Author Archives: kqedguides

Outward Bound

You want to see the Pacific Ocean, the Golden Gate Bridge up close and personal, or thrilling views of the San Francisco skyline from the middle of the Bay? We have you covered:

The Beach

The fact that San Francisco sits on the edge of the ocean makes beach-going a natural, although sometimes chilly idea. The journey itself is simple, fun and adventurous. Depending on which beach you want to end up at, you can choose either the L or the N line of the Metro (Muni’s light rail) Both stop at the Embarcadero station (298 Market St., between Spear & Beale) and all the downtown stops. If you take the L, you end up on the south end of Ocean Beach, by the San Francisco Zoo, where the water is fairly wild and it’s mostly frequented by surfers. If you time it right, you can watch some amazing surfing. Get a hot chocolate at Java Beach at the Zoo, take off your shoes and walk down to the water. If the weather’s pleasant, it’s a 2-mile walk North to Judah St where you’ll hop on the N line for your return trip.

To make the journey to the northernmost slice of beach, where you’ll find landmarks like the Cliff House, the ruins of Sutro Baths, and a lovely hike along to Coastal Trail to rare East-facing views of the Golden Gate Bridge, you’ll need to catch the bus —- the 38-Geary leaves from the corner of Union Square (Geary & Powell) and takes a 45-minute journey to get to Lands End. The Lands End Lookout Visitor Center is just down from the corner of 48th Ave. on Point Lobos Avenue. Look for the parking lot on the right and the stunning view of the Pacific.

The Bridge

Crissy Field is a little bit like San Francisco’s front lawn — a great place to look out at the world, walk the dog, and play a little frisbee. Of course, that’s if your front lawn just happens to have a million-dollar panorama of the San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Marin Headlands. Not bad. You’ll also find beaches, cafes with warm drinks, and a flat promenade through tidal wetlands. Bring a sweatshirt and a camera! One of the dozens of amazing local sites overseen by Golden Gate National Parks, Crissy Field (1199 East Beach) is definitely accessible by taxi or public transportation — check their website for a trip planner to help you get there from wherever your find yourself.

The Rock

Also under the auspices of the GGNP, Alcatraz is a traditional tourist spot, but well worth a visit for the views alone. You’ll reach the abandoned maximum-security Federal prison by ferry, since it sits on a rocky outcropping in the middle of the Bay (hence the nickname). The boats leave from Pier 33 (on the Embarcadero), from 8:45am to 3:50pm most days. Pro tips: You’ll need to reserve your tickets to avoid running into sold-out tours. Pier 33 is about a 25-minute walk from the Ferry Building, but here’s a spot you might want to catch a cab or rideshare, since you’ll need to save your legs for the actual island. Lastly, don’t pass up the cellhouse audio tour. It’s included in your ticket price and it’s excellent!


PBS Annual Meeting Guides:

In Downtown
Locations within a single mile of the Marriott Marquis.

Getting Around
Venture further afield within the city limits.

Outward Bound
A quick overview of some great vistas.

Union Square Checklist from Check, Please! Bay Area
Our producers selected 10 of the best restaurants near the iconic landmark.


In Downtown

Wendy Goodfriend

The hills of San Francisco are legendary and those who climb their peaks are rewarded with amazing vistas. That said, you can safely navigate most of downtown SF on foot without needing to bring any climbing gear, save a light jacket to keep off an evening chill. These sights and secrets should mostly be within an easy walk or a short ride.

Walking Tours

Fans of noir fiction and the famous mystery novels starring detective Sam Spade, will love the Dashiell Hammett Walking Tour, which is the longest running literary tour in the nation. It’s led by Don Herron, author of The Literary World of San Francisco and editor of selected letters of Philip K. Dick – a guy who clearly knows his stuff and has been praised not just for dressing in a snap-brim hat and trench coat, but for leading a tour that, according to The Wall Street Journal, “moved like a drunken cat through the streets and back alleys of the Tenderloin. It passed Southeast Asian diners, tawdry hotels, bars without windows, and places where a twenty will buy you more than the weekend’s groceries.” If you find yourself in town early, the tour will be offered on Sunday, May 11, starting at noon, leaving from NW corner outside the San Francisco Main Library (Fulton & Larkin).

Neighborhood to Know: Chinatown

Mutari, wikimedia

If you’d rather amble around under your own recognizance, consider a self-guided walking tour through San Francisco’s Chinatown. Start just north of Union Square at the Dragon Gate (Grant & Bush) and then venture down the bustling, shop-lined streets of the largest Chinese community outside of Asia. You’ll find everything from dim sum palaces to herbal apothecaries, scores of churches and temples, as well as a non-stop visual smorgasbord of architecture and antiquities.

If you still have some steam left once you’ve lost yourself in Chinatown, you can continue on to North Beach and another of San Francisco’s most treasured stomping grounds.

Bottoms Up

There’s no dearth of great hotel bars in downtown San Francisco: There are classics that actually tower over the rest, including Top of the Mark and the Starlight Room (not to mention the aptly named View Lounge at the Marriott Marquis), but here are are few that stand out no matter what floor you find them on.

Beautifully designed and decked out in wood panels and Art Deco details, The Redwood Room at the Clift Hotel (495 Geary) exudes class and a chic sense of humor. The real action is at the back of the lobby where the paintings slide and shift and a DJ keeps the night crowd lively with subdued house music. The bar itself, with its towering mirrored display, is breathtaking.

The Clift’s Redwood Room

Parallel 37 at The Ritz-Carlton (Stockton at California) might best be described as Mad Men set in the woods, with tables and counters fashioned from gorgeous slabs of trees surrounded by low-slung Danish modern furniture. For a more cosmopolitan setting, enjoy the handcrafted cocktails in The Lounge with the skyline for company.

The Clock Bar at the Westin St. Francis (335 Powell St., off Union Square) offers a lovely and easily accessible respite from the crowds in the Square -— as well as a great stiff drink. On your way to this cozy, comfortable spot, make sure to peek at the impressive Viennese grandfather clock that has served as a local meeting spot for over a century.

For those with a sense of humor and a yearning for balmier climes, the Tonga Room at the Fairmount Hotel (950 Mason) offers the full tiki bar experience -— really, who can resist drinks served in coconut shells with umbrellas?

Craft beer is hot right now, and we know where you can find some of the craftiest folks in the world offering to quench your thirst.

Mikkeller Bar SF (34 Mason) opened just under a year ago, but it’s already found a dedicated following. Its 42 taps are flowing with a selection of rare, delectable beers from notable local breweries and around the world.

SF’s Cable Cars

Ding ding! What a cliché! Ding ding! And priced to gouge out-of-towners ($6 for a one-way ride, except early in the morning and late at night). But you know, San Francisco’s hand-crafted, steel-wood-and-glass transit antiques really are unique. There’s nothing quite like hanging on to the side (or hanging out on the rear platform) as that little car crawls up or clatters down San Francisco’s steep, steep streets. From the Powell Street turntable (Powell at Market St.), you can ride from one pole of the city’s retail wonderland–the greater Union Square/San Francisco Centre/Bloomingdale’s sector—to the other—Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 (via the Powell-Mason line) and Ghirardelli Square (via the Powell-Hyde line). If you want to delve into cable car lore, then you need to alight at Muni’s Cable Car Museum, at Washington and Mason streets (both Powell Street routes pass the museum.)

Here are a couple of tips: Take the short California Street line (starts at Market Street outside the Hyatt Regency, goes west up over Nob Hill, turns around at Van Ness Avenue). Or ride after 9 p.m., when the fare falls to $3 and the crowds thin out. The cars run until nearly 1 a.m. every night of the week.

Museums for Everyone


The Bay Area offers myriad great museums and galleries, and you’ll find them in almost every part of town.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is currently closed due to construction, although you can find events and exhibits from that institution scattered around the city as part of their SFMOMA On the Go initiative.

Another great downtown museum to explore is the Contemporary Jewish Museum (736 Mission St.), just steps away from the Marquis — the most current exhibition looks at Jewish contributions to Mid-Century Modern design. Browse the rotating exhibits, the permanent collection, and make sure to grab a smoked pastrami sandwich at the museum’s deli.

The world renown Exploratorium recently moved to a new, state-of-the-art building on Pier 15 (on the Embarcadero) and is definitely worth a visit for all ages.

More art to check out downtown:
The Cartoon Art Museum (655 Mission), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (701 Mission), and just a bit farther afield — the Asian Art Museum (200 Larkin, across from City Hall).

Next Stop: Foodie Heaven

Head on down to the edge of the Bay to find another kind of gallery, this one dedicated to sweet and savory treasures from the city’s finest culinary curators. The historic Ferry Building (Market & Embarcadero) hosts Farmer’s Markets on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, but their permanent marketplace boasts a delicious array of artisanal foodstuffs — from hand-roasted coffee to heirloom beans, local cheese to luscious pastries. Easily accessible via BART, Muni, or on foot, the Ferry Building is a stop no self-respecting foodie would want to miss.

If you happen to be at the Ferry Building close to sundown, stick around and you’ll be treated to a spectacular view of the Bay Lights, a stunning installation of LEDs on the Western span of the Bay Bridge. The thousands of tiny white lights are computer-controlled and cycle through a hypnotic dance of ever-changing designs. Grab a bite at one of the waterside restaurants in the area and enjoy the show.

Giant Steps

Coasttocoast, wikimedia

Also in the shadow of the Bay Bridge, boasting its own array of tasty bites and dazzling lights, AT&T Park (King St., between 2nd & 3rd) is home to the two-time World Series Champion San Francisco Giants. If you are in the mood to take in some National League action with a heaping helping of garlic fries, you are in luck, as the Giants are in town all week, taking on the Atlanta Braves and the Miami Marlins. Check the website for the game schedule and information on ticket. Home games are always sold out, but good seats are usually available through the team’s own ticket resale system. You’re transportation options from Ferry Building include Muni, pedi-cab, or a leisurely stroll along the Embarcadero.


PBS Annual Meeting Guides:

In Downtown
Locations within a single mile of the Marriott Marquis.

Getting Around
Venture further afield within the city limits.

Outward Bound
A quick overview of some great vistas.

Union Square Checklist from Check, Please! Bay Area
Our producers selected 10 of the best restaurants near the iconic landmark.


Getting Around

These destinations are over a mile from the Marriott. Some are still very walkable, but others are farther flung and that’s where BART, Muni, taxi or our local “transportation network companies:” Uber and Lyft are probably your best bet.

Telegraph Hill Tour

Perhaps best known for Coit Tower, Telegraph Hill boasts some of the best views of the Bay the city has to offer. Before you go, be sure to download KQED’s Let’s Get Lost smartphone app for interactive tours of the famous New-Deal-era murals at Coit Tower (1 Telegraph Hill Blvd), as well as others around the city. To enjoy the richness of the area, take a tour from SF City Guides and along the way you’ll see some of the neighborhood’s most attractive gardens, as well as cottages that date from the Gold Rush era. If you’re lucky, you’ll see the flock of wild parrots made famous in the Independent Lens documentary “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill.”

Neighborhood to Know: North Beach

Even if you can’t make the scheduled walking tour, you can still enjoy the panoramas of Telegraph Hill and North Beach. Just to the north of the equally fascinating Chinatown neighborhood (see our “In Downtown” guide), you’ll find the historic domain of the Italian-American community. While the neighborhood is now as multi-ethnic as any you’ll find in SF, you’ll still find scores of bakeries, gelaterias, espresso stands, and decadent Italian restaurants. You’ll also find notable literary landmarks such as City Lights bookstore (261 Columbus) and streets named after significant members of the Beat Poets. You can learn more about the West Coast contributions to that movement at the Beat Museum (540 Broadway) or just chill out and watch the Tai Chi practitioners in Washington Square Park.

Castro Walking Tour

There’s a bit of construction happening along Castro Street, the historic heart of San Francisco’s pioneering gay community. Sidewalks are being widened. Rainbow-hued crosswalks are being painted. Still, don’t let a little dust deter you from visiting the cafes and shops that line this energy-filled neighborhood. It’s hard to imagine now, but the neighborhood called the Castro was once a subdued, working class community known as “Eureka Valley.” Take this tour with Foot! Comedy Walking Tours and laugh your socks off while you learn about the neighborhood’s history from the 19th century to the present. Stops include the Castro’s very first gay bar, the surprising controversies that flutter with the iconic massive rainbow flag, and of course the Castro Theatre, which first opened in 1922. As the company’s web site promises, “you’ll have a gay old time.” $30 per person.

Neighborhood to Know: The Mission

Wendy Goodfriend

Sitting right next to the Castro, you’ll find the super-hot Mission district. Sunnier than most of the city, this moderately flat neighborhood sports parallel arteries — Valencia and Mission streets — the former packed with upscale restaurants and trendy shops, the latter is still holding on to its everyman roots, but just barely. You’ll find an ever-increasing number of adventurous new spots nestled among the dollar stores and taquerias. If you can’t get the best burrito or small-batch fresh-roasted coffee you’ve ever had, you’re just not trying. And beer is making a big splash at places like Monk’s Kettle (3141 16th St), Amnesia (853 Valencia St), Abbot’s Cellar (742 Valencia St), and outdoor favorite Zeitgeist (199 Valencia St). If craft cocktails are more your thing, you’ll want to search out Trick Dog (3010 20th St) on the emerging 20th Street gourmet corridor right around the corner from the KQED building.

Golden Gate Park

While it’s sometimes compared to another great ubran expense in New York City, Golden Gate Park is 20% bigger than Central Park. Who can argue with that? Okay, it’s not a contest — it’s a treasure trove of amazing natural sights and home to a host of great cultural institutions.

Here are a couple of highlights you might want to consider:

The San Francisco Botanical Garden

San Francisco Botanical Garden

Located in the heart of Golden Gate Park, the San Francisco Botanical Garden (1199 9th Ave) is planted with more than 8,000 plants from around the world, including those rare and endangered plants that are the objects of conservation. Check their website to see what’s in bloom, and don’t miss the “cloud forests” – gardens that have the same conditions as rainforests at high elevations in Mexico, the Andes, and Southeast Asia. There you’ll find some of the garden’s most treasured plants, like the golden fuchsia (Deppea splendens) from Mexico and a type of passion flower called Passiflora parritae native to Andean cloud forests. San Francisco Botanical Garden is one of the only outdoor gardens in the world that can grow these species, largely thanks to Bay Area fog mimicking high altitude cloud cover. Free admission.

The California Academy of Sciences

This recently renovated wonderland of inquiry houses “the oldest scientific institution in the western United States.” Visit the California Academy of Sciences (55 Music Concourse Dr) and you’ll find an undulating living roof, an all-digital planetarium, an aquarium, and a host of rotating exhibits. Check their website for specifics on exhibitions and special events, including an after-hours cocktail party offering Do-It-Yourself workshops with veterans of the Bay Area’s world-famous Maker Faire.

The de Young Museum

Also newly rebuilt, the de Young Museum (50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr) is an art-lovers paradise. The permanent collection includes American paintings and decorative art, African and Oceanic art, as well as textiles and photography. Current exhibits include Native American Art recently acquired from the Weisel family, photographs of the Bay Bridge during its original construction, and a show celebrating 50th anniversary of Walasse Ting’s “groundbreaking artist-illustrated book” 1¢ Life. Open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30 am to 5:15 pm, museum admission costs $10. If you go, don’t miss the chance to ascend to the tower’s observation deck and take in its panoramic 360-degree views of the park (free).


PBS Annual Meeting Guides:

In Downtown
Locations within a single mile of the Marriott Marquis.

Getting Around
Venture further afield within the city limits.

Outward Bound
A quick overview of some great vistas.

Union Square Checklist from Check, Please! Bay Area
Our producers selected 10 of the best restaurants near the iconic landmark.


Guide to Celebrating Valentine’s Day, Bay Area Style

Valentine’s Day is upon us. Images of hearts and cupids are everywhere. What’s on your agenda for this special day? If you’re still open to ideas, we’ve got some for you.



What’s on the menu for Valentine’s Day? This year, it’s all about salt, sugar, bacon and beer. And chocolate, of course, in every way from molten to heart-shaped. Here’s a pick from our list of delectable local treats.



A box of chocolates and flowers might earn you some points, but you’ll definitely score by making something homemade. And you don’t even have to create something overly complicated. It’s the thought that counts. So here is a heartfelt and handmade recipe for Gooey Baked S’mores. Plop a heart-shaped marshmallow on top of some chocolate and a graham cracker, light it on fire and you are set! It is that easy. And that tasty!



So you don’t have a boo. No biggie. Sure, it’s fun to hold hands and have someone buy you an eclair for no reason and all that jazz. Loving someone else is super. But there’s another form of love that predates loving someone else: the love you have for yourself a.k.a. The Greatest Love of All!  Here are a few ideas of ways to spend your Valentine’s Day. Read it here on KQED Pop.



Conversation hearts and chocolate samplers fill the grocery aisles, your inbox is filled with coupon deals for roses and romantic dates, and your grandmother has yet again asked if you have a “special friend.” Dan Slater, author of Love in the Time of Algorithms visited KQED’s Forum recently. Here’s some advice on how to make sense of the online dating scene.

The Best Hotel Bars in the Bay


A good hotel bar is a happy place, an elegant but relaxed haven where gussied up guests—locals and tourists alike—mix in right alongside post-work corporate casual and fresh-off-the-ferry explorers still in their sneaks and Alcatraz sweatshirts. The very atmosphere casts a more glamorous sheen over everyone. By the varied nature of their clientele, a constant stream of strangers, hotel bars carry just a hint of chance and mystery, and a sense that anything could happen.

Here’s a roundup of our favorites.


There’s no dearth of hotel bars in downtown San Francisco: the classics (e.g. Top of the Mark and the Starlight Room) to the modern lounges conveniently clustered on Geary Boulevard around Taylor Street (Hotel Monaco, Hotel Adagio, and so on). But apart from the tired, contrived, and sometimes creepy ones, these classics rise above the rest.

Redwood Room, The Clift Hotel (Geary at Taylor)

The Redwood Room at the Clift Hotel is a delight of “lodge deco”—as if Nick and Nora Charles shined up the Ahwahnee Hotel. Beautifully designed and decked out in wood panels and Art Deco details, this place exudes class and a chic sense of humor. The real action is at the back of the lobby—the Redwood Room—where the paintings slide and shift and a DJ keeps the night crowd lively with subdued house music. The bar itself, with its towering mirrored display, is breathtaking. For a quieter experience (i.e. where visitors can have an intimate conversation), check out The Living Room directly across from registration. Same booze, but with lush sofas and deep sinking club chairs.

Parallel 37 and The Lounge, The Ritz-Carlton (Stockton at California)

This lush bar might best be described as Mad Men set in the woods, with tables and counters fashioned from gorgeous slabs of trees surrounded by low-slung Danish modern furniture. For a more cosmopolitan setting, enjoy the handcrafted cocktails in The Lounge with the skyline for company.

The Clock Bar, Westin St. Francis (Union Square)

After a whirlwind shopping tour in Union Square, the Clock Bar at the St. Francis offers a lovely and easily accessible respite from the crowds—as well as a great stiff drink. It’s small, but comfortable and worth a stop for the tired and chilled.

(In a case of an exception proving the rule, honorable mention does go to the Tonga Room, which, for those with a sense of humor and a yearning for balmier climes, offers that unique tiki bar experience—really, who can resist drinks served in coconut shells with umbrellas?)


Paragon, Claremont Hotel (Berkeley)

Located in the posh Claremont Hotel, this bar is spare and modern without being cold. Paragon offers stunning views of the sunset and the San Francisco skyline, especially pretty when it’s lit up at twilight. Take advantage of East Bay weather and enjoy cocktails on the deck. Live jazz Fridays and Saturdays.

Five, Hotel Shattuck (Berkeley)

Five is actually a restaurant in the Hotel Shattuck with a sweet bar and lounge that’s very easily accessible by BART (downtown Berkeley station). Make sure to catch the “after hour happy hour” offered everyday from 7-9pm.


Hedley Club Lounge, Hotel De Anza (San Jose)

Since the 1930s, the Hotel De Anza has presided over downtown San Jose’s sparkling social scene. The beauty of the hotel is amplified by its storied past (one of San Jose’s few Zig Zag Moderne buildings). Inside, visitors can relax in the Hedley Club Lounge amidst art deco elegance. Settle back in a plush armchair or enjoy a table on the patio and, with Al Green softly crooning, you can actually enjoy a conversation. Live jazz Thursday-Saturday evenings.

The Grill on the Alley, The Fairmont (San Jose)

Located off Cesar Chavez park, the Fairmont boasts not one but three hotel bar options: the Pagoda, the Bamboo Lounge, and The Grill. Skip the first two and go straight to The Grill, which has an elegant Rat Pack feel with deep leather booths and a build-your-own martini menu.  It also has a patio and great people watching.


The Pelican English Bar, The Pelican Inn (Marin)

The Pelican Inn transports you to another time and place: an English inn and pub tucked onto the rocky ledge of the Marin Headlands. Dark and cozy, it’s the perfect foil for coastal fog. Hike from Tennessee Valley and enjoy a pint by the fire as a reward. Enjoy a meal at the restaurant or take advantage of the pub’s bar menu and warm up with some English comfort food. On nice days, take your lunch on the patio, then stroll down to Muir Beach. (Nice to note that the Pelican takes advantage of its proximity to organic coastal farms and ranches, serving local meats and seasonal vegetables from the Zen Center’s Green Gulch Farm next door.)

Farely Bar, Cavallo Point (Sausalito)

Tucked under the Golden Gate Bridge, Farely Bar at Cavallo Point offers stunning views of San Francisco, the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge—day or night. The bar has a distinct Northern California charm with a beautiful antique tin ceiling, leather club chairs and fireplaces. Enjoy drinks inside or out (they even provide blankets on the outdoor patio to keep stargazers warm in the evening).  Music Monday nights.

– By Deb Zambetti


What Are You Doing for New Year’s Eve? Seven Ideas for Celebrating in the Bay

Flickr: Dwan.Mac

It’s always tough to decide what to do on the final night of the year. Below, we’ve made it easier for you to make a choice.

1.  Half Moon Bay Brewing Co. Early Bird New Year’s Eve Party

One of the benefits of living on the West Coast is that you can watch the ball drop on the East Coast before reasonable bedtime. Bring the whole family to the Early Bird Party at Half Moon Bay Brewing Co. and eat, listen to music and New Years it up, all before 9pm.

2.  The Fresh & Onlys at The Chapel in San Francisco

If you want to see some great music and enjoy a little of the craziness that is New Year’s Eve in the Mission, this show might be just the ticket. The Chapel is the new venue on Valencia Street that everyone has been talking about since September and this show is full of the perfect awesome rock and roll to help you ring in 2013.

3.  Erykah Badu at the Fox Theater in Oakland

Maybe you want your New Year’s Eve show a little more dramatic? There is no way Erykah Badu at the Fox won’t be amazing. Besides the fact that the Fox is one of the most beautiful venues in the Bay, Erykah Badu has literally never disappointed anyone?

4.  New Year’s Eve at Laughing Lotus in San Francisco

For some people, New Year’s Eve is a panic-inducing event that will never live up to expectations and generally ends in some sort of humiliation. Want to avoid over-drinking to cover up your anxiety and then watching someone else kiss your ex-boyfriend at midnight? How about yoga, chanting, music and dancing at Laughing Lotus? Get some exercise, get some perspective, get some community and wake up in the morning with a good attitude.

5.  Noon Year’s Eve at the Bay Discovery Museum in Sausalito

If you want to make sure your kids get a good dose of New Year’s Eve countdown-ing but don’t want that to get in the way of your more adult nighttime plans, take them to Noon Year’s Eve and let them countdown to noon instead! There’s even a special noontime ball drop.

6.  Hot Buttered Rum and Family

What would Bay Area New Year’s Eve be without some bluegrass? Everyone’s favorite, Hot Buttered Rum will keep you dancing all the way into 2013.

7.  Winter Wonderland in Downtown San Jose

Here’s a way to make New Year’s Eve live up to expectations: carnival rides and ice skating! Bring the whole family to downtown San Jose for an active and exciting and affordable kid-friendly New Years Eve.

— By Lizzy Acker




5 Ways to Rethink Gifting This Holiday


By Amanda Stupi

Do you aspire to celebrate the holidays without contributing to consumerism culture, without polluting the Earth, without buying more stuff? Of course you do, you Prius-driving fan of public media. Not sure how? Here’s a step-by-step guide and some motivating facts pulled from Forum’s recent show on the topic.


Christmas morning is not the time to tell people that you do not want nor will you give a traditional gift. Katy Wolk-Stanley, who writes the blog The Non Consumer Advocate, suggests to tell people early on what to expect.

“The time to have those conversations about how you want to do gift exchanges is now, because a lot of people have already purchased their gifts.”

The idea here is to be pre-emptive but not preachy. Communicate what you hope for without judging or putting down the other person’s lifestyle — or a gift they may have already bought you.

“I let people know ahead of time that I would love to have, perhaps a contribution to an organization that I appreciate, or a gift certificate for a restaurant,” said Beth Terry, author of My Plastic-free Life. “And if they give me a thing that I don’t want, I’m very gracious about it.”


Consider this permission to regift — thoughtfully. This isn’t simply about passing along unwanted knick-knacks or boxed chocolates. This is about giving an object that you possess and enjoy to someone else who might also appreciate it.

“This could be a family object, not necessarily a Faberge egg of heirloom quality, but an aunt’s special brooch or a picture you’ve enjoyed at somebody else’s house,” said Wolk-Stanley. “Or even a book that you’ve read and you think, ‘I bet so-and-so would really like this book also.'”

Adds Terry: “I think there is definitely a stigma sometimes about second-hand things, but we can reframe that. We can use words like ‘vintage,’ or ‘antique.’ One of my friends bought another friend a beautiful vintage Kitchen Aid blender from eBay. It was old, it was second hand, but it was in great shape.”


Wolk-Stanley says it helps to view changing your gift-giving traditions as “a creative challenge rather than a limitation.” Finding a non-object (or a slightly-used object) to express your affection for someone is tough. But also fun. It allows you to consider what’s meaningful in your relationship with the recipient and what brings him or her joy.

Why We Should Be Less Wasteful
  • There are 62 Legos for every single man, woman, and child on the planet.
  • The average American uses as many resources as 32 Kenyans.
  • One million additional tons of trash is produced each week between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
  • There’s been a 1,000 percent growth in the use of self storage by Americans in the last 30 years.

– Adam Werbach, co-founder of the sharing service Yerdle

“When thinking about gifts for people, think about what they would really love and appreciate and not just what’s being thrown at you by the media and by the advertisers,” Terry said.

And remember: a one-size fits all approach to giving is wasteful, no matter how well-intentioned. “A stainless steel water bottle sitting in a closet is not a green gift if the person isn’t going to use it,” said Terry.


Most things in life are not forever. And that’s okay. Gifts should be no different.

“When I give a gift to someone, I’m not thinking, ‘I’m giving you this and you have to keep it forever,'” said Wolk-Stanley.

You have to disconnect from the object that you give — it’s not the end of the world for a present to be regifted or donated. Wolk-Stanley says if she gives a present and it doesn’t find a home in the person’s life, “[I’m] totally happy for them to move it along.”

Along those same lines, a gift doesn’t need to be a physical object that someone can hold or place on a shelf.

“You can have conversations with people, saying, ‘You know, I’m at a point in my life where I have the things that I need,'” said Wolk-Stanley. “‘I really appreciate the thought, but how about instead of doing a gift exchange between the two of us, let’s instead spend that money and go out to lunch.'”

And most experiences don’t require packaging, shipping, or a trip to the mall.


Let’s face it — someone who begins emailing you gift ideas in October is probably not going to be happy with a used book. You have two choices. You can choose a gift-alternative for all the other people on your list and simply buy the gift grubber what he or she wants. Or you can grow some thick skin, tell your family and friends about your new approach to the season, and proceed as planned. If someone is offended?

“That’s on that person,” said Wolk-Stanley. “That has nothing to do with you. Let it go.”

Holiday Shopping, Indie Style: A Curated List from the Bay’s Local Shops

The holidays are the perfect time to merrily combine two of your favorite things: art and shopping. We know you love supporting artists and independent retailers, so we contacted local shop curators for creative holiday gift ideas: one from their own establishment and one from another neighborhood shop. Here are their picks.



SF Zipper Pouch, $16

Lauren Smith and Derek Fagerstrom from the Curiosity Shoppe made selections for the holiday traveler who needs a little reminder of home. Their SF Zipper pouches are “perfect for all the little things in your life—great for pocket electronics, art supplies, toiletries, etc.”


Shifter Pack, $129

From SF-based outdoor company Alite, they suggest the Shifter Pack, which is “equally at home on your commute to work, or your trek up the Sierras.”





Wooden Flashlight, $85

Jamie Alexander from Park Life has another idea for outdoorsy types, a handmade wooden flashlight by Gad Scot Tal that was created to benefit the Headlands Center for the Arts. It’s charming and “built of reclaimed wood from local dismantled dwellings.”



Farm Tactics Tote Bag, $88

From his own shop, Jamie suggests a canvas tote by Farm Tactics, which is made from recycled climbing nylon and is available in several colorways. For your fashion-conscious (or hoarding) friends, a bag is always the right answer when it comes to gift giving.




The Thing Quarterly Subscription, $220

We contacted the good folks at The Thing Quarterly because a subscription to the “object-based publication” is high on our list for art lovers. Four unique art editions created by blue chip artists are delivered throughout the year, and nothing sounds more delightful than free, surprise art. The Thing’s Holiday Special subscription includes a bonus: their best selling edition, a Dave Eggers shower curtain, “or any amazing back issue of your choice.” It will arrive at your art lover’s door in time for the holidays, dressed up in Macfadden & Thorpe-designed wrapping paper.


Stoneware Mugs from Gravel and Gold, $24

Jonn Herschend and Sarah Simon from The Thing also recommend stoneware mugs by Albion, Calif. artist Cliff Glover, available at Gravel & Gold, which sounds like a good gift for your boss. It will hold her coffee each morning, reminding her to give you a raise next year.





Andrew Martin Scott, proprietor of local zine shop, Needles & Pens, recommends a recent publication called PUBLIC NOTICE by Nathaniel Russell. He says, “It’s hilarious, and everyone who picks it up laughs out loud.” It’s filled with fictional flyers that “run the gamut from Found Dog and Idea Party…all the way to an ad for Grampa’s Waterfall Skate Jam.”


2013 Songwriter Calendar from Curator, $30

He also recommends Curator’s 2013 songwriter calendar “because everyone loves Stevie Nicks, right?” You’ll also find portraits of Nina Simone, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, and Johnnie Cash.





Wood Cutting Boards, $90-$160

Julie Cloutier from General Store has ideas for the chef and the jewelry junky in your life. For the kitchen, Luke Bartels’ handcrafted, “elegantly shaped wood cutting boards,” would make a gorgeous addition to any countertop. Plus, double as a classy surface on which to serve cheese, or perhaps some bootleg foie gras.



Pt. Reyes Hoop Earrings, $75-$85

Available in different sizes in silver or gold, Julie also suggests the Pt. Reyes Hoops from Gravel & Gold, because everyone knows that the fastest way to a woman’s heart is through her pierced earlobes.





Katz and Company’s Organic Artisan Olive Oil, $25

Jamie Kidson and Adrienne Armstrong of Oakland’s Atomic Garden have chef suggestions that pair nicely with The General Store’s cutting boards—a nice bottle of Katz and Company’s Organic Artisan Olive Oil from Market Hall in Rockridge.



Teak Pie Server, $38

Atomic Garden’s Teak Pie Server comes sweetly wrapped with a 100% linen dish cloth and is one of many lovely kitchen and home items available at this Rockridge shop.





San Francisco Map, $50

For the San Francisco expat (who mostly likely moved to New York or LA), Giselle Gyalzen of Rare Device suggests a print of Jennifer Maravillas’ San Francisco Map, a colorful addition to any ex-local’s (or local’s) art collection.



Anchor Denim Duffle Bag, $40

Giselle also suggests the Anchor Denim Duffle Bag from San Franpsycho, a shop that showcases local artists’ work through hand-screened items from clothes to dog wear. The cool anchor makes this bag perfect for hard-to-please teenagers.



Now that you’ve checked the chefs, bosses, nature and art lovers, travelers, jewelry junkies, expats, and moody teenagers off your list, it’s time to treat yourself. You need a new bag to cart around all those gifts, don’t you? Happy holiday shopping to all, and to all a good bag.

For more ideas on where to shop, check out KQED’s extensive list of local venues.

– By Kristin Farr

During the Holidays, 9 Ways to Volunteer

Here in the Bay Area we have a lot to be grateful for. We don’t need air conditioners, we’re surrounded by stream of cultural events and stunning landscapes on all sides, we have Sergio Romo and Buster Posey. With so much to be thankful for, why not give back to the community by volunteering this holiday season? For those who want to get out there but aren’t sure where to start, here are nine great places you can volunteer. And don’t forget to sign up with friends!


Project Open Hand was launched in 1985 by Ruth Brinker, who realized that many people suffering from HIV/AIDS were dying from malnutrition. Her home-delivered meals program grew and grew and now serves people in San Francisco and Alameda Counties with many different serious illnesses that cause them to be homebound. It has also expanded to serve seniors. Volunteering with Project Open Hand is not just about giving food to people who can’t feed themselves, but it is about getting out in the community and talking to people who may not have any other visitors all day.


Glide Memorial Church is a San Francisco institution that welcomes people of all races, faiths, and opinions. Through their many programs, they try to break cycles of poverty and addiction and create a community that’s open and supportive of everyone. A great thing about Glide is that a large part of their work is done by volunteers and by getting involved, you can have a great impact and meet a lot of awesome people. Also, they have a bunch of holiday volunteer opportunities, serving meals, sorting toys and giving away grocery bags, so no excuses! Grab your friends and start helping out!


Since 1977 MCCLA has been working to promote Latino cultural expression in the Mission District of San Francisco through programs and activities representative of Latin American traditions. Since its inception, it has been driven by volunteers and community support. This year, you could be part of that community by leafleting, setting up or working as an usher for one their many events, maybe even their Holiday Youth Mariachi Concert on December 14 or Navidad Negra on January 5!


Want to do your volunteering outside? The California State Parks need you! With so many cuts to funding, our parks need volunteers now more than ever. Get out in the woods and help as a volunteer docent, helping visitors understand the cultural, natural and recreational resources of the parks, or get dirty maintaining trails, removing exotic plants, enhancing native plants or cleaning up beaches. Anything you do in one of California’s beautiful parks is guaranteed to not only be rewarding but also, a lot of fun.


Volunteer at the Second Harvest food bank. From sorting food in the warehouse, to education and outreach, to working in the office, to food distribution, help the food bank out in the way that makes most sense for you. For many things, volunteers only need to be 14 or older! So bring your family and help your community eat well this holiday season.


Another way to get outdoors is by volunteering at the Bay Area Discovery Museum. If you love being creative, kids or just have a lot of extra energy, this might be the perfect opportunity for you. Over the holidays the museum has volunteer opportunities of all kinds, from greeting to guiding people through exhibits to working the store. Not to mention you get to be in beautiful Sausalito.


Most would agree that we owe a pretty big debt of gratitude to the men and women who fight for us overseas. During the holidays this year, why not help the Veterans Administration make the lives of wounded, ill and elderly veterans a little easier by taking one of their many volunteer assignments? Whatever your skills or area of interest, there is always something you can do. From playing music to escorting patients to appointments to driving vans, there are a million ways you can serve those who served you.


Okay, what you really want to do is play with cute animals, right? Then join the SF SPCA in its mission to find homes for homeless animals by being part of Macy’s Holiday Windows! Pets, helping out and the holidays: the perfect combination.


Supporting cultural institutions is important and the San Francisco Ballet needs your help! Their BRAVO program has many different ways you can help, from translations, to administrative support to helping out with the Nutcracker during the Ballet’s busiest time of year while getting to meet staff and dancers and learn what goes on behind the scenes that makes a ballet run. It’s not just a great way to serve the community — it’s also really fun!

You can find many more volunteering opportunities at Bay Area Volunteer Information Center.

– By Lizzy Acker

How to Live Big in a Small Space in San Francisco

Flickr: SuzetteSuzette

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance allowing the building of apartments as small as 220 square feet. Whether those apartments get built or not, many Bay Area residents likely live in a small space — either a small studio, an in-law in the basement or one bedroom in a house divided among roommates.

Below are 10 tips for making the most of a small space, culled from Forum’s interview with Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan, founder of ApartmentTherapy and author of Apartment Therapy’s Big Book of Small, Cool Spaces and Miranda Jones, style editor for Sunset Magazine.

  1. BE SELECTIVE ABOUT YOUR SPACE. “Not all spaces are created equally,” said Jones. “If you’ve got natural light, high ceilings, and natural materials in the apartment, you’re going to feel as though you’re living well even though you’re living small.”
  1. EDIT, EDIT, EDIT. “Keeping your items very well edited” is one of the top things to keep in mind when living in a small or unusual space. That means when you bring something into your apartment, you bring something out. It’s about quality versus quantity.
  1. TIDY UP!  “In a way, large spaces just allow you to be lazy,” said Gillingham-Ryan, “and to not have to deal with stuff until much later when your space fills up. With most everybody, after about seven years they have a clutter problem. With a smaller space it just comes a lot quicker.” Jones also recommended keeping surfaces clean, because tabletops and countertops are usually not abundant in small apartments.
  1. TAKE SOME TASKS OUT OF THE HOUSE. If you live in a small space, chances are you are going to have to call on your surrounding neighborhood to fill some of your needs. Nature and laundromats are a given, but even some tasks may just be better suited elsewhere. Gillingham-Ryan recalls that after married and became a father, he started doing bills and other paperwork at his office. “Your home doesn’t have to be everything, all the time,” he said.
  1. MAXIMIZE EVERY INCH. “All unused space is fair game,” said Jones. “You’ve got to take your storage vertical, you’ve got to prop up your bed so you have extra storage under there. When space is at such a premium, Jones said you have to look at it differently. “Every door is a possible storage location.”
  1. MULTI-TASK (OR BUY ITEMS THAT DO). “Because there is no room for anything extra, everything has to do two jobs,” said Jones. “Your dining room table is also your office space.” Indeed, this video tour through a small Airstream trailer and micro-apartment shows that multi-tasking is a key element to making small spaces work.
  1. BUY BUILT-INS. Gillingham-Ryan is a fan of built-in features like shelves and drawers. “Spend your money on built-ins whenever possible because built-ins are wall-to-wall, they suck up all the space and you can use every inch,” said Gillingham-Ryan. “And visually, it creates a lot less busy space.”
  1. LET THE LIGHT IN. “Light is what makes a space feel expansive,” said Gillingham-Ryan. “I always tell people, ‘Three points of light to every room.’ It doesn’t seem like a lot but every client I’ve ever worked with has had trouble getting to two.”
  1. USE MIRRORS. “I’ve seen people over the years use mirrors in such incredibly inventive ways,” said Gillingham-Ryan. “They not only reflect light, they expand the space that they’re in. They can make the space brighter and just remove that sense of wall that is there otherwise.”
  1. PLAY WITH PAINT.  Light colors are key. “It doesn’t have to be white, it can be off-white,” said Gillingham-Ryan. “There’s still color in off-white.There’s a lot you can do between warm and cool colors. They can really change the feeling of a space.” In fact, Gillingham suggests that something as simple as a difference between off-white and regular white can make your room feel larger.  “If you do a bright white on the ceiling and an off-white on the walls, there’s a separation between wall and ceiling,” said Gillingham-Ryan. “It will make your walls feel taller.”

– By Amanda Stupi