Tag Archives: Weather

the sun is but a fickle muse. especially when there is ice cream involved.

10 Sep

ImagePeople who fancy themselves writers, or painters, or poets, or photographers are often inspired by the power of the ocean; the pulse of the city; the majesty of the mountains; the starkness of the desert; or the simple beauty of rolling fields and a golden countryside.

I like those things. Ok, I like most of those things. But a few times a year, I feel as if I can’t write about anything, until I write about the weather; yep, the very weather that is the cliché calling card for people who simply have nothing else to talk about. If you’ve been reading along with me over the last few years, you may have realized before I ever did, the seasons are my collective muse. Spring, summer, winter, fall. Or in California, sprummer, summtumn, autinter, and winspring.

There is something magical about the changing of the seasons; the marching-on of time; the promise of something exciting, yet familiar, just around the corner. The evidence of change pops up all around us. Menus change. Wardrobes change. The telltale pain in my knee emerges as the barometric pressure shifts. The knick knacks in my house get rearranged, and at some point, I remind my kids how my knee knows when it’s going to rain, while acknowledging that yes, it’s weird.

As any change of the season approaches, I declare the upcoming season to be my favorite. The best! The most wonderful time of the year! Think of the sun dresses/white pants/boots/sweaters! Think of the seasonally appropriate treats I plan to make, but probably won’t! And now, September is here, and as I now live in San Francisco, I can finally write about how much I love summer.

Not to be a show off, but it’s been sunny, for like eight days in a row. This stretch was balm to the soul after a summer marked by oppressive fog. In August, I wore the very same outfits I wore at Christmas time. On those days, I thought back to the Fourth of July sunburn that I acquired in another town, and I could not imagine what that must have felt like. Hot, maybe?

The fog-free streets have been teeming with people, happily standing in line around the block for ice cream – not just any ice cream – but a compostable cup full of honey lavender, balsamic strawberry, basil, or blueberry cheesecake ice cream. If you are my foodie son, you wait for fresh peach ice cream topped with a drizzle of olive oil; or if you are my chicken nugget, noodles-and-butter-with-nothing-green-in-sight loving son, you stand in line for “chocolate.”

Our family went to a baseball game – at night, in San Francisco – and I did not put on a sweatshirt, and even more telling, I did not make my deliriously happy 8-year-old wear a sweatshirt.

I broke a sweat the other day, and it was kinda awesome.

Fall is lurking though, like a bully, trying to usurp summer and kill my sunshine buzz. I was forced to make my annual TV watching, DVR matrix, with a detailed chart of new network shows I want to try, because as we all know, good TV waits for no one. And with three guys in the house, football is the topic du jour, every jour. The September calendar page is full, and I’ve started writing things onto those little squares in October. I try to put off thoughts of pot pie, and caramel, and cider. I know, pumpkin-flavored-everything is already on menus, but for this brief moment in time, I’m thinking about watermelon. Does anybody know where I can get some watermelon?

Image

*In the photo up top,  the idea was that I would capture the cool play structure at the new Exploratorium in SF with Coit Tower artistically hovering in the background; but mostly I took a picture of the blue sky. It felt like I was getting a picture of a unicorn being walked by a leprechaun. The baseball photo, is pretty much the same thing. I think my kid’s in there somewhere.

**Between when I started writing this post, and finished, the temperature dropped twenty degrees, and I broke down and made a mug of tea. Stupid hot tea.

the white pants paradigm: hello, spring

2 Apr

Seemingly moments ago, in a post called “pot pie paradigm,” I wrote about the warm cozies that accompany the arrival of autumn: pumpkins and hot coffee and the undeniable desire to wear corduroy. Oh, and the undeniable desire for pot pie.

Sure I wore corduroy last week, after the official start of spring, but the rain was coming down in sheets, and all I wanted to do was sit inside and drink tea and eat the mini bundt cakes someone dropped by the office (unsolicited baked goods are surely on the long list of perks of working at a church). And then I made a half-hearted promise to stop incessantly writing about the weather on Facebook, where I also repeatedly threaten to get one of those UV lights that are supposed to make the sunlight-deprived generally less bummed out.

But then – the sun came out. Sure it may be gone tomorrow, but today, I want to eat asparagus. I want to rearrange the throw pillows, and edit my knick knacks, and maybe spruce up the joint with some flowers.

Yesterday, after a bright, happy day surrounded by Norman Rockwell looking, seersucker wearing, egg hunting children, and in a fit of sunny ecstasy, I went out and bought a pair of white pants. Ladies, you know the pants – they will look just perfect with a nautical, navy striped tee. Or a sparkly top. Or pink. Or wedge heels or sandals. Or even deck shoes, a colorful belt, or an arm full of bangles.

I think when a guy looks at white pants he sees a 1980’s Don Johnson or 1980’s James Spader, or most likely an impractical purchase. Maybe he says, “Don’t you have white pants?” And you say, “Um, those are cropped, and from five years ago and now they fit weird anyway,” or “Yes, silly, but those have a cigarette cut, and these are flared, but not like an obnoxious flare,  just flared enough to make them perfect for wedges.” It is at this point, and you can see it in his face, when he becomes sorry he asked. This scenario may also be applied to black shoes.

When women look at white pants in early spring, they see the promise of what is to come:

Sunshine and patios and tossing your head back to laugh. You will live in a catalog and you will not be sad. You are not allowed to be sad in your white pants, unless of course, you just sat in gum, which totally happened to my mom at Sea World. Now in 2012, we know not to wear white pants to theme parks, and most especially water-themed theme parks.

I’m going to eat brunch in those pants, but not just any brunch, it will be brunch with a view of the sea! I’m going to catch up with an old friend while wearing those pants and drinking a white wine spritzer (Yes, they still exist! And they are surprisingly refreshing! And if you were to spill, it’s got spritzer right in it, so it will probably not stain – so practical and smart. Somebody should pin that.)

My new white pants, with just the right amount of flare, are currently hanging like a decoration in my room, representing the pristine hope of spring. Nobody has touched them with potato chip hands, or dribbled iced tea on them. No animal has rubbed on them in a friendly greeting. I have yet to sit in something green or sticky while wearing them.

I will not wear them today or tomorrow; there is more rain in the forecast. I will leave them hanging there in place of the cheer-you-up UV lamp that one of these years, I really will buy. But the white pants are a better deal, which fellas, in the unlikely case you continued reading after you saw  “flare” or “wedges,” is something you might appreciate.

**Thanks for all the support and fun comments after the organization post was Freshly Pressed, which was way cool, and entirely too intoxicating. Thanks, hello and welcome to the all the new subscribers, and double thanks if you decided to stick with me after reading about my pants.

the pot pie paradigm

12 Nov

When you live in California, or anywhere really, you can’t depend on the calendar to tell you when the season has changed.  You likely have your own little tell tale signs that it’s time to shift gears and jump into the next season with abandon. It’s officially Spring when I hear a lawnmower or an airplane through an open window. Summer is the first day I require an iced coffee to function. Winter is simple – sweatshirt, fuzzy socks, hot chocolate, staring at the Christmas Tree; rain, optional.

Fall however, is a little different. The Bay Area enjoys its most beautiful warm weather in September and October. The lazy days of summer are gone, but the realities of school and work and sports and responsibility are just… the worst. You like the idea of fall, but you can’t enjoy a moment of it…yet. Then one day it happens, the good part of autumn arrives. This week, the signs were everywhere; real fall is finally here.

  • Without explanation, a big fat, warty pumpkin showed up on our doorstep. Not the jack-o-lantern kind, but the harvesty cornucopia kind. Some autumnal fairy left it there (thank you, whoever you are). Until the moment it arrived, our entire 2011 pumpkin inventory consisted of the tiny souvenir pumpkin from Zach’s kindergarten field trip, and John’s sad matching chaperone pumpkin. If a mystery gourd doesn’t tell you something special’s afoot, I don’t know what does.
  • Dry leaves swirled dramatically around the parking lot as I hurried in from lunch, clutching close to me my brown corduroy blazer, the official jacket of fall. When the wind blows like that, no matter what building I hustle into, I announce, “It’s like ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ out there.” It’s weird enough to say that at the grocery store or the dentist, but you get really special looks at work yelling that something wicked is coming, especially when work is a church. I might need a new movie reference that says “it’s windy.” Nobody’s even seen “Something Wicked This Way Comes” in 25 years, including me.
  • The 6-year-old needs a new pair of slippers; he’s grown out of the firetruck pair, and his feet are now cold. The cat’s feet are also cold and she thinks she controls the heater. She sits on the grating and paws at it unsuccessfully for an hour or so until it finally kicks on, at which point she looks at me, as if to say, “you’re welcome.”
  • A hot cup of coffee is never far from my thoughts.

 “I need to finish this budget draft…then get a cup of coffee.”

“ Where did I leave my keys? Over there, by my coffee.”

“Someone put peppermint mocha creamer in the office fridge; best day ever.”

  • The moon on Wednesday was freakishly huge and hovered menacingly over the freeway and the hills, so close it looked like I could drive to it as fast as I could drive home. I never look directly at it; it knows I blame it for my crankiness, other people’s crankiness, sleepless kids and bad driving.
  • Monday is the day I will make my annual turkey, apple and sweet potato pot pie. No part of it comes from a box, hence the annual-ness of it. I am trying to get John to commit to a date for his annual apple cake.  They cannot be made on the same day, or my head will explode.
  • And then, to top it off: John picked up egg nog on the way home. It gets dark after lunch. I took an umbrella with me, and promptly left it in a restaurant. Twilight’s out in a few days (they’re vampires, so that’s fallish, and they sparkle, so it’s festive.) I think about ginger cookies almost as much as I think about coffee.

It seems people who know about gardening and growing things best understand the rhythms of the seasons. They talk to me about their bulbs or their tomatoes, eyeing the weather and their soil, and maybe an almanac. I nod, recognizing that yes, I have heard of bulbs and tomatoes, though I cannot tell you what grows from a bulb.

So, don’t let the mall tell you it’s time to feel like Christmas (because they’re trying, hard); it’s not up to them, it’s up to you. Your fall may not have even started yet.

bloomers

5 May

 

 

I’ve logged enough hours with Wills and Kate this last week that they should be able to do me a solid, and issue a royal decree that it is officially summer.   

I followed the media coverage, and sat on my bed dutifully watching my recording and weeping a little bit, like you do at the weddings of all your friends. John happily excused himself to make dinner, leaving me to my celebration, while the boys drifted in and out the room asking questions. They could not believe how long everything was taking and I hadn’t even told them about the first 200 minutes of pomp I had already watched. They asked about the trees in Westminster Abby and I reported as if she had told me herself, that Kate is very outdoorsy and was really going for an English Garden feeling. Then they asked about the carriage and the footmen, and all of the fancy outfits on the clergy, and it was decided that John should probably get that cool tall hat if he’s gonna get anywhere in this ministry business.

When it finished, and with great sadness and blurry eyes, I deleted the wedding from the DVR in order to make room for May sweeps. I then ventured into my yard to reconnect with the people I know in real life and enjoy the glorious weather.

Zach and I even went outside in the morning before school the other day. It’s Teacher Appreciation week, and we were asked to cut flowers from our gardens to contribute to bouquets for the extraordinarily deserving and saintly pre-school teachers. An absolutely lovely idea. Now if we only had a garden. Thank God for the flowering bush outside, that I can take absolutely no credit for. Its vibrant pink flowers bloom generously just in time for teacher appreciation every year. 

John took Zach to the store the first day of the week and they gallantly delivered beautiful and professionally tended red roses. I thought on the second day, I’m going to go to my garden, aka flowering bush-I-do-not-know-the-name-of, to select some lovely home grown blooms. Zach and I stood at the bush with my pruning shears. They are pruning shears one day a year when I stand at that plant during Teacher Appreciation Week. On every other day, they are the office scissors with the orange handles.

Only this week did I discover that we also have roses growing in the yard. In spite of me, we have roses. The bush must be just far enough away from the basketball hoop to have survived this long. Right now there are four blooms – full and dark red and wildly fragrant. If you put your nose to them, you would undoubtedly note the universal smell of great-grandmother. When I found the roses, I insisted the boys come over for a whiff. They looked nervous and asked if something was going to come out of the petals to get them. Perhaps they do share my wariness of the great outdoors after all.

Just a few feet from the valiant rose bush, is the spot where the Venus Flytrap of a horribly mean cactus is disappearing.  We have a guy who’s making that happen. We don’t ask questions; I don’t want to know how he makes it go away, he just does it. He takes care of the problem. I feel like the mob boss wife of cactuses. While there was remorse for the tree that fell in the storms a few months ago, and even the blooms we cut from the bush in the morning, I have no feelings for the cactus. Its needles were like tiny daggers, and we lost many a baseball to it. It didn’t take long for the kids to realize that when it comes to boy vs. cactus, cactus wins. I was certain it was eyeing the children hungrily. Since the thing has started disappearing in sizeable chunks, two baseball carcasses have surfaced.

My brother, the person in this world with who I am most genetically linked, gardens and grills and does things that require regular trips to stores that specialize in fishing poles and tents. He can grow anything, and to counter his stressful schedule, he lovingly tends his suburban crops. It has to be absolutely perfect weather to get me excited about eating in the yard because there are about 40 extra steps to serve an outside meal. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. You have to clean bird poop off the table before you can sit down outside, and I have never had to do that in my dining room. However, when there are twinkle lights up, I find it much easier to lounge at the table, waving bees away from my grilled veggies and listening to the boys happily chatter without the distraction of the stuff that waits inside like homework and dishes.

So hang the twinkle lights, hose down the poop table, smell a rose, kill a cactus and call me Duchess of the Yard, it’s time to be outside again.

a tree falls in side yard

4 Mar

Last week, I pulled into the garage without noticing that the tree that once stood taller than our house now lay across the side yard. John came home an hour later and gave me the report as I stared lamely at him. At first I couldn’t even picture what tree he was talking about…I don’t venture to that part of the yard much, I guess. (You would think we lived on 30 acres instead of a regular suburban smallish lot). But I finally figured out that I knew quite well about 5 feet of that tree, somewhere near its middle top.

It once grew majestically outside Zachary’s window, with a narrow trunk and long graceful branches that would thwap against his window in the wind or create sinister looking shadows in the night. I don’t know what kind it was, but it was a resting place for many a bird who would chirp their greetings to Zachary inside.

Zach went to his room to look. “There aren’t any branches there anymore,” he said, “That’s where the birdies were.” I thought about the birds too, but was hopeful he either wouldn’t notice, or would celebrate the fact that they wouldn’t startlingly crash into his window anymore. His sweet face looked sad, and the way he said “birdies” made me want to go buy him a pony.

John stood outside surveying the situation. The tree had fallen into a wacky corner of the yard, missing our neighbor’s fence by a few feet. The neighbor stood there too. “Now I have to look at your boring, window,” he told John with his usual charm.

The subsequent days have passed in a flurry, and the tree continues to lay there, beached. Every time the subject comes up, Zach mentions the birds. I have to stop talking about it altogether because every time I do, he flashes me his big brown puppy dog eyes, and I instinctively move toward the candy shelf for a distracting treat.

A few months ago, my parents had to have two of their three front yard trees removed, because alas, the old trees had died…suffering what I imagined a stoic and noble passing befitting of a couple of fine Modesto Ash. Now that, I did notice. I gasped when I drove up to their house for the first time without my old leafy friends there. The home base tree of my childhood, right there near the corner – gone. The hide-and-go-seek tree at the far end – dunzo. My parents have since picked out replacements, but they are baby trees, and I don’t think I could very effectively hide behind one, unless I shed a dangerous amount of LBs.

We’ve taken down diseased trees at the church, and today on my way to work, I saw what looked like a 20-man hard-hatted crew perched on some poor soul’s roof, collectively eyeballing a huge Oak tree. By the time I drove home, half of it lay in the street in front of a wood chipper.

Now, I’m eyeing the palm tree in the backyard. The wind has brought down these pieces that resemble huge pencil shavings, and frankly it looks weird standing next to the uppity, haughty redwood. There’s the orange tree in the back corner. Sure, I like the idea of a fruit tree, but I’ve never actually eaten one of its oranges. My guess is that I’m so much of a city girl that I can’t possibly imagine that any plant life that I’m responsible for could produce actual, edible fruit.

I’ve come to realize, people are weird with trees, me included, which even I find odd since I refuse to camp. Trees are scary or friendly or wise depending on what Disney movie we are watching. They serve as literary metaphors for everything from life to growth to the passing of time, and if I were more well-read, this list would undoubtedly be longer. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn has been on my reading list for about 5 years, but I would be willing to bet that’s chock full of smarty pants examples.

I cannot stand that horrible book, The Giving Tree. I so loved Shel Silverstein’s provocative and intoxicating A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends, that I would memorize the poems and recite them for whoever would listen. My copies, with my name written in my 3rd grade script, sit on Jake’s shelf, and are now favorites of the boys as well. But The Giving Tree sucks big time. Spoiler alert! The kind tree gives and gives and gives until it is taken down to a stump for the selfish brat of a protagonist to sit on in his old age. The only moral I take away is don’t be awful, or you will end up tired, alone and confused on a stump.

Heck, the trees in the Bible are kind of a big deal – there was the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil that Adam and Eve couldn’t resist, getting them kicked out of what up until that point, had been a pretty sweet living situation. Jesus invited little Zaccheus down from his tree so they could break bread. And of course, there was Jonah. Jonah sat and waited futilely and with spite for an entire city to suffer God’s wrath. As he sat there pouting, sweating and waiting, probably still reeking of whale innards, God gave him a shade tree, which promptly withered and died. Jonah grieved and ranted and, much to God’s annoyance and utter frustration, showed more feeling for that day-old tree than he did an entire population of people. And again we learn, don’t be awful or you will end up tired, alone, and confused on a stump.

let’s talk about the weather

1 Feb

The sun was out last week. It’s February 1, and I came thiiiiiis close to putting my coats away. Like away away, in a box labeled “seasonal” so I could shove them behind that box of VHS tapes that I still can’t part with even though we don’t have a VCR. (What tapes are those you wonder? I’m glad I assumed you asked, The Wedding Singer, She’s All That starring Freddie Prinze Jr., LA Confidential, the two-tape set of Titanic, and every episode of Twin Peaks,…of course.)

This weather hiccup is an annual occurrence in California. There are a few days every winter that are a total tease – where you get sunshine and warmth and those precious opportunities to push the button in the car that says “AC.”

Then of course, it rained this weekend. I was working on the church patio signing folks up for this and that, and trying to cheerfully answer questions while futilely attempting to convince Zach that animal crackers are in fact cookies, and not crackers.

My darling husband, on his way into church at the crack of dawn, and on his birthday no less, called to let me know that it was raining, and I should dress accordingly – he’s good that way. So, I brought my rain coat. It’s not a fancy church rain coat, with a belt and adorable buttons. It’s a legit waterproof raincoat meant for outdoorsy people (hey, I know some outdoorsy people), with a hood that was built to cover my entire head. It also has HyVent, which I assume is revolutionary coat technology invented in a lab complete with a mock church patio where they create multiple weather scenarios, specifically to keep me comfortable in inclement outdoor greeting situations.

So there I stood, saying hello to the scores of people streaming by, and apparently opening myself open for all kinds of comments about the sturdiness of my gear, my favorite being, “Wow, you look ready for anything!”  Oh, if only that were the case.

Just know that I know that if you actually live in a place where inclement weather conditions like, snow, and sleet and ice are a way of life – you are a stud. In fact the weather headlines for the past few days have included the word “bracing.” When you are bracing yourself for something, it’s usually not good. I can’t say that I was bracing myself for the intermittent showers over the weekend.

I know you have to shovel to get to your car and go the store, and factor in wind chill. I married into a snow dwelling family, I’ve seen this lifestyle in action. I’ve been at their house when snow has collapsed through the skylight, and when you have to cover every inch of skin just to go to the car. I’m guessing though, I was insufferable, asking everybody I came in contact with if they knew that it was 20 below, reminding them I was from California and adorably new to this. I of course called my parents to report the temperature and the the good news that, in spite of the catastrophic sounding temperature, I had in fact, survived the day.

Today, more than a 1/3 of the country will get a snow day, and you might be one of them. I know you have snowblowers and bigger jackets and warmer boots and shovels and scrapers. Good for you! And I mean that in a serious, non-smart-alecky way. Snow and ice living is hard, and treacherous. I am more than happy to give credit where credit is due…and it is due to you, my tougher, less whiny, and far hardier friends. I totally own my weather wussiness.

I love the sun. I looooooooove it. I am super pale and freckly and should relish in the fog and the cold, like I’m sure my ancestors did. But no. I found myself driving to lunch the other day in a particularly chipper mood, ready to treat myself to some flame broiled goodness simply because the sun was out and it made me happy. The music was loud and poppy, and I was smiling like an idiot, and thinking about maybe, just maybe, sticking my head out the window for a moment while I drove. I wanted to create a Twitter account in the drive-thru, just so I could tweet about it.

I like to think I was built for sunshine, because I know what happens when I’m deprived of it. The day that John and I moved to San Francisco, nearly 15 years ago, we were newlyweds. We’d driven a U-Haul up from LA with a couple of annoyed cats in a carrier and our buddy, Bouncer (that’s his name, not something we moved with – though it sounds fun when you take out the comma – “hey look, buddy bouncers are on sale!”) It was August, so I thought my choice of tank top and shorts was a reasonable one. But there I stood in the back of the moving truck, at 4:00 in the afternoon, guarding our 1970’s oversized wicker Gilligan’s Island style chair, shivering and wondering what exactly we’d gotten ourselves into.

That’s the day I knew that things were about to change. Sure, new hubby, new job, new friends, yada yada, but oh my, it was gong to be cold here.

Our first nights in the City, we walked through the fog to get pizza, Chinese food, tacos, and even Pierogi. The foghorns were loud, and ok, maybe a little romantic, but our apartment was terribly damp and comically cold. In the morning, you could see your breath inside, and it was always wise to wear a second sweatshirt for lounging. Years later when the walls kind of started to fall apart, we found that the building had been insulated with newspapers from the 1940’s. But that was part of the undeniable charm of the place, and most certainly the source of the mold that had grown in our suitcases.

There were more than a few days where I’d be headed home on the 38 Geary bus, squished in the aisle or trying to keep my face away from the rear end of the stranger standing at my side who was holding the rail above my head. It would be gorgeous outside, but ahead I could see the bank of fog starting to creep in, and I could point at it and glumly say, “See that cloud? That cartoony looking grey mass? That’s where I live.”

We eventually moved to Marin County, and while John mourned the loss of his precious fog, I would have a dizzying sense of euphoria as we drove home across the Golden Gate Bridge each evening, leaving the grey of our old neighborhood behind for the much more hospitable sunshine. Did you know that Seasonal Affective Disorder is for real? It is. I was suddenly ready to go do things! To go outside! I think I may have even suggested we go on a walk once!

And though talking about the weather is a clichéd cop out for a discussion topic, we are all fascinated, because the freaking weather can easily determine the content of our day. We talk about it for a few reasons – a) it’s kind of a big deal, b) it’s also truly sometimes the only thing we have in common with the person we are talking to c) it’s often the one science any of us have any working knowledge of and d) we have absolutely no control over it, which is where it gets exciting. I have at least three weather related apps on my phone, and during most months, I’m usually just bracing myself for temps in the low to mid ‘60s.

I’m thinking of you my wonderful snow bound, ice bound, blizzardy friends who get out of school today, or have just spent the morning digging out your car. I know that wherever you are, you probably look like you are ready for anything.