Cute Shop: MXM Jewelry, Berkeley CA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have a crush on simple, but whimsical jewels. Case in point, remember this post? Or this oneOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce again, Berkeley serves as home to a really cute shop that makes the simple and whimsical pieces that I find myself crush on. MXM Jewelry, owned by Peizhu Huang and Ximao Miao has a pretty cute origin story that began when Peizhu was a first-year design student. Her final assignment for her Identity 1 class required a logo design for a business. Out came the entire concept for the store, with the same logo that they still use to this day. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile Peizhu (r) serves as the designer and point-person in charge for taking the orders, Ximao (l) is the metalsmith behind the operations. Every charm from MXM has been sketched by Peizhu, then handcrafted by Ximao either in their Oakland home’s garage or their tiny studio in the back of the store. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEach piece is carefully made by Ximao, who’s such a perfectionist that he’ll restart a piece from scratch if it doesn’t turn out just as he imagined. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Their first pieces were their super-cute pinwheel, paper airplane, and butterfly — all of which are still in rotation. Since then, they’ve ventured to make Pacman themed earrings, modern bar necklaces, and a California charm necklace that’s the nicest one I’ve seen so far.
Their nearly two-years-old Berkeley storefront features a small selection of their wares, but if you’re hankering for something that you don’t see on their handmade shelves, the duo can most likely make it.
MXM Jewelry
1918 M.L.K. Jr. Way
Berkeley, CA 94704

Cute Shop: Flora Arte, Berkeley CA

As we all know by now, Berkeley is the city in the Bay that serves as home to me. I’ve been pretty happy to have my routine established here – Saturday farmers markets, at least a monthly visit to my favorite bar, and a solid list of restaurants to take friends to. Also, I know parking in this city like the back of my hand now.

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My flower buying routine, however, was gloriously disrupted when Flora Arte burst onto the scene back in June. Owned by the sweetest friend-duo from Korea, Ms. Hong and Jin, who met in college before opening the shop in Berkeley.

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Jin, one of the owners, says his style when arranging his flowers is mostly English and Asian. Both characterized, by fully and foliage-heavy arrangements that are often monochromatic.

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Both owners keep a busy schedule – with daily visits to the SF Flower Market at 5 a.m. each day and keeping the shop open until 8 p.m. daily. Ms. Hong also works as a full-time accountant in the city.

The duo also makes their own gemstone soaps and hand-poured candles to fill their store. Flowers in the shop come from all over the world, but Flora Arte never refrigerates them. What you see is as fresh as it’s going to get, and might just be the prettiest bunch of flowers in the East Bay.

 

Flora Arte
2070 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
Berkeley, CA 94704

Cute Shops: New(er) SLO Stops

Another weekend has wound down, but some of us (ahem, me!) are still on weekend-time with the three-day holiday. I sped down to San Luis Obispo the minute I sent out my last email and had Anderson Paak queued up as my evening playlist. I was set on trying new things this weekend – which manifested itself into a new hike, a new day trip (Los Olivos is a must!) and visits to new shops.

There’s no shortage of small businesses in SLO and I am SO happy about it. Almost every time I visit, there’s a new store that’s opened up that has it’s own unique voice and selection of curated goods. I stumbled on these three this weekend, each of them wholly unique and completely representative of their owners. Sometimes, visiting a small business is like walking into the physical manifestation of everything someone loves. And I absolutely love that.

The Station
311 Higuera Street

Once upon a time an old gas station sat right off the 101 highway on Higuera Street. Then, one day, chainlink fences went up, the old gas tanks were removed, and The Station opened it’s refurbished doors to it’s carefully curated wine shop and eating space. The shop only stocks international wines (for now), which are all reasonably priced between $20-40 a bottle and are sourced from (it seems) the deepest nooks and crannies of Europe.

For those who come hungry, The Station hosts a pop-up food station (last week was Brisket Pho) every Thursday and Friday. Diners and drinkers can pick up a bottle of wine to share while dining inside the old mechanic’s garage. I’ll definitely be back for more Austrian rosé!

Appendage + Bough
1335 Walker Street

Just down the street from The Station lies Appendage + Bough, a rustic and cozy shop that’s home to Tim Beebee and Ryan Ratzlaff’s custom furniture workshop. Opened in the summer of ’15, the shop is the perfect showroom for their furniture and (mostly) California-sourced wares.

Looking for a handmade, reclaimed wood dining table with hairpin legs? You’re in luck. The dudes can make a very fine table, among other things.

Left Field
1242 Monterey Street

When I pulled up to Left Field, I definitely let out an audible gasp the second I saw the shelves of succulents outside their door. Located in a recently developed mini-plaza one block away from the hustle and flow of Downtown SLO, Left Field lives up to it’s name.

Stocking completely unexpected wares, including neon and vintage-esque signage and gemstones scattered throughout the store, this shop will make you smile, let out a soft chuckle and think to yourself, “Now where in my house can I put that?”.

A Day in LA: What to Do in Downtown Los Angeles

When I was little, Los Angeles seemed like a hulking mass of a city filled with traffic, cars, and Korean people because my understanding of Los Angeles was the 4 blocks of Koreatown that my mother, aunts, and grandmother frequented at least once a month. But of course, Los Angeles is so much more than the Korean epicenter that I understood it to be. Just like San Francisco (and really, any other metropolitan city), Los Angeles has micro-neighborhoods with it’s own specialties, cuisines, and types of people.

If you find yourself in Downtown LA, between Figueroa and Main, here’s what’s worth a visit. I know it’s sacrilege to leave your car, but spend the day walking around the neighborhood, instead of soaking in the sights from the confines of a vehicle.

Do:

The Broad Museum
221 S. Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012

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The Broad has already been featured here, but I still can’t get over it! Eli and Edith Broad’s collection is no joke and full of pieces that you’ll remember for quite a long time — it’s pretty hard to forget about Jeff Koons. Like I said before, leave behind the camera and the urge to Instagram the first time you go. Reservations are still booked out until February, but maybe things will quiet down soon. Maybe.

Eat:

Grand Central Market
317 S. Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90013

If you find yourself walking down Broadway, you’ve found yourself on one of the most LA-esque streets in the city. Art-deco buildings, mixed with rundown concrete boxes with graffiti on the facade line the sky. A few storefronts away from a religious candle store, is Grand Central Market, the longstanding food hall that was recently renovated in 2014. The market now serves as a home to over 40 food stands and vendors, like Eggslut and Ramen Hood, but also local food purveyors like Sarita’s Pupuseria and Valeria’s, a spice stand.

Stopping at Grand Central Market is a must. There are few places that give you a feel and understanding for the culture that lies in the underbelly of a major city, all while being situated right next to some of the most publicized restaurants in the country.

Bottega Louie
700 S. Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90017

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Photo c/o Bryce Covey from Jacquelyn Clark’s blog

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Photo c/o @sohappitogether

It’s hard to ignore the constant stream of macaroon and Bottega Louie ‘grams on nearly every fashion and food blogger’s site. Even with the hype, I’d still stop by for a few sweet treats, a cup of coffee, and a visit to this famed LA food destination. You only live once, right?

Play:

Walt Disney Concert Hall
111 S. Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012

A glass of wine, a nice dress, and a long evening spent sitting down and listening to great music. Sounds like a dream night for me. If you’re already downtown, why not stick around for a few more hours to catch the LA Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel, aka The Dude? The 2015/2016 calendar is coming to a close in June, with many exciting shows lined up.

Cute Shop: The Sawtooth Building in Berkeley, CA

The Bay Area is filled with people who make things. From the 2 billion lines of code written at Google to the bowls that those billionaire founders have in their kitchens, things get made up here.

So where do these artisans shack up?

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In Berkeley, it’s The Sawtooth Building in the most Westerly part of the city. Just a block away from The Rare Barrel and a couple blocks from the waterfront. With over 30 studios, it’s a hub for handcrafted wares and a perfect escape from Market Street and Union Square in San Francisco.

This past weekend was an open studio for the forty-plus makers that spend their time designing, building, and crafting those goods that they are so passionate about. Every time I get to have a conversation with them, I feel so renewed and revitalized to go and make something, and go after all the things that I want — just like they do.

Sarah Kersten Studio 

Ever since stumbling upon Kersten’s work on Instagram (honestly, where else these days?) I’ve been meaning to stop by her studio. I was even more excited to find out that she was also nestled in Berkeley, a seemingly rare location for artists these days as my favorites tend to be in the city or in the North Bay. After growing up on a farm, the self-taught Kersten relocated to the Bay Area six years ago and has been crafting her ceramics ever since. Her wares are made to serve a meaningful purpose, whether it’s to ferment food so that no produce goes to waste, or as a ceramic vessel to replace tupperware (which is a mantra I can get on board with).

Kersten may be launching a dinnerware next year, so stay tuned!

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Kersten’s work can be found at her site

Rae Dunn 

If you’ve been in any small store in the Bay Area, it’s highly likely you’ve encountered a Rae Dunn piece. Dunn sticks with simple, glazed white pieces with sweet and smile-inducing phrases written in her spiny print. I first found out about her after reading about Wilma’s World, a picture book about Dunn’s dog, Wilma — the perfect muse.

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Dunn’s work can be purchased at her Etsy shop

Roadtripping Down the California Coast 

For some reason I was keen to get out of the Bay and head out on a long, solo trip. I first (and impulsively) booked a trip to Hawaii but canceled in favor of a trip down the California coast. Armed with a car, a bag of clothes, and a killer playlist, I was off.

My first stop was La Selva Beach, an hour and a half south of San Francisco and nestled in the heart of California farmland.  It was hot, sunny, and quiet. Exactly what I was looking for this weekend. For dinner, I stopped at Miyuki Sushi in Watsonville, a farming town a few miles down the road from where I was staying. Open, empty roads meant that I ripped it down the highway after dinner and stared in awe at the pitch black sky speckled with millions of stars. Something that I don’t get at home.
 I also found a pristine beach located through a zig zagging road that led through field after field of farmland and migrant workers. Unfortunately, my car was broken into and I’m now down a wallet, camera, two purses, and my favorite lipgloss. Lesson learned — never leave your valuables in your car!
Next stop was Capitola, a quick trip from where I was staying, but a quaint seaside town too. I found a perfect place to watch a sunset by an abandoned set of train tracks and a beach side neighborhood.  I don’t know why Santa Cruz always gets the prettiest cotton candy hues of sunsets, but they do.

Now missing a wallet and all forms of lying for anything with plastic, I was off on my next leg of my trip. A drive down the CA-1 or famed Pacific Coast Highway all the way to San Luis Obispo.  It was off to Monterey and Pebble Beach for the 17-Mile Drive. As you wind down the Monterey Peninsula, it’s worth stopping at each of the scenic ocean vistas for a glimpse of turquoise blue, swirling water. 

Even though I was down a window and a wallet, I was set on making it down to Big Sur. The winding drive down the CA-1 was literally perfect with the sunny weather and my extremely good road trip playlist.   Big Sur was packed and much less tranquil than I would have liked, but was still gorge. I’d gladly take a quick walk to McWay Falls any day of the week. 

A solo road trip is completely doable – just make sure you have a great playlist, plenty of water, and plenty of sun.

 

An Ode to Sundays

I love finishing a good book. I love that mind-numbing feeling that I get after being pulled into another world or someone else’s life and being gently thrust back out of it and into a hazy transition from that life, to my own.


Getting back to work on Monday’s feels just like that after a weekend well spent. My favorite Sundays this month have been slow, leisurely, and filled with new sights, my favorite foods, and listening to myself — if I feel like having a restful day at home, I’m not dragging myself out to a brunch filled with Mimosas.

  

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but I’m starting to put tremendous value on my alone time. I’ve learned that I need one day a week all to myself where I can read, clean, cook, golf, drive, create, learn, etc.

I’m starting to savor Sundays for this exact reason and looking forward to their return as each week goes by.

Day Tripping to Tomales Bay, CA

While 1/2 of the city was partying at Outside Lands 2015, I took the opportunity to plan a weekend trip outside, in the lands of the San Francisco Bay. Tomales Bay is a 7 mile long stretch of water that sits between a thin peninsula and the northern part of the East Bay. Famous for oyster farms including Hog Island Oyster Co. and the former Drake’s Bay Oyster Co., you can say that it’s the oyster capital of California.

Even though it’s just an hour and a half north of the city, it feels like a completely different world and a hugely refreshing escape from the crowds and traffic. Here’s what I would do if I had to do it all over again. 

Take the time to walk along the bay for a while. If the weather had been a little bit nicer we would have gotten a pair of kayaks and paddled out in the bay to take in the salty air even more.

Since Tomales Bay is speckled with teeny towns with populations ranging from 50 to 200, it’s a takes a bit of driving along the CA 1 to town hop. But along the way you’ll be able to catch some great views of rolling hills, fluffy cows, and wild raspberries.

After dining at the Hog Island Oyster Co. outpost in the Ferry Building I couldn’t wait to head to Tomales to indulge in oyters that were harvested just steps away from the table. A new meaning to Farm to Table cuisine. We discovered a little line outside of the Hog Island boat (just an old boat turned shack) but the wait was quick. We even discovered that you can bring your own drinks, snacks, and meal accessories to accompany your freshly shucked oysters.

To cap off the day we booked an hour of horseback riding through the hills to get the last bit of sweeping bay views in. Susan, our instructor, was this wonderful and kind British woman with a great wit. When a few turkey vultures flew overhead she suggested, “Look alive, everyone!”.

A day was all I needed to feel like the reset button had been set. I guess it only takes a drive, some ocean views, and good food to feel refreshed.

Vice City Life

I recently jetted off to Miami, where the water was warm and crystal clear and the sun helped to defrost my chilly San Francisco bones. It was amazing. Miami was amazing. Or maybe just having a real vacation in a long time was amazing. All of our Lyft drivers talked about how the parties don’t begin until after midnight and end at 2 p.m.  But I was just fine going to bed by midnight every night, all the better for seeing this vibrant city.

Wynwood

As with almost all up and coming art scenes, old storage facilities and warehouses has been converted into galleries and boutique stores. While there, you should check out Boho Hunter for amazing jewelry from Latin American craftsmen, Warby Parker’s first concept store, and Panther Coffee for Miami roasted beans. Oh, and the Wynwood Walls of course.


The Standard

The Standard is probably the hippest hotel in Miami. Nestled across the island from the actual beach, The Standard is the ultimate spot for tranquility in South Beach. We squeezed in for a sunset dinner and a few drinks by the pool. Seriously missing those balmy summer nights right now. 
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South Beach

South Beach, you beaut. The minute I stepped on that searing white sand, everything that had been stressing me out washed away. Or burnt away. I happily spent my days under an umbrella with quick dips into the ocean and then back to my book.


    

Also be sure to hit up Collins for some quick shopping and for the cubanos  and iced coffee at Puerto Sagua, right on the corner of 7th.   Everglades

Want to see actual gators in the wild? Just an hour away lies the Florida National Everglades where vultures, egrets, and snappy turtles roam free. As for the gators? They won’t bite unless you bother them.

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Xoxo Miami, you were a much needed (and warm) blast.

Small Plates in San Francisco

SMALL PLATES. They’re all the rage in San Francisco and everywhere. Obscenely expensive at times for such a small helping of food. But somehow, restaurants everywhere are riding the wave and getting away with it. I’m happy to live in the hub of this small plates wave — from San Francisco to Oakland, I’ve had some of the best pre-dinner meals there is to offer.

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Valencia Street, arguably San Francisco’s most concentrated zone of new and highly acclaimed restaurants. Right off of 18th on Valencia sits Mission Cheese , home of the best cheese plates and wine combinations. The California plate, obviously enough, features cheeses straight from the Golden State which are usually prize-winning, locally sourced, and just pretty damn good. The cheese-mongers behind the counter will happily (and successfully) suggest a perfect beer or wine pairing.

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Everyone who’s been living in Hayes Valley for a while seems to hate Hayes Valley now. It’s probably because of cool places like Biergarten, which is exactly what the German name implies. Right after work on a warm, San Francisco evening, this place gets packed. We’re talking the after work FiDi crowd, with their button-up shirts buttoned one less button and the new-Hayes girls with their Mansur Gavriels and cool, on-trend Vince slip-ons. Regardless of the clientele, Biergarten is the perfect spot for when cold nights turn a bit warmer and if you’re looking for an outdoor post-work drink option. Pretzel-bread sandwiches are on point, pickled deviled eggs are ridiculously pink, but refreshing, and the Radler (a Hefeweizen mixed with a lemon soda) is just as bubbly and sweet as it sounds.

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Last, but definitely not least, we have The Mill . Not Mill. But The Mill, the NoPa lovechild of Josey Baker Bread and Four Barrel Coffee. Situated right on Divisadero Street, one block up from Alamo Square (the Full House houses are there), this place gets packed starting 9:30 on any given weekend morning. It’s easy to make fun of this place, because one cup of coffee and one piece of toast will set you back nine whole dollar bills. But, the bread is baked fresh every day with grains and seeds that add a special depth to the crispy crust and perfectly dense inside.