Spring Break: Day 1: Solvang

It’s been a while, friends. I’ve been well for the most part, living my day to day as normally I have ever felt since being diagnosed almost three years ago. There are days when fatigue or emotions get a hold of me and I lay in bed most of the day, but I am inherently an active person and I try to muster up energy and keep myself busy when I’m feeling unlike myself. With the onset of warmer weather and spring blossoms all around, I am feeling well and happy. Each season is such a gift, I am thankful I can enjoy another spring.

Near the end of March, my family and I took a short trip to Solvang, Santa Barbara, and Ojai (pronounced OH-ha-ee) during Elaine’s spring break. We enjoyed another side of California that we had forgotten about–one that is peaceful and green with prairies and cows and horses, so different from the urban beach cities of LA. A taste of bucolic country near the city hustle and bustle of Los Angeles.

We started our trip in Solvang with typical touristy activities: walking around the Danish-inspired town eating Danishes, taking pictures in the giant red shoe and in front of windmills, and my favorite which was visiting a year-round Christmas shop. Because of our four-year-old, we also sought out a park in which she could run around and play. There was a unique park that I found online, but for some reason we couldn’t find its location because it wasn’t where some links were directing us. I initially saw that it was located at Hans Christian Andersen Park, but it turned out to be a skate park surrounded by greenery with tables, benches, and an everyday playground. It was great, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. Later I found out the park was a mile and half away from city-center, so we decided to hang around town for a bit and head to the park as our last stop before heading to Santa Barbara. The park was called Sunny Fields Park. I highly recommend stopping by if you have kids of your own.

Next post: Day 2 in Santa Barbara.


Trip to the Bay: Day 3-4: San Francisco & Berkeley

Trip to the Bay: Day 3-4: San Francisco & Berkeley

I’m finally getting around to posting the last bit of our Bay Area trip from almost a month ago. Our final full day was our actual anniversary, so we indulged in many foods and sentimental sites.

We walked across the street from our hotel to Rick & Ann’s for breakfast. I’ve been to many a breakfast joints in my somewhat adventurous life, but I would say that Rick & Ann’s is one of my favorites, if not my favorite. The location is charming, somewhat hidden in a neighborhood block, and on an early Monday morning, you will find locals walking their dogs, sipping coffee from Peet’s and munching on a pastry from Fournée Bakery while reading the newspaper (yes, newspaper) or a book seated on a bench. On weekends, I imagine a crowded and hectic space, but our Monday morning was peaceful and we were seated immediately at the restaurant. Everything on their menu is fresh and so good.

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Then we headed into the city. Our first stop was City Lights Bookstore. It was one of our engagement photoshoot locations and I wanted to find a place to walk off our breakfast stomachs. Back when I was into beatnik poetry and literature, which sprouted from my fascination with Jack Kerouac’s writing style, I used to visit the bookstore and neighborhood thinking how cool it was to be stepping into part of American literature and history.  I soon realized my naïveté about their whole movement so I grew out of it quickly, but the bookstore holds a meticulous collection of poetry and it’s sometimes fun to open a book of poems and read some profound nonsense. ;)

We wanted Elaine to have fun too, so we had her run around and play at Mission Dolores Park. On the way there, we made a quick stop by our wedding church. We couldn’t find a leisurely pedestrian to take a photo of us, so Elaine obliged and did her best to capture a photo of Mommy and Daddy.

Elaine had so much fun at the park she didn’t want to leave. When we convinced her by bribing her with some ice cream at Bi-Rite, she wanted to go back to the park to play as soon as she finished her ice cream.

By this point it was mid-afternoon and we hadn’t eaten lunch. Our stomachs were still full from ice cream and Elaine was getting crankier by the minute. We needed to find a quiet space so that Elaine could nap while ate something light. Tartine was nearby and it turned out to be the perfect location. While waiting for a table, I browsed through Heath Ceramics next door and it was a good thing our table was ready quickly because I might have purchased dinnerware sets that would’ve taken money out of our savings. haha. My one of many weaknesses: kitchen/tableware.

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We then drove to Embarcadero, walked around, I bought a jar of jam, Y had Blue Bottle iced coffee, as always, and we still had time before our dinner reservation.

Dinner was Sotto Mare, which was supposedly where Y took me on a date once (I didn’t remember). Since we had some time before our reservation, we walked around the neighborhood and found another one of our engagement photoshoot locations: 101 Music. We took photos, walked through the basement with over 50,000 LPs, regretting that I didn’t buy one, (why didn’t I think of Nina Simone!), btw, I don’t even have a record player, so only a little regret.

Sotto Mare’s cioppino, though. My other weakness: good seafood.

While we were at Bi-Rite, I bought Elaine a souvenir coloring book of S.F. Most of the places we visited were in the coloring book and I thought our last stop before heading back to the hotel should be another landmark.

Our little one was cranky by this point and all she wanted to do was go back to the hotel and play, which was why she wouldn’t look at the camera for photos. The unabashed moods of a toddler! Never a compromise.

Well, that’s it. The next morning, I grabbed several pastries and a loaf of corn grits and seeds bread from Fournée Bakery to take home as my other food souvenir, we met with my siblings for breakfast at La Note, and we ended our trip with a long drive home. Some time in-between roaming the city over the weekend, we managed to fit in two visits to Boba Guys. It well-exceeded our expectations: Y loved the muscat oolong iced tea so much that he ordered it on both visits, and Elaine had her very first boba experience with strawberry rice milk. So spoiled; her first boba experience was Boba Guys.

(So happy Tartine is coming to L.A. and Boba Guys can also be found in Culver City)

Trip to the Bay: Day 2: Berkeley and Oakland

Sunday was spent at church for most of the day. When we were members at the church years ago, my husband and I served on the kitchen team where we prepared lunch after service once every month. Our designated menu item was meatball sub sandwiches and  people either loved it so much they’d pack a ziplock bag full of meatballs to eat for lunch the following week or tolerated it enough to fill their stomachs as a snack/meal. It was known as a “church meal” and we wouldn’t order it or seek after it anywhere outside of church. As mentioned in a previous post, we last visited the Bay two years ago, and during that Sunday we happened to visit on the meatball sub Sunday and my husband and I had a good laugh about it. According to the church members, that was the last time they served meatball subs and they hadn’t eaten it since. That is, until we visited again this past July. Two years later, the meatballs greeted us as though it knew we were coming, welcoming us with its marina sauce and toasted bread. Just like the olden days.

Babies had turned into kids, kids had turned into teens, teens had entered college, and familiar faces were mixed with new. Of course, we had also changed…

After church, we stopped by Artís Coffee on 4th Street, a street we often visited for eye-shopping and walks. The coffee shop was new and spacious, although we couldn’t find any seating indoors because of all the people chatting or studying/working that Sunday afternoon.

We transferred hotels to Claremont Club and Spa for the last two nights. It was a nice hotel and they had some recent renovations done to their rooms. I especially liked the bathroom (not pictured) because it was white-marbled from floor to sink to shower tiles, and it looked very fancy and clean. But it was also very cold. *Note to self: for any house renovation, don’t install marble floors; instead, install floor heaters. ;) The hotel itself was massive and they had tennis courts that were always busy.

Later we grabbed dinner near the hotel, a local spot called La Mediterranee, which has good Armenian food. The reviews on Yelp aren’t great, but the food and atmosphere hasn’t changed, and personally, I really like it and I missed the cinnamon-y chicken cilicia. I’ve never found it anywhere else. After dinner, we stopped by our past favorite ice-cream shop: Ici. One time they had a flavor called ‘mint cookie,’ which was a mint flavored ice cream with oreo cookies blended into it. The cookies weren’t crunchy but almost chewy in texture. So good, but we had only tried it that one time and never caught it again on their rotating menu. Their solid and can’t-go-wrong flavor is the ‘earl grey’ but I also like their affogatos. This time around, I tried the ‘coffee cookie’ (I think that’s what it was called) and it was also very good.

We ate so much, we wanted to take a walk and enjoy the rest of the evening before heading back to the hotel. College Avenue would have been the ideal place since we were already there, but all the shops were closed by the time we finished our ice cream (I had forgotten how most shops close by 7pm), so we decided to head over to Lake Merritt in downtown Oakland. The sun was setting and people were out and about enjoying the last bit of the weekend, talking, dancing, walking their dogs, jogging, and even riding a gondola on the lake.

Trip to the Bay: Day 1: Cypress Tree Tunnel and the Golden Gate Bridge

For our anniversary we decided to take a trip to the Bay area for a 4-day weekend. Our last visit was two years ago and it seemed like a good time to visit old friends and familiar places. The Bay will always have a soft spot in our hearts and we are turning out to be the sentimental types.

We stayed at Emeryville Hyatt Place for two nights. The hotel didn’t exist when we lived in the area five years ago, so it’s relatively new and clean, and decently priced. They provided free breakfast every morning (as does the sister branch Hyatt House next door), so that’s a definite plus especially if you have little ones who wake up hungry. The rooms were spacious and clean and the staff were friendly even during its busy breakfast and checkout hours.

Saturday: Elaine was looking forward to seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, which was the only thing she knew about in San Francisco. Unfortunately, Karl the fog was back and blocked our view of the bridge. (Oh, that Karl!) We drove up to the viewing area across the bridge and our view turned out to be a grey-white wall. A typical happening for us, I’d say.

We hung around Sausalito for a quick break, grabbed a couple sandwiches to eat later, then we drove up to Point Reyes to see the cypress tree tunnel. I tried to incorporate a few new places to visit and eat during our trip, and the tree tunnel was one of them, recommended by my mother who visited in the 80s.

After the long drive to and from the tree tunnel, we headed back to the city to get a better view of the Golden Gate Bridge at Fort Point. Most people were heading to the overlook, but my tip would be to pass the area a little further down and drive to Fort Point (see the Seven Places to Gaze at the Golden Gate Bridge). It’s less crowded and you get a grand view of the bridge from water level.

The weather was cold and foggy, which is typical San Francisco weather, but we were exhausted by this point and didn’t feel like walking up and down the steep hills with an irritable toddler. So we headed back to Emeryville and grabbed dinner at Yuzu Ramen and Broffee. Local, low key, no line, good food. That’s one thing we really missed.

 

 

 

Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood

Every year Kaiser hosts an evening at Universal Studios for its employees and their families. We pay for discounted tickets and are admitted at 3pm and can stay until midnight. The park closes for non-Kaiser-family-people at 8pm, so the park is somewhat empty from 8pm-12am. Last year we went with my brother and sister.

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This year we went with my husband’s brother and my sister. It felt like we had a more leisurely time last year and were able to do so much: ride more rides, play some games at booths, participate in the kid’s corner, take a bunch of green-screen photos, eat leisurely, take photos with different costumed characters, sit and drink butter beer.  This year we didn’t do much in the same amount of time, and we felt rushed:  part of the reason may be because we spent 2+ hours in line to ride Studio Tour (we didn’t ride this last year).  You’d think we’d be pros by now with the number of theme parks we’ve visited in the past year, but it seems we are becoming more and more like novices and by our next visit we’ll be entering and leaving the park without having accomplished anything. Mind-boggling.