Friday, May 31, 2024

New England and a Wedding

Why do we travel any more? Well it seems nowadays it’s mostly about family. We’ve been going to California a lot to see Emi and be part of her life (perhaps you’ve noticed? Haha). But this time we’ve going the other direction, back to Boston for Max and Rachel’s wedding. 

Of course this was a perfect excuse for us to go back to New England too. The wedding is Sunday in Topsfield, MA, but we flew in yesterday evening, grabbed a rental car, and drove to Salem, New Hampshire where we used to live. 

 We stayed at the Artisan Hotel in the Tuscan Village, where the old Rockingham race track used to be. This planned development was not here when we lived here, and even 2 years ago when we took the RV and drove here from Minnesota, this was mostly a construction site. But now! Wow! Lots of retail, restaurants, apartments and condos, all beautifully designed and constructed. It’s still not finished, there is more construction going on, but there is enough that it really felt like we were somewhere we had never been before.

We landed at a little after 5 pm, and although it took a while to get our rental car, we were in Salem by a little before 7. We checked in, I changed clothes and before too long we were downstairs getting drinks at the bar and waiting for Rich and Paula.

The Tuscan Kitchen used to be over on Main Street but they’ve moved to the hotel. It too is bright and beautiful and the food is just as good as ever. Before too long Rich and Paula showed up and we were busy talking and catching up. But I needed to eat; I had ordered an old fashioned and it had been a while since I’d eaten much of anything. I wasn’t feeling crabby, but I knew I shouldn’t drink on an empty stomach and my mood when hungry could turn on a dime (ask Lee) so we quickly ordered some apps, the burrata and the calamari, both excellent. Then I got the lobster gnocchi, Lee got the halibut and Paula got this amazing dish made table side where they had a giant wheel of cheese, poured cognac over it, set the cognac alight and then swirled pasta and a sauce in it! It was very fun to watch, and tasted good too.

Lee’s halibut was great. My gnocchi was good but I kept stealing bites of his fish. You just can’t get fish like that in Minnesota.

We talked and talked, but finally we had to call it a night. We went up to our room and turned on the Wolves/Mavericks game. Ugh, the Wolves lost by a point, again. We both said they looked tired. They missed a lot of shots too. Oh well.

In the morning Lee went downstairs and got us coffee and got me a sweet roll too. I was going to go for a swim but their pool wasn’t open, even though it was supposed to open at 8, and I didn’t want to wait around, so I went for a run instead. It was so strange! Until I was out off the Village, and even after that, I wasn’t entirely sure where I was! Then I passed the Pleasant Street Church where I used to volunteer at their food pantry and then I was oriented. I ran a little on the rail trail and then turned around.

It was time to check out and drive to Tynesboro to meet Amy D and Jason for brunch! Another wonderful reunion and we also got to meet Jason for the first time. We approve! he’s a very nice man, likes silly jokes, loves Amy’s dogs and is a Disney convert so he’s perfect!

After brunch we drove to Peabody and checked into the wedding hotel. Right now we’re just chilling in our hotel room. Introvert me needs to unwind just a little bit before our next round of socialization!

Sunday May 26.

Around 4:30 we roused ourselves and I got dressed for the cocktail party. I liked my dress but I was a little nervous. The event was listed as casual; would my dress be too much? As it turned out it was fine, not too dressy at all, just about right.

It was great seeing my cousin Mark and his wife Amy, the parents of the groom. They both looked great. Amy has finally retired from her job as a pediatric oncologist; they’ve bought a house on the Cape and are getting ready to enjoy life, although Mark, also a doctor, is still working, for now. Mark’s parents, my aunt Ray and Uncle Al, have moved into an independent living place in St. Louis, after living in the same house for most of their married life. They are in their 90’s and it’s been a big adjustment. I really should try to make it to St. Louis sometime soon. It was too much for them to attend the wedding.

I talked to Amy’s brother and some of their friends. We’ve been to a seder at their house when we lived here; fond memories! We also talked to Barbie, Mark’s sister (and also my cousin of course) and her partner Richard. It was so nice to see her, and finally meet Richard.

There was lots (and lots) of food, all kinds of snacks, burgers, salads, pizza, appetizers of all kinds, you name it. An open bar, some toasts, and an adorable slide show documenting Max and Rachel’s relationship. They met at the beginning of covid, in March of 2020, and spent the first month getting to know each other online before they were finally able to meet.

Finally around 7:30 we said our goodbyes and staggered upstairs to our room. This introvert needed to shut up for a while and recharge!

In the morning I took my time, drinking coffee, eating a banana and some beignets that Lee had bought. Finally I got myself ready and went for a run. The pool here is way too small to swim laps, so I went outside and did a 5.5 mile workout. It was in the 60’s and I got good and sweaty.

After that we drove up to Markey’s in Hampton Beach for a lobster roll. It’s a beautiful day so after lunch we drove up the coast for a while. We thought maybe we would park somewhere and walk along the beach but unless we wanted to spend $15 at the State Park there was no parking so we just drove around with the other hordes and stopped to get an ice cream cone at Beach Plum before we headed back to the hotel. 

The ice cream cone was ridiculous. I got a kiddie cone and could barely eat half. Lee got a large and he couldn’t finish his either. I want to know in what universe you would give a child a cone that size!

Tuesday May 28

Well we’re sitting in the airport at 6:51 AM waiting for our flight back to Minnesota. It’s been a whirlwind couple of days! I’ve done enough talking to last me a week at least!

Back to Sunday. We had some time to chill in the hotel room before it was time to get dressed for the wedding. I liked my black ruffly dress and Lee looked good in his suit as well. We took the shuttle to the venue in Topsfield. It was very nice not to have to mess with a car, and we didn’t have to worry about being late or where to park.

We wondered how their wedding had ended up in Topsfield. Max and Rachel live in San Diego, Rachel’s family lives in California, and Mark and Amy live in  Newton, MA, a suburb of Boston. Turns out it was pretty simple. Max grew up in New England and Rachel didn’t want any palm trees in her wedding photos! And it was a very pretty venue.

The ceremony was outside in the adjacent garden. It actually was the first purely Jewish wedding I’ve been to in a very long time. It was pretty nice, incorporating elements of Jewish tradition with a modern twist. Rachel had chosen just beautiful flowers, and copius amounts of them too; roses, hydrangeas and others in various shades of white and pink. The bridesmaid’s dresses were a light pink, in different styles. The groomsmen had bright pink bow ties, and Teddy’s man bun had a pink ribbon as well! Cute. Max and Rachel wrote their own vows, and they were pretty mind-blowing. They are both very articulate and love each other so much. I said to someone that, yes it sounds corny, but this truly seems to be a match made in heaven.

After the ceremony there were cocktails and appetizers available until it was time to head upstairs to the reception. We were seated at a table with Mark’s high school friends. Although we both grew up in St. Louis I’m about 6 years older than Mark and he went to Ladue and I went to Parkway Central, which are two different universes in the St. Louis galaxy. It was interesting talking to some of them. The woman sitting next to me had a fascinating job involving event planning (I think, it was pretty loud and hard to hear) and something involving lots and lots of confetti, in New York City. It sounded like fun, whatever it was. The man sitting next to Lee was a retired fund-raiser with a prodigious memory. Mark had obviously told him about us and he knew who we were, our names, where we were from, you name it! He was easy to talk to.

His wife was sitting across from me so we didn’t talk much, but at one point, seemingly out of the blue, she asked me, “so, do you practice your faith?”. I was so taken aback! But I think she must have heard Lee talking because at one point he mentioned that he wasn’t Jewish. I also think it was a bit of a St. Louisim, not too unlike “what high school did you go to?” She was trying to categorize me, but I’m not very categorizable! Yes I identify as Jewish and I’m proud of my origins. We raised our kids as Jews, but I’m not very observant. We celebrate hanukah and passover, and once in a very long while I’ll go to services, but that’s about it. If I was braver I would have used the Ann Landers rejoinder, “why do you ask?” but instead I tried to explain myself. Sigh.

Dancing, dinner, and some really really great toasts by the parents, Teddy, and one of Rachel’s cousins. Mark and Amy’s toasts were especially cute, involving aprons that included baby pictures of the bride and groom.

There was dinner, there was dancing, and of course the obligatory hora. We were both very tired, and by 9:30 we were more than ready to call it a night. We said our goodbyes and made our way to the waiting shuttle. 

In the morning I went to the gym and tried out a peloton bike. I don’t have an account but there is a “just ride” option so I used that. It was a good workout, but basically a spin bike.

There was a very relaxed morning brunch, so we went to that. I sat next to Mark and we talked for a while. He is just a really nice man. He’s going through a lot of what I went through with my mom, trying to take care of his parents long distance as they age. It’s very hard and there are just no easy solutions.

After brunch we drove back up to Salem and did a little shopping in Tuscan Village before checking back into our hotel. We stopped at the J Crew outlet and got ourselves some deals, shorts for me, jeans, shirts and boxers for Lee, all 50% off or more. Then we stopped at Athleta and I got myself another one of their wraps that I really like. Some of them were on sale, but of course the color I wanted was not. Boo.

We relaxed in our hotel room for a little awhile and then it was time to head to Diane’s for a pizza party with my Westie friends. Wow it was so nice to see everyone! Amy and Jason, Stephanie and Ryan, Amy C and Chris, Diane and Dennis, Diane’s friend Mary and her daughter and Steph’s mother and father, Kathy and Steve. We caught up on what everyone is doing, ate a lot of pizza, petted dogs, and met Diane’s new wild Mustang, Faihd. Yes really a wild horse that Diane is taming by herself. She’s not just a Westie whisperer; all animals have a special affinity for her.

A few people there are having pretty bad health issues and that makes me sad. Another one of our elderly dogs has passed away. RIP Benny. He died of kidney failure, same as Cossy. Sigh. We’re all doing the best we can, though. It made me feel very fortunate. I have a pretty good life, and most of the time things go relatively easy for me. My family is healthy and so am I. I’m grateful, because as we all know, it can change before you know it.

Saturday, May 18, 2024


Ever since I got my new bike, almost 2 years ago, I’ve been intrigued by trying to do a triathlon. There are a lot of reasons it’s a good idea for me, and one big reason it’s not. As an older athlete, using a variety of muscles is a great way to stay in shape and avoid injury. Triathlons end up using your whole body, so they definitely check that box. Triathlons also require a lot more planning and strategy than just a plain road race. That’s good for my aging brain, if a little intimidating. I like new challenges, and triathlons definitely check that box!

HOWEVER, and this is a big one, when I first started toying with this idea seriously last summer, I quickly discovered that my swimming was abysmal. I can swim, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not sure if I ever took lessons beyond when I was a little kid. I can do the crawl, but it left me breathless, gasping for air, and a little panic-stricken at the end of a lap!

I first started going to the pool last August. When I first started I could barely swim a lap (25 yards) using the crawl, so I did a lot of breaststroke. I tried to do the backstroke but I flat out sunk when I did! I bought a kick board and tried practicing with that, but I had hardly any power in my kick and I was so slow I felt like I might be going backwards!

Something had to change if I was going to make this idea a reality. I’m planning on doing a sprint Tri: 600 yard swim (in a lake), 15 mile bike ride, 5k run. The tri that I settled on is beginner friendly, no time cut off, and it’s at the end of the summer (Labor Day weekend) so the water will be warm enough that I won’t need a wetsuit so that’s one less complication to deal with. 

I started researching different swim training options. Anything I found in person was either for adults that need to learn to swim, or were for coaching and too expensive. I started researching online. I looked at 3 different options. The first one was TriDot. It’s very popular but I found it overwhelming and it was more for training people that already can swim well. There’s another program called Effortless Swimming, and there’s a third one called Total Immersion (I’m sure there are others but these are the ones I looked at). I settled on Total Immersion. I could purchase an online course for $50 that included an ebook, eworkbook, and videos.

I did the complete course before I started swimming laps again. Basically it completely broke down the freestyle stroke method into small pieces and I practiced each piece until I felt confident that I was doing it correctly and then followed the directions for putting them all together.

By March I was swimming laps again. What a difference! I could swim lap after lap without feeling tired or gasping for air!

I’m slowly working my way up now to increasing the amount of time I can swim continuously. I’m up to 200 yards, which would have been impossible last year. It won’t be long before I’ll need to start swimming in open water, which from everything I’ve read will be another challenge.

Besides swimming I still need to run and bike, although I’m not covering big distances right now. However I can’t be satisfied with training for just one activity, can I? I’m doing a couple long bike rides in July, and at the beginning of October I’m going to run the TCM 10 Mile race, that was cancelled last year. 

The biggest limitation that I feel like age puts on me now is that I get more tired than I used to. For example, I worked in the yard this morning, pulling weeds and doing some pruning. I was out there most of the morning and now I’m trashed, but I’m supposed to do a short bike ride this afternoon. It’s only 35 minutes, maybe 6-7 miles, and it will probably feel good, but it’s going to take some motivation to get me out there. I better start working on that!

Saturday, May 11, 2024

California May 2024

This is just one big post. I hope you don't mind!

May 3 Friday

We flew here yesterday. Our flight was uneventful, although delayed a bit because of the runway construction in SF. It’s supposed to be finished by July. Thank goodness, because it’s a pain!

I watched a documentary about Shere Hitt on the plane, that I had downloaded from Amazon. The Disappearance of Shere Hitt.  If you are a woman age 65 or above, you know who she is. In the late 70’s she was a researcher working on a PhD in history when she became interested in human sexuality. She decided to do a survey of female sexuality. She sent out 1,000’s of surveys, by mail, and asked women to send them back anonymously. She asked the women about their sexual life, orgasms, masturbation, everything. To say this was revolutionary at the time is an understatement. The book that she wrote about the survey results was a best seller. My friends and I devoured it. Here was confirmation that what we thought and felt and did about sex was normal and not weird or unusual in the slightest.

At first Shere was lauded and her research was acclaimed. But she didn’t stop with women, she did another survey about men, and then the tide turned. Men just didn’t want to hear that other men felt lonely  or misunderstood, that they felt tremendous pressure about sexual performance. Men didn’t want to admit that they too sometimes felt the same way, especially not in public. So she was attacked. She would go on talk shows trying to defend her work and get blind-sided by the men interviewing her. They criticized her research methods, and they criticized her as not credible, because she was stunningly beautiful and had made a living as a model before her books were published. 

The attacks got so bad that she left the US and basically disappeared for most of the rest of her life, living in Germany and Paris with her husband, a concert pianist. She couldn’t find a publisher for her subsequent books. It was very sad. She died in 2020 (after a long illness, so cancer) and if you ask someone under 60 who she is they have no idea. Maybe this documentary will help give her some of the credit that was denied her back in the 70’s and 80’s.

Ok, back to California. Dan picked us up at the airport and we were at their house by 2 pm PT. For some strange reason I had no problem  adjusting. I ate lunch on the plane, had a snack around 3 Pacific time and survived until we ate dinner at around 6. I stayed up until almost 9 and slept til 5! Cant ask for anything better than that!

Emi is amazing. At almost 5 months she’s changed so much! She can roll from back to front and front to back. She can sit up with support. Her little personality is emerging. She smiles, and almost laughs. She’s become very vocal! She has a lot to say! She stares at people in wonder, faces are her favorite thing. She only seems to cry if she’s hungry or tired, so she’s still a very easy baby, especially since she’s over her 4 month regression and is sleeping through the night again.

We are going to watch her some of the time on Friday and Monday, so Daniel showed me how to do her bottles and how to put her down for a nap. Dan and Kelsey use an app called Huckleberry to record her naps and her feedings. This is very helpful; the app somehow knows when she needs another bottle, when she’s ready for a nap. It takes some of the mystery out of babysitting, although the mystery is now transferred to the app; I mean how does it know?

It is absolutely beautiful here. It rained all winter and now the sun is shining, the highs are in the 60’s and 70’s and flowers are blooming riotously. Roses, poppies, daisies, so many others, all different colors, shapes and sizes! I will definitely be taking some pictures when I’m not photographing Emi that is!

Sunday May 5

Yesterday was very rainy so I took the day off from exercising. We decided to go on a little adventure. First we went to this pastry place in San Mateo. Backhaus. Dan and Kelsey said it was really good and it was. Dan got an “everything” croissant that tasted like a bagel. Kelsey got a traditional croissant that was HUGE. I got a miso pecan sticky roll. You couldn’t taste the miso but it made the pecan roll less sweet and really really good. I thought I wouldn’t eat the whole thing but I did! 

It was still pouring, but the next stop was very interesting. We went to pick up some noodles in Daly City that a guy sells out of his house. They are supposed to be really good, so Daniel ordered them a couple of years ago and then forgot about them. Well this week his name finally rose to the top of the list so  we went to pick them up. We pulled up to the house, Dan texted the guy and he brought out the noodles, including condiments and garnishes to cook them with.

Our last stop was a bit of a drive, up to Marin on the other side of San Francisco. It was kind of fun driving through GG park and across the bridge. First we stopped at an InandOut because Lee didn’t get a pastry so he was hungry. He got a burger, Kelsey got some french fries to go and a shake and Dan got one of the items on their secret menu, a burger made with lettuce to hold it instead of a bun. Apparently InandOut has a “secret” menu where if you’re in the know you can order all kinds of variations on their standard menu. Just Google “InandOut secret menu” and you’ll see what I mean.

Then we went to our last stop but sadly it was a bust. It was a ceramic store in Sausalito called Heath, that was having a big sale. Dan and Kelsey wanted more plates and bowls but there was a line way out the door and down the street so we called it a day and drove home.

When we got back to their house it stopped raining so we went for a walk which felt great after being cooped up in the car. I took pictures of all the flowers; so very pretty!

For dinner we had some of the noodles, grilled chicken, and asparagus. The noodles were really good. Lee and I split one of the packages because it really was a lot of food. It was too spicy for Kelsey so Dan has a lot left over, but he can freeze them.

This morning it was cold but sunny, 45F at 8 am. I had found a nearby pool where I could go swimming, Rinconada pool. I could get a day pass as a senior for $9 so a deal. I was afraid that it would be like the pool in La Hoya and be cold, but it was great. The locker room was heated and the pool was heated to 80F, so all I had to do was walk across the deck and slip into the water.

I had 1000 yards to swim, as 3x100, then 3x200 and then 100 to cool down. My swimming is going so much better. Then online class I took helped me so much. I really should write a blog post about it and how it transformed my swimming. Anyway I had no trouble with this workout and could have swum more.

Next up, we drove to Menlo Park to check out a daycare that was having an open house. D and K like their current daycare but they wanted to see another one and compare. Lee and I took Rossi for a walk around a pretty neighborhood and through a park. D and K said that they liked their daycare better. It was kind of reassuring to them that their daycare was a good fit for them.

Then for lunch we went to a place called the Alpine Inn, an outdoor Mexican/American restaurant that’s very popular. We were lucky that there was only a 30 minute wait. It reminded me of places in Texas with all the outdoor seating under tents, trees and canopies, with heaters for this time of year when it’s still a little chilly. Lots of kids, dogs and ppl with bicycles too. We ordered a variety of food. Chips and guacamole, chilly cheese french fries (good), margaritas, lemonade. Then Dan got a burrito, I got a BLAT, Lee got tacos, and Kelsey got mac and cheese. I could only eat half of my sandwich, it was HUGE, and I let ppl eat some of the bacon and avocado too. We hung out for a while, it was just so nice out.

Tuesday May 7

Flying home today, our flight leaves at 3. Friday night and last night we watched the Timberwolves annihilate the Nuggets. I’m not a big fan of professional basketball, but wow, they are fun to watch! The Nuggets are last year’s NBA champions so the Wolves are now considered serious contenders for the title. It’s a 7 game series, though and there are lots of games to go; the season doesn’t end until June.

Yesterday we watched Emi while Dan and Kelsey worked. She is such an easy baby, even though she is teething so she does get fussy sometimes, and DROOLS, lol. I went for a run and we went for both a morning and afternoon walk. I had lots of steps by the end of the day!

We did tummy time, read books, took naps, drank bottles. We are getting the hang of what she needs but of course by the next time we see them it will all have changed again. Babies change so quickly that first year.

For our afternoon coffee I went to a place called Backyard Brewery to pick up some coffee to go. It was excellent! For dinner we went to an Udon noodle restaurant. We brought Rossi so we had to sit outside, which would have been fine except that the trees were shedding pollen and little seed things. It was all around us in the air and on the table; I’m sure we ate some! 

It was a very nice visit. They are coming to Minnesota at the end of June, and we are going back to Palo Alto in August. I can’t wait!


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