This weekend we had planned to go south to hit up a skate park and hang out at the beach, but since Trey ate it on his skateboard last week and tore his hands up pretty bad, we decided to opt for some hiking along the beach in Point Reyes instead, sans-hands.
A vole! ^
Dairy cows! ^
Jack, what are you doing up there? ^
My first experience with Point Reyes was when I was working for a veterinary clinic that specialized in treating sick and injured marine mammals, mostly seals and sea lions, several years back. This particular year hundreds of seals and sea lions began stranding themselves along the California coast, disoriented and having seizures on the beach. The influx was caused by the seals and sea lions eating prey laden with domoic acid, a neurotoxin produced by phytoplankton which impairs brain function and causes seizures in marine mammals when ingested in large quantities. The facility quickly became filled to capacity with hundreds of young pups and adults that showed signs of the illness, and we worked around the clock to get the recovered animals back to sea. One day I was tasked with loading up two rehabilitated California sea lions and a northern elephant seal pup into the back of a pick-up truck and making the hour and a half long trek up the coast to release them at a protected area, Drakes Beach, in Point Reyes. The beach is a popular haul-out and rookery for seals during certain parts of the year, making for a good place to introduce the animals back into the wild (pic below). We backed the truck down onto the beach and unloaded the animals, watching them make a beeline for the tide and swim off into the waves. I came home that day and told Trey all about it. It was some of the prettiest land I’d ever seen and convinced him we had to go back. We’ve visited there a lot since then, sometimes to walk on the beach, other times to whale watch from the cliffs high above the ocean, and sometimes just to get away from the urban sprawl of the city.
This weekend we put Jack in the back of the car and set out towards Point Reyes, stopping at a cute little place called The Garage in Fairfax to look at some local made goods, then driving further north through the redwoods. We got to the quaint town of Inverness and stopped to have some lunch. There’s always a crowd of people getting lunch at the little town strip, but we like to skip the lines and head to a deli/grocery store a little further down the road. There’s never a wait, the sandwiches are on par and there’s always an open picnic table outside to sit and eat. We got to Point Reyes with nothing on the agenda. It was the kind of day where you take your shoes off and have no real plans except sitting in the sand and throwing drift wood for your dog to chase. Jack had a blast running down the beach and up the dunes. He smiles all the time, everyone says. He’s technically panting most of the time, but when he’s out there chasing sticks and running around and he looks up at you with his mouth hanging wide open, it’s hard not to think he’s flashing a big ol’ smile our way.
Which in turn makes us smile, in the best kind of way.
..this weekend we’re hoping to do some adventuring down south in Half Moon Bay or Big Sur and maybe catch Interstellar in Imax. There’s a new yoga class down the street I’ve been wanting to try, so maybe I’ll hit that up as well. Since daylight savings time is upon us, I’ve been waking up early and getting outdoors with Jack. This morning we drove up to the woods near by, listening to Ira on NPR’s Science Friday and sipping lemon tea along the way. We met some sweet pups and people out on the trail who had the same idea as we did. I found a few fallen pine cones and stashed them away in my back pack for a diy project I have in mind (more on that later).
The other day we dug an old surveyor’s tripod out of storage. We had picked it up a few years back from a Stanford grad student selling it on Craigslist. We loved the chipped old paint and wood and rustic hardware, and knew when we had more space we’d make it into a lamp. This past weekend we went to the hardware store in our neighborhood and bought an easy-to-assemble lamp kit and a large drum shade. I really like how it turned out, and the story behind it we get to tell. I’m a sucker for pieces that have a history. Now if I only knew what to name it… My grandma used to tell me that if you give something a name you’re more likely to take good care of it. e.g also pictured: Blade the plant I strapped into the backseat of our car coming across the country, and Charlie the chesterfield couch whom I only met this past weekend but things are progressing nicely.
Here’s what you’ll need:
Surveyors tripod – Craigslist is riddled with them
Using the lamp kit is really straight forward and only requires a Phillip’s head screw driver to assemble. Depending on the size of your tripod and your personal preference, the lamp shade size and shape can vary. I chose to go with a large, 17″ diameter, 11″ height drum (not tapered) shade, that can be found here.
October and November are my favorite months of the year. The leaves changing from vibrant green to golden yellows and reds, drinking fresh cider from the bottle while walking home from the market, watching spooky Halloween Dateline episodes, wearing flannels and boots and wooly socks. And balancing things on my dog’s head. Yep.
Jack has this way about him. He’s calm and wise and really happy all the time. Like if buddha and yoda had a baby, you’d get Jack. I get asked a lot if he minds us putting things on his head, and he really doesn’t. He just goes with it, gobbling up the piece of turkey and praise we give him afterwards. It’s funny, having this little squatty sidekick that goes everywhere with you. (Hu)man’s best friend and all. Here’s him being festive for fall and Halloween this week. And just incase you missed it, there’s more here and here.
Hello there. Apologies for the radio silence, we spent the week getting all moved into our new place and had to deal with some unanticipated moving drama. In the previous post I mentioned our car was broken into and laptop stolen. Well, this week our Uhaul truck was stolen. Yep, an entire large-sized moving truck. Trey’s vintage motorcycle was inside…the one he’d been fixing up for the past year. Luckily, we had unloaded almost everything else and just parked it for the night next to our place until we could return it in the morning (living in SF for six years had us weary of whether to leave it on the street or not, but Uhaul assured us it would be fine in Berkeley). It still hasn’t been found. So, it was a rough couple of days. Luckily the thieves targeted a couple of less-is-more kinda folks who don’t dwell in negativity…
I wanted to share some photos I took while out and about in our new neighborhood yesterday. Despite what it sounds like, we actually live in one of the best neighborhoods in the area. We’re just a few streets over from a bunch of cute restaurants, cafes, shops, and an old school independent theater that I’m really excited to go to.
Jack is already making friends with store-owners here. He thinks he’s invited inside everywhere he goes. He just swanks on in like a good friend you haven’t seen in a while, flashing that big ole’ toothy grin of his …“HEY!”…
Table for two? ^
Go Giants! ^
I’m looking forward to exploring more around here and documenting the process of putting our new place together. We need a couch, for starters. Here’s my current seating situation:
I am hopeful that as things start calming down we will regain some semblance of normalcy in our lives soon…(well, as normal as we get)… after 2 weeks on the road and 2 weeks in Airbnbs/hotels…we’re ready!
This week has been eventful. We got the awesome place in the best part of town and are really excited to move in this weekend. After living out of suitcases and hotel rooms for the past three weeks, we’re all ready to move in somewhere more permanent. Then our car got broken into and that was crappy, but hey I’m excited to get my guitar and bike out of storage and actually eat food on real plates instead of plastic take out containers soon.
Yesterday, I took Jack out to Fort Funston, one of our favorite dog park/beaches in San Francisco. We were both in need of some time outdoors. He ran down the dunes and jumped in the tide, so stoked on life. I love how he sprints ahead and then turns back to make sure I’m coming too. Dogs really are the best form of therapy. I think I’ll keep him.
Last weekend we ventured down to Pacifica, a small, sleepy beach town just 20 minutes south of San Francisco. It’s one of my favorite places along the California coast, mostly because hardly anyone goes there despite it being so close to the city. It’s covered in a thick blanket of fog most of the year and doesn’t have much going on typically except for a handful of surfers who brave the cold water to catch a few waves. Crab carapaces, pelican feathers, petrified wood and other treasures wash up on the shore when the tide recedes, making for some good beach combing. One foggy day, I came here and a 100ft blue whale had washed up. She was a mammoth of a creature, hit by a ship I later learned, then washed in with the tides.
On this day, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the temperatures plateaued in the high 80s (unheard of around here). We played in the waves and ran along the beach, dangling bull kelp behind us for Jack to chase. Then we met a friendly basset hound named Marco and buried Jack in the sand. We went home salty and happy and ate fried chicken and salad (they cancel each other out). In other news, we’re waiting to hear back on whether we will get this great place we viewed. It has 900 sqft, hardwood floors, big closets, a claw foot bath tub and bay windows that let in lots of sun light. We’ve been scouring Craigslist since we’ve been back and this one would be perfect. Fingers and toes crossed!
Last week we traveled across the country from south Florida to northern California. I took a ton of pictures along the way, so if you decide to read this in its entirety, you might want to get some snacks. We decided to take the scenic route, visiting some cities we had never spent time in before and steadily make our way back to San Francisco. The first major city we passed through was Atlanta, Georgia but since we had been there so many times we didn’t stop. We had our eyes set on Nashville, Tennessee.
We got to Nashville and did some exploring. I really like this town. It’s reminds me of a smaller, more country version of LA in some ways. We got coffee at Hot and Cold in the morning and then checked out some cool local spots including Love Circle (TN’s version of Lover’s Lane) where we got some killer views of the city.
Then we hit the road en route to Chicago, traveling through Kentucky and Indiana, watching out for lurking dinosaurs along the way.
Oh Chicago, you beauty! With your lake side views and big buildings and friendly people. It was jacket weather aka the best weather. Some of the leaves had already started to change and the air had just enough bite to it to make it feel like fall. While we were here we had cake donuts and coffee at Stan’s Donuts, did some walking/shopping around the Wicker Park neighborhood, tried on bear suits (as you do), visited the Bean downtown and Frank Lloyd Wright’s house in Oak Park, then wrapped up with drinks at Bangers and Lace and tacos at Big Star before heading back to our hotel.
I have become an expert at smuggling my cat into hotel rooms. Nicole Lee, Cat Smuggler. Nicole Cat Smuggler Lee, Ol’ Cat Smugglin’ Lee. My biggest feat to date was in Chicago while on this trip. We stopped in downtown for the night at one of these boutique-y hotels in downtown. The ones with the doormen and the views and the 5 dollar bottles of water in the mini fridge. First, I had to convince the valet guys that I didn’t need a luggage cart and would carry my own bags to our room to, you know…secure the goods. Then, I carried Mila Cat, swaddled in a blanket like the world’s largest bean burrito baby past the front desk and lobby, into the elevator. Yes! I thought. I’ve made it! But then, an elevator attendant got on. An elevator attendant…seriously? Who needs helping pushing the elevator button these days? This is 2014. I knew Mila Cat was going to meow, because she hates being held and we had 13 floors to go. And not like, hates being held a little, but full on you’re going to die in a fire for holding me- hates it. I’ve had Mila for a long time, I got her when I was living alone in college. We’re good friends, but chick is a freak. A big, orange, black and white freak. But lo and behold, she didn’t make a sound. That’s right. The eagle had landed. KaaaKaaaaaaaa
After getting some morning coffee we hit the road for Iowa. What’s in Iowa? you ask, well there’s fields and barns and cows and then there’s fields with barns and cows in them. And pick-up trucks.
Trey was born in Des Moines, Iowa so we decided to stop by and see his birth place since he’s never been back. As the highway rounded towards the city, all I hear is this loud, cackling hyena-like laugh from the driver’s seat. I look over and Trey is pointing to the “downtown” area which consisted of two measly buildings sticking up like buck teeth from the earth. We have to take the exit to downtown, I told him. We exited off. Holy ghost town. No one there, restaurants empty, hardly any cars. Every building seemed to be this same shade of beer bottle brown. Welcome home, bae..!…? We kept driving westward…
Are you still reading? Did you get snacks? Perhaps you need mega snacks.
Soon we came to Nebraska. If Virginia is for lovers, Nebraska is for…corn…husk..ers. ? There’s a lot of corn in Nebraska.
About 50 miles outside of Omaha and our tenth round of “Would you rather?” we reaaaallly started realizing just how crucial road trip entertainment is on a cross country trip. I’m a big fan of audiobooks, pod casts, talk radio, etc. My favorites are the Nerdist, which is a hilarious podcast where Chris Hardwick from comedy central interviews comedians and other celebrities, and Radiolab, a podcast about science, philosophy and other curious things. NPR news is alright if you’re feeling political and/or want to fall asleep (I’m convinced Diane Rehm is a zombie…someone, please call it). If you like laughing, the new Patton Oswalt comedy album is really hilarious. This trip we listened to the audiobook for Gone Girl. And you know, after 7 hours of listening to it…I still don’t know if I like it or not. Something about the voice-overs that they used just really urk me. I feel like it would have been better if I read it to myself (because the voices in my head are so much better! she says manically).
Finally we left the corn fields of Nebraska behind and got to Fort Collins, Colorado. Now we’re cookin’. Colorado is a winner, if I didn’t like the coast so much, I’d think about living in the mountains here. It’s progressive and outdoorsy and the terrain is pretty sweet. There are bike lanes and dogs everywhere and the people are of the friendly variety. Fort Collins is a little college town, which means it’s has a pretty young feel to it. We had some food and drinks in town at The Mayor, a local tap house and eatery. There was a Pink Floyd cover band playing and New Castle brewery was on hand giving out free beers with prune extract called “The Dark Side of the Prune”. Definitely a buy.
We decided to keep the night going and find the closest liquor store, as you do on a road trip, and ask the woman behind the counter what she recommends. She tells us to try cinnamon toast crunch shots, which is a lovely blend of fireball cinnamon whiskey and rum chata, which, I am oddly familiar with given one of my best friends loves to order these at the bar despite my known hatred for cinnamon flavored liquor (goldschlauggers, sophomore year of high school, I don’t want to talk about it). Fireball whiskey can also be known as Fire Throat Death Juice as it can cause the most painful reflux in the most unassuming of individuals sometimes FYI.
From Fort Collins we drove north-west into Wyoming. Having driven through Wyoming in both winter and summer, and visited much of the midwest, I can attest to this being one of the prettiest states in our country’s mid section. It has a certain charm about it.
After Wyoming came another beautiful state: Utah. We drove through the arid desert, looking up at the cool rock formations as we passed. We also visited the Great Salt Lake (which is the largest lake in the US outside of the great lakes…who knew?) and got some good views of Salt Lake City.
Daaammnn look at that butte. Dat butte tho! Butte jokes don’t get old (yes they do).
Leaving Utah, we were super tired and basically crawled over the border into the first town in Nevada called Wendover. Wendover has nothing in it but a few casinos and hotels. The kind of place one would only come to if they were scoping for good grounds for a meth lab operation and/or wanted to be knifed in the dark and never seen again. Let me preface this with saying, I have a dateline nbc obsession. It’s a weird thing to like watching, I know, but hey…you can only watch so much Seinfeld reruns sometimes (no you can’t, blasphemy!). So we’re driving through the town and there, in all his glory, is Wendover Will. Wendover Will. As in the huge waving cowboy statue/sign from that dateline nbc episode where the girl goes missing and the guy goes to jail for her murder but really it was the guy’s girlfriend who was jealous and killed her and buried her in the gravel pit in the desert but she got off the hook and now the guy is serving a life sentence in prison. THAT one. You know, creepy town.
Then, after driving across Nevada, the most wonderful thing happened……..the California state sign came into view and we crossed the border into California! I was so excited I almost missed the sign.
A blanket of low-laying clouds surfaced overhead and the greenest Jeffrey and Ponderosa pine trees came into view as far as our eyes could see. Northern California: we were back! And it feels good to be back. That right feeling in your bones where you just breathe deeper and smile more. Where your Yelp and Uber apps are actually usable, and people are picketing for things like taxes on soda. Where saying “yes” to needing a bag at the grocery store is met with a judging stare and 10 cent charge. Where weirdness is celebrated and no one looks twice at a vagina mural sprawled across a building. You know, because why not.
We came through Truckee, CA, which is not far from the Lake Tahoe area and decided to stop off and take some pictures.
And just like that, we were home and our sixth trip across the country had come to an end. It was too dark to take good pictures of San Francisco by the time we got there, but rest assured there will be plenty of those pics to come. It’s good to be home!
Over the weekend we made some bird feeders for our back yard using grapefruits. Florida has some of the most beautiful birds ever. My favorites are the large wood storks, herons, roseate spoonbills, and sandhill cranes. I became interested in birds when I was a naturalist off the California coast leading whale watching trips to the Farallon islands (dubbed California’s “Galapagos” for the rich biodiversity there). Someone would point to a tufted puffin or a common murre off the port side and ask “what’s that?” which led me to read every field guide and bird paper I could get my hands on to become a local expert on them. I was basically a wildlife nerd to begin with, but becoming a “birder”…is like, the upper echelon of wildlife nerdism.
I am excited to see what small birds will be attracted to this little feeder. After hanging it up in our backyard we pulled some fresh basil from the garden and strained the leftover grapefruit flesh to make grapefruit gimlets…recipe below..