Birthday Weekend, Part I: Alameda and Oakland

I had the most amazing birthday weekend!  Per the agreement with my mother, I am now 21+ while she is 29+.  We’ll have to talk to Brady to work her into the equation but right now, things seem fair.

Oakland Alley

So.  Saturday was my birthday but the whole weekend was awesome.  On Thursday, my parents flew into town and I picked them up at SJC.  I drove them home and headed into work for afternoon clinic.  I managed to sneak out a few minutes early and we went to Shellshock for the $1 oyster happy hour.  I learned something new about my Mom.  She doesn’t like raw oysters.  Oh, well, there were plenty of other delicious items on the menu.  SMS met up with us a little later since he has a real job and the four of us had a great time hanging out.  We stayed for awhile, headed back to the house, had a night cap and went to bed.

Dad’s old hanger is actually 21, but this is a nice picture of the best parents ever!

The next day, I took the day off and I hung out with my parents.  Although it would have been awesome if SMS could have hung out with us, he’s trying to build up his vacation days.  Mom, Dad and I headed to Alameda where we lived from 1987-1989.  We passed by our old house, which is in slight disrepair.   They were surprised to see it since they were told it was demolished after the 1989 earthquake.  We headed toward the runway where Dad tried to figure out which hanger was his old squadron.  He figured out that it was the one that now houses St. George’s spirits where we celebrated by having a tasting.  The spirits were good as were Dad’s reminiscences.  

Swan’s Market, full of deliciousness!

We stopped by the Alameda Naval History museum which, unfortunately, is only open on Saturdays and Sundays.  So, off to lunch at Swan’s Market in Oakland. I had never been and it was absolutely fantastic!  There are several terrific restaurants/food stands/standalone shops crowded into a larger market building.  I think Dad won the ordering competition with his incredible meatball sub but I wasn’t too far behind with an arugula/farro/cucumber/almond/grapefruit/avocado/soft-boiled egg/lemon-anchovy vinaigrette/pecorino salad.  Yum!  We both got our dishes from the Hen House and I would definitely go back!


Mom ordered a lunch set from B-Dama which was fine, but not what she was expecting.  It was a Japanese-style lunch set but with American portions.  She ordered the karage, or fried chicken, but instead of popcorn-style fried chicken, it was basically super-fried and breaded chicken wings. I wasn’t super-fond of the miso broth, which was quite fishy/clammy.

Oh yes.  All is right with the world.

Since we had already eaten plenty of food, the obvious place to go was Fenton’s, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor that Dad took us to a fair amount when we were kids.  We ordered sundaes that were so good!  Afterwards, we were in a slight sugar coma but it was totally worth it!

We headed back down to Mountain View to meet up with SMS.  We hung out at the apartment for a bit before going out to dinner.  Since Mom and Dad had never been to In & Out, we decided to have our dinner there.  Mom knew In & Out as “the place Adele goes when she’s depressed her piano’s out of tune” but afterwards, she knew it as the place with Animal-style fries!

Then it was time to hit the road for Napa.  I had rented an awesome cottage on AirBnB and we had big plans for the next day.  The cottage was absolutely beautiful and an amazing place to stay.  We went to bed and we all slept very well!

Weekend: Mt Diablo Hike and Jack London Square

This weekend was a lot of fun.  SMS and I were pretty mellow since we have a big weekend planned next weekend when Mom and Dad come to visit!!!!  Hooray!

Coffee purchase by SMS
On Friday, SMS made a delicious baked egg dish in our little ramekins.  Sometimes I feel like we rediscover a way to cook things and I think ramekins will be showing up with more frequency in the near future!
Saturday, SMS and I went to the Mountain View Running Club Saturday run.  We talked to a lot of nice people both during the run (3.5 miles) and afterward at Starbucks.  I’m so glad SMS came.  We’re going to be doing more running and hiking in preparation for Summer adventures!  The afternoon was pretty lazy.  That evening, we met up with a really nice couple for dinner at Doppio Zero.  I had met the woman at my book club and got along really well so we decided to meet up for dinner.  It could have gone poorly but I think everyone had a really nice time.
Flowers along the trail

Sights along the trail- do you see the turkey in the top left picture?  We even saw him flying, which looked as
ungraceful as I would have imagined if I had ever thought of a turkey flying.

 SMS planned our Sunday adventure.  He found a great book detailing local hikes and he decided we’d do the Mt. Diablo State Park Donner Canyon Waterfall Loop.  This time of year, the wildflowers are out and it’s not too hot so…perfect!  The hike is a little over 5.5 miles with some decent inclines.  It was beautiful and we really enjoyed ourselves.  There were a fair number of people out but not uncomfortably so.

Waterfalls along the trail
Afterward, we headed into Oakland and explored Jack London Square.  The day was gorgeous and we sat outside for awhile for lunch at !!!Plank, a restaurant/bocce ball/bowling alley/arcade.  It was a really cool place and would be really nice for a group event.  After lunch, we played a couple rounds of SkeeBall and one round of Air Hockey.  
We headed home afterward and have just been enjoying the tail end of the weekend.  I have some exciting work research plans in preparation for my next job so I’ll be working on that for the next three months.  

Vance Joy Oakland Concert

Vance Joy, with opening acts Jamie Lawson and Elle King, played a sold-out show at the art-deco Fox Theatre in Oakland on Saturday, 27 Feb.  It was an all-ages show and as Elle King said, “Raise your hands if you’re over 21….What are you doing here?!”  All three acts had solid performances, although I definitely had a favorite.

SMS and I walked in just after Jamie Lawson had started.  He had a small, self-supported background  of his name separating him from the rest of the stage, which had a huge backdrop of VANCE JOY.  He played an acoustic set composed of mid-tempo songs with very sweet lyrics.  The cynic among us would use slightly more negative words such as “saccharine” or “sappy” but boo on that person!  Who wants a negative vibe 😉  Jamie Lawson has done well in Great Britain and hopes to break into the US scene more.  He’s got a good start by having a solo tour starting in May so best of luck to him.

Elle King totally rocked.  She was extremely adept at sassy stage banter and really livened up the crowd.  She opened up with “Where the Devil Won’t Go,” which was awesome and high-energy.  She free-styled a little musical interlude while waiting for the banjo to be trouble-shooted since initially, it wasn’t miked properly (a replacement cord fixed the problem).  Everyone thought her lyrics were great, mostly because “Oakland” was rhymed with “rule” and “cool” so the concert-goers felt good about themselves.  Seriously, it was a pretty funny improv and definitely a testament to her stage presence and showmanship.  It was fairly clear that she’s a little over singing “Ex’s and Ohs,” but she still delivered.  I heard one of my favorite live mash-ups ever from here, which was Nick Jonas “Jealous” and The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face.”  It was excellent!  It does reveal my slightly embarrassing pop-music tastes though.

Then, it was time for Vance Joy.  He had a confident stage presence and an excellent back-up band.  His songs are similar in style to Jamie Lawson and without the power of the back-up band, it would have had the same mellow energy.  The thing that struck me the most about his songs is that he uses a falsetto in almost every one to convey vulnerability.  The thing is, his falsetto is not really that good.  I haven’t heard enough of his recordings to hear if it does better in the studio environment, but in the live setting, it’s almost cringe-worthy at times just listening to the vocals alone.  It veers towards a pitchy vibrato that if I was sitting in a coffee shop open mic night, I’d look around for his cheering section and hope that one of them would pull him aside afterwards and say, “Great lyrics, great chord progression….maybe lose the falsetto?”

Vance Joy played an hour-long set, which included an encore of two songs, one unaccompanied acoustic and finally, “The Fire and the Flood,” the tour’s namesake and really well done.   Another highlight was “Call Me Al,” which showed the strength of the back-up band since they did a great job with the back-up vocals and horns, even though the horn section was a lot smaller than Paul Simon’s.

So, overall, solid show.  I wouldn’t buy marked up scalped tickets, but face value would be ok.   I love the Fox Theatre and we don’t go out to concerts that often so it was a nice treat.

Oakland: Follow in the 36 Hours In… Footsteps

On Sunday, SMS and I headed into Oakland for some urban exploring.  We were mostly following recommendations from the “36 Hours In…” article although we planned to end at one of our favorite restaurants, Hopscotch.

Temescal Alley

First, we stopped in the Temescal neighborhood, where we explored the two pedestrian alleys filled with artists’ shops.  As the NYTimes implied, think real-life Etsy.  The shops were pretty cool.  We bought prints from a pop-up shop.  We listened to someone play an electric keyboard/synthesizer and throughout the entire time, we couldn’t quite get the point of the store or its economic viability.  We also went into a florist specializing in succulents.  We bought coffees and capped off our visit with walnut-pecan pie with Molasses Ginger Ice Cream from Curbside Creamery.  It was a pretty cool place and it was fun to check out.  I also talked to Ed on the phone for a bit, which was also great and I’m hoping that he’ll come out and visit at some point.  He also told me a hilarious story from childhood involving “Free Kicks” at soccer practice which, since I have no memory of it, I’m still not completely sure I believe.

Oh!  And an artist whose stuff I’d like to see more of is Meghan Shimek.  No need to write that down, just a note to myself!

Afterwards, we drove over to the Mountain View (holler!) Cemetery (sad trombone!) to check out the Frederick Law Olmsted designed park-like layout. Uh, ok 36 Hours, you go on ahead and recommend a cemetery, I guess.  It wouldn’t be on my list although it was kind of cool that the Chapel of the Chimes outside the gate was designed by Julia Morgan, also famous for designing Hearst Castle.

Near Middle Shoreline “Park”  Nope, nope, nope.

Next, we went to what I think is the worst recommendation on the list.  Granted, it was dark and the area pretty deserted which never makes me think that good things are about to happen, but who recommends a “park” in the middle of a super industrial area/shipyard?  So weird!  It wasn’t even that great a view of the Skyline (don’t worry, we stayed in the car and didn’t stay long just in case the sole person around happened to be Marvin the Mugger).  So, anyway, I dispute the recommendation for Middle Harbor Shoreline Park.  Also, for the hassle of getting there, especially for a carless tourist, there are way better viewpoints, at least in San Francisco, that would be worth traveling to.

Slightly creepy, but I guess sight-impaired accessible, Remember Them monument

After driving by the “park,” we went to Hopscotch for dinner where we shared the Holiday Goose Dinner for Two.  It was fun to try something so new.  The first course was a charcuterie board featuring goose pate and goose prosciutto.  The second course was sous vide goose leg and sous vide  then seared goose breast (yum).  It was delicious and even though I’m not scouring restaurants for my next fix of goose, it was exciting to have such a holiday-themed dinner.  I felt like Tiny Tim!


After dinner, we headed home.  It was a fun Oakland day, even if “36 Hours” articles are sometimes a little weird (don’t get me started on the 36 Hours in San Luis Obispo when really, the article featured the entire Central Coast.  There are rules!  Or if not, there should be!).