Evacuating ourselves to St. George. August 24-31, 2020

After a weekend of thunderstorms which included a lot of lightning hits, California is ablaze with wildfires. The town next to ours is under an evacuation warning and we decide to get out of the fouled air and scary circumstances for a week in St. George, Utah. We rent a two bedroom “villa” in the complex where we used to have our vacation home.

Since Sarah is coming with us we have three drivers for the long trip. This is the first time we are on the road since the pandemic started and it is a little scary to be finding bathrooms and take-out food on the road. But it all goes smoothly and we reach St. George around 6 PM after a very early start.

We have had to make two reservations – one for the first night and then move into our digs for the the other six nights. The first one seems nice but we are so tired that we hardly notice it. The second one is unfortunately less nice and has many corners cut which seem like false savings for the owners. Polished concrete floors, terrible paper products, bad noise insulation, and no non-stick cookware are nits that really effect the quality of our stay. We even go out and buy a non-stick frying pan so we can cook eggs!

Living room in our villa
Dining area that we never used except to put our tennis bags on the table
Ill-equipped kitchen

Sarah spends her time moseying around, taking some pictures, accompanying me to the grocery store, and reading. John and I get up really early several days to play tennis. We walk over to the courts in the semi-darkness at 6:45 AM. St. George is really far west in the Mountain Time Zone. Although we can use the tennis courts, we cannot reserve one which makes me quite nervous as to whether our getting up before dawn will come to naught. However, although some other people use one of the courts there is always one open for us. It is warm early in the morning, usually in the low 70s but the sun does not emerge from behind the cliff until about 7:45 so the weather is tolerable. Later in the day it will be over 100F.

John ready to play
Mary on the court

Our other major activity is figuring what to make for dinner without our usual pantry to help out. A trip to our local grocery store, Harmon’s, is a daily activity. It is a beautiful, well-stocked store. Even Sarah is impressed.

Harmon’s

We also take a trip down memory lane and take a walk over to our old house. The landscaping has really grown. It definitely needs to be cut back. We look from the front and the back. We are afraid to get too close. While we are in St. George I am nostalgic for our old house and even look at real estate listings but everything is too expensive! Plus taking that 10+ hour drive is beyond what our old bones want to do.

Our old house from the front
The house from the back across the pond

Fortunately the fire does not reach our town and the fire teams do a great job getting it under control. By the time we get back the danger is passed and even the air has improved. I think we will consider taking another vacation to St. George, though.

48th wedding anniversary. July 17, 2020

Usually our anniversary entails dinner at a three Michelin starred restaurant or a trip to Europe, Wine Country, or Canada. This year is different. Due to the pandemic we must celebrate at home.

We make ourselves a fancy dinner, dine al fresco, and take selfies. We are still in love after all these years and our special day is worth celebrating anywhere!

First course – shrimp cocktail and crudites
Main course – fried scallops, new potatoes, and grilled asparagus
Special wine for a special occasion – Stonestreet 2015 Broken Road Vineyard Chardonnay
Awwww….

Tennis and lunch with Jon. July, 2020

One of the events that helps to keep us sane during the pandemic is that Jonathan comes over every weekend to play tennis and have lunch with us. Outside of grocery shopping and playing tennis with John, it is about the only thing that we do.

It feels like a real event. I spend time planning what we can eat for lunch and enlisting Sarah to help. We have had burgers, sausages, tacos, and fajitas so far. I am running out of good ideas!!

Jonathan setting up for a shot
John hitting a forehand
Mary with Jon and Sarah
Steak tacos and spicy beans!

 

Pandemic doings. 6/14/20

In case you have been wondering (Eileen!) what I have been doing during our quarantine which is now entering its 14th week, the answer is not much but not nothing. As a matter of fact I have written 29 blog posts but they are at the beginning of my blog not at the end. I am in the process of matching pictures (actual photographs) with my written commentary (as in a travel journal) and making entries. The blogs start in 1994 and are about our travels. It takes a lot of time and I only have completed two and have one from 1999 in the works. When I run out of written commentary I will just look at the rest of pictures from travels and events and with John, who has a remarkable memory, we will try to match memories to the pictures.

Some of the photographs are very slow to show up so you have to tap the blank square to see the pictures or be very patient.

Sarah’s poppies which were just buds in an earlier picture bloomed riotously in April. Sad news, though, gophers have attacked her garden and many of the plants she shepherded from seeds have been killed.

Poppies!
Sarah and her poppies
Irises

We have been cooking a lot! And sticking to our diet. We have both lost over 40 lbs. which is a remarkable achievement if I do say so myself. We have been eating a lot of vegetarian and vegan dinners. Here are a few.

Chickpeas with ditalini and vegetables
Orecchiette with broccoli and mushrooms
Shredded tofu with shiitakes and edamame
Chana dal and salad

Lastly here is a picture of me minus 43 lbs. My face, neck, arms, and legs have been the major recipients of the weight loss. I am thinking about maybe another 10 lbs. but it is slow going these days.

Mary

Finally we celebrated the graduation of Sam to middle school and Alex to high school in June. We sat outside at Jon’s house keeping our social distancing and had coffee and tea. Sarah made the graduates some of her renowned macaroons and we gave them books and gift certificates. It was really pleasant to spend time together after so long apart. We followed that up by playing tennis with Jon this weekend and then had lunch outdoors. We are still being very careful.

Jon and Sam
Alex with her new pink headphones
Alex opening a present
Candid Ryan and John

Oh, and I must not forget the masks I have made – two for John and five for me with more in the offing. I am a big proponent of wearing masks so if you are not wearing one when you are out, stop being a selfish twit and protect your neighbors from your germs!!! And do not forget to wash them between wearings.

My masks

Passover Seder. 4/8/20

Since the lockdown due to the coronavirus continues, we are having a small Seder—just the three of our household members. It is sad not to have the whole family here but we managed to have a good time anyway.

Lighting candles
Seder table
Paper bag plague puppets
John leaning on his left side
John holding one of our decrepit Haggadahs which we bought in 1972
Sarah dipping parsley in salt water
Mary showing the matzoh
Matzoh ball soup
Festive dinner
Sarah going to the door to invite Elijah in

Unfortunately the videos I took could not be put in my blog. (Or I do not know how to do it.)

 

Pandemic! Shelter-in-place 3/16/20

The coronavirus and its disease, COVID-19, are making their way across the US. Thanks to a totally incompetent White House which used magical thinking in hoping it would go away, we are in much worse shape than we might of been. Our governor has ordered that all but essential businesses be shuttered and the population in the Bay Area, some almost 7 million people,  only go out for necessary items such as healthcare and food. The order lasts until April 7 but could be extended. The disease is easily passed from one person to another. The illness is most lethal on people over 60 and those with underlying conditions which category John and I fall into. It is scary times.

One of the things we are allowed to do is go out to exercise as long as we stay  six feet away from other people. John and I take advantage of this and go to Brushy Hill Regional Park to do a little hiking.

The weather has been rainy and cold and the most difficult thing about our hike is the mud that gets caked onto our shoes. John says it is like hiking with 5 lb. weights! But we are out for about an hour which helps with our isolation and it is nice to hear the bird songs and see wildflowers.  Here is hoping that we get through this without getting sick!

Looking up the trail toward Brushy Peak
John by some yellow flowers
Poppies waiting for some sun to open
Mary along the trail
This bird had an incredible song

 

Alex’s 14th birthday. 3/08/20

Today is Alex’s birthday and we are going over to Ryan and Jon’s for a birthday brunch. Sarah has made macaroons for the occasion and John and I have gotten her a gift certificate from her favorite game streaming service and a bunch of small things from Daiso. I cannot believe that she is 14! Happy Birthday, Alex!

Here are some pictures from the day.

Cookies on the right are macaroons for the birthday. Cookies on the left are ones we must try not to eat at home!
Alex with mom opening presents
John and Jon talking
Cake with heart inside that Leigh made
Alex doing her favorite thing—playing video games!

 

Portland Road Trip, day four. 2/13/20

Today turns out to be a pretty special day. Our friends from long ago (1970’s), Sue and Mike Richmond,  contacted me after seeing my post on Facebook from yesterday. They live in Portland and suggest that we should get together. We meet for breakfast at our hotel.

In a matter of moments forty years compresses down to “didn’t we just get together last week?” We talk about our families (they have three kids who are up to some pretty incredible stuff as adults) and the old days. I very fondly remember when they came to visit me at the hospital after Jonathan was born—my only visitors. John and Mike were colleagues at Data General and both of them have only great things to say about each other. The visit is too short and hopefully we will try to visit again when our paths cross.

Mary and John, Sue and Mike Richmond

They give us the idea to go see Multnomah Falls, a 620 ft. waterfall only about a half an hour away. This is right up our alley of things we like to do. The weather is not cooperating. It is cold and rainy so we only briefly get out of the car to see the waterfall. It is quite impressive and reminds us of the ones we saw in Norway. On a better weather day we would have liked hiking to the bridge.

Multnomah Falls on a cold, rainy day
Multnomah Falls with bridge on a much better weather day (thanks to Modern Hiker)

It is around 3 PM when we decide to get something for lunch. We find another restaurant serving pho and this time are successful at ordering beef pho. The bowl is gigantic. They should have small and large. I cannot finish even half of mine. But a hot bowl of pho is the perfect lunch on a cold and rainy day.

Pho and garnishes from @ pho.com

When we get back to the hotel it is time for a little lie-down and we do not venture downstairs until 8 PM or so. We order a glass of wine, another plate of calamari, and some hummus with crudités. Then it is off to bed because tomorrow we start the drive back to Pleasanton.

Portland road trip, day three. 2/12/20

Our plan today is to visit the Portland Art Museum. It is about one half mile from the hotel. Walking to attractions and restaurants is reminiscent of being in Europe where you do so much walking that it burns all the calories from all the yummy food you eat.

Along the way we come across a statue of Abraham Lincoln. Since it is his birthday I snap his picture. Since the U.S. is going to hell in a hand basket I find an apropos quote of his. “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” Abraham Lincoln

Sigh.

Abraham Lincoln

The Portland Art Museum is full of welcoming people. We buy our tickets and drop off out outerwear and start our perusal. First we look at a display of photos and paintings about Mt. St. Helens. It is actually pretty close to Portland. I always thought of it as a Washington thing.

Then after some difficulty we find the European collection. There is quite a bit of 18th century French stuff  (not my fave)

Jean François de Troy, Allegory of Poetry, 1733,

and some mid-19th century proto-Impressionist paintings which are interesting.

Charles-François Daubigny, Field of Poppies, 1860/1878

I am pleased to see that there are some early Renaissance/Renaissance pieces as well.

Christ on the Cross, Sandro Botticelli, 1500
Madonna and Child with Donors,1386 Cecco di Pietro

Unfortunately before we get to the modern wing, I am feeling not too well. The combination of eating fried foods and drinking which I am not used to is rearing its ugly head. We return to the hotel around 2PM and have a quiet afternoon waiting for my system to calm down.

Luckily I am okay in time for dinner! We walk to a place called Q for dinner. They have small plates as well as entrees. We decide on small plates and order two vegetable dishes as well as duck spring roll and rabbit pâté. Thank goodness the vegetables come first because these are the biggest small plates we have seen. I am basically finished after the vegetables. The roasted root vegetables are great.

Roasted root vegetables on the left and roasted cauliflower and greens on the right
Duck spring rolls (upper left) and duck pâté

Tomorrow morning we are meeting very old friends for breakfast. I am really looking forward to seeing them!

 

 

Portland road trip, day two. 2/11/20

Day 2 – Ashland, OR to Portland, OR

Today is mostly a driving day and settling into Portland. When we get up this morning it is soooo cold. Ice is on the windshield! What a big difference from home! I am really  glad I bought a winter jacket.

For lunch I find a Vietnamese restaurant, Ba’s Vietnamese Comfort Food, in Albany, OR. We are looking forward to a big bowl of beef pho. Of course when we get there the only thing they are out of is beef pho. We settle for chicken pho. This pho is different from the pho we had near Vancouver. It is sweeter, the noodles are different, and does not have an egg. It also is not served with spicy condiments. When we were in Vietnam we learned the spicy food is in the North and sweeter dishes come from the South around Saigon. Maybe the owners of Ba’s came from the South.

Chicken pho from Ba, Albany, OR

John at Ba’s Vietnamese Comfort Food

We reach Portland around 3 PM and check into our hotel, The Benson. We stayed here in 2007 when we came up to see the U.S. win the Davis Cup. Our room is large with lots of windows but the bathroom is tiny. No place to put anything!

Sleeping area of our room at The Benson
Nice sitting area

Our goal this afternoon is to relax, shower, check out the hotel’s Sippin’ Hour, and go to Jake’s for dinner. We need to fulfill our quest for razor clams which we have not had since 2007.

Sippin’ Hour
Some tasty fried calamari
Selfie time!

When we go to Jake’s we are not disappointed. There are razor clams on the menu! These delightful clams are only in season during the winter and are dependent on weather conditions. They dig them up by hand, pound them thin to tenderize, and fry the clam in bread crumbs. So good!

Razor clams are on the menu!
Razor clams with red potatoes and green beans