My 2016 Gaming Goal

La Isla

La Isla

I’m on pace to reach my reading and writing goals for the year, so I’ve decided to add another goal: I’m going to do the 10×10 Challenge, which is to play 10 different board games 10 times each in 2016.

Last year was my re-birth as a gamer, which I wrote about it here, but it basically goes like this: after years of thinking game night meant poker, pizza, and beer, I purchased Ticket to Ride and Pandemic and I was hooked. I pored over boardgamegeek.com, devouring board game industry news and information, learning about games and the mechanics that made them go, and salivating at all of the games I wanted to PLAY RIGHT NOW.

I bought a few kid-friendly games like Zombie Dice and Castle Panic that I could play when my nieces and nephew were visiting and I was pleasantly surprised when they preferred Settlers of Catan and Dominion. My youngest niece isn’t interested in too many games yet, but she’s always up for a game of Sushi Go!, which we all happily play. My wife and stepdaughter got swept up in my obsession, too, and we had a few Gaviola Game Nights in 2015 (kudos to my wife for making a cool life-sized Instagram frame for our get-togethers).

When I wasn’t playing games with my family, I was reporting board game news for iSlaytheDragon.com and tweeting about my new hobby. I also started playing every week with a local gaming group and they introduced me to new games or we’d play classics that I’d missed. It’s been a godsend playing with these guys (and the occasional gal); I’ve learned a lot and played more games than I would’ve been able to had I just continued to buy games online, trying to learn them, and hoping that my family took to them as well.

Can I reach my goal of 10 different board games played 10 times each this year? I think so. If I don’t, though, then I know I haven’t had as much fun as I could have.

 

My 2016 Yelp Goal

2016 Yelp Elite badge.

2016 Yelp Elite badge.

Last week I received my 2016 Yelp Elite badge, my fourth in a row. As I’ve written before (here and here), I wear my badge proudly and love all of the perks I’ve received. From free event/concert tickets to awesome parties, Yelp takes care of its most dedicated users. My wife and I have enjoyed some terrific date nights, compliments of Yelp.

Although I’d used the site for years without actually writing a review or posting a photo, this changed in 2013 when I took the Yelp 100 Challenge, which is an unofficial challenge to write 100 reviews in a year. That year I reached my goal and also became a part of the Yelp Elite squad.

As I became a Yelp power user, not only did I get to go to fun and complimentary events, but I also made some new friends along the way. That alone makes it worth the time and effort it takes to write 100 reviews in 365 days.

My 2016 Reading Goal

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I set my Goodreads 2016 Reading Challenge goal at 26 books and I’m using the above chart to choose a few of them. I’ve already got one book picked out, thanks to my wife: Ray Bradbury’s classic Fahrenheit 451.

I met my reading goal in 2015, beating my 26-book goal by 3 books, and I hope to do it again, thus giving me a three-peat for my yearly reading challenge.

One other book-related note: Gene Luen Yang was named the Library of Congress’ national ambassador for young people’s literature. He’s the first graphic novelist to be named to the post and if you haven’t already, I highly recommend reading his brilliant and thought-provoking American Born Chinese.

I Love L.A.

View of Downtown from Pershing Park.

View of Downtown from Pershing Park’s Ice Rink.

No matter where I live, I’ll always be an Angeleno at heart. I love L.A.’s diversity, its energy, and its SoCal vibe, which is a lot more laid-back than other big cities. My wife and I took an East L.A. food tour in 2014 and our guide, who was a Chicago transplant, was asked what he liked about Los Angeles. As he answered our group, I nodded my approval when he quickly pointed at me and said, “THAT is exactly what I love about L.A.! The chill attitude.”

My wife and I decided to do our own food tour this morning, something we like to do every now and then. Some of our best Date Days/Nights are like this, where we explore a neighborhoods’ food and culture (be sure to read my post from last year on 5 Inexpensive Was to Rock Date Night).

We love to take advantage of the MetroLink $10 Weekend Day Pass, which allows us to ride anywhere on the MetroLink, Metro Rail, or Metro Bus all day Saturday or Sunday. It’s the best way to save on gas money and parking fees as well as avoid traffic-induced headaches and road rage.

So we took the train into downtown and walked over to Grand Central Market, which was opened in 1917 and is now home to lots of buzz-worthy eateries. In other words, it’s a hipster foodie’s paradise. There was one place that we’ve been wanting to try for a while: Eggslut.

The Slut at Eggslut.

The Slut at Eggslut.

Eggslut’s signature dish The Slut was really good, a unique blend of poached egg and potato puree (with grey salt and chives) that melts in your mouth and contrasts well with the crunchy baguette slices. Was it worth $9? Read my Yelp review here.

Next on our food tour was RiceBar. I’d heard the news about its opening last summer; it’s not often that a Filipino restaurant opens downtown. Most of the Filipino eateries in Southern California are located in suburban areas and this one was generating a lot of hype because chef/co-owner Charles Olalia left his executive chef position at the highly regarded, Michelin-starred Patina to open RiceBar.

Bisteg Tagalog at RiceBar.

Bisteg Tagalog at RiceBar.

Chef Olalia’s passion for his food was evident the minute my wife and I sat down at the counter. We ordered the Bisteg Tagalog and absolutely loved it. Read my Yelp review here.

Finally, for the third place to cross off our imaginary Foodie Bucket List, we went to Bottega Louie for dessert. It was a beautiful restaurant with its vaulted ceilings and its New-York-hustle-and-bustle atmosphere.

Macarons at Bottega Louie

Macarons at Bottega Louie

We wanted to try their famous macarons and that’s exactly what we did. Michelle got the grand cru (chocolate ganache made with Valrhona dark chocolate) and I got the pistachio (Sicilian pistachios & Valrhona white chocolate ganache). Both were tasty, but I preferred the pistachio.

After we were done feasting, we walked around Pershing Square and admired the public art and the view of the city (shown above). Downtown has changed a lot since I worked down here decades (!) ago and it’s so much more accessible thanks to the train system, which didn’t exist when I was a regular in the area. Nowadays, a morning or afternoon spent here can make for a memorable, affordable, and walkable date.

Happy New Year!

Lakers Rose Parade Float, 2016

Lakers Rose Parade Float, 2016

Happy New Year! I’m re-launching my website again, this time as Ruel’s Blog. I know, not exactly the most creative name, but hopefully a clever one will come to me soon. Last year this blog was known as My Quest to Blog Every Day in 2015. Not only did I accomplish my goal, but I also accomplished a few others as well.

I’m not blogging every day in 2016, though. I learned first-hand how tough it is to do, so I’m just posting here on a regular basis. Whether it’s a once a week or less/more often, we’ll see how everything pans out.

Like last year, my blog will cover the topics that I’m interested in: board games, fantasy sports, food, Los Angeles, and Star Wars, to name just a few. This isn’t the place to get your daily politics or religion fix, though. I write this blog to relax and have a good time.

I began 2016 just as I ended 2015: playing a board game with my wife. I scored a copy of La Isla online for the ridiculous price of $13 with free shipping, thanks to a boardgamegeek.com post last month. One of my gaming buddies had raved about it so when I saw it on sale, I couldn’t resist. Since December was a hectic month, Michelle and I didn’t get to play La Isla until last night for our quiet New Year’s Eve celebration at home, complete with a fantastic sherry from Rancho de Philo winery. We liked La Isla so much we played it again today (and we still have some of the sherry left over, which we’re enjoying right now).

We also found time to watch part of the Rose Parade this morning and I was thrilled to see my favorite sports team, the L.A. Lakers, with its first-ever float in the parade (shown above). I loved the name of the float, Every Second Is an Adventure; sounds like a great mantra for this new year.

Before our first day of 2016 was over, we made it out for a walk on the local trail, before going to Jollibee for a semi-tradition of ours: eating the fast-food version of palabok, a Filipino noodle dish that we use for our “long noodle, long life” dinner. We’ve now done it two years running so I think that qualifies as a semi-tradition, just like watching part of the Rose Parade and playing board games on the first and last day of the year.

La Isla

La Isla

Palabok

Palabok

 

Day 365: We Did It!

I Blogged Every Day in 2015

I Blogged Every Day in 2015

In the words of Dora the Explorer, “We did it! We did it!”

Whew.

There were times when I didn’t think I’d finish My Quest to Blog Every Day in 2015.

I thought it would’ve been easier to blog every day. All I had to do was set an alarm to remind me to write and then I’d write. As I found out, though, that isn’t how it works. There are so many things that life throws at you every day that prevent you from writing. I even had to fudge a little on Day 49.

As I wrote yesterday, I wish I would’ve created more substantial posts. When I began this quest, I knew a few of my favorite topics would pop up now and then: fantasy sports, Star Wars, food, movies, golf, my love of the city of Los Angeles, etc. I’m proud, though, that I was able to write about a few more subjects outside of those.

My blog was never meant to be hard-hitting journalism, but it was meant to reflect what was going on in my life and in my head at the time. I’d like to think that I accomplished that.

I’ve never done anything like this before, but I learned two things:

  1. I want to post regularly in 2016, but not every day.
  2. 2015 was the year I rediscovered my love of board games.

The board game thing was a pleasant surprise. I wrote about getting back into the hobby earlier this year which led me to buying more and more board games, digging up games I’d never played yet somehow held on to through the years, and playing games once a week with a local gaming group. My wife and I hosted a few game nights for family and friends and we had a blast talking trash to each other during our occasional one-on-one sessions of Ticket to Ride. And I parlayed my passion into a gig with the fine folks at iSlaytheDragon.com, where I report board game news and bits.

Mainly through my interactions on Twitter about this blog, I’ve been able to have some great interactions with people I would never have met. I reconnected with some old friends and I even shared my blog with family members as well.

Of course, none of this would’ve been possible without the support of my wife. There were quite a few nights when she would doze off while I was typing away furiously, trying to get my thoughts down coherently before Mr. Sandman paid me a visit. Not only is Michelle my biggest supporter and the love of my life, but she’s my life partner and my favorite person to go on adventures with. I wrote about a few of those adventures here. Not surprisingly, it was one of my favorite posts of the year.

(To Michelle: thank you for your patience and understanding as I completed this silly little quest. I love you more than words can show.)

Finally, thank you, Dear Reader, for joining me for on my quest. I appreciate you taking the time to read my words and I hope you’ve enjoyed at least one of my posts this year. See you next year!

– Ruel

P.S. If you were entertained at all this year by My Quest to Blog Every Day in 2015 please consider doing one of two things:

  1. Donate to Visual Communications, “the first non-profit organization in the nation dedicated to the honest and accurate portrayals of the Asian Pacific American peoples, communities and heritage through the media arts.” I’m not affiliated with VC, but I do believe in their cause and donated to them on Giving Tuesday.
  2. Help me get my board game fix via my Amazon Wish List. I won’t tell anyone.

Day 364: Final Countdown

The Final Countdown

The Final Countdown

Eight more to go.

I’m not counting down the hours until the new year, but I’m counting down how many more Yelp reviews I need to write to meet one of my goals for 2015.

Last week I had less than 80 Yelp reviews written in 2015. I’m now at 92, with a little over 24 hours to go.

So, assuming I finish the reviews and write one more blog post tomorrow, here’s how I fared with my 2015 Goals:

  1. Write 100 reviews on Yelp.
  2. Read 26 books and review them on Goodreads.
  3. Break 100 on the golf course.
  4. Watch all of the AFI 100 Greatest American Films of All Time.
  5. Play 10 new board games.
  6. Blog Every Day in 2015.

Not too shabby. I didn’t break 100 on the golf course and I didn’t watch all of the AFI Greatest American Films of All time.

I hardly golfed at all this year, which was a bummer. But at least I was able to get out a few times with my brothers and my nephew. My last round was during Thanksgiving when the four of us played a little 9-hole par-3 course. These are the games that mean to most to me, as all of us Gaviola guys can bond for a few hours.

With all of the reading, writing, and board gaming I did this year, there wasn’t enough time left to watch all of the AFI films. I still want to watch every film on the list, just not in a single calendar year.

So, four out of my six goals will be finished by tomorrow. I’m going back to writing Yelp reviews now, but I’ll see you here tomorrow as I complete My Quest to Blog Every Day in 2016.

 

 

Day 363: A Thousand Words

Best shot I hit all year on the golf course.

Best shot I hit on the golf course in 2015.

I can’t believe I only have two more days until I’ve completed My Quest to Blog Every Day in 2015!

I’ll write more about this on the final post of the year, but for now let me say this: I wish I would’ve written more substantial posts. I didn’t realize how tough this quest would be and I have a greater appreciation for those that publish quality content on a regular basis.

What’s the old saying? A picture’s worth a thousand words? Here are a few photos I took this year. I’m not sure I could write a thousand words for each, but they are a good sample of what I did during the previous 363 days.

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Roll for the Galaxy

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Premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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Wasabi-flavored Kit Kats from Japan

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Incredible kim chi fried rice from Little Meats LA

Frontier sign at the Neon Boneyard Museum

Frontier sign at the Neon Boneyard Museum

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A summer night at Dodger Stadium

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Celebrating the US Women’s World Cup victory at LA Live

 

Day 362: 85 Degrees

85 Degrees Bakery Cafe

Sad that fantasy football is over? Go eat at 85 Degrees Bakery Cafe.

My fantasy football season ended tonight.

I was on a nine-game winning streak that led me to win my division and lock up the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. I squeaked by my first-round opponent with a 5-point win, then faced the guy who has become my nemesis.

Mike and I met in last year’s championship game, where he beat me. This year, as Yogi Berra would’ve said, was deja vu all over again, as I lost by 12 points to Mike’s team.

In the Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda department, I sat Todd Gurley and his 15 points for Ted Ginn Jr.’s less than 1 point. I didn’t think Gurley would do much against the Seahawks’ defense (the same defense that locked down my other RB Adrian Peterson a few weeks ago), so I went with the hot hand in Cam Newton and his favorite target over the last three weeks.

Of course, Ginn came crashing back down to earth, thus giving me no chance to win my third championship.

I’d be more upset, but I wouldn’t have been in the game anyway if my kicker Blair Walsh hadn’t exploded for 21 points. Plus, having two titles under my belt some of the sting away from the loss. Just a little.

I drowned my sorrows away with some treats from the phenomenal 85 Degrees Bakery Cafe. Pictured above: walnut multigrain bread, cinnamon twist, green onion bread, boroh danish, and calamari sticks. Not pictured: their extraordinary iced sea salt coffee. It’s all sinfully delicious and my hands-on research has proven that it does wonders for one’s mood when the fantasy football season ends.

Day 361: Karaoke

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Sunday night karaoke at the Venice Room. Amazing entertainment.

And the $15.50 cook-your-own-steak dinner is pretty amazing, too.