San Francisco Sights: Parks and Neighborhoods

Early in January when winter had already seems too long, Aaron and I got the itch to travel somewhere warm(er). We looked at a few different locations that had direct, cheap airline tickets. Well not the warmest location we could have picked, when Aaron said tickets to see San Francisco sights were cheap for the mid-February weekend we were discussing, my ears quickly perked up.

Golden Gate Bridge Presidio east | Kale and Ale

Golden Gate Bridge at Presidio Park

One of the top-rated beers in the U.S., Pliny the Younger, is released in the Bay Area for two weeks every February. I grabbed my phone to see what dates the beer would be available and, when it lined up with our possible travel plans, I knew that was the location for us.

Pliny the Younger is a triple IPA—meaning it has a lot of hops and alcohol—brewed by Russian River Brewing and only available onsite on draft for two weeks a year. People camp out and wait for hours in line to get this beer. It really is one of the top destination beers for people in the U.S.

San Francisco Sights

While it might sound wild to many to plan a trip around the beer release, that’s the kind of people we are. And with a nice climate and outdoor activities, the San Francisco Bay Area was picked as our destination for a long weekend, and with only a month between when the trip was planned and we went, I eagerly waited.

This was Aaron’s first trip to San Francisco and I hadn’t gone in 21 years, so we were ready to explore together. And unlike last time when my side trip was south to Monterey, we would be heading north after a few days.

Downtown San Francisco | Kale and Ale

Downtown San Francisco

I discovered that leaving Minneapolis after work Thursday and paying for a hotel was cheaper than flying to San Francisco Friday, so we were able to hit the pavement (of which we did a LOT), first thing Friday morning. So that’s something to keep in mind when planning a trip.

Fisherman’s Wharf, Lombard Street and The Presidio

We started our day leaving our hotel located near Union Square and walking north, making our way to Fisherman’s Wharf with some stops to look around along the way. From Fisherman’s Wharf we cut back and walked up Lombard Street (which, much to the delight of my brother and me, we drove down last time I was there). If you aren’t aware, a certain one-block section of the street has eight hairpin turns and claims to be the crookedist street in the world. It’s worth a look from the top or bottom at the very least.

Lombard Street San Francisco | Kale and Ale

Lombard Street in San Francisco

From there we walked west, stopping for lunch on Union Street, making our way to The Presidio, a 1,500-acre park on a former military post. The park has a lot of different uses now, including housing many businesses (including Lucasfilm Industrial Light and Magic), Golden Gate overlook and visitor center and Fort Point, among many more.

Golden Gate Overlook | Kale and Ale

Golden Gate Overlook

I recommend viewing the Golden Gate bridge from both the east and west views in the park, they are both great but different. It was great to walk the park, until it wasn’t. While the park has a shuttle service, it isn’t marked where they will let you off and on, so you really have to know when and where to be to use it.

After missing a bus, walking for a total of about 10 miles that day and wanting to rest before dinner, we took a rideshare back to the hotel. I should have known, when the people at the hotel warned us to wear comfortable shoes. I did, but still ended up with a few blisters. Lots of steep walking will do that to me.

Golden Gate Park and Haight Ashbury

Even though we were rested the next day, we still started our day by taking the bus to Golden Gate Park. I had downloaded the Muni app and it’s easy to navigate. I highly recommend the public transit there, as we had good luck taking the BART into San Francisco from the airport and across the bay to Oakland and back. The systems are clean and clear to understand, just be aware of your surroundings and direction like you would be anywhere else (including your hometown) taking public transit.

Golden Gate Park is a large park that is often compared to New York’s Central Park. There are such a variety of things to do, from trails to gardens to museums. We walked around the trails and gardens, and went into the Japanese Tea Garden (as I’m a fan of Japanese gardens). It was built in 1894 for the World’s Fair and is the oldest Japanese garden in the U.S. It is a compact garden that features winding paths, ponds, structures, statues and small cement pagodas.

Japanese Tea Garden Golden Gate Park | Kale and Ale

Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park

Another part of the park that is worth A visit includes the National AIDS Memorial Grove. It is a beautiful setting to remember, reflect on and pay respect to anyone affected by AIDS. It’s a secluded spot within a large open park, made up of seven acres of spots to get away and think. It’s really well done and worth some time.

After the park we headed east on Haight Street for a late lunch, seeing the sights and brightly colored buildings. While not required viewing, if you are in the area it’s worth a stop to see the birthplace of the hippie movement.

Haight Ashbury San Francisco | Kale and Ale

Haight Ashbury instersection


Aaron travels to China for work so he was very excited to check out Chinatown. He enjoyed comparing and contrasting Chinatown sites to what things would be like in China.

Chinatown San Francisco | Kale and Ale


In the end he came away that it is an American version of China. I’ve only been to Chinatowns (including this one) in the U.S., so it was exactly what I expected, but fun to hear through Aaron what he has seen there and how things were similar or different.

Muir Woods National Monument

The next Day we got up and grabbed a car and headed north. About 10 miles north of San Francisco is Muir Woods National Monument, home to California Redwoods. These are magnificent, beautiful trees, and it was great to have so much nature so close to San Francisco.

Be warned that you need Parking or Shuttle reservations before going. The park has one flat path that is mostly boardwalk and has a lot of signs and descriptors about what you are seeing. The park is surrounded by Mount Tamalpais State Park, which has a lot of connector paths off the Muir Woods path.

Muir Woods California Redwoods | Kale and Ale

Muir Woods California Redwoods | Kale and Ale

Aaron and I ended up walking down the Muir Woods path and back on a Tamalpais path that was along a ridgeline so we could see the ocean on one side and forest on the other, for a total of about five miles. There are so many paths you can make it a lot of different lengths, times and levels of challenge.

More in This Series

All the parks (and walking) we did are highly recommended. I love how compact (even if hilly) everything is so we were able to see a lot in a short time.

In other posts, I will talk about what we ate and drank in San Francisco and in Sonoma and Napa counties.

Celebrating Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis

Sota Pop Minnesota artists event

The past 10 days leading up to Super Bowl LII have been a celebration of the NFL and state of Minnesota. Since I work downtown in the middle of all the festivities, the excitement has been obvious. While I’m excited to be getting my bus route back, it has been fun seeing the city, region and state showcase the best of Minnesota.

I’ve been lucky enough to take advantage of a lot of the activities downtown leading up to the big game. I want to share some of the highlights and images from the past week.

Leading up, I went to Super Bowl Live and the Super Bowl Experience. Check out some images from the events.

Super Bowl LII ice sculpture

Kitten Bowl 2018 Minneapolis

A Dolphins throwback to my South Florida days for all my favorite Dol-fans.

Ice sculptures on Nicollet Mall during Super Bowl Live.

Kurt Warner’s hand compared to mine. Gotta see the hometown boy.

Did you do Super Bowl related activities? If so, I would love to hear what you thought in the comments or, better yet, if you wrote a post, please link to that!

Vegan Potato Skins

While this post is about my awesome, simple vegan potato skins perfect for the big game, can we just talk for a minute about the big game that happened here this weekend in Minnesota?

If you didn’t catch it, the New Orleans Saints had the game all but locked up when they lost in the last play. The Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum threw a pass and Stefon Diggs caught it while avoiding the defender, running for a 61-yard touchdown. The play instantly became known as the Minnesota Miracle. The celebrations in my house, on TV and social media and in person the day’s to follow have been unreal.

Vegan potato skins recipe | Kale and Ale

Could Minnesota be the first team to make it to the Super Bowl as the host? We won’t know until Sunday night following the NFC Championship game. Either way, I’ll be there for the food, and my vegan potato skins will be making an appearance.

This recipe came together in a lucky accident: Aaron and I were looking to use food we already had on hand to make snacks for the game. He suggested potato skins with cheese. I found green onions that we can’t remember what we bought them for, and suggested taking a little tempeh to make bacon crumbles.

With a little planning and not much hands-on time, the potato skins turned out great. It doesn’t take much in time or ingredients to make enough wedges to serve two, so we will be making these again with the leftover ingredients.

I used vegan cheese to make them vegan, but you can use whatever cheese you like, Vegan bacon made out of the tempeh add a little savoriness and texture.

Vegan potato skins recipe close | Kale and Ale
Vegan Potato Skins
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
2 people 10 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
50 minutes 30 minutes
Servings Prep Time
2 people 10 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
50 minutes 30 minutes
Vegan potato skins recipe close | Kale and Ale
Vegan Potato Skins
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
2 people 10 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
50 minutes 30 minutes
Servings Prep Time
2 people 10 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
50 minutes 30 minutes
Servings: people
  1. Crumble the tempeh into a bowl. Add the liquid smoke and enough soy sauce or liquid aminos to cover. Let it stand at least 30 minutes, up to 24 hours before using.
  2. Turn on the oven to 350 degrees. Put the potatoes in the oven and bake until soft, around 30 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Cut in half and scoop out filling, leaving about 1/4 an inch of potato in from the skin. Drizzle olive oil on the skin side, place skin side up back in the oven and broil for five minutes. Flip it over, put oil on the flesh side and broil for five minutes.
  3. Put a small handful of cheese into each potato skin. Sprinkle the green onions in the skins. Put the potatoes back in the oven and broil for five minutes or until cheese is melted.
  4. As the potatoes are baking, heat the vegetable oil in a skillet (I used cast iron to create a nice crunch) over medium heat. When warm, add the tempeh and any liquid, and sautee until crispy. Sprinkle on the skins. Cool and serve.
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Embracing Hygge in Your Everyday Life

For me and many around me, 2017 brought a lot of stress, mental exhaustion and need for self-care. There has been a lot going on to deal with (women’s health and safety issues, economic uncertainty, violence around the world, the list goes on), that embracing hygge couldn’t be gaining momentum at a better time.

Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) is a Danish word that doesn’t have an English equivalent, but according to Oxford Dictionaries, is described as:

A quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture)

Going into 2018 is the perfect time to embrace the trend that is gaining popularity. Use this opportunity to incorporate hygge for self-care and warmth.

How to incorporate hygge

Since it’s a feeling and not a thing, hygge is different for everyone. How you embrace it is up to you and your needs. The focus is on comfort and doing what brings you warmth and happiness.

Maybe it’s a food (think of a warm, rich hot dish in Minnesota; maybe a creamy mac and cheese in the south; or perhaps a lobster roll in New England), a cozy blanket and good book, a pumpkin- or cinnamon-scented candle, nice body products or even a sweet treat.

Comfort and coziness doesn’t have to be the only part of it. For me, I’ll be double-thinking my use of technology, instead opting for things that nourish my soul and have me live in the moment. These include:

  • Continuing self-care at least a few times a week
  • Hosting a game night
  • Making time for catching up with friends
  • Focusing on cultivating my garden
  • Sharing coffee and conversations with strong women
  • Putting my family first

To begin, think about little ways you can make your environment and surroundings more comfortable in simple ways, or opt to connect with people and things around you.

Learn more about and how to hygge on the Visit Denmark hygge page.

Criticism of hygge

Hygge might not be for everyone, and even if you incorporate it, it’s good to be aware of criticisms about it as not to go overboard or lose site of the meaning and intention.

It’s been said that the slow pace and somewhat specific way to incorporate a feeling could be boring or stifling. Because the point is to create your own cozy sphere, it’s said it could be exclusive of other people and thoughts, creating too much of a realm of just what you believe. And others don’t like hygge because there isn’t an opportunity to be too boastful, even about good things.

Be yourself

Make 2018 a little more about living as comfortable and relaxing a life to take a mental break from the chaos outside.

Don’t become so enclosed in your own world. Find the small bits and pieces of the hygge concept that work for you to live a more low-key and comfortable 2018.

What parts of hygge do you already do or plan to do this year?




2017 Reflection: Boundaries and Limits

2017 reflections | Kale and Ale2017 has pushed many of us to limits and boundaries beyond what we felt comfortable with, imagined or would want on anyone. In the past year I’ve grown a lot and had the courage to push myself in many ways.

Everything from the Women’s March to #MeToo has put female voices in the spotlight in 2017, for better or worse. In both my work and personal lives, I’ve found my limits and spoken up for my boundaries this year. I realize I can’t do, get or change it all, and that’s OK. What I can do is speak up for my beliefs, perspective, expectations and feelings, explaining to people how and why I feel, and vocalizing my self-worth.

While I haven’t gotten action or resolve on everything I’ve spoken up for this year, I am empowered knowing I stood up for myself and let those around me know my feelings and desires. I feel a lot stronger having expressed my expectations to those around me, from asking for my worth at work to letting friends know when they are asking too much to explaining to my family that I need to step back for mental health reasons.

Tips for Speaking Up

This year I’ve picked up some tips by becoming more vocal about my boundaries, limits and expectations. (Let me know what you would add in the comments.)

  • Nobody will look out for you as much as you will yourself, and nobody will know exactly what you are thinking unless you tell them.
  • Practice or take notes about what you might say in a given conversation or want to discuss.
  • Start small. It gets easier over time to speak up, but it does take practice and self confidence.
  • Don’t be mean (that’s where having notes or practice helps).
  • Determine what your outcome or main point is before, and stay on topic.
  • Think about what the outcome (or lack of one) would be by not speaking. Use that as your motivation to stay firm.

Growing my Voice

It’s been a difficult year for me for many reasons, and it’s been hard to blog, so I appreciate you sticking with me. I hope to grow my voice in 2018. I would love to use it to help further myself and those who might not have as strong a voice as I have.

Please feel free to share in the comments how you have found or used your voice this year.

womens march MN | Kale and Ale