Tag Archives: travel blogger

“Mangia Mangia” at Bongiorno’s Pizza in Poway Valley Center!

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Hometown eateries are always a great find because they’re like hidden gems.  My sister and I have been discovering fun places to eat up near where she lives in Rancho Bernardo, and Bongiorno’s Pizza in the Poway Valley Center is a tasty and affordable choice for Italian cuisine.  Our entire lunch meal, which included our main dishes with garlic knots, drinks and dessert only came to $29!  There were so many great choices, which solidifies a return trip with our families!

If you would like a great and affordable Italian dining experience, Bongiorno’s Pizza is located at 13332 Poway Road, Poway CA 92064 and they can be reached at (858) 679-3278.  They also do deliveries within 5 miles.  Cheers!

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Bongiorno’s has a cozy feel, with lots of pictures of New York.  Isn’t that pizza clock awesome?

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I had the spaghetti with meat sauce, and my sister had the baked ziti.  Both were really good, and we loved the garlic knots!

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“Leave the gun, take the cannoli…”

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This is absolutely one of the best deals at Bongiorno’s: the Dough Bites.  They are deep fried dough rolled in powdered sugar, and come in a small pizza box.  The entire box was only $4.99 and so great hot and right out of the box!

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FTC Disclosure:  I received compensation to patronize a business at Poway Valley Center.  Although I did receive compensation, the opinions in this post are strictly my own.

(Most photos by Rholnna Jiao)

The Latest From LEGOLAND® – The LEGO® STAR WARS™: THE FORCE AWAKENS Miniland Model Display

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I’m sure you’ve heard by now that the longest LEGO® STAR WARS™ Miniland model ever built was just unveiled last week at LEGOLAND® California.   LEGOLAND® bloggers got a sneak peek at the media preview a couple of weeks ago.  My sister and I brought the kids to partake in the fun!

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Sarah Michelle-Gellar, best known for Buffy the Vampire Slayer but is currently the voice of Seventh Sister in Star Wars Rebels, was on hand to help the young guests “power up” the display with their light sabers!

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The detail was simply amazing!

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Have I mentioned my love for themed food?  There was plenty of snacks on hand to feed the young Padawans!

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I think Mei-Lin and Dominic had fun, don’t you?

Brandi Williams KUSI Legoland 2017

KUSI’s Brandi Williams was on hand to interview Julie Estrada, Media Contact at LEGOLAND®

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We then got to meet Brandi and she was so sweet!  She took pictures with us and let the kids hold her KUSI microphone!

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Imagine my surprise to see myself and the kids as part of the media kit that went out to everyone after the preview night!

(This image courtesy of LEGOLAND®)

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Thank you LEGOLAND® for a wonderful night and for the gifts for the kids.  Congratulations on your new LEGO®Star Wars™: The Force Awakens Miniland Model Display!

(Most pictures taken by Rholnna Jiao, unless otherwise noted)

The Latest From LEGOLAND®: Dominic’s Birthday at The LEGO® Batman™ Movie Days!

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As you know, The LEGO® Batman Movie did extremely well at the theaters this year.  In conjunction with its release, LEGOLAND® California celebrated with The LEGO® Batman™ Movie Days during the last two weeks in February.  LEGOLAND® bloggers were invited to attend one of the weekends, so we decided to turn it into a birthday celebration for Dominic, who turned 8 on February 27th!  Being the amazing photographer that she is, my sister skillfully captured all of the festivities at LEGOLAND®.  The next day, we took Dominic out for breakfast at his favorite place, followed by The LEGO® Batman™ Movie.


The LEGO® Batman™ Movie Days at LEGOLAND® California

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My sister, Rholnna, in action!

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Mei-Lin & Dominic were ready to take on the Miniland Scavenger Hunt!

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Batman™ Mini-figures were hidden with letters throughout Miniland, which spelled out a word.  Once the word was unscrambled, participants could enter to win one of two LEGO® prize packs!

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Batman was present EVERYWHERE in places like The Big Shop.  Even yours truly got in on the fun!

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Mei-Lin & Dominic always have fun, and can find new things to do each time we go to LEGOLAND®.  This time, they tried their hands at panning for gold!

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Another big part of why we love LEGOLAND® is the amazing food.  I always go for the Bao Bun at the Ninja Kitchen in Ninjago® World.  The rest of the family feasted on desserts, like goodies from Castle Ice Cream and the Churro Stand at Castle Hill.  Here’s a tip: Get the churros with chocolate sauce, you won’t regret it!

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Dominic got an awesome XBOX gift card from Auntie Rholnna, Uncle Jeremy and Mei-Lin!

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Thanks again LEGOLAND®, Dominic said he had an awesome time!


Dominic’s Birthday

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My mom couldn’t make it to LEGOLAND®, so she opted to have breakfast with us at Breakfast Republic Dominic’s actual birthday.  I’ve been to the North Park location, and Dominic and I have eaten at the Liberty Station location.  Since we live near Downtown, we all ate at the East Village location for his birthday.

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Dominic’s favorite meal at Breakfast Republic are the Churro Pancakes!

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For his birthday, Dominic was also treated to coffee cake with his favorite fruit: strawberries!

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Dominic loved The LEGO® Batman™ Movie so much, this was actually round two for him!

Fifty Shades Darker Premiere Event Recap & Movie Review!

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In celebration of the release of the highly anticipated Fifty Shades Darker, I’m posting pictures of the premiere event that I attended with my best friend, Janice!  I feel I should tell the story of what led up to this dream-come-true opportunity:  I follow a few social media accounts featuring Fifty Shades, including all of the official ones.  Those fan based social media accounts and blogs who have supported the books and movies since the beginning are a part of a select group called the “Official Fifty”.  I had read in one of the accounts that there would be a premiere party and masquerade ball where fans and those involved with the Fifty Shades franchise would be able to celebrate together then watch the actual movie.  The Official Fifty then started to let other fans know that we could also sign up to receive a special invite to join them at the event.  I took a risk and signed up, and then let my friend, Zach , know that I would take him if I were to be invited (I watched the original Fifty Shades of Grey movie with him in 2015).

As the time for the release of Darker drew closer, I started to see more and more of the Official Fifty post pictures of their invites, so I felt I was out of luck.  To my surprise, I received an email last Monday entitled “Your Invitation to Fifty Shades Darker Premiere”.  I opened the email and read the following:

Dear Cyrillynn Chen,

You and a guest are invited to the Fifty Shades Darker Premiere Event, and your RSVP IS REQUIRED to confirm your attendance.

Please RSVP no later than Wednesday, February 1st

Sincerely,

Universal Pictures

Stunned, I read the email over and over and just couldn’t believe my eyes.  I replied to ensure I would get into the event no matter what, then contacted Zach to let him know I received the tickets to the event!  Due to work and health reasons, Zach couldn’t make it, but Janice was more than happy to step in!  I made arrangements with my new job to leave early that day, and off we went to take part in an event to remember!

Janice and I made the trek from San Diego to Los Angeles and arrived just in time to get a quick bite to eat and change.  Thankfully, valet parking was provided for all guests free of charge!  The party itself started at 5:00 pm and was held at Vibiana, a wedding, events and performing arts venue.  The event was a beautiful masquerade ball made to emulate the one in the movie.  We were treated to delicious food, entertainment and lots of activities to participate in where we could take home souvenirs to prove it wasn’t all just a dream.  To our surprise, Eric Johnson (“Jack Hyde”) and Dana Brunetti (producer) made their way through the crowd and caused quite the stir.  I got the chance to say to Dana Brunetti how excited we were to see the movie, to which he replied “You will love it!”  Jose James, who appears in the movie in the masquerade ball scene, also entertained us for the evening.  The highlight was obviously when director James Foley and author EL James were joined on stage by the main stars Jamie Dornan (“Christian Grey”) and Dakota Johnson (“Anastasia Steele”).  They briefly thanked everyone for being there and headed to the theater to greet everyone and introduce the movie.  Right around 7:30 pm, fans were transported by shuttle bus to the gorgeous Theatre at Ace Hotel.


My Review of Fifty Shades Darker

(WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD, AND REMEMBER TO STAY THROUGH THE CREDITS!)

What can I say about the movie other than Oh. My. God!  In hindsight, I see the initial movie of Fifty Shades of Grey was definitely a teaser or maybe a really well executed college project.  I have seen the first movie more times than I care to count, and I now see a bit of awkwardness between Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson that I had not noticed before, or maybe denied to myself because I wanted to defend my precious Fifty Shades.  But I attribute the awkwardness to being put in a situation where so much was asked of them physically as actors, before they really got to know each other as people.  I initially reviewed the intimate scenes as simply stylized to avoid being graphic, but I clearly was being too kind.  The more I think about it, the more I think the envelope could have been pushed in the first movie.  But again, being that Jamie and Dakota were “thrust” together and didn’t quite fully trust each other as actors and friends, they clearly made up for that fact in Darker.

James Foley is known for movies like At Close Range, Fear and the series House of Cards.  He definitely brought forth a different style and directorial maturity than Sam Taylor-Johnson, the director of the first movie.  I felt this was more of a suspenseful movie with a plot that revealed Christian Grey’s complicated life behind his alternative lifestyle.  I could feel the desire and love between Christian and Anastasia, despite having to navigate through all of the craziness in his life.  With Niall Leonard, EL James’ husband, as screen writer, James’ vision was more clear in Darker, and this movie catered to what the fans wanted, which was lacking a bit in Fifty Shades.  At the premiere, I could tell that there was more of a partnership and trust between James and Foley, which ultimately made this sequel far better than the first.

When I compare Darker to Fifty Shades, Darker is paced more quickly, which allows time for more of the scenes we as fans wanted to see from the book.  Fifty Shades had longer scenes, but not necessarily of the ones I wanted to see.  For instance, quite a bit of time was spent on the interview scene, but not enough time in Georgia.  Christian seemed to be more aloof in the Fifty Shades movie than in the book, which is where I think Jamie was criticized for being a bit stiff in his initial portrayal.  Again, I think the chemistry is a bit off in the first movie because Jamie and Dakota did not know each other well enough to be as comfortable with the more intimate scenes.  In Fifty Shades, Jamie skimmed Dakota’s body rather than ravage it as Christian does in the books.  In Darker, all that has gone away and I do recall Jamie saying in an interview that he and Dakota decided to just go for it, since they had time to build up a true friendship which created the trust needed to go as far as they did.  To me, that’s what shows in this movie, a definite closeness between the two main characters, which makes for hotter scenes that pleasantly shocked me.

I also noticed gaps in Fifty Shades that I filled in myself because I know the books so well.  For instance, Christian says in the elevator right after their first kiss, “What is it about elevators?”  Although that’s a line straight out of the book, what’s missing is seeing a couple who was giggling in an elevator after also getting caught kissing prior to them going in.  Later, when Christian and Ana are getting ready to go to dinner at his parents, he asks Ana “Do you got everything you need?”  She remarks knowingly “Yeah”.  Well, what movie-goers don’t know that fans do, is that Ana’s panties are missing, which means she is going to meet his parents sans underwear, which drives him crazy throughout the evening.  Darker is more of a complete movie that can actually stand alone if needed.  Christian’s horrifying childhood is more fleshed out with flashbacks and they refer back to the original movie by mentioning why Christian was so eager to get out of Georgia (Leila), why he can’t bear to be touched, and the actual introduction of Elena.

I also found more humor and lightness amid the drama in Christian’s life.  Jamie mentioned in another interview that the funnier moments are now evenly dispersed between the two, and I find myself so drawn to their cuteness as a couple.  In one scene, Anastasia wanders into The Red Room and Christian catches her there.  He said that Ms. Jones must have left the door unlocked and Anastasia says something to the effect of “What does she do in here…dust?”  In another funny scene where a certain piece of sexual paraphernalia is finally introduced (true fans will know what I’m talking about), Christian gives Anastasia the “second chance” Cartier earrings he meant to give to her previously, prior to the masquerade ball.  Christian then says “Don’t worry, these are for your ears,” much to Ana’s relief!

Still apparent in Darker is Anastasia’s strength.  Despite all that happens with her boss Jack Hyde, meeting Elena Lincoln and her run-in with Christian’s ex-sub Leila Williams, Anastasia provides the emotional stability Christian needs and desires.  Most of the scenes that we love from the book showing their developing emotional intimacy come alive on film: the “road-map” scenes, Christian as submissive, their confrontation with Elena and the proposal scenes are all present and accounted for.  In all of those instances, it is Ana who is the most honest because this is her first real relationship, where Christian’s relationships were always premeditated and outlined in contracts that eventually terminated.  Ana knows that does not a relationship make, and Christian eventually comes to that realization as well.  What Foley does well in this film is marry all of Christian’s past with their sexual and emotional discovery, creating a nicely packaged erotic thriller.

Some wants that didn’t come to life on-screen:  They didn’t use the “Put the chicken in the fridge” line prior to their first sexual encounter in Anastasia’s apartment; the pool table scene, which was filmed and cut from this version (I hope and pray there will be another “extended cut” with that scene added); and Hugh Dancy does not make any appearance, nor is there any mention of Dr. Flynn.  Despite those missing parts, Darker was more exciting, thrilling, sensual and emotional than Fifty Shades of Grey.  Foley’s tenure in film far exceeds Taylor-Johnson’s and although she gave it the good old college try, it just doesn’t stack up to Fifty Shades Darker.  I cannot wait to see it again tonight (with Zach)!


Photos from the Masquerade Ball Premiere Party

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Our bracelets for the event, as taken by Janice.

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Our first selfie inside the ball.  Doesn’t it look like Christian Grey is walking behind us?

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We received free masks, along with our ticket for the movie premiere.

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Earl Grey Tea and Macarons

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We had plenty of food and drinks, some of it served by mysterious gentlemen in masks!

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Lovely “Shades of Red” lipsticks provided by Sisley.

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From the top left: Myself with producer Dana Brunetti; Eric Johnson making his way through the uber-excited crowd; Jose James performing.

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I had to include this picture as taken by Instagram user @fiftydornan because that’s me behind Eric Johnson…looking shocked that he just walked through the crowd!

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EL James, Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson and James Foley.  What a treat for them to be there!

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Fun souvenirs from the magical evening!

I really loved the 360 camera.  We were in quite a line, but it was so worth the wait!

The Latest From LEGOLAND®: The 14th Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony!

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At the end of November, I took my sister, my niece and my son to celebrate the kick off of Holidays at LEGOLAND® California Resort with their 14th annual Tree Lighting Ceremony!   Along with General Manager of LEGOLAND® California, Peter Ronchetti, Santa Claus and Lego Brick Santa, Stana Katic from the hit TV series Castle and her niece, Sophia, joined in the festivities and pulled the switch to set off the amazing fireworks display right before lighting of the amazing Lego Brick tree.  To the delight of all of the children present, the ceremony concluded with snow falling over the crowd!

Holidays at LEGOLAND® California run from November 25, 2016 to January 1, 2017 and include events such as a holiday show at Heartlake City, special holiday treats (churros con chocolate, holiday cookies, peppermint milkshakes, apple cider and hot chocolate) and the opportunity to take your holiday photos with Lego Brick Santa and his reindeer.  Click here to get your tickets!

Legoland Holiday Tree lighting ceremony on Monday, November 28, 2016 in Calsbad, CA.(Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Legoland)

Official Legoland Picture (Legoland Holiday Tree lighting ceremony on Monday, November 28, 2016 in Calsbad, CA. Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Legoland)

Prior to the tree lighting, LEGOLAND® California Resort donated $10,000 on Stana Katic’s behalf to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.  

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“The LEGO Christmas tree stands 30-foot tall, is created out of more than 245,000 green DUPLO® bricks, features more than 400 LEGO ornaments and sparkles with more than 11,000 LED lights. In honor of the new Castle Hotel breaking ground in January, Master Model Builders created 15 new LEGO castle ornaments that hung from the enormous LEGO Christmas tree.”  – from the LEGOLAND® California Press Release

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Stana Katic with her niece Sophia

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Me with my sister, Rholnna, her daughter Mei-Lin and my son Dominic (taken by Suzanne Bartole).

(All photos by Rholnna Jiao except where otherwise noted)

Lunch With the Girls at Oggi’s in Rancho Carmel Plaza

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It’s not everyday that I get the chance to go out and spend an afternoon with my sister, Rholnna, and my niece, Mei-Lin, so it’s wonderful when that opportunity happens.  Since my sister’s family lives in Rancho Bernardo, I headed north a couple of weeks ago and we decided to eat at Oggi’s Pizza & Brewing Co., located in Rancho Carmel Plaza in the Carmel Mountain Ranch area.  Oggi’s is a family spot that my husband, son and I like to frequent because of their delicious menu and sports bar surroundings.  I’ve watched quite a few San Diego Chargers games at Oggi’s!

I’ve always had their pizza, sticking with favorites like The Works or The Heavy Weight.  For this outing, I decided on the Prosciutto Mac & Cheese because I have this secret goal to try a “mac & cheese” dish at every restaurant that offers it!  I’m glad I strayed from my norm because this version was absolutely delicious.  The three-cheese blend elbow pasta, baked with crispy prosciutto, broccoli and crushed red peppers looked great in the menu description, and was even better on my plate.  I guess I’ve met my new favorite! My sister and niece both felt like pizza for lunch, but had different tastes in which ones they wanted, so it’s great that Oggi’s offers several sizes, including a personal size.  We had a fantastic time, but it’s easy when there’s great food in a fun atmosphere!

Oggi’s Pizza & Brewing Co. is located at Rancho Carmel Plaza, 10155-10195 Rancho Carmel Drive, San Diego, CA 92128.

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Prosciutto Mac & Cheese

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Personal Size “Create Your Own” Pizza

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Kids’ Mini Cheese Pizza

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FTC Disclosure:  I received compensation to patronize a business at Rancho Carmel Plaza.  Although I did receive compensation, the opinions in this post are strictly my own.

(Photos by Rholnna Jiao and myself)

The Latest From LEGOLAND®: Spooktacular Fun at Brick-or-Treat 2016!

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Halloween is just around the corner, and this is your last weekend to get in on all of the festivities at LEGOLAND® California!  We went last weekend, and it’s amazing how they transform LEGOLAND® into the hauntingly happiest place to be!  To really turn up the fun, come in costume, like Dominic did!

If you want to attend Brick-or-Treat, you’ll have to purchase tickets at the park because pre-book online tickets have sold out.  If you can’t make it out, my husband and I captured lots of pictures of our spooktacular night.  Cheers and Happy Halloween!

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I think my bracelet matches the decor, no?

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We started off at the Heartlake City Fall Festival!

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There were Treat Stations EVERYWHERE with 1 million pieces of candy total!

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I think Dominic found some creepy-crawlies lurking about Miniland USA!

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There were so many photo opportunities with cool backdrops and fabulous costumed characters throughout LEGOLAND®!

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Hubble Bubble’s Dance Party!

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Believe it or not, LEGOLAND® got even better as it got darker!

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Dominic and daddy taking a much-needed snack break!

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One of Dominic’s favorite pastimes: LEGO® building!

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So, I had to post this picture because I failed so miserably the first time we rode NINJAGO The Ride, putting up only 3,000 points (post here)!  Now I can safely say that I redeemed myself at 129,550 points, securing the 3rd best score of the entire day!