Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Picking the Right Wedding DJ

Professional MC and Wedding DJ Carl Mindling and I became great friends from the moment we met partly because I quickly realized two things about him: We shared very similar business ethics and we both appreciated small details. I've always felt that people who are detail oriented are the ideal personality type to work in the wedding industry because a wedding is many details, both small and large, that all come together to create one very important and memorable day.

Recently we were at dinner with wedding photographer Elley Ho who thought it was really cool that Carl makes the effort to match his neck ties to his client's wedding colors. He'll even go out and purchase a new tie when he doesn't have one that will match! That's when Elley suggested a truly original idea, she said Carl should photograph his tie collection and put it on his website. What a GREAT IDEA!

Even in a tux Carl will go the extra mile for his brides and grooms. While most black tie weddings literally require a black bow tie, every now and then a bride or groom will ask him to wear a color that complements their wedding colors.

For instance at this wedding at San Francisco's City Hall (where I worked as Carl's assistant) the bride and groom even ordered custom made purple carpeting for their ceremony and reception. So Carl gladly wore a purple bow tie and cummerbund. I don't think every DJ is willing to go to such great lengths to make his clients happy.

You can read more about why Carl cares so much about being a perfect match for his clients on his website by CLICKING HERE or on his Blog by CLICKING HERE.

Here's the thing, I would like to dispel the perception, held by many, that all wedding DJ's are cheesy or tacky. There are some good ones out there but they are few and far between so not everyone has enjoyed the unique experience of seeing a truly professional Wedding DJ at work.

How to spot one when you're interviewing DJ's for your event? They will care about more than just when and where to show up and telling you what brand of equipment they use. They will care about details like what color to wear. At the end of the day Carl is a DJ who cares, not just a little, he cares a lot about doing everything he can do to help create the most successful event possible for his clients.

Photos of Carl at Kohl Mansion by: Teresa Halton

Monday, November 28, 2011

Breakfast at LYFE Kitchen

For the past few years hubby and I have gone out for breakfast every weekend. It has always been his choice of where we would go but this past weekend he let me pick! Of course I'd been wanting to try the "Wake Up Call" breakfasts at LYFE Kitchen in Palo Alto so away we went...

Breakfast Sandwich with a Gardein Breakfast Patty

I ordered the Breakfast Sandwich: farm fresh organic eggs, turkey sausage or Gardein Breakfast Patty, tomatoes, arugula, and cheddar cheese on a whole-wheat english muffin, with garden fresh salsa. It also came with a little cup of fresh fruit.

It was so tasty! Like really, really good. I especially loved spooning the salsa over the sandwich each time before I'd take the next bite. I will definitely go back and order this sandwich again.

I pulled the tomato slice out just a bit so you can see it.

At $5.99 it's affordable and with a maximum of 463 calories and 855 mg of sodium it's as healthy as it is delicious.

Whole-grain Buttermilk Pancakes: $4.99 with 484 calories and 638 mg of sodium

Hubby isn't health food oriented at all so he ordered the Whole-grain Buttermilk Pancakes served with fresh blueberries, strawberries, greek yogurt, and 100% real maple syrup.

He was a little disappointed the pancakes are served without butter but he seemed to enjoy them. He was also a bit distressed that there was only Sugar in the Raw offered at the table so our server went back and got him a small dish of refined white sugar for his coffee.

I also tried a Café Mocha. I have to be honest and say that I couldn't taste any chocolate at all. I added two packets of Sugar in the Raw and that sweetened it enough to what a typical Mocha tastes like but the chocolate flavor was missing completely. If I order this again I'll have to remember to ask for extra chocolate :)

Breakfast is served from:
7:00 AM to 11:00 AM Mon-Fri
8:00 AM to 11:00 AM on Weekends

LYFE Kitchen
167 N. Hamilton
Palo Alto, CA
650-325-LYFE (5933)

Now that I have a say-so about where we'll be having breakfast on alternate weeks I'll be sharing more recaps here on the blog. Currently on my short list is Calafia and hubby really wants to go to Bucks in Woodside. If you have a favorite place for breakfast you think we should try please leave me a comment and let me know!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Computer History Museum - Mountain View, CA

Recently I attended a private party at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA. It doesn't always look like this. It was lit up that night with special event lighting. Did you know you can rent the entire museum for private parties and corporate events? This means you can use the outdoor patios and courtyards, downstairs and upstairs gallery areas, the Grand Hall and the Hahn Auditorium both on the second floor for hosting events of all sizes. You can also allow your guests to tour the museum during your event.

This diagram is from a photo I took in March 2010

Hubby and I took his nephew to the museum in March 2010 while he was here on vacation. We didn't realize until we got there that the main exhibit area was still under development. Disappointingly, only the red area in the picture above was open to the public.

The Babbage Mechanical Computer

One thing we did see that was really cool was Charles Babbage's completed Difference Engine No. 2. It was quite fascinating. It is, in the most simple terms, a giant, printing calculator. The stories behind it, Charles Babbage inventing it, his attempt to complete it and how the museum ended up with a model to display, were really interesting. There are only two in existence and it took 17 years to complete the first one which is on display at the Science Museum in London. It was completed 131 years after Babbage's death. Wow. How wild is that? It's described this way on the Computer History Museum website:

"The completed machine works as Babbage intended. Its 8,000 parts are equally split between the calculating section and the output apparatus. It weighs five tons and measures seven feet high, eleven feet long and is eighteen inches deep at its narrowest. As a static object it is a sight to behold - a sumptuous piece of engineering sculpture. In operation it is an arresting spectacle."

The second completed machine was made for the benefactor who funded the completion of the output portion of the first machine. He wanted one for his own private collection but allowed the museum in Mountain View to display it before it was delivered to him. And what made it super cool? We were able to see it work the day we were there.

Close ups of the Babbage Difference Engine No. 2.

Now that the entire museum is complete you can literally spend an entire day there. Maybe even two if you wanted to study each display, watch all of the videos and listen to every audio track that accompanies many of the displays.

A portion of Charles Babbage's Difference Engine No. 1 (1832)

Early Calculators

As I wandered about I have to admit it wasn't really my scene. I'm more of an internet geek, not a computer geek LOL. But, I knew even though it wasn't my thing I was certain there are lots of people out there who would love to be there. For them, seeing these old computers would probably make them feel like the way I feel when I see beautiful vintage beads, delicious pastries or miniature donkeys. I decided to make the most of my evening and share with you what the museum has to offer so that if computers are your thing, and you ever have the chance, you'll make the time to visit the museum because I'm pretty certain you will love it!

Mathematical Tools

Holleriths Punch Card System

Type 80 Card Sorter (1925)

Thomas Watson, Sr.'s IBM "Think" mantra

Analog Goes Electronic

The Fairchild Semiconductor μA709 Operational Amplifier


A Ballistics Control System

Missile Electronics

Missile Guidance System

SAGE Graphical Console

The Nordsieck Differential Analyzer

One of three screening rooms at the museum.

Finally! I stumbled upon the Personal Computer section which was what I'd been looking foward to the entire time.

Years ago I saw the movie "The Pirates of Silicon Valley,"  and after the many tribute programs memorializing Steve Jobs after he passed away, to see the early model Apple computers at the Computer HIstory Museum in Mountain View kind of felt like when I saw the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris.

The Apple-1 (1976)

The Apple II (1977)

Apple Lisa II (1983)

The Macintosh (1984)

Computer Games

Aaron Paint Systems by Harold Cohen

There was even a computer that could paint! This was unexpected but really shouldn't have surprised me.

The Neiman Marcus Christmas Catalog Kitchen Computer

And this one cracked me up. The Honeywell 316 was offered in 1969 through the Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog for $10,600. None were purchased even though they came with an apron, cookbook, a two week programming course and you could store your recipes in it.

As you can see there is something for everyone (even me) at the Computer History Museum. Currently the Revolution exhibit includes:

Calculators Minicomputers
Punched Cards Digital Logic
Analog Computers Artificial Intelligence and Robotics
Birth of the Computer Input & Output
Early Computer Companies Computer Graphics, Music and Art
Real-Time Computing Computer Games
Mainframe Computers Personal Computers
Memory and Storage Mobile Computing
The Art of Programming Networking
Supercomputers The Web

Hours are:
The museum is closed Monday and Tuesday
CLICK HERE to view hours Wednesday through Sunday

Computer History Museum
1401 N Shoreline Blvd.
Mountain View, CA 94043

Admission is:
- Free to children 12 years and under
- Free to Museum Members
- $15 for the General Public with discounted rates for Seniors, Active Military and Students.
- There are also special Geek packages available that include memorabilia from the museum and the Revolution exhibit.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Newbie Blogging 101 Seminar Schedule & Gift Certificates

I'll soon be announcing the 2012 Bay Area schedule for my "Newbie Bloging 101" seminar for January through March 2012 and would love to receive feedback about what days and locations will be most convenient for those of you interested in taking it. I know you're all really busy so please tell me, do you prefer:

• Weekdays vs Weekends?
• Mornings vs Afternoons?
• What city would be most convenient for you to attend a seminar?

JUST CLICK HERE to view the class description and send me your suggestions via the contact form on my Girl Goes Geek website.

The seminar covers many different areas of blogging including the most FAQ questions like which platform to choose (Wordpress or Blogger), how do SEO (search engine optimization) and keywords work and whether or not to allow comments. I also cover aspects that people often don't consider like blogging etiquette, legal considerations and how to promote your blog. With a few exceptions, for most of us, building a blog isn't like Field of Dreams. Those who believe if they build it, readers will come may be sadly disappointed that readers don't come fast enough. Yet with a few basic steps you can increase traffic to your blog with a minimal amount of effort.

And just in time for the holidays, beginning today I'm now offering Gift Certificates for this seminar. Order one for a friend, colleague or family member and have it shipped to you or your recipient by USPS or online as a PDF.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Where to Eat on Fourth Street • Berkeley, CA

If you've never been to Fourth Street in Berkeley it may be time for you to go. From San Jose it's a one hour drive north on Interstate 880, then you take the Interstate 980 east interchange, it turns into CA-24, you head west on Interstate 580 then take the interchange off to Interstate 80 east, go three exits then take the University Street exit. Go straight along the frontage road, take a right on Hearst and you're there! LOL

Trust me, it's worth it :)

This month my foodie friend Carl Mindling and I decided to make an early trek up to the East Bay dining at Bette's Oceanview Diner, The Pasta Shop, O Chamé and Tacubaya.

Bette's Oceanview Diner is probably the most famous eatery on Fourth Street, and that was before it was featured on Guy Fieri's Diners Drive-ins and Dives.

Owner Bette Kroening gave me a lovely smile when she spotted me taking this picture of the "PLEASE WAIT TO BE SEATED" sign. The thing is, even though we left San Jose at 8:00 AM we knew we'd have to wait for a table when we got there at 9:00. That's how it goes when you dine at one of the most popular restaurants in town. There's always a line. Our wait was around 40 minutes long which we happily spent across the street at the Sur la Table kitchen store so waiting was, literally, our pleasure!

When my name was called we walked in the front door hung a left at the jukebox, made a quick righthand turn and were seated at a cozy booth along the wall. YAY! We were in!

To my right was a classic diner counter with the requisite chrome based bar stools covered in red Naugahyde where diners can watch the kitchen prepare everyone's food. I'd like to add the staff was fantastic offering great customer service.

Carl commented the interior and feel of Bette's is really retro, not like restaurants that try to be retro but don't quite pull it off. There's definitely an authenticity about Bette's which is just a bit surprising because the restaurant opened 29 years ago in 1982. Sitting at our booth it was easy to believe the diner had been there twice as long!

The decor is colorful and whimsical! Hanging high above, behind the counter, near the register is a giant slice of pie with an even larger Bette's Oceanview Diner sign filling what would otherwise be a big empty space.

Mimosa Cocktail ($5.95)

This month I was wild right off the top by ordering a breakfast cocktail. With alcohol! Since I don't drink alcohol this was going all out. But when I saw the Pomegranate, Champagne, Lime and Grenadine Mimosa on the menu it called my name. I drank the whole thing but truthfully I think I would have preferred a virgin cocktail instead :) There's just something about the flavor of alcohol that I just don't get.

I did get a bit of a kick posting on Facebook that I was getting schnockered before 10:00 AM. That status update drew a few comments and my friend Kathleen issued an online sobriety test asking me how many fingers was she holding up. It was ok though. Carl was the designated driver that day. LOL

Spicy Scrambled Eggs ($7.95)

We tried two dishes. First up were the Spicy Scrambled Eggs. The eggs were mixed with salsa then very softly scrambled and were served with the most delicious home fries and, that day, an even more delicious pumpkin spice muffin. I'd definitely order this again but think I'd ask for the eggs to be spicier. They were flavorful but I couldn't quite taste the "spice."

See the fresh bananas peeking out of the Soufflé Pancake ($12.95)?

This is what I really wanted to try... The Soufflé Pancake. I'd seen it on Diners Drive-ins and Dives. There are several choices for fillings and I let Carl choose. He chose the Bananas and Rum. Hmmmm first a champagne Mimosa then a huge pancake with rum, what a boozy breakfast I had :D

The rum infused pancake batter is mixed with fluffy egg whites and poured into a pan. It's first cooked on the stove top and after a minute or so the fresh banana slices are dropped on top allowing them to sink into the souffle mixture without settling to the bottom. The pan then moves to brown under a salamander before being finished in an oven. It was so good I had to get Bette's cook book so I can learn to make them at home!

Here's the funny part. I don't like pancakes, souffles or maple syrup. But I loved the Soufflé Pancake with maple syrup over the top! It was so light, both in texture and flavor. Even with the maple syrup it wasn't too sweet, melted in our mouths and was definitely a winner!

I also loved that along the underside of the counter are purse hooks! Brilliant!

Right next door is Bette's To Go.

It's a small deli and bakery filled with salads, cookies, cakes, tarts, muffins, pies, cup cakes, bread pudding, etc. etc. etc.

Our next stop is one of my most favorite places in Berkeley... The Pasta Shop (ETA: btw they ship nationwide). It's a gourmet grocery with a great cheese department, lots of fresh and dried pastas, imported everything and an impressive deli and pastry case.

Noteworthy is that it is also one of the friendliest stores I've ever shopped in. Both the employees and other shoppers were chatting us up, so much so that we spent longer in The Pasta Shop than we did at any other restaurant that day! Carl did a nice recap on his blog about a great guy we met there named Beaver. He works at the store and shared such cool stories about his time living abroad in Europe that we felt as if we'd actually been to Spain and Italy after talking to him!

When I've visited Fourth Street in the past there were only two places I loved to eat. One is The Pasta Market. It's great for a quick bite and a real treat.

The only drawback is there is no indoor seating but there is a public patio right outside the shop where you can usually find an available chair or bench so you can enjoy your lunch and get some fresh air too!

Brussels Sprout Salad (1 pint $2.95)

Carl let me choose what we'd eat that day. My eye immediately zoomed in on this shredded Brussels sprout salad with a honey vinaigrette. I loved it. It was light, fresh, healthy and affordable.

Cheese Bread ($2.50)

The perfect foil to what I felt was a super healthy salad was this cheese bread that one of the employees recommended we try. This isn't an ordinary cheese bread. It is the epitome of cheese bread. It is the cheese bread lesser cheese breads wish they could be. I asked what kind of cheese was used and was told it's a combination of Mozzarella and Parmesan but their website says Fontina and Asiago. I'm not sure which is right but don't really care because it tastes awesome no matter what the cheeses are. There's soft strands of once gooey melted cheese kind of swirled in the middle on the inside and toasted brown puddles of cheese on the outside. I had to buy a second one to take home for later.

Apple and Pear Galette ($4.50)

In the pastry case I was tempted by this gorgeous Apple and Pear Galette. See those crunchy crystals of sugar baked all around the edge of the buttery pastry crust? I am happy to report that the galette didn't disappoint. In fact I'm rather thankful that The Pasta Market is an hour away because almost everything in it is quite impossible to resist.

Our next stop was at my personal favorite restaurant in Berkeley. Over the years I've eaten at quite a few places and no other has ever out-shined O Chamé's Japanese cuisine. Tucked away behind a low stucco wall with a single arched entryway into their courtyard with just a small sign out front, it would be easy to walk by and fail to notice the restaurant if you're not paying attention. I shopped in Berkeley for years before I noticed it and ventured in for my first bowl of their delicious ramen noodles.

I always feel charmed when I walk into through O Chamé's door. The walls are a soft, pastel buttercup yellow and the warm, rich wood tables create a cozy ambiance. Small details like the artfully folded napkin and the smooth, stone hashioki (pronounced Ha-she-oh-key which translates to chopstick rest in Japanese) really set a tranquil tone where one can't help but to slow down, take notice and enjoy your meal. Dining at O Chamé you shouldn't ever feel rushed. Dining there is an experience to savor.

The Wild Arugula Salad ($9.50)

Carl chose two dishes I'd never had before. The first was this beautiful Arugula Salad with Golden Beets and Salted Eggs with a light vinaigrette. The dish was perfection. The flavors were distinct and pure. The eggs were perfectly hard boiled to the exact moment when the yolks became solid but not opaque creating yolks that matched the beets in both color and translucency.

O Chamé's Signature Pancakes with Seasonal Vegetables ($8.00)

And the White Corn and Green Onion Pancakes were OUT OF THIS WORLD. The funny thing is I don't even like pancakes and now in one day I'd tried two new kinds of pancakes and loved both! The Soufflé Pancake for breakfast and these savory pancakes for lunch.

Part of the magic was the sesame (and I think) miso dipping sauce. I was tempted to drench each bite in the sauce but that might have overpowered the sweet crisp corn and fresh slivers of green onion. The texture of the pancake was more dense than a breakfast pancake so as a meal it was hearty and so very satisfying.

Wagashi for dessert ($6.00)

For dessert we ordered the "Wagashi" a Japanese word that describes different types of confections. The manju served at O Chamé is always wonderful and, like the pancakes, also changes with the seasons. Manju consists of cooked sweet rice pounded into a sticky mass that is then torn off into small sections rolled into a flattened disc, filled with sweetened red and white bean pastes, pinched closed and rolled into a sometimes roundish or flattened patty shape.

On a previous visit to O Chamé in January 2010 I had the Sweet Potato, Lotus Root and Radichio Tempura and Wagashi for dessert. One of the Wagashi was shaped like a little peach and the other (while not as beautiful) was mugwort, my favorite flavor.

Our final stop was at a Mexican restaurant I'd never tried before. Tacubaya is right next door to The Pasta Market but I'd never wandered over in all the years I've visited Fourth Street. What's up with that? I suspect it might have been the not so exciting exterior had never caught my eye.

There is a small, brightly colored menu in one of the front window but I really had no idea what to expect as we entered the restaurant.

The interior colors of Tacubaya were fun and flirty!

Wow! Inside we found brightly colored walls and throngs of people. Tacubaya was packed! I'm sure part of the reason for their success is that they are a locavore style Mexican restaurant who uses not only locally produced foods, they also focus on organic, sustainably produced ingredients from their meats to their produce to their agua frescas. Everything about their menu screams quality, is fresh and made from scratch daily.

Chili Rellenos ($7.75)

We were pretty full by then but Carl thought the Chili Rellenos sounded good. Um, not only did they sound good, the looked good and tasted reeeeeeally good! A short wait and the next thing we knew a server dropped off this very large, golden, battered and fried poblano chile stuffed with potatoes, cranberries, leaks and mixed cheeses served in a red sauce that was garnished with crema and fresh cilantro. A side of fresh tortillas was included.

I'm not a huge tortilla fan myself but Carl said they were the best he's ever had.

Now that I've been to Tacubaya I definitely want to go again. I saw several super tasty looking dishes on the menu like the Tamal de Calabaza, a tamale filled with butternut squash, pureed black beans and mixed cheeses topped with salsa verde, creama and cilantro. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

They also had a surprisingly large coffee menu with everything from dripped-to-order Blue Bottle Coffee from Chiapas, Mexico to classic Italian cafe favorites like Espresso, Cappuccinos and Lattes to my favorite, the Mocha and something to try another time, their Mexican coffee "Cafe de Olla" a drip coffee sweetened with piloncillo, an unrefined Mexican sugar, and served with a cinnamon stick in a bowl. (Hmm, that should probably have been at least two sentences LOL)

Along with great food Fourth Street is also home to lots of unique shops and popular brands. Some of my favorites are Thousand Cranes, The Gardener, The Stained Glass Garden, and a Japanese paper store named Miki's Paper. There are many more as well as larger brands like Sur la Table, Anthropolgie, Kiehl's, Apple and the Crate and Barrel Outlet.

You can easily spend an entire day on Fourth Street and now you'll know where to eat!

Bette's Oceanview Diner
1807 Fourth Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
(510) 644-3932

The Pasta Shop
1786 Fourth Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
(510) 250-6004

O Chamé
1830 Fourth Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
(510) 841-8783

1788 Fourth Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
(510) 525-5160

If you enjoyed this post you'll probably enjoy our previous adventures this year:

Where to Eat: A Willow Glen Food Tour

A Surprisingly Delicious Pleasanton Food Tour

A Pescadero Food Tour: Where and What to Eat Off HWY 1

A Bay Area Cheap Eats and Secret Menu Food Adventure

• A Palo Alto, Epicurean Food Tour

• Our May, East Bay, Berkeley and Oakland Food Adventure

• Meet the Kids on The Harley Farms Goat Dairy Tour

• Beyond Sushi: A South Bay Japanese Food Adventure

• Beyond the Beach: A Santa Cruz Food Adventure