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.