Thursday, August 25, 2011


I just got back from Scotland, folks, and I had a marvelous time. Lots of historical places, new art, intriguing new foods, and most of all, I enjoyed the temperatures! Ok, ok, not just the coolness in August, but also the ability to be out in the country. This is Exhibit A- heather heaven.

More to come as I narrow down 700-odd photos from my 8 days abroad. Slainte!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Many Things in a Big City Day

One of the great things about Big Cities of the World is that they present so much variety. If it is a true Big City, that is (this is why Cleveland, even with its 2.5 million inhabitant, doesn't qualify; it's too one-dimensional). Here, for example, is a sunrise:
A sunrise you can get anywhere, of course, but different places have their own kinds of sunrises. There are sunrises over fields of wheat, sunrises over dramatic stones, sunrises over skyscrapers. Each place takes the experience and makes it unique.
It's the same with buildings. There are books upon treatises upon tomes about different types of buildings, varying with function, era, architect, materials, but I'm highlighting location as a key variable here. Some buildings you look at and think, "San Francisco," or "Home."
This one makes me feel at home because it has many of the characteristics of the home and neighborhood I grew up in: Victorian era, color, craftsmanship, greenery. But it also has those stairs, which make it different, and that narrow citified look, which makes it take on a completely different personality as a building. (I love how the people here have put up fabric in the glass part of their door for extra richness of palette). So to recap, we have sunrises, buildings...
And I can't visit anywhere without sampling the baked goods, can I??
No, the answer is no.
I stopped at a delightful [chain] bakery called La Boulange on my long walk from the Mission to Downtown. I had poked my head in one or two before this one, but they were both too expensive and not cheery enough. This place hit my expectations on the mark. I had planned to walk leisurely from where I was staying in the Mission up through Hayes Valley and zigzagging up Market St. to meet my mom and a friend of the family at Samovar for lunch.
I adored the homey, folksy, clunky yet cute style of the bakery, and enjoyed 'un bol' de chocolat chaud, avec un croissant magnifique. I wrote a bit, observing, listening to a French family at one of the round tables, not unlike the one I sat at growing up.
Here's a bit of the character of the place- the small type at the bottom of the functional yet whimsical service sign says, "We have decided to be happy because it is good for our health." It's like a kick of cowboy boots for fun. So now we have seen a sunrise, some buildings, the bakery,it must be time for some culture.
I had singled out the small Museum of Craft and Folk Art on my itinerary because they had a Corita Kent exhibit that would end the day I left, so I figured it was meant to be. Corita was an interesting 20th century American artist, especially since she started out as a Catholic nun.
She bucked a lot of trends.
Here is an excerpt from a page that has the 10 Rules for the art classes she oversaw at the Immaculate Heart College Art Department:
An important lesson, and one which is a good reminder at certain times.
After I met with my mom and Gayle and had a delightfully modern concoction of teas and amuse-bouches (see the commentary on the tea vintage above for a comparison with bombastic wine connoisseurs), it was time to journey on to another feature of the Big City: community gatherings.
Now, as I said in my last post, I've never actually lived in San Francisco (yet), but I had heard about a local organization that does urban foraging for edibles, home cooking, and promotion of local food artisans, all causes which I can get behind. I had signed up for their newsletter, hoping that I could go on a food walk the one day that I would be in town (talk about trusting to fate). It turned out there would be no walk, but there would be a foraged dinner. Well.
I signed up.
It was pretty great. There was a many-coursed meal lit by candles, served by volunteers, foraged from city neighborhoods or local producers. Much of it was very good, and the few things that weren't settled for being fascinating. And as I had come on my own, I met the 4 people on my right and talked with them for the several hours that the meal lasted, making some new friends in this City that contains so many worlds of interest.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Halcyon Day

Today I'm here to tell a story of a halcyon day, back in June of 'Eleven.
Amid the hustle and bustle of work meetings scheduled across 2/3 of the U.S., and the big family visit east to the Capital, there was a short jaunt just for me. It was to San Francisco, CA.
Famous CA hills and rowhouses in the Mission, but note also that radio tower
Evidence of nature, in amid all the works of man. Plus, mural!
I wrestled a long weekend out of work by leaving on Thursday morning and coming back on a Monday evening in early June. I wanted to explore the city as an adult, having always thought of it as a lovely place to visit friends in, a great place to party on, but never having lived there myself. I thought it might be my next move.
So I stayed in a friend's apartment who was out of town, and I explored. I walked. A lot. Please take note of that radio tower and the camera-holder's proximity to it in different photos.
 What did I find there?
I found wide, sweeping vistas. I found color in unexpected places. I found activity and community and voices dripping with cynicism at the table next to me at Tartine. I absorbed the feel of neighborhoods, re-acclimating to the California habits of landscaping, of creativity, of disposable income.
I was delighted by the alleys (which DC has, but they're different), by the hills (which DC has, but they're really different), and by the joyful beauty (...).
I don't see much of that kind of expression in DC- joyful beauty. There is the watermelon house in my neighborhood, true, and the wonderful red-toned edifice in Dupont with the antler accoutrements, and the crazy-colored mansion on R St., sure.
But I realized I missed a certain sense of joyful liberation in how people set up their nests. I liked seeing the evidence of others' finding their true selves.
Color! Height! And a hobbit door!
 I mean, look at this one. The front part of the home is painted light lemon yellow and houses a gorgeous nature-inspired metal pattern (TREES), which is echoed in the trees/ bushes they chose to dot their winding entrance. And there are steps resembling individual stairs instead of something broad, brutalist, and centrally planned (ooh, maybe I have been here too long...).
It reminds me of a cross between the book Mandy and the Mission church I grew up in: a sweet, rambling style from decorator magazines, but with a direction and focus all its own. That's what I want.
 Oh my! I'm right at the base! It took several meandering hours, several questing turns, and a bit of sunburn, but I got there: Twin Peaks. Beautiful views and diverse housing stock.
See? It's the little things that make life worth living: how you choose to live is all you've got, so you might as well make it joyfully beautiful.

 For this delightful grub, simply cruise on down to 758 Valencia St. Reservations recommended, but no tie necessary, just a good appetite!
I had:
summer corn, caramelized onion, napa cabbage, apricot, applewood smoked bacon..... and it was gorgeous.
The s'more meringue concoction was not as delicious, but very tasty and very pretty. At least the chef went for joy- don't you just want to eat it all up?