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


Dad's Visit

I've fallen off the wagon with blogging lately, but it hasn’t been due to lack of things to share. Between studying for the brokerage exam (which is April 13th) and working on a big project at work, I've had very little free time to sit down and write about all the things we've been doing lately. Adam is in the middle of busy season and has been traveling a lot. Even though he is either gone or super busy during the week, we’ve still managed to pack in a lot of fun stuff during our weekends and I’m looking forward to sharing it all. Before any more time passes (and because I’m sitting in an airport waiting for a flight), I want to share and document an extra special weekend.

Last weekend, was extra special and fun as my Dad came for his first visit. He planned his inaugural visit on his birthday weekend and I was really excited to see my Dad, spend his birthday with him, and show him our beloved new hometown. Having lived in Los Angeles for a while, I grew up hearing from my Dad how he would never again live in California and how Kentucky was so much prettier. When I used to say as a teenager that I wanted to move to California, it was always quickly rebutted with a number of reasons why Kentucky was so much better and it always ended with “one day, you will change our mind.” Having been in California now for six months I have explored enough of Northern California to know my Dad was just plain wrong. (Sorry Dad!) While I knew he was one person I could never convince to move here, I did want to show him how wonderful California actually is. Everyone has their own definition of beauty, but I wanted him to see how Northern California was so different from Southern California and I couldn't wait to show him all the great things we have to offer.

The great thing about living in San Francisco is that it has everything, literally. Whatever your interests are, whatever your likes or your tastes, it has it and that is one of the reasons I knew I could change my Dad’s views. There is no way anyone visiting (or living here) can do or see it all so when people visit, I try to take people to places that are similar to their own likes and interests with a few wildcards thrown in that I know will surprise them, yet they will love. When I asked my Dad if there was anything he wanted to do see or, he said he had always wanted to see the Redwoods and would like to go to Alcatraz. So I got to work planning out the perfect weekend for my Dad.

Planning an itinerary is what I love to do and I spent a lot of time pouring over the right combination for this special weekend. I got my passion and skills in trip planning from my Father so I felt the need to be on my A game with him. He's a good trip planner so to impress him with California and all the great things it offers was my goal. Beyond the redwoods and Alcatraz, I knew he would also enjoy a winery. Back in Kentucky, we had a Huber’s wine club membership as a father/daughter thing and I wanted to try and fit in a California style father/daughter wine experience to fill the void. After a little searching, I found a Croatian winery in Napa. BINGO! Croatian and Winery were the only words I needed to see before I knew this was the perfect place to have a father/daughter day and so I booked a wine and cheese tasting for us.

I also knew my Dad would really enjoy the military sites so I researched some of the area forts and military installations nearby. Having explored a lot of the area, I knew that San Francisco was surprisingly rich with military history and the hardest part was figuring out what I wanted to take him to the most out of a sea of choices. I found out the Nike Missile site in the Marin Headlands (one of our favorite places and a must see stop) was actually open one Saturday a month for demonstrations and it just so happened to be that Saturday. It seemed fate had aligned and I knew we had to put it on the list. Not only does my Dad love everything military, but this Nike Missile site is the only one open in the country and so I knew this would be something he has never done before. Which for my Dad, is quite the feat!

Since it was his birthday on Saturday, I also wanted to throw in an extra special birthday dinner and one special thing I knew he would love. I was able to find a highly ranked Greek Restaurant with my Dad’s favorite food, roasted lamb. Someone on yelp had posted a picture of the lamb roasting in the fireplace and I knew he would be in heaven. Unfortunately, I he-hawed around at booking reservations, because it was quite upscale and I was worried about how Landon would do in a fine dining establishment. When I finally decided to bite the bullet, they were already booked for Saturday night. Instead, we got the last reservation on Sunday, thankfully! If you are ever in San Francisco and want to try Kokkair Estiatorio, get reservations a week in advance. 

I also figured this was the perfect time to do something I knew we would all enjoy, a sailboat tour of the bay. My Father loves sailboats and growing up he almost bought one a time or two. If you ever see the bay on a nice day, it is covered in sailboats and so I figured that nothing would be more fun for the whole family than a ride on a sailboat. Since there are hundreds of sailboats in San Francisco, finding one wasn't a problem, just figuring out which one to choose was the tricky part.

Figuring out where to take him was one thing, but the logistics are always another aspect of planning. Depending on the place the, logistics can take a lot more work, time, and precision. I stayed up really late Monday night planning it all out, making sure we could get the timing right to do everything, and booking our tickets. In six months, I've learned that 4 miles can mean 20 minutes. The traffic is never that bad, but the streets are so crazy out there that you cannot figure a normal driving time the way you can in most cities. Google maps might say it is going to take 35 minutes, but even in their hometown, Google just cannot properly adjust for the craziness that is navigating through San Francisco. Since Adam wasn't getting back home until late Friday night, making plans for Friday called for some real planning and sticking to a strict time line. After all, I couldn't leave poor Landon at daycare past closing. While our house is close enough that he could actually walk home, I think they would have frowned upon that.

By the time I was done, I knew we had a great weekend planned and this was the schedule.
·        Friday- Alcatraz, Grgich Winery Tour and Tasting, and dinner at Calzones (our favorite Italian restaurant)
·        Saturday- Muir Woods, a tour of the Nike Missile Site, Sailboat Ride on the bay, dinner at Dad’s choice
·        Sunday- Church, tour of Fort Point, Land’s End and dinner at Kokkair Estiatorio

On top of planning a number of activities, I wanted to get Landon involved and excited so I asked Landon what he wanted to do for Papa’s birthday. He decided he wanted to make Papa some cookies for his birthday. I had bought Landon a 100 piece cookie cutter set for his birthday, because making cookies is one of his favorite things to do. So we started our two part cookie series by baking some cookies Tuesday night. THIS is the best sugar cookie recipe I've ever tried. I think the key ingredient is almond extract which gives it just a tiny bit of distinct flavoring. The best part, it is super easy to make, takes only a few ingredients, and keeps its shape wonderfully during baking. Where was I before pinterest?

On Wednesday night, we set out to decorating them with some icing and sprinkles. Although I took a cookie decorating class a few years ago, I've found the best way to keep a four year old involved is to make the make the icing part as simple as possible. Hence, we use pre-made icing in tubes. Maybe in another year or so we will get fancy. Until then, this icing tastes good and we quickly get to the little one’s favorite part, the sprinkles! Since his set came with the entire alphabet of cutters, we made sure to spell out Papa and Landon tried to make some special cookies in honor of the visit.

We also managed to make some signs for him as Landon also loves to color and write right now. Landon helped me to color and decorate my sign and then he really wanted to make another one. I bought an extra poster board, so he made one all by himself. He even tried to copy my bubble letters as evident by his first “P” in Papa, but quickly gave up as it seemed too complicated for him to duplicate the “A”. Although he tried again and managed to make a few exclamation points. He kept commenting after he wrote his name that he didn't like the black “O” and I think if he had it his way he would have trashed it and started it all over. He’s so picky sometimes and so I had to explain that it really was the thought that counted.

Tuesday night, was the first time I started to hear of the super snow storm that was making its way to Kentucky. The timing was iffy at that point, but it seemed to be coming just in time for Dad’s Thursday morning flight. By this point, I had the entire weekend planned and all our activities booked. Needless to say, I spent the next three days with a real knot in my stomach worried sick that he wouldn't be able to get to us. I’m not normally much of a worrier, but my excitement to see my Dad and having extensively planned our weekend together really put me on edge. I had managed to squeeze out a day off work too and I surely didn't want to waste that for nothing.

Low and behold, Thursday morning he woke up to almost two feet of snow which is not only unheard of for central Kentucky but in March especially.  Being the trooper he is, he got up and plowed his entire driveway (which is super long). By 10 am, he was headed to the airport which become a slow going two hour drive. Thankfully, he was able to drive his F250 which got him there without much incident. Once at SDF, his plane was delayed, but scheduled to fly. When he arrived at his layover in Charlotte, the plane had to sit on the tarmac waiting for a gate to open. They sat for so long that he actually missed his connection!! He was however able to make it on a flight less than two hours later and made it to San Francisco late Thursday night.

Landon and I were there waiting for him with bells on (as Noni would say). Landon was super excited and had told everyone at daycare that his Papa was coming. Once I saw him, I was finally able to relax and ready to enjoy the weekend. Our wonderfully planned birthday weekend could commence.
I had planned to take to a great Chinese restaurant near out house that night, but since he arrived late he was tired and not hungry so we just made our way back to our place. The night was uneventful just spend a little time catching up and chatting. Landon was so excited to show his Papa his room, all his toys and to play with him. He probably would have spent the entire weekend just him and Papa if he has it his way. He made sure of course to point out that Papa even had special cookies in the room for him.

Despite Landon’s idea of a visit with Papa, I had other plans. I’m going to share everything about all the places we visited, Alcatraz, Grgich Winery in Napa, the Nike Missile site, Fort Point the sailboat tour and the great restaurants we went to, but in hopes of not letting the post get too long and trying to format some of these posts in a different way, I’m going to post each place separately. I realize this post is a lot about nothing but the events leading up to my Dad’s visit, but I have to admit I was super proud of my tour guide planning and skills and wanted to share/document a more in depth look at this weekend. I absolutely love taking people around and showing them San Francisco and beyond. My Dad was my favorite “victim” so far as I felt like I had a little something to prove and wanted to make it extra special for him. If I had it my way, I would be a tour guide for everyone that visits and I would spend all my extra time visiting every where in Northern California in hopes of finding gems for everyone. For now, real life responsibilities, time and money keep it at a minimum, but with every free weekend and new exploration, I learn a little more about this great city and find new places to share with others.

We ended up having an amazing weekend with my Dad. Everything I planned worked out perfectly, but even more importantly, I got to spend three entire days with my Dad having fun and making memories. At times, it is devastating how far we live from those we love, but that distance really allows us to cherish every second of the minutes we do have with them. I cannot remember the last time, I spent three entire days with my Dad, no tv, no prior commitments, no distractions.
Saying goodbye was especially hard. Sunday night, I had to leave to fly to Chicago for work and every ounce of my being wanted to stay just to extend the weekend a little bit longer. Monday was Landon’s turn to spend the entire day with Papa and I know that their time together just the two of them was even more important than ours was. Dad flew home early Tuesday morning and, despite my distance from home, it is always hard when someone leaves. Leaving Kentucky last year was easy for us, but every time someone visits then leaves, it feels like a dagger through my heart. California may have it all, but it doesn't have our family and that is a part of it we will never love.

Stay tuned for the details on the weekend’s events soon!

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