On Becca’s Bookshelf // September + October 2015 Edition

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So funny story about this. I sat down to write a book post, decided to combine my September and October reads from forever ago, began to make the collage — and then just had a nagging feeling that I’d already done this. I checked my drafts, and sure enough I started this post way back in the fall but never finished it!

So here’s to finishing things. Happy Friday!

The fall felt busy, and my reading slowed down a little as I got caught in some larger, longer books, like Seabiscuit and God’s Hotel. (The same is true now, but I’m reading a 500-page tome, so I’ll blame it on that!) I mixed up the fall reading with some fun, light stuff, though — as always!

*****

9780525426592_custom-771e68183dad310e9eff4577f588179e46f0421a-s300-c85AFTER YOU

Jojo Moyes

I was so excited about this follow-up to Moyes’ dazzling Me Before You (soon to be a movie!). But this novel was disappointing, especially after her last several novels, all vibrant bestsellers. It felt forced and too long, and I had a hard time caring about the characters, their troubles, and even their choices. Oh well, sequels must be so hard to write. 

3 stars

*****

book_cover_400x600SECRETS OF AN ORGANIZED MOM

Barbara Reich

Best to get this book when you’re ready to march around your house and do what she says, as it is basically an embellished, very helpful list of how to organize each part of your home at a time. Not exactly inspirational or bedtime reading, though. I found it a little too specific and less inspirational, so I still prefer The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up over this one.

3 stars

*****

41ER04S8koL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_WHY NOT ME?

Mindy Kaling

Silly and honest, light and fun. Her insights into Hollywood were more interesting to me now that I live close to L.A., and I read this book around the time Elliott and I spent a day there for a promotional dinner for his book. She describes a lot of her career track, which is fascinating, as well as many quirks and expectations of the film industry. Hard not to love Mindy! 

3 stars

*****

514QzhdM+LL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_HANDS FREE MAMA

Rachel Macy Stafford

Not what I expected! Not as much practical advice, mostly stream-of-consciousness meditations on how much the author would have missed had she not stopped, put down her phone, and forgotten her to do list for a while. I would have liked it better if she’d incorporated more stories from other women, or had mentioned her husband more than twice, and had made the book about half as long. Still, lots of wisdom.

3 stars

*****

51BgqdyrfGL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_PRETENDING TO DANCE

Diane Chamberlain

Touching story of adoption and healing after a childhood tragedy. Molly Arnette lives in San Diego and has a perfect life, but the story of why she ran away from her childhood home will come back to haunt her when she prepares to adopt her first child. The story was well-told, but the writing style and coming-of-age angle didn’t strike a deep chord with me.

3 stars

*****

indexGOD’S HOTEL

Victoria Sweet

I read this in anticipation of our trip to San Francisco, as it is the story of an SF “almshouse,” or long-term rehabilitation hospital for patients who have no other place to go. I loved the anecdotes of “slow medicine” (like slow food) that is gives people time to heal, even if it takes years. I’ve experienced some of that as a nurse, even in the ICU. For those with any interest in urban medicine, this is a beautiful and thoughtful memoir.

4 stars

*****

Seabiscuit_An_American_LegendSEABISCUIT

Lauren Hillenbrand

Slow in parts, but still masterfully written by Lauren Hillenbrand, author of Unbroken. The writer plunges deep into the backgrounds of the famous little racehorse, his owner, his trainer, and his jockey, before unspooling their story of a few losses, many more victories, and some amazing comebacks. I read this book while Elliott and I were hiking in Yosemite for six days, and it will forever remind me of that time!

4 stars

*****

51Ny5-y08NL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_THE RUMOR

Elin Hilderbrand

Easy reading and hard to put down, and the characters feel like people you know, even if they’re not the most admirable of folks. Readers be warned that this is your typical beach novel, and so the characters’ moral choices may not sit well with many readers. On the positive side, the book is set in Nantucket — always a lovely place to visit, if only through the pages of a breezy novel!

3 stars

*****

What have you been reading lately that you’d recommend? I think I need something light that I can’t put down; I’ve been reading too many WWII novels lately. I just finished reading all the Molly (American Girl) books to Lena, and even those were WWII!

Have a wonderful weekend! xoxo

6 :: in Becoming a Stay-at-Home Mom Series, book reviews, On Becca’s Bookshelf

Maternity Fashion on a Budget (and All Online!)

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Ahh the bump! Fun to dress, but also so tricky sometimes. Getting dressed in the morning (or not till the afternoon…) gets frustrating as fewer and fewer clothes fit.

I don’t know about you ladies out there, but I have a couple of limiting factors when it comes to shopping. The first is that I don’t like going into clothing stores; all the options generally overwhelm me, and I like to read reviews before I buy. So Amazon Prime is my FRIEND; we meet every couple of days, and it (she?) rarely fails me.

The second thing is that I don’t like paying full price for most clothing items, but I do like well-made, long-lasting clothing. I want Target prices, but not Target quality. So what’s a girl to do?

Answer: buy lightly used, high-quality clothes — online!

So online resale stores have become my go-to resources during this season. I’ve tried ThredUp because I know people swear by it, but I haven’t found many maternity items there. Instead, I’ve gone to eBay and Poshmark, both of which have a wide supply of lightly-used, name brand maternity items. Here are a few of my favorite items, pretty much all of which I’ve found in those two places:

1. Isabella Oliver t-shirts. I’ve been looking for thick, snug-fitting, comfy shirts, and I finally found a couple on Poshmark and eBay for $12 each. These shirts are so soft, and they hug all the right places. I love the double-panel of fabric over the chest, too. I’ll be wearing these every day as the weather gets warmer.

2. Saltwater Sandals. I tried to think of my favorite shoes during this season, and I’ve mostly stuck to my old favorites: Minnetonka fringed booties and stylish sneakers during colder months, and then Pons sandals and Lotta clogs as the weather warms up. But for everyday, friendly shoes that go from the beach to casual/cute for dinner, Saltwaters win the day. I can’t recommend them enough. I don’t even own flip flops any more because these are all I wear!

3. Splendid leggings. I inherited a couple of pairs of old maternity leggings for my first two pregnancies, but they were very worn and baggy by the time this third pregnancy rolled around. I had tried on a pair of Splendid leggings in a maternity shop, and I loved how thick and comfy they felt, but balked at the $95 price tag. I found a pair on Poshmark instead, negotiated down to $17 (less than a pair at Target), and have not looked back. These leggings are amazing! Thick and comfy, beginning at the start of my pregnancy until now, and they have plenty of give for the remaining three months.

Beyond leggings, both Poshmark and eBay also have great deals on lightly used designer maternity jeans and pants. I have gone into stores to learn my size and then waited for good deals online.

4. Anthropologie cardigans. My go-to outfit this pregnancy has been comfy pants, a snug-fitting shirt, and a flowy cardigan. I love the quality and unique styles of Anthropologie cardigans, and many, many, many people are happy to sell them lightly used for a fraction of their original price. I found a couple on eBay and Poshmark, but then stopped before I used up my shopping budget entirely (an agreement that keeps me and Elliott both happy!). There are so many beautiful options available that make an outfit so lovely, and all for less than the price of a new Target or Forever 21 sweater, if you so desire. Plus, I will wear these cardigans all the time over nursing tank tops during the first few months of my pregnancy, so they have a long life and lot of use ahead of them.

Just for fun, here’s a search for “small Anthropologie open cardigan” less than $30 to show you the endless options, and here’s a photo of me wearing one I love.

5. J. Crew sweats. These were a gift from my sister, and I wear them all the time. The loose drawstring waistband is so comfortable with my growing bump, and I know I’ll be in them all the time postpartum, too. You could find a pair lightly used on eBay or on sale on the J. Crew website, and they are so worth it. These striped ones are cute too!

6. Isabella Oliver dresses. Back to Isabella Oliver! I have a couple of these, and they are so flattering and so comfortable. A friend also just told me that she still wears her IO dresses, shirts, and pants all the time, even though her son is two years old, so these are pieces that transition well to postpartum and beyond. A lot of the dresses are more form-fitting, too, which is flattering as your bump gets bigger, like this striped one I just got.

7. And finally, Asos dresses. So far I haven’t liked their other maternity things, but their dresses so far are thick and beautiful. And I love the bright, unique floral prints! Be gone, dowdy brown and black pregnancy wear! Look for their “body conscious” dresses to get cute shape-hugging styles. Here are examples of two that I have worn recently.

And those are my tips and tricks so far! We’ll see if things change as the months go by, but so far I’ve felt comfortable and pretty in these clothes, which is the ultimate goal of clothes anyway — to celebrate the beauty God has given you, even as your body changes.

8 :: in motherhood, wishlist

An Update from the Sunny Coast

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Well hi! It’s been months since I’ve updated this old blog. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and everything else that we missed!

I think when you disappear from a space — or slowly slip away — readers often wonder if something is wrong. (I know I’ve hidden away from social media and blogs at times when things are hard or uncertain.) Yet this time I slipped away because life was so good, because the days were so full, and because I didn’t want to miss any of it (even by recording it!). Also, the unique story we had in Sicily didn’t seem so unique now that we were in California.

Anyway, all that to say, these past few months have been some of the best, and they have been thoroughly enjoyed and lived in the present. I bet you know what I mean and how that feels. It’s so good.

becca-garber-update-coronado-2016-1 So here we are in 2016. I thought I’d update with some of my favorite photos from the first two months of the year, starting with these: an early morning cuppa and journaling, and my little man Gil learning his letters.

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Those of you who follow me on Instagram and Facebook will know this, but we are expecting another baby! I am due with #3 in mid-May, and we have been savoring this pregnancy so much because of the joy of sharing it with our children.

Lena really gets it and knows things will be hard and wonderful when the baby arrives. She tells everyone she is going to change the baby’s diapers, and the other day she told me, “I might have to do all the cooking after the baby arrives, Mama.” What would I do without her?

IMG_3308 Lena and I have been reading aloud a lot together (maybe too much — she can be really demanding when she loves a book), and we started the year with this gorgeous Rifle Paper Co. edition of Alice in Wonderland. What a wacky book! The illustrations were exquisite.

IMG_3321 Lena made a “sweater” for her cousin from some wrapping paper, yarn, and tape. She has such an imagination…

becca-garber-update-coronado-2016-2 … as evidenced by this blanket/block/rubber band creation on the floor: a butterfly!

On the right, I was 22 weeks pregnant with this third babe, enjoying a full-length mirror and two hours of work/writing time while the kids were in weekly enrichment classes at the Coronado Community Center.

IMG_3407 El Niño came to visit and we were hit with days of torrential rain. After it passed, we headed up into the hills (along with the rest of San Diego) to play in the snow. We didn’t find much, and it was mostly ice.

IMG_3376 Eventually we left the crowds and found a quiet country road with some hikes. Gil posed like a model.

IMG_3383 And Lena and Gil found their own chunks of snow/ice to play with in the shade! Overall, the trip was a win, but we’re looking forward to East Coast winters again in the future some day.

IMG_3446 They looked so cute laughing down at me from the second floor that I took their picture! Also, the Christmas decorations finally came down in late January…

becca-garber-update-coronado-2016-3 Lena discovered my phone was unlocked and took selfies…

becca-garber-update-coronado-2016-4 Our town’s library is the most magical place. This afternoon activity was a birthday party for Winnie the Pooh. The librarians read Pooh poems, taught Pooh songs, sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Pooh, and served up birthday cake!

IMG_3713 On January 25, Gil turned THREE! We had a quiet day, a special dinner, made a cake, blew out candles, and opened a few presents. One of them was a green train engine to add to his little train set, and this was his first battery-operated train car. Hours of amusement ensued.

becca-garber-update-coronado-2016-5 Happy birthday, sweet Gil! Hope you enjoyed all the piles of sprinkles you dumped on your cake, and the red and blue frosting you so specifically chose. We love you!

IMG_3774 Evening walk to the beach for sunset, always magnificent.

becca-garber-update-coronado-2016-8 For our 6th anniversary on January 30th, I told Elliott all I wanted was to walk to the beach and order pizza for a picnic dinner there. I got my wish! The kids thought they were pretty lucky to be included, too.

IMG_3830 Quiet Saturday morning reading and snuggling in Mama and Daddy’s bed.

IMG_3802 Lena and Elliott went to a golf tournament for fun with friends, so Gil and I ran errands and then got a treat ourselves at my favorite Coronado cafe: Tartine. Gil looked in the dessert case and of all the desserts, he chose my favorite: pavlova. Way to go, Gil!

becca-garber-update-coronado-2016-7 Every few months or so, I provide refreshments for our church after the service. That week I made mini bacon and caramelized onion quiches, banana bread, and winter fruit salad. I was missing pomegranate seeds, which would have made the salad extra pretty!

In the second photo, Gil was my fashion photographer for a less-than-successful photoshoot.

IMG_3897 A friend and I hosted a Valentine’s Day crafting party at my house for our local Moms Club, and it was a huge hit! We had so much fun, and I loved seeing so many friends in my home.

IMG_3908 They are a pretty wonderful bunch. :)

becca-garber-update-coronado-2016-6 Back from an early-morning run with a good friend before the kids are up! My 24-week bump and I got to enjoy some quiet reading and journaling.

And on the right… those kiddos in their footie pajamas are always up to something. It has been one of my greatest joys this season to see them really play together, creating their own games and building forts and using their imaginations for hours at a time. It makes mothering them so much more fun, too.

IMG_3457 The kids started playing soccer on Wednesday afternoons with Little Rascalz Soccer School, a play-based, preschool-oriented introduction to sports. It’s really good for the kids, I think, and I hope I can continue to encourage them to play sports like they do now: purely for the fun of it.

IMG_3655 Lena and Gil’s friend was turning four, and his dad (a SEAL, as many guys are in Coronado, the home of the Navy SEALs) set up a slack line and zip line for the kids to enjoy at the park. Pizza, cake, and zip lines — that was Lena’s kind of party!

IMG_3653 Later that night, we decided to have our second family movie night of all time and watch Toy Story. So far we’ve seen this one and Finding Nemo, and we’re thinking of watching Cinderella next. This slow introduction to movies together has been a lot of fun, and I like how movies are a treat for all of us this way.

becca-garber-update-coronado-2016-9 On the left, Lena and I read through all five books in the Samantha series (American Girl) in a few days. She loved them, even though a lot of the historical context was over her head. Can’t wait till she can read all these books on her own in a few years! I loved them all and still remember so much of the stories.

On the right, we went kayaking as a family last Saturday morning in the San Diego Bay, and Gil took the relaxing aspect of kayaking right to heart!

IMG_4022 My little nap time companion. Siena, our Maine Coon, likes to find me on the couch, play with my hair for a few minutes, and then lie down on it to take a nap.

IMG_4033 Annelie, my Swedish friend and running partner, invited us over to celebrate Fettisdagen, or Fat Tuesday. We ate semla, the traditional Swedish cardamom and cream buns that Swedes enjoy before the start of Lent.

I love being included in her Swedish traditions! I never got a picture of it, but she brought her family and Swedish friends to come caroling on Saint Lucia Day right before Christmas. Do you remember that tradition from the Kirsten (American Girl) books? They were dressed in white with candles and wreaths! So magical.

IMG_4052 Another magical thing is how this little girl has taken to her first bike. We encouraged her to practice and practice and practice on her balance bike, and finally in early February I found a two-wheeler on Craigslist that was not super girly or too boyish. She was pedaling independently on it after 15 minutes, and now she streaks around our driveway, standing up on the pedals and pumping away. We’re so proud, and she loves her new freedom!

IMG_4059 El Niño rains and storms have changed the topography of our beaches, exposing an old shipwreck that is usually buried in the sand. One evening we met a bunch of friends there (and tons of tourists) to walk through the shallow water and out onto the wreck. It’s a sunken gambling boat, so rumor has it that there’s money around here, too!

IMG_4123 Elliott’s parents visited for a long weekend, and on their last morning here we took them to Balboa Park to ride the carousel and explore the gardens. Gotta love that 80-degree weather in February!

IMG_4128 One night Elliott cut Gil’s hair and let the kids watch half an episode of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. I came back from a run the next morning and found them sitting side by side on the couch, Gil’s hand on Lena’s knee, enjoying the second half of the show together.

IMG_4130 I brought the kids with me when I took my glucose tolerance test for pregnancy, and they wanted to taste the last drop in the bottle to see what it was like. They loved it, of course.

IMG_4136 I don’t write about it too much on here, but my part-time work as a staff writer for eCoronado (a local online newspaper) is a wonderful part of my life. I write at least two articles a week for the paper, and half of these are food reviews of restaurants, movie reviews of the newest blockbuster, or stage reviews of theater productions. I love promoting local shop owners and artists in our town, getting to enjoy arts and culture for free (Elliott and I go on so many good dates!), and sharing my knowledge with Coronado.

Last week I wrote an article about drones in Coronado, which are a major hazard due to low-flying planes and helicopters in a town with two military bases. My story got picked up by a local news station, and I was interviewed by the station about my article. The 3-minute story ran on the 7pm local news! It was such a cool experience (despite having to talk into the sun for about 20 minutes without sunglasses on!).

becca-garber-update-coronado-2016-10 And now, last but not least, a precious photo of Gil with his grandmother during her visit, giggling on the whirling carousel, and me at 27 weeks pregnant.

If you look at the photo on the left quickly, it looks like my belly sticks out as far as the end of the bed, rather than only as far as my hand. I’ve still got three months to go, though, so my belly will stick out that far before too long! Bring it on, baby. We can’t wait to meet you!

12 :: in Coronado, family, Gil, home sweet home, Lena, life lately

Our Kid-Friendly, Playground-Filled Trip to San Francisco! [Part 2]

IMG_0480 By now I know you have completely forgotten that we ever went to San Francisco… but there is more to share! But first of all — isn’t this such a sweet picture of Elliott and Lena?! I love those two blue-eyed people so much.

IMG_1677 To pick up where we left off, we were on Day 3 of our five-day trip to San Francisco, and our agenda for Saturday morning was to meet up with my college friends Emily and Anthony (who fell in love and got married after we graduated) and their two beautiful girls.

IMG_1691 We got kind of lost on our drive to meet them, though, and decided to check out Lombard Street as long as we were nearby. The crookedest street in the world! I’ve been on some crooked streets in my time, but I have to agree — this one wins.

becca-garber-san-francisco-5 Across the Golden Gate Bridge, a historic moment! We met up with our friends at the Bay Area Discovery Museum, which is a completely amazing place, all structured to delight and engage little minds and bodies.

IMG_1709 This thing they’re all bouncing on was a water-filled “lily pad,” like those water beds from the ’80s. More kids’ museums need to bring this idea back!

IMG_1704 View from the top of the hill outside the museum. We were surrounded by amazing, natural play structures and gardens outdoors, too. becca-garber-san-francisco-3 Streams to play in, giant building blocks that the dads wanted to play with too… you get the idea. It was awesome. Thanks for inviting us, Emily and Anthony, and I hope it isn’t too long before we can all play together again!

The rest of Saturday was a wash because the kids were still recovering from being sick and we all needed some time to curl up with books and take it easy. That afternoon we met up with my college friend Alison at another playground, and she and I got to chat and sip chai while Elliott followed the kids around the playground.

Afterwards we went home and I made pasta and Elliott said, “That really hit the spot,” and meant it, and you know it’s been a good day when you are so tired and full of delicious carbs and just happy.

becca-garber-san-francisco-2 The next morning we were up early to eat breakfast at the Ferry Building before starting a full day of adventuring. I took pictures of the building, shops, and my kids while Elliott waited in line at Blue Bottle Coffee.

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IMG_0475 I bought cheese pastries and apple turnovers for breakfast at Acme Bread, which is famous for a reason.

IMG_0497 Latte, pastries, and a playground on a beautiful San Francisco morning… I could get used to this…

Right after it opened at 10am, we arrived at the doors of the Exploratorium, a science museum along the waterfront in San Francisco. We had been warned that it would be a little too advanced for our young kids, and our friends were right, but Lena and Gil still managed to have a lot more fun than I expected.

It helps to have a science-loving, super playful dad. ;)

becca-garber-san-francisco-1 IMG_0505 IMG_0532 IMG_1730 (1) This face-distorting photo machine had us all in stitches. Also, how fun is it to laugh with your whole family at a mutual, inside joke? Look at Lena’s face!

IMG_0572 After that we met up with our dear friends David and Heather and their boys to go on a boat tour of the San Francisco Bay. We see each other about once a week in San Diego and decided to do almost the exact same trip at the same time — what are the chances?!

IMG_0541 Goodbye for a little bit, San Francisco.

IMG_0543 The island of Alcatraz! After this Elliott and I went home and finally watched Escape from Alcatraz for the first time in either of our lives.

IMG_0558 IMG_0561 Afterward our bay cruise, we decided to get lunch with our friends, so we all hopped on a tram to ride down the waterfront back to the Ferry Building. These crazy kids loved it!

IMG_0592 IMG_1733 Lunch at Hog Island Oyster Co. was out-of-this-world amazing! The chipotle-roasted oysters were my favorite part of the meal… and the bread, of course.

IMG_0610 We had heard so much about a hotel in downtown that has a special discount for members of the military, so we decided to spend our last night there. The Marines Memorial Hotel was great — and so was this free happy hour in the upstairs lounge and the free buffet breakfast the next morning — but overall we loved our cozy neighborhood experience in our AirBnB better.

IMG_1735 On our last evening in San Francisco, we walked down to Union Square and then up to Chinatown at sunset.

IMG_1736 And then we caught the trolley up to Nob Hill! I unfortunately was man-handling the stroller for our entire trolley ride (it would not fit where the engineer insisted I had to fold and store it), but Elliott got to sit on the outside bench with the kids and I think they all had a great time.

We returned after sunset, tired and content, and all managed to share a hotel room that night with no problems whatsoever. A new era in our lives where the kids actually go to sleep pretty much when they’re told and sleep all night!

The next morning we went…

IMG_1758 … to Monterey! The last stop on our list was the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and we met up with our friends again to explore the waterfront and then the aquarium. Both were smaller than I expected (especially after the grandeur and scale of everything in San Francisco), but the wonders of the ocean world were magnificently displayed.

IMG_1772 IMG_1778 “That’s a clown fish!” “Nemo!” “Yes, a clown fish!”

IMG_1783 IMG_1784 This Open Ocean display was my favorite thing in the entire aquarium. It’s so huge, and the fish swim by so fast, disappearing into the depths and darkness for minutes at a time before reappearing, flashing by, and disappearing again. It gave me a greater sense of being in the real ocean than any other display that day.

And that was our trip! Oh, and we picked up a new family member on the way home:

IMG_1992 But more about her later. ;)

3 :: in family, life lately, travel

Our Kid-Friendly, Playground-Filled Trip to San Francisco! [Part 1]

IMG_1563 Last week my family and I did something I have been wanting to do since we moved to California — we went to San Francisco! For a week! It was a dream come true for me to spend so much time in that city and really soak it up, so thank you, dear Elliott, for taking the time off and making it happen.

We haven’t been to San Francisco since our honeymoon (almost six years ago) — and we were only there for half a day on our way between Tahoe and the Pacific Coast Highway. I was thrilled to spend more time eating, walking, and playing our way through the beautiful city.

When we lived in Sicily, we traveled a lot, but it could be stressful, tearful, and limited thanks to having two babies. By contrast, this trip was… amazing. The kids were talkative, curious, full of questions, still happy to ride in the stroller, just old enough to cheerfully skip their naps, and went to bed without complaint around 7:30/8 every night. We had so much fun with them, even on the eight-hour car ride up there and back. Little troopers.

IMG_1570 We arrived in San Francisco on Thursday afternoon (October 1), and we were able to find our way easily to our AirBnB rental apartment in the Mission district. We weren’t sure what we would find, but we loved it! It was huge, and the Japanese artist who owned it charged us less than we would have paid for a hotel room. The kids loved this “tiger pillow” and “polar bear blanket.”

Elliott is very sad that in both these pictures he is on his computer — but in his defense he was researching where we should explore first in our neighborhood… and he came up with this:

IMG_1578 He lead us around the corner and up a street into the beautiful Bernal Heights neighborhood, which felt like D.C.’s Capitol Hill in some ways (beautiful, eclectic rowhouses and lots and lots of young parents and kids) except it was built on a steeeeeep slant, just like the rest of San Francisco. We played at a beautiful neighborhood park for a while and then started walking up and up and up and up…

IMG_1590 … high above the city streets and into Bernal Heights Park, which has a breathtaking view of the city at sunset.

IMG_1586 We had to adjust to the constant breeze and chilly air in San Francisco. I can’t believe that locals call September and October “San Francisco summer” and that it’s usually colder and foggier than this. Brrr!

IMG_1594 On the top of the world! Right at the highest point of the park, overlooking the whole city, we found the most amazing swing we’d ever seen:

IMG_1612 Later, famished, we walked back into Bernal Heights and found a little noodle shop on the main road. Doesn’t this bowl of ramen look like the perfect dinner on a blustery, chilly night? It was!

IMG_1616 We walked the final mile back home, tired and satiated, and then walked into our apartment building to find that Gil had fallen asleep in the stroller! He was sick at the time (and unfortunately had croup for the first three nights of our trip, which was miserable for all of us), which is the only reason he fell asleep in the stroller — he never does that! We all crept around him and whispered, treating him like the baby of the family once again.

FullSizeRender-1 The next morning, I had one goal in my mind: Tartine. I’ve been hearing about this bakery for years, and I was thrilled to find that it was only a mile from our apartment. We packed up and left the loft for an entire day of exploring.

becca-garber-san-francisco-6 Tartine did not disappoint! I waited in line while Elliott and the kids waited outside, and then — miraculously — I snagged a table that was big enough for all of us inside. Lena was so excited to dig into this famous morning bun and delicious Gruyère roll!

IMG_1629 Not pictured: a delicious turkey and cheese melt on top a long, thin slice of real Tartine bread. We savored every bite of that amazing breakfast, and I think I’ll dream about it until I can go back again. I am such a sucker for good bread and deep lattes, so San Francisco and I got along swimmingly.

Also, Gil’s face here is priceless:

IMG_1633 We walked a few more blocks to beautiful Mission Dolores Park, which was calm and peaceful on a weekday. Apparently it is the gathering place for smokers, musicians, and alternative lifestyle-livers on the weekend… which is hard to imagine from these photos!

IMG_1637 We found the second awesome playground of the day there in the park:

IMG_0453 Below: “One for the money… two for the show… three to get ready, and four to goooooo!”

IMG_1638 (1) Also, this is the second of the only two photos that were taken of me the entire week in San Francisco. I guess I was too busy eating my way through the city to pose! (And I am not kidding… “where shall we eat next?” was a constant, happy refrain in my mind.)

IMG_0456 I think this was our fourth playground of the day? We were walking from the Mission district west across San Francisco, and along the way we literally came upon a new playground every half-mile! San Francisco has some of the best playgrounds in an urban space that I have ever seen (except maybe here).

That said, at home in San Diego I walk by playgrounds all the time and say, “No, kids, not right now, we’ll be here tomorrow to meet our friends anyway…” or some other excuse, but in San Francisco Elliott stopped at EVERY. SINGLE. PLAYGROUND. that we passed. Which was 10 playgrounds that first day alone! Dad of the year? Probably.

But he wanted to play on them too! And it made the kids so happy!

And he is — more than occasionally and in all the right places — a total softy.

IMG_0462 IMG_0463 We walked through the famous district of Haight-Ashbury because I wanted to see where the hippie movement started in the ’60s, although everyone said it was pretty grungy. We liked it, though, and some of the architecture and shops were beautiful. We also came across an amazing bookstore where we all wanted to spend about twice as much time as we did!

IMG_0470 But our goal was the California Academy of Sciences, and hopefully before closing time. We kept walking, came to Golden Gate Park, ate a picnic in the grass of one of the meadows, found another playground…

IMG_1651 … with another awesome slide…

IMG_1654 … and then finally dragged ourselves away to the museum. Which was, just as everyone had promised us, completely beautiful!

becca-garber-san-francisco-4 Our favorite part might have been the indoor, climate-controlled rainforest (top left) which also had a deep pool filled with Amazonian fish and animals, and a glass tunnel underneath so you could walk through and let the fish swim over you. We lingered as long as we could, enjoying the beautiful displays of hundreds of animals, plants, and birds.

IMG_1666 We had to get to the Ferry Building, though, because we were meeting my college friend Dan. We hadn’t seen him since our wedding! I failed to get a picture, but we had a great time catching up, enjoying a drink together at Gotts, and exploring the foodie shops of the Ferry Building. Next time we’ll all go flying, Dan!

FullSizeRender-2 That night, my friend Emily’s babysitter came to watch our kids while we went out for a date. We had made a reservation at The Slanted Door, a famous Vietnamese-fusion restaurant in the Ferry Building, but because Gil was still sick, we decided to stay close to our apartment. I found this list of the 30 Hottest Restaurants in San Francisco and discovered the top three were within a few blocks of our apartment. The Mission district is the place to be!

Ultimately we decided on the Old Bus Tavern restaurant, which looked promising and brews its own beer, but in the end we were pretty disappointed with the avant-garde menu. Pictured above: quail eggs. That was the only description, but when they arrived we discovered that they were poached, pickled quail eggs on a bed of salty, spicy fried leeks. Exciting! But ultimately the dishes went too far even for our adventurous palates. Oh well, maybe we’ll get another chance to eat out on a date in San Francisco in another five years!

To be continued in San Francisco – Part 2…

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