Tuesday, August 27, 2013

San Francisco: Napa, Silicon Valley, & Muir Woods

All together now: Awwwww :)
My brother-in-law and his wife took us to a Wine Tasting in Napa. We got to tour the facilities, and we were lucky enough to be visiting just weeks before the grape harvest. We got to try some right off the vine!

Fresh sparkling wine grapes.

I'm not much of a wine drinker, but the experience was so much fun. I learned a lot about how wine is made and bottled. I didn't realize that getting the yeast sediment out was such an involved process!

Our guide. 
Some rose sparkling wine

Muir Woods was another fun outing we did as a family. After watching Ken Burns' National Parks documentary, we were especially interested to see the park named after outdoorsman and national park advocate John Muir.
Redwoods and Sequoias. 

These twins are tall... but not as tall as these ancient skyscrapers!

I might not be outdoorsy or a huge fan of hiking, but even I can understand how blessed we were to be in such a beautiful place.

We took a day to drive to Silicon Valley, which as my husband the software engineer says is his "Mecca".

We visited the Intel Museum, which was neat for him to see in person how their processors have developed over the last thirty years. It was a small exhibit, but also free.
Name... that... technology!
We drove through the Googleplex.
There it is!

There it goes! Oops!
We also tried to see the Computer History Museum, but unfortunately it was closed. Since when are museums closed on Tuesdays?

I'd heard of the Winchester Mystery House before, so I'm glad we got to go see it. Back in the late 19th century, the wife to a Winchester Rifle Company president allegedly was convinced by a medium that she was being haunted by those people who were killed by Winchester rifles. So what should she do? Why, buy an unfinished house and continue to build on in until the day she dies. Duh. The result was a maze of rooms, stairs to nowhere, doors that drop down two stories, a chimney that ends before reaching the roof, twisting staircases, and one confused house staff. Today it is a museum offering tours of the home and garden. We walked a full mile in that house and didn't see the same room twice!

Monday, August 26, 2013

San Francisco: the Sights

The Bridge from a lookout in Presidio National Park
It turns out that to see the Golden Gate Bridge the best place actually isn't Golden Gate Park (which would have been my guess). The better view (besides physically crossing the Bridge) is in the Presidio. FYI. Because who knew?

The Presidio is home to several small museums, including a Walt Disney museum, and a fort. When we went there seemed to be some construction going on, and I had not worn the right shoes for a hike, so we didn't get to see as much as I would have liked.

In Golden Gate Park there is a museum called the California Academy of Sciences. It was so cool! My husband and I spent most of an afternoon there and we didn't regret it. It has an awesome aquarium, an earthquake simulator, a three story rainforest exhibit, an African wing, and more. I'd never seen an albino alligator before, but they had one of those too.

At the Pier, we got the full tourist blast. It wasn't really our thing, especially since we live in Orlando and we can go to CityWalk or Downtown Disney anytime and get the same over-commercialization and crowds.
That's Alcatraz. Waaaaaay over there.

However, it was neat to see Alcatraz from the Pier. Ticket were sold out three weeks ahead of time. Yikes! So we didn't get the tour, just a distant pic.
Can you see those seals? There were tons hanging out on the Pier.

The Aquarium at the Pier was neat, but not as neat as the one at the Academy of Sciences. It has more sharks, and some otters, but otherwise it offers less variety, space, maintenance and cleanliness. Go if you won't get to Golden Gate Park, but if it's a choice between the two I'd suggest the Academy of Sciences.
I did get some awesome pics of jellyfish...

...and starfish.

Chinatown was neat to walk through. If you're interested in Chinese-American culture or food it's worth the visit. I mostly wanted to see the gate and window shop.
There's the gate to Chinatown.

For a quieter moment, Yerba Buena was a nice park to hang out in. There's plenty to do in a short walk of the park, including a contemporary Jewish museum, but the park itself is a pretty place to relax.
A neat visual juxtaposition near Yerba Buena

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Visiting San Francisco

Guess where we went
This past week we got to visit the City by the Bay, San Francisco. We went mostly to visit my brother-in-law and his wife (and their two kittens), but we also needed a vacation. My husband has one last very busy semester of grad school and we wanted to have a little break before he jumped in.
My loving husband with "nephews" Oliver and Argo.

I'd never been to California before, and it was quite an adventure.

For one thing, there is a lot of walking. I made sure I brought comfortable shoes, but it turns out boots are not comfortable enough! Sneakers are the way to go.

The weather is something else, too. It's pretty much 60 degrees all the time. Foggy every day until about 1 pm, then it's perfect walking weather, with a jacket. I got to wear some of my scarves that have been in the bottom of a drawer since March. Nice!
The Golden Gate Bridge, seen from Presidio National Park.
We got to do so much while we were there, that I'm going to split this into several parts. If you're planning a visit, maybe you'll get some ideas of things to do. If you've been, can you think of anything we missed that we should get around to if we go again?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Teething Pains

Teething must be the worst natural pain that a person can go through, after labor.

The baby I nanny for has been growing his little chompers, and from the way he howls, I know it must hurt. He's not an overly fussy baby, but when he hurts man he can scream. Broke my heart that there wasn't much I could do besides rub his gums and try to help him sleep.

Seriously, imagine you're going along just fine, learning how to eat, sleep, and poop. You've just figured out how to get mom and dad to do what you want and things are going great. Then all of a sudden BAM your gums ache like nobody's business. You don't have any framework for this. I mean, what if it lasts forever? You don't know. You're not even four months old yet!!

At least he's cute like the Gerber baby.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

I Just Read: MWF Seeking BFF

Married White Female Seeking Best Friend Forever.

Wow. Is that relatable, or what?

When a friend of mine shared this book on Facebook, I knew she didn't have me in mind. She had simply enjoyed it and wanted to recommend it. I saw that title and realized that this book might meet me where I am.

I'm twenty-five, employed, and have no kids at home. Most of my friends my age have moved away. That's fine, I know my age bracket (twenties, graduated, childless, seeking employment) is transient. The girls a little younger than me are still in college, and not in the same stage of life as me. That's fine, I don't hold it against them, it's just harder to discuss life with someone still sheltered by academia. The women a little older than me have kids and some are full time employed as well. That's fine too, I expect to be there soon, although I'm not there yet. It's all fine. But I can't make friends at playgroups, I can't make friends at college parties, and I can't make friends with people who are leaving to make a life out-of-state. So what do I do?

This writer gets it. She moved from New York to Chicago to make a life with her husband-to-be, finding herself in a situation much like mine. She has her lifelong friends, living out-of-state. She has her work and yoga acquaintances who are good for a chat or an outing here and there. But what about in the middle? Where are our girlfriends to call up last minute to go out, or have a standing lunch date with, or just call to talk to and they get you?

Getting connected is the hard part. MWF Seeking BFF is about author Rachel Bertsche's yearlong quest to find those friends. Each week she goes on a friend-date with a new girl. Worst case scenario, she'll have met fifty-two new acquaintances and discover she doesn't have time to invest in a new BFF. Best case scenario, she'll find a few ladies she can really connect with and become close with.

In the end, this book is about people meeting people, the circles we run in, and how to bridge the gaps. It is surprisingly well-researched, which I appreciate. Bertsche grows over the course of her year-long journey and through writing this book she shares her gathered knowledge with us.  Bertsche writes as if she's writing to a girlfriend, and by the time you finish reading you might feel like one of her fifty-two girl dates.

I would recommend this book to any woman who finds themselves feeling friendless, finds themselves in a new town, or just someone who wants some insight in how to be more outgoing.