"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring." Zelda Fitzgerald

Friday, April 30, 2010

Romantic Stargazing

Tonight A took me out for a date I forgot we even had scheduled, a night at the local astronomical observatory together. I sure did think of my brother-in-law, Doubleddog's husband, who is quite the night sky nut. I know he would have loved to be there with us, peeking through that giant telescope at all the twinkles in the dark.

It was a great date. Never mind that I forgot entirely about our plans and never did pack the  goods the boys needed (pajamas, toys, snacks, diapers for nighttime) for the drop-off at their sitters and who really cared that it totally slipped my mind to remember to make us a picnic dinner so that we wouldn't starve. We happened on a super cute little taqueria and had amazing tacos de bistec and camerones and all regrets vanished. Too bad the lengue was still in the pressure cooker and wasn't available for tacos yet. We'll have to go back.

At the observatory we were instructed carefully which eye-piece to look through and told that touching the telescope in any way was absolutely verbotten. Hazard of working with very sensative instruments, I guess. This super cute grandpa astronomer was manning scope tonight and walked us through peeking at Mars, Saturn (cool view of the rings tonight along with four of its moons!) and one pair of twin stars. Never really heard of twin stars before (stars that orbit each other quite closely) and wouldn't have ever known it was Mars I was seeing without being told so but, Saturn was stinking cool and pretty obvious. It looked like a cocktail olive...skewered by its rings, running straight up and down tonight and then the glittering sprinkle of its four moons on either end of the toothpick. Grandpa Astronomer told us that the brightest glitter speck was Titan.
Love the last line of this note by the observatory doorbell.

After we enjoyed the scope and chatted for a bit, we went out on the observatory deck and sat back in the warm spring air to gaze at the mixture of plane lights from La Guardia and stars. We can see more stars here than I thought and I even managed to find the Big Dipper. (Don't laugh....I stink at finding constellations and can normally only locate Orion and the Pleiades) Good fun to mix it up a little and try paying attention to a different part of nature that we normally don't spend a lot of time on as a couple. I'm pretty Earth focused and macro focused even within earthbound nature experience but, its good to remember that there's a lot more out there still.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Coffee Tree Very Pretty....

Well, they want too friggin' much for the house. Blast. Oh well. We're leaving our names and numbers and letting it all go for now...there are other houses on the market and other yards to dream of landscaping. Who knows what will come of even this house though...its a great place and they've been trying to sell it for a year now with no luck so, maybe they'll call us back yet. One thing I feel for sure is that if its meant to be our house, we won't have to sweat it. Providence will guide us on this one and we'll know what to do when...things will happen.

But in the meantime! There's all kinds of lovely things to enjoy, right here in the yard of our silly condo....

And in my kitchen....the coffee tree is blooming! First time ever!

Coffee blossoms smell a lot like jasmine or orange blossoms. Super yummy and that familiar starry white. I could imagine tucking them into the upswept hair of some Columbian bride. Pretty food crops are nice. This particular tree isn't actually ours...we're only long-term babysitting. It belongs to A's brother Miq and his wife Penny who are currently overseas with military assignments and needed a home for their glossy leaved plant while they country hopped for a few years. We take care of Planty (his official name) and are happy to report that he's doing well enough that he's been repotted several times, routinely shoots out new leaves and yes, now is having his first round of blooms. I feel like a good steward.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Real Estate Blues...

Have to chuckle about this cute blues man and am sending my sympathies out to you folks on "the other side" tonight because at this house, we're digging these blues and shimmying down to them, we're buyers not sellers and these blues aren't ours. I like the sound of the this guy and of the current market both, pretty musical if you ask me.

Tonight we put in an offer on that half-timbered Tudor we have been eying up and now we wait to see if they wanna sing the same tune or not.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Clean Up, Clean Up, Everybody Everywhere....


So, how do you get kids to clean up their own toys?

I keep finding that we get to the end of the day and toys are everywhere and there's no time left for clean-up because they're late for bed already and/or misbehaving/falling apart emotionally from exhaustion and so they just get hustled upstairs and I either clean up the toys for them once the downstairs is empty and quiet or just trip over the mess exhaustedly and head up to bed myself. Terribly helpful, right?

I realize that its important to teach children neatness as a habit and I also don't want my boys to grow too entitled about their right to a mommy-maid or their right to leave every little thing heaped in piles on the living room carpet just...because. So, short of singing the Barney "clean up song" a lot in a cheesy voice, what do people do to accomplish this goal?

I've considered having a designated clean-up time before dinner but I'm not sure how to adequately supervise while cooking and if I do it before I start cooking, how do I keep the small people occupied while I am in the kitchen? Do tell how you organized mommy types have solved this dilemma, how you've seen clever mommies teach this lesson, great ideas you've read somewhere on the topic or even your own idealistic or wacky brainstorms to get the point across. I take all suggestions...really, I got nothing right now.


Monday, April 26, 2010

California Lessons

So, now that that wild and crazy experience (the whole coast in 9 days with an antsy four year old, a wiggly two year old, a very pregnant mommy and one intrepid driver of a daddy) is under our belts...what did we take away from it all?

A and I talked about this all the way home from the airport last night. (Partly to keep ourselves awake and partly because we really do want to learn as we go and make every trip more cleverly planned than the last one.) The big lessons were:

  1. Plan pregnancy trips earlier in pregnancy.Okay, okay...many of you told us so and not so very deep inside we knew it was a little nutsy to be doing but, we did it anyway. For this particular trip, it may have been the right thing to do. I survived, A survived...we had no real problems or meltdowns and I'm still pregnant with no real signs of impending birth BUT...truly, it could have been easier if it'd have been at a different time, that's pretty undeniable.
  2. Do not pack a kid activity pack for each boy to carry through the airport along with their lovies. The fewer things you can carry on the airplane the better. Duh. Next time, a couple of books and a few tiny toys will go in the big main backpack/carry-on that we are bringing for everyone. Its no fun to be trying to convince tired boys to carry their stuff when you're already overloaded with your own detritus. Minimize.
  3. When planning real people (not just sights) into a trip, real organization and fore-thought are needed. I really stink at planning and we both stunk at coordinating our plans and ideas which meant that the actual trip schedule didn't really gel until um, the night before we flew out? *wince* That's a bit late for working into people's lives.
  4. One book is plenty of pleasure reading. I always bring too many books. Books are heavy.
  5. Maybe making a list of things we'd really like to do in the given destination is a good beginning plan. I am still kicking myself for not having fish tacos or other authentic Mexican roadside food, fresh avocados or Sangria soda while we were there.
  6. A change of clothes for each boy must be in the carry-on and then in the day-bag once we're out of the plane phase. Yeah. I figured it out after a day or two of repeated scenes frantically pawing through suitcases in parking lots.
  7. We need a real dirty clothes bag again. I brought a baby collapsible duffel bag to substitute for our deceased travel laundry bag and it wasn't nearly big enough which caused issues a couple of times.
  8. We should own a double stroller. Two umbrella strollers is kind of less great suddenly when you're lugging them through the airport. I plan to start the hunt asap.
  9. One umbrella is enough. I brought two and it was just more stuff to lug, ultimately.
  10. I need to turn my phone on as soon as I get off the airplane and keep it on. Oops! Sorry to those of you who tried to call me and could not figure out WHY you couldn't get through.

Stuff I did right? Oh yeah! I did a bit of bang-up planning that was fabulously helpful in execution. I'll be repeating the following:
  • Packing our travel snacks in a small re-usable grocery bag (courtesy of Whole Foods). So much better than the eminently rippable plastic or paper disposable sacks that I have used in the past.
  • Two water bottles. Genius to have one to hand to the backseat for the boys and one to keep up front for us...also helpful when one ran out and we still had half a bottle left in the other.
  • Ordering groceries for delivery our first day back home. Brilliant move. I patted myself on the back many times this morning when the truck pulled up at the door.
  • Remembering to put our mail on hold. Yes! I love it when I remember.
  • Buying advance tickets for tours we wanted to take. Was so great when we rushed in at the last minute and already had tickets.
  • Buying ziplocs to use with our first snack stop at a grocery store. Ziplocs are so incredibly useful. Put dirty underwear in them, leftover sandwiches, pills to take, jewelry, half used packages of food, and much more.
  • Brought along wet wipes. Yes! I love it when I remember. So nice to have for a million reasons.
  • Brought a portable potty with me. Brilliant, invaluable tool for potty-training tykes on the road. No worries when we're on the freeway in heavy traffic and he has to go or in a crowded urban location with no public toilet available. Suddenly, your car can be a private bathroom. Sounds kinda weird but, truly it was great.
Live and learn...that's what they tell ya, right?

Straight on to Baby!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

One more day!

Well, today was the beginning of the end of our California trip. We made it as far south as we're going and tomorrow we backtrack up the coast from San Diego back to Los Angeles and dip our toes into Hollywood, Beverly Hills...the insanity of the glitzy world that has created American cinema and then cool off with a fabulous cousin-heavy BBQ (Latin style I hear....carne asada all round!!! Wooohoo!!!). I am really looking forward to this big reunion. The downside of living across the country is that when the family starts rapidly expanding (which seems to happen with impunity in this stage of life) there's suddenly about twice as many people and most of them are people I don't know. Blast. Am making it a goal to get rid of strangers and fit names and vague relationship titles with real individuals and personalities.
                              Ru thinks this cousin and I are unspeakably twin-like...waddya think?

Today we had what sounds like a more low-key kind of day but, honestly, it was one of our most hard core plans so far. We got up and had breakfast with our kind cousinly hosts and then the plan was:
  • See Mission San Juan Capistrano
  • Eat an In n' Out burger
  • Go to the San Diego Zoo
That's about it. But, remember people...the San Diego Zoo...is...um....immense. We were there for about three-ish hours and we didn't even see half the exhibits. We picked what we wanted to see before we went in and just hit the star attractions on our list and breezed past the rest. Sanity requires this approach. Truly. 

The zoo was great though. We had zero meltdowns and A was very gracious and handled both boys completely on his own so that I could just walk with the camera and take my time. I stopped, a lot. I drank a lot of water. I went really, really slowly. And I made it...after we left and I got back to the car I fell asleep instantly and was comatose for about an hour but hey...that's healthy!

The animals at the zoo all seemed pretty happy, some amazingly so...which always makes me feel good. One of the things about zoos that often makes me cringe is the sight of some magnificent animal (often admittedly, endangered in their native space), pacing obsessively back and forth across the space of their, clearly too small, concrete cage floor. There wasn't a lot of that at the SD Zoo. I think it helps to have the climate to create real rainforests for the animals to live in and not lean so exclusively on concrete and plastic substitutes. The orangutan came right up the glass, palms against the window and stared each visitor down thoughtfully, cocking his head and looking in our eyes before loping off, the big male gorillas were taking lazy naps in the sunshine right up against the window and the mama and baby sat happily in full view for a good while too and the flamingos had built themselves nests and were pridefully standing up from time to time to let us all see their giant single egg on the mud mounds where they incubate (super cute). But there was the polar bear, pacing mournfully in front of the door in the back of his cage where his keeper comes and goes, bellowing over and over in wretched misery. I wished I had a big block of ice I could give him. I wonder how much the California climate causes those guys trouble and how much was some other cultural concern. Hard to know as a bystander why the animal appears unhappy. Captivity sure isn't all its cracked up to be, even if it is in some cases better than extinction. All that to say, the zoo was really a fabulous experience and the boys trekked through very energetically...like I said, we didn't have even one meltdown point which is saying a lot for a two year old who is totally off his schedule and being asked to run non-stop. They even kept going through their normal nap-time.

Mission San Juan Capistrano was good too, although I think I liked Carmel-By-The-Sea most. There was a lot of pretty sculpture in the Carmel mission and although it was smaller it seemed more intimate somehow and less production style. San Juan Capistrano had a lot more going on in their space:  a tannery, a wine press, olive pressing, herb gardens, a hospital...etc.etc. That's all once upon a time of course, today there are just a lot of docents everywhere, explaining loudly how this pit was used and what that stone area over yonder was called. It was still pretty, still had historic gravity, a beautiful chapel, lush gardens...the whole package but, somehow it was just, not quite as romantic as my first introduction to the mission idea had been.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Jogging Inland

Today was the first (and only) dip inland, away from our coastal plan to check out sights a little more interior. We breakfasted with my Cousin Chef and then headed into more deserty territory than anything we'd seen yet, rolling sand dunes basically with tufts of bluish grass, agave, yucca...all that good spiky stuff. All the very best in John Wayne sets.

The big plan today was: See California Spring Wildflowers. We went to a little town called Gorman which has mysteriously flower laden slopes, lupine, California poppies, little blaze yellow coreopsis and several others I can't place. We drove one key road in the small town of Gorman, photographed, ooed and ahhhed and then got back into the car after handing many granola bars, hard boiled eggs and orange sections to the four corners of the car for lunch and we drove away from the hills towards a flat plain area and found ourselves in poppy central. Lovely. Looked like someone had sprinkled a million pounds of Cheetos on every little ripple and rise...big swathes of blaze orange. We parked the car and got out for a nice stroll (read: most exhausting hike of the trip so far...many, many breaks on benches along the way) through the wild poppy fields and enjoyed the stupifying orange glow up close. At least as lovely as from the road. Mmmmm.....I love how silky poppy petals are in texture and how satiny they look too. Very delicately put together and extremely elegant the way the uncoil as they open from that little silken twist to a flared cup. Today we imagined the flared cup part. The only real downer about our day at the preserve where we hiked (Antelope Poppy Preserve, for the curious) was that it was still cloudy and a bit windy although it did clear off and beam sunshine down on us just as we were leaving. Wild poppies are finicky little flowers and they close at night, on cloudy days or even if the wind is blistering along to fiercely. No rough games. So, we saw huge waves of bright orange buds all curled up defensively. But, no matter...they're stunning just the same and this sort of thing only leaves us with more reason to come see it all again.

After the poppies we decided to head over the mountains to the cousin hosting us for the night. (Over the mountains was our own clever idea, you know...more scenic, right?) Heh. As we explained late tonight over tea and popcorn with bleary eyes....we really don't know anything about mountains. Snow yes but, mountains with snow on them...no, not really. The pass was closed on top. And so was the other pass. And the other pass was too. So we drove around for a long time, getting breathtaking mountain views, seeing snow for the first time in a few months and listening to the boys play rollercoaster in the backseat (Wheee!!!! Faster Daddy!!!! Faster!!!!) as we drove up and down the mountain roads, looking for some sort- of way out that wouldn't use of too much of our time or daylight. And eventually, two hours after our hoped for arrival time, we made it. Whew. Not so bad really. And just think...we can add mountain tops and snowdrifts to the list of things we've seen here in California, the land of many, many faces.

The other interesting thing about the mountain side-trip bit was that it gave us a first hand view of the area that raged with wildfire last year. Don't think I've ever really driven through anywhere that looked anything like that before...acres and acres of black trees, charred telephone poles and bare sand with stubs of burned shrubs and grass bases dotting the landscape. Wild stuff, man.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Stopping in Santa Barbara to Catch Our Breath....

One of our three guide books we thumb through daily on this trip says something to the effect of: "Santa Barbara--- A town blessed with astonishingly perfect weather, a gorgeous setting and the most beautiful local government building in the country!"

And then we got here and it was blowing, and grey and extremely chill...(maybe 40's or low 50's?)...with the whipping itself into a bitter froth. We hiked from our hotel through the downtown and found the courthouse closed (albeit very pretty on the outside) and did a little high wind browsing of the central shopping area and promenades. But, who cared that we hit our first chilly weather on the trip here in SB and who really had their happiness hung on the interior of the local courthouse anyhow? We were there to eat and see my cousin, the fabulous and incredibly wonderful chef at The Hungry Cat. Wow. We just asked him to throw us his favorites off of the menu and we were seriously blown out of the water. I know that my sentimental clannish feelings color things a tiny bit but, truly people, this will go down as one of the legendary meals of my life in my memories. He sent us wheeling through fresh oysters, chilled prawns, battered artichoke hearts, some of the sweetest crab I've ever tasted, elegant and tender halibut, oyster mushrooms, asparagus and among many others a cheese plate of ultra-stunning quality and a luscious bread pudding/creme brulee. So delicious. And people, truly, words fail me...I am so extremely proud of my clever, knife wielding cousin that I could just burst. He is the American Dream. Reaching for, succeeding, and soaring higher on the wings of his own raw ambition. I aspire, people, I aspire.

Besides our stellar dinner tonight, we've also driven past acres of farm country, carpets of strawberry plants as far as the eye could see and artichokes, lettuce, broccoli to boot. Produce, as far as you can squint. That was Salinas and a few other scattered, dirt black river valleys that we soared through. Lovely places to drive and drive. So green and lush and full of production in the the botanical sense. We toured the Steinbeck museum in Salinas (recommended!) and we both remembered how much we loved his books and how much more there still is to read that he wrote! More tomes for our couple reading list. Steinbeck is wonderful roadtrip reading. Somehow cozy to stand there amongst his personal effects and quotes and think fondly of the man. Note to self: Must make sure A reads Grapes of Wrath. I do like Ma Joad.

We've also been through Big Sur now, that inner artist contemplating, hippy magnet zone of lush redwoods, dripping forest and winding snaky highway, ribboning along the coast. (Not what I was expecting, I thought it'd be much drier and more rolling plains kind of stuff) I did like Big Sur.

We also wandered through our first mission in a lovely little burst of sunshine and warm weather. My idea of what a mission is will probly always reference my experience at Carmel-By-The-Sea. Mmm...wonderful. Missions (or at least this one) are these glorious little cloistered, holy places, with fig trees, rose vines, tumbling nasturtiums, quiet gravel paths and stunning gold leafed silent chapels where candles flicker and you can smell incense from the not so distant past. A and I both wish we could re-create a piece of that in our backyard if/when we get that tudor we're still mulling over.

So, that's the latest...California is still beautiful, still surprising us and our idea of the state is broadening by the moment. Tomorrow we will be hugging my cousins in person and starting our good times with much shoulder rubbing and progeny introducing fun. Am really looking forward to that! Now, I'm off to wake up A and figure out if there's a way to turn on the heat in this hotel room so I can quit sneezing and start snoozing. Sweet dreams all!!!