Easter weekend adventures

Standard

This weekend was an Easter basket full of awesome. On Saturday, Todd and I went out and rode with Oakland Tri Club on a beautiful Marin ride. It’s a recovery week for me, so it was a nice relaxing ride followed by a lovely brunch. Then we had a few hours to relax before meeting up with Erik, Nerissa and their friends Janis and Dave for our Intro to Curling class. (Yes, you read that correctly… )

For those who are unfamiliar, curling is that sport you may have seen during the Winter Olympics where people try to slide these big weighted stone pieces into a bullseye on the ice, while their team mates frantically smooth the ice in front of it with brooms. Unsurprisingly, it’s a lot harder than it looks. First we learned how to launch the stones. You press one foot into this little starting block looking thing anchored into the ice, place the other foot onto this little Teflon slidey-thing and then put one hand onto either your broom (if you know what you’re doing) or a plastic beginner version and the other hand on the stone. Then you basically crouch down and kick off with the foot on the starting block, hoping to move into a graceful lunge forward…

But often ending up in a crazy mess:

But we eventually got the hang of it:

After they taught us the various skills/techniques, they had us play a game against another group of people. Every junior high P.E. anxiety flooded through me, but I tried to play it cool. The first game, my stone had to get a pity push from one of the instructors, but the second time it shockingly not only made it all the way to the other side, it actually landed inside the bullseye and was the only point we scored. Here I am with my winning stone:

It was really fun. Even for a girl who hates ice and slippery surfaces. ūüėČ Many thanks to Nerissa for organizing!

The next day was Easter Sunday. My typical Easter plans usually involve me realizing it’s Easter about half-way through, usually when I’m trying to go to a store that’s closed. This year, Erik & Nerissa invited us to join them on their traditional Fancy Easter Brunch at the Ritz in Half Moon Bay. The weather was PERFECT:

Brunch was ridiculously awesome. Words cannot describe it, so here’s a picture of Nerissa with the world’s tiniest carrot:

Nerissa was rocking the bunny ears and even got Erik to participate:

Todd and I had to rely on Instagram filters for our Easter spirit, but I hope you all had a great Easter holiday!

Advertisements

March musings

Standard

The rains have finally arrived in Northern California. I know we need the water, but man, I don’t know how I ever lived in the Pacific Northwest! I truly hate the dark skies and cold water dripping down from above. Add the omnipresent darkness of current events and it’s really hard to find stuff to write about that isn’t just ALL CAPS PSYCHOTIC RANTING. But lord knows there’s enough of that on the internet already, so I’ll confine myself to random tidbits from my life.

Wildflower is looming large on the horizon. Thankfully, a good-sized number of folks from my tri club are doing it, so there is a training plan to follow and group workouts I can join when I need company/ass kicking. Especially for getting out on the bike when it’s cloudy and cold:

(Photo by Charlie Keen. I’m in the back on the left. I think you can see my arm… )

But little by little I’m finding my mojo again. It’s been a LONG time coming. I’ve been getting up at zero-dark-thirty to get on the bike trainer or go to the pool, which I never managed to do consistently before. On Friday, I made it for my pre-work, outdoor swim in the actual rain. (I was feeling like such a badass about this, until the aquacize ladies rolled in and showed me what hardcore really was. It’s one thing to do an activity where you’re largely under heated water during a cold drizzle. It’s another thing altogether when you’re treading water with your full torso out there. Mad respect, ladies!)

Yesterday, I went out to do a long, hilly bike ride. Originally, Todd was going to join me, but he had some work stuff and his back had been twingy, so he stayed home. I decided to ride out near where I worked and tackle a climb that I’d bailed on the only other time I’d attempted it ‚Äď Patterson Pass. I figured it would be a good confidence builder, assuming I could do it, and a chance to bump down to a shorter distance if I failed.

Patterson is a long, somewhat relentless climb. It seems like it goes on forever. I generally like climbs like this for training because they build mental strength, along with the physical.

And, of course, there was a ridiculous little steep section before the last part of the climb where I had to stop and take a wheezing/panting/recovery break…

But, I made it to the top and the view was AMAZING:

It was crazy to look down on all of those windmills, completely the opposite of the view I usually have. That climb was followed by many miles of screaming fast/slightly terrifying descents and then some lovely riding through the country. I was feeling so good that I decided to take on a second climb that had eluded me ‚Äď the road up to Del Valle regional park.

My brother and I have ridden part of it as part of lunchtime and weekend rides, but we’ve never made it all the way to the top. Usually, it’s a million degrees and we have time/fitness constraints, but it’s always bugged me that I’ve never finished it. It’s another long, relentless climb with about a million switchbacks that seem to go on forever. It was the end of my ride and I was tired, but I put my head down and basically willed my legs to get me there. All in all, it was 40 miles of confidence boost. I was tired, but also really proud of myself.

Aside from all of that craziness, life has been work stuff and random adventures with this guy:

And this one…

Even when the weather is bumming me out, I know I’m so deeply blessed to be able to do this crazy athletic stuff and have such wonderful people (and dogs) in my life.

Adventures in Waimea Canyon

Standard

After some nice lazy days, we were up for a little group adventure. So, we decided to check out Waimea Canyon ‚Äď aka “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” There was a fair bit of driving on some very winding roads, but our first viewpoint was pretty spectacular:

WC_CanyonView

A nice lady offered to take our picture, so we have proof that we were there:

WC_TandICanyon

There was a guy dressed in traditional native garb, talking about various local traditions and lore. But he was dramatically upstaged by the baby pig that he brought with him for some reason. I mean, I took this picture:

WC_loincloth

But this is what made it onto Instagram:

WC_BabyPig

We stopped in at the visitor center to look up a good hike. The lady who worked there recommended a good route, but also that we should continue up the mountain to the other viewpoints, since it was still clear. She was right, it was glorious:

WC_NCview1

Clouds were just starting to obscure the view at the next viewpoint up, so we headed back down to start our hike. We’d chosen a nice trail to a waterfall, described as a moderate 1.5‚Äď2 mile hike. It started innocently enough…

WC_StartOfHike

We walked through primordial forests and eventually came out next to the canyon. The textures and colors were mesmerizing:

WC_CanyonView2

The trail turned to volcanic rock that was kind of steep and a little bit scary, given that you basically can just go sliding down into the canyon if you aren’t careful:

WC_View

But we all made it down safely and were rewarded with a very pretty waterfall view at the turnaround point:

WC_trailheadWaterfall

Not pictured, the legions of crazy people who thought it would be fun to swim in the freezing cold water. It turns out, that’s not super fun. But watching them learn that definitely is. We had some snacks and headed back.

As we approached the volcanic rock part of the trail, we encountered a fairly large man, with one side covered in red dirt and scrapes with his knee wrapped in a bandana, very clearly in pain. His name was Ron (which would quickly become Big Ron) and he was with two younger men who turned out to be his sons. It was clear that they needed help, and trail karma is a thing, so we stepped up. The menfolk worked with his sons to help get him up the steep trail, while Jenn, Erin and I tried to warn people to get out of their way. It was slow going and stressful, plus Jenn had The Bird on her back in a pack. So, we opted to move further up the trail and figure out a plan.

For context, here’s where we met up with Big Ron, approximately a mile away from the road, over some fairly challenging terrain:

WC_BigRonLocator

Erin had cell reception, so she called 911. We decided that the best plan was to get Amalie¬†back to the car before she went into full-scale meltdown mode and then direct whatever paramedics/forest rangers were coming our way. Erin was still on the phone and not confident her signal would hold, so Jenn and I made our way back. Amalie¬†was incredible, largely due to Jenn’s ability to keep a calm-voiced¬†monologue going while hiking at a brisk pace up a hill with a fairly heavy weight on her back.

We made it back to the road. Amalie had fallen asleep on the way back, so we sat in some shade and waited for Erin. She showed up much faster than we were expecting and we discussed what to do next and whether we should drive one of the rental cars down the dirt road and get them closer to the trailhead. I was dubious that either car would make it down there, but thankfully, we heard sirens in the distance before we had to find out.

The sirens belonged to a giant red paramedics pick-up trip, loaded with rescue gear and four ridiculously hunky firefighters and their captain. (Seriously, it was like something out of central casting… ) The captain rolled the window down and asked “Which one of you is Erin?” At which point, Erin went over and gave them the lowdown on the situation. (Which might have included the quote “You guys look MUCH stronger than our middle-aged husbands… ” Amazing.) They headed down the dirt road to the trailhead and we loaded Amalie into her carseat and headed to the nearest town to get some lunch and wait for the boys to text us.

We found a surprisingly tasty taco spot (with glacially slow service) and had some lunch while we waited. Thankfully, it wasn’t too long before they texted and we were treated to a play-by-play of the rescue of Big Ron. It turned out that they were¬†there for his other son’s wedding and (as we’d later learn when Jenn & Bryan ran into him at the airport while waiting for their flight home) he’d snapped his MCL and would need surgery.

He may not have been able to buy us drinks, as we’d often lament over the next few days, but he did give us a pretty fantastic story to tell, so god bless you Big Ron, wherever you are…

Return to paradise

Standard

A while back, there was discussion of a repeat of our awesome trip to Hawaii. Originally, we were going to return to the awesome Lana’i house, but apparently the entire island is closed due the the Four Seasons undergoing some substantial renovations. So, we had to make due with Kauai. (I know, we suffer so… )

We got a better rate for flights if we left on Friday morning vs. Saturday, so we booked a single night at a cute little hotel¬†in Kapa’a.¬†Here’s the view from our lanai:

ViewFromRoom

The sign for the beach club pictured above:

LavaLavaSign

We headed into town to grab some lunch and explore a bit. We went to Mermaids cafe at Erik & Nerissa’s recommendation. Should you find yourself in Kapaa, definitely go. It’s insanely delicious. We got to see our first (of many) free-range chickens/roosters, courtesy of Hurricane Iniki.

FirstRoosterSighting

Afterward, we wandered around and looked at the shops. We also tried out a local delicacy we hadn’t had a chance to have during our previous trip, Hawaiian ice. I’m officially obsessed:

HawaiianIce

Plus, the fruit stand where we bought it was utterly charming:

FruitStandSignFruitStandBananas

While we were sitting out front and eating our ices, the lady delivering avocados asked us how long we were staying and offered us some. We, of course, said yes. Score! This vacation was already off to a fantastic start and we’d been there for about three hours.

We headed back to the hotel to¬†relax for a bit. I mean, you have to take the “Mai Tais by the beach” picture to post on Instagram:

MaiTaiswithView

Followed by the obligatory¬†“we’re on vacation selfie”. I know, we’re the worst…

BarSelfie

Mostly, we just enjoyed looking at this:

BeachTime

Erin and David had arrived a few days prior and were staying on the north side of the island, so we drove up there to meet them for dinner. Naturally, there were some stops along the way to gawk at the beautiful scenery:

RicePaddyView

We had a magnificent sushi dinner, at a place recommended by¬†the friend they were staying with. Then it was off to bed, since we’d been up since 5 am PDT. (Stupid early morning flights and time zone changes… )

The next morning, we went to check out a breakfast place that had good enough Yelp reviews for me to overlook the fact that it was called Kountry Kitchen. (I hate “cutesy” misspelled words in restaurant names.)¬†But it was great, quirky and charming inside:

KountryKitchenInterior

With really great food. We split orders of mahi-mahi & eggs and macadamia nut french toast & homemade coconut syrup. So. GOOD.

KKBreakfast

After breakfast I made T take my picture in front of the Lava Lava sign:

MeLavaLavaSign

Then it was time to pack up and meet Erin & David at the rental car place. They dropped their car off, we added her as a driver to our car, shoved all of the luggage in the back and headed off to lunch and then the condo for check-in. Jenn & Bryan were arriving about the same time, so we text-coordinated and arrived at the condo at roughly the same time.

As usual, we were really roughing it:

LanaiLanaiView

The view from the lanai was especially ridiculous:

LanaiView2

The Bird taught a seminar is how to chillax:

TheBirdChillin

We took a little evening beach walk and met some local celebrities ‚Ästthe monk seals that hang out on the beach. I particularly liked that they are so lazy that this sign is needed:

SealSign

They are super cute though. Like big beach cats:

MonkSeals

And then we finished the evening with lots of wine, laughter and a beautiful sunset:

FirstSunset

Not bad, Kauai. Not bad…

A rebuilding year

Standard

I’m not much of a sports enthusiast, but¬†I’ve always liked the phrase “rebuilding year.” I’ve heard it invoked when a team gets a new coach or a bunch of players graduate or what-have-you and I just really like the idea of it. I’m in the middle of a job search ‚Äď a process that, for me, requires a lot of reflection as I examine what I want to be doing and how to present my skills, etc. and¬†I’ve decided that 2016 is going to be a rebuilding year for me. I’m cutting myself some slack and just working on making small sustainable steps to change¬†the things that I want to improve in my life. It’s hard work, but feels like I’m on the right path.

Otherwise, life here is pretty great. We spend a lot of time with these goofballs:

DogParkAntics
AustinGoofballWally

We also added a few members to the “extended pack”. Erik & Nerissa adopted this handsome fellow:

Finn

His name is Finn and while¬†they’re still getting used to having a young, exuberant dog after only having an older dog, I think they are enjoying him. Austin is certainly a big fan:

NewDogPackWe also dog-sat for Todd’s boss’ dog¬†Natasha, a.k.a. Austin’s boss. (T’s office is dog friendly, so Austin goes in a couple of times a week.) It’s pretty crazy watching this tiny thing lay the smackdown on two big dogs. She’s fearless and apparently indestructible:

NatashaBoys

She also spent a lot of time stealing bones and hoarding them on the couch

NatashaAustinAustinNatashaSleeping

We’ve also been enjoying¬†our new surroundings. In February, I took a PTO day and tagged along on one of T’s trips down to Santa Cruz. Yes, you read that right ‚Äď FEBRUARY:

SCbeach

I’m a sucker for a cool lighthouse:

SClighthouse

There were also these cool things shaped like giant jacks along the jetty. I’d love to know what they were originally:

SCpilingsSCpilings2There have been some lovely hikes:

Hike1HikeCaveHikeScenery

And some urban excursions around Lake Merritt (which reminds me a lot of our old neighborhood in Seattle):

LakeMerritt

And, of course, lots of culinary adventures. Such as a fancy ice cream place that makes your ice cream to order with some crazy nitrous-using mixer:

SmittenMachineSmitten1Smitten2

Brunch research (It’s important to know what your options are!)

Brunch

And one of my personal highlights was finding this guy while wine-tasting. Meet Clarence, the wine-barfing unicorn. He’s pretty much my favorite thing ever:
Clarence

So, that’s my update. We leave for Hawaii in a little over a week, so get excited for a super obnoxious play-by-play of our awesome vacation! ūüôā

Stuffed full of gratitude

Standard

Longtime readers of this blog may have noticed that¬†over the time I lived in Seattle, I carved out a set of traditions on Thanksgiving. The Ballard Turkey Trot¬†followed by bagels with M & J and later on dinner with M, J and any other folks we happened to rope into the festivities. So, I was really nervous about what we were going to do this year and was already trying to figure out my exit strategy so it wasn’t a huge bummer weekend.¬†(Ironically, I was planning to visit Erik & Nerissa in the Bay Area before the universe stepped in and helped me out with that arrangement.)

Even with the new surroundings, I still found myself thinking a lot about M and that whole situation. As I prepped the sweet potatoes she’s always requested, I¬†allowed¬†myself to enjoy the memories of our past holidays and, without getting too woo-woo about it, said good-bye to that part of my life and wished her well. I joked to T that it was culinary equivalent of pouring out a forty for your fallen homie. (We’re so gangsta now… )

TD15_SweetPotatoes

So, it is time to forge some new traditions. This year, we were hosting Erik & Nerissa in a house that one month ago movers were loading boxes into. (Talk about something to be grateful for!) We opted to trade the Turkey Trot for a nice hike, but we decided to keep the bagels portion of the program. So, Erik & Nerissa joined us for some carbo-loading and we all headed over to the beautiful parks near our house.

They brought Kali with them, who was very happy to be here:TD15_ErikNerissaHikeWe had a nice long hike. Austin got to be off leash for a lot of it and had a great time running through the woods. The rest of enjoyed a more leisurely pace:

TD15_GroupHikeI can’t believe these views¬†are only a few miles from my house:

TD15_Redwoods

We ended up hiking for almost two hours, which was a little more than Wally had in mind. He was pretty wiped. Even Kali and Austin were pretty chill when we got home…

TD15_KaliAustinWe had some time before dinner, so we ate snacks and played some Mexican Dominoes. (There may have also been¬†some champagne… )

TD15_MexicanDominosWe finished the game and made a huge and delicious dinner. We ate and drank good wine and had a lovely meal. Then there was Cards Against Humanity and more wine and laughing so hard my clavicle hurt. Followed by pie.

TD15_CAH(Photo courtesy of Nerissa… )

It is ridiculous how much I have to be thankful for this year. With all of the terrible things happening in the world, it seems so important to appreciate good fortune while you have it. I hope you and yours are enjoying similarly awesome holidays right now.

Adventures in Oakland

Standard

We’ve been settling in to our new life. It’s really weird to have mild sunny weather in November, but we’re enjoying it while it lasts. Working at home has been an adjustment, but, for the most part, I’m enjoying it. The dogs have found their own routine where they battle over who gets¬†the chair by my desk:

ChairWars

And because my office is upstairs, I try to limit Wally’s trips up and down the stairs. When I make him stay up there, he gives me his famous sad Lab face:

WallyStairs

T takes Austin to the office a couple of days a week, so I see this face a lot…

T found an awesome dog park really close to his office, so we went and checked it out one day after work. Not only is there tons of space for Austin to run around and chase critters, but there are gorgeous views of the bay and San Francisco:

DogParkView

Why yes, that is the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset. From the dog park… Crazy talk!

DogParkView2

We’ve been enjoying exploring the trails near our house:

Trail

This trail is only three miles away from my very urban neighborhood. It’s crazy.

We’ve also some¬†fun adventures. We got to spectate cyclocross with my friend Katy:

Cyclocross

We took Austin down to meet Erik & Nerissa’s dog Kali. Since they are basically the same special dog, they had so much fun playing.

AustinKali

It was a lovely evening until T dropped a knife while carving chicken. It bounced back up and nicked his calf. With the blood thinners that he’s on, it bled A LOT, so we ended up in Urgent Care:

UrgentCareT

Luckily, he didn’t need any stitches and was totally fine.

I had another¬†crazy thing happen. One day, when I was getting some water in the kitchen, I heard this weird noise. It turned out to be a hummingbird. IN my kitchen. Trying to get out the closed window. I was so scared that he was going to die trying to get out (or I would inadvertently kill him trying to get him out of there.) I took a broom and he’d land on it for a moment or two before resuming his efforts. Thankfully, he moved to a new window and I could remove the screen from the one next to it. I couldn’t resist taking a picture of him before his successful escape:

IndoorHummingbird

It was so crazy to see one so close. I guess that’s what we get for painting our kitchen red. ūüėČ I’m just glad this little nugget was at the office with his dad:

Austin