What I Learned: 23 New Things

Happy Boxing Day! I hope that everyone had a great weekend and a great holiday with their loved ones. This week is a short one workwise, plus we have another three day weekend to look forward to next weekend! I thought that I would start wrapping up the year early by getting started on some of the year end lists. Last year, I went over 22 new things I had learned, seen, done and new places I had gone over the year. I really like injecting new things into my life, as it keeps things fresh, even if it is sometimes a little uncomfortable! I liked the list so much that I decided to do it again, so here we have, in no particular order, 23 new things from 2023. 

1. Alaska. This was one of the 50 U.S. states that I had not yet been to. I had a great time hiking, running, looking at mountains and glaciers and experiencing light basically all night. I did not see the Northern Lights though, so this is still on my wish list for now. 

Hiking the Bomber Traverse

2. Overnight bikepacking for the first time. At the beginning of the year I finally took Bob out for his first off road experience. I biked from my house to the Samuel L. Taylor state park, which is a cool camping and hiking area in the redwoods. I spent the night there and then biked back home the next day. It was very fun, a little harder than I thought it would be, and it made me want to do it again (see #22)! 

3. Selling stuff on the internet. Before this year, I had never really sold anything on the internet. As I have mentioned before, I broke the seal with shoes as they are rectangular and easy to ship, and then moved onto other things. Are there scammers and bots and people from Nigeria messaging you? Yes. Can you ignore/mute them? Yes. Was it as bad as I feared it would be? Nope, in fact it was not bad at all. As an added bonus (?) I also am now quite proficient at Venmo, which I was not really a user of before. However, if you want to sell on FB marketplace, you gotta get used to using Venmo. 

4. Hiking the Arizona Trail (AZT). For Easter weekend, I took an extra day off and spent five days hiking on the Arizona Trail. It was much different than what I am used to in my neck of the woods, which was fun. Also, I got lucky that it was a high snow year and so I had enough water and it was not scorching hot. For those who don't know, this trail is normally hiked in the spring or fall, as the summers can get into the 110+ range at times. 

Picketpost Mountain - AZT

5. Life on Mars. I have a friend who is doing a Mars simulation, meaning that she is stuck in a habitat for a year as if she were actually living on Mars. This deserves a post of its own, but for now you can read about it here if you are interested. Being on Mars means that there are no phone calls, no video calls, basically no real time communication. Even emails are delayed due to the "distance" from Mars to Earth. Luckily we can send emails up to a certain size, so I have been sending her voice recordings so that she can hear my voice from time to time. I never really liked the sound of my voice, but I have gotten used to it, as I often listen to my last recording before sending a new one so that I can remember what I already talked about. 

6. Not quite a century aka 97 miles in one go. Bertha and I completed a century minus three this fall. I know, I know, I should have just ridden another THREE miles to get to 100 but I didn't feel like it. I know that if I can do 97, I can do 100, and I will do it eventually. This was from Davis to Oakland and it was quite a journey. What I learned from this is that I prefer non-city riding over city riding. 

7. Ninth (and penultimate?) Quad Dipsea. After you run the Quad Dipsea ten times you get a fancy finishers jacket. I keep telling myself that I just have to run it one more time and then I am done!! We shall see though, as I know many a friend who has said that and is now on their 13th or 14th time. 

Headed downhill to Stinson Beach during the Quad Dipsea

8. Watch a Japanese movie. I do not know what the style is called, but I watched The Boy and the Heron. My brother loves this style, and so do K's kids, but I was just ho hum on it. I am not opposed to cartoons; I love Finding Nemo! However, I am not sure the two dimensional drawing style or the pace of the movie was my favorite. When I said this to my brother he said that this style is "very beloved" and he was sad to hear that... 😞 I guess one thing I did like was the background scenery drawings, as they resembled watercolors. 

9. Hike to Lake Aloha in the snow. Last winter was a very high snow year and this meant that even in July, hiking was very snowy! However, although it was difficult to get to, we had Lake Aloha basically to ourselves and it was beautiful. To top it off we had to jump in for a swim, even while avoiding the icebergs! 

Camping above Lake Aloha

10. Switch from Comcast (Xfinity) to Sonic. My Comcast was getting very expensive, at about $75 for just internet. So I decided to finally take the plunge and try a new carrier, Sonic, which has fiber and was only $39 per month. My first three months were free, the speed was great, and then it got bumped up to $39 BUT...as it always is, the price was more than I thought. They charge $10 for a voice line, which I do not use but cannot cancel, and with the taxes and the router rental (which I could not use my old one for), it ended up being $70!! Haha. I guess I am saving $5 and it IS fast, so there's that. 

11. Mendocino. I had driven past Mendocino before but never stayed there, and it was a treat. It is a small coastal town and you can walk along the bluffs. It was a rainy weekend when we were there, but we had fun walking on the beach, eating and riding on the skunk train! 

Pacific coast near Mendocino

12. Ride to Santa Rosa for the weekend. On New Years Day I rode to my brother's house in Santa Rosa from Richmond, which was my longest ride ever at the time, and was about 55 miles each way. Later in the year, I beat my own PR by riding from my house to his, which was about 75 miles each way. 

13. Ride the Amtrak with a bike. The weekend that I rode 97 miles was part of a journey I took where I took the Amtrak from Oakland to Auburn and then over the next two days rode from Grass Valley back to Oakland. The experience was good and I would like to do some more train rides, and knowing I can put my bike on them fairly easily was a relief. Maybe one day I will just ride off into the sunset and if I get tired, I will take the train back home. 

The bike car on Amtrak

14. Throw away all old Christmas cards. I was saving these because now a lot of them have photos and those are memories! However, now there is Facebook and other places on the internet where I can find photos of people so I decided that I did not need to keep them in a box that I never look through. I have to say, it feels like a weight has been lifted. I am sure I will have moments where I wish I had that cute photo of three year old soandso, but right now, it feels good. 

15. Three Michelin star dinner. For a client dinner, we went to SingleThread, a three-star Michelin restaurant in Healdsburg, which is part of the Sonoma county wine region. I am not going to lie, I don't think the bang was worth the buck. I am glad I got to try it, but I will probably not go there again. 

16. Complete a snowshoe race. In February, I went to see Lisa for her birthday and we did a snowshoe race. It was fun but we used old school snowshoes and there are actually running style ones that would be easier to run in. However, we had a great time chatting and staying warm by moving as fast as possible and drinking the (warm) water at the aid stations! 

Lisa getting it done! 

17. Gluten free biscuits and gravy. B&G is my favorite breakfast item. However, in 2022 I realized that wheat gives me some tummy issues so I have been avoiding it ever since. I was very sad to give up both biscuits, which are obviously made of flour, and good sausage gravy, which is thickened with flour. But Lisa and I found a good GF bakery near the snowshoe race and they had B&G and they were really good! I meant to try duplicating it on my own, but I have not gotten around to it (however, I have done a bit of GF baking and I find that the results are actually pretty good!) 

18. Bike accidents. I am very careful on the bike, but I would be amiss if all I did was talk about the good. In Spokane, I hit a goat head thorn, blew a tire, and tumbled (and skidded face first) right on the pavement. Luckily I was wearing gloves and the car next to me was stopped. In Oakland, I got hit by a car turning right. Luckily, he was not moving fast and I just bounced of his passenger door and onto the ground. I took a trail ride and went over a bump and accidentally squeezed the front brake too hard and went ass over teakettle over the handlebars. Luckily all of these have been minor, but accidents do happen! 

19. Driverless cars. I knew they were around, but it still made me do a double take when I saw my first driverless car in San Francisco. I signed up to try it, as they offer ride shares, but still have not had a chance yet. There have been some controversies over these, but aside from a couple of kinks, I think a robot is probably better suited to driving than many of the humans I see operating motor vehicles. 

A Cruise car with nobody at the wheel. 

20. Hike in Castle Crags State Park. I have driven by and even hiked near Castle Crags, but had never been inside the park before. In June, for my Dad's birthday, my family went and hiked up to the Crag Dome, where we had a great view of Mt. Shasta and the surrounding area. For those who don't know, Mt. Shasta is about 14,180 feet high, which I think makes it the 5th highest mountain in California. It is volcanic and is part of the Cascade Range, which extends all the way to BC and includes well known mountains like Hood and Rainier. 

21. Drive through the eastern part of Oregon. Once you leave Bend and head east, it just gets more and more sparse and the trees go away and it gets hot and there are no amenities. Really, there are none! We almost ran out of gas. We also camped off the side of the highway and there were these huge crickets, which could be Jerusalem or Mormon crickets, but whatever they were, they were gross and they hitchhiked in my car and I kept finding them in random places for days afterward. 

High desert of Oregon

22. Bike across Washington state. K's daughter A told everyone that I rode across the US, but I had to tell her that I may someday, but this trip was only across WA! It was a lot of fun, I really enjoyed the Olympic Peninsula and the varying scenery of the state as a whole. This trip had a lot of firsts: longest multi-day ride, first time taking the bike on the ferry, lots of new rail trails, riding through Seattle and riding through a two mile long tunnel! 

23. Soccer mom duties. Once a week I go and spend time with my friend K and her daughters A and L and often on weekends I will chauffer and spectate whatever sport is happening for the season. This has now been a regular thing for a couple of years, and it has been fun to be chauffer, confidant, game buddy, soccer/lacrosse "mom," bike instructor, cook and friend to all three ladies. Even though sometimes it is hectic and we don't have time to chat, more often than not, it is a chance to catch up a little with what is happening in each of their lives, which is priceless.

So there you have it, 23 new things in 2023. There were many more than this of course, but these were some of my favorites. 

What new things did you do/learn/try or places did you go in 2023? How do you feel about driverless cars? How do you feel about the Japanese drawing style? 


Where Did You Find That Book?

My work husband G once asked me how I find so many different and good book recommendations. He is an avid reader, but prefers non-fiction and does not belong to any book clubs or the like. He joined Goodreads because I told him about it and now I am his only friend, which means that he sees ALL of my ratings and comments about them at work. He is not really a social media person, but loves being able to keep track of his books, which I find very dear. I have recommended a few fiction books to him which he has really loved (The Nightingale, The House in The Cerulean Sea, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn) even though his genre is usually non-fiction. 

To answer his question, I told him that I have a multitiered process. 

First of all, my number one method for getting good book recommendations is from other bloggers, and I keep them in a list and make a few notes. I also do rate them in Goodreads once I am done; the notes I keep in this list are very basic. Here are a few examples.

Birchie: The Social Climber by Amanda Pellegrino (put on hold 11/13)

NGS/Lisa: Kill Show (put on hold 12/01, hard copy only, no audio) 

Stephany: Symphony of Secrets by Brendan Slocumb  (put on hold 10/24)

----------------    READ ------------------------

Emily: An Evil Heart (on hold 10/06) READ, thought it was good. 

Elisabeth/Nicole: I Feel Bad About My Neck (borrowed 6/28) READ, really liked it. Great read about getting older as a woman. Humorous.

Jenny: Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory (Deena Kastor) (put on hold 9/28) READ, thought it was good. Definitely different from the other two running lady books I read this year. [Side note, in case you are wondering, they were Good For A Girl and The Longest Race]

The other thing I do is I poach my friends' feeds on Goodreads for five star reviews. This is actually not one I do very often, as I am not really a social media scroller; I generally get on, add my updates and get off without really looking through the feed. However, sometimes I will see a five star and I will go to Libby and put that on hold. For these ones, I don't really make a list or notes. 

I also peruse the Goodreads annual choice awards. Each year a winning book is chosen from each genre. However, there are also about 10 nominees for each category and I often will add books from the top ten to my holds list. For example, here were some of the top nominees (and the winner, Weyward) for this year's historical fiction category (one of my favorite genres). 

However, I will also peruse the prior years nominee lists if I am looking to fill my holds bin. Sometimes there are books on the old lists that I have still never read. The good thing about this method for me is that I can tell by a glance on Goodreads if I have read it or not, because more likely than not, I will not always remember! 

I also use Libby in two ways: (a) if I need a book now, like I am desperate, I will check the "available now" filter and just see what is out there and in this case I am not too picky. If I see a thriller from an author I know (or think) is not total crap, I will borrow it. I also have some in the pocket, like I still have not read all of the Louise Penny books, so I am saving some of those for a rainy day! (b) I may also filter by "popular now" although more and more I have read a lot of the first ones that come up, but I will still scroll down and then either put them on hold or borrow them if they look interesting. In this case, I will admit, I sometimes DO judge a book by its cover. Sorry! 

Lastly, and not least, I get recommendations from IRL friends! These are more few and far between but they are still there. My friend K's Mom was reading Lessons In Chemistry the last time we were together and I was so excited to hear what she thought about it after she was done (and she loved it! and apparently there is now a TV show too, which is supposed to be pretty good). 

Also, you may wonder how I keep track of what I want to read. I used to mark them as "want to read" on Goodreads but I found that once I had the "wish list" function on OverDrive, which then transferred over to Libby, it is just easier to either put them on hold right away, borrow them right away, or put them on my wish list on OverDrive/Libby right away rather than trying to manage two lists. 

So there we have it. If you are looking for a book recommendation, you can find a list of some of my favorite books here. And if you want to poach my five star shelf, you can find me on Goodreads here

How do you find new books? Where do you get book recommendations? How do you keep track of  your TBR (to be read) list? 

P.S. Only one more week until Christmas!! 🎄


Gift Ideas For Active People

I hope that everyone had a great weekend and is getting in the holiday spirit! I made a wreath for my door; it looks like a five year old made it, but it smells so good! The weekend was a little chilly here; it was in the 30s in the Bay Area and it snowed about a foot or so in the Sierra last week. I guess winter is here. Personally, I like a white Christmas, but since this year Christmas is on a Monday and I have to drive home to work on Tuesday, I don't want it to snow too much because that means I may have to drive it it. Ideally it would snow on Sunday, be white until Monday morning and then melt off just in time for me to leave. 

Even though most of you have probably already done your shopping (right?), I thought I would give you some ideas in case you have an active friend in your life for whom you have no idea what to get. Never fear, here are ten ideas for you, in no particular order, based on some of my favorite things I use very often, and have tried and tested*! 

Solomon Hydration Pack ($140) - It took me a long time to get one of these, as it is a little expensive, but it really is the best one that I have had. I like it so much that I have actually rebought it three times now. The only thing I would say I don't like is that I had to rebuy it three times, mostly due to stretching of the netting/pockets. However, I would say each one lasts me about 2-3 years and I get a lot of mileage out of them! 

Altra Lone Peak Trail Runner ($90) - This shoe is good for hiking or trail running and has a nice wide toe for people with Flintstone feet like mine. It has a zero drop, which may take a little getting used to, but is very comfortable once you do. It is also very lightweight, which is good for use and also for traveling! 

Stance Socks ($15) - I also use these for both running and hiking; for running I like the ankle sock, but for hiking the crew is better. They have a compression function so are a little hard to get off and on sometimes, but they are really comfortable and I get no blisters! They are pretty expensive for a sock, but for that reason are a good gift! 


Patagonia Houdini Windbreaker ($100) - This is a very lightweight windbreaker and it zips into its own pocket so that when folded up it is perhaps about as big of a deck of cards. I usually just keep it in my hiking pack just in case and it has come in handy on unexpectedly cold days. 

Yaktrax ($25) - These are little snow chains you put over your sneakers in the winter for added traction. Full disclosure --> they do not work as well on ice; they are better for softer snow, but there are some that have more spiky bottoms which are a bit more grippy. If you are going to really be in ice and/or climbing, microspikes or crampons may be a better bet. 

Snacks! ($5- $10) - When running, I usually eat squeezy applesauce, protein bars and dried fruit. When hiking, I will eat the two latter items, and some other great hiking snack ideas for your favorite person include beef sticks and jerky (these no sugar ones by Tillamook are my favorite), TJs dried mangos and coconut, TJs salted almonds and Think bars. Many hikers also swear by Snickers and peanut M&Ms! 

Fanny pack ($35) - I used to make fun of my Dad for wearing a fanny pack in the 80s and now he makes fun of me! Actually he doesn't but isn't it funny how things come back around? I got a fanny pack as swag for a race and I put it in a drawer with a sneer, until a few years later I needed it for something and I put it on and I was hooked. I gushed so much that broski and Dr. G had to get one for themselves too. When hiking or biking, it is so handy to have all of your things within reach: phone, sunscreen, bug goop, TP...it makes things so much better. Sorry Dad; you were right! 

Goodr sunglasses ($20) - My friend K's sister loved these and recommended them to me, as they are grippy plastic/rubber and they don't bounce when you are running. K decided to buy us both a pair and although I laughed when I saw the ones that she got me (they are pretty obnoxious colors), I really do love them. They come in various (obnoxious) themes and colors so you can really show your style, like maybe Nessie's Midnight Orgy or Donkey Goggles. 

Bright, eh? These are called "Everglades."

Hand Warmers ($1) - these are a great stocking stuffer and we actually used to use them for skiing, on both our hands and our feet. They are inexpensive and are a nice treat to have in your pocket when hiking on a chilly day. I gave one to my coworker and he used it at work one day when they had the AC up too high! I guess they are good for a lot of places! 

*I am not sponsored by any of these companies, but if any of them want to sponsor me, I would be happy to oblige! 

Have you tried any of these items and if so what do you think? What is on your Christmas wish list? What must have item would you recommend to me? 


Travel Wish List + Paint By Numbers

I work with several financial advisors and they each have a different take on estate planning. One of them once said that he told his kids he would rather them take the money out of his warm living hands than his cold dead ones, meaning that he would rather do things with them now than give them money later for them to do things without him. It may seem crass to talk about, but that is literally what I do every day, talk about things that to many people are taboo. He does have a point too; I really do think that sharing experiences now is priceless and would rather spend my parent's money on vacations with them now than get it from them after they are gone. 😁 

That was a joke (hi Dad!)!! But seriously, regarding my parents, I would rather they spend their money on something they have always wanted to do; they worked hard to get to where they are now. I hope they use up every penny of their money by the time they go. For my own money, I would rather go for a dinner or weekend away with friends or travel or have an experience rather than a thing. Obviously there are bills and stuff, but I have really been trying to avoid spending on things that will just break, go bad, or be used just once before sitting gathering dust. I am not saying that everyone needs to do it my way; you do you! I bought a stationary bike during the pandemic that I barely use; I am not immune to idiocy. I am saying that lately I have been trying to ask myself if I really NEED something and if not, that money I have "saved" is going into the travel and experiences fund. 

So, let's get to the fun part! This summer, I had planned to go to one of the following: Bulgaria, Romania, Norway, Iceland or Taiwan. I know, this seems like an odd list, but these are just a few of the many places I would like to go. At the beginning of the year, I set flight alerts for all of them and waited for the prices to come down. You may already know where this is going, but the prices did not come down, they went up and it was ridiculous how much a two week vacation was going to cost. So I decided to double down next year and try to do a longer trip so I can justify the crazy cost of the flight. So that is the plan; next year I will make plans to go to one of those places. 

But wait, there's more! Last week, Ally Bean posted this chart and of course I had to fill out one for myself. (you can fill one out here). I won't lie, I was a little confused between stayed here and visited here, but decided that "visited" means stopped and ate but did not stay the night. You decide how you want to play it. 

So of course I have all of the white states above on my wish list too. I actually have tentative plans to go to Montana next summer. I have heard AR has some really pretty scenery and mountain biking, so I can't wait to check it out. MI, WI and OH are in a strange (geographically, not mentally) but beautiful part of the country, so Kae, Birchie and Engie, don't be surprised if I show up on your doorstep someday. SC is probably best to visit in winter and I won't lie, ND and SD just seem cold and flat. Can anyone tell me what I need to do and where I should go in any of the white/blue states above? Help! 

Of course, I also had to do the same thing for Europe. 

Doing this made me realize that I have a lot of gaps to fill. So many gaps and so little time! So I really hope to get a chance to see many of the white ones in the map above over the next few years. Have you been to any of the above white countries? Which one(s) and what did you think and what should I do and see if I go there? **FYI I am NOT a "check it off the list" traveler. I would rather stay one month in one place than try to go to 10 different countries in a month. Also, I have returned to many of the orange countries above rather than go to a white one, as a two week vacation really is not enough time to see an entire country! (off soapbox now)**

So there you have it, a very small slice of my travel wish list. Your turn! If you feel like painting by numbers, fill in the map and let me know (1) what your score was (2) what white gaps in your map would you like to visit first. If you do not feel like painting, tell me what is on your travel wish list. 

What kind of experiences or things do you find priceless? What is the best state or country you have ever visited? What places are on your travel wish list?


What I Love

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and is ready for December to be here! Here are a few more things that I have been loving lately, in no particular order. 

Shampoo Bars. My favorite one is this one by Body and Earth, but I also like the Love Beauty and Planet two-in-one, and it smells fantastic. If you are new to these, you may sometimes miss the foaminess of your regular shampoo, but people, that is just a tactile add on and does not do anything to get your hair clean! I have found these great for traveling, as they do not count toward your one quart rule, plus you can also use them as soap, so technically they are three in one. Some of the 2-in-1s are better than others with the conditioning part of the bar, so you may need two different ones depending on your hair type. I have thin hair so I don't really use a lot of conditioner anyway, so these are perfect for me. 

Tuesday runs. I have been running in the city before going home after work on Tuesdays and it has been great. If I go home, it is a lot harder to get back out of the house so I decided to do this, even if it is just a couple of miles, as a way to keep myself motivated regarding exercise. I always feel better afterward, plus my route goes right by the water, so if I had a bad or unmotivating day at work, it is a great way to clear the mind and focus on the beauty of the day. 

Tuesday Run Day - Fort Mason

Bertha. Since my car got broken into in July, I have not driven to work once and the old bag (Bertha) has really held up well! It is only about two miles each way, but I haven't had any issues and just like the Tuesday runs, sometimes the ride back home at the end of the day is just what I need after being stuck in the office all day. I highly recommend getting a cheap or second hand bike and doing a few mile loop a couple of days a week if you can; the feeling of the wind in your hair really is priceless sometimes. 

This peeler. I know that a peeler seems like such a housewife thing to gush about, but this peeler is great! I am sure you have all had those moments where you wonder if the peeler you got is for left handed people, or if it was made for people without thumbs, because it is so much work to peel a potato or even a carrot with it. This peeler had a good handle, it peels without having to be manipulated and it has a sharp end to get rid of bruises or eyes if needed. It is the most I ever spent on a peeler, but (1) you get two so you can gift one of them and (b) it was totally worth it! 

The library. I know I have said this a million times but I would be lost without the library. I have had a card in pretty much every place I have lived in, including London and New Orleans, and have used it voraciously. Not only do they have books, but most libraries also give you free tickets to museums, but they have book clubs and Spanish classes and resume writing seminars. There are a plethora of things to use the library for and it is definitely something that I am happy to pay taxes for! 

How was your Thanksgiving? What are you loving lately? 


Let The Games Begin?

Last week was one of those weeks were I completely overbooked myself and this week is going to be more of the same. Last week every day I had something after work, culminating in a client meeting and dinner on Friday, of which I was very glad to see the back of, although it went well and we had a good time. Planning for work events with multiple personalities and likes/dislikes is not really my thing, although I always seem to be in charge of doing it, like it or not. Luckily everyone was happy in the end, but if I don't have to do that again for a long time, I will not be sad. On Saturday I went to a wine and music event with my friend E and we were talking about his Thanksgiving plans, which are going to be nothing social, and I was telling him how I completely understand why. Sometimes it just creeps up on you and you need to hide under a rock for a while. 

Fancy dinner

Wine & music with Les Claypool

Luckily although this week will be socially heavy, it will be fun and a bit more low key. I only have Thursday off of work, so will have to go back into the office on Friday, although I expect it to be slow, as the markets are not open all day. Then on Saturday, I will run the Quad Dispea, an annual trail race, for which I have not trained enough. It will be painful, but it is kind of the running community's "holiday" get together, where you will often see people that you may not have seen since last year's race, so it will be nice to catch up with them, or at least see them on the course. I am crossing my fingers that it doesn't rain, as there are some steep muddy and slippery rock sections that are much more fun when dry. 

The Dipsea trail is known for its 678 stairs

I am looking forward to Thanksgiving, which will probably just be a low key lunch/dinner, lots of games, some hikes and otherwise just catching up and drinking lots of coffee! I think we are looking at lows in the 40s and highs in the 60s, and no rain, which is a very welcome thing! Last weekend we had some thunderstorms which were good for the garden, but difficult when trying to dash from a car to a restaurant in high heeled shoes, which is what happened to me on Friday night. 

Quirkle, one of our favorite games

Besides the rain though, the weather has been pretty good and is still not getting too cold at night; our lowest low has been in the 40s still and the trees are still pretty and golden in most places. Of course, as I mentioned before, this still means that raking season is going strong, and likely will for some time yet. I have really been enjoying leaf peeping walks around the neighborhood lately though! 

Golden leaves

Fun neighborhood corner

After that, November will basically be over, and it will be the last month of the year! My Christmas cards are 99% done, so I will put the finishing touches on them and get them sent out at the end of the month. The other thing I always do in the last couple of months of the year is to get all of the pesky check ups done. I already went to the eye doctor, next up are the dentist (today actually) and all of the lady checks and then I am done until next year! I still have to do some more serious dentistry, but will wait until my new insurance starts in January, and will also do my normal wellness exam (blood panel for triglycerides, cholesterol etc.) in January once the calendar starts over again. 

What are your plans for Thanksgiving? Have you done all of your annual exams, dentist appointments, eye appointments etc. yet? What are your neighborhood walks like lately? 


Am I Wearing Pants? And Other Random Stories

Who remembers this meme? 

Leg Pants. 

I think the meme above was from when it was once again becoming more common to wear leggings out in public for no reason (see --> "are they yoga pants? are you doing yoga?") and it was not always appreciated! These days it is more accepted, but there is still the "leg pants" phenomena, where I wonder if a woman (or man I guess) knows that her pants are the exact same color as her legs. Sometimes I nearly have a heart attack as I pass or come up behind her, thinking she is walking around naked. People, perhaps get a shade a few shades darker or lighter than you? Or maybe you like seeing how many people you can get to do a double take. 

As a kind of related side note, the other morning I was getting off the train and a lady was getting on the opposite train and I saw that she was wearing leg pants that really hugged her butt tightly and were the perfect color for her complexion. She had a nice fur coat on top and had her hair done up really fancy. Then I realized at the last minute that she was NOT wearing pants, or underwear and that was actually her butt I had been seeing. Good morning to you too!

Mean Dad. 

Two weekends ago I went to A's soccer game. If you come to spectate, you must sit on the same side of the centerline that your kids are sitting on on the opposite side. We arrived a few seconds after the game had already started and so the only place to sit was basically just left of the centerline (by mere inches) meaning that we were sitting right next to the spectators from the other team. There was a girl on the opposite team who was playing on our side of the field and her Dad was sitting a couple of chairs down from us. He kept yelling at her, berating her, telling her all of the things that she wasn't doing etc. (these girls are around 13 by the way). The ironic thing was that he was pretty supportive of the other players, but very critical of his own daughter, who I thought was doing quite well. 

As Broski and I were sitting there, we chatted about this cool camera that was sitting right on the centerline, filming the game. We even Googled it to find out how much it cost and surmised that one of the parents must really be into sports. My friend K (A's Mom) arrived around halftime and after she arrived, the mean Dad walked away and went to sit further down the field. I was telling her how this Dad was being so mean to his daughter and she was really doing well and K told me that the last time they played this team, the parents got into a huge fight because the parents of the other team were all being rude, mean and unsportsmanlike (i.e. telling their daughters to "take them out!" and encouraging them to hurt the other girls and things like that). Anyway, the game ended, our team won in the last three minutes (boo yeah!) and as we were packing up to go, we noticed mean Dad packing up the camera. We kind of shook our heads at ourselves, imagining him sitting at home with his poor daughter, making her relive everything she had done wrong in the game. 

Later that week I was having dinner with K and the kids and she told me that she had received a video from a parent using that same camera for L's last game and as she had watched it, she had remembered how good the audio is on these cameras. They sit up off the field about 15 or 20 feet, but she could hear the parents chatting underneath the camera. I asked her what they do with these videos and she said that often the team will review them all together and they will talk about what needs to be improved. So basically, the team that A's team played is going to do the same thing. And if they do, they are going to get an earful about how I felt about mean Dad!! Oops. However, nothing I said was not true, AND they are also going to be able to hear him berating her, so perhaps he will take note. People, we are being watched and listened to no matter where we are! I guess the moral of the story is don't say anything that you wouldn't want a bunch of thirteen year old girls (and their mean Dads) hearing! 

Expiration dates. 

Last week Nicole touched on suggested expirations and I just want to say that I pretty much ignore most expiration dates. This may make me gross in some people's minds, but I am fairly sure that most of them are just a ploy to get you to buy more of their product. Now, I know that if they are old they can be less effective or not as tasty in the case of food, but I don't think I am going to die if I use a 2 year old mascara or eat an expired can of corn. I take them as a suggestion and if it is food, I definitely give it a good sniff before eating it. But I am going to use up that two year old bottle of Jergens and that Costco coconut oil even if it kills me. 

Having said that, in the past year, I have bought new tires for both my car and Bertha (the road bike) and they are fabulous! I have been using the same tires on Bertha for about 10 years and I was starting to have trouble stopping due to the lack of tread. I even splurged for the fancy brand, and man are they nice. Same thing goes with the car; I have replaced a tire here and there but finally decided to get four new ones at the same time and I feel like a new woman. I also do replace the little things that I can fix myself, like my car cabin air filter (did you know you were supposed to do that? I just learned about it a few years ago), wipers and the engine air filter regularly. 

Old girl, new tires


It is perpetual leaf raking season again. I think I have mentioned before that my seasons are based on the status of the maple tree in my front yard. September: clean the leaves out of the gutter season. October to December: leaf raking season. January to March: ankle breaking ball pick up season, also coincides with rainy season. April to June: spring break. July to August: removing branches from electrical wire season. I pretty much fill up the compost bin and/or the green trash bin with leaves each week and I still can't really keep up with all of the leaves on the ground. Usually at some point in December there is a huge wind and rain and it knocks many of the remaining leaves off the tree, but I would prefer that just happen early so I can rake them all and be done with it. It is supposed to rain this week so maybe this will be the week it happens? I doubt it, as the tree still has about 87% of its leaves left right now but one can hope. 

Gutter cleaning season

How was your weekend? Do parents use fancy cameras to film stuff at your kid's sports events? Do you follow the suggested expiration dates on your products and/or foods? 


10 Things To Do In San Francisco

I know many of you have probably already been to San Francisco, and have done the usual touristy things (Fisherman's Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, Golden Gate...etc.) but thought it would be fun to provide you with a few of the lesser known things to do on your next trip that are a bit less touristy! Or, if you have never been, perhaps you can do a bit of both. This is obviously not an all encompassing list, but just a small slice of the many fun things to do! Everything on this list can be reached by public transportation or on foot, or there are many public bikes and scooters if your feet need a break (link to below map here). 


1) Twin Peaks / Sutro Tower: My family has always called the tower Godzilla, and I am not sure why because I Googled it and can only find reference to it being called the Space Claw... It is kind of a monstrosity either way, and was built in 1973 (it recently had its 50th birthday) to help improve the television signal in the city. However, the real reason to go up there is the fun drive (or hike if you are feeling athletic; it is only a couple of miles depending on where you start) up and down and the great view you get from the top! 

View of downtown from Twin Peaks

(2) Golden Gate Park: This is a lot of ground to cover, but a favorite loop of mine is to go and ogle the bison in their paddock (2a), walk past the Dutch windmills and tulips (2b) (in bloom in February) and then end up at Ocean Beach (2c), where you can watch the (kind of scary) waves of the Pacific beat on the shore. If you like walking a lot, you can keep going and head over to the Cliff House (2d), an icon of the city, and the Sutro Baths (2e), where people used to bathe with a view of the ocean! For these places basically being in the middle of the city, they can all be surprisingly quiet. Tip from a local: bring a jacket, no matter what month it is. It gets chilly on that side of the city! 

Dutch windmills & tulips

(3) Land's End: If you keep walking after the Sutro Baths, you will get to Lands End, a dirt walking trail along the coast, which has some good views of the ocean and the Marin Headlands to the north. Also, this is right near the Legion of Honor (3a), which is worth a look-see (and if you don't want to walk so much, you can split the park and these two places into two groups). 

(4) Irving Street: Since we are already down near the park, we may as well go to Irving Street for something to eat! There is pretty much anything you could want between 19th St. and 24th St., but some of my favorite things to get are either pho, dim sum or Thai food (Marnee Thai  (4a) is a must and if you go, you have to try the kanom krok - even if you don't see it on the menu, ask for it). You also can't go wrong if you just wander, or stop when you are hungry (after your GG park walk you will be!) This guy has a fun map with restaurant names and notes. Oh, and if you feel like straying a bit for a good pizza or bread, check out Arizmendi Bakery (4b) on 9th and Irving. 

(5) Chinatown: Pick up some dim sum to-go from Delicious Dim Sum (5a) and sit in Portsmouth Square (5b) where you will have a view of the Transamerica tower, and watch the locals play their daily board games. They really get into it and it is fun to watch the competitions arise! Plus the area is just so vibrant; it is a great place to people watch. 

Delicious dim sum!

After that, if you feel like being a tourist, you can walk down Grant Street, or if you want to see how the locals shop, take a stroll down Stockton Street (5c). Local tip: You can get great prices on fruit and vegetables here. If you want to buy anything from the shops, there are not really proper lines. Just walk in, put your item on the scale next to the register and get your dollars out quick. It is a dog eat dog world out there and you need to be quick to win your right to pay for your goods! Also, I have never paid with a card, so I can't confirm whether they take them, but I would have cash on hand just in case. 

(6) Filbert Steps: These go from Sansome Street up to Coit Tower, so they are a little touristy, but it is also  fun to go up or down them. It is a stairway within a neighborhood and it is fun to check out everyone's gardens and at the same time you get a glimpse of the Bay Bridge and the San Francisco bay. If you feel like doing a loop, I like to go up (or down) Vallejo Street (6a) which is also steep but provides a nice view. If you like hidden staircases like I do, San Francisco has over 600 public stairways (map here) for you to explore; here is an article about 11 of them to get you started. 

(7) The Murals in the Mission: Head down to Clarion Alley (7a) and scope out the cool murals, and afterward, go and get a burrito. There are so many places to choose from, and you can't go wrong with most of them, but I often end up at either El Farolito (7b) on Mission & 24th or El Toro Taqueria (7c). And don't forget to eat the burrito properly, which I describe in this post. You can also find more mural locations in this article

(8) Crissy Field/Fort Point: If you feel like taking a nice walk along the water, you can go from Crissy Field down to Hopper's Hands (Fort Point) (8a), which is about 1.5 miles each way. If this is too much, there are options: you can park in the Warming hut lot (8b), which makes the walk only about half a mile, or you can drive all the way to Fort Point if the gate is open. Either way, it is a great way to get outside and get some fresh air, plus you have the added bonus of a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, the water, the Marin Headlands and the city! Basically you can't go wrong. Don't forget to touch Hopper's Hands for good luck when you get to Fort Point! 

Fort Point

View from Crissy Field

(9) Fort Mason: You can go and watch the sea lions at Fisherman's wharf, or you can go to Fort Mason instead and watch them at the marina, swimming around and sunning themselves on the docks. Also, if you are looking for love, supposedly the Safeway (9a) across the street is frequently listed as one of the city's best pick-up spots and is affectionately known as the "Dateway." 

Fort Mason / Marina

(10) Biking the Embarcadero: Most people talk about San Francisco's hills and how scary they are when running or biking, but despite the rumors, there are a lot of flat options! The simplest one is to bike along the Embarcadero where you will have to climb a small hill to get to Fort Mason, but after that, you will go back down towards the Marina and Crissy Field where it is flat again. Of course, you can make this a multi-mile trip pretty easily: the Mission is also flat, Ocean Beach/Great Highway are gorgeous, you can even bike to Sausalito (and beyond)! Really the city is your oyster. 

Bay Bridge / Embarcadero

Well there you have it folks, a handful of fun things to pick from next time you are in San Francisco! Of course feel free to ask questions if you need more information! 

Have you ever been to San Francisco? Have you been to any of the places/done any of the things on this list? If not, what is your "local tip" for your neck of the woods? 



Happy almost November, Dia De Los Muertos and Halloween! 

Sal's Tacos in West Sacramento

Reading: All Together Now by Mike Carter, which is a book about a man who decides to walk from Liverpool to London in honor of the 1981 People's March For Jobs which his Dad participated in. The original march was a protest to the Thacher government and the high unemployment it brought. I am learning a lot about the little towns in England as well as some of the politics. 

Loving: Collagen (I use this one). I put some in my coffee every morning and my fingernails grow so fast! I can't say that I have noticed other changes, but maybe the lack of certain changes is enough for me! 

Thinking: About traveling. I took the Amtrak on Friday to go to my parent's house and it was so fun. I mentioned it to my coworker and he started looking into longer trips and the conversation made me want to book a train vacation! 

Frustrated: With people who play their music out loud in public places or trails etc. This happened a few times this weekend. One was on the Amtrak when the guy next to me put his music on out loud on his phone. The other times were on a bike path and the street. I just find that rude and am not sure why they don't feel the need to use headphones (the same applies for out loud phone calls). 

Feeling: Unmotivated to start working on my Christmas cards. I know once I get started and get in a groove it will be fine, but getting started is evading me. 

Anticipating: This weekend when I will be auntie to A. I will take her to her soccer game on Saturday but before that we will also do some fun things like watch an old movie (maybe Spaceballs, which she has not seen), bake some things and play games. 

Watching: Anne With An E on Netflix. It is very cute and is bringing back memories of the books, which I have not read in ages. In fact, it is making me want to go back and read them again! 

Working: NOT on my Christmas card! 

Grateful: That my family is all happy and healthy and that everyone can still do (and wants to do) our annual Thanksgiving hike before dinner. 

Listening: To the audiobook The Perfect Marriage as well as the Adventure Sports Podcast

Wishing: There were more summer weekends still, so I could go out for one last Sierra backpacking trip! 

What are you listening to? What are you anticipating? Have you started your holiday cards yet? 


My Last To Do List: In Case of Emergencies

As I mentioned in my 2022 recap post, one of the things I completed last year was what I call my last to do list.  Actually it is more of a file with a bunch of documents and a to do list in it, so let's just call it the In Case Of Emergencies (ICOE) file. If you have not read my first post of this series about trust and estate planning, you can read it here

This is basically a file that you can tell your emergency contact the location of so if something happens to you, they can go and get it and have a one stop shop of where things are and what they may need to handle for you. This is something that my grandmother had and after she passed away, it was so easy to arrange her affairs, since she had already done most of the work for us. After that, I decided to hone and combine a couple of the lists that I already keep for myself and update my file so that my loved ones would have a roadmap for me. Obviously this changes over time, so I have put it on my yearly purge and organize task list as something I revisit and update once a year. 

Important Docs: I basically have a big thick plastic ziplock bag (like this one) that I keep all of my grab and go important documents in. This includes the lists I will reference below, but it also has things like my trust documents, birth certificate, passport, deed to my house, title for the car etc. I also keep a paper copy of each of my bills so that the account number and phone number to contact are handy. Obviously this could be found online but I like to take the "belt and suspenders" approach. 

Vaccinations! (this can be uploaded online now too)

Other Important Items: This is also not on a list, but I keep any old memory cards or external hard drives with photos etc. in the same bag. I know most things are in the cloud now, but I have a lot of older photos that I have not put in the cloud so those are kept on hard drives for the time being. 

List of bills: This is a printout of an Excel spreadsheet of what bills I have, how they are paid, when they are due, and how much they normally are. Most of my bills are on autopay, so I have also noted whether it comes from my bank account (like the mortgage) or the credit card that I use for autopay. I only use one credit card for anything I have autopay on and use a different card for any online purchases and a third card for brick and mortar purchases. This way if the card that I carry around with me gets lost or stolen, I do not have to go back and update all of my online and/or autopay details. I also have this list saved in a Google drive folder that I share with my emergency contact so that it can be accessed online as well. 

List of bank accounts, retirement accounts etc.: This is also an Excel spreadsheet; I do not put account numbers on this, but it is a list of where the account is, what type it is, and who is the beneficiary. This includes my loan for my mortgage. 

List of properties: the deed or deeds should be in the file anyway, but it could also help to keep a list of the address(es) of any properties in the file too. I have also noted who my mortgage is with and approximately how much I have left on my loan (to be updated once per year). 

List of email address and passwords: this is also up to you and can be stored electronically and shared instead. You can also get a password vault app that can be shared. However, my list is not long; it only includes sites that I think people would want to have access to, such as my Google account, which is where all of my photos and such are. Also this can be retrieved in some cases after your death, although I did read that the Apple iCloud data is not transferrable. To be safe, I would share your login with someone if the information is important! 

Where is this file? Most importantly, tell someone where this file is and how to access it if it is in a safe or somewhere locked. 

Just a side note, as I have mentioned in the past, this file is also the very same one that I would grab if there were a fire heading my way, and because of this, it also has cash in it. I also have a box of photos (hard copies) and a go bag with a change of clothes and some food as part of my emergency prep kit, but if the fire were coming fast, I would just grab the ICOE file and skedaddle. So it satisfies two different purposes. 

Do you have a ICOE file or a Go Bag? Is there anything that I do not have on my list that you have on yours?