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
Posted in Afternoon Tea & Snack, Beyond SF, Big Sur, Carmel
Tagged big sur bakery, hearst castle, janie hewson, metropulos fine foods, mullin automotive museum, road trip california coast, viktor budnik, westlake village
What is the best gift for a granddaughter? It is LG’s fourth birthday and, luckily, she has a clear idea of exactly what she wants. The first is flowers. An interesting request from a four year old I thought. Would that be a bouquet of flowers? Or a potted plant? A corsage? Or a crown of flowers for her hair? Or maybe a potted mum?
The second gift will require a more creative solution. She wants a book about ‘cups’. She explained she wanted one because she doesn’t really know anything about cups and would like to learn more about them. And what is there to learn about cups? Luckily, I have a brilliant friend, ELO’B, who suggested that I get her a set of measuring cups. Brilliant! What are cups really about if not about measuring? And for enjoying a cuppa in the afternoon.
The grandparent urge, that I try to quash, is to make every single present unique and wonderful and something that she will remember for the rest of her life. Phew. I am exhausted just writing about it. Sometimes all a kid wants is a crayon and a pad of blank paper. Her mom has a clever solution for this grandmotherly urge for prosterity. She writes a letter to LG every year on her birthday and puts it away for her to open and read at a specified date. So, a few weeks ago I wrote a letter to be opened on her 18th birthday. It contains some Euros and a suggestion on how they are to be spent: on champagne at the Eiffel Tower – whatever that means in 14 years. There is more than enough for a glass or two (I hope) and maybe even a bottle. With a little luck we will be there to share.
You know you are a grandparent when one moment you are helping your grandchild make bat, pumpkin and owl cookies and the next you are contemplating the existential meaning of the Halloween Costume in the 21st Century.
Can you remember what your first Halloween costume was? I can. My mom ordered my Bugs Bunny costume out of the Sear’s catalog. The costume was a one-piece blue nylon jump suit that I squeezed into from the back and fastened closed in a bow at the neck. There was an uncomfortable stiff plastic mask of Bug’s cartoon face that attached with a piece of black elastic stretched across the back of my head. I recall that unless the eye and nose slots were positioned just so it was impossible to see and difficult to breath AND it really hurt if some kid snapped the elastic.
A few weeks ago my granddaughter had her first taste of mayonnaise. She asked her mom what it was and declared not only her undying love and devotion for said mayonnaise but also that she intended to ‘be’ mayonnaise for Halloween. When I heard the story two things occurred. First, I finally understood what the Halloween costume thing was really about. Bugs Bunny was my favorite cartoon character. I wanted to ‘be’ Bugs in the same way that my granddaughter declared that she wanted to ‘be’ mayonnaise. Bugs was smart, funny and always won. What wasn’t to like? But what does it mean that a child can imagine that they can become the thing they love? This is why childhood is an enchanted state of being. In an instant we believe we can become the loved other even if it comes in a jar with a blue label. (That was my ‘Smart Bugs’ thinking in action).
Secondly, (‘Funny Bugs’ alert), I started to imagine what a mayonnaise costume could look like. Large blue hat? Smooth white satin jumpsuit? Should her grandfather and I dive in and provide the other condiments? Mustard? Relish? Sanity prevailed and I did not volunteer our services. Also, she had been talking to us about being a fox for weeks. Her birthday parties (#3 and #4 next month) have both been about The Woodland Creature. Come to the party as a hedgehog or squirrel not a sandwich spread. She is so into it that she recently asked a new friend at her pre-school what she was going to be for Halloween. The three year old friend unwittingly responded ‘A Princess!’ to which LG queried ‘what kind of animal is that?’. I knew then the animal theme was non-negotiable.
So, this week we are going to her school’s Halloween party which is more of a Day of the Dead Celebration. We will bring pictures of loved ones that have passed on and ancestors she has never met. Her grandfather will wear one of the many fox masks that well-meaning grandparents contributed to her costume. I will wear all black and bring Ralph the Raven, a hand puppet. And maybe some edible treats. Holding the mayo, of course.
I just wanted to share the news that The Urbane Grandmother has been chosen to be one of San Francisco Travel’s Ambassadors!
The San Francisco Travel Association is an outgrowth of the ‘San Francisco Convention and Tourist League’ which was founded in 1909 as a non-profit whose mission was to restore San Francisco’s position as a tourist destination in wake of the 1906 earthquake. I will be contributing monthly to their website with articles about what to do with your children and grandchildren in San Francisco. And there will be lots of ideas of activities for parents and grandparents once the kids are tucked safely in bed. Classic San Francisco.
Today is ‘I Love Yarn Day’! Join other yarn lovers today at noon in Union Square. The editors of Crochet Today are hosting this free event which includes a free yarn give-away to the first 100 attendees.
Remember the knitting craze of 2004? It seemed like EVERYONE was knitting. People that had never held a pointed object longer than a Ticonderoga pencil were suddenly wielding size 10 knitting needles 16 inches long. And if you weren’t knitting you were surely the recipient of a knitted scarf (about a mile long) or a knitted hat (always a bit too large). Boutique yarn stores seemed to pop-up overnight. Stitch and bitch groups formed in bars and parks. Men could be seen knitting on MUNI.
I was one of those women who jumped right into the fray. Within a week of learning how to knit, from my sister, I was purchasing luxurious yarns and rosewood knitting needles. I have never regretted a moment or dollar spent on this relaxing pastime. It has calmed my nerves on airplanes and quieted my anxious brain in hospital waiting rooms. Best of all, it has become the portal to my quiet center.
That’s why I advocate always having a knitting project with you when you venture forth with children. I especially like a hat project knitted in-the-round because it is harder to lose needles and if you drop a stitch it is easier to find your place again. I leave the more difficult sweater patterns for my at-home knitting bag.
I love to knit when I am with my granddaughter because it shows her that something can be created from almost nothing. I look forward to teaching her how to knit one day but in the meantime, she visits yarn stores with me. Perhaps we will see you today in Union Square! Today might be the day I learn how to crochet…
Don’t let the Federal Government Shutdown ruin your time in San Francisco. I could rant and rave about this (haven’t you)? But you need solutions to the dilemma of what to do today with the kids, not more kvetching. See the list below of alternative activities. Think of it as a chance to take the path less traveled. You remember what they say about making lemonade out of lemons…
Alcatraz? So, you thought you were going to spend the day on Alcatraz? Sorry. But you can still see the island up close by taking a water sightseeing tour. This 90-minute cruise takes you out past the Golden Gate Bridge (weather permitting) and circles around the island twice. You will hear a narration about life on The Rock as told by the inmates, guards and families that lived there. I have done both and I prefer the cruise.
Muir Woods? Need to see a redwood tree before you leave California? No problem. The oldest trees in Golden Gate Park are the redwoods that were planted at the turn of the 20th century and they are in the Strybing Arboretum. Park website here.
Crissy Field? This is the weirdest one for me. Who knew you could close a field and beach? And how is that done, precisely? Well, by closing all of the parking lots. But if a nice long walk is what you had in mind, try one of the free City Guides of San Francisco walking tours. They have a list of October tours that are not offered at any other time of year. This is a nice way to sneak in a history lesson for the kids. Not all tours will be appropriate so use your best judgement and consider the comfort of the kids and your fellow tourists. While the tours are officially free, they do accept donations.
Land’s End? Walk across the street and wander around Sutro Heights Park. This is one of the most beautiful and wacky places in San Francisco. Stroll the paths and imagine what it must have looked like when first developed by Adolph Sutro, a wealthy Prussian Jewish immigrant who clearly loved San Francisco. Extra points if you can find the statue of the goddess Diana. Views from here are (sorry) breathtaking.
San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art is hosting a free family event today, 10:00 a.m. – to 3:00 p.m. at Crissy Field. No doubt you have noticed the enormous painted steel sculptures that landed on the field in May. All created by artist Mark DiSuvero. We rarely get a chance to see so many of his works displayed in a setting that gives them the space and breadth they deserve to be fully appreciated. A first for San Francisco.
Today’s event, “Brave the Elements: Where Line, Shape and Color Meet Earth, Wind and Sky” is a day of poetry, music and art making. It will give you and your children a chance to get up close (and personal) with each of the constructions. My favorite is ‘Old Buddy (for Rosko)’ named in tribute to his dog. And those of us who have known the love of a dog will recognize the playfulness of his stance as he leans forward in anticipation. Do you see it? I took this picture a few months ago so ignore the fog. Don’t worry. It is a beautiful, clear autumn day in SF.
See you there!
Most San Franciscans speed walk through Union Square. We use it exclusively as a short cut to avoid the crowded sidewalks. Rarely do any of us take the time to linger and appreciate its beauty. Too bad. Because it really is an ‘urban oasis’ just as the Visit Union Square website has described it.
I think that one of the best times to visit is early Sunday morning. I discovered this two years ago when I was taking One-on-One classes at the Apple store on Stockton. After class I would grab a cup of coffee at the Peet’s kiosk in front of Macy’s and head up to Union Square to my favorite bench (sorry, can’t tell where – I have to keep some secrets!). If I was hungry I stopped in at the Chancellor Hotel’s restaurant for the best chilaquiles (and no long wait).
So, my penchant for visiting Union Square on Sunday mornings is what caused me to find a world I had no idea existed until just four hours ago. The world and people of ‘Sunday Mornings at Williams-Sonoma’. And what a lovely world it is. First of all, is the store is beautiful and it smells good. The sales staff is attentive. And they offer complimentary technique classes on Sundays.
This class was full of regulars – some traveling as far as the East Bay. I can understand why. It is a chance to sample many of the prepared products that Williams-Sonoma sells before purchasing. And to see specialty cookware demonstrated.
The teacher, Aaron, was well-prepared, easy to understand and charming.
His assistant, Carla, worked with great efficiency. And, I met lovely people who love to cook. Is there anything better than having someone cook for you on a Sunday morning? To paraphrase Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s – it’s hard to imagine anything bad happening to you at Williams-Sonoma.