Mademoiselle Colette …Part Deux!


816 Santa Cruz Ave. * Menlo Park CA 94025 * 650-644-8469 * ( Also locations in Palo Alto and Redwood City! ) *

Part 2! We’ll always have Pandemic ( Scroll down or click here for part one! )

”We’ll pretend we’re in Paris!” I gleefully hollered into the phone. Mom agreed with  my ladies-who-lunch plan. I’d drive to The Sequoias, scoop her up, and we’d lounge at Colette’s cute sidewalk tables ; munching on soup, half sandwiches…and French mini pies!

I was racing against the clock with this caper. Recently I’d gotten whiff of a virus in Wuhan, and, viruses doing what comes naturally to them – travel around and piss everybody off – I had no faith this one would go against type and sit still. Mom’s senior living place also had the sensible habit of locking down whenever the flu came knocking, so whooshing off to Paris sooner rather than later was the call. Mademoiselle Colette’s came immediately to mind; they are nearby, and, with germs starting to sprinkle the news, I couldn’t forget barging into Colette’s sparkling civility right after seeing a man who was on his computer, picking his nose, and eating it. YUGH!!! Mademoiselle Colette’s immediately cleansed me of that experience, and now I wanted to return with Mom to that cafe of sanity before all hell broke loose.

We almost made it. The day before we were to go, Seniors were required/strongly suggested to stay at home for their safety. I thought about mom-napping her out the back door of her apartment, but decided I didn’t want to be that asshole. What if she got sick? What if we brought bad guy germs back to The Sequoias? What if nose picking man decided to skulk around Colette’s when we were there? No problem, I thought. I’ll bring Paris to her. Go to Colette’s, pick up soup and sandwiches and mini pies, and we’ll dine in. That didn’t happen either. The Sequoias moved faster on Covid-19 than Yeager on his best day. No visitors to the dining room. Within one day, no visitors, period.

And that’s how we find ourselves locked down and venturing out in masks and gloves for essential errands and, if you’re me, thanking the gods that The Sequoias threw Thor’s Hammer at Covid-19 and said ( my words not theirs ) “ We thank you for your interest but will all outsiders please stay the hella far freaking away until this has passed.” Guess what – no coronavirus at Sequoias barring one poor employee. I bow before greatness!

At The Sequoias, meals are parceled out to every single apartment a healthy 3x a day, which is a safe and grinding marathon of insanity for the staff. The rest of us are at home eating too much. I pat myself on my back for my prescient quote, “ In a world of hurt, no one can disagree on the idea of PIE.” Besides toilet paper what do the stores keep running out of? FLOUR! Okay, a lot of people are baking bread. But you know what I mean. COMFORT EATING. No time like a pandemic for pie. And nowadays when you bake something, you can’t really share it outside your household. It’s ALL FOR YOU. Ask my expanding ass how I know this.

It’s now been over two months, and The Sequoias has recently allowed things to be dropped off for residents at the front desk. Mom figured  we could wave and jump up and down from across the room, but what would be our excuse? Well…Mademoiselle Colette’s is open for takeout….how about a French pie delivery?!


C’est la vie


Not so fast. Turns out dropping goods at Mom’s Operation Foxhole – and I’m not kidding, Sequoia’s informed all residents they were going ‘Operation Foxhole ‘ – requires planning like an OCD military strategist.  I thought this through and came up with the following. With mask on : a) Break quarantine. Drive 1 hr to Colette’s. Must get gas on the way. Stop at gas station, keep keys in car and pay first, toss wallet in car and then gloves on. Fill ‘er up and toss gloves. Sanitize. B) Colette’s. Shove keys in pocket. Don gloves. Socially distance buy mini pies. C) Dang it have to pee. Do I pee at Colette’s. Is that allowed. Do I take off my gloves to pee. If I pee there with gloves on then do I toss them in the garbage and use a towel to open the door. Now the bag/box with pie in it is germy. Or gloves off for bathroom break. Gee if I use the restroom at Colette’s what’s the point in wearing gloves in the first place. If no restroom use then walk back to car, take off ONE glove, remove keys with ungloved hand, open car, take off other dirty glove and put both gloves in their to-toss place in car. Wait now I’ve just germed the Colette’s box. Sanitize the box. Sanitize the bag. Sanitize my hands again. D) Drive to Sequoias. Call mom to meet me at the front desk. This gets tricky as she likely won’t remember the rules. Convince her to meet me maybe at the front. E) Shove keys in pocket.  New gloves on. Drop off mini pies! Security re-sanitizes the box. See mom and have staff probably hold her back. Wave and jump up and down. Instruct her on walking up to pick up the box all while social distancing. No problem, new rules are easy for seniors. F) If I didn’t pee at Colette’s, dang it. Can I pee here. Is that a good idea. Do I wear gloves or not. G) Decide locating a tree is a better idea. Go back to car, deja vu. Take off one glove, remove keys from pocket, open car with ungloved hand, take off other glove and put in dirty glove toss pile, sanitize hands. H) Drive to park around the corner. Hike up trail and hope to veer off. Find a tree. Watch for rattlesnakes and hikers. Walk way far to find a spot. Now back to car, sanitize, check for ticks. I) 1 hour home. Strip. All clothes in laundry and shower with tick re-check.

 That’s a day well spent. I’d offer you a graph with stick figures and arrows but you get the idea.  But you know what…I’m slounging here in PJ’s pigging out and fantasizing about putting on flattering clothes – if they still fit – and a fancy hat, posturing at a sidewalk cafe watching the world go by while I eat a French tart displayed on a doily. Maybe sipping something bubbly. Until that day is possible, I can put on that fancy hat and bring Paris to mom. Mademoiselle Colette’s is worth it.



I dream of sparkling pecan pie

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Surfing and Strolling near Mademoiselle Colette

SURFING: As the crow flies from Colette’s , you’ll find yourself just south of Mavericks, and just north of a place nicknamed, ‘ Don’t Eat Us Creek. ‘ A more reasonable (flat!) spot is just south of Mavs I’m gonna call Demented Hitchhiker. Thanks to upwellings there, the water is particularly icy and you might find yourself unable to change or get into your car because your hands are frozen. Of course you parked right off the highway, so every single passing motorist sees you jumping up and down waving your arms in circles trying to get circulation back. For twenty minutes. YOU are Demented Hitchhiker.

STROLLING: Wunderlich Park and Windy Hill Preserve are kinda sorta nearby! Lovely hikes but for gods’ sake don’t fool yourself into thinking you don’t need a map. ” Just an out and back,” you might think. Ha! No! Windy Hill Preserve is now named for the wind between my ears when I decide I’m an experienced hiker and am going to improv a route. Pro tip; after these kinds of tours, extra pie is required.


Mademoiselle Colette


816 Santa Cruz Ave. * Menlo Park CA 94025 * 650-644-8469 * ( Also locations in Palo Alto and Redwood City! *)

PART 1! Prelude to Catastrophe, Saved by Pie

“ Today is gonna suck “ – internal whining – “ I better get pie. “ Literally thought while skulking abou-I mean running essential errands in downtown Menlo Park.

Shortly thereafter I was supposed to go to mom’s place, grab her, drive her to a neuropsychologist appointment that I had made, be informed of the totally not shocking ‘news’ that she had memory problems, deal with the aftermath, and drive her back home. And why did I make that appointment? Because she bailed on the first one – she was buying overseas plane tickets instead. Good one mom. Her medical system called me and insisted she come, thus I was complicit and pissed off to be shoe-horned into this most cruel of mom-nappings. Damn right today was gonna suck. Days like today were meant for PIE.

I walked into Colette’s stunned by the sophisticated ambiance. It was immaculate. It was refined. It was everything I am not, BUT, I reassure myself, I am not so bad as the human blarg I’d encountered only minutes before. Waiting in a restroom line at a coffee shop, I (and plenty) were treated to the sight of  icky patron’s  head shoved in his computer, picking his nose, and eating it. Seriously what the fuck people. Couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I shot across the street into Colette’s, feeling unworthy of the cleanliness, as if I’d been tainted somehow. The transition was incredible.

*AAAAAA!* The angels sing. Oh there was pie all right. Mini pies of pumpkin and apple and pecan with golden nuts.



Midmorning midweek and Colette’s was packed with ALL WOMEN barring a few kitchen staff and one lone feller looking a tad uneasy. Inside and outdoors, ladies eating dessert and socializing in this pristine oasis. Had I stumbled into the secret sanctuary of pissed-off -grossed-out women?

I so wanted to sit down and stay. Invite myself to join a cluster of my brethren. Never leave. But I had the devil’s deed to carry out so I bought a mini apple pie for mom and two mini lemon cakes for myself and Mr. Rapunzel Pie Snatchers. ( Tantalizing tale for another day. )

I presented mom with her mini apple pie and it was a hit! The pie was adorable, the pie was scrumptious, even the pie’s box was cute with flowers drawn on all sides. Thus fortified we were able to put up with the rest of the day’s absurdities.

Where to begin. Apres pie, ( THANK GOD ) for mom’s appointment we drove to a world famous university’s neurology clinic, which, it turns out, you need a homing pigeon to find. Once you navigate the twisting roads and lack of signs and park the car in the confusing garage and locate the place for the ticket and wander around looking for the front door of the building, you simply walk in. Stand there twisting your head around until a helper directs you to a counter off to the side, where you are handed a pile of papers to ‘read’ ( HA ) and sign and then you must promise to pay them a gazillion dollars. Take a piece of paper with a barcode on it. Locate the restroom which is fully automated and try to explain via spastic waving of hands under the robo sink how it operates, thus confusing the elderly person with cognitive issues even further. Hop in the elevator and joke that the point of this neurological clinic is to create cognitive issues – by the time you stumble into your appointment, you present as scrambled brains. Hop off at your floor – and this is important – have no human interaction whatsoever. You’re supposed to swipe your barcode under the barcode reader – helpfully tacked on some side wall – and sit down in a waiting room devoid of any living thing barring some flowers which you want to kiss in gratitude. There is one clear sign though – a huge banner advertising how great said university’s medical offices are. Fantasize about ripping the banner to shreds. Now – ah! A human being. This is the doctor and she takes you to a windowless room with no soul and gently informs your mom that she is doing SUPER but … has some wee problems learning new things. It’s a dumbfounding session because of course every info and tip mom is told, she will forget. Realize that the doc has chickened out giving the actual news to the point she hasn’t even entered it on mom’s medical record.  Now we’re personally escorted out because the exit sign is written so small it’s unreadable unless you have found the exit already.

“ Let’s have a follow-up in 6 months!” The doctor suggests.

“Like hell’”, I promised myself. I find it completely fascinating that a department devoted to Alzheimer’s and cognitive issues could design a system guaranteed to drive anyone with neurological problems – and those accompanying these patients – absolutely batshit. They truly fucking nailed it. My theory is they spent so much time trying to be CLEVER, and then bragging about how clever and modern they are, but in no step of the process was anyone who ACTUALLY HAD EXPERIENCE WITH COGNITIVE DISORDERS a part of the planning process. But who cares! Look how shiny and new and smart this building is!


Debora Ferrand; owner, founder, save-the-dayer


 Sorry, rant off. We don’t have to go to Neuro-Psycho department again unless we absolutely must. We can choose to go or not go. And now we have Mademoiselle Collete’s near mom’s place, where we can exercise our best choices ; what pie to order!

I bid farewell to mom and proceeded to haul 2 Colette mini lemon cakes up to Rapunzel Pie Snatcher’s . Only 4200 ft elevation change and 365 turns in 7 miles and they survived intact! Wowzers! Later we tried to…replicate?…these lemon cakes by baking lemon oatmeal cookies. Inspired, but sans the sheer charm of Colette’s pastries.

This entry sings adieu on a two note song: one lowly ominous, one literally high. Unbeknownst to us, a premonition day of witnessing dear people working in a health care system that was utterly useless…and a day that was saved on the high note…pie! Pie in the sky!

Continue to Part Two…

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Surfing and Strolling near Mademoiselle Collete

SURFING: As the crow flies from Collete’s , you’ll find yourself just south of Mavericks, and just north of a place nicknamed, ‘ Don’t Eat Us Creek. ‘ A more reasonable (flat!) spot is just south of Mavs I’m gonna call Demented Hitchhiker. Thanks to upwellings there, the water is particularly icy and you might find yourself unable to change or get into your car because your hands are frozen. Of course you parked right off the highway, so every single passing motorist sees you jumping up and down waving your arms in circles trying to get circulation back. For twenty minutes. YOU are Demented Hitchhiker.

STROLLING: Wunderlich Park and Windy Hill Preserve are kinda sorta nearby! Lovely hikes but for gods’ sake don’t fool yourself into thinking you don’t need a map. ” Just an out and back,” you might think. Ha! No! Windy Hill Preserve is now named for the wind between my ears when I decide I’m an experienced hiker and am going to improv a route. Pro tip; after these kinds of tours, extra pie is required.

Butter Love Bakeshop


3717 Balboa St * San Francisco CA * 94121 *

Owners Esa and husband Josh have been chefs for years, and like the name indicates, they are Big on Butter. And big on PIE!! It took me nearly literally stumbling into their sign, absent-minded-professory chugging down the sidewalk, to ‘find’ Butter Love. ” Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy PIE…which is pretty much the same thing. ” The sandwich board declared.

Of course I went in and bought happiness I mean  pie. And what selections! They make SO MANY, here is the list. You name it they got it:


I can’t remember what I got THAT time, which is no matter because once seen on a street I visit often, Butter Love cannot not be unseen.


Hooligan’s walkie spot is so near Butter Love! Thanks Hoolie!


Now every time I’m around I get more nuggets of wisdom – they’re kind of like street pie fortune cookies;  ” Skinny people are easy to kidnap. Stay safe. Eat Pie.” For safety’s sake one must obey! ” Stress spelled backwards is DESSERTS “, they inform. My god the wisdom.

Speaking of stressed that’s what a family potluck reunion is, which is why I ordered an entire berry pie for a small family reunion. It almost got hijacked as I screwed up my address numbers – me cognitize good – and rang a stranger’s doorbell, standing out front with an entire pie in hand. Nobody answered which is too bad for them! They almost won at life that day.

Let me tell you, there were several great desserts at the reunion and which one got totally devoured?! Butter Love Pie. They’re going to save my bacon for every family event from now on. As well as drop in when I go to the bank on that street. And the hardware store. And getting walked by Hooligan. And if I happen to be in the neighborhood…

Let’s finish here on Butter Love Bakeshop’s mantra, they sum it up best; ..for the love of butter, Make Pie, Buy Pie, and Eat Pie!

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 SURFING and STROLLING near Butter Love Bakeshop

[ Pie tastes better when you’re hungry ]

Mt Hamilton Apple Disaster & Tuscan Apocalypse Pies


Lick Observatory * 7281 Mt. Hamilton Rd. * Mt. Hamilton CA 94140 *

Two pies, two different dates, one place!

Now that you’ve clicked on the link above, you have deduced that there is no bakery on Mt. Hamilton. Up here the Lick Observatory can observe star bakeries – (I’m sure astronomers would LOVE that phrase instead of ‘star nurseries’ ) – and one lonely vending machine which definitely does not dispense pie. But there is a way to get pie here; pay attention singles – get romantically involved with an observatory employee.

Easier said than done. In my case I ended up with Rapunzel Pie Snatchers due to a cosmic soup of a chalk mural, Astrid’s grand driveway camping adventure, and the nepotistic advantage of having a Great Grandparent be the Lick director for 29 years. Needless to say there is a lot of ancestral woo-woo around these parts. And now I find myself cooking in a kitchen that is only slightly younger than the ancestors, on the same land where they also used to live, and um, bake.

To understand what cooking here means, you first must meet The Juggernaut. That’s Rapunzel Pie Snatcher’s infamous oven.



Juggernaut definition via inter web; ‘a huge, powerful, and overwhelming force or institution’, and, ‘ a massive inexorable force, campaign, movement, or object that crushes whatever is in its path.’ And my favorite, ‘ Juggernaut is one of the strongest beings in the universe. He is often able to best Thor and Hulk in battle, as even the strongest incarnations of Hulk cannot overpower Juggernaut.’

You have to do whatever Juggernaut wants. This means Juggernaut decides his own temperature and you need a thermometer inside the oven, which doesn’t correspond to the numbers on the dials. For example, if you set a dial to 200, that really means Juggernaut is set at around 425….or not…..maybe the temp will go up and down…or not….You also need to click dials twice to turn them on, and “ DON’T STAND TOO CLOSE TO THE OVEN WHEN YOU OPEN IT!”  Rapunzel Pie Snatchers warns. Without observing the proper rituals, Juggernaut may require a sacrifice, like your eyebrows.  Despite the quirks I enjoy cooking with Juggernaut, maybe because  I’m quirky too and – a-hem! – dangerous. All the adventure you need, right at home.

 I set out to cook Mt Hamilton Apple Disaster Pie, and totally nailed it as far as desecrating directions go. No single step of this recipe was achieved within scientific method or reason.  Changed the butter to vegan, replaced the pastry flour with two other kinds you’re not REALLY supposed to use in pie,  chucked in random apples, overdid every spice within reach, rolled the dough with a floured water bottle on a 2/3 sized board. Threw the lot at the mercy of Juggernaut, which, by the way, also involved flapping Juggernaut’s mouth ( okay the door ) open and closed to regulate the temperature within 100 degrees of normal – not unlike those movie servants using giant fans to cool off the Roman emperor. And it turned out great! Mt Hamilton Disaster Pie was NOT a disaster! Juggernaut was pleased with my method of madness and blessed us with a heart festooned pie. Aww.

No problem, I thought. Now onto savory pies.

The God was not pleased. Tuscan Apocalypse pie was precisely that – a natural disaster. For  hours I was cooking tomato sauce from scratch, sautéing organic veggies, browning vegan sausages, slicing vegan cheese and sprinkling Tuscan herbs like fairy dust into the mix. Recreating the same dough as before, and FOLLOWING DIRECTIONS TO THE LETTER.

I’ve made hand pies before – Thanks to Victoria at Victoria’s Last Resort! – and they were fabulous. Not this time. Juggernaut seems to prefer free will and chaos. Tuscan Apocalypse Pies were more akin to Apocalypse Crumbles, or what would happen if a pizza and a calzone got into a fight to the death.

“ Look away!” I hollered at Rapunzel Pie Snatchers. “ But take a bite.” Tuscan Pie Apocalypse WAS absolutely delicious, I’ll give it that, but you couldn’t look it in the eye  – or shoot, take a peep AT ALL – in order to eat. Lesson learned; despite being located at a scientific research center, my pies here are best cooked as per my usual method  – by doing what makes the least amount of sense.

Oh, more Mt Hamilton Disaster Pie WILL be made – and it’ll be made via collaboration between the quirks of Juggernaut and myself. In homage to this promise, here is a take on a brilliant Lick Observatory photo from Laurie Hatch ( I’m sorry!! )


NOT BRAINS! It’s Pie Moon, people!

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Surfing and Strolling at Lick Observatory

SURFING: Nothing of the sort.

STROLLING: Yeah! There’s a self-guided walking tour with informative signs. One of them them even features my Great Grandfather piercing his eyes out the side of the photo, which is cool and gives me the willies at the same time. Also public tours Thurs-Sun and some evenings, check the website for details. And a semi resident like me can bop all over the place, though being at the top of a mountain, EVERY walk starts with the reward downhill first, and then huffing back up. This exhaustive hiking style is how pie is inspired on Mt. Hamilton.


The Grove


1 Henry Adams St * San Francisco CA 94103 * 415-834-5105 *

Grove’s Pie was the fun result of a chain of failed tasks.

First I was called in to jury duty, trials meaning that somebody failed somewhere and it’s a matter of deciding which party failed worse. Then I failed to bring my hearing aids, remembering, ” Well this will be interesting”, on the ride to court. In the jury holding pen, a bunch of us failed to sit on the floor, not for lack of trying you see, but we were told we were not allowed because, and I quote, ” SITTING ON THE FLOOR IS DANGEROUS.” What.


Arrest me now. I’m wearing the proper safety precautions.


“Where do I sit?” one woman gestured to the capacity room. It was suggested to stand, but whatever we do, not to imperil ourselves putting butt to ground.  My lagging faith in America….down 8 more points.

I failed to report to the correct courtroom, but not before bringing the entire jury  picking process to a halt when it was noticed I was the lone outlier. Note to self: don’t forget hearing aids in public. Then a walk of shame to the assigned courtroom, where I failed to show up on time thanks to my little misguided tour. I failed to make the jury – who doesn’t want a pissed-off hearing-impaired juror on their trial – and was booted out the door.

Now I had 14 minutes to hoof it to a nearby bakery. You knew I wouldn’t go all the way to court without researching nearby pie! I strode past bail bond and pawn shops, climbing the class ladder up through hardware stores,  foofier hardware dealers,  and design stores featuring befuddling ‘concept’ bean bags. In 4 blocks the rate of change was so vast, if I was the Enterprise, I’d be speeding warp 9.

Bakery closed! Boy were they in a hurry. I pressed my nose to the window in case a clerk was avoiding detection by ducking behind the counter. Yes maybe I failed to arrive on the EXACT dot, but in this case I’ll claim they failed because who doesn’t need a baked treat after jury duty!

Thwarted, I shuffled past more perplexing display furniture towards the nearest street corner, to catch a cab. ‘Lo, there at the intersection sat The Grove. This restaurant just had a Pie Look about it.  Score!

Said savior is a roomy  restaurant that coins itself as ‘San Francisco’s living room’, which makes sense because it’s such a large and comfy space, and you kinda have to walk through San Francisco’s bathroom to get there. The front counter had plenty of delectables, and I walked out with boysenberry and cran-apple slices.  Awesome duo of sweet and tart.  Reward!


Am I guilty?! Damn right. Guilty of being a crap juror. Guilty of gratuitous caloric intake. Guilty of spontaneous pie FUN. Shoot, that’s  a lot of  guilty technicalities.  Come to think of it, those crimes make me not feel guilty at all! HA! Thank you, Grove.

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Click here for Surfing and Strolling near The Grove

( Pies tastes better when you’re hongry )

The Sequoias


*501 Portola Rd * Portola Valley CA 94028 *  (650) 851-1501 *

Words of warning; this is not a bakery. This is not a restaurant. It is a metaphorically named retirement home with lovely grounds and people – shoot I’d move in  – and a business logo of trees that can push 3000 years of age what are they really saying with this choice of icon again?

Living 3000 years is out of reach for us, but scoring pie at The Sequoias is easy. All you have to do is lose a parent, be in daily telephone or personal contact with the other, have meetings in person and by phone with social workers, caretakers, lawyers, financial planners, tour a couple retirement homes, have retirement home meetings,  have real estate agent meetings, sort out things for the remaining parent to keep,  sort them out multiple times because they’re getting dementia, empty a 2500 square foot house that’s been lived in for 42 years, empty 6 storage units, discover The World’s Most Ironic Object, curse hoarders,  praise professional movers, get the parent moved – sort of, they do tend to run about – start jollying back and forth with furniture, your back, and your truck,  and prepare the house for sale. Then fork over six digits and you have….PIE. Voila. What could be simpler.

Okay The Sequoias Pie was pure luck. But what timing! The day mom moved we decided to….celebrate?…by dragging ourselves to dinner in the main hall. What was for dessert? Pie!! Also by pure luck we were invited to share a table with the lady on the food board – hooooeee she gets it done – and an eagle-eyed woman who is a parent of a high school classmate of mine, which felt both cool and very awkward at the same time.

I delightfully couldn’t believe they were serving pie for my mom’s first night, and chalked it up to a sign from the gods. The effort of reaching that point and then stumbling into a mini high school reunion complete with pie slathered me in a surreal glaze. “Where am I?” I thought. ” What am I? Where does this pie come from?” Then I realized I’d slipped into a Gauguin painting:


I’d prefer Tahiti

Mom and I both had a slice of strawberry raspberry and offered more fine slices ’round the table. In-charge-of-food-lady admitted that some pie was made on premises and some was bought off-site. Frankly that pie could have the taste and texture of lemon worms and I would have cared less. Hooray for pie! Cap off the evening!

Now a shoutout; all elderly caretakers are badasses, and should be paid like badasses too. If you take care of my mother –  I LOVE YOU. Here is a portrait of an anonymous Sequoias employee, posing in front of one of the six storage units:



The Angel is waving an alluded-to-treasure: the World’s Most Ironic Object. This gem was unearthed whilst spelunking through the storage units, 4 bedroom house, attic, 3 garage storage rooms, and 600 sq. foot office/library with kitchen and bath.  Zero words were sarcastically added to enhance the emotive effect. Direct photo trace:



I feel like I found the One True Ring.

After all that hullabaloo – not to mention 8 tons of dust and many spiders EEK – living to a desiccated 3000 years might be easier than earning pie at the Sequoias. I’ll still choose the long as there’s pie at the end!

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Surfing and Strolling at The Sequoias

SURFING: Um. Over the hill? I went couch surfing while taking care of a family situation nearby. Each couch surf location is geared for the individual so you’re on your own for this one.

STROLLING: Windy Hill Preserve is RIGHT THERE! So is Wunderlich Park which is lovely. Watch for horse poo.

Palo Alto Creamery


566 Emerson St. * Palo Alto CA 94301 * 650-323-3131 *

  Stating the obvious here, when visiting family who are batshit crazy challenging, it’s a wise idea to have the closest pie stop mapped out. Being a dim bulb, it took many years and a dental cleaning before I  took advantage of the pie situation at Palo Alto Creamery. I also had trouble finding it, which is not the fault of me being an idiot but because Palo Alto has changed SO very much I recognized nothing and was walking up and down streets, confused. Hone your map reading skills and with patience and good walking shoes you should be okay.

The reward for wandering about is stepping into the time warp that is Palo Alto Creamery. This joint is a good ol’ fashioned DINER that – duh – serves meals, and also has a gigantic selection of baked goodies and PIE. Apple, Cherry, Blueberry, Banana Cream, Key Lime, Lemon Cream Cheese, Chocolate Pecan, plus seasonal pies; Peach, Strawberry Rhubarb, Mixed Berry, and Pumpkin. Phew I’m hyperventilating! They also featured a most mysterious ‘Whoopie Pie’ which looks like a giant oreo, sounds like adult fun, and could be something to wear on a really hot date. Next time.

Immediately after a nearby dental appointment , I made a beeline for the Creamery neighborhood. It was crucial I choose pies to inflict maximum damage on my gleaming chompers right away.  Thus I waltzed out with two GINORMOUS slices of apple and blueberry. Everything about their pies is huge. The apple looked so poofy it could have doubled as a hot air balloon, and the blueberry was a …a…it’s indescribable really, but it was a BLOCK of blueberries. I’ve never seen so many blueberries in one dish in my life.


Blueberry Pie a la the Smile Factory

Being thorough, I’m happy to announce that Palo Alto Creamery’s pies are suitable with Dinner, Breakfast, Lunch, and Snack. There’s so much fruit you can overtop your daily vitamin C needs, and if you want to turn your entire mouth blue – or shoot, everything you’re wearing blue if you’re exuberant,  the blueberry pie is primo.

In addition to pie, Palo Alto  has another secret gem of a Smile Factory. Every time I visit I sneak out and walk by one particular artist’s house, and stare. It’s another ‘old school’ home ( rare! ) and the front yard is BONKERS with small animal and people statues, bottle trees, mosaics, FUN STUFF. Each visit I see something different, and it’s always changing. Hence on this page we’ve got goofy pictures of somebody else’s nifty art.  Rain or shine, this place is magic and I’d like to meet the owner and give her a hug. And some pie.


Smears on painfully overwrought art courtesy of west swell closeouts @ Home Break

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Surfing and Strolling near Palo Alto Creamery

Surfing: I think people mainly do ‘net surfing here.

Strolling: Getting turned around trying to find Palo Alto Creamery is one stroll. There’s also Baylands and, frankly, wandering around looking at people’s gardens is really enjoyable. But my favorite stroll by far is swinging by the artists’s house mentioned above. This hike is a loop starting anywhere you wish, but the apex is always the same magic place. For privacy’s sake I won’t give the address – yeah so WHY did I mention it in the first place, right?!! ( “What an asshole”, you think .) If you’re really super interested and are not remotely creepy, message me and I’ll share hints.


Shampa’s Pies


1625 Palmetto Ave * Pacifica CA 94044 * 415-412-3592 *


It was the balloons that finally enlightened me.

 Shampa’s Pies’ storefront is located a measly half mile from my work place, which I was oblivious to until I stopped by the pet food store next door – for the umpteenth time mind you – and sensed something different. What could it beeee…..ah! There were balloons festooning the parking lot entrance. In grey foggy Pacifica, colorful balloons stand out like a Lite Brite in a closet. And THESE balloons had a message; PIE. Plenty of it.

Thus began my never ending taste testing of Shampa’s Pies. I’m sorry to say I can’t list every kind I’ve tried because I’ve eaten so many of their hand pies I’ve, er, lost count. Confession; I’m an extra sucker for hand pies because each one is a single serving dessert, you grab one and covet it alllllll  to yourself. To maintain karma, buy a batch of wee pies and divvy out to loved ones, though this tactic can fail, keep reading.

The latest Shampa’s hand pies purchase I do recall; nectarine blueberry and peach cobbler. I bought three to share, and did give away one, but too much time went by before I located lucky pie gifteee #2 and, well, you know. These things happen.

 Shampa’s Pies itself is the business of Pastry Chef Haruwn Wesley, who named Shampa’s after his mother-in-law, Sheridan. Haruwn is also a wicked surfer, he specializes in boogie board. I’ve tried boogie boarding myself and can assure you that nothing is more exhausting, nor hunger inducing, than paddling out to Home Break on an itty bit o’ foam that moves 127 times slower than the waves barreling towards your head. To boogie Home Break at size is mental and physical aerobic torture, so respecting that as well as his baking skills, here is Haruwn the surfing baker in The Hero Shot:

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( Full disclosure; this pic is photo referenced via Joe McNally of National Geographic. I hope he got pie too. )


 Shampa’s Pies are available for order, and can be picked up at Farmer’s Markets as well as their storefront, being guided by balloons to find them is not required. Simply look HERE.

Thanks for the pies, Shampa’s!

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Surfing and Strolling near Shampa’s Pies

SURFING: Why yes. This isn’t called ‘Pacifica’ for nothing. Wave quality is dependent on tides and number of boards aimed at your head. The best way to maintain sanity is to give into the Force and find a group who will ‘party wave’ everything, thus fun will be reborn. Some choice spots are: A) You are Part of the Problem, where on good days you can actually walk from board to board without touching the water. B) Pebbles Shoved Down My Wetsuit, need I say more. C) Chum Comes from the Sky, not a place you’d want to surf alone and the shore pound is nasty.

HOT TIP #1: You Are Part of the Problem also has a theft problem. My friend’s longboard was ripped off right under her nose while she was changing at dusk. Boo!!

HOT TIP #2: I gargle generously with mouthwash after surfing here. The water can be…itchy.

STROLLING: So much! Look at all those hills with trails! You’ve got McNee Ranch, Sweeney Ridge, Mori Point…Seriously, you can see routes from the highway, so go knock yourself out exploring. Don’t explore the poison oak though! It is EVERYWHERE.


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1410 Main St. * Montara CA 94037 * 650-728-1188

  Looking not unlike a fairy-tale-of-the-not-scary-kind cottage, Montara Cafe & Bakery   serves breakfast, lunch, pastries, and PIE, oh my! I barged past their winsome outdoor patio,  stared at their pie menu, and woe unto me, turns out you have to order pie in advance! Well shoot, if the pies are made to order you know they’re fresh and baked JUST FOR YOU.

 A sympathetic employee suggested a cupcake as they had just been made. Best suggestion ever. These cupcakes look like exotic flowers and are rather scrumptious,  thus via scientific deduction their pies must be the bees knees too. Hmmmm…Thanksgiving pre-order anyone?

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Redvelvetius Cupcakia

 Another employee joined the transaction and all agreed we hadn’t the foggiest idea what was inside Montara Cafe & Bakery’s red velvet cupcake. Not stopping there, comedian employee #2 suggested a ‘cupcake autopsy’. Before you can blurt ‘Jiminy Cricket!’ those two had a cupcake on a slab and tools of the trade ready to slice and dice.


Not for the faint of heart

 I walked out the door giggling to myself  feeling forever grateful that the phrase ‘cupcake autopsy’ is now a vital part of my lexicon. This newfound knowledge is a tip of the iceberg leading to additional questions: When do cupcakes die? When they’re finished baking? WHILE they bake? When they’re eaten? Do cupcakes even DIE, for gods’ sake? Do they have frosted sugary souls? If cupcakes have souls, doesn’t that obviously mean PIE has soul too?? And if we eat pastries with souls, what, heaven forbid, does that make US?!!

I leave you to ponder the mystery.

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Surfing and Strolling near Montara Cafe & Bakery

Surfing: Nobody Surfs the North End is fairly close by. And when I say nobody surfs the north end, I mean not even THIS person, ( ya’ll have to scroll to ‘Bodysurfer’ and read her shark story. )  It’s a wee bit vibey.

Strolling: You can get a fantastic view of Nobody Surfs the North End, as well as everywhere else, on Montara Mountain. Masochistic bikers slog up this hill and will pass you no matter how fast you imagine you’re walking. This is impressive. They deserve pie.



2085 10th St * Los Osos, CA * * 805-528-8956


I LOVE this bakery! Co-owner Michele opened up her closed bakery when she busted me peeping in her window. She then answered a bunch of questions and played along while I snapped loopy pictures. ( See, Michele, I didn’t use the goofiest one! ) There was no pie on hand so I ran off with a bunch of vegan cookies that were FREAKING FABULOUS. How fabulous?  Michele told me they had just received their first huge order; FORTY THOUSAND COOKIES.


Michele beset by 40000 happy cookies

Sweet Alexis is named after Michele’s daughter and co-owner  Alexis, who was born with severe allergies. I had no idea they were life-threatening –  Michele humbly downplayed that detail – until I read their harrowing story HERE .

Nothing like nearly dying to perfect the art of allergy-free baking! Growing up, Alexis couldn’t enjoy the cookies and cakes she saw other kids eating, so she and her mom created a bakery to serve the needs of other similarly afflicted folks. What I adore about this is, while there are options for allergy-friendly, healthy eating ( albeit not always simple to pull off ), the options for allergy-friendly, celebratory treats are scarce. What, people with food allergies can’t have FUN too?! No cookies at school parties? Birthday cakes? Wedding cakes? COME ON!!

Enter Sweet Alexis Bakery.  They create cookies, cupcakes, breads, and cakes. There are several ways to order, including online! Everybody wins!


  • At their WEBSITE ( duh! )
  • At their bakery, 2085 10th St., Los Osos CA
  • At Teaberry Frozen Yogurt Cafe: 847 Higuera St., San Luis Obispo, CA
  • call 805-528-8956 

On another allergy note, most of Sweet Alexis’ goods contain wheat and soy. Since it’s not all, if need be ask for which ones. Other FAQs are HERE.

And I ripped off the following from their website, this might appease some allergy worries:

“All Sweet Alexis Bakery products are produced in a dedicated commercial kitchen on dedicated commercial equipment – peanut free, egg free, tree nut, dairy free.

• WE ARE SCHOOL APPROVED. The Sweet Alexis Bakery is a licensed manufacturer and we are 100% nut free. All products are sealed, labeled and contain all the ingredient and allergen information. The very best part, our products are fresh baked, contain no preservatives and are so delicious no one will know they are allergen friendly. EVERYONE LOVES OUR COOKIES!”

I do love their cookies! In 5 seconds I’m clicking away from here and ordering Lemon Sugar, Ginger, and Chocolate Chocolate Chip.  As a dairy-challenged lass this bakery is the motherlode. Whoopee!

( Sorta ) BONUS:  Michele’s initial sketch appears more smiley and accurate than the inked final. In the name of my ego, here it is:


Ode to a thought process

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Surfing and Strolling near SWEET ALEXIS

SURFING:  I peeked around a bunch of corners and over hills and left with the impression that when surfing around here, one wishes people would leave, or one wishes people would show up. I experienced the latter when I trudged to a vast, empty beach we’ll call Intuitions. It wasn’t working, it was teeny, it was messy, and…well, in my state of surfless delusions, it was paddle-able. It also felt sharky. I shuffled my feet waiting around for a while, kinda sorta hoping someone else would show up. So we could spread the odds, you see. No one did, so I berated my wimpy self back to the Mighty Steed. A week later a shark chomped a surfer’s board at another local beach break. ‘Intuitions’ it is!

STROLLING/KAYAKING: Among other options, Montaña de Oro State Park can double as a hike / surf spot spy center, depending which way one chooses to sneak. I also fell in love with kayaking when I borrowed one and toodled around self-named ‘Elephant Bay.’ As in, never mind the defunct  Morro Bay Power Plant looming over the precious estuary, just look at those birds!