Day Trip to Hike Pinnacles National Park

After weeks of feeling drained, physically and mentally exhausted to my limit from finishing parent-teacher conferences (with 26 students, that’s more than 13 hours of talking on top of teaching!) and being on the go with my busy life outside of work, yesterday was rejuvenating! Opting outside, being active, having fun and good conversations with some of my closest friends on a day trip to Pinnacles National Park! We were on perfect timing all day, and everything went according to plan. We made it back in time for me to make Women’s Group last night. As we closed the discussion on our book this year, my soul was encouraged and perspective was refocused. It was such a great, productive day off from work for Veteran’s Day! Praise God, and thanks to my friends for sticking with the original plan even though we almost canceled our hike. After we purchased the national park annual pass on our Utah and Arizona hiking trip over Fall Break, which was so worth $80, we are trying to hit up more national parks this year!

So about Pinnacles National Park! It’s the closest/most local national park to my house, 80 miles southeast of San Jose. It’s one of the newest national parks that Obama established in 2013. It’s known for the eroded leftovers of an extinct volcano as well as talus caves. Pinnacles has a bit of everything – cool rock formations, a serene reservoir, pretty green landscapes, awesome CAVES where flashlights are required to adventurously explore in the dark and see bat roosts… and the largest spiders/tarantulas I have ever seen in my life. Thanks to the recommendation of a friend, we hiked 9.5 miles round trip around the perimeter trails in a clockwise fashion starting and ending from Old Pinnacles Trailhead. We saw the whole park and both the lower Bear Gulch cave and Balconies cave that were open, and we didn’t have to go back on the same route at any point. I’d say Pinnacles National Park tops my list for most fun hike in California so far!

8:30 AM – Left my house for 1.5 hours drive from San Jose

10:00 AM – Arrived at the Visitor Center to get a bathroom break, pick up my souvenir postcard, and show my annual pass for a free parking permit

10:45 AM – Parked at Old Pinnacles Trailhead and started the hike

5 minutes into the hike, tarantula #1 (see the gum that was spit out when someone with real arachnophobia screamed HAHA for scale)IMG_2799.jpg

Bench TrailIMG_2803.jpg

Bear Gulch TrailIMG_2805.jpg

Moses Spring TrailIMG_2809.jpg

Bear Gulch Cave TrailIMG_2815.jpgIMG_2817.jpgIMG_2818.jpg

12:30 PM – Ate our pb&j sandwiches for lunch at Bear Gulch ReservoirIMG_2823.jpgIMG_2855.jpgIMG_2821.jpg

High Peaks Trail / Juniper Canyon TrailIMG_2829.jpgIMG_2833.jpg

Tarantula #2 (see shoes for scale)IMG_2836.jpg

Balconies TrailIMG_2840.jpg

Balconies Cave TrailIMG_2843.jpg

4:00 PM – Left the park sore and tired, but we survived 9.5 miles and it was so fun! IMG_2846.jpg

Up next, Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon!?

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Rooftop Party for My 28th Birthday

One month late to post photos from a rooftop party to celebrate my 28th birthday! 🔥

After traveling for 5 weeks to Hong Kong, Thailand, and Tokyo and then coming home with an unconfirmed stomach ulcer, my summer flew by and I didn’t get to hang out with friends much. With my birthday on a Sunday (and not on the first day of school) this year, I am so thankful to have had some of my closest friends (including Nadia & Joby home from Milwaukee!) join me for my last summer hurrah before school started. Thanks to Albee, we were able to reserve the awesome rooftop at his complex for a BBQ dinner and a chill hangout. We busted out gold and silver star balloons, enjoyed steak that Peter grilled and yummy food my mom prepared, ate around a large dining table like family, watched the sunset, lounged by the fire, ate cheesecake with macarons, had a cupcake tasting of SusieCakes from Anita & Scott, and soaked in a nice summer evening with each other’s company. It was just what I wanted for my birthday!

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Colette’s Turning One

Wow I’ve been at Pillar long enough to watch Deb and Pastor Danny grow their family into four! Deb was my small group leader when I first came to Pillar, she initiated meeting up with me, and then she became pregnant with Cami. Then I became her small group leader a few years later and then she became pregnant with Coco. Pastor Danny has been with me in Women’s Group since the start and has supported and encouraged me a lot in this ministry over these 3 years. I’ve seen Cami born and turn one (see Camilla Turns One Today!) and Coco born and now turn one too, looking like mini Cami. So thankful for Deb and Pastor Danny, love your family!! Happy first birthday, Coco baby!!! You are so adorable, and Laurel eemo loves you! The team of ladies from Angela’s Twinkle Twinkle Baby Shower put on another fabulous party with an amazing canvas painting backdrop done by Sarah and Deb, gorgeous flowers by Jenn, and all the beautiful details by Deb! We had all-you-can-eat hot pot at Shabu House for my first time and cake from Susiecakes, and it was all delicious. Colette’s first birthday party was a fun celebration!

Easter Dinner

Easter at the end of my Spring Break was already 3 weeks ago. Since I just posted about the pizza pasta I made a week ago, I’ll catch up on blogging about my Easter dinner too! March and April were so busy and stressful at work that I stopped cooking once I started working late and lost my voice for 3 weeks. For the past few years living at home, I have either not cooked or I go big and cook a fancy meal for others, such is the case with Easter dinner two years in a row. Last year I made my first Easter dinner for 11 people, my visiting relatives from HK, Australia, and NY! This year it was my mom and family friends, a small group of 4 of us! I was so sad that my steak was way overcooked because I didn’t have enough time to use the sous vide and get the perfect medium rare steak, but thankfully my guests eat steak cooked thoroughly. On the bright side, I successfully made roasted beets and brussels sprouts for my first time and they were yummy!

Ingredients: ribeye steak, mushrooms, beets, carrots, brussels sprouts, onions, dried thyme

Roasted brussels sprouts and onions and roasted beets and carrots with thyme

Appetizer: Cream of mushroom soup with mushrooms

White grape with elderflower sparking juice and fancy table setting

Entree: Ribeye steak with roasted brussels sprouts, onions, beets, and carrots

Dessert: Mom’s jello eggs and Trader Joe’s mini chocolate ice cream cones

Pizza Pasta From My Sister-In-Law

My sister-in-law cooked pizza pasta when we visited San Diego over Spring Break. It was so good that I asked her for the recipe. I invited friends over for dinner last week and decided to make this for my first time, so the pressure was on to feed 6 people. Moving from mom to friends as my guinea pigs! I’m glad it turned out okay, and everyone thought it was really good. I don’t like to follow recipes step-by-step if I already have an idea of the end result, but I look up the ingredients so I know what to include in it. One thing I learned to do differently next time is to put the oven on broil to brown the cheese for 5 minutes instead of on bake which didn’t even brown the cheese after 30+ minutes. I forgot that I used broil to brown the top of my shepherd’s pie, but I wasn’t really thinking when I had 45 minutes to get dinner ready. This is an easy meal to serve a group, especially for those who like pizza, pasta, and lasagna, a combination of the three!

1) Ingredients: Italian sausage, pepperoni, tomato sauce, dried oregano, fusilli pasta, mozzarella cheese (I picked up all the ingredients from Trader Joe’s and used the whole package for each except for the mozzarella cheese and oregano to make more than what the recipe called for.)

2) Cook Italian sausage. Slice up and add pepperoni. Add tomato sauce and oregano. (I added pasta sauce to make more sauce because the next step is to cook the pasta in the sauce.)

3) Add fusilli pasta into the sauce. (First time not cooking pasta in boiling water, so the pasta turns out more flavorful in the sauce, but it takes longer to cook the pasta.)

4) Put pasta in a glass container for the oven.

5) Add a layer of mozzarella cheese on top of the pasta and broil in oven until cheese is browned and crispy. Serve and enjoy!

One Pot Pizza Pasta Bake: http://damndelicious.net/2014/08/16/one-pot-pizza-pasta-bake