2021 Wrap-Up: December

December started with a trip to Menlo Park. SMS and I went for a walk and there were so many pretty trees. A mini-Fall foliage spectacular!

The next week, I had a very social time. I met up with three friends for dinner, three nights in a row. The first night, Rose and I met up in Little Italy. We had a great time. We were feeling bar-hoppy so we went to Herb & Wood and Juniper & Ivy. An evening of ampersands! I really liked my persimmon cocktail at Juniper & Ivy, which was delicious and crazy expensive. I am a sucker for persimmons though. The next two nights, I went out with new friends: Meredith on Wednesday (Stanford connection) and Sarah on Thursday (work friend). Meredith and I went to Saiko Sushi on Coronado, while Sarah and I went to Muzita Abyssinian (Ethiopian) in University Heights. Delicious dinners and great company!

That weekend, SMS was in town and we went to his sister and her husband’s Christmas party. I ate way too much from the taco caterer but it was difficult not to! It was a fun crowd and I mingled with a lot of interesting people.

Buckeyes/No-bake peanut butter balls. I got the recipe from someone at the party!

The next weekend, SMS came back into town for the rest of December. He only had to take four days off in order to be free for two weeks, thanks to already scheduled holidays. We went to a work party that Saturday, which was so much fun. Michelle hosted it and, while slightly smaller than other years, had a really great group of people. I really had a good time!

SMS drives a Lucid Air!

Later that week, SMS and I went out to Poway where a Lucid Air owner showed off his car, complained about a lot of really small details, and took us for a drive. The acceleration is amazing! It was a lot of fun to be a passenger but SMS got to drive the car! Sagoy!

Christmas gift from Brady!

Christmas Eve, we had a nice dinner that I picked up from the Wine Vault with matching pairings. Bouillabaisse, lamb chops, and potato gratin- yum! For Christmas, we had a nice celebration with SMS’ family at his sister’s house. It was great food and great company!

Coronado sunken ship!?!

Over the holiday period, SMS and I took a lot of walks around Coronado. We walked down to where there’s a sunken ship that can be seen at extremely low tide. I don’t think we saw it, but maybe I took a picture of part of it. Or a rock. Hard to tell.

Thanksgiving 2021

Family!

After a few days in Silicon Valley (which included a job interview!), SMS and I flew to DC for Thanksgiving with my side of the family. We arrived in the late afternoon after a pleasant flight that ended with a high degree of nervousness on my part. On the approach, the pilot aborted for some reason and circled around. The reason I was nervous is that there was no overhead announcement and we were at a really low altitude near DC, which I think is unusual given all the restricted airspace. Anyway, we’re here and there were no hijacking baddies on the plane so…another thing to be thankful for!

We showed up about half an hour before dinner, which was perfect timing because we weren’t tortured by delicious smells for hours. We also didn’t ruin our appetite with appetizers since no one saved any shrimp cocktail for us (this is how you know you’re definitely back with family). Dinner was amazing and, even better, it was so nice to be with my entire family again! It was really a special and treasured occasion.

Winning Team!

Lodging-wise, we stayed at The Alexandrian which is a nice hotel right in Old Town. Saturday morning, we walked around Old Town on a beautiful, sunny, and cold day! We went to the Farmer’s Market and bought lunch. We went over to Brady’s in the mid-afternoon and hung out until it was time to go The Escape Room! Joe and Nicole have really enjoyed several in the past and since we were all around on Friday night, we went escaping! And we did with just a few minutes to spare! It was really a lot of fun. We all went out for drinks afterward. It was so nice for the eight of us to hang out for an extended amount of time.

Ed and Meg headed out on Saturday. SMS and I moved from our Old Town hotel to my parents’ apartment for the last two nights of our stay. That evening, we hung out at Brady’s and ate Faccia Luna pizza. Yum.

The next day, we hung out at the apartment until we went to Tyson’s Corner to check out the Lucid Studio. Excitingly, we got to sit in the car and go through the features with a sales agent. We were all very impressed! That night, Mom made her foil salmon for dinner, which was absolutely delicious.

We stopped by Brady’s house for a quick glass of glühwein outside before heading back into the city. We didn’t stay for long since they had to get ready for the week, but it was nice to have one last quick-ish visit.

The next day, we met up with an Ignite classmate of mine for a quick coffee. SMS and his space background were the main draw, but it was also nice to meet a classmate in person!

Futures with its amazing Green sculpture Expanded Present by Soo Sunny Park

Then we went to the Smithsonian for a visit before the airport. First, we went to the Futures exhibit at the recently re-opened Arts and Industry building. It was an interesting exhibit, but second-tier compared to other Smithsonian offerings. Next, we went to the Freer and Sackler (I think now renamed) where we saw Buddha statues and Whistler’s Peacock Room.

Then it was time to go 😦 Mom and Dad dropped us off at the airport, where SMS grabbed a snack/meal at Ben’s Chili Bowl. My flight left about 25 minutes before his and we parted ways to go to our respective places in CA. It was an amazing holiday with family. I feel very lucky!

California North Coast Road Trip

For the second half of the trip (2 days/2 nights), we headed out to the North Coast via the Russian River Valley. We wanted a little nature to go with our wine, so I planned the trip as a split between Sonoma County and the North Coast, centered on Point Arena.

I hope you make it out!

But first we drink! We started the day at one last winery. We went to Williams Selym, one of the OG Pinot Noir makes in Sonoma. At least this is what two of my friends say and I am too lazy to fact check this. We had a really nice tasting, but it felt a little Ex Machina with Alicia Vanderker. As in, there was a distinct possibility there were malevolent robots who were waiting to do us harm behind the sleek gleaming interior decor.

Getaway cars at Williams Selym

Fortunately, we made it out and even left with wine, which should increase our quality of life. Phew. We drove along the 101 to the 128, stopping for lunch at Disco Ranch in Boonville. It was a super cool wine and snack-y/tapas cafe. Between the food we bought off-the-shelves and a few tapas made in-house, we had an awesome picnic. We ate on their little patio. It was really a neat place and if you wanted to have the perfect Spanish or Italian snacks to go along with your wine, this is the place to shop!

We went for a short-ish hike through the redwoods at Hendy Woods State Park, where we were able to charge our car for a little bit. Then we headed to the coast. Our hotel was in Point Arena. The Wildflower Boutique hotel is a renovated inn that is absolutely delightful. I highly recommend it. The rooms were stylish, affordable, and clean. Each morning, there was a delivered breakfast from four options that we would choose from the night before. The people who worked there were really nice. Overall, it was a really positive experience.

That evening, we went to The Bird Cafe. It is a cash-only restaurant that at the time, was only open Friday-Saturday. Now, it’s closed while they think about future projects but I highly recommend checking it out on a visit. The food was delicious. The walls are covered in bird art (swoon) by Nicole Ponsler. They serve Pelican Bread, which is made locally by a baker who is very into the process (grinds his own grains). The wines were from Penny Royal Farms Winery. Apparently, it’s hard to get suppliers to deliver out to Point Arena so they’re pretty happy to have their arrangement with a winery they think is delicious. We ended up eating pretty much everything on the menu- to be fair, there’s two choices for apps, entrees, and desserts. I really liked it and would love to go back some day!

The next day, it was up to coast to Mendocino and Ft. Bragg. First, we went to the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. It was beautiful! There were gorgeous well-maintained gardens along the entrance lawn/meadow that transitioned to longer trails along the bluffs. I loved it! The dahlias were particularly gorgeous at the time we went.

For lunch, we went to the Lost Coast Brewing Company, which had good food and beer. Then we were off on the Skunk Train for a ride through the redwoods. It is an old logging railroad that is now perfect for tourists who want to see redwoods without hiking! After the train ride, we headed back to Pt Arena. We had dinner reservations for about halfway down the ride, but when we passed the restaurant it was still too early for dinner. Plus, we were all tired from the driving and thought it would be a lot less fun to drive on the foggy, winding roads through the dark. So, we bought picnic provisions from the little store in Pt Arena and at at the large table in the lobby of the hotel. It worked out perfectly.

But yes, one thought for a North Coast trip. The driving distance is a little deceptive relative to how long it will take due to the single lane, many curves, and slightly decreased visibility depending on the fog. While it’s nice to stay in a hotel for multiple nights to avoid packing/repacking, another option would be to drive up the coast and hotel hop more frequently in order to prevent backtracking along the driving routes. Anyway, things to consider in case anyone is reading this blog for travel tips!

Street band in Pt Reyes Station

The next day, we headed back to Menlo Park. Our first stop was an early lunch at Spud Point Crab Co in Bodega Bay. It had been recommended by Mom’s cousin and it was incredible! We ate clam chowder and crab sandwiches, which were epic. Although I had planned for a picnic in Pt Reyes Station, we had spoiled our appetites but we still went for a walk around town.

We drove to Menlo Park and had dinner at The Little Store in Atherton. SMS and I had an awesome lunch there a few weeks prior and we had high hopes for dinner. But it was kind of a bizarre experience. The owner was pretty weird with strange suggestions and strong wine upsell attempts. Fortunately, we all thought it was kind of funny rather than too off-putting, but I’m not as eager to go back as I once was. The food was still excellent and if I’m in the area and have a craving for French Onion Soup, that’s where I’m going!

Mom, Dad, and I left from SFO the next day. We grabbed breakfast in the Centurian Lounge (yay!) before heading off to our respective destinations. It was an awesome trip! Next up, trip recap with SMS’ parents!

Sonoma Road Trip with My Parents!

When SMS and I got married, we had pretty basic vows. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the basic vows are pret-ty serious. Love for a lifetime? Sign me up! But if we had been the type to write our own custom vows, would we have included the vow to take epic road trips with our parents? Hell yeah!

So, the epic road trip with my parents is first up! For those of you wanting SMS’ parents, wait a few weeks. It’s coming!

My parents were in Wyoming for a mini-siblings reunion (Dad’s side). Back in June, I said that since they were 2/3 of the way across the country, why not complete the journey and come to Northern California for a vacation continuation? Who can argue with that logic? No one. So, my parents arrived on Monday for a six day NorCal adventure.

For the first two nights, my parents stayed at the Hotel Lucent in Menlo Park. SMS has a 1B1B apartment and we’re just not air mattress people. Haha, we totally could be but we don’t even own one now. So, my parents stayed at HL, which they recommend for nice rooms at a reasonable (for SV) price.

On Tuesday, we had breakfast at our place. Canned hash and poached eggs for the win! Then we headed out to Filoli, which is really beautiful. Gorgeous gardens that have a timeless feel. The original owner planted them knowing full well the peak would be in 100 years, well beyond his time here on Earth. The combination of impermanence and legacy is a dialectic beyond the scope of this blog but still interesting to reflect on.

That night, we had dinner at our place since the next few days would be pretty restaurant heavy. Wednesday morning, we headed up to Sonoma for our first day of wine-tasting and culinary delights! BTW, planning tip. While I have turned into much more of a planner over the years, it is crucial to pre-plan at the current time. Most places have limited seating and time-slots and you have to plan your trip as soon as you think of it. The further out the better. It’s a little much but since Hot Vax Summer was thwarted by the Delta variant, I think this is going to be the reality at least through 2021.

Our first stop was Medlock Ames. This is the only wine club SMS and I currently belong too. I think the wines are delicious, and I really like their thoughtful approach to farming and wine-making. I am a little less thrilled that they’re turning more to single-varietal ($$$$) and abandoning their blends. Mostly because I really love their estate blends they make each year. Alas, RIP. 2018 is the last year they’re making an estate red. I would say I should stock up but I seem to drink the wine more than collect it so I guess I should embrace the change.

ANY-way, we had a reservation for the “Olive Grove Experience.” This included a white/rose bottle per 2 people and a picnic basic full of delicious provisions such as Mt. Tam cheese, Bouchon bread, olives, MA jam, MA olive oil, and salami. We had a rosé and chardonnay, both of which were delicious. It was a gorgeous day and a beautiful space. It was the perfect start to our vacation and no matter what the occasion, I alway recommend Medlock Ames.

Then we went into town and had a Northern Italian varietal tasting at Idlewild. I love those Northern Italian wines. Strong reds with a hint of dirt. Yum!

Afterwards, we headed to Chalkboard. SMS and I had been several years ago, but I had forgotten. It’s pretty good but the portions are on the small side. Especially when the waitress claimed that they encouraged “family-style” eating. I guess by family-style, they mean that everyone can stick their fork into everyone’s decidedly individually-sized portion. The food is delicious, but the comic relief was when we all ordered the soup and instead of a cup of soup, received teeny-tiny shots of soup. Several pictures were taken to document the size relative to common objects. I realize this paragraph sort of makes me sound like a pig, but this restaurant was a little on the ridiculous side. But still, delicious food!

We headed back to our hotel which, by the way, was a complete delight! The Camellia Inn was reasonably priced and in the heart of downtown Healdsburg. The rooms were great and the breakfasts were quite nice. We also went swimming both afternoons, which was refreshing after some pretty warm temperatures!

Only two of us got the memo that on Thursdays, we wear pink!

The next day, we drove to Sonoma proper to have lunch with my Mom’s cousins at The Girl and the Fig. It was such a lovely afternoon. The cousins are younger than my parents, but older than SMS and I. We had such a nice lunch and it was fun to catch up. We all had to head out after a couple of hours. The cousins went back to work and we went to Silver Oak.

SMS prefers the Sonoma Silver Oak vs Napa. The tasting room was beautiful. We were outside, which was warm but tolerable since we were in the shade. The view was beautiful, the building gorgeous, and the wines delicious. We all really liked the experience.

After heading back into town, we went for a quick swim and then got ready for dinner. Dinner was at Bravas restaurant, where we had Spanish tapas and split a paella that was phenomenal. We sat in the back courtyard and it was such a beautiful, bug-free space.

The Sonoma part of our trip was awesome. A fair bit of pre-planning and reservation-making, but it made for a smooth trip with delicious wine experiences. Next up, our Northern coastal adventures.

2021 Round-Up: August

August brought tragedy to the little bird kingdom of Coronado. I think Janis Joplin was wrong when she said, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose” since the cage-free flying of Brady-bird and Joe-bird led to a big loss…of their lives!

Don’t Catholic guilt trip me about this one, Mom-bird-human!

Yes, so both birds died and I’m pretty sure it was from nibbling the wood print seen below. B&J were the explorers & nibblers of the group, while C-bird sticks strictly to the seeds. I saw a lot of shavings on the ground right before the birds died. They didn’t seem like they were in pain. They were puffy, breathing heavily, and then, on the bottom of the cage. Now, they are in little bird graves underneath the California native sunflowers, living their best afterlives.

We met up with our friends at Hog Island Oyster Co, where we had the most perfect bowl of clam chowder. The company was also great!

Towards the end of the month we went to Newport Beach with SMS’ family for a private service. Afterward, we walked around Roger’s Garden, which is such a beautiful and inspiring (to the home gardener) place!

Fun at work…it doesn’t even require quarters!
The end of the tomato war. OMG, this thing gives me the heebie-jeebies. It’s a hornworm that turns into a hideous moth.
Pretty mosaic

2021 Wrap-Up: June

Anniversary flowers!

June was a busy month! SMS was in town for the first weekend and our anniversary. We went on walks, went to South Beach Bar & Grill in Ocean Beach, and went to the Hail and Farewell.

The cast in their dressing room.

The Hail and Farewell was held at Liberty Station, which was a pretty good venue. There was some airplane noise and mild AV issues, but nothing terrible and it was really nice to get together as a larger group. I made a video where “Steven the Intern” was tasked with taking care of a baby egg, similar to a high school home ec class assignment. Other residents’ egg fates are shown in the video and it was pretty funny. I understood the assignment!

Then I was off for a family vacation around the US. In 10 days, I went to West Palm Beach, Washington DC, and Chicago. In WPB, I visited my grandfather and his wife. It was a quick trip, but it was really nice to see them. I went to the gym a few times and forget running to the gym- driving a golf cart is a lot more fun! I also ended up doing the Heimlich maneuver on an older gentleman who choked on a large piece of steak. I ended up doing a pretty deep finger sweep and hooked it out! Hooray! It turned out that the man had several serious medical issues, one of which required him to have his food served in very tiny pieces. In the excitement of going out to eat, no one had thought to check that his food was safe for him to eat. The crazy thing is, after all that excitement, they all stayed and finished their meal! I think I would have left after something that dramatic. But to each their own. Or should I say, when in Florida?

After WPB, I headed up to DC for a few days to see Mom and Dad. I stayed in their beautiful apartment downtown. One of our best adventures out was going to get drinks at the Southeast waterfront on a beautiful day. We sat at a second-floor, outdoor bar and enjoyed a few Happy Hour Tecates. It was really a relaxed, fun place to be.

We also saw a Nationals game! I love the Presidents’ Race and George did not disappoint. I actually can’t remember who won, although I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Teddy.

Brady and I went out for a museum day, which was a lot of fun. She was really busy since they just moved from Japan. They were not only busy settling in, but they were hosting a lot of visitors. She was also about to start her intern orientation so it was definitely a pretty crazy time for her. But I’m so glad we got to hang out. I also saw my brother and his family, but really, my time was too short! Although I got to see my nephews and niece, I was left wanting more! Fortunately, I saw them a lot more during the Thanksgiving holiday later in the year.

General Motors EV1 Electric Car- starting the modern era in electric cars!

The last stop on my trip was Chicago. Ed and Meg were the most awesome hosts in their new apartment. That they own!! Super impressive, says this perma-renter!

The best coffee maker instructions. Illustrations provided for the real caffeine-deprived dummies (meeeeeeeee!)
Tasty, tasty frozen margaritas. Right down the street!
So much fun at the Cubs game!

I went on a run that ended up being longer than I wanted, but I really wanted to run out onto the fishing pier/jetty to see the dramatic cityscapes!

I had been to Chicago a few times before but had never been on a river architecture tour. Ed took me on one that is supposed to be the best (Chicago Architecture Foundation, I think) and it certainly seemed so! We had a great guide and learned a lot.

Finally, we met up with Meg for lunch. She gave me her own architecture tour with the cool triangle-shaped hotel with a great (closed!) rooftop bar and the Walgreens in a former bank that makes good use of the old vault!

We didn’t miss you.

And just like that, my grand tour of America was complete. SMS and I spent the last weekend of June in San Diego. We had a nice hike in Torrey Pines, admired native plants, went to Blue Ribbon Pizzeria in Encinitas, and saw a music bus with a stage on the double-decker.

Summer tomato plant. Spoiler alert: Aphids 1, Plant 0

Day Trip: San Diego to San Luis Capistrano

Even when the mission is closed.

The last day of Mom and Dad’s trip promised to be slightly dreary, weather-wise. Considering that there’s not much to do in San Diego on bad weather days even in the best of times, I wanted to think of a fun activity. I decided we should try to out-travel the clouds and head North on the Surfliner!

I have never taken the Surfliner before, but I knew it went through beautiful coastal towns before it turns inland towards LA. While it goes back out to the coast north of LA, those stops are too far for a simple day trip. My first choice was San Clemente, but it doesn’t stop there as frequently. The next station is San Juan Capistrano. I thought I had never been but in fact I had- when I was very small. Mom and Dad remembered a trip they took there when they lived in LA almost 40 years ago. They were excited to go back.

We bought our tickets online and met on the train. I took the ferry from Coronado, while Mom and Dad walked over from their hotel. The ferry schedule was a little tight to make the train, but it all worked out. I brought mimosa ingredients for the train so we had nice drinks on the way up. Turns out, we weren’t supposed to drink alcohol on the train, but the conductor didn’t say anything. We didn’t find out until the afternoon when the Southbound Debbie Downer conductor informed us of the rule. Eh, win some, lose some.

The train went pretty slowly until we were north of Del Mar. Apparently, the ground is not super stable so there are speed restrictions to prevent disaster. The coastal scenery as we headed North through Camp Pendleton was beautiful. After about 90 minutes we arrived in San Juan Capistrano.

We had about 2.5 hours until the return train. The mission was closed that day, so all I have for the blog are a bunch of lame pictures, including one with a little bit of finger! Classic photographer technique.

But, what do you do when life gives you lemons? Have margaritas! When we talked to the (fun) conductor on the way up, she recommended El Adobe de Capistrano. After a short walk around the town, we went there for lunch and ended up having lots of margaritas- pineapple cilantro, red pepper cucumber, blood orange- so many amazing flavors! I had the President’s choice for lunch, which was a platter of President and Mrs. Nixon’s favorite food items. It was tasty but really, the margaritas were the stars. So delicious!

View from the train going through San Clemente Station

Then we walked back to the train station, boarded, and headed back to San Diego. It was a wonderful day and I recommend it as a San Diego day trip idea to anyone, especially if the Mission is open!

Highlights: September 2019

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The biggest highlight of all was my beautiful sister, lovely husband, and cutest baby had their wedding/celebration of love in Minneapolis.  They held it at Summit Manor but the whole weekend was a whirlwind of festivities and family time.  The wedding itself was 1 Sept so here we are with the main event in the proper month highlights (some sort of system is needed for this mega-summary approach to the second half of 2019!).

The wedding was awesome!  Brady and Ricardo have awesome family and friends.  SMS and I had the best time aaannnnnddd…I got to give a MOH speech!  Brady was such an amazing MOH that I wanted to be one to and, at a minimum, I didn’t embarrass myself!  I also did some important MOH duties like booking a group nail appointment (which I missed due to flight delays) and day of make-up and hair for the bride!

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The day after the wedding, we went down to a brewery that SMS had found.  We wanted to ride scooters but thought, no way would four show up all together and…manifesting to the universe worked!  There were four scooters in a row and away we went, me bringing up the rear as a scooter chicken!  SMS and Ed were the bravest, going off-roading down a grassy hill with zero casualties.  Good job!

I got the beer sampler and, as luck would have it, got the confused newbie who gave me medium sized cups instead of the sampler cups.  My sister-in-law was very jealous to which I say…

Here are a few shots of SMS.  On the left is in Minnesota and on the right is somewhere in the Bay Area the next weekend.

Below is a New Yorker cartoon I find very funny.  I think I’m going to order a print of it.

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CREDIT: The New Yorker Collection/The Cartoon Bank

Above are a few photos from Coronado.  Left to right, a pretty sunset; my balcony garden; SMS being the consummate law-abiding pedestrian waiting for the walk sign without his renegade wife; the queen-sized Ikea bed I put together myself!

I saw three author talks in San Diego: Colson Whitehead (Underground Railroad, The Nickel Boys), Rebecca Makkai (The Great Believers), and Bruce Holsinger (The Gifted School).  All three were excellent.  I liked Bruce Holsinger’s talk the most because it focused a lot on the academic practice of writing since both he and the interviewer are Literature professors.

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St. Frank Coffee, Menlo Park.  Take-away or outdoor table only.  A nice find by SMS!

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Applewood Inn, Guerneville

We went up to Sonoma with Rip and Linda for two Harvest Parties: Medlock Ames and Lancaster with a stop at the Hawkes tasting room.  It was an awesome weekend.  I love Medlock Ames wines and they threw a great party!

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SMS at Medlock Ames

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Medlock Ames, SMS and parents

On Sunday, we went to Armstrong Redwoods State National Preserve to walk among the Redwoods, which I think is the thing to do since there aren’t too many old-growth redwood stands around! Logging was so widespread in the 1800s that most redwood forests now are second-growth and while impressive, do not even approach the size of the 1000+ year old trees!

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Chair inspiration

 

5 Days in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

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Tulum Beach

So, this Christmas brought a travel first for me.  I went to Mexico!  Yes, it’s almost strange to admit I’ve never been since I was in San Diego for so long but it’s a fact.  Of course, when I went to Otay Mesa during my Kaiser residency days, I was almost in Mexico.  Early in the morning, I would worry about being too tired and missing my exit and ending up in Mexico instead of work.  That would make me late.

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Hotel Room Balcony

We went to Mexico with SMS’s family and had a really great time at an all-inclusive.  We went to Royal Hideaway Playacar, which was really nice.  I did some TripAdvisor reading beforehand and wasn’t too sure about the place but ultimately, it was wonderful.  It is clear that there some people on TripAdvisor who are just never going to be happy.

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On vacation, I read a lot and hung out at the beach.  It was delightful.  Linda and I did water aerobics one day, which featured great music and a slightly less great, but enthusiastic, instructor.  The food was really delicious and the portion sizes were perfect.   I would say most meals came out with a proper serving (aka, enough but not too much food), which was great because wasting food was minimal.  I feel that sometimes, all-inclusives (not that I’ve been to many) can serve large quantities to make people feel that they are getting more when really, it just leads to excess- in the belly and in the trash.

I went for two runs and SMS and I went for a walk on the beach.  It was really beautiful- wide, fine-sand beaches with clear blue water.

One day, the four “kids” went to Tulum, Dos Ojos cenote, and Cosme’s Taqueria for lunch.  Tulum was really beautiful.  The sun-bleached stone ruins were gorgeous and we learned a lot (but not too much:) from our guide.  Hiring a guide was definitely a good idea because the context definitely made the viewing more interesting.  Afterwards, thanks to the magic of our smartphones, we found Cosme’s taqueria which was a small spot that served up delicious tacos.  It was a great find and definitely different than the polished all-inclusive or tourist trap restaurants outside of the Tulum ruins.

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After lunch, we went to the “Dos Ojos” cenote, which was awesome because I had really wanted to go to a cenote after following the hashtag on Instagram for the last several months.  There are some beautiful looking ones closer to Chichen Itza, which we passed on because we didn’t want to drive all day.  But there are some along the coast and Dos Ojos is really pretty.  There are two separate cenotes, a dark and light “eye,” with a connecting tunnel that I think you could get through without SCUBA gear but I wasn’t going to try.

After 5 days, it was time to head back to California.  SMS and I returned our rental car, which was cheaper than a shuttle and gave us flexibility to go to Tulum without booking an overpriced tour.  But it was a little bit of a hassle so there was definitely a trade-off.

Back in California, we moved apartments from Mountain View to Menlo Park.  Goodbye orange tree in the front yard!  Our place in Mountain View was really nice but the commute for Mark’s new job was anything but so…we moved to Menlo Park.  The location of the new apartment is great and it’s fun to be near a new downtown to explore.

We spent New Year’s Eve in downtown San Francisco with friends.  We went to a 1920’s themed party (flappers and Great Gatsby, not suicidal bankers after the crash of 1929).  Our friend had organized a get-together of several people so it was very easy and a lot of fun.

Then it was New Year’s Day!  SMS and I started out the new year with avocado toast and good coffee so that was a delicious start.  We went to a Australian coffee shop, Bluestone Lane, in SF.  I would definitely like to go back and someday, we will get to Australia proper!

Real Housewife of Silicon Valley

So, after an amazing Napa trip with my professional wine-tasting in-laws, I took the week off and did my best impression of a Real Housewife of Silicon Valley.  Mainly, this meant that I went to expensive boutique exercise classes.  I went to my favorite SPX pilates class and realized that my core has no strength.  I also tried out Soul Cycle for the first time, which was interesting.  It’s basically a very fancy spin class that charges a LOT of money to pedal furiously in the dark led by enthusiastic instructors with excellent playlists.  I enjoyed it but was worried that I would fall off my bike during the arms section where a rider bounces up and down the handlebars in a sort-of pushup motion while standing up and pedaling very fast.  I felt that this was either going to lead to my face being bashed in or falling over.  Falling over would be bad because the bikes are very close together and I would have fallen on someone.  Fortunately, neither happened. Hooray!

Soul Cycle has a lot of aficionados who like both the workout and the positive vibes that are preached along the way.  I enjoyed myself and would definitely go if it was less expensive but since it’s not, trial membership only for me!

I also ate delicious food!  I’d grab an Americano at Alexander’s and one day, I treated myself to a shave ice at Teaspoon on Castro St.  It was delicious!

SMS and I also went to an Indian restaurant for dinner that featured seating inside of rickshaws and buses.  It was so cool!  We went after climbing at Planet Granite one night and I couldn’t believe we had never gone together before.  I loved it!

After a week of leisure, we flew down to San Diego for my cousin Jim’s wedding.  I had an awesome time hanging out with SMS, my brothers, my cousins, and my aunts & uncles.  SMS and I also tried scooters for the first time, which were a lot of fun.  I had seen my cousin on InstaStory and I knew I wanted to try.  I was definitely the slowest in the group but it was a great way to get to brunch.  My brothers, SMS and I went to brunch the Sunday after the wedding, which was a lot of fun.  One of my brothers barely had any time between brunch and his flight but he made it.  Hooray!