Past Forward

The years just fly by. Daniel was three and still wearing footie pajamas and Taylor was six years old and blanketed with chickenpox the day we moved into this house. Fast forward to 2015: Daniel just turned 25 and Taylor, gulp, is almost staring down thirty. How did that happen?

Sometimes we forget how many great memories we have collected in our twenty-plus years at this house, but a visitor this week helped us unspool some from the summer long ago: our young friend, Scott Sorge came to visit.

Lots of guests have walked through that gate since we moved here the last day of 1993.

Lots of guests have walked through that gate since we moved here the last day of 1993.

First the house and then a dog: the boys with Peaches in 1994.

First the house and then a dog: the boys with Peaches in 1994.

Now Daniel is all grown up and Chloe is the family dog.

Now Daniel is all grown up and Chloe is the family dog.

Back in the summer of 2006, Scott’s family was in the midst of a move. He was at loose ends for a few months, he wanted to train with our swim team, and somehow we became his host family. Easiest kid in the world to have around, Scott became our third son for the summer.

Scott and Taylor have a Scrabble duel, summer 2006.

Scott and Taylor have a Scrabble duel, summer 2006.

It was the same summer Daniel got his drivers license. A lifetime ago!

Momentous: Daniel got his drivers license!

Momentous: Daniel got his drivers license! (And what am I even thinking with that short skirt??)

Julia was a student at Westmont and working for us that summer; without her we would all have starved!

Julia and the CE in the kitchen.

Julia and the CE in the kitchen.

Things have changed a bit for Julia since then.  She and Grant were married at our home in 2009; they are now expecting their new baby to arrive in the next few weeks.

Julia and Grant at their wedding in 2009.

Julia and Grant at their wedding in 2009.

Julia and our young family friend Alexandra were planning to stop by Wednesday afternoon to hang out by our pool and enjoy some mom talk.

Julia and Chloe; baby

Julia and Chloe; baby “Chubs” is due August 3.

Julia and Alexandra in 2010.

Julia and Alexandra in 2010.

And Alexandra with new baby Ian, born in June.

And Alexandra with new baby Ian, born in June.

So when we heard from Scott, texting that he was on a road trip through Santa Barbara and wanted to stop by and say hello that same day, we realized we were in for a reunion.

We’d only seen Scott once since the summer he spent with us. We knew he had gone on to an illustrious swim career at Cal and we knew he kept in touch with our boys, but we were excited to catch up with him ourselves. Alexandra had to take baby Ian home before dinner, but Julia and Grant (and Henry!) stayed to welcome Scott and his girlfriend, Kelly. We ate pizza poolside by candlelight while the dogs  (especially Henry!) sneaked a treat here and there.

Henry likes to hang by the pool, especially at dinnertime.

Henry likes to hang by the pool, especially at dinnertime.

Scott had vivid memories of a turkey dinner we made that summer, and, sure enough, I found photos:

The CE ready to carve a turkey dinner in July, 2006.

The CE ready to carve a turkey dinner in July, 2006.

Taylor and Julia did the mashed potatoes.

Taylor and Julia did the mashed potatoes.

...while Scott communed with Soho and Birdie.

…while Scott communed with Soho and Birdie.

Scott couldn't believe it when I told him that Chadd is now driving!

Scott couldn’t believe it when I told him that Chadd is now driving!

It was so great to catch up with Scott and meet Kelly. They are both headed back to medical school after their summer road trip.

Kelly and Scott

Kelly and Scott

Scott had so many vivid memories of the time he spent here with us, and as he and Kelly left  to resume their road trip, I thought about how lucky we are to have been able to share this home through the years. And how lucky we are that all these young people have maintained a thread through our lives and come back to visit. We will even see Chadd this weekend – he is in town from the East coast and we are looking forward to dinner with him tomorrow.

I think it’s no coincidence that the name of our street translates to “blessed road”. It has truly been two decades of a vida bendita.

It's been a good run at our

It’s been a good run at our “casa bendita”

Posted in All Things Family, Friends | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Family Album: “Oh No, Not Them Again!”

Like the bad pennies we are, we turned up again last weekend, all smiles, in Newport Beach.

For couples like Tina and John, who get to live the dream on Lido Isle it’s only fair that they should have to entertain a passel of relatives constantly from time to time, right?

They have nothing to do but entertain us, right?

They have nothing to do but entertain us, right?

And there we were: me, the CE (Chicken Emperor) and PG (Granny), wondering what was for dinner Thursday evening. Tina always knows about the latest and greatest places to eat in Newport, and she made a reservation for us at the trendy and fabulous Cucina Enoteca at Fashion Island.

Granny and Tina make a toast at Cucina Enoteca

Granny and Tina share a toast at Cucina Enoteca

The vegetarian Bolognese at Cucina Enoteca was amazing! (yelp image)

The vegetarian Bolognese at Cucina Enoteca was amazing! (yelp image)

Being as we were staying at the lovely Island Hotel, there was shopping to be done across the street at Fashion Island mall.  We convinced Phyllis that her destiny lay at Neiman Marcus, where the CE tried to talk her into a pair of summer shorts. Hilarity (of the nonagenarian variety) ensued.

Last Call, 70% off, but no, rest assured, she did not for a moment consider buying those shorts.

Last Call, 70% off, but no, rest assured, she did not for a moment consider buying those shorts.

Phyllis and the CE, ready to conquer Bloomingdales at Fashion Island.

Phyllis and the CE, ready to conquer Bloomingdales at Fashion Island.

All this was mere prelude to our true goal. You know how some people want to occupy Wall Street? Our goals are much simpler: we just want to occupy the Duffy Boat, ever so briefly. Say, just for the weekend. And since there was no getting rid of us until this was accomplished, Tina, John and family kindly indulged us.

John and Tina at the helm of the Duffy.

John and Tina at the helm of the Duffy.

These girls! Vivie and Evie on the Duffy. So precious!

These girls! Vivie and Evie on the Duffy. So precious!

And this one! Caleigh! Can you tell how shy she is?

And this one! Caleigh! Can you tell how shy she is?

Group photo!

Group photo!

The Island Hotel has recently undergone a glamorous makeover of its common areas, among them the pool. In the right light, and with a requisite number of umbrella drinks, you might convince yourself that your afternoon at the Island pool approximates a tropical getaway. We were drinking club soda, and had three little ones in tow, but our pool time on Saturday and Sunday still had a whiff of Maui to it. Good practice for our upcoming vacation!

Somehow, Tina always manages to look relaxed, even while tending to a very busy Caleigh.

Tina always manages to look relaxed poolside, even while tending to a very busy Caleigh.

Fun at the pool!

Fun at the pool!

Back at home, Caleigh showed us her “clubhouse”:

I want a clubhouse, too, but mine would be filled with live animals!

I want a clubhouse, too, but mine would be filled with live animals!

And showed off her Minnie dress:

Cutest two-year-old on the planet.

Cutest two-year-old on the planet.

Vivie was feeling a bit under the weather, but as beautiful as ever:

Viv managed a smile, even though she wasn't feeling well.

Viv managed a smile, even though she wasn’t feeling well.

On Saturday evening, Tina and John arranged a date night for me and the CE, sending us off in the Duffy with a lavish cheese plate and a dinner reservation at The Winery, where we docked the boat and dined waterside. Afterwards we cruised the harbor until nightfall. Such a perfect evening!

Date night!

Date night!

Off we go!

And off we go!

Such a lovely weekend trip. We are already missing our hearty al fresco breakfasts on the terrace at Island Hotel. We are missing the Duffy Boat rides. And, most especially, we are missing Tina, John and those adorable girls. Guess we’ll just have to plan a return trip – what are you guys doing next weekend?

The CE and Phyllis at breakfast on the terrace.

The CE and Phyllis at breakfast on the terrace.

Grandpa and those darling girls.

Grandpa and those darling girls.

Posted in All Things Family, Big Fun, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Golden Opportunity

Just in case you aren’t awake all night click-click-clicking on the Internet like I am, you may have missed a recent and most welcome addition to the viral pantheon: Bob, the Golden Retriever.

You can tell he knows he's wearing a funny hat. (huffpo image)

You can tell he knows he’s wearing a funny hat. (huffpo image)

I used to think Chloe had the best dog life possible, but she only has a fluffy white airhead for a sidekick and a couple of cats and chickens wandering about, whereas Bob’s owner actually went out and got Bob his very own pets. As a follower of Bob’s Instagram,(and yes, of course Bob also has a Facebook page),  I now get to thrill to daily photos of Bob and his hamster, parakeets and (this is bittersweet, RIP Birdie) lutino cockatiels.

Bob and his hamster take a nap (dailymail image)

Bob and his hamster take a nap (dailymail image)

Bob and his posse (from facebook)

Bob and his posse (from facebook)

I have my doubts about Bob’s master, one Luiz Higa, Jr. who hails from Sao Paulo, Brazil, because who is that person who would spend their entire day taking photos of their pets? Wait. Oops. Ahem…

Well, never mind that part. Just feast your eyes on Bob and his friends. He’s there any time of the day or night, and, like every other Golden on the planet, his goal in life is to make you and me happy.

Bob and his friends (image from dogchannel.com)

Bob and his friends (image from dogchannel.com)

Posted in Absurdity, Animal/Vegetable/Mineral, Music/Art/Literature/Culture, Spoiled Pets | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Five for the Fourth

Five great books to put the fireworks in your Fourth of July celebration:

1. 1776 by David McCullough

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So good I’ve read it twice! 1776 is an exciting and thorough survey of that most seminal year in our country’s history. If you are only going to read one book about the founding of the United States of America, this might be it. Once you experience McCullough’s genial mastery of America’s history, however, you will probably want to move along straightaway and read the very fine…

2. John Adams by David McCullough

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You could, of course, hedge and watch the also very fine HBO adaptation of McCullough’s book, but after seeing it, you’ll want to read the book anyway. It is that good! Adams did not cut the most fascinating figure, but his thoughtfulness and commitment to the republic was unwavering. His contributions as a statesman and diplomat are writ large in our early history. “The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.” – John Adams

3. Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow

Winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for biography, Chernow’s splendid book will leave you in awe of George Washington, his wisdom, selflessness and the sacrifices he made again and again to set the course of our country.  For me, this book ignited an interest in American history.

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4. Miracle At Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention May – September 1787 by Catherine Drinker Bowen

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The title is not exactly a firecracker, but I find myself recommending this book over and over as an articulate and absorbing narrative of the passionate and often contentious debates that ultimately birthed our nation’s Constitution.

5. The National Parks: America’s Best Idea by Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns

This book is a companion to the Emmy-award-winning PBS documentary series and, while I have not read it, I hope to, given that reviewers claim it will actually give you goose bumps! What better way to spend the Fourth of July than browsing through these pages!

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Here’s to the red, white and blue! Happy Fourth!

One chicken that won't be on the barbecue today! (image from Backyard Poultry magazine)

One chicken that won’t be on the barbecue today! (image from Backyard Poultry magazine)

Posted in History, Holidays, Music/Art/Literature/Culture | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Fashion Fourth-ward: Starred and Spangled

It’s been an interesting week for flags.  The Stars & Bars have been relegated to the dustbin; rainbows are flying high. Next week, though, belongs to the Stars & Stripes and there is still time to get your red, white and blue:

Are you a traditionalist? Lots of options on etsy.com

Infinity scarf sold by LePetitMonkey on Etsy priced at $29.99

Infinity scarf sold by LePetitMonkey on Etsy priced at $29.99

Deconstructed Flag Tank, $20.95, sold on Etsy by GoodieTees

Deconstructed Flag Tank, $20.95, sold on Etsy by GoodieTees

Forever 21 has flag scarves priced as low as $9:

American Flag scarf at Forever 21 is just $8.90

American Flag scarf at Forever 21 is just $8.90

At The Gap, you can go either red or blue for $29.95

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Ralph Lauren has always known his way around the American flag, and these platform pumps are on sale for a mere $254

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Lots of scarf options at Nordstrom:

Not into stars and stripes? You can still be red, white and blue for $28 at Nordstrom.

Not into stars and stripes? You can still be red, white and blue for $28 at Nordstrom.

Summer Stripes scarf at Nordstrom for $32

Summer Stripes scarf at Nordstrom for $32

Celebs are starstruck for the Wildfox Seeing Stars Lennon Sweater which retails for $198 at Revolveclothing.com

Alessandra Ambrosio is one of many celebs who have been spotted in the Wildfox sweater, which also comes in navy.

Alessandra Ambrosio is one of many celebs who have been spotted in the Wildfox sweater, which also comes in navy.

More subtly celebratory is Diane von Furstenberg’s Eaden Love scarf available at Shopbop for $168:

Diane von Furstenberg's Eaden Love scarf

Diane von Furstenberg’s Eaden Love scarf

Whatever you wear, Zoya wants to make sure you nail it:

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And don’t forget to fly the flag of freedom – long may it wave!

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Posted in Holidays | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Missing Manhattan

Surely a month in NYC would cure me, I thought. Ease the constant tug I feel toward the place, where right now I would be looking down on Central Park watching people taking their dogs for an early morning walk in the park.

In February, the trees were bare but by the next visit in May, the Park had leafed out nicely.

In February, the trees were bare but by the next visit in May, the Park had leafed out nicely.

Not that I mind being here in California, of course. The house finches began their chorus at 5 a.m. this morning, the fog forgot to roll in last night, and thanks to a miraculous recent rain, everything here looks like a park. Not complaining. I just need to figure out a way to be in two places at once.

California also has its charms - our whole neighborhood is like a park.

California also has its charms – our whole neighborhood is like a park.

This trip, all was forgiven from the February visit. The puffer coat was banished to a back closet along with the tangle of winter scarves and gloves. One night, we emerged from Lincoln Center after the ballet and the air was so seductively balmy that we couldn’t resist stopping for a late open-air dinner at P.J. Clarke’s where we chatted until after well after midnight. I thought I caught a glance of approval from Dante, whose statue gazed down at us from his tiny patch of park across the street.

Dante Park, with its statue of the great poet and philosopher, is one of my favorite landmarks in NYC.

Dante Park, with its statue of the great poet and philosopher, is one of my favorite landmarks in NYC.

I experienced the city solo for a week while the CE was off braving the river rapids in Montana. Spring was tenderly unfolding everywhere – such a great time to be in Manhattan!

Hydrangeas in a planter outside The Plaza on Central Park South.

Hydrangeas in a planter outside The Plaza on Central Park South.

I love this view of the lake in Central Park from CPS.

I love this view of the lake in Central Park from CPS.

Flowers everywhere to celebrate spring.

Flowers everywhere to celebrate spring.

There were so many memorable moments with family and friends. Taylor was off roaming Europe but I spent a lovely Mothers Day with Daniel, Angie and her boys and friend, Nicole.

On our way to see Matilda on Broadway for Mothers Day.

On our way to see Matilda on Broadway for Mothers Day.

James is such a great present-giver!

James is such a great present-giver!

James and Daniel. So nice to spend Mothers Day with my

James and Daniel. So nice to spend Mothers Day with my “baby”.

And oh, these gorgeous flowers from Tina!

And oh, these gorgeous flowers from Tina!

This was the trip when I finally got to meet Chris’ mom – and his dogs!

Chris, Marie and Daniel

Chris, Marie and Daniel

Daniel and Chris with Logan and Calvin

Daniel and Chris with Logan and Calvin

My dear friend, Rosanne, stopped for a whirlwind visit on her way to Boston:

Rosanne, my heroine:

Rosanne, my heroine: “Open heart surgery was really no big deal compared to cancer.”

After the CE showed up, our friend, Teri, invited us for a “take the old people to work” day:

We had an amazing time with Teri at Google NYC!

We had an amazing time with Teri at Google NYC!

And the CE spent a happy afternoon in Bronxville:

Selfie with Grandpa and James

Selfie with Grandpa and James

Thomas is known for making the winning hit of the game.

Thomas is known for making the winning hit of the game.

We celebrated my birthday in the city this year with dinner at Balthazar. Daniel was away riding elephants in Thailand, but Chris was kind enough to stand in for him and Taylor had returned bearing gifts from his travels to Switzerland, Germany and Austria.

The CE, Taylor and Chris after a birthday dinner at Balthazar.

The CE, Taylor and Chris after a birthday dinner at Balthazar.

Even with our side trip to Gettysburg, we managed to enjoy an abundance of entertainment during our time in the city. Friends Lori, Lauren and Dan joined me for the spectacular An American in Paris, and the CE and I saw The King and I and Skylight – Bill Nighy is my new crush! May and June are ballet season in NYC and I was lucky to see the NYCB’s celebration of Jerome Robbins with Georgina Pazcoguin stealing the show as Anita in a soaring West Side Story tribute.

New York City Ballet's West Side Story Suite (timesunion image)

New York City Ballet’s West Side Story Suite (timesunion image)

We also saw the ABT’s productions of Giselle and Sleeping Beauty, which featured a Puss in Boots dancer who looked suspiciously like someone we know. Guess that meant it was time to head home to California…

Puss in Boots was one of more than 100 characters in ABT's lavish production of Sleeping Beauty.

Puss in Boots was one of more than 100 characters in ABT’s lavish production of Sleeping Beauty. (image from ink361.com)

“Who needs NYC when you have me right here at home?” said Dodger.

So home we came, and SoCal is a great place to be, but some days I just wake up in a New York state of mind. On our last evening in the city, we had dinner at Robert above the Museum of Art and Design overlooking Columbus Circle. Great view, great city. I guess a month there wasn’t quite enough; I still get a little homesick for Manhattan…

Looking good, Columbus Circle.

Looking good, Columbus Circle.

Posted in Big Fun, Friends, New York city, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Retracing History: The Gettysburg Battlefield

“This is a human story and that is what continues to draw people here today”, said our guide, Larry Korczyk, as we began our tour of the Gettysburg battlefield. We stood on Seminary Ridge, looking out toward McPherson’s farm, where heavy fighting broke out between Confederate infantry and Union calvary on the morning of July 1, 1863. Union Major General John F. Reynolds was killed near here that morning, the first of three days of the costliest battle of the American Civil War. Reynolds was one of the earliest of 50,000 casualties of this bloodiest clash and turning point of the war.

This monument in Herbst Woods marks the place where Union General John F. Reynolds was killed on the first day of fighting at Gettysburg.

This monument in Herbst Woods marks the place where Union General John F. Reynolds was killed on the first day of fighting at Gettysburg.

Generals Reynolds and Buford are depicted on the first day of battle at Gettysburg, shortly before Reynolds was shot from his horse and instantly killed. (image from explorepahistory.com)

Generals Reynolds and Buford are depicted on the first day of battle at Gettysburg, shortly before Reynolds was shot from his horse and instantly killed. (image from explorepahistory.com)

Korczyk led us chronologically and geographically through the three days of fighting during our day-and-a-half tour. The sprawling battlefield comprises 25 square miles and endless human stories of courage and sacrifice. It is truly hallowed ground.

On the first day of fighting, the Confederates drove the Union troops back into the town of Gettysburg, where combat spilled out onto Baltimore Street.

On the first day of fighting, the Confederates drove the Union troops back into the town of Gettysburg, where combat spilled out onto Baltimore Street.

In retrospect, we barely scratched the surface of the stratagems and complexities of the Battle of Gettysburg. But you have to start somewhere, and, for me, it was transformative to see Devil’s Den and the Wheatfield and The Peach Orchard.

Devil's Den, described by historian Stephen Sears as

Devil’s Den, described by historian Stephen Sears as “one of the wildest fiercest struggles of the war”.

View of Devil's Den from Little Round Top

View of Devil’s Den from Little Round Top

The Bloody Wheatfield, where it was said that the

The Bloody Wheatfield, where it was said that the “wheat was tinged red” from the more than 6,000 casualties.

Part of the National Park's Service commitment to restoring the battlefield to its original state included re-planting peach trees in The Peach Orchard, where the Confederates collapsed the Union line on the second day of battle at Gettysburg.

Part of the National Park’s Service commitment to restoring the battlefield to its original state included re-planting peach trees in The Peach Orchard, where the Confederates collapsed the Union line on the second day of battle at Gettysburg.

A visit to Little Round Top is a pilgrimage for any student of the Civil War. We were surprised to learn that the assault of Colonel Joshua Chamberlain’s position there came from the rear rather than the front. Chamberlain was ordered to hold his position “at all costs!”  Short on men and ammunition, Chamberlain elected to fix bayonets and charge down the hill, catching the 15th and 47th Alabama regiments off-guard and effectively saving the Union’s far left flank.

A view of Little Round Top

A view of Little Round Top

The wooded back side of Little Round Top where Chamberlain led his charge.

The wooded back side of Little Round Top where Chamberlain led his charge.

This monument marks the center of the line held by Chamberlain's 20th Maine regiment during the defense of Little Round Top on July 2, 1863.

This monument marks the center of the line held by Chamberlain’s 20th Maine regiment during the defense of Little Round Top on July 2, 1863.

Joshua Chamberlain (Library of Congress photo)

Joshua Chamberlain (Library of Congress photo)

The fighting on Day Three sealed the hard-won Union victory at Gettysburg. It was especially meaningful to view the “The Angle”,  which is remembered as the “high water mark” where Confederate troops suffered a crushing defeat during the ill-fated Pickett’s Charge.

“The Bloody Angle” where the Confederate Army was decisively defeated at Gettysburg.

No visit to the battlefield is complete without paying respects at the Gettysburg National Cemetery.

No visit to the battlefield is complete without paying respects at the Gettysburg National Cemetery.

Markers commemorate unknown soldiers who fell at Gettysburg.

Markers commemorate unknown soldiers who fell at Gettysburg.

As we toured the battlefield at Gettysburg, it almost seemed that the hundred and fifty intervening years between the Civil War and today somehow dissolved. It was truly an opportunity to re-live, and learn from, the history of “The Lost Cause”. On our last evening, we sat in Lincoln Square and watched flocks of swallows dart overhead, just as they did after the great battle. “Toward evening, writes Freeman Cleaves of the aftermath of the battle in Meade of Gettysburg, “swallows in search of food flew low over the ground – a harbinger of rain – and songbirds seemed to be hunting their shattered nests.”

If anything, I am further from understanding the nature of war after this visit, but a bit closer to understanding the Battle of Gettysburg. In addition to the books we read before our visit, I’ll pass along these suggestions we were given for further reading:

Gettysburg: The First Day by Harry W. Pfanz (496 pages)

Confrontation at Gettysburg: A Nation Saved, a Cause Lost by John David Hoptak (283 pages)

Twilight at Little Round Top: July 2, 1863 – The Tide Turns at Gettysburg by Glenn W. La Fantasie (336 pages)

Pale Horse at Plum Run: The First Minnesota at Gettysburg by Brian Leehan (264 pages) recommended as an add-on to Last Full Measure: The Life and Death of the First Minnesota Volunteers by Richard Moe (367 pages)

Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg by Eric J. Wittenberg (456 pages)

The CE pays respects at the monument to the  fearless First Minnesota regiment at Gettysburg

The CE pays respects at the monument to the fearless First Minnesota regiment at Gettysburg

Posted in History, Meaningful, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments