Saturday, July 18, 2015

Pt Reyes Magic

The old lighthouse, decommissioned in 1975
Pt Reyes is a gorgeous place for a road trip.  SMS and I went on a Tuesday in late June and wanted to go back on a day when the lighthouse and Cowgirl Creamery were open.  Linda and Rip had never been so we all decided to forgo the temptation of a Napa daytrip and headed northwest of San Francisco.
Do you see SMS?
I had heard about the daytrip on a NorCal lifestyle blog and it was nice to have a go-by to follow for the day.  We reached Pt Reyes by way of Lucas Valley Rd, which has beautful rolling hills and gorgeous groves of trees- redwoods, birch and eucalyptus.  There is an incredible rock with a tempting crack that SMS really wants to climb but since it's on private property with barbed wire on the fence, I would have to stand a really good lookout if we ever decided to pursue that dream of his!
The North view on Pt Reyes
First, we stopped in Pt Reyes Station.  After a long drive marked by prolonged periods of sitting, we were all understandably hungry due to the calories expended.  We went to Bovine Bakery where we purchased a morning roll and cookies.  We also purchased baguettes for our upcoming picnic.

Our ultimate destination was Tomales Bay Foods.  Ostensibly a market but really, it's dedicated to Cowgirl Creamery and all picnic accouterments to highlight the cheese eating experience.  The Red Hawk cheese is the only CC cheese (CCC?) made there; the rest are made at the corporate headquarters in Petaluma.   We all had a small cheese tasting consisting of Red Hawk, Mt Tam and the seasonal Pierce Pt with flowers and herbs in the rind.  They were all fantastic and we ended up with half-wheels of the Red Hawk and Pierce Pt, in addition to the Inverness, a spreadable, tangy cow's mild cheese.  I also added honeycomb and Marcona almonds to our grocery basket!

So many people!  No reservations, no eating at TBOC!
Our last stop in Pt Reyes Station was Palace Market for some water, paper plates, olives and fruit.  Finally, we were off to our main destination, Tomales Bay Oyster Company.  We had a feeling our plans might be slightly altered when we saw parked on the sides of the road approaching the area.  It was crazy crowded and all of the picnic tables were pre-reserved.  We decided to grab our oysters and go.  We ordered a dozen of the "smalls" (really more medium-sized to our untrained eyes) and a dozen of the extra-smalls.
Our awesome picnic site!
We briefly stopped at the park just down the road at Millerton Point but there weren't any picnic tables.  It would have been perfect if I had brought a large picnic blanket but since I thought we'd eat at TBOC, I hadn't brought it.  Instead, we headed back to Pt Reyes Station and ate at one of the shaded tables on the side of Tomales Bay Food.  It was an absolutely delightful setting and our picnic was amazing.

Best in-laws!
On the stairs and still smiling!

Afterwards, we piled into the car and drove out to Pt Reyes lighthouse.  It was open and we headed down the stairs to check it out.  The day was crystal clear and we had a brief park ranger-led tour in the inside of the lighthouse.  The trek up the stairs was slightly intense but doable.

Father and Son
After the lighthouse, we headed home along the 1.  We stopped at Stinson's beach and it's definitely a place I'd like to go to for an extended beach day.  It was a huge beach with fine, gorgeous, clean sand. There was a nice surf and although I'd need to get pretty warm to want to go in, I think it would be a great place to spend the day.
Stinson Beach
We headed back to San Francisco along windy roads that SMS had an awesome time navigating, sometimes in Sports mode.  He was having an awesome time.  We drove through the Presidio and decided to grab dinner in the city.  I found the Bella Trattoria on yelp and after a brief wait, we were seated despite it being a busy Saturday night.  The pasta dishes were amazingly fresh and really delicious.  We were really happy to have found it and it was a great meal to cap off the day.  Despite sitting in the car, we had walked quite a bit so that meant our carb-loading was necessary.  Seriously, thank goodness we found the place, otherwise we might have been in trouble!

First Houseguests!

This past weekend, Rip and Linda visited us in our new Mountain View home.  I was really excited to see them and it definitely gave us a kick-in-the-pants to make sure the apartment was ready.  And it was!  SMS and I did a really great job (I know, I know, I should hold the self-congratulations and sounds of one hand clapping).  We had unpacked everything and there were no boxes to be found in our apartment.  Although I certainly am not a minimalist, I'm pretty happy with the level of "stuff" we have given our current situation in life.  I know we move a lot but we're not constrained by costs and weight limits since we own about 1/4 of the maximum amount that would be covered by a Navy move.  Also, SMS and I both like keeping a (somewhat) reasonable amount of keepsakes and nostalgic items that may go someday, but not today!

That being said, SMS picked his parents up on Thursday and ended up spending part of the afternoon receiving our shipment from non-temporary storage.  Although he took them to San Jose's gorgeous rose garden, the storage unit is not high on the TripAdvisor's recommended "To-Do's" in Mountain View, but Rip and Linda were really nice about it.  That night, we went to Shellshock and had amazing oysters, a tuna tartare with jalapeno, a chicken/maple/bacon donut (ha ha, I ordered that!), fish 'n' chips and fish tacos.  We all shared the small plates and it was a great dinner.  My co-favorites were the oysters and the fish tacos.  Afterwards, we went to Gelato Classico for dessert to cap it all off.   It was unnecessary but delicious!

Friday, they had a great time driving out to Half Moon Bay and visiting the Twin Peaks Park in San Francisco.  I don't have too much to say about this since I was at work, but we had a great dinner at Cascal that night.  SMS and I had been eyeing it for awhile.  The Spanish appetizer assortment was pretty phenomenal and we shared it easily.  I would say it's best for 2-4 people.  There are two of every appetizer so if it were two people, you wouldn't have to halve everything but it would be hard to have anything else for dinner that night!  We split it and then had some paella, eggplant tartin and a small salad.  It was all delicious and I saw several things I'd like to go back for in the future.  No gelato that night...we're not animals!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Loving Mountain View!

SMS and I continue to have an awesome time in Mountain View. Work is going well and I was glad to get the first week under my belt.  Also, we found Moffett Field and its still functioning commissary last weekend.  Yeah!  How lucky is it to find a tax-free place for grocery shopping in NorCal?!

Hanger 1 with its outer covering removed, a former Naval Airship hanger
Friday night, I worked out at a nearby Pilates studio. I'm so happy to be doing Pilates again! Afterwards, we went to the Computer Science History Museum for a Friday night food truck and music event. We were there for the last hour so the music was done, but the food trucks were in full-force. There weren't a ton of healthy options (excuses!) and I picked the simultaneously amazing/terrible waffle chicken sandwich with a fried egg and bacon, accented by maple syrup. It was SO DELICIOUS!!!  

Shoreline Park
 Saturday morning, SMS and I headed to Shoreline Park where we walked along the trails circling the lake and bay.  We want to rent a tandem bike some weekend and picnic, but it requires slightly more planning than we had done that weekend.  It was really beautiful and I can't wait to go back.  We also walked along the outside of the historic Rengstorff home.  It's a house formerly owned by a big shipping magnate in the region, although it was moved to its current location several decades ago and fell into disrepair before being restored.  Now, it's a popular wedding site.

A study for the Burghers of Calais, a group of six leaders of Calais who volunteered to surrender
to King Edward III after a long siege.  Although they were to be executed, the were saved by
the intervention of Queen Phillipa.


After Shoreline, we went over to Stanford. We headed to the Cantor Arts Center and wandered in the Rodin Sculpture garden. It was really awesome.  My favorite Rodin museum is the one in Philadelphia but this one was also impressive.  It has one of the five casts of the Gates of Hell in existence, which is a masterpiece which recapitulates a lot of Rodin's themes and earlier sculptures within it.

We also went up the Stanford clock tower for the view. There was a moderate wait and a nominal $3 charge.  It was a great day- very clear and we could see all  the way to San Francisco.  Although we felt a bit rushed, it was a great sight and maybe we'll go back on a weekday.

Finally, we went to Philz Coffee where we tried a delicious iced coffee mojito.  I know, it sounds so weird but picture a mint mocha (delicious, right?), minus the mocha.  Despite taking away the chocolate, it somehow works and is so tasty and refreshing.  We walked to Trader Joe's and along the way, found a road sign to Opportunity Center.  Here's to that search!

That night, we had a nice BBQ with several friends from our apartment complex.  There was a great assortment of food and I got compliments on my cooking, which I'm always a sucker for!  I also ended up grilling the fish since the guy who brought it was not sure how to grill it and had put it on the grill as a whole fish but not wrapped in foil. I quickly filleted it while it was on the grill and it turned out beautifully and was so tasty. I hope Summer BBQs become a thing because there are really a great group of people here and so different from the medical types I'm so often (happily) surrounded by!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Happy 4th of July!

Phew! SMS and I have had a busy few days as we unpacked our household goods shipment which arrived on the first. I have gotten rid of a lot of extra crap, which I'm really happy about. I hadn't gone through stuff in awhile. It was difficult to donate goods in Japan so I promised myself I would do it here.
Unfortunately, that meant carrying out what had recently been carried in. This is unpleasant because we live on the third floor of a building with no elevator. But I have traded-in four boxes of books to the local used books store, sold a textbook on Amazon and dropped off six (6!) boxes of clothes/other goods to Goodwill. It's crazy that excess can be a source of stress because I know what a blessing this "problem" is but it was nice to simplify and recycle/donate/sell what I could rather than just junking stuff. 

Anyway, our apartment is shaping up nicely although not finished yet. Today, we spent a lot of time organizing but took a break to go rock climbing at the local gym. We'll get outside soon but for now, the gym it is. 

This evening, we had an amazing time with new friends we met at a community party last week. We went to the San Francisco orchestra show at the Shoreline Amphitheater. We had great picnic food, listened to beautiful music and had the best seats I've ever had for a fireworks show. It was incredible- we were basically right underneath them. We cycled to and from the Amphitheater which was an excellent call since traffic was terrible

The symphony was great too. The program was a mix of Patriotic songs, famous American composers (some immigrants), a Disney cartoon with live accompaniment and s sing-a-long to the Sound of Music. We had a wonderful time and enjoyed getting to know our new friends a little better. We live in a very international community here!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Back in the USA!

After a long flight in which my greatest accomplishment was watching the entire Season 1 of HBO's "Silicon Valley," I arrived at the John Wayne/Orange County Airport for a fun Father's Day weekend in Newport Beach.  SMS picked me up and we headed to the beach house.  It was a family celebration!  We stayed with Rip and Linda and Stacy and Micheal were in town with Michael's son and their new dog.  Marty was in town as well and we had great family dinners, time on the beach and general relaxation.  It was absolutely wonderful.  The weather was perfect and I didn't really want to leave!
SMS, buried in the Santa Barbara sand
But, come Monday, leave we did.  SMS planned a great road trip for our travel up to Silicon Valley. First, we stopped in Santa Barbara.  We went on epic walks, tasted wine, ate at The Lark and went shopping.  We also had a Mexican food feast at La Super-Rica taqueria, the restaurant made famous by Julia Child's recommendation.  The great weather continued and we had an awesome time in Santa Barbara.  The beautiful, balmy sunny weather is a big change from Japan's rainy season!

After Santa Barbara, we stopped in Pismo Beach for some awesome Mexican food at Papi's Grill.  Whoa, it was amazing!  I was a little less crazy in the amount of cheesy goodness order and instead, went crazy by ordering a horchata milkshake.  It was divine.  It kind of ruined my next few horchatas at different meals because the creaminess was understandably less in the more healthy, non-milkshakes.
Justin Winery tasting room
After lunch, we drove to Paso Robles wine country.  We stopped at Justin winery and Daou winery.  I liked the Justin wines a little bit better and the setting was quite nice among the vineyards, right next to the original cabernet sauvignon grapes.  But the location couldn't compare to Daou, which was at the top of a hill with a gorgeous panorama view.  The greens of the vineyards, golden grass of the hills and undulating landscape was spectacular.

At Daou, we split a huge beet salad and cheese plate.  I wrote to a friend and described our mild culture shock upon returning to the US.  One of the things I mentioned was "rapidly fading dismay at portion sizes."  But seriously, servings are huge here!
Taken with an iPhone6, ha ha
After a night in Paso Robles, we headed off to Mountain View.  Our apartment and the location is perfect.  SMS did an amazing job with all the planning the last month or so- he found both the apartment and planned our trip.  It was a really great experience and a nice transition home.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Last week

My last full work week in Japan was pretty busy with a lot of social events and farewell moments.  At work, the corpsmen and I went out to lunch on Thursday where they gave me a sayonara kokeshi doll signed by multiple people in DSS.  Jenn also gave me a paddle that is pretty awesome.  Now my memento plaques from Yokosuka include a paddle and a "skateboard," my cut-out of the USS Kitty Hawk from my time there.
The awesome sushi-go-round underneath Yokosuka station
On Thursday, I went to a yakitori restaurant with Adam, Jen and Amanda.  While I was waiting for them, I got my one and only chu-hi stand chu-hi during this tour.  I picked the ume flavor and it was delicious!  We were near Shiori since we wanted to go to Radianza, an awesome Italian place we had been in the past but unfortunately, all of the tables were full.  The yakitori was a nice back-up and we stayed with mainly vegetarian choices since we were out with Adam and Jen.

Friday was a wine night!  I met up with Brooke and Melinda at the World Wine Bar where they had gotten talked into a deal and purchased three bottles.  We only made it through one there but we met up with the rest of the group at Charcoal Grill Green.  Alaina and Stephanie actually came to WWB minutes before we left.  Emily and Stacie were at CGG and we had the most delicious dinner.  We all shared grilled Caesar salad and had our own entrees.  I had the lamb which was phenomenal although the bite of wasabi coleslaw that accompanied the pork belly was amazing.  I must figure out how to  recreate!  Afterwards, Brooke, Melinda and I made a slightly unnecessary trip back to WWB but it was really fun to hang out with them.   It was an excellent last night out!

Then, it was time to go.  It was a crazy morning since I was still wrapping things up at work and mailing my commemorative paddle since it didn’t fit into any bags.  And, oh yeah, I met up with Melinda and Emily to grab a coffee and do some quick knife shopping.  I took the 1230 bus from PSD and Lasonya, her husband, Kazu-san and his son were all there to wave me off.  It was really sweet and so nice to have a send-off!
A slighty saner moment, enjoying Cremia ice cream
Narita ended up being a slightly crazy experience.  I was on a United flight, which is great since I'm a Gold Premier member after all of my flying last year.  I hung out in the lounge, used the WiFi and chilled out before the flight.  Unfortunately, there were two United flights going to SFO only 20 minutes apart.  I thought I was on the 5:10 flight since my ticket said that boarding was at 1655 and departure was at 1710.  I didn't actually look at the flight number though and, for reasons I still don't understand based on what was on my ticket time-wise, I was actually on the 1650 plane which was being held for me as I ran from one side of Narita South terminal to the other.  Literally.  The flights were boarding on the exact opposite ends.  I remember thinking "What idiot would mess up their flight?" and I even looked at the list of names one woman was carrying around to snicker at the fools.  (I wasn't on that list!).  Unfortunately, someone other than me got the last laugh.  I got to board my flight out of breath and sweaty.  Fortunately, people were still moving around so it wasn't like everyone was sitting and staring, stone-faced.  But it wasn't the ideal end although it was dramatic!  

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Winding down in Japan...

My last 10 days in Japan felt like a blur of work, friends and food.  All the apartment stuff was over although there was still a lot to do for checking out.  When checking out, a person gets a 2 page hospital check-out sheet and a one page base check out sheet.  It feels like a demented scavenger hunt.  It’s not exactly a waste of time but it definitely feels like bad timing since things are already stressful and the check-out process adds what feels like hundreds of “to-do’s” to an already very long list.  In short, call the “whambulance.”
Flowers from my MLC colleagues- it made my day!
There were a lot of highlights though.  On Tuesday the 11th, I went out with a few of the MLC’s from the case referral office and had a wonderful izakaya dinner with Kazu-san, Yumiko-san, Muchiko-san and Lasonya.  We had such a fun time and the food was excellent- lots of delicious fried chicken! 
Hotaru Cheese Tofu

Friday was pretty mellow with a low-key dinner at Hotaru on my own.  I ordered the cheese tofu, which is soft tofu, gorgonzola cheese, cream combined with figs and honey on top.  It is amazing. So, so delicious.  The portion size was generous for one person but since that was my dinner and I'm not a quitter, I got it done.

On Saturday, I had a pretty full day that started with a few hours of work, Body Pump and then heading out to Yokohama.  I went shopping in Yokohama since I had our apartment deposit money that I preferred to spend rather than lose money converting it back into dollars.  When I got there, it was 98 yen for each dollar and now it is 125 yen for each dollar.  So rather than lose 20% of the value, I bought a few things I had my eye on like a new wallet and birkenstocks.  I also went to Flying Tiger in Yokohama where I bought a replacement tacky jewelry holder for the one I received from Mom a few Christmas’ ago that had chipped due to an ill-advised fall from the dresser to the floor.  So, yes, money well-spent!  I did check the prices to make sure that it was a deal and I wasn't buying something that was way higher-priced in Japan vs the US.  

I also wandered over to the Red Brick warehouse area which was great because the weather was gorgeous.  I bought a wallet at sot and walked towards the water where there were a lot of cos-play/Steampunk teenagers out in their finest attire.  Oh, and four Disney Princesses.

The princesses from afar.  I'm sure Elsa was the favorite
After shopping, I headed back to Yokosuka to see Pitch Perfect 2 with Adam, Jen and Amanda.  It was awesome because we went out for dinner afterwards at Giovanna's followed by an hour of karaoke.  It was the perfect way to end a night after seeing a movie about acapella!
Good-bye Mr. Pinks!
Sunday started with the huge highlight of selling our car!!!  The buyer came out of nowhere and was trying to buy in a hurry since she was deploying on Tuesday.  I was more than happy to help and they said yes to the car!  I was going to do the LTO run but they ended up taking the car themselves on Monday so I knocked the appropriate amount off the price.  SMS and I were just super happy to sell it and we made a slight amount off of it!
The olive tree in the outdoor garden at Farm to You, my favorite Kamakura restaurant
But, back to Sunday!  I went to Kamakura for some more shopping.  On the way, I walked through Verney Park where there was a fun local festival and I bought some delicious fried treats.  In Kamakura, I had tea at the Farm to You restaurant where I hung out in the beautiful outdoor patio garden area. Then I made my way over to Zushi for another farewell BBQ (but not for me).   It was a lot of fun and I went out to Matchpoint afterwards with Stephanie and Alaina where there was more delicious food to be had.  It was an awesome weekend and then it was time to start my last work week in Japan.