Thursday, October 28, 2010

Architecturally yours, San Francisco

Even if you haven't been to the city of San Francisco you know that the city is full of beautiful homes and houses in the Victorian, Queen Annes, Italianates, etc. You have seen these in various tv shows, films, and travel brochure.

What I am going to show you here you may not see on brochures. But I love them - all of them. Please enjoy them too. All are drive by shoots.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Happy Birthday Dad!

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Today is my dad's birthday. He's not here to celebrate because he left the earth too soon. Yet not a day had gone by that I did not mis him.

My father was a man of few words. A very quiet man. But he can drop the F bomb anytime.

When I was 16 I started to worry about the near future - that I would have to bring home a boy soon. Not that I had one picked to bring home at that age, but with college looming in the horizon it was one of the things that I had to be prepared for.

Fate did not give me the chance to stress out about this situation as dad passed away when I was 17.

A few days ago my husband and I were in the midst of fixing dinner. The tv was on [it always is on when I'm at home] and the movie playing on cable was MEET THE PARENTS and you know that this movie is about bringing home the boy to your folks and hoping they would like him and conversely hoping the boy would move heaven and earth to impress the folks and getting the precious seal of approval from the parents.

I stopped in mid chopping and looked at my husband and blurted, "I wonder if my father would have liked you."

Indeed I wonder now. Dad are you listening to me from up there? What do you think of the boy I picked?

And by the way, happy birthday, Dad, and I love you.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Window Grills

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Iron grills on windows are not my favorite thing in the world because they will always be associated with something ugly.

When I was away at college, our house was broken into. The thief/thieves entered by removing the jalousies of our window, one by one - that enabled a child I'm guessing into the house who went on to open the front door for the thief/thieves.

Thankfully, no one was hurt. In the house sleeping were my mom, my cousin, and 3 nieces. All women. My dad was already gone by then.

Likewise, thankfully, nothing significant was taken. Our tv set was not taken. My mother's jewelry - or whatever little collection she had - was still in her aparador (wardrobe).

My mother did not keep cash in the house. What she did in those days was have enough spending cash in the house to last a whole month. My mother was/is a genius in budgeting money. The burglars came in at end of the month and so you could just imagine that there simply was no cash lying around the house.

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Instead the thief/thieves ran away with my niece's precious possessions - she is still bitter about the loss - her gold medals from various academic contests she joined over the years. Not to toot my own family's horn, but that niece was really brainy and brazen when it comes to competition - she always get away with first place or gold medal.

In one night, she lost all her gold medals. They may have been gold plated medals but to her they were more precious than 14K gold. Up now we still talk about how dense these burglars were. Did they think those medals were real gold? What good would these medals serve them? They were worth nothing anywhere except to the owner.

The people in the house did not know they were robbed. They were all asleep. One thing was amiss though. My mother's pee pot (arinola) was moved from inside the downstairs bedroom where she slept with the youngest niece to the outside of the room. [We have one bathroom in the first floor. My mother always makes use of a pee pot, whether she slept upstairs or downstairs. She hated the idea of going a few yards in the middle of the night to the bathroon. So I grew up using a pee pot in the middle of the night.]

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Anyway, after that night, my mother immediately pulled money from her emergency fund and have iron grills installed in all our windows. I hated the idea when I came home from college. But having the grills gave my mother a little peace of mind.

About the burglar/s? Loose tongues told us that it was a neighbor who was high on drugs and thought that my mother had money scattered everywhere in the house. His brains were definitely fried if he thought of that possibility.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Drive In the Countryside

A week and a half from now we will be entering November. How fast this 2010 flew by me. Maybe I was too busy still sorting out the 4,000+ images from the 2009 cruise and generating posts that had me whirling.

Anyway, this year when I was not in front of the computer sorting and editing photos, or writing some posts and/or bloghopping, I was out and about taking photos.

A drive to the countryside, Sonoma Valley, is one we take whenever we find the time. On this mid May weekend, we found ourselves at loose ends, no errands to run, house had been cleaned, laundry washed, dried, and folded (glory be), no church meetings to attend. And so we loaded the car, my point and shoot hanging on my right hand, and no drive would be complete without zipping thru the Starbucks drive through window for some americano.

This particular drive was quite memorable, maybe because of the photos I took and the fact that we actually went down our car.

Sonoma Valley is not as popular to outsiders as its neighboring valley, the Napa Valley. Both have beautiful rolling hills with corn rows/vineyard, lovely weather, fantastic restaurants, world-class wines and restaurants (Morimoto just opened a restaurant in Napa), but for a quiet soothing drive, we often 9 times out of 10 choose to go Sonoma. It feels less hurried, more homey, and it always suited our mood.

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Taking the same route each time, it was only on this drive that we noticed this little shopping center on the side of the main road.  This is in the town of Glen Ellen.
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Powered by caffeine from the americano and lulled to complete relaxation by the passing scenery, we thought we needed to stretch our legs, even though it wasn't a long drive.  I was into my photo taking mood and the place seemed interesting.  A sign advertising wine tasting that weekend also lured us into pulling over.

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You can really feel the country atmosphere even if it is along the road side.  So very quiet here.
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The view from the parking lot.

Writer Jack London lived in Glen Ellen from 1909 to his death in 1916, where he devoted much of his time to development of his Beauty Ranch and the building of his mansion, Wolf House. Many of his novels and stories, notably The Iron Heel and The Valley of the Moon mention Glen Ellen and Sonoma County. ("The Valley of the Moon" is a translation of Sonoma Valley's name given by the Pomo and Coast Miwok peoples.) - wikipedia





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The sign post.
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No wine tasting for us that day. 
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Pleasant surprise to find this eye-catching restaurant - I promised to stop by here again next time and sample their menu.
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A cool car was parked infront and I'm pretty dumb about cars and car models.  Is that the motor showing in the hood? 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Life Is A Cabernet 2

After leaving Martinelli Winery, we found ourselves driving towards Korbel Winery, which is more famous for producing sparkling wines or champagne.  They also produce brandy. 

This wasn't our first time here.  We've been here a couple of times before.  This time around we were lucky to time our arrival for the start of the free winery tour.

Go to wikipedia for information. It's the same things - more or less - that was in the tour except maybe when the guide showed us to the room where all the old tools and photographs and other mementos and awards were displayed.
Korbel uses the term "Champagne" on most of its sparkling wine labels. Whereas most other US producers identify their sparkling wine as such, and indicate the location where their grapes are produced, Korbel relies on a "semi-generic" provision under U.S. law. (wikipedia)


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Enter through here. 
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Korbel uses the champenoise methode in producing their sparkling wines/champagne.
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Now sing with me here:  99 champagne bottles on the wall, 99 champagne bottles on the wall :)
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No tour of the winery would be complete without a visit to this room where large barrels of wine are kept.
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At the end of the free tour, there is a FREE wine tasting.  Yes folks, wine, er champagne tasting is FREE.  Not many gives free tasting.  As far as I know, it is the only one that gives free tasting.  So go ahead and taste.
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This lovely gentleman was our very friendly and knowledgeable tour guide and pourer.  You're usually given 3 or 4 bottles to sample.  Who doesn't like a little sip of the bubby?  And they provide cookies and other yummies to clean your palate during the tasting.  And since this is a free tour and tasting, it's only polite to buy something :) That's just my opinion and that's what I do. 

Cheers!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Life Is A Cabernet

The beauty of living in the Bay Area is that there is a wealth of activities for the young and the young at heart.  The SF Bay area has been called the Adult Disneyland - well because it is.  In the winter time on the same day you can enjoy the powder and the surf.  There are also plenty of outdoorsy activities available in the many regional parks.

One of the things I enjoy the most is a day trip/road trip kind of thing around this region.  On that February day, we agreed to hit the sights of Sonoma Valley - the lesser known wine producing region in the bay.

As it is with these road trips we didn't have any itinerary.  And so when we spotted this striking red hop barn with the sign Martinelli's winery, we made a U-turn to sample their apple cider.  Not the same Martinelli who makes apple cider.  This is their website.


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The front facade.
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From the back.
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White - fruity and tangy?

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Red - robust.

Wine tasting can be fun.  For a small fee you can sample a few  from their list.  While I have been doing this for a few years now,  I haven't developed a complex palate that could distinguish what flavorings are there in the wine.  So far, my little victory has come from identifying my Pinot Gris from a Chardonay without seeing the bottle.  And no I am not interested in becoming a sommelier. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Time To Fly Home

Our flight from Madrid to Amsterdam was at 5 am and the hotel in Madrid woke us up to 3 am.  The shuttle would take us to the airport - which was 15 minute drive to the airport - at exactly 4 am, the clerk said over the receiver.  Apparently, they don't want us missing our plane.

And the very short flight to Amsterdam was not enough to get rest.  Soon we were landing in Schiphol.  Four hours of layover.  What to do, what to do?

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First we took our time in going from we were supposed to go.  I stopped many times to take some photos.
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And shop for souvenirs.  Was surprised to find bulbs on one of the souvenir stores inside. 
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Almost took one of this wooden tulips home, but settled on wooden clogs magnet.
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I spotted a noodle place.  If this were Singapore, I'd have a bowl, but no offense, I wouldn't have noodles in Amsterdam.
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Instead, we decided to celebrate hubby's b/day by having some breakfast munchies that we have to wait for because they were just being baked.  How yummy.
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Needless to say, we spent a lot of time in these chairs.
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Finally, our plane was ready. 
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When we took off, this was the sky underneath us.  Must have been a lovely day in Amsterdam.
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There it was - a lovely time in Europe - my November 10 to 28, 2009 trip.  I'm sure it's going to be back to regular programming here on this blog.

Thanks for keeping me company as I walked memory lane with these postings of last year's trip.  Now it's back to California postings.  Again, thanks.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Eating In Madrid Completes The Day

The experience wouldn't be complete without sampling what Madrid has to offer our hungry stomachs.  It didn't happen the way we planned it to be though.  On the way to the subway station from the hotel we noted a few establishments we wanted to visit, especially the CERVICERIA (brewery/bar) a few steps down from our hotel.

It was late November so it got dark quickly.  It was raining and dark and we were the only two people on the bus and we were on the top deck of a roofless bus getting soak - talk about perseverance (or stupidity).  And then we spotted a great courtyard, which we found out later on was Plaza Mayor, and decided to stop and investigate.  We saw people putting up makeshift tents for what looked like an outdoor open air market - and it was raining still.  But the people didn't seem to mind the rain as they continued to put out merchandize - little trinkets, jewelries, etc. 

We bypassed the courtyard and went exploring and found eating establishments.  We ducked into this little hole in the wall with only two people inside.  It was one of those no frills places, where one goes on the counter to put in an order and the choices of bocadillos (sandwiches) are written in chalk on the board by the counter. 

We selected a pulpo (pictured below) and another bocadillo.  I learned fast that sandwiches in America and in Spain are very different.  For example the one I ordered pulpo, which is octopus.  They gave me a baguette and breaded octopus slices - no condiments, no greens, which by the way is simply superb! 

My husband and I cannot remember the other bocadillo we ordered here.  And somehow, I don't have a photo of it can you believe that?
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The bocadillos settled heavily on the stomach and the rain had turned into drizzle by the time we were ready to explore this area.  We went around checking out other eating establishments and shopping.  We did the most shopping here - both window shopping and actually handing our credit cards to the merchants :)

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While shopping we spotted this little place that offers chocolate and churros (they all offer this combo btw) and it's the only one I wanted to sample in Spain.  It was a moving experience :D to finally enjoy the real thing. 
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A lot of eating places here.  Some even have window displays like the one below to show tourists what their food looks like.  This reminds me of many Japanese restaurants' windows.
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WE shopped some more after the chocolate and churros snack and I can't remember how we found our way to our hotel.  We didn't get lost.  I thank our lucky stars for guiding us thru the streets and subways of Madrid.

When we reached our subway stop, we didn't immediately go to the hotel.  The main road that traverses the little road where our hotel is located has many bars and restaurants.  We went out looking for more eats, can you believe that?  We entered one and my instincts totally kicked into "flee mode".  The people in the bar looked like they were having more than beer, and thankfully my hubs didn't argue. 
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We walked the many blocks of the main road on both sides before finally deciding that it was too late to eat and we were still full.  At the corner of the main road and the street where our hotel was is a Burger King restaurant, yeah the American fastfood chain.  It was glass top to bottom so I can see the diners.  They were having burgers and beer.  Burger King serves beer in Madrid!!!!! And I almost went in.

Thankfully I wasn't feeling the burger vibe that night and within a few steps we reached/passed the cerveceria we saw earlier in the day.  Without hesitation, we went inside and settled in one of their cozy tables.  Since this place is far from the city center, most customers are locals.  The place was 3/4 full.  In the bar I saw a young mother with her infant.  She breastfed her infant in the bar - how cool is that?

We ordered a combo meal - can't remember what it's called - but it was fantastic.  Sorry folks, can never ever be a foodie blogger.  But believe me when I say it was tasty. 
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I had to have a blood sausage bocadillo.  Superb like everything else.  They also give you a free appetizer, which is a small piece of baguette with serrano ham, a very nice touch. 

From the cerveceria our hotel is across the street.  We retired for the night, knowing full well that in 3 hours we would be waking up to catch that plane to Amsterdam.  Good night Madrid!
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I am putting this out here because this is the Museo del Prado - which was our only must visit in Madrid, but while we found it we were unable to see it.  We were simply pressed for time.  Maybe some other time?  Crossing my fingers!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sightseeing in Madrid

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What looks like a gorgeous park just by looking at the gate.

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Pink church is a charmer. Could not find information about this church online. Help, if you know.

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I'm guessing this one's a private residence. Still, the clean lines of the facade and the rather simple design resonated well with me.

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Puerta de Toledo

Puerta de Toledo