sf sights

Monterey Bay Aquarium

I know, I know, recommending the  Monterey Bay Aquarium is like reminding you of milk – remember when you loved it? Well, it is still awesome! I went last month and was probably even more blown away than when I last went at age 5.

The institution does such a great job of protecting and showcasing their animals. This time I even learnt about the history of Cannery Row in Monterey. Sadly we went right after their Great White was released.

Most impressive sight? A very active octopus that swirled around his habitat in amazing contortions (no picture because I followed the rules and didn’t want to disturb his acrobatics).

Kelp forest

Oh hello

Dancing tube anemones


Adorable cuttlefish

Heaven in the sea



Sea turtle

Plant fish

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Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart

Annoying water hyacinth

You could hardly call me a horticulturalist. Certainly I enjoy nature, but I have killed more basil plants than should be legal.

But this doesn’t stop me from being an enthusiastic, if ignorant, fan. After 8 years in the Bay, I finally made it to the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park (it’s the ornate white building that looks like a cross between a mosque and a meringue).

I went to check out  a specific exhibit: Wicked Plants: Botanical Rogues and Assassins, based on the book of the same name by Amy Stewart.

The conservatory was quite small, and the exhibit was even smaller. Yet each plant had a detailed description, plucked from the book. You’ll find out fascinating facts like:

[The water hyacinth] is so horrible it has earned its own Guinness World Record as the world’s worst aquatic weed.

Reading the book was more on the facts-side than I would have wished, but I still learned fascinating tidbits like:

Quinine is the medication that saved the world from malaria, and its addition to tonic water gave rise ot that class summer drink, the gin and tonic. (This proved to be an easy way for British colonists in India to take a mild does of their medicine).

The whole feel of the show was like your creepy aunt’s Victorian garden: Gothic, romantic, and might just kill you.

Want more?

The exhibit runs until October 30! Check out more pictures below.


Wicked Plants, but oh-so-lovely


Nasty buggers

Peace lilies

Work day at Pie Ranch (Saturday, 4/16)

Mucking in the barn

This Saturday was definitely the first time I got typecast as a mucker.

So my brother and I had taken a trip down the coast to volunteer at Pie Ranch’s work day. (Pie Ranch is this awesome working farm in Pescadero, California that does educational programs and sustainable farming practices. I know them through an association with my local pie shop, Mission Pie).

All that muck


We arrived at the ranch and signed our waivers. As we were walking up the hill, a man poked his head out of a barn and said, “Is one of you AJ?” Seems like they were looking for some helpers to de-muck the barn, and had ID’ed my brother (probably not me, standing 5’2″, no matter how much I’d like to think so) as a good asset. Funnily enough, my brother WWOOFed last summer, and had had a whole month of mucking experience in a farm in Italy. So someone chose wisely!

Using a pitchfork to break up a year’s worth of straw, goat pee, poo, and mud was hard work. I got this mini blister within half an hour, and one day later, I am SORE. But it was immensely gratifying to assist with loading up three tractor-loads full of muck.

After the muck, we walked around the property. It was a gorgeous spring day, and the farm is beautiful. Old buildings from the original farm in the 1800s are still standing, as well as mobile chicken coops, friendly goats, and one very pregnant heifer.

Dulce de Leche, preggers heifer

Later we moved on to weeding strawberry plants. Fact: my meticulous nature is not at all useful while weeding. My brother almost completed a whole row while I was still toiling at the beginning.


We skipped out on the post-work day potluck (because all we had brought that day were Luna bars), but peeked in for the barn dance, where families jigged to a live band.

A really special day.


Want more?

Learn about Pie Ranch, or look for a local farm in your area at Local Harvest.

Confused by a chicken

Night Market @ Public Works (Sat. 3/26/11)

Note: I don’t just watch movies and read books, y’know (although I mostly do that). I’ll be starting to write about stuff I actually do here in the Bay (and elsewhere I hope!).

About forty-five minutes waiting outside of Public Works last Saturday, my roommate turns to me and says, “Not really underground, is it?”

And it’s true, the Night Market, held for the second time by the SF Underground Market together with the awesome event space Public Works, was more popular than the capacity would allow. (Although I have learned that San Franciscans consider waiting in line for something to be a badge of honor).

I was so excited to go – I have been on the SF Underground Market mailing list for a while, and was so stoked to check out all the vendors. We kept being asked if we were members while in line. I knew that the Underground Market was a place for cooks without a commercial kitchen to get together and sell their wares; as I learned in line, membership in the SF Underground group is considered a club and makes it legit (while absolving them of liability!).

As we got to the front, some vendors were selling to the eager people in the queue. (Note for next time, organizers: more food in line! Keeps the crowds happy!).

This was my first time in Public Works, and it is a pretty great space. Both upstairs and downstairs were at capacity though – it was hard to navigate through the lines for chicken and waffles, or to enjoy the gypsy trio onstage. I loved the twinkle lights and the generous, homemade nature of the event – it felt like a crowded church bakesale or something, and definitely a strong community connection rather than a “it’s hip” vibe.

We were late to a going away party but managed to try: mac and cheese, Afghan bolani, some delish ribs (Hubie-Q), and Pad Thai wraps. As I was stuffing my face with ribs outside, we saw some dudes dragging in the pig (dead? stunned?) that was to be part of a butchering presentation that was, alas, sold out.

It was a great event, and I wish I could have stayed longer and maybe had a bit more personal space. But I guess its popularity just shows how much people really crave to share homemade eats with one another, no?

Aerial view

Want more?

Read more about the Forage SF wild foods community.