Friday, May 30, 2008

Mystery Memorial Day

William wanted to go to our favorite breakfast place- Stacks- for Memorial Day and of course I wouldn't resist their amazing waffles :-) William LOVES the bacon waffle (I tried it and its good if you really like bacon, which William does) but I prefer the waffle with pecans, bananas and whipped cream. I learned to tell them to not put the pecans in the waffle because it is just way too overwhelming and they give the perfect amount of crunch on top of it. We went later than last time so we had a 20 minute wait (we could have immediately eaten outside but it was windy and we have eaten outside when it is cold and windy and its not enjoyable) but it was well worth it for their Belgian waffles.

Next stop was Best Buy where we used our $40 coupon from the government to get a digital tv converted. Unfortunately, we also had to buy rabbit ears (William lost his) but we now have basic tv! And digital does give you many more channels- too bad we don't know Korean because there are a surprising number of stations, even more than Spanish. It was a slight challenge to set up the antennae due to our apartment- we tried placing the ears on top of the tv but the reception was horrible so we have to place them on the floor near our screen door :-) One of the creative aspects of apartment living :-)

Then we hit Home Depot because our vacuum belt was massively stretched out. It is a fairly old vacuum (like 5 years old) and a cheap one but we were able to find a belt that fit. Unfortunately, it still refuses to spin so William is going to tinker around a little bit more with it. I have no idea about this kind of stuff- I would have bought a new cheap vacuum but William is super handy with this kind of stuff (its the engineer in him).

Having our errands done, we then went to the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose. We have been wanting to go here for awhile so we decided to head there. We waited for about 30 minutes before going on the mansion tour and so we were able to tour some of the gardens and buildings. For those who may not know, the Winchester Mystery House was built by Sarah Winchester, wife of the owner of Winchester guns. She actually had a pretty sad life- her only daughter died a month after birth and a few years later, her husband died from tuberculosis. She felt that all of these terrible things had happened to her due to the revenge of the spirits of those killed by the guns. She then spent the rest of her life- and most of her $30 million inheritance- building 24 hours a day in hopes to appease the spirits. The result is a bizarre assortment of the most random collection of rooms, windows, doors, stairs to form a "house". The "mystery" is really that it is impossible to find your way through the 160 rooms.
Here is her indoor garage where the carriage enters the house so she wouldn't have to go outside
Since she had so much money, she was able to literally have a mini-home depot inside her house- but the high end home depot as the room itself is valued at the time at $25,000. Just in case she needed some more Tiffany stained glass windows she has all of these ones to choose from.

Or if she wanted to change the wallpaper, she has tons to choose from
But, at least she used her most expensive Tiffany stained glass window in her house

And then these are the $3,000 front doors which no one really entered- she shut off the front part of the house after the SF earthquake
Here's some of the parts that she never finished
Here's a few more of the luxury items of the house
The ballroom where no one danced
But her niece and companion did play the piano
And I love this lamp post- too bad there's not a place for it in our studio
William loved the 360 degree shower . . . except that it was made for a 4'11'' Sarah Winchester
And this statue is the same size as Sarah
While all of this luxury stuff is great, you probably want to see the MYSTERY items :-)

Here is the door to one of the bathrooms and the only entrance- which is outside. But there's no steps to the door.

This is the "door to nowhere" where it is inside the house and you open it and fall 2 stories. Probably where she sent all of her hired help she didn't like
This is the staircase that never leads to nowhere but the ceiling
The seven level staircase with the half steps (really tiny steps since she had arthritis)
Here you can see the regular steps compared to the half steps
They definitely weren't made for 6'3'' people
This is the closest thing to a secret passage- a door that you can only exit from since there is no handle.
Additionally, there is the down staircase that leads to another up staircase and a down staircase

Another oddity is that all of the posts were placed inside the house upside down. It was a Victorian tradition that having 1 upside down in your house brought good luck, so she felt that having them all upside down would double all of the luck.
She also felt the number 13 was her lucky number so she placed it all around the house- see the 13 horse shoes
And even the bushes

We went on both the mansion tour and the behind the scenes tour (which was only $5). And while we got to wear these cool hats
And we got a fresh cherry off the tree
And we got to go to the basement (that was the purpose of the hard hats to protect our heads from the low ceiling)
But on the whole, I think that you could skip it- the best part truly is the mansion. Here's a view showing just how crazy it is
And we went through over 100 rooms on the tour with all the twists and turns
All in all, we really enjoyed the "mystery" of the Winchester Mystery House
We then went to Santana Row across the street. It is a high end shopping center that reminds us of Newbury Street in Boston.

We ate at Pasta Pomodoro, which was highly recommended to us by Lianne (and Clara) and we thank them so much for a great meal! We got the butternut squash ravioli (reminds me of Giacomo's pumpkin tortellini) and the pancetta tortellini. We also enjoyed the herbed oil and bread.

But, one of the most interesting items was a temporary art exhibit on the street. They had these water fountains and provided umbrellas and all of these people were walking under them.
I was wondering about it and decided to try it. It was really surprising because the way the water works, when it hits the umbrella, you hear part of a classical song and you hear different parts to the song. It was so cool- William missed out by not trying it

We definitely enjoyed this mystery memorial day

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Persuasive Top Chef

I have been kind of fascinated lately by Top Chef, watching both the current and previous seasons. The persuasion is such that it lead me to concur with William's suggestion to go to Le Colonial since I saw the executive chef on Top Chef, and then this week, I saw an episode with the quick fire challenge being creating their own Cold Stone flavor. I then just had to go to Cold Stone to get my favorite Cake Batter and Cookie Dough. And I have been on a baking frenzy this weekend, making two batches of my favorite cinnamon rolls (not just for me but for friends and the Elders, but I had some as well, probably more than my share :-) and I made enchiladas for the Elders so the show might be influencing me to cook more . .. . but don't get your hopes up. Well see how long it lasts . . .

Sad Sox Game

On Friday, I had the opportunity to go to another Red Sox Games vs. the Oakland A's. I was especially excited for this game because the Sox were on a 7 game winning streak. However, it ended there and I have to admit, it was not the Sox best performance.
I was also sitting on the aisle and it was like a wind tunnel so I was a bit chilled. And on another disappointing level, the Diet Dr. Pepper was out! But, the redeeming factor and the most entertaining part of the game was their mascot for "Trumpet Time"! They have a film clip where their mascot, an elephant puppet, starts River dancing like the Lord of the Dance. It is HILARIOUS to watch. It totally redeemed the night. I don't have a photo of the dancing puppet- and this one is pretty sad as that I couldn't remove the wrappings.
Despite the Sox poor performance and other slight problems, it was still great to be at a ball game and I am looking forward to the game this Saturday at AT&T Park!

Another Reason to Love Google (Indy 4)

Here is yet another reason why I LOVE my husband working for Google. We got FREE tickets to see Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull on the Thursday opening. They were for the 10 pm show which was perfect since William had to work. We got there 45 minutes early and there was already a line to get in the theater. I was in the 10 pm line but fortunately, William searched out a little and discovered that they had two 10 pm shows and I was in the wrong line. Luckily, we were still in the same position. It was crazy because the line became so much longer after we got there and we managed to get awesome seats- in the second row middle, just off center. You could totally tell that there were other engineers there because as more people came in, you could see them calculating their odds of getting a good seat :-)

As for the movie itself, I'm glad that we saw it for free. I set my expectations very low and it was off to an ok start- (your traditional Indy action scenes, some cheesy lines)- but all of those were forgivable- up until the ending. I won't spoil it, but all I have to say is that it was weird and bizzare. We left the theater just completely confused by what happened. William also wished that there was more problem solving like in the other ones.

Overall, my personal favorite is still Last Crusade but William feels that Raiders is the best- but we both agree that this one was just weird. So see at your own risk and let us know your thoughts

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Semi-Pool Party

Since our last pool party was such a success, we decided that it was necessary to have another one with more individuals. However, the only problem was that they were not turning the heat on in the pool until the day AFTER we went. Thus, I call it the "semi-pool party" because we were only in the water a short time because it was so cold, as evidenced by so many people on the side only daring to put their feet in.
But even the girls- Leah and especially Sophie with her huge grin- still enjoyed themselves on the side
Leah the Fish still loved this water, even cold, but she didn't want me to take a picture of her while she was out of her element as shown by her little hand
Here's one of our new pool buddies- Noah- aka the Tank. He's only 9 months old but is the size of a year and a half year old. But he is super handsome (although he definitely prefers his parents as he cried while I held him while they sang in sacrament- sorry Noah!)
And as always, my man Tyler- he is just such an handsome little guy.
More adventures to come now that the heat is on!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Our First Anniversary

It is hard to believe that over a year ago now, William and I were married in the Salt Lake Temple for time and all eternity. Time has just flown by and every day, I love him even more. He truly is my soul mate- or "media naranja" (as the Spaniards say it- it literally means half orange so you are bringing the two back together).

We both had to do work but were able to spend another evening in downtown San Francisco. William bought me these beautiful roses and I curled my hair especially for him. I am also wearing one of the shirts he gave me as a Christmas present when we were dating (he's got good taste).
Traffic was amazing- literally unbelievable in that we drove straight downtown with zero problems. There was even less traffic than on some Saturdays. We made it about 30 minutes early before our dinner reservation and so we decided to walk around Union Square which was close by. It was SUPER windy and so the curl completely went out of my hair (as illustrated in the photo below) but I was glad that we got a photo of it and that William was able to enjoy it for a little bit.
We went to a place that was very highly recommended by William's co-worker called "Le Colonial" and I was excited to go to it because the executive chef was one of the special guests on Top Chef season 1 so I knew that it had to be good. Le Colonial is a French-Vietnamese fusion restaurant that is truly somewhat of a hole in the wall. The surrounding areas are back alleys of a parking lot and you walk up a set of stairs into a long beautiful patio that leads you to the main entrance. It was a great ambiance and busy, but not too crowded since it was a Monday night. And we were literally blown away by how good the food was. It has been a long time since I went to a restaurant for the first time and loved EVERY SINGLE thing that we were served.

We began we the chefs appetizer tasting menu which was a great choice- we had crab cakes, fresh spring rolls, a salad, chicken wings, and beef satay.

Our favorite dish of the night was this lobster soup made with coconut milk- it had the most unique flavor to it that was so tasty. Our main dish did not have the best presentation- the beef was just in these hunks (we're so alike because we thought the exact same thing) but the taste was incredible. Unique but very good. And we split two desserts- the first consisted of apple filled bengets with a cinnamon crust, caramel syrup, and vanilla ice cream. The next dessert was coconut panna cotta with pineapple ice cream on top (as pictured below with the beautiful garnish). It was good, but the still didn't compare to the panna cotta we had at Lumiere's in Boston.
All in all, it was a fabulous way to celebrate our first anniversary- and we are looking forward to many more to come!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Anniversary Weekend

We needed to stay in SF this weekend since William has a huge project going on at work, but we were able to do several fun things to celebrate our first anniversary.

Fri Night: William LOVES McDonald's chicken nuggets and so we went and got him a 20 piece nugget with sweet and sour sauce that he loved. I got fries, a sundae with no toppings (just a cup with vanilla soft serve but that is how you have to order it), and a diet coke. I'm not a huge fan of McDonald's but this was part of my gift to William :-) Rented "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" from the DVD Play (the Red Box knock-off that is closest to us) which was HORRIBLE. I LOVE British history and was excited to see the movie- but it was just lame. They tried to make it way too artsy and even the war scenes were boring. Don't waste your time with this one. Instead, watch the "Elizabeth" section from Simon Schaama's "A History of Britain" and it will bring your excitement level back.

Saturday: Went to the morning showing of "Chronicles of Narnia- Prince Caspian" at our new favorite theater with the $6 showings. We were disappointed with the film overall- it was still good, but not nearly as good as the first one. They had a ton of fighting scenes, which were fairly violent so I wouldn't take a young child to see it. But the saddest part is that there was zero character development which is what we thought made the first one so compelling. We then went to In-n-out Burger for lunch (I LOVE their animal style cheeseburgers. William thought that "animal style" meant no bun- just the meat hehehehe. I explained that it was grilled onions and he finally believed me when our order came and mine had the bun- and the grilled onions). All day it was SCORCHING hot- nearly 100 degrees down by the movie theater and a little less near our apartment. Then, we went to downtown San Francisco out to the wharf where it was FREEZING. It was probably 60 degrees with a super cold wind, but of course we went and each got Ghiradelli Ice Cream Sundaes. Here they are in all of their glory
And here I am going to enjoy their new peanut butter squares- I think of them as a deluxe peanut butter cup
William digging in with both spoons. He got the peanut butter one and it was way too peanut buttery to me- it seriously was like taking peanut butter from the jar and putting it in your mouth

I much preferred my butterscotch and chocolate sauce sundae- the best of both worlds with the creamy caramel and the famous chocolate sauce. I then bought William a bag of the peanut butter squares as a gift for our anniversary.

We then went to the a performance of the San Francisco Symphony during their Bach Festival. The first piece "Variations on a Theme By Haydn" was good, but the second piece was forgettable. You know that it isn't going to be good when before the piece, the conductor stands up and says that they are happy to do a Bach festival because they normally do not play a piece like this. He then said that when we hit the piccolo solo its the "home stretch". I feel that William described "Serenade No. 2" best as "soporific" and I think that sums it up perfectly. Something that I think is funny during the breaks between pieces is that everyone coughs very loudly. I'm not sure that all of them really "have to" but I guess that they feel that they should do it now for "insurance purposes" in case they might cough while the performance is going on.

However, the last piece of the concert COMPLETELY redeemed the previous piece- it truly was one of the BEST pieces that I have EVER heard and it was so well executed by the musicians. It was Bach's Piano Concerto No. 1 and they had guest pianist Yefim Bronfman whose hands literally flew across the keys- along with some head banging- as he was truly into the emotion of the piece. I love going to the symphony because it is a totally different experience than listening to it on cd because you can feel the emotion from the musicians, as well as the different dynamics. I would have been happy going and just seeing that piece it was so good. I immediately gave him a standing ovation and he actually took 3 more bows. And William was a good sport about me telling him how much I loved it all on the car ride back home.

William also got me the perfect gift. I had been wanting to go to a baseball game at AT&T Park with our church but I had missed the deadline to request tickets. I was extremely disappointed, so much so that I was looking into buying more expensive tickets on our own. However, my sweet husband managed to get us two tickets to the game on the 31st! I cannot even begin to admit just how overjoyed I was by this gift- it truly meant the world to me for him to go to such lengths to get the tickets.

Our actual anniversary was on Monday the 19th and we had a fun time celebrating it all weekend- and there is more celebration to come

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Pool Party

With the hot mid 80 degree weather we have been having, a few of us decided that it was time for a pool party. Dyan was a gracious hostess and several of us went over and enjoyed her PERFECT temperature pool. Not too hot, not too cold- just right for swimming. And we had the pool all to ourselves- except at the end when a guy came to swim laps. The kids truly were the highlight of the experience, especially with their adorable suits and float toys.

This is our little model sunbather. I love her hat that perfectly matches her suit- now we just have to work on the drool part and she will soon be getting offers!
Nora actually wasn't a huge fan of the pool- she was in there with her mom for only about 5 minutes. She preferred to entertain herself poolside with her binkie. I love her peering at me through the center.
Tori is another fashion diva- look at those great shades, hat, and swimsuit
And she loved the water- I think it is because she has such a cool float toy- it even has a sunshade! And Target is the place to get cool, cheap pool toys
Jack was sporting the cool surfer dude outfit- complete with stretch shirt and flowered shorts
And I already know that he is going to be a huge gummy bear fan by trying to sneak his mom's. Just a few more years kid

Leah is the FISH or more appropriately MERMAID of the group. I have never seen a 14 month old who LOVED to swim as much as her. She had her mom hold her in the swimming position where she would kick her legs and swing her arms in the swimming motion. And her splashing wasn't a problem since she had her goggles. It was funny because her mom would try to just hold her normally and Leah would insist that she move back to that position. I think Leah would rather swim than walk since it it more efficient. A
The few times that she actually was in her turtle float toy, she insisted that she be put in the back so that she could splash around
My little friend is seriously the cutest ev-er. So, his mom got him this new one-piece swimsuit with a life vest attached. The pants were so tight on him that it looked like a speedo. Yet, the vest itself was a little too big for him, as he was trying to peek out of it and is kind of wary of it
He played around in it for awhile but it will definitely be perfect when he is older.

Instead, he had a better time with just a regular suit. And Leah's shades matched perfectly and she let him borrow them. Even Tyler knows that he looks so cool that he gave me the thumbs up sign and the biggest smile you have ever seen.
And just look at him being all cool floating along in the turtle-
However, Tyler's true love of the pool is SPLASHING. As you can see from the photo, he created many big waves that required his mom to close her eyes or divert her head. I think that she needs some goggles too so she can see through all of the water.
Nothing works up an appetite like swimming and so we had some yummy snacks of chips and salsa, FRESH watermelon and strawberries, and gummy bears since Maren and I have an intense love of them.

All in all, it was a SUPER fun pool party that we need to do again soon, especially since temps are hitting the 90s!