3 Day Weekend in Northern California

Collected Letters (2016), Liu Jianhua Installation at the Asian Art Museum, SF

After a half-day of clinic, I raced to the airport and boarded my flight to California.  Several hours later, I was picked up at the airport by SMS, which was such a treat.  Usually I arrive super-late and take a ride-share home but Friday was special!  We headed into Palo Alto and bought tasty salads from Sweetgreens.  We just ordered off the menu although it seemed there were a few pros who could go rogue and create their own!

The next day was a gray overcast day.  I wanted to go hiking but given the rainy past weeks, we thought the trails would be pretty destroyed and we didn’t have the right gear for fun in the mud.  Instead, we decided to drive along the coast between Half-moon Bay and San Francisco.  We hadn’t done that before and SMS wanted to get a better lay of the land so close to our home.

We zipped over the Santa Cruz Mountains on the 84.  It was a fun road with tight turns and moderate climb.  We arrived at the Coast and took a right to head North.  As we approached Half Moon Bay, I realized that Dad’s Luncheonette would be a perfect lunch spot.

Dad’s Luncheonette is a small cafe with the kitchen in an old caboose and a small bar/eating area that is semi-enclosed.  It used to be a hot dog stand but was bought by new owners and turned into a cafe with a small but delicious menu supplemented by a daily special or two.  There’s a cute NYTimes article that goes into more detail.  SMS and I ordered a hamburger sandwich, homemade potato chips, and Mom’s Herb Salad to split. The hamburger was delicious and gone before we knew it.  The potato chips were slightly thick with a great homemade fry texture- mostly crisp but with an occasional softer treat.  The herb salad was amazing and inspires me to throw more fresh herbs into my own salads.  Finally, I added on an order of rose doughnuts (I know!  Why did we pretend we weren’t going to order them?!), which were served piping hot.  They were more beignets than doughnuts served on a base of sweetened whipped cream and drizzled rosewater syrup.  So tasty!

After lunch, we continued our journey up the 1, admiring the scenery along the way.  We stopped at Devil’s Slide Trail where we looked down the steep cliff, which scared me because it seemed so prone to landslides, I wasn’t quite sure what was holding us up!  I wanted to walk along the trail further but it started to sprinkle and someone was acting as if we might melt if we got wet, so back into the car!  (To be far, it was chilly and windy, in addition to the sprinkles.)


In the distance, there was a very decrepit, abandoned house balanced on a packed dirt hill.  There were no signs offering an explanation and it certainly seems like a place that would have an interesting back story!

We ended up in San Francisco in my favorite neighborhood- Outer Sunset!  We went to Andytown Coffee Roasters for my favorite Snowy Plover drink (espresso, sparkling water, and whipped cream for any newer readers)!

We walked around the neighborhood and went to the Three Fish Studio (CA themed prints/letterpress), Mollusk (surf shop), General Store (clothes and housewares), and Blackbird Bookstore (books).  All of these stores have beautiful things.  There is a friendly vibe, along the lines of a friend who will always be so much effortlessly cooler than you that it’s ok, she can be charitable and hang out with you without losing any of her ineffable sangfroid.  This is especially true in Mollusk, which has very boho, shapeless, “is it too sheer?? if you have to ask than yes” clothes that would look awesome on someone, just not me.  Hahaha.

After walking around the neighborhood, we stopped at the 16th St Tiled Steps and took a short, very vertical urban hike to the Grandview park along the beautifully tiled staircase going from sea to stars with a succulent-heavy garden on either side.

Then, we went to the Asian Art Museum for a quick visit where we saw the special exhibit, Kimono refashioned.  It was very cool and I am always amazed at the rich detail in the fabric.  After closing, we headed to Pläj, an amazing restaurant serving delicious food and cocktails!  I had the Swedish Gold cocktail, made with Farallon Gin, Mustard & Dill Shrub, Lemon, Honey, Black Pepper.  It was a delicious, savory cocktail that I tried not to sip too quickly.  I wanted it to last forever!  For dinner, we split the Taste of Herring dish, which featured three kinds of herring preparation: red onion & lingonberry; caviar & dill; and grandma’s classic.  We also had the bread (always a win!) and the Råraka & Caviar featuring potato røsti, skagen cream, anchovies, and Whitefish caviar.  We split sorbet for dessert and since there are still several things on the menu we’d like to try, we will definitely be back!

The next day, we went over to Akshay and Jyotsna’s house for a delicious Bobby Flay-inspired brunch.  Jyostna prepared a delicious feast of whitefish dip/salad, bagels with lox, and assorted accompaniments.  It was great, both to eat and catch up with friends.  They had recently come back from a work/vacation trip to India and my eye was immediately drawn to Jyotsna’s new ring.  So much so, that I am going to get one made!  Matching friend rings!

On Monday, we stayed local without any significant driving.  We went rock climbing with Kat and Michelle, which was fun.  I definitely need to work on my upper body strength so that I can climb more proficiently!  Afterwards, we went to Vino Vivo for a drink before heading our separate ways.  Across the street, the local Macy’s was having a closing sale so Mark and I wandered through.  Neither one of us was in a real shopping mood, so it was a pretty quick trip.  I took a quick look at the bras since they are usually so marked up/expensive but alas, nothing for us ladies smaller than a 42DD.  If you are that size, I know a place where you can stock up!

Later that evening, we went to Watercourse Way where we went to Room 1 for the first time!  It’s the room with a wooden onsen in addition to a cold plunge that felt extra cold and a dry sauna.  It was delightful and my muscles were so happy.

The next day was a work day so it was off to work for SMS and the airport for me.  I hung out in the Centurion Lounge for a bit (yay!) and had a filling, veggie-filled lunch before heading off.  I know it’s an airport lounge, but I seriously love that place!

Finally, over the course of the weekend, I got two runs in- a 9 miler and a 4.5 miler.  The 9 miler was from the apartment, to the Stanford Dish path x 1 loop and back.  It was a beautiful day and I stopped (briefly!) to take some pictures.

Rodin’s Burghers of Calais on the Stanford Campus. One of my favorite statue groupings!
My favorite Burgher


5 Days in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

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.

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.


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.


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!

Jamestown, with and without an “E”


SMS and I spent the Thanksgiving weekend in the Tidewater area of Virginia.  Since we were in such a historic part of the country, we decided to check out the former site of Jamestown, the first permenent English colony in the U.S.  SMS had been there when he was in junior high and remembered the glass blowing demonstration.  I had never been and really didn’t know that much about it which led to the following encounter-

Upon following Google Maps to Jamestown, we pulled into a large parking lot for a museum.  We walked inside, used the bathrooms, and then I went up to the ticket counter.  I was pretty sure we weren’t at the Jamestown site but I wanted to know where to go and since it was already 3 p.m, I wanted to make sure we didn’t go to the wrong place.

Me: “Excuse me, but is this where I buy tickets to Jamestown?”

Ticket lady: “[Loud Audible Sigh]  It’s been a long weekend.  Jamestown DOESN’T EXIST!!! IT HASN’T BEEN HERE SINCE 1624!!!!”

Me (slightly taken aback): “Um, I’m sorry.  But I thought there was a historic site to see?”

Ticket lady: “Look, this is Jamestowne with an ‘e.’  We’re a living history museum.  The archeologic site of Jamestown (which doesn’t exist) is down the road.”

Me: “So, do I need to buy a ticket here?”

Ticket Lady: “No.”

Can’t rain on my ranger parade!

Sheesh.  What a weirdo!  While I was talking to her, she had pulled out a laminated placard showing the difference between Jamestowne with an ‘e’ and Jamestown.  Jamestown is run by the National Park Service, which is great since SMS and I have an annual pass.  That meant we could get in for free, which was perfect since we didn’t have a lot of time.


First, we went to the glassblowing shop which had on-going demonstrations and was really warm from the incredibly hot oven in the center.  This was delightful since it was so cold!  We drove down to the Jamestown site proper, showed our pass, and walked to the artifact museum.  Then, we walked around the fort which hadn’t even been excavated when SMS last visited.  After looking at the fort that didn’t exist, we walked around the Newtown area, which we slightly regretted since it was so cold.  But, hey, we were there so we had to see the sights!


We hopped in the car and had dinner at La Tienda, a Spanish tapas restaurant.  It was delicious!  I wished we had bigger appetites and/or a larger group because there were several dishes I wanted to try.  But, while we were there, the berenjenas con miel and judiones fritos were particular highlights!


Other events from Thanksgiving weekend: I made a delicious but homely looking sweet potato pie.  It suffered in comparison next to my friend’s Cheesecake Factory worthy dessert.  Ah well.

Also, at a local restaurant, SMS had a fruit salad, Southern style: iceberg lettuce, canned fruit in syrup, and shredded cheddar cheese.  We were both slightly confused.  The restaurant is called The Grey Goose.  The doorstop goose out front was missing its head.  Apparently, this has been an ongoing saga where the head keeps getting knocked off despite trying to glue it back on.  The owner has now given up, per a shamelessly eavesdropped conversation on my part.


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!

CA Weekend: Wooden Spoon, Windy Hill, Rose Garden


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.


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.


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.


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.