torsdag den 29. december 2016

More Bay Area Christmas

What to do on Christmas Morning? Well, when you are not at home and do not have family nearby and already opened your presents and the sun is shining…….. then you go outside of course. We chose to go to Chinatown, as that was very high on our bucket list and since Christmas is not a Chinese holiday then Chinatown is open for business.  We parked in a garage close to Little Italy and experienced fortune cookie wise words for parking – something we have never seen before. We thought this parking spot was perfect for us:

Chinatown was busy with locals and tourists. It has not changed much over the past 5 years, but I personally think that the stores have more things for sale that are not “Chinese junk”. We had bubble tea, and dragon beard candy and ended up on a Japanese restaurant for lunch  that turned out to be exactly as good as the place we could no longer find in Japantown. It was really a pleasant surprise.

The crowds only got more crowded and since there were not that many other places being open in SF we chose to go to get a glimpse of the Pacific. We didn’t want to drive all the way out to Point Reyse, but rather just go to Rodeo Beach (which is right here) . Well. If anyone ever wonders what tourists do in San Francisco for Christmas day............. they all go to get pictures of Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin headlands viewpoint.  Which was exactly the route we took to get to Rodeo Beach. Sigh. And the sad thing was that once you got into the backed-up line of cars there was no getting out. About 1½ hour later we finally reached the beach. And since the tunnel that would get us out of there without going straight back into the traffic we just got out off was closed, we chose to do a sunset hike and hope that the traffic would have cleared by the time we got back.

Lucky for us the tunnel was open again as we were back at the car and we could go straight back and cook Christmas dinner a day late.

Tuesday was the day Luca had been waiting for. He got so see Emilia again – his BFF from kindergarten. It was so good to be back with old friends for a bit and see how much each other’s kids had grown. Their family was extended with a couple of extra dogs which we obviously didn’t mind.

Otherwise we have been hiking some more (in the really muddy Tilden – it took some shoe cleaning before going back to the car), we have had more dinners and we have hung out with more old friends.

And also we have been watching more sunsets. We went to Berkeley Marina last night, where the view to San Francisco is incredible.

Every day passing by right now serves to show us that we cannot think of a place we would rather want to live in the future then right here in beautiful North California.

søndag den 25. december 2016

Christmas 2016

Merry Christmas from beautiful San Rafael which is the 7’th different place we have had Christmas in the past 7 years! I guess we have officially completely screwed up on passing traditions on to our kids, but at least they won’t be the ones crying into their dinner because the gravy is all wrong the first time they get to celebrate Christmas without their parents……. 

Friday we had planned to go hiking with Pat and Lois, but it was raining all day, and they ended up coming to San Rafael to visit us. Even though we only knew them for a short time (since we only lived here for a short time) it feels so good to have friendships that go back in time. As they were here for early lunch and as it was still raining we decided to go to Japantown. The number one on our list of places to go in San Francisco. Here we are driving across Golden Gate Bridge to get there (yes, it’s official – I am a time lapse addict):

Not everybody thinks Japantown is special but we just LOVE it! It is after all “just” a bunch of Japanese stores and restaurants. First stop was Daiso, where Luca took the longest time to pick out something for Emilia, that we will visit tomorrow (Emilia was his BFF in kindergarten). 

Then we went to the bookstore that has a large manga selection down stairs. Ulrik immediately went down there while the rest of us giggled over all the silly things for sale upstairs. Sushi cats anyone?

Our one disappointment though, was that our favorite restaurant had moved. And we didn’t notice until we took a seat in the room, where it used to be, and then the menus looked all wrong.  We were so disappointed that we ended up leaving. Maybe not a very polite gesture, but we all had dreamed about that one dish we all like the best (for myself that would be gyoza nabe) and none of these were on the menu :-(
Instead we had “dragon breath” – cereal balls cooled in liquid nitrogen. When you eat them smoke comes out of your nose and mouth.

And then we shopped for dinner in the supermarket in the basement allowing us to eat udon noodles with currydon for dinner for a fraction of the price of going out (and yes, I know Japanese don’t eat udon noodles currydon style, but we did!).

Saturday (the 24’th) we went to Muir Woods to hang out with the redwood trees. It was super crowded, but as always when you visit crowded parks in the US, you just step off the main path for a little bit, and then you won’t really meet many other people. Those trees are stunning. In Muir woods they don’t have the drive a car through the tree” size redwoods, but they still are hundreds if not thousands of years old, and it is just quiet and serene in there.

And then we hurried home to make it to dinner shopping in Trader Joes before going to our old Church in Berkeley for their Christmas service. Jon was there already and made sure we were seated with him. He has truly adopted us into his life as family, and we all love being with him. In First Pres in Berkeley a Christmas tradition is to have a pageant where everybody can come dressed up and then join the stage as the nativity story unfolds. This year I just loved the 3 sulky looking teens in matching llama shirts joining the stage as animals…….. 

It got late before we headed back over the bridge, and the thought of not eating dinner until 9 was not appealing. Instead we decided to just skip dinner and go straight for dessert (ris a la mande) and sweets and board games, which turned out to work just fine. We did not bring any presents as we opened them before we left, but we still had a good time, and went to bed feeling both full and grateful.

fredag den 23. december 2016

Traveling for Christmas

Here we are. Back in our beloved Bay, where they beauty takes our breath away and where we keep asking ourselves – did we really live here? And where we keep waking up at 5AM and get a little scared whenever we have to go down a hill – were they really that steep when we lived here?

We traveled over a couple of days, as we decided to take Amtrak to Chicago and then fly out of O’Hare. Pros: Amtrak is a train = better seats and less motion sickness than a bus (and toilets that usually works!). Cons: delays, delays, delays. Why of why is that train just not capable of keeping the time? We had to wait quite some time outside in the cold before the train finally pulled in, but we boarded as some of the first and got good seats up front. And the train ride awoke a lot of memories of when we first got to Ann Arbor, with all our belongings in 7 suitcases and no clue of exactly how much we would have to struggle in the years to come.

When we finally got to Chicago it was surprisingly warm. We had expected it to be super cold, but we could easily walk about a mile to the hotel and even went out to see the Christ Kindl Markt and have gluhwein in ugly little cups. Teresa was supposed to have visited the market with her German class on Friday but they delayed the trip because of the weather and ended up planning it to be the exact same day as we were traveling to Chicago. Bottom line is that if we were to see and do one and only one thing in Chicago – that would be the Christmas market!

It was such a cozy little place with cuckoo clocks, bratwurst, potato pancakes and cute wood work.

Wednesday morning we got up early and went straight for the airport for our overbooked flight. We had made sure to have our seats booked in advance as this overbooking is unfortunately not a surprise on US domestic flights. And now we are here. Today we have been hanging out with our favorite Jon and our favorite farm animals in Tilden.

It has been fun to watch the kid’s reaction to being back here.  Both Kristian and I have been back a couple of times without the kids, but it has been more than 4 years since we lived here and Luca in particular do not remember much. But their faces light up as they start recognizing places and views. And I think we all agree now that if I actually happen to land a job here, they will still miss Michigan, but they would love to go back to California too.

onsdag den 14. december 2016

Baby, it's cold outside (and inside........)

Greetings from the southeastern corner of Michigan, where there can be no doubt that Christmas will indeed be white this year. Everything is covered in a glittering layer of snow, ice, and - ehm - salt:

Nope. A pile of snow does not magically disappear because you cover it in salt!

We are mostly staying inside except for all the many many many dog walks:

Yet, we still get to enjoy the fresh air from the draft by the patio door, and under Teresa's bed, and under the front door, and through the power outlet (no kidding) in Luca's room. On our to do list is to get some heavy duty masking tape and at least get some of it taped up. On the bright side is that we have become really good at actually using the fireplace which at least heats up the draft coming in though there.

It seems like we are in for some serious cold this weekend:

But after that? This is what awaits us. And it is no secret that I am very excited about our California trip this Christmas:

Kristian is already off from work. His department got quite a few extra vacation days, that they have to spend before the new year. And the crazy thing is, that he doesn't really seem to mind ;-) He even promised to do the gift shopping this year!!!!! Which I, of course, only think is fair after my exciting trip to the post office shipping parcels to Denmark (it tok an hour, cost 200$ and a significant rise in blood pressure. And I don't feel like talking about it anymore). The one obstacle we have not yet figured out is when to actually give presents this Christmas. We are not bringing them to CA with us, and Teresa is so busy, that she does not have a single night at home before we leave, which makes it a little hard to plan for a family dinner.

We have not done much this year besides decorating our "tomato cage christmas tree" and making some aebleskiver:

December kind of just crumbled on us this year. I have been extremely tired but has finally started to sleep better, which was highly needed. And Kristian has not exactly been high voltage energy either. But we hope that a dose of Bay Area sunshine and good company will do us good.

torsdag den 1. december 2016

December greetings

Wow. It's December 1'st! How did that happen?

We are on the other side on a Thanksgiving that was exactly as "hibernaty" as we needed. I don't know what's up with us right now, but we really cannot get beyond curling up at home. Unless "we" are Teresa that is, as she is in full swing with high school level synchronized swimming. As I write she is slowly waddling from the bathroom to her bedroom after 1 hour intensive core training followed by a few hours in the pool. Yikes.

We did get some stuff done over the Thanksgiving break though. We have eaten a lot of really  nice food. I have come to grow quite fond of the side dishes for a turkey dinner such as sweet potato casserole, and green bean casserole, and stuffing. Yum. And the best thing is that it tastes even better as leftovers. Double yum.

Friday morning I was woken up at 5:30 AM by a very persistent 14 year old who wanted to go black Friday shopping in Briarwood Mall. I had checked online for a few days and had not really seen any deals that made me want to get up that early, but it turned out to be quite rewarding as we got ourselves a 100$ coupon for JC Pennys for free. But it was the hardest 100$ I have spent in quite some time, as the list of items we were NOT allowed to buy was very very long. Eventually I ended up getting some new sports clothes and Teresa got herself a pair of winter boots.

And also I found this at Macy's:
My new favorite perfume. I just knew i would like it before I even tried it on.

We have decorated for Christmas. Sort of...... Since we are not home over the holidays we didn't want to get a tree. But most of our Christmas stuff is ornaments. What to do? Well, I remembered that we had a leftover tomato cage from the summer. Et viola:

and we won't even have to vacuum dry pine needles in January!

Ulrik is still in full swing with his ceramics classes. One of the assignments is to  make a tea set (apparently they used to make Chinese "spirit houses" until at student complained that it was too religious! sigh). So tea sets it is. Here's Ulrik's version of a cup: A head turned upside down:

And yes - of course you pour out of the nose of the upside down teapot head ;-)

Teresa's creativity is mainly taking place with the help of makeup. I got to be the victim Friday night: