Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Goodbye, Columbus

and hello Elizabeth (and her aftermath). Bonus question: what's the connection between these two historical personages?

So I finished The Last Voyage of Columbus and have started After Elizabeth. So far, the story of politics and intrigue toward the end of Elizabeth I's reign is much more gripping than the sea voyages of Columbus. Those Tudors! Maybe it's just the complicated family relationships, but I also find this book more difficult to follow, and have to keep re-reading parts before I really understand the connections. Not that I can remember them for five minutes after I figure them out.

I also read In the Company of Cheerful Women by Alexander McCall Smith the other day. It was just pleasant and relaxing to read. In contrast to, oh, I don't know, say Watership Down. Which I can and will read, but find somewhat slow going.

Did you figure out the answer yet?

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Saturday was the annual Insect Fair, held by the Youth Science Institute over in Sanborn Park. Too bad Maya was feeling ill in the morning, again. At least we didn't have expensive tickets this time. Poor thing, she had to stay home while I took her brother. This was our third trip to the Fair, which is held annually. We always love it. They have lots of fun crafts, insects to see and hold, fun food for snacks, and a beautiful mountain park to walk around afterwards. Also a great horned owl for people to see. I love this beautiful bird for himself, but I also find it fascinating the way the jays in the park always know he's around and raise a huge ruckus in his vicinity. Oh, and best of all -- lots of free stuff. Love the free stuff. We got some cool plants for the garden that are supposed to attract beneficial insects (and hummingbirds), some pens, some seeds. We tried not to linger too long this time, because I don't like to leave Maya when she's not feeling good, but at least we brought her some raw material for crafts, and some plants she can call her own.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A difficult post

I found out recently that a friend of mine died suddenly at the beginning of the month. She was very young, with three small children. I'm not close enough to her family to ask for more details -- we were in a bookclub together, one that meets very rarely. I remember the last time she hosted. Her house was perfect, and she had made crepes. What was the book for that meeting? I can't remember now, but I do remember that she chose substantial books, classics rather than the latest hot novel. I can't believe I'll never see her again. Her family has set up a fund to help care for her children. You can view a page about her here. Information about the fund is around the middle, before the block of photos. This is a really sad reminder of how many things we take for granted in our lives, how lucky we are that so few things go wrong, and how awful it can be when they do.

Not enough books

in this blog or in my life, lately. So I checked out the following from the library:

The Last Voyage of Columbus by Martin Dugard
After Elizabeth by Leanda de Lisle
Nell Gwyn by Charles Beauclerk
Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan

Slim pickings on the new books shelf at the library.

I have started The Last Voyage of Columbus. It is very easy to read, pretty lightweight in my opinion. I have learned some interesting things, though, including a lot about Portugal, because I didn't know much of anything about Portugal before. I did know that a lot of world explorers were Portuguese (visit the Portuguese house at the Kelley Park history museum for a very nice exhibit) but I didn't know that Portugal was originally settled by the Phoenicians, which may explain their seafaring prowess. Another new fact for me: the type of sailing ship known as a caravel was Portuguese in design.

Talk about bad house keeping ...

We live in a dirty disorganized house. It only makes sense, really, because we are a pretty dirty, disorganized family when you come right down to it. You know how people insult boys sometimes by saying the throw a ball like a girl? Well, I clean house like a guy. I read an article recently that described the young man's college diet of pizza, conveniently stored in boxes under the sofa. I had to laugh, because guess what my husband was eating that week? Left-over pizza, conveniently stored in boxes on top of the stove. (Just giving the people what they want.)

When it comes time to leave the house, for a weekend out of town, say, things can be pretty amusing if you’re not the one caught in the middle of it. For example, when would think it is time to mop the kitchen floor? If you said just about the time you notice it is getting dirty (which in our house is about 5 minutes after I finish cleaning it), you are at least two weeks ahead of my schedule. In our house, the preferred time for these activities is on the morning of the day you are scheduled to leave for vacation. Sometimes an hour or so after the time you had decided to leave by. When do you finish packing? Well, most of it is done 5 minutes or so before the car pulls out, but you're not really finished until you have gone back 2 or 3 times for the last-minute things you forgot.

It's not just me. My husband is like this too. When I went into labor with our first child, after my water broke for heaven's sake, he came home and shaved. He then was trying to decide whether or not to take the garbage out (note that this task had remained undone previously) when I pointed out to him that I needed TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL! Maybe that's why we're so compatible.

I have often remarked that our house looks like an earthquake had hit it recently. People usually chuckle when I say that. I get the feeling they are appreciating my self-deprecating humor whereby I admit failing live up to some unreasonably high standard of housekeeping, my vivid imagery. No, as a person who has lived through an earthquake, I am just honestly and accurately describing how my house looks. The sad thing is, it's not really funny. I can't tell you how many women have commiserated with me over the terrible state of their houses, and when I see their house it is, to me, really clean and well-organized. I always feel betrayed, especially if I have let them see my house in all its awfulness.

Fire hazard? Tripping hazard? CAN I EVER FIND ANYTHING? Talk about wasting time.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Today is an amazing day

We saw the first oriole of the year at our birdfeeder

It is my sister Ruth's birthday

It is two years to the day since Maya started guitar classes

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Why wasn't that the weekend from hell?

Why would I say that was, on balance, a good weekend?

Well, Maya threw up in the car, but she didn't throw up in the Opera House. We all enjoyed the ballet together. Going to the ballet with the whole family? That's huge. Overall, positive experience.

Then Ziad hit his head and threw a fit, and sulked during half the walk to the restaurant. But -- he was over it by the time we got to the restaurant. We had a nice dinner. As I said, my husband even ate broccoli. We had a lovely walk home through Chinatown. Overall, just really nice.

Now here is where my weekend diverges from my husband's, in that while he was in bed with a headache, I was out and about trying to get things to make him feel better. It was an incredible morning! It wasn't me with the headache. Hopefully the rest that he got while we were at the museum was relaxing and refreshing. Although I'm sorry for him, I loved that morning.

We had a lot of ups and downs, but the downs didn't drag down the whole weekend. They came and they went. And when they were gone -- the sun was shining, the birds were singing. Great weekend. Lesley asked me what my idea is of a really disastrous weekend. I don't know. I prefer to think about how great a weekend can be with less (or none) of that bad stuff. It could happen.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Scenes from a bookclub

OK, so maybe my suggestion to have a self-help book for a selection was lame. But then again, I have been known to read the fine print on toothpaste tubes if nothing else was available. Why not keep an open mind?

But did we choose a day for next month? Are we just going with the 1st Monday of the month, unless there's a conflict? (I vote yes.)

And is Vivian giving up her turn to choose? How about if she takes a credit until she feels like her schedule has opened up a little? I don't care if she ends up choosing 5 in a row two or three years from now. I may be in the minority (again) on this.

One thing we all agree on -- a unanimous "YEAH!" to LESLEY (note correct spelling) on her choice of a book. I for one plan to read more by this author. And I think those of us who drink were pretty universally impressed by her hosting this time around. Actually, even those of us who don't. I say Lesley wins the bookclub award for best canapes, and best presentation of canapes. Actually, that's the first time I've ever even had canapes, but I've always wanted to try them. So thanks, Lesley, for that as well. And now that I've used your name three times in a paragraph, I hope I have forever cured myself of the egregious habit of misspelling your name, for which I will forever be deeply apologetic.

And that's all for now.

(Except a postscript to say that when I spellchecked this, guess whose name came up as a misspelling?)


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Way to go, Lesley!

'Nuff said.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Getting Ready

Book club is next Monday. Are you ready? I finally got The Maltese Falcon out of the library and will start reading it today.

Weekend in San Francisco 3: At least this is not my fault

We were tired after walking back from dinner. The streets of San Francisco are hilly, even in their mildest stretches. We let the kids swim for a bit in the new lap pool, and then went more or less straight to bed.

I woke up at six the next morning, to find that my husband had been up all night with a monster headache. He suffers from migraines, so he has special medicine for them, but unfortunately he had left his supply in the car the night before. First item of the morning: go down and get the medicine. Next, find the restaurant and get him some coffee (caffeine has a synergetic effect with pain relievers). Last, try to find a drugstore open at 7:00 on a Sunday morning.

Now, San Francisco is getting to have a lot of Starbucks. I passed quite a few as I walked. What is surprising is that I passed almost as many Walgreens, before finally finding a 24-hour one on Union Square. I bought some Tylenol, and Advil too, just to be on the safe side, then headed back.

Ziad and Maya were up when I got back, so we went for breakfast. My husband finally got some sleep. After breakfast, Ziad and Maya and I went next door to SFMOMA where they are currently showing an exhibition of paintings and sculpture by Alexander Calder. We enjoyed the museum, the cafe, and the gift store, then headed back to the hotel where my husband was finally feeling better. Time for Maya and me to head off to the ballet, while Ziad and his dad went to the Exploratorium.

When we got home, everyone was tired, but my husband still spent an impossible amount of time cleaning out the car and the carseats, to the point of taking out the upholstery for me to wash while he bleached the harness straps. This whole proceeding took until after midnight. If you are thinking that this would make it impossible for him to go to work, you are wrong. He went to work anyway, at about 12:30, but came back around 2 because his headache was still bothering him. Why I was still up then is a mystery to me, but I was.

So that is our weekend. When I think of everything that went wrong, it sounds like a weekend from hell, but actually, it was pretty nice. I think for every low there was a corresponding high. Emphasize the positive, that's the ticket.