Bay Area Favorites: Heath Ceramics Factory

There’s a special kind of magic that happens inside the walls of the Heath Ceramics factory in Sausalito. For those who aren’t familiar with the company, Heath Ceramics is an institution in Bay Area arts. Founded in 1948 by Edith Heath, they’re one of the longest standing ceramics companies in America (quite possibly *the* longest, but don’t quote me on that) and “considered among the most enduring examples of mid-century design” (you *can* quote Heath on that).

A few weeks ago, Len and I paid a visit to the Heath Ceramics factory in Sausalito to check out their Open Studios weekend. We’d done the factory tour two years ago, but went on a day when they weren’t in production. This time, we had the pleasure of seeing the process first hand. This tour was, to say the least, completely enlightening. I’m always seeing Heath products flash by on sites like Svpply and Pinterest, and it’s usually paired with a caption like, “Things I want”, “Need to have this”, or simply—“WANT but $$$$$”. There’s something to be said about HOW these products are developed, iterated, and carefully crafted. To be able to transform a formless slab of manganese clay into timeless pieces of usable art—well, that’s pretty mindblwoing. It takes a ton of training to become a craftsman at Heath. It’s important to be mindful that the thing you’ve pinned/buy-later’d/tumblr’d went through a process. Passed from one set of hands to another, and landing in yours.

More photos from the Heath Factory

Bay Area Favorites: Point Bonita + Marin Headlands

My father is always one to stay on top of the latest National Park Service news. When he heard that Point Bonita re-opened this past weekend, he didn’t waste no time at all. And just like that, my parents, my sister, myself and our respective beaus found ourselves on a family triple date.

We headed toward Marin Headlands to see the shiny new suspension bridge that connects the cliffs to the Point Bonita lighthouse. Ahem, make that the shiny new MILLION DOLLAR suspension bridge. And I’m happy to report that it’s pretty darn cool. The walk to the lighthouse is a short but exciting one. I mean, you get to walk through a cave tunnel! And there’s little trees and rust colored moss and neon green plants growing out of rocks! And you get to cross a (freshly painted) white & green suspension bridge! And the views, oh the views… 

Then, there’s Battery Mendell. Just a short walk around the corner and an excellent playground for shutterbugs like Len and myself.

Of course, a trip to Marin Headlands isn’t complete without a quick stop to put on our tourist hats and gawk at that beautiful bridge of ours. When you see it that close, it feels like you’re on a movie set. Everything looks fake, completely unreal. It’s impossible to imagine that the orange is really that orange (“Interantional Orange” to be exact), and the water is really that blue. There really is something to it, that Golden Gate Bridge.

It’s small excursions like these, just 20 minutes outside the city, that remind me how lucky I am to live in San Francisco.

More photos from Point Bonita Lighthouse

Bay Area Favorites: Point Reyes

Wow. I’m really bad at updating this thing, aren’t I? Don’t say I didn’t warn ya! How about instead of waiting around for my next trip to share something, I dig up some photos from my archives?

These are from a day trip Len and I took this past Thanksgiving to the Point Reyes Lighthouse. Hands down, one of my favorite drives ever. What should’ve only taken us 1.5 hours to get there ended up taking a good 4 hours because there were SO many amazing places to stop along the way…

As usual, we brought with us a couple of sandwiches (turkey salad to be exact—made from Thanksgiving leftovers!) and kept our eyes open for the perfect lunch spot. We eventually arrived at a parking lot by Abbotts Lagoon in Inverness that had a picnic table—not exactly what we were looking for, but we were hungry. As we walked over to the tables, though, this crazy tugboat shipwreck came into view a few hundred yards away! Made for a pretty cool lunchtime surprise and post-sandwich exploring.

Next, we slowly meandered our way through lush rolling hills, stopping at a huge open field so Len could chase after some deer, and a cattle farm where a cow, uhm, relieved itself in every way possible right before our eyes. The region is unlike any other coastal town in Northern California and reminded me a lot of Irish hillsides (not that I’ve ever been)…Pretty much the most stunning combination of sea, land, and farm. Do these cows even know how lucky they have it?

Finally, we made it to the Point Reyes Lighthouse, walking down 308 steps to what seemed like the end of the earth. We stood on the Lighthouse gallery, watching the pastel sunset. Just us, Japan in the very far off distance, and not much else but water in between.

More photos from Point Reyes

Bay Area Favorites: Bodega Bay

…Or as Len would call it, “Bodacious Babe.” We’ve been getting incredible weather in the Bay Area lately, and I’m beginning to wonder if the idea of seasons is on its way out. On the heels of watching Hitchcock’s The Birds and taking advantage of the sunny skies and moderate temps, we packed a car full of friends and headed across the Golden Gate Bridge for some sun, sand, oysters, and crab.

We took Bay Hill Road in and out of town, driving through rolling hills and past cows that resembled Oreo cookies (Double Stuf, to be exact). I highly recommend this over the suggested Hwy 1 route. I was expecting Hitchock paraphernalia and Tippi Hedren fan photos to litter this town, but the only hint we could find that a famous film was ever shot here was in the memorabilia proudly displayed at the Bodega Country Store (where we also got our fix of raw oysters). Potter Schoolhouse, so prominently featured in the movie, sits tucked away on a hill and hidden behind the St. Teresa of Avila Church. Even after we found it, our visit was clearly not welcomed by the meanest rottwelier I ever did meet. Beware of Dog, indeed.

It makes sense, though. Bodega Bay has more to offer than touristy, movie-related attractions, and it’s easy to see why Hitchcock fell in love with this town. Especially when we arrived at Bodega Head, the tip of the peninsula. The driftwood steps took us down to the best kind of beach: intimate, misty, covered in orangish-green plants and plenty of rocks to perch on. Just keep an eye out for those crows…

More photos from Bodega Bay

A Guide to Idyllwild / Guest Post by Heidi Hoffman

I’m sooo excited to share this next guest post from Heidi: 1. Because she’s one of my dearest friends and someone I love to go on trips with (see Joshua Tree posts), and 2. I get to introduce everyone to her new vintage shop / blog Bucks General Store! I’m always asking Heidi where she found this or that adorable item of clothing, and the answer is almost always, “At the thrift store”, so it was only a matter of time that she started a shop of her own. In keeping with Bucks General’s American Pioneer theme, here’s what Heidi has to say about her recent trip to the little mountain town of Idyllwild:

My husband and I chose to spend our second wedding anniversary weekend in the mountain town of Idyllwild, Ca. Why Idyllwild? Not sure. Maybe it was the promise of a town filled with toothless mountain hippies, or maybe it was just the close proximity to San Diego. Regardless, most everyone there sported a nearly full set of teeth, and we found some truly memorable treasures.

  • Twin Trees Lodge: In this 1930’s log cabin rental, everything seems as plus-sized as the giant redwoods that built it. There is some good kitsch and a little cringe-worthy cheesiness to the decor, complete with a huge wagon wheel chandelier and a faux rustic sign in the bathroom that reads, “A cowgirl can never wear too much fringe”. Yikes! Thankfully, the colorful Native American textiles and giant rock fireplace bring the cabin back down to earth. It is seemingly secluded, but only a 10 minute walk to town that requires crossing Strawberry Creek via a fallen tree trunk.
  • Shops: Mountain Mike is a cozy little store for handmade leather goods such as moccasins, custom hats, and beautifully woven, colorful bracelets and bookmarks as shown above. The moccasins are truly unique and well crafted. Mountain Mike, an intimidating looking guy, is as friendly as can be. The Pony Express Trading Post is a sure wallet buster. It was hard to resist the beautiful, and expensive, southwestern blanket coats and cowichan sweaters for men and women.
  • Thrifting: There are two thrift stores in town, the Idyllwild Help Center Thrift and the Thrift Shop Community Church (odd name). If you’re going to either of these, I would get there early. Both were crawling with people by 11am, and I had the feeling that we missed some valuable finds. I would first visit the Thrift Shop Community Church due to the mid century ceramics and bolo tie display behind the cash registers. The Idyllwild Help Center Thrift had a decent share of woolen, nordic ski sweaters.
  • Hiking: There are a handful of hiking trails whose distance and strenuosity are detailed here. We took the Deer Springs trail to Suicide Rock, and though it isn’t the greenest of trails, there are beautiful, expansive views the entire way. The trail is lined with Manzanita trees, a bizarre and alien-looking tree that is characterized by ultra smooth, reddish brown, swirled bark.

A Guide to Dead Horse Bay (Brooklyn, NY) / Guest Post by Meg Wachter

I never intended this little project to be an oft-updated thing, but these crickets have been chirping for much too long! So, I’m cutting the silence with a couple guest posts this week. First up is my Got a Girl Crush Partner in Crime and talented photographer, Meg. I’ve heard so many wonderful things about Dead Horse Bay but still have yet to visit, so her colorful account will have to hold me over for now. Here’s what she has to say:

If you’re caught-up in nostalgic culture (i.e. have Boardwalk Empire and American Pickers queued up constantly on your Tivo) compounded with a penny-wise penchant, then your first gut-reaction at this pickers paradise is, “LOOKIT ALL THIS COOL OLD STUFF I CAN TAKE!!” But then you remember that most “normal” people call this “trash” and it was indeed originally a landfill for turn-of-the-century New York City. Dead Horse Bay’s more lascivious moniker comes from all the glue-rendering plants (ick) that also once littered the bay that is now littered with the past. The hardy bits of refuse that remain include bottles by the ton, shoe leather, car engines, bedsprings, horse bones, parts of guns, and bank safes(!?). Your second, more sane reaction is, “This is why I recycle at home,” because this shit lasts! And this is why you recycle your refuse-cum-treasures into decorations in your home (after thorough soaks in bleach, of course).

It is highly recommended (after visiting 3 or 4 times now) that you bring wellies, rubber gloves, and a bag of some sort (with good handles—those bottles get heavy fast) that you don’t care about mucking up. Pick a nice sunny day and be sure to check the tide tables as low tide is the best time to visit. More beach exposed = more treasures to find! Getting there is easiest by car (Zipcar is always an option for us carless New Yorkers), but I have gotten there by public transportation, too (ask the bus driver to stop before going over the bridge and take the path to the beach opposite Aviation Road)—but don’t forget about lugging those heavy bottles!

My favorite finds are an intact 1920s 7up bottle with a flapper girl painted on the logo, a square-shaped bottle that once held Manischewitz wine, a moose-shaped gravy boat, and other various teeny-tiny bottles that once held perfume or nail polish or other tincatures.

More on Dead Horse Bay:

A Guide to Joshua Tree: Attractions, Old and Odd.

A trip to Joshua Tree isn’t complete without visiting a few of the many odd attractions in the vicinity. On this latest trip, we only had enough time to visit the Swap Meet and Noah Purifoy Foundation, so I’m including some other sites we visited in the past on this list as well.

  • Sky Village Swap Meet: A bazaar for, of, and by the very bizarre, this place was a lot of fun to pick through. If you’re not in the mood to climb through a pile of dusty junk, then the greenhouse-looking building at the back of the lot is much easier to shop. This thrift store specializes in Western wear, and is owned by a cool ass dude and (self-proclaimed) local celebrity named Dakota Bob. He’s hands-down the best part of this swap meet.
  • Noah Purifoy Foundation: An “Outdoor Desert Art Museum” that displays the work of assemblage artist Noah Purifoy over 7.5 acres of land. Using found objects, he created these installations in a natural open space, allowing the decay to become part of it. The sheer volume of work is incredible, and it’ll take a few more visits  to properly take it all in.
  • Pioneertown:  It used to be a movie set for Old Westerns, and is now home to Pappy & Harriet’s and the wild west shoot-out show. Toward the end of Mane Street lies the Pioneertown Post Office, which is supposedly the most photographed post office in the country.
  • Integratron: Built by George Van Tassel according to instructions sent to him from Venus. Yep. Well, they must’ve gave him some sound directions because this wooden dome survived the big earthquake in 1992. You can bask in its acoustic perfection during one of their sound baths…or take a little nap like I did.

A Guide to Joshua Tree: Our Desert Hideaway

Year after year on NYE, I begrudgingly put on a dress, go to a crowded location, and *try* to have a good time counting down to another year. When in reality, I just want to be at home, eating pigs in a blanket, drinking silly cocktails, and cracking jokes with friends. Well, this year, we did exactly that! My friend found an incredible house in Joshua Tree on Airbnb, so Len & I headed south to ring in 2012 with our fellow grumps. Between cooking dinner (a menu of hors d’oeuvres and seafood chowder), making boozy root beer, playing Uno and telephone pictionary, swingin’ (not that kind), and giggling over a big ol’ tub of “dual-purpose massage creme” (which we didn’t use, I swear!), the house provided us with amusement that could last us ‘til 2013.

A Guide to North-Central Arizona: Montezuma Castle & Jerome

  • Montezuma Castle - Cliff-dwellings carved into limestone some 1300+ years go by the Sinagua people. They had these neat dioramas depicting Sinauga life on display, which made me think how cool it would be to pick up miniature display building as a hobby…A 2012 goal? Perhaps.
  • Jerome - A recommendation from the lovely Kate Miss, this funny little city on top of a hill used to be a copper mining town and has since turned into an artists community with galleries, shops and studios strewn along the hilly streets. We stopped here for lunch at Quince Grill & Cantina where they had a great installation of painted bull skulls.

A Guide to North-Central Arizona: Grand Canyon

I know it’s one of the natural wonders of the world and all, but holy shit the Grand Canyon is really breathtaking. Like, on an “I am but a guest on this beautiful place called Earth and I should be thankful I get to live here” level.

We entered the park on the South Rim and walked from Mather Point to the Park Headquarters Junction (there are shuttles running frequently around the park). As expected, there are hoards of tourists at each of the points along the way, but the trails between each one are surprisingly empty and make for a nice, quiet walk. There are also plenty of picnic-worthy spots on the trail, so we parked our butts on a rock and ate our sandwiches in bliss—even if they were from Quiznos (hey, it was the best option we could find in Middle of Nowhere, Arizona). On our way out, we stopped at the Desert View Watchtower, which was the perfect place to be for golden hour.