There hasn’t been occasion to write many posts about rainy day activities for kids since I began this site because, well, there haven’t been many rainy days. Thankfully that changed a few weeks ago. There are finally puddles to jump in. And we have found a most unlikely place to spend an hour or two playing in the rain and learning about history at the same time: Fort Point. Continue reading
There are many inherent joys in being a grandparent. It is a chance to re-visit the favorite parts of one’s own childhood. And since you are the adult this time around you get to decide what parts those will be. Continue reading
I never paid much attention to horses before I became a grandmother. But when you are searching for ways to entertain little ones you find yourself venturing out of your comfort zone into uncharted territory often. It helps if the territory includes free parking and shade for an afternoon nap which is why we spend so much time in Golden Gate Park and how we discovered the Fred C. Egan Memorial Police Stables. Continue reading
Christmas Eve is the one day of the year that I try to incorporate as many ‘only in San Francisco’ activities for our granddaughter as possible. I would like her to remember the holidays fondly and with a sense of place.
The day starts with a stop at Alioto-Lazio at Fisherman’s Wharf to pick up Dungeness Crabs for Christmas dinner. One of the last family owned businesses on the wharf – and all woman owned.
Then home to make popcorn balls for Santa.
A little last minute rearranging of the manger to make room for the new arrival.
Then it’s time to walk to Chinatown for dinner at the Far East Cafe. My dad took me there when I was a little girl and it seemed like the most exotic and grown-up place in the world. Curtained booths lined the side walls and you summoned the waiter by pressing a buzzer. We sit in a booth and order the same child-friendly dishes every year: egg fu yung (aka egg foo young), barbecue pork and wonton soup.
After dinner it is a short walk to California Street to catch the cable car to the top of the hill.
Stop off at the Fairmont Hotel to see the gingerbread house and yet another Christmas tree.
Finally, we walk home to see what Santa has left for us while we were gone. (This bit of trickery was managed earlier in the evening by one of us ‘discovering’ that we have forgotten our wallet. While the rest of the family waits in the lobby, Papa dashes upstairs, fills stockings, places presents under the tree and then dashes back. Phew!)
While the little one opens gifts, the adults enjoy a glass of champagne and a slice of Coffee Crunch Cake from Yasukochi’s Sweet Shop in Japantown.
I hope that your holiday season was filled with much sweetness, many glasses of bubbly and lots of love. Happy New Year!
Shopping at Trader Joe’s is like Christmas morning everyday. There is always something new that surprises and delights the kid in me. It all started the first time I held their hefty, dark ‘Pound Plus’ Belgian chocolate bar. It was 1987 and I had just moved to Los Angeles leaving my beloved San Francisco behind. We didn’t have TJ’s in San Francisco then. There were a few places that carried imported chocolates like Cost Plus – but nothing that also offered their low prices. Continue reading
Why am I perched on the edge of a rickety folding chair, in a crowded, stuffy bookstore waiting to hear a man tell me what he had for breakfast? Everyone else in this room sees an author who is here to read out of his new book, sell and sign as many copies as possible and get out the door to dinner. I see Mark Bittman, the man who saved my marriage. He doesn’t know it. And neither does my husband. But I precede the story. Continue reading
Christmas tree shopping in San Francisco is a fairly new activity for me. Until I became a grandmother I was happy with the realistic faux tree that I hauled up from basement every year. It seemed like the correct economic and ecologic decision. For a pine scent I just burned candles. And then the magic and wonder of the holiday through the eyes of my granddaughter cast its spell on me. Suddenly the words ‘sensible and economical’ used in the same sentence as ‘Christmas’ became oxymorons. Santa and all he represents was making a come back into my life so it felt appropriate to honor the occasion with the real stuff.
Yesterday we went Christmas tree shopping. And since our granddaughter is now four years old and of strong opinion, she chose the right one. But, before we left home we talked about where the tree was going to go. Because we have a small living room there were certain ground rules: the tree could only be slightly taller than she is and had to fit in the elevator.
We returned to the same lot we went to last year. The staff at Marina Middle School Christmas Tree Lot are charming and helpful. They were happy to fresh-cut the base of the tree for us and load the tree into the car. And proceeds benefit a good cause.
Since the lot was not busy (Friday afternoon is a great time to go) she and I played hide and seek in our own private forest of perfectly shaped Christmas trees while Papa paid.
Here are just a couple other Christmas Tree Lots that also benefit good causes.
The Guardsmen: Since 1947 the Guardsmen have been raising funds to help disadvantaged children in the Bay Area. The lot is located inside the Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason. There is a jumpy house for the kids and I hear that there is booze for the adults.
Delancey Street Foundation: Providing residential self-help for former substance abusers. Founded in 1971 in an apartment in San Francisco. The sale of Christmas trees is an important training in the basics of sales. They also have a commercial division that provides decorating services to banks and large corporations.
It’s easy to tend your garden in the spring. It is full of beauty – the pale green shoots on the trees, the roses in full bloom. But to tend a garden in winter is to ‘dwell in possibility’ as Emily Dickinson might say. It is a cold, damp place that smells of rot and decay. It takes imagination and the ability to see a different kind of beauty. It is an act of faith and patience. Faith that you are planting the seeds in the best place and patience to wait until spring to find out.
I have the good fortune to be a member of Hooker Alley Garden – a community garden just a block from our apartment. The Recreation and Park Department manages over 35 gardens that are on City-owned property. Our garden, named for Civil War Army General Joseph Hooker, was created by a group of volunteers over 30 years ago. It was a garbage filled alley that was frequented by drug dealers and then rescued by my neighbors. I was on a waiting list for four years before I became a member. Continue reading
‘Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake.’
No matter how much you love the holidays there will be a moment in the next few days when you wonder if it’s really all worth it. It may be while you are in the parking lot of Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s waiting in line to park your car and you realize that this is just the first of many lines you will be waiting in today. Or your phone rings, caller id says it’s your Mother and you don’t answer.
Trust me. This is not the time for self analysis. This is not the time to try to figure out why you feel this way. This is the time to put on the walking shoes and get yourself out the door and over to Crissy Field.
There is a glorious feeling of expansiveness and peace that comes from walking along this promenade – one of the world’s most breathtaking. Everywhere you look there is a jaw-dropping view. The Golden Gate Bridge. Sausalito. Angel Island. Alcatraz. The City’s skyline. The fog. The beach. The tidal marsh. Not to mention the endorphins that you will be calling forth as you stride along. And, as you stride along, think about how lucky you are to be here, now. And what a glorious place San Francisco is.
This is a particularly special Thanksgiving for The Urbane Grandmother – I almost didn’t make this one. But because of the fast response of my husband (trained as a medic in Vietnam), the ambulance crew and emergency room physicians and nurses, I survived a burst brain aneurysm. And, miracle of miracles, I am back to normal. As my dear friend Jack Jason says, it is as though I have been re-booted!
And what did I learn from my near-death experience? To love and be loved is the most important thing. I have the best family and friends who sent good food and prayers (yes, I believe in the power of prayer) and, when in doubt, buy the shoes.
It is easy to forget how easy it is to drive from San Francisco to Southern California. Not via the express Highway 5 that hurls one along the arid middle of California but rather on Highway 101, a drive that meanders along the western edge of the state.
It is a longer ride but one that sets the tone for the kind of places it carries you to and through. Paso Robles, Atascadero, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara…towns founded as missions. Old Spanish Colonial California. It was the perfect road trip along the California coast to take to visit old friends who now live in Westlake Village – a ‘planned community’ that is known, as it says in Wikipedia, for ‘its affluence and secluded character’ not to mention room for horses. Continue reading