Monday, December 31, 2012

Winter Solstice Greetings And Annual Message of Hope

Belated, I know. But better belated than never. Besides, I always like to wait and make sure the days are getting longer. More sun-light. You know what I mean.

We are still here in Menlo Park, grand-parenting Penelope while daughter Rebecca and her husband Jeremy work. Rebecca chairs the English department at Castilleja Girls School in Palo Alto now, and Jeremy continues his tech consulting, mostly at Simply Hired in Sunnyvale. Penelope is wonderful and figures largely in my last several blog posts, of course. Daughter Rachel and her husband Will just bought and renovated a house in DC, where they live. Rachel is manager of governmental affairs at Amgen there, and Will is on the staff of Montana senator Max Baucus. The big news for Rachel, apart from the house, is her new master's degree from American U. And much more time to devote to interior design.

We are much enjoying our little travel respite in Middle California. The weather is pleasant, if occasionally on the cool and wet sides of the spectra. Our little cottage is cozy but comfortable. There are both natural and human sights and sounds of interest nearby...beaches, mountains, and forests, The City, with all its culture, and Stanford shopping mall, of course. The little downtown parts of Redwood City, Menlo Park, and Palo Alto, all nearby, are very attractive. The Bay Area is a foodie's paradise, and, of course, we love to cook. Thai basil and galangal root and kaffir lime leaves are all at Nak's, a mile away on Santa Cruz Ave. Besides, one can live pretty well on 2$Chuck and Costco's pintxos and poulet roti.

We plan to return to Europe in April and resume our travels from Toulouse, see more of southwestern France, then more of Spain, up the Atlantic coast generally all the way to Calais, and then across to Britland. The UK of GB is still part of Freedonia, and we'll spend 90 very pleasant days there before returning to Schengenia. The next 90 days we'll pass leisurely through France and then concentrate on Italy, perhaps all the way back down to Sicily. Heaven. And then we'll confront the periodic issue of whether and how to ship the Grey Wanderer back to the States. In any case, we'll be back in the States in the late fall of 2013.

It's a great year to look forward to, and we hope our readers' 2013 will be wonderful as well.
At Brix in Napa; Jeremy's dad Robert treated us all to a great
Xmas dinner










Friday, December 28, 2012

Goin' To The Zoo, Zoo, Zoo*

So Thursday Rebecca, Penelope, Vicki and I went to the San Francisco Zoo. The zoo by the sea, near Daly City. It was cold, cold, cold. But P appeared to love it, especially the zoo-choo-choo
Flamingos...winter in Middle California














Napping primate friend














On the zoo choo-choo...a 1925 baby steam engine














Toot-toot














Meditating Montana grizzly














Morning after polar bear














At 20 months, Penelope is learning her alphabet; and here
has spotted the P and W: Penelope Wohl















A black swan














Our party, momentarily resting














Lions resting














Hippo showering














Rhino sauntering














Tiger pacing














Penguins feeding














Near the pachydermarium














Our party on the move














Fellow primate













Ditto














Feeding the giraffes














And a final peacock












































*Raffi; also Peter, Paul, and Mary

Monday, December 24, 2012

Milford Sound, 2009: We Return You Now To Our Regularly Scheduled Travel Blog

So, as chronicled earlier, we did New Zealand's Milford Tramp in January of 2009, stayed at the lodge in Milford for a couple rainy days, watching waterfalls come and go, the kea and the sand flies, and then did a half-day kayaking tour of Milford Sound. The latter is one of the South Island's best-known fiords and is indeed a world-class sort of place. For the kayaking trip, we had purchased a disposable water-proof marine camera and used up nearly all its film taking pix of the marvelous sights. We left the camera with Rebecca when we returned to the States in March of 2009. Then we departed for Europe.

But some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth. And for two and a half years, the camera passed out of all knowledge.

But it turned up again in the summer of 2012, during cleaning and reorganization of Rebecca's garage, and, within only a few months, I took it to the Santa Cruz Avenue Walgreen's for developing. (I hesitated because I did not believe anyone was still developing film). Anyhow, below are a few pix from the kayaking trip. Memories of the great beauty of the place, of its incredibly still waters, a giant walled inlet of the violent Tasmanian Sea, of high peaks and glaciers towering above, of changing from street clothes into a wet suit, outdoors, on the beach, in a cloud of sand flies, still haunt me.
Milford Sound, Mitre Peak, etc.













Looking back to the interior













Us, kayaking; I remember asking the
guide whether this might be a good
place to set my altimeter, and his
replying, straight-faced South Islander,
that yes, we were indeed at about
mean-tide






















The waterfall; we had just seen
Southerland Falls and so were not all
that impressed




















Up closer


















So what do you do with a few remaining frames from a four
year old disposable camera? That's right, take pix of your
current abode...

Sunday, December 23, 2012

ChooChooFanning with Penelope

All this fall we have been taking Penelope to the weekly baby story time at the nearby Atherton library (small library, great staff). The library is at the Atherton civic center, a 15 minute walk from our cottage, and also there is the Atherton Caltrain station. On a good day at story time, we'll see three choo-choos whoosh by, two southbounds and a northbound. Maybe more if we go to the nearby park and playground. The Caltrain runs more or less hourly from San Francisco down the peninsula to San Jose and on to San Ajo, I mean Gilroy. The choo-choos have become Penelope's new obsession, surpassing happies, and even Santa is a distant 2nd place. (We have taken her to Stanford Mall half a dozen times to observe the Macy's Santa and to get accustomed to the Santa photography session ordeal; maybe next year). Anyhow, all our local travels are now scheduled around the Caltrain's appearances at Atherton, or Menlo Park, or Palo Alto, or Redwood City. On rainy days, or when she's really bored with the grandparents, we content ourselves with one or two of the many Caltrain videos on YouTube; the best of which is the artful http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=WSEpCPTju3w. From these I have learned, additionally, that the current nomenclature is "railfanning," no longer the archaic "trainspotting." Thus, "choochoofanning," adapted for 20-month-olds. Penelope's older second cousin, James, I know, shares her interest in railroads. Anyhow, Wednesday we decided it was time for Penelope to ride the Baby Bullet*, at least from Redwood City to Millbrae and back, with stops at Belmont and San Mateo.
Approach of a Baby Bullet














Baby aboard the Baby Bullet















With Grandma at the station


















Another station, with Grandpa














Riding with Grandma














Bye-bye, Baby Bullet























*I have subsequently learned that the Baby Bullet is not merely the sleeker locomotive, but those that run the express route, with very few stops

Happy Halloween

Some words of explanation. We are still here in Menlo Park, our European travels suspended for a few months, helping care for grand-daughter Penelope again while her parents work. Penelope is now 20 months old, and beginning to talk in complete, well-formed sentences. She started with the usual "mama" and "daddy" and "hug" and "duck" in the late spring and early summer, and, by the time we were back from Europe in September, her vocabulary had grown considerably. At 18 months she had about 70 words, mostly nouns. In the last several weeks, she has begun putting gerunds and nouns together, and then verbs, and pronouns, and adjectives, then full sentences. “I see Grandma.” “Grandpa make oatmeal.” Etc. Well, Hemingway well-formed sentences. Not Shakespeare, yet, but she definitely knows her Shakespeare doll from the Unemployed Philosophers Guild, and calls it “Shakespeare." Every day we are astounded at what she has picked up and is using. I could not possibly put a bound on her vocabulary now. She parrots everything. We have to be very careful what we say. ("Grandma fart!") She became fairly adept at Baby Sign Language this fall, and still uses it a bit, but it has been superseded. It is wonderful knowing more fully what is on this little person's mind. And she is not reluctant to share.

Anyhow, one of the words she had learned by the time we returned in September was “happy,” as in happy face. Any face became a “happy,” and by early October, all pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns were included as “happies.” Our daily walks around the neighborhood and elsewhere became searches for “happies.” Thus “Happy Halloween,” for us, in small part recorded in the following pix.  
Behold! Happies! On one of several visits to the pumpkin
farms near Half Moon Bay















Riding horsie














Some happies are edible














Surfing with Grandma at Moss Beach














At the Menlo Park Halloween Parade














For the parade, she is a wizard














Confronting the Great Happy














Conferring with other wizards at Fremont Park














"Happy!"


















Finally finding where Grandma hid the last of the chocolates
Aunt Carole left for us!















For Halloween she is a dragon (here with Mama as Huck
Finn (always literary))















Checking out the haul after visiting Maggie's
next door; no candy!



















Finally, the Mother Lode, at Engine House #5