Christmas at Mammoth and June

10 Jan

We finally made it to Mammoth for Christmas! Last year our flight kept getting cancelled but this year we managed to get ahead of the storm (we also got upgraded! Yay!)

I always love de-planing at Mammoth. The mountains are so pretty and the air is so cold and crisp. =)
IMG_20161219_162507On James’ birthday his aunt and uncle took us out for a fancy meal which was super nice of them. We had a couple of sunny, not-too-busy days to get our snow legs back before the storm. Plus lots more eating and drinking!

On the day of the storm it was cold, wet, and the visibility was pretty bad.
IMG_20161223_120034Storm days are always my favourite because the snow keeps getting refreshed and hardly anyone is on the mountain, and everyone who is there is so happy! It was definitely the best day of the trip. =)

The weather was pretty cold this time – I wore five layers most days. My gloves are pretty ratty now, so for the next trip I bought a bright pair of mittens so I’m nice and easy to find.
IRIGLOPL

All the days leading up to Christmas were pretty decent crowd-wise – last year the Christmas to New Year period was awful, so we were pleasantly surprised.

This is James looking majestic on Christmas Day.
IMG_20161225_114911
The highlight of the day had to be meeting up with Woolly and a random Santa!
IMG_1116 (2)It was a great way to spend Christmas morning/afternoon – the snow was nice, the sun was out, and everyone was in a good mood.

But then … disaster! As we were walking back from the resort James got paged. =( He spent the rest of the day (4pm-1:30am) on a work emergency. Here he is, looking very depressed with his festive hat and champagne flute.
IMG_20161225_184938Poor thing. =( We were all eating our delicious Christmas dinner and he was in the corner on a conference call with a plate of food.

The next day Ian, James and I headed to June Mountain to escape the Boxing Day crowds. It was busier than the last time we went but not too bad.

This is the view from the resort – gorgeous!IMG_20161226_141636I can’t remember which run I took this photo on – it was a green run that had beautiful views all the way down which made up for the fact that the snow was fairly crappy.
IMG_20161226_140628Last time Ian and I were at June we took the ski-back trail, but there wasn’t enough snow this time so we had to take the chairlift back to the parking lot.

Going down was a very different experience to going up! I was holding my snowboard and had the bar down because if the chairlift suddenly stopped I didn’t want to go tumbling down the mountain.

The most nervewracking part was when I took my phone out for some photos – the board was wedged between me and the bar, and I had a death grip on my phone … which I couldn’t even feel because my hands were so cold.

No regrets!
IMG_20161226_142151Then our last day we spent at Mammoth again, and that was our Christmas holiday! I snowboarded seven out of the eight days we were there, which isn’t bad.

It was great seeing James’ relatives again, and I’m looking forward to our next trip out!

Google Christmas Party 2016

31 Dec

The holiday party this year was Peter Pan themed. Weird, but it could have been weirder I guess – Anne Marie’s party theme was Mythbusters!

It was in the same location as last year (though no oyster bar, boooo!) and everyone agreed that this year seemed much more crowded. The food and bar lines moved quite quickly though, so it wasn’t inconvenient – just busy.

Helen got there right as it started so was able to take this photo with almost nobody in it:

15631079_10157998361280038_33352166_o

photo stolen from Helen

As usual the party had casino games, cigars, bourbon tasting, various food stalls, wandering entertainers and foosball/ping pong/shuffleboard games.

The new stuff they had included a room of giant teddy bears to chillax in, a lovely lady with a snake and caricatures (apparently the line was crazy long so we didn’t bother).

The food and booze were much better this year! I did miss the oyster bar, but the sushi bar helped make up for it.
IMG_20161217_202123(Wow, red-eye – haven’t seen that in awhile!)

The sushi bar only provided teeny tiny plates but we used larger ones from one of the other food stands – people kept coming up to us and asking where we’d gotten them from.

The evening’s signature cocktails (though they could make other stuff if you wanted):
IMG_20161217_194701I also met James’ manager. He was very nice and introduced James to his wife as “the guy whose coattails I’m going to ride to get promoted”. =D

This snake was called Lola and she was my favourite part of the entire night:
IMG_20161217_215513She was so docile (which apparently they are bred for) and her scales were surprisingly moist. And here we are with her handler:
IMG_20161217_213905 (1)There was a big pirate ship in the middle of the hall, with lots of comfy seating next to it:
IMG_20161217_223855Which I didn’t need because I swapped to ballet flats about 3/4 of the way in.

There were the customary photo booths. This one took three photos in quick succession:
Google Holiday Party 2016 with Nick and KellyLook at that expert prop exchange. It took a lot of planning.

And here we are in the giant pile of teddy bears at the end of the night. It was hard to get too comfy in them because I saw a guy leap into the bears, and as he did, a huge layer of dust went up in the air like a mushroom cloud.

IMG_0384 (2)

photo stolen from Alex

We caught up with friends, ate and drank in moderation like responsible adults, and had a really great night. =)

A Visit to Google NYC

15 Dec

James has to go to New York several times a year for work and sometimes I decide to tag along because we both love the city.
IMG_20160713_135543Though I love it a lot less now I know how humid it gets in summer. I’m not sure if New York is particularly disgusting when it’s hot or if living in Seattle and San Francisco has spoiled us. Probably a little from column A and a little from column B.

But yeah, James worked during the day, and in the evenings we did fun touristy things like …

Book of Mormon!
IMG_20160714_184320We got pizza afterwards. =) The top one had pepperoni and honey and it was delicious.
IMG_20160714_220500On one of James’ travel days we visited the Museum of Natural History. The insanely massive Megalodon was my favourite – it was so big its head was peeking out of the room.
PANO_20160715_114010
The t-rex was also cool.
IMG_20160715_103154But the main reason I joined James this trip was because I’d managed to get dinner reservations to Eleven Madison Park!

Here are our pre-dinner cocktails:
IMG_20160713_174615The food (and wine matching – with frequent refills!) was wonderful. These were our appetisers – the boxes were handmade and arrived stacked on top of each other.
IMG_20160713_175313When stacked, they looked like the chandeliers above us. =)
IMG_20160713_201044I am such a sucker for fancy butter – I just spoon it into my mouth like ice cream. The bread was also amazing and they kept offering me more and I kept taking it.
IMG_20160713_181022This one was really fun. A picnic basket was delivered to our table with little jars of condiments. (The drink was the only dud of the night. I thought it was cider but it was some sort of gross tomato flavoured thing)
IMG_20160713_184030
Fast forward to the end, and this was part of our dessert being made:
IMG_20160713_202649The second part was a chocolate game (apparently dessert used to involve a magic trick so I was a little bit bummed … until I saw how much chocolate they gave us!)

There were four bars of chocolate and we had to guess which was which out of coffee, smoke, maple syrup and chilli.
IMG_20160713_204922James and I guessed identically … identically wrong. We only got one out of the four correct. =(

We couldn’t finish that much chocolate so we asked for a little bag for the leftovers and they were like “oh we’ll give you a fresh set!” (We ended up taking that extra set AND our chocolate leftovers – because duh).

Afterwards we went to a swanky bar with James’ coworkers and made them play the chocolate game while we all drank cocktails. It was an awesome night. =)

James also gave me a tour of the Google NY campus. He always talks about how much cooler it is than Mountain View, and how it must be so disappointing for the NY employees whenever they visit HQ.IMG_20160715_151912The building is opposite the Chelsea Market and basically takes up a whole city block:
IMG_20160713_140539There was a cool lego room where people could make and store their own lego projects:
IMG_20160714_123900And a project display wall and a weird ladder that only Google employees were allowed to climb:
IMG_20160714_123927Someone made a replica of the Google building:
IMG_20160714_124041The area also had a lego-themed micro kitchen:
IMG_20160714_124238 With brain food.IMG_20160714_124224James really liked the temporary work spaces at the New York office. He said he normally goes to a high floor and sits somewhere with a nice view of the city but he was also fond of these impressively orange honeycombs:
IMG_20160715_160841We also found a couple of trams:
IMG_20160714_124726James was super jealous that the New York office has Killer Queen. It’s an awesome 10 player arcade game that our friends introduced us to. There’s one at Brewcade in San Francisco … but it’s not free like this one! There were a couple of guys playing while we were there so our group joined in and we had a mini battle (we won, primarily because of James’ queenly skills).
IMG_20160714_130741And this is the bouldering wall. There’s also one in Mountain View but it’s so far away that James never bothers going.
IMG_20160715_162136(Oh, and you know how you travel on bikes around the Mountain View campus? In the New York building you get little kick scooters to ride around on)

Here’s James and his team on one of the decks. It was so hot and humid that we all sought shelter inside as soon as I took the photo.
IMG_20160714_131855
The New York campus has a lot of cool food options – they bring in a lot of guest chefs to cook for the employees. I saw David Chang (of Momofuku fame) featured on their wall of fame. =O

This was a food truck that was inside the building, though it was closed when we toured it at the end of the day.
IMG_20160715_153811 (1)
Above the Chelsea Market there’s a Google cafeteria decorated like a cool loft.
IMG_20160714_133046 We ate upstairs in one of the meeting rooms. I really liked the fancy animal portraits. =)IMG_20160714_133819We did a bunch of other stuff – saw Then She Fell (an interactive play like Sleep No More), ate and drank a lot, and I did some shopping while James worked. Did you know New York has no sales tax on clothing that costs less than $110? That was a pleasant surprise. =D

Cat and Mitch are planning to visit New York next year so hopefully we can time a trip to coincide with that (although ugh, it will be in summer again).

So it looks like there will be a lot of trips to NYC in our future! (Though I hope it’s not like how we visited San Francisco a lot while we lived in Seattle and then ended up moving there and thinking … well that was a waste)

Bye NYC! See you soon!
IMG_20160714_123802

The Pacific Coast Highway and Big Sur

30 Nov

Waaaaay back in June (6 months ago! Eek!) Nicola came to visit us in San Francisco on her way to a wedding. She only had a couple of days and had already done a lot of the touristy stuff, so we decided to drive down to Big Sur.

Day 1

It was overcast when we started our trip. Our first stop was Moss Landing, where we saw otters floating on their backs and a bunch of different birds. Oh, and a decomposing sea lion. (Nixi has the most amazing vision – we were walking on the beach and she said “is that a dead sea lion?” I kind of squinted off into the distance and was like “nah it’s a log with a seagull on it.”)

We walked to this rock pier where we saw a couple of seals and some fishermen.
IMG_20160613_141437Our next destination was Pebble Beach, which is a golf course so famous that even I’ve heard of it. Turns out it’s also a very scenic 17 mile drive, with the ocean as a spectacular backdrop to the golf greens. It’s a private road so we had to pay an entry fee (I think maybe $5?) which came with a little guide showing us which locations to stop at.

One of the stops was to view the Lone Cypress, which is the tree on all the Pebble Beach merchandise. It was a bitch to get a photo of because we kept getting blocked by a busload of super rude Chinese tourists. But anyway, here’s the tree. I don’t really get it.
IMG_20160613_155954Afterwards we drove to Carmel where we checked into our hotel. The original plan had been to drive to Pfeiffer Beach, but it was almost an hour away and we decided just to wander around downtown Carmel and have an early dinner. None of the restaurants looked appealing, so we grabbed some pizza to eat on the beach. Genius!
IMG_20160613_190901We stuffed ourselves and then walked down the beach to admire the waves.
IMG_20160613_201646And watch the sun set.IMG_20160613_200413
Then it was time to head back to our hotel to get some rest for the next day.

Day 2

In the morning we stopped by Bruno’s Market in Carmel to buy a picnic lunch. Our first stop was Point Lobos State Reserve where we did the Cypress Grove Trail, which was a super quick and easy hike.
IMG_20160614_083551The breathtaking ocean views were a great way to start the morning.
IMG_20160614_083918After that short walk we drove until we reached Bixby Bridge, which is apparently one of the most photographed bridges in California.
IMG_20160614_092027Then it was onto Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park to do the Pfeiffer Falls trail (about 2 miles), which is supposed to be the “must do” hike in the park. It was a nice hike and I’m glad we did it, but I think if you wanted to skip any of the three hikes we did this one would be it.

It was much clearer and sunnier today so we were treated to some wonderful coastline views. It looks just like a painting!
IMG_20160614_111957The main hike of the day was the Ewoldsen Trail (a 4.5 mile loop) at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Seriously, all these parks and beaches are so confusingly named – I gather the Pfeiffers were pretty important.

We started our hike off in the forest:
IMG_20160614_113814Where we found a giant tree bridge:
IMG_20160614_121216At roughly the halfway mark we had our picnic lunch. It was a good thing we had it in the forest because the rest of the hike was in unshaded hills (though we had views of the ocean, so that was nice).
IMG_20160614_125850After we finished our hike we made our way across the street to check out McWay Falls.

The path leading to the overlook:IMG_20160614_14081130 seconds later we arrived! Isn’t this something?
IMG_20160614_141418We’d made pretty good time so decided to stop at Pfeiffer Beach since it was on the way home. When we paid admission the guy warned us that the beach was extremely windy that day. Afterwards we kind of scoffed and were like “pft, we’re Australian – I think we’ve experienced a bit of wind at the beach”

OMG.

It was so fucking windy. Mein hubris!

Every grain of sand became a tiny needle and whenever the wind picked up (which was frequently) we’d get pelted by a giant blanket of sand needles. I huddled into a ball but the sand would still sting the rest of my exposed skin – my neck my ankles, my hands – it was crazy.

We did manage to explore the beach in between cowering from the sand. The water was much too cold to swim or even wade in (for me, anyway – apparently Nixi has feet of titanium) but I really liked the rocks.IMG_20160614_154559Pfeiffer Beach is known for its purple sand (which comes from manganese garnet deposits in the rocks). The sand wasn’t uniformly purple – only parts of it, and only noticeable when wet. You can see some in the foreground of this photo:
IMG_20160614_155106We saw a lot of beautiful scenery that day and Pfeiffer Beach still managed to be memorable. I bet it’s gorgeous at sunset.IMG_20160614_160025Check out our built in shoe storage:
IMG_20160614_160736Then it was time to brush the sand off our feet (and hands, and face) and start the long drive home. We did stop at In N Out for dinner, because what better way to finish off the quintessential Californian road trip. =)

It’s a super gorgeous drive, especially if it is sunny. There are so many beaches to stop at, and little roadside stands selling fruit, and you feel so outdoorsy and wholesome even though you’re in a car. I’m glad we did it mid-week because it was still reasonably busy, so I bet it’s chockers on the weekend or public holidays. It’s definitely a must-do for anyone living in the Bay Area, so I can’t wait to go with James one day.

Googleween 2016: Pachimari & Video Games

4 Nov

This year’s Googleween was video and board game themed. Right down my alley! And since I’ve been mega obsessed with Overwatch recently I decided to dress up as one of the characters.

Mercy? Mei? Tracer? Widowmaker?

No. Pachimari! =D

Pachimari

image from Overwatch Wiki

I’ve always loved Pachimari’s stupid squeaky face, so when I saw on Twitter that someone had made a Pachimari costume, in a fit of uncharacteristic boldness, I contacted her to ask if she made them for sale. She didn’t, but she told me she would show me how to make my own Pachimari costume.

I know right?? How super sweet is that? She described how she made it, showed me some progress pics and even a little video. Of course, I still needed help because I can barely sew a button. So I begged Helen and she totally took charge and saved my bacon. =D

Here we are with the internal structure of Pachimari at Helen’s place (you might recognise the hamburger in the background from last year’s Googleween).

IMG_20161020_112432And some of the external parts!
IMG_20161020_175903
The costume took about 8 hours to make. Helen taught me how to use the sewing machine so I did the simple stuff and she did the trickier parts. I’ve never worked on something like this before and it was really fun and satisfying.

The next day we brought Pachimari home.
IMG_20161022_153536
Poor James had to take him to work on the shuttle.

He was a champion all day – costume wrangling and being the photographer for the people who wanted pictures taken with me. =)

But anyway, Googleween! This photo is out of sync because we took it at the end, but it shows the signpost for some of the attractions:
IMG_20161026_190014The booze was waaaay better this year! Not that I could have much – I was limited to drinks with straws that James would hold up to my mouth (I told you he was a champion). They had lots of thematic snacks as well.

Hedgehog donut holes (you can also see the pokeball cake pops to the right)!
IMG_20161026_160644 Angry Bird food! Plus some fruit skewers to the right.IMG_20161026_160651Diglet dig, diglet dig, trio trio trio!
IMG_20161026_160659Plus a bunch of other stuff that we didn’t get photos of. They also had petting zoos with teacup pigs (so warm and snuffly and sweet) and little hedgehogs (like patting tiny hairbrushes).

I entered the costume contest and thought I had a pretty good chance … until Jon Snow showed up riding a freaking handmade dragon. You can’t really tell from this photo, but up close it had individual scales and was super elaborate.
IMG_20161026_172147After the contest James and I kind of wandered around, taking photos and checking everything out. We had heaps of people come up asking for photos (at one point it was three groups one after the other and James said he was worried people thought I was one of the attractions).

Pachimari’s Big Day

Pachimari visits Super Mario World.
IMG_20161026_185448 And Donkey Kong Country. IMG_20161026_185020Pachimari is a big Pikachu fan.
IMG_20161026_184145(Actually this photo was really fun – when James put the Pikachu hat on me I could hear like, five girls start squealing).

Meeting his idol in person.
IMG_20161026_184506 And Charizard X.IMG_20161026_184550
Then he ate some cake.
IMG_20161026_180205And went to jail with Agent 47. A fair few people recognised James’ costume! Including one guy who asked for a photo of James strangling him … which is possibly how we ended up in jail.
IMG_20161026_181132 (1)
I definitely recognised some of the decorations from last year. The jail was there last year, a couple of the bouncy houses, and a maze in the middle. But there were also lots of new attractions that unfortunately I didn’t try out because of my costume. =(

They had an inflatable Hungry Hippos game, where people were tethered to the wall with some sort of bungee cord and they had to lunge into the middle to grab balls for their team. There was also a bouncing castle where you had to avoid a giant rotating beam in the middle, several obstacle courses, and this carnival ladder game.
IMG_20161026_182659Spiderman kept shouting at James “how are you not falling off????” It’s because a few months ago, he read one of those guides on how to beat carnival games lol.

But yeah, so that was Googleween. I know it’s probably lame … but I love it so much. Can’t wait for next year!

The Struggle of Kayes Everywhere

1 Oct

While visiting James at the SF office.

Barista: Name?
Me: Kaye
IMG_20160929_132941

Indonesia: Ayana Resort & Rock Bar

13 Sep

After a couple of days of sleeping on a boat mattress and manually flushing the toilet, James and I were ready for some luxury. So at the last minute we decided to stay at the five star Ayana Resort for our final night in Bali.
IMG_20160526_181401And it was heaven.

As soon as we got out of the taxi we were greeted with a frangipani garland (there were trees all over the grounds so everywhere you went it smelled amazing). We had a delicious welcome cocktail as we checked in, and our bags were waiting for us when we got to our room.

We were pretty tired from the flight so we decided to try out the aquataonic pool before we turned in for the night.

aquatonic_pool

image from Northstar Travel

According to Ayana’s website the aquatonic pool contains 700 million liters of water directly supplied from the nearby Indian Ocean and has 12 hydromassage stations containing over 60 individual therapeutic jet streams, micro-bubbles and geysers. So basically a fancy, massage-y hot tub.

In the pool we warmed up by walking/swimming down a lane with a strong current that pushed against us. Then we swam to different stations with jets aimed at different body parts – like one would deal with shoulders, then the next our middle back, then our lower back, etc.

I don’t know how busy it is normally but we went right before closing so there was only one other couple there and we could spend as long as we liked at each station (though they recommended 2 minutes). It was super relaxing and exactly what we needed after the plane ride.

The next day we embarked on a quest to try out every single pool at Ayana, because why not?

We woke up early and headed straight to the Ocean Pool because we’d heard it was really popular. It was overcast and raining, which was a bit of a bummer, but that meant we had the pool to ourselves, so hooray!
IMG_20160527_073431 (1)
We hung out here for ages just looking at the water. =)

The next pool we tried was the River Pool.
IMG_20160527_084216Pretty cool, huh? I was taking photos and one of the maintenance guys showed me this vantage spot and said it was the best for photos. He was right!

This was a weirdly shaped pool at the sister hotel, Rimba. It was still raining on and off so again we were the only ones there.
IMG_20160527_101618
That pool overlooked several other pools. The lower pool was pretty huge – it wrapped around to the right and had a bunch of cabanas around it.
pool2To the left of the bridge there was a hot tub nook and a bar. The hot tub was great but the pool water was freezing immediately after! James had a soak right before he swam over for a morning coffee.IMG_20160527_095630We explored a couple of other pools (all the other pools!) but those were our favourites. James tried to go down the kiddy waterslide but they wouldn’t let him. =(

By the time we hit the main pool at Ayana the sun was out and it was pretty busy. The upper pool had a gorgeous view of the ocean and the hotel grounds but was super packed. We took this photo at the lower pool which was completely empty, probably it was really deep and looked more like a lap pool. In the photo you can see a bunch of people lounging at the upper edge.
IMG_20160527_115423We also dropped by the hotel’s private beach which looked nice, but no beach can really compare after the Komodo Islands. We did see some monkeys though, which was pretty cool.

And one last visit to the Ocean Pool!

IMG_20160527_121157

Then it was time to check out and have lunch.
IMG_20160527_135622We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around and exploring.
IMG_20160527_153010Until Rock Bar opened. =D

It is built on a cliff face, looking out to the ocean. And insanely gorgeous!

The Rock Bar

image from Ayana

It’s accessed by a funicular which is also pretty cool. Right before the bar opened the staff used it to transport all the ingredients and ice (soooo many bags of ice).
IMG_20160527_080758Here we are inside it earlier in the day. I think this was after our second trip to the Ocean Pool, which is why we’re looking a bit damp. Though it was super humid, so who am I kidding – we were constantly looking a bit damp. =(
funicular2There was a long line for the funicular, unless you were a hotel guest in which case you had priority access. You could get there faster via some stairs, but I guess the trip down is half the fun!

This is the other half of Rock Bar taken from near the actual bar. Our waitress said that the fancy area across the bridge was for people staying at the villas (the super premium rooms).
IMG_20160527_155819She also said that all the good seats are reserved for hotel guests and visitors get the seats at the back, so I’m glad we didn’t go at the start of our trip when we were at a different hotel.

Look at the crazy waves!
IMG_20160527_162608Some of the tables closer to the water couldn’t be used because they were soaked. I got sprayed several times trying to time the waves for a photo, which wasn’t terrible considering how brutally hot it was.

When we were seated our waitress gave us some cold towels and an umbrella to keep the sun off. They came in very handy.
IMG_20160527_160725
And then we sat there and drank aaaaaalll evening. =) To be honest the drinks were pretty bad, but everyone was there for the ambiance anyway.

Our waitress was lovely – she offered to take a photo for us. Then she insisted on taking a billion pictures with us posing at different places around the bar which was very sweet but also very unnecessary.

I felt bad telling her that we didn’t really need that many photos so just went along with it. And then I felt bad just deleting them so here they are (or like, 1/20th of them anyway)!

At our seats (sorry, everything looking into the sun is just super washed out – but how great are those seats??):
IMG_20160527_171018Left of the bar:
IMG_20160527_171147At the bar:
IMG_20160527_171241Right of the bar. Our waitress/photographer told us to hold hands and look into each other’s eyes. And then we had to stand there for several minutes staring at each other while she took sooo many photos, which cracked us up.IMG_20160527_171435
It was really sweet of her. And it is nice to have (200) souvenir photos of us at Rock Bar. =) Though I was a bit photographed out when James tried to take a selfie later:
IMG_20160527_180116 (1)
From memory, the giant, dark hand underneath is me trying to take the phone away and the curiously pale hand on top is James trying to stop me. We may or may not have had a few by then. Good times.

And here is the bar, all pretty and glowy at night!
IMG_20160527_183043There wasn’t much of a sunset to see which was disappointing. =( But we still got to drink and admire the view until it was time for us to head to the airport, which was not a bad way to go.

I wish we could have had a couple more days at the resort to soak everything up. When we got home I told James that I don’t want to go back to Indonesia when there are so many other countries to explore, but I really want to go back to Ayana! Everything about it was perfect – the hotel was gorgeous, the restaurants were great, everyone who worked there was amazing – and it was a wonderful, luxurious end to our holiday!