APTLY NAMED

TODAY’S OBSERVATION

John and I are spending all our time this week watching the US Open. It’s on about 10 hours a day and if we didn’t have TiVo, it would be impossible to watch. Really, all you people who don’t have TiVo? I can only guess that you love watching commercials. More about TiVo in another entry.

Anyway, I am looking at the players and I see some great names for tennis. Two pop out, Anna Smashnova of Israel and Sybille Bammer from Austria who played in the qualifying event. So that got me to thinking about other athletes with great names for their sports.

For instance, in football there’s Arnaz Battle of the 49ers, Tom Crowder of the Cowboys, Chad Slaughter of the Raiders and Todd Heap from the Ravens. Among baseballs major league players there are at least 6 different Walkers. The best, though, is Colter Bean from the Yankees. He’s a pitcher! Another of my favorites would be Steward Cink, the golf player. And even Tiger Woods has a good golf name. Too bad Minnie Driver doesn’t play.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve come up with lots of good first names for different professions as well. You know, like a lawyer named Sue. But I can’t use up all my good blog topics in one day.

Cruise – Day Five, Sitka

Today we landed in Sitka. Sitka has a really pretty setting with lots of little islands off shore. Our ship had to anchor out in the bay as it’s too big to come into the dock. Of course, we anchored out there with the other ships. We got to take tenders from the ship into the dock. These tenders are our life boats. I’m not sure I would want to be saved if I had to spend much time in one. I think a better name for them would be toughs.

We made our way onshore and went to see St. Michaels Cathedral which is a rebuilt Russian Orthodox church. It had many interesting icons. There were also lots of shops and a native museum. The best thing we did was to go to the Raptor Center which rehabilitates injured raptors. There were several bald and golden eagles, some hawks and an owl. We managed to get there between bus loads of cruisers and had the place pretty much to ourselves for awhile. It was really the best thing we’ve seen so far.

Later we went back to the boat and whipped some ass at trivia. Actually John whipped some ass but the rest of the team was happy to accept the prizes which were umbrellas. I think we will do this again! It doesn’t cost anything and you might actually get something. After dinner we went to the show headlined by an amusing magician. It was a good day.

SHOOOZ

TODAY’S WORRY

What has happened to shoe sizes? I used to wear a 7 ½. Then sometime, maybe ten or fifteen years ago, the 7 ½ migrated to 8. During this time my weight fluctuated up and down but my shoe size just went up. Of course, I was sure I was still a 7 ½. So it must be that some manufacturers make their shoes smaller. I shopped and shopped. I spent lots of money trying to be that 7 ½. Okay, finally I decided, I’m an 8. There’s no reason to feel embarassed , lots of women have larger feet. Just because my mother, aunt and grandmother wore 4’s and 5’s, it’s no reason to go hide my feet in the sand.

For the past few years, I’ve been playing tennis in size 8’s. I’ve been wearing 8’s for awhile and have adapted to the fact that my feet must be bigger. Plus, I think I have elf feet. You know, the kind where the toes turn up? I have to admit it, my big toes like to search for higher ground. Recently, though, not only do my big toes hurt, but some of the others have been joining the chorus. Could it be that my feet have grown again? I have multiple pairs of uncomfortable 8’s for playing tennis. What’s more important, vanity or comfort?

If there’s anything I’ve learned over the years, it’s comfort beats out vanity. Want to sleep in rollers or have an easy hairstyle? Want to wear high heels or flats? Knee-highs or socks? Yeah, I’m going for comfort. So this week I went out and bought a pair of 8 ½’s. If I live to 100, I’ll probably be wearing 10’s.

RETRO-LIFE

TODAY’S DISCOVERY

John and I are trying out a new lifestyle, one where you are not dependent on your car for everything. We rented an apartment in Menlo Park and are now within walking distance of downtown with its restaurants and supermarkets, the library, tennis courts and a small, neighborhood gourmet market. Yesterday, we walked the mile or so to Trader Joe’s and picked up some ingredients for dinner, stopped at the hardware store, and bought a couple of bagels for today’s breakfast (not at the hardware store.) Then we walked home. The whole outing took an hour and a half. Being retired makes this sort of thing much more plausible. We do need to find a better way of carrying stuff home, though.

Another thing I like about our apartment is that since you don’t need air conditioning on the peninsula, we keep the front door open. Our living/family room is in the front so you can see outside. There are kids on hot wheels, moms (or maybe they are caregivers) pushing babies, delivery trucks, and gardeners. I feel connected to what’s going on. In our house in Pleasanton, the family room is in the back and you never see what’s going on. We seem to have gone from a front porch society to a back deck society. This whole new living situation feels like a throwback to when I was a kid.

Of course the best part is that we are near to our kids. They’ve already come over to dinner and we met Ryan and Jon for lunch. Sarah stopped by to drop something off and stayed to dinner. Another day she just hung with us for a while. Getting together used to be more of an ordeal. Is it the right time traffic-wise? Are we too tired to drive over? Do they want to commit a big block of time to mom and dad? Now it’s easy and we are loving it.

Who knows? After this year is up maybe we will have had enough of the walking, the hot days and the noise. But right now, it seems pretty wonderful.

Day Four – Hubbard Glacier

First, I forgot to mention that yesterday morning we saw whales which was pretty cool. They didn’t jump out of the water or anything but we saw fins, spouts and tails. Today is Hubbard Glacier day. Our ship waits its turn to approach the glacier. There is one ship ahead of us. We have a naturalist aboard and he is telling us all about the glacier. As we approach there are chunks of ice in the water, like mini-icebergs. The Hubbard Glacier is advancing so parts of it calve off all the time. When we get closer we are able to see big ice sheets fall off. It is hard to get perspective though – a little piece falls in the water and the naturalist tells us it was as big as a house. We must be further away than it looks. The ice is an eerie blue color. This is a really interesting part of our cruise.

We are at sea for the rest of the day heading to Sitka. What to do, what to do. Karen and George and Peggy have been playing bingo the last few days, so we try that. $20 a piece to play. Seems like a lot. (Later when George gets his bill, he realizes he has spent $120 playing bingo.) It’s not something I would ever do at home and I am making fun of the fact that we are doing it until I am within one letter of winning. But, alas, someone else wins. We play a little bridge, eat at the fancy restaurant with the whole crowd of Peg’s friends, and go to the show. Another cruise day done

DAY THREE, JUNEAU

ALASKA TRAVELS

Today the seas were calmer and we headed for Juneau. Peg and Ted have a helicopter trip to the Mendenhall Glacier and Karen and George are taking a whale watching boat. I am still pretty knocked out from taking the Dramamine and take a nap after breakfast. We decide to let the bulk of the people get off the boat, eat lunch and then go ashore. The lunch lines are much shorter and tables are aplenty since everyone is ashore.

Our plan is to tour around the city and meet Karen and George at 3 PM at the Red Dog Saloon. Boy, is Juneau crowded. There are 4 cruise ships docked and the streets are like walking in Times Square. There are lots of shops and some historic buildings. We look in various places and watch the floatplanes take off. We also think about taking a bus up to the glacier but it doesn’t look like it will work out time-wise. As it turns out, Karen and George are delayed and we never get to the Red Dog Saloon.

So far I have spent my time feeling not so good or asleep. We should have booked some excursion but I was afraid a smaller boat would make my mal de mer worse and I continue to be paranoid about mosquitos. Everyone who has come back from their trips have been really happy with how they turned out. Stupid, Marymom! Tomorrow, I plan to get more involved!

Tonight we had lamb chops that must have come from a giant lamb (or perhaps a sheep?) We are keeping the bartenders and the wine steward busy as we while away our time. Later we go to a show that features the Oosterdam singers and dancers. It’s quite enjoyable and I like the dancers especially the cute blond guy.

On to the Hubbard Glacier tomorrow!

THE RIGHT’S WRONG

TODAY’S WORRY

Just a quick note because this is not a blog day, but did you read about what Pat Robertson said concerning assassinating the president of Venezuela?

“You know, I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it,” Robertson said. “It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war … and I don’t think any oil shipments will stop.”

Seems a bit un-Christian to me.

IS A CRUISE FOR YOUSE?

TODAY’S RECOUNTS

Day One and Two

John and I have just returned from a Holland America Alaskan cruise through the inland passage. We left and returned through Seattle. The cruise was in celebration of my sister, Peggy’s, 60th birthday. She had a whole load of friends coming from the Chesapeake Bay area and we connived our good friends, Karen and George, to come too. We had a lot of fun this past week and it was special to be with my sister during her birthday week. But is cruising for you? There are pluses and minuses.

First of all, we had a great evening in Seattle except for Alaska Airlines losing Karen’s luggage. That was very stressful. But I think I’ll use a separate blog entry to blast Alaska Airlines. We had an evening of wine and small bites. First we went to Maximillian’s in Pike Street Market. We had a happy hour special of mussels, fries, tarte flambé and wine. Actually, it was our lunch. Nothing cost more than $2.95. It was really good. Later at the Marriott Harborside we sat in the bar area and had small plates from Todd English’s The Fish Club restaurant. We enjoyed a small flatbread pizza, little Kobe beef cheeseburgers, crab cakes and crispy scallops with tuna tartar. We all give the two dining experiences an A.

In the morning we are off to the boat, er, ship. We never quite got the hang of the nautical language and were always going aft when we should have been going fore. And drinking port instead of going left. Getting on the boat went smoothly and we had our first experience with cruise food on the Lido deck. For breakfast and lunch, you have to go around cafeteria style with a tray and select the things you’d like to eat. It sometimes is very crowded and it is hard to find a table. The food is so-so. I think the reason people think cruise food is so fabulous is because you can eat it non-stop. With so much of the food needing to be pre-cooked, you ended up with fish overdone, meat tough and vegetables overdone. Also, especially at dinner, the food often arrived lukewarm at best. It’s really difficult serving 1800 guests plus the crew. I’d give the food a C or C-.

We went to our room which was compact but with plenty of storage space. The bed was really, really comfortable. You had to stay tidy or the room could become a disaster fast. People say the room doesn’t matter because you spend most of your time away from it. But if you are like me, and need a respite from the onslaught of people, the room is important.

We sailed at 5 PM and were at sea the whole next day. It was really rocky. I had to take Dramamine. It made me so sleepy. I took a big nap the next day and missed the fun of bingo and trivia. I really thought there should be more things to do when the ship was at sea. Plus the things that you could do usually had an entrance fee or involved buying something, i.e. art auction, blackjack tournament, bingo, slots tournament. This is not a cheap way to travel.

So Day One and Day Two were not the best for me. Feeling sick and sleepy. But I hope for better things on Day Three when we visit Juneau.

TOMORROW

TODAY’S WORRY

OMG, I’ve just gotten back from Alaska and I see that the people who read my blog have gone from over 100 to 17!! I will never go on vacation again! Or else, I will just have to feel it’s okay to write for myself only. Tomorrow, tomorrow, I’ll write something tomorrow, it’s only a day away. (That was so bad , I am embarassed.)

Join me for bingo and other cruise favorites tomorrow!

VACATION

We’re off to Alaska. I’m sure there will be many tales to tell when we get back. I’m not (gasp) taking my laptop with me so please check back the week of August 21. No worries, Marymom

BIG SISTER

TODAY’S THOUGHTS

I have noticed that I have been starting a lot of entries with, “When I was a little girl.” I am thinking that this is what people do when they have a lot of past behind them. I really plan on having lots of future too, but that being said…

When I was a little girl (less than 5), there were lots of important people in my life – my mom and dad, aunts and uncle, and grandparents. But one of the people with whom I interacted and looked up to the most, was my big sister, Peggy. My older sister is a little over three years older than I. I vacillated between thinking she was the best, smartest, nicest sister ever to the meanest one. She could do all sorts of things that I couldn’t. She could ride a two-wheeler, win at all our games, and roller skate standing up. What, you say, doesn’t everyone roller skate standing up? Our front sidewalk had an almost imperceptible slope towards the street. Peggy would tighten up her skates on the front steps, stand up and off she would go, rolling down the front walk and gracefully around the corner. I just could not bring myself to stand up. I was afraid that I would go careening into the street. So I skated on my “little feet,” my term for crouching on the sidewalk and using my hands as propellers and brakes.

At Halloween, my mother would always make Peggy take me with her to go trick or treating. What fun for her! I would be so excited to go along. Unfortunately, this usually meant that I would throw up because I was so keyed up. Then my mother wouldn’t let me go out. I missed a lot of Halloweens because of that.

Because I was afraid to sleep alone at night (and still am), Peggy would always let me crawl into her bed in the middle of the night. If I was being naughty, she would practice baby toe control on me. This is where she would grab my little toe, twist it and make me hop around after her. This was an excellent control device.

I wanted to be just like her for lots of my formative years. I wanted to ride the same bike, play a musical instrument, learn how to dance, take the same classes in high school. But you know, we were never really alike. Peggy is outgoing, I’m not. Peggy became a nurse, I can’t even put a bandaid on a bleeding cut. Peggy is right coast and I am left.

For all these reasons or despite them, last year when Peggy said, “I want to celebrate my 60th birthday by taking a cruise to Alaska. Will you come?” I said yes. Didn’t even have to think about it. So this Saturday we are off for an adventure. It’s going to be great even if she gets a hold of my little toe.

Happy Birthday in advance, Peggy!

PLUMBING DISASTER UPDATE

It looks like everything is under control although the damage is extensive. Apparently the blockage was in the connection where the house pipe meets the town pipe. The water damage people have their fans going and the carpet has been removed. The plumber has located the block and will photograph it later this week with one of those little cameras on the end of a long snake.

PLUMBING DISASTER

I had just started to write an entry for Monday when my computer froze wiping out all my work and then the phone rang. Ryan and Jon had a blockage in one of their pipes. That’s one bad thing. But on top of that their toilet flap didn’t shut all the way and the water kept running so there was water everywhere. Hopefully their homeowners insurance will take care of the plumbing disaster specialists and new carpet. John and I drove over to help out and now it’s after midnight. I think Monday’s entry will be written on Tuesday.

TOMATOES

TODAY’S MEMORY AND A RECIPE

What are the most perfect foods of summer? Which ones, in the dead of winter, do you long for? And I am not talking about their pale counterparts that you can find in the grocery store in the middle of January. Since I grew up in New Jersey, they have to be tomatoes and corn. You know, New Jersey is the garden state. It must be true, it says so on the license plates. Too many people only think of NJ as the Turnpike, the smelly corridor between Philadelphia and New York City. However, lots of small farmers still grow produce. Lots of people still grow tomatoes in their backyards.

When I was growing up, my father was an electrician and, later, head of a savings and loan. (I’ll write about this someday.) We had a backyard that I thought was enormous when I was a kid but in a visit during my adulthood realize was fairly small. Every spring it was always a fight to see how much of my mother’s gardens would become part of the vegetable patch. Most years my father won a little more space. He grew pole beans which I think were some kind of lima bean. He grew green beans and cucumbers. But his great pride was his tomatoes. He set up 6 foot cages for them and planted the little seedlings in the middle. By the end of the summer, we had a veritable tomato forest. Giant tomato plants brimming with tomatoes. There were more than we could ever eat. We gave them away by the bagful. They were the most delicious tomatoes ever – good acidity and some sugar. While they were growing, my dad paid way more attention to those tomatoes than he did to us. He would come home for lunch everyday either in his overalls or in his suit and commune among the tomatoes. Even lay in the dirt to carefully fertilize them.

The very yummy best dinner we could have was lots of corn on the cob from the local farm stand and fried tomatoes – not green, but fully ripe. The fried tomatoes were a mess to make. Dipped in flour, egg and seasoned breadcrumbs, topped with a little sugar and fried in butter. When I make them now, maybe I use a little parmesan too but I don’t think it was in the original recipe. They are heaven to eat.

Another standard during the tomato season was ham, lettuce and tomato with mayonnaise on a hard roll (this may be known as a Kaiser roll or bulkie to you.) Every Saturday, there was always a trip to the deli to get the ham and rolls.

These days when I feel guilty about eating anything but reduced calorie bread and lite mayo, skinny little pieces of some turkeyish deli meat and never frying anything, I like to think about all the delicious pleasures of those home grown tomatoes.

E-Z CREDIT

TODAY’S WORRY

Need money? Call 1-800-u-r-so-dum now! In bankruptcy? Have a bad credit rating? Behind on your bills? Not a problem! Need some cash? Loan sharks at your door? Call 1-800-I-m-desperate now! All you need is equity in your home. We can address your problem while making a little cash for ourselves.

It’s handy that all these loaners have real estate licenses, just in case you can’t make your payments. Then, instead of being behind on your payments but living in your house, you could be free of your payments and living on the street!

There are a lot of people living on the edge, living from paycheck to paycheck. They need everything to go right in their lives just to juggle the bills. What happens to these people when they hear the commercials on the radio offering them an easy way out of debt? One ad even says, ka-ching, after their phone number so that borrowing money feels like you are winning at the slots. Are people so desperate or so gullible that they jump at the chance to get some “easy” money?

Part of the homeless problem brought to you by E-Z credit.

EXTREMISM

TODAY’S WORRY

This past week the Bush administration has changed its rhetoric from fighting a “war against terror” to a “struggle against extremism.” This change recognizes that our fight is with an ideology that employs terror. The ideology has economic, political, and cultural components. It also takes the focus of the execution of the policy from the military exclusively and includes the American people and global community.

I find the use of the term “extremism” confusing. One man’s extremism is another’s orthodoxy. It seems to me that many types of fundamentalism are pretty extreme, be they Moslem, Jewish, or Christian. I think fundamental Mormonism with its polygamy extreme. Or how about Jews who are currently crossing into Gaza to try to disrupt the Israeli pull out because God gave them that land? Or the radical Christian right in the US who are trying to legislate their own brand of morality for the rest of us? There is way too much religious extremism going on in the world right now. It doesn’t seem to be a force for good.

At least let’s alter our new slogan to read that we are struggling against “violent” extremism. Then we can debate what we consider “violence.”

Monterey, California

Last night we went to a new venue for live music called “Monterey Live.” It’s in downtown Monterey and has live music of different genres every night. It’s an intimate setting with tables where you are served drinks and small bites of your choosing. If you are planning on being on the Monterey peninsula you might consider checking out their website to see what’s being offered.

Right next store to Monterey Live is the refurbished Monterey Hotel. Originally built in 1904, the interior has been redone in its original Victorian style. Our room at $150 was reasonable for being right downtown in Monterey. You are within walking distance of the old part of Monterey and there are lots of restaurants and shops nearby. A couple of caveats, though. Our room was on the 4th floor and there is no elevator. That’s a lot of steps. The king size bed with its ornate headboard took up almost all of the room, really, there was hardly any room to walk around it to the bathroom. Our window which opened onto the fire escape and the street had no screen. There’s also no air conditioning but that’s not really a problem in Monterey. It is very noisy. Between gulls screeching, trucks going by, road repair, garbage emptying and the other people in the hotel just talking at a normal pitch, sleeping was intermittent. The water in the shower tended to vacillate between hot and less hot.

So you’re thinking, why would I stay there? It’s got a great location. It’s not outlandishly expensive. The breakfast room and continental breakfast are nice. It’s kind of cool staying in an old refurbished hotel. If you are considering staying in this hotel, make sure that you ask for a room facing away from the street and on no higher than the second floor unless you are in really good shape.