From Middle Earth to Middle California

We spent much of March at home in California, relaxing from the hustle and bustle of travel and attending to all of the tasks of everyday life: dentist appointments and oil changes—exciting stuff.   But amidst the mundane, we found lovely moments with friends and family—and had a few adventures here in the Bay Area.

Shortly after arriving home, I was surprised by this perfect gift from my good friend Lydia, who knows me all too well.  As a proud #introvert who hates cold weather, I must declare that this sweatshirt couldn’t have been more spot on.  Five stars—will wear again.

Penelope was equally delighted by her visit to a two-story Target in San Jose, where she encountered the exotic sight of a shopping cart escalator for the first time…. who needs to travel abroad to find such wonders?  🙂

Seeing friends and family was one of the best parts of being home—and in their company we enjoyed hiking, running errands, tea parties, and sleepovers (that last one was Penelope). 

A great visit with Joy, who was visiting town for a few days!
Penelope and Sophie, both deeply immersed in books while driving to dinner. 🙂

I also had the chance to participate in one of the best parts of my sabbatical so far: the Best American Short Stories class, led by Ellen Sussman.  I first met Ellen through her daughter Sophie, whom I taught at Stevenson lo these many years ago.  Seems just like yesterday!  Sophie’s fabulous mama is a novelist and writing teacher, and she runs an annual class devoted to the Best American Short Stories anthology.  We gathered on weekend afternoons and mornings to discuss these twenty stories, and what, as writers, we could learn from them.  Surrounded by writers, talking about writing—what could be more wonderful?  I love talking about craft, about what works and what doesn’t—and, most of all, the vibrant disagreement and collective wisdom of smart folks who love stories.  Magical.

Penelope was also lucky in her time at home, as her wonderful grandparents had suggested a trip to Southern California to visit with my Uncle Bob… and to spend a few days at Disneyland.  So off they went!  Ears were donned, Dole Whip was eaten, and my mother reported three days of 20k+ steps as they pinballed between the Magic Kingdom and California Adventure.

In addition to the happiest place on earth, Penelope and her grandparents also visited the California super bloom.  Jeremy and I duly noted the super bloom of weeds in the empty lot in our neighborhood.  Perhaps slightly less amazing… but the golden hour is always a lovely time for a selfie. 

As you can see, Jeremy and I were happy to have a break from full-time parenting (and home schooling) after our NZ travel.  In addition to neighborhood walks, much child-unfriendly TV was watched.

In our final week at home, we headed north to Mrs. Grossman’s Sticker Factory for the tour (and gift shop!!).  I’ve been an avid sticker collector as long as I can remember—and seeing the factory had been on my bucket list since I moved to the Bay Area thirteen years ago.  Mission accomplished!

I’m delighted to report that the Mrs. Grossman’s sticker operation is both impressive and wonderfully varied, and I deeply enjoyed the gift store at the end.  Penelope was astounded by my willingness to add sticker sheets to our shopping basket, but hey—if you can’t stock up when you visit the motherland, when can you?

The next day we took Penelope’s grandparents to the Exploratorium in San Francisco, where we all enjoyed a great day inside and outside the museum.

And then it was time to buckle down to packing for our next journey.  In the midst of considering jacket options and finding Penelope’s Italian phrasebook (proudly purchased with her allowance), we made time for a mani-pedi at the salon.  Penelope was thrilled to have a foot bath just like Mama and Grandma—but hastens to add that she was the only one offered a special flower design on her pedicure.  🙂

Ahead of us are the wonders of Italy: gondola rides, the Amalfi Coast, the towers of San Gimignano, the Sistine Chapel, and best of all: So. Much. Gelato. Can’t wait!

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