Friday, January 27, 2012

Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco

Consider a visit to the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.  Aside from being an amazing tourist attraction, it is also a great place to go for ideas on landscaping your yard.

Of course, the place is fantastic from a cultural perspective, too.  The gardens host a Japanese tea ceremony every Wednesday (by appointment).

And, the Japanese garden in Saratoga -- Hakone Gardens -- is another place worth spending some time to get inspired.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Christmas Debriefing, Part 7

Now to answer the question I posed at the beginning of my Christmas Debriefing.

Which is better:  Fake or Live Trees?

Man, is this a mixed bag.  You can create a whole pro/con list.  Ultimately, I come down on the *Live* side.  But I can easily see making a different decision.

Live Pros:
*  Beautiful tree.
*  Amazing pine scent.
*  Compostable and/or able to turn into mulch.
*  May cause allergies.

Live Cons:
*  What a mess!
*  Must strap tree to roof to get it home.
*  Cannot keep the tree too long or else it sheds needles.
*  Even if you don't keep tree too long it sheds needles when you take it out.
*  Also will start smelling pine-stinky instead of pine-fresh if you keep it too long.

Fake Pros:
*  Buy it once; store it for years in a box; reuse.
*  Typically less expensive than Live, if you reuse the tree more than one year.
*  Don't have to spend time shopping for a tree every year.
*  Don't have to spend time stringing lights on the tree every year (assuming you get a fake tree with lights).

Fake Cons:
*  Gets dusty.
*  Once you decide to get rid of it, I doubt you can really recycle it.  The fake tree is likely to end up at the dump, and so is not really a green alternative.
*  Requires storage space.
*  Lacks fresh pine scent (hanging pine scented air fresheners doesn't quite measure up).

If you go "Live," buy the tree from an organization that is worth supporting.  Also, make sure that the source of the trees uses sustainable farming.

And there you have it.  My full Christmas tree debriefing for 2011.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Christmas Debriefing, Part 6

Christmas is now long over.  We took down the ornaments on January 9.  We took the tree outside on the night of January 10.  And Waste Management took the tree off to be wood-chipped or composted before dawn on January 11.


The tree was beautiful up until the end.  Unfortunately, the amazing pine smell had given way to sort of a musty, damp odor.  And the pine needles had begun to fall all around the tree.

Getting the tree out of our old bungalow dislodged thousands more pine needles.  They now cover the floor of our front room (hopefully by the time you read this I will have been inspired to break out the vacuum and deal with the mess). 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Christmas Debriefing, Part 5

Decorating the tree was fun.  We used white lights -- classic.  Works well in our old bungalow.

I didn't grow up with Christmas, and so I've only learned the process of hanging ornaments in the past ten years or so since getting married.

The whole process takes on a new dynamic with a toddler.  Our son loves the ornaments.  And he loves the tree, lights, etc.

His big question, however, is why you have to hang all of these great toy-like things on the tree AND THEN NOT PLAY WITH THEM!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Christmas Debriefing, Part 4

So, it was back to Delancey Street, which we were really happy to support.

We picked out a tree that was about 6 feet 5 inches tall.  It cost around $50.  We spent another $25 buying a reuseable base to hold the tree.  The Delancey staff were helpful (and knew a lot about Christmas trees).  They strapped it to the roof of the car.  And we were off.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Christmas Debriefing, Part 3

We decided not to buy the tree after just searching at one location.  Instead, we drove about 20 minutes to a large tree lot down in Emeryville.  Emeryville is a great little city just west of Oakland and south of Berkeley.  It is home to a fairly large number of box stores.  And Pixar's headquarters is there.

The Emeryville lot had two attractions that we thought would appeal to our 3-year-old:  a petting zoo and a large jumpy-slide, easily visible from the road.

The jumpy-slide was, for some unknown reason (since it hadn't rained in several days) really wet.  It was tough to climb up -- both for my son and for me.  And it was somewhat disgusting to slide down.

Here's a few pictures:

The petting zoo was a big hit.  They charged a few bucks just to let our son pet and feed the animals.  Our son dropped his handful of food rather quickly when he was approached by four persistent goats.

Here's the chicken:

And here's the goats.  Note - bowl of food still in hands here, but it didn't stay there for long...

The other notable thing about this location was that they had spray-painted several trees with odd colors.  We didn't find that particularly appealing.  But someone must like it.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Our posts about BBQs -- including our research on Weber grills -- are some of the most popular on our blog (so far).  Here are quick links for you.

BBQ Introduction

Researching the Mid-Size Grills

The Biggest of the Mid-Size Grills

Our Favorite -- the Weber Genesis EP-330

With the amazing weather we are having this winter, grilling is a good option!  This season may also be a good time to save on buying a grill.

I wish Weber was paying us to blog about grills.  But they're not.  Just doing this for fun.  Enjoy!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Christmas Debriefing, Part 2

The first step in "Going Live" was to go out and find a tree.  This process began by driving past multiple Christmas tree lots.

We ended up spending time searching for the tree at two lots.  One is a lot set up by The Delancey Street Foundation in Oakland (at the corner of Broadway and 51st Street).  The Delancey Street Foundation is an amazing organization, helping former inmates get their lives together.  They have a restaurant in San Francisco along Embarcadero, which serves good food.  All the employees are Delancey Street residents.  The same goes for the great folks helping out at the Delancey Street Christmas Tree lots scattered around the Bay Area (and all across the country; for a complete list, click here).

You can come up with all sorts of tree criteria, I suppose -- height is particularly important.  But number of branches, number of pine needles that fall off when you give it a shake, diameter of the base, and color are probably all factors.

Our 3-year-old son was beyond excited about searching for the right tree.  He liked most of them; not clear that he was applying any strict criteria for selection though.  

Thursday, January 12, 2012


We now have a Facebook page up and running!  You can "like" us using the Facebook bar on our blog -- it is on the right side near the top of our blog.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Christmas Debriefing, Part 1

At the start of this holiday season, we set out to answer the age-old question:  Which is Better -- Real or Fake?  Christmas trees, that is.

In mid-November, we decided to recycle our old fake tree.  It was around 5 feet tall.  The tree held up well over the years -- we owned it for at least 12-13 years (and put it up for at least 5-8 of those years).  The plastic "needles" were starting to fall off.  And the tree had gotten a bit dusty over the years, despite the fact that we kept it stored in a box.

In 2011, we were going to Go Live.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

All the best from for a happy and healthy New Year!