Monday, March 31, 2014

If You Only Have One Weekend in San Francisco

San Francisco is one of our favorite cities to visit.  In fact, when we travel, we often try to not go back to the same spots over and over again because we want to explore the whole wide world.  San Francisco is one of those places that we don't even think about when the opportunity to visit arises. We always go back.  Last Fall, we were barely able to visit when my brother-in-law got married in Napa Valley. While we all loved our incredibly brief time in the city, everyone wanted to return and we were happy to indulge the boys over Spring Break a couple of weeks ago.

If you only have one weekend, I really recommend that you stay in the Fisherman's Wharf.  The area is very close to most popular attractions as well as a bevy of amazing restaurants and yet is very accessible to other areas like Chinatown and Union Square.  As I've noted in the past, unless we have to stay somewhere specific, we've gotten really great at the Priceline game and have lucked out with fantastic hotels.  We've stayed at the Holiday Inn - Fisherman's Wharf and The Sheraton - Fisherman's Wharf.  Our favorite by far has been Pier 2620 Hotel also in the Fisherman's Wharf.  It is a beautiful boutique hotel with very comfortable beds and a cheerful and accomodating staff.

Traditional Eggs Benedict at Beach Street Grill
When we travel for fun, Mr. Fantastic and I rarely spend money on breakfast.  We like to sleep in and then we usually just brew coffee in the pot of our hotel room before heading out to explore.  We then pick a spot to eat lunch wherever we happen to be and splurge on our dinners.  We try to stick to this script as much as possible, but we have found a few cafes that we enjoy a bit more than Starbucks like Pat's Cafe near the Cable Car Museum and Emporio Rulli Cafe in Union Square. Our "hands-down" favorite place for breakfast is the Beach Street Grill in the Fisherman's Wharf which we've now discovered is very close to all the hotels above. :)  Their Chicken Habanero Sausage Omelette is a must try for everyone, not to mention, my favorite dish, Traditional Eggs Benedict.

For lunch, we've enjoyed Cioppino's with the family. Italian is always hearty and gives you energy for all subsequent activities. Also in the Fisherman's Wharf, we like King of Thai Noodle House and in Chinatown, we love the Vietnamese food at Golden Flower.

Some our favorite meals have been dinners in San Francisco. When we took the boys, we found a great pizza place, aptly called Fisherman's Pizzeria, where we could order a family pizza and a couple of beers for the frazzled parents while catching up on the lastest sports events.  A couple of years ago, Mr. Fantastic and I enjoyed drinks and appetizers at Capurro's while cheering for his beloved KU from our table at the bar.  One of my favorite dinner dates with my husband was at McCormick and Kuleto's in Ghirardelli Square. All the tables are set on gradient floors and face the tall floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the bay.  There is not a bad view in the house and watching the sunset, sipping champagne, and sharing calamari while we waited for our food is still one of my favorite memories.

The hardest thing of this post was narrowing down what exactly you should do with just one weekend.  While, we have often used San Francisco as a springboard to visit Wine Country, Yosemite, or San Jose for work, I will focus on what to do in town.
Lombard Street
If you rent a car, you absolutely MUST drive down Lombard Street.  As fun as that has been for us in the past, we now know that unless we are heading somewhere out of town, we really don't want to rent a car to stay in town when the public transportation system is so accessible and parking is so expensive.  If you don't rent a car, you can still enjoy the crooked street from one of the Cable Cars, which are another must do.  Even though, it is a very "touristy" thing to do, we always make sure we grab a Cable Car to get to Union Square or Chinatown at least once during our visits. It's fun and something unique to the city, so why not indulge?
View of the Golden Gate Bridge from a lookout off of Hwy 101
Every visit to San Francisco should also include a quick stop to see the Golden Gate Bridge.  When we rent a car, we always head towards the Alexander exit on Highway 101 and take the meandering road up until we find a good spot to get some photos.  While, we have been unsuccessful at finding the exact spot at Golden Gate Park, there is a great photo op there as well if you don't have a car to make the drive.

From Fisherman's Wharf, it is a short walk to visit The San Francisco Maritime Park, also referred to as Aquatic Park with it's wonderful views of the bridge as well as Ghirardelli Square and the various piers along the boardwalk.  We discovered during this last trip that one of our favorite museums, The Exploratorium, has moved from the Palace of Fine Arts to Pier 15, but it is well worth the trek, especially if you have science nerds in your family like we have.
View of Alcatraz Island
Finally, depending on how much time you have to explore, the one attraction that everyone should do at least once is a tour of Alcatraz.  We took the audio-guided tour and it is so much fun to learn the history and the odd tidbits! Plus, how fun to lock up your kids in jail?!?!?

Other things that are so much fun and close by are a walk in the Muir Woods to see the Redwoods, taking a ferry to Sausalito for the day, or spending an afternoon shopping in the Union Square area.  If you are a sports enthusiast, you could taken in a Giants game or a 49rs game depending on the time of year.

What are your must do's in San Francisco? Did I miss anything?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Nature Walk Around Yosemite

After spending the day skiing at Badger Pass, I woke up exactly the same as I woke up the day after my first Pilates class. I hurt EVERYWHERE and it was hard to even use the bathroom! I decided to do nothing but lay around the hotel room.  My family had other plans. They wanted to walk around Yosemite and when I said that sounded a lot like hiking, they assured me it would be nothing more than a fun nature walk. And I believed.
Top: Brooks Utopia; Leggings: GapFit; Boots: Sorel (borrowed); Sunglasses: Nordstrom
While I was unable to finish even the small hike to Vernal Falls (1.6 miles), my husband and the youngest made it all the way to the top, while the oldest and I waited at a clearing close to the top (we went about 1.3 miles) and they joined us on the way back down.  Then we headed to the Yosemite Falls and stopped at the base to take photos, but didn't continue the climb because the sun was starting to set and we didn't want to get caught limping in the dark.
Gorgeous view of the Vernal Falls and the beautiful rainbow at the base.
Even the squirrels were sunbathing
View from the base of the Yosemite Falls
The views everywhere were spectacular and our only regret is that we didn't have more time to spend as we didn't get to walk to the Mirror Lake or a couple of other falls.  My husband and our youngest also wanted to climb El Capitan, but the chains weren't up and we didn't want to split up.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Hitting the (Bunny) Slopes!

The highlight of our Spring Break Trip was definitely the day we spent learning to ski at Badger Pass. Once we decided to head to Yosemite for our trip, we looked around our hotel for things to do.  One of the top attractions was skiing at Badger Pass which is within the National Park of Yosemite.  Almost all reviews stated that it was one of the best places to learn to ski because they have multiple runs that are listed as easy and easiest.  We made a nearly last minute decision to do it less than a week before our flights and I spent a large amount of that time on eBay, Craigslist and at discount retailers trying to find ski gear for all four of us.  The complete list of what I purchased and packed for the trip can be found in my previous post here.
Pants: Stella McCartney x Adidas; Jacket: Nils; Gloves: The North Face
The high for the day we were there was 52, but because we were going the whole day, it quickly got hot and everyone tossed their jackets aside.  Since I spent the majority of the time on my butt instead of my skiis, I was very thankful that my ski pants fit because they were waterproof.
View of Badger Pass from the Club House
View of the Yosemite Valley on our way back to the resort
The views during the drive up and while we were at the ski resort were wonderful.  We were very sad to hear that the snowfall this year was way below their usual averages.  In fact, the resort had a very shortened ski season due to the lack of snow.  Usually Badger Pass opens in late December and doesn't close until early to mid-April and this year, they didn't open until late January and ours was one of the last days they were open because the snow was melting fast.  Because they are located in a National Park, they are not allowed to use snow making machines since these make too much noise and disturb the wild critters in the park.  We loved spending the day skiing and even the total body soreness the next day didn't discourage us from deciding to book another ski trip as soon as the weather permits!
Do you ski? Any favorite locations?

Friday, March 14, 2014

A Mad Hatter TBT

I am on vacation and since I neglected this little space for months during the winter, I wanted to make sure I left you with something in my absence.  This outfit is from last fall. My wine club had a "Mad Hatter's Tea Party" and I wore my beautiful vintage feather fascinator that my friend, Lisa, brought me back from a trip to New York City.  The hat is obviously the center of attention when I wear it, so I kept the rest of the outfit low-key.
Dress: Milly (old)
Fascinator: Vintage gift from my friend, Lisa
Necklaces: Michael Kors via eBay; Kendra Scott Rayne
Purse: c/o JustFab (2012); Bracelet: c/o BaubleBar (2012)
Sandals: Jimmy Choo (old)
I love this fascinator and I've tried to find places to wear it, but it is a character all onto itself so it's hard to repeat it with any frequent basis.  Maybe I will wear it for Derby Day this Spring?
**This is a scheduled post**

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Ski Vacation Packing

We leave for our Spring Break vacation tomorrow.  My husband was out of town all of last week and we decided to change our plan from a sight-seeing trip to San Francisco and Yosemite National Park to multiple days of skiing at Badger Pass (the ski resort at Yosemite) last Thursday before he was due to fly home.  I spent the major part of the weekend researching and shopping for everything us and the boys would need since we have NEVER skied before.  Anything I found online had to be delivered by today.  Most of the gear we got was on deep discount at retailers like REI, Dick's Sporting Goods, and while I did shop at a couple of ski boutiques like St. Bernards and The Warming Hut, the bulk was borrowed from friends, bought from local online sales like Facebook and Craigslist and from eBay. I am still waiting for 5 packages that include my ski pants and thermals for both my husband and our oldest.
Smartwool Ski Socks; The NorthFace Gloves; Brooks Utopia Thermal; Patagonia Speedwork Leggings
I started with Base Layers for everyone and can I just ask once again, how I survived the Icepocalypse of 2013 without knowing about thermals!?!?  I used to think thermals referred only to long underwear and that did not sound at all appealing. Then I received a pair of Patagonia thermal leggings (the photo above has them in maroon, mine are purple) and knew I would never be cold again!  The top is the Brooks Utopia Thermal with thumb holes and is currently on sale.  I bought my husbands and our oldest's thermals from an eBay retailer and I really hope they arrive today.  We decided against ski socks because they are quite expensive ($15-30/pair) for being socks and we don't know if we will like it enough to go again, but if we love it, I am definitely going to try to spring for these by Smartwool.  Also everyone pulled out their KU and other assorted beanie hats and gloves (mine are by The North Face like the ones above, but white) and base layers we're ready to go!

For our top layers, I bought the youngest's ski pants from someone on Facebook and they were nearly brand new Spyder ski pants. I paid $25 for them and then found a matching jacket at The Warming Hut on their 50% clearance. It turns out that because they change the colors every season, you can often find items that are just as awesome in other colors on the clearance racks.  Once I found his jacket, I headed over to the back wall that had everything on 70% clearance and found my jacket, too. It is the one pictured in the header photo and is called Angelica by Nils, the color is sapphire and it was just over $100.  I splurged on mine, because I don't have a quilted jacket and also because I believe that even if I never ski again, I will be able to wear the jacket at home when it is cold. Plus, it has a detachable faux fur trim and even a detachable hood in case I don't need it.  I was very stressed about finding clothes for my husband because he is so tall (6'5") and I always struggle to get him covered.  I did an eBay search for Large Tall Ski and found a vendor (The SkiCloset) that carries Large Long sizing for ski pants and their size chart said that the inseam was 35inches, so I ordered those.  Then I made a mistake in my quick shopping and accidentally ordered an Extra-Large Tall jacket and discovered that the zipper was broken when it arrived and the seller had disclosed it in the description that I failed to read. :(  Mr. Fantastic is a trooper though and said he would make it work since his main concern had been the pants and those fit really well. Our oldest's pants didn't fit and we are going to look to rent a pair when we get there. I also found mine on eBay and they are pictured above, Stella McCartney for Adidas, but they haven't arrived.  We are also renting skis, boots, poles and helmets when we arrive at the resort and hopefully it will all work out. :)
Splendid Thermal Leggings; Sorel Snowboots; Michael Kors Sweater
Finally for hanging around in the snowy mountain and our hotel, I bought another thermal top and I am bringing my leggings, sweaters, and multiple scarves. All the men in my home are Scouts so they all already had waterproof hiking boots and instead of buying some for me, I borrowed my neighbors snowboots to try them out. Again if this becomes something we all just fall in love with, I would love to splurge on the Sorel boots above.  I didn't buy these leggings although I wanted to, because we really weren't expecting to ski and I didn't want my husband to regret his offer. In fact, I really tried to procure everything for the least amount of money possible and my heart hurt as I realized that the most expensive item we paid for other than our jackets was our youngest's gloves. Because his hands are so small, we had to shell out full price and spent $45. That is his most expensive item and I am only sad because I know we will make our way home with only one of those gloves. Unless I staple it to him, that poor boy is unable to hold on to anything.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Conversations With Mr. Fantastic: Forever #TBT

I hadn't done a conversation with my husband in a while and this happened last month shortly after Valentine's Day.  He usually works from home one day a week and I am inordinately spoiled because on those days he makes a pot of coffee, which somehow tastes way better than mine even though I have spent the last 5 years trying to learn how to make the same coffee.  This particular day, he went way above and beyond because he not only made coffee, but also breakfast and brought everything to me while I was still in bed. The conversation went like this:

Me: Wow, babe! This is awesome. I am going to love you FOREVER!
Mr. Fantastic: Well, forever is an unquantifiable, not to mention, unrealistic time frame.
Me: The appropriate response when I declare my undying love for you is to kiss me immediately.
Mr. Fantastic: Undying is also incorrect, but I will kiss you anyway.

Who says romance is dead?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Monumental Weekend: T-Shirt Edition

For the second week in a row, we had a gorgeous weekend. We were once again without the boys and couldn't figure out quite what to do with ourselves, so we decided to go watch The Monuments Men at the last minute. What a FANTASTIC movie! My husband and I have never met a museum we could not get lost in and it was really nice to watch a World War II movie that focused on so much of the art. I loved it and I can't wait to get back to Europe and check out the Ghent Altarpiece or the Madonna of Bruges.
Top: Victoria's Secret; Sweater: BCBGMaxAzria; Skirt: T by Alexander Wang
Bracelets: Fossil Crystal Pave & Blue Nile Hammered Links; Necklace: c/o BaubleBar 2011
Boots: Frye 14L Jane Stitch
Because we basically had no plans, I spent most of the weekend in a t-shirt and this entire outfit is comprised of pieces made of the same t-shirt material. I was comfy and warm all during the windy weekend.

What are your comfiest wardrobe pieces?