Saturday, December 28, 2013

Fun Old-Fashioned Family Christmas, 2013*

Penelope with Grandma and grand aunt Marie

All the Sehestedts, Wohls, and Sherouses...dessert course
of the traditional Christmas eve fondue extravaganza

Christmas morning and Santa has delivered the requested
Rapunzel doll as well as the rest of the cast of Tangled

All documented on the new toddler digital camera


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Urban Outfitting In DC

On December 4th, Southwest Airlines carried us and our considerable luggage to Washington's National Airport and our new temporary abode, at the Truxton Circle home of daughter Rachel and her husband Will, in DC. The walk-out basement, which we helped to re-model, financially, is ours for a while, a really nice little 1-bedroom unit. Except for a bed, it remains to be furnished, however, and so, after considerable e-research, we set forth to the MD Ikea and bought a variety of bedroom/study items. Will and I spent a Saturday assembling a chest and desk and bookshelves. As a 30-something, he takes to it naturally. It took me hours to decipher and execute the Ikea-speak pictograms. I've built quite a few items of furniture this way over the years (perhaps a dozen Doxie bookcases, e.g.), and I acknowledge that Ikea has really refined the process to the nearly fool-proof. By my standard, anyway. The chest of drawers and bookshelves I assembled came together and work, and the process is therefore fool-proof. You have to be a very patient and methodical fool, however. And have a magnifying glass in your tool-kit to decipher all the little pictures of all the little parts.

Anyhow, we are settled in for the holidays. Vicki took the mega bus over to Knoxville to visit her sister Marie and family for a few days, and I spent those days acclimatizing myself to the urban environment. It is very different from the Silica Suburbia environment of Menlo Park, Palo Alto, and Googlopolis. Not intensely urban like, say, Istanbul or Naples, but urban enough. Truxton Circle, where Rachel and Will live, is a neighborhood in transition, as they say. Renovation and new construction going on all over. But much of the old neighborhood remains. Last week, we inadvertently became part of the grand opening of DC's first Walmart, a few blocks away. Well, we bought some soft drinks and milk and housewares there. Compared with the usual suburban or rural Walmart, it is much smaller, has a parking garage beneath it, but, seemingly, much of the usual merchandise crowded in and with aisles just wide enough for two shopping carts to pass. We rarely shopped at Walmart in bygone years, but this one felt different...nearly European in its density. Sadly, a city council bill to require the big box international corporations to pay employees a living wage ($12.50/hour) was vetoed by DC's mayor. He was concerned not only with losing the projected six Walmarts but also the Targets, Home Depots, Macy's, and other biggies already here. At least some more jobs and tax money will stay in DC and not the burbs of MD or VA, who enjoy representation with their taxation. A few nights later we shopped at the DC Costco, which is exactly like the Costcos of Middle California and everywhere else. The giant bottle of Bombay Sapphire--my index of consumer prices--was $28.99, just like in Redwood City. It is good that there are some constants in life.

When not doing the usual (for us) unpacking, re-sorting, re-packing--we have a half dozen different destinations to plan and pack for in the next eight months--we have taken a number of exploratory walks, to Rachel's office downtown and elsewhere in the neighborhood.
Welcome to Walmart! Maybe you won't be trampled to death
in the annual Holiday Season Retail Stampede...

At Union Station, the Norwegian Christmas

Decorated with 87 gazillion images of Munch's
Scream (it is the 150th anniversary of Munch's
birth)...right in there with the Christmas spirit

Urban scene

Urban outfitting

One day we took the Metro to Pentagon City and its mall;
rather sparse...I assume most people are at home or at work
shopping via Amazon

Downtown; there's got to be an interesting story here, with
a new office building going up over and around some old

Friday, December 6, 2013

Thanksgiving With Penelope

Our next travels took us to Menlo Park, CA, where we had already spent major bits of 2011-2013 helping out with grand-daughter Penelope, this time enabling her mom and dad to take a much-needed mini-vacation. Below are a variety of pix from our stay. Thanks, Rebecca and Jeremy, and again neighbor Maggie, who put us up.
Trainspotting at Menlo Park Station; "it's a south-bound
Baby Bullet!"

Ice cream treat later; grandparents are big on ice cream treats

Ice cream notwithstanding, this girl still likes her broccoli

Thanksgiving head-gear from her wonderful

Positive reinforcement breakfast ice cream

Princess towel Grandma had procured years

Dressed up in Mommy's Wonder Woman outfit

Baking with Grandma

Testing great-grandma McCoy's pie crust cookie recipe 

Making pumpkin pie

Thanksgiving Day dinner; thanks, Marie Callander

And Thanksgiving Day tea party with Grandma; and with
pumpkin pie and scones and clotted cream

Riding the CalTrain to San Francisco

The Amazon Kindle store at San Francisco Centre; sic transit,

At the Oxymoron Shoppe

Chance encounter with a Santa Claus
re-enactor, who was trolling for clients;
P had a more formal photo opp with
another St. Nick later at Stanford Mall

Family Thanksgiving Dinner with parents and Poppy
at The Farm; thanks Rebecca and Jeremy for a great meal

And more ice cream!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Arrivaderci, Roma...Italia...Europa, 2013

So here we are, in our room at the Villa Rosita, a B&B perhaps a mile from Fiumicino. Today, Saturday, our European travels done for a bit, we'll jet back to the States on the friendly but greedy skies of Lufthansa, first to Menlo Park and grand-daughter Penelope and her parents for a couple weeks, then to DC and daughter Rachel and her husband Will for the balance of December and early January. Rebecca and Jeremy and Penelope will come to DC for Xmas too. As the astute reader will have noticed, we sold the Grey Wanderer to fellow Americans and world travelers Jan and Richard. They are experienced RVers and sailors and are no strangers to Europe, so we know they will have great times traveling here like we did. In January we'll fly to New Zealand for three months there, then back to Menlo Park, then on to Ft. Lauderdale with my sister Carole and her family, then a re-positioning cruise with Norm and Marie from Miami to Barcelona, then three months in an apartment in Paris, returning again to Menlo Park in August. After that we have no plans...but stay tuned.
Penelope, Grandma, and Grandpa enjoying their first tea
party together, back in Menlo Park

Friday, November 15, 2013

Roman Out-Takes, 2013

Just a few from the Eternal City...perhaps I'll add some more later...
Dorothy Parker would have loved it--always 5 o'clock here on
the Via Trieste

Tight fit

Just doesn't seem right...

Ancient Roman cell tower

What would Michaelangelo have thought?

"Fashion is that which is so reprehensibly
ugly that it needs to be changed every six
months"; or "Snot-green is the new [orange]
[lime] [teal] [whatever]"

Vicki said be sure to take a picture of a Roman pizzeria...

From our campsite at Prato Smeraldo...within Rome's city

Richard and Jan, new owners of the Grey Wanderer 

Monday, November 11, 2013

St. John Lateran

We trudged on, determined to see St. John Lateran, which we had visited many years before. It is first among the Papal churches of Rome, the seat of the Bishop of Rome, dating from the mid 4th century. Alas, although huge, majestic, etc., it is no match, aesthetically, for St. Paul's or Santa Maria Maggiore. But still worth one more visit.
The usual obelisk, proclaiming victory over
the pagans

Interior view

Altar, dome, mosaic; mass is about to begin


Part of the half dome mosaic

OK, not us

Nave view

Out on the huge porch

Our Patron (Constantine); curious they never
made him a saint...

Facade of St. John Lateran

Left-over for next time: the Sacred Steps (to Pilate's Palace),
which Constantine's mom, St. Helen, brought back from
the Holy Land (also the True Cross, etc.); tired puppies,
we headed for the nearest metro and the ride home