Saturday, October 16, 2010

Berkshires

We took at trip to the Berkshires last weekend with Jessica's friend Sanna and her friend Olga. It isn't quite peak foliage season there, and Western MA isn't really considered prime foliage territory, but that's not all bad.... it's still a nice place to be in during autumn, and unlike our 6 1/2 hour trek to the White Mountains in NH a couple of years ago, this one only took a couple of hours and we were never really stuck in traffic.




The Real Honeymoon: Germany and Italy

I'm not even going to try to describe the whole trip, but here was the basic itinerary:
  • Flew into Cologne, Germany and immediately got on a train bound for Munich.
  • Spent a day and a half in Munich.
  • Flew to Pisa in northern Italy and got on a train bound for Montarossa (one of the 5 "Cinque Terra").
  • Spent a couple of days eating and hiking in Cinque Terra.
  • Got on a train bound for Rome and spent a couple of days there.
  • Flew back to Dusseldorf, Germany, where we met my cousin Tim and his family who are currently living in northwest Germany as expatriates.

Ten days wasn't really enough time to do that many things, and we both wish we'd spent a little bit more time in Italy, but everything worked out pretty well considering that we planned it by ourselves and only about 3 weeks in advance!

I pasted a few pictures below. If you want to see a lot more , click here.

We also took quite a few short movies. Click here to see those (the first few are actually from the Austin trip). Assuming that you have a decent internet connection, the movies will look a lot better if you click on the "HD" symbol in the lower right hand corner before pressing "Play" (unfortunately, you have to do this each and every time as there doesn't appear to be a way to permanently change that setting). We made absolutely no attempt to edit these, so you can see the good, bad, silly, stupid, and everything in between!







Friday, October 15, 2010

Austin

We've sort of been into exploring other places lately, since neither of us are sure we want to be "planted" in Boston forever, so on Labor day weekend, we took a quick trip to Austin, TX. We really just wanted to see what it was like... I think we were both favorably impressed. More than just a "college town" (it's now the 2nd fastest growing city in the U.S.), there seems to be a lot going on there. I really liked the mixture of city and green space. There are several "rivers-re-engineered-into-lakes" that run right along the south edge of the city and have parks on each side which reminded me quite a bit of the Charles River basin in Boston. One of the parks contains a huge (about 1000 feet long) naturally spring fed swimming pool. The weather was definitely hot, but not unbearable (but it seems like as I get older I hate the cold more and don't mind heat as much)!


video

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Family Visit and whale watch

In August, my Mom and Dad, as well as my brother Scott came to visit. This was the first time Scott had made it out to MA. I think the highlight of our adventures that weekend was the whale watch cruise (we took the one that's operated by New England Aquarium). We actually had to venture way beyond the Harbor before we saw any whales, but once we found them it was pretty spectacular. The whales were probably only about 50 yards away from our boat, and we saw a mother and her calf together (pictured below). The Aquarium actually did a fairly lengthy write up of our particular outing, which they usually don't do, so it must have been especially good (this was the first time I'd been on a whale watch, so I don't really have any basis for comparison).



We also made a day trip to Cape Cod and tried to venture into Boston once or twice.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Weekend NYC Trip

We went to New York city the past weekend. We experienced a lot of unexpected. But we made it.

It was cloudy on Friday, the day we set off. It was not till the minute we stepped out of our condo did it start to rain. We were caught in very heavy rain and almost missed our train to NYC. Everything that could go wrong went wrong. But we made it right before the train started.

We chose, by accident, the hottest weekend to be in NYC. We walked really slowly. Nonetheless, we were so sweaty that it felt like just finishing a 10k road race. We spent a lot of time at the Museum of Natural History and walking around Greenwich Village. We had dinner at a sushi place which serves raw shrimp and different kind of seaweed. One of them made our stomach feel funny the next day. We spent most of Sunday walking in the sun since it was cooler than the day before and there was shower Sunday afternoon.

Because of the shower, there was a power outage somewhere east of NYC. Our train was delayed and it took us an hour to get out of New York since the train could only go 20 mile per hour. By the time we got home, it was after midnight. It was nice to see the kitties. Obviously, Simon was a little bit mad since we left them by themselves for the whole weekend.

We had a good time in NYC in spite of all the issues with weather. I attached a couple of pictures below.


Dave with the dinosaur

Aren't they cute? Don't worry, they are not Susie and Simon's babies. When we were walking in a park in Greenwich Village, a woman was trying to find homes for these kittens. They are only three weeks old.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

We are in Big Apple this weekend.

Started this post in an Apple store in Chelsea (NYC).

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fourth of July Weekend - Montreal Trip

We took a 3-day trip to Montreal during the fourth of July weekend. This was my first time to go to Montreal. The city is very neat.

View from our hotel.


Pictures of us in front of "Love" sculpture.


We stopped at this cafe that serves crepes. It was delicious.


At the gate of the jazz festival.


Stopped at an Apple store.


We walked around the city for the whole day. We had dinner at this fancy restaurant next to the jazz festival.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day Weekend - Cookies and Race




Dave and I did a 10k relay race on the boulevard this morning. There were about 300 people running this morning. It was not a good weather to run, a little bit sticky. But we finished in one hour and one minute. Not too bad for a fun run. I am especially proud of Dave. He did the first half of the 10k.

I started to become interested in baking after my visit to my cousin Cindy in MA at Christmas of 2002. Back then I was still studying at ND. As soon as I got back to school, I immediately went to Walmart and bought baking utensils. Over the years, I tried different kinds of recipes (for cookies, bread and cakes) with no success. I made a cheesecake when Dave came to my apartment in Chelmsford. That was a complete failure because the butter did not even completely melt. I finally gave it up after trials and failure. Unlike cooking in which you can be creative, you have to strictly follow steps in baking. I have a tendency to intentionally take out or add in something. I am a pretty healthy eater. So I always like to take out some portion of butter and sugar. I spotted a fairly easy recipe this weekend and decided to give baking another shot. The end result was quite good though not perfect yet. The cranberry cookies I made actually taste like real cookies.






Saturday, June 12, 2010

First Weekend after My Level III Test

It is the first weekend after my level III test. I enjoyed the first day of freedom after half a year's ordeal. We did not do much because of the weather. Went to Costco and Trader Joe's in the morning to do grocery shopping. Watched World Cup Soccer in the afternoon, USA vs England. The US men's soccer team played a very good game. Almost no big mistakes at all. Hopefully this team will improve American's best record (top 8) set in 2002.

I made penne with swordfish and eggplant for dinner. Here are some pictures.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Mom's birthday in Arizona



Wow. It's been almost 2 months since I've posted here. Jessica and I took a 3-day weekend to visit my mom and dad in AZ, where they're considering spending the winter months of their retirement years. This was a surprise visit for my mom's birthday (which was actually a few days before). It was such a short trip that it almost just seems like a dream at this point. It was exciting to surprise mom, and it was nice to see an area of the country that we'd never been to before. It was also nice to escape the unusually cold weather that we've been having in New England lately. If you want to see more pictures, look at my Flickr site here.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Florida



Just wanted to do a quick write-up on our recent mini-vacation before it's too late. The reason that we decided to take a vacation in the second week of December is simply because I found out in the middle of November that I had a couple of vacation days that I was going to lose if I didn't use them before the end of the year. We'd already made our Christmas travel plans, so we couldn't really extend those, and I didn't want to waste the days just hanging out at home.

We spent the first night in Miami Beach at a small hotel called Circa 39 (oddly enough it's near 39th street), which was recommended by the Lonely Planet travel guide as having Miami Beach style without the attitude. With this single recommendation, the book pretty much paid for itself and then some. We spent about an hour on the beach and in the pool the next morning and then took off for Key West. On the way out of Miami, we drove through South Beach, which has the largest concentration of Art Deco and Streamline Moderne architecture in the world (one entire square mile in this part of the city is on the National Register of Historic places). I wish we'd had time to get out and walk around and take some pictures, but we wanted to be in Key West before dark, so I guess that will have to wait for another time.





After that we began the ~4 hour journey from Miami to Key West. Driving on the Keys reminds me a bit of driving on Cape Cod. The part closest to the mainland is full of tacky gift and souvenir shops, which then give way to a pretty sparse wilderness, followed by a quirky city at the very end. We stayed at a Hyatt resort hotel (because we got it for less than half price through Priceline) and got a lot of use out of the pool and sauna (moving back and forth between them probably contributed to the nasty cold that I got the day after we came back).






I didn't really take many pictures of Key West itself, because we spent most of our time there at night. We spent most of Monday at the Bahia Honda State Park, which had nice beaches and allowed us to walk around on one of the abandoned railroad bridges that used to run out on the keys.





Tuesday morning, we had to be out of the hotel by 10:00, so we still had some time to spare so we stopped by the Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge. There are supposed to be about 600 of these miniature deer living on Big Pine Key, but somehow we managed to not see a single one. There were also supposed to be a couple of alligators living in the pond at the refuge, but we couldn't find them either. After that, we drove 4 hours back through the keys and made it back to cold Boston in time to get a normal night's sleep!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Christmas Tree

Anyone who has seen our condo knows that we don't have a whole lot of extra space, so the question of what to do for a Christmas tree was a little bit of a challenge. We don't really have the storage space for an artificial tree of any significant size, and I wasn't sure how the cats would react to a real one. We ended up opting for a Charlie Brown tree (complete with Linus's blanket) from Urban Outfitters. From the minute I took it out of the box, Simon and Susie were far more interested in the artificial pine needles than I would have ever expected.

Since we still had the cat problem, we decided that the tree would have to go on the ledge above the sliding doors (the only place in the whole house that S & S are unable to reach). This presented another problem, since I wanted to put some lights on the tree, but there is no electrical outlet up on the ledge. A couple of days later, I found the perfect solution to the problem: solar powered LEDs! They actually work really well. During the day, the lights automatically shut themselves off and the solar cells begin to charge a battery. At night, the lights come on and stay on until the battery runs out (which usually turns out to be way past our bed-time).

It's not exactly overwhelming, but at least we have a place to hang our few ornaments and some colored lights in the evening!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Some Updates

We have not been very diligent with our blog. Here are some of the updates from us.

Our Mini-Moon
We had our mini-moon in Napa Valley. It was a very wonderful trip disregard the weather. When we went there in September, we were caught in the middle of a heat wave. We spent two days in Napa and our third day in San Francisco and Palo Alto area.

The B&B we stayed at is a very neat house. Mom and Dad (Sharon and Terry) purchased us a honeymoon package there. We love it. The owners of the B&B make our stay very wonderful. They hosted wine reception every evening. We had some wine and got to know people staying at the B&B.

It was a pretty brave decision to bike in the wine country. Had I known the biking situation in CA, I probably would have objected to this idea. Unlike the east coast, bike lanes are just seperated by a white line. But it was great fun and a good workout, I have to admit. We stopped at three vineyards: Frog's Leap, Miner and Cliff Lede. Each has its own specialty. Frog's Leap produces organic wine, Miner is powered by solar energy and Cliff Lede has a very nice gallery (the video I posted earlier was shot there).

Then we drove to San Francisco. We stayed at Hyatt near one of the piers. We could see the Bay Bridge from our room. We then went to Palo Alto and visited Apple's headquarter. The picture below was taken at Infinite Loop.
It was a very short trip but an unforgettable one.

The Kitties

Simon and Susie are doing great. They are now one year old. Simon looks like an adult cat but he sometimes still acts like a baby. Susie still has a baby face. They acted a bit weirdly the day when my parents but got over pretty soon.

Our life

People asked me, "Jessica, how's the married life?" "I really don't feel that much different from my single life". That is always my answer. We feel very happy.

Because of the busy summer, we recently realized we haven't gone hiking for a long time. Over the last few weeks, we went to Middlesex Fells Reservation twice. Probably will go again this weekend if the weather is good.

Our work

We still work at the same companies. Not many changes. I switched job within Biogen.

I received my CPA designation this evening. In the future, I can CPA next to my name. I am still working on Level III of CFA.



Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Very Cute Movie of Dave

video

Dave looks very cute in this movie. Don't you agree?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Thanks to Everyone...

...who joined us for one (or, in some cases, more) of our wedding celebrations. It was a great time and everyone who participated helped to make it that way!

Love, Jessica and Dave!





Tuesday, August 18, 2009

CFA Level III, here I come

I cannot wait to share this with everyone. Just found out that my hard work from February to May paid off. I passed CFA level II. Here I come, level III.

This is one of the best gifts I could ever give to myself for our upcoming wedding. I was really nervous last night but I feel so good about myself. Thank you, Dave, for your support and love. I could never have done this without you.

I am looking forward to seeing everyone this coming weekend.

Love, Jess

Thursday, July 23, 2009

July

Just doing the "monthly update" (not by design, but that's the way it seems to work lately).

Mr. & Mrs. Xu are over their jet lag now and adjusting reasonably well to life in America. They seem to be keeping themselves busy by reading, watching TV on the internet (we were going to get them the Comcast Chinese TV package, but there seems to be more available online and it's free), playing with the kitties, and going for walks along the beach.


The weather was just awful for about the first 3 weeks that they were here (it's been cold, and it rained almost every day between Memorial day and the middle of July). It hasn't gotten much better, but we have had a few sunny days since then. We went to Ipswitch (about a half-hour north of where we live) to pick blueberries on Sunday.


The Revere Beach Sand Sculpting Competition was last week and weekend. They've been holding this contest for 5 years now and it's actually gotten quite a bit of regional (and even some national) attention. The sculptors come from all over the globe (although this year a Canadian was the only one from outside the U.S.).

Susie has been finding lots of new hangout spots lately (her favorite seems to be the towel shelf in the bathroom).


Other than that, Jessica and I have been busy with work and planning the wedding celebrations. We were able to get the majority of the details for the IN wedding worked out when we were there in June, and we've been spending more time working on the Boston dinner in the past few weeks. It's a lot of work, but hopefully it will be a lot of fun. We look forward to seeing everyone in August!