My birthday was really amazing this year. I wasn’t feeling so happy with things around that time, but the day was so perfect and I felt so loved that it lifted my spirits immensely. I couldn’t have imagined a better day.
My plans were in the afternoon, leaving my morning free. It just so happened that Henley was playing at a park in Irvine with Alex and Darnell that morning, so things worked out perfectly. I met them at the park and had a great time. Henley was so excited to see me and is absolutely adorable. I played with him for a while, and when Darnell said I had to leave, he threw a little bit of a fit. He also wished me a happy birthday and even sang. <3
In the afternoon, I headed to gem’s where gem, Anela, Edward, Antonio, and Kaleigh celebrated with me. And by celebrate, I mostly mean eat!
I think a collage tells the food story better than individual photographs. Let’s go clockwise. On the top-left is a strawberry shortcake mochi. Yep, that’s a piece of strawberry shortcake wrapped inside mochi. Delicious! Everything in the top-right was brought by Anela as well. Two kinds of cookies and two different kinds of pastries! Below that one is mango-jalapeño salsa I made and some pastries Antonio and Kaleigh brought from Porto’s that were delicious. Below that one is fondue! gem was the mastermind there, but she enlisted the help of some others too. We ate it with a variety of things, but I’m using a slice of apple in the photo. The bottom-right is a bacon-wrapped hot dog. The bottom-left corner shows three big desserts. gem bought the two pies – cherry and apple, and Antonio and Kaleigh brought the great tres leches cake. Lastly, the photo above that was taken before we realized the grill wasn’t working. I moved the hot dogs into the oven.
Look how beautiful that dessert plate is! gem even supplied some homemade ice cream. How many calories is on this plate alone? I don’t want to know.
After eating, we played some games. gem had been raving about Spyfall, so we tried that. It’s a party game in which everybody gets a card with a location listed (such as “Sesame Street” or “Pink Paradise Stripper Bar,” both locations used when we played) except one player gets one that just says “spy.” Players take turns asking each other questions related to the location, forcing the spy to have to try to answer without actually knowing the location. It was a lot of fun! We also all made a level together in Super Mario Maker – Peter’s 30th Birthday Bash. I wrote about it on Polygons and Pixels, and you can find it by using ID BBD9-0000-01E1-1F90.
It was great to kick off my 30’s with close friends and a ton of desserts – my favorite things. Really, I’m just glad to be surrounded by so many loving, wonderful people. Thanks for making me feel special and being so special yourselves!
Last night I had dinner at The Playground in Santa Ana to celebrate Edward’s birthday. I’d heard great things about the restaurant, so I was pretty excited. I’ve been trying to save money, and I also heard it was expensive, so I was hoping it’d be worth it. But how could I say no to birthday meal with one of my closest friends?
Jan Enters The Arena With A Steam Bun Challenge 8 to be a judge / 4ea tried & true. pork belly steam bun, forever unchanged.
Everything’s meant to be shared, and you can order in waves. The first thing we tried as the “Jan Enters The Arena With A Steam Bun Challenge 8 to be a judge / 4ea tried & true. pork belly steam bun, forever unchanged.” Yep, that’s the whole. I feel like it’s worth including the full detail from the menu here. The Playground has a menu that changes daily, but the pork belly steam bun is a staple that’s permanent. Jan, one of the chefs, wants to change it up. You can order the original or you can pay more to be a judge – you get one original and one of Jan’s new ones, but you have to provide feedback. We got two orders of judege orders and shared so we could all try it. The classic has guacamole and radish (so not exactly what you’d normally expect anyways) whie the new one Vietnamese-inspired with spicy… something… I can’t remember or tell from the picture now… and cilantro. I can think of a few close friends who wouldn’t like that, but all four of us agreed – Jan’s new dish wins! It was delicious!
Next up was this salad. What are these words I don’t know? Wagyu are a variety of cattle breeds, including Kobe, known for high quality beef. Obviously. And picanha is a popular Brazilian beef cut. Honestly, the salad was one of the my least favorite items on the menu, but that’s mostly because of how awesome other things were.
This was pretty tasty, but it paled in comparison to the amazing Brussels sprouts.
Maple Glazed Pork Chop
The pork chop came out next. Just look at that thing! They recommend you only order it if you have four people. gem carved it up for us, and man, was it good. That maple glaze was dripping with deliciousness, and I was sure to swirl each bite around in the glaze left at the bottom of the plate.
This was the dessert I really wanted, and I’m glad we ordered it. It was tasty, but it wasn’t the dessert winner in my opinion. That honor went to…
Black Mission Fig Sticky Toffee Pudding
…the toffee pudding! Amazing. Can I cover it in Brussels sprouts and stuff it with pork chop and beef cheek? No, that wouldn’t be a good idea? I guess that’s why I’m not a chef.
This might have been one of the best meals I’ve ever had. In addition, the service was great, and the staff was very friendly. So, maybe I didn’t a great job saving money and not eating out, but it was certainly an awesome meal.
As an added bonus, here’s a photo of me and Carrie! You’d think there’d be one of me and Edward since it was his birthday. There is actually, but it wasn’t on my phone, so Carrie wins. Thanks for the fun meal everyone!
Edit: Carrie gave me this great photo of Edward and me!
Last week I was attending a conference in the Bay Area, so I went a few days early to visit friends! I stayed with Katie and Matt, hung out with Marc as well, coincidentally saw some Southern California friends, and attended the Lithium Network Conference. I had a great time!
Lithium is all about social: they’re the providers of Toshiba’s forum as well as Lithium Social Web, the web application that I use that pulls the forum, Facebook, and Twitter into one screen.
I flew in Friday night after some delays. Matt and Katie picked me up from San Francisco International, and we headed back to their place in Fremont after a quick stop for some tasty In-N-Out. It was late, so we mostly talked, and Matt and I played games.
Saturday was the action-packed day! Marc came over, and then we visited Matt’s university, San Jose State University, where we failed to return library books and failed to see a flight simulator. We tried at least. Luckily, San Jose is also filled with delicious foods.
At SmokeEaters I ate some delicious wings, onion rings, fries, and a beer. This was the start of a bad day for my stomach.
I was kind of excited to see a banner for Fanime. I don’t know. I’m sorry.
After our unhealthy lunch, we stopped at Psycho Donuts. Just look how good they look! Yes, yes, yes!
We walked past a place called Iguanas just because I wanted to take a picture of their sign. Burritozilla! I want to eat Burritozilla!
When we got back to Katie and Matt’s, we tried some of the donuts. Another bad stomach decision, but a great decision for my taste buds. The top-left one was the Cookie Monster donut. Reminds me of Afters Ice Cream! 🙂
We made some White Russians, watched some YouTube videos, listened to Spotify, and talked. The White Russians were the final bad decision for my stomach, haha.
Matt found this playlist on Spotify – 2000’s Rock by Scott Sweatman. It’s… kind of great. It caused a lot of nostalgia, but at the same time, I can tell why I don’t listen to this music anymore. It was pretty perfect.
This might sound uneventful, but it was a pretty important evening. I had a lot of fun with them. Marc’s friend even came over as well.
gem was in te Bay Area to go rafting with a group of friends, which included one other person I knew – Vivian. Marc came over again, and then he drove us to Berkeley to meet with them.
We decided to meet at Sather Tower, a bell and clock tower, commonly called The Campanile.
You could hear the music from a pretty good distance.
I liked the bears at the base.
After realizing you could go up the tower for a nominal fee, we had to check it out.
I wish this photo offered a better sense of scale. The bells could totally crush a person.
gem, Katie, and Matt!
Here’s where the musician sits to play the carillon, which is the bell system.
Here’s the view.
And here’s a group of photos of a lot of us.
Here’s gem, Marc, Katie, Matt, and myself. I was trying to spread the Half Past Two, So Cal ska love to the Bay Area.
We stopped at Sheng Kee Bakery, where I tried some of Vivian’s tea eggs – basically eggs boiled in tea rather than water. Delicious! Then it was off to Sliver Pizzeria. Each day of the week they feature a different pizza, but that’s it. That means that each day they only have a single kind of pizza. On Sunday, it was roasted potatoes, roasted onions, mozzarella, jalapeño jack cheese, Italian parsley, oregano, thyme, and olive oil. I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did. It was great! I’m going to need to try to make something like this some time.
Over lunch, someone I had just met that day asked me what I did for a living. I said, “I work for Toshiba…”
He replied with “hey, that’s my line!”
I’m paraphrasing, but he works for Toshiba as well, although he works for a different Toshiba company. Small world! And speaking of small worlds, another person was going to take the BART back to Fremont, so Marc just gave him a ride too.
It was cool seeing the university as well as the city. The city was pretty interesting. I can understand how it gets the reputation it has, because the people clearly cared a lot more about the environment and helping each other than I’m used to seeing in Orange County.
Once we got home, we had a quiet evening mostly of watching TV and chatting. I got some work done as well, and we watched American Ninja Warrior. It’s a cool show pitting athletes against insane obstacle courses that require a great deal of strength, agility, and balance.
Katie made an amazing fish dinner that made my stomach feel much better. It was super good!
I started Monday morning by working before Matt drove me to the BART station.
When I got into San Francisco, I took a picture of the building outside the Powell Street station like I always do.
This was the view from my hotel room. Not amazing, but I like that Scalzi always posts photos of his view, so I like doing it too. I stayed at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis, which was right next to Saint Patrick’s Chuch, where Patrick and Caroline got married. Pretty cool!
Anela gave me some recommendations of things to do. Some of them I’d done previously, and some, like hike recommendations, just didn’t fit with my schedule. But some things had to be done!
Did you know that at the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory you can watch people make fortune cookies? Well, she did, and now I do, and now you do.
They start out round, while they’re still hot, she shapes them into fortune cookies. I got to try some nice hot ones that were still round, and I bought a bag of normal and chocolate fortune cookies.
I tried one chocolate one from the bag, and my fortune was “Your luck will soon be at a high point.” That seems good, but what if it just means my luck is going to be terrible for a long time after that? Uh oh.
I took some other random photos too.
I had to stop at a bakery too, so I got a pineapple BBQ pork bun from The AA Bakery & Cafe. I love pork buns!
Anela also recommended I get pastries in Little Italy, so off I went. I often say I don’t really like looking up recommendations because it’s more fun to find stuff on your own, but I wasn’t sure about Italian pastries, so I turned to reviews and found Stella Pasty and Cafe. Everyone seemed to recommend their Sacripantina.
According to their site, it contains “vanilla sponge cake, zabaione (a delicate custard made with egg yolks, sweet butter, marsala and sherry wine) cream, and rum.” It was light yet rich. I could only eat about half of the piece actually.
I knew I wanted pizza while I was there too, and I felt like looking around to see what caught my eye. Spoiler alert – it wa Golden Boy Pizza. I just liked the feeling and look of the place. Foursquare recommended the garlic clam pizza, so I went with that.
It was a thick slice, and I put red pepper on it. It was good, although I didn’t find it amazing. Still, I liked the place enough that I might try to go back and get a different kind if I can. It was small on the inside but was covered with stickers and similar art.
I also want to mention Victoria Pastry Company. I didn’t eat there, but I got detoured as I followed the amazing smell. I just wasn’t hungry enough.
My final goal was Ghirardelli Square. Anela recommended this as well, although I’d actually been there already. However, I just love chocolate. On the way, I stopped at Dennis Rae Fine Art. They had an exhibit on the art of Theodor Seuss Geisel – Dr. Seuss. It was neat.
I bought a few things to take home at Ghirardelli before purchasing a hot fudge sundae to eat! The fudge was just so awesome. I kinda sorta maybe love hot fudge.
Even so, I couldn’t do it. There were just too many things to eat that day and not enough room in my stomach.
Here’s a nice view from the Fisherman’s Wharf area near the San Francisco National Historic Park (or maybe it’s part of it).
Look, a ship.
This was a really heroic ship, but I heard it killed its family once.
I liked the view from the end of the pier.
Hey, it’s me!
On my way back to the hotel, I happened to walk past Lombard Street at it’s famously twisted block. This was actually another recommendation from Anela, although I wasn’t aiming to see it this time since I’d already seen it. I just happened to walk past it, so I took a picture because of how beautiful it looked.
I just thought this door was cool.
The welcome event for the Lithium Network Conference was held at Jillian’s. There was a variety of food and an open bar. I know what you’re thinking, but actually I only had a small glass of wine. Too exhausted, so I didn’t stay long. After a detour at Target to buy water, I went back to my room for the night.
Tuesday was the first actual day of the conference. After a quick breakfast, I was off to the weird introduction!
That woman was a bunch of bananas.
And that woman was the whole city!
The opening was about three and half hours, and it mostly talked about what customers expect from social engagement. Blah, blah, blah. You don’t care about that.
But then there was lunch and time to socialize! Yes, some of that was through texts to home, but I also talked with some cool people at the conference.
After lunch, I went to a session on “Self service content publishing” and another on “How to get content in the right place at the right time” that were both interesting. They were more about developing applications and custom modifications to the Lithium platform, which isn’t something I have the power to go implement, but I like seeing new ways to think about the process.
The conference ended for the day with two pretty great speakers. The first was Sal Khan, founder of the Khan Academy. The Khan Academy is a free online tool for education. It originally sprang from him tutoring his cousin on the phone, then tutoring many of his cousins, then making custom tutoring software to help him tutor them, and then creating videos to help as well. I can’t really do it justice. He discussed how school goes at a certain pace for the whole class and then judges them rather than helping them master something before continuing. He wants to bring this free education to everyone in the world. It’s a beautiful idea, and a couple parts of his talk made me tear up. Shh, don’t tell anyone.
The second speaker was Orny Adams, a comedian. “Let’s talk about what we really wanna talk about. We hate our customers. Because they’re stupid.” He was joking, I swear. Yeah, he didn’t really care about crossing any lines as he also made fun of people who avoid gluten or are scared of germs (uh oh) and even had to end with some differences between men and women. He was pretty hilarious.
That night’s party was held at City View on the fourth floor of The Metreon.
There were a lot of people inside and out. I talked to some cool people, including a long conversation with a Greek woman who compared Greek family members with me! She’s actually a contact at Lithium I hadn’t met, so that was very cool. I also had a great conversation with a man from Zürich.
The view was nice!
There were oh so many desserts. Combined with all the normal food I had that night, it added up to another terrible health night.
Oh, and then after all that I discovered more food.
I didn’t really take many photos this day, but I did attend sessions on “Master social lead generation” and “15 tips for new community managers.” I don’t really need sales leads, and I’m not a new community manager, but I like looking at new ways of thinking.
Later I had a meeting with my coworker, the VP of Global Strategic Accounts & Value Engineering at Lithium, the Chief Revenue Officer of Lithium, and a woman in charge of Customer Success at Lithium.
Dr. Michael Wu, Chief Scientist at Lithium, did a talk about how customers perceive brands, customer expectations, and a lot more. He wears a distinctive hat and glasses, so the conference gave a hat and glasses to everyone in attendance!
I didn’t take the glasses since I already wear glasses, but a free hat? Sure.
I also took an accidental selfie on the way to the BART.
And the last photo I took in the city was this. It reminded me of the RISK! podcast.
It was a great trip, but by the end I was exhausted and happy to get home. If only I didn’t have two work days left in the week.
Thanks for the wonderful time, Bay Area.
And the best part? I didn’t really gain much weight!
Yesterday was Niki’s birthday! At first she didn’t want to drink, but we convinced her. Chocolate syrup and peppermint schnapps tastes a lot like Thin Mints, you know.
Niki performed the traditional birthday rites of her people by anointing her feet.
No, she was actually just washing her feet in the sink.
Oh, that’s not any less weird? No, no it is not.
But she made a delicious pound cake…
…and a carrot cake! This is just the trimmings; I didn’t photograph the actual cake.
Highlights of the night include all of us playing board games, me kissing Collin’s head, Angel biting (or at least pressing her teeth against) Niki’s face, me biting Angel’s ear in retaliation, and Collin trying to bite Angel’s face in retaliation before Angel did it right back to him.
gem mentioned to me that she’d like me to bake a cake for her birthday a few weeks ago. I’m not sure if she was expecting me to really do it or not, but I’d been wanting to bake a cake so I went for it. She likes turtle cookies, so I decided to make her a turtle cake, which is chocolate with caramel and pecans. I based it off the recipe Turtle Cake II from AllRecipes.com. I took the recommendations from the comments and used 1/4 cup butter and 2/3 cup evaporated milk instead of 3/4 cup butter and 1/2 cup evaporated milk. I also used a German chocolate cake mix that included pudding rather than one without as specified for the recipe. I don’t really even know the difference, but I couldn’t find one without. However, I actually felt bad about using a mix anyways. It seems like cheating. Oh well.
Here’s a shot of the middle layer of caramel, toasted pecans, and caramel. It’s spread atop the first layer of cake. Thanks to my friend, Hal, for recommending I toast the pecans first! It smelled great as they toasted.
It looked pretty tasty to me before I even frosted it.
Nevertheless, I frosted it and added some caramel decoration to the top.
I wrote a birthday message on it, but in retrospect, I chose a bad color.
I should have chosen something with a higher contrast against the dark chocolate.
I also added a few pecans to the top to give a better indication of what’s in the cake.
Of course, it needed some star candles too!
It turned out delicious. More importantly, gem liked it too. Success!