Countdown to Paris – Tour Eiffel

Each week I will post my favorite photos of Paris and the rest of France until I am once again in the City of Lights at the end of July.

I begin with the Tour Eiffel in all its colors and moods and dining at the Jules Verne restaurant which I hope to do again this summer

Window table overlooking the Trocadero in the Jules Verne Restaurant October 2004

December and a solitary ride to the top

The view

I love Paris in the springtime

Shimmering in the evening

The next generation


Chateaux of the Loire – Day Four: Chenonceau

Of all the beautiful chateaux along the Loire, Chenonceau, built in 1513, is the one I have visited and loved the most. Which is why I can always go back again to walk that grand gallery over the Cher river, delight in the exquisite floral arrangements in each room, and read about the rivalry of Catherine de Medici and Diane de Poitiers and visit their competing gardens.Their iron, but very feminine, fists in their velvet gloves always preserved Chenonceau in times of conflict and war.

This year with my six-year-old granddaughter as my tour guide, I visited places in the 70 hectares that I had never seen before–the Maze, the extensive greenhouses and gardens where the flowers for those beautiful displays are grown and arranged (did I think they call 1-800-FLOWERS ??), the stables, the XVI century farm, and the historic display of the chateau’s use as a military hospital during World War I.


The castle chef's at work

The castle chef’s at work

One of the many beautiful bouquets designed for each room

One of the many beautiful bouquets designed for each room

This lily pad display even mimicking the pond scum

This lily pad display even mimicking the pond scum


The photo display of WWI as a military hospital

The photo display of WWI as a military hospital

One of many garden areas

One of many garden areas


Enjoying the tour

Looking forward to my journey to France

I will be joining my family in Orléans France two weeks from today. Here are some photos of the neighborhood of our Airbnb accommodations at the Place du General de Gaulle in the center of the city. 25526067 Pl de Gaulle - 5.2009 Pl de Gaulle - 9.2013And here is our lovely apartment with a very un-French American style kitchen, a delightful room for the granddaughters with a play area, and a couch for me should I still be sleeping sitting up for my broken shoulder. It’s got to hurt less in France! And all at an extremely reasonable price. Weekend trips to Paris, the Loire, and other destinations are very easy. And Drivy is our source for car rental (the European Airbnb for cars!). A nice elderly woman is renting us her car for the entire stay.


My sleeping accommodation if I’m still sleeping sitting up


Master BR


BR for Grandmas and Grandkids

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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.

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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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. .


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


A visit to Strasbourg with our dear friends


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


Being present at the birth of my granddaughters


Wistful moments


A proud Mom with her volunteer firefighter son and grandsons


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


Memories of my union days


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


Bringing France home in the pottery and colors of Provence


Being Helio’s number one fan!


Having adventures–flying over Denali

Paperback cover final

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!


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.

Arms are for hugging

2014-05-22 08.53.12At 21 months, my granddaughter knows exactly what arms are for…hugging every big furry or fuzzy creature she finds. We have difficulty peeling her off. The older one at four is quite content to have a chat and get an autograph.

2014-05-22 09.08.49Oh, Mickey…where have you been all my life!

2014-05-23 10.50.58“We’re late, we’re late, for a very important date,” says Alice in Wonderland, aka my daughter and the little one’s mommy.

Lavendar Festival in Digne-Les-Bains

IMG_1364One of the many delights of last summer’s six-week stay in France was spending one day in Digne-Les-Bain to watch the Lavender Festival Parade. Block after block of the main street was filled on each side with long tables for the hundreds of parade watchers to sit have a yummy lunch served by local restaurants before the parade began.

With her iced popsicle in hand, my 3 1/2 year old granddaughter cheered for each elaborately decorated float, excitedly pointed out each costumed performer, and clapped and hummed along with each band.


But she held her ears when the Fireman’s Band was too loud.


IMG_1367Even her eleven-month-old younger sister seemed to be having the time of her life watching from her Mimi’s lap.


The highlight of the parade for all of us was the band dressed in traditional costumes that played and “marched” in perfect formation on board BICYCLES!


Moules et pétanque et la plage et le bébé en Cassis

IMG_1295We have been to Cassis several times. But this was the littlest muffin’s first look at the pristine beach. IMG_1269Because we weren’t sure about an eleven-month-old on the high seas, we bypassed our favorite activity this time: a boat trip to view The Calanques.

IMG_1288But she did have here first taste of moules with lobster sauce at one of the waterfront restaurants located along the Quai Jean Jacques Barthelemy.

And her first gander at old men playing pétanque.IMG_1300