The hike

The weather this week has been a complete reversal of last week — just beautiful and perfect. So I can finally show you the hike that I go on at least once a week.

It takes about 15 minutes to get to the base of the hill from my house, a nice walk through the neighborhood. Once you get to the start of the trail there’s a bit of an oh-shit moment. It looks like a sheer face you’re about to go up.

But the payoff happens pretty quickly. This is the view from partway up the trail.

Take a quick breather, then continue up the path.

That would be looking down from about 2/3 up the trail.

Believe it or not, we do actually experience spring here. There are all kinds of flowers blooming in bright colors right now.

I also found what I think is wild fennel.

By the time you get to the top you start to feel like you can see for miles.

There’s the perfect spot for a picnic under a tree.

By this point you’re getting fried in the sun. Then all the sudden it’s like you’re in Sherwood Forest.

You’re surrounded by giant trees with peeling bark. It’s smells amazing back in there.

Some of the trees are really gnarly.

If you need a rest, there’s a seat just for you.

Try not to get too paranoid about mountain lions (even though you just read about one in Redwood City!).

Then it’s back down the hill to civilization. I also thought I would point out the sign about keeping your dog on a leash that no one obeys.

Dog owners can be a little exasperating here. I’m all for dog friendliness, but if your off-leash dog causes some kind of problem, it makes us all look bad.

Anyway, on my way home I like to get landscaping ideas from other people’s yards. Some people have these amazingly manicured plants and rock gardens.

Maybe we need a bird of paradise.

Or a cactus.

Hopefully we’ll have oranges soon!

Sadly, these belong to a neighbor.

Crochet color block blanket

I had a bunch of leftover yarn from a secret project (which I will tell you about later), so I got to thinking it would make an adorable blanket with blocks of bright colors.

The final version was just about big enough to cover my 4’x6′ rug.

Since I was using my leftovers, but also had to buy some new yarn, my blanket isn’t exactly perfect. But I’m pretty sure, putting this into a pattern, that you can make it with two skeins each of these:

Stitch Nation Bamboo Ewe (55 percent bamboo, 45 percent wool) – Periwinkle (A), Geranium (B), Snapdragon (C), Mermaid (D), Twilight (E), Lipstick (F), Beach Glass (G), Mercury (H)

You need a J/10 size crochet hook.

Ch 152. DC across for a total of 150 stitches.

The stripe sequence:

8 rows A
4 rows B
2 rows C
7 rows D
4 rows E
2 rows F
7 rows G
3 rows H
5 rows C
4 rows B
5 rows F
Repeat once.

(In between I added 8 rows E plus 4 rows H, but that is optional).

I love the colors and the soft, fuzzy texture of this yarn. It’s just a happy blanket.

How to hem jeans

I have so few pairs of pants that fit anymore (but not much budget for new ones), so I was really excited when I found this pair of Zara jeans at a consignment shop for $14.

Just one problem. They were a tad too long.

But I bought them anyway, because I learned a few years ago that even someone as impatient as I am with sewing can hem their own jeans in less than half an hour for a cost of nothing.

See? This is an old pair of jeans that I hemmed myself.

When you look closely you can see the little line of not-so-expertly-sewn blue stitches. But I doubt anyone is going to bend over and examine your cuffs that closely.

So yeah. There are many ways to hem jeans. This is just how I do it.

First you put on the jeans so you can figure out where on your leg you want the bottoms to hit. Then you start folding the fabric, kind of pushing it up inside itself so that the new fold meets the little stitch line of the original hem.

Once you have both sides looking right, pin them all the way around.

Now, carefully, take the jeans off. The place where you folded the new hem will probably seem a little thick. So you want to iron it nice and flat.

Now you’re ready to sew. Choose a thread that matches the jeans as closely as possible. In my case, they were so dark I went with black.

You want to line up the new fold with the old hem as closely as possible so that you can still see the original hem stitches, but there is no space between them and the fold. Leave about an 1/8-inch space between the fold and your new stitches. It’s pretty simple. Just sew a straight line all around.

You’ll probably have to speed up your machine as you go over the bumps on the sides of the jeans.

Inside, you will see the fold, but outside no one will know it’s there.

The only time it’s an issue is if you want to roll up your cuffs, say to wear them with rain boots. But it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. You can also press this fold from the inside if you want it to lay a little flatter.

Top-secret hem line. Shhhh.

Oh, and one more thing. With most jeans the bottoms are a little bit wider around than the few inches above, so you may have to pinch your fabric a little to get it to line up correctly. This is no big deal. You just sew over it.

Voila, jeans that fit like they were made for you.

Chocolate-cranberry energy mix

I’ve never really liked trail mix as a snack, mostly I think because I don’t like raisins and I’m kind of picky about nuts. But the amazing array of trail mixes at the Berkeley Bowl inspired me to make my own mix, and here it is.

(Also, you don’t have to eat this while on a trail of any sort.)

Chocolate-cranberry energy mix

1 cup mixed nuts (so you get a few of things like hazelnuts and Brazil nuts)
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup cashews

Place in a plastic zipper bag and shake until everything is evenly mixed.

I’ve been having some in one of my mini latte bowls in the afternoons, and it always tides me over until dinner.

Our first visitors

We had our first California houseguests this week. My mom flew out from Kansas and my sister came up from her new home in Orange County.

How gorgeous are these women?

We started with some bay area essentials.

First, breakfast at Bette’s Oceanview Diner. Since we went on a Monday we got a table right away, which is pretty much unheard of there. On Mondays their special is tangy sourdough pancakes. I tried them with sides of their soft cooked eggs and grilled tomatoes (subbed in for the sausage). They were really delish and unique.

My mom tried another special with poached eggs and spinach that looked yummy and healthy.

Tuesday we took them to San Francisco so we could catch the Ferry Building market. Only a few food vendors are there on Tuesday, but there’s still plenty to sample. I’ll just say that at this point all dietary restrictions went out the window, but I tried to be reasonable by splitting stuff and then walking all. day. long.

I finally tried the Blue Bottle caramelized waffle. It was so soft and yummy that we ate the whole thing before I could get a photo. Oops.

We also tried a Pepples Organic Donut in salted caramel. Again, yum.

I got some Miette gingersnaps to go. They are extra gingery and spicy, and so good with a cup of coffee.

We needed coffee because it was miserably cold that day. The weather seemed to change between cold and sunny to cold and rainy to cold and rainy and windy about every 20 minutes. I was definitely not wearing enough layers for that.

Next we hiked up to Coit Tower to see a better view of the city.

I was sad that I didn’t see any Telegraph Hill parrots. Maybe next time.

We of course had to stop at the hat shop. My mom got this one. I am in love with this one.

Before dim sum in Chinatown we had to show them our favorite bar, Vesuvio. Just love the signage.

Speaking of signage, several people had these cheeky signs on their garages.

We finally made our way out to the edge of Golden Gate Park to see the ocean. These crazy people were swimming in there. I repeat, crazy!

Later we drove across the Golden Gate to see it up close. It’s a sight that never gets old.

Do we look as cold as we were?

We ended their trip with dinner at Marica in Oakland. Though we’d been there before for seafood, we’d never had dessert. I decided one last splurge was OK (I’m definitely back to oatmeal now). So we had the “life-changing” chocolate souffle.

Des Moines-ians, you know I have high standards for a melty-centered chocolate dessert with homemade vanilla ice cream, but this one was by far the best I’d ever had. It was one of the best anythings I’ve ever had.

I am starting my bay area travel guide. More to share soon.

Loving: salt/pepper dish

Picked up this cute little salt/pepper dish at our Crate & Barrel Outlet the other day for I think $6. I had been keeping my salt and pepper in little Pyrex custard cups that, while functional, weren’t very attractive. This guy is just right.

Introducing: giant knits

At long last, I am finally ready to show you the knits I’ve been making with giant rolls of cotton rope. The testing process has been absolutely exhausting and expensive, far more than I ever thought it would be. But the end result is super fun, and I can’t wait to show it off.

I have two new items in my Etsy shop. The giant pouf, available in white or gray.

And giant loopy rugs in two sizes, 36 or 48 inches.

In addition to looking cool, these feel amazing underneath your toes.

This was definitely an exercise in persistence. I started off with dye experiments and found that one type of rope took it much better than the other. I tried every kind of dye I could find, some waaay more toxic smelling than others.

So I bought a bunch of that rope, dyed it to perfection, and then realized that it would never work for the knitting. It was also really expensive, hard to find in bulk, and twice as heavy as the other. Fail.

Just the right sized spool.

So I ordered the other rope and started testing the knitting. I can’t tell you how many times I did and undid a rug trying to get the perfect gauge. I made my own needles. Those didn’t work so I spent more money on better ones.

I had an idea in my head what sizes I wanted to offer and at what prices, but that went out the window when I realized just how many thousands of feet of “yarn” it would take to achieve those.


Then when I moved on to big-batch dyeing I realized too late that my dyeing bin was way too small, so I got a pretty uneven result.

It was one fail after another, but I’m glad I stuck with it. Now I just hope people think these are as cool as I do.


Back when I decided to do the cleanse, I also decided that I was going to focus 100 percent on food, and hold off on exercise until I felt I had the food part down. It turned out to be a good idea, because not only was the food part a monster in itself, but as I detoxed I often felt tired or headache-y or just generally not my best.

But by the end of February I felt like I was ready to start exercising again. I confess I have a hard time sticking to any one exercise for a long period of time, which has contributed a lot to my issues with the scale. So I decided to make some goals that had only to do with the amount of time I worked out, not what I did.

And because I am a super list maker (and a little OCD about organization), I took a tip from Maggie and made myself a little grid with boxes I can check off as the month goes on.

It’s worked really well so far. My goal is to get in 30 minutes of exercise per day, for a total of 2.5 hours per week. To me that is reasonable and sustainable in the long term. Most of the time I end up doing an hour at at time, and checking off two days worth. I’ve gone on hikes, walks, even runs (!!). I am excited for bike rides and yoga/Nia classes to enter the mix. I’ve gotten more fresh air and sun, and explored my neighborhood quite a bit. The dogs are getting more exercise, too. It’s all good.

Whole wheat kefir pancakes

This week’s new food discovery is kefir. (Please let me know what the correct way to say it is. Kee-fur?). I’ve been wanting to try it for a while, so I finally decided (since I’ve been adding back in more dairy lately) to do it.

It’s a lot like a thinner version of yogurt, basically the consistency of buttermilk. The nutrition information makes it sound pretty good, especially with the addition of active cultures.

I looked online for some recipes and found that due to its similarity to buttermilk, kefir is great in pancakes. I combined two recipes I found, and came up with this.

Whole wheat kefir pancakes
makes 8 pancakes

1 cup kefir
1 egg
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon agave nectar
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon flax seed meal
pinch of salt

Whisk all of the liquid ingredients together in a bowl for 20 seconds. In a separate bowl combine all the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix them together for 20 more seconds.

In a medium-low skillet, heat a little butter, oil, or nonstick spray. Drop 1/4 cup of pancake batter down for each cake. When it puffs up and starts to get bubbly, flip it over and cook until it’s brown on both sides.

I ate my pancakes with blueberries and the best pancake combo: 2 tablespoons of pure maple syrup and a little pat of butter heated in the microwave for 30 seconds.

Mmmm, pancakes. I think I will add more oats next time.

This week I’m also trying a new bread, made locally. It’s very dense and full of yummy grains.

I love that they grind flour with their own mill.

Apparently I’m on a wheat kick because I also bought this pasta, made in San Francisco.

I’m trying to use the nutritional tip of buying smaller but better quality foods, and with pasta it really does make a difference. This was awesome.

Oh, and one other thing about kefir. It is really delicious in smoothies. I mixed some with a banana and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, and it came out very rich and creamy. Can’t wait to try it in some other combinations.

Look what we got

A birdhouse!

Last week I heard that there was a Groupon for Berkeley Rustic Birdhouses, and it was a total steal. $45 for $100 toward a birdhouse. So of course I bought it.

It was hard to choose from all the options.

But we fell in love with this one with the license plate roof.

How can you resist a tiny salvaged wood house with a tiny crooked staircase?