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SocialVibe is an interesting new web app that allows anyone with a web page – either on MySpace, Facebook, blog or otherwise – to embed an advertisement (illustrated below). You choose the company they would like to be the sponsor (Jones Soda in my case) and the charity and every time the ad is viewed, you earn points for your charity, which turn into donation money from the sponsors.

Bloggers, and other web site owners, often struggle with monitizing their site.  The easiest way is through advertising programs, provided by third party ad resellers, such as Google and Yahoo, or affiliate programs created by sites such as Amazon or Ebay.  However the pennies in earnings that most site owners see do nothing to offset site running costs, much less generate income.  For recreational web developers and bloggers, an option to turn visits to their site into money for a favorite charity might be a welcome alternative.  Instead of becoming frustrated over the inconsequential earnings provided by a huge ad reseller, sites can generate substansial donations for a charity by working as part of a larger, charitable network.

Take a look at SocialVibe to see the charities and sponsors available – and consider adding a SocialVibe application to your Facebook, MySpace, Blog or webpage.

This evening I went with my mom to the new Reposado restaurant in Palo Alto for what promised to be a unique Mexican dining experience. It’s been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to review a restaurant but the Bay Area has flavors and eateries to rival the best of London’s so there’s no reason not to take advantage of the diversity around me now.

The large dining room was certainly spacious – a welcome change after London’s typically cramped dining experiences – but this meant that, despite the fairly sizable dining crowd, Reposado looked half empty at 7pm. We were seated by a friendly hostess and began our menu debate. The first snag of the night occurred when we were asked for our drink orders and I realized I had forgotten my ID, something that wouldn’t normally be required in London but unfortunately a necessity for a 22 year-old in the US. Margarita-less, I returned to the menu. My mom and I decided to begin with the Ceviche de Camaron, a prawn ceviche with lime and cucumber juice, Serrano chili, avocado, and grilled pineapple, for $10.50.

An enthusiastic but somewhat misdirected waitress returned with the Cayo de Hacha y Camaron (a prawn and scallop dish) but quickly rectified the mistake, delivering the attractive dish we had actually ordered (shown above). The lime was somewhat overpowering but the appetizer grew on us, the fried plantain chips providing a welcome sweetness to off-set the tart bite. While I don’t think we would order it again, it was a tasty departure from a typical cerviche.

For our main course we settled on the three taco plate after a seemingly endless debate. A recent review had warned against the tacos, citing too much iceberg lettuce and dry meat, but the opportunity to sample three different flavors proved too tempting and we each ordered a chicken, pork and steak taco.

Quite contrary to the negative review, the meat was tender, the lettuce in proportion and the tacos overall satisfying.  Unfortunately we felt that the steak taco was the weakest in the group, featuring a toasted ancho salsa, avocado crema, and Cotija cheese which seemed to ruin an otherwise tasty meat, and a letdown after the pork and chicken. However the plate was priced incredibly reasonably at $9.75 and was a perfect portion size, especially with the earlier appetizer and the promise of desert.

We finished our Reposado meal with the Azteca Chocolate Cake ($6.75), a dark chocolate cake with a hint of chili peppers, a combination that worked beautifully. It was served with a strawberry compote and key lime cream topping. Our only comment was that the texture of the cake could be improved as the individual portion size cake may not have been as moist as we could have hoped – overall a minor critique for an otherwise delicious desert.

The food was quite tasty although no where near the best Mexican in the Bay. This character restaurant offers more in ambiance than it does in gourmet cuisine but the restaurant is new and the menu is still improving (the waiter mentioned an upcoming chorizo dish which sounded tempting). It’s location is convenient, the prices reasonable and the food flavorful. The meal was certainly a treat however the service we received was what turned the night out into an enjoyable experience. From the hostess to the wait-staff to the owner, who stopped by to ensure we were enjoying our meal, the friendly atmosphere that filled Reposado earned the top marks.

Next time I’ll remember to bring my ID and I’m certain I’ll have wonderful things to say about the bar as well!

Photos courtesy of Reposado Restaurant website

Windy Hill

This past weekend I once again had the opportunity to take advantage of the gorgeous Bay Area weather to hike up Windy Hill in Portolla Valley.  This time, I talked a group of friends into coming with me which was quite a feat for a Sunday morning.

The trails through the Windy Hill area are well marked, but a little confusing in relation to each other.  There are about 12 miles total of trails, and if you just keep walking you’re pretty much bound to make it to the top of the Hill in question (where, as we discovered, it was in fact quite Windy).  We didn’t make it on the loop we had originally intended to take, instead walking up the Spring Ridge Trail and back down again for a total walk of around six and a half miles.  It was a great uphill push on the way to the top and an easy walk back down, all of which contributed to a massive group appetite by the end of the hike – perfect for our post-hike BBQ.

Windy Hill certainly wasn’t as eventful as my hike along the Coal Mine Ridge the week before (no bobcat sitings at anyrate) but for an easy couple hour trek, it offered beautiful views, a good workout and a lot of fun with friends.

California Trails

It’s difficult to believe it isn’t summer. To begin with, I’m at home for an extended period of time – something that has only happened during the summers for the last half a decade (yikes, that’s a scary thought). Also, the amount of fresh fruit and veggies I get these days are just decadent compared to any other part of the world this time of year. And of course, there’s the fact that it’s hovering around 70 degrees F during the day and is gloriously sunny – yep, California is pulling out all the stops while I’m home.

In honor of the fantastic weather, I decided Sunday morning to take a hike, literally, and wound up on the wonderfully-named Coal Mine Ridge trail system in Portola Valley for a brief jaunt through the woods. I took the Toyon trail as far as it would go (a little over six miles round trip). It was a very easy hike but beautiful and quite an enjoyable way to spend the morning.

But by far the most exciting part of my hike was on my trek back to where I had parked when I rounded a corner and saw on the trail in front of me a bobcat.  It was a couple hundred feet in front of me and didn’t seem to mind me being there.  I followed behind it for a while before it disappearred out of sight into the woods.  I hadn’t seen anyone else on the trail for a while and so was a little surprised to see, a few minutes later, another hiker coming the opposite direction.  I was still excited by my bobcat sighting and so warned him to keep his eyes peeled ahead.  In response, he looked absolutely thrilled and asked if I were “familiar with animal spirit energies.”

I smiled politely and told him that, no, I didn’t believe I was.  He recommended I look them up on Google when I get come because it’s so rare to see a bobcat that it must have a special message for me.  I can’t say I entirely understood the message the bobcat supposedly gave me but overall it was an eventful morning and a great chance to enjoy the weather and the California trails.

In the next few weeks I’ll definitely be doing more casual weekend hiking – in this weather it would be criminal not to.  I might look for something a bit more challenging or simply stick to the easy trails.  You never know where my animal spirit energy might guide me.

In the month since I last updated a lot has happened.  There was Christmas, and New Years, I baked about twelve different kinds of cookies, a pie and a cake, I spent 10 hours in an airplane and 10 days getting over jet lag and I have spent as much time as I possibly can with my family.

Busy, you say, but not busy enough to warrent a 1 month hiatus from blogging.  True, although you’d be surprised at how much time decorating Christmas cookies can take.  No, the real reason I’ve been MIA from the blogersphere has been because I’m still in California.  While my original plane ticket had me returning to London on December 29th, the British Home Office had some other opinions and my visa has been delayed due to a massive backlog of other applications.

So there’s nothing for it but to enjoy the sun and warm weather, home cooking with my family, chance to work from home (read: in my pajamas) and appreciate my time here before I head back to London in a few weeks.  In the meantime I’ll be putting in some posts about my work, as that’s what’s consuming most of my time these days.  Happy New Year!