Thursday, May 28, 2015

Brothers' first trip to SF!

Even though I have been living in San Francisco for almost a year now (!), my younger brothers had never been up to the Bay area. After hearing me talk about SF during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and a weekend trip to LA in January, a sibling visit was overdo. My parents and brothers (Jessica would be flying up the next week) finally had planned a trip to see me over the President's/Valentines weekend. On that note, let's ignore how I'm writing this months later.. In true tech culture, I set them up with their first Airbnb and immediately started planning a weekend for the SF newbies.

My brothers and parents live for hikes, and I could not have gotten luckier with the weather. I knew rain or shine we would be outside exploring, but I was thrilled that the rain came the weekend before--leaving President's day 75 degrees and sunny. While my parents drove up that Friday, I worked from home/the La Boulange on my street and was lucky to finish up my work right as they rolled in to Inner Sunset at 2pm.

I joked that I was giving my parents the true San Francisco experience as they ordered lunch and coffees while I kept my laptop (complete with my tech company sticker) open at the coffee shop. I may have kept attacking my younger brothers with hugs and picture requests because I was so excited for them to be at my new home. After walking the few blocks back to my place, I gave them the tour of my apartment before heading out to explore the best part of my neighborhood --Golden Gate Park. We walked all around Stow Lake, hiked up to the top of Strawberry hill to get a view of the Golden Gate bridge, and kept walking for another hour or two until we got to the DeYoung Museum. I actually had not been before, but I was blown away by the top floor views of the city which was an awesome and free surprise. Our luck got even better when we realized that after 4:30 the art gallery is free for visitors. We browsed through the exhibits before walking back to my place.

After a quick break, the family met us back at the apartment to head to dinner. While I would usually take visitors to a nicer restaurant like Park Chow on my street or my mom to a more trendy venue, I ultimately decided to go for the more laid back option of Cybelles with a cute interior and simple food. The second my brothers got their hands on cheesy garlic bread I knew I made the right choice. We left full and with plans for an early start Saturday morning at Sutro Baths.

The last time I hiked Sutro Baths I immediately knew I had to take my my parents and brothers when they came to visit. Our hike took us from climbing on the ruins to walking the labyrinth at Land's End; down to the beach hopping on a makeshift driftwood seesaw to finally taking in the view and photo opportunities at Eagles Nest. 

 After realizing we had spent a few hours walking around and hiking it was (not so calmly/hangerily) decided it was time to head back to the car and grab lunch.

Since it was still Johnny and James' first visit to San Francisco, it was officially time to hit some of the touristy spots. First stop: off to Fisherman's Wharf to grab bread bowls from Boudin. I originally was not overly excited about the idea (I had a trendy brunch place more in mind), but I re-realized how exciting it is to be at Boudin for the first time. My brothers (true lovers of bread) watched the loafs made in the window, and Johnny bought a little turtle shaped loaf of sourdough for his girlfriend. We ate bread bowls and clam chowder in the sun until we were energized enough to start our hike up to Lombard Street.

While it may be the curviest street in San Francisco, it was funny to see my brothers so confused on exactly why it was so immensely popular. After long hike up with the dozens of other tourists, I can definitely say I that I have no answer either. Our next stop was a little more exciting to the crew, as we were just quick cable car ride away from Gharadelli ice cream sundaes.

Everyone left feeling full and tired after hours and hours of walking throughout the day (which my mom and her beloved fitbit can attest too). While we had big plans to meet up for dinner, once we got to our separate apartments it was game over. Scott and I ordered in Chinese food while my brothers and parents relaxed at their Airbnb and did homework.

I thought I had created the perfect plan for Valentines for Scott and I: late night reservations at Zazie for dessert. A cute, well known cafe near my apartment with late enough reservations to take into account my parent's visit. However, after getting all dressed up we arrived at the restaurant and quickly realized it was a very expensive prix fixe menu. Although a little disappointing, we walked back to my neighborhood, grabbed a pastry from an open bakery and headed to a bar for some drinks. A testament to my adorable ability to not double check details (one of my many endearing qualities), it was still a great and more natural end to Valentine's with the best boyfriend ever.

The next morning we were up bright and early to grab brunch. My parents had grand plans of spending the remaining part of the holiday weekend driving down the California coast, so they had to leave San Francisco early that morning. My Dad and Mom had one request for breakfast: Art's Cafe. They had both been on their last visit, and were excited to show off the small, one counter wide diner to my brothers. My brothers are not easy to impress, but they left promising me they had a great time and loved San Francisco.

My sightseeing, exploring, decision making, and entertaining duties left with my parents, brothers, and Scott that Sunday, and the pace of my holiday weekend turned from a whirlwind of adventure, laughter, bonding, and hangriness to a slow lull. The lively (and early) Sunday brunch morphed into long naps, an early dinner with friends, and Netflix in bed. Lucky for me, I still had one more activity planned to enjoy the Monday off. I met my friend Hannah the next day, for a picnic at Alamo park. While I strolled up to the grass, she had grabbed a prime spot in front of the painted ladies with a bag full of baguettes and bruschetta, salad, lemonade, and other goodies. We basked in the sun and lurked French bulldogs until we decided to stop at Birite grocery for San Francisco's famous BiRite ice cream. Tip: the Nopa location lines are only 5-10 minutes compared to an hour in the mission.

Just as the sun started to go down, the fog rolled in. Although I will always love sunny, hot days, there is a special charm to the SF fog coming right at the end of the weekend. It gives you time to bundle up, reflect on the amazing weekend, and feel a little less bad about spending the work week inside. Although, this weekend was months ago, my parents and brothers visiting was too great of a memory not to document and relive through blogging.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Adventures in the New Year

My big goal for the new year was to survive a crazy transition at work and to start taking advantage of living in San Francisco and Bay area more. It may have been a few late nights and some crazy schedules, but it's still been a great start to 2015:

1. While I've visited Scott's apartment in San Jose several times, I haven't done much exploring of the area. So when my grandparents asked what a good Christmas gift for him would be, I knew exactly what to suggest: two tickets to the Winchester Mystery House. It's a San Jose landmark, and something that Scott and I had contemplated doing for months. The first weekend we got back from our holiday break, we cashed in the gift certificates and took a tour. The house was designed by Mrs. Winchester who believed that if she ever stopped building, she would be haunted by all the people who died from the guns her company produced. It was the craziest house possible--doors that lead to two story drops, over a hundred small steps to go up one floor, and rooms with 4 exits but only one entrance.  It was a super cool tour, and a fun thing to check off the bay area bucket list.

2. Our company's annual rallying cry/celebration/look forward to the new year took place in LA this year. I decided to fly down a few days early so I could get a whole weekend with my family and friends. MLK weekend was filled with hiking, homemade food, and hours of watching Parks and Recreation with my Mom. Just when I thought my relaxing weekend at home couldn't be topped, I checked into a luxurious hotel downtown and met up with my coworkers. The whole event was planned with extraordinary detail, extravagance, and enthusiasm from a half pipe with BMX bikers at the dinner party to watching our CEO dance to Uptown Funk. To top it all off, one night may have ended past 4am at The Pantry eating late night bacon and eggs.

3. One of my Dad's Christmas presents to me was coming up to SF and painting my room. I was excited for him to see my apartment and my neighborhood for the first time, but if I knew what a difference he would make at my place I would have been jumping off the walls. He got in Monday night, so my Dad and I grabbed dinner with drinks, an appetizer of mussels, and delicious food at Park Chow before heading back to my apartment. I made up the couch (he's the first person to sleep on it and exactly why I bought such a large couch whee!) and headed to bed. I worked during the days and my dad would work on my house/explore the neighborhood/surf/keep the local Ace hardware in business while I was gone. After work we would have dinners at Crepevine, Marnee Thai, or grab pizza to take to the local bar before saying goodbye with brunch at Art's Place (which my Dad and Mom now love). I underestimated how much painting my room and the million of other fixes to my apartment would help, and I now finally feel like my room is a finished product and am proud of my apartment. I'm getting obsessed with fixing the rest up!

4. San Francisco is known for being a foodie city, and I definitely love all types of food. One of my New Year's resolutions was to explore more of the delicious restaurants and go on some food adventures. Brenda's Meat and Three was perfect meal out. It was a talked about restaurant, but small and down to earth, and most importantly delicious. They have a few things on the menu, but the best is a choice one of four entrees (meat) and 3 sides. 2 of my college friends and I decided to share two plates and ordered the fried chicken and BBQ ribs with roasted Brussels sprouts, Mac n cheese, sweet potato fries, cauliflower grautin, cole slaw, and red beans. Everything was unbelievable and the sides were just as good if not better than the meat itself. The best part is with a beer for each of us and a shared blueberry cobbler for dessert the whole meal came out to around $25 each. I'm already planning on taking Scott back to try it.

5. Scott and I went on an adventure to Ocean Beach and walked on the sand checking out the water--but mostly checking out all the dogs running around and wishing we had our own. From there, we decided to take the more complicated way to the baths and head up the dunes to Sutro tower for great views and a quick workout. Our only plan was to see Sutro Baths, a ruined pool house from the late 19th century, but it was such a beautiful place and weather that we continued exploring along the path for a few hours. We hiked the path from Sutro Baths to Lands End, and I immediately fell in love with it. I instantly made plans to take my parents when they came to visit, and have decided that I will make this a usual occurrence.

February brings a different type of crazy, but in the best way. All four weekends, I have visitors to San Francisco including family, a childhood friend, and college friends. It's a good thing I've been exploring so much lately because it's helping me plan fun weekends for the rest of the month!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Winter Break

Working full time has made me appreciate holidays and time off more than I ever thought possible. My company is AMAZING and gives us 5 full days off over the holidays, so I've been back in PV spending time with family and friends. Q1 is going to be a hectic quarter at work, so I've been trying to use these past couple days to actively relax in order to maximize my time off. I usually walk back into the office grateful for the break but realizing I didn't really do anything or really even relish in the holiday while it was happening.

And as contradictory as it sounds, making myself do relaxing activities has been actually a million times more wonderful. So wonderful, in fact, that I thought I would blog about it: a day in the life of a girl who's having her first vacation that's longer than a 3 day weekend in 6 months. Maybe not the most exciting topic, but I have a feeling I'm going to look longingly back at this blog post in the upcoming weeks.

9:15 am. Wake up! I'm sharing a room with Johnny, and we both sleep in more than the rest of the family. It still feels earlier than I want, but there is no alarm waking me up and I can roll around in bed for 15 minutes before deciding that I want breakfast. I grab cereal and a yogurt, and my Mom offers to make James and I eggs since Jessica is off surfing and Johnny is off at brunch then a PT appointment.

10:30 I've been going for a hike almost every day of break (or a work out class thanks to the wonders of classpass), and today is no different! My Mom and I managed to convince James to come with us, so we head down to the Trump Golf Course to walk along the cliffs and down to Portugese Beach Club while talking about random things. I snap a few pictures as usual, before we head back up to the car to pick up Johnny from his appointment. 

1:00 We're all packed up in the car, and head over to our family friend's house. I had spent the previous day crafting with Sara and we both wanted to finish up our projects together. James joined us, and while I attempted to make art for my room that was simple enough for even me to not mess up, he actually painted. His paintings were amazing and I'm happy to say the pop art version of Abalone Cove is for me! Mwahaha. I'm still proud of myself for not ruining my projects, but we know who the artist is in the family. To keep us entertained, we also had How To Get Away with Murder going on in the background (now hooked) and ate Mac n Cheese while not trying to spill in the paint.

4:00pm Sara drives us to our house and we swap out James for my Mom. It's $5 movie ticket Tuesday at Regal, and we went to see Wild in theaters. I had read the book a few months ago and loved it, but didn't totally get in to the movie. I think the problem with long journeys alone is that no matter how great the acting is there's only so much dialogue you can say out loud.

 6:20 Back home to find my friend Brigitte got to my house earlier than I expected. We caught up and talked, then headed over to my grandma's house to jacuzzi. It was a shocking 48 degrees outside which made it even more fun to run out to the jacuzzi and stay in as long as possible.

9:00 Brigette unfortunately had work the next morning and couldn't stay with me forever like I wanted, so I hop on the couch and watch a few episodes of Parks and Rec with my parents. My Mom and I have been watching it almost every night since I've been home. I'm obsessed with the show so most of the time I wait for my favorite jokes and bug my Mom making sure she heard them and then making her tell me if she thought it was funny. My Dad usually resists, but this time I even caught him laughing at Ron Swanson. 

11:30 I'm not sure how it got this late, but I run into Jessica and James' room and tackle her. We spend the next hour in the bathroom with the heater on (warmest spot in the house plus has a mirror) talking about life decisions and watching Panda videos.

12:30 In bed and regretting my decision to take a 9:15 bar method class. I set my alarm for 8:15 even though I know I will snooze til 8:45 and fall asleep.

My normal lazy days consist of me watching Netflix around the house and aimlessly checking the fridge. While I did get in some solid days like that, I've realized that making an effort to unwind with family, friends, projects, and sunshine have been some of my favorite parts of break! Not to mention I will now be heading back to SF with 2 wall decorations that cost a total of $20 and a very personal touch :)

Friday, December 26, 2014

Gifts from Napa

The gifts have been unwrapped and the family is all cozied up together for the holiday season! After feeling particularly proud of my wrapping of my Mom's present-- wine from Napa in a branded box and fancy wrapping paper--I realized I never shared one of my favorite memories since my move up to the Bay Area.  I didn't go on too many big trips this year--though graduating, getting a job and apartment, moving to a new city, and family emergencies have been more than enough adventure for one year--but I did check another thing off my bucket list! With Scott's secret planning, he whisked me away for a quick trip north of the city to go wine tasting in Napa and explore Petaluma for an afternoon.

We drove up to the Castillo de Amorosa winery in Napa and after my giddy freak out, Scott and I parked the car and instantly set out exploring. The whole winery is built to look like an Italian castle, and the building materials actually came from Tuscany. Scott had signed us up for a tour, so we grabbed some pictures of the flowers, vineyards, views and sampled grape seed oil before meeting our enthusiastic tour guide.

After pointing out the careful details of the decoration and walking around the castle, our tour finally made our way down to the cellars and learned more about the wine we were going to taste. It was so fun seeing the rows and rows of barrels underground, and we made a stop to taste wine that was still fermenting.

Finally, it was time to actually wine taste! Scott splurged and bought us the better wine tasting package so we got to try a ton of different wines. The experience of being in a dimly lit wine cellar trying glasses of $80 bottles of wine in Napa was exhilarating and hilarious at the same time. Scott and I had fun acting fancier than we were while both admitting that at this point of in our lives wine tastes like wine. One exception was a dessert wine that tasted like "liquid gold," and I could have the whole bottle of sweet wine.

Scott and I got caught up in our wine tasting experience and totally got sucked into the gift shop allure. We got three bottles of a Pinot Grigio that we had liked and I threw in an adorable wood box with the winery logo stamped on. I've had two bottles and the box decorating my room for so long, it's nice that I could finally give the gifts away today for Christmas! And I even have to admit the cute box looks even better in my Mom's kitchen.

We ended our wine tasting trip back at the car, but not before sneaking a grape or two from the vine! 

The rest of the night was filled with lots and lots of sushi for dinner before checking into our hotel and watching some guilty pleasure reality TV. 

The next morning we started our drive back to SF with plans (by Scott) to stop in Petaluma for a fun lunch. We grabbed a patio seat at a restaurant right by the river that runs through the town. While eating we saw a little brewery across the water, and decided to check it out after we paid our check. Sitting on a patio now on the opposite side of the river, we tried a few beers including a sample of mead for the first time. 

We ended the weekend's little day trip by looking through a few of the many antique shops that lined the downtown street before stopping at a retro ice cream parlor for some sundaes.

Napa and Petaluma was a perfect mini trip and a fun part of exploring a new part of the Bay Area. It also makes me happy that I could turn an amazing weekend into a great story and gift for my Mom and grandparents during the holidays (especially if it means I get another glass)! Tis the season after all!