A few years ago, Rama, Elodie, and I spent two magical days on Naoshima Island in Japan. We took a high-speed Shinkansen train from Tokyo to Okoyama, and another train from Okoyama to Uno Port where we caught the ferry to Naoshima. The journey was worth it for the ferry ride alone. But the charmed atmosphere continued as we ventured by shuttle bus to our hotel, Benesse House, a gorgeous modern structure featuring a contemporary art museum designed by Tadao Ando. We explored the sculpture gardens featuring works by Yayoi Kusama and Niki de Saint Phalle, and collected seashells and driftwood at the beach before enjoying a bento box dinner in our room.

My favorite part of the trip was the Art House Project — a collection of traditional Japanese houses converted into contemporary art galleries. The exquisite details of the Japanese architecture had been restored, but instead of the furnishings of the fisherman’s families who once resided here, we found surprising works of art. The most stunning piece was a light installation by James Turrell. I won’t give away the secret, but you can be assured that it left a lasting impression.

If I ever go back, I’ll stay with some of the locals and get a more authentic experience of what life on Naoshima Island is like. I’ll also go back for a second helping of the most delicious black sesame ice cream I’ve ever head. Have you ever been to Naoshima Art Island? I hope you get the chance to go.



We’re moving to Berlin! Hooray! And it is undoubtedly going to be a stressful and tumultuous time for everyone. Yippee! So I’m going to think it through, and make the process as organized as possible, by writing out a series of blog posts about it.

You might be wondering why we’re moving from beautiful, sunny California to cold, gray Berlin. Well, the first reason is because we once lived there. After getting married in 2007, Rama and I packed up our apartment in New York, drove our stuff up to his grandmother’s house, and flew to Berlin. It’s hard to believe that was ten years ago.

After two years, we had fallen in love with that city, but it was time for Rama to pursue a PhD. So while we settled in the San Francisco Bay Area, we always held this idea in the back of our heads that we could move back one day. But eight years is a long time, and the memory has become quite faded. Now that it has been two years since “plain old Rama” became “Dr. Rama,” we’re realizing that we’re in a place that’s just not very stimulating for us creatively. And while we’ve made some wonderful friends, all our family is back on the East Coast, so there’s really nothing holding us here. As a freelance writer and a composer/sound artist, we’ll never be able to buy a house in this crazy competitive real estate market, and we’ll never even be able to move our of our current apartment to another one in the area because the rents have shot up all around us.

So, instead of staying stuck, we are crawling slowly out of our safe, secure, easy, comfortable life, and throwing ourselves across the ocean with the hope that we may land in a place where we can flourish — namely, the dynamic, German culture-capital called Berlin! Sounds doable, right?

Like I said, eight years is a long time. And in a metropolis where extraordinary growth happens every single day, eight years seems more like an eternity. But maybe I’m being dramatic. Let’s hope our old Berlin is still there when we land. What we know is that cheap rent is a thing of the past, gentrification will most likely push us to the city’s outer boundaries, and there’s not longer an abundance of available apartments. At least the beer’s still good.

tidepooler health and wellness

With the political tide changing so abruptly, the only thing I feel like I have any control over is my own well-being. So I’m making a conscious effort to make self-care a priority this year. It’s interesting how I’m feeling myself being drawn naturally into a healthier lifestyle, and I’m finding this period of discovery to be quite enthralling. Here are a few things I’m thinking about embracing in 2017.

1. Qigong. While browsing the health and wellness section of my local library, I discovered a book called Women’s Qigong for Health and Longevity: A Practical Guide for Women Forty and Oldeby Deborah Davis. I had heard about Qigong but wasn’t really sure what it was. Turns out, it’s an ancient Chinese practice that combines breathing exercises with a series of physical movements, as well as mediation, that invigorate the life force energies within our bodies. By doing this, we’re empowering our bodies to be able to withstand the common ailments related to aging, including those associated with menopause in women. But Qigong is also supposed to be great for relieving tension, regulating hormones, helping with insomnia, and of course increasing energy. While I haven’t figured out how it will fit into my weekly routine yet, so far I’m enjoying the practice.

2. Yoga. Of course I’ve known about the benefits of yoga for ages, but I haven’t ever made it a regular part of my exercise routine. In the last two weeks, I’ve taken two classes at my YMCA. The first one was a Hatha Yoga alignment based class and it was super easy. I was feeling very confident about my ability after that class, let me tell you. The second one was a Vinyasa flow based class. I barely made it out alive. This is a great example of how important it is to try a variety of classes before deciding on which one to incorporate into your lifestyle. While the Vinyasa class was incredibly challenging, it was also very empowering, so I’m planning to continue taking that class weekly, unless I find something I like better. I think it will offer a nice counterpoint to my Monday NIA cardio-dance class.

3. Essential Oils. Over the holidays I stopped into a shop here in Berkeley called Lhasa Karnak where I picked up some lavender essential oil to add to the soap I was making. I was intrigued by their long list of essential oils. A few weeks later I met natural health and wellness guru Rainbeau Mars while on vacation in Hawaii. The highly energetic healthy living expert incorporates essential oils into a variety of aspects of her own life (and I noticed she smelled really good), so I was delighted when she called me for a personal consultation. She offered tips on essential oils like peppermint to help me stay focused when I’m writing, frankincense for its calming and grounding properties, and lemon for invigoration. it’s exciting to think about how these precious oils are each so unique and how they can nurture and nourish both our bodies and our souls. I’ve been using the remnants of my lavender to help me fall asleep at night, and I’m looking forward to trying out a few others.

Are you guys jumping on board the wellness train too? I’d love to hear about how you’re incorporating self-care and wellness into your own lives, and I look forward to giving you the update on how it’s all working out for me in the weeks and months to come.


The Sunderland Family: (left to right) John Lloyd Jr., Patty Ann, Mary, Cathy, Susie, Margaret, Laurie, Lucy, John Lloyd Sr.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! One of the many things I am so grateful for is my sprawling Portuguese-Irish family (look at all those aunts!!). And since we’re celebrating Aquidneck Island this month on Tidepooler, I thought I’d get their opinion about all the great things the island has to offer. From clam shacks to farm markets, mansion tours, and coastal hikes, we’ve got loads of ideas to help get you acquainted with the three towns that comprise the little land mass in the southeast quadrant of Rhode Island — Newport, Middletown, and Portsmouth. Here are some recommendations from my clan of Aquidneck Islanders.

My Grandma Lucy, a veteran visiting nurse who has clocked countless miles visiting patients around the island — no one knows the backroads quite like she does: “Lots of history here. Mansions from the wealthy in the early 1900s. Scenic Cliff Walk and 12 mile drive. All of Newport. St. Marys Church where Jackie and John F. Kennedy were married in 1953. Lots of farmland. Beautiful beaches and dog parks.”

My Grandpa Lloyd, a life-long scuba diver and sport fisherman who knows Narragansett Bay like the back of his hand: Ledge Road in Newport is the best place to dive for lobster. I saw two beautiful baby sharks there once. Another great diving spot is off of Beavertail Point, the southernmost tip of Jamestown, [just across the bay from Newport.]

My Dad John, a music and baseball enthusiast who once rode his bike across the Newport and Jamestown Bridges to see Bruce Springsteen in concert: Where Bob Dylan went electricHome of Bishop BerkeleyHome of The CowsillsCardines FieldNewport Music FestivalEaston’s BeachCliff WalkFlo’s Clam Shack

My Stepmom Jennifer, a nature walk enthusiast and hobby ornithologist, who has a soft spot for historic architecture: Sachuest Point [National Wildlife Refuge], Ocean Drive, Second Beach, The historic colonial era houses in Newport, Norman Bird Sanctuary, Cliff Walk, Chandler Hotel in the summer, Newport Jazz Festival, Christmas in Newport, Newport Creamery

My (Step) Aunt Lauren, a California transplant with a  New England heart: “I love Sachuest Point, it’s absolutely beautiful any time of year!”

My Godmother Lark, a local artist devoted to land preservation: “I love Sachuest Point best on the island.”

My Aunt Mary whose sailboat adventures never revealed a port of call better than the one she called home: “Being surrounded by water is the best.”

My Aunt Susie who commutes from one end of the island to the other every weekday: “I’d say some of the best things about the island are the beautiful beaches, Cliff Walk, and the mansions on Bellevue Avenue.”

My Aunt Margaret who moved out of state years ago but comes back every chance she gets: “I think the best thing is the beaches — being so close to so many beaches that you can go to at any time and look out into the sea. Also, the mansions in Newport are so majestic and fun to see.”

My Aunt Laurie, an adventurous Navy wife who cherishes her visits home:The Glen — childhood memories of nature walks and playing in a big field with a view of the Sakonnet River. The Glen Manor House can still be rented out for weddings, and I noticed people horseback riding there. The Portsmouth Abbey and St. Philomena’s (Blue Ribbon School) also have the field with bay views. Schultzy’s Snack Shack, eating clam cakes, on the wall, Island Park… my girls love the Green Grocer and Anna D’s and Corner Consignment. Green Animals… never did go to Newport Polo but it must be included, it’s so unique. And that’s all Portsmouth. In Middletown — we LOVE going to Sweet Berry Farm, they have a farm market with upscale food and a gift shop. Also, Kempenaar’s Clambakes. Newport — Ocean Drive, climbing on the rocks. Ft. Adams; 40 steps, Cliff Walk; St. Mary’s — Kennedy’s wedding; Second Beach!!!; Del’s lemonade; stuffed quahogs (or anything) from Anthony’s Seafood.

My Cousin Rachelle who served lobster and little necks at her Aquidneck Island wedding: Newport Mansions, Cliff Walk, Newport Beaches, Downtown Newport shopping and restaurants, Ocean Drive, Festivals:  Jazz Festival, Folk Festival, Seafood Festival, Chowder Festival, Oktoberfest, Winter Festival; Harbor Boat Tours; Seafood, seafood, seafood!!

My Cousin Sarah, a certified scuba diver with a degree in marine biology: “My favorite things are boating and digging for little necks. Really anything that involves sea water.”

My Cousin Connor, a professional fisherman who’s got the inside scoop on the local bar scene: The character of the island, mainly Newport — we have a long list of some of the oldest sites in the country — oldest baseball park, oldest synagogue, oldest tavern, oldest war college… but for me personally, this is what I love: the hidden gem bars in Newport. There are four or five awesome roof top bars very few people know about that give you a great view of the harbor. As a fisherman, I love the rocky shoreline of Newport, Middletown and parts of Portsmouth. The island is nationally recognized for having one of the best surf fishing shorelines for striped bass.

My Cousin Christina, a beauty queen tattoo artist who knows how to have fun: Being close to the beach no matter where you are, going to Sandy Point (on the side without the lifeguards), bringing a cooler, radio, and blanket and having an all day picnic. Swimming out to the buoyes since the waters never too wavy. Collecting kindling and firewood in the dunes behind the beach for a fire later in the day. Collecting seashells and sea glass. Fireworks on the boat or at Escobars Farm on 4th of July. The Folk Fest (also best by boat). The corn maze in the fall. All the restaurants in Newport, from casual to fancy. The proximity to beach, city, country, and mountains (really close to everything). I love Dels and vodka.

And there you have it. With its historic heritage, cultural attractions, and plenty of opportunities to explore oceanfront nature, Aquidneck Island is truly a gem in the midst of Narragansett Bay, and I can’t wait to go back next summer.

Did you grow up there too? Share your favorite things about the island in the comments below.

And if you missed my list of the “Best Things to do on Aquidneck Island, RI: Summer Edition,” here’s the link


I was surprised and excited to see Aquidneck Island listed in Conde Nast Traveler’s 2016 Reader’s Choice Awards list for “The Best Islands in the U.S.” — so I decide a blog post was in order. After all, Tidepooler was named for those magical pools of water that dot the island’s rocky coastlines at low tide. How could I not offer an ode to my beloved hometown island? — the place I was born and where I lived for the first 18 years of my life before mustering the courage to actually cross a bridge (!) and go to college in the mainland town of Kingston.

While some of my fondest memories of Aquidneck Island involve trespassing on private beachfront property with cases of Coors Light and the makings for a bonfire, I assure you that the following activities will (mostly) be of a legal nature. Here are a few things we did last summer. You should do them too.


1. Find a friend with a boat (or rent your own). Thanks to social media, I was able to hook up with a good buddy from childhood who just happens to captain a boat. He took us out for a ride and it was the most fun thing I’ve done in a very long time. We anchored in a sheltered spot in Narragansett Bay called Mackerel Cove, just off the neighboring island of Jamestown, and swam in the beautiful Atlantic waters. It was heaven.


2. Go to the beach. Second Beach, officially known as Sachuest Town Beach is most everyone’s favorite. Stake out a spot on the wide sandy swath on the eastern side, or head to surfer’s end with your board and seek out the Del’s Lemonade truck in the parking lot. It’s tough to avoid the red tide in Rhode Island, but Second Beach usually has less than First Beach (Easton’s). However, if it’s carousels you’re after, head to the latter.


3. Enjoy an Awful Awful at Newport Creamery. Awful Big, Awful Good. Go on a Monday for the two-for-one special. Chocolate’s my favorite, but I had a taste of my husband’s “Choc o’ Nutter” and yes, it took the concept of an Awful Awful to a whole new level. While the Awful Awful (milkshake) is the star attraction this is a great spot for a family meal, lunch or dinner, and they have regular ice cream too, and by regular ice cream I mean banana splits.


4. Roll down the windows and cruise around Ocean Drive. For an enhanced experience, make it an “odbc.” Whatever you opt for, be sure to stop at Brenton Point for some tide pool exploring, sun bathing, or take a dip right off the rocks. It’s probably my most favorite place on Aquidneck Island, and while the photo features the sea wall, you’ll have to trust me when I say the view is spectacular.


5. Enjoy a night out in Newport. I haven’t done this in about 15 years, but I love sitting at the raw bar at Scales & Shells and dunking fresh cold shrimp into a bowl of cocktail sauce; the bar at the Clarke Cook House is nice for when you’re feeling fancy. And if it’s a Friday night I’d be at The Pier, where my cousin Ky the Movement spins 90s hip hop until closing.

Have you ever been to Aquidneck Island? What did you love about it? Stay tuned for “The Best Things to do on Aquidneck Island: Fall Edition” coming up next.

One of the best things about being in a babysitting coop is that you don’t have to blow half your date night budget on a babysitter. We just wrapped up a round of date-night swaps that we traded with four other local families — giving us four date nights (one per month) with free babysitting! It doesn’t get much better than that. Here’s what we did on our civilized, kid-free nights out.

Date Night #1: Dinner with Margaritas at Comal, Berkeley

Comal Berkeley

This upscale Mexican restaurant in Downtown Berkeley has yummy Margaritas. I recommend reserving a table in the main dining room. We didn’t have a reservation, but luckily snagged a table in the back section, which was kind of chilly and breezy on the rainy winter night that we went. The dining room also features refined acoustics so you can speak at a normal volume and still have a nice quite conversation.

Date Night #2: Dinner with martinis and wine at Corso, Berkeley

Corso Berkeley

An elegant Italian restaurant in Berkeley’s “Gourmet Ghetto,” Corso serves excellent martinis and features what I consider to be the best chicken dish in America (pictured). Unfortunately, the last time I had it it was slightly overcooked, but the time before that was exquisite! Baked in gobs of butter and served in its own tiny little pan this lovely little breast goes wonderfully with a glass of chianti classico.

Date Night #3: Dinner with martinis and wine at The Advocate, Berkeley

The Advocate Berkeley

Sister restaurant to Comal, The Advocate is a cosmopolitan new option in Berkeley’s Elmwood neighborhood. Not only is it a great date night spot, it also has a nice bar for fancy mom’s night out drinks. The kitchen churns out delicious dishes like the classic cheeseburger — one of the best in the Bay Area — and a seasonal flatbread like the “flowers, herbs, and honey” flatbread pictured above. Yes, I had this and yes, I felt like a fairy queen eating it.

Date Night #4: Dinner with cocktails at Burma Superstar in Oakland followed by ice cream at Curbside Creamery

Burma Superstar

Known for their “tea leaf salad,” Burma Superstar enjoys cult status as one of the best Burmese restaurants in the Bay Area (In addition to this restaurant in Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood, they’ve got locations in San Francisco and Alameda). But whenever we go, I can’t resist the sesame chicken and sautéed pea leafs. So good! Last weekend we also got the “sumosa salad,” which was yummy. I found that the “lychee cucumber mimosa,” which tasted strange at first, paired excellently with the salad’s savory flavors.

Curbside Creamery

We still had an hour left after finishing up dinner at Burma Superstar, so we headed over to Temescal Alley — a really cute industrial chic area just off busy Telegraph Avenue. Most of the shops were closed, but a handful of families and other couples were lining up at Curbside Creamery. A single ice cream cookie sandwich split between the two of us hit the spot — and check out the picturesque brick patio where we sat in minty green chairs beneath a rose trellis. It’s one of my new favorite places.  I think we’ll have to go back soon with the little one in tow.

Date Night #5: Oysters and Champagne at the Claremont Hotel, Berkeley

Claremont Hotel Oysters

While this wasn’t technically a date night, it was still a fun night out with my husband, mother-in-law, and 6-year-old daughter (it was actually her birthday!). But the setting was beautiful with the Claremont Hotel’s newly renovated interiors and spectacular views, and I think it would make a marvelous place for a date.

Do you have a favorite date night spot in the city where you live? I’d love to know!

[All images except the last two courtesy of the respective restaurants]





One of the most delightful experiences I’ve had in the Berkeley community is as a docent for the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association’s Spring Tour. This year, I won’t be able to volunteer, but if you’re free this Sunday, May 1, don’t miss this chance to get an exclusive peek inside 10 historic Berkeley homes. Each year BAHA focuses on a different neighborhood. This year’s event centers on the region just south of the Municipal Rose Garden and features houses designed by celebrated 20th century architects like Bernard Maybeck and John Galen Howard. It will surely be a treat to see these gorgeous architectural gems, and the gardens should be in their full springtime glory! We weren’t able to take photos of the inside of the houses last year, but here are a few shots I snapped outside.