Friday, November 20, 2015

Alameda Pumpkin Patch

I once read a quote that said, "Being an adult is the dumbest thing I've ever done." I think being an adult is associated with stress, responsibility, and bills. In my life, being an adult means having the freedom to control your own life, yet still doing childish things. So, we went to the Alameda Pumpkin Patch to act like youthful adults and play in the hay! 
We went with our friends Catherine and Kathryn (Catherine's husband was studying and Kathryn's husband was on a business trip). Rather than doing a girls night out, we had a sister wives situation and enjoyed the pumpkin patch.
The pumpkin patch was filled with all sorts of cool pumpkins. Green ones, white ones, multi-colored, spotted, bumpy, smooth. Seriously, every type of pumpkin was represented. Ok, not every type of pumpkin, but there was a large sampling. The pumpkins were crazy expensive, so we didn't buy any, but we had fun picking out the ones we would have bought had we brought tons of cash.
Kathryn brought her son, Regan, and he and I enjoyed a moment at the top of the haystack. He went through this phase (we try and act like we know stuff about kids since we hang out with him and live vicariously through his parents) where he pointed at everything and made a noise. I still couldn't quite understand what he was pointing at, and many times his points went in random directions, but having a kid in the pumpkin patch was a lot of fun. 
But then again, Caitlin was like a kid in the pumpkin patch. Ha ha! 
We also took this lovely little gem of a picture during our time at the patch. I love the perfect fall look. Being in the bay is perfect during the fall. June and July are chilly months, but September and October have perfect weather. We could walk around in shorts and a t-shirt. They call it Indian Summer, which is a term I wasn't familiar with, but I guess it is used all over the US as far back as the 1700s. I guess that shows my ignorance on US phrases. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Rodeo at the Cow Palace

Photo by Phil Doyle Photography
 I know what you're thinking, A Cow Palace in San Francisco? - but really, it's true! Never before did I think I would attend a rodeo in San Francisco, nor did I think people would actually attend, but the cowboys and vaqueros came out in drones... well maybe not in drones, but at least enough to halfway fill the stadium. 
We bought our tickets for half price on Groupon, and it was good that we did. As you can tell, our section was overflowing! Actually, we were pretty much alone. Since we're in San Francisco and not the country, a lot of people don't really attend the rodeo. There were even protesters outside of the Cow Palace that were talking about animal cruelty (made us feel slightly guilty). But the rodeo was great. Caitlin and I rode steers in the rodeo while we were at BYU-Idaho, and it is a crazy rush of adrenaline. 
This rodeo was no less of an adrenaline rush. There was bull riding, barrel racing, calf roping, and more. Growing up in Oregon lent me plenty of opportunities to see rodeos, but I never get tired of the amazing feats of daring from the men and women who compete. 
Photo by Phil Doyle Photography
We also really love the patriotism of the rodeo. My friends know that I'm not the most patriotic US citizen. Not that I hate the US, but I know we're not the best country in the world, and I actually think there is a lot we can learn from many of the other countries we deem "underdeveloped". With that being said, I really love seeing true acts of patriotism where we celebrate being members of one community with one common bond. The riders did an exceptional job during the Grand Entry of bringing in a spirit of patriotism and helping us enjoy the sentiment that prevails at every rodeo. During intermission there was a trick rider who did a few skits with his horse and read a poem about how great the US is. It is all very patriotic and garners a sense of pride that I have never felt in another country (and maybe because I don't quite understand the customs of other countries to the same level I do with our US customs). 
The rodeo lasted for about 2 hours, which was the perfect amount of time to enjoy a rodeo and not get bored. The rodeo clown was hilarious and kept us entertained between events, and the girl who sang the national anthem was phenomenal. Really, she was an amazing talent. I wish everyone in the city would have come to the rodeo with an open mind in order to experience this type of event and see how amazing the cowboys are that participate. Next year I'll have to get Caitlin a cowboy hat since she has been begging me for years. Maybe if she put it on her Christmas list my dad would fulfill her request. 

Vocal Few: The Dream Alive

We really love the band Vocal Few. We actually attended one of their concerts during their living room tour in 2012, and watched their concert from the comfort of our bed for Valentine's day in 2014. In case you don't want to read my previous blog posts where I describe this duo, I'll give you a brief rundown here. 

Matt and Kristie MacDonald are a married couple living in Seattle, Washington. They originally started recording music together as a way to raise money for their unborn child. Their music is inspiring and has lyrics that have a myriad of meanings depending on when you listen to it. Some of my favorites are Wild I Am, Mexico, and Every Second.   
We really love them, but we're not crazy or obsessed by any means (haven't reached groupie status yet). I think one of the reasons their music resonates with us is the fact that they are a married couple, they have a fun dynamic between the two of them, and they have religious undertones to their music (one reason I also love Mumford and Sons). 

They do living room tours every few years (normally to launch a new EP) and this year we were able to catch them in the bay area. We drove about an hour and a half down to where they were going to perform to a lovely home in Turlock, California. They played a sampling of songs from their two previous EPs, some newly recorded music (the tour was before their EP came out so these were nice sneak peeks), and a few covers of the Classic Crime songs (Matt's other band). 
We got some great seats in the living room on a couch (most people were on plastic or dining chairs. And had a blast during the performance. Things got a little weird during the Q&A portion with people asking super deep and personal religious questions to Matt and Kristie, but other than that, the concert was flawless.
We don't go to many concerts, mainly because we don't want to spend tons of money to see a band perform live, but we LOVE living room tours and wish more artists that we liked would come to the bay for a decent price. I'm still super mad that back in 2009 I didn't go see Adele in a small concert in Salt Lake (I couldn't convince anyone to go with me, even though tickets were only $15). Hopefully soon there will be another great concert that we can enjoy here in the bay on a budget.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

City Explorers: San Francisco Tourist Addition

San Francisco is such a touristy city, and I understand why tourists love coming here. Not only can you find places featured in Full House, the Princess Diaries, and Inside Out, but you have such a fun blend of diverse people who make touring the city an adventure. 
Caitlin and I live on an island (or what we will always refer to as an island) off the coast of Oakland. You can get here by taking a tunnel (tube), bridge, or ferry. When we decided to go out and explore some of the tourist traps of San Francisco, we opted for the ferry.
The day we set sail was absolutely gorgeous, albeit a little chilly for a boat ride. The fog rolls in in the morning, but the chill sometimes lingers until noon. The wind also didn't help, but we managed to get a few pictures of us with a backdrop of the city before the wind got too crazy.
Since we're still basically tourists here (you're a tourist until you say you are from somewhere. We are currently just living in the area) we had to do some of the great touristy things we didn't do the last time we were in San Francisco. We went down to Fisherman's Wharf and enjoyed views of Alcatraz and sea lions. The ferry drops you off at a super convenient location so you have access to all the great things down by the wharf. 
San Francisco is famous for its sourdough bread, so we grabbed a loaf to snack on as we made our way to Ghirardelli Square for a sampling of chocolate. Ghirardelli made San Francisco home after successfully selling chocolates in Peru. Maybe he thought he could make more money in the US. We love going into the store and getting samples of chocolate. The ice cream is also amazing, but a little pricey for a tourist on a budget.
We walked all along the Aquatic Park Pier and watched people fish, run, and crab (is that a verb). We are walkers and sometimes just enjoy walking around cities. We don't even have to do anything, we just like walking. That is a little different than some tourists who take cabs or segways (they look like fun, but I'd be embarrassed to wear the vests and helmets some companies require).
We also stopped into the Maritime Museum, which I found exciting but we didn't dedicate very much time to it. We made the mistake of going on Labor Day so the crowds were starting to get think. I'm not a very big fan of crowds. Get there early, leave early - that's my motto. We took an early morning ferry and were done by noon (about the time most tourists begin their days), which means we were leaving as the crowds were pouring into the wharf.
So then we took the relaxing ferry ride back to our island home. It is funny going to visit the city you work in, but when you act like a tourist it is so much more fun. My version of San Francisco (the streets not cleaned up for tourism) are filled with smells of urine and pigeons. I definitely like the sights and smells of touristy San Francisco so much more.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Oakland A's

We are not really big baseball fans, although we did go to a Red Sox game in Boston and a Padres game in San Diego. Really what we enjoy about baseball is the atmosphere and the friends. We have made some amazing friends while living in Alameda and a group of us decided to go to an Oakland A's game since the tickets are only $15 each. Granted, we are in the highest section, but when you're not really paying attention to the game, why does it matter how close you sit?
We went with our friends James and Kathryn Richardson, and Catherine Sebreros. Yes, in our group of friends there are two Catherine/Kathryns and a Caitlin. We have to make everything more difficult. Catherine's husband, Tim, is in dental school so he couldn't make it to the game, but she is used to being the fifth wheel of our group. :) Moving somewhere new is always a little tricky since sometimes it takes a while to make friends, if you ever even make friends. But we are SUPER lucky at the friends we have made while here. They are so much fun and are always down for trying something new. I don't know if any of them were super into the game either, but it is always more fun doing things with your friends than doing things alone. 
We packed some hot chocolate and blankets and headed up to the top box for our exciting game against the Houston Astros? Hmm... maybe it was the Texas Rangers. I don't actually remember (seriously, a riveting game) but I have a feeling they were from Texas. The A's lost, but that's ok. They give us a team to root for. I prefer baseball to football, so I doubt we'll go to any Raider's games, so the A's will be our team while we are living here. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Summertime Leisures

During the summer we tried to stay busy while settling into our new home. Usually we like to travel during the summer, and this was the first time we were going to be in one place the entire time, so we made the best by enjoying some new and some old leisure activities. 
When we were first married we tried our hand at gardening. It was a complete failure. Turns out, Utah still has freezing temperatures in April. So all of our plants perished in the cold. But here in the Bay, we knew we could keep plants away from the cold, so we tried a balcony garden again. And we were SUCCESSFUL! Caitlin tended to our plants every single day. She would send me emails or texts while I was at work to tell me how our plants were doing. We got a ton of tomatoes and red and green peppers. It was so exciting! We also had cucumber and zucchini plants, but we also had a squirrel problem, so all the zucchini and cucumber were eaten off of the plants. I don't know why the squirrel didn't have an appetite for tomatoes or peppers, but we're lucky he was picky cause we would have cried had all our food gone to the squirrels. 
On July 31 we celebrated Harry Potter's birthday by experimenting with our Harry Potter Cookbook. We made Hagrid's Rock Cakes and a couple of bottles of Butterbeer. It was so much fun. We love experimenting and cooking different things. And of course, these treats had to be coupled with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - one of the best Harry Potter movies. 
And of course, no summer would be complete without binge watching Friends and making stuff for Caitlin's Etsy shop. We spent so long this summer making new things, experimenting with necklaces, bracelets, scarfs, and more - but we still haven't sold anything. It has been kind of frustrating that we've put in so much effort and haven't seen any kind of rewards out of it. But it has been really fun spending time together making things, and so even if we don't sell anything, we will still have the memories of the times we spent together being creative. :)

Exploring Local Graves

One of the best things about moving to a new area is being able to experience everything for the first time. You are constantly discovering new areas to explore, fun restaurants, beautiful scenery, and of course: graveyards. Yes, we love exploring cemeteries. It may be because our last name is Graves, but really I think it is more so due to the architecture and history of cemeteries that draws us to visit them. 
The Mountain View Cemetery has so many incredible mausoleums and great historical gems.  There is a strip of mausoleums called "Millionaires Row" that has some of the biggest and intricate structures in the humungous cemetery. The 226 acre cemetery is too much to visit in one Sunday afternoon stroll, and we are excited to go back and visit during another season. During Christmas, there are decorations that are a fun twist on traditional Christmas lights, so maybe we'll have another adventure then. 

Summer Swimming

Living so close to our niece and nephew has been great. We get to have a fun time babysitting them, and we especially love it when we get to spend time at the pool together! The summer in San Francisco doesn't get super warm, so anytime the temperature crept up, we headed outside to soak up the sun. 
Both Ethan and Elaine requested time at the pool, which was so funny since we were encouraging them to come with us to the beach. But to them, the pool was way more enticing. But in actuality, Ethan had no desire to go swimming. In fact, he spent most of his time playing on the chairs at the pool instead of in the water. 
Ethan quickly discovered that the chairs were basically just mini slides. He was freezing as well, so we had to wrap up in some towels and get directly in the sun. 
Elaine had another idea to soak up the sun. She would lay right next to the pool with her face on the cement. People would walk by and stare at her, but she didn't mind. She said it was better than the chairs. Ha! 
Elaine also liked to play games in the pool (what 4 year old doesn't?) so we would jump in at the same time, and I would swim as far as I could from her and she would catch up to me and hitch a ride back to the side of the pool. Even though she is tiny, this little game was exhausting. Seriously. I'm a terrible swimmer and could only do this half a dozen times before I called it quits. Kids have such stamina, it's amazing.
 But even though kids have incredible stamina, once the shade swoops in, everyone starts feeling the cold. So we went back to our apartment to get warm and eat some fresh summer fruits. Babysitting is so much fun, and we're so glad to live close enough to enjoy these little ones.