Tag Archives: california

Let down your hair

Ready for the show!

Dear internet, last month I spent about a brazillian hours painting one canvas tower, four permanent flats, and four 8 feet by 4 feet double-sided rotating flats for a director friend’s production of Rapunzel. The show was written and performed by adults for children. Dan did most of the design, and a good chunk of that was done remotely and then emailed to me, which I printed out on our crappy out-of-warranty-too-expensive-to-fix printer, and did a whole bunch of math to blow up and be three separate scenes.

Pre-background blackening

Not too shabby, yeah?

The tower was pretty much all my own design (!) and was painted on a large piece of painter’s dropcloth canvas. Let me tell you, that stuff SOAKS up the paint. I played around a little bit trying to figure out a good way to show the perspective of the height, and I think I did pretty well, all things considered. During the show, Rapunzel’s hair was let down from the balcony behind the tower and both the Prince and the Witch used it to swing behind and allow the kids to imagine them climbing it and into the arch window.

Used for both Rapunzel's parents' house and Rapunzel's tower (sans curtain)

Look at that gorgeous stove!

The permanent flats, of which I have no “before” photos, feature three stone walls and one window archway. Dan freehand painted the stove.

The rotating flats were HUGE and HEAVY. Good lord, so heavy. I’m pretty strong, but the weight and size of those things were so ridiculous that I could hardly shove them around by myself, and trying to lift/move them alone was impossible. Plus, a fair amount of the work had to be done while they were laying flat, and I had bruises all over my feet and ankles from accidentally kicking or trying to move them with my feet.

I did this all in one day.

Is it silly to be proud of something so minor?

I think the fountain looks awesome.

One side was the witch’s garden, of which I am particularly proud because I figured out how to do the gate and the placement of everything and the shading all by myself.

Other half of witch's garden

Mmm, gourds

If he only had a brain

The garden, in action

The other side was the interior of Rapunzel’s tower room, with two bookshelves that took about a million years to paint and detail, and a fancy princess bed (that, again, Dan freehand painted. Like you…do?).

Rapunzel's fancy bed, on two flats

Height/age detail marked on the side of the bookcase (a plot point)

These books took SO LONG to paint and detail. Seriously. Hours and hours.

The director’s sister spent HOURS doing the gold lettering detail on the books, and I spent HOURS just figuring out the correct angles at which to draw the bookcases to make sure they’d look right from the audience, according to my crappy printout of Dan’s drawings. But they looked great on the stage!

Wish I could have seen it from the audience

No flash photography = blurry photography

The show opened on Friday morning to a crowd of nearly 300 children, and as a thanks for our work, my friend gave us two tickets so we could go see the show on Saturday. While I was tickled to see all those many many hours of work in action (we were in the program!), the best part was watching the kids get into the show and seeing the adult actors interact with them.

Kids getting their wiggles out before the show began

I love the idea of a theater production that’s specifically designed to be accessible to people of all ages, and I love that Actor’s Theater For Children has been doing it for nearly 40 years!
The only downside is that all those hours of work, not only designing/painting the sets but script development, costumes, rehearsals, and everything else that goes into a production like this will all be done after next weekend. The company will paint over these flats for their next show. At least I’ll know they lent atmosphere to a great production, and someday if someone asks me if I’ve ever painted/designed sets for a play, I can say WHY YES I HAVE.


Trivial pursuits

Yep, put my toes right there.

Way back in, oh, sometime earlier this year (February?), Dan and I both signed up to take the online Jeopardy test. Several people I follow on twitter signed up to take it as well, and as the day and the hour grew closer, I started to get a little bit nervous about it. I thought that was pretty funny, since it’s not like taking a 50-question online quiz would make any difference in my life (it wasn’t for a grade, or to pass a class, or anything else one normally gets as a result of taking a test). Finally, the appointed time arrived, and we both sat in the same places we always do (me on the couch with the laptop, he on the desktop across the room) and we took the test simultaneously.

* * * * * * *

When I was in 6th grade, my middle school had a geography bee (sponsored by National Geographic). It was set up like a spelling bee, except that instead of spelling words, you had to answer geography questions. Despite competing against 7th and 8th graders, I did pretty well (I think I was in the top 10 finishers) and had a lot of fun. In seventh grade, my school did the geography bee again. And I won. My prize was a globe and a subscription to one of the magazines National Geographic published for non-adults, and I had the opportunity to compete in a regional bee if I did well enough on a written exam. Sadly, I must not have done that well, or maybe there was some sort of scheduling conflict, because I never went any further than that school-wide contest. Still, my photo was in the paper, which is what passes for news around these parts.

We won’t talk about what happened in my 8th grade year (I came in second. To a sixth grader. Yeah.), but I got more interested in the National Geography Bee because it was hosted by Alex Trebek. Trebek, as anyone who has watched television in the last 25 years knows, is also the host of Jeopardy, a show I’ve been watching since childhood. I had all these fantasies, once upon a time, of auditioning for the teen tournament or the college tournament but it never got any further than that. My brain is the sort of brain that holds all sorts of useless trivia, and the only thing it’s really gotten me is the ability to beat most people at games like Trivial Pursuit. I can watch Jeopardy and know most of the answers, most of the time. Yay?

* * * * * * *

When I met Dan, I knew I’d met my match in brain sponge/regurgitation abilities. We played Trivial Pursuit once, and he beat me handily because he knew the answers to the sports questions in addition the all the other kinds of questions (sports are my weakness in that game). Dan’s brain for trivia is like 8 times the size of mine, which is saying something. He took the online Jeopardy test in early 2008, and actually did well enough to go in for an audition. Sadly, he was unable to go because they wanted him to audition the same week we got married, so obviously that wasn’t going to happen. I didn’t even know about it until years later, because I was in such a wedding-focused brain fog at the time that even if he told me about his feat (they wanted him to audition for Jeopardy!), it went in one ear and out the other.

So this test that we both took in February was sort of like a do-over for him, and for me it was kind of my chance to feel like maybe I was still a little bit smart. Happily for Dan, he got an email a couple of weeks ago telling him Congratulations! He passed the Jeopardy online test, and would he be able to go to LA to audition for the show?

We talked about it, the pros and cons of driving versus flying. Where he would stay, or we would stay if I went along. The cost of gas and the wear/tear on the car versus two plane tickets plus car rental. Since we both have far more time than money these days, we decided to drive (and heck yes, I wanted to go along. That’s a long, long drive for him to do alone, two days in a row). Oldest Friend, who was in NYC for work, said we could stay at her place (the second time we’ve stayed with her in LA when she wasn’t actually there). We picked out an audiobook at the library to keep us company on our many-hours drive through the most boring part of California, and I put some baby carrots and hummus and apples and oranges in a cooler bag, and Dan put on his “I for one welcome our new computer overlords” t-shirt, and on Wednesday we got in the car and drove to LA. He was fighting a nasty cold that had appeared suddenly on Monday evening, which obviously wasn’t an ideal scenario, but he felt better after sleeping most of Tuesday. We spent the drive listening to a science fiction novel that to our surprise had been written in the early 80s, so the plot included the Cold War and Soviet brainwashing techniques, and we got to hear multiple descriptions of the female characters’ legs and boobs (which, after a while, we had to laugh at the absurdity of every male age 18-80 falling in instant lust with the Town Bicycle). Despite one stop for Subway and one stop for gas, we made it to West LA in just over seven hours.

* * * * * *

After a morning fraught with ridiculousness (no hot water, so Dan had to take a cold shower and I heated water in the electric kettle to enable him to shave; the car had to be moved by 8AM to avoid a street sweeping ticket), Dan headed out to his Jeopardy audition. I plotted a walking route via Google maps that would take me to the Santa Monica pier and back. That’s right, I *WALKED* someplace in LA. I might have been the only person to do so that day, but I wanted to get some miles in after the previous day’s drive and the one to come after Dan finished his audition. I filled up a water bottle, grabbed an energy bar, and pocketed my pedometer, and I walked more than four miles to the beach. After exploring the pier a bit, I took off my shoes and socks and I dipped my toes in the Pacific ocean, the first time I’ve done that since moving back to California.

Here’s what I saw during my trek.

I saw this sign and all I could think of was that they were using electricity to shock bad kids, underground

Crustaceans at the Santa Monica Pier

Nothing's running yet at 9:30 AM

I got so excited when I saw Zoltar, and he looks nothing like the one in Big.

Bouquet on the beach. Well, IN the beach.

One of the clementines had been stolen by some seagulls that were fighting over it.

I was about halfway back to Oldest Friend’s house when Dan called to tell me his audition was over. I could tell it went well by the tone of his voice*, and, despite having already walked approximately seven miles at that point, I got a little spring in my step. He really did it, I thought. He auditioned for Jeopardy and crossed something off his life goal list.

I arrived at Oldest Friend’s house to find I’d walked 9 miles total. We packed our few belongings and got in the car and drove just over seven hours north, only stopping once, for gas/bathroom break, at the station right by Leah and Simon’s house. (We knew gas there wasn’t too expensive, and it’s just off the freeway.) Our kitties were happy to see us when we got home, and we were happy to be out of the car. It felt surreal, for sure: in the morning, I was in Los Angeles, walking through Santa Monica, touching the cold ocean water. In the evening, I was in Cloverdale again. The hours through the Central Valley, listening to the story about the Evil Commies and the Good Americans having to work together to study an alien spacecraft felt like a time warp. All I’ve got to show for that 36 hours are the photos.

*The story of the audition itself isn’t mine to tell (since I wasn’t there) but he’s in the contestant pool for the next 18 months and might get called to be on the show as early as July. If he actually does make it on the show, obviously I’ll write about it then!

Green Snapdragon

New site logo!

Dan and I have spent the past few weeks working on my new business website, the business I’ve been thinking of starting for a couple of years now. Please, go check out the site and tell me what you think!

Special thanks to my pal Erin, who got me out of the morass of overthinking the name, and suggested I use my favorite flower as the business name. There are many floral businesses named Snapdragon, but I’m the only Green Snapdragon out there.

I’m hoping that having a website will help bring in a bit more business, and maybe once I’ve got a few more jobs under my belt, I can start advertising someplace. Craziness!

And then we did this

Sometimes when we go on one of these whirlwind trips to California, I return feeling torn between writing up everything we did (to help me remember, for posterity’s sake) and writing up only the interesting parts (for the benefit of the six people who will read this). No one really wants to read about someone else’s blow-by-blow vacation exploits. So instead of “And then we did this,” I’ll try to highlight the moments, the things that stick in my memory whether I have a photo or not. (In most cases, not.)

* Reading approximately eleventy billion books to Wombat, hastily snarfed burritos, and a long and sleepy drive north

*Driving out through Sebastopol to Bodega Bay, then driving north along the coast all the way to Point Arena, something I hadn’t done in 15 years and something Dan had never done. We ate cherries as the car lurched around the windy, twisty roads, and I identified as many of the wildflowers as I could see from the moving car: wild radish, coastal lupine, monkey flowers.

* Lazy seals

* Eating lunch in the warm sunshine, watching the water, smelling the brine of the Northern California ocean

* Driving the car from Point Arena through Booneville and back to the ‘dale, feeling like I was playing a video game, with only two other cars in the first 26 miles

* Two different incidents of restaurant bad luck (bacon on my dinner sandwich when I asked for none, runny-yolked fried eggs instead of scrambled in my huevos rancheros)

* Breakfast with Heather

* Snarfing a salad at Laurel’s house before our first 3 hour traffic ordeal of the weekend

* The growing dread of being late to the wedding in Auburn, having to do my makeup in the car, and quick-changing in the parking lot while the golf cart kid watched.

* Someone liked it so they put a ring on it.

* The realization that I was going to be the sober driver, hoping I could stay awake and drive safely to the hotel when I could only remember which exit to take. (Luckily, we could see it from the freeway.)

* Seeing Dan have such a good time getting his drink and his dance on

* Going from one party to another (one: all Dan’s family and various relations, the other a birthday party where my sisters were) and seeing my friend’s parents, who I hadn’t seen in about 20 years, and realizing I can only socialize with so many people in one day (we’d had breakfast with some other friends) before my brain stops functioning.

* Getting an entire house to ourselves, complete with friendly kitties, a spider web, and a forbidden kitchenaid stand mixer.

* My first crepe-a-go-go in at least 10 years, plus an hour to myself reading a delightful book on the UC Berkeley campus while Dan had breakfast with his brother, and dozing in my favorite spot of dappled sun/shade

* An entire afternoon and early evening of relaxing and enjoying the company of friends, discussing subjects both mundane and profound, and making fresh lemonade with purloined meyer lemons.

* Dan and his brother sharing one last “hope you find your bike, PeeWee” handshake for in all likelihood a year. Keep safe in Afghanistan, Matt.

All in all, it was a great trip, but thoroughly exhausting from the socializing, the hours of traffic, and travel in general. We got home Monday afternoon and were completely useless for the rest of the day. The saying “I need a vacation from my vacation,” while trite, is often how I feel after a trip like this.


My favorite part about Sather Gate is the bas-reliefs of nekkid men on one side, opposite which it says “Erected by Jane K Sather”

Last year, I lost my camera after we took a trip to California for Memorial Day weekend, and I bemoaned its loss not only because it was a good camera and a pain in the ass to have to replace a camera yet again, but because on the trip I’d taken some photos that I really liked, ones I was pretty sad to lose. Some were photos I’d taken of Wombat at 5 months old, others were from a wander around the UC Berkeley campus. I thought for an entire year about whether or not I could remember and recreate some of the shots I’d lost when that camera fell out of my backpack, so when Dan and I flew into Oakland last Wednesday, the first place we went (after a tasty Naan N Curry lunch on Telegraph) was campus.

Buckeye flower on my favorite tree

My favorite tree. It appears dead and completely hollow, yet it manages to flower and leaf every year!

Dedicated to my diplomat brother-in-law

Baberham Lincoln

Underneath the entrance to the clock tower. Maybe there was once a reflecting pool below it to explain why it’s a mirror image?

This time, we went up the Campanile, the UC Berkeley clock tower. I’d not gone up since I was an undergraduate (when it was FREE, FREE!), and I didn’t have an Alumni card, so we had to pay two bucks each for the view. It was worth it, though.

San Francicso and Golden Gate Bridge as seen from Campanile. Click to embiggen.

Go Bears!

I liked the brickwork pattern.

Ever wondered what the inside of a magnolia looked like? Here you go.

Dan took this one.

I remembered some of the photos I took a year ago, and found some other interesting spots to shoot. It was a good way to spend a couple of hours, decompressing after an early plane ride and gearing up for the several days of socializing ahead.

Just right

I could write a laundry list of all the things we did and all the people we saw/met/spent time with on our trip to California, but I won’t. It was a trip with exactly the right amount of walking, socializing, eating, exploring, and relaxing, with almost everyone I’d been hoping to see. We were hosted on Thursday night by an internet friend we’ve “known” for 9 years but never met, who not only went out of her way to welcome us to San Francisco and offered us a futon to sleep on but somehow magically knew that the thing I wanted most in the world when we finally arrived at her apartment in North Beach was an egg tart all ready to go.

On Friday, Dan and I walked from North Beach all the way down to the Mission in order to meet up with another internet friend, the person through whom we met/booked our wedding photographer. She and her husband got married just a couple of months after we did, and they were in town celebrating his birthday. The walk itself was just what I wanted: through some great parts of the city, and some not-so-great parts, and I kept feeling like we were in some other city that we’d explored together – New York, say, or Rome, or Seattle. But I knew where I was going and enjoyed “discovering” San Francisco all over again. Apparently, San Francisco was expecting me.

We arrived early, did some wandering through hipsterville, but the pirate store wasn’t open. We scouted out some of the stores along Mission for possible pinata procurement, and saw some creepy kid models in Zoot suits. We bought treats at a kindergarten bake sale (one leftover egg tart was not enough for me for breakfast), and relaxed on the grass in Dolores Park, watching the tennis players, listening to the tiny dog barking excitedly for his owner to throw the frisbee again! again! again! Upon arriving at the restaurant, we discovered that our internet wedding friends were just as delightful in person, and we spent a couple of hours chatting and commiserating. They left to have their own San Francisco adventure and we went back up to Mission street and bought the multicolored horse pinata. Because we’d split a piece of bread with vegetables and cheese, we were still hungry and so we then split a Mission burrito, with Mexicoke and too-sweet horchata, and then walked along, the three of us, back downtown.

All-told, between our trek across SF and back, and various on-foot trips in Emeryville (both secret-agent-style and mundane), we walked 10 miles on Friday. Thankfully, though Saturday was errands in the morning and preparation in the afternoon, far less of it was spent on our feet. Of course, no party is complete without the multiple trips to BevMo, the trek around the entire East Bay to procure supplies, or the princess tiara. Oh, did I not mention that? Leah and Simon came to hang out pre-party and gave me an awesome birthday present. And I got to spend a good long while exploring Brian’s backyard with Wombat.

The party. Oh, the party was amazing. We had the right amount of food, and a booze-, candy-, and toy-stuffed pinata, and balloons, and flowers, and waaaaay too much beer. Everyone from my mom to my oldest friend to my old coworker who now lives two blocks from my sister came, from near and far, to help me celebrate my birthday (belatedly) and also celebrate 2 years of Dan and I being married. There were games and hijinks and shenanigans, and the poor pinata did not survive the night, though it took some severe beating with a billy club and Dan’s bare hands to make him finally spill his guts. We wore him as a victory hat, when we weren’t passing around my tiara. I just wish I’d remembered to pull down the viking hat so people could have worn that as well. It was a three Dan party.

I got to celebrate with most of my favorite people in the world, people who I see entirely not enough, and that alone made it a success. That everyone there seemed to have a good time was just icing on the proverbial cake. (There wasn’t cake, but there were Mexican wedding cookies and PW’s lemon crumb bars courtesy my sister. Delicious.)

We spent Sunday recovering and cleaning, returning and relaxing. We saw one sister’s progress on the backyard, and the other sister’s brand new place, and enjoyed a sit on Leah and Simon’s patio furniture, all while being carted around in Brian’s Prius. We spent Monday eating sushi and gelato with the Irish German, and then shopping and relaxing in our hotel room in San Francisco. We found Dan’s new favorite burger joint after hemming and hawing over where and what to eat for our anniversary dinner, and split the champagne Leah and Simon gave us over a shared slice of tiramisu in our hotel bed.

I was sad to be leaving on Tuesday, so we hightailed it over to Ocean Beach and the ocean made me feel very small (and what the hell was up with all the foam?), and then there was a rainbow. By the time we were through with lunch and shlepping to the airport, I felt a little better. We don’t live there yet, but we’re working on it. Everyone will be there, everything will be there, everyone is waiting, and I hope will welcome us with open arms when it’s finally time to leave Denver and go home.

(Click on any photo to embiggen)

Eating my way through California

Yesterday evening we returned from five nights and five days in the Bay Area, and it was one of the best trips we’ve ever taken out there. I’ve got plenty of photographic evidence, but what I’m thinking about today is the sheer diversity and deliciousness of the food we consumed during our trip.

In order:

Egg tarts (a Chinese baked good), Thai food, egg tarts, a brownie, half a veggies/cheese Croque Monsieur from Tartine Bakery, half a Mission burrito (with pollo asado and the works), a caesar salad (self-made), chocolate-covered pretzel chips (my new favorite Trader Joe’s product), oatmeal, Berkeley Bowl sushi, homemade guac, homemade burrito bar, Mexican wedding cookies and sister-made lemon squares, oatmeal, 1/2 masala dosa and 1 veggie-filled samosa with cholla from Vik’s, pizza and fresh greens at Jupiter, yogurt and whole-wheat sourdough toast, sushi from Manpuku in Berkeley, gelato, a teriyaki chicken sandwich with sauteed mushrooms and some sweet potato fries and onion rings from Pearl’s, champagne via Leah and Simon and a few bites of tiramisu, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a hardboiled egg, half of a turkey sub from Subway, and a Specialty‘s semisweet chocolate chip cookie.

In that five days/nights, I ate out 10 times if you count the gelato and the Berkeley Bowl sushi. In comparison, we usually eat out on average around once every six to eight weeks. It’s hard not to go hog-wild when we go to California, where we have so many restaurants we love and access to so much amazing food. I love that nearly all of our food is homemade, and that we eat so healthily most of the time, but that, every once in a while, we splurge for a few days on spectacular food that we only eat a few times a year. It’s too bad it all must be crammed in to such a short period of time.