Things I want to do in LA this weekend

I'll be in LA for my gramma's 90th birthday and a wedding.  Other things I want to do with my four days there (besides see friends and family):
  • I can't stop thinking about heading up to Burbank for just two reasons: 1) Porto's Bakery, the best bakery ever, where I intend to by a dozen guava-cream cheese pastries and at least two potato balls.  And get a cuban medianoche, if I have room.  And 2) It's a Wrap , the fantastic vintage store that culls clothing from TV and film shoots, where I got a $300 Marc Jacobs blazer for $40.
  • Ok, maybe a third.  It would be nice to finally try Sushi Katsu-ya or Sushi Nozawa (the sushi Nazi), but maybe I should wait until Garry can join me for that.
  • The LACMA, free after 5pm.
  • The Long Beach Antiques Market, which is happening this Sunday.
  • One of the following lunch/brunch places: John O'Groats, Clementine, Luna Park, Bossa Nova, giant pancakes at the Griddle Cafe , Original Pantry which I never tried, Susina for transcendent chocolate croissants, and Grub.
  • Hanging out in Silverlake: The Kitchen, Pazzo Gelato, and that pizza place (any more suggestions?)
  • Gorging myself on the best fish tacos of my life at Taco Nazo.
  • Getting drinks at a chill, un-obnoxious bar: the Abbey, Cafe des Artistes, the Arsenal, Cat & Fiddle (my favorite bar in the world), Chaya Brasserie ($5 drinks on Mondays still?)
  • Slurping the most authentic tom kha gai at Sanamluang  cafe in Thai Town
  • Funky shopping along Melrose Blvd between La Brea and Fairfax
  • Half roasted chicken smothered in garlic sauce, with rice and black beans and plantains at Versailles Cuban Food .
  • Gourmet burget and beer at Father's Office 
  • Farmer's Market on third: gumbo, Banana Leaf, and Loteria!
I am drooling and I can't wait.

Scharffen Berger Factory Tour

I remember the tour to Hershey, PA almost 20 years ago to have more of a wow factor, mostly because we could see the machines going, and the machine I remember most vividly was the one that made Hershey Kisses--I was mesmerized by the way it touched its tips to the conveyer belt.

Today, the tour at Scharffen Berger's factory in Berkeley was like an upscale version of that... we started with a very strange and theatrical tour guide who walked us through the history of chocolate, how it was made, the history of Scharffen Berger, etc.  In the course of all that we got to taste all kinds of chocolate: 71% dark, 62% dark, 41% extra rich milk.  Dee-lish.  I ended up buying a "limited edition" special blend called Finisterra (or the End of the Earth).  Delicious notes of berry and wine.  I'm glad I finally got a chance to do this.

I Need to develop a List for SF

I have extensive lists for other cities: LA, NYC, HK, Beijing, even Chicago.  I still don't feel like I have a great handle on the city I live closest to, San Francisco.  I'm going to need your help compiling the goodies.  Only the City -- Berkeley, Santa Cruz and surrounding region would be a separate list.  What I have so far:

  • Burma Superstar
  • Genki - Japanese crepes
  • Tartine - Bakery
  • Mama's - Brunch
  • Zuni - $40 smoked/roasted chicken, absolutely delicious though and not something you can easily replicate at home because of their wood-burning oven.
  • Lovejoy's Tea Room - VERY girly, bursting w/ estrogen, but the tea service is really scrumptious
  • Mi Lindo Peru - excellent seafood saltado
  • Burrito/taco/papusa crawl in the Mission.  My favorite place for papusas is several doors north from Mi Lindo Peru, I always forget the name of the place but it's sort of on the corner and it's a brightly lit hole-in-the-wall.
  • Arizmendi - coop bakery in the Sunset that is known for its sourdough and pizza
  • The Sunset in general is really good for affordable and tasty food.
  • Swan Oyster Depot - uber fresh lobster salad, brothy clam chowder and, of course, oysters
  • The Slanted Door
  • Bourbon & Branch - "secret" speakeasy that requires a password to get in
  • Jazz at Pearls - where Garry and I had our first date =)  A bit pricey but well worth it.
  • Revolution Cafe in the Mission - never been, but my coworker loves it for its beatnik atmosphere and live music.
  • Medjool: nice drinks and food and dancing
  • Tonga Room at the Fairmont: one of the only remaining west coast Tiki Bars with original 50's decor. recently remodeled, but still elegant, cheesy, dark, and fun. Dig the fake rainstorm every fifteen minutes, and the jazz combo playing 'on the lake.'
  • Bamboo Hut on Broadway in North Beach
  • Cocktail and view at Top of the Mark (across the street from Fairmont) or the Marriott downtown.
  • HeidiSays boutique on Fillmore
  • Gigantic Forever 21 store in Union Square
  • The Haight: browse overpriced vintage clothing. Walk down the street to Ameoba Records.
  • Twin Peaks, for the view.
  • Golden Gate Park
  • Parrots at Telegraph Hill
  • City Lights bookstore on Columbus in North Beach

Halp!  What would you recommend?

Sticks & stones won't break my bones: a lesson in geology and jewelry.

I've always had a special fondness for gems and of my favorite parts of any Natural History museum, I'd always make a beeline for that section with all the glittery mineral growths hidden inside/outside unassuming rocks.  Anyway, like most of my interests/lusts I've been nurturing this for a while, and tracking all kinds of eBay auctions and etsy listings.  I can't deny how attracted I am to beautiful gemstones, but usually not the most common ones (I'm pretty indifferent to diamonds etc.).  My favorite of all time is Sleeping Beauty turquoise from Arizona, but the stuff is not cheap, no siree.

I came across this lady who does long knotted necklaces and thought seriously about dropping $50 for one of her creations, when I realized how simple her necklaces looked, and that I could probably figure out how to make one (or three) myself with less than $20 and just the right materials.  I mean, her descriptions are so detailed that I feel like I have a ready-made how-to guide right there.  So I started scouring eBay and other sources for some 10mm round gemstones, and feeling out what I needed in terms of threading material and clasps.  Who knows, maybe I'll actually jump on the jewelry-making bandwagon.

Anyway, the first couple of things I bought included, in no particular order:
  • Some creamy blue chalcedony beads (chalcedony apparently is not naturally blue, but has to be heat-treated to bring out its blue color...otherwise it comes in a plethora of shades from pink to green to yellow). 
  • Also stumbled across someone selling some gorgeous African blue opal nuggets.  I have never seen this stone in my life, but I was immediately captivated by its beauty--sky blue with artistic gray/beige veins. From the same seller I bought some imperial jasper too.
  • Since I want a necklace that looks similar to ones that woman sells, I've been eyeing aventurine in red and blue (see below).  Both gorgeous paired with another favorite stone, smoky quartz (often mistakenly called smokey or smoky topaz).
  • I also realize that one thing I need to round out my wardrobe is a dramatic long white necklace of some kind.  For this I've been considering riverstone, white turquoise, howlite, and alabaster.  I bought a big chunky plastic necklace from Old Navy and my coworker Brent said it looked "terrible and fake."  After looking in the mirror I had to agree.

Kite-Flying: a surprisingly effective way to relieve stress.

Don't ask me where I got the notion, but I've had this weird craving to fly a kite for months now.  I casually looked around at Target and Wal-mart for a kite, but these things are surprisingly hard to find.  Thought, without any real seriousness, about trying to find one online.  But then we all received one as the give-away at the summer picnic, so I was like, great.

So Garry and I made our way to the designated kite-flying area next to Shoreline Park, giddy with excitement.  Okay, I was giddy, he was humoring me.  We put the thing together and tried to launch it in the air--no dice.  It kept wanting to circle downwards.  Now, neither of us knew very much about kite-flying, but I figured there were a couple layers of wind coming off the Bay, and if we could just get it above a certain height, it would be good to go.  But it didn't want to climb up higher.  We tried a lot of different things, from tugging on it, to running with it, to standing on a park bench.  In the process met a very chatty five-year-old named Sophie, along with her cousins.  Our kite kept getting tangled with theirs and bringing it down.

Finally, we had a lightbulb moment were we altered the angle of the string that connected to the kite, so the kite would stay more upright against the wind.  Voila!  Up it went.  Below are the results, along with my boyfriend who looks like a Japanese hipster-guitarist or something like that.

Lightning crashes in Chicago

FINALLY.  I've been trying to upload this stupid video onto YouTube for like two days.

Just in case you didn't believe me about the lightning, this is a small snippet of what it was like for at least 2-3 hours straight on Monday night.  Video taken from my hotel room on the 19th storey.  All I wonder is how crazy it would have been to see this from the Signature Lounge instead.

And, those sounds are not giant dumpsters being rolled around, it really was grand crashes of thunder.  The first half of the vid is more exciting--you don't need to watch the whole thing.

PS. Don't make fun of my dorky exclamations >_< .  Lightning is not something we get a lot of here in California.  So lay off!