Friday, July 29, 2011

A New Project

Hi, readers. I'm sorry about the slow down in posting lately. I've taken on a new project that I love and it's been filling up a lot of my time. I recently signed on to do some work for a social game developer that makes a pretty hidden object game called Gardens of Time. The first part that I helped work on went live last night and I am really excited about it.

Having a blog that's out on the web and getting comments and feedback from readers is already an amazing experience and it's so meaningful to me that I've connected with people all over the world that way. And now, to have something I've worked on professionally be dispersed to millions of players who actively play Gardens of Time daily is almost surreal to me.

Do you play social games on Facebook? If so, which ones? I would love to know if any of my readers also spend time with Facebook games.

| Art Credit: Screenshot from Playdom's Gardens of Time game. |

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Together We're Giant

First of all, thanks to everyone who was entertained by or expressed sympathy for my nachos story last week. You are the best.

Thankfully I made it out of the Giants game without nacho cheese in my hair. In fact, I had a really fun time despite the home team not winning the game. Our seats were in the arcade section, which is the section with only three rows just inside the right foul pole, with McCovey Cove behind it. Because there were so few rows in our section, we developed a good sense of camaraderie in it and everyone was friendly and courteous. I didn't want to hold up my sign too much because I didn't want to block the view of the people behind me. I would recommend this section for people who are enthusiastic but not necessarily rowdy or looking to party in the stands.

Here is a photo of me with my sign and panda hat after the game had just ended. The orange flower pin on my panda hat is something I got at H&M. I thought it would make my hat more Giants-colored.

| Photo Credit: N. Morello, for The Yuppie Lifestyle. |

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Last Time I Went to a Sporting Event

I'm going to my first Giants game tonight and I am pretty stoked. You can read about why I jumped on that bandwagon here.

The last time I attended a pro sporting event was in 2008. I was a little traumatized by what happened to me then, which is why it has been so long since I have attended one. Back in April 2008, we were visiting our good friend Brian in LA when a small handful of VIP tickets to the Lakers games fell into his lap (such things tend to happen to him); Nick was very excited about them so I agreed to go. Our seats were in the first row of the club level, and I could see the back of Jack Nicholson's head not too far away. I'm not a Lakers fan in the slightest but I appreciated that Brian had shared his nice tickets with us. So, I was trying to enjoy the game when suddenly, I felt hands from behind me grabbing at my hair. I turned around and saw that the woman sitting behind me had nacho cheese all over her face and her hands. And because she had decided to use my hair as a towel, my hair was also covered in nacho cheese. I starting crying, I think because I was just so shocked at what had just happened that I didn't know how else to react emotionally. The woman was later firmly encouraged by other people sitting nearby to contain her public drunkenness on account of the children sitting in our section, and the guy she was with sat silently and visibly embarrassed. So, what I can only guess was the situation was that an elderly gentleman had brought a younger woman on a not-so-serious date, and that the woman showed her appreciation by consuming as much alcohol (and nachos) as she could that night.

I get that spills happen at sporting events and I would even expect a spill to happen here or there during an exciting play. But getting so drunk that you get nacho cheese all over yourself and wipe that nacho cheese onto the hair of the person sitting front of you is never okay. I can laugh about the story now though because it was just so outlandish. I'm going to assume that this was a one-time-only occurrence in my life and I am optimistic about being able to enjoy the Giants game tonight from our non-club level seats. I'm very proud of the sign I made and I'll post photos of it next week. Happy weekend!

| Art Credit: Me. |

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Current Favorite Hangout Spot

As someone who has the awesome option of making anywhere with my laptop and an Internet connection my office, it's often hard for me to buckle down and get focused on work when I'm at home. As a result, I find myself spending many hours per day in coffee houses. There is something about the abundance of caffeinated beverages plus being in an environment with other people lost in their own laptop worlds that really helps me get my work done.

Coffee Bar is definitely my favorite daytime hangout spot right now. It's clearly set up with the laptop-toting freelancer in mind. It's a big space with lots of windows and a loft-like feel. There's a much higher ratio of power outlets to seats than I have seen in any other coffee shop. And the place is generous enough to offer free wireless internet.

I think Coffee Bar might come off as slightly intimidating because it's nestled in the gray area between the Mission and Potrero (hence, hipster territory) and when you walk in you'll immediately be faced with rows and rows of MacBooks. However, I have never owned an Apple computer in my life, and I occasionally even have to do work on a dorky client-issued ThinkPad, but I have never once felt shunned. The people who hang out at Coffee Bar are nice, so you'd better be too if you go check it out. The smaller tables are reserved for laptop-free lunch patrons, so coffee-sipping laptop workers sit at either the counters/bars or big communal tables, which I quite like. I've even experienced a table of total strangers establishing a rotation for using the power outlet so that no one's battery got too low.

A couple tips: The food I've had was yummy but be warned that their chipotle mayo packs quite a good punch. The basic espresso menu can be found on the big roll of kraft paper, but also look out for the tiny daily drink specials menu on the little easel by the register. It took me a few times to figure out how other people knew that Vietnamese iced coffee was offered when it wasn't on the big menu.

Here are some of the things I love about Coffee Bar.
  • Free wi-fi.
  • Free parking nearby with no time limits.
  • I like the coffee. It's not in-your-face artisanal like Blue Bottle, but it is satisfying.
  • I also like that they have simple syrup at the cream-and-sugar bar, since cane sugar doesn't exactly dissolve easily in iced coffee.
  • Friendly staff and fellow patrons.
  • Lots of natural light.
  • Lots of power outlets.
  • Pretty latte art. That is how you know your drink was made with love.
  • It is not freezing inside. (I love me my Starbucks, but I'm convinced that every location constantly pumps cold air on customers to get them to not overstay their welcome.)

Do you know any places in the Mission/Castro/Potrero area that meet several of these criteria? If so, leave me your recommendations!

| Photo Credit: Me. |

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Harry Potter For Designers

Over the weekend, I watched the last Harry Potter movie and gave myself a pat on the back that I only cried during about 10% of the overall movie, as compared to Part 1 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, during which I was sobbing about 40% of the time. I know, it's pretty lame to be crying over a movie adapted from a fictionalized novel. And one that is basically a youth version of The Lord of the Rings with more charm. But sometimes tears are just a little less cynical. (Truthfully though, I am an HP fan.)

Feeling much in the Harry Potter spirit, I was poking around on Pinterest when I discovered that there is some seriously good-looking fan art out there. I find myself particularly drawn to the minimalist approach. I'm sorry, but I was definitely not a fan of the illustrated covers we got stuck with here in the States. Maybe in publications generations later, those covers will be replaced with ones as gorgeous as these?

| top. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by M. S. Corley | middle. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by Christian Petersen | bottom. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by Travis English |

| Art Credit: See links provided. |

Monday, July 18, 2011

Nick Goes Skydiving, Part 2

Nick and our friends Andy and Norm went skydiving the other day. Here is some of the useful information that Nick had to share after the experience. But the three of them also had some stories that I imagine are quite unique to the experience of choosing Skydive Hollister for their skydiving needs.

What were some of the odd quirks about the facility?
There were vending machines with frozen pizzas and Hot Pockets. We were like, "Who would get stuff out of a vending machine like that?" We then promptly saw one of the instructors buy a Hot Pocket, and heat it up, and eat it. I don't think people who go into that sort of profession value their health very much.

How much instruction did you receive before getting ready to jump?
Not very much, since we were doing it tandem. Our tandem partners just went over a few easy steps and let us know how it would work. Andy's experience was probably a little different though.* And we also had to fill out 4 full pages of waivers. There was a video they had us watch that we thought was going to walk us through the legalese on the waiver, since we had to initial every section. But it wasn't helpful at all.

What was the video really like?
The first couple minutes were "Skydiving is awesome!" and then this guy with a beard came on to address the paperwork. He didn't actually walk us through it though; it was more like he was providing additional verbal disclaimers. There were 8 minutes of disclaimer and then about another 10 minutes of "Skydiving is awesome!". So the alleged informational video for completing the paperwork was really 40% disclaimer, 60% getting you more psyched up about skydiving. Also, it looked like the video was made an ambiguous number of decades ago.

Did you feel like you were becoming a member of the Dharma Initiative?

*I was also told that the tandem partner Andy was assigned to was a little more unconventional. His name was Jester. The guys reenacted Jester with a lot of arm-flailing, slurred speech, crazy eyes, and yelling that I can't quite capture in text here. But I can say that there is a video of him getting arrested for illegal BASE jumping available on YouTube. You can view it right here.

| Photo Credit: N. Morello, for The Yuppie Lifestyle. |

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Blueberry Season

Now that it is blueberry season, I love getting little packs of blueberries and sprinkling them on top of salads. All you need to do is get a lettuce mix and whisk together a simple vinaigrette and once you top it with a small handful of blueberries, the salad instantly turns into a pretty culinary masterpiece.

Blueberries are also brilliant because they are the only blue food I can think of that occurs in nature. (I try to steer clear of foods that are colored in ways that do NOT occur in nature.) And while these pretty, blueberry-colored things aren't too edible, they will certainly have a longer shelf-life.

| 1. J.Crew, Secret Wash Van Buren Gingham Shirt | 2. CARLOS by Carlos Santana, Prestige Pumps | 3. Kate Spade, The Royal Bazaar Lapis Studs | 4. Rachel Roellke, Zinnia Lino Print |

| Photo Credit: top. Me; 1–4. See links provided. |

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Nick Goes Skydiving, Part 1

Last Sunday, Nick went skydiving with our friends Norm and Andy. None of them had ever done it before then. They booked a time slot to do tandem skydiving through Skydive Hollister and while they weren't able to have a camera with them for the portions pertaining to the actual skydiving experience, they certainly had all sorts of entertaining tales which they regaled me with upon their return. I thought skydiving might be the sort of fun adventure that many are curious about but may want more info on, so I asked Nick to help me prepare a piece for people who might want more information about his experience. I'll save the odd quirks specific to their particular skydiving facilitator for another time. This is the part that contains actual useful information.

How would you describe the experience in the air?
It's like being on a really long downward roller coaster ride, minus the uneasy stomach feeling.

Was it scary?
No. If you're considering skydiving, or have made the decision to go skydiving, you're probably already self-aware enough to know what fears you need to be over before going. Tandem skydiving lets you experience skydiving with the safety of being strapped to an expert who will pull open the chute for you. The scariest part was actually the plane ride; you'll be eager to jump out of that thing.

What was the plane ride like?
I had a stranger strapped to my back. One of my elbows was pretty much touching the plane's wall and the other was practically rubbing the elbow of another jumper, and then there was the other plane wall next to him. Right in front of me was a huge chute pack, another tandem partner, and then another jumper. It was impossible to move. And because the plane was so small, it felt like it was being tossed around by the wind the whole time.

So it's not like the spy movies where they get suited up in a big hollow plane cabin and then sit around before it's time to jump?
No, not at all. Though that was what I was expecting going into it.

What types of people would you caution against skydiving, outside of the obvious?
People who are claustrophobic (because of the plane situation), people who are prone to motion sickness (because of the rickety plane and the bus that collects you after you land), and people who don't like sharing close quarters with a stranger (since you'll be strapped to your tandem partner).

What would you recommend people to wear?
Any old t-shirt and pants will do. But make sure you wear tightly-laced, closed-toed shoes. There have been incidents of people losing their shoes in the air.

What did you wish you had known ahead of time?
The biggest thing was the wait. We didn't know that after checking in for our appointment time, there was still a 2–4 hour wait before actually getting called to get into our harnesses and board the plane. I also was expecting to get to change into a jumpsuit but they just put the harnesses around out regular clothes. Leave your valuables in the car instead of checking them in at "reception". Expect to feel exhausted after the adrenaline rush wears off several minutes after you land.

| Photo Credit: N. Morello, for The Yuppie Lifestyle. |

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Restaurant Review: Zazie

If you're as afraid of commitment at the brunch table as I am, then Zazie is the place for you. The best part about the brunch menu at Zazie is that almost every item can be ordered in quantities of one, two, or three. So, if you can't decide between committing to a whole stack of buttermilk or gingerbread pancakes, you can get one or two of each. Or you can sample a couple of the options on their diverse Eggs Benedict menu. Just get there before 10:30 if you're going on a weekend, in order to save yourself from yet another 45-minute San Francisco brunch line wait.

Service: The host manning the sign-in sheet seems like the type who recognizes regulars easily and was still very friendly to a non-regular like me who doesn't make it out to Cole Valley too often. The waitstaff was polite, nice, and not intrusive. The busboy was attentive, and slowed down the cleanup of the table next to us when he noticed I was photographing the latte bowls on it.

Food: Nick, who orders French toast at every single brunch place he goes to, testifies that their challah French toast stuffed with caramelized bananas and walnuts is the second best French toast in the city (the first being a butterscotch and pumpkin bread French toast from the specials board at Dottie's). The poached egg presentations that I have tried there have all been quite flavorful and the combinations have been exciting; however, most recently both the eggs I received were practically hard boiled and I was slightly disappointed by not getting a runny yolk that I could soak up with my English muffins. I probably would have put up a bigger fuss about it if the other ingredients weren't cooked as perfectly as they were.

Ambiance: I think the place is going for a rustic Proven├žal look, which does work with the comforting breakfast items on their menu. Big fluffy pancakes and French toast are served on brightly painted plates and lattes are served in big lavender bowls. There are tattered vintage French posters on the pale yellow walls. With the worn-down cushions on the wooden benches, it feels a little bit like eating in an old countryside home if you ignore the other patrons.

Rating: Recommended.

Zazie is located at 941 Cole Street, San Francisco, California 94117.

| Photo Credit: Me. |

Monday, July 11, 2011

Mini Garden Gnome

This little guy hangs out in my one-pot herb garden. I got him at Target for only four bucks. I was so amused by how these little garden gnomes existed for people like me who want to pretend they have a real garden even if it is one that is tiny and indoors.

My garden has changed a lot since Nick and I first planted it back in April. We ended up transplanting the basil to a separate pot because it needed different watering conditions from everything else it was sharing soil with. The lettuce was growing like weeds at first but quickly withered and the oregano seems to have been crowded out by the thyme. We added mint to the mix though, after not having luck with some of the other plants, and that has been growing like crazy. Lifestyle Tip: If you aren't very good with plants but you want to try growing something you can eat, start out with mint because it will be the most encouraging.

What other herbs are easygoing and worth trying to grow indoors at home?

| Photo Credit: Me. |

Friday, July 8, 2011

Wedding Cards From Non-Romantics

Last week I found myself staring at a rack of wedding cards for at least a half-hour at the store. I wanted to pick a great one for my friend Cate to tell her how much it meant to me that she'd chosen to include me on her wedding day and how I wanted to congratulate her on finding love. But all the cards I was looking at had these random quotations about love and, a) were made by someone I hadn't even heard of before, and/or b) I had no idea whether Cate and her groom actually viewed their love in the particular way conveyed by the quote on the card. I definitely didn't want some greeting card company telling my friends how to define their love. Maybe I am just not a very romantic person but I ended up leaving the store empty-handed, and going home and making this card instead.

This way, if they were so inclined, my friends could fill out the front of their card with a statement that did capture the way they viewed their relationship and my message of congratulations and thankfulness inside would apply to whatever that statement may be.

True confessions time: This was an unusual card for me to make because I typically make cards that involve more paper cutouts and rubber stamps and less drawing and lettering by hand. But I had an idea so I gave it a go. I was really happy with the way it turned out—except that one of the last lines I drew was the bold one on the very bottom and when I moved the ruler away, it took some of the wet ink along with it and totally smeared that line. It is with the magic of Photoshop that I concealed this tragic flaw from all of you; this is what the final card looked like in real life. FAIL. Because the magic of Photoshop could not be used for real-life objects, all I could do was include an apologetic note to Cate and her groom in hopes that they not misconstrue my views on their wedding as being so smeared. I can't be perfect all the time.

Dear Cate: If you are reading this and it is a total spoiler for the box of cards you have waiting at home, well, you shouldn't be on the internet during your Jamaican honeymoon, now should you?

| Photo Credit: Me. |

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Today's Flavor: Pandamonium

Here are some photos of what happened when I tried to get Lillabelle to wear my panda hat. You can read more about the company that makes these hats and why they are so popular in San Francisco right here.

I think that one of the reasons I find pandas so appealing is because of the way they sport that classic combo of black and white. I'm a little confused by why they have not expanded their dietary horizons to something a little more nutrient-rich than bamboo by now considering their carnivorous digestive systems, but at least they look good while being inefficient. And while wearing a big, goofy panda face on your head might not be a look that works for you, anyone can sport this classic black-and-white spotted look with these finds.

| 1. Coach, Alex Sneakers | 2. Mini Figure USB Flash Drive | 3. Mossimo Mix & Match, Polka-Dot Twist Bandeau Swim Top & Polka-Dot Mock Side Tie Swim Bottom | 4. Tanya's Scrappin' & Stitchin', Panda Cupcake Toppers | 5. Iwako, Black Panda Eraser | 6. Jessie Steele, The Lady's Apron | 7. Mini Panda Skillet |

| Photo Credit: top. Me; 1–7. See links provided. |

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Head Panda

In no way do I consider myself a sports fanatic. You'll never catch me checking stats on my BlackBerry or staying at home just to catch a game on TV. But I will admit that after the SF Giants' success last season, I have jumped onto the Giants bandwagon. You'll never see me threatening to divorce my spouse on Facebook if he roots for another team and I don't feel a personal need for the players to succeed in order for me to carry on with my life. (I see folks who are really into sports make these types of hyperbolic assertions.) But I can appreciate how the Giants' success has brought the people of San Francisco together and I want that city-wide pride to continue. So, it is for these reasons that I purchased my first piece of sports fan gear ever. You'll see people wearing these panda hats at Giants games because player Pablo Sandoval's nickname is Kung Fu Panda—presumably since he is quite nimble despite his panda-esque physique.

When I bought the hat at the SF Pride festival, I had the pleasure of meeting one of the co-creators of this now-famous hat style. He and his business partner did not seem much older than me and all they had was a unique idea that they pursued. He told me about how they were just selling the hats outside in the cold when the Giants Dugout Stores approached them about selling their hats at the ballpark. I love hearing unexpected success stories about people who are brave enough to pursue their dream jobs. The Head Panda has since expanded to carry other cute animal hats for zoos, other sports teams, and schools. Prices are much lower than at the Giants Dugout Stores if you buy your panda hat directly from the source.

| Photo Credit: N. Morello, for The Yuppie Lifestyle. |

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Sparkly Ribbon

Instead of conventional souvenirs, when I travel, I like to visit the local arts and crafts stores and pick up little knick-knacks that I cannot find at the stores near where I live. While I was in Iowa City over the weekend, I picked up some of this pretty sparkly ribbon from Hobby Lobby. Hobby Lobby is a chain very similar to Michael's except they also carry fabric and have a very different selection of ribbon. Sparkly things have really been catching my eye lately so this was a perfect addition to my out-of-control ribbon collection. Despite its glittery appearance, it has a soft, almost velvety, texture. I am already regretting that I only bought four spools.

What quirky things do you collect when you travel?

| Photo Credit: Me. |