Posts Tagged With: San Francisco


The UPS guy came to my door yesterday and said, “That is the neatest doorbell I’ve ever seen!” I was slightly dumbfounded that anyone would even notice my doorbell.

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What I like about it is that if you actually ring it, which most people don’t, it really clangs loudly and I can hear it from anywhere in the house. I explained to him that it is a replica of a San Francisco cable car bell that signaled “all aboard” and impending stops. We bought it years ago in honor of my husband’s father who worked the cable cars as a gripman when he was a young man. Of course, we heard all about it from the source, how when the street car is free wheeling down one of those steep hills, the gripman had to use his great strength to keep the giant clamp on the cable to make sure it didn’t careen out of control, and release the cable when it approached it’s stop, along with the applying the brake to keep it from jolting people off the car.  The cable moves continuously under the street and the car is attached and unattached as it makes it’s route.

DSC06715 (Copy)The guy was amazed at the mechanics of the cable cars and how it worked. I immediately went outside and cleaned it up a bit. It has a big stain from a wayward bird “dropping” by, and the door, has a few dings and has seen better days.  His son,  George, rode the street cars free to school, a San Francisco tradition for school children, but Gus would let him ride free on non-school days, something MY parents would never have done. Gus would smile and rub his hair and say “Com’on Chachi”. He loved his only child with unabashed displays of affection, even as an adult.

Strange what memories a simple comment about a doorbell can engender. It left me with warm feelings all day as I thought back on those days.



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We traveled from Clarion, PA to Norwalk, Ohio on the interstate 80 West. DSC08263 (Copy)

A bit of rain and cold.

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Another scary, narrow construction corridor. This one warned no vehicles wider than 12 feet. We are 10 and one-half from mirror to mirror, but our body is 8 and one-half.  I saw a big steel truck hub cap reduced to a crushed piece of steel at the end of the corridor. Some driver didn’t have a good day.

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We put up at a very friendly Elks Club in Norwalk. From a wide menu of choices I ordered  yellow lake perch and  forgot to take a picture of it. It was delicious, anyway. But, more about food from Smithsonian’s  Morena Koren.


Indianapolis lays claim to St. Elmo’s Steakhouse that serves this sassy shrimp cocktail. The large boiled shrimp are served with a fiery sauce made of Missouri-grown, horseradish guaranteed to clear your sinuses. St. Elmo’s is a hundred years old and has a tradition of serving their specialty navy bean soup or a glass of tomato juice with each entree. A bit different but with 100 years of popular business, who can argue with that? Sounds good to me. (photo by Lisa Sperlman)

New Orleans Café Du Monde’s famous coffee and beignets  (pronounced ben yays) date back to the Civil War, when the original coffee stand opened in 1862. Du Mondes serves a trademark java black or au lait with a New Orleans twist. It’s blended with chicory, the root of the endive plant, which softens the dark roasted coffee’s bitter edge. Anybody who has traveled to New Orleans stops to try these powdery confections right on the major square in town.  I wouldn’t travel particularly to eat a beignet. For me, once was enough. Then, I’m not a doughnut lover. Du Mondes certainly qualifies as an iconic choice of the locals and the tourists alike. They flock there in droves.

Du Mondes is not the only doughnut that made Koren’s list. The Voo Doo Doughnut shop in Portland appeals to people because it is quirky and creative.  Koren states that when it first opened in 2003, it sold doughnuts glazed with NyQuil and coated with Pepto-Bismol, until the health department stopped the process. But, customers love Voodoo. It serves a voodoo doll shaped doughnut oozing with jelly, another strange offering is a doughnut coated with frosting and Cap’n Crunch. Or you can try dirty snowballs topped with coconut, marshmallow and a glob of peanut butter.  Then there is the Tex-Ass Challenge.  Customers can gobble down a giant doughnut six times bigger than usual within 80 seconds and win their $3.95 back. You just can’t repress a doughnut lover and if that describes you, it’s worth a trip.

Since we are talking West Coast, you might want to wander into the Boudin Bakery in San Francisco. You can buy the traditional San Francisco sour dough the city is famous for in your burger, or grilled cheese or a carved out bread bowl filed with another famous San Francisco treat, clam chowder.  Legend has it that the “mother dough”, a yeasty culture used in each batch of bread, was rescued in a bucket during the 1906 earthquake and is part of the original mother dough developed during the gold rush by a French Immigrant. Its bakers also churn out hearth-baked kalamata olive, walnut and ciabatta breads, as well as loaves shaped into crabs, turtles and turkeys. I love the city and will put this one on my bucket list.

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At Corky’s BBQ of Memphis, has been rated the city’s top barbecue joint 22 times since 1984.  Corky’s meats are slow cooked over hickory wood and charcoal. Every pork shoulder is hand pulled, and chefs meticulously trim each slab of ribs.  Waiters clad in bowties and white shirts serve the ribs two ways: The dry version is basted with a special sauce and sprinkled with a spice and salt rub, while wet ribs are doused with Corky’s Original Bar-B-Q sauce. Both come with a healthy mound of baked beans, coleslaw and fresh-baked rolls.(Photo by Tom Borton.)

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Joe’s Stone Crab of Miami was a star location in Ian Flemming’s book, Goldfinger.  Joe’s  has been serving its signature dish of stone crab legs, a Floridian delicacy, since its real estate boasted only a few picnic tables in 1913 (today, the restaurant seats 475). The legs are served chilled with mustard sauce and come in four sizes, from medium to jumbo. But the restaurant’s best-kept secret isn’t surf or turf—it is surprisingly cheap which loyal customers know and tourists find out if they ask. The locals like Joe’s key lime pie after their dinner.  I’d jump on that meal in a minute. Yum. again, my mouth is watering and I just had breakfast. (Photo Getty Group.)


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Please Help Us With A Decision…

After much deliberation Mary and I have been considering a change of the photo of our Blog header.

The new photo in now in the Blog header.

In case you have forgotten…here’s the old photo…

For your information the new photo was taken in October, 2011 at the Avenue of the Giants in the California Humboldt Redwood Forest. The old photo was taken in October, 2009 in the parking lot of Camping World in Rocklin, California. Since that time we’ve put 18,000 miles on the motorhome and it’s still running just fine.


Here’s the poll…

Thanks for sharing your opinion with us.

Jim and Mary

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I celebrate every gift I get. This one is a biggie. I believe  Berkeley, CA was the first city to ban plastic bags in grocery stores. San Francisco followed.  Coastal North Carolina did the same. Now, Seattle follows Bellingham, WA  but their ban does more.

The Seattle City Council passed a broad ban on plastic bags Monday, outlawing them not just in grocery stores, but in department stores, clothing stores, convenience stores, home-improvement stores, food trucks and farmers markets.

The bill goes further than bans in other cities, which have largely banished plastic only groceries and sometimes drug stores. Customers in Seattle will still be able to get paper bags from retailers, but for a 5-cent fee.

Monday’s bill exempts customers on food assistance and other government benefits from the bag fee. The city will also make free or reduced-cost reusable bags available to poor people.

The ordinance applies only to single-use, checkout bags, and not to produce, bulk-ban and dry-cleaning bags. Plastic bags for take-out restaurant food are also still allowed, because they help protect health and safety while transporting hot food and liquid.

Read more:

I shop with my own bags and my little grocery store, Sierra Hills Market,  will reward you with a $25 gift certificate, for using your own shopping bag. People who use their own bags are allowed to mark their name and phone number on a small paper by the checkstand and put it in the draw box. I’ve won the certificate, once. I regularly see about four others using their own bags.

A chain grocer in nearby Angels Camp tried the “recycle” your plastic bags idea. The container was always stuffed full of plastic bags and was emptied regularly in the dumpster. The bags are cheaply made, tear easily, don’t hold much and the only person I ever saw taking recycled bags on their way into the grocery store was-ME.  It just doesn’t change habits.

“A study a few years ago “found that the inks and colorants used on some bags contain lead, a toxin. Every year, Americans throw away some 100 billion plastic bags after they’ve been used to transport a prescription home from the drugstore or a quart of milk from the grocery store. It’s equivalent to dumping nearly 12 million barrels of oil.”

So, I celebrate it as a gift to our common environment. I’ve seen pictures of animals entrapped and dying from plastic bags drifting into their environment. And, just a reminder, there is a huge glob of plastic bags the size of the state of Texas in the ocean vortex where water circulates and keeps  miles of  plastic  afloat.  Other countries have banned bags in some cities.  Mexico City, twelve towns in Australia, Rangoon, Burma, Five major cities in India, London, Rawanda, the whole country is bag free.

It seems to me this is an opportunity for college students across the country to collectively  push for plastic bag bans in their communities. Hey, they know how to solve the deficit.  Over and again, they have proved to be smarter, and more effective than our do nothing government.

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Yearly, I enjoy visiting San Francisco to see for myself what has changed and what is new. After a long absence, I’ve begun a seasonal visit at Christmastime at the behest of my youngest daughter.

Late in the day on Saturday, we hauled the ornaments out of the garage. As it warmed on Sunday morning, the boys trimmed the street-side trees in the yard. Owen is unsure about how to proceed, tinsel first?

He decided to tackle the tinsel.

It’s a tricky job for little guys.

We arrived in San Francisco hungry, quickly taken care of by a bounteous meal at a Moroccan restaurant, Tajine on Polk St. The appetizers, a pickled beet, egg and cucumber salad, with Arab bread to dunk in olive oil and a chicken pastry, beautifully served and both delicious. The boys both ordered chicken kabobs with french fries.

Virginia chose sausages with couscous, and my lamb and prune tajine (stew)-excellent. We educated the boys about Morocco, the rock of Gibraltar and the Arabic style of eating at a table with cushions, and without silverware.

Our waiter commented on the boys good manners and pleased all of us.

We had plenty of time to do some sight-seeing around town before and after  the Dickens Christmas Carol staged at the Opera House.  We watched the ice skaters under the  ferry building clock that stopped at the moment the 1906 earthquake struck, one of the few survivors.

The gold enhanced cupola of the San Francisco City Hall.

Winking mask sculpture with worn paint from the tiny feet and hands of curious children.

The boys enjoyed the many musicians and the break dancers performing impossible double jointed moves.

The cable cars were all decked out for Christmas…

…as was the rest of the city. We enjoyed the tree on Union Square. The boys ate roasted chestnuts and decided they are “just okay.” But, hey. It’s a tradition of Christmas because of a song.

One  building has a three story-plus Christmas tree in the window. I believe it is a Nordstroms, now, but to me it will always be the City Of Paris building. I hadn’t seen it in many years and it was a highlight for me to visit once more, despite the changes. At one time one could walk around and around the building and view the tree on every side. Now you take an elevator or escalator to each floor.

I caught our reflection in one of the gigantic balls.

Theo wanted to buy this hat.

I remember a time when you could walk from window to window on Macy’s block and see a continuous animated display in each window. This was it!  One animated window. Businesses, and the city as well, started being practical about Christmas decorations years ago,  but the memory of the splendors past will stay with me.  It was a delight to go and be reminded.

Somehow, we never tire of  great Dickens classic that feeds us our dole of repentance and faith that we too, if need be, can turn our lives around.

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Attending the beautifully, refurbished Geary Street Theater in San Francisco was a treat for the senses. The profound Dickens Christmas Carol, with old, familiar and endearing messages of greed and poverty; redemption and joy, of which we never tire. And, the theater itself, (no pictures,) but I can attest to its gold burnished decor, comfortable seating and rich, traditional interior that makes going to a “play”, a grand experience. The huge cast performed on a stage with suggested scenery that still conveyed the setting even to our ten and eight year olds. They were spellbound, as I was.
My daughter, quite smartly read  Dickens story to Owen and Theo a couple of weeks before the event.

We had good Indonesian food at Boroduro. The boys favorite was chicken sate and the shrimp krupuk.

And, from our seven course lunch, Virginia and I favored the lumpia and the chicken soup. The soup was redolent of lemon grass, the sprouts were crunchy, boiled egg and greens added protein and flavor. Oops, can’t forget the black sticky rice and coconut milk desert. Such flavorful choices.

Then comes the other joy of a day trip to one of the world’s greatest cities, walkin’ and gawkin’.

Street scenes where you are likely to meet unlikely looking Santas at this time of year.

And, crowds of happy shoppers;

Or a piece of street sculpture just waiting for you to happen upon it, half hidden in a shop indent.

Decorations on the buildings that signal a festive time of year, no matter what your belief’s about Christmas are. A day isn’t enough and each time we visit we pledge to come more often.

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