Top 10 Books of 2009

12.15.2009 Comments: (1)
These are the books I've read this year that I have enjoyed the most with a little bit about them (a teaser, if you will), because I just know that due to my recommendation you're going to run out and read all 10.
Get excited.
Prep, Curtis Sittenfeld
Girl goes to prep school, lots of teenage angst, a little bit of attitude towards her parents. Good writing, a little longer than your average novel.
A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson
Exactly what the title says - explained many things in science that I had never understood, usually in 3-5 pages per topic. Covers a LOT of ground. Easy to read a little bit and then pick up again later to read the next topic. Written by a travel/humor writer, so makes you laugh out loud.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, Mark Haddon
Tells a story about a curious incident from the perspective of an autistic boy, who narrates the novel. I know I'm really behind on reading this, but I really loved it. Easy to read and super interesting.
You Suck, Christopher Moore
Nontraditional story about vampires (hence the title), which also makes you laugh out loud. Set in San Francisco which was fun for me. Author of lots of other popular books, so you may have read some of the others.
Stone Butch Blues, Leslie Feinberg
Semi-autobiographical story of a transgendered woman coming of age and coming out in the 1970s. Some parts are tough to read, especially when you realize they're based in truth. Made me want to be an advocate.
The Dogs of Babel, Carolyn Parkhurst
Story of a man looking for meaning in his dog (I know it sounds weird) after his wife dies, intermixed with chapters of the story of the couple meeting, dating, and falling in love. Super sad, but fantastic characters.
The Meaning of Wife, Anne Kingston
A historical perspective of how the meaning of a wife has changed over hundreds of years. Written from a smart-ass feminist perspective, so if that's not your thing, you won't enjoy it. Interesting take on things. Lots of writing in the margins.
Bee Season, Myra Goldberg
Story of a girl who has been completely uninteresting until she wins the school spelling bee. Family of characters who have dysfunctional relationships with each other, and separate lives that the rest of the family knows about.
Testimony, Anita Shreve
My favorite author! How a scandal at a New England boarding school changes the lives of everyone directly and indirectly involved. Heart wrenching at times. Definitely made me think.
The Devil in the White City, Eric Larson
Just finished this today, and have gushed about it all day. Intertwining true stories about the planning, and building of the Chicago World's Fair in 1893 and a serial killer in Chicago at that same time. All derived from primary sources, it's a great read and even better when you take a second to remember that it's a true story.
What are your favorite reads from this year?

Her Birthday from Her POV

12.07.2009 Comments: (2)
Well, Dan gave you the basic rundown of what he did for my birthday - it was amazing! Not only did we spend the whole day eating (but not overeating - which was impressive) but he planned out a really detail heavy experience. Considering that I'm most often the planner/details oriented/organized one of the two of us, I was happy to not have to do so for a day. Anyway, Dan mentioned the list of the 100 best things to eat in SF. The list can be found here if you really want to read it. Before my birthday food extravaganza, we had had 10 of the items already (#2, 6, 35, 40, 46, 49, 53, 63, 74 and 97 if you really care). The list hangs on our fridge, and I occasionally look at it, but it's not what we focus our trips to the city on. Besides, I have a long enough list of restaurants I'd like to try all around the Bay Area that list doesn't need to be any longer, thankyouverymuch.
Anyway, the morning of my birthday, we left the apartment about 50 minutes late, me already stressing out about ruining all the timing of Dan's elaborate plan. Seriously, all the way into the city I was worrying about it, and Dan was totally fine, of course. I felt better when we got to our first stop for brunch and we got seated after only a couple of minutes.
Brunch: Buckwheat crepes and French cider at Ti Couz (#88)
This is an amazing creperie in the heart of the Mission, that serves all sorts of sweet and savory crepes. I was a little hesitant to get a savory crepe, because most of the crepe places I've been, they use the same crepe recipe for both types of crepe, which really confuses my mouth. Eating eggs and whatever else rolled up in a thin, sweet pancake is weird - I don't like sweet and savory all at one time. Happily, their menu talked about the different types of crepes they make, so we ordered one of each - sausage, tomato, cheese (savory) and pear, chocolate nibs, and brown sugar (sweet). Also, they make AMAZING cocktails. The bloody marys the bartender was making were epic, and I had a Ti Couz cocktail which included blackberry puree, champagne and vodka. If you come visit us, we will probably bring you here.
After we left, we walked maybe five blocks until we hit our next stop, which was a bakery that has sort of a cult following in SF, and I'd actually been wanting to try it for awhile, so Dan already was doing really well.
Morning snack: Morning Bun at Tartine Bakery (#8)
The place was completely packed, which was to be expected for a Sunday at brunch time. Before we left that morning, Dan had told me that at one of the places, he was probably going to have to limit me to just a couple of choices and this was the place. I have no willpower in bakeries. I want to try everything! But, this time, knowing we would be eating more, I refrained from getting the bread pudding, or the croissants, or the everything else and settled for what we came for...and a couple of macaroons (they're little!) The morning buns are incredibly soft and flaky without tasting like straight butter, even though I know they use plenty, and then they top them with an orange flavored glaze. Droooool.
We walked a block over to Dolores Park to eat our pastry and generally people watch. It was a beautiful day and there was lots of SF "uniqueness" to watch. Afterwards, we hopped on bus and went North to...a bar. Confusion.
Pre-dinner cocktail: A Fernet at R Bar (#71)
I think the first time I read this on the list, I assumed it was a mixed drink. Wrong. It's actually just a shot of a type of liquor, fernet, which I had never heard of. And you probably haven't either, but it's an Italian liquor that for some reason, is super popular in SF. This particular bar, which is just your average non-descript bar, apparently pours about 25% of SF's total consumption of it! It tastes...completely different from everything else I've ever had. And I fail at words to describe it really, but a few days later, I saw this Boston Globe article on Fernet, which is a good quick read. The bartender told us a lot about it, and served it to us with a ginger ale chaser, and told us to just throw the first shot back to see if we liked it. Tasty! We each had two and then headed on, almost ready for dinner. This picture below isn't of the booze, because we didn't take one, but just of some of the bottles the bar goes through every month.
We walked another few blocks, and ended up outside what looked like a small, family run Thai restaurant. Dan told me he planned to order an item here to go, and then we could take it near where we would be eating dinner and eat it as an appetizer. Good planning.
Appetizer: Papaya salad with salty crab from Sai Jai Thai (#27)
Ok, when he told me what he was ordering, I was psyched. I love love love papaya salad, and I love crab. How could this possibly go wrong? Knowing that I like spicy, but simply can't usually handle it, Dan even ordered it medium spicy so I could enjoy it. And this is where things went wrong. We took the salad down to the waterfront, opened it up eyes watered from smelling it. I had one bite, basically started crying from the spice and couldn't eat anymore. Dan had maybe 3 bites, and then had to go beg for water from a nearby restaurant, who totally turned him down. Seriously, I tasted spice anytime I coughed for the next half hour. We think we may try again, after telling them NO spice because I bet it is really good. (We did bring it home and Dan tried again a couple of days later...he got through half and then drank all the milk we had and 4 glasses of water)
So, Dan told me then that we had to get to our dinner reservation at 5:30, but that we had to hurry through because we had to be somewhere else at 7. I was starting to worry about getting way too full...but I shouldn't have worried.
Dinner: Shaking Beef from the Slanted Door (#7)
This restaurant is in the Ferry Building, right on the water by the Bay Bridge. It has been on my list of restaurants to try for a long time, and is currently one of the "places to go" in SF. Dan apparently had to call a few times and talk them into giving us a reservation, since they were all booked up, but he managed and we got one for right when they opened for dinner. We had a few different dishes but the highlights were the ones in the picture below - squash rice cakes and shaking beef. The squash was pureed, combined with rice, fried, covered with fresh coconut. Could have had them for dessert. The shaking beef was a beef and vegetables dish, in lime sauce with rice. Yummo.
So, because we had gotten there early, we were out of the restaurant in plenty of time, and we started walking a few blocks to wherever we had to be at 7 PM. Like I said, I was thinking we were off to eat still more, but I was wrong.
Dessert: "The Bathing Ritual"
Dan had found this awhile before my birthday and shown it to me, but I never thought we'd actually go do it. Basically, the spa is on the top floor of a hotel, and they have huge tubs that are outdoors on a balcony. There is plenty of cover, if you choose to undress to get in, but when you're in the tub, you can see the sky above you. The tubs are Infinity tubs, so you can completely fill them, and water just spills over the side, and refill on their own (like Infinity pools). oh. my. gawd. They are amazing. See picture in previous post.
Happy Birthday to me.

Her Birthday from His POV

12.05.2009 Comments: (2)
What do you get a foodie for her birthday? If you said dinner, you'd be wrong. At some point a few years ago, birthday dinner turned into a week of dinners to celebrate.
She is constantly reading food blogs, aware of the newest restaurants, and even knows the names of top chefs in not just San Francisco, but the entire Bay Area. People, she knows where Chez Panisse gets their eggs from! No pressure or anything on my part to surprise and impress.
Fortunately, there's this list of the 100 best food items in San Francisco. It's on our fridge in fact. It's not even a list of the 100 best restaurants; no no, 100 of the best specific individual menu items at 100 different restaurants - the fries at one place, but the burger at another.
I planned a food tour of SF for the entire day, from brunch to dinner. 5 dishes off the list, an entire day of eating, and a special extra surprise to end the night. I was very conscious that we could easily overeat too soon and not make it through the whole day. It was actually a thrilling logistical challenge to spread all the food out, plan all the travel on public transportation, and still ensure we could make our reservations throughout the day. I mapped out a route, had timetables, made contingency plans... we're pros here and ready to do food tours and vacation planning for hire or all of our guests when you visit.
I'll leave you with a teaser and let her discuss the food, but there's a reason these items are on the list. They were delicious!!! (Ok, one did got a bit awry, but it sounded so good.) Brunch, snack in the park, drinks over football, appetizer outside by the bay, and dinner on the pier in time for the sunset.
And a special surprise to relax after all that food.

Maize Maze

Comments: (1)
I think KK has been boycotting writing until I take the time to contribute more. For all you loyal followers, we've clearly been way behind in our posts... sorry about that. We have a lot to catch up on!
Now that it is December, let's talk about Halloween! It is always a fun time for us, mainly because we pretend everybody partying in their crazy costumes are all out celebrating KK's birthday. I found something we'd totally
never normally do, so naturally I wanted to do it. She was of course a little hesitant of my crazy idea. A gigantic maze of corn! C'mon, how cool is that!?!?
It was actually really amazing to walk through. The corn is so high, you really can't see anything else, but you hear other people's voices and lots of screaming little kids. OK, perhaps that does sound a bit scary. It took us a solid hour to wind our way through the whole thing. Granted we made some purposeful wrong turns in the beginning to get good and lost. They stay open so you can do the maze at night too... guess what we're doing next year!?!
Just to give you an idea... this was their maze in 2006. To give you some sense of scale, those things that look like bushes at the bottom are actually trees.
A quick game of hide and go seek.
An overlook bridge built into the maze.

City Walk: Potrero Hill

11.22.2009 Comments: (1)
Another day, another city walk post. This area of San Francisco is called Potrero Hill, which is south of the downtown area of SF, and is a bit more industrial than other walks we've been on. It is also a really tight knit residential community, and supposedly where the "up and coming" folks in SF want to live. It is pretty obvious that if you want to live on the top of the hill, your income better be up as well.
A fun fact about the neighborhood is that is was entirely unscathed after the 1906 earthquake and fire, so big numbers of people who lived in the city at the time migrated here. Tent cities popped up, and many people never left. So, this neighborhood's history is really ethnically diverse, where other areas tend to be more homogeneous in background.
This building used to be a recycling center, but is now an office building, and also holds a culinary institute. When the offices were built, this feature on the ground level was added to "give historic perspective"
Me on a colorful bench created by the residents of course, in the mini park at the very top of the hill (300+ feet).
A shot of Vermont Street, which is actually the windiest street in the country. It's just much harder to get to and not nearly as pretty as Lombard.
One of the bonuses of living in the Bay Area - this community garden is on a residential street, which takes up at a lot that could hold a single family home. Where else would a garden hold more precedence than another house?
Views, views, views!
Our starting and ending point. A compass rose made of....beans?

Congratulations v.12

11.12.2009 Comments: (1)
A bit of a belated welcome to Madeline Alayne Foster! She was born on October 17, weighed 5 lbs, 1 oz and was 18 inches long. She's home now with Meredith, Geoff, Chloe and Delilah. This is her Halloween look. Hopefully we'll get to meet her soon :)

Highlights of home

11.08.2009 Comments: (2)
So after the Gorge trip, and working a couple of weeks, I headed back to the East Coast for a week. Dan didn't come with, because when we were making plans, we were unsure about his work stuffs. It ended up being a good thing - he got called for some interviews while I was away! Funny how it all works out.
Anyhow, my main reason for coming home was to celebrate my grandma's birthday, which the whole family came in for. We all stayed for a couple of nights, hung out at my aunt's house, watched some football, went to church and a very fancy dinner. I didn't even know they had fancy dinner spots in Johnstown, but they do! Where I ordered a prime rib side (like surf n' turf) and they brought me a prime rib the size of two people's heads. Seriously. AND, my cousin Megan's boyfriend, of two months, came to everything! Met the whole family (which as many of you know, is kind of overwhelming with my family), came to the fancy dinner AND brought my grandma flowers. It was so cute. He's a keeper.
But overall, my grandma had a great time and didn't have to make one single meal or do a bit of cleanup. Successful weekend.
Other exciting happenings:
I got to visit with Kelley, Laura and the boys for a few hours. They are SO BIG. Not in a "what are you feeding them?!?!" way, just in a "gosh, kids grow so fast!" way. We opened the door and they crawled (!) over to me, and I had to lay down. They are easily the cutest, most adorable, happiest, want to squeeze them babies ever.
Got down to Blacksburg to visit for a couple of days to do lots of buying Tech gear, driving around and exclaiming at new buildings, reading at the river and such. So relaxing. Blacksburg in the fall is wonderful. I stayed with Tony who has the best dog ever (second to Parker and Cosmo, obviously). Anddddddddd she sort of loves me.
Met Lily, Chris and Holly's daughter. She is also a ridiculously happy baby. Except in the car seat, but whatever, no one's perfect. Most of the time, she giggles and smiles at everyone and has smooshable cheeks. It's pretty great.

Pacific Northwest: Miscellaneous

11.06.2009 Comments: (1)
While we drove all the way up to Washington primarily for concerts, we did manage to do some other stuff too.
In between the second and third shows, we took a side trip to Idaho. Because...when the heck else would we ever be in Idaho? Granted, we didn't get very far inside the border, but we visited a really cute lake/resort type town (who knew they had them in Idaho??), went to lunch, took pictures for proof, and then left. Idaho, off the list. No, we did not have a single potato at lunch. But the people were very nice.
On the way back from Idaho, we stopped in Spokane, because we wanted to go on the ride! Spokane has some pretty awesome waterfalls running right through their downtown area, and they've figured out how to profit off of them - the Spokane Falls Skyride. It's basically the same as the skyrides you see at amusement parks, when you want to get from one end of the park to the other. So you get a really nice view of the waterfalls, up and close and personal like.
Spokane also happened to be having a fair when we rolled into town. Who doesn't love a fair? Or fair food?? I was all excited to have funnel cake, or crepes, or whatever, when two girls walked by with strawberries, dipped in chocolate, on a stick. It was AMAZING. It took us a really long time to find the booth - named the "Shishkashack" for their "Shishkaberries." You can get them dipped in chocolate, chocolate with sprinkles, nuts, oreos. Whatever, I'm just hoping they get another cart and come live in Berkeley outside my apartment. They were amazing. Dan got dark chocolate with white chocolate swirls, named, I am not making this up, the "Halle Berry." I have a picture of it, but it's not as sexy as this picture of me with my oreo berries. hawt.
After the concerts were over (sad), we left Washington, only to have hundreds of miles to go before we actually got home. But as I mentioned before, we stop at every possible attraction, or scenic overlook.
Exhibit A: Scenic overlooking the Columbia River
Exhibit B: Multnomah Falls
These falls are the second highest year round waterfall in the US - 620 feet high. (I'm so glad I remember to get pamphlets so I can report these facts back later to you). The bridge (the historic Benson Bridge) was first built in 1914.
So yeah, Pacific Northwest, pretty awesome. Don't tell Dan, but I'm already planning our trip back next year.

Pacific Northwest Roadtrip: The main attraction

10.21.2009 Comments: (3)
So, the big trees happened. About 13 hours of travelling happened. Onto day 2.
We spent the first night in Albany, Oregon I believe, which is a bit south of Portland. We hung a right at Portland and found ourselves in the Columbia River Gorge. Which is full of those "wow, this is really gorgeous" moments. The gorge system is basically what the Columbia River has formed over thousands of years, sort of like the Grand Canyon. It's 80 miles long, and is the boundary between Oregon and Washington. It's one of our new favorite places. There are a lot of sports to try (kiteboarding anyone?), cute towns to stop in, and there's lots and lots of wine. Random, I know, but there are wineries all over the place up there. Good times. We found a little town that we're already trying to find an excuse to get back to called Hood River, where I think I can lay around in a bed and breakfast and read while Dan does various active type things.
We highly, highly recommend Springhouse Cellars as they have some very unique tasty wines, at very reasonable prices. But they make our favorites list, even more so, for being very personable, incredibly small compared to our CA wineries, and beyond incredibly kind to us. They even ship to just about everywhere (sorry PA and MD folks reading this). We drove and drove and drove. We ended up driving directly to the first concert because it just took us longer than expected, and we didn't have an extra 2 hours to get to our hotel and back. (Yes, the closest hotels to the concert are about 45 minutes away). We had no idea what to really expect, especially when we parked the car and we didn't even know which direction to walk because we couldn't see anything that looked like a stage. It was weird, but we followed the crowd over along path, up a slope and then at the top of the hill, looked down on this:
That's the stage there in the middle, with the gorge and the river behind. This picture is taken from the top of the lawn, and you can't see where we sat at all because the lawn is so freakin steep. The whole setup is literally built into the side of a cliff and is beautiful and wonderful and my happy place.
Closer up of the stage itself. The seats below are where we sat - two nights off to the right, one night almost dead center. Right now, you can see through the stage setup to all the scenery behind, but there were screens there once the band started.
For the next two days (days 3 and 4), we spent the night in a lovely little hotel out in the middle of nowhere (Moses Lake, WA) listening to trucks drive by on the interstate, and eating all the food we brought with us and then going to the concerts at night. It did not at all resemble real life.
We got pretty lucky in that the people sitting around us were cool. For me, if you have a jackass guy next to you or a drunk chick who can't stand up, it takes away from the whole experience you know? Actually, we spent a couple of nights near the same people, as they had also requested their tickets through the fan club, so that was nice. The first night we had one woman almost throwing up, but her boyfriend wisely decided that they should leave before any actual incident. The second night we were sitting next to a father and son who had driven in from Seattle, and they seemed very low key and calm, so we were excited to have more normal folks to sit next to. And....then the band came out and the son lost his shit. Seriously. You can hear him on some of the video we took that night, it was intense.
The other thing that is awesome about concerts here is if you drive, parking really isn't an issue, and neither is the wait after the concert to get out of the lot. Thousands of people camp at these shows. Because it's a multi-night event, and it's so far away from civilization, there are campsites much closer to the venue than hotels. And wow do people camp. You can see the tent cities from the lawn, and they are huge. Originally, I got Dan interested in going by telling him we could camp...and then I read stories of all the drunk people, and stuff getting stolen, and no showers, and no shade and...then we went to a hotel. Once he saw the tent city, especially in the rain on the second night, I don't think he felt like he was missing out.
So yeah, the Gorge. 3 nights. Favorite.
This shot is from the second show, it is not zoomed in at all.
And here we are, also on the second night, grinning like loons.
Next time will include highlights of our outings: Spokane, a short jaunt into Idaho, Multnomah Falls and strawberries on a stick.

Pacific Northwest Roadtrip: Very large trees

10.08.2009 Comments: (2)
Disclaimer: I was going to write this post tomorrow night, as I have a pretty rockin headache this evening. But tomorrow, we have to take the cats to the vet, and as it's a production even getting them in their carriers, I think tomorrow I'm just going to want to sit down with a couple glasses of wine. So, apologies for lack of quality writing here. My head, it is pounding. *********************************************************************** So we left off with me sharing that we decided to drive up to Washington state, and you probably rolling your eyes at our crazy nutjob ideas. I can't blame you for that. We did decide, though, that we would see the sites along the way, as we probably would not be making the drive again. This was the perfect opportunity for us to see the largest and tallest of the California redwoods, which are up along the coast near NOTHING else. No towns, no airports, no anything. Just five or six hours north of the Bay Area along winding mountain roads. We've actually had the redwoods on the list of things to see in California since before we moved here, but here we actually found an opportunity to get there. Instead of taking the major interstate north, we took the less traveled, less convenient side road, which, while beautiful, was going to extend our first day of driving by about 4 extra hours. (For those who have ever driven 81 down to Blacksburg, this was like taking the Blue Ridge Parkway...magnificent vistas, but so...much...longer...) Plus, Dan and I are sort of ambling roadtrippers, so our trips are not short. We're liable to stop at any random touristy attraction we see on a billboard...hence our trip to the drive-through tree. And our need to drive all the way through the Avenue of the Giants. And pull over at the One Log House, if only to take pictures and mourn the fact that we arrived just after it closed. I have to tell you, the trees up there are really freakin big. Truly, you can't believe it unless you see it. The Avenue of the Giants is a side road to the previously mentioned side road that winds through the densest parts of the forest alongside some of the tallest, widest, oldest trees. There were several times that we thought we were going to be entering a tunnel up ahead, only to keep driving and see that, nope, just big trees next to the road. They block out the sun. And they smell fantastic. We were lucky enough to be up there when there weren't really other people around, so we spent some time lying down in the middle of the road to try and grasp how small and insignificant we are, and climbing in and around trees that had fallen over. It was really amazing. Even though I was cursing our trip when we entered our 12th hour of driving that day, I'm really really glad we went. Definitely one of my favorite sights so far, you know, in my life. So, this is the Chandelier Tree, is 315 feet high, 21 feet in diameter and it's maximum age is 2400 years. We got to drive through it, because there is a big enough hole in the bottom of it for (small) cars. The hole was made sometime in the late 1930s, and it's one of (I think) 3 drive through trees that are still standing. No more have been created, what with the opinion that this sort of thing is probably really bad for the tree. Here I am actually driving through the tree. It made me super nervous that I was going to get my tiny rental car stuck in there, but nope, all went well. Can you imagine calling roadside assistance on that? "Hi, I went ahead and got my car stuck in a tree...probably going to need a tow truck." These are some big big dense trees along the Aveue of the Giants. No picture is really going to provide the perspective that's necessary, so just believe us when we say really really big beautiful trees. This is a tree we found that has, obviously, fallen over. Again, this picture doesn't really provide a lot of good perspective on the size of this enormous tree. Which is why I have provided the next picture. Scroll down. That's Dan, all six feet of him, standing with lots of room to spare inside that same tree. They are huge. I do not know how else to express this. This is just a pretty shot of the moon near the end of the daylight on day one of our epic drive. Coming soon: Hood River, 3 nights of concerts, Spokane and Idaho. Get excited.

Pacific Northwest Roadtrip: The build up

10.04.2009 Comments: (1)
This story actually starts in April of this year, when Dave Matthews Band released their tour dates for this summer and fall. As many of you know, I'm a pretty devoted (read: crazy) fan, and go to at least one show a year. Since we've moved out here, Dan and I have seen them play in Mountain View (where Google lives, about 45 minutes away) and then last year, they played a weekend series of shows right on campus, which was amazing. This year, when the tour dates came out, they weren't playing in either of those places. Um, what? They had one tentative date for a TBA location in San Francisco, but the details were sketchy. Not having tickets to a show for this year made me itchy.
As they do every summer, they were planning on playing a three night weekend series at The Gorge Amphitheater in central Washington. I've always wanted to see them at the Gorge - it's an amazing venue. It's outdoors, built right into a hillside that overlooks the Columbia River. I've seen lots of pictures, and heard a lot of recordings from here, because DMB releases a lot of their live music. You probably know where this story is headed - yes, I requested tickets for all three nights at the Gorge. When I found out that I got tickets for all three nights, I was beyond excited. As in, this is something I can check off my "life to do" list excited.
Now I just had to figure out how the hell to get us up there, and where we would stay. The actual concert venue is not in a town but is closest to George, Washington (seriously!) I recommend you Google Map it to see how much it is in the middle of nowhere. Two hours away from Seattle, 90 minutes away from Spokane. 45 minutes from the closest hotels, oh my. I originally sold Dan on the idea of going at all with the idea of camping - because the band plays 3 nights in a row, camping near the concert venue is offered, and I think somewhere between 8 and 10 thousand people actually go and camp. Dan was all about the entire experience - but after I read some boards about no showers at the campsites, stupid drunk people at all hours, things getting stolen, we changed our minds. Also, we own no camping gear to speak of.
So we drove. From Berkeley to central Washington. I reasoned that if we flew, we'd just have to rent a car anyway, so why double the expense, plus plane fare over Labor Day weekend was kind of ridiculous. However, it was far. Google maps told me about 16 hours up, and 14 hours back (different routes), about 900 miles. Luckily, we had the time to split up the drive over two days each way. But yeah, still really far...
Coming up: The California redwoods, Columbia River gorge, and many concert photos

The time Phish crashed our friend's wedding

9.27.2009 Comments: (2)
Holler, I'm finally getting around to posting (Franklin's) pictures from Ben and Jess's wedding, which was now about 5 weeks ago. The entire weekend was pretty gorgeous.
Dan and I took the red eye to Albany on Thursday evening. I literally left the unit after training my RA staff since 10 AM, and went directly to the airport. We took an enormous plane to Chicago, where we switched to a teeny tiny jet, which made me uncomfortable. Jess's brother picked us up, and went to Jess's parents' house, where they very kindly let us nap and take showers before we all headed over to the Mansion. (fyi - "The Mansion" should be said with a heavy accent)
Most folks arrived on Friday evening, so we ordered dinner in and drank a lot of wine, while people arrived all night. It was a rockin good time for everyone to stay in one place, so that we were all together most of the time, and didn't have to worry about going anywhere else. Saturday, we went to the rehearsal, and then got all dressed up and went to the Saratoga racetrack to watch the horse races, which is what people DO there. People were into it, let me tell you. Jess's family went to the track at 6 AM to reserve tables for us to sit at later that day, and then people had to hang out there all morning and afternoon to keep saving them, it was crazy. Saturday also included a BBQ dinner back at the Mansion for anyone coming to the wedding, followed by wine, dancing and ridiculous photos.
Sunday, of course, was the wedding, which Phish was invited to. The amphitheater they were playing in was literally right next door to the wedding hall. However, we didn't hear a damn thing once the (awesome!) band started playing at the wedding. Because it was pouring rain, we did see a lot of scantily clad Phish fans right up against the doors of the hall trying to get some cover from the weather.
The wedding was gorgeous. And Ben and Jess are both very pretty people. All in all, it was very aesthetically pleasing.
The Mansion Inn, site of wedding good times
At the races, blending right in with our hats
BBQ before dark
BBQ after dark. We love wine.
The Hall of Springs, wedding site
Fancy groomsmen
Josh and I walking down the aisle before the ceremony. Afterwards, our smiles are more forced because Josh was sweaty and my feet were numb.
Ceremony, all personal and emotional and stuff.
College crew with the newest bride and groom.

City Walk: Eureka Valley

9.18.2009 Comments: (2)
We really have been in the Bay Area for selected parts of the summer, I promise. During part of that, Deborah was staying with us (before she abandoned us to move to Australia I mean) and one of the things she really wanted to do was go on a city walk with us. So to the city we went. Deborah chose our walk - Eureka Valley. The area sits on a hill, beneath Twin Peaks and right above the Castro. The walk was pretty long with some of the longest hills we've encountered yet, and easily the windiest day we've done a walk. This turned out to be unfortunate, because Deborah is in way better shape than Dan or I. There's no real history or fun facts I can give you about this area, because our book mostly talks about the Castro, and also Harvey Milk. I won't go on about Milk here except to say that if you have no idea who I'm talking about, I need you to go rent the movie "Milk" that came out last year. SO GOOD.
This is an alley between two homes, and is super cute, leading to a little neighborhood park. It's actually called Acme Alley, and used to be a path used for taking cattle across the city to pasture.
These are the Seward park slides, which were waiting for us at the end of that stairway. They are AWESOME slides. All the neighborhood kids have left stacks of cardboard for anyone to use, and the slides are super fast. We regressed a few years to play here for awhile.
Clearly, playing here is for serious.
Some of the hills here are so steep that stairs are built into the sidewalks. Not as a separate set, but carved right there into the concrete so that you don't have to lean into the hill like a crazy person while you head uphill. This is one example. Probably one of the longest hills we've done. My calves are burning thinking about it.
This is ONE house. It was built for $100,00 in 1872 and has 5 stories, 45 rooms, 52 closets, 10 fireplaces and 272 windows. It's now 15 one bedroom apartments.
You can't really tell, but the city is pretty much laid out behind us. Good walk team!
(Walk stats: 2.02 miles per Google Earth, 2 hours)
Up next: Saratoga Springs, NY. Weddings and horse races.