Friday, March 25, 2011

Who's In Charge Here?

Lucy and I are both feeling a bit under the weather. Just a cold, but miserable nonetheless. She started it, and I knew I was in big trouble when she gave my nose a big slobbery lick on Saturday. Lo and behold, a massive head cold followed by intense sinus pressure and a tidal wave of snot. Lovely. This is Luce enduring Costco this morning:

Why were we at Costco? Well, that's a bit of a long story. As I said, we're both getting over pretty miserable colds, but I'd already committed to having Anna's friend Sofie over for a playdate in the afternoon.

Anna's best friend Sofie has a brand new baby brother. To help out, we've been having Sofie over for a playdate every Friday afternoon so that Sofie's Mum can have some precious bonding time with her new bundle of screams, poop and vomit.

To the uninitiated, playdates sound like extra work, but it turns out that more children in your house actually means less work. It sounds completely counterintuitive, but it's an absolute fact. They entertain themselves, Lucy naps, and you're left throwing snacks at them occasionally and intervening when someone (Anna) won't let someone else (Sofie) be anything other than the prince. I wish someone had told me this years ago.

Back to Costco. I wasn't worried about Sofie catching our cold. We've both had it for a week now, so we're very likely no longer contagious, and they really haven't been anywhere near me, except to grab some goldfish and baby carrots. What I was worried about was it being sod's law they would have a massive bust up and I would be left playing entertainer whilst feeling like death warmed up. I decided to play it safe and go and buy Tangled on DVD - just in case the BFFs turned WTFs.

Lucy is fairly impossibly headstrong, so you can imagine what she's like with a cold. We had literally taken two steps out of the front door when she started crying about the sand! in my shoes! I can't possibly walk! because of the sand! the sand! THE SAND! THE SAND! MY SHOES! MY SHOES!! You get the idea.

Oh the agonies. I bundled her in to her car seat, did a quick swab down with a baby wipe and she finally calmed down.

Let me tell you - no-one was more surprised than me, when 10 minutes later and about to get on the freeway, she suddenly appeared behind my right ear, crying "Pee Bo!!".

I hadn't buckled her in. She was thrilled.

A quick pit stop, and all was righted. We carried on to Costco, where they didn't have Tangled - because it's not out yet - ha ha ha bloody ha. And so I decided to give up and go home for a cup of tea.

--Updated to add: the playdate went swimmingly, the girls played mermaid princesses outside in the puddles (novelty!!!!), Lucy napped upstairs, and I wrote this masterpiece.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

English? British? Explained

I'm following on from a discussion started by Calif Lorna on her blog - where she pleads with the US Postal Service  to recognize that Wales is not actually in England. I sympathized with her pain, as the same thing happened to me quite recently - and I thought I'd share the tutorial.

I was filling out paperwork for my US citizenship process last year - I handed my form over and watched in amazement when the INS agent crossed out my stated citizenship 'British', and with a measured look and a flourish, replaced it with 'English'.

I've been here for 15 years so I know enough about INS agents to just suffer in silence - but she was wrong. I have a British passport. I am British. It just so happens that I am also English, but I don't have an English passport. Also, she had no idea where in the British Isles I was actually from, so to just replace British with English was pretty bad. I might have been a disgruntled Scotsman armed with a live haggis after all.

Incidentally - I also now have an American passport, but in scanning my photo they have both managed to turn me yellow and broken my nose, so I think I look better as a Brit quite frankly.

Back to the story. Some of you won't understand what we're getting in such a flap about. Some of you will be muttering 'semantics' or clicking further down my blog hoping to find the 'boobs in Utah' you had googled for. A lot of you will be thinking that saying 'how was London?' is a good blanket question for anyone from that side of the pond.

If you're American I'm not saying you ought to know what constitutes the UK, and why that differs from Great Britain - you after all have 50 States to keep track of, and that's usually all the geography you need entertain yourself with. But maybe you've wondered. Why did that charming man with the thick Glaswegian accent get all shirty when you introduced him as English? Why do people care?

This video found by my good friend Rod goes a long way in explaining it all - and fast. He wondered if I knew the real differences - and I felt duty bound to remind him that I have a Masters Degree in Geography, so yes, I did know it, but that's also why I just work in a medical office *ahem*.

Get ready for Venn diagrams.

Som Calif Lorna may be at odds with the USPS, but i have to say that the good old British Mail just came up trumps by delivering a card to me from Scotland that had a 2nd class stamp on it. No air mail denial, no 'returned for insufficient postage', just a curt note on the back that 'due to incorrect postage this piece of item was diverted to an alternative service'. It arrived 4 months late, and I can now stop chuntering that my cousin never thanked me for his wedding kettle (no expense spared), but still, Scotland to California on a 2nd class stamp. That's service.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Wet Weekend

Here is a photo of Lucy fishing in a creek, taken a few weeks ago at a birthday party. In an inspired piece of birthday party organization, my friend Jen had given each kid a garden cane fishing rod and gummi worms to tie on the end. They were entranced.

Here is that same creek on Sunday morning during the 10 inches of rain we received in 24 hours:

It was a torrent - hard to capture the speed and the violence of the water with a still shot. We didn't even dare let the girls out of the car in case they (Lucy) decided to get too close. It gives you a healthy dose of respect for mother nature when you can hear boulders bouncing down the creek bed.

I feel sorry for any tourists who'd booked a quick getaway in sunny Santa Barbara this weekend.

Still, as the eternal optimist - (and this is despite another leak developing in one of our tenant's ceilings...), there are advantages to stormy weather. It's not very often you get to cuddle up on the couch with a steaming mug of Aztec Chili Hot Chocolate imported from Hotel Chocolat. I bought this on a whim during our last visit to the UK. Damn you sterling and your deceptively low prices!! It sounded really good in the shop, as an icy May wind blew right through my thin Californian 'jacket'. Then we got back home to Santa Barbara, to the year round 72ÂșC sunny skies and the chocolate languished in the back of the cupboard. 

Bring it on Pacific storms - we're ready for you!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Be Happy!

My Nanna has broken her arm.

Those of you in the States will be looking at that photo and thinking - wait, the third of what? What month comes after the 12th? I'm sorry to say it's starting to look a little strange to me too.

Back to Nanna. She is hurtling towards 91, and managed to break her arm out for a walk with a neighbour. I guarantee she walks more on a daily basis than most of the people I know. When my Mum and Dad went to visit her, on 13/3, she was up a step ladder with her arm in a cast. She couldn't operate the kettle one-handed, so she'd brewed up using a saucepan.

Nanna is completely brilliant, I would love to have half her energy. I think about being in my 90s and wonder if I'll ever make it through my 30s (I'm looking at you Lucy).

I wanted to let her know we were thinking of her so I asked Anna if she would make a card. I will fully admit that I am using Anna as unpaid child labour when it comes to greetings cards. She was all for it age 3, still quite keen age 4, but now she is starting to chafe at the shackles a bit after a particularly birthday-strewn September. She was happy to do this one though. "A get well soon card" she smiled. That was all I had to say, because now that she knows how to spell (more on that later) she needs. no. further. instruction. puhlease Mom!!

GAT WILL SOON!! The card cried, accompanied by a blue crayon drawing of a hibiscus.

Inside there was a happy face, and a sad face. "I AM HAPPY!" it read "YOU AER SAD!" then on the back "BE HAPPY!" (or else). For some reason Anna has learned to write only in capitals. Having mastered this, she really has no need of the smaller letters, so in the style of email, everything she writes is a shout. I really wish I'd taken a photo of the card before posting it, because underneath the happy/sad faces was a box that said 'feelings' except it said 'felngs'. Anna's school is heavily in to emoting these days. Describe how you feel! Happy is good! Sad is good too! *Sigh*

I'm not sure what a 90 year old will make of the ray of California feelings heading her way, but I'm sure it will help her GAT WILL SOON!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tsunani Hits Santa Barbara Harbor

When you live in an earthquake prone area and wake up to the news that somewhere else has just experienced a massive earthquake and tsunami, your heart goes out to the people involved. I know we're sitting on a ticking time bomb here in Santa Babrara.

When you watch the news and hear that a tsunami may be on the way, that it's coming from directly West and you will not be sheltered by the Channel Islands as with previous tsunamis, then more than a little frisson of fear accompanies your morning coffee. We do not live far from the ocean. It's actually just down the road - I'm sure a realtor would expound our 'peek of the ocean' if we were ever in a position to sell.

Historically, allegedly, a tsunami did once reach as far as our building, back in the 1820s, when records were more than a little sketchy. Not that our building was there then. Not this fine piece of 1970s stucco. Still, ocean front property would certainly be nothing to be sniffed at. In all honesty though we weren't too worried.

Then someone sent me a link of the tsunami rolling in to our harbour and even though it pales in comparison with what happened in Japan, or even further up the California coast, it does show that it's a small world when it comes to earthquakes....The movie shows a whirlpool forming and a  'bait shack' being dragged out to sea. I love the close up of the 'closed' sign on it!

Enjoy, and please ignore the colourful language - I think it's probably warranted!

Friday, March 11, 2011

If You Could Hear Me Think

I call this photo 'even Yasser Arafat was cute as a kid'. I can't remember why she was wearing a tea towel on the beach, but I'm thinking of starting to accessorize with one in the future.

This weekend an old friend from high school came in for a flying visit. Our paths have diverged somewhat since the 5th form A stream, and now he is a partner of his law firm and I - well, anyway we went to the beach so I could show him all the sunny weather we have here.

Here he is doing a passable impression of the Rio de Janeiro Jesus, with a perfect California sunset as a backdrop. At least hipstamatic is making my life appear more interesting.

On the way back we indulged in a little car game called 'I'm thinking of an animal'. Pete doesn't have any kids, and I'm sure by the time we completed the 10 minute drive back to the house he was all the more thankful for it. Anna has devised this animal game, whereby she gives three clues and we have to guess the creature she is thinking of. This was slightly easier when she was 3. Now that she's a whopping 5 and a haf, and a devotee of the natural history museum things have got a little out of hand. Her animals were: a jesus lizard, an albino possum and a ring-tailed lemur. None of them easy to guess after only three clues. If you think that's bad you should be there when she has us guess that she's thinking of an Allosaurus.

There was a (very) brief pause in the animal guess game, and then we heard:

"I finkin animal"

The car went silent.

Lucy had just announced her presence. She coulda been a contender. Anna exhorted her for more...

"I finkin animal" continued Lucy, delighted to have everyone hanging on her every word.

"Give us a clue Luce!" squealed Anna.

"Iss hippo wiff stripes" said Lucy.

And you thought a jesus lizard was hard to guess.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Pancake Day - Old School

I love this hipstamatic app on my iphone for taking moody, old school, Delia-iscious photos, but it makes my kitchen look like it needs a good scrub.

It does need a good scrub. 

Monday, March 07, 2011

Science, Explained

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about Anna's science project. Anna's complete failure of a science project. You all had brilliant comments, including the one that said that just because the result didn't prove our hypothesis, that didn't mean it was wrong - which is obviously completely true.

The reason I'm mentioning it again, is Anna had the most brilliant response to her white flowers failing to turn blue or red when placed in food dye coloured water. She'd obviously been thinking about it, and while I was explaining to friends about the experiment that was ruined because her mother chose the wrong kind of flowers the disproved hypothesis, Anna turned to us and said:

"Really, if you think about it, the white flowers should not have turned colours just because the water was coloured. Because if that was true, then flowers would turn clear when put in clear water".


You can't argue with that.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Santa Barbara's Got Talent

This town is full of amazing talent. People want to live here pretty badly (and, oh boy, are we doing it badly.....). What this means is that jobs are hard to come by and everyone tends to be absurdly overqualified. The person bringing cupcakes to the Kindergarten bake sale probably used to handle catering for Paramount Studios. The volunteer Mom who is handling the class website is likely to have been Head of Product Development for Citrix. It's alternately inspiring or depressing, depending on your mood and insecurities.

Today I have decided to see it as inspiring, and I'm choosing to celebrate some friends who are doing amazing things in their chosen field.

Firstly, my ex-next door neighbour, and the reason I started blogging; Eden Kennedy of Eden has co-authored a fabulous book with her friend Alice Bradley, and its launch was last Monday....

Let's Panic About Babies is a spoof parenting book, and Lord knows the world needs a little tongue in cheek when it comes to the thou shallts of Mom advice. I think you should buy it for every new Mum you know (I have). It's a breath of fresh air and will leave you rolling on the floor with laughter - which won't be comfortable if you're 9 months pregnant or have just had an episiotomy.

It's available at every fabulous book store you can think of - which in Santa Barbara basically means Chaucers as both Barnes and Noble and Borders have closed within weeks of each other. Talking of Chaucers, Eden will be doing a book signing there on St. Patricks Day for those who live in the 'hood.

I think you should go. I think you have a lot to learn.

Secondly, our good friends Scott and Jen have been working really hard on Cesarina Wines in the Santa Rita Hills - the #1 Pinot area in Santa Barbara County. Last year was a bad year for many of us, but one of the truly bright spots was a weekend spent up in the valley helping our friends 'train the vines'.

Don't you love my fabulous purple washing up gloves?

Training the vines involves weaving the straggling tendrils up through the wire fencing so they don't trail on the ground as a snarled mess. For me, an early misty morning in the fields, neatening rows of vines, seeing my work create beautiful even rows - was complete bliss. Especially when we happened on unexpected delights like this:

The girls played in the vines, chasing each other between the rows - fun until Anna went missing and we heard the howl of coyotes in the distance - but obviously all was well, she just couldn't raise her 'vine fairy' voice loud enough for us to hear her....

The product of all their hard work is Cesarina Wines. In particular, their Pinot is absolutely out of this world - fruity and mellow with top notes of purple washing up gloves. Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell have purchased a barrel of the Chardonnay. If you get a chance, please buy a bottle to see for yourselves and amaze your friends with your savvy underground wine knowledge. Check out to see local stores where it can be bought by the bottle or by the glass.

There's love in every bottle!

Last but certainly not least, there's my friend Raph at Timberline - making handcrafted custom wooden surfboards:

Absolutely beautiful works of art - and they surf great too - although I'll have to take Raph's word on that as the closest I've ever come to surfing is with a keyboard and a mouse. Don't you think one of these would look very tasteful hanging on your living room wall? Just think how cool people would imagine you to be.

OK, probably not appropriate if you're knee-deep in snow in the American MidWest right now, but perhaps there's a latent surfer in all of us, or at least an appreciator of fine craftsmanship.

Hope you enjoyed the little tour of my talented friends. Not that running a busy medical practice isn't a talent of course, but these people do make it seem a trifle dull....