Road trips recap

I was just watching this show about fun not-so-touristy things to do in San Francisco (note to self: book sunset kayaking tour), and it made me think I should gather up all the posts I wrote about our road trips in California. Summer isn’t really the best time weather-wise here, so sometimes I forget that it’s still the main tourist season. But regardless of when you come, these are all road trips I would recommend taking at some point.

Close to San Francisco:

Angel Island
Take the ferry from Tiburon in Marin County for a day trip or overnight camping. Lots of history and beautiful views of the city, bay and bridges. 

Point Bonita Lighthouse and Crissy Field
Great places to escape the crowded city and take photos, especially at sunset. 

Rockaway Beach/Pacifica
Not far from the city you can really escape to this little beach on the ocean. 

Point Reyes
One of our favorite places to relax is Limantour Beach, and it is just one of many cool places to explore in Point Reyes.

Wine country:

Coppola Winery
Frances Ford Coppola’s winery is really worth a visit up north. It has a museum about his cinematic roots plus a swimming pool and restaurant. And of course, wine!

Napa’s less-snooty sister, Sonoma is a really relaxing getaway less than an hour from our house.

North of SF:

Bodega Bay and Eureka
Bodega Bay for fresh crab sandwiches and spectacular ocean views. Eureka for the Avenue of the Giants, which better be on your bucket list.

Reno/Lake Tahoe
Reno is much more than slot machines (wild horses!). Don’t miss the Awful Awful burger.

And Lake Tahoe is one pretty place I intend to visit much more.

South of SF:

Los Angeles
I loved LA much more than I expected to. The hipster food culture doesn’t hurt. And there’s so much to explore in all the different neighborhoods.

San Diego
One word: tacos. Actually two words: al pastor.

Catalina Island
This is a really beautiful side trip if you can swing it. Touristy, yes, but you can also escape the crowds and go for a hike.

Palm Springs
Palm Springs is hot as hell and super quirky, but we really loved it. Don’t miss the Ace Hotel and the crazy mountain tram.

Full-on nature:

Sequoia National Forest, part I and part II
Unfortunately, this trip always makes me think of being 8 weeks pregnant and super nauseous. But man, was it spectacular. I highly recommend you explore the giant sequoias and King’s Canyon if you get a chance.

Mono Hot Springs
Will I ever make the extreme journey to Mono Hot Springs again? I don’t know. But I’m glad I went once. It was beautiful, peaceful and endearingly weird.

Monterey and Big Sur
In this case, I definitely saved the best for last. The drive along the Pacific Coast Highway to Big Sur is absolutely incredible. It’s right out of a movie. And when you get to Big Sur, the redwood forest is equally amazing. Airstream glamping there is on my life list.

Putting together this post has made me realize how much we need to get back in the car and start traveling again! As many places as we’ve been, we still have many more to see (thinking of Joshua Tree and Yosemite, for starters). Anywhere else we should go?

Some thoughts on raising a girl

I read this post on Design Mom about the #yesallwomen discussion the other day and it really struck a chord with me. It’s about all the uncomfortable experiences, big and little, we have as women that we tend to brush off as “just the way it is.” But if you really think about it, these things can’t be OK with us.

In my life I can’t say I’ve experienced much blatant sexism, as in “you can’t do X because you’re female,” and thank goodness for that. But there have been many, many other small things (paper cuts, as someone called them) that add up over a lifetime to a feeling of being vulnerable and less than. I remember at my first job at a fast-food restaurant there was another guy who worked there who would stand in the doorway so I had to touch him in order to get by. And one of the managers used to punch me on the arm. I know it was in a joking way, but like, why was it OK for him to touch a 16-year-old girl he barely knew? I don’t know how many times I’ve been cat-called while running, ugh. And I remember reading “Wild” and thinking how sad it was that a woman couldn’t do a spectacular hike like that without fear of being assaulted.

There are so many ways in which our culture still needs to change to be more fair to women, and it feels so much more important now that I have a daughter. I really don’t want her to have all the same struggles when she grows up, but I fear she will. (Don’t even get me started on the division of color in the toy aisle…) On the other hand, I sense a change that I’ve never quite felt before, and it gives me hope.

All the discussions “Lean In” brought up about women in leadership roles, all the commercials that have been going viral that address the way we urge girls away from math and science, all the brave women on college campuses speaking up about rapes going unpunished — those are all conversations that are so key to our girls having a better experience.

I think the one thing that desperately needs to change is asking, or demanding, more from men. I’ve often thought the conversation about rape has to stop focusing on women and become much more about the men who commit rapes. Who are all these seemingly normal men who think it’s an acceptable thing to do? And why? And why aren’t we upset about THAT?

So I guess what I’m saying is that I’m glad we’re finally waking up and realizing the ways the feminist movement is far from over. And I think as moms we have to be honest about our struggles so our kids can learn what is and isn’t OK. Harper is such an adventurous little girl, and I just hope we can raise her without putting up any barriers to her success. I hope that someday when I tell her she can be anything she wants to be when she grows up that it’s really true.

Progress in the yard

I finally got some gardening done. Some of it is working, some of it isn’t. So it goes.

This hanging basket came with the house, so I filled it with a mix of annuals.

I love the combination of purple and orange flowers. They seem to be doing well.

I’m trying a pot of basil again, which I’ve never had success growing here. So funny since I always used to have so much more than I could ever use.

I got two cherry tomato plants. They seem to do better than full-sized tomatoes, which thrive in warmer weather, too.

I got new chives, thyme and lavender plants. Mint ended up in the ammo box. I wanted it to have plenty of (contained) space to grow.

It’s happy there, and we’ve already used it several times!

I’m so happy to report that 1) the orange tree has several oranges on it,

and 2) the little potted orange tree seems to be coming back to life. After looking nearly dead for a long time, new leaves are growing and I spotted one tiny orange.

About half of the first strawberries I planted keeled over, so I bought 6 more and made a little patch. Had to dig up a big plant to make room, but that’s OK.

The blueberry bush I bought looks pretty droopy, though. I’m not sure what it needs. I think I need to do more research.

I think I am going to end up removing these overgrown geraniums to make room for more berries.

I don’t really care for the red ones and we have a bunch of pink ones elsewhere in the yard.

I was thinking of planting something in this bare spot, but Sadie loves it so much I can’t do it.

I managed to kill all three zinnias I planted. Maybe I shouldn’t have tried to separate them.

I don’t want to give up on having zinnias, though. I really love them. The dahlias I bought look great.

I think they’re really too big for their pot, though. So maybe I’ll plant them in the ground and get more.

There are some pretty little marigolds scattered throughout the yard that I might transplant once the workshop construction is gone.

I’ll at least clean up the weeds and try to give them a dedicated space.

I’m happy to say these pretty mums are doing well after getting cleaned out and watered.

And my fave fucshia plants are happy as can be.

Overall, I don’t think I can expect too much from the yard this summer, but it’s fun to get started on it. 

Skillet meals

Skillet enchiladas, so good.

These days I’m a big fan of dinners that come together in one pot, pan or skillet. It’s kind of the Hamburger Helper concept — saute meat and maybe some onions or other veggies, add in pasta or rice plus water and seasonings, put the lid on and let it simmer until the pasta is cooked through. Top with cheese (no cheese powder needed…) and serve. Usually the prep is under half and hour and you only have one pan to wash. My kind of dinner!

Here are some of my favorite recipes. They are getting me through life with a toddler, that’s for sure:

Chicken enchiladas skillet

Cheeseburger mac (I always use less paprika and add more cheese)

Mexican taco bowl spaghetti, great with macaroni pasta too

• Southwestern chicken and rice skillet, topped with cheese 

Skillet lasagna (I add sweet red peppers)
All-veggie options:
I’m surprising myself at how many of these recipes I have! Hopefully it helps if you need a quick recipe.

Funny DIY

Had to share this because I’m so surprised it actually worked! I had this pair of Tom’s cordones that started out grey and eventually got covered in brown splotches I couldn’t wash out (See: toddler adventures).

Since I often dip things in grey dye for my work, I figured I could re-dye them to cover the spots. But that didn’t work at all. They came out looking exactly the same.

So, one day the idea just popped into my head to color them with a Sharpie marker. I was going to trash the shoes and buy another $78 pair in black anyway, so I figured it was worth a try. I even floated the idea to Mike and he said I should not do that. But I am stubborn.

So I colored the shoes. And it totally worked. They came out looking kind of denim-ish. Given Tom’s weathered style, I don’t think you would know they weren’t that way to start. So, if this happens to you, give the ‘ole Sharpie a try!

Toddler adventures

At 16 months, Harper is one adventurous toddler. She’s figured out how to climb up onto chairs and then stand up. So I’m constantly going, “sit down!” while she teeters on a chair. 

While Grandma Corey was here, Harper picked out a talking dog named Violet. I think she carried Violet around, constantly pushing her paws for new songs, for about 48 straight hours.

We also got her a water table, since she was constantly trying to get into her little pool with clothes and shoes on.

She loves to scoop out the water and try to drink it (gross!), but she’s also started watering my plants and refilling the dog bowl.

I think she’s at the age where she’s very big on trying to imitate what we do. I’m constantly surprised at what she can understand even though she doesn’t really talk yet.

The other day she fell off one of the deck steps and scraped her forehead. Then she got a scrape on one knee, then the other. I think she’s going to go through childhood with constantly scraped knees. She’s a very curious soul who kind of charges through life. I have to admire her for that (even if it scares me).

Despite the vigilance required to parent a toddler, I’m finding that I’m able to enjoy parenthood a lot more these days. She’s more independent, less cranky, and a much better sleeper. Though her schedule still swings pretty wildly, she has been sleeping much later in the mornings and taking some long naps. She only wakes at night if there is something unusual going on, like houseguests, or if she has a dirty diaper.

The other day I was at the dentist and the hygienist was telling me about how she had a 1-year-old who didn’t sleep through the night. I told her about how much Harper had changed in the last few months, which seemed to make her feel a lot better. Like so many hard things in life, it gets better!

Home improvements

We’re all moved in and my in-laws are here to help with the workshop remodeling and some other projects, so I finally have some time for a progress report on the new house. Here’s what the front looked like before. 

After many attempts and a trip to the local tool library, we were finally able to take down the ugly awnings. Woo hoo!

We also got some new house numbers, which Mike mounted on a plain board painted white.

Definitely better than the old ones!

Here is the old doorbell.

And the new one, which is lighted and easy to see at night.

Remember the ugly front-door handle?

We actually replaced all the exterior doorknobs and locks.

We obviously have some painting to do on the front door, but since I still haven’t decided what to do about the screen door, that can wait.

We replaced two exterior doors that were in terrible shape, one in the garage and one in the workshop. This was the workshop door before.

And now.

Inside, the biggest, most dramatic change is definitely the floors. All but our bedroom had ugly brown carpet.

Here’s what the living room floor looked like after the carpet was removed and the oak floors were sanded.

They looked brand new! The flooring guys did an amazing job bringing those 60-year-old floors back to life. We also painted the walls a buttery yellow color.

Here’s another shot of the carpet in the hallway.

And the wood floors now. The board patterns are kind of cool, and they’re repeated in every room.

The electrical work has been completed, so that’s a big weight off our shoulders. We still have some outlets to change over, but they are going from this:

to this:

Plus we’re changing all the light switches and plates over to new white ones. But that’s still on the to-do list!

Another big difference came when we took down the frumpy drapes.

They took a house with huge picture windows and made it super dark. We got some simple curtains and rods from IKEA, which while dark grey still let in a lot of light.

We still have to take down the awning on the side of the house, which will make it even lighter.

The kitchen was really the big bear of a project. Here’s a good before shot.

We liked the style of the cabinets and they were in good shape. But we didn’t love the brown color with copper handles. It made the kitchen feel too small and dark. So we decided to save money and just paint the cabinets white ourselves.

One of us would go to the new house at night while the other watched Harper, or I would use my “work days” to paint. It took forever! The surfaces just seemed to grow as we worked. And in the end the paint is somewhat uneven and cracked in a few places.

However, the kitchen does look much better now.

Here’s the ancient microwave before:

And with the new microwave now:

I’m trying not to let it bother me too much that the appliances don’t match. ;)

One interesting thing — we bought new hinges to match the new drawer pulls, but they didn’t fit correctly. So I ended up buying metallic spray paint for the old hinges and it worked really well.

Oh, and I almost forgot the drawer liners! Those old nasty ones just about killed me. They were on every shelf in the kitchen and it took me a week to get them off. But the new ones are great.

When I needed a break from the kitchen, I decided to tackle the hall closet, which had been full of mismatched shelves before.

I tossed some of the plywood shelves and kept the nice ones. Then I painted the whole thing white. Big impact for not very much work.

The bathroom still needs a lot of work, but at least I got rid of the shower doors and mini blinds.



Harper’s room got a fresh coat of green paint and a new blackout roller shade. She sleeps a lot better in there now.

We also replaced the mini blinds in our room with roller shades, but other than that we didn’t do anything in there.

The next big project is the workshop.

Now that it has electricity and lights, Mike and his dad are putting up the drywall. It should really be a huge transformation. I’m also planning to make a painted peg board and fix up the cabinet. So excited!

Outside we also have some landscaping to do. I bought a bunch of new herbs and flowers, which my mother-in-law is going to help me plant. I keep making new discoveries in the yard. These calla lilies opened up, and it turns out we have an orange tree!

So, tons of work completed and lots more to do. We are all exhausted, but proud of all the improvements we’ve made. It’s just so satisfying when it’s your house.

Summer chill

It’s hard to really capture with a camera, but you know it’s summer here when the fog starts to roll in at night. It sweeps in really quickly around dusk, and then all the sudden a perfectly clear, warm day turns grey and chilly (they call it June gloom). But the crispness in the air and the way the clouds sit on the hills like they’re just resting there — it’s a little bit magical. 

There is an incredibly consistent rhythm to summers here. Cloudy in the morning, clear by noon, and then grey by 7. Karl the Fog is so notorious, he has his own Twitter account

Having spent so many summers in Kansas and Iowa, I feel like this is a different season altogether. To me, summer is blasting heat and drenching humidity. It’s bare feet on hot pavement and shaved ice stands opening in empty parking lots. It’s intense, violent even, with all the thunderstorms and tornado warnings.

I definitely miss the familiarity of 90 degrees at 9 p.m. and crickets chirping outside an open window. But I don’t miss being miserably hot, not at all. It still makes me shake my head, but I’m kind of enjoying getting out my sweaters and teacups. Because that’s what you do when it’s summer in San Francisco. 


This week has been a paint-smeared, box-cluttered blur as we finish preparing the new house for our move this weekend. We need a few days to get settled, but then I will have LOTS of photos of the progress we’ve made. It’s looking great, and I can’t believe it’s ours. 

Officially weaned!

Nursing Harper on Angel Island when she was about 7 months old.

I think it was last Thursday that Harper went all day without nursing. And so, with basically no fanfare, we were done with breastfeeding. It was such a tumultuous journey with such drama at the beginning that it seems wrong for it to end so quietly. But I’ll take it.

My views on breastfeeding have really solidified since becoming a mom. I think all mothers have to make that choice for themselves whether to do it or not and for how long. But now that I know how truly unbelievably tough it can be, I am passionate about moms getting more support for their efforts. And it certainly makes me angry when they get flak for it.

I think if I had been working full time it would have been much harder for me to continue nursing Harper for as long as I did. After those early weeks of round-the-clock pumpings (10-1-4-7, 10-1-4-7, over and over), I grew to hate pumping. So I really felt for the moms who didn’t have a lot of support at work for it. I was so fortunate to be able to stay home with Harper and nurse her on demand for over a year. It’s one of the accomplishments in my life that I am most proud of. You never can tell, but I think the fact that she stayed so healthy for the first 6 months of her life was in large part because of my milk.

I have memories of nursing her in all kinds of places — on a very windy Golden Gate overlook, in Delores Park with pot smoke wafting by, squished in the backseat of our car, and especially in all kinds of woodsy locales when we got a chance to get out of town. It’s been a wild ride, and I’m so glad I stuck it out. But it’s also great to have a little freedom — and my old clothes back!