Thursday, January 31, 2008

First Trip Back to Cincinnati

After four months in San Francisco, Max and I made our first trip back to Cincinnati. I needed to check in with P&G and report progress and plans for the future, and we also wanted to be introduced to our new grandson, Anthony. It was a whirlwind trip that was busy every minute, but it was great to get back and see everyone again.

I didn't realize how homesick I was until we arrived back in Cincinnati though Cincinnati can never compete with San Fran in the beauty of the views (the bay, the ocean, the hills, the hills, the hills) there is something that just takes my breath away when I come around the "cut in the hill" and see Cincinnati in the distance across the Ohio River- And we don't have to pay $5 to cross the bridge!

It was winter in Cincinnati, but it was a welcome experience to be in winter again. Our San Francisco temperature varies between 40 and 55 all winter long, so getting out in 20 degree weather was a nice change. I know its hard to believe but I've been cold here in San Francisco. There is no CENTRAL HEAT- or INSULATION- so the homes I visit can be so cold I never take off my jacket and scarf- And RAIN and RAIN and RAIN- I feel soggy- as it rains day after day. So the crisp cold of winter felt great- cold that counts! (Notice I'm now a "native" of San Francisco. I complain of the weather just like the natives!)

On Friday night we went to our favorite local restaurant, Gabby's. Michael and Liz, Mary and Taylor, and Amber and Jason joined us there and as usual Max wanted to document the event with a pictures. It's amazing how much Taylor has changed in only the 4 months we had been gone. He has certainly become a little boy instead of a baby.

Gabby's is such a great restaurant- and it was so nice to get pizza again that tastes great. Dino saved us a great big table so there was plenty of room for all. I think what is especially nice about Gabby's is that Dino- the owner- and his wife Marianne have become such wonderful friends over the years- And of course our favorite waitress who brings us our drinks even before we've said a thing! There is no place like home.

It's always great to spend time with Michael and Liz.

They are getting excited about moving into our house when Amber leaves this Spring, and I am thankful for having them there after Amber departs for graduate school. Amber has her applications in to 5 different graduate schools, and we are awaiting her decision about where she will next live. Stay tuned to the blog and we'll keep you up to date on the comings and goings of our gang.

Saturday morning brought our other favorite eating spot, The Half Day Cafe where we had breakfast with Amber and Linda Wise, and who would have guessed, but we took another picture.

Notice that Don is smiling. Now I must admit part is the company of Linda- she always makes Don laugh- But additionally Don is getting use to saying "cheese" on command- Thanks to all who noticed the scowl- I'm loving the new "enthusiasm"!
And Half Day Cafe is doing terrific- still the best place to go for breakfast- alone or with a friend. Thanks to Dale and Patty. By the way- everyone should go online to "" and vote them the "Best Breakfast"!

Max needed some heavy duty Mall exposure, so she and Amber took off to warm up our charge card. I miss the MALL. I'm rather adrift in a boat in the middle of the ocean- water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink! There are stores all over the place here (the small boutiques- not chains) But I find I have neither the budget- nor the body- for the small boutiques (too small!) Why I even found a pair of boots (finally after looking at over a dozen shoe stores here) that I liked- the price tag over $500- I didn't bother to ask if they had my size! But in Cincinnati there is the MALL just waiting for me to come home.

And you wouldn't believe the money I saved Don- And all the new clothes AND BOOTS- two pairs actually- And it was so much fun to spend the day with Amber- besides she was terrific helping me find just the right clothes and shoes.

I went to visit Elizabeth, my God-Daughter and daughter of Rimma and Kevin Driscoll. Elizabeth is a 3 year old that seems to be going on 12. We had lunch, read books and played some games before it was time for her nap. Below is a picture of Elizabeth.

Saturday night was dinner with Amber and Jason at one of our favorite Italian places in Cincinnati.

But once we were served it was obvious why Ohio is one of the "fattest" states in the union. The portions we were served were easily twice what we typically get in SF and a whole lot more than we needed. That was a good lesson for us to remember when we do come back. We've both lost weight here in SF due to exercise and healthy eating and we don't want to slide back into our habits when we return. We need to stay a bit more to make sure the changes become permanent. It is so easy here- just a few hills and you've burned the calories from dinner. And of course you have to walk if you go out to dinner- there is absolutely NO PARKING near any restaurant.

Sunday began with breakfast at Gabby's and our favorite breakfast burritos before we headed to Columbus to see more of our family.

Sunday brought a trip to Columbus to see Sarah, Deseree, Shawn, and our newest family member Anthony Allen Griffey. Mary and Taylor, and our friends Fouad and Mary drove up with us and Michael and Liz drove separately. On top of that Pat and Kelly and their family met us at Sam's house. We are all very grateful to Sam for allowing us all to gather at his house. As always, Sam is the perfect host and we all had a great time at his house. Unfortunately, Jan was down in Florida visiting Sara. So she missed the party.

So we had a great reunion of family and friends. Here are some great shots of Anthony.

I forget how tiny they are when they are new. And how perfect they are for a Grandma. Anthony stayed curled up while I held him for oh so long! PERFECT JOY!

While we were all getting acquainted with Anthony, Taylor was having a great time with Lucas learning all about trains. I think this will create some new ideas for Taylor for next Christmas.

And it was also the occasion for Max to finish her major knitting project that she started on our drive to SF. She made Anthony a Baby Blanket that turned out to be a quilt. It was a bit doubtful that it would get finished by the time we needed to leave Columbus, but Mary Ezra, who is a real pro at knitting, put in a great effort to finish off the final rows and get it done.
So while I held Anthony Mary just kept right on knitting-

I was the "baby hog" one more time!
Max cut the last thread of yarn after Mary finished it and the final product was presented to Sarah and Deseree.

As you can see below, this blanket should last him through quite a bit of growing. It was Max's first "baby blanket" and it turned out to be a bit larger than the baby.

Maybe I got just a little overly ambitious- Anthony will have to "grow" into his baby blanket!
And of course Semper made the trip-

Though Amber has been taking such good care of him he's rather taken with her now. But Amber was glad Don was home- he had to get up with Semper and Brutus at 5am instead of her!
And we got to spend the day with our niece Kelly and her beautiful family. We missed the football game (Pat coaches) and Shelby's (our great niece) volleyball game in Bluffton- Just one more reason we get homesick for Ohio.

And finally on our last day in Cincinnati we had dinner with the Peairs. But before dinner I had one more day of shopping with Amber- this time Jason joined us. And we even found our way to Target.

I first met Mary Jo when she was Michael's kindergarten teacher. Don and Mary Jo have become great friends with whom we always enjoy sharing an evening and a meal. Mary Jo is a great cook. One of the things we miss most about being in San Francisco is being away from our friends. It was great to see them again if only for an evening. Just getting to eat Mary Jo's cooking is worth the price of the ticket home. We didn't get to play bridge- the flight back to San Fran was too early- But we have the cards ready when they come here to visit. By then I'll have to learn all over again.

To all our friends and family in Ohio. We miss and love you and look forward to every occasion to be together! PS- can you see the pretty pin on my sweater? It was a special gift from Mary Jo that she found for me on one of our trips up to the White Oak Inn B&B in the hills of Ohio.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Friends for 46 years

Max and I had a great treat last night. We had dinner with Steve Sizemore, who I first met in 7th grade at Woodrow Wilson Junior High. That was in 1961, over 46 years ago. Steve and I were in junior and senior high together for the next 6 years and played basketball together for 5 years in 8th through 12th grade. Steve was my best friend through high school. He went to Michigan State for college and I went to OU. He then went to Berkeley for graduate school and I went to Arizona. Since then we have seen each other only on rare occasions.

Steve was in my sophomore English class at Will Rogers High School in Tulsa. I have to admit I had a bit of a "crush" on him that year. He was the first REALLY SMART PERSON that I had ever met and I was quite smitten by that intelligence. (That was of course before I met Uncle Sam and discovered a whole new dimension to the REALLY SMART PERSON!) But then the next year I had Latin with Don and I was so over Steve. And then it turned out that Don and Steve were best friends so I actually got better acquainted with Steve. After that senior year in high school I didn't see Steve again until Don and I saw him here in San Fran about 12 or so years ago- we went to an African restaurant- the first African Restaurant I had been to and it was so much fun not to have to mess with forks or spoons or knives or chop sticks- just your fingers and a lot of bread! So last night was such fun- And I so look forward to more time with Steve while we're here.

So last night was a real treat for us to catch up on the last 10 to 12 years of our respective lives. Steve manages the UNIX computer system at Berkeley and has been doing so for quite a while, but he now lives in Georgia with his wife (who is also an IT professional) and only spends half of his time each month in the Bay Area. So last night we finally got our schedules coordinated.

I find it wonderful that even though we see each other so rarely, our relationship is one that doesn't change even after all of these years of occasional crossing of paths. It was great to catch up on each other's lives, but it was also a real treat to spend time together again. It was comfortable, relaxed and just like old times. Some things never seem to change and having a best friend fits into that category. The better part of this is that Steve will be here the first half of each month the whole time we are here. Max and I are looking forward making sure we take advantage building on 46 years of friendship.

We walked down to Filmore for dinner and decided to eat at Fresca, the Peruvian restaurant that specializes in ceviche (yes Matthew and Sharon- it is as good as you remember). It is quite the place to be so we actually had to wait for about 20 minutes for a table (on a Monday night!)

We started with an appetizer-but can't remember what it was since our focus was on our main course.

We shared 6 different preparations of ceviche- my oh my that was a treat- I forgot to photograph all of them but above are two that I did remember! And then we still had room for desert (well at least Steve and I did)- so we finished with Chocolate cake- and an absolutely wonderful rice pudding. I'm looking so forward to more shared meals with an old friend in this new place.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Grama and Grampa Come to Town!

It was off to San Clemente after Christmas for an ADVENTURE with our little Reeder (we enjoyed her parents as well!). The excuse (not that I exactly need an excuse) was to give Reeder's parents AKA Clint and Marianne an opportunity for an anniversary celebration (6 years) and a bit of a respite on Catalina Island before BABY #2. So we flew (notice we are not EVER driving the desolate road across central California- I never need that kind of reality check on what this state would have looked like except for human intervention)- But Alaska Airlines is a painless way to fly from here (or rather Oakland) to Orange County.

Immediately we were aware that things were changing for our little girl. We had arrived in the middle of "POTTY TRAINING"!

Most of you probably believe that potty training is a process to train the child how and when to use the potty. Not true for us. The process was much more the training us to recognize the need and then to get Reeder to a potty before her pant legs started getting soaked. We started out by asking as often as we thought about it and 99% of the time Reeder's answer was "NOOOOOOOO". The key was hearing her when she would quietly say "potty" and rushing her to an appropriate potty in time. We missed it at the play ground and again in a shopping cart. There were a couple of successes, most just before bed. But our effort was valiant. It should be obvious that to achieve success in this process, one must always have quick access to a "potty". We were made well aware of this upon our arrival at the airport and the walk to the car at which time we needed a potty. Marianne was already well trained about Reeder's signal, so our first exposure (so to speak) was in the back of Clint's car in the parking garage of the airport.

This was a successful event for both Reeder and Marianne and the success was enjoyed by all. Our first night we helped put Reeder to bed in her new "big girl bed"

and Marianne read her night time book.

The next day I took the parents to "The Boat" for their Catalina adventure and Max took care of Reeder. When Reeder asked where Mommy and Daddy were, we told her that they had gone on a boat and would be back soon. So it was up to us to keep her entertained and to try to keep her jeans dry for the next 36 hours. The entertaining was not too hard. First we went to the "Kid's Park" so she could play. While there we were at least successful in keeping her entertained.

Our efforts to keep her jeans dry were not quite so successful even though we had the travel potty in the back of the car. But at least Reeder gave us a hint of the need just before it was too late. And since we did have some experience in this type of effort in our previous lives, we did have a spare pair of pants.

And we think that we saw a glimmer of talent for a future career as a PLUMBER! What do you think?

And then it was off to a Mexican Restaurant for lunch- No McDonald's for this little one!

I bet you didn't know that you don't need chips for guacamole- just use a fork- Don and I didn't get so much- we were trying to use chips!

Or that rice is a finger food?

And don't tell Reeder's Mommy and Daddy that we didn't always make her sit in the high chair.

But the best time was watching Mickey and his friends curled up on the couch snuggling! Other than answering NOOOOOO to our questions about needing to potty and asking if mommy and daddy were still on the boat, Reeder's next comment was always "more Mickey". This little girl has fallen in love with Mickey and his friends.

Grandpa Don was a good snuggler! Sometimes Lefty and Poncho even joined in!

And Grandpa read the bedtime story- It was a hysterical watching Don- with his bad back, bad shoulder, bad knee, And zero flexibility-

- crawl into the "Big Girl Bed"!

During the first morning when Don took Clint and Marianne to the boat, Reeder asked me "Daddy, work?". I said "No, Daddy's on a boat". She said , "Daddy, boat?" And of course the answer was "Yes". Then she said "Mommy, Boat?". And that was a yes as well. Well after that about every hour or so she would look up at me and say, "Daddy, boat?" - and I would respond "Yes". Then she'd say "Mommy, boat?" and I'd say "Yes". In fact when she woke up on Sunday morning after a night's sleep and I went into get her up the first thing she said was (there is a long pause here while the reader's come up with the answer)- you got it- "Daddy, boat?", "Mommy, boat?".

And then it was off to the local IHOP for breakfast:

Man oh man- that whip cream on top of the pancakes sure tasted good!

And of course Grandpa helped build "towers" out of the cream-

And we made sure that Reeder logged adequate time on the potty- success or no!

But the time raced by and soon it was time to go to the "boat" and find Mommy and Daddy!


And Reeder was so very happy that Mommy and Daddy were home from the boat!

But the story doesn't end there- though it does seem like it might- We still had another adventure before we boarded the plane for San Fran (our HAH- Home Away from Home).

WE WENT TO THE ZOO! Now I must say this wasn't Don's idea! Don hates zoos- He can't stand to see animals penned up and pacing in small places. And even though I have explained over and over that these animals would be dead- or extinct- if not for zoos in this day and age- I think Don thinks being dead beats being in a cage- so he sets his jaw and refuses to even pretend that he's having a good time. You'd think by now (since I love zoos- I live in a cage of sorts so I don't mind the cage thing so much - unless it's small and there is any pacing- not that from time to time I haven't done a bit of pacing- I do yoga now-) anyway- you'd think by now that Don wouldn't go- or that I wouldn't insist- But no- he comes along- scowling from time to time just to remind me that he is not having a good time! There does seem to be a contradiction here about how animals are treated. Max only buys eggs from "happy chickens", i.e., those that are cage free. They cost about twice as much a regular eggs, but we support the concept of "happy chickens". She also only buys chicken breasts from meat markets that have Amish chickens. I suppose an Amish Chicken is happy too, at least just before they undertake their final objective, which is to make us happy to have them. So why Max cares so much for chickens, but not for elephants, big cats, Panda's and all of the other zoo inmates, is something I don't understand.
As an addendum to the above paragraph (and thanks to Sharon Lucas for the link) here is an "ethical" argument of why zoos aren't on my list of favorites. This is pretty one sided and doesn't give the zoo lover's point of view, but it is worth thinking about. Here is the link:

But it was off to the San Diego Zoo for us. I hadn't been for 30 years- when Brandy was 18 months old! Reeder was ready to go and appropriately outfitted for the day.

There were Flamingos (Reeder's favorite- the "mangos")-

And my favorite- the Orangutan-

And we saw Brandy's favorite- the goats! Well at least they were when she was 18 months- she rushed into the barnyard yelling with glee- hugging first one and then another- I turned and she planted a big one- You got it- a big kiss on a startled goat's behind! Reeder wasn't so smitten....
And the pandas- but this was a bit painful- because even though they're hyped as the big attraction- they live in smallish pens- and the one we watched did pace! Painful!

And in case you're wondering- we did carry the potty under the stroller throughout the zoo. Marianne was a lot better at knowing when Reeder needed the potty and on this occasion we were on a walkway that was a bit off the beaten track. There was a large trash can to offer some privacy, although I'm not certain Reeder needed it. We had time and Reeder had time, so she sat and we waited. The result was a success that was celebrated appropriately and the urine was recycled as fertilizer for a plant at the zoo.

But then at last it was time to leave the zoo- and go to Daddy's work- there instead of animals they have Marines! Reeder likes Marines better than the animals! Clint is the Company Commander over 400 enlisted men and 22 Sargents.

Reeder likes to help Daddy!

This is Daddy's new "taxi" for getting Marines from place to place-

This is called a LAV- Light armoured vehicle- doesn't look too "light" to me- But I do guess "light" versus "heavy" is all in the reference!

But all too soon it was time to say goodbye- And off we flew on an Alaska Airlines Disney Express back to Oakland. Reeder would have loved the way it was decorated with pictures of Mickey, Minnie and Donald!

Our next trip to San Clemente will be in March- And then Reeder is going to have a new sister or brother. We can't wait to see Reeder "share" her Mommy and Daddy!