Sunday, January 27, 2008

Time Flies

This month has flown. I think about writing every day but sometimes the words just aren't there. Allow me to share a somewhat random collection of what this month has held . . . .

We continue to make the house more functional and more beautiful each week; there are miles to go but our efforts consistently greater progress and promise.

Graham lost his second tooth within a week of losing the first on January 5. I think we've worked out our Tooth Fairy etiquette. A new permanent tooth is showing itself.

Lauren is officially registered for Kindergarten this fall. She'll follow her brother to Ohlone and into his K/1 classroom. What a stressless transition! She knows the teacher, some of the students who will be "olders" when she arrives, and some of the classroom routine. Only immunizations and time stand between her and the big move to Kindergarten.

The cold, rainy weather is motivating me to cook. I am definitely on the hunt for new tastes. Recently, I've become a big fan of Saveur's Carribean Crispy Roast Pork. The kids beg for white bean and kale soup weekly; in a rare departure from the common meal, Mark and I enjoyed Caldo Verde with a healthy kick of spice from the chorizo. Tonight, I'm cracking open the Wagamama cookbook for a homemade ramen with chicken. Graham is running a fever so we're keeping everything simple, accessible and comforting. I'll be stretching the culinary envelope later this week with Dons Tomas' scallops with butternut squash, chilies, and onion. I also found a cool heirloom bean--Calypso Beans--at Whole Foods that I'll make into rice and beans later this week.

On the reading front, I've devoured Cara Black's Aimee Leduc mysteries. This is a well written, suspenseful series set in Paris. Simply put, I'm hooked. I've also been indulging in Ayelet Waldman's "mommy tracked" series of mysteries. They're less exotic but well written and engaging. "Serious" reading has been less appealing to me of late, for no good reason. I have been working through Liz Dalby's East Wind Melts the Ice, a kind of personal reflection on the unique Asian calendar. I must say that great, thoughtful writing shines through; Dalby's prose is first class.

Ah well, there's a full week to redeem myself for January. I'm taking pictures and putting my thoughts together slowly but surely.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Major Milestone: First Tooth Lost

Today Graham lost his first tooth. He said his tooth felt loose. It was indeed. The little beast (the tooth) was rimmed with blood. A wee bit of wiggling later, Graham announced "I've got it." Indeed, he had. His first baby tooth, lower front right, came away in his hand.

We're scrambling to figure out Tooth Fairy protocol. The situation is more complex since his younger sister helped wiggle said tooth free. Do tooth fairies acknowledge helpers? Methinks so.

In any case, this is a major milestone. We will celebrate Graham's first baby tooth out to the best of our abilities. Huzzah, little guy. This is the first step on the road to growing up.

(Photos of the perfect little tooth gap to follow.)

Friday, January 04, 2008

California . . . Stormin' (Part 2)

I now understand the power a Pacific storm can wield. We're among the lucky ones; we have power. The winds were significant this morning; hemlocks and redwoods bowing in the wind are not a comforting sight.

Rain pounded Palo Alto this morning. At 7 a.m. this morning the creek behind our house stood at 2.3 feet; no worries, eh? Not so fast. Before noon, Adobe Creek, which has an eight foot depth was up to 5.7 feet and rising. Yes, we live in a flood zone, as does most (all?) of Palo Alto. I monitored the creek via the web as it rose . . . and thankfully subsided, leaving us safe and dry.

We are prepared for emergencies. We have food, water, medication, and emergency radio and charger, hygiene essentials, and dog food safely stashed. Still, I started to worry. Could or should we sandbag? What exactly does that accomplish? We have established a family meeting place if we're separated but if driven out of our house, where would we go? The answer may be as simple as "a hotel" but it's worth thinking through exactly where.

Today, we're safe and sound. The dogs are wet, the floors a bit schmutzy, but we're safe and sound. It's still raining but the creek is back to pre-storm levels. I've managed through weather before but Pacific storms need respect and preparation.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

California . . . Stormin'

We're expecting a big storm here in Northern California. By tomorrow, we should be in the throes of receiving up to six inches of rain with gale force winds up to 55 m.p.h.

What I've noticed so far today is much more wind than usual and planes flying lower. What I've noticed on the blogosphere is near panic about the coming storm. I'm wondering whether I should be worried but opting not to be right now.

I'm a child of the Midwest, growing up with ice storms, power outages, blizzards, and tornadoes. I lived in NYC during a major hurricane and walked up Third Avenue in the wind and rain. Time in the Windy City saw driving rain, snow, ice, and umbrellas masquerading as projectiles in the howling wind. Rochester, NY showed me more snow than I'd imagined possible and more than one night camped out in a hotel as our house was without power.

I don't want to take the impending Northern California weather lightly. Gale force winds and the risk of flooding are serious, period. Still, I feel a bit like I've been there, done (and survived) that. We have a good supply of food (and wine) on hand, both for us and for the dogs (okay, no wine for the hounds). We have an emergency radio. I can't do much about the walls of glass in the house. We'll snuggle in tonight and deal with tomorrow's weather as it comes.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Small Changes

This is going to be a year of progress. We're making small changes around the house that add up to greater beauty and a more positive frame of mind.

We live in an Eichler, a mid-century modern ranch-style home, in the San Francisco Bay area. Apparently one either loves or hates these houses. We display both attitudes, depending on the day. We would dearly love to just renovate this place, top to bottom, but that's not an option right now. Last year, we took the first step and installed bamboo floors throughout the house. It was a good start.

So far this year, we're making friends with paint, embracing color, and updating fixtures. It's amazing how changing out an old fashioned light switch to a smooth Lutron one can please the eye and the hand. The same holds for casting off the old bathroom light, scratched mirror and plastic (!) towel racks; welcome, brushed stainless steel accessories and energy saving lights. And color, too. The kids/common bath is now yellow, a happy color indeed. There's a new floor there too. The master bath area is now a serene celadon (if you know Eichlers, you'll smile at just how modest "master" can be) . The living room will soon be sporting a stunning red wall. There's still more to come.

It helps to have an incredibly handy husband around to make these changes happen (see photo above). I am a willing set of hands but am continually surprised and delighted with how he can solve problems and tackle new challenges without hesitation. It should be a satisfying 2008 as we improve our little piece of Palo Alto.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A New Year Tradition

We welcomed the New Year this morning with sake sipped from masu. I love the simple wooden box, the detail of the dovetail joints, and the scent the wood imparts to the sake. The masu elevates a simple drink to ritual. The spice mixture that flavored the sake overnight is a traditional Japanese blend that lends a gentle warmth to the brew. The first taste of the new year should be sweet and indeed, it was.