friends

There's no place like home.

One of the best perks of working at Stanford is that we get the same winter break as the students - a winter shutdown that starts before Christmas and runs through the first week of the New Year. I just went back to the office this past Monday, and after combining some extra PTO with the holiday, had nearly three weeks off - a total blessing!

I flew home on December 21, and promptly met up with Kels for beers at Union 32, a pull-your-own-pint place near the airport. While I was already suffering from the frigid Minnesota weather (I didn’t even have a proper winter coat with me, c’mon Liz!), it was so good to settle in with her, catch up after months apart, and start break off on a relaxing, indulgent note.

My parents have season tickets to the Hennepin Theatre Trust, the local Broadway touring affiliate, and generously added on three tickets to “Les Miserables” when all of us were home! “Les Mis” has long been in my top three musical favorites, and the new touring production is really beautifully done - updated well, while retaining the poignancy and drama of the original production I fell in love with like twenty years ago.

Post-show, we headed to Northeast for a quick happy hour at the Hewing Hotel, a local fave with Scandinavian vibes that was perfect for the frosty, flurrying afternoon.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a Lizzie trip home if the Schwegfam didn’t somehow find ourselves here…

…it’s truly a dangerous addiction. While our favorite staff member, Nicole, has moved on, we still marveled at the truly outstanding service and food. Particular standouts this time were the winter sunchoke soup, the arancini (a bar menu item, but they always give us an order on the house since we spend SO much time there), and the butternut squash caramelle - Spoon’s heritage grain pasta is seriously to die for.

I also enjoyed running into Matt, a colleague of Dave’s at Stanford, and his family - he’s from a neighboring suburb, and it was a hilarious small-world moment to see him at the next table over just a week after we hung out in California.

Christmas Eve found us headed to my beloved Basilica for the Children’s Choir Mass - an annual tradition I adore. Getting to attend the Basilica makes me so homesick - I haven’t found a church community in California that can even come close to touching how wonderful the mass experience is there.

Post-Mass, we headed home and dressed way down in our coziest clothes for champagne, a huge lasagna dinner, and presents! Particular highlights this year were Emily’s gorgeous archival photo books of our Italy trip - she’s an amazing photographer - and, for my dad, surprise Garth Brooks tickets from my mom! I actually got to play Santa’s helper on this one - she had a doctor’s appointment when the tickets went on sale, so I spent three hours the morning of my Stanford finance program’s orientation trying to purchase them on Ticketmaster. When the site bogged down, I hopped to Stubhub and lucked into an outstanding pair of tickets in the lower tier.

When my mom wrapped the printout of the tickets, she hid them under smaller gifts - a belt and a golf towel. Dad clearly knew something was up, though - he caught sight of the paper underneath the towel, and literally tossed the towel on the ground, shouting “Whatever, nice towel, whatever, I’M GOING TO GARTH!” He was so excited - it was a joy to witness, a true reminder that it’s way more fun to give than receive :)

One of my gifts to my family every holiday season is a suitcase full of wine! I really pushed the envelope this time - my suitcase was 48.8lb at the airport, with four bottles and a magnum crammed in among gifts and, oh right, clothes. We saved the magnum of Iron Horse “M” Cuvee for Christmas Day - it may be my new favorite from them, which is terrible as they’re never producing it again! Proving that we’ll do anything for bubbles, my mom, sister and I, with a little help from my cousin Carly, killed this bad boy - the equivalent of three bottles - in about three hours. OOPS.

Obsessed with these two and their matching plaid and their adorableness. My mom always laments that we don’t get good family photos on the holidays, but I think this one’s a framer for sure. As is this one:

While we thought we were super cute and funny and clever (also, freeeeezing), Jodes was less than pleased with our shenanigans. So we gave her one nice one for the frame…but just one. We had drinking and eating to do!

Post-Christmas, I started a mad frenzy of seeing as many friends as possible before my (originally scheduled) return to the Bay on the 28th. First up was this dynamic duo:

…plus Colleen and Baby R 2,0! So fun to get to spend some time with the cutest family in their new home - not gonna lie, I have major Minnesota real estate envy.

Post-Reuvers, I met up with Kels at easily the most festive bar I’ve ever seen: Lawless Distillery’s Miracle Pop-Up Bar, near the U of M:

Decked out with over two thousand ornaments, vintage signs, a bathroom wall entirely covered with nutcrackers (hahaha, I loved that justaposition), and a seasonally appropriate cocktail menu, I couldn’t get enough of the festive vibe - great way to avoid the post-Christmas crash!

We sipped on a “Partridge in a Pear Tree" and a “Run Run Rudolph,” people-watched to our hearts’ content, and decided we’re doing a warm-weather post-Christmas trip next year - already excited to escape to some fabulous island paradise somewhere with this one!

Post-Kels, I met up with Nate, Margaret, Matt, and Carlos, who is a champ. Nate and Marge also just bought their first home, and it is seriously a palace - I’ve got major FOMO with my 850 square-foot apartment compared to their three floors, four bathrooms, and huge backyard, ugh!

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The 27th found me a bit under the weather with what I thought was just a sore throat or cold - nothing serious enough to keep me from getting my hair cut and colored, or spending an afternoon with David. So fun to catch up with him, freshly post-engagement, and after almost a year and a half! By evening, though, my glands were super swollen and my throat was achy…

…and things rapidly took a turn for the worse on the 28th, with an emergency room admit, hospital ride to a different ICU, and admittance for airway monitoring. Definitely NOT how I thought my “last day” in Minnesota would go.

Fortunately, I was pumped full of drugs, monitored and finally deemed fit to make my escape right in time for the Notre Dame-Clemson game. Or…would we say fortunately? I think Em’s best friend Liz summed it up pretty appropriately, sadly.

After the debacle that was supposedly a college football playoff game (WOOF, OUCH, GO IRISH), I laid pretty low for the next several days, riding out a course of steroids that knocked me totally flat. On New Year’s Eve, I was seriously still so out of it that I couldn’t even power through for champagne - and my parents had even bought Nicholas Feuillate, one of my favorites! SAD. Jodi enjoyed for the both of us, once again cementing her status as the cutest human alive:

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And Kels, cementing her status as the best and kindest friend ever, came over for an ultra-low-key evening of making homemade tagliatellle bolognese! My parents bought a pasta roller attachment for their KitchenAid after we went to Tuscany, and it was seriously one of the coolest and most fun things I’ve ever done in a kitchen.

LOOK AT THAT PASTA. Seriously so good and fun! I didn’t even make it to the ball drop - pretty sure I was in bed and fast asleep by 10:30, oops. At least I started 2019 well-rested, okay, guys?!

Being a delinquent, and totally drained, I took no photos on my outing with Hannah the next day - the silver lining of being forbidden to fly until the 2nd was that we actually got to squeeze in seeing each other! My parents and I ended my time at home with a trip to Pizzeria Lola - turns out -15 degree windchills will give you a craving for cheese and carbs like nothing else, apparently.

And with that, it was off to the airport, back on a plane, and back to the Bay. All said in done, a break that was simultaneously eventful and uneventful, relaxing and jam-packed, full of highs and lows - sounds a lot like 2018 ended much the way it existed?! So thankful to my fam and friends for making it as great as possible!

2018 in review.

2018 is over and in the books, and as I alluded to yesterday a bit, I’ve got mixed feelings about it as a whole. It was a year with abundant positives, but equally abundant negatives that, I’m afraid, left me a bit sour at times. That said, if I learned anything in 2018, it was that I am gifted at keeping on keeping on even when life is kicking me in the proverbial teeth.

That said, looking back on this year was pretty damn sweet. How can you complain about a year with lots of travel, lots of friend time, and lots of Schwegmanigans? Just the way I like a year. Favorites:

Traveled:

New York City in February with Michael to celebrate our February birthdays! We packed so much into a long weekend - my first Met Opera trip for “Parsifal,” my third (and his first) time seeing “Hamilton,” adventures all over Brooklyn, staying up all night at underground jazz clubs, and WAY too much champagne. It was a truly exhausting joy of a weekend in a city where I definitely never slept.

Tahoe in March, for a much more successful ski trip than our family trip over the holidays last year! Dave and I nearly died on a blizzardy drive up - it usually takes 4 hours, and it took us 12 - but it was more than worth it for two bluebird days with over a foot of fresh powder. Honestly some of the best skiing of my life.

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Minnesota, several times! In March to see Leslie Odom Jr. with the Minnesota Orchestra, in May for a gala, in August for Labor Day (and my fourth time seeing “Hamilton!”), and in December for the holidays. Lots of lake time, the State Fair, my beloved orchestra, and of course Spoon and Stable…because why wouldn’t we?

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Colorado, a couple times, for quick little mountain getaways. Despite the complete lack of photos, I loved exploring Boulder and Denver, eating and drinking our way through amazing breweries and restaurants, and falling for the mountains…plus watching a Notre Dame victory over Wake Forest with bottomless champagne (and a Wake Forest fan!).

The absolute number one highlight of my year was my family’s trip to Tuscany over Thanksgiving. I could (and will) write volumes about it - the small, charming towns, the amazing pasta and wine, the history, art, and architecture - but for now, all I’ll say is that it was truly the best experience of the year. I already can’t wait to go back to Italy!

Celebrated:

my 29th birthday, in Sonoma and San Francisco in high style. We enjoyed private tastings at our favorite vineyards, cruised to Alcatraz to spend my actual birthday in a federal prison (as one does), and toasted at the Top of the Mark with - what else - champagne cocktails. Special thanks to Dick and Jodes for making the trip!

the Minnesota Orchestra’s annual Symphony Ball with a stellar crew of friends! Bonus to get to be home over Mother’s Day and spend it with my mama bear (over brunch at Spoon and Stable, naturally!).

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Cinco De Derby, in May, and Litmas, in December, with a ridiculously absurd cast of characters. One fact remains incontrovertible: I throw a damn good theme party. Case in point: in May, I oh-so-cleverly built a wall of Jell-O Shots to divide the “Mexico” half of the party from the “Kentucky” half of the party, and we filled a pinata with miniatures. I win.

Highlights:

My first Ring Cycle, at the San Francisco Opera in June with Michael! It truly surpassed my (very high) expectations - I’m definitely a convert to the Wagnerian cult.

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Living with this absolutely ridiculous delight of a human, who has truly become my best friend in the Bay Area. He’s taught me beer, ensured I’m conversant in any sport, and makes me laugh legitimately every day. Now if only he could get his toothbrush out of the shower in the morning… ;)

So many of my best friends made trips to the Bay this year to visit me! A wild St. Patrick’s Day weekend with Kaitlin, to Kelsie’s spring break full of adventures, Michael’s opera sojourn in the Bay, Hal’s mad sprint through DCI and Pride, and Nate and Margaret’s quick post-engagement trip…it’s so special that the people I love and care about are willing to come out here for me, and I love few things more than getting to show them around my new state!

Lots and LOTS of Napa and Sonoma time - with friends, family and my favorite wineries, of course! I’ve cultivated a taste for California cabernet, and love exploring the region…so much great food, spectacular wine and stunning scenery to enjoy. Getting to share it with the people I love just made it that much better, too.

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Best of all, another year with these people. I love my family more than anyone, and I treasure how amazing their presence makes any experience - whether it’s Spoon and Stable followed by “Hamilton,” sweating our asses off at the State Fair, yelling at each other over an aborted Michelin dinner in Florence, or even just getting drunk at 10am in our pajamas in Lakeville. They’re the best people in my life, and I’m so happy they’re mine.

life lately

Hi campers! Like I said Tuesday, my family spent the Thanksgiving holiday in Tuscany and it was the undisputed highlight of my fall. That said, I’ve gotten up to plenty of shenanigans since I last really regularly posted around here. I’m slowly going insane at work and all my free time is devoted to binge-ing on Hallmark holiday movies and the New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2018 - because of COURSE I can combine the highbrow and lowbrow effortlessly. While I had the best intentions of recapping most of these things in a lot more detail, realistically December’s not going to be when that happens - and I want to share so, so many of my sister’s insanely gorgeous Italy photos with y’all next week, so, that’s my priority.

Quick peeks of a frenetic/fantastic California fall:

Bita, Andrea and I achieved peak basic with a trip to the Museum of Ice Cream, where we took approximately 500 photos, ate approximately 500 grams of sugar, dove in a sprinkle pool…

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…and I celebrated my life ethos, “eat dessert first.” Duh.

Dave and I continued our streak of falling in love with dogs all over the peninsula, including this sweetie-pie at Alpha Acid. I went in to pet her on the head and she immediately flopped onto her back, gave me the doofiest tongue-out, begging-eyes grin, and before I knew it, I was kneeling on the floor of the brewery in seventh heaven making both our days.

Rob and I made a trip to Berkeley to see The National perform at the Greek Amphitheatre, and it was easily one of the coolest combinations of venue and artist I’ve ever experienced. Amazing live performance, all their hits, and photos like these - not zoomed at all.

The evening’s low: my front tire got slashed while we were at the show, and I didn’t find out until it went flat suddenly on the 101, at midnight. Fortunately, I am resourceful and badass and capable et cetera, and with the help of several Youtube videos, I got my spare tire on ALL BY MYSELF. Next stop: world domination.

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One of the cheapest nights of entertainment in the Bay Area is the San Jose Barracuda, our local minor-league hockey team. Dave, Laura, Drew, David (yes, I need to diversify friends’ names) and I went to $2 Beer Night on a Friday shortly before we moved - there’s truly nowhere else in San Francisco/the surrounding area where for under $20, you can enjoy (bad) sports and (bad) (but cheap) beer:

Damages were done, campers, and I had a ball. Bonus: The Cudas won in epic fashion.

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Shortly after moving, Dave and I lucked into 3rd row, $40 rush seats to “Miss Saigon” at the Orpheum downtown. I had never seen it, and I cried embarrassingly hard and frequently. The production was outstanding for a touring company, and our seats were amazing - I really need to get to the theater more regularly, it’s one of the things I miss the most about the Twin Cities.

One of our first houseguests was four-legged - Charlie and Tiny Tina joined us for a Notre Dame gamewatch the weekend after we moved! While we still didn’t have a couch, they were champs and I for one fully credit Tina’s lucky Notre Dame bandana for the win we got that weekend.

Francesca, a couple of her colleagues, and I went to the San Francisco Symphony for “Jurassic Park: Live” in early November…I had never seen the movie, somehow, because I’m weird, idk. It was unbelievable, crew. Give me a live symphony, a John Williams score, and a bunch of dinosaurs running around and I’m a happy camper.

Snuck off to the mountains for a quick weekend trip before Italy. While I wasn’t expecting it, getting to see snow when we woke up on Sunday was such a surprise and I couldn’t have been more delighted. I ended up going for almost an hour-long walk outside - frozen toes and chilly fingers were well worth the (mercifully short) burst of winter wonderland.

Sadly, I left Colorado and came home to a Bay Area blanketed in smoke from the Camp Fire. While the Napa and Sonoma fires last year were terrible and I’m definitely not downplaying it, the Camp Fire’s impact on the Bay was way more severe. I went into the city to pick up a suitcase and go to a benefit with Kevin on Thursday, the night before I left for Italy, and this was the view where the San Francisco skyline is usually visible. Gut-wrenching…I’ve donated to relief efforts through the Red Cross and entreat any of you with a little spare cash and Christmas spirit to consider doing the same.

Post-Italy, I laid low for a week or so getting over let lag and catching up on mountains of work, but last weekend, Dave, Bita and I went to Sonoma - Dave’s first time actually wine tasting in wine country! He fit right in with the crew at La Crema:

…and a trip to Sonoma would never be complete without a stop at Iron Horse for the best views and bubbles in the state. Dave actually liked sparkling wine, guys - this feels like a major victory for yours truly! Such a fun day with my two favorite Californians - can’t wait for more shenanigans as Bita moves INTO our building in just two weeks!

Speaking of that building - it’s looking extra merry and bright in Apartment 630 these days, as my mama bear so sweetly mailed me my Christmas ornaments early in the week. It’s made me so happy all week to see my sentimental favorites hanging on our tree, even if there are palm trees outside the window instead of Minnesota snow.

Cheers to a great weekend ahead, campers! Stay tuned for lots of Italy talk, a little more merriment, and general debauchery to come…

101 in 1001 #11: See the Ring Cycle at the San Francisco Opera!

Hey campers! This one’s coming to you from the security line at SFO – I’m headed home for a long weekend with my Schwegfam! We’re seeing “Hamilton” (yes, this will be my fourth time, and yes, I know that’s absurd), hitting up our favorite restaurants, and hopefully heading to the State Fair and out on the lakes, weather permitting. I haven’t seen my parents since May and June, respectively, and my sibs since March…so this is a long-overdue reunion!

After a long summer break from writing, I have a ton to catch up on from pretty much all of 2018. It’s been a banner year for having adventures, but not a great one for recording any of it…oops. The undoubted highlight of my summer was, indisputably, seeing my first full Ring Cycle at the San Francisco Opera in June! While I had seen “Das Rheingold,” the first of the four operas, in Minnesota, I had never seen the other three, and experiencing them all in just one week was a wild ride and total adventure.

Doing a full Ring Cycle is a cultish, hardcore, elite-opera-lover thing to do – so naturally I needed to do it. Over the course of our six-day cycle, I met opera fans who have done the full Cycle as many as 22 times – people who travel all over the world to experience it, spending thousands of dollars and years of their lives obsessing over it and discussing it with like-minded fans. As a first-timer, I found that the brotherhood of other Ring lovers was warm, welcoming, and enthusiastic – we made friends over the course of the week during intermissions, at restaurants beforehand, and even in the pool of my apartment complex.

Of course, who better to do a Ring Cycle with than my favorite opera friend Michael? He flew out to California early, spent the weekend in Yosemite being a beast and climbing Half Dome, and rolled into town on Monday night. We kicked off our week of operas with Rheingold on Tuesday:

First, cocktails at Laszlo. We went with mezcal-based drinks: a Melanie for me and a Margot for him.

Then we headed two doors down for an unbelievably good dinner at Lolinda – Argentinean wood-fired meats, including the most incredibly tender tongue I’ve ever had, and a Chappellet cabernet that was revelatory for me.

Rheingold was fantastic – we actually happened to see the same Wotan (the bass) that we had seen in Minnesota in November of 2016! The SF Opera production was set at the turn of the 20th century, and was set-designed gorgeously.

For me, Die Walkure, our second show, was the standout of the cycle. We raced downtown after a long day in Muir Woods and at Lagunitas, and made it to our seats with only three minutes to spare. At the first intermission, we discovered that the balcony of the opera house had been converted to a German beer garden, serving brats and giant soft pretzels with enormous German beers. Bonus: the view of the Civic Center is absolutely stunning from the balcony…

I was blown away by Swedish soprano Irene Theorinn singing Brunnhilde – her “Heilegin hoy” aria at the beginning of the second act got a spontaneous ovation from the audience, which is incredibly rare for Wagner. The entire third act, where Wotan curses her (his daughter) to sleep, left me in tears- the music is ridiculously rich, evocative and moving, and they really left it all out there during the scenes. As soon as my tears dried, we headed out and made it home…after midnight, after four and a half hours of opera! The Ring Cycle truly is a marathon, and I think we were really feeling it after an early morning, strenuous day, and mad dash downtown.

We fortunately had Thursday off from opera for a rest day, so we didn’t pick back up until Friday. This time, to avoid another frantic rush-hour race into the city, we packed formalwear and spent the day downtown exploring, thinking we would grab drinks and change before the show. So we popped to Epic Steak for oysters and Iron Horse champagne (of course). As we finished, I headed to switch my jeans out for a gown, and almost shit myself when the zipper zipped onto the dress midway up. The restaurant manager, who happened to be in the other stall, tried to fix it and, instead, ended up ripping the entire zipper out of the dress.

Not going to lie, I had a moderate panic attack. I didn’t have a gown, and we had dinner plans with another couple in an hour, and I was NOT about to wear jeans to the opera. Thankfully, there’s a stand-alone Rent The Runway in the downtown Neiman Marcus…

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…where an absolute angel staff member hooked me up with a gown in five minutes flat. (She seriously deserves a prize for dealing with my panic-sweating, tear-stained, frantically-rushed spaz self with such grace and patience.) That gown was definitely out of my comfort zone…I tend to default to black dresses for the opera just because they’re elegant, understated, and most of all, safe. I’m not the kind of person who likes to stand out, and nothing stands out quite as much as full-length gold sequins…

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…especially when coupled with a very low neckline and a very slinky fit. The funniest thing, for me, was that as uncomfortable and self-conscious as I was, I was besieged with compliments all night. Michael, being who he is, found it more and more amusing as I felt more and more awkward…and ended up making a game of it. So there you go… “Siegfried” was most memorable, for me, for the fact that I dressed up like a human disco ball.

(The opera, for what it’s worth, was spellbinding.)

Saturday was another day off for us, and we spent it in Napa…our non-opera activities will have to be a post of their own, because this is getting long. Sunday brought us the six-hour behemoth that is “Gotterdammerung,” “the fall of the gods,” which legit ends in fire, flood and death to all parties. It is heavy, and it is dark. And I adored it.

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I found myself in tears again as the opera drew to an end – in part because it was so ridiculously emotional, but also because I was so sad that this gorgeous, immersive adventure was coming to an end. It felt like coming up for air having held my breath for a long time when the lights came up after the show…I was completely jolted.

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We went to The View Lounge to dissect a little over cocktails while enjoying, you know, the view…and immediately started discussing the Cycle. Both our opinions were largely favorable – the casting was impeccable, the staging innovative and cohesive, and the orchestra faultless. The Ring is extraordinarily demanding of every person involved, and the way the San Francisco Opera rose to the challenge of putting on three consecutive weeks of Cycles was insane. I’m already thinking ahead to trying to catch it at the Met in New York next May…anyone feeling like 16 hours of German opera?!

miscellany

Cleaned out my phone photos during a 2am bout with insomnia last night and found a handful of little bits and pieces that don't really fit anywhere else...

- the prettiest brunch at Angelica's with Bita, Andrea and of course my favorite dog Leia

- Dave and I hosted our friends David and Meaghan for a cookout a few weeks ago, and Meaghan brought the most adorable cake - bonus? It was Funfetti. 

- Anything funny/British royal family related tends to get screenshot these days. 

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- Spotted downtown en route to 21st Amendment. I'm a nerd, I laughed out loud. 

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- The random Monday when Alpha Acid had the brewer's dogs in-house and I was in heaven. 

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- I have too many products. Correction: *had. Massive bathroom cleanout was a good move, as was the post-cleanout bubble bath. 

- Once upon a time Drew ordered "the largest pizza" at our local pizza dive. It's two feet across, it's called the King Kong, and didn't fit through my car door. 

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- On a higher-brow food note: I find myself at Terrain Café every other week or so now, mostly for the passionfruit Italian soda and the kale Caesar but also because their patio is so lovely. 

- a new vintage Kate Spade shot for my work computer's desktop background - seems appropriate for a lot of reasons. 

- My mom and I found Toppling Goliath at a random little restaurant in Sebastopol on our Sonoma trip last weekend, and I was utterly delighted...even moreso when the bartender, who also runs their beer program, sold me a spare bottle to bring home to my IPA-loving roommate. 

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- Laughed my ass off, campers. 

- Seemed appropriate to dine on Rosé Street - well-placed street sign humor will always make me giggle. 

- After dropping my mom off at the airport on Monday, I took 280 to work and noted the "WOZ" vanity plate. Sped up accordingly and almost died when I spotted Steve Wozniak in the passenger seat. What a weird, weird place this is, campers. 

- Tuesday marked my one-year anniversary at Stanford, and I celebrated by working very very late and being very very busy. Things are absolutely insane here right now, and I mostly love it and am still so grateful for and excited about the chance to be here, learning and challenging myself every day.

- Things I studied in school that I have not used as an adult include but are not limited to the ability to map iambic pentameter, calculus, topography, any kind of dissection, and Platonic philosophy. Thing I did in school and used just last week: that effing fifth-grade science fair board. 

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- California is so freaking weird. These are random goats "mowing" a hillside in a suburb. What the actual eff? 

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- I have been VERY homesick this week, and a big part of it is missing my bff. Since we couldn't have beers in person together, I sent a Greetabl her way to be with her in spirit at least. Can't wait to see her hopefully soon! 

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- And finally - we've been marathoning "Queer Eye" all week and I am beyond obsessed. Besotted. Enchanted. Addicted. I don't even know, it just makes me ridiculously happy and that's a wonderful thing. Also this is my new quote any time I get down on myself. Expect to hear it repeated ad infinitum, campers. 

 

HAPPY FRIDAY!