Thursday, December 29, 2011

Visions of Home

Even though I'm back at work, I'm treating this week between Christmas and New Years like a vacation. Why not? The San Francisco sky is crisp, the traffic is almost non-existent, and another holiday weekend is approaching. Sure I'm still rocking the 9-5, but there's a way to have it all now isn't there? I made sure to schedule lots of nourishing activities pre- and post-work (yoga, soup date with a friend, baking date with a friend, Audrey Hepburn marathon, sushi dinners, leisurely strolling the aisles of my favorite grocery store, a civilized–and solo–glass of wine at Tartine while flipping through the New Yorker).

I must admit, I slightly dreaded this week. It was the first time I'd ever officially worked between the holidays. Suddenly in the thick of it, however, I had no idea how much I would enjoy this quiet time in the city. Maybe my current calm and positive frame of mind was shaped by my cozy and loving trip down to L.A., where family and friend time was plentiful, food was comforting and the hot SoCal sun warmed my heart. Even though my family isn't with me this week, I still feel their closeness and the magic that we created together during this holiday season:

The Christmas dinner table at Heather and Alex's.

Pitted dates sizzling on the stove top: the key ingredient to Lumberjack Cake.

An early morning table, kissed by the sun.

My Mom's famous Gingerbread Men.

Sweet Iroha bringing laughter and smiles to Christmas Eve dinner.

All my favorite people in a row, together in one room.


Trying to live in the moment, while visions of home dance in my head.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Wishes

To all of my wonderful readers,

I wish you a sweet and lovely, relaxing and peaceful holiday!


Monday, December 19, 2011

'Twas the week before Christmas

The week before Christmas is a funny thing. For some people, it's about the hustle and bustle: shopping, wrapping, bow-tying presents. The last minute errands. For others, it's about finishing up big projects at work or finally throwing that big party they've been preparing for. For some, it's about getting in the holiday spirit: holiday movies, decorating the tree, baking cookies, warming up next to a fireplace. For some, it's just your average week.

Whether we like it or not, though, we give a lot of ourselves during this time. Some of us wish we could give more, wish we could be in two places at once, wish we could be better to others, or (here's an unfathomable one) be better to ourselves. Let's just say, expectations are high. Amid the craziness that is the holidays, I might do something different this year. Something like slowing down, taking a step back and acknowledging the little things.

Slowing down scares me because it means I actually have to feel (ack, feelings! scary!). Seriously, though, room must be made for feeling. Like clearing out some space in the closet in the Springtime, the holidays could not be a better time to carve out some personal space to get in touch with where we're at emotionally. The little things are lost otherwise. The little things are just another day...passing us by. With open space, things stay close, things remain, like...

This temple of Redwoods, watching over me.

This burst of another season in Mill Valley.

This perfectly clear day in the Headlands, the ocean and the lagoon almost touching.

This perfect lunch with my besties at Outerlands, grilled cheeses and potato garlic soup!

This open window letting the sun shine in on the succulents.

These colorful books... the General Store.

This almost-new year.

This cozy-as-ever dessert at Frances, the Lumberjack Cake. I know it sounds crazy, but with eyes open and patient, I think I enjoyed each bite differently than I would have before. Maybe there's something to this slowing-down thing.

Any tips for handling the craziness of the week before Christmastime?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Deal in Dreamers

Good morning...or is it? I mean, I don't think I slept last night. I tossed, I turned, I tossed and more of that. I know I slept a little bit because I had two horrific nightmares: in the first, I got bitten by a snake and in the second, my hands turned into snakes (Hey, everyone, take a wild guess at what I'm most afraid of). Both horrors caused me to wake with a jolt. Then, when the trash and recycling pick-up comes around 5 a.m., the hope of sleep is done for. When I woke up this morning, let's just say I was a wee bit on the grumpy side.

Coffee didn't make it better. My pine scented candle didn't calm my bummer mood. Steve Inskeep's comforting voice didn't do squat. Just when I thought I was hanging on by a thread, I made one last attempt at making myself feel cozy again: Joni Mitchell. Would listening to "Court and Spark" cheer me up? The answer is yes or yes-ish. I'm still half-asleep, but at least my most recent thoughts are of wonderful Joni (as opposed to snake hands). Wonderful Joni, wonderful Joni, wonderful Joni...

Tell me, sweet empathetic loving readers, what do you do to cure those mornings when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed?

Joni photo from here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Holidays + Suppen

Lately, I've really been wanting to have brunch at Suppenküche, this really cozy German restaurant in Hayes Valley. They're the real deal: Schnitzel, beer out of the boot, Spätzle. As if they couldn't be any cooler, they recently opened up a Biergarten around the corner.

Anyway, I hadn't been there in probably 3 years (!!!) and I needed my fix. It was the perfect place to meet Emmanuel for brunch on Sunday.

A delicious meal! Reibekuchen mit hausgemachtem Apfelmus (Potato Pancakes with Homemade Apple Sauce) and my mystery plate. I ordered a bread dumpling with sausage and 2 fried eggs, but something completely different came to me! I didn't mind. The food there is so good. There are no mistakes.

We sat in a cozy corner by the bar. It was so nice to look out and see all the Christmas decorations. It definitely got me in the holiday spirit!

Afterwards, I went to Rainbow grocery for my weekly market trip! I couldn't believe it when I ran into Maureen and Fifi in the kitchen appliance aisle. It was their first time at Rainbow! I felt their awe...

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Seaside Array

I know it might not be the most timely thing, but sometimes I like to revisit things I did in real life but never blogged about. Remember this? Well I never did follow up on what happened with all of those sea objects. Part of the wait was intentional: I was holding off until local artist and friend Dave Wilson revealed the final product to the public. Now that he's put it up on his blog, I feel it's safe to share some goodies from that wonderful day at RCA beach in Bolinas.

Before we arrived, the actual event was full of mystery and suspense. I knew something about a stop motion film project. I knew something about a giant tripod (that he built with KC Bull). I knew something about objects on the beach that we would find, collect and use as part of this project full of mystery and suspense. As part of a collaborative effort, I was delighted to be a player.

Oh (and most poignantly) I knew that this group was coming together to acknowledge the recent devastation of Japan and to honor their healing. This sign says: "We think of you."

After foraging various sea objects, we gathered under a perfectly constructed tripod, arranging our findings among the wooden frame.

Each half a minute or so, we sat back to let the camera capture the latest creation.

We'd then go back to create some more.

The objective became something meditative and intentional: to use objects to make shapes with the intention that one day (with a little help from a camera and some editing) they would move. Items, though still and inanimate, have the potential to come alive and take flight. How lovely!

You get the idea. Clearly, I was excited about it then and I'm excited about it now.

Playful and curious, it was like being in the sandbox again.

And there was music!

Me, with artist Kyle Field. We sang Grateful Dead songs from our driftwood seats.

Heading home. Those aren't my dreads...but I wish they were my boots. Thanks, Dave, for including me in this thoughtful and lovely project. xo

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

All the Giving

We're somewhere in between my birthday and Christmas, yet somehow I've been showered with gifts. A gift can mean so many things: a dress you've been wanting, the new Nancy Meyers movie that's just out on DVD, a single homemade Gingersnap (thank you, Sarah), or a gesture. I love sweet gestures because, although they're not an object you can hold, they are an event frozen in time—often with the face of the one who adorned your space with kindness.

This past weekend, the choir that I am in had its holiday performance. We've been rehearsing like crazy and working so hard to get it just right. To me, it didn't even matter how we sounded, though. It mattered to me that I had so much fun up on stage. It felt good to hear all our hard work echoing off the walls of the church. Some of my favorite people showed up to support me, including my parents who drove all the way up from L.A. to hear me sing. It's hard not to feel like the happiest, luckiest person when this happens. I am so grateful to have such incredible friends and family.

So there is the gift of "showing up" and there is the gift of "giving." Here are a few lovely things I've been lucky enough to receive lately. These classy folks just blow my mind.

Beautiful soap from Heather and Alex...

as well as this gorgeous throw...

Look at all the pretty detail!

...and these charming place-mats. Sometimes when Heather and I give each other gifts, we say that the present looks like one of us. I think the place mats look like me and the throw looks like Heather.

A sweet card from Jennifer...

A belated birthday card from Jessica...

Three perfect roses from Sarah, she gave to me after my Saturday performance. I put them by my bed, where I can smell these beauties when I wake up in the morning and at night, while I sleep.

The holidays are upon us! What would you like to give/get?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Birthday Girl

Happy Birthday, to my beautiful sister, Heather!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Take a Hike...I Wish

Despite a bout of low, dense fog and historically strong winds, San Francisco has been beautiful these past few days. A crisp and clear horizon, each mountain top looking like it was just drawn onto the sky. Days like these make me want to go for a big, long hike up north.

I love those weekend mornings, waking up with no plans and just deciding to get outta town. Over the bridge and fay away. If I wasn't so busy, I would get out a map and chose my destination. Maybe I'd play that game where you close your eyes, point your finger and go where it lands. Is that real or do they just do that in movies?

One of my favorite things to do before I hike is gather my pack. Water, sunscreen, fleece (wintry jaunts are just as cozy), food. Sometimes it's fun to indulge in some sweets, heading over to a local bakery (San Francisco doesn't have a shortage of those) to pick up some yummy, freshly baked bread or even a muffin or a cheese roll. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. I better get going on this adventure before I start only hiking in my dreams!

What are your favorite ways to prepare for a hike in nature?