Sunday, August 24, 2014

San Francisco... Again

I went to San Francisco about fourteen years ago with Chad, but maybe I was there another time since then. Honestly, I do not remember. I know, I'm awful. Chad has been to San Francisco at least five times for work and fun. 

view of Ferry Building Market from our hotel hallway

My favorite things about San Francisco on a previous trip (trips?), apart from what I consider to be MUCH nicer weather than Austin, was feeding coins to various antique amusement machines at the Musée Mécanique while it was still located in the basement of the Cliff House, seeing a Magritte exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, having amazing Viennese coffee at a little cafe and walking on the Golden Gate Bridge. Our friend from college, Jeffrey, served as tour guide on one of our previous trips, taking us around the Mission District and Castro neighborhoods. We also explored Haight-Ashbury which provided lots of chain stores, but little in the way of hippie nostalgia. We briefly hit Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39, before getting the heck out of the tourist trap horde.

This trip to San Francisco was much shorter for me. With limited time of just over 48 hours, I only wanted to do and see things I had not previously experienced in the San Francisco area. After a pleasant direct flight from Austin to San Francisco aboard Virgin America, Chad and I checked in at the Hyatt Regency on Embarcadero around noon local time. We were prepared to drop our bags with the front desk, but our room was ready early. We were upgraded to the top floor of the hotel with a private balcony! Nice! No idea how we scored that perk. I loved the atrium style hotel with art deco design flourishes, and highly recommend it. 

Our first stop after the hotel was just down the block at Ferry Building Market complete with its Saturday farmer's market on the plaza. Oh the blinding sun! Oh the teeming masses! Oh the yummy snacks! We got our requisite bread, fruit, cheese and nuts, quickly squirreling it back to our hotel balcony high above the masses for a private picnic.

view from our private balcony

We also needed showers, a costume change and rest before cabbing it to the Marrakech Magic Theater for a magic show. The magician, Peter Morrison, does some close-up magic and audience fact-finding-chit-chat in the "Sultan's Lounge" waiting area before the main show while the audience trickles in and enjoys drinks and appetizers. At showtime, groups are ushered into the intimate theatre space and strategically seated. Magician Morrison puts the audience at ease with his fun attitude, uncanny memory for individual details and winking delivery. My only complaint was that I wanted the show to last a bit longer. 

Before retiring to some much-needed slumber back in our hotel room, Chad and I enjoyed that balcony and view again.

The next morning after a decadent room service breakfast, one of Chad's favorite things, we walked down Embarcadero to the Caltrain station past AT&T Park during a Giants baseball game. The vast majority of Giants fans were outfitted in full fan regalia of Giants merchandise bordering on Halloween costumes with all the orange & black and crazy accessories. 

At the train station we caught the baby bullet train with limited stops out to San Jose to tour the beautifully bizarre Winchester Mystery House. Yes, it's a cheesy tourist trap, but I really wanted to see it. Sarah Winchester, heir to the massive Winchester fortune built a 160 room house with winding stairs, secret passages, doorways to nowhere and impressive architecture in an attempt to ward off evil entities. Our informative tour guide led us through 1.1 miles of meandering rooms explaining the history of the house and pointing out details. She, and other tour guides we overheard, seemed to be coached to give factual accounts and downplay any speculation as to Sarah Winchester's sanity or any hauntings. Sadly, it left the tour feeling a bit flat. Go explore the fancy-fun website for the Winchester Mystery House with its great photos and details, so you can skip the trip to San Jose.

We ate a quick meal at the Veggie Grill (like McDonald's for vegetarians & vegans). I liked the salads, which were awesome, but hated the vegan macaroni & cheez. That mess was not food. I think it was melted plastic. We glanced at the faux-quaint, touristy  part of San Jose before catching a grumpy cab back to the train station. Seriously, cab drivers should not complain about how they are losing money to traffic congestion as passengers watch the meter progress.  Unfortunately we missed the last baby bullet train with limited stops of the evening by two minutes, and nearly doubled our return trip time with twenty stops between San Jose and San Francisco. 

Safely back in our hotel room we enjoyed the private balcony and view some more.

My last morning in San Francisco, we had yummy breakfast in the hotel restaurant before cabbing it to Presidio Park for the Walt Disney Family Museum and the Mary Blair exhibit. I particularly loved the Mary Blair exhibit about a female animator who worked with Walt Disney beginning in the 1930s on such films as Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and my personal favorite, Ichabod Crane and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I was pleasantly surprised by the Walt Disney Family Museum, which covered not only biographical details about Walt Disney, but also technical innovations made by Disney. I have new found appreciation and respect for Walt Disney: the man, the artist and the innovator.

I would have loved more time to explore Presidio Park, especially under the impressive cloak of fog that day, but we had to catch a cab (with a nice driver this time!) back to the hotel so I could grab my suitcase. Chad walked me to the train station, loaded my BART  fare card, and said goodbye to me amid the hustle, bustle and stink of the train station. (He had to go to important meetings and say important things for work for a few more days in San Francisco.) I wanted to grab his arm, and say, "I know I'm an adult, but do I really have to take this train by myself to the airport? Come with me, or at least take me back up to the surface streets and put me in a cab." I did my very best to KIT (Keep It Together) and walked through the gates to the train platform.

I hate subterranean trains by any name: subways, the tube, the underground. I'm a high-functioning claustrophobic, and I have trouble when confined underground. Add to the hot mess that I'm hurtling through unfamiliar territory surrounded by strangers, hoping that I'm headed in the right direction, and that I will reach my destination on time. My heart races. I have to work to regulate my breathing. After hopping the wrong train in the right direction, disembarking at a transfer station, I caught the correct train and made it to the airport to check in 45 minutes before my flight without having a full-fledged panic attack.

On my flight home sans Chad, I had mucho legroom (like I need it) in the "Cabin Select" section. In my defense, "Cabin Select" was the only ticket I could still get for the flight I wanted home when I bought my tickets. For $69 more than "Main Cabin", passengers get perks including one free checked bag, free drinks, free snacks, free in-flight movies & television shows and more legroom. I enjoyed a ginger ale while the tiny young lady next to me downed two beers and two, or maybe three, wines. Thanks to the gentlemanly flight attendant who politely advised her to drink some water and eat something, she did not get sick.

I arrived safely home for my last week of work at West Elm! (More on that later.) 

To sum up: I hate subterranean trains and tourist horde. I love private balconies at high elevations. I'm so glad we went to the Walt Disney Family Museum. The magic show was fun. Don't go to San Jose unless you have to work there.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Well, Sure! If Money Were No Object...

Career coaches, life coaches, career counselors and eleventy bazillion self-help books pose the question, "If money were no object, what would you do with your time?" 

Besides my obvious answers of take more naps, travel more, have more free time to read, support more charities and generally be fabulous? I would write. More than just the blog, I would write some fiction loosely (and by that, I mean totally) based on my experiences. I would also volunteer for an animal welfare nonprofit organization. Which I've done in the past, but totally burned out my energy level, and needed a long break from middle of the night kitten/puppy feedings and cleanings. I miss the fat tummies and contented sighs of fuzzy-babies. (I'm fully aware that my maternal instincts skew only towards felines and canines. I accept this about myself. Thank you very much.) However, I really value a good night of uninterrupted sleep as I get older.

One is expected to take the answer to this question and go pursue their passions. But money does matter, in a big, fluffy way. Plus, I don't have the hustle needed to land a book deal. (I accept this about myself too.) I've been rejected more than enough for one lifetime during my time as a professional actress going on long-shot auditions.

In my recent job search shenanigans, I realized that sometimes a person just needs a job that is better than their current job to stop spinning one's proverbial wheels. We can't all just run amok pursuing passions with no regard for financial reality. In my case, I need a stable source of income, predictable working hours (which make for predictable sleeping hours and having fun hours), a less frenzied working environment and a manager with more realistic expectations of project scope. 

After working 4:00 AM to 10:00 AM a few days, which did not qualify for a lunch (or breakfast?) break, then working 3:00 AM to 8:00 AM a few days, only to turn around thirteen hours later to work 9:00 PM to 6:00 AM (which thankfully did qualify for whatever-meal-that-was break), just about any job is more stable and predictable than my current job. While I will genuinely miss many of the people I work with, I waved the white flag/cried "uncle"/gave notice on Saturday. It felt good. 

I don't want to jinx the job that is in the works. Here is a tiny hint: as soon as all the "i"s are dotted and "t"s are crossed, I'll post some photos of my first windows.

And if the afore-hinted-at-job does not materialize, I might go back to school at the local community college and pursue my passion for my (truly terrible and trite) creative writing.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Prince Sonic

Prince Sonic surveys his kingdom

Our fifteen pound muscle-man cat looks so tiny in the big back yard at the 1952 House.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Yes, Please

Blue Star Cooking has the antidote for stainless steel appliance monotony. I'm loving the Ruby range from their new jewel tone collection.

Of course, the orange Bertazonni 30 inch, four burner gas range is equally lovely.

For a retro feel, the Northstar Range by Elmira Stoveworks fits just fine, but I'd want the candy apple red model 1956 P. The company also makes matching refrigerators, hoods and microwaves, I'm going to go for broke and put the whole kitchen suite on my wish-list. All in candy apple red. Please and thank you.

Model 1959 for the 1952 House

I'm off to enter every sweepstakes known to man in an attempt to afford any of the above-mentioned loveliness. Wish me luck!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Heads-Up! (Imaginary) Housekeeper

Dear Valued (Imaginary) Housekeeper,

Heads-up! Next week, my schedule will be a ridiculous pain-in-the-patoot with work start times at 4:00 AM. Yes, AM! I know. It hurts my feelings too. 

Stock the pantry and fridge now:

chocolate covered espresso beans
cucumbers for cucumber water
beans for quick protein
organic peaches, berries, grapes
Brooklyn Roasters, Corner Donut Shop coffee K-cups
organic half and half
cheese cubes, preferably smoked gouda & mild cheddar
part skim mozzarella string cheese
kale, pepita, ginger salads
and whatever else yummy that I can't think of, but will totally crave

Also I need a new pillow, and you know how I hate shopping in person. (Shopping online is entirely different. Were shopping online an Olympic sport, I'd earn at least a silver medal.) Please get a standard size, medium support, NOT down pillow for me.

Please keep things running smoothly at the 1952 House while I make retail a prettier place to shop. Make sure the pets are fed on time and receive lots of brushing, cuddling and bootie-scratches. If you spot the feral kittens of backyard infamy, scoop them up and make them feel at home in the dressing room until I can see to them.

Please keep your mobile phone on your person at all times in case I need a breakfast taco delivery around 7:30 or 8:00 AM.

Together, we will get through this. Thanks!

Your adoring fan & taskmaster,

Sunday, July 06, 2014

The Elephant in the (Bath)Room

The floor around our one and only bathtub at the 1952 House creaks and groans during dry winter months. As moaned about previously, I would love a new bathtub due to the peeling glaze I applied seven years ago in an attempt to prolong the life of the now-62-year-old tub. The new bathtub need not be fancy. In fact, I have an affordable, not fancy, replacement picked out from Home Depot. 

The problem lies underneath the bathtub in the form of rotted subfloor. I hosted a foundation expert last week who poked around under the piers and beams for an estimate to repair the one beam that I thought was causing the creaky bathroom floor. The one beam turned out to be one beam sitting off kilter, one pier sitting off kilter and a rotten subfloor under the bathtub area. Yikes. How did our home inspector miss all that?

To install a new bathtub, we have to be ready for several contingencies: repair the one beam and one pier; rip out the old bathtub and some surrounding tiles to see how far the rotten subfloor extends; possibly remove the one and only toilet and all surrounding tile if the rotten subfloor extends to that area; possibly rip out the bathroom sink and all surrounding tile if the rotten subfloor extends to that area. Then put it all back together with the new subfloor and new tub.  

Chad and I were prepared to shower at the gym for a few days to accommodate the new tub installation. However, with this new information, we are not prepared to open the floor of the one and only bathroom at the 1952 House for goodness knows how long. We are not prepared to trek to our respective gyms every time we need to use the toilet. I also refuse to put a port-o-potty in the yard. REFUSE.

That know-it-all, Hindsight, keeps nagging me that we should have replaced the bathtub when we first bought the 1952 House and redid the bathroom. Live and learn. Our next house will have more than one toilet, and will feature a bathtub made and installed in the twenty-first century.

For the time being, I'm going to learn to love showers, ignore the peeling glaze on the tub, ignore the creaky bathroom floor, and do my very best to ignore the elephant in our one and only bathroom.