Waterfront Playground at Sue Bierman Park

bierman park the urbane grandmotherLet’s face it. The success of a family trip is determined by how well the adults can manage to balance the ratio of kid vs adult activities. Sometimes we luck out and find an activity that appeals equally to both. That’s where the playground comes in. Fresh air. Exercise. Beautiful scenery. And rest for the adults. Our newest playground is on the Embarcadero across from Pier 1 at Washington Street.  It is nestled behind the Embarcadero Center in an area that was once a nondescript plot of land. The ‘Playground in Sue Bierman Park’ is a joint effort of the Barbary Coast Neighborhood Association and Rincon Hill neighbors working with the Parks and Recreation Department. Here is the list of generous donors:

bierman park donors the urbane grandmother

The Ferry Building the urbane grandmotherJust find the Ferry Building and start walking north.

Pier 1 the urbane grandmotherOnce you are in front of Pier 1, cross the street and you will arrive at this oasis. You may want to grab a coffee from Starbucks first.

bierman park the urbane grandmother Large expanse of grass is perfect for picnicking or running around.

bierman park the urbane grandmother The playground is fenced in and all adults must be accompanied by a child.

bierman park the urbane grandmother Lots of equipment to climb on and slide down.

bierman playground slide the urbane grandmotherWhen you are done at this waterfront playground cross back over to the Embarcadero and continue north to the Exploratorium and Pier 39. Or just take a nap in the noonday sun…

Posted in Embarcadero, Financial District, Muni Historic Streetcar F Line, Playgrounds / Parks | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Fort Point San Francisco in the Rain

fort point the urbane grandmotherThere hasn’t been occasion to write many posts about rainy day activities for kids since I began this site because, well, there haven’t been many rainy days. Thankfully that changed a few weeks ago. There are finally puddles to jump in. And we have found a most unlikely place to spend an hour or two playing in the rain and learning about history at the same time: Fort Point. Continue reading

Posted in Crissy Field, Playgrounds / Parks | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

San Francisco Mounted Police Unit

bubba the urbane grandmotherI never paid much attention to horses before I became a grandmother. But when you are searching for ways to entertain little ones you find yourself venturing out of your comfort zone into uncharted territory often. It helps if the territory includes free parking and shade for an afternoon nap which is why we spend so much time in Golden Gate Park and how we discovered the Fred C. Egan Memorial Police Stables. Continue reading

Posted in Giving, Golden Gate Park, Playgrounds / Parks | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

A San Francisco Christmas Eve

santa the urbane grandmother

Christmas Eve is the one day of the year that I try to incorporate as many ‘only in San Francisco’ activities for our granddaughter as possible. I would like her to remember the holidays fondly and with a sense of place.

The day starts with a stop at Alioto-Lazio at Fisherman’s Wharf to pick up Dungeness Crabs for Christmas dinner. One of the last family owned businesses on the wharf – and all woman owned.

alioto-lazio fish company sign the urbane grandmother

Then home to make popcorn balls for Santa.

popcorn balls the urbane grandmother

A little last minute rearranging of the manger to make room for the new arrival.

manger scene the urbane grandmother

Then it’s time to walk to Chinatown for dinner at the Far East Cafe. My dad took me there when I was a little girl and it seemed like the most exotic and grown-up place in the world. Curtained booths lined the side walls and you summoned the waiter by pressing a buzzer. We sit in a booth and order the same child-friendly dishes every year: egg fu yung (aka egg foo young), barbecue pork and wonton soup.

chinatown christmas eve the urbane grandmotherAfter dinner it is a short walk to California Street to catch the cable car to the top of the hill.

Stop off at the Fairmont Hotel to see the gingerbread house and yet another Christmas tree.

gingerbread house fairmont hotel the urbane grandmother IMG_2540

Finally, we walk home to see what Santa has left for us while we were gone. (This bit of trickery was managed earlier in the evening by one of us ‘discovering’ that we have forgotten our wallet. While the rest of the family waits in the lobby, Papa dashes upstairs, fills stockings, places presents under the tree and then dashes back. Phew!)

While the little one opens gifts, the adults enjoy a glass of champagne and a slice of Coffee Crunch Cake from Yasukochi’s Sweet Shop in Japantown.

coffee crunch cake the urbane grandmother

I hope that your holiday season was filled with much sweetness, many glasses of bubbly and lots of love. Happy New Year!

the urbane grandmother and grandchild

Posted in Cable Cars, Chinatown, Holiday - Winter, Nob Hill, SF Food Traditions | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Why I Love Trader Joe’s San Francisco

trader joe's pound plus chocolate the urbane grandmotherShopping at Trader Joe’s is like Christmas morning everyday. There is always something new that surprises and delights the kid in me. It all started the first time I held their hefty, dark ‘Pound Plus’ Belgian chocolate bar. It was 1987 and I had just moved to Los Angeles leaving my beloved San Francisco behind. We didn’t have TJ’s in San Francisco then. There were a few places that carried imported chocolates like Cost Plus – but nothing that also offered their low prices. Continue reading

Posted in Chocolate, Holiday - Winter, Nob Hill, Shopping | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

Mark Bittman Saves Marriage

 The Urbane Grandmother & GrandfatherWhy am I perched on the edge of a rickety folding chair, in a crowded, stuffy bookstore waiting to hear a man tell me what he had for breakfast? Everyone else in this room sees an author who is here to read out of his new book, sell and sign as many copies as possible and get out the door to dinner.  I see Mark Bittman, the man who saved my marriage.  He doesn’t know it.  And neither does my husband. But I precede the story. Continue reading

Posted in Musings | Tagged , , | 21 Comments

Christmas Tree Shopping San Francisco

choosing a tree - the urbane grandmotherChristmas tree shopping in San Francisco is a fairly new activity for me. Until I became a grandmother I was happy with the realistic faux tree that I hauled up from basement every year. It seemed like the correct economic and ecologic decision. For a pine scent I just burned candles. And then the magic and wonder of the holiday through the eyes of my granddaughter cast its spell on me. Suddenly the words ‘sensible and economical’ used in the same sentence as ‘Christmas’ became oxymorons. Santa and all he represents was making a come back into my life so it felt appropriate to honor the occasion with the real stuff.

Yesterday we went Christmas tree shopping.  And since our granddaughter is now four years old and of strong opinion, she chose the right one. But, before we left home we talked about where the tree was going to go. Because we have a small living room there were certain ground rules: the tree could only be slightly taller than she is and had to fit in the elevator.

We returned to the same lot we went to last year. The staff at Marina Middle School Christmas Tree Lot are charming and helpful. They were happy to fresh-cut the base of the tree for us and load the tree into the car. And proceeds benefit a good cause.

hide and seekSince the lot was not busy (Friday afternoon is a great time to go) she and I played hide and seek in our own private forest of perfectly shaped Christmas trees while Papa paid.

Here are just a couple other Christmas Tree Lots that also benefit good causes.

The Guardsmen: Since 1947 the Guardsmen have been raising funds to help disadvantaged children in the Bay Area. The lot is located inside the Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason. There is a jumpy house for the kids and I hear that there is booze for the adults.

Delancey Street Foundation: Providing residential self-help for former substance abusers. Founded in 1971 in an apartment in San Francisco. The sale of Christmas trees is an important training in the basics of sales. They also have a commercial division that provides decorating services to banks and large corporations.




Posted in Holiday - Winter, Marina | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Community Gardens in San Francisco

winter leaves the urbane grandmotherIt’s easy to tend your garden in the spring. It is full of beauty – the pale green shoots on the trees, the roses in full bloom. But to tend a garden in winter is to ‘dwell in possibility’ as Emily Dickinson might say. It is a cold, damp place that smells of rot and decay. It takes imagination and the ability to see a different kind of beauty. It is an act of faith and patience. Faith that you are planting the seeds in the best place and patience to wait until spring to find out.

I have the good fortune to be a member of Hooker Alley Garden – a community garden just a block from our apartment. The Recreation and Park Department manages over 35 gardens that are on City-owned property. Our garden, named for Civil War Army General Joseph Hooker, was created by a group of volunteers over 30 years ago. It was a garbage filled alley that was frequented by drug dealers and then rescued by my neighbors. I was on a waiting list for four years before I became a member.hooker alley garden the urbane grandmother Continue reading

Posted in Giving, Nob Hill, Playgrounds / Parks, Russian Hill | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments