Thursday, April 30, 2009

sold - by b

Originally uploaded by bkassar
Here's Dorian's Pippi Longstocking painting from a show last night of the school kids' art at the Gracia Arts Project. Dorian had two friends Tiki and Ryan over after school yesterday... and Kristin took them and Arel down to the art show in the evening. I went down later after finishing some work calls. I went quickly to the gallery. The painting was already sold. I then walked over to the tasty Italian place where Kristin and the kids and their parents were. It was really nice... the kids at one table very very happy... and the adults getting to talk. Later I found out that Kristin had bought the painting.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Moment of Realization - by b

Apparently a few weeks ago Arel asked my brother Yoni whether he'd be able to get him [redacted]'s autograph so that Arel could give it to his friend for a birthday present. Arel and friends are superinto [redacted name of superstar rapper]. Yoni lives near the man and very kindly, went for it. Arel had no idea whether it would be possible or not. Here's the moment he realized what was in the FedEx envelope.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

calçotada - by b

The calçotada is a traditional meal held this time of year in catalonia. The calçot is a form of scallion that's bigger.. and yummy. They are cooked on a fire... served with garlic, bread, salt, tomato... Kristin went to one 20 years ago here.. today was my first. We went with some people from school and some people we hadn't met before... a mad convoy of four or five cars from Barcelona, heading into the country for about 45 minutes. Here's a map.. we drove to a teeny town called Montferri in Tarragona. Zoom out one level or drag the map to the right a bit to see Barcelona.

View Larger Map

We rented a car and will keep it for the week as the kids don't have school this coming Friday. So we'll head somewhere for a night out of Barcelona next weekend.

We were served the calçots at a big table outside (it had been raining really hard in the morning.. but was gorgeous when we got there) and then went inside an old farmhouse to another long table for servings of the more protein-based aspects of the meal ... botifarra and lamb. There was also red wine and cava, but since i was driving (my second time in 8 months--except on my short trip to San Diego where I took Kristin's mini for a spin) I didn't have much. Perhaps I should have drunk more because my photos of the day are, I don't know, pretty boring.

rental car


light inside the old farmhouse

more calçots

Here a better writer (a teacher in Barcelona) describes a calçots from last season in 2008

Bratsalonea - by b

Since our credit cards are about to expire i phoned up the bank and asked them to send new ones here instead of to our place in SF. They are some good spellers over there at the bank.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Kristin's Birthday - by b

kristin's birthday was almost a couple of weeks ago now... (more lagging in the photo processing)

a couple of snaps in a sec...

the day turned out really nicely... but it didn't start well

we'd had a major battle the day before and neither of us were particularly happy

kristin seemed to want nothing more for her birthday than to be left alone

and yet.. i'd asked some people to come round for a surprise party

in the end i told her some people were coming over... telling her seemed like a good move

and sven and arel and dorian really helped me make our place nice

i think kristin had a good time and was happy

plus the weather had been absolute shite... but as you can see, that changed too


miguel and the barbacoa

kmw.... our friends omar to the left and irene to the right

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Visitors - by b

We're now entering week two of life as just the four of us in our house. Work's been nutso with lots of pitching new business and delivering project work that has required a great deal of my time. Plus there has been a lot of personal logistix to deal with --- tax extension, etc. All this is to say that I took a bunch of pictures of our time with our guests.. but haven't had a sec to process them. Now... I have finally had a chance to upload pix from my phone to the web and highlight the ones I think are worth sharing (this is the new photo "processing" I guess) .. and there are some really nice ones from our time with our visitors (in reverse chron order they were Sven, Sarah, David, Rosa, Yoni, Lori and Gisela). Here are a few pix:

Monday, April 20, 2009

paris put to bed by k

okay, so i need to finish paris and move on! this one's going to be quick.

last morning, i couldn't eat any more pastry, so i bought a crusty loaf of whole wheat bread...yum! we did more walking and then had lunch at a great old french a big hall. arel finally got the escargot he'd been wanting to try and liked it. after that, the wax museum, justified by the fact that it covers french history. i had never been to a wax museum (check that off my list) and found it kind of creepy. all these "people" starting off into nothingness. very strange. i was most struck by how big they all seemed...their hands, their arms, and i think it's all done to scale. arel and mimi raced through the french history part, which was quite interesting. another reminder of how brutal life was in the past, what with inquisitions, plagues and war after war after war.

after that, we went back to the apartment, gathered our belongings, bought some goat cheese for dorian from the woman in the red beret, and walked to the train that would take us to the airport. unfortunately we were met by chaos deep down in what is apparently the biggest metro station in europe.

the train was bursting at the seams and it was unclear if it was going to the airport. every once in a while, big groups of people would start getting off and running in other directions. the limits of my french quickly became apparent. there were delays, but were they temporary? what should we do? i kept trying french, then english, but never really got a clear answer. at one point, someone said (or at least i thought they said) to go to another platform to catch a train to the airport. so we ran and jumped on...the wrong train! at this point, arel wanted to take a taxi, but i know enough about paris to know that taking a taxi at rush hour was not going to get us there on time. so we went back to the chatelet station and finally got on a train to the airport. we arrived 15 minutes before our flight was scheduled to depart. after running to the departure hall, we were told it was too late! i have never missed a flight...not a good feeling.

we went to the air france ticket counter and i told my story of delays and woes. "but your ticket allows no changes or refunds." i didn't crumble though! and arel's tears might have helped. after waiting and waiting and waiting for them to take pity on me and get the supervisor's approval, the agent finally said (with a look of stern disapproval), okay, and gave us a new reservation number for the next flight that was leaving in 45 minutes! hurrah! i had to go check in at one of the machines. i was so scared the number wouldn't work and that she had only given it to me to get rid of us. but it worked! i was still nervous when we handed over our boarding passes to get on the plane...oh no, this time they're going to turn us away. but no! we made it. i still thank my lucky stars.

arel and i were in the same row, but both at opposite windows, so we just waved at each other every once in a while. i think the two french guys between the aisle and me thought i was checking them out, but i finally said, in beautiful french, that my son was across the way and they understood. then one of them started asking me questions in french, but it quickly became clear that i couldnt' hold a conversation, so we switched to english.

the final part of the flight was so was pouring in barcelona. my body was already so full of adrenaline from our earlier adventures that i was about to explode. i also couldn't keep from thinking that i hadn't let barak know we were on a different flight and if something happened....

but we made it safe and sound and i will now give myself an additional half hour to get to the airport!

i don't think i'm going to get arel to blog about paris...or much else, for that matter. but mimi created a blog for her trip, so if you're interested in seeing paris from an amazing 11-year-old girl's perspective, with some fotos to boot, check out her blog.

au revoir paris.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

sven films arel and dorian

paris and musings continued by k

it's pouring outside. a real spring thundershower. down below in central barcelona the sun is shining. it's a strange sight, but i can literally see the edge of the rain cloud line and below that is sun. i'm imagining the little kids at school ooohhing and aaahhing over the thunder. i'm also imagining dorian being disappointed because p.e. might be cancelled. the elementary school p.e. teacher just came back after several months away. he was hit by a car and then had to wait a long time to get a surgery slot. dorian was very excited this morning to have p.e. again with mr. doles! i can't remember what time of day he has p.e. i hope it was earlier before the rain set in.

barak is out for a walk on the mountain with a friend. i wonder how wet he'll be when he gets home!

so back to paris.

we had just finished our shopping expedition to monoprix. we went back to the apartment to drop bags and get mimi and arel, and then strolled in the direction of the centre pompidou. we were going to go in, but the line was long, so instead we sat outside, got some snacks and watched people.

next stop, our canal tour. when we got to the boat, the top level was already completely packed with people, so was the front outdoor part. so we sat inside at the beginning, which was fine because the first 20 minutes were in a tunnel, so it was chilly and dark. from the beginning to end of the journey, we would rise something like 37 meters (don't quote me on that could be 27 or 42, but 37 sticks in my mind.)

going through the first lock was a novelty. the boat goes into a small area and a door closes behind it. then the door in front starts to let water in so the boat rises slowly to the next level. quite a feat of engineering, but what really stuck out was what a slow process it is. arel and mimi declared early on that they were bored. not in a real complainy way, just a fact. they tried to sit outside on the back of the boat, but the smell of gas was overwhelming.

when we boarded, one of the crew members told us that a lot of people from the top would come down at some point to eat and that then we could go up. so when that point came, arel and i headed up first. we got great seats at the front of the boat. it was nice to be in the fresh air and the sunshine. we were tempted mightily to jump off the boat when we were on the level of the river bank, but we never worked up the courage! we thought it would be funny to jump off and then run ahead of the boat and wave to lydia and mimi from the shore. but we stayed put and after a while, lydia and mimi came up and we all started to settle in.

but then the cake and coffee people (that's what they had been served downstairs) started to come back up and reclaim their seats. to me, when they went downstairs they lost their claim to their seats, and i asked in my broken french if their seats were reserved. i think our issue was less one of language and more one of perception. they believed that we were sitting in their seats, and i didn't. i wasn't going to move. i asked myself if i was being an obnoxious american, but i rationalized that we had spent the same on the ticket and that we also deserved a time up on top! i finally bowed to the feeling that everyone was talking about me and had arel sit on my lap. i figured if we only took up one seat, they would just have to deal. and they did. but i still think we remained a point of discussion and they were not sad to see us get off at the first of two stops at the end of the tour.

probably the best thing about the canal tour was that it got us to a fabulous park on the outskirts of paris. huge, lots of grass, and childrens' play areas with themes, like wind, or mirrors. it was built in the 1980s on the grounds of the city's old slaughterhouses (thanks, lydia, for that fun fact!). arel and mimi each had a nutella crepe (they were starving...lydia and i had a few nibbles), and then they happily played in the wind park. they ran and flipped over on giant hamster wheels, and flew down ziplines, while lydia and i sat on comfy lounge chairs and watched the largely immigrant population of fellow parkgoers around us.

to much grumbling, we left the park around 6:30 because i had made dinner plans with a friend who was coincidentally in paris at the same time. lydia kindly offered to stay with the kids. we had a lovely dinner at a seafood restaurant and had lots of time to catch up on life. when the waiter told us what some things on the menu were in english, i had to laugh because crab sounded like crap, and i wondered what french crap would taste like. my friend said i was clearly spending a lot of time with boys! what can i say, potty humor is big in this family.

weather update: it's totally sunny now. the rain has stopped and barak made it back completely dry.

i'm going to sign off for now and come back later with tales from our last day, the wax museum and missing our flight out of charles de gaulle.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

easter, paris and musings by k

it's easter sunday. a mellow day in spain. a changing of the visitor guard. david and rosa (our neighbors from san francisco...david is arel's friend) left our place at 7:30 a.m. and sven and his friend sarah arrived here at 1:00 p.m. it has been a long stretch of visitors...great to see everyone, but it will also be good to return to some semblance of routine later this week.

arel and i went to paris a little over a week ago to meet up with lydia and her daughter mimi...good friends. arel, david, rosa and i spent part of the day together on the saturday we left, walking around the center of barcelona, having lunch outside, and then heading to the airport bus. david was still plagued by jetlag so he almost passed out at lunch, and according to rosa spent the rest of the afternoon asleep on a tour bus...jetlag is brutal!

we caught a 5:00 pm flight to paris and were at the apartment lydia had rented in the marais by about 8:00 pm. it was such a treat for arel to see two of his best friends in such a short time. it was as if no time had passed, except that both mimi and david grew a lot in the past 8 months.

sunday morning we were awakened by lydia coming back from the bakery with fresh pastries. the kids had hot chocolate, the adults cafe au lait, and we gorged on croissants, pain au chocolat, an apple pastry whose name i can't remember and one other thing, i think. it was all delicious, but i ate too much! at the same time, the paris marathon was going on right under our window. we stuffed our faces while thousands and thousands of people ran by. we saw the small group of mostly african (sorry, julian, if you're reading this!) runners in the front of the pack pretty much sprinting by. it was so amazing. i couldn't even run a quarter of a mile at that pace, much less a whole marathon! arel and mimi shouted encouragement at the masses...allez, bravo!, and waved to neighbors watching from across the street.

we finally hauled our butts out of the house around 11 and headed to a nearby market...again i don't know the name (bad bad bad). so beautiful. scrumptious looking food everywhere, so beatifully displayed. but i was still stuffed! after that we walked by notre dame (one name i know!) and hung out in a park there for a while. we thought about going in, but it was palm sunday and the lines were long. so we wandered along the river for a while, then into some left bank neighborhoods, until we stopped to rest a while in the tuillieres gardens...we were all pooped, but arel and mimi still played a little soccer with a plastic bottle.

from there it was off to the eiffel tower...a must-see for mimi and arel. as we stood under the tower, arel had some doubts about whether he wanted to go up. but go up we did. first in one elevator like thing, to the first level. then another half hour line and then up to the top. way up there you could feel the slight swaying of the tower, which is a little freaky. we all peed in the bathroom at the top, and lydia and i both independently pondered what it would be like to be the bathroom attendant up there! what a strange place to work day in and day out. we took the elevator back down to the first level and then walked the rest of the way. at this point, we were all feeling the effects of nearly seven hours of walking, and lydia, who had woken up at 4:00 am (thanks, jetlag) was nearly delirious.

so we took the metro back to our apartment...i left the group to pick up falafels nearby (the best in the world!). when i saw the line at the falafel place, i nearly fainted, but i knew i had to bring food back, so i dug deep and powered on. a little flirtation with the falafel maker woke me back up and i came home falafels, two oranginas and a bottle of wine in hand. we ate, showered, played a rousing game of bullshit and all passed out.

monday we were meant to be on a canal tour by 9:45 am, but that didn't happen. arel and i woke up first at about 8:30. we headed out to buy more pastries, and we all overate again, but not quite as much. we decided to do an afternoon canal tour instead, and so went to the much heralded (by lydia and mimi) monoprix across the street. lydia likened it to target...i'd say maybe a notch up, but we had a grand time looking at things and also making a few purchases.

i always find it so fun to compare and contrast stores and styles in different countries. and as much as it annoys me when francophiles endlessly praise french style, i have to say, the french do have style. even in monoprix, there was style. simple and elegant. in the clothes, in the stationary section, in the grocery store downstairs. arel got a cotton eurosweater...he looks very handsome in it. i got two bathing suits for myself...i was in desperate need, and a little striped euro bathing suit for dorian. he put it on yesterday to go to the olympic swimming pools here with barak, arel and david, and pranced proudly around, shaking his booty and singing "i'm so sexy" and doing his dorian hand thing that he does.

i also bought toothbrushes, toothpaste and face cream, which all cost about half as much as in barcelona. i'm so curious about that. in germany normal things like that all seemed cheaper too. why???? inquiring minds want to know!

at that point, arel and mimi went back to the apartment and lydia and i went to the grocery store. i was all "oohs" and "aahhs." there was so much i would have loved to buy, so much more inspiring than when i go to a grocery store here. why is that? and again, food was cheaper...the bread, the cheese, the mustard, the chocolate. if i could have, i would have lugged big bags of groceries back!

to be continued... (sven and sarah will hang with dorian and arel. barak and i will take a walk and go to a movie...we've had no time alone for a long time.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Crouch End - by b

DD, I and D
Originally uploaded by bkassar
We ended our day with my cousin Don, his wife Paula and their supersupercute almost-two-year-old Issy. They live in Crouch End. Don's sister Shelley came round too. We had a nice time. It was fairly late when Don drove Dorian and I back to my aunt's. Issy has lots to say now and it's fun to listen to her.

Business Lunch - by b

Dorian and I had a plan to get get one kinda fancy meal on our adventure. Lunch seemed like a way to get away with spending a bit less. We went for a "business lunch" at The Wolesley on Picadilly.. we spent close to an hour and a half. Talking. Eating. It was really really nice. A real treat for both of us. At least I felt it was a treat for me.

Islington - by b

Originally uploaded by bkassar
Today Dorian and I took a ride to town with my aunt Ziona.. and went to check out her and Michael's office in Islington. Then a tube ride to the British Museum... then a good long walk to Piccadilly. I must have been roughly Dorian's age when my dad took me to Piccadilly Circus and we went into some little theater that played cartoons in black and white. I remember staying in there a while... as the cartoons began to repeat.

Golders Green - by b

Walking home
Originally uploaded by bkassar
Dorian and I are staying in Hampstead Garden Suburb at my aunt Ziona and uncle Michael.. Golders Green is the nearest tube stop. Walking home yesterday evening this is what we saw as we left the station and walked towards the heath to cross it to get home. It was a really great evening for walking. The weather here has been amazing.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Greenwich Mean Time - by b

It is Semana Santa in Spain. AKA Spring Break. No school for the kids. Arel and Kristin are in Paris with Mimi and Lydia who flew from SF... a long-planned rendezvous.

And Dorian and I are in London.

Dorian really wanted to come to London when he wasn't jetlagged and could actually see some spots. The little guy's been here quite a few times now.. but always in groggy transit as we stop here on our way to somewhere else.

He is asleep now. But it's 4 AM .. so that's a good thing. I can hear him breathing in the next bed.

Our first day here was really nice. In the morning, I went for a run with my uncle Michael thru Hampstead Heath and Parliament Hill. We ran about six miles... which I can handle pretty well.. but I needed to run more slowly than Michael who is in incredible shape. He literally ran circles around me, which (despite the way the phrase is typically used) is a great solution for two people with somewhat mismatched abilities to still run together. Running with somebody meant no music. Which meant I could hear things I don't usually. One of my favorite parts was toward the end as we ran through an area with many dried, fallen leaves. It was totally silent in the middle of what was, until just a few decades ago, the largest city in the world. The only sound were feet on leaves. Really peaceful.

Dorian and I then took a bus into town. We decided to be, well, tourists. Not as peaceful as the heath... but really nice nonetheless. We bought tickets for a hop-on-hop-off tourist bus.

We got on.

We got off at Hamleys toy store which was kind of a pilgrimege spot for my parents and me when we came here lots when i was about Dorian's age. We then got on again, drove past various places... Trafalgar Sq., 10 Downing Street, Parliament//Big Ben.

We got off at the London Eye --- Dorian's been wanting to go on this thing forever.

And it is pretty cool. I don't think I would have gone on it were it not for DD... so I'm glad he wanted to.

Here's a poem by Wordsworth at the entrance to the eye. A love poem to this little spot of London....

The bus included a ride on a boat.. so we road from the Eye to Tower Bridge. On the way we sailed past some amazing buildings... from the really old to the really new. I love the mix.

We actually could have stayed on the boat and kept heading for Greenwich.. .where DD could have really felt the time zone. But were were tired.

So we got off the boat. Got on a tube. And headed home... for tasty supper with Michael and my aunt Ziona. Both DD and I fell asleep early.

Tomorrow I think we'll go to Cambridge.. or someplace a little quiet. I am going to try to keep work to a minimum for the next couple of days.


As they say.