Highlights: October 2019

IMG_7177

Wrapping up October with a quick fly-by!  I have to be done by the New Year- new resolution, more frequent blogging.  This has only been made and broken many times!

So, first things first.  The above picture is from a dresser I have from my parents.  It dates back to childhood and I just recently noticed by sister’s long-ago vandalism.  When I texted her on WhatsApp (would we ever have thought?!) she said, “That’s me!!”

IMG_7184

I finally got my own office and moved out of my temporary digs.  As a present, I left a few Milk Duds in the toilet bowl (see an earlier post entitled, Office Prankster).  I think it’s funny and I’m fairly certain was never seen by anyone other than me and the janitor.

I found Sidecar Doughnuts in Del Mar Heights.  This was a delicious, although unnecessary, discovery.

SMS and I took a hike at Huddart Park after the Wunderlich parking lot was full.  It ended up being a stroke of good luck because now we know of two cool parks to hike in, both with second-growth redwoods.  From the sign, it would be safer to have a child with us that we can hold in front of us should a mountain lion stalk us.

IMG_7212

We also went to the Blue Angels show during Fleet Week, San Francisco.  I tried very hard to picture myself as a sailor.  Hmmmm….  The Blue Angels were pretty spectacular and we had a great spot on a gorgeous day!

IMG_7259

I got tickets to the SLAC Community Open House and surprised SMS with a fun date night.  I feel this date night disappointed my sister-in-law, whom I had told we had a cool date night and the next day, when I told her where it was, I could feel the palpable “You guys are such dorks” waves come through the phone lines.

We managed to get some limited tickets to see the actual linear accelerator.  It was very cool so I took a few photos.  I think I need a klystron, with accompanying warning sign, in my own workspace.

IMG_7273

I found a cool outdoor/indoor coffee bar in Little Italy, Lofty!

Jenny invited me to Lizzo!  It was an excellent concert!

SMS and I had San Diego’s best!breakfast! at Hob Nob Hill restaurant.

IMG_7320

New wall art!

IMG_7324

Pretty flower shop in at the North Park/South Park junction!

IMG_7326

Hanging out in San Diego, not sure where?  Wait!  We are at Cabrillo National Monument.  Looking cute, might delete later!

And finally, Halloween.  The department secretary organized everyone (read: six fools) to buy Waldo costumes, which was a lot of fun.  I made a layered chocolate cake from Martha Stewart, which was delicious.  I did have a Martha fail while making it (see rightmost photo), where I learned that you can over whip Whipped Cream!

Highlights: September 2019

IMG_6982

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!

IMG_6964

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.

IMG_7028
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.

IMG_7075
St. Frank Coffee, Menlo Park.  Take-away or outdoor table only.  A nice find by SMS!
IMG_7076
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!

IMG_7080
SMS at Medlock Ames
IMG_7091
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!

IMG_7102

IMG_7129
Chair inspiration

 

Highlights: August 2019 (Part 2: Birthday in Lake Tahoe)

IMG_6732

Someone had a milestone birthday this year!  Although it was a packed first half of August, I had planned for a trip to Lake Tahoe to celebrate SMS’ birthday.  We rented a cabin and invited a few of our friends.  It was an amazing weekend and I absolutely love Lake Tahoe.  It is so beautiful.

So, to back up, we arrived in San Diego on the 7th and had a family dinner to celebrate SMS’ birthday.  The next day, we flew up North and got ready for our Tahoe weekend.  We did celebrate by going to Taverna for a delicious Greek meal.  I ordered the grilled octopus which I don’t get too often since SMS doesn’t care for it but it was amazing.  Yum!

IMG_6726
SMS gets a great present from John!
IMG_6729
We had a superhero visit for the party!

The next day, we drove up to Lake Tahoe.  We stopped at our normal lunch spot in Sacramento, the Magpie Cafe.  We got to the house mid-afternoon.  John was already there and we hung out while waiting for our other friends to arrive.  The house was absolutely gorgeous and from the start, we knew we had picked out a great place for an awesome weekend.

The next day, we had big plans for an awesome mountain biking ride.  Four of us went- SMS and his friend Michelle are good bikers, Akshay and I not so much.  But we were in shape and we could hang.  Akshay hadn’t even been on a bike in years!

IMG_6741

Screen Shot 2019-12-22 at 8.51.56 AM

We went on the Flume trail which started with 4 miles uphill, 4 miles traversing the flat ridgeline overlooking Lake Tahoe (amazing!), and 4 miles downhill back to the bike shop.  It was a lot of fun and really beautiful.  We rented our bikes from Flume Trail bikes, which has the highest recommendation from me!  We took the shuttle van up to the trailhead and then began our bike ride.

IMG_6742
Marlette Lake

IMG_6746

IMG_6750
Such a weird picture- don’t worry, I didn’t actually break my bike into two!

The uphill eventually smoked Akshay and I.  There was an older guy who was with his son and son’s friend who kept riding back and forth, encouraging us and his not-so-in-shape companions along.  It was simultaneously nice, impressive, and annoying.

IMG_6752

IMG_6753
Lake Tahoe

IMG_6756

I stopped at one particularly beautiful vista along the way.  Even though the ridgeline was flat, it was pretty narrow and required a lot of my concentration.  So, for a bit, I stopped to look at the view which was extraordinary.

That night, we had a taco feast with veg and non-veg options.  SMS chose a Japanese-style  roll sponge cake from Satura.  It was a really great time with a wonderful group of people.

The next day, we decided to go to Mt. Rose for a hike.  It was a hike near Incline Village and had good reviews on AllTrails but other than that, I didn’t know a lot about it.  The first two miles led to a waterfall that was very pretty.

IMG_6764
Starting out on the Mt Rose trail

IMG_6766

IMG_6767

IMG_6781

The highlight of the hike for me was beyond that, when we were walking up the mountain.  We happened to be hiking during butterfly migration season (I think) and for the last mile of the hike, there were butterflies everywhere.  The little clip below shows what I called “Butterfly Alley.”  All those moving dot?  Butterflies!!

SMS and I were the only ones who decided to go to the summit.  The views of Lake Tahoe were magnificent!

IMG_6783

IMG_6785

On the way back, the trail cut its way through beautiful chaparral.

IMG_6802

IMG_6794

I had SMS and John walk back and forth twice to get this picture…two Eagle Scouts in one picture!  We went back to the house where the hot tub was being put to good use by the A family.

IMG_6808
Lower altitude view from the Mt Rose trail.

The next morning, it was just SMS and I in the house.  I had a cup of coffee, enjoyed the view, and pretended the house was mine.

IMG_6811

IMG_6815
View from the lower deck of the house.

CA Weekend: Wooden Spoon, Windy Hill, Rose Garden

IMG_3189

SMS and I had another amazing California weekend!  The weather was gorgeous and we spent a lot of time outside.  On Saturday, we started off in San Francisco at the Wooden Spoon.  It’s located next to the Swedish-American Hall and has some Swedish-inspired dishes for breakfast/lunch/brunch.  I got the most Swedish dish of Swedish pancakes with lemon curd and lingonberry preserves.  It was delicious!  After breakfast, SMS and I took a walk to nearby Corona Heights Park and took in some pretty spectacular city views.  I went without my phone so no pictures for the blog but if you’re looking for a short urban  hike, this place fits the bill.

IMG_3155

After brunch, we headed back down the Peninsula.  We went to Thomas Fogarty Winery, where we sat outside with a glass of wine.  The wines were good and the patio was nice, but that was the only place that drinking outside was allowed for tasting room visitors.  The patio doesn’t overlook the Valley so SMS thought that it wasn’t well planned, which I agree.  We walked around the grounds and it does have a spectacular view.  A wedding was about to start and the private event spaces were gorgeous with a covered eating area that did have a view and was beautifully decorated.

The next morning, SMS made me breakfast.  We had bacon and eggs with two 2-yolk eggs- so much luck in that meal!  We had climbing plans for later that afternoon so we decided to go on a hike to Windy Hill.  We’ve been meaning to do it for awhile but other plans kept getting in the way.

IMG_3166

Windy Hill was beautiful!  We parked on a nearby street and started our hike by following the signs to Spring Meadow trail to Spring Ridge Trail.  The trail was mostly a packed road up the golden grassed hill.  There was no shade along this portion.  Then we walked along the top of the hill, following Anniversary Trail to Lost Trail.  Then, we descended down Hamms Gulch trail, which was beautiful and shaded. If (when!) we go again, SMS and I agreed that reversing the loop would be better since there would be shade during the strenuous uphill climb.  Downhill would be in the Sun and walking towards the Valley view, which is quite spectacular.

Screen Shot 2018-10-21 at 11.33.03 AM
Unmarked copy available here.

After our hike, which was seven miles instead of my predicted five, we grabbed a quick lunch at Annachikadai where I ordered delicious pakora bread with mutton curry.  Then we went to Planet Granite and had an awesome climbing session.  I felt very strong for not having climbed recently so it gives me hope that I can get better once I’m able to train consistently.

Then we went to The Halford, a gastropub with lots of beer options.  SMS’ climbing friends are really nice and it was a great dinner.  Afterwards, we went into the Baker’s Village bakery that had a lot of Japanese-style sweets.  I was in heaven!  Looking the place up, it actually is a Korean bakery but reminds me of the not-too-sweet treats in Japan that also featured toasted sesame seeds.

IMG_3174.jpg

The next day, we took the morning off from work and grabbed breakfast followed by a walk through San Jose’s Rose Garden.  There was a sign saying that it was voted the best rose garden in the US.  It surprises me that Portland’s rose garden was beat but regardless, this is a very pretty place.  I don’t think we were there during peak rose season but it really is amazing how many there are.

Mele Kalikimaka

IMG_3066
Santa’s Helper!

For Christmas 2017, my family decided to meet in a tropical location since the past two Christmases have been ski vacations.  Since Zika is endemic in many tropical areas, Hawaii was one of the few Zika-free places we could go.  Twist my rubber arm!

IMG_3054
Diamond Head, Waikiki

My parents booked a house near Hanalei, Kauai which was awesome because the North Shore is my favorite part of the island.  We were between Hanalei and the Na’pali Coast so it was a really awesome location.  On the way, I had a several hour layover in Honolulu so I went to Waikiki.  It was beautiful!

I walked on the beach and stopped at The House Without a Key in the Halekulani Hotel.  I had a few drinks while listening to Hawaiian music.  It was so idyllic!  I also have a new tropical drink favorite.  Move over Pina Colada, meet Hale Passion (Rum, Passion Fruit, Almond, Coconut, Light Cream)!

Continue reading “Mele Kalikimaka”

Switzerland Day 9: Gimmelwald-Grindelwald

After the Via Ferrata ended in Gimmelwald, we walked around for a bit in Gimmelwald. I had heard it was Rick Steeves favorite Swiss village and while I get it, I also don’t.  It’s really quiet and idyllic but why this village over another in the area?  IDK.  But it was very pretty but fairly quickly, we saw the village and hopped on the funicular to Mürren.

lauterbrunnen-valley-view-from-jungfrau-railway-xl
I know this is cliche, but this photo does not even come close to capturing the incredible beauty.  Source

We took the train from Mürren to Wegen to Kleine Schdeigg.  The train ride was amazingly beautiful with an incredible, gorgeous view of Lauterbrunnen Valley and the 400 foot waterfall.  I was trying to take it all in, but somewhat distracted by realizing we had to pay a small supplement for that part of the train.  Although the conductor told me to enjoy the view and he would come back, I felt a little stressed trying to find exact change in CHF.  If I ever go back, I would like to see it stress-free and two, I would probably want to hike to a little overlook and just sit and look at the view.  It really was amazing.

IMG_8497
View from our window- Eiger Mountain, I think?

We got off the train at Kleine Schdeigg and hiked down to Grindelwald, passing the famed Eiger mountain along the way.  Along the way, we stopped at Alpizen for beer and a berry tart with the most amazing whipped cream.  The hike was really beautiful and I’m sure I took pictures, but I can’t find them.  We arrived in Grindelwald and to the 22 bus to Naturfriend haus, a hotel/hostel that was really nice and overlooked the village.  There was a laundry facility (5 CHF wash, 3 CHF dry).  We had made arrangements to eat dinner there and we enjoyed a really nice meal of bread, salad with salami and melon, bright yellow curried chicken and rice and finished off with ice cream.  Showers that night felt great and we were ready for the next phase of our trip, Ticino!

 

Switzerland, Day 9: Klettersteig Via Ferrata (Mürren-Gimmelwald)

IMG_8445

When we were planning the trip, it was really important to SMS that we do a Via Ferrata, or Iron Path.  There are several in the Alps and, basically, you walk on the side of a cliff along hammered in rungs while double-clipped into a steel cable.  When you get to an iron stake securing the cable to the rock wall, you unclip and reclip one at a time so you always have one contact point.

Both of us thought it sounded really cool and it was a high priority. The easiest way to do it is to rent the equipment from a local outdoor store since the setup is different than a regular climbing harness.  Basically, it’s two carabiners each on a slightly springy energy absorbing lanyard, both attached to a climbing harness.  We rented the equipment the night before because we wanted to start before less-experienced people got on the trail.  Each morning, the store has a rush of customers when it first opens at 9 but by going within about an hour of closing the day prior, the woman had no problem renting us the equipment for a 1-day price.  This is only possible if you don’t need a lesson on the equipment, which I highly recommend if you feel unsure!

Via overview
Source

We got on the Via Ferrata around 8.  We had it to ourselves, apart from three other people- all young men who were zipping along.  The Via Ferrata starts in Mürren and descends to Gimmelwald.  There are multiple rungs hammered into the cliff, narrow trails, multiple ladders and two bridges along the way.  Local guides have access to a lockbox that allows a climber to zipline across one of the gorges but for people on their own, there is an equally cool (cooler, even?) 3 cable bridge.

IMG_8475

I had so much fun although my sporadic fear of heights kicked in on the Nepal bridge.  The initial part had handrails that were too high so I was just walking on an unstable planked narrow bridge.  Ack!  Don’t worry, I was definitely attached via the gear but I just really wanted to hold on with my hands too!

The Via descends over the course so it’s not too strenuous.  The biggest factor is going to be comfort with the equipment.  There are also outings and guides for hire, so don’t let inexperience stop you.  It is really fun and an incredible way to see one of the most beautiful valleys in Switzerland!  We were done by mid-morning and continued our day by traveling to Grindelwald.  See the next post!

The photos below are roughly in sequence on what you’ll see along the way (well, SMS won’t be there but you know, the trail!)…

IMG_8423
Near the Start, secured to the cable
IMG_8432
Base jumping station.  SMS was braver than I was.  Even secured in place, I thought “Hell no am I getting close to that edge.”  Base jumping scares me!
IMG_8441
Hanging loose!
IMG_8459
Tyrolienne (Zip Line nearby)
IMG_8474
More trail-like
IMG_8477
Steep ladders!
IMG_8486
Nepal bridge

Switzerland, Day 8: Bundalp – Griesalp – Interlaken – Mürren

IMG_8396

We woke up with twenty of our newest, closest friends and got ready for the day.  We had a trekker’s breakfast of muessli and bread- v. carb heavy!  We headed down towards Bundalp, starting over a few hundred meters of snow.  Fortunately, there was a rope and the very side of the path next to the rock was partially bare rock so we made it even though our shoes weren’t the best.

We stopped at a dairy along the way and bought some Alpkase, fresh (raw?) cheese that we bought from the farmer and ate at a picnic table.  It was heart-shaped- tasty and cute!  We stopped at the dairy shortly after we had a discussion as to whether to hike over another pass to Mürren or go to Griesalp and take the bus-train combo to Mürren.  I really wanted to hike but SMS felt we had already seen the type of terrain and experienced the somewhat barren hike and he didn’t want to have a repeat adventure.  I pouted and was bummed out but the dairy quickly lifted my spirits.  I realized that our chosen way was a lot more fun and SMS was right.

IMG_8406

I perked up even more as the hike became more and more beautiful.  We walked through gorgeous meadows and pastures and really, it was almost other-worldly beautiful.  We stopped at Berghaus Bundalp and had coffee and Hobelkäse.  We talked to one of the waiters/family members who said we were on “the most beautiful way” to Griesalp.  He had recently been in Miami and, although he said he liked the U.S, he asked why would he want to be anywhere else but here when it was so beautiful.  He definitely had a point!

After our second cheese stop of the morning, we continued on through fields, farms and pastures.  We saw herds of sheep, goats and cows.  One little goat was bleeting on the side of the cliff.  I wanted to help it but as SMS pointed out, we weren’t really that well-equipped plus the goat would jump down when it got hungry or thirsty (it really wasn’t that high up).

We walked by landslides and glacier-created rock formations, which was pretty cool.  We meandered into Griesalp, speeding up a bit when I heard the beep of a PostBus.  We were so lucky!  We made it with four minutes to spare, completely unaware of the timetable.  If we had missed it, we would have been waiting about two more hours!

We then had several connnections, with bus-train-train-train on our way to Mürren.  It was very easy with short layovers.  We took advantage of 30 minutes in Interlaken Oest by hopping into the connecting river between the lakes.  The water felt amazing and we felt very joyful and happy!

When we got to Mürren, we were very thankful for our shower.  We walked around quite a bit and rented gear for our Via Ferrata adventure the next day.  We ate at the hotel and then went to bed, exhausted.

Switzerland, Day 7: Blüemlisalphütte

IMG_8383

We woke up, very excited to begin our hut-to-hut hiking adventure.  We picked up our laundry from Womy- 25 CHF for a shopping bag full.  We took the train to Kandersteg and then sent our suitcase ahead for pick-up two days later.  It cost 12 CHF and was one of the better bargains of the trip!   That way, we only hiked with two small backpacks.

IMG_8389

Our destination was Blüemlisalphütte, a mountain hut at 2,840 meters.  We took the funicular up to Lake Oeschinensee (1600 m) to save a little bit of time.  We started hiking around 1330 and arrived around 1700. The hike was really interesting.  We hiked around the lake and then up into high pastures.  Then the trail turned very gravelly and vegetation went away.  It looked like the moon.  Across the valley, we could see a large glacier field.  It turned out that a lot of overnighters at the hut were there for traversing that ridge and/or ice climbing.  There was a separate ice-climber room since they all got up around 0300 to set out and climb while the ice was still firm.

IMG_8390

Back to the hike.  We could see the hut about 2/3 of the way there and it stayed stubbornly far away for another hour.  Finally, we got there.  It was a great experience but a little tiring!  I promptly bought a beer when we got to the hut- SMS had water.  Probably smarter but definitely less delicious 🙂  At dinner, we sat at a table with 3 Swiss and 1 Austrian men.  2 were alpinists and 2 were father-son hikers recreating a hike the father had done 3 decades prior.  We were glad to talk to them because they said the snow field that covered the first part of our planned hike the next day was actually quite small and there was a rope to hold onto.  Phew!

Dinner consisted of soup, salad, sausage and rice, and plum pudding.  The food was super salty, which was probably beneficial for everyone’s athletic pursuits.  We went to bed fairly soon after dinner.  The bedrooms were communal, with two long racks with mats laid out.  SMS and I slept next to each other but to either side were complete strangers.  Very close quarters but a cool and different experience.  We used our sleep sacks and slept fairly well.

Russian Gulch and Pt. Cabrillo and Pt. Arena Lighthouses

On Sunday, SMS and I continued our Mendocino County adventure.  After we packed up, we walked around Mendocino Highlands for a bit.  It was so windy and I think SMS was a little over it, but I wanted to check out the Northern part.  Yes, it did look the same as the rest but it was all so beautiful that I couldn’t help but want to explore.

Russian Gulch Waterfall

On the way to the hike, I wanted to stop at Pt. Cabrillo lighthouse.  It was cute and we toured the museum, a preserved assistant light keeper’s house.  The lighthouse was only open on the ground floor.  The views were spectacular and the lighthouse and surrounding buildings (including cabins you can stay in) were very cute with their red roofs.

My best picture of the day- with a real camera, not an iPhone!

Our main focus for the morning was the Russian Gulch State Park.  I had read about a 36 foot waterfall so we decided to check it out.  There’s a pretty easy hike along a fairly level trail.  The loop is about 6.4 miles but we took the shorter part of the loop in-and-out for 5 miles total.  While the forest is pretty and it was nice to hear the creek along the way, the highlight was the waterfall.  It was very beautiful.  It was pretty amazing that such a seemingly small creek could cause that big of a cascade.  We took a few artsy photos since SMS had his camera gear.  That was actually pretty fun because we were iPhone-less for the weekend so I had to count in my head to measure his exposure times.  He hasn’t developed his film yet so I’m not sure how well I did, but I hope it turned out alright!

The blowhole

At Russian Gulch, there’s also a blowhole.  It’s basically a big sinkhole with a fence around it to protect people from falling in.  It wasn’t as dramatic as Hawaiian blowholes I’ve seen, but it’s probably pretty cool during high tides and storms.

A banana slug!  SMS spotted it and I was very excited to see one!

A tree overgrowing the stump of another, older tree.  It reminded
me of a Cambodian temple!

After the hike, we stopped at Frankie’s Pizza.  Despite glowing reviews I read before the weekend, I thought it was fine.  Nothing special but since it’s pizza, it was still a pretty nice lunch!  Frankie’s also has a sugarcane mushroom ice cream that’s worth trying for the novelty.  It tastes a lot like butter pecan.

Pt Arena Lighthouse and our Prius!

Then we started along Route 1 on a meandering trip back home.  We stopped at Pt Arena lighthouse, just making it before 3:30.  This meant that we could go to the top of the lighthouse although our squeaking in under the wire earned us an eyeroll from the docent.  Who cares!  We ran up the 151 stairs and got a nice 5 minutes up in the tower where we heard about local history from a local Native American and just kind of looked out on our own.

CAPT SMS, up in the lighthouse keeping watch

After that, we just headed home on a beautiful scenic road.  North of Jenner, the hills were a vibrant green and looked beautiful in the golden hours.  No pictures except mental ones but it was really beautiful.  We stopped in the Marina district in San Francisco for dinner.  We were a little wishy washy about where we wanted to eat but then we saw Saiwalk.  It’s a Vietnamese street food restaurant and after so much time in the (not so) chilly wind, pho sounded awesome.  It was pretty tasty, filling and reasonably priced so we were happy.  Then it was homeward bound.