Monday, July 30, 2012

Plenty of Fish in the Sea

I was surprised to realize that I hadn't been back to Monterey and Carmel in several years; I suppose I felt like I had vicariously visited that stretch of coast often, considering my parents enjoy frequent weekend getaways there.  Of course the central focal point of our three days there was golf for my dad, but you can be sure my mom and I shopped and ate well, too.

One afternoon mom and I took the 17-Mile Drive around Pebble Beach, and stopped for a glass of wine at The Lodge.  Not too shabby.

The next day after breakfast, again while dad was golfing, we tried to tour the historic houses of Monterey State Park, but due to budget cuts, they're almost always closed.  We were at least able to explore a few of the gardens as well as enter what is believed to be the first general store in California.

Later we moved on to Carmel, and after a French lunch, we popped into some stores and visited various well-known spots including the Tuck Box and also took a walk on the beach.  That night we met up with dad and his golfing buddies for an Italian dinner.  The place was Naples-inspired, but with a twist because the owner had first immigrated to Hoboken, New Jersey.  Thus, Hoboken was proclaimed on the walls with other towns in the Campania region of Italy.  A slightly twisted version of reality, but we went with it.

The next day we headed to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, situated in the old historic cannery building, and considered by many to be the best aquarium in the world.  We watched the feeding in the Kelp Tank and learned that they recorded Darth Vader's sound-byte from a diver's breathing.  I was probably supposed to learn more about the fish, but that's what mostly stuck with me.

The highlight of the day for me was when a little girl grabbed her dad's arm and exclaimed, "Look, Daddy, it's NEMO!  Look at all the Nemos!"  I myself always love the jellies, of course, and there were some incredible seahorses to wrap our minds around as well.  See if you can discern the animal from the plant:

The moray eels fascinated us for a long time, as we tried to figure out where one began and ended through the various holes they had snaked themselves through.

We decided to stop for lunch at the acquarium's restaurant, and for some strange reason I had a hankering for fish.  The restaurant was sublime, and we all loved what we ordered.  Next time you go, make sure to stop in there for a meal!  Of course while at the aquarium we received copious copies of the Seafood Watch to remind us which fish we should be enjoying, which to be avoiding, so that there remain plenty of fish in the sea for a long, long time to come.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

When the sun sets, baby, on the avenue

With wedding season comes all the festivities that precede the final event: the pre-parties, if you will.  This weekend a bunch of us went to Las Vegas for my cousin Ashley's bachelorette party.  Now we all know how the saying goes about what happens in Vegas, so there's really very little I can post here.  Basically the over-arching themes of any weekend in Vegas are Alcohol and Sexiness (imagine visionary hands making rainbows), but believe me, we kept it classy.  Between our suite at Palms Place, table service at club Rain, rides in stretch Escalade limos, and pool parties complete with bodyguards, we most certainly did Vegas in style.  It was a pleasure to meet some more of Ashley's friends and to get a chance to hang out with the other bridesmaids, not to mention the bride herself!  Now we're closing in on the main attraction...just seven weeks until the wedding, and I can't wait for what is sure to be a beautiful family event!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Preeyanka + Nikhil

"I am the song, and you are the words."

When a young girl is in college, living with a bunch of other easily-swoonable girls, and blogs have just hit the scene, peppered with gorgeous photos and wedding buzz and ideas for fusion this and indy that, she tends to spend a lot of time discussing the idealisms of the future, as in who Mr. Right will be and what the perfect wedding will entail, down to the very last little elephant, er, I mean detail. 

For this reason, Preeyanka's wedding this past weekend felt to me like the realization of a seven-year dream that started when I first met her, before she had even met Nikhil.  I remember spending evenings pouring over blogs of Indian fusion weddings, and later the giddy pillow talk when Pree and Nik's relationship was just starting to bud.  My mom even remembers seeing Pree on a visit to San Diego the year they started dating and hearing about her new boyfriend.  Pree expressed her excitement about seeing what was going to come of it.  Pree's potential wedding offered us the greatest anticipation because we had never been to an Indian wedding, and hers would be so much more exotic than ours ever could be.  Sometime during those first two years of college I made her promise that I could ride into her wedding ceremony on an elephant.  I'm here to tell you that that did not happen.  Nikhil did dance his way in on a horse though, and that was pretty excellent.

Indian weddings are generally a colorful week-long affair, so you can imagine the stamina this couple had to maintain through until the very last dance, the very last congratulatory wish.  We attended both the Sangeet Friday night, and the wedding Sunday afternoon.  The Sangeet was an evening of dinner and dancing at an Indian restaurant in Sunnyvale, an event more intimate than the wedding itself, with just half the crowd (although this half still consisted of about 150 people).  Preeyanka was simply glowing in her teal sari, and everyone else was also dressed to the nines in their traditional garb.

Preetam went ahead of us at the buffet so he could issue a Spice Warning and we told the waitress to keep the water coming, so that cleared our way to enjoy a deliciously flavorful Indian dinner.

I finally got to meet Kristen's boyfriend, Daniel, and together they seem like a great match.  Preetam kept saying, "I'll see you at the wedding," but Daniel assumed it was Pree's and didn't understand that Preetam was referring to Daniel and Kristen's.  Don't worry Preetam, we explained it to him.

To kick off the program, Pree and Nik sang an a cappela version of John Legend's "Stay With You" for us, commemorating their meeting on the South Asian a capella group, Surtaal, at UCSD.  Next Pree and Nik's family members performed various songs and dances, with them looking on as if they were a King and Queen being entertained at court.  After dinner, everyone crowded the dance floor and we learned how to dance with sticks which was even more awesome than it sounds.  Then we basically entered a Bollywood film and kept dancing for ages.  It was exhilarating to see how passionately the family was celebrating for the young couple through their performances and their dancing. 

Saturday night, while Brittany and I were gearing up for the wedding by staying in and watching Downton Abby, I imagined Pree at home with her family, enjoying the celebration of her last night at her parent's house, for which her family prepared all her favorite dishes.

And then the Big Day arrived.

The wedding was located outside under the trees at the Castlewood Country Club in Pleasanton, California. We couldn't wait for it to begin so we could get a glimpse of the bride.

The first event was the Baraat, when Nikhil processed to the wedding mounted on a majestic white horse, surrounded by his family and friends cavorting all around him to a beating drum.

Preeyanka's family waited on the outskirts of the garden for him to arrive.

Nik's family took their time, because they really like to dance, and let's face it, they're really good at it.

You can see Preetam below, as Nikhil's Umbrella-Man-Slash-Bodyguard.

Then some of Pree's family came down to join in the dancing, symbolic of the two families joining for life.  A lot of spinning and twirling ensued. The two men in cream are Nikhil's father and uncle, and you'll see Pree's family entering from the right.  Feel free to dance along in your desk chair.

Finally Nikhil dismounted from the horse, and danced joyously with the crowd before approaching his bride's family, who in turn blessed him and led him in.

The procession involved only the immediate family, with their two siblings processing in together, followed by Nik's parents, Nikhil escorted by Preeyanka's parents, and Preeyanka arm in arm with her uncle.

There was a sheet held up between Nikhil and his bride to symbolize their separate existence before marrying, and after several blessings were sung, they dropped the sheet, and exchanged flower garlands to show their acceptance of one another.  Preeyanka looked even more stunning than ever.

There were lots of interesting steps throughout the ceremony, which was based on ancient Sanskrit traditions and conducted by a jolly priest.  One compelling step was when Pree's mother poured water into her husband's palms, which then cascaded into Pree's and finally Nik's before falling down to earth.

Pree's brother, Rohan, had to twist Nik's ear to remind him that if he doesn't take care of his sister, there will be hell to pay.  (The priest may have worded it differently.)

They exchanged rings, we threw rice on them, they walked around a fire and Pree stepped on a stone, and they even tied the knot literally (Nik's scarf was knotted with Pree's sari).  Then they took seven important steps together symbolizing their journey through life.  The entire ceremony was beautifully symbolic, especially in regards to their families merging into one.

The priest did a great job of trying to translate the meanings and symbolism into English, and sometimes we even got a bit of poetry.  At one point, the priest said for Nik (because neither of them actually speak Sanskrit), "I am the song, and you are the words."  I don't think any other line could better suit this beautiful couple who came into each other's lives thanks to music.

After receiving blessings from their parents and grandparents, they were pronounced husband and wife, and even sneaked in a quick kiss in front of the priest.  I cried when I saw Pree's innocently ecstatic face as he presented their united name for their first time.  Congratulations you two!!

Soon we headed over to enjoy cocktails and appetizers and mingle while we awaited the bride and groom's arrival.  The whole family danced their way in, and Pree and Nik were A-list celebrities for the night, paparazzi included.  Knowing that it's difficult to retain 300 people's attention for long, they did all the traditions right away, including their first dance and the cutting of the cake.  There were more performances and several speeches from siblings, dads, and friends.  I loved that Pree's brother and Nik's sister gave their speech together, showing just how united the two families now are.

Dinner was again delicious, and we eagerly awaited Pree and Nik's stop by our table so we could finally congratulate them.  Despite being pulled in every direction and operating on what could only have been adrenaline, they remained poised and dedicated to greeting everyone.  After that we danced for a while (barefoot, I'll admit), and we even got to dance with Pree and Nik at the end of the evening.  For the very last dance, the couple, along with their immediate families, danced in the middle of a giant circle of their wedding guests.  The whole day was just perfect.

Now that the wedding's over, I have to admit that I'm a bit sad.  You have to understand that, as I mentioned, I had spent an entire seven years looking forward to it.  But the beautiful thing is that even though their wedding is over, their marriage is just beginning.  And there's nothing sad about that.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


I can't seem to decide if being home feels completely normal and fun or like an out of body experience mixed with a minor head trauma.  Sometimes I get confused and think, "Wait a minute, where am I?" like everything happened very suddenly, drastically, despite the fact that my last few days in Italy I kept thinking, "Come on, already.  I just want to go home!"  It's understandably taking some time to process, as there's no subtle way to ease yourself into moving to the other side of the world.  One day you wake up in a villa in Italy, and that same night you fall asleep in your childhood bed.  Still, I can't stress enough how happy it makes me to be starting a new life here, near my family and my old friends, and I don't regret my decision for an instant (although admittedly, the food withdrawals have already started).  Bottom line: I can't help but miss Italy, but I love Amurica.

Everyone has been welcoming me home with lots of fun activities, the first of which was a Giants game.  It was just the girls, all of us snacking on peanuts, All Beef Super Dogs, and $10 beers.  We won the game because I wore my lucky Giants Snuggie, and no one was embarrassed at all when I walked to the car with it still on.

My first Saturday back Jessie hosted a welcome home party with some of my closest friends in the area.  They even made food they know I love and Mary was with us in the spirit of her lovely new dog, Dolce.  James came, and I hadn't seen him in two and a half years (literally to the day)!  We ate a ton, played advanced charades (If I remember correctly it's called Hamburger Hamburger?), joked about the slutty frog figurine on Jessie's patio ("That frog's a bit slutty, no?"), and enjoyed using Dolce as a prop for the majority of our photos.  It was such a fun night and felt fantastic to be hanging out with my best friends without the pressure of an impending departure.  I kept telling myself to relax..."You're not going anywhere!  You can just enjoy it!"

And then it was America's birthday!  What better way to feel American than to bring out the barbeque and wave the good ol' red white and blue.  We had a pretty large crowd over to celebrate, mostly friends of my parents that I've known since I was little, including my piano and confirmation teachers.  I made a sweet new 2-year-old friend that followed me around everywhere and wanted all of my jewelery and my dog.  Aside from the Giants losing, it was a beautiful day!

 Finger lickin' good!