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Juan and I devoured sandwiches from Ike’s place at Dolores Park and immediately regretted that we didn’t just split one sandwich between the two of us. But it was too late to be thinking about curbing excesses while our mouths were full of halal chicken, avocado, and beer battered onion rings. We comforted ourselves that, at the very least, we were able to prevent further caloric imbalance by not splurging on Bi-Rite Ice Cream. The rest of the afternoon we spent wandering through the Mission watching hula hoopers, drummers, spray painters, and capoeira dancers.

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Normally, I avoid taking my DSLR camera to restaurants. As much as I enjoy food photography, the lighting is often terrible for taking good pictures. I much rather dig into my food than satisfy my inner shutterbug. But I went to Outerlands today hoping to take some decent photos for the weSpot contest.

Since it’s always packed to the brim whenever I try to go, I was expecting to taste some spectacular-ness. It didn’t live up to the hype, really. My ham sandwich was good, but not memorable nor worth the hour wait. While the quality of the food is solid, I could get a better and more flavorful sandwich at Wooly Pig Cafe around the corner from my house. But their hot ginger, lemon apple cider was excellent. If I could, I would spend my whole Saturday sipping this cider and reading a book.

But overall, the only reason why I think this place is so popular is the decor. Beautiful wood paneling lined the walls and counters. They have a terrific outdoor seating area with wooden benches and flowers that made the hour long wait not so bad, especially since I could warm myself in the sun. I almost wanted to order more food just so I could sit there longer.

Ideally I would have taken more people shots, but I’m not quite that bold. I wouldn’t know if I’d want somebody taking my picture while I’m eating. Then again, maybe I wouldn’t care. One of these days, I’m going to try one of those photography challenges where I take portraits of strangers on the streets.

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Which five should I send to weSpot?

Mt. Diablo

This weekend I had high hopes of catching a glimpse of the Orionid Meteor Shower at Mt. Diablo. I imagined streaks of light flying through the night sky, maybe even flashes of red or blue. At least, that’s what Vicky led me and D– to believe would happen. We set off late Saturday afternoon and made it just in time to catch the sun gently set behind the rolling hills. The tall blades of dried yellow grass waved in the breeze around us. From another peak, we could see thick fog roll in from the bay in the horizon, filling the valleys and troughs until all you could see were the dark peaks of hilltops that managed to stay above the haze. They looked like floating mountains on a sea of white.

We set up camp and hunkered down next to the fire pit, waiting for the spectacular stargazing experience. Meanwhile, we distracted ourselves with Phase 10 and s’mores-making. I’ve learned that when you’ve spent 10 minutes patiently toasting your marshmallow to perfect gooeyness, it’s a damn near tragedy when it falls off the end of your stick before you could catch it between your graham crackers.

Midnight rolled around, and somehow Vicky roped me into climbing the hill beside our campsite to see if we could see Orion on the other side. Between the three of us, we had one headlamp, one rapidly dying flashlight, and one iphone. The lack of light wouldn’t have been so bad if the slope wasn’t so steep. And frankly, I am terrified of climbing down steep downward grades–memories of bad biking accidents relived. To my relief, the path plateaued nicely and we were rewarded with the most beautiful night view of the bay area.

Did you know that the moon can set too? It was a crescent of soft red light, hovering low above the horizon. Beneath us, the city lights flickered soundlessly, ceaselessly. Just like the multitude of stars above us. We laid down on the path and watched the sky, mesmerized by the thousands of celestial bodies turning and traveling through space. Burning bright in the eons before and the eons to come. When you look up into the stars, you see eternity marching onward even as we are caught up in our light and momentary troubles.

Unfortunately, I only saw one shooting star that night. We thought we could sleep until the hour before dawn for better visibility. But the next morning saw a cloud-filled sky and gone were our hopes. Still, everything else more than made up for it.

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Frog’s Leap Winery in Napa

After spending one very cold night on Mt. Diablo, we drove to Napa to enjoy wine and warm sunshine. We went to Frog’s Leap, an organic winery that also has cheerful vegetable patches and thriving flower gardens. I think I enjoyed admiring their grounds more than the actual wine itself, which was also delicious.

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They had cornhole set up on the lawn for guests to play. It’s harder than it looks, especially when your’re motor functions are enhanced by wine.

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We also made a short visit to Mumm Napa for some champagne. I didn’t quite enjoy that place as much as Frog’s Leap. I will definitely have to go back next time I’m in Napa.

Most Adorable Kitten in the World

Also, on our way to Mt. Diablo, we stopped by a free cat adoption at a pet store. That is where I found the most adorable kitten in the world. Seriously, I don’t think I’m a cat person. But I was quite taken by this little charmer’s bright blue eyes. They really stand out against her/his snowy white fur. Ah, kitten! If only my landlord allowed pets, all the memories we could have had!

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Tuesday night, Vicky and I went to see The Little Mermaid Sing-A-Long at the Castro Theater. We were given a bag to equip us with all that we’d need for the perfect interactive experience: a plastic crown (King Trident!), a plastic fork (“dinglehopper”), soap bubbles (life is the bubbles under the sea!), glow sticks and party poppers (because why not?). The theater was beautiful. And packed. People were breaking out their glow sticks and bubbles long before the movie started. You can’t enjoy a sing-a-long without an audience who’s equally, if not more, enthusiastic than you.

It was incredibly fun. We cheered for Ariel. We stamped our feet. We booed at Ursula. And we sang all the iconic songs that made The Little Mermaid so great. And while princess movies may be sending the wrong ideas to children about gender roles and romance (seriously Ariel, you’re 16 and you’re “in love” with a guy you saw just once?), that’s not going to stop my inner child from loving this movie. At one point during “Part of Your World,” I got both the tingles and teary eyedness of nostalgia. There is no better way to re-watch a Disney classic.

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What do they got? A lot of sand
We got a hot crustacean band!
Each little clam here
Know how to jam here
Under the sea
Each little slug here
Cuttin’ a rug here
Under the sea
Each little snail here
Know how to wail here
That’s why it’s hotter
Under the water
Ya we in luck here
Down in the muck here
Under the sea

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Grape and Rosemary Focaccia from 17 and Baking

This is probably the easiest and best yeast-based bread that I ever made. Even my mom liked it and she’s usually skeptical of my baked goods. The olive oil and rosemary really shines through, especially if you heat them up together before you add it to the dough. I accidentally left the focaccia in the oven longer than I intended, but fortunately, it came out with a nice crispy crust with a soft interior.  Next time, I would use the regular red grapes instead of these wine grapes, which were a wee-bit too small and didn’t keep shape as well.

I’ve never found a whole sand dollar in my life. Today, life goal accomplished.

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Ocean Beach, San Francisco.

I don’t get to see my dad often, so it’s always a little weird when I do see him the few times that he’s able to visit from Hong Kong.  I always catch myself looking at the tufts of gray hair poking from underneath his cap.  And mentally measuring how much girth he’s gained since the last time I’ve seen him.  No butter.  No eggs.  Less carbs.  More fruits.  I nag him as he bites into his piece of french bread smeared with a huge dollop of butter.  He whines, I don’t get to eat this often.  So I let him, because I always do.

While we wait for our food, he whips out his smart phone and begins snapping pictures.  Of everything.  The restaurant’s front.  The flowers beside our table.  My mom as she pretends to ignore him.  My mom as she gives in and flashes her camera-ready smile.  And then me, even though I’m doing my best to look annoyed.  He pats my head and tousles my hair like I’m still nine.  But I let him, because the little things matter.   Because I know these pictures would be his reminders of what I look like until the next time I see him.

After our meal, we walked to the Palace of Fine Arts Theater.  It’s the first time I’ve been there and I wish I could’ve stayed longer.  But it was also crawling with tourists and couples in the middle of their wedding/engagement photo shoots. I bet the place would look even more gorgeous at dusk.  Next time.

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I can’t remember the last time that my parents took a photo together.

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And….giant bubbles!  We saw these while my mom and I were visiting Sausalito two weekends ago.  They’re intriguing to watch, these over-sized amorphous blobs.  And menacing up close, since I imagine it’s not very pleasant to have one of these babies pop over your head unless you like strings of soap in your hair.  But you can’t deny that they look super fun to make.  Who wants to get two sticks, a piece of rope, and some soap water?  Me!

Two weekends ago, I went to the San Francisco International Chocolate Salon to gorge myself on chocolate samples.  If you’re interested in reading about it, I wrote an article for my school newspaper.  Chocolate

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There was a booth that was selling special infused olive oil.  I fell in love with the basil and sun-dried tomato.  But I also didn’t want to spend $30/bottle.  Maybe I will try to make my own!

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Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands.  And then eat just one of the pieces.
— Judith Viorst

It looks like an enormous drop of glowing honey.  As it is pulled from the furnace, it dazzles with a bright shade of amber orange.  Slowly, the steaming blob turns shiny and transparent–glass.  I am transfixed.  The crowd around me jostles to get a better view.  We are all waiting, eyes trained on the molten glass, to see how this formless mound will transform into a new piece of glass art.

Hot Glass Cold Beer is a monthly event hosted by the Public Glass studio in San Francisco.  For $25, patrons choose a custom made glass cup blown by the studio’s own artists, which will be theirs to keep after the night.  Each cup has its own flair; there are vase-like cups, lop-sided cups, and cups with thin spouts.  I chose a small, simple cup decorated with swirls of orange and yellow; the sides are perfectly uneven–exactly how I like it.

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Vicky and I headed to the glassmaking area where they also serve unlimited wine and beer in your newly purchased cups while you enjoy the entertainment.  This is the hardest part to describe. If you’ve never seen glass being made before, like me, then you will find the experience exhilarating.  It almost feels like you’re given a sneak peek into an alchemy show; except, instead of Harry Potter music in the background, there’s a live band playing Johnny Cash.  It’s so “country lively” that I half expect to see an ironsmith making horseshoes or whatnot–but no, it’s all about glass here.

The red hot glass balls are attached to the ends of long metal rods, and they are carried from furnace to furnace.  Before it has time to cool, the glassblower rolls the still pliable glass on the surface of a steel table.  It does not look easy.  There is sweat and quivering muscles, swift practiced movements and furrowed brows.  It is amazing to think of the precision required to balance the pressure applied to the glass in order to achieve a symmetrical shape.  These artists are not using any sort of casting mold.  No, they are literally crafting this by hand.  That thought alone should be enough to inspire awe.

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To elongate the structure, air is blown through the metal rod, which is hollow, to inflate the glass at the other end.  Hence, the name, glassblowing.  Initially, it looked like the artist was making a glass vase, which would have been an impressive feat on its own.  But when eyes and ears started to appear, I realized that they were aspiring for something much more complex–a glass horse head.

I wish I could say that I saw the end product, but I could not stay for the finale.  Before I left, however, I was able to visit the next workroom where other studio artists were making glass baubles.  Definitely do not miss out on this side demonstration, because if you are lucky, like my friend Vicky, you may leave with an additional souvenir.

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We saw an artist create round trinkets with spiraling colors inside.  And another who carefully pieced together an intricate goddess pendant, complete with hair and bellybutton.

After these amazing demonstrations, the audience is invited to sign up for classes and workshops offered at Public Glass.  Even if you’re intimidated by furnace work, there offer many other varieties of glassmaking courses.  It’s definitely not a cheap hobby, and I probably won’t be blowing glass anytime soon, but Hot Glass Cold Beer certainly warrants a second visit.  And if you haven’t been before, it’s an incredible event to go and be inspired by glass art.

*Some of these pictures were taken by my friend, Vicky.