Feb 032013

It’s been over a month since I’ve posted.  Sorry about that.  It’s been a whirlwind of visiting home for the holidays and hectic craziness at work.  Last I wrote I was about to take off for the US for the holidays.  Mike and I spent 6 days in LA, 6 days in Chicago, and 1 night in DC for a wedding.  That last travel day was horrendous: DC to LA, 6 hour layover in LA, LA to London, 8 hour layover in London, London to Dar, 6 hour layover in Dar, then finally Dar to Nairobi.  Whew!  We were beat.

But here are some of the highlights from our visit home.

We got to spend a half day in NYC because we had to spend 1 night there due to our flight layover on the way back home.  This was really nice because it broke up our flights a bit and we got to see NYC at one of my favorite times: Christmas!  It was freezing and we didn’t have our cold weather gear with us, so we were lucky enough to borrow some things for the day since we were staying at my brother’s apartment.  Early morning, we took the subway to Grand Central and walked along 5th avenue to see the tree at Rockefeller Center and the beautiful windows at Bergdorf’s.  They always have the best windows!

Visiting the Tree

Visiting the Tree

Fantasmical Bergdorf Holiday Windows

Fantasmical Bergdorf Holiday Windows

It was funny that after being away for so long, we definitely had moments that lit us up, like: Starbucks!  Egg sandwiches with manchego and chorizo from the market!  Subways!  Oh New York, how I love thee.

Then it was off to LA, where the jet lag hit us pretty bad for about half the week.  LA is always busy packed because I have a lot of relatives and friends to see.  You can bet that every meal is planned!  It was all about what do we want to eat that we can’t get in Nairobi.  For us, that’s Asian food and sushi.  They have it here, but it’s nowhere close.  So we went to the usuals, Cho Dang for soon dubu (Korean tofu stew), Nozomi for the uni bowl (sea urchin sushi), Din Tai Fung for soup dumplings, and of course home cooked food for Christmas.

Mom and Eric Noshing on Korean BBQ

Mom and Eric Noshing on Korean BBQ

It was nice to walk around Hermosa Beach one night and we got to see an amazing sunset.  The ocean was jet black and the sun was already down, but the horizon was still lit up with orange.  It was surreal being at the end of the pier and staring into the blackness.  It was unusually clear that day, not a cloud in the sky.

Beautiful Hermosa Beach Pier After Sunset

Beautiful Hermosa Beach Pier After Sunset

After LA, we headed to Chicago to see Mike’s family.  Matt and Sue moved into a gorgeous new home so that was really fun to see and they a kitchen that is to die for.  We especially loved seeing our niece and nephew, Hailey and Mitchell.  Aren’t they the cutest?

Cutest Niece and Nephew Ever

Cutest Niece and Nephew Ever

Since it was freezing in Chicago, we didn’t much outdoors, but Mike and I went on mall walks with his mom and dad at the huge Gurnee Mills outlets.  It was pretty hilarious because Mike kept trying to cut corners.  New Year’s Eve, Matt and Sue had some friends over and we cooked a huge feast of lobsters and steak.  We saved the lobster shells to make some stock, and had some delicious lobster risotto the following day.  I used this recipe and added 1/3 cup cream and shredded Parmesan cheese at the end.  Also added asparagus and mushrooms to give it some good texture.  So yum.

Chicago Fam

Chicago Fam

One really fun activity we did was going to Hailey’s school to collect chicken eggs.  Her school has a farm on the grounds where the kids can volunteer to help take care of it.  Hailey loves egg collecting, so we were lucky to have her show us the ropes.  You go into the chicken coop and reach in to collect the eggs on the shelves.  Then there’s a whole process of how you clean the eggs and check for any cracks with a light.  Was such a unique experience and we brought home some freshly laid eggs.  In total, we packed 98 eggs into cartons!  And that was the second collection of the day too.

Farmer for a Day!

Farmer for a Day!

After Chicago, we did a whirlwind 24 hours in DC for one of Mike’s college friend’s wedding.  Was fun to see his William & Mary friends and of course we always love going to weddings.

After that, it was time to head on the plane for the long long journey back.  It was so nice to be home though and we miss our friends and family very much!

 February 3, 2013  Posted by at 5:16 pm California, Chicago, Illinois, Los Angeles Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  1 Response »
Nov 012012

I know you are wanting to hear more about Dar, but I couldn’t help but share these photos from when we were in Big Sur.  I had been dying to see McWay Falls forever and my sis highly recommended it after she did her Hwy 1 trip last year.  After we set up camp at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, we decided to go for a drive to find McWay Falls since we figured the view would be nicer right before sunset.  If went the next morning on the way down, there was a chance we could run into fog.  The stopping point for McWay Falls is near the southern end of Big Sur, so it was actually quite a bit farther than we thought.  The roads are pretty windy so be careful driving at night.  The nice thing about going late in the afternoon is that most likely everyone there is staying in Big Sur, so it’s not as crowded since you don’t have all the drive through tourists.

When we got there, the light was beautiful and just right.  It’s a short path to the viewing platform.  We also went the other way, where there are two beautiful campsites, but you can’t see the falls from that side.  Those two campsites fill up so quickly but how amazing would it be to camp cliff side with the amazing Pacific Ocean view??  Mental note: one day we will book it.

And here is McWay Falls in all its glory:

McWay Falls: Amazing Waterfall Into the Ocean

I love the pink flowers on the cliff-side in the foreground.  The views driving down Hwy 1 are pretty amazing and it’s definitely worth taking a couple of days to spread it out and take your time.  It felt rushed trying to drive from Big Sur to LA in one day.  We managed to stop a few times and take in the views though and they were breathtaking.

Famous Big Sur Bixby Bridge, opened in 1932

Big Sur Viewpoint

Closer to Morro Bay, we stopped at the Elephant Seal Preserve.  There they were, all just sunbathing on the beach!  Too cute.  We did see some male lions get into a bit of a tussle, where they rear their heads back and make honking noises.  Reminded me of the penguin preserve in Cape Town.

Sunbathing Elephant Seals

Dueling Male Elephant Seals

We got back to LA pretty late and very tired, but well worth all the amazing scenery.

Oct 122012

The last time we went up to SF, we had originally planned to take the scenic Highway 1 route down the coast, but we ran out of time.  This time we decided to break it up into two days to get down which is definitely the right choice.  It’s just too long to do it in one day and you end up just driving down the road instead of stopping to take in all the gorgeous scenic points and hikes.

We camped for one night at the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park which is on the north end of Big Sur.  The campground is really gorgeous and if you can get into the lower number campsites (1-50), they are among a grove of coast redwood trees.  Absolutely breathtaking.  When we drove into the campsite and passed by that first section, we were stunned into silence.  Like out of a movie.  Of course all of those had already been reserved so we ended up in campsite 218 which was nice since it was a little more isolated and had some good trees around it.  We didn’t bother to bring the camp stove for one night so we opted to check out the Big Sur Bakery which is known for pizza.  I saw it on Yelp and the local state park newsletter so off we went.  We got there and oops, turns out it’s a nice restaurant with cloth napkins and candlelight and all.  We definitely showed up in our zip off pants and hiking shoes.  Oh well, I’m sure it happens quite often.  It was a fancy camping dinner complete with glasses of red wine!  Very tasty though the pizza could have been seasoned better.

Luxury Camping Dinner

The next morning we set off on a hiking trail called Buzzard’s Roost that goes through some redwood groves and has views at the top.  It was really convenient since the trailhead started right within our campground.  We chose a relatively short one since with my knee injury, I didn’t want to push it.  What a beautiful hike!  We barely saw anyone on the trail.  That’s the nice thing about Big Sur—most people just drive through and don’t bother with the hiking so it’s not as crowded as the trails in Sequoia or Yosemite.  The redwood groves were fantastic and we saw some cool things along the way.

Sun-Dappled Redwood Grove

Believe it or not, I spotted these on the side of a redwood and turns out there were a bunch of shells that were shed by bees!  At least, I think they were bees?  These were just empty see through shells that were the result of molting.

Shells Leftover From Bees Molting

These trees were all over the top of the hike.  They were so fascinating with the peeling and curling red bark, it was such an extreme contrast of colors with the red and green.  It was like they were shedding their skin like the bees.  A quick search reveals that these are madrone trees, native to the western coast of North America.

Amazing Curling Red Bark on Madrone Tree

At the top of the hike, we were greeted with a blanket of fog on the ocean side, so I’m not sure if there was an ocean view on that side.  But we did get a nice view of the canyons and mountains behind us.

View of Santa Lucia Mountains from Buzzards Roost

It was such a nice, calm start to our day that I wish we could start every morning with such a beautiful hike!  What happy people we would be then, right?  We were tremendously envious of all the isolated, gorgeous homes along the cliffs of Big Sur.  One day…

Oct 112012

When Mike and I visited SF last month, we decided to be tourists and enjoy the city on an amazingly beautiful clear weekend.  We didn’t know the next chance we would get to visit the city since when we come back to the States, it will likely be to either LA or Chicago, where our families live.  I wanted to get some good shots of the city view and we both had never been to the famous Twin Peaks.

Twin Peaks is located smack dab in the middle of the city if you look on a map and there’s a famous figure eight driveway at the top.  You can get a nice view of downtown, Alcatraz, Bay Bridge, and on a clear day, you can also see the Golden Gate Bridge.  I always think SF city views are unique since all the buildings seem to be white and with the hills it creates a lot of fun lines.  There was plenty of parking when we went up in the afternoon and the view was great!  Highlight of our weekend in SF.

Beautiful, Clear Day from Twin Peaks

Golden Gate Peeking Out From the Fog

Figure Eight Between Twin Peaks, Looking from the Top of One to the Other

I had to climb down the hill to get this straight shot down Market St towards the clock tower on top of the Ferry Building, built in 1898.

View of Ferry Building Clock Tower down Market St.

Sep 142012

I loved going to Cal.  My experience and the friendships I made there completely shaped the person I am today.  The energy of campus and the Berkeley streets is something I associated with college campuses so imagine my surprise when I showed up to Northwestern for grad school and it felt like a ghost town in comparison!  Over Labor Day weekend, Mike and I went up to the Bay to celebrate the wedding of his old coworker and we spent a few days being tourists and visiting friends.

I hadn’t visited campus after graduating many times since living in Chicago and then New York meant that any time I was in California, it was usually spent in LA with family.  Magically, my good friend Cristina (who was also the officiant at our wedding)  just moved back to the Bay and we got to spend the day in Berkeley and walked around campus.  First stop?  Zachary’s Chicago Pizza on College Ave.  I wanted Mike to try it since he’s from Chicago and I love Zachary’s (well, loved in college, which sometimes can be misleading when you’re remembering Top Dog hot links consumed at 2am to be the best thing on Earth).  The verdict: Chicago pizza is denser and cheesier in Chicago but Zachary’s has a fresher taste since it has more tomatoes and you can eat more than 1 slice without feeling like you’re going to explode.  So Chicago still wins.

Next, we walked around Berkeley and reminisced like geeks while Mike and Will had to endure our “remember this?” ramblings.  We got coffee at Cafe Strada (where I once overheard a conversation in Latin) and made our way in a loop on campus.

Count them…9! In Front of the Physics Building

As we rounded the corner to Memorial Glade, we paused and looked at each other.  Is that what we think it is??  Yes, yes, in fact, it IS a game of Quidditch about the start.  We struck up a conversation with one of the students and then what took place was probably the most hilarious conversation around Quidditch.  “Well, we can’t fly, obviously, so we just run around with brooms in between our legs.  It’s uncomfortable at first but you get used to it.”  The Snitch, which is a flying gold ball in the book, takes the form of a player wearing special yellow Snitch shorts with a contraption velcroed to the back that looks like a flag football flag with a ball at the end of it.  So that player runs around campus while getting chased until the opposing team pulls off the velcroed ball.  You can get the shorts from the International Quidditch Association.  Pretty incredible.  All the hoops where handmade from PVC pipes and what looked like hula hoops.  Only in Berkeley…

Apparently There’s An International Quidditch League

After that we came up on Lower Sproul Plaza, where we found a dance group holding auditions for the semester.  AND, it was our old dance group, Danceworx!!  Woohoo!  Now, Cristina and I totally geeked out and started trying to follow along to the tap routine that was being taught.  One student runs over to us and starts to tell us more about the group but we explain that I was President and Cristina was Treasurer back in the day!  So we head over and meet the current officers and they tell us about their Facebook and YouTube pages.  Now there are a ton more officers whereas we only had 3.  It made us feel old when we mentioned we used to have old videos of our performances…but they were on VHS tapes.  Wah wah.  They were like wowww, 2003, that’s a long time ago, we don’t know anyone from back then.  Ha!   Meanwhile, Will strikes up a conversation with the strange man watching the auditions: “they’re goddesses!”

Checking Out the Danceworx Auditions

Berkeley Sather Gate

Remembering the Good Ol Days

It was such a nice day out in Berkeley but we had an inkling that the city was going to be covered in fog.  The original plan was to head over to Golden Gate Bridge but once we checked the traffic, it was a no go.  Instead, we drove over to Indian Rock in North Berkeley and got a gorgeous view of the entire Bay with the fog rolling in.  Indian Rock is this huge boulder formation in the middle of a residential neighborhood and a great place to check out the view.

Berkeley Indian Rock View

View of the Fog Rolling In Over the Bay from Indian Rock


Berkeley Indian Rock

Sunny at Indian Rock, Foggy in the City

It was such a beautiful day and so nice to spend it with our good friends.  I will miss this!

Sep 132012

It seems when you grow up somewhere, you don’t really appreciate the beauty of it until you come back after being gone for a long time.  For almost my entire childhood, I grew up next to amazing scenery and took it for granted.  But now, older and wiser, every time come back after running errands I’m oohing and aahing over the spectacular ocean views.

Oftentimes, Mike and I will go for a walk by the ocean, either by Terranea or by the Oceanfront neighborhood.  If you follow Hawthorne Blvd all the way to the ocean, Oceanfront is where you’ll end up.  There are a couple of lots and we’ll walk along the path to the lighthouse.  I love the smell of the native plants–it’s so familiar to me.  I like to call it “coastal shrubbery.” It’s got that faint hint of herbal citrus.

I just ordered a travel tripod so we went to test it out on the cliff views!  I was pretty excited since I had been wanting one for a long time and to get those super sharp photos, it’s better to have a tripod and a wireless remote shutter release.  I decided on the Slik Sprint Pro II Tripod, it’s lightweight and an affordable price.  So far I’ve taken it around a few times and everything works great.  The true test will be bringing it on an extended hike.

Here are some of the shots from our walk along the cliffs:

Palos Verdes Cliffs

Cliff Views Along Oceanfront Path

Palos Verdes Lighthouse

Palos Verdes Lighthouse

Palos Verdes Scenic Lookout

Scenic Viewpoint from Hawthorne Blvd

Sep 112012

My mom and Eric often go hiking in the Malibu Canyons on the weekend, so Mike and I went along with them one weekend on one of their favorite hikes: Solstice Canyon.  The trailhead and parking lot is located off of Corral Canyon Rd off of PCH 1 (make a right if you’re going north from LA).  The small parking lot fills up pretty quickly so we parked about a 5 min walk away when we arrived at 10:30am.  Not too bad.

The trail is pretty easy, there is a loop trail option, but we took the out-and-back Solstice Canyon trail since it was blazing hot and getting close to lunch time. 😉  Here’s a link to the trail map.

Hiking Up Solstice Canyon Trail

It wasn’t a very long hike, but we did stay for a while at the waterfall where you can scramble on some boulders.

Eric and Mike Climbing the Boulders

The waterfall is at the end up the stairs beyond the deserted Roberts Ranch (a really neat old burnt down mansion with some of the antique stoves still in place–Thermador brand, fancy stuff!).   There were a bunch of fruit trees growing around the home, including banana trees and lime trees.  We took a keepsake lime and had it in some beer later, shhh…

Old Fireplace/Kitchen of Roberts Ranch

It was a beautiful day with gorgeous blue skies and even better with NY style pizza slices at D’Amore’s afterwards.

What’s funny is after doing so many hikes/treks on our Asia Trip, Mike and I have noticed that we notice the little things a lot more now.  It could be an interesting plant, different animals, or just the smallest cool detail.  We’ve really found a great appreciation for the little things!

Gold Leaf Remains

Delicate Web

Aug 272012

Ever since I got back from our Asia trip, I’ve been reminiscing about all the delicious food we had in China.  One of our favorite spots was in Xian, where we ate almost every night in he Muslim Quarter.  They are known for a dish there called pao mo, which is a noodle soup, usually with lamb.  It includes tiny cubes of bread torn up to soak up with tasty lamb broth.  I had never had anything like it!

So now that we’re back in LA, I was on the hunt for some pao mo.  I searched on Yelp, and Shaanxi Gourmet came up in the results in Rosemead, about an hour northeast of us.   My mom wanted to check out the dragonboat races in nearby Whittier so I thought that was a perfect chance to hit up this place for lunch!

Shaanxi Gourmet was in a small strip mall plaza and parking was packed on that Saturday!  We couldn’t find a spot so we parked on the street half a block away.  The restaurant looked new and clean and was a decent size with two rooms for seating.  We ordered 2 bowls of pao mo, 1 lamb and 1 beef.  To start, we had ma la lian pi, which is a cold rice noodle with hot chili oil.  It came with some cubes of tofu and we devoured that.  SO GOOD.  Then we got the rou bao, which is a lamb meat bun.  That was good too, but not my favorite.  Then the massive bowls of pao mo came out.  And they were massive!  We couldn’t finish it all so we took some home.  It even came with a small plate of pickled garlic, just like in Xian.  The lamb and beef bowls were both good, but I preferred the lamb.  Great flavor and definitely pretty close to the real deal in Xian.  Will be a repeat for sure. In the end, it was one of those blistering hot days in LA, so with a belly full of pao mo, we ditched the dragonboat races and went home happy. =)

Hearty Pao Mo Noodles



Aug 262012

After 3 awesome weeks in Chicago, we returned home to LA. And it definitely was not fun returning to the scene of the crime when we picked up our rental car…

Anyway, Mike has gotten into running in the past year.  Actually, he was inspired after we saw our amazing friend run the NYC marathon and we ran after her with signs and cheered here on at 3 different points in the race.  He then ran a 10K in Central Park in preparation for his first big race last October, the half marathon in Central Park.  As luck would have it, it snowed early in October and he ran the whole thing in freezing snow while I cheered him on in my full snowboarding gear.

It was tough to do much training in Chicago since it was so hot and humid, so Mike wasn’t in top shape for this race.  It was a small race, only 12 people for a 10K in Sunset Beach, which is just north of Huntington Beach.  It was a really gorgeous day ending with an even more beautiful sunset (how apropos).  I got to read on the beach while Mike ran his 50 min race.  He finished 2nd!  And even got a medal (everybody got a medal). He’s looking for his next run but I don’t think there are any before we leave in October. =/

Beautiful Run on the Beach

Run, Mike, Run!

Glowing Sunset

Jul 302012

Before heading to Chicago for 3 weeks, Mike and I did a whirlwind visit to the Bay Area to see some friends over a long weekend.  We drove up on Thursday and came back down on Monday.  It was fun seeing friends and two of them were new first time homeowners!  Feels like everyone around us is buying.  I couldn’t believe how ridiculously expensive the Bay Area real estate market is!   It’s funny how a few years ago our visit would definitely be centrally based in the city and now everyone’s moved towards the South Bay and we only went up to the city once.

Well the one day we went up to the city, we lucked out with an absolutely gorgeous day.  Sunny blue skies and warm!  Not the norm for a San Francisco summer day.  We walked around Haight and Alamo Square before heading to Sunday Streets in Dogpatch (funny name for a neighborhood right?).

Beautiful Day in Alamo Square

My favorite thing about walking around Haight is exploring all the cool little shops and fun architecture and street art.  I’ve always wanted to live around there if I ever lived in SF.

Colorful Apartments on Haight

Graffiti Van

It was a quick visit, so we didn’t get to do much sightseeing, but we’re planning on going back up for longer over Labor Day weekend since we have a wedding in wine country to attend.  Definitely excited for that!