California

My recollections of the two weeks in California between New York and Morocco.

The day I got back from New York I was pretty tired, but I managed to keep myself awake just long enough to eat dinner and unzip all of my suitcases in preparation of all the laundry I needed to do. On Sunday I slept in, began my laundry, and watched a few hours of tv before I was incredibly bored.

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One of the first things I did when I got home was make fresh, healthy meals.

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Green smoothies- yum 🙂

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The finished product- broccoli, carrot, zucchini, spinach pancakes.

Once I had finished my last blog entry about New York City, I decided to tidy up my room in anticipation of alternating houses every few days before leaving for Morocco. I figured that I needed to know where things were, and I would also need space to dump my luggage and various piles of clothes, which would alternate depending on whether I was at my mom’s house, my dad’s house, my grandma’s house, or sleeping over with friends.

Thus began the great room cleaning of the summer of 2015. Wanting to put away some of the items in my suitcases lead to wanting to put clothes in my drawers, which lead to wanting to clean out the drawers in my dresser which I have been using to store miscellaneous “stuff” since late high school. This lead to needing to have space (if only temporarily) on top of my dresser and my desk, which meant I needed room in my closet for a box of photo frames and on my bookshelf for a few piles of books. Which meant I needed to clean out a few shelves on my closet and assemble a few extra shelves on my bookshelf, but first I had to find room in my closet for the boxes of bows, ribbons and wrapping supplies currently sitting on and in the nook near my bookshelf. Making room for anything in general in my closet meant having to get rid of the boxes of old clothes covered in dust which I had not, for the most part, touched since I left for college.

At some point in this process I realized I might as well just clean every part of my room, so I began pulling stuff out of drawers, off shelves, and out from all the various places I stuffed whatever I didn’t want to see on a regular basis. Anything I hadn’t used in the last six months (other than special mementos such as photo albums, awards, and my prized glass chess set) got put in boxes or trash bags and thrown away or donated. I couldn’t even count the number of bags and boxes which accumulated in the living room before I got rid of them, but I guess that it was roughly 10 bags and 7 boxes. The final touch was to organize my bookshelf and remove almost all the photos and posters on my walls until there were two hanging photographs which are relatively neutral. The entire process took me a day and half, and once I was finished my room was extremely empty. Here are a few pictures.

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On Tuesday evening my dad, sister and I had dinner with Jon, Rosella, Jessica, Pauline and Dwayne. We all went out to Chinese food downtown Mountain View. It was great catching up with (almost) everyone while we were in town before we all go off on our next trips.

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On Wednesday, my mom, sister and grandmother and I went out to lunch at Left Bank on Santana Row and then went shoe shopping at DSW to commemorate Maddie’s last day in California before leaving for college. I was a nice afternoon, and I got some great new sneakers for my trip to Morocco. It was sad to say goodbye to her, but I have confidence that she is already loving her classes, new friends, and living away from home.

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Salad for lunch at Left Bank.

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Money well spent- these shoes feel like walking on a cloud.

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I spent Wednesday evening through Saturday morning with my grandmother. During my time with my grandmother we went spent time at her house and went out for food, to a few bookstores, and to the park. One evening we went out to dinner at a fantastic Mediterranean restaurant called Dish Dash  in Sunnyvale and had two very unique, flavorful dishes, one a variety of vegetables with rice and a sweet tomato sauce, and the other soft chunks of lamb mixed with a hardy grain sitting in an intense, savory yogurt curry sauce. We had a leisurely meal sitting on the sidewalk of Murphy Avenue and then roamed an independent bookstore for an hour after dinner before going home. This was not the first bookstore we had been in that day. Earlier that afternoon we had browsed Book Sellers downtown Mountain View before stopping in a new French bakery and indulging in a small bite of chocolate and an apple beignet.

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Veggies over rice with tomato curry.

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Stars hanging from the ceiling of Dish Dash.

 

While I was with my grandmother we also baked two dishes. The first was a Lebanese semolina cake called namoura that I had in a Middle Eastern bakery in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. I was determined to recreate it, and my grandmother and I found a recipe online that seemed rather feasible, as it excluded the usually recommended rose water and orange blossom water. We bought the course semolina flour from a Middle Eastern bakery not too far from her house, and the rest of the ingredients were simple: eggs, sugar, and water. It was relatively easy to put the entire dish together, although it ended up making more than we had originally anticipated. Though the dish did not quite turn out like I had hoped, it was fun and easy to make, and it tastes pretty good, regardless of whether it exactly resembles the traditional texture and flavors of namoura. Everyone who has tried it thinks it tastes like honey in cornbread, and that has generally been interpreted as close to healthy, but it’s really not- it has at least six cups of sugar in the entire recipe. It’s pretty decent plain, but even better if you heat it up with some applesauce! Below are pictures of the namoura I had in New York, what it usually looks like, and how ours turned out.

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Namoura in New York City.

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What namoura typically looks like.

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Our namoura.

My grandmother and I also made a modified version of chocolate chip cookies. We altered the sugar (only using brown sugar), baking soda and powder (only using baking powder), and froze the dough for 24 hours. In addition to that, I whipped the sugar, butter, and eggs together for a longer period of time than normal, until the mixture was light and fluffy. This meant the dough lacked the traditional density of chocolate chip cookies, and the baked cookies were light and airy. I don’t think they ended up tasting as good as our usual chocolate chip cookies, but it was a fun experiment, and the dough tasted great!

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One afternoon, my grandmother and I walked to De Anza Park, just a few blocks from her house, to enjoy the beautiful afternoon. It brought back a lot of fond childhood memories, from climbing on the monkey bars until I had blisters to the tradition of getting a Tweety Pop when the ice cream truck came. The park has been updated since my last visit, and it was interesting to reminisce about what it used to look like. This afternoon added to my overwhelming feeling of being an adult that has accumulated this summer. I didn’t fit on any of the play structures, and my hips were sore after sitting in the swing for ten minutes because they are too wide. The only thing in the park I could still use was the see-saw, and even though it wasn’t too small for me, my entire body felt stiff when I got off. I preferred sitting on the park bench and watching the goings-on with my grandmother over playing on the scalding metal structures in the hot sand bed.

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Kids playing on the swings at the park.

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Me trying to fit onto the moving animal toy at the park.

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On Saturday afternoon, after coming home from my grandmother’s house, I met up with a few friends from high school. We walked around downtown, did a little browsing in Therapy, and then went to eat at Rick’s Cafe. I had a mushroom sandwich, while my friends indulged in French toast platters for brunch. After walking Emily home my friend Karen and I headed in the direction of Almond Elementary School. We sat on the swings and talked for a while, until my hips were sore and my shoulders were sunburned. It was a beautiful afternoon, and we allowed ourselves to linger in the familiar place as the sun sunk lower in the sky, sending long shadows of the scattered basketball hoops sprawling across the hot pavement; like strips of film displaying blurry, cherished memories on the floor of a musty old projection room. I was physically and emotionally depleted once we finally departed the elementary school grounds, filled with an overwhelming feeling that I was crossing a monumental, yet undefined threshold in the haze of the late summer evening.

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Karen and Emily with their plates of French toast at Rick’s Cafe downtown Los Altos.

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Karen and Emily outside the new hotel downtown Los Altos.

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On Sunday I slept in and Mom took me to Alexander’s Patisserie to get a pastry for breakfast. I got a canelle and ended up saving mine for a snack after the nap I took not long after we got home. I have been sleeping a lot lately in anticipation of the exciting, and likely exhausting, semester I will be having.

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Chocolates at Alexander’s Patisserie downtown Mountain View.

In the afternoon my friend Emily (from college, not high school) picked me and a few other friends up for a concert at Shoreline. I wasn’t anticipating it to be as enjoyable as it was, but I really liked both the experience of being and the actual artists who were performing. I was most thrilled with the main act, Kelly Clarkson. She is a good singer, but I was never a huge fan of hers, and though I thought it would be nostalgic to hear some of her old music again, (which I actually know), initially I wasn’t overly excited to see her concert. Though she did sing the songs I had hoped she would, she was the most amazing when she wasn’t singing. She has absolutely no filter on stage, and spoke, unscripted, to the audience about body positivity, her family history, and the importance of having a loving partner. I was astounded by her bravery and the beauty of watching her bare her soul for strangers, both in her words and lyrics. I, the eternal pessimist, never believe in the supposed authenticity of celebrities, but I am a true convert. I have faith that Kelly Clarkson is a wonderful human being, regardless of her fame or music career.

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All of us girl friends picnicing at Shoreline for the Kelly Clarkson concert.

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A very tired Laura after the concert.

After the concert we dropped our friend Haley off at her house and then Emily drove me and Laura to her house to spend the night. We stayed up for two or three hours talking, eating popcorn and exchanging birthday/going away gifts, and then we passed out and slept until late morning. We lazily woke each other up, made pancakes slowly while munching on fruit, chips and dry cereal, and then got dressed and ready to go. Once we arrived at the mall we parked in front of the ice rink and were delighted to discover that it was practically empty. We skated around for almost two hours, and had the rink practically to ourselves. I was very proud of Laura, as she hadn’t been ice skating in years and was a complete natural! She managed to stay on her feet and glide along at my speed for the entire time, and only slipped one time! When the rink was getting close to closing, the group collectively decided that our feet were sufficiently numb and that we needed to thaw out. We took our skates off, sighing in relief as our feet breathed some fresh air, peeled off our heavy layers, and sauntered around the mall in search of a snack. Though we found food, our time in the mall was short-lived, as most of its stores are out of business and the windows are boarded up. All but one of the three original department stores attached to the mall has closed down, and you are lucky if you see ten people in the entire mall. We left not long after finishing our food.

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My skating buddies.

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A very happy Emily enjoying the empty ice.

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Me and Emily goofing around on the ice while Laura took pictures.

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Emily and Laura on the ice!

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Emily and Laura at Vallco Mall in Cupertino.

On Monday night my mom and I went out to dinner at Bella Vita, my favorite Italian restaurant downtown Los Altos. We ordered grilled salmon and a pizza which we mostly took to go after finishing off a basket of fresh baked bread and olive oil. We had a really pleasant night. I’m always happy when I get to go out to Bella Vita because I’ve been going there since I was a kid and it is such a quaint little spot which has been around for as long as I can remember.

On Tuesday my grandmother picked me up from my dentist appointment and we went out to eat at the Veggie Grill in the shopping center around the corner from my house. Even though we ordered our favorite dish, The Bombay Bowl, we also tried something new. It wasn’t as spectacular as we hoped, but we both enjoyed the curry sauce in our favorite bowl. After a delicious lunch we stopped by the Whole Foods across the street to try the fresh churned ice cream at their dessert bar. It was fun to watch the machines spin and the clouds of dry ice fog float over the frozen bowls. We got a small cup of chocolate ice cream made with TCHO chocolate which was creamy and refreshing.

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The Harvest Bowl from the Veggie Grill.

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Dry ice streaming out of the ice cream churner.

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A Whole Foods employee operating the ice cream making machine.

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TCHO chocolate ice cream.

On Tuesday afternoon my dad picked me up and we drove to his house in Aptos. I took a nap once we were home and then we went out to dinner in Capitola. We walked down the pier while we waited to get a table outside at the Paradise Beach Grille, our favorite restaurant. Even though it was a breezy night, it was still nice to sit on the patio next to the ocean. I had bacon-wrapped scallops over pesto fettuccine- it was delicious.

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My dinner at the Paradise Beach Grille in Capitola.

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The Capitola waterfront.

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Rental vacation homes at the Venetian Resort in Capitola.

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A couple strolling along the Capitola Wharf at sunset.

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Gorgeous Capitola.

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Venetian Row in Capitola.

On Wednesday I had breakfast before Dad and I went to the bank to set up my travel debit card, and then we went out to lunch at Aptos St. BBQ. That afternoon the weather was perfect, so we went for a lunch walk on the beach and then I showered, had a nap, and got up for dinner. After dinner we went on a stroll around the neighborhood to watch the sunset.

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Pulled pork sandwich from Aptos St. BBQ.

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Gigantic smokers in the parking lot of Aptos St. BBQ.

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Dad admiring a car in the parking lot of Hidden Beach in Aptos.

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Dad and me on our afternoon walk on the beach.

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Sunset over the Cement Boat at Rio Del Mar Bridge.

On Thursday Dad and I went for a walk on the Santa Cruz Pier before having lunch at a new restaurant by the Boardwalk. After lunch we went home, packed up, and then stopped for ice cream at Marianne’s before driving back to the Valley. When I got home I began unpacking my things in preparation to pack for Morocco. When Mom got home we went out to pick up dinner and then I took Carlie, my grandmother’s friend’s dog for a walk before showering, doing laundry, and finally eating dinner.

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The beach next to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

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The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

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The beach and the Boardwalk as seen from the Santa Cruz Pier.

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West Cliff as seen from the Santa Cruz Pier.

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The beaches of East Cliff, Santa Cruz as seen from the Santa Cruz Pier.

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The sea lions under the Santa Cruz Pier.

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A sea lion lounging under the Santa Cruz Pier.

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Marianne’s Ice Crean Shop in Aptos.

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The Rio Del Mar Pier and the Cement Boat.

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A lovely afternoon spent strolling along the pier.

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