So Long, 2016

I wrote 14 posts this year. Sometimes I wonder if I’m still a blogger.

What can I say? It’s been a hell of a year. A lot of this is known to people; we all heard about the election, and no matter how you feel about the results, it was a big damn deal. We all know about the celebrities who died; Carrie Fisher’s passing hit me particularly hard.

For us, we’ve had a triathlon to train for (Mr. Sandwich) and support (Baguette and me), multiple IEP meetings, changes in leadership at Baguette’s school, lost teeth (the sixth came out this week), family drama that warrants assessment, and lice.

Oh, the lice.

We were supposed to travel to visit my dad and stepmom for Thanksgiving. But I had a bad cold, and based on much prior experience of making that trip sick, we decided not to. As it turned out, that was a wise decision. Because on the day we would have been driving, I discovered that Baguette and I had lice.

We called a service to come over to the house that night and comb all three of us, and scheduled the follow-up for the Monday after the holiday. But as it turned out, we couldn’t wait that long, so we also went to a lice-combing salon on Friday for an additional come-through.

There are, by the way, a lot of businesses providing this service in Los Angeles.

That was our hair; we also commenced on an astonishing amount of laundry, washing and drying on hot things that we often don’t even put in the dryer. We vacuumed and lint-rollered and bagged and froze and did everything we could think of to halt this in its tracks.

It was exhausting. It was not a vacation. It was not a break. But ultimately, we were successful–although we now are completely fixated on checking our heads on a regular (and probably unnecessarily frequent) basis.

We delayed our trip, planning to visit the week after Christmas. And then I got bronchitis. So we didn’t go. But we did have Christmas dinner with Mr. Sandwich’s parents, as planned. That was nice for a bit, and then discretion is the better part of valor, and also of family harmony on Christmas.

Now we are two weeks into Baguette’s three-week winter break from school. In case you were wondering, three weeks is too long. It’s not that I don’t love and value the time with her–it’s that we don’t have any other care for her, which means we have to take more days off from work, and it means that her routine is significantly disrupted in ways that are very difficult for her. And with my bronchitis that first week of the break, we didn’t do a great job of creating a different routine. We’re getting into one now, but that still doesn’t keep us from having rough days.

Long story short? I am ready for a new year. So Happy New Year to all of you!

And know that while I may not be able to stay up the whole time (among other things, Baguette got me up at around 4:00 this morning), I am definitely feeling this:

Disruption Can Be Good

We spent the last week visiting family out of town. For Baguette, routine is king–but this morning, I was reminded of why disruption can be good.

The trip was great, and I’ll write more about it later. But it was also exhausting, because we were constantly on the move, seeing new places and spending time with people who Baguette doesn’t know all that well yet.

Last night, after we got home, Baguette used more full sentences than we usually hear in a week. And they were new ones, like “Mommy, get the ball” (it had rolled under a piece of furniture) and “Mommy, I want green Play-Doh” (more typical is simply “Green Play-Doh”)

This morning, she started reciting the alphabet. This is not unusual, but here’s what was: She was also signing it. All that time this week she spent playing with the Baby Sign and Sing app we’d bought her?

She’s been teaching herself ASL.

Separation Anxiety

For almost a year, J has been involved in a management training program at work. He’s had lots of meetings, a group project, a mentor, you name it. This weekend he also had an overnight retreat to wrap up the program (although there are a couple of months of work remaining).

That meant that yesterday morning I dropped him off so that he could take the charter motorcoach up to Lake Arrowhead. He and his group headed off for the mountains, and I went to a friend’s house to do some scrapbooking.

My scrapbooking efforts are never-ending. We don’t have children yet, but we do have a lot of photos. There are “daily life” photos from individual events (I’m caught up to 2004) and trips (as of yesterday, I’m working on the Caribbean cruise I took with my parents in 2002).

In addition, there are the historic family photos I inherited, which stretch back to the late 1800s. I refer to them as historic not because they have any larger significance, but to distinguish them from the more recent family photos. My mother pretty much abandoned scrapbooking in 1987–although even she was running behind. The last year that went into a book under her auspices was 1977. I’ve made my way into the early 1980s, so I’m making progress. But without a good work surface, it’s slow. I don’t get to my friend’s house very often–she doesn’t live nearby, and we both have busy schedules, particularly since she had a daughter–but I make a lot more progress at her home than I do at mine.

But then I came home to an empty (and with the weather, very VERY hot) apartment. J and I often go our separate ways during the day, but it’s very unusual for one of us to be away overnight. I think he’s probably been away a bit more than I have, because he and his dad have made a couple of hiking trips that required 1 a.m. departures. Those are rare, though, and their last trip of that sort was probably more than a year ago. I’m glad neither one of us has a job that requires lots of overnight travel.

I’m even more glad that he’ll be home tonight!

Belated Triathlon News

The training paid off! I still have a bad knee, which limits my running, and I’m still afraid of biking down hill, which limits my cycling. But I rocked the swim, if I do say so myself. I expected to cover the 1/4-mile distance in about 20 minutes, and came out of the water in just under 13. The entire experience was fantastic, and I decided to follow it up with a relay at the Catalina Triathlon.

This race featured a 1/2-mile swim, which made up my portion of the event. I was so excited at not having to prepare for the bike and run that I completely forgot to prepare for the swim. I was late to the transition area, and as I was laying out my towel, I realized that I couldn’t find my official swim cap (color: yellow) or my ear plugs. Fortunately my husband was able to provide extra ear plugs, and I did have my regular swim cap (color: blue). Naturally, in between the discovery and the solution, there was freaking out and shrieking.

So I made my way over to the start, where I waited for my wave (relays go last). I couldn’t see anything, because I had torn a contact and therefore decided that it would be better not to wear them. In retrospect, that might have been half right.

Soon it was time for my wave to begin. I gave myself a quick pep talk (I am a strong swimmer! I am going to swim very fast!) and ran into the water. Within 50 yards, I was shocked to realize that (a) I was already dead last, and (b) I felt like I was going to drown. What kept me going at first was the realization that I was part of a team, and that I couldn’t let my friends down because the swim was too hard. After that, what kept me going was the people on surfboards. The support crew was absolutely fantastic, providing moral support and directions to the buoys. After I rounded the second one, I could see the shore, and somehow things got easier. One woman paddled the entire way in with me, cheering me on the whole way.

At this point, I was clearly the last person out of the water. Apparently the race photographer didn’t see me, and left to take pictures somewhere else. (Harumph! I was only 40 seconds behind the person who finished immediately ahead of me!)

However, in spite of being incredibly slow compared to the other racers, I improved on my previous pace. This time I finished in just under 22 minutes, which means that my pace was faster over the longer distance.

So on a personal level, my training paid off. On a team level, it’s a good thing that I was on a team with people who were faster on the bike and in the run in comparison to other racers–my friends and their speed are the reason that the team didn’t come in last, even though I did!

That’s it for this year. I don’t know what next year will hold.

More Eats on Kauai

I need to catch up on our Kauai eats.

First, more on garlic shrimp. Savage Shrimp, on the corner of Lawai Road and Hoonani Road in , is housed in a lunch truck. It may move in the next two years, depending on what happens with the shopping center that is supposed to be built across the road–but for now, the truck can be found mid-day, with Susan dishing up freshly cooked shrimp in a handful of preparations. We had the Garlic Scampi and the Bahia Scampi, both of which were delicious. It’s worth noting that the prices are a tiny bit higher than indicated in the Roadfood.com review, but only by a dollar or two. Portions are generous and flavorful.

Next, Hamura Saimin. This is a small place on shabby Kress Street in , but it’s good for a cheap bite. The menu is small, but the Special Saimin is quite good. Try the lilikoi pie–light and fluffy. At one end of the restaurant is Halo Halo Shave Ice. Their hours are limited, but the shave ice is vastly superior to the mainland Sno-Cone and its kin. We had it plain, without ice cream at the bottom, and found it very refreshing–just the thing for a hot day. The serving was big enough for both of us, so keep that in mind when ordering.

The Camp House Grill in offers enormous, messy breakfasts with spicy-but-not-too-hot gravy in the morning and big, tasty burgers in the afternoon and evening. Be sure to have pie. They excel at pie.

If you’re in (and why wouldn’t you be? It’s delightful), try Polynesia Cafe. Their plate lunches and fish sandwiches are quite good, and they’ll provide you with fuel for hiking (at least part of) the 11-mile Kalalau Trail, which begins at and provides cliffside views of the Na Pali coast. Even if you only make it to the first overlook, you’ll have worked off your lunch and seen truly spectacular scenery.

That’s it for Kauai, unless I remember something else that I just have to share. Eat hearty.

Fine Dining in Poipu

When in Kauai, our favorite restaurant for a nice dinner is Plantation Gardens, in .

My parents came here in the early/mid 1970s and loved it, and we had a terrific meal at the same place during our honeymoon. This time, we started with the tempura plate and moved on to surf’n’turf and the fish of the day, which in this case was a pan-roasted ono. Everything was cooked perfectly, and the sauces for each dish were fantastic.

Plantation Gardens is in the Kiahuna Plantation Resort, and is definitely worth a visit–no matter where you’re staying on the island.

Burritos

If you’re in , why not stop at Burritohead? We went because it’s owned by a friend of a friend, but we’re talking about going back because of the food. As you might guess, they have burritos–as well as tacos, flautas, and quesadillas. These come with pork, chicken, or beef, and are all in the $7-9 range, or fish for $2 more. We had a pork quesadilla and fish tacos, and everything was really good.

Shrimp, Glorious Shrimp

In the town of Waimea, on the south shore of , is a roadside restaurant called Shrimp Station. Actually, “restaurant” is a generous term–it’s basically a cookstand with a patio. But no matter how basic the setup is, the outcome is fantastic. The sauteed garlic shrimp are to die for, and the beer-battered shrimp are crisp and light. Please, sir, I want some more.

Swimming in Circles

So a month and a half later, or something like that, we still haven’t gotten back to the pool. Tonight, that changes. Here’s hoping I remember how to swim.

Good news, however–a couple of weeks ago we were in the Bay Area and drove over to Pacific Grove to check out the course. The bay is less protected than I was expecting, and incredibly full of kelp. In fact, it’s so kelpy that I think I’m going to have to rely on breaststroke as much as freestyle. Better train for both.

Which doesn’t sounds like good news, but that’s what comes next. We drove the bike course, and it’s ideal. Not only is it along the coast, which is rugged and beautiful, but it’s almost entirely flat! So my fears of biking downhill will not need to be confronted–at least, not on a deadline. Seriously, it’s like my dream bike ride.

And then I’ll just need to walk 2 miles.

Eating near Yosemite

First, I will go on record as saying that the food in the Badger Pass cafeteria is nasty. That’s probably a given, but it’s worth pointing out, nevertheless.

Less well-known, perhaps, is the fact that Gummi Bears are better when slightly cold. I suspect that the ones in my refrigerator are, at the moment, too cold.

But the town of Oakhurst, a dozen or so miles outside the park’s south entrance, does offer some nice food options.

Crabcakes Fun Family Seafood offers not just crab cakes, but rich and hearty clam chowder as well. It’s definitely not the cheapest place in town, though.

For breakfast, try Country Waffles or Ol’kettle. Although they don’t have the websites offered by Crabcakes (hence the Citysearch links), they do provide affordable, filling, and–most importantly–good breakfasts.

There are also a variety of fast food restaurants (McDonald’s, KFC, etc.) and a number of small local ethnic restaurants.

On the other hand, if you’re staying on the valley floor, I wouldn’t drive to Oakhurst just to eat.