The best part of our trip to California? Spending time with family.
We don't get to see my brother and his family nearly enough, so we treasure each moment we get with them.
My brother lives up in these hills - I've never seen them so green as they were this trip. Normally, the hills have more of a golden hue to them.
After a morning spent playing around the house and swimming at their club, we headed back into San Francisco, and hit Chinatown.
This was the boys' first time hitting a "little country," and the moans and complaints we heard before stopping quickly went away when they saw just how cool Chinatown was.
They loved picking out their own set of chopsticks (and some as souvenirs for their Texas cousins).
All the stores are decorated so fantastically. I wanted every one of these chinese lanters hanging in this shop, for instance. (Damn you, 50 lb suitcase limits!)
Ryan was excited because he found Pokemon cards for sale, and bought this set for only $2.99, a set I'm pretty sure would have cost us $12.99 at our Target.
And the boys were in heaven in this store which sold nothing but replica weapons from movies and tv shows.
These photos cracked me up. Here, we have the Transamerica Pyramid building, arguably the most famouse ladnmark in San Francisco's skyline. But when you add in the cool Chinatown lantern, street signs, and the woman in her Chinese brocade jacket and hat, along with some good old radical protestors, its like the best of San Francisco all wrapped up in one photo. All you need to add in to make it complete would be a cable car...
Oh wait! There's a cable car crossing the street. Score!
After Chinatown, we had early dinner reservations at my father's favorite restaurant of all-time, the House of Prime Rib.
Dad first discovered it when he was in seminary in Berkeley in the sixties (always such a great image to me, of my dad in Berkeley at the height of the hippie movement).
HOPR is somewhat of a cultural institution - your men choices consist of which cut of prime rib do you want... the smaller City Cut ... the huge King Henry VIII cut ... or the Children's Cut. The prime rib is wheeled around in this great cart and cut at the table for you. You are served salad, Yorkshire pudding, creamed spinach, and a choice of baked potato or mashed potatoes.
This was my first time taking the kids when we got them food there. In the past, I've simply fed them some Old McDonald's happy meals right before we went. But that was about four years ago, and they've become fans of red meat since then. I was nervous... but happily, they loved it as much as we do. (Just, maybe not the Yorkshire pudding, but that's fine - more for me).
Ryan and Laurel kept themselves busy drawing a still life of the wine bottles behind our table.
And then it was back home, across the lovely new and improved Bay Bridge. These aren't the best photos, but it was stunning how the light would move across the bridge.
The next day was Sunday, and Robyn had suggested we spend our day in Berkeley at the Adventure Playground.
I had never heard of an adventure playground before, but apparently they are quite common in other places of the world.
This was quite possibly the coolest part of our entire trip, and everyone had such a blast, we didn't think we would ever be able to get them to leave.
But that wasn't quite dangerous enough for Team Danger, and the California offshoot of Team Danger.
Because it wasn't long before they decided they needed some paint, hammers, saws, and nails, and the only way to get these items is to collect nails and trash on the ground.
Oh, and one Mr. Dangerous will do the trick.
The boys (aka Carl) built this bench, and the girls helped them paint it. Much to Team Danger's dismay, they ran out of red and green paint. Pink was NOT on their approved paint choice list.
Ryan also added a store to one of the structures.
Then they all got down to some serious building. Like birdhouses.
And... bazookas. Team Danger didn't seem to get the memo that we were in Berkeley, of all places. Still - we didn't get kicked out, and Ryan's bazooka was THE fought-after item at Adventure Playground when it was time for us to go.
We had such a great time at Adventure Playground. I couldn't help but think it would fit right in with Austin's Keeping it Weird motto, and the boys agreed. Alex has even started making plans to start one himself as his Eagle Scout project (way to think ahead and plan, Alex. Truly my son.)
My favorite project we created, though, was this great cat made by Beau, Audrey and Laurel. Precious kitty faces. :)
California has a much later spring break than Texas does, so sadly, this was our last full day in Northern California with the girls. We thought it would be too much of a distraction for them and Beau to stay while they went off to school and work, so on Monday, we started our journey down south. It was great to see them again, and I loved how they could all just pick right back up from last Easter as if we hadn't just been apart for almost a full year. Love these girls.