Small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.



It seems ironic, but I am so grateful that we live in a tiny apartment, because it motivates us to get out and do things on the weekends. Of course it helps that we live in a place with great weather and endless things to do. For me, there is no better feeling than breaking out of the house, away from the TV and computers and spending quality time together as a family. The more we get out and do things together, the more we bond, learn together, and laugh. Home is where I clean and cook, where Landon plays with his toys and watches movies, and where Adam gets on the computer or does work. It isn't that we don't spend any time together, but everyone kind of has their own stuff and does their own thing. It seems like the more out of our comfort zone we get, the closer we become and so we always make a point to get out on the weekends and do something together as a family.

This weekend was no exception. Saturday, I had an eye doctor appointment in the morning so we got off to a little bit of a late start, but we still managed to have a full day. Since our first trip to Golden Gate Park on Thanksgiving, we've been wanting to go back and take a boat on Stow Lake. When I got out Saturday for my appointment I could tell it was going to be a beautiful day so once I was done, I picked up some picnic foods from Trader Joe's (literally 50 feet from our house) and we headed off to spend the day at the park. We decided to hit up the lake first and it was quite the debate as to whether we should rent a row boat or a paddleboat. I was all about the row boat, Adam said the paddleboat so we could all face the same direction, and Landon, well he wanted everything. Guess which won out…

Stow Lake is a small circular man-made lake within Golden Gate park. It is easy to stroll around either by foot or boat. Poor Landon was a little worried at first that we would sink. It is so funny how he is afraid of certain small things while totally brushing off others.

He was able to sit in the middle right next to the steering stick so you can imagine what he wanted to do. He has learned his left and right and knows them very well, but it is very confusing for a kid when the boat had to be steered in the opposite direction that you want it to go. We eventually had to tell him to listen to us say “left” or “right” and ignore the way he thought it should be. After awhile, he was able to catch on pretty well.

Stow Lake has a number of neat features. There is a large waterfall...

...A Japanese style pavilion...

...And a number of bridges that you pass under. This one dates back to 1893.

For $25 plus a $5 deposit you can rent the paddleboat. The row boat is a little less at $20. There are even electric paddleboats for anyone who doesn’t want to do any work. Rentals are by the hour and if you kept moving along the lake you could do two laps around in that time. We took our time and even back paddled through a few spots so we only did one lap. The paddleboats only have one speed and it doesn’t require much work to make it move, just a slow and steady cycle on the pedals.

Many people walk around the lake and feed the ducks so you can imagine they’ve all told their friends and there is quite a large number of ducks all across the lake. From mallards, geese, seagulls, and a number of other varieties. We even witnessed a cormorant catch and swallow a fish whole! We also spotted these cute little turtles sunning on a rock.

After our quick tour of the lake, we headed over to the nearby playground for a picnic and some play time. San Francisco is the perfect picnic city and I enjoy nothing more than having a picnic with my family. Landon played on the playground for a bit and then we played together as a family trying out his new baseball glove, quickly switching to Frisbee, then to soccer, and lastly to batting. We’ve started quite the collection of outdoor toys, but we realized we needed to re-think our baseball approach. The family next to us had a good idea using a beach ball for the baseball and it wasn’t long until their boys, Landon, and the Dad’s had teamed up to play a game. It was pretty adorable.

We stayed in the park until the sun was behind the trees. In San Francisco, sunshine equals warm weather and everything else is cold. We decided to head over to a nearby REI so I could check out some new running shoes. Our route took us right past something I’ve been wanting to see, the painted ladies! And I couldn't have asked for a better time to drive pass them, right at sunset. These homes are almost as quintessential San Francisco as the golden gate bridge. For that reason and because I grew up loving Full House it was pretty neat to see them. There is a popular park across the street which was full of people watching the sunset behind the city behind these Victorian beauties and I told Adam we needed to have our next picnic in that park doing just that.

Well, we ended up having another picnic on Sunday, but not at the painted ladies. Instead, Sunday morning we decided to go to Muir Beach so Landon and Kaiser could play I had been wanting to hike up and around the beach and the weather was AMAZING so we thought it would be a win-win for everyone. Unfortunately though, the main road to Muir Beach was washed out in the storms from December and we had to take a very long detour. It took us an hour and half to get to the beach which is not fun with a very excited German Shepherd in the car. On the bright side, the views were stunning.

And we passed by Muir Overlook (a place I had been wanting to go) so we stopped to get a glimpse of the view. It was a decently clear day and the view was worth the stop. I also found my dream home. I would love to live in a house all by itself on the rocks overlooking the ocean. As you can imagine, there are so many beautiful homes along the coast. I’m much less interested in size than I am location. I might even be convinced to settle down in one place if it was something like this.

After a quick look around the overlook it was time to get to the beach. Landon and Kaiser are complete beach bums. They could spend everyday, all day playing in the sand and the water. Muir Beach is especially great, because they allow dogs off leash. We bought this toy for Kaiser (that everyone here has) called a chuck-it. It’s an arm that grabs a ball and allows you to throw it without having to touch it, Genius! Needless to say, Kaiser is a machine. He might stop for a minute to catch his breath, but it isn’t long before he is ready to go again. I had to take a break while throwing the baseball with Adam and Landon just to throw his ball or else he would sit and whine. At one point, he even brought Adam the entire toy in an effort to get him to throw it again.

And speaking of throwing, Landon might need some work on catching the baseball, but he has a darn good throwing arm.


Our Sunday looked a lot like our Saturday with sand involved. Lots and lots of sand...

We relaxed on the beach and played our games. We had another picnic and soaked up the sun.It was so enjoyable on the beach I didn't even bother to go hike.

Everyone was happy! We might not have moved mountains last weekend, but we did spend lots of time together just relaxing and having fun. My heart is full of happiness and joy at another wonderful weekend spent with my family and I'm especially looking forward to this coming weekend. My Mom will be arriving later this afternoon to help celebrate a certain munchkin turning 4! How much better does it get than this?


San Francisco Bucket List

Another bucket list, really? I know, I cannot help myself. I'm a serial Type A list maker, dreamer, and doer, so a bucket list is one of my favorite things in the world. That being said, it's also frustrating, amazing, and exhausting how many things there are do in our new town. The bad part of it all is that I want to do it all, and and I want do it now. The only thing keeping me from being able to is a serious lack of time and money. So, as a compromise, we try and work hard during the week so we can play harder on the weekends. With so many things to do and places to see, it would be no surprise to anyone that I have three Pinterest boards to help me remember all the things I want to do here (and it is never ending as I constantly discover more places to go, things to do, events and activities to be a part of). Still, I thought it would be fun to make a list of things within the city and outside that we want to do. I will probably add to it as time goes on and revisit it at the end of each of year. I'm also going to add links as we check things off and I'll share our experience on the blog.

Although I set a strict, no-moving-for-two-years-policy, like I told my Mom the other day, if the right opportunity came our way I wouldn't turn it down. I love San Francisco, I mean I really, really love it (sorry, Papa I don't care if it doesn't love me back), but that doesn't mean I'm not open to other places and experiences in the years to come. I made a list of places and things I wanted to do in Nashville and I'm sorry to say that many of those were never checked off. I'm certain I'm not going to let that happen here. That being said, here's a list of the places we want to go, things we want to do, and things we want to see and experience during our time in San Francisco... However long or short it may be.

Bay Area
Rent a Go car for the day
Indulge in a cruffin from Mr Holmes 
Ride in a seaplane
Eat at the Old Clam House
Visit tank hill at night
Spend a day at Great America
Hike down to Kirby Cove for sunset
Have a beach bonfire
See an outdoor movie in the park
Do a Barbary coast walking tour
Have afternoon tea at the Palace Hotel Garden Court
Have a shabu-shabu dinner in Japantown
Visit the exploratorium
See a sunrise on Mt. Tamalpais
Visit the Conservatory of flowers in Golden Gate Park
Visit the Walt Disney Musuem
Take a night walk through Muir Woods

Beyond the Bay
Visit the Channel Islands
Big Basin State Park
Spend a weekend in Solvang at Christmas
Watch the monarch migration
Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve (March/April)
Spend the night at Safari West
Take Landon to Disneyland
Visit all 21 California Missions (1 down)
Dive among the Kelp at Point Lobos
Visit Joshua Tree National Park
See the Calla Lily's in Big Sur
Visit Burney Falls
Hike to the top of Half Dome

What We've Done so Far
Point Reyes (HERE AND HERE)
Visit Death Valley
Check out the Cable Car Musuem
Decide who has the best ice cream Bi-Rite or Mitchell's (Mitchell's by a long shot!!!)
Visit Rosie the Riveter
       Visit the Redwood National Park (quick trip need more time to explore)
Figure out who has the best pizza in North Beach (work in progress- maybe Tommaso's?)
Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge
Visit the Jelly Belly Museum (weekday)
Swing at Billy Goat Hill
See Natural Bridges
Hike Alpine Lake/Bontemps/Cataract Trail
Bethlehem AD
See the Bioluminescence in Tomales Bay (tried but didn't see the bioluminescence)
Natural Bridges State Beach
Spend a day at Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Head up the 16th Avenue steps
Visit Bowling Ball Beach-tried but didn't find it :(
Take pictures at Shark Fin Cove
See an Ancient Bristlecone
Have a drink at the famous Tonga Room
Enjoy summer day at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk
Hike to Alamere Falls
Road trip down Hwy 1 to Pfeiffer Beach
Take a tour of the Winchester house
Visit lots of wineries in Wine County (Ongoing-Chappellet, Grigch Hills, Sterling Vineyards, Kunde Family, Castello di amorosa, Robert Mondavi, Hess)
Fly a kite on Ocean Beach
Fisherman's Wharf
Make a sourdough critter at Boudin
See a show at Beach Blanket Babylon
Make a trip to Stinson Beach
Did I miss anything? Let me know we are always open to a few more adventures!


Point Reyes National Seashore, Part 2 (The Beaches!)

If you missed part 1 of our adventures at Point Reyes National Seashore you can read about it HERE. I had to break it into two posts and could easily make a post about each of the beaches we've visited As they are all great beaches.

We visited two beaches at Point Reyes, South Beach and Drakes Beach. South Beach is more of the standard beach that you will find in Northern California. Very long with a wide sandy beach, it is a great place to relax, have a picnic, or play a few games. We spent some time walking the shore and exploring it a few weeks ago. Its one defining feature is the large drop off at the end of the fields right onto the beach.

The height of the drop off varies at different parts on the beach. Sometimes it may be over 15 feet while only a few feet in others. The low spots provide a beautiful window that allow you to see the vast fields of color off into the horizon.

One of my favorite parts of these mini-cliffs are how the drop-off leaves these plants clinging to the edge of their world, seemingly being crowded out by all its relatives with its roots hanging off completely exposed.

Adam has taken up a new love of photographing pelicans so he did just that...

...while Landon ran around like a crazy person kid and had the time of his life. I swear I could leave this kid at a beach for a few hours, run a few errands, and when I came back he would still be playing in the sand, completely unaware of anything else.

Although, I may have joined him at one point in an epic sword fight.

South Beach is great, but it is not in the same league with Drakes Beach which has a little bit of everything. It’s signature white rock cliffs remind me of the White Cliffs of Dover in England (on a smaller scale).

These cliffs curve around in a semicircle and create a visually stunning beach, perfect for a stroll in either direction.

There are also a number of shallow tide pools and moss covered rocks along the beach which are perfect playground for kids.


Seriously, look at the fur on these rocks! It’s amazing. I think I’m going to start documenting trees and moss/lichen of Northern California. I could probably make a nice coffee table book when I am done.

Yes, I did pet it and it feels just like a horse. Along the beach, we also found a few crabs and this tiny little sand dollar when playing in the tide pools.

The best part of the beach though is the seals. Say cheese!

Last weekend, we got to witness this large male making his way back to the ocean after laying out all day in the shallow pools. 

It was pretty amazing to be so close. We captured some video of his little journey (It's actually a number of short videos put together). Every time we thought he was done, he was actually just taking a little break. Eventually, he makes it all the way to the water.

Both times we've visited Drake Beach, we've gotten up close and personal with the seals. They seem to give no cares about humans and although they ask that you stay 100 yards away from them (which we did...for the most part...), we saw a number of people taking pictures just a few feet from them. 

In an attempt to be respectful of the animals, we admired them from a distance and all enjoyed the beach in our own little ways. I sat in my new chair, reading all about the Elephant Seals, and learning a ton of neat facts that I was able to share with my boys. My favorite was the fact that the seals can dive a mile deep! Pretty impressive for animals that can also lay out in the sand all day.

Adam of course took more pictures of our beautiful surroundings.

As the sun starts to fade the temperatures quickly drop and that is our cue to start heading home. 

And despite our best attempts, it never fails that Landon gets all wet. We've just resorted to bringing his swimsuit with us no matter what the weather. He's also getting a wetsuit for his birthday so we can all rest assured he wont be getting hypothermia.

On our way out a few weeks ago, Adam stopped at Drakes Estero to grab a few pictures of the sun fading against the beautiful backdrop.  Like all of the coast, this area has beautiful sunsets.

This weekend, I stopped to grad another iconic Point Reyes picture of the tree lined street which appears out of nowhere in the vast expanse of open farmlands.

Each time we've visited Point Reyes, it's gotten better and better. I’m so glad I didn't write it off after my initial visit. There are so many more places along the seashore we still haven’t visited, but even if we don’t go to another new place, I know that these spots are worth visiting different times of year. In the Spring, the whales may be more visible, the baby Elephant seals will be on the beaches alone, and the wild flowers will fill the fields. I'm looking forward to going back then. Right now, I'm still in love with being able to visit a beach in January. 

Point Reyes National Seashore, Part 1

This is a place I've been meaning to share for awhile now, but have held back waiting for the right time. Point Reyes was one of the places I read about (and pinned) before moving out here. From the famous lighthouse to the stunning beaches and the plethora of wildlife, I knew it was a place we would have to visit. Now that we've been three times, I have way too much to share on one post so I will leave the beaches for a second post and talk about everything else in the first.

The first time I visited, was with my dear friend and although I enjoyed the lighthouse, all the grass was dead leaving the scenery a bit disappointing. I guess that is all relative though.

A few weeks ago, we decided to give it another try and because of the recent rainfall the whole area had really greened up making it even more scenic than I could have imagined.
Our third trip occurred this past weekend, at the height of the elephant seal birthing season and grey whale migration past the seashore. This visit was also very enjoyable, as seeing all the wildlife really helps to separate this area from all the other pretty beaches.

Point Reyes National Seashore is about an hour and half North of San Francisco depending on the route one takes. You can take the long way, and put yourself onto Route 1 which hugs the shoreline for a good part of the way and offers stunning views. On this route, you pass through the cute beach side town of Stinson Beach and, although we didn't stop, it seemed like the perfect place to stretch a day trip from the city into a nice relaxing weekend getaway. The other route, from the expressway outside of the city, gets off onto LUCAS Valley Road passing the most inconspicuous headquarters of Lucas Film Animations (we only knew because google maps had it marked) and a Redwood Forest before heading through the town of Point Reyes Station. 

Both paths come together at Sir Drake Blvd right before a wetlands area. Here, at the last bit of civilization before entering the Seashore, you can stop at the store for some food or beverages and if you do, don’t forget to walk around back to get a glimpse and a picture of the iconic Point Reyes boat.

Either of these routes and the entire area would be an enjoyable place for a short weekend getaway as we never have enough time to stop and explore it all maybe we will be able to do just that at some point. We are always on a mission to get to the seashore. 

At one point the road splits and if it were not for the signs pointing to Point Reyes, you'd be sure you should have gotten off Sir Francis Drake at the split. From beautiful marshland, you suddenly enter farmlands. A 12 mile drive on winding roads takes you past a number of massive ranches before ending at the cliffs of the ocean. One day, I’m going to have to learn about the history as all of the ranches are marked historical with different letters representing them. And as Marty and I found out on our first visit, they are very much in working order as we were delayed by a herd of cattle passing across the road.

These cows and other wildlife such as elk and deer have some pretty amazing scenery to enjoy as they graze on the grass on the cliff side. Can you spot this lucky deer unaware of anything but the grass to munch on?

Often known as one of the foggiest and windiest places on the West coast, we've been very fortunate and had beautiful weather every time we've visited. It was so sunny last weekend that our shadows followed us where ever we went which was much to the pleasure of our little one. He says his shadow proves that he is almost big like us now. 

Although this post is a hodge podge of my visits there, our first (and should be anyone’s first) stop was to the Point Reyes lighthouse. After parking, it’s a short, mainly uphill hike to the visitor’s center. On the way up, the vast expanse of South Beach becomes visible on the right. 

Once at the visitor’s center, you can take peak at some of their information on the current whale sightings and other animal presence on any given day. When we arrived last Saturday, more than a dozen sightings of Grey Whale pods had already been recorded that day. 

Turning the corner outside the visitor’s center suddenly the lighthouse appears. Way, way down at the end of a very long and steep staircase.

A sign at the top cautions people that going down to the lighthouse, means coming back up.

It is no joke, but a sectioned off viewing platform allows anyone who doesn't want to make the trek a great place to rest and look for whales. Often, there are volunteers at this post who are also looking for whales, have a lot great information, and are happy to teach the curious. If a little sweat doesn't bother you, the lighthouse is worth it and Landon has made his way up and down twice now so it is completely doable. Not to mention, the scenery is breathtaking! 

Still functioning, you can hear the air horn every minute or so still alerting ships of the dangerous cliff. The inside is usually open for a peak inside at the light. I found it pretty amazing! Inside the bottom there is a lot of information about the history of the lighthouse which is worth the quick read.

 The adjoining building, which housed the now extinct equipment used back in the day, is on display as well which gives you a sense of what it was like to run a lighthouse 100 years ago.


You can walk all around the outside of the lighthouse as well and enjoy the waves crashing along the rocky cliff.


We brought out binoculars and looked for whale blow spouts in the distance. This is the tail end of the Grey Whales Southern migration from Alaska to Mexico. In the warmer waters they will give birth to their young and then start the journey back North in the Spring. I've read that when they make the trip back to Alaska they're much easier to spot and more active. With their young in tow, they tend to stick closer to the shore and are often spotted teaching their young tricks along the way. 

As you can imagine, I've already made a note in our calendar to visit again at the end of March. Despite being the largest mammals, they were not easy to spot so after a bit of watching we decided to move on to other animal visiting this time of year. Of course, that meant walking back, all 308 steps! They even have them numbered so you can know how far from the top you still are.


After the lighthouse, we headed over to Chimney Rock. A short 2 mile hike out along a peninsula, this hike was so much more enjoyable with the green grass. Compare the two pictures taken in just about the same spot. The one on the left was taken in September during the driest time of year and the one on the right was taken just this last weekend. 


Now maybe you can understand my initial dissapointment. Beyond the green grass, there were a number of blooming flowers along the path and the few tree were swollen with acorns. I just love all the different acorns on the various evergreens. As you get further out on the hike, the land becomes more and more narrow leaving expansive views of Drakes Beach to the left and a beautiful rocky cliff on the right. 

As we left the parking lot and started walking we could hear them, the Elephant seals. Their loud and constant barking wasn't exactly what we expected them to sound like. I knew of a secret cove along the way where we had spotted some the first trip. We opted for this spot instead of the more crowded seal overlook. These ladies know how to pick some prime property.

When we visited in September, there was a number of seals sun tanning, but last weekend the number had tripled. Most of them had their newborn pups along side of them. Elephant seals, especially males, are not the cutest animals on the planet, but the babies sure are.

They were nursing, sunning, and cooling off in the sand. You could tell that some of the pups were brand new and number of seals were super swollen yet to give birth. We even watched a couple fight. Can you tell Landon was a little nervous at the edge?

Which is a good thing too, because one mistake and off the edge you go. We took our binoculars so we could all take turns looking at the babies up close. It is so much fun to be able to show Landon these animals up close and teach him while he experienced it. The weekend before, I had read all the information about them, so I shared with my boys as we stared down on them. Adam even took the opportunity to share with Landon a new science experiment. 

Luckily, it was only a piece of grass that they burned. Landon tried to do it on his own, but he had neither the patience nor stability to hold it in the same place long enough. And who wants to catch grass on fire when you can enjoy this view instead?

The answer is boys. We watched the seals and their babies for a bit before heading to Landon’s favorite place…the beach. As I said in the beginning, these three visits made it just too much for one post (anyone still with me?) so I'll share the beaches tomorrow. I'll end this post with two short videos we took. Adam took the first with his camera so he is able to zoom in a little better. The second, I took with my *new* iphone. The ocean and our lack of decent audio equipment make it hard to hear them, but listen closely and I'll give you a hint, those are not birds.

HERE is part 2 on the beaches if you want to read more!