14 February 2013


We interrupt the string of poorly-written posts on San Francisco for my annual birthday check in.

I've officially left my mid-twenties for my late twenties and so far, so good.  Twenty-six was a very good year for me, mostly because of this face:

I can only hope that twenty-seven treats me so well.  So happy birthday to me and happy Valentine's day to everyone else.

12 February 2013

San Francisco Day 5

We're back in Austin now.  We've been back for several days now, but things always get hectic when you're home, right?

Wednesday we woke up and decided to check out North Beach.  North Beach is north of the downtown area and Chinatown.  It's got a prominent red light district (that we had to walk through to get to dinner the night before), but it's also filled with ridiculously delicious Italian food.  One of the "don't miss" places I was told to visit was Stella Pastry. It turns out that it's also a coffee shop, so Ramona and I had a latte and got some cookies for Colby.  Maybe only one of us had a latte.  We walked around and found a kitschy little store that sold random souvenirs   Next door was a little specialty food store that featured only products that are made at small businesses.  Most of the products originated in San Francisco or the bay area, but I did spot some Zhi Tea on the shelf!  The person at the register was clearly bored out of his mind, so we started chatting and I was talked into  buying a locally made chocolate bar.  He also pointed me to his favorite sandwich shop in the area, so Ramona and i headed that way.

We made our way to Petite Deli and ordered a prosciutto and cheese sandwich for mama and an "Italian hero" for dada.  It was, sort of surprisingly, run by an old Korean woman who had a granddaughter who was only a few months older than Ramona.  Ramona was again ogled and we exchanged baby stories as she made our sandwiches.  Wednesday was also the day that I decided to check out the SPIE meet's career center.  I found out that no one under the age of 11 was allowed on the exhibition hall floor (lame), so Colby watched Ramona while he ate his sub.  I found a lot of different places that had positions that were perfect for... Colby, but none for me.  I was fine with that, though, because i'm not looking for a job yet, but I have a better idea about what I need to work on for next year.

After that, Ramona and I went to the hotel and I ate my sandwich and Ramona had some "explore the room" time.  And by that, I mean, she got to be unstrapped from the Ergo and just crawl.  I was about to strap her to me and go again, but she was hungry, so I nursed her to sleep, actually, and so we just took an afternoon to hang out because she sort of needed it and i was tired of acting as a pack animal.  Colby got back to the hotel room around 5:30 and later that evening, we met up with my cousin Scott and his girlfriend Tony.  Scott and Tony live in Sunnyvale, about 45 minutes south and it was nice to see him again, as we keep missing each other when everyone comes home around Christmas.  We met up at the Warwick Hotel bar and then moved onto the sushi restarant, Sakana, which was only a few blocks from our hotel.

Sakana was great and we had a bunch of random things that Tony mostly ordered.  I really enjoy madai and toro (obviously), and this place had some really wonderful, fresh fist.  Ramona even got in on the action and had some chicken skewers (still too young for sushi!).  Afterwards, we walked around looking for dessert and ended up in the basement of Macy's and eating truffles from Godiva.  It was the first time I met Tony and she was really interesting, grew up mostly in the bay area, and has really pretty hair. (I know, sometimes I surprise myself and remember that I'm a girl.)  After that, we turned in and tried to pack up, but Ramona was super angry because her tummy hurt and we tried to just sleep for the night.

06 February 2013

San Francisco Day 4

Tuesday was the first day that Ramona and I had to go it alone, but it was okay.  I wanted to get a MUNI pass to ride around the city, but had a problem with my cash* situation.  Long story short: MSUFCU is awesome and now I owe them like $6 on a cash advance and it's probably not going to be worth it.  I purchased a $22 MUNI pass with the hopes of taking a cable car at some point and zipping around town on the bus system.  The cable car lines are insane and the buses that I tried to take that night either didn't come or were so overcrowded that, at one point, I got hit by the door because the bus driver didn't know someone was standing on the stairs and I had no way of knowing that he was closing the door.

We took a street car to the Ferry building for lunch.  I knew that the farmers market was going on that day, but I wasn't sure what to expect.  There were some prepared food vendors, but they were all crazy busy, especially Hapa Ramen.  I would have loved some ramen, but Ramona makes ramen-eating precarious at best.  All of this happened outside of the Ferry Building and as I walked in, there were TONS of shops, mostly having to do with food.  It was amazing and I went into the Cow Girl Creamery store and bought a half round of Red Hawk and then went next store to a bakery and bought a sourdough baguette and that's what I had for lunch.  Best decision ever.  I spotted a bakery called Miette and saw that they had macarons and bought a pistachio, a vanilla, and a chocolate to meet the five dollar credit card limit and to try my first macaron.

Afterwards, we left the Ferry Building and I started to walk up the Embarcadero towards Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf.  Big mistake.  It's a bit over a mile to get there and having a Ramona on your front and a backpack on your back makes for quite strenuous walking.  I made several stops, including on a (supposedly historical) promenade where I tried my first macaron... and then shortly after my second.  They were wonderful.  Not at all what I was expecting, but that's okay because wow.  SO good! 

Along the Embarcadero was a bunch of buildings that housed some of the America's Cup stuff and that was sort of interesting to look at, although at that point, I was just stretching for things to be interested in during my arduous sojourn.  (I'm not being dramatic. Not at all.)  I finally saw the Aquarium of the Bay and realized that we had reached Pier 39.  I didn't see any walruses or sea lions or whatever you're supposed to see, but this might have been because that part of the pier was closed.  Or because I'm an idiot and never found the lookout point. 

Either way, it didn't matter because what I did find was a miniature playground complete with two slides and some stairs.  We were set!  Ramona played for awhile and then I changed her diaper and we were all happy again.  I've been complaining on tumblr, facebook, and twitter about how smokey San Francisco is and I think some people don't believe me.  I just want to show here that I'm not being crazy.  Here are two people who are smoking right by a playground.  I actually stood back until they left and held Ramona so that she didn't need to be all up in their secondhand smoke while she navigated the stairs.

Exhibits A and B.
So after that, we walked around Fisherman's Wharf, which I had been advised to avoid by anyone who lived in SF for longer than a year.  Was it a tourist shit hole?  Yes.  Did it have a whole lot of people who looked like carnies?  Absolutely.  Am I glad I went?  Yes, but not for the reasons you would expect.  I mean, I knew what I was getting into and now I can say that I went there.  It's also easier to have a screaming baby at Fisherman's Wharf than it is at the Museum of Modern Art.  Not that she was screaming.  We had a playground.  Playgrounds = magical.  After awhile, I ducked into an In-and-Out (I still don't get the hype) and got a pop because I was thirsty and under caffeinated.  On my way out, I passed some (probably homeless) dude without a full set of teeth crouched behind a garbage can.  It took every ounce of willpower I had to not scream, so I was proud of myself.  About 30 seconds later, I heard a huge shriek come from behind me.  I guess that guy got someone else.

As I was about to give up and leave and call the place a bust, I stumbled across the National Parks Visitor Center.  It had a huge exhibit on the port of San Francisco and different parts of the city that pertained to the parks.  It also had brochures on a lot of the local National Parks, including Muir Woods.  It was great and it meant that going to the Wharf wasn't completely stupid.  If you do decide to go to the Fisherman's Wharf, this is what I suggest:

1) clam chowder in a bread bowl - there are several vendors on the street and then there's Boudin Bakery.  There's also a Boudin Bakery in the giant Macy's downtown.
2) at least walk in the public restrooms.  Those things are kind of hilarious and they'll talk to you if you'd like.
3) National Park Visitor Center

After leaving the Visitor Center, we left the area.  I wanted to take a trolley back, but the lines were crazy so I found a bus stop and waited for it to come.  There were several not the right buses that came and I finally talked to someone at the bus stop and realized that I was headed the wrong way anyway so I found the right bus stop and went back into town.  Colby met us back at the hotel room and then we went to Sotto Mare for dinner.

Sotto Mare is in North Beach and I didn't want to deal with the hills from last night, so we opted to take the bus.  That didn't come for a long, long time to the point of missing our reservation time, but that wasn't a big deal because we called them to let them know and they didn't have a problem.  Eventually two different buses came that didn't let us on because they were too full, so we all said "fuck it" and walked.  It turns out that North Beach houses some pretty nice hills along with a vibrant red light district.  That was great to walk by, but it was't a huge deal.

When we got there, the owner was IN LOVE with Ramona.  Between her and our waitress, Ramona was giving ridiculous amounts of attention.  It was kind of cute and sort of creepy, but the food was great and Ramona seems to like scallops and pasta now.  We got oyster shooters, a wedge salad to split, and the cioppino also to split.  When dessert came around, we were informed that they don't do dessert, so we went back to our hotel room and ordered room service cheesecake.

*side note: whenever I type cash, I always type CASH first because that's the acronym for my thesis project (the Chemical Abundances of Stars in the Halo).

San Francisco Day 3

Colby had to start working on Monday, but only in the afternoon.  We wandered around the downtown area until we ate lunch and went in and out of a few stores. We're staying in the Grand Hyatt, did I mention that before?  It's across the street from the largest Macy's I've ever seen.  It's a high rise and in the basement is a food court featuring a few interesting restaurants, including Frontera Fresco.

Frontera Fresco is basically a food court presentation of Rick Bayless' Mexican food and it's a lot easier to get into than his other restaurants.  There are several in existence and they're all in Macy's, with most being in Illinois.  I got the shrimp tacos, Colby got a cubana torta, and we split a bowl of the tortilla soup.  It was way tasty and made for a great lunch.

Afterwards, we went to Chinatown to walk around and see it during the daytime.  Last year, Colby stayed in a boutique hotel in Chinatown and said that everything was dead after about 6 PM.  San Francisco has the oldest and largest Chinatown.  It covers an area of 1.34 sq miles (Austin's Chinatown, by comparison, is a shopping center.) and is filled with crazy souvenir shops, dim sum restaurants, food markets and more.  It seems like there's a lot of haggling going on which, quite frankly, scares the crap out of me.  We walked into a jewelry store and some guy offered a Pandora charm for $25 and then $20.  We declined because Colby is a killjoy.

Chinatown is intensely crowded, busy, and vibrant.  It was a lot of fun to walk through just to see all the people bustling about.  I really wanted to buy Ramona some slippers (they were soo pretty!) but did I mention that Colby is a killjoy?  We stopped in at a dim sum restaurant to pick up an afternoon snack (a steamed pork bun, these little chewy bean paste? cookies, and a couple of pieces of har gow) and then headed back to the hotel room. 

Afterwards, Colby went to the Marriott next to the convention center and did his work stuff.  I tried feeding Ramona some fruit and discovered a couple new things about her: a) she really likes watermelon and b) she is TERRIFIED of pigeons.  I found yet another playground (huge slides=lots of stairs for her to climb!) at the Yerba Buena Gardens and let Ramona play for awhile.  Eventually, she got grumpy, so I put her back in the ergo and she fell asleep while i walked around some sketchy looking areas and waited for Colby to be done.  I ended up back near the play area at the YBG and at a little cafe called Beard Papa.  I ate a cheesecake stick while waiting for Colby and then we regrouped and went back to the hotel room again.

We ventured out for dinner up Nob Hill to the Nob Hill Cafe.  Up until this point, I didn't really remember that San Francisco was known for its hills.  The downtown area around us isn't too bad and I had managed to avoid the hills around Chinatown.  This hill was NO JOKE and we ended up going up one street that had stairs carved into it because of the inclination.  OMGWTFBBQ?  But seriously, the problem isn't going up the hills, it's trying not to fall on your face while you're going down.  ANYWHO.

The Nob Hill Cafe was great.  We had a 40 minute wait, which sucked, but Ramona was asleep on top of Colby, so the worst part about waiting (the potentially grumpy baby) was not a problem.  It's a really tiny restaurant, but we got there as part of the last group that ate, so we weren't rushed out as we were finishing up.  This is something that people have complained about on Yelp, but I wasn't too bothered.  We got a misto something or other appetizer, which was basically par-cooked vegetables drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar along with some mozzarella, prosciutto, and olives. (Again, pictures when we get home).  Colby got lasagna and I got the gnocchi.  Colby won dinner that night, but the gnocchi were great and Ramona seemed to like the little bits of ground meat from the sauce.  She also like throwing food on the floor in a mostly non-disruptive way.  By the time dessert came around, she was about ready to leave, so we got tiramisu to go and we walked back (down, slowly) to our hotel to eat it.

04 February 2013

San Francisco Day 2

So this is what we did today:

View Larger Map

We met up with my friend who drove all the way from Santa Barbara (!) at the Velo Rouge Cafe.  She got a coffee and we made our way up to Clement Street to pick up some dim sum from the Clement Restaurant.  We took our spoils to the Presidio (or it might have actually been Mountain Lake Park) and ate lunch at a picnic table in the park and then walked over to the playground area and let Ramona burn off some energy.

Afterwards, we made our way to Green Apple Books and then back to the Velo Rouge Cafe where my friend left San Francisco back home so she could go to work tomorrow.  Colby, Ramona, and I made our way to the Rossi Playground on Arguello where she burned off some more energy and then we headed towards Golden Gate Park to walk around the Japanese Tea Garden, which was sort of disappointing because they were cleaning out a lot of the ponds.  After that, we walked around some more and headed over to the Koret Children's Quarter Playground and then walked to Little Star Pizza to get deep dish pizza and garlic bread.

Afterwards, we tried to get back to our hotel, but were diverted off three buses because the downtown area was closed off due to the Superbowl and got into our room right about the time that the game ended.  I was really glad that we got in before the rioting started. ;)

San Francisco Day 1

We've been in San Francisco for almost two days now and it's been a lot of fun.  I'm hoping to summarize each day for both the memories and to regain some blogging mojo.  There will be a bit of food involved (since we obviously need to eat), but a lot of "stuff we did".  Here's hoping that it's not too boring, but I'm not going to try to make it interesting, it's mostly just me chronicling our adventures here.

We flew in on JetBlue, which is seriously my new favorite airline.  They moved us to a row with an open seat in the middle so that we could have an entire row to ourselves and they gave Ramona stuff to play with on the flight.  It was awesome.  We came in on the BART and were able to check in early to our hotel, which was great.  We then headed to the rental car company and made a harrowing drive out of San Francisco (seriously, when someone claims that a city is "walkable" it ALSO means that it's basically impossible to drive in) to Muir Woods.  It was pretty, though crowded, but we took a ton of pictures and I'm hoping to post them soon.

After we got back and clean, we went to Osha Thai on Second and Mission.  Their tom kha soup was fantastic and the right amount of spicy to help me with my cold.  We also got beef wasabi rolls and those were great and served with this amazing sweet and sour sauce that I could have drunk.  Colby got the pineapple fried rice and he was sort of okay with it.  He said it was a letdown based on how good the first two items were.  I have no way of telling if his meal was good because I hate pineapple fried rice and on the unfortunate bite I took, there were raisins it in. Gross.  I got the crab fried rice and thought it was great.  The place was super clubby and dark and dun dun dun dun dun with the music, so no pictures.  Also, I think they weren't thrilled that Ramona was there and were super slow with the service.  We called it even after Ramona puked on the floor and so we left a nice tip.  There are other locations that are apparently cheaper, but the one by our hotel was in an area called the Tenderloin.  It's apparently not a good neighborhood and between the loud dundundun and the fact that Ramona was super tired, she was way overstimulated and I ended up going outside with her and walking around to try to get her to calm down.  Needless to say, I'm glad that we ended up going to the not dicey neighborhood.