Archives for category: Stuff I Like

Have I ever told you that I once went to a summer camp for gardening? Oh yes. That. In addition to the badminton league I was in and the curling lessons I participated in, it sums me up in a nerdy little nutshell: I went to gardening camp.

Sure, it was a day camp at the local Golden Acres Garden Sentres (oh yes, they spelled it like that, and it fricking infuriated 8 year old Amy. I loved – and still love – rules, like spelling and refusing to talk down to children for cute’s sake). There, I learned all about annuals and perennials and fertilizer and how my hometown had a 2 month growing season and how all we could do is grow plants indoors if we ever wanted anything resembling kitchen herbs.

After said gardening camp, I promptly forgot this information, and went back to plotting how I was going to win a Tony AND a Nobel Prize at thirty (ed note: she’s still got 1.5 years!).

Anyways, fast forward a couple of decades, and Ben and I are standing in the succulents aisle at Home Depot in San Rafael, determined to turn our shared, neglected roof deck into a leisurly paradise worthy of coverage in Gardenista. Unfortunately, we had no clue what we were doing.

Ben grew up here, in the land where everything grows despite the fog, and if you let it go it will take over your home and assume your apartment lease and possibly steal your SSN, or something like that. A land where palm trees are a nuisance more than anything, and where a plant left unchecked will actually AFIX ITSELF TO YOUR CEILING. Like, for reals, plants will do that in Northern California. Where I’m from, roses need to be “bedded” (cue saucy whistle) in August to avoid the frost. Here, they mutate and multiply and have their own reality shows. There was no way I was going to win this war.

Back to home depot. In California, where things grow, I wander aimlessly, touching leaves, smelling lavender, generally resembling a frat boy encountering his unplanned offspring for the first time: curious, but not quite ready to take charge. I resort to my best habit, namely wondering a bit-too-outloud about what to do. Within seconds, a fellow shopper proceeds to take a full 20 minutes to explain exactly what to expect. When I mention something about “the lavender’ll be ok, right?” she eyes me up and down. Obviously, this product of the Great White North doesn’t quite understand what to do with greenery. With unsolicited-but-much-appreciated advice in hand, we part with a couple of hundred bucks and fill the Mini with plants.

Now, move forward a couple of weeks, and I’m sitting on my roof glaring at the lavender. It seems Mr. Lavender is having nothing of this unseasonably warm San Francisco weather and laughs at me, as he goes in and out of green health and borders on brown, or wilts, or stands tall, or gets blown over by the wind. Ben suggests we should toss ’em and start over again, but the competitive A-type eight year old is rearing her overzealous head. I shall beat you lavender, oh yes, you shall live and thrive and attract bees from hives that bear their name on top of Tony’s Pizza.

Tune in next time when I talk to the Cacti. That post’ll be a scream.

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The Ace Hotel, Palm Springs

Living in San Francisco, we normally venture north should we need a weekend away from the fog and noise (Ben’s family is up there, and I often find myself with a hankering for a glass of Carneros Pinot that cannot, nay SHALL NOT be ignored). This past weekend, after purchasing the Moon Guide to Northern California Biking, we decided to travel south on 1 to explore what had previously been a drive through on the way to visiting otters at the aquarium – Santa Cruz and surrounding area.

I left the research up to Ben this weekend, and he totally killed it, hotel-wise. Taking a cue from Weekend Sherpa (and some advice from friends), we made a reservation at the Davenport Roadhouse, just up the road from Santa Cruz, nestled amongst art galleries and impossibly cute beach houses.

When it comes to hotels, I have very specific likes and not-so-likes. For instance, I love luxury, but I don’t like chain hotels. I love quirky details, but I don’t like fussiness. I like a hotel bar, but I don’t always care for wine with a B&B owner. I’m a bargain hunter, but I need a certain amount of comfort. Somehow, Ben and the Roadhouse delivered on everything I needed – it was the perfect way to enjoy Santa Cruz without breaking the bank or sacrificing a weekend off.

We left San Franciso Saturday morning, and lazily made our way down Highway 1. After discovering that the Ana Nuevo elephant seals tours were on standby, we pledged to wake our butts up early and do our best to get one of the leftover spots. Arriving at the roadhouse near 2PM, we unpacked in our ocean view room (see above), went down to the Roadhouse bar and got out the  Moon book to plan out the ride for the next day. In the meantime, the 49ers game was playing and they beat the Saints (bittersweet, in retrospect), which led to much merriment after a walk on the beach.

I enjoy good restaurants in hotels: there’s something about a two minute walk downstairs versus a cab ride that makes the meal that much more satisfying. Since I’m on this gluten-free thing, I had the salmon and ignored the hot bread they brought out – it was fabulous, and went well with the absolutely perfect brussel sprouts. Service was a bit spotty, but I chalk that up to a) getting slammed and b) being understaffed. Overall, very satisfying.

The next day, we woke up bright and early to get standby tickets for Ano Nuevo, because if there’s one thing that screams awesome weekend to me, it’s an alpha elephant seal defending his harem (sounds like RAGHRRRRRGH). We narrowly beat other couples to grab the last spot for the guided walk, and spent the entire time hanging on our Naturalist’s every word – he knew EVERYTHING. After watching a couple of almost-fights, and marvelling at the fact that being an elephant seal looks pretty freaking uncomfortable, we walked back to the car to get prepped for our big bike ride through Santa Cruz (more on what started as awesome, then turned into hell later).

After three and half hours on the road, 1900 feet of elevation gained, and far too many “oh GOD when is this going to end” courtesy of moi, we ended up back at the Roadhouse, exhausted and elephant seal-like smelly. Our first stop was the bar, where we managed to communicate “NEED… TRUFFLE FRIES… SPARKLING WINE… HURTS” –  I’m pretty sure they were the most delicious fries in the history of the world, and not just because they prevented me from passing out right there on the floor.

After recovering, showering, and slowly regaining motor skills, the challenge of what to eat for dinner presented itself, and an app I’ve used for ages kicked travel recommendation ass. Using Foursquare’s “Discover” feature, we decided on Pono’s Hawaiian Grill and were not disappointed – I for one didn’t know that all I wanted after a really hard ride was Spam sushi, but I am never one to say no to an adventure. After devouring the dinner, we proceeded to hobble back to the car, go back to the Roadhouse, and sleep 12 hours.

The trip home included a stop at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse, which, sadly, has fallen into disrepair due to a jurisdiction issue between the State Park and the Coast Guard (what are you waiting for? GET TO DONATIN) as well as another Foursquare Explore discovery, the Moss Beach Distillery, where we received a free drink for checking in before moseying on back to the North Beach homestead.

Coming up next: an elaboration on peaceful beach walks, as well as the ethics of yelling the f word very loudly on bike rides.

In case you’re interested, I made a Foursquare list of the weekend.

This past month, the awesome staff at Anchor Steam toured us around their San Francisco brewery so I could take photos for a Drink Me Magazine profile. Joe showed us around, showing us the facility from every angle (even the hop room! A room! FULL OF HOPS!) and letting me run amok with my camera. The brewery tour is reserved out months in advance, so I must admit I felt a great amount of glee as I dodged past the tour and went behind the scenes.

It was a super foggy San Francisco day, and the staff were kind and hospitable as we did our best to not get underfoot. Overall, a fascinating perspective on a San Francisco institution, and a perfect excuse to have the Christmas Ale at 10 AM.

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Many thanks to Joe and his team for taking care of us.I’ll post some outtakes soon.

I greatly admire Pam Mandel (edit: I initially spelled her name wrong. Amy FTW) (Nerd’s Eye View). I had the pleasure of meeting her at the NYC TBEX in 2010 and was so happy that she’s as kind, frank, and funny in person as she is on her blog.

Yesterday, the topic of travel blogs came up in a discussion on the state of the interwebs (I’m the most exciting person ever) and I had to explain the difference between the travel blogs I like and the travel blogs I don’t give a second though.

This morning, Pam nicely sums it up why your site might not be a great thing to read in this piece on Gadling.  My main takeaway? If you care more about monetization/expansion/world domination than actual thought / storytelling / user experience, that’s a dealbreaker. 

There’s the famous “I know it when I see it” line from Justice Potter Stewart, defining his threshold test for naughty media, and I think it applies here (only with less boobies). Some travelblogs I come to via referral, and am quickly drawn in by their humor, insight, great photos, use of memes, whatever.  There are other sites that I land on, on the other hand, see the request to subscribe, get punched in the face by the pop-up cross-sell, get overwhelmed by link exchanges in the side bar, and I instantly surf away. This resembles Pam’s list of why she broke up with you, but serves as the reason why I never read you in the first place.

It’s a straightforward call for, well, straightforwardness. Oh, and being better, as Pam often calls for (see: Who Owns Your Internet Noise?). You should read the piece on Gadling. While you’re at it, you should ask her blog out on a date, as it’s pretty lovely company.

North Beach at twilight #ifreakinglovesanfrancisco

I was going to include some badass shot of the fog rolling in over North Beach, but I didn’t have one and I am way too comfy all bundled up at home, so this twilight shot of the church on Washington Square is just going to have to do.

My good friend Laura gives me a hard time about how often I mention I’m from Canada, and I have to admit it is a habit I’ve been trying consciously to combat – my effort of which you, oh fabulously loyal reader, are probably doubtful. I’ll probably go into my issues with Canadian identity in a later post, but suffice to say contains some inferiority complex, a cup of self-deprecating humor, and a dash of northern narcissism.

ANYHOO, the reason I mention this is as follows: tonight a)I’m so thankful to live in San Francisco and b) I’m even MORE thankful that I am Canadian. What, you ever-so-discerning reader may ask, links San Francisco to Canada in my mind? Well, other than nice people and government sponsored health care, I’ll tell you what…

… I LIKE THE COLD.

There. I said it. Big secret’s out. I like it better when it’s cold. Hell, I wrote about the weather in SF less than a month ago, but the current heat wave across the US and comments on a Gawker post reminded me again. Instead of 110 degree heat, 500% humidity, 1000 fold increase in swamp-butt in NYC, I would much rather endure the fog rolling in across Russian Hill, delightfully chilling my apartment to a perfect sleeping temperature. Yea, sure, we just finished up months of gray hell (of which you can read of, oh illustrious reader, above) and most folks in SF would sell their left kidney for a modicum of a “real summer”, but I still thank my lucky stars that I don’t need an industrial air conditioner just to fall asleep at night.

Besides, I look kinda cute in sweaters and not-so-cute in sweat. It’s the Canadian in me.

daisy drives

In honor of my good friend Lexi’s epic tribute to Guilty Dogs, I wanted to share the photo I took of my aunt Louise’s dachshound dachsund weiner dog Daisy, who wanted to steal the car and hop the Canadian / American border.

From last night's mischief

Short update: had the pleasure of a girl’s evening out for a good friend’s Hen Night last night, and was reminded of all that SF has to offer in terms of food, entertainment, and general funtimes.

Despite the fact that the North Beach Festival had filled the neighborhood with sustenance-seekers on wobbly pops, we started the evening at Don Pisto’s for tacos, off to Barrique for a toast, then to Monroe for dancing. Only in San Francisco could we have gourmet Mexican street food, personally selected small vineyard Prosecco, and dancing in a mid-century-style Hollywood Gothic lounge, all within 5 blocks (and on strip club row! Lap dances for all!).

At the heart of it all was the company – I am blessed to have many good friends from college and beyond living in our fair city by the bay, and the opportunity to celebrate in my ‘hood was lovely. Evenings like last night remind me that even though we pay out the nose for a super small apartment with no bathtub, I would have it no other way right now.

I’ve got lots to write about (Israel, Catalina, etc), but I wanted to write a quick note about a bus driver who made my weekend on Friday.

We all know I’m not the biggest fan of San Francisco public transit – heck, if the weather is nice enough I’d rather walk (or run) in to work than take a bus. On Friday, I had tickets to the Giants game, so I hopped on the 30 to get to the game, and hit absolutely terrible traffic.

Normally, a bus stuck in Union Square leads to some pretty tense commuters. This time, the driver kept calmly announcing the next stop, telling everyone we were almost there, joking about the standstill. At one point, she handed out candy and wished the bus a happy mother’s day.

When we finally got to the ballpark, she yelled GO GIANTS as everyone got off the bus. I told her she was the best driver in San Francisco, and I meant it. She laughed, and continued on her way – I’m pretty sure a driver that lovely is a figment of my manic imagination, but I am still so grateful for her for making that trip that much better.

A friend caught that post I just wrote on dodging tourists, and said that it reminded him of a post he wrote last year about SF in the summer that has a similar vibe. I like it.

so what does this have to do with tourism? we like to make fun of those poor saps from St. Joseph, Missouri, or Munich, Germany, or Mumbai, India because they are freezing, swaddled in recently purchased and ridiculously up-marked “I ♥ SF” hoodies trying to cross the Golden Gate Bridge in gale force winds as we cruise toward Sonoma in our Mini Coopers: “haha!! suckers!” we exclaim, “and you thought it was gonna be hot here??? GUESS AGAIN, JERKS!”

let’s cut them a little slack, huh?

(emphasis mine) it’s too hot, it’s too cold… captures that mentality that the local can find themselves slipping into; a sense of entitlement and superiority because “we get it”. YAH, of course we get it, we freaking live here.

Check it out, already! 🙂

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