Wednesday, 21 October 2015

The best party ever?

Eight years ago I went to the best - and the worst - party I think I'll ever go to. Hard to imagine something so beautiful could, in fact, be one of the most painful evenings of my life. 

It was a small gathering, just my parents and me, together in a small space, holding hands, laughing, crying, reminiscing, deliberating. So much discussion with, in fact, so few words.

We remembered family holidays - those camping trips in the 70's which were our own version of Emma Kennedy's The Tent, The Bucket and Me. My Dad would pack EVERYTHING into Mum's Mini, the tent taking up the whole boot, the car filled to the rafters with everything else. He would build me a seat on top of a few boxes and then pack the car around me! And we'd be off, 'up north' with several other families to a campsite (I use that term VERY loosely - my memory is that it was simply a field with one downpipe on the edge of a forest and near a VERY cold stream that we washed in - if we had to!). Oh my, what fun we all had, though! 

We laughed and remembered funny incidents..."D'you remember when Dad...?" "What about the time when....?" You know the type of thing.

We went 'travelling' together that night, remembering trips to the Algarve, Mallorca, France (remember, Mum, when you forgot what side of the road to drive on in Bordeaux and found yourself faced with three lanes of traffic heading your way?!!), me recounting my solo trips to France as a teenager and then my round-the-world travels after university, which then led to questions - I was so independent, how was that for you as my parents? How could you, Mum, feel comfortable with me doing that? How could you let me? At the time my daughter was 18 months old. I could barely cope with being away from her for the working day, let alone imagine her travelling the world as a young woman on her own. Really? Was I going to be able to do that for her? My Mum, with her usual strength of conviction, told me I would, that I would just know when the time was right for that to happen. That I would be able to give my girl the wings she needed, like she had given me, and it would be right. I'm still not sure I wholly believe her but I'm holding her words in my heart and trusting that she will be right.

And so it went on, our evening of extreme loveliness, heads together, remembering, imagining, dreaming and waiting. Waiting for the inevitable end that was coming but that none of us wanted to accept.

At the end of the evening, Mum said, quite clearly, "Thank you for coming to my party". The three of us squeezed hands and did our best to smile, despite the tears streaming down our faces.

My mum was at the end of her life. 

This party was the last that we would share in person. 

And it was beautiful.

Filling the time before lunch...

Last Saturday was a most glorious autumn day - slightly chilly but beautifully sunny. More of a lightweight cardigan day than the full on scarf and boots day the week turned into. 

Looking to kill an hour before lunch, I encouraged my littlest daughter and her friend to make an autumn mobile each rather than start watching TV. 

First up, we grabbed a basket and headed out in search of 'treasure'. As it turned out we didn't have to venture far before we found loads of gorgeous leaves; the colours a mix of reds and greens with a bit of yellow and orange thrown in too. We had such a lovely time sorting through the piles of leaves that our plan for a major nature trail soon turned into more of a 'find your favourite leaves from this massive pile'! It was hard not to pick them all up!

(You'll notice Fudge Bear, the class mascot, helping out too!)

Home we went and laid out our stick (that the leaves would be hanging from) on the patio table and sorted out our favourite leaves from the mass. That was a challenge in itself!

We were rather impatient which meant that instead of pressing the leaves so they would stay flat, we used sticky back plastic front and back to keep them from curling. You could laminate them too, if you've got the equipment (we don't so we didn't!!). It was a bit laborious and won't last forever, but it was a good temporary option.

So, each leaf was stuck onto the sticky side, then another piece stuck on top. Push them together to seal and then some scissor exercise by trimming around the edge - not too close though or the leaf will pop out!!

Once we were happy with our leaves, I used two strands of orange embroidery thread to tie all the leaves in a line, then wrapped this around the stick to hold them in place. 

My daughter also found some conkers she wanted to add. My challenge was to poke a skewer through the conker to make a hole WITHOUT stabbing myself in the process!! Thankfully I avoided any major incident.

Once the strings of leaves or conkers were tied into place, I added another strand of thread to make a hanger.

And then we were done! 

Finding somewhere to hang it to take a photograph wasn't so easy, but I'm sure you get the drift.

This was SO simple and SO lovely to do. I recommend it to everyone, whatever your age!!

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

San Francisco, I love you!

Now, if you were to ask me what I loved most about San Francisco, my answer will always be "my best friend lives there"! Since you're about to visit, you would also ask me what you should see whilst you're there, and that would be trickier to answer. There are so many great things to see and do whatever time of year you visit. To be honest, though, I could happily do nothing more than hang out with my BFF drinking lattes and martinis (not at the same time, I hasten to add), but that's not so helpful, is it?!

Places I love to visit in SF

Golden Gate Park : take a stroll (or run!) through the park, breathe in the smell of eucalyptus, catch a glimpse of Tai Chi in action, soak up the sun through the trees and enjoy! 

For a bit of culture (and a great view over the city & Golden Gate Bridge) head to the De Young museum and up to the viewing level. Amazing, every time!

There's also a fantastic slide in the Koret Children's Quarter, as well as lots of other fun stuff.

Coit Tower : another great spot for fabulous views of the city. It's so calm up here, I love it. 
And if you do go, just imagine a limousine trying to get around that tiny roundabout, getting stuck & having to offload its passengers! Yup, that was me on my bachelorette party!

Crissy Field : a view of the bridge, a walk in the sand, just lovely. Now part of the Golden Gate Recreation Area, this used to be a military airfield. Hard to imagine that now.

Alcatraz : no really, trust me, it's REALLY worth it! I'm not really one for doing the tourist trail, but a trip out to Alcatraz is, honestly, good. Make sure you get the headphones for all the gory sound effects! And,make sure you book early - everyone wants to visit Alcatraz.

Downtown (Union Square, Market Street) : I love the hustle and bustle of Downtown SF, the high rise buildings, the sound of people and cars and fire engines (boy, are they LOUD!). You can get everything downtown - from a Tiffany necklace to Ghiradelli chocolate, designer stores like Coach, Kenneth Cole, Kate Spade - and Old Navy!

If you get a chance to head out of town, pop over to Berkeley or take the ferry to Sausalito. If you can, take a trip to the gorgeous town of Sonoma. If nothing else, it'll be a good excuse for wine-tasting. 

Places I love to eat

Blowfish Sushi (on Bryant Street). I love sushi but still don't know how to order! Hence I have to go with my BFF who does know how... Oh and it's worth visiting for their cocktails alone!

Humphry Slocombe ice cream : oh my, this is the best ice cream (apart from my own salted caramel of course) and the flavours are just ace! There are now three locations in the city. You really should check them out.

Mel's Drive-In : because, well, you just have to! A good ole American diner with several restaurants throughout the city.

Super Duper Burgers : again, there are several of these throughout the city. I like the one on Chestnut Street as it is good sustenance to aide the shopping spree!!

Toy Boat Dessert Cafe : No website but you can find this cute little place on Clement Street in the Richmond District. 

I have fun memories of this place (& still have a t-shirt somewhere in the back of the cupboard). On my next trip, I'm going back just to update my memories (I'm told the desserts are STILL good some twenty years later!).

Places I love to shop

Those of you who know me well won't be surprised by this list...for those of you who don't, I love shoes, handbags, paper, pens, craft supplies, homeware (especially little bowls!!). This list is by no means exhaustive, it's just MY list!

Ambiance  : a lovely boutique in Noe Valley or Chestnut Street selling goregous clothes, shoes and handbags. What's not to love!?

Crate and Barrel : a big US chain but nonetheless I love it. I'm reminded of the Habitat of old. 

Paper Source : the American equivalent of Paperchase. For those who know me well, I don't need to say anything more! Plus it's got so many craft supplies I could spend hours there. Oh yes, I did, didn't I?!

Books Inc : Another place to get lost in. Book shops are just ace anywhere in the world. This one, also on Chestnut Street, carries a wide range of beautiful books.

Trader Joes : Sad but true, I love looking in supermarkets when I'm overseas.

So, most of my wonts are satisfied by the a list above. I have yet to find a good fabric store (apart from Britex, which I find blinding, it's SO huge), so if anyone can recommend one (or two or three) I'd be grateful - because I need more fabric!!! And I'll be heading back soon...

This is by no means an exhaustive list; in fact I could go on and on about places you should see, you MUST see, but I'll leave it there. Suffice to say, if anyone has any other 'must see' places, please let me know. I'm heading back next month for an overdue martini with my BFF. I can't wait....