Lionel Richie

Sunday, 26 Nov 2006 | Entertainment, Family, Restaurants

This evening, Toni, Erin and I went to see Lionel Richie in concert at the Anaheim Convention Center. Toni and I had a blast because Commodores and Lionel Richie songs bring back memories of our adolescent days. He sang so many great love songs I grew up with. As a added treat, Lionel Richie announced none other than record producer extraordinaire, Quincy Jones was seated front and center in the audience.

He sang most all of his big hits including Brick House, Easy, Three Times a Lady, Just to Be Close to You, Hello, Penny Lover, Still, Dancing on the Ceiling and All Night Long. I was so pleased to hear him sing You Are in person since it's one of my all time favorite Lionel Richie songs. Erin got a kick out of seeing all us older folks grooving to the music.

Before the concert, we stopped at Wood Ranch BBQ for dinner. I had the Balsamic Grilled Shrimp which is so tasty along with a salad and grilled corn on the cob. It was delicious as always.

Before leaving for home, we went to Main Street to see the Christmas tree and all the holiday decorations. It was a beautiful sight and it was nice to hear the Christmas music playing over the loudspeakers. We're planning to attend the Candlelight Processional next weekend with my dad. Saturday's guest narrator is Hector Elizondo and Sunday's is Andy Garcia.

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Chicago in the Desert

Monday, 20 Nov 2006 | Entertainment, Family, Food, Restaurants

Toni and I went to see Chicago at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio on Sunday. I have loved Chicago ever since I was a teenager. I love how they mix rock and roll with horns just like how I love the horn section of Earth, Wind & Fire. They sounded wonderful and put on a great concert as usual. I have seen Chicago in concert probably at least six times, but never tire of their sound. They said they would be touring with Earth, Wind & Fire again next year. I've seen both groups individually, but would love to see them together.

On the way to Palm Springs, we stopped at Crazy Coyote Tacos to try one of their famous tacos. We shared one steak taco which was garnished with fresh salsa and cilantro on a handmade corn tortilla. We both agreed it was a great taco. It's just a little place by the Morongo Casino, but the flavor of the food is great, so I highly recommend it.

Before the concert, Toni and I had dinner at Al Dente. Al Dente is one of my favorite Italian restaurants in Palm Springs. It was Toni's first time eating there. She had the Angel Hair Pasta Caprese and I had the Pollo Funghi. The mozzarella cheese in the pasta was delicious. For dessert, I had the Lemon Tartufo, a light, sweet and tangy lemon gelato and Toni had the New York Cheesecake. Everything was wonderful. It was a special treat because we had the whole restaurant to ourselves. We arrived at Al Dente a little before 4:00 pm and they don't usually start serving dinner until 4:30 pm. The waitress asked the chef and he said he could serve us. So, Toni and I were alone in the restaurant for our entire meal. It was like we had reserved the whole restaurant just for us. It was fabulous.

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San Diego Photo Expo

Sunday, 19 Nov 2006 | Food, Friends, Photography

On Saturday, I attended the San Diego Photo Expo at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. I had the pleasure of seeing seminars by professional photographers, Bambi Cantrell, Hanson Fong, Douglas Kirkland and Monte Zucker. It was nice to get some tips on portrait photography and posing. I also had a chance to try out some Nikkor lenses at the Nikon booth. I got to photograph with the 105mm f/2.8G VR Micro, 200mm f/2G VR, 300mm f/2.8G VR and 200-400mm f/4G VR. I was very impressed with the sharpness of the 105mm f/2.8G VR Micro and it was a thrill to try the other three super telephotos on my own camera.

Around 3:00 pm, I met up with six Flickr friends and socialized with them until the end of the show. After the show, the seven of us went to dinner at Spices Thai Cafe. There was a bit of a wait to be seated since we didn't have a reservation and the restaurant was busy. I had a lovely time talking with everyone at dinner. The food was enjoyed by all and we had a nice time.

After dinner, we talked some more in the parking lot and showed off our camera gear to each other.

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Dinner with Toni at Napa Rose

Sunday, 12 Nov 2006 | Disneyland, Family, Restaurants

Last night, Toni and I had a wonderfully delicious dinner at the Napa Rose Restaurant at Disneyland. It's located in the Grand Californian Hotel. I had taken a cooking class there several months ago and had the good fortune of trying their delicous cuisine. I cooked some of the items from the class for Toni and Erin at home, but Toni had not dined there before.

I ordered "The Vintner's Table", the chef's tasting menu comprising four courses and a wine pairing for each course.

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The first item we tasted was a gift from the chef which is not on the Prix Fixe menu, so it was a pleasant surprise. It was a Shrimp Fritter accompanied by a sauce and greens. It was very tasty. It was very small, but the bold flavors compensated for it's diminuitive size. I love how fine restaurants serve food that have wonderfully complex flavors. They don't just rely on saltiness for flavor.

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The first course was Spectacular Heirloom Apple "In All Their Glory" with Compte Cheese Fritters, Walnuts, Dried Cranberries and Shaved Bresaola. This was delicious as well. I liked how the walnuts and cheese contrasted with the tartness of the cranberries.

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The second course was Cannelloni of Rosemary Roasted Venison, Sundried Tomatoes, Cauliflower Risotto & Jus Natural. The cannelloni was al dente just like I like it and had a resilient consistency that I really enjoyed. The cauliflower risotto was nice and creamy. It was made with tiny pieces of cauliflower floret. I have never considered cutting cauliflower so small, but I'll have to keep that in mind for future dishes.

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The third course was Braised Osso Buco of Free Range Veal, Roasted Parsnips, Chanterelle Mushrooms, Golden Chard and Zinfandel Wine Reduction. This was so good. It was hearty and rich. It reminded me a lot of the Braised Short Ribs with Warm Potato Salad I learned to make at the cooking class here.

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The fourth course was Warm Pumpkin-Harvest Pear Bread Pudding with Cinnamon Ice Cream and Meyer's Rum Sauce. As all of the previous courses, this was yummy as well.

If you're wondering how I remembered all the course names, it's because I got to take home the menu. When I asked our waiter for a copy of the sheet showing the tasting menu, he bagged up the whole menu and said I could take it home. That was such a treat for me as a food enthusiast and Disneyland lover. Our waiter was a very friendly Japanese gentleman named Mickey. What a fun coincidence. All the wait staff were so friendly at the Napa Rose. I highly recommend the Napa Rose for excellently prepared foods and a fine dining experience where you feel right at home. They never make you feel ill at ease like at some highly rated eating establishments.

Toni and I thoroughly enjoyed our dinner. I'm sure we'll return again in the future. On a side note, when we arrived at Disneyland in the late afternoon, I was surprised to see the Mickey and Friends parking structure was full. I was redirected to the Buzz Lightyear parking lot across the street from the Anaheim Convention Center. I didn't even know they had a parking lot out there. Apparently, Disneyland Park was sold out for the day.

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Fireworks at Disneyland with Toni

Monday, 6 Nov 2006 | Disneyland, Family, Restaurants

Yesterday afternoon, Toni and I headed to Disneyland to see the special fireworks display honoring the end of the Disneyland's 50th Anniversary Celebration. I had read somewhere a while back that November 5, 2006 was the last day of the official 50th anniversary celebration and there would be a special fireworks display. Well, it turned out there was no fireworks display at all. The fireworks show is only presented on Friday and Saturday evenings currently. Maybe I should cross out fireworks in the title and just make it "Disneyland with Toni."

Apparently disneymike had gotten his information wrong about this one. Even a Disneyland fan like me has his moments. We had a lovely time strolling the parks nonetheless. It's so neat to have Annual Passports because you can be so casual and not worry about getting your money's worth each visit.

We watched the Block Party Bash for the first time at Disney's California Adventure. It's fun because the music is upbeat and kids get to join in singing and dancing with the Pixar characters during the show. Toni and I both loved Mr. Potato Head. He was a costumed character that was so fun to watch bopping to the music.

We walked through Hollywood Pictures Backlot to see if the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire show was still playing. Apparently it has closed because the attraction was dim. I really liked playing along with the game. It was lots of fun to participate and have a chance to go to the hot seat and possibly win prizes.

On the way home, we stopped in Corona at Romano's Macaroni Grill to have dinner. I was in the mood for some Angel Hair Pasta with Marinara Sauce. I was disappointed when our waiter told us they had just run out of Cappelini. It really amazed me when he said they were out of Sphaghetti too! That's like McDonalds running out of hamburgers. Penne or Fettucine is just not the same when you're wanting Cappelini, so we ended up sharing Lasagna and a yummy Italian sausage and bean soup.

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Enjoying Time with Erin

Wednesday, 1 Nov 2006 | Family

My daughter Erin is from a previous marriage and I have visitation every other weekend, each Tuesday night and two weeks a year, typically during the summer. This past weekend she came over on Friday evening as usual, but asked if I would switch Tuesday night for Sunday night because a friend of hers wanted to spend the night at Erin's mom's house. Her friend's parents were going to be out of town for Halloween. So, I checked with Toni to see if she had any plans. She didn't, so I told Erin we could switch nights.

Well, it turned out I really enjoyed having Erin for the extra night during the weekend. Erin and I always have been close and enjoy each others company very much. It was so nice to have three days to spend with her instead of the usual two. It was particularly nice because Sunday night was not interrupted with her having to leave to go back home. When I was leaving for work on Monday morning, I told Erin at least three times that I love her and that I really enjoyed having her for an extra night. I cherish all the moments I get to spend with my daughter. The only down side is I miss her more when I have her for a longer stretch and I missed not having her last night. It will seem a long wait until she returns next Tuesday.

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