Friday, May 31, 2013

Gates and fences for 'La vuelta al mundo'

This month for the photographic game  " La vuelta al mundo"*,  Jackie challenged us to find gates and fences, be creative and shot them in an interesting manner. Some of the photos were taken at the Marine Headlands National Park, just across the Golden Gate bridge. Some others were taken at Baker Beach in San Francisco and at the Pigeon Point lighthouse, between San Francisco and Monterey. The last ones were taken on a sunny Sunday visiting a farm with Sara (and her cute little boy). It was a really fun day: feeding the cows, smelling the hay and building a Duplo castle (well, that was Mark and Kyle).

*If you don't know what I am talking about, here is the link to Casi en Serio. Visit and follow the international chain of photos taken all over the world. Anyone can join this game: every month a new photographic challenge is prompted, if you are interested the instructions are here.

An anniversary

 Today, 3 years ago, the boy and I got married, legally, that is. It was such a nice day, such an unexpectedly emotional and happy ceremony. It all took less than half an hour, the judge made the effort to translate, not only for me, but for my family as well. She emphasized how thereafter we were committing to take care of each other. And so we have done. There have been adventures, there have been difficult moments, particularly because we react to stressful situations in different ways: he's the practical, let's-move-forward, what-can-we-do, how-can-we-solve-this kind of person whereas I am a 5-year-old, I cry, I rant, I need to talk things over and over again and I need to understand. Sometimes he doesn't get why insist on trying to analyse things that we know there is no answer for. But we're doing well. We're learning, everyday, how to best support each other. And I look forward to many years of craziness and trips and watching movies on the couch and making each other laugh and living life, together. Hoping, playing. Maybe some dreams do come true. I hope some will.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Of pins and friends

Whenever I feel like I need some kind of distraction (which means, too often), I turn to Pinterest. A few months ago I pinned some cute polka dot tights. As you know, I have an obsession with colorful and patterned tights. Well, I didn't expect what happened. The lovely, kind Donna saw my pin and left me a little comment saying she had the same tights and as she was never going to use them, she could send them to me. And so she did, along with some delicious strawberry-chocolate from Japan. Donna, do you read our minds? The boy is crazy about strawberries and chocolate and we've been wanting to go to Japan since forever. Thank you so much! (You'll be getting some Dutch goodies on the mail soon).

And talking about Pinterest, maybe you've heard about the #PinItDoIt challenge? Roz and Bex at The Olive Dragonfly set it up as a motivation to actually make something out of the numerous Pinterest boards many of us have. Each Wednesday they try to post a new from pin-to-reality project, and today I am honoured to be over there with a Cheese-Zucchini and Buttermilk herb bread that I adapted on Monday out of one of those pins that make you drool in front of your computer screen. The original recipe had Olives, Spring onions, Parmesan and Cheddar, but since I did not have any of those I used what I found in the fridge: Zucchini, Shallots and Gouda. So  go visit  their blog and stay a while, it's lots of fun. I am still waiting for some baby animals pictures they promised to post soon. And you can submit your own #PinItDoIt projects as well.

Monday, May 27, 2013

San Francisco: bookshops, bakeries...

Bookworm and baking addict that I am, I went to San Francisco with a list of little shops that I had read about and absolutely wanted to see, so I thought I would share those places with you.

Omnivore books: This is a small bookshop specialized in cookbooks and other food-related books. It might be small but it is paradise, as some of the copies are true classics. They have vintage books, signed copies of books from your favorite bloggers, new releases...  I could have stayed there for hours. They are at 3885a Cesar Chavez Stree (at Church Street). 

Green Apple Books: This is a huge, all wooden bookshop complete with little stairs to reach the highest shelves. They sell used books, new books, signed books, first editions and they have a very very well sorted collection, including books in foreign languages. They also have little cards with a short review / recommendation of many of the books. I loved this place. Their address is 506 Clement Street (at 6th avenue).

Update: I actually found a photo of a bookshelf at Green Apple books showing the little recommendation cards I was just mentioning. The photo is by Stephen Sparks via: an article showcasing a "peek at the staff picks shelves from indie bookstores..."

Rainbow Grocery: This place is a worker operated cooperative, existing since the 70s where you can find anything your healthy cravings might be urging for. Since the beginning they are committed to giving people access to inexpensive, vegetarian, "pure" foods. I find it fascinating that it started as: "a political project using food distribution as a form of community organizing and political education." Today their goals include among others: "providing affordable vegetarian food products which have minimal negative impact ecologically and socially; supporting fair labor practices; encouraging bicycling, mass transit, and alternative transportation; composting all in-store green wastes; recycling, reducing and reusing resources whenever possible and creating a diverse, non-discriminatory multilingual environment". Given the way the food industries today monopolize our food, starting from the most basic level (the seed), this grocery stands as a shining example of where we should be aiming to and how we could do it. I found maca root powder, a product which I had been looking for without success. I really appreciated the feeling of being able to get wholesome food without the trendy / hip (and overpriced) vibe that you get here in many of this type of supermarkets. They're at 1745 Folsom Street.

Boudin Bakery: They specialize in the sourdough bread that San Francisco is famous for, originally made with wild yeasts from the city's air. They claim to make their bread with a portion of the original mother dough from 1849. For all of this I absolutely had to try the bread. I have to say, it was delicious (but not unlike other good bread from local bakeries). We got our bread from their café in Market street 619, but the original flagship store (where they have workshops and guided tours and where the bread is actually baked) is at 160 Jefferson St.

Michael's arts & crafts: Whatever your hobby is, this is like entering a supermarket filled only with craft supplies. Whether it's painting, knitting, sewing, scrapbooking.... you will find anything from paper, to paintbrushes, to needles, to ribbons. And of course there is a baking section. There are all kinds of tools, baking pans, cupcake cases, and most of the products are at a very good price (specially for certain items that are often imported to Europe). They are all over the country, so if you are crafty (or a baker) and you ever go to the US or Canada, make sure to visit them.

Sur la Table: This place is also a dream for anyone who loves to cook. They have all kinds of gadgets, tools, bowls and kitchenware. Every time we were around Embarcadero we passed their shop at the Ferry building (1 The Embarcadero)  so that I could drool a little bit. That's where I found my brand new tiny 10 cm. springforms that I had been looking for (the boy calls them the "samplers", meaning every time I bake a cake, some dough goes in there so that he can taste it all). They are also all over the country so if the kitchen is your paradise you will adore this place. Some of their stuff was quite pricey, some other stuff was actually quite cheap. And they had some beautiful Le Creuset pans in fennel green on clearance that I keep thinking of (and which of course I did not need at all).

I also couldn't leave San Francisco without trying Bluebottle coffee as everyone seemed to love it... I just regret I did not visit their rooftop terrace at the SFMOMA . I tried their drip cofee with milk (café au lait) at the Ferry Building and I liked how light and soft it was, but yes, it was quite different from your usual Italian or Turkish coffee, which tends to be very strong.

Finally, this post would be incomplete without mentioning the charming Miette (Octavia street 449) of which I already told you all about. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

The magic of internet friends

Back in the mid 90s, around the time when everyone started getting internet at home, I was kind of doubtful about online forums where people would meet and chat for hours. Then came the messenger era. Even then, I only ever added family members and friends that I knew personally. Like Tania said the other day, whilst she also was skeptical of relationships with random strangers on the web, today: "some of the friendships I value the most were born online".

Thoughtful Gabe sinking the city in.

Around 3 years ago I started reading blogs. First a couple, that I checked daily, and then, another, and another were added to that list. It was the boy, who encouraged me to start writing my own; at first I wasn't sure if I was going to get into it. Lauren's blog, "Better in real life" was one of those first blogs I read and her honesty and authenticity have always shone through her writing. She's never afraid of telling us a funny or embarrassing story. And the way she shares her dreams and struggles inspired me to do the same. I thought, if she can do it, I can give it a try too. As I kept reading her, I realized how similar we are (in many things) and we started developing a friendship. So, of course, we were crazy excited to get to meet Lauren, Kamel and baby Gabe.

It was lots of fun, they welcomed us at their home, where we ate yummy Mexican food and chatted. On a different day we met Kamel at Union Square, picked up Lauren on her first day back at work and headed to the Ferry building for some food. It was the first time little Gabe went to the city, and he was quite calm the whole time.

Those last 2 pics were stolen from Kamel's instagram.

We shared cupcakes and stroopwafels and talked and talked and talked. I am so happy I dared to take the plunge and start this blog, so many friendships have started here. There are many of you that I would like to meet (and a few others that I have been already lucky enough to do so). What is your take on internet connections? Did you jump full-on board since its dawn, or was it a slow process?

I wonder what's on this little philosopher's mind?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Yosemite national park

Eventhough, technically, I had been at Yosemite when my parents took me as a 2-year old I only have very vague memories of it. My mom says I kept repeating: "¿menimos a mer a los mamimales?" (mare we here to see tha mamimals?) Mammimals? Mammal animals? Anyhow, I digress.

With its impressive waterfalls, cliffs and unusual rock formations it is one of those places where you feel your true small-ness as you are overwhelmed by the magnificence of nature. El Capitan, the massive granite monolith stands 1095.15 m from base to summit (that is more than 1 km.,or 3,593 ft).

I think many countries could learn a lot about the way the United States actively works to protect its nature.

We were super lucky to see a bear cub, running like crazy in the middle of a meadow (it was really close to a road, so we think it was scared away, as it is advised, in order to avoid them losing their natural fear, by getting too familiar with humans). We also saw Flowering Dogwood's  (Cornus Florida) in full bloom. They were so pretty and delicate.

Have you ever been there? Did you take long hikes or camped in the area?

Sadly, there had been fires
Not a bear !

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Miette: the cutest bakery in San Francisco

When we visit a city we like to see and do some of the things that locals would do. This is not always possible, but when I found the 'Ten things you should do in San Francisco' by Mighty girl and a certain bakery with a French name was on the list I was curious. So I wrote down the address and put it on our list.

 The Miette's shop in Hayes Valley (Octavia St. 449) is right in front of a park that could very well be somewhere in South France. I loved the aesthetics: tall glass jars filled with candy, wooden light green furniture, and flowery wallpapers.

 They are famous for their small but carefully crafted cakes. The first time we went there we tried the ice-cream sandwiches, perfect for the warm day (we got there after a long walk and we were melting). Their crème fraîche ice-cream on a graham cracker was our favorite, the ice-cream had this tangy, acid flavour that blended perfectly with the sweet cookie. We also tried their coconut ice-cream on a dark chocolate cookie, but the crème fraîche won by far.

 The next day we discovered that they also have a little shop at the Ferry building so the boy had a brownie and I chose a chocolate and strawberry cupcake. I loved their buttercream. You see, as pretty as it looks, I normally don't like buttercream. I hate biting into a cake and tasting, well, butter. This buttercream was very smooth and silky and you actually tasted natural strawberries (the taste was like a mix between ice-cream and strawberry petit-suisse). Pure yumminess. Then we came back with Lauren and Kamel, I wanted to taste everything they had, and I wasn't disappointed. This time I went for a chocolate cupcake covered in Italian meringue. Kamel had ginger with cream cheese, and I think it was good too.

At one of the shops at the airport I saw the Miette's cookbook and I begged for it :). I am glad I got it, because not only it includes the recipe for the strawberry buttercream*, it also tells the story of Miette. It turns out they started out as a stall at Berkeley's market, where they sold from a pink tent. From there, they expanded to sell at the Farmer's Market in Embarcadero, until they opened their first shop (at the Ferry building). Later they started making caramels, toffee and candy and opened the confiserie at Hayes Valley. Very, very inspiring.

Proudly pointing at all the varieties of imported Dutch liquorice.

Also... as soon as I entered the shop at Hayes Valley I recognized the place from this couple's after-wedding photoshoot. I fell in love with such a cute backdrop when I saw those photos a while ago, and I fell in love even more when I was actually there.

 *It is a buttercream based on Italian-meringue, to which natural fruit syrup is added.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Monterey, Santa Cruz and Pigeon Point

I am not sure if I ever told you but I always wanted to be a marine biologist. I was more than slightly disappointed when I discovered that my Biology studies were strongly focused on Molecular Biology, the avant garde of this day and age, where the discoveries are being made. Even subjects like Systematics or Zoology were studied under a molecular biology approach, which meant we studied phylogenetics, not the classic 1800-century  biology of my romantic high-school dreams.

  I even have a whale's tail tattoo around my right ankle, as a promise to myself that I would never forget those dreams or fall victim of the system (Oh innocent youth). Anyhow, I had been wanting to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium since forever. It is one of the largest aquariums in the world (the aquariums in Atlanta, Georgia and Okinawa are also on my list).

 After watching  the hilarious cup-stacking sea otters, we made sure to visit them and be there to witness the feeding session. There were also countless jellyfish. So beautiful. And mesmerizing. You could just stand there and watch them dance for hours. And there were penguins and giant bright pink starfish. And rays. And the prettiest tiny marine birds.

On our way back to San Francisco we passed Santa Cruz, famous for the Giant Dipper,  one of the oldest rollercoasters in the world, built in 1924, located at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, an amusement park. We also wanted to see the lighthouse at  Pigeon Point, "built in 1871 to guide ships on the Pacific coast of California. It is the tallest lighthouse (tied with Point Arena Light) on the West Coast of the United States." Oh and we tried salt water taffy, for the first time in our lives (I kept reading about these candies, referenced in literature or mentioned in songs).

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