Guide to Silicon Valley: Hakone Garden

16th September 2014

last weekend, b surprised me with an afternoon date at hakone garden. hakone garden is the oldest japanese garden in the western hemisphere. the original construction of the gardens began in 1917. isabel stine had just returned from a year long voyage in japan and had all the inspiration she needed to make a breathtaking and authentic japanese garden. hakone garden is 18 acres and can be seen within a hour.

i loved the peace and tranquility i felt immediately upon entering the garden. there were less than 15 people there when we arrived and all that could be heard was the crashing of the waterfall and birds chirping.

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one of my favorite spots, besides the lake, was the bamboo garden.  the bamboo garden at hakone garden is said to represent the close friendship with saratoga’s sister city, muko-shi, japan (a suburb southwest of kyoto). i love how much thought is put into the symbolism of each aspect of a japanese garden. every plant, stone, bridge is placed in a certain spot for a specific reason and not just to “look pretty”.

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there was a wedding reception being set up as we were leaving the garden. the bride wore a beautiful traditional japanese kimono. all her family and bridesmaids were also in kimonos. it was stunning. makes me want to head to kyoto!

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don’t forget to pick up some fish food at the hakone gift shop (also where you purchase entry tickets) so you are able to feed the koi and turtles! this was b’s favorite part.

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#weekendinpolaroids

15th September 2014

this weekend we welcomed fall.

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i made spiced pumpkin oatmeal cookies with maple glaze. it is a great recipe and a yummy treat to bring to any upcoming gathering!

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we went apple picking in watsonville, which is about one hour south of us in santa cruz county. more details to come!

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i had been craving beard papa since last week and we finally stopped by for a delectable vanilla cream puff! who knew beard papa has locations all across the world?

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and i participated in my church’s talent show by performing a choreographed dance dressed as a gangster rabbit (don’t ask) with two of my friends. i never would have participated had it not been for my friend, keri. do you have one of those friends that just makes you feel like a kid again? she is always getting me to participate in activities i otherwise wouldn’t. she has taught me  to not take myself too seriously. i am so grateful for good friends to make memories with.

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what did you do this weekend?

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Currently

11th September 2014

reading: delancey . so far so good. it is about a recently married couple who decides to open a restaurant together. it is a fun read and easy to get into. i really love learning about the research that goes into opening a restaurant. i enjoy how genuine the author’s words are for such a personal story. she really allows you to see a window into their marriage and their corporate lives. the author also shares original recipes from their home kitchen as well as the delancey restaurant (will let you know once i make something)! oh and another bonus is she references restaurants she adores in new york, seattle and the bay area. i know where i am eating next date night!

craving: the cookie dough cafe. last night, b and i were watching shark tank when these cute sisters came on to feature their idea of edible cookie dough. They had concocted the perfect recipe for eggless cookie dough and marketed the product all over illinois. how amazing is that? it comes in 4 different flavors and encourages you to eat cookie dough by the spoon! since the show, they have expanded to select grocery stores in the south and east coast. when they presented their product, i instantly became a fan. the sharks also thought of the idea to bring cookie dough cafe to sports arenas and hotels. i love cookie dough more than the cooked cookie product. please come to the west coast cookie dough cafe!

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trying to remember: this quote. i will be the first to admit, i get down and sometimes feel like i am not pretty enough or skinny enough or have clear enough skin or my hair is awful. society paints an unobtainable picture of beauty. i have to remember to rise above and remember my soul is what should matter.

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dreaming of: an adventure somewhere overseas. b and i have been discussing our travel goals for the future and i can’t help but want to do it all right now. i want to see the world. i want to experience new cultures. i want to meet people that change my perspective. i want to have it all.

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beauty need: i have decided i would like to go a little blonder. i used to be incredibly blonde while b and i were dating and in the beginning of our marriage. then i had the bright idea to go dark. i thought it could be my destiny. i looked at olivia wilde and thought if she looks better dark what if i do too? granted i am no olivia wilde but i would always wonder if i never tried it. i liked being a brunette okay. i didn’t feel like myself though. since then, i have been slowly lightening to this golden/jennifer aniston color over the past year. every time i tell my hair stylist i want to go lighter she says she will do it but wants to keep the golden undertone with my complexion. sure, whatever you have to do but make me blonde! long story short, it is never that much of a difference and she is charging me an arm and a leg. i need a new hair stylist that specializes in blondes. anyone have any recommendations in the bay area?

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thanks for reading!

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linked to: treat yo self

Guide to Sonoma County: A Cheese Tour

10th September 2014

i love cheese. not your typical monterey jack and sharp cheddar (although i do love those too). i love brie and camembert and blue and goat oh my.
lately, b and i have been up to our eye balls in cheese. we literally make a cheese plate 4 times a week. we are enjoying learning about the art of pairing each cheese.
when i mean pair i mean deciding which fruit spread tastes best with each cheese, drizzling honey on our blue cheese and narrowing down the perfect olives to get that creamy and salty combo. oh my goodness i could go on and on. b gave me this book for my birthday. it has taught us about the different types of cheese and what to look for when selecting cheeses. so basically we are becoming a little obsessed…
but it’s good to have hobbies, right?

a couple weeks ago, b decided we had to go on a cheese tour so we could apply our new found knowledge. and when you live a hour or so south of sonoma county why not? it is not only wine country, it is cheese country! b researched all the local factories and read reviews. We narrowed it down to three based on location, variety, how well known it is and which cheeses we were most interested in tasting (believe it or not you can have too much cheese in one day).

marin french cheese (petaluma) –  this was our first stop on our self guided tour. marin french cheese is a great little spot located in the rolling hills of petaluma. their factory is basically in the middle of nowhere (and there is no gps available so plan ahead — we got lost for a little bit ha) but that may be the beauty of it. it is secluded, large and there is a lake out front where you can enjoy your cheese. marin french cheese specializes in brie. there were different flavors as well as creaminess available. we sampled them all but decided to purchase the original. marin french cheese did not provide samples of a triple creme brie or we would have been swayed to go the creamier route. the shop also provides over priced baguettes ($5/baguette–what a joke) and scrumptious chocolates. I had to try the chocolate and peanut butter bar (my favorite combo) and it was fabulous. next time, we will bring our own baguette and drinks so we can enjoy our cheese by the lake.

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cowgirl creamery (point reyes)  – we have been to the cowgirl creamery shop before at the ferry building in sf and loved it, so we knew we had to make a stop at the mothership. the cowgirl creamery factory in point reyes is where they make all their famous red hawk cheese (love red hawk). you could actually see the cheese ripening in their kitchen when you entered the factory. we tried nearly every cheese available.  the ones that stood out and we purchased were a wasabi goat cheese , shepherdista bleeding california and goat gouda. we also tasted (and purchased) some of the best blue cheese of our life. it was called bay blue. bay blue has the perfect amount of flavor and is extremely soft for blue (with softness comes heartache though. we were told the blue would only last a week so we better eat it quickly).  the thing i love most about cowgirl creamery is they not only produce wonderful cheeses but they also have a variety of other high end cheeses that are both locally and internationally made. Their sales associates are also extremely knowledgeable and taught us the proper way to store our cheese once we have cut into it (give you a hint, it is not in a plastic baggy).


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nicasio valley cheese company (point reyes) – nicasio valley cheese company was the last stop on our tour so maybe we were too full of cheese or maybe we had too high of expectations but i would not return (luckily it was a short 10 min drive from cowgirl creamery and on our way home). they offered 5 different kinds of cheese varying in milk and firmness. nothing really jumped out at me. the store owners were lovely though and described to us the process of creating their signature cheeses. we did end up buying a jar of olives but no cheese. maybe we are getting to be cheese snobs? b thinks so. he says he can’t even buy cheese at trader joes anymore because the selection is awful ha. insert crying emoji. #firstworldproblems.

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this cheese tour was fabulous. i hope we are able to head up north again soon to discover more local cheese factories. for now we will continue to savor all the delectable cheese we purchased that day.

what is your favorite cheese? what is a hobby you are getting into these days?

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#weekendinpolaroids

8th September 2014

 this weekend we decided to stay closer to home and take it easy. b prefers it this way and it is nice to take a step back and relax. friday night, we cuddled up and watched criminal minds. on a side note… i can’t wait for all our shows to come back from summer hiatus in the next month or so.  i particularly can’t wait for the good wife, parenthood (last season ahhh), nashville and homeland (part of the reason we are watching criminal minds is because we get our fix of saul berenson). what shows are you most looking forward to?

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saturday mornings are spent at equinox and the farmers’ market. i usually attend the palo alto farmers’ market but this saturday decided to venture back to saratoga. it may be smaller but it was hoppin! lines upon lines for almost every vendor. there was a great selection and i am glad i got there around 10am because i can’t even imagine what would be left if i had waited another hour.

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sunflowers and strawberries make me so cheery. i picked some up as well as butternut squash (tis the season after all) and peaches (before they slowly dwindle away).

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on wednesday of last week, b asked me if i would like to go with him on a surprise date on saturday afternoon. obviously i said yes. how could i refuse such a lovely invitation?
i love when he does the research and finds great adventures. he really never disappoints. usually, i guess what we are doing but not this time! b took me to saratoga to walk around one of the oldest japanese gardens in the western hemisphere (more details to come). it was absolutely serene. i loved all the symbolism and spiritual atmosphere.

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may have gotten a little lost in the bamboo forest…

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canadian tuxedo in a japanese garden!

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love this little date of mine. he completes me in every sense. we finished up our japanese inspired date with sushi at sushi heaven. great fish and amazing service!

sunday was spent attending church, discussing our future, lounging and making the perfect cheese plate.

what did you do this weekend?

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Let’s Fall for Fall

5th September 2014

with labor day behind us, all my mind can think of is the transition into fall. although these 80 degree temps in the bay area are making it hard to believe we are transitioning…thanks indian summer!

growing up in southern california, i never really thought about the seasons. it was usually in the 70s all year round. then i moved to salt lake city for college where i was able to experience the joy of all four seasons. the weather cooling and  leaves changing colors was magical. the first snow fall was dreamy. i remember looking at the sky as the snow was falling and couldn’t believe how picturesque it looked. i still can watch it snow for hours.
I really came to love the variety. i loved the need to have a different wardrobe for all 4 seasons because in southern california you really can dress for summer 90% of the time.

now we are in the bay area where we experience a little bit more of the chilly nights but don’t have to wake up early to shovel snow off of our car. that was the worst part of the snow — cleaning off your car and driving in it. i will have to insist on four wheel drive if we are ever to return to the snow!

these pictures are making my heart yearn for sweaters, pumpkins, apple cider and tights.

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when is it too early to start decorating for halloween?
i have already sent b to the store tonight to see if the grocery store has canned pumpkin (crossing my fingers)!

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Berkley Restaurant Review: Casa Latina

4th September 2014

remember when i mentioned we found the best little mexican restaurant the other weekend in berkley? well i can’t help but share with you this gem because i wish i could eat there everyday. it was that good and affordable!

casa latina is a healthy (relatively) latin american cafe located on a busy street in downtown berkley (less than 15 min drive from the horse races). i knew upon arrival that this place would be a tasty and authentic lunch. i think i have a sixth sense when it comes to these things;)

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from their baked goods to their home brewed coffee (i am not a coffee drinker myself but everyone in front of us was ordering the horchata latte and could not stop raving about it) to their scrumptious tamales and everything in between. this place has it all. not to mention their urban chic decor, friendly staff and on point pricing. casa latina alone made me rethink the east bay. we have only been up to the east bay a handful of times and tend to favor traveling to san francisco because everyone always told us east bay was a little more run down. granted there are some shady areas of oakland but, there are some amazing not to be missed gems as well.

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b and i decided to try a carne asada taco, chicken taco, chicken tamale and rice pudding. every item was incredibly flavorful and filling. i had not had a tamale in years but knew i had to try it again and was so glad i did! both the chicken and steak were lean just the way i like it. every bite was better than the last. do note, the hot sauce is pretty darn hot!

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i used to make rice pudding all the time a couple years ago because i loved it so. i have burnt a couple pots making it so was forced to save my pans and put an end to my rice pudding days. when i saw this large cup of rice pudding in the window, i knew i had to have it. no matter how full i was. it was delicious and the perfect ratio of milk to rice. i also loved the added cinnamon on top. makes me want to bring this sweet treat back to my kitchen (don’t know if my love handles can afford it too often though ha).

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can’t wait to head back to casa latina during fall to indulge in their mexican hot chocolate along with more of the bakery goodies. i also hear their nachos are mind blowing. until next time, casa latina!

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linked to: treat yo’ self

#cityweekly: best farmers’ markets in the bay area

3rd September 2014

i know farmers’ markets may be winding down for some of you depending upon where you live but here, in the bay area, farmers’ markets are still buzzing and generally are available till december. some farmers’ markets are even available all year round!
and that is why we pay double the average us city rent.

this city weekly, emily and i  are rounding up the best farmers’ markets in the bay area of northern california and dc. b and i love checking out local farmers’ markets for flavorful fruits and vegetables, creative baked goods and homemade cheese.

here are my favorite farmers’ markets in silicon valley:

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ferry plaza farmers market (san francisco) : this farmers’ market is probably the most well known of the bunch. it is situated around the ferry building, which houses many wonderful cheese, candy, ice cream and bread shops. the market is available on saturdays between 8am – 2pm as well as tuesdays and thursdays. i find the best assortment of vendors here and always leave with bags and bags of goodies. i especially seek after the amazing flowers and juicy fruits. this is where i tried my first white peach and nectarine. i am completely obsessed now. i love picking up lunch from one of the tents and then meandering through each vendor. this farmers market has the biggest selection by far and what can beat that view?

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palo alto farmers’ market (palo alto, peninsula) : this is the farmers’ market we visit most often. it has a nice array of locally grown vegetables and fruits as well as meats and cheeses. this farmers market is unique in that it usually has live music being performed. i love walking through the maze of tents while listening to the beautiful voices of the local musicians. the last time we went it was an elderly all male acapella group. it was the sweetest thing i had ever seen.
another thing i love about this market is the chocolate garage, which can be insanely crowded some saturdays but, offers a great assortment of dark and milk chocolate. i do love my sweets! the palo alto farmers’ market is available on saturday mornings from may to december.

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saratoga farmers’ market (saratoga, south bay) : this market is located at west valley college, which is already a great location because of the ample (and free) parking. i love the diversity of this market. there always seems to be something for everyone — from fruits to asian vegetables to fresh fish (packaged before your eyes) to homemade tamales. i recommend getting there when the market opens at 9am because this market can get fairly crowded and i always want to have first pick ha.

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okay, i know we usually do a list of 5 but for this edition i wanted to keep it short and sweet with 3. i have been to a number of farmers markets in the area and don’t think that the others compare with the assortment of produce, meats, cheeses and breads. often times those aspects are looked over and it is just a gathering of food trucks and people, which is not a real farmers’ market if you ask me.
i do hope to experience more san francisco based markets as well as the half moon bay market because i hear great things. i will keep you updated on my findings!

don’t forget to check out emily’s dc picks!

what do you think makes a great farmers’ market? what do you normally buy at your local farmers’ markets?

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#weekendinpolaroids

2nd September 2014

 this weekend was simply dreamy. i loved having one extra day to explore and enjoy time with b.

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b decided to take the lead on saturday by coordinating a cheese excursion to point reyes (a little north of sf). it was divine. i definitely ate my weight in cheese that day. more details to come later in the week!

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another sunday afternoon spent in a new park. it is quickly becoming one of our favorite things.  it is the perfect sunday afternoon activity where we can unwind and read.
on a side note… i finished “me before you” this weekend and completely balled my eyes out reading the last chapter. you guys, i get so invested in the characters i am completely torn up when i realize i will not get to know them even better. it was an amazing read and i highly recommend it! i preferred it over “one hundred summers”.

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monday was spent shopping the j crew labor day sale (it was killer.. hope you were able to enjoy) and paddle boating across the lake at shoreline park. i cannot believe i have not been to this park before now. it will definitely have to be added to my list of  top parks in the bay area.

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remember my love for tin pot? this time i indulged in chocococo (vegan chocolate coconut ice-cream) and blueberry lavender swirl. yummmmmm

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what did you do to celebrate the holiday weekend?

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