Monday, January 25, 2016

Pebble Beach, CA

Sunset at the tide pools in front of the Inn
Take two non-golfers and a world-famous golf resort and what do you get?  A great weekend!  SMS and I headed to the Inn at Spanish Bay this weekend after my boss gave us the stay as a gift.  Apparently, he and his golf partner each had a room through an event they were playing but his friend wanted to stay in the house he owned in the area.  Based on the houses around Pebble Beach, I'm sure it was a real dump.

Well, we were very happy and appreciative and off we went, battling rain and end-of-rush-hour traffic to get to the hotel.  The room was really nice.  The main room had a gas fireplace with two armchairs across from the two double beds that had really luxurious bed linens.  The bathroom had a separate vanity/sink area and an inner toilet/sink/shower and bath.  The bathtub looked like an amazing soaking tub but I didn't check it out because, despite all the recent rain, CA is still in drought status.
We saw a Chinese woman feeding the seagulls.  It looked dangerous.
We woke up in the morning and noticed that are room was a partial ocean view room- beautiful!  We lazed around until the siren call of pancakes became too great for SMS' stomach.  We headed over towards Sticks, the small restaurant by the first tee.  We shared blueberry pancakes and poached eggs and hash.  Fortified, we headed off to the Coast trail, where we walked 2 miles each way between the Inn and Bird Rock.  It was high tide and the ocean waves were pretty turbulent.  It was so beautiful.  It was nice to walk because I've driven on 17 Mile Rd before and it's hard to sightsee to my heart's content while driving.

After our walk, we split a club sandwich by the outside fire pit.  It was so delicious- lots of turkey on sourdough toast (yeah!) along with perfectly ripe avocado and cooked bacon.  So delicious, in fact, that seagulls tried to join our lunch (boo!), so we moved inside.  One gull was tolerable but then it opened its big mouth and called all its friends.  I know a flock of circling seagulls may not sound as scary as, say, hawks or vultures, but it was still disconcerting.  I was not about to share my sandwich!

Then we went upstairs and I laid down on the bed for 5 minutes.  It ended up being a two hour nap that even SMS participated in, which has never happened before!  It was awesome!  Unfortunately, the one experience does not seemed to have converted SMS to the love of naps but hey, maybe I can work on him.

I went for a quick run and cut it slightly short when I saw how beautiful the sunset and the light was on the nearby dunes.  I ran and got SMS and we walked along the shoreline, exploring the tide pools and walking on the boardwalks among the dunes.  It was fantastically beautiful.

After our sunset walk, we headed back to the room to get ready for dinner.  I thought it would be nice to eat in one of the Inn's restaurants so I had made reservations at Peppoli.  We had a great Italian dinner.  The highlight was how amazing the pasta was.  It was super fresh and homemade.  It was the best pasta I've ever had.  The sauces didn't quite hold their own against the pasta, but they were still pretty good.  We ended with a shared almond cake for dessert and it was really a great meal.

On Sunday, I slept in.  I woke up at 7 but then started dozing until after 9!  Usually when I'm up, I'm up but I guess I was getting into the resort lifestyle.  We ordered room service because I've loved room service ever since ordering it with Jenny and Theresa one New Year's.  It felt very luxurious and I'm glad we did it!  SMS had the waffle and I had scrambled eggs.  After breakfast, we headed over to the tennis courts where we played for about an hour.  SMS was a total ringer since I didn't find out until we were there that he had been on a tennis team for two years.  Unfair advantage!
The Lone Cyprus
After tennis, we headed over to the main Pebble Beach Inn to check out the famed Lodge.  Along the way, we stopped at a few 17 Mile Dr. sites to include the Cyrus Lookout and the Lone Cyprus Tree. 

At the Pebble Beach Lodge, SMS wanted to see the clay tennis courts, which were waterlogged and closed but still interesting to see.  We ate lunch on the terrace even though I was completely underdressed.  Whah.  I like meeting attire requirements but apparently, they're loosened during the day and lunch was delicious so it was worth looking like a slob, I guess.  We went all out and started with a  dozen oysters (yay!) followed by an artichoke and a hamburger, which we shared.  It was really awesome and the view was spectacular.  We were overlooking the bay with Carmel across from us.  Even though they were setting up tents for the AT&T Pro-Am in mid-Feb, there was still plenty of beautiful scenery to take in and enjoy.
The Lone Cyprus' not-famous cousin, Pt Lobos
Whale watching!
 After lunch, we headed out to Point Lobos State Park, which was stunning.   We hiked in the Cyprus Grove, where the Monterey cyprus and other local trees are in their natural element.  We talked to a nice older couple manning the Park Service Info Booth and after turning over our car keys (yikes!), we got a pair of loaner binoculars.  I'm glad we had them because we got to see whale spouts and the backs of gray whales!  I was really hoping to see a tail or a whale flipping through the water like the old Echo the Dolphin Sega game, but I wasn't that lucky!
Near China Cove, Pt Lobos Park
After the park, we headed back to the Inn.  We decided to head back and be responsible adults.  No snow days for us unlike so many people on the East Coast!  It was a great weekend and a beautiful setting to stay and explore.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Mountain View Weekend

Picchetti Barn
After so much travel the weekend before, SMS and I were pretty mellow this weekend.  The weekend started off early on Thursday with an elongated Happy Hour(s) with two of our friends at Shellshock.  We had a few drinks and delicious food, including many oysters.  And ok, ok, we had mac 'n' cheese balls which were so tasty and totally J's fault for ordering them!

Friday was a mellow day at work and that night, SMS and I went to Blue Line Pizza.  We got the deep dish pizza and it was tasty.  I think I'll eat deep dish pizza about once a year because it is a heavy meal, even when I don't eat all that much of it.  SMS and I didn't even make it through a shared small although never fear, given how dense the dish is, we still had plenty of food.  Then, we headed over to Shellshock for dessert- a strawberry ice cream with puffed pastry delights called the Marilyn Monroe.

The next morning, all my carb loading paid off because it was time for our long run.  J and I ran for 16 miles and even though it was slower than before my injury, I think I'll catch up pretty soon to my projected timeline.  I was pretty sore afterwards but I'm just so happy to be back, I don't even care!

Saturday evening, SMS and I went to downtown Palo Alto to go furniture shopping (crazy and wild Saturday night!).  We at dinner at Curry Up Now and had some delicious takes on Indian street food.  I had some chaat and SMS had a roti burrito-style dish.  Yum!

A lot of coordination goes into a pony ride
Sunday was a rest day and SMS and I were lazy in the morning.  He even brought me coffee in bed *swoon!*  I finally got out of bed and we did some yoga to get our stretch on.  Then we headed out to Cooper-Garrod winery to meet up with A, J and their cute little son Ish who went on a pony ride like a champ!  We hung out for a bit and then we all headed over to Picchetti winery, which has the most beautiful picnic grounds.  It was drizzly so we couldn't take full advantage of it but we'll be back!  I'd also like to go on a hike from there since there are several trailheads.  Since we didn't go on a hike, I chased chickens with my new best buddy Ish who now thinks I'm the coolest adult he knows (poor delusional little kid!).

This is a chicken.

Supposedly, this is not a chicken.
Our elusive prey!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Napa Monday

After a good night's sleep I woke up to go to work Napa!  Yes!  I had the day off because my favorite godmother Auntie was in town with two of her friends.  Although their plans had been flexible (and good thing since the weather (boo!) had forced some outside activities cancellations), the Monday plan was pretty firm so we decided to meet up.

I'm so glad we did!  It had been a few years since I saw Maria and we had so much fun!  First, I drove up early in the morning to beat traffic (success!) and then I went to the Oxbow Market, which was closed for cleaning (fail!).  I did get a breakfast sandwich from Model's Bakery in order to try their famous English muffin, which was pretty good!  Then I headed up the 29 with a quick stop in Yountville to see Bouchon Bakery.  Unlike the last time I was there, the line was non-existent (yay!). I ordered two macarons for SMS and, almost unbelievably, they made it home without me eating them!  I also tried a small amount of croissant which was good, but it's been awhile since I've tried a croissant that I thought was truly sublime.  Maybe that's too lofty of a standard for a pastry or, at minimum, a little over-the-top for any kind of foodstuff?
Cardinale Tasting Room with a cool time-lapse photo of a single vine
Then, I went to the Cardinale winery and pulled up to the guesthouse where my aunt was staying.  Ok, ok, I may have also driven on a field road since I took my aunt's instruction of private road a little too literally, but fortunately, I didn't get stuck in the mud or end up in a ditch so all's well that ends well...
It's a warehouse!
The guesthouse was gorgeous and huge!  It used to be the winery owners' private residence and it was really amazing.  The views over the vineyards were incredible. Oakville is the center point of the valley so there were great views of the two mountain ranges and nearby wineries.  Immediately behind the house was a field with several small brown huts.  It's actually a disguised barrel cellar with a grass roof.  The huts are the vents and even though it's obvious that the grassy field has some sort of purpose, it's pretty neat how circumspect they've managed to make a storage facility.

We had a great tasting at Cardinale, sampling Mt Brave, La Jota and two Cardinale cabernet sauvignons, 2008 and 2012.  The most exquisite, sophisticated wine was the 2008 Cardinale but I really liked the Mt. Brave wine.  It was full of blue notes and tasted like the mountain.  *Sigh* Someday, I will be able to pull off wine comparisons.  I'll be honest- I stole the descriptors from our lovely and knowledgable guides since to me, it just tasted delicious!

After our tour, Maria and I headed to Mustards Grill for a great lunch with two of her cousins.  The food was delicious and we all talked a lot!  I had such a fun time and I hope I see my second cousins again soon!
The "cottage!"  My aunt is in the far left background.
Then, it was chill-out time at the "cottage."  We made a quick stop at Oakville Grocery, where we bought a delicious Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam cheese.  We made a significant dent in it when we got home.  Then it was time for me to head back to the other Valley (Silicon).  *Le sigh!*  But I couldn't be too sad because I had such a wonderful day and to see my auntie was a (too) rare treat!
Warehouse view at twilight- end of a great day!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

San Diego Sunday

East Village with very retro-looking trolley
SMS and I had a wonderful Sunday in San Diego.  We saw so many things over the weekend, it made me wonder what I did when I lived in San Diego.  Oh yeah, work.  Not that I was terribly overworked but residency was busy.  Moreover, it's different to vacation in an area than to live in it.  Example A: All the people who live in San Diego and rarely go to the beach!

On Sunday morning, we were a little lazy.  Then we decided to grab a pre-brunch snack.  We were thinking of Hillcrest but ended up in Little Italy due to parking issues.  We went to Cafe Zucchero, where SMS bought the heaviest doughnut I've ever picked up.  It looked light but the middle was stuffed with dense, delicious cannoli filling.  It was delicious.   We split the doughnut (so restrained!) and had an espresso each before heading to Bottega Americano for brunch.
Bottega Americano

Beautiful sugar cookie, looked better than it tasted :/
The whole family was there for Rip's birthday brunch.  We had a great time.  The brunch got off to the perfect start with present opening.  Who wants to wait in suspense?  SMS and I went the classy route with a bottle of wine but we got beaten in every other way by his sister and Michael's gift.  Starting with the unicorn card, the present ended up being a squatty potty.  And in looking up the link for all of you gentle readers (you're welcome!), I realize even more how awesome the present is.  Especially when opened up in a public place.
Smoking Salmon
 We had a delicious leisurely lunch.  The food was awesome and everyone was really happy with their choices.  Afterwards, SMS and I went to the Hillcrest Farmer's Market.  I wanted to see if the handbag maker was still there, but I didn't see him.  There were also amazing food stands (poke bowls, uni, Thai food, BBQ, smoked salmon) but we weren't hungry at all.
Torrey Pines

We went to Torrey Pines and walked the beach and then into the cliffs along the path.  It was a really beautiful day and we had a lot of fun.

We went back to the house, had chili with a tamale and after our last Mexican food meal of the trip, headed to the airport to head back to San Jose.  I had such a great time and I feel very lucky to be able to head down to San Diego for a weekend!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Sunny San Diego Weekend!

SMS and I are in San Diego!  Yay!  As much as I try to pretend that there's no difference in the weather, it's definitely warmer here.  All Winters are not alike!

We came down Thursday night and were picked up by his parents.  It was pouring rain!  Apparently, it had been raining for almost four days straight.  There was some flooding earlier in the week, made worse by people thinking their cars were amphibious.  This was incorrect.
If you have a Amphicar, though, it's ok!
Friday was our errand/"work" day since we were in town for SMS to photograph our friends' wedding.  SMS went to the camera store to pick up his expensive Nikon rental.  Then we went to Miramar so I could pick up a medal for my dress uniform.   For some reason, I was unable to mount my medals well, sliced open my thumb on the bracket and bled on three of the medals.  That's about $25 down the drain, whah.  At least I didn't get it on the uniform.  After my year's quota of F-bombs, it turns out I wasn't even needed since one of the Marines backed out last minute (as happy as I was to get out of it, who does that the day of the wedding?!?!) and a Navy person had to volunteer to drop out.  I beat another guy to the punch and I got to change out of my uniform.  Yay!!!

The wedding was really nice and SMS got some great pictures.  I was his trusty assistant and it was a lot of fun!  I got to mingle a little bit but since we didn't know anyone at the wedding apart from whom we met that night, it was fun to have something else to do, too.

Saturday was our Fun in San Diego Day!  We got up and had a delicious breakfast of avocado sourdough toast and poached egg, made by Rip.  Yum!!!  Then we were off on adventures.

First, we went to Cafe Calabria.  It's my favorite coffee shop in San Diego and I was so glad to go again.  We each tried something new.  I tried a Bicerin, espresso+ steamed milk+ Nutella and SMS got a Caffe Vienesse, espresso, steamed milk, honey and cinnamon.  Both drinks were great and I also got a small coffee to-go.  Also, there is now a seating area in their roasting room so it was pretty cool to see the equipment up close.  Then we walked down the street to Pigment and looked at all of the super cute, on trend housing goods, cards and other awesome stuff-I-didn't-know-I-needed-until-I-see-it!
Farmer's Market
After North Park, we drove through South Park on our way to the Little Italy's Farmer's Market.  It wasn't the most direct way, but I wanted to see more of the two neighborhoods.  We were pretty lucky with Little Italy parking.  We walked through the entire Farmer's Market.  It was a beautiful day and a lot of fun.  We ran into a friend of mine from Yokosuka, which was pretty awesome.  He's currently at NMCSD so it's not as random as it sounds.
Beautiful view of Coronado from Cabrillo National Monument
Our lunch was from the Farmer's Market- two samosas, one butter chicken and one saag paneer.  Then we went to Point Loma and toured an Open House.  Someday...

So happy!
One of my favorite places in San Diego
After our Open House dreamfest, we headed to Cabrillo National Monument.  There was a slight backup getting in but parking was pretty easy.  We enjoyed the view and then headed down the road to the tidepools.  We walked down since the parking lots were full.  It was a lot of fun to take in the view by walking, even though it's slightly hazardous without a shoulder or sidewalk.

Although SMS is a great photographer, he is meditating on how his wife is able to take such amazing shots.  Is the
shoe there on purpose or by accident?  Is the rock the same size as his head?  How many drops of
water are in the ocean?  Imponderables...
The tidepools were beautiful and we walked around, looking in the pools and trying not to fall in.  We headed back up the hill and headed downtown to Zymology 21, a bar that specializes in shrub and bitters drinks.  The coolest thing is the Shrub Sampler, which is 5 test tubes of shrubs to mix into one spirit of choice.  Since the spirit is about 5 shots worth, we passed but we did enjoy the "Fire and Ice" show that accompanies the presentation when other tables ordered it.  The server lights 151 liquor on fire, swirls it, waits about 30 seconds and then pours it into the beaker holding the test tubes.  The beaker contains dry ice which causes a cloud waterfall-like effect while the fire goes down the poured out liquor stream.  It was pretty cool!

After Zymology, we headed to my favorite restaurant, Banker's Hill Bar and Restaurant!  Although there are so many amazing places in San Diego and new ones I should explore, I like going back to old haunts.  We had the potato chips, salad (a little yin/yang action there), charred brussel sprouts and roasted parrotfish in a cioppino-type sauce with calamari, tomato and sausage.  The chef was a little heavy with the salt but we will still go back!

Finally, it was time to go home.  It was a great San Diego day!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Mini Road Trip: Bodega Bay, Stinson Beach and Mt. Tam

Breakfast in bed!
On the third day of our mini-NorCal road trip, SMS and I awoke a little on the early side and packed up.  Our delicious Boon breakfast came at 8:30.  We had biscuits with honey butter, yogurt with berries and granola and French press coffee.  It was really nice and we got to have breakfast in bed!
The three main towns on the Bohemian Highway
We took off down the 116 and then made a left onto the Bohemian Highway.  It's about 10 miles long and goes through three main towns: Monte Rio, Occidental and Freestone.  The road mostly cuts through the forest but by Freestone, there is lovely rolling hills and pasture land.  Occidental seemed like a nice place to stay and I'd love to stop in Freestone to go to the bakery and creamery in the future but since it was early and New Year's Eve, everything was closed.
Bodega Bay on the left and Jenner by the Sea on the right
We made our way to Bodega Bay and walked on the beach for a little while.  The surf was pretty intense and there were a lot of surfers out there.  Salmon Creek meets the Pacific at that area and I wanted to see the entrance of the Russian River to the Pacific so we drove up to Jenner by the Sea.  The view was beautiful and I read that depending on the tides and time of year, the meeting of the two can be very impressive.  While it was very pretty, there was no great clash between the bodies of water and the river gently dwindled in size and entered into a little cove.  We saw two seals swimming in there.  The spot is probably great for whale watching so maybe later in the Spring, we'll check it out again.
Old friends and new!
We drove through Petaluma and stopped at Lagunitas brewery for lunch.  It was awesome!  Super laid-back vibe and lots of heat lamps and sun.  We sat outside and shared nachos and cream of mushroom soup.  Not a soup I'd normally order but I was told it was delicious and that was a fact!  We had a sampler there and I really wanted some more of the sour wheat with mango and passionfruit (citrus-y without sweetness like a Sour Patch kid), but they didn't put any of the limited releases in growlers so I will just have the little sampler memory!  At Lagunitas, we also saw the saddest looking dog we've ever seen under the keyboard.  I wanted to adopt him, but I think he's probably the brewery's mascot.
Amazing View!
After lunch, we drove to the East Peak of Mt. Tam.  We drove to the end of the road and parked near the lookout tower.  The walk is very short to the top and the views are completely stunning.  The area is an incredible contrast of preserved park land and high-density development.  We took in the views for a while before heading down to Stinson beach for a longer hike.
Another view with SMS in the foreground; L: a relief map of the area, we were on the top-right peak

Golden hour hiking
The hike started through the forest and went up into the hills overlooking the town of Stinson Beach.  It was absolutely gorgeous and I really wanted to do a complete loop hike but unfortunately, we had started too late so we turned back.  I was disappointed but we had seen so many other awesome things that day, I had to get over my pout-fest/temper tantrum that I couldn't control nature or the sun.  ("Sun!  Stop setting!")
The sun set.
We drove home and I made a pretty good NYE's dinner of rack of lamb and roasted cauliflower mash accompanied by champagne!  The lamb was cooked in two stages since after the first time period was up, it was still really rare.  It was still really tender and delicious though.  Then, we watched Ex Machina, which I had heard about in the pre-Oscar nomination buzz and it was pretty good.  Although our NYE wasn't party-heavy, it was exactly what I wanted since we were able to explore so much of the region in the last few days and to me, that's what this "year" (July 15- July 16) is about- taking advantage of this pretty cool opportunity to live in such a vibrant, cutting-edge area.

Reflection on 2015

Since 2011, I've used this list to help reflect back on the year.  I really enjoy looking back while preparing to move forward.  So...

1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?
Lived in Silicon Valley!  SMS and I really enjoy the area!  Oh, that gives me a corollary- I have paid a higher rent than I ever thought possible/reasonable for an apartment that wasn't tiled in gold.

2.  Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I wanted to have a better appreciation for time, "to use my time more as a gift, rather than something to waste or let go mindlessly."  I did fairly well but started to slip towards the end of the year, especially in regards to mindless web surfing. I plan on recommitting this year because the days can feel long, but the years are short!

I have two big resolutions this year.  First, I would like to transition to a successful academic career and to do that, I need to follow through on my projects and start publishing.  Presentations alone aren't enough!  My second is to broaden my personal writing- I'd like to start writing more and produce something tangible.  Ideally, I'd like to write a novel but there's a long way to go between here and there.  But I just read that progress is the audacity to dream big and the discipline to start small!

I also have a few smaller goals that are not terribly creative, but I have them in my planner as gentle reminders.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Oh man.  The babies are coming!  My sister-in-law and my brother had their beautiful baby boy!  One of my really close college friends had a baby girl!  Both couples gave each child a beautiful name!  Several Facebook friends (whom I genuinely like and consider friends, we just mainly keep up through Facebook) had babies and many more are on the way in 2016!

4. Did anyone close to you die?

5. What countries did you visit?
Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Cambodia

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?

7. What dates from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
2/10/15: Sapporo Ice Festival
6/20/15: Leaving Japan for the second time
12/23/15: Great Christmas with my family, minus Joe and Nicole

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Doing my best to optimize my fellowship.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Not understanding the Navy game and being surprised at a fairly obvious outcome for my next job assignment.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I've been having some minor injuries during my marathon training.  The biggest one was recently when I strained my shin muscle and made it way worse by skiing on it.  I'm getting back into running today after 8 days off (yikes!).

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Plane tickets!

12. Where did most of your money go?
Travel, rent, savings

13. What did you get really excited about?
Travel!  Exploring places with SMS and taking advantage of the #explorearoundyou ethos, inspired by my friend Emily.

14. What song will always remind you of 2014?
Unfortunately for SMS, "Hello" by Adele made a late year, complete stuck-in-my-head appearance.  I also discovered The Turnpike Troubadours this year and I love them!

15. Compared to this time last year, are you: 
– happier or sadder? Happier
– thinner or fatter? A little thinner, mostly stable
– richer or poorer? Richer (continuing to save)
16. What's one thing you wish you had done more of?
Same as last year, meditate!  I'd like to work on giving myself some space between action and reaction.  Sometimes my opinions come out more forcefully than is helpful.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?
I'm getting better, but I'm really going to focus less on time-suck websites and spend my evenings productively- otology studying, language training, maybe a self-defense class?

18. How did you spend Christmas?
SMS and I had a relaxing day after coming back from Colorado the day before.  We exchange gifts, hung out and went to Star Wars that evening.  It was pretty awesome!

19. What was your favorite TV program?
I really didn't watch TV this year.  I watched one episode of Sons of Anarchy, which seemed cool but as SMS said, "[Did I] really want to start a series that would give me nightmares?

20. What were your favorite books of the year?
Click here

21. What was your favorite music from this year?
Turnpike Troubadours, new Brandon Flowers
22. What were your favorite films of the year?
I don't watch a lot of movies either and this year seems a little Sci-Fi heavy: The Martian, Star Wars and Ex Machina.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
35. SMS made dinner for me and we had a low-key evening.    I couldn't take off work because I had to make up the time for our later-in-the-month incredible vacation to Thailand and Cambodia.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Current job satisfaction.

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015?
Slightly uneven.  I'd like to work on refining my everyday style.
26. What kept you sane?
SMS!  He's a great listener and really helped me through some tough (for me) times.  Sometimes he can be unflinchingly honest which can be hard in itself but it always makes me reflect and commit to personal improvement.

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015.
Prestigious institutions have their own internal issues and appearances can be deceiving.  This isn't exactly a new realization but one that was reinforced this year.