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w July 25, 2006

Escaping the Heat

I'm probably sounding like a broken record, but as y'all know, it's HOT. Ass hot. No breeze, no air conditioning, no real relief even at night. This basically sucks the...well, I won't get into what it sucks, but y'all know. After sweltering yesterday even as Bean and I tried to run from air conditioned store/restaurant to air conditioned store/restaurant, I decided to drive up to the city and spend the day in a normal summer environment, i.e., 80 degrees as opposed to 100+.
I recognize that there are places in the world that get 100+ temperatures as a matter of course, but not the Bay Area. This is just wacko, and there's all this folderol about power emergencies coupled with "heat advisories". So..don't turn on your air conditioner, but don't get too hot.


Anyway, Bean and I went up to San Francisco this morning, picked up our friend Tara, and headed over to the zoo, which is conveniently situated right at the ocean---alas, no comforting fog rolled in, but it was definitely one of the cooler spots in the Bay Area, I have no doubt, especially on the north side where they are trying to keep the polar bears and such in the shade. Bean fed budgies and eastern rosellas in the "Binnowee Landing" area (little Australian birds), and thought that was pretty cool, petted sheep and goats in the "Family Farm" area, rode the carousel at the end of the visit (the fancy pig---we liked the pig), and the big highlight, rode the "Little Puffer Steam Train". She was beside herself with excitement; I could hardly hang on to her. It was pretty much the cutest thing ever. Clearly we will be returning to at least some of the zoo's attractions. Tara and I had intended to go to Lovejoy's Tea Room afterwards, but discovered they are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. D'oh. Wound our way over to Samovar for a slightly different tea experience, but to tell the truth, after walking around the zoo all day, a more substantial Indian and English tea meal hit the spot. Bean ate her tofu curry and rice, my smoked salmon, some kiwi, and coconut rice pudding. Quelle sophisticate.

And in case anyone is curious from my last post...looks like the Hoffmans are having another girl. Gene is going to want to ship out in about 13 years, no? Nothing is going to be painted pink just yet, as these things can be wrong, but I have to say...two little girls is starting to sound like a lot of fun. Lots of tea parties.

by Heather Hoffman at 6:05 PM


Wedding Ahoy

We are back safe and sound from our Mexican wedding shenanigans, and I apologize for not dishing about it sooner, but y'all. It's been real hot. What am I saying? It IS real hot. Anyway.

Trip down was basically uneventful, although sitting in the bulkhead for the Phoenix-Cancun leg meant that we couldn't raise the armrests, thus disallowing Bean from stretching out across our laps and taking a much needed nap. There was much faintly desperate parental attempts at entertainment, but to tell the truth, she managed quite well. We were all ready for a margarita at the end of it, probably, but of course, only Gene could have one. And so he had three. Fie!
Funniest part was getting settled, looking at the seat behind Gene and thinking..."Wait...is that Shant?" Shant is my sister's husband's best friend from Fresno, who is now an ER doctor in Fontana; he was also best man at the wedding, so my parallel in terms of duties. Lo and behold, it was. Quite fun to catch up and feel better about other key participants travelling on the Sunday.
Land on time (whoo, America West), stumble off the plane into...HU..MI..DI..TY. Now, yeah, it's been a bit muggy here as of late, but this was honest to god Caribbean fug, and whoo boy, was it thick. Get herded off the tarmac onto a bus that shuttles us over to baggage claim and immigration, and we wait. And wait. And wait. I find a bathroom and discover that the toilets don't flush and the hand dryers don't dry. Welcome to Mexico! Get our bags after another two weeks, at which point we realize the acres long immigration line has dissipated quite a bit...huzzah. Justin (Erin's husband) had come to pick up Shant, which we felt a bit badly about, since we could have easily taken him in our rental car, but such is life. We hadn't known we were on the same flight, what can you do? Getting the car took rather a while, but hey, welcome to Mexico! People may do things a bit on the leisurely side, but they are a TON nicer than they are stateside, I have to admit. Got a cute Jetta much like the one we used to have, mas nostalgia, etc.
The hotel is only about 25 minutes away on the main highway, so is dead easy to find...or should have been. I was all set to look for the entrance to "Bahia Petempich" and I SAW it...about thirty seconds after we needed to make the left turn off the highway. Fark. More scenic route until we can rattle the car across a possibly illegal crossover, back we go, to the gates of Bahia Petempich. And this is the difference between gated areas in the US and gated areas in Mexico...there was a nice guy standing there who bid us "hola" and MANUALLY lifted the gate. I saw this everywhere. It was faintly crazy and yet, a sort of more human touch. Hard to explain. Down the road through the mangroves, making sure to abide by the "26 km" speed limit. Yeah right. But in passing, why 26 km? Why not 25, or 30? Inquiring minds wish to know. Pass "Desires" resort on the right, notice that it is *very* well gated and hidden and the parking lot is *very* far from anything remotely resembling a hotel. Why? Well. It's adults only. It's clothing optional. It's partner...optional? You get the idea.

Azul is quite the opposite, a lovely small very much wear your clothing boutique hotel with thatched roofs on the public buildings and open sided walkways and such. Gorgeous. And there is the Caribbean. Right there. Gorgeous. We stagger back into the tropical swelter and see my sister, Justin, Mom, Dad, and my parents' friend Margie, who had also come down from Toronto for the wedding (she is basically "Auntie" Margie to me and Erin). Check in takes rather a while (welcome to Mexico!) but who cares when Eddie is bringing champagne for the adults, a pineapple froth for me, a tiny strawberry "daiquiri" for Bean and cold towels for your face and neck? Eventually we get taken to our room, which is right by the action...that is, the water. Not much action at Azul, which was GREAT. There is no cruise ship atmosphere that I understand is the norm at other Cancun area resorts--just swimming, lounging, drinking, eating, swimming, lounging...you get the idea. Bean passed out once in the air conditioned comfort, which was good; Gene and I changed and went to find some food before the "welcome party" hosted by Philomon the Donkey. Seriously.
Okay, he was actually the "drinks cart" but I wanted to take him home with me. He was so awesomely nonplussed about the whole thing, but allowed Bean to sit on his back, as well as Erin (there was a picture); ate carrots and apples, occasionally nipped a guest...it was great. Good hors d'oeuvres passed around, much drinkage, etc. We were talked into opening THE ENVELOPE to find out Peabo's gender...and I'll leave that for another post :)
A pinata was brought out for Erin and Justin to exorcise wedding planning stress upon, and much hilarity ensued, as well as a rather impressive gash on Justin's arm after he broke the whacking stick and then mistakenly applied it to himself. But hey! We had a doctor on call. All was well.
Next few days were just piddling around, rehearsal dinner on Monday night (at which juncture we all convinced Erin to do her patented lemur impression for the assorted guests and other restaurant patrons--it was well received), spa visit (a 45 minute drive down to a hotel near Playa del Carmen, but well worth it, for pedicures and massages; I got the prenatal one and it was the first time in nearly 5 months my back didn't hurt. Lara rocked.) at which Erin's "bridesman" Joe got his first ever pedicure experience (we couldn't talk him into colors), complete with overflowing foot soak tub. The bubbles were a...tad...out of hand. But it made for excellent pictures. Back to the hotel to take naps before wedding hoopla begins at 6 pm; Bean and I haul frothy dresses and other accoutrements over to the room designated as Wedding Central, much more hilarity ensues as we try to wrangle Bean into her adorable but admittedly complicated flower girl dress (this thing had at least 17 different petticoats, I swear), try to calm Erin down and MAKE HER EAT, avoid removing selves from the air conditioning as much as possible (let me assure you, silk bridesmaids' dresses do not "breathe"), and generally doing all the Chicken Little pre-wedding activities. Weather threatens. Erin says, "whatever, we're getting married on the beach". Weather holds. Wedding itself, on the beach, is gorgeous. All cry. Much photoage. On to reception (after changing into breatheable clothing), much roasting and reminiscing, which, while charming, went on waaaay too long and we had no time for dancing. Poop. "Kids" repair to the tequila bar at 11:30 to attempt to dance. Not much dancing, although Gene and I were able to show off our newly learned mad salsa skillz, sort of. All tired out at 1:30. Next day is mass exodus, and after a bit of a hassle trying to find A) a gas station open and B) a gas station that takes plastic and not just paper, we gave up and ate the fuel surcharge. Welcome to Mexico! Check in and security took about 30 seconds, which was totally unprecedented, so we had a great deal of time to enjoy duty free. Yay, duty free. I did my typical perfume purchase, Gene his booze purchase, all were happy. Phoenix flight delayed. Delayed. Worries start abounding about connecting flights home. Realize, what the hell can you do? Welcome to Mexico! Actually, that was more an America West problem, to be scrupulously fair. Plane finally shows up, we are luxuriating in first class this end of the trip, which means Bean has enough room to essentially stretch out and she GOES TO SLEEP FOR AN HOUR AND A HALF. It pretty much made my day. About 45 minutes into the flight, the "ding ding, is there a doctor on board?" call pops up. Much excitement, but of course, we HAD a doctor on board. Huzzah. Fortunately nothing beyond bad vertigo and vomiting, but definitely added a certain piquancy to the trip.
Get to Phoenix only about 15 minutes behind schedule, which was rather impressive; we did have to wait for our dumb bags and go through customs before going BACK through domestic security for our connecting flights, but everyone made it, which was a bonus. Awfully nice to be back in California airspace and know when we got off the plane, it would be balmy. And not humid. And no more wedding stresses.
Actually, for all my bitching, we had a good time. The hotel was lovely, the staff was wonderfully kind, Mexico seems to actually LIKE children and you're never made to feel like a drain on society for travelling with your kid(s), and the wedding itself was awfully pretty. All in all, a huzzah. Though I am glad there are no more destination weddings going on this summer...driving to Santa Cruz in August is about the farthest I'm willing to go.

by Heather Hoffman at 5:28 PM

w July 19, 2006

End of Steel

Well, probably not anymore. But back in the 1930s and early 1940s, when my grandparents were teaching in one room schoolhouses in the British Columbia part of the Peace River Block, Pouce Coupe was quite literally, it. The terminus of the Northern Alberta Railway---beyond that, you used a car, or more likely, a horse. We have many photographs of Grandpa and Grandma on their respective horses, bundled up to their EYEBALLS against the wind and cold; not to mention one of my grandfather coming home with, well, dinner. As in freshly shot. This was news to a Toronto girl.

At any rate, my father came into this world in a rather dramatic fashion, 6 weeks premature (no small shakes in 1941), in the Pouce Coupe hospital. Supposedly it was a GOOD thing that it was the dead of winter and a neighbor girl had to ride her horse into town to fetch the doctor, who then drove his car back across the frozen river to fetch my grandmother back to the hospital---had my dad actually shown up on his due date in April or so, it might well have been too muddy to get any wheeled transport through. It's kind of the back of beyond. It was also the location of the only liquor store in the entire area during 1941-42 while the Alaska Highway was being built---apparently the soldiers referred to booze as "Pouce-juice". Which I just love. I found a picture of the main street (try the only street) of Pouce Coupe in the 1930s. It's a bit startling to realize this is what civilization meant for my grandparents. A long way from Vancouver, at any rate.

by Heather Hoffman at 8:09 PM

w July 17, 2006


It's hot, y'all. I don't know how hot, but I'm too chicken to find out. I just know that my internal combustion heater, aka Peabo, is cranking up the mercury along with the sun. I have never been pregnant in the summer before. I can't recommend it. This must be why God invented ice cream.

My birthday is August 22, and I was born in Toronto, which is essentially in the Midwest. Y'all know Midwestern summers. Nasty, brutish, and alas, not very short. I have never appreciated my mother so much as I do right now. And this is a DRY HEAT, y'all. A DRY HEAT.

Send freezer pops.

by Heather Hoffman at 2:22 PM

w July 08, 2006

Fun With Travel!

The sister is getting married on Tuesday night in Puerto Morelos, Mexico (just south of Cancun). We were scheduled to depart Casa Hoffman at the ungodly hour of 5 am this morning to make a 6:20 flight out of San Jose, connecting through Phoenix.


The car service is about 20 minutes late, as the driver can't find the house---although he's been here many, many times before---we still figure, okay, it will be pushing it, but we can probably still make it, especially since it is so early and thus no traffic, etc.

Think again, grasshopper. We get to the airport, I'm wrangling stroller and carseat while Gene runs inside to get us started with check-in. Arrive to hear the words "We can't go". Uh...why not? Well, apparently because we have an international LEG on the flight, we were supposed to be there 90 minutes before hand so that they could "input our documents". Let's ignore the fact that it takes 5 minutes to input three passport numbers, and that, technically speaking, we WERE within 90 minutes of the international LEG of the flight. It was utterly hateful and seemed so damn pointless. We do suspect, though, that if we had been able to show up at 5:30 as planned, we probably would have been allowed on, given that they told us to show up tomorrow "no later than 5:15". Last time I checked, that is 65 minutes before departure, not no 90 minutes, but whatever. Fascist gate agents have the power.

Got home, called Avis to reschedule, left a mesage for our travelling companions from Phoenix to not fret if they didn't see us, left a message for the dogsitter to sit tight until tomorrow, and then I tried to tackle international phone numbers to deal with the hotel. Combine no coffee, little sleep, and pregnancy brain, and it takes a while. The good news is that everyone speaks English in Cancun because it's basically Miami Beach with tequila; the bad news is that I wasn't really making myself understood because the woman on the other end kept telling me they didn't have our reservation. Turns out we were looking at the wrong hotel. Eye roll. At any rate, we are okay to check in tomorrow, though of course we have to pay for tonight. Whatever.

At the risk of sounding like renegade family, we are shockingly gleeful to have a freebie day at home before dealing with both travel and wedding shenanigans. Nearly everyone is flying in tomorrow ANYWAY, so it's not as though we are wreaking havoc on tightly detailed plans; we are already packed, so that's one more thing off the to-do list, and we can definitely hit the hay early tonight to try and reverse the effects of two mornings of god-awful early wakeups.

But we did insist that the driver show up at 4:45 tomorrow morning.

by Heather Hoffman at 10:36 AM