Apr 12 2010

Three from the Park

Too excited about our new house (omigawd) to sleep, I went through Sam’s camera and pulled off a few pictures of Robin to share. Here they are: he’s wearing a hoodie sent by his Nonna and Pappy, which, by the way, he loves. We let him wear it for three days straight, waking and sleeping, because he’d cry whenever we tried to take it off him.

Then we took it off and washed it, because we are big softies but we have our limits.

I don’t know what that is at the corner of his mouth. I hope it’s not a bug.

Apr 12 2010

Things I Did Today, A Report, By Shannon

Today I got up, changed Robin’s diaper, got Robin dressed, got myself dressed, made coffee, put on an episode of Sesame Street, wrote a blog post, chatted with my BFF, made some phone calls, went to the bank, took Robin to the park, came home, and bought a house.

We signed the papers tonight! A notary and a representative from the title company came over and we signed a huge stack of papers, had our fingerprints stamped, and handed over an eleven thousand dollar cashier’s check (that was why I had to go to the bank)! The sellers have already signed, so as soon as all the money changes hands between the title company and the banks, the deed will be ours.

At some point when I’m less exhausted, and possibly a little less loopy with joy, I’ll write an outline of the whole long saga. Meanwhile, I put a bunch of pictures of our new house up on Flickr; you can see the whole set here. We love it so much. I still can’t believe it’s really going to be ours.

Apr 12 2010


This article is ridiculous.

“We offer a kind of grittiness you can’t find much anymore,” said Randy Shaw, a longtime San Francisco housing advocate and a driving force behind the idea of Tenderloin tourism. “And what is grittier than the Tenderloin?”

Uh, try Hunter’s Point.

I live in the upper Tenderloin. It is in no way the “domain of the city’s most down and out.” It’s a normal middle-class neighborhood with nice apartment buildings, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, bookstores, ethnic groceries, clothing boutiques, hair salons, etc. Oh, and bunches of hotels—there’s three hotels on my block alone—meaning that we get scads of tourists already. We’re adjacent to the theater district and all the art galleries: for crying out loud, most of the youth hostels are in the upper Tenderloin. There’s nothing the least bit “unlikely,” let alone “highly unlikely,” about tourism in the upper Tenderloin.

The lower Tenderloin, by contrast, which is apparently what this guy means when he writes about the “Uptown Tenderloin” (“uptown” being a word that I have never once heard applied to the Tenderloin in my eleven years of living here: who knows where Mr. McKinley pulled that one from) houses most of the city’s methadone clinics, shelters, and soup kitchens, and is as a result clogged with homeless addicts, the drug dealers who sell to them, the low-end prostitutes who are hoping to get enough cash together to buy something off the drug dealers, the pimps who collect the prostitutes, etc. It’s a pretty depressing place to stroll through, but it’s actually not dangerous: it’s right next to City Hall, it’s well-policed, and there’s lots of clubs, bars, and inexpensive ethnic restaurants, leading to lots of foot traffic. Some of the bigger musical venues are in the lower Tenderloin. It also includes the quite-charming stretch of “Little Saigon” or whatever they decided to call those two blocks that have been claimed by Vietnamese immigrants, and are now full of bánh mì sandwich shops and phở joints. The lower Tenderloin sees less tourism, but still gets its share of budget-minded travelers looking for a cheap lunch or a night trawling through dive bars. For Jesse McKinley to write about this neighborhood as if he’d just made some kind of daring discovery is patently absurd. Where did they find this guy?

In the interests of absolute fairness I just went back and gave the article a second, closer read, and I have to admit that it’s not so much any specific factual inaccuracy that pisses me off so much as the general tone of pearl-clutching fear and astonishment. The Tenderloin! It exists! And people might actually go there on purpose!

Lines like “Deranged residents are a constant presence,” may be true, but could equally well describe pretty much anywhere in San Francisco, especially the places where tourists—and hence panhandlers—congregate. As for “after dark the neighborhood can seem downright sinister”: a prime example of the pearl-clutching I find so annoying. The Tenderloin streets are plenty safe, at least until 2am, when the bars close: if you’re wandering around dark alleys at three or four in the morning, I guess you may be taking your chances. This would be just as true in Chinatown, by the way, which McKinley describes as “decidedly less seedy.” A description which leads me to suspect that McKinley has never been to Chinatown, but nevermind that.

There are genuinely bad areas of San Francisco—places where tourists truly don’t go—but they are apparently invisible to New York Times travel writers. Next time I look forward to Mr. McKinley’s breathless article detailing the undiscovered “reality tourism” opportunities of the Bayview.

Apr 7 2010

What’s for Dinner

Today in our veggie box we got: kale, red chard, asparagus, radishes, two bags of baby lettuces, four spring onions (red this time!), four leeks, a bag of snap peas, four kiwis, and about a pound of yellow fingerling potatoes. Snap peas! The seasons are changing in our bellies! Oh man, I am craving fresh tomatoes so hard, it will be like a miracle when they show up.

Last week I forgot to account for Easter in my meal plan. Whole Foods has the local, grass-fed lamb at the butcher counter right now: it’s only here a couple times a year, and it’s so good. The rest of the time the lamb is from New Zealand (and isn’t grass-fed, and isn’t as good). So last Sunday I got some cubed lamb and roasted it with honey and saffron, using the Silver Spoon recipe for “agnello all’araba” that I discovered last year. As a result, we still have a bunch of chard in the crisper: it is not as lovely as the new chard, but it’s not bad yet, so I’m going to go ahead and use both bunches in that polenta dish tonight. I’ll use the leeks too.

Tomorrow night our doula is coming over in the evening (we’re hiring a labor doula this time around) to discuss our birth plan, so I’m not planning on cooking: we still have some leftover lamb, so I’ll just reheat that quickly before the doula shows up.

But I do want to get to the rest of the veggies while they’re still fresh and gorgeous, so Friday we’ll have a big salad with the lettuce, radishes, snap peas, and green goddess dressing. I might put in some bacon too, and/or the hardboiled eggs left over from Easter.

The weather’s turned beautiful again after a brief spate of rain earlier this week, so over the weekend I’m planning a picnic lunch in the park: I’ll make potato salad and the roast beef and blue cheese sandwiches described in this article (item #5: I can incorporate the red onions from our box!) I’ll have to do at least some of the prep work for that on Friday, but maybe Saturday morning I can whip up a batch of oatmeal-raisin cookies to add to our picnic. Then dinner will be…oatmeal cookies. Along with whatever’s left over from lunch, or can be scrounged from the fridge.

Sunday night I’ll make asparagus risotto, and Monday, braised kale crostini—probably with something to accompany or follow it, like maybe fruit and cheese: there are lovely local strawberries at the store right now. And Tuesday will be for leftovers, as usual.

Apr 5 2010

Family Book Reviews

This is such a great idea! I’d love to do something similar with Robin and Davy when they’re older.

Right now Robin and I are reading the original Thomas the Tank Engine stories by the Rev. W. Awdry. They’re good! There’s a lot of genuine railway geekery that comes through, and I learned in the preface that Rev. Awdry wrote the first stories for his son, when the boy was the same age that Robin is now. So it’s not surprising that Robin really likes the book. It’s big and heavy for him, but he’ll often toddle around with it clutched to his chest.

We’re also reading a lovely book that Nonna and Pappy sent, Full Steam Ahead! by the wonderfully-named Benedict Blathwayt. It’s about the adventures of Duffy Driver and his little red train, which Robin identifies as “James.” (James is his favorite Thomas character, and also red.) There are lots of “Little Red Train” books, apparently, and the big draw for this series is the artwork. The pictures are huge and wonderfully intricate. Robin loves picking out the sheep, birds, doggies, babies, balls and other little pieces of the background action.

Oddly enough, even though these are hardback books with regular paper pages, Robin seems to be gentler on them than he is with his board books. Our collection of board books is increasingly ratty, and some of them Robin has actually ripped in half. But so far both the Thomas book and the Little Red Train book are undamaged. I wonder if that’s just an accident of them being relatively new additions to his library, or if it actually has to do with how much he likes them?

Apr 4 2010

Happy Easter!

This is the first year we really “did” Easter with Robin, and he actually got into it to a much greater extent than I expected. We almost didn’t dye eggs this year; we thought Robin wasn’t old enough to do much besides make an unholy mess and get frustrated by our attempts to restrain him. Instead we thought we’d go to one of the city’s organized events, like the Union street parade and petting zoo, or the Children’s Easter event with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. After all, nothing says “Easter in San Francisco” like egg hunts with drag nuns!

Then we woke up to a cold, windy, rainy day, and decided to come up with a Plan B. I hardboiled some eggs, mixed up some food coloring cups (we only had yellow, green, and blue, but we made do), and set up a dye station. As it turned out, Robin “got” the project immediately: he was quite happy to drop the eggs into the dye, and see them come out a different color. After they dried we let him put them in his basket, and let him have some fun handling the colored eggs for a bit.

Then I spirited the basket away and went out to hide eggs in the hallway. Most of them weren’t hidden very well:

But some of them were a bit harder to spot:

Then we called Robin out and encouraged him to find the eggs. Again, he figured out the routine pretty quickly, although his first instinct was to clutch all the eggs to his chest as he went running down the hall. We convinced him to put them back in the basket:

He needed some hints to find all the eggs, but eventually he got them all:

We gave him a big round of applause when he’d collected them all. Then he wanted to count them, and practice naming the colors:

All in all it was a lot of fun to be gotten from a dozen eggs and some food coloring, and Sam and I were really pleased by how easy it was to have a nice Easter afternoon with a two-year-old, even in the rain.