Winter Adventures in the City

IMG_3101

Christmastime in Union Square!

Unfortunately last month, my laziness got the better of me, hence no posts in December. Sorry. ūüė¶ However, the lack of posts is not an accurate indication of my activities this past month. December was filled with holiday parties, fun adventures in the city, and lots and lots of shopping! I also got to spend time with my family and friends – they’re what make the holidays so special.

IMG_3229

December was also filled with a bunch of firsts, including running my first half-marathon! I’m so glad I live with runners. I’ve always wanted to run a half-marathon, but never had enough self-motivation to do it until now (thanks to the support of my housemates!). Although running for two hours straight is not the most enjoyable activity, I had a blast and can’t wait to do another one!

IMG_3252

My first half-marathon medal! Hopefully more to come!

The day of the half-marathon also happened to be Santacon, an annual event that happens in SF in which thousands of people dress up like Santa or other holiday objects. It’s basically a huge Santa-themed bar crawl. I couldn’t miss out on participating, so after spending two hours running, my housemates and I dressed up like Santa and went out into the city.

IMG_2003

In front of City Hall, on the way to Polk St for Santacon!

IMG_2017_2

My friends and I celebrating Santacon!

Even though the weather is much colder and cooler in December, I’ve recently realized that December is one of my favorite months. Although the holiday decorations are beautiful and the holiday spirit is so warm and infectious, it’s really the time we spend with our loved ones that make the holiday season so special. I had so many fun adventures this past December with both friends and family and I’ve learned that it’s really the people who you’re with that make each and every experience worthwhile.

October Fun in the City – Indulging in Childhood Fun

Beautiful view of San Francisco from Dolores Park

October was a month filled with a few life changes, new experiences, and tons of fun adventures in the city! All throughout October, it was Indian Summer in the Bay Area, which meant that the weather every weekend was absolutely gorgeous! Obviously, I had to go out to the city to take advantage of the beautiful sunny weather! Luckily, there is always something fun going on in San Francisco.

Listening to The Head and The Heart at Hardly Strictly!

The first weekend in October was one of the busiest San Francisco has ever had. With Fleet Week, a post-season Giants game, and the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival going on, it was estimated that a few million people came into the city that weekend! And you could definitely tell. The BART and buses were packed with people. My friends and I biked to Golden Gate Park, where Hardly Strictly was being held, and there were so many bikes parked there (some were even locked up to light poles) that we had to bike a mile further into the park just to find some open spots.

It was my first time attending Hardly Strictly and it won’t be my last! The free concert features bluegrass music, but also lots of other good music. We went to go see one of my favorite bands, The Head and the Heart. They were so good live! I had such a great time soaking up the rays of sunlight, jamming to some of my favorite songs, and enjoying the company of friends.

Looking out at the city and Pacific ocean from the top!

The next weekend, my friends and I ventured into the city to find the 16th street stairs that I had heard about through a friend and on Yelp. Leading to a very tall and steep hill in the Inner Sunset district of the city, these steps are decorated with small pieces of glass and tile to create beautiful mosaics of the sun, moon, and stars.

The famous 16th Avenue Mosaic Tiled Stairs

The following weekend was spent exploring the relatively new playground in Mission Dolores Park, which is a million times better than the playgrounds I grew up with. The playground is huge, with multiple slides, swingsets, and climbing things. It might seem a bit weird for a couple of 20-somethings to be playing in a playground, but we’re all kids at heart. With the difficulties we face as adults, sometimes it’s just nice to push all those troubles aside for a moment and pretend to be a kid again.

Dolores Park Playground

As I grow older, I’ve realized the world is really not as cut and dry or black and white, as we thought as children. With this realization, the world and people automatically become more complicated. Issues become more complex and one might realize that what he or she once thought were his or her beliefs may not actually be consistent with who he or she actually is or has become. Without us even realizing it, as adults, our actions have more weight and there is no longer anyone to tell us what is right or wrong or what we ought to do. Yes, friends and family can give you advice or help you think through and analyze¬†situations. But only you can make the decisions. That heaviness we feel with all of those decisions we have to make can be tiring and can make our shoulders and back sore. Sometimes, even for just a short moment, we need to cast off that boulder we carry and let go. Indulge in the lightness and freedom that we unknowingly enjoyed as kids. (But just for a few moments. After all, we’re now adults and have responsibilities. :P)

Playing like a kid with a giant parachute!

Perfect Fall Nails

Unfortunately, it’s finally starting to feel like fall here in the Bay Area. Our last few days of Indian Summer have gone and have been replaced by chilly, cloudy days (which means it’s in the high 50s to mid 60s… I know we’re spoiled here in California :P). Luckily, I was still able to enjoy those last few days outside, basking in the sun and taking in the breathtaking views of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, and that beautiful Bay. I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of living in the Bay Area. Most people around here are natives and rarely ever leave the area. I can totally understand why.

Even though the leaves don’t change colors here like they do almost everywhere else in the country, I still decided to paint my nails appropriate for the new season.¬†I first saw this nail design on Pinterest and fell in love with it immediately. It’s super easy, so beautiful, and perfect for fall!

Here’s a link to the original design by Glitter and Nails.

Although I didn’t use exactly the same colors as she did, I think I did a pretty good job in recreating this nail design. If you’re looking for fun yet fairly easy nail art for the fall season, I’d definitely recommend trying this out. (However, be warned, the glitter will get everywhere. :P)

Even though it’s no longer Indian Summer here in the Bay Area, sometimes it’s nice to have a change in weather. It helps remind us that time is moving and life goes on.¬†It’d be nice to stay in summertime, but after a while, it’d get tiring right? (Well, to be honest, probably not haha). At least now, it feels more like November and the weather change makes me more excited about the upcoming holidays. Without changes in life, we’d get stuck in a routine of being simply content (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), but may result in a life without excitement or spontaneity. I suppose I associate change with growth and so I think without change, we cannot grow. So here’s to a new season and a new round of experiences and growth.

Celebrating in SF – Giants Victory Parade and Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

Celebrating the Giants’ World Series Win in San Francisco

It was awesome living in the Bay Area this past week, with the Giants winning the World Series and the gorgeous weather. (Sorry, not trying to rub it in people’s faces or be insensitive, especially after Hurricane Sandy. My heart does go out to all the people affected by the natural disaster this past week.) Even though I’m not a huge baseball fan, I was excited to celebrate the Giants’ victory. So, I convinced two of my friends to skip school with me for a few hours to watch the victory parade last Wednesday. I figured it’d be ok to play hooky for a bit since it was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of opportunity, even though the Giants won the World Series two years ago. ūüėõ

In the crowd of people trying to watch the parade

There were so many people celebrating at the parade. We got there about 30 minutes late and we were so far back in the crowd that we couldn’t see much, especially me (I was at least a foot too short). However, despite not being able to see much, I still had a great time. I love being around people who are excited and passionate about something. There’s something so exhilarating and addictive about their energy.¬†But after a while, since we couldn’t see much, my friends and I resorted to taking pictures of ourselves at the parade.

Might as well take pictures of us since we can’t see the players

Unfortunately, I don’t own any Giants gear, so to be festive for the parade and Halloween, I painted my nails orange and black.

Black and orange

I also decided to bake some cookies for Halloween. I spent a while perusing Halloween desserts on Pinterest and foodgawker, but couldn’t find a recipe that was fairly quick and easy. So I decided to just make something seasonal instead: pumpkin oatmeal cookies with white chocolate chips and dried cranberries.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies with White Chocolate Chips and Dried Cranberries (aka the longest cookie name)

These cookies were pretty easy and straightforward to make. However, just to warn you, this recipe makes a ton of cookies. I baked four cookie sheets worth of cookies and some of them were pretty big cookies. Since I ended up with so many cookies, I took a third of them to a Halloween potluck and another third to my lab. I left the remaining third at home for my roommates, with a cute little note wishing them Happy Halloween. At each location, people gobbled up the cookies extremely fast – so fast that within an hour or two, they were completely gone.

I tried to draw a vampire, but obviously failed ūüėõ

These cookies aren’t too sweet, even with the white chocolate and cranberries, which is refreshing compared to the sweet Halloween candy I’ve been eating lately. Unfortunately, the pumpkin is rather difficult to taste. I’d say these cookies taste more like spice cookies (with maybe a hint of pumpkin) than pumpkin cookies. Either way, they’re a perfect dessert to bring to an autumn party or just a sweet way to end dinner. These cookies will definitely get you in the mood for fall, if you aren’t already. And be warned, these cookies will be devoured extremely quickly.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies with White Chocolate Chips and Dried Cranberries
Adapted from My Baking Addiction and Annie’s Eats

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
¬ĺ tsp. ground ginger
¬ľ tsp. ground cloves
¬ľ tsp. grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter; softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup pure pumpkin puree
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
3. Beat butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl until light and fluffy.
4. Add the pumpkin, egg and vanilla extract to the butter/sugar mixture and mix well.
5. Add the flour mixture and combine until all ingredients are incorporated.
6. Fold in the white chocolate chips and dried cranberries.
7. Drop 1-2 tablespoons of dough onto the prepared baking sheets.
8. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Savoring Happiness – Sailing in the Bay

I have a huge weakness for coupons, especially groupons. For some reason, whenever I see a cool groupon, I always end up buying it. I’ve gotten a lot better now and have reduced my spending. But I’m also really bad at using groupons and always rush to use them before the expiration date. After I had decided to attend UC Berkeley for grad school, I was so excited about living in the Bay Area that ¬†I bought a groupon for a sailing cruise, several months¬†before I had even arrived in Berkeley.

However, I never used it my whole first year in Berkeley… until a few weeks ago when I realized the expiration date was quickly approaching. Luckily, it was easy for me to reserve spots for me and my friends on a Champagne Brunch sailing cruise around the Bay. We departed from Pier 39 in Fisherman’s Wharf. As usual, fog was covering the Golden Gate Bridge, but lucky for us, most of the fog near the Bay Bridge had burned off already. So we got beautiful views of the East Bay and downtown San Francisco. The weather was gorgeous – sunny, but still cool – perfect Bay Area weather.¬†For the two-hour cruise, we sailed¬†under the Bay Bridge, around Treasure Island,¬†and along the Embarcadero, passing by the Ferry Building and Fisherman’s Wharf.

It was such a relaxing way to spend the late morning: laying out and soaking up the sunlight, sipping on¬†mimosas, and chatting and enjoying each other’s company.¬†As we sailed around the bay, I was once again awestruck at how beautiful San Francisco is and how much I love this city. Despite having seen the same sights so many times before, I never tire of them. Even all the touristy places that I try to avoid are still beautiful to me.

That day was another wonderful day that made me realize just how great life can be. You’ll always experience hardships and have ups and downs in life, but you just got to enjoy the amazing days that make you happy. It doesn’t matter if you’re sailing around San Francisco or eating at your favorite restaurant or just spending time with friends and family. I’ve realized that you’ve just got to savor whatever makes you happy at that moment. Those moments of happiness may be brief and fleeting, so enjoy and appreciate them while you can.

Relaxing in Stern Grove with Ok Go

Ok Go at Stern Grove

This past Sunday, I went with a group of friends to see Ok Go at the Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco. Every summer, the Stern Grove Festival hosts free concerts every Sunday in this beautiful park. Actually, it’s not so much a park as it is a forest… with tall trees towering over you as you walk through and wooded areas that you’d find in fairy tales. (At one point, I half expected the trees to start talking like in Lord of the Rings.)

Sitting amongst the trees (and pretending to be wood nymphs)

We got there fairly early, about 2 hours before the concert started. However, that was definitely not early enough. Some people were hardcore and arrived at 9am to snag the best spots in the park, right in front of the stage. With all of the lawn occupied by serious concertgoers, we ventured into the woods to find a decent picnic spot. Although we were hidden behind several trees, we still had a pretty good view of the stage and enjoyed a nice picnic while we waited for the show to start.

I first started listening to Ok Go in high school, after seeing their famous treadmill video. However, my favorite video remains to be their “A Million Ways” video, in which they perform an amazing choreographed dance in someone’s backyard. I distinctly remember watching that video whenever I wanted to procrastinate doing homework and secretly longed to get three friends to learn the dance with me. However, I could never convince my friends to do it. ūüė¶

The concert was great! Ok Go is definitely a fun band to watch live. They do crazy things on stage, such as play one of the songs only using hand bells and shoot water-soluble confetti out of giant cannons. The show was so entertaining and a majority of the crowd was dancing and rocking out. It was a great afternoon filled with food, music, and friends. Not to mention, the weather was absolutely gorgeous! It’s days like those that make me absolutely, whole-heartedly love living in the Bay Area, despite all of the hardships and difficulties I’ve been facing in grad school. Even though grad school has been a tough journey, fun and relaxing days consisting of treks into the city and hanging out with friends make it much more enjoyable.

Night at the Museum – California Academy of Sciences

Last Thursday, one of my favorite bands (Of Monsters and Men) was playing a special show at Nightlife at The California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. I was so excited to go since the tickets were only $12 and the Academy of Sciences is such a fun museum. A cross between a science museum and a natural history museum, its major attractions include an indoor rainforest, planetarium, aquarium, and rooftop garden that looks like it’s straight out of The Teletubbies.

Every Thursday night, the Academy of Sciences hosts Nightlife where they open the museum up to the 21+ crowd, serving beer and cocktails as you wander through the museum. (They do check IDs, which I learned the hard way when I tried to sneak in when I was 19. What a rebel I was. :P) I’ve been a couple times before, but always missed the planetarium shows. So once my friends and I entered, we made a beeline for the planetarium to get tickets for their show on the landing of Mars Curiosity. The planetarium is an amazing half dome screen with seats so comfy, it’s hard to not sleep in them (the only other time I actually saw the show, I ended up sleeping through it since the seats were so comfy and I was dead tired… oops!).

After the show, we wandered through the three-story rainforest, admiring the foliage on each level and the beautiful butterflies flying about.

Next, we walked through the massive aquarium that houses a huge variety of aquatic life, including jellyfish (of all different colors), beautiful coral reefs, and an albino alligator!

The California Academy of Sciences is a fun museum that caters to both adults and kids. And their Nightlife event is definitely a great night to spend with a date or hanging out with friends. As a kid, I had always wanted to be in a museum at night and thanks to Nightlife, I’ve finally experienced it as an adult. If you’re ever in San Francisco, you should definitely make sure to pay a visit to this awesome museum.

Wandering and Stumbling

One of my favorite things to do is to just wander around my city and discover new places. I love stumbling upon local events going on that day or night, from summer festivals to monthly art walks in various neighborhoods. Luckily, there’s always something going on in the Bay Area, so there’s no such thing as an ordinary day or night.

In early March, my friend and I went to Souley Vegan in Oakland to use up an expiring groupon. After dinner, we walked along Broadway into the uptown area, and stumbled upon an event in which boutiques and art galleries stay open later. For the Austinites out there, it’s like First Thursdays but much smaller. After window shopping at some cute boutiques, we walked into a crowded store hosting a free concert. Although the music didn’t suit my taste, just the energy and environment made it worth staying.

I met up with my friend again last week to use up another groupon, this time to Parada 22, a Puerto-Rican restaurant on Haight St. Our dinner of mofongo and bistec were delicious, but the real highlight of the evening was stumbling upon a retro soda fountain/ice cream parlor called The Ice Cream Bar.

It was like stepping back in time to the ’50s. Lined all along the back wall were tinctures and extracts of every kind of flavor and herb, from cilantro to cinnamon to hellfire, for concocting archaic drinks such as acid phosphates and lactarts.¬†Although the drinks sounded so appetizing and exotic, we refrained from ordering them and settled on sharing a scoop of banana pudding ice cream. As we enjoyed our ice cream, we asked the soda jerk about all of those exotic drinks and got quite an education about old-school sodas, from egg-creams to phosphates and lactarts. All of the drinks on the menu looked delicious, but the most eye-catching ones were the “World’s Best Milkshake,” a pistachio milkshake made from Sicilian pistachios that are only harvested one day out of the year, and a lactart containing chai and tobacco (as a spray). If you are ever in the Cole Valley district of San Francisco, definitely check out this place! Going on little adventures like these, discovering new places and new people, is so satisfying, just like the perfect scoop of ice cream.

“The City”

Image

¬†“I left my heart in San Francisco.”

I silently nod in agreement every time I hear this quote. San Francisco is a city that I can never tire of, even though I’ve visited almost every year since I was born. And even now, living just on the other side of the bay from it, I still feel excited each time I head into the city.

Image

A Beautiful View from Lombard Street

It’s a city filled with so much beauty, from the spectacular views of the beach and bay to the lovely Victorian houses that populate the city. I could spend all day just walking through the city, admiring the architecture.

Image

Looking out at the Bay from Ghiradelli Square

Image

The Beautiful Painted Ladies 

And although I’ve been to the tourist destinations countless times, I still enjoy showing friends the beauty of San Francisco. Walking through the Ferry Building and along the Embarcadero, getting scared by the Bushman, marveling at the sourdough animals at Boudin, and eating a gigantic sundae at Ghiradelli is something everyone needs to¬†experience.

ImageSourdough Bread Animals from Boudin

Image

“The Earthquake” Sundae from Ghiradelli

From the Mission and the Castro to Japantown and Pacific Heights, from the Marina to North Beach and Chinatown, from Richmond and the Sunset to even yes, the Tenderloin, you can always find something new, different, and exciting to do or see and of course, something delicious to eat or drink! That’s what I love the most about the city. I’d be completely satisfied spending my days wandering around the city, stumbling upon its hidden treasures, and soaking up its beauty.

And even if I move away, my heart will permanently stay in San Francisco.