Trip up the NorCal coast with Jon, Alex, and Sam. 6/11/19

Our long awaited trip up the Northern California coast from our house all the way to Trinidad, CA starts today! Since we have a lot of stuff and people we opt to take Jon’s van. As usual the grownups have long discussions about how and where to pack everything. Alex is definitely patient during this phase of the trip.

Alex waits patiently in the car for the packing to finish!

And finally we are off! Our first stop is at the Bay Model in Sausalito. The commute traffic is still raging so we have a somewhat longer trip than we anticipated.  But everyone is in good spirits and I, of course, try to fill the time with scintillating facts about our first stop.

The Bay Model was built by the Army Corps of Engineers to predict the effects of various projects that impact the bay.  It is about the size of two football fields and it is scaled according to area but magnified 10X in depth. The water flows in and out to replicate the tides. We don headphones to listen to the detailed information at the 25 listening stops. Sam is amazingly  gung-ho in learning about the model. He really enjoys listening to and then finding the next stop.

Sam taking it all in

We have been here with Jon and Sarah probably 25 years ago so we are all seeing this with fresh eyes.

Golden Gate Bridge
Beeba and Zayde enjoying the information

After an hour or so we get back in the van. The ride up to Eureka, our first overnight stop, is about 3.5 hours away. First order of business is finding some lunch. We decide on eating at The Habit in Santa Rosa. Everyone enjoys their hamburgers and fries (or onion rings in Zayde’s case) and Jonathan announces that The Habit will now be his go-to burger place!

Alex and Jon at The Habit

We drive for a couple of hours and the kids are really excellent in the car. They listen to podcasts on their headphones and take little naps. Around Leggett, CA we stop at a gas station with expensive gas only payable in cash and definitely a kind of creepy attendant. Surviving this Deliverance moment we add a trip to the Drive-Thru tree for some ice cream. Jon’s van is really too large to drive-thru the tree comfortably but it is fun to take pictures and watch other people drive their cars through.

Drive-thru tree
Zayde, Sam, and Alex in the tree opening

Our final stop before Eureka is at the Avenue of the Giants Visitor Center. Unfortunately the Center closes at 5 PM and we get there at 4:45 PM. But it is enough time to see the big cross section of redwood with its rings dated and look at the exhibit about Charles Kellogg who extinguished a flame with his voice. This feat was not duplicated again until Jonathan did it on Mythbusters a few years ago.

Redwood cross section with dates, Jon, Alex, and Sam
Jon looking at the Charles Kellogg information
Poster about Charles and Jon’s feat

Now it is a sprint to Eureka where we check into the Holiday Inn Express and find some dinner at the Lost Coast Brewery Pub. We have a fine dinner of Po’Boy, Buffalo Chicken Wings, Rueben sandwich, kid-size pizza, and fish and chips. These entrees are, of course, served with piles of French fries. We are off to healthy start to our vacation!

Beeba’s dinner – Buffalo chicken wings and beer!

May, 2019

I had a pretty horrible May which started with a cold and ended up worse and worse until I was forced to go to the doctor and get some cortisone to try to quell the lung inflammation. But a few things were happening-

Sarah made me pretzel rolls for my sick Mother’s Day. We had to postpone everything else that was planned.
Towards the end of the month I visited Sarah’s garden. I cannot wait for fresh produce!
Poppies in her garden!
Fava beans just shucked
Unshelled and peeled fava beans

The end of April. 4/23-30/19

After we got home from our long trip across the ocean and back, we had a couple of occasions in April. We celebrated Passover twice, once with Sarah’s friends and once with Jonathan and Leigh. Our second celebration was disappointing since Ryan, Alex and Sam were sick.

Seder table set for Sarah’s friends, Kim and Michelle Kwon

On Easter we had dinner at Rose and John Henderson’s Where Alex and Sam got to search for candy and other surprises. Rose made a delicious ham for our luncheon.

Hunting for Easter eggs – Aha! Found one!
Alex with her loot
Beeba and Alex
Sam got sleepy after dinner

And then I got sick with bronchitis which continued for most of May.


Valencia. 4/10/19

I found Valencia to be a beautiful and astoundingly clean city. In my pictures there is not a single piece of trash.  It’s architecture is a blend of Art Deco and modern. These photos were taken from a bus and walking tour of Valencia.

Warehouses near port
Customs building ( ?) near port
Civic building part of science and arts center done mostly in blues and ceramic white to evoke the sea
Science museum
Concert hall looks like a fish
Beautiful Art Deco apartments
Rococo palace now repurposed as ceramics museum
Oldest store in Valencia selling traditional wares and clothing
Tapas bar
Gray door is entrance to Cervantes apartment where he wrote El Cid
Home of horchata
Traditional fan painter
Art Deco central market
Baroque Entrance to Valencia cathedral
This chapel contains two paintings by Goya
Goya painting
Holy Grail
John at Romanesque cathedral door
Gothic cathedral door
Old gate to the city

Later we have our last dinner on the boat at Chef’s Table. It is new to their menu and needs some work. The lamb chops, however, are delicious.

Lamb chops from Lotus menu


Alex’s 13th birthday party. 3/9/19

Alex is officially a teenager yesterday and we are celebrating his birthday today! The party is mainly held in a truck that has big video screens for the kids to play various games on. We really do not see any of the party-goers until it is time to cut the cake.

Kids on the party truck

Auntie Leigh has outdone herself this year with a totally edible dragon cake. She even has dry ice set up so it looks like the dragon is breathing smoke. Everyone is wowed by it.

Dragon cake
Cake, Alex, Auntie Leigh

Happy Birthday, Alex!

Yay! New car!

Last weekend Jonathan and we went out trying new cars that fit our specifications. Jonathan is so great to have along. He has made up a spread sheet of candidate cars and has learned all about each one. First, though, we have to find one that John can sit in without his head hitting the ceiling. We go to ten different dealerships and sit in their SUV type cars. Only two are contenders – the Acura RSX and the Infiniti QX50.

On Friday we test drive both cars and decide that the Infiniti is the one for us. Today we go in to make a deal on a leased car. Although we are at the dealership for 6 hours we finally arrive at a meeting of the minds and come home with our new car!

Mary in our new Infiniti QX50!

Sam’s 10th Birthday. 1/11/19

Wow, can it be!? Sam is double digits today! Here is what happened at his birthday party-

We have just arrived and while Sam is busy playing with his friends…
Sarah is busy photobombing Jon in the kitchen.
Sam is enjoying treats…
And Sarah has concocted a drink in the kitchen while Rose and John H. look on.
Leigh and her Dad
John H. And Sarah toast the birthday boy.
Alex and her friend Noah stay out of the way of the younger kids.
Here is the Rainbow Pusheen birthday cake that Auntie Leigh has made for Sam!
A hug from Sam for Auntie Leigh
Leigh and Sam with the cake
Happy family and cake
Sam and Zayde
Sam blows out the candles
Time to cut the cake
Cake cutting inspection
Wow! It’s rainbow inside!
Sam and his special cake
Beeba, Jon, and Sarah at the party
Time to open presents
And more presents
At the end of the party Sam and everyone else is pretty worn out

Happy 10th birthday to Sam!!

Viterbo and Fumicino. 12/30 and 12/31, 2018

After a rather upsetting check out in Siena where the  desk staff wanted us to lie about where we had been so we could get some money back for the inconvenience of their broken toilet from, we head off to Rome Airport (Fumicino) via Viterbo. Our idea is to stop at our favorite pizza place, Buongiorno Napoli, and look around Viterbo a bit.

When we get to the restaurant it is closed, closed for the holidays I guess. With our trusty phones we find a nearby restaurant, Fratelli La Bufala, and it is within walking distance. We decide on pizza as our last meal in Italy. (Duh)

Pizza with buffalo mozzarella
Pizza with sausage and kale

After lunch we head up to the old section of Viterbo where a raucous street festival is going on. We have some hot wine and watch families enjoying the day. We also stop in at the Viterbo Cathedral museum.

Etruscan sarcophagus, second century BCE
Column Capital, 4 A.D,
Decorative peacocks, 8 A.D.

Then it is off to Rome airport to return the car and check into the Hilton which is attahched to the airport. Our dinner consists of the snacks laid out in the lounge on the executive floor.

In the morning, very early, we walk over to the airport. We are checking in at British Airways and Jon and Ryan are checking in at Lufthansa. There is a mix-up and it seems like Ryan and Jon’s reservation has not been correctly changed by United to reflect  a change in flights. Luckily Jon finds someone on the phone to straighten things out. It is a tense 15 minutes or so.

And that’s it. Our wonderful, long anticipated trip is over. We all get back to California with no more glitches. I am so glad we made this trip and so happy that Sarah, Ryan, and Jonathan were able to come with us. It is an experience we all will always remember!


Siena. 12/29/18

Today we visit the beautiful cathedral of Siena. It is practically on our doorstep. First we stop for a quick breakfast at Bar 4 Cantoni where there is an array of pastries and sandwiches. Everyone picks what they like best and we all choose cappuccino, of course.

Pastries and sandwiches at Bar 4 Cantoni near the Siena Cathedral

Then it is off to the Siena Cathedral. While John is buying tickets Sarah and I wandering around the outside taking pictures.

3/4 view of Siena Cathedral
Front of Siena Cathedral
Mary in front of doors of Siena Cathedral
Close up of Mary with Judith holding the head of Holofernes whom she beheaded

Once inside you are struck by the immense space and the amazing marble inlaid floors. Giorgio Vasari described the floor as “the most beautiful…largest, and most magnificent…that ever was made.” Early floors had figures scratched in while later ones were made of intricate pieces.

A look towards the altar of the Siena Cathedral
Marble floor etching. “Hello, Mr. Wolf,” said Mr. Lion. “Let’s be friends.”

There is one large floor inlay which shows the emblems of nearby cities. We have been to nearly every one!

Floor inlay of the symbol of Siena

Hanging off the main church on the left is the Piccolomini Library which was begun in 1495 for Cardinal Francesco Piccolomini who later became Pope Pius III. Inside is a priceless collection of illunimated 15th century musical manuscripts. On the walls are frescoes depicting the life of the cardinal’s uncle who became Pope Pius II.

Piccolomini Library with frescoes by Pinturicchio and his pupils 1502-1508
Detail from an illuminated choral manuscript

Another highlight of the cathedral is the Pisano Pulpit. It was carved by Nicola Pisano and his students from 1256 to 1268. The octagonal pulpit is held aloft by nine columns some of which stand on stone lions. It is full of Christian stories and symbols.

Pisano Pulpit

A few more pictures of the beautiful Siena Cathedral.

Main altar
More floor carving and inlay. In one piece of floor is Crates who preached virtue of poverty.
A naked lady, a personification of Fortune,  just under Crates is balancing one foot on a sphere and the other on a boat with a broken mast with a sail in one hand and a cornucopia in the other ????

We have all been keeping touch with each other while we look around at the things that interest us most. Now we all head to the Opera del Duomo which holds other artwork of the cathedral.

The most significant work housed here is Duccio’s Maesta, a very large altarpiece painted in 1308-1311. There are over 40 figures on the front and over 80 on the back where the Passion of Christ is depicted.

Madonna and Child enthroned with angels and saints
Last Supper from the black of the altarpiece

On the upper floor are other 13th century artworks by Sienese painters.

Early Madonna and Child
Madonna of the Large Eyes,, Sienese master 1200’s

After a long morning’s work of looking at all sorts of wonderful art, we head to  Il Ghibellino where we had eaten an iffy lunch on a previous trip. This lunch also had some iffy components, especially Ryan’s.

Ryan’s malfatti which turned out to be giant spinach and ricotta dumplings

After lunch we head back to the cathedral complex. We visit the Baptistry and everyone but I visit the Crypt. At this point I could not walk up the millions of steps with no railings on uneven stone. I head back to the hotel and give my poor knee a little rest.

I have many pictures from prior trips of the baptismal font and the great frescoes. This time I zeroed in on Sienese Andrea Vanni’s 14th century altarpiece.

Andrea Vanni’s 14th century altarpiece in the Baptistry

I quite like the fact that St. Stephen with the rocks on his head to the left of the Virgin has the exact same head position and look as the Virgin. the elongated head and thin, slanted eyes are real hallmarks of Sienese Renaissance art.

Later we go out to the campo for some drinks and free food. Tonight we get white pizza and crostini with our drinks. It is hard to take much in the way of pictures because it is really foggy.

Fog on the Campo

San Gimignano and Siena. 12/28/18

We are packed up and ready to go when the taxi comes to take us to the airport so we can pick up our rental car. We have rented 7 passenger Ford Galaxy that we can all, plus our luggage, fit in (but barely.) Our first stop is San Gimignano, the famous “tower” city. Encircled by 13th-century walls, the town centers on a square lined with medieval houses. It has a skyline of medieval towers giving it the nickname as the Manhattan of Italy. The Collegiate church of  San Gimignano is a 12th-century church with frescoes by Ghirlandaio.

Medieval houses
Sarah in the square
Ryan and Jon and towers
Collegiate church of San Gimignano

From the moment you step on the portico of the church there are fabulous frescoes such as this Annunciation.

Annunciation in portico, by Sebastiano Mainardi and dated 1482.

Inside the church is resplendent with frescoes, some by Ghirlandaio and most from the 14th century.

Overview of church
Left wall
Right wall
Back wall – the Seven Deadly sins

There are three tiers of fresco stories on the side walls. The top lunettes are creation stories, the middle register has. Old Testament stories,  and the bottom tier is New Testament. I have pictures of everything but I will just put a couple in.

Lunette- Creation of Eve
The Last Supper

Speaking of the last supper, it is past time for lunch and we eat at Antica  Marcellaria.

I have a delicious plate of tagliatelle with truffles, Ryan has pici with tomatoes, and Jon orders papardelle with rabbit ragu
Sarah, every adventurous, orders rabbit cacciatore while John has osso buco

We all take a look at the museum of the church, then Sarah goes to get gelato, Jon and Ryan climb a tower and find an interesting museum, and John and I take a leisurely stroll and find an overlook to take a picture of the beautiful Tuscan countryside.

Tuscan countryside as seen from the hill town of San Gimignano

We proceed to the car park and make our way to the garage outside of Siena where we will shed ourselves of the car and be driven to the hotel by the garage attendant. There are few cars allowed in Siena old town and we are right in the midst of it as our hotel is right across the street from the Baptistry.

View of the Baptistry from our room

Later we head to Siena’s campo for drinks and snacks under the outdoor warming lamps

Ryan, Jon and Sarah at Bar Il Campo
Mary and John