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12.10.08

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Phaedra

COAST GUARD GIRL: The commotion surrounding this shoot in Sausalito actually caused a nautical collision.

Made in the North Bay

Holiday gift ideas created by the neighbors

By Gretchen Giles and Gabe Meline

God, guts and guns might have made America free, but it was girls that made America horny, and there are plenty of 'em in their gun-toting glory in the 2009 California Gun Girls calendar. The recipe is as basic as apple pie: round up a bunch of girls who look like they just came from the makeup counter at Macy's, dress them in military and law enforcement uniforms, and give them large guns to hold—and, oh, one last thing: make sure there are plenty of breasts poppin' out all over. Girls from three months of the year brandish firearms while bending over with ample boobage, nine months of the year are totally unbuttoned and Miss June adapts to the temperature—either from the summer heat or from clutching an M4 Carbine, it's hard to tell—by doing away with a shirt altogether.

I called up Miss June, who doubles as Marin-based Gun Girls calendar producer Ashley Feist. She was initially worried about the improbability of successfully finding models for a gun-centric calendar in the left-leaning Bay Area, "but I was surprised what a great response we got," Feist says, "and how many girls had grown up around firearms. There seems to be an underground community of girls who shoot regularly, but in the Bay Area, it's not necessarily something they talk about."

Feist's husband, Richard, served as technical adviser and "firearms expert" on the project, and he's the reason you'll find appropriate gun-girl match-ups, like the 1950s Navy pinup of Miss October holding an antique Springfield M14. "That's what they would actually use if they were in the Navy," Feist says. "We tried to pair everything up so that it was as authentic as possible."

"As possible" in gun-girl land means bending the rules of authenticity; no one's likely to find a busty highway patrol officer with her shirt popped open anytime soon. That is, unless, one happened in on a Gun Girls photo shoot at select guerrilla locations around the Bay Area, an experience that a group of sailors in Marin aren't likely to forget.

The so-called Coast Guard girl (pictured above) is "actually one of four girls from Sonoma. We shot her on a boat in Sausalito," Feist says. "There was a smaller boat docked right in front of the boat that we were on, with a crew of about 30 guys on it. They all stopped what they were doing and were looking up at her while they were untying the boat and getting ready to take off for the day, and the guy driving the boat put it in reverse, and reversed all the way back into our boat!

The crane fell off, and all this stuff on the back of the boat was destroyed! It was like, 'They're gonna have a hard time explaining that to the boss.'"

The California Gun Girls calendar is available at Marin Firearms (516 Alameda del Prado, Novato; 415.382.9601), Bullseye Shooting Range and Gun Store (1281 Anderson Drive, San Rafael; 415.453.7465) and online at http://www.californiagungirls.com —G.M.


Such a Big Book!

Santa Rosa inventor James Carr was just brushing his teeth one morning when a funny idea occurred to him. "Hey," he must have shouted to his wife, toothbrush in hand, "I should do a book extolling all of the things that George W. Bush has done right over the last eight years." Yeah, sure. Funny, his wife grimly agreed. But Carr has figured out a whopper of a way to make it funny, boasting a succinct spoiler we won't reveal. The result is on sale at all Copperfield's Books outlets in Sonoma and Napa counties and at Sawyer's News in Santa Rosa, a 200-or-so page hymn to Dubya's achievements.

"I bounced the concept off of other people and printed up a copy, and I didn't get one bad response," Carr says, "not even from Republicans." Roughly a month after that fateful bit of morning grooming, 'What Bush Did Right: A Comprehensive Recollection of George W. Bush and His Achievements' hit the local stands. Having never created or published a book before left Carr undaunted. "I got the fast-track on how to publish a book, and it leaves things open for the future," he says. "I like to consider myself a small-time inventor. I like to create things from ideas. Hopefully, you'll be hearing a lot of other different things from me." Modestly priced at just $7.95, Carr's book had already sold 20 copies in the three days it took us to catch up with, him and they are gladly distributed through his modest website, http://www.whatbushdidright.com —G.G.


Cartographic Culture

Winter isn't the most friendly season for biking, but on rainy days and blustery nights, there's no better way to while away the hours than planning long rides for when the sun comes out. That's where the revamped Marin Bicycle Mapcomes in. Originally designed by local bike legend Joe Breeze in 1998, the map has been bought by over 40,000 bike enthusiasts since. Ten years later, in need of updating, it's received a facelift. Breeze has added relief shading to indicate how steep the trails are, he's updated route information with new numbers and ways to get from city to city, and he's added new bicycle trails, particularly the popular mountain biking Camp Tamarancho and White Hill trails. "We also have the proposed north-south greenway on there, that with the passing of SMART will run from Larkspur Landing to Novato," says the Marin Bike Coalition's Tom Boss.

With a classy look and crucial information for cyclists, the Marin Bicycle Map is $10 and available at all area bike shops, some bookstores and online at www.marinbike.org.

The latest edition of the Sonoma County Bicycle Map, drafted in 2005, is still brand-new with just as much essential information for the avid cyclist. It's $11 and available at all area bike shops, some bookshops and newsstands and online at www.bikesonoma.org. The Napa County Bike Map is available for pickup at the Pearl Street Transit Center in Napa, at the Transportation and Planning Agency at 707 Randolph St. in Napa or online at www.nctpa.net.

Those looking for maps of a different nature—heck, maps of any conceivable nature—should be sure to stop by for the dwindling days of the lovable Map Store in Windsor. Local and worldwide maps, compasses, books, atlases and globes are just the tip of the mountaintop for the store that opened five years ago to universal adoration but is closing the doors, largely due to digital mapmaking. "A paper map is outdated by the time you publish it," says owner Brad Thomas, referencing a built-in expiration date that map makers (and alt-weekly journalists) know all too well.

Thomas is offering big discounts to clear out the store until Dec. 20, and after that he'll offer maps and services at www.themapstore.com. "It was so much work running a retail outlet," he says. "I have a lot of appreciation for people who do it year after year." 9091 Windsor Road, Windsor.

707.838.4290. —G.M.


Fully Stretched

"Good enough for art" is a curious English expression that essentially means "OK is OK for now." But good enough for art emphatically doesn't reference mediocrity when it's in the hands of Healdsburg master craftsman John Annesley. This builder of "museum quality art support systems" has spent the last 35 years perfecting the art of stretcher bars, canvas pliers, expansion bolts and rabbit skin glue. Specializing in custom-made frames upon which canvas or linen is stretched for painters, Annesley regularly makes materials for such art-world stars as Squeak Carnwath and Nathan Olivera, as well as for local luminaries Bob Nugent and Frances McCormick—at least when he's not re-hanging work by such S.F. AbEx superstars as Sam Francis for Bay Area museums.

Such art support systems make the perfect gift for the aspiring painter, and are guaranteed not to break the bank. As Annesley explains it, a good foundation makes the perfect start for a great painting. And not having the piece triangulate with age so that it eventually bends off the wall is a nice thing, too. To learn more, contact the John Annesley Company at 707.433.4238 or go to www.johnannesley.com. —G.G.


DESCRIPTION

KIDS' KERCHIEF: Zebi's hipster bib catches all manner of drooling.

Hipster Baby Chic

Stacy Philips never thought she'd go into the highly competitive baby apparel market, but when her youngest son was seven months old and soaking his shirts with drool, she realized she didn't really like any of the traditional bibs on the market. "I was looking for an alternative-style bib," Philips says, "and so I developed the kerchief bib."

Two years later, Philips' Zebi Baby line, based in Windsor, is carried in over 180 retail locations worldwide, anchored by the very hipster-looking kerchief bib. What initially originated as a way for New York City graffiti artists to keep spray-paint fumes out of their lungs evolved into Brooklyn hipster chic, which then evolved into the widespread kaffiya craze and eventually into the must-have Zebi Baby accoutrement for 2008. With no training at all in design, one could call Philips lucky. Philips instead credits the man above. "I'm a Christian, and my heart all along has been, 'OK God, if you want this to happen, just make it work, you can bless this,'" she says. "I honestly feel He's just giving me favor with fire."

Philips and her husband own Yogurt Farms in Santa Rosa, a frozen yogurt shop that most locals refer to simply as "the Christian yogurt place." After designing some other items for her three children, Philips thought she'd pick up a little extra money by selling the bibs in the yogurt shop, but then Cupcake, a baby store in downtown Santa Rosa, started stocking her items. More local store owners followed suit, all of them suggesting Philips attend a trade show. "I had no idea what a trade show was," she admits.

Philips says that Zebi Baby's quick growth shows that hipster fashion can be successfully adapted for babies, but she does draw a line. "I didn't go so far as to start doing the whole skull and crossbones for babies. I refused to go down that route. That was definitely the hipster market being applied to the infant, and at my core I feel that's wrong—that was taking it a little too far."

Zebi Baby also makes bibs, onesies, pants and "bum covers," with products available locally at Cupcake (641 Fourth St., Santa Rosa; 707.579.2165), Michel & Co. (107 Fourth St., Santa Rosa; 707.526.1290), Sunnyside Cottage (599 Montecito Center, Santa Rosa; 707.525.1893), Bassett Laurel (144 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma; 707.762.3463), Taloolah (237 San Anselmo Ave., San Anselmo; 415.459.7100), Swing (467 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur; 415.924.2500) and All Wrapped Up (38 Miller Ave., Mill Valley; 415.381.9727). For more info, see http://www.zebibaby.com —G.M.


Craftacular!

"I'm a child of the '70s," Cheryl Aronson amiably explains. "I grew up with macramé and that kind of stuff. My mother started me with sewing. It came so easily to her, but I really got into it when I joined 4-H and instead of taking on an animal, I took on crafting." Now a full-grown woman of the 21st century, Aronson, a graphic designer, illustrator and copywriter, belongs to a club far different than 4-H. It's called the mafia. A crafting mafia, that is.

"It takes the seriousness out of it," she says with a laugh. "There's this whole revolution that's spread across the country. Crafting used to have this old-fashioned connotation, sort of like painting on a saw, but it's evolved into an artsy, edgy kind of thing, and 'craft mafia' says it all."

Aronson explains that the original craft mafia grew from that sprawling boot-shaped region west of Sicily known as Austin, Texas. "The nine women who started that were dissatisfied with their day jobs and were creative and decided, 'Hey, we're all trying to start these crafty businesses, why not pool our resources to educate other people and support other creatives and businesswomen and learn and inspire from each other?'" Aronson says. The Petaluma Craft Mafia now hosts annual sales, its Craftaluma fandango having launched last June and its Holiday Craftacular slated for Dec. 13.

But don't expect too many potholders, unless they've been fashioned from cast-off tires or remade from old nightgowns. The new emphasis in crafting relies less on tradition and more on innovation. "There are 56 crafters for the event," Aronson says. "We've got a diverse group, and we try to keep it as diverse as possible. We want to please the public, but we also try to keep with our own personal aesthetic, so they're a little edgier, they're young and fun. Some of the crafts are quite whimsical. There are a lot of repurposed materials like old books that are musting over that you might find in a thrift store, turned into journals."

The Petaluma Craft Mafia meets every Tuesday and encourages such outings as "pub crafting." The "pub" here is short for "public," but it also applies to crafting in bars. "It's kind of strange to be sipping a martini while you knit," Aronson laughs. Sounds just like any old Tuesday at our house.

The Holiday Craftacular is slated for Saturday, Dec. 13, at the Petaluma Veteran's Hall. Music by Gabby Lala, the Bluebellies and Ted Baggett. Bring a new toy for an extra raffle ticket. 1094 Petaluma Blvd. S., Petaluma. 11am to 5pm. $2. http://www.petalumacraftmafia.com —G.G.


Lotsa Local Laughs

As the premier venue for world-class comedy stars in the North Bay, the Wells Fargo Center in Santa Rosa has hosted numerous high-profile tapings and recordings on CD and DVD. The most recent of these offerings is bittersweet. 'George Carlin: It's Bad for Ya' serves sadly as the brilliant comedian's swan song, recorded at the Wells Fargo Center just three and a half months before Carlin's death from heart failure in June of 2008.

Reflecting on Carlin's death, Wells Fargo Center director of programming Rick Bartalini offers his behind-the-curtain recollection. "What impressed me most about Carlin's time here this past February and March was that he made it a family affair," Bartalini says. "His manager, publicist, producers, agents and staff were all part of his extended family, people that had been part of his team for decades. After taping two exhausting specials in February and March here, George could have easily got on the plane and went home. Instead, he took well over an hour to walk around and personally thank each person on the production staff. It was the type of gesture that you don't see often in this business."

When Dana Carvey appeared at the Wells Fargo Center in March, the Saturday Night Live veteran heaped praise on the intimate theater and the Wells Fargo Center crowds. Carvey flipped when, at one point, a few people started chanting "Sebastopol!" and holding up peace signs. "That is definitely a healing-crystal, hemp-watch, spirulina-bar neighborhood!" he howled. The whole show was hilarious, and the resultant HBO special and DVD, 'Squatting Monkeys Tell No Lies,' is also available now, joining Lewis Black's 'Luther Burbank Performing Arts Center Blues' CD, from 2005, in a growing library of comedy from the Wells Fargo Center. —G.M.


Zabaco Rides Again!

There's rarely any end to locally made foods, but we were excited this year to discover the Dry Creek Olive Co. , manufacturers of that blessed kitchen essential, olive oil. We were also surprised to learn from Mary Louise Bucher, owner of Dry Creek Olive Co., that the Dry Creek Valley was once a hotbed for producing olives, a fact she and her husband, Tim, discovered while clearing their Geyserville ranch for grape planting. "We knew there were a few olive trees on the property," Bucher says, "but when we came across all these equidistant stumps, we realized that the land used to be part of what was called the Zabaco Olive Ranch. When the Spaniards came here and settled, they had planted tons and tons of olive trees."

Just as the Dry Creek Region is great for Zinfandel, the Mediterranean climate is also perfect for olives. Lots of neighbors have trees, Bucher says, but until recently they'd had to travel long distances to mill their olives. The Dry Creek Olive Co. provides its mill to local customers who want to mill their own olives, as well as supplying its own finely honed olive oil. The best bet is to stop by the Dry Creek Olive Co. tasting room to buy direct and see the mill. It's located at 4791 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg. 707.431.7200 or http://www.drycreekolivecompany.com —G.M.


In a Delicious Jam

In 1999, Rivka Berg decided to make jam to give away to friends, but it didn't go so well at first. "It turned out terrible," Berg says. "But I kept making it and making it, and trying to make it not so sweet—and gross." Nine years later, the Wild Pear Co. specializes in low-sugar jams and jellies of two dozen different varieties, with flavors as common as strawberry jam and as unusual as caramelized onion jam, cranberry horseradish jam, and jalapeño and garlic jelly. When Berg tells me that the jalapeño and garlic jelly is her most popular seller, I'm amazed. "Yeah, oddly enough," she laughs. "When I do the farmers markets or demos, I sample it with cream cheese and crackers. It's very popular."

So if her customers are that adventurous, which flavor do they shy from? "The one I get the most questions on is the lemon curd," Berg says. "Nobody's quite sure what to do with it." (Hint: high tea with scones, or on anything buttered—little tarts, puff pastries. Mmmm.) From her commercial kitchen at Tomales Pizza's old location, Berg uses ingredients that are organic and local whenever possible, and all products are low-sugar. Dentists love 'em! See www.thewildpear.com for more info. —G.M.


Eat, Sleep, Read . . . Shop

Copperfield's Books' new mantra envisions a life in which one is so cozily ensconced that eating, sleeping and reading fairly encompass the daily round. Restaurant consultant and Bohemian contributor Clark Wolf makes both eating and reading more fun (it's doubtful he sleeps much) with the release of his newest book, 'American Cheese: The Best Regional, Artisan, and Farmhouse Cheeses, Who Makes Them and Where to Find Them' (Simon & Schuster; $25).

Wolf, who delights us with his intimate, chatty tone, travels the country exploring the world of transformed milk, one he's been intimate with for some three decades, beginning as a neophyte cheese-monger in San Francisco, continuing through his essential "discovery" of Laura Chenel and her chèvre and now volubly traced in this new edition. Wolf gives anecdotes and tips as well as recipes and insider stories, but the true pleasures of the book are his short profiles of American cheese makers. Given our many blessings, the section on North Bay purveyors is extensive and, truly, the whole effort makes us really hungry. Eat, sleep, read, indeed. . . .

Great cheese isn't the only thing that comes from the Pt. Reyes National Seashore, as evidenced by the fledgling 'West Marin Review,' a new quarterly journal devoted to writing and the visual arts. The premiere volume featured work by former U.S. poet laureate Robert Hass and promises to spotlight emerging artists as well as such regular luminaries as Hass. Produced by the Tomales Bay Library Association, copies are $15 and can be purchased online at www.westmarinreview.org. While there, look for the many supporting events the quarterly is sponsoring with Bay Area writers. Culture thrives in West Marin. . . .

And frankly, so do clothes. Susan Hayes Handwovens, with a studio in Inverness Park and an outlet in the Tomales Foods Building in Pt. Reyes Station, features Hayes' full line of handwovens as well as other dreamy designs from a wide range of American makers. Featuring, jackets, vests, kimono-style cover-ups, ponchos and scarves, this line is all about affordable luxury, the silk threads and other materials boasting a sweet, heavy softness that makes them perfect for curling up with a book before eating and sleeping. Hayes' own store is at 80 Fourth St., Pt. Reyes Station; 415.663.8057. Her work is also carried at On the Vine (1234 Main St., St. Helena; 707.963.2209), Statements (126 Plaza St., Healdsburg; 707.433.5350) and Various & Sundries (411 San Anselmo Ave., San Anselmo; 415.454.1442). . . .

Sacred and infinite define two of our favorite breakfast foods, cereal and chocolate. Sacred Chocolate is a relief from the milk-chocolate glut in supermarket aisles. The Marin-based brand specializes in 100 percent raw organic chocolate made with 70 percent to 100 percent cacao and combined with maple sugar. It's available at health food stores area-wide.

Whole organic grains baked with kermflots (what earthlings call apples) make up Galaxy Granola, an out-of-this-world breakfast. Made by hand in San Rafael, it comes in a ziplock bag, looking like a bag of weed but costing far less ($5.50 for a 12-ounce bag). It's available at grocery stores all across the galaxy, as well as the Marin Civic Center Farmers Market on Sundays. See www.galaxygranola.com for more details. . . .

Bombilla is the word of the day for those of us devoted to our paper cups of coffee, but it's by far the word of yesterday to devotees of maté tea. (Pssst: it's a straw.) Typically made of silver and designed to trap tea sediment while sipping, the bombilla is included in the new holiday gift pack promoted by the Sebastopol-based Guayaki Yerba Mate company.

Maté is a caffeine-infused hot drink common to Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, and drinking it is a shared social practice, the tea brewed in a gourd and sipped with others. Guayaki provides the traditional gourd for brewing, its award-winning maté tea and, yes, the bombilla for $29.99 replete with a booklet detailing the drink's history and practice. Available in markets nationwide, Guayaki has a Sebastopol outlet for picking up the gift pack and indulging in a little caffeine-fueled sharing of your own. 6784 Sebastopol Ave.; 888.482.9254. . . .

More traditional teas are brewed at the English Garden Tea Rooms in Calistoga. Founded by four British ex-pats just over a year ago, this Old World outlet features full tea-cart service with 35 different English teas as well as sandwiches and sweets (with prices ranging from $31 for a full slate to a special $12.99 tea just for kids), Cornish pasties, Christmas pudding, shepherds' pie, bangers and mash and other chilly Atlantic comfort foods.

Those more interested in shopping than eating can find a selection of bone china and lesser accoutrements of the proper table. Good things are sometimes difficult to find, so be warned that the English Garden Tea Rooms are open Thursday–Sunday only, from 11am to 6pm. 1107 Cedar St., Calistoga. 707.942.4262. . . .

While in Napa County, the next logical stop is the Culinary Institute of America, which has this season compiled a terrific selection of culinary gifts for everyone, from the happy host to the serious home cook. We're particularly enamored of its "Little Thank You" package, which, for $17.95, includes a cutting board and knife, water crackers and a Cabernet spread. Cunningly packaged, a small stack of these could be kept in the car for unexpected gift "emergencies."

Other packages include the "Giving Green" collection of bamboo wooden boards, bamboo towels, bamboo knife spreaders and organic raspberry jam ($50) and the "Baking at Home" set ($99.95) that includes the CIA's own book on the subject and its selection of utensils essential for the chemistry that is heat and salt and wet and flour. All proceeds benefit the culinary program at the CIA, which has been training fine chefs since its inception in 1946. 2555 Main St., St. Helena. 1.800.CULINARY. . . .

A more fledgling effort is found at the Napa Culinary Centre, which features its own line of Made in Napa Valley products in its shop as well as its cafe, the menu detailing which of their own products feature in the many salads, sandwiches, small pizzas and breakfast items available. What sets the Centre apart is its dedication to education, offering weekly cooking classes for just $15 each.

This month, themed for the holidays, the schedule includes homemade holiday gifts, a refresher on easy appetizers and a full menu run-down of a special holiday meal. Classes are held Thursday–Friday at 1:30pm and are so reasonably priced that the gift of a class itself might make a fun experience to share. 388 Devlin Road (near the Napa County Airport), Napa. 707.603.3260. . . .

Looking for a way to express your love for Obama between now and inauguration day? With no need anymore to win over potential voters, go subtle with the "new dawn" Obama Logo Jewelry on necklaces, pins and earrings designed by Healdsburg Jazz Festival director Jessica Felix. The designs are sleek and attractive, and as Felix says, "It represents a gift of hope and belief in better days ahead." They're available at Art and All That Jazz, 119-A Plaza St., Healdsburg. 707.433.7900. . . .

And back in Napa, where wine barrels nearly outnumber residents, Ed Michaels turns barrel staves sideways and fits the curved contours together to make intricately detailed wine barrel tables. Recycled wine barrel furniture is nothing new, but Michaels' designs go miles beyond the simple cop-out half-barrel planter or basic end table. With hundreds of stave pieces meshed together like tiny puzzle pieces, the handcrafted tables are majestically unique and must be seen to be believed. See www.napatables.com for more details.


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