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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mother's Day

Jack and I celebrated an early Mother's Day at his daycare/preschool on the preceding Friday. All the Moms were invited to a Mad Hatter's Tea Party which was very sweet. The kids painted and decorated grocery bags to make their Mad Hats. There was a Tea setup on the kids' low craft table that was decorated with a tablecloth and flowers and china and scones and fruit. The little table was surrounded by their tiny chairs where the Moms gathered, straddling tea and strawberries on their knees. When it was time, the teacher rang a bell and we all gathered in a circle. Each kid was called up to get their present and flower which they proudly presented to their Moms with a well rehearsed "Happy Mother's Day!"

CLICK HERE for more pictures of our Mother's Day Mad Hatter's Tea.

Jack in the Mad Hat with his gift & flowers for Mom

Jack's turn to give Mom the flowers and gift

Mmmm, Smitten

"Kelvin" liquid nitrogen machine
After dinner tonight, Jack and I tried out a new place for icecream. Smitten icecream. And smitten we are. The icecream was so good (really), and the concept so unique and interesting that I found it blog-worthy.

Their ingredients are all locally sourced, no preservatives, emulsifiers, etc. Small menu (just 4 options) and unique combos like Strawberry with Pink Peppercorn or Bayleaf with Orange Clove Caramel and Pine Nut Brittle. Good but yaddah yaddah. You sort of expect that, right? What we didn't expect is that they make EACH order on demand. Every single scoop is made to order -- they don't pre-make batches and then scoop it when you order. How do they do that? And what's the gimic?

They use four proprietary and patented machines called "Kelvins", so they are the only ones that use these machines. The machines work with liquid nitrogen which is evidently super super cold. For each order, they pour in an icecream mixture and the machine churns and freezes the mixture with the liquid nitrogen -- in one minute. As they explain it, this means that there are very few ice crystals that form which results in the smoothest icecream you have every tasted. I was astounded how creamy it was - you'd swear there was butter in it.

Fun fact adding to the eco factor, Smitten is housed in a recycled shipping container.

Find out more about Smitten on their website; it's kind of an interesting story:

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Training Wheels

We wanted to get Jack a bicycle and envisioned one of those balance bikes that doesn't have any pedals. The idea is that the kids use their legs to shuffle it along and learn to balance before getting a "real" bike.

Tom took Jack to the bicycle store where he had already purchased a balance bike. Evidently, Jack took one look and asked, "Where are the pedals?" So, Tom traded up the balance bike for one with pedals and training wheels.

It's funny how much hard work it is to learn how to push those pedals and make the bike go - and how much stooping over you do to help keep things moving!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pizza Party

You might know that I'm a foodie, but I'm no culinary artist. So, in order to actually eat a meal at home (and have some fun doing it), I recently combined my interest in shopping with getting away with the least amount of food prep and cooking possible.

I finally put my Williams-Sonoma corporate discount to good use and bought a pizza stone and pizza "peel". I had no idea what a pizza peel was, but I was assured I needed it. (A pizza peel is one of those flat wooden boards with a handle that you that assemble the raw pizza on so you can shove it onto the pizza stone in a preheated oven - turns out you do need one).

Pizza peel

Making pizza turned out to be the perfect recipe for the cooking adverse.

Step 1: Keep the pizza stone in the oven permanently. The hardest part, then, was opening up the box and opening up the oven.

Step 2: Buy a bag of whole wheat pizza dough, can of pizza sauce, bag of shredded cheese. Next time I'll add pre-chopped veggies.

Step 3: Flour the pizza peel. Flatten out the pizza dough, throw on the sauce and cheese. Jack likes this part. No washing, peeling, chopping. I like that part.

Step 4: Cook for 10-15 minutes.

Veni Vidi Vici

Stella and I went to the beach this weekend. The beach is my ultimate escape, my most favorite place on earth -- the constant rhythmic roaring sound of the surf, the dizzying pattern of the riptides that can be momentarily disorienting, the fresh smell of the surf and the cold breeze on your face, and the relative solitude of just Stella and me walking across the wide expanse of the beach together.
I came
I saw
I conquered

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Loss of a Friend

Carolina and Chris
I lost an old friend today. A blindsidingly sudden loss of little explanation which, cruelly once again, seems to dominate my life for over a year now.

Carolina was my age and a childhood friend who I met at camp 35 years ago. Our friendship waxed and waned through the years as maturity, distance, college, and relationships either brought us together or had us in parallel universes. Over the past several years we found another groove and saw each other through several of life's milestones: college graduations, my moving to San Francisco, her moving to New York and then France, marriages, our struggles to conceive, the birth of our children, and now a divorce.

She ventured with me to San Francisco before I decided to move out here. She and her husband, Chris, flew out for my wedding once I had settled. We visited each other in NYC and San Francisco. The four of us met in Paris and they treated us to an anniversary dinner and later several bottles of wine on the hotel's patio until all the wine was gone but the conversation kept going.

Like all of my closest friends, she delayed motherhood - and then had a hard time conceiving. We shared our disappointing IVF experiences for three years and supported each other. And then shared in the joy for each other when we both conceived. Her daughter is not yet a year old today.

And more recently when my marriage ended, Carolina was an enormous source of advice, strength, and perspective. Despite the time difference between France to San Francisco we managed to connect. I surround myself with smart strong women who own their unspokenness and live life with an optimism and pragmatism, like Carolina. Her spirit was generous and loyal and she picked me up several times over the past several months when I was feeling my most lost.

And now I feel lost yet again.

My thoughts can't stop racing from Carolina's wonderful husband and young daughter, to their families, and selfishly, to my own loss. I hope there is peace with Carolina today and those of us left behind find peace in having had her in our lives.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Perpetuating the myth that all holidays are a week long, Easter week kept Jack busy with lots of fun activities. Jack celebrated the week prior to Easter at school by making Easter Bunny ears and a basket, and the class hunted for eggs in the park next door. (CLICK HERE to see previous blog post.)

A package of goodies arrived from Lola and we are still eating our way through all the deliciousness. Jack is always thrilled to receive a letter or package and excitedly opened the package and dove right into the chocolate. I even hid his bag on top of a high shelf so we didn't have chocolate for dinner and breakfast the next day, but he noticed it and was too smart to accept my little white lie that the bag was a present for a friend. He said he was going to get his cape and become "bigger and bigger and bigger" so he could reach the chocolate.

Then on Sunday morning we had our own Easter egg hunt at home and opened his Easter basket full of books, small toys, and two of the biggest Easter hits this year: his SuperHero Starter Kit and cape (CLICK HERE to see previous blog post) and the board game CandyLand (CLICK HERE to see previous blog post). We drove up to Sacramento soon thereafter to spend the day with the cousins. There was another Easter egg hunt and bubble blowing in the warm sun of the back yard, a big meal, and a little trampoline jumping with Cousin Alie to burn it all off. Jack opened more fun Easter baskets from the family. It was a great day.

CLICK HERE for more Easter pictures.

A Walk In the Park

Across the way in Berkeley, there is an expansive nature preserve called Tilden Regional Park. There's lots to keep you busy from the miniature steam train that Jack and I rode twice, to the Little Farm where we fed celery to the cows. Afterwards we looked at the visitor center and then went for a walk down a boardwalk that winds itself over little streams and through the woods until you hit a lake. We stopped there to look at a turtle that was sunning himself on a log in the middle of the water. We blew bubbles. Jack poked water with his walking stick which served a dual purpose as a sword. And then we turned around and headed back in the sunny warmth of the afternoon. I'd forgotten how peaceful a romp in woods can be.

CLICK HERE for more pictures.

Grand Reopening of Dolores Park playground

Dolores Park is 4 blocks from our house and is the epicenter of protests and hipster-dom (read: hula hooping and tight-rope practicing on a regular basis amongst the throngs of 20- or 30- somethings who biked to the park on bikes stripped of their brakes; if you haven't the foggiest what I am talking about then you're not a hipster!).

The park's former playground was a thirty-year old lead paint disaster with such poor drainage that is was often flooded. So, I was very excited last year when the plans for a new playground started circulating and construction started last summer. With construction finally completed this past March, the new playground structures were hidden under a huge tarp until the ribbon-cutting on March 31st.

And the new playground didn't disappoint. The space capitalizes on the city views (spectacular from a new 45 foot slide) and has several distinct areas of fun. There's a dedicated space to music with drums and chimes, separate areas for the older and younger kids, a sandbox, and lots and lots of climbing opportunities including ropes, a climbing wall, and hills.

There are two slides - a wide slide where kids climb up a hill with nervous parents holding their breath that they don't fall backwards or get pushed down by a larger kid (or maybe that's just me who's holding her breath) and then several kids go down the slide at once and pile up on top of each other at the bottom. The second slide has several stairs or an even steeper hill to climb. When you are at the top you are rewarded with beautiful views and a nice long slide ride to the bottom.

The swing area has a green handicap swing where the kids lie down. Each time we wandered over for a turn on the swing, we have waited in line with no fewer than 4 kids so it's a big hit with all kids - able or disabled. The first time we went to the playground Jack woke up from a dream and was screaming that he wanted to go on the green swing - it's that much fun I guess.

The ground is entirely lined with that rubbery cushiony stuff to minimize ouchies when falling. There's even an homage to the former playground which was anchored by a big wooden ship. The new playground also has a ship to climb with some bumpy waves behind it in its wake.

If it's a nice day, Jack and I share an icecream sandwich. Two side tangents:
  • I have never seen an icecream truck in San Francisco. Instead, we have guys who come around with small refrigerated pushcarts and there are usually 3 of them circling the playground at any one time if it's a nice day, which I have no problem with.
  • I recently read an article where parents in the upscale Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope want to ban the icecream truck/pushcarts from their playgrounds because their kids will throw tantrums if they see the icecream but are told "no". So instead of saying "no" or even conceding to sugar once in a while, these parents want to remove the uncomfortableness of either having to say "no" or, even worse, having their kids experience disappointment in not having it. Oy.
CLICK HERE for lots more pictures of Jack enjoying the new Dolores Park playground.

Jack and Me Going Down the Slide Together

Jack Sliding

"Go Fast, Mama!"

Making Music

I Have a Problem

"Cars" the original movie
 Jack is very independent. He says every day, "I can do it all by myself" or proudly exclaims "I did it!". I love it. But with this burgeoning independence evidently comes the knowledge that there is an acceptable range of how things get done -- OK, I'll put on my shoes, but not those, how about these? OK, I won't pull the shade all the way down on the stroller, how about just this far, now how about just this far? And so on. Everything is now a negotiation it seems.

Negotiation extends to bedtime. One more story. No? Ok, how about some more water? No? OK, I need my blankets tucked in just so.

"Cars 2", the sequel
But my favorite delay tactic each and every night is this:

Jack: "Mommy, I have a problem." Sighs, is very serious.

Me: "What is your problem?"

Jack: "It's Cars 1 and Cars 2." No further information.

Me: "OK, that's a nice problem. We can talk more about that tomorrow morning."