Monday, April 23, 2007

Luggage Arrives

Just to let you know, our luggage arrived at our doorstep on Wednesday, April 11 around 10:30 am. I was so glad to get my makeup and hairdryer back -- and so were the people who saw me before I got it!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Just a note about our hotel -- Hotel California. It isn't much to look at. The room was small. But what a clientele! There were people from all over the world. I met folks from Australia; a Mathematician from Germany (originally from St. Petersburg, Russia); another Mathematician, Yng-Ing Lee, from Taiwan, whose specialty is Geometry and she teaches at Taiway University; a young man from Hawaii, who did his undergraduate work at Stanford and needed recommendations from professors so he could get into Med school; a Mathematics professor (Dr. Strang) from MIT; a retired Mathematics professor from Japan; a man from Bari, Italy, where Joe's maternal grandparents came from; a mother & daughter from France, who came to visit their son/brother, who is a student at Stanford; a young lady from Singapore; a Jewish woman. Susan, from New York City who was keeping the Passover fast; a couple from Maine; a couple from Sweden; another couple from Belgium, who couldn't speak English; and many more.
They have a small guest kitchen at the hotel, where I would have my oatmeal & juice every morning and an apple before bed. People came into the kitchen to make breakfast and sometimes stayed there to eat it, or they went out on the courtyard to eat. I don't know whether they talked a lot on the courtyard, but we sure did talk in the kitchen. It was so interesting getting to know them.

Well, we made it back home OK. No worse for wear. However, one of our suitcases did not make it with us. We still haven't got it. What is bad is that my hairdryer and makeup are in that suitcase!

All in all, we had a wonderful trip.


Easter Sunday was a beautiful California spring day. Joe & I walked to Ellen's and greeted Mary and Audrey, who were in their Easter finery. They both had on new spring dresses, Easter bonnets, white gloves, white shoes, and cute little pocketbooks. Scott drove us to church, because Ellen had already gone, since she was going to play the saxophone during the Mass. They go to an Episcopal church in Menlo Park.

After Mass, the church had an Easter egg hunt for the kids. Mary was in one section with the bigger kids, and Audrey was with the little tykes. We really need to teach Mary how to hunt for eggs. She goes where the other kids are, and gets there after they have already scoured the area and gotten all the eggs. She needs to be able to go "where no man has gone before" to hunt for eggs. But finally, we did go somewhere else, and she found plenty of eggs (with the help of the girl who hid them) One of the eggs (hidden by the girl's brother) was on the rim of the basketball net. Now how could we get that one down? Well, the girl helped shake the net until the plastic egg dropped off, and Mary got it.

After that, we went back to Ellen's and ate candy, (and a light lunch) Friends of theirs from Scott's fellowship were coming over for Easter dinner and another egg hunt around 2:30. One family was from Seoul, Korea, and the other family was from Beijing, China. Ellen wanted to show people from other cultures how we celebrate Easter. We had a wonderful time with the Asians. We ate ham, kolbasz, stuffed cabbage, asparagus, hard boiled eggs, and I made csoroge, which is a Hungarian fried cookie sprinkled with powdered sugar.

The little Asian children (the Korean family had 2 daughters and the Chinese family had 1 daughter) really enjoyed the egg hunt and all the candy. All the kids played together really well, and we adults had a wonderful time talking and joking. They are very nice people and spoke English pretty well. It was a great day until we had to say goodbye, because we were leaving the next day!

Saturday, April 7, 2007


Today we traveled by both highway and really winding roads to Big Basin Redwoods State Park to take a hike on the Redwood Loop trail. This trail passes by some of the biggest Coastal Redwood trees in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The trail was only about 6 tenths of a mile, but took about an hour to complete, because we had several stops along the way. We had a docent to guide us through the loop. She was very knowledgable and encouraged questions. She showed us Redwood seeds, cones, leaves, burles, and bark, as well as pointing out huckleberry bushes, Douglas Fir trees, Madrone trees and Tanbark Oak trees.

On the trail we saw Redwood Fairy Rings. In this aspect, they are just like mushrooms. There used to be a large Redwood in the center, but some time during the centuries it died and decomposed. Then the offspring of the original tree, which are actually clones of it, formed a circle around where the tree used to be.

We also saw lots of trees that had holes in them so you could either look straight up through them to the sky, or go into them like a hidey-hole. One of these trees is called "Chimney Tree." It is a live tree that is entirely hollow from the bottom to the top. It got that way from being burned by a forest fire.

Also included in our walk was a view of both the Mother-of-the-Forest and Father-of-the-Forest trees. The mother is a 329 foot tree, which is the tallest in the Big Basin Park. The father is estimated to be 2000 years old.

We all learned a lot about the Redwoods by taking the trip and listening to the information given by the guide. I'm glad we had a chance to view one of our United States living treasures.

Friday, April 6, 2007


Yesterday was a rest day. We stayed at Ellen's with the kids. But today, we went into the big city by the bay to see one of their most famous landmarks -- Alcatraz.

Ellen & Scott rented a mini-van so we all could fit in one car. Ellen drove it into San Francisco to the parking lot at Pier 39. We walked around for a while looking at all the shops and eateries until we settled on eating at Wipe Out Restaurant. We had to eat fast in order to make it to pier 33 for our Alcatraz tour. Our boat was scheduled to take off at 1:20 and would load from 12:50 to 1:10.

The weather was really cold, so we had to wear our winter jackets. I contemplated putting my mittens on, too, but I didn't, even though my fingers were really cold. The water was choppy, with white caps.

We arrived at Alcatraz Island and started our tour with a speech from a ranger. This is a national landmark, so they have park rangers working there. Then we climbed up, up, up (or should I say trudged) to the cell block. There we got our automated tour gear and started off to find out about Alcatraz. It was a wonderful automated guided tour. It told you where to look, where to stop, when to read a wall poster, and best of all, it was narrated by both former guards and former inmates at Alcatraz. It came complete with sound effects, so when the story was about the inmates turning over the tables in the dining room, because the spaghetti was lousy, the sounds went along with the story.

After the cell block tour, we went to the theater to watch a movie about the history of Alcatraz. By then it was time to board the boat heading back to San Francisco. When we got back to Pier 39, we had hot chocolate, coffee, or tea (me). Scott & Ellen had a fellowship dinner to attend in the city, so they dropped the rest of us off at the train station, and we took the 5:56 train back to the California Avenue stop, just outside their condo.

Except for the weather, we had a wonderful day, full of fun and adventure.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007


Today we woke up early, because we were going to have a busy day in San Francisco. Joe opted out, and chose to stay at Ellen's rather than join us in the big city.

Our first stop was the Golden Gate Bridge. It was really awesome! We didn't drive over the bridge, we went to the overlook. We did walk on the bridge and were able to see both San Francisco and Alcatraz from there. It wasn't as sunny as the previous days, but we still could see a long way off. It was chilly, too.

Our next stop was to the Exploratorium. It is a hands-on Science museum. We brought along our lunch, and it was a good thing, because their cafeteria was closed for the day. We ate lunch along a small man-made lake before we went in. There were ducks, pigeons, turtles, and geese on the lake. Then, since today was free admission, we had to stand in a long, long line to get in. It moved quickly, though, and we got in about 20 minutes later.

What a wonderful time we had. There were all kinds of fantastic things to play with. We started with a smoke tornado, then dry ice comets, then listening devices. After a while we found the "funny mirrors." Mary and Audrey had a great time making themselves look funny. There was also a place that made shadows in red, yellow & blue, as well as a place with tiles to make designs. Since they were closing the place at 3:00 instead of 5:00, we had to leave early, but it was a great place to play and learn.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007


Today was our first trip into San Francisco. We left around 9:15 with Scott driving us right to Chinatown. It was very interesting to see all the Asian stores, eateries, and people. I picked up some souveniers along the way. On our way to lunch, we stopped off in an alleyway to observe the only hand made fortune cookies in town being made. I bought a bag of mixed fortune cookies -- both regular and chocolate. Naturally, Mary and Audrey wanted to eat all the chocolate ones.

We ate lunch at House of Nanking Restaurant. Luckily, when we entered there was still seating left for 5 people, because in a little while, it got full. The owner came over and took our order. Since Scott had eaten there before, he ordered a beef dish, a chicken dish, a pork dish, a vegetable dish, and a bowl of rice, as well as 2 teas. He left the way they made the dish to the discretion of the owner. We weren't disappointed -- everything they brought out was delicious. First they brought out our vegetable -- some kind of asparagus. Then they brought out our beef dish. It had crunchy noodles with it. Our chicken dish arrived a little later. It was accompanied by thinly-cut sweet potatoes. Then they brought the bill. We noticed that they didn't bring the pork dish or the 2 teas. We were pretty full by then, so we didn't mind not getting the pork, but Scott & I really wanted the tea, because it had flowers floating in it. So we reminded the waitress, and she got us the teas. We had the previously bought fortune cookies for dessert.

Then we went back near the place we parked our cars, where there was a little playground for the kids. They had a great time playing in the sand, sliding down the slides, and climbing up the equipment. Among the other activities in the park included Asian men sitting around playing cards, chess, or other games. It was a pleasant afternoon, and the girls didn't want to leave, but we had to travel home.

On the way home, we traveled downLombard Street , the twistiest, windiest street in the whole world. You almost need dramamine to go down this street. It went back and forth like a snake, and Scott had to drive down it very, very slowly. It was very nicely landscaped, and the whole street was made of bricks. It was a unique experience.

On the drive home, both girls fell asleep. We wore them out!