April 2010

Quite possibly the nicest vacation ever

For my birthday this year we decided to spend a week in San Francisco.  We planned the trip back in January, before we knew we had a joey on the way.  But it’s turned out to be an excellent babymoon as well.  Also quite possibly the most relaxing and enjoyable vacation I can remember taking.

On most trips, the excitement of travel is balanced by the headache of navigating an unfamiliar city, trying to guess and plan where to eat, the sterility of a hotel, or the uncomfortable feeling of imposing on friends.  But going back to the city where we met and lived for six years has been effortless.  We stayed with our dear friend and housemate Juliet in our old apartment.  We were recognized at the neighborhood bakeries and asked why we hadn’t been by in a while.  And the streets and storefronts are still intimately familiar.

When we lived here our favorite activities were walking around the city and eating and that’s most of what we wanted to do coming back.  San Francisco has its share of fancy restaurants but what we really missed was its abundance of cheap tasty food.  Friday we started out with a demi-baguette at the Cole Street Boulangerie. ($1, and it comes with as much butter, jam, and nutella as you’d like— a favorite breakfast when we were grad students.)  We walked to the ocean through Golden Gate Park, stopping for banh-mi (vietnamese sandwiches) in the Outer Sunset ($3.50 each) and a hot chocolate out by the beach.  For dinner we went to Ton Kiang, most famous for its dim sum, but also excellent (and much less crowded) at dinner, as well as a phenomenal place to host a wedding, as we and our guests can attest.  Other food highlights have included Arizmendi Bakery (where I limited myself to a corn muffin, although I really wanted a cheese roll and a brioche as well), San Tung for dry fried chicken dry, and late night alambres (stir-fried beef, peppers, and bacon, with beans, rice and tortillas) at Taqueria Cancun.  Sadly, our favorite sushi chef has moved to LA, and the really great Szechwan place we discovered the summer before we left has changed ownership and chefs.  But we were introduced to some new places by friends: a great brunch place in West Oakland called Brown Sugar Kitchen, and an Izakaya (Japanese bar food) in the Inner Sunset.

The view from the Greens Restaurant at Fort Mason— and one of the best kept secrets in San Francisco. Greens was the first high-end vegetarian restaurant and is well worth the price if you are in the mood for a fancy meal. But if you go before 11 on a Saturday morning, the cafe opens before the restaurant does, and you can enjoy one of the most spectacular views in the city for the price of a cup of coffee.

Our other favorite activity was seeing friends and we got to do a lot of that as well.  On Sunday we visited our friend Alan‘s welding studio in Oakland.  Alan showed me the different kinds of welding machines, his girlfriend Kelly played with the crane, and David got to drive the forklift.  (I might have driven the forklift too.)  On my birthday we made dinner for the residents of our old apartment, as well as for Sarah (who married us, and who knew we’d end up together before we did) and her girlfriend Heather.  We saw Jon and Sarah and their insanely cute son Toby, and Etienne and Delphine and their insanely cute son Gabriel.  And we spent a lovely afternoon sitting in Dolores Park seeing friends, meeting new people, and picking up an impressive sunburn.

Towards the end of the trip we realized that coming back to San Francisco was basically visiting family.  When we lived here we worked down the hall from one another, in a place where 10 labs and some 80 people were crammed into one small floor of a building.  We pestered the older students for help, adored and fought with our advisors, cried over our experiments, leaned on our classmates, and tried to show our younger lab sisters the ropes.  Somehow in that time we went from naive and somewhat obnoxious students to professional scientists.  And we began the long process of learning to rely on one another.  It feels right, just before our lives change completely, to come back and visit our roots.

A woman walking near Ocean Beach, wearing a purple velvet gown and what looked like a large fake-flower arrangement for a hat.  Nowhere else that I’ve lived have I seen people wear something completely zany “just because.”

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Next up

We’re traveling a bunch over the next couple weeks, so I don’t expect I’ll have much time to paint or sew.  But that’s never stopped me from planning!

Next on the list is a dress to wear to my friend’s wedding in mid-May.  The fact that I don’t have a free weekend until the week before may work to my advantage because my chances of correctly guessing what size I’ll be in a month are pretty slim.  Here’s what I have in mind:

I’ll use Butterick 5450 for the bodice, add a navy waistband, and draft a new skirt.

I’m thinking of using pleats to add the extra belly room.  After my success with the Lazy Sunday Dress I’m feeling bolder about drafting and adding fullness.  But any thoughts or advice are of course appreciated.

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Jewelry

My favorite part of painting these days is what I call adding the “jewelry”: the small bits of bright paint that make the painting come alive.  The idea I had last year, that’s been the basis for all this year’s paintings, is that if you build up the background of neutrals correctly, it doesn’t really matter what jewelry the painting wears.  In this one they are mostly cream and red, but there are also bits of turquoise, green, orange, and yellow. In fact, it helps if some of the jewels fall outside the main color palette of the painting.

But how do you know when a painting is ready for jewelry?  At the end of my last session working on this one I was sure it wasn’t ready.  I’d started adding some brighter colors and they just looked pasted on and out of place:

I spent a long time staring at the painting before it occurred to me that what it needed was more texture.  At this point most of the neutral shapes were big and thinly painted, while the bright shapes were small blobs of thick paint.  If I built up more neutral texture, I figured, then the neutrals would hold their own against the brights, and the painting would work better as a whole.  Here’s what I did before adding the jewels:

Its just a little more contrast and substance around the left and top of the painting, but I think it made a huge difference.

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Lazy Sunday Dress

I finished this dress almost two weeks ago but didn’t get a chance to take a picture until today.  (Thanks, sweetie, for taking pictures!)  I was surprised at how well the pattern worked, with the poofy sleeves and gathers exactly where they were designed to go.  I had some trouble getting the gathers in the front to stay put while sewing—anyone have any tips on this?— but otherwise it went together fairly easily.  The fabric is a nice beefy cotton jersey from Fabricmart: soft, cozy, and nicely-behaved under the needle.  At first I wasn’t going to add pockets because I was worried about the extra weight stretching out the dress.  But in the end I decided it needed them for extra comfy-ness.

Here you can see the front gathers a bit better (despite my dorky expression) as well as the fact that it was a gorgeous spring day today.  We strolled up to Harvard Square where I got a delicious piece of chocolate cake:

Mmmm…chocolate cake.

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