Reflecting on 2020

Since 2011, I’ve used this list to help reflect back on the year.  I really enjoy looking back while preparing to move forward. So…

1. What did you do in 2020 that you’d never done before?

Got vaccinated against COVID!

2.  Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I did ok!  I feel pretty happy with my betterment efforts although there is still work to be done. To pick a small area, I am happy with how much I read this past year (67 books!) but I will make a much more concerted effort at reading more non-fiction!

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

My sister! (Repeat from last year.  Go B!)

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No.  

5. What countries did you visit?

Ouch.  Oh 2020, what could have been.

6. What would you like to have in 2021 that you lacked in 2020?

International travel!

7. What dates from 2020 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

March 23: I was supposed to go to Norfolk for a one week surgical visit and instead, I was on the USNS Mercy response to the Port of Los Angeles!

April 2: On the Mercy for my 40th birthday.

August 21: Our housing offer went bottoms up

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

SMS and I navigated a tough Fall.  I 100% realize that we are still very fortunate in our lives but August and September were rough.  

9. What was your biggest failure?

Well, it’s not really a failure but I do feel a little stuck in my job if I want to advance from a research or military rank perspective.  But more opportunities should open in 2021 assuming that things will, in fact, start to get back to “normal.”

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

My right shoulder for a bit.  And I think I’ve avoided being sick with COVID.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

SMS Christmas present- a pair of special sneakers.  I might realize the high of being a sneakerhead!

12. Where did most of your money go?

Rent/Two Households for 2/3 year.  Real estate debacle. Savings account.

13. What did you get really excited about?

SMS and I have had a great time being together in SD.

14. What song will always remind you of 2020?

“Savage” by Megan Thee Stallion.  And let’s be real, W.A.P. made quite a splash :]

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:

– happier or sadder? Same.  Pretty happy.

– thinner or fatter? A little thinner

– richer or poorer? Poorer (real estate debacle)

16. What’s one thing you wish you had done more of?

Non-fiction reading!

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Phone-scrolling.  Gossip site reading during the second half of the year- I was so good the first third! (Argh, this is a repeat.  Will do better in 2021!)

18. How did you spend Christmas?

With family.

19. What was your favorite TV program?

Call My Agent (Pour Deux Percent) Seasons 1-3; Pandemic; The Queen’s Gambit; Insecure Season 4; Unorthodox

20. What were your favorite books of the year?

Olive, Again by Strout; The Dearly Beloved by Wall; City of Girls by Gilbert; Celine by Heller; Writers & Lovers by King; Cork Dork by Bosker; Milkman by Burns; Deacon King Kong by McBride; Girl, Woman, Other by Evarist; Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Wilkerson

21. What was your favorite music from this year?

“Dance Monkey” by the Tones and I.  Hahahahaha

BTS, “Rain on Me,” Dua Lipa, Mabel, Emili Sandé

And one of my last workouts featured “Wait Til You See My Smile” by Alicia Keys is really beautiful, even if it’s from 2009.

22. What were your favorite films of the year?

I watch so few movies that, shamefully, my favorite of the year was Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.  I thought The Social Dilemma was a huge missed opportunity and about 40% of the “documentary” was a super-cheesy Hallmark-like film.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

40.  On the USNS Mercy.  I mostly tried to avoid anyone knowing it was my birthday.  

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

No COVID.  Is that too glib?  Yes, but it’s also true.

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2020?

I am all in on the joggers trend and recently bought a huge sweater.   When I wear it, SMS calls me Dobby the House Elf (not in a good way but I don’t care!)

26. What kept you sane?

SMS and my family!

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2020

The power of social justice and hoping/believing/acting that the moral arc of the universe truly does bend towards justice.

qMonth Post

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

It’s been a warm Fall and very botanically-oriented. SMS has developed a keen interest in native Southern California gardens. The beauty of them is…subtle. While many might just see piles of sticks, true visionaries see beauty, sustainability, (tiny) flowers, and hummingbird attractors. We went to a few native gardens in the local area, to include one in Point Loma and the one in Morley Field. The later was a demonstration garden that gets watered frequently so has a much shorter dormant (read: stick-like) period. We talked to the gardener there for a bit. He was slightly eccentric and knew a lot about the plants.

After our garden tour, we went to Mission Hills to walk through the neighborhood. We had coffee and quiche at Kettle and Stone, a cute coffeeshop with an awesome succulent/moss wall frame.

I also tried to rehabilitate my raphis palm that did not take well to not being watered for two weeks. Oops. It will come back, I know it!

Little native garden seedlings at my feet- San Diego Sunflower and mint!

SMS and I went to North County to pick up some Native plants and pick up some pizza from Blue Ribbon Pizzeria. It was a fun field trip and both of us decided we could definitely handle living in North County!

We also went to a few outdoor wine tastings. I really liked the vibe at Grant James. It’s definitely unpretentious and their wines are really good! Who wouldn’t love a wine tasting with beer pong vibes?

Wine tasting at Wiens Family winery

We also had a family outdoor lunch followed by a tasting at Wiens winery. With a name like that, I think your professional destiny is pre-ordained.

Halloween decorations, 2020 style!

I did micro-Halloween decorating. I have a cute figurine from Linda, but SMS is against too many seasonal decorating items. And since we are a little squished in the apartment, I agree for now!

C-bird’s new favorite toy.
Colorful native garden plants. These I can get behind!
Flaming dessert to celebrate my MIL’s birthday!
SMS, hitting the trail!

Highlights: November 2019

Another month mash-up!  At the beginning of the month, SMS and I took a walk over to the Cantor Arts Center.  We enjoyed the temporary exhibit West x Southwest: Edward Weston and Ansel Adams.  We also looked at the objects in the “Melancholy Museum,” an organized presentation of many items collected by Leland Stanford the III, the only child of Leland Stanford, Jr. and who died at the age of 16 from typhoid.  The pictures above are the death masks of the three Stanfords (macabre!) and on the left, an Ansel Adams picture.  Mrs. Stanford’s death story is especially interesting since she was poisoned twice and the second time, died.  She was murdered and it is an unsolved crime!!!

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I went to UCSD for Grand Rounds during the week and decided to document this statue’s ignominy of getting constantly crapped on by birds.

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SMS gave me this cool mug!  Thank you!!!

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Haha, the perils of taking your questions to the internet!

SMS and I spent the weekend in Newport.  I got a breakfast-in-a-glass Bloody Mary and had SMS take a picture in front of Birdie to show to the paraquitos!

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Newport Beach, CA

 

The next weekend, I took a few days off of work for a family vacation.  First, I stayed with my grandfather in Stuart, FL for  a few days which was really relaxing and fun.  My grandfather just became a Bridge Master, so I took a picture of his trophy glass.  I also took a picture of the many panic button lanyards at the gym…hazards of working out when older but hey, it’s good to be alive and kicking, just not on the floor unable to get up.

Then I drove down to Bay Harbour/North Miami for a family wedding, Dad’s side.  On the way, I stopped for lunch and a quick walk at the Morikami Museum.  The Japanese gardens were gorgeous.  I enjoyed lunch on an outdoor deck and during that time, I decided I really liked Southern Florida in November!

I was the only one of my immediate family who could make it and since my cousins had been great in coming to our weddings, I wanted to show up for theirs.  It was absolutely beautiful with a ceremony on the beach and the reception indoors at the Four Seasons.

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Selfie with my aunt and uncle who still tell me stories about when I would sleep over at their apartment in NYC, circa 1985.

On the way back, I connected through Chicago which meant I could get a margarita roadie to go while making my way across the airport.  Yeah, I really needed that!  *Eyeroll*  But how can I stay away from Rick Bayless?!?!  I also met a woman who has a “real” company and a “fun” company.  We talked about her “fun” company, which specializes in cashmere onesies.  She was rocking one herself and both the flight attendant and I thought it was wonderful.  It’s pricy but so tempting!  Don’t worry, have still resisted temptation…so far!

I arrived home to a full apartment since our friends were visiting.  The A family had a crazy-busy San Diego itinerary- they went to the Zoo, Safari Park, Legoland, AND SeaWorld!  I worked during the week, but we would meet up afterwards for dinner.  On Wednesday, I watched Ishaan while the parents had a date night.  Even though Ishaan and I had fun, I am no match in the popularity contest once SMS arrives!

Yes, Ishaan made SMS a poster and we picked him up from the airport.  On the way back, we stopped at the Spruce St suspension bridge, which made Ishaan a little nervous.

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The next day, we all went to La Jolla for lunch at the Taco Stand (so good!), followed by a trip down to the Cove and the Children’s Beach, now overrun by sunbathing seals.

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Drinks in La Jolla!

Afterwards, we went to Cabrillo National Monument and walked around the tide pools at sunset.  It was beautiful!

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Gorgeous!

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Dos amigos!

We went to the top to overlook San Diego and saw a really cool focal rain storm.  It was hard to capture on camera, but we did our best!

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We met up with John at Craft & Commerce, which everyone enjoyed.  Jyotsna ranked their cocktails slightly higher than Herb & Wood, but thought both places were amazing.

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Finally, SMS and I found a new-to-us restaurant, A Taste of Denmark.  Their smørrebrøds, with homemade multigrain bread, were on point!  The herring was my favorite.

To end the month, SMS and I took a walk through the Hotel Del to look at the Christmas decorations.  We also caught a beautiful sunset from the beach.

Highlights: June 2019

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The highlight of June was spending our anniversary together!  8 June…Happy Anniversary SMS!  6 years!  He bought me beautiful flowers, which are barely done any justice by the photo above.

We spent the day in San Francisco, walking around on a gorgeous day.  Towards the end of the afternoon, we headed over to Rich Table to wait in line for a walk-in seating.  [Edit: Lie!] We barely made it but we were seated.  The line-waiting was slightly stressful because there was a clear line.  Then people who arrived right before the restaurant opened lined up on the other side of the door from where the original line was.  It all ended up working out but the last 5 minutes was a little weird.  I think a few of the people had a reservation while there was also a couple definitely trying to skip the line, which doesn’t work all that well in front of a bunch of people who are waiting.

 

All was forgotten though once we were seated.  The food was amazing!  The menu changes but there are a few standards that are raved about in the reviews.  The dried porcini doughnuts with raclette drizzle were so good.  They may have been my favorite!  The sardine chip, horseradish, creme fraiche was very cool-looking, with the potato chip cut so the sardine fillet could lie in it as if it were belted in by a potato chip belt.  Mmm, that sounds delicious, a potato chip belt!  Although the execution was cool, it’s not necessarily something I’d get again- I would branch out to something else on the menu.  We ordered four oysters with an excellent mignonette, which was already portioned out.  The two dishes below were from the seasonal menu and I can’t quite remember what they are…blog fail!  It looks like one is a burrata-cheese puff and I’m pretty sure the other is a hamachi sashimi dish.  Oh, man.  I want to go back so badly.  I just looked up reservations online and, well, 10 p.m. seems to be a widely available time.  Sniff.  We’ll have to do the stressful bar line again.   But now I’ll know it’s worth it!

[EDIT: These paragraphs are lies!  The line-waiting of Rich Table is real but it happened in July.  The green sentences are the only thing that applies to this meal which happened at State Bird Provisions!  Sheesh!]

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Rich Table Amazingness

Food coma June extended to the next weekend since I went to Boston for a conference.  The first night, I went into the city by myself and treated myself to an incredible dinner at Neptune Oyster.  It has gotten really popular and seems somewhat touristy.  In another it-pays-to-have-connections moment, I totally saw a group of 6 get seated right away since the ringleader clearly knew the owner.  It was another weird line scenario because I was in the doorway for 45 minutes at the front of the line without any acknowledgement from the hostess.  Like, at all.  But I knew she knew I was there so I just held tight and patience was rewarded!  It looks like the keep the first two bar sets open for single diners so after I finally got my name on the list, it was only another 20-30 minutes before I got in.  And I ordered a feast!

 

I ordered 12 oysters and the razorback clam cocktail.  The oysters were so fresh and I tasted the one each from the menu.  I liked the West Coast and one local oyster the best.  The razorback clam was another local bivalve and was also tasty.  I would probably try something different next time just to get another experience but if you’ve never had it before, I recommend it!

So, for the entree, I was torn between the lobster roll and the daily special, sea urchin bucatini.  I had the Neptune lobster roll before and it is amazing.  Going into the night, that’s definitely what I thought I’d get but when I saw that daily special…I thought if one place would get sea urchin right (it has to be super fresh to be delicious), it would be Neptune.  And I was right!  The dish was insanely good.  If I’m there on a Tuesday again, this is definitely what I would order!

 

The next night, my colleague and I went into the city to watch a Red Sox game.  Apparently, he is known for getting ice cream in a helmet sundaes because when we texted two of our other friends/colleagues, one immediately texted back, “Ice cream?!?!”  We got amazing seats due to a military connection.  Initially, the guy told us that the military seats were standing room only, which we said was fine.  Right before he was about to print those out, he said, “Oh yeah, someone turned in tickets to give to military members.”  It was already in the second inning so I guess we would do!

It was a lot colder than I was expecting so I bought a sweatshirt.  Sorry, Dad, all they had were Red Sox!  I bought the kid’s sweatshirt on a discount so I didn’t give Red Sox Nation too much money!

 

The conference itself was pretty good.  A lot of research structure talks which got a little tiresome but there were a few really interesting groups I got to talk to.  We were out in Lexington near Lincoln Labs where we had an amazing tour! I missed the final overnight in Boston proper in order to get back to the Chief’s Dinner at work.  It turned out to be worth it because one, the event was great and the videos were very funny and two, I was awarded Teacher of the Year by the residents!  What an honor!  I was really happy and humbled.

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After an amazing start to the month, I started to get ready for my upcoming move.  I sold the couch set and after checking with Mom and Dad as to whether they wanted the money (no!), I bought myself an Occulus Rift.  It is a computer base station-less VR headset. I love it although I pretty much only use it to play BeatSaber.  The first video shows how cool you feel playing, the second video shows how lame you look playing it.

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I started the apartment cleaning process, which was painful but that it mostly a July discussion.  I did move out of my office to allow for the switching office shuffle to occur.  For the rest of my time, I was in a spare office, which was fine. I am including a picture of my cleaned out main office because it ended up looking great!

Highlights: May 2019

Well, my daily posting resolution lasted um, not so long.  But it’s time to catch up on this blog so my method of choice will be monthly recaps!  First up, May!  After a travel-filled April, May was a lot less busy.  I got back and the birds were still alive thanks to their favorite bird-sitter Will.  Will is the bird-lover who was nice enough to leave parakeet ornaments when he birdsat over Christmas last year.  The birds acted like I had never been gone, mostly because they just ignore me in general.

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Elizabeth River flooding

I finished up with my Orange Theory membership, which I liked but given my upcoming travels and move, it was time to say goodbye.  I transitioned to running outdoors (albeit, less often) and here’s a picture of the Elizabeth River cresting over its bank during high tide.  This is a fairly regular occurrence.

On May 18, I went to a family funeral for my Mom’s cousin and my “aunt” whose husband passed away unexpectedly.  Irish funerals are interesting since the sad occasion is honored by throwing a party and celebrating the life.  A lot of extended family came to the Virginia Beach area.  Both brothers came with their families and it was great to see them.

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SMS!

The weekend afterwards, I saw this guy!  I traveled out to Newport Beach to see SMS for Memorial Day weekend.  I arrived earlier in the day than he did so I walked around and treated myself to a Bueno Bowl at Alta Coffee.  It is so good!

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Bueno Bowl!

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Happy Memorial Day!

On Saturday, Mark’s best friend drove up from San Diego with his family.  We had an awesome lunch at the Lido Bottle Works.  The beers on tap were varied and interesting and the food was good.  The highlight, though, was the covered patio on the most perfect weather day.  Living in Southern CA is delightful!

We end the month with two baby pictures.  Above, L is looking around cutely with her big anime-like eyes while H, below, is upset that she keeps being given a plastic ring instead of food.  Life is rough, kid!

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