Monday, April 21, 2014

In the Beginning

Eldest Daughter and I headed to London and Paris for Spring Break this year. My close friend and her family moved to London and I both missed her terribly and had also not been to London in 19 years.

In all seriousness, the best parts of this trip were the little moments: the observations Eldest Daughter and I had while seeing the cities through a different viewfinder, really catching up with my friend and her husband while walking their dog, seeing how happy their son is at university, the tulips in bloom. Their home is in Kensington, and while in the middle of it all, was far enough off of Tourist Central to recover from the frenzy of seeing Westminster Abby, the Tower of London, London Bridge, Buckingham Palace and the London Eye.

While Eldest Daughter slept in the first day, my friend and I took a tour of the five West London Sunday markets. Ruth, our Context Travel docent (I swear by Context Travel!), told us how the city grew and changed in this area, first with the arrival of the Hugonots then the Jews, thus explaining the proliferation of markets on Sundays. I wish we'd had more time at Spidalfield's Market and at the Columbia Road Flower Market. Her son, Eldest Daughter and the husband (who is also my friend) met us for lunch at the Sunday Up Market off of Brick Lane where I ate the best fish and chips ever made and they ate Ethiopian and Venezualan food. The son gave us a tour of his school.

Not far from there is Shoreditch and Boxpark, a funky area with live music and stores in shipping containers. That was fun, visually interesting. Eldest Daughter bought a gorgeous sundress. We then went to the flagship Top Shop store on Oxford Circus. Top Shop = Nordstrom Brass Plum. After helping the economy there we did the same at Miss Selfridge's. Bonus points to the husband for shopping with us. And for finding Pierre Herme, which I'll cover in another post.

Eldest Daughter and I explored Knightsbridge and Chelsea, went to the theatre (she chose Mamma Mia, which was well done except for the woman who played Donna singing off key half of the time), ate lunch in restaurants every day, and took in the sights at a leisurely pace. We found the house where The Parent Trap was filmed. We had tea at The Orangerie at Kensington Palace, the same palace where Kate, George and Will make their home.

We climbed the London Bridge and saw the exhibits there then walked along the Thames past Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and crossed back on the Millenium footbridge at the Tate Modern. We toured Westminster Abbey, built in 1245 and seemingly not given a thorough cleaning since, filled with so much history that we stayed far longer than we had planned. We saw the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. 

On our last night there we went for a drink at Oblix, on the 33rd floor of The Shard, a Renzo Piano-designed building in the London Bridge District and which has views city-wide. And then I cried myself to sleep knowing I wouldn't see our friends again until summer, when they visit the US.

Great visit. Too short.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Point WC

Eldest Daughter and I were working our way up the Champs Élysées this afternoon and happened upon a Point WC. It's both a shop and a bathroom. It sells bathroom products like decorative toilet seats, faucets and sinks, towel racks, colored toilet paper and sound making (sound disguising) machines. Heck, I get it. Everything is bought and sold. And it takes all kinds. And so that's how I spent 4€ on a brief pit stop. A dear friend told me that you make use of facilities as they present themselves.

Be sure to pop by the house to see if I found anything in the store worth bringing home.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Trifecta

I must preface this blog post by noting that Dave was out of town last week.

On Tuesday night I worked late in Palo Alto. And when I came home at 8:30pm and was upstairs with all Three Pinks, the garage door opened. We fled the house for our sweet neighbors' and I called the police. With the help of a big dog and his powerful nose, two men packing heat searched the house top to bottom, and then the garage and the yard. Eventually they declared it safe to return. We went to bed late. In my case, getting into bed did not translate to a good night's sleep.

On Thursday night I went to an NCL meeting, leaving The Pinks with instructions to turn on the alarm after I left. What I did not leave them with was an understanding of the Stay vs. Away alarm settings. And so an hour later one of them tripped the alarm and again, the neighbors came to the rescue. One came over immediately. A different one was there when I got home 30 minutes later.

And then there was Friday. Eleven hours of this day was spent in the ER. Where The Pink who instigated this adventure came to the conclusion that she prefers female doctors and male nurses. I do have to admit the department manager nurse who came to her rescue when the first nurse collapsed a vein while running her IV, was awesome. He was gentle and fast with needles, and entertaining as well.

On Saturday arrived Fabio, a gift from a friend. I'm going to leave him on the front porch for a while.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The hospital friend.

I set aside time Friday morning to walk with Lisa, who I talk to frequently but don't see nearly often enough. The last time we had plans I cancelled because one of the Pinks was sick and needed me. The sick and needy part doesn't happen very often, either.

So on Friday morning I got up and dressed for walking, and then ended up in the Emergency Room with a hysterical child. This child is witty to begin with and she's downright hilarious when she's on the verge. Eleven hours later we left the hospital with a diagnosis of something exceptionally rare for a child. This was one of those times I wished one was less exceptional. And so I cancelled on Lisa again.

Being the kind of friend she is, Lisa offered to pick up Eldest Daughter at school. And Eldest Daughter, who could have driven herself, then talked Lisa into dropping her and the unaffected twin off at the hospital to see The Patient. Of course she came in, too, since I needed a hug and I was getting tired of holding it all together.

Lisa has become my hospital friend. She is good, okay great, in a crisis and is tolerant of bureaucracy. She is super reassuring. She talks without babbling. She listens without judging. Lisa was in the waiting room when our children were born. She took me to the hospital a few times while I was pregnant. And she took in Eldest Daughter when Dave and I needed to make hospital runs in the middle of the night. Yes, runs. Plural. Even when her husband had the flu.

I didn't realize I had an official hospital friend until yesterday. I'm grateful for her. Hopefully you don't need a hospital friend.

Friday, March 14, 2014

My love affair with blown glass.

There's something about blown glass that intrigues me. It's like the ocean -- fluid, changing. It looks different as the light changes. I like how the basic elements of glassblowing haven't changed in 2,000 years. It's still just fire, movement, gravity and centrifugal force. I probably should collect blown glass. Or maybe I already do?

The first time Dave and I went to Venice together, in our 20s, we were so overwhelmed by the amount and variety of glass that we didn't buy any. When we went back for our 10th anniversary we visited the island of Murano, where Venetian glassblowing has taken place since it was banished there in the 13th century for fear of burning down the city of Venice. We made a point to pick up a significant piece, hand carried it back, and it's been displayed in our bedroom ever since.

Our family makes an annual trek to the Cohn Stone Studios in Richmond each fall to see the glass pumpkins and we often stay a few hours, unable to pull ourselves away from the talented tradespeople creating the pumpkins before our very eyes.

I remember looking long and hard at the blown glass jellyfish in Hawaii, fascinated that such a delicate animal could be replicated in glass.

While we were on the cruise in Mexico two Thanksgivings ago I listened to a speaker on a glassblower who creates in the style of waves. While this particular style of blown glass wasn't to my taste, it was an interesting talk and fascinating to learn about the techniques used to create this kind of art.

And recently I read a mediocre piece of historical fiction called The Glassblower of Murano, where I learned that huge glass chandeliers are transported hung in large vessels of water. It makes sense once you think about it.

Given all this, it's no surprise that Eldest Daughter and I visited the Chihuly Gardens in Seattle when we were there in January. The gardens are just 18 months old and include both indoor and outdoor space. Look at the floral piece in the photo above. It's 100 feet long and made up of 1,400 different pieces. This space, called the Glasshouse, must be available for event rentals. The Gardens contain eight galleries which are dark except for the art, lit all different ways.

Dale Chihuly is Seattle native, best known for his large-scale installations. That humongous floral chandelier in the Bellagio hotel? That's Chihuly. We also saw four of his pieces in the casino at Atlantis. Strangely, the largest public display of his work is in Oklahoma City. Inexpensive land? He also went to school at my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Once you get a visual grasp on how large his works are, you understand why he established the team approach to glass blowing. It would be interesting to know how it's all assembled so that the pieces don't break.

I look at the purple glass below and wonder how the glass doesn't break when it's very windy outside. I will be back in Seattle for a week this summer and plan to return to the Gardens so I can take my time through it.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Wanna be an Aggie?

We sniffed that possibility out by touring UC Davis this morning.

Davis is 45 minutes from our house, on the way to Tahoe. I'd long wanted to see more of the campus than we see from the freeway so Eldest Daughter and I tagged along with my sister-in-law and niece, the high school senior. Eldest Daughter has always said it was too close to home to consider and, although she came along today, she appears to still feel that way.

UC Davis is a college town. It felt like Berkeley to me in that crunchy way. But it wasn't as dirty and the buildings weren't as pretty. The campus felt fairly laid back and it would be a great place to go, in my opinion, if you studied agriculture, natural resources or environmental sciences. Bikes were everywhere and the campus was flat.

One of the things I liked about the school was the salad bar garden in front of the plant and environmental sciences building. From time to time the garden team hosts salad lunch days and students bring their own bowls, harvest their own greens and mix ins, and the school provides a washing station, salad spinners and salad dressing.

This was my second official college tour and it made me realize how much the tour guide influences the visiting prospective student's experience. While this tour guide was fairly knowledgeable and could speak from a memorized script while walking backwards, she lacked energy and the ability to engage tour participants.

Pictured here is one of the Robert Arneson Egghead sculptures. It's called Bookhead and sits at the entrance to the Shields Library.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Blue and yellow make green.

My brother, my dad, Thing 2 and I played poker on the last night of the annual three-generation ski trip. We didn't have poker chips up so we played with pastel colored M&Ms. It definitely changes the game when the colors don't have a set value. At one point my brother was out of greens so my father reminded us that blue and yellow make green. And then, after laughing hysterically, we continued.

It was also funny when, on the way home from Northstar, we talked about a book I've had on my Tahoe nightstand for several years. It's on the Donner Party. I started telling my brother that I've been meaning to read this book and my father said, "Oh. It's a cookbook?!" Again, hilarious. But only if you know California history.

We had three days of beautiful weather and togetherness. The snow is what you'd expect from the amount of rain we've had this year-- minimal. The best ski conditions are in the morning and you'd think that being right here on the mountain we'd be the first ones out. But no, we're a little lazy that way. Especially Thing 2. I love the way Thing 2 skis with my brother -- more aggressively and without whining. He challenges her.

My rocket scientist moment occurred when I took my boots back to Granite Chief because they'd been bothering me. The guy in the boot department managed to keep a straight face when letting me know that the likely reason they hurt was because I'd put new liners in without first removing the old ones! Lovely. Being able to laugh at yourself is a gift.

A storm was coming in as we headed back to the Bay. This weekend, as my family divides and conquers between Disneyland, a lacrosse tournament on Treasure Island and the NCL Tea, will be epic.