California 2016: Day Four (San Francisco)

Tuesday morning, I ran out for a Starbucks run and stopped by a local bakery to pick up some food for breakfast, which we ate in the room before heading to North Beach, which was the site of our next tour. We arrived early so we let the kids play on the playground nearby before catching our tour.

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North Beach is the “Little Italy” of San Francisco. The tour took us through different churches and notable buildings in the area, including many of the quaint little restaurants around.

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Somehow, a little miracle happened and both kids had fallen asleep by the end of the tour and we ended up stopping at a little place called Mario’s for lunch and had a sausage sandwich. It was delicious and tasted even better because we got to eat it in peace!

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After lunch, we headed to the market at the Ferry building where we bought these incredibly delicious apricots and nectarines, as well as some other goodies like olive oil herbal blends, caramel, and bread. We wandered around and ended up at a place called Soma that sells creme puffs, and then shopped a bit in China Town.

Afterwards, we visited Lombard Street, which is famous for it’s 8 hair-pin turns up and down a really steep hill. We didn’t drive down it but we got to walk down it and watch the cars slowly make their way down it.

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That evening, we made it an informal night and got burgers at a local joint.

Check out the other jam-packed days we spent in California:

San Francisco: Days 1 and 2

San Francisco: Day 3

 

California 2016: Day 3 (San Francisco)

The third day of our trip was a Monday and we had decided to do another tour through City Guides. This time, we opted for a tour of Chinatown, because we figured we wouldn’t know much about what we were looking at without a guide. We ate a quick breakfast at the hotel and then took the bus to the meeting spot.

This area of town was much more crowded and very different from the Haight-Ashbury area. During the tour, we even got to go into a Taoist temple and the guide told us a little about how all of that works…very interesting stuff that I didn’t know.

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wpid-wp-1469498200397.jpgOnce the tour ended, we ate lunch at the Hong Kong Clay Pot House. We had honey walnut prawns, a chicken and mushroom clay pot, spring rolls, and tea. It was delicious and the best part was that the kids actually ate the food because they wanted to try to eat with chopsticks. We shopped for a bit and Eric let the kids by play swords, despite my protests.

Next, we headed to the pier to go to Alcatraz. If you ever visit San Francisco, you must include Alcatraz as part of your visit, and you must schedule it beforehand or you won’t get in. I think the sign said that the next available tour was about a month later. Oh, and just in case you were wondering…play swords are not allowed on the ship to Alcatraz, just like I told everyone! Luckily, they held them for us and we picked them up when we got back.

When you visit Alcatraz, you meet at the pier at your scheduled time and you go through minimal security measures to get on the boat, and the boat takes you to the island where you get an audio guide that takes you through the prison. When we were there, there was an exhibit about aging in prison. The visit really makes you think about incarceration in the United States and how messed up some of the sentencing is just because of the way some of the laws are written. There are definite needs for reform. When you’re done on the island, you catch another boat back…simple as that!

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When we got back, we walked down by the water to Fisherman’s Wharf and saw the sea lions, but there weren’t that many at the time. Ghiradelli Square was our next stop and we decided to ride the streetcar on the way. Did you know they give you a free sample when you walk in? Definitely check it out if you ever go. We had ice cream, hot chocolate, and amazing coffee while there. We walked around a bit as well and found some paintings to purchase. We like to buy paintings of the places we visit and hang them around our home.

We got back to the hotel later than we intended but we covered a lot of ground that day. We had dinner at an Italian restaurant named Delarosa that got great reviews and then crashed for the evening at the hotel.

See what else we did on our trip….

San Francisco: Days 1 and 2

Around the World: Italy, Part 2

We opted to try an authentic Italian lasagna dish with cannoli for dessert. I have made my own lasagna for years but I used a lightened up version that was supposed to be more authentically Italian. It included ground turkey and pancetta (Italian bacon), as well as ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. It turned out fairly well, but needed more sauce in our opinion.

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We served it with a side salad (European style with only vinaigrette dressing) and fresh Italian bread from a local bakery (we dipped this in a delicious mixture of olive oil and herbs).

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For dessert, I made cannoli. It was actually really easy to do. I made the filling earlier in the day, which consisted of ricotta cheese, mascarpone, powdered sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. I had to let it sit in the refrigerator for awhile and then filled the cannoli shells (which were bought from the store) and stored them once again in the refrigerator until it was time to eat them. I served them with powdered sugar and sprinkles on the top because I thought the kids would like that.

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Check out all the other dishes we have made!

France: Part 1

France: Part 2 and 3

France: Part 4

Costa Rica: Part 1

Costa Rica: Part 2

Portugal: Part 1

Portugal: Part 2

Jamaica

Czech Republic

Italy: Part 1

July Into August

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Fireworks!

July has been a little crazy and I have been working on getting back into keeping up with my writing prompts and my other goals for myself.

Travel:

  • Weekend away with the kids – Not sure when this will happen but I’m sure we’ll come up with something….
  • Anniversary weekend away - This is actually turning into a 7-night trip to Punta Cana. We were planning to do a cruise with my travel school in December because I earned a free cruise when I finished the program, but we found a really great deal on an all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana and used SkyMiles to get really cheap flights, so we can spend more time and get more for our money by doing that. Plus, the weather in Punta Cana in October is much better than the weather will be in the Bahamas in December. 
  • Family vacation Stay tuned for more updates about trip; I’m still working on writing!

Reading:

  • Read 24 books – I have read 21 books so far, but only finished 2 books this month.
  • Read 2 music books - I have read 1 book and just started reading another one.

Writing: 

  • Daily Q&A – I am all caught up with this.
  • Writer’s Book of Days – I did 7 out of 7 planned prompts.
  • 500 Writing Prompts – I did 3 out of 3 planned prompts.

Spiritual:

  • Do a daily devotional written for Catholic moms – I have actually stopped doing this. I don’t really know how to explain exactly what I mean by this, but I started to feel like the meditation and suggested things to do did not coincide with my personal belief system. Most of what I’m working on this year has to do with giving myself some grace and taking better care of myself, but this book seemed to be focusing a lot on self-sacrifice and included suggestions like spending extra time cleaning up one day instead of sitting down for a few minutes or when you’re feeling down, instead of burdening someone with your problems, try to focus on helping someone else. I’m not saying they weren’t good suggestions, but I’m trying to balance out my life a little more the other way, and I didn’t feel like I was getting as much out of it as I would have liked.

Music:

  • Learn at least 6 new popular songs on the guitar or piano. – (4/6)
  • Learn at least 3 new Classical pieces on the piano (0/3).
  • Start recording my songs. I have been working a ton on writing my original songs and working on putting them together with my guitarist. I think I have maybe 6 original songs and 2 covers that I’m focusing on right now.
  • Find at least 5 new songs to use in music therapy sessions - (3/5)
  • Work through Songwriting Without Boundaries - I started the second “course” in April and I’m still working through it. 
  • Listen to 10 classical music pieces.

Home and Organization:

  • Complete Bonus Room Transformation – We have moved most of the stuff out of the room, so the next step will be to move things up to the room.
  • Go through Gmail account – I need to start working on this again.
  • Go through and organize computer files.

Family:

  • Inflatable Fun Factory
  • CMoe
  • Game Night

Financial: I want to continue to save money and to keep our spending in check.

  • Save a specific amount in Travel and Savings Accounts combined – We got to save some in July. 
  • Keep track of “extras” earned from apps, credit cards, rewards, etc. – So far so good.
  • Keep up with a budget as best we can – I am getting a little better about doing this but still need to get back into the habit completely.

Service: 

  • Do at least 6 service projects that may include volunteering, providing a meal at the local Ronald McDonald house, donating items, etc. (1/6)

Miscellaneous:

  • Write a new 101 in 1,001 list.
  • I have started a running list of restaurants I want to try, and I want to eat at 12 of them this year – We didn’t try anything new this month but we are kind of ahead already anyway. (6/12)
  • I plan to cook 12 international meals this year or one international meal a month – We focused on Italy in July. We did make margherita pizza one night and we have planned an authentic pasta dish for the first part of August. We had planned to make it July 31 but something came up, so it got rescheduled.

July has been hot and busy. I signed up to do a half-marathon in October so I started training for it. We also went to the fireworks on July 4 and took the kids to the drive-in one night.

 

California 2016: Day 1 and 2 (San Francisco)

So those of you who follow me know that we spent 2 weeks in California last month. I am just now getting around to blogging about that.

We had found Southwest flights directly from St. Louis to San Francisco and it didn’t leave until later in the afternoon, so we got to take our time driving to St. Louis to get on the plane. The kids did pretty well in transit and we arrived in San Francisco in the early evening, though it felt like later to us because of the time change. While at the airport, we were able to buy our MUNI passes to get around the city, and then took a taxi to our hotel in the Cow Hollow area. We didn’t do anything too crazy that evening because we were tired, but we did get to explore the area around our hotel and had a late snack at a diner across the street.

The kids also played Bean Boozled. If you have never heard of it and someone asks you to play, I suggest you decline unless you like to taste gross stuff. Basically, they are jelly beans that can be either a pleasant flavor (like lime, peach, or something normal) or something absolutely horrid (like barf, dead fish, moldy cheese, etc.). The kids made me take a video of them playing this and it was absolutely disgusting. We got to bed way too late but we didn’t have anything too early planned for the next morning.

This was the view of the Golden Gate Bridge from our hotel room:

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The next morning was the beginning of our first full day in San Francisco. We had breakfast at a nearby restaurant. We had found some free walking tours through a volunteer group associated with the public library. We did several of these tours while we were in San Francisco, but we did our first one that first full day we were there, and it was in the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco. I didn’t know much about that area at first, but it was apparently where the hippie movement was big. There happened to be a street festival happening that same day so we got to walk around and see what was going on before the tour. The tour was really interesting and the guide was really well-informed and was into music so we got a lot of information about the music that came out of this area of town. He also showed us houses where Janice Joplin lived, as well as The Grateful Dead house. We learned a lot about the culture of that part of town and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

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wpid-wp-1468724213577.jpgAfter the tour, we opted to take a taxi to Twin Peaks which offers a really nice view of the city. We then walked down the hill to catch a bus to the Castro area of town. Yes, I know this is the gay area and we had two small children with us. I considered this an educational experience, though. There were shops that were inappropriate for children and we walked quickly past those. There were lots of gay men and lesbians holding hands, as well as cross-dressers and rainbows down every street. Anya probably just thought they were My Little Pony decorations. I waited and waited for the questions I was so sure would be coming from her, but she never said a word. I don’t know if it is because we didn’t make a big deal out of anything we saw or if she was just that unobservant, but neither of our kids said a single word about it. We must have gotten lucky!

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We walked through the Castro area and ended up in the Mission district that had a huge park with a playground that we thought the kids would enjoy. We stopped and let the kids play for awhile before finding dinner at an Indian restaurant in the Mission district. After dinner, we headed back toward the hotel and got some ice cream. It was a full day but it wasn’t too rushed or hurried, so it was the perfect first day in a new city.

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Around the World: Italy

This month we are focusing on Italian food. It sounds easy, I know, but I am trying to find recipes that are more authentically Italian. The first thing we made was a margherita pizza last week. Normally, we prefer lots of veggies on our pizza, so this was a very different sort of pizza for us to make. But, we got the good mozzarella, used home-grown basil and fresh tomatoes, and made the pizza dough from scratch and it did not disappoint!

 

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See what other foods we have tried:

France: Part 1

France: Part 2 and 3

France: Part 4

Costa Rica: Part 1

Costa Rica: Part 2

Portugal: Part 1

Portugal: Part 2

Jamaica

Czech Republic

 

 

June Books

The only book I actually read in June was Lies and Other Acts of Love by Kristy Woodson Harvey. I finished it while on vacation and I really enjoyed it. It’s about the choices people make to protect the people they love and how relationships aren’t all black and white; in fact, there’s a lot of gray area and different situations work for different people. It was a great read and really gives you something to think about. I would highly recommend it!

June into July

June was a complete blur that included Anya’s 6th birthday and our 2-week California trip. I didn’t get much done this month, but here’s what my list looks like…

Travel:

  • Weekend away with the kids
  • Anniversary weekend away
  • Family vacation Stay tuned for more updates about trip!

Reading:

  • Read 24 books – I have read 19 books so far, but only finished 1 book this month.
  • Read 2 music books - I have read 1 book and just started reading another one.

Writing: 

  • Daily Q&A – I have some catching up to do since I didn’t bring the book with me on vacation.
  • Writer’s Book of Days – I did 7 out of 7 planned prompts.
  • 500 Writing Prompts – I did 3 out of 3 planned prompts.

Spiritual:

  • Do a daily devotional written for Catholic moms – Still keeping up.

Music:

  • Learn at least 6 new popular songs on the guitar or piano. – (4/6)
  • Learn at least 3 new Classical pieces on the piano (0/3).
  • Start recording my songs. I am working on this diligently on this. I am currently working with a lead guitarist to collaborate with on some of my songs.
  • Find at least 5 new songs to use in music therapy sessions - (3/5)
  • Work through Songwriting Without Boundaries - I started the second “course” in April and I’m still working through it. I didn’t get as much done with this as in other months because we were on vacation, but I know I will catch up at some point.
  • Listen to 10 classical music pieces.

Home and Organization:

  • Complete Bonus Room Transformation – We still need to get more things moved out of the room, but it is getting closer.
  • Go through Gmail account – I need to start working on this again.
  • Go through and organize computer files.

Family:

  • Inflatable Fun Factory
  • CMoe
  • Game Night

Financial: I want to continue to save money and to keep our spending in check.

  • Save a specific amount in Travel and Savings Accounts combined – We got to save some in June. 
  • Keep track of “extras” earned from apps, credit cards, rewards, etc. – So far so good.
  • Keep up with a budget as best we can – I didn’t do as well with this in June because we were on vacation for half the month.

Service: 

  • Do at least 6 service projects that may include volunteering, providing a meal at the local Ronald McDonald house, donating items, etc. (1/6)

Miscellaneous:

  • Write a new 101 in 1,001 list.
  • I have started a running list of restaurants I want to try, and I want to eat at 12 of them this year – We didn’t try anything new this month but we are kind of ahead already anyway. (6/12)
  • I plan to cook 12 international meals this year or one international meal a month – We didn’t get to this in June because of vacation, so we will start up again in July with food from Italy.

In June, we celebrated Anya’s birthday and went on a trip to California where we spent 7 nights in San Francisco, 3 nights in Yosemite, and 4 nights in Santa Cruz.

Stay tuned for more information about what we did!

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May into June

I can’t believe we are almost halfway through the year already. I have deleted the things that I’ve already done in previous months so that the list is a little shorter. Here’s what we did this month and what is still left on the list:

Travel:

  • Weekend away with the kids
  • Anniversary weekend away
  • Family vacation –We are going to San Francisco in June.

Reading:

  • Read 24 books – I have read 18 books so far.
  • Read 2 music books - I have read 1 book and just started reading another one.

Writing: 

  • Daily Q&A – I am still keeping up with this.
  • Writer’s Book of Days – I did 7 out of 7 planned prompts.
  • 500 Writing Prompts – I did 3 out of 3 planned prompts.

Spiritual:

  • Do a daily devotional written for Catholic moms – Still keeping up.

Music:

  • Learn at least 6 new popular songs on the guitar or piano. – (3/6)
  • Learn at least 3 new Classical pieces on the piano (0/3).
  • Start recording my songs. I am working on this. I’ve finished one recording and working on finishing up another. 
  • Find at least 5 new songs to use in music therapy sessions - (3/5)
  • Work through Songwriting Without Boundaries - I started the second “course” in April and I’m still working through it. 
  • Listen to 10 classical music pieces.

Home and Organization:

  • Complete Bonus Room Transformation – We still need to get more things moved out of the room, but it is getting closer.
  • Go through Gmail account – I need to start working on this again.
  • Go through and organize computer files.

Family:

  • Inflatable Fun Factory
  • CMoe
  • Game Night

Financial: I want to continue to save money and to keep our spending in check.

  • Save a specific amount in Travel and Savings Accounts combined – We got to save some in May. 
  • Keep track of “extras” earned from apps, credit cards, rewards, etc. – So far, so good.
  • Keep up with a budget as best we can – We are still doing well with this, but something got screwed up with some of the items so I know they’re not as accurate as they were, but I plan to keep tracking things the best I can.

Service: 

  • Do at least 6 service projects that may include volunteering, providing a meal at the local Ronald McDonald house, donating items, etc. (1/6)

Miscellaneous:

  • Write a new 101 in 1,001 list. The current one expires in May. - I finished this and started working on it.
  • I have started a running list of restaurants I want to try, and I want to eat at 12 of them this year – We didn’t try anything new this month but we are kind of ahead already anyway. (6/12)
  • I plan to cook 12 international meals this year or one international meal a month – We made a Czech meal this month. 

May was incredibly busy:

  • We celebrated Mother’s Day and spent part of the day painting at Fired Up. I had never been there before, but it was really fun.
  • Eric ran a 50k in the middle of May and the kids and I met him in Brown County after Anya’s soccer game, so we could camp. Unfortunately, it also happened to be ridiculously cold that weekend. We slept in hats and sat around the campfire in our winter coats. It was fun, but I was disappointed that it was so cold. We hope to go camping again at a later date. The following day we visited a big cat rescue center and it was really amazing. If you are ever near Bloomington, IN, you should check it out!

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I broke down and registered for the 10-mile River Run about a week before the race. I wrote about my rambling thoughts here.

Rachel - River Run

  • Anya finished up her spring soccer season and school is out for the summer now. She also played on a violin recital this month.
  • We picked strawberries toward the end of the month and were able to freeze some for the rest of the year.

 

  • I have been writing more and more, including writing song lyrics. It has been so long since I’ve felt this creative, so I’m hoping this feeling lasts!

How was May for you?

May Books

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Here’s what I read this month:

1. My Very Best Friend by Cathy Lamb – This book was written in a very different writing style than I’m used to, but I did enjoy it. It was about a woman who goes back to her hometown in Scotland, reunites with an old flame, and waits for her missing best friend to return home. It brings up lots of interesting issues and was a good read.

2. The Lemongrass Hope by Amy Impellizzeri - This was a book about the what-ifs one has always wondered about. The main character has a chance to do it all over again and make a different choice. The characters were believable and the story line involved the choices she made about romantic relationships when she was younger and what could have happened had she chose differently.

3. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty - This is a story about all the mommy wars you always hear about or experience and how things get out of hand. It is also about how things are not always what they seem. There are several serious issues that come up in this book that are eye-opening and offer up interesting discussions.

My favorite book this month was definitely The Lemongrass Hope. I liked all the books I read this month, but that one had such an interesting story line and was about something that I think most people have at least wondered about.

What did you read this month?

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