MY MANY MOAI

I feel like an enigma as the introvert that loves joining groups. Growing up, groups served my desire to disappear in the pile of, and yet identify with, my peers. I wore the labels from showing up for just enough meetings to get in the yearbook picture and partake in the free snacks. I knew the truth I aimed to occupy, I just balked at my own value not believing I offered anything new. I feel like teenage angst boiled over then reduced down to a thick syrup of Imposter syndrome.  

Thank goodness that my heart knew what it needed and where I wanted to wind up, although my feet kept kicking myself in the ass. My heart backed myself into some amazing groups that I still can’t believe include me in their membership. These groups not only broadcast my soul to the world but, in turn, give me clarification and confidence about who I am. Each group feels a little bit like home. 

These lovely Red Hat Society ladies grew by word-of-mouth but are nation-wide!

 

High School Girlfriends – Friends who have known the many evolutions of me (since before I knew who I was) and still stay close anyway!

OMagInsiders – Group of hearts on a similar wavelength who expanded my horizons and helped redefine the second season of my life. 

Eat My Way Around The World – Flavorful foodie friends introduced to me by work who remind me to season our work life with social meals. They know what I’m saying even if words evade me. 

Redondo Rocks – Kind, creative and generous people aiming to embellish people’s days and  strengthen the positive connections in our community. 

Mom Tribe – I have a flourishing and eager-to-help network of moms who have driven carpools, fed my kids, kept them if I have to be somewhere at an off hour, taken them on fun adventures, and helped me keep my eyes on the ground – so much so that my children believe that I really do see everything everywhere. While I love them all for helping make me a successful mom, I love them as people and look forward to the times when the kids are scarce too.  

Korean Adoptees – We’re so spread out around the globe, but we’re reuniting online through a wide variety of groups where we help carry the history we share together and mentor each other to find the answers we hope for or the path we are meant for.

I’m so fortunate because these groups offer:

  • A security blanket – Non-judgemental support when needed
  • Level-headed perspective – They speak truthfully and directly to help steer me
  • Calming agent – They listen and give great hugs which dissipate the feeling of being alone in any storm
  • Strong support – They totally jump on my crazy train when I’m roaring down the tracks
  • Sweeten my life – They surprise me with special treats of kind gestures and rituals
  • Bonus: Did you know that by participating in regular moais, your life could increase by 8 years (Blue Zones)?

WHAT ABOUT YOU?
Do you belong to any moais, groups or clubs?

What kind?
What is your longest-lasting Moai?
Do you prefer online or in-person groups?

How many people are in your Moai?
Do you know how to say Moai?   Mo•ai (/mo,eye/) Japan
Tell me the top three things your Moai give you!

YOU WENT WHERE? MY FAVORITE COFFEE MEMORIES

Please note that the cityPASS links are afflinks meaning I’ll get paid a few pennies towards my next dream vacation at no extra cost to you. I am only including the pass for towns I’ve visited and would love to return to with a cityPASS

Some people’s favorite memories bubble to the surface after seeing an outfit worn, hearing music played, smelling a familiar scent or feeling a season come around again. Many of my favorite memories (no surprise) center around coffee! 

I am the reigning champion Most Caffeinated Mom of my domain. I absolutely drink coffee to ensure that I can stay up later than my teenagers. No falling asleep on the job here. However, I also legitimately love to try different coffee flavors like one might try and savor fine wines (that post coming soon…).

The best part proves to be the town I’m in, or the company I’m with, even if I’m alone. For some of the towns, I sipped while skimming cityPASS info – sizing up my options and discounts for other nearby activities!

Take time to brew a cup, warm up a friendship or simmer on memories! I appreciate you indulging me with a few of my coffee highlights…

BIRD ROCK COFFEE ROASTERS 
Del Mar
Sometimes Moms just need to get away. I rented an Air BnB for the first time and headed out for a solo weekend (sort of – my son and his pals were staying in a beach house so I stayed close in case of emergency and to throw food at them one night). Mentally, it helped me begin to admit that he’s about to leave home and gotten more independent! 

The vibe here felt peaceful starting with the barista’s gratitude journal that you’re encouraged to add to, to the amazing view of Los Penasquitos Lagoon and Torrey Pines State Reserve. The wide open spaces helped breed large ideas!

The SoCal cityPASS has multiple San Diego, Anaheim and Los Angeles attractions and so many various options for you to choose from to plan your perfect visit! 

CAFE DEMITASSE
Santa Monica
After a fast-paced morning playing cars with my friends – real friends and real cars – they raced off to their next amazing destination. Since I didn’t feel ready to downshift yet, I wandered around walking to the pier, down 3rd street Promenade and found this spot.

The specialty drinks drew me in with ingredients I don’t usually see in a latte. When they made my chamomile strawberry latte, the sprinkle of strawberry brightened my morning! I can’t wait to go back!

This beautiful latte is located in a town many people visit when touring SoCal cityPASS attractions!

THE COFFEE HOUSE AT DISNEYLAND HOTEL
Anaheim
Another sign that my kids continue to grow and mature – they now just need me for a ride to Disneyland Resort but don’t me to go with them. I remember walking in those shoes when I grew up so I gladly spent the day exploring Downtown Disney and the many resort hotels until they exhausted themselves.  I’ve been a huge believer in Disney magic ever since my first tour of the park when I worked there during college.

Many surprises hid in every corner of the Diesney properties.  I found the coffee house while wandering through the festive property trying to see what was new. The coffee satisfied my craving but the magic appeared in the themed Snow White’s apple pastry.

Yes! Even Disneyland is part of the SoCal cityPASS!

COPA VIDA
Pasadena
This place felt productive – like important and creative work and conversations took place daily. It felt important that I finally caught up with a friend of over 22 years! I could not remember the last time we caught up without our families.

I ordered a turmeric latte. Is that even coffee? I think so?! It mixed steamed milk with turmeric and espresso. It felt very smooth with just a bit of spice. The anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric made it good for me too.  

Though a little out of the way, you are able to visit this coffee shop when on your way to the Los Angeles stops of the SoCal cityPASS!

GRAND CENTRAL STATION
New York
We did a whirlwind trip to the East coast as my son narrowed down college choices. Not only did it feel fantastic to make it to and pass through such a famous, historic building, but we navigated the trainlines, got tickets and filled the remaining time in line to buy snacks and coffee.

The kids preferred to ride in their own section of the train leaving me in my own little world for our long 2-stop train ride.  We enjoyed that campus and the East coast vibe but he landed at a West coast school for college.

When visiting the City that doesn’t sleep, the New York cityPASS gives you the option of visiting the top 6 NYC attractions, or to choose 3 out of 11 attraction options!

HEARTHSTONE LOUNGE AT DISNEY’S GRAND CALIFORNIAN
Anaheim
I love the network of Korean adoptees (KADs) that I’ve found in recent years. A few of us met in Downtown Disney to discuss things like first trips back to our birth country, birth searches.  I met one gal in San Francisco at the AKA | IKAA conference and they met since they found out they were related. We’ve definitely opened cans of worms by doing DNA – I look forward to see who comes forth. 

The Grand Californian offered one of my favorite places to hang for a while. Feels relaxing sinking into their sturdy but comfortable chairs! The cast members quickly spotted us and took my order. The latte cup, and my company, filled me with warmth!

With the SoCal cityPASS you can choose 2-5 days at the Disneyland Resort and the more days, the less the tickets cost!

LOFTY COFFEE CO.
Encinitas
My childhood friend – well, family by friendship who fits in as our 4th sister in our family (she’d be the oldest and we’re all still 4 years apart) – came to visit!  Since it’d been many years since she last visited, she wrote a short bucketlist and I could not wait to travel as much as I could with her.

We started in Encinitas at my folks’ beach house. We started exploring the charming stores up and down PCH – beginning at the Lofty coffee shop!  It felt like the local hangout, the corner coffee shop where you would find all your fastest made friends.

Take a ride up the coast to drive from the San Diego Zoo to Carlsbad’s Legoland visiting the best SoCal cityPASS attractions! Fill your lungs with sea air and your heart with latte love!

SCALA’S BISTRO AT KIMPTONS SIR FRANCIS DRAKE HOTEL
San Francisco
I flew to to Northern California for a book reading of the anthology that I contributed a story to: Mixed Koreans: Our Stories. Though many of the Korean Adoptees stayed together, I chose to stay closer to where I feel my heart in San Francisco – Union Square.

First of all, they greeted me with free brewed coffee in Scala’s. Instantly won me over! As I stepped down into the cafe, I couldn’t help but stare at the beautiful, lofty ceilings with my mouth wide open.  It immediately set a classic but casual tone with amazing views of the city through its huge front windows! As I sat, sipping my coffee, it absolutely convinced me to come back to grab coffee and croissant for the next leg of my travel. Perhaps next time I’ll have enough time for a real meal.

Structured like the NYC version, the San Francisco cityPASS allows you to either choose the pass with all 5 top San Fran hot spots or you choose 3 out of 8 hot spots for slightly less.

SEARS FINE FOODS
San Francisco
This restaurant marks many milestones in my history. I’ve sat down for breakfast with my kids, with many teams of Team In Training athletes, and with friends. As I sat down once again, I immediately jumped back in time to my other visits and also to the time when this place was built! So much history here.
 

The coffee and comfort food arrived quickly and the portions exceed the plates. Have you tried Sears? You must. 

One of our favorite attractions is the Exploratorium and tickets are available through the San Francisco cityPASS!

STARBUCKS
New York
I leaped at the opportunity to shadow the footsteps of what would be a dream job for me! Grabbed a Venti triple latte and headed to Hearst! Sadly I cannot move to New York right now but I penciled it in as part of my 8-year plan!

To be honest, the tour of O, The Oprah Magazine gave me a pep in my step over the coffee that day but I still loved the holiday flavors.

I need a week to spend in New York. It’s been so long since I visited any of the attractions, they’d be brand new now.  So glad to get a break on so many stops with my NYC cityPASS!

STARBUCKS RESERVE
Palm Springs
While in the middle of my friend’s So Cal visit bucketlist guiding me through my first mid-Century Modern Architecture Tour of Palm Springs, we stumbled upon a huge Starbucks Reserve! I had to take pause from this memorable trip traveling back in time to graduate to Starbucks Reserve.

Starbucks Reserve’s huge store blew me away. They boasted a daily menu featuring special brews and a multitude of brewing methods. I chose Sun-dried Brazil Vale Verde Estate featuring hints of dried fruit and sugar – clover brewed: Full-immersion and vacuum filtration to yield exquisite balance and body (Their words). My thoughts: It tasted about the same as always. Still cool to visit and I’d love to do a flight of coffees!

Palm Springs is a little off the beaten path from the SoCal cityPASS but if you can fit it in, I recommend it. With mid-century modern art & architecture, this desert is a real escape!

TRULUCKS SEAFOOD, STEAK and CRAB HOUSE
La Jolla
Though I grew up in San Diego, I don’t visit as often as I used to. So when I dropped in for the weekend, I felt so grateful that two of my friends made it for happy hour!  They’ve been such a source of friendship, reason, conversations and balance.  I love that we’ve gotten to know each other even better than when we walked home from 8th grade!

We arrived during happy hour and enjoyed a variety of appetizers, delicious cocktails and smooth music. But the chocolate bag dessert and fully-loaded coffee were the most memorable and beautiful together.

It’s worth it to detour through La Jolla to see native Sea Lions and amazing ocean views and experience a restaurant like this between themeparks you found on SoCal cityPASS!

WICKED SNOW
(and a few other coffees that helped me during my first trip back to my birth country!)
Seoul, S. Korea
After spending an amazing day-in-the-life with generous Korean host families who spoiled and fed us so much Korean street food, they brought me and a friend to experience this amazing dessert Mango Bingsu! It tasted like a dreamy creamy cloud! I got a simple coffee to counter the cold of the Mango Bingsu and because I took advantage of any opportunity to get simple brewed coffee while in Korea!

Around the main picture you can see how I fed my caffeine addiction while in Korea. I felt like Korea’s insta-coffee technology was more advanced than I’m used to in the USA.

HONORABLE MENTION:
MY OFFICE
Los Angeles
Every morning my office-mate and I make ritual foam for our coffee and whether I brew my coffee in the office or I brought it with me, it becomes the best part of the morning.

Now that I see the added value of my coffee ritual, I may have to figure out a way to extend this! Meet up with my friends all over for conversations and their favorite coffee (or wine)!

What about you?
What sparks the most memories for you? Sights, sounds, scents, etc.?
Do you have a favorite coffee shop or cafe?
Do you stick with big chain coffee shops or seek out independent chains?
What coffee drink is your part of the world known for?
Do you get coffee for fuel or to spark conversations?
Does the foamy coffee or the tiny espresso from my office has more caffeine?
Does anyone here drink decaf?! Speak up, I’d love to meet you!
…or do you drink tea?

There are 14 cityPASS destinations in the USA and Canada! Use them to simplify planning for your next trip! Which cities have you visited with cityPASS?

#memories #butfirstcoffee #connections #communication #lattelove #bepresent #coffee #cafe #espresso #caffeine #highlycaffeinated #begrateful #shopsmall #Disney #afflink #Canada #Disneyland #makesmewander

MAKING LIFE SIMPLY DELICIOUS

[📷: betsylife.com]

As a single mom, working a day job and blogging by night, I’m always looking for ways to simplify my routine.  No longer wanting to take the time to window shop, stroll through aisles, collect free samples, and do mini fashion shows in the dressing rooms, I started to notice so many people purchasing boxed subscriptions!  Everything from wine to snacks to cosmetics to books to clothing easily and regularly brighten people’s doorsteps!

You can get FREE sirloin and salmon!!

I recently subscribed to ButcherBox (#ad) and I love how many ways you can personalize the box – from the contents (we chose the beef, poultry & pork box), to the delivery schedule!  The quality of the meats are great and they arrive still frozen and sealed in portioned sizes!

 

Loved that the fruits and veggies came with no signs of a rough trip!

I also signed up for Imperfect Produce (#Coupon – We both get $20 off).  I’ve always rooted for underdogs, including unappreciated imperfectly shaped or sized produce!  These boxes contain a wide variety of selections that you review and personalize based on preference or social calendar! The sizes or shapes may vary, but the flavors and freshness impressed me.

[📷: betsylife.com]

With both boxes, I remained curious and open to adventure! I discovered new cuts of meat or exotic produce that I’ve never cooked with before. This led me to look through my pinned recipes online where I found Betsylife.com. First of all, her beautiful photography and her personal ramblings drew me in.  I felt like Betsy and I were hanging out in her kitchen chilling and chatting! Her posts set the tone but don’t hide the recipes in a long, scrolling blog post (thank you!).

One day I wound up with an overabundance of strawberries and a craving to bake so I tried this beautiful super simple Almond Strawberry Upside Down Cake!

I felt like the best mom ever with love oozing from the tendrils of steam as it cooled near the window sending billows of strawberry and almond scent to my neighbors. I never did get around to sharing the cake. …yet.

 

[📷: betsylife.com]

Impressed with Betsy’s recipes – simple enough for me to pull off, elegant enough that they look and taste like a masterpiece – I wanted to see what else she had up her chef sleeve!  Always looking for fun ways to feed my kids, but knowing their individual pickiness, inability to agree with each other and collective aversion to condiments, I went for the

Obviously, I lack Betsy’s food styling skills!

Individual Oven Baked Sloppy Joes. Super simple to make and how smart is she to make so many fun recipes for 1 when the rest of the world cooks for 2 or 4!  I made it for 3 #easy! Flavorful and beefy enough for one child and easy-to-chew meat for the other!

Alright, now convinced, (and with lots of ground beef because ButcherBox’s deal when I signed up was free ground beef for life – right now YOU could get free Salmon and Sirloin), I realized that my kids don’t mind trying new things if they’re teeny!  For my last dinner and using jalapenos from my Imperfect Produce,

I made Jalapeno Cheddar Juicy Lucy burger sliders (how smart that the cheese is INSIDE the burger?!) with a Broccoli Bacon Cheddar Loaded Potato Bites appetizer! Save this recipe for this week’s big game! 

 

I felt like a real chef with all the ingredients laid out!

Trying Betsy’s new recipes felt fun, creative, delicious – which is way more satisfying that what I usually cook!  I own a row of cookbooks and pinned over 7,500 recipes to my boards, so CHALLENGE ACCEPTED: I will find new chefs and try at least 4 of their recipes that month! My skills simmer somewhere around beginner but I had so much fun cooking with Betsylife.com and she added a dash of confidence, inspiring me to improvise! 

The next time I made the Strawberry Almond Upside Down cake – for a family celebration – I went extra adding blueberries to the top too! I just cooked it a little longer (because extra berries means extra juice).  Delicious!

What about you?
When’s the last time you tried a new recipe?
Have you tried Betsy’s Life recipes?
Do you have a recipe I should try?
What chef should I check out next?
Do you subscribe to any boxes?
When’s the last time you cooked outside the (subscription) box?

RECIPES:

ALMOND STRAWBERRY UPSIDE DOWN CAKE

BROCCOLI BACON CHEDDAR LOADED POTATO BITES 

INDIVIDUAL OVEN BAKED SLOPPY JOES

JALAPENO CHEDDAR JUICY LUCY BURGER

#ChallengeAccepted #NotAnAd for #BetsyLife #JustAnAdmirer #FoodStylist #Recipes #Afflink for #ButcherBox #ImperfectProduce #Jalapeno #Cheddar #burger #slider #strawberry #Almond #cake #broccoli #Bacon #Potato #bites #Individual #RecipesForOne #SloppyJoes #Oven #blogtober #October #cook #Dinner #Lunch #Appetizer #omaginsiders #makesmewander

WHY NOW? WHAT SPARKED MY SEARCH INTO MY PAST?

I keep asking myself: Why now? What made me decide to finally go to my birth country of Korea for the first time at the age of 48 (last year)? 

We wore our hanboks to Gyeongbokgung on the last day of our visit! Felt amazing (and gets you in free!)!

It felt like the perfect storm of Impulse (My 2017 Year of Yes and vowing to experience everything), Vulnerability (My 2018 Year of giving in to feel everything), and absolutely my Mindful Midlife (My 2019 Year of trying not to regret anything). While it looked like a sudden whim, my decision built slowly. Along the way, roadblocks sent me down deadends, speedbumps slowed me down, but I’m stubborn and love a good mystery – I needed to see this journey to the end. Surprises rewarded me along the way.

 

OK, this is a Korean pothole not a rabbit hole, but I loved the pattern!

  • DNA SENT ME DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE: When I finally did my DNA to see where my other non-Korean half originated from, I became fascinated by all of my cousin connections!  I read their faces, over-reacting when I noticed any similarities. I’m not really interested in meeting most of the hundreds of cousins, but it amazes me to now see the generations of people that I’m linked to. I’m curious to learn how my ancestors travelled around the globe to wind up where I magically came about in Korea.
    Roadblock: There aren’t that many Asians (from the US and especially not Korea) in all 3 of the big DNA companies: FamilytreeDNA, Ancestry, and 23 and me. The companies are just now trickling into Korea and Korean Asians have their large national ancestry ledger and don’t feel that they need DNA to tell them about their relatives.
    Speedbump: It’s hard to navigate your genealogy as an adoptee because the minute you surprise someone with your existence, they clam up.
    Suggestion: If you’re trying to find relatives, test with all 3 companies and download your raw data into other larger databases.  Many people test 1 time because they are only curious about ethnicity so you could miss large chunks of your genealogy that could be listed in a different database. Leave DNA in the area you’re from. In Korea, the database connects the police departments if there are any matches. Also, enlist professionals – or, as I call them, DNA Angels.
    Surprise: When the Angels got involved, they shot a laser that parted the seas of cousins to find people so fast it made my head spin.

We were able to meet Molly Holt – daughter of Harry Holt who started my adoption agency.

  • INFORMATION OVERLOAD: My neutral attitude towards putting much effort into finding ancestors centered around the number of decades that have passed since I left Korea – not to mention the required language I’d need to communicate what little story I knew. I felt no reason to NOT believe the story in my file and assumed that the record keeping would be poor if files even still existed.
    Roadblock: As an infant found abandoned in the street by a police officer, this enabled me to be logged in the Korean Ancestry Registry – though with a family name given to me by the police. However, no note indicated whether my birth year was accurate, or where I came from.
    Speedbump: Different information existed at the US vs. the Korean Holt International offices.  In some areas, they filled in the blanks from the other file. I learned I’d lived with a foster family and started out as the youngest in the family (before I became the oldest in the family I grew up in). In other areas, the files contradicted each other.
    Suggestion: Ask for all of your files and get translators involved if necessary. Request immigration files through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). I saw pictures I’d never seen and read snippets about my preferences and my day as an infant that shed light on my current behavior and preferences. My inner child wept with gratitude after learning that I’d been so carefully cared for by a foster mother. It also wept at the hint that my history could be woven with that of another adoptee listed in my file.
    Surprise: Turns out one of my files mentioned which orphanage I came through which suddenly changed my birth city to Busan. My file also hid the name of the person who turned me into the agency. A woman. 

We learned to make kimchee from a master! I now love fresh and fermented kimchee!

  • MINDFUL MIDLIFE: At the age of 48, I felt an urgency inside sternly warning me that my life would feel wasted if I never visited my home country. Considering all I have and everything I’ve done, perhaps that sounds harsh and even a little selfish. I started to feel as though I lived to meet this society’s markers, but that my life didn’t feel like my own if I didn’t chase after my roots and learn about Korea.
    Roadblock: Korea’s complex culture – they’re just starting to put down the large stigma associated with adoption. The dark veils of secrecy in our adoption files – to help us move quickly into new lives – still hides much of our histories. Conversations are still awkward, and explanations still hazy. It’s unsettling to me when people apologize.
    Speedbump: The relationships that yielded mixed Korean adoptees is vast and still ongoing. It felt shocking to learn the whole history when only searching for my first 8 months. Overall, I’m at peace with the past because I can’t change it. We all harbor  messes somewhere in our families.
    Suggestion: Go when the time feels right. I wasn’t confident beyond every doubt, but failed to convince myself that I should not go. I recognize it’d have been a much different, more superficial and touristy trip had I visited when I was younger or a different crowd, even full-Koreans (who travelled a different historic path towards adoption). I feel like I would most likely have deflected, not absorbed, the impact of my trip back.
    Surprise: Though almost a half-century old, I found my inner child somewhere along the journey in Korea.  I’m now conscious of her existence and learning to care for her.

 

Beautiful Bomunsa temple at the top of a steep hill in Incheon.

In my opinion, adoptees looking for their history hope to answer questions, feel their roots, find their center and perhaps shed light on their purpose.  Of course, family members may be a part of this discovery, but for me, that would be secondary to learning my story. I would love to make connections, to see behaviors and facial expressions, but not in a sense to replace the family I have. This is just my experience, every adoptee’s journey and story is unique and their own to share.

So why now? It’s been a year and I’m finally unravelling and untying the threads of information that connect me to my home country. More than anything, I want to get it out and make sense of it. Though I’ve fully touched my Korean history and feel myself rooted in that country, I still haven’t married my Korean and white sides here in America. When I do Korean things, it still feels like a field trip for me: Spend a day in the life of a Korean woman!

The famous 💩 Emoji cookies and the cafe where you drink out of mini toilets! We stuck with the delicious cookies!

Since October is #Blogtober, and I love me a strong deadline, I’m using this as a means to try to push the rest of the story out! I look forward to sharing more of the surprises and stories with you! It may be slightly messier than usual just to get it out. I appreciate you staying with me through this exercise!

What about you?
Have you researched your genealogy?
Did your family come here from another country?
Have you visited your birth country?
Are you adopted?
Have any additional questions? Ask in the comments!

#Blogtober #Day1 #Adoption #Adoptee #KoreanAdoptee #KAD #MixedKorean #MyHistoryIsAMystery #ancestry #heritage #DNA #family #relatives #writeyourtruth #SeoulSearch #memoir #personaljourney #OMagInsiders #makesmewander

YOU WENT WHERE? SAN FRANCISCO (With Kids)

During the toddler years, my family’s cranky moods  (mine included) disappeared with some creative distraction and a change of venue – if severe. Now that the tween and teen years dictate the mood in the house, when the bickering levels get intolerable, Mom offers a proportional change up – Roadtrip adventure!

MB transamerica-pyramid_san-francisco

Photo courtesy of megabus.com

I’ve been dreaming of a trip to San Francisco since the last time we’d been almost 13 years ago. My teen son only remembers riding in a limo at 3 ½ years old (over riding his first cable car) and my tween daughter simply made it through that trip to her due date!  I love the energy of the city with its cool modern minimalistic hotels next to classic historic hotels with warm solid mahogany bars in the lobby. I love that everywhere you turn, distinct neighborhoods welcome you with their distinct charm, as do the piers decorating the waterfront!  So the three of us set out on an adventure blending history, new experiences, old favorites and of course something weird!

32 hrs in San Fran (with kids)!

DA, DA, DA – ANOTHER ONE RIDES THE MEGABUS
Always up for an adventure, the wheels in my head started turning immediately (The wheels on the bus go round and round)!  When you put things out into the universe, the universe responds! Amazingly, we received the opportunity to try Megabus.com for free in exchange for our honest opinion.  I immediately responded, “Yes, Please!” after a great first-hand testimonial from my office mate who used this bus line recently during her East Coast holiday adventure.

Planning a weekend getaway limited our time in San Francisco, so the idea of showing up only 30 min. early, getting on a bus with reclining seats and sleeping my way to San Francisco – then waking up refreshed at my destination – cemented the decision for me! The night we left, California disappeared under the rainstorm that my generation will retell vividly for generations to come. The Megabus travelled securely on the roads, unfazed by the elements. In fact, for both directions of the trip, energetic and helpful employees kept us on track. Their rates remain reasonable, only additional charge should you wish to reserve seats!  Check their site often for their $1 sales! I wish I’d known about this when I was a college kid – weekenders would have educated me! For a full review click here.


YOU ONLY GET ONE CHANCE FOR A FIRST IMPRESSION
As we crossed the Oakland Bay Bridge, the sun shone on the waking city and almost converted me to a morning person (Hah, you know how unlikely that’d be). The bus dropped us at the Caltrain station and Uber picked us up before we even stretched out our rested bodies! Everything feels closeby in San Francisco and in minutes we arrived at the Hilton SF Union Square – a hotel I’m super familiar with thanks to my Team In Training (TNT) years.  Though they aren’t the most hipster or historic place in town to rest your head, they consistently provide a comfortable experience that seems upgraded from the price paid (especially with their renovated rooms). Feels like dropping in for a visit with a long-time friend!  What cinched our future return was letting us check in 8 hours early! Thank you!

hotel

Despite our welcome middle of the night snack from the roadside rest stop, we arrived to San Francisco hungry for adventure …and breakfast!  Wanting to set the tone for the weekend, and to fuel us for the day, we chose another favorite from my TNT days, Sear’s Fine Food

The moment you enter, you step into your grandparents’ era for some unconditional love delivered in a heaping serving of delicious warm food. With our bellies and hearts filled up, we left for our first adventure… except nothing was open yet. So we went to the hotel to plot our course, unpack, watch TV…

Two_hours_later_in_Squidtastic_Voyage

THRILL OF A NEW RIDE
While the kids power napped, I navigated and doubled back cross-checking the Cable Car routes to deliver us to all of our desired locations. We opted for a single-day pass immediately opening up our access to the city. I purchased our tickets while the kids watched the city’s tradition of re-directing the cable car at the turn about.  We hoofed it 2 blocks to the next stop up from there (where 10 people stood in line vs. 100s at the turntable). For the first leg of our trip we jumped onto the outside of a crowded cable car and held on!  My daughter told me later that she got nervous – not that she’d fall off – that other people wouldn’t get out of the way.

One of the most memorable visuals of the city flashed briefly at the change between the Powell-Hyde and California lines as we looked downhill through the city.

Alcatraz is first on our list for next time!

OFF TO EXPLORE – AH, TOUR – EE, YUM!
One parental benefit allows us to run alongside our kids, watching the world through their curious eyes, bright with wonder.  At the Exploratorium, everyone’s minds expanded and repeatedly blew as we flew from exhibit to exhibit, squealing like loudly deflating balloons!  Each new stop offered fascinating exhibits where you learn by interacting with the exhibit! This museum encouraged touching or climbing into and through exhibits!  My daughter’s and my favorite experience deprived us of our sight as we traversed through a maze in complete darkness. As a pair, we relied primarily on touch and sound while traveling through the Tactile Dome (slight additional, but highly recommended fee).  She turned out to be an amazing leader providing step-by-step directions as to what challenge I would find next.  My son’s favorite challenged him to learn Morse Code – harder than it looked considering it’s only dashes and dots! Totally exhausted though only getting a fraction of the experience done, we finally broke for dinner!

PEPPER MEAL WITH HISTORY
As a divorced mom, I haven’t shared a lot of their Dad’s and my history. At first I lacked an age-appropriate answer for their innocent questions, “So if you had fun, why’d you break up?” Later, out of respect for his new wife, and largely because I’d boxed them all away, wrapped in impenetrable box in my self. 11 years later, I realize that the generic statement “Even though we’re no longer together, you were created from love.” doesn’t carry weight if I don’t sometimes share proof.  Their Dad and I enjoyed The Stinking Rose restaurant a few times both here and the one in LA. One thing we actually agreed on was that only the SF one seasons the experience with a mythical bohemian feel – being that it’s the original location.  Also, honestly, this restaurant wouldn’t have teased my palate without his family’s cooking. The first time they opened their door, a rush of garlic took my breath away! The rest is history.


WALK RIGHT DOWN THE STREET
After dinner, though absolutely stuffed, we desired something light but sweet.  We calculated the distance we needed to walk to make enough room for Gelateria Naia (who are we kidding – there’s always room for gelato)! My kids stuck with classic flavors of mango, coffee and chocolate chip (though not all together).  They featured a whiskey flavor I’d never encountered before that blended smoothly with chocolate – the recipe for the perfect evening nightcap. 

I SPY… SOMETHING GOLDEN
The next morning, after we slept in a bit, we hunted for a meal large enough to rush us through the day and sustain us until we got on the bus to relax for the ride home to Los Angeles.  Originally, we went fishing for a fish and chips truck, but, they weren’t open when our stomachs started growling at us. The mist of the heavy fog led us straight to Tarantino’s Restaurant on the pier promising a view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the top floor (talk about multi-tasking when on a limited timeframe).  The kids laughed at the names of boats in their slips, communicated telepathically with seagulls begging for the kids’ fries through the scenic glass window, and squinted to find the bridge through the fog. We raved about the crispy golden seafood (lightly battered and fried, without any recognizable fish features).  


LIKE KIDS IN A CANDY STORE
As we exited the restaurant, the bright red logo of Rocket Fizz served as a beacon from across the street.  My son’s sentimental side insisted that we go “support the company” so that they don’t go out of business (I doubt there’s any danger of that, he’s still sore we lost the location in Westchester). Your sweet tooth compels you to stop the next time you pass near this store. It offers many childhood or jumbo-sized favorites and hard-to-find imported candies.

WTF: WEIRD, TOTALLY FUN!
Headed towards the Pier, we pulled inside a doorway to briefly to plot our course …and never left.  We’d stepped through a door into the most fantastically freakish place – Musée Mécanique!  This features the personal collection of Edward Zelinsky’s arcade games, and other mechanical wonders, collected from 1933 on (though some originated from decades earlier).  This collection felt slightly unsettling only because we had no idea what to expect (or was it the large clown at the entrance). Uneasiness immediately yields to exponential levels of excitement as you discover each new relic from a player piano, to old-time picture machines, to Space Invaders and a steam motorcycle.  We completely fell into this parallel universe, lost track of time, and wish we could have stayed longer.
 

MY NEW PERSPECTIVE
After a relaxing and a more spacious ride home (less people on the bus so each person could take a row of seats), we returned home from vacation refreshed, a little exhausted from our adventures, and with new perspective.  Our Three-thumb review is 3 tired thumbs up.  My tween daughter loved the unique challenge of the Tactile Dome and a new appreciation for her vision. My teen son left for San Francisco believing that one beach town resembles the next one. He returned with an appreciation for the history and the varied terrain (and we didn’t even visit the largest or curviest hills) of Northern California.

I caught a glimpse of my children and how they treat each other when mom’s not around thanks to the water fountain experiment in the Exploratorium. It featured back-to-back water fountains and two buttons on each side: SIP or SQUIRT. Each sibling simply pressed one button and if they match, it happens, if it doesn’t match, it cancels each other and nothing happens.  I fully expected to need to buy new dry clothes, or that they’d cancel each other out.  My heart grew when I witnessed my kids gently lowering their heads (and dare I say they were both a little bit surprised) to get a sip of water.

I found out AFTER we got back that if we purchased a CityPASS for our trip it would have reduced my time researching fun destinations AND saved us money! San Francisco’s CityPASS offers two options: 1 booklet of 5 attractions, or one booket where you choose 3 out of 8 attraction choices.  (Note: This is an affiliate link which means if you purchase the CityPASS not only will I be super excited for your upcoming adventure, but I earn a little bit of change towards my next CityPASS purchase – at no extra cost to you!)

If you want even more detailed reviews on each place we visited, check out the Yelp Reviews. Plus subscribe to check back when we update the list after future roadtrips!

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What about you?
What is your favorite San Francisco gem?
What do you do to save your sanity on trips?
How do you remain present and not skip ahead to the next destination?
What changes in perspective do you encounter while traveling?
How often do you travel with your kids vs. on your own?
Where are you off to next?
Where should we go next?

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