Behaving Like Grown-Ups at San Francisco’s Clift

September 6, 2010 by  
Filed under Travel

By: Tosha Woronov

We are parents, which means our recent family getaways always seem to involve some over-blown resort with a swimming pool, water-slide, splash zone. I had grown tired of it, and missed the vacations my husband and I used to take, in those halcyon days before having our son –exploring a city through day and night, untethered by lunch restrictions or nap schedules.

I wanted to travel like grown-ups again, and for our son to be a part of that.

I simply could not don another adhesive wristband required for pool entry; I wanted to travel like grown-ups again, and for our son to be a part of that. And so we three headed to San Francisco, the city that inevitably causes me to lament the youth I never spent there. To shake things up we booked a two-night stay at the Clift in Union Square.

Once one learns that the Clift is the lovechild of designer Philippe Starck and hotel genius Ian Schrager, it’s pretty easy to conjure up advance adjectives to describe it. Trendy, funky, edgy, sleek? Yep. It’s all those things. The stone exterior is (almost) unmarked, just minimal letters whispering to you among the blaring Geary Street traffic, “Pssst. Hey – I’m the Clift. Come inside. You know you want to”. Very cool.

The valets are stylishly dressed and beyond charming (which seems fair, since parking is $50 a day). Just as one doorman-model entreated us to enter the dark and purple-hued lobby, I hesitated –suddenly wishing we’d chosen a place less…hip. Peeling a Swedish Fish off of my son’s t-shirt, I thought: We don’t belong here…must find a kid-friendly, pool-soggy hotel right NOW.

“Mom! You HAVE to come see this. It’s the biggest chair in…the…WORLD!”

But the staff was surprisingly warm and friendly. No one noticed or cared that my 5 year-old was wearing candy, nor did it seem to matter that he was announcing, in his terribly un-chic, outside voice: “MOM! You have to come see this! It’s the biggest chair in…the…WORLD!” And so it seemed. So big in fact, that he could not – but still tried – to climb atop it (much to my horror), which also seemed to be an acceptable activity as far as the lobby staff was concerned.

And so I relaxed, and had a look around. The lobby is very very dark, which makes it all the more fun to explore. It’s more of a functional art gallery, with furniture pieces by Salvador Dali and Ray and Charles Eames, a dramatic floor-to-ceiling fireplace decked out in bronze, and a sofa with steer horns. I was suddenly Alice (in Wonderland), had she the good fortune to drink from a bottle labeled “Vogue Me”.

The Living Room adjacent to the lobby is fun too, particularly the whimsical black and white photographs of plastic animals dressing its mood-lit walls. People were actually lounging in here –reading the paper, playing backgammon –although I couldn’t help feeling that they were planted; it was all too perfect.

I’m a sucker for a beautiful bar, and the Redwood Room really did me in.

Ah…and then I wandered into the Redwood Room. At night, this space becomes a standing-room only “nightclub” packed with hipsters and the beautiful set. Yikes. But I got to hang here on a late and still quiet Friday afternoon, which allowed me to drink in not only its grandeur, but also an artfully crafted $20 sidecar. I’m a sucker for a beautiful bar, and the Redwood Room really did me in. Its backdrop is a breathtaking 30-foot lightbox illuminating sparkling bottles of booze. Story has it that a single 2,000 year-old tree gave its life for the rich redwood paneling adorning the walls and hand-carved bar. The crunchiest of tree huggers would be hard-pressed to find a more noble sacrifice for the tree. Entranced by the hand-etched Venetian mirrorwork lining the bar’s surface, I understood immediately that here is where the Clift’s (near) century-old history is preserved. Even the multimedia digital art show, which does nothing for a girl like me, can’t mar its timeless elegance.

Primed as I was by all I had experienced in the lobby and its environs, I was disappointed once we got to our room. It was small –which might be expected in an old, city hotel – but shockingly so, for a deluxe room (2 tiers up from standard). And where the Starck design succeeds so beautifully downstairs, it comes off cold in the guest rooms. The lavender walls appeared almost tacky in the late afternoon light, as did the orange acrylic sidetables. Having the word “Ikea” run through my mind as I unpacked in our “luxury” hotel room was unsettling.

Our little room on the 7th floor became a welcome recharging station.


I will say this about the room: the beds are very nice, which is a big deal to me. After a restful night spent on perfectly firm mattresses and delicious 400-thread count Italian percale bedding, we were pretty close to forgiving the room’s shortcomings. In fact, once we drew the drapes (blocking out the not so lovely view of a rooftop), lit a few lamps, and allowed the light purple walls to do their thing, the décor started to grow on me. There were no real amenities in our deluxe room to speak of, which was ok. After all, we were here to experience the city, not to lay around all day in fluffy robes, chowing on room service. (We did enjoy an early morning buffet in the hotel’s stunning Velvet Room, which included fancy schmancy pastries, delectable meats and cheeses, and photo-worthy slices of fresh fruit, $28 per person.)

In the end, over two day’s time showing San Francisco to our son (Pier 39 and the sea lions, Golden Gate Park, trolley cars, Chinatown, a ride over the bridge, Lombard Street, and several random and funky meals around town), our little room on the 7th floor became a welcome recharging station.

Clift (Stay)
Redwood Room (Drink)
Velvet Room (Dine)
495 Geary Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

CLIFT Hotel Package

-   Two-Bedroom Suite Package (sleeps 2 adults in king bed and 2 kids in double/double beds)

-   Including continental breakfast for up to 4 ppl per day

Includes a choice of 4 tickets to either the Walt Disney Museum, Exploratorium or California Academy of Sciences (4 tickets max per stay); or

Rates starting at $500.00 per night ($60 extra per night per additional child or adult)

Valid until December 30, 2010, based on availability.


A Good Night To Die

June 21, 2010 by  
Filed under Adoptive Families, Family

By: Jillian Lauren

This weekend I went to San Francisco for Opium Magazine’s Literary Death Match at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts . You can read a great write-up of the night here.

After recording an interview with Rumpus Radio, Stephen Elliott and I joined my fabulous SF friends in the Yerba Buena Gardens for a picnic. I tried to bribe judge Daniel Hander (also known as Lemony Snicket) with spring rolls and vegan cookies. He was having none of it. Danica Suskin and Chris Marco took the pictures.

I love doing the Death Match and other events that merge literature and performance in fresh ways. Their website states that, “Our ultimate goal is to perform the Literary Death Match all over the world, and to continue to showcase literature as a brilliant, unstoppable medium.”


Interview with A New Dad

June 18, 2010 by  
Filed under Parenting

My husband, Jordan Gill, always dreamed of becoming a father. On April 14, 2009 his dream came true when our daughter, Chloe Madison Gill, was born. In this interview I asked him to reflect on his first year as a father.

Q What has surprised you most about becoming a father?

A How totally distracting it is. There’s not a moment in the day when I’m not in some way thinking about her. People told me all about how much it would change me and how I had never loved anything as much as I would love this child, but nothing could have prepared me. I am totally smitten with her.

Q What moment stands out in your memory about seeing your daughter for the first time?

A The first moment was a little tense because she didn’t APGAR so hot. I remember thinking that there would be crying, and when there wasn’t, I got scared. But then she cried out and got more color, and through the weighing and bathing I was overcome with emotion. I remember holding her for the first time and looking into her eyes. She held eye contact and I felt like I already knew her and I felt like she already knew what was going on. She was born and then she was ours.

Q What do you love the most about being a dad?

A I love everything about being a dad. Even the hard parts, like if she wakes up in the middle of the night and I have to get out of bed from a deep sleep, are nice because I get to spend time with her and rock her back to sleep. Even when I have had a long day at work and I would give anything to collapse into the couch with a beer, I am happy to get to spend the end of her day with her, giving her a bath and putting her to sleep. Other than that, I really love watching her encounter and explore the world. She is changing so much everyday, and seeing her find words for things and develop right before my eyes is magic. I don’t even know how she knows what she knows. Most of all, I love that she and I have a separate relationship and our own special time. I give you extended time on Saturdays to do your own thing since you are home with Chloe all week, and I look forward to it all week. I put Chloe in the stroller or in the carrier, and we set off. We walk for hours, exploring flowers in the neighborhood or meeting up with family and friends at the local farmer’s markets. I feel like the gender stereotype is for the mother to do the lion’s share of the work, and sometimes we fall into that because you are with her more and know where you have everything stored, but on those weekend days, it is really nice and affirming to have to do everything myself. It builds my confidence as a dad.

Q What is your favorite memory from Chloe’s first year?

A There have been so many amazing moments with her. My initial thoughts go to the sound of laughter. There are so many times that I have laughed until I cried with her. She loves to laugh and is pretty good at getting the joke and realizing what it is that she is doing that is funny and repeating it. But the truth is that the most amazing moment of the first year is still the very first moment. Your labor was epic. There were days of contractions and false alarms and back and forths to the hospital and physical discomfort and lack of sleep. Finally, when the labor started in earnest, I watched you do the most amazing thing ever – watched you push herself further than I thought possible, and all of a sudden we were a family. It was that immediate. One moment a couple. The next a family.

Q What are your dreams for your daughter?

A I want her to be happy and comfortable in her own skin and to believe in herself and in her dreams. I want her to always feel that she has a home with us and a place she can come back to, but I want her to be brave enough to leave and chase her own potential. I can’t wait to see who she becomes.


Modern Living: Simply Sorted

May 25, 2010 by  
Filed under Modern Living

By: Shira Gill, Personal Organizer

Modern living is hectic enough as it is, but once you introduce kids into the equation, keeping your life simple and organized can seem like an impossible dream.

As a new mom and a professional organizer, I have learned that sometimes it only takes a few minutes to see big results. Conquering the clutter will restore your energy and bring calm and balance into your life. Here are a few simple tips to get you started:

1. Refrigerator makeover!

First, toss anything that has expired or gone bad. Next, ditch the junk and replace it with healthful alternatives. Skip the soda and make spa water by filling a few glass pitchers with water, lemon and cucumber slices or fresh herbs. Instead of buying TV dinners loaded with salt and preservatives, try making a lasagna or turkey meatloaf that can be frozen in individual portions. Store nuts, veggies and fresh fruit in grab-and-go containers so you’ll have healthy snacks when you’re on the move.

2. Ready, Set…Clean!

Feeling short on time? Get the whole family involved by challenging them to a clean up race. Set your kitchen timer for 10 minutes and use the time to toss stray trash and return misplaced items to their correct homes. When the timer “dings!” everyone will be shocked at how much they were able to accomplish in such a short time. Celebrate by playing a game or indulging in a yummy dessert.

3. Mail Overload!

Use a standing file with dividers to store all incoming mail. Designate one day a week for bill paying, scheduling, and responding to invites and you’ll never have to worry about overdue notices or overlooked obligations. Recycle the trash and junk mail right away. You can also reduce junk mail by canceling unwanted catalogs and opting out of unsolicited commercial mail for five years by contacting The Direct Marketing Association. To register with DMA’s Mail Preference Service, go to

4. Important Everything Holder

Ever panicked because you can’t remember where you stowed the key to your safe deposit box or your child’s birth certificate? Take the guesswork out by creating an “important everything holder” and storing it in a safe place in your home. Mine has everything from family passports to treasured photos and my original wedding DVD. Any time I need to locate one of these crucial items, I know just where to find it.

5. Bedroom Bliss

Need a vacation but short on time and/or funds? Splurge on some fresh flowers and a scented candle and make the bed with your best set of sheets. Take a few minutes to straighten up, leaving the floors and surfaces as minimal as possible. Put on your favorite CD or iPOD play list. Your bedroom will be transformed into a chic retreat in no time. Now you just have to promise to relax!

Shira Gill is the founder of Simply Sorted and Simply Sorted Baby and keeps things tidy in the SF Bay Area. For information and to sign up for her free monthly newsletter please visit


My Heart Belongs In San Francisco

March 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Travel

By: Brandy Black

Back to the city I love the most, the city I crave, the city that makes me feel chic and fabulous – San Francisco. This time rather than adorning shopping bags and lattes I was sporting a diaper bag and a toddler with the wife by my side. The family trip did not make my experience any less pleasant than the last; in fact we had a blast. We arrived atop Nob Hill at The Huntington Hotel after having been delayed for 3 hours in Los Angeles.

Grumpy and hungry I checked in while my wife chased Sophia around the lobby. The woman at the front desk handed me a tray with warm towels for the three of us and we were baptized; it was just what we needed to press reset on our weekend getaway to my all-time favorite city.

If you are a travel enthusiast, trips with a toddler require special planning and most importantly a little help from the babysitter.

We used the hotel-recommended service for both nights of our stay. I highly advise this; it allowed us to go the amazing Nob Hill Spa just off the lobby. The menu of services are vast and incredible, you can’t go wrong. We basked in the hot tub together and read by the fire.

Once dressed, we walked to the other end of the lobby and up the stairs to Big 4 Restaurant. We sat fireside once again, listening to live piano music and eating delicious food prepared by previously awarded “Chef of the Year” Gloria Ciccarone-Nehls.

What better recipe for romance than being softly serenaded in a dimly lit room with a cocktail in hand?

Waking up bright and early is not usually on my agenda for a vacation, but I have yet to convey this to my daughter. So the family arose for a 7AM breakfast in bed accompanied by none other than Dora on the flat screen TV. By 8:30 we were out the door and hiking the San Francisco hills in search of a quaint coffee shop for a pick-me-up. Beverages in hand, we were off to the California Academy of Sciences. This museum includes an aquarium, a natural history museum, a planetarium, and even a 4-story rainforest environment; it is truly a treat and must not be missed. If I have learned anything about traveling with my daughter it’s that she’s on vacation too and including entertainment for her is sure to make one big happy family.

We topped the afternoon with a cable car ride up and down the hills of San Fran and a late afternoon snack at Yank Sing, notably the best Dim Sum in town. The three of us will vouch for that; we couldn’t resist as the servers rolled past with their bamboo dishes of delectable rolls.

Hands on our bellies, we stumbled out of the Chinese eatery to roam the streets once more.  

After walking off our delicious meal, we hailed a cab to Union Square for a little shopping. Zipping around in the taxi may have been my daughter’s favorite part of the trip. I don’t know if it was the walkie-talkie, or that she was huddled tightly between her two moms pointing at the scenery out the window, but she talked about it for hours.

Once the evening came upon us, our daughter was exhausted and we were ready for another night out on the town. Our agenda was simple: drinks at Farina and dinner at Delfina in the Mission District. This is my new favorite part of San Francisco. Bustling with lively locals, this hip neighborhood has a New York style flair that is irresistible. We sipped fresh original cocktails at the Farina bar on our spin top stools and drooled over the menu, hoping we made reservations at the right place. I spun around to eye the patrons and felt as if I were in Soho. The re-purposed hand-hewn Genoese marble sinks along the bar topped off the simple yet edgy design. We could barely tear ourselves away when the clock chimed ten and we were due for our date with the well-known Delfina.

Our hesitations were quelled immediately when we read that Chef and co-owner Craig Stoll won the James Beard Award. We peeked around and the packed restaurant maintained a cozy atmosphere that begged for a bottle of wine accompanied by rousing conversation taking us well past our mommy-prescribed bedtime. The scrumptious meal spoiled us much beyond our expectations. Dungeness crab salad with ruby grapefruit, linguine with reduced sea urchin that melted in my mouth like butter and a parsnip carrot ginger soup that paired perfectly with our wine. It was a delicious evening and a well-needed getaway to my very favorite city –San Francisco!



travel tip iconTravel Tips for the Parents:


- Hire a babysitter and get out and enjoy your part of the vacation.

- If you have a little one, put the crib in the bathroom so that you have your time and the baby has a dark bedroom of their own to sleep peacefully.

- Use your concierge; they will introduce you to the neighborhood favorites that are more intimate and less touristy.




Huntington Hotel: $385 and up


Delfina- $25 and up

Farina – $25 and up

Yank Sing- $15 and up



Academy of Sciences- Adults $24.95/Children (12-17)- $19.95

Golden Gate Park- Free



[San Francisco photo- flickr member: Alan Picard]


Don't Wear High Heels On A Soggy Lawn

March 3, 2010 by  
Filed under Adoptive Families

By: Jillian Lauren


When the inimitable Dolly Parton gave the above-mentioned advice, she was no doubt on tour in San Francisco. I don’t have any pictures from the Mountain View show because I was busy stumbling after the baby while wearing- you guessed it- high heels on a soggy lawn. Or more like a slippery backstage deck area. But there is something gorgeous about rock in a rainstorm. Seen from backstage, the rain catches the stage lights and intermingles with the smoke amidst an amphitheater full of undaunted fans in ponchos and it feels like something extraordinary. Which it always is, really, but sometimes it’s easy to forget how lucky I am to regularly witness the transformative potential of live music. My friend Gina (wife of Bad Religion’s Brett Gurewitz) once told me that she always feels fortunate to live in rock-wife liminality- not exactly an audience member but not a performer either. My friend Danica was in the audience and now has a massive crush on Rivers, which probably would have happened anyway, but I think there was a little extra magic in that rain.

The guys still have the San Diego and Irvine shows left to do, but writing this from my desk at home, I feel like the hard part is over. And the hard part got pretty hard for a minute there. I skipped the Seattle show due to a raging migraine and schlepped all of our stuff through the airport the next day wearing sunglasses and barfing in trash cans (which, I suppose, is about as rock as it gets). The worst part was that I missed seeing our friends, but you can read about the show (and more about Ethiopian adoption, if you’re interested) on my friend Karin’s blog.

Things soon looked up, though. Our hotel room in SF was awesome, to the point that upon entering I felt it was necessary to grab Tariku and jump on the bed for a few minutes while laughing diabolically. Tariku ran laps around the Yerba Buena Gardens all evening while I tried in vain to convince him to go see the vogueing competition at the neighboring Center for the Arts. He was totally uninterested in the men walking by in glittery drag, preferring the eternally captivating delights of shuffling through dry leaves.

The next day I met up with my SF gal pals, one of whom happens to be the manager of exquisite corset shop Dark Garden. I used my iphone to bribe Tariku into compliance while Andrea fitted me with a gorgeous corset, coming soon to a Halloween celebration near you…





Jillian Lauren


Prop 8 Trial Updates

January 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Family


If you are interested in following the trial for Prop 8, here are some great resources you can check out.

Prop 8 Trial Tracker

Unite the Fight

American Foundation For Equal Rights

Photography by: Unite the Fight


Groundbreaking Gay Marriage Trial Continues- Repost-

January 12, 2010 by  
Filed under Family

Repost from
San Francisco


A Harvard professor testifying in a case challenging California’s gay marriage ban said Tuesday that procreation is historically not the only function of marriage.

In her second day of testimony, Nancy Cott, a U.S. history professor and the author of a book on marriage as a public institution, disputed a statement by a defense lawyer that states have a compelling interest to restrict marriage to heterosexual couples for the sake of procreation.

Cott said marriage also has served an economic purpose, with each spouse doing different jobs in the partnership. As the purposes of marriage have changed, the reasons to bar same-sex couples from marrying have gone away, she said.

“It seems to me that by excluding same-sex couples from the ability to marry and to engage in this institution, that society is actually denying itself another resource for stability and social growth,” she said.

Cott conceded under cross-examination that she couldn’t predict the consequences for society of same-sex marriage.

The lawsuit — brought by two same-sex couple unable to marry because of California’s Proposition 8 — is the first in a federal court to decide the constitutionality of state bans on gay marriage.

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker is presiding over the case without a jury.

More of this article at