Scenes From A Hat

I haven’t updated this blog for real since early 2013. In an effort to make up for lost time, I am sharing a random assortment of photos from the past year.

To gather these photos, I opened up my photo library, selected a few dozen photos at random, ‘shopped them a bit, and uploaded them to this here blog post. The process reminded me of the skit on Whose Line Is It Anyway? called “Scenes From A Hat.” They draw scenes ideas out of a hat and act them out, pretty straightforward. Sometimes they have help from Laura Hall and Linda Taylor.

That show was the first to make me laugh until I cried while watching television, by the way. So happy they brought it back.

So here it is, a year of photos, plucked at random for your review:

Writing this post after pulling my photos out of a hat (and after a 13-month hiatus from web publishing) is going to take a good amount of improvisation too.

MY DAD AS A BABY! – Recently, my mom uploaded an album of photos of my dad when he was a child. These were never before seen by me or any of my sisters, and she managed to casually post the photos without any of us noticing. I was never able to imagine my dad ever being younger than age 22, I totally flipped over these photos. I mean, look at him!

North Beach Festival – One of the first photos with my current phone. We like to go for walks and sometimes come upon street festivals.

Rompus Reunion – We were lucky enough to have friends and family come visit us several times over the past year. This photo is from when one of my loveliest lady friends and her beau came to visit. I snapped this photo before we entered the caves at the Kunde Family Estate in Sonoma.

Golden Gate Bridge – Lots of trips over the Golden Gate Bridge. It has not lost any of its wonder to me. This photo was from when my dad visited!

Sonoma Wine Tasting – Vista from a vineyard we visited when my dad was visiting. We enjoyed a picnic of goat cheese, hot pepper jelly, and crackers. And we saw tons of turkey vultures.

Pat the Love Palm  - We decided to change our Valentine’s day tradition in an effort to live a greener life. Instead of giving me roses for a gift, I suggested to J that we could instead invest in a plant. A real, living one that hopefully is not going to die. This way, we don’t buy into the fresh cut flower business which is arguably a pretty wasteful industry. The bonus is that we green up our living space and can watch our (potted) garden grow over the years. So here he/she is, our first annual Valentine’s Day plant named Pat.

Wipe Your Butt – Oh, I went for it. One day, I painted a tall wall in the bathroom with chalkboard paint. Then, I proceeded to scribe inappropriate lyrics, limericks, and lascivious lines on the wall. This photo is a progress shot. It took a few months to think up enough poop-related jokes to cover the wall, but I managed. I am now the proud creator of one of the world’s least mature bathrooms.

Coyote Alert – California state parks are on their game regarding wildlife signage. I saw this sign outside work one day and thought “that’s a first.” I don’t remember worrying about coyotes in New England. I have also seen signs to warn dog owners not to walk their dogs in certain areas because it disturbs the wildlife.

The “I Have a Job!” Cake – This photo photo is about six months old. After working for a year on temporary contract, I was hired on full time for basically my dream job. I rejoiced by baking myself a big fat cake with buttercream frosting and sprinkles. Jelly was not impressed.

Good Morning, Jellyfish – Speaking of that dream job, walking by this display of jellyfish in the morning is one of the perks.

Building Systems – More work stuff. This is proof that the photo selection process was random. This is a picture of the corner of the a room.

Our First Christmas Tree – We were so very broke for our first Christmas in San Francisco. The second go-round felt a lot more like home. We got a Balsam Hill artificial tree for our first “real” holiday here. We are totally pleased with the tree we got, by the way. It is pre-lighted and fluffed up very nicely.  Bonus is that we feel good about having a fake tree because that means less trees have to go into the chipper during the holidays.  Jelly continually pulled ornaments off the tree at a rate of two per day. 

Town Spa Pizza – We went back to Boston for a wedding, stopped back at home for long enough to see my family and eat an entire pizza. This is the best pizza on earth, if you were wondering.

Furniture Making – One unexpected addition to my resumé: furniture design and fabrication. I have had the opportunity to design a few furniture pieces, and  I even learned how to operate the CNC router so I can cut stuff out too. I use power tools and impress myself on a regular basis with how few flesh wounds I incur.

Prince – Pier Imports throw pillows on sale. Sometimes Jelly manages to prop himself on two pillows in a very regal manner.

Murica’s Cup – America’s Cup took place in San Francisco Bay this past spring. We sauntered up to the shoreline and watched a race. We had absolutely no idea what was going on.

Fuck Cancer – Every year, for the past 7 years, my next door neighbor throws a Fuck Cancer party to acknowledge the anniversary of her diagnosis/treatment for breast cancer. I went out for the soirée a few months ago and it was an awesome night. This picture is of a temporary tattoo that she designed and applied to everyone in attendance, even the bartenders. She is a rockstar.

Fourth of July Rooftop – My friends live in a building with a stellar view of downtown SF and the surrounding bay. It is the best location for viewing the fireworks on the 4th of July and New Year’s Eve (plus or minus a lot of fog.) This photo is from last 4th of July.

Jelly Being Convenient – Self explanatory.

We Do Art – Justin and I made these abstract panels together and hung them in our living room. Jelly ran across them while we were painting and so there are black paw prints on every panel. We had to put him in the tub to clean his paws.

Homemade Banh Mi – Self explanatory.

USD Graduation – J’s sister graduated with her master’s last summer. We went down to San Diego to celebrate with her. Now she is engaged so we are celebrating for different reasons!

California Flora – There are so many different types of flowers here. I see new ones all the time just walking around in any neighborhood, no matter how dense or developed. I saw fuchsia in the flesh for the first time. Mind blown.

Poster Wall Project - This is actually a project our cat did not manage to hinder or obstruct. Blog post to follow on this poster wall effort.

Wildflowers – More obsession with the local flora.

City By The Bay – We took a ferry over to Angel Island and hiked around on a sunny Sunday. We brought a picnic and ate it next to a dumpster. The dumpster was about 100 yards away from the scenic vista featured in this photo. So, at least we know where to eat the picnic next time. This photo reinforces why I love the Bay Area to pieces.

Bay Bridge – Bridges and boats. Typical.

Trans America Building – J snapped a ton of pictures of sea gulls flying above the ferry when we went to Angel Island. They had a pretty fly backdrop.

Claude the Albino Alligator – A friendly face that I pass by each morning, on my way to get coffee and a scone from the cafeteria. He is usually in the water, but sometimes he sprawls out on the his heated rock for the day. I feel more connected with nature just by being in close proximity to animals on a daily basis.

Sweet Sonoma Sun – We found an idyllic bed and breakfast in Sonoma county. They had fresh baked cookies out for everyone, a hot tub, and a babbling brook out back. We really step sideways into staying at this place, but I wound up wishing we could have stayed forever. This photo was the view from the deck outside our room.

 

 

Well, that was a mouthful. I hope you enjoyed catching up as much as I did. Stay fresh!

 

This Land Is Your Land

It was first or second grade when I first learned the words to “This Land is Your Land.” I wondered if I would ever go to New York or California. The “golf stream” waters and redwood forests seemed so far away.

I know I made six-year-old-me really proud when I got to cross another one of those grand American things off my list.

The Muir Woods national monument is located 11 miles north of San Francisco.

It is a big tourist destination, and it’s not the only place to go see redwoods in the area – but it’s a national monument worth seeing. 

I will say that the parking is probably impossible in the summer months.  We had to walk about 1/2 mile from our parking spot on a day that wasn’t very busy. For admission, we purchased a pass for $20 which allows anyone we want to bring into the park (up to 5 people at a time) for the rest of the year. Sweet deal!

 

Now, let’s look at some trees.

They were spectacularly tall.

 

I alternated between listening to the sounds of the forest, staring straight up at the canopy, and resisting the urge to belt out a few lyrics from Pocahontas.

How high does the sycamore grow?

If you cut it down, then you’ll never know. (And I won’t know because these aren’t sycamores.)

Some trees have fallen to the ground. Some trees are burnt and some trees are hollow.

Most of the pathway through the forest is a boardwalk. It’s not really hiking until you take off on one of the trails.

We came a second time with some friends and walked the Ocean View Trail. I had a feeling there wouldn’t be an ocean view, but there really was a little sliver of Pacific Ocean at the top of the trail.

All in all, I love the peaceful nature trails at Muir Woods. I am looking forward to checking out more national parks in Northern California, lots of hiking in our future!

This land was made for you and me.

 

Swapping with SF Swappers

In the end of January, I went to a food swap with the SF Swappers group.  

I was excited to try delicious new foods and meet some San Francisco foodies. This was my first time meeting with this group, and my first official “food” swap (I’ve swapped dozens of cookies though, read about it here and here.)

I liked the way the event was structured. Everyone brought food for a potluck, so there is more food on top of food (which is a win in my books.) All the swapping and sampling goods are laid out on big tables. I was impressed by the range of food products available for swapping. There was truly something for everyone and every diet.

Every item has a card in front that describes what it is.

After an hour of socializing and sampling, everyone is allowed to bid.

I went around and wrote my name on every thing that interested me (pretty much everything.)  After the bidding period is over, everyone gets to look at their bid card, and the swapping takes place in a crazy free-for-all.

So, what did I bring to the swapping table? Individually baked goat cheese and blackberry cheesecakes.

These little mason jars were the perfect vessel to bake a small cheesecake in and it was just the right portion size for the swap. I made a bright green label for my cheesecake but I forgot to take a picture of it. Boo!

Here’s how I made the cheesecakes: I prepared the graham cracker crust of each little cake, and a big sheet cake to slice for samples. I made the cheesecake batter and poured that first, followed by a blackberry purée. Then I swirled it all together with a skewer and baked them.

I did not mind having to taste test this recipe.

Goat cheese cheesecakes pretty much sells itself. I figured my cheesecakes would get a few bids because the samples disappeared really quickly. I had about 7 offers for the 6 cheesecakes that I brought.

Here’s what I got:

  • dried cured beef
  • rancho pozole soup and fresh veggies
  • chipotle barbecue sauce by Chef Stephanie (one of the event co-hosts)
  • a l’orange glaze
  • grapefruit ginger lemon curd
  • bottle of wine from Indian Leap Vineyards in Sonoma Valley

That’s a pretty good haul, right?

I ate the soup that night for dinner and had some of the BBQ sauce a couple days later. We had a couple pieces of the dried cured beef, but I didn’t think to put it in the fridge and instead left it in the cabinet. It molded in two days! Gross and sad. I made some pastry with the lemon curb a few weeks later, and I still have the wine and sauces left to use.

For the work that went into making my cheesecakes, I was totally satisfied with what I received. I am already scheming what I can make for the next swap that will be even better.

 

Twenty Thirteen

Hello, 2013!

Here is the view we enjoyed as we rang in the New Year. (Not a stellar photo, but trust me, it was beautiful.)

We were up on the rooftop of a friend’s apartment counting down to midnight. There were clusters of other party-goers scattered on rooftops all around the neighborhood. We could see the fireworks in the bay above the bridge, so the show was live. It was a happy celebration that we will always remember as our first NYE in San Francisco.

In the coming year, I foresee a lot of cats (hopefully not all black ones crossing my path.) I expect to dine at a lot of new restaurants, food carts, and dinner parties. Hopefully, I find the time to compete in a food contest. I will settle into my new job, apartment, and life in San Francisco – and I hope to share some of the goodness here along the way. 2013 goals include: more illustration, more walking, less overall cake, and more happiness than average.

This city has so many wonderful nooks and crannies to explore. We want to go to see the Sutro Baths, Bernal Heights, eat everything, take a glimpse at Ocean Beach (too cold for much more), and see the Farallon Islands, for starts. With lots of friends and family coming to visit us, we will have many opportunities to indulge. I am so looking forward to my first full year as a San Franciscan. Do people call themselves that? I’ll find out.

Cheers to a happy, healthy new year!

 

 

Best Thing I Ever Ate

Here is a blog post that’s been on my draft list for 5 months. I feel remorseful that I didn’t hit publish when I originally wrote the post, but better late than never. I feel like I can’t really start blogging about San Francisco food while I still have Boston food posts in the queue. Certainly not food as important as this.

This plate of food was by far the best thing I ever ate.

And my photo does not do it justice. It is dim and blurry when it should really be crisp and bright to match the perfection of what was served that night.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Justin took me out for my 26th birthday to Harvest in Harvard Square.

We ordered a whiskey sour and the Plymouth Plantation(bombay gin, agave nectar, grapefruit, fresh lime sour) at the bar, and while we waited, we overheard the bartender being commended by a women sitting at the bar. She said the blood orange martini she ordered was the best martini she’s ever had, and I believe she really meant it. Our drinks were both delicious, too. Hats off to the bartendress!

Soon after, we were lucky enough to be seated at a fine table in the corner of their outdoor seating area. It was cool and cozy and I could not wait to order food.

We had already picked the braised Vermont rabbit for our appetizer when we checked out the menu at home, solely because we rarely see rabbit on menus.

There was less rabbit in this dish than we anticipated, but the pieces that were there were succulent and rich. Mixed with gnocchi and mushrooms in a rich sauce, the rabbit sort of melted away. It was a small portion to share but actually turned out to be just right to save room for the main course.

Justin got the rack of lamb from the special menu. It was stacked on top of a white bean ragu, but honestly, I paid little attention to what was happening on his plate.

Because this was happening on mine.

Seared halibut served over sweet corn, cherry tomatoes, and bacon. I don’t know what the sauce was, but it was perfect. I would have licked the plate clean if our table was in a less conspicuous place.

But, it was really the preparation of the fish that made the meal. I have never had a piece with such an incredible crust on one side, while the rest of the fish was flaky and buttery. The rest of the components on the plate raise the fish to a new level. Our waitress said that the chef’s family had been in earlier that day and they had all ordered the halibut too – I think it was one of their most popular dishes, for good reason!

On top of being a plate of flavors that I really love, it encompasses what is most fresh during the summer season. That’s the philosophy of Harvest and it makes me want to come back see what’s on their menu during the fall and winter months! (But I can’t because now I live in California, so Boston readers, let me know what they are serving!)

And of course, we saved room for dessert. They have an exquisite pastry chef on board, unfortunately I think we made a less than exquisite choice from the menu.

This was a deconstructed “root beer float”: tower root beer cake, sarsaparilla ice cream, mascarpone caramel, frothed vanilla milk.

I had high hopes for the sarsaparilla  ice cream, but it was just a little bit too sassy. Maybe if the frothy vanilla milk had been swapped with whipped cream, the flavors might have come together in a less offensive way.

I felt like a Top Chef judge as I maneuvered this dessert. I totally get why they always moan when Marcel or other gastro-chefs put foam on everything. It’s air with a little flair, at best.

Overall, this was an incredible dining experience. Enjoying thoughtful menus like this is one of my favorite things to do, and I started this blog as a way to capture meals just like this one.

———————————————————–

Five months later, I still agree with this being the best food I’ve ever eaten at a restaurant. I’m so excited to explore the San Francisco food scene and see what they have to offer.

Places we already love:

SushiToni - B.T.S. roll for the win

Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack - if you come here and get anything other than spaghetti, you’re a crazy fool

Toast Eatery - delicious breakfast and brunch options

 

 

Cat-Proofing Windows

A weird thing about Bay Area apartments is that most of the windows don’t have screens. Our landlord explained that they don’t need insect screens here because there are no bugs to keep out.

When we were staying with my sister in the East Bay, we had to close the windows once it got dark out because moths would fly in. For the record, Jelly is so good at catching moths. But here in San Francisco, we can keep them open all night (if it weren’t for the crazy people hollering or noisy dump trucks.)

Bugs or no bugs, living in an apartment with no window screens poses a problem for a cautious cat mom. How can I prevent my kitty from shimmying down the fire escape and harassing the neighbors, or worse, potentially falling out one of the windows?

Chicken wire. That’s how.

Since our half of our windows swing out on hinges, there is no place for a traditional screen. For the rest of the windows with sliding glass panels, we would have spent a fortune custom-ordering screens to fit those dimensions. So instead, we used chicken wire to create a barrier on the window that Jelly cannot fall through.

Any other material could easily be clawed at and torn, but Jelly’s full weight (or even mine, for that matter) won’t impact this sturdy mesh.

Here’s how we mounted the wire to our windows. (I say we, but Justin did the whole thing.)

We got the wire and the rest of our supplies at the best hardware store in the world; this place seriously has anything and everything you could ever think to purchase.

Supplies:

- 1/2″ mesh chicken wire

- nails with wide heads (cut tacks)

- washers

- double point tacks

First, J clipped the wire to the appropriate dimension for each window. Then, he affixed it to the window frame with a washer and nail along the sides. (We will probably be reprimanded by our landlord for nails into the window frame, but it’s better than having a dead cat.)

Here’s a closeup of the assembly. We used a washer that was bigger than the mesh of the chicken wire so there would be no way for it to slip out.

Next, he hammered down the double point tacks to the bottom of the window frame. He noted that this step was a particular P.I.T.A. But, better safe than sorry.

Last, he trimmed holes in the chicken wire (with wire cutters) for the window latches. We can unlatch the window and then push or slide it open.

Now we can open and close the windows relatively easy, and don’t have to worry about leaving them open all day.

We also cat-proofed the latch in the bathroom when we were worried that Jelly could flip the latch and push open the window. We’ve since mounted chicken wire to this window, too, but this was a clever solution in the interim.

We nailed a hook with a safety on it into the wall, then affixed a few inches of chain around the latch to keep the latch secure while its closed.

And there you have it. We live in a chicken coop, but our kitty is safe.

 

 

Moving Out, Moving In

We’ve been in California for almost a month. I figured now is as good a time as any to share pictures from the move.

Here are some of the last photos taken in our Boston apartment, shot at approximately 3 A.M. the night before we flew out.

Jelly was helpful as ever.

We were tossing furniture to the curb just minutes before we had to be in a cab heading to the airport.

In a flash, we were in the airport with Jelly in tow. I didn’t photo document the travel part because I was generally exhausted and worried about our moosecat handling the 6-hour flight.

After a strong dose of sedatives (because of course he didn’t respond to the average-kitty dosage, or even twice that), he was mostly sleepy and quiet for the flight. He stirred during the final descent, but thankfully the jet engines drowned out most of his meows.

We loaded ourselves and our luggage into a cab and wound up at my sister’s place around 3AM EST. Jelly did not throw up or poop or pee at any point during the 10-hour stint in his carrier. I was so grateful.

After a day or so, he had adjusted to Pacific standard time and was back to his old antics.

Once I got into the swing of things at my new job, J & I started apartment hunting. My sister insisted that we would have to look at “twenty or thirty” apartments before we found one in SF.

We got lucky on #2.

The view blows my mind each and every morning. We are up on a hill, so we can see for miles upon miles. Coming from the east coast, I can’t get over the mountains on the horizon in (almost) every direction. This city is so damn pretty. Crazy and beautiful.

So, for a solid week, the only furniture we had in this one-bedroom apartment was a mattress. I ate cereal on a blanket in the kitchen every morning before work.

Jelly, again, quickly made himself feel right at home.

Last week, Christmas came early in the form of a jumbo delivery from IKEA. And then two days too late, our power tools came in the mail.

Now, we are a fully functioning home with a couch, bedframe, desk, and even chairs.

Home sweet San Franciscan home.

Once the place is decorated and organized, I’ll post some more pictures!

 

California King

A lot has changed since I last updated the blog. Our zip code, for example, moved approximately 3,300 miles west to the Bay Area!

This has been a long-term goal of ours, and it’s hard to believe we’re finally here! I start work this week with a new company (Justin is working from home). Jelly will start exploiting a whole new state for its resources. There is a lot to recount and I have approximately 0.001% of the required time and energy to do so.

But we’re here, and I’m thrilled. If you are a Bay Area blogger, I’d love to hear from you! Be back soon!

 

 

December Foodie Pen Pal

When I was a kid, I had a pen pal in England and we sent each other letters every so often. One time, I tried to mail her some rubber stamps in a small envelope. That is how I learned about the need for proper postage.

Shortly thereafter, the internet was invented. Pen pals became a thing of the past. Until now.

(BlogJam comic by Greg Williams found here)

Lindsay of the Lean Green Bean introduced me to the Foodie Pen Pals exchange. Every month, she and Allie pair foodies across the country (and world) and everyone mails $15 worth of food items to their pen pal. It is an easy way to meet new internet friends, find new blogs, try new ingredients, and spread the love!

This month is my first time participating, but it was such a success I’ve already signed up for next month. Here’s how it works: I sent a care package to Japan(!) for Kristen of Mind Your Bees and Trees. You can read about what I mailed her over on her blog. Karen also known as The Tamale Girl in San Francisco sent me a package.

San Francisco is only my favorite city in the world, so I was overjoyed when I found out I would be receiving from Karen. She did a great job selecting food items, let’s have a look:

California Harvest chipotle and lime mustard with roasted garlic. Well, doesn’t that sound delicious? I have a backlog of regular mustard in the pantry right now, I will have to make some egg or tuna salad soon to start using it up! I will save this bottle and the one from Austin for sandwich spreads.

Sourdough is one of those classic San Fran things, so Karen sent along sourdough starter and explicit directions for reconstituting it and making the bread. Lord knows I’ll need the guidance.

Making this sourdough bread will be a vast undertaking, so I will save further explanation of her recipe for another day.

Perhaps to accompany a piece of sourdough toast: Vineyard Pantry apricot fig spread. I  foresee a brick of brie in my future.

The one thing I mentioned to Karen specifically from San Francisco was lavender sea salt.

She totally followed through with my request, and I am so thankful to have a jar from the girl & the fig.

Do I know how to use this? No. But it looks so pretty and lavender is my favorite scent. There is an idea for another post: How to Use Lavender Sea Salt (find out February 2012!)

Another sophisticated find by Karen: chocolate sable cookies from Miette.

Sable cookies were new to me. I had to look them up and found out that sable is French for ‘sandy’. I even found Miette’s recipe online here. These cookies are baked firm and break into a sandy, chocolaty crumble. It is a very simple, yet remarkable cookie in that I ate all of them. Halley: 16 Justin: 0

Last and littlest, but not least, natural honey from Marshall’s farm honey.

I love the tiny jar it came in. I peaked inside and the honey look thick and creamy. I imagine it needs to be reheated in order to drizzle thinly like it does out of those plastic bears.

S.F. Bay Area beekeeper’s blend. I wonder if any of the Hayes Valley bees helped to produce this. Since this honey is so special, I will save it for special brunches or hot biscuits. The store-bought stuff will be used in baked goods and salad dressings.

All the rest of the participating bloggers will be posting about their food items, too. Poke around these blogs today for a look at what other foodie pen pals received.

Creative Soul in Motion

Sarah Snacks

On Tap For Today

The Lean Green Bean

Eat My Beets

 

Getaway Gone By

Aching to get away this week? Me too. I wish I was in San Francisco right now, as I do every day.

Bridges and buildings span the horizon, yummy food is tucked into every corner of the city. The views are unrivaled, so who cares about a little lot of fog?

Every time I land in San Francisco, I wish I was staying for good. My sister lives there, she’s the one who first got me on a plane and flew me over during spring break 4 years ago. I came back two more times, once with Justin. The photos I’m sharing are a mix of the different visits.

Justin lived there for six months during undergrad, working at an internship. We met right after he came back and obviously share a love for SF. That’s why one of our favorite memories together, so far, is the trip we took last year. He was attending a convention for work, and I tagged along for the weekend.

There was paddle-boating in Golden Gate Park, a perfect hotel stay at the Inn at Union SquareBiscuits and Blues, and ate incredible chinese food from Justin’s favorite spot.

But, still, not enough time.

Something about this city just fills me with joy. Maybe it’s because I expect to see D.J. Tanner around every corner. It could be the quirky architecture and people.

Or, maybe it’s just the best place in the world.

Have you left your heart in San Francisco?

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