Friday, July 16, 2010

Adam's Florida Birthday Celebration

Adam turned 30 this past May, so we wanted to do something really special for his birthday. We thought it would be fun to spend some time hanging out on the beach at his family's condos in Singer Island in Florida. We planned a long weekend, and amazingly our friends Ben, Ashley, Stephen and Keri were all willing to travel down there with us to celebrate. We had an amazing time.
We threw the Frisbee around in the ocean...
spent a lot of time on the beach...
and closed down the local bars...
Plus we ate at some really great restaurants, drank lots of beer at the bars on the beach and rented Jet Skis to zip around the Intracoastal Waterway in West Palm Beach - which was the highlight of the trip! Everybody, especially Adam, had a really great time! It was the perfect way to celebrate his milestone birthday.
I know it's a bit late, but Happy Birthday, Dear!!! I hope this is your best year yet!!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Los Angeles, we have arrived!!

Well, we made it!! We've been living in Hermosa Beach for almost 2 weeks now, and we're feeling really settled. We've unpacked all of our boxes, found a yummy Mexican restaurant just down the street and made our way to the beach a few times. Overall, I'm feeling right at home. Our new place is one half of a duplex on a really quiet street, just a short walk from the ocean. We're within a short walk in either direction from Hermosa Beach Pier and Manhattan Beach Pier and within a short drive of Downtown and Disneyland (yippee!). Plus, you can see the ocean from our front window! I love it here!!!

Adam in our front yard - Ours is the unit in the front...

Stasia in her backyard...

Our living room...

The view from our living room - Check out that ocean!

And our kitchen - I'm in love with our old stove!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A weekend with the Gillhams

My parents heard we were moving and decided to make a mad dash to visit us in San Francisco one last time before we left. They have rediscovered a love of this city which, until their visit in February, they hadn't visited in 28 years. And my sister has just discovered her love of San Fran, so she came along, too. Just like the last time they visited, we managed to pack 2 weeks worth of activities into four days. On their first day here, we climbed up Telegraph Hill and went to the top of Coit Tower, something I didn't even know you could do. The amazing views of the city almost made the horrifying elevator ride to the top worth it.

I can see my apartment!
On Friday night, we ate at the Tiki Room, and as we walked up Nob Hill to the Fairmont Hotel where the restaurant is located, we were treated to some pretty spectacular views of the fog rolling in over the Bay.

On Saturday, we headed up to Napa Valley, where we tried to instill a love of wine in Christina to no avail. But my dad discovered how much he loves good sparkling wine, and the scenery was spectacular. It got up close to 90 degrees, and that's the first time I've felt hot weather like that since we moved to San Francisco.

We took Stasia to the dog beach, and it was so windy she almost blew away!

It was cold and foggy in the city on Sunday, so we went to Sausalito, where is was sunny and gorgeous. You can add "micro-climates" to the list of things I love about San Francisco. On the way back we stopped in the Marin Highlands before crossing the Golden Gate Bridge back into the city. The fog blowing across the bridge was a pretty amazing sight.

We also ate at (my favorite pizza place) Tony's, had pancakes at Mo's, spent plenty of time on the Wharf and plenty of other things I'm forgetting. Suffice it to say that it was a great weekend, and I'm so glad they got in one last visit to the City By The Bay.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

San Francisco with the Birks

Adam's family (his mom, dad, brother Justin and sister-in-law Staci) came to visit us last weekend, and we had a really great time showing them all around San Francisco. Everybody arrived on Friday afternoon, and we spent the night catching up over some amazing food at Hillstone, a great restaurant just down the street from our apartment. We stuffed ourselves with cheese toast, grilled artichokes and Hillstone's AMAZING french dip sandwiches.

The next morning, we headed to Mo's (which I blogged about previously here) for some of their amazing pancakes. Alan and Randi love to overfeed us, and in true Birk fashion, we all ordered a seperate entree plus 2 plates of pancakes for the table to share. Thankfully, the pancakes lived up to all my talk about them, and I was very impressed with us when we managed to finish almost everything on the table! As punishment for our glutonous breakfast, we decided to walk up Telegraph Hill, and we took the steepest possible route up. Then we headed down to Pier 39 (the seals have returned!) and over to Ghirardelli Square, where we rewarded ourselves for all of our exercise with delicious hot fudge sundaes!

The highlight of the weekend was without a doubt the party that Alan and Randi threw at our place on Saturday night. Adam has a lot of family here in the Bay Area, and they all came out to celebrate Staci and Adam's 30th birthdays!

All the attendees who stayed really late were treated to a moonrise over Telegraph Hill that we viewed from our roof!

In all we had 21 people in our apartment. Thank goodness the weather was beautiful and we were able to spend most of the evening on our porch, because I don't know if we could have fit that many people inside! Randi and Alan hired a local caterer, and he made the most delicious food! We ended up with a lot of leftovers, and for the last week Adam and I have been living off of pulled-pork sliders, braised short ribs, ham and cheese pastries, macaroni and cheese, brownies with hot fudge sauce, apple cobbler and Randi's horseradish mashed potatoes. I've probably put on a few pounds, but we've been enjoying ourselves.

The rest of the weekend included lots of walks (to Chrissy Field and Chinatown), LOTS more food (including plenty of leftovers, an amazing dinner at the Sliding Door, pizza and a great breakfast prepared by Justin) and plenty of time spent lavishing attention on Stasia. The weekend was a huge success, and I think everybody had a really great time.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Los Angeles

Adam, Stasia and I packed our bags and drove to L.A. a few weeks ago. It was our friend, Stephen's, birthday, so we decided to spend the weekend celebrating with him and his girlfriend. We spent Friday night at Disneyland, which just happens to be one of my favorite places in the whole world. We ate tortillas from the Mission tortilla factory in California Adventure...

And rode the Matterhorn at Disneyland...

And pretty much had the best time ever. On Saturday night, Keri threw a wine party and cooked a huge feast for a bunch of friends. After stuffing ourselves with gourmet BLTs and fancy sausages, we spent the rest of the night bowling at a dive bowling alley in downtown L.A.

The Birthday Boy

It was a great weekend! Thanks, Stephen and Keri!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Weekend Recap

The weather in San Francisco this past weekend was beautiful! We spent our Saturday at Fort Mason, the park where we've spent our weekends before. It gets absolutely packed when the weather is warm, and this Saturday was no exception. We had a picnic, and Stasia befriended a group of kids after trying to steal their breakfast.

But the highlight of our weekend was the brunch we had at the Moonstar Buffet. Adam was nice enough to get up early to go with me to Target. Zac Posen's new line of clothes for Target went on sale on Sunday morning, and I didn't want to miss out. There are no Target stores in San Francisco, so we had to drive south to Daly City, a place we are not at all familiar with. We were starving by the time I was done trying on dresses, and we quickly found that the only place to eat breakfast besides McDonald's was at Moonstar, an Asian buffet we didn't know anything about. When we walked in and saw the cheesy decor and the huge buffet, we had a feeling that it was going to be delicious. We were not disappointed.

Although they served nothing that we would normally eat for breakfast, it was all really good. They had just about every dish you could find in a typical Chinese restaurant and a number that I had never heard of. There was an enormous Sushi spread, and they even had a chocolate fountain for dessert! We ate ourselves sick by noon and spent the rest of the day suffering with stomach aches. But it was worth it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sunshine Wheat

There are a few things that I really miss about Colorado. The mountains, open space, Dixons... I especially miss the delicious, locally-brewed Colorado beer that was so easy to find in Denver. In particular, I miss New Belgium's Sunshine Wheat. Fat Tire is easy to find, and the larger liquor stores even carry some of the company's other brews. But I had driven all over the Bay Area looking for Sunshine Wheat and had yet to find it anywhere.

So, I'm sure you can imagine my surprise when I discovered that Kennedy's Irish Pub and India Curry House, a restaurant just three short blocks from our apartment, serves Sunshine Wheat. I clapped and squeeled when I saw it on the menu, and Adam and I each quickly ordered one.

We each excitedly took a gulp, and I realized right away that something wasn't right.

"This doesn't taste right," I said.

"It's skunky or something," Adam agreed.

I took a look at the label and noticed that the beer had an expiration date printed on it. December 31, 2009. Apparently sitting for four months longer than recommended makes a big difference in how a beer tastes. Of course we finished the beers, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't still enjoy it. But we stuck to beer on tap for the rest of our dinner.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Another fun tourist attraction we visited while my parents were in town was Alcatraz. Ferries run all day to and from the prison, but we opted to take the night tour, which meant smaller crowds and a view of a beautiful sunset from the prison grounds. A ferry carried us on a 20-minute-ride from a dock in San Francisco to Alcatraz Island in the middle of the bay.

The last prisoners at Alcatraz left the prison in 1963, and since 1973 the island has been a major tourist attraction. Although the buildings on Alcatraz haven't housed any convicts for over 40 years, an air of dread still hangs over the grounds. Seeing the incredibly small spaces where the prisoners at Alcatraz lived was sobering, and hearing about the lengths that men went to in their attempts to break out of the prison was shocking. We were given an audio tour as we entered the prison, and the voices of former guards and prisoners guided us all around the prison grounds. We were even allowed to enter some of the prison cells.

I was surprised by how much I learned about Alcatraz on the the tour. I'm so glad we did the night tour. Being there in the dark added another spooky element to the tour, and watching the sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge was beautiful.

Alcatraz Cruises runs cruises multiple times a day. Prices range from $16-33 per person. See their website here.

Monday, April 12, 2010


My parents and little sister came to visit a few weeks ago, and it was was so much fun showing them around our new hometown! I love it when people come visit because we get to do all the tourist-y stuff we might not otherwise. We were racking our brains for an idea of what to give my dad for his birthday when Adam received an email for a discounted tour in a GoCar, one of the small, yellow cars we see zipping all over the city. Equipped with a GPS unit and an automated tour, the mini cars are lightweight and super easy to operate. We had been interested in them since we'd moved to San Francisco, and with my parents in town, it seemed like the perfect time to try them out. We were very lucky that the day we scheduled our tour was the first warm, sunny day we'd seen in weeks. Perfect weather for driving around the city in an open-aired vehicle! There are a three different tours to pick from, each taking a different amount of time and visiting different landmarks. We chose the longest tour they offer. At 2.5 hours, it started in Fisherman's Wharf and went up near Golden Gate Bridge, then out to the beaches on the Pacific Ocean and through Golden Gate Park. After signing a waiver and watching a quick video tutorial, you are given a helmet and keys and sent off on your own.

The cars are a little scary at times. They don't accelerate as fast as a regular-sized car and have a maximum speed of 35 mph, yet you travel on roads with traffic. Sitting stopped at a light behind an SUV, I could barely see over the bumper of the metal monster in front of me and I found myself wondering whether I'd made a smart decision getting into this little contraption. Luckily, everybody who sees you stops to point and wave, so you know people are very aware of your presence. And we were lucky enough to have Adam escorting us on his motorcycle, which made getting around in traffic much easier. The tour itself was great. It took us to places that I don't think we would have otherwise ever known existed. Because it uses GPS and there isn't a tour guide, we were able to stop for photos and breaks whenever we wanted. Throughout the trip, the audio tour gives you the option to take "detours," so you are able to make the trip as long as you would like.

One of my favorite stops on the tour was a detour we took in Golden Gate Park to Stow Lake. Up a narrow road, elevated from the rest of the park, the lake was full of people in paddle boats, floating around a small island. When you're at the lake, it feels incredibly secluded, and I found it easy to forget that I was in the middle of a huge city while we were there. Adam and I will definitely be returning to Stow Lake whenever we need a break from big city livin'.

We had a really great time in our rented GoCars. I absolutely recommend a tour in one, whether you're visiting San Francisco or live here. Although it can be a bit pricey ($49 for the first hour, $39 for the second hour and $29 for each additional hour), it was the highlight of my family's trip. We're all still talking about how much fun it was. And if you have some patience, Groupon offers discounted coupons for GoCar tours on a fairly regular basis.

GoCars are also available for rental in San Diego, Miami, Lisbon and Barcelona.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

iPad on Star Trek?

I'll bet you didn't know that the officers of Star Fleet have been using the iPad since the 80s...

Adam and I were watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine last night, just like we do every night (because we're super dorks), and we noticed that all the Star Fleet officers on the show use a device (called a PADD or Personal Access Display Device) that looks a lot like the recently released iPad. Apparently, we weren't the first Star Trek fans to notice the similarities (shocking, I know). There's even an application you can buy that makes your iPad display look like a Star Trek PADD. How cool is that?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Tonga Room

The Tonga Room, a San Francisco landmark, may be closing! The Fairmont hotel where the restaurant and club is located will be turned into condos next year, and the renovation plans don't include the Tonga Room. Located in the basement of the hotel, the dining area and dance floor is built around what used to be the hotel swimming pool. These days, live bands play out on a barge that floats in the pool while guests eat at tables and boogey on a dance floor overlooking the water.

We first visited the Tonga Room and few months ago, and I instantly fell in love with everything about it, from the kitchy, Hawaiian decor and the twice-hourly, indoor rainstorms to the enormous Tiki drinks and flower leis. The food is just above mediocre, but the atmosphere more than makes up for anything the meals are lacking. Besides, everything tastes better after a few Tiki drinks, right?

I really hope that the public outcry is enough to save this piece of history, but I plan to visit often in the near future, just in case.

You can even get a flaming volcano full of chocolate lava for dessert. Amazing.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mouth-To-Snout Resuscitation

I took a pet first aid class at the American Red Cross this weekend, so I am now certified to save your dog's or cat's life! The class involved lots of practice on plastic dog and cat dolls with expandable chests that filled with air when you breathed in their mouth and large stuffed animals. I am certified in performing "mouth-to-snout resuscitation," and I promise you that is what it is actually called. When I got home, I wanted to show Adam everything that I had learned, so I enlisted Stasia's help. She was a good assistant, but I don't think she was very happy about it. Some of the techniques I learned included:

the doggie Heimlich,
how to construct a makeshift muzzle,

how to bandage a wound such as an injured ear,

(she was pretty mad at me...)

and how to splint a broken limb using a rolled-up newspaper.

The class was really informative and I feel much more prepared to handle any doggy accidents my charges or Stasia may encounter. Somehow, though, judging by the look on Stasia's face, the fact that I can now save her life if she chokes on a bone doesn't make her nearly as happy as it makes me.

Monday, March 29, 2010

My Business Cards

My business cards arrived! Adam designed them, and I think he did the most amazing job!

Dog walking, here I come!!!

The Front

The Back

Friday, March 26, 2010


The food scene in San Francisco is amazing. I know that you're all thinking, "Duh!" I knew that I was going to love exploring all the restaurants here; it was one of the things I was most excited for when we moved. But I was completely unprepared for just how much I was going to love eating in this city.

One of the things I've been most amazed by is the bread, especially the pizza crusts. I don't know if it's the altitude, the water or some other type of magic entirely, but pizza in San Francisco rocks! Even the pizza joints that people call "mediocre" are fantastic. But my favorite so far has been the pizza I had at Pizzeria Delfina, a San Francisco staple.

There are technically three Delfina locations in the city. A restaurant in the Mission with a pizzeria right next door and a pizzeria in Pacific Heights, which is where we ate. It's a small restaurant, with seating at a small number of tables and booths and also at a counter overlooking the kitchen. Without the space for a waiting area or a bar, prospective diners write their name on a chalkboard by the front door and wait outside. We were lucky enough to sit at the counter, and I loved watching the bustle of the kitchen as chefs prepared pizza after pizza after pizza.

We started with a fresh mozzarella appetizer, which came with a side of perfectly salted and oiled arugula. The mozzarella was fresh-pulled and was creamy and flavorful, exactly like fresh mozzarella should taste. The menu changes each week, and I've noticed that lately they have been serving Burrata, chewy mozzarella filled with fresh cream that oozes when you cut into it that just happens to be one of my favorite things in the whole world. Just in case I needed another excuse to go back to Delfina's!

We ordered 2 pizzas: the Salsiccia with house-made fennel sausage, tomato, bell peppers, onions and mozzarella; and the Margherita. The crust, oh, the crust! Perfectly thin and crispy on the bottom with just enough chewiness on the sides, Delfina's crust is so good it hardly needs all the delicious, fresh ingredients they put on top of it. The sauce is delicious without being too sweet, and perfectly applied in a thin layer. The toppings were all fresh and added in moderation, with just the right amount of that delicious mozzarella. We thought with two pizzas we had ordered enough for plenty of left-overs (there were only two of us, after all), but the pizza was so good that we ended up with just a couple slices to take home for breakfast the next day. They have a small but very reasonably priced wine list with plenty of choices by-the-glass, but no beer on tap. They do, however, have a small but tasty selection of bottled beers which they will serve you with a frosty glass, and I am forced to forgive their lack of a beer tap because the pizza is just that good.

It was difficult, but we managed to save a tiny bit of room for dessert (I fit it somewhere just below my left lung), and I'm so glad we did. Delfina serves gelato they make in-house daily, and it is perfection. I ordered a scoop each of Meyer lemon and grape flavors, and both were crisp and creamy at the same time. Neither was overpowering or too sweet, and they were complimented perfectly by the expertly-brewed Americano I ordered. It was a perfect meal, and I can't wait to get back again. Don't be scared away if the wait is long. It's worth it. I promise.
Pizzaria Delfina (in Pacific Heights) 2406 California St., 415.440.1189. Click here for the menu.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Stasia, the Charmer

Stasia has an ear infection! Beagles are very prone to them because of their long ears, so she's used to dealing with them.

Luckily, we have found what I feel must be the best veterinary office in San Francisco. Both of veterinarians who work at the office are the most gentle, wonderful, kind men, and it's clear that everybody at this office really loves animals. When we first arrive at the vet, I always feel like I'm traumatizing her with visits to the doctor because of course she doesn't understand why some stranger is poking and prodding at her. Then she gets a treat from someone, becomes instantly happy and excited and any trace of the trauma that I was worried about disappears. I find it amazing how, even when she's sick, Stasia can put on quite a show for treats. She wags her tail and looks up at the vet with a face that says, "Please, my owners starve me," until they reach in their treat bag. They croon at her and tell how pretty and nice she is, and she scoots a little closer, her tail wagging just a little more feverishly, her eyes looking just a little more sad. And, inevitably, they reach into the treat bag one more time because they can't resist her charms. All I can do is shake my head and nod with understanding.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Beautiful Photos

I found these posts from another blogger who recently visited San Francisco. I love all of her amazing photographs of the city! I'm really working at becoming a better photographer, and maybe someday I'll be able to take photos as beautiful as these. She even mentions the Tattered Cover of Denver in one of her posts!

Her posts feature aerial shots, Chinatown, architecture, bookstores, Downtown, the Ferry Building Farmers' Market, an awesome tea shop (look familiar, Christina?) and the Mission.

I hope you enjoy looking at San Francisco through another person's eyes as much as I did!

One of the bridge and the birds by me!

Monday, March 22, 2010


One of the highlights of this past weekend for me was shopping at the two-story Target store in Albany (located right next to Berkeley, just across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco). I know what you're all thinking right now... "This is the highlight of Melissa's Saturday night? Has she become a 90-year-old woman? Or an even bigger nerd than we all thought?"

But, really, this Target is so cool! There are enormous palm trees right out in front of the store. I find it so amazing that I live in a place where palm trees grow outside!

Better yet, there is a special escalator in this Target for your shopping cart! You slide your cart in, and it glides up or down right next to you as you ride the escalator. I had never seen anything like this, so, worried that you wouldn't believe me when I told you about it, I had Adam take a picture as proof.

Here's hoping you all had exciting weekends too!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Stasia Needs a Friend

I saw this today and it was so sweet I almost couldn't bear it! I want to find Stasia an orangutan friend!

(video via in(side) the loop)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Best Banana Pancakes Ever

Discovering a really amazing breakfast place right up the street from our apartment took our weekend from "really great" to "completely off the chain." We set out Sunday morning intending to try Mama's, a little cafe up the street from us that seems to be pretty famous for their brunch. When we arrived, the line stretched half a block out of the tiny establishment. We considered waiting, but at 11 o'clock, it was already way past my feeding time as by this time of day I've usually had a meal and at least one snack. I had become very quiet which is what happens just before my blood sugar drops to dangerously low levels and I become unjustifiably angry about everything and nothing at the same time, so we knew we had to act quickly. We decided to save Mama's for another day and head deeper into North Beach, and area known for its restaurants. As we passed restaurant after restaurant and found none of them serving breakfast, we began to wonder if Mama's popularity wasn't more due to the fact that it's the only brunch spot in the neighborhood than the fact that it serves delicious food. Just when I was sure we weren't going to find a place to eat breakfast and I was going to have to gnaw off my left arm to stave off starvation, Adam spotted an awning proudly displaying the word "Breakfast." We were saved!

We headed over to Mo's , unsure of what to expect. Through the front windows we could see into the kitchen where cooks were making enormous omelets and other traditional breakfast fare. Inside, it felt like a old diner, with glass on top of the tablecloths and pictures of Marilyn Monroe on the walls. I was expecting a decent meal, but I was surprised when I bit into some of the best pancakes I've ever had! They were full of really ripe banana and perfectly crispy on the outside. I didn't even need syrup, they were that delicious. I have seriously been thinking about them all week and can't wait to go back this weekend for more!

This picture makes me hungry...
Adam's omelet was pretty delicious as well. The menu says they're made with three eggs, but those must be some pretty big eggs because these omelets are enormous! And the home fried potatoes had Italian seasoning on them, which may sound a little strange for breakfast but was really, really good. Plus they serve fresh-squeezed orange juice. If you live in San Francisco, run out and get breakfast at Mo's. ASAP. And if you don't live here, come visit me and I'll take you!

Mo's is located at 1322 Grant Ave. in North Beach (They also have a location at the Yerba Buena Gardens). Visit their website here.

Monday, March 15, 2010


After what has been an agonizing long winter, it is beginning to feel like spring has arrived in San Francisco. It poured all day Friday, and the only thing that kept me from using every bit of savings I have to fly us somewhere warm and dry was the promise by every local weather caster that the weekend would be filled with sun. On Saturday morning I nearly jumped out of bed when I awoke to find clear skies and the sun shining. And I'm not talking about that wussy sunlight that seems to be filtered through a haze that shines here all the time and mocks my need for direct sunlight. It was honest-to-goodness-better-bust-out-the-Coppertone-because-I-can-feel-it-burning-my-skin sunshine! We took a long walk up Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower. Friday's storm had blown away any hint of smog or haze, and we could see for what felt like forever once we reached the top of the hill.

At times like this that I have to stop and giggle and pinch myself because it's still hard to believe that I live in San Fran-freaking-cisco! "Why, yes, that's right, that is the Golden Gate Bridge in the photo I took just a few blocks from my apartment."

Sunday dawned even warmer than the day before, so we knew we had to spend the day doing something outdoors. After a stroll around North Beach and an amazing breakfast, we headed to Fort Mason, a former U.S. Army port that is now part of the Golden Gate National Parks network and one of the many parks that dot the area near the water in San Francisco. We laid our blanket out on the large, grassy field overlooking the Marina and spent the afternoon drinking beer, tossing the Frisbee around and soaking up some sun. And we weren't alone. The park was teeming with people and dogs running, biking, napping, hula-hooping (not the dogs, although that would be awesome), Frisbeeing and generally having a great time. It was pretty much the most awesome day ever.

Stasia put in some solid time rolling around in the grass and looking like a happy seal, something she doesn't get to do nearly as often as any of us would like.

And to top it all off, there was even an unexpected appearance by the red and pink Power Rangers. We are learning to expect the unexpected in this city...