The Random Writings of Rachel

Angelisms, Part 13

I bought him this shirt because I knew it was perfect for him. It's his new favorite shirt and he thinks the cat on the shirt vaguely resembles our cat Morphine, which makes him love it even more.

Scene: Games are for kids, right? Or for Angel, when he gets the idea to try jump roping with a little added weight. Also, he wants this to be the new "challenge" that goes around and everyone does it. Not sure why. I'm not even sure it's entirely safe.




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Scene: We're sitting around on the couch, watching X-Files with Dad and the rest of the family. All of a sudden:

Angel: "Rebekah, did you hear who Taylor Swift is dating now?"
*Pause, as everyone looks at Angel like...huh? We're not exactly a celebrity gossip kind of family.*
Rebekah: "Uh, no."
Angel: "Tom Hiddleston!!"
Rebekah: "Okay."
Angel: "He's Loki!"
Rebekah: "Yeah, I know."
Rachel: "Angel, this is probably the weirdest topic you could have possibly brought up right now."

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Scene: We're both on our computers. I'm blogging...not sure what Angel's doing, till he starts narrating what he's typing into the search bar of Youtube.

Angel: *typing and speaking* "Why I don't love my white wife anymore."
*A bunch of marriage counseling-style Youtube videos popped up in the search results.
Angel: "Huh. There's all this serious stuff. I thought it was going to be something funny."
Rachel: ????

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Scene: At the house of some friends from China. The host is strongly pressuring us to try a drink from his 1,000 RM (approx. $250 USD) bottle of baijiu (Chinese liquor). We've been asked repeatedly in spite of refusals and this is what ensues:

Rachel: 我一点酒都不喝。 (A fairly strong way to say I don't drink at all, not even a little, and that's what finally got me off the hook.)
Angel: "Okay, okay, I'll try a little." (He was a bit curious about the expensive baijiu.)
*Our host poured him out a thimbleful in the tiniest glass I've ever seen...and we all laughed hysterically while watching Angel try it. It took him the rest of the meal to finish the thimble. He was drinking a lot of Coca-Cola to try to wash it down. It's pretty fierce stuff, I guess. And now I think Angel is forever cured of any curiosity about baijiu. Some kids have to learn the hard way.

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Has the husband said anything that made you laugh recently?

30 Things to Write About

Sometimes I have too many ideas of what to write about. My students often ask me where I come up with the writing prompts I give them. The real answer is probably that most of the time I take a perfectly normal idea and give it a little twist. A lot of these prompts can be based on real life experiences or can be used as the basis for a fictional vignette or short story. Use them for blog post ideas, creative writing prompts for students, for yourself for creative journaling when you're in a rut, whatever. Let me know if you base any of your writing off of any of these ideas!


1. The story of the time you walked up to the wrong car and tried to unlock the door before realizing it wasn't your car.

2. Google has finally invented something that will allow their plan of world domination to become complete: what is it?

3. Find out what your great-grandpa did for a living and write a short story where the main character works the job that he worked.

4. Write a love letter to your favorite appliance. (Or, let's modernize this one a little: write a love letter to your favorite app)

5. Explain why you wouldn't want to live in a mansion and have a household staff. Make it believable.

6. Persuade a friend or family member to try a hobby of yours (embroidery, running, golf, dollhouse decorating, sewing, Pokemon Go), and write about the experience of introducing something you love to a complete newbie. Bonus points if they actually start to like the hobby after you teach them how to do it.

7.Tell the tale of that embarrassing moment when you were trying to speak a foreign language and used the wrong word and chaos ensued.

8. What invention do you wish that you had the technological know-how to invent? Why should that invention exist?

9. Write a story from the perspective of a misunderstood and unappreciated cockroach.

10. Summarize your favorite TV shows in haiku form. Or limericks. I like limericks better, but they might be harder.

11. Think back and remember something powerful (whether for good or for bad) that someone said to you when you were a kid. Write about how those words influenced your life to date.

12. Record the tale of your very first job--or, perhaps more interesting--the very first time you got fired from a job.

13. Write a screenplay for a commercial--either for an actual product/destination/blog you really like, or for an imaginary one.

14. Write a story in which one character is not currently alive.

15. This is the opposite of #6. Try out something you have no idea how to do (i.e. batik painting, driving a stick shift car, rock climbing), and write about the experience of trying something new, and whether the experience made you want to try more challenges, or stay closer to your comfort zone.

16. Stick your finger randomly somewhere on a world map and write an article related to that country--either an informational/persuasive piece related to your research on the country's current situation in world events, or a short story set in that country, or a personal narrative of an experience you've had in that country/with a friend from that country.

17. Record a dialogue that happened entirely inside your head. Extra points if it's a real story, but a fictional dialogue inside the head of someone else you are observing could be pretty funny, too.

18. Everyone's always writing "How To" instructions. Take the opposite tack and write "How Not To" instructions.

19. Write about an awkward encounter you've had with an animal--your pet, someone else's pet, a random animal in the woods, etc.

20. pretend to be e.e. cummings and break capitalization and punctuation rules of writing don't be worried if it gives you a headache because its already giving me a headache

21. What's the scariest thing that's ever happened while you were driving/riding in a car?

22. Argue for or against the existence of jellyfish.

23. Write a dramatic play-by-play of how you ended up buying something unusual at the grocery store.

24. Write about a time when you judged someone based on a first impression and record the outcome: was your judgment justified, or was it completely off-base?

25. If you could change one law or standard in your current community/society, what would it be?

26. Confess your secret hatred for something that nearly everyone likes (chocolate?!! *gasp* Football?!!), and explain why you keep your feelings on that subject a closely-guarded secret.

27. Everyone likes to save money in different ways. Outline your best strategies for spending less in one particular area (tuition, groceries, entertainment, etc).

28. Detail the plans for an elaborate prank that you wish you had the guts to pull on someone. Maybe someone else will use your idea and then you'll get the joy of hearing about what happened without the relationship repercussions.

29. Make up a holiday that you think should exist and describe said holiday, together with its history, purpose, and traditions.

30. Discuss the writers who have inspired you the most in your writing journey and how they have impacted the way you write (for example, a couple of mine are Mark Twain, C.S. Lewis, and Lemony Snicket).

Does it make a little more sense now why my students are under the impression that my supply of writing prompts is endlessly unexpected? What off-beat writing prompt would you add to my list?

Wedding Video Memories

I was recently inspired to look at the original footage from our wedding ceremony and polish it up to make a video that we would enjoy using to reminisce (thanks, Rachel, for the inspiration to do this!). Doing this was the first time I'd seen the video footage from our wedding, and watching it now, six years later, I'm grateful for the moments that film captured better than my own memories. (Although, my sister said that the quality of the video makes it look like we got married in the 1990s and are approaching our 20th anniversary, which is both hilarious and gives me a lot more marriage street cred, don't you think?) Since I was able to edit it down to the best moments caught on video, I thought I'd share the video with a few of my comments and thoughts on the wedding, looking back after nearly 6 years.


#1 (BTW, the actual wedding doesn't start till about 2:30 in the video, since I started with the bridal shower footage--skip till two minutes in if you don't want to hear my weird accent) Telling our story at my bridal shower--Do I sound like I have a slight British/non-Midwesterner  accent to you? Do I have that accent now? No wonder everyone in Michigan always asked where I was from if I talked like that!

#2 I'm not a sentimental person, except when it comes to my family. The only point in our wedding when I started to tear up was during the slideshow from Malaysia. 

#3 I'd never thought all that much about my future wedding...but I had always thought I'd want my Uncle Steve to sing at my wedding. I'd heard him sing in the videos of weddings for the previous generation of family members, and I hoped he'd be able to sing for ours. I didn't even know what song he'd be singing until a couple days before the wedding, but that song will always be precious to me.

#4 We were married by my childhood pastor, who has known me since I was about 6 years old. I love his comments in the video like "Did you hear what he just said to you?!! That's huge!!" during the vows, and his joke about how left-handed people are sinless when I'm signing the marriage license.

#5 Angel and I seem really, really....subdued, throughout this whole day. I mean...if you know us, we both have a very strong streak of non-conformist class clown in us...so it's pretty weird to see us acting so meek and mild and completely traditional. Throughout our preparation to get married, we decided that the wedding wasn't for us, it was for everybody else, and I think that comes through pretty strongly. Perhaps that's an odd decision to make--but the marriage was what we really wanted, anyway.

#6 Sure, we had a very low-budget college student wedding with a church basement buffet reception...but man, one thing I do remember is how good the food was. Our reception was at 3 in the afternoon, it wasn't a dinner, just snacks, but all of our homemade snacks--from the nacho bar, to the crackers and toppings, and especially the chocolate fountain with all the fixings--were so yummy. I went back for several plates, and I didn't eat again till the next morning.

#7 All but 1, maybe two, of the 'single ladies' catching the bouquet were under 18. A good portion of them were under 10. I have a LOT of cousins, and I'm the oldest of them all.

#8  "Yum Seng" or "Yam Seng." I'm so glad we had this Cantonese toast--it's happened at every single Malaysian wedding I've been to. Problem was, I was the only one that knew it's actually supposed to sound more like, "Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaam Seng!"

#9 (Near the end of the video) The conversation with my Grandpa about smoking, alcohol, and boys, really happened, about a week before I met Angel.

# 10 It was bitterly cold--December, in Michigan. Even though it's already dark, it was only around 6 something when we left, after helping with the church clean up for a bit, and we had a 2+ hour drive back to our first home!

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How well do you remember your wedding? Were there any funny moments? Tell me! Funny wedding stories are the best kind.
Cheers to getting more marriage street cred because of a vintage-style wedding video! ;)

Tokyo Disneyland Trip Report

We spent 2 full days at Tokyo Disneyland, including the day of my actual 25th birthday. I got a birthday sticker to wear, which meant that I got dozens of birthday greetings throughout the day from cast members, and felt very special indeed! We'd been warned that July is a ridiculously hot and humid time to be visiting Tokyo, but, after living in the topics for two years, we figured the heat wouldn't bother us. We had several sunny days during our trip, but you'll notice that I'm wearing a jacket all throughout one day--which shows that yep, July was probably a good time to visit Japan for this girl who appreciates hot climates best!

Rides:




Splash Mountain





We followed all of the best Tokyo Disney advice and rode Monster's Inc.Ride & Go Seek and Pooh's Hunny Hunt first of all. Both of which had elaborately themed queues that really helped make an awesome build-up to the actual ride. We had time to try out lots of the rides over the two days in the parks, from the most thrilling to the calmest. A few honored rides even deserved repeats.

Two rides alone we rode three times each: Pirates of the Caribbean (an obvious choice--I've been a fan of the films for more than a decade), and Beaver Brothers' Canoes--which allowed you to paddle a canoe all the way around Tom Sawyer's island. Angel loved the canoes--we enjoy kayaking whenever we get a chance, and paddling the huge canoe with a couple of cast members and a few other guests (the ride was pretty unpopular while we were there), was so much fun and great exercise! We went twice back-to-back, astonishing the crew members, because Angel wanted to sit on the other side of the boat and make sure he got in a workout for his other arm, too. We would have gone back for round 4, only the canoes closed just a little too early for us to make it back in time.

Splash Mountain we rode twice, and Angel enjoyed posing for the ride photo. I was too busy holding onto my tiara and glasses to pose on any of the thrill rides. I beat Angel once on Buzz Lightyear Astroblasters (Hurrah!!) and he beat me once.

Attractions:










A large part of what there is to do in the park doesn't actually involve riding on rides. There are so many walk-through attraction and areas for exploration. We spent a pretty good chunk of time on Tom Sawyer's Island, crossing every bridge, going into every cave, and checking out the cemetery--where, strangely enough, there was a headstone that read: "Sacajawea." Hmmmm.

Tokyo Disneyland does not lack for three houses--the one on Tom Sawyer's Island, Chip & Dale's Treehouse, and of course, the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. I basically wanted to be the Swiss Family Robinson when I was a kid

Characters:




Angel was super excited to take a photo with Esmerelda, and I had a quick conversation with Alice about tea. We also spotted Snow White and her Prince, and Peter Pan and Wendy greeting guests. It was fun to see the characters out and about!

Entertainment: 


We watched both daytime and nighttime parades, with the night parade being by far Angel's favorite (he loves anything as long as it involves thousands of LEDs). I appreciated the parade performer's costumes in the daytime parade. We didn't take a single photo of either parade--as we are very much the type to just sit and enjoy the show, rather than try to scramble to take action shots that probably won't turn out very well.

We watched Minnie Oh! Minnie on our first day in Disneyland--we both agreed that the primary male performer was the star of the show--he had a stunning, powerful voice and really did justice to the Spanish songs in the show. The main female singer, however--her Spanish singing was the kind where it's a little obvious she doesn't actually speak Spanish...or at least it sure sounded like she didn't. Angel loves Spanish songs, but only when done well, so he had mixed feelings on this show.

We watched One Man's Dream 2: The Magic Lives On on our second day in the park. I really enjoyed this one, loving how many scenes from different movies were portrayed in the show. Just before watching the show, Angel had complained that he never saw much about villains in the park, and he wanted to see some villains, so he was really happy that a couple of villains got their time in the limelight during this performance.

We closed out our Tokyo Disney experience by sitting arm-in-arm and watching the evening Castle show on a bench off to the side. It was a lovely, peaceful experience, as there was nearly no one sitting anywhere near us (an angled view is probably not the best for the show--but we loved the experience). The perfect way to finish off my long-dreamed-of Tokyo Disney adventure!

Food: 




By far the most exciting meal of our 2 days in Tokyo Disneyland was my birthday lunch at the Blue Bayou. Being a Pirates of the Caribbean fan, this was a special-occasion must-do for me, and I felt amazingly special at our cozy little table right next to the water. I loved the lanterns and the quiet atmosphere of the restaurant--you almost felt that you really were at a riverside cafe somewhere in Louisiana late at night--instead of in a theme park in Tokyo at midday. I ordered a beef tenderloin, while Angel had gumbo, and we also enjoyed a first course of bread and creamy potato soup--it was a tremendously delicious and filling meal--we didn't end up eating dinner at all that day because we were still full from our late lunch. We aren't normally the type to try 'fancy' sit-down restaurants anywhere, but I'm very glad that we decided to splurge in honor of my birthday--this was such fun and will always be a special memory of how I celebrated turning 25.

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These two days at Tokyo Disneyland certainly met and exceeded all my expectations! I'm so glad I got to spend them with my favorite person. Have you been to Tokyo Disneyland? Do you try to visit theme parks on vacation, or do you avoid them if at all possible?

Tokyo DisneySea Trip Report

In 2014, I published a blog post admitting to any and all who might read it that I am a fan of theme parks. In that post, one of the parks I listed as a park I hoped to visit someday was Tokyo DisneySea. On our birthday vacation, that dream was fulfilled. This trip report will include photos from our day at DisneySea, comments on our favorite rides and experiences at the park, bit of advice, and funny encounters from the day.

The theme of this park is completely unique among Disney parks, and distinctly perfect for me, as I have a a long-standing love for boats, oceans, seas, rivers, bridges, pirates, and other things related to bodies of water. I'm not a very good swimmer, but a park that centers around the "sea" seemed like a brilliant idea to me!

Getting There:



We were staying in an apartment very close to Maihama Station, but from there, you still have to take the Disney monorail to get to DisneySea. The cute windows and handles helped make the journey to the park a little extra exciting!


We followed the advice of Tokyo Disney experts and arrived at the park gates well before opening--about an hour before the gates opened, I believe. This put us in a great position in line to get into the park nice and early, and we did join in the mad dash for Toy Story Mania fastpasses as soon as the park opened, though for most of the day, lines generally stayed pretty short and the park, while busy, did not seem overly crowded with people.

Favorite Rides:


The Tower of Terror was Angel's all-time favorite attraction at the park, and we rode it twice throughout the day. He is the type who favors 'falling' rides. I don't particularly enjoying the sensation of falling, but I was willing to go for round 2. I probably appreciate the detail in the lobby of the Hightower Hotel and the special effects telling the story much more than the scary falling aspect. :)

My top favorite ride was Journey to the Center of the Earth. I had no idea what to expect from our journey, but I loved the contrast between the slow, wondrous, look-at-all-the-cool-stuff-around-you parts of the ride combined with the faster, scarier part when you shoot out the side of the volcano. This was another ride that we did twice.





I am of the Toy Story generation. Toy Story 2 was one of the first movies I ever saw in a movie theater, and to this day, the Toy Story movies are about the only animated movies I still think are awesome and good for countless re-watches. My t-shirt for the day was in honor of the Toy Story Mania ride, which was really fun. Sadly, however, I was unable to beat Angel's score


Not a ride, but a major attraction, is the show Big Band Beat. This was Angel's favorite part of the day, and we were lucky enough to score seats via the ticket lottery in the 2nd row from the stage. This show centered on big band music from the 20s to the 40s, which I think was a big part of why we liked the show so much. Our swing dancing hobby means that a lot of the songs in the show are very well-loved by us.


I had to ride Aquatopia by myself, as they were running the "Get Wet!" version of the ride due to the summer heat, and Angel didn't want his precious Asics Gel Kayanos to get wet. (Write this down in history, folks--the boy stayed off the water ride for fashion reasons, while the girl happily got on, makeup, tiara, curls, and all. I'm not saying this was a smart move as far as my hairstyle goes, but it was a very fun ride!)

We have an astonishingly small number of ride-related photos, probably because one tends to not be taking photos while riding thrill rides. The Indiana Jones ride, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Sindbad's Storybook Voyage, and the Venetian Gondolas were other major highlights for me, though we did end up experiencing just about every ride in the park, other than those meant only for kids. 

Food:


We had no intention of spending a long time in restaurants on this park day, so mostly we tried out snacks throughout the day. These were some cute Mickey churros that were quite satisfying.




Our one meal of the day was eaten at the Casbah Food Court. That's right, the gorgeous decor of the photos above is located in a "food court." We had rice, curry, and naan. Considering that we're spoiled with a diet in which curry and naan play a prominent role, the food was nothing thrilling. The curry actually reminded me more of canned curries I've tasted in the USA than anything I eat over here, but it was quite edible, and was a relatively inexpensive, filling meal.




We did give in to the allure of the LGM dumplings. I knew that each cup of three came with three different fillings, but I didn't know what the fillings were. Being jaded by Malaysian desserts, I would have guessed the fillings would be durian, yam, and red bean. Because Angel eats anything, we bought them in spite of the unknown filling factor. Imagine our utter shock when we discovered that the fillings were: vanilla custard, strawberry, and chocolate?!!


Ice cream played a pretty important role in the day, too, as the afternoon hours got pretty warm! We loved the Minnie Raspberry and Peach ice cream so much that we definitely didn't get only one. The Mickey ice cream sandwich was pretty satisfying, too!



 Characters:

 

We didn't purposely make meeting characters a priority at all, but I will say it was pretty awesome when Aladdin skipped right past us in the square, calling out to everyone around, asking if they'd seen Abu. Apparently he'd misplaced him. Fun!


I did stop for a quick picture with Jiminy Cricket when we were walking by. Pinocchio seemed much more popular, and I'm partial to consciences, so it just seemed right.



We saw plenty of characters on stage during the show "A Table is Waiting", which featured dances that seemed to be hailing the virtues of 5 different foods: tacos, hamburgers, curries, bento boxes, and crepes. Angel wasn't too sure how he felt about the taco hats as representative of Mexican food--which leads me to a tale of a funny overheard encounter of the day: While wandering one of the souvenir shops, we walked past a couple. The guy was trying on a pair of Mr. Potato Head glasses and the girl burst out (in English), "You look SOOOO Mexican right now!" Angel turned around instantly and gave me a look and I could barely keep myself from bursting into laughter until we'd reached a safe distance away. For the rest of the trip, I made sure to remind Angel that he, too, could look SOOOOO Mexican if he invested in a pair of Mr. Potato Head glasses.

Also, I actually have no idea what is the connection between Mr. Potato Head and looking Mexican.

Nighttime at the Park:



The park didn't close until 10 p.m. while we were there, which gave us time to watch Fantasmic and then line up for an evening ride on the Venetian Gondolas once it was over. The views from the Gondolas were hauntingly beautiful, expecially considering that were were merely in a themepark at night.



See what I mean?

After the gondola ride, we left the park and headed straight to bed--after all, we had a long day at Tokyo Disneyland planned for the next day!

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Have you been to Tokyo DisneySea or any of the Disney parks around the world? What are your feelings about theme parks in general? Is Mr. Potato Head from Mexico, and if so, why isn't his name Señor Cara de Papa?