The Alaskan Adventure Beings

And just like that – we opened our eyes and were in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Well, not exactly… it actually took nearly 11 hours of traveling and included two flights through four time zones. But this morning after a great night’s sleep, that is a distant memory. We have woken up in the northernmost city in North America and are ready to start our adventure.
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The Secret Garden

“I said to myself, ‘This is really ugly. Somebody ought to build a garden here.’ So I said, ‘I’ll do it’ …and I did.” – Amir Dialameh

Amir Dialameh was hiking the trails in Griffith Park in 1971 after a major brush fire ravaged the area when he decided to start a garden.
desert garden

He obtained permission and then spent years working alone, clearing approximately 200 carbonized tree stumps with a pick and shovel carried from home.
desert garden

He could be found working in the garden nearly every day for up to eight hours at a time terracing the slopes, building stairs and adding benches.
desert garden

Amir had challenges along the way. People stole plants, demolished saplings, he was once beaten and robbed, and two major brush fires damaged the garden. But those incidents didn’t keep him away and he patiently restored the losses.desert garden

Volunteers began helping maintain Amir’s Garden in the late 70s and continue to do so after Amir’s unexpected death in 2003. Amir once said, “There are so many problems, so many pressures. All people do is complain. They need to get away from that.” Amir’s Garden is just the place people could do that; under his care, it became a five-acre oasis in the city.

desert tree

“…what you need first and foremost here is shade,” Dialameh explained in 1989. “That’s why I planted trees like the jacaranda. In ten years, this place will be covered with their branches.”

The San Francisco Treat

When I found myself wandering up and down Mission Street in San Francisco with a growling stomach, I couldn’t decide what to do. The biggest challenge that I run into when traveling alone is trying to figure out where to eat, I’m usually overwhelmed by the options. Then I saw a sign in the distance, all it said was “TEA * FOOD.” It doesn’t get easier than that, right?

Samovar Tea Lounge overlooks the Yerba Buena Gardens. They offer the encouragement to “Turn off your phone. Take a breath. Let us brew you a pot of tea and cook you a nourishing meal…” So I did. Well, not the phone part; but I spent a leisurely lunch getting sunburned while I drank tea and had my first rice bowl.

The rice bowls are served with the ingredients plated alongside a pot of green tea soup base. You add the tea to the dry ingredients in order to create the soup consistency that you desire:

rice bowl

Seasonal tea broth over rice, vegetables, wakame seaweed & shiitake mushrooms with braised tempeh (vegan)

It paired perfectly with the Nishi Sencha Tea that the server recommended:

tea

Nishi Sencha Tea: Pacific brine, sun-warmed garden peas, silk lingerie

The next time you’re wandering the Mission District in San Francisco and need to catch your breath, definitely stop in at Samovar.

Day Two: Los Angeles

what-is-perfect

Café Gratitude

Well, I can’t complain about Day Two in Los Angeles.

We found ourselves at Café Gratitude for a raw, vegan lunch. I’m neither raw nor vegan, but this lunch was delicious.

veggie-wrap

The “HAPPY:” Mediterranean wrap with raw falafels, zucchini cilantro hummus, spinach, red onion, tomato, cucumber, harissa sauce and garlic tahini dressing on dehydrated sun-dried tomato bread

noodle-salad

The “TERRIFIC:” Kelp noodles tossed with basil hempseed pesto, cashew ricotta cheese, heirloom cherry tomatoes, baby spinach, green and Kalamata olives and finished with almond parmesan and chopped basil

The plants at the nursery were AMAZING and could the weather be more perfect?

Sunset Nursery

Sunset Nursery

I can’t imagine anything more perfect than the amazing handmade dress I found at Matrushka that fits like it was made for me:

perfect-dress

All fabrics are locally sourced by Matrushka’s owner, Laura Howe.

And look at these, do I have to say more? The only thing that makes dessert more perfect is sharing it with a friend.

dessert

Great names for these Café Gratitude desserts: IRRESISTIBLE (Coconut Cream Pie with chocolate swirl & dark chocolate crust) and AWAKENING (Key Lime Pie)

California Adventures: Day One

The first time I came to LA was with my dad and he surprised me by pulling a giant bag of candy out of his suitcase when we got to the hotel. The only thing better than that, is coming to see California Girl. She is the perfect reminder that everything is better when you do it with a friend.

Every weekend with California Girl involves at least one visit to a fabric store, and Michael Levine’s is the mother of them all:

fabric-store

All of that creative inspiration made us hungry, so we hit up the most appropriate place for two hungry girls to eat, The Homegirl Café.

Taco Sampler

California Girl’s Taco Sampler

Veggie Grilled Cheese

My Veggie Grilled Cheese

We saw a little local wildlife:

dragonfly

And then needed some dessert. I scream, you scream, we all scream for raw, vegan ice cream? We did and sampled some Kind Kreme, it was delicious.

vegan-icecream

Eventually we made it back to the California Girl B&B where I was served tea and biscuits (actually a tasty homemade gluten-free muffin) while she pretended to work for a little bit:

Tea Time

And before long, we tucked in for a little television and dinner. I like to think that I changed California Girl’s life by introducing her to ONCE UPON A TIME.

chips-guacamole

Lentil Soup and Homemade Guacamole

All in all, the perfect Date Night (for One): Girlfriends Edition.