Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Fall Weekend!

Yoda mendala outside of Mountain View library
 SMS and I had an amazing weekend!  It was a great mix of enjoying the area and relaxing at home.

Saturday was our lazy day. We woke up and SMS made an egg-in-a-hole for each of us. It was delicious and accompanied by a delicious from-the-garden heirloom tomato. Yum!  There was also an avocado, but that was store bought. 
What goes with coffee?  Psycho Donuts!
We decided to head out to a nearby coffee shop, Chromatic. We went with our former next door neighbor, which made for nice company. I had the Keynote coffee, part of a Kouign Amann (a caramelized croissant dough pastry) and, finally, a cafe brûlée with almond milk. It was basically a latte with flame torched muscadon sugar on top. It was pretty awesome. I was so entranced by watching it get made that I forgot the coffee beans I bought. Fortunately, they let me replace the bag next day free of charge even though I didn't have my receipt. 

My new little piece of Paradise!
After Chromatic, we were lazy until we headed out for date night!  SMS had booked us a private spa at a kind of Japanese-style onsen in downtown Palo Alto. It was amazing!  The room was slate, tile and very clean. There was a shower inside and while I hope people rinse off before going in, the water was chlorinated. This is not similar in Japan since most of the onsens are continuously fed by the local springs.     There was relaxing music playing and I love it. I highly recommend the place. Next time, I might look into spa treatments too but really, the soak was relaxing enough. 

Fountain by the spa entrance
We walked around Palo Alto for a bit and then we went to the restaurant for our dinner reservation. We went to Thyme, which was pretty good. I had a delicious seafood soup. We both got the scallops which were fine. I've had better but I've also definitely had worse. The decor was nice and I liked sitting by the window during golden hour light. It made SMS look especially handsome!

On the Steep Ravine section of the trail

Sunday was our active day.  I wanted to finish a Mt Tam hike we started last year but had to turn back due to sunset. I printed out the instructions (here's the link!) and we drove up to Marin/Mt Tamalpis. The hike was beautiful and I recommend it!  The scenery was quite varied as it included forest, second-growth redwoods, creeks and sun-exposed golden hills. There's also a bathroom along the way so that was an added bonus!

SMS on Steep Ravine Trail
After the hike, we decided to head home. We were planning on cooking but after we had been driving for about 30 minutes, SMS said he "could use a snack."  Well, my momma didn't raise no fool!  I've thought in the past that there was a general idea of a snack at some point in the future. Nope, nope, nope. "Could use a snack" = emergency distress signal. (I, actually we, have learned this the hard way). So, we stopped at the In & Out that has been our emergency stop before (under worse circumstances when I thought it could wait and then we were stuck in 45 minute Golden Gate traffic. Wrong call!). We ordered food and oh my goodness, I didn't realize how hungry I was either!  It really is our favorite In&Out!

Our oasis!
We drove home and got stuck in some Sunday traffic congestion. Maybe a little worse due to a morning Raiders game but I think the roads are just bad around here. 

Although I was really tired of walking, SMS tempted me into going into town to get a shave ice. We went to Teaspoon and got a tropical delight. It was amazing!  I think it's a testament to how tired I was that I didn't think to get my own but hey, I think it was better shared!

Monday morning, I went for a run. My legs felt good considering the hike but my times were a little slow. We went to breakfast at Esther's German Cafe where I got to flash back to Switzerland by ordering a cheese plate for breakfast- hearty bread, butter, cheese and jam. Delicious!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Have You Mooo-ved On?

"I was so upset!  I thought you were gone forever!"
I am still here!  It's been awhile, yes!  Now that I am back, we have so much to talk about.  Since I last wrote, I finished fellowship, traveled to Switzerland, hung out in the Bay Area, drove cross-country and, now, I'm hanging out at my parents' house in my old bedroom from high school.  In case you're wondering, it's redecorated.  No intact shrine to my awkward years, thank goodness.

"I've never been awkward."
When SMS and I traveled to Switzerland, I wanted to be off-line as much as possible so no blogging for me.  But never fear!  I took along a paper journal so I'll be writing a fair number of July recaps.  I'm really excited to get back to blogging since it's proven to be a really nice way to use for future reference, whether recalling a favorite restaurant or thinking about a fun past trip.

Switzerland was crazy beautiful.  I would advise not filling up water bottles downstream of grazing cows.
No personal horror stories but really, it just makes sense.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Switzerland, Day 3: Luzern and Happy 4th!

View of Spreuerbruke from Kapellbrucke
SMS and I were going to move onto Bern on day 3, but we decided to stay in Zurich so we could watch Gisele play softball that night with her team.  After fortifying ourselves with Nespresso, we headed out for a morning of touristing in Old Town Luzern.  We crossed over the two covered bridges: Kapellbrucke and Spreuerbruke. They were very pretty and quaint, even though Kapellbrucke was recently restored after a 1993 fire.  It felt like Japan when you go to a historical site and you think the temple is 1000 years old but, in fact, since it’s made of wood, it’s on its second restoration and really, the physical structure you see is only ~50 years old.  I digress.
Tower View
So, the bridges were cool and then we went into a Coop for a cheapie breakfast.  After eating more bread (yay!), we went to the old city wall.  I had never been there so it was cool to see a new site.  We walked along the wall and went up all three towers that are currently open to the public: Mannli, Zit and Schirmer.  The views of the river were beautiful and we really enjoyed ourselves. 
Walking the Wall
We walked through the Old Town and went to the Dying Lion memorial, glacier garden and the Alhambra mirror maze.  Our Swiss Rail passes, which served as Swiss museum passes, got us in for free, which is great since we saved 30 CHF.  
1313 entrance
For lunch, we walked to a place near the train station called Grottino 1313.  I later found out it was the #1 restaurant in Trip Advisor but I had found it through a Swiss Local recommendation app provided by the Swiss Tourism Board.  We each had the set lunch and it was an exquisite meal.  The food was delicious and we sat out in the sun-speckled courtyard and really had a wonderful, leisurely time.

Dessert extra!
We ordered sparkling water that came in a pitcher with mint springs and slices of orange and lime.  I started with a carrot soup with elderflower while SMS had an organic green salad.  For lunch, I had the roast beef while SMS had the pasta with broccoli puree.  For dessert, we had a pressed ice cream cake with honey and strawberries with an espresso on the side.  The bill was a little more expensive than I thought since the prix fixe didn’t cover as much as I thought but, really, it was totally worth it.

1313 Courtyard = Paradise
That contrasted with our next activity which was to pick up Gisele’s kids and hang out with them at the Transport Museum.  As I told them later, “It was only three hours but felt like forever” but I promise, I mean that in a good way. 

The push-pull railroad car
The car garage
The boys really liked to ride the buses out in the courtyard, which are kind of like Tonka trucks on steroids.  You sit on them and can either push yourself along with your feet or (preferably) have someone push you.  On the few times SMS and I went inside with them to see an exhibit (at our request) the #1 ichiban question was, “When can we ride the buses!?!?”  But we had a great time, complete with an ice cream break in the middle.  We also rode on paddle boats which was fun, although my idea for “bumper car paddle boats” was shot down by the man in charge.  Whah.  No Spartacus-like scenes of “ramming speed!!”

One of the drill bits used to create the Gotthard Tunnel!
Swiss-style BBQ
We all went back to the apartment and dropped the boys off with a babysitter.  Then we went on a two transfer bus trip that went very smoothly to get to the softball field.   There, we watched the Swiss Team play against the American summer visitors and it was a lot of fun.  Afterwards, we had a BBQ with more sausages (yay!) and beer.  It was a great way to celebrate the 4th of July!

Part of Team Suisse and their American friends!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Switzerland, Day 2: Luzern and Melchsee-Frutt

I've seen uglier places...The beautiful Melchee-Frutt!
After a slightly interrupted night’s sleep thanks to my friend Mr. Jet Lag, SMS and I were ready for a fun day.  Gisele had planned for us to go on a hike to see the bearded vultures, an endangered species that recently had a pair released in the wild.  Gisele and her family had seen the release a few months prior so she was excited to see how they were doing.  
Wildflowers don't care where they grow...which Dolly Parton song?  Anyone?
Breakfast was a delicious feast of croissants and jam.  I had been eating super “clean” before the vacation so it was a switch to be eating so much grain but it wasn’t hard.  In fact, it was delicious!  

We headed out to Melchsee-Frutt, a four-seasons resort kind of place.  We took the train to the gondola station and then rode up the mountain.  It was an absolutely gorgeous place and we hiked for about 1.5 hours to get to the vultures.  Now, we did have kids with us and it was a fairly leisurely pace so keep that in mind before you think we are super slow.  We were hiking in peak wildflower season so all of the fields were filled with flowers, which was a theme of the entire vacation.

Fire pit. 

The highlight of the hike for me was lunch!  Hear me out.  In Switzerland, they have little huts with fire pits that are stacked with firepits.  You start a fire and then grill the sausage you’ve brought along on your hike.  It is amazing!  It’s also very neighborly since at lunchtime, you tend to take over your predecessor’s fire and then someone takes over yours.  It was awesome!  I love the concept.  It would never happen in California, land of the wildfire but maybe on the East Coast…
Do you see the bearded vulture sitting on the little rock?

We got to where the vultures were and yes!  They are doing very well!  We saw both of them flying and roosting so that was very cool.  We hung out for a bit, watched the kids climb a rocky hill face after SMS decided to be a good example.  The kids did great but we were a little worried when we saw a guy climb up holding two kids.  I said something in English (inadvertently!  I was just so shocked someone was doing something so stupid!) and his wife looked up and yelled at him.  International diplomat over here!

Playing at the Visitor's Center!
After hanging out, we stopped in a cafe, had a drink and then caught a little train back to the gondola.  Now, when I say train, it is actually several cars linked together and driven on car wheels but the exterior looks like a train.  It’s very touristy and we saw similar transports in other cities.  
Yay, no more walking!
We headed back to Gisele’s and had a delicious dinner of pork chops, potatoes and salad.  I felt so Swiss, I almost started speaking Swiss German!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Switzerland, Day 1: Arrival

Matterhorn- don't worry!  The travelogues will get to it!
In early July, SMS and I went on an amazing 17 day trip to Switzerland.  I had almost a month off between jobs and we decided to take advantage of it and plan an epic vacation.  Because of the 4th of July holiday, SMS only missed 9 days of work during that time so it worked out well for him too!  

When we were deciding on the trip, we ran through the places on our informal wish list.  We had talked about visiting Ticino, Switzerland together since we had both visited separately many years ago.  We both thought it was so beautiful and so fun, we really wanted to go back.  As I researched more about Switzerland, I found more and more places I wanted to visit.  So, in the end, we spent 17 days in Switzerland alone and the funny thing?  We still didn’t see everything that crossed our radar during our trip planning!

[Just a FYI, the other places we wanted to go were not super conducive to a July vacation.  Other options we considered were Australia, New Zealand and South Africa but since July is the middle of Winter for all three, we decided to forgo those places.  There are, of course, other places we want to visit but I really wanted to take advantage of the extended time we had to mitigate the energy sapping effects of a long-haul flight.

So.  July 1.  We took an overnight direct flight on Swiss Air.  It was code-shared with United, where I have a lot of miles but I booked through Swiss Air in order to pick our seats.  The airplane economy seating was in a 2-4-2 configuration so I picked two of the two-seaters.  Although it was a little more expensive, it was worth it.  Some day, I hope that it’ll be “worth it” to fly business or first class but since that would have doubled the vacation budget, I deferred.  

The flight was fine and we landed in Zurich around 1630.  We got through customs quickly and hopped on the train from the airport to the main Zurich station.  We had purchased a 15-day Swiss pass which we had printed at home so train travel was very easy.  We didn’t have to fuss with ticket vending machines and we always found seats in the second class sections.  I didn’t even make seat reservations, which was great for flexibility.  We didn’t take any tourist trains during the trip because they tend to sacrifice speed for scenery.  I felt we saw everything through the “normal” trains and although the train rides were cool experiences themselves, I definitely didn’t feel the need to add more train time to our trip.

Mt. Pilates from the apartment balcony- amazing!
Anyway.  After we arrived at the Zurich HB, we transferred to a train bound for Luzern, home of my college friend Gisele and her family.  We arrived around 1900 and Gisele graciously picked us up at the train station.  We drove to her apartment, which had an incredible view of Mt. Pilatus.  They had other friends visiting so we all hung out together and enjoyed a delicious meal of “fancy toast:” thick slices of amazing bread with lots of toppings to include mashed avocado, caprese, butter and chèvre with caramelized onions.  It was SO good!  
It may look simple but dinner was amazing!
SMS and I hung in pretty well and then we went to bed.  It was so nice to spend our first nice in the company of friends!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Janelle Monae and a Great Weekend!

Thornton Beach Overlook hike
This past weekend was a mix of study and play as I worked on a paper for my "Strategy and War" class but also did several fun things with SMS.

Friday night, we headed out to Antolian Kitchen, a Turkish/Kurdish cuisine restaurant.  I had the broiled whole fish, which was really delicious.  I'm on the tail end of a Whole 30 month so I'm trying to go to places that fit within those strict parameters.  I'm sure I've inadvertently broke the rules with a tiny bit of added sugar, butter and oils but nothing major.  SMS had a baked meat-stuffed tomato eggplant dish that was awesome.  I think we'll be back, even off of a diet!

Saturday was a study/paper-writing day.  SMS and I started the day with the I'm taking my course through the Naval War College Distance Learning program and it's interesting to learn more about military history.  Some of the books are very dry so focusing is tough, but that's what blog entry writing breaks are for!

Hanging out!

The next day was Sunday Fun Day.  SMS and I went up to San Francisco to the Stern Grove Festival.  It was opening day and Janelle Monae was the headliner.  I saw her at Coachella a few years ago and she was fantastic.  We were supposed to go with friends but their son was sick so they bailed.  The show was amazing with a great setlist:
  • Suite IV Electric Overture
  • Dance Apocalyptic
  • Sincerely, Jane.
  • Q.U.E.E.N.
  • Electric Lady
  • One Fine Day
  • I Got You (I Feel Good)
  • I Want You Back
  • Cold War
  • Tightrope
  • Yoga
  • Let's Go Crazy Come Alive (The War of the Roses)

  • Sitting on the stump!
    Our concert seats were...interesting.  The place was packed!  We arrived at 1:15, 45 minutes before the start of the show.  We climbed up the hill and found an awesome tree stump.  We stayed there through the opening act Midtown Social and then headed down the hill for most of Monae's set.  The sound was better and the energy level higher.  It was great!

    Thornton Beach
    Afterwards, we went out for sushi at a place with a TV so we could watch the first half of the Warrior/Cavs game.  It was Game 7 and I think most of the Bay Area was watching!  It was a great game- very competitive.  We didn't want to stay for the whole game so we headed back home and listened to it on the radio.  I even streamed the last few minutes on Periscope with mixed success.

    Thornton Beach
    On the way home, we stopped at Thornton Beach Overlook and hiked down to the beach cliffs.  It was so beautiful and a good impromptu hike along the Pacific.

    Sunday, June 12, 2016

    Mozart Foundation Museum Tour

    Oh my goodness!  SMS and I had the best luck on Saturday.  Due to serendipity and SMS' love of racing cars, we were able to take a tour of a private car museum owned by a local developer (who clearly has done very poorly for himself)!

    Let me back up.  On Saturday, I got up early and went to the old apartment to straighten up before the movers came later in the day.  I headed back to the new place to pick SMS up for our Saturday morning run club.  We semi-regularly attend the Mountain View Runner's Club Saturday morning session, which is a 3.5 mile loop on Steven's Creek trail.  It's a really nice group of people and afterward, we hang out at the Starbucks for a little coffee-fueled socializing.

    Not too different from some parking lots in Silicon Valley...

    As SMS and I were getting ready to leave, he said he wanted to check out the Corvettes down the street.  I hadn't noticed but apparently, a lot of Corvettes had been driving by including two with racing modifications and vinyl appliques.  We said goodbye to everyone and walked down the street.  Inside an open gate, there was a mini-auto show in the parking lot that was filled with Corvettes!  I estimate there were about 30-40, which was very cool.  We wandered around and talked to a few people.  We didn't really know what was going on but then I started talking to a woman who had just pulled up in a more classic car with her husband.  I complimented her on her shirt, which was a gray t-shirt with a silver and light blue rhinestone Corvette.  She invited us to join them on their group tour of the Auto Museum.  I initially declined (what a moron!) because the movers were supposed to come between 11-1, but I fortunately came to my senses.  SMS and I each paid our $20 to the Corvette Club of Santa Clara President and with that, we were on the list!
    Anteros also avenges unrequited love so maybe he'll help me get this car?!?!
    While we were waiting to get in, we talked to a guy who had extensively modified two Corvettes about 10 years ago as a side project.  He had majored in auto design in college but spent his working years designing video games in Silicon Valley.  [Aside: We never exchanged names and I suspect that he is really well-known in certain circles but hey, we were there to talk about the cars.  Plus, SMS and I are just not super-in-the-know about that industry.  But he did mention that he was good friends with the guy who programmed Pong and the guy who hired Steve Jobs at Atari.]  Anyway, he had added a Super Charger to the engine to bring it up to 550 hP.  He had also taken off most of the panels and replaced them with carbon fiber elements so the car was about 100 pounds lighter than a normal Corvette.   He had the tooling done and panels made in a factory in San Diego.  He had 14 orders for the car but the factory went out of business so only two were made.  What was incredible to me was that the two cars were already committed so he had to deliver both of them; aka, he couldn't even keep the car he made!!  But, alls well that ends well.  He bought the car back from one of the purchasers about 7 years later so he now has Production #0001 in his possession now.  Incredible.  What a feat of design and a display of integrity to keep your word on delivering a product you promise! The car is called Anteros, after the Greek god of requited love I'm guessing.  It was absolutely beautiful.
    Amazing supercharged engine!
    At 1000, it was time for the tour!  We went inside the understated, but beautiful building.  The outside landscaping was very zen.  Inside, the docent gave a brief introduction.  They asked for no photography and everyone was very respectful of that request.  I did take one picture by accident as I silenced my phone, but it was of the floor so I think it's ok to display my masterpiece.
    I am so funny and bad with my phone!  Photo taken accidentally while silencing my phone.
    The cars on display were incredible.  There were many early cars, like three 1910-1913 Simplexes.  There were several Pullmans, Ferraris and Porsches.  Most of the cars were one of two/three known to be in existence.  My favorite car was a 1934 Bugatti with a deep mustard yellow alligator interior.  It was a breathtakingly beautiful car...the informational sign near it said that it drew such crowds, it was once hard for the then-owner to approach it and drive it away at the end of a car show!

    Very few pictures can be found on the internet but here's one from the kitchen cabinet designers.  The gray Cadillac
    in the middle/left center was in the museum and is a beautiful focal point with the interior design. Credit
    Alas, all dreams must end and ours ended abruptly with a call from our neighbor that the movers there a few minutes before 11.  Argh!  When are movers ever early!?!?  Anyway, we rushed off and left, but felt incredibly lucky to have experience such an amazing museum.