morning flights, or an incredible early-morning sale, there will be very few reasons for me to be up this early until school starts on October 5th. I have four short days until liftoff and the primary reason that I decided to leave on the 17th of September (instead of heading out earlier) is because my grandma’s birthday falls on the 15th. Since this will be the first birthday that she’s celebrating without my grandpa here, I knew it would be difficult and duly important that I be here for support. Plus, I love birthdays.

We decided that since her birthday falls on a Tuesday (a workday for most), that Saturday would be more appropriate for a celebration. Around 11A yesterday, we headed to Red Hawk Casino for a day of fun and potential gold-striking. Although my grandma, mom and I typically relegate ourselves to the slot machines (2 to 5c, normally… we’re real high rollers), my mom ended up branching out a bit and joining my dad at the Blackjack table. Although her luck wasn’t so great, dad ended up winning $50 on the $100 that he had put down and left sufficiently happy. My grandma… well, she managed to lose $40 in one sitting at a single penny machine. I really didn’t know such a thing was possible.


Afterwards, we met up with Tiffany and got ready to go out to dinner! After much deliberation, we decided to check out Lucca, a Mediterranean restaurant on 16th & J Streets in the downtown area. Despite the somewhat mixed reviews that we had read & heard, we were pleased that the menu had something for everyone and their raspberry mojitos were delish!


We ended up with outside seating and the atmosphere was perfect!



After dinner, the birthday girl (a whopping 84 years old!) got a special birthday cobbler that I generously helped her devour.

LuccaLucca's MojitosAfter a load of mojtios, an awesome dinner and spectacular service, we all left in a top-notch mood. The birthday girl was particularly happy — we all pitched in and got her a roundtrip ticket to El Salvador so she could visit her family in October!

I’m definitely glad that I stayed for the birthday celebration! To see more fun pictures from nana’s birthday, check out my album on facebook here.

Hope everyone’s weekend is sensational!

Signature Stamp - Shannon

Last Day of Work — Where Have Four Years Gone?

It’s early in the morning and I’m currently sitting at work while the majority of people have yet to start their work day. Today marks my last day of work after four years with the company. I don’t think that it’ll fully hit me until Monday morning rolls around and my alarm doesn’t go off. It’s not going to go off for two reasons, mind you: 1) I won’t have to be at work at 8A, and 2) My alarm is attached to my cell phone which is property of the office. I have been lucky enough to have a cell phone provided to me by work for the past three years and now that I’m leaving, I’ll have to turn in my handy sidekick, meaning I will be phone-less for 6 whole days! How ever will I live?!

My emotions are very mixed this morning. Although I anticipated more excitement than anything, it’s definitely a bittersweet feeling. I’m extraordinarily excited about starting the next chapter of my life, moving abroad and working on my education. For as long as I can remember, my goal was never to be a wife or a mom, but rather an educated woman with a wall dotted with degrees. I’ve always been impressed by women that have incredible education (and intelligence and wit to match) and thusly made it my goal to follow in their proverbial footsteps. In six short days, when I get on the plane at SFO, it will be a start to that journey. Despite the excitement and the fulfillment, I’m definitely feeling a bizarre sensation of sadnesses and nervousness. Sad to leave behind four years of friendships, co-workers and memories. Nervous due to the realization that today I will receive my last paycheck; the last bit of income until I’m done with my Masters (or until I decide that I’m too antsy without a job and get a part-time gig in London… whichever comes first!) There’s definitely a comfort in knowing that you wake up each day with purpose; with a task at hand and I’m definitely going to miss being hyper stimulated. After so many years of full-time work and full-time school, being only a full-time student will be a bizarre turn of events.


Wednesday night I had a mini going-away gathering with a few co-workers after work and today I get to have a Bon Voyage lunch with our sales staff at a sushi joint downtown. I’m secretly hoping that I don’t suddenly burst into tears! So, it is with incredibly mixed feelings that I say goodbye, co-workers! I will be missing you!

Signature Stamp - Shannon

My Top Five: My Favorite Places to Visit

Although this year will likely bring about a number of new favorite places to visit, thus far there are a few hot spots that top my list of favorite places to be: to explore, to marinate & to soak in. In ascending order:

#5: Maui, Hawaii


It would be wrong to not include Maui on my list, but it really (barely) touches the top five. There’s something undeniably relaxing about Hawaii. Perhaps this is seeded in the knowledge that you’re on an island, far, far away. The beaches are gorgeous, the weather is tropical and the sun is shiney. Despite all of this, I find Hawaii, in general, to be extremely overpriced: in addition to flights & accommodations being exorbitant, food and souvenirs will also cost you your first born.

{Note: Travel to the small town of Pai’a and check out Des Amis for the best crepes & curry you’ll ever have in your life!}

#4: Seattle, Washington

After my Independence Day visit to Seattle this past July, I was amazed by the city. I was expecting a big city, similar to that of San Francisco or London, but instead was surprised by a culture that was quintessentially Seattle, a unique culture not shared by any city that I’ve seen. The streets were clean (something that you wouldn’t see in SF) and the downtown area was an amazing blend of city and sea. Pike Place Market is home to the most amazing farmer’s markets in the world — an amazing, bright selection of fruits, vegetables and nick knacks. Add quirky shops, fish galore & niche cuisine and we have a winner.

#3: San Francisco, California

San Francisco is one of my favorite places to just be. There’s a vibe in the city that’s just so amazing. The culture is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, with little districts throughout that house a culture that is unique unto itself. Whether you’re interested in art and exhibits (the deYoung Museum), parks (Golden Gate Park), shopping (helloooo, Union Square!) or amazing eateries, this is one of the best places to be. Due to the amazingly diverse population, there are restaurants and activities for everyone; I can’t imagine anyone being disappointed with a visit. The only downside — it’s incredibly expensive. If you want to find a place to stay on the cheap, don’t expect the neighborhood to be the most prized.

#2: London, England


When I revisit this post next year and create a new Top 5 list for 2010, my new home town may very well jump up to #1. After all, I fell in love with the place in four short days, goodness knows how I’ll feel about it after an entire year! London is a city amongst cities. From my perspective, it shares many similarities with San Francisco — a diverse population, amazing eateries, some fantastic parks, wonderful shopping, crisp/less than amazing weather and exorbitant prices! The overall vibe in the city though, in conjunction with the amazing history make for an awesome visit — there are so many things to see, learn & love!

#1 Santa Barbara, California

Ahhh… Santa Barbara, the most beautiful place on earth. Everything about this place makes me happy: the weather, the town, the farmer’s market, the people, the scenery. It’s quintessential California and although I have only been there on two occasions, I loved every minute. The weather is perfection (much like that of La Jolla) and the town is pristine; I don’t think I saw a piece of litter the entire time there. If you dream about California, this is the place you dream about. <3.

There are so many other places that I’ve visited that I’ve absolutely loved — El Salvador, Northern England, La Jolla, Carmel, Florida — but those are definitely my top five for right now. I’m sure that 2010 will bring an entirely new list of favorites.

What’s on the top of your “favorite places” list?

Signature Stamp - Shannon

I Left My Heart in SF <3.


San Francisco is, hands down, one of my favorite cities ever. Although it’s not the cleanest and it doesn’t boast the greatest weather, there is a vibe throughout the city that cannot be replicated. The diverse population, the various districts and their cultures, and the fact that you have no reason to ever be bored with the innumerable things to do, definitely make it one of the world’s greatest cities. Although I had planned on spending this weekend in SF to take a jaunt down to Golden Gate Park, the Outside Lands festival that took over the mega-green pushed that idea to the wayside. Instead, my cousin, B., and I stayed in a little B&B in the Marina and spent our evening in the super-fun North Beach area. For anyone that hasn’t had the pleasure of experiencing North Beach, it’s a must! It is by far one of my favorite areas of the city with its Italiano vibe and amazing patrons. B. and I cabbed it the entire weekend so we wouldn’t have to worry about driving, parking or having a few drinks. Our first stop last night was Calzone’s on Columbus Street. B. had been raving about their amazing drinks the entire day, so we had to stop there to test out their fare. After a crostini appetizer & a Moscow Mojito (think normal mojito with limon vodka vs. rum — delish), we agreed that it was a great joint. Additionally, we met the cutest family from England (Newcastle, to be specific) and ended up chatting them up for a bit. They definitely solidified my excitement for the big move!



After a bite at Calzone’s, we moved next door to Figaro’s where we met our super-server/bartender Joel & his version of the Moscow Mojito. Though they didn’t have one on the menu, B. requested that he make something similar. After some bruschetta & another drink, we were happy with our experience. A plus for anyone that’s visiting: they (allegedly) have some amazing gnocchi. Although we didn’t stay for dinner, their food looked superb!


For our last stop of the night, we hit up a tried and true favorite, The Stinking Rose. Chris & I had dinner at The Rose about a year ago & it definitely made me fall in love with North Beach. You can smell the garlic from outside & the food is super delish! B. and I split the gnochetti entree for dinner & left there knowing that we were keeping vampires (and boys) away for life. Word of advice: bring a pack of gum/Costco-sized Listerine. If you’re a huge garlic fan, they even have a plain roasted garlic bulb on the menu! Mmmm?


After a decent-night’s sleep, we hit up a mass Sunday morning at St. Peter and Paul’s Church (also in North Beach) and B. and I were asked to take the eucharist & wine up to the priest — definitely the most involved I have ever been in a mass in my many years of existence. Although I do not consider myself the most religious of persons, the church was spectacular; more European than American in its design. Side note: This was clearly Joe DiMaggio’s favorite place — he was married & had his funeral at this church. Worth checking out!

After mass, B. and I explored a bit of North Beach before our fun-filled weekend was at an end. We popped into a little bakery called La Boulange on Columbus for a bit of coffee and were pretty surprised to learn that they serve coffee in bowls! We got ours to-go in standard paper cups but some of the in-house coffee drinkers were equally surprised to be sipping lattes out of bowls. Pretty cool, though!


Lastly, B. grabbed some goodies for the fam (cannolis & sweets) so she could go back bearing gifts. We had an amazing weekend from start to finish. Although our B&B, Edward II, was not the most spectacular of residences, for the affordable price & the location, it was worth the investment. Plus, we got to enjoy some breakfast before heading out in the AM!

A little weird to think that the next time I’ll be in SF will be when I’m saying goodbye to the US & hello to the UK!

Anyone have any amazing must-sees in San Francisco? Was anyone in SF for the Outside Lands festival?

Signature Stamp - Shannon

To see photos of the many adventures of Shannon & B. from this weekend, check here!

Pleasant(on) Weekend.

I’m currently sipping some delicious coffee in our Pleasanton, California hotel room and am pleasantly surprised by how comfortable our hotel has been! I joined Chris in the East Bay for the weekend and though it’s only 2:50P on Saturday, it’s already been amazingly relaxing. Surprisingly so, actually. We checked into the Residence Inn on Dublin Canyon Road last night and the room is spectacularly roomy, especially when you consider the price range of these rooms ($89 – $129ish per night).

IMG_5909This is only half of our room — the ‘bedroom’ part of the place.

IMG_5907IMG_5917There’s also this fully equipped kitchen!
Fridge, freezer, microwave, toaster, coffeemaker, stove, plus pots, pans and silverware for cooking.
{Plus, there’s a big screen TV and lounge area, of which I didn’t get a shot.}

After checking in, we headed out to grab some dinner — sushi! — my new most favorite food. After a two-year stint as a strict vegetarian, I have switched to pescetarianism to increase my protein intake; accordingly, sushi has jumped back to the top of my favorite food list. I have never really met sushi that I didn’t like. Perhaps I have only eaten at good sushi places, though, and have thusly taken the quality of sushi for granted because last night’s sushi was far from good. Even the edamame was overcooked — soft and mushy. How do you mess up edamame?!


IMG_5910It actually looked decent when it was plated, but it was super bland. I’ve never had sushi that didn’t really taste like anything… possibly poor quality fish? I can’t be sure, but after spending $30 for our two rolls (plus an order of tempura) we were highly dissatisfied. If you happen to be in P-town, skip this joint. There’s a cool Indian place next door that’s much more enticing.

To make up for the grossness that was our sushi, we hit up Coldstone Creamery for a bit of ice cream. I haven’t enjoyed Coldstone’s amazingness for at least five years, so let me just say this: cake batter-flavored ice cream with butterfinger is possibly the most delicious morsel I have ever tasted in my twenty-three years of existence. Seriously. I don’t know what they put in that ice cream (highly-addictive drugs, perhaps?) but it hovers in another realm of deliciousness. Mmmm. They do have some healthy indulgences, but seriously: split a small and go for the good stuff. Ahhh-mazing.

After hitting Pleasanton’s 24 Hour Fitness this morning for a good sweat sesh, I spent the early part of the afternoon poolside, enjoying the amazing sunshine and catching up on my pre-sessional readings for classes in the fall. Such an awesomely relaxing weekend!

Hope everyone else’s is equally fantastic,

Signature Stamp - Shannon

Happy Birthday, Sis!

I am actually doing some seriously relaxing and sight-seeing today!  We are spending the day on the beach in Santa Cruz, having dinner in Carmel & spending the night at a Bed & Breakfast in Pacific Grove to celebrate my sister’s birthday! She had no idea before today (which is half the fun!) so we kidnapped her this morning, packed her bags, packed a picnic lunch for our afternoon at Capitola Beach and we’re off! Check out yesterday’s post for all of the deets — got her some amazing new beach stuff, the most darling birthday “baby cakes” {courtesy of Layers Sensational Cakes in Monterey) and a room with a spectacular view! I’m so pumped and I hope she loves it as much as I hope!

Happy Birthday, Tiff!

If you’re reading this, I love you to the moon — you’re a pain in the ass, but you’re my best friend and I couldn’t imagine life without you! Glad my begging mom and dad for a baby sister paid off <3.

Shan & Tiff (2)Tiff & Shan (2)sleepy

shanni and tiff

Signature Stamp - Shannon

PS. After this weekend, I’ll keep you guys posted on the B&B, plus the eateries and places we’re hitting up! Should be a blast <3.