Monday, July 27, 2009

One last Spain award ...

goes to my dear husband for most patient. (Take your mind out of the gutter, please.)

His bag was just delivered. We've been home three weeks. I was thrilled to see the artisan candy from Papabubble. He was thrilled to see the Shandy's.

And it's officially over. Well, as soon as I polish off that candy.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Shoe Haiku

Of fifty-five pair.
Twenty-five of them are black.
I have a problem.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sunbaked Babies in San Diego

My Ice Cream SIL taught me this expression. It's the delicious way your own child smells after time in the sun, often with traces of sunscreen still on them.

I had two Sunbaked Babies this weekend. Really they were Sunbaked Seven-Year-Olds but I am partaking in a little poetic license.

The three of us flew to San Diego Friday night and spent the weekend with my cousins. Sara and I were close as children and had drifted apart due mostly to geography. She and her family moved back to California a few years ago and she'd long since issued a standing invitation for us to come and visit. Why did we wait so long?

They are much more religious than we are and it was interesting to see how they lived. Her husband is a psychiatrist so not only was I concerned about my children mixing up the milk and meat dishes and discussing their love affair with bacon, I also wondered what notes Michael was taking. They observe Shabbat on Saturdays and spend the day in shul. That gave us the opportunity to borrow their minivan (I'd never driven one before!) and meet friends at Legoland.

Legoland was a blast! We were there when it opened at 10a and ran around until we were completely spent, around 5p. The park is about 3/4 the size of Disneyland, much larger than I'd expected. We didn't even cover half of it. There is VIP Volvo parking. Sadly, mine was at the Oakland Airport Park & Fly.

Where to begin with the park? The kids best liked the ginormous Lego dragon. When you spoke into the receiver at its base it changed your voice and the dragon spoke your words. I best liked Miniland, which are Lego models of several cities. I loved the recreation of President Obama's inauguration, which was created right down to the spectators and the First Lady's yellow attire. I also loved the classic San Francisco Victorian's. Bourbon Street in New Orleans was pretty impressive, too.

We rode roller coasters and drove boats and spun on teacup-like rides and ate Apple Fries dipped in vanilla frosting (yum!) We admired the Lego busts of famous people, including Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and Queen Elizabeth.

The park didn't get crowded until lunchtime and we just had a great day. I was sorry when we just ran out of steam and had to leave. I wish Dave had been with us; he would have loved it as much as we did.

Sunday we went to Del Mar beach with my Sara and the kids. I'd never actually seen people surf before. And the coastal houses were amazing; I would love to rent one for a week. The kids played in the surf, built sand forts and buried each other while my cousin and I sat under umbrellas and laughed at how much we still had in common after having three children apiece and living very different lives. She's a Twilight junkie, too, and I think I convinced her to try Vampire Porn. We came home mid afternoon, bathed and went to IHOP for a late lunch. (I had to have the no-bacon-in-front-of-our-cousins-who-keep-Kosher talk with the kids at the restaurant.) Then they dropped us off at the airport.

We'll be back soon.

Monday, July 20, 2009

I'm just fine. Really.

My cell rang at 7:45a Saturday morning.

Caryl: Where are you?

Me: Hi Caryl. It's nice to talk to you, too.

Caryl: Seriously, where are you?

Me: I'm in the guest room bed at my cousin's house in San Diego. Is there any particular reason we need to have this conversation at 7:45a on a Saturday morning?

Caryl: Because I'm on Facebook chatting with you. And you're asking me to wire you money because you've just been mugged in the London and need to get back to the states.

Me: Crap. I've been hacked.

Caryl: I was pretty sure it wasn't you, though, as you have perfect diction and the IMs I'm getting are horribly written.

Me: Thanks sweetie! Gotta go deal now. I'll call you back.

Welcome to my Saturday morning.

I changed my status to alert people to the security breach and within a few hours, the security team at Facebook deactivated my account to prevent further damage. I was quite impressed with their handling of the situation. After an extended exercise in Internet safety and verification I was back online. And just a little bit wiser.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Far, far away

Eldest Daughter, who is 11, is at sleep-away camp. This is her third year so we've got the drill down. Still, I'd forgotten how much work I have to do for her to have the best two weeks of her summer.

1. Beginning in November when next summer's schedule comes out, coordinate with other campers' parents to find out when previous years' favorite bunkmates are going.

2. Convince child that two weeks is plenty -- she can go for longer when she gets older.

3. Schedule doctor's appointment for physical and for health release forms to filled out. Ask husband to take her to said appointment so I don't have to sit through shots with her.

4. Evaluate contents of closet so we know what to shop for. Query child why she has to have an outfit in every color of the rainbow. (The answer: the Color Wars game.)

5. Remind child that she cannot bring her cell, iPod or digital camera. Using best stern face, and repeat when she says her bunkmates are bringing them even though she signed a form saying they were against camp rules and that she would not bring them.

6. Mail her a letter three days before camp starts so she is the first one in her cabin to receive mail.

7. Shop for additional items of clothing and toiletries. Tell her we cannot do a spur-of-the-moment shopping trip with favorite bunkmate from last year because she lives 105 miles away.

8. Iron labels on all clothing items we hope come home with her.

9. Print address labels for the friends and family she thinks she will write letters to. Insist she does not pre-stamp the envelopes because history has shown how many will actually be written.

10. Email friends and family her camp snail mail address. Encourage them to write her as mail is a big deal at camp.

11. Throw all items in bright turquoise rolling duffel. Take iPod out of pocket where she has hidden it.

12. Drop her off at bus stop. Try not to be offended when she hops out of the car to join her friends and doesn't look back. (Best practice: carpool to bus stop next year so only one parent has to have their feelings hurt.)

13. Relax for 24 hours knowing she is still not thinking about us at all.

14. Pack and mail care package. It cannot contain food, even sewn into a stuffed animal, as she has suggested. This year's contents include: black nail polish that her father would never let her wear and nail polish remover, Abercrombie shorts, tween magazines M, Twist and J-14, three lip glosses, book of jokes and most coveted item of all: pillowcase that her friends have written greetings on with puffy fabric paint.

15. Try not to mope around the house until her return feeling like I'm missing an appendage.

I'm such a good mother.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Vampire Porn

I'm so over Edward.

My friend Mishel, who was equally sucked in by the Twilight books, told me about True Blood on HBO.

I downloaded Season 1 to my iPhone before we left for Spain. Bad idea.

Similar to Twilight, there's just something about the story that sucks you in. The characters are quirky and you fall in love with them, each in a different way. It addresses racism head on. It's shockingly graphic in terms of violence and sex. And it's romantic, too. In real life, the two main characters are involved, which only adds to the intrigue.

I can't figure out why I'm hooked. I'm not a vampire person. I have never watched horror flicks. Blood sends me running for the loo. But apparently I'm not the only one drawn in by this. The series is said to be reviving HBO, drawing in the highest number of viewers per episode since The Sopranos.

It's on Sundays at 9p. Come join the fun.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I blinked and 20 years had gone by.

This weekend I met up with Jeff, a friend I previously blogged about, that I had not seen in more than 20 years. Facebook enables these things.

I wasn't nervous about catching up with him and meeting his family -- I was excited and also thrilled to show off my own family. I was, however, a little surprised to see him waiting in the driveway for me. Did he think we got lost?!

As I guessed, his wife is sweet (and thin, damn those 86 marathons!) and their son is adorable. We really did pick up right where we left off.

We were going to get together for lunch somewhere random in the Napa Valley, where they were on their annual trip west visiting one of his college friends. Instead the friends invited us to their house in St. Helena so the kids could swim while we caught up. It was a perfect 80 degrees poolside and the six kids got along well. The friend turned out to be a well-known public figure, unpretentious and with interesting stories. It was just a nice afternoon.

How lucky was I?!

Monday, July 6, 2009

And the Oscar goes to ...

Dave and Thing 1 for Tastiest. The mosquitoes were relentless. You would have thought this was a camping trip!

Neeracha, for Most Dedicated Blogger and Best Restaurant Picker.

Sara, for Most Comprehensive Analysis of Neeracha's Blog in Order to Optimize Vacation Time. Sara even plotted Neeracha's picks on a Barcelona map with colored stickers!

Thom, for Most Committed to Daily Churro Procurement. The poor guy needs to learn to sleep in.

Leslie, for Most Likely to Blog with Thom's Pictures Without Crediting Him. I swear, Thom, it was only because I was too lazy to download my pictures to Peter's laptop, sort through them, then delete them. All the pictures on this post are mine. Besides, what good is having a professional photographer along if you can't rip off his photos?

Anna, for Easiest, Most Agreeable Child and 7-Year-Old Most Willing to Try New Foods. How is this possible for an only child?!

Mom and Dad, for Most Improved Participants. During our Italy trip in 2005 they were the first ones out the door in the morning and the last ones home at night. We actually got to spend time with them this year. Nice job Mom and Dad!

Linda, for Most Creative Use of Two Outfits During a Week-Long Trip. American Airlines lost her luggage both to and from Spain. Her bag finally caught up with us less than 24 hours before we headed back to the states. I have to give my MIL credit; this was an inconvenience but, seasoned traveler that she is, she did not let this get to her.

Peter, for Best Quote. I won't put it down verbatim here but it had to do with what he called Vampire Porn and my need to get through the first season of True Blood on my iPhone. The show is on HBO for a reason, folks.

Kate, for Best Joke From a 7-Year-Old: If you're American when you walk into a bathroom and American when you walk out, what are you while you're in the bathroom? European!

Steve, for Best Collection of Sherbet-Colored Polo Shirts.

Hilarie, for Most Committed to Sunscreen Application. One look at her gorgeous children and you'll know why.

Thing 2, for Most Vocal if Deprived of Her Daily Swim. My Energizer Bunny really needs her exercise.

This is my last post on Spain. Woo hoo!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Rambling around Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas was made for people watching. The wide pedestrian street runs from Plaza Cataluna to the Mediterranean, where it ends at a statue of Christopher Columbus commemorating his return to Spain after discovering the Americas. It reminded me a bit of Fisherman's Wharf.

We walked it twice. At its midpoint is Mercat de la Boqueria, a shrine to food filled with fruit vendors, suckling pig legs, live lobsters and restaurants. (If I never eat jambon again I'll be just fine -- we ate way too much of it this trip.)

Along the main drag are vendors selling flowers and small rodents, caricaturists (Eldest Daughter had one done), street artists, spray-painted, motionless people dressed like statues and remaining motionless and not remaining motionless, dancers (especially Michael Jacksons this week) and just strange people. It's nonstop both day and night. We could not get enough! Dave and I bought some original art -- really abstract acrylic paintings this time, not our usual watercolors or pen and inks.

After a long, slow walk to the water we hopped on a golondrine (aka catamaran) for a tour of Port Vell, Barceloneta and Port Olimpic. Barcelona's shoreline was well-developed for the 1992 Olympics and its cruise ship port is quite active. We were all surprised to see the Crystal Symphony there, a ship my MIL has been on 22 times. Yes, really.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Gorgeous Gaudi

During college I took a life-changing elective course: European Architecture. The images of Antoni Gaudi's whimsical, Modernista creations have stayed with me 20+ years and this week I got to see them.

We spent our first day in Barcelona doing my checkoffs, which we easily accomplished by getting tickets to the city tourist bus and keeping The Pinks stuffed with helados.

Gaudi is best known for the unfinished Sagrada Familia church. The first brick was installed in 1882 and Gaudi died when he was hit by a streetcar, at age 75, while still working on it. He never married, so obsessed was he by his life's work. The foundation hopes the church will be completed by 2030 using funds from the visitation of it. We took the elevator to the top, where I shot this first picture. I also popped this next picture, looking up while inside the church.

We also went to La Pedrera, the apartment building Gaudi completed in 1910 for the Guell family. Its facade is curved and its roof has chimneys resembling medieval warriors. The ventilation ducts are twisted into obscure organic forms. We could have played one great game of Hide and Seek up there. The residences are finished exquisitely with wrought-iron trim, one of Gaudi's trademarks. It would make me nuts to live in though -- no right angles anywhere!

Our last stop on the Gaudi milk run was Park Guell, quite a hike up into the hills. It includes fairy-tale-like gatehouses, which would be right at home in any Disney theme park, and an esplanade, at the park's centerpiece. The mosaic lizard just inside is often photographed. While none of these pictures show Gaudi's mosaics, he is known for that, too: small tiles of playful assemblies in bright colors.