Wednesday, May 26, 2010

This, My Friends, is the Kind of Thing that Happens in San Francisco…

On our way to breakfast on Day 2 we walked past this very cool yellow bus parked at the side of the road. It was all closed up but I could see racks and boxes inside it. After breakfast (yes, that’s right, fruit, yogurt and granola!) we passed by the bus to find it had transformed conveniently into a vintage clothing store complete with two shop girls, one of whom was sweeping the sidewalk while the other brought out rack after rack of clothes which we tried on right there on the street. I do love it when my shopping comes to me. So convenient. Mel found the perfect coat. When she asked how much it was, the girl replied “Oh I don’t know…$20 bucks? Is that too much?” Needless to say she bought it. This, my friends, is the sort of thing that happens in San Francisco.


And so we found ourselves in the mood for shopping, which was a good thing as that was what we had planned to do all day. I won’t bore you with the details suffice to say it was a good day. Highlights included spending too much time and money at Anthropologie, but not caring as it was all worthwhile, wondering around downtown saying things like “What, you’ve never heard of Campers?” or “We should be walking four abreast” or “I’m just going to whip in to this store I’ll be super quick…”


I did find some excellent items including this soap:



Say no more.DSC05879

We literally shopped until we practically dropped at which point it was clearly time to head over to Berkeley and our dinner date at Chez Panisse.

If you’ve never heard of it, whatever, I hadn’t either until I came last year for lunch. It’s the home base of one Alice Waters of whom you may also have never heard, but you’ve probably heard of the slow food movement. This does not refer to eating sloths or snails but rather the practice of eating healthy food that was organically grown near to where you live, and then prepared and served with ‘generosity and attention to detail’. What more could you want really. The restaurant can be found in a classic Arts and Crafts style house on one of the main streets in Berkeley. If you didn’t know it was there, you might miss it as it hardly makes its presence known. But just try and get a reservation. Mel had to call exactly one month to the day before the day we wanted to eat there and she still couldn’t get a reservation in the Restaurant. So we were forced (sigh) to eat in the cafe upstairs. The entire meal was divine from start to finish. I began with a roasted beet and arugula salad with some kind of lemony loveliness drizzled over it. It was so good I could hardly stand it. We all felt the same about the rest of our dinners and spent most of the time insisting that we try each other’s dinners and salads and desserts. I am pretty sure that I actually had the BEST dinner (slow cooked short ribs) but I will graciously allow everyone else to feel the same way. I am sure, however, that I had the best dessert - rose geranium-scented crème anglaise (think melted vanilla ice cream) with fresh strawberries. Unbelievable.

I enjoyed all this delicious food with two glasses of Gewürztraminer juice from a local winery which made me feel exactly like I was drinking wine, but I wasn’t and so therefore did not have to endure the unpleasant side effects that I am prone to (turning into a slight idiot, acquiring a clown-face, this sort of thing). I would drink this stuff for breakfast lunch and dinner if I could. If any of you own a vineyard, would you please get on with producing this nectar here in BC. I will be your best customer.

It is also a benefit for the girlfriends that I cannot drink as I am always the designated driver. This is typically a good thing although Sandy may beg to differ as she would, I think, have preferred to drive in order to alleviate her motion sickness. Many a time I looked in the rear-view mirror to see her eyes squeezed shut, jaw clenched, and a look of absolute illness on her face:

Me (while driving up a particularly nasty hill): Hey Sandy are you feeling OK back there?

Sandy: Mwerm

Me (bumping up to the top of the hill) : Do you need me to pull over?

Sandy (through clenched jaws): nerrjstgethere

Me (cresting the top of the hill ): Sorry it’s just really hilly but I can stop if you want

Sandy (louder, through her clenched jaws): Nothatsokjust  hurrup…

Me: What did she say? Did she say she’s going to throw up? Hey should I pull over?"

Sandy (As nicely as possible under the circumstances): DON’T STOP. HURRY UP AND GET US THERE.

I think she would also have said “AND STOP FUCKING TALKING ABOUT IT” but she’s too nice for that:)

And you are probably wondering why she was sitting in the back and not in the front and not in fact driving and this is because a) I was bossy at the airport and decided an extra $17/day was too much for a second driver b) Mel also gets car sick and it was her turn to sit in the front.Sorry girls – next time I’ll take the back seat :)

Anyway – we drove back to Cole Valley via Haight street DSC05890which is conveniently close, and where I spotted this lovely bit of Yarn Bombing (click to find out what exactly yarn bombing is, apart from being AWESOME)



Doesn’t that bike rack look much better?

As I said before, this, my friends, is the sort of thing that happens in San Francisco.

We spent the rest of the evening sitting around the apartment (after I had spent the first part of the evening trying to park on the 100 degree angle street that we happened to be staying on. Incidentally, across the street from our house is a statue – click here to read more about the Cole Valley neighbourhood and this statue - called the Angel of Hope that was commissioned by a philanthropist who used to live there. All very nice I’m sure and meant to be a symbol of something magnificent but I’m pretty sure it is actually meant to be the Angel of I Hope I Can Parallel Park my Car on this 100degree Angled Street Without Taking out All the Other Cars Between Here and the Deep Blue Sea. I actually wondered if I would be able to get out of the car after I had successfully parked or would I have to sit there with my foot on the brake pedal all night, afraid what would happen if I took it off:

The Girls, observing my parking job: “Ok. You’re good. Let’s go in.”

Me (with my foot on the brake Pedal): “You go on in I’ve got to get my stuff together…”

The Girls: “Ok but we’ve got the key and the door will lock on its own…”

Me (Still with my foot on the pedal): “No problem, I’ll find a way in…”

The Girls: “Jane, WTF. Come Inside”

Me: “Yep. Just coming…”

The Girls: “Hey Why is the brake light still on? Jane? What are you doing?

The Girls to each other: “She's worrying about the car taking off again and won’t take her foot off the pedal. Jane take your foot off the Brake Pedal and come inside. Come on now, Jane…

Me: “Ummm…Alright alright…”

The car did not go shooting off down the street as I had neurotically suspected and was still there the next morning.

Stay tuned for day 3.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

High Five to San Francisco – Part 1

There is something about the way the evening light reflects off the windows of the houses that spill down the hills of San Francisco that brings a kind of peace to my heart. It really is breathtaking. From my vantage point on the rooftop deck of our vacation rental from heaven up in the Cole Valley neighbourhood, I can see the Golden Gate bridge in the distance. All around me are leafy backyards, more rooftop decks, and the fascinating rooflines of the beautiful San Francisco homes. I think I could stay up here all night.


I’m here with three best girlfriends, Melanie, Sandy and Pam, for what we like to call our Split Party. Mel and I have been friends for a long time – 38 years to be exact and our birthdays are only 10 days apart. So when we were little, our mums would have one party for the two of us and call it our ‘split-party’. As we are both turning 40 this year, a more grown-up version of the ‘Split-Party’ was called for. So here we are, and what a beautiful place it is.

We flew down from Victoria on the ‘early’ flight which is ridiculously easy to do. We knew we were going to have an excellent trip when none of us could understand the boarding announcement:

Announcer: mwah mwah mwah flight blah blah 6585 to San Francisco blah mwah mwha etc etc

Us: Did anyone understand that?

Me: No – I think she said something about our flight

Sandy/Mel:No, I think she said ‘High Five to San Francisco!”

All of us: YES! That is AWESOME!

A 140mph tailwind was also in our favour and had us there in one hour twenty minutes instead of the usual two hours and twenty minutes. I highly recommend this flight. In fact, United should start paying me for recommending this flight to so many people. It is a bare-bones flight, mind you: we had a rather vapid flight attendant who seemed surprised to find herself on the plane and even more puzzled by the list of safety procedures that she was required to instruct us on. I wasn’t exactly filled with a sense of confidence when I looked up to see her awkwardly balancing a large unwieldy book in one hand and the phone handset/microphone thingy in the other while she attempted to read the script to us. I could only assume that this was perhaps her first time reading this script and, well, that didn’t really help me either.

No matter as I was able to turn my attention to the charming and entertaining magazine ‘Sky Mall’ which graces the seat pockets of these fine aircrafts. More on this later but suffice to say the presence of a cast replica of the upper half of a zombie, ‘life’-sized’ hauling itself out of the ground, and the accompanying description suggesting the zombie would be an ‘excellent addition to my family room’, instantly convinced me of the merits of this catalogue. It deserves its own blog and will get one.

Everything went very smoothly upon landing and we breezed through everything as if we do that sort of thing everyday, including renting a car. Now, I would usually spend several hours, which I would never get back I might add, staring at a computer screen trying to get the best deal ever on a rental car. I had the intention of doing this, but never actually got around to doing it. Just as well as it turns out that walking up to the first rental car booth you see, asking for something big enough for 4 girls and all their luggage, gets you a very nice car for only $30/day. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

The drive in to town was also easy and we learned that it is also easy for Sandy to get extremely car sick. This was especially unpleasant for her as she was also battling a huge cold.

Anyhoo – we located our place and learned that there was no checking in until 3pm (it was, like, 9am or something ridiculous like that). No matter as Cole Valley must be one of the most delightful neighbourhoods on the face of the earth. We found a cafe, parked ourselves, and stayed for awhile. The cafe in question, La Boulange, is AMAZING, and the home of the BEST granola, yogourt and fruit bowl EVER. See Exhibit A:


I will admit I had this for breakfast everyday for 4 days. It’s about the yogurt. I think they put crack in it or something. This cafe further endeared itself to me on the 2nd morning when the guy behind the counter asked who was next, and it was me so I put up my hand and he put up his and said ‘Alright! High Five!’. We all looked at each other and yelled “High Five to San Francisco!”

After we had sufficiently rested and recovered, we made it several metres down the sidewalk, shopped at a few cute little stores, wandered a few blocks the other direction and found ourselves on Haight street where we were forced to shop in the vintage clothing stores. Torture.

After a while we struggled back up Cole to our ‘hood where fortunately another cafe was conveniently right were we needed it to be. We passed another couple of uneventful hours eating and drinking (travelling really takes it out of you) until finally we could check into our apartment. If you haven’t heard, San Francisco is very HILLY. Actually that is an understatement. San Francisco is one ridiculously steep hill after another which makes walking tiring, driving interesting, and parking a f&%$ing nightmare. Anyway. I had to talk myself through it a few times. It’s not easy parallel parking on a 90degree angle facing downhill when the space you have to park in looks like it’s about 5 inches long, with a Porsche in front and BMW behind. Of course I got so good at it that I’m sure I was mistaken for a local many times. Right.

The apartment was a dream. Words don’t really work here so I’ll just post a few pictures and you can see for yourself.


The 2nd living room



This painting was life-size and hung in the living room. DSC05835


The very cool shower floor. Someone had some time apparently.DSC05848 


And did I mention the view from the roof top deck?



My shadow on the Japanese Maple.

The day was rounded out by a delish dinner at Zazie down on Cole. I don’t remember going to sleep :)

Stay tuned for Day 2…

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Whistler, I think I love you…

The scene is idyllic: white snow, green trees, blue sky, bright sunshine, no lift line-ups. Ahhh. A spring skiing day at Whistler.

Jacob and Zoe and I had the good fortune to be invited to spend a few days with our lovely friends Donny and Lisa and their daughter, Isabella, in Whistler. We stayed in their awesome condo with them and enjoyed the heated outdoor pool with water slide (slightly stressful for this former lifeguard), games room, and miles of hallways for 8 yr olds and 13yr olds alike to roam at will. Throw in some good food, some lazing around in hot tubs, some wandering in Whistler and it’s all good.

But back to the slopes. It was one of those days that you hope for but hardly ever actually experience: perfect skiing conditions and hardly anyone else around. As this was the first time the kids had skied at Whistler, there was an ‘overwhelming’ factor that us island kids had to get past but once we got used to the fact that there is approximately 862 chairs at Whistler and 50438 runs, we were fine.

We started our first day off with a trip up the Blackcomb side to the new Peak to Peak gondola. Those of you who know me will recall that I am not good with heights. So this gondola may not have been a good choice for me but with my other choice being a trek down Blackcomb, across Fitzimmons Creek, and then back up Whistler, which would take me approximately 3 days, I effectively had no choice. So on I got. At first it was pleasantly amazing as we soared over the runs, skiers below zipping around like so many ants. Then, all of a sudden, the cable appeared to fall off the side of the mountain. It was at this point that I noticed the decal on the inside of the gondola, happily explaining how this gondola has the longest unsupported span in the world. Great. Why would they point this out?

Hey Everyone! Guess What? You just passed the last support tower and there isn’t another one for, like, a mile or something! And Is it Ok if we just send you out over this ravine? The one with the jagged rocks at the bottom? Awesome!

So I sat quietly and looked out and not down and gripped the side of the seat until my hand cramped, all the while nodding and smiling yes isn’t it amazing. Mmmhmmm. At least there were no idiots riding with us that day. Not like the next day when Mr. Gondola-Statistics got on. He was only mildly irritating until he started in on how wasn’t it amazing that the gondola was only supported by that thin little clip and those other two 6 inch thick cables are only to guide it and really consider how amazing it is that it’s just the one thinner cable that actually holds the car and blah blah blah. Thankfully his wife clued in that maybe not everyone was as thrilled to consider this as he was and suggested that he stop. Just as well as I was about three seconds away from suggesting that perhaps he would like to consider shutting the hell up. Not very polite of me but frankly I was getting tired of envisioning my family plummeting to our death, as I am prone to do in these types of situations.

Anyway. I digress. So there we were enjoying our day. Lisa and I decided to take Zoe and leave Jacob and Bella with Donny. We headed off up the Symphony Chair, enjoying the lovely view. About two-thirds of the way up, I noticed that Zoe had only one ski pole. I frantically looked about, as if there was a chance that it was still in mid-air and I could grab it. Instead, I spotted the people in the chair behind us madly trying to get my attention. “You dropped your pole between towers 4 and 5” he yelled. “Thanks” I yelled back, giving the thumbs up. Well that would be no problem. Most of the runs under this chair were blue and green so I would just whip down the hill, grab the pole, jump back on the lift, and be back up at the top in no time.

I headed off and found my way down the runs. I passed towers 8, then 7 thinking all the while what an excellent skier I had become. When tower 6 approached, I noted the terrain had changed suddenly and was decidedly steeper than it had been. But still I persevered. By the time I got to tower 5, I could only guess that it was actually tower 5 (my intense deductive powers of reasoning kicked in here) due to the fact that a thick dense forest had popped up out of nowhere. Peeking out of the top of this forest were towers 4 and 5. Great. The whole freakin mountain is like a giant scoop of vanilla ice cream except for this one little area rising up like a chunk of unwelcome walnuts. I skied to the edge of the trees and managed to align myself with what I could only assume was roughly the area between towers 4 and 5. There were a few tracks leading into the glades but they looked like they were from 1979 (the tracks, not the trees). I gave myself a mental slap. How bad could it be? I had skied through glades before many times. I liked glades. I squinted further in through the branches. Yes, I could just make out what looked like the run, or at least a clearing. I pointed my skis in and pushed off. I think I remained standing for about .47 of a second before my left ski shot off down a tree well, leaving me in a somewhat compromised position. I struggled to my feet, disentangled my ski from the tree and surveyed my position. The trees were starting to feel like the ones in Snow White – all gnarled and threatening. Too bad I didn’t look like Snow White. Anyway, I managed to get my skis back on and slid rather than skied the rest of the way through the trees until I reached what I will euphemistically call the ‘run’.

At this point, I met a patch of snow that had formed a hard crust, more testament to my earlier assertion that no one had been on this ‘run’ in a very long time. This patch and I had little to say to each other except ‘Shit!’ from me and ‘Hah!’ from the patch. Again I found myself in a severely compromised position, one which forced me to remove my skis. And so there I was, skis off, up to my ass in snow crust surveying the scene. It was then that I heard the ski patrol from overhead as he passed by on the lift. Great.

Ski patrol: “Hey are you OK?”

Me: “Oh yeah. No problems thanks”

Ski Patrol:  “Are you sure? You look a little…

Me: (thinking ‘A little what??? Like an IDIOT?)“Yep. Yep. Just lost a pole”

Ski Patrol: “Oh OK Yeah it’s just down the run a little ways”

Me: (thinking ‘Fucking GREAT'!’) “Awesome! That’s good news!”

Ski Patrol “mwah blah balhdlfjlka; (too far away to hear him) but I think he was probably saying something like “I scrape your kind off trees regularly and I don’t recommend that you go down there because frankly, you don’t really look like you have a clue…” or something like that.


At which point I gave the ski patrol the Thumbs Up sign and smiled sweetly. This smile quickly turned to alarm however when I realized that the ‘run’ appeared to drop right off approximately 10 ft from where I was stranded. Fortunately the deus ex machina of this story appeared in the form of an expert skier who appeared from out of nowhere, shot past me, stopped on the hill like it was flat (it wasn’t), picked up the pole and waved it at me. At that exact moment my cell phone rang and, of course, it was my mother. For a few moments I fielded two conversations with both my mother and Nancy Greene (or whoever it was).

Me: “Hey Mum…can you hang on a sec…”

Nancy Greene: “Hey is this your pole?? Hey? Hey You over there is this…”

My Mum: “Hi Jane. I’m just at your house and I’m wondering if the rabbit is supposed to be on….”

Me to Nancy Greene “Oh hold one a second yes that’s my pole!!”

Nancy Greene: “Oh I’m sorry, I thought someone had dropped it..I’ll just leave..”

Me to Nancy Greene: “No please don’t leave it!..!

My mum: “Jane? I wasn’t going to leave it…I was concerned that…”

Me to my mum: “No,I’m not talking to you, what's the matter with the rabbit?”

Nancy Greene: “Hey do you want me to take it down for you?”

Me to Nancy Greene: “Yes please, that would be wonderful I’ll be there in a minute..”

My mum: “You’ll be here in a minute? I thought you were at Whistler. Well I’ll just leave it then…”

Me: “What? No, mum I am at Whistler. What did you say was wrong? Oh forget it I’ll call you right back.”

Energy renewed at the realization that I would not have to crawl down the hill on my ass as hundreds of people pointed and laughed on the lift overheard,  grabbed my skis, turned back into the Forest of Doom, and trekked back through to the main run.

Upon emerging from the trees, I eagerly threw my skis down, clicked my boots into the bindings and took off down the hill. I made it about three feet before my right boot came out of the binding, and I fell sideways and rolled downhill onto my face. My ski, free from its boot, shot off down the hill. In an act of agility and flexibility that I didn’t know I had, I lunged after it, skidded down the hill some feet and grabbed it with my finger tip.  It must have been a spectacular fall as several people came zipping over to me to see if I was OK. I nodded and got up and put my ski on properly (one must remove the hard crust of snow that builds up on the bottom of one’s ski boot BEFORE putting on one’s skis).

Back at the bottom of the run, I was happy to see the wretched pole waiting for me beside the lift. I grabbed it, got on the lift, and managed to make it to the top of the lift without any further crisis. The rest of the week was magnificent, the company lovely and I can't wait to go back! Although please note, anyone losing a pole must now go and get the damn thing themselves.

Ahhhh. Whistler, I think I love you.


The lovely Lisa


The drop of Doom



Thursday, May 6, 2010

If I was a Tiger I Would Never Have Lost my Cookie

Latest blog posted at The Momoir Project

I’m having one of those moments where I’m hungry but I don’t know what I want. My eyes rove around the kitchen alighting here on a salt shaker, there on a dried up end of a baguette and finally landing on a bag of cookies on the counter. Yes! I’ll have a cookie! And tea! I plug in the kettle then remember I was in the middle of cleaning the bathroom and should probably finish. I head back, noting on the way that the rabbit needs hay and also that a pair of my shoes is up on the windowsill. I pass a National Geographic magazine that is open at an article discussing animals and how they hunt with a prey image. How primitive I think to myself. I don’t need a prey image. I can multi-task.

Read the rest here