Oakland to SF Ferry Boat Adventure

Playing tourist is one of my favorite things to do when I go home to the Bay Area. I’ve been gone for 13 years living in other parts of California (Humboldt and Sacramento), and now Michigan, so even old familiar places sometimes feel new.

I wasn’t sure how much exploring we’d be able to do with Ziva being just 3 months old on our trip this spring. When my Dad and his girlfriend Stephanie suggested taking the ferry from Jack London Square in Oakland to the Ferry Building in San Francisco, it sounded like a great idea, just maybe not with a baby… but, as I’ve said before, I waaaay underestimated my little Ziva. I’m so glad they convinced me to give it a go!

Once the decision was made that we were headed to SF by ferry, it was a mad dash to get from El Cerrito to Jack London square in time for the afternoon boat. We made it with just minutes to spare. The boat wasn’t too crowded and there was plenty of room for us to all sit together in the front with a great view of the ship yards and the slowly approaching San Francisco skyline.

It was a much shorter ride than I’d expected and before long we were pulling up under the bay bridge.

 First stop was the Ferry Building. We were a bit too late for the Saturday Farmers Market, but all the vendors and booths inside the ferry building are worth the visit on their own.

My favorite stop is always the Mariposa Bakery booth. They have absolutely Devine gluten free baked goods. I’ve never gotten something from them that wasn’t delicious, and the loaf of facacia bread I picked up this time didn’t disappoint.

We walked around inside for a while before heading out to the water front to enjoy our treats and coffee. The sky that day was impressively blue.  

We brought a stroller for Stella, and Ziva road most of the afternoon in he Baby Bjorn since she LOVES forward facing. Our next carrier is going to have to be the Ergo 360 (though she is starting to like her inward facing carriers more recently). Ziva was enthralled by all of the people and new things to see. She just took it all in, looking around until she eventually fell asleep.

Next we crossed the street to check out the makers fair and all of their goods. My sister ended up getting a beautiful necklace and I picked up some earrings.

We decided to walk the Embarcadero past the tourist filled Pier 39 to catch the ferry boat back to Oakland at Pier 41. Along the way both babies began to get a little restless, so we stopped to nurse them. The girls ended up switching for the remainder of the walk so that Ziva could ride in the stroller (and give my back a break) and Stella could ride in the Bjorn (satisfying her need for mama-snuggles)! She was just weeks shy of 1 year old, but she is never to old for baby wearing!

If you know San Francisco, than you know how once that fog rolls in it can make a sunny day grey and chilly. By the time we reached the pier it had gotten cooler and the wind was blowing in. Perfect timing to cross back over to the sunny side of the bay.

We ended up beating the fog across the bay and were able to enjoy almost another hour of sunshine in Jack London square. There is a wine tasting room right next to the doc were the ferry lets you off and my dad and Stephanie are members and had a case to pick up, so we stopped in for some tasting (Ziva enjoyed a tasting from the boobie bar while I enjoyed some tasty water). Surprisingly, we weren’t the only group with babies enjoying some wine and sunshine that afternoon on the patio of Rosenblum Cellars tasting room, there was what looked like a mom and baby group a few tables away too!


So, somewhat surprisingly this ambitious adventure across the bay and back turned out to be one of my favorite memories from this last trip home. Ziva loved taking in all of the sites, she happily napped in the carrier (yay baby-wearing), and I loved every moment of the bay breezes and California sunshine. Grandpa Gilbert for the win :0)

Ziva Takes The Bay

I’m finally starting to hit my stride again since returning to work a few weeks ago. The last few weeks of maternity leave were like a whirlwind, and though I’m only back 3 days a week at first, keeping up with life, house maintenance, and figuring out our new schedule has kept us all very busy. Not to mention the birth of our brand new nephew!

And of course, isn’t it almost predictable that I would get sick for the first time in almost a year right in the middle of it all? The body just knows when it’s a convenient time, yaknowwhatImean?


With all of that going on, it already seems like it was ages ago that I took our sweet little baby Z on her first trip to California. Daddy staid home since we planned the trip sort of last minute and he had to work. I hadn’t thought I would be ready to fly with Z so young, but when my company extended their parental leave policy right before I was originally supposed to return to work, it gave us another 7 weeks to hang out and travel. Flying with a 3 month old sounded a whole lot less terrifying than flying with a 2 month old. You know, that month of parenting experience makes a huge difference.


Sleeping for a few minutes on the flight there.
Sleeping for a few minutes on the flight there.

Our flight there was very smooth considering what my expectations were (picture screaming baby and angry passengers). Ziva didn’t cry a bit and spent her time attempting to woo the woman sitting behind me with big smiles, batting lashes, giggles, and coos.

I will say that changing her diaper in the microbathroom (with no changing table) was a challenge, as was keeping her in my 17 inches of personal space at my seat. I purchased a travel boppy nursing pillow off of the Ann Arbor mom2mom list for $20 at the last minute and it was SO worth the money. The pillow extended my lap area to give Z more space and helped keep my back from aching while holding her for hours on end. What makes it a Travel Boppy is that it folds in half and zips together, and has a strap so you can carry it like a bag (I stuffed it in my carry on when we weren’t on the plane). The other thing that helped was my Skip Hop Pronto Diaper Clutch (again, I bought used for cheaper). Those bathrooms are small enough without trying to manage a diaper bag as well as the baby!

Ziva with Grandpa Gilbert

We spent the first few days in CA at my Dad’s house. My dad is always ready for an adventure so the second day in town he and his girlfriend, my sister and her 1 year old daughter, and Ziva and I all decided to take the ferry boat from Jack London Square in Oakland to the Ferry Building in San Francisco. I was really skeptical about how we would fare being out for so many hours without a fast easy way to come home if Ziva couldn’t handle it. I severely underestimated my little one.

On Friday night my Dad hosted a delicious Mexican feast for shabbat dinner and invited many of our close friends and family to come and meet little Ziva. When we were thinking about whether or not I should take Z to California one of the main pros of going was that people in my world would actually get to meet her as a baby, rather than as an almost 1 year old when we go over the winter holidays. It was incredible getting to see people who have known me and held me since I was a little one, holding my own little girl. Pretty mind blowing.

Ziva with cousin Stella and Auntie Rachel
Ziva with cousin Stella and Auntie Rachel

On Sunday my sister and I headed to Alameda to hit up a sale at Tot Tank. We spent a few hours with our two little girls meandering on Park street, popping in and out of shops. I’ve always loved how Alameda feels so “small town” even though it’s right in the middle of the bay. We headed to the new In & Out on the island before heading to my moms. I try to get a double double protein style, animal style at least once a year or so. It’s worth the extra calories ;-). Unfortunately, the traffic heading across town and off the island was horrific that day (not sure why… maybe cause of the Warriors?), and with 2 under 1 in the car it was a sad ride. Ziva was ready to be held and nursed, not sit in the car seat.

My baby and my bestie. You can see the spit-up on my shirt. Mom life is messy stuff.
My baby and my bestie. You can see the spit-up on my shirt. Mom life is messy stuff.

My mother threw us a wonderful women’s gathering at her house (our family home) that evening with many of her long time friends and some I hadn’t met before. Again, it was amazing seeing people I’ve known my whole life with my baby girl. My mother has always fostered such a wonderful sense of community and I’m happy to know that we can be part of it when we are in town.

This is where our visit took a turn for the worse. During the party that evening I started to get what I thought were allergies and by morning I was full blown sick. Fever, body aches, mucus, the whole shebang. We ended up having to cancel all of our plans for the second half of the trip, which meant many of my friends didn’t get a chance to meet little Ziva. I was pretty sorely disappointed in our luck. Thank goodness I was at my moms though. I would have loved to be able to do more the second half of the trip, but it was such a blessing I was there where my mom could take care of me and Ziva while I was in the thick of it.

At first I felt like the second half of the trip was a wash since we had to cancel everything, but my mom pointed out that for her it was great since she got 3 straight days with Ziva, playing with her and bonding. Once she put it in that perspective I was really glad we were there. We live so far away I have often wondered how strong a bond Z will have with my family, so any chance we get to give them time together is a big plus in my book.

After the success of the first flight I was a bit less stressed about how Ziva would fare on the flight home. What I didn’t plan for was an extremely long time waiting on the runway before take off. I started nursing Z as we pulled away from the gate, but by the time it was our turn to take off she was already done and I couldn’t move quickly enough to grab a pacifier or something else for her to suck on as we took off. Word of advice- have your back up soothers on the ready or baby will absolutely cry. Being the chill baby she is, it was only about 172 miles of crying (according to the track your flight app on board the plane), but it felt like forever. Once she was settled down it was an easy flight.

The flight home in her own little lounge.
The flight home in her own little lounge.

Delta was able to move Ziva and me to an empty row of two seats so I was actually able to put her down in the boppy on the seat occasionally during the flight which was such a life saver. Definitely ask at the gate if you haven’t purchased a seat for your little one.

All in all, it was a successful trip. I always love going home to California, and it was so meaningful to create these memories with Ziva in my hometown and with my community. I can’t wait to take her back in December when she is bigger and more able to interact with her surroundings. Just imagining the way she and Stella (our niece) will interact then makes me smile! One thing is for sure though, I won’t be itching to travel alone with a little baby any time soon. Ziva was a champ when it came to every aspect of travel, which I’m so grateful for, but even with a “good” baby it was challenging and exhausting! I’d much rather bring along a second set of hands. Thank goodness her daddy will be joining us on the next trip!



The Power of Music: Concert Memories

Keith Urban moving to the second stage right in front of me at Arco Arena in 2009. (Photo taken by Ready Set Sarah)
Keith Urban moving to the second stage right in front of me at Arco Arena in 2009. (Photo taken by Ready Set Sarah)

In the last few months I’ve seen tons of posts to Facebook and Instagram from friends at concerts and music festivals. Smokey stages with ethereal lighting and itty bitty figures on a stage.  This got me thinking about how much I miss live music.

In the hot and sticky summer of 2009 I was living in Sacramento and preparing for my big move across the country to Michigan to start grad school. I didn’t have a ton of money saved up, and what I had I wanted to save for moving and school costs.  Going on a vacation felt like too much of a stretch. Mid-recession the phrase “staycation” was the local entertainment marketing rage, and I decided that was the way to go. I went on a concert binge that summer. I saw Kenny Chesney, Coldplay, and Keith Urban. Each show was a different vibe, and wonderful for completely different reasons, but afterwards there was always the same outcome: I felt renewed, rejuvenated and relaxed.

There is just something so cathartic about listening to music live, singing along with a group, and getting wrapped up in the entertainment and atmosphere of the production and crowd.

I usually prefer an outdoor summer concert. There is something truly magical about sitting outdoors at night, listening to great music, looking up at the stars in the hot summer air. The night we saw Coldplay it was beyond any concert experience I’d had before. The Sleep Train Amphitheater in Wheatland, CA is the perfect venue for summer concerts. Nestled into what looks like a hillock in the middle of a farm field, this venue is made for breezy, steamy summer nights. The stage production and surprises Coldplay used for this show felt like they were designed from the imaginative experience of a child. There were oversized large yellow balloons bouncing through the audience during “Yellow”, that when they burst, sprinkled the audience with yellow confetti. There were air rockets shooting multicolored neon and metallic paper butterflies on the audience from every direction timed perfectly with the music and building energy during “Lovers in Japan”, or was it “Strawberry Swing”? I don’t recall, but it was awesome. There was just so much imagination in this show it was like an altered state. They even gave out a CD of the set recorded live at previous shows. It was an incredible experience and the gimmicks all worked on me.

The night I saw Kenny Chesney in San Francisco at AT&T Park, it was less of a production, but enjoyable all the same. The cold San Francisco summer air was enough to make him put on a shirt with sleeves (if you know Kenny Chesney, you know what that takes). Lady Antebellum opened, and though Sugarland didn’t make it to open, Miranda Lambert did and she was AWESOME. AT&T park is great, but cold and big for the kind of show I like. The music was enough to carry us to a warm beachy state of mind.

To be honest, when I decided to see Keith Urban at the Arco Arena in Natomas, CA that summer, I was really going to see his opening act, Leann Rimes. Leann was the first country artist I liked as a child. I used to stand on the trunk at the foot of my mothers bed with Leann’s debut album Blue blasting on the stereo. I’d hold my moms brush to my lips as a microphone and belt out each song, word for word, to my (very tolerant) audience of 1 (my mom). Leann and I are almost exactly the same age (a matter of days) and that just made me love her singing even more.

Excited to see one of my childhood idols, I did a little research online to see where the best seats for my money (which there wasn’t much of) would be. I read a few reviews that suggested there would be a second stage at some point in the show were Keith Urban would play a few songs out in the audience. I looked up the layout of the Arco Arena seating charts and made a guess as to where that would be. When we picked our tickets up at will call they told us the seats we purchased weren’t available because a camera would be placed there, so they were moving us. I was livid! I had purposely chosen that location, how could they ruin my plan! Well, it was all for the best. We ended up seated what seemed like a mere 5 feet from the second stage, right on level with him as he sang. This was our view:

It was AMAZING. I hadn’t been a big fan before the show, but by the time it was over I was sold. 100%.

Up Close and personal. Keith Urban at Arco Arena in 2009. (Photo by Ready Set Sarah).
Up Close and personal. Keith Urban at Arco Arena in 2009. (Photo by Ready Set Sarah).
Photo by Ready Set Sarah
Photo by Ready Set Sarah
Photo by Ready Set Sarah
Photo by Ready Set Sarah

Since I moved to Michigan that August of 2009, I have made it to a few great shows. Jay Z and Eminem at Comerica Park in 2010 was most memorable (Dr. Dre showed up! Beyonce was dancing in her seat!). Brian got me a ticket as a birthday present and we had a blast. We also saw Jason Mraz at a local outdoor venue, DTE Energy Music Theatre, summer 2012 around my birthday again (a theme I guess). I love Jason Mraz, but the set list wasn’t fabulous and it was a weeknight. By the time the vibe picked up and he started playing songs more familiar to the audience we were already headed out for the night… but at least it was outdoors!

With New Years Eve creeping up on me this year, I started longing for a musical vacation. It is such a stress reducer for me, seeing bands I like play, the thrill of the evening, the music. Last New Years we went up north here in Michigan to Petoskey and rented a house with a few other couples (Details will have to be for another post). It was so much fun exploring the northern lake towns with my hunny, playing in the snow with our puppy, and hanging out with friends. How could we top that? Well, the Zac Brown Band is here to save the day.

I can’t wait to head down to the historic Joe Louis Arena on the Detroit River tomorrow night to ring in the new year with my brand spankin’ new husband and the Zac Brown Band! I really hope they play “Free,” that violin intro melts me and I can’t imagine how it will rock my soul live.

Here we come 2014!



I Said Yes!

We had already been enjoying one of the best trips we’ve ever had back to my home state. There wasn’t too much more that could make it any better… so I thought.

Brian (formerly the Beau) had a little Thursday morning surprise up his sleeve.

Engagement day images by Ready.Set.Sarah.

Since most of our trip was centered around seeing family, Brian had requested that we take one day to do something alone together. He’s an adamant baseball fan and really wanted to see AT&T Park (where the San Francisco Giants play). I figured since this was his day I’d stay out of the way and just go along for the ride with whatever he planned…

When Thursday morning arrived we were planning on having a little breakfast at home with my mom before taking BART into the city for the mid-day game against the Houston Astros. Instead we were woken by an early morning phone call from my dad- there had been a fire on BART and the track was melted in Oakland heading into the city. Flustered, I started checking ferry boat schedules to find another way into the city (figuring we should get a move-on it since we would be making the trek with the bazillions of other people headed to work, the game, and the US Open also happening in SF area that week).

Brian headed downstairs to the bathroom and I stayed behind in bed intently focused on my task. All of the sudden Brian was back, wide awake and handing me is iPhone. “I need you to watch this video,” he said. “Ok baby, sure,” I replied still distracted. More insistent, he put the phone in my hand and said, “No, I really need you to watch this video. Watch the whole thing, don’t push any buttons or turn it down or anything. When it’s done come find me downstairs”. And with that he turned around and left.

This is what I watched:

BJL Studios Engagement Trailer Video

By the end of this first video I was shaking and laugh-crying. Then another video started. I was stunned, excited, nervous, tickled, and head-over-heels in love the whole time I watched.

When the second video ended I ran down stairs to look for Brian. The rest was a bit of a blur. I remember holding hands with Brian as he told me more sweet things. I remember seeing my mom there and being glad she was part of this. I remember thinking that I should try and remember everything he said… but not being able to hear over the blood rushing in my ears. As he said my full name and began to get down on one knee I think I started saying yes, I’m not sure he even got the question out all of the way before I was jumping into his arms saying yes!

Lands End Images by Ready.Set.Sarah.

After what seemed like a million phone calls and text messages later, my mom let us barrow her car to drive into the city to the game. We were in no hurry, busy basking in the afterglow of the excitement (and staring at the new sparkler on my left hand). We didn’t end up watching much of the game. Brian was amazed at how awesome the stadium is and we fully enjoyed walking around checking out the view of McCovey Cove and soaking in the sunshine.

After a while we decided to leave and enjoy the unusually perfect sunny day in other parts of the city. We made our way across town to Lands End since Brian had read about a new visitors center that just opened at the location of the old Sutro Baths. If you’ve never been to San Francisco- or even if you have- you should check out the new spruced up Lands End. The views of the Pacific Ocean are epic on either a clear or foggy day and the new visitor center has a ton of information and old pictures of what it all looked like back in the day.

We ended the day with a delicious early dinner at Greens in Fort Mason. Brian had made a reservation for 5:30 pm so that we could get a seat by the huge windows looking out over the docks and a the mouth of the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Best. Day. Ever.

Engagement dinner at Greens Fort Mason Image by Ready.Set.Sarah.