April 25, 2009

Historic Crissy Field in San Francisco

Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy has done the most amazing job with its restoration of historic Crissy Field in San Francisco, California. This former airfield is adjacent to the bay sitting within the Presidio of San Francisco, my home for awhile. If you get a chance to visit, you will find this row of hangars that now house a kids gymnastics club and another with rock climbing walls.

We like to walk along this area at any time of the day because there are always lots of to see and interesting people watching. The thick grassy fields in front of the hangars are perfect for dogs to run on, and for families to picnic. Be sure and stop by the Crissy Field Center for lots of helpful information - it provides hands-on, multicultural, state-of-the-art environmental education to kids, teens, and adults.

This former army base is a must see for anyone visiting the area for the first time. The vantage points you have of the city and the bay are lovely and perfectly opposite to the steep hills of Hyde Street or the crooked Lombard Street on Russian Hill.

Crissy Airfield
A row of hangars and a slippery seaplane ramp evoke an era when a squadron of airplanes stood ready for action at Crissy Field. This military airfield is actually older than the air force, dating back to the 1920s when flying had barely gotten off the ground.

In those days, so little was known about nationwide flying conditions that the US Army sent a team of fliers from Crissy Field and from an eastern counterpart at the same time to see who could reach the opposite coast first.

In the absence of any real enemy, Crissy’s squadron (the 91st Aero) flew forest fire patrols, spotted for seacoast fortifications, and took aerial photos. Crissy was also used during the first coast-to-coast transcontinental flight to be completed between dawn and dusk.

Here are a few extra tips for visitors, just in time for summer travel season:

- Bring sweatshirts, sunglasses for the kids (the sand sometimes blows), and a friendly attitude toward dogs. The water is usually clean and safe (warnings are posted as appropriate).

- Get a snack at the Warming Hut café, and stop by the Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center to touch a sea otter pelt or a live sea star.

- Return barefoot along the beach, then pop into the Crissy Field Center to learn more about this shoreline’s history­ and perhaps have another snack at the Center’s café.

- Park in beachfront lots just west of the Marina gate.

- The wind usually picks up by mid-day. If you want a quiet walk, go during the early morning hours.

- The beach can be seen at its widest during low tide.

- You can legally fish or crab without a license at Torpedo Wharf at the west end of Crissy Field. Look for posted regulations.

April 23, 2009

Celebrate Coral and Crochet

Speaking at the 2009 TED, here is Margaret Wertheim: The beautiful math that links coral, crochet and hyperbolic geometry

Margaret Wertheim leads a project to re-create the creatures of the coral reefs using a crochet technique invented by a mathematician -- celebrating the amazements of the reef, and deep-diving into the hyperbolic geometry underlying coral creation.

This cool conference that happens in Long Beach, California has captured my attention for the past couple of years. TED not only gives out prizes to make wishes come true but they also have this great new website that does an amazing job at spreading ideas.

Please go and check them out, and enjoy this talk about coral reefs and crochet - it is in honor of Earth Day and my mother, who loves her crochet. Read more about Margaret....

April 22, 2009

It is a Grand Canyon!

April 21, 2009

Cuba on my mind

My married name has many who are of Cuban descent attached to it but I cannot claim that. However, my love of history, people and all things global and about the love of travel has me enraptured with the notion that in my lifetime I might step onto the shores of Cuba!

There is something certainly romantic to my generation about the notion of Cuba. We have been denied access as Americans but we have been privy to all of the other countries out there that do not have the same political issues that seem to keep their citizens from Cuba's shores.

Americans have the tension from the Bay of Pigs Invasion in its history books and we have the Cuban-Americans on the Eastern Seaboard keeping the hot blood alive with regards to views of Castro and how the country is managed. My opinions are nil here but my desire to visit the Cuban coast and its cities is strong.

With the recent news of the current US Presidential administration seriously considering working out its policies so that we might return to regularly visiting this amazing land of incredible music i.e. Los-Zafiros and Buena Vista Social Club and intellectuals like Ry Cooder - there is incredible excitement in my neck of the woods.

It would be a dream to freely visit, savor and enjoy the land, its people, its culture and foods first hand. My camera awaits! My journal awaits! Hopefully my life will continue long enough that this will happen, but my breath will not be held because that is a fool's errand as they say. Until then I will continue to learn all about the land and its people until my passport will allow me entry.

April 19, 2009

Earth Day and The Lorax

Published in 1971, The Lorax was and still is an ecological warning that rings true today amidst the dangers of pollution, global warming and general disregard for the earth's environment around the world (developing countries included).

In The Lorax, we find whimsical rhymes, delightfully original creatures, and unusual illustrations. But here there is also something more--a powerful message that Dr. Seuss implores both adults and children to pay attention to:

The now remorseful Once-ler--our faceless, bodiless narrator--tells the story himself. Long ago this enterprising villain chances upon a place filled with wondrous Truffula Trees, Swomee-Swans, Brown Bar-ba- loots, and Humming-Fishes. Bewitched by the beauty of the Truffula Tree tufts, he greedily chops them down to produce and mass-market Thneeds. ("It's a shirt. It's a sock. It's a glove. It's a hat.") As the trees swiftly disappear and the denizens leave for greener pastures, the fuzzy yellow Lorax (who speaks for the trees "for the trees have no tongues") repeatedly warns the Once-ler, but his words of wisdom are for naught.

Finally the Lorax extricates himself from the scorched earth (by the seat of his own furry pants), leaving only a rock engraved "UNLESS." Thus, with his own distinct version of a compelling morality play, Dr. Seuss teaches readers not to fool with Mother Nature.

But as you might expect from Dr. Seuss, all hope is not lost--the Once-ler has saved a single Truffula Tree seed! Our fate now rests in the hands of a caring child, who becomes our last chance for a clean, green future. (Ages 4 to 8)

April 22, 2009 is Earth Day this year and another opportunity to remind ourselves that if we want to stay on this wonderful planet, it is in our own hands to make that happen. All countries and global citizens have to join in and do their part to keep our home clean and healthy.

It really doesn't matter where we live, it is HOW we live. We all have the power to make a difference in our own personal environment, and what sort of footprint we want to leave for our children - even if we do not have children we can choose to leave behind a lighter mark on our surroundings.

Peace to all of my fellow citizens.

April 16, 2009

Installation Art and other funded projects in San Francisco

Walking around the Golden Gate National Recreation Area is enlightening every time. It has been more than 20 years since my first visit and it always impresses me with its beauty.

Besides the incredible landscape, there are numerous opportunities for people watching and chatting if you are up to it. Lots of residents like to bring their dogs for walks along the water. We often stop and chat with the seniors we see sitting on the benches soaking up some sunshine. Many will tell us about what the area was like during the Depression or World War II.

Two of my great aunts were both active during World War II, with my Aunt Dorothy telling me how one of her jobs was to drive a jeep with young soldiers in it - ferrying them from the Presidio down the hill to Fort Mason where ships were waiting. She told me how frequently she would kiss one of them before he shipped off to either Asia or Europe, the little minx.

On glorious days, especially during the spring months, you will see picnics and birthday parties galore. This area is very child friendly and as long as you keep your dog on a leash, very pet friendly. Stand along the seawall and you may catch sight of colorful kite surfers or kite flyers. The San Francisco Bay has a lot of sailboats and tankers coming through its Golden Gate on a regular clip. If you grab a bench and a cup of coffee from the Warming Hut - there will be lots of activity to keep you entertained for hours.

Many tour buses come to the area and you will see a constant stream of tourists on rental bicycles pedaling along the designated paths. It is a sight to behold. The government agency running this national park and the Presidio Trust I believe are behind this beautiful transformation of the area, begun about five years ago. They have done a wonderful job and continue to work hard to preserve this landmark.

Years ago during the war this stretch of land of an old airstrip, then it was just a dilapidated portion of the Presidio of San Francisco. We used to Rollerblade and ride our bikes along here when it was mostly gravel and boarded up buildings, slowly crumbling.

Walking through this area now is breathtaking. You can't take a bad photo nor can you not smile while you walk. Enjoy the marked paths all the way to Golden Gate Bridge or Fort Point.

April 14, 2009

Favorite Foods Around the World

A wonderful blog that I just discovered Go Green Travel Green was my inspiration for today's post - thanks you guys. Eating is a great way to learn about new cultures and countries. Having discovered truffle oil, all vegetables are now my domain (the last for me to enjoy was Brussel sprouts). With spring here it seemed like a good time to share a few of my favorites and possibly through the comments sections learn about yours...

Five favorite foods of mine are:

Kumquats - a seasonal citrus delight of mine, that ever since the discovery of organic versions returns to my wish list every year. This year was no exception. Did you know that Kumquats originated in China (they are noted in literature dating to the 12th century), and have long been cultivated there and in Japan. They were introduced to Europe in 1846 then in the US shortly thereafter. Learn more from The Back Kitchen.

Avocados - known as palta or aguacate (Spanish), butter pear or alligator pear, is a tree native to the Caribbean, Mexico, South America and Central America, classified in the flowering plant family Lauraceae.

The name "avocado" also refers to the fruit (technically a large berry) of the tree that contains a pit (hard seed casing) which may be egg-shaped or spherical. Which for us growing up in California was the typical "starter" planet for every dorm room or new apartment. Long ago these were inexpensive and we'd eat them often, then save the seed and suspend it over water in a cup to get a root started, before planting it in a pot. Voila ~ easy, fun and cute green house plant.

A favorite related story is how my knowledge of avocados is mostly that they are known locally as the key ingredient for guacamole, a rich and tasty condiment with tortilla chips and Mexican food. While living in Japan, we introduced my Brazilian neighbor to guacamole, who returned the favor by introducing us to a blended shake drink of avocado, pineapple and mint! muy dulce y delicioso! Who knew?

Artichokes - The flowers develop in a large head from an edible bud about 8–15 cm diameter with numerous triangular scales; the individual florets are purple. The edible portion of the buds consists primarily of the fleshy lower portions of the involucral bracts and the base, known as the "heart"; the mass of immature florets in the center of the bud is called the "choke".

If you ever get a chance to drive through the Salinas Valley in California, close by to the fields written about by John Steinbeck and picketed in by Cesar Chavez is the town of Castroville. This town is famous for its artichokes, and the Giant Artichoke Stand.

You will find the tastiest french fried artichokes and steamed artichokes (for a healthier snack if you skip the dipping sauces mixed with mayonnaise). Back in the 1970's there were roadside stands that would essentially track the season for you by their prices per bud: 5 for $1.00, 10 for $1.00 until they reached about 20 for $1 then the season was over. Poof.

Artichokes are the type of vegetable that usually tastes the best fresh - though if you cannot get them fresh - the marinated artichoke hearts in a jar can be very yummy too. Nice for salads or an antipasto.

Fava Beans - Broad Bean, Fava Bean, Faba Bean, Field Bean, Bell Bean or Tic Bean is a species of bean (Fabaceae) native to north Africa and southwest Asia, and extensively cultivated elsewhere.

Here in Northern California these beans are often found in Italian restaurants mixed into savory spreads for bruschetta or other tasty dishes. Here are more ways they are enjoyed around the globe:

The beans can be fried, causing the skin to split open, and then salted and/or spiced to produce a savory crunchy snack. These are popular in China, Peru (habas saladas), Mexico (habas con chile) and in Thailand (where their name means "open-mouth nut").

In the Sichuan cuisine of China, broad beans are combined with soybeans and chili peppers to produce a spicy fermented bean paste called doubanjiang.

In most Arab countries the Fava bean is used for a breakfast meal called ful medames. Ful medames is usually crushed Fava beans in a sauce although the Fava beans do not have to be crushed.

In Iran, cooked broad beans served with pepper and salt are sold on streets in winter. This food is also available conserved in metal cans.

In Greece - Koukia (κουκιά broad beans) are eaten in a stew combined with artichokes, while they are still fresh in their pod. Dried broad beans are eaten (boiled) combined with garlic sauce (skordalia). In Krete fresh broad beans are shelled and eaten as companion to tsikoudia, the local alcoholic drink. Yet many people still avoid them fearing allergic reactions to them.

Garlic - Is part of the onion family. Its close relatives include the shallot, leek, and chive. Garlic has been used throughout recorded history for both culinary and medicinal purposes. It has a characteristic pungent, spicy flavor that mellows and sweetens considerably with cooking.

A bulb of garlic, the most commonly used part of the plant, is divided into numerous fleshy sections called cloves. Single clove garlic (also called Pearl garlic or Solo garlic) also exists -- it originates in the Yunnan province of China. The cloves are used as seed, for consumption (raw or cooked), and for medicinal purposes. The leaves, stems (scape), and flowers (bulbils) on the head (spathe) are also edible and are most often consumed while immature and still tender. The papery, protective layers of "skin" over various parts of the plant and the roots attached to the bulb are the only parts not considered palatable.

This is the probably the best of all worlds, one of the best ways to season any dish. Though the medicinal uses can be controversial, the consumption for pure dining pleasure cannot be underestimated. How many amazing dishes at Italian restaurants have you been to that has this not-so secret ingredient? Here in San Francisco the dozens of Chinese restaurants use garlic in creative ways to spice up a dish.

Have you ever taken a bulb of garlic and roasted it whole in the oven? Afterwards, when it is tender, squeeze out the cloves onto a slice of toasted bread for a tasty appetizer. Yum!

April 11, 2009

In Japan and California: Artful Talent and Pottery

Pottery is so beautiful. When we were children we often made the "ashtray" for our parents during a summer class. My parents never smoked but for some reason that and the pencil and pen holder were the two favorite or maybe the "easiest" pieces to sculpt. As time when by and real interest in pottery making was pursued, the occasional vase was made in a weekend class.

Today my aspirations for ceramic making are gone but the appreciation for the art of pottery making and the talent that goes along with it is as strong as ever. In Japan, you can find incredible hand made pottery sitting in piles on the floor of a shop on many busy streets - you can find it sitting in little protective paper in beautiful and expensive department stores. Both locations offer amazing pieces of work that look as if they are one of a kind.

Across the Pacific from Japan in Northern California you can find two long time pottery operations, both unique and yet very similar in their commitment to the design, integrity and creation of their work -- Heath Ceramics in Sausalito and Calistoga Pottery in Calistoga.

The Calistoga Pottery Studio has been run by Jeff and Sally Manfredi for more than 30 years - just off the highway in the hot springs town of Calistoga in Northern California. Sally and Jeff have been making pottery together and their work looks incredible - being used in dozens of local wineries and restaurants, such as Tra Vigne Restaurant and Frog's Leap Winery.

While we visited the showroom, Sally opened up the studio and welcomed us to look around. She was very informative about the various glazes and styles of pottery, no question was too small. It was really enjoyable to find this shop - just before our delicious dinner - and to have the owner take time to speak with us.

Just south of Calistoga is the coastal town of Sausalito and home to Heath Ceramics, a pottery studio and shop founded by industrial designer, potter Edith Heath in 1948.

In 2003, husband and wife team, Robin Petravic and Catherine Bailey purchased Heath Ceramics. Their shared mission was to revitalize the company by placing a strong emphasis on design, while preserving Edith Heath’s handcrafted techniques and design legacy.

Today, classic designs, as well as new ones are made with the highest level of craftsmanship - ensuring the lasting quality and aesthetic of each of our products.

This beautiful shop is a wonderful place to enjoy the same craftsmanship as can be found in Japan. They offer tours of their studio every weekend and are very welcoming if you have any questions about their work. Like Calistoga Pottery, you will find Heath Ceramics and tiles in many restaurants, hotels as well as homes. Stop by either of these locations sometime to learn about the art of pottery making and even California.

April 5, 2009

Destination living: San Francisco

No one likes to move. Traveling is one thing but packing up and moving your home base is another. Having done this in a big way when living abroad as an expatriate was a huge learning experience. You are required to let go of certain feelings of possession and you are forced to realize that certain items do not belong in certain countries.

On the positive side, uprooting yourself can be incredibly liberating and stimulating. You can build on your confidence, and dust off strengths long forgotten. Letting go of routines and adopting a more universal or global citizenship is very empowering. Depending on where you land, learning to live in smaller spaces or within unique parameters is also energizing - a sort of return to college life and living simply.

We had to move recently and after weeks of stress and anxiety, discovered a wonderful short term home in the Presidio of San Francisco. (Presidio translates to Garrison or Fortress) This land was home to the Ohlone people before the Spanish arrived...
The Spanish arrived in 1776 to establish the northernmost outpost of their empire in western North America. The Presidio then fell under Mexican rule for 24 years before the U.S. Army took control of it in 1846. Over 148 years, the U.S. Army transformed the Presidio grounds from mostly empty windswept dunes and scrub to a verdant, preeminent military post.

Now we are living in a wonderful place that reminds one of any vacation destination rental! San Francisco really is a beautiful city and amazing place that is a lovely reminder that one doesn't always have to get in a car, a train or plane to experience history and mother nature.

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