Perils of Pauline…

So, being 71 and not up for long car rides, I made a flight reservation at the last minute to fly from Oakland to San Diego for our family vacation. I envisioned a relaxing trip, arriving long before the rest (two parents, two little girls, and one au pair) would arrive in the mini-van after an 8 1/2 hour drive.

IMG_0504Sunday started as expected. Helping pack up the mini-van and getting ready to attend the 5-year old granddaughters annual ballet recital. I’m escorting her out to my car and manage to trip off the edge of the driveway and fall into the open mini-van, whacking my head on something very hard. But off we go. And the recital is spectacular with her group portraying the Lost Boys from Peter Pan.

Then I hurry back to my apartment to pass the family cat on to the other grandmother for the week. Shadow doesn’t take well to being shoved into his carrier and takes a hunk out of my hand. Scrambling through the medicine cabinet, I find a bandaid and the neosporin.

A friend drives me to Oakland airport and as I approach the baggage check, I realize my driver’s license is back on my scanner at home…having been scanned for an application the day before.  Yes, you can fly without ID. The baggage check was simple, but then I went through 15 minutes of a VERY personal body pat down. I didn’t even request a private room. I just wanted to make that flight. The woman announced each time that she was about to touch a “private area”, using the back of her hands for those spots.

So I make it just in time to board along with the rest of the “B” passengers…I’m always a “B” no matter how promptly I retrieve my boarding pass the day before. I settle into my aisle seat and prepare to relax for the hour and 20 minute flight to San Diego.

Thirty minutes into the flight, the plane tilts violently 45 degrees to the left and goes into free fall for several seconds. We all thought for sure it was the end! But the pilot levels it out and calmly announces that we were caught in another plane’s wake, one passing us at a right angle. The woman next to be actually saw this plane zoom across our path…an obvious near miss.

french gourmetHaving arrived alive though shaken, I’m picked up by my best friend from childhood. NOW…I’m safe. She takes me to the VRBO in Pacific Beach and I’m ready to collapse. Not yet! The door code doesn’t work and someone else is occupying “our” garage. The manager doesn’t answer nor does the handyman. But my friend takes me to The French Gourmet for dinner. A pris fixe dinner of 3 pates, duck confit, and a chocolate ganache eclair along with a glass of sauvingnon blanc calms my nerves. By now the handyman has called back and given me the correct door code and garage.

I’m barely settled in when the rest of the family arrives, having made record time and a much more relaxed day. Moral of the story…the skyways are not always the best alternative to the freeways.

WWDC…a grandson’s dream

IMG_0019I’ve been enjoying watching the excitement and inspiration experienced by my fifteen-year-old grandson, Ryan, as he attends Apple’s extravaganza WWDC conference in San Francisco this week as one of 350 scholarship winners for students of all ages. The photos from inside the conference are his since the parents who accompanied those under 18 were relegated to the parents’ lounge. Congratulations, Ryan. Enjoy!

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We also took a mini-trip over to Coit Tower–a must for my volunteer firefighter son, even though, contrary to popular belief,  it was not designed to resemble a fire hose nozzle. The murals inside the tower’s base were painted in 1934 by a group of artists employed by the Public Works of Art Project, a precursor and depict life in California during the Depression. He especially enjoyed the depiction of a MVA with all units responding circa the 1930s.IMG_0047

Beware BAD THINKING AHEAD…

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Longtime therapist Dr. Charlene “Charlie” Pederson admits that her fixation with college sweetheart Danny Shapiro has reached the unsettling stage of obsession.  Jolted by turning fifty and struggling with a condescending husband, Charlie crafts a harebrained scheme to find Danny and recapture his heart.  Her delight at reuniting  with her old flame soon turns to indignation when he accuses her of stalking him. Danny’s fears about being stalked are well-founded.

Degrees New Front CoverCharlie plays on her professional expertise about stalking to worm her way back into Danny’s life…all the while jeopardizing her marriage, tarnishing her reputation, and alienating her best friend.  After her darkest secret is revealed, Charlie plunges into unfamiliar depths of pain and mortal danger and must rely on every psychological trick in her book to survive. DEGREES OF OBSESSION will take you on a riveting journey from risky infatuation to personal fulfillment and forgiveness.

The day AFTER Christmas

2014-12-05 21.54.33I find the quiet today a bit disconcerting after eight days amidst the energy and enthusiasm of my four grandchildren. Although I’m still enjoying my annual flamingo Christmas tree.

The holidays began with a six-day trip to Oregon where my son Zach and daughter-in-law Amy are raising my two grandsons, Ryan almost 15 and Sam 11.

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At the beautiful Pittock Mansion in Portland

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Sam’s NinjaBread Cookies!

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The Oyster Themed dining room at the Pittock Mansion

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Zach and Amy whipping up great dinners in their kitchen

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Sam…the real ninja!

 

And I enjoyed watching the “boys” play with their Anki Drive car racing set–played on an iPad with real cars that zipped around the track on the floor. 

Then back to San Ramon for a Christmas Eve of baking…not one but two bûches de Noël plus Grandma Kinnison’s famous Christmas cookies. And Christmas day with Santa coming through with a train around the tree and much “FROZEN” bounty to the delight of the girls.

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Christmas dinner–oysters, salmon, foie gras (shipped in from New York!), caviar, butternut squash soup, filet de mignon and all the fixings

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Aveline and Estelle with some of their favorites.

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“I’m hiding!”

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“Peek-a-boo!”

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Bûche de Noël

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A wonderland of new Dicken’s houses for my daughter.

And finally, a Christmas greeting to my French friends on FB via my bilingual daughter and granddaughters and a French Christmas song by Aveline.

Gratitudes on this Thanksgiving Day

Gratitudes have always been my key to brushing away the cobwebs of disappointment, the shadows of fear, the chimera of lingering doubts, and the pain of promises broken. Today on this official day of Thanksgiving, I share a few of my gratitudes in photos. All of which have put a smile in my heart. .

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Eleven marvelous trips to France and memories in photos. This of Villefranche at night. A photo turned to oil.

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A visit to Strasbourg with our dear friends

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Killer Burgers in Portland with my son and daughter-in-law

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Being present at the birth of my granddaughters

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Wistful moments

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A proud Mom with her volunteer firefighter son and grandsons

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A beautiful daughter who is teacher, Mom, wife, and friend

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Memories of my union days

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Bonifacio, where it all started in 1963 and ended with my new novel MOTHER TONGUE

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Bringing France home in the pottery and colors of Provence

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Being Helio’s number one fan!

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Having adventures–flying over Denali

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The publication of my new novel in paperback and Kindle

Aveline Estelle & Minnie

Having Minnie in our lives

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Best friends for 63 years!

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And happy to be @docflamingo and not a turkey today!

 

Hitchcocks Birds invade Disneyland

2014-11-17 18.14.22It was 4:47 p.m. I had secured a place on one of the park benches outside of the City Hall ostensibly waiting for the Disney holiday parade to come marching by.

2014-11-20 11.50.46My decision was only partly informed by that fact that this grandparent’s body is not quite up to ten full hours of finding excuses to not go on the rides my four-year-old granddaughter finds thrilling (especially Tower of Terror!) or tracking down any more large fuzzy characters for my two-year-old granddaughter to hug and be photographed with. I’d had my beignets at the Jazz Kitchen and my pancakes with ears at Goofy’s Kitchen. I’d seen Aladdin for the umpteenth time–and found it just as enjoyable as the first time.

disneyland_1955_420I’d even won the trivia contest conducted while we waited to gain entrance. What year was Disneyland founded? I not only knew the answer but I had been there in 1955 at age 11 and experienced that incredible new phenomenon called a theme park. Mom was into openings. She had taken my brother and me all the way up to Los Angeles from La Jolla for a ride on the first freeway built in California (or anywhere!) four years earlier in 1951. I remember sitting on my little seat-belt-less hassock in the back seat amazed that this big street had things call “exits”.

2014-11-19 17.04.29But I digress. What amazed me as I sat there nursing my sore joints on the bench was looking up and seeing a tree full of huge black birds, with more landing every minute, right next to the cupola of Disneyland’s City Hall. Very Hitchcock-esque. The only sign of evil in this land of overwhelming good.

Hollywood memories

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This gallery contains 16 photos.

We made a brief stop on the way to Disneyland to show our friend from France Hollywood. It brought back memories of my own. How in the 3rd grade my mother moved us out to Beverly Hills, where we lived … Continue reading

Made it to the store…

I post this as Shadow munches happily on his cat chow. Nothing to pick up your spirits like buying flowers to make a fall bouquet and having breakfast at your table decorated with linens from Provence, antique Quimper china, my favorite hand-painted 1940s glassware, and a delicious meal that is well within my food plan.

2014-10-19 11.04.03Special K Flatbread Breakfast Sandwich Recipe:

1 Special K Flatbread Sausage, Egg, & Cheese Sandwich. The trick to making this delicious and avoid soggy microwave mush is to defrost the egg and sausage layers in the microwave (15 seconds on high) and then separate the layers including the flatbread top and bottom and pan fry using a mist of olive oil from a Misto oil sprayer and adding the cheese to melt on top of the egg layer at the very last.

Serve with a melange of sweet red and orange peppers, mushrooms, and fresh spinach (all sauteed in a covered pan misted with olive oil plus a splash of water). Top with salsa and garnish with fresh strawberries. The entire meal including 8 oz of non-fat milk and 4 oz of orange juice is about 400 calories with 11 g of fat. Match THAT English full breakfast!

Lyn St. James – race car driver extraordinaire!

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Visiting my “ride” before taking my laps.

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My tall handsome chariot driver!

I had been looking forward to Lyn St. James’ lecture at the Blackhawk Automotive Museum in Danville, CA in November but then she had to postpone. But an opportunity arose to see her at Sonoma Raceway during the CSRG Charity Challenge. I hung around all morning looking for her and waiting for my 3-lap ride (read “10 minutes of absolutely delicious terror”) around the 12-turn 2.52 mile road track in a 1952 Jaguar XK 120 owned and driven by James Alder. I had been at the track a few weeks earlier watching Helio Castroneves and Will Power navigate their Indy cars around the same track. Hitting Turn 1 at full throttle is fear on steroids! At least for this 71 year old Granny!

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Lyn St. James’ record setting Thunderbird

I did get a gander at Lyn’s 1989 Ford Thunderbird in which she set a myriad of speed records in the track winner’s circle and read a sign about all of her feats, but no sight of its famous female driver.2014-10-04 12.13.22 I was about to give up and strolled over to the cafe for something to eat when I spied her sitting at a picnic table signing her book for a friend.

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Lyn and me at Sonoma raceway

Breathlessly, I introduced myself and ran off into the raceway store to purchase a copy for signing. The most interesting part is that I had read up on her personal history the night before and discovered that she grew up in Willoughby, Ohio, the same small town outside of Cleveland where my grandparents had lived their entire adult lives, where my mother had been born and raised, where many of my other relatives had been prominent citizens, and where I had been baptized, had visited many times, and had even attended second grade. My uncle, Robert Shankland, a famous physicist, had, along with his uncle, served as a trustee of the Andrews School for Girls (now the Andrews Osborne Academy), which Lyn had attended from 7th to 12th grade. My uncle’s father, Sherwood Shankland, had been the school’s first superintendent. Lyn shared about how this school, which was eons ahead of its time in empowering the lives of young women, influenced her character development and ambitions. And we had a lively discussion about her visit next spring to the Museum. I hope to become involved in the preparations for this event. Finally, a volunteer activity that truly captures my attention–a combo of two loves, the excitement of car racing and my passion about the place of women in the fabric of America.

The theme of Women’s History Month in 2015 is Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives. The warp and woof of Lyn’s story is woven with Nomex, a fire-retardant material that is used to make the suit, gloves, socks and shoes worn by race car drivers. But as her website says: “Lyn St. James’ story is not just about being a successful race car driver. It’s a story about goal setting, determination, passion and fully utilizing all her defeats and successes to break into a world no one could have imagined possible: auto racing.” The 2010 revised edition of her book Lyn St. James, An Incredible Journey, is still available. For any woman who was told as a child that she can’t be this or that because it’s a man’s prerogative, this book is a must!

Tippi Hedren and Hitchcock’s The Birds

The birds posterI can’t visit Bodega Bay without driving a few miles inland to the hamlet of Bodega, most famous for the filming of Hitchcock’s The Birds.

As usual at this time of year, Tippi Hedren, whose haunting face is shown in the background of the iconic movie poster on the left was at The Tides wharf to sign autographs. 2014-08-31 10.03.05Tippi signing

2014-08-31 10.02.27A mannequin of Tippi stands duty at the Bodega Country Store filled with Hitchcock memorabilia.

The walls of the store are covered with artwork, costume sketches, publicity photos from The Birds and from Marnie. An article in the New Yorker chronicles the hidden story behind Hitchcock’s inappropriate advances and retaliation againstTippi and her long-held silence.

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The Tides

 

The Tides restaurant as it appeared in the film. It has since been completely remodeled.

schoolhouse2014-08-31 09.50.15On the left, the schoolhouse as it appeared in the film, site of the memorable scene of the birds chasing the children. I went there several years back on a solitary winter day when suddenly a flock of a hundred or more blackbirds came swarming out of the sky and settled on the tall pines nearby. For a second, I thought I would have to run for my life! But today the schoolhouse in renovated and occupied by a family.