For the First Time in Forever…

Ha, ha.  I am now on the unfortunate bandwagon of having Frozen songs stuck in my head.  But do you know what this means?  1. The 6-year old cool girl clique might accept me (wrong!  They’ve moved on to Sherman and Mr. Peabody!) and 2. I have time to watch movies again!  Hooray!  Boards are over!

So, yes, I watched Frozen on the way back to Japan.  I also saw Philomena and started Silver Linings Playbook but since I didn’t like the book all that much, I didn’t want to spend another two hours of my life on the same story.  Philomena was excellent, though.  I’m also halfway through The Secret History by Donna Tartt.  It’s good, but I feel that I’m not the biggest Donna Tartt fan in the world.  Since I read in reviews that some people felt “meh” about The Goldfinch but loved her first book, I wanted to give it a try.  I’m definitely going to finish it but I’m not the biggest fan of novels that focus on the intellectual and emotional angst of New England liberal arts college students.  I already lived it, ha ha.  Another novel that falls into this category is The Marriage Plot by Jeffery Eugenides.  That, too, is a good book but not one I’d tell you to run out and get.  Actually, I’d recommend The Secret History more.

But backing up, I left on Saturday, 29 April.  I am fairly certain I missed the Sakura peak so on my way out, I took a little lame photo of a tree that was already in full-bloom.  This will not win any awards, but I didn’t want to get closer and miss my bus to Narita!

A picture doesn’t do it justice, ha ha.

I studied a lot on my flight and barely slept, like maybe 45 minutes.  This was a mistake.  I had the worst jet lag on this trip.  I haven’t had jet lag this badly since I was a kid when we moved to Spain.  Now, I think stress insomnia had a role but it was pretty horrific.  Even the night before the test, I went to bed around 10, woke up at 3, went back to bed at 5 and slept until 10.  So, fortunately, I got enough sleep quantity-wise the night before (and the night before that) my test, but until that point, I was running on 3-5 hours of sleep a night.  My brain did not function very well.

Or…maybe I was excited because I got to see SMS for 3 days in LA! Yes!  On a government ticket, a person can take up to 7 days of “extended layover!”  It’s charged as leave but I was so happy I got to see my husband!  We hung out in Newport Beach and had a great time.  He was super awesome in letting me sleep and study, although a lot of my studying was b/t midnight – 5 a.m. and sleeping was from 5-11 a.m.  (See above paragraph).

We also celebrated…my birthday!!!  I love my birthday!  I thought it was going to be a little bit of a wash this year, but SMS and I celebrated with a great dinner out at Fig & Olive in Newport Beach.  The dinner was amazingly delicious- we had oysters, steak tartare, branzino fish (“Glazed with fig & 18 year old balsamic vinegar, snow pea, fig, olive oil mashed potato-”  YUM!!!) and the Fig & Olive salad.  I swear this wasn’t as much food as it sounded but it was all so delicious and wonderful.  The restaurant felt very O.C. (lots of plastic surgery) and the people watching was pretty awesome.  After dinner, we headed to Marty and Pamela’s where they had bought me a birthday cake and we had a little party.  Yes!  I even had a cake with candles to blow out this year- awesome!

Also, for the record, I really do like celebrating my birthday on my birthday but this year, 31 March was an acceptable stand-in! 😉  Oooo, and you know what I just realized during this little recap?  I’ve been wanting to go to Fig & Olive for years!  But I only knew of the Melrose Place location.  Yay for accidental fulfillment of life (mini-)goals!

On 1 April, we had a nice morning and early afternoon together before heading out to LAX.  Then it was off to the lovely greater O’Hare airport area for my Osler Review Course and my *dun, dun, dun* BOARDS!

San Diego Visit Recap- Newport Beach Weekend 2!

The weather wasn’t as nice, but we still had a great time.  We hung out with SMS’ grandfather Marty.  We went to the Elk’s Club, which is a long-standing favorite of Marty’s.  Now I just need to go to the Chicken Coop and I’ll really be family!

On Sunday, we watched the Oscars with Marty and Pam before heading out to Gulfstream.  They were out of oysters!!!  I almost wanted to leave but we stayed and had a great meal.  
Monday, we drove to San Diego.  The flight was delayed and I called during our drive.  The lady said I would still make the plane and should stick with the itineray.  I had a gut feeling that this was NOT a good idea but hey, the United lady said to do it.  We got to San Diego and the woman at the counter was like, “Um, highly unlikely” that I would make the flight.   &%*$&$*!!!  After looking at multiple options, I got a flight out of LAX on Singapore Airlines.  Bad news: I had to get myself there.  So my awesome husband and I got more QT time although unfortunately in the form of a deja vu roadtrip north.  
Now I’m on Singapore Airlines which is the height of luxury, even in coach!  I have an aisle seat and they are feeding us like crazy.  I declined the Hagen-Daz and copious booze (free cocktails and after-meal apertifs).   Why?  Because I’m crazy!  Who wants free booze, not me!   Seriously though, I wanted to study on the flight so no drinking and as for the ice cream,  I’ve already eaten enough rich food that Hagen-Daz and I don’t need to be besties right now!
Also, although I have studied, I did sample the inflight entertainment.  It is AWESOME!  So many movies and TV shows.  I’ve already watched Dallas Buyer’s Club (sorry SMS) and August: Osage County.  I recommend both!

San Diego Visit Recap- Newport Beach Weekend #1

Sorry in advance!  The next few posts are going to be a little list-y since I wrote them after the fact and my poor food coma mind had trouble remembering the sequence of all the amazing restaurants we ate at.  
We headed up to Newport for the weekend, which was gorgeous, sunny, Orange County beauty.  Before heading to the house, we stopped at Samy’s Camera to finalize the details of the Toyo camera rental for SMS’ big project.  Then, we went to Gulfstream for an expensive but tasty seafood lunch.  Next, I got my haircut- it had been 7 months!  I didn’t love my haircut the first few days but then I realized that I was using gunky shampoo so I switched that up and then I was very happy with my hair #OCproblems.
On Saturday, we went to Gulfstream with SMS’ Grandpa Dick.  We split smoked salmon and grilled artichoke. Amazing.  I had forgotten how much I love grilled artichokes.  Also, the smoked salmon is so flavorful and moist, which is surprising for smoked fish.  It’s fun to rediscover favorites.  
For dinner, we at EATChow one night and Cucina Alessa in Huntington Beach the other night.  At EATChow, I had an awesome salad and at Cucina Alessa, I had my favorite pasta (papperdelle) with a delicious lamb ragu.

SMS and I also went for walks at Huntington Beach and to Newport pier.  On the Newport walk, we stopped at Dory Fishing Fleet Market and picked up a black cod big enough for two.  They gutted and filleted the fish and we made an awesome dish that night.  I tried to use potato chip crust.  It wasn’t very good but didn’t ruin anything.  I just scraped it off and ate the fish with capers, butter and lemon.  Delicious.

Before going back to San Diego, we went to Samy’s Camera shop to pick up the Toyo IIA camera, a slide-film camera that was the star of SMS’ planned photo project.  We were going to take a few landmark pictures in San Diego over the course of the week on film SMS had bought over three years ago!

Epic Road Trip, Part 2!

CW from left: 1. Cute SMS 2. I am not sure if he is even paddling in this picture 3. Bridge over Stow Lake

After our Redwood stroll, we headed off to San Francisco!  First stop- lunch for the best meatball sandwich ever.  To be totally honest, the first one I ever had was the best (in 2009 with my co-worker Chris), but this one was also pretty delicious!  After lunch, we checked into the hotel and then drove through the Presidio to the Golden Gate Park.  We walked around and came upon Stow Lake.  There were people paddle boating and it looked like so much fun and quintessential tourist that we had to do it!  We rented a paddle boat and had so much fun going around the lake.  It was beautiful and wonderful.

SF Eats!  Italian sodas at Mario’s and Oysters at “Rocks”

Next, we headed to Hog & Rocks for dinner.  We feasted on chef’s choice $1 oysters (all day Sunday!),  Trotter Tots, ham sampler (Iowa, Spain, Italy) and heirloom tomato salad.  We walked around the Mission district for a little bit after dinner and tasted chocolate at Dandelion Chocolate.  We picked up a handout on how chocolate is made (magic) and bought a chocolate sampler to do more tastings at home!

The next day, it was on the the outdoors-y phase of our vacation.  We left San Francisco and headed out to South Lake Tahoe.  We stopped for lunch at Magpie Cafe in Sacramento.  So delicious!  We split a Banh Mi sandwich and a Smoked Trout and Del Rio Tomato sandwich.  They were both so, so good.  Sacramento (at least the part we were in) seems like such a cute town.  But, no time to dally, we were off on our next adventure!

South Lake Tahoe panorama

I called ahead and booked a room at the Strawberry Lodge.  It was the perfect place to stay because it was right next to Lover’s Leap, our rock climbing destination!  We were there early enough in the afternoon that we were able to climb a two-pitch route that afternoon called The Farce.  It was fun but I was rusty on my outdoor skills.  I’m glad we did it because I was more prepared for the next day’s climb.  After The Farce, we headed into Tahoe.  We took some sunset pictures, then headed to MacDuff’s for some dinner.  I had a delicious chicken pot pie with puffed pastry crust and SMS had a stew.
CW from top left: Lover’s Leap, Phantom Spires, far away shot of Lover’s Leap, me with rope, me in parking lot where we cooked our breakfast outside the hotel b/c no one was working the “restaurant,” SMS and I at Lover’s Leap

The next day, we headed back over to the rock and climbed the three pitch Bear’s Reach.  It was a great climb and the view was incredible.  I loved the Tahoe area and want to live there!   Maybe I’ll buy the Strawberry Lodge although if I do, I may have to fight the deranged Billy Treat.  He’s a young guy who I’m fairly certain is legitimately crazy and goes around telling people about his big plans for taking over the place.  He is a “pro snowmobiler” who knows everyone and wears a medal to prove it.  The medal, however, is for 10th place in the 1997 West Division Sectional.

Billy Treat’s Business Card

After the Bear’s Reach, we hiked into the Phantom Spires and climbed the two-pitch Gingerbread route.  It was a pretty quick climb.  After a great day of climbing, we went back to MacDuff’s and had another tasty meal.

The next day, we headed out to Tuolumne Meadows.  We stopped at the Tioga Pass Mobil station and ate lunch at the famous rest stop restaurant.  We headed into Yosemite, where admission was free for active duty!  Our campsite was pretty sweet and we were by a beautiful river where SMS took some more amazing photos.
1. Waiting underneath the chimney- 3 pitches down! 2. Eichorn’s Pinnacle with climbers on top 3. View from the Cathedral Peak Summit- it was VERY windy

The next day, we hiked to Cathedral Peak and had an amazing 6 pitch day.  The views were unbelievable and I felt so amazing and accomplished.  As SMS said, I never would have imagined myself on the top of a huge peak 9 months ago and here we are!  It’s an amazing adventure!
L-R: 1. View of Half Dome from Olmsted Pass 2. Rim Fire smoke cloud from the summit 3. Lightening struck tree on the way out from Cathedral

We headed out that afternoon and spent the night in Bishop at a lovely bed and breakfast named Joseph House Inn.  The innkeeper was very sweet.  Breakfast was delicious and tranquil since we ate outside on the patio.  The yard/gardens were beautiful and it was such a nice find for our last night!  
Manzanar Pillar of Solace pictures flanking picture of the guard tower

We headed home with two more stops.  We went to Manzanar, one of 10 Japanese interment camps from WWII.  We toured the site and visitor center, where we watched a documentary with several former detainees.  It was really sad and almost incomprehensible that rights and freedoms were so quickly and easily taken away from an entire group of people based only on their ethnic background.  It really highlighted the importance of preserving and protecting individual rights of citizens in order to prevent mistakes that go against the ideals of freedom and democracy.  
We also stopped at the Mt. Whitney visitor center.  I hope to hike that mountain someday!  After that, we made the long push home apart from a quick picnic stop to eat our “Mule kicker” sandwich that we had bought at the Erick Schat bakery in Bishop on our innkeeper’s recommendation.  It was pretty delicious!  
Our hard copy itinerary

Epic Road Trip, Part I

SMS and I have done a lot of traveling this Summer.  It’s been awesome!  We’ve seen so many cool, beautiful places and we travel so well together.  It’s been an amazing newlywed Summer and I definitely feel very bittersweet about leaving San Diego.  But as I told SMS last night on the old Banker Hill apartment rooftop (my front door code still works!), I’m definitely going to be sad and miss him but I’m so glad I have him to miss!

So, yesterday marked our return to San Diego after an epic California road trip.  SMS had two weeks off from school after a crazy busy, successful Summer term and I was done with my job ages ago (ha, ha).  I checked out from the command on the 14th and on the 16th, we were off.

We got a slightly late start due to an id card appointment and last-minute errands at work.  By 1 o’clock, we were on the road to Morro Bay.  We hit some LA traffic but missed the worst of rush hour (I think).  We stopped in beautiful Santa Barbara for dinner at La Super-Rica Taqueria, which was delicious although the portions were smaller than I thought.  Never fear, the delicious cheesiness of our dishes were very sating.  I also loved stopping in Santa Barbara since I have a soft spot for the town.

From CW starting left: 1. SMS sets up his tripod 2. Underwater exploration vehicle dry-docked in MB 3. The Rock!

That night, we spent the night with 30 of our new closest friends at the Morro Bay State Beach.  SMS noted that, “I’ve been to many campsites and this is certainly the friendliest one I’ve ever been to.”  He was referring not to the people themselves, but the fact that the campground was essentially a parking lot with tents pitched behind the car.  Our next-door neighbors were only six feet away.  Awkward when peeing at night, that’s for sure!  (Kidding.  There were bathroom facilities that were actually quite clean and nice.  Although, when camping, clean = nice).

The next morning, we woke up and headed to Frankie & Lola’s Front St Cafe for a little breakfast.  It was a cute place with delicious food!  We got the French Toast Brûlée, soufflé, flambé and the corned beef hash with poached eggs.  So good!  Before breakfast, we got a few pictures of the Rock, which was good since the fog rolled in during breakfast and completely obscured it.  Gooooooo, good timing!

Random spots in Big Sur.  Bottom left is Julia Pfieffer Burns SP with the waterfall on the beach

We hit the road and drove up the Coast through Big Sur.  We stopped at several beautiful places including Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.  SMS took some beautiful pictures and we stopped at the Big Sur Bakery for lunch after trying Nepenthe, which had a CRAZY line.  I turned it into a brunch and got the breakfast pizza (delicious!) and SMS got a fish special that was pretty good.

CW from top left: Cannery building, kelp forest, jellyfish lab, jellyfish!!!

Speaking of fish, we then headed up to Monterey to see the aquarium.  A childhood friend of mine from Rota, Spain lives there now and works at the aquarium.  Our tickets were comped and we toured the place.  The highlights for me were the jellyfish, sea horses and the kelp forest.  I could probably think of even more but I’ll try and keep my favorites manageable!  Cat and Joe met us at 5 and we got a brief behind the scenes tour of the rooftop area where the kelp forest receives its sun and wave motion.  The rescue seal tanks are also on the roof.  We also went behind the scenes of the jellyfish exhibit and saw tanks and tanks of jellyfish.  Some were destined for display while others were destined to be the dinner of the other jellyfish.  Creepy!

We went to Lopez Restaurante Y Cantina, which was pretty delicious.  I had a molé dish that was awesome.   It was so much fun to catch up with Cat and meet Joe.  I feel very lucky to have rekindled a friendship from so long ago!

SMS and I left Monterey and headed to Big Basin Redwood SP for another night of camping.  The stars were amazing and this was real camping in real woods!  The next morning, we woke up and walked the .6 mile Redwood trail that hit a lot of the park’s Redwood highlights, including the oldest and largest trees.  How courteous that all the highlights are in such close proximity!  We stopped by the gift shop where Mark advised me not to actually buy the coonskin hat I modeled.  Sad, but definitely the wise fashion choice.

Not a good look

To be continued!