The San Francisco Skyline

Many of you are aware that I have a taxing commute. I work in Vallejo, CA, so I have a one-hour drive each way (on a good day). I have tried several strategies for keeping my sanity, and the latest is based on enjoying the scenery.

At about the halfway point of my journey, I can look out my passenger-side window and see the golden gate bridge. I make a point to remind myself that people travel thousands of miles for a chance to see that bridge, but I get to see it everyday. EVERYDAY! At another point on my route, I have a really great view of the San Francisco skyline, and I say out loud, “will you look at that beautiful city!” So far, it seems like this technique is helping to reduce my road rage.

These two sights are especially beautiful in October. The fog has gone, and the sun is setting earlier, so I get an awesome orange arena to enjoy. One day last week, I got off the highway at Treasure Island (in the middle of the SF bay) so I could photograph the sunset. Then the next day, I stopped in the same place to get these night shots (was working late that day).

Enjoy!!

that's the bay bridge

click to enlarge

Ice Cream Worth Waiting For

I waited 30 minutes in line for ice cream. I normally don’t wait that long for ice cream. I don’t wait for anything. Seriously, why did I wait when I could’ve gone down to Safeway, bought ice cream, and been home in 30 minutes?

Well, I was told that this ice cream would be worth the wait. I’m talking about Bi-Rite Creamery on 18th St (www.biritecreamery.com): a place highly recommended by the locals. Since I’d heard so much about this place I decided to check it out. Besides, I have a duty to my readers to investigate all food recommendations. Yeah, be thankful. I eat ice cream for you.

So after waiting in line 30 minutes (behind two teenage girls who both like the same guy, Chris), I finally got inside. The first thing I noticed was a sign introducing the “Flavors of the Day”. This place makes some weird flavors of ice cream. Honey Lavender? Brown Sugar? And what the heck is Ricanelas? I couldn’t really get up the nerve to try these crazy flavors, so I got a double scoop with coffee toffee and toasted coconut.

I asked the cashier to tell me why this ice cream is worth a 30-min wait. He said that the ice cream is made fresh daily, and all the ingredients are organic (when I hear the word “organic”, I immediately think of hippies (in Cartman’s voice of course. Screw you, hippies)). I must’ve made a face because then he said, “but it’s worth the wait because it’s made with love”. Oh! Loovvvvvee!!

So how was it? Was it worth the wait? Was it worth listening to the chatter about Chris’ gorgeous hair? Yes. Yes it was. It was super creamy and flavorful. I would definitely go back and try one of the more unusual flavors. You should definitely try this ice cream, but be prepared to wait for it.

And Now I Want Pumpkin Pie…

WELCOME FALL!!! I have missed you!

Fall is by far my favorite season. I have always loved Fall because it brings much-needed relief from summer weather. In San Francisco, summer is cold and foggy, but fall is warm and sunny! That means shorts, sandals, and enjoying a breeze from the open window while I write. And people pour out onto the streets as if they’ve been cooped up their whole lives.

Today, I celebrated fall at the Noe Valley Harvest Festival (www.noevalleyharvestfestival.com. on 24th St between Sanchez & Church). This is the annual street fair in my neighborhood. It’s pretty typical with its face-painting, dunking booth, and caramel apples. But it also included a farmer’s market with squash and other fall vegetables piled high.

I found a booth with a juicer called Juicy Lucy’s. They were making fresh juice, smoothies, and shakes. I chatted with the gal covered in fruit bits and asked her about her favorite drink. She recommended the date shake. A date shake sounds kinda weird, but I figured, why not? Well, it was a winner! The date shake was an awesome fall beverage (on par with the pumpkin spice latte). It contained dates, bananas, and nutmeg, and it was delicious!!

As I sipped my  milkshake, I wandered down to the stage to listen to the music. On stage, was a local group called The Family Crest. I was honestly expecting to hear average music (you know, stand there for five minutes then find something better to do), but this group was anything but average!

The band contains 6 members: a very talented lead singer, a violinist, a cellist, a flute/timpani player, a guitarist, and a drummer. I couldn’t believe there was a violin, a flute, and a cello in their band! They were “an orchestral indie band” that sounded like Panic at the Disco with a celtic element mixed in. By the third song, I was in love! The Family Crest is playing at 330 Ritch on 10/20, and Cafe Du Nord on 11/18.

Go to www.thefamilycrestfamily.com to hear their music.
Here’s a video of The Family Crest:

Hats off to you, Noe Valley! Your Harvest Festival was the perfect fall treat

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Don’t we all love architecture?

My mom loves the houses in this city. She visited several months ago (with my dad), and she really enjoyed riding around looking at the different styles of architecture. She suggested I write about it. Okay, fine…

One of the things I love about San Francisco is the lack of housing rules. I used to live in a neighborhood in North Carolina that had a multitude of rules to ensure the neighborhood looked perfect. All the time. I couldn’t paint my house any color but the 5 approved colors. I could only plant approved trees/bushes, and absolutely no trashcan was allowed out front (got in big trouble for that one). In San Francisco, there are no rules, and residents can paint their houses whatever color they want. As a result, the streets are more interesting and the city as a whole is more diverse.

Victorian House Architecture

Victorian architecture came from the period when Victoria was queen of England (1840-1901). The technology for bay windows (a window that projects out of the facade of a house) was invented during this time, so most of the houses were built with this new feature. The bay windows of this time were all the half-hexagon shape (I really don’t know how else to describe it). It’s the style made from three windows: a large picture window is flanked by two smaller windows on the sides at 30° angles.

Other characteristics of a Victorian house include, bright colors, steeply pitched roofs, pointed arch windows,  and gingerbread trim along the eaves. Victorians could not afford the elaborate trim of the Gothic Revival  and often built with a more modest form of decor. The most famous representations of the Victorian Era are the Painted Ladies (as seen on Full House) in San Francisco.

the painted ladies

 

Steep roofs:

Half-hexagon bay windows (or whatever they’re called…):

Gingerbread trim:

click to enlarge

Edwardian House Architecture

The Edwardian Era began when Queen Victoria died, and Edward VII became king in 1901. The period lasted until Edward died in 1920. Even though the period was short, there was a huge housing boom during this period, so a lot of houses can be found with this style. During Edward’s time, people were still loving those bay windows, but shifting more towards the square-shaped kind.

This architectural style was more subdued than its predecessor. Windows were squares and rectangles, roofs were flat instead of angled, and most of the details were un-complicated and maintenance-free.

Flat roofs:

Square bay windows:

Simple decorations:

I took most of these photos around Alamo Square Park and Haight Street. I looked up the history of this area and found out that it was heavily developed from 1883 to 1920. I’ll tell you the whole story some other time. It involves a railroad, an whatnot. But anyway, it makes sense that all the houses in this neighborhood are Victorian/Edwardian. The other neighborhoods in SF have their own architectural styles, and I will discuss that at another time, too. I especially want to tell you about the Sunset District sometime. So with that, I leave you with this quote:

“Architecture, in general, is frozen music.”
-Friedrich von Schelling

The Botanical Gardens

I spent this past Saturday afternoon at the Botanical Gardens. The Botanical Gardens are part of Golden Gate Park (9th Avenue at Lincoln Way http://www.sfbotanicalgarden.org), and the perfect place to visit on a sunny day. It’s a 55-acre garden with over 50,00 different species of plant, and it’s FREE for California residents. (It costs $7 for non-residents, but if you come to visit I’ll split it with you).

When I was growing up, my parents were very good at finding places to go that were free, kid-friendly, and entertaining enough to occupy an entire afternoon. The Botanical Gardens is one of those places. But you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy it! There were so many things to see that I could have spent 4-5 hours wandering around.

The most popular attraction was the Garden of Fragrance. I really enjoyed smelling all the plants and guessing the fragrances. Thyme! Honeysuckle! Mint! And there was even a plant that smelled like maple syrup. But I also really enjoyed watching the other people smelling and guessing (and arguing about the plants).

this bee likes fragrant plants too!

There was a section on the map labeled The Succulent Garden. It turns out it is not a garden with turkey legs growing on trees, as I originally thought. It’s an entire garden of cactus and aloe plants that all belong to the same Family: Succulents. The succulent plants are known for their ability to retain water.

I’ve seen this plant (below) several times since I moved to California, but I never knew what it was. It’s called an Aeonium, from the Greek for immortal.

Aeonium domesticus

At the Botanical Gardens, there was a garden of plants from Asia, and Australia, a grove of Redwood Trees, Camellias, chile peppers, and my personal favorite, carnivorous plants!! This photo (below) shows a Pitcher: a plant that traps rainwater in its “pitcher” and secretes acid into the water to make it toxic. When a fly lands in the pitcher, the acidic water digests the fly and feeds the plant. Cool, huh?

"Darlingtonia californica", the California Pitcher Plant

I don't remember the scientific name for this Camellia.

So, next time you need something to do on a sunny day, think about visiting the Botanical Gardens. Oh and I forgot to mention that it costs $3/hr to park. I suggest you ride the bus or walk because the garden will not be enjoyable if you’re constantly worried about the time/price.

The Blue Angels

Check out this picture of the Blue Angels taken by my friend @Stammy.

Fleet week is an air show that takes place the first week in October every year. The weather is usually really nice in the fall so it’s the perfect Saturday afternoon activity. http://www.fleetweek.us

Here’s another great picture from abourne.

And I took this one:

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