To experience pleasure through our senses is critical to health and well being. I know that I often take my five senses for granted. I try to focus on small pleasures in the form of sight, sound, taste, touch and smell; it is an exercise in slowing down. I move so fast on a daily basis, to take just 5 minutes can rejuvenate and reenergize me. Since I have been trying to focus on slowing down recently, lavender has been on my mind. It has always been one of my favorite scents; its ability to help with relaxation and sleep is why I use drops of its essential oil at bedtime. A recent trip to The Gardens At Lake Merritt with the kids was an opportunity to visit the lavender varieties in the sensory garden, and to allow all my senses the opportunity to find pleasure. While lavender’s scent induces calm and its little purple flowers add pops of color in perennial form, its flavor is a quality I hadn’t considered. Honey, tea and herbes de Provence are ways in which lavender can make its way to our palete, but I was curious about how to use it in baking. During my recent visit to Oaktown Spice Shop I saw bags of the little dried flowers and decided to try my hand at baked donuts.
When I stumbled on information about the Schilling Gardens late one evening, a double dose of irony was at play. I had just finished reading a book I thoroughly enjoyed called The Forgotten Garden, the story of an abandoned girl at the turn of the 20th century and her connection to a secret garden inside a maze on the other side of the world. I had also just arranged my visit to Oaktown Spice Shop; since I am curious about connections to Oakland history, I spent a bit of time looking into Oakland’s involvement in spice trading, which didn’t turn up much. The name Schilling rung a bell; images of old red and white spice tins popped into my head. As I opened more windows on my screen and read article after article about this hidden treasure on the western shores of Lake Merritt known as the “Gold Coast”, I discovered that this once treasured oasis of a local spice tycoon is a shadow of its former self. Furthermore, its remnants may completely disappear as development encroaches on the lakeside community. I knew it was a story I had to share.
As someone who loves food, loves Oakland, and loves inspiring local retail, I am ashamed to admit that I had not stepped foot into Oaktown Spice Shop before last week. As I have visited local restaurants and bakers over the past months, the shop’s name has been mentioned time and time again as the go-to spot for spices to bring amazing flavor to our town’s taste buds. Perhaps the idea of a shop dedicated to spices intimidated me. While I know it’s an artful combination of spices and herbs that make me pause during a meal to wonder how a flavor is achieved, I am still daunted by experimentation in my own kitchen, and cautious of the expense that a well stocked spice rack can bring. My visit to Oaktown Spice Shop has changed that. With surprisingly reasonable prices, a staff ready to help and guide your choices, and a website loaded with recipe ideas, Oaktown Spice Shop is a local gem that will be added to my shopping list.
It seems I am taking a bit of an unplanned hiatus this week. Its hard for me; my schedule didn’t allow for me to get posts lined up in time and my kids chose to be homebodies earlier in the week, despite my attempts at coaxing them out on Oakland adventures that I could share here with you. So I am going to take a bit of time to read a book, enjoy the gorgeous weather, and welcome the impromptu break.
I do have a couple of articles that have gone online this week that I invite you to read, and share if you are so inclined. I have lots planned for the coming few weeks with trips to Oaktown Spice Shop, Schilling Gardens, Flax Art & Design, and much more. Stay Tuned!
In the meantime….
I will see you next week!
Photo Credit: Adrienne Schell
As Monday got underway in our household, my son asked if we could go to Fairyland. While I know how blessed I am to be home with both my children on Monday and Tuesday, it is critical to all of our sanity to keep them moving and out of the house. Unfortunately, until summer officially hits and the school year fades into memory, Fairyland is closed on these two days. So as my brain churned away on how to spend the morning, I thought, “maybe we can SEE Fairyland from the Kaiser rooftop garden.” The garden has been on my radar for quite some time. The overcast morning would be perfect for snapping pictures. I had to pick sometime up downtown. So, why not go look? The answer to my question turned out to be no, you can only see the Fairyland sign. Yet we had fun exploring, snacking, and watching the family of ducks come and go. Once the largest rooftop garden in the world, this oasis amidst concrete gave us a fun family park trip to kick off the week.
Sunday is Mother’s Day. Since I am the mother of two little ones, it is a day where I have a free pass to do as I please; to indulge, rest, rejuvenate, reflect. Since my kids are still young, they don’t quite understand that being on their best behavior and honoring all that their momma does for them are required for the day. So while I do plan to spend time enjoying their company, my true intention is to use this day to take care of me. Guess what? You certainly don’t have to be a mother to chose this for yourself. Furthermore, you certainly don’t need a special day of the year to do it. I try to find moments in time throughout busy days to take pause, to enjoy something as simple as a sound, smell, or sight. If I have more moments free that can be laced together to create “me” time, some of the below are at the top of my list for spending time to take care of me, my senses, my mind, myself. Oakland is full of ways to treat yourself…be inspired to do so, you deserve it.
I have begun to remember that I really did use to enjoy history class. Perhaps its why I have recently found enjoyment in the stories of Oakland’s history. I often joke that I did not get the teaching gene that runs through branches of my family; yet maybe a branch of that gene does exist. As I have spent time becoming more aware of names I often see on signs and street posts, Peralta keeps making repeat appearances. A sunny afternoon visit to the Peralta Hacienda Historical Park left me with a stack of brochures and a series of questions, most prominent in my mind being “What will the history books say about you?” The veins of the Peralta family history run much like the creeks of the vast Rancho San Antonio, winding, twisting, and many in number. Their homestead, stretching from the eastern shores of the bay up into the hills, is the birthplace of our town; Oakland’s Momma. While today marks the official 164th birthday of Oakland, the date it was incorporated in 1852, it was the ranchero that brought the diverse culture and community to the land that Oakland now stands upon.
My son’s favorite book these days is Dragons Love Tacos. It has resulted in this often persnickety eater enjoying a soft taco on occasion. Much like the dragons in the book, our household is not one for spicy salsa. We don’t end up breathing fire, our taste buds just prefer the milder side. Ground turkey with pineapple salsa, grilled shrimp with marinated onions and tomato, and black beans with corn, feta, and cilantro are just a few of our favorite combinations. As we head towards Cinco De Mayo and celebrate Mexican culture through the country’s surprising victory over the French, tacos are likely at the forefront of many of our minds. Oakland is full of spots to enjoy tacos in authentic form. From carnitas to lengua, fish to carne asada; a warm blanket of corn tortilla and a shower of lime juice is the combination that makes them all devour-worthy. You can’t go wrong at any of the below spots. The hardest decision you face is whether to pair your selection with an ice cold Mexican Coke or a frosty Pacifico.