The Golden Gate Bridge is what?

The Golden Gate Bridge is what?
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From Lombard Street, we headed to the Golden Gate Bridge. The plan was to walk the bridge seeing as it was such good weather. Well, trust us to pick a day when the Golden Gate Bridge was completely closed to traffic for maintenance for the first time in 77 years!! Man oh man! Okay, no problem, we know a place where we can still get a great view of the bridge but first, we had to find a restroom… bad!

Well, if you’re looking for a restroom, the Palace of Fine Arts isn’t the place!! We took a detour there thinking surely a touristy place like that would have at least some one restroom? No. There are undoubtedly restrooms inside the convention hall behind it but that’s closed most of the time unless there’s an event.

If you’ve ever gone restroom-hunting on a desperately full bladder, you know it isn’t funny! The closest thing we found was an IHOP a couple of blocks down. Since their restroom is for customers only, we ended up eating brunch there with the intention of having lunch in Chinatown later. Up till now, we’ve never had reason to go to IHOP – I make my own pancakes. So naturally we didn’t order pancakes but these instead…

I hop away

They were nothing special but that’s the price you pay for using their restroom! Not once, but twice each to make it worth our money, hahah! The crazy things we do!

We picked a fine day to go to the recreation area near the Golden Gate Bridge. It was swarming with half the city out running, bicycling, walking their dogs, kids and surfboards on a Sunday! Driving was madness. There were people everywhere but we found a parking spot easily enough, right next to some guy who was getting geared up to go paddle boarding with his dog. In the freezing waters of the Pacific Ocean? Wow!!

Golden Gate Brdige

Zigzagging down Lombard St.

Zigzagging down Lombard St.
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Like I said, the streets of San Francisco make one heckuva fun ride. We were all set. First stop, Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the world. This time, I parked at the top and we walked down these stairs.

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No matter how many times I’ve been here, the feeling is always the same. I’m completely knocked off my feet by the beauty of the homes on both sides of this street. They have a quaintness all of their own. I’m sure they must look like a page off a decor magazine inside. What makes them even more mysterious is that I’ve never seen anyone go in or out. It’d be interesting to see who lives here.

Living on such a winding slope of a street must be quite something. I can’t imagine reversing in and out of the garage. But if you live here long enough, I guess you will eventually get the hang of it but surely it must be a bit of a daily adventure. See those little green dots I’ve marked on the hedges to show how the street zigzags its way downhill.

Lombard St

When we got to the bottom of Lombard Street, we climbed back up the stairs, got into our car, and I did something I’ve never done before! I freakin’ drove down Lombard Street!! This is a first for me and I gotta say maneuvering those bends and screaming all the way down was quite a thrill! I wonder why I never thought to do it before. By the time we got to the bottom, Hip2bDaughters were lamenting that the ride was too short! Let’s start over. Sure, let’s do it again next time, why not? it was fun!

The streets of San Francisco

The streets of San Francisco
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After spending a half day in San Jose walking around Japantown, and checking out the Japanese shops and restaurants, and a Buddhist temple, we hoarded a stash of Japanese pastries and sushi. It’s a shame that after our In-N-Out escapade, we couldn’t fit in another lunch – there were so many Japanese restaurants there.

The next morning, we headed out to San Francisco on a cold, gray day with patchy fog (nothing like the white wall) which wasn’t so good for picture taking but good weather to be out. Okay, so you know you’re in San Francisco when the streets turn into a roller coaster. Wheeee! Up and down we went, and as if that’s not thrilling enough, many of the Stop signs are at the top of really steep inclines! which literally leaves you sitting tilted backwards as if you were in a dentist’s chair.

Tilted backwards

I was almost afraid that when I took my foot off the brake to step on the accelerator, we would inadvertently go sliding back down the incline. If I were driving a shift stick, that would be a very real possibility. Thankfully with an auto, we just went screaming as we rolled forward down the slope, hahaha!!! So much fun!

In-N-Out burger time

In-N-Out burger time
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On the way to San Jose, we made a brief stop in Gilroy to grab a quick lunch. I suggested In-N-Out since Hip2bDaughters have never tried their burgers and weren’t even keen to try. A burger is a burger is a burger, Mom, they tell me. True, I wouldn’t suggest going to just any burger place myself. But you can’t live here and not have tasted In-N-Out, know what I mean?

They’ve been around since 1948, that should say something! They’re always packed. You can almost never get a table, and the drive-thru is miles long. And what’s not to love about their 1960’s theme – colors, concept, even down to the staff’s uniforms, it’s like stepping into a Grease movie!

So in we went. It was sardines inside!! There was no way we were going to get a table! So we decided to take out and even then, we got moved around quite a bit while waiting for our order. People just kept coming in the door.

In and Out

We were planning to eat our burgers on the road so as not to waste time. Seriously, I have no idea how to eat a burger while driving. I’ve never tried and I’m not sure my car would appreciate becoming a piece of red and yellow modern art. So we ended up eating in our parked car with the windows rolled down. It was a beautiful cool day!

3 burgers

I had a hamburger, the young ladies had cheeseburgers. I wish I’d ordered the cheeseburger though, it looked bigger and tastier but cost like only 30 cents more, haha! Oh well, next time! And remember to ask for their grilled onions, they’re freakin’ tasty!

burger

Now the Hip2bDaughters can say they’ve been to In-N-Out and even admit to loving their burgers, so tasty yet affordable. We’ve been back 3 times since. Looks like I’ve created monsters again!

The white wall

The white wall
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I’m back! From our little vacation to the Bay Area. It was a cold, gray day when we headed out to San Jose. Mind you, this wasn’t your regular gray winter’s day, it came with thick fog. Regular fog is fine, I’m used to that. But we ran into several patches of fog so thick that visibility was like 200 feet. We’re talking complete whiteout here!!

Pretty weird!! I felt like I was driving straight into a white wall. I couldn’t see anything beyond the front of my car. That’s how bad it was! All I had were the white lines on the road to guide me. Beyond that, I couldn’t see a thing!! Not a thing! Whenever a vehicle passed by, its tail lights would disappear in a flash and then it’s back to that white wall again.

It’s a strange feeling. It’s like you want to get out of it quick. You’re hoping the wall will open up at any moment. But you can’t speed up. In fact, I slowed down so as to keep a safe distance between me and any vehicle that might just be in front of me which I couldn’t see. You wonder where everyone else is, and if they can see you. You hope they’re not speeding. And you wonder how long that wall is going to go on for. Just pretty weird!!

But by the second patch of blind fog, I was beginning to consider myself quite a pro at it. I slowed down. I kept going. And I was glad when I finally emerged from it. It’s just like they say, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, you know there’s a clear road beyond the fog. 😀

And the three little pigs…

And the three little pigs...
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… stayed home all new year weekend! Except for a quick zip to Round Table Pizza for another round of… this time, it was a the large Hawaiian pizza. 12 slices divided by 3 hungry people = 4 slices each. I think we did good. We only had 3 slices left over to take home for tea!

nyevelunch

Our first lunch of the year was grilled cheese sandwiches. Vegetarian and homemade too, I might add. No, I didn’t take any pictures. Too hungry and excited is my only excuse.

For dinner, we had party wings. Yeah, they’re organic chicken wings though you’ve probably rarely heard me use the word ‘organic’ on this blog. Well, organic is not something I do blindly just because it’s trendy. It depends on how convinced I am that organic is really organic because as you know, there are so many factors that go into qualifying a product as organic and I’d hate to be ripped off paying more for something that’s maybe not truly organic, know what I mean? 😉

Regardless, these homemade party wings were finger-lickin’ good – even the Colonel would’ve been proud, I’m sure!

nylunch1

While we were in a celebratory mood, I decided to use up the few scallops left from the big bag we snagged at Costco over Christmas and transformed them into this. Dare I imagine how much this dish would cost us at an rip-off upscale Chinese restaurant?

nylunch2

Nothing like staying warm indoors on a cold winter night. Pigging out with loved ones is an added bonus, of course. Cheers!

Reflecting on 2014

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Here we are, on the last day of yet another year. For me, 2014 has been a little surreal in more ways than one. I woke up on New Year’s Day 2014 in Vancouver, Canada and we’re counting down to 2015 here in California. Sometimes, I wake up and I have to take a minute to check my mental GPS.

Looking back, it’s been sort of interesting…

Cooking firsts

This has been a year of cooking firsts for me. In these past years of cooking for my kids, I’ve always been the chief of pastas, salads, and roasts. This year, well, we seem to be going through a small Asian food revolution here. My kids have started warming up to Asian food which they never quite appreciated before. Thing is I’m not much of an Asian chef. But being the mom that I am, I’ve always catered to my picky eaters’ whims and fancies, or at least, I’ve tried. So that set me off dishing out an eggplant stirfry here, a sophisticated steamed tofu there and glam rice congee on a cold day. There’s nothing I can’t cook with my kids cheering me on 😉 !

New loves

This has got to be the year of new loves.

  • Fruits, fruits, fruits – all locally grown (read: no worries about their country of origin!).
  • Boots – bought my first pair, so wearing them every day, I’m in love!
  • Mrs Dishwasher, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. That you’re making sweet music with my dishes and pots while I’m sitting here at my computer, and when you’re done, everything comes out squeaky clean.
  • Toilet tablets – truly a gift to someone who hates cleaning the toilet bowl.
  • Ready-peeled shrimps, ready-peeled garlic, pre-washed veggies, you get the idea.
  • A car with a reverse camera – not that I can’t do without one but it sure as heck is a cool thing to have.
  • Self-cleaning oven… and if I were ever to have pet fish, they would live a life of luxury in a self-cleaning fish tank.
  • A whirlwind romance with Korean food, thanks to the K-friend who dragged us around town in search of.

Learning experiences

This year has been fraught with new learning experiences, among them:

  • Don’t park the car under a tree unless you want it to be decorated with bird droppings.
  • Volunteering at a community service center was a first and very rewarding experience for me.
  • I spoke Korean to our Korean mart lady so I guess that officially makes me Korean, huh?
  • Diving into a ‘shark’ tank was eye-opening *shudders* and we might even have befriended a semi-friendly shark name of Roger.

I swear there’s a ton more stuff I’d blogged inside my head for days before this but right now, this is about all I can come up with. I’ve got Korean BBQ chicken wing dings fresh out of the oven, scallops and Shiitake mushrooms and a bowl of kimchi sitting on the dining table.

To all my readers and fellow bloggers, have a safe and amazing 2015. Happy New Year!

Christmas at home

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Hello Christmas morning! I’m up at 7:30 in the morning and it’s 39* out. The sun is stirring from his slumber. I can see him through the bare trees. And I’m standing in the hallway shivering in my jammies. Bah humbug! Time to turn on the heater.

Just two days ago, on the eve of Christmas eve, to be exact, I had rejoiced in shrugging off my hoodie at the Target parking lot in the 77* sunshine. That’s 77 on the second day of winter! Unbelieveable. Yesterday was a sunny 66 and today, whoa, we’re down to 56!

But enough about the weather. We were full of plans last night. We had planned to drive out to Christmas Tree Lane to see the lights after dinner. Christmas here is more about family and celebrating at home with loved ones. A far (literally!) cry from the commercialized Christmases we’re used to seeing in the city. Happy we don’t have to contend with the crazy crowds, and ripoff restaurant prices.

Anyhoo, by the time darkness fell at 5pm, we had changed our minds about Christmas Tree Lane and decided to stay home instead, declaring we would stay up late to usher in Christmas day, not that we had to but we thought it might be fun… and we almost made it too. With only a half hour till the stroke of midnight, the sleeping beauties were, well, fast asleep. So much for Christmasy plans!

So here we are chilling on Christmas day after spending 2 hours in the kitchen making lunch, and washing the car together. How’s that for family time? I bet our car is even happier now that it’s all shiny and spanking new again. 😀

Happy Holidays 2014!

Happy Holidays 2014!
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Here we are on Christmas Eve having spent the past few days running around as if we were celebrating which we don’t, not in the religious sense anyways but I’ve always loved the holiday spirit. We’re just excited to join in the shopping frenzy even though we have nothing much to buy. Well, that’s not true. Packages from our Black Friday and after-party escapades are still arriving at our door every other day.

Oh, and after that Thanksgiving turkey fest, and eating turkey leftovers for days after, I’ve decided to hang up the pots and pans, and eat out instead. Let’s see…

Yesterday, on the eve of Christmas eve, while running some last-minute errands, we were contemplating lunch at Denny’s, Carl’s Jr or Subway but ended up splurging on a Korean buffet lunch instead. After all, it’s Christmas, right? What the heck? Let’s pig out and be jolly.

Korean buffet lunch

The day before that, we were rejoicing that gas prices had plummeted so we treated ourselves to a road trip, driving two hours to the factory outlets for some retail therapy. It was a cool day, really nice for a long drive, and for walking around from store to store. We even took some time to enjoy an outdoor lunch.

rejoice!

We got back late and decided to stop for Thai. We ate in, the servings are huge and we were stuffed but still had enough red curry chicken and eggplant with black bean sauce leftovers for another meal.

Thai dinner

Looks like for us, the holidays have already begun. I hope you have a jolly good time of being surrounded by loved ones, pigging out, and giving and receiving. Remember to spare a thought for the less fortunate. And with that, I’d like to wish all of you, my darling readers, a safe and blessed Christmas and Happy Holidays 😀 !!

Glam rice congee

Glam rice congee
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Many of my weekend mornings are spent poring over a slow fire lovingly brewing a big pot of congee. The weather has cooled down quite dramatically over the past couple of weeks. On the first day of December, I remember marveling at how we were still hitting daytime highs in the 70s with such sunny days I could still go out in only a long-sleeved tee. Since then, temps have dropped to the 50s and 60s with alternating days of rain, overcast skies, gusty winds and sunshine. Beautiful weather but cooler.

On days like these, a bowl of piping hot rice congee is comfort food indeed. For me, this winter congee is a nostalgic reminder of my good old college days when my roomie would be up at the crack of dawn on a weekend, no less, prepping and brewing a pot of this. It’s wonderful waking up to the aroma of a meal you don’t have to cook yourself. I’m not even kidding 😀 .

Ever since I first started cooking this a few months ago, I’ve had a few special requests for it. I usually make a big enough pot for lunch and dinner. While my college roomie’s version consisted of only salted egg, century egg and ground pork, which was very tasty in itself, I’ve glamorized mine with my very own homemade salted eggs (I know, I can’t believe it myself), ground pork, carrots, goji berries, and sesame oil.

congee

Topped with spring onions, cilantro, seaweed and fermented bean curd, this is the best thing ever. I know fermented sounds scary but these are just little square blocks of soft bean curd suspended in a salty, spicy sauce. The reason why they’re in little squares is because you can’t eat a lot of this. It’s very salty but since I don’t salt my congee, this is what adds flavor for us.

congee

Enjoying a bowl of this luscious congee is perfect on a lazy weekend. We can take our time to talk and laugh between spoonfuls. Aah, what a luxury!

congee

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