Category Archives: Friends

Summer of San Diego!

balboa park(Museums in Balboa Park)

It is a funny thing, living in a vacation destination. Although I pass by the Sea World tower each day during my shuttle-ride to the lab, I am most often oblivious to the tourist attractions and natural wonders by which we am surrounded. In discussing how to spend our non-BBQ time during this Fourth of July weekend, The Bat and I got to discussing all of the San Diego attractions that, as residents, we have never taken the time to see and/or experience. Our list grew quite fast and the idea of a summer blogging project bloomed along with it.

east county (Looking out over the arid farm country of East San Diego county)

June was a hectic month – what with constant birthday parties, family gatherings, Whole30 restrictions and work schedule changes. I am very happy to put those days behind me. Luckily, July has opened full of sunshine and, thus far, much more relaxing. So, in the interest of living in the moment and soaking up what the city has to offer – I am officially declaring it The Summer of San Diego. I want to play tourist in my hometown and see what makes San Diego “America’s Finest City.”

alesmith (Beer tasting at AleSmith)

There is no time like the present to really explore the nooks and crannies of San Diego. After 7 years in Boston and 4 years in Paris, I can easily make lists of things I never took the time to see and do (Glass flowers, anyone? Or wine tasting in the French countryside?).  I do not want to take this city for granted. To that end, no project of mine is complete without a list. So, without further ado – here are more things than I could possibly fit into the next 8-12 weekends. Of course posting them here holds me somewhat accountable and provides excellent blog fodder as the summer moves along.

la jolla cove(Sea Kayakers in La Jolla Cove)

Let the games begin!

Attractions:

San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Sea World

Legoland (I want to go this summer, mainly for this)

Belmont Park

 

Historical Landmarks:

Cabrillo National Monument

Mission San Diego

Old Town San Diego – Food and Tours!

 

Parks/Beaches:

Balboa Park:

–       Museums (so many, and free on Tuesdays)

–       Botantical Garden

–       Concert at the Organ Pavillion

–       Play at the Globe Theater

–       Japanese Friendship Garden

San Diego Botanical Garden

Picnic at Kate Sessions Park

Tidepools at Sunset Cliffs

Hiking at Torrey Pines

Palomar Mountain Observatory

Anza Borrego Dessert (might have to wait for flower season next spring)

Camping/Hiking @ Idyllwild

 

Sports:

Watch San Diego Padres baseball game at Petco Park

Play Disc Golf at Morley Field

Surfing Lessons (?)

Paddleboarding

Sea Cave Kayaking in La Jolla Cove

Watch (do?) paragliding at the Torrey Pines Gliderport

Del Mar Horse Races

Sailing in the San Diego Harbor

 

Food/Drink as motivators:

Beer Tasting (at one/some/all of the booming craft breweries in the area!)

Julian Road Trip and Apple Pie

Sunset cocktails at the beachside bar at the Hotel Del Coronado

Farmers Markets

 

@UCSD:

The Stuart Collection

Dr. Seuss Collection

Fallen Star

 

Beyond San Diego:

California Missions Road Trip

Joshua Tree National Park

Big Bear Lake

Wine Tasting in Temecula

Wine Tasting in Santa Barbara/Santa Ynez

Catalina Island

Six Flags Magic Mountain

Train to The Big A for an Angels baseball game

ucsd teddy (“Bear” on the campus of University of California, San Diego)

San Diegans (and visitors), tell me what I have missed, but must see!

Friends (or other bloggers?), let me know if you want to get in on the fun and join me on any of these adventures!

The list is long (and somewhat overwhelming), but it is so exciting to realize how much fun there is to be had in my own backyard!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Weekly Photo Challenge – Fleeting

Although it has been more than six months since I returned from Paris to San Diego, on lazy Sunday afternoons my mind turns to long, winding, warm Parisian evenings with friends – enjoying aperitifs on terraces and picnics in parks. For much of my time there, my camera was my constant companion – to ensure that I would capturing everything that I could miss from the other side of the world. In an odd twist of fate, so much of my time was spent behind that lens that, often, I don’t have actual memories – only a series of mental snapshots that recall particular occasions. Bastille Day 2011 was one of those. I vividly recall laughing with friends while sprawled on the Champs de Mars, dancing the can-can at sunset and the “superheroes” that joined us. The fireworks, however? Luckily I have the photos, which captured each fleeting, vibrant burst of color as the explosion lit up the Eiffel Tower and the night sky in front of me.

fleeting

This week’s photo challenge, “Fleeting” was prompted by The Daily Post

What have you knit for me lately?

walker + hat(Walker. In a Hurricane Hat. Clearly made to be a toddler knitwear model)

I have only a few memories of spending time with my mom’s parents growing up. The most vibrant and lasting of those was their visit to welcome my newborn brother, Eric, when I was 8. My grandmother always carried her knitting with her, and the needles were pulled out and clacking away anytime she found a place to sit still for more than 10 minutes. For a fidgety little girl on her best behavior, watching the swooping, twisting, knotting mass of needles and yarn was mesmerizing. It was on this visit that I declared that I was old enough to learn what grandma was doing and she agreed. With extensive patience, some pink yarn and a pair of bright yellow plastic needles, Grandma Dorie gradually taught me to knit, leaving me with a gift I value to this day (there is photographic evidence of this afternoon that I need to dig out at my mom’s house and share here someday soon – it is completely worth it for my haircut alone).

needle books(Aren’t these snazzy? My aunt just passed on these great interchangeable circular needle sets, circa 1970s)

My memories of my grandmother are entirely twisted up with memories of her knitting – mostly the one-of-a-kind sweaters I received for holidays and birthdays. I was so proud of them. No one else had a sweater featuring little sheeps running across the front, with the matching rumps (complete with pom-pom tails!) across the back. I was not the only family member who’d been brought into the knitting fold – my aunt Jane was also always a prolific sewer/knitter. Her gifts (if it was possible) thrilled me even more – matching outfits for me and my Cabbage Patch Kid?! I was the coolest kid in school!

small needles(Small needle sizes – the cables are a little creaky, but everything is completely functional!)

My interest in knitting at age 8 lasted for about three days; the same amount of time as my excitement about skateboarding or passion for the electric keyboard. But I would return to my needles every few years, making my own one-of-a-kind Christmas gifts (I still cringe at the year of many, many knitted potpourri sachets) and considering all the fashionable garments I could be making for myself while perusing knitting books at the local library (so many shoulder pads).

large needles(Larger needle sizes – the colorful metal tips are so cheerful!)

It wasn’t until graduate school, when I desperately needed a creative outlet to give my brain a rest from non-stop science that I returned to the craft in earnest. I branched out from just the knit stitch (purling is fun!), worked my way through a few basic projects, joined a Boston area Stich-n-Bitch group and learned how gratifying it can be to make something lasting with one’s own hands. Not to mention the very far fetched but mighty fulfilling idea that I could make my own clothes, if I absolutely had to. Let’s not discuss the practical implications of woolen undergarments – I like this delusion too much.

madelinetosh(Madelinetosh, in Forestry – mmmmmm)

In this way, knitting has become one of my main outlets – alongside cooking and blogging – to get myself out of my head, my head out of science, and reconnect with the creator inside of me. However, I had been in bit of a rut. Many, many baby blankets and graduation scarves later, I had forgotten how much fun it is to try something completely knew, maybe a bit outside of my comfort zone, as well as the pride that comes from generating a beautiful accessory (for me even!) from just a ball of yarn. Enter Mere, my blogging buddy and virtual knitting club companion (read about our previous knitting goals/projects here and here).

the cowl begins(It’s beginning to look like a Honey Cowl)

Working with someone new, who has a similar skill set and is also interested in branching out has been so much fun. The socks from March were a huge challenge and we were both excited to tackle the Honey Cowl in April – it seems straightforward and easier to finish within a month. Note: The socks remain unfinished (I am admittedly ashamed). I’m still 2/3 done with my third sock – I decided to rip the first one out because it was too big and do it right, but let me tell you, motivation to finish the third sock of a pair is hard to come by.

finished cowl(The finished product, properly waffle-like and practically glowing)

April came and went and both of us were suspiciously silent about our cowl progress on our blogs, and on Instagram, where we had been so excitedly vocal about starting our projects. As the month came and went we chatted behind the scenes about piles of work, distractions from our knitting goals and maybe making May a ‘catch-up’ month – with a small, if any, project of it’s own.

cowl long(In natural light the greens are even more impressive – worn long…)

So, I wanted to catch you all up (especially you, Destination : Macaron, with your overflowing craftiness) with my recent progress, several projects of which are finally wrapping up. Plus, plans for the summer. Because I clearly haven’t learned anything about overbooking yet – and there are baby birthdays coming up!

cowl double wrap(…and short. I profusely apologize for my strap issues here.)

April’s project, the Honey Cowl, was an absolute delight. I used the pattern as an excuse to splurge on two skeins of Madelinetosh DK in a deep, vibrant, subtly variegated shade of green, called Forestry. Not only was the color amazing, but the wool itself was soft, springy and knit up like a dream. I worked on the cowl solely on my shuttle rides to and from work; it was a great pattern for on-the-go knitting while listening toRadioLab podcasts. This cowl is a new favorite; I have already worn it several times (San Diego gets cold at night!) and received multiple compliments. Between the ease of knitting, the loveliness of the yarn itself and the functionality and beauty of the finished project, I can tell I’ll be making and wrapping up a lot of Honey Cowls for Christmas this year.

hats(May’s project – the Hurricane Hat, sized down for toddler heads. There may be a few more where these came from, just sayin’)

For May, Mere and I decided we would slow down, catch up on our cowls (and socks, ahem) and, make a hat – a simple weekend project that would at least push our monthly knitting club forward. With two new babies in the family, I decided to make two or, more precisely, two happened while racing through season 4 of Battlestar Galactica on Memorial Day (maybe a bit behind the times but so happy to be finally catching up!). The hat pattern is a modified Hurricane Hat, using size 6 needles to slim it down for precious toddler heads. Here Walker is modeling one of my prototypes. He is about the age that my niece and nephew will be around Christmas, so I’m glad my arbitrary length and decreases seem to fit! There is something incredibly gratifying about already working towards stockpiling gifts.

walker hat detail(More Walker, more hat detail)

So with the exception of my third sock problem (this weekend maybe? Finally?), my knitting is all caught up! Which means I can turn my sights towards summer. Mere and I, although ambitious, are not blind, and rather than choose monthly projects during this busy season have chosen instead a ‘summer vacation’ project. Toys. For babies (We are both blessed with beautiful nieces and nephews). I cannot show you which ones, because they will be gifts for two almost-1 year olds at the end of August, and I’m pretty sure my brothers and sisters-in-law read my blog (although anyone who has gotten this far in this post deserves a medal). I promise to reward all of your patience with adorable toddler + toy photos then. Here are a few to tide you over. In the meantime, happy crafting!

wesley(Recent nephew shot – this kid clearly needs a handknit toy, right?!)

If you are here and have a bit of extra time on your hands, take a look at these beautiful yarns and share your must have shades – it is so hard to choose!

anna(And my niece, also reaching out for a toy!)

Taco Tuesday – Tacolicious (SF)

tacos   (From L to R: carnitas, bistec, 2x short ribs)

During a very quick work trip up to the San Francisco Bay Area last week, I only had time to travel into the city for one meal. Thankfully my dinner companion knew of my affinity for tacos, and we made a beeline for Tacolicious as soon as I arrived (after 90 minutes of excruciating traffic up from the South Bay – ick). The hour wait for a table was easily passed while having a Paloma at The Chapel, a dark, quiet, classy bar next door. And, as it was the first time meeting my knitting buddy in person, we had more than enough to catch up on.palomaBlogging is a funny thing – putting pieces of you out there, wondering if anyone will pause long enough to watch, listen and interact. My initial motivation to start ResearchingParis (the precursor to this blog) was to transport my friends and family in the US into my day-to-day adventures half a world away. Although it is still a wonderful way to keep up with loved ones flung far and wide, ResearchingSanDiego feels bigger than that – a place where I am challenging myself to open up, write often, cook locally, and push my limits creatively. I am only just now feeling comfortable enough in this space to start reaching out into the blogging community to connect with other likeminded people. Thankfully, the first time I did, I connected with Mere.patioI’ve written before of how Mere’s blog has inspired me to consider each day an opportunity to make something new, set fresh goals and recommit to myself, without getting bogged down in missed opportunities of yesterday. It was in this vein (and due to unflagging kindness and optimism that radiated through her words), that I contacted her in late February to see if maybe she’d want to cross “join a knitting club” off of her life list by working on cooperative monthly knitting projects in a virtual knitting club with me. From our first few email exchanges I knew I had found a kindred spirit and was thrilled that we were going to connect when I traveled north. adviceAs it turns out, we did not discuss our knitting once. Not one sentence about Honey Cowl progress (tomorrow, I promise!) or possible May projects. Instead we shared stories of international travel, younger brothers and relationships gone both horribly wrong and wonderfully right. I felt immediately comfortable seated across from her and that trust was not misplaced; by the end of the night I returned to my hotel reinvigorated and motivated to get back on the blogging bandwagon, with at least 5 new projects in mind.taco menuThere was only one stretch of silence throughout our evening and it came when we were seated on the candlelit patio of Tacolicious enjoying the first bites of dinner that had just arrived, piping hot from the kitchen. To start we ordered the queso dip. Steamy, spicy and gooey, this queso was everything you wanted from the traditional cheese dip. We followed that up with a taco combo platter (4 for $14!) – 2 braised beef short rib tacos for Mere; 1 carnitas and 1 bistec adobado with pickled onions for me – and housemade refried beans. The meal was served with three salsas of increasing hotness, the vibrant red, yellow and green of the sauces lending a festive atmosphere to our table.quesoThe quiet of us savoring our tacos was quickly broken by exclamations of their deliciousness and insistance that we trade and try each other’s chosen combination of fillings. The carnitas were very good, rich and savory, served with white onions and fresh cilantro. The bistec (marinated steak, cooked medium) was tender and juicy, the pickled onions lending a nice tart, sour crunch that cut well through the heft of the meat. The stars of the show, however, were the short rib tacos. Unexpectedly (to me), the sweet-ish braising liquid paired well with piquant onions and spicy salsa. The meat itself had clearly been simmering for hours and all but melted in my mouth with each bite. When (not if) I return, it will take all my self-control to branch out beyond their deliciousness.salsas Despite the traffic, wait for a table and (irrational) worry of potential awkwardness meeting an “Inter-friend”, this was one of the best evenings I have had in a long while. I was out, exploring a new city, getting to know a new friend and eating amazing food. It truly does not get much better than that.

Tacolicious, Mission Location

741 Valencia St. (at 18th St.)

San Francisco, CA 94110

(415) 626-1344

Reservations not taken for parties less than 12. There will be a line. That’s ok, tuck in at the bar (or at The Chapel next door). It’s worth it. 

 

 

 

Taco Tuesday – Shrimp Tacos (at home)

shrimp taco lighterOne of the best things about my relationship with The Bat is our shared love of cooking and food. However, living in a household in which both members thoroughly enjoying being in the kitchen can create a bit of tension when it comes to figuring out who will do the cooking, and when. Clearly it is an embarrassment of riches. Despite the challenge (and sometimes competition), we have found a way to strike a reasonable balance: I prepare a few big meals during the week, supplementing with large salads and leftovers to fill in the gaps, whereas The Bat is responsible for all weekend food preparation, when he has the time to do the necessary shopping and the freedom to play in the kitchen.DSC_0099After a recent mouthwatering shrimp stir-fry success (Stir-Fridays have also become a thing), The Bat decided that shrimp tacos would be the next weekend cooking adventure, complete with dinner guests as taste-testers and fancy, fruity cocktails.DSC_0094Despite some initial wariness from the chef (and mostly not to be outdone), I insisted on making hard taco shells from scratch – and a few chips to snack on throughout the night.  Making your own hard taco shells is extremely easy. Heat about 1 ½ inches of vegetable oil in a large, wide skillet until it bubbles and pops when flicked with a bit of water. Using a pair (or, if you have tiny hands, two) of kitchen tongs, lower your tortilla into the oil, folding into a taco shape as you go. Hold in this shape while the oil bursts and bubbled around you, until the shell is slightly hardened and can be flipped over for the other side to cook – continue to cook, a few minutes on each side, until golden. Drain the excess grease, upside down, on paper towels until ready for tasty, taco construction.DSC_0117Once the shells were done and I was finally out of the kitchen, The Bat went to work. Shrimp were de-tailed and a marinade was prepared from copious amounts of crushed garlic, minced jalapeno, olive oil, a pinch of chili powder, salt and cracked black pepper. Mixed together well in a Ziploc bag, the shellfish were allowed to marinate for (at least) 30 minutes at room temperature. Following this rest, they were cooked, quite quickly over medium-high heat, about (no more than) 2 minutes per side, until the garlic started to turn crispy brown and the shrimp were seared.DSC_0131We stuffed our tacos with several piping hot (and spicy) shrimp, cabbage, cheese, sour cream, sliced avocado and salsa and dug in. Served along side was a quick rice pilaf made with sautéed red onions, garlic and using diced tomatoes and their juice in place of water (next time I’ll use a few of those jalapenos and/or some salsa instead for some much needed spice). To drink, The Bat concocted a dangerously delicious tropical beverage to compliment the dinner by blending strawberries, pineapple, guava nectar, white rum and a bit of seltzer, all served over ice (somehow these were not recorded for posterity – boo).DSC_0114The tacos were a resounding success, with four of us demolishing all 2 lb. of shellfish in no time flat. I unabashedly declare that these were the best shrimp tacos I have ever had. In fact, in reviewing details for this post, we’ve both agreed that these need to happen again, sooner rather than later. This dinner was one of several informal housewarming get-togethers we have hosted over the past few weeks, and it has been such a joy to welcome friends and family into our home and to our table – even if I have to admit that The Bat is clearly in the lead to win the ‘best party food’ house award.

Weekly Travel Theme – Benches

bench1

Where’s My Backpack has again come up with a travel theme – this week is  “Benches” – that is challenging and open to interpretation. While I recognize the romantic notion of stolen kisses, whispered promises and longed-for meetings that can be associated with any picturesque, solitary bench, it does not appear to be a common theme in my personal photography (at least according to my archives thus far, things may change now that the notion in in my head). I am much more apt to wile away an afternoon people watching at a cafe while sipping a latte than perching on a park bench.

market

I am, however, a fan of finding the perfect place to enjoy a picnic and have been known to create bench-like space whenever it is needed. I tend to do this quite often, plopping down curbside to munch on freshly prepared snacks at Farmer’s market or (my personal favorite) pulling up a piece of sidewalk just past Venice’s famous outdoor vegetable market in order to dive into that day’s treasure of succulent berries along the canals.

view 2

While perusing the Farmer’s market on our second day in Venice, we chose three baskets of vibrant, just-off-the-vine-fresh berries to take with us for the rest of the day’s adventures. However, once the clock struck noon, the heat of August was settling in and we daren’t take the chance of squishing our treasures as we strolled through the city. Instead, we sat down right where we were, alongside the canal, and dove in. The berries were sun-kissed and warm, bursting with juice that immediately stained our fingers (better than our bags). We marveled at the architecture of the mansions lining the canal, held our breath as a vaporetto, traveling at high speed, almost clipped a gondola full of tourists, and mostly soaked in the views and feelings of Venice.

traffic jam

We paid no attention to anyone glancing our way.  Rather, we happily created our own canal-side space – as comfortable and entertaining as any park bench – soaking in the sunshine, giggling and gobbling berries.

bench2

Wine Steals Lounge, Point Loma

whites with pink

By this time each week (Thursday evening), I’m already daydreaming about the weekend – how I’m going to be concurrently cleaning the house, catching up with friends, troubleshooting experiments in the lab, cooking extensively for next week’s lunches and, of course relaxing and catching up on sleep. It is no surprise that I often feel less-than-satisfied with my weekends with to-do lists like this running circles in my mind. With another work trip on the immediate horizon (T-10 days) that requires some further preliminary data, this is not a weekend with which I can push off the science until Monday.

view If I had the chance to priority the relaxing and friends entries on my list and the weather was poised to cooperate, I would return to Wine Steals in Point Loma. Based in Point Loma’s Liberty Station complex of shops and restaurants, this is one of three Wine Steals wine bars in the greater San Diego area (in addition to others in Hillcrest and Cardiff-by-the-Sea). I have not yet visited the Cardiff location, but the outdoor seating, sun-dappled, dog-friendly patio and country club feel definitely give the Point Loma location the leg up on its Hillcrest cousin.

menuOur group of friends decided to take advantage of the early spring sunshine a few weeks ago and met there for a lazy, long Sunday lunch.  Although they have a complete menu, the interior is mostly a wine shop with just a few high bar tables for tasting or to enjoy a quick glass. If you want to savor your food and/or drink, I would highly suggest nabbing one of the wrought iron patio tables overlooking the Sail Ho Golf Club. Words to the wise – there is no table service, so ordering your food and beverages at the bar is necessary and be sure to bring a coat – once the sun drops out of the direct line of sight, it cools down quickly as it is quite close to the water.

three whitesThe extensive wine list is comprised of multiple whites and reds that are available by the glass. You can either order from these choices, or pick a bottle from the bins inside that the staff will be happy to open for you, then and there, for a $6 corkage fee. Additionally, although it is not listed on the menu, you can design your own wine tasting flights: three wines are chosen and served as half-pours in smaller glasses that fit beautifully in the wrought iron stands that are brought to the table. This was definitely my first choice option – how else could I be expected to familiarize myself with the menu?  Also, for those non-wine drinkers among us, the restaurant also carried a rather extensive selection of locally sourced craft beers,keeping the rest of our group (The Bat) very happy.

lost abbey To compliment our wine and get our picnic on, we ordered two appetizers to start – first, the combination cheese/charcuterie plate and second, a chips & dips platter including hummus, tzatziki and pita and baguette. The dips were well done; creamy, flavorful and clearly house made (or at least close to it), albeit very small servings. The combo cheese and meat plate came piled high with two hunks of four different types of cheeses (the blue was the unanimous winner), five types of cured meats (the pale thuringer was a stand out favorite), cornichons, cherry peppers, honey, mustard and a sun-dried tomato chutney.  While this would have been a formidable feast for two, the six of us around the table demolished both appetizers in no time, along with the initial round of wine flights. 

dipscheese meatTo compliment our switch from whites to red, we decided to order pizzas for the main course. Here our eyes quickly grew larger than our stomachs, which, while not entirely full, certainly did not need the three large pizzas we ended up ordering (it’s so hard to limit oneself when the list of tasty things is so long!). The pies came in two sizes and we all erred on the ‘take home food, rather than leave hungry’ side of things, ordering the larger of the two options, which are rather massive.

veggie Two of the pizzas were relatively standard – one veggie and one ‘almost everything’ (not pictured) – made with a standard crust and a light schmear of a pleasing, herby marinara sauce. The third pizza was a build-your-own concoction of thin cracker crust, garlic sauce, veggies and spicy shrimp, which ended up (surprisingly) as my favorite. There was no skimping on any of the toppings and everything tasted exceptionally fresh and hot out of the oven. It was quality, upscale wine bar food, done the California way.

shrimpWe sat and enjoyed the last of the sunlight before it dropped completely behind the man-made horizon of the surrounding buildings, bundled in sweatshirts and taking advantage of the productive, plentiful propane patio heat lamps. Eventually, one by one, we began to list what was on tap for the week ahead – our lazy Sunday afternoon was quickly transitioning into a forecast of Monday morning – and, on that note we quietly departed, trying to keep that inevitable forward march in check as much as possible.  

redsIt has been a few weeks and with daylight savings time and temperatures rising, I am feeling ready to venture back – perhaps this time on a Saturday afternoon – so the rest and relaxation can linger a bit longer. Unfortunately, science takes precedence this time around. Plus, I have noticed that our temperatures will be dropping for the weekend, so it is definitely a better idea to stick this outing in my proverbial back pocket for taking advantage of the early summer/late spring warmth and sunshine when it arrives. 

(Interesting side note – although I visited the Point Loma and Hillcrest locations within only a month of each other, at the time of patronage their wine lists were completely different. I interpret this to mean that they rotate their house offerings very frequently, as I am hard pressed to imagine that the stock each individual wine bar with a completely different selection than the others. This speaks highly to their turnover, as well as their curiosity about wine.)

Wine Steals Lounge

2970 Truxton Road

San Diego, CA 92106

619-221-1959