Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Four Months in San Francisco

Hello, from San Francisco! Yes, we know it’s been a while since we entered our last update but we’ve been busy…honest. You see, when we last wrote, we had just completed our first year in San Francisco and were moving into a new apartment. Before we had unpacked our things and settled in, we hosted our first houseguests in Noe Valley. As it was Manny’s and Supna’s first trip to the city, we planned a packed itinerary for their vacation which ended with a road trip to the hot springs in Calistoga and then to Sterling Vineyards in Napa. The winery provided a beautiful aerial tour (via cable car) of the vineyard and ended the tour with a private tasting that included the wines they provide to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for Oscar Night.

Not long after they left, Pablo, Karen and Neil flew in from France for a week full of activity. We hiked in Big Basin Redwoods State Park (http://www.bigbasin.org/) where you can walk inside trees that disappear into the clouds; we drove down to Monterey Aquarium (http://www.mbayaq.org/); wound our way down Lombard Street; and spent an afternoon at the Exploratorium (http://www.exploratorium.edu/), a hands-on museum for kids (and adults). Neil especially loved the bubble exhibits at the Exploratorium but was more than a little frustrated with the hologram exhibit (he spent three full minutes trying to pick up the ball that he could see but kept disappearing when he opened his hand). At the close of their trip, we had a big barbecue, and Matt and Anne, who were in town for a wedding, joined us for the afternoon. It was wonderful to have so many friends and family celebrate together in our new home.

Our friends Hewitt and Katya came to visit in late August, and it was also around this time that we took a road trip to Milpitas, CA to catch our second Wizard Rock concert (the first being last year’s Harry and the Potters/Draco and the Malfoys open-air concert in downtown San Francisco). The Whomping Willows and The Parcelmouths played to a near sell-out crowd - near sell-out because the concert was free - in the Milpitas Public Library auditorium. Some might find it a little awkward being the only adults at the show not chaperoning a young child, but years of accompanying Pearl to Mandy Moore movies left Chris well prepared for such an occasion.

The first of September was an exciting day from start to finish as we awoke at 4 in the morning and spent the early hours sitting on our deck watching the Aurigid Meteor Shower (http://aurigids.seti.org/) light up the sky and then watched the sun rise over the bay. After a quick nap, we received massages from our friend, Liz, who is studying Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture at The American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in the city. Later that afternoon, we made Chinese dumplings from scratch using instructions we found on-line (http://jenyu.net/fd/photorecipes/dumplings/) and served them at a dinner we hosted that evening.

And then the San Francisco festival season started, and we had The Summer of Love 40th Anniversary celebration and The Power to the Peaceful (http://www.powertothepeaceful.org/) concert just 6 days apart. By the time the Love Parade and Folsom Street Fair rolled around, we were all festivaled-out for the year.

Mid-September brought a new houseguest and new opportunities to explore the city. We took Rishell and her daughter, Julene, to the Strybing Arboretum (http://www.sfbotanicalgarden.org/) and the Japanese Tea Garden (http://www.holymtn.com/garden/JapaneseTeaGardenMap.htm) in Golden Gate Park. That weekend, we returned to the hot springs in Calistoga and met up with Chris and Allison (celebrating their first year anniversary) in Napa on the way back to the city. The next morning, we explored a new farmer’s market, the Alemany Farmer’s Market in Bernal Heights. Much larger and with greater variety than the market at the Ferry Building, the Alemany Farmer’s Market is a haven for new and interesting produce. We tried Dragon Fruit (also known as pitaya, it’s like a cactus-grown kiwi fruit from Central America), Jujubes (which taste like a cross between an apple and a date), and Longan (which is similar in taste and texture to a lychee), among other purchases.

September also brought out the athlete in us. We joined 5300 other Bay Area runners in the Corporate Challenge (http://www.jpmorganchasecc.com/events.php?city_id=14) and ran the 5K loop around Crissy Field in the Presidio. The setting for the race could not have been any more perfect, as we ran alongside the beach in the shadow of the Golden Gate at sunset.

October began with a trip to Francis Ford Coppola’s Rubicon winery (http://www.rubiconestate.com/site.php) in Napa to celebrate Lily’s 21st birthday, and ended with a return to the Bridge School Benefit Concert (http://www.bridgeschool.org/events.html) where we saw an amazing (and rare) live performance by Tom Waits with The Kronos Quartet. Also performing at BSBC this year were Regina Spektor, Tegan and Sara, My Morning Jacket, John Mayer, Jerry Lee Lewis, Metalica and Neil Young.

We celebrated Halloween at the month’s end, dressed as a cowboy and cowgirl for work. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any trick-or-treaters this year (to their little legs, the hill on 22nd St must seem like Mt Everest), so we spent a quiet evening at home.

The following weekend, Pearl took the Literature GRE exam, and we celebrated afterwards by getting lost in the Cool Patch Pumpkin Farm 40 acre corn maze (http://coolpatchpumpkins.com/_wsn/page4.html), the world’s largest corn maze (according to Guinness). It took us just over an hour to complete, although Pearl tried to quit after the first 10 minutes.

Which brings us to today, November 6th: Election Day. We arose early to vote down the street. The big race this year was the mayoral race and we had 13 candidates to choose from, including a homeless vegan taxi cab driver named Grasshopper, a nudist activist, a sex club operator, a coffee farmer, and a “showman” who goes by the name of Chicken John – you’ve got to love San Francisco!

And in between Pearl found time to study for her Literature GRE test, send out an article for publication and apply to graduate programs; Chris found time to take some photos of the city and read no fewer than 11 books. We took up running in the mornings, became regulars at Yank Sing's Sunday Dim Sum, read the last Harry Potter book, took another sewing class, attended a few parties, hosted a couple dinners, made some new friends, reconnected with old friends, and, occasionally, found the time to sleep. As we said: it’s been a busy few months. We will try to be better about sending updates more frequently but with all that we have planned for 2008, we can’t promise anything.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Wrapping Up Our First Year in San Francisco

As we noted in our previous entry, July marks our first full year in San Francisco. We still can’t believe that we’ve been here for a year already but in honor of our anniversary we’ve put together a "Best of San Francisco" list.

FOOD AND DRINK:

We haven’t gone out to eat all that much as we’ve been trying to eat healthily and have been busy experimenting in the kitchen but we wanted to share a few of our favorites all the same.

Best Vegetarian/Vegan Restaurant: Millennium – Such inventive dishes, like their edamame gnocchi and stout ice-cream. Millennium, our favorite restaurant in San Francisco, is vegan but markets itself as vegetarian so as not to scare away casual diners.

Best Taqueria: Taqueria San Jose – Great food, not so great neighborhood. Our tasty dinner for three was less than $10! The taquerias in the Mission are still the best deals in the city.

Best Middle Eastern Restaurant: Fattoush –While we usually cook our own Middle Eastern dinners (falafel, tabuli, raita, hummus, baba ganoush), we have yet to perfect the phyllo dishes that Fattoush is known for.

Best Dim Sum: Yank Sing – $$$ but worth it. The best Dim Sum this side of the Pacific.

Best Tapas Restaurant: Cha Cha Cha – If only for their strong sangrias and lively atmosphere.

Best Tea: Ten Ren Tea Shop – We’re still hooked on their Pearl Jasmine tea with its strong aroma and flavor. Go easy on it though: this tea contains powerful anti-oxidants which caused us to break out in sores for weeks…we’ve cut back our consumption since then.

Best Dive Bar: Zeitgeist – This biker (bicyclist) bar is almost always crowded and you will likely have to wait an hour for your food, deal with the surly bartenders and sit near the port-o-potties, but it’s still a blast. They have a Golden Tee arcade game in the back and the tamale lady makes her rounds so nobody goes hungry while waiting for their order to come up.

Best Coffee Shop: Philz Coffee – Coffee is serious business on the west coast and everyone in San Francisco has a favorite cafe. For a long time our favorite was Blue Bottle Coffee. Then Philz opened a shop next door to our old apartment and we haven’t gone anywhere else since. Even after our move to Noe Valley, we still make trips back to our old neighborhood to pick up coffee. Philz holds coffee tastings three times a week. Every floavor is worth trying but our favorite is Jacob’s Wunderbrau.

Best Grocery: Rainbow – An independent, collectively run, worker-owned and operated cooperative which provides natural, organic, vegetarian food and environmentally and health conscious products at an affordable price (how’s that for a bit of free advertising?!). You can buy anything in bulk, which helps with saving costs and wastes.

Best Farmer’s Market: The Ferry Building Farmer’s Market – Our favorite Saturday morning destination.

ENTERTAINMENT:

Best Outdoor Concert: Bridge School Benefit Concert – Still the highlight of our SF experience. We can’t wait to bring everyone we know to the 2007 show.

Best Indoor Concert: Travis – We had such a blast doing the pogo to ‘Why Does it Always Rain on Me?’ with 1000 other fans at the Fillmore. Travis played all the songs we wanted to hear and Fran did a solo encore of ‘Flowers in the Window’ with an unplugged acoustic guitar and no microphone.

Best Indoor Festival: Green Festival – Still tops our indoor festival list. We’re looking forward to the 2007 Green Festival to check out new environmentally-conscious products as well as all advancement in green.

Best Outdoor Festival: Power to the Peaceful – We had a great time last year hanging out in the sun, listening to music, eating raw pizza and watching all of the beautiful freaks walk by. This year we are especially excited about the festival season as 2007 marks the 40th year anniversary of the Summer of Love.

Best Magazine: Common Ground – Still free, green, conscious.

Best Record Store: Amoeba Records – Whether you are a Sk8r Punk or a Deadhead, a Hippie or a Hip Hopper, Amoeba is THE place to go for music.

Best Movie Theatre – Kabuki Theatres – Remember when we were young and going to the movie meant sticky floors and creaky seats without much padding? The seats at Kabuki are like hundreds of little padded thrones in which to sit while enjoying your movie. Feel free to remove your shoes…even the floor is clean!

Best Lecture: The Dalai Lama – He came to San Francisco on his tour to promote positive change in today’s world. The Dalai Lama is charismatic, clever and very funny; the talk was perhaps more entertaining than enlightening.

ACTIVITIES:

Best Class: All of them! – Last year it was painting and yoga. This year, we learned to meditate, snowboard, speak Mandarin and sew! Next on our list is a cake decorating class, reiki and more Mandarin.

Best Monthly Event: Cafe Gratitude Nights – Every month, Café Gratitude, one of the best raw restaurants in the city, hosts parties that bring together people from all over the Bay area. The parties usually include live music as well as live performances from various local artists. One of the more memorable performances was a man who recited his own poetry standing on his head! The energy is always positive and the vibe fabulous. Seriously one of the best evening gatherings we’ve experienced yet.

PLACES:

Best Neighborhood: Noe Valley – our new home! Noe is kind of like the epitome of what a San Francisco neighborhood should be with its sidewalk cafes and cool little independent shops. Noe offers great views of the city as well. The best view? From our deck, of course! On a clear day, we can see all the way to Oakland.

Best Park: Dolores – Surrounded by palm trees, Dolores Park is THE weekend destination of the young for some fun in the sun. And for good reason; it’s the prettiest park – and one of the sunniest - in San Francisco.

EXCURSIONS:

Best Trip North: Only an hour north of us begins the beautiful vineyards of Sonoma, Napa and Calistoga. We have been wine touring a few times now, and we’ve learned a lot about wine and the art of drinking it. One of our favorite tours is the private tasting given at Sterling Vineyards, situated in the hills of Calistoga. Jean Pierre gave us a very educational tour, which ended with a blind taste test! We also recommend the sparkling wine tour and restaurant at Chandon.

Best Trip East: If ever we find ourselves pining for snow, all we have to do is drive two+ hours to the east and we find ourselves in the heart of Lake Tahoe. Last winter, we learned how to snowboard at Heavenly Resort in North Lake and we are already making plans to return this coming winter to improve our riding.

Best Trip South: One of the biggest and best aquariums in the nation is 2 hours south, in Monterey. It’s home to "The Kelp Forest," a three-story tank full of animals (from sharks to sardines) which recreates the wild life found in the bay waters. In two weeks, we are going back to the aquarium with our one-year-old-nephew in tow. We’re hoping the weather is warm enough and we can kayak among the sea otters.

Best Trip West: We are only about 15 minutes to Ocean Beach, so there isn’t much to the west to explore but we’ve been told that at certain times of the year, round trip tickets to Hawaii are only $150! We haven’t been yet but are very excited to try it out soon.

So that wraps up our first year. We’ve tried to cram in as many activities into one year as we could. But we aren’t ready to slow down just yet. On to year #2…

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Apartment 2.0

It's been a full year since our move to the west coast (can you believe it?!?!) and the first thing on our To Do list for this year was to find affordable housing. While we loved the convenience of our apartment in SOMA - where we could roll out of bed at 8:15 and still make the 8:19 train to the peninsula without breaking a sweat - we needed to find a place we could actually afford.

So, in mid-June we began our apartment search: pouring over the listings on Craigslist each day, attending open houses each evening. It was an incredibly painful process as everybody else in San Francisco appeared to be looking for housing at the same time we were. The owner of one Craigslist posting placed a follow up ad to ask people to stop contacting him: he had 68 emails and 160 phone calls inquiring about the apartment within 24 hours of posting it.

The search quickly became overwhelming. We shifted our search from neighborhood to neighborhood to try to find an affordable (ha!) place with a commute that wasn't prohibitive. We looked in Potrero Hill but kept reading scary articles in the newspaper about certain parts of that neighborhood (everyone says it's up and coming but at present it seems to be more coming than up); we looked in our old neighborhood, SOMA, but couldn't find anything we could afford; we explored Glen Park but couldn't find anything nice enough to offset the 2 hours commute each way; and finally we found Noe Valley, which we immediate loved.

Noe Valley sits amid the hills in the heart of the city. Everywhere you look there are huge, beautiful Victorian houses and gorgeous views of the city. 24th Street is lined with cute independently owned shops (24th Street Cheese Company, Noe Valley Bakery & Bread Company, Noe Knit, Phoenix Books) and the Noe Valley Farmers' Market sets up between Sanchez St. and Noe St. every Saturday.

We attended every open house in the area for two weeks and turned in applications for a handful of them, but kept losing out to doctors and lawyers and other rich 20-somethings with stable jobs and huge bank accounts (I overheard someone on the train last year say that San Francisco is where thirty year olds go to retire - I don't know if he was quoting it from elsewhere but it has stuck with me ever since).

Finally, just as we were growing desperate - we had to vacate our apartment in two weeks and had guests coming before then - we found a jewel of an apartment, applied and were accepted the next day! Not only was it less expensive than most of the apartments we were looking at, but we instantly felt at home there.

With a little help from our friends (thanks again Lily, Mike, Eric, Adam and Suzanne!), we moved in on July 4th and have spent the last two weeks getting settled in to our new apartment and exploring our new neighborhood.

Our apartment (the lower half of a Victorian built in 1899) was built on top of a giant rock atop a steep hill so we have great views from our deck and living room windows. The hills can be a bit painful at times, especially after a long day of work, but we are trying to look at the positive side of things and expect that doing the hills seven days a week will soon get us in the best shape of our lives.

We were hoping to spend as much time as possible on the deck - watching the sun rise over our morning coffee, watching it set in the evenings - but the foggy season hit San Francisco right around the time we moved in and there is a thick, creeping mist that has been sitting over the city for the last ten days. Still, we've been told that the fog should lift in the next few weeks and summertime in San Francisco will begin.

I'll upload some photos of our new place now - we hope to add pictures of the neighborhood soon.

Links to references:

Pictures of our New Apartment


Our New Apartment in Noe Valley

The View from the Street

Staircase up the Rock

Noe Valley Hills

The Deck (on a clear day)

Lily and Pearl Relaxing on the Deck (July 4th)

View from the Deck

Livingroom

Dining Room

Bedroom

Bathroom

Office Area

Kitchen (view 1)

Kitchen (view 2)


Kitchen (view 3)

Kitchen (view 4)

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Arts and Crafts















Our first sewing projects are finally complete! Pearl made two pillows for our couch and Chris finished his yoga mat bag.

Our next few projects (pajamas, meditation pillow, hippie dress) are on hold until we finish moving into our new apartment next week. We are so excited about the move and will be posting photos in the next few days.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Our New Hobby

This Sunday, we took our second sewing class at Stitch Lounge and learned how to sew a pouch, piping (Pearl's favorite), button holes and zippers. Check out the photo to see our progress.

So what's next? Well, we expect to get our sewing machine back from the shop sometime next week and Pearl's making us pillows for the living room while Chris is making a yoga mat bag and onesie pajamas.
Wish us luck!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Coming Soon…

We’ve updated our events calendar. Here are some of the things on our calendar for the next few months:

April 8: Stitch Lounge (
http://www.stitchlounge.com/). We signed up for a Sewing Basics class in hopes that we can start making our own clothes and costumes within the year.

April 21: Earth Day. While March 20 might have been San Francisco’s official Earth Day, there will still be lots going on later this month. We might use this as an excuse to head over the Bay Bridge to the Berkeley Earth Day Fair.

April 26 – May 10: The San Francisco International Film Festival (
http://fest07.sffs.org/films/). There are many interesting films showing at the festival this year. We are especially looking forward to Paprika, Lady Chatterley and Golden Door.

April 29: His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium (http://www.dalailamabay2007.com/). The Himalayan Foundation hosts the Dalai Lama as he speaks on the topic of creating positive change.

May 2: Travis at The Fillmore (http://www.travisonline.com/). Travis are on tour in the US for the first time in over three years to promote their upcoming album, The Boy With No Name.

May 10-13: Trip to Newton/Boston. Heading to Newton to see CWB's mom for Mother's Day and to Fenway Park so PCB will stop complaining that she's never been.

May 20: Bay to Breakers (http://www.ingbaytobreakers.com/main.html). We are still looking for costumes for the world’s most outrageous footrace…perhaps after our sewing class we can make our own!

May 30: Voxtrot at The Great American Music Hall (http://www.voxtrot.net/). Voxtrot are on tour to promote their upcoming self titled album. This show will make it the third year in a row that we’ve seen them perform.

June 4: Red Sox at Oakland. We are hoping to catch Dice-K fever. Go Sox!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Quarterly Update (Q1 2007): We Are Now, Like, Hella California

It’s now the first day of April and one-quarter of the year is over. Sounds like it’s time for an update. Some of this you may already know; some might be new:

Weight loss/diet – Living in California, we have access to an excellent selection of organic fruits and veggies and have been eating healthier than ever before. We try to make our weekly trip to the Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning (schedule permitting), have been doing lots of walking and are working out fairly regularly.

Since January 1st, CWB has lost 15 pounds, 1.5 inches off his waist, and 4% body fat. PCB has lost 5 pounds, a combined 6 inches off her chest, waist and hips, and 5% body fat. At the beginning of the year, we signed up with a website (www.my-calorie-counter.com) which tracks your daily intake and exercise. By keeping track of our diet, we’ve been able to modify our meals to improve our general health and well being. We feel great and are extremely happy every time we look in the mirror.

Bi-Rite Creamery – Sticking to a healthy diet can be difficult at times. Especially as we’ve just discovered the newly opened Bi-Rite Creamery (http://biritecreamery.com), an all-organic ice cream shop and bakery whose ice cream flavors include Salted Caramel, Honey Lavender, Double Ginger, Chai Spiced Milk Chocolate, and Pumpkin. Although the Ginger Snap Cookies/Pumpkin Ice Cream Sandwich and the Roasted Banana Ice Cream Pie were tempting, we stuck with ice cream on our first trip: CWB ordered a scoop of the Salted Caramel and the Coffee Toffee and PCB had a scoop each of the Honey Lavender and Double Ginger. Yum!

Colon Hydrotherapy – Perhaps our most “California” experience to date. Even though we had read all about the process beforehand, it was still a little awkward and uncomfortable at first, but our hydrotherapist (http://www.bodyharmony.com) explained every step very clearly and put us at ease. She talked about the health benefits how hydrotherapy can complement a healthy diet and promote proper digestion going forward. CWB was worried that it would be too flaky, but the way it was described to us made a lot of sense in terms of remaining on the right track to good health.

How it works: the water is heated to just about body temperature (between 95 and 100 degrees) so you don't notice the water being pumped in, just that your bowels are feeling more and more pressure. The pressure builds up for about four or five minutes and when the discomfort becomes consistent you tell the therapist you need to “release.” (Like birth contractions - but to a far, far lesser degree - the discomfort comes in waves and when the waves get closer together you signal the therapist to release.) The relief is immediate and the water that flows back out (into a separate tube) takes with it the waste that has been collecting in your colon. The therapist then massages your stomach gently to push out any pockets of gas and water.

The therapist also massaged our legs, arms, shoulders and chest which helped to soothe and relax us during the process. The “fills” can get uncomfortable at times, but if you can focus on your breathing, the process goes much more smoothly. Having recently taken a class on Vipassana Meditation (see below) we were equipped with the proper breathing techniques.

After the therapy, we felt calm, clean, awake and really, really hungry. That evening, we returned home and started to fill up our colons in preparation for our next trip.

Yoga Tree – In addition to taking care of our bodies through a proper diet, we’ve started taking classes at The Yoga Tree in Hayes Valley (http://www.yogatreesf.com) with Stacey Rosenberg. She teaches the Anusara style, is very patient, and is an excellent teacher. Stacey’s Yoga 101 class was CWB’s first introduction to yoga, and he liked it so much that he has begun taking regular Sunday morning classes with her.

Insight Institute – Starting in January, we took a beginner’s Vipassana meditation class through the Insight Meditation Community of San Francisco (http://www.sfinsight.org) taught by Eugene Cash and Kris Bailey. We didn’t realize how much we would take away from the course! First and foremost, it gave us a good foundation for our meditation practice, aiding us in our spiritual path. Second, we are able to incorporate so much of what we learned about meditation into our daily lives. We never realized how being mindful of all our actions is so important in maintaining a peaceful environment.

Mandarin Classes – Women hui shuo zhongguohua…yi diar (We can speak Chinese…a little bit). Since the second week of January, we have been taking Mandarin lessons with the ABC Language Exchange (https://www.abclang.com) at the Embassy CES. Our teacher, Yu Zhang, has been wonderfully patient and creative in helping us learn the language. Last Thursday, she got us to memorize and recite a poem by Li Bai of the Tang Dynasty. We couldn’t believe that we were “reading” and reciting in Mandarin! We are very pleased by how much we learned in the twelve-weeks we’ve been studying Mandarin and we are certainly going to continue taking classes. Zai jian.

California Drivers License – After nine months, we finally made it to the DMV and got our licenses. The test was really difficult and full of San Francisco specific question on subjects we never had to think about back East (parking on hills, trolleys, bicycle lane etiquette, coastal highway driving). But we are both glad the test is over and we won’t have to take another one until we move to a new state – which given our track record should be in a few months.

Café Gratitude – You may recall that during our trip to Alive!, Dine Knight highly recommended Café Gratitude (http://www.withthecurrent.com/cafe.html) as one of the best raw restaurants in the city. While the café located in the Mission was a little too loud and hectic on a Friday night, we enjoyed our meal very much and learned that the other locations (there are three CGs in the city) are quieter and more intimate. CWB ordered the “I Am Flourishing”: a Mediterranean Plate with sprouted almond-sesame seed hummus, spicy olive tapenade and coconut yogurt cucumber tzatziki salad. PCB opted for “I am Cheerful”: a live burger made of pumpkin seed and walnut with macadamia nut “cheese.” We finished the meal with a raw cacao and ginger cake that was so rich we couldn’t eat more than half of it together, though it was definitely the favorite dish in an altogether very tasty meal!

SF MoMA – Last weekend we met Lily at the MoMA (http://www.sfmoma.org) to see the “Picasso and American Art” exhibit. This was our first time at the SF MoMA since moving to SF (we had been once before, in 2000) and we really liked the space. It was an interesting exhibit -- we never realized how much of an impact Picasso's work had on American art. Each room of the exhibit displayed one of Picasso's works alongside the American pieces that it inspired. To our surprise, the exhibit demonstrated how Picasso's style was appropriated by Roy Lichtenstein, Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol!

So what’s coming up on our “California To Do” list? Well, next week we start training for The Bay to Breakers 12K (http://www.ingbaytobreakers.com/main.htm), perhaps the world’s wildest and dressiest footrace which includes a costume contest and “Centipede Division” where groups of tethered runners (with strings up to 13 people long) compete.

On Easter Sunday we are scheduled for a class at Stitch Lounge (http://www.stitchlounge.com/) to learn basic sewing techniques. We hope to start making our own clothing within the year and when we do, we’ll post our creations.

On June 5, we cross the bay and head to Cisco Field in Oakland to watch the Red Sox.

Best of all, we just bought tickets to Boston for Mother’s Day weekend!

And of course, we’ll keep you all up to date with our adventures as they happen. Check back soon!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

San Francisco to ban plastic bags to promote recycling.

(From CNN.com)

SAN FRANCISCO, California (Reuters) -- San Francisco's Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to become the first U.S. city to ban plastic bags from large supermarkets to help promote recycling.

Under the legislation, beginning in six months large supermarkets and drugstores will not be allowed to offer plastic bags made from petroleum products.

"Many [foreign] cities and nations have already implemented very similar legislation," said Ross Mirkarimi, the city legislator who championed the new law. "It's astounding that San Francisco would be the first U.S. city to follow suit."

"I am hopeful that other U.S. cities will also adopt similar legislation," he said. "Why wait for the federal government to enact legislation that gets to the core of this problem when local governments can just step up to the plate?"

The city's Department of the Environment said San Francisco uses 181 million plastic grocery bags annually. Plans dating back a decade to encourage recycling of the bags have largely failed, with shoppers returning just one percent of bags, said department spokesman Mark Westland.
Mirkarimi said the ban would save 450,000 gallons of oil a year and remove the need to send 1,400 tons of debris now sent annually to landfills. The new rules would, however, allow recyclable plastic bags, which are not widely used today.

A spokesman for San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who must approve or veto the legislation, called it sensible. "Chances are good that he is going to sign it," said Nathan Ballard.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

"Only in California..." entry #52

We’ve been getting such wonderful weather lately that Lily, Chris and I decided to throw a barbeque last Sunday. The temperature has been hovering right around 80 degrees all week and we got to enjoy a lot of sun, some great food and a few friends.

Here are some pics from the day.














Monday, March 05, 2007

Neil is one!














Pia and I celebrated Neil's 1st birthday with my brother's family in Lyon, France. We were fortunate to be there at a momentous point in Neil's life: we saw him change from a baby to a toddler and he is now a walker! :-)
Some pics from our trip...isn't he handsome?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Winter, San Francisco Style!







For those of you who haven’t yet heard, a few weeks ago Pearl and I went snowboarding for the first time, or as us boarders say, we “rode the mountain.”

Pia flew in to join us for the trip and she, Pearl and I awoke at 4am so we could be at Alpine Meadows in Lake Tahoe before the start of our 10am beginner's lesson. With the sun still hours from rising, we made our way through the city streets to pick up Suzanne and Lily and then jumped on Route 80 and headed east to Tahoe. We were making great time when (adventure alert!) an hour outside of the city our rented minivan started making funny noises. Strangely enough, when we picked up the van the previous evening, it only had a total of 7 miles on the odometer. Luckily, we had enough momentum to roll off the exit in Roseville and come to a stop at the closest gas station where Pearl spent the next three hours of the phone with the rental agency. Suzanne kept the rest of us entertained by playing guitar and singing songs.

Finally, after hours of waiting, a truck arrived with another minivan in tow. The replacement was not as new, nor as nice, but it worked and that was good enough for us.

We arrived at Alpine well after our lesson was to begin, but this turned out to be fortuitous. Lily's friend, Gray, who had worked at Alpine the previous winter, met us as we were finishing lunch and offered to give us a private lesson. For the next 3 hours we rode the mountain, fell a lot, developed a few bruises, got soaking wet, and had a great time. None of us were expert riders by any means, but we all looked good in our boarding outfits and let's face it, that's what is most important anyway.

Lake Tahoe in general - and Alpine in particular - is beautiful. It was snowing when we arrived, the first snow we'd seen since our move. It's funny how when you don't need to do the shoveling snow seems almost magical, like something out of Narnia. And like much of California, Alpine is green conscious (from the website): “Environmentalism does not begin by adopting a set of trendy “go-green BMP's”; it’s more of a mindset that starts with self, manifesting into choices, actions, and life practices. Most guests and employees have actively chosen Alpine Meadows as their home mountain because of the resort’s environmental standards and high regard for the mountains. Alpine Meadows does as much as it does not. Alpine Meadows works with Colorado-based Renewable Choice Energy. The resort purchases 100% renewable energy. Using this amount of wind energy is equivalent to not driving a car 1,822,061 miles. That’s three and a half round-trip tickets to the moon!”

When we'd had enough, we set out to find our hotel which was a beautiful place overlooking a mad-made beach on the lake. Being cold and wet, we upgraded to a room with a fireplace where we bathed, showered, stretched and rested.

That evening, we dined at Gar Woods Restaurant, a sumptuous meal of fresh fish and fancified side dishes.

When we returned to the hotel, Suzanne picked up her guitar again and sang us to sleep.

The next day we all awoke in pools of our own sweat. The fire which stayed lit through the night to dry our clothes also warmed the room to roughly the same temperature as the Sahara...at midday...in summer.

We took breakfast at The Old Post Office and then returned to the mountain. This time we almost made it in time for our lesson (thinking that the lesson was at 10:30 we strolled in 15 minutes "early" only to find that the lesson had begun at 10). Still, one of Gray's friends recognized us and snuck us into one of the lessons already underway. We all progressed steadily throughout the day, learning how to control our speed, how to change directions and how to come to a full stop without the use of our faces.

Toward the end of the lesson, our instructor, Josh, announced that we were all going to take the lift to the top of the hill and ride down to end the day. The next few minutes were somewhat of a blur: I remember standing in line, then a chair attacked Pia and knocked her to the ground, then all of a sudden I was level with the tops of the trees I'd spent much of the morning narrowly avoiding. I was more than a bit frightened when I realized that nothing held me to the chair as I was rocking in the wind 40 feet above the skiers and snowboarders below.

After what seemed like an hour, I made my graceless exit, head first, off the chair at the top of the bunny hill. Pearl executed her dismount with ease and then rode down the mountain in full control ending our lesson and the whole experience on a high note. That afternoon, wet, tired, bruised and happy, we made our way home. Along the way we made our plans to return again as soon as our collective schedules would allow.

Best of all, we now finally have an answer for all our friends and family when they ask us if we'll miss the seasons during our stay in SF: It's 70 degrees and sunny in mid-February, but if we want snow, winter is only 3 hours to the east.



Wednesday, February 07, 2007

San Francisco Soul Food

To celebrate the end of Lily’s apartment search, Chris and I took her to experience her first raw restaurant. She chose Alive! Restaurant (“Alive is 100% L.O.V.E: Living, Organic, Vegan, Enjoyment!”), which specializes in Raw/Living Vegan Cuisine. All of their dishes are free of wheat, grains, animal products, dairy, and honey, cooked under 115 degrees F. Check out their site at http://www.aliveveggie.com/

We started our meal with organic teas, sharing an order of Sunny Scallion Pate and an order of Vegetable Wrap. For the main course, each of us tried a different “noodle” dish (their specialty!): Chris ordered the Fettuccini Alfredo, Lily ordered the Sweet Sesame Ginger Noodles, Suzanne ordered the Asian Almond Noodles, and I ordered the Korean Vegetable Noodles. All of their pasta and noodles are made from zucchini. Each dish was so divine and each had a unique flavor so distinct from the others. We could really taste the freshness and flavor of each ingredient. To end the delicious experience, we shared the Black Forest Mousse cake, made of raw organic macadamia nut crust, cherries, cacao mouse, and coconut crème. While it didn’t exactly taste like the Black Forest cakes we are used to, it was so rich and decadent that between the four of us, we were unable to eat it all. It certainly felt like the perfect way to end our meal.

Funny aside: midway through the entrée we fell into conversation with the two women sitting next to us at Alive! Dina and Marta had just returned from a 5-week intensive course on raw cooking at Living Light Culinary Art Institute (www.rawfoodchef.com), and we enjoyed listening to them critique and dissect each flavor in their dishes. They even asked us if they could finish off the last of our Black Forest Mousse cake, which we gladly shared with them. Lily thought it was so hilarious (“You would never share your food with a complete stranger on the East Coast”). She is quickly learning the cultural differences of the two coasts.

We learned that Dina and Marta are part of a group in Austin, Texas that encourages healthy-living. Dina Knight – who, it must be noted has lost over 60 pounds since converting to an all-raw diet and who looks fantastic – is part-owner and chef at Living Health, a service group “dedicated to providing coaching, education and support for those interested in improving their state of health through diet, lifestyle changes and natural therapies.” (www.elivinghealth.com)

All in all, it was a wonderful experience. We can’t wait to try the other raw restaurants in the Bay area. Dina and Marta suggested that we try Café Gratitude next. Anyone want to join us?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

SF Green Festival Addendum

As a follow up to our “It’s Easy Being Green” blog dated November 17, 2006, we wanted to report that only 4% of all the waste generated during the San Francisco Green Festival made it into the landfill. Everything else was either composted or recycled. Go SF!!!

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http://www.greenfestivals.org/content/view/279/:

Green Festival San Francisco – November 2006
Overall Greening and Waste Recovery Numbers
Matthew J Dufon, Greening manager

Congratulations, San Francisco Green Festival!Thanks to the amazing efforts of hundreds of greening volunteers under the leadership of Greening Manager Matt Dufon, the San Francisco Green Festival achieved an impressive 96% resource recovery rate. What an incredible feat! Only 4% of all the waste generated during this 3-day event with 35,000 people found its way to the local landfill. Another great example of what's working in our communities.

Total Landfill Waste: 930 lbs.
Total Compost Recovered: 9716 lbs. (4 ¾ Tons)
Total Corrugated Cardboard: 3900 lbs.
Total Recycling Recovered: 6613 lbs.
Total Electronics Recycling Recovery: 65 lbs
Total Weight of Waste Recovered: 21,224 lbs.
Percentage of Overall Landfill Diversion: 96.33%
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Friday, January 19, 2007

Sleepless in San Francisco

Last Saturday, Pearl and I attended another excellent benefit concert, the "7th Annual Sleepless Nights Gram Parsons Tribute Concert" at the Great American Music Hall.

As we entered, our hands were stamped as proof of payment and I was more than a little joyed to find that the stamp they used was Elvis' TCB logo. The concert was more than 30 minutes away and I was already smiling.

The (modestly named) Great American Music Hall
looks like an ornate Bowery Ballroom - a flowery Bowery, if you will - and claims the title of San Francisco's oldest standing nightclub. Since its construction in the days following the earthquake of 1906, the GAMH has spent time as a bordello, a WWII-era dancehall, a jazz club, a Moose Lodge, a condemned building, a French restaurant and its current life as a music venue.

This year's concert benefited the Pat Spurgeon Kidney Foundation, named for Pat Spurgeon, drummer of the San Francisco band Rogue
Wave who is on dialysis and awaiting a kidney transplant donor. The band's webpage (www.roguewavemusic.com/) opens with the following note: "In a logical world, medical insurance would cover his donor's and his expenses after the procedure, but it does not; so he and his family must carry the financial burden. The expenses can be huge. We are trying to raise money for costs like: donor's travel, care, bills, lost work wages, etc., as well as Pat's expenses, care, bills, etc. while he is in recovery."

As he took the stage, the host and concert founder, Eric Shea, opened by announcing that earlier in the week a donor had been found and Pat would soon receive his transplant. It made me think that maybe 2007 is curing the ills of 2006. Let's hope.


Shea originally sought to have his former band, Mover, included on the bill of Gram Fest, the Parsons tribute concert located in Joshua Tree, CA (near the site where Gram died in 1973 at age 26). In true San Francisco DIY ethic, when Shea couldn't get anyone at Gram Fest to return his phone calls, he decided "let's put the show on right here" and Sleepless Nights was born. The fist concert was held at Slim's in 1999. It soon moved to the GAMH, but continues to benefit those in need in the San Francisco community.

Shea opened his set with Hickory Wind and then moved into a audience-aided sing-a-long rendition of You Ain't Going Nowhere. The sets were short and the turnovers were quick so the evening flew by. Highlights included Miranda Lee Richards' cover of She (Pearl's favorite), The Real Sippin' Whiskeys cover of The Return of the Grievous Angel and Sweetbriar's rock out version of Jesus is Just Alright. Also performing were Dave Gleason’s Wasted Days, Red Meat, Paula Frazer and Patrick Main, Elisa Randazzo and Ben Ashley and a reunited-for-the-night Mover.

As with the acts, the audience reflected Gram's wide influence on the music of the last four decades. From folkies to country music lovers to indie rockers; from the kids raised on covers by Beck and Ryan Adams, to those who were introduced to his music by Elvis Costello, to those who were old enough to have seen him on stage with Emmylou Harris and who can remember when the Byrds, the Stones and the 70s "went country," the concert provided something to entertain every fan.

For information about the venue and for the GAMH events calendar:
http://www.musichallsf.com/

For additional information about Gram, check out the following links:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gram_Parsons
http://www.gramparsons.com/faq/

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Chris & Pearl’s Second Half of 2006 Best of San Francisco

January 1st not only marked the beginning of the new year, it also marked our 6 monthiversary. To celebrate the occasion, we’ve decided to create our very own “Chris & Pearl’s Second Half of 2006 Best of San Francisco” list to recap our favorite places (so far) in San Francisco. Here goes:

Best Indoor Festival: Green Festival – We’ve noticed that since the festival, we’ve been wearing a lot more green. Coincidence? Probably. See blog dated November 17, 2006.

Best Outdoor Festival: Power to the Peaceful – See blog dated September 10, 2006.

Best Concert: Bridge School Benefit Concert – The highlight of the year. See blog dated October 29, 2006.

Best Chinese Restaurant: House of Nanking – Cheap, fast and delicious. What more could you ask for?

Best Japanese Restaurant: Any of the ones in Kinetsu Mall, Japantown.

Best Sushi Restaurant: Hama-ko – Fresh fish daily with great recommendations from the owner/chef.

Best Middle Eastern Restaurant: Fattoush – Their phyllo dishes are the best.

Best Dim Sum: Yank Sing ­– Best Dim Sum in the Western Hemisphere.

Best Fish-n-Chips: The Chelsea Kitchen at The Edinburgh Castle. They’ll fry anything.

Best Brunch: Town’s End – It’s on Townsend Street. Get it?

Best Tapas Restaurant: Cha Cha Cha – If only for their strong sangrias.

Best Vegetarian Restaurant: Golden Era – Sister restaurant to Golden Lotus in Oakland.

Best New California Restaurant: Coco500 – Best fancy French fries ever.

Best Sandwiches: Crepes on Cole – An avocado in every sandwich.

Best Tea: Ten Ren Tea Shop – We’re hooked on their $60/pound Jasmine tea.

Best Bar: Thirsty Bear – Don’t miss their home-brewed vanilla beer. Yum.

Best Dive Bar: Zeitgeist – The Best place to get home-made tamales from the tamale lady, play a few holes on the Golden Tee arcade, and hang out with bikers…by the way a “biker bar” in San Francisco refers to bicyclists. Honorable mention goes to Edinburgh Castle where you have to pay extra for a clean glass.

Best Drag Show: AsiaSF – We went for the singing. Honest. See blog dated October 15, 2006.

Best Grocery: Safeway – We added this only as an excuse to mention that our Safeway is 100% powered by wind energy!

Best Farmer’s Market: Ferry Building – Our favorite Saturday morning destination. See blog dated September 2, 2006.

Best Bookstore: Citylights Bookstore – Old. Dirty. Disorganized. Perfect.

Best Magazine: Common Ground – Free, green, conscious.

Best Record Store: Amoeba Records – Everybody’s favorite record store.

Best Lecture: Naumann night: A Lecture on Bruce Naumann – Winner by default as this was the only lecture we attended.

Best Reading: David Sedaris – His stories about San Francisco and Japan cracked us up. He’s exactly the same in person as he is on the radio…same size, too.

Best Rendition of “Whole Lotta Shaking Going On”: 3 earthquakes in 4 days in mid-December – quite a titillating experience, Pearl was giddy with delight for days. Don’t worry folks, they were little.

We haven’t been to a taqueria in the Mission yet (I know, what is wrong with us?) but it’s on our list for 2007. For those of you who have visited or lived in the city, let us know what we should include on that 2007 list. Cheers!