Week 276 July 13, 2019

At the start of this week, Loren and I were still in Ipswich, where our AirBnB host – who taught us about microwavable pancakes – took us for a kayak ride in Plum Island Sound. Fortunately she knew the water patterns and it was an enjoyable day, though we could see how easily it could have been grueling if instead we had been fighting the currents. We finished the evening playing a game of Scrabble together. 

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The next morning Loren and I took a stroll around Strawberry Hill. Unlike the trek we took on Poon ‘Hill’ in the Himalaya, this ‘hill’ is a flat walk on a mowed path to the water’s edge. Then we returned to the house for the Women’s Soccer Finals, where we watched the US defeat the Netherlands.

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We also went on an historic town walking tour. Ipswich boasts several homes and buildings still standing from the 1600’s, 1700’s, 1800’s, reminding me how and where parts of early America was settled and claimed its independence. And everywhere tiger lilies are blooming.

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Then we were off to New York. We first stopped in for a final — for now — Bikram yoga class in North Andover.

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Once in New York we drove through Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonia neighborhood which we had seen last Thanksgiving, again in appreciation of his unmistakable home designs. Afterwards we read how UNESCO World Heritage thinks his works are extraordinary too, adding these eight of his innovations to their official list:
     . Fallingwater in Pennsylvania
. the Guggenheim Museum in New York
. the Hollyhock House in Los Angeles
. the Jacobs House in Wisconsin
     . the Robie House in Chicago
. Taliesin in Wisconsin
. Taliesin West in Arizona, and
     . the Unity Temple in Illinois
We finished our day with a wonderful evening with my brother, his wife and younger daughter, then spent the night at an AirBnB in the Battle Hill neighborhood of White Plains, named for one of the sites led by George Washington in the Revolutionary War.

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Our connecting flight the next day took us through Detroit, then we were on our way to Omaha. Dear cousins from Denver picked us up, and as we drove south, we were in Iowa for about one mile, which their new car’s navigation system loudly announced upon our brief departure and reentry into Nebraska. Along the drive we stopped for a lovely dinner together. Then we arrived at the precious farm where Loren’s first cousin lives. 

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We had a lovely first day at the farm, then while this cousin was attending to the needs opening the County Fair which she oversees, another cousin took us on a tour of rural cemeteries in nearby Rulo and Falls City to find family plots. Here I noticed markers proclaiming certain headstones as “G.A.R.” I came to learn that these denoted the soldiers who served in the “Grand Army of the Republic” during the Civil War. Over dinner with these cousins we toasted with “Bloody Beer,” a drink of tomato juice mixed in with beer. 

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In the morning we helped a cousin with a small part of his home remodel, holding up a mantel piece for him to bolt in place. Then we reminisced about the history of this home, which was beautifully preserved for the ages through paint on an old saw.

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This is also where Loren remembers 50 years ago this month watching the old black and white television in this living room when Neil Armstrong said his famous quote heard over the airwaves on being the first person to land on the moon on July 20, 1969:

That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

He also proudly showed us the buckets of trophy home run balls his daughter has earned over the last few years, as she approaches her junior year in High School this fall. 

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We bade our Denver cousins a safe drive home before we headed off to see the goat showing competition at the County Fair… please read more on this in next week’s post.

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Week 273 June 22, 2019

This week we celebrated Father’s Day with my brother and his beautiful family at their lake house in New York where we were staying. Despite the overcast and on-and-off rainy weather, my brother was still able to go out on his boat and fish a little. It was his wife who caught the fish while out on the boat with him.

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Otherwise we spent the day relaxing, celebrating his upcoming birthday and enjoying a scrumptious mix of takeout and home made dishes for dinner. 

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My only disappointment that evening was there was no Warriors v Raptors Game 7 to watch… Congrats to the Raptors once again.

The next day, after a too short but memorable visit with my brother and his family, Loren and I drove 4 hours north to visit in New Hampshire. This is the view of Lake Horace from the deck of our AirBnB. Loren has enjoyed kayaking a couple of mornings.

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We enjoyed taking lunch nearby to my cousins here and seeing all the additional work they have put in on the house that they moved into last summer. We also admired the beautiful birds who visit her generous feeders – and she can differentiate all the species!

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Then we had a fun evening with friends who live in New Hampshire who we had met in Italy a couple of years ago. They suggested a restaurant in Manchester that is “an institution in the area—started years ago by a Greek family.”

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The next evening my cousins joined us at our AirBnB for a dinner I prepared, including a desert to celebrate both her husband’s and Loren’s upcoming milestone birthdays…

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While in New York and here in New Hampshire I have enjoyed taking some Bikram Yoga classes, which is what Loren and I did the next morning. We were treated to a class by one of the visiting teachers from my teacher training in Los Angeles in 2014. I love it that I can enjoy the same yoga class when we travel to areas that offer the Bikram yoga style!

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That afternoon Loren and I visited the Currier Museum of Art, and we were both enraptured by the glass paperweights display from the mid-1800’s. 

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We finished the day visiting another Frank Llyod Wright house that is owned by this museum, donated to them by the original and only owners, the Zimmermans. 

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Tomorrow we are looking forward to my cousin’s big birthday bash!

Week 272 June 15, 2019

Hello from New York! And, Happy Father’s Day tomorrow to all our family and friends who are Fathers!

Before leaving California last Saturday night, and after packing up our belongings at our AirBnB, Loren and I enjoyed a delightful meal out with special friends who we made at the AirBnB where we stayed just 3 days shy of a full year. 

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While we were in the restaurant, we received a text message that our flight leaving San Francisco airport that evening was delayed. It was long enough to interfere with our connecting flight and to cause us to be late for our scheduled rental car pickup. We called the airline only to find it would be at least a two hour wait time to speak with an agent…

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A dear friend had offered to drive us to the airport, and we only pushed back our ride with him by half an hour to have enough time to speak with an airline representative at the airport. I am grateful we went early and had the delayed flight because, when we arrived at SFO, I discovered I had forgotten my ID. Loren was kind to me about all the effort it took for us with round-trip public transit and Uber rides to retrieve it. We were also able to rearrange our rental car pickup time. When we returned to the airport, our flight had been further delayed due to severe thunder storms in Georgia. We had actually needed most of that extra time. We ultimately left San Francisco 4 hours late, spent 4 extra hours in Atlanta, and arrived safe in New York 8 hours later than scheduled. I smiled on seeing an advertisement from the amusement park of my youth at the airport. 

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As Loren said, “It was a journey just trying to leave!”

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Fortunately Loren and I had both been able to sleep some on the overnight flight. We rented the car, and drove to Pennsylvania to arrive at my junior high school friend’s place where we had a lovely visit. We extended our stay an additional night, to make up for how late we had arrived. We played cards together and I put together an easy puzzle which nearly had me feeling like I had visited the Jersey shore.

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While in Pennsylvania one evening, we went to a local bar to watch the NBA Finals’ Warriors vs Raptors Game 5. This lounge had 10 televisions, with 8 of them showing the basketball game. Loren and I were thrilled when our team won!

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On returning to New York, Loren and I enjoyed a wonderful Mexican dinner with my brother, his wife and their younger daughter. The waiter prepared our guacamole to order at our table. Similarly he prepared a fiery table-side display for my niece’s desert.

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The next day I drove to the upstate village where my father had said his father was born. My brother and I have known little about my father’s side of the family because his parents both died young. I had driven my father to this town once in recent years before he died, but I had not learned much from that trip. This time I stopped at the Village Clerk’s office and was rewarded with seeing the handwritten record of my grandfather’s birth. Now I know the exact month and day of his birth – in addition to the year which I had previously learned from his headstone – as well as the names of my grandfather’s parents. Then I went to the village cemetery and was fortunate to find not only my great-grandfather’s and great-grandmothers’ tombstones, but also this great-grandmother’s parents tombstones. I was so touched to find these special ones’ graves.

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On leaving the area, I was treated to a great blue heron sitting on a rock in a pond on the side of the road, and just had to snap its’ photo. That evening Loren and I were sorry to see our Warriors lose the Finals to the Raptors in Game 6 of the series. Our team had suffered several injuries in the post season, and another key player had to leave that game due to an injury, dashing the team’s dreams of wining a three-peat championship.

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There have been other aspects of nature that also caused me to pause to snap a photo this week – from a colorful bush that reminds me of Australian eucalyptus, to the density of dogwood blossoms this season, to a cardinal and bluejay on adjacent tree branches.

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The next day Loren and I had an hours-long lunch date with another dear friend of mine. She brought photos of she and me from before I had moved to California. I was shocked to be reminded how I had looked thirty years ago when we had visited Cape Cod together one summer. That evening Loren and I went to see The Secret Life of Pets 2, which was as amusing as my recollection of the first Pets film that I had caught most of during a long flight some year or so ago.

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Today, we had another wonderful time with my brother, his wife and their younger daughter, in driving to and taking a guided tour of historic West Point. We learned its location was strategic at the time of the Revolutionary War to take advantage of a particular narrow passage of the Hudson River, preventing the British to pass between their ports in New York and Canada. It was a lovely day and we were grateful for the information imparted to us with the high caliber of our tour guide – might I even label her a guidess?

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Tomorrow we look forward to spending Father’s Day with my brother, who is a great Dad to two beautiful young women.

Week 245 December 8, 2018

This week was a whirlwind, with many more cherished memories made. At the beginning of the week we were still in New England, staying with a dear Bikram Yoga studio owner and her husband in their warm, inviting home. It is always fun to have a dinner date out together with them. During this visit to their house, one of their cute kittens climbed right up on my chest as I was working on my laptop…

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It is always heartwarming when Loren and I can introduce our friends to each other. This week, while having coffee with a Bikram Yoga teacher friend, we were even able to reconnect longtime friends who had lost touch. When we mentioned that we had stayed overnight in her same home town with friends who we had met in Italy, she asked with who…  and we had a nice telephone conversation to facilitate reviving their connection. Then Loren had a private Bikram Yoga lesson, picking up tips to improve his practice.

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We also had dinner with a dear friend, her husband and adult son. She had moved to New England some years ago now and it was good to catch up with her again. We had fun too with the family’s lively puppy.

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Then Loren and I drove to back to New York, stopping near Albany to stay overnight with good friends. They indulged us in my wish to visit Cherry Hill, an historic home that was showing a play about World War I called Dutch. I had no idea that the event would also include period snacks and tea sandwiches along with a complimentary historic WWI era cocktail. I chose the French 75 while Loren and our friends each had a Sidecar. In addition, we were treated to a Virtual Reality clip, a precursor part to the live play. While other audience members had their VR experiences, we toured the historic home. In the end, I believe our friends enjoyed the whole experience as much as I did!

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In the morning before our departure we joined them in attending their church service, which included celebrating the 1st Sunday of Advent, then we had a delicious brunch out afterwards. 

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From there we headed to Connecticut for an evening visit with cousins… it is so nice to be able to see and catch up with so many family members and friends who we do not get to see very often.

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The next day Loren and I returned to Albany where my younger niece is in her first semester of college. We had time to stop at the Capital Region Welcome Center before taking her for a lunch date, then stopping to see her dorm. I have no idea how she became such a mature 18 year old already? She was just celebrating her Sweet 16 yesterday and was a 6 year old soccer player the day before that, or so it seems…

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As if that is not enough, my older niece is now living in her own home! That evening we visited with her and her delightful beau, seeing their lovely home, decorated for the holidays. Then we enjoyed an evening together which included playing in a trivia quiz contest over dinner at a local restaurant, making more treasured memories to savor. We actually won one round which will give them a discount on their next meal there.

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On our last full day in New York Loren and I awoke to what became a gorgeous day.

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After we took a Bikram Yoga class, Loren joined me on a driving tour to a few of the places of my childhood memories. For example I drove on Buckout Road, which in my youth was a narrow, winding, hilly road where as a new driver I and my friends sometimes went for joy rides. It was not to be on Buckout Road so much this time, as it was to find the nearby property where the last farm in White Plains had been located. This has a special meaning because my grandfather, who was the estate attorney for the owner, had tended the farm for a brief time after his client died, so that it could be properly and judiciously closed down. It is now the site of a local community garden.

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I also drove by the house that my grandfather had built himself to sell to raise the cash to take my grandmother on their honeymoon. They bought a car, drove to California in 1928, then sold the car to take the train home to New York. One event they often recounted was how my grandfather was testing out how fast the car could go and was pulled over and given a speeding ticket in Pennsylvania. Aha! It is my grandfather who I inherited my lead foot from! The current owners of the house he built have it a lovely color, which is the same color that my grandparents home in a different neighborhood had been painted when I was a child. Then, we drove by the Washington Headquarters of my childhood. As we drove around the east coast, it dawned on me that while it is a familiar sight to me, it is not something we would see in California or other places west.

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That evening we enjoyed another wonderful dinner visit with my brother and his wife, just the 4 of us, which was extra special, though I regret not capturing the evening with a photo… Now Loren and I have returned to California, to stay in the same room in the AirBnB where we had been staying since June. We have already had a couple of visits with Loren’s Mom and sister, and especially enjoyed the remaining fall colors in their backyard.

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Loren and I spent our first full day back in California starting the day with a Bikram Yoga class, then paying a visit to the UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens on a day with more gorgeous weather. Our docent guide pointed out that this is the only Botanical Garden in the world where on a clear day you can see the Golden Gate Bridge in the far distance.

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Even though the temperatures in northern California are in the 40’s and 50’s, we were still surprised to find that it felt cold out to us, given that we had just returned from weather in the teens, 20’s and 30’s. I hope you are keeping warm this winter!

 

Week 244 December 1, 2018

Loren and I started this week in New York at the lake house, graciously offered to us by my brother and sister-in-law for our stay. The day was clear and chill, with ‘Ol Jack leaving frosty reminders of his overnight escapades, until Ageless Sol – or Helios, or simply Sun, melted his doomed icy sparkles into droplets of water, to soon disappear.

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Meanwhile, from inside her own home, my sister-in-law texted how she was enjoying her coffee with my Thanksgiving gift of macaroons…

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We then spent a day in the financial district of Lower Manhattan with her, my brother and their younger daughter.

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We opted not to visit the top of the Freedom Tower, as the weather was too cold and the views would be too limited. My sister-in-law and I did briefly go inside to see the spectacular new building next door, which turned out to be a stunning entrance to the subway station that includes an abundance of glitzy shops.

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We spent the bulk of our day at the 9/11 Museum & Memorial. It was quite moving. Sadly, the photos of the events seemed all too familiar even though it has been over 17 years already since that tragic day. To put it in perspective, my younger niece was just an infant.

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This wall represents the color of blue that the people of New York chose for how they remembered the sky on that particular morning before the first plane struck the South Tower. Behind the wall the remains of many of the deceased repose. The Virgil quote honors their deaths with:

   No day shall erase you from the memory of time.

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We finished our great day together with a delicious meal out, in time to reach home before the predicted major rainstorm was to arrive. New York has had an excessive amount of rain this fall, and we have noticed overflowing ponds and fields that attest to their recent presence.

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The next day Loren and I drove north to New Hampshire to visit a couple who we had met while awaiting a train in Italy a couple of years ago. The weather warmed up to 38 degrees outside which seriously felt warm to us – in other words, we did not need our coats between our car and their home, even later into the evening when we retrieved our luggage from the trunk! The next morning we delighted at the magnolia buds outside our bedroom window, though, we felt the cold when we went outside again…

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After a leisurely breakfast with these delightful friends, we were off to visit near Concord with my wonderful cousin! Unfortunately her husband was away on business, but we throughly enjoyed our visit with her and her mother in their beautiful home.

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The weather app on my phone gave no notice of the 1-3 inches of snow that she was certain from her local weather report would arrive overnight. How right she was!

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Remarkably, the birds seemed not to mind the cold or snow as they continued to visit her generous feeders.

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My cousin later toured us with a drive around the area. In Henniker we lunched overlooking the Contoocook River which feeds into the Merrimack, the lower end of which is familiar to us from previous visits in Massachusetts. Later, in nearby Concord, the capital city of New Hampshire, we stopped outside the State House, as well as at some of the shops recommended by our friends. We too can now endorse the bakery and bookstore on S Main! It was another wonderful visit, for which we are most grateful.

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From New Hampshire we worked our way south to visit the gracious owner of a Bikram Yoga studio and her husband. Before we reached their home though, we enjoyed a wonderful catchup visit with another special friend who met us nearby for a good hike on Osgood Hill. Then, Loren and I attended the 4pm Bikram Yoga class. 

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We finished our week with a morning Bikram Yoga class, followed by a luxuriously long coffee date with a fellow yogi. At 82 she is a remarkable woman, seeming more to be a vibrant 42 than her actual age. I am disappointed that I neglected to capture the occasion with a photo to share. I will remember next time! 

 

Week 243 November 24, 2018

My thanks this week are especially for all our family and friends, and we hope and wish that you each had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day with your dear ones!

Loren’s and my week began with still staying at my brother and sister-in-law’s lake house in New York. We never tire of seeing the effects of the stars and precipitation interacting with the elements of nature, like neighborhood cats and migrating Canadian geese, in and around the lake. It is so often awe inspiring. 

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We were soon off to visit a special friend of mine from childhood and her daughter, who live in Pennsylvania. She had prepared Loren’s favorite – her eggplant parmesan, which we thoroughly enjoyed. Then we learned that she had planned to cook a turkey with all the trimmings that go with it for us to also enjoy together! So Loren and I had the privilege of celebrating Thanksgiving twice this week, for which we are very thankful!! Not only were we appreciative, her cat has recently developed somewhat of a voracious appetite, and surprisingly yowled and paced to have some of the turkey too. After our eating, we enjoyed playing a few rounds of the rummy version May I together.

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My friend had remembered from when I had visited briefly in July that I had been interested in seeing an episode of A Crime to Remember, which my brother had alerted me portrays the murders of my grandfather’s sister and brother-in-law from before I was born. My friend had kindly arranged to have it available to watch, so we viewed the episode together. It was a more somber experience than what our smiling faces in the photo below reflects. On a happier note, she showed us a medal that she has, which commemorates her grandfather’s placing second in the New York State Division of the Spring Century bicycling race in 1909. If we calculated correctly, he was either 13 or 14 years old at the time. Both a tragedy and a treasure from events of over a half century and a century ago. In the end it was hard to bid our farewells for now…

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We returned to the lake house and were again enthralled with the changing scenery just outside our windows which must be kept closed for the unseasonably early cold spell… 

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Our Thanksgiving day began with a nice brunch with my family at the Veteran’s Home where my sister-in-law’s father lives, but where was my camera?! Then Loren and I took advantage of the gorgeous blue skies and an error of mine with our GPS that brought us close to the cemetery where so many of my family’s graves are located, including those of my parents. Afterwards Loren and I drove back toward the lake house stopping to see the two privately owned Frank Lloyd Wright architected residences that can be more easily viewed from the road when the leaves are down. What was interesting is that the design of so many of the neighboring homes in this particular area seem to have been influenced by FL Wright’s style. 

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Then Loren and I returned home to finish up my contribution to the Thanksgiving dishes. We were going to my brother and sister-in-law’s in the evening so that my one niece who had to work and her beau could join us for dinner. And what a delicious meal it was! We were joined for dinner by a neighbor family, and we all stayed for hours afterwards visiting. 

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One of my nieces has a new tattoo, I am thankful too that she has a good reminder for an alternative to fear.

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Week 242 November 17, 2018

We so appreciate our family and friends who visit this site as a way to keep in touch, we always love hearing that you do, and treasure your support and friendship!

Loren and I began this week on a hike with friends at Lake Chabot, but it was dicey to be outside with the smoke from Butte County’s Camp Fire 200 miles away, both visible and caustic. Our normally blue skies had been obliterated in haze daily recently as the smoke has coated the San Francisco bay area, and it is predicted do so for the foreseeable future. But, we pared down their normal 3.5 hour hike to just under 2, and to catch up with these friends was special and good.

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Then Loren and I got serious in packing up our belongings at our AirBnB. By being there 4.5 months, we had nearly completely unloaded our van and accumulated more items that had to be sorted and packed back into the van again. I am quite proud to have completed a shredding job of masses of papers that have been needing my attention as part of this packing effort. After a nice dinner with Loren’s Mom and sister, his sister drove us to BART – Bay Area Rapid Transit, to reach SFO – San Francisco Airport for our overnight flight.

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No, we did not practice yoga in the airport even though we had had enough extra time, but it was tempting. Then on the connecting morning flight from Charlotte to White Plains, we saw our first blue sky in weeks as we flew north along the east coast.

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When we stepped out of the plane onto the jetway we immediately felt the crisp and chilly fall New York air. Our California weather had been in the 40’s-70’s and we were already complaining about feeling the cold as the 10 day forecast was to shift down to the 40’s-60’s. Now here the weather is already in the 30’s-40’s. But that’s not all – we are heading to visit friends in Pennsylvania with forecasted temps in the 20’s-40’s, and, New Hampshire, where we are headed after Thanksgiving to see relatives and other friends, was already showing in the 10’s-40’s. Brrr! It is a good thing that we brought some warm clothing. After signing for our rental car, I stepped out of the airport and smelled… smoke! “What? No!” I thought. With relief I noticed it simply came from a cigarette.

We saw gorgeous red leaves on several maple trees as we exited the airport, but then saw barely any colors anywhere else! After we arrived to stay at my brother and sister-in-law’s lake house, she explained, “Last week the colors were full blast on the trees! Looked like a painting on the lake, sorry it didn’t hold out for you! We had a terrible wind storm that blew everything off.” So the vegetation and deciduous trees – which are everywhere in New York, look to be what I remember from childhood winters: barren and dead. On a brighter side, we have seen a whole flock of water birds with white heads, and a cat with similar coloring sneaking down the steps to the beach and out to the little point, even testing its paw in the water before going on through what appears to be its usual hunting ground through Pfitzer junipers. It is always so enchanting here!

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Then the local forecaster called for a “wintry mix” and road signs flashed warnings of “WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY.”  As the storm was due to arrive in the afternoon, we kept our morning plans with a dear friend to visit at John Jay’s childhood home in Rye for a docent-led tour. The house no longer exists, and in its footprint John Jay’s eldest son Peter who inherited the property had built a new one in the Greek Revival style of the day. Regardless, it was well worth the time, to further appreciate the acts of one of our seven Founding Fathers, as explained from our well-informed and devoted docent.

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As we and our friend parted ways after lunch at a nearby market, the storm began. Little did anyone know just how much of a wintry mix it would be. From soft flakes to wet snow to sleet pellets, it swiftly pummeled down, blanketing at least 6 inches at the lake house and causing massive traffic and transportation problems during the afternoon to late night commute. 

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In contemplating how to make it safely to our next day’s 8:30am scheduled tour of Ellis Island, I decided that we could not and would not, and so left a voicemail late in the evening to cancel. In the morning I had a return call, and found that we could still attend the 12:30pm tour. Yay! The snow then finally stopped at 10am as predicted, in time for us to shovel our car out and drive to lower Manhattan.

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The sun was already shining again and it was a beautiful blue sky day! In fact we had a perfect view of the Freedom Tower as we sought out a parking garage nearby, and, we had spectacular views all around Upper New York Bay as we sailed first to Liberty Island then to Ellis Island.

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So, our interest in visiting Ellis Island had been to visit the place where Loren’s maternal grandmother had arrived to the United States with her mother and then two siblings a bit more than 100 years ago. I had had a most difficult time in trying to find their records online the night before, therefore we were especially interested in stopping in at their records department for help. We first enjoyed a tour with a Park Ranger and visited a couple of exhibits which were worthwhile and informative, but then we learned that Loren’s grandmother had actually not come through Ellis Island! Her ship had sailed directly from Genoa to Boston. But now I am curious to find out about how Loren’s Italian grandfather, as well as his English and German grandparents arrived to the US… Once again, it was more than worth the visit, as we learned more about our US history.

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Loren and I finished the day in New York City with a wonderful evening out to dinner with dear friends who live in Manhattan.

[I will update this week’s post with]
[a photo of the four of us at dinner]
[here – once I receive from them a]
[copy of the photos that were taken]

We wish you and yours a fabulous Thanksgiving this coming week!

Week 222 June 30, 2018

While Loren has spent each day of the past 2 weeks with his mother in California, taking her to sit by a local lake on several occasions and visiting with a few friends, for me there were several highlights while I have been on the east coast. I left New York for New England, stopping to see my older niece on her job in Connecticut. I was so proud to see how professional and personable she is with the elderly population who she works with. She invited me to join her in a rendition of Heart and Soul, the piece I taught her to plunk out on a piano when she was just a little one. We then switched places and I was also impressed with how much she has learned to embellish the top part!

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Next I drove off to have lunch with a cousin-in-law who lives father north in Connecticut. We had a nice visit and I met the newest addition to her household – a rescue basset hound, coincidentally named Cali! Then I arrived at my friend and Bikram Yoga studio owner’s home in Massachusetts. She and her husband were already off to Boston to celebrate their wedding anniversary, and as there were no other visiting teachers there that night, I enjoyed cooking my dinner alone that evening. I was up early to take the first morning class, then I made my way towards New Hampshire.

A dear cousin of mine has been diagnosed with cancer and had decided to downsize her home. But just a brief few weeks before the move her husband had unexpected open heart surgery to repair a faulty valve, and his doctor limited what he could do physically. Given the fortuitous timing of my visit, I was able to help in a small way with settling them in to their lovely new home.

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Her daughter was also supportive with caring for my cousin’s mother overnight and providing sumptuous dinners, twice at her nearby home nestled in the woods and once delivered to my cousin’s home. My cousin and I were both delighted to hear the call of the whippoorwill on two of the three nights of my visit, the first night they were either not active or at least not noticeable due to an overnight storm. And she, her husband and I shared great conversations over the several breakfasts and lunches that she prepared. 

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One treasure for me while helping to unpack my cousin’s mother’s books was in finding a booklet of short stories and a few poems that our great-great-grandfather had written that I had never seen before. I was able to make photos for myself and other family members. I also found a meaningful travel quote on the front of one of her photo albums, as travel is a love that my cousin’s mother, my cousin, her husband, Loren and I all share. 

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I returned to Massachusetts to take my studio owner friend’s class, which always has such inspiring images around the studio. We had a nice evening together though we missed her husband as he was out of town on business. I was up early to take the first class of the morning, then she and I also had a wonderful visit over breakfast.

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I drove to New York mostly through another storm in time for an appointment to have our van’s windshield replaced. Can you see the crack that developed over a harsh winter? I was unable to stop into the Apple store while they worked on it as I had planned.More importantly I was also in time to celebrate my brother’s birthday dinner out! We missed my older niece as she was at home, ill in bed. That night I found the moon that my cousin’s husband said would be full on the 28th was indeed full as it was beautifully reflected in the lake near where I was staying.

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At the beginning of this week I realized that the 2 mosquito bites on my arm, and the new ones that appeared above and below my lips – which I wondered how I had not felt the pests in those places – were not mosquito bites at all but another bout of poison ivy reaction, like I had 2 summers ago in New York. Everything I have read says that the blisters may develop as long as 72 hours after contact with the plant’s oil – meaning 3 days, however, I am so allergic that small spots still continue to appear at this point now 10 days later. However overall it is improving and diminishing….

After a morning yoga class, I spent a brief time planning for my cross country drive to California. Now I have driven 4 hours of it to visit a dear junior high school friend and her daughter who live in Pennsylvania. 

 

Week 221 June 23, 2018

This week was a week of visiting with some very special family and friends!

Loren’s and my week began with spending time with Loren’s Mom and sister. We took Mom for brunch near where a new annual classic car show in town added an unexpected out of the ordinary element to the day. Later I was glad that I could help out by washing windows for them, which was much appreciated. Then Loren and I enjoyed a delicious dinner with a group of his long time friends which included great conversations, the evening of which regrettably I neglected to capture a single photo.

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The next day we drove Mom around her childhood neighborhood in Oakland, California. She seemed so tickled to see her high school and the house where she had lived just before her marriage. She reminisced, crooned “Hello House” commented on the home’s landscaping, and, asked to return to see it once more before we left that neighborhood.

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The next day Loren and I arrived at DMV 15 minutes before it opened to find a long line had already formed, all with heads bowed toward cell phones. We spent nearly 6 hours in all there to reactivate the registration for our van, persevering through to success!

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From there Loren and I drove to Monterey for an overnight stay. We had a really good visit with cousins of mine, near the setting of Steinbeck’s depression era novel, Cannery Row. It was delightful to have the opportunity for both a dinner date followed by a mid-day through evening spent together, with lots of memorable and meaningful conversations in a modern era setting of surf and marine life.

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From there, Loren and I had to split up again for our third period of extended time apart during our Journey. He dropped me at a BART station to reach San Francisco airport in time for my overnight flight to New York through Chicago, while Loren will remain in California. I slept well on the flights so had good energy after my brother picked me up and reunited me with Loren’s van, newly maintained thanks to my very dear bro. After he returned to his job, I visited the cemetery where close members of our family are buried, and worked until satisfied with clearing lichen and encroaching grass from their headstones. 

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My brother and sweet sister-in-law have again opened their lake home to me. It is so peaceful here. This time I have seen a large fish swimming along the water’s surface, heard bullfrogs, seen fireflies as well as a group of geese swimming noisily in formation.

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This week too my brother and his family invited me to enjoy a BBQ with them at their home, which was wonderful. I also had the opportunity with a dear friend to hike through Lasdon Park and catch up over lunch.

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Then, the biggest event of my week was the privilege of attending my younger niece’s High School Graduation ceremony.

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When my brother and I first arrived to reserve seats for the outdoor ceremony, my brother conveyed by text to my older niece that she was spontaneously invited by the band leader to add her immense talent on the flute to the band’s offerings to the event. She was delighted to sit with two other musicians who she knew from her high school band days who also each had a sibling graduating this year and who were similarly tapped to fill out the winds section.  

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The evening finished with photos and a beautiful family dinner. The weather could not have been more cooperative to enjoy the ceremony outdoors, including dinner later with views of the Tappan Zee Bridge that spans the Hudson River.

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Living 3000 miles away for so many years of my adult life makes participation in and witnessing some of the special events in my brother and his family’s lives that much more precious. And, with technology, Loren too has been able to join me here this week.  

Week 177 August 19, 2017

I have had one foot in family genealogy this week, the other foot in packing and preparing to again leave the United States. It has been a very full week. Loren and I took a break from packing to see part of a Bruce Springsteen tribute band concert in a local park while we were still in New York. We arrived to find little parking, but a policeman I asked who was standing near several cars parked near “No Parking” signs said they were “Overlooking the signs for a couple of hours, so long as cars are not blocking traffic.” “Great,” I thought. We spent less than an hour enjoying our picnic dinner, only to find a ticket on our car when we left! We decided to stop in at Police HQ to complain, and, later that evening the officer called to say that he had ripped up his copy of the ticket. Nice!
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Our final errands included having Flu shots… thanks to my cousin who insisted we should have them. Have you had yours this year? We read this in an email from an MD: “Patients who don’t get the flu vaccine have more heart attacks, strokes, and other serious illnesses.” That said, the wildlife we saw in New York included: bat, muskrat, and wild turkey. I must mention how Loren was keenly aware of the multitude of cicada singing and cricket chirping – pointing out sounds I rarely notice for their continual background presence throughout my childhood. Farewell, New York, for now.
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After a last evening with my brother and his family, we rode in an Uber taxi to JFK airport. Here we found our packing work had paid off: Loren’s checked backpack was an allowable 21kg, while mine was just 18kg – less than 50 and 40 lbs respectively. I was grateful for the onboard movies as I could not sleep on the overnight flight. I enjoyed United Kingdom and Wild. I highly recommend them both! A gorgeous Mediterranean day greeted us at the edge of Lisbon, Portugal. From the airport we took a bus to walking distance to our AirBnB – which is coincidentally off Rua de Sao Jose – San Jose Street.
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We checked in, then quickly walked the several blocks to arrive just in time for our scheduled e-bike tour. Lisbon is similar to San Francisco in that it is near the ocean and hilly in parts. It was my first electric bike ride. It was dangerous -only- in that I would like to have my own e-bike when we return home. The appeal is for the boost it has for climbing hills. On our outing, guides Yann and Philippe took us and four fun young adult Persians who now live in London, to our first miradouro – terrace with a view: Senhora-do-Monte. We also rode up and down through the very, very narrow streets of Alfama – the oldest section – meaning neighborhood, because it survived the 1755 earthquake, and resultant fires and tsunami. We also saw other less noteworthy sites of their Lisboa.
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Loren pre-booked several outings for us to start off being in Europe again. The next day we took a Walk, Food and Wine Tastings tour. I learned so much more, and spent the good part of a day with another great group of people. I especially learned from our guide Pedro (said P-eh-dro, not the usual Pay-dro, or P-a-dro), about the Carnation Revolution, Portugal’s recent nearly completely nonviolent coup to end the longest dictatorship of the twentieth century. The event is memorialized by the 25th of April bridge, designed like San Francisco’s Golden Gate because of its ability to withstand ‘quakes. I was also introduced to The Lusiads, an epic poem of Luiz de Camoes to celebrate Vasco de Gama’s discovery of a sailing route to India. And, we learned that Nossa – meaning, to us, or, Saúde – health, are the ways to toast our Portuguese drinks.
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Over the course of a few hours we had the equivalent of a progressive meal – beginning with tasting Portuguese coffee. Fortunately a dear cousin’s friend had warned us of the strong espresso and pointed us to a lighter alternative called Galone. This we had with the bakery’s best pastry. We also tasted Ginjinha – Cherry Port, served with “Romeo and Juliet” which a square of white cheddar-like cheese topped with a square of cheerful marmalade made of quince fruit, which provided a delectable sweet and savory complement to the wine. Later we enjoyed a glass of Bohemia – an historical beer. We finished with a glass of champagne to go with dishes of shrimp and tasty beans.
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That evening, Loren and I saw a Fado performance. The advert describes it this way: “Fado is Portuguese and was born in Lisbon. A symbol of the nation, it tells stories of the sea, the people and nostalgia.” Another quote, more melancholy, that was displayed during the performance by Domingos Goncalves Castro also touched us:

   You ask me the meaning of
   Nostalgia, to you I say
   Nostalgia is what is left
   When all has passed away.
The next day we had a tour to Sintra, which we already knew had mixed reviews: Lord Byron in the 18th century wrote that the town was, “Perhaps in every respect the most delightful in Europe.” Maybe that was the case then. A friend of ours who visited more recently suggested it is, “Crowded with tourist buses, warnings about pick pockets, and very noisy.” I think our experience was in between those two reports, and, again we had a lovely group of co-travelers with our competent and very knowledgeable guide, Filipa escorting and educating us. We first visited Parque Pena to see the elaborate castle there. Then, we walked through Quinta do Regaleira – I wish my grandfather had been there, as it is full of Freemasonry symbols, and included an “Initiation Well.”
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We also stopped at Capo da Roca, where the R in the Portuguese language is pronounced much more like an H, to see the westernmost point on continental Europe. Last, we were at Cascais, (said Cash-case) to soak up a walk along the beach with gelato. Loren and I later finished our day with pork ribs that simply melted in our mouths and Bacalau – a type of cod found only in these Portuguese waters. To conclude our week, Loren and I rode a tram to nearby Belém to see the magnificent Jerónimos Mosteiro – Monastery.
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Afterwards, we had a snack of famous custard pastry that a friend had suggested we try, at Pasteis de Belem. And, after that, we saw the Tower of Belém, for another miradouro.
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Sadly our guitar concerto at a church that evening was canceled due to a car accident, so we hope to go tomorrow instead. Our trip to the cathedral was not all in vain as we saw two different memorable views of the setting sun over the 25th of April bridge.
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I have enjoyed hearing the calls of what must be a neighbor’s exotic bird – our AirBnB apartment butts up against buildings on either side, and our windows and outside patio are very close to the neighboring buildings on the opposite side of a quite narrow street. So, the echoes of muffled conversation and other sounds are quite delightful and entertaining – except when dogs fight or a neighbor has a party, like was the case this past Friday night. Wishing you Boa Noite – Good Night, for now!