Why I love American grocery stores

I went grocery shopping this morning. Sounds like a pretty mundane, ordinary way to spend your Saturday morning, right? Not that fun? Wrong! (Or at least wrong if you’re anything like me).

During the school year at home, I’m not in charge of the groceries so I usually make do with whatever shows up in my fridge or cabinet. Admittedly, I don’t need too much food here because I eat my weekday dinners at Google, but weekends are a time for me to wander aimlessly through the aisles of Trader Joe’s and happily indulge in the illusion that it’s wise for me to fill up my fridge. When I’m talking about grocery shopping, though, I’m really talking about Trader Joe’s and Sprouts and Whole Foods – all of the kind of hippy places that we don’t have at home. Reasons I love these places include:

  • The variety of things you can get, including items that you wouldn’t normally think of. One of my favourite purchases from today was coconut oil, which made my squash DELICIOUS. Which also leads me to my second point:
  • It’s reasonably priced. I’m not saying we don’t have a lot of these foods at home, but they tend to be way more expensive. Case in point: Greek yogurt. I’m addicted to the stuff. At home there’s maybe one or two kinds that cost twice as much as normal yogurt, but here I’m confronted by shelves and shelves of cheap probiotic goodness.
  • It’s easy to find healthy options! I really do try to keep an eye on what I eat and not ingest too many heart-threatening things, and there’s always tons of options that let me feel better about what I’m eating and enjoy it at the same time.
  • Last, and this is kind of a silly reason, but the stores are pretty. Er. Yeah. I’m a girl, alright? The labels are all so cheery. I love it.

Anyways, I actually really enjoyed picking up food and my foray to the farmer’s market afterwards. It’s definitely a first world problem, but sometimes I wish I had more opportunities to cook.

I fit this all in my backpack and biked back. Be impressed.

I did make an amazing dinner for myself, though. My mom’s been advocating going wheat-free for a month now, and really pushing me to try it. (She read this book about how we’re all going to die because we eat wheat. Er, maybe not that extreme. But it’s something to do with how wheat is genetically modified and making us fat). She keeps on telling me how much better it’ll be for me, etc, etc. Anyways, I’m a little skeptical, but I’ve decided I’m going to give it a chance and cut out wheat from my diet. I’m not going to be uber strict: if I’m going out on the weekend and I order a bowl of pasta, it won’t be the end of the world. But in my everyday meals, I’ll be veering away from wheat and eating corn, quinoa, rice, that sort of thing. The hardest part will be bread, because it’s one of my favourite things. To try and stick to this rule, I bought quinoa linguine – and was amazed and happy when it tastes exactly like normal pasta! I also got to eat the squash I bought at the farmer’s market. Yum.

Squash and Salmon Pasta (serves 1)

Ingredients:

  • Two small yellow squash (by small, I mean a couple of inches), cut into rounds
  • Coconut oil
  • Salt
  • 1 small pack of smoked salmon
  • Pasta of your choice (I used quinoa linguine)
  • Marinara sauce

Directions:

  1. Set water to boil, add some salt, and cook pasta to al dente.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, add some coconut oil to a pan (probably about a tablespoon). Add squash and a sprinkle of salt. Saute until the squash is tender – about five minutes or so.
  3. Add marinara sauce, smoked salmon, and drained pasta to your squash. Stir them all together and inhale when it’s all piping hot and delicious.

My favourite part about this was the flavour of the coconut oil and how the smoked salmon added a hit of saltiness. So good.

I also got to try out a restaurant on Thursday called the Boiling Crab, where they basically plunk your food in a bag on the table and you eat with your hands. It’s all seafood – crab, shrimp, clams…it was absolutely delicious and absolutely cavelike.

Wow, this has been a very food-related post. Hope you’re all hungry now!

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So You Think You Can Dance should be renamed “Feel awed and inadequate.”

Seriously. I’m a big So You Think You Can Dance fan, and I just finished watching their Atlanta auditions, and now I am sitting here thinking about how I was whining today about my legs being tired. These people are INSANE. They have muscles where I didn’t even know muscles existed! If I had a quarter of their muscle definition I’d consider myself ripped. (Shows how high my aspirations are, huh?) I am so amazed at some of the talent on the show, though – there are some people who really are extremely gifted (and have impossibly flexible legs that go on for about a million miles). I find it really interesting that SYTYCD Canada had one really amazing season, and then it flopped. We pretty much exhausted all of our dancers in one season. Big cheers for my giant country with a tiny population.

I’ve been really exhausted all day for some reason. I think I didn’t sleep that much on the weekend, and I’ve been pretty busy the last few days and it’s starting to catch up with me, so I’ll probably be passing out once I finish writing this. I had a pretty good weekend – I made dinner with my girls on Saturday night, which was nice, and Sunday I went to Santa Cruz with some of the other interns in my office. I forgot how busy of a beach it is, but it’s fun, though the boardwalk is super overpriced so we didn’t go on any of the rides.

This is only a few of them, but one of my favourite parts about Santa Cruz is the sea lions. There’s this part off the dock where there’s this huge crowd of them, and they just lie around and yelp at the people who come to gawk. They’re really loud, too – you can hear them all the way from the other end of the beach. It was a beautiful day though and I had a good time walking the beach, swimming and just generally hanging out. Any time I’m in the sun, I’m generally pretty happy.

I’m starting to get excited about my trip to Boulder next week – work is flying me out to the Google office there to work for a week! I’ve never been to that area, so I think it’ll be a really cool experience (really, it’s a vacation within a vacation, who am I kidding…) Tons of stuff to do before then, though, so it’s simultaneously exciting and stressful. I really am about to pass out, though, so it’s time for me to hit the sheets.

Some were born to bike. I wasn’t.

Well, I had my first bike crash of the summer today. It wasn’t too bad of a wipeout, as far as wipeouts go – I banged up my shins and elbows, but my crash last summer was definitely much worse. Last year I managed to simultaneously make my arm look like a bear mauled me and cause my friend biking behind me to go careening into the concrete, so actually, in retrospect, this crash wasn’t bad at all. Regardless, I took the shuttle home and I’m now looking mournfully at my blossoming bruises and wondering if I’ll have the guts to bike to work tomorrow morning.

I think I have very mixed feelings about commuting via bike to work. I did it all last summer and I’m doing it this summer as well, but I’m starting to get this feeling that these crashes are the universe’s way of trying to tell me something (i.e. Shannon, STOP BIKING). I’ll be the first one to admit that I am no bike pro – I can make the thing go and stop (most of the time on command), but that’s about the extent of my skills. So on one hand, every time I get on one of these wheeled contraptions of death I am lessening my chance of living to old age and dying peacefully in my sleep surrounded by kittens and rainbows. On the other hand, Google is pretty much equated with food, and biking to work helps mitigate some of the damage my internship is doing to my waistline. It’s a toughie.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that my opinion on who should have priority on the road varies hugely depending on my status at the time. By this I mean that if I’m driving, I hate cyclists and pedestrians with a passion, and will curse under my breath every time I see somebody doing something as inane as crossing the street. If I’m on my bike, cars are living breathing demons that scare the crap out of me every time they come even remotely close. If I’m walking, I wonder why everyone’s mad at me for being so slow and smirk at them because it’s my right to cross the road while they wait. It’s very interesting how the perspectives change.

Regardless, I think the mitigating-damage-to-waistline wins out over fear of moving vehicles around me, so I’ll probably climb back on my bike and teeter off into the sunset (otherwise known as Google). But I’d like to think that if there’s any fairness in the world, the universe only deals out one crash per summer, so I should hopefully be good for the next few months. (Unless this grace period only lasts until the scabs heal? I shudder to think…)

 

Loving random American holidays

It’s already been two weeks since I got here! I really can’t believe it. Time is doing that annoying thing of smiling wickedly at me and turning its hourglass to hyper speed.

It’s been a pretty busy week – I had a lot of reading to do at work but I got it all done and now I get a three day weekend! Yay random American holidays that I don’t understand! (I think it’s Memorial Day, but I’m not sure what we’re memorial-izing). Other than work, nothing too exciting happened to me this week. I did have a super long chat with one of my girlfriends at home about life and love and work and school and pretty much anything else that slightly pertained to our lives, which was actually really nice. We vented a lot and decided that if all else fails, we’re becoming wedding planners. It’s a solid backup plan, right?

I was also pretty happy this week because some of my friends from last summer started work at Google, so I have more familiar faces around me. A lot of people I know are starting to float back to the Bay Area now, so I don’t feel quite so alone down here anymore. I went to dinner tonight with some of them and we tried out a Vietnamese place (Pho Garden) on Castro street. I shared a seafood clay pot and garlic noodles and chicken with my friend and it was delicious! I really love our Friday night Castro street dinners, because Castro street is usually pretty lively and it’s nice to go out after basically living at work all week.

I think my only complaint (and it’s very small, more of a peep rather than a complaint really) is that the weather’s been very up and down. Last summer, I arrived in June and essentially lived in shorts all summer, so when I packed for this summer I forgot all about the month of May and didn’t pack very many long pants. Not a smart move. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not really that cold, but it’s been pretty windy this last week and I’m running out of jeans. I need that hot California sun to make its return ASAP and drive away all this pesky wind business, so I can get on with the all important business of getting the tan I can’t get in Vancouver.

Like I said though, a long weekend means more time to do exciting things – like shop! I’m shopping, having a sleepover, tanning, going to a farmer’s market, and making dinner this weekend, among other possible things. I foresee good times ahead.

Return of the Sunshine

Oh, my god. I’ve forgotten how much I’m in love with the sun. I’ve just had the most beautifully sunny and gorgeous weekend ever, and it’s really all because of that giant ball of fire up in the sky. (Yes, I know it’s not really made of fire, but close enough).

I started it off really well by having dinner with my friend on Friday night. Last summer, we had a tradition of Friday night dinners on Castro Street in Mountain View, and I think it’s going to be continued. We went to Barracuda, a Japanese place, and had calamari, sushi and this amazing miso rice bowl with a ton of seafood. The fish in the rice bowl was some of the best white fish I’ve ever had – it was tender and flaky and oh so droolworthy.

Saturday morning I went for a run and ended up at a farmers’ market at the Sunnyvale Caltrain station. I love farmers’ markets – they’re always so fun and the food you get is so fresh. I mostly wandered and checked things out, but I picked up some fruit (which disappeared the same day…into my stomach) and bread. I think my favourite thing about these markets is the vibe – everyone is just kind of bustling around and talking and it gives you a really cool sense of community.

I then proceeded to spend my afternoon at my pool.

I really couldn’t resist. I haven’t seen proper sunshine since last summer sometime. My book and I spent some quality time together, I got a bit of a sunburn, and life was glorious.

I went for dinner with some of the other interns at a southern Indian restaurant. It was pretty interesting because (according to my knowledgable friends) I’ve probably mostly eaten northern Indian food at home, so the food was different from what I was expecting. It was good though! All vegetarian and a lot of rice-based dishes. I couldn’t pronounce anything.

Today, my roommate and I checked out another farmers’ market, this time at the Mountain View caltrain. I could probably go to farmers’ markets every day of the week and not get bored. I picked up some dried fruit and sampled something from almost every stall.

A funny thing happened to us though – we were sitting on Castro Street drinking bubble tea when all of a sudden a random parade began to go by. It was bizarre because there were girls dressed up like Disney princesses mixed with random older people wearing suits or yoga pants and small kids in fancy wear. We couldn’t figure out what it was for, but it was fun to watch it go by. I think it might have been Portuguese-related because this lady came by and handed us cards for Portuguese Day (or something).

I’m also really excited for tonight because I’m reuniting with some of my favourites from last summer, who I haven’t seen in forever! I miss them big time and can’t wait to see their pretty faces.

A Googler once more

Well, it’s the end of my first week! I’ve officially been in California – and at Google – for a week now.

It’s been a really busy week, but I’m remembering just how much I liked the Googleplex. I’m kind of settling into my new apartment now and starting to get a better sense of the area. I’m actually a lot closer than I thought to my old apartment from last summer – so I’m not as far out as I thought I might be. The apartment I’m living in isn’t bad. It’s a bit cramped for four people, especially in the bedrooms, but otherwise it’s a pretty good location relative to work and pretty well stocked with pots and pans and things. I did have to buy a blender though to support my smoothie addiction. The thing is wicked loud and wakes up my roommates if I’m not careful.

I also figured out the bike route from my apartment to work after a few tries between my roommate and I. It’s a half an hour ride but relatively flat, so I think I’ll be biking most of the time. It’s a very good thing, because I am also remembering how freaking good the food is here. I had duck confit and gnocchi yesterday for lunch and it was AMAZING. The whole biking thing will definitely be helping balance out food consumption.

My project and host are really good too, so I’m settling in nicely. I’m tired though – I haven’t quite gotten myself used to waking up earlier than 9:30 – 10, so my body is getting a little upset with me. I’m not very good at this waking-up-at-a-normal-time-like-a-normal-person thing. I’m sure I’ll get used to it though, and I have the weekend to recharge! So far not too many plans, but I’m really excited to see some of my friends from last summer who will be arriving in the next few days. Reunions galore! Can’t wait!

I feel like this summer is going to be another blur, just like last time. A fantastic sunny food-filled mess of friends and Google and whatnot. Even though I’m still missing people at home, it should be a good ride :)

Back in … red. Sunburn red.

Well, I’m back! In California, that is. It’s a little surreal, I’m not going to lie. I don’t think it hit me that I was leaving for the summer until I was touching down in San Francisco and suddenly realized whoa! I’m back in the States! … how and when did this happen?

It’s been pretty much go go go since I got here. I’m remembering how much I enjoy San Francisco, as I’ve been here for the last few days with a friend of mine. It’s really like Vancouver’s outgoing, hippier, more free-spirited older sister. Friday night we had dinner at this awesome Vietnamese restaurant called Tin a block away from our hotel – like a lot of food in San Francisco, it was delicious.

I had to struggle pretty hard though on Saturday morning, as we got up at the god-awful early time of 4:45 to take a day trip to Yosemite. I’ve never been before, so I was excited to go, but I really am the worst morning person ever. I feel bad for all those who had to deal with me, so this is my public apology to them. The early morning start definitely resulted in me passing out several times in the car, which I also felt bad about. It’s a three to four hour drive to the park though so the early start was necessary – we got there at around 10 something. I didn’t realize Yosemite was so big! I was imagining more of a hiking kind of day, but because the park was so huge in reality it was more of a drive-stop-drive-stop kind of trip. The diversity in the park was amazing. We went from mountains to forests to lakes to waterfalls (with a lot of driving).

I think my favourite part was a lake that we found where the water was so still that everything looked like a mirror. It was so beautiful.

I’m glad we went, but it was a very, very long day – we didn’t get back until 1:30 in the morning. I also got a wicked sunburn, as my poor skin hasn’t been in proper sunshine since last August and then was hit with a full dose of 25 degree weather. I’ve managed to imprint my tanktop straps into my poor shoulders.

Today, my friend and I went for breakfast at Dottie’s, this little diner in Soma. There was a bit of a lineup but it was delicious! I had pear-cranberry french toast with pecans. Nom.

I had to run some errands, and as we were getting my phone set up the guy at the counter mentioned there was a street fair happening a few blocks down. It was called the “How Weird” street fair, and it was…very weird. But fun. A lot of … interesting outfits.

We also checked out Fisherman’s Wharf, Coit Tower and Chinatown. Coit Tower was a new one for me – it was a little disappointing that there were windows at the top (as opposed to open air) but it was still pretty neat to get a view of the city.

I also had a stroke of serendipity. Last summer I went to an Italian restaurant with my family that I loved, and as we were walking around I was trying to remember the name of it so that we could go. I was drawing a complete blank, though, and I finally accepted that I’d have to ask my mom later about it. But as we were heading towards Chinatown, something about the street caught my attention. Specifically, this weird intersection triggered something in my brain. I started looking frantically around – and lo and behold, the restaurant that I had been wracking my brain for was right there! What are the chances? We went, I had gnocchi, and was extremely happy. It’s called Franchino, by the way.

Now, if my shoulders will let me get comfortable, it’s time for bed, because we’re dim-summing it up tomorrow morning!