Two hands. The minimum number of hands required to demonstrate your age. Six is big to a little girl. It a even bigger to us parents. Sophia’s embarked on her seventh trip around the sun and I’m stunned with disbelief. I feel as though we just celebrated her fifth, fourth, and even first birthdays.
On the one hand I’m in no rush to see Sophia (and Eliza) grow up but, on the other hand, I’m curious to see what kind of people they’ll become. Sophia is warm, intelligent, substantive, kind, mild-mannered, and responsible. She’s also temperamental, insistent, awfully stubborn, and witty. Above all, she’s loving.
We celebrated all weekend long with two parties. The first was a gymnastics extravaganza at a local little gym and the second a picnic with very close family. The weather mostly held off for the picnic and we made the best of the slightly damp conditions. The kids, however, clearly enjoyed themselves with carousel rides, a round of Spooky Minigolf, and much, much time at the playground. These diversions were just the reason we decided to hold the party at a park instead of our home. Public spaces become natural extensions of the home as urban living, for most, doesn’t lend itself naturally to hosting 20+ people.
There is something magical about Northern California. Maybe its the fresh air, the stunning scenery that takes you literally above the clouds, the fresh produce, or the gorgeous wines the region produces. Whatever magic San Francisco and the Napa/Sonoma Valleys possess has drawn our young family there time and again.
We wrapped up Summer 2017 in Northern California and couldn’t have chosen a better time and better companions to do it. Eight glorious days exploring wineries, hiking in magical Redwood forests, and partaking city sites.
Traveling with kids isn’t very difficult if you research ahead of time and plan. Here are things we recommend:
Benzinger – A bio-sustainable winery that boasts gorgeous grounds (see above), absolutely outstanding wines and has a fun, for adults and kids alike, tram tour.
Arrowood – An off-the-beaten path winery with small productions of big reds, amazing views.
Imagery – A sister property of Benzinger, this winery is also bio-sustainable offering great wines with originally commissioned art works as labeled. The wines were great, the little vegetable and flower garden was a gem for the girls who saw how all matter of veggies grow.
Sterling – Big, a bit crowded, with decent wine. The only reason to go here is for the views which you take in after taking an air tram to a mountain top.
Castello di Amorosa – Big, definitely a bit crowded, but with amazing service, delicious wines, a small and tastefully done zoo, beautiful grounds, and a spectacular, straight-out-of-Tuscany castle to boot. The girls enjoyed visiting a Princess Castle and we enjoyed their beautiful wines. Their muscat grape juice which is bottled and presented the same way as their wines is not to be missed. We liked it so much that we brought some home.
Kunde – A beautiful winery with gorgeous grounds, an amazing patio, and an appealing wine and cheese tasting that satisfied even the youngest tasters.
The Sonoma Overlook Trail – A beginner’s hike just to get into the swing of things especially if giving hiking a go with young children
Armstrong Woods – A gorgeous, serene, easy to get to and easy to navigate redwood forest. We took the 2+ mile hike without a problem using two of these.
Eats in the wine country:
Bouchon Bakery – A bakery owned by the famed Thomas Keller that curates the very same delicious breads and pastries offered at The French Laundry and Bouchon. The girls love chocolate croissants but their Cream and Strawberry puffs are not to be missed. We liked it so much, we went twice.
Addendum – Offers a picnic lunch of fried chicken unlike anything you’ve ever had in a beautiful setting that’s casual and they pack chocolate chip cookies!
The Freemont Diner – Casual, rustic, everything you imagine a real diner to be with killer french toast and huevos rancheros.
Eats in San Francisco:
Firefly – Recommended by a friend of ours who lives in the Noe Valley, this restaurant didn’t disappoint. Their food was eclectic and not just different, but delicious.
Delphina – a beautiful restaurant in the Mission with a great menu and even better food. The offerings are seasonal, fresh, and pasta is king.
There are more things we saw and did and I will have more information on how to actively travel with younger children in posts that follow. For now, however, I begrudgingly bid goodbye to summer break.
This weekend, no, this summer has thus far been a blur. We’ve fallen into a familiar pattern of small excursions around the city, time with our families, and kids parties. This weekend has not been any different. The girls spent time with Baba and Deda. More than that, they had a pottery painting date with my sister and nephew at the very same place I used to take the now 13-year old Alex when he was Sophia’s age. We finally got out these little aprons my sister and I made for the girls a few years back when we made them for all the little cousins’ as Hannukah presents. We shipped the aprons with homemade hot chocolate and cookie mixes. The girls were besides themselves with glee and couldn’t wait to cook for each other and us. Sophia made a fruit salad for herself and Eliza with her very own real knife. Her fruit salad recipe had grapes, blueberries, strawberries, bananas, and lemon juice in it. She doesn’t usually like blueberries but having made it herself won her over, I suppose. Or was it that she worked up an appetite after a morning at the zoo? Whatever it was, we were glad to see the kids enjoy their time in the kitchen and in the zoo, glad to see their time. Period.
Sunday was the first time we had been to the zoo since last fall and it was a beautiful day. We weren’t the only ones who had such a splendid idea but we have a membership and don’t feel the need to explore every nook and cranny each visit. The zebra exhibit was closed which was disappointing to Eliza who asked where is the zebra vacationing. Alas, all it took was a carousel ride, a significant amount of time at the Tree House.
Ice cream wasn’t the only thing on the menu though I could have it for breakfast lunch and dinner. We also made a roast, crepes, roasted tomato soup, a roasted chicken dinner, and a barley grain salad. It isn’t gluttony, its meal-prep for the week and it ensures that I can get a proper dinner on the table most evenings. Do you meal prep for the week?
We were a family of five for a week and it was so, so nice. The girls, Evan, and I hosted my nephew Alex while he attended a photography camp at Fleisher Art Memorial. Old school photography with real film and a manual camera is slowly becoming less common and I am so glad Alex showed interest in learning how it used to be done. Looking back at my own childhood, I had great fun assisting my dad when he developed his own film in our dark room.
Camp and photography is one thing, but photography at a camp that looks like this is another. Fleisher is housed in an old church complete with a gorgeous stained glass window that looks like it was transported straight out of Verona, Italy.
Outside of camp we enjoyed a lot of family time and the kids spent time together doing what kids do best — self-directed play.
Connect4, coloring, strawberry ice cream and fancy water. Fancy water is my way of encouraging everyone to drink lots of water by dropping berries into a to-go cup.
This past week wasn’t just about camp or family/cousin time. It was about providing Alex with an opportunity to live in the city for a week. Alex seized this chance with open arms and took it all in observing the diversity of the neighborhood we live in and the one where he attended camp (Queen’s Village). We had great conversations talking about the city, the neighborhoods, the history that is all around us, and our life here. We spoke about why Evan and I make this city our home and about how we make choices. I had such a nice time getting to know my nephew who is no longer a child but much more of a young adult. He is lovely and I am looking forward to making this a tradition.