Week 51 & 52 of 2018

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A little behind again, but catching up.

This week held a baby shower for a friend, starting to take anti-parasite meds (to see if that is causing some of the health problems still), Apple team Christmas party, Bible Study group Christmas dinner, two more Christmas parties with old friends from Escondido, and lots of meals out with Brian’s parents/family.
We pulled off a great Christmas party at work this week. It was just our team, and it was a sweet & savory potluck, where everyone brought different treats. We have a very diverse team, so we had all sorts of different cuisines and flavors. That same day, we celebrated with our new Bible study group in Palo Alto. They made prime rib, and all sorts of other fancy food. So tasty!
We flew to San Diego on Thursday and Brian and I both worked from home a bit that day. After landing, we walked outside and it was GORGEOUS. 80 degrees, sunny, warm. Mmmm. It didn’t stay that warm the rest of the week, and even got a little chilly, but it for sure was a lot warmer than SF. I love San Diego Christmases. No need for snow for me.
We went to a Christmas party that always has the best Yankee Swap game (which is like White Elephant). This year, they added their own twists on it, and it was so fun. Probably the best White Elephant I’ve ever played. Also, I got lottery tickets and 10 $10 Christian Audio gift cards. They expired by the end of the year (which is why it was a joke), but I can buy audiobooks quickly! They were having a year end sale, so I got like 12 books for free!! Awesome. Many of them are ones that I have been wanting to read for awhile too, and the Overdrive Library app doesn’t always have all the Christian books. The lottery tickets were winners too — $28! Best win for me, for bringing a $8 gift! ha. (The gift also came with a Weed rolling shirt (I totally didn’t know what it was until they explained it to me), a smelly and super old CDs, so there was weird stuff in it too.)
We went to a San Diego State basketball game. We have gone the past few years, since Brian’s parents get season tickets. This was the first time that Brian and I had been able to go with his brothers (that I can remember). The game was packed, as they were playing BYU, which it sounds like is one of their rivals.
Another tradition that we have is to make Christmas cookies. Brian’s mom has been making cookies with the boys for 30+ years! We’ve been gluten free for awhile, but we still used to make just regular cookies, as it’s easier and cheaper to make a big batch of regular sugar cookies, but this year, we made GF ones, so we could eat them! Yay! The dough was super hard after coming out of the fridge, so we had to warm it up for awhile before we could cut out the cookies. I thought the dough was pretty good though. Cookies were tasty, and fun to decorate.
This year, we went to the Zoo all together! I hadn’t been to the zoo in a long time. Whenever we’re with Brian’s family, his mom has all sorts of fun things planned for us. It’s like vacation at home! I think the Snow Leopard cat was my favorite. When I showed Jado the picture, he said he wanted to be a fierce cat…so he’s been chasing Clemmy all around the house, trying to be a fierce cat.

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The next week was Christmas, and we had a pile of presents to open. So many nice gifts. It took us 4 hours to open! OMG. Brian’s love language is gifts, and we had to bring down three extra suitcases to bring our goodies back with us. We enjoyed looking at Christmas lights at Christmas card lane in San Diego, going to Christmas eve service and spending time with Brian’s extended family on their Christmas Eve get-together. We went out to Ali Baba’s, one of our other favorite restaurants in Escondido, and Brian and I had a nice lunch date at Pacific Coast Grill in Encinitas together. Unfortunately, Brian got sick (his normal, I went on vacation, and now I have a bad cold), so the rest of the week we didn’t do a whole lot after coming back home to Palo Alto. The cats were happy to see us and give Brian lots of cuddles while he rested. I had a few other cats that I watched over the week, since people were gone. It was a good way to me to be still, as I have to be with the cat for about 30 minutes, I can do yoga, sit there, read, think, listen to a book. My director gave me The TCP/IP Guide book to read a section of, but I’ve really been enjoying it, as it’s all of the networking items that I haven’t understood, in easily explained writing. This book is like 3,000 pages, and I don’t think he expected me to read the whole thing, just this one section, but I took it to San Diego and read it on the plane. An hour plane ride got me through one chapter, and got through a few more in San Diego while we were there. It’s not the easiest read, but much better than some other technical writings. The book is probably 6-8 pounds, and as I walked onto the plane, a guy said, wow, that could be a weapon! haha. Yea, and I’m the nerd walking around with a heavy book, on my Christmas break reading about how the internet works. Ended the year with a New Year’s Eve party at our friends Monica and Elliot’s house. What a year 2018 has been! A year of blogging and lots of pictures. Many adventures, many struggles, and lots of fun with the cats.

The Little C’s:
The cats also received a lot of presents: toys, a bed, more feathers, little mice. They were upset that they didn’t get to open their presents on Christmas, since we were gone, so we had Cat Christmas on December 28, when we got home. They opened their presents and had so much fun with their new toys that everyone gave them!

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Week 50

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Iceland! (See more pictures here) We landed Sunday morning bright and early. Except it wasn’t bright. It was 5am, and PITCH dark out. The sun technically came up at 11am, but was pretty dark until 10:45, and not really bright until noon. We started off with a scare at the rental car company. The confirmation that I had saved just had the confirmation number, not the company that we were using – I had booked through a third party site. Thank God for good wifi at the airport, as well as online chat with the company! They said my email had been entered incorrectly, so good thing I had taken a screen shot of the confirmation umber. They provided me the details and we headed off to get the car. While getting the car, the man said that we needed to buy their insurance or confirm that we had insurance. Of course we have car insurance in the US, but he said that wouldn’t count. I had already prepared for this and confirmed that our credit card company would cover the additional insurance (like most do) as long as you don’t accept the rental car company’s additional coverage. So I told him this but he said I had to have proof! I had scanned a copy of the cardholder agreement into Evernote (like I do with most documents that I want to keep), but since it didn’t have a copy of my card scanned with it (it was Brian’s, but doesn’t really matter since it’s the same account…) they said they wouldn’t take it. He said we needed to call the company to get a written letter detailing that we were covered, because Iceland was different and there was hot ash and flying debris with all the crazy wind storms here. That freaked me out a little and concerned me that no matter what we did, we might have to pay for damages to the car, in the case that something wasn’t covered by the credit card company. Thankfully, the man let us use his phone for almost a 25 minute call to the company to get someone from the credit card company to email me a letter. Good thing they had wifi there too! I was glad that I had done my research (actually, did it earlier in the year when we went to Spain and rented a car), as this saved us a lot of money not having to buy their $150 insurance, as I would have done that to be covered, since there was such a high chance of a crack in the windshield or any other issues due to crazy weather there. Thankfully we made it through the couple days without any issues. It confirms my decision that whenever you can rent a car in another country, definitely the best option! The cost of our car was less than the cost of a bus ticket for one of us from the airport to Reykjavik (it’s about a 40 minute ride to the city from the airport).

We got off after that without any issues, and went to visit the Blue Lagoon. Unfortunately, at 9am, it was still SO dark that we couldn’t see anything. We saw little bits of the Northern Lights that day when flying, and then upon driving, but it was pretty faint, so we hunted our whole trip to try to see better versions of it. We had decided to not go in the Blue Lagoon as it was about $80 a person just to swim, and there were other places that we could go in hot springs along the road for free (or so we had heard). Turned out to be good, because we wouldn’t have been able to see or enjoy it at that time. We ended up coming back on our way to the airport to leave Iceland and got to see it then. Definitely beautiful and worth going to see. I was fine that we didn’t go in there though, as there were so many people. It still would have been fun, but I don’t think worth that price.
We headed around the south side of the island on the coast and could see the waves crashing in the darkness onto the shore. We could tell that it was pretty, even though it was dark. The sun is only up for about 4.5 hours during this part of December. I thought it would be dusk for longer, but it really didn’t get light until 10:45am and then got really dark around 4pm. Thankfully, the dawn and dusk hours provided enough extra time for us to to see a lot of the area.
I was pretty tired, as I hadn’t slept well the night before (or the prior 2 months, basically) and was concerned about how I’d do on the trip not feeling great. However, this has been the story of my life for many years, and I can’t just stay inside forever, so we decided to do the trip even if it was hard. I hadn’t slept on the plane at all, so by 10am in Iceland, I was really tired. We took a brief 5 minute rest, and then got out to hike. Let’s just say that the cold woke me up! It’s cold there, but not as cold as I thought. It was about 30F to 40F during our time there. It was miserably cold the first day with the wind, and someone had said it was about 15F with the wind chill. We, the family who had lived in Cuba last winter, were definitely bundled more than others around us! ha! We were freezing! I’ve been wearing a scarf and hat and big jacket in Silicon Valley the past month so it was definitely a cold that I did not really prefer!
Our hike was amazing though. We never would have made it to the hot spring if we had known how far it was (I guess that’s where not quickly converting kilometers into miles in your head when you’re tired can be a good thing). The hike was about 3.3km, which is a little over 2 miles. We thought the hot spring pool was at the top of the hill that we could see. We saw a ranger along the road and at that point probably had already hiked a very steep hill up for 40 minutes. He said it was 20 minutes farther. Phew, we were almost there. We got to the hot springs that were bubbling and there was a river that had signs saying we could swim in! It was only about 1 foot deep, so you could just cover yourself if you laid on down in the river. Getting in and out was brutal, but being in the water was nice! There were only a few other people in the river. It was fun, but a short experience due to the cold. Your face just felt like it was going to freeze off. The water was warm, but not super hot. Maybe about 88-90 degrees. Beautiful area though in Rekyjadalur, which means “Smoke valley”.

We had heard that things were very expensive in Iceland, but so far our experience hadn’t been bad – the tickets for the two of us were about $570 total (for both of us, round trip with a bag, but we got a black friday deal, which is why we went!), and the AirBnBs each night were about $50 (and we only had 3 nights). However, the food was outrageous! For any type of food, it was pretty much $15, even for a tiny a bowl of soup. Think of stadium prices but even in the grocery store! We had heard there was Costco and Ikea, and we were able to get a main dish at Ikea for $8 and a salad for $7. So definitely the best bargain of the town there. Costco had a little higher than the American food prices ($4 for hotdog, $7 for pizza), but the inside grocery part was much more expensive, $24 for a jar of nuts, normally about $12 when we get them. We had brought snacks, but I feared not enough as I was so hungry on the plane, I ate a lot of them (and also purchased a small thing of Pringles for an outrageous price and AFTER eating the whole thing read the ingredients. Did you know they have WHEAT STARCH!?! Omg, seriously, another bad way to start a vacation… Thankfully, I think it wasn’t much that was on them, probably just a dusting, unlike the bag of cookies I ate earlier in the summer. I almost always read labels, but the few times I haven’t recently, it’s done me in!
We went to the grocery store and got some food to make for two of the dinners we would be there. Taco salad generally stays pretty fresh, and is quick and easy to make, so we opted for that when we saw those ingredients. We went back to our first AirBnb and met the older lady hosting us. She was so sweet! Besides other service people, she was really one of the only Icelanders that we got to interact with, which I was a little disappointed by. That was also our experience in Spain…let’s just say, Brian’s not like my dad, who likes to talk to all people on the trip and make new “friends” in every line that we stand in. I thought it was crazy as a kid, but now I get it and appreciate it, as it helps you understand the world better.

I was so tired that night, and worried that I was going to not feel great from the gluten exposure, that I didn’t want to be too adventurous in our first night of eating out. We decided to get Nepalese food, Chicken Tikka Masala. It was really good, but for $35 for a medium sized portion, Brian and I just split it. We weren’t that hungry, since we had gone to Ikea a few hours earlier, so that worked. Afterwards, we tried to go find the Northern Lights, but couldn’t see anything. It was clear, and the glow as supposedly a 3, which was decent, but we couldn’t see it. It was really windy, but nothing to what we experienced the next night. We really wanted to see the lights, so we woke up at 4am and tried to go find a dark spot. We drove pretty far out, in the snow (I always drive in foreign countries, as it’s really hard to get automatic cars (or super expensive), and Brian doesn’t know how to drive a manual car). I hadn’t really driven in snow before, but our trip in Iceland gave me some pretty good “awful weather” training! We brought blankets to sit in the car and just wait for the lights. It wasn’t that clear, and the clouds would come in and out, since it was so windy. Nothing still. We were only out for 2 hours and then went back to bed until noon! We were so tired from our trip and being thrown off on the time (and all the physical exercise I did with hiking – haven’t walked that much in a LONG time) that we hadn’t really planned to do that, but it was pretty dark and rainy the next morning, that it made it hard to get up. I found it really hard to get up at 9am during the time, as it felt like the middle of the night (which it was in CA), but also because it was just so dark. Our host had given us a few good places to see, so we went to the Perlan and got some ice cream (almost got coffee, but the ice cream sounded good, as it was warm inside everywhere!), and then explored downtown Reykjavik (Rày-key-a-vìck). The shops were really cute! I liked the downtown area. Smaller stores, although there were a few high rises. It rained a lot that day, and the wind was pretty strong, so you can’t carry an umbrella. You just wear a jacket and duck in and out of spaces. Thankfully, we were going in and out of shops, and ended up finding some cool souvenirs, so didn’t get too wet. We found a list of best gluten-free restaurants in the area and started trying them out (Himalayan Spice, which used to be called Nepalese Kitchen) was one of them. Definitely the hardest part of traveling, as you have to ask what is in everything. We found out from reading some other places that they put wheat in their sushi rice, and they eat barley and rye bread a lot too. So much bread! We went to a little food truck/shack called Fish & Co in one of the parks/squares in downtown. It was a small bowl of pan-fried cod with spinach and roasted tomatoes under it. 2,000 ISK, which is about $20 USD. Brian and I split it, as we had our taco salad to eat (and it was already 3:30pm), and so it wasn’t much food. But SO good. Very fresh and flavorful. We headed out to the Grotta lighthouse at the end of the city on the peninsula and then on our way got back in horrible traffic. It took us 30 minutes to go 1 mile. Definitely worse than Bay Area or LA. Iceland has about 300,000 people, and probably half of them live in Reykjavik. Not sure why traffic was so bad though. We learned our lesson to not go out around that time! The wind was pretty heavy at that time. We had planned to go make our taco salads, and then drive out another time about an hour outside the city so it would for sure be really dark and we could watch for the Northern Lights. We had the scariest drive of our life, with the wind GUSTING around us. We had a tiny little car too, and I thought we were going to get blown away. Later, we found out that the wind was up to 50 meters/second, which translates into 110MPH winds! I told Brian it felt like we were in a hurricane, and for sure, we definitely were! Wow. I don’t think it was that high when we were driving, but it was very strong, definitely moving our car, so I was driving in the middle of the road to not get blown off (thankfully, there were almost no cars out where we were). We sat for awhile and waited, then moved locations one more time and sat for a few hours. No northern lights!! So sad. We knew that was the best time/day that had been predicted, as it was clear and the rating for it to show up there was decent.

On Tuesday, we visited this neat looking church, Hallgrimskirkja Church, and got some big fries with different dips from Reykjavik Chips in downtown. Yum! That ended up being our lunch, sorta, and then we drove through Thingvellir National Park. Gorgeous. Very different terrain throughout Iceland, some hills and huge mountain/glacier areas, and then some pretty valleys. Since we have been to Yellowstone National Park, which is one of the other famous Geyser national parks, it did seem pretty comparable. We saw their smaller “old faithful” geyser, which goes off every 5 to 10 minutes, called Strokkur Geyser. Tourism in Iceland seems to be pretty new (Wow air has only been going there for a few years), and so there’s a lot of work that they’re doing to make the park area ready for tons of people to come visit. They just had little paths, but were going to be building a raised walkway to keep the area protected in the near future.
At the rest stop, they had a great soup place. I wanted to have soup every day since I was cold all the time! All the 4 soups were gluten-free, and when I commented that I was so happy that they advertised it, the guy brought me out some GF bread too. Tomato basil soup, with pesto in it. Very good. Everything in Iceland was quality, so although it was expensive, the food was very tasty, fresh, organic, and flavorful. It makes you wonder what we’ve lost in the US, due to wanting everything to be cheap. Yes, we can afford more, but you miss out on the amazing flavor of the chicken, and the other ingredients.

We continued on through the park and saw Gulfoss Waterfall, which was beautiful! It’s a double-drop waterfall which tumbles down 32 meters into an ancient canyon. Visiting in the winter, the surroundings are covered in ice, appearing frozen as in awe of the violent water. Really something to see. We headed out of the park toward the town of Sullfoss, which was another cute town on the hunt for some more gluten-free treats along the way. We had heard that there was good cake at Kaffi Krus, and it was amazing. It was a white mousse, chocolate mousse, and a chocolate brownie on the bottom, covered with chocolate ganache. Oh wow. So rich, and so good. Very happy to be able to find a few good gluten-free treats on our trip. We checked into our airbnb, which was in Hella, and was a campground. We didn’t get to see it in daylight, but it would have been really pretty, from the dark view that we could tell. It was a little one-room cabin with a small 2-burner stove, and a mini fridge and sink and bathroom. Great place to stay for the night. Would have been fun in the summer, although it’s only 50 degrees in the summer, so not really lake weather!
There are public pools that are heated with the geothermal water (water from the geyser/volcanos), and so we went there and swam for a little bit. Was fun, and those pools were much warmer, like you’d expect a jacuzzi to be (it looked like a jacuzzi, not like a dirt hole with hot water in it, which was kind of what I was expecting/hoping), but it was drizzling and windy, so we only stayed for a little bit.
Afterwards, we headed to see a beautiful waterfall, one of many that Iceland has. Unfortunately, since we didn’t have many daylight hours, we had to go see some things in the dark, and sometimes we couldn’t see much, or other times, in the case of Seljalandsfoss waterfall, it was lit up, so we could see it, although not as glorious as it would have been in the daytime. There was a path to walk behind the waterfall, so we did that and got a little sprayed! Thankfully, we made it back to the car just as it started to pour again. (The weather changes so quickly!)

On Wednesday, we had to catch our flight, so on the way, we stopped at a geothermal and hydro power plant museum. Hey, we’re nerds. But it was so cool! The museum was so interactive and interesting. Very helpful facts to help understand how they convert the hot water and the streams into electricity. We were there for awhile, and then went to Yellow, an asian bowl curry place and got it to go on our way to the airport. That was really good too. We didn’t eat a whole lot of Icelandic-style food, besides the cod-fish and coffee drinks, as it wasn’t the most conducive to GF, unless you went to a really fancy restaurant, but the food we ate while there was very tasty. We walked through the Blue Lagoon on our way back to the airport, and enjoyed seeing it in the daytime. We were able to turn our car in without any new dings or dents (or crashing the whole thing in the wind!), thankfully. Our flight was about 10 hours back, with a fuel stop in Canada. I saw the ice caps somewhere up high in the north as we flew over and that was a sight I hadn’t seen before (Probably somewhere very north Canda). So neat. A great trip, and we really enjoyed our time in Iceland, with the friendly people we encountered, the great food, and the beautiful scenery. If only it wasn’t so cold (says the woman who was called “SoCal” in college, because I started to put on my hat and scarf once it got to 60 degrees!)…

We both went back to work on Thursday, so talk about a whirlwind trip. We are both glad we went and got to experience it. The rest of the week was really busy too as we had my work Christmas party (which was not very good, due to the location being 3 hours away in traffic!), and a Berkeley IV friends’ Christmas party (which was really fun!). On Saturday morning, I went to celebrate a friend’s birthday by doing some charity work. What a great idea! Apple matches our volunteer work too, so basically, by getting 15 of her friends and family together, she probably donated a few thousand dollars to Project WEHope, which is a homeless shelter and advocacy group in East Palo Alto. I was so excited to do this, as I have always had a tug in my heart to help homeless people, and to help solve the systemic issues we have. Especially in the Bay Area, where normal people can’t afford to live, none-the-less someone who has had some bad luck, or doesn’t have a good job. We learned about the organization, helped them build some shelving units, and set up for their Christmas party. We then stayed to help converse with the guests who were coming and it was wonderful! Always a little awkward initially, just as they were all strangers to us, but I had a great talk with a man and his son, listening to his story, and how hard he worked to ensure that his son could finish high school. They lived in an RV, as a lot of the homeless families do, as he felt like it was more important for the families who had 3 kids to live in the two bedroom low-housing apartments than him and his son. Talk about a generous, bright man. It’s interesting how stereotype break down when you meet real people and talk with them. He was working hard to get the mayor to provide some land so all the families could park their RVs and at least have a safe space to park. It was really neat to see his initiative, and encouraged me also to help see how I can make a difference in this way too (Many people’s view is that the tech companies have greatly contributed (or caused) this), so when he heard I worked at Apple and heard my story too, I think some stereotypes on his end were also broken down. All that to say, I’d love to keep doing more ministry work in East Palo Alto (it’s right across the freeway from us, and Marley, the dog I walk, lives over there). Definitely would like to remove many of the divides and stereotypes that permeates our Silicon Valley.

Little C’s:

They were SO sad that we went to Iceland. When we can back, Clemmy was super chatty and cuddly, and Jado, was even more cuddly and chatty than his usual self. They said we can’t ever leave again, and I told them they’d have to be okay with it cause we were leaving in a week again for Christmas. WHAT?! Thankfully, our housemate, and our new cat sitter both refilled their automatic feeder, and they seemed healthy when we returned. Jado didn’t want to leave me for a minute when I came home, so he decided to help with all the laundry from our trip. IMG_2528.jpg

Week 48 & 49

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Not a lot happened over these two weeks. Work, lots of errands returning black friday items we no longer wanted (we both realized we’re more apt to get something in the store because we’re in buying mode, but then once we get home, we’re more apt to say we don’t need it, because we’re in the clutter-removal mode).
Throughout these two weeks, we also stocked up on our warm necessities for Iceland. I found the same boots I had been looking at online at the Thrift store! Awesome. We had to hunt through our Cuba crate and other boxes in our garage that have been sitting there packed up for almost two years now to find our hats and gloves and socks. Found some other boots too which will be great to wear throughout this winter.

I taught a course to our team on the overview of how a CDN works, and in the future will go into our finances. It’s been awhile since I’ve presented so was nervous, especially since our director (who taught the class last time, and commissioned me to be the new “faculty” member) was in the class! I’m going to be teaching 4 classes in this course, each being about 75 min – 2 hours long. So much talking! I’ve been “quiet engineer” for the past 6 months working on my own things. But it was definitely nice for a change and helped me realize how much I’ve learned, and good for me to use my Keynote creation skills, and other non-technical skills!

Over the weekend, I went to a retreat (another retreat!) up in Santa Cruz mountains (again!). It was rainy and cold and I had slept horribly, so I didn’t want to go that much. It was a Meditation retreat, to practice all of the different types of Mindfulness that we learned in the Apple Mindfulness for Stress Reduction class. It ended up being a nice time to practice, although it’s hard work, not necessarily restful. We were quiet from around 11am to 4pm, but the teacher talked and guided us during those times in different exercises. It was weird to not talk over lunch, but for an introvert, it was great! I could just sit there and look around and enjoy the food (practicing mindful eating), and not have to think about conversing. I kind of liked it. The food was great – all vegetarian, and so fresh and flavorful (could’ve also been the mindful eating that helped me recognize that as well).

On Sunday, Brian and I went to church and then ran errands together (taking back the remaining items from black friday, purchasing Christmas gifts, and looking for a Christmas dress for me), and then had a Christmas adventure in the city. I have heard the past few years about a giant Gingerbread house that’s built in one of the hotel lobbies. I really wanted to go see that, so we set off to find it. I don’t dislike San Francisco as much at night time – it’s pretty and you don’t see all the trash. The lights are nice there. There were quite a few of the fancy hotels decked out for Christmas. Beautiful! The Fairmont hotel was where the 25 foot gingerbread house was built. It had taken 300 hours of baking and had multiple rooms. So neat to see. We just went in for 15 minutes and looked at it and then got our car back, as parking is so expensive there, and I mean, what was there to do? Sit and stare at it another 30 minutes?
We walked down to one of my new favorite dinner places, Tropisueño Mexican Kitchen. Unfortunately, their tacos aren’t really GF, as they make them on the same surface as the burritos and so there’s a big cross-contamination issue (something to be aware of in other mexican restaurants!), but their chicken soup is amazing. It’s like a tortilla soup, but with so many vegetables in it, and avocado too! Spicy, but not too spicy. We got it to go and went to find a hill to look at the lights of the city in. Ended up not being able to go where we wanted (it was dark so the park was closed), so we just parked in a parking lot and ate in a neighborhood. We had a really nice time together. So nice to be able to eat places together, after 3 years of having to cook at home all the time.

More doctor visits the next week, and dinner with one of Brian’s childhood friends in his home. The house is from the 1950s and has the original stove/oven! Wow, it was pretty cool looking. He travels a lot, so we brought ingredients to make pancakes and hang out there. On Friday afternoon, we drove down to LA to catch our flight on Saturday to Iceland! Woohoo! I’m really hoping we get to see the Northern Lights! We flew all day Saturday and arrived at 5am on Sunday morning in Iceland.

 

The Little C’s:

We got them some automatic food feeders, especially since we’ll be traveling a little bit the next few weeks! They are timed to automatically turn and open the feeder at 9am and 6pm. Ha! Now they will be on a very strict schedule and hopefully won’t whine as much because the feeder feeds them, not me.
Our housemate was concerned about them sitting on the couches so he put blankets over them (he saw Clemmy sit on the top of the couch so was worried about the fur getting everywhere). However, the cats know that the ONLY place they are supposed to sit is on their blanket. So Brian came out into the family room one day and there they were – very cozily sitting on their thrones!

Week 46 & 47

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The past few weeks have been a blur! I have done a lot of pet sitting, and with the holidays, my weekends have been quite full.
Had some time to spend by myself resting, and took a walk through Ikea just enjoying going slow and wandering looking at things. I made a craft out of the fun items I had collected at the retreat the previous week.
Brian and I have had a lot of fun trying new restaurants in the area. We found out that you can earn air miles by using your card (any of them that you link to your American Airlines account), by going to certain restaurants. We like to go to new places sometimes so figured we might try one on the list. I like finding deals like that! We went to a place called Pokeworks that makes poke bowls (think sushi, but in a bowl with all sorts of toppings. It was pretty good. We then went to the store to get Thanksgiving items and saw Peppermint Ice cream! That is my favorite ice cream. Generally, I say that my favorite is Mint Chocolate chip, but that’s because you can’t regularly find peppermint throughout the year, except during the holidays. We got it as a dessert for our thanksgiving feast in case people didn’t want pie…Well, it didn’t make it that long!

This week I got to spend some time talking/hanging out with long-time good friends. So enjoyed walking, chatting over tea, and face timing with these wonderful people. I got to visit my friend Gina at Tesla. So cool! I haven’t seen so many Tesla’s in a parking lot. It’s really neat to be in the Bay Area and have friends who are working in these influential companies. It’s just such a different mindset and dynamic here, that it’s good to have solid friendships that bridge the gap of space and time, understanding the same challenges of being working women in tech.
On Sunday, I got lunch with amazing women from church, and afterwards Brian and I went and got massages. It’s my one luxury that I really like to do!

Week 47 was full of Thanksgiving preparations, Black Friday shopping, and more cat sitting. I had 5 clients one of the days (7 cats!) and that was insane (we didn’t have work over Thanksgiving week, so I had taken a few more that I could do during the break). I enjoy the cat sitting because it gives me something to do so I’m not bored watching movies at home, but is also restful and fun! Most of the cats I have watched have been really friendly. Only a few haven’t come out or hissed. Seeing them do their funny jumps and poses makes me laugh, and gives me a low stress way to make a little bit of extra money while resting my mind and trying to let my body heal. However, although it was restful and a nice change from going to work, it was still a lot of time, as I spend 30 minutes with each client, and then the driving time in between. One of the homes was up in the Los Alto hills, and the view was beautiful. Reminded me of Bonsall, where I grew up in San Diego County. I think I spent about 4 hours a day driving and petting cats! Also going to doctor visits. Unfortunately, my doctor is surprised that I’m not getting better quickly. Most of her patients are starting to feel better around the 6 month, which is how long I’ve been with her. Instead, I’m feeling a lot worse, and waking up in the middle of the night. On average, I woke up twice a night for the past EIGHT weeks. I’m glad she had a few ideas of things to try, because I am seriously at my witts end. When it starts to be 2-3 hours a night of sleep I’m losing and wide awake from 2-5AM, I just can’t problem solve anymore. Please pray for the new treatments to work. Trying a few new things and will see how those go. Without sleep, it’s really hard to heal, and the lab results of my immune system are SO so low. (Lowest in range should be “60” on this test — I’m at “22”). I’m pushing through, and trying to live my life normally, but it’s mentally taking a toll on me being so exhausted all the time and trying to survive.

For Thanksgiving, we had a great time! Since I wasn’t working, I was able to be home and prep and be organized so that it wasn’t too hard the day of. We had 5 international friends over. 2 from the Philippines (my good friend from Tepper and his girlfriend), and 3 from Japan (our Livermore house renters and friends). We had a great time! Only one of them had celebrated Thanksgiving before, so it didn’t matter that my pie didn’t turn out quite right. It was so fun. I really like hosting. Our housemate was gone for the week, so we hd the place to ourselves. I really like to cook for people and throw dinner parties. Maybe that’s something I’ll do more of in 2019. Hopefully we’ll have somewhere that we can do that.

The past three years, especially since I always have the week off at Thanksgiving, we go through and do a closet clothing purge. We do this so that we can prepare to put things we need on our Christmas lists, as well as know what we should look for on Black Friday deals. Brian and I headed off to do Black Friday shopping on Thursday night! We got a few really good deals at Target, including nice boots for me and a few fun games. We continued our shopping on Friday at Macys, See’s candy (no deals there 😞 ), Kohl’s, and a few other places. We really like the Kohl’s deals each year. It’s not a place I regularly visit, but Brian likes to go there, and their deals are great for Black Friday! Normally, we have gone in Escondido, and the line is around the store (about 45 minute wait to check out). This one just had a short line, even though we were there around noon, and took about 10 minutes. Wow. I got a really nice new winter coat and both of us got some nice warm sweater. Which was a good thing, because we bought tickets during the Black Friday sale for Iceland! And it was only 2 weeks away. We got tickets round trip, with a bag checked for $550 total for both of us! We kind of had to go. So we decided to just take a Saturday – Wednesday trip. At least get the chance to go! I don’t want to spend all of my vacation time in a cold place. I like those nice warm sunny beaches! (Been dying here! It’s been rainy and low of 40, high of 60 the past few weeks…Missing my 85 degree December Cuba beach).
Oh, and there was a fire about 3 hours away, and the smoke was STILL horrible. We basically did very little outside until it rained after Thanksgiving so that we could breathe outdoors. The picture was of the smoke, not a cloudy day.

The Little C’s:

 

 

They have learned how to cause all sorts of trouble. They are definitely getting comfortable with their environment. Clemmy has been jumping up on the kitchen counter when we’re not in the room, and as soon as we walk out, he jumps down. They also figured out they could go up the stairs. Not that they’re supposed to go up the stairs, but I think they were afraid of them before!
Clemmy, the fancy cat, loves turkey. We figure out that we could teach him to come and sit, by just calling him and offering turkey. Silly guy. Jado doesn’t want to have anything to do with it.
Had to clip their nails and give them a bath. They hadn’t had a bath since I was last with them in Cuba, in April! Not their favorite thing to do. Clemmy did okay, but Jado the troublemaker did not want a bath. I love the picture Brian took of me cutting Clemmy’s nails. He looks so “Okay, fine if you have to, I’ll sit still”.
My parents sent the grandkittens a Christmas present, and they were trying to figure out what it was before Christmas time! Just like kids. Clemmy loves ribbon, and Jado likes it a lot too. Clemmy can see it from across the room though and comes running.
They were quite intrigued by the rain. Jado stood up on his chair and looked out the window — “what’s that? What’s rain? We haven’t seen that in 6 months since we were in Cuba. We didn’t know it rained here…boo, we can’t go outside now, without getting our paws wet…”
Got some Christmas sweaters for them, and they looked so cute in them! They weren’t too happy about them, but I think they got used to them after a little bit.

 

Week 45 of 2018

Week 45 collage.jpgWinter is here. I guess it’s Fall. But it feels like winter! The days are nice, still generally getting up to 70, but the morning and evenings are so cold. The leaves are all falling off and it’s crips. Whoever says there aren’t season in CA, I disagree!

The house we live in is really cold. It has high ceilings so it just doesn’t hold the heat well, unfortunately. As you can see in the pictures, Brian shows what a person who lives Cuba looks like when it hits below 60 degrees!

I went to camp this week! And it was even colder there. It was nice though, even though it was cold. So beautiful up in the mountains. Unfortunately, there was a big fire in northern CA that has caused a ton of smoke this week. It was even bad up in the mountains, so they canceled the hikes and heavy outdoor activities. I went with two of my Apple Christian Fellowship friends (both, now the co-chairs of ACF). It was wonderful to be together. We had such a great time laughing and chatting, as well as reflecting and spending time with God.

The camp was a Reflective Retreat at Mount Hermon. It’s put on my the camp itself (rather than a church or other organization), twice a year. I didn’t know what to expect, and didn’t know it was a reflective retreat, but basically, that meant you were able to spend the time how you needed – whether that was taking a nap resting, spending time sitting in nature, being a part of the sessions or music times, or doing anything really. It was less about learning more knowledge and more about experiencing and being. I had fun not having any obligations, and enjoyed spending time meandering in the bookstore, just being.

Lessons learned from the retreat:

  • Confession is necessary and an important part of growing and being a healthy person.
  • I am an adventurer, and when I live in fear, that is not my true self, nor who I am called to be. When I get to that state, I need to remember that I trust in God, and he is bigger than the circumstances surrounding me.
  • Massages are so necessary to health in every way. Mint chocolate chip ice cream too.
  • Sometimes it is just good to cry
  • Just being in nature and getting away is a necessity that I need to do once a quarter. Just even for one night and one evening.

 

Brian also tried to go for the afternoon to the mountains in our area, but unfortunately it was just too smokey, so he didn’t end up getting out of the car. He has been spending time getting re-connected with friends and building his network in the Bay Area. Lunch at places like Google, and Stanford this week.

On Sunday, we enjoyed heading to our Livermore tenant (and friend)’s piano recital. Wow, it was amazing. Talk about professional musicians. We invited an older couple from church to join us who had met them before, and we all had a good time. Brian and I enjoyed a mexican food restaurant in SF called Tropisueño. Such good mexican soup. Just what I had wanted after a cold weekend.

 

Little C’s:

We came home one night to meet Butler Jado at the door. We were cracking up! He was just standing there on his hind two feet.

They have been loving spending lots of time during the day outside.

Brian and Jado like to dance

Week 44 of 2018

 

Week 44 collage.jpgLots of sickness this week. Went to the allergist after having a stuffy nose for awhile. I initially thought it was my body getting used to CA and the dry weather, but after I had made it through the end of Spring, Summer, and now into Fall, I needed to get something to help. Turns out, I had a sinus infection. He could see just using the tool (how they look in your nose), and was like, oh yea, it’s pretty stuffed. Awesome. I just can’t win. Come on, body!

One of the highlights of my week was getting to meet a new MBA friend. She worked for World Vision before and was a part of the Tepper Christian Business Association (a few years after I was there). It was neat to meet another female MBA, as there weren’t many from Tepper, especially ones in the area. So fun to have so many things in common. I came home and told Brian, I hope she liked me as much as I liked her! ha.

Another fun thing was our work Halloween party. I dressed up as a bug — a lady bug. Fitting for an IT party 😉 Our senior director goes ALL out for Halloween – his face and head were completely painted. It was a lot of fun, and I’m really glad I could go. Because I’ve been in the office only two days a week, and when I’m there I’m pretty focused on getting hours of work done, it’s been hard to socialize much. Generally, pretty quick chats. So this was nice to have time to mingle and see people that I haven’t seen for awhile.

Halloween evening was fun too – we got to hold down the fort at our house, since Kim was gone. It was great seeing all the little kids! It’s been very few times that I’ve been able to pass out candy, as there just weren’t many kids where I have lived. Thankfully, there were a lot this time! The kids kept commenting on how pretty our house was (we have these pretty white twinkle lights up outside). They were like, “wow, I like your house. It’s so nice.” I said, thanks, but inside was saying “me too, kid. It’s not mine, but I wish I could say it was!”

Besides that, still enjoying doing the Mindfulness for Stress reduction class at Apple, and got to enjoy a date with Brian for sushi over the weekend. We went to Yogurtland in downtown Palo Alto and while we were walking back, we saw a store called B8ta. It’s for smaller/startup companies who want to demo their product, but not have to rent out a whole store for one product. It was so cool! It was just very Silicon Valley. Here are all the cool new products that you’ve been looking at online and hearing about in the news, and oh, by the way, the owner brought them to this store to display them for you. The displays that they had telling about the products were pretty neat too. One of our favorites was called Petcube, which allows you to “throw” treats to your pet, while being somewhere else — the contraption allows you over wifi to talk to your pet and get them to stand in front of it and then throws the treat!

 

The Little C’s:
Jado figured out that he could get up on top of the fence. He didn’t quite figure out how to get down very well, but now he knows. He still didn’t leave the fence, just walked along the edges.

The dog also left the house (for awhile), and so the cats have free roam over the whole house! They love it.

 

Week 43 of 2018

Week 43 collage.jpg

Wow, where is the year going? Week 43. I was been really busy this week, due to after work events, since Brian was gone, I wasn’t home much.

By Friday, I was pretty worn out after not having good sleep for quite awhile, and such a busy week. After the doctor, I went to Costco to get gas, since they have the cheapest gas around. Unfortunately, at that Costco, they don’t have a gas station. They did have an In N Out across the street, and since it was going to be later when I got home, I decided that I would get something. It was nice to just sit in the sun and have a treat.

Brian and I had a nice date on Saturday, shopping, and searching for items for a halloween costume for me. Every year at work, we do a big halloween competition. Sometimes teams do dances, there’s always a costume competition, and there’s food. Fun to get everyone together. I decided to be a lady bug this year, because it was something cute, slightly normal clothes can be worn, and I had most of the materials. I just needed some pipe cleaners. Well, once we got home, we gave one to the cats and they went nuts! I think because it’s kind of springy, they really liked it!

Throughout the week, I went to an event for Apple Christian Fellowship, as well as for the Tepper School of Business’ Business and Technology trek. I was the president of both of these groups (co-chair for ACF 2015-2016, and B&T president 2013-2014. It was so encouraging for me to see how well both of these clubs are doing. There were about 80 people on the B&T trek this year, which was huge! I love talking with the students and also conversing with the alumni from my class, and those from years prior that I regularly see at these alumni events. For me, being an involved alumna is important! Pass it on.
ACF’s event was for the year’s kickoff to pass on the vision for the group. Since it’s an officially sponsored Diversity Network Association, we get money from Apple to do events, relating to our group. This year, I feel like the Diversity and Inclusion team at Apple has a good plan, and that rolls down to ACF being able to be a little more strategic in what they can do and how the upper management will partner with them. I’m so thankful that this group exists, and for the strength it gives as it supports its members.

The other thing that I started doing this week was a Mindfulness for Stress Reduction class that Apple is hosting. The teacher is fantastic. She is a counselor, and has taught Mindfulness classes for 25 years at Stanford hospital to people who have had physical trauma in their life (brain/spinal cord injuries). She has seen Mindfulness really help her patients heal. Since I’ve struggled with health the past number of years, and I’m kind of at my witts end in trying to find ways to get better, I decided to do it wholeheartedly. It’s a lot of work – practicing 20 minutes to 50 minutes every day, and going to 2 hour classes for 6 weeks, with a 6 hour retreat at the end. I like the way she teaches as it’s very practical and practice-based. I hope that it will help me! So far, it’s been very interesting.

I’ve been taking care of my Rover clients still. I have 8 cats that I will be caring for in the next few weeks, especially with the holidays coming up. I can’t believe Thanksgiving is coming up so soon. One of my pets is a dog, and I take him for walks. He goes pretty fast, and since I’ve not been doing much exercise per doctor’s orders, walking quickly has tired me out some. It’s good to get out and move!

On Sunday, Brian and I met up with our old small group and had lunch and purchased supplies for Operation Christmas child. I also found out that one of my co-workers on my immediate team worked for Samaritan’s Purse doing their IT/networking setup for the Operation Christmas child warehouses. So cool. It was fun to get together with our old group and enjoy a service project together.

Throughout the week, Brian finished up in San Diego, hopefully for the last time for awhile for work. He enjoyed time with his family and got to go to a nice restaurant with his parents called Pacific Coast Grill, right on the coast. So pretty! He’s promised to take me back there when we’re next down at Christmas 🙂
Little C’s:
I’ve been training the cats to be outside more. I want them to get to a point where we could leave them outside for the day, so that way when both Brian and I are gone, we don’t have to leave them trapped in the room. Jado loves coming in and out all day, every 5 minutes. So when I closed the door he was a little sad and sat there at the door for 30 minutes wanting to come in.