God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Taste of San Diego

Doesn't everyone want to taste of beautiful, sunny, magical San Diego? Last weekend 70 adventuresome people did just that. Coming from England, Italy, Canada, Alaska, Hawaii and a bunch of the lower 48, we caroused, explored, ate, celebrated, laughed and even danced together. It was a spectacular weekend of friends uniting and reuniting.

Did I say Dancing?
And why did we all converge on San Diego? Well, because of a web site called Slow Travel and its companion site Slow Talk. These sister sites are two of the nets premier travel offerings where normal, everyday travelers help and aid each other in planning and dreaming. For close to 10 years now I have used this as my primary source in trip planning and in the process have made many good and fast friends.

During our year sojourn in Italy, many of our Slow Travel friends whom we only knew through cyberspace visited us--sort of like a stop on the pilgrims' way. We have also had these "get-togethers" in other parts of Europe and the United States. Without exception Slow Travel people prove to be good, fun, nice, delightful, special people. We come from all walks of life, religion, political persuasions and occupations, united by our love of travel and people--and food.

A year ago four of us started planning the second really big get-together--the first was two years ago in Savannah. Because of the magnitude of the event and the cost, we needed to have the venues identified and the general outline so that we could approximate the cost and announce it on the boards. People needed to plan early.

Meet the planning committee: Palma from Palm Desert, Shannon from Ocean Beach-San Diego, Marcia from South Pasadena and Me from San Diego

It was a fun year as the four of us (with our husbands who were the foot soldiers in this undertaking) met, sampled foods, checked venues, decided on wines and just got into it. To give credit, Shannon was the mastermind behind it all-a woman of vision and creative ideas.

The kick-off event was at our house Friday night. It was a wonderful evening, as people connected for the weekend. The weather cooperated and let us use our patio/pool area which was much nicer than only having the inside available. Palma, who is an accomplished party giver and chef, prepared the food which was not only delicious but visually stunning. How many have seen penguins made from cream cheese, olives and carrots for feet?
On the TV there was a continual slide show composed of pictures people had sent me of their travels. Throughout the evening there was a different combination of folks watching and pointing out friends who were not with us or their own special memories. It was fun.

Saturday night found us all at a real Mexican Fiesta with food by women who prepared foods native to their parts of Mexico. It was not the typical beans, rice and tacos that so often typifies Mexican food here in the US. We had a live band, two palm readers, a presentation of the Queen and her Court--Pauline the founder of Slow Travel and 4 of the original moderators in attendance. (Pauline has announced that she is now the Queen-Mum and the Queenship has passed to Kim.) Each of the court was presented with a lovely bouquet enclosing a bottle of  exquisite Sant' Antonio Olive Oil--donated by Nico who came from Italy for the weekend festivities.

The weekend was capped off with a delightful brunch at the Island Palms Resort in a room overlooking the marina with hundreds of sail boats, big and little. The sun glistened and all was picture perfect. The mimosa bar was a popular hangout, of course. People talked and talked and talked--leaving much of the food untouched. The weekend was about over and there was so much to say to new and old friends before everyone departed for far away places. There is talk of where the next one will be--maybe Boston or New Jersey or ???. Before leaving, there was one last irresistible shot of those who had ordered very special glasses from Mindy. Those of us who did not order, wished we had.

Aren't they Great? Nico is there in front.

During the day, there were no official planned activities but many unofficial. People visited two California missions, safaried at the Wild Animal Park, meandered in Balboa Park and into its wonderful museums,  kayaked in La Jolla, traveled to Niki de Saint Phalle Sculpture Gardens in Escondido and, most bizarrely, participated in Shannon's In-and-Out Burger and Wine Pairing event.

Ken and I spent our off event hours with Nico, showing him a little part of our world, including Casey's Little League game which to Nico was a baseball "match"--until someone set him straight. What fun to explain baseball to someone without a clue. But, he enjoyed it and went home with new learnings. Sunday he saw beautiful La Jolla even stopping for Italian gelato--US style. It was such a pleasure for us to have him here. His beautiful Sant' Antonio in Montepulciano is one of our most favorite places in this wide world.

So this is the weekend that was. It will be fondly recalled by all who attended and talked about as long as there is a Slow Travel. If you would like to see a photo shot of the entire weekend, this is a link to my Flickr pics.   Taste of San Diego in Pictures   (Be sure to click on slide show in the top right corner of the thumb nail page for each set.) Enjoy and join us at the next big GTG--wherever it is! I hope to see you there.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Peace and Quiet Is OK

Admittedly, there are days when I wonder what it would be like to be a normal, every day retiree--you know, stay up and get out of bed late, go out at night whenever the mood strikes, travel at will, not have my independence over at 2:15 each day--in other words, captain my own ship. But, being an abnormal retiree, I am raising an eleven year old which denies all of the above and instead my ship is captained by someone other than me.

Given the above, would make one think that this week would be a touch of heaven around here. Monday morning Casey left for 6th grade camp for 4 days and 3 nights. Ken and I have our lives back for 84 hours.

Of course this is not enough time for a cruise or travel to far away places but we can do little things like lunch with a friend not seen in 40 years. That is  what we did today in beautiful Del Mar.

What a gorgeous day it was with bright golden sun, blue blue water and a sky dotted with a fluffy cloud or two.

Julie and Chuck have lived in Encinitas for 15 years and yet this is the first time we have kept the Christmas letter promises of getting together. Why do we do things like this? Today was such fun as the years rolled away.

Ken and I then leisurely drove back to San Diego via the scenic coast line through Torrey Pines and finally to the ubiquitous freeway. It was a very nice day with no obligation to anyone but ourselves.

During this time we have stayed up late, slept in and enjoyed quiet evenings. There have been no trips to the karate studio, baseball field or church activities and no worry about whether homework is done. We are normal people of a certain age.

So--why is it that in this time of bliss we find ourselves missing the child? I'm not sure of the answer as the quiet is peaceful and I'm pretty sure that in not too many more days we would adjust quite well to an empty nest. But the truth is I do miss his smile and enthusiasm. There is a vacuum, a hole here that needs to be filled and I suspect by a growing up boy.

Friday, March 05, 2010


Thanks to Casey today was an exciting day; by special invitation I attended the sixth grade Honor Roll Assembly! Son Casey was one of  many ambitious students recognized for having earned excellent grades for the first semester of the first year in middle school. I am a proud mom. He is definitely off to a very good start in the challenge of preparing for college and adulthood.

Saying this seems so strange, as when I was his age and in sixth grade, we certainly were not thinking of college acceptance and competitive pressures. Life was much easier a hundred years ago--wasn't it?

I also realize that I have neglected to write about the rather consequential, life changing event that took place  in our lives a few weeks ago. Casey  became his uncle! Strange events do happen, don't they? After having been guardians of Casey for many years, we finally were able to adopt him and become his recognized parents. This is something he had asked for and we wanted but until a recent California Supreme Court ruling impacting our situation, it wasn't in the cards. Now we are a family unit, confident in the future ahead of us.

Which leads to today's look in question--one that I must and will get used to without feeling an explanation is required. Admittedly, I look a little older than the other mothers--even if women are waiting until later in life to have children and even if I did have my makeup on. I'm much later. And so the woman sitting next to me, with whom I had struck up a casual conversation as we waited for the children, asked if I had a child being honored. I said "yes, my son." As I said this, her face spontaneously registered a look of confusion and surprise as she tried to reconcile conflicting input. My first reaction was to explain to this stranger that he had been my grandson, was still my grandson, but was also my son. Then, I caught myself and realized that sorting it out for her was not necessary. This was a crossroads moment for me and from now on quizzical looks won't matter.

I learned this lesson many years ago in a different context and in a different time when we adopted two African-American children. As is apparent in our pictures, Ken and I are not African-American but quite European-Caucasian. When we went out, people looked or even, one might say, gawked at us. We were an anomaly-often one that was not liked. Although, to be fair, sometimes the looks were purely ones of surprise rather than judgment.  Even today I am sure these looks continue for mixed-race families; in the late sixties/early seventies, they were a given. It was not unknown to have the "looks" accompanied by comments and loud whispers.

Eventually these experiences became so mundane and so a part of our lives that we neglected to notice them. It was only when I would think about it and check to see if they were still happening that I knew they were. By then, it was not our problem but the looker's. Even today if I am out with an adult child and am called "mom," necks swivel but I think as often now in surprise as in condemnation. Times have changed--a little.

So, I am relearning the lesson I learned so many years ago--let people handle their own curiosities. It is not my responsibility or need to speak to them. Isn't it strange how life moves in circles and what we learn at one point prepares us for new times and experiences? I love it and I love my new son--very much. Casey Alex, you are special!