October Fun in the City – Indulging in Childhood Fun

Beautiful view of San Francisco from Dolores Park

October was a month filled with a few life changes, new experiences, and tons of fun adventures in the city! All throughout October, it was Indian Summer in the Bay Area, which meant that the weather every weekend was absolutely gorgeous! Obviously, I had to go out to the city to take advantage of the beautiful sunny weather! Luckily, there is always something fun going on in San Francisco.

Listening to The Head and The Heart at Hardly Strictly!

The first weekend in October was one of the busiest San Francisco has ever had. With Fleet Week, a post-season Giants game, and the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival going on, it was estimated that a few million people came into the city that weekend! And you could definitely tell. The BART and buses were packed with people. My friends and I biked to Golden Gate Park, where Hardly Strictly was being held, and there were so many bikes parked there (some were even locked up to light poles) that we had to bike a mile further into the park just to find some open spots.

It was my first time attending Hardly Strictly and it won’t be my last! The free concert features bluegrass music, but also lots of other good music. We went to go see one of my favorite bands, The Head and the Heart. They were so good live! I had such a great time soaking up the rays of sunlight, jamming to some of my favorite songs, and enjoying the company of friends.

Looking out at the city and Pacific ocean from the top!

The next weekend, my friends and I ventured into the city to find the 16th street stairs that I had heard about through a friend and on Yelp. Leading to a very tall and steep hill in the Inner Sunset district of the city, these steps are decorated with small pieces of glass and tile to create beautiful mosaics of the sun, moon, and stars.

The famous 16th Avenue Mosaic Tiled Stairs

The following weekend was spent exploring the relatively new playground in Mission Dolores Park, which is a million times better than the playgrounds I grew up with. The playground is huge, with multiple slides, swingsets, and climbing things. It might seem a bit weird for a couple of 20-somethings to be playing in a playground, but we’re all kids at heart. With the difficulties we face as adults, sometimes it’s just nice to push all those troubles aside for a moment and pretend to be a kid again.

Dolores Park Playground

As I grow older, I’ve realized the world is really not as cut and dry or black and white, as we thought as children. With this realization, the world and people automatically become more complicated. Issues become more complex and one might realize that what he or she once thought were his or her beliefs may not actually be consistent with who he or she actually is or has become. Without us even realizing it, as adults, our actions have more weight and there is no longer anyone to tell us what is right or wrong or what we ought to do. Yes, friends and family can give you advice or help you think through and analyze situations. But only you can make the decisions. That heaviness we feel with all of those decisions we have to make can be tiring and can make our shoulders and back sore. Sometimes, even for just a short moment, we need to cast off that boulder we carry and let go. Indulge in the lightness and freedom that we unknowingly enjoyed as kids. (But just for a few moments. After all, we’re now adults and have responsibilities. :P)

Playing like a kid with a giant parachute!

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Perfect Fall Nails

Unfortunately, it’s finally starting to feel like fall here in the Bay Area. Our last few days of Indian Summer have gone and have been replaced by chilly, cloudy days (which means it’s in the high 50s to mid 60s… I know we’re spoiled here in California :P). Luckily, I was still able to enjoy those last few days outside, basking in the sun and taking in the breathtaking views of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, and that beautiful Bay. I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of living in the Bay Area. Most people around here are natives and rarely ever leave the area. I can totally understand why.

Even though the leaves don’t change colors here like they do almost everywhere else in the country, I still decided to paint my nails appropriate for the new season. I first saw this nail design on Pinterest and fell in love with it immediately. It’s super easy, so beautiful, and perfect for fall!

Here’s a link to the original design by Glitter and Nails.

Although I didn’t use exactly the same colors as she did, I think I did a pretty good job in recreating this nail design. If you’re looking for fun yet fairly easy nail art for the fall season, I’d definitely recommend trying this out. (However, be warned, the glitter will get everywhere. :P)

Even though it’s no longer Indian Summer here in the Bay Area, sometimes it’s nice to have a change in weather. It helps remind us that time is moving and life goes on. It’d be nice to stay in summertime, but after a while, it’d get tiring right? (Well, to be honest, probably not haha). At least now, it feels more like November and the weather change makes me more excited about the upcoming holidays. Without changes in life, we’d get stuck in a routine of being simply content (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), but may result in a life without excitement or spontaneity. I suppose I associate change with growth and so I think without change, we cannot grow. So here’s to a new season and a new round of experiences and growth.

Apple Picking in Sebastopol – Apple Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread

Growing up in the southwestern part of the US, I missed out on a lot of produce picking since the desert isn’t as fertile as New England or California, except for those Hatch green chiles. So when my housemates suggested going apple picking a few weekends ago, I jumped at the opportunity to finally experience the manual labor of harvesting fruit.

In college, I went berry picking once with one of my friends at a farm outside of Austin. Although we had an awesome time, we were more focused on just looking at the berries (and having a photoshoot :P) rather than picking them. So we ended up picking only a handful of them. This time though, my housemates and I were serious about the harvest. We traveled to an apple farm in Sebastopol, a town about an hour away from the Bay Area. The farm actually has more acres of Asian pears than apples, but they only let people pick apples. That day, golden delicious and jonagold apples were in season. We were led to several rows of trees weighed down with ripe apples and we went straight to picking. Since the apples were so ripe, they were pretty easy to take off the trees. Some of them were so ripe that they just fell of the trees as we picked off other apples. After only about half an hour, we had several boxes filled with apples and headed back to weigh out our bounty. We ended up picking about 35 pounds of apples that day!

The farm also had many blackberry brambles and let us pick some blackberries. If you haven’t picked blackberries before, let me warn you, it’s rather difficult. Choosing ripe blackberries is a difficult task in itself since most of them are either not ripe enough or too ripe (i.e. they get squished when you pick them). On top of that, the blackberries rest in thorny brambles and to get the best ones, you end up getting scraped and scratched by the thorns. I gave up pretty early, but my housemates soldiered on and ended up picking about 3 pounds of berries.

With its apples and asian pears, the farm makes and sells asian pear apple juice, which is very delicious and refreshing. In order to pick apples, we had to sign up for a membership, which basically meant buying 12 bottles of juice. In addition to the juice, the farm also makes several different jams using asian pears, blackberries, and other fruits. We bought a jar of plum amaretto jam and a jar of asian pear, lavender, blackberry ginger jam (that’s a mouthful).

With 35 pounds of apples, I went right to work at baking up something delicious using apples. It didn’t take much effort to find apple recipes. Apparently, everyone is in the mood for apples now – Baked by Rachel is even posting an apple recipe each day. That’s how I found this recipe for cinnamon apple pull apart bread.

Pull-apart breads seem to be trendy these days. I’ve seen pins of all varieties all over Pinterest, from sweet ones (such as lemon and cinnamon sugar) to savory ones (i.e. cheddar, beer and mustard). This type of bread is a bit more complicated than others I’ve made before since you have to cut the dough into strips several times and then try to pack those strips into a loaf pan. And with the cinnamon filling, it turns out to be pretty messy. It was also a little difficult keeping all of the apples together on top of the dough and in between the strips.

I’d like to say my bread baked up beautifully, but that was not the case. I let it rise for an hour, but perhaps this wasn’t enough time. When I baked the bread, the top browned, but inside seemed pretty undercooked. I baked it for nearly twice as long as the recipe says, but I think the bread was still a bit doughy. Perhaps it was because I used some leftover sweet dough that I froze and didn’t let it thaw enough before I used it?

Although I was pretty unsatisfied with the final product, my housemates enjoyed the bread. I had baked the bread late at night and left it out to cool, but when I woke up the next morning, 3/4 of the bread was gone! Later that day, they told me how delicious it was and asked for the recipe. So I guess the bread didn’t turn out that bad or my housemates like eating doughy bread. 😛

Apple Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread
Adapted from this recipe

For the dough:
3 1/4 – 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pkg or 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
4 tablespoon butter, melted
1/3 cup lukewarm milk
1/4 cup lukewarm water
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the filling:
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 cups apples (I just sliced one large apple)

1. Dissolve 1 tablespoon of sugar in warm water and sprinkle yeast on top. Let rest for 10 minutes or until foamy.
2. Combine and mix the dry dough ingredients in a large bowl.
3. Add the yeast mixture and remaining wet dough ingredients to the dry mixture.
4. Mix the dough until it comes together. Move the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead for several minutes until dough is smooth. Add additional flour as needed.
5. Transfer dough to a lightly greased bowl. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and allow to double in size, roughly one hour. (You can also refrigerate the dough overnight, but make sure to let dough sti at room temperature for 20-30 minutes to warm up before rolling).
6. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper.
7. Prepare the filling by combining the sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and butter.
8. Thinly slice the apples and roll out dough, on a lightly floured surface, into a 12 x 20″ rectangle (I just eyeballed this).
9. Spread the dough with the cinnamon filling and lay the apple slices on top.
10. Cut the dough into 6 sections, roughly 3 x 12″. Carefully lay sections on top of each other, this will be messy and dough will stretch.
11. Cut dough the into 6 stacks. Turn stacks on their sides and tightly pack into prepared loaf pan.
12. Allow to rise for additional 30-60 minutes or until roughly doubled in size.
13. Bake at 350F for 45-55 minutes. (I ended up baking for nearly 90 minutes.) After 30 minutes, cover with foil and continue baking.
14. When bread is golden brown, remove from oven, cool on a wire rack, and enjoy!

This post has been Yeastspotted and submitted to Bake Your Own Bread.

Savoring Happiness – Sailing in the Bay

I have a huge weakness for coupons, especially groupons. For some reason, whenever I see a cool groupon, I always end up buying it. I’ve gotten a lot better now and have reduced my spending. But I’m also really bad at using groupons and always rush to use them before the expiration date. After I had decided to attend UC Berkeley for grad school, I was so excited about living in the Bay Area that  I bought a groupon for a sailing cruise, several months before I had even arrived in Berkeley.

However, I never used it my whole first year in Berkeley… until a few weeks ago when I realized the expiration date was quickly approaching. Luckily, it was easy for me to reserve spots for me and my friends on a Champagne Brunch sailing cruise around the Bay. We departed from Pier 39 in Fisherman’s Wharf. As usual, fog was covering the Golden Gate Bridge, but lucky for us, most of the fog near the Bay Bridge had burned off already. So we got beautiful views of the East Bay and downtown San Francisco. The weather was gorgeous – sunny, but still cool – perfect Bay Area weather. For the two-hour cruise, we sailed under the Bay Bridge, around Treasure Island, and along the Embarcadero, passing by the Ferry Building and Fisherman’s Wharf.

It was such a relaxing way to spend the late morning: laying out and soaking up the sunlight, sipping on mimosas, and chatting and enjoying each other’s company. As we sailed around the bay, I was once again awestruck at how beautiful San Francisco is and how much I love this city. Despite having seen the same sights so many times before, I never tire of them. Even all the touristy places that I try to avoid are still beautiful to me.

That day was another wonderful day that made me realize just how great life can be. You’ll always experience hardships and have ups and downs in life, but you just got to enjoy the amazing days that make you happy. It doesn’t matter if you’re sailing around San Francisco or eating at your favorite restaurant or just spending time with friends and family. I’ve realized that you’ve just got to savor whatever makes you happy at that moment. Those moments of happiness may be brief and fleeting, so enjoy and appreciate them while you can.

Restaurant Review – Tacubaya

I’ve been reading Jen’s blog, use real butter, for nearly five years now. Whenever I wanted a break from studying in college, I’d look up her blog to read about her new adventures and drool over her amazing food photographs. Her kickass attitude and triumphant battle with cancer has inspired me to be a strong, independent woman like her.

So, when I saw her post about Tacubaya in Berkeley a few years ago, I vowed to myself that I’d go there someday, not knowing (but hoping!) I’d eventually be going to Berkeley for grad school. It took me almost a year to get my butt down there, but I finally paid the taqueria a visit after getting a pedicure on Fourth St. (It’s definitely not your hole-in-the-wall taco joint like the ones in the Mission or the taco trucks in Oakland, probably because it wouldn’t fit in with the classier, more posh part of Berkeley that is Fourth St.)

Despite having grown up in New Mexico, I am rather loath to eating Mexican food (although New Mexicans make a clear distinction between Mexican and New Mexican food). Perhaps growing up surrounded by tacos, burritos, and enchiladas (which I still cannot eat to this day after rather unappetizing versions served for school lunch) has dampened by desire for Mexican cuisine.

Tacubaya was much different than most Mexican restaurants I’ve been too. The food was very fresh, crisp, and surprisingly light. A lot of Mexican dishes can be heavy, loaded with beans, rice, or potatoes. It was actually quite refreshing eating the food at Tacubaya.

They offer a wide variety of tacos, from the traditional taco al pastor to the more exotic taco de lengua. Intrigued by the tongue taco, I knew I had to order it. The pieces of beef tongue were pretty moist and juicy, not as chewy as I would have guessed. However, I couldn’t think about what I was eating too much because the thought of eating a tongue did gross me out a bit. The taco was very light and refreshing, just what I’d want from a taco. If you’re ever in Berkeley, definitely check out Tacubaya on Fourth St! I know, why would you go to the Bay Area for Mexican food? But trust me, you won’t be disappointed.