Archive for the ‘Love’ Category
I went to the store the other day, in need of a new pair of jeans. I have a certain brand and cut that I like, and alas, they are phasing that cut out. No big pile with four washes from which to choose, which is how it was the last time I went to the store. So I looked all over, dug through pile after pile, and the only pair I found was 7 sizes too big. Rats. Every other pair in the store was a stupid low rise cut, meaning I can’t bend over without people knowing what kind of underwear I have on. I don’t like that, and I doubt anyone who would be forced to see my crack would like it, either. I’m not a plumber. When I came home, I tried the online store, and look, they still have them! Plus, a coupon for 30% off! So I get my jeans, and save money. I hope I don’t regret only buying one pair. Perhaps I should have bought two. But since they’re going away, I kind of think it might be a good idea to look around and see what else is out there.
There has been a constant drip drip drip coming from our bathroom vanity, and our water bill went up this last time. Neither Ted nor I are plumbers (as I mentioned above), nor do we play one on TV, but at the same time, a drippy faucet seems like it should be solvable without calling a plumber and paying $75. Friday was my day off, and Ted replaced our bathroom shower head a few months ago, so I felt like, perhaps, if he can do it, I might be able to do it, too. I looked online, and saw a video that showed how to remove the faucet, but blurred through the complicated inner workings. Mostly it said, take it apart, take the parts with you to the hardware store to match them correctly, then come home and put them back in where you found them, and voila, problem solved. Well, that’s a mighty optimistic telling of how it could go, isn’t it? I was able to get it pulled partially apart, but not completely. I wasn’t sure whether to fight it and break it, or if maybe I needed a tool. So I took some pictures and went to the hardware store. There, they told me that it was difficult to disassemble because of hard water deposits, and I should just yank on it. OK. Back home, and now Ted’s here (he was out giving Maya a driving lesson on the freeways, which I am happy enough to miss…they make me nervous), so he just gives the darned thing one yank, and off it comes. Yay for big man strength! Back to the hardware store I go, with the spigot or whatever it’s called, but I didn’t bring the washer. So they sell me what they think might fit, and back home I go. I put it back together, with Ted’s help, though again, neither of us are plumbers. Get everything put back together, turn the water on, and out it comes…even though the spigot is turned off. Not working at all. Drats. Turn it off. Take it apart. Look at the washer, which has a hole that is slightly bigger than the hole in the original washer. I wonder if that matters. I don’t know. Back to the hardware store I go, this time with my worn out parts, where they dig around and find yet another kit, with a washer that looks much more like mine than the first one. Back home. Put it together. Run water. No better. What’s wrong? Could it be that I have the spring/washer combination put together backwards? Ted pulls apart the other side of the sink to see, and yes, it does indeed appear that way. So we try it again. YAYYY!! This time, it worked. No more dripping faucet. No more wondering how much it’s costing me to have it drip, and thinking about the dry January we’ve had, and thus far, dry February as well, so the guilt of wasted water. And it only cost me $3, four hours, and 3 trips to the hardware store.
Lots of construction around here, jackhammering apart our swimming pool. That was fun. Working from home has its benefits, but listening to someone jackhammer your pool for 5 continuous hours is not one of them. After they tore it apart, thankfully, they put it back together, re-tiled, re-plastered, and filled it with water. Then, walking by the other day, there’s this new sign. WTF? The thing is, even though we live in a condo complex, which is sort of private property, it is not one person’s property. So the pool is subject to all kind of county regulations. Like when they made us add new tiles a year or two ago, to add ‘ft’ to the ’4′ and ’6′ on the sides of the pool. Homeowner money had to go to adding signs to tell us that it was feet, not meters, even though diving isn’t allowed anyway. Frustrating. Anyway, I’m assuming that the sign is a county regulation, so we have no choice but to put it up, no matter how disgusting it is to walk past every day.
Awhile ago I mentioned that I have an avocado tree that needs a bigger pot. I had contemplated going and asking some people down the street if they’d be interested in selling me their lovely blue glazed planters, and I actually did knock on their door once, but they didn’t answer. I’ve noticed more often lately that even when people are home, they sometimes just don’t answer the door. That’s their right, I suppose, but I find it a bit odd. Anyway, I considered leaving them a note with my phone number, but after knocking, I went and played a bit with the planters, and GOSH they were heavy. I tried to imagine them with a small tree inside, and I lost my will. So on the first of my three trips to the hardware store yesterday, I picked up a huge plastic planter and a bag of potting soil, and after we finished fixing the faucet, I re-potted the avocado. My fantasy is that someday we’ll get fruit off of it, but I’m not getting my hopes up too high.
Valentine’s Day can be a busy, horrid day to eat in a restaurant. There are three days that I do NOT like going to restaurants in a year, and they are: 1. Valentine’s Day 2. Mother’s Day 3. New Year’s Eve. Too crowded; special, expensive menus; harried service; grumpy customers, due to the first three items, plus you probably had a reservation and still had to wait 45 minutes for a table. We don’t go out to eat on any of these days. But we do celebrate, which means some kind of yummy feast. February is mid to late winter, which is prime crab season in NorCal, so we decided to have one of our favorite meals…cracked crab roasted with garlic, butter, more garlic, and more butter, and noodles, with garlic, butter, olive oil, and a few more things. Gah, it was good. Ted had his beloved bok choy, and Maya and I had salad, as we do not belove bok choy. Then, to top it all off, Ted made an amazing apple cake that I think we’ll be having for Thanksgiving this year, because it was SO delicious. Really, really good. If you behave, perhaps I’ll post the recipe for you.
Today I’m off to give blood. Back in November when my grandma fell and broke herself up, she had to have some blood, and I’ve been meaning to do it since then. Other weekend plans, holidays, and sore throats have foiled my best laid plans, but today I’m all clear. Eat a big breakfast so I don’t pass out, go give blood, and then come home and maybe have a nap, which is usually just what I want after giving blood. I’d like to see a movie this weekend, but I still have two more days, so no rush, right? Nice. OH, I forgot to tell you, my Grandma is home! She’s healed well enough that she is now home again, no longer on the schedule of the nursing home, taking their pills and doing exercises, all of that. I hope she keeps up some of the exercises…stronger muscles make for a less wobbly Grandma, one who is less likely to fall down and break anything. What a relief! Yay Grandma!
One of the benefits of membership to our local PBS station is that they sometimes have a ‘free member day’ at local museums. Several years ago, that took us to the SF MOMA to see a Picasso exhibit, and Maya and I spent a lovely day in San Francisco together.
This time the ‘free member day’ was for the de Young Museum, one of two fine art museums in San Francisco. They have several exhibits, but the current Special Exhibit is a collection of paintings from the Mauritshuis in Holland, which is a museum that is being expanded and is under renovation until mid-2014. While they’re tearing up the place, they sent some of their paintings on tour, the most famous of which was the Vermeer painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring. I read the novel several years ago, and was excited to see the painting for free, so those of us who were willing to get up early and be there 1/2 hour before doors opened (I remembered how crowded the Picasso exhibit was, and that was on a weekday) hopped in the car and went. That means Ted and I. Maya is at that teen age when it takes something more important and exciting than a once in a lifetime chance to see a famous painting in person to rouse her out of bed and be out the door by 8am on a Saturday. We got there at 9, doors open at 9:30. As sometimes happens in a long line, we struck up a couple of conversations with those around us. I was actually pretty impressed that people will make such an effort to see art. The couple ahead of us had driven up from Cambria, spent the night in a fancy hotel, and were spending the day. They were also members of PBS. Then there was a guy behind us, who had flown down from Portland to see another exhibit, on famous ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, which is leaving in a few days. I was thinking about that, and about how people with certain interests and a certain income level are willing to spend a certain amount of money for such high minded things. If you don’t have the income level to see the exhibit ($25 per person), or to donate to your local PBS station, but you do still have the interest in art, many museums have free days, when you can see the exhibits for free, one day a month, though that won’t get you in to see the Girl and her fancy earring…that’s extra.
The highlights of the exhibit, for me, were Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, which was so much more lovely in real life than online, and Rachel Ruysch’s Vase of Flowers.
We toyed with buying framed prints of these two paintings to display in our home, but decided that it might seem sort of weird. So I bought some magnets instead. Our fridge is getting arty.
We also saw the exhibit called Rembrandt’s Century, which was comprised of a few paintings and a lot of etchings, both by Rembrandt, and by his 17th century contemporaries. I was glad that I overheard the gentleman behind us saying he had flown down from Portland specifically to see the Nureyev exhibit, because it was well worth seeing, and I don’t know if I would have known about it otherwise. There were photographs and videos of Nureyev dancing, but the most spectacular parts of the exhibit were the costumes, which were dazzling.
There were tutus and costumes from many famous ballets…Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, La Bayadere, and Giselle, among others. They were sumptuous and so detailed. Just beautiful. I would go and see them again, if they weren’t leaving this week. So glad I got to see them.
After our museum visit, we decided to go out for Chinese food. Just in time for Lunar New Year! Our first thought was to dine in our old neighborhood, Clement Street. The parking gods were not with us, however, and we left, discouraged. Not to be thwarted, we decided to drive a bit further out into the avenues, and get Dim Sum. When we lived just off of Clement, there was a tasty and reliable Chinese restaurant near us, Ton Kiang. They have a sister restaurant further out, that has good Dim Sum, so that’s where we went. We were able to park pretty quickly, and only 2 or 3 blocks from the restaurant, which any big city dweller will tell you is fine parking indeed. The good thing about Dim Sum is that, if you’re hungry, there’s no dilly dallying around with a menu and waiting for your food to be prepared. You sit down, and waiters start coming by with trays of food. You take what you want, and not what you don’t. We ate a bit more than we should have, because we were quite hungry and there was a lot of dumpling and starch involved, so we were pretty full by the time we left. I’m not sure of what all we had, but I do know we had bbq pork buns, shrimp dumplings, eggplant stuffed with shrimp, mushrooms stuffed with shrimp and chilies, asparagus, spinach, little riblets, shrimp and rice noodles, and maybe something else. If I could do it over, I’d swap out the ribs and get the salt and pepper calamari instead, but by the time that came around, we were far too full. That’s the down side of Dim Sum. You shouldn’t be greedy and eat the first things that they bring (like we did), and instead, bide your time a bit. Next time perhaps.
Now I’ll finish off this long winded post by telling you that when we got home, I had the overwhelming urge to re-read Tracy Chevalier’s novel, ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring‘, which is a completely fictional story, supposing that the girl in the famous painting is a maid in Vermeer’s household, and what her life might be like. Luckily, my copy survived the loathsome book purge of 2007, so I curled up on the sofa and devoured it. I finished before bed, which pointed out to me the difference between a book that completely draws me in, like this one, and one that fails to do so, like ‘Lincoln’, by Gore Vidal, which is sadly not holding my interest. Now I kind of want to see the film version. I think I saw it when it came out in theaters, but I’m not positive, and that would have been about 10 years ago. Maybe time to make a stop at our local video store.
Overall it was a lovely day. It would have been nice if Maya had come into the city with us, but on the other hand, it was quite lovely to have a date with my handsome husband in our favorite city, doing things we love together, just the two of us. I’ll call that a success and not complain a bit.
My lovely Grandma turned 90 last week, and on Sunday we celebrated with her in the care facility where she is recovering from the fall she took on Thanksgiving. Hopefully, the x-ray she takes later this week will show that she is recovered enough so that she can go home.
For the party, I volunteered to bring the cake. Grandma says her favorite cakes are fruit cake and chocolate cake. I don’t know many people who like fruit cake, and I have no idea how to make it, so I opted for chocolate on chocolate love. Then came the question, to make the cake from scratch, or use a box. I vacillated on this one quite a bit. The chocolate cake I made for Maya’s birthday last year turned out pretty well, but for some reason I just felt safer using a box mix. I believe I’ve said before how much baking makes me nervous. SO precise. SO easy to end up with a dry, blah cake. I didn’t want to risk that. In the end, I decided to make a doctored up mix cake. I remember my old roommate, Troy, used to add extra oil and an extra egg to cake mix, with moist, delicious results. Here’s the recipe I used.
Darn Good Chocolate Cake (Cake Mix Cake)
- 1 box devil’s food cake mix
- 1 (4 oz) box instant chocolate pudding mix
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 4 large eggs
- chocolate frosting
Preheat oven to 350.
Grease 2 9-inch round cake pans*. Dust with flour and tap out excess. Set pans aside.
In a large mixing bowl, blend all ingredients except the frosting on low for one minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat for 2 – 3 more minutes on medium low. The batter will be very thick and should look well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans and smooth it out.
Bake for 27 to 32 minutes. Mine was ready in 29 minutes**.
Cool in pans for 20 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks.
*America’s Test Kitchen made a cake the other day, and they said to put some parchment paper in the bottom of your cake pan, and it comes out more cleanly. I did this, and the cake came out VERY Easily. However, I didn’t butter and flour the parchment paper, so it stuck to the cake. Oh well.
**A toothpick through the center of the cake came back with just a little gooey batter. I don’t like to wait until it’s completely clean, because the cake continues to cook a bit after you take it out of the oven, and it can turn out dry.
Aunt Flo, Grandma’s younger sister (by 16 months), Me, my cousin, Carey, and the Birthday Girl
Next came the frosting question. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to use canned frosting, doctor up some canned frosting, or make frosting from scratch. I’ve read that adding a bit of vanilla to canned frosting can take it from blah to delicious quite easily, but I decided to go for scratch, as frosting is pretty easy to make. Maybe. At first I was going to make this recipe, which was the one recommended in the cake recipe. But I don’t like to whisk in my cooking pots, as it scratches the non-stick surface of the pot, and the whole “DO NOT BOIL” warning made me nervous, and the ice bath thing seemed too worky for me. So I abandoned that idea, and went instead for an America’s Test Kitchen frosting that you can make in the food processor. I like that, because I don’t have a stand mixer. I had to find the America’s Test Kitchen recipe elsewhere, because they require you to pay a subscription to access their older recipes. The recipe says to use milk chocolate, but I had already bought semi-sweet, because that’s what the original recipe I was planning to use called for. So I went with that.
Foolproof Chocolate Frosting
- 20 tablespoons (2½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened.
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- ¾ cup Dutch-processed cocoa
- Pinch table salt
- ¾ cup light corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 8 ounces milk chocolate , melted and cooled slightly (see note)
In food processor, process butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Add corn syrup and vanilla and process until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Scrape sides of bowl, then add chocolate and pulse until smooth and creamy, 10 to 15 seconds. Frosting can be used immediately or held (see note).
Makes 3 cups to frost one 9-inch 2-layer cake
NOTE from ATK: This frosting may be made with milk, semisweet, or bittersweet chocolate. For our Fluffy Yellow Layer Cake, we prefer a frosting made with milk chocolate. Cool the chocolate to between 85 and 100 degrees before adding it to the butter mixture. The frosting can be made 3 hours in advance. For longer storage, refrigerate the frosting, covered, and let it stand at room temperature for 1 hour before using.
I thought the frosting was perhaps too bitter, so I added a little bit more sugar. Grandma likes dark chocolate more than milk chocolate, though, so I hoped that the frosting wouldn’t taste too bitter on the cake. You know what? It didn’t. There was a lot of frosting, too, so I was able to cut the layers in half, and make four layer cake, which means more frosting. Have to remember that for Maya’s birthday, since she LOVES frosting. One thing though, I might try a frosting recipe next time without the cocoa powder. There’s something about that cocoa flavor that’s so distinctive, and if you don’t love it, it can really come on through. It kind of did in the frosting.
What a yummy cake, what a lovely party, and what a wonderful Grandma. Happy Birthday Grandma, SO glad that we were able to celebrate with you. I hope you’re home in your house again, drinking the coffee YOU like, sitting in your favorite chair, smoking your favorite cigarettes, and watching your favorite TV shows, all on your own schedule, not the schedule of a facility where they tell you when to get up, when to bathe, when to eat, all of that.
This is my Grandma and my cousin’s daughter, Julia, last year
Thanksgiving Day was a lovely day of fun, family, and wonderful food, as it should be. It also brought the disquieting news that my Grandma, my mom’s mom, had fallen pretty hard and broken her wrist, and was in the hospital. Blech.
So Friday I drove to Stockton to see her, to verify with my own eyes that she was OK, to try to find out what was going on. The news was not good. And sitting in a hospital is rarely fun. You wait and wait and wait all day for someone to come and tell you what is going on. I’m pushy enough in these situations, that I go out into the hallway and find the proper nurse, ask her my questions, and see if I can hurry things along. Friday, for most of the 8 hours I was there, she was queasy and really just wanting a cup of coffee. They wouldn’t let her have any until they were sure that she wouldn’t have surgery. Finally, towards the end of my visit, it was determined that no surgery would happen until Saturday, so she got some coffee and food. It was determined that surgery was the option she wanted on Saturday. It was discovered that there was something on some test or another that the doctors didn’t like, and made them think perhaps there was bone cancer somewhere. So we tried to get a CT Scan, but something went wrong (perhaps that she threw up the icky drink she had to take before hand, I don’t know). That was Friday.
Saturday was a day on hold. Started out with another (this time successful) CT Scan, then off to surgery, which didn’t happen, due to an irregular heartbeat. She has mitral valve prolape (which seems to run in the family, as her sister and my cousin both have it as well). I guess that threw off the anesthesiologist, who wanted to wait to hear from the cardiologist before he was willing to put her under.
Sunday, they carted her off early for surgery, having gotten the OK from the cardiologist. Thankfully, the surgery went well. They put a metal plate in her wrist to help hold it together. The CT Scan showed NO SIGNS of cancer. Whew. That’s a huge relief. Grandma has had health problems for the last few years, and I doubt that she has the strength to power through cancer treatment. She has always been tiny and thin, but now she’s lost weight and is probably 95 lbs dripping wet.
I drove to Stockton on Sunday, and made it back to her room before she did. It was so nice to see her, and to spend the afternoon making her life miserable by being loud and laughing with my relieved cousins. I asked her several times if she wanted us to leave for a bit so she could get a nap, and she said no, it was really nice to listen to us, her granddaughters, all together. We are so rarely all together.
So now I’m home, and she’s going to be discharged soon to go to the convalescent home. I’m not thrilled with those places, but this is a pretty good one, and she went there a few years ago when she broke her leg and had surgery. The people there are kind and supportive, and she likes them. It is 5 minutes (with traffic) from her house, and 5 minutes from my uncle’s house, so it’s very convenient for my Great Aunt (who lives with my Grandma) and my uncle and aunt. I think having them there as much as possible is a great help in her recovery, so I’m all for it.
You know, after all of this, I’m kind of ready for the weekend to be over, and to go back to work. But I’m really relieved that she’s OK.
(image found on a Facebook page dedicated to Thanksgiving, here)
It’s Wednesday morning as I write this. I’m trying to motivate myself to get dressed and go for a walk, because I’m going to meet my lovely MIL for a movie date in a couple of hours, and then I’m going to spend the afternoon baking assorted yummies for tomorrow. But I do want to stop and contemplate the holiday, and what it means to me. When I was a child, Thanksgiving was a crummy holiday, which you can read about here and here, if you’re so inclined. Now, it’s a lovely holiday, perhaps my favorite of the year, though I also love Christmas and baking day. I like the very idea of Thanksgiving, of stopping to consider that which you have been given, and being thankful for it. Some things I’ve been given, which I’ll quote from last year’s post:
And, of course, stop to think about what I’m thankful for. That is a long list, as we are very fortunate. First of course, I’m very thankful for my family. Ted, Maya, Genevieve….my in-laws, with whom we will sit down and enjoy a harvest feast tomorrow….my Dad and Step-Mom…my brother and his wife…my sisters and their husbands and my beautiful nieces and nephews….my Grandma and Great Aunt…my cousins and their families. So many blessings.
I’m thankful for my friends. Friends are the people that you choose to surround yourself with, people who support you in times of trouble, and cheer you on when things are going well. I have made some wonderful friends in my lifetime, and I’m grateful for every one of them.
I’m also thankful to have a job. And not just any job. A job that is very flexible and allows me to work from home. That is a great blessing right now. And of course, I’m thankful for Ted having a job. And I’m thankful for the health insurance that we have through Ted’s job. (2012 update, Ted is no longer at that job, but we still have insurance, and he’s working as an independent contractor, so I’m thankful)
I’m thankful for our health. Because it’s the most important thing a person can have, aside from love and family.
And at the most basic level, in a time when so many people are hungry, homeless, or on the verge of one or both, I am thankful for our home, for the food on our table, for the safety and love that we share. For the bounty and generosity that surround us and enfold us.
And I’m also thankful for my blog, and for you, my internet friends. Have a very happy Thanksgiving, one filled with love and laughter, and perhaps some pie as well.
After lunch with MAS the other day, sophisticated city dweller that she is, I would add that I am thankful for the luxury of a washer and dryer in my home. I do not miss the days of living in the city, and sharing a coin operated machine with the other tenants. Or my first apartment, where we had to use the laundromat. Blech.
Lastly, I’ll leave you with a Thanksgiving prayer, that I read in Dear Abby this morning. I know, I’m an atheist, what’s with the prayer? Whatever. It’s a lovely sentiment.
We thank Thee for food and remember the hungry.
We thank Thee for health and remember the sick.
We thank Thee for freedom and remember the enslaved.
May these remembrances stir us to service,
That Thy gifts to us may be used for others.
~ Pauline Phillips, aka Dear Abby
I adore pomegranates, but truth be told, I seldom buy them. They’re expensive, $2.50 or more each, and they’re a lot of work. While I’m at the store I might think, “Sure, I’ll de-seed it, and we can snack on the seeds, or I can put them in a salad, or whatever…” But then, the expensive fruit ends up just sitting there, not getting eaten, because none of us obtain the wherewithal to deal with them. Until now.
On Saturday, Ted and I went into San Francisco in search of some specific walnuts to make a walnut pie for Thanksgiving (Franquette, which are rumored to have the best walnut flavor) at the Farmers’ Market there. Unfortunately, the walnut lady had stayed home due to rain, and we ended up getting plain old black walnuts. No worries, I’m sure they’ll be lovely in our pie. While we were looking around at the different offerings of the Market, I came across a booth with HUGE pomegranates, selling for $1 each. Even knowing my proclivity for laziness regarding extricating seeds, I couldn’t pass up that deal. So I bought 2.
Do you listen to ‘Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me!’ on NPR? If not, you really should. Really, it’s hilarious and silly good fun, and sometimes you find yourself learning something useful as well. Each week they have a guest, and this week it was Martha Stewart, who, amongst other things, told them how to get seeds out of a pomegranate. Good timing, no? When she described it, I couldn’t quite picture how it would work, so I went to my trusty internet, and found a video. Yay, thanks Martha!
I tried it, and it worked SO very well. Now I have a LOT of pomegranate seeds, and I got to smack the heck out of the pomegranates in the process. All of those seeds, from only 2 pomegranates, can you imagine? (I left the bowl of little tangerines in the picture, so you could get a sense of what a BIG bowl of seeds I have.) Yum.
Today is The Day of the Dead, otherwise known as Día de los Muertos. It is a day to remember and pray for beloved family and friends who have died. I thought maybe I’d slow down and reflect on some loved ones who are gone.
First, of course, is my mom. It’s been 4 1/2 years since she died, and of course, I still miss her every day. I miss our long conversations, and I wish she were still here. I don’t miss her being sick, and all of the stress that that gave me. Mostly, I think about all of the things that she’s missing by not being here. Pomegranates and persimmons are in season right now, and she loved them both. Thanksgiving is coming up soon, and for several years, she worked for Catholic Community Services in Juneau, working to help people keep their children, when they were at risk of losing them due to child abuse. She would train them in better ways of managing stress and anger, and give them parenting skills. It was a job that she loved, but which was SO exhausting and often depressing for her. While at that job, she had a lot of vacation time, and she would take off a month this time of year and come to California. She would spend a week with my Grandma and Great Aunt, a week with me, a week with her friend Kate, and then another week with my Grandma and Great Aunt. It seems strange to me for it to be Autumn, with the days shortening, and not have her visit to look forward to. Gosh, I wish she could see how popular ‘The Big Bang Theory” has gotten. She <i>loved</i> that show from the very beginning. I miss you, mom. If you were wrong, and there is a life after death, I hope you’re happy and healthy and well. If you were right, and there isn’t, then at least I’m glad you’re not sick and suffering any more, and you live forever in my heart. Sigh.
Next is my Grandpa. He died in the spring of ’88, and I still miss him quite often. He was a difficult man to like, but sometimes easy to love. He used to make me chocolate cake, and we’d watch horse races together.
Then there’s Ted’s father, Pops. He died in November of ’93, which is SO long ago now, but it feels like yesterday. Ted and I were newlyweds, and that was the first big deal thing we had to deal with as a couple. He was ill for a while before he died…not bedridden by any means, but he was slowing down mightily. It was very difficult for him, because he was a man who loved to be busy. Ted and I were talking about him yesterday, and how he loved his job, loved working, so much, that when he finally retired (after having a stroke left him unable to perform surgery), he had about 2 YEARS worth of vacation time banked. So he basically went on vacation for 2 years, and THEN retired. Crazy, huh? I have a fond memory of him teaching me to calypso dance, and the many parties that we had at his house.
My Great-Grandma, my Mom’s Grandmother, was the first big loss I suffered. She was such a loving and sweet woman. She died in November of ’87, just after her 88th birthday. I remember going to visit her and my Great Aunt (Aunt Flo, who now lives with my Grandma) in Modesto as a kid. She was always busy with crocheting. Actually, not crochet, but some kind of needlework that I don’t remember, where you pull the yarn through a pattern, and make a pretty wall hanging or maybe rug. I’m not a crafty person, never have been, but I always admired her dedication and her love of the craft.
My other Grandfather, who I never met. I met my father when I was 21, my sisters when I was 22, and my father was going to take me to meet my grandparents soon, when my Grandfather died. I met my Grandmother for the first time at her husband’s funeral. My dad had told them about me, though, and I was welcomed into the family with open arms. I do wish I had been able to meet him…he seemed like a great guy. I wish my only memory of him weren’t him in his coffin.
Last, of course, I have to remember my sweet dogs, Genevieve and Samantha. Genevieve, I miss her so much every day. I still cry quite often, thinking of her. She was such a sweet funny girl, and we often talk about funny things she did, and how she made our lives richer by being here. Going for long walks with me, spinning and digging and laughing when she was excited. How delicate and pretty she looked after being groomed. How ruffian and scruffy she looked after sleeping in the mud. How bad her breath smelled sometimes. How she would follow me from room to room, even after she went blind. How she unplugged my computer from the monitor, causing me to think maybe I was going blind as well. Samantha, who was my childhood dog. I got her when she was just a puppy, and had her until she was 16. She grew up with me, moved to California with me, kept me company when we would move YET AGAIN and I would have to go out and make new friends. Easier done with a faithful dog by your side. She died in 1988, the same spring that my Grandfathers both died. It was a difficult time.
I’m thinking of all of you today, remembering good times that we had together. I miss you terribly, but as long as I live, you will always be in my heart.
(picture found here)
Ted’s doing a radio/video show called American Liberal, on TRadioV.com, and at the end of the show, they (he and his co-host) give a recommendation…sometimes it’s a book, sometimes it’s an album, sometimes it’s a life thing. This last episode, Ted recommended an overnight getaway. I agree wholeheartedly.
Maya went to Los Angeles (Orange, actually) last week, and Ted and I had 4 days together in between her leaving and coming back. She had fun with her cousin, went to look at some colleges, went to the beach and looked at the Stars on the Hollywood walk of fame.
While she was gone, Ted and I did some work (boring), but we also went on an overnight away to Santa Cruz. We haven’t gone on any kind of vacation at all in quite awhile. When you have an old blind dog who needs 12 or more pills a day, plus tends to give you about 15 minutes warning before she craps up the house, you don’t leave town. Too cruel to take her with you, because she’s blind. Too cruel to leave her behind, because she’ll crap up someone else’s house. Between that and the month-to-month of our finances, vacations aren’t as often as we would like them to be.
Way back when, in 1983, I saw The Fixx at Day on the Green, at the Oakland Colosseum. It was the beginning of my Jr/Sr year of High School (I graduated in 3 years), and I was feeling like I had my whole life ahead of me. Which, duh, you do. By the way, that was an amazing concert…Oingo Boingo, Madness, Thompson Twins, The Fixx, and The Police. So I was excited to see them again.
Ted worked a bit on Friday morning…I went for a swim. Then we went to lunch at a delicious and somewhat fancy restaurant in our area, Bridges (remember the restaurant from Mrs. Doubtfire?), and then drove down to Santa Cruz. Back when I was in my early 20s, I used to sometimes go to a place in Santa Cruz called “Cooper House”, with my friends. They had some killer rum drinks. It first turned into a nasty crepe place, which I think doomed it. Then it was destroyed in the 1989 earthquake. Anyway, I like that neighborhood, though it’s gone through a lot of changes since I spent any time at all there in 1986. So we walked around, looked at the shops (some chain stores, some independent…several thrift shops with used clothing), enjoyed ourselves. Then we went to the Boardwalk, and talked about fond memories of our childhoods going on the rides, though neither of us wanted to go on them anymore. I have to say, I’d rather go to Santa Cruz than to Disneyland any day of the week and twice on Sundays. The rides aren’t necessarily as good as Disneyland, but the ocean is RIGHT there. You don’t pay to get in, only to ride. There are decent restaurants right on the pier, in easy walking distance. The lines aren’t NEARLY as long. The smell of salt water is in the air. And while there’s no chance of running into Donald Duck or Ariel while you’re walking around, there are cave people on the sky ride. In the summers, they have free concerts there on the beach. Not top name acts, clearly, because the venue can only handle a couple of hundred people, who bring their own chairs or towels and sit on the sand.
So we were there to see The Fixx, who were amazingly great. They were as good as back in 1983, and I suspect that if I’ve aged, they have as well. And I have. They had two shows, and we stayed to see both, which was a good thing, because they played two separate sets, with different songs. Their new album, Beautiful Friction is really good. Really good. I really enjoyed hearing the songs. But when I heard the songs from the early 80s, I LOVED that even more. At one point, when they were playing Red Skies, I remember thinking, “Oh, the Police are next!” Crazy, huh? It’s been almost 30 years. After the concert, we went to dinner (fastish food, since it was after 10 and not much was open).
On Saturday, we decided to go to see 2 Days in New York, which I’ve been wanting to see, but isn’t in our town yet. I’m not sure if it will make it here. So we went to Berkeley, and then came home after that.
We were gone maybe 30 hours total. It was so nice, so relaxing, just to get away a bit. From home. From work. From responsibilities. From so many things that we actually cherish. I’m with Ted. I recommend it. Highly.
Last week was Ted and my 19th wedding anniversary (link is to Ted’s blog, where you can see a slideshow if you’re interested….we look so YOUNG to me). It seems so strange that so many years have gone by, and yet I still sometimes feel 27. But then I look at my pictures, at my face in the mirror, and I think, oh yeah, I’m not 27 anymore. Oh well. We had a lovely day.
We started off by driving to Muir Woods for a hike, with a pit-stop in Sausalito for sandwiches. We saw a segment on Check, Please, Bay Area about a deli counter in a little market, Davey Jones Deli, and we thought we’d get sandwiches there. All I can say is, YUM. Perhaps the best sandwich I’ve ever had. The ingredients were so obviously made with care, obviously the best possible quality, extremely fresh, all of that. Also, quite innovative. I had the porkberrywich, which is seasonal and not on their menu, and consists of pulled pork, strawberries, raspberries, maybe some mustard in there, and Cole Slaw sans mayo, on a dutch crunch roll. Really, really good. Ted had the Cuban, which was (clipped from their website) ‘Pulled Pork, Ham, Turkey, & Cheese with plenty Irish Mustard, Pickle & Pepperoncini, Fresh Jalapeno, Lemon, & Cilantro, Lettuce, Tomato, & Onion with Roast Garlic & Red Pepper Sauces on a Po’ Boy Roll.’ Maya went traditional, and had a tuna salad sandwich. She wasn’t as impressed as Ted and I were. I think she liked it OK, but she’s loyal to Morucci’s sandwiches, closer to home. I’ll be diplomatic, and say that if you’re in the Walnut Creek/Lafayette area (aka, the wrong side of the tunnel), go to Morucci’s, but if you’re anywhere near Sausalito, go to Davey Jones Deli. It was pricey, sandwiches were $12 or $13 each, maybe a bit more. Three sandwiches, three drinks, one small bag of chips, $42. But you could taste the quality, so I felt like it was money well spent.
Then we moved on to Muir Woods, which was packed with people. Tourists galore. We heard people speaking Italian, German, French, Hindi, and English in many accents, Southern, South African, British. I could have done without the crowds, but the trees are beautiful. It’s such a peaceful, beautiful place. The coastal valleys of California used to be populated with these old growth redwoods, but most of them were cleared for the wood, and for houses. Luckily, people were thinking ahead a bit, and saved this beautiful place. After hiking for a couple of hours, we made our way back to the car for the ride home.
Once we got home, Ted and I wanted to go out to a celebratory Anniversary dinner. Maya didn’t really want to go, which was fine with all of us. It was nice to spend family time together, and then have couple time together in the evening. So I made her a grilled cheese sandwich and some fruit for dinner, then Ted and I went out to one of our favorite local spots, Chevalier. Our favorite part of our honeymoon was in Paris, so we often try to have French food for our anniversary. I went all cheese, with a cheese plate appetizer and stuffed squash blossoms for my entree, which was delicious, but I don’t think I’d do all cheese again. Pretty rich stuff. The squash blossoms are something I’ve seen made on TV a few times, and had vowed to try if I ever saw it on a menu. These were stuffed with goat cheese, and very yummy. Ted started with a salad, and then moved on to a skirt steak. He really enjoyed it. It was a lovely anniversary.
On a more somber note, I went to Stockton that Saturday. I have a friend, Helene, whose lovely 18 year old daughter, Bronte, passed away from complications of Cerebral Palsy and Pneumonia. Helene and I are not close friends, we have not kept in touch over the years, I had never met Bronte, but when I heard of her loss, I wanted to be there for her. I came away wishing that I had met her. Everyone who met her talked about her wonderful, joyous spirit. She will be greatly missed by many people. Mostly, of course, her broken hearted parents. I cannot imagine anything worse.
Also while in Stockton, I stopped to see my Grandma, who hasn’t been feeling well as of late. I was dismayed and shocked to see that she has lost quite a bit of weight. She’s always been a tiny woman, so she didn’t have anything to lose. She looks to weigh about 90 lbs, she’s weak and tired. She needs to eat more, to give herself the strength the get better. She has no appetite. She eats two or three bites, and loses interest. Why does it seem to always come down to food? With my mom, who couldn’t eat, and lost 60 lbs in her last few months. She had the weight to lose, but you can’t really live on your fat, your body needs nutrition. With Genevieve, who didn’t eat much, who had to be coaxed. It’s so stressful. So now the thing is to try to get my Grandma eating, hopefully nutritious foods with lots of calories, but which won’t upset her stomach. The other thing to do, which is amazingly difficult, is to try to accept that perhaps this is the beginning of her decline, and that she may not be with us forever. I don’t want to accept that in the least. I love her so much. She means the world to me. But she’s suffering right now, and I don’t want that, either. Sigh. I feel worried. Last night my dreams were of ideas for fattening foods that I might get her to eat. Not very restful.
What else…we saw another really good movie a few weeks ago, Safety Not Guaranteed. It’s about a magazine intern who’s covering a story for her magazine; a man has put an add in the paper, that he’s looking for someone to time travel with him. Safety not guaranteed. So she pretends to be interested in his theories of time travel, and to be willing to go back in time with him, in order to root out the story. Quirky and wonderful, and ultimately quite touching.
Maya has finally gotten Ted and me hooked on Game of Thrones. She’s been trying for awhile. We don’t get HBO, but for some reason it’s working on OnDemand right now. I have no idea why, but we’re enjoying it. We just finished Season 1 last night. Wowee.
Maya took her first AP class this year, AP European History. She got her test results on Friday, and she got a 5! Wow, amazing stuff. The scale is 1 – 5, and many colleges give credit if you get a 3 or above. She was hoping for a 3. Nicely done. She’s also doing swim team this summer, in a very casual, rec-team sort of way, which means she goes to practice every day, but only goes to the meets that she feels like attending. Fine with us. She has already shaved 6 or 7 seconds off of her time from the beginning of the season. She came to the sport late, starting last year at the age of 15, when you swim 100 meters, and most of the kids had been swimming for at least 5 or 6 years, some more.
Ted’s still looking for work. I’m enjoying having him around the house. He’s sleeping well and getting a lot of time in following his favorite hobby, road biking. Nothing like free time to let you improve your health and bike condition, huh? Unemployment isn’t so bad, really, except for the lack of a paycheck. So he’s keeping his contacts and applies for a variety of things. There are a couple of possibilities out there. Keep your fingers crossed for something GOOD to come along very soon.
That’s a lot of dribble about hair, but what I really want to say is how much I love being a mom. Happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms out there. You don’t have to tell your kids how much you love it, if you’d rather make them feel guilty for all of the sacrifice. “Oh, I never sleep.” “No, you take the last cinnamon roll dear. I don’t want it.” “Oh, I’d love a new pair of shoes or a new purse or a trip to Europe, but you know, kids are so expensive“. Go for it. These things may all be true, but really, it’s the best job ever.
Today is my darling Maya’s 16th birthday. I can’t believe it’s been 16 years already. Wow. The weekend is going to be full of birthday parties, family and friends and cake and fun. Part of having a daughter, in this time when things have gotten so much better for women than they were in the past, and yet being aware of how far we still have to go (birth control, harassment at work or on the street…why are these still issues? Insane and frustrating.)…part of that is seeing articles like this, and having them cause me to think of her. Of my hopes for her, and my dreams for her, and sadly, my fears as well. For her birthday, though, let’s concentrate on hopes and dreams and conquests made, shall we? 100 years ago today, the date of my daughter’s birth, women first voted in San Francisco. Happy Suffrage, SF women! And Happy Birthday, Maya, my darling daughter, my dream come true.
March 29: The right of suffrage was extended to the women of San Francisco yesterday for the first time, yet there seemed to the observer little out of the ordinary. The women came and took their turn at signing the register, picked up their ballot and entered the booth just about as naturally as did the men. To the election officers there were many new things however. Registrar Zemansky had appointed many women as election officers and their influence in the voting places was plainly evident. In the Twelfth precinct of the Fortieth district Mrs. Rhoda Ringrose, who was an active worker for equal rights, was a judge of elections, and early in the morning she intimated that she did not like the smell of cigar smoke, but did not mind the smell of oranges. The men gave vent to their feelings. “We ought to have some Florida water to sprinkle around here,” said one and there was a chorus of suggestions of sweet-smelling things. The election officers in the Fourth precinct of the Fortieth district, all men, introduced a touch of the feminine. Two of the booths were labeled “For Ladies,” and two other “For men,” while another bore the sign “Take Your Choice.” In the booths “for ladies” were mirrors, vases of flowers, powder puffs and powder, hairpins, napkins, a towel and the walls were covered with pictures. Policemen on guard seemed to evince the greatest measure of curiosity and concern and were studiously polite to the fair suffragists. Said one, “I don’t think it’s going to be as bad as all of us thought. I’m glad to see the ladies vote. Just think that all along, foreigners ignorant of our ways, who could barely sign their names in English were allowed to vote, while these good women were barred out.”
Source ~ SFGate Wayback Machine
* See, I had this post all written, about how Maya’s birthday this year is the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in San Francisco, wow, how awesome…then I proof read the post, and duh, it was reporting about *Yesterday*, meaning, March 28, 1912. I didn’t want to let it go, so even though this isn’t accurate, it stands as originally written. Call me Mike Daisey if you like. Drats.
The dreaded day came and went this week. Gen’s medical conditions got the better of her, and we decided that we didn’t want to keep fixing one thing to just have another pop up. So we put her to sleep on Monday afternoon. We miss her sweet face SO MUCH. She was such a good girl, and we love her so much, and we’re so sad. But we know that she’s not suffering now, and that making sure she didn’t suffer was our responsibility. Damn it.
I keep thinking, I want my dog back. But when I think that, I don’t mean the dog that paced the house for hours at a time, unable to settle down. Not the dog that couldn’t see and spent her time bonking into things. Not the dog who was losing her fur and had a big bump on her back from injections. Not the dog who was beginning to suffer from seizures. I want the dog back in that picture up there. The dog with the big smile on her face who used to run down the stairs to greet us when we came home. The dog who would lick our toes when we went barefoot. Who would spin around and around and dig up the condo complex dirt when she was excited. The dog who went for long walks with me and slept by our beds. That’s the dog I want back. Goodbye sweet baby girl. We miss you horribly.
(Ted wrote a lovely post, with a nice picture montage that shows what a pretty girl she was, here.)
There’s no two ways about it…Genevieve is an old lady. She takes 8 pills a day to keep her from having diarrhea, which sometimes works. She take 1 pill a day to help keep her from peeing uncontrollably. She takes 1 pill a day to help her appetite and cognitive function. She’s blind. She doesn’t leave the house anymore, except to go in the back yard to do her business. We take her out front sometimes, but after 2 1/2 years of being blind, I think it’s scary for her. I can’t leave her in the back yard, because she might get stuck behind the air conditioner unit or tangled up in the rose bushes.
I’ll admit, I miss my walking buddy. I miss the days when she was thrilled to go for a 3 to 4 mile walk with me, trotting the whole way, happy to be home to her water and a nap. I miss the days when she would follow me around during the day, especially after I came home to work. She stopped coming upstairs about 6 months ago, after almost falling down the stairs a couple of times. I think up is fine, down is dangerous.
But now we’re in this new time, a time when we have to watch her and make sure she’s not suffering, make sure she’s content and comfortable. Sometimes difficult when a previously piggish pooch suddenly becomes a presently picky pooch, turning her nose up at many of my attempts to get her to eat. Sometimes she’ll go on a strike and not eat for 2 or 3 days. Once this happened, and we made an appointment to have her put to sleep the following Monday. But then she rallied and started eating over the weekend, and the vet said it was up to us, there was no immediate need to put her down. Ugh. What a horrid decision. Do we put her to sleep now, to avoid any future suffering? Or do we wait, promise ourselves that we’ll watch and do our best, but try to enjoy our last days with her. We decided we weren’t ready to let her go, as she was still comfortable and content. But we’re on alert, watching for that time when she won’t be OK anymore. We’ve talked to Maya, who says she’s not happy about it, but she understands. Ugh.
We love our baby dog. We try to give her all of the attention and love we can, though like an old person, she’s not always interested or engaged. At least she’s not grumpy. For now, it’s about trying to get her to eat. Trying to get all of those damn pills down her throat. Trying to keep perspective, and know that we don’t want her to suffer, but at the same time, we don’t need to let her go before her time. Not easy.
My mom was a big believer in reading. She was addicted to it. She read more than anyone else I have ever known. She loved to read everything, almost any genre, almost any book. LOVED it. When she was trying to figure things out, she would read to find a solution. Recipes, career advice, whatever. Parenting style. She loved her parents dearly, and she firmly believed that they did their best. But she also thought that they could have done better. So when she found she was going to have kids, she wanted to find out how to do things better than her parents had done. For the most part, I think she did an amazing job. She taught us so many things. To love your family and put them first. That people are not for hitting. That knowledge is more important than grades. That honesty is a value to be respected and honored, even if that means letting go of some much cherished lies. That a good book can be more important to you than a bad friend. That a good friend can be more important to you than a bad family member. That a good family member is worth doing anything for. I don’t know how much of this she got from books, how much she got from her family, and how much was just her. But I have felt really lucky in my own parenting, that I don’t often have to think ‘my mom goofed this up, how can I do it better?”
Of course, no one is perfect, and no parent is perfect. My mom made mistakes. She sometimes said one thing and did the opposite. She trusted her books too much sometimes. Anyway, I heard an author on the radio a while ago talking about a parenting book, about not putting excess stress on your kids by over praising them. Much of what he said resonated with me and I agreed with, but one thing he said reminded me of how we do not grow up in a vacuum, and that how our friends’ parents raise them also affects us. He said that you should not tell your kids, especially your girls, that they are beautiful or pretty, because it puts too much pressure on them to be pretty, and if they don’t FEEL pretty, it puts them in a strange situation of wondering if you’re lying. It gives them the idea that the most important thing that a girl can be is pretty. That if she isn’t pretty, she’s not worthwhile. That a better way is to tell them things you like about them. My mom raised me this way. She would say, “I love the way the sunlight reflects on your hair”. “I like your wrists…they’re so delicate and elegant”. “Your smile lights up your face”. All fine and good, but because my friends all were told they were pretty, in front of me, and I wasn’t told that, I grew up wondering if perhaps my mom thought I wasn’t pretty, and these compliments were just consolation prizes. Like, ‘too bad you’re plain, but at least you have elegant wrists.” See how good intentions sometimes don’t work so well? Sigh. So I grew up not knowing if my mom thought I was pretty or not. A girl should really think that at least her parents think she’s pretty. Yes, the pressure is out there, the pressure to look good. It’s not as important as how you treat people, as your sense of humor, as your brain or your heart or your soul. But it’s all over the place and very much there. I confessed to her how this method made me feel, once, when she was telling me the theory behind it. I think her heart broke a little, and she felt like a failure to a certain degree. But even then, I wondered, had she thought I was a pretty girl, a pretty child, or was she just trying to make me feel good? Maybe there’s no way to really make a girl feel confident in a culture so obsessed with looks, I don’t know. Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered if she had told me I was pretty every day. Perhaps I wouldn’t have believed her.
But back in November, I went through her boxes of books. All 55 of them. Looking for some books that Richard had said he wanted, some books that I could send him for his birthday in early December. Her books are still at Kate’s house, as she’s planning on selling them on ebay, and we don’t have room for them here, and they’re covered with cat hair, which would probably kill Ted. So I went to Kate’s house, and she and I and dug through box after box after box. One thing I found was my baby book, which was pretty awesome to find. I haven’t seen that since I lived with my mom, back when I was 20 or so. Maybe before that even. Another thing I found was a set of binders, where she was trying to work out issues she had with her parents, my Aunt Colleen, that kind of thing. I skimmed them, and decided I didn’t want to try to bring that much frustration and pain into the house, and that she had gotten a lot of that stuff out of her system on her blog, which I can read any time I want to. So I didn’t keep them. But as I was flipping pages, I found one page, written when I was maybe 15 or so…and all it said was…
“Julie is the most beautiful girl in the world.”
I carry those words in my heart now. They fit just right, and they feel good.