Happily, the End of 2016!

Leonard Cohen died. Your data are at risk. And it’s the end of the year.

So we skipped out of town and headed to Mendocino. For my foreign friends, it’s a coastal town about 3 hours’ drive north of San Francisco, through majestic redwoods 300 years old, on non-commercial roads in a commercial country. It’s a blissful escape to a pristine environment that reminds you of growing up in a pure and innocent world.

Our conversations focused on what defines the American Dream, whether it still exists, and how Germany compares to the US in liveability.

We overnighted at a local bed and breakfast, where the owners struggle to pay their mortgage for 12 years until a frisky new buyer can be found.

On the way back, we picked up a magnum of Brut Rose at Roederer Estate, a couple of bottles of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay at Husch, and a bag of apples at a roadside orchard.

The winery, an original, has seen the rise of baby boomer vineyard owners descend on the Andersen Valley, after the apple orchards had displaced the sheep. Not bad for terroir development, I guessed.

We prepare for the New Year’s arrival, wisking away bad habits and hoping for a brighter beginning next year. Wishing all of you the best for a happier new year!!

No Carbon Footprint Series: Belmont-San Francisco (Days 4-5)

Header image above: Bay Meadows Development

Featured Photo above: a very exclusive corporate center in Palo Alto where I made a pit stop!

Photos of Millbrae sights, above:

1. Milk Mural

2. Historical marker for Milk Mural

3. Vintage cars, in abundance in San Mateo. Mild weather, no bugs, and lots of old people with lots of money make them plentiful

4. Iron Horse chained to a pole at a gas station!

5. Yep, we made it here.

6. Street monument on El Camino. Not as romantic as the ones in Berlin, but still fun to find at your feet

Above, our lunch at Hong Kong Flower Lounge in Millbrae. A highlight of our jaunt included Tofu, ginkgo nuts, and pea tendrils in soup, pigs’ feet and red egg in vineagar, congee with thousand year old egg, and sesame balls!!

The fish tank displayed 2 giant lobster, Alaskan King crab, and prawns.

We have reached our destination safely and in one piece (two pieces, to be exact)! It was a great way  to make use of a fabulous week of perfect winter weather, have fun with great company, and get in some serious calorie reduction techniques. You can reduce the carbon footprint instead of flying, avoid traffic, and see your world around you. For those interested, here was the route:

San Jose-Sunnyvale (Sunday) 8.4 mi.

Sunnyvale-Palo Alto (Monday) 9.7 mi.

Palo Alto-Belmont (Tuesday) 7.7 mi.

Belmont-Millbrae (Wednesday) 10 mi.

San Francisco-Millbrae (Thursday) 12 mi.

You can also find my earlier trips to Napa and San Jose at http://www.crazyladywalks.com.

Finally, on a sad note, we send our condolences to the families of the Berlin attack. A photo of the location from our visit to the Breitscheidplatz Christmas Market in Berlin in January of this year is here:

A safe and precious holiday to all.


No Carbon Footprint Series: Sunnyvale to Belmont (Days 2-3)

Our journey from San Jose to San Francisco progresses at a rate of approximately 10 miles per day. Since it follows a dead flat route with virtually no elevation change, it is a healthy, simple challenge for beginners. It’s not exactly the Santiago de Compostela, but certainly more easily accessible being in California!

After a 3-4 hour beeline with a couple of pit stops for clothing changes, nut breaks, and bathroom visits, we arrived at one of the hotels I prebooked a couple of days ago. We enjoyed a late lunch nearby, took a nap, and caught up with lively conversations that would not otherwise occur. It’s a great way to reconnect again, and to appreciate the precious time you have with your partner.

I haven’t documented prior trips so this time I’m devoting additional time to doing so. Yesterday we discovered a gem of a music shop in Palo Alto, that sells guitars, mandolins and other hand plucked string instruments (see photo above).

The old Mountain View neighborhood hosted a string of modest, pre-war bungalow-type houses that were as inviting as those in Sunnyvale the day before. They proudly displayed orange and grapefruit trees in their front yards. Interestingly, there were fewer decorations as we approached upper-crust Palo Alto.

The houses are close to the streets, with only a 5-15′ setback. A sad reminder of a time when the world was trusting and safer.

I looked out for Eichler homes that are scattered throughout the neighborhood. They were a new phenomenon at the time–a departure from the 3-BR 2-bath ranch house. Same size, but instead they boasted inner courtyards with plenty of light for each room. They didn’t appear to be as prominent on the streets we passed along.

Although we follow the general route of El Camino Real, a long strip highway/road originally linking the missions, we manage to take parallel off-streets whenever possible. The small residential streets are definitely more pleasant, but they sometimes end up inside subdivisions with curvy dead ends or no outlet. To avoid that I check the street end-to-end before using it, so we know where to turn. Google maps allows us to plan out our strategy and assures us that we have backup support whenever needed for navigation.

El Camino as a concept reminds me of both the Nakasendo Highway near Matsumoto in Japan and the Pilgrim Route (Santiago de Compostela) in Spain. There are many other similar long-distance foot trails (also the Pacific Trail) that provide a variety of challenges. My go-local determination allowed me to refrain from going to Spain or France for a destination walking trip. Since we were already in Japan last year, we took a side trip inland.

Despite the Christmas holiday frenzy, we grabbed the good weather forecast to make time for this trip. We discovered that the down time for business travel has slashed the price of hotel rooms–up to half off!!

There are plenty of delights and surprises, just around the corner from where you live! Take a look at two woody walking paths not far from El Camino along the way, and a sweet little surprise to literary friends.

No Carbon Footprint Series: Do You Know the Way from San Jose? (Day 1)

Most of you know the way along 101 or 280. But most likely not the way we are coming. This week we are walking from San Jose to San Francisco–a mere 48 miles over a few days’ time.

For the past few years we have gone out the door (literally) and walked to Napa, California and two ways to San Jose–south along the east side of the Bay and along the Peninsula. This time we are going in reverse order from San Jose Downtown to San Francisco north along El Camino Real.

Many of you know us as urban walkers, and who enjoy the “slow” version of transportation. We see the small businesses stringing El Camino strip malls. Their parking lots serve nail salons, ethnic fast food take-outs, specialty music shops, and mid-range companies (vs. start-ups), that all pay their rent, bills, and struggle to stay in the economy.

The first time I started this wacky way of walking, I was on a weekend trip from Hong Kong to Honolulu about to take my first professional architectural licensing exam. Perched in Manoa Heights at a friend’s home, I had made plans to meet my friend Downtown for lunch. When I missed the bus, I discovered that the next one would not be for another hour! I glanced down the hill and determined that it wouldn’t be too difficult to walk instead. A three-mile walk is a breeze today, but in those days NO ONE walked outside their houses. Especially in Honolulu.

I was used to being without a car in Hong Kong for seven years, so it seemed rather natural. The look on my friend’s face must have been priceless when I told her that I would be a little late and why. She thought I was…well, wacko. So that’s how I coined myself the crazy lady ever since.

Nevertheless, we are keeping up the crazy lady walks. We came to San Jose for a performance, and despite the holidays being around the corner, we had the time to walk back to San Francisco, so why not?

For a few starters, we passed the Old Frank Lloyd Wright Building and the Rosecrucian Museum on the way towards Santa Clara University.

The weather is clear and crisp (above frost level today). The lovely neighborhoods we walked through included tidy pre-war bungalows and 60’s ranch subdivisions, all proudly displaying their Christmas decorations and embarrassingly beautiful citrus trees reminiscent of the region’s agricultural legacy.

San Jose, Santa Clara, and Sunnyvale are in the heart of Silicon Valley and dead flat with paved sidewalks along the entire stretch to San Francisco. Walking 10 miles a day is a no brainer, with plenty of food and lodging establishments along the way.

Can you guess what we saw? Here’s the curtain call:


A Decent December

Photos, above:
1. My figure drawing with model station in background (no photos of models allowed, sorry! Although one student brought a friend in to “observe” in order to overcome nudiephobia)
2. Friends and Support team of Figure Drawing
3. Violin repair shop in San Francisco that fixed my G string on the spot in a snap

Despite Finals Week and the need to wrap up three city college classes (Figure Drawing, German, and Script Writing), I am playing a bit of hookey and sneaking in some holiday madness.

It started with a conversation on FaceTime with Dresden friends Hanne and Jens, who sent me many pictures of Dresden’s famous Streislmarkts. It is one of the oldest Christmas markets in Germany that sets a very festive mood for the holidays.

We chatted about old German traditions surrounding the Advent calendar, how to make Stollen and then how Germans and Americans celebrate the holidays.

Similarly, my German class had discussions about traditions. Our German teacher told us how children in her town would go around knocking doors on Xmas Eve to ask if Mary could stay and no one answers the door. She also taught us 10 Christmas songs, of which I only recognized three–Oh Tannenbaum, Silent Night and O Come All Ye Faithful!! Apparently there are many other lovely  hymns by German composers that have not been  translated into English. And Silent Night is never to be sung before Xmas Eve.

I’m going to attempt making Stollen for my German class Christmas party next Friday, with a few modifications approved by my German advisor (Hanne). I plan to use Brandy instead of rum and dried cranberries mixed with raisins and dates. I was also advised that fresh yeast is important!

I’ll let you know how the recipe downloaded from the Food Network goes. For those who want to try it, see here:


I tweeted to Ruth Reichl a question about Stollen and she put me in touch with Luisa Weiss Classic German baking (for those of you interested in pursuing the real thing, look her up online). Keep your fingers crossed for me–I hope I don’t have a Catastrophe with bits of Stollen on the ceiling to clean up after this expedition!

Speaking of ceilings, here’s a shot under the dome of the original Emporium in San Francisco. I ran into Santa on a trip at Westfield Mall Downtown and put in my order for this year.

Before I head back to the salt mines, I want to wish Happy Birthdays this month to Melissa, Ruth and Sherry!!

Here’s a tribute to Leonard Cohen:https://youtu.be/dhsimHRscIE

And Happy Holidays to all!!