31 December 2008

Another Year Rolls Away!

I am sure 2008 will not be a year that merges with the others and becomes a blurry memory. Oh no. Too much has happened. Each month has been way too unique in my life's experiences. So let me take it month by month.


The year began for me in South Africa at Pam's beautiful home in Hillcrest, Durban where the entire family was together recovering from hard partying the night before. Then the next day I flew east and landed in hot, muggy, gleaming Singapore. After an interesting couple of days of exploring airconditioned state of the art shopping malls, I landed in frenetic India. Sure seems like a long time ago now. In India I felt like I had temporarily left our planet. Everything around me was so, so exotic. But in the evenings, in my hotel room, I'd watch what went on in the'real' world. The primaries had begun and it was looking good for Hillary to win the nomination.


Relaxing, enjoyable days in exciting Sydney, Australia. I enjoyed bonding with Fabian and hanging out in the Darling Harbor area. Sydney in its summer months is one heck of a terrific city. Meanwhile, the primaries in the US where taking an exciting turn. Barrack Obama won Iowa and on super Tuesday neither candidate came out the outright winner. Everyone was on pins and needles. Hillary was getting negative press and Obama became the darling of the mainstream media.


I explored the north island of New Zealand. I came to the conclusion that NZ was like a promising movie with no plot. You keep waiting for something to happen but NOTHING does! Definitely worth a visit, though. Then I returned to Santa Barbara after eight months of living abroad. Election excitement was high. My main concerns were to promote my teen fiction book htat had come out a few months before and to make progress on my writing projects.


Glorious springtime in California. We killed our lawn and made raised vegetable beds and planted tomatoes, basil, and arugula. I did author visits and signings and did some writing.


At this point it was pretty obvious that Barack Obama was going to win the nomination. We were all very excited about this.


Italy. Tuscany. Indulged in wine, truffles, funghi porcini, and more time with Fabian and his mother Julia. The day I flew back I managed to be in four countries. I flew out of Pisa, Italy and landed in Paris, France. After two hours I flew into London. Then from there I flew into LA. Later in the month I signed my book at the big BEA fair and met my publishers. At the end of June Pam and family descended.


The main news was the GAP fire. Big fire near us- we had to evacuate. Most of the month was spent enjoying and entertaining Pam and family. We had a very hot summer with almost no fog. I went to the pool practically every morning. Another big event for me was going to the LA SCBWI writer's conference. I had fun getting to spend time with Caroline Hatten and also to be among other writers.


Vacation comes to an end. A frantic attempt to revise a manuscript to submit to an editor I met at the conference. Then I had to face the harsh world of work and teaching again.


School. Teaching. And an addiction to the news, after all it's a historical election year.


The world as we knew it came to an end. Financial institutions left, right, and center were collapsing, declaring bankruptcy. Job losses, soaring oil prices, the economy in free fall. Everyone's panicking. Obama takes a commanding lead in the polls.


A miracle has happened. America votes for a black man to lead the country. We're in ecstasy. The holidays are approaching and the weather has turned cold. I get grumpy.


San Francisco. We do a house swap with a family who have this amazing, huge, modern house right in the city of San Francisco. We go to many different, expensive restaurants in the city. Our two favorites - Greens and Dosa (South Indian) - get multiple visits from us. We went to the new planetarium in the Golden Gate Park. The place was crowded and we had to wait in long lines for everything. The big attraction is a simulated journey through space to visit the planets. It was quite wonderful. The museum has a pretty nice aquarium and rain forest theme 'park' as well.
We walked on the Golden Gate Bridge on Christmas Day and ate Chinese food at an all veggie place called Shangri - La. I loved being unconventional and of course, not cooking.
Among the fun things we did in SF was meandering through the ferry building on the embarcedero. Here, there are gourmet food places that carry truffles, wild mushrooms, caviar, etc. There's also a farmer's market with a huge selection of fresh produce. SF is definitely food paradise.

And now, I'm going to spend some time thinking about whether to make New Year's resolutions.

Happy New Year everyone.

22 December 2008

Winter Holidays

Finally, a day to relax. It's Monday, midday, a few days before Christmas. I'm in San Francisco, where despite a crispness, the weather is acceptable. Yesterday, when we arrived from Santa Barbara it was raining heavily. We are doing a house swap with a family. They have an amazing house in the Pacific Heights neighborhood. The house - one of those original Victorian houses - has an uber-modern interior. Three levels - open plan - practically no interior walls with wooden and bamboo floors and leather, chrome, glass furniture. Everything here is state of the art. When you enter through huge, old world style double doors you come into an enormous entry hall which is visible from all parts of the house. A huge skylight above keeps the interior bright and airy. We are thrilled to have this place for a week. We hope the family isn't too disappointed to put up with our simple abode back in Santa Barbara.

The last weeks of teaching were bloody draining. I had my students perform a play called SANTA CLAUS FOR PRESIDENT. It turned out to be a lot more work than I expected. But they enjoyed making posters and flags and various little props for their performance. So it was worth it. Another big project I was forced to do on account of it being a tradition at the school was gingerbread houses. Using graham crackers, frosting,a nd the most ghastly candy imaginable, the kids created little alpine like houses. They had fun, but my big thrill came when it was all over and every tiny morsel of candy was cleared out of the classroom.
Christmas in the northern hemisphere is definitely not my favorite. Perhaps it's because when we are in South Africa it's so much fun. Warm weather, beaches, pools, tropical fruit salads, sipping cold beer on a terrace watching giant waves crashing, and being with the family. How can a cold, gloomy, grey Christmas compete with that?
But while we are here in San Francisco we are going to live it up.
We started out by going to Greens Restaurant for dinner. This veggie place is famous and upscale with the best view of the Golden Gate Bridge in the city. They always have unusual, innovate dishes on the menu. I've never eaten anything there that wasn't superb in every way.
This morning I walked out to California Street and found a few gourmet markets. I bought chanterelle, portobello, and shitake mushrooms. I also got freshly ravioli stuffed with porcini. So tonight's meal is going to be top notch.
I hope to get a lot of reading and writing done in the next two weeks.

I wish everyone an enjoyable festive season.