Tuesday, May 31, 2011

San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park

We're planning on visiting several National Park during our upcoming road trip, so we purchased ourselves another National Parks Pass, like last time. With that pass four people can enter all National Parks without paying the per person or per vehicle entrance fee. And there happens to be a small National Park in San Francisco, right where the cable car dropped us of. Great opportunity to use our pass for the first time. With out pass we got to board all the historic vessels of the fleet at the Maritime National Historic Park.

It had started to rain, hard. But we were not going to let the rain stop our sightseeing, so we bought ourselves some nice raincoats just before all the boat fun. Climbing on and off board of historic ships may not sound too exciting, but it's actually pretty interesting to see what those sea monsters look like on the inside and to imagine people working and living there at some time in the past. I'm glad I never had to work on a ship, but that doesn't mean I don't like to play pretend.
I think my mother would have been a good seaman, or rather seawoman, because she really enjoyed playing with the ropes and kept wanting to climb to the crow's nest. 
I think I might have been good at being seasick, because the boat's movements kept making me nauseous and light-headed, even though it was docked. Also hanging of the sides probably didn't help much.
Meanwhile Guido was practising his creep-in-the-window act in the ship's tiny port hole windows. He's definitely improving.
Unfortunately, we didn't get to inspect all the vessels on display at the Historical Park, because we have so many other things planned for today. Yasu is still in class, so he missed all this, I'm going to have to take him here someday soon as well.

Riding the cable car

The San Francisco cable car system is the world's last permanently operational manually operated cable car system. The cars are pulled along by cables embedded in the street, and they are a famous icon of San Francisco. And we totally forgot to ride them the last time we were all in San Francisco.

So this was first on our list on our first day of sightseeing in San Francisco. It's pretty expensive to ride the cable car, $5 one-way, so we chose to ride the longest route, the Powell-Hyde line, which took us all the way to Fishermans Wharf. Obviously, this line is very popular and there are always very long lines at the turnaround points.

One way to avoid the lines is to board one stop away from the turnaround, like I did with Yasu, but then all the good seats (the outside benches and standee spots) are taken and you get stuck in the crowd inside the little room on the back of the car. The other way to avoid lines is to come really early or really late. Seeing as the Dutchies are still jetlagged, making getting up really early easy, and Yasu had his first class of the semester in the early morning today, we all decided to get up before seven and head downtown before eight. And it worked! There were just a few people waiting in front of us and we could have gotten on the first cable car leaving the turnaround, but it was the wrong line. But this made us first to board when the Powell-Hyde car came around! My mom took a seat on an outside bench and Guido and I took standee spots, in front of her.
It was a completely different experience from last time, it was really exciting to hang of a moving vehicle while going through the beautiful streets of San Francisco. But it's also a bit dangerous, especially when you're standing at the head of the car. The gripman commanded me to keep my eyes on the road at all times for my own safety. Just a tad of danger only adds to the fun anyway, right?

The Dutchies have arrived!

I woke up very excited this morning! Because today was the day I got to pick up the Dutchies from San Francisco airport! I have been busy preparing for our road trip with the Dutchies for weeks, and I was glad the time was finally there for it all to start. In the arrivals hall at the airport they have TV screens showing people walking from luggage claim to the arrivals hall. I found myself under one of those big screens, tirelessly craning my neck to look intently at it for about an hour, when they finally popped up on the screen, the Dutchies!

After a warm hug, some welcome kisses, and a quick cry (of happiness) we took off on the BART to go home. The home they've seen through many Skype conversations and pictures on Flickr and were about to see with their own eyes for the first time. And also the home that had a large batch of fresh colorful cupcakes waiting for them to welcome them to the States.
Cupcakes wasn't the only thing I prepared for them, there was also dinner with way too much garlic (yummy but stinky) and a nice and firm airbed waiting for them on the floor.
Dutchies in US Day 1 - 3

After the Dutchies refreshed in our tiny bathroom, settled in our small apartment, we all filled our stomachs, and a quick grocery trip to the local Lucky, we turned in early for our first day of sightseeing in San Francisco tomorrow! I'm so happy they're here and that our trip can finally begin!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Out of the office

I'm busy cleaning our apartment and making preparations because on Monday my mother and her husband are landing at San Francisco Airport! I'm so excited :)! 

The last time I saw them (in real life) was 10 months ago, it'll be great to hug and kiss them again. We're going to do a lot of sightseeing here in the Bay Area and we're going on a roadtrip all the way to Utah. 

So I'm going to be away from the blog. The eleventh monkey is on vacation! Hope everyone is having a great summer. See you in about three weeks!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Guido's almost American birthday

Guido is turning 46 today! Congrats Gui, hope you're having a fantastic day.

Cooking practice

When the Dutchies are here in little over a week, I want to welcome them with a nice home cooked meal. And I want to impress them with something they've never tried before. Guido is quite an adventurous eater, so I'm not worried about him, but my mom can be quite picky and strict about what kind of foods to combine in a meal. Some of the things I've cooked since we've moved to the States sound downright scary to her, and others just weird. So I kind of want her to try something scary and weird like that and I really hope she'll like it.

So I'm practicing some new things this week and I hope to find some good menu items for their first night here. Tonight, we're having Tomato Peach and Basil Salad, and Roast Beef with Slow-Cooked Tomatoes and Garlic.
Cooking practice

The dressing for the salad was a tiny bit scary to me, but I made it just as described and it's delicious! I have no idea how the roast beef will turn out, as I've never roasted a beef before, I'm not sure I bought the right cut of meat (it's so confusing) and I'm using that roasting pan for the first time.

I kind of feel bad for Yasu, though. He's doesn't really like tomatoes and, like my mother, he doesn't think fruit should be 'cooked' with. But I'm trying to expand his culinary horizons, by just exposing him to things he thinks he doesn't like. Thankfully, he's being a good sport about it.

When I first got to Japan there were loads of things I didn't like, like miso soup, barley tea, curry rice, and more. But my taste changed over the years I was living there and I now love the things I used to hate. So that's what I hope will happen with Yasu. Besides he absolutely loves tomato salsa with his nachos, so I think him not liking tomatoes is just in his head and I'm trying to make him realize that. And I also used to think that fruit was just to be eaten as it is, but every time I eat a meal with fruit cooked into it, I love it. It gives the meal something extra and surprising.

Yasu is almost home from his seminar and then we're going to have dinner! And after that, I really have to get back to booking hotels and reserving a rental car for our road trip! So many things to do before the Dutchies get here!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fill in the blanks...

1. People always tell me I look like I'm younger than 21 by asking me for my ID everytime I want to buy an alcoholic beverage. Two weeks ago at a bar my friend got slightly upset because she did not get carded and I did, and told the bartender "But I'm three years younger than she is." He responded "But she [pointing at me] looks like a sixteen-year-old with that babyface." I'm actually 30 so I'm happy to get carded, and I choose to take such remarks as a compliment.

2. Friends don't let friends make fools out of themselves. In public at least, being foolish in private can be funny!

3. A sunny day is perfect for a walk down the Embarcadero in San Francisco and visiting the sea lions at Pier 39. They are such fascinating animals, I can watch them for hours, they never get boring.

4. My favorite accessory is my monkey necklace. It was a birthday gift from my mom, she had it made for me after one of my eleventh monkey designs. I LOVE it!

5. If I could afford it I would get a car! Most definitely a car. I love driving and life would be easier with a car too, like when I'm doing a heavy load of laundry at the laundromat or when I want to go grocery shopping at a good and far-away store and buy lots of heavy things.

6. The cure for boredom is my iPhone. I don't usuallly get bored, there are a million projects on my list, but sometimes I need to kill time while I'm waiting for a bus or train [because I don't have a car ;)] and then my iPhone and its many Apps do the trick.

7. I am currently "in like" with Glee. I just recently discovered this show after my brother mentioned seeing his first episode and really liking it. We usually like the same kind of tv shows and he was right. I really like Glee! I want to be in their club, but I can't sing...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Roadtrip planning

In two weeks my mother and her husband will be landing at San Francisco airport! I'm really looking forward to their visit and we'll be spending most of their time here roadtripping! Yasu's busy summer semester will start right when my the Dutchies arrive, so we kind of have to plan around Yasu's new classes, as he can only miss each course once.

So we're actually doing two roadtrips, a long weekend trip and a whole week trip. I've been trying to plan a nice trip with new things to see, because us Dutchies already went on a major roadtrip through and around California in 2006, but Yasu hasn't so he's curious to see some of the same things we've already seen. 

It's quite a challenge to come up with a trip that isn't an exact repeat of our last trip, has a nice variety of sightseeing and doesn't involve too much driving, and -oh yeah- we're on a budget... After four days of puzzling on Google Maps, comparing surrounding States and National Parks, and checking hotel prices I've finally come up with two routes.

First up is the long weekend. The plan is to drive up to Napa, take in a winery tour and tasting, and then drive on to Sacramento and spend the night there. The next day we'll drive up to Lassen Volcanic National Park and stay there until the next day when we slowly head back home.
Roadtrip 2011: Napa - Sacramento - Lassen Volcanic National Park

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bonita Rose interviewed me

Want to read a very extensive interview with me? Then hop on over to Bonnie's blog. This lady asked some pretty deep and interesting questions, which had me thinking really hard! A while back I interviewed her too, check it out if you want to know more about her beautiful work.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Easy guacamole

Last week I made Yasus some egg and chicken salad, this week I tried to make him something else I know he loves. He loves, love, LOVES eating nachos. He usually just melts some cheese on the chips and dips them in salsa, but he likes a more extended version too for example with guacamole.

I cut open the avocados, spooned out the flesh and mashed them with a fork in a bowl. I added all the salsa left in the jar, a handfull of crumbled bacon, squirted in some lime juice and shook in some salt and mixed it well. Then I put it in the fridge to chill.

Yasu was very happily surprised when lunch turned out to be tortilla chips with bacon guacamole! I sprinkled some more crumbled bacon on top of the guacamole, to show him bacon was hidden inside the green mountain. He loved it, and really wants me to make this again. I know I will, but next time I will use freshly chopped tomatoes instead of salsa.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Fill in the blanks...

1. What I love most about my home is the kitchen.

Our kitchen here in the States is huge, and cooking in it is easy and fun, so I do it a lot. It's also equipped with a huge oven, a stove with four burners and an enormous fridge and freezer.

My previous kitchens in Japan on the other hand... They don't really deserve to be called kitchens.

My first kitchen had only one burner, no oven and no counter space, it did have a rice cooker and a reasonably sized fridge. My second kitchen was better with two burners (but they were so close together that you could only use one at the time), a microwave, a small toaster oven, and a tiny sliver of counter space. But neither of these were comfortable for cooking, so I ate out basically everyday.

So yeah, I really love our current kitchen!!

2. I'm excited because, I'm planning a road trip for next month. My mother and her husband are coming to visit us and we're going to explore Northern California by car. Just imagining all the fun things we're going to do and being able to show them around in San Francisco gives me butterflies of excitement.

3. My preferred method for blowing off steam when I'm frustrated is screaming and crying.

4. Currently I am craving things I can't get here. Mostly Dutch or Japanese things, but as it's lunch time right now I'd like a glass of cold Dutch milk, with some super dark brown Dutch bread and some young non-smoked Dutch Gouda cheese. Yum.

5. The thing I love most about my mom is how much she supports me and my decisions and how much she believes in me.

6. If I was going to write a book about my life, the title would be "Always Traveling". Ever since I read "Happiness is not a station of arrival, it's a way of traveling" on a bubblegum wrapper as a kid, I've remembered this quote and believed in it.

Besides that I'm not big on settling down, I like the way we live now, in different countries in different places and never permanently. We moved here less than a year ago and we're already seriously thinking about which country we're moving to next. I know someday we're going to have to settle down, especially when we have kids, but for now we're still 'traveling'.

7. If I were to eat one thing for the rest of eternity it would be fruit. But I can't just choose one type of fruit, I want all of them!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Unicorn horns

Just a little update on the unicorns. Things have been going slowly due to my arm injuries, but there has been some slow progress...

I really hope I can finish these before my May 19 deadline... Thankfully the customer is flexible and understanding, and told me a delay would be totally fine. But I'm still going to try to finish it in time, as these unicorns are supposed to be graduation gifts.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Leftover Easter eggs

Last week was Easter and we still had some leftover hard-boiled eggs that needed to be consumed by today, so I made some egg salad for my hubbie. Yasu just can't forget the awesome egg salad he ate from a Dutch grocery store last year, and I tried to recreate it because they don't sell it in the supermarket here.

I peeled the eggs and roughly chopped them with a fork in a bowl. I added a good amount of mayo, some serious shakes of curry powder, and shredded leftover rotisserie chicken (I did not use all the chicken in the picture - not even close - I made sure there was more egg than chicken) and mixed it all together. If it was too dry I would add more mayo and keep on mixing until it looked like egg (and chicken) salad. I think I also added some sea salt along the way. Then I let it chill for a few hours in the fridge until Yasu came home from school.

I put the egg and chicken salad on some toasted french bread, sprinkled it with parsley flakes and let him test it. He loved it. I think I put too much curry powder in it, but will definitely make this again... With less curry, more sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper.