Top Ten Things I Love About Christmas In The Bay Area

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A few days ago I posted the refreshed for 2018 Top Ten Things I Miss About Christmas In New Mexico, which has become something of an annual nostalgia trip for me.

As I was writing it, I thought to myself, you know….I’ve lived in the Bay Area for twenty years. Maybe it’s time to write a top ten for my current home.

I mean, I am an ex-pat New Mexican and will always be a New Mexican, but I’ve lived in the Bay Area long enough to also call it home. I guess I’m lucky in that way, to call more than one place my home.

And so without further ado:

Top Ten Things I Love About Christmas In The Bay Area


1) San Francisco’s buildings lit up like presents. Around Thanksgiving the buildings on and near the Embarcadero turn into glittering holiday presents and the Ferry Building lights up red and green.

My first Christmas living here, I’d taken a ferry over to Sausalito to buy presents. When I came back over on the ferry, just as the sun was setting, I saw those gift-wrapped buildings for the first time I couldn’t stop staring. It’s so beautiful and an annual tradition.



This was taken just after New Year’s Eve fireworks last year, hence the smoke, but the view can’t be beat. Image found here


2) And while we’re talking about things down on the Embarcadero, how about the tradition of Palm trees wrapped in Christmas lights? Other than one sickly Palm tree doing its best to grow by the NMSU library, there aren’t really a lot of Palm trees in New Mexico.

But there are plenty here and I love that they get in on the holiday fun. The Bay Area is hardly the only place to feature lit up holiday Palm trees, but it is the first place I ever saw the style and I’ve always loved it.

Here’s an example of the Palm trees outside of AT&T park (there are 24 Palm trees to honor legendary #24, Willie Mays).


Image by Fuzzy Traveler and found on Flickr.

3) To stay on the theme of trees, the Bay Area hosts and awful lot of offbeat Christmas trees each year. I don’t recall seeing a lot of weird trees back home in New Mexico, mostly normal trees decorated in the traditional way (which I love). But since living here in the Bay Area, I’ve seen a variety of trees including one decorated with only the heads ripped from dolls (weird), a tree decked out solely in Star Trek gear (nerdy), trees made of alternative materials like lab supplies, computer servers and routers, and then this one found at an architecture firm by internet friend, UPS driver extraordinaire, and longtime San Franciscan, Rafael Monterrosa.


Photo copyright Rafael Monterrosa (@rafael415 on Instagram), and used with permission. Give Rafael a follow, he is a fantastic photographer and posts photos from his travels all around the city of San Francisco. He’s got a sharp photographic eye and knowledge of the City like no one else.



4) Okay, one last tree thing: Another fine Bay Area holiday tradition is tree lighting ceremonies. Usually happenig the weekend after Thanksgiving, every town has at least one. From the Union Square and Ghirardelli Square events in San Francisco, to Jack London Square in Oakland, to Christmas in the Park in San Jose, and lots of smaller neighborhoods and businesses in between, people love to come out to see trees light up for the first time of the season, drink hot chocolate, and get into the holiday mood.

Here’s a photo from my little neighborhood’s second annual tree lighting event this year:



©2018 Karen Fayeth

5) Now it’s time to move on to the fantastic Bay Area food traditions at the holidays. Let’s talk about Lumpia which can be found at just about every holiday potluck. Living in the Bay Area has opened me up to the traditions of so many cultures that I just never experienced back home in New Mexico.

I have been honored to know and work with so many amazing people from the Philippines, and they have lovingly introduced me to their food, most notably lumpia, which can roughly be described as a Philippino egg roll. More colloquially it’s been called the food equivalent of crack, and I can’t disagree.

Nothing more joyful than a huge pile of lumpia at the holiday party. No matter how many are in the pile, they will certainly ALL be gone within no time, and I will do my part to make them disappear. So freaking good.


6) Let’s keep talking about holiday pot lucks because the Bay Area likes to eat, something I have always loved that about living here. In addition to lumpia, holiday eating in the Bay is an enormous cross section of diverse foods, all of them delicious.

This year my loaded down holiday plate included lumpia, pork buns, chow mein noodles, Italian seafood lasagna, samosas (delicious little savory pockets from Indian culture), German stollen, Hungarian floating island dessert, pecan pie (hello pecan producers in NM!), enchiladas, guacamole, ceviche (done in a Brazilian style), and much more.

I mean, come on! The amazing diversity of the Bay Area means the best of foods from around the world. What’s not to love?


7) I’m not done talking about food either. Holiday season is also Dungeness crab season. Starting roughly in November (start dates depend on a lot of things), this is the time of year where the commercial crab season opens, and oh what a season.

For many Bay Area families, it’s tradition to go down to the wharf or to certain places at the coast on Christmas morning to buy crab. Fresh caught that morning, and you can take it home and cook it yourself, or pick one out from the steaming vats.

As a single gal, I used to celebrate holidays with a dear friend, and she loved this tradition. She’d go out early in the morning to buy crab then put a huge stock pot in the middle of her dining room table to catch the shells and we’d dive in with hands and metal crab crackers. Some folks think eating crab is too much work, I say those people leave more crab for me and that’s just fine. Delicious!

8) Going to the beach on Christmas day. One of the best Christmases I ever had was when I was all alone, a little depressed, and I made the excellent decision to pack up some leftover Chinese food, a blanket and a small radio and head to the beaches of Half Moon Bay for the day. It was a balmy 65 degrees and for many hours I had the beach all to myself. I read, I ate, I zoned out, I watched the waves, and I wasn’t lonely for a minute.

9) The smell of eucalyptus and fog. Okay, fair enough, this is not just a holiday thing, but for some reason it stands out for me during the holiday season. The Bay Area is home to quite a few Eucalyptus trees, which are actually an invasive species, but are now just a part of life here.

The Bay Area geography means we have what is called a “marine layer“, which is the reason for the iconic fog we experience. Roughly explained, when a warm Bay Area day meets the cool, cool Pacific Ocean, they crash into each other and create fog.

Add to that when a Eucalyptus tree gets warmed up, it releases its very aromatic oils.

So you have a warm tree giving off oils and by the afternoon a marine layer pushing ocean fog into the Bay Area. This creates a smell that is unique to the Bay Area all year round. Add in the moist damp air from the rainy season that starts around the holidays and you have something that will forever be etched in my mind. Even my sister recently commented on her memory of the Eucalyptus smell from her last visit.

10) To use a colloquialism from the internet, I truly love the way the Bay Area is so very extra at the holidays. Examples include the enormous real Gingerbread House at the Fairmont hotel, the entire Oakland Zoo covered in holiday lights, the huge Dickens fair, the full size skating rink constructed every year at the Embarcadero Plaza, real live reindeer at the Discovery Museum, the lighted boat parade with holiday lights from San Francisco’s not one but two yacht clubs, and that’s not even the beginning of a comprehensive list. There is always something to do, to try, to remember, and to make a tradition.

The Bay Area loves the holidays and I love everything about that.

_______________


Well that ended up being an awful lot of fun to write. Maybe posting this version right after my New Mexico version becomes my new holiday tradition.

Basically, I just love the holidays and all the food, smells, and trees, so I guess wherever in the world I live, I’ll find something to love and write about at the holidays.

Thanks for coming along with me on this journey. Feel free to tell me what you love best about the holidays where you live either here or on any of the social media where we connect.

And to you and yours, wherever in the world you are, wishing a wonderful, joyful, and magic holiday season.





What? No. Thinking Businessey Things.

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My employer is weird. This is known. And one of the weird things they like is to have portraits done of all of us minions every couple years.

The employer has a professional, award-winning photographer on staff and in addition to his amazing photos of amazing science, the poor guy also has to sit in a conference room while a parade of geeks, nerds, scientists, engineers, and dorks like me clomp through.

Last time I had a work photo taken, it was two years ago. It was a humid day. I had to walk up a steep hill to get to the place where the photos were being done. I was running late because I couldn’t find a parking spot.

I’d sweated my makeup off and my hair frizzed to cotton candy status. Then I sat down and had my photo taken. It’s awful. And it’s published on my department’s website for all to see.

We’re encouraged to use that photo as our email avatar. Nope.

Today is the day when new company photos are being taken. Argh. I have been, to put it mildly, obsessed about this. I want my new professional work photo to be something I am willing to look at.

Yesterday I carefully examined all of the photos of my coworkers in the photo archive to assess what works and what doesn’t. This morning I curled my hair. I put on makeup. I fussed.

At about twenty minutes before my appointment time, I sat at my desk fretting. I decided to open Photobooth on my Mac to get a real look at how things were working and what needed fixing.

I gazed into my laptop camera and took a couple shots. I evaluated the smile, the hair, the lipstick then I went back in to try again.

I was staring the camera dead on, trying to smize when in my peripheral vision I see one of the auditors come walking down the aisle. The very serious big 4 outside auditors here doing serious stuff like auditing financials. And here I am, a manager, supposed professional, at my desk selfie’ing.

So I tried to play it off real quick. I looked away and was acting all like “no, no selfies here.” And “Yeah it’s cool, ain’t no thing.”

And then the Photobooth “flash” popped (it flashes a blank white screen). Busted.

Yeah. Um.

Anyhow, I took that photo of my shame, cropped it, sent it through an Instagram filter and now it’s arty. Thoughtful. Meditative.

Nah, it’s just me trying to look cool and failing miserably. Welcome to Dorkville, population me.

I sure hope my professional photo turns out a lot better.




Thinking so hard right now.







Photo Copyright ©2015 Karen Fayeth and subject to the Creative Commons in the right column of this page. Please don’t use this photo elsewere. I’m asking nice. Photo made with Photobooth, Instagram and my special brand of genetic dorkiness.




2010 Word of The Year

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Every year in December my local paper, the San Francisco Chronicle, solicits reader suggestions for the word of the preceding year.

From those suggestions, the staff picks the annual word with an eye toward choosing the word that best sums up the year in news.

In 2009 the word was Tweet. In 2008 the word was Bailout. In 2007 the word was Subprime.

Getting the trend here? Something popular, perhaps overworked by the media. The word on everyone’s minds.

This year, the staff of the Chron went a little less global and a little more local.

Here’s the back story:

The San Francisco Giants baseball team has an award winning local broadcast team made up of former SF Giants pitcher Mike Krukow and former SF Giants shortstop Duane Kuiper, known together as “Kruk and Kuip.”

Neither of these men had stellar baseball careers, but in their retirement gig as broadcasters, they have really made their mark.

These two are colorful, fun and knowledgeable. They are revered here in the Bay Area.

At the end of every game, the television broadcasters (usually Kruk and Kuip) and the radio broadcasters (usually Jon Miller and Dave Flemming) will get together on the radio for a post-game wrapup.

It’s their chance to talk about the game, pick their favorite players of that game, and generally cuss and discuss. These post game shows have become very popular, mainly because the style is very casual and conversational. The listener feels like they are sitting in at the table with these four guys (and sometimes former first baseman JT Snow) having a beer and discussing the day’s work.

Over the course of the 2010 baseball season, it wasn’t always a smooth ride for my lowly Giants. They played in a lot of tough games that were often decided by just one run.

Out of eighteen games over the season with the Padres in 2010, eight were determined by one run. In the month of May, the Giants had ten games decided by one run out of 28 total versus all opponents.

At the end of April, just the first month of the season, the Giants had lost two games back-to-back. The Monday game was a ten inning loss, and the Tuesday game was a one hit game lost on a walk off run by David Ekstein (who had so plagued the Giants in the 2002 World Series).

It was emotionally taxing.

So, when Kruk and Kuip hit the air that next day for the third game of the series (in which the Giants were ultimately swept), Kuip used the San Francisco Giants own PR slogan in an exasperated way.

The long running ads had proclaimed, “San Francisco Giants baseball…(pause)…there’s Magic Inside!”

On that day in April, Kuip said, “San Francisco Giants baseball…(pause)…Torture!”

The phrase resonated with weary fans and the word Torture! was applied to every game, every moment, every second of agony we endured…including every single game played in the post season.

Torture became the theme of our World Series winning season. An anguished cry. A rallying cry.

And so the 2010 word of the year from the San Francisco Chronicle is…you guessed it:

Torture

What a lovely way to suffer.

(for the record, from the SFGate: “”Vuvuzela’ and ‘hacktivist’ finished second and third. ‘Refudiate’ and ‘patdown’ were the other finalists…”)

Trophy image taken by a corporate photographer from my place of work and used with permission.

The Artist’s Way

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You spend time refining your art. You take classes. You learn your tools. You seek out a mentor. You push your bounds and find your limits.

But you can never, ever predict what work you do that might capture the attention of others.

For me, with my photography, it’s been about patience. About learning how to set up a shot. Understanding the exposure triangle (ISO, aperture, and shutter speed) and how to apply it.

I study other people’s photos. I figure out what I like about them and what I don’t, and I learn. I try to replicate. I use the levers and switches and sliders and I take them to the very ends of their capability to see what I like.

And sometimes I get a really good shot. Something I’m excited to share.

Every once in a while, something special happens. Something like…a parade.

And I think to myself, “well, why not take the camera.”

So there I am at the corner of Market and Powell in San Francisco, and trolley cars start rolling by carrying the players from this World Series winning team.

The light is terrible. Not only am I down in a canyon of tall buildings, but my subjects are in motion. I bump ISO, but that gets too grainy. I fiddle with white balance, one setting is too blue, the other too yellow. I mess around with my aperture. A little depth of field or a lot?

The parade is in full swing so I begin shooting away. I’m using my 70-300 lens so I can see faces.

Later, at home, I download the batch, some 200 in all. Most photos are blurred. Some turn out ok.

But there is one. Something magic. Something special. Something unpredictable.

And out of nowhere, six hundred and fifty people have looked at my photograph on Flickr.

That photo is below. It is San Francisco Giants players and best friends Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell. Aubrey has just handed Pat a Bud Light.

Oh, might I add…Aubrey is wearing his Cooperstown bound red “Rally Thong” around his neck.

Well, well, well. What do we have here?

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Why look at that. It is San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy!

Hey Boch…what’s that you got there? Oh. Right.

The 2010 World Series Trophy.

Yeah baby!

Photo by Karen Fayeth, taken at today’s victory parade through downtown San Francisco!

Woot!