Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Making the Most of Memorial

It was a 3-day weekend and you know what that means: a visit from Heather and Alex! This time we mixed foodie greatness and natural goodness with a twist of cozy and a touch of style. OK, maybe more than a touch.

It all begins in my apartment, where I anxiously await their arrival. When I have guests, I like to fill my place with fresh flowers and yummy scents. I burn candles and light incense. I sweep and I spray things with Murphy's Oil. For them, I like it shimmering with cleanliness, with nary a dust bunny hiding in the corner. 

Hot off the plane and it's lunch at Piccino. Pizza, olives, farro salad. Lavender Cheesecake for dessert. It's how all first meals of a vacation should be.

We usually go north for our adventure: hiking in Point Reyes or a dharma talk at Green Gulch. Since Sunday was the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge we thought it might be best to head south and avoid any and all Northern SF activities, including driving over the Birthday Bridge. We found a hike through the Redwoods in Butano State Park near Pescadero. My new theory: all great journeys start heading South on Highway 1.

The hike was full of greenery, wildlife and wildflowers, so much to see, hear and smell. So much so, that Heather and I got a little lost while deep in conversation and thought. Where was Alex, we wondered as we called his name and heard no response? It just so happens that we had veered about a mile off course and found ourselves in a landscape that looked like Mars.

Luckily, we re-traced our steps and found our turn, which we had missed. When we got back to the trail head, Alex had left sticks in the form of an arrow leading us to his locale down by a creek. By this point we were hungry and tired, plus dazed from a long and nourishing hike.

We stopped into a cute country bakery that had everything from Romance novels to awesomely labeled wine to freshly baked bread. A chocolate chip cookie was in my future!

After some deep and necessary naps, we got dressed up and headed out to dinner (with a few stiff legs among us)!

 Wo Hing General Store is the perfect meal after a long day!

Sometimes I like going to the Ferry Building on any day other than a Saturday (sometimes the crowd of the farmer's market can be too much). An excuse to go on a Sunday is a leisurely lunch while overlooking the Bay. Hog Island Oyster Company anyone?

Oysters, clam chowder and salad. Sparkling Rosé on the house wasn't bad either! 

We also managed to fit in a burrito...or two ;)

It's like the life we were living...

...were labels at Bi-Rite. Great finds! 

As always, it was a spectacular weekend! I decided to take this whole week off (using some of my very much needed vacation days). So, in a way, the party's only just begun. I'm kicking it off with bigger images on my blog. It's been a long time coming. I hope you enjoy the new format. I sure do!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Tuning in to Happiness

Would you say we pretty much know what makes us happy? I love beach houses in summer. The smell of lilacs lifts my spirits. Three-day weekends are the best. We sure are quick to say what we don't like: I despise the taste of cilantro. My allergies are killing me. Why can I never get a dinner reservation at Frances? What we like, what we don't like. It's easy to label these things. Especially the "likes" (notice that Facebook doesn't have a "don't like" option?). Why even go there? Why drown in the dislikes when we're drawn to what makes us happy?

Lately, I've been noticing things that make me unexpectedly happy. The first thing that comes to mind is the radio. Specially, the World Famous KFOG - San Francisco's classic radio station (turn your dial to 104.5 or listen on the web). I really only have two radio personalities: serious and not serious. Serious being NPR and not serious being Top-40 hits. The only time I really listen to KFOG (and it's rare) is on Sundays when they play "Acoustic Sunrise" in the morning and "Acoustic Sunset" in the evening. Other than that, I don't often tune in.

So when I heard about their A-Z countdown, I wasn't that interested. Beginning last Monday, they started playing hits from the music library, starting with A and ending with Z.  I could take it or leave it...or so I thought. I started listening last Thursday night (they were on the H's) and the first song I heard was "Help!" by the Beatles. Classic. Then, "Help me, Rhonda" by the Beach Boys. I had forgotten how GOOD that song was and that pretty much sums up my past 4 days. One hit after another, reminder after reminder of the songs I've heard and the songs I've loved. "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" by the Proclaimers, "Learning to Fly" by Pink Floyd, "Midnight City" by M83, "My Moon My Man" by Feist, "Nick of Time" by Bonnie Raitt, "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" by Neil Young. Such classics!

They're only on the O's so there's still time to listen! In honor of the things that make us happy, here are a few reminders for me (and it should come as no surprise):

BBQ's in the park - with a beautiful friend at the grill.

Saturday brunch at the brew-pub - I can always count on Magnolia for a Grateful Dead kind of morning.

Dinner al fresco after a long, almost-Summer day - thanks to Pizza del Popolo and Bar Agricole.

Crazy colored pasta at Toby's - because why not?

Beautifully weird earrings I found at Zuma - "weird" in this case of course meaning "full of spiritual energy."

A morning bun from Bovine Bakery - but really it's the center part, the soft roll of cinnamon.

90's Mary Chapin Carpenter - "Why Walk When You Can Fly" could and should be anyone's anthem.

The perfect place settings - I think everything here was a gift. Aw, gifts...

Crab mac 'n' cheese from Nick's Cove - "sinfully good" says the server.

An empty bottle of Rosé - the sign of a good night. Good nights, good days. Good times. 

What surprises you in bringing joyful delight???

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Plotting to Re-Pot

Of my many house projects, one has lingered over my head for a time period that exceeds over a year. I've been needing to re-pot my house plants. Since I can remember I've had a love/scorn relationship with the plants in my house. When I lived in LA, I had a money tree which, over time and much carelessness, I watched whither, crumble, and die. My negligence led me to have nightmares of this sort: I have a baby and then forget to feed it and change its diaper. Those kinds of dreams. My latest fear-I'm-neglecting-something dream is this: I have a new dog and I forget to feed it, give it water, etc. However, the plants (when they're healthy, happy, AKA when I'm taking the utmost care of them) bring me a great amount of joy. You see: love/scorn.

The amazing thing about plants is that they don't need obscene amounts of care. Watering here and there, sunshine, love, but nothing too overprotective. On Wednesday of this past week, I thought I would kick start Operation Re-Pot with a purchase. I thought, with this new plant, I will vow to care for and love all my plants forever more. Every endeavor must start with a ritual. 

Above: adorable cacti, though they didn't come with me. Just cute and pretty. Something for the future perhaps?

So, here I am at home, with a beautiful bag of potting soil. 

Behold: two plants that desperately need re-potting. To the left we have the luscious, temper-mental Maiden Hair. This fern is definitely outgrowing its pot and starting to brown a little. Foliage is fun in New England during October, but not on my house plant. To our right we have an unknown species that I bought two Christmases ago and never re-potted. I sense there's a little bug infestation (I have my suspicions) and the leaves look sad. This plant needed a makeover.

Droopy, dying leaves...

Hard to convey through a photograph, but this plant was stuck and lodged in this plastic pot.

Gently, I tried to pull and wiggle it out. Gentle turned to forceful and still it wouldn't budge! It occurred to me that getting it out of the pot might shock the roots and I started to worry that the fate of this plant might be like the others. I decided to use a chopstick to push on the soil through the little holes in the bottom of the pot. It came out, finally! Look at that root system!!!

Happy in its new pot, this plant seems to breathe easier now that I've given it a little love. I will keep a close watch to see how it does in its new home.

The sad state of this baby succulent was embarrassing. I just placed it in this small pot when I bought it, never tending to it minus the occasional watering. It did very well by the bathroom window, and since succulents are classically low-maintenance, I just watched its leaves beckon towards the sun and let it be.

Look how much better it took in its new pot though! Even when something isn't asking for a change, a little something new can never hurt. We all need a little spicing up every once in a while...plants are no different.

Making progress! As hands get dirty, you know something's getting done.

A happy plant scene. On the left is the newly planted Maiden Hair, ridiculously overjoyed to be in a larger, wider pot. Next to the fern is the new plant I got from the nursery: a lush Deffanbachia (thanks Becky, of Holly Flora, for identifying that one for me via text image message). The newest member of my indoor plant brigade, it fits in like a charm. 

Next project: I'd like to get these two plants raised. Currently, the pots are just sitting on the tile. I'd like to give them some height, showing off their gorgeous leaves from every angle. I was thinking simple wooden crates or even small ceramic "garden" stools. Do those even exist?

Any suggestions on where I can find something beautiful to lift these plants a foot or two into the air?

Sunday, May 6, 2012


When eating at home, I have this horrible habit of getting up to clean my plate while I'm still chewing my last bite. Am I in some kind of a rush? Apparently so given what happened yesterday: while grating Parmesan onto my fried egg, I was grating so rapidly that I grated off part of my finger nail. I'll spare you the gory details, but needless to say it's time to slow down.

April was all about clean-up, refresh, re-new. I spent most weekends at home, making my apartment a bright, happy and intentional place. Remember: out with the old, in with the new. Now that almost everything's in order (bags of unneeded items to donate are still in my hallway! Sometimes that one trip to Salvation Army is like pulling teeth!) and May is here, I'm ready to enjoy this space I've created.

First order of business: get out of town! Sounds counter-intuitive, I know, but yes, it's true. After basically spending every weekend of April in my apartment cleaning, sorting, re-imagining, organizing, I was ready for a well-earned day trip. Sarah mentioned spending the day in Davis for biking, farmers marketing and burgers and brewing. Sounds like my kind of day!

Davis is just an hour or so north east from San Francisco. I've only been once before and have been eager to get back up there. I loved the idea of biking through the farmland and UC Davis, a most idyllic sounding college campus from what I've heard. I wanted it all: the small town, the sunshine, the wheels. It is Bike Month in Davis, after all. But, first, this farmer's market I've been hearing all about:

Buckets of flowers are always reminiscent of the opening scene in My Fair Lady.  Our first taste at the farmer's market was a cherry. The first of the season too!

Musing over why I might need one of these baskets. I didn't buy one, but it's a great excuse to go back!

Freshly baked pretzels are one of my favorite treats. I come by them so infrequently, I'd definitely call them a delicacy.

The dreamiest, freshest looking bread. It actually reminded me of the bread at one of my favorite restaurants in LA, the Ivy at the Shore.

Next, onto some cycling. On this trip I learned that a.) two bikes fit perfectly in the back seat of my car and b.) Davis was voted the #1 Best Small Bicycle Friendly City by Bicycling Magazine. Number five on the list was Burlington, VT - another small town I've spent the day riding in. It's hard to compare the two. In Burlington, I road out onto a causeway over Lake Champlain that made it feel as though I was floating on the water. In Davis, we biked on rural roads, so seemingly endless and open, it was as though we were flying through the fields on either side of us. Horses grazed to our left and, for us, nothing but freedom ahead.

We also got to explore the campus on our bikes. The bike lanes were amazing. At times, they intersected. No wonder everyone's on their bikes. It was also 80 degrees. Did I mention that?

Thank goodness for places that are called Burger and Brew. Makes days like these feel whole. 

After lunch, it was time to wind down. We plopped ourselves in Central Park (don't worry, we were still in Davis) with a blanket and some magazines. The black and white stripes above are Sarah's dress and that photo was an accident. Isn't that cool!?

Me, waking up from my nap.

The center of town has an amazing flower and herb garden. These roses were utterly beautiful and delicate.

Davis is bike friendly, that's for sure. It's also friendly for big-city dwellings in need of a dose of small town life. We made a wrong turn on our way out of town but it was a happy accident. We literally turned into the parking lot for the COOP, the one place in Davis I'd been to, once before, years ago. We got icy cold drinks for the road. We played music with the windows rolled down, heading back again to another city.