Restaurant Challenge: Sidestreet Pho

Mike & Elise

Mike & Elise


OK people, dreams have come true this time around on the restaurant challenge. My children actual begged to return to a Vietnamese restaurant we recently picked from the bucket. Never mind that it’s mostly due to a dessert piled high with mango shaved ice, bits of marshmallow, and tapioca pearls.

I love Vietnamese food. I am glad it’s now a part of our regular rotation of restaurants. I am glad that my kids have found new foods they like even if it was a dessert that got ’em in the door.

Overall Thumbs Up

Overall Thumbs Up


SIDESTREET PHO
http://sidestreetpho.com/
Since pulling this from the restaurant challenge bucket we’ve been here a couple time. The restaurant is simple and nicely designed. The food is good and the service is friendly. In our various trips we’ve tried the following:

Elise:
Pho Ga but with Egg Noodles: Thumbs Up!

mmm, soup.

mmm, soup.


Jack:
Com Tam Bi Bo (Grilled Beef with Rice): Thumbs Up for the rice (as usual). Thumbs medium for the steak, although I thought it was delicious. Thumbs way up for the pickled daikon, cucumber, and carrot salad.

Mike:
Banh Mi Bo Kho (Beef stew with french bread): Thumbs medium, he liked it ok but not overwhelmed.
Bo Luc Lac (Beef stir fried with egg noodles): Thumbs up, tasty.

Me:
Cha Gio Heo Nuong (Rice Vermicelli Salad with imperial roll and grilled pork.) MMM, one of my favorites and this one didn’t disappoint.

Pho Ga: Thumbs Up, the broth was really flavorful and good.

Vermicelli with Pork and Egg Roll

Vermicelli with Pork and Egg Roll


                                                  
And then there is this magical snow ice dessert…
WARNING: Fingers could get accidentally bitten off during the feeding frenzy this causes.

Mango Snow Ice Dessert.

Mango Snow Ice Dessert.

Sidestreet Pho: Now in our regular restaurant rotation.

Easy Watermelon Cooler

Refreshing

Refreshing


I was cutting up a watermelon tonight and was left with a pool of juicy looking pulp sitting in the rind. Rather than pick it up and drink it down, a light bulb popped. Watermelon cooler.

I grabbed a spoon and started scraping. Of course you could do this with chunks of watermelon but I got kinda excited that I found a use for something I would have just tossed in the compost. Then I gathered a lemon, a bit of white wine (I used a table white but Prosecco would be good too) and some ice. Easy breezy like summer. What resulted was a refreshing, crisp drink with a hint of natural sweetness cut a bit by the lemon.

Ingredients:
– Dry White Wine or Prosecco (I used a table white that was 80% Sauvignon Blanc/20% Chardonnay)
– Watermelon leftovers
– Ice
– Lemon

Watermelon Leftovers

Watermelon Leftovers


To Make:
– Take the spoon and scrape down the rind, making as much pulpy juice as possible.
– Fill a glass with ice.
– Fill the glass half way with watermelon juice and pulp.
– Then fill with wine.
– Cut some lemons, squeeze one small piece into the drink and stir. Then drop a couple slices of lemon on top.

Find a porch, kick back, and sip.

Ouch Sun, That Hurt! Weird Sunburn Remedies.

Awhile back I watched a video on the internet with a doctor talking about common household remedies for sunburns. I can’t find it now but I could swear they said that applying tea or vinegar within the first eight hours after your skin gets sunburnt not only soothes the immediate pain, but also stops and even reverses some of the sun damage that nasty burn inflicted on your skin. Could it be true?

This stuck in my head when I found myself, after a day in the sun, looking like a crispy critter. What the heck, might as well give it a shot. So I soaked a paper towel in white vinegar and applied it all over my sunburn. The next day, I swear there was a noticeable difference between the area I easily reached and applied more vinegar to (shoulders), and the area in the middle of my back (still a deeper red).

Shortly after I noticed that my mother-in law carries around a small water bottle with a half water/half vinegar solution to apply after being in the sun… at the suggestion of her dermatologist. I think we’re on to something here!

I’ve since applied vinegar many times to pieces and parts of my family’s skin that have seen too much sun and it always seems to help. At the very least it doesn’t hurt. So, as you head out to enjoy some July 4th fun in the sun, remember your SPF! But should you still find yourself a little pink around the edges, grab for the vinegar asap. Or one of these other household items…

(NOTE: I am no doctor, nor is the internet from which I gleaned this info, this is all just anecdotal)

VINEGAR:
Apparently there is acetic acid in vinegar. Acid?! on a Sunburn?! Yeah, seems like it helps relieve pain and restore the pH balance to your skin which promotes healing. I go straight-up-hard-core pure white vinegar but you can also mix half vinegar/half water, soak a washcloth or paper towel, and hold on your skin for awhile. Or dab all over the sunburn and repeat a few times. Seems Apple Cider and white vinegar are the best types of vinegar to use.

Tea
Sitting out on the deck eating some lunch, soaking up the sun and OOPS sunburn! Order an iced tea, soak a napkin, hold it on the burn, move into the shade and lunch on. Tea has healing properties. The internet seems to think black tea works best.

Yogurt
Turn your crispy skin tandoori-style with a little yogurt slathered on. I’ve never done this but people out there online say it’s the best way to heal a sunburn. But there’s evidence to support lots of “best ways” so I say grab what’s handy, slather it on, it’s better than nothing.

On that note, some other items said to help:
– Cold Water
– Milk
– Cucumbers
– Oatmeal
– Coconut Oil

Enjoy your 4th of July, use sunscreen, and keep that vinegar handy.

Adventuring: Aquarium & Dim Sum

The heavy reality of heading back to work hit like a ton of bricks this morning as I spent two hours driving a mere 15 miles to work. Nothing like starting a new job the same day the regional transit goes on strike. And as I crawled down the freeway en route to the new gig, it wasn’t the traffic dragging me down. It was the reality that my freedom has officially been boxed in around work, commutes, and deadlines. Sigh. But I lamented this already in last night’s post so time to get over it and move on.

Elise and I spent my last day of summer freedom on friday adventuring together. Jack was at camp so she got to pick all parts of the plan. She chose: Aquarium of the Bay followed by Dim Sum.

I went online to the local library Discover & Go program and downloaded a free pass to the Aquarium, clipped a Ferry coupon out of the Alameda phone book, and planned our route…

Ferry Ride

Ferry Ride


Alameda/SF Ferry
We dropped Jack at camp and headed for the ferry terminal to catch a boat over to Pier 41 near our destination, The Aquarium of the Bay at Pier 39. We took a couple of pit stops first 1) The Kite Store bubble machine for some dancing, 2) the Sea Lions but only one lone sleeper lay on the platform, the rest we determined were out to sea and 3) The candy store on Pier 39 with barrels of taffy in every flavor. Try passing by that with a four year old without entering.

Bubble Dancing

Bubble Dancing

CANDY!

CANDY!

Aquarium of the Bay/Pier 39
This isn’t the most phenomenal aquarium, and not somewhere you can spend the entire day. It’s a fairly quick walk through with our longest time spent at the touch tanks. They do have a very cool walk through glass tunnel full of large sharks, rays, and fish cruising by above your head. And recently they added an otter exhibit though they were snoozing away while we were there. They have a friendly staff and even if it’s not as grand as the Monterey Bay Aquarium, we enjoyed our time there.

Touch Tanks, Elise's favorite!

Touch Tanks, Elise’s favorite!


I love these cute little Strawberry Anenome

I love these cute little Strawberry Anenome

City View Dim Sum
We walked from Pier 39 to City View Dim Sum via North Beach. A good way to go because there’s lots to see to keep the walk interesting. Elise was in a stroller so she sat back and enjoyed the ride. I got a little exercise to preempt the calorie explosion about to take place.

When I worked in downtown SF, City View was always my favorite Dim Sum spot to hit up for a Friday lunch with coworkers. I love me some Dim Sum and have been known to overstuff myself on numerous occasions. This time around we kept it under control with 4 items, though admittedly I ate most of it. Elise had her favorite: Baked Pork Buns and declared them the best she’s tried to date. Bonus: We ran into some friends at the next table.

Right after this shot, she shoved the entire thing in her mouth.

Right after this shot, she shoved the entire thing in her mouth.

We then walked down through the Financial District to the Ferry Terminal and hopped on a ferry back to Alameda. Another lovely day with my girl, this time luckily without a single temper tantrum.

Financial District Fountain

Financial District Fountain


Lovely Day in the City.

Lovely Day in the City.

Ends and Starts

One of my favorite summer moments.

I’ll miss you Summer.


Well, summer is coming to an end for me, short but sweet. I head into a new job tomorrow satisfied with all I’ve squeezed out of the last few months and a little nervous for new beginnings.

During my time off it was my goal to:
1) Dust off my creative side since my last job overpowered it into hiatus.
2) Spend more time with my kids, preferably adventuring.
3) Set up new habits to keep goals 1 & 2 continuing while employed.

I kicked off numbers one and two bootcamp style with my Make Stuff Up Challenge as well as getting this blog off the ground. Sure, there are some projects yet to complete (ahem, basement) and some I never started, and the “daily” was actually every few days, but I crown it a successful jumping off point to keep rolling forward with.

The trick now is goal number three, keeping the creative habit rolling while working. While I am officially laying to rest the daily challenge, I will continue to post on Fumbleweeds once or twice a week with various creative projects, challenge updates (the restaurant challenge continues!), and adventuring reports.

So what’s the new gig? I will be working on Product Management for a small start up making Karaoke apps. A new jumping off point of sorts since I will be challenged to throw my inhibitions to the wind and sing. In broad daylight. At work. Huh, did I think this one through?

fumble and roll.

Summer Sun

Summer Sun

“This is my Pajamas”: Customize Your iPhone Ringtones

My daughter, out of the blue, started to occasionally speak with an accent that sounds somewhere between a southern drawl and a cartoon character. Around the same time, she also started doing this random thing where, while getting ready for bed, she would stand there naked and dramatically point to herself and say “This is my pajamas” in her newly affected accent.

These two things combined always make us bust up in laughter. Surely there must be some way to immortalize this memory. So I recorded her saying it one night with the Voice Memo utility on my iPhone. Then it dawned on me, it must be pretty easy to turn this little tidbit into a ringtone or alert. Why wouldn’t the rest of the world want to hear this soundbite every time I get a text? Totally entertaining, not at all annoying.

Elise’s iPhone Alert

Like back when phones started getting more sophisticated (what, 5 years ago?) and as a joke I changed my ringer to play Caribbean Queen by Billy Ocean. Seriously, nothing turns a dead silent workspace or BART car into a chuckle-fest like getting a phone call with that as your ringtone.

Billy Ocean – Carribean Queen. You’d laugh, right?

Back to today, it turns out it’s pretty easy to make your own tones for the iPhone 5. I can’t speak to other phone makes and models but with a little googling, I am sure you could make magic happen on your device.

MAKE CUSTOM RINGTONES & ALERT TONES – w/ Voice Memo on iPHONE 5
Step 1: Open the Voice Memo recorder in your phone’s utility folder.

Step 2: Record what you want to use as a tone. I found that 1-2 seconds was plenty for an alert. 5-10 seconds seems good for a ringtone.

Step 3: When you’re done recording tap the “list” button to listen to your sound. If your sound needs to be trimmed, tap into the sounds info and then select “Trim Memo” and a yellow slide bar will appear. tap/hold/slide in the left and/or right side to trim off what you need. When you’re satisfied with it, tap “Trim Voice Memo”

Step 4: On the sound memo’s Info page tap “Share” and email yourself the sound file.

Step 5: Go to your computer and download the sound memo file from your email to your desktop and rename it to something you’ll remember when it appears in your phone’s tone list. When you’re renaming, also change the name of the file extension from .m4a to .m4r. You’ll get an alert saying “Are you sure you want to change the extension from .m4a to .m4r?” go ahead and click “Use .m4r.”

Step 6: Connect your phone to your computer. These are iPhone to MacBook instructions but I assume PC or Mac, as long as you have iTunes the following is universal. Double click the .m4r file to open it in iTunes. This will add it to your iTunes library under Tones.

Step 7: In iTunes, go to View -> Show Sidebar. Then in the left sidebar, open the “tones” folder in your library. You should see your new sound tone listed. Drag and drop this tone down to your phone. This adds it to your phone automatically under ringtones (because of the .m4r extension).

Step 8: On your phone, go to Settings->Sounds and then Ringtone (and/or individual alerts). You should see your new sound listed at the top of the “Ringtones” list. Select it and voila! Then call/text/email yourself to hear your new tone.

It sounds like more steps than it is. Once you have it down it’s quick. Experiment and personalize your phone with your kid’s laugh, your cat’s hiss, or your first ukelele chords strung together… whatever, play around and let me know what you come up with

Adventuring: The (New) Exploratorium

Color Shadows

Color Shadows: Exploratorium


Today I picked back up the world’s slowest basement remodel by putting another coat of primer on the walls. This “make” is just too boring to put words to. Instead I am digging out an Exploratorium adventure from a couple of weeks ago that I never got around to writing about.

Well, ok. (deep breath) That’s not entirely true. I started to write about it that very night but was clearly not fully recovered enough to string coherent words together. The Exploratorium itself was awesome, and I will get to that more in a second, but the behavior by my four year old daughter (yes the cute one sipping tea and stuffing bears)… not so awesome. It was a fit of epic proportion that caused the two of us to sit outside the museum for AN HOUR in a standoff while Jack went in with his friends and their families. The type of fit that tests every ounce of one’s parental mettle. The fun part? We had ferried over so there was no way out. I’ll spare you the detail, but I will say at one point my daughter called me a “beast” which, in hindsight, is a kinda funny thing for a four year old to say.

Eventually we worked through the ordeal, though I would not say with any grace or parental prowess. Maybe something in our post-storm talk did settle in because she hasn’t done this since and has even stopped herself from going there a few times.

Ok then, with that behind us, we did make it into the Exploratorium an hour before it closed…

The Exploratorium
Sometimes change is scary. You really love something as it is, grew up with it as it is, can’t really imagine it another way. This is what made me nervously anticipate the complete overhaul of the Exploratorium. Would the new location be too new, too sleek? Would there remain a gritty curiosity to the place? Was I over thinking it all? (clearly)

No camera filter used here: the monochromatic room.

No camera filter used here: the monochromatic room.


But really, they did a phenomenal job rebuilding this place. It did feel new and modern but without losing it’s edge. The new location is so much easier to get to by BART or ferry (ahem… BART if you might need a quick getaway). There are way more exhibits, much more to see. It feels more spacious whereas the old one often got cramped. The only downside was that Jack loved running around the Palace of Fine Arts next to the old location. I think he envisioned it as his own Star Wars battle arena so he misses it. Also, the price has gone up (to be expected) making it now a pricey adventure for a family of four. We’ll get a family membership since it’s definitely a place to keep returning to.

The other thing that remains true in the new version is that it’s full of hands-on science that is equally enjoyed by kids and adults. This is an every age museum. You see tons of adults enjoying it without kids in tow. Like Herbie, the overall and page boy wearing pied piper of the Exploratorium who had tricks up his sleeve to get the most out of each exhibit. We kept running into him and he kept being super gracious and sharing his exploration with the kids… bubble wands for the colored shadow wall, multicolored jelly beans for the monochromatic room, flashlights to write with in the Shadow Box room. The kids loved running into him. Who was this mysterious hipster? Did he work there??

In Summary: If you live in the area, go here. If you visit San Francisco, go here. Even if you don’t have kids, go here. There still is no place quite like the Exploratorium.

Plankton Map

Plankton Map


glub, glub

glub, glub


Leave it to Jack to find the "game"

Leave it to Jack to find the “game”


Color Shadows

Color Shadows


Wall sized bubble wand.

Wall sized bubble wand.

Herbie, the Pied Piper of the Exploratorium

Herbie, the Pied Piper of the Exploratorium

Exploratorium
Pier 15, San Francisco
http://www.exploratorium.edu/