Sunday, November 29, 2015

Carmel Valley Ranch

I'm staying at the Carmel Valley Ranch for four days (by myself) to finish off the third draft of the so-called novel. The Ranch is 500acres of oak trees, dewy, rested peeps and free s'mores fireside, which are probably crucial as Cy might say. I know, not really the starving artist thing. Here's some snaps from last time I went.

Carmel Valley Ranch, adults' pool. S'mores are served poolside of an evening

Some people I don't know

Things I didn't do

Didn't sit here. This is one of those wall thingies you think you could do yourself but...

Didn't sit here either

Sat here. 

Club sarnie for luncheon. Not starving

Nicoise salad. Still not starving

Beet salad. Still not...well you get the picture. 

One of the best steaks I've ever tasted. That goopy sauce might have something to do with it
Indoor-outdoor thinking

All the rooms have fires

I wonder if they'll remember me from last time? The reason they would remember me is because of my love of beet, or beetroot as they call it in NZ. My husband can't even smell it or see it without feeling ill and this was my chance to fill up on it. I had juice with loads of beets and beet salad for lunch and with steak every evening.

Every morning I did a spin class which was located further down in the valley. I actually walked down the entry road rather than taking the hotel service car, though people looked at me like: what are you doing walking crazy woman. 

The final morning after my spin class, I popped into the cafe to get my fresh juice drink. The young woman said they were out of all veges except for beets. I said Ok, just do beets then. She looked at me skeptically, but I thought it was because  I looked particularly hideous after my class.

Five minutes later, she was still juicing. That's a lot of beets, I said. It is ...beets, she said. (Did I hear ten? Surely not.)

Anyway I walked back up the steep road to my room. It was a long upwards walk: past the golf course, sip of my juice, past the kids' pool, sip, past the beehives, sip, past the lavender gardens, sip. It was very hot. I was about 100 feet from the top and feeling very, very bad. It was very, very hot. A number of swanky automobiles drove past. Feeling very very queasy now. Then--Urk! Blurk! I leaned down into the nearest miniature olive tree--and barfed. Full on crimson projectile, the juice of ten beets and more.

A black escalade slowed down, then sped up, a yellow convertible slowed down, then sped up. They obviously thought I'd been on the turps the night before. 

There was red everywhere: all over the ground, the olive tree, my t-shirt, my hair, my shoes.  I pretty much crawled the remaining 100 feet to my room...past loads of people checking in: families, couples on romantic mini breaks, company bods doing team building. I looked like an extra from Apocolpyse Now. 

Yes, think they'll remember me, don't you?

A visual of my view during beetblurt


Sorry for the bloggy silence. I had intended to take a week off and it became (gah!) four months. Now you see the (non) workings of a hard-core procrastinator--bet you can't beat that! Anyway nice to be back, and I want to give some belated thanks, even if the headlines lately are so horrifying, it's hard to read the paper.

Thanks that Harley came home for the holidays. (Tell me... is it normal we only saw him for two hours during the whole week?)

Thanks that we have friends who give 110%. Lesley and Curtis invited us to Thanksgiving at their house and made this cool 18-person wood slab table, and covered the chairs, and made napkins of the same material, and painted the kitchen --all the day before!

Thanks to a city which remains beautiful and resilient.

Thanks that we live in an area where people do not blame a whole race for the grotesque and inhuman acts of a small group.

Thanks that I still find things around the house that make me laugh.

The front of Cy's homework folder (left at home..)

Thanks that at the grand old age of 53 3/4 I feel free to embrace the matchy matchy (I even match my duvet for goodness sakes). Today I came across a new term --banana roll--apparently it's the term for the fat on back of your upper thighs that makes a second bum. I said, whatevs.

Thanks there is plenty of sunny spots to sit around the house.

Thanks it isn't worse. Two months ago I woke with a ringing in the ears, Tinnitus. No cure and only a 30% chance that it will go away. Drives you crazy...but could be worse.  The only way to put it in the back of your mind is to be totally engrossed. Writing and spinning have turned out to be the best things: I've never been fitter.

Thanks that we live in an area where a simple walk down the street is a treat. See my essay, Magical Mystery Tour, for the San Fran Chron this week.

The new Gucci outfit in the windows on Maiden Lane

And finally, thank you for reading and commenting and for being a Aplus penpal.

Stay connected, friends. And Kia Kaha (Stay Strong)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Oakland Town Ball, est. 2015

One of the amazing things about living in Oakland is that you get to know youth who-- against all odds-- have become successful and tenacious, but also kind and giving. Mahlik A. Smith, 17, is one of those.

Mahlik A. Smith, 17.

Mahlik was the youngest of six boys raised by their single Mum in West Oakland. Growing up Mahlik says his family "had to use many resources to survive such as Section 8 housing, food stamps, free lunch and clothing." His family's hardships have motivated him to "never stop working toward success, graduating from college, and being stable financially."

As a senior at McClymonds High, an Oakland public school, Mahlik is looking forward to graduating this June, having maintained a GPA above 3.5 throughout high school. His goal is to become a sports medicine doctor and he hopes to attend Hampton University as a pre-medical student.

One of the stabilizing forces in his life has been the Boys & Girls Club of Oakland. He started at the Leonard J. Meltzer Clubhouse in West Oakland at the age of five and has been a constant presence for 11 years. 

Mahlik says the club was "a key piece of the puzzle that kept us all fed, safe and involved in positive activities" and his mentors taught him "how to be a leader, a student athlete, and a giving person." He's taken many leadership roles: volunteering, tutoring younger members and coaching baseball and basketball. Outside the club, he has won many awards for helping other youth and giving them voice. What an awesome young man.

This year there are 2,500 youth in the Boys & Girl Club of Oakland.

To raise money for the Club, some amazing men and women are organizing the inaugural Oakland Town Ball on Friday December 4. Looks incredibly fun with a performance artist, David Girabaldi and aerial arts and a live auction with loads of goodies.

Good chance too to wheel out the old ball frock. Speaking of which, just to change up Old Blue, I made it a v-neck.

Old Blue: Before

New-Old Blue with v-neck

Or if you can't make it, you might like to make a donation. Too often we hear only the negative about Oakland, but Mahlik and his story (and there are many, many others) just makes your heart sing, doesn't it?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Longest Ride

Packing unsuitable shoes, and books I'll never read. It must be vacation time...

Actually I did finish the one on the right. Its an up up all-nighter, but less in a Girl On A Train way and more of a trainwreck, unlikeable couple way.  A 28 year old author and she looks like this: no fair!

So we're back at the Family Vacation Centre at the University of Santa Barbara, with eight other families. It's our 11th year. You know the place... The students take the kids on adventures while parents do whatevs. Basically you don't see the kids all week. "Can't call it family" said one of the kids. Whatevs. 

Harley is back east visiting grandparents so just three sprogs this year..,

Temps have been mid -80's all week, unheard of. Its usually foggy and cold on the CA coast..

And for the 11th year running, all us mothers are back in the beginner surf lessons. We are all in our 50's. Our goal is to stay up for 10 feet. #DreamBig. We aim to rip, tear and lacerate the waves, ever the whilst suspecting that scrambling up and going along is our destiny.  

Its so easy on the sand

And being over 50, these are the sort of conversations we have out in the surf:

Me: Zack, the instructor, looks like that actor thingumy whose father is whatsisname. He was in The Longest Ride. 
Friend: I know exactly who you mean. 
Me: (remembering five mins later) It was Scott Eastwood.
Friend: No, that wasn't who I was thinking of. (Nodding to Zack) So he was in that movie?
Me: Yeah, Scott Eastwood is teaching us surfing. 
Friend: So The Longest Ride is a surf movie?
Me: No, it was about bullriding. 
Friend: Makes sense.

Our fantastic instructors, Zach, Dom and Nena. Look at Zach on left. See?

Monday, June 22, 2015


This was the fabulous Aunt Mary. We traveled to Kansas to honor her last weekend after she died recently. These photos tell more about her than words ever can.

Mary at age 26 with Toto

Love everything about this photo!!! Mary (in the basket) with her siblings, Bill, Rowena and Bob (I think the boy in dungarees was a neighbour friend)

Mary's children Janelle and Brent and one of her four grandchildren, Grady, at the Celebration of Life.

Friends and family and work colleagues stood up and said what Mary had meant to them. Kindness, acceptance, and tolerance: a reluctance to criticise or judge, an ability to make others feel good about themselves.  Another word came up in describing Mary: Character.

Our bookclub just read The Road to Character by David Brooks, the premise being that we should work harder to rebalance the scales between our “résumé virtues”—achieving wealth, fame, and status—and our “eulogy virtues,” kindness, bravery, honesty, faithfulness, focusing on what kind of relationships we have formed.

(By the way, our bookclub was undecided on who embodies Character in our times. Who would you nominate?)

When Kevin tried to call his father after Mary died, his father could not stay on the line as he was crying so much. He was heartbroken. Though Mary was 71, she never stopped being his little sister and he never stopped wanting to protect her from harm. In the end he couldn't do that.

What will be your "eulogy virtues" ...what will people will say about you? What do you hope to be remembered for?


It's almost impossible to know what to say about the horrific shooting at a bible reading in Charleston where nine people were killed.

The dignity and faith of the relatives who have expressed their forgiveness has been incredible. That is true courage. Here is the Charleston Post and Courier's moving cover tribute to the victims. Yesterday the Emanuel AME Church re-opened and thousands gathered for the Bridge to Peace event: "We will rise above the hate."

The Emanuel AME Church opened yesterday for services

No more guns. Take down the Confederate flag. 

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