Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Second Foggiest Place in North America

Now there's a destination worth seeing!  Bring the camera!

Last Saturday we attempted to take the kids to the Point Reyes Lighthouse.  We were pushing the time a little so that two of them would sleep in the car for the one hour drive.  But when we got to the car, it wouldn't start.  The fan had run into the night, depleting every spare drop of power out of the battery.  By the time we found a jump and got on the road, we were pushing making it there in time to see the lighthouse before it closed.

What I didn't know was that once you get "there" (being the ranger station), it is still a 45 minute drive to the actual point, followed by a 10 minute hike to the lighthouse.  Disappointment set in, but it was sunny and beautiful at the ranger station, so we figured we'd make the drive and the hike and get a view of the lighthouse that we had been touting to the kids for the last three hours.

This is what we expected to see.  I knew the thirty flights of stairs down would be closed off.
This is what we saw.
We had spent two hours in the car driving to the second foggiest location in North America expecting to see something.  Well, we did see something.  We saw the fog.  I would not say it was raining there, but as we closed in on Point Reyes, the fog lay so thick on the car, we needed the wipers.  When we stepped out into it, we were just wet.  Not rain on the tops of our heads, but a more uniform layer of wet all over.  I should also mention that this is the windiest place on the west coast.  Bethelle and Rigby spent our adventure curled up in the double stroller to maximize their misery.  Curie seemed to enjoy herself as long as she wasn't being told where to go and what to do and what she couldn't eat.
We did finally talk the hermits out of their shell to climb on some rocks.
On the way home, we said, "Wasn't that great!  What was your favorite part?"

Oddly enough, they answered, "YES!" and told how fun it was to climb on those rocks.

Half way back to the ranger station, we diverted to this beautiful ocean beach for a few minutes.
And just before leaving the large national park, we saw this sign.
Did you know that the White House pool has public access?  Just watch the overnight parking.  Here is the White House pool, in all its glory.
Maybe being president isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Temple Hill

LDS temples have a reputation for some of the best locations.  They are gorgeous and illuminated.  When people find out that we are LDS, I often hear the comment, "There is a big Mormon church where I'm from.  It is the most beautiful building around.  You can see it all over the city and everyone loves it."

The local temple here is in Oakland, across the Bay Bridge from us.  It is up in the hill that parallels the city and can be seen from everywhere.
The Oakland Temple is an especially nice one to visit because it has beautiful gardens and water features to roam around and contemplate.  There is even a garden terrace that wraps the whole temple where visitors can meander on the roof (see the trees growing out of the middle of the temple?).  Being on the hill, from the parking lot you can see all of Oakland and both of the San Fran bridges.

The kids frolicked on the temple grounds.  How long has it beed since you frolicked?
It is also a great destination because of the large visitors' center on the grounds.  It has many of the same displays as the Salt Lake visitors' center as well as some that are California specific.  In general, only temples in historically significant locations have visitors' centers.  The bay area is special in Mormon history because during the early days of the church when persecution was at its worst and Joseph Smith had been martyred, the members were motivated to move west.  The stories that we most often hear are of the pioneers who crossed the plains with or without covered wagons.  But 240 Mormons boarded the ship "The Brooklyn" in New York and made the six month journey around the cape and north to California, doubling the population of the village of San Francisco.

While at the visitors' center, we watched a short movie about this journey.  It told of a storm that they encountered.  The women and children were tied to the bunks to keep them from being slammed about the boat.  At some times, the boat was completely under the sea.  At other times, it was on the top of 60 foot swells.  It was the worst storm that the captain had seen.  At one point, he went down into the interior of the boat to tell his passengers that it was time to prepare to meet their maker.  Though all but two of the passengers were Mormon, he and the crew were not.  He recorded in his log that when he went below, he found the people reading and singing hymns.  They told him that they were not worried; that God would get them there safely or he would not, but that His will would rule the waves.  The captain returned to his crew and told them that these people where either the biggest fools he had ever met or they knew something that he did not.  At this point in the movie, Bethelle was engrossed.  She turned to me and whispered, "They had great faith."
 I think that Bethelle also knows something that the captain did not.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Coit Tower

Coit Tower is a stand-out landmark on top of Telegraph Hill (there are a lot of hills around here) in San Francisco.  It was built at the direction of a rich little lady a hundred years ago to honor her father, a firefighter.  Some think it resembles a fire hose.  The views from here are crazy.  You can see the whole city and then some.
Nick and I left the kids at his aunt's house and came here as just a duet.  As we looked out each window, we realized just how well we have come to know our host city.  Every neighborhood and landmark is visible and means something special to us.  The buildings we saw were not just masses, but characters in our recent life history.  I knew the streets and the personalities.  I have an idea of where to go and where to avoid.  I have my favorites and my not-so's.
The inside is an open-topped, empty shell.  When the tower was new, elaborate (small) parties were hosted here, or so I was told.  That.  Sounds.  Fun.

The lower windows we covered in plexiglass on one side, while the higher ones are just open air.  It seems a resistless challenge to get some coins through the small opening and onto the ledge.  Every window looked like this.
Here's your private tour of the whole city:
I must mention that before going to Coit Tower, I had the best breakfast of my life.  I may have waited in line for almost an hour to get it, but the company was pleasant and the food was amazing.  I almost typed "to die for," but I know that would make my mother recoil.  Between the two of us, we ordered three plates, a side of bacon, and a pastry in a take-home box.  With every new bite, we just looked up and each other and half-laughed in amazement.  I had the french toaster sampler.  It has banana bread, cran-orange bread, and chocolate cinnamon bread dipped in egg and fried.  Outstanding.  I will be spending the rest of my life perfecting these recipes.  C'mon over for breakfast in about 40 years.  It will be awesome.  In the meantime, plan a trip to San Francisco and go to Mama's for breakfast.  You can walk up the 200 plus steps to nearby Coit Tower to work it off.


Something about having guests come see us here in SF validates our stay.  Last week, Nick's brother and sister came and spent a couple days seeing San Francisco with us.  Trish brought her three kids, who are all the same ages and genders as my kids.  We looooove them.

I admit that I was excited to share our little space with them.  Ten people in this apartment means that everyone gets 64 square feet.  That's an eight foot by eight foot square.  You can imagine the sleeping arrangements with six children, six years and under!  Coming from Arizona, they arrived at three in the morning.  We tried to sneak the kids into bed.  Allie (the baby) slept in the bathroom and the two bigger kids were to sleep with Bethelle and Rigby in the bedroom.  Despite our good intentions, the kids woke up and started to party.  Then they had to go to the bathroom, so Nick took everybody downstairs and across the courtyard to the workout room and bathrooms, so that Allie could sleep.  What must onlookers have thought to see four tiny kids chatting excitedly and loudly on their way to workout at three a.m.?

For the first time since we've been here, Nick had a few days off!  Good timing for a visit, guys.  The next morning (OK, it was actually later that day, but that's just technical), we took the crew to Fisherman's Wharf and Ghirardelli Square.  Can you believe we hadn't been there yet?  The weather left something to be desired, but that's all part of the SF experience.  We saw the ships and the wharf and bought clam chowder in a SF sourdough bread bowl at the site of the invention of clam chowder.  Oh, Boudin Bakery.  Love.
 I'm not sure about the black border around this picture...
 This is where dreams are made.  My particular dream was of the peanut butter, chocolate, vanilla ice cream variety.
On the way back to our place, our guests got to experience just how bad SF traffic can be.  Not only was it the end of a work day, Obama was in town.  Fundraising.  On my dime again.  There were police everywhere, street blockages, helicopters.  I don't have a better idea, but reality bothers me.

When the kids were back in the safe confines of their 64 square feet, Trish and I went out.  I live near the best retail shopping in SF, so it was ladies' night until the stores closed, followed by a rough night of sleeping, not sleeping, and more midnight "workouts" for the kids.

The next morning we washed down our chocolate Cheerios with a walk to and through Chinatown.  Pictured below are the lanterns strung across the streets and some cute girls.
 This is the fortune cookie factory on Ross Alley.  The man in stripes sits at a hot, cast iron machine that spits out little pancakes that he pinches and folds over a rod, forming perfect fortune cookies.  We got some hot samples.  When I asked if I could take a picture, the reply was "Feefty cent fo peek-cha."  That's how you know you are really in Chinatown.
We bought a mixed bag of cookies.  I'm not a big fan of the strawberry, but chocolate fortune cookies are awesome.  As are chocolate anything.

Our walk back home.
 Thanks for the visit!

Muir Woods

Muir Woods is yet another "must see" in the bay area.  I've been intending to get there for some time now.  I finally packed up the kids on a sunny Monday morning and headed out.

I should have checked the weather online, not just out the window.  The closer I got to Muir, the cloudier the sky became.  And then the fog hit.  And the rain.

But packing up three kids and all their stuff and then crossing a toll bridge gives one the feeling of commitment to the project.  So we kept driving.  By the time we arrived, I wasn't sure how long we would last.  It was very, very cold and the wind and rain were more than the little sweaters I had brought could handle.  But I was determined to try.  I searched the van, finding two extra hats, and I figured they would do the trick.

By the time we entered the park (which was a very healthy walk from the car), the rain had let up and the sun was peeking through where the trees would allow.

Oh, the trees!  The little hike is up one side of a creek and back the other side through a forest of very old redwoods.  At one point they had a display of a cross section of a tree that had fallen about 20 years ago.  The rings had been counted and marked with significant dates in history: the Berlin wall, Columbus, the birth on Christ.  The tree was almost 3000 years old!  What a life.
 This tree was huge and picture-worthy, but the snapshot just doesn't capture the size and depth somehow.
 A group shot at a bridge.

 This little amusement had a line of kids.  Simple pleasures.
Getting back into a forest was a nice break for this northwest girl.  Though the trees were different, it felt like home.   I am almost done with my checklist of San Francisco sights and Nick is almost finished with his training.  We are about to close on our new house.  All of this means I am getting trunky.  I have had a fabulous time here, but I am ready to come home.  Home to my forests.


I think that I will one day be one of the older ladies at church who tells you three times in the lesson they teach, "I'm 86 and a half and I...".  But I will not own a cat.  That will be my unique touch.

I'm a good third of the way there.  And the occasion was marked by a big, surprise birthday celebration.  No, not a party.  I had thought that Nick would be working all day (Saturday, sigh...) and that I would spend my special day changing diapers, vacuuming, and acting as chauffeur for art class (I'll post that later).

Not so!

In the morning, we had a nice family breakfast, followed by an hour to myself to walk around the city.  I came home to presents and a special little Miette cake.

Bethelle made me some pretty purple earrings from a kit she had received for her birthday.
She also drew the picture below for me.  It is the two of us holding hands.  And do you see the brown, jeweled pony on the table by her elbow?  That's a little cardboard statuette for me.  I got the flowers on the right from Rigby and those on the left from Bethelle.  Curie got me a pretty bracelet that I'm wearing (just imagine it).  And... here's the big reveal... I GOT A HOUSE!  That's the flyer behind the little cake.  Oh, my dear Bainbridge and friends there; how I will miss you.  But I am excited about having twice the house that I could've bought on the island.
Nick did work a little while the kids napped, but then he came with me to drop the big kids off at art class on Potrero Hill and we went to dinner at Chez Maman across the street and for a walk around the lovely SF neighborhood.  It was sunny and beautiful and every corner had a pretty view.

The San Fran skyline.  We live a bit to the right in that picture.
 The street we walked up had such cute little houses.  Look at that facade!
 And you can see a bridge or two from everywhere.
Our little art class date felt like five years ago when we just had one little baby girl tagging around.  It was refreshing.  I felt younger instead of older.

The big kids were disappointed that they had missed the dinner "party," so Nick took us all straight from art class to our favorite gelato and frozen yogurt shop.  That was dessert for us, but dinner for the kids.
Quite the day!  No vacuuming whatsoever!  Thank you, my sweet family!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lombard and Side Streets

You knew it was only a matter of time until this street appeared on my blog, right?

Lombard is dubbed the "crookedest street in the world" and I wouldn't doubt it.

Last weekend, we took a little Sunday drive down its switchbacks.  All eight of them.  I expected the scale and steepness.  What I did not expect was the line to get on.  It was like a roller coaster for cars.  Not only did we wait in line for our turn, we began by leaning back and inching up, up, up to the precipice of Russian Hill.  I half expected to scream and throw my arms up at the top.

Side note #1:
This really doesn't need its own post, but I wanted to document that Nick and I went to a Madeleine Peyroux concert as an early birthday-date.  She was great, but seemed disappointed in our reactions and lack-luster applause.  I attribute this to the impersonal venue and her moody blues choice of songs.  If singing the blues does what is intended, the audience will be in no mood to scream cheers at the end of the number.  A meager show of appreciation should do until the next swing number.
Side note #2:
This is getting ridiculous.  Fortunately, I don't drive far or often.  Do you?
Side note #3:
This blog just reached 30,000 hits!  In reality, several dozen (wink) of those hits are mine... but THANK YOU readers... for caring!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

SF Zoo

Another checklist item complete!  You can't very well visit a big city with kids for five months and skip the zoo.

Bethelle seemed intent on mimicry.
There is a lion or two way, way back in this picture.  And one up front, apparently.
This one is self explanatory.
Rigby enjoyed the rhino, and was moved by the removal of its horn.  Really, that must be humiliating for a rhinoceros.  Like cutting off your one true beauty (10 points for catching the reference here).
Half way around the zoo, Rigby announced that he had found the thief of the rhino's horn: the giant eland.  Apparently that guy has one more horn than Rigby thinks he needs.

Curie's biggest reactions were to the grizzly bears and the goats in the petting zoo (to clarify, the grizzlies were not in the petting zoo).  The grizzlies put on quite a show, right in front of us.  At times, they were only inches away on the other side of the glass.  We enjoyed it, but when walking away I began thinking how crazy it was to be safely within inches of a grizzly.  And to have my children in that position.
My camera battery died after this picture, so I didn't get one of her out of the stroller with the goats, but Curie LOVED them.  I think she wants to get one.  She was quite brave and affectionate with them.
The zoo has this great train around a small track in the park.  It is miniature, but actually runs on steam!  It was built in 1925 and still runs.
And here we are on the train, though it's hard to tell.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Lovely Day

Sunday morning, Bethelle found a penny and asked if she could keep it.  I told her to find a special place for it.  Twenty minutes later, Rigby found the same penny, casually placed, and asked if he could keep it.  I told him he could.  After all, if Bethelle had done as she was told and took care of her money, then this was a different penny.  In his excitement over the acquisition, Rigby ran to Bethelle, exclaiming his good fortune.  Bethelle said that the penny was hers.  You can imagine the fight that ensued.  But it didn't.  They calmly worked out that they would share the penny.  We're talking about a three year-old and a six year-old.

Fast forward to church.  In Bethelle's primary (Sunday school for kids) class, the teacher brings a small treat.  Kids who are wearing the "Choose the Right" bracelet that she previously gave them get a double treat.  After class, I rounded up the kids, getting Bethelle last.  She came out just finishing up a fruit roll and had one in her hand.  She promptly handed it to Rigby, saying, "Here, Rigs!  It's a treat you've never had before!"

Rigby is nothing if not sincere in gratitude.  If you know him, you know what I mean.  He said, "Thank you, Bethelle!" (or, "Sank you, Beffelle!")  "Wow!  Bethelle, thank you!"  Then he reached into his little pin-striped pocket, pulled out the morning's penny, and told Bethelle that she could have it.

After church, I found the picture that Bethelle had drawn during sacrament meeting.  It was of a little girl in a purple dress.  Written above it were the words "I {heart} my brother."

For a mommy like me, it was a lovely day.

Ocean Beach

Saturday of last week found Nick with no homework, so we took the kids to the long-promised carousel at Golden Gate Park and played a while at the playground.  I never take them there by myself, so it is a treat for them.  The playground is just too big for me to be sure that I'll make it out of there with all three kids in tow if I go on my own.

It's hard to tell, but she loved this spinning, off-kilter chair.

In the past, we've only been to bay beaches around here.  The waves there are more tame and the wind less fierce.  But this great city is right on the Pacific Ocean, and it's worth a visit.  Curie fell asleep during the three minute drive from the park to the beach, so I enjoyed the view from the car while Nick and the kids played.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Little Paris - The Legion of Honor

Today was the first Tuesday of the month, which means free museums.  Next up for us was the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park.
The museum is perched on a hilltop.  To the north is the entrance to the San Francisco Bay.  To the east is China Beach and a beautiful golf course, and looking south I could see the city.

The museum has an obvious European feel and the exhibits were of the same style as you'd see in a European museum, but some particular aspects were uniquely familiar, though much smaller scale than their French counterparts.  Here is the entrance to the Legion of Honor, with a glass pyramid right in front.
And the entrance to France's most famous museum, the Louvre with its glass pyramid.
The arch-entrance to the museum's courtyard:
L'arc de Triumph in Paris:
A statue of some kind of mounted soldier in the front yard area of the Legion of Honor:
And Jeanne D'arc in Paris.
We only got to see about half of the interior.  Rigby was still pretty worked up about his knee (see previous post) and Curie has figured out just how noisy she has to be to get out of quiet places.  She mastered that one in Sunday School.  I'm no art major, and I did not recognize any of the paintings that I saw, but the exhibits were nice and I think that Bethelle really enjoyed this taste of the renaissance.