Monday, August 31, 2015

Traveling Solo: Day 3 & 4 in Philly

After my $15 (1 hour delayed) Megabus  ride to Philly, my cousin and her boyfriend picked me up and immediately took me on an adventure! First, they took me to Le Bok Fin.


 We parked on the street and entered an abandoned old school building. Makeshift desks and a lone receptionist sign us in and point us down our single pathway to the elevator. Once we arrived on the 8th floor, the doors opened up to this:

Le Bok Fin is one of many AMAZING pop-up beer gardens scattered around Philly. The city knows how to capitalize on their summer season. I feel like California forgets how great we have it in terms of weather and we don't do things like this to celebrate. 

The views were absolutely breathtaking and the weather was calm and beautiful. I never wanted to leave! They have a great beer and wine selection with a fancy, yet accessible French-inspired menu!

Le Bok Fin is open from Thursday to Sunday and closes on September 13. 

 After our beers, a steak sandwich at Pat's was required. We weren't too hungry, so one sandwich split 3-ways was the perfect snack.

The next morning, my cousin took me to Eastern State Penitentiary, which was once the home of Al Capone. Built before the commercialization of electricity, the architecture incorporated sky lights to illuminate the building. Definitely worth a visit! They do haunted Halloween walk-throughs and they also host weddings here!



My cousin had to do some work, so she dropped me off and I did some more walking on my own. I wandered down the oldest residential street in the country (I want to live here), and visited the basics: Liberty Hall, City Hall, etc. At this point my knees were KILLING me, so I spent some time at another beer garden :)



For my last meal, my cousin and her boyfriend took me to Fette Sau Philly for some bbq! I wasn't even hungry due to the heat but oh my goodness this place was perfection! They also have a Happy Hour with $5 Old Fashioneds and Manhattans which cannot be missed! (I missed it, so I ponied up $12)


I had a wonderful time in Philly. It's an inspiring city with so much culture, history, art, and community involvement. It helps that my cousin is so heavily involved with the community, but one can only dream about something like this existing in the Bay Area!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Traveling Solo: Day 1 & 2 in D.C.


I recently turned 26, and while that age is insignificant to most, it was mildly life-altering for me. Why? Because I no longer get to fly standby for free under my father's airline benefits :( WAHHH. I know that's a first world problem but I literally had the world at my fingertips! Now it costs something!

So, what does one do with 5 days left of a blissful 25 years of age? Hop on a plane, any plane, anywhere, fast! I initially wanted to go to Montana and see mountains and endless skies, but that required a layover in Chicago or Denver, both of which were packed with summer travelers, meaning I had small chance of getting a seat on a plane. My other problem was that I was traveling alone and as a very poor student. I'm talking poor student with no savings. So, I decided to go somewhere that would have tons of free things to do: Washington, D.C.

I quickly Facebook messaged my former Thai dancer teacher who now lives/works in D.C. and asked if I could stay with her and she enthusiastically said yes! Of course, I'm very lucky I had her help or else I would have stayed in a hostel, which was about $40 a night. Totally doable, but I was on a super tight budget.


How to get from Washington Dulles International Airport to D.C.

5A Metro Bus, $7 exactly

Honestly, I didn't have good plans. I'm unusually paranoid about making plans but for some reason my brain felt like winging it this whole trip. My dance teacher told me to take the "shuttle" and I assumed there was only one known "shuttle" that I would magically see when I got to Ground Transportation. Nope. The kind lady at the airport's info desk provided me with the cheapest option, which was the 5A Metro Bus. It costs $7 exactly and thank goodness when my mom dropped me off at SFO airport, she had me switch my $100 bill to $20s and told me to take all the small bills she had, which was exactly one $5 and two $1s. Ridiculous how that works. I felt like a lucky mess.

The bus takes approximately 40 minutes and only makes 3 stops. One parking garage near Washington Dulles Airport, one at Rosslyn (which is where I needed to be), and the last at L'Enfant Plaza, which is where you can get dropped off if you want to be near the Smithsonian Museums. I spent the whole time putting on makeup to hide my red-eye flight nastiness. I would highly recommend using this mode of transportation.

I arrived at Rossyln, met with my dance teacher, got to go up to her office which required diplomatic security clearance (sounds cool but it got annoying real fast), dropped off my backpack of clothing, and off I went!

I walked from Rosslyn station to the Marine Corps Memorial. This statue is wayyyyy bigger than the photos led me to believe. I basically had this whole place to myself!

Then I followed the paths to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which was an emotional experience. Arlington cemetery is huge and gravestones are visible as far as the eye can see. I managed to make it to the "Changing of the Guard" one minute before the ceremony. During the summer, the guards are changed every 30 minutes. During other seasons the changing of the guard occurs every hour.

I did not take good pictures so here's a list of everything else I did:
-Walked from Arlington, across the bridge, to Lincoln Memorial
-Walked past the White House
-Ate at Shake Shack (I would rate it better than In-N-Out except that it's more expensive!)
-Went to the Natural History Museum
-Trudged through town while I debated buying new shoes or elastic bandages because the backs of my knees were wrekt. Didn't buy anything. Basically, I walked about 10 miles in my Chucks, which are not good walking shoes. I felt my age catch up to me.
-Walked to The Partisan to wait for my dance teacher and friend to show up!

The Partisan has a ridiculously amazing (and unheard of on the west coast) $5 Aperitif Happy Hour from 4-6pm. I had so many Negronis. Once everyone arrived, we proceeded to get really drunk. Or maybe it was just me :)

My friend Dee was in town for work and she was also a former student of the same dance teacher! So, we had a mandatory reunion after 10+ years. We were just about ready to go home when we heard amazing music thumping from a courtyard, so we followed it and stumbled into Poste Modern Brasserie. The place was basically empty and we asked the bartender for some info and found out this location was the first USPS office in D.C. and the building was built in 1841! The alley-entrance was utilized by the horse-drawn carriages to enter the courtyard to pick up mail! Pretty magical moment!


***
Day 2!
-I walked from Rosslyn station to Georgetown.
-Found a Trader Joe's and purchased more stuff for a care package for M
-Walked to GWU and took the train to L'Enfant Station
-Museum time!

The museum of the American Indian is worth a visit just for their cafe! They have authentic cuisines from different regions of the Americas. The only downside is that unless you want a bunch of vegetable sides, the portions are HUGE. I wanted to try EVERYTHING but it was expensive and wasteful! I got one Indian Taco: Fry bread, buffalo chili, lettuce, tomatoes, onions. I desperately wanted to try other things like Wild Deer Tamales, but the portions were huge!

I walked to the Botanical Gardens but didn't take pictures! I basically gave up today since my knees were wrecked. I then took the train to Union Station to catch my Megabus to Philly. This station is the best public transportation hub I have ever been to! They have H&M, MAC, The Body Shop, Shake Shack, and a wide variety of additional shops and restaurants! My two hours here flew by. They even had a USPS office for me to mail my care package to M.


Saturday, August 8, 2015

Bag of the Day

Small Garrison Bag by Winter Session$245

Made in USA. Comfy leather shoulder strap, accessory pockets, waxed canvas. So beautiful, functional, and durable.





Friday, July 24, 2015

July 4th in St. Helena

My friends and I didn't really coordinate big July 4th plans, so we decided to go to Napa Valley. Napa Valley is one of my favorite places. It's essentially the equivalent of Palm Springs to an LA resident. Only a 2 hour drive out of the SF/Bay Area to a tranquil, quieter environment with delicious cuisine.


My wingman "S" went to college and found a job out there, so it's only natural that we would make frequent visits to her in wine country more often. She actually had to "work overtime", which consisted of photographing her company's float for the Calistoga July 4th parade. Although I don't have the photos to prove it, Calistoga is an adorable small town with unique shops along a main road, a surrounding neighborhood with beautiful homes, and avenues lined with trees. We snagged these amazing seats at the hotel bar of the adorable Mount View Hotel & Spa. It felt luxurious to have a fantastic view of the parade, seats in the shade, cocktails and charcuterie.


S had to feed her roommate's dog, so we rushed home after the parade. Her name is Matilda, and she's a big, cuddly bear.


Not many places were open on July 4th, but I was so lucky to find at least one spot, which was R + D Kitchen in Yountville. Holy crap this place is amazing. When I called, the only slot available for a party of 5 was at 9:30pm. I said I needed to consult with my group and that I would call back. When I called back a short 2 minutes later, the hostess said a party canceled and we could do 5:30pm. PERFECT!

We got there early and enjoyed cocktails on their amazing patio. We had gorgeous, warm sunshine and a large table with an even larger umbrella. We would have stayed outside for dinner but they wouldn't serve their meals out there :(


I didn't photograph too many photos of our food, but I had to for this plate. This is the Spicy Tuna "Osaka Style" and it was freaking delicious. Honestly, EVERYTHING at this place is delicious. 


Post-meal, it was only right that we take a photo in front of this vintage flag they have near the kitchen. The waiter didn't have too many facts on hand, but he did say it was from 1861 when Kansas became a state!



After dinner, we headed back to S's house to chill, and then we decided last second that we should try to catch some fireworks. Sadly, from her home in the hills above St. Helena, there were no views of fireworks. Next time we need to stay in Downtown Napa or Calistoga.


The next morning, S took me to her favorite breakfast spot in St. Helena: Gillwood's Cafe. Deliciously strong (and fair trade/organic) coffee and Eggs Benedict served in these perfect dishes to ensure that the Hollandaise doesn't get away from you. I saw a guy next to us drizzle his leftover sauce over his hash browns. BRILLIANT.

I'm convinced all you need for a happy life is nature, good weather, and amazing food and drinks. Thank you S and Napa Valley for taking such good care of me. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Cure for Cancer

Over the past half century, we've split the atom.

We've spliced the gene and we've roamed Tranquility Base. 

We've reached for the stars and never have we been closer to having them in our grasp. 

New science, new technology is making the difference between life and death and so we need a national commitment equal to this unparalleled moment of possibility. 

And so I announce to you tonight that I will bring the full resources of the federal government and the full reach of my office to this fundamental goal: 

We will cure cancer by the end of this decade.

-The West Wing

Monday, July 20, 2015

First Military Care Package!

I sent M his first care package...

...And he had only been gone for about 2 weeks. And he's stateside. And we've had fairly regular phone contact. We're both just goin' for broke and I'll do anything to help make his life easier while he works towards his dream job!

We've been together for nearly 6 years so I'm not a pathetic, anxious girlfriend. I think I just have a shopping problem. I have more fun shopping for other people rather than spending money on myself.

Anatomy of a Good Care Package:

1.) Protein - Jerky, Protein Bars, Sunflower Seeds
M is working out A LOT and he's not allowed to take or use his usual post-workout protein powder. I tried to provide him with high-protein snacks that he can enjoy before bed if he gets the munchies especially since the chow hall is not available all the time. A thing about the sunflower seeds: they were cheaper, higher in protein, carbs, and fats, and lower in sodium than almonds! He said they taste "Okay" so I might need to find an alternative or another flavor.

2.) First Aid - Moleskin, Band Aids, Waterproof Band Aids, Alcohol Swabs, Pain Meds, Foot Powder, Neosporin
Basically, his workouts wreck his feet, and then he spends a lot of time in the water. I try not to send too much, just the little essentials.

3.) Body Care - Carmex, Exfoliating Gloves, Deodorant, Toothpaste
I recently discovered the exfoliating gloves and they are magic. Small, easy to pack, and they make showering fast and easy! It's so simple to just lather soap on your gloves and just scrub over your body real quick. So much more practical than just smearing soap or body wash with your hands or using a big loofah. They're seriously life changing. M swears by Carmex, he LOVES the Trader Joe's toothpaste, and we both swear by the Trader Joe's deodorant.

4.) Other - Trolli Eggs, Sharpies
Sharpies because you can always use a Sharpie. And Trolli Eggs because they're an amazing mood-enhancer :P

What NOT to Send!
Gummy vitamins, they will melt into a glob
Vitamins or supplements unless you check with them first!!!
Chocolate or anything else that will melt
Liquor or cigarettes
Batteries
Porn
(Pretty self explanatory)

What I should have included:
Costco baby wipes
Elastic bandage
Racquetball (for rolling over small muscles)

Palm Springs

Since M was gearing up to leave for his military thing, one of his closest friends coordinated this weekend rendezvous in Palm Springs. M and I lived used to live in Pasadena and the rest of the group lived in San Diego and surprisingly enough, driving to Palm Springs from either Pasadena or San Diego is about a 2 hour drive for either party! So convenient. It was the perfect meeting point for all of us and we called it "The Golden Triangle".

 M was already in Pasadena, so I flew down to Burbank from San Francisco to meet him. It was extremely stressful flying standby, and I was so grateful to get on a plane. I would have been inconsolable if I didn't make it to this get-together.

It was the middle of June, and most tourists avoid Palm Springs in the summer. We did have hot weather but not having to deal with any crowds was an absolute plus. Also, there was a fire near Big Bear so it was all red skies and raining ash for a day. The haze in the sky actually helped protect us from the heat for a while.

We stayed at this apartment/vacation home building called The Twist. Adorable furnishings and the most attentive resident manager ever! It's next door to a coffee shop, a tiki bar, and walking distance to many shops and restaurants. It's a quieter location but right off of the main road as well.

 While we were waiting for the last of the group to arrive, the early birds had dinner at Workshop Kitchen + Bar. Sleek and hip dining space with a farm-to-table menu and exquisite cocktails. On their menu, history tidbits about the cocktails are listed beneath the name, which I love.

Once everyone arrived, we immediately hit up the bars, and I don't have any pictures of that :/ This was the next morning. In fact, most of the time on this trip was spent watching the boys play Smash Bros. This was their weekend, and they wanted to play Smash. We would only leave the room to eat and drink.

 M doesn't like to pose for pictures so we have to force him.


On our first full day together, we got brunch and bottomless mimosas at Oscar's Cafe & Bar. Bottomless mimosas make you do strange things.


I'm missing more photos but this was taken on our drive back. We had one final brunch together and then went our separate ways. However, M and I had to drive straight back to the Bay Area. Saying goodbye is the worst!

I would definitely recommend traveling to Palm Springs in the early summer! Most of the crowds have stopped coming in, and although it's hot, most time is spent indoors with air conditioning. It's totally manageable. We felt like we had the whole town to ourselves!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

On Getting the Mirena IUD

So, I got an IUD yesterday.

I guess that's a bit personal, but I thought I'd share my personal experience with those that are considering it!

Since it's kinda icky, more details after the page break.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Another Disneyland Trip! And on Disneyland Military Tickets...

At this point, M and I's Disneyland photos are starting to look the same. We're trying to be more adventurous by at least eating new foods from different locations, but we generally have our FAVORITE things that we like to stick to. Every. Single. Time. We generally did the same things on this trip, but with a few new things here and there. We watched the new fireworks show and the Paint the Night parade AND ate our first turkey leg! Definitely not doing the turkey leg again. Tasted like ham and the tendons were difficult to work around. Would have tasted better if we could buy some bread and cheese and make a sandwich!

 Me and M LOVE LOVE LOVE the live musicians that can be found scattered around both parks. We always make an effort to stop and watch them. There aren't many people that hang around to watch musicians, so it always feels like a special performance! These guys, located near New Orleans Square, have beaded necklaces that they'll throw at audience members. 

 Mid-day cocktails at Carthay Circle. It was exciting to get a "Diamond" martini instead of the classic sphere, however, the diamond ice cube melts much more quickly! Carthay Circle Lounge is the best spot in California Adventure if you need to step away from the madness. Air conditioning, relaxing music, and comfy lounge chairs await you. It will make you feel like you've been transported out of the parks.

 Another flag retreat ceremony!

 I heard rumors that Disneyland may be retiring these band members. I hope that's not true!!! Flag retreat will not be the same with a tape recording!

 Me and M camped out for 2 hours for the Paint the Night parade. We took turns leaving our spot to use the bathroom. I wandered through this shop and found a $3500 Swarovski Mickey Ear hat!

 We got a fantastic view of the parade. I didn't have to deal with any tall people obstructing my view! (The fireworks was a whole 'nother story) Paint the Night is a ridiculously awesome parade. The amount of technology and creativity infused into the floats and costumes exceeds any other show. I was seriously in jaw-dropping awe the entire time. I highly recommend!

***

About Disneyland Military Discounted Tickets!

Currently, Disney Parks in California offer a 3-Day Park Hopper for $132. Over the past couple years, there have been changes for the expiration dates and the prices, so as of right now, you can purchase your tickets and use them until December 20, 2015.

The 3-Day Park Hopper does not require you to use the three days consecutively, so my boyfriend and I like to spread the three days out over the course of the year and see the different holiday decorations. We typically go one time in the spring/summer, once around Halloween, and once around the holiday season. However, since next year's promotion hasn't been announced, any tickets you purchase just need to be used up by December 20!

You will need a military ID to purchase the tickets, and they can either be purchased at the ticket kiosks at the park, or at one of those shops on base. 

Military personnel can buy up to 12 tickets throughout the year. If you're buying them for a friend, the military person has to be there on the first day to check them into the park at the turnstyles and show their military ID. During that first check-in, your photo will be taken (like any other Park Hopper ticket holder), and then you can enter and exit freely.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask!


Monday, July 6, 2015

Colorado Springs

A week after my dad, M, and I returned from Florida, I quickly did some laundry and packed my hiking day pack to prepare for another weekend trip to Colorado Springs! This time, the travelers included myself, my dad, and my sister. We all agreed that we would pick one thing to do on this quick trip.


 We arrived in the afternoon and drove one hour from Denver International Airport to Colorado Springs. Since nothing was else was open around 4pm on a Sunday, we completed my choice activity first with a comfortable walk at The Garden of the Gods. Millions of years ago, the rock formations were created by forces exerted upon the earth along the fault lines. I don't think my pictures quite capture how huge and vertical the formations were! The sunshine was gloriously warm and yet we could see snow capped mountains in the distance. We chatted with a park ranger who said just yesterday it was stormy with hail! Us Californians brought the sunshine.

The next day we completed my dad's choice activity, which was a bike ride down Pike's Peak! The company that we utilized for this excursion took such great care of us. I wrote a lengthy review on their Yelp page because the three of us were just blown away by how amazing the staff was. We literally could have just come with closed-toed shoes. They provided cold weather gear, helmets, water, lunch, safety rundowns, snacks, and so much more. If you need something to do in Pike's Peak, I HIGHLY recommend Challenge Unlimited Bike Tours.

 After our bike tour, we all agreed on heading down to historic Manitou Springs to kill some time. Although my photos don't show it, Manitou Springs is an ADORABLE little town littered with shops and businesses. The town had winding roads and buildings with beautiful architecture. We all agreed we needed some post-biking beers to celebrate.

 For my sister's choice activity, we visited the Olympic Training Center! As a huge fan of the Olympic games, this tour was a dream. We got to see the wrestling room, shooting, the pool, the fitness center, the sports medicine room, the basketball courts, and the men's gymnastics gym. So worth it at just $5 a ticket!

 I loved my trip to Colorado Springs. Apart from the 1 hour drive from Denver airport, all these activities were no more than 30 minutes apart from each other. I had a great time and would love to go again and try to see and experience more outdoor activities.