Friday in San Francisco

One last day in San Fran…

Lots of walking, adventures in Sausalito, ferry rides, union square, drinks with friends, a little shopping, and some more walking.






If only time would slow down…

I’d have enough of it to update this little blog more often.  Sometimes, I get hung up on trying to recap everything that I’ve been doing…and when there is not enough time to do that…I just ignore it altogether.  So…here’s what’s been going on around here…

We did some fishing in and around Mammoth Lakes…

and when someone else is doing the majority of the ‘catching’…a cold one tastes mighty fine…

Cleo joined us on the trip and got in on the action with some swimming for birds!

Can’t get enough of the Sierras!

More on that trip in a future post…

Next up…Monterey, CA!

Thanks to Woody’s intellectual prowess…we get the bonus of a trip to Monterey in September for the next four years thanks to a Packard Fellowship for the annual meeting.  He has business to attend to during this meeting…but I just enjoyed the trip…especially the part about before-hours access to the Monterey Bay Aquarium!

Not a bad view from the hotel…

Woody gave his talk on the first morning, which worked out well and he could relax a bit after that.

Plenty of otters in the bay…I spent hours watching and photographing.  It was actually hard to look out at the ocean and not see at least one!

The weekend is busy with talks given by the fellows but there was also plenty of time to socialize and get to know the attendees.  We were lucky to have a good friend/colleague of ours from another University to hang out with at the lunches and dinners!

Seals, sea lions, cormorants, herons, kayakers…

We were treated to a fog free weekend – just beautiful!

Look closely…that is an entire raft of otters…pretty much a party out there in the kelp beds!

Sunrise over the bay

Just to top it off…we shared a flight back to LAX with a certain famous person.  Many would know him as McDreamy…and although Woody now thinks I’m a stalker for knowing who he is and being a bit starstruck…it was a quick reminder that celebrities are real people (at least some of them) who fly commercial airlines.  Even better than the sighting, was the very tipsy woman across the aisle on the plane who drunk-whispered (as in I’m sure the whole plane heard her) “Is that guy up there famous or something…?”  He looks so familiar…what’s his name…I could be seeing things…I’ve had a little too much sun today and a…lot…of…wine…”  Priceless!

Alright this post has gotten a bit longer than intended…so…here’s part one.  Part two including a recap of our Teton trip and some other recent adventures/mishaps coming soon!

Let’s talk SUMMER!

Summer is about to officially end…and I’ve got a lot to catch you up on.  It’s been a busy summer with lots of travel and adventures.  Let’s start in mid-May…

We visited Colorado to see Sarah graduate from CC!

typical Colorado spring weather – chilly and rainy

bbq and beer to celebrate while watching the sun be eclipsed

Then, back to California…

for Wynne’s graduation from Redlands…

she’s the one in the middle looking very scholarly

with a bonus visit of Ciaran, Kate, Avery and Eloise for day or so…

Avery really likes writing out her letters…and rolling around in chalk!

any rectangles drawn must be completely filled in!

and this one…she kills me!

and we can’t forget about Cleo…she celebrated her 5th birthday in May…

I celebrated a friend’s birthday with some beach time with bonfires!

Most of June was consumed by secret planning for this…

the dual celebration of both my parents turning 60 this year…

lots of good times…with dogs in the pool…

and planning this…

what is formally known as one of the better Connelly Family Birthday traditions…a pie fight!

complete with chocolate pudding and whip cream!

There were many walks with Cleo…the best ones involve squirrel-stalking!

Mid-July found both Woody and I traveling for work.  He first went to Stanford for some instrument time…and I embarked on a road trip with the final destination of Denver to work a course for Big City Mountaineers.

I left Pasadena and headed through Las Vegas to Springfield, Utah…just outside of Zion.

The heat was outrageous in Vegas…and massive desert thunderstorms broke out just as I left the interstate!  I truly miss summer storms.  

(Oddly, as I sit here right this moment, Pasadena is experiencing a rare bout of thunder and rain…and I could not be more pleased!)

It had been at least 10 years…and maybe even closer to 15 years since I had been through Zion…you can truly forget how beautiful and stunning the landscape can be.

The next day had me driving to Salt Lake/Park CIty.  I stayed with some of my favorite peeps…Carrie and Andre.  I seemed to bring the weather along with me wherever I traveled as well.  Hot and stuffy when I arrived and by 9 pm, it was blustery, chilly and the power was out!

From Park City, I drove towards Glenwood Springs to catch up with a friend from high school whom I haven’t seen since her wedding!

a little swimming in the hot springs and lots of catching up over beers and dinner and hanging out with her cute little family!

One last day of driving towards Denver, with only 2 cd’s left to go on my book on tape, 30 minutes into the drive…

this happened…

Apparently the little Subie just could not go any further…called AAA and waited…and poured water in the radiator every so often as it became clear very quickly that things were HOT!

Pop quiz:  Anyone know how far AAA will tow for free…?  I do!  1oo miles – above and beyond is an additional charge.  Question #2 – how far from Denver did my car break down?  132 miles!

Okay, I can’t resist…question #3 – how long did it take to drive (the tow truck driver…not me) those 132 miles…?  More than 6 hours!  That is an average speed of 22 miles per hour…and 3.5 more hours than I intended to spend in the company of my tow truck driver.  Can’t say I didn’t learn a thing or two…mainly about cougar hunting, the history of the Vail area and of course…how the ‘illegals are stealing all the jobs’ and that this president we have is ‘doing nothing more than ruining our country.’

Character building…that’s how I made myself feel better about the whole situation.

I made it to Denver, dropped the car at a shop and was generously picked up by a friend for some dinner and carting all my shtuff to the house where I was staying.  Monday brought with it prepping for the trip I was leading and making very expensive decisions about what to do with the car.  Turns out the engine was ‘done’ and needed to be completely rebuilt…and since we’re in there…why not replace the clutch too.

Tuesday…course begins.  Backpacking with 4 girls and 2 adult volunteers for 7 days in the Medicine Bow Wilderness in Wyoming.

The trip was great…girls were amazing and a lot of fun.  Three were Nepali and one from Rwanda – lots of cultural differences to discuss and learn about and the scenery could not have been better.  I have definitely bookmarked the area in my brain for a future personal trip.

And then…because I needed yet another thing to pop up and get in my way…

I found myself in a doctor’s office hoping for an explanation as to why a good portion of my feet were numb and tingly (and had been since the day 2 of the course).  This was particularly important as I was scheduled to lead a second trip for BCM 5 days later.  The answer was not what I hoped to hear – 1) they don’t know exactly why my feet were numb and tingly; 2) strongly recommended against leading another backpacking trip; and 3) gave me the diagnosis of ‘digital nerve damage with cause unknown’.  Great.  Just garreat.

So, now the car is fixed, but my feet are broken.  Thanks to another instructor coming through at the very last-minute, I was off the hook and the trip headed out into the field right on schedule.

I now found myself with some time on my hands in Denver…so my Mom hopped a plane and joined me for a surprise girls weekend full of Olympic watching, relaxation, dinners out, afternoon tea, a little shopping and a seeing my first live musical – Jersey Boys.

The afternoon thunderstorms continued and I could not get enough of them!

Since I was not working the course…it was now time to drive back towards Pasadena.  I left Golden and headed for the open road!

I drove some roads I never had before, starting with US-285 from Denver to Fairplay to Buena Vista…

 Through Salida and then west towards Gunnison…

And finally to Montrose where I stopped for the night…

In the a.m., I headed due south towards Durango driving through Ouray.

Can we discuss how great road trips are?  I mean, really.  The scenery continually shifting, with tunes of your choice (or a good book or two on tape)…what is not to like!

I just kept reaching for the camera…I couldn’t help myself!

I passed through Mancos and Cortez and headed southwest through the Navajo Nation towards Flagstaff.

Passing right through the Four Corners.

This is pretty much how I roll…

Leaving the red dirt of the desert behind and heading up to 7000 feet and the Ponderosa forests of Flagstaff.

It was too early to stop when I hit Flagstaff…so I drove on to explore a new town…Prescott.  I found an amazing little place to stay…grabbed a bite to eat and watched some more olympics.

The next morning marked my last day on the road.  It was hardly more than a 6 hour drive back to Pasadena…and Woody was returning from his field work in South Africa that same morning.

Yet another road I had not yet driven…and incredibly beautiful.  Note that there is only one lane on the road…the east-bound traffic was 700 feet below.

It was my first time driving through Palm Springs…and perhaps not the best time of year/day for a positive impression – it was scorchingly hot, and apparently it’s a time of year when many businesses shut down for two or three weeks…like the shoulder seasons in a ski town.  Not much else to say.

And then, rather anti-climactically…I arrived home to Pasadena!  It was REALLY nice to be home and to see Woody and Cleo…and unpack…and cook in our own kitchen.

We belated celebrated our 6 year anniversary with a night out at The Bazaar by José Andrés…and this is definitely the prettiest gin and tonic I’ve ever had!

The experience was amazing and we hardly grazed the surface of the expansive menu which includes both traditional and modern (read: molecular gastronomic) tapas.

Green olives…real on the bottom and liquid olive spheres on top!

Tortilla Espagnola…re-thunk!

And the most interesting philly cheesesteak I’ve ever eaten…hollow inside with a cheese creamy foam piped inside with wagyu beef and chives.  The meal included many more dishes…too many to share and the iPhone photos don’t do the tapas justice.  A memorable anniversary for sure!

Then…we landed on Mars!

Well, not actually “we” as in Woody and myself…but “we” as in humanity…or at least a roving remote-controlled science lab landed on Mars.  This was an opportunity for tailgating at Caltech…where the very idea of such is foreign.  There were of course more official and formal celebrations being held on campus…none of which we were invited to (read: allowed into).  So, some creative ambitious grad students got to setting up a projector with a laptop and a set of speakers on the side of one of the buildings…lawn chairs were set-up, and beer and twizzlers were passed around while watching the live feed from the NASA website of mission control at JPL.

Colleagues of Woody’s have been instrumental in the MSL project and we spotted a few familiar faces on the screen throughout the broadcast.

That’s John Grotzinger on the right – Project Scientist for Mars Science Lab – and a good friend of ours!

Mark had some work in Anaheim…so he squeezed in a visit.

Always fun to have him in town, if even for a short time.

The next weekend we headed for a morning hike in Griffith Park as part of our attempt to be tourists in our own city…so many things still to do!

Whew!  I think that most brings us up to date…at least through mid-August.  We returned on Tuesday from a long weekend in the eastern Sierras…so hopefully I can get some of those pictures up soon.  I am truly in disbelief that tomorrow is SEPTEMBER!

Can I get a “YIKES!”?

Serendipity in Wine Country {aka: Sonapanoma with wynne, woody & will}

We stole away to Sonoma for a weekend as somebody had to initiate Wynne (a couple of years late) into formal wine tasting!

We convened in Oakland and headed northeast towards Sonoma and Napa…then there was Berkeley traffic.  A phone call later…we were headed back into Berkeley to a waiting table at Chez Panisse.  {serendipitous}

It was a pilgrimage of sorts…and apparently meant to happen.  Each night there is a set menu…almost like enjoying an amazing dinner at a friend’s house without them eating with you.  It did not disappoint.

The next morning, we strolled around Sonoma before most of the shops opened and settled on breakfast at Sunflower Caffé, drawn in by the breakfast sandwiches and the parmesan waffle with house made mostarda.  I intend to recreate this sandwich soon – it was that good!

I love me some cheese.  I have a soft spot for jack cheese and an even softer spot for Vella Dry Jack.  I had no idea they had been around for so long…since 1931!  We walked over, sampled some cheeses, picked some up for a picnic later and then crept around the side to peek through the screen door at the actual cheese being made.  And we were caught, but instead of being run off…we were invited in for a quick look at the whole process by one of their very proud cheese-makers!  SO COOL!  {serendipitous}

Since we had breakfast and cheese, it seemed only appropriate to then get our wine on a bit and we headed to Ravenswood and MacRostie.  If we have learned one thing from our previous wine tasting trips…it’s that you should always ask the winery staff where they would go if they had the afternoon off.  Often they’ll direct you to places that are up and coming or off the beaten path.

We asked at MacRostie and were given a list of places to hit, including a lunch spot not to be missed – The Fremont Diner.  I would drive 50 miles out of my way to stop there.  It was that good.

We sampled the reuben, grilled cheese, a chicken slider, brisket and the pecan pie!  The grilled cheese may have been the most surprising with fresh goat cheese, asparagus sandwiched in between 2 slices of charred bread!

The weather cooperated fully and later that afternoon we stopped by a champagne house, Cline Cellars and squeezed in an olive oil tasting at The Olive Press.  The most surprising oils were the citrus olive oils – they press the raw citrus at the same time as the olives and so the flavor seemed much crisper and cleaner than some that add an essential oil concentrate to regular pressed olive oil.  We decided we might have to order some rather than attempting to pack it home in our luggage.  We finished out the early evening with some calamari and beer at Hopmonk Tavern

Woody joined us the next morning and we headed to Duckhorn, a favorite on a previous trip and the location is stunning.

Other stops included Freemark Abbey, Heitz Cellars, and Elyse, and Alpha Omega.


2012 (surprisingly similar)

We opted for dinner on the early side…(mostly out of desperation and empty stomachs) at Mustards Grill.  Everything was quite good.  Standouts were the fresh tamales, asparagus appetizer and steak frites served with watercress sauce.  I’ve got plans to recreate that soon as well.  Day 2 Ah-Mazing!

Perfect weather greeted us again the next day and we began at Mumm and took the full tour to see the exact process that makes wine into sparkling wine…including spotting some little itty bitty grape babies just waiting for the sun to plump them up and grow into grown-up grapes!

Next – Frog’s Leap.  This was one of my favorites…mostly for the ambience.  Adirondack chairs nestled in gravel underneath a pergola, lawn games to play and some really good wine.

We also stopped by this place, and made another stop here before heading back into the town of Sonoma to another one of my favorites.

Hawkes was all about the Cabernet Sauvignon and for good reason…they seemed to know what they were doing.

For our last evening, we had a late dinner reservation at El Dorado Kitchen…all plates were cleaned…and I’ve assigned myself the task of recreating a raisin caper puree that was part of a seared scallop dish.

Last day, we stopped at a few places for some last tastes and then the trip mandated that we stop once more at The Fremont Diner.  Woody enjoyed the Spicy Fried Chicken that was so spicy, “it would set a cheatin’ man straight!”  I had the burger, and it may have had the best burger crust e-vah…they have a serious flat top working in the back.

Certainly a memorable trip and one that makes me want to start planning our next venture up that way.

Woody’s Birthday!

Woody’s Birthday – technically on February 4th….but really who celebrates their birthday on the actual day anymore?  Just kidding…in all seriousness, Woody found out a few weeks beforehand that he would have all day meetings with people from Chevron, not on February 3rd or February 5th…but on February 4th.  And when I say, all day, I mean starting with a breakfast meeting, right straight on through lunch, past happy hour and during any time period that you would consider to be the dinner hour, only to arrive home just after 10 pm.  Needless to say, we did not celebrate his birthday on the 4th.  Did you know you can do that?  Just move your birthday?  Well, you can.  I learned this early on in life, as Ciaran could clearly not have any kind of a birthday pool party in December in Utah…so…you just move your birthday.  I worked the following weekend, so we finally decided on celebrating W’s birthday on Saturday, February 13th.

We started with breakfast at Elements Cafe in Pasadena – new to both of us and chosen for the ‘Duck Sausage Breakfast Burrito’ – which I figured would make it into W’s top choices for the meal.

It’s rough when your birthday is in February, typically a month filled with cold and snow and darkness, and you’re able to sit outside at a cafe in lovely 70’ish degree weather…real rough!

Coffee was tasty and the menu enticing.

Normally, I would not be pleased with Woody’s behavior of checking his phone, looking for cool images of motorcycles…but after all…it was his birthday, so I allowed it…just this once.

The long-awaited – Duck Sausage Breakfast Burrito with a tomatillo salsa.

I ordered (and I realize I made a misstep here) the polenta with scrambled eggs and crispy prosciutto with Parmesan.  It was okay, flavors were complimentary…but the texture and overall appearance of the dish left something to be desired.  I think I was picturing crispy polenta wedges with Scrambled eggs draped over the top…as a cook, I would never place a mushy yellow ingredient as the base of the dish and then pile on top of it…another yellow, soft-textured component.  And the portion was enormous.  I should have had the ebelskivers.  These wrong decisions happen when I haven’t quite made up my mind but the waiter appears and wants my decision right that very moment and I say words…but I don’t actually mean them.

I think I would go back and give this place another chance, it seems genuine and like they are really trying but haven’t quite worked out all the kinks yet.

The rest of the day went like this…

I had big plans…and none of them really worked out…which means, that we ended up heading back to the house, relaxing and playing some Wii, and napping – which is all you really should do after having a gigantic duck sausage burrito or a humongous bowl of polenta for breakfast.  We pulled ourselves together for an early dinner reservation at Palate in Glendale, with a stop at a few dealerships on the way per Woody’s request.

Don’t worry…we’re not purchasing a truck anytime soon, except in Woody’s dream world.  But it’s fun to look and we learned a few things about dealerships in California.

1.  California car dealerships don’t need showrooms…as the weather is generally nice.  You just look at the cars on the lot.

2.  California dealerships and maybe more specifically dealerships in LA don’t carry trucks that are not 2 x 4 (or 4 x 2…I don’t know)…Woody was disappointed with the lack of 4 x 4 trucks.  I told him we could head towards Orange County and find plenty of dealerships with not only 4 x 4 trucks, but probably a few that will jack up the truck for us pre-purchase and add on some quintessential motocross stickers and accessories like truck nuts.

3.  Apparently, car salesmen at California dealerships don’t jump on any living breathing thing that walks through the door…as we wandered through a couple different showroom/sales areas and not a single person even looked up.

Now here’s how I begin to ruin not only Woody’s birthday…but also Valentine’s day…keep reading.  We sit down to a lovely dinner.  We’d been to Palate once before when my parents and sister were in town.  It is a wine store, wine bar and restaurant.  For appetizers, they do ‘potted meats,’ which are essentially rillettes mixed with a few fresh herbs, seasoned and served in a mason jar with super thin bias cut toasted baguette.  They also do amazing house-made pickles of various sorts…cucumber being the boring option although probably the best pickle I’ve ever had.  This place would be worth it just for the potted berkshire pork and a glass of wine…but we didn’t stop there.  We both ordered a starter of sorts (the portions are reasonable) and then an entree.

I ordered a goat cheese gnocchi with lamb cheeks and english peas with herbs, followed by a sea bass with morels and a root vegetable puree.  Woody started with a lamb tartare served appropriately with a raw quail egg cracked on top, and followed that with a pork belly dish that was notable for it’s crisp skin and smoky flavor.  They have a ridiculous cheese menu…but we couldn’t do it.  Too full.  So, we left and headed home.  We did stop for some frozen yogurt at a new place in our neighborhood…and then it was back to the house to release the hound and open some presents.  (Note – I began feeling a little off somewhere between leaving Palate, getting yogurt and arriving home.)

We started turned on the fire place and sat down to enjoy the living room.  Cleo loves it when we sit on the floor…it’s her chance to attack.

Woody had a box from Minnesota, a card from Pop and Barby and a few goodies from me.

Cleo couldn’t wait and pounced giving Woody her present…licks all over his face…so much that his beard smelled like dog breath.

Woody received some cookbooks, a fly-fishing in California book, a wool patagonia top and a ski movie…all things Woody loves!  We then sat down to watch a movie…and this is when I really started feeling ill (no more than an hour after we left Palate).  My stomach felt awful and I was shaky and dizzy and just ill.  I went to bed trying as best I could to not move, as any movement made my stomach churn.  I managed to fall asleep, only to wake up 2 hours later at 11:30…fully knowing that I was about to ‘toss my cookies’.  I was sick, very sick, food poisoning sick.  Cleo was even concerned…why would her humans be kneeling in front of the toilet making bad noises?  And the worst part is…I couldn’t figure out what it was that made me sick – my best guess is the sea bass…but Woody and I shared everything we had eaten that night…and he had more than a few bites of both my dishes and he was perfectly fine…except for grumbles about how a pukey wife kind of ruins a birthday.  I managed to make it back to bed and fall asleep.  I woke feeling okay, and took it easy the next day…but Valentine’s day is not early as fun when you’re not interested in cooking a fun and interesting dinner.  So…that concludes the ‘how I ruined my husband’s birthday and valentine’s day in one bite…of something bad.

So…here is another little something for Woody – a bit of glory for a day of hunting with Cleo this fall.  In November, I was out of town and Woody and Cleo headed to Frazier Mountain to hunt for quail.  He got one and Cleo did what she loves best and brought it back.  Cleo was a little too energetic to sit still for a photo…so the gun and the bird would have to do.

Happy Birthday Woody!

(sorry I puked)