Winter wonderland

Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Snow on mountain

Driving to a Christmas party ...

JASON: Brrrr! It's cold.

MAGGIE: (Huddled in a thick wool sweater with a scarf wrapped around face) Indeed.

JASON: What is it? Like 60 degrees?

MAGGIE: (Muffled by scarf) Fifty-eight.

JASON: Fifty-freaking-eight? BRRRRR. I hope this isn't an indication of the kind of winter we have in store for us. Because I say no thank you to that kind of weather. Do you think the whole winter will be this cold? I hate knowing that winter is coming.

MAGGIE: Baby, it's December. It's already winter.

JASON: (Cranking up heat in car.) So it is.

Happy Cat-mas

Monday, December 10, 2007
Here's why it's impossible to wrap gifts at my house:



Yummy tissue paper

Burying face.


Nom, nom, nom.

So I love tissue paper. So what?

Woo hoo!

Leg action


Celebrate your own wisdom

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Happy Bodhi Day! Today honors the day Buddha achieved enlightenment and gained the knowledge upon which Buddhism is founded.

I would like to celebrate. I would be up at the Zen center in a heartbeat if I could. But I have other obligations -- I'm watching Deanna's band perform in the early afternoon. Then I'm working late tomorrow night, covering the Queens of the Stone Age/Eagles of Death Metal hometown show. (Not that I'm complaining about that, because it's going to be rad.)

Instead, Jason and I are spending a quiet night at home. I wrapped a big stack of Christmas presents and addressed a bunch of cards. I'll probably have some cocoa before meditation and bed.

Here are some ways to cultivate Zen in your own life, taken from "Awakening The Buddha Within" by Lama Surya Das:

Be aware/stay awake
Practice yoga
Chant and sing
Breathe and smile
Let Go/Forgive/Accept
Cultivate oneself/Enhance competencies
Cultivate contentment
Cultivate flexibility
Cultivate friendship and collaboration
Lighten up
Celebrate and appreciate
Give thanks
Walk softly/Live gently
Be born anew


One of his students asked Buddha, "Are you the messiah?"
"No", answered Buddha.
"Then are you a healer?"
"No", Buddha replied.
"Then are you a teacher?" the student persisted.
"No, I am not a teacher."
"Then what are you?" asked the student, exasperated.
"I am awake", Buddha replied.

Writing Out of Bounds

Friday, December 07, 2007
What am I, crazy?

Yes indeed. Because now that the novel is done, I'm about to tackle another big writing project.

My friend and I are pairing up to write a screenplay about our time in Zanesville, Ohio. It'll be a tragic comedy, I'm guessing.

Holiday jeer

Wednesday, December 05, 2007
I was all in the holiday spirit last night, making some gifts, putting some ornaments on the tree, decking the halls, fa la la la and all that. And I roasted chestnuts, prompting The Boyfriend to croon, "Chestnuuuuts roasting in a dirty oven ..."

I pulled the chestnuts out of the oven and set them down to cool. Then I leaned over the baking sheet and inhaled deeply the musky scent of fresh-roasted nuts.

"What happened?" The Boyfriend ran into the room.
"My eye! My eye!" I clutched my face, my eye red and swollen.
"Holy Red Ryder BB Gun! What did you do?"
"The nut exploded in my eye!"
"The chestnut. It exploded and the nut shrapnel hit my eye!"
"Hee hee."

Later, I cleaned chestnut off the ceiling, chestnut off the floor, chestnut off every damn surface in the kitchen, the whole time muttering, "Well, f#$& you too, Christmas."

Art: The San Francisco Treat

San Francisco is art. That's all there is to it.

Of course there are the public art pieces, like these beautiful sculptures:


Spider statue

But everywhere you go, you stumble all over the little things ... sometimes literally:

'They dream'

And around every corner is something beautiful and unexpected. I found this mural down an alley in Chinatown. I actually thought the silly string made it more striking:

Silly string

The street art makes rainbows in otherwise gritty neighborhoods:


By far the most stunning neighborhood was the Mission District, a quirky place full of taquerias, bookstores, a pirate shop and strong coffee (At one little cafe, I had the "Heart Attack," which was shots of espresso combined with heavy-duty brewed coffee).

Maybe it's the coffee that inspired lovely pieces like these.



Skeleton boy

Phenomenal, right? Or maybe I'm just starved for authentic street art, since I live in an area where public art is commissioned by the city for hundreds of thousands of dollars. (Not that the expensive pieces are any less beautiful. But some of them lack heart.)

These works in the Mission particularly moved me:

Doorway art

thanksgiving 403

Even the city buildings are covered in paint. Here's the community pool, first from the front, then around the corner and down 20th Street:

Pool building

Walking down 20th Street

The Women's Building was every bit as FANTASTIC as I had heard. From every side, every angle, every inch of it was magical. I couldn't shoot it all:

Women dancing

Woman painting

Women's Building



From afar

Looking up

But my favorite piece in the whole neighborhood was this, a random treasure that was found as we were parking the car:

Garage art

So much loveliness.

San Francisco: Yay!

Monday, December 03, 2007
Jason and I left my brother's house and headed directly to the Ferry Marketplace in San Francisco. We were coming off of two days of bland food, and my taste buds were craving flavor.

Ferry building

Lucky for me, the farmers market was having a fungus festival and most every restaurant and stand had a dish showcasing wild mushrooms in one way or another. Directly inside the entrance there was a table full of tiny cheesecake bites made out of a candy cap mushrooms. Across the hall was a table of fresh linguine sauteed with morels. And it just got better and better from there. I nearly wept.

Big mushroom

We ate our way through the place. First was bento from the Japanese deli, with tiny friend dumplings, white rice, sweet seaweed salad and thick slices of crisp lotus root. The place was crowded and there weren't any seats left, so we sat on a park bench overlooking the bay, next to a fantastic street musician playing the clarinet. Perfection.

Bay Bridge

Next up we sampled oysters from Hog Island Oyster Company. We filled them full of freshly grated horseradish and sucked them down.

The line finally dwindled at Traci des Jardins' place, Mijita cocina Mexicana. Earlier in the day the wait had been hours. We got there when it was down to just a few minutes. We had tiny tacos on fresh corn tortillas, topped with a cascade of finely chopped onion and cilantro.

I also had a jicama salad, which was fresh and lively and one of the very best things I've ever eaten -- and it was simply matchsticks of jicama, ruby red grapefruit, avocado and pepitas.

Jicama salad

We left with sacks full of goodies -- fig balsamic vinegar from Lulu Petite, a bag of dark chocolates from Scharffen Berger, baguettes from Acme Bread Company, creamy Mt. Tam cheese from Cowgirl Creamery ... it was a ridiculous haul of goodness.

Next stop was our hotel, which was on the border of Union Square and the Tenderloin. Seriously. Half a block one way would get you to Macy's and Saks and other shopping. Half a block the other way would get you some crack.

That said, I loved our hotel. All the floors were decorated according to the elements. We were on floor Earth. There was also a fab meditation room, which was the best possible perk they could have given me.

Meditation room

We did some shopping, followed up by dinner with the wonderful Trish and her equally wonderful boyfriend. We went an organic soul food restaurant, which made my Southern-born heart swell with happiness. I created a dish entirely out of sides, since that's the good stuff anyway. Tiny corn muffins, mac and cheese, collard greens, plus a roasted beet and apple salad, all washed down with mint juleps and huckleberry margaritas. (No photos of dinner. Sorry. But here's shopping.)

Saks snowflakes

The next morning I was really excited to take Jason to Chinatown for traditional dim sum, which he had never had before. Chinatown is great, especially when all the places are just opening. It's an assault on the senses, with the food vapors leaking into the streets, the rattle of metal doors swinging open, a lot of shouting in Chinese.


Dim sum was excellent, although I think Jason was a little overwhelmed. The room was filled wall to wall with about 200 Chinese people; I was the only white person in the place. It was crazy loud, with the metal carts rattling past with food every few seconds and screaming and words tumbling forth that I don't entirely understand.

I took on the role of hunter/gatherer, grabbing the carts and selecting steaming baskets of food for us, while Jason just ate and enjoyed.

Dim sum

We tried to walk off brunch while searching for the fortune cookie factory that I've always wanted to tour but was never able to find before. And success! It's just a teensy place, so there's not much to tour exactly. But it was amazing to see the hot cookie batter get pressed flat on the griddle machine, then stuffed with fortunes and shaped on a metal bar.

I never really thought about how fortune cookies took shape before. I guess I thought a machine did it. But it's actually incredibly fast and talented workers, like this woman:

Makin' fortunes

Then it was off to Japantown for shopping and even more eating. Jason also managed to find this really rare orchid he's been searching for -- it was in the smallest, most random bonsai store. I found a bookstore and picked up some manga for a friend who is really into anime, as well as some great Yoshitomo Nara prints for me.

Here's a sushi place all dressed up for Christmas:

Sushi Xmas

And I'm a brave eater, but I don't know if I'm quite brave enough for this dish. Maybe if the salad actually was alive:


After Japantown, we had an all-too-brief evening in the Mission District before flying home.

Tomorrow: Murals in the Mission!

Hello, December!

Saturday, December 01, 2007
So now that it's December, I guess it's about time to finally post a recap about Thanksgiving weekend, huh?

Jason and I landed at the San Francisco airport at 8:30 a.m. We were really nervous about travel on Thanksgiving, especially with all the news reports predicting a particularly bad year. But we got our bags, picked up the rental car and got out on the highway by 9:06 a.m. We didn't even hit any problems on the highway between San Francisco and Yuba City.

In fact, it went so well it was a little creepy. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it turns out there was no other shoe.

The holiday was a nice day at my brother's house, spent with his family and my father, who had flown out for a few days. Here's my pops and bro:

Dad & Mark

The fam had turkey. I brought along my own tofurkey. And the dog had fauxturkey.

Emily & turkey

The next day we made a little road trip to Lake Tahoe. Here's me:

Me & my shadow

It was be-yoo-tiful.

Tahoe Thanksgiving

Cabin in the woods

Stark trees

It was also cold, as you can see here from my niece, Alley:

Alley in her coat

At least the coffee was smiling.

Coffee smile

Coming tomorrow: Update on San Francisco. Or, as my dad calls it, "That City Full of Freaks and Queers."

No wonder I love it so much!