Sunday, October 30, 2016

Pez Museum

There's not a whole lot of stuff to do in the immediate area where we live, since most of the exciting museums and cultural landmarks are up in San Francisco, but we do live close to a Museum of Pez Memorabilia. We tried to go with friends once before, only to discover it was closed so its proprietors could attend the PEZcific convention of California Pez collectors. We tried again yesterday, and happily they were open this time.

The museum itself is a very unimposing storefront in downtown Burlingame - if we weren't watching the street numbers we would have gone right by it. Inside is a giant room full of every Pez dispenser ever made (over a thousand!), and a very enthusiastic curator who gives a really great guided tour. We learned a lot about Pez, including that it's actually an Austrian company, and "pez" is short for "pfefferminz" - German for "peppermint" - because that was the candy's original flavor. Also, the original dispensers didn't have heads, and just looked like cigarette lighters:
There are a lot of different heads:
They also used to make gun dispensers, but those have understandably been retired:
The gift shop had many current varieties of dispenser, including Harry Potter:
And US presidents:
In addition to Pez memorabilia, the museum also had a variety of other classic toys, like Potato Heads:
And ray guns:
They also had a variety of toys that are now banned - some for obvious reasons (i.e. they contained radioactive material):
And some for less obvious reasons (matador Barbie encouraged violence against animals, sky dancers could be used as projectile weapons - we actually had that toy and used it that way all the time, and the Mickey comic contains "adult behavior"):
We had a great time at the museum, and even got a picture with the world's largest Pez dispenser (although unfortunately it does not contain correspondingly giant Pez candies):

Thursday, October 20, 2016

New Hampshire wedding

We went to our friends' wedding last weekend! They are both programmers, so this was the sampler I made them:
The wedding was in New Hampshire, and it was excellent to get a brief taste of New England fall, given that it's my favorite season and there is nothing that remotely resembles it out here in the Bay. All the leaves were gold and red, and the wedding was in the White Mountains so you had beautiful views every way you looked.
The wedding weekend involved hiking, arts and crafts, making s'mores around a campfire, and sleeping in bunk beds in a giant cabin-y lodge. It was just like Girl Scout camp, and it was awesome.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

East coast tour!

We had a friend's wedding over Labor Day weekend, so we decided to make a mini-vacation out of it and add on a visit to Philly and Baltimore over the following week. Since we were going to a wedding, I made a sampler:
The couple met, live, and got married in NYC, hence the skyline. Their favorite place to vacation is a cabin in Maine, where they like to hang out on the dock and eat lobsters. The groom in particular is obsessed with dorky charts, especially waterfall charts, and the apples are supposed to symbolize "the big apple" and also the fact that they both work in education.

My bestie was also at the wedding, and since we're both obsessed with Hamilton we visited his house while we were in town:
Re-enacted various songs and dances from the show:
And generally freaked out anytime we saw anything vaguely Hamilton-related:
LAFAYETTE!
After NYC, Ben and I continued on to Philly, where we ate at all our favorite restaurants and hung out with all our Philly friends (including our Littles, each of whom seem to have grown a foot since we last saw them - mine is starting 8th grade now!). We also did something we'd always meant to do when we lived there but never got around to - visited the top of City Hall. The view was pretty excellent.
Also, I knew that the William Penn statue at the top was really big, but I didn't really appreciate how big (40 feet tall + 27 tons) until standing right at its base.

We spent our last two East coast days in Baltimore, hanging out with my parents and seeing more friends. By then it was incredibly hot and humid so we mostly stayed indoors, but we ate lots of great food and played lots of Bananagrams.

Now we're back in the Bay, missing our East coast friends and hangout spots, but appreciating the cool weather and lack of humidity.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Stitch like I'm running out of time

Like anyone with two ears and a heart, I am completely in love with Hamilton. Ever since I first heard the soundtrack there has been a Hamilton song in my head every moment I am awake, and I've been studying the annotated lyrics like a Talmudic scholar. I've also been releasing my excessive Hamilton energy in cross stitch form, stitching friends' favorite lines for them while listening to the relevant song on repeat:
Wait For It
Cabinet Battle #2
I also gave money a while ago to The Hispanic Federation as part of a fundraiser Lin-Manuel Miranda ran for them. A few randomly selected donors got tickets to see the show - I wasn't one of them, but I did get this in the mail recently, which is still pretty dang cool:
Hamilton is coming to SF in March 2017, so hopefully I can exchange one of my kidneys for enough cash to buy a ticket by then.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Magic orchid paradise

Ben and I rented a car to go to a friend's engagement party way out in the East Bay yesterday, but the car rental place is closed on Sundays so we got to keep it today too. We decided to take advantage of it and drive over to Pacifica, which is a really pretty little town on the ocean that's not accessible by public transit, so we can't usually go there. At the outskirts of the town we noticed a sign for Shelldance Orchid Gardens, which we followed because it seemed interesting and we didn't really have anything else to do. It took us along a narrow, winding path up the side of a steep hill, and at the top there were what looked like a bunch of decrepit warehouses attached to each other. We were feeling pretty skeptical but followed signs to the entrance, and holy crap those ancient warehouses are actually 70 year old greenhouses housing a magical fairyland of orchids and many other exotic flowers.
Seriously, I felt like I was in the Hogwarts greenhouse.
They had orchids of all sizes:
As big as Ben's face!
Much smaller than Ben's face!
They had orchids of all shapes:
Only three petals!
Starfish wearing a bib!
Payot!
Cluster!
They had all kinds of plants that weren't even orchids:
Translucent petal cactus thing!
Flower with more flowers inside!
Giant leaves with intentional holes!
Flower playing the trumpet!
Purple spikes!
Upside-down Rapunzel cactus!
????
Pitcher Plant! (I actually knew this one!)
We ended up buying a cool little succulent that looks like boxes stacked on top of each other, because it was the only thing we thought there were somewhat decent odds we wouldn't kill:
Neither words nor pictures can convey how cool this place was. If you ever are anywhere near Pacifica, you have to go!

(Also, we did eventually leave the greenhouses and go over to the beach, although it ended up being more of an afterthought than the main show.)

Thursday, August 11, 2016

New advances in gluttony

When we first spent time in California in 2013, my second favorite gluttonous indulgence (after Sushirrito) was Cookies Rule Everything Around Me, source of warm cookie ice cream sandwiches. I haven't been there again since moving here last year, so when my parents came to visit this week I thought it would be a fun treat to get with them. It turns out ice cream sandwich science has really advanced in the three years I was away, because now they have the option to get your ice cream sandwiched between two halves of a warm cronut:
Needless to say, it was amazing. I can't even fathom what the next leap forward will be - a sandwich in which both halves are a full cronut??

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Doing things: Showing up

I've written before about showing up with your money for racial justice, but it's also important to show up with your body. What this means will be different for different people based on their individual abilities, interests, schedule constraints, and resources, but it's important to figure out how you can contribute and then show up accordingly, especially if you are white. When we are publicly silent and/or passive about issues of racial injustice, regardless of what we are thinking in our own heads or discussing privately with people who already agree with us, we are tacitly giving our approval to the injustice at hand, and thereby reinforcing it. No one person or action will fix generations of white supremacy overnight, but even as an atheistic Jew I try to follow the rabbinic saying that "you are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it."

And from a purely selfish perspective, when the world feels especially terrible like it has been feeling recently, physically going out and doing something about it feels good, as does meeting and building community with other people committed to social justice.

What I've been doing so far:
(Note - this is a long list of things, but I have slowly added these actions to my life over the past five or six years, and I am not always doing all of these things simultaneously. I don't want anyone to look at this list and think I am spending every waking moment doing all of these things - as you know from reading this blog, I still have plenty of time for other activities.)
  • Voting! I mean, duh. It is worth mentioning that we don't just vote in the presidential elections, though - we vote in off-cycle elections too, and we do research in advance so we can be informed in voting for roles like city councilman, state legislators, etc... Those local roles get a lot less attention and a lot fewer votes than the big national ones, but they tend to impact people's day-to-day lives a lot more. Usually about a month before each election, I google something like "Philadelphia ballot November 2015" to get a list of everything that will be on the ballot. Then I search for info on each candidate and ballot initiative in order to make a decision about how to vote for each one- usually Ben does half the research and I do half.
  • Attending protests and rallies. I'm not able to go to as many as I like due to the combination of my work schedule and how long it takes to get between locations in the Bay, but I try to go when I can. I've been to the 50th Anniversary March on Washington, various Black Lives Matter protests and vigils back in Philly and here in the Bay, and most recently a Jews Reject Trump vigil (where we got a nice sign that now sits in our front window). I know how I would feel if a group I was a member of was being executed in the street with legal impunity, or had a presidential candidate saying we were less than human and should be treated accordingly, and no one from other groups showed up to protest and demand better. That's why it's important for me to show up as white person to events that publicly decry white supremacy in all its forms. I follow my local Showing Up for Racial Justice group to find out about upcoming actions (they also have a good guide for showing up as a white person at events led by people of color), as well as my local Black Lives Matter group.
    • Sidenote: One of my earlier childhood memories is my mom bringing me and my sister along to protest my hometown celebrating it's 250th anniversary with a giant reenactment of a Confederate ball that happened there during the Civil War. I remember understanding why we were there, and feeling both mad that something unfair was happening and proud that we were trying to stop it. I also remember there being almost no other white people there, and wondering why that was since my hometown was majority white, and surely everyone else also knew celebrating our town by reenacting a party for slave owners and defenders of slave owners was wrong, right? I share this story to illustrate both the importance of white people showing up for racial justice, and that bringing kids along can help them feel empowered and internalize values of fairness, justice, and speaking out when you see something wrong is happening. There have been kids of all ages at every protest and rally I have gone to thus far, so their presence is very normal.
      • Side sidenote: That ball still gets reenacted annually, although as a private event and not a city government-sponsored one.
  • Volunteering. In Philly I volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters, since moving to the Bay I've been volunteering with organizations that need more episodic support, since I'm not sure how long we'll live here (the plan is only a few years) and I don't want to form another deep emotional bond with an individual kid that I'll have to leave (although me and my Philly little sister still stay in touch, and I see her whenever I'm back in town). The two groups I've been volunteering with out here are Black Girls Code, since they have a lot of weekend events that need various support roles, and the Bay Area Childcare Collective, which is a collective of mostly white people who provide free childcare for grassroots organizations led by women of color so they can plan and carry out their work while knowing their kids are being well taken care of. It's great because both organizations let me hang out with awesome kids so that the people who should be leading this work can do what they need to do. I found both groups just by googling around for Bay Area volunteer opportunities and various keywords that I was interested in (i.e. "youth" and "racial justice"), and then reaching out to the relevant people and asking how I could help.
  • Making phone calls when I am asked. For example, most recently the police arrested over a hundred peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors in Baton Rouge (that's where this now-iconic photo came from), so organizers asked people to call the jail where they were being held to ask why they were arrested and demand their safe treatment and immediate release. Making this type of call is probably the quickest and easiest thing you can do, and you don't even have to get dressed or stand up to do it. I find out about these requests by following organizers like DeRay Mckesson and Brittany Packnett on Twitter.
  • I also consider speaking up about racial justice to be a form of showing up, but I've written a separate post about that already, so I won't go over it again here.
What I'm committing to do in the future:
  • The biggest thing I want to do is figure out how to get more involved in pushing for legal changes beyond just voting. That means using Campaign Zero's take action tool to figure out which of my representatives to contact about supporting what legislation that works to end police violence, and then contacting them about it and continuing to contact them about it until it passes.
  • I'm also considering taking unpaid leave in October to go canvass for HRC and/or a get out the vote campaign, if the polls are looking anywhere near close. I just can't imagine telling my kids that a straight up white supremacist was running for president (and won??), and I didn't do anything about it besides feel anxious and really hope he doesn't win.
What else do people do? Especially in recent months nothing feels like enough, so I am always looking for new ideas!