Ready to Jibe?

Words by Jennifer Jory

As we hoist the jib on the Merit 25-foot sailboat, it takes off flying, heeling into the wind. A wave splashes over the bow, gently spraying our team. It’s race day at Spinnaker Sailing and we scramble to the boat’s high side, trying to chase down the more competitive sailors ahead of us. Gliding through the sapphire blue water, I feel like I’m on vacation, but I’m just off the shore in Redwood City.

One of the Peninsula’s under-explored treasures lies along the waterfront dubbed the “Redwood City Riviera” by Spinnaker Sailing owner Rich Ferrari. In a Sausalito-like setting, perfectly aligned 25- to 75-foot-long sailboats gently rock in their moorings in the Port of Redwood City Marina. “It’s the best-kept secret,” Rich confides. He should know. As a lifelong sailor and businessman, he has owned sailing schools and boating marinas from San Francisco to Mountain View, in addition to serving as harbormaster in Redwood City for 25 years.

“If you’re living in the Bay Area and not sailing, it’s like living in the Alps and not skiing,” Rich observes. Committed to sailing education for over 43 years, he’s a steadfast booster for our legendary local sailing conditions, known worldwide for consistently strong winds. “It’s a social, wonderful recreational resource,” he notes. “Sailing also presents a lot of challenges and problem-solving opportunities. Engineers are enamored with sailing because there is always something to figure out, and it engages them physically and mentally.”

Spinnaker Sailing is the oldest American Sailing Association (ASA)-affiliated school in the country and the only one on the Peninsula that teaches large boat sailing on 25- to 42-foot boats. Through Spinnaker’s 15-plus courses, novices can earn certification from basic keelboat sailing to coastal cruising and navigation. The school also equips students to charter boats locally and in reciprocal sailing locations worldwide. “Our courses are designed to give students internationally recognized certification for the various levels of achievement,” underscores Rich.

With a fleet of 30 boats, students can progress from small crafts to larger steering cruisers. “There is always an online portion of the class and then a practical on-the-water session,” Rich explains. “You could get through a basic keelboat course in four days. There’s more wind and currents on the Bay, however, so it takes time under supervision to develop a certain spontaneity and confidence in your decision-making.”

Sailing enthusiasts who want to advance to the next level to charter 50-foot boats or larger can join the school’s overseas sailing vacations and earn a Bareboat Cruising or Catamaran certification. Spinnaker Sailing offers numerous ways to engage through sailing charter trips, company team-building excursions and a sailing club with access to sailboats any time. “We want to set incoming sailors up for success,” stresses Rich. “Time on the water is important to further refine new skills so they become instinctive.”

Born and raised in the Redwood City and Menlo Park area, Rich developed a passion for the sport at 16 when his father introduced him to sailing on a friend’s boat on the Bay. It wasn’t long before he bought his first 41-foot boat in his early 20s. While he was varnishing his yacht one weekend, someone asked him if he would consider becoming a sailing instructor and he soon began teaching. From then on he was hooked. “I’ve been engrossed in sailing for the last 45 years,” he affirms. “I feel like I’ve been on vacation my whole life.”

Rich brings a fearless attitude to sailing that he honed through numerous outdoor extreme sports. “I had an appetite for challenges in my youth that I probably should have thought twice about,” he admits. “I sailed from Maui across the channel to Molokai on a windsurfer by myself. The excitement of river rafting also drew me in as well as climbing rock faces without ropes.” While teaching sailing, Rich also raced sailboats for many years. He applied this same adventurous spirit as a sailing world entrepreneur, developing projects like Mountain View’s Shoreline Park, Redwood City’s Seaport Conference Center, sailing schools at local waterfronts and a Peninsula windsurfing retail store: “Opportunities would avail themselves and I would say, ‘Let’s go do that!’”

After marrying his wife Kris, Rich’s life gained balance, and he stayed in port to raise their two now young adult children Nikola and Sean. Clearly influenced by his upbringing, Sean lives on a 41-foot sailboat in Marina Del Rey.

With a substantial portion of the Bay Area located on the water, sailing offers a way to experience the outdoors locally and beyond. In fact, several Spinnaker students have completed classes and taken off sailing around the world. Rich relays how an ambitious newly-certified sailor recently set off for Cabo San Lucas with the help of a Spinnaker skipper. In Mexico, the student found a crew mate to continue sailing through the Galapagos, Australia and all through the Indian Ocean.

Back in Redwood City, as Wednesday night racing draws to a close, sailors maneuver their brightly-colored boats back to the marina to swap stories. “Sailing becomes part of your lifestyle and it’s a very soothing environment,” reflects Rich. “It’s like being rocked in your mother’s arms.”

come aboard –

Savor the Sonoma Coast

Words by Lotus Abrams

Standing on a windswept bluff on Bodega Head, gazing out at the Pacific Ocean as the waves crash onto the beach below, it’s not hard to appreciate the rugged beauty of the Sonoma Coast. There are so many reasons to visit this remote, unspoiled area. Sweeping vistas appear around nearly every bend along Highway 1; stunning trails and beaches beckon; and seaside eateries offer a taste of the region’s freshest bounty. Spend a few days exploring the area around Bodega Bay and Jenner—luxurious lodgings invite you to linger.

Bodega Bay

Start your getaway in picturesque Bodega Bay. Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 thriller The Birds—filmed in Bodega Bay and the surrounding area—put this petite fishing village on many a traveler’s map. But credit also goes to the natural beauty of its setting, offering ample opportunities to enjoy outdoor pursuits.

Photography: Courtesy of Timber Cove Resort - The Nomadic People
Photography: Lotus Abrams

Part of Sonoma Coast State Park, don’t miss Bodega Head Trail, an easy 1.7-mile loop on a rocky peninsula that juts out into the Pacific, providing panoramic views of the ocean as well as the bay. Depending on the time of year, you may glimpse migrating whales, seals, wildflowers and seabirds on your walk. Across the channel from Bodega Head, sheltering the bay and harbor, Doran Regional Park is another scenic spot to explore, with its two-mile-long beach, rock jetty (a popular spot for fishing) and grassy dunes that connect with the Bird Walk Coastal Access Trail.

When it’s time for lunch, head to one of Bodega Bay’s casual seaside spots for fresh seafood specialties like local oysters and clam chowder. Two popular options are Fishatarian Fish Market for fish tacos and local brews and Spud Point Crab Co. for crab sandwiches and crab cakes.

Photography: Lotus Abrams

After lunch, burn some calories by taking a kayak or stand-up paddle board from Bodega Bay Kayak out for a spin (rentals and tours are available as well as lessons for beginners), or sign up for a surf lesson at the Bodega Bay Surf Shack. You can also explore the beach dunes and hills around Bodega Bay by horseback on a trail ride arranged through Chanslor Stables or Horse N Around Trail Rides.

In the afternoon, make your way to Sonoma Coast Vineyards to sample cool-climate rosé, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and pinot noir. Enjoy your tasting with a cheese and charcuterie plate in the inviting tasting room or in the family- and pet-friendly picnic area offering scenic views of the bay.

After an activity-packed day, check in to the Lodge at Bodega Bay for a luxurious overnight stay in one of the hotel’s 83 beautifully renovated rooms and suites boasting private balconies and patios and stunning views of the bay, ocean, harbor and marsh, along with wood-burning fireplaces in many rooms. Take a dip in the infinity-edge hot tub, which offers unobstructed water views, and make sure to enjoy a meal at the on-site restaurant, Drakes Sonoma Coast, or in the more casual Drakes Fireside Lounge, where you can sample fresh regional seafood, meat, produce, cheeses and wines. A heated swimming pool, sauna, spa, fitness center, outdoor fire pits and complimentary cruiser bikes are also among the amenities.

Photography: courtesy of drakes fireside lounge


The following day, drive north, taking in the majestic coastline as you make your way toward Jenner. In the tiny town, located where the mouth of the Russian River meets the Pacific, local gathering spot Café Aquatica makes a good pitstop for breakfast or lunch. Serving up house-made pastries, sandwiches and fair-trade, single-origin coffee, Café Aquatica hosts live music acts during the weekends in the summer on its outdoor deck overlooking the river.

Leaving Jenner, the grassy hills paralleling the coast quickly give way to steep, wooded slopes thick with stands of Bishop pine, redwood, Douglas fir and tan oak. Take in 360-degree views of both the Coast Ranges and the mighty Pacific from the Vista Trail, an easy one-mile loop trail located about five miles north of Jenner.

A few miles up a side road from Highway 1, Fort Ross Vineyard & Winery produces estate-grown chardonnay, pinot noir and pinotage wines from its Fort Ross-Seaview American Viticultural Area (AVA) vineyard located a mile from the sea—the closest to the Pacific Ocean in the entire state of California. The seated wine and food tasting experience (available by appointment) features locally sourced small bites prepared by the winery’s in-house chef served on the tasting room’s expansive deck overlooking the ocean or inside by a roaring fire.

Back at the coast, Fort Ross State Historic Park offers an intriguing glimpse into what life was like when the site was a Russian-American Company settlement from 1812 to 1841, the southernmost settlement in the Russian colonization of North America. Several reconstructed buildings, and one original, have been furnished with artifacts that are representative of the era. Check out the visitor center for informative exhibits that also cover the area’s natural history, native Kashia Pomo people and ranch era (1842–1972).

Photography: courtesy of Timber Cove Resort

After you’ve wandered through the park, make your way to the Timber Cove Resort, set on a dramatic bluff above the ocean. Celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, Timber Cove has been lovingly renovated with furnishings that evoke its mid-century heritage while adding a sense of rustic-chic charm. An “outdoor living room” outfitted with firepits, billiards and ping-pong tables, and accommodations stocked with yoga mats, record players and Nest-controlled fireplaces (in many rooms) add to the experience. The onsite restaurant, Coast Kitchen, offers seasonal fare featuring ingredients sourced from many local purveyors and a Sonoma-dominated wine list—all with a gorgeous ocean view.

Before heading home, visit Gerstle Cove at Salt Point State Park to see the fascinating honeycomb-like erosion called tafoni (Italian for cavern) visible in the sandstone rocks near the water’s edge. Fun fact: The sandstone from Salt Point was used to construct San Francisco’s streets in the mid-1800s. Look carefully and you can see eye bolts in the rocks where ships once anchored to load sandstone slabs.

Coastal Relaxation –

Bonsai Bliss

Words by Johanna Harlow

“People ask, ‘How many trees do you have?’ I say, ‘Too many!’” chuckles Michael Greenstein, Kusamura Bonsai Club’s newest president, as he swings open the gate to his Los Altos backyard. In this verdant haven, towering redwoods watch over 150-odd bonsai like proud parents over a brood of hatchlings.

Like all dedicated Kusamura members, Michael can detail the characteristics, styling choices and previous owners (if any) of each of his bonsai. “Every tree has a story,” he notes, before scooping up a tree with exposed roots that undulate octopus-like beneath its trunk. “I call this the ballerina blue oak,” he says. “It has nice motion. My job for the next ten or so years is to develop this canopy as the crown of the dancing roots.”

Cover Photography: Robb Most / Photography: Johanna Harlow

Devoted to the artistic shaping of miniature trees and shrubs from the age of 16, Michael, now 70, shows no signs of hanging up the pruning shears. “It’s kind of like a sculptor looking at a block of marble,” Michael describes of the practice of bonsai. “What is the sculpture in the marble? It’s mostly in the sculptor’s head. Bonsai’s a little like that.” A tree will take different forms depending on which branches you lop off or leave. “There’s more than one bonsai in every tree that’s presented in front of you. What do you want to see in this tree?”

Of course, these two forms of artistic expression also deviate. “If you’re sculpting in clay, you can always throw more clay on the wheel to add to bulk. But in bonsai, you have to grow that wood. Very often we grow these trees in the ground for a period of time to fatten them up.” It’s also a “living medium,” Michael points out. “If it’s done, it’s dead.”

One of the oldest English-speaking bonsai clubs in Northern California, Kusamura has been rooted on the Peninsula since nursery owner Toshio “Tosh” Saburomaru founded the Palo Alto group with his friends back in the 1950s. Tosh went on to teach nationally, and when Michael joined Kusamura in the ‘80s, the club flourished under the guidance of John and Sandy Planting. The couple lived on half an acre in Menlo Park, Michael recalls. “They had over 3,000 bonsai at one point,” he adds. “Sandy spent three hours a day watering.”

Photography: Robb Most

Michael gestures to a 200-year-old juniper of John’s he adopted after the man passed. Among its services, the club offers assistance to families of deceased bonsai enthusiasts—selecting easy-to-care-for trees to retain as keepsakes, while helping them sell and rehome the others. They also “nurse” sickly plants. “Health first, design second,” Michael stresses. “If you have a dead tree, it’s just emotionally expensive firewood.”

As he proceeds to the pergola where his shade-loving deciduous trees live, Michael digs deeper into the nuances of the ancient craft. “The Japanese artform of bonsai is in some ways very creative, but in other ways very rigid.” Upright, slanting, cascading—each tree style has its own set of guidelines. “There are rules about what shape and color and size the pot should be, and rules on where the first and second and third branches are, and where the apex (the top of the tree) is relative to the base and how deep the pot is relative to the diameter of the trunk,” says Michael. That said, there’s wiggle room for creative license. “I tell people, ‘First you have to learn the rules, and then, when you really understand them, then you’re empowered to break them when appropriate.’”

Photography: Johanna Harlow

Kusamura members certainly find beauty in the details. “Talking about pots is like arguing about religion in the bonsai community,” Michael laughs. “Everybody has a different notion about how big the pot should be, what shape, what color… The beauty of it is that there is no absolute, ‘correct’ answer.”

Due to Kusamura’s expertise, the club has been entrusted with the care of Filoli Garden’s vast bonsai collection. With a smile, Michael recalls the time he lent a hand with one of Filoli’s problem trees. “No one seemed brave enough to deal with it, so they called me in,” he recounts. “I said, ‘Okay, I need you to all agree that once I take these branches off, you’re not going to complain.’ Because you’ve gotta think twice and cut once!”

Photography: Robb Most

Speaking of which… Michael holds up a splitter tool, used to crack and tear branches in a way that mimics Mother Nature’s weathering process. “It looks like a medieval torture device,” he quips.

As a club member, Michael also shares his knowledge through demonstrations. Kusamura’s growth mindset means workshops for both beginners and more advanced members. “It’s really focused on lifting everybody up to enjoy that art form,” affirms Michael, who learned from a book during his first decade of bonsai. After joining, “I quickly recognized the advantage of being in a club where there were people who could say to me, ‘Don’t do this—because in ten years, you’ll realize that it was a bad idea.’”

Another perk is participating in the Annual Club Show, where 150 or so bonsai pose regally on their wood and stone stands. A formal display consists of three elements: a tree on a stand, a complementary accent plant and an artistic scroll (with calligraphy poems or illustrations). “Those three elements connect in some way—such as the motion of the tree, the flowers on the scroll and the flowers on the accent plant,” Michael explains. What’s more, “the stand harmonizes with the design and the shape and the character of the tree,” and the elements should be asymmetric. Not only is each display arranged to tell a cohesive story, it also allows guests to flow organically through the exhibition.

Photography: Johanna Harlow

At the end of his backyard tour, Michael comes to stand by a potted oak. “I acquired this tree from Tosh Saburomaru,” he shares. “He gave me this as a two-year-old seedling he had grown from an acorn and he said, ‘Put it in the ground, grow it big and then grow old with it.’” It seems a fitting tribute to the spirit of Kusamura Bonsai Club, as its members patiently and purposefully continue to nurture this centuries-old artform.

Tranquili-tree –

Imagination Gone Wild

Words by Johanna Harlow

A Godzilla-sized monarch has come to roost on a Tenderloin apartment building. Hyde Street’s largest resident flexes its multi-story, sunshine-colored wings, an unapologetic contrast to the gritty neutral tones of the urban landscape. After all, this is its home too.

“When we made cities, we made them with the intention to not have nature in them and to block it out, but nature has come back in. It’s unavoidable!” notes Jane Kim, the muralist behind Ink Dwell, a Half Moon Bay-based art studio. “So how are we going to live with it? … I’m hoping our work can provide a reconnection to a different perspective of how we can engage with nature.”

Le Papillon is part of Jane’s Migrating Mural campaign series, which spotlights the threatened monarch along the migration corridors these butterflies share with humans. It’s one of many monumental projects. Jane and her paintbrush have sent seagulls and terns pinwheeling around the Jones Beach Energy and Nature Center in New York and jellyfish pulsing along the walls of National Aquarium in Maryland. Countless more of her painted creatures (furry, feathered and finned) inhabit buildings and walls across the country.

Combining fine art with scientific illustration, Jane’s birds and butterflies are never just a pretty pair of wings. “It’s certainly not typical … There’s a fidelity to accuracy while still a real deep embrace of creativity and inspiration,” describes Thayer Walker, Jane’s husband. When Thayer isn’t putting fingers to keyboard as an author and correspondent on the topics of exploration and the natural world, he oversees operations at Ink Dwell.
Together, this dedicated duo brings contemplative beauty to the conservation conversation.

Step into the Studio

Ink Dwell’s headquarters reinforces Jane’s blending of styles, serving as an homage to natural history as much as a studio for art. Cans of paint, color wheels and buckets of brushes are interspersed among shelves of abalone and conch shells, animal skulls and jaw bones, feathers, beetles, pinecones and tree stumps. Bookshelf titles range from Rivers Run Through Us and Under a Wild Sky to Into the Nest and Aliens of the Deep.

“Ink Dwell is a play on the words ‘inked well,’ and then art about the places I like to dwell,” Jane explains as she passes by Cliff, a taxidermied black bear who surveys project mockups from his centrally-located rock.

Even Ink Dwell’s egg logo suits the studio’s symbiosis of nature and art. “It represents a natural object that is truly a work of art,” Jane explains. “The spots and the colors and the amazing patterns that you see on bird eggs are literally painted on the egg! All eggs start white, and then, as they pass through the cloaca and into the canal, pigment is added onto the eggs.”

As to the intent of an Ink Dwell mural? Its mission is multifaceted, Thayer explains. “To educate and beautify, to create a real compelling sense of place—but that’s actually the most narrow purpose for these things. It’s really meant to be a platform for so many other things—for broader storytelling, for conversation, for activation and activism.”

…Even for product. Pulling up a pant leg, Thayer reveals his kicks. His shoes are embroidered with the blue-footed booby—a marine bird from one of Jane’s past murals that artisan shoe seller Le Mondeur translated into wearable art. At their heart, Ink Dwell murals are “meant to catalyze a love and engagement of the natural world,” Thayer sums up. Jane nods in agreement, “We’re a part of it!”

Photo Courtesy of Le Mondeur

Nature Nurture

Jane’s reverence for the outdoors started young. “I wanted to know and understand this world that isn’t human-made,” she shares. Recalling the chopping down of a favorite tree in her childhood backyard—one she’d shimmied up often to nestle in a favorite nook—Jane gets misty-eyed. “It really sits with me in a visceral way, the loss of this massive, epic willow tree.”

Speaking of humans and their inseparability from the wild world… “We have these beautiful nature encounters on almost every single one of our outdoor projects,” Jane laughs. She launches into a story about a winged visitor during the Le Papillon project. “We had a juvenile red-tailed hawk who would just come and land on our swing stage and sit with us while we painted.” On another memorable occasion, “a Cooper’s Hawk dropped a pigeon carcass—like PLOP—it just landed right next to us!”

Thayer too feels the pull of nature, particularly through the majestic power of the ocean. As a surfer, he describes “getting out into that frontier, where it’s energy and it’s chaos, but it’s also… it’s ordered chaos.” It was a major deciding factor in attending UC Santa Cruz. “The wildness of it is what attracts me. I kind of have an anti-authoritarian streak,” Thayer admits, adding that he has always pressed back against “rigid structures and contrivances of humans.”

Nature seems to love Thayer right back. He once dug up the ninth largest diamond discovered at Arkansas’ Crater of Diamonds State Park. (Mostly, Thayer says, people don’t find anything when they pay to dig, “and if they do, they find some little thing the size of a grain of rice with the clarity of a foggy San Francisco August day.”)

Photo Courtesy of Chris Michel

Writer meets Painter

Befitting Jane’s butterfly murals, the painter’s own metamorphosis is quite the remarkable one. “It took me a little while to find my voice and to figure out what I wanted to do with this career called art,” Jane reflects. After graduating from Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in printmaking, Jane moved to San Francisco. She met Thayer in 2008 while participating in a group show.

“I would very much consider myself an emerging artist when we met,” Jane says, adding that it was before she studied science illustration. As Thayer revisits the memory, he reflects, “Her art was very different from what you see today—but still it had a lot of foundation. It had a lot of energy to it. I saw someone with unlimited potential.”

Though Thayer might be a wordsmith, his already thriving career fueled Jane’s own. “Meeting somebody like Thayer was so inspiring in terms of an individual who had cut a path for himself from the inspiration that he found in adventure, sports and nature,” Jane says. “He was pitching his ideas to magazines!”

The couple reflect on a particularly wild assignment Thayer wrote for Outside around the time they started dating. It involved his volunteer experience walking a 260-pound jaguar on a leash at a Bolivian animal-rehab center. “Rupi was a magnificent creature with incredible cinder block jaws and a telephone pole upper body,” Thayer describes. “He wiped me across the jungle for two weeks.” Day one on the job was particularly memorable: “He literally wrapped my head in his jaws!”

“Thayer’s whole mentality of, ‘Here’s the ideas I have—who’s going to come and be equally excited about these ideas and bring them to the world?’ was a whole different way of thinking that I, at the time, absolutely did not know how to do, and frankly, didn’t even think was possible,” Jane rejoins. Later, she would crowdfund her first Migrating Mural project through Kickstarter, painting a series of six murals devoted to the Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep along the Eastern Sierra and Highway 395.

The project’s success landed her another job, this time painting 243 life-sized birds over a 70 by 40 foot wall at Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Taking nearly a year and a half to paint, it remains among Jane’s proudest work, even inspiring an artful coffee table book that Thayer wrote. “The Wall of Birds was Thayer’s and my first real collaboration as something we put into the world together,” Jane says. “I love that both our names are on it.”

Murals weren’t the initial plan, Jane says, but they equipped her to reach a heartfelt goal: dialoguing with the public as opposed to solely the fine art community. “Murals became a canvas for storytelling,” she describes. Thayer adds, “We’ve found these static objects have the ability to create really dynamic movements and engagement that ripple through the world.”

As Jane’s artwork received rightful recognition and she saw a surge of new projects, she brought Thayer aboard to oversee operations full-time at Ink Dwell. “It’s not a paintbrush affair,” he insists of his role. “None of that. And that’s in everyone’s interest.”

Natural Habitat

“I don’t know if we have what people might say are necessary boundaries between work and personal life,” Jane observes with a laugh.

“It’s all kind of fluid,” Thayer agrees. “This is just a manifestation of Jane. There’s no divide. It’s just her. If she could be making art for 16 hours a day, she would—and frankly she is. It’s like a bird in flight or a fish in the water. It’s just what they do.” At this point, he excuses himself to take a call with a real estate company. Jane is looking to paint a life-sized redwood tree on
a skyscraper.

“It wasn’t like we were ever setting out to do this,” Jane smiles as she watches Thayer head off. “I think that’s often the case in my work. I have an idea, and yes, I set out to do it, but there are so many times where things kind of happen because the circumstance and the time and place all make sense and everything is in alignment.”

Photo Courtesy of Shailee Shah

Because art is an instinct for Jane, she understands the organic impact a mural can have on its audience. “It sort of seeps into public consciousness in a way that I think is really interesting,” she reflects. “All of a sudden, those who are living and seeing it every day are connected to it—almost in a subliminal way.” Watching Jane flow around her ecosystem of a studio, it seems the most natural response in the world.

Hunt for Ink Dwell

Redwood City
+ Arthur Murray Dance 
Studio at 2065 Broadway 
+ Cafe La Tartine at 830 Middlefield Road 
+ Polam Federal Credit Union at 770 Marshall Street
+ Marshall Street Parking 
Garage at 750 Marshall Street
+ Behind the theater at 870 Jefferson Avenue
+ City Hall bench

San Carlos
+ Salt + Brine

Half Moon Bay
+ Mac Dutro Plaza

Wild Murals –

Diary of a Dog: Riley

I was born in a public pound in South Korea and came to the Peninsula through @princedogkorea, a rescue organization that saves pups from overcrowded shelters and neglect. When I first arrived in Menlo Park in 2021, I felt really lost—and it wasn’t just because I didn’t understand the language. I also didn’t comprehend the meaning of “love” and “home.” Thankfully, ever-so-patient Gabriella gave me the care and space I needed to settle in. (It took me eight months to figure out that an outstretched hand can be a positive thing: treat!) I’m still a bit shy and fearful around people, but I let my guard down completely around my pals, which include my cat housemate Lola, my bestie Kaida and my dog mom Marge, also a Jindo mix, who was adopted by a family just a few blocks away. Seeing that my personality comes out when I play, Gabriella recently pulled off a big surprise. In June, she rescued another Jindo mix from Korea to be my dedicated fur buddy. “Riley doesn’t really fit the mold of what most people think a dog should be,” I’ve heard her say, “but I love her like crazy, and I’m just trying to give her the best life possible!”

Calling All Dogs: If you've got quirky habits or a funny tale (or tail) to share, email your story to for a chance to share a page from your Diary of a Dog in PUNCH.

Get Your Grill On!

Words by Paulette Phlipot

Summer is the season for grilling! Instead of heating up the house, fire up the barbecue and enjoy the beauty of your backyard. PUNCH’s resident foodie Paulette Phlipot shares her favorite recipes for summer entertaining.

Grilled Peaches

If you like peaches, you will absolutely adore them grilled!

serves 4

2 peaches, best if they
are still a little firm
olive oil
½ cup sour cream
1½ tbsp coconut sugar or
maple syrup

Preheat the grill to medium and oil the grates.

Stir the coconut sugar or maple syrup into the sour cream and set aside.

Slice the peaches in half along the seam, remove the pit, and brush olive oil across the cut side of the fruit.

When the grill is heated, place the peaches cut side down onto the grate. Grill until you can see grill marks–about 5 minutes–then oil the other side and flip over and grill for another 4-5 minutes. Remove from the grill and let them cool for about 5 minutes.

Place each peach half on a plate and top with sweetened sour cream before serving.

Grilled Lamb Loin Chops with mint & Tomato Salsa

Simple, sweet and special. With a little planning ahead, this recipe can be enjoyed even on the busiest of weeknights.

Serves 4

4 lamb loin chops
½ cup honey
½ cup Dijon mustard
1 tbsp dry vermouth
2 tbsp Worcestershire
2 tbsp fresh tarragon

Mint & tomato salsa
1 small tomato, diced
¼ cup mint leaves, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Place the lamb chops in a sealable container. Mix the marinade ingredients together and pour over the meat. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 6 hours, turning the meat occasionally.

Preheat the grill to medium-high and oil the grates.

Combine ingredients for mint & tomato salsa and set aside.

When the grill is heated, place the meat on the grates and cook until seared on both sides, about 4-5 minutes each side.

Remove from the grill, cover loosely, and allow to rest for 5 minutes. When ready to serve, spoon mint & tomato salsa on top.

Use caution when grilling lamb chops over fire since they have a fair amount of fat that can drip, which will cause flare-ups. It’s helpful to leave part of the grill without coals, or turned off so you can move the chops until the flare-up calms down.

Grilled Flank Steak Tacos

Popular for using in fajitas, flank steak is a long, thin, flat cut of beef that is just as good for tacos. The meat can remain quite tender if cooked to rare or medium-rare and sliced thin against the grain.

Makes 8 tacos

Marinade Ingredients
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp garlic granules
2 tsp chili powder
2 tbsp orange zest
4 tbsp olive oil
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper

Other Ingredients
1 lb flank steak
8 corn tortillas
1 lime

Topping suggestions
grilled red pepper
grilled poblano pepper
grilled red onion
cotija cheese
sour cream

Place flank steak in a sealable container. Whisk the spices with the oil and pour over the steak, making sure the steak is evenly coated. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours with a maximum of 24 hours, turning the meat occasionally.

Preheat the grill to high and oil the grates. Place the steak on the grates, flip after 5 minutes and continue cooking for an additional 3-5 minutes. Let the meat rest for about 10 minutes before slicing.

Warm the tortillas on the grill, place a couple of slices of meat on each, and top with veggies and cheese of your choice. Serve with a wedge of lime.

grilled radish salad

Radishes may not be the first vegetable that comes to mind when you think about grilling, but once you try these, you just may change your mind!

Serves 2

Cilantro dressing
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 tsp chopped jalapeno
(adjust for preference)
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup sour cream
¼ cup full-fat plain Greek yogurt
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
3 tbsp olive oil
¼ tsp salt

Grilled Radishes
1 bunch of radishes
2 tbsp avocado oil
salt and pepper

Other Ingredients
4 cups salad greens
¼ cup shaved parmesan cheese
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds

Add all dressing ingredients to a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth. Set aside.

Trim the greens off of radishes, cut them in half and place them in a bowl. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss until they are all coated thoroughly.

Grill on medium-high heat directly on the grate or in a grill basket if the radishes are small. Grill for 3-4 minutes per side or until fork-tender, turning once. Place the radishes back into the bowl and toss to coat with any remaining oil in the bowl and set aside to cool.

Once the radishes are cool, place salad greens into two bowls, top with radishes, dressing, parmesan and pumpkin seeds.

Refrigerate remaining dressing and enjoy with eggs, potatoes or just about any vegetable.

Beat on Your Eats: Thai Restaurants

Words by Johanna Harlow

From tip-top pad thai to tasty tom yum—“must-try” Thai.


Palo Alto

For a vibrant downtown Palo Alto spot, curry on over to Thaiphoon. Puns aside, this restaurant is known for its standout curries. With 15+ options—from panang to pumpkin—it’s hard to go wrong. Settle into one of the wicker seats by the window, and start your meal by dipping roti into green curry and peanut sauces. After dining on spicy Thai basil chicken or Mongolian beef with crispy rice noodles, get adventurous with dessert. The Thai pumpkin and egg custard on sweet rice and coconut milk is a fan favorite. 543 Emerson Street. Open daily.

sirayvah organic thai

San Carlos

Serving up bowls of pad kee mao and panang salmon curry in style, Sirayvah Organic Thai features an enchanting space punctuated with decorative cut-out screens and nautical rope light fixtures. And, as the name suggests, dishes come with the promise of organic ingredients. Take full advantage by ordering a refreshing Thai cabbage salad topped with carrots, shredded coconut and cashews, then drizzled with a dressing of chili, coconut milk and lime. Whatever mouthwatering main you opt for, be sure to conclude your meal with a steaming cup of loose-leaf jasmine tea—and possibly a dessert, since you were good and ate all your veggies. We recommend the sweet sticky rice with coconut milk and freshly sliced mango. 366 El Camino Real. Open Monday to Saturday.

karakade thai cuisine

Redwood City

For a relaxed spot with tropical décor, cruise on over to Karakade Thai Cuisine. This family-owned restaurant offers not only all the classics, but also a few specialties from southern Thailand (the region its owners came from)—like crab curry noodles with coconut milk and vermicelli rice noodles. Or, if you can take the heat, kua gling, a dry curry with minced chicken and a medley of veggies and herbs served in a fiery, aromatic curry paste. In the mood for a faithful standby? They’ve got that covered too with a robust pad thai (sautéed rice noodles studded with tofu, shallot, bean sprouts, chives, roasted ground peanuts and choice of meat, then coated in a flavorful sauce). 593 Woodside Road, Suite G. Open daily except Wednesday.

Italian Star: Stella Burlingame

Words by Elaine Wu

Back in the spring of 2005, Alisa Ferrari and her then husband, Matteo Ferrari, opened the doors to their Burlingame restaurant Stella Alpina Osteria on Chapin Avenue. The former resident of that address, the Alpine Inn, inspired the name for their cozy eatery, along with the edelweiss flower (“stella” in Italian) that grows in the northern region of Italy where Matteo was born and raised. Their restaurant became a Burlingame staple for warm and inviting Italian classics served in an intimate atmosphere.

Eighteen years later, much has changed. The renamed “Stella” recently moved to its new location at 1448 Burlingame Avenue. With its large front windows, high ceilings and the capacity to accommodate almost double the guests as the old space, it’s a fresh start for Alisa and her staff. “It was either move or close,” she says definitively. “We knew we couldn’t operate there anymore. It was getting too small and the kitchen was tiny. We’ve had to turn away a lot of business over the years. But we are determined to maintain the same integrity.”

In 2013, Alisa became the sole owner of the restaurant while her ex-husband continues to lead the kitchen as Stella’s executive chef. As to how the two of them still manage to work so well together, Alisa says matter-of-factly, “We are absolutely still family. It’s just natural.”

With interiors designed by Emily Detert, Stella’s new vibrant two-story space has been completely renovated with a color palette of moss green, amber and dark wood accents. Star pendants symbolize the name “Stella,” and original stained glass from the restaurant’s previous space is prominently backlit. An exquisite rounded quartzite bar—with pops of blues and greens evoking the mountains and countryside of Italy’s Piemonte region—greets guests as they walk in.

Punctuated by cozy booths, the restaurant also features plenty of covered outdoor space in the back and private meeting and event dining rooms upstairs. “There’s something for everybody now,” Alisa states proudly. “You can have a quiet dinner at a quaint little table or be a part of the mix and people-watch at the bar. We have local businesses that have their staff dinners and large meetings here on weeknights, and families with parties and receptions here on weekends.” Dinner is currently served seven days a week with no immediate plans to open for lunch just yet. They also now offer gluten-free and vegan options.

But like the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Only minor seasonal tweaks have been made to the menu over the years and that’s just how guests like it. “We’ve tried to change the menu and people get angry,” Alisa says. “We know what they like, and it’s important that we’re consistent with the quality of our food. Every little detail is important because that’s what matters to the guest.” Items like Stella’s signature rich and meaty osso bucco served with mascarpone polenta, housemade pastas (like rigatoni with a smoked pork and bell pepper ragu sauce) and Nonna’s potato gnocchi have helped solidify the restaurant’s reputation for authentic Northern Italian cuisine.

Maintaining a warm and welcoming atmosphere has always been Alisa’s priority for both incarnations of her restaurant. “I changed schools a lot when I was a kid so I know what it’s like to sit at the lunch table by yourself,” she says emotionally. “Our philosophy is to operate as if we were throwing a dinner party for our friends every night.”

Fortunately, guests old and new are coming in to see the new and improved Stella. “It’s been really fun for me to greet people at the front door and see kids who have grown up with the restaurant come in again,” Alisa says. “It’s like a rebirth.” Even after all the challenges of running the restaurant for 18 years, she expresses no desire to slow down. “I’ve sacrificed a lot being in this business,” she reflects. “I love this place and I can’t imagine what else I would do. You just gotta keep on trucking.”

italian classic –

Essay: JT and Me

Words by Sloane Citron

When I was shipped off to Andover prep school as a 15-year-old, it was a lonely journey. My father helped me carry my large black trunk to my third-floor room in Foxcroft Hall, shook my hand, wished me luck and happily left. There I was, 2,000 miles from home, an unsophisticated, immature Jewish kid from Amarillo, Texas. I felt like a scared little guppy in a tank full of sharks.

The other boys had formed their cliques (I came as a 10th grader while most came in as 9th graders), were incredibly smart and had a confidence that I envied. My goal was to survive that year and hope that my father would not make me go back, (Thankfully, I slightly improved my lot over time and managed to graduate.)

My one steadfast friend was my guitar, an acoustic classical model made by Yairi Gakki. When I was not working to try to pass my classes (I did, barely) or enduring the humiliating effort three times a day of finding a place (alone) to eat in the dining commons, I listened to the few cassettes that I owned and played my six-string.

One day, on a trip to the downtown Andover music store, I bought a songbook that had all the music of the newly emerging star James Taylor. I owned both his cassettes, Sweet Baby James and Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon, and many of his songs spoke to me in my current situation. I learned them and sat for hours quietly playing and mouthing the words.
Taylor’s first and second albums were a collection of mostly melancholy songs; they spoke of “challenging” times and were warm and lyrical. In the song “Blossom” he sings, “Smile some sunshine down my way lately, I’ve been lonesome; Blossom, it’s been much too long a day. Seems my dreams have frozen.”

In “Long Ago and Far Away,” the lyrics go, “Long ago a young man sits and plays his waiting game. But things are not the same it seems as in such tender dreams.” The song tells how a young man’s dreams don’t match his reality and how expectations don’t last. Without my thinking too hard about it, the song deeply resonated.

Taylor and I would go on to live our lives, he finally finding tranquility, peace and stardom, and I finding—post-Andover—happiness and fulfillment, taking a more traditional path, building my publishing companies, raising four children and trying to discover who I am (still working on that).

James Taylor has always been my wife’s favorite too. A few years ago, I took her to see him at the SF Giants’ Oracle Park. It was somewhat of a disaster: freezing cold, too many people and seats that only allowed us to see him on the jumbo screen. We left in the fourth inning. This summer, when I learned that Taylor was coming to Stanford’s small, charming Frost Amphitheater, I bought the best seats available: second row, center stage.

The evening of the concert, we made our way to our seats to discover just how good they were. As Taylor came on stage—the charming, lanky, smiling performer we loved—we were feet away from him and his eyes met ours several times as he performed. From the beginning to the finish, it was the best concert we’d ever attended.

At the brief intermission, while the other musicians went backstage, Taylor hopped down from the stage to see and hug the man next to us, apparently a good friend of his. I couldn’t help myself and took a couple of steps forward so that it was the three of us in the conversation—those two talking and me silently nodding. When they were done, I turned to Taylor and seized my chance. He did not rush away but was fully engaging, welcoming and kind.

We talked for a few minutes. I told him that he had made a difference in my life when I needed it and how appreciative I was of his music being there for me and how I admired the man he had become. I became misty-eyed, as my life flashed around me. He looked at me with understanding, the kind that comes from having lived a period of your life in turmoil and pain and recognizing that we are all fallible. We did the “man” shake and hugged and then he jumped back up on the stage.

It was a surreal moment that will endure for me, the incredible joy of meeting the graceful, talented and humble man who had helped me through an early rough patch in my life. In his song, “Secret O’ Life,” there is a line that I have tried to embrace: “The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.” It’s worth remembering. Thanks for everything, James.

Q&A: Melody Mitchell

Now marking 22 years at Woodside’s iconic Michelin-star restaurant, Village Pub’s lead server shares her go-to comfort food, her crazy step count during a typical shift and a cherished encounter with the star of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

What’s the secret to delivering a memorable fine
dining experience?
Honestly, there’s no secret or substitute. It’s constant dedication and a ton of hard work. It may sound clichéd, but paying attention is critical. Every member of our team commits themselves every day to being 1% better than the day before.

What guided you towards the hospitality industry?
It runs in my blood! My mom and grandmother used to have really elaborate dinner parties, and me and my three sisters would get dressed up and host and run drinks and food. It sounds adorable, but we really learned so much.

What’s your go-to comfort food?

What’s your personal motto?
Do what you love and be the best at it.

How has the fine dining experience evolved over
the years?
It’s like an antique luxury car—I would imagine they’re always in the shop, with very fine adjustments being made all the time. I am happy to see that the scene is less serious now, and that guests seem more and more about being comfortable and just having a great time.

What’s your favorite type of exercise?
Hiking. I love being out in nature—it’s so grounding.

What’s a movie you could watch over and over?
Midnight in Paris or The Grand Budapest Hotel. Both are so beautiful and full of magic.

What TV show are you most embarrassed to admit you watch?
Everything on Bravo. Andy Cohen is my spirit animal!

How many steps do you take during an average shift?
Not sure, but I’d say between 10 to 15K. I really should start recording that…

What’s something people are surprised to learn about you?
That my husband is shorter than me. (I’ve always listed my height as 5 feet, 13 inches.)

How do you unwind after a long day?
MEZCAL! Well, it usually starts with an adult beverage, but just being home, in our own space, makes me feel a million miles away from everything. My man and I also love cooking at home.

What do you enjoy the most about your work?
Look, I make a good living, and that’s awesome, but the best part about what I do is knowing that for the two hours you’re in my section, you’re going to have an extraordinarily memorable experience.

Favorite celebrity encounter?
Paul Newman. He said, “Young lady, go ahead and order for me.” I chose the roast chicken. He was so kind—and he kissed me on the cheek!

Birdman at Bat

Words by Sheri Baer

The second floor of a Redwood City warehouse looks like it’s been swarmed by a colony of bats. “They hang upside down just like the animal,” quips Gary Malec, as the arresting sight comes into view. But unlike their homonymous nocturnal flying counterparts, this kind of bat is associated with fly balls, line drives and grounders—and rather than sleeping, they’re hanging upside down to dry.

Welcome to a very different kind of bat cave. Established in 2011, Birdman Bats specializes in handcrafted wood baseball bats that are surging in popularity with both major leaguers and enthusiasts alike. As founder, Gary essentially serves as Birdman’s team captain, leading the charge to become an influential player in America’s storied national pastime.

Gary’s obsession with baseball dates back to his earliest memories growing up on New Jersey’s Cape May Peninsula. “Since I was little, I was drunk on baseball,” he says. “There are photos where I’m barely able to walk and I’m carrying around a bat and a ball.” As he tallied up innings from Little League into high school, his love of the game only intensified: “There’s nothing like crushing a baseball. The feeling you get when you barrel it up!”

And then there’s that other proclivity—he’s a maker by nature. “I like to build things. I’ve always been very mechanical and hands-on,” he says. “I used to take my toys apart with my dad’s screwdriver, and I’ve been building cars since I was 15.” When he was 18, Gary recalls buying a $20 bat to play in a wood bat-only league. “It was like hitting a ball with a wet newspaper,” he grimaces. Trying out a handcrafted bat made by a teammate’s father came as a revelation. “I wanna do that,” he remembers thinking. “It was so much nicer. That’s what really sparked my interest in making a wood bat.”

Given these hard-wired passions, it’s easy for Gary to reconcile why he dropped out of law school after a year. “I just didn’t love it,” he reflects, which prompted him to hightail it out West. “I was California dreaming,” he adds. “And I thought, ‘There’s too many lawyers in the world.’”
As he pursued film production work and acting gigs—look for Gary in Porsche, Sony and John Deere commercials—he also took courses at City College of San Francisco so he could play baseball. Galvanized by running the bases again, he bought a lathe on Craigslist and turned his first bat. “The first time I hit a ball, the bat blew up into a bunch of pieces that went flying out over the field,” he admits, but Gary kept iterating and carving away.

Meanwhile, his brother Mark (now a Birdman partner) was simultaneously playing baseball at Savannah College of Art and Design. In what turned out to be a life-altering act, he sent Gary a “goofy drawing” he had made for a project. “He said it was an 1800s ball player head on a bird—it was just silly,” Gary recounts. Knowing his brother’s tendency to get “all up in his head,” Gary put the drawing on a sticker, slapped it on to one of his handmade bats and shipped it to Mark. “Baseball’s so cerebral and mental and you think too much,” he explains. “So this was like, ‘Look at your stupid doodle and stop being so stressed.’” Handmade wood bat + silly logo = origin of Birdman Bats

“That was the first bat,” Gary affirms, continuing, “And then Mark’s teammate was like, ‘Hey I want one,’ and my other friend said, ‘Hey, I want one,’ … and spiral, spiral, spiral.”

At this point, Gary ticks off a series of pivotal events that got the ball rolling—and the bats swinging. Meeting up with Half Moon Bay native Cody Silveria, who signed on as Birdman’s batmaker. Connecting with Red Sox player Lars Anderson, who became both an investor and fervent Birdman evangelist. Social media posts with All-Star Manny Ramirez added more heat, and in 2016, a Kickstarter campaign raised enough money to buy a CNC machine, pallet of wood and laser engraver. Two years later, Birdman earned official MLB approval with a letter of recommendation from now-SF Giants manager Gabe Kapler. And 2019 marked the move to the Redwood City warehouse.

As one baseball season followed another, more and more players caught on to the Birdman Bat craze. “The industry is so tight,” Gary points out, “so the brand has really grown organically.” Among the early buzz builders: former Dodgers (polarizing) outfielder Yasuil Puig. “He hit five home runs in 24 hours and put one of our bats in Cooperstown in the Hall of Fame,” Gary relays. He also credits Giants players Pablo Sandoval, Hunter Pence and Austin Slater with having outsized influence, along with Ozzie Albies of the Atlanta Braves. “Ozzie has 15 home runs with Birdman this year,” he cites. “He’s such a great ambassador for us.” And then there’s Redwood City’s own James Outman. “He’s a big-time rookie sensation center fielder for the Dodgers, and he uses our bat.”

So what’s the winning formula behind Birdman’s success? “It’s why people drink craft beers instead of Bud Light,” remarks Gary. “It’s a small-batch, handcrafted product that goes through so many sets of hands and so much work.” He also doesn’t underestimate the power of Birdman’s logo. “It’s an old-fashioned Americana caricature brand,” he observes. “It’s a totally different take on playing the game and having fun—even at the highest level.”

In addition to selling through Birdman’s website, the brand is getting traction in baseball hubs across the country. Locally, Goetz Brothers came on board early with Birdman’s retail roster ranging from Sacramento’s Baseball Loaded and Atlanta’s Better Baseball to Dick’s Sporting Goods nationally. “We’re at the table,” Gary smiles. “I always say, ‘We’ve made it to the table!’”

Last year, Birdman hit the 10,000 bats sold milestone—and Gary envisions selling tens of thousands, along with a line of Birdman-branded merch. Customization is another big draw. Although pro players are limited in their color selection, enthusiasts can inject personality through swirly hydro dip paints, highlighter-like dyes and personalized engravings.
Managing Birdman’s growth is a relentless undertaking, which is why customer feedback is so vital to morale. “There was a 13-year-old yesterday who reached out to say, ‘I got my personal best! It was the hardest hit I ever hit,’” beams Gary.

And for this team of grown-up kids still dedicated to baseball, there’s also the vicarious thrill of making it to The Show. “It’s nerve-racking,” Gary says of watching MLB games. “It’s like you’re there—you’re up to bat and everyone’s watching.” And when even the big leaguers start to psych themselves out? Cue Birdman. “Just imagine being in the World Series, in a big situation,” Gary muses. “Looking at that silly logo, it’s like, ‘Calm down and make it happen.’”

Take a Swing –

Landmark: The Dish

Is E.T. phoning home? Some believe that “The Dish,” a hulking radio telescope in the Stanford foothills, was built to search the cosmos for signs of life. Although the history of Stanford’s Dish includes no alien communication, it nevertheless boasts an exciting saga filled with foreign espionage and interstellar rescue. In 1958, threatened by the Russian launch of Sputnik I, the Department of Defense commissioned the Dish’s construction after Stanford scientists submitted a proposal outlining its ability to spot enemy aircraft and the atmospheric impacts of nuclear explosions. After its completion in 1961, researchers could investigate our ionosphere and a local defense contractor listened in on Soviet signals bouncing off the moon.

However, under the near-complete control of the Stanford Research Institute, the device became much more than a Cold War spy machine. It measured electron content during the 1963 total solar eclipse, communicated with multiple NASA satellites and even helped map Venus’ atmosphere by sending signals to the Mariner probe. Unfortunately, radio interference in the surrounding Bay Area and NASA’s increasing frequencies of communication reduced the Dish’s functionality, and some even believed the university might sell it. Then in 1982, the underestimated apparatus made headlines after SRI scientists used it to save Britain’s malfunctioning satellite OSCAR 9 by sending a signal powerful enough to shut off its haywire transmitters. Twelve years later, workers were lowering the Dish’s humongous tripod when its cables snapped and it nose-dived to the ground. It took four months for the structure to be repaired and improved. Today, references to “The Dish” typically mean the 3.5-mile adjacent trail enjoyed by over 500,000 people each year—but the structure to which it owes its name still performs a variety of functions including satellite calibrations and spacecraft command. Sounds like E.T. might be sent to voicemail!

Landmark: Kohl Mansion

Words by Dylan Lanier

If walls could talk, Burlingame’s Kohl Mansion would chat your ear right off! Completed in 1914, the 40-acre estate—also known as The Oaks—was the country home of Frederick Kohl, heir to the lucrative Alaska Commercial Company, and his second wife, Bessie. Accustomed to a lavish lifestyle, the couple threw extravagant Peninsula high-society parties, but Kohl struggled with depression and family scandal. They separated after two years in the house, and Kohl moved into San Francisco’s St. Francis Hotel. Caretakers maintained the property after he took up with a new mistress, Marion Louderback Lord. Tragically, Kohl took his own life in 1921, leaving the estate to Mrs. Lord. During this period in limbo, the mansion served as the set for Little Lord Fauntleroy, a silent film starring the iconic Mary Pickford. In 1924, the Sisters of Mercy bought the mansion and turned it into their convent. Seven years later, the sisters opened Mercy High School with 36 students. By the 1950s, the expanding enrollment called for a new wing with additional classrooms and a cafeteria. The property made yet another Hollywood appearance in Flubber, a sci-fi comedy remake in which Robin Williams plays a brilliant but befuddled inventor who chases green sentient goo around the premises. Today, the property remains both a private all-girls high school and a popular event venue for weddings and other celebrations. Music at Kohl Mansion also uses the Great Hall, providing chamber music to appreciative listeners since 1984. Guests seem undeterred by rumors of a spooky spectral presence haunting the mansion since Kohl’s untimely death. While his presence from beyond the grave may be disputed, everyone agrees that if he has returned in spectral form, he’s probably just enjoying the party!

Ocean Vibes

Words by Loureen Murphy

Designer Kate Handel sits in an airy room at home, afternoon sun filtering through the sheers. In Half Moon Bay—embraced by a sparkling coastline, agricultural fields, grazing cows and towering coast redwoods—Kate says she never imagined this life.

Growing up on a Wisconsin cattle farm, Kate shrugged off the bovine-scented air—letting her brothers work outdoors while she kept to household chores. When together, they played computer games like Oregon Trail and Lemonade Stand. Despite perils of dysentery in one and bankruptcy in the other, Kate’s gaming whet her appetite for technology. The seeds of self-reinvention took root, sprouting by her teens.

No barns and boots for Kate. “I wanted the corporate world and a fancy office,” she asserts.

Degree in hand, she eyed big city opportunities. But when her first career job left her craving a more creative outlet, she moved to Chicago, working in multimedia for seven-plus years. Then, when friends found jobs in California in 1998, they beckoned her to “just try it.” She made the leap.

A few years later, marriage and motherhood begged another transition. “I needed more flexibility over when and where I worked,” the designer says. “I didn’t want to ask permission to take time off … I wanted to be my own boss.”

In making the shift from full-time employee to company owner, Kate zeroed in on her joy in making her own home “more beautiful and more functional.” Confident that “the skills you learn you can leverage down the road,” she crafted her business plan.

Kate had already reworked her kitchen and decks. “I tried to design it myself but without the tools,” she recalls. Ultimately hiring a designer, “We removed a wall, which allowed us to significantly reconfigure the kitchen, let in more natural light and see the ocean view.” Clear panels replaced sight-obstructing deck rails, and a solid panel now blocked an unwanted view. Reflecting on the process, Kate nailed down the missing piece: “I wanted the whole 3D experience beforehand.” So she invested in software and trained on it.

Kate Handel Design launched in 2015. “I found myself doing things every day that I had not done before,” explains Kate. “I asked lots of questions.” The entrepreneur also utilized her tech-world skills, such as project management, problem-solving and creative thinking.

Numerous clients later, Kate still peers into her clients’ kaleidoscope of emotions, expectations and wishes for their homes. “Tell me what you’d like your space to be when we’re done … Give me the words,” she invites. Coastside transplants may answer, “an escape” or “a peaceful space.” The gathering-minded, “the place everybody wants to visit.” Then Kate helps clients “crystalize” these dreams into the digital 3D Design Vision that lets them “walk through” their renovations before sledgehammer ever hits drywall.

No lightweight, Kate is “used to pitching in and being part of a team,” having learned it growing up. “You have to be nimble,” says Kate, of more than just crossing a building site while checking progress. Issues pop up requiring quick thinking and cooperation among teammates.

Also key players in client satisfaction, Kate’s trusted vendors keep her and homeowners posted on fresh finds. For example, amidst her stunning, extensive redesign of a Half Moon Bay residence, a vendor alerted Kate to a large stone slab whose teal and copper tones echoed those throughout the renovated home. Cut into three pieces, the slab, aptly named “Maestro,” now forms a commanding triptych above the owner’s grand piano.

A house renovation may parallel changes in the owners’ lives. Another Half Moon Bay client who recently lost a grown daughter needed to re-envision her new phase of life. Kate’s remodel made those dreams tangible.

Capitalizing on the older home’s assets—hand-cut beams, arched doorways and a comfy fireside area—Kate opened up hospitality possibilities by removing a wall and a beam or two, allowing free movement and light into different spaces around the kitchen.

To retain the home’s “old castle feeling,” Kate applied a stone veneer around the fireplace, kept the exposed beams, and even added a wood-covered steel beam, as well as more arched doorways. A bedroom became a bathroom, while an attic space morphed into a cozy bedroom—all to the owner’s delight. “I feel really proud of it,” concludes Kate.

By working exclusively in the Half Moon Bay area, Kate also offers clients specialized touches tied to coastal living. Though not every home in Half Moon Bay has ocean view potential, most have ways to step-up natural light. Increasing window size, adding skylights and interior transom windows can elevate a room’s mood on fog-blanketed days. For one client, Kate opened up ocean views by simply relocating windows. Calm-evoking hillside vistas can emerge the same way.

Smaller-scale enhancements abound too, such as heated floors and towel bars. In a home designed as a modern beach retreat, Kate captured the seaside vibe by installing shimmering Capiz shell glass in a pocket door, an abalone shell border around a medicine cabinet and dimensional tile to create the image of sand dunes in a shower wall.

Change in living space “often starts with a dissatisfaction,” observes Kate. Her own journey emulates her work—a continuing movement toward beauty and fulfillment. “You have to be willing to take risks and imagine new possibilities,” she affirms. “It’s not just about the house.”

Reimagining Spaces –

Perfect Shot: Baylands Golden Hour

The first hour after sunrise is considered the “magic hour” by photographers. That was certainly the case for Palo Alto’s Brian Krippendorf, who captured this golden silhouette of birds during an early morning walk just 10 minutes from his home.

Image by Brian Krippendorf / @briankrippendorf

A Prickly Story: Stanford Arizona Cactus Garden

Words by Bob Siegel

Largely hidden from view, but easily accessible, the Arizona Garden is a floristic and photographic gem on the Stanford campus. Filled with flamboyant flowers in a vivid palette of colors, with points and swirls, weird shapes and curious symmetries out of some Seussian dream, the garden is a wonderful spot for an early morning photo shoot, a midday picnic with a friend or an afternoon contemplation.

Fence lizards, rabbits and squirrels scurry among the undergrowth. Perching birds and woodpeckers flit and chirp among the trees, and hummingbirds steal cactus threads to line their tiny nests. A redtail hawk calls nearby. A closer look reveals a multitude of insects and other small creatures pollinating the flowers, priming the soil and seeking safe haven.
A series of symmetrical paths demark the individual beds. In addition to myriad species of cactus, there are many other botanical curiosities—yuccas and agaves, aloes and jade plants, silk floss and coral trees, aeonium and spurge, palo verde and a boojum tree.

Predating the University, the garden was designed by landscape architect Rudolph Ulrich in the early 1880s. Although the name evokes our neighboring state, Arizona Garden refers to the drought-tolerant plants that are found there. Indeed, while some of the plants are native to the state of Arizona, others come from distant continents with similar climes. For much of the 1900s, the garden fell into disrepair. Restoration in the 1990s continuing to the present has revived the garden to its current vibrancy. Arizona Garden coordinator Christy Smith works hard to maintain the garden with the help of students and community volunteers.

For those who have more time, the Stanford Mausoleum, Angel of Grief statue, Stanford Arboretum and Cantor Museum are other nearby points of interest. Even a short stop at the garden is worthwhile. So, come wander… and take in all the wonders.

With its array of strange textures and alluring colors, the Arizona Garden is a great place for writers, artists and photographers to practice their craft. The garden is a frequent backdrop for family photos as well as wedding and graduation portraits.

The different shapes and forms in the garden reflect a variety of adaptations to arid or xeric environments. Unlike the cactus family (Cactaceae), whose spines are degenerate leaves, plants in the agave (Asparagaceae) and stonecrop (Crassulaceae) families—depicted here—have fleshy, compact leaves to minimize water loss.

In the garden, various tribes within the cactus family can be distinguished by their shapes. The red color adorning the house finch seems to mimic certain cactus flowers. The endangered golden barrel cactus (opposite) is sardonically described as “Mother-in-Law’s Cushion.”

While many of the plants “make a point” of keeping herbivores at bay, the garden provides a home for birds, insects and other small creatures. In the case of Anna’s hummingbird and the Valley carpenter bee, there is mutual benefit with the plants providing pollination in exchange for nourishment and nesting materials.

In addition to being a microbiology and immunology professor at Stanford,
Robert David Siegel is a docent and avid wildlife photographer who teaches
courses in photographing nature.

Hang Ten with Man’s Best Friend

Words by Johanna Harlow

It’s August 2022 at Linda Mar Beach, and a surfing competition is underway. Unlike your typical championship, however, the contestants are short, hairy and answer to unintimidating names like Teddy and Waffles. All perfectly normal at Pacifica’s World Dog Surfing Championships, where sea-savvy canines take to the waves to lick the competition.

Quite the crowd has gathered to see kelpies and corgis hang ten. Plenty of NorCal canines compete in the event, but contestants fly in from as far away as Brazil and Australia. Organized by TasteTV, the annual event has attracted the best in dog surfing talent since 2016.

Scoping out the competition with mismatched eyes is Skyler of Santa Cruz—and beside the Queensland heeler stands owner Homer Henard. “She doesn’t like swimming in the water. I think that’s why she surfs so good,” Homer chuckles.

Homer and Skyler surfing tandem

On board since she was a puppy, Skyler has surfed for 13 years now. “It kind of became her thing,” Homer explains. “Cattle dogs feel like they need a job.” Rather than go into the family business (working the ranch like her parents), Skyler opted to master the waves. She prefers her custom-made hardboard with traction crafted by Bob Pearson, one of the top shapers in the world. “The ocean is her dog park,” says Homer.

Between heats, Skyler retires to her tent to meet her many fans. “The groupies take pictures with her,” remarks Homer. Holding the title as the first dog to ever get barreled (cruising through a watery tube) and featured on an episode of Netflix’s show Pet Stars, Skyler has gained nearly 34,000 followers on Instagram (follow her exploits at @skylerthesurfingdog).

“Skyler’s huge in the UK,” Homer notes. “They always have crews coming over here and they’ll come and interview us and video us surfing.” She is also well-known for her volunteer work, partnering with surf-therapy organizations like Waves of Impact, Operation Surf and Mauli Ola Foundation to encourage kids with disabilities and wounded veterans to take to the waves. “They’re like, ‘If this dog can do it, I can do it too!’” Homer shares with a smile.

Back on the beach in Pacifica, owners continue to wade into the water with pups in tow. Responsible for setting up their dogs for success, they will need to select the perfect swell. Too small and your Lab will be fated for a lackluster performance, too big and your whippet will wipe out. Thankfully, life vests are on hand (or over tail) to keep dunked competitors buoyed. Human spotters stand by to ensure safety. “These dogs are stoked,” Homer observes. “You can’t make a dog surf. If a dog doesn’t like the ocean, it’ll run away.”

On shore, judges score based on ride length, technique and bonus tricks. They also take demeanor into account. (Is the dog calm or panicky?) Skyler’s unruffled assurance and confident stance have always served her well. During a prestigious competition at Huntington Beach, she once scored two perfect tens—the first to do so in the event’s history. “She’s leaning into the turns and is reading the wave,” Homer describes. “She’ll lift up one paw to go on rail in one direction and then she’ll put the other paw up to go the other way.”

What’s better than a dog on a board? Several dogs on a board! The competition heats up when the announcer broadcasts dog-dog tandem rides. As pooch pals team up in groups of twos and threes, the chaos mounts and more than one pack is dumped into the soup. Photographers (some of them international) heft cameras with lenses like mini cannons. Several wade into the waves in wetsuits.

Clearly, the surfing dog scene is no joke. Homer vividly recalls showing up to his first competition all those years ago. “People were serious about it. They had full pit crews… It was nuts! Dogs had outfit changes.” Elaborating, he adds, “A lot of the dogs are glamoured out. They wear sunglasses. They’ve got gold chains and leather jackets. And you’re like, ‘Whoa!’”

That said, the canine camaraderie is evident. “They don’t get all weird and standoffish,” Homer observes. Skyler and her bulldog buddy Rothstein will surf tandem today. The two often meet up for surf dates. “His owner John wants Rothstein to hang out with Skyler because Skyler’s like the Gerry Lopez of dog surfing, you know what I mean?” Homer grins. “He wants her to rub off on him.” Rothstein was jumping on boards long before John, but Homer has recently given John lessons so he can keep up.

Next on the doggy docket: man and man’s best friend. One regular tandem duo taking the board together is Kentucky and Derby (guess which one’s the dog and which one’s the human). Owner and goldendoodle cruise on in wearing sunglasses and matching blue mohawks. Next comes a scrappy youngster and his pit bull, both clad in neon green. And then a well-built old-timer with his stocky Lab. For his own ride with Skyler, Homer flips up an umbrella, “doing the Mary Poppins.” The crowd eats it up.

The day’s festivities also include “Yappy Hour” as well as a fetch competition and a pet fashion contest (meaning you might sight a Frenchie in a coconut bra or a Chihuahua with a mermaid tail).

As the festivities wrap up, Homer and Skyler win gold in both the solo and dog/human tandem rides. “The dogs know,” Homer says. There’s no doubt that Skyler lights up as the medal is placed around her neck to cheers from the spectators. “She comes home and she’s got a little pep in her step,” notes Homer. Skyler knows there’s a celebratory McDonald’s ice cream cone and steak dinner in her near future, which doesn’t hurt either.

Cheer on the Underdog

2023 Dog Surfing Championships
Linda Mar Beach, Pacifica
August 5, 9AM - 12:30PM

Beautiful Balance: Hyland Design Group

Words by Sophia Markoulakis 

With over a thousand projects completed in the last 20 years, Natalie Hyland knows a thing or two about the various home styles that populate the Peninsula. “Ranchers, Spanish revivals, Craftsman—I’ve worked with all of them to either fully alter or update,” says the Redwood City native. And, though Natalie and her team at San Carlos’ Hyland Design Group are well-versed in designing new custom homes, it’s the challenge of helping homeowners find the beauty and function in their spaces that really gets her excited.

“Our focus is on architectural plans that make a space feel right,” Natalie says. “And, that starts with building trust with a client.” Natalie’s initial consultation is all about listening to the client’s needs and wants. It’s also listening to all of their pain points. “I really just let people ramble and say what they hate and love about their homes,” she explains. “My goal is to find solutions to what they see as problems in their homes and then make sure that the new design is balanced and beautiful.”

In Redwood City's Maddux Park neighborhood, Hyland Design Group combined symmetry and function using floating shelves and a side-by-side sink and stove, creating ample space at the island for seating and food prep.

Because every home’s layout is unique, and a budget or footprint might not allow altering a home’s square footage to resolve pain points, Natalie utilizes her architectural skills to move walls, add windows and alter ceilings to give the illusion of more space. “I am the layout lady,” she jokes.

Recently, a client came to her asking for help with their family room, which was approximately 12 feet wide. Because of the home’s setbacks, there was nowhere in the footprint to add square footage, so Natalie got creative. She raised the ceiling, but instead of the more typical vaulted (peaked) style, she opted for a shed (one-sided vaulted) ceiling. “The shed vault provided twice as much volume. We popped out bay windows and started the roofline there so that the ceiling span was wider than the floor. We also added nine-foot French doors and flushed the fireplace. When it was done, I couldn’t even believe it. It felt more like a 16- by 18-foot room,” she marvels.

And, as much fun as Natalie’s had over the years with design challenges, she’s also learned to be frank and practical with her clients. When budget cuts are in order, she’ll often recommend keeping one impactful element over several smaller ones. “I had a client who really wanted a Spanish revival–style home. My initial design had a tile roof and recessed windows, but after she returned from a meeting with her contractor, she told me we had to cut the budget. As a result, we focused on designing around the arched and recessed living room window, which was already there and had a Spanish feel. It ended up being my favorite part of the remodel,” she recounts.

After Natalie graduated from San Francisco State University, she decided to attend cooking school in New York. Equipped with two degrees, she returned to Redwood City and apprenticed for her uncle, Phil Hyland, who is Natalie’s lead designer. A year later, in 2002, she opened Hyland Design Group. Her culinary degree comes in handy, not just with kitchen layouts but also with organizational practices. “Most people know what mise en place is and understanding how to plan for something is a skill I trace back to my culinary days,” she says. She’s known to host upwards of 20 people in her Redwood City home, and further explains, “I mean, when you host a large party, the menu planning starts months before. Besides designing, most of my work involves preparing my staff for the steps that are necessary to complete a successful project.”

In this San Mateo Park house, Hyland Design Group utilized the landing at the top of a staircase for kitchen overflow and popped up a cupola for light and height.

Even though Natalie works with clients all over the Peninsula, many of her projects are between Burlingame and Redwood City. Her affinity for the northern part of the Peninsula has a lot to do with her upbringing in Redwood City and tagging along with her father and uncle at construction job sites.

Natalie’s ties to San Carlos also run deep. “I had a great uncle who had to purchase land in the unincorporated part of San Carlos, because, at the time, it was illegal for a Chinese person to own land in the city of San Carlos. He ended up purchasing seven parcels. Besides operating a wholesale flower farm on the land, he also built a house for himself and my grandmother who became a widow at a young age. She was my babysitter, and I have fond memories of spending time there,” she reflects. “Recently, when his daughters decided to sell off some of the parcels, the developer who bought the property came to me and asked me to design the homes.”

Hyland Design Group turned this Woodside guest house into an open, airy, light-filled retreat with a vaulted ceiling, dormers and clerestory window that enhances the room's dramatic effect.

Natalie doesn’t dwell on the irony of this and prefers to see the optimism in each generation’s ability to adjust to discrimination. She’s proud to call herself a member of the San Carlos business community for the last 20 years.

Her new office on San Carlos Avenue now provides a storefront for clients. “It’s always been my dream to have a little brick-and-mortar in downtown San Carlos,” she says. “I’m turning the front space into a stationery store with offices in the back, and I look forward to people popping their heads in to say, ‘Hi.’”

creative spaces:

Dinner and a Show: Porterhouse

Words by Johanna Harlow

Get ready to applaud! For guests dining at downtown San Mateo’s Porterhouse, “dinner and a show” can refer to one destination. Presenting exceptional cuts of dry-aged meat and tableside experiences alongside original posters and vintage photos from Hollywood’s golden age, this hospitable steakhouse certainly knows how to entertain.

Centerstage, you’ll find owner Hamdi Ugur performing pyrotechnics. Enthralled patrons watch him pour brandy over a sizzling pan of bananas foster and—fwoom!—the flame leaps six feet into the air. Its caramelized aroma wafts through the room. “I’ve figured out I’m on the stage,” Porterhouse’s owner describes, “the way you act, the way you talk, you walk, you make flambé, everything… I love it!” With an estimated 35,000 tableside experiences under his belt, he should know.


Hamdi is better known by his “restaurant name” Bruno. “When I’m Hamdi, they ask me too many questions,” shrugs the Kurdish owner with a good-natured chuckle. “When I answer to Bruno? No one questions. It saves me a lot of time!”

Ask Bruno about his roots, and he’ll tell you of growing up on his family’s ranch in Kigi, a small Turkish town in the mountains, where he married his wife (both 16 at the time). Turkey’s political turmoil spurred Bruno to immigrate to London where he began his restaurant career as a dishwasher. After moving to San Mateo in 1982, he waited tables at Bogie’s, a French continental restaurant with a swanky Humphrey Bogart and ‘40s motif. Five years later, he owned the restaurant.

Bogie’s would later become Porterhouse, a steakhouse with French influences still channeled through touches like the escargot, souffle and béarnaise sauce. “You have to renew yourself,” Bruno says, adding, “There was a need. There wasn’t any steakhouse in San Mateo at that time.”

Bruno is joined by his son Steve Ugur. “My first job was actually at Bogie’s as a busser on Fridays and Saturdays,” recounts Steve, who now oversees the butchering side of the operation at Porterhouse. He specializes in dry-aging steak, a skill learned from a year and a half at Harris Steakhouse. “Dry-aging is for two things: tenderizing the meat and concentrating the flavor. But it’s a lost art,” remarks Steve. “It’s a lot easier to pick up your phone and just order wet-aged steaks that are portion-cut and vacuum-sealed. But it’s not as flavorful. It’s not as tender.”

An in-house butcher means a wider range of options, Steve points out. In fact, when you step into Porterhouse, an industrial fridge stocked with large primal cuts is proudly exhibited right there in the entry.

Whether you opt for the cowboy (bone-in ribeye with intense marbling) or the porterhouse (combining tender filet mignon with the richly marbled New York strip), every steak comes with seasonal vegetables and a twice-baked potato. “Some steakhouses charge extra for potatoes and vegetables,” Steve notes. “We don’t want to be that steakhouse. We want to be a good neighborhood spot.” This isn’t some halfhearted addition either. The carrots are perfectly caramelized and the potatoes are whipped with cheese before getting stuffed back into their delicate skins.

Proving that steak doesn’t have to be the Main Event, other vegetarian items include the Brussels sprouts (aesthetically-plated with onions, rosemary, EVOO and almonds) as well as a standout beet salad (with earthy pistachio, sweet chunks of beet and salty cheese). On the topic of veggies, Bruno flashes a mischievous grin, “Sometimes guests say, ‘My wife or my boss is vegetarian.’ I tell them my cow is vegetarian too!” Steve shakes his head, “I don’t know how he gets away with that.”

After a move at the beginning of the year, Porterhouse has relocated to a 1924 bank building—and they’ve still got valuables locked in its safe. “Would you like to see?” Bruno asks. When the vault door swings open, it reveals the restaurant’s fine wine collection. With an emphasis on Napa cabs from all different appellations, Porterhouse makes sure to stock plenty of older vintages. “When you go to a steakhouse, you don’t want to see all 2019s and 2020s,” Steve explains. “You want to see some wines with age to them. Because young cabs need time to open up and you don’t want to overpower the meal.” Porterhouse also stocks the widest bourbon selection in San Mateo, if not the Peninsula.

If cocktails are more your thing, raise a glass to the Old Hollywood actresses on the walls by ordering The Hepburn (a refreshingly citrus skinny margarita topped with dried lime) or The Monroe (a creamy play on the Mai Tai). “We’re not purchasing anything but the spirits,” Steve highlights—meaning house-made salsa for the spicy margarita and freshly squeezed citrus for The Hepburn.

Speaking of the stars… “All the movie posters are original,” Bruno gestures at iconic banners ranging from Soldier of Fortune starring Clark Gable to The Big Sleep with Lauren Bacall. These he salvaged from the Old San Mateo Theater (which Bogie’s replaced at its first location).

Here, Humphrey Bogart is king. With stoic swagger, the cultural icon presides over the restaurant from his many posters and photos, his fedora tilted at a rakish slant. Bogart’s Maltese Falcon statuette can even be found perched near the entry. “I love Casablanca. I’ve watched it a thousand times!” Bruno says.


As the evening nears an end, it’s time for a curtain call. Conclude with a tableside dessert—like the Grand Marnier souffle, an eggy cloud with crème anglaise drizzled over as you watch. Then again, you might choose to go out in a blaze of glory with Bruno’s banana foster flambé. “Sometimes I never talk,” Bruno says of his tableside performances. “They’re there for the flambé, you know what I’m saying?” Steve adds with a smile.


The Monroe

1.5 oz pot still Jamaican rum
.5 oz rhum agricole blanc
.5 oz dry orange curacao
.75 oz orgeat
.75 oz fresh lime juice
.75 oz fresh pineapple juice

Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake for 10 seconds. Double-strain into a highball glass with shaved ice. Garnish with a dehydrated pineapple slice and enjoy!

Beat on Your Eats: Patios

Words by Johanna Harlow

Spend your summer al fresco! Dine out at these perfect patios.

johnston’s saltbox

San Carlos

How about New American fare on a garden patio? Brunch or dinner, there’s no bad time to stop by Johnston’s Saltbox. Known for its rooftop kitchen garden, this well-loved staple also knows its way around chicken. Whether they serve it roasted and served with bacon and spring vegetable hash or fried and paired with waffles, you’re in for a treat. Most popular is the chicken sandwich, which gets switched up every so often to keep regulars on their toes (it might come with lemon mayo or blue cheese schmear and Ghostwood lager buffalo hot sauce). We recommend returning during another season—either to view the flowering trees in the spring or to revel in a good hard winter rain (the clear tent wound in string lights offers listening and viewing pleasure without the dousing). Closed Mondays. 1696 Laurel Street.

menlo tavern at stanford park hotel

Menlo Park

To earn major brownie points with your special someone, Menlo Tavern is the place. This convivial restaurant will surely win you over with fireplaces and fire pits just about everywhere you turn as well as a satisfying menu ranging from filet mignon with potato gratin to wild salmon with artichoke and asparagus to an artfully-plated butter lettuce salad with pansies and a poached egg. Menlo Tavern’s outdoor patio, located in the courtyard of the brick-built Stanford Park Hotel, truly comes alive in the evenings with trees illuminated in string lights and live music offered nightly. Linger to listen to acts like Tom Wagenbrenner and the Wobbly World Band with an order of highly-addictive truffle fries, bread pudding with bourbon glaze or a song-themed cocktail like the creamy Kokomo. Open daily. Music nightly from 6-9PM and weekends from 12-2PM. 100 El Camino Real.


Redwood City

For flavors south of the border, let Milagros be your guide. With its sprawling, plant-fringed patio and tropically floral tablecloths, this contemporary Spanish restaurant feels like a mini vacation. And its menu carries a spirit of exploration—offering not one but four kinds of enchiladas and serving chips with a trio of in-house salsas (tomatillo, roja and charred pineapple). As for the taco situation, there’s an entire medley (each is sold individually to let you sample several). Among the enticing options: coconut-crusted shrimp with passionfruit and jalapeno salsa, mahi-mahi with habanero-mango sauce and marinated red onions, carnitas with chipotle aioli and spicy BBQ sauce. Before you go, peek inside Milagros’ artful interior. You’ll find funky Latin American folk art, colorful chairs, wrought ironwork and carved wood detailing. Open daily. 1099 Middlefield Road.

Circular Thinking

Words by Sheryl Nonnenberg

Melissa Mahoney’s motto is, “Think big, paint big,” and that is exemplified by her large-scale, abstract acrylic-on-canvas paintings. So you might imagine she would have to live in a roomy house or work in a large studio. A visit to her cozy (under 800 square feet) cottage in the Crescent Park neighborhood of Palo Alto proves otherwise. One of 12 small homes on a charming lane, the house has been carefully organized to provide everything Melissa needs: a small workspace inside (for rainy days), a storage/display area for paintings and a large patio where she mainly works. “I look at myself and say, ‘I am living in California! I love my life and I love where I live.’”

Melissa’s idyllic California lifestyle took root when she came here to attend a wedding in 1993. Her first impression was, “This is incredible—I am an outdoor person so there is so much to explore here.” After several cross-country trips, she decided to permanently establish herself on the West Coast, primarily and currently living in Palo Alto.

Born and raised in Georgia, Melissa attended the University of Georgia where she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. She feels like she was destined to become an artist, partly because her mother and two grandparents were artists. Her mother encouraged her interest but her father expressed the usual concerns about how difficult it would be to earn a living. This might have had some bearing on her decision to major in graphic design and minor in fine art. That preparation allowed her to create her own successful graphic design and branding company. She credits the design work with giving her the financial flexibility to pursue her more creative instincts.

Melissa’s early paintings were done in a representational style but then she found herself referring back to a course of study she did during college in Cortona, Italy. It focused on the very precise art of calligraphy, which she found interesting but “too restrictive.” About 15 years ago, she had an epiphany and decided to really focus on being an artist and on painting only in an abstract manner. She began a series called Vortices (which she continues today) that consist of swirling circles of paint on canvas, raw linen and wood panels. She became hooked on abstraction, explaining, “It’s more emotive, expressive and gratifying to do.”

The inspiration for the series, and most of her work, comes from Asian aesthetics, specifically ensō (“circle”) and wabi sabi (“flawed beauty”). Although she is not a Buddhist, Melissa loves the idea of the circle as a symbol of enlightenment, strength, the universe and the void. The endless circle has become her signature style and she creates it in black and white, bold colors and foil leaf.

Using paint she mixes herself (because “I can achieve the colors I want”), Melissa uses custom-made brushes (one is 48 inches tall and made from an old maple syrup bucket with a thick brush attached). She initially applies the paint in one bold stroke. “Ens¯o is done with one stroke usually,” she explains, “but I use multiple strokes because it feels more spatial.” The swirling, endless lines create a sense of movement and energy, all the while drawing the eye into the center space—much like a vortex found in nature. Melissa finds working with the form and being an abstract artist challenging and engaging. “I haven’t tired of it,” she says. “I keep reinventing materials or ways to do it.”

She draws inspiration from a variety of sources. The ocean and long summer days influenced her Summer Surf series that features vortices against backgrounds of blue, yellow and red. The orange color of the Golden Gate Bridge is reflected in Titan, in which Melissa used acrylic and foil leaf to capture the majestic landmark. In contrast, the Hope series is created in the palest of pastel colors for the background, with the circle painted in a heavily textured white. Although she says that she is influenced by the happenings around her, she avoids trying to make statements. “I paint to transport where I’m at—how I want to feel versus how I am feeling.”

When she needs other sources for ideas, Melissa turns to her “inspiration books.” These are a series of bound notebooks that contain postcards, photographs, fabric swatches, invitations and other ephemera that have captured her interest. She usually makes one a year and finds that even when she is “stuck,” they seem to help. “I pull out a book and I get excited to paint,” she shares.

Melissa devotes the majority of her time to painting and has found that the most efficient way to promote and sell her work is through curators and art advisors. She cites Kevin Barry Art Advisory, Simon Breitbard Fine Arts and Laurie Ghielmetti Design and Art as being wonderful resources since they sell to designers and their clients. In addition to being an artist in residence at the Cubberley Arts Center, Melissa has had her work chosen for the Art in Embassies program. She is also a regular at TED conferences, where she has led abstract painting workshops.

When asked which artists she admires, she calls out Robert Motherwell (“His work looks Asian.”) and Mark Rothko, because of his colors and scale. She notes that she really enjoys examples of work by these two artists, and other abstract artists, at the Anderson Collection at Stanford. She also admires the contemporary artists who are featured in the PBS series Art 21.


“I love hearing artists talking about their art, in their studios,” she says.
Melissa’s journey to becoming a fine artist seems to have come full circle, but it was not without challenges. She smiles as she recalls how her father urged her to take a typing class. (“Just in case you have to become a secretary.”) She laughs, “My big rebellion was that I never learned to type.”

Melissa has found a way to do what she loves and in a place that she clearly enjoys. “I accomplished more than I thought, coming from a small town in Georgia,” she muses, adding, “I can’t see myself not being an artist, it is so much a part of me—the personal expression and the sharing.”

swirling strokes: 

Sprinkles of Delight

Words by Kate Lucky

We’ve all been to this wedding: The one with the towering cake, covered in buttercream and fondant decorations. How could something so impressive not be delectable? But one disappointing bite tells the truth: That cake is dry.

Appearances deceive the other way, too. A lemon bundt that sticks to the pan, a lumpy cookie with a too-browned bottom. Visual disappointments, yes. Tasty? Also yes.

It’s a special bakery that manages both aesthetic delight and mouthwatering flavor. Sibby’s Cupcakery, a tiny, pink shop with a flower-filled window box located along the San Mateo railroad tracks, is one of them. Owner Sibby Ross Thomson runs her shop collaboratively, working with her staff to continually create new flavors, decorations and themes. “Good ideas can come from anywhere,” she declares. Her staff experiments with guava and strawberries, chocolate and cereal, sharing feedback in monthly taste tests. The cupcakes (mini, regular and jumbo, all nut-free) are moist and flavorful, with a just-right ratio of frosting to cake.

And they’re lovely: cinnamon-spiced carrot cake with tiny orange frosting veggies, yellow lemon-drops garnished with a jelly bean, airy chocolate flecked with skinny sprinkles. The special orders are whimsical: mummies for Halloween, flip-flops for summer, waffles and starfish, lavender sprigs and crayons. Tiny chickens for a family naming the members of their new coop. Even 666-themed cupcakes, covered in flames and devil horns, for a family with triplets: All boys. All turning six. “Our decorators are artists,” Sibby says proudly. “You have someone who might be an expert in roses, and someone else who loves doing characters.”

Sometimes, decorations are conceived in tandem with new flavors. Take the shop’s County Fair box: caramel corn popcorn, funnel cake, blueberry pie, cotton candy, churro and strawberry lemonade. Or its Ice Cream selection: orange creamsicle, strawberry shortcake bars. The That’s That, a play on the San Francisco classic It’s-It, combines oatmeal cake with vanilla buttercream frosting dipped in ganache. Yum.

It’s no surprise to learn that Sibby has a creative background. She started baking as a child in Kansas, helping her mom make blackberry, peach and apple pies. At college in Chicago, she studied art history and the civil rights movement; it was a thesis on the art of the Black Panther Party that brought her to Berkeley for research. “I loved it out here,” she reminisces. And so, after a couple of years of advertising work in Chicago, she uprooted for San Francisco. After marrying her husband, a Palo Altan she’d met in school, Sibby knew she was here to stay in the Bay. Continuing in advertising, she contributed to the creative process for brands for a decade—but longed to make something all her own.

“During that time, I was still baking. I would pull all-nighters, baking cakes and cupcakes for my clients and team,” Sibby recounts. Baking “was really my passion,” she realized, and fitting it around a corporate job was unsustainable. There was only one thing to do: Quit her full-time job, and start her own shop.

Cupcakes seemed manageable. She’d only need one pan size. Sibby baked from home, until glowing press and word-of-mouth crowded her kitchen with orders. The San Mateo storefront was the solution to the bakery’s popularity. “When I first moved into this space, it felt even more off the beaten path,” she says. “There were literal tumbleweeds… I felt like I was in Kansas.” She relied on delivery in an era when “you could really only get pizza and flowers delivered.”

Now, almost 20 years later, a yoga studio and a ramen restaurant have moved in down the street, and the shop gets plenty of walk-in customers. After her start as a baking, decorating and delivering solo act, Sibby’s staff has grown to 30 and her shop has been touted as “the cupcake center of the universe” by press. For a few years, the bakery served as the designated cupcake provider for the 49ers. They’ve baked for Google, Yahoo and Twitter.

Times have changed since those early days of mixing batter and answering phones from home. But Sibby’s inspiration remains the same. “It really is a privilege to be part of people’s celebrations,” she reflects. “We might be doing 12 baby showers that day, but everyone understands how important each specific event is.” She laughs, “We’re not in this business, in any capacity, to make money… We’re in it because we have a passion for making people happy.”

On this sunny weekday, a few employees cheerfully pack orders in pink boxes adorned with bows. Sitting in the bakery’s small kitchen, Sibby speaks not just about the community she tries to build among her employees and customers, but in the region at large. For 20 years, she’s been involved with Baker’s Dozen, a San Francisco collective of professional and home bakers who swap ideas about everything from collapsing angel food cakes to gluten-free techniques. Some are technically “competitors,” but the group is generous with their time and tips. “That feels like the Bay Area to me. I’ve never been part of a group like that,” Sibby notes.

Sibby’s Cupcakery doesn’t advertise; instead, they give back, and know that their neighbors will notice. They partner with Sol Mateo, a mental health nonprofit, and donate to school auctions. At the end of the day, they give leftover cupcakes to organizations like LifeMoves, Samaritan House and Peninsula Food Runners. And sometimes, Sibby’s bakes something new for a cause. After the death of George Floyd, the bakery released the Midnight Magic, layers of chocolate cake with chocolate mousse filling and fudgy frosting, dipped in ganache and sprinkled with homemade Oreo cookie crumble. All proceeds went to organizations like the Equal Justice Initiative.

Sibby’s generosity extends to individuals, too. A friend’s dad, suffering from Alzheimer’s, couldn’t remember much. But he could remember that Midnight Magic cupcake. “So we’d make it for him. He’d be sick and our bakers would say, ‘100%! We’re making it.’”

Delectable to eat, delightful to look at: a rare combination. Even rarer: baking a difference along the way.

Sweet Spot:

The Art of Dining

Words by Johanna Harlow

It’s lunchtime at Rossotti’s Alpine Inn and every table in the sprawling creekside beer garden is occupied. For Greg St. Claire, owner of Avenir Restaurant Group, it doesn’t get much better than this. “We seat 292—I don’t think that there’s a busier restaurant in all of Northern California,” Greg notes, watching over the hustle and bustle from a picnic table carved with the initials of diners past. “I just love when I go into a crowded restaurant, and I see people having fun. It totally energizes me! It’s soul-filling.”

After the Portola Valley mainstay (known to many as “Zott’s”) went up for sale in 2018, Greg partnered with five others to save the historic roadhouse. It’s the second oldest continually operating tavern in the state. Beyond his penchant for preserving Peninsula places, this restaurant holds personal meaning for Greg. “My father said he spent more time at Rossotti’s than he ever did at the library at Stanford his freshman year.” Greg smiles. “My first memories were coming here after soccer games.”

For 30 years now, Greg and his team at Avenir Restaurant Group have given the Peninsula some of the community’s most beloved, long-standing restaurants including Nola in Palo Alto, Town in San Carlos and Milagros in Redwood City. His recipe for success as a restaurateur? “You kind of need to be like a Swiss Army knife,” he muses. “You need to be a jack of all trades. You need to know your way around the kitchen. You have to know your way behind the bar. You need to know how to use tools and how to design stuff. You’ve gotta be creative and then you’ve gotta back it up with being willing to dig into the books and finance—because every business ultimately comes down to math.” The battered old measuring tape Greg carries everywhere he goes is a testament to his hands-on approach.

Greg encourages his team to take a similarly well-rounded tack. Front-of-house managers learn to understand the recipes and the process that goes into each dish. As for his chefs: “They’re gonna learn the math behind it. They’re gonna learn how to do the books,” Greg insists. “If you leave my company, you’re ready to open your own restaurant. And I take great pride when people actually do!”

Greg’s interdisciplinary bent dates back to his many jobs growing up—from helping his mom with her interior design work to bartending and fast food work to a construction gig in Norway after graduating from University of Colorado Boulder. He forged his intrepid spirit even earlier: from boyhood bicycle adventures exploring the streets of Woodside and Portola Valley. “We were free-range chickens,” chuckles Greg, who now lives in San Carlos.

Of course, Greg’s love affair with food also hones him for this line of work. “I consider myself an excellent cook. But there’s a difference between a cook and a chef,” he asserts. “I think being a chef is second only to heart surgery.” Considering his father was a doctor, he should know. “I think it’s essential that if your background is not being a chef, to be a successful restaurateur, you absolutely immerse yourself in food,” he continues. “I have thousands of cookbooks and it’s like art in some of my restaurants and in my home.” He adds that on family vacations, “My entire trip is based on where I’m going to eat and the food that we’re going to have and timing out our meals. My whole family is obsessed!”

When pinpointing the best part of his job, Greg doesn’t hesitate. “Unequivocally, it’s the creative process,” he says, explaining that he regularly crafts menus and relies on resourceful problem-solving. He also curates engaging settings for his restaurants, wielding art for impact. “There are very minimalistic, super high-end restaurants that want the sole focus to just be on food. No distraction. And I think that’s fine, but… I think there’s something incredibly cathartic and beautiful about art. I think it speaks to the theme of a restaurant.” He adds of workers in the dining industry, “We’re all artists too. We’re creating a canvas with food and wine. A very, very creative group of people work for us.”

“At Nola, we actually have one of the largest collections of Southern folk art probably west of the Mississippi,” Greg continues, detailing a trip to New Orleans where he hunted down the pieces. He found the perfect place to show them off: a historic Pedro de Lemos building with a huge courtyard and striking iron balconies. “I just looked at it and thought, ‘This feels like the French Quarter!”

Milagros is also art-forward. After extensive travel to Mexico, Greg had stockpiled quite the collection. “I got to kind of a critical stage of, ‘I have so much stuff, I think I have to do a Latin restaurant now!’”

For Greg, balancing four restaurants is actually “slowing down.” After all, in the early 2000s, he also oversaw Kingfish, D’Asaro Trattoria, Mistral and a staff of 1,200. “I didn’t recognize a lot of my employees. It became so big that it started to feel very corporate,” he remembers. “I felt like I wasn’t doing anything really well.” Ultimately, he decided to sell this trio of restaurants to the people who’d worked so faithfully for him. Greg doesn’t regret the extra time he got to spend with his three daughters, and he’s loved coaching their many soccer and softball teams.

At the end of the day, Greg says, “I built my company on trying to create an awesome place for my employees to work.” He explains, “If my staff’s doing well, my customers are having a great time.” After all, it’s the people, not the places, that fuel Greg’s winning concepts. “My company tagline is ‘Make people happy,’” he shares. “It sounds super hokey and simple, but it really is what I believe.”

Tasteful Service:

Marvelous Mendocino

Words by Sharon McDonnell

Perched on a headland far above coastal bluffs, Mendocino’s mostly white Victorian houses evoke the enchanted village in Brigadoon—especially when the fog creeps in. The look is so New England that the coastal haven acted as the fictional Cabot Cove, Maine, in the TV whodunit Murder, She Wrote. Once a booming lumber port, the town of 850 people just off Highway 1 began attracting artists in the 1950s and boasts a large cluster of upscale lodgings, galleries and independently-owned shops—along with an idyllic Main Street overlook with fields on one side and crashing waves below. Approximately a four-hour drive north of the Peninsula, Mendocino is also a jumping-off point to explore the Anderson Valley wine region and redwood forests.


Mendocino Headlands State Park, with trails leading down to the ocean, surrounds Mendocino town on three sides. Its visitor center, Ford House Museum, located in an 1854 house, displays an 1890 scale model of the town, which looks remarkably similar today (except that back then, shops lined Main Street on both sides).

For a soak in a private outdoor redwood hot tub or a steam in a cedar sauna, visit Sweetwater Eco Spa. If you prefer thrilling to chilling, rent a bike, kayak or canoe at Catch a Canoe and Bicycles Too, or take a guided sea cave kayaking tour from Kayak Mendocino, which leaves from a cove in Van Damme State Park.

Kelley House Museum resides in the 1861 home of Canadian-born William Kelley, who spent his early years as a ship’s carpenter, but would later come to own almost all the land that comprises today’s Mendocino. The museum hosts exhibits on the rich history of the Mendocino Coast, including one on the life of Angela Lansbury, who played the role of mystery author sleuth Jessica B. Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote for 12 years. Her home in the series was Blair House, an 1888 residence that now serves as a B&B. Kelley House Museum also marks the starting point of a delightful two-hour guided walking tour past many more 19th-century white houses (and outliers painted in cream, yellow and pale green) as well as tall redwood-framed water towers. Since there was no city water supply, water was pumped up from wells using windmills, which is why Mendocino became known as the city of water towers. About 30 water towers remain, some now artist studios or lodgings.

Highlight Gallery displays artworks by over 150 Northern Californian artists with many one-of-a-kind pieces like inlaid-wood wall art, “tree” sculptures made of welded bronze and copper and sand paintings composed of over 200 colors of sand. Offerings at Artists’ Co-op of Mendocino include coastal landscapes, ceramics, photography, Japanese-style prints and earrings made by fusing different-colored metals into layered patterns, a Japanese craft called mokume gane.

Mendocino Art Center, the game-changer that transformed the town into an art colony after opening in 1959, holds art classes, shows rotating exhibits and offers lodgings to both artists and the public. “I’ve been looking for this town all my life,” wrote Bill Zacha, a San Francisco art teacher who founded the center after spotting Mendocino on a roadtrip and moving here. Its Gallery Store sells Zacha’s passion project, 55 serigraphs of Japan’s Tokaido Road, with his companion book as a boxed set. Zacha studied woodblocking in Japan with an artist who later taught at the Mendocino Art Center and then opened an art center in Miasa, Japan. The small towns are sister cities and host art exchanges.

During the monthly Art Walk on second Saturdays, galleries extend their hours. Next to the Mendocino Art Center in a shingled building, Mendocino Theatre Company stages plays and musicals in its 60-seat theater.

If you have a yen to browse an eclectic array of locally-made items and specialty foods, Mendocino Country Store sells mustards, jams and pumpkin butter from Carol Hall’s Kitchen in Mendocino, soaps and body lotions from Three Sisters Apothecary in Sonoma and candles with irreverent captions from Malicious Women Co. Surprise: A bottle shop for mostly Mendocino wines is in the back. Its bar is a huge redwood slab, its stools are tractor seats. For redwood slabs and custom-made wood furniture, head to Anderson’s Alternatives.

Zintara offers globally-sourced women’s clothing and accessories, mostly from women-owned businesses and aptly called “wearable art.” The Study Club, a large two-story boutique, sells a highly-curated selection of home décor, textiles and women’s and children’s clothing.


Founded in 1968, Café Beaujolais, the best table in town for decades, serves elegant seasonal California-French food with a southeast Asian touch in an 1893 pale yellow farmhouse. Their duck breast in a kumquat glaze with Chinese five-spice, meaty Vietnamese-accented Dungeness crab cakes heaped with mint leaves (with a kick from Thai chiles) and coconut-three-ways custard pie are all exquisite. The Europe-dominated wine list is extensive at Beaujolais, whose current owners also own The Brickery, a wood-fired pizza spot in the garden behind Beaujolais, and The Waiting Room, an all-day café that segues seamlessly from locally-roasted coffee and baked goods at 7AM to wine, beer and Port until 9PM, in a living room-like setting with armchairs and cushioned banquettes.

At Mendocino Café, you’ll find a tented patio adorned with hot pink and purple Chinese paper lanterns and a deck with expansive ocean views. The Thai burrito is a favorite here: a fat tortilla crammed with beef, chicken, shrimp or tofu in a house-made peanut sauce with brown rice and sweet Thai chiles. Down the street at Fog Eaters Café, a Southern-style vegetarian restaurant with vegan and gluten-free options, there’s fried oyster mushrooms in a green gravy of pureed fava beans, cashews and parsley reminiscent of soft shell crab.

Good Life Café & Bakery’s large breakfast and lunch menu ranges from pastries baked fresh each morning and bowls of Indian-style pumpkin coconut curry to Mexican standbys and salads.


MacCallum House, a luxury boutique hotel in an 1882 Victorian mansion, offers a variety of lodgings including seven standalone cottages with hot tubs, spacious rooms with carved wood beds in the mansion itself, rooms with decks in a shingled restored barn and all-suites accommodations in a second mansion off-site. The most extraordinary: a triplex in a water tower with a sauna and ocean view. Nicholson House, which opened in 2022 in a handsome 1891 house, has four rooms and three suites furnished in antiques with heated bathroom floors, and plans to add two pet-friendly rooms in late 2023. (The Premiere King Suite offers sweeping ocean views from its bed and private deck.) Breakfast and coffee at The Waiting Room (same owner) are included.

Little River Inn, a resort on a bluff high above the ocean two miles south of Mendocino, has panoramic Pacific views from Adirondack rocking chairs on the decks of its 60-plus rooms. Some rooms are in the historic home of Silas Coombs, a lumber mill owner from Maine, while others are in cottages built after the inn opened in 1939. There are also suites at Mallory House, a few minutes farther south. Fireplaces abound, and some decks boast hot tubs. The resort also has a golf course, tennis courts, spa and the popular Ole’s Whale Watch Bar, where you can enjoy ocean views and even whale-spotting from your bar stool.

bluff top bliss:

Backyard Birding

Words by Sheri Baer

From her home perched above San Carlos, Bonnie Regalia raves about the view. But it’s not the expansive vista out to the Bay you’d expect. “We look to the Western hills, which is much more pleasing,” she explains. “It’s woodsy, it’s outdoors. It’s more of what I’m about: nature.”

Most of all, Bonnie’s backyard provides a dynamic spectacle she never tires of watching. She’ll spot chestnut-backed chickadees with their dark caps and white cheeks and listen for the repetitive chatter-like call of the oak titmouse. She delights in finches (American gold, lesser gold and house), which are flockers. “If you get one finch, you’ll get 12,” smiles Bonnie. Then there are the migratory visitors like orioles and cedar wax wings, which “look like they’re individually painted!” And, of course, the hummingbirds—the black-chinned and Allen’s that zip through in the spring and summer as well as the stunning Anna’s, which provide entertainment year-round.

Image by Annie Barnett / Cover Image by Rick Morris

“The show is continually changing,” she remarks. “This is one of the greatest places to bird in the United States because we’ve got everything.”

Bonnie’s passion for backyard birding isn’t just a hobby—it’s also her profession. As the longtime owner of Birder’s Garden in San Carlos, she takes pride in running a one-stop shop for Peninsula backyard bird and wildlife lovers. Along with providing expert advice, Bonnie stocks seed especially selected for local birds, houses, nesting boxes, feeders, bird baths… and every imaginable accoutrement for creating feather-friendly habitats. Located on El Camino Real with an additional back alley entrance, Bonnie notes that there is no natural foot traffic on her block. “We have to be good enough at what we do to make it a destination,” she says. “People have to want to come here.”

Bonnie traces her own path to the Birder’s Garden back to the shores of Lake Michigan. With family roots in farming and agriculture, she reveled in a childhood grounded in nature. “It was kind of like living in the Farmers’ Almanac,” she reflects. “We’d say, ‘There’s the first robin—spring’s coming!’ or ‘The migratory birds are going out—winter’s coming.’ If a storm was coming in, the lake seagulls would move inshore. We watched and talked about these things.”

Image by Rick Morris

After a Michigan childhood friend graduated from Stanford in 1968, Bonnie came out to visit—which inspired her own western migration the next year. She took a job with Carnes Piano in Palo Alto, before moving into accounting work for Silicon Valley startups. In 1996, divorced with two daughters, Bonnie read in a Wild Bird Center newsletter that the San Carlos backyard birding store was for sale. “My philosophy is that there are no coincidences in life,” she says. With support from the previous owners, the Small Business Administration and Wild Bird Centers of America, she swooped into the retail world with a resolute mindset: “I don’t do, ‘What if?’ ‘What if it doesn’t go well?’ Well, you’ll figure it out.”

Given that nearly a quarter-century has passed, Bonnie certainly did. Rather than a mom-and-pop, she became the successful proprietor of a single-mom brick and mortar. In the early years, her daughters would join her after school. “They’d help in the store and they’d start their homework. And then we’d all go home for dinner,” she recounts. “It really was meant to be.”

Image by Rick Morris

When the Wild Bird franchise agreement expired in 2006, Bonnie continued to operate independently under the new name, “Birder’s Garden.” An aptly descriptive moniker, the store invokes an all-things-that-flap-their-wings oasis. Enter from the back alley and you’ll pass through stacked rows of seed—in nearly 20 varieties, with bag sizes ranging from 5 to 50 pounds. (Birder’s Garden delivers to the entire Peninsula including the coast.) Will it be Backyard Basic, Songbird or Finch Blend? Dove & Quail or Nyjer Thistle? “There’s four and a half tons of seed here,” comments Bonnie. “And I have another half a ton coming in this morning. We sell three to five tons every week.”

“The mealworm came in,” calls out Caroline Spinali, who provides a steady staffing presence in the store. Bonnie nods in acknowledgement as she passes hanging displays of multi-shaped bird houses, hummingbird feeders and racks of hooks, poles and baffles. Bonnie realizes that the menagerie of avian-related products can be overwhelming. That’s where the education component comes in. Bonnie sees every customer interaction as an opportunity to impart knowledge and accurate information.

Image by Annie Barnett

“The backyard birding industry basically started on the East Coast,” she reveals, “and they still don’t recognize that not everything applies to the West Coast.” Not only does she rewrite and localize brochures, she also evaluates every item before offering it for sale. She gestures to a cast-off feeder sitting in her office. “I would never put that on my floor,” she says. “The squirrels are going to eat the plastic, and the plastic portals are going to come out of that in the first week.” Conversely, she points to a western bluebird box that earned her stamp of approval. “I had input into this,” she shares. “It has a longer roof and right-sized hole. It’s also protected so that a predator can’t get into it.”

After decades in the business, Bonnie appreciates the common values she shares with her customers. “They’re my people,” she observes. “We all care about nature. We all care about taking care of the environment.” For Bonnie, that means supporting and bolstering our Peninsula habitat. “What do you need in your yard? Native plants,” she advises. “Let things grow.” Citing factors like seasonal scarcity and tree removal, she views Birder’s Garden as a partner in supplementing essential food, water and shelter. In return, backyard birding delivers a spectacular display of colorful plumage and antics—set to a melodic soundtrack of chirps, trills and whistles. “Birds are also pollinators, and they eat insects, so they’re a good thing to have around,” Bonnie adds.

Image by Rick Morris

Even now, with her daughters grown and flown and five grandsons, Bonnie has no immediate plans to pass the backyard birding baton. She continues to relish her San Carlos hilltop perspective—amplified by all-weather, hummingbird, peanut, suet, niger and ground feeders, four bird baths and even a squirrel feeder—and cherishes the rhythm of her days in the store. “I like what I’m doing,” she affirms. “And I like the cause: backyard birding and taking care of wildlife. Why would I retire?”

Friendly to Feathers:

Homemade Suet Recipe

Rich with oils and proteins, suet is a high-energy food. There are lots of birds—like insectivores—that won’t come to a seed feeder. Especially beneficial in fall and winter, suet attracts feathered species like woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees and wrens.

1 cup chunky peanut butter
2 cups vegetable shortening
1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup coarse cornmeal
1 cup sunflower chips
medium-crushed egg shells

Perfect Shot: The Horse Park

“Bicyclists and motorists who travel west of 280 on Sandhill Road will certainly have noticed the sign for The Horse Park at Woodside,” notes Menlo Park photographer Jennifer Fraser, who explains that this nonprofit equestrian center provides opportunities for educational, recreational and competitive activities. However, Jennifer relays that her connection is purely aesthetic. “Clouds frame the oaks that are so common to California landscapes,” she says, “and horses will often amble over to the fence to investigate a passing visitor.”

Image by Jennifer Fraser /

Calling all Shutterbugs: If you’ve captured a unique perspective of the Peninsula, we’d love to see your Perfect Shot. Email us at to be considered for publication.

Diary of a Dog: Nachi

“What’s a Nachi?” you ask. My family in Los Altos originally wanted a boy dog and had already picked out the name, Nacho. But then I came along—a girl—and Jennifer, Kenny and Daniel decided to swap the final ‘o’ for an ‘i.’ That was seven years ago, and they fully agree, “We cannot imagine Nachi being called anything else.” I’m a California black Labrador retriever, and they also say I fully live up to my breed’s reputation. I relish the feeling of the ball in my mouth, grass under my paws and the rush of the wind through my ears. And how lucky am I: The dog park is right across the street from us! It’s my favorite place to go, and I even know how to get there by myself. One time, when my leash didn’t come out soon enough, I wedged my wet black nose through a door gap and sprinted across the parking lot to the gate. “NAAACHIII! NAAACHIII!” I heard Kenny yell, and he seemed to be mad at first. But then he pulled out my ball and we played fetch until I was happily panting with my tongue lolling out of my mouth. Being a quintessential Lab, I also love swimming—and joy of joys, we go to Lake Almanor every summer. Here’s my perfect day: Nap in the sun. Walk down to the dock. Jump in the water. Paddle around for a bit. Repeat. That’s the good life—Nachi style!

Calling All Dogs: If you've got quirky habits or a funny tale (or tail) to share, email your story to for a chance to share a page from your Diary of a Dog in PUNCH.

Q&A Aggie Zivaljevic

Kepler’s buyer and inventory manager shares what surprises people about Menlo Park’s iconic bookstore, a plot twist that truly shocked her and what she collects (which won’t come as a surprise).

Given that Kepler’s Books dates back to 1955, what most surprises people about the store’s history?
After 68 years, which included two near-death experiences, many people continue to be surprised that Kepler’s is still in business. We like to quote Mark Twain: Rumors of our demise are greatly exaggerated.

What does it take to make the cut as one of Aggie’s “Monthly Picks”?
I was raised reading classics, and my monthly picks are usually books I want to read and reread again and again. As many bookworms will attest, books pick me and not vice versa.

What was memorable about where you grew up?
I was born and raised in Sarajevo, Bosnia, the city now infamous for being under siege for 1,425 days during the break-up of Yugoslavia, the longest siege of a capital city in modern history.

What’s your go-to Peninsula restaurant?
I love Cafe Borrone next to Kepler’s. My favorite dish is their seasonal salad with the best raspberry vinaigrette in the world.

What do you consider a must-do on your bucket list?
Finish writing my novel-in-progress: You Are My Country Now.

What do you collect?
Not surprisingly, I collect books and even have different editions of some of my favorite books.

What do you consider to be the best and worst book-to-movie adaptations?
My favorite is Remains of the Day (after Kazuo Ishiguro’s book) with Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins. My pick for the worst is the recent Netflix adaptation of Rebecca with Lily James and Armie Hammer (lovely actors, but it didn’t work for me).

Where do you go on the Peninsula that recharges your batteries?
My favorite weekend pastime is hiking Russian Ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains and having a picnic under the centuries-old trees (the Ancient Oaks Trail).

What’s a book with a plot twist that truly shocked you?
The recently published The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese. Something so shocking happens at the end of that book, and I never saw it coming!

What is your most cherished possession?
My mother’s notebook with her handwritten recipes.

What’s the last thing you do before you go to sleep?
Most nights, I read in bed for one or two hours. I have a big pile of advanced copies of upcoming books on my night table. Ann Patchett’s new book comes out in August!

What’s your favorite quote?
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.” —James Baldwin

Essay: Steam Engine No. 3

Words by Sloane Citron

Well, it all started when I was visiting my son Coby in Israel early last year, and my grandson Evan asked me to bring back a steam engine train for his gift (see PUNCH, March 2022). While I briefly looked for such a thing, I knew that there was little chance of finding one in the land of milk and honey (but evidently not of steam engines).

I did find an amazing little BRIO steam engine train on Amazon. The precisely made toy not only produces true steam but also travels forward and backward (with a fair degree of power) and has working front lights. I knew Evan would be thrilled and so I ordered it to arrive in tandem with my return home.

Thus, the lie was begot.

Evan is obsessed with trains and this one rose to the pinnacle of his passion, going everywhere with him from school to car trips to, unfortunately, the playground where, once buried in the sand a few times, the little engine finally died. Nonetheless, he still carried it with him everywhere.

Eventually, I bought another one from Amazon and presented it to Evan as a gift from Coby in Israel, still embracing the origin story. Evan was back on his game, using it on the extensive track that covers much of the family room of my son, Josh, and his wife, Adara. Once again, a steam engine blew steam and pulled up to a dozen train cars along the winding and climbing track.

For the past week, my wife and I had the pleasure of hosting Evan and his sister Mara while his parents were on a company-sponsored trip to Bali. I made sure to bring his entire collection of trains and track—three large containers—to our home. I cleared out our living room, and Evan and I busied ourselves building an enormous track that covered that room plus our front entry and into our dining room.

During their time with us, I decided to play hooky with them one Friday and we had a day of adventures. Early that morning, we went to my office (where they love to play), followed by the bagel shop and then Century 20 in Redwood City. (Hint: If you ever want the whole theater to yourself, try to catch a 9:50AM show.)

We were halfway to our next stop to visit our former Rebbetzin, Robin Teitelbaum, who now lives at the Moldow senior living facility in Palo Alto, when Evan realized that he didn’t have his steam engine. I stopped the car, and we drove back to Redwood City, where, after parking in the garage and getting out of the car seats, we made the long trek back to the theater. After asking around and searching for ourselves, the crushing verdict was no steam engine.

The next day, we revisited my office and the bagel shop with no success. We walked the streets of Menlo Park, searched our home and tore apart the car with no luck. Perhaps the little train had run off to join the circus.

Though I am no fan of Amazon, this day it was our hero. In the midafternoon, I ordered another steam engine, and it was delivered to our door the next day. Evan quickly named this one Black Steam Engine 3. From the second it arrived, my four-year-old grandson discovered the art of caring for something that you relish. He carefully took it out of the packaging, saving the box, plastic holder and instruction manuals. We called Coby in Israel and on Facetime, Evan profusely thanked his uncle for sending the train to him.

Evan carefully filled the small receptacle that held the water to power the steam and quickly put the train to the test. Though these little trains are all presumably the same, Steam Engine Number 3 seemed to be a good one, with more power and an especially large plume of steam pouring forth from its smokestack.

The new rule for this train is that it cannot leave Evan’s home, ever. We’ll see whether he is still captivated by trains when (and if) it’s time for number 4. Meanwhile, somewhere, someone is enjoying Steam Engine Number 2, and I hope they are liking it. But while they have No. 2, they have nothing on Steam Engine Number 3, the best steam engine of all.

Rolling with the Punches

Words by Johanna Harlow

For Tony Vella, it’s a typical night on the job. On a street in the Tenderloin district, Tony cranes his neck up at a man with one leg out the window of a third-floor apartment. The guy has his arms wrapped around a 60-inch flat-screen TV. Then he lets it go. Tony instinctively arches back and—whoosh—the falling projectile breezes just over his head before it smashes across the concrete.

Dodging objects comes with the territory when you’re a stuntman. And tonight, Tony’s on set of the second Venom movie, filming a scene where the hero is embroiled in a Jekyll and Hyde battle with his alter ego and household items become casualties. It’s not Tony’s first time in the Marvel universe. You can also find him in Antman as a driving double for Michael Peña (AKA Luis).

Beyond stunting, doubling and driving, Tony works gigs as an aerial rigger and stunt coordinator. “Some people get known for being exceptional fighters—or they specialize in high falls, fire burns, driving, wire work, flying around or spinning,” the Pacifica resident says. “I’m an all-around guy. You know what I’m really good at? Getting beat!”

At the age of seven, he already knew he wanted to be in show biz. “Television was my babysitter,” recalls Tony who was raised by his grandparents, aunt and uncle in San Francisco. “The original Batman TV series really got my attention with the fight scenes!” Fascinated by the voices he heard in Warner Bros. cartoons, he experimented with impersonations. To demonstrate, Tony shifts his voice to a Brooklyn/Bronx swagger, “Pretty soon, I realized I could do a pretty good Bugs Bunny. ‘What’s up, Doc?’” He switches to a nasal stutter, “Or eh beh beh eh boy, Porky Pig.” Dipping into a dopier octave, he layers on a lisp, “Or ‘Hey! Bullwinkle Moothe here!” Tony also impersonated relatives and mimicked monsters like Dracula and Frankenstein. “My grandparents didn’t know what to do with me!” he laughs.

Later on, while caring for aging family members and working at an auto body shop, Tony squeezed in acting auditions during lunch breaks. He began securing instructional video gigs. “‘This is how we load the fry machine.’ ‘This is how we make the shakes,’” recites Tony in a chipper voice. “I probably did well over 75 of those in my career.” He also landed some “small parts in small commercials.” Undeterred by the slow slog, Tony kept at it, taking every local class he could on acting, commercial improv and cold reading as well as studying method acting at Jean Shelton Acting School. (“Keep trucking, keep trying, right?”) And then, on yet another audition, Tony noticed an ad for a stunt school on the bulletin board. Writing the number down changed his life.

After learning the precise art of getting pummeled, Tony found his way onto an episode of America’s Most Wanted as a cop who gets shot during a routine traffic stop. Suddenly, he had himself a niche. “Now I know what my calling card is! I’m the stunt guy who can act,” he realized. After two more AMW gigs, Tony started serving as a double for the character of Evan on episodes of Nash Bridges.

Tony poses with a cursed victim from The Bell Keeper starring UFC champion Randy Couture. Tony served as stunt coordinator on the film, which is currently awaiting release.

In those early years, Tony also performed in live shows at Vallejo’s Six Flags. In an epic water battle via fan boat, Tony morphed into the nefarious Two-Face. “I fought Batman and Robin, three, sometimes four times a day,” he recounts. He also skulked about as a henchman in the park’s Jungle Theater, an “Indiana Jones meets Laura Croft” kind of show. “You hit this button and then you had so many seconds to get out of the way because the big propane flame was gonna come,” he reveals.

As his career took off, Tony racked up credits in big-name productions like Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, CSI Miami, Zodiac and Contagion. He’s had the snot kicked out of him on 13 Reasons Why (ironically by the character of Tony) and he’s been punched in the stomach by Angie Tribeca (wearing a voluminous pink quinceañera dress and tiara, no less). He’s also had his head bashed through a confessional booth screen in Our Flag Means Death. (Look for him as Fred Armisen’s double in the “We Gull Way Back” episode.) Of course, under all that fake blood and prosthetic lacerations, Tony’s loving every minute. “I like the physicality of it. I like the creativity behind it. I like the magic of it,” Tony says. One of his more over-the-top stunts? He grins when he shares, “Not only have I done stair falls, but I did one in a dress, in a wig, in high heels. Backwards.”

Despite many graphic deaths, Tony has evaded serious injury—a fact he shares while knocking vigorously on wood. “I got hit in the face with a garbage can lid when I worked on the movie version of Rent,” he adds with a shrug. Nothing unusual there. “We call it ‘dings.’”

Beyond set work, Tony founded Bay Area Stunts, a Northern California stunt network serving the motion picture and television industry. He also teaches students the trade from the patio of his Pacifica home, which is fortified with gear—from body protection pads and aerial rig equipment to tumbling mats and crash pads. “A lot of the new people coming into the industry aren’t properly trained,” Tony says. “My course is designed to make you entry-level ready.”

In fact, he’s currently the only person teaching a Hollywood-style stunt course in Northern California. His class covers everything from learning about gear and proper techniques to understanding technical terms and camera angles. “When the course is done, I’m not done,” Tony remarks. He provides resume feedback and even recommends students for work on films. When Tony blocked fight scenes as the stunt coordinator for No Address (an upcoming film featuring William Baldwin, Xander Berkeley and Lucas Jade Zumann), he recruited his protégés to help him troubleshoot.

What will fate throw at Tony next? An anvil? A psychopath? A car with tampered brakes? Be it blade or blaster, Tony stands with body pads and crash mats at the ready. Go ahead, do your worst.

lights, camera, *ACTION*

Exploring Hidden Gems

Words by Linda Hubbard

Cover Photo: Courtesy San Mateo County Parks

Whether you’re seeking a good picnic spot or a brisk walk or hike, Peninsula parks offer a bounty of choices. Explore these suggestions a little more closely, and you’ll also find some unique attractions hiding in plain sight.


Located in Moss Beach, Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is a much-beloved gateway to an intertidal zone teeming with crabs, sea stars, anemone, mollusks and fish. It’s also where you’ll come across a 160-foot staircase providing convenient access to the tide pools at Seal Cove, where you can spot all kinds of sea creatures when the tide is low. Before its debut in 2010, the only option to get to the cove was sliding on your backside down the steep hillside. Note: Obey signs as this marine protected area provides habitat to harbor seals with access restricted at times.

+ Open 8AM-8PM April-August; 
other closing times vary by 
+ For the best viewing, visit 
during a low tide that’s 1.0’ 
or below.
+ Look for shortcut access to
stairs via Cypress Avenue.
+ Do not remove shells, vegeta-
tion, rocks or marine life and 
stay at least 300 feet from 
any marine mammal.


Considered a locals’ secret by many, 517-acre Quarry Park is tucked in the community of El Granada, four miles north of Half Moon Bay. Take Quarry Trail from the parking lot, and you’ll come across a labyrinth set at the bottom of an abandoned quarry. Created by labyrinth maker Lars Howlett and installed on World Labyrinth Day in 2012, the 7-Circuit (or path) Petite Chartres pattern has evolved over time. Time your visit for when it’s bathed in sunlight and weave your way to the center.

+ Open 8AM-8PM April-August;
other closing times vary by
+ Park entrance is at the 
corner of Santa Maria 
Avenue and Columbus
Street in El Granada.
+ Labyrinth is located straight 
up the Quarry Trail from the
parking lot.


A neighborhood fan favorite, this City of Redwood City maintained park is a hidden treasure in itself. In fact, many on the Peninsula are surprised to learn of its existence. Covering 42 acres, Stulsaft features wooded trails and water play areas. Given the park’s ample off-leash area, it’s also considered a “Disneyland for dogs.” The wet winter made it even more so with Arroyo Ojo de Agua flowing through it before connecting to Redwood Creek. Not surprisingly, the creek is popular with kiddos, too. For those wanting a bit of a workout, there are some good pulls up hills.

+ Open 7AM-7PM with lower entrance closing at 6PM.
+ The entrance at the end of Recreation Way and Goodwin 
Avenue brings you to the off-leash dog area. There are 
also two entrances from Farm Hill Boulevard.
+ Dogs must always be on a leash outside the park gates 
and outside the designated off-leash trails. Otherwise, 
dogs must be under verbal control at all times. 
+ Be on alert for coyotes.


At 974 acres, Woodside’s Huddart Park is one of the area’s largest, known not only for its redwood trees but also for its summer camps for kids. It’s popular with both hikers and equestrians. Nestled on the eastern slopes of a small mountain range within the park is the Kings Mountain Archery Range featuring a field course of 28 targets ranging in distance from 10 to 100 yards (like different golf tees)—the longer targets are particularly challenging due to the terrain. Kings Mountain Archers offers free training as well archery competitions.

+ Open 8AM-8PM April-August;
other closing times vary by
+ Separate range entrance is at
2050 Kings Mountain Road 
in Woodside. 
+ Targets start at the Kings
Mountain Arches building
and go down the hill.

Courtesy San Mateo County Parks


This 103-acre retreat is located just east of the San Andreas Reservoir in San Bruno. El Zanyon Creek flows year-round, offering splashing opportunities on warmer days. Within the park, Meadow View Playground features 54-foot-long double slides, providing a rush worthy of an amusement park ride. The bonus: spectacular views out to SFO and San Bruno Mountain.

+ Open 8AM-8PM April-August; other 
closing times vary by month. 
+ Entrance ($6 fee) located at 1801 Crystal 
Springs Road in San Bruno. 
+ The double slides undergo regular 
maintenance so anticipate unexpected 

Murder on the Napa Wine Train

Words by Johanna Harlow

The sun is beating a hasty retreat when my train arrives at the station. As I stride along dark red rail cars, two seedy mafia types in pinstripe suits scurry by, fedoras pulled low over slicked-back hair. The skies are clear, the weather is warm and it’s a splendid day for a mob hit.

All aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train for some murder mystery dinner theater! For the past few years, the train has conspired with The Murder Mystery Company to bring murder most malicious and dinner most delicious to their summer and fall ride offerings. It’s a two-hour, role-playing experience, casting guests as both sleuth and suspect. For someone like me—a wannabe detective since my first riveting Nancy Drew book—living a mystery is the dream. And submerging myself in one reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s sinister Murder on the Orient Express? Could a girl ask for more?

Fearless journalist Johanna Harlow hot on the trail of a cold-blooded criminal.

In anticipation of tonight’s Roaring ’20s theme, I’ve undergone a flapper transformation—flashy sequined dress, crystal studded headband, dangling pearls and all. The train’s mahogany-paneled compartment sets the stage with era-appropriate torch sconces and etched glass partitions.

As my fellow travelers and I settle into window-side tables and we pull away from the station, we receive props for the characters we now represent and binders with their backstories. The actors catch us up to speed: Two rival crime families are planning a marriage merger in hopes of forming a shaky alliance… But where’s the lucky groom? Someone’s bumped him off!

So whodunit? Could it be the bride’s mom (and boss wife) Getta Dunn? Is it rival don Ivan Stone (“Fuh-gedda-bout’it!”)? Or perhaps her overprotective stepbrother Don Don Dunn (“If you look at my sista, my enforcer Joey hea’ is gonna knife ya and then he’s gonna fork ya! Capeesh?”) Then again, I’m also leery of Izzy Sleazy (publisher of the dirtiest rag in town: The Naked Ankle).

As we’re introduced to each suspect, the waitstaff serve roasted beet and arugula salads drizzled in a honey-citrus vinaigrette and topped with goat cheese and pistachio. I jot down theories and pore over crime scene photos as vineyards zip by in the fading light. During investigation time, I mingle with the other guests, bribing them with fake murder mystery bucks in exchange for answers to my probing questions.

Back in my seat, I’m temporarily distracted by my main course—grilled tenderloin in a red-wine bordelaise sauce with forest mushrooms—until a passing mobster sets his drink down on the edge of my table, clutches his throat and collapses on the floor at my feet. Clearly his final curtain call.

During a night of suspicious side eyes and pointing fingers, that poisoned drink on my table isn’t a good look. I know I’m going to have to work hard to clear my name. But I’m determined to crack this case before the crème brulee. I hunker down as the plot twists thicken and the skies darken. Step aside, Nancy Drew!

all aboard


Murder-Free Alternatives 

For those who’d prefer to bask in the ambiance of the train rather than wade into the chaos of a crime scene, the Napa Valley Wine Train offers plenty of possibilities. Take lunch or dinner under the arching glass windows of the Vista Dome or afternoon tea with tiers of finger sandwiches and scones. To truly indulge, settle in for the full-day Legacy Experience, which includes a four-course, wine-country-inspired meal with tasting stops at the Charles Krug and V. Sattui wineries.
Extend Your Stay: Meritage Resort and Spa

The resort and its sprawling vineyard views make for a great way to savor wine country’s alluring scenery. Splurge on a private patio/balcony upgrade to truly drink it all in. All rooms come with warm Tuscan-inspired interiors, spacious desks and natural stone bathrooms. The complimentary glass of Champagne at check-in and welcome bottle from Trinitas Cellars are also appreciated touches.

Regarding Rodin

Words by Sheryl Nonnenberg

Strolling Stanford’s tranquil green campus, you might find yourself face to face with the hulking Gates of Hell. It’s hard not to halt before the morbidly fascinating bronze doors that represent sculptor Auguste Rodin’s crowning achievement. Inspired by Dante’s Inferno, the artwork’s roiling bodies seem to be attempting escape, doing their very best to twist free of their apocalyptic fate.

Stanford University is home to a world-renowned collection of public art sited all around the campus. To see all, or even a portion of it, requires a map and your best walking shoes. For an intimate encounter, head to the Rodin Sculpture Garden outside the Cantor Arts Center, which boasts the largest collection of Rodin sculptures in an American museum. Since 1985, this one-acre garden has been open to the public 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Visitors are welcome to wander around on their own, but to get a more in-depth perspective on the artist, how he worked and his importance in art history, an hour-long docent tour is offered on Friday and Saturday mornings.

On a recent sunny Saturday, Lisa Fremont prepares to lead a group into the garden. Lisa explains that she has been a museum docent for 23 years and is one of about 20 volunteers extensively trained in the art of Rodin. Her tour begins outside the museum’s main doors, overlooking the large marble sculpture of Menander, a Greek dramatist. Rodin, she says, rejected almost every prevailing principle in making this statue, preferring to celebrate the common man rather than take the staid, classical approach that idealized the figure. Rodin was also a master at capturing both movement and emotion, which soon becomes apparent as we enter the garden.

Twenty sculptures sit in residence here—some pose on pedestals; others are positioned directly on the gravel paths. Composed of bronze, the sculptures can be viewed in the round and, unlike the usual museum experience, visitors are welcome to touch the artwork. Lisa shares that Rodin worked mainly in clay and plaster, and that bronze casting, because of its enormous expense, was not utilized unless the artist had received a commission. He worked from live models, usually nude, and his forte was capturing a sense of drama. This “groundbreaking engagement with the body” is displayed in Martyr, a prone figure, seeming to writhe in pain. Lisa notes that the figure appears to defy gravity, with limbs in impossible positions. “Rodin was very much influenced by Michelangelo,” she notes, adding, “Big hands and big feet are often a clue that it is a Rodin.”

Another tell-tale sign is the way Rodin handled the surface, or skin, of his work. Unlike most artists who would strive for a completely smooth surface, Rodin preferred a “lumpy/bumpy” effect because uneven, raised areas catch the light. In addition, Rodin allowed the seams joining the metal to remain visible, another way the artist rejected the previously prescribed notions of classical sculpture.

All of these techniques can be seen in the figures of Adam and Eve, which flank the largest piece in the garden, The Gates of Hell. (Many of the pieces displayed in the garden are enlargements of figures found in the Gates). Alongside its 180 individual figures reacting to the impending destruction of mankind can be found the oft-quoted line from Dante’s opus: “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”

“This was Rodin’s Noah’s ark,” asserts Lisa. “He worked on this for 20 years.” Originally intended to be actual working doors, like the baptistry doors in Florence, the artist made the decision to make it immoveable instead. It is a dramatic and imposing piece of art that could take hours to examine closely. Figures, male and female, young and old, react in horror to the tumult that will end in eternal damnation.

It’s impossible not to get caught up in the drama of the Gates and when a loud pinging noise erupts from the sculpture, everyone jumps. Lisa only smiles. “Don’t worry, no one is trying to get out from behind the doors,” she assures. “That is the sound of the bronze as it expands in the morning sun.”

One of the most frequently-asked questions that Lisa gets is, “Are these originals?” She explains that Rodin donated his entire body of work, papers and all reproduction rights to the French government in 1917, the year before his death. This allowed authorized casts to be made, which are considered authentic, but not one-of-a-kind. Stanford’s extensive collection was gifted by collectors B. Gerald and Iris Cantor, who also donated funding to restore the museum (formerly known as the Stanford Museum) following the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989.

In addition to being a prestigious collection for the university, the sculpture garden allows visitors easy access to interact with art in an outside setting. For anyone desiring an even deeper dive, the galleries within hold detailed information on how the sculptures were created, along with many more of the 200 Rodin works owned by Stanford. Cantor Arts Center director Veronica Roberts notes, “Rodin was constantly questioning and reinventing the stakes of sculpture and its conventions: What happens when you play with the scale of the work? What does a pedestal do? And how does all of this unfold for a mobile viewer in the open air? The garden provides the space for visitors to find their own answers to these questions, not least a lush respite from the bustle of campus life.”

On this morning, people sit on benches reading the paper and enjoying their coffee, while others push strollers. Children flit from sculpture to sculpture, clearly delighted that no one is telling them not to touch. Signage directs interested visitors to the nearby museum rotunda where an enlarged version of another one of Rodin’s best-known works, The Thinker, resides. Rodin himself captured the allure of this erudite figure best: “What makes my Thinker think is that he thinks not only with his brain, with his knitted brow, his distended nostrils and compressed lips, but with every muscle of his arms, back and legs, with his clenched fist and gripping toes.”

The Rodin Sculpture Garden may be one of the best-kept secrets on the Peninsula, but for Veronica, it is a source of joy each day. “The best thing about my office is the view of the Rodin Sculpture Garden and terrace café,” she says. “It provides a constant soundtrack of people gathering and I love watching visitors wandering through the sculptures. One of the many things I love about the Stanford campus is the incredible public art here and, for me, the Rodin Sculpture Garden is the mother ship!”

Plan a Visit 
Tours of the Rodin Sculpture Garden are offered on Fridays and Saturdays at 11:30AM. Visitors must obtain a free reservation pass to enter the museum. Sign up for a tour in the lobby.

Lars in the Labyrinth

Words by Johanna Harlow

The labyrinth of life draws us all along unexpected paths. Can we embrace the journey despite its twists and turns? Can we trust the process, forging onward through the bumps in the road? For Lars Howlett, labyrinths and life lessons are intertwined. “I feel like labyrinths are an incredible tool for personal transformation—to set an intention or to solve a problem or to mark a period or transition in time,” he observes.

Lars’ career path as a designer and builder of winding serpentine footpaths (as well as a facilitator of contemplative walks) certainly took an unforeseen twist. His personal life too has taken him in unexpected directions. As Lars shares, “Through love, loss and new beginnings, meditative walks have helped me maintain balance, cultivate inner peace and continue to step forth with courage and curiosity on this journey, along an ever-unfolding path.”

Entering the Labyrinth

Now don’t get it twisted: labyrinths are not mazes. “A maze has dead ends and choices,” Lars differentiates. “It’s meant to be disorienting—and a game, really.” Its walls also conceal your direction. On the other hand, “A labyrinth is a meandering path that winds its way to the center… As long as you trust the labyrinth and yourself and keep putting one foot in front of the other, you find your way.”

Earlier on his vocational path, Lars worked as a photojournalist as well as a part-time high school photography teacher at Atherton’s Sacred Heart Prep. On syllabus day, Lars would take his students to the school labyrinth and they would walk the circuitous route while setting their intentions for the class. On the final day of the semester, Lars led them back to the labyrinth to reflect on their journey and consider next steps. He also returned on his own. “I found it a great way to decompress—especially if there was some difficulty with a student or it was the grading period,” he explains. “Just to kind of refresh and reconnect.”

When Lars’ long-term relationship ground to a heartbreaking halt, he built his own labyrinth in Half Moon Bay overlooking the water. (“To find myself again,” he explains.) Every time he went out to walk it, he’d find others winding along its path. Clearly, he had created a healing space.

“When feeling lost in a labyrinth, the important thing is to trust the path and continue forward, knowing that there are no dead ends or mistakes that can be made,” Lars reflected later. “I was able to cultivate acceptance and forgiveness for myself and others, realizing that the journey of life is a long, winding road.”

Moved by this grounding experience, Lars decided to attend a Candlelight Labyrinth Walk at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral. Which led to a workshop with master labyrinth-maker Robert Ferré in the church’s basement. Which led to a trip to the Chartres Cathedral labyrinth in France.

It was a pilgrimage of sorts, Lars explains. Burnt out on photography and seeking fresh direction, he quit both his jobs, put everything he owned into storage and bought a plane ticket. After France, he traveled to labyrinths in Iona and Gotland to connect with his Scottish and Swedish heritage. “Since my future was kind of unclear, I decided to reconnect to my past,” he shares.

As Lars learned more about the enigmatic history and universal nature of the labyrinth, he became enthralled with designs dating back thousands of years. The double-spiraled Baltic Wheel of Scandinavia and the whirling chakra-vyuha of India. The 11-circuit medieval labyrinths of Europe and the square-shaped labyrinths of Rome. He discovered this “sacred geometry” could even be found hand-woven into baskets belonging to the indigenous peoples of the American Southwest. “Nobody knows who or where the first labyrinths were created,” he notes.

Turning The Bend

After returning from his trip, Lars wondered if labyrinths could become his new career path. He got his answer in a newsletter written by Robert Ferré, the same man he’d taken the workshop from all those months ago. “Our most experienced labyrinth artists are all pushing 60 years old or more,” Robert wrote. “Hello, is there a younger generation out there to carry this work into the future?”

When Lars came forward, Robert agreed to train him to follow in his footsteps. A project at Sofia University in Palo Alto would be the first collaboration of many. During another pivotal installation, Lars and Robert partnered with additional labyrinth makers at Denison University. Lars ended up rooming with Marty Kermeem—who, it turns out, installed the Sacred Heart Prep circuit that first set Lars’ journey in motion. “I saw Marty at one turn in the labyrinth and then I came back around and the next turn over, there he was again,” Lars chuckles.

In 2015, Lars founded his own business, Discover Labyrinths. Beyond work with private and institutional clients, he facilitates walks and teaches workshops through Veriditas, a community dedicated to supporting “all who wish to explore the labyrinth as a way to tap their own deepest wisdom.” With roughly 200 temporary and permanent labyrinths under his belt, Lars’ handiwork can be found across the Bay Area and beyond. Among his signature local projects: a pathway of lavender within walking distance of San Mateo County Libraries, a stone design in the old quarry site of Bernal Heights in San Francisco and an appropriately multi-colored design at San Jose’s Rainbow Park.

What you won’t find is Lars’ original “breakup labyrinth” in Half Moon Bay. After a season of healing, Lars threw the rocks back into the ocean. “I lifted the weight off of the land,” he says, explaining that each labyrinth has its own timespan. Down the road in El Granada, however, you will find a special labyrinth in an eucalyptus grove at Quarry Park. Lars built it with his then-fiancé/now-wife. He smiles when he adds that their daughter contributed her own stone to her parents’ design on a return trip.

Sticks and Stones

Like life, labyrinths are what we make of them—and the materials of Lars’ masterpieces elevate his work. Once, for a shoe drive to aid migrants, Lars formed a footpath out of donated sneakers. On another occasion, Lars utilized stacks of textbooks at a teachers conference.

On a personal note, Lars once repurposed the remnants of a shipwrecked fishing boat that had crashed on Half Moon Bay’s rocks. “Walking that labyrinth, I realized that my life had kind of felt like a shipwreck and had fallen apart into a million pieces,” Lars reflects. “By taking those pieces and putting them back together in a new form, it was as if I had taken the pieces of my old life and put them back together in a new way that could better serve me in moving forward.”

And when his grandfather passed away, Lars commemorated the traveling geologist’s life with a pathway made from his collection of rocks from around the world. “It was really powerful to walk through the stones from all his travels, to reflect on him and reflect on his life,” Lars shares.

Lars' memorial labyrinth to his grandfather

On the lighthearted side, Lars’ cheekiest design consists entirely of lawn flamingos (built for appreciative attendees of a labyrinth conference in Florida). “A lot of people think the labyrinth is very solemn,” notes the pathmaker, “but you can have fun in the labyrinth. You can dance a labyrinth. You can laugh through the labyrinth.”

So find your own twisting path. And see where it takes you.

around the bend

Labyrinth as Meditative Practice
(Created by Lars Howlett, Veriditas and Shauna Shapiro)

+ Set an intention. Focus the walk on a question/theme, 
or simply commit to experiencing your experience.

+ Attune to your emotions and attitude. Give yourself 
permission to feel and respond honestly and openly.

+ Prepare by focusing your awareness in the present. 
Quiet your mind and listen to your breath.

+ Follow the pace your body wants to go. Your stride 
may change throughout the different stages.

+ Feel free to move around others or let others move 
around you. This is easiest to do on the turns.

+ The path is a two-way street: people may be coming 
out as you go in. Do what feels natural when you meet.

+ If you are walking as a group, allow a minute for 
others who are entering or exiting before you start.

+ Be respectful of others. It’s an individual and shared 
experience. There is no right way to walk a labyrinth.

Landmark: Menlo Park Train Station

Words by Dylan Lanier

All aboard! The Menlo Park Station is a gateway to Caltrain rides up and down the Peninsula, but it also provides a journey into the past. Built in 1867 by the San Francisco and San Jose Railroad Company, the structure is the oldest railroad passenger station in California. The main building’s nostalgic design reflects the styles of a bygone era. First fashioned in the image of a picturesque 1850s cottage, the station received Victorian ornamentation in the 1890s to appeal to the students and visitors of the recently-founded Stanford University.

Whereas it previously took three hours to traverse the distance between Menlo Park and San Francisco, the new railway reduced travel time to just 80 minutes. This inspired city dwellers to seek out the Peninsula’s warmer weather, with many building residences, like Leland Stanford and University supporter Timothy Hopkins. In 1884, the station began providing the first telephone exchange for the area. A northwest extension was built after an influx of military personnel followed the establishment of Camp Fremont, a World War I military base located in Palo Alto and Menlo Park. For more than 50 years, up until 2020, the station provided a home for the Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce in the repurposed “ladies waiting room.” No faded relic, the Menlo Park Station remains a rich connection between the city’s past and present.

Design as Art: K Interiors

Words by Sophia Markoulakis

When we consider art in relation to a home, we think of wall art and objets d’art that fill the surfaces of our private spaces—and speak to who we are and what we want others to see in us. For the homeowners of a recent Burlingame Colonial remodel, collecting art wasn’t on their radar. Their life story together had recently begun, so interior designer Kristen Peña chose to use the design itself as “art” for the home. “Though the home wasn’t a gut remodel, we had the opportunity to touch on all of the surfaces,” she says.

Above: A custom expandable dining table paired with Hans Wagner chairs and an Apparatus Cloud chandelier are elevated by the dramatic, sultry walls painted by Caroline Lizarraga. We added an arch to the kitchen doorway and new white oak flooring to this dining room.

Accentuated by original millwork, wainscotting and other transitional details, the home transformed into a more contemporary living space with Kristen telling a new story through its design, with sparsely placed pieces of art serving as supporting elements. Kristen and her team modernized and softened interior archways, something that isn’t always a top-of-mind consideration. “That archway was speaking to me like it’s the ‘80s,” she quips lightheartedly, “and adapting interior passageways is one of the ways we approach changes.”

Kristen stripped the home of its heaviness (inlays, moldings and trims), morphing rooms into fresh canvases that could receive layers of color, shapes and textures that better aligned with the homeowners’ aesthetic. “Getting in and working on a home as early in the process as possible really eliminates the risk of having to undo things,” she notes. “You’re able to tackle the hierarchy of the design logically.”

This corner of the primary bedroom features a velvet &Tradition settee in the window alcove and a sleek vanity for makeup touchups. The walls are painted by Caroline Lizarraga.

These design layers make their presence known via surfaces like interior walls in the dining room that received custom texturing and veining by local decorative artist Caroline Lizarraga. The dramatic gold drips reflecting off the room’s deep blue walls add depth without having to source for art. One anticipates an impending convergence between a circular mirror and a similarly shaped Apparatus Studio chandelier, which effectively conjures a Warhol- or Pollock-inspired moment.

These transformations also speak to the designer’s ability to create rooms with distinctive qualities while still retaining a cohesive thread and holistic living experience for the homeowners. Expanding on that, Kristen says, “It’s about creating a foundation of space that has interesting things that your eye is drawn to. It could be shapes, colors or texture. We want the house, before we even put any furniture or textiles inside, to have its own personality.” That, in essence, is how design functions as art before anything is placed or hung.

Kristen’s knack for creating individual vignettes that draw the eye evokes a sensation that is equally exciting and restful. The vignettes convey stories through lines and the repetition of shapes in materials, fixtures and furniture. “I like to think of these moments as conversations that are happening within the design at any moment in time,” Kristen says.

This powder room features a forest green and gold Porter Teleo kintsugi wallpaper. A custom marble vanity and Apparatus sconces further enhance the jewel box space.

As you move through the house, the shift from light-filled to darker, more contemplative rooms wasn’t intentional, but more about how the homeowners wanted to feel in each space. The primary suite, for example, needed to serve as a respite. “They wanted a space that was cozy and nurturing,” Kristen relays. The use of color and design via texture on the walls to mimic the feeling of an impending storm by artist Caroline Lizarraga is an emotional and artful contrast to the kitchen’s counter-to-ceiling marble slab with dramatic lilac veining. The decision to let the marble slab—one of nature’s most evocative creations—to speak for the space was driven by the homeowners, who really wanted the kitchen to express its own color story.

Although K Interiors is based in San Francisco, Kristen spends a lot of time with Peninsula clients, who are drawn to her signature use of color and form. She appreciates the opportunity to work on projects that often have more outdoor space and square footage for a new vision. In the case of the Burlingame Colonial, the goal was to create a space that encompassed both personality and art. “We wanted to deliver an artful space that could stand on its own but could then be layered with more things on top of it,” she summarizes. “We allowed for an art curation to develop over time as opposed to just filling the space with art.”

distinct spaces

Essay: Phone Phobia

Words by Sloane Citron

Among my many character flaws is one to do with telephones. For reasons unknown to me, I have always had a fear of the phone, not the actual device itself, but everything to do with making and answering a call. I have not made any progress on this front since I was six years old.

As a child, I hated answering our home phone, but it had to be done and done properly, always with, “Dr. Citron’s residence.” Since my father was often “on call” as an orthopedic surgeon (think motorcycle accidents), answering the phone required careful attention. I was often alone in my house, so that fell on me. My sense of responsibility in these situations overrode my aversion to picking up the receiver, which was considerable.

When I was about 25 years old, I was visiting my Dad when the phone rang. Neither of us made a move to answer it, but eventually my dad exclaimed, “Answer the phone, Sloane!” I jumped up and obeyed because that’s what I did. After the call, he chastised me for my hesitation, and I told him, “I don’t know why, but I just hate answering the phone,” to which he responded, much to my great surprise, “So do I.” Ah-ha!

I’m a grown man now, with bunches of grandchildren, and I still hate the damn phone. Email was a great gift to me, eliminating almost all of the answering and making of calls. But still there are times when the phone must be used. Ugh!

For several months, I have had it in my mind to get in touch with some old (and I mean old) friends, namely the mothers of several of my childhood classmates. Maternal figures who were especially kind to me or who made a significant impact on my life. Women I held tenderly in my heart. Week after week, I thought about calling them, but that absurd phobia lay deep in my psyche.

But finally, I said, “Enough of this nonsense!” and I started my calls, three in particular.

The first was to Mrs. Barfield. She is the mother of my lifelong friend, Bourdon, whom I’ve known since we were three. She is a lovely, elegant woman. Her warmth, love and kindness when I was a child helped make my somewhat chaotic world more secure. When I talked with her, those emotions came flooding back. We had a wonderful conversation, recalling our shared past, our common friends and the current scene with her many grandchildren and now great-grandchildren. It was with veneration and care that we ended our call.

Next up was Mrs. Altman, a woman who “saved” me during my adolescence. Her son, David, and I were the only Jews in our middle school and had grown up together at our Hebrew school. After my mother departed Amarillo and I was left with my dad (and his girlfriend, soon to be my stepmother), Mrs. Altman stepped in, and for several years, I spent all of my weekends at her home. Though her voice had softened, she was still the feisty, caring woman who welcomed me into her family. It was only as an adult that I came to realize what she had done for me and when I think of it, I always tear up. Our delightful conversation brought joy to us both.

Next, I called Mrs. Standefer, the mother of my first true girlfriend, Susan, from grade school. She has always been my champion and thinks more highly of me than is deserved. She is the type of person who enriches your life and makes you feel better about yourself with her love and zest for life. We had an engaging call all about our old days and the sparkle of Amarillo and her recently lost phone, which she never found.

Calling these women—all of whom had an extraordinary impact on my life—was wonderful. Though it took a bit of emotional energy on my part, I know that I gladdened their days by sharing and recalling the lifetime of love we have had for each other. And, as these things work out, I’m sure I received even more from these calls than they did.

I’m making an effort to do more mitzvot (good deeds). These calls are a part of that. I have a couple more to make and I can feel my body freezing up and shaking in anticipation. It’s ridiculous, I agree. Conquering fears is a lifelong struggle. But I’ve learned that plunging forward can make someone’s life a little brighter, especially your own.

Refresh Your Dress

Words by Loureen Murphy

Daisy Tinsley Barnett’s story begins like an archetypal tale. A curious girl opens a magic book that transports her into an enchanted world.

The real-life setting lies off Alpine Road in 1970s Menlo Park, where Daisy ran barefoot and free, one of three hippie children. Music played at all hours. Images emerged from Mom’s in-house darkroom. Dad crafted with wood and designed activities for a “very project-oriented” Daisy. Their daily kaleidoscope could include spontaneous kid-acted dramas before dinner. Even so, “visual learner, very social” Daisy still got restless.

Enter Encyclopedia Britannica, “a last resort” antidote for boredom. On the day Daisy turned to “Costume,” her life changed forever. Across six glossy pages, grand ladies and gentlemen paraded in rich brocades, bedecked in sashes, cuffs and ruffled collars. The splendor of clothing burst off the pages. “It took my breath away,” recalls the personal stylist and founder of The Daisy Edit. “It was a turning point for me.”

Eyes transformed, the five-year-old no longer saw apparel as utilitarian—she wanted pretty things. And to her delight, Grandma supplied. The new Daisy modeled her pivot in taste for a family outing—a party dress, knee socks and hair bow—to find they were going camping.

So Daisy changed her clothes but not her mind. “I loved fashion,” she says. Enamored by fabrics, ribbons and buttons, Daisy couldn’t shake the fear that her fascination smacked of materialism and frivolous living. So she kept it quiet. Teenage Daisy sewed for herself and sought ways to save money to buy her own clothes. She found herself “constantly poring over magazines and creating collages and mood boards.”

Then, to counter her “loosey-goosey” upbringing, Daisy aimed for a “practical, project-oriented and focused” future. After graduating from Boston University and getting married, she moved to Southern California, where she poured her intuition and energy into video production and marketing. While she “enabled people to do their best work,” Daisy craved a more direct creative outlet.

After returning to the Peninsula, the outlet came bundled as a baby girl. “She was my muse,” says Daisy, who designed and sold an array of cozy infant dresses. With the local success of the Daisy Tea line, a decision loomed—go big or go back to the office. The office won.

Her path back paved the serendipitous way forward. While at Apple, Daisy admired Senior VP (former Burberry CEO) Angela Ahrendts’ genuine interest in people and the way she “embraced her femininity.” Style-fire reignited, Daisy thought, “Maybe there’s something I can do in fashion.” A few years later, amidst the pandemic, Daisy stepped away from her career as LinkedIn’s director of media production to consider her options. How could she optimize her marketing savvy, love of fashion and passion for projects?

Daisy’s Tips: Finding Your Signature Style 
+ Be authentic. Know your “uniform,” your go-to look—whether jeans and a button-down, a monochrome palette or trousers and tee shirt. Embrace what reflects you and feels comfortable. 
+ Elevate your look with current, quality versions of key items. Look for good craftsmanship over a designer label. 
+ Add in pops of personal style with current and seasonal jackets, belts, shoes and accessories.

As that percolated, wayfarer Daisy helped a hurried friend pack for travel. Envisioning the taller woman in some of her own outfits, Daisy gathered a capsule of ensembles and useful items. Later, the friend called it the kindest, most helpful thing anyone had ever done for her. “How did you know that blue dress would look so good on me?” Daisy’s friend told her. “I never would have picked that for myself.”

Flash! “That’s when I realized I could help people.” Many “lost their way over the course of the pandemic,” Daisy explains, and after long months in sweats, they can’t imagine themselves in their former attire. Confidence drains as style identity atrophies. She discovered that what she feared frivolous proved foundational. The future founder sat down, made a business plan and launched The Daisy Edit.

Change-seeking clients now include referrals from satisfied customers, those who find her online and escapees from online wardrobe subscriptions. Many live on the Peninsula, others across the country. Daisy, smiling, calls her ability to get new acquaintances and clothe all body types with equal panache her superpower.

How does she work? After a free consultation, Daisy helps clients choose a service—anything from a one-time special-event styling to a complete wardrobe makeover with two in-closet sessions. Then, each client takes Daisy’s Style 360 Quiz “to uncover their authentic personal style.”

That means no pigeon-holing. The down-to-earth fashionista is a living fusion of elements herself—corporate and creative, Swedish and Jewish. On her crisp white bookshelves, a pair of child-sized Swedish clogs sit not far from a volume entitled Chanel. Daisy herself varies her own mode of dress depending on whimsy. She may rock ‘80s prep one day and California casual another.

“How we appear affects our mood,” Daisy observes. With a yen to lift spirits in a dopamine-deprived world, Daisy remains committed to “developing a system to help people dress and feel joyful.” Shining reviews and clients’ mirrors reflect her success.

Daisy’s Tips: Dopamine Dressing 
Wearing certain items of clothing or outfits because they elicit a feeling of joy and release dopamine is the idea behind dopamine dressing. That can mean bright colors, patterns and textures that put a smile on your face. Consider creating your version of dopamine dressing, or simply your version of dressing to feel good. Start with color, then consider joyful patterns and whimsical details. Be authentic. Dress for YOU, not for others.

Dress for YOU

Beat on your Eats: Ice Cream

Words by Johanna Harlow

Not the same old vanilla—scream-worthy Peninsula ice cream shops.

rabbit rabbit cream

Palo Alto

On the Rabbit Rabbit Cream website, a warning jumps out front and center: “Products may cause happiness.” True to their word, this Stanford Shopping Center spot’s tea-flavored soft serve is quite the treat—with flavors ranging from Kyoto matcha and Iron Buddha Oolong to Thai tea and (caffeine-free) buckwheat milk tea. Opt for the two-flavored swirl if you’re having trouble narrowing it down to just one. Another tasty choice you’ll have to make is which of the numerous toppings to add. Some of the more intriguing ones include Dutch caramel stroopwafels, cotton candy crunch, pocky, toasted marshmallows, corn flakes and mini pretzels. After you receive your order at the rabbit-shaped pickup window, you can capture your first lick by the ice cream cone photo wall. 78 Stanford Shopping Center. Open daily.

humphrey slocombe

San Mateo / Redwood City

Self-described as “chef-curated ice cream for adults,” Humphrey Slocombe’s flavors surprise and delight. You’ll find tubs of Lavender Crumble and Lemon Ginger Scone alongside Strawberry Daiquiri and Cherry Elderflower. One of their newer flavors, Mango Lassi, is mixed with lime coconut curry cookies. Also expect a few tongue-in-cheek names thrown into the mix: like Harvey Milk and Honey Graham. Or Elvis: The Fat Years. If the unknown is a little intimidating, not to worry. “We let you sample everything we have,” HS promises. “Everything.” 2077 Broadway, Redwood City and 3081 S Delaware Street B, San Mateo. Open daily.


San Mateo / Palo Alto

Who knew fish had an insatiable appetite for ice cream? “Ah-boong,” Korean fish-shaped waffles (also known as “taiyaki” in Japan), are fast becoming the Bay Area’s next food trend—meaning these cute sea creatures have come to gobble up all our sweets. We don’t really mind. This fish in the hand is worth two in the sea. In addition to the soft serve, make sure to fill your fish with custard, Nutella or cream cheese. Or try distinctly Korean fillings like sweet red bean paste and taro. But be forewarned: After SomiSomi, plain ‘ol waffle cones just won’t cut it. 440 University Avenue, Palo Alto and 134 S B Street, San Mateo. Open daily.

Sippin’ Pretty

Words by Jennifer Jory

Imagine a three-wheeled, Italian vintage vehicle rolling into your driveway. The driver pops open the side to reveal four taps flowing with Champagne for you and your guests. Say “Ciao!” to Sippin’ Pretty Bubble Bar and Tap Truck, the manifestation of local entrepreneur Holly Braithwaite’s desire to bring Old-World European charm to Peninsula backyards. “The truck makes people happy,” smiles Holly. “I can’t imagine anything better on a warm day than a cold, crisp glass of Champagne.”

Sippin’ Pretty’s origins can be traced to the small village of Mougin, France, where Holly’s husband Jean-Francois asked her to marry him. As they strolled through the streets looking for a way to celebrate their engagement, they spotted a whimsical, turquoise vintage Champagne truck lined with fluted glasses. It was the perfect way to toast their new beginning. The celebration also sparked the idea to bring a slice of Europe home to the Bay Area with their own truck and bubble bar. “I announced to my husband, ‘This is what I am going to do someday,’” Holly recounts.

Fast-forward 10 years and the notion kindled by their betrothal became a reality. Holly partnered with her mother Susan and they began to plan their new venture. “My mom really encouraged me to start the business and she now runs the back end,” Holly explains. Already a collector of vintage glasses, Holly researched vehicles and came across a three-wheeled, vintage Italian truck on the East Coast. She set to work meticulously outfitting it, selecting finishes and curating the build out of the refurbished mobile mini bar dispensary. “My style is boho, eclectic, fun and different,” notes Holly. As a final touch, she dubbed the truck Lola.

In September 2022, Holly brought Lola home to San Carlos and soon landed her first event. Jean-Francois worked alongside her and they managed the first big party together. “One of our challenges was the learning curve of tapping Champagne,” Holly laughs. “We were trying to understand how to add CO2 and testing bubbles all day. We had a lot of Champagne, but we finally mastered it.” For events, the couple teams up—Holly driving Lola to nearby festivities and Jean-Francois trailering the truck to more distant venues.

The pair first met on a date at the Woodside Bakery. “We hit it off right away and had a second date that same day with our dogs,” recalls Holly. Jean-Francois’ French heritage introduced Holly to the European lifestyle. “It’s a different world there and I feel like I was meant to be European,” she describes. “The food is fresh and natural and there is a way of life that is easy-going.” Every summer, the couple return to France for several weeks with their eight-year-old son Lucca to visit the village where Jean-Francois’ father grew up.

Originally from outside Seattle, Holly traded Washington state’s cool weather to study advertising and marketing at the University of Hawaii. After college, she lived with her grandfather in San Carlos and fell in love with the Peninsula, prompting her to pursue further education at the Fashion Institute in San Francisco. Soon she built a clientele in a personal styling business. “I always wanted to work for myself and when I started doing some personal styling, the business took off,” she shares. “I love having my own schedule and being in charge of my own business.” After a while, Gucci recognized her talent and hired her to bring her expertise to their jewelry and watch division. While she continues to establish Sippin’ Pretty, Holly now applies her skills at an European-inspired jewelry brand.

Holly hopes to someday expand Sippin’ Pretty with a variety of vintage vehicles including a Vespa bar cart. “It’s a passion project—I’ve combined doing something I love and working with my mom, which is super special,” says Holly. “And my creative styling background brings something different to events.” Deploying designs that include flowers and props to fit the occasion, Holly has brought Lola to Super Bowl celebrations, birthday parties and summer soiree fundraisers with many different libations flowing from the tap.

As it turns out, Lola can accommodate almost any request. “The Super Bowl party was the first time we tried craft cocktails,” Holly says. “It was a big hit with themed decorations and a football pool.” The truck also pours Moscow mules, margaritas and beer. Her son Lucca inspires her with children’s themes ranging from an Italian soda party to a hot cocoa celebration.
Looking to the future, Holly even envisions franchising the business. “All my creative juices go into Lola and fun ideas with her,” relays Holly. “I get to meet new people and it’s always around something celebratory.”

toasting time

Perfect Shot: Pescadero Beach Grass

Out exploring with her classic (and well-loved) Pentax K1000, Menlo Park’s Alexa Randall captured this Perfect Shot on 35mm film at Pescadero State Beach right off Highway 1. “This spot has always caught my eye because of its beautiful beach grass and epic sand dunes,” Alexa shares. “With sunny days ahead, I’m excited for more drives along the coast with the windows down!”

Image by Alexa Randall / @deerlyalexa

Calling all Shutterbugs: If you’ve captured a unique perspective of the Peninsula, we’d love to see your Perfect Shot. Email us at to be considered for publication.

Diary of a Dog: Ziggy

Awoooooooooooooooo! That deep, soulful, drawn-out howl is just my longer way of saying hello. I’m Ziggy
(@zigbean on Instagram) and I’m a Bluetick Coonhound, which is the official dog breed of Tennessee. However, it just so happens that I was born in Maine and moved from Boston to Menlo Park with Aaron and Paige. During our drive out here, we stopped in Knoxville, where I was mistaken for Smokey, the University of Tennessee mascot. It was fun getting all that attention, but I’m quite content now that we’ve made our home on the Peninsula. I’m named after Ziggy Marley, and his song “True to Myself” really speaks to me because I have a lot of unique attributes. You may have noticed I have really long ears. When I was a puppy, they touched the floor and they still dip into my bowl when I’m slurping up water. I also possess an uncanny sense of smell and enjoy searching for new sniffs. As you might imagine from my introduction, I excel at singing and almost anything will get me crooning out a tune. Aaron and Paige are big fans and even asked me to be the ring bearer at their wedding. I adore them so much and especially love a good cuddle. They made a big deal of getting me my own bed with a “better” mattress than they have. But I know where I belong at night: Right near Aaron and Paige, which means digging my way to just the perfect spot under the covers.

Calling All Dogs: If you've got quirky habits or a funny tale (or tail) to share, email your story to for a chance to share a page from your Diary of a Dog in PUNCH.

Q&A: Amy Guittard

Fifth-generation chocolatier Amy Guittard of the Peninsula’s famed Guittard Chocolate Company shares what surprises people about the Burlingame factory, her favorite phone app and how much chocolate she eats in a day.

What’s the best part about working in a family business?
Knowing that I’m carrying on the traditions that my great-great-grandfather started when he first founded the business in 1868. It’s both humbling and inspiring to carve a legacy built on 155 years of passion and to know that my generation has the ability to make our own imprint on the business.

How would you summarize your chocolate consumption?
I eat a lot of chocolate—milk chocolate and dark chocolate; chips and wafers. The amount depends on the day but one thing is certain, I start eating chocolate around 9AM.

Where do you go on the Peninsula to recharge your batteries?
I grew up surfing Linda Mar beach; that spot has a very special place in my heart and soul. The ocean is certainly a powerful force in calming the mind and allowing me to recharge!

What’s your favorite Guittard product and why?
Again, it depends. I’ve found myself nibbling on our 46% baking chips on the hiking trails or snacking on our organic milk chocolate baking wafers for an afternoon pick-me-up. Our single-origin milk chocolate Kokoleka Hawaiian is a favorite at any time, and you really can’t do better than a square of our 100% baking bars for that robust complexity.

What’s a song you can listen to again and again?
“Spinning Away” by Brian Eno.

What’s your favorite app on your phone?
Right now, it’s TheWonderWeeks. It gives me some clues as to what’s going on in the brain of my eight-month-old daughter.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
Slow down; enjoy the trip; celebrate the little wins; sit in silence.

What surprises people most when they visit your Burlingame factory?
The complexity of the chocolate-making process and also that you can’t come out of the factory without smelling like chocolate.

What was your first concert?
Phil Collins; Shoreline Amphitheater; 1994.

If you could pick a superpower, what would it be?
Breathing underwater.

What show do you consider binge-worthy?
Ted Lasso. I had my doubts, but I got sucked into it like most people I know. I’ve watched it twice over. It’s about trust, compassion, humility and love. And who doesn’t want to live a life with all of those things prominently displayed?

What’s something people are always surprised to learn about you?
That I don’t ever get sick of chocolate.

Beat on your Eats: Vietnamese Restaurants

Words by Johanna Harlow

Venture beyond spring and summer rolls with these standout Vietnamese restaurants.


Palo Alto

To upscale your evening, dine at Tamarine. This fusion concept with flair does beautiful things with both shaking beef and hoisin lamb chops. But if you’d like to picture yourself visiting the floating villages of Ha Long Bay with a taste of the sea, order wok-tossed calamari served with a zesty cilantro lime sauce or lemongrass sea bass with chilled mango-cilantro glass noodles. If you hope to linger a little longer under the contemporary chandeliers and amidst Tamarine’s lovely art collection, stay for dessert with melt-in-your-mouth banana beignets and ice cream. 546 University Avenue. Open daily.

pho banh mi

Palo Alto / Los Altos

Living up to the motto, “Don’t mess with a good thing,” Pho Banh Mi’s straightforward name promises the classics done well without pretension. So go ahead and bite into the traditional banh mi ingredients of pickled carrots, cilantro, cucumber, jalapeno and protein (like grilled pork, lemongrass beef or tofu) tucked into a baguette (pillowy soft on the inside, toasted on the outside). On colder nights, slurp pho-tastic bowls of rice noodles with broths. And with plenty of fruity drinks, take your pick with refreshing options like the Mango Pineapple Passion Smoothie or Lychee Delight (jasmine tea infused with lychee jelly and mint leaves). Though both Palo Alto and Los Altos locations differ in decor, both display equal amounts of charm and creativity. 405 University Avenue, Palo Alto and 696 Fremont Avenue, Los Altos. Open Wednesday through Monday. Closed Tuesday.

east side banh mi

San Mateo / San Carlos

You’ll find this gem tucked within Noshery, a contemporary Peninsula food hall that collaborates with up-and-coming restaurants. Inspired by the chef’s Vietnamese heritage and Houston upbringing, East Side Banh Mi’s sandwiches pair the traditional with a southern twist. Along with all the typical banh mi trappings, expect less common toppings—like the chicken liver and pork pâté on the Pork Deluxe Banh Mi (a favorite among customers) or the chili crisp tofu and roasted eggplant on the Vegan Banh Mi. For a more slurpable option, order yourself a chilled vermicelli noodle bowl with pork shoulder, fried shallots, roasted peanuts and citrus-soy vinaigrette. 1754 Laurel Street, San Carlos and 5 South Ellsworth Avenue, San Mateo. Open daily.

Landmark: Dumbarton Bridge

Words by Dylan Lanier

While the Peninsula’s Dumbarton Bridge may pale in comparison to the Golden Gate, it’s certainly worth its salt! Replacing the original vehicular bridge built in 1927, the current Dumbarton debuted in the fall of 1982. This impressive feat of construction cost $70 million to build and stretches 1.6 miles in length. Seven years after it opened, the original four-lane bridge was re-striped to accommodate six after the Loma Prieta earthquake temporarily closed the Bay Bridge.

What’s that smell? Anyone crossing from Menlo Park over to Fremont is all too familiar with the sulfurous stink rising from the marshlands below. You can credit that pungent odor to rotting vegetation and organisms from the evaporating salt ponds. Another interesting fact: The first cars to cross the Dumbarton Bridge paid a $0.75 toll. Today, the 70,000 vehicles that drive across each day pay $7, with another boost approved for 2025. But at least one person escaped without payment. In 1971, the classic movie Harold and Maude featured a scene where a clueless Maude drives right through the toll booth on the original bridge and speeds off after a police officer confronts her.

Adventure Out

Words by Johanna Harlow

Licking parched lips, a lone man surveys a desert canyon. The harsh sun has spiked the temperature to three digits and the terracotta hue of the canyon walls matches his beet-red face. As he sways on his feet, a disembodied voice comes to him. “See that small little beaver-tail cactus with the flat paddle? Those make perfect cooking when we get your fire started.” Not some survival-savvy guardian angel nor heat-conjured hallucination—the voice belongs to Cliff Hodges via earpiece. He’s watching through the man’s helmet and body cams as he guides him on a two-day trek to the extraction point.

This extreme sojourner is in capable hands. There’s a reason National Geographic recruited Cliff as one of two hosts for their show Remote Survival. As the founder of Adventure Out, Cliff has run an outdoor school for nearly two decades now. In addition to survival skill instruction, Cliff and his team offer wilderness medical courses, surf camps, rock climbing classes, backpacking trips and mountain biking in Pacifica and Santa Cruz.

Talk about a change of course. Cliff graduated from MIT with a master’s in electrical engineering. “It was the early 2000s,” he explains. “I was gonna do the standard tech thing.” Not long into his first job, he had second thoughts. “I was in a basement, in a cubicle, all day long, going from one meeting to the next and never seeing the sky,” he recalls. Then his dad had a stroke. He recovered, but it reminded Cliff to make life count. Soon after, he ditched the desk and fluorescent lights to start his outdoor gig.

Raised in Santa Cruz, Cliff grew up rock climbing, surfing and backpacking, but he honed his survival skills during college. Many a weekend and most school breaks, he made the five-hour drive to Tom Brown’s famous Tracker School to advance his prowess as a master outdoorsman. “I refuse to accept the notion that we’re the only animal on the planet that doesn’t know how to take care of ourselves in the wilderness,” asserts Cliff. “A deer doesn’t wake up in the morning and say, ‘Oh no. Where am I? Where am I gonna find food today?’”

With the goal of helping people “reestablish their place on this planet,” Cliff’s Adventure Out offerings push the boundaries. “People don’t really realize what they’re missing until they experience it,” he says, recalling one woman from his surf lessons. As soon as she waded into the waves… “She’s got this giddy, big smile on her face,” he reminisces. “And she goes, ‘I just realized that I’ve lived in San Francisco for 10 years and this is the first time my body’s touched the Pacific Ocean.’” He smiles. “There are so many moments like that… We have people who come out to a survival class and it’s the first time they’ve been in a redwood forest.”

It wasn’t long before MTV hired Cliff for an episode of Made. His objective was to train two teen girls from the suburbs to hold their own out in the Alaskan bush. On the trip, they hiked a glacier, built a shelter and dodged bears. “Yeah, that was a lot of fun,” Cliff grins.

A few years later, he landed on National Geographic’s Remote Survival with co-host Alex Coker. It was an unusual challenge, notes Cliff, who had to talk contestants through the mind games. “The hardest part was always trying to convince people to eat,” he recalls. He remembers one contestant refusing to eat a lizard he’d already caught and killed. “We don’t kill things for no reason and then not eat it,” Cliff reasoned. “Your body also needs calories.”

For those ready to test their mettle at Adventure Out, there are plenty of lizard-less options. The one-day prerequisite, Wilderness Skills & Survival Clinic, opens the door to a slew of advanced options like fire-making, kayak-building, trap- and snare-making, desert backpacking and winter survival.

This last option whisks participants to the Sierra. After learning the how-tos of building a snow cave and fighting exposure (all from the toasty confines of a lodge near Donner Pass), everyone straps on snowshoes to tramp into the wilderness and apply the lesson. To warm your cave with your own body heat, “You want it to be relatively small,” Cliff instructs the bundled group. “The more claustrophobic-inducing of a shelter you make, the better of a shelter it is.”

For a less shiver-inducing option, the Immersion Overnight outing involves sleeping under towering redwoods. “You’re not just building a shelter to see what it looks like and walking away. You’re building a shelter that you’re spending the night in,” Cliff explains. Also on the survival syllabus: scavenging for wild edibles and making a fire to cook dinner.

Cliff is particularly fond of the bow-making class. The skill is tied to one of his wildest personal adventures: bringing handmade weapons to a week-long elk hunting trip on a 200,000-plus-acre private property in Montana. “It’s just the most vast and immense piece of land I’ve ever been on,” Cliff describes.

Though he didn’t take an elk during his big trip, he doesn’t view the excursion as unsuccessful. “When you’re hunting with primitive equipment, you’re not really accurate beyond 20 yards,” he explains. “So the releasing of an arrow is the final moment and the culmination of days and weeks and sometimes months of work.” It’s much more about living in tune with nature by observing the herd and learning their patterns. “You watch their intergroup dynamics,” Cliff shares. “I saw elk feeding with sunsets behind them. I saw two 1,200-pound male elk engaged in a battle of dominance while I sat behind a tree eight yards away.”

If tracking interests you, Cliff recommends signing up for an Adventure Out class with instructor Jack Harrison. “He can read the landscape like most people read a book,” Cliff says. When Jack sees prints in the mud, he can tell you the who and the when. “It’s like nature’s version of a CSI forensic investigation,” Cliff chuckles.

Consider fanning the flames of your wild side (and future campfires). Say yes to adventure.

Survive & Thrive

Survival 101:

The most important thing people should know about surviving the wilderness is understanding the Sacred Order of Survival: shelter, water, fire, food (in that order). “Our bodies are most susceptible to exposure,” Cliff explains. “We say, ‘Up to three hours without shelter, three days without water and three weeks without food.’” Hunkering down in a warm, dry place with water is a much better move than burning too many calories seeking food. “That’s the last thing you need to do! Most people who get lost in the woods are usually found within the first few days.”

First Through the Gates

Back in February 2021, Mike James and his wife aspired to inject a little more color into their routine. “It had been a while since we had seen Filoli,” he recounts, “so off we went to enjoy the 16 acres of gardens and get some fresh air.” Intrigued by the hint of bold hues about to explode, the San Mateo photographer devised a plan to visit regularly and create a pictorial record of the changes at the historic Woodside estate. He thought the exercise would last a few months.

More than two years later, he’s still snapping away. “At a certain point, you can’t stop,” he laughs. “I think I’m addicted. It’s like a natural treasure hunt. There’s always something that’s going to capture your attention and speak to you. You just have to find it.” For Mike, now deeply in tune with Filoli’s cycles, what catches his eye shifts from week to week, month to month, season to season and year to year.

Given that Filoli is also a popular Peninsula attraction, he added another parameter to the challenge. “There are no people in the images,” he frequently hears. “How did you manage that?” Mike’s secret: getting a head start. “I’m always the first car through the gates when Filoli opens,” he reveals. As an ode to this vibrant season, PUNCH asks Mike to share some of his favorite Filoli spring reflections and images.

“Tulips. Tulips. Tulips. Every few days there are new displays of tulips and they keep coming… It’s hard not to just shoot tulips! I have to force myself to look right and left and up and down to see what else is blooming.”

“I will remember March for the profusion of daffodils and tulips… There can’t be too many places in the world with displays this breathtaking.”

“I will remember April for the explosion of color. Colors popping everywhere and so much changing from week to week.”

“May came and went in a flash! The explosion of roses seemed to be earlier than normal, but I suspect that is more interpretation rather than fact. It remains astounding the amount and variety and age of the roses at Filoli.”

“The vastness and variety in the gardens means that there is always something interesting to see and to shoot.”

“I really enjoyed spending time with the succulents that were being staged by the horticulture team. The textures were arresting and the way light reflects through and off of these plants is fascinating.”

sample all the seasons

Hilltop Haven

Words by Lotus Abrams

Interior designer Ashley Canty clearly remembers the day in 2017 when she first visited the Hillsborough home that her firm would spend the next several years transforming for its new owners, a family of four who had moved from Millbrae. Set among stately redwood trees, the hillside property served up sweeping views encompassing San Francisco and the San Mateo Bridge. The house itself, however, was dated, with dysfunctional interior spaces and a layout that didn’t take full advantage of the site’s grand vistas.

“It was a cookie-cutter ranch, and the people who had lived in it before were probably there for 50 years,” notes Ashley, who is the founder and principal designer of Interior Solutions in Burlingame. “The new owners are a young family, and they really wanted a more modern home.”

Beyond the outdated appearance of the home, the lot itself was underutilized and only partially landscaped. The new owners envisioned adding plenty of outdoor areas for their school-age son and daughter to play as well as space to host visiting family and friends. “They were looking at the bigger picture of how to develop the whole lot,” Ashley says.

The two-phase project, which began before the onset of the pandemic and wrapped up last fall, included both the remodel of the existing 3,335-square-foot five-bedroom, four-bath house and the addition of a two-story pool house designed for entertaining and hosting guests for overnight stays. With Interior Solutions lead designer and project manager Marina Berko spearheading the day-to-day details of the design process, the team got started on reworking the main house.

To achieve the modern aesthetic requested by the clients, the front exterior of the house got a facelift with a more contemporary front door and paint color. Inside, top priorities included reconfiguring the space to add an entry mudroom with plenty of cabinetry that would serve as a drop zone for the busy household, upgrading the stairwell with iron and glass, reworking the kids’ bedrooms and a den, carving out space for the kids to do homework and watch TV, opening up the primary bedroom by eliminating some ancillary closets and updating the bathrooms throughout the home.

Outside, the hilly property was terraced to create multiple areas for outdoor fun, including a turf area where the kids could play, a barbecue area, a rubberized sports court and a new pool.

The most impactful change the team made to the house, however, was to flip the position of the kitchen and dining room to better showcase the Bay views. “It was tucked away in the front of the house before,” explains Ashley. “The views are one of the primary reasons they bought this house—and the feeling of living among the redwoods—so we flipped the kitchen to the backside to achieve that. Now while they’re cooking and doing dishes, they can look at the beautiful views.”

A year and a half after the completion of the main house renovation, the family called on Interior Solutions again to help them execute their vision for a pool house that could house overnight guests and also serve as an entertaining space. Built into the hillside, the upper floor of the new two-story structure opens to the pool and features a covered loggia (outdoor patio), living room with a large-screen TV, full bathroom, mudroom and outdoor shower. The lower level includes a full kitchen, family room, bedroom and bathroom. “Everything’s electronic and all the blackout shades are motorized for a hotel-inspired feeling,” Ashley says. To match the pool house’s metal roof, the roof on the primary house was replaced with metal as well, the finishing touch that tied the new and existing structures together visually.

On the design front, natural colors and materials like stone and ceramic complement the views and surroundings rather than draw attention away from them. “We tried to blend the property into the hillside,” says Ashley, “and we wanted everything to be timeless and modern.”

Throughout the duration of the project, the clients remained engaged and involved, frequently accompanying project lead Marina on shopping trips to tile stores and furniture showrooms. The husband, an importer, also has access to many manufacturers outside the country, which helped keep the sourcing process running smoothly.

When the project culminated in a photoshoot, the clients attended alongside the team. “It was fun for everybody to get back together for the shoot, and for the clients to see their home finally done with all the special touches we brought in,” reflects Ashley. The collaborative relationship is one that Ashley is confident will continue, as her clients have already hinted that they’ll have another project starting soon. “I always tell clients that we’re not just here for one project,” she says. “We want to be your go-to designer as your life and goals change over the years.”

Hive Sweet Hive

Words by Sheri Baer

When Jen Parsons suits up for work, she covers herself from head to toe. Long gloves extend up to her elbows. A hooded veil drapes over her face. “It’s scary opening a hive of 20,000 bees sometimes,” she acknowledges. “But it’s also therapeutic and healing. You hear all the sounds and they make a different buzz when they’re starting to get irritated. It’s hard to think about anything else when you have your head in a beehive.”

As the owner of Redwood City-based State Street Honey, Jen especially appreciates being able to witness the miracle of the hive mentality first-hand. “Bees are like this super organism community that works together,” she marvels. “They are really interesting creatures and they have a lot to teach us.” Over the past year, that perception has only heightened as Jen found herself drawing strength and vital support from her own community.

A Peninsula native, Jen credits her curious, scientific mind to her father, who worked at SRI for 30 years. She met her husband, Todd Parsons, at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and describes him as an adventurous spirit with an “unwavering obsession” to hobbies—be it sailing, surfing, skiing, Vanagon retrofitting or piloting. Fascinated by bees since childhood, Todd eagerly agreed when Jen suggested attending a bee talk at the Portola Valley Library. After taking his turn inhaling the waxy, honey residue scent of the bee box, “My husband just got this spark in his eye,” smiles Jen at the memory, “and said, ‘I gotta have that!’”

In 2010, Todd and Jen set up their first “hobby hive” in their backyard in the State Street neighborhood of Woodside Plaza. That first colony led to three, and then 10, and then 20. In 2013, while balancing their respective careers as a professional photographer and second-grade teacher, Todd and Jen officially launched State Street Honey. Guided by the philosophy “Sustainable apiaries, honest honey,” Todd grew the business to 250 hives in seven Bay Area locations. After their daughter and son came along, Jen left her teaching job to take the lead on the homefront and help with honey sales, jarring and labeling. “We were just on the verge of going to the next level,” she remembers.

And then the unthinkable happened.

On October 28, 2021, during a solo flight from Napa to Ukiah to finish his pilot’s license, Todd’s plane crashed on landing. Struggling to process the devastating loss of her 43-year-old husband, the now-single mom faced momentous decisions. “Right after Todd died, I was asked, ‘Are you going to sell the business?’” recounts Jen with a catch in her voice. “My husband just poured his heart and soul into this beautiful business. It’s a legacy for him and our family, and my initial thought when he died was, ‘I can’t grieve this too.’”

State Street Honey’s Todd Parsons in July 2018. / Photo Courtesy of Cody Pickens

That’s when Jen’s own hive—a committed team of family and friends, including fellow preschool and elementary school parents—began buzzing around her. They brought meals. Provided childcare. Washed dishes and laundry. As Todd’s beekeeping community also swarmed in, Jen came to terms with accepting help. “Like the bees,” she realized, “we’re supposed to live more in community and have this overarching goal together.”

Having played a supporting role in State Street Honey, Jen clearly had a lot to learn. Aided by beekeepers near and far, Jen especially calls out Aidan Wing of Wings of Nature. “Aidan literally just took me under his wing and mentored me in the practical side of beekeeping,” she says. “As I got into it more, I realized how much knowledge I already had. Todd was always talking about bees: ‘They’re doing this, and the queen’s doing that.’”

After scaling back to a more manageable 100 hives and four apiaries—in Portola Valley, Half Moon Bay and Pescadero—Jen finds herself settling into a beekeeping rhythm. “I drive out to the coast, look at the ocean, go to an apiary and get my head in some bees,” she says. After suiting up, she wields a smoker, which induces a calming effect on the hive. Do they look hungry? Do they have enough pollen? Jen checks for mites and viruses. She puts out wasp traps and applies organic mite treatments. Future lessons include splitting hives for sustainability, queen breeding, harvesting and extraction. One skill already mastered: how to take a stinger out quickly. “I’ve been stung in the face twice,” she admits. “Once in a while they do get in, but I’m not afraid to get stung a little bit.”

In exchange for the occasional bite, the bees provide a bounty. As Todd summarized on State Street Honey’s website, “Honey is the bees’ hard work. It’s them foraging on thousands of different flowers, bringing it back to the hive, ripening it, reducing it down to this beautiful, sweet substance.” State Street aspires to produce the “purest honey possible,” Jen explains, with only minimal filtering and heating to ensure that it’s packed with beneficial enzymes and pollen.

Having apiaries in distinct microclimates means State Street’s bees forage for pollen in a wide range of flora: large stands of eucalyptus, wildflowers, berries, fruit trees, native scrub, chaparral, lavender and sage. “The flavor is different depending on what the bees are feeding on,” Jen notes. “There’s actually a tasting wheel of honey: fruity, citrusy, earthy, floral…”

Raw honey also has variations in texture. “If a honey doesn’t crystallize, it probably isn’t that real,” she relays. “Different nectar sources will crystallize at different rates. Our Coastal has almost a little crunch to it. And then the Peninsula doesn’t crystallize quite as fast.” Jen’s pro tip: To preserve honey’s benefits, gently warm in a water bath to liquify. Currently distributing through local retailers, Jen anticipates reintroducing State Street Honey’s online sales in the near future.

As she gets a handle on honey production, Jen’s also exploring new State Street branches: concierge beekeeping, education, honey tasting and even therapy. She can personally speak to the calming hum of the hive. “The bees certainly saved me this year, giving me something to focus on, keeping me in the moment,” she shares. “I think we’re just barely touching on what bees can do.”

Still working through her grief, Jen perceives her beekeeping journey as bittersweet. “I feel so proud of myself and I’m sure Todd’s proud of me,” she reflects, “but I wish we were doing this together.” As for the greatest lesson she’s learned from the bees? Without hesitation, Jen replies that it’s the power of community: “When you have such a tragedy, you realize we need each other—we’re supposed to live like that.”

Cover Phot: Courtesy of Philip Wartena

Plants on the Plate

Words by Alissa Greenberg

Among Bob Trahan’s childhood memories, one stands out: the care his grandfather put into their French fry-making ritual, while Bob’s mother took nursing classes. His grandfather “had these particulars about how he did it,” Bob remembers. The fries always had to be crinkle-cut, since that would give them the best crispy edge. The oil had to be reused a few times to get the best taste. And the French fries had to be drained on top of a paper bag. “It was really basic,” Bob remembers of the recipe. But those fries made a deep impression and taught him an important lesson, one that’s carried over into his professional life: details matter.

Tonight, a long way from French fries, Bob is enjoying the fruits of a very different project. Twelvemonth, his newly-opened vegan restaurant, is already drawing rave reviews in downtown Burlingame. Waiters carry platters of sweet-spicy radish cakes and rich mock-egg custard chawanmushi from a menu Bob helped design to guests seated at thoughtfully selected hand-stitched leather banquettes.

After three years of planning and preparation, Bob hopes Twelvemonth can fill what he sees as a gap in the Peninsula food scene: a special occasion spot offering deeply-sustainable dining. He’s already convinced the building’s owners that he has the vision, determination, conviction and skills to deliver. Now he just needs Peninsula diners to agree.

In the first part of his professional life, Bob used his eye for detail in tech, most notably as a high-level manager at Facebook. But finding the work to be misaligned with his values, he quit to attend culinary school, working as a line cook and running a bakery out of his house, while keeping an eye out for an opportunity to open his own place. When long-beloved Steelhead Brewery walked away from its space in downtown Burlingame in the first weeks of the 2020 lockdown, he jumped at the chance to claim it, sending owner Patricia Sabatini a handwritten letter detailing his vision and presenting a social-distanced pitch to her and her kids in their backyard.

Part of that vision: an entirely plant-based restaurant focused on seasonal, local dishes (a philosophy that gives Twelvemonth its distinctive name). For a long time, Bob’s overriding impression had been that plant-based cooking meant bland rabbit food, but culinary school helped him see that it might be possible to create a restaurant where the plants are “incidental to your experience.” His wife, a longtime animal lover, served as a major inspiration for the project. (He once went vegan for a month as a Mother’s Day present to her.) Another, his growing eco-anxiety. “One of the best things we can do as a consumer is eat more plants,” he says.

The sustainability of Twelvemonth extends to the building itself, a former firehouse with vaulted ceilings that took three years of renovations and design to get ready for opening. With rainwater catchment tanks, solar panels on the roof and a relationship with a farm that will provide custom-grown herbs in return for kitchen-scrap compost in the works, Bob expects the restaurant will be certified LEED platinum. As for atmosphere, Twelvemonth is an eclectic mix of Las Vegas luxe and airy mountain cabin.

Rough-hewn wood, brushed brass, and funky fixtures combine to create an aesthetic that Bob refers to as part “agrarian farmhouse,” part “luxury pick-up truck.” (His favorite: a chandelier made of repurposed hospital operating room lights.)

Though the menu is still evolving, it already presents a panoply of plant-based possibilities. The radish cake, a hit with diners so far, elegantly melds the chew of a well-cooked rice cake with salty, sweet and spicy homemade chili crisp. Generous greens provide body to a rich bean stew. A vivid purple charred cabbage salad is satisfyingly tangy with a smoky backing and endowed with a unique texture that melds the softer cabbage with an allium crunch. Not to be missed on the side: house-made Parker House rolls—pillowy and a little sweet.

To drink, diners love the Shasta Daisy, a citrusy take on a margarita, which departs with a touch of salt, vanilla and cinnamon at the back of the throat. For dessert, there are beignets cooked to order or fried cookie dough, a stroke of sweet genius that’s soft inside, chewy and crispy-warm outside—a kind of molten cookie-donut.

In the future, Bob hopes to be less involved in the “each blade of grass way,” focusing more on big-picture menu planning or new projects. There’s a farm-to-table program he’s trying to get off the ground, connecting with no-till farms and perfecting the composting program—he jokes it’s intensive enough to be referred to as “soil to spoon.” And he’s excited to find ways to incorporate his tech expertise. One possible idea: streaming kitchen and bakery service and using the footage on TikTok.

For now, though, he’s staying busy in the trenches. He’s picked out many of the 57 types of lightbulbs needed to brighten Twelvemonth’s various quirky dining areas, pitched in on choosing the jewel-colored liquor bottles that line the decorative shelves above the bar and filled in as needed at the bakery.

He’s even volunteered to re-wire the brushed-brass lamps, whose cords arrived too long for his liking. Why not? He enjoys working with his hands.
“It’s not that I couldn’t delegate it, but …”

Bob makes a “why bother” shrug and leaves to toss a sports coat over his polo shirt before the dinner rush. Come tomorrow, he’ll be back here early to assemble shelves in the new storage area.

If you’d like to receive invitations and announcements from PUNCH, please add your email: