Wednesday, June 27, 2012

San Francisco - Chinatown

Last week was spent roaming the streets of San Francisco.  Roger had a conference and I tagged along.  We actually lived on the east bay for a year sixteen years ago.  We would travel into the city for a specific event, but how often is the case when one is a resident, we didn't spend much time touring.

Once we realized our stay would be short we spent our weekends visiting all the places we most wanted to see:  the wine country, the scenic highway, Monterey, Pebble Beach, Muir Woods to name a few.  With the exception of an occasional dinner or the ballet we spent very little time in the city.

This trip I wanted to walk the streets and see the city from the inside way.  I made my list knowing I wouldn't be able to see everything, but given the chance I would have a grand time trying.

The first day I spent my time getting my bearings.  I wanted to know the direction of everything and exactly where I might be able to go on foot. 

I walked up and down Mission

and over to Market Street.

 I found Union Square and scoped out a possible shopping trip.
It didn't take too many more blocks before I found


San Francisco's Chinatown is the largest outside of Asia and the most heavily populated in the nation.   It was first developed when asians were brought into the area to build the railroads.  The most common language spoken is Cantonese.

The community is self sufficient.  It has it's own government, hospitals, Churches,

restaurants and markets.

There are parks

to gather with friends for an afternoon game of mahjong,

 and to honor


Chinatown is full of color, sounds, and aromas.

Enjoy my view of Chinatown.

It is a bit overwhelming.

Just a bit of trivia...Chinatown was the backdrop for The Maltese Falcon,  The Flower Drum Song, Pursuit of Happiness, and The Presidio.

Just outside of Chinatown are blocks and blocks and blocks of hills.  Did I walk them?
Or find another mode of transportation?

Well, now that is a story for another day.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Waiting on My Doorstep

Two years ago when I first signed onto Blogger and published my first post I began browsing through different blog rolls looking for writers who might inspire and entertain me.   Basically I was searching out those who wrote of things that interested me.  One of the very first blogs I found was An Urban Cottage.    After lurking for a few weeks I signed in as a follower.

I have continued to follow Steve as he has refurbished and brought life and beauty to his Greek Revival home.  I think one of the first post I read was when he was deciding on lights for his front porch.   Through these two years Steve has taken his readers through the steps of his home's transformation.  He has shared some of his DIY experiences and included us on his adventures to find the odd and unique items to include in his creation.  He has the ability to find the unusual and placing it in the perfect spot. 

Last year Steve announced Better Homes and Gardens would be photographing his home for their new book, New Cottage Style.   I was not surprised... his eye for design is amazing.  A few weeks ago he wrote he was giving away a few copies of the newly published book.  I had already made plans to pick up a copy,  but decided to comment on the post and put off my purchase for a week or so.  To my surprise my name was selected to receive one of the copies.

My signed copy of Better Homes and Garden New Cottage Style was on my door step when I arrived home from San Francisco.   The unpacking and the laundry had to wait while I did a little perusing.  It is a lovely book loaded with wonderful and creative ideas for the cottage home.  I've been telling everyone about it.  My favorite pages?

The section titled "savoring small", of course.

Thank you Steve for your very generous giveaway!  I applaud your creativity and hard work;  I look forward to all your future projects and adventures.

Monday, June 25, 2012

I'm Home!

I've been away!

Thanks to being able to schedule postings I knew no one would know I had ventured far from the island.  I tried to keep up and respond to everyone on the iPad but managed to totally wipe out my last post.  I was finally able to retrieve it; I apologize if it has been showing up randomly.  

I have so many photographs and thoughts to share, but it will take some time to edit through them.   

I love traveling.  I get a little anxious just before leaving.  I want to make sure everything is taken care of and secure.  There is absolutely no feeling like getting a call from your security provider telling you your fire alarm is going off and you hundreds of miles away (can you tell I speak from experience?).  I've learned to just go ahead and go through my obsessive list before I shut the door behind me.  While waiting to board the plane I can then convince myself I did in fact put away the iron,  I didn't use electric hair-rollers.  There was no time to make coffee.  I double checked the stove even though no one cooked anything, the refrigerator door was closed, the front door was locked and the garage door was down.  

Once on the plane I am usually good to go.  Magazines and a book take me to a different zone.

Yes, I love to travel and explore, but I am always happy to return to my own little green oasis.

I'm going to try to catch up with everyone soon.  I'm anxious to hear about your trips, your gardens, the books you are reading and the wonderful food you are preparing.  Actually I am looking forward to just catching up with you in general.  

Have a wonderful week!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Always Have a Camera Available

Last week one of the children brought the perfect bird's nest.

I was so disappointed I did not have my camera with me.  I thought it would make a perfect subject to paint.  During the regular school year my camera accompanies me almost every day.  You never know when the unexpected is going to happen and you need a camera.  This day my camera was at home.

Yes, the unexpected happens when you least expect it.  Many many years ago after asking the children to put on their coats.  One of my girls decided to put on her jacket (with the help of her best friend) while it was still hanging from the hook.  When I walked out of the door there she hung, arms outstretched toes barely touching the floor, coat still attached by the little loop at the neck.   She thought it was the funniest thing ever, and like the marvelous teacher I am told her not to move until I could find the school camera to take a picture for her book.  Bless her she did exactly as I ask giggling the whole time.   I'm sure I put it in her book with some cutesy caption like, "Just hanging out". 

The next weekend I bought an inexpensive camera to leave in my classroom  cabinet.  It survived maybe to the end of the year.  Now I pretty much take my personal camera every day to capture all those little surprises, except for summer play day.  My mistake.

Lucky me!  The birds nest was accidentally (I can be pretty persuasive) left, and I just happen to remember my camera the next day.  I took closeups

and  photos from different angles.

I even took pictures of the branches.

My daughter is an artist.  My mother was an artist.  It skipped a generation (I promise, I am not being modest)...I am a dabbler.  But, I will have fun pretending!
(I may let you see my best effort)

I'm collecting specimens.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Thoughts From the Island....Perfection

“The reason birds can fly and we can't is simply because they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings.” 
J.M. Barrie

I use the word perfect a lot.  Whenever anyone shows me something...perfect.  When someone answers my question...perfect.  When a child finishes a page in a workbook or cuts out a leaf...perfect.  It has become something others, especially my children, have learned through the years to expect when something is successfully completed.  Several years ago I had a child so observant she would remind me if I became distracted and failed to say...perfect.

Yet we all know nothing is ever perfect.  Being a self-proclaimed perfectionist  I have learned through years of trying, fretting and aging I most often fail and must accept falling somewhere in-between okay and good.   My friends know me well enough to know I can and will agonize excessively over things that turn out a little less than what I expect.    I am learning and trying to accept that some pictures are going to turn out unfocused.

I am not going to catch all my typing and grammatical errors.  So when I reread and find insulted for insulated, or comment for commit (I am totally blaming auto-correct)  you may rest assured I am behind this computer screen wringing my hands wondering if it is too late to edit.  

Flowers cannot all be saved and
well-meaning words do not always come out well-meaning.
That one can keep me up at night.

And, not all peaches are beautifully ripe when you cut them open.

Life is in itself imperfect.

 I had a child this year whom I bonded with mostly because we are both hopeless perfectionist.   I understood his procrastinating, agonizing and disappointment over a mistake.  As a teacher it wasn't difficult for me to talk him through his mistakes even though I knew in my heart the pain he was feeling.

One morning we were working the worksheet in our Weekly Reader.   There were four questions to answer.   The children needed to only write in the first letter of each word.  We had already worked on the letters needed;  I was not concerned.  I asked the question, the children gave me the correct word and the letter.  I turned from writing the letter "b" on the chalkboard to find my friend with his head on the table.  I ask him what was wrong, he wouldn't answer me.  I ask the other children if they knew what was going on.  No one knew.  I knelt down next to him and told him I would like to help, but I couldn't if I didn't know the problem.  He said,  "Miss Bonnie, I wrote the wrong letter.  I wrote  "h" instead of "b".  

After looking at his paper I assured him it actually was not a problem at all.  "Look, at your letter.  You just haven't finished.  It may look like a "h", but if you finish at the bottom you will  have a "b"."    And yes once he finished his "b", I said "perfect".

I am learning it is not about being perfect (though I am sure I have many more fretful times ahead), but learning how to adapt, learn from and finish my many imperfections.   And, I'm still learning the things I need to know in kindergarten (pre-school).

I believe I read somewhere that perfect actually means finished.

With that said....I am perfect!


As promised....
the perfect cake

Peach Upside-Down Cake
(Southern Living)

4 medium peaches (1 12 lbs.), unpeeled and cut into 1/3 inch wedges
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 cup cake flour (I used all purpose)
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
3/4 cup unsalted butter, (room temp. and divided)
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar (I used dark)
1 vanilla bean
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream (I used greek yogurt)
Sweetened whipped cream (optional, but really good with it)

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  (I also lined my iron skillet I baked the cake in with parchment paper.)  Toss peaches with lemon juice.  Sift together flour, baking powder, and baking soda.

Cook 1/2 cup granulated sugar in a 10-inch cast iron skillet  over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, 10 minutes or until sugar melts and turns a deep amber color.  Remove from heat.  Immediately add 1/4 cup butter, stirring vigorously.  Spread caramelized sugar to coat bottom of skillet evenly, and sprinkle with brown sugar.  Arrange peach wedges in concentric circles over sugar mixture, overlapping as needed.

Split vanilla bean lengthwise, and scrape out seeds into bowl of a heavy-duty mixer.  Beat vanilla seeds and remaining 3/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup butter at medium speed until smooth.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition.  Add sour cream, beating until blended after each addition.  Add sour cream (yogurt) beating until blended.  Gradually add sifted flour mixture, beating at low speed just until blended and stopping to scrape bowl as needed.  Spoon batter over peaches in skillet, and spread to cover.  Place skillet on prepared baking sheet.

Bake at 350 F for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in skillet on a wire rack 10 minutes.  Run a knife around edge to loosen.

Carefully pour out any excess liquid from skillet into a measuring cup, and reserve.  Do be concerned if you do not have any liquid.  (I didn't have any liquid; my peaches were not completely ripened)  Carefully invert cake onto a serving plate and drizzle with any reserved liquid.  Cool slightly.  Cut with serrated knife.

Bon Appetit'

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Gathering to Celebrate

The recipes were pulled.

The flowers arranged.

A celebration was in the air.

The only thing needed was for the guests to arrive.

The weekend of the ninth we celebrated the children's fifth anniversary and an early Father's Day with the two dads.

Our daughter and son-in-law were coming to pick up our little house guest, Waldi,

and their sweet girl Raven,

 after a two week adventure touring Spain.

I do love an excuse to dress the table,

toss together something new

Heirloom tomatoes with Lady Pea Salsa

and add something that is always a success.

Confetti Corn
I even baked a cake.

Peach Upside Down Cake
We toasted the anniversary, the Dads and...
the Queen (Moi).

We shared a feast.

We talked and laughed long after the sun had set and the stars had begun to sparkle.
  The night was over much to soon.

Morning came and our guests waved good-bye,
leaving Willie alone to wonder where everyone had gone.

"Hey guys, please come back!"

Willie, I miss them too.

Recipes to follow another day.