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This is exactly how the sea looked when Big Boy and I walked past it this morning…like a carefully constructed oil painting from one of the great masters of old.

It was too beautiful not to share with you. ♥

When I was young, I used to make these little paper stars until my hands hurt.

They were folded from strips of paper, which came in assorted colours that cost about 50c a packet. When I found them again recently in Japantown, San Francisco, I couldn’t resist buying some to teach my young friend Tully how to fold them.

The technique is quite simple and well explained in this excellent YouTube video…

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The strips are 1cm wide by 25cm long – you could cut them by hand, but they’re so cheap to buy that it hardly seems worth it. If you’re in the US, this bulk set from Amazon is good value, otherwise they’re easy to order from Ebay…

Warning: it can quickly become an addictive pastime!

It’s easy to recycle treasured papers as well – these wrappers from the Dandelion Chocolate bars (mentioned in the previous post) were far too pretty to waste, so we steamed off the labels and guillotined them into strips. We still have three bars to eat, but when they’re finished, I should have enough stars to fill a small glass bottle. It will be a perfect holiday souvenir!

Here are a few of the things I fell in ♥ with on our San Francisco holiday!

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Dandelion Chocolate

As you all know, I’m pretty fussy about chocolate, preferring to temper my own whenever possible. We wandered into Dandelion Chocolate on Valencia Street purely by chance, having strolled down from the extraordinary Paxton Gate (more on that in a future post).

I was completely blown away by their chocolate! The bars are made from scratch using cacao beans grown on a single estate, then carefully tempered to a rich, dark 70%. The flavour profile of each variety is distinct and elegant. Without doubt some of the best chocolate I’ve ever tried and so beautifully packaged that I purchased three bars on the spot, and then went back to pick up five more to bring home. So far, the Hacienda Azul from Costa Rica has been my favourite…

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Zenni Optical

To be fair, I’ve been crushing on these guys for quite a while now.

I had new Zenni glasses delivered to where we were staying in SF and they were absolutely perfect for our holiday adventures. The frame is stainless steel and the lenses are transition and progressive – that’s photochromatic and multi-focal, in old person speak. They cost just US$94 plus US$5 delivery (although shipping to Sydney would only have been US$5 more). They’re very comfortable, they’re ludicrously affordable, and they remind me of my dad. I’m completely smitten with them…

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Blackcurrant Aguas Frescas

I discovered two local SF drinks that I adored – the Arnold Palmer (a mix of unsweetened ice tea and American-style lemonade) and aguas frescas (Mexican fruit drinks). Dan and I ate three times at Cholita Linda in Temescal, just so that we could indulge in their blackberry aguas frescas…

Admittedly, their fish plate was pretty awesome as well…

When we came home to Sydney, I discovered that a reasonable copy of the the Cholita Linda drink could be made by mixing together equal parts of pure lime juice with Ribena cordial and topping it with ice cold water. Dilute to taste – it’s the proportion of lime to blackcurrant cordial that’s important…

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Vintage Thrift 

I thought we had decent secondhand shops here in Sydney, but the vintage and thrift stores in San Francisco are out of this world. We had huge fun visiting as many as we could find, including the beautiful Rocket Reuse in Alameda…

…and some amazing shops in Haight-Ashbury, where we found (but didn’t buy) World War II fighter pilot hats…

…and heavyweight bike jackets…

Our very favourite store was the completely insane Mission Thrift, which sold everything from Bavarian loden jackets to wedding gowns to vintage military uniforms…

Pete and Dan had to stop me…used cowboy boots at $20 a pair were almost too hard to resist…

I bought a dozen (ok, more) square scarves to use as furoshiki and then gave the girls at the counter a lesson on tying them

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Suiseki

Treasure Island is an  artificial island and former military base in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can only enter and exit from the Bay Bridge, which runs over the land mass. Once a month, they hold an amazing flea market, which offers a huge selection of vintage memorabilia, hippie clothing, secondhand goods, and artisan arts and crafts.

I had a conversation about Suiseki, the Japanese art of viewing stones, with Daiza artist Jerry Braswell.  The stones are carefully selected to suggest mountains, lakes, animals or other scenes from nature, and then a daiza (stand) is carefully carved to support and complement it. Jerry’s pieces were stunning, and I particularly loved the one on the top left, but we didn’t have enough baggage allowance to bring it back to Sydney…

After a lovely chat, we were walking off to explore other parts of the market when Jerry came after us. He gave me a small stone with stand, and said “I’m sure you can find room in your luggage for this”. I was very touched by his kindness, and promised that I’d find a spot for his gift on my rock shelf (and I have)…

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Kate Spade Wallet

I’m madly in love with my Kate Spade wallet! It’s full hide leather and I picked it up for 65% off at Nordstrom Rack. My old purse was falling apart at the seams (literally) and all my cards had started dropping out of it. The Kate Spade has a zip the whole way around…

…and when it’s open, everything stays inside. I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to buy a new one…

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Piccolo Keep Cup

Finally…my Australian-made 4oz Keep Cup has traveled all over San Francisco with me. It’s been a little trooper – it never leaked, it was small enough to fit into my handbag, and baristas all over the city went mad for it. If you’re an espresso, macchiato, piccolo or gibraltar drinker, then I can’t recommend this highly enough. Order directly from the company website and you can choose your own colour scheme!

On our last weekend in California, Pete and I found ourselves at Big Bounce America, the world’s largest bounce house (aka jumping castle). We were, without doubt, the oldest people in there…

After an hour of vigorous exercise (for some, Pete and I mostly sat and watched the kids break out their dance moves), we grabbed a quick bite of lunch at Bibi’s Burgers in Santa Rosa. I had the chili, which was served with Saltine crackers…

Then we headed off to visit the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center.

For this lifelong fan, happiness was…spending an afternoon exploring all things Peanuts…

We began at the Redwood Empire Ice Arena

Built and owned by Schulz and his then wife Joyce in 1969, it’s a scene straight out of the Snoopy and Peppermint Patty strips…

Charlie Brown stands outside the entrance…

A newly created “Abbey Road” features provides a fun photo opportunity…

The museum is a short walk from the ice rink…

The space is a loving, elegant, and beautifully curated tribute to the life and work of Charles “Sparky” Schulz (1922 – 2000)…

There are scores of original strips on rotating display…

This huge seven metre high mural was created by Japanese artist Yoshiteru Otani. It’s impossible to see from the photo below, but the 3,588 ceramic tile creation of Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown contains ten years’ worth of carefully selected comic strips…

Here’s a close-up…

Sparky’s work area from his studio at One Snoopy Place, Santa Rosa has been lovingly recreated on the second floor. It includes his original desk and drawing board…

Aside from cartooning, ice hockey was his other great passion…

A fan of the art of Christo and Jean-Claude, Schulz paid tribute to them in one of his strips in the late 1970s…

Twenty-five years later, Christo created and gifted his Wrapped Snoopy House to the museum…

One of our favourite items was this bedroom wall painted by Schulz for his daughter Meredith in 1951. After their house in Colorado Springs was sold the following year, the wall was painted over at least four times until it was purchased by Polly and Stanley Travnicek. Over the course of three months, Polly carefully stripped back the top layers of paint, revealing the original artwork underneath. In 2001, the Travniceks donated the entire wall to the museum…

On our way back to the car, we stopped at the Warm Puppy Cafe for a cold drink…

Situated inside the Ice Arena, Sparky Schulz’s table is permanently reserved. He ate there most days…

I toyed with the idea of bringing these lemonade cups home, but decided it wasn’t wise to pack sticky paper in our luggage…

A final photo before heading back to San Francisco – I couldn’t resist the opportunity to be Lucy! ♥

Pete and I have been in San Francisco for most of September.

We’ve had the best time, staying with our beloved friends Danielle, Patrick, their wonderful children, and Obi Dog Kenobi.

A week before we left Sydney, Dan phoned us at home.

She knew we were keen to visit Yosemite National Park and had been scouting out accommodation for us. We had the option of checking into a motel outside and driving in, or renting a “tent cabin” in Half Dome Valley. Staying right in the middle of the national park was very appealing, but the downside was that we’d have to share the public amenities – there were no bathrooms in the tents.

“Oh well, so long as the toilets are clean and there aren’t any bed bugs, I guess I can manage”, I told her reluctantly.

My friend snorted with laughter.

“Bed bugs! You should be worried about the BEARS, not bed bugs!”

Err…right. Ten minutes and several expletives later, I rang her back.

“Dan, I’m 52. If I need to get up and pee in the middle of the night, a bear will EAT me. I can do public toilets OR bears, but not both together. We need another option…”

Bless her, after she stopped laughing, our darling friend managed to get us a proper cabin with a bathroom, but it meant making the four hour drive from San Francisco to the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges the day after we arrived. Thankfully, Yosemite was so mindblowingly awesome that we didn’t even notice the jetlag.

As we entered the park, we passed El Capitan, a giant 900m tall granite monolith. The striking sheer cliff faces of Yosemite, carved by glacial action over a million years ago, were completely different to anything Pete and I had seen before…

Our cabin was in Half Dome Valley, with trees and mountains all around…

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The following morning, we woke early to watch the sun rise over the mountains. The moon shone brightly in the sky, which was hazy from wildfires in other parts of the park…

The smoky haze wasn’t too bad in the morning, but it muted the blue of the sky and resulted in some hauntingly beautiful photos…

As the sun rose, Half Dome cast a shadow on the smoke particles, resulting in a clear line of light in the sky…

The meadows in the valley are a wealth of diverse plant life, bordered by ancient tree forests. Boardwalks are in place to protect them from tourist traffic. As we walked through, we could see small wallows of flattened grass where deer had bedded down for the night…

We explored the Merced River…

…and hiked the short distance to Lower Yosemite Falls…

Ansel Adams, the American photographer and environmentalist whose advocacy and black and white photos of Yosemite helped to expand the National Park service, has a gallery in Yosemite Village…

As we drove out of the park, we stopped at Tunnel View for one parting glimpse…

Sometimes, life gives us opportunities to do things that we never dreamed possible. Visiting Yosemite National Park was definitely one of those moments! ♥

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