Life

I was going to write a Q1 update, but life got away from me, and here we are in mid-May. 0_0

January

I don’t remember too much about January. January was full of rain, and yoga. I went to the annual David Bowie birthday party / drag show at The Chapel, and as usual I left feeling inspired and hopeful about the new year.

Another semi-tradition… I was doing Yoga With Adriene’s annual 30 days of yoga, and was vegetarian for the month, which led to me eating such gems as this BBQ jackfruit from SouthPaw. It’s not “similar to pulled pork” at all, but was still delish.

Umm what else…? The freezer fan broke, creating a loud and terrible buzzing sound that slowly drove me insane. I think my roommates handled it better because their bedroom was not sharing a wall with the offending kitchen appliance. After having our handyman inspect it, find nothing, and declare that the noise must have been from a handful of frozen peas that got caught in the fan area, I got frustrated and fixed it myself. I’m pleased with myself now, but that was a stressful week.

February

Ryan started getting really skilled with the sous vide. His ribs and steak have come out perfect every time. The vegetables on the other hand… have been a waste of electricity.

A killer tiki bar opened near my house.

My company has a Mexico City office. For a while I’d been joking with coworkers about taking a group trip there, and in February I organized it and made it happen! Mexico City was wonderful as always, and it was great meeting my Mexican coworkers in person. Surprisingly, they were very similar to their video/chat personas. It gives me hope for the future of remote work.

March

After Ryan’s near drowning at the Yuba last year, I was pushing really hard for formal swim lessons. We finally signed up for a pack of 8 classes at our local Y, and it came at the right time, to be honest. Work became really shitty and stressful… then my friend died, and that was a bit of a breaking point. I started swimming hard, 2-4 times per week, and it really helped clear my head. My hair on the other hand, has become a disgusting brittle mess. I figure it’s worth it.

We celebrated our 9th anniversary, crazy.

April

Ryan was in New York for work around his birthday, and decided to stay in Philadelphia afterwards to spend time with friends and family. I flew out to join him, since it was a good chance to poke around and get a feel for the neighborhoods and the housing stock, just an exploratory mission to see if owning a house in Philadelphia was doable.

A realtor showed us around, and combined with a few open houses, we ended up seeing like 25 houses in 4 days. It became very clear over the course of the visit where we ought to live. Unfortunately, the more houses that we saw, the more evident it became that we’d definitely have to make some compromises.

One strong contender had a back “yard” that looked into a Dunkin Donuts/Liquor shop parking lot. Now is that a plus or a minus? Torn.

One house had everything Ryan wanted (finished basement, a yard, newer construction in a hip walkable neighborhood), and almost everything I wanted (safe neighborhood, lots of space and light, not that terrible skinny Philadelphia home layout, pet friendly).

Ryan made up his mind to make an offer and then it all happened so fast. He put in the offer the night before we left for home, and after a few back and forths, our offer was accepted, right as we boarded the flight back to SF! Under asking price! Totally unlike the Bay, it was wild.

Closing is in two weeks, when we’ll head out to pick up the keys to the house. Our actual move date is still up in the air, but would probably be July. Surreal!

May

And here we are in May! I snuck in a quick trip up to Washington to see Jill and Brett.

In the next 6 weeks, there’s more travel planned. Going to see my mom, then head out to Philly to get the house keys, then Providence for a wedding, then Philly again finally. Poor Ryan has a few extra trips on top of that.

So I guess things are going to still be stressful, but at least it’s all for a good reason. Anyways, that’s it for now!

Life

So, I never thought I’d write this, but my friend Tristan died. About a week ago – on a Friday morning – Ryan walked in to the living room bearing the bad news, after seeing a few articles in the SF Chronicle and TechCrunch. He was in the tech community, so I suppose his death was tech news.

Tristan was my oldest friend, I’ve known him since I was maybe five. His parents owned a futon shop in the same quiet strip mall where my parent’s Chinese restaurant was located. We spent many long summer afternoons running around causing all sorts of trouble. Catching frogs, playing with his mice and monitor lizard, running toy cars up and down the sidewalk, camping out in the Drug Emporium and laughing at the ‘adult’ aisle. So many kid memories.

I don’t remember when, but eventually his family moved away to New York, and I remember being sad. Years passed, and every now and then I would wonder about him. This was before Facebook, so I kept wondering.

One day when I was living in San Francisco (about a decade ago), I got a Facebook message. It was from Tristan! He had looked me up. And what a coincidence, we both lived in the bay area! And he had co-founded Square… what? I was shocked by the randomness of it, but proud of his success. And so our friendship continued, but this time as adults.

Our adult friendship was a little bit different. Because as adults, there’s just so many other responsibilities vying for your attention. Work, home, family, and in his case majorly… relationships.

Many times I would try to hang out with him, and it would have to be worked around his significant other’s schedule. I remember one time we had finally nailed down plans, and he ended up cancelling on me that night because his girlfriend’s plans fell through. What the hell, man? You live together, you’ll see her at home!

We had good times together, but over the years his romantic drama became more intense. There were breakups and engagements (3). Then breakups again. I always knew to reach out when he was in a breakup. That was when he for sure would be ‘available.’ Kind of reminds me of the lyrics to the Smiths song “Hold on to your friends.”

But now you only call me
When you’re feeling depressed
When you feel happy I’m
So far from your mind
My patience is stretched
My loyalty vexed
Oh, you’re losing all of your friends

Then his life took a different turn when the money came in from Square. He stopped working a nine to five and started doing… what? I’m not really sure. Travel, school, photography, a number of different things. It was a lot harder to relate to him, but I was glad that he had this unique opportunity. I was jealous, what can I say?

The last few years were bad. He got into another romantic relationship. All of his relationships were up and down, but this one made being friends with Tristan harder than ever. I won’t go into details, but there was a specific moment that my heart just broke and I’d had enough.

I decided right then and there that I had to let this friendship go. I wasn’t going to kill it, but I wasn’t going to nurture it anymore. It hurt too much to be disappointed every time.

So from then on, I mostly observed from a distance. I saw him have a daughter. I saw him share his struggles with addiction. I saw him move to Los Angeles. About a year ago I remember unfollowing him on Facebook, and not responding to a text message from him informing me of his new phone number. I just had to take a break from it all.

Now that he’s gone, I feel incredibly guilty. I somehow mucked my way through the workday that Friday, and at the end of it I dragged Ryan to Last Rites, our neighborhood tiki bar, to pour one out for Tristan. I hate that the last memories that I have of him are of him going through hard times. I hate that I couldn’t help him more, and I hate that his life became a weird oddity, almost a running joke between me and my friends. Like hey, what crazy shit has your friend been up to?

I got really drunk at the tiki bar, but I did remember some good things. I remembered how funny, and present and alive my friend always was. He was so creative and geeky. He was a mega Apple fanboy, and I remember visiting his apartment, and seeing every model of i-anything decorating his room. He was very affectionate and sentimental. Sometimes he’d send me a text saying “Hey! I’m passing your favorite Starbucks, thinking of you!”. I don’t even really go to that Starbucks that much, it was just something that I’d said offhand one time when we were walking down Market Street, but he remembered. I still have a weird plastic friendship bracelet he made for me at summer camp, which is stored in a memory box in my room. Reminds me of better times. There was a reason that I tried to stay friends with him, even though it wasn’t easy to maintain.

Thankfully, I do have at least one adult memory of him that is pure and uncomplicatedly happy… One perfect day biking in the rain out to Sausalito. I even blogged about it. It was nearly 8 years ago to the day.

I’m so sad about losing you buddy, but I’ll try to keep this day and this version of you in my mind. You will be missed.

Craft, Health

I almost titled this post “Making Kombucha is Gross.” Because it is. So look away now if you don’t want to see giant moldy looking hocky pucks of bacteria! Or to be precise, the SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast).

I’m a big drinker of kombucha, and it’s not a cheap habit, coming in at about 3.50 per 16 oz bottle. The fermentation is supposed to be good for your gut, but really I just like the fizzy tangy flavor. It’s funky. I knew that I should take the next step into brewing my own, but I just couldn’t get myself to do the research in order to get what I needed.

Thankfully there are kombucha starter kits. I asked Ryan’s parents for one for my birthday, and lo and behold! I had no more excuses.

What’s this?

Just what I wanted! Bacteria and yeast!

How to Brew

Making kombucha is pretty easy. It’s also a lot more flexible than I’d imagined. Here’s basically how it works, when making a gallon:

  1. Make some sweet tea. Boil 4 cups water, add 3 tablespoons of tea (not herbal), add 1 cup sugar. Pour into your brewing container.
  2. Add 8 cups of cold water to the sweet tea.
  3. Wait for the mixture to cool to between 68 – 86 degrees.
  4. Check that the PH level is within range – 4.5 and below.
  5. Add the SCOBY to the mixture along with some starter tea (included with the SCOBY on purchase).
  6. Cover the brewing container with a filter on top, either cloth or a coffee filter. This keeps the tea clean of debris and allows the carbon dioxide to exit the container. Leave it somewhere warm and dark. I didn’t have a great spot, so I chose the top of my fridge, and added some towels to keep the jar from getting too cold.
  7. After 7 days, use a pipette to slip beneath the SCOBY culture and grab some of the tea. Taste it. If it’s too sweet, let it go for longer. If it’s too tart, add sugar in the second fermentation process, and brew for less days next time. You can ferment for up to a month, I think.
  8. Remove the SCOBY, putting it aside with about a cup or two of the tea to use as a starter for the next batch.
  9. Pour out your tea and drink it as is, or go on to second fermentation.
  10. Second fermentation: add sugar of some sort (sugar or mashed up berries or juice) to the tea, stir. Bottle the tea into individual bottles. Leave out to ferment several more days. The culture in the tea will keep eating the sugar, and create carbon dioxide, creating that nice fizzzzzz. Move to the fridge.
  11. Make more tea with your SCOBY and starter tea or put it away until later.

Results

I’ve just finished up my fourth batch of kombucha. Here are the results so far…

Brew #1

My first batch turned out really awesome, probably because I followed my kit’s instructions by the book. I used the Ceylon tea that was included in my kit, letting it sit for 13 days while I was vacationing in Budapest. Then I second fermented by adding defrosted frozen berries. I didn’t have individual bottles, so I used an airtight pitcher. The taste was really nice. One thing that I didn’t realize… Each time you brew kombucha, a new SCOBY grows on top, and grows to fill the container. Every time. At this point I had a double layer SCOBY.

Brew #2

The second batch I brewed with David’s Tea Red Velvet Cake black tea. This tea is special because it includes chocolate chips and sprinkles that melt into the tea and make it creamy and sweet. It’s a ridiculous dessert tea. I threw in my double layered SCOBY, fermenting for 24 days, then second fermented in individual bottles with just sugar. It turned out okay, but tasted a bit artificial due to the tea. Wouldn’t do this again.

Here’s a closeup of my brew jar for batch #2. The temperature reads as 64, which is about 10 degrees lower than it ought to be, and slows down the fermentation.

In this picture you can see that there are 2 layers of SCOBY.

I decided to cut the SCOBY into 2 separate pieces for batches 3 &4. Here is a picture of that SCOBY pulled out onto the chopping block.

The perfectly circular brown puck is my original SCOBY. The white is everything that has grown during my brews. The brown strands are yeast.

Ta da! And then there were two!

Brews 3 & 4

The third and fourth batches were brewed simultaneously, fermenting for 9 days.

I used Trader Joe’s Winter Wakeup tea, which is a spicy black tea with ginger and cinnamon with the new baby SCOBY. Fourth batch was a half batch of Trader Joe’s Earl Grey tea, using the original SCOBY. The Winter Wakeup kombucha turned out very odd. To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of this tea normally. At this point I still had kombucha in the fridge, so I just called it a wash and threw a whole gallon of tea out! The Earl Grey was less of a disappointment. It tasted perfectly tangy with major Earl Grey undertones, so I skipped the second fermentation. My favorite combination so far!

Things have gotten a little crazy… Now I have 4 SCOBY. TBH I felt a bit overwhelmed, so I created a SCOBY hotel. I’m just going to let them sit there until I’ve drunk down my tea.

Money Saved?

So in the last month and a half, I made 3 1 gallon batches and 1 1/2 gallon batch. I threw out a gallon of tea. At 16 oz per bottle of kombucha, I made 20 bottles of kombucha. 20 bottles at $3.5 = $70! If I hadn’t have thrown out that gallon, it would have been 28 bottles, or $98. Not bad!

Not gonna lie, I still buy store bought kombucha from time to time. But I do really enjoy brewing my own, and I’m looking forward to trying to make a green tea kombucha.The only thing that I have yet to figure out is how to get that super burning fizzy carbonation in the bottle. I’ve heard it’s sometimes artificially added, but I want to second ferment for even longer, and see if I can replicate it.

Travel

Budapest Baller B-Day

My birthday is at the end of November. It’s kind of a melancholy time, surrounded by the stress of Thanksgiving and the start of the Christmas season. A few years ago I started to go on birthday trips. Game-changer. Going out of town gets me out of my head and while of course I can’t avoid taking stock of my life, usually the trip reinforces my choices, helping me feel ready to deal with my family’s criticisms come Christmas.

Last year I went to Mexico City. In years past, Vancouver, New Orleans. Sometimes I have a particular place in mind, sometimes not. This year Budapest came up as an option on Google Flight’s Explore feature. With a flight price of about 600 from SF, and AirBNB prices of 30/night, it was a no-brainer. After a little googling, I also decided to tack on a trip to Vienna, since it was only a few hours away by train.

Only downside? A long flight, but of course that can’t be avoided. I packed 5 beauty masks from my Allure Beauty Box. I used the first one on the flight from San Francisco to Zurich. This one is to depuff your eyes!

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Life

Fall is here. I know because Trader Joe’s won’t let me forget. They’ve really bet the house on pumpkin spice. But also it’s that magical first week in October, which means it’s Fleet Week AND there’s the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival. So tons of sailors are roving in packs all over town, and bluegrass fans will soon be swarming Golden Gate Park. There’s a buzzy energy in the air right now. Biking around in this weather feels great.

I don’t think I’ll be able to go to the festival or even a friend’s birthday party because I’m dogsitting, and Hopper is pretty needy and whiney. Can’t even write this blog post! He wants attention. This is a two week gig, which I feel like I regretted immediately after accepting. I always book these sittings in the hopes of treating it like a writer’s retreat. Go hole up in a big apartment in a sleepy part of the city, be focused, and knock through my to-do list as best I can. It never works out that way. Since I got home from work today I’ve watched a Lady Gaga documentary and made a chocolate cake mug(or is it ‘mug chocolate cake’. Wait it’s ‘chocolate mug mix’, what?). Now it’s almost bedtime. Where did the time go?

Having long stretches of time where I can do anything often leads to me doing nothing. The same thing happened when I went to North Carolina with Ryan for a week. I had high hopes of working on some personal projects, but it just didn’t happen. I returned home refreshed and newly interested in paddleboarding, but also feeling guilty for squandering the time.

That was nearly two months ago!! and I still haven’t made progress on my side projects. I’m feeling worse and worse about it, which is no good. It’s completely artificial pressure. I need to figure out a more realistic way to move forward and be productive, at least a little bit every day.

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In general since about April I’ve been in a weird place emotionally, mostly due to work. April started a period of being bounced around from project to project, having to ramp myself up on a new codebase and fit in to a new team (or company!) each time. I was on Project #1 from April to June. Then for a week or two I worked at another agency, pitching in at the last minute on a high stress launch. I came back to the first project after that. Then from the end of June to August, I did staff augmentation at an entirely different company. Then at the end of August I finally came back to Grio for Project #4, but we moved offices, so that was also different.

Changing projects in April was incredibly disorienting, which I suppose was to be expected because I was on my previous project for nearly a year. Then heading in to be a contractor at other offices, it felt like I didn’t even work at my company anymore. I saw my coworkers like once or twice a week when I came back to the office for free lunch.

It takes me a few weeks to feel like I’m up to speed on a project and starting to really contribute, and when I’m changing projects every 6-8 weeks, I don’t get very much time to feel good about the work I do. Mostly I’m just stressed out trying to prove myself, I have a few weeks of rocking it, then it starts all over again. Currently I actually feel pretty optimistic about my new project. There is the usual deadline stress, but I’m working with people I like and learning React Native, so at least I’m growing.

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What else..? I was incredibly saddened when Anthony Bourdain died. My food and travel hero, RIP. I was up extra early, picking up my bicycle at the shop when it came over the radio. It just felt so surreal. I stayed away from all the news, and even now I can’t bear to watch any Parts Unknown episodes on Netflix, even though I know they’re going to take them down soon.

I still think about it from time to time, and it worries me that you can fight your whole life against depression, live what appears from the outside to be a meaningful and fun life, and still not make it. I don’t get as depressed as often as I used to thanks to bupropion, but I’m terrified of going back. What if it stops working? My depression was never that bad, but I don’t want to go through feeling down like that ever again, especially since now I know that I don’t have to.

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Travel to see friends and family has been happening steadily. Spending time with my people has added some reassurance to a generally unstable time work-wise. In July we went to the Yuba River with friends. We stayed in a really nutty Victorian house that had some terrifying bedrooms. Ryan almost drowned. Nobody got sunburned. We broke an oven door and were losing puzzle pieces down the sink.

August was North Carolina with Ryan’s family. My racism antenna was on as soon as I saw my first confederate flag on the highway. Ryan thought that these people were neo-nazis because of their license plate (looks like NO 88), but no, they just went to Duke. Phew.

There was lots of food, and lots of time in the water. Ryan and I bought a puzzle one of our first days there, and we were able to complete it by our last night.

Before we left we went to a BBQ place that according to one Google review had a picture of a grand wizard on the wall. Walked all over the restaurant very casually eyeballing every frame and couldn’t find it. The BBQ was great, so I really hope that review was bogus.

Went to Los Angeles in early September. It was fairly uneventful, I didn’t even take pictures! I guess it’s nice that seeing my family doesn’t have to be a big eventful thing. I’ll be headed back there in November and December as well.

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Puzzles. Ever since the encounter with puzzles in Oak Harbor, puzzles have been a mainstay, both on the road and at home. We’ve been ordering our puzzles off of Amazon, and have leveled up to using this puzzle wrapper thingie that lets you roll away your puzzle when you’re not working on it. You can see it below in the New Yorker puzzle. It’s pretty low tech (a big piece of felt, a cylindrical balloon and some elastic bands to hold it together), but it works! I was thinking of starting a puzzle club to share my puzzles with friends, since how often do you do a puzzle the second time?

Ryan did this insane 2000 piece Times Square puzzle all by himself.


I worked happily on most of this New Yorker puzzle. Back in 2009 the magazine was 4.99 an issue. Now it’s  8.99!

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Well ok now I reaaaaallly need to go to bed. Til next time!