Monday, October 17, 2016

Washington DC Weekend

East Building, National Gallery of Art
This past weekend, I spent in Alexandria hanging out with my Dad.  It was pretty mellow but the most beautiful Fall weekend- tons of sunshine and the most perfect temperature.

How I would feel in a museum without lunch first...
On Saturday, Dad wanted to check out the East Building of the National Gallery of Art.  We took the metro into the city, which takes a little longer but it's so nice not dealing with weekend traffic and parking.  When we got off the metro, the first order of business was lunch because I was hungry.   I hadn't eaten a lot of breakfast and I had gone for a run so I would be running on fumes if we went to the museum first.  We ate outside and had burgers and beer.  It was awesome.

This is art.  It has its own security guard so people don't step on it.  I guess
that's what happens when you have art that looks like a puke-colored melted bag.
Afterwards, we headed over to the East Building.  I could tell there were some updates but overall, it looked the same.  The most noticeable thing was the sun slats over the upper skylights.  The Calder mobile is still in the grand foyer and there is a lot of colorful art well-placed throughout the open main area.  We went to see the Photography Reinvented: The Collection of Robert E. Meyerhof and Rheda Becker.  It's a temporary exhibit through March 2017 with 33 excellent modern photographs from influential artists.  My sentimental favorite is Hiroshi Sugimoto since I have fond memories of an incredibly staged exhibit of his in the Hirshhorn Museum (2006).
From the Hirshhorn Display.  It was amazing. Photo Credit
Afterwards, we headed home and tried to watch The Lobster but we didn't have any luck in renting it online.

The next day, we went out to brunch in Old Town.  I scored a sweet parking spot, so I was already feeling pretty cheerful!  We went to Virtue Feed and Grain.  Brunch was tasty but Dad definitely won with his order.  Here's a tip to me: don't order Mexical breakfasts on the East Coast, it just isn't the same.  Also, do not order a Bloody Mary at Virtue- it's watery gazpacho with vodka.  The mimosas are much better (I had a sip of Dad's!).

The rest of the day was pretty mellow.  I did some online coursework and watched football.  It was a really relaxing weekend and I was glad for the quality father-daughter time.  Oh, and the quality time with the birds.  I can't forget the surrogate children.

Bath time!
Bird Love

Monday, October 10, 2016

Newport Beach Weekend

What a great group!
 SMS and I went to Newport Beach for Columbus Day weekend.  This time, we brought along friends!  Or rather, they drove down to Newport with their 2-year old.  Never fear, they arrived sane and in one piece.  That's because they're champs!

Resolution: Work on Food Photography!  Step 1: Picture before starting to eat!
I arrived earlier in the day since I took Friday off.  I went to Wild Taco for a SoCal fix!  I ordered two tacos (lobster and kale/feta) and the roasted corn. The food was amazing and it was a gorgeous day.  I ate inside but the doors were wide-open and the ocean breeze blew through.

I walked back to the house and, after a bit of rest-and-digest, I went for a 5K run.  I discovered that SMS and I had over-estimated the distances to the first and second piers, which was very disappointing.  We thought the first pier was a 3-mile out and back but it's really just 2.5 miles.  Whah!  So, I ran a little past the first pier and turned around.  I knew I had a long run that weekend with J so I wanted to take it easy.

Then, it was off to the airport to pick up SMS.  We ate at home and a little later that evening, our friends arrived!  We had poke for dinner from Santa Monica Seafood.  It was excellent.

The next day, J and I went out for a 10-mile run.  Eeek.  I hadn't run more than 5 in awhile but I hung in there.  We ran 9:00 mile pace, which wasn't too bad.  We definitely weren't trying to push the pace so really, it was nice that 9:00 felt easy(ish).
Oh, yeah!
Afterwards, we showered up and headed out for Sidecar donuts.  SMS and I had heard so much about them and we've tried to go a few times without success.  This trip, we were determined to try them.  We lucked out with the line, which was short when we arrived but completely mushroomed while we were there.  I ordered a LOT of donuts, but I shared them with people then and when we visited SMS' grandfather later that evening.  The donuts were really delicious.  I also ordered a nitro-draft cold brew coffee which was excellent.  Oh man, I would spend a lot of money if that was available at home (and it probably is, I'm just not going to do the research because it is a pricy cup of coffee!).

We went to the beach and had so much fun.  The weather was unseasonably warm all weekend so we were able to go in the ocean every day.  Even SMS tolerated it.  We rode waves and had the best time.    We got a little bit of sun but we had two umbrellas from the house so I was (mostly) good about sun exposure.  No inadvertent burns this time, yeah!
There's a Duffy Boat in the background.  Sorry, pics are limited from this excursion!
We went out on a Duffy boat that evening and toured the Newport Beach harbor.  It was such a beautiful day and the houses on the water are spectacular.  We also had great company on the boat so I was distracted from the scenery a lot of the time.
Sunset at the marina

Auto Ferry entrance
Afterwards, we decided to take the Auto Ferry across the water.  SMS has a funny story regarding the differences in child and adult perspectives.  He remembers the ferry being a big excursion, a really big deal.  As an adult, when he realized that it was a super short trip quite close to the house, he was surprised that he had such a different memory of it.  The ferry was super cool and felt very retro.  J's kid pitched a fit on the ferry because he was really upset that we weren't on the ferry and we had promised we would go on a boat.  We tried pointing out that, at that very moment, we were on the water but he wasn't having any of it.  Adults are filthy liars, obviously.  We think that he couldn't reconcile the fact that cars can go on boats but really, who knows what 2 year olds are thinking sometimes.  By the way, even when he's borderline losing it, J's kid is awesome.

For dinner, we had boardwalk food after riding the Newport Pier ferris wheel.  It's very small but moves at a slightly disconcerting clip so I'm glad we went on it.
Ok, this pic is before eating but it still doesn't look all that appetizing...

The next day was more beach time and family obligation time.  We went to EAT Chow for brunch, which was another breakfast winner.  I got the breakfast enchiladas, one with tomatillo sauce and one with mole.  Delicious!  Afterwards, SMS and I went to visit each of his grandfathers while J and family went to Irvine to visit cousins.  We watched the debate that night and then headed off to bed.
Bingo!  This looks better...right?
Monday, I dropped SMS off at the airport since he wanted to go to work that day.  What a high-roller, taking the plane to commute to work!  I went to Alta and got a coffee and Bueno Bowl for breakfast.  We cleaned up the house and then J and fam took off.  I went for a run, brief swim and then headed off to the airport myself.  What a great weekend!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Running Notes!

Guess what?  I made it into the Boston Marathon!  Yes, remember this race?  Well, the Boston Qualifying (BQ) time for my age group is 3:40 but in the last few years (2012, 2014-2016), a person had to run faster than the qualifying time to actually be accepted.  This apparently causes a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth on internet forums.  

This year, the time to beat was 2:09 faster than the qualifying time.  Since I ran 2:50 under the qualifying time, I was in!  Hooray!  I'm really excited to run with my favorite training partner again and it should be a great weekend in April.  There's a lot of training between now and then, though!
Stolen from the Internet!  Maybe I should get on Pintrest.  "Pinned" sounds better!
I'll start a 16 week plan right after Christmas.  My plan for the Fall is to do more strength and interval training for speed before I head into a Winter of increasing distances. I'm going to use my 21 Day Fix Extreme DVDs and throw some running into the mix, 2-3 times a week.  
Bright blue marshmallow clouds!
I'm also nervous because for the first time since high school, I switched shoe brands!  I want to try the Hoka One One Clifton 3s, which are really padded but apparently, are still able to move in a streamlined-feeling way.  Here's hoping!  I will let you know.  They compared favorably to my trusty Asics and since I'm not getting any younger, I figured impact-reducing shoes could only help.  Unless I get shin splints.  And then I would be very sad.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Fall Weekend!

Yoda mendala outside of Mountain View library
 SMS and I had an amazing weekend!  It was a great mix of enjoying the area and relaxing at home.

Saturday was our lazy day. We woke up and SMS made an egg-in-a-hole for each of us. It was delicious and accompanied by a delicious from-the-garden heirloom tomato. Yum!  There was also an avocado, but that was store bought. 
What goes with coffee?  Psycho Donuts!
We decided to head out to a nearby coffee shop, Chromatic. We went with our former next door neighbor, which made for nice company. I had the Keynote coffee, part of a Kouign Amann (a caramelized croissant dough pastry) and, finally, a cafe brûlée with almond milk. It was basically a latte with flame torched muscadon sugar on top. It was pretty awesome. I was so entranced by watching it get made that I forgot the coffee beans I bought. Fortunately, they let me replace the bag next day free of charge even though I didn't have my receipt. 

My new little piece of Paradise!
After Chromatic, we were lazy until we headed out for date night!  SMS had booked us a private spa at a kind of Japanese-style onsen in downtown Palo Alto. It was amazing!  The room was slate, tile and very clean. There was a shower inside and while I hope people rinse off before going in, the water was chlorinated. This is not similar in Japan since most of the onsens are continuously fed by the local springs.     There was relaxing music playing and I love it. I highly recommend the place. Next time, I might look into spa treatments too but really, the soak was relaxing enough. 

Fountain by the spa entrance
We walked around Palo Alto for a bit and then we went to the restaurant for our dinner reservation. We went to Thyme, which was pretty good. I had a delicious seafood soup. We both got the scallops which were fine. I've had better but I've also definitely had worse. The decor was nice and I liked sitting by the window during golden hour light. It made SMS look especially handsome!

On the Steep Ravine section of the trail

Sunday was our active day.  I wanted to finish a Mt Tam hike we started last year but had to turn back due to sunset. I printed out the instructions (here's the link!) and we drove up to Marin/Mt Tamalpis. The hike was beautiful and I recommend it!  The scenery was quite varied as it included forest, second-growth redwoods, creeks and sun-exposed golden hills. There's also a bathroom along the way so that was an added bonus!

SMS on Steep Ravine Trail
After the hike, we decided to head home. We were planning on cooking but after we had been driving for about 30 minutes, SMS said he "could use a snack."  Well, my momma didn't raise no fool!  I've thought in the past that there was a general idea of a snack at some point in the future. Nope, nope, nope. "Could use a snack" = emergency distress signal. (I, actually we, have learned this the hard way). So, we stopped at the In & Out that has been our emergency stop before (under worse circumstances when I thought it could wait and then we were stuck in 45 minute Golden Gate traffic. Wrong call!). We ordered food and oh my goodness, I didn't realize how hungry I was either!  It really is our favorite In&Out!

Our oasis!
We drove home and got stuck in some Sunday traffic congestion. Maybe a little worse due to a morning Raiders game but I think the roads are just bad around here. 

Although I was really tired of walking, SMS tempted me into going into town to get a shave ice. We went to Teaspoon and got a tropical delight. It was amazing!  I think it's a testament to how tired I was that I didn't think to get my own but hey, I think it was better shared!

Monday morning, I went for a run. My legs felt good considering the hike but my times were a little slow. We went to breakfast at Esther's German Cafe where I got to flash back to Switzerland by ordering a cheese plate for breakfast- hearty bread, butter, cheese and jam. Delicious!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Have You Mooo-ved On?

"I was so upset!  I thought you were gone forever!"
I am still here!  It's been awhile, yes!  Now that I am back, we have so much to talk about.  Since I last wrote, I finished fellowship, traveled to Switzerland, hung out in the Bay Area, drove cross-country and, now, I'm hanging out at my parents' house in my old bedroom from high school.  In case you're wondering, it's redecorated.  No intact shrine to my awkward years, thank goodness.

"I've never been awkward."
When SMS and I traveled to Switzerland, I wanted to be off-line as much as possible so no blogging for me.  But never fear!  I took along a paper journal so I'll be writing a fair number of July recaps.  I'm really excited to get back to blogging since it's proven to be a really nice way to use for future reference, whether recalling a favorite restaurant or thinking about a fun past trip.

Switzerland was crazy beautiful.  I would advise not filling up water bottles downstream of grazing cows.
No personal horror stories but really, it just makes sense.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Switzerland, Day 3: Luzern and Happy 4th!

View of Spreuerbruke from Kapellbrucke
SMS and I were going to move onto Bern on day 3, but we decided to stay in Zurich so we could watch Gisele play softball that night with her team.  After fortifying ourselves with Nespresso, we headed out for a morning of touristing in Old Town Luzern.  We crossed over the two covered bridges: Kapellbrucke and Spreuerbruke. They were very pretty and quaint, even though Kapellbrucke was recently restored after a 1993 fire.  It felt like Japan when you go to a historical site and you think the temple is 1000 years old but, in fact, since it’s made of wood, it’s on its second restoration and really, the physical structure you see is only ~50 years old.  I digress.
Tower View
So, the bridges were cool and then we went into a Coop for a cheapie breakfast.  After eating more bread (yay!), we went to the old city wall.  I had never been there so it was cool to see a new site.  We walked along the wall and went up all three towers that are currently open to the public: Mannli, Zit and Schirmer.  The views of the river were beautiful and we really enjoyed ourselves. 
Walking the Wall
We walked through the Old Town and went to the Dying Lion memorial, glacier garden and the Alhambra mirror maze.  Our Swiss Rail passes, which served as Swiss museum passes, got us in for free, which is great since we saved 30 CHF.  
1313 entrance
For lunch, we walked to a place near the train station called Grottino 1313.  I later found out it was the #1 restaurant in Trip Advisor but I had found it through a Swiss Local recommendation app provided by the Swiss Tourism Board.  We each had the set lunch and it was an exquisite meal.  The food was delicious and we sat out in the sun-speckled courtyard and really had a wonderful, leisurely time.

Dessert extra!
We ordered sparkling water that came in a pitcher with mint springs and slices of orange and lime.  I started with a carrot soup with elderflower while SMS had an organic green salad.  For lunch, I had the roast beef while SMS had the pasta with broccoli puree.  For dessert, we had a pressed ice cream cake with honey and strawberries with an espresso on the side.  The bill was a little more expensive than I thought since the prix fixe didn’t cover as much as I thought but, really, it was totally worth it.

1313 Courtyard = Paradise
That contrasted with our next activity which was to pick up Gisele’s kids and hang out with them at the Transport Museum.  As I told them later, “It was only three hours but felt like forever” but I promise, I mean that in a good way. 

The push-pull railroad car
The car garage
The boys really liked to ride the buses out in the courtyard, which are kind of like Tonka trucks on steroids.  You sit on them and can either push yourself along with your feet or (preferably) have someone push you.  On the few times SMS and I went inside with them to see an exhibit (at our request) the #1 ichiban question was, “When can we ride the buses!?!?”  But we had a great time, complete with an ice cream break in the middle.  We also rode on paddle boats which was fun, although my idea for “bumper car paddle boats” was shot down by the man in charge.  Whah.  No Spartacus-like scenes of “ramming speed!!”

One of the drill bits used to create the Gotthard Tunnel!
Swiss-style BBQ
We all went back to the apartment and dropped the boys off with a babysitter.  Then we went on a two transfer bus trip that went very smoothly to get to the softball field.   There, we watched the Swiss Team play against the American summer visitors and it was a lot of fun.  Afterwards, we had a BBQ with more sausages (yay!) and beer.  It was a great way to celebrate the 4th of July!

Part of Team Suisse and their American friends!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Switzerland, Day 2: Luzern and Melchsee-Frutt

I've seen uglier places...The beautiful Melchee-Frutt!
After a slightly interrupted night’s sleep thanks to my friend Mr. Jet Lag, SMS and I were ready for a fun day.  Gisele had planned for us to go on a hike to see the bearded vultures, an endangered species that recently had a pair released in the wild.  Gisele and her family had seen the release a few months prior so she was excited to see how they were doing.  
Wildflowers don't care where they grow...which Dolly Parton song?  Anyone?
Breakfast was a delicious feast of croissants and jam.  I had been eating super “clean” before the vacation so it was a switch to be eating so much grain but it wasn’t hard.  In fact, it was delicious!  

We headed out to Melchsee-Frutt, a four-seasons resort kind of place.  We took the train to the gondola station and then rode up the mountain.  It was an absolutely gorgeous place and we hiked for about 1.5 hours to get to the vultures.  Now, we did have kids with us and it was a fairly leisurely pace so keep that in mind before you think we are super slow.  We were hiking in peak wildflower season so all of the fields were filled with flowers, which was a theme of the entire vacation.

Fire pit. 

The highlight of the hike for me was lunch!  Hear me out.  In Switzerland, they have little huts with fire pits that are stacked with firepits.  You start a fire and then grill the sausage you’ve brought along on your hike.  It is amazing!  It’s also very neighborly since at lunchtime, you tend to take over your predecessor’s fire and then someone takes over yours.  It was awesome!  I love the concept.  It would never happen in California, land of the wildfire but maybe on the East Coast…
Do you see the bearded vulture sitting on the little rock?

We got to where the vultures were and yes!  They are doing very well!  We saw both of them flying and roosting so that was very cool.  We hung out for a bit, watched the kids climb a rocky hill face after SMS decided to be a good example.  The kids did great but we were a little worried when we saw a guy climb up holding two kids.  I said something in English (inadvertently!  I was just so shocked someone was doing something so stupid!) and his wife looked up and yelled at him.  International diplomat over here!

Playing at the Visitor's Center!
After hanging out, we stopped in a cafe, had a drink and then caught a little train back to the gondola.  Now, when I say train, it is actually several cars linked together and driven on car wheels but the exterior looks like a train.  It’s very touristy and we saw similar transports in other cities.  
Yay, no more walking!
We headed back to Gisele’s and had a delicious dinner of pork chops, potatoes and salad.  I felt so Swiss, I almost started speaking Swiss German!