September 11th

Hi. It’s been awhile and while there is a Summer of catch-up (spoiler alert: not much happened, #COVID) today is 9/11 and not a day to reflect on frivolity. Instead, I’m more interested in a quick flashback and some thoughts which, while not monumental, are mine and I’d like to write them down.

On 9/11/01, I was a senior at Williams College, a prestigious liberal arts school that I was doing well at, although certainly not a shining star. Looking back, I realize that I missed out on the potential that it offered in terms of a potential consulting or Wall Street career, or even an early Silicon Valley entry. But no matter- I knew I wanted to be a doctor since I was 10 years old and I’m so happy with my career. It’s just amazing to me to see me how many other options could have been explored.

So, on 9/11, I was on my way to my senior biology seminar, “Circadian Rhythms and Biological Clocks” (or something to that effect). Even that subject has grown in leaps and bounds since I studied it in 2001. It really is amazing, even though I’ve only kept up with the field peripherally. The seminar was 9-11 a.m. and I was cutting through the student union around 8:45. A news report was on showing smoke coming from one of the Twin Towers. My first thought was confusion- I didn’t think it was the anniversary of the bombing in the ’90s because that had been a Winter day with flurries. What I saw on the screen was a gorgeous cloudless day just like the one that I saw outside in Williamstown, MA. Within a minute, I realized that it was real-time. Even still, the exact situation was unknown and what was known was that I had to get to class. An absence was non-excusable, apart from very limited circumstances.

The professor, whom I don’t remember although I can look it up, called the class to order, specifically saying to focus on matters at hand rather than developing news story. The next week, he briefly but deeply apologized, saying that he had no idea what had actually been happening. In the course of a 90 minutes seminar, the South Tower was hit and both towers collapsed. The world incontrovertibly changed while we were ensconced in a small academic bubble studying the current science in a field that has progressed in leaps and bounds during the following 19 years.

Since then, I’ve finished my career at Williams, followed by a medical career in the U.S. Navy since June, 2002. So much has changed within our country, our culture, our military, and our health care system. While there are deep, and even deepening, political divisions, I draw solace from the fact that overall, I feel we are learning from our circumstances and trying to effect change. I hope we are successful.

Free Wine

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After the Medlock Ames virtual wine tasting, I was on the lookout for similar events.  My father-in-law had mentioned Venge several times when discussing Napa/Sonoma trips so I decided to explore if there were any virtual tasting available.  While Medlock Ames had sampled full bottles that I already had as a wine club member, I was looking for wine tastings where little kits are mailed out with 3 oz pours.  This would be more in line with a normal wine tasting and I had seen a few wineries advertise it.

So, in mid-May, I searched for Venge virtual wine tastings and found an event on 3 June!  Success!  Best daughter-in-law ever!  There was a pretty basic page asking for my name and address, which I filled out.  It was under the domain name Lessonly, which sounded about right.  Wine lessons, Lessonly, online learning- it all fit!  No other information was required so I figured it was a request/mailing list/something?  I wasn’t sure it would work but since no significantly personal information was asked for- no credit card, birthday, etc- I felt ok.

So, out of sight, out of mind until the next week when I got an email from Lessonly saying they were looking forward to the event, but would I mind providing the company I worked for?  I ignored that email, thinking it was a bit weird when, the next day, I received a shipping notification from FedEx that I would have a package the next week.  Specifically, a 22-lb package from Venge.  Uh oh, that’s a lot more than 3 oz wine samplers.  And again, I had not provided any form of payment!

So, I wrote to the woman asking for the company name saying that there may be a mistake in that I thought I was signing up for a routine wine tasting and this seemed to be an industry/corporate event.  Well, to summarize a few emails, it turns out that the wine tasting was a customer appreciation event by Lessonly for its corporate customers.  I think the wine was already paid for and I was told to enjoy the wine, but I wasn’t invited to the actual virtual event (this was said very nicely).  It still seems super-weird to me that a tech company wouldn’t be able to keep out unwanted people from subpages on their website but, *shoulder shrug*, I got wine! Retail value $300+, omg.

I liked the Croix wines the best.  I brought over the Venge to my in-laws’ house where we enjoyed the three.  SMS and I liked the Merlot the best while my father-in-law liked the Cabernet the most.  I wasn’t as big a fan of Venge as some other wines.  I thought they were super-jammy and almost too rich.  But it was still delicious- I just mention my rank order in a way that I would rank a day of wine tastings.  Some places I like better than others but they’re all really good.

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Day 1: Bird Update

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“I’m not stressed, you’re stressed.  Thanks for the playground, BTW.”

I am concerned that the birds fragile nervous systems may lead to their untimely death.  SMS and I have increased their freaked-outedness recently.  They really do get stressed out.  First, SMS scared them due to killing house flies, which have increased a lot in the last week.  Since the process involved sudden movements, loud “thwacks,” and killing of flying things, we’re pretty sure the birds thought they were next.  Although their eyes are small, they seem to weirdly widen and roll around when they’re really freaked out.  They also refuse to go into their cage.  SMS has since developed a more subtle way of killing flies that the birds seem not to notice so they’ve recovered.

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It was time for the poopy mirror to go!

But then I decided to do a deep clean of their cage.  After the great mite outbreak of 2019 after the extended stay in the bird hotel (although to be fair, the fig tree may have been to blame), I have worried when they seem to preen/scratch themselves a lot.  I decided it was time to clean their cages and throw away all their toys.  Boo!  This was an unpopular move in bird land. I sealed the deal by spraying them with mite spray, which they haaate.

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A knitting needle for a perch…a pathetic temporizing measure.

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Amazon, it’s for the birds!

I went guilt-shopping though and bought new toys.  So, now they have a new perch, sitting circle (currently ignored), and a new playground that they love.  Joe-bird has also decided to fly towards the balcony door and hang out.  I fear he may go the way of Edward-bird someday.

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Joe-bird plots an escape…

You know, I used to think birdwatchers were weird and boring.  And now, here we are.

 

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Surrounded by toys and treats…birdie paradise?  Why would Joe-Bird want to go?

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Can’t cage us!

San Diego Quaren-Queen!

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Me on the bow!

What does a blog that mostly focuses on trip reports and travel do when travel is off-the-table for awhile?  Go dark, in this case!  But I want to continue writing so while COVID-19 is limiting travel, I’ll start writing my deepest, darkest, TMI secrets.  I kid.  There is absolutely no way that’s happening.  I have been reading blogs that are on pretty impressive writing streaks so, no time like the present!

After spending the first part of May in a hotel room in LA, I came back by bus on 13 May. The Mercy pulled in on Friday, 15 May and, overall, it’s great to be back.  It’s an honor to serve and be part of a ship whose mission brings so much hope.  It’s also nice to be back home since the surge/backup capabilities of the Mercy weren’t needed- which is a good thing! I’m glad LA didn’t have an overwhelming situation similar to NYC.

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USNS Mercy, back in San Diego (5/15/20)

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We rule the roost!  Deal with it!

You know who else is happy to be home?  The birds.  That may be an overstatement.  They loved my in-laws house.  They seem to tolerate me.  But at least they were good houseguests (by report) and they certainly don’t seem to have missed any meals.  #quarentine15, but maybe in grams.

Things looked pretty good when I got home.  The houseplants and garden looked good, and I have one baby zucchini, one stunted tomato, and lots of blossoms.  Fingers crossed!  I also fixed the internet, aka, waited for the Spectrum Repairman to fix the internet.  Two-part solution: replace the corroded external connector and, when the connection was still dead, replace the modem.  Success!  The internet is now “blazing fast!”

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So many pieces that look the same. Sand!

I have started many quarantine hobbies.  SMS and I are working on a puzzle.  I cannot think of a more mentally draining endeavor.  I sit down enthusiastically and within 5 minutes, I feel like an eye-strained, pattern-blind monster with no energy.  It’s great!

I also made sourdough bread, which turned out pretty well.  Starter thanks go to my sister- and brother-in-law.  I followed the Tartine recipe, which is insane.  I took it one step at a time.  It made for a delicious loaf of bread.  My tips for next time (oh, yes, there will be a next time) are to use my standmixer at the first combined dough step and, biggest thing, use baking flour, not all-purpose.  I mean, the recipe even said this but I had what I had on-hand.

Finally, I bought knitting kits and started the first one.  Now, I’m the proud maker/owner of a cowl, perfect for the start of Summer!

I have read a lot over the last three months.  I watched Call My Agent/Deux Pour Cent, which is an amazing French show about a Parisian talent agency.  I’m trying to figure out a show that SMS and I would both like, but that’s sometimes tough.  The Great is out.  SMS knew that from the period piece costumes alone.  I’ve heard great things about Ozark but we watched the first episode and he thinks it’s a show I’d quit because of violence/nightmares, a là Breaking Bad.  That could happen.  The search continues.

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This past weekend, we extended our quarantine bubble and had a Medlock Ames wine tasting with my in-laws (4 other people, 6 total).  The takeaway lessons were low since it was easy to talk over a Zoom tasting but everyone thought the wines were great.  We also talked about the book Cork Dork and the utility of the Coravin system.

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Finally, I got some super-cool Facemasks as a frontline worker from Mark’s cousin’s company Goldsheep!  They are great and I’m really appreciative to Keri and her team!

More Mercy

Hello from Restriction of Movement (ROM) status!  Since SARS-CoV-2 decided to show up on Day 16 of the mission (boo!), our leaders not only moved quickly to take care of the patients/close contacts, they also decided to minimize the hazards of close quarters shipboard living by sending most of us to hotels.  Today is Day 10 since I moved off the ship the morning of 4/16.

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So, the above picture shows my last lunch on the USNS Mercy and it was delicious!  I’m dining al fresco because one of the initial social distancing measures was putting a mess tent/dining area on the help pad.  It was a gorgeous afternoon.  They must have known we were about to leave for the deliciousness of hotel food and they decided to up their game.

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On 4/16, I woke early for my last Mercy donut 5K.  I was a little slow but I knew that this would be my last chance for awhile.  Gorgeous morning.

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Here I am on the bus with our silly t-shirt masks.  The rules kept changing, which is fine. We’ve never been through anything like this before.  We now have to wear N-95 masks outside of our rooms.

The first hotel I stayed at was the Doubletree Downtown.  It was nice.  The room was a reasonable size and there was a small area that I could roll out my exercise mat.  Each lunch and dinner came with a DoubleTree cookie which is delicious but they are very rude and put the calorie count on the back of the bag.  Why is a cookie that small 330 calories?

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The food was fine, but not great PLUS my friend and I had a craving for delicious food.  The above picture is of my friend Sable (urologist) and I having a socially distanced lunch of Onigiri.  Yum!

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And I had visitors!  Mark’s cousin Amy, her husband Johnny and their son came over.  They were so nice and brought presents!  They are the best and repping their GoldSheep masks, a company owned by another one of Mark’s cousins.  We had to follow ROM rules so I couldn’t invite them in but it was a nice moment of social contact!

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On 18 April, my family had a Zoom promotion ceremony for my brother’s promotion to Major!  Huge news and an amazing achievement.  I had the honor of administering the oath.  It was awesome and we had a great family conversation afterwards.

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The next day, I had an awesome Zoom meeting with my college friends.  It seemed a little touch-and-go based on schedules but it worked out!  We had a great hour-long hangout and it was really special!  What’s also special is my face- thanks for picking the best picture, Karen.

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On the 23rd, a significant number of people were switched to the Westin Bonaventure. Not sure why, but it is nicer and the food is a lot better.  Above, you see my current level of critical decision-making regarding which bed do I sleep in.  Sigh.  I’ll get back into the OR someday.

In the interim, I have been on Instagram a lot.  Popeye the Foodie Dog is an old favorite and fjamie013 is pretty funny with his fulfillment of photoshop requests.

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I have also started to take online Blender tutorials.  My goal is to learn how to use the software package to make medical models off of CT scan DICOM images.  For now, I set monkey heads on fire and make doughnuts (in progress).

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Finally, here’s my cute cloth mask from a general surgeon’s Mom.  He got a lot and offered a mask to all the surgeons in our chat group.  I also have my own care package on the way with Goldsheep– I can’t wait!

 

Mercy, Please!

Hello, from the USNS Mercy!  Here are two very different pictures of me but I’m smiling in both, I swear!  The left is me eating cake on 4/1, a day before my 40th birthday and the day of the Chief’s establishment/birthday.  My birthday was much more wine-free than I would have liked but it will be made up for at some point.  On the right is from today when I decannulated a trach, aka pulled it out.  It was not really a big deal but PPE is a big deal these days so I was protected!

Things have been slow, but this is a good thing!  That is, we’re here to be emergency back-up and LA has it under control.  I am a little bored and wish I were doing more but since elective surgeries are a no-go until at least 1 June throughout DoD, I wouldn’t be doing a lot more back at home.  So, instead, I eat.  Above are a few meals that I’ve had.  A little lacking on the fresh veggies but tasty.  Bonus: no dishes to clean!

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So, how do I keep from looking like James Garretson in Tiger King?  Exercise!  I’ve run a 5K almost every day and I’ve also done a good number of yoga sessions with the urologist.  She’s the only other female surgeon so we call it the Ladies of DSS meeting, usually at 10 am.

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My fastest 5K so far!

I also avoid the ship’s store, which sells unhealthy snacks as shown below:

They are also not good breath friendly, which is tough when we are supposed to wear masks.  We are following the CDC guidelines, meaning cloth masks which we are pretty sure do next to nothing.  But we are an organization of rule-followers so there’s that-

I have also run the ramps:

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I have also run outside, where I sometimes see my friends, mask-free!

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Joseph-bird paid me a visit!!

We keep a running casualty report.  It usually involves the toilets/head:

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The galley has machines with bossy signs, some inscrutable and some obvious:

We also stuffed plastic eggs for Easter.  The eggs were provided by the USO- thank you!

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View from the brow- we are very close to land!

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My new favorite painting:

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Catch-Up and Upcoming Trip

Over the years, I have had sporadic breaks when I wasn’t traveling/I was busy/I was lazy/etc.  There has never been a month break where so much has happened.  I don’t have any deep thoughts about the COVID-19 pandemic but I implore anyone reading to please listen to the experts. By this I mean, CDC, WHO, and the national treasure Dr. Anthony Fauci.  My career is based on science, facts, and a healthy respect for the number of unknowns that exist in our understanding of exactly how our miraculous bodies work.  Acknowledging these unknowns is a sign of humility and strength, not a reason to thereby dismiss everything someone is saying.  Total certainty is impossible and while it’s comforting when someone offers it, it is likely a shallow and fallible.

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So, how has COVID-19 affected me?   Well, I’m embarking on the USNS Mercy to our mission in LA.  While things could always change (and we were told something different up until yesterday afternoon), it seems this will likely be the destination since it was announced by the President.  SMS is here in San Diego and we’ve had a great week together.  Our families are healthy.

Since I do like to document my travels on this blog, I’m going to briefly sum up the last month prior to 12 March or so.  This is not to trivialize the current situation.  As for updates from the Mercy, I will certainly be writing privately.  Not as certain what will be on the blog but I will try!

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SMS and I are social media stars.  Ha, ha, not really.  But we are in Lucid Motor’s promo video from the reveal event.  So, I grabbed a screen capture for posterity!

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Michelle’s cute dog and me!

On 19 Feb, Michelle and I had a ladies of ENT workout and slumber party.  In the evening, we went for a run in the beautiful Del Mar Heights area.  Then, we drank some wine.  Not a lot, but I had planned to stay over so we could workout early (5:15 am) in the morning.  We took an ok aerobics/toning class, followed by an awesome spin class.  Hooray for work colleagues/friends!

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That next weekend, SMS and I went on a hike on 2/23 to Muir Woods.  We went in the “back way” so we could park on the road along a trailhead up Mt. Tam, near the highlighted Mountain home parking.  We went on a 5 mile hike and it was awesome!  There were beautiful redwoods in the gully and, as we went higher, we cleared the treelike and saw beautiful vistas.

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Afterwards, we went to Sausalito and had some oysters and soup to re-energize us.  We went to the Fish Peddler and it was really good.  It was also a little less expensive than the restaurants in the heart of “downtown” (it’s really a small place overall).

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The next weekend was the Lucid battery team’s 4th annual ski trip.  We skied at Northstar and were finally able to use our Epic passes, which really do save money.  We won’t get to use them this Winter but since we skied two days, we saved about $50 overall.  Maybe next year we’ll try again.

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Parking Lot Selfie

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Lake Tahoe in the background

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Lakeside selfie on a dock near our AirBnB

We stayed at a really cute AirBnB.  I would want to stay there again in the Summer, but can I tell you one annoying thing about AirBnB?   The cleaning fee, taxes, and admin fees aren’t included in the room rate that pops up during the initial search.  It really can add quite a large percentage to the actual amount paid.  However, in fairness, AirBnB has had an amazing (for the renter) cancellation policy for COVID-19.  So, I’m not anti-AirBnB, I’m anti-hidden costs and fees.  Also, hosts that add a sizable cleaning fee should just rethink their room rate.  Unless maybe there are tax reasons for doing so?

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It snowed our last night there, which led to some adventures with tire chains on the way home but it was very pretty to look at from the inside of a warm house.

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Then, things started changing.  This is my colleague when we went to PAPR training.  This was Tuesday, before I knew anything about the Mercy, which I first heard about on Wednesday.  Such a compressed timeline!

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The cutest bird in all the land!

And, in case you want to know about another problem of mine, here’s a screen capture of my camera roll.  When I get home, please stage an intervention.

 

Weekend Review

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Evening Smart!

After four weekends in a row away from Menlo Park, SMS finally got a break and I travelled North.  I took Valentine’s Day off not because it’s a holiday we go all out for (honestly, it feels like Christmas just happened and who wants back-to-back gift buying pressure?), but because Lucid was having a special reveal party for reservation holders.  That’s us!

The event was called, “Love is in the AIR.”  The attire was evening smart and it was an incredible party.  I would have loved to be there from the start, but I arrived 45 minutes into the party due to insane (but typical) traffic from the airport.  The showroom was open for the first time and the interior was exquisitely luxurious.  There was a craft cocktail bar, which was for the party only.  Lucid will not promote a drinking driving culture in everyday operations.  There were special cocktails named after the different interiors. I ordered a drink with whiskey, fig, and a sprig of burnt rosemary that they flamed then and there.  Impressive!

There were a lot of delicious hors d’oeuvres that were passed.  I tried most of them, but didn’t act disgracefully.  I always remember a party I went to where the poor server carrying the shrimp got mobbed by people who acted like they hadn’t eaten in days.  Who knows, maybe they hadn’t.  But it looked like a shark thrash zone with chum in the water.  So, yes, I had some food as it showed up in front of me but afterwards, SMS and I realized we hadn’t really had dinner so we split a kabab plate at Oren’s Hummus.

The car reveal was preceded by a 20 minute-ish talk by the CEO/CTO highlighting some specific advances/innovations/exclusives of the car.   Then, the garage door opened in a haze of fog-machine produced atmosphere and the car rolled in.  It is a beautiful car and everyone was very impressed.

We spent the rest of the party trying the VR car viewer followed by talking to several Lucid employees.  It was a great time and I’m so glad we went.

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My favorite water tower in Palo Alto

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Biscuits and Gravy- can you feel the romance?

The next day, SMS had to work and I hung out in Palo Alto.  I went to Rumble Boxing, Blue Bottle (twice!), the mall, and the grocery store.  I also did some laundry and cooked dinner for Valentine’s Day.  Forget “Engagement Chicken,” I made SMS some biscuits and gravy!  It turned out pretty well although I think the sausage we used the first time was better.  Then we had molten lava cakes for dessert, which were very tasty.  I know the menu is not pleasingly cohesive but, hey, it worked for us!

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Avocado Toast: We’re such Wannabe Millennials

On Saturday, we had a Blue Bottle breakfast and shopped for veggies at the small farmer’s market. Then we headed up to Lafayette to hang out with Jyotsna and Akshay.  It was a fun afternoon of eating, drinking, and socializing.  We went to their friends’ house in Orinda for a bit.  It was nice to talk to them.  We had met once before and got along well.  We headed home for dinner.  I made a Zuppa Tuscana that was pretty tasty and a dupe for the Olive Garden soup for those in the know.

Sunday was our more active day.  We ate breakfast at home and then went for a hike on Windy Hill.  It was a gorgeous day.  I feel so lucky to be able to go on such great hikes!  I also made a veggie lasagna that was pretty good.  Thanks Smitten Kitchen!

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This is pretty delicious

Monday was another work day for SMS/holiday for me.  I went to Rumble and Blue Bottle.  I was going to go to the museum but Jyotsna invited me to a farm tour!

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Wine, my favorite farm product!

We went to the Nest Box farm and it was a delight!  We fed cows, chickens, goats, and sheep.  We collected eggs.  There was a small picnic that we supplemented with more food and (surprise!) wine.  We looked at the barn, garden areas, and pet rescue rabbit area.  It was a beautiful day to be outside and a really cool experience.  I want to go back with SMS and stay overnight, which will allow us to do more on the farm like milk a cow!

SMS came home a little after 6.  We had some dinner and after that, it was time to go to the airport since I needed to head back so I could be on time for my Tuesday clinic.  It was such a great weekend!

Weekend Review

SMS and I had another great weekend in San Diego.  After he arrived Friday night, we woke up Saturday morning and decided to go to Morning Glory and try the famous soufflé pancakes.  We got there around 9:30 and the line was already pretty crazy.  We had been warned to go early but hey, it was Saturday and I didn’t want to hurry.  There were two seats left at the seat-yourself bar area so we lucked out!

We had coffee, soufflé pancakes, and the Georgian (country) dish Khachapuri.  There was an extensive boozy drink menu but I was on call.  The guy next to us said his was intense!  The soufflé pancakes were pretty good and the Khacapuri was basically fancy cheesy bread.  Overall, I liked the place but there are so many brunch places in San Diego that I would choose trying a new place rather than going back.

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Super cute, very IG-friendly interiors!

After breakfast, we went to the Farmer’s Market.  Overall, it was a pretty mellow day which was great since the next day was race day!

Yes, I had signed up for the Coronado Valentine’s 10K after my sister-in-law told me about it.  She’s an amazing athlete so her time was about 10 minutes faster than mine and she didn’t even had a good race.  But, I was very excited about my splits since I averaged just over 8 min/mile and it had been awhile since I’ve done that!  Also, my last mile was run in 7’34” which was unexpected and motivating to keep working out!

Afterwards, we went to The Henry with the whole family for brunch so two good brunches in a row.  SMS went home later that evening so kind of  a quick, mellow weekend.

 

Feelin’ It Friday

*All news that’s “fit” to print!  I love Instagram.  Maybe finding this indicates that I’ve spent too much time scrolling this week?  Hmmm….

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* I was happy that I wrote the NYC/Brooklyn recap in a timely manner!  #newyearnewme?

* I finished a non-fiction book in January so I’m pretty happy that I’m trying to mix up my reading.  But, in all honesty, I should aim more for informational non-fiction rather than memoir/productivity if I want to really expand my horizons.

* I’m running a race this Sunday and, although I have been working out, I really only started running training….this.week.  I feel pretty good though.  After a Fall of minor leg tweaks (left knee, left big toe- weird I know), I feel pretty intact.  I think all of the credit goes to my month of yoga in January.