Sound of Music Sing-a-long. Jealous?

Don’t be jealous, but this weekend I was at the Hollywood Bowl at the Sound of Music Sing-a-long!  My mom is obsessed with Julie Andrews, so growing up my sis and I spent countless hours watching VHS taped versions of Mary Poppins…and of course Sound of Music.  2 hours and 45 minutes of belting out tunes and reliving the magic of the von Trapp family.  From the hills are alive with the sound of music…..how do you solve a problem like Maria…to I am 16 going on 17…to Edelweiss…So long, farewell.  Mom was singing at the top of her lungs, while I was preserving an already hoarse voice by compensating with my amazing chair dancing skillz.  Even old pops managed to squeak out a few notes.  Fun times!

Tried out the new iPhone panorama setting.  Not bad for a night shot!

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San Francisco, Where art thou summer?

Anybody that’s spent time in San Francisco knows that summer is not summer. Summer feels like fall with its 60 degree weather….and fall feels a bit like summer (at least the months of September and October).  Even Mark Twain was once quoted saying: “The coldest winter I spent was a summer in San Francisco.”  If you’re thinking I’m kidding, I’m not.  Evidence?  I snapped this picture of palm trees in my neighborhood blowing in the wind.  It captures the perfect essence of an SF summer.  Still waiting for the warm temps to kick in….

Daily dose of nature

If you’re a city girl like me, than you don’t get much nature.  Here’s your daily dose in case you’re deprived:  a weeping willow-type of brush and ducks chilling on a lake (quack, quack).  Cool.

Taken in Half Moon Bay, CA (near Sam’s Chowder House)

 
Taken on a cloudy day at Lake Merritt in Oakland, CA

 

Adventures in Strawberry Picking

I had a yearning to do something very “American” for Labor Day, so decided to drag my sis to Davenport to go strawberry picking at Swanton Berry Farm.  Before you get too excited, let me spoil it by telling you it was a BUST.  There were NO strawberries to pick…nada, zilch.  As you can see from the pix below, not a speck of red in the strawberry patches.  So disappointing!  Thank goodness, the strawberry shortcake and olallieberry pie were to die for!  Shortcake was buttery and yummy with the perfect ratio of strawberries to cream.  Ollalieberry mini pie was heaven- thick, flaky crust with tart filling.  Oh man, I love a good sweet!  Check out the pix below.

Good roadside signage to get your attention.

Empty basket = no strawberries

Inside the general store.  Kitsch’d out.

Olallieberry pie- AMAZE

Bed of sunflowers blowing in the wind…

Diane Nyad, You go girl

I don’t know if you’ve been following the Diane Nyad story, but I’ve been hooked.  In case you’ve been living underneath a rock…Diane is a 63 year old endurance swimmer who’s attempting (for the 4th time) a swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage.  In an unfortunate twist today, she had to stop her 4th go at it because she kept getting stung multiple times by jelly fish.  Despite this, I still think she’s truly inspirational.  We live in a culture that rewards winning, but in this case, it’s the fight (and not the win) that’s admirable.  For her spirit, her courage, her drive….for all of this, I say “you go, girl.”  Kind of reminds me of this street artist that I see in my hood on occasion.  I can’t say that I’ve never seen him sell a painting…and quite frankly, his art is not really my thing…but he’s out there, every Tuesday joyfully showing his work to the world.  He does it because he believes in it.  For me, that’s what blogging is.  Not sure if it’ll ever amount to anything, but it’s my ‘swim,’ my ‘street art,’ my creative outlet.  Sure, I get made fun of by some of my friends and family who think it’s a total waste of time…I mean, even the taxi drivers in SF have food blogs (no joke!).  But I trudge on and just type away. One clickety clank at a time.

City through the eyes of a tourist

Sometimes it takes seeing your city (and surrounding areas) through the eyes of a tourist to make you appreciate what you have.  So was the case this weekend when my future FIL (father in law) came to visit us in SF. Here’s a glance at a few spots that we hit up this weekend.

Up close and personal with the Golden Gate Bridge.  Foggy- so typical!

Outlook near the bunkers on the way to the Point Bonita Lighthouse.  Really safe 🙂

Point Bonita Lighthouse…very windy and Cape Cod-esque.

 

Houston, we have no problem (eating)

I was in H-town a few weeks back visiting friends and like most trips, I pretty much ate my way through town.  I used to live in Texas and what I miss the most (besides the freakin awesome Tex Mex) are the local diners and kick-ass gas stops.  Got my fill this time around with a stop at Barnaby’s for Sunday Brunch and Bucee’s (pronounced Bucky’s) for a quick bevo (short for beverage).

Barnaby’s is a cute cafe with tons of character.  The story is that Barnaby was the family dog who passed away and they named the restaurant in honor of him.  That’s why there are flying dogs with wings painted all over  the ceiling. He’s in heaven kicking it and having a ball.  Food is pretty tasty there too.  I got the standard breakfast plate with eggs, hash browns, sausage, and a biscuit.

Texans must love their animals because like Barnaby’s, Bucee’s is heavy on the cartoon animals.  If you’ve ever driven from Dallas to Houston, then you’ve probably seen Bucee’s.  It’s a popular trucker stop full of beaver souvenirs, nuggets (like caramel corn, but fluffier), fudge, and anything else you might crave on a car ride.  A good breather from the heat and the flat, mind-numbing drive.  🙂

Alaska Part Trois: Glaciers in Kenai and Hippies in Girdwood

If you read my “About” section then you know that I get bored easily….especially now that I am on post #3 about Alaska. So, I’ll try to keep it brief.

 Glacier Cruise in Whittier

5 hour cruise was a bit long, but got my first glimpse at sea otters, playful porpoises, bald eagles, seals, and sea lions.  Glaciers were cool too- saw my first calving here!  Plus, the company we used (Phillips- 26 Glaciers) had a crafty idea.  They had holiday signs that you could hold up and a take picture with for holiday cards.  Ba Humbug!  Like I said, long, but worth checking out.

Seward

Go for 4th of July. Great small town, Americana feel with local parade and fireworks.  Annual Mt Marathon takes place them, which is wicked.  It’s only about 3 miles long, but it is ALL UPHILL.  It goes from sea level to over 3000 feet, so it’s a straight shot up.  It’s so steep that runners wear gloves to claw up to the top.  Legend is that on the way down people just throw their bodies down the hill and jump down.  Apparently there’s a special technique for that, too.  People are bloody and torn up on the final stretch. Totally inspiring to watch!

Mixed reviews on the glacier kayaking.  Boat ride out was neat since we saw our first humpback whale breaching and orcas, but weather was rough, which made me sea sick.  We kayaked while the rain was beating down on us (thumbs way down), but on the flip, we did get to see the biggest glacier calving of the year (thumbs up).  One entire mountainside of the glacier went bye bye.

Other tips:  The downtown area has good souvenir shops.  Holiday Inn Express is pretty decent with a solid continental breakfast (think automatic pancake machine).  Chinook’s (nearby Holiday Inn) has good American bar food, too.

Girdwood

Fantabulous cuisine at Jack Sprat’s and the Bake Shop has great soup and bread. Hotel Alyeska, the most posh hotel in the state, is nice, but spendy.  Not sure it’s worth it, but there aren’t many other options in this town and after a week of rough traveling, it’s nice to sleep in a king size bed with high thread count sheets.  Seven Glaciers, the restaurant on top of their ski mountain, is good, but more about the ambiance.

And finally, I’d recommend stopping by the annual Forest Festival (if you’re around then), a hippie fest with hoola hup swinging, tie-dye wearing tree huggers.  We even saw a black bear chillaxing in the trees.  Mostly crafts and food, but there’s also food and a beer garden.

Phew, that’s it. Here’s to Alaska and all the memories!

Denali: So big you can’t enjoy it :(

The one thing people ask me when I tell them I went to Alaska is “did you take a cruise”? No, we decided to brave the roads and trek across the massive state in our rented Malibu Chevy. Our Alaskan adventure started with a brief stop in Anchorage for a quick night’s rest and breakfast at Snow City Café (great salmon cakes) before heading north to the Denali area.

First up was Talkeetna, a small town ~2.5 hours from Denali National Park. If there’s one thing that you do here, it should be the “flightseeing.” You get a spectacular aerial view of the park with incredible views of Mt Denali in the clouds. We used the K2 Aviation company and opted for the landing on Ruth’s Glacier. So cool. We played in the snow too and built a mini man (below)!

The downtown area has cute shops, restaurants, and gift shops. Don’t be weirded out by the white fluffies floating in the air. It’s just cotton wool, not pollen. Oh, and make sure to swing by the silver airstream for some Talkeetna Spinach Bread (basically like spinach dip on bread).

And now for the grand Denali. Not going to lie…I had high hopes for the majestic Denali, the highest point in North America, but as the highly suggestive title of this post indicates, it was really was “too big to enjoy.” From the edge of the park at the Visitor’s Center, you have to take a school bus into the actual park to get to the heart of it (Eielson), which takes 4 long excruciating hours. It takes that long because every other minute, the driver will stop because somebody will yell “STOP” when they spot a tiny dall sheep miles away on the top of a mountain that is only viewable by binoculars. This drove me crazy! When we finally got to Eielson….torrential downpour. No way we were going hiking now, so back on that damn bus ride back. You feel like you are in Jurassic Park with endless land of green and mountains, but the weather was so rainy, cloudy, gross that we didn’t even see Mt Denali. Not once! Poo! The only redeeming apart of this experience were the sled dog demonstrations at the end. Per my last post, you should definitely visit these guys in the kennel. Oh, and the wilderness safety video! I was terrified that at any moment a bear would attack me, so I made BF watch the video. Now I know how to handle myself against grizzlies and black bears…and where to cross a river. Good things to know in life. After a rough day in Denali, I highly recommend grabbing dinner at 229 Parks Restaurant and Tavern. Amazing New American cuisine that reminds me of some of my favorite SF joints.

OK, signing off for now. Tired after that long post. I think the next one will be the Cliff’s Notes version of the Kenai Peninsula and Girdwood.

Wendy’s Top 10 of Alaska: local beer, taxidermy, and other creatures

Hello, friends!  Did you miss me?  Just got back from a little 4th of July vacay in Alaska!  I know, Alaska of all places!  Not exactly my first choice.  BF is super outdoorsy and actually floated the idea of getting married in Alaska (even though he’s never even set foot in the state).  My compromise was that instead of getting married there, I’d go on vacation there with him. That’s how much I love him! Plus, I was secretly kind of curious how the peeps in the lone state way up in the north lived.  So Alaska bound we went!

Alaska is like one big freakin national park.  There are waterfalls everywhere… bursting on the sides of the mountain right next to the highway that you’re driving on.  Glaciers and mountains in every direction you look.  Animals staring back at you behind shrubs, peeking out of the water.  Absolutely beautiful, but I don’t think I’ll be running back anytime soon.  Let me explain.  So glad that I did it (truly a once in a lifetime experience full of firsts), but the weather was sucky and it took forever to get anywhere.  Did you know that Alaska is twice the size of Texas?  One of the reasons I was seduced into going was that I was promised 20 hours of sunshine a day.  I expected to be tan, golden, and sun-kissed.  Little did I know that it rains like crazy in Alaska year-round, especially during the summer.  My skin didn’t see the light of day.  I was bundled up from head to toe in rain gear and crunchy granola hiking pants everyday.  In terms of my second point, I’ll explain that in a later post.  Before I start griping, I don’t want to short change Alaska of all it’s greatness.  For that reason, I’m going to start with my list of top 10 things I love about Alaska.  So here goes…

Wendy’s Top 10 of Alaska

10.  You can look like crap everyday and not care.  Nobody else cares and I sure didn’t.  Thank you REI khaki hiking pants and North Face fleece…oh, and Mountain Hardwear rain jacket.

9.  Good local beer and generous wine pours. Try the Sockeye IPA, Alaska White, and the Hefeweizen….all solid choices.

8.  Fantastic wood work, creative homemade signs, and animal-inspired home décor (think taxidermy)

Did you notice the moose antler decor on the door and the crazy out-of-control wood growths?

Believe it or not…above animals were all located within one hotel.

7.  Locals with a great attitude.  It takes a certain person to live in Alaska given the harsh elements.  If this is any indication of the local spirit, here’s what the skipper of our boat had to say: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear and a bad attitude.”

6. Great sleep.  I attribute this to the heavy dual layer curtains in cabins and hotels….or maybe it could have been that I was on vacation!

5.  The freshest fish you will ever have…even in the most unassuming, divey restaurants!  Salmon and halibut- yum.

4.  The diverse terrain across the state from forests to mountains to glaciers.  Right out of National Geographic and great photo opps.

3. The land animals- moose, caribou, dal sheep, puffins, bald eagles…..even bears!  Makes for good souvenir material.

2.  The sea animals- humpback whales, porpoises, sea lions, seals, and orcas

1.  Sea otters and sled dogs- These 2 animals really stole my heart.  Sea otters are the most precious animals.  They carry their babies on their tummies in the water and hold hands while sleeping so they won’t drift apart.  Oh, and don’t get me started about Alaskan Huskies…those hard little happy workers.  We saw a sled dog demo at Denali National Park.  Who knew they could carry so much weight!

NOTE:  We didn’t really get to hang with the Eskimos or Athabascans, but if we did, they would make the list.

The fun continues with my next few posts documenting the highs and lows of my Alaskan adventures in Denali, the Kenai Peninsula, and Girdwood.  Stay tuned.