Wedding Rehearsal and Berkeley Hills Hike

Friday was a jam packed day—first we needed to visit the ceremony and reception site, which was at the Berkeley Botanical Gardens, to sort out some logistics and meet with the coordinator there. It was a toasty 77 degree day and we all enjoyed sitting on these benches at the entrance to the gardens soaking in the morning sun.

Oma And Kids

Audrey’s an interesting girl—she has a sharp mind that can remember the finest details and also reflects about human psychology. Years ago I remember this time during the holidays when she was several months shy of turning four and we were sitting on the couch at night in front of the glowing Christmas tree and she turned to me and said, “do you like the Christmas lights?” Such a simple question, but I was blown away by it. All I could think was, “I’m having a conversation with a three-year-old about human emotions and I find this baffling not only because she seems to already have grasped the concept of emotions, but also because she cares to know how I feel.”

Quinn and Nathalie

This shot of Quinn holding Nathalie is sweet (mostly because it’s so rare :P)

Hauling Flowers

The guys were tasked with hauling mountains of flowers to a cool, dark room to prevent them from wilting…unfortunately, some were already unsalvageable after just an hour of sitting in a hot car.

Audrey and Oma

Oma and Audrey enjoying some time together. And then after sitting in the sun for one too many minutes lethargy started to set in for Audrey and she felt it was time to take a snooze on Oma’s lap.

Audrey Sleeping on Oma

That girl does expend a lot of energy so it’s a good thing for her to take a break on ocassion.

Audrey Sleeping

Then it was onward to the Redwood Grove where the ceremony was to be held so that we could sort out the details.

Redwood Grove Berkeley Botanical Gardens

Even though this is new Redwood growth, the trees here are already massive. How cool to have a wedding ceremony among the species of trees that are the tallest in the world?

Redwood Grove Berkeley Botanical Gardens

I love this photo of my mom and Naomi. They look so serene and peaceful. And I’ve never noticed this before, but I might actually see some similarities in appearance.

Naomi and Mom Berkeley Redwood Grove

Nathalie watching as we hammer out of the details of the procession.


But stillness doesn’t last long and soon she was showing me every little fern and twig she found on the ground. I think that’s what I love most about tiny people—everything in the world is new and completely fascinating to them. It makes you re-think about the world in new ways.

Nathalie Fern


After our time at the ceremony site, we headed to Saturn Cafe for lunch.

Saturn Cafe Berkeley

And afterwards walked around the corner to Cinnaholic for some divine vegan cinnamon rolls! Nathalie’s favorite part was the frosting, but I suppose that shouldn’t be surprising after seeing her drink every last melted bit of her ice cream the night before.

Nathalie and Oma Cinnamon Roll Cinnaholic

I think it’s safe to say that Audrey looks stoked to dive into her Old-School roll. Meanwhile Quinn was enjoying some sort of oreo chocolate chip roll.

Our third goal of the day was to climb the hill to the spot where Zack and Susan serendipitously met two years prior. There are some very, very precipitous hills in the Bay Area and I can attest that this particular one stacks up with the best of ’em.

Climbing Berkeley Hills

Naomi and Zack hiking a leisurely pace while taking photos.

Naomi and Zack Berkeley Hills

Naomi and Zack Berkeley Hills

Mid-way through the hike, we came upon this swing. This crazy cool, swing high up on a hill overlooking Berkeley makes it feel as though you’re going to swing right on into the bay.

Audrey Swinging in the Berkeley Hills

Audrey and Quinn both gave it a try.

Quinn Swinging in the Berkeley Hills

After our brief swinging interlude, we continued on…

Berkeley Hills Hiking

Did I mention that it was warm? Well, by the time we finally made it to the spot Zack and Susan met, and with the sun beating down on us, I think that we were all feeling a little parched and I, uncharacteristically, hadn’t brought my water bottle. Susan was smart to wear a skirt. But the view was spectacular enough to make me abandon my thirsty thoughts.

After looking at the photos, I found it interesting how the light and angle of the sun were just so that if you took multiple photos at slightly different angles you received vastly different looking pictures. I like all four of these in this series and couldn’t pick a favorite because they are all so different.

Berkeley Hills Bench

Berkeley Hills Bench

Berkeley Hills Bench

Berkeley Hills Bench

After relaxing and taking in the view for an extended period of time, we then needed to coordinate how we were all going to get our different assignments completed before the next day and somehow make our way to the rehearsal dinner, which is what I’m doing in these photos—coordinating and planning with Naomi who’s higher up the hill.

Christina Berkeley Hills

Again, crazy light causing interesting effects with the camera.

Christina Berkeley Hills

Then it was down to our cars to drive back into the city for the evening’s festivities.

Berkeley Hills Hiking

The last place we had to be was the South Sea Seafood Village restaurant in the sunset for a dinner hosted by Susan’s parents. This was the first time all of our families met together. It was lovely. Alex and I enjoyed conversation with Susan’s brother and sister-in-law and the kids got to know each other via iPhone games.

Zack Graeme South Sea Seafood Village

South Sea Seafood Village Rehearsal Dinner

South Sea Seafood Village Rehearsal Dinner

Only one more post to go summing up the wedding week! Hopefully, I can get that done tomorrow 🙂

Sutro Baths and Land’s End

Thursday’s plan was to do a hike along Land’s End. It’s one of Zack and Susan’s favorite hikes in the city and, this being the week to celebrate them, it made sense to torture our out-of-town family members on this mildly strenuous and painfully beautiful excursion. By Thursday I was starting to feel human again (thank God!), thus able to venture out with everyone.

Alex and Mom Cliff House

We started at Cliff House where you are bestowed with an amazing view of Ocean Beach and in the morning light it glows golden like this.

Zack and Nathalie’s matching hats are adorable. And I love how Nathalie’s hand positioned over her mouth makes it look as though she’s pondering some deeper thoughts on the meaning of life while wistfully staring off into the far ocean horizon. The way that girl’s mind works, I totally wouldn’t put it past her.

Zack and Nathalie

Below is a shot of the Sutro Bath Ruins. Built in the late 19th century, the Sutro Baths opened as the world’s largest indoor natatorium. There were seven pools, one fresh water and the rest salt water all ranging in different temperatures. During high tide the pools would fill in a mere hour from water flowing directly from the ocean, but during low tide a turbine water pump would help to fill the tanks, which would take five hours. Sadly the building burnt to the ground in 1966 and today all we see of it are ruins.

Sutro Bath Ruins

Here’s what a shot taken from the same location would have looked like in the early 1900s.

Perhaps a photo taken from the back can give a better view of the immensity of the structure.

Sutro Baths Behind

Also, it wasn’t just the world’s large pool complex, but it additionally housed a museum and restaurants.

Sutro Baths Museum

Alex, Audrey, and Quinn enjoyed exploring and climbing on the ruins.

Climbing Sutro Bath Ruins

Climbing Sutro Bath Ruins

And here’s what the inside of the building looked like back in its heyday.  From a newspaper clipping on opening day, I read that it could accommodate 8,000 spectators, which I assume was a lot of people in 1896 considering only 300,000 people lived in the city at that time. If you’re curious, you can see a ton more photos and info about the baths here.

And today instead of people frolicking in the water here, birds and other sea creatures enjoy the remains of these salty pools, while people observe from a distance.

Watching Ducks Sutro Baths

I find the next photo amazing—simply because everyone is actually smiling at the camera. With a group of four that includes a 2-year old (who is Nathalie and usually off doing her own thing) in the picture, that’s pretty rare. At least in my experience.

Watching Ducks Sutro Baths

Group Sutro Baths

So the turbine used to pump water into the pools during low tide that I mentioned before was actually built inside a cave. And I’m pretty sure that cave is the one we walked through pictured below.

Sutro Baths Cave

The hill and subsequent stairs to climb up to the parking lot area are a good workout. Too much of a workout for Nathalie’s baby legs so she caught a lift from Uncle Zack.

Zack Climbing Sutro Baths Steps

But, once at the top, she was all about walking on her own.

Nathalie Sutro Baths

While smiling and looking fantastic for the camera is often the most desirable photo, I actually love this more unconventional one. And my favorite part about it is not just Quinn trying to photobomb again, but that he appears to be missing his body from the waist down.


After a quick break soaking up some vitamin D we were off on the hike.

Lands End Trees

Alex and Quinn Hiking

Ah, to be a kid and want to climb all over everything. Were we all like that at age 9? I guess what’s most shocking about this photo is that Alex isn’t up there with them. What?!

Climbing Wall Lands End

Most kids hate hats. Parents purchase them because they know how adorable their kid will look in one, but their child will have nothing to do with it. However, that’s not the case with Nathalie. She adores her hat and even knows how to properly salute with it as exhibited in this photo.

Graeme and Nathalie

Audrey and I were discussing her loose tooth at the beginning of the trail and, after examining it, my assessment was that it would fall out “any day now”. However, I didn’t expect that moment to occur five minutes later while hiking along the trail.

Missing Tooth

Audrey Tooth

Audrey and I were originally walking ahead of the group so after I snapped the previous two photos of her tooth she excitedly ran back to tell everyone what had just transpired. The expression in her face and body as she skips down the trail after revealing the exciting news is priceless.

Group Walking Lands End

Naomi and Zack Walking Lands End

At this point, Naomi and Zack headed back to go pick up their dad from the airport. Meanwhile, the rest of us trudged on and came to this outcropping.

Climbing Hill Lands End

What could they all possibly be looking at?

Group on The Edge Lands End

Why, it’s a zen labyrinth!

Climbing Down Hill

For as long as we’ve lived in the city, this zen labyrinth has been here. And after doing a bit of research just now, apparently it was the year that we moved to SF in 2004 that it was created. However, being a quarter mile off the main trail many people don’t even know about. Perhaps that’s why it remains here to this day without being disturbed.

Walking Lands End Labyrinth

Quinn and Alex Lands End Labyrinth

Audrey Labyrinth Lands End

From the labyrinth we could see the shore below and since the elders in our group decided to take another route to the Labyrinth they ended up just going straight down to the beach (and never actually made it up there—bummer!) They look teeny tiny from here, but if you look really closely you can see them by the stairs.

Cliffs and Beach Lands End

All of that green down there by the beach that looks like grass is actually this…some kind of water-retaining succulent? With our arid conditions (did you know that it only rains during the “winter” here? It’s rare to see even a drop of rain during the summer months) this plant blankets a large chunk of the California coast.

Flower Lands End

I climbed down the cliff to join the others near the water.

Beach Lands End

And not too long after, Audrey (you can spot her mid-way along the trail) followed.

Cliff Lands End

Beach Lands End

Beach Lands End

With the rest of the crew not far behind her.

Beach Lands End

Beach Lands End

Beach Lands End

Back up on the main trail we saw a hawk swiftly dive to the ground, pick at something, and then fly off.


Walking Up Steps Lands End

Walking Down Steps Lands End

Right near the end of the hike you get a glimpse of the mega-mansions residing in Sea Cliff with their multi-million dollar ocean views.

Seaside Cliffs

Trees and Stairs

After the hike we returned to the apartment, quickly changed our clothes, and headed to Millennium for an amazing multi-course gourmet vegan meal.

There was such a large group of us that we got our own private room, which was even more dimly lit than the main part of the restaurant, and if there’s one thing that I hate it’s flash photography in dark places, but when that’s the only option…

Alex and Christina Millennium

Surprisingly, the kids loved all of the food (and I say surprising because kids don’t usually like gourmet food, right?). Aidan and Quinn split the February harvest four-course meal and ate every last morsel of it. I had even ordered an appetizer of the crusted oyster mushrooms and Quinn, who claims to abhor mushrooms, LOVED them. In fact, he loved them so much he wanted me to order another round after we collectively “licked the plate clean.”

Nathalie loved the ice cream so much that she stuck her head in the bowl to slurp up whatever last bits she could get.

While walking home, Nathalie was serenaded by a man on the street and she was completely mesmerized by his singing. It was fascinating to watch as I don’t recall that I’ve ever seen any other toddler be so moved by song.

Rock Climbing and Trampoline Dodgeball

Sadly, I can’t really provide much commentary on these photos because instead of enjoying being out with everyone, I was stuck at home vomiting my stomach through my nose after eating some tainted food at the Academy of Sciences the day before.

On Tuesday the plan was to go to Mission Cliffs, which is a pretty badass rock climbing gym. The height of the tallest wall is five stories and their route creators do an amazing job of creating interesting and challenging routes. From the sounds of it, everyone enjoyed it—even the photographer who happened to be Naomi on this adventure.

Alex said that Audrey had great form and was fearless, which is awesome to hear because those are two important elements to becoming a good rock climber.

From the looks of it, Quinn has some good form too.

Naomi said that Aidan enjoyed climbing so much that he wants to continue doing it in Ann Arbor, which is totally rad. Maybe he’ll be ready for outdoor climbing the next time he visits 😉

After several hours of climbing, it was late enough that some experienced climbers had shown up after work and the kids were able to see what lead climbing is like.

Alex Climbing Mission Cliffs

The next day Alex took the kids and Graeme to House of Air, which is an impressive trampoline gym. Meanwhile, the ladies stayed at home—my stomach was still trying to repair itself from the activities of the day before, my sister needed a few minutes of down time, the baby was napping, and my mom wanted to hang out with us.

On the way to the gym, Alex took everyone through the Industrial Light and Magic campus (Lucas Films/Lucas Arts) where they walked by the Yoda statue. Had I thought ahead, we could have gotten one of our friends to give a tour of the facilities—it’s always fun seeing characters, vehicles, or other items from favorite movies in person so I’m a little bummed I thought of it after the fact.

There are a number of different jumping areas in House of Air and one of them is a dodgeball court where Quinn and Aidan spent most of their time. Quinn ended up winning a game and Aidan came in second a number of times. Overall, they did an awesome job of representing the fam.

Aidan Throwing House of Air

Family and Visiting the California Academy of Sciences

I feel so bad. My poor blog hasn’t gotten enough love lately; however, I’m proclaiming that all ends today when I start to flood the site with a post mortem of the wedding week every day. Expect lots of photos and hopefully not too many words.

Walking down Sutter Street San Francisco

Two weekends ago my brother got married (so happy for him!!) and the entire week prior my mother and sister, Naomi, and her entire family stayed with us. That’s a total of nine humans and three cats in a two bedroom one bathroom apartment. Originally, my mom thought that she’d get a hotel nearby for the time that Naomi was staying with me, but, at Naomi’s suggestion, she ended up crashing on the couch in the living room with the kids. My first thought was “thank god we’re such a close family and enjoy spending time in close quarters together!” But the more I thought about it the more I realized that it’s actually the reverse. Because we’re such a close family (and don’t get to see each other nearly enough), we all wanted to stay together. And, honestly, it all worked brilliantly—amazingly so.

Audrey Pushing Nathalie Down Sutter Street

Sunday ended up being a fairly low-key day since they didn’t arrive until very late Saturday night after their plane was delayed for three and a half hours. The girls ended up going to Union Square and shopping, while the boys went across the bay and took part in a General Assembly at Occupy Oakland. Alex took the camera, but didn’t take any photos and since I was cameraless these three photos are complements of my mum; the two above of me, Naomi, and Audrey walking down Sutter Street and the one of Audrey pushing Nathalie down the street while she napped.

Eating Sushi in the Westfield Mall SF

And this one of us having a sushi break in the food court of the Westfield mall. I don’t know what it is about Nathalie’s expression, but the adorableness of it elicits something in me that makes me want to fold her up and stick her in my pocket every time I look at. Need to stop looking…but can’t peel my eyes away. Ok, my hands are covering my face. Oh wait, but my eyes are peeking through the cracks between my fingers.

Oh my god. I’m such a two-year old.

Moving on.

Being President’s Day on Monday, I didn’t have to work (woot!) so I was able to enjoy the day with everyone frolicking amongst creatures from the rainforest, underwater sea dwellers, and African penguins at the California Academy of Sciences. One of the greenest structures in the world, the building itself is a museum and worth seeing for the architecture alone, but the interesting animals and exhibits inside are also worth your time.

For the first thirty minutes, I had Nathalie all to myself because the super young’ns are not allowed inside the planetarium (which happens to be the largest all-digital planetarium in the world) and everyone else wanted to enjoy the “Life: A Cosmic Story” movie. She was wide-eyed like the photo below pretty much the entire visit through the museum—it’s a lot to absorb for a two-year old, dontcha think?


Standing on her itty-bitty tip-toes, she loved watching the fish and kept excitedly telling me “The fish! They’re swimming!”


After the planetarium, we satiated ourselves in the museum cafeteria (where I likely got food poisoning 😦 ) and played outside. Alex unsuccessfully attempted a handstand on the head of this seal statue. Looks like his gymnastics days are over…(totally kidding, hon! I know you’ve still got those backhand springs in ya!) 😛

Nathalie and Audrey ran laps in the grass and threw wood chips in the play area. You can tell this was taken post-lunch because Audrey ever so adorably has spaghetti sauce smeared across her chin. And I’m still trying to figure out how Nathalie managed to keep a clean face throughout lunch.

Audrey and Nathalie California Academy of Sciences

Audrey and Nathalie California Academy of Sciences

And when you’re two years young falling goes hand-in-hand with running.

Audrey and Nathalie California Academy of Sciences

After our bellies were bulging and my body was infected with a foodborne illness, it was onward to the rainforest.

Christina and Nathalie California Academy of Sciences

Inside the rainforest we saw tons of crazy animals and insects. Like the green lizard sticking out his tongue on the left. I love how you can see his earhole so clearly in this photo. And then like this spider who caught a fly, spun a cocoon around it, and proceeded to eat it.

Bird and Butterfly California Academy of Sciences

And there were lots of beautiful butterflies. If you take your time slowly through the rainforest they will eventually land on or near you where you can closely observe their stunning colors and patterns. The butterfly on the bottom right is aptly name the Owl Butterfly.

Ooooh, I just don’t do well with spiders. My family tells me that as a young babe I actually loved spiders, called them “Piders” and only wished them to be friends with me. But I think that at some point it was revealed to me that they bite and are potentially poisonous and then our friendship was no longer. There’s no animosity between us, just an “I see you, you see me and we go our merry way” kind of relationship. In fact, I always try to bring them outside whenever I find those little buggers in the house. But I will admit that seeing those little fuzzy pipe cleaner things on this spidey’s legs makes me convulse a little.

Then there were these crazy frogs and other reptiles who could suction themselves to the glass. I think what you see there are four little legs with many toes tucked into this frogs underside as he’s glued to the wall.

Haha! I love how Graeme has an almost evil grin as Quinn is being face planted with a spider.

Quinn and Graeme Spider

After the Rainforest the elevator drops you in the aquarium where there are so many fascinating underwater sea dwellers. If you think the rainforest is full of crazy lifeforms, all you need to do is look to the oceans to find even more crazy life adaptations.

Fish Academy of Sciences

It’s not easy taking photos in the darkly lit basement, but Alex (who had the camera at this point) was able to snap some amazing photos of these jellyfish. They’re so beautiful they belong in a museum (harhar). The photos not the jellyfish, silly. 😛

Jellyfish California Academy of Sciences

Jellyfish California Academy of Sciences

After the aquarium we stopped by the African hall and saw the penguins right as they were being fed (forgot to take photos, though.) And then we were all so pooped from hours of being on our feet observing nature that we sat on this bench intermittently while going outside and running in the grass again as we waited to meet Zack and Susan for dinner.

Audrey and Nathalie California Academy of Sciences

Leaving California Academy of Sciences

And quite possibly the best photo of the day was captured by my mum as Quinn was perfecting the art of photobombing. After seeing this photo me, my siblings, and mom all got into a laughing fit—the kind where you can’t stop, breathing becomes difficult, and tears are streaming down your (my) face. I should mention that this is prone to happen with my family all the while our spouses/significant others are all just looking at each other wondering what the hell is going on. Susan got her first taste of this at dinner—a perfect initiation into our family. I’d say that’s pretty much the perfect end to a perfect day (except for the food poisoning part.)

Quinn Photobomb