Tuesday, September 29, 2009

September Adventures

School’s back in session so we don’t know how often we’ll get to go on adventures and report back on them, but we did have a few weeks of fun before the seriousness begins…

During Labor Day weekend we flew to Denver, Colorado for Kendall’s & Jamie’s wedding. We squeezed in day-trips to Nebraska and Wyoming, a baseball game at Coors Field, as well as a beautiful hike in the foothills of the Red Rockies at Roxborough State Park. We would have included a photograph of the truly amazing vistas we saw along the way but CWB is still learning how to load a film camera so you'll have to wait for these until our next trip to the Rockies.

Two weeks ago, we camped by a lake on our very own island near Davis, CA. There’s nothing like sleeping outdoors, though we did catch some rainfall early in the morning.

Last weekend, we drove 3-hours east to Moaning Cavern Park to rappel down 165-feet into the cave, where we crawled and climbed through passageways to explore unlit and undeveloped areas of the cave. The link below shows a TV adventure show host on the adventure tour. (Note: we didn't do the zipline so you can skip to 1:45.) It was
pretty scary (but fun) dangling 160 feet above the cavern floor.


And now we are looking forward to October, which is the height of the music and festival season in the Bay Area. If time permits, we’ll definitely blog about our experiences!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tourreilles, France and a quick stop-over in Amsterdam

Hi folks, Pearl here. Pia and I just came back from visiting our brother, his wife and their family in Tourreilles, France, a small village 30 minutes outside Carcassonne.

Tourreilles only has 100 inhabitants—most of whom are Karen’s relations—and has retained its old-time charm—there are no commercial stores in the whole village. It was truly wonderful to get away from the trappings of modern life; with no internet service, we really felt isolated (in a good way) from the outside world.

Karen’s grandfather, “Papi,” took us on a walking tour of Tourreilles—it takes about 30 minutes to walk through the village—and showed us the fountain that used to be the sole source of water for the villagers, the cemetery where generations of residents are buried, the fruit trees that feed the locals (the plums were exceptional) and the stone houses that make up most of the village. On our third day there, Papi took us on a truck ride all around his vineyards—the family has been producing wine for centuries—where he explained the different methods of producing grapes. I wish I understood more of what he was saying because we were getting an insider’s view of the life on the vineyards.

Karen’s parents, Jacques and Cecile, took us on a long hike up the surrounding mountains, and we saw the beautiful landscape of the village. There are apparently many wild boars in the surroufing woods that people come to hunt for pleasure! Later in the week, they planned a picnic on the summit of the mountains where we ate good fresh food (mostly from Papi’s organic garden) while watching the sun set and listening to Pablo perform Grateful Dead covers on his guitar.

Some of our other favorite moments include the family reunion that Jacques and Cecile hosted, where they served an authentic African couscous dinner out on their veranda; trying the Cassoulet and Fricassee, regional dishes of the area, at La Maison de la Blanquette; and visiting the medieval city of Carcassonne with Neil who wants to grow up to be a knight! Most of all, we enjoyed spending time with the French side of our family: the family dinners cooked by Cecile, playing Trivial Pursuit in half-English/half-French, reading to Neil, watching Neil and Marion splash in the pool, and jamming with Pablo on his guitar. We are sad to leave our French family behind but we are looking forward to our next family reunion.


Pia and I had an overnight layover in Amsterdam on our return flight to NYC so we decided to make the most of our time there and had a nice adventure in the city. Our first stop was at Vondelpark where we watched an outdoor concert amidst the tons of locals and their bikes. The band, Acda + DeMunnik Met Band, must have been popular because there were hundreds of shouting fans there with their kids as well as their grandparents, picnicking on the grass while listening to the music and smoking their hookahs. In the few hours of daylight we had in the city, we walked around the Old South neighborhood as well as the Jordaan and Western Canals. It was such a peaceful experience—we felt like we experienced the Amsterdam that locals know. Both of us could really see living there, feeling so at home walking around the city and canals. We ate dinner at Moeders and ordered an authentic Dutch meal (hachee, suddervlees en stamppot). Then, we popped into a coffeeshop around the corner and played some pool. All in all, it was a wonderful little adventure to conclude our trip to Europe.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

From April to July, 2009

It’s been a while since our last post but it isn’t for lack of adventures to blog about; we’ve just been too busy with school/work and visitors. But now that we've had a moment to relax and collect ourselves, we thought we would share what we’ve been up to for the past three months.

In April…

…we crossed the Bay Bridge to Oakland to watch Mos Def perform at Yoshi’s, one of the nicest jazz venues in the Bay Area. Mos Def was fantastic, transitioning easily from jazz-hop to rap, even giving us an awesome rendition of Bel Biv Devoe’s Poison. He had just come back from Africa and his music was full of love and power.

…Pearl got her Reiki Master certification and can now initiate people in Reiki. She’s been giving a lot of healing treatments over the last year and Chris recently presented her with a Sioux ritual drum to incorporate into her healing sessions.

In May …

…Dustin came to visit from Germany, and Pia flew in from New York right in time for our birthday celebrations. We originally planned a bonfire beach party to celebrate, but were forced to move the party back to our place when we learned that the parking lot at the beach was filled up with hundreds of port-a-potties (the beach served as the finish line for the world’s craziest foot-race, Bay to Breakers, which was also scheduled for that weekend). Still, we had 80-degree weather, lots of vegan foods and desserts, and great company. It was the perfect way to celebrate our birthdays.

…The following day we took Dustin and Pia for a hike to Tennessee Valley Beach, just across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County. On our drive there, we passed many Bay to Breakers runners in elaborate costumes, or wearing only leather thongs, or wearing nothing at all (hey, it’s San Francisco!). The two mile hike to the beach through a protected grassland was beautiful and smelled like the eucalyptus trees that line the path. At the end of the hike lies a cove with a black sand beach where we picnicked and watched some young kids brave the cold Pacific waters.

In June...

…we flew to Boston to visit Christopher’s family and visit the new house his parents just purchased.

…two weeks later, Pearl officially finished her first year of graduate school at Davis with a 4.0.

…Steve came back to San Francisco and spent ten days with us. We started off his visit with a hike in Point Reyes where the view of the ocean was absolutely gorgeous, though the wind was near hurricane force at times. We also took Steve to Samovar where we had the yummiest honey oolong and jasmine pearl tea. Later in the week, we drove to Monterey Bay to check out the jellyfish and sting rays in the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The following day we kayaked in Elkhorn Slough where we saw hundreds of otters and seal playing in the water and along the banks. We concluded his visit with a trip to The Fillmore Auditorium to watch Xavier Rudd perform (he transitioned between four different didgeridoos, guitars and various percussion instruments over the course of the show).

In July…

…Jackie came to visit for five days, and we started off her visit with a hike in Big Basin Redwood Forest National park where the redwoods grow to the size of a (vertical) football field. After that, we tired her out with many walks around the city and its surroundings: we brought her to Tennessee Valley Beach, to the Arboretum, the Japanese Tea Garden, and to the top of Bernal Hill. Mostly, we needed the walk off all to food we were eating! Apart from wowing her with our vegan cooking, we also introduced her to the many vegan restaurants around town including Cafe Gratitude (Jackie especially liked their espresso vanilla bean smoothies), Greens (the grilled peaches dipped in honey were our favorite), and Cha-ya (vegan sushi). It was so nice to see Jackie again; five years between visits is too long. Come back soon!

…recently, we’ve discovered that there are many fantastic day spas in the area where one can rent spa rooms with a hot tub, sauna, and a cold dipping pool. Albany Hot Tubs and Sauna has a very nice outdoor wooden hot tub where one can look at stars while relaxing with jets; Watercourse Way in Palo Alto has peaceful Japanese zen-like rooms complete with rest area, shower, cold plunge, hot tub and sauna. For those of you in the area, both places are a wonderful way to relax and meditate while taking care of one’s mind, body and soul.

…today, we raised close to $700 for the SF AIDS walk, a 7-mile walk through the beautiful Golden Gate Park. There were over 10,000 walkers that were present for the good cause. Thank you to all of you who helped us raise our funds!

As you can see, we’ve had a very busy three months! And it’s only getting busier…

… Christopher just started guitar lessons and his Reiki apprenticeship. He’ll be initiated in Reiki by August 1st and hopes to be playing his first songs by then as well.

…Pearl started dance classes, taking Afro-Cuban Folkloric classes and Congolese classes. She is also taking lessons on the wooden bamboo flute to accompany Christopher on guitar.

...At the end of this month we are heading back to The Fillmore. This time it's to watch Jarvis Cocker perform and we're hoping he performs some Pulp songs.

…In August we are visiting family in Boston for a few days and then Pearl is continuing on to France to visit her brother and his family.

…we are going spelunking in The Moaning Cavern which is California's largest single-chambered public cave. Cave tours, 3-hour spelunking trips, a rope rappel, zip lines, climbing tower, the works. Yeah!

…Pearl is co-teaching a vegan cooking course with kitchen manager Rachel at the Integral Yoga Institute.

…we are heading to Denver, Colorado for a friend’s wedding. While we are there, we’re planning on going horseback riding in Rocky Mountain National Park and making day trips to Wyoming and Nebraska. If anyone has suggestions on what to do and see in this area (and we’re not talking about Carhenge), we’re all ears.

…Manny and Supna are coming for a visit, and we will be heading up to Sonoma for a wine-tasting.

...There will also be camping trips, hikes, headstand and cartwheel practice, and scouting trips to Berkeley.

Whew! So that's us sorted for the next six weeks. Come join us if you can.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

What We Did On Our Spring Vacation...

We took some time in the last week of March to go exploring in San Francisco, visiting new neighborhoods, museums, and watching live music performances.

We started our vacation by visiting the Float Matrix. Float Matrix is a center for floatation which uses a sound- and light-proof pod in which you float effortlessly on the surface of 10 in. of water saturated with 800lbs of medical grade Epsom salt and 100 million year old Himalayan salt. The benefit of floatation is to approach a deep state of relaxation. We certainly felt relaxed and peaceful after an hour of floating. Check them out on the web at: http://www.floatmatrix.com/genesis/.

On Monday we rented a car and headed to Redwood City for a round of mini-golf and to pick up some gardening supplies. In the afternoon, we planted tomatoes, peppers and then repotted our goji berry plants. That evening, Sascha invited us for homemade vegan pizza at his apartment, where Lily joined us. After dinner, we walked over to The Elbo Room to support Sascha’s friend Kate’s CD launch party.

The following evening we caught another music show, this time at the Great American Music Hall, featuring The Dave Rawlings Machine (“The Machine” is just David Rawlings and Gillian Welch playing under a different name rather than as simply “Gillian Welch”). The show was fantastic, one of the best we’ve ever seen. We could really feel the chemistry between David and Gillian in the audience floor. We’ve seen them in the past, at The Bridge School Benefit Concert in 2006, but to see them up close felt really special.

On Wednesday, we started our latest sewing projects: his and her yoga pants. Nowhere near perfect, we thought these were a good starting point for sewing our own clothes. The contestants on Project Runway have nothing to fear (the piping on the left leg of the orange pants stops 7 inches short of the top – oops!) but we have already received orders from Pia, Lily and Sascha.

On Thursday, we woke up early to check out San Francisco’s hottest museum, The California Academy of Science. Unfortunately, there was a lot of school trips to the museum that day so there were kids running around everywhere. The lines were too long for the Rainforest and Planetarium but we had a great time exploring the living roof and the Philippine corals and fish in the basement aquarium. The building itself was very green and thus, very cool.

On Saturday, we walked. It had been a few months since our last neighborhood exploration and we had been saving Telegraph Hill, Coit Tower and the Filbert Street Steps for a day when we had nothing but free time. We took the F train to Jones Street and walked around the back streets of North Beach up to Coit Tower. The walk to the tower smelled lovely as eucalyptus trees paved both sides of the path. Afterwards, we descended via the Filbert Street Steps, all 436 steps down from Filbert Street to Montgomery Street as a passing tour guide announced to her group. These stairs provided the backdrop for the film The Parrots of Telegraph Hill. Though we didn’t see any parrots on our walk, we heard them squawking and moving about in the trees overhead. We ended up walking close to four hours that day before making our way home.

On Sunday, Eric and Mer invited us to a picnic, and we drove first to Baker Beach and then to the Conservatory of Flowers where we picnicked in front of beautiful flowers of yellow, pink & purple. Eric and Mer prepared a lovely vegan meal for us, and it was wonderful to eat amongst beautiful flowers and friends. We even drummed a bit, with Eric accompanying on the didgeridoo. As we sat in the sun and felt the grass beneath our feet, we couldn’t think of a better way to end our vacation.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

San Francisco on Film

Last weekend, we finally got our act together and went out to watch "Milk" at the Castro Theatre (http://www.thecastrotheatre.com/), a San Francisco landmark dating back to the silent film era. We missed the film's initial run a few months back so we were delighted when it returned for a pre-Oscar re-release.

About fifteen minutes before the movie started, an organ rose out of the stage in front of the screen. The organist began playing film standards like Moon River and Somewhere Over the Rainbow, bringing back a bit of the magic that has gone missing from the modern movie experience. We'll take that over ninety minutes of awful movie previews any day.

”Milk” was excellent and it was especially interesting to watch the demonstrations against Prop 6 (1978) being played out on film much in the same way the anti-Prop 8 demonstrations took over the city last year. However, while Prop 6 was voted down in California three decades ago, Prop 8 passed...for now, at least. So much for progress.

Still, in doing a bit of research on Prop 8, we found a link to the Prop 8 contributions (http://www.sfgate.com/webdb/prop8/?appSession=107670381705648) from our neighbors in our Castro zip code:

Donations in support of Prop 8: 18.
Donations in opposition to Prop 8: 3908.

Seeing those numbers brings up a bit of San Francisco pride.

During almost every crowd scene in the movie, we could hear whispers from one row or another in the dark around us, exclaiming "hey, that's me!" We laughed at the thought that half of our audience seemed to have been an extra in the film. When "Milk" was being filmed in the city, ads were placed on Craigslist inviting the public to appear at specific areas in period clothing to be extras. Unfortunately, the filming took place on weekdays while we were at work...having seen the film, we wish we'd called in sick.

If you haven't seen the film yet, do so. And if you have the chance to watch it at the Castro, definitely do so. It was so cool to watch a movie about "The Mayor of Castro Street" while sitting in a theater on Castro Street. Thirty-plus years ago, Harvey Milk's camera shop was located a block from where we were sitting. On our walk home after the film ended, we even passed the storefront that was once Castro Camera.

All of the actors were fantastic. Sean Penn's Oscar nomination is well-deserved and we are hoping he wins this weekend. James Franco, Emile Hirsch and Alison Pill also stood out, as did the city of San Francisco.

Tune in to our next San Francisco Film Review when we'll be exploring Telegraph Hill through the lens of the documentary film The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Further Adventures in Vegan Cooking

Chris and I have been having fun with new vegan recipes again. Our latest experiments include:

* Vegan Donuts

* Buffalo “chicken” wings

* FLT sandwiches with homemade “facon”

* Fruit tarts with blueberry and apple fillings

* Strawberry & banana “ice cream”

* Blueberry muffins

* Coffee crumb cakes

* Eggplant Parmesan (with pine nut cream)

The photo above was taken on the night we made FLT sandwiches and Buffalo wings. We usually try to avoid cooking with wheat gluten/seitan but both dishes were delicious and we wanted to share them here.

Facon Lettuce and Tomato Sandwiches

From http://vegandad.blogspot.com/2008/04/vegan-bacon-and-lettuce-and-tomato.html


- 1/2 cup of chickpeas

- 2 tbsp olive oil

- 1/2 cup water

- 2 tbsp Bragg's soy seasoning

- 1 tsp liquid smoke

- 1 tbsp maple syrup

- 1 tsp sage

- 1 cup vital wheat gluten


1. Finely mash chickpeas with a fork in a bowl. Add everything else in but the wheat gluten and mix well. Add in wheat gluten and mix with a fork, then knead by hand for a few minutes.

2. Heat a thin layer of oil in a frying pan over med-low heat. While pan is heating, flatten dough out with the heel of your hand on a cutting board. Get as flat as possible.

3. Cut dough into thin strips resembling bacon (only thinner). Flatten each strip even more before placing in the pan. The thinner the better. Place in pan and cook for about 4-5 minutes per side, until crispy and no longer "squishy." Add a little more oil to the pan, if necessary, when flipping “bacon” strips.

WEIRD FISH (http://weirdfishsf.com/) STYLE “BUFFALO GIRLS”



Tempura Mix


For the “chicken”, place seitan in tempura mix and coat completely. Fry until golden. Set aside.

Sauce recipe from: http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,1839,132191-246195,00.html


2 cups of dry cayenne peppers (50 grams)
1/2 cup of water
1/3 cup of chopped onion
1 chopped garlic
1/3 cup of chopped tomato
1 cup of white vinegar
1 stick of butter
1 bottle of Louisiana Hot Sauce
1/2 of the juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon of honey


Start by roasting the cayenne peppers on a pan over a medium high flame. Toss them around inside the pan for a couple of minutes and make sure you don't let these get burned. Add enough water to cover the peppers and bring water to a boil. Let them cook for ten minutes. Drain water and place them in blender. Add 1/2 cup of water, 1/2 cup of vinegar and salt. Blend on high and allow to percolate.

Place Smart Balance on a pan over a medium flame so that it melts. Add onion, garlic, tomato and the whole bottle of Louisiana Hot Sauce.

Let all cook for about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Immediately pour into blender and add the percolated cayenne pepper sauce. Blend on high for two minutes. Add the lemon juice, honey and ketchup, and blend again for a few seconds. Pour back into the pan where you melted the butter, and let it simmer for a good 20 minutes.

Pour sauce over seitan pieces and bake in oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Serve warm.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Bridging 2008/2009

As usual around this time of year, it's been a busy few weeks in our little home on Liberty Hill. As we say goodbye to 2008 and welcome in 2009 (albeit a little late), we wanted to send out an update to let you all know what we've been up to.

The busy season began for us on Christmas Eve when Pia and Dave arrived from New York. We spent the day and night shopping for food and wine shopping, preparing for Christmas dinner, and getting to know Dave.

Early the next morning Lily and Sascha came over for brunch, after which we all went for a city hike up to Corona Heights which offers glorious views of the city in all directions.

At 6:30pm sharp, we commenced our 7-course extravaganza and didn't finish eating until well past midnight!

We spent much of the following day digesting all of the food and drink from the evening prior. In the afternoon we explored North Beach, visiting City Lights bookstore, and walked around Chinatown.

A few days later, we made our way onto the back of a mechanical bull, because...well, we're still working on the why of it, but it was fun nonetheless. It was also much more slippery than we had anticipated!

To celebrate the new year, we invited Lily, Jason and Sascha to a Turkish Delight themed gathering, complete with belly dancers (Pia and Pearl took online classes from youtube that morning) and a Turkish meal prepared by all and eaten communally on the floor with our fingers.

Before midnight all six of us changed into our onesie pajamas to ring in the new year in style.

And 2009 has started off with wonderful news: we received news that my cousin Zandy and his wife Denise welcomed a healthy baby boy named Collin Andrew on January 1st...

...and my brother Pablo and his wife Karen welcomed a healthy baby girl named Marion Eugenie on January 2nd.

We were also able to spread some cheer to the owner of Ocean Front Walkers on 24th Street by presenting her with the photo of the six of us in the onesies that we bought from her store.

We also made a care basket for the owner of Love of Ganesha on Haight Street: Noot is so giving that we thought it was time for us to give back to her.

The Friday after New Year's Day we continued our international theme when Jason and Lily invited us to a Swedish night in Oakland. They cooked a wonderful meal complete with Swedish music (yes, there is more to Swedish music than ABBA), Swedish meatballs, Swedish liquor, and a Swedish dessert. After checking out the Art Murmur (http://www.oaklandartmurmur.com/pages/Jmap/Jmap.php), we returned to Jason's for a tea ceremony where Lily got to show off the new gai-wans and teas she purchased at the Red Blossom Tea Company in Chinatown.

In other news, the potted garden is also coming along nicely. The winter has been mild (70 degrees in San Francisco all this week!) and it looks like all of the plants will survive until Spring. At some point, we will have to get an expert in so we can figure out what is it that we've been planting. Once the plants start to flower and show a little color, we'll post some photographs.

And we are happy to report that our shitake mushroom farm recently gave off its first harvest. The mushrooms are buttery and delicious, great in soups and salads. Today we put some in our vegan eggplant parmesean.

Yesterday we took our first neighborhood exploration of 2009 and discovered one of San Francisco's hidden treasures, the Seward Street Slides. Tucked away off a little side street, the cement slides were a fun diversion during our walk. In fact, when we were there we saw more adults sliding down than kids! We hope to start blogging our neighborhood explorations soon but wanted to share this brief one with you now.

And finally, last week Michael found a photograph in the SF Historical Photograph collection taken of our street in 1956. Our house is hidden just over the crest of the hill on the right side.

Be well until our next posts!