California Trip Part II: San Francisco!

The one hour plane ride from LA was uneventful, by the time we hit cruise altitude it was practically time to land!   We arrived at the Wharf  Inn and I must admit I was slightly horrified those first few minutes..  Where the Magic Castle hotel was super toddler friendly with it’s full kitchen, separate bedroom etc. the Wharf  Inn was lacking two basic kid friendly amenities: a) a fridge and b) a tub!!

The fridge (wasn’t expecting a full fridge, but a minibar fridge would have been nice!) wouldn’t normally be a problem, but Jasper asks for milk last thing before bed and  first thing when he wakes up.  I don’t know about you, but going out to buy milk isn’t exactly on the list of things that I want to do at 7am!  We got around it by buying a small milk before bed and putting in a bucket with ice overnight. By the morning it was still cool and tasted fine, but I’m not exactly sure it would pass any health inspection tests.

The lack of a tub was slightly more problematic as Jasper isn’t too fond of showers because he hates getting water in his eyes.   But even more concerning was the little sign attached to the shower door that said “water temperature may fluctuate” which I of course translated into “this water will occasionally scald your baby.”

Sensing my mounting panic, Jeff said not to worry about it, he would just shower with Jasper and then we would wash his hair in the sink.. which went OK. Nothing I wanted to repeat, so I guess it was fortunate we were only there for two nights!

On the plus side, the Wharf  Inn is in a FABULOUS location right on Fisherman’s Wharf.  We were literally across the street from the Wharf and tons of great restaurants, bakeries and about two blocks from pier 39.   Given Jasper’s fondness for the water and boats in particular, it was a really great home base for us for the two days and three nights we were there.

Thursday, our first full day, we made the decision to get hop-on hop-off bus tickets thinking that Jasper would enjoy riding on the top of the double decker as it was uncharacteristically warm and sunny during our stay.  As it turns out, he wasn’t such a big fan so we hopped off at Haight-Ashbury to walk around a bit and let him stretch his legs.

The wall murals are a photographer’s dream.. unfortunately my subject was a bit cranky (Jasper, not Jeff!)


After walking around a bit which mostly involves Jasper demanding to get out of his stroller and then running around with us chasing after him, we hopped back on the bus and headed towards the painted ladies and then the Golden Gate bridge.  At this point, Jasper fell asleep in my arms (!) on the bus and remained sleeping all the way back to the hotel and napped until about 3:30-4pm.

After nap we headed over to my friend Sara’s Store “Tractors & Tiaras.”  Some of you may recall the two photoshoots I did for her store walls, the first with Jasper and Lola and the tractor and the second was the series of Jasper & Lola kissing etc.  You may also recall that her asking for my help in designing a wall display for the store from the images was actually the inspiration for my Wall Display Templates, so I was really excited to see the finished product in person. And Jasper was really excited to see Lola again of course!

I was really impressed with what Sara has done with the shop (I keep calling it a shop, but really it’s a fabulous space for children’s workshops that also sells educational toys (i.e Melissa & Doug etc.) , I wish there were something similar where we live.  If you live in the SF area you should really check it out!

Here are a few images of the space:

My images hanging on the Shop Walls!

My pictures on the wall! I wish I had moved my giant black sweater.

At Tractors & Tiaras SF

Sara, Jasper & Lola playing puzzles in the front of the shop.


I loved the color scheme and the natural light so much that I took to opportunity to try to shoot some more portrait like images of Jasper:



Then, of course being Jasper, he had to test his limits and inch his way out the door towards the street..but when Lola came and sat next to him, I took the opportunity to change my vantage point and shoot this series of images:

Taking it all in

I told him to sit closer to her..

I asked Jasper to sit closer to Lola nad he put his arm around her!

They always look like an old married couple..

Just hangin' on the Stoop

I don’t know what it is about these two together, but they always look like an old couple who’s been together forever! Too cute.  I wonder if these would have been better without paci, but there’s something about the juxtaposition of them looking so OLD with the bear and paci that I kind of like.

After a great time hanging out at the store, Sara & I decided to grab a leisurely early dinner together while the guys took Jasper & Lola to the park.  I refused to leave though without getting  a picture of Jasper on Jasper street, which coincidentally is a block from the store!

Jasper on Jasper street!

After posing next to the street sign, Mando (Lola’s dad) also put Lola up on his shoulders and they all started walking down Jasper street to the park.. and then, Jasper and Lola held hands!! So cute..

Walking down Jasper street


The next day Kimberly and James drove up from Reno to meet us around lunch time, so we decided to take advantage of our Wharf-side location and head over to pier 39 before their arrival.

First we stopped to look at the strange macaroni sculpture at the entrance because really, how do you pass a giant piece of macaroni and NOT take a picture standing next to it?

It's true, even Jasper does!

(BTW, I usually avoid shooting in full sun like the plague, but I must say that it produces the most amazing deep blue skies!) Next we walked around the pier to take in the sailboats:

pier 39

and then found the area where there were dozens of sea lions basking in the sun:


which Jasper of course found very fascinating!

Checking out the Sea Lions

After our beautiful morning (it was like a high of 85 that day, gorgeous!) we headed back to the hotel to meet Kimberly & James.   After my amazing experience meeting Kari & Liam, I wasn’t nervous anymore about meeting any longtime “blog friends” and Kimberly was just as wonderful as I had assumed from our online friendship as were Shane & Ava (but now I’m getting ahead of myself!)

We debated if we should have a “real” lunch or take the boys around the corner to the Rainforrest cafe. I decided we should go to the Rainforrest cafe because I remembered there used to be one at our local mall and it looked pretty fun for kids.. boy was I right! James & Jasper couldn’t get enough of that place.. and the food wasn’t honestly half bad either.  Jasper was particularly enamored of the giant “monkeys” (gorillas) which I personally found too lifelike to NOT be disturbing as they pounded their chests and shook their fake trees. He demanded to “go see the monkeys” a hundred times throughout our meal even though he was so tired by now (no time for nap) that he could barely keep his eyes open!

In fact, he went OUT the second we reclined him in the stroller and headed back towards the pier to board the bay cruise. Jeff and I actually felt bad that we were going on the boat with Jasper asleep because it was his first boat ride! We needn’t have worried because he woke up about 15 minutes later SUPER cranky mumbling “go see monkeys daddy!”

He was so exhausted that he didn’t particularly enjoy the boat trip – that is until the paparazzi of Japanese tourists arrived and he turned on the charm and hammed it up for them (why doesn’t he do that for the mamarazzi??) James with his super blond hair and light blue eyes and Jasper with his light brown curls were apparently much more interesting than the cruise itself because this continued through most of the trip:


Paparazzi II

Jasper is sitting in his stroller with the back towards us and that’s James standing next to him. I can’t help but wonder what they will do with all of those photos of random cute toddlers! ?  But anyway, Jasper seemed to enjoy the attention because honestly, I think he has a slight Asian fascination! All of the girls that he has a crush on at daycare are Asian or half Asian. So he started flirting and playing peekaboo with the pretty girl paparazzi and gave all of the guys hi fives at the end of the cruise.   You just never know with that kid..

Despite the wind and bright overhead sun, I did manage to get a few images of Kimberly, who is GLOWING in her last month of pregnancy and James who is positively adorable:

Kimberly & James

More Kimberly & James


I just can’t thank Kimberly enough for driving 3+ hours to spend the afternoon and evening with us, it was just too amazing for words!

Next, we packed the boys into her Ford edge (I really like that car!) Jasper front facing (thanks to Jeff) and James rear facing, which actually worked out well because they could see and “talk” to each other during the ride out to Shane & Ava’s place for dinner.  Their “conversations” were hysterical, and mostly consisted of Jasper saying “Hi!” to James and James saying “no Hi!” back. Then Jasper would say “Mommy, he said no hi!” rinse repeat. It was pretty cute. We made really good time to Shane & Ava’s, despite the fact that we left SF pretty much during rush hour! What can I say, the travel Gods were with us this trip.

We unloaded the boys and finally got to meet Shane, Ava and G! They too were JUST as amazing and wonderful as I had only hoped. It just proves to me that there is almost no difference having “online” friends vs. “in real life friends”  except the unfortunate fact that you don’t get to have playdates in person. Everyone was just as fun, supportive, thoughtful, and essentially people that I would love to spend tons of time with if we were not so geographically dispersed!

More surprisingly was the fact that James, Jasper and G (all within one month of each other in age!) played unbelievably well together.. it was almost too good to be true!   Unfortunately, despite the fact that we were three photo enthusiasts we were so caught up in getting to know each other “in person” that none of us took any pictures before the sun set. But, as Ava said, sometimes you just have to live in and enjoy the moment instead of documenting it.

There was one moment after a delicious pizza dinner where we were getting the boys in their PJs for the ride home when they were all playing so cutely together in G’s room and I RAN downstairs to get my Vado camcorder to capture this:

Despite being up way past their bedtime, the boys were just having a great time together!  (You can check out Ava’s blog post for some other really cute pics of the boys and their little pajama party..)

Too soon (again) it was time to say goodbye and Shane VERY kindly drove Jasper and I back to our hotel over 20 minutes away. I don’t think he realized exactly HOW kind it was until Jasper literally started crying hysterically in the back, too exhausted to fall asleep apparently (he never really did get a chance to nap that day and it was late at this point) he kept it up until a few blocks from the hotel.  Sorry Shane for the ride from hell! But thanks so much to you and Ava for your wonderful hospitality. I hope we can all meet-up at least annually (somewhere) as our boys grow.

The next morning we left early for the airport, not without a scare where somehow I thought I left my wallet with my ID at the hotel (turns out it was inexplicably packed in Jeff’s suitcase – what a relief when we found it!!) and boarded our flight without incident.

As it turns out, we were seated next to Mandy Potinkin who probably wondered what sort of bad luck he had to be seated in the same aisle as a toddler in business class! But once again, Jasper was a DREAM on the plane. And this time, he actually fell asleep in his seat for 2 hours!! He was so well behaved that some of the passengers around us and even Mr. Potinkin actually commented on what an excellent traveler he was. I was quite proud!

So, there you have it, a very looooong detailed blow by blow of our first real “vacation” as a family. It went so smashingly well I’m looking forward to planning the next one, most likely South Florida to visit Jeff’s dad. :)

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jbhat says:

What fun times with all of your bloggy friend and their kiddos. Great pix too.


Karen says:

THANK YOU VERY MUCH :) :) :) The 70-200 is one I have always wanted to rent, I may have to do it for our trip. It is nice to know you are pleased with the Tamron, I may be able to afford that one to keep! Although I know my pictures won’t look like yours because I lack your skill as a photographer–it is still really nice to know what you use and THANK You for the detailed response!

Wendy says:

It looks like you guys had a great trip! And you took some great pictures too. I especially love the black and white photo of Jasper below the street sign :o) Do you have any tips on how to convert to black and white? I have CS3 and only know how to hit the “convert to black and white,” of course the photos never really look right to me. Thanks and TGIF!

Karen says:

These are wonderful pictures, may I ask, what lens did you take on your trip (as a walk around lens). I know from following your blog you love your 70-200 2.8 but it is quite heavy, right? Did you carry that around?

ariana says:

Hi Karen! Thanks for asking this question, I probably should have posted this info, but the post was so long already! I DID lug my 70-200, that’s how much I love it. I took it with me almost every day, except in SF, when I only used it on the pictures taken on the Bay Cruise (of Kimberly and James etc). I used my Tamron 28-75 on all the other SF pictures. I was glad to have it for the indoor shots of Tractors & Tiaras because the wide angle came in handy indoors.. I think the ones of Jasper and Lola though would have been nicer with the 70-200, but then again, given my posistion relative to the kids I might have had to go stand in the middle of the street LOL.

I will say that I completely threw out my back the last day we were there, it happened while picking up the hotel room and packing up (I could barely walk by the time we got to the airport I was in so much pain.) I don’t know how much of that was caused by the 70-200 and carrying it around most of the trip?

All in all, the Tamron is an excellent travel lens because it’s so light and the image quality is overall very good. My only complaint is that the full body shots are noticeably less sharp on the Tammy then on my 70-200, but that’s what you get for a $2000 price difference!

Kimberly says:

Best of luck with getting Jasper back on a good sleep schedule. Did you know that you can very safely use melatonin to help get his rhythms back on track? (Recommended REGULARLY for the 0-3 set by the developmental pediatrician who is my colleague.) You can get it either in liquid or in capsule form, mix with a bite of yogurt, applesauce, whatever… start with 3 mg and go as high as 9 mg as needed. HE probably won’t need more than 3 or 4 mg. It takes effect REALLY fast (15-20 minutes) and lasts about 4 hours… perfect for getting him down at a reasonable hour.

I used to do musical theater too… I loved Mandy in The Secret Garden… so amazing! I did a rendition of How Could I Ever Know in college. :)

@Kari… thank you! Ari certainly has an incredible photographic eye! ;) I love the pics too.

Shane says:

I echo Ava’s statement – It was great to finally meet you as well. I’m also glad I got to meet Jeff briefly as I dropped you off. Taking you back to SF wasn’t any trouble at all — and I’ve spent many car rides w/ G Screaming. To me, a “I’m tired and I don’t know what to do” cry is so much better than a “I’m pissed” or “I’m in pain” cry.

I love the idea of an annual Meet Up. We’ll see how traveling goes w/ 2 boys! And if we can find a place where we rent a large house, it will make it so much better. We used to do that in the Outer Banks, NC every year (before kids).

kari says:

fun fun fun!

those photos of Kimberly and James are too much! What a gorgeous mommy and precious boy!
And everyone else too -I am jealous of G’s room… that closet is SO organized and looks like so much fun!
Who knew a plastic bin could be so much fun?!?

love your SF shots :) one of my most favorite cities – you caputured it perfectly.

ariana says:

Thanks Ava! I just actually had added that to the post..they are so cute! I’m so glad you got the camera out.

Ava says:

It was so, SO awesome to meet you in person too. BTW, photos of the boys playing in their jammies are here:

ariana says:

Thanks Sarah! I have those at home and Jasper loves them (something about drinking from a box is fun!) I kept thinking we’d find a store in SF where I could pick some up but we never passed one! I guess the supermarkets/healthfood stores aren’t usually in the touristy parts of town LOL.

Sarah says:

Sounds like such fun!

Quick milk tip: Horizon Milk Boxes can be stored on the shelf. Not sure why. But they come in super handy when traveling or just stocked away in case you run out at night.


ariana says:

Kimberly, me too! I’m so glad it worked out that James got to see his Papa. Poor Jasper, not only has he had to deal with the three hour bedtime time change but we also kept him up so late in CA that the adjustment has been more like 5 hours.. bedtime has been a little hairy since we got back :(

I’m a Mandy fan too, I used to do musical theater so yeah, he’s a god!

And Pam, Princess Bride is one of my all time favorite movies.. I am too shy and i’m sure he gets that all the time, but then again I read that was one of his favorite roles of all time (as well it should be!)

pam says:

Oh please, tell me you asked for a little “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” on the plane. You know, when Jasper was sleeping. Ha ha! I kid.

Kimberly says:

Great recaps of your trip… I’m SOOO glad we got to meet… Jasper is so precious and funny! I feel like it was so short that we barely got to chat… a consequence of wrangling two 2-year-olds, I suppose! James had so much fun with Jasper and keeps mentioning him (he can’t seem to remember G’s name though… so funny!) The few photos you got of us are so beautiful… thank you so much! We must find a way to get together – I like your idea of annually… and I do recall you saying you’d be in Vegas in February – that could very well be a possibility. I’m thrilled that Jasper traveled so well, and now you feel like you can get out more. And Mandy Patinkin… I’ve been a big fan for years, as a singer… and much later when he was on ER and Criminal Minds! ;)

A BIG thanks from me as well to Shane for taking you two back to SF… I was able to have James in bed before 11:00 and he got to see his Papa for a few minutes which he otherwise wouldn’t have.

Lots of love to you and your boys… thank you again for lunch, the cruise, and a totally delightful day… well worth my travel time!!! :)