Thursday, May 30, 2013

Tio Mario's Surprise Birthday Party

This Memorial Day weekend, the Costa/Martins extended family got together at Nelia and Ken's house in Folsom to celebrate Tio Mario's 70th birthday.  There were three aunts and uncles in attendance, all those currently living in California: Tio Manuel, Tio Mario (the birthday boy), and Tia Judite, plus lots of cousins.  Of course not everyone could make it, especially family in Canada and the Azores, but still there was a good turnout.  You may remember that since my great grandmother had children over several decades, my mother has aunts and uncles that are close to her in age, and is even older than one of her uncles.  Here's Tio Mario with his family:

Nelia and Ken threw a great party, and Tio Mario was quite surprised when he walked in.  Tia Fatima, his wife, was so nervous about the secret and the party that she hadn't slept well in days, and had asked her daughter, "What if it doesn't go well?"  Nelia replied, "What's not to go well?"  And of course she was right-everyone had a wonderful time.  I realized that many of these people I hadn't seen in about six years.  It was so fun catching up, seeing how the kids had grown, meeting the babies of the family, and enjoying some Portuguese humor.  It was a really special day.

We were commenting that the family is very female-heavy (not that that's a bad thing!).  These are the three male cousins we have (in fact, Fernando, left, is the only one whose father is on this side of the family, so I guess that makes him the only one carrying forth the name-crazy!), and what VIPs (Very Important Portagees) they are:

There were nieces and nephews from different seven aunts and uncles in attendance.  Here's Tio Mario, with those that were there (Not to confuse: I'm a great-niece!):

Great thanks again to Nelia and Ken for hosting such a great day of family, and felicidades to Tio Mario!  We always say we should get together more often-please let's actually do.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Caroline + James

Every once in a while one has the pleasure of meeting a couple that fits together effortlessly.  James and Caroline are one such couple.  They know how to have a great time together, and one can easily tell that they are the best of friends.  Always off on some adventure together, they love to poke fun at one another and just enjoy the other's company.

Fun and adventure was what brought them together.  While I was off galavanting through Europe, James and Caroline were individually doing the same in Australia (only more ruggedly).  I remember back when it all began, I was Skyping with James and he was telling me about the French girl he was dating.  With every sterotype running through my mind, I thought, James?  With a Frenchie?  Really?  But Caroline ain't your average Frenchie.  As soon as I met her, I thought, "Oh!  This makes all the sense in the world."  He met Caroline in the middle of nowhere, and together, they found themselves in the middle of somewhere pretty special.

The last year of their relationship has been tricky, with visa challenges continually getting in their way.  Caroline wanted to stay in the states, both to work and to be with James, but only one of those things was working out.  After Caroline had to return to France at Christmas due to an expired visa, James returned with a heavy heart and a lot of thinking to do.  He decided he would never be more sure about Caroline than he already was, so he took a leap of faith and proposed, and just months later, here we were celebrating with them at a whirlwind wedding!

My car, which included Gio, Sam, and myself, was the Cake Squad.  We had been tasked with picking up the creme puff cakes at a French bakery in Berkeley and keeping them alive the three-hour drive up.  The cake is seriously the most accident-prone job to have for a wedding, and we were all very nervous about any hiccups.  The small Asian woman that handed over the cakes at the bakery did not have a lot of faith in our cardboard box/ice/tarp system, but we pulled it off!

The wedding weekend took place in Tahoe, with the attendees staying at one of three cabins (one even had a wood-burning hot tub-seriously) all along the same woodsy street.  Guests arrived at James' parents' cabin in waves Friday night for the "rehearsal dinner" (I use quotes because there was a lot of home-brewed beer and fajita consumption and not too much actual rehearsing going on, not that they needed it), and everyone at the intimate affair (just 30 total for the wedding) had the chance to meet and catch up.  Only with James and Caroline would you get to spend the night before a couple's wedding eating guac on the floor and playing drinking games.  So much fun.

Morning of, the girl's cabin was hopping because we had a V.I.P. - Caroline.  Above you'll see her enjoying a nice, stiff drink before the ceremony.  Among the last few to the wedding were the bride and those of us helping her get ready (yes, we were late).  Outside on the street, Caroline started feeling overwhelmed.  For the hundredth time that morning, she shrieked adorably, "Oh my God, I'm getting married today!"  And then she added, "To James."  And as if realizing it for the first time: "I love James!"  And she started crying out of sheer joy, excitement, and love. 

The ceremony was held at the stunning Fallen Leaf Lake in South Lake Tahoe, boasting glimmering waves and snow-capped mountains, and providing the most breathtaking backdrop for their vows.  I can't tell you what a sight we were hiking the 15 minutes in with a pristinely-white bride and several more girls in dresses.  And I don't think she'd mind me saying that there may have been a potty break in the bushes for the bride as she walked down the aisle to the wedding site.  Caroline sure knows how to make things memorable!  Here's James, awaiting his bride, and Caroline, after her (trek to and) walk down the aisle:

Caroline looked just gorgeous, and she was glowing with such a wild energy-in fact she did a lot of jumping around all day long to expend some of it!  Her tears caught up with her as she was walking down the aisle, and again as she was saying her vows.  They exchanged vows in both English and French, mostly for the benefit of Caroline's mother, stepfather, and maid of honor, Angélique, who had all come over from France for the special occasion.  The vows were so beautiful, so heart-felt, and most importantly of all, so specific to them.  One of the best parts was when James interrupted Caroline to show her the two ducks (apparently one of her favorite animals, and a sign of good luck) that had waddled over to witness the ceremony.  Grab a tissue, because I taped the vows:

I now present you Mr. and Madame Baldwin!

What did the ceremony end with, you might ask?  Well that would be Jay-Z and Beyonce's Bonnie and Clyde, of course.  Best wedding music, ever.

Then commenced the photo shoot with the professional photographer, which I emulated with my phone.  Enjoy!


The Baldwins

The EAP Bologna, Italy crew!

Caroline and Angélique

James and Sam, as per usual
Please note, Sam had a broken wrist and still managed to pull this off.

James' UCSD crew

Gio and me

Then we moved the party over to "a rib joint" as James first described it to me.  We were in the self-titled "cavern" of the restaurant, which bore a strong resemblance to Disneyland's Splash Mountain, much to my pleasure.  There were party favors in the form of jelly beans and gummy bears in canisters with personalized chalk drawings on each, begging the question...whose is whose?  You had to figure out which one represented you to the couple, and get confirmation from them personally.  Mine, of course, was a gelato cone.

Speeches were made by the best man, James' brother, Mike, and the maid of honor, Angélique.  Caroline's mother even said a few words (translated by her daughter), where she good-naturedly announced her retirement from motherhood and her pleasure at the prospect of no more requests for money.

Then we chowed down.

And did some wedding shots.

During the reception, I was speaking with Angélique about what Caroline had told her about James at the beginning of their relationship.  Among other things, she relayed Caroline's early sentiments that James was simply "a really good guy" and I got all emotional again, because all I could think is, he is.  The best.  And for that, he deserves nothing but happiness, and I am so glad he's found that with Caroline!

The rest of the evening was spent on the dance floor.  James and Caroline kicked it off with their rendition of the Dirty Dancing finale, "Time of My Life" - lift included!  I wish I had the amazing shot of the lift that James' dad captured, but these will at least give you some idea of how saucy/sweet it was:

From the rustic cabins to the lake setting, the French/English vows to the BBQ ribs, this couple made the wedding their own.  It was so relaxed, so intimate, and just plain fun.  As Caroline said, many couples go into their wedding feeling like they have to spend the rest of their lives together, but for James and Caroline, after so many bureaucratic and governmental obstacles, they feel like they finally get to.  Plus, we get to hang on to Caroline, now, too.  Even if you guys tried, I don't think you two could ever make a boring married couple.  Best of luck to you both-I wish you a lifetime of continued love and laughter!  

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Cheers To That

Well, guys, I'm already on week three of my new life.  Box is great-the people are super friendly and talented, and my new colleagues frequently come up to me and say, "Oh my gosh, you're the new SF receptionist?  We're been searching for you for months.  So happy to have you join the team!"  And as I'm replying, "Well, here I am!," I can't help but think how serendipitously I came to Box and how neat it is that we both feel so lucky to have found each other.

I spent the first week at HQ in Los Altos, learning the ropes, meeting the peeps, and getting a feel for Box's wacky culture.  I even took a fast-paced trip down this puppy:

I started at Box just in time, because, since the San Francisco Giants are one of Box's oldest and biggest clients, we as a company go to one Giants game every season.  It happened to be at the end of my first week, so great timing.  We got cute Box/Giants swag hats as well as free beer and tickets!  Shout out to this girl, Angelica, who got me the hook up with Box in the first place!

Starting week two, I was already getting set up in San Francisco, and first things first we had a major event: Mayor Lee came to visit!  He spoke to his interest in supporting Bay Area start-ups, technology, and education.  It was fun to hear him tell how he got convinced to run for mayor by Senator Barbara Boxer, as well as his plans for the city, especially his wanting to make it a more appealing place to raise young families, and to hopefully get the Warriors moved to the pier!  Below is Mayor Lee, left, along with Aaron Levie, our CEO.

Getting off at Montgomery Station in the Financial District of SF and heading to my high rise office with a view feels like a dream.  So lucky to be living it!

Also that week we celebrated Brittany's 26th birthday with shrimp and grits at NOLA, embarrassingly low scores at Mission Bowling Club, and finally wine tasting and your casual helicopter ride in Sonoma.  So much fun packed into a few days!

It was one crazy week, with many highs but also many lows.  The lows varied from personal and close friends to national-I was glued to the news screens watching the coverage of the Boston bombings, and couldn't believe that in the same week there was a Presidential poisoning scam and a deadly explosion in Texas.

Then early that Saturday morning, I awoke to the sound of a car accident on the street outside.  Somehow I knew it had to be my car, but wasn't sure until I heard Jodi creeping down the hall calling my name.  A cab hit my side mirror and tire, leading to a week's headache between insurance and autobody companies.  Overall, I guess it went about as well as it could, and the taxi company took responsibility for the accident, so I really lucked out.

One of the best things that came out of the week was our new acquaintance, Jose, and his myriad of catch phrases.  We met Jose (big guy on the right) at one of our winery stops, and boy does he have a lot of stories to drunkenly share with the world.  To him, everything is organic, especially whisky, and he only tells self-proclaimed "true stories."  He is also very partial, or perhaps addicted, to the practice of clinking glasses, and exercises this social activity on average every 3.2 seconds, if not more, initiated by an emphatic "Cheers to that!"  This phrase can come after anything, for example: "I think Cher got some work done...Cheers to that!" or "I just cancelled my subscription to the NY Times...Cheers to that!" or even "Sometimes I get a growth on my toe...Cheers to that!"  You can also consider inserting it into the middle of your own or your friends' proclamations to double or triple your cheers-ing potential.

Next up...James and Caroline's wedding...Cheers to that!