DAYTRIP: San Francisco – First Time Visit

Since we live close, we tend to be the tour guides for friends and family from out of town that want to see the city. People can say what they want about their desire to see the “true” San Francisco, but when it comes down to it, the first time usually involves all the tourist attraction, the things that make the city famous.

The below was a day we put together for some family visiting for the first time from Minnesota. A couple circumstances that made this plan work were that the visiting family were in physically good shape (willing and able to do A LOT of walking) and the weather was nice,


The day started at the golden gate bridge, where we parked and walked across it. A free, family friendly activity that is an iconic must do. Quick Note: If you are driving across the bridge to park going North, you will have to pay bridge toll and this is all electronic now, go here to prepare for your trip in advance ). 

After the bridge we parked off of a side street near the fisherman’s wharf and had lunch at Luigi’s Pizzeria down Pier 39. I would typically recommend seafood, but the family was feeling pizza and this was convenient.

After lunch we walked up to Ghirardelli square for hot fudge sundaes at the Ghirardelli chocolate company. Afterward we headed up the street to Lombard street, to walk up and down that, before catching the cable car at Hyde & Lombard.


We rode that over to China town where we found a little tea shop and did some free tea tasting. I can’t remember where this was exactly but a lot of places do this.

We walked down into Union Square. Rode the glass elevator(which you can no longer due unless your a guest at the hotel) and then took pictures with all the hearts in the square.

We then headed back into China Town for dinner. (Looking back I would suggest eating in Union square. Cheesecake factory has a great view.)

After dinner we over to the Coit Tower, which took us right past Peter & Paul church which is always beautiful, and accessed the steps up to the tower through Greenwich st.

Finally we walked back down toward the pier, where our day had started and where our car waited.

Did I mention this was ALOT of walking! :) But it did make it a bit easier not having to fuss with parking and traffic in between every event. I’m not sure we would have been able to do as much if we had been driving.

A couple of apps that might prove beneficial:

  • 511 Transit App – Great for navigating the use of public transportation around the city.
  • SFpark – Helps you find parking.

Thoughts on Keith Haring’s Political Line


“Art should be something that liberates your soul, provokes the imagination and encourages people to go further.” - Keith Haring

While in San Francisco a couple weeks back, I took the opportunity to see the Keith Haring Exhibit at the DeYoung.

Part of the exhibit was a short film about him and in it, he was sharing how his pieces didn’t have plans. He didn’t have a drawn up concept. He would just let himself create and see where it went.

I remember a similar experience I had with ceramics, I would start working with the clay, without knowing what I was creating. I remember how liberating and exciting it was, especially for a planner like myself to be able to let go and just see where it went and what it turned into. Now sure, you might have projects that help you learn and develop technique, but there is something amazing about taking those skills, and setting yourself free to just create whatever is inside you to create.

Keith also talked about how initially it was just about having fun and doing what he loved, but how over time he started to see the impact it was having on the public and that caused him to start thinking about what he wanted to say. This resonated with me. You get to that place where it is about more than the experience you have creating, it is about saying something meaningful. Art is powerful. And I think a true artists gets to a point where it is about more than themselves, it’s about making their audience feel something.

Weekend Project: Re-purposing Fencing

imageI took advantage of the three day weekend and completed a DIY project I have had in mind for months! Bless my husband for his continued patience. Per my request, he brought me home some old fence boards from a construction job he completed and they have been sitting on our tiny deck, just staring at me for months. Finally this weekend I had both time and motivation!

Here is what I did, if you would to make one for your own home.


  • (3) 6 ft Fence Boards
  • (1) 2x2x8 wood piece
  • (2) sawhorses – or a work bench
  • Sander
  • Sand Paper
  • Protective glasses
  • Sanding Mask
  • Stain  – Transparent Redwood Cedar
  • Stain Brush
  • Skill Saw
  • Measuring tape
  • Drill
  • (6) 2 in. long Screws
  • (25) 3×3 prints of your choice
  • (21ft) Fishing Line (something with minimum stretch)
  • (6) extra small threaded eye hooks
  • Clear scotch tape
  • (3) 5 in. long Screws

Step 1:

Set up the fence boards on the saw horses and sand them down till smooth. Apply pressure evenly.


Step 2: Use the saw to cut off ends, measure out and pencil in marks to make sure boards stay equal in length.

Step 3: Use your brush to stain the boards. Long, even strokes.


Step 4: While the fence boards dry, Use the saw to cut the 2x2x8 piece in half,  making 2 – 2x2x4 pieces for the backing.

Step 5: Once the boards are dry, use your measuring tape to find the center and screw the backing pieces in.

Step 6: Twist the eye hooks into the top corners of each board(about 2 inches in from the side and 1 inch down from the top.

Step 7: Cut fishing line in 3 separate 7ft pieces.

Step 8: Tie the fishing line onto one end of the hook and attach the pictures to the string using tape. Repeat on each board.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Step 9: Tie the other end of the sting to the eye hook on the opposite end. Repeat on each board.

Step 10: Use 5 in. Screws to attach piece to wall!

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset

It’s always nice to build something, and I feel especially gratified when I can find ways to reuse items that would otherwise go to waste. Happy to be able to reuse this old wood and to be able to display some of photos I’ve taken the last few years.

Lens Lessons: Shooting Past Insecurities

IMG_7883You’ve probably heard the Ira Glass quote about the creative process, if not, stop and go listen to it. 

The first time I heard this was July of 2013. I remember the day and the moment. I was sitting in the living room of my aunts house having a heart to heart with my cousin Kelly. Kelly is a professional photographer and someone I have always looked up to. Not only for his skills in the realm of photography but also for his wisdom. He and his wife have always given really great advice and they seem to have their priorities in order.

Anyways, we were having one of those chats where I was sharing my insecurities about my skills and he was encouraging me to do what I love. If you love it, do it. We watched the video and it really struck a cord with me. He explained how I was feeling to a T. And in that moment I made a commitment to myself to shoot as much as possible, despite my feelings about where I fall in regards to others or my frustrations with it.

Now over a year and a half later I must admit, I feel about the same. I still don’t feel my work is matching my taste, but I was looking over all the shoots I’ve done since this conversation and I can see growth. I cannot ignore the things I have learned. Each shoot has taught me something. So I thought I would share some things I’ve learned so far.

  • Slow dowIMG_7828n. Don’t get so caught up in shooting that you aren’t paying attention to the details. Take a breath and look through the lens. Make sure your settings are correct, that your composition is clear, move things out of the shot that are distracting. In looking at the overall composition it is easy to miss focus or lighting issues. Things can be missed in the viewfinder, slowing down help eliminate mistakes.
  • Make sure you got the shot. Be willing to have your model hold on a sec to take a second shot if needed.
  • Plan, Plan and Plan some more. Having an idea of what you want is good but scouting out the locations and knowing where the light is gonna go is even better. It makes your time with the model run more smoothly.
  • Have a backup plan. If in the end the weather or light doesn’t agree with you, have another idea that you can use to take advantage of the model while you have them.
  • Cohesion: Have a clear vision and stick to it. Make your shots look like them belong together. It comes across better when you share them.
  • Limit what you share: When you share a whole lot of images, it tends to take away from it somehow. It drowns it out. While a couple of strong images tend to stand out.
  • Don’t spend time editing the bad stuff.  Go through your photos, highlight the ones that stand out, then go through those and highlight the ones that stand out and do it again. Get down to the killer shots and edit those first. If you need more you can go back through the secondary shots but don’t waste edit time on the bad shots.
  • Get Feedback: Have someone you respect, who is shooting as well and who is willing to give you honest feedback. Having a second set of eyes on it helps you see things you might have missed.


I find that when it comes to creating, I am my worst enemy, I hold myself back more than anyone else. But it’s something I continue to tackle, by doing it anyway. Setting aside how I feel and trusting that as I continue to do the work, I will see myself grow and improve in my craft. If you find yourself in a similar place I encourage you to keep shooting.

Wedding Planning: Let’s Talk Venue.

You’ve read my  “You’re Engaged! So Now What: The First Five Steps You Should Take in Planning Your Wedding” post and you’ve begun your planning, now to start the search for the perfect venue.  Here are a few tips, tricks and resources to help you along.

Let me start by directing you to a fabulous resource, Venue These ladies have condensed a lot of venues into one website, and after I had been searching for months going through A TON of websites I found this one and basically did a happy dance. If you are planning your wedding in Northern California this site has photos and info for plenty of options for you. Also, there are Vixen Values (discounts given, if you mention you found them through the website). Trust me when I say, this will save you a lot of time.

If your wedding is not in the area, this site is still helpful because it gets you thinking about what TYPE of venues might work for a wedding. By looking through their “Venue Categories” you start thinking beyond the churches and vineyards. So I encourage you to still go through it.

Some things to know when looking for a venue:

  • Sundays and Fridays tend to be cheaper than Saturday
  • Morning can be cheaper than evening 
  • If the price posted online is over your budget, that does not have to be the end of the discussion. If a venue is not booked they are not making money. If the price is too much for you, let them know what you can afford and ask if there is any way to get down to that number. Some places will say no. But other times they might be able to slim down their package to work within your budget. It is worth asking, worst they can do is say no.  If your wedding is on a busy holiday weekend you will not have as much negotiating power here, so something to keep in mind when setting the date.
  • Most traditional wedding venues (Country clubs, vineyards, etc.) have a preferred vendor list. Flexibility on this varies but basically it means if you have your wedding there you have to get your food, flowers, photographer etc. from that list.  The benefit of that is that all the vendors have worked together before and have everything smoothed out. The downside is that it can be more expensive. For example if your aunt’s friend was gonna give you a deal on catering you can’t use her. So that money you were gonna save on catering you are now putting towards this other caterer. If they don’t have a list they may require your vendors are licensed professionals. Again, if you had a friend willing to do something for you, who has the skills but is not technically a professional that won’t work here. Basically if your wedding has a lot of DIY elements you are probably going to be in a less traditional location.
  • Parks come with their own challenges. Getting married in a state park may be cheaper than the venues mentioned above but the thing to keep in mind here is regulations.  Parks can have regulations on sound, time, number of people, what can be set up, decor, alcohol, etc. They tend to require a security guard if you will be serving alcohol.  Be sure you ask about what all is and isn’t allowed before you get too attached. Additionally, be sure to think about parking, outlets, distance from parking to the ceremony/reception  especially if you have any elderly on your guest list.

TIP:  If you are looking for a park, look within the city you live, city parks often offer discounts to residents.

  • Additional Fees. Cake cutting fee, corkage fee, and others may be included in your venue. Before you sign, be sure to ask about additional taxes, fees and tip(if catering is provided through the venue). You don’t want to be surprised with additional expenses at the end.
  • Backyard Wedding: If you or someone you know don’t have the space or ability to host a backyard wedding, you may be able to find a vacation rental that could work for you via airbnb or VRBO. airbnb even has a “suitable for events” option to select under filters. You will have to go over everything with the owner and get it approved,  but it is an option. I strongly encourage event insurance if you go this route. You do not want to be liable if anything goes wrong.

These are just a few things to consider in your search for the perfect venue. In no way is it everything but I hope it gets you going in the right direction. Best of luck in your planning!

Notable Non-Profits: Harvest Sacramento

I grew up in a family of seven kids and learned very early on that the world was not about me. My dad made it clear through regular lectures, that we kids needed to think of the family as a whole and how our actions might effect each other.

Additionally, my parents spent a lot of time overseas on trips that focused on helping those in need. They encouraged us to travel and contribute to the world as well. This started for me at the age of 10 and I spent every summer for the next 8 years in different countries giving back. These trips were about what we did to help those we went to serve, but also about the personal transformation that takes place when you gain a global perspective. When you understand how big the world is and how small your place is in it. It causes you to help put your own issues in perspective and the process of giving is one full of joy and satisfaction.

Over the last few years the opportunities to travel have been a lot less frequent, so I’ve looked into what I can do locally. There are a lot of local non-profits doing great things so I focused on what was important to me; human rights, the arts and environmental sustainability.

I was introduced to Harvest Sacramento by my sister. She invited me out to a community harvest that was such a blast, I was hooked.

Here's a group shot from my first time.

Here’s a group shot from my first time.

Before I get into that experience, let me share a little bit about what they do.

Harvest Sacramento organizes neighborhood events that get local volunteers together to help harvest the fruit of those who have more than they want or need and the proceeds get donated to the local food bank. This eliminates waste and gets fresh local fruit into the food banks that might not otherwise have access to it. It promotes healthy eating and the farm to fork concept.

1606306_518309398282203_1918480441_oWhen you show up to volunteer they start you out in some group circle time where Dominic shares in more detail their mission, what they are about, and how you are apart of it. He does some interactive exercises to connect you with the other volunteers that are there and get people mingling. You then get split up into groups where your group leader talks about where you’ll be going and makes sure everyone understands the safety procedures and how to use the tools.


You carpool to different homes and work as a team to harvest the fruit while respecting the yard and leaving it in better condition than when you arrived. It’s fun to be apart of something that is helping your own community, maybe even your own neighborhood. While working you get to know those your working with and build relationships.1597256_518381981608278_238419279_o

At the end of the day you might have lunch together and debrief. They encourage you to think about what you experienced and learned and to share that with your group. This is something Harvest Sacramento is really good at,  making the experience just as much about your own personal growth as a volunteer as it is about the job at hand.1961920_518308504948959_1483319753_o

You leave feeling informed, connected and inspired. This place is easily my favorite place to volunteer, if you want to get involved here’s how to get informed of their upcoming opportunities.

Follow them on Facebook

Join their mailing list 

Check out their Volunteer Opportunities page


So You’re Going to San Francisco…

Many people who haven’t been to this city before tend to get overwhelmed with the traffic, crowds and overall pace. I have had a couple friends who simply refuse to go, because they had some frustrating experiences with traffic. But as someone who has visited this city countless time let me tell you, this city is amazing and should not be missed out on. I have found a few simple ways to avoid a frustrating and overwhelming day.

When planning a full day in SF it’s good to have a balance of what I like to call “Go + Flow”.  Have some main things you want to do, but with opportunities to rest in between. See an exhibit at the DeYoung in the morning and then have a picnic in Golden Gate Park, giving you time to rest your feet and enjoy the scenery. Having a balance will give you a more enjoyable experience.

Prioritize what you want to see. It is easy to under estimate how long it might take to do something so have a plan based around your priorities and then if you run out of time cut stuff out starting from the bottle of your list.

Focus on one part of the city. Traffic takes longer than you think it will. Finding things you want to see all within the same area will give you more time to enjoy them and less time worrying about traffic and parking. If you are limited to one day in SF and feel you must spread yourself out,  then try not to go back and forth across the city. Work your way around to cut back on drive time.

Know where your going. I like to print out a map with all my stops on it before I leave so I know where I am going and can drive with confidence. If you are driving alone I recommend GPS (I use the Google Maps app). If not, have a co-pilot who can keep you up to date on upcoming turns. If you miss a turn it’s not always easy to get yourself back on track. Make sure whatever map you have is up to date on the direction of one way streets & construction.

Have change on hand for parking meters. After working to find a parking spot, you don’t want to have to give it up cause you don’t have change. Trust me.

San Francisco is a wonderful place to visit with a lot to enjoy. With a little planning you can have a great stress free experience. Here are a couple of resources for planning your trip:

San Francisco Travel – Trip Ideas, Hotel Deals, Whats happening etc.

Fun Cheap SF – Calendar of unique events, sign up for weekly e-mails to find out whats going on, on a regular basis.

Tix Bay Area  – Booth in Union Square with full-price and discount tickets to arts and cultural events in San Francisco

These Moments

Phone Photos 1089

On days when i’m stuck in the office, I find myself remembering the days I chose to seize the day, get up early, stay up late, go out of my way or make a trek that didn’t make sense just so that I could see or experience some place or moment of beauty. In those moments the world slows and you feel this sense of gratefulness that you get to be apart of it. You remember that life is beautiful and good.

Little Things on Lousy Days

Today was a day like any other. Non eventful.

I felt particularly uninspired, which let’s be honest, 70% of my days are. They consist of the same routine with slight variation. I keep thinking of the lyrics “I was living for the weekend” and I feel I can relate to that.

I, like many others, work a job I tolerate and spend the most of my life, just getting through it. But despite the things I do to pay the rent, I still find I can find pure delight in the little things.

Life is what it is at the moment but on the weekends and little glimpses throughout the week I find joy in simple pleasures throughout the day.

A beautiful sunset. A great cup of coffee. A clean quiet home. A conversation with a friend. A wonderful book.

Some days are better than others. But finding delight despite my circumstances is a choice that I never regret making.

I took this shot while walking out of a mall. Being from Tahoe who now lives in the city finding beauty like this in a parking lot always brightens my day.


Continue reading