Sunday, December 18, 2016

Not quite home for the holidays

It's one week before Christmas and while I am usually at home with my family and Charlie, this year I'm in SF getting ready to work through Christmas and New Year's Eve. While I wasn't able to go home for Christmas break this year, I did have a 2 week vacation over Thanksgiving where we went to Cancun of all places, and then I stopped back home in Maryland for a few days before going up to NYC to visit some friends. And even though I'm not home for the holidays this year, I'm currently watching my favorite holiday movie, Love Actually in my new house, surrounded by roommates and friends, feeling the Christmas spirit after all. 

For Thanksgiving break, we took a family trip to Cancun. I had done the whole Cancun spring break thing in senior year of college, and so this trip was more of a sightseeing, relaxing trip with the family. One day, we took a day trip to Chitchen Itza, one of the architectural centers of the Mayan culture located about 2.5 hours from our resort. 

Our excuse for the trip was my dad's 60th birthday, but we just used it as an excuse to get together when I have time off. 

My mother, the human hat rack 

After baking our butts off in the heat, we headed to a cenote to cool off. The Cancun area is known for these amazing underground pools where you can dive and swim around.

 Getting read to descend the stairs and jump into the pool
 Me jumping off the 20 foot landing! 

At the end of our Chitzen Itza day, we stopped in a town square for coconut ice cream and elotes (Mexican corn smothered with cayenne butter and cotija cheese) where we bumped into these adorable dogs

Our family's go to vacation is a cruise, but this time we decided to try something different and stay in one place at an all inclusive resort. It was definitely a different way to vacation and nice that we could walk around the expansive premises of our resort instead of being confined to a moving ship. Just like on a cruise there are different cuisines you can try every night, there were similar options at the resort. First night was at a Japanese restaurant, where I actually had really good salmon nigiri. 

Before we knew it, it was our last day in Cancun so we decided to just take it easy and relax by the pool. 

 And use my waterproof case to capture pics of us frolicking in the ocean. 

On our last night, we went to the fancy french restaurant on the resort and dressed up in our vacation best. 

 And then it was time to leave! But not before catching the sunrise in Cancun one last time.

 My mother practicing taichi and yelling at my father to take pics of her. 

And then we were off! We all took different flights back to our respective destinations -- my parents and I had different flights back to Maryland, but my sister had to go back to work. And so by the time my dad's actual birthday came around, she was in St. Louis, so we took our first virtual family selfie! 

After my dad's birthday, I took the bus up to New York to visit some friends who had just relocated and started grad school there. J took me to a ramen bar where we got all this food for $20. I wish we had that kind of cheap food in SF! You could probably get half of this for $20. Throughout the trip, I just wanted to eat at places I couldn't have in SF.
After dinner I forced J to uber to a insta friendly dessert place where we could get matcha froyo in FISH! And it actually tasted quite good! I think the trend started in Japan, but after that only in certain cities like NYC and Oakland (ironically it's easier for me to visit NYC than to make the trek to Oakland)
The next morning J played hooky for me and took me to Russ and Daughter's, a new york bagel shop. You just can't get a proper New York bagel in California!

Then I made him go uptown with me so we could check our the Christmas tree at Rockefeller plaza, which was very underwhelming in the daytime.

So then we tried on merchandise at the NBC store.
 We walked around the Bryant Park Christmas market (the "prettier" one).

 They made me a beet instead of a heart :( At Bluestone Lane Coffee

 The ugliest but tastiest spicy noodles at Xi'an famous foods (#onlyinNYC)
For dinner, I met up with some high school/med school friends. I was too busy taking pictures of food to take pictures of my friends! Again, I wanted something that I could only get in New York, so we went to Burger & Lobster, a London based restaurant where you can either get a whole lobster, a burger, or a lobster roll for only $20!
 And then of course I yoyo-ed out. To be fair, this was on the taxi ride from happy hour to dinner (we didn't have dinner at 6:30)--I didn't go home at 6:33pm!
All in all, it was great to go back to the East Coast and see my family and friends again, after some R&R in Mexico. And even though I don't get to go home for Christmas, I got to have a two week break for Thanksgiving, so I'm excited to spend Christmas in SF for the first time!

Monday, December 5, 2016

We moved!

Surprise! I didn't mean for so much time to pass before revealing my big news, but before I knew it, the moving date had come and gone and we are settled into our new home in San Francisco.

My new room 

Our moving story was a pretty interesting one. Moving wasn't even on my radar (see this post) when my roommates went to a couple of open houses one weekend. I was working the whole weekend, so wasn't able to go with them. They texted me about a house they were seeing but I was busy so we didn't get to talk about this house until a few days later. The house was huge--4 separate rooms, with an additional open kitchen/dining room area, with laundry, a backyard, and a garage. It was double the square footage of our cozy Lake Street apartment and it looked like a family home meant for a family of 4!

My sister wanted us to apply for the house just to see if we could get it. And halfhearted, I agreed, thinking I could postpone seriously thinking about it until/if we got it. The SF rental market is so competitive that I doubted we would even qualify. But then just 1.5 days later, we learned we actually got the apartment! And then it was real.

I was the stalwart opponent to moving. I loved our Lake Street apartment--even though it "lacked soul" when we first moved in, we made it so cozy that sometimes I didn't even leave the living room for the whole day, only going back to my room to sleep. I loved the location too, one block away from the Presidio trails, a few more blocks to Baker Beach and 1 mile away from the Golden Gate Bridge, which made for amazing views and sunsets in our backyard. It was also convenient to work, only 15-20 minutes on the 1 bus for me, and so so quiet. But due to its quiet location, it was also far. Far from city life in San Francisco, meant more for families and retirees than the three young women we were. I always felt like I had to defend myself regarding where I lived, as I felt the quiet judgement of people when I told them I lived in the Richmond. In SF, the neighborhood conjures up connotations of dim sum, old Asian women, Russian bakeries, and families/children, all of which were fine by me. But our main reason for moving ended up being that we didn't quite feel like we were living in San Francisco. We wanted to be closer to the city, the action (even though we were only 20 minutes from downtown), and walk to hip restaurants/bars, and the new house offered that.

We slept on the decision, and decided to take the plunge. A few hours later, they sent us the documents, and as the amount of the security deposit and moving costs became real, we had another long conversation about it, where we actually reversed our decision and decided to stay. The new rent increase was too much, the cost of parking was hundreds of dollars more, and we would have to buy so much more furniture to fill the new space. We were filled with guilt as we emailed the realtors the next morning that we actually couldn't sign the lease.

To our surprise, they emailed us back saying that they really wanted us as tenants, and that they were willing to lower the rent by $200 a month, and throw in parking for free! We were shocked. This never happens in San Francisco, where it was typical for tenants to enter a bidding war, often offering over asking price to lock down an apartment. We couldn't turn down this new offer, as this made some of our concerns moot, and so we finally signed, just 4 days after our application. And by Friday of that week, it was officially official, we were moving!

Sad about leaving Lake Street

Living room #1/study

We got that couch for $100 on craigslist! 
 Living room #2
Kitchen with craigslisted kitchen island

After I got over the shock that I was actually leaving Lake Street (I was so content with it that I expected I would be there for the rest of residency), the rest of the move was easy (though parting with 1.5x rent for the security deposit was painful). We packed, we went craigslisting for furniture (saving 2/3 of the in-store cost!), and we hired movers for the big day. The day went off smoothly and we were done in about 5 hours.

And now I'm finally living in it and it's definitely a different feeling. The space is more separated, so we definitely get more privacy, and I'm ok with that. I've only been here for about 2 nights (since I left for vacation the day after I moved in) but so far it feels like real family house. I've been walking to work, albeit it's a satellite campus and not the main one, and the walk only takes 20 minutes and is pleasant. There's a Safeway 2 blocks away. I joined NextDoor in my new hood. I'm a little nostalgic for the old place but also excited for the new experiences to come.

Update: The past few weeks were filled with holiday housewarming parties and dinner parties galore! I love hosting parties so it was a great excuse for me to get my friends and colleagues over for the holidays.
Holiday Housewarming Party #1

Holiday party #2! 
Some of my favorite people visiting SF :)