A Point Reyes Christmas!

12 Jan

James and I spent Christmas in Point Reyes this Christmas. It’s about 1.5 hours from San Francisco, so it’s perfect for a long weekend getaway.

Christmas Eve

We’d picked up our rental car the day before, so got an early start on our trip. Here we are heading out of the city:
IMG_20171224_081946We arrived at the Point Reyes Lighthouse a little bit before it opened. There were very few people around, and on the walk to the lighthouse we saw some elk. This one crossed the road right in front of us!IMG_20171224_095757I guess he has a fancy necklace because they monitor the elk population or something?

We had some nice views of the seashore and (what I’m going to assume were) Cypress trees.
IMG_20171224_100144Before descending to the lighthouse, a warning to us all:
IMG_20171224_100802There were just a couple of other groups, and everyone was very considerately staggering themselves, so we had the lighthouse to ourselves.
IMG_20171224_101407We saw the Fresnel lens and the inside of the lighthouse. James read the lighthouse keeper’s diary and said it was basically the diary of a man slowly going mad. Apparently it was mainly complaints about how little work the other lighthouse keeper did, and also every few months he would see a boat.

The way back up – 308 steps!
IMG_20171224_102810We went to Point Reyes Station to do some grocery shopping (it was slammed!) and then headed to get our oyster lunch(es).

Our first stop was Hog Island Oysters where we ordered raw oysters, oysters with barbecue sauce, and half a Dungeness crab.
IMG_20171224_123909They sold oysters that you could take home and shuck yourself, which sounds amazing. Maybe next time!

Afterwards we went to The Marshall Store. They were more expensive than Hog Island, so if you’re getting plain oysters you should probably go elsewhere, but the smoked and barbecued oysters were incredible – and the barbecued oysters came with a giant, satisfying hunk of bread!

Hog Island Oysters had the pretty fairy lights, but it was really nice sitting on the water with our delicious oysters. IMG_20171224_140411Afterwards we headed to our rental cabin in Point Reyes, ready for an early start the next day.

Christmas Day

We got to the Palomarin trailhead around 8am to hike Alamere Falls. It’s one of the most popular hikes in the area but the parking lot was empty on Christmas Day.

It’s an 8 mile (12.8km) round trip – we actually did 10 miles (16km) because we missed the turn-off. We think there used to be an official sign but now there’s just this mysterious rock arrow pointing into some bushes.
IMG_20171225_102019On our hike back we watched from around the corner to see what people would do, and everyone took the shortcut. I guess James and I are just very untrusting people. =(

After a long and circuitous walk on an empty beach, we finally arrived!
IMG_20171225_113928The falls emptied out to the ocean, which was really cool.
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Here is James having lunch at the base while I wandered around.
IMG_20171225_114252When the tide came in it cut off the beach route that we had taken to get to the falls. The shortcut involved a bit of a scramble up a cliff. IMG_20171225_120228At the top there were several little falls before the main waterfall.
IMG_20171225_120731 We think this was the top waterfall but you can never be sure. IMG_20171225_121216
There were a lot of people on our walk back and when we got back to the carpark it was full, which was a bit surprising given that it was Christmas. But I guess I don’t know how full it would have been on a regular day to compare.

We got home, showered and napped. Then we had dinner, drank a bottle of champagne and played Exit: The Abandoned Cabin, an escape room game. It was so cosy and satisfying spending the evening solving puzzles together. What a perfect day. =)

Boxing Day

This was our cabin at sunrise.
IMG_20171226_074223 (1)After we checked out we went kayaking on Tomales Bay. It was a beautiful morning and the water was like glass.
MVIMG_20171226_110400 We spent a lot of the time following this bird around. He hated us; every time we paddled within 50 meters of him he glared at us and flew away. MVIMG_20171226_104019We saw some elk on a beach. They also weren’t happy to see us, and fell a couple of times trying to jump a ledge to get away from us. Sorry elk!
Elk at Tomales Bay failing to climb a ledge, as seen from our kayakWe stopped for lunch on Heart’s Desire beach and then continued on our kayak journey. The water had gotten quite choppy and we were fighting against the current. I say “we”, but unfortunately for James, my paddling was largely decorative.

You can tell by his happiness levels. Here we are, kayaking out:
IMG_20171226_102750 (1)And kayaking back:
IMG_20171226_124600Logistically it had been a poor decision to kayak on the day we didn’t have a hot shower immediately available, but it was the only way I could have fit everything in since the kayak place wasn’t open Christmas Day and the lighthouse wasn’t open Monday to Thursday.

But anyway, we dried off as best we could and headed back to San Francisco. It was a really wonderful way to spend the Christmas break. =)

We spent the rest of the day relaxing at home (OMG my ankles were so sore after the hike) and playing with the cats. Then in the evening Jaimie and Jeff came over and we played Watson & Holmes (where we were all completely out-deduced by James).

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A Visit to YouTube

3 Jan

A couple of months ago (yes I am very behind – happy new year by the way!) Jaimie and I visited James at YouTube.2018-01-03 (3)We had lunch at one of the cafes – there are only a few to choose from so we ate at the one that James said always has better food. He had a bowl of soup; Jaimie and I both had two lunches (one was an Indian curry and the other was roast pork with zucchini salad) and then lunch-dessert.

They had this outside! Meeting table? Lunch table? At any rate I feel the design was flawed because Jaimie and I knocked into each other a couple of times.
2018-01-03 (2) (1)James kept hyping down the YouTube office, and while it’s true that there aren’t as many cool things as in New York or Mountain View, there were still some interesting things to see. Warning: it’s all very red.

Slide!
MVIMG_20171127_135034Non-Google employees not allowed. =(

Video immersion room! We still have no idea what this was because it was down when we were visiting. Nevertheless, we stood in line like idiots.
MVIMG_20171127_131623All the meeting rooms were named after internet memes (at least I think that’s what James said). There were lots of TVs playing different YouTube videos, and generally the internet was a big decorating theme.
IMG_20171127_131713There was some special room with a green screen and fancy recording equipment, where James said they invited YouTube creators to come and film. We couldn’t go inside but I’m not sure whether it’s because people were using it or because we weren’t allowed to see it.

Claw machine!MVIMG_20171127_133940It was calibrated harder than the Seattle office one so we didn’t win anything (Jaimie wanted one of the water bottles).

They also had baristas and a juice bar. At the coffee bar they had pastries on display and a little sticker that said “You are so thoughtful because you take just enough and come back for more”. It shamed me and I didn’t take any. I did get a jasmine ice tea though, and also a jalapeno and kale juice at the juice bar.

The others got coffee and while we waited we took photos at the YouTube news desk.
IMG_20171127_132842 (1)Afterwards James showed us the disc golf course/walking trail outside. It’s a smaller, less sprawling office than Mountain View, and a much shorter commute. He said it’s much nicer to not have tourists wandering around (present company notwithstanding).

Thanks for the YouTube tour Jamesy!
2018-01-03 (1) (1)

Google Holiday Party 2018: Wonderland

14 Dec

When James told me the Christmas party was Wonderland themed I was like “Oh nice. Winter Wonderland!”

Nah. Alice in Wonderland.IMG_20171209_195208

It was held at the Exploratorium, which is an interactive science museum, and we could look at all the exhibits (mostly) without lines.

Here is James (you’ll just have to trust me on that) in a weird helmet thing that he kept changing the colours for with a little dial on the side.
IMG_20171209_194448He used this spinning wheel to change the direction his chair turned in.
IMG_20171209_211923My favourite exhibit was the Drawing Board. The other time I went to the Exploratorium this was really hard to get a ticket for, but at the party we just walked straight on (and started a movement! I think people didn’t realise it was a thing before we did it).

We picked four colours, swung the machine how we wanted and let the momentum draw pretty patterns for us.
00082IMG_00082_BURST20171209200304_COVERWe also went to the Tactile Dome which was free for the evening (it normally costs $8-15).

There was quite a long line for it – maybe 30 minutes? But it was pretty cool – you had to take off your shoes and feel your way through this pitch black route with slides, a mini rope course, bits where you had to crouch and climb, etc.

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image from Exploratorium website

I only saw one casino table this year, but that makes sense when there is so much to do at the Exploratorium. Otherwise it was pretty similar to previous Christmas parties – open bar (no signature cocktails this year though), sushi bar, taco bar and photo booths.
IMG_20171214_111423One thing that was new was the boba tea room (a huge hit!). They had several milk teas available – Hong Kong milk tea, taro, and jasmine are the ones I remember – and it was a really nice non-alcoholic option.

I also loved the little teapot sugar cookies they had as part of the dessert buffet:
IMG_20171209_224322Adorable. (I had two!)

We did a lot of standing around and chatting with James’ coworkers so we didn’t get to see as much as we would have liked. James gets free entry to the Exploratorium as a Google perk so maybe we’ll head back another day and play with all the exhibits!

The Most Important Item In Your Home

30 Nov

I was going through some old Livejournal posts and came across this. I had totally forgotten this memory but I love it – it’s so James.

I was reading a magazine and it had this line:

“Aside from your TV remote, your cutlery is probably the most important item in your home.”

And I thought … bwah? Neither cutlery nor the TV remote even make it into my top 100 most important things. But I figured that maybe I was undervaluing cutlery (and TV remotes) so I asked James for a second opinion.

Me: Hey, what do you think is the most important item in our apartment?
James: (suspiciously) …… You?
Me: No seriously.
James: (hesitantly) ….. You?
Me: James!!
James: (more hesitantly) …. The washing machine? You always say that you love the washing machine.
Me: It’s not a trick question! I honestly want to know!
James: Oh. My computer then.

Things I Bought That I Love

21 Nov

James had lower jaw surgery as part of his ongoing orthodontic work, and was finally able to start talking last week. The first week of recovery was pretty rough, with constant soups/smoothies and painkillers through a syringe and tube.

I was unexpectedly able to stay with him at the hospital (it was a huge room and the nurses brought me sheets and turned the giant armchair into a bed). Since it wasn’t planned I didn’t have any of my stuff, and James was sweetly concerned on that first night:
MVIMG_20171026_002559But he’s been healing well and has graduated to no-chew foods like scrambled eggs and mashed potatoes. We think in a couple of weeks he’ll be able to start eating soft foods like fish and pasta.

(Also, the Vitamix has been paying dividends. I am quite pleased with it).

Anyway, since I basically have no news, here is a list of things I bought recently that I love.

Aviator Nation Hoodie

Aaages ago, James was walking past the YouTube swag closet as they were cleaning it out and got given a bunch of stuff. The coolest swag was a pair of Aviator Nation trackie pants that were way too small for him (they were skintight!) but fit me.

Basically these pants, but a lot looser and with a little YouTube logo on it:

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image from Aviator Nation

The colour and oversize fit reminds me of the cool girls from high school wearing their Scotch boyfriends’ trackie pants. Perhaps that is why I feel so trendy wearing them to lounge around at home.

I was horrified when I saw the price on their website ($145!) but I loved them so much and they were so soft and comfortable. And I really wanted their signature hoodie:

W-HDAVN-VWHT-1_2000x

image from Aviator Nation

Then they went on sale and I snapped one up. It was stupidly expensive, but no regrets. I love my rainbow hoodie and wear it all the time. =)

Hobonichi Diary

I miss having a physical diary – using my phone calendar just doesn’t cut it. So I picked up the Hobonichi, which has a cult following online.

124505

image from JetPens

I love how severe it looks, almost like a little bible. It’s surprisingly compact given that it has a page a day. I’ve already bought a bunch of fancy pens and stickers for it.

What can I say, I’m a sucker for stationery.

Zuri Dress

This dress is one of the few items in my closet that I get regular compliments on (the others are my skeleton workout top, my Qwstion backpack, and my slouchy Ksubi jeans).

I found out about it from this article in the New York Times. It’s modest enough to wear travelling to conservative countries, dressy enough to wear to a nice dinner (or wedding – I’ve worn it to two!), easy to pack, and super easy to wear.

front_0343298a-335c-4a1b-bbea-f7663537999f_1024x1024

image from Zuri

It feels like cheating because it looks quite fancy but it’s actually one of the most comfortable items I own. And if you think about it, dresses are way easier because you only need to decide on one piece of clothing instead of two.

So yeah, that’s some of the stuff that I bought. I have my eye on a few board games and the new bluetooth Bose QC35s – hopefully there are some good discounts post-Thanksgiving.

James Lays Down the Cold, Hard Truth

18 Oct

A couple of weeks ago I was lying in bed with Mouse on my lap. I lifted up his front half to admire his cuteness, and while I was doing so he reached out really slowly with one of his back feet until it rested on my bottom lip.

I was so shocked that I just stayed there, with Mouse and I staring at each other while I was holding his front paws and he had his back paw on my mouth.

Anyway, a little while after that I was talking to Mouse (with James in the room).

Me: Do you remember that time you put your poo-digging foot on my mouth?
James: (very gently) Kaye … they’re all poo-digging feet.

I Still Call Australia Home

10 Oct

We just got back from three weeks in Australia! We were efficiently visiting for two weddings – Julian’s and my cousin Jon’s. Like last time, we used pretty much all our free time to catch up with friends and family (and also gorge ourselves).

Plane Anthropology

On our flight to Melbourne, our section of the plane (the blue Economy Plus area) had hardly anyone in it – behold!

Screenshot_20170904-223549I had optimistically put myself in 21L and James in 22L but had been obsessively monitoring the situation in case of a flood of newcomers to our section – I figured rows 16 (the one we vacated), 17, 18 and 20 would be my canaries in the coal mine, and if I saw those starting to fill up I’d change our seats so James and I were in the same row.

It was pretty interesting to watch people figure out that there were empty rows for the taking, and start to spread out and stake their claim. The first people to catch on were a group of guys in rows 22 and 23 – they separated and took the DEFs in row 20 and 21. The other empty rows were taken maybe 10-20 minutes after we’d sat down, and well before the boarding doors closed. 24DEF was the last to go, and after that it was people just circling around looking for empty rows. I counted eight of us who had the very best situation – an ABC or JKL row to themselves (DEF was less optimal because you didn’t have a wall to lean your back against to stretch your legs out on the seats).

I also thought it was interesting how reluctant people were to move to a row where someone was already sitting. As far as I could tell, almost everyone who started with their own row stayed that way. Everyone technically only had the right to their own seat, but clearly the seat poachers realised how desirable it was to have a row to yourself and didn’t want to be the one to take that away from someone (also a lot of people had defensively moved to the middle seat of their row).

Which brings me to the 17JKL bloc. I was particularly fascinated with it because it was one of the few filled rows. 16JKL was also full but the guy there moved to 16ABC pretty quickly, and the 16s weren’t really that desirable because the seat arms don’t lift up (which was partially why we had moved our seat allocation). But anyway, early on in the boarding process (after the 22/23 guys had spread out but before other rows had been taken) I saw a lady from 17JKL look around and realise that the blue section was likely to have empty seats. She asked a flight attendant if she could move, and I guess the flight attendant told her that after boarding she could take any empty seat, because she stayed put but kept looking around.

Which was a huge mistake, because by the time she started walking around, all the rows had been claimed, and even people who had moved (and had just as little “right” to the row as her – except for the apparently crucial part of being there first) had started to feel territorial about their space. I heard her ask to sit with a single in 17 or 18 ABC, who straight up lied to her face and told her that someone else was sitting there! She got rejected from another row and was roaming around looking for someone who was too nice to say no (from my live email updates to Cat and Ivo: “the unwanted lady just moved seats again to someone else’s row. She was like “can I join you here?” NO! Nobody wants you!!”).

Obviously she had to do it because moving would be a significant upgrade for her, but just as obviously people didn’t want her in their row because it would be a significant downgrade for them. I think she ended up in 18DEF on her third attempt.

The flight took off 30+ minutes late, but watching people tetris around was the most engrossing 30+ minutes I’ve ever spent on a plane. Also I slept nearly the whole way, sat with my legs stretched for the rest, had nobody reclined in front of me, nobody pulling my seat to get up, no lines for the toilet, and had three tray tables/seat backs to organise my stuff – highly recommended!

(I had high hopes for our return flight which was looking similarly empty, but it filled up a couple of days beforehand. So we did the only reasonable thing and upgraded to business. =P)

Catching Up

The whole point of visiting Melbourne is to catch up with family and friends, and we always make the most of it! I love our friends in Seattle and SF, but there’s nothing quite like being around the people we grew up with. We met up with my school friends, James’ school friends, James’ computer science friends, and my cousins.

Being with my cousins reminded me of when we were kids and hung out every weekend (except half of them have kids of their own now!)
IMG_20170928_163922I wasn’t sure if it was just me, but Cat said that she also got teary-eyed looking at that picture. We were so close growing up, and it’s so much fun hanging out with them – we’re only fully assembled every couple of years or so, because of Klene living in Sydney and me in San Francisco.

Last time we visited Melbourne we didn’t see as much of my parents as I would have liked, so this time we had a weekly dinner with them and Cat/Mitch.

It’s funny, because I feel like at times, Cat and mum didn’t always get along that well – Cat used to get exasperated with her easily, and mum would come to me and be like “you tell Cat to do X, because Cat won’t listen to me”. But now Cat writes all these funny, sweet anecdotes about mum on facebook, where apparently “Mama Chen” has quite the following among Cat’s friends – even some of my friends have told me they love the Mama Chen facebook updates!
21768353_10156217380865656_6916487172671501806_n (1)All of James’ high school friends have kids now, and about half of my school friends have kids. Everyone is getting so old! Here we are with James’ uni friends after a brunch catch-up:
IMG_20170923_130956

Stuff I Had Totally Forgotten About:

Chicken Salt

The first time we went to get fish and chips (with flake! Not that cod bullshit they have here) and they asked if we wanted regular or chicken salt, James and I were like “OMG how could we have forgotten about chicken salt???”

How is it not a thing here? Possibly for the same reason the US doesn’t have Burger Rings, chicken Twisties and chicken flavoured chips (that aren’t a novelty flavour like chicken and waffles) – Nancy said “people in the US don’t like meat-flavoured chips” (!!!)

But anyway, we brought back three different kinds of chicken salt.

Magpies

I never saw them in Seattle or SF but they’re everywhere in Melbourne. I was walking down the street and heard a magpie sing and was hit with this intense wave of nostalgia. I used to hear that sound all the time, and hearing it again after all those years felt simultaneously foreign and familiar.

Melbourne Food

It is so good, especially the Asian food. James and I reckon the best Asian restaurants we’ve been to in the US would be middle of the pack in Melbourne.

James had his first proper Melbourne coffee and said he’d forgotten how good it is – and also how strong it is! We went out to brunch with Joel, Nancy, Damo, Joan and their kids, and afterwards James said he was really jittery from the coffee – whereas Joel and Nancy made themselves another cup when they got home.

Anyway, here is a random selection of food we ate and took photos of:

My pavlova freakshake at Naughty Boy cafe:
IMG_20170917_095758Sushi platter from Shyun:
IMG_20170923_181953The “Money to Burn” cocktail at Eau de Vie:

20170925_085924-ANIMATIONEau de Vie was really fun – the cocktails were delicious and beautifully presented. We love speakeasies and didn’t realise that they were now a thing in Melbourne. Mitch had a cocktail with some fairy floss and a paper plane:
IMG_20170913_204716 I think this one involved a drink being poured into a glass full of hickory smoke. 00004IMG_00004_BURST20170913212612_COVER
Next time we go back to Melbourne James wants to do Eau de Vie’s food/cocktail tasting menu because he was absolutely in love with the place.

(Also, James fell asleep on the train ride home. It turned out he had actually started to get tired after dinner and before we went on a 20 minute hunt for a speakeasy, and certainly well before we had 3-4 drinks each at said speakeasy – but he said he was having such a good time with Cat and Mitch that he “wanted to keep the party going”).

The “Meat Fruit” at Dinner by Heston:
IMG_20170926_181002 (1)

Vegemite gyoza at Shizuku Ramen & Craft Beer. You can take the girl out of Australia …
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Zombie VR

Ivo said she wanted to do this, and to be honest at the start I was dubious. I mainly went along with it because I thought it would be fun to hang out with everyone – I could take or leave the VR experience, really. It was at Zero Latency in Melbourne and it ended up being amazing.

They were running a bit late so we could see the people before us. They were wearing their gear – VR set, headphones, motion capture stuff, guns, some sort of computer backpack – yelling at each other, and sort of shuffling around tentatively in this massive warehouse space. I imagine we looked just as goofy when we were doing it.IMG_20170917_205923_1It was really immersive – not just 3D but completely responsive to our actions because of those little motion capture bobble things. I can’t believe there isn’t something like this in SF!

We did the zombie and the space one, of which I think the space one was better. There was some really cool stuff, like where you walked up this torus, and when you looked down you could see your friends still down below you and it felt completely real. And walking across high platforms, hiding behind boxes, dodging baddies … it was really, really cool.

The zombie one was just a straight up shooter experience, which is why it felt a little less interesting. It was still really immersive though, and thus pretty freaky having a zombie running right at you.

Mitch did really well and ended up coming with the third highest score ever. The guy working there was really impressed! They sent us all these cool stats afterwards, like how accurate our shots were, how many points we’d scored, how far we’d moved etc. I thought the funniest stat was that during the space boss battle, all of us moved a pretty consistent distance – from 8-17 meters … except James, who apparently just spent the whole time walking around and had travelled 112 meters! WTF James!

Souvenirs

Generally stuff is way cheaper in the US so we tend not to buy too much stuff when we visit Australia. James usually replenishes his supply of Bonds undies, and I pick up some clothes, but this time we decided to go all-in on Aussie snacks:
IMG_20171001_174837Things James missed the most: banana lollies, wizz fizz and musk sticks

Things I missed the most: chicken Twisties, Burger Rings, honeycomb chocolate, noodles

You can’t really tell in the photo but there’s a couple of boxes of Wei Lih noodles that the Pringles and chicken salt are sitting on. They’re sooo much better than any other instant noodle I’ve had and I can’t find them in the US. They were $23 for a pack of five on eBay – outrageous!

James and I taped two boxes together and checked them as luggage, and they survived the trip really well. And it was only a little bit embarrassing collecting them from the carousel and carrying them through the airport. Cat reckons I’d be able to tape four boxes next time – I think definitely three, but I’m not sure if four would exceed the allowed luggage dimensions.

I also bought some sneakers from Country Road (I’m having mild regrets on that one – they look cool but they’re made of fucking neoprene and make my feet sweaty) and this awesome croissant rain coat from Gorman that I will never, ever regret:

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image from Gorman

Every time we visit, we’re surprised at how much cooler Melbourne is than we remember, and how our friends are just as wonderful as we remember. And we sort of get stars in our eyes and think about moving back even though it doesn’t make any sense. Sometimes we just miss being around people who sound like us, you know?

But anyway, we’ll be back next year for Cat’s wedding!