19 November 2009


Just stopped in to show you what I've been catching lately. We had buds in town, and you know, I have plenty of excuses for what's been keeping me from updating lately, but I think that mostly I haven't been around because I've had to adjust my sensibilities a bit since working. As someone who generally gets excited about meeting new strangers and wandering around cities and bright colors and particularly well formed sticks, the office where I work is painfully drab. Furniture and plants and wall colors that are all variations on taupe and forest green, on the seventh floor inside a high rise, inside an office park, AND headsets. I still can't believe I've infiltrated and acclimated to such a scene.

My point is, it's hard to find nice details in the cubicle setting. I can sort of get into the whole office-culture-is-hilarious-thing, with the mini-drama and the abuse of power and the procedure, but it certainly requires a bit of suspended disbelief.

Lately, though, there's been a little light, in the form of the view we have out over the bay. Since clocks rolled back, the sun sets here around 4:50 and every day, I get to see this mini-blind framed sunset.

Some things are breathtaking no matter how you find them.

07 November 2009

Remember Summer?

Last night after a rainy afternoon and the glow of our soccer game wore off, I felt the first chill of fall settle in. I'm fairly ready for it. November is a great month, in my book. I feel more focused, more motivated, well-rested. And Thanksgiving at the end? November is a dream.

But I do miss the light of summer, the lazy dusk that stretches itself across hours, dinners out of doors and the surprising brightness of an overcast day. These prints, all taken June through September, were nice reminders of that so very summer quality of life. Nothing like the familiar warmth in a stack of photos to soften this chill.

01 November 2009

The Bake Shop

Happily over Halloween, we woke up this morning to an extra hour, which gave us time to go for a sweet bite at Neldam's before heading out of the neighborhood. This little neighborhood bakery specializes in Danish pastry, allegedly the oldest scratch bakery in all of Oakland. It's pretty charming, with a genuine DMV style numbering system and generically festive decorations strung all around and classic cakes that can be ordered ahead and customized with things like "Happy Retirement" or "It's a Boy!" This morning a young couple sat in the bakery's classic lawn chairs looking through a three ring binder to pick out their wedding cake.

Every time I've been there, no matter the day of the week, someone is picking up one of these cakes, which leads me to believe that a Neldam's cake is a sort of tradition in lots of Oakland families. This morning a woman who looked to have stopped by on her way home from church, dutifully took a number ticket though she was the only person in line and said, "It should be under Tina." No bother mentioning what should be under Tina, of course. The lady behind the counter produced the box and opened it so she could look over the script. "Oh yes," she granted, "That'll be fine."

It reminds me so much of Gene's Bake Shop, the downtown bakery located conveniently next door to my parents' store when I was a kid. I used to eat their seventy-five cent eclairs or M&M cookies while my parents were working and they were the go-to Saturday morning donut destination when friends slept over. Gene's was a scratch bakery too and everything was made fresh at the bakery, every single morning. When I was in junior high it went out of business after a fire and never reopened, but it was certainly around long enough to make an impression. It's no wonder I'm such a floozy when it comes to the smell of frosted cake.

Neldam's doesn't do eclairs or donuts, but I can highly recommend the bear claw: in this case, a chocolate almond croissant with course sugar dusted on top. And someday, I'm going to invent a special occasion for one of those cakes.

31 October 2009

Librarian: Angel

This isn't a particularly Happy Halloweeny post except for that it happened to me on Halloween and I'm trying to be better about timeliness around here and anyways, haven't you had enough Halloween yet for one year? No? Well then: a trick or treat for luck lovers.

The mailman today brought this large flat envelope to our house, with my name carefully written across the front, with a stamp from the San Francisco Public Library as the return address. I of course assumed the worst: that somehow I'd forgotten to return some wildly valuable book and they'd sent my overdue bill in this envelope, so large it required over a dollar in postage to send. Happily, this was not the case, and rather carefully wrapped up inside was the book present I received from Elana as an early birthday gift three weeks ago, still with gift tag and wrapping paper in tact.

I realized at once that I'd slipped the little Russian children's book into my library book for safekeeping the day I received it and then upon my last visit to SFPL, unknowingly returned them both to the depository. If my life were a dramatic movie, there would be a close up of me dropping it onto the conveyor belt at the entrance (San Francisco is so fancy like that) only to realize the next day that the treasure had been lost forever. Antics would ensue to get it back. In real life, I had just this week begun to wonder where exactly I'd put that little book and some lovely person at the library happened to be looking over me all along.

Since I can't thank this lovely man or lady personally, I'd like to state for the record that this person has something really good coming to them. Twenty dollars found on the sidewalk or two desserts or SOMEthing. Hear that universe? What a nice thing to do for a total stranger.

30 October 2009

Oh yes.

And I forgot to tell you about how this year I got so many birthday presents. Truly, a full recap should follow because it felt like Christmas in October (I'm fairly sure that's what heaven will be: alternating months of Christmas and October, forever, bliss!) (Where again did I find such nice friends? I have no idea.) And oh yes, as I was saying, I'll get to all the nice things I got for my birthday from other people, but the spendiest one was the one I bought for my self, happy birthday to me, and it arrived only last weekend in the mail. Shiny and fancy and new: a Canon T1i.

Still getting used to it, but look! Oooh la la.

21 October 2009

Birthday, Girl: the Party

It seemed logical to just go ahead and wait another eleven October days to post pictures from my birthday party. It did take us two whole days just to finish all the dishes, after all! I always take hosting to next level, wear myself out entirely and overfeed everyone. I made a spreadsheet for cooking and brought home groceries from four different stores. But it was worth it. I love having parties.

I'll make mention of the menu here, which was mostly made in house, with several crucial contributions from especially well-mannered friends, attributed where appropriate.

For the liver:

Tamarind Whiskey Sours

For the belly:

Macaroni & Cheese, featuring Velveeta, my grandma's famous recipe

Rainbow Coleslaw with Buttermilk Dressing

Kobucha Squash salad with spring greens & roasted red onions tossed in a cilantro walnut dressing.

Homemade veggie brats

Grilled potatoes

8 hour marinated tofu log

Tarts of caramelized onions and fennel seed

Homemade caramel sauce and fresh apples

Meats for grilling, of various kinds and shapes (Various)

Stuffed mushrooms (JayDee)

Artichoke Spinach bake dip (Marianne)

Pumpkin chocolate chip bundt cake (Marianne)

Sweet potato salad (Jen)

And last but not least, almond coconut cupcakes with blackberry buttercream frosting. (Miriam)

I think it's safe to say no one went hungry, even after giving our new backyard ping pong setup a thorough workout. And we got party hats to make everyone look funny, which seemed like more fun.
It worked.

ps. Jen was better at taking pictures than me, so a lot of these are hers. She also has a whole lot of them here.

19 October 2009

Still Life, in Camera

I wanted to post this quick series while it was still fresh in my brain, some shots I took yesterday trying to figure out how to do an inspired still life for my drawing class at Berkeley City College. The final drawing came out just as boring as ever and I'm now officially convinced that the Still Life as a genre is dead entirely, but photos are still alive and well. Thank goodness.

These are all from somewhere in West Oakland, but many from the intersection of 17th and Campbell.

14 October 2009

The More The Merrier

So I forgot to mention that we had guests staying with us last week. That's right, guests. A pair of them! in our tiny little apartment. I admit that the cozy quarters crossed my mind when John first mentioned that his friend Joey and his lady friend Lauren would be rolling through town for a few days. For those who haven't yet had the pleasure, our house is no larger than 450 square feet and 100 of those feet are taken up by bicycles and our larger than necessary bathroom. Which leaves less than a hundred square feet per person, divided equally.

They arrived Sunday and spent all day at this big bluegrass festival in San Francisco, where John found them and led them back to our place. And much as I had worried, they soon showed me what it means to say The More, The Merrier.

The two of them are currently on a long drive down the west coast, before Lauren departs on a three or so month tour of the globe through Camaroon, India and Thailand. Am I remembering that correctly now? I think so. Their vehicle is the above pictured truck, which has an actual bed snuggled in back, if you can believe it. They sleep on an air mattress, on top of some sleeping pads, on top of a platform and underneath that, they have those flat boxes to store their clothes and personal effects. It's like a little portable pretend house on wheels and sounds so much nicer, to me anyway, than regular old camping.

Within 24 hours, I felt like they'd been living in our living room for years, in a good way. The two of them hail from Virginia and Tennessee and had such fine manners as I have not seen maybe ever. I had known that Joey was pretty great, down to earth and fun and generous, but Lauren was a nice surprise: sweet and hilarious, with great personal style in clothes and in the way she'd hang out in the kitchen with me while I was washing the only pot she'd dirtied while cooking us dinner. She's one of those really cheerful people, in the very best meaning of the word, that made me remember being vastly ambitious about life once upon a time, and wonder what ever happened to that part. Not to gush or anything, but the two of them are just very quality people.

To be more specific: they washed more than their share of the dishes, and our kitchen enjoyed the longest streak of cleanliness in all the history of its being our kitchen when they were with us; they were happy to go to bed around 11--Lauren almost always in her pajamas by 9, a girl after my very own heart; AND, on their final night in Oakland, John and I arrived home to dinner on the table, coordinated entirely without us. Well, goodness. I was certainly sorry to see them go.

Friends who feel like family have a way of making our little apartment feel more like Home. That, and the fact that Joey makes biscuits...

13 October 2009

Checking In

Hi there. It's been more than a little while since I was here, I realize. Looking back through some of the highlights of the past three weeks, I don't have much to offer in the way of simple explanations or worthy excuses. I've been trying to break some bad internal habits of dealing with stress in order to find a more healthy routine that is manageably balanced and also exciting and progressive. While I haven't arrived there just yet, I feel like I've tread the first several steps. And to do that meant taking a deep breath and letting go of this for a few weeks while I got my sea legs.

This week is the beginning of my four day work week. Four day! Work week! Which hopefully means I'll be posting more regularly again, fingers Crossed. I have plenty to fill you in on from the last little while, but to tide you over til tomorrow, I thought I'd share a quick picture from my birthday party this weekend.

I turned 25. It would seem that I'm growing up.

25 September 2009

Soul Style

In the last year, I've rediscovered music videos. I took a break through college from MTV, et al, and haven't had cable since high school, so now when I see things like this my jaw hangs agape and I'm really fairly bowled over by all that marvel. Sure, they're a bit frivolous. And of course, they're basically commercials. But I love intelligent advertising; it is most absolutely a genre like any other. A good music video is exciting, in its own way, like a blockbuster movie or primetime tv. When it happens to be great and mainstream, well then you know it's really something.

This, for instance. The style in this is unreal: the lead singer, her big hair, that white dress, the dusty old theater and that Porsche 356 convertible. London in the 80's never looked so polished. I love a good song with inspired visuals to set the tone for fall. Don't you?

22 September 2009

Happy Birthday, Miriam

Here's to counting fun with the color of the cotton candy stains on your teeth and friends with forks and years with candles and love with cakes. xo

16 September 2009

Beginning with pie.

This is an old family favorite, but pie for breakfast. Pie. For. Breakfast. Is there a dissenting opinion anywhere in the world on this one? Pie for breakfast! A la mode, even, with your morning coffee. In this case, peach pie made with very very fresh peaches. It may actually be the best thing there is.

13 September 2009

Dilly PIckles

If flowering dill weren't so dern tasty when it's floating in a spicy brine, I'd put the stuff in vases all over my house. That yellow of the flowers is nearly the color of paint covering the walls of our living room and man, I cannot get enough.

Where was I? Oh yes, PICKLES. Usually I'm more of a refrigerator dills sort of a girl, thanks to the expert tutelage of my friend Gerik, but we really wanted to complete this trifecta of canning projects with something more savory. Tomato sauce seemed a bit risky and we'd heard mixed reviews of canned salsa, so with little hesitation we picked up this hefty bottle of vinegar at the store and mixed it up with several shades of carrot and bean.

Keeping with our habit of beer pairings, we sipped a dark porter whose name I can hardly recall. I swear that at the time the beverages were clouding our minds just enough to numb the swell of our ankles and dull our sense of time's passing, not enough to get sloppy in our sterilizing and incubate the makings of botulism. Promise.

In the end, this was probably our least successful of the three recipes, mostly because we lacked the foresight to anticipate how beautiful purple carrots when bathed in hot brine would turn the whole mess violet! Also, we should have erred on the side of stubby vegetables instead of tall ones because while processing them in boiling water, we lost some brine out of the jars. Now the tips of some of our vegetables protrude above their liquid, which is no way to craft a crunchy pickle. Worst case scenario, they'll grow mold. We were really too tired to worry much about it at the end of the day. Total cost for 8 quarts of pickles? $9. If they're inedible, we'll live.

From this insane project I believe we gleaned a few lessons:

1. Jam is best made in small batches to ensure you can get a nice pectinated result.
2. A dishwasher is not for chumps. It is one of modernity's conveniences and comes in handy for washing jars.
3. Refrigerator pickles are probably easier and just as tasty as canned ones. While living in California with year round produce, canning pickles may be actually unnecessary.
4. Three canning projects in one day is a bit of a stretch, but doable.
5. Holiday weekends are perfect settings for crazy projects.

{High Five!}