Saturday, January 25, 2014

Recommended Realtor in Pleasant Hill, CA who lives in Poet's Corner, a very desirable, cute neighborhood!

A friend recently bought a home in the Poet's Corner area of Pleasant Hill, CA.  The houses there are cute and have character.  Dan Weil actually lives in the Poet's corner area so knows the area well!  My friend had Dan as her realtor and recommends him!


Dan Weil, Realtor
Village Associates
(925) 253-2142

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Recipe for Cherry-Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

I recommend using Michigan dried cherries for these cookies.


1 cup of butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. of vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. of ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. of baking powder
1/2 tsp of baking soda
1/2 tsp. of salt
2 cups of old fashioned oats
1 cup of dried tart cherries
1 cup of dark chocolate chips


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  In another bowl, whisk flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; gradually beat into creamed mixture.  Stir in the oats, cherries, and chocolate chips.

2.  Drop by tablespoons 2 in. apart onto ungreased baking sheets.  Bake 9-11 minutes or until edges are golden brown.  Cool on pans 1 minute.  Remove to wire racks to cool.

For another version of Oatmeal, chocolate, sour cherry cookies, I recommend Sweet Bar Bakery, in Oakland, CA.  The owner used to be Michael Jackson's personal chef.  They also use Michigan dried sour cherries.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Ecology Center, Berkeley, CA

This place has some really interesting and amazing classes, plus they have items to buy.  It is very inspiring to take a class there and learn how to be more environmentally aware and sensitive, plus learn how to make changes.


Ecology Center
2530 San Pablo Ave.
Berkeley, CA  94702
(510) 548- 2220

My son's favorite DVD's - Planet Earth by BBC EARTH

My son got the planet earth series for a holiday present from a dear friend in 2012.  He still loves it!

This is a great DVD to watch with the whole family with popcorn, a cozy blanket, and a warm drink!


Planet Earth - The Complete Series

Monday, January 20, 2014

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial at Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco, CA

Located right in the middle of Yerba Buena Gardens is a beautiful Martin Luther King Memorial.  This memorial celebrates Dr. King's life and his life's mission.  Make sure to walk behind the waterfall and read the quotes engraved on the wall, it moved me to tears.

Since today is Martin Luther King Jr.'s Day, I also listened to Dr. King's speech, "I Have A Dream."  The speech was delivered August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.  It can be heard at


Martin Luther King Fr. Memorial
745 Mission
San Francisco, CA

"I Have A Dream" speech
delivered August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.
http: //

History of the Ukelele

The ukelele was born in Hawaii in 1879, but the history of small guitars goes back to 15th century Europe when a guitar craze became popular during the Renaissance.  The small guitar appeared in the Victorian era too.  The small guitar appealed to Edward Lear, the writer of the poem, 'The Owl and the Pussycat.'

"The owl looked up to the stars above and sang to a small guitar..."

I visited Pendragon books in the Rockridge District of Oakland today.  I love perusing this bookstore, as there is always something that makes me feel like learning something new or in this case, relearning something.

I started playing the ukelele a bit, years ago, when I took a class on ukelele.  I love the way it is small so is easy to carry to the beach or on a trip.  (I brought a guitar once on a plane and it broke!)  There are ukelele clubs in many cities, including Berkeley, CA,  and when you pick this instrument up, it is nearly impossible to have a sour mood.  After looking at this book today, I now have the desire in this new year to pick up my dusty ukelele and start playing songs with my son!

I picked up The Ukelele Handbook by Gavin Pretor-Pinney and Tom Hodgkinson at Pegasus, and instantly started reading it when I get home.  I was particularly interested in the history portion.  This is what I pieced together about the history of the ukelele.

The actual ukelele was born in Hawaii on August 23, 1879 when the Ravenscrag, a ship holding 419 immigrants from the Portuguese island of  Madeira, docked in the Honolulu harbour.  The Madeirans, as they unboarded the boat, took with them little four-string guitars, or machetes.    The Madeirans had a traditional custom of wandering around singing and playing their small guitars.  Soon, three of the Madeirans, Manuel Nunes, Augusto Dias, and Jose do Espirito Santo, who were furniture makers by trade, started making ukeleles.  Then, the ukelele popularity took off in Hawaii!


The Ukelele Handbook
How to!
By Gavin Pretor-Pinney and Tom Hodgkinsson
ISBN 978-1-62040-220-7

The Ukelele Handbook was purchased at Pegasus Books, and independent and local bookstore in Rockridge, CA.
5560 College Avenue

The Owl and the Pussycat
by Edward Lear and Jan Brett
G.P. Putnam's Son's  New York
ISBN  0-399-23193-5

Sunday, January 19, 2014

I love Trader Joe's bags! They are strong, colorful, and even eco-friendly!

I love the Trader Joe's bags, they are really strong too!  I keep a few in my car so that when I do my shopping I can grab one on the way in, and not have to use plastic or paper bags at the store.  Since we live in the San Francisco Bay area of California, our trader joes bags currently have a California scene on them.  One can even by different state bags on ebay!   Each time I carry in my own bag to a store, I feel great since I am doing one small thing to be eco-conscious.  I can't stand  using plastic bags, they are bad for the environment!   It haunts me to think of the plastic bag I got from buying one small thing ending up in the ocean.  Paper bags aren't that strong, so many times at least one handle falls off, so those aren't great either!  The Trader Joe's bags are smart, stylish, have great designs, and help me to one small thing to help the environment!


Trader Joe's Bags
These can be purchased from Trader Joe's around the country

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Book Recommendation: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

At breakfast one day, Harold Fry opens a letter from a former college who tells him she's dying of cancer in a hospice 600 miles from the small English town where he lives with his wife, Maureen.  Harold writes her a postcard and goes out to mail it, but then-after a cashier tells him that faith, not medicine, keeps a person alive- spontaneously decides to walk to the hospice.  "As long as I walk, she must live," Harold explains as he sets off on his journey, with no phone, map or decent shoes.  Marveling at the English countryside and the random acts of kindness he experiences along the way, Harold contemplates the meaning of his life.  Meanwhile, Maureen does some soul-searching of her own.  Separately, yet together, the pair move on parallel paths toward a stunning climax that will break your heart and heal it at the same time.


The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

by Rachel Joyce

Recommended Recipe-Easy Pasta with Feta, Black Olives, and Tomatoes


1 pound dried pasta (penne, spaghetti, or linguine, I prefer gluten free)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 cup of  kalamata black olives, chopped
1 cup chopped organic tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled ( I prefer sheep's or goat milk feta)
1 tsp of ground black pepper


1.  Cook pasta in boiling salted water until done; drain and return to pot.

2.  Toss the pasta with the olive oil, olives, tomatoes, feta cheese, and black pepper

Serves 4

Monday, January 13, 2014

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Recipe for Loaded Potato Pancakes with cheddar cheese, sour cream, and chives

A few days ago I blogged about the frozen potato pancakes I found at Trader Joe's.  I found another recipe last night, called Loaded Potato Pancakes, on the Trader Joe's recipe website.  I didn't even know before last night that there were recipes available.  I've seen their cookbooks they sell at the store, but I've never had one.  This recipe for Loaded Potato Pancakes sounds savory and delicious!

Recipe for Loaded Potato Pancakes, modified from Trader Joe's website.


-1 package of Trader Joe's pancakes
-1 cup of Trader Joe's New Zealand Grass Fed Sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
 (or any cheddar cheese, I usually shred myself so it is even fresher!  Yet, I have to admit that the shredded variety is really convenient.)
-8 teaspoons of Trader Joe's sour cream
-Chives, diced


1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2.  place potato pancakes on a non-stick baking sheet and cook for 8 minutes.
3.  Flip pancakes and cook for 7 minutes.
4.  Add cheddar cheese and cook for an additional few minutes, watch carefully
5.  Top with sour cream and chives and serve quickly.

Serves eight


Loaded Potato Pancakes
Package of  frozen Trader Joe's Potato Pancakes
Recipe for Loaded pancakes,

We are going to be renting a cabin in the mountains with friends this winter, as this will be a perfect choice of what to put on the menu!  Yum!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Easy Indian at home - TIKKA MASALA SEASONING

Tonight I am making Tikka Masala using easyIndian Tikka Masala Seasoning.  I am really excited to see how it turns out and to see if my family likes it!  It is so expensive when we take-out indian food, that I thought I'd try this spice mix.

Update:  I made the Tikka Masala last night and it was yummy!  The recipe stated that optional ingredients were either 1/4 cup of whipping cream, yogurt, or water.  I ended up using more than 1/4 cup of yogurt, and instead used the whole, small container of Clover organic yogurt to make it a little less spicy for my 5 year old son.  He enjoyed the chicken, but he didn't like the sauce as much as our take out Indian place.  Next time, I am going to try the whipping cream, or I may try coconut milk since it is sweet.  My husband and I both loved this recipe, though.  As with any recipe, I will continue playing with it until it is perfect for my family.


easyIndian Tikka Masala Seasoning
Small -batch, recent harvest spice blend
seasoning+protein+tomatoes+oil= Tikka Masala Dish in 20 minutes
no preservatives
no salt added
serves 4
Manufactured by: Easy Indian, LLC
San Francisco, CA

Recommended Fruit Fly trap - Tanglefoot

With all the holidays, we got some fruit flies.  The Tanglefoot fruit fly trap works great and you can put it by the sink, or wherever you are getting fruit flies.


Tanglefoot Fruit Fly Trap

Potato Pancakes from Trader Joe's- yummy with apple sauce and sour cream

I was introduced to the Trader Joe's Potato Pancakes from a colleague at work last year.  Of course, homemade is always tastier, but I like these as I can either bake them in the oven or fry them.  Also, the only oil they contain is canola oil.  They only need to be baked for 10 minutes on each side at 400 degrees, and then they are ready.  I served them with sour cream and apple sauce, and a tossed salad.  My son really enjoyed dipping the pancakes in the sour cream and apple sauce.  He asked for seconds of the apple sauce!  Here is him wearing his new orange space suit he had gotten a few days before at the Academy of Sciences, he says that "Potato pancakes are good food for space since you don't need a fork."


Trader Joe's Potato Pancakes
Traditional Latkes
Trader Joe's
Monrovia, CA  91016

Friday, January 3, 2014

Favorite recipe - Mexican Mole Seasoning

When the weather is chilly, I love this seasoning!


-3 tbsp chile powder
-2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
-1 tbsp paprika
-1 1/2 tsp organic evaporated cane juice
-1 tsp ground cinnamon
-1 tsp dried oregano


In a small bowl, stir together all ingredients.  Store spice blend in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

This mole seasoning can be mixed with beef or pork to make burgers.  Also, to make pulled chicken or turkey, rub over entire chicken or turkey breast and braise in reduced sodium stock until tender, then shred and combine with reduced and skimmed cooking liquid.

Best Restaurant Brussel Sprouts- The Sideboard, Danville, CA- crispy, salty, and delicious!

My favorite Brussel Sprouts at a restaurant are at The Sideboard Restaurant in Danville, CA.  They are super crispy, salty, and yummy with the dipping sauce.  Whenever I go to the Sideboard, I always order this dish.


Sideboard Restaurant
The Danville Hotel
411 Hartz Avenue
Suite L
Danville, CA  94526
(925) 984-2713

Update:  Sideboard is not at the Danville Hotel anymore, it has moved.  I will blog as soon as I find the new location and visit there with my son.  It was our favorite restaurant in Danville so we were really sad when we visited there on January 8, 2014 and it was empty.

Recipe- Roasted Brussel Sprouts with smoked paprika and leeks

Recipe:  Roasted Brussel Sprouts with smoked paprika and leeks

-2 lb Brussel sprouts, trimmed and blemished outer leaves discarded, each cut in half through root.
-3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
-1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
-1/2 tsp ground cumin
-1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
-sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
-3 leeks, white and light green parts only, ends trimmed
-2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
-1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese


1.  Arrange oven racks in top and bottom thirds of oven.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, combine sprouts, 2 tablespoons of oil, paprika, cumin, and cinnamon until coated.  Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a parchment lined baking tray, cut sides of sprouts facing down.

3.  Cut leeks in half lengthwise and rinse inside of leek thoroughly.  Lightly brush cut sides with remaining 1 tablespoon of oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Arrange leeks on a second baking tray and place tray on bottom rack of oven.  Place sprouts on top rack of oven.  Roast for about 15 minutes, until sprouts are golden brown and tender and leeks are softened.  Remove both from oven, chop leeks into one inch wide pieces and toss in a large bowl with brussel sprouts.

4.  Season with lemon juice, additional salt and pepper and toss until coated.  Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with Parmesan.

Nutritional Benefits of Brussel Sprouts:
They contain nutrients that help fight chronic inflammation.  Glucosinolate and vitamin k help regulate the body's anti-inflammatory system.  They also contain omega-3 fatty acids,  which are building blocks for the body's most effective anti-inflammatory molecules.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

What is the difference between grain fed and grass fed beef? Love Marin Sun Farms!

Whenever possible, I work on feeding my family grass fed beef instead of grain fed beef.  Over the holiday, my friend asked if I knew the difference.  Grain-fed beef is the standard type found in the supermarket.  It comes from cows that are generally raised in crowded conditions, fed a diet of animal by-products, and treated with hormones and antibiotics to control illness.  Grass-fed cows, on the other hand, feed on pastures and are allowed to graze relatively freely.  Antibiotics and hormones are not generally used for grass-fed cows because they aren't crowded into confined spaces, and they roam freely and are healthier.  I think that grass-fed beef is a better option if a family can afford it, and is worth the extra money, especially if it hormone and antibiotic free.  It is also lower in calories and fat, and has more nutrients.

Whenever I can, I purchase grass fed beef.  My favorite place to shop right now is Marin Sun Farms.  The location in Point Reyes Station even has a restaurant plus butcher shop.  I usually go to the one in Rockridge.  They have a burger patty that is amazing!  Marin Sun Farms beef is advertised as being 100% grass fed and 100% pasture raised.


Marin Sun Farms
Mailing Address
1040 Bryant Street
San Francisco, CA  94103
(415) 663-8997

Marin Sun Farms
Point Reyes Station
Butcher Shop
10905 Shoreline Highway
Point Reyes Station, CA
(415) 663-1800

Marin Sun Farms Oakland Butcher Shop
Rockridge Market Hall
5655 College Avenue
Oakland, CA  94618
(510) 601-8997