I Took BART to San Francisco for the First Time in Over a Year

Since the pandemic began in March 2020, you could say I took the “stay at home” orders quite literally. I haven’t been on a bus, plane, train, or ferry! So after 15+ months, I was thrilled to take BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) again!

Masks are required on BART property through September 2021 | Lake Merritt Station

There’s never a dull moment on BART! 😉Here’s a sampling:

A woman sitting next to me on a bench asked me, “Do you smell smoke?”

When I said no, she whispered, “I hope it’s not a fire. Last time I smelled smoke, they evacuated the station.”

Later on, after arriving at our stop, that same woman shouted at the top of her lungs to the people on the escalator, “Stand on the right, walk on the left! Ugh, TOURISTS!” As soon as she said that, the escalator came to a gentle halt.

BART has 50 stations and they’re piloting free high-security bike rack systems at five of them | 16th Street Station

Then on my return trip, I spotted a bevy of beauties who looked like they’d just walked out of a music video! Sporting sparkly tops and white form-fitting pants, they commanded attention as they sauntered through the station to the beat of the music blasting from one of their tiny designer handbags.

Translation services available | Powell Station

Finally, while I was walking up the stairs to exit the station, I witnessed a man yell “EXCUSE ME!” at another man ahead of him who was apparently climbing the steps at a pace too slow for his taste. They exchanged some lovely hand gestures and colorful expletives before going their separate ways.

Time stood still: This is a poster for the March 22, 2020 Oakland Marathon | Powell Station (June 19, 2021)

“Sisters With Transistors”

My reason for going to The City on Saturday, June 19, 2021 was to see a limited screening of “Sisters with Transistors” at the Roxie Theater in the Mission District.

My elder daughter invited me to go with her to see the documentary that she’d recently learned about in her music history & industry program in college. The 2020 documentary is about women pioneers in the field of electronic music. In particular, I enjoyed learning the stories of Daphne Oram, Eliane Radigue, and Laurie Spiegel.

Daphne Oram (1925-2003) was a British musician who created the Oramics technique, which produced sound through lines, waves, and other shapes written or drawn on film that were then played back on a sound system.

Eliane Radigue (born 1932) is a French electronic music composer living in Paris. Her signature sound is created with an ARP synthesizer and recording tape.

Laurie Spiegel was born in Chicago in 1945. She created the music composition software called Music Mouse.

Ferry Building at the Embarcadero

Before going to the movie theater, we stopped by the weekly Farmers Market at the Ferry Building.

shops inside the Ferry Building
The notice says that “masks are no longer required for shoppers, sellers, and staff” at this farmers market

Juneteenth Celebration on the Waterfront

June 19, 2021 | San Francisco

Juneteenth, a portmanteau of the words, June and nineteenth, has been celebrated in various U.S. states since 1866 to commemorate the day (June 19, 1865) that people of Galveston, Texas learned that slavery had ended two and a half years earlier (after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation became law on January 1, 1863.) On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden declared Juneteenth a federal holiday.

June 19, 2021 | San Francisco

We caught a glimpse of Mayor London Breed visiting the various food stalls!

London Breed, Mayor of San Francisco

Reopening of California

On Tuesday, June 15, 2021, the State of California officially reopened and many restrictions were lifted (Visit Safely Reopening California to learn more!)

The state may have reopened, but I believe it would be prudent to keep wearing masks (even if fully vaccinated). It’s clear that the pandemic is not over. Knowing that variants of the virus that cause COVID-19 are appearing and infecting people around the world is frightening.

The fact that many countries are still waiting to receive an adequate supply of vaccines boggles the mind. Meanwhile, vaccine-hesitant people here need to be lured with “Vax for the Win” incentives, like cash or dream vacations! Un embarras de richesse? (Or, just plain embarrassing? Sigh.)

A giant reminder to get vaccinated | Westfield San Francisco Centre

Please stay healthy and safe! 💕😷

Orange Haze Over the San Francisco Bay Area

What’s new in the Golden State?

In California, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is nearing 750,000.

During this past 3-day Labor Day weekend (September 5-7, 2020), temperatures fluctuated between 97-103 °F (36-39 °C) in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live.

On Sunday morning, we had a relatively small (yet still scary to me) 3.4 magnitude earthquake.

At the same time, wildfires burned throughout the state. Sadly, hundreds of firefighters are still trying to contain them.

Today is Wednesday, September 9, 2020 and look at the sky:

Skies over San Francisco: Sept. 9, 2020 at 9:45 am (PDT)

I took this picture with my phone (no filter) at 9:45 am (PDT) today, which also happens to be the 170th anniversary of California’s statehood.

The orange glow is said to be a result of wildfire smoke that’s trapped in the atmosphere, which explains why there is no smoky smell.

Apocalyptic. Beautiful. Confusing. Dramatic. Eerie.

These are some of the words I’m hearing to describe today’s skies. It’s a bit disorienting, too. Is it dawn or dusk, a sunrise or a sunset? But since it’s not changing, it’s like the sky is on pause.

What does the sky look like where you are?

Bay to Breakers: San Francisco’s Famous Foot Race is Going Virtual

The 109th Bay to Breakers 12K foot race through the streets of San Francisco will now be a virtual race taking place from Sunday, September 20, 2020 to Friday, October 2, 2020!

Instead of the traditional “live” route through San Francisco — from downtown SF (“Bay”) all the way to the Pacific Ocean, where the waves break and touch the shore (“Breakers”) — participants will get to choose their own route. Each day, there will also be a costume theme.

They call it virtual, but it won’t be filmed. Instead, participants will have the option to run around their neighborhoods or on their treadmills at home. It’s not quite the same, but Bay to Breakers organizers are determined to keep its spirit alive!

So far, I have done Bay to Breakers three times – in 2011, 2014, and 2018. I’m a long-distance walker, not a runner, so I go for the fun of it.

Bay to Breakers 2011

Doing Bay to Breakers is like being in a parade. It’s festive! It’s like a traveling fashion show. It’s a great opportunity to re-use an old Halloween costume. One year, I felt especially creative and made Frozen-inspired costumes. My friend was Queen Elsa and I was Princess Anna!

Bay to Breakers 2014

bacon-wrapped hot dogs

I spy a French bakery – do you see it?

Alamo Square and the Painted Ladies

Bay to Breakers is an all-ages affair, but if you want to bring the baby, you’ll need to wear the child in a backpack-type of carrier. A few years ago, they banned alcohol and anything on wheels, like floats.

But part of the fun is trying to see what you can get away with, right? So, you’ll see the course dotted with the occasional baby stroller. Also, some people carry alcoholic beverages in plain-looking water bottles. Security officers are not likely to stop or cite rule breakers if they are discreet.

The event is also educational, let’s just say! You learn about plants (cannabis), anatomy (nudity), and games (adult toys and paraphernalia)…and so much more!

But no one judges and no one cares because it’s all for fun. Sure there’s serious prize money involved, but those winnings go to the top two finishers who usually reach the finish line around the 30-minute mark. Incredible! It takes me 30 minutes just to locate the starting line for the walkers’ corral!

Bay to Breakers 2018

“athletic” is used loosely here

Traditional tortilla toss at the starting line

The Murphy Windmill, one of two windmills in Golden Gate Park

Every registered participant who reaches the finish line gets a finisher’s medal and all the free snacks you can eat courtesy of event sponsors.

By no means did I win any costume contests nor break any speed records (my personal best remains at 2:15:50 at my first Bay to Breakers in 2011.)

Bay to Breakers 2011

But walking through San Francisco —literally from downtown SF all the way to Ocean Beach — provides a feeling of satisfaction like no other. It’s kind of addictive. Maybe that’s why people sign up year after year!

Question is: Will people sign up this year for the virtual race? I’m concerned about everyone’s safety. We’re still in the middle of a pandemic, with recent spikes in new cases in many places (California, sadly, being one of them.) We are still required to practice physical distancing.

It’ll be interesting to see how the virtual race will go. According to the Bay to Breakers website, “You can run wherever. The beauty of a virtual race is you can create your own course – we recommend something that’ll shock the neighbors.”

Like what? Participants wearing face masks and not much else, perhaps? I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s Bay to Breakers – that’s the spirit!

Stay healthy and safe, everyone! 😷

A Touch of France in Yountville, California

The town of Yountville is located along California Highway 29 about 56 miles/ 90 km north of San Francisco. With Calistoga to the north and Napa to the south, Yountville is truly in the heart of Wine Country.

The town was named after George Calvert Yount in 1867, two years after his death. In the 1830s, Yount was considered one of the first settlers in the area to plant wine grapes in Napa Valley.

Public Art Walk Along Washington Street

“Chaos Pamplona” by Jedd Novatt

“48” Orange Sphere” by Ivan McLean

“Rock Mushroom Garden” by Rich Botto

“Marigold” by Troy Pillow

“Phoenix” by Andrew Carson

Award-winning Restaurants

Chef Philippe Jeanty of Epernay, France opened Bistro Jeanty in 1998:

Signs on the windows indicate they serve cassoulet, saumon fumé, bouillabaisse, paté de lapin…

soupe de poissons, crème brûlée, steak frites, moules au pastis!

Chef Thomas Keller opened The French Laundry in 1994. Since 2007, it has been a Michelin 3-star restaurant:

Can you see the restaurant sign? I can’t, so let’s zoom in:

Its unassuming exterior means that you could miss the award-winning restaurant if you blink or drive past it too quickly. Which is exactly what we did…

That’s The French Laundry to the right:

Chef Thomas Keller opened Bouchon Bistro in 1998:

V Marketplace

The Groezinger Winery was built in 1870 and operated as a winery through 1955. In 1968, it was converted into an upscale retail location. There are tasting rooms, restaurants, art galleries, and boutiques surrounded by a picnic garden. A popular hot air balloon company launches from an adjacent lot near V Marketplace.

Two restaurants owned by Chef Michael Chiarello, Bottega and Ottimo:

Keep walking through the courtyard (above) and you’ll arrive at the beautiful picnic garden. Here’s my favorite flower, the white rose:

Pioneer Yount School Bell

This bell hung from Pioneer Yount School from 1890 to 1947. Today, it is in front of Yountville’s City Hall.

If you need to send someone a postcard, you can drop it off here:

For more information:

Yountville Welcome Center

These photos were taken by my older daughter and me during our family’s day trip to Napa Valley on New Year’s Day 2017. 🍇

Specialty’s Café & Bakery Closes After 33 Years

I’ve been going to Specialty’s Café & Bakery for work lunches for over 15 years. So when I learned that the San Francisco Bay Area-based chain would be permanently closing their doors after today, May 19, 2020, I was shocked!

The reason for the closure? The pandemic.

Their website explains that “Current market conditions attributed to COVID-19 and shelter-in-place policies have decimated company revenues.”

Founded in 1987, the company operated over 55 cafes in California, Illinois, and Washington state. Before the pandemic, Specialty’s was popular among busy office workers who wanted a quick, but nutritious lunch, like salads, sandwiches, and soups.

I will miss their Priority Pick-up mobile order system. It was convenient and easy to use.

Most of all, I will miss their Spicy Thai Salad, Chicken Tortilla Soup, Spinach and Cheese croissants, avocado on toasted ciabatta, walnut brownies, and giant fresh-baked cookies.

salads, soups, cookies, baked goods from Specialty’s

my favorites from Specialty’s

Thanks for all the work lunches, Specialty’s! You’ll be missed! 🍪

Buddy, Can You Spare a Roll?

My thoughts are with… all of us! Let’s wash our hands, stay healthy, and stay safe!

When pictures of empty shelves started popping up everywhere, I couldn’t believe it. Surely, these images weren’t real, I thought.

Then I went to the store.

Oh my goodness. The panic buying is real! The sight of empty shelves is unreal!

Here are a few pictures I took of my local grocery store (Safeway) the other day:

pasta aisle at Safeway | March 13, 2020

Safeway | March 13, 2020

toilet paper aisle at Safeway | March 13, 2020

The good news: the shelves don’t actually stay bare for long. They’re restocked every day. It’s just that the products fly off shelves faster than they can be replenished.

So I join many others who say, “Don’t panic, people! And please don’t panic buy!” It’s the panic buying that will cause the shortage.

Consumer behavior experts say people hoard because it makes us feel we have control over the uncontrollable. Also we fear that scarcity will lead to higher prices.

But why are people hoarding toilet paper?

I’m not an expert, but I will venture to guess that people hoard toilet paper not only for its intended function. Toilet paper provides comfort. Toilet paper represents cleanliness.

We want to satisfy our need to fight and figuratively “wipe out” this deadly virus that is disrupting lives all around the world. We want to restore comfort. We want to return to clean.

So I’m not judging. Instead, I choose to be compassionate. I understand one’s need to hoard toilet paper.

But, buddy, can you save me a roll?

If you enjoyed this post, you may be interested in my post Les mouchoirs en papier

Stay healthy and stay safe!

Tales from the Presidio of San Francisco

Baker Beach

For three and a half weeks in the summer of 1996, I worked at the Presidio of San Francisco on an international volunteer project. Along with the National Park Service and CIEE (Council on International Education and Exchange), I hosted 11 participants from Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.

This was my second workcamp (a commonly used term for volunteer projects like this one), but it was my first one as a Group Leader. I wanted to spend my summer doing something meaningful, while giving back to the community. I wanted to meet new friends from around the globe. I wanted to show them my city! I wanted to hear their stories. I wanted to understand the big wide world out there. Gather ’round the campfire and sing kumbaya, everybody!

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…

My group and I loved the idea that we could learn from each other through this cultural exchange and volunteer project.

We envisioned that at the end of it, we’d return to our respective homes, individually satisfied that our collective effort helped beautify parts of the historic Presidio. Our mission of serving as goodwill ambassadors accomplished!

But seriously…

As we all know, the vision sometimes does not match the reality.

The truth is: the workcamp was a vacation! You could say it was more camp than work! It provided over three weeks of freedom from the monotony of our student or professional lives at home.

While we did work hard, we mostly hated the meaningless work we were assigned to do (Replace tennis court nets? Inventory appliances in former housing units? Assemble metal shelves?)

assembling metal shelves

clearing brush outside a small museum

Home Life

We stayed in one of the former barracks and each of us had our own room. We took turns preparing meals and cleaning our shared living areas.

On the weekends, we enjoyed some fun activities. We rode Muni buses across town and strolled through Golden Gate Park. We camped out at the World War II-era Battery Chamberlin and took swigs from a shared bottle of Southern Comfort whiskey. We slept in our sleeping bags on cots in eerie D-Block prison cells on Alcatraz and watched Half Dome take on an orange hue as the sun went down in Yosemite!

Alcatraz Island

Yosemite National Park

One of our meals with another volunteer group

Reflecting on my group leader experience

While I was confident in my flexibility and my high tolerance for challenging situations, I must admit that I was stepping out of my comfort zone when I accepted the Group Leader role.

During the workcamp, my people-skills got sharper. As a leader, I had to be more sensitive to what people were thinking and feeling. Cultural differences also inform body language, which I found challenging to decode at times. For example, standing close to someone’s face may be perceived as either aggression or friendliness depending on one’s cultural background.

Unlike the workcamp I had participated in the summer before — where there were two co-leaders who worked cooperatively — I felt there was no such support at this workcamp.

Since I didn’t have a co-leader, I had to motivate myself, emotionally pat myself on the back, and support my decisions. That part was tough.

This workcamp experience really pushed me to discover my limits, too. My patience was tested — to my surprise — by the park ranger assigned to oversee our project.

What an insufferable bully! He often withheld information from me. When I wasn’t around, he would share information with the group. Of course, that made me look and feel foolish. I felt undermined. Not one to get confrontational, I just ignored it.

Well, today (over 20 years later!) I reflect and decide that I should not have ignored it. I recognize it was a missed opportunity to work out different working styles and navigate personality clashes. Sometimes people just don’t click despite their best efforts and that’s OK, too. After all, we just needed to get along. We didn’t have to like each other.

You live, you learn

I remember a popular song at the time was “You Learn” by Alanis Morissette. How her lyrics ring true: you live, you learn!

Let’s just say I learned the hard way that a local person does not necessarily make the best tour guide.

Either that or my new friends just asked all the hard-hitting questions, like “Why is it called Dolores Park?” or “How much is one of those Victorian houses?” (Fun fact: one of the “Painted Ladies” on Steiner Street was on the market recently for 2.75 million dollars!)

I was, however, able to:

  • share my firsthand account of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake (Terrifying shaking for 10 seconds that felt endless)
  • point out Galileo High School, which was O.J. Simpson’s alma mater (It’s in the Russian Hill neighborhood)
  • coach my new friends (who wanted to sound more local) to say “San FrIncisco” but never San Fran, or worse, Frisco! (cringe!)

Still, there were many things about “The City” that I didn’t know.

It didn’t help when the park ranger told me one time:

“You don’t get out much, do you?”

Did I mention he made the disparaging remark in front of our group? Oh, that Jim – such a charmer!

But you know what? He was absolutely correct.

Say what?

That’s right. I choose to look beyond the snark and distill the sweet advice instead: Do more exploring closer to home! Play tourist or traveler in your hometown! Look inside yourself!

  • Only then can you begin to understand the big wide world out there.
  • Where are they now?

    Over the years, seven of us from the Presidio workcamp have managed to keep in touch. We have traveled to each other’s hometowns and a few of them have returned to San Francisco for a visit. For the workcamp’s 20th anniversary in 2016, I set up a Skype call and we had a virtual reunion.

    A sort of kumbaya for the digital age, wouldn’t you agree?

    If you have participated in a similar work project or cultural exchange (paid or volunteer), what did you learn from your experience(s)? Please share in the comments below!

    If you enjoyed this post, you may be interested in my post >> Volunteering in Hérisson, France

    Note: It appears that CIEE does not offer the international volunteer project program at this time.

    To learn more about other educational exchange programs that they offer, visit their website here. (This post is not sponsored.)

    *Today is Palindrome Day: 02/02/2020!*

    It’s also Super Bowl Sunday: Kansas City Chiefs vs San Francisco 49ers! 🏈

    Like I’ve Been There Before: ‘Friends’ 25th Anniversary Pop-Up Experience in San Francisco

    Fans of the hit comedy, Friends, will have a blast at the show’s 25th Anniversary pop-up that recently opened in downtown San Francisco!

    view of Market Street from the second floor of One Powell

    Located inside the AT&T Flagship Store at One Powell (in front of the Cable Car Turnaround), visitors can enjoy two floors of interactive digital displays, view actual props and costumes used on the show, and step into recreated show sets, like Central Perk and Monica & Rachel’s apartment in West Village.

    It was my first time at the Friends 25th Anniversary Pop-Up Experience, but the spot-on sets and familiar memorabilia on display made me feel… like I’d been there before!

    not sure why I’m knocking here – after all, I’m “inside” apartment 20!

    Enjoy two floors of interactive displays:

    Look through the peephole and view a short clip from the show:

    Record your cover of Phoebe’s famous song, “Smelly Cat”:

    Read lines from scripts:

    Visit the mini Friends museum with real costumes and props from the show:

    Chandler’s Halloween costume

    the award that Joey stole, plus Rachel’s wedding garter

    Find Friends-themed merch at the Friends Boutique:

    Check out the couch that Ross, Rachel, and Chandler tried to carry upstairs:

    … and the fountain and orange couch from the opening credits:

    Central Perk:

    Watch the video for the Friends’ theme song here (from YouTube – All rights reserved) >

    Your Friends will be there for you, but this Pop-Up will be in San Francisco for a limited time! ☕️

    Are you a big Friends fan like me? If I had to pick a favorite character, I’d pick Phoebe (she’s kind, plays guitar, and speaks French)! Who’s your favorite Friends character? Tell me in the comments below!

    Wednesday Postcard: San Francisco, California

    Photo on postcard: L. Keenan

    Bonjour! This week’s carte postale features the City Lights Booksellers & Publishers in San Francisco, California.

    caption on the back of the postcard

    “Founded in 1953 by poet, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Peter D. Martin, City Lights is a landmark independent bookstore and publisher that specializes in world literature, the arts, and progressive politics.”

    For more information:

    A Short History of City Lights

    Until the next Wednesday Postcard, à bientôt!

    Halloween Costume: The Son of Man 🍏

    My 2018 Halloween costume was an homage to The Son of Man by Belgian Surrealist painter, René Magritte.

    An exhibition featuring the renowned artist’s popular works recently wrapped up at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Unfortunately, I missed the exhibition and the chance to see The Son of Man painting in person.

    But then I thought: wouldn’t it be fun to portray the bowler-hat wearing man, whose face is obscured by a green apple? 🍏

    Voilà! My 2018 Halloween costume:

    photo styling by Jennifer

    Trick or treat: caramel candy and Granny Smith apples

    What’s your Halloween costume this year? Tell me in the comments below!

    For more information:

    [This post was originally published November 2, 2018]

    Strolling Around San Francisco’s Marina District

    What you may have heard is true! The San Francisco Bay Area is currently experiencing scheduled power outages, strong winds, and poor air quality due to smoke from wildfires. But that won’t keep us from going out and about enjoying life!

    These photographs were taken on Saturday (October 26, 2019) during a leisurely stroll I took with my family in San Francisco’s Marina District.

    Starbucks Reserve Coffee Bar | 2132 Chestnut St in San Francisco

    Classic Affogato – “2 shots of espresso poured over vanilla ice cream” and Dark Chocolate Strato – “a creamy, icy beverage finished with an espresso float”:

    I am reusing the plastic cup! It’s sturdy and it looks nice, too. This location is a coffee bar only. It doesn’t have a roastery. (Read about my visit to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room in Seattle here.)

    Le Marais Bakery (North Beach location) | 2066 Chestnut St in San Francisco

    Another Le Marais Bakery in San Francisco! Two down, one to go! (Read about my visit to the Le Marais Bakery in the Mission District here.)

    someone left their art in San Francisco

    Looking east from Yacht Road Alcatraz Island:

    Looking west from Yacht Road Golden Gate Bridge at golden hour:

    Palace of Fine Arts:

    A swan swims in the tranquil Palace Lagoon:

    Have you been to San Francisco? Tell me in the comments below!

    Let’s keep everyone impacted by the California Wildfires in mind and hope they stay safe.

    I’m Going to My First WordCamp #wcsac

    Bonjour! I can’t wait to attend my first-ever WordCamp this weekend (September 21-22, 2019) in Sacramento, California.

    I’ll be live-tweeting as an attendee. Find me on Twitter (@bonjourdarlene) and follow along using #wcsac! (Or scroll down to see my Tweets below!)

    What is WordCamp?

    According to the WordCamp Central website, “WordCamp is a conference that focuses on everything WordPress. WordCamps are informal, community-organized events that are put together by WordPress users like you. Everyone from casual users to core developers participate, share ideas, and get to know each other.”

    There are WordCamps taking place around the world!

    Have you been to a WordCamp before? Got any tips you’d like to share with a first-timer like me? Let me know in the comments below!

    Meaningful Photos: a Mindfulness Practice

    Photo collage made with MOLDIV

    Meaningful Photos is one of many science-based practices for a meaningful life curated by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.

    For this mindfulness exercise, the how-to states:

    “[Take] 15 minutes per day for one week to take the photos.”

    Instead I did the following:

    From my phone’s camera roll, I selected nine favorite photos that were taken over the past year or so. I figure I hadn’t deleted them for a reason – the photos are meaningful to me!

    So here are my nine photos and my nine answers to the question:

    “What does this photo represent, and why is it meaningful?”

    Top Row:

    Left: This is a picture of the sky over Paris, taken from the Meudon Observatory and Park. It is meaningful because it reminds me that my attitude can make or break my day. People will sometimes say, “It was a perfect day, not a cloud in the sky” as if clouds were bad/ugly things that mar an otherwise good day. I was feeling pretty good and positive being in Paris, so no amount of cloud cover could get me down!

    Center: This is a picture of my Navigo Découverte transit pass. It is meaningful because it represents freedom. I could tap on and off on various modes of public transportation in Paris. It made me feel like a local and less of a tourist. Plus the lady who sold it to me said the pass was good for 10 years. She told me, “That’s good because you will be back within 10 years!” Did she know something I didn’t? I certainly hope to return to Paris!

    Right: This is a picture of a sunset over Toulouse. It is meaningful because it reminds me that beauty and art are everywhere if you only pay attention. When I snapped this picture, my friend, Rachael, jokingly asked me, “Aren’t there sunsets in California?” Well, of course, but I hadn’t seen a pink sunset from the Pink City of Toulouse, which, for me, doesn’t happen every day!

    Middle Row:

    Left: This is a picture of homemade beef empanadas I made. It is meaningful because it reminds me that the younger me who dreamed of being a pastry chef is alive and well in me!

    Center: This is a picture of me with lavender. It is meaningful because it reminds me to be original. They say, “stop and smell the roses.” Why not say “linger with the lavender?” (Read the health benefits of lavender here.)

    Right: This is a picture of a margarita. It is meaningful because it represents life and fun with family and friends because they give me one for my birthday each year.

    Bottom Row:

    Left: This is a picture of the Louvre WiFi login screen. It is meaningful because it serves as a reminder of how dependent I’ve become on my phone and other electronic gadgets. I was in the world famous museum for goodness’ sake! Yet, there I was — sitting criss-cross applesauce on the floor — charging my phone because it didn’t have enough juice for me to take and share pictures of my visit to the Louvre! Had I brought a battery-operated digital camera, I would have had more time to enjoy the museum. In our so-called wireless world, why do we constantly find ourselves tethered to power outlets?

    Center: This is a picture of home from a plane. It is meaningful because it reminds me not to take anything for granted (OMG, oh my gratitude, I am able to travel and on a plane!?!) Also, no matter how wonderful your travels have been, there’s nothing better than your own place with your own bed and stuff at home!

    Right: This is a picture of “This too shall pass” on a crosswalk button. It is meaningful because it reminds me to live in the moment. Don’t worry about the bad moments because they won’t always be bad! Also enjoy the good moments because they won’t last forever either!

    Now it’s your turn. I encourage you to do this Meaningful Photos exercise! If you do, I hope you’ll share your thoughts and reflections!

    Whether or not you snap a photo today, I wish you a good, happy, and meaningful day!

    Picnic By the Pond at Marin French Cheese in Petaluma

    the locals call it simply “the Cheese Factory”

    The Marin French Cheese Company is located on a dairy farm in Hicks Valley, near the city of Petaluma, California, about 40 miles/ 64 km north of San Francisco.

    a bridge over Sonoma Creek

    Since they have been at this location since 1865, Marin French Cheese has earned the distinction of being the longest continually operating cheese company in America.”

    If the circular red and black logo looks familiar, it’s because Marin French Cheese was the producer of a variety of premium, hand-crafted French cheeses sold under the brand, “Rouge et Noir” which means “red and black.” They started using the name, “Marin French Cheese” in 2013.

    Their award-winning creamy Brie, earthy Camembert, and savory Schloss (with a light orange-colored rind) can be found in many major grocery stores in the United States, as well as online.

    My family and I recently enjoyed a picnic by the pond. We purchased everything we needed for an easy picnic from their deli: an 8 oz. wheel of their traditional Brie, salami sandwiches, mini plastic bottles of wine, pasta salad, and a bag of baguette slices.

    We found a picnic table in the shade! We were close enough to see these three ducks attempt some synchronized swimming:

    For more information and to watch their 4-minute video, visit the Marin French Cheese website. 🧀

    Two French Bakeries and the Blue House in San Francisco

    In my blog post, If You’re Going to San Francisco, Be Sure to Watch These Videos Filmed There,” I described how a blue house in San Francisco inspired Maxime Le Forestier to write a French song entitled, “San Francisco.”

    I recently got the chance to see the house on 18th Street made famous by the song:

    I happened to walk past la maison bleue en route from one French bakery to another French bakery! Quelle coïncidence!

    Tartine (600 Guerrero Street)

    Ever since my colleague told me about Tartine, a French bakery in the Castro District that he and his wife liked to frequent for brunch, I’d been wanting to go. Thankfully, I relied on my Maps app to find it.

    There’s no sign on the building with “Tartine” on it, but you’ll know you’re at the right place when you spot the line out the door. Was the patisserie trying to be unassuming or anonymous? Either way, I figured it added to the mystique.

    Once inside, it’s a tight squeeze. I did notice that people were pretty good about eating then promptly leaving so other patrons could have a seat. There were a few tables and chairs outside, too.

    While you wait, you can read their laminated menus while you hum along to pop music they play inside at a deafening volume. (Maybe that helps clear the tables…Brilliant!)

    Don’t expect service with a smile, though. I got the impression that the people behind the counter and pastry case take themselves too seriously. Fortunately, I have the superpower to tune out the ‘tude and focus on what I came here for:

    The pain au chocolat was divine. A billion buttery and flaky layers with gooey dark chocolate inside. My cafe au lait was served in a bowl, like they do in Paris!

    Le Marais Bakery (498 Sanchez Street)

    I had read positive reviews for another French bakery called Le Marais Bakery. It was three blocks away from Tartine, so I decided to check it out while I was in the neighborhood.

    This chocolate chip cookie was delicious:

    On that note, have a sweet day! 🍪