Weekend + Wedding in Roanoke

Back in May, my friend Yufeng asked me for my mailing address. Yufeng is one of my oldest summer camp friends. We met back in 2005 and I’ve seen him a few times during my visits back to New York. He got engaged back in December, so me and our mutual friend Barry (who was at summer camp with us, in New York when I visited the both of them, and actually shares an alma mater with Yufeng) were 99.9% sure that we were going to receive wedding save-the-dates. Hurray!

About a week later, Barry informed me that he received an invite! For a July wedding! Ohmygosh so soon! And I waited and waited and… started wondering if maybe I wasn’t actually invited? If maybe Yufeng and his [now] wife decided to remove me from the guestlist? Barry offered to bring me as his +1 but I thought that would be pretty awkward if I was explicitly not invited. Luckily for everyone, I got an email with more details about the wedding and found out that the postal service randomly returned my invite to the bride’s parents. With that, we booked our July 4th weekend in Roanoke and prepared to celebrate Yufeng’s big day!


(Note all photos are by Pat Cori unless otherwise indicated.)

After my first ever Cracker Barrel visit (I can’t believe it took me so long to go! I had a great meal and love the little general store!), we arrived in Roanoke and checked into our hotel, buzzing and ready for the wedding.

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One of mine: a shot of St. Andrew’s that does not do it justice in the slightest

The ceremony was late Saturday morning at the absolutely stunning St. Andrew’s Catholic Church. (Random fact: This is also the childhood church of one of my coworkers, who is from Roanoke!) Gorgeous stained glass windows, an amazing altar, beautiful statues. We took a few photos with my friend Barry and I got my first-ever in-person look at the bride. You see, before the wedding day, I had actually never met Deirdre before!

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A sneak peek at the couple and the beautiful church

First of all, it needs to be said here that the singer was magnificent. Her voice was so clear and pure but strong, she had excellent breath and tone control… I mean, this congregation is so lucky to have her! Such a lovely voice.

Second of all, this was easily the most-Catholic wedding ceremony I have ever sat through. There was much singing, to the chagrin of me, Ben, and Barry, who missed a cue to refer to the book of hymnals. I felt so awkward and embarrassed that I just started giggling uncontrollably, and it was very difficult to keep it in. While I do appreciate the ritual and ceremony of the Catholic Church, it is very easy to feel out of the loop if you haven’t learned all of them. However, I later learned that the ceremony was modified to accommodate folks who were unfamiliar with Catholic ceremonies and that everyone was kind of playing it by ear and just following the priest’s lead. For example, he made an unexpected joke about double happiness, which is traditionally used in China for weddings, that took Yufeng and his family by surprise.

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Random fact: I was happy to see that the rehearsal dinner was actually done with the bride and groom in traditional Chinese dress!

 

After the lovely (if sometimes stressful-for-me) ceremony, we broke for a little recess. The families had set up an excursion up Mill Mountain to hike, look out over Roanoke, and enjoy a delicious lunch of biscuit sandwiches! It was a nice view and we got to meet some of Yufeng’s high school friends, who marveled at the fact that he had invited two of his summer camp buds to his wedding years and years later.

But the best thing about the excursion up was the Mill Mountain Star, the largest freestanding man-made illuminated star! (Citation needed…)

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One of mine: not pictured, me looking around wondering why complete strangers didn’t understand why Starr was so excited about the giant star

This was the star of many of the Roanoke Snapchat filters. (Yufeng had his own Snapchat filter for the wedding!) (Also, let me make this confession now: I was very confused when I realized Roanoke, Virginia was not Roanoke the Lost Colony.) While we were enjoying the mountain air, the bride and groom were taking photos with the wedding party.

14680825_10154575257737114_1260532255936933526_oAnd then it was time for the reception! Luckily for us, while we knew no one at the wedding but Barry before the mountain hike, we were seated with our new Mill Mountain friends! The food was yummy (and even worth the huge oil splatter I got on my dress), the dancing was great, and everyone had a wonderful time.

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Yufeng’s younger brother did a great lion dance!14633206_10154575269367114_5704007812831381321_o

And of course, the moment of fear when I stand at the very back of a crowd of women with my hands firmly behind my back.

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RELIEF

It was a really lovely wedding and I couldn’t be happier for Yufeng and Deirdre.

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The next morning, there was a lovely brunch at the  Maridor Bed & Breakfast, where we got to send off the couple one last time.

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Then…
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And now

Until next time! Thank you for inviting us to your wedding, Yufeng, we truly had a wonderful time and are so happy for you both. I am so grateful to have been able to call you my friend for the past 11 years and could not have imagined, back in 2005, being able to see you marry the love of your life.

Congratulations again!

San Francisco part 5

Eat, Hike, Sing | SF 2016

Last time on SF 2016, I woke up with the sunrise after taking a little 2-hour post-clubbing nap to meet Christine for breakfast! Then we enjoyed a really leisurely, gorgeous stroll through the Palace of Fine Arts and Crissy Field. After enjoying the scenery for a bit, it was time for a little pick-me-up!


After basking in sunshine, sea air, and people+doggy-watching, I felt my 2.5 hours of sleep catch up to me and was slammed with a wall of exhaustion. It was time for my first San Francisco cup of coffee!

Christine and I had passed several very educational signs at Chrissy Field, one of which was describing the snowy plover, a very cute little bird. It is also the name of a trendy coffee beverage at Andytown Coffee Roasters (review), which turned out to be a really refreshing drink at exactly the kind of coffee shop I expected to visit in San Francisco.dsc01659dsc01662

At Andytown, Ben joined us to perk up himself and to join us for lunch at San Tung for some delicious Chinese food. Unfortunately, Christine and I were still pretty stuffed from breakfast and Ben was too sleepy to feel hungry. But the food was really delicious.

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Original dry-fried chicken wings
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Dried sauteed string beans
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Black bean noodles

From there, it was time for us to work off all that food with the Lands End Hike. We started at the Sutro Baths, or more accurately the ruins of the baths. dsc01673

It was a beautiful, beautiful hike. A bit strenuous for sure (and all the more difficult holding our leftovers from lunch) but it was really lovely to see the views and to breathe the fresh air. This whole day was really invigorating and I was so happy to spend it with Christine and Ben.dsc01672dsc01695

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I took a LOT of photos of the Golden Gate Bridge, of the baths, of the water… but I’ll spare you for now.

The timing fairies were in our favor and, by skipping the Lands End Labyrinth, we were able to finish the hike in time to get Ben over to Japantown to meet back up with his friends for dinner. In fact, we were a bit early, so we browsed around Daiso (which we don’t have on the East Coast) and a little shopping center before splitting up for dinner.

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Greeted at the end of our hike with an affirmation that we did, in fact, hike Lands End.

I was still feeling very out of it from the lack of sleep, the hike, the abundance of food, and maybe even from the caffeine since I don’t drink a lot of caffeine at all, so I was having a hard time deciding where to eat. We finally decided on Shabuzen, where we nommed on a delicious shabu-shabu meal together. It was bittersweet for me because, with Christine headed to San Jose to see her bestie, it meant that our magical day together was coming to a close. I felt especially bad/sad about it because I was so out of it at this point in the day and was being a bit of a drag, to be super honest. (Man, 1000 props to Christine for putting up with how indecisive I was about what to eat for dinner.) (And to Ben, who puts up with that on a too-regular basis.)dsc01711

We said our goodbyes, and I still had some time before Ben’s group wrapped up at Korean BBQ, so I walked around the closing shops that we had browsed together just a little while earlier. My first walk-through, I felt sensory overload by all the things and prices and wowowowow factor, but with the shops emptying out and the sky getting darker, I was finally able to re-center and re-focus on the present and feel just a little less dead. I also got to try out this fun liquid nitrogen dessert from Chocolate Chair that was like a giant Cap’n Crunch Crunchberry (sorta) that let you breathe out dragon’s breath when you ate it. Very drying but super fun to play around with once you get used to it!

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I posted Snapchat and Instagram stories of me trying to look like a dragon! There are folks on Youtube who did a much better job than me, though.

And then our group ended the evening with karaoke because of course we did! My favorite thing! Even though I was really struggling at this point — 2.5 hours of sleep and it being about 4AM Eastern time when we finished — I still had a lot of fun at karaoke. A highlight was hearing one of Ben’s friends do a Tupac song, because I don’t know him too well and no one has ever heard him rap before, let alone go through an entire Tupac Shakur song! It was a beautiful moment, I will treasure it forever, along with the time that me and another person simultaneously put “Careless Whisper” (aka the sexy sax song) on the karaoke queue. (It literally came up twice in a row because we both entered it around the same time. It was destiny.) (Also, we wound up forgetting our leftovers at karaoke. After I forgot to hand them back to Christine. After carrying them around for our entire hike. Womp womp, that was an epic fail.)

Our last full day in San Francisco finally came to a close, and honestly, I had a really amazing time. I only started fading around dinner, but the energy of the Bay really kept me going. We had so many amazing Lyft and Uber drivers throughout the day. The weather was absolutely perfect.

It was going to be hard to say goodbye to this wonderful weekend.

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I love this photo.

Did we miss any major sights while we were in San Francisco?
What are your favorite Japantown eats?
And what’s the last super-hyped food you tried? Was it worth it?
The dragon’s breath dessert was… just okay. Really drying, not particularly tasty, and the effect of the liquid nitrogen doesn’t last very long. But it’s fun to try once and to split it with a bunch of friends!

CS-SC Reunion | SF 2016

Last time on SF 2016, we had a Big Night Out with Ben’s college friends that began with a fancy steakhouse dinner and ended with clubbing. And then actually ended with taking care of folks who had a bit too much to drink. I was finally able to go to sleep at 3:30AM… Pacific time…, which really made my 5AM alarm feel extra special.


I wasn’t even mad when my alarm rang Sunday morning because it was my big day with Christine! You may remember that she visited me last year for her first-ever trip to the East Coast and our first-ever in-person meeting. (#blogfriendsarerealfriends) I was so excited to finally revisit San Francisco primarily because it meant I could see Christine, who had graciously turned down many awesome Labor Day weekend plans to spend time with me.

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Thank you for a wonderful day, love! ❤

Also, one of the best things about Christine is that she basically planned our whole day! Oh man, I was in heaven. It felt so nice to be on a vacation and to not have planned it. Plus, I trust Christine’s judgment with her home city and the best things to see, do, and eat!

(As for the title of this post: Christine’s initials are my initials reversed! Fate!)

Her first item on our itinerary was breakfast at Mama’s on Washington Square. Mama’s is a tiny restaurant that only seats about 30 people and opens at 8AM. So Christine and I agreed to start lining up at 6AM. Yep, you read that right. I got in a Lyft with the license plate “PHARAOH” and found Christine already waiting at Mama’s.

She was 2nd in line.

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The woman who was first in line didn’t want to be in any of the photos of the line hahaha

The food was good but if you see a line as long as it was, don’t feel bad about skipping it. We got the famed Monte Cristo sandwich and the bay shrimp Benedict we saw on the specials menu. (Also, it is cash or debit only; no credit cards.) It was a very cute restaurant and it felt cozy, almost like someone’s personal dining room rather than a restaurant with hungry diners all staring in through the windows at you, willing you to eat faster and shut up so they could get their breakfast on.

After Mama’s, we did a quick little stroll around Washington Square, where we saw a lot of middle-aged Chinese ladies doing… something… Seemed like some kind of choreographed exercise, with one lady shouting when to do the next move, but the women were standing so far from each other, spread all over the park. However you get your blood pumping!

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From there, we went to the Palace of Fine Arts, a gorgeous Greco-Roman-inspired structure that was originally built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Expo. Today, its theater is still in use and it is a popular location for weddings and photo shoots for very good reason. Just look at it. It was built to be looked at.

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It was an easy walk to Crissy Field from the Palace of Fine Arts, so after ogling some very expensive houses (very very expensive) we strolled on over. This was one of my favorite parts of the day, because we were able to walk along the water, breathe in the sea breeze, and just relax. I think our sleepiness had caught up to us just a little bit at this point, so Christine and I literally sat and took in the sights for at least 20 minutes, people-watching, dog-watching (there are so many dogs it is glorious), kite-watching, Golden-Gate-Bridge-watching…

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I’m not sure when the last time I felt so at peace was. This is one of my happy places, for sure.


Christine and I had a big day of adventuring, so I’ll leave off here with my rare moment of zen. Our day wasn’t even close to being over though!

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Where is your favorite breakfast spot in San Francisco?
What are the best places for people-watching and Golden-Gate-Bridge-watching?

Cali & Cosplay | SF 2016

Surprise! I went to San Francisco over Labor Day weekend so that Ben could see his college friends and so that I could see Christine! Shout-out to my fave who stayed behind in the city when she heard that I was going to be in town, even with many attractive offers to travel out-of-state tempting her!

We flew out Friday evening after work and arrived about half an hour earlier than we had planned. (Thank you, tailwind!) Checking into the hotel, I had the most magical realization:

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SPOTTED: Eric & Ariel (in the same corset I wear for Ariel!) while rolling up to the hotel

San Francisco Comic Con was happening at our hotel! We have never seen a hotel lobby as crowded as this one was, but most of all, I have never been in the throes of a convention like this before and I was pumped beyond belief. While Ben’s friends were staring in awe at these nerds whose costumes they didn’t recognize, I had a singular thought in my mind the entire weekend:

These are my people.
I need to be among them.

It was a nice treat to see so many cosplayers and nerds celebrating the things they love every time I walked in and out of the hotel.

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How great are these hand-made costumes?

Long story short, I resolved to get my nerdy self to a convention next year! We’ll see how that resolution goes!

We had a quick catch-up meal at Delarosa behind the hotel, and had to go all the way around rather than through the back of the hotel because an intimidating security man said so. (My guess: Talent coming in/out of those doors? I saw a poster that indicated Jenna Coleman was there!)

Most things closed by 11PM, so we headed up to one of the hotel rooms and just caught up and chatted for a while. It was nice to have the group all together again and free to just chill. The last time I saw most of these folks was at a wedding, and naturally, the then-newlyweds weren’t as free to hang out with us. This time, all of us were there for Labor Day weekend, to relax and spend time with friends.


Pacific Standard Time really started taking a toll on us this evening, as we stayed up until 1:30AM talking… but that was really 4:30AM Eastern Time! The time difference was always a blessing in the morning and such a curse in the evening.

What are your favorite things to do in San Francisco?
Have you been to a convention before?
I’ve gone to conferences, but not conventions, and I am just dying to go. Would you dress up if you went?

Dim Sum, Dessert, & Soccer| NYC 2016

Last time on NYC 2016, we were a lot more successful with the alliterative post titles… and we really tried to experience some more typical tourist activities like Smorgasburg (which I left the island of Manhattan for, yes) and Broadway and even some shopping in Times Square, which both of us have learned to avoid. It was time for our last full day in my home city.

Note: I took almost no photos this day EXCEPT at our dessert-dinner, which will get its own dedicated post, so brace yourself for a lot of text and not a lot of pictures to go with it, sorry!


One thing I came away from our latest trip to New York with was the feeling that we managed to do so much this trip without exhausting ourselves. We had a lot of activities, but I didn’t plan every minute of every hour. We had a lot of leisure time built in. (Remember those cuh-razy naps in the middle of the day? Unheard of for me.)

We made plans to get dim sum with Ben’s friends that we were partying with in Koreatown the other night (which was bonus time with them, as we had only planned for dim sum!), so Sunday morning we headed down to Chinatown. Dim sum in Chinatown on the weekends is a great opportunity for catching up, because you will be waiting in line for a while. We wound up being seated fastest at Joy Luck Palace, which, to be honest, I wouldn’t visit again. The food was all pretty meh and we had to specially ask for egg custard tarts, aka dan ta 蛋挞! Those should be standard, not something we ask them to make for us and then wait half an hour to eat. (But shout out to the manager who did acquiesce our request for those little golden delights.) Also, in a show of who is truly more popular in the New York metropolitan area, Ben’s old college roommate’s family showed up for dim sum and I got to meet a lot of family members that I didn’t get to see when they graduated!

(There was also a lot of Pokemon Go, as the app had just been released a few days prior to our trip and there were a lot of Pokestops in the area!)

After dim sum, we chilled for a bit in Columbus Park while waiting for some other folks to meet us. My friend Yufeng showed me Columbus Park for the first time when I visited a little while ago and it is like a tiny piece of China in the middle of Chinatown. There are seniors doing tai chi and a lot of small kids running around with their grandmothers calling after them. Old men playing Chinese chess in their singlets, middle-aged ladies doing choreography for fitness. Often, there will be some music playing to accompany the dancing and/or tai chi. It’s a really serene park that I love spending down time relaxing in. We chilled while watching a local league basketball game go down (they were really good!) and I panicked once when a small child ran directly to me for help in tying off his water balloon. (It’s like he knew that tying off water balloons is one of the skills I was too afraid to learn?!)

With the whole crew assembled (and a few new Pokemon for our friends), we walked over to the Bowery Beer Garden (located beneath the Wyndham Garden Chinatown) to watch the much-anticipated UEFA Euro Final between Portugal and France. We got there pretty late as far as a good view of the TVs went, but we were still able to enjoy the game. Soccer is one of the few sports that I get really into watching, but I haven’t been following for a while. When asked which team I was rooting for, I didn’t know until the end when Portugal scored their sole, game-winning goal and I felt devastated. Evidently, I was rooting for France! It was a lot of fun to watch the game, despite how hot and mosquito-y the day had started to feel.

Ben and I then parted ways with our friends to start heading over to Greenwich Village for our dinner reservation. Well, dinner might not be entirely accurate. I wanted to treat Ben to something special, so I got us seats at Unlimited Possibilities (U.P.) by Dominique Ansel. I will have a more in-depth review coming up soon, but it is an 8-seat tasting menu of all desserts. The theme of ours was American Dreams, with each course based on a different era of American success and ideals. I would definitely recommend eating a light dinner beforehand, as the courses, while well-thought out, aren’t very big. And it is dessert! (We scarfed down some more Joe’s Pizza in Washington Square Park before heading inside because duh.) It was a really nice experience that I’m glad we could try once.

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A preview of our time at U.P.!

Holding little silver balloons and bellies full of sweets, we headed back up to our hotel to meet one of my oldest friends, who lived just a few blocks away. (I thought he had moved, but he’s still there after a few years!) We had a quick catch-up late-night meal at BXL East and it was just like old times. I’ve known him since I was 12 and no matter how much time passes between us talking, we fall really easily back into laughter and jokes, which I appreciate so so much.

Our last morning in New York, we woke up, enjoyed our coffee parting gifts from U.P., and munched on pastries at the nearby Paris Baguette, which may be becoming a departure tradition for me. Then, one last yellow cab trip to the Javitz Center to reminisce about a very boring conference for Ben and away on our bus we went.

And you can bet we got Bojangles upon returning to DC this time.


What is a treat-yo-self meal that you like to indulge in when you visit New York? It was my first time doing a ~fancy~ meal but I know there are a lot of other ways to blow cash on good food in the city!

What are your favorite dim sum dishes? Mine are the 凤爪 chicken feet (!!), the 蝦肠粉shrimp in rice noodle rolls, and 蛋挞 egg custard tarts, among many others.

Where else should we have visited in New York? We can go next time!