Monday, December 31, 2007

the end of the year

Beautiful day here in Rome, all of them have been spectacular so far. Sunny, not warm, but very comfortable for walking and taking in the sights.

Tonight we'll be watching Rome celebrate the new year with military grade fireworks, lots of singing and screaming and hugging and kissing.
We'll be eating lentils and cotechino, braised greens, fennel salad and toast in the new year with a nice barbera and prosecco. Chocolates from Paris, typical Roman cookies and Sicilian clementines will finish off our celebrations. It is a good life, we have, we are lucky.

All day long the streets and monuments have been filled with Romans enjoying the day. We stood in the museum of the Capitoline taking in the sights and amazed at the number of people walking in the Forum amongst the ruins. Later we enjoyed a lovely lunch in the Ghetto where TH enjoyed her trippa alla romana and I tested my new gold standard in pasta - cacio e pepe.

The air is filled with people wishing each other a good new year, blessings and good fortune. Every five to ten minutes it sounds like the cannon that sits at the top of the Janiculum hill is going off, but that is just Roma saying goodbye to 2007 and hello to 2008.

I wish the same for you, happy new year and may 2008 be filled with joy, good health and love.


Saturday, December 29, 2007

the great leap forwards

View from the terrace, December 2007 (cameraphone).

I'm not going to go in depth here, because I vowed to spend only fifteen minutes a day on the computer, but the Rome that I have loved for the last ten years and have been to at least ten times in the last ten years seems to be changing.

Wine bars, remodeled coffee shops, chain stores and supermercatis everywhere are changing the face of Rome, a city I love for the fact it seems resilient to change.

Change is hard, especially for me.

Is a tarted up coffee shop going to make me spend more time there? A new supermercati does not make provisioning (the one hour spent daily to acquire milk, clementines, fughi and carciofi as well as scrumming for bread) any easier really. It just makes it more modern and in some ways more impersonal. The vendors in the food market change yearly it seems, with fewer and fewer food people and more and more scarves, handbag vendors and touristy tat.

The lack of goods, such as today's foray to find napkins (cloth) took hours because the good kitchen supply shop near where we stay is gone. We managed to secure very lovely placemats, but heaven forbid that one can find a cloth napkin that matches. TH and scoured the streets (not such a bad task) and finally found napkins, first white and then a cheery festive red that matched.

Tomorrow, our friends R&K arrive. TH will do the traditional meeting them at the local train station and then the fun really begins. We hope to be able to show them our Rome, some touristy, some not so.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Decompression chamber

I am having a hard time relaxing, much to the irritation of TH.

I want to go go go, yet, my body is saying, relax.

This is nearly impossible for someone like me.

I am completely and utterly conflicted.

Off to attempt to nap, after an espresso.

more later

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Rome as we see it, mosaiced in flickr.

It is snowing here, not too hard, but making one wonder if driving to someone's house is such a great idea when you could snuggle up at home and eat leftover sugar cookies and plum pudding for dinner. However, family obligations are such that going out on a freezing night with a mother who has a mother of a cold is just what you do.

Tomorrow, we fly to Rome for seven days and then another three in Lazio and Florence and then one more night in Rome before we fly home.

I am excited to show TH some gardens that I saw ten years ago and wished that she could visit. Her plan is to not have one, but to drink cappucino decaffeinato, eat gelato and practice her Italian scrumming for piazza bianca as she wants. Honestly, I'll just be happy to see her happy and relaxed for the first time in two or three years (the post-classwork/orals/pre-research years).

We'll be blogging while gone, flickring and twittering as we can, so stay in touch.

Ci vediamo ragazzi.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

winter light

Some morning, on my way to work, November 2007.

Today was the first day of winter, one of my favorite days of the year. It brings me hope that I'll be able to walk Ernest in the light, wake again to natural light and give me an inkling that all will be okay in the world as spring comes soon after.

While we woke to lashings of rain and a dull gray sheet of clouds, the day brightened as it went on. It improved to the point that the and errands that required doing and things that couldn't wait, waited, while we stood in the dining room and smiled at the sun coming in and warming our house.

Hello Winter, thank you for bringing us light and warmth, if just for those brief minutes.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Raise your hand if yesterday was the first time you heard that Britney Spears had a sister.

Raise your other hand if yesterday was the first time you had heard of Britney Spears.

Okay, get back to wrapping.

Monday, December 17, 2007

coming home

Father sun, my garden, sometime in 2006.

Tonight my brother and I are picking my parents up from the airport. It is unusual for even one of us to drive to the airport to pick them up. We're not bad people, its that my parents are pretty independent souls and they are used to either picking up a car that we have left them or getting a taxi.

However, tonight my parents are coming back to Seattle forever.

Growing up we were not particularly peripatetic people. The first few years after leaving Iran, we traveled where my father could get a better position as he moved up the ladder from intern to resident to fellow to faculty. My mother continued to do whatever was needed, making friends and connections as she could, keeping us amused and out of our father's way while he studied or slept between shifts. When he realized that at the ripe age of 41 that he had to move from the University to private practice to give his family everything that he never had, he made that shift.

Even when he made that jump, he went from the University to a hospital in West Seattle that desperately needed someone with his leadership, good nature and organizational skills to bring the hospital around. My father accomplished this and then moved on with his team he had amassed to a larger hospital. He flourished in a practice at a time when medicine was not about HMOs and PPOs and they just went to work and helped people. My father left his practice at the right time, he worked hard and had a good group of doctors around him to carry on.

He wanted to garden in the sun, enjoy his days off without rain gear, he wanted to see blue skies that stayed blue and to garden in short sleeves all year around. They moved to California where they built a house that few could dream of and enjoyed it with their friends. They later decided to downsize and remodeled a house that many would still consider to be palatial. During this time, my mother and father remained upbeat, even as they had to visit their things in storage while the contractors ripped out walls and installed granite counter tops.

Last year, when my brother was offered his dream position back in Seattle, my parents decided it was time to come home. They had different requirements than they did in 70s and 90's and 00's when they did major moves, but over time we managed to find something that would work for them. It still requires time and effort to get my mother's seal of approval, but for me its perfect. It brings them within five minutes of myself and my work, near a good grocery store, a pharmacy, hair salon and close to some of their long time friends.

The last few weeks have been very emotional for my mother and father. In the twelve years they have been associated San Diego and La Jolla they have made an amazing group of friends. My mom has been involved in several large charitable organizations and my father has kept himself busy educating himself at the Salk Institute. They are losing bond to my mother's nursing school friends who are known to fly down for a the weekend to have a bbq. These people gave them a sense of adventure and spontaneity that seems to lack here. I don't know why that is, but it just feels that way. In Seattle, they have twenty seven years of memories and an extended family that cannot wait to see them, yet, it all feels so bittersweet.

I cannot explain it, but the move that is permanent means that they are now rooted here, something that cannot be moved. I hope they do not lose their sense of adventure when they come home.

Friday, December 14, 2007

lesser of two evils

Marching into the new year, Ernest the puppy, January 2007.

TH and I have this routine after dinner. One of us walks the dog while the other does the dishes and puts away dinner makings and leftovers.

90% of the time I opt for dog walking.

Tonight, I got to do both as dinner clean up took too long and it was only fair to TH.

Next time we're going the long way home.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Not to feel dead old or anything.

I wonder if Lawrence Welk is on the comeback?

Busy here, well, not really too busy. TH is at work (its 10 pm people), Ernest helped sample lemon poppy seed shortbread and I'm too tired to even consider the ten holiday cards that Ernest needs to send out tomorrow.

Tomorrow, that is it, I'll do them tomorrow before work.

nm who wishes she could be misty mountain hopping with the rest of them

Friday, December 07, 2007

Field of dreams

Somewhere in Colorado, September 2006.

Note I wrote this 11/30, last Friday, thank you for your patience.

It is cold here in Corvallis. It was very strange driving into campus today with TH and have her explain to me the passing landscape, she has a knack for describing things that makes it easy for me to imagine what it looked like in different seasons. TH did this drive for three years, transiting back and forth from Seattle to Corvallis by plane, train and automobile. She was lucky enough to have a home with our friends L&E kept her in divine food, clean clothes and coffee for those long quarters of classes, papers and commuting.

They gave her respite and a place to escape in a beautiful house in the middle of Christmas tree farms.

Over time, she found her perfect drive to and from campus. She would drive windy back roads through small family farm plots full of spinach, hazelnuts, blueberries and leeks. While, this morning it was sleeting and gray, I could picture what it must have been like for her in the early spring when the blueberries were starting to flower and the hazels were unfurling their first light green fuzzy leaves. In the early fall, when the hazels all turned yellow and the corn was ready to be cut, she could see yellow for a few acres. The drive was a good way to prepare before she was to present her work on Bayesian modeling in her informatics class or discuss how ideas in science diffused. We talked a lot on the drive down yesterday about learning, school and when you are ready to be done with school. Neither of us believe that you ever finish learning, there is so much out there. School, that may be another story.

Today, I can say that she knows more about the cutting edge of mapping, information sciences and visualization and how they can be applied to a slew of environmental issues. She has approached these ideas as a geographer, scientist and historian and made sense of them.

Good job TH, Dr. TH to the rest of you.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Trying to find the best present for my parents this year... a welcome home to Seattle basket? AAA membership? Gore-tex jackets? A dog bed for Ernest? A light box?

Attempting to not drive TH crazy by planning a trip to Drome and Haut Provence before she's done with the rest of her obligations including ten days of decompression after Christmas and really bugging her by suggesting she travel separately.

Motivating myself to haul ass to the Village to buy a new pair of jeans now. Mine are baggy in the butt and hopefully a size smaller will help, vanity sizing that is.

Wondering if I can leave the dog at home after this morning's consumption of yet another ornament.

Asking myself if I really am excited about 2008.

nm trying to forget that tomorrow is another work day

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Some travel related stuff

Self reflection, Place Vendome, December 2005.

You can now use your Alaska Airlines miles for redemption on Air France. Those awards are dear, but to get to the airport at noon, board at one pm and be in Paris at 8 am just in time for the next transit strike, supreme!

We're booked for a week in March, Seattle-Marseille, pottering around Drome and Haut Provence and then to Paris to pick up some chocolate.

Mileage runners (you know who you are), post or read here and get some ideas. Trust me, when you are nearly there, you might as well make it, right Bueller?

Me, I'm done for the year, well, sort of. I have to go to Chicago this weekend, but that's just to make sure J gets her December race under her belt.

nm wishing and hoping that her upgrade to F clears

Monday, December 03, 2007

lost and found

Frickin futabulous, sometime this summer with Ernest.

I felt like I lost yesterday in all the prep and running around of our Christmas cookie party. I was toast at 7:30 and fell asleep reading a book while TH battled data and the forces of evil in prep for today's business trip.

Today, I found an hour when my trainer called and told me that she wasn't coming in. I used that time wisely chasing frosting bowls into the dishwasher and dragees with a broom. I managed to get to work early, bang out revisions to a proposal, do the other tasks I needed and get my errands done at lunch. I left early for the airport for my short trip to SD. I gave myself plenty of time that I didn't need. My typical airport ride was 20 minutes shorter since everyone seemed to abandon work early to deal with their basement flooding. The airport itself was mellow and my flight was delayed enough to make me rethink flying and waiting and making my parents drive after 10 pm.

They called me and told me to go home. I did.

My trip back from the airport took even less time.

I have all night by myself.

I am not good at relaxing, TH, the Js and everyone who knows me knows that I cannot chill for the sake of chilling. However, tonight I have a date with a great book, my lovely Christmas tree, the heater and a goat cheese pizza. If that does not wow me, I know where a guy who loves tater tots and has some cool moon boots lives, and I may just have to visit him.


Maybe we should stop multitasking.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Lights at the hotel de ville, Paris, December 2005.

Taking a page from Kimberly McK's book, let us rejoice in the first day of December.

Snow fell today, not too much, but big fat flakes that frosted everything. It made for easy driving and a magical day if you weren't expecting to do any yard work. Kids dragged their friends out for a quick snowball fight and it made for some impromptu, if not micro snow people in our neighbor's front yards.

TH and I went Christmas tree shopping in the snow, not something that happens too often in the Emerald City. In our running of errands, we found parking downtown on the first go and everyone we had contact with was in a great mood. Why? because this snow will lead to rain and we'll be back to the Seattle damp, chill gray of December.

Right now, our house smells great --a fresh wreath is on the door and the tree is now covered in lights. Soon garland will festoon our porch and holly on our plate rail. Tomorrow afternoon, we'll see a covey of kids trying their hand at decorating sugar and gingerbread cookies. I'm sure the adults will also jump in do much the same. TH is relaxed and reading a book, something that has not happened in a while, she's also enjoying the first day of December with peace.

The holiday season has really started to kick in here chez f&f. Its not so much the shopping, the card writing, but the need to catch up with our friends who we see in spurts, some more than others, but miss dearly because life has been hectic. Sometimes, just the simple act of getting out of the house to visit sometimes seems monumental especially when you have deadlines looming and gardens to tend.

More importantly, for us, this year, its a time to be thankful that things are coming to a close in a positive way.

I hope the same for you.