Sunday, August 31, 2008

SuperAlto's Walking Tour of San Francisco

M & B have been wanting to ride the cable cars for a while now, so we decided to have a mini-vacation today. The itinerary I came up with worked pretty well, so I thought I'd share it (in case any of my readers ever want to try it). Things we didn't do today (but have done in the past or looked interesting) are in brackets [].

First, we drove to San Francisco, and parked in the Sutter-Stockton Garage. Sundays are cheaper than the rest of the week--three or more hours is only $7.50. When you exit the garage, take the elevator down to Level 2, and take the pedestrian exit on Bush Street (past the motorcycle parking area).

Turn right on Bush St.

Take the next left onto Grant Ave. This takes you through the main tourist area of Chinatown, and continues on to North Beach (Little Italy).
[If you're hungry for either Chinese or Italian food, these are good places to stop for lunch.]

Bear left onto Columbus Ave.
[As you cross Vallejo St., you'll pass The National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi, established in 1849.]

Turn right onto Stockton St.
[After you pass Washington Square, you can turn left onto Filbert St. to visit Saints Peter and Paul Church, founded in 1884.]
[Or, you can turn right onto Filbert, and follow the signs to Coit Tower for a nice view of the city.]

Continue down Stockton St. until you reach the waterfront. There are a number of things you can try here:
  • Check out the touristy shops & carousel at Pier 39

  • View the sea lions at Pier 39 (Hint: don't go down the tourist part of the pier: instead, go down the wooden pier that parallels it on the left, towards the little lighthouse with the palm trees.)

  • [If the weather's warm, don't bother waiting in line at the Ben & Jerry's you'll see by Pier 41. There's another one further down Jefferson St. that has much shorter lines.]

  • For the classic lunch of clam chowder in a bread bowl, head west along the waterfront, past Pier 43 1/2, until you reach Fisherman's Wharf (at Taylor St.) We dined at Nick's Lighthouse, and enjoyed our lunch, but the other restaurants and stands looked just as good.

  • [For burger lovers, there's an In-N-Out Burger on Jefferson St., between Jones & Leavenworth.]

  • [For the world's best chocolate milkshakes (and possibly the world's longest line for ice cream), Ghirardelli Square is the place to go. Continue along Jefferson until it ends, turn left through Aquatic Park, and cross Beach St.]

To return to your car, make your way to the cable car turnaround at Hyde St. & Beach St. Look at the long line of people buying tickets and waiting to get on the cable cars. Ignore all of them, and walk a couple of blocks up Hyde St. You'll see brown "Cable Car Stop" signs along the street. Pick one (not the first one, if there are already lots of people waiting), and flag down the cable car when it comes by. Have $5 ready when the conductor asks for your ticket. Get off at the end of the line (or a little before, if you want to walk around some more).

[Union Square has lots of upscale shopping--I always like window shopping there, but I usually don't buy too much stuff. DH likes the Apple Store at Stockton & Market.]

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Back to School Shopping, Part 2

School supplies are all taken care of, and it only took two trips to Staples! When the kids arrived home on Wednesday, I grabbed B's shopping list, and asked M for his. Naturally, when I returned home with the pile of stuff, we found a SECOND list of stuff that he needed for science. Nothing fancy, just some graph paper and colored pencils, but it meant another trip to the store today.

Today was the second day of school. M came home sick in the middle of the day. Fortunately, it seems to have been a short-lived intestinal bug, and he's feeling ready to go back to school tomorrow.

B also left school early today, but this one was planned. She finally got the retainer she's been wanting (in lime green, no less):

Girl with lime-green upper retainer
She was supposed to get a bottom retainer today, too, but that one didn't work out, so we have to go back next month and get a fancier model for the bottom.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

One More Day!

I'm not sure who's more excited about school starting tomorrow--the kids or me! I've always liked school, and there's something about starting a new year and buying new school supplies that I really enjoy. I actually look forward to getting their shopping lists and heading out to buy shiny new notebooks and pencils.

Other than the school supplies, I think we're all set. They both have shoes that fit, and clean clothes. For M, I gave him some filler paper and mechanical pencils for the first day (he already has a binder). B got some cute pencils I found in a drawer: one with her name, and one with musical notes. Since she's entering fourth grade, I'm sure we're going to have to buy her a durable binder, too. I remembered to buy lunch fixings when I went to the grocery store yesterday (hot lunch doesn't start at B's school until September 8th, while M didn't like the pre-order lunch on Wednesdays).

M liked my idea of going down to the middle school this afternoon, map in hand, to figure out where his classrooms are going to be. He's also going early tomorrow, as another member of his carpool has to arrive early to straighten out a class. B's school has registration this afternoon, from 4:00-6:00. We'll try to be there around 4:00, so she can hang out and ask everyone else what teacher they will have.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Back to School Shopping, Part 1b

I THOUGHT we were done with the clothes shopping, but no, B waited until yesterday to tell me that her tennis shoes had holes in them. Off to Payless we went today in search of new shoes. I did have the foresight to have M put on his shoes for me before I left: sure enough, they are getting too small, so I had to buy him a pair, too.

B's shoes were easy enough--find a couple of pairs of plain white tennis shoes and try them on. She can wear either girl's or women's sizes right now, so she has plenty to choose from.

M is a little harder. First, he refused to go, so he was informed that he would have to wear whatever I brought home. Second, we had an experience last year when I bought him "skate shoes," and he decided a week later that they were terrible for running, so I had to buy him a second pair of shoes with better soles. Also, despite being a 6th grader, he's not so great at tying his shoes, so I was very happy last year to find a pair of men's shoes at Payless with elastic laces (he has long since outgrown the Lands' End kid's shoes). This year, no such luck. I found him some inexpensive, lightweight, black tennis shoes with an appropriate sole, but he's going to have to start tying his shoelaces.

Friday, August 22, 2008


If a customer shows up at the grocery store with his or her own bags, then it's pretty safe to assume that he/she is trying to cut down on the use of plastic bags, right? So why do baggers take the last couple of items and give them each their own plastic bag? We're not talking about heavy cans or giant packages of toilet paper: today, it was a carton of ice cream (the 1.5 quart size that used to be a half gallon) that got its very own bag. A couple of weeks ago, it was a loaf of bread. The reusable bags were pretty full, but certainly had room for one more item.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Back to School Shopping, Part 1

Over the last week or so, I've managed to finish the first part of back-to-school shopping. Once upon a time, I used to buy each kid a "nice" outfit for the start of school. A pretty dress for B (not a frilly one, but a play dress), and a nice shirt and slacks for M. Now that they are both preteens, the concept of "nice" clothes has gone out the window. This year, B got a pair of embroidered jeans (Lands' End) and a T-shirt (Target), while M got two black T-shirts (Lands' End) and a black sweatshirt (Target). (M already has plenty of jeans, thanks to my mom).

Then there were the new ballet clothes. B's ballet school, like many others, has a different color of leotard for each level. Since she moved up this year, we had to buy a periwinkle leotard for her, plus two pairs of new tights. She is such a tall kid that we ended up buying "petite adult" for her, which, of course, costs more than the kids' stuff. In addition, B is going to be a teaching assistant for one of the pre-ballet classes on Saturday mornings, so we bought a second leotard (I insisted she pick one out from the bargain bin, and she did), then splurged on a matching skirt.

Part 2 will be the school supplies, but you won't hear about those until next week, since we don't get our lists until the start of school.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

Current mental soundtrack: "Anatevka" from Fiddler on the Roof (Jerry Bock)

Today's accomplishments:
  1. Got everyone out of bed at the appointed time. This may not sound like a difficult task, but it is! The kids have been on "summer" time, meaning they've been getting up whenever they felt like it. Since school starts next week, I thought it was time to get them back on a schedule. Last week, they were awakened at 9:00 am. This week, it's 8:00 am. Next week, school starts on Wednesday, so B is going to have to be out the door by 7:45 every morning (M doesn't have to leave until 8:30).

  2. Picked up DH's new iPhone. He's out of town, so it's mine to play with for a couple more days :-)

  3. Picked up B's new glasses.

  4. Took M to the orthodontist. He's had braces on his front teeth since January, and I think this was the FIRST visit that he did not have any loose brackets. (Which probably means something will break tomorrow.)

  5. Cleaned house and cooked dinner for DH's uncle, aunt, and cousin. Cousin P has just returned from a summer-school class in Europe, and his parents drove up here to pick him up at the airport and buy him some furniture for his new apartment.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Molly's New Clothes

After looking at the prices for official American Girl clothing, B and I were very glad to find free patterns for Molly's clothes, available at American Girl Playthings. I thought this would be a good time to teach B to sew--how hard could it be to sew doll clothes?

We decided to start with something simple that didn't require a pattern: a fleece sleeping bag. (The official bed that we ordered with Molly came with a bedspread and pillow, but no blanket, so B thought we needed one.) That turned out pretty well:

American Girl Molly with homemade sleeping bag
Next on the list was a set of underwear, which morphed into summer PJs when we couldn't find suitable underwear fabric. This is where the teach-B-to-sew plan started to fall apart. After showing her how to pin the pattern and cut out the pieces, we got to the point in the directions where we were told to sew them with a "knit stretch" stitch. Knit stretch? After 18+ years of using this machine, I had to dig out the manual to find out how to do it. It involves a special presser foot, and holding the fabric on the wrong side of the foot. The photo below is of the second pair, that I made by myself after B went to bed. The first pair we made didn't have the lace trim, and B thought both top and bottom were too long, so I whipped up this set:

American Girl Molly with homemade underwear
Last item was a set of winter pjs. B picked out a flannel plaid for them. I had forgotten how much fun it is to match up plaids while sewing. The skinny seams (1/4" seam allowance) and little tiny pieces didn't help, either. But, Molly now has a comfy pair of flannel pjs for winter:

American Girl Molly with homemade plaid flannel pajamas

This turned out to be a lot more work for ME than I had bargained for, but B and I are both pleased (I have no idea what Molly thinks of all this). For a little over $25 in fabric and notions, we have two pairs of pjs, a fleece sleeping bag, an extra set of summer pjs/warm underwear (which is probably going to be given away), and enough fleece for another blanket or two. Next on the list is going to be a sundress, I think: B is concerned that Molly is too hot, as she came with a sweater and heavy skirt.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Understanding Marketers

I'm well aware that catalogue retailers share names with each other. I understand why I get garden catalogues, and toy catalogues, and clothing catalogues, since I have a history of ordering such things. I am completely mystified, however, as to why today's mail contained a WIG catalogue! I still have all my hair, thank you, and it's not even gray yet!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Waiting for Molly

B has never shown much interest in American Girl dolls. Their marketers are certainly on top of things: when B was just a toddler, they started sending their Bitty Baby catalogue to our house. I looked through the catalogue, then gave it to B to look at (and chew on). Now that B is nine, they send the regular catalogue. The most recent one arrived a month or two ago. B looked through it, didn't show any interest, so it went into the recycling bin.

Fast forward another month. I walked in the door from the Tahoe trip on Monday night, and was immediately greeted by B, bouncing up and down, wanting to know when the next AG catalogue was coming, so that she could order a doll. She was momentarily disappointed when I told her they only send them to us once a year or so, but then DH pointed out that they must have a web site. We sent her off to bed with the promise that we'd look at the web site on Tuesday.

On Tuesday morning, we ordered Molly, her accessories, and her bed. B paid for it herself, out of her savings account. Both our kids get birthday and Christmas money from two sets of grandparents, plus a generous weekly allowance from us. In return, we don't ever pay for toys or souvenirs--M even had to buy his own Nintendo DS and bicycle when he couldn't wait for Christmas. M tends to spend his money on video games, but B has mostly collected stuffed animals, which don't cost very much.

So, what brought on this sudden change of heart? B discovered that her best friend owns three of these dolls, plus a bed. They must have had a good time playing with them last Friday!

She is anxiously awaiting the arrival of the UPS guy today. We've been tracking the progress of the package across the country, and it's currently "Out for delivery." She's already asked me several times when it will be here, and I've told her that the UPS truck usually arrives in mid-afternoon, but it could be after dinner, too. I've also reminded her that screaming is not appropriate--if she hurts my ears, I might just have to keep her box!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Old Friends

Current mental soundtrack: "In Old Mexico" by Tom Lehrer (I think this one was inspired by the photo of the Mexican restaurant at the end of this post)

Yes, I know I haven't blogged in over a week. I went away for a long weekend without my laptop, so now I'm catching up with my online life.

Eighteen years ago, when DH & I were married, a group of my college singing buddies came up and sang at the wedding. Four years later, the next one walked down the aisle, and we had such a great time that we decided to stop waiting for weddings to get together. Every two years since then, we've spent a four-day weekend at someone's house, staying up late and talking.

This year, we went to South Lake Tahoe, where S's family owns a cabin. The out-of-towners flew in to SFO on Thursday and Friday, then I drove everyone up in our minivan. It was a leisurely drive up there, punctuated by multiple stops for coffee. We tried to take photos everywhere we went, since several people couldn't make it this year. (One even had a flight booked, but ended up with a last-minute crisis at work.) We arrived at the cabin to find that the power would not turn on, so we had fun talking by candlelight.

The next day, after an early-morning coffee run (it would have been easy enough to make coffee over the gas stove, without electricity, if someone had had the foresight to pack ground coffee instead of whole beans), we drove to Emerald Bay to see the postcard view:

We also tried to go swimming, but the beach parking lots were all full by the time we got out the door. Plus, we had to be back at the cabin by 4:00 to meet the electrician.

This is the local coffee shop:

On Sunday, we took an extremely scenic route through the Gold Country back to the Bay Area. Destinations and routes were chosen partly by which names on the map were most interesting. We drove down Slug Gulch Road, visited Fair Play and Fiddletown, and finally made our way to Jackson for dinner. We were only able to find one restaurant in Jackson that was open for Sunday dinner:

Monday alternated between airport trips and sightseeing in San Francisco. We all had a great time, and are already planning the next trip.