30 December 2008


When I first sat down to this post, I thought, 'I wonder if people think that I've fallen off the face of the earth or died or something?' Then I thought, what if I WERE dead?? Nobody would know! Should I prepare a post-mortem post for a close friend or family member to put on my blog on my behalf after I'm gone?? What would I say? What would my Facebook status be and who would change it for me? Should it be 'Sharona is...no longer inhabitating this earthly realm'? Is that too obscure? Does it just sound like I'm high? Maybe I should I be witty about the whole matter: 'Sharona is...preparing a lightning bolt with your name on it.' Will people post loving farewell comments? Will they say a word about me at my upcoming high school reunion? As I started to sniffle over my loss, I suddenly thought, 'What is WRONG with me?'

Less related to death:

My boxes finally arrived from San Francisco. I am alarmed to find that I packed three jars of organic peanut butter and two large costco-sized containers of tylenol p.m. As a friend says, 'That's a helluva sandwich.' On the bright side, the winter is now going to FLY by.

So far London hasn't been as rainy as expected. It's cloudy every day, to be sure; the sun a darting mistress, but in terms of wetness, I've had to open my umbrella a mere half dozen times in the past three months--always on a Saturday afternoon and always when I want to take a photograph of something. The rain has not yet been combined with a blustery gale, which is a small but appreciated blessing having dealt with the sideways-rain of San Francisco on many saturated occasions. When I express this 'dryer-than-expected' sentiment at parties, however, I am always warned: 'You haven't seen January or February yet!' So I am NATURALLY looking forward to that. I will let you know how it is in t-minus-two days.

'How are you finding London so far?' is the number one question I am asked--by curious Londoners, by American ex-pats, by anyone and everyone I meet, from the line at the cafe to the holiday dinner party. I struggle with this one on many levels. If I sing the city's praises ('I love it! There are endless places to go and see and so many restaurants I want to try!') I end up sounding a bit delirious. So to lend some sincerity to the sentiment, I feel the need to express a 'point of struggle.' Most people expect the weather to be the most difficult acclimation, so I stick with that: 'But the cold! I am having a terrible time getting used to the cold!' As a result of this bizarre dance this question always puts me to, I am beginning to wonder, how DO I find London? And how should I best answer this question? Perhaps literally is the way: 'Using the tube map. And you?'

I'm off to develop the photos from the week I just spent in the fairy tale that is Scotland...land of castles, pints, and grazing sheep. None of which I actually photographed.

18 December 2008

What's in a name?

Her email is the sort of address that one is assigned: jenn435@maildotcom. You never pick this address. And yet, I never thought you settle for it, either, when the domain suggests it as a viable alternative to your first choice, 'jennlastname.' Even 'jennbirthday'--while impossible for anybody else to remember--makes sense.

Alas, when jenn435 sends an email, I don't need to open it to know what it's going to say: 'You're an amazing woman,' it reads. 'Now send this to nine other amazing women, including me, for good luck.' In Monotype Corsiva, size 18, hot pink. Lime green blinking graphics remind me that kittens are cute and purple angels wish me blessings. I think about forwarding this on to my grandmother and aunt before realizing that they sent me the same thing last week and consequently already have wealth unforetold.

So what do you do with these mass emails from friends so old you no longer have any connection with them? Do you let them know that you first became friends with them when you were eight, an age at which you taped together empty toilet paper rolls to make binoculars, trampolines were all it took for street cred, and any friend big enough to pull you in your wagon was worth hours of your time? Notably when their grandmother lived across the street and rejoiced in making an endless stream of molasses cookies, which meant you could turn down your parents' offering of an after-school apple? Do you tell them that things changed when they dropped out of high school to have their first baby while you opted to get a degree, leave the state, start anew?

You hit 'reply.' You type in the e(mail)quivalent to the secret handshake you shared to get into The Club in which your sisters weren't allowed: 'Luv you! Ur amazing, too!' Hitting 'send,' you realize that while this may be your lifelong e-burden, it was worth it. Because of her, you know pig latin, and how to throw pine cones at cars from the safety of a hidden tree branch. These are the lifelong blessings she's given. What's a forward full of fairies?

17 December 2008

Pub Cricket

I got into a discussion with a Welsh gal named Marie on Saturday night on the subject of road trip games--or 'car journeys,' as they call them here. Apparently where she hails from they don't seek out 50 states on license plates, or yell at cows, or poke their siblings when the parents aren't looking. No, in Wales-land, they play a game called Pub Cricket. In Pub Cricket--and stick with me here, because it's about to get convoluted--the first person to spot a pub gets the number of points that the pub has legs. 'What?' you are saying, in baffled confusion, as did I. 'LEGS? Pubs have LEGS?' 'Yes!' she replied. 'For example, say you pass a pub called The Horse and Carriage. That's an eight-pointer! You have to figure it takes at LEAST two horses to draw the carriage. And how many legs do two horses have? Eight! So you get eight points!' 'So...if you pass a place called The White Lion, you get four points?' 'Exactly! And the Crowned Prince would be two!' 'What if it's called The Queen's Head? How many points is that?' 'It depends. If *I* see it, it's two points, because the Queen's Head used to have a body. If my brother sees it, zero.'

Now I can't pass a pub without counting its legs. I am currently TOTALLY winning this game, though 'technically' I'm the only player...

16 December 2008

Best Venn Diagram Ever

I remember my first Venn diagram. I was in fourth grade, and I remember thinking, 'This is math?' It was but a precursor to the year spent under the torturous gaze of my ninth-grade geometry teacher, a woman with a strange, dark streak who seemed as though she would not be out of place at a seance or ritual sacrifice or, say, a ninth-grade geometry classroom. However, Venn diagrams and evil spirits aside, geometry was a subject in which I did well because I do see math as more of a letters subject, all logical and magical and makes-me-want-to-travel-through-portals-into-other-dimensions, which I actually believe is possible because why NOT?

That confession aside, please see the best Venn diagram ever, sent to me by Jeremy, the same man responsible for helping me pack up my San Francisco life before this current travel abroad and also the sort of person you would want with you were you to cross into otherworlds. You just know he'd bring the towel.

And now that I've gotten supremely off-track and made absolutely no connection between the introduction and the actual item being introduced, please let us switch mindsets altogether from the wonders of dimensional travel to the wonders of everyday life:

14 December 2008

Holy. Effing. Awesome.

Seriously. Katy just sent me this BACON FLOW CHART. Click on it to check out the hilarity.

11 December 2008

It's amazing what you can get with a baby strapped to your chest.

Today as I took Baby 3 for his walk (an outing we make at least twice a day given that the baby bjorn is like crack for him and the only thing that will soothe him when he's grizzly), we happened past a local library. On a whim, I stopped in. I knew that I couldn't get a card due to the fact that I don't have proof of address (in the form of a utility bill or rent check, for example), but it was worth going to check it out and get in out of the cold.

Within minutes, the librarian was cooing over 'my child.' I felt no need to correct the impression as I subtly inquired, 'How do I go about getting a library card?' 'Oh, just fill this out! And would you like a card for your child, as well? And take this flyer about our children's programmes!' Five minutes later, I walked out with a shiny card in my pocket, a baby coo'ing on my chest, and a book tucked under my arm. From now on any time I need a door greased, I'm takin' this little guy with me. We are unSTOPPABLE.

Now to the liquor store...

09 December 2008

Just when you think the world has gone dark...

It gets dark here early. Like 3:30 in the afternoon early. This has succeeded in making me more of a homebody than usual; the sort of person who races home in the cold to fuzzy slippers and fleece blankets and a mug of tea and declines to go out, even when going out means making new friends and trying new places. I keep telling myself that when spring comes I'll start making an effort, but really when given the opportunity, I can completely sequester myself for months and have very little human contact with very little regret.

I did that my last semester in college when I had my own studio apartment above the garage of the chair of the university english department, a nutty old man who only charged 250/month and let me paint the walls yellow, brick red, and avocado green, a la Amelie, my obsession of the minute. It was my first time living alone and I loved it. I listened to Philip Glass, took bubble baths, tasted wine for the first time, and taught myself chess theory. I learned that I was happy eating the same thing for dinner every night (quesadillas) and increasingly found myself declining invitations to meet up with friends. However, the more I withdrew, the more antisocial I became. I lost the ability to converse easily and I lost the patience for small talk. Large groups began to irritate me, and small groups I couldn't lose myself in, so I avoided them all.

Here the weather is doing the same thing to me that living alone did back then. It makes me think, 'Why bother?'

And then a package full of sunshine arrived last Thursday. Katy, wonderful, future-wife Katy sent me so much goodness that I can't even handle it. It was a package to bring a girl to tears. And if I were back home, living in a bubble, I would've popped that bad boy just to hump her with gratitude. I really can't thank her enough for this.

Here are just a few of the goodies that have renewed my sense of life and purpose and woke me from my winter-induced apathy, goodies that brighten my perspective every time I open the cupboard door...and yes, biscuits have the power to brighten my day.

Napkins of infinite wisdom:

'Porn for Women', courtesy of Chronicle Books: each page features a male model doing some sort of domestic chore with vigor and enthusiasm, like knitting booties with a caption reading 'I'm so excited for your sister to have her baby!'

And last but not least...BLUE BOTTLE COFFEE, from Deee's and my favorite kiosk at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market and also where Katy and I would take turns doing runs before church on Sundays. Katy aptly picked the flavor 'Giant Steps,' (I don't know WHAT she's trying to say there), and it's so good I'm tempted to drop some grounds in the tub with me and bathe in it.

Now off I go to my childminding job, with a spring in my step, coffee on my breath, and porn in my pocket. Life is good.

04 December 2008


Drunk old man: Ah, God bless me, I'm lovely!

The Death Cold

For over a week now I've been struggling with a little thing I have come to term The Death Cold. There seems to be no cure, no amount of sleep, no thousands of mgs of Vitamin C that can nuke this bad boy. At last I broke down and went to Boots to buy cold and flu medicine, only to find that my old beloved friend Nyquil (and sure, Dayquil, join in the party, though really, let's be honest, your nightlife brother steals your thunder) is not sold here...What would I drink (I mean, sip, in the quantity of 2 tablespoons) at night when I couldn't sleep? What would wipe out all of my ills? And so I resorted to the label-reading of all the new-to-me products on the shelf. Eventually I came to the conclusion that either the English are healthier, and that is why they seem to only have one cold and flu medicine, just under different labels, or two, the world has conspired against me and is delightfully planning my demise, hands rubbing together in scheming glee. Deciding at the end of a fruitless twenty minutes just to try all the medicinal options before me, I struggled to the register with caplets, tablets, syrups, teas, and lozenges overflowing in my arms. I spontaneously tossed some antibacterial handwipes and two Miffy kleenex boxes onto the precariously balanced pile before dumping it all unceremoniously onto the till counter.

And so the attack began: two caplets in, one fizzy vitamin c drink. One vapour-action dissolving lozenge, one mug of sickly sweet and tangy lemon and honey flu tea, two more caplets, one more fizzy vitamin c drink. A tablespoon of the cough syrup down, causing a violent gag reflex due to a flavour that can best be described as 'bile-forward with a vomit-like finish,' causing the entire bottle to be promptly binned with a swear word and a silent prayer to the absent Nyquil gods. And so goes the diet, for five straight days.

Is progress being made? I don't know. I definitely feel like my body's not my own, which can probably only be an improvement given how I treat it when it IS my own. Other than that, a sort of homeostasis seems be in place, the two warring halves of sick v. well each making headway at various times of the day, only to eventually call it a draw, as though they're staring each other down across a battlefield, daring one another to try and pull something funny. 'Okay, you can make the nose run, but I draw the line at adding a cough. You at least want a tickly throat? Okay, then relinquish some fatigue. Hey! Don't you DARE draw that mucus gun unless you're prepared to give up a headache. Okay, agreed.' And so the camps skirmish and symptoms attack and then retreat, taking turns, and no side seems to be winning the war...I fully anticipate my body remaining encamped here indefinitely, eventually pulling out playing cards and trading cigarettes.

In the meantime, if I seem a bit dull lately--and I mean dull here in the lack-luster, not-as-brightly-shining sense of the word, not the ennui-inducing sense of the word, although many apologies if the latter is the one that is more descriptive--then I promise you it is only a spell and it will ideally be over soon. After all, I've got a vitamin cannon up my sleeve.

02 December 2008

Laundry in London

I'm trying to do laundry right now, but the washing machines here...well, make it a bit difficult. They are apparently designed with midgets in mind. With a loading capacity of approximately three shirts, four socks, and a pair of underwear, you must run approximately fifteen loads for a day's worth of clothing. Washing your bedding? One sheet per load, please. Throw in a pillowcase if you dare. The wash cycle takes about 45 minutes (unlike the fifteen minute cycles in the Land of the Giants), while the dryer cycle takes...oh, wait, no dryers here. Unless you make a decent income and therefore expect a certain quality of life, or have a baby and forced your spouse to get you one, as the prospect of hanging four billion teeny tiny onesies over drying racks would no doubt push you over the brink of madness. But any home outfitted by the lower or middle class since, say, 2007, is most likely dryer-less. I don't mind it so much given that I hung-dry most of my clothing in San Francisco, but there I had the luxury of a sunny bay window and a pleasant ocean breeze to do the trick. Here you would only open your window if you had a death wish and thought biting gales of frigid rain were a pleasure. And so you rely on the radiator: those ancient sources of heat lining the walls of each room, often broken, and with a surface area rivalling that of a tea saucer. Luckily, given that one can only wash a hanky at a time, this seems to work out.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go put in a pair of socks.

23 November 2008

the lakes

I've got half an hour til Baby 3 wakes, so I'm feeling totally high on life and ready to post some photos from the Lake District...And before you start expecting mountain vistas and reflective bodies of water, let me clarify: when on the road, you can really only see...trees. Lots and lots of trees. I'm sure on the other side of said trees were panoramas to make the heart flutter, but--like oh so many trips to Yosemite when your glimpses of the majesty are sentenced to the gap in forest where they create turnouts for your car and wooden signs announcing your location, where tourists congregate en masse with cameras, guaranteeing that every photo from Yosemite is of the same mountain range/glacier/meadow-and-lake--well...it was like that. Beautiful, stately, pristine, and mostly out of sight.
And so the photos below are of the tiny views, the everyday sights. The Family McQuade had allotted a handful of cabins in a park that was designed around Activities for the Whole Family, and the entertainment (from pottery painting to rock climbing to bowling) never ceased...it was nature the way it was meant to be done.

Apparently you can paddle boat around the lake...however, given that I couldn't feel my nose, hands, or feet, I was not about to pedal around in a wet, plastic seat to see if I could find more trees to look at.

The handsomest devil around: Patriarch McQuade, and the man whose 80th birthday was the cause of the weekend festivities.

You might think, 'Wouldn't this be a nice path to bicycle down?' But you'd be wrong. And that's all I'm going to say on the subject.

Nature at its finest...this glowing beacon of the night contained a heated indoor water park (imagine huge slides and fake palm trees), a bowling alley, a half dozen restaurants, and shops shops shops. Why hike outdoors when you've got miles to see in here?

You will be happy to note that bowling is consistent no matter what country you are in...you will still get stylish shoes to sport over psychedelic carpet and balls that glow in the dark. So if you're ever abroad and feeling homesick, just head for the nearest bowling alley...you won't even know you've left Kentucky.

Even the waterfalls were multi-hued...this, THIS is the land of the free and home of the brave.

And a photo of the renowned trees.

21 November 2008


It's been a week since I've posted, for a number of reasons...the first delay due to a long weekend spent in the Lake District (photos of...trees...to come--try to get excited), and the rest is due to...well...apathy. But today, Something Big Happened and it is DEFINITELY news-worthy.

I met my new best friend.

Oh, yes. It has finally happened.

I was shopping at Habitat when I saw her. Our eyes met. She smiled. I played cool, because that's how I roll, but then when she was fully past, I slowly rotated and began to follow her. I watched her shop from behind a decorative tree full of ornaments for sale...I saw her touch a tapestry, then when she moved on, I casually strolled past it and took a good look--just to get a feel for her taste. After all, I'll be buying her Christmas and birthday presents soon.

A moment later she was gone...like so many mists on the surface of haunted lakes, I felt lost and scared without her. I resumed my shopping, still high from our contact, but disappointed at a lost opportunity to tackle her, force her into a photo with me, and then have her sign everything on my person with the sharpie I always carry in my purse.

Until half an hour later, in the midst of perusing the shop next door. I was buying Christmas decorations. Loads and loads of Christmas decorations. I didn't mean to. I'm really not the Holiday Decorations type (mostly due to apathy, not any sort of principle on the thing). But this Christmas is different...I'm going to be in London, away from friends and family. And as a result, I find myself seeking creature comforts this season--I'm eating food from my grandmother's church cookbook, I'm wearing fuzzy socks, and I'm decorating for Christmas like it's the last one I'm going to spend on this earth.

So there I am at Heal's, arms laden with wreaths, ornaments, dragging a plastic tree half my size. I look like Christmas just threw up all over me. Glitter is all over my hands and face, my hair has been caught in the pine bristles, and I've got some sort of silver sparkley thing that looks like a disco ball dangling from my arm.

And there she is. In front of me in line. She looked at me, then laughed lightly: 'Getting ready for Christmas?' That's when I knew: this was her way of asking me to be Best Friend's Forever. 'YES!' I replied, 'A THOUSAND TIMES YES!' I cleverly regaled her with stories of my holiday season abroad (hoping for an invitation to her country estate) and discussed the merits of waiting until the day after Thanksgiving to put up Christmas decorations. She nodded understandingly: 'I've always wanted to do an American Thanksgiving!' I could tell she wanted an invitation to my party, but REALLY, Emma. I only have food for four. The wreath around my neck chose that minute to strangle me, at which point she began to back politely away: 'Right, right, well, nice plastic reindeer! Must be on my way...!'

We didn't trade names, of course, as we both understood that I already knew hers, and mine wasn't relevant. I like to think that when she goes home tonight, she's going to be thinking of me...maybe with a pet nickname, like 'Christmas Girl.' Something like that, something we can laugh at together in years to come.

Oh, yes. Emma Watson, I look forward to the start of a beautiful friendship...

14 November 2008

The Ultimate Lullaby Playlist

Mommy 4 recently shared with me a lullaby playlist she created for her little one. And it was so fantastic I nabbed a copy for myself...this is the rare sort of music selection that is great for young and old alike and has the gift of instantaneous transfer to the happy place. If you can say 'yes' to any of the below, you definitely need it:

a. It takes you two hours to fall asleep, and that's WITH the medication.
b. You get agitated at work and need a way to unwind that doesn't involve a flask or the torture of small animals.
c. You have a small person in your household, one that needs to go unconscious on occasion so that you can pull out the flask and small animals.
d. You've completely exhausted every one of your itunes playlists and want to music-eff one more.

If any of these described you, then you need 'The Rockin' Lullabies of Baby Four':

1. I Bid You Goodnight (Aaron Neville)
2. Didn't Leave Nobody but the Baby (Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris, & Gillian Welch)
3. Baby Mine (Bette Midler)
4. Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel) (Billy Joel)
5. Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ra (That's an Irish Lullaby) (Bing Crosby)
6. Godspeed (Sweet Dreams) (Dixie Chicks)
7. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (Elizabeth Mitchell & Lisa Loeb)
8. Russian Lullaby (1958) (Ella Fitzgerald)
9. Golden Slumbers (George Benson)
10. Slumber My Darling (Gilbert Kalish & Jan De Gaetani/Paul Dunkel/Donald Anderson)
11. Lullaby (Jack Johnson & Matt Costa)
12. You Can Close Your Eyes (James Taylor)
13. When You Wish Upon a Star (Johnny Mathis)
14. Over the Rainbow (Judy Garland)
15. Brahms' Lullaby (Linda Ronstadt)
16. What a Wonderful World (Louis Armstrong)
17. All the Pretty Little Horses (Mary Stahl)
18. Daddy's Little Girl (The Mills Brothers)
19. Hush-a-Bye (Peter, Paul, and Mary)
20. All Through the Night (Peter, Paul, and Mary)
21. Rockabye Baby (Vocal Version) (Sherry Goffin Kondor)
22. Lazyhead and Sleepybones (They Might Be Giants)
23. Hush Little Baby (The Weavers)
Bonus Track from Rona: Lullaby (Pedro the Lion)

If any of you would like a personalized Rona-copy of this mix (all copyrights above board, of course), complete with decorated covers, please let me know. I may get it to you sometime next year, along with your Elephant Art. The price of each album will be determined by whichever Trader Joe's good I'm craving at the moment, at which point we will execute an international swap. All proceeds will be split with Mommy 4 for her creative genius.*

*That is, if she reads my blog and catches me pimping her work.

12 November 2008

Scotland: the Place

So I was sitting here, staring at my screen looking at the below photos and thinking, 'So...what?' I didn't have a word of description in mind. The pictures are of...Scotland. Specifically, Edinburgh and the village of Peebles and Loch Lomond. But my mind...a complete blank.

It's mid-afternoon here, a time of day better thought of as Sharona's mental naptime. If I'm not physically unconscious, I am remarkably mentally comatose. This is not a time where surges of free-flowing prose occur. No, those only come in early morning or early evening after a single (not a double--that just gets messy) glass of wine. They do not ever, under any circumstances, come at the time of day that I can fall asleep on the toilet. Alas, here I am.

And so I put on some Rodrigo y Gabriela and brew a cup of coffee. As the first fast-paced guitar notes race through the room, I sip and look at the photos again. And while I may not have any witty captions with which to entertain, I feel okay. And maybe that's all it takes to blog post some days: just a little okay-ness.

Introducing...Scotland: the Place.

Edinburgh. There are apparently all sorts of famous statues and whatnot around here.

I remember once a girlfriend telling me I should look into travel writing, and while I nodded and pretended to agree, all I could think was, 'She has obviously never actually READ my blog.' I could see my travel book now: 'So then when you get to this corner, you'll see a really cool building. I don't the name of it, or the history behind it, but it's REALLY photogenic. I want to say the structure is gothic in design, but it could be victorian or edwardian or georgian or something.'

Above and below: Loch Lomond at sunset.

The above photo was taken on the bus on the way from the village of West Linton to the village of Peebles. I think these are either the pets of the driver or the pets of the three passengers that take this line. There's pretty much one bus that does this route, and it only runs about four times a day. And apparently to catch it, you just stick out your hand wherever you are. Country lane, village main street, doesn't matter. Per the bus driver: 'The only formal stops are in town. Out here, I just stop if I see somebody flagging me down. If I'm in a good mood, that is.' He then chuckled heartily and blew past a little old lady.

This is Peebles. I love Peebles. I mean, yes, I recognize that it is only about four blocks long, and it's lined with gift shops and tea shops and pubs, but dangit, that's pretty much all I need for a good time...so I decided to skip Edinburgh and spend my day here, instead. I got a charming tea towel and a miniature wok with a cat painted on the side (yes, that is the sort of treasure you can get in Peebles) and a blue knit cap. I'm lucky my bus-dictated window of time was only four hours long, as I could have inflicted twice as much shopping damage. I didn't even make it as far the bookstore specializing in Scottish literature or one of the half dozen bakeries or delicatessens. Yes, this is what Peebles is known for: 'At least six hours of entertainment.'

I ended my afternoon by taking tea at a charming little tea shop in a courtyard accessible by a tiny covered passage between shops. I ordered a tea cake, which as far as I can tell is made by generously buttering a hamburger bun, throwing in a handful of raisins and a smattering of cinnamon, and then sticking the entire thing in a panini press. And it was de-LISH-ous.

09 November 2008

Oh, heavens. I forgot to finish 'Brighton Does.'

Story of my life...I began the next adventure before closing the old! I am here to finish up the Brighton Does series...here is the last set of photos I would like to call...um...Brighton Does?

08 November 2008

This is seriously so cute I just puked in my mouth. Stick it out to the end.

06 November 2008

Scotland: the Cast of Characters

Last weekend's visit to Scotland was an action-packed adventure: we hit a Halloween party, went guising (that is what the Scottish call trick-or-treating), visited Edinburgh, went hiking at Loch Lomond, dined with the Grandparents McQuade in Glasgow, and spent a day touring the shops of Peebles...but before I post all the photos, I want you to meet my weekend's generous hosts:
Introducing...the Family McQuade-Ferrier! In no particular order...

First we have Aiden...he is 5, makes armies out of marbles (each troop is color-coded, and they fight a giant), and sets up chess boards per the below, although you get the idea it changes every time:

Please note: the rules are also made up as you go, and you will find that he is nearly impossible to beat.

This is Daddy 'Robert' Ferrier. He made wonderful curry on Saturday night, and with notable flair.

Robert and Aiden skipping stones in Loch* Lomond. Marie gave Robert a handful of flat stones to pass to Aiden, but they never made it that far.

This is Jude...8 years old, he is the best violinist-video-gamer-reader-alarm-clock I have ever met. He is a natural in front of the camera and no doubt has a career of modeling ahead of him when he's not exploring the principles of quantum physics.

Robert again, this time modeling outdoorswear rather than aprons. Yes, a true renaissance man.

This is Marie: chef, writer, and the most efficient mother in all the land. Also, if my one weekend was any indication, the hub of the village social life...she knows EVERYbody, and gets a new party invitation every time you blink an eye.

Robert and Marie watching Aiden...he is up a tree (see below), conducting the fall colors. That, and knocking down leaves with a stick. A few moments after this, he falls from the tree, shooting in a perfect vertical between branches before catching himself with his arms, at which point Robert reached him and lifted him down. The fall (and catch) looked like something out of a cartoon. It was very exciting for all involved. You also get the sense that Aiden is utterly indestructible, as this was merely one of a half dozen near-misses that afternoon. He also tripped and banged his chin on the one post on the entire trail and later fell in the loch up to his waist. It's really a miracle we survived the day with this whirlwind of adventure:

And last but not least...we have Grampa McQuade. Jude and Aiden couldn't get enough of him...and really: would you be able to?
*'Loch' means 'lake.' But don't call the lochs lakes unless you're looking for kicks and just like to hear the wonderful Scottish accent saying 'loch' over and over again as they are forced correct you. Which I do.

01 November 2008

The perfect wake-up

Last night Jude (8) and I, after discovering our bedrooms shared a wall, struck a deal: when he woke (rather, an hour after he woke, given his 6:30 a.m. self-propelled launch in the world), he would knock on my wall three times. Then he would pause. Then knock three times again. And so on and so forth until he heard a corresponding three knocks back, indicating a wake-up has occurred.

And so this morning it came: * tap tap tap * * tap tap tap * * long pause * * tap tap tap * I roused, disoriented, wondering whether or not they had construction going on or whether or not there was a bird having a heydey at my window until I remembered. Rolling over, I * tap tap tap'd* back. Silence. A moment later the door peeks open: "Are you awake?"

It was perfect. I'm now going to see if I can convince him to play his violin to wake me tomorrow morning...and then I'm going to steal him forever.

31 October 2008

The perfect little village in the perfect Scottish countryside

I have officially arrived in Scotland for a wonderful four-day weekend to visit part of The Family McQuade (Marie, Robert, Jude, and Aiden) and so far I am LOVING it. We're in a village a half hour from Edinburgh, and to get here we drove through lush, green rolling hills dotted with lush, white grazing sheep under lush, dark gray skies, occasionally slowing through windy lanes bordered by tiny stone cottages that pre-date the existence of America. Driving through the village proper, we passed a white church standing sentinel over a perfect green park through which a group of children wearing colorful peacoats and caps traipsed hand-in-hand, no doubt on their way to a pumpkin patch or perhaps a lifesize gingerbread house. My particular room here has an entire glass wall overlooking a valley of more lushness and more impossible greenery, and I am tempted not to leave my perch on the window seat for the duration of my stay, unless it is to shift to a spot in front of the fireplace or refill my tea.

Tonight we head out to take the boys to a Halloween party. I'm excited to see how the Scottish do Halloween; I feel like I'm getting an inside scoop by having the privilege of participating with a personal, child-filled family.

In the meantime, back to my perch in the window!

29 October 2008

Brighton Sleeps and Brighton Shops

More of the 'Brighton Does' series...today I give you photos of the bed-and-breakfast I stayed in while in Brighton...it was a gorgeous little boutique hotel called Maison Mascara, and I of COURSE reserved the super duper luxury suite because one, there was a mid-week special, and two, that's how I roll.

Please note the huge Egyptian cotton duvet, so heavy that it pinned me down and made me toasty warm and happy.

Self-portrait. And despite the apparent crawling on top of furniture, I did not follow this up with jumping on the bed. At least not that I'm admitting.

Yes. My super duper luxury suite came complete with tub-in-room. So of course I rested my weary shopping feet with a hot bath before dinner...and then I rested my heavy dinner tummy by taking a bath before bed...and then I woke up and rested my...oh, wait. Needless to say, it was amazing I left my room at all with this amenity at hand.

Then there was the shopping...I had a to-do list of two items: I needed a pair of gloves (apparently sooner than I expected) and a zippered pouch to hold miscelleneous small items cluttering up the bottom of my purse. And it turns out Brighton is the BEST place to buy...anything, given the hundreds of stores packed into a maze of teeny tiny alleys (otherwise known as The Lanes).

Junk Funk is where I got the Greatest Zippered Pouch in all the land. I must photo it for you--it's a soft squooshy turquoise leather with birds on it and a white satin interior. I love it so much I want to go back and get one of each design (the orange one with robot, the green with giraffe...). They'd make great Christmas gifts, if I were generous enough to share...

28 October 2008

First Snowfall of the Season

Half an hour ago I made the mistake of looking out the window. And what is currently happening outside? A BLIZZARD. That's what. This photo of the back porch shows what has already accumulated. Looks like a greeting card, doesn't it? A GREETING CARD BY A SADIST. If you look closely at the photo, you can see the snow coming down.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go hide under the covers until spring.

Brighton Eats

As my life becomes increasingly hectic with the needs of Mommies 1-10, vacations like last week's to Brighton seem like they may become fewer and farther between. However, now that Mommy 9 has hired me on three days a week, and I'm with Mommy 1 the other two days, I am considering paring down the remainder of Mommies, as watching their little ones in the evenings would create a child-minding schedule that would drive the most reasonable of humans to the brink of insanity. And since we can all admit that I already live my life on said brink, let's not tempt the crazy gods, shall we?

So let's tour Brighton together...this is the first of a posting series called 'Brighton Does.' Today, Brighton Eats.

This is Pokeno's Pies. According to my book, it is 'lauded by national food critics,' and while I can't actually verify this report, I can at least say I got one heckuva good chicken and butternut squash pie. (Can we now boast that Pokeno's has been lauded internationally?)

Gravy optional. To which I say POUR IT ON, MOFO'S! And don't be slow about it!

I met a Brighton local at the Sloane Square Market a couple of weeks ago, and I can actually thank him for recommending all of these places. His suggestion for me to try pre-dinner cocktails at Misty's (happy hour 2-for-1) was perfect--their beer garden was cozy and charming, and the bartender Ivan knew his stuff (which is a rarity in the average London pub-tender, so I can't imagine how Brighton typically fares).

Sidebar: what exactly defines a beer garden? Is there a such thing as a cocktail garden? Or just a straight up drink garden? Someone please to shed some light on this.

The Drink Garden.

Then dinner at Coriander! Coriander (below) is a North African-Latin fusion restaurant with an attached deli. The food was great, the restaurant was crowded with locals (as evidenced by their hearty greetings of Chef Dave, who occasionally emerged from the kitchen to make the rounds of tables), and the entire experience felt very warm and intimate.

And the next morning, before catching the train* back to London, I stopped at Sejuice, a tiny smoothie place in the Lanes (Brighton's shopping district).

Sejuice was great: I told Mr. Dread that I was fighting a cold, and he instantly added ginger to my citrus-laden beverage.

Also, is this not the sort of guy you'd want serving up your smoothies? He's got organic written all over him.

*A note on the trains: a train to Brighton from London takes a little less than an hour. This is like the transportation equivalent of taking Bay Area Rapid Transit from 24th Street Mission to, say, Walnut Creek. An easy day trip, basically. But if you tell people here that you are going to Brighton for a day and a half, they recoil: "Isn't that awfully far for just one night?"

27 October 2008

And that's how to get a job.

Yesterday, 2:47 p.m.:

Mommy 9: The baby totally shifted and his head is RIGHT ON MY BLADDER. I can barely walk right now.

Me: Really? When is he due?

Mommy 9: December 15th.

Me: That's what YOU think. He's so coming early.

Mommy 9: Don't SAY that.

Me: No, I'm serious. He's on his way. AS WE SPEAK.

Yesterday, 11:32 p.m., voicemail:

"I just had the baby. Can you start tomorrow morning?"

And so began Day 1!