Boat parade on Redwood Creek

A little motorboat covered in christmas lights with a tree at the prow was idling in the middle of our end of the harbor yesterday afteroon. We asked them what was up and they told us about a lighted boat parade from Docktown to Bair Island and back. We were very excited!

I charged up the battery on the Daisy, our sail/row/motor boat, and bailed out all the rainwater and set up the engine. The Daisy has an electric trolling motor that runs off a marine battery. Marine batteries use gel instead of liquid, and are specially insulated, so that if your boat sinks, the battery fluid won’t leak out and poison everything. The trolling motor is almost perfectly quiet, but not very powerful. Usually we can go faster than the current caused by wind and tide in the creek. Usually!

Milo in the boat parade

While we didn’t have holiday lights to put up, I did have some green glow sticks and a few flashlights. So we managed a red light to port, a green light to starboard, and I hung a white flashlight down my back. That made us legal to be out on the water after dark. The extra green glowstick was for Moomin to wave around.

Out on the water we saw a few sail and motor boats cruising around Redwood Creek. We sang “Jingle Boats” which we made up on the spot.

Dashing through the waves, in a one horsepower boat,
O’er the waves we go, when we’re all afloat!
Jingle Boats, Jingle Boats, Jingle all afloat,
Oh what fun it is to ride in a one horsepower boat!

There were other people singing and one very huge magnificent ship:

boat parade on redwood creek

The smallest sailboat and the motorboat with the tree came up into our part of the harbor to sing carols. We joined them and even tied up to the sailboat to share one of their laminated books of lyrics. They had some great boating xmas carols written by Cynthia Shelton: Let it blow, one about being stuck in the mud, and my favorite one to the tune of Winter wonderland, “Livin’ on a dock by the bay.” Though it has able-ist language and maybe is a little passive aggressive towards whoever lives or lived in slip 34, I laughed pretty hard. Moomin mostly laughed at the line about poop since he doesn’t realize very much about social dynamics or what “being out on parole” means. I wonder if this is the same Cynthia who was an attorney and helped me with my disability paperwork at the Independent Living Center in about 1995? Maybe so!

Gone awaaaaay, are the bat rays
Here to stayyyy, is a nutcase,
In slip 34, He’s the sloop next door,
Livin’ on a dock by the bay.

Pelicans open fire, Bombardiers here for hire,
Hey do me a favor, and poop on my neighbor,
Livin’ on a dock by the bay.

Who says every liveaboard is crazy,
On the lam or maybe on the dole,
Not all of us are whackamoles are lazy,
Or psychopaths out briefly on parole,

Later on we will have some, margaritas or buttered hot rum,
Pretend we are cruisers ‘stead of slip-bound loser,
Livin’ on a dock by the bay.

boat parade on redwood creek

The main singer on the sailboat kept yelling at the guys by the engine to sing more. They didn’t want to! Moomin also got very much into telling them off for not singing enough and not having proper spirit about caroling. If there was a job for righteously telling people off, he would do well. (Perhaps a future activist.) I figured out at the end the reluctant singers were the lady’s teenage sons! They invited us back to Docktown to the Peninsula Yacht Club (not as fancy as it sounds, a lot more homey) for soup and lasagna, which was tempting for me but not for Moomin who does not eat either of those things since they don’t come in “nugget” form.

Another great song to the tune of Silent Night.

Stormy night, Land out of sight,
All alone, Holding tight

Force 8 or 9, with 30 foot waves,
I should have heeded the NOAA,

Now I’ll sleep with the fishes!
Sharing some zzzz’s with the fish.

I felt lucky we happened across this impromptu boat parade. It was beautiful out on the creek after dark and very sweet to sing goofy carols with our neighbors. Moomin had wanted me to organize something like a water caroling party but I didn’t have that quite together to do. So, lucky us, we found the carolers!

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Reading Watership Down

Watership Down is our new bedtime reading book. Moomin and I started it last night. I gave him two warnings: it’s intense, and it sometimes has long boring descriptions of scenery. My pitch for the book was basically the book cover and “A book about rabbit society from the point of view of rabbits, with stories within stories about their mythology.” Moomin was sold!

Watership Down book cover

We read about 7 or 8 chapters, with Moomin taking over to read aloud to me in the middle so my voice could have a break. He got very excited at various points and stopped the story to explain back to me what was happening. He really loved the first footnote on page 3 where it becomes clear that the author is writing as if translating from rabbit language! And then he got very interested in what was happening narratively, as the author describes the scenery, describes the rabbits, and then almost cinematically pulls in to a tight focus on the rabbits and then they start talking to each other. He stopped me there to talk about how that was clever and as the reader, you don’t know at first that the book is going to be from the rabbits’ point of view. My budding narrative theorist! (I think he gets this ability for analysis from reading and re-reading Scott Mccloud’s “Understanding Comics” and its sequels.)

The first chapter also has a great scene that engaged him immediately. Hazel and Fiver are about to eat a cowslip and the bullying Owsla member, Toadflax, takes it from them. Their reaction to this routine injustice made him identify strongly with the characters. He wanted to know what they were going to do! Then Hazel and Fiver went to warn the Chief Rabbit that something bad was going to happen to the warren. He got very excited here too, outraged at the indifferent authority of the Chief Rabbit not taking the young rabbits seriously – condescending to them.

A bunch of rabbits led by Hazel then leave the warren and, exhausted in the middle of a scary forest, tell a story from rabbit mythology. We both had trouble pronouncing “El-ahrairah”. It keeps coming out more like El Herrera. Oh well! Moomin loved the El-ahrairah myth where the sun god Frith blesses the rabbit’s butt. He also nearly exploded at the speech the sun god gives at the end where he poetically exhorts El-ahrairah as “Prince with a Thousand Enemies”.

All the world will be your enemy, Prince of a Thousand enemies. And when they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you; digger, listener, runner, Prince with the swift warning. Be cunning, and full of tricks, and your people will never be destroyed.

If you read this book aloud you will definitely notice the sentence length can be a challenge for kids. I admire a very long sentence that goes on for a page and a half and while he rolled his eyes at this and at my commentary! “Just say it!” But I think he secretly admires the audaciousness and poetry of Adams’ long sentences. It’s good for kids to be exposed to complicated grammatic structures — early!

Meanwhile, he is reading a phonebook-sized book called American Indian Myths and Legends that I’ve had lying around. We read a few of them together over the last few weeks and then I noticed he had started to plough on through the whole thing beginning to end.

This book strikes me as being pretty decent especially as it has explanations after each story that make it clear that First Nations people exist now and are not “from the past” as so many books frame the history of the Americas. Sadly I realized this year that in Moomin’s school education though they spent an entire year talking about California history and the Ohlone and Miwok people, he had no clue that there were active Ohlone or Miwok people today – and there are. The school projects all seem to be about The Far Distant Past.

I also like the book for having multiple tellings of the same or very similar stories.

Moomin explained to me with great outrage that some of the stories were “inappropriate!!!” The book’s organization by subject meant that he was able to skip the chapter called “Stories of Love and Lust”. Bad enough that he had to suffer through the musical at school called “Nightmare on Puberty Street”. Right now he would rather give that stuff a miss.

Next up I might read him some of the less racy selections from Technicians of the Sacred, but I should really look for something more modern and more in line with my politics. I’d also kind of like to read him some things from the Popul Vuh though they’re more morbid than he likes, I know he would enjoy the stories of Hunahpu and Xblanque going to the underworld. But first we have to get through all zillion pages of Watership Down.

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Houseboat Christmas

Draping some mardi gras beads over a ficus tree . . . that was our Christmas decor last year. This year I’m determined not to be such a grinchy slacker. The floggings will continue until the boat is decorated!

pirate flag xmas ornament

I picked up Moomin from dance practice and we went to pick out a live tree in a pot from the cheap plant nursery, MMM Plants. For 40 bucks we got a three foot high fir tree. Not bad! Our neighbor carried it into the boat and I set it up on deck on a table. Moomin and I draped it with sparkly red fabric that I got free somewhere earlier in the year and had stashed away.

When I went to plug in the xmas lights in my bedroom and run the cord out the window, the power went out! The extension cord I was using had fallen into the water, and I guess its innards rusted. The three electrical outlets in my cabin still don’t work, so I’m running my bedroom heater (and the tree) off our neighbor Roy’s extension cord hooked up to an outlet in the main cabin.

Anyway, after some messing about with flashlights and the boat’s control panel… which you have to see! It’s so complicated looking! Our neighbor came to look at it and had no more clue than we did. He had clearly been splicing the mainbrace a bit hard that evening. We flipped a lot of switches!

boat's electrical panel

So, we gave up on fixing the electricity and decorated the tree. I had a little plastic bin of ornaments stashed away in the bilge, plus a few more that I bought at Big Lots. Moomin likes fancy ornaments and even at 3 years old scoffed at my construction paper chains and snowflakes made of toothpicks. He’s like a dragon who could sleep on a hoard made entirely of sparkle, glitter, and chandeliers. So I’ve been trying to pick up shiny ornaments at garage sales and so on. The transparent, iridescent star I got in NYC was a hit and the tree looked great!

Decorating the tree

In my further efforts not to be a crappy parent, I baked cookies, kind of! We only have a toaster oven. So, on one of my infrequent forays into Whole Foods I got some refrigerator cookie dough, and made some cookies on a tiny aluminum sheet in the toaster oven. This worked AMAZINGLY well. The cookies were tasty! No pre-heating necessary! The toaster oven dings and turns itself off when 10 minutes are up, so no one had to eat the burned cookies. Go, me!

Over Thanksgiving while Moomin was at my sister’s house he consented to taste hot chocolate for the very first time. Believe me, I’ve tried. What? Milk is disgusting and *hot* milk would just burn and why ruin some good chocolate that way? Give fisssh, keep nasssty chipssss. “I tried it and guess what, I actually liked it!” So he sipped his tiny half-mug of hot chocolate, ate his cookies, and hung things tentatively from bent paper clips on the prickly tree with his shirt sleeves pulled over his hands for protection from the spikes. It was a good party.

I do require a craft project to properly feel christmasy. I had gotten a 2 dollar pack of glittery pipe cleaners at Office Max, which is right next to Big Lots.

Which reminds me, I went to Big Lots instead of Target because the Target in Redwood City has a very ancient electric scooter which goes about .5 miles per hour and turns off every few feet, and to make it start again, you have to stand up. That misses the point of being a mobility aid for disabled people, if you ask me, and when I pointed this out to the Target store manager, he just shrugged and said no one ever used that scooter anyway. I WONDER WHY. So, anyway, Big Lots and Office Max got my holiday shopping money.

Back to the pipe cleaners! Moomin was so pleased at the glittery pipe cleaners, which seem so much more real and grown up than the regular kind, which I routinely keep in stock. We made pipe cleaner stars, trees, kayaks, a houseboat, and some ocean waves. Moomin missed Oblomovka’s daughter and said she would probably like to make some tree ornaments with him when she gets back, and they could make them for presents or to sell at garage sales.

admiring the tree

The harbor is starting to look really splendid at night with christmas lights all over the boats, reflected in the water. In another week it will be spectacular since we have some neighbors who run lights all the way up their masts and rigging.

We also made a plan to do kayak christmas caroling. Here we come a kayaking among the waves so green! If you want to join us in a borrowed small boat, let me know. Next week at high tide we’re going to serenade the neighbors. Because Moomin will be in NY with his dad’s family for the entire holiday break I figured I would make an effort to do holiday-like things beforehand, making more of a fuss than just “extra day of opening presents”.

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Crockpot green curry chicken – cheap!

My staple food is chicken taco stuff made in a crockpot, but this week I varied it to be Thai green curry chicken stuff. I go to Trader Joe’s a couple of times a month to get luxury groceries, and then a couple of times a week, to the local Latin American corner store for my staple groceries. Here’s my green curry thai chicken recipe for the crockpot!

Jar of green curry stuff from Trader Joes (about $3)
1.5 lb boneless skinless chicken ($5)
Half a cabbage, chopped ($1)
Red bell and green ancho pepper, chopped ($3)
can of light coconut milk ($2)
3 roma tomatoes, chopped ($2)

I put everything in the crockpot and cook it for about 5 hours on the slow setting. I don’t bother to chop up the chicken. Once it cooks I can just break it up a bit with a wooden spoon.

Thai green curry chicken soup

During the week I ate my thai green curry chicken in a lot of different ways. It was good reheated with rice. It made a nice curried omelette. With chicken broth added, with cherry tomatoes cut in half, fresh red pepper and lime, and a few drops of hot pepper sauce, it’s extremely delicious soup. This week, I mostly ate the green curry as soup!

The container of chicken broth was another $2, limes are 5 for $1, a carton of cherry tomatoes was $3, and we can probably call the rice and eggs another $2. For about $25, I ate very well for an entire week, with minimal fuss and time, good variety, and fresh veggies every day.

The cabbage worked well as a cheap substitute for bamboo shoots. But this weekly crockpot comes out more expensive than tacos, because of the jar of curry sauce and the coconut millk.

I cook without onion, because onions disagree with Oblomovka, who is the only other person regularly eating my cooking. You might like onions in your curry though. Carrots would also be nice.

Moomin won’t eat stuff like this! He exists on a diet of hot dogs, bread and cheese, rice, carrots, korean snack seaweed, full fat chocolate yogurt, ice cream, chicken nuggets, cereal, peanut butter, and eggs.

Houseboat kitchen

This dinner-for-the-week plan would work better for me if I had a working microwave in the houseboat. Then I wouldn’t get a pan dirty to reheat food. As it is, I just heat up a little bit of the chicken stuff in a tiny non stick pan.

Next time I cook chicken tacos in the crockpot I’ll write up my recipe. And I already wrote up my recipe for crockpot congee.

What do you think of my cheap, no-fuss, time-saving cooking plan?

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The Mystery of Air Waffle Inn

Tonight at bedtime Moomin and I read the title story in The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales by Virginia Hamilton. During the bit where there is an evil guy whipping one of the characters who has a baby strapped to her back while working in a field, Moomin sat straight up in bed and yelled “WHAT!!!?” Yes, kid, slavery was bad like that. I’m going to see if he’ll read “A Girl Named Boy” which is about a girl who is sick and tired of her parents trying to raise her consciousness of the history of slavery in their family, until she accidentally goes back in time and experiences life as a slave in Virginia. I thought of Walter Mosely’s 47 but realized it was too intense and meant for older kids. A Girl Named Boy should be just about right for Moomin!

At school this week they had a visit from a traveling musical about important teenage issues. It’s called “Nightmare on Puberty Street” which made me laugh since … Do 6th graders these days know what that even refers to? Do 10 year olds generally watch ancient horror films? Anyway, Moomin reported that it started off with a long song called “Am I Normal” and then went into an even longer song about people calling other people bad names. I asked if it was hilarious or just embarrassing and he said it would be hilarious to a 40 year old but not so much if you were a kid, and that none of it was anything he had to worry about except for M. the kid who makes fun of him now has a long list of new horrible names to call him. “Sometimes I imagine that instead of ignoring him, I could kick him right in the nuts.”

Moomin’s doing a book report on The Mystery of Lilac Inn, which M. the bully told him was only for girls. We laughed about how stupid that was. (I was like “What… it’s not like I read a book WITH MY VAGINA” to which Moomin replied smirkily, “Point!”, and then we laughed uproariously. I would have said exactly that at age 11, while he is much more subtle of a person.) Then we made fun of Nancy Drew and her dad and her cousins and how their mysteries always wind up being the same mystery but they don’t realize it till very very last minute. He pointed out that Nancy Drew almost always gets tied up by the criminals who then gloat about their plans in front of her and then she screams for help. “Instead, she should know karate, and when two bad guys come at her, she should figure out which one to attack first, and then kick him in the nuts. Then punch the other one in the nose. Then, don’t scream for help.” We talked about Tom Swift and I tried also to describe the horror and pain and glory that is the Bobbsey Twins. Moomin laughed a lot at my description of how their nemesis, Danny Rugg, always shows up no matter what town or even another country the twins go to, and then is mildly naughty and gets in trouble and is sent home.

Mystery at Lilac Inn

Then Moomin pulled out Whales on Stilts, an awesome hilarious book, to show me the list of fake book titles that make fun of Tom Swift and that sort of old-fashioned series.

  • – Jasper Dash and His Astounding Auto-Cycle
  • – Jasper Dash and His Amazing Voice Catapult
  • – Jasper Dash and His Stupendous Air Waffle

    We laughed so hard over the stupendous air waffle that we both got asthma.

    We got a tiny christmas tree tonight, an alive one in a pot, for 40 bucks! Moomin picked it out. Tomorrow I’ll have the energy for us to decorate it. But today I worked a lot and drove Oblomovka to the airport and did 6 loads of laundry and washed a week’s worth of dishes and then there was an electrical problem in the aft cabin so I had to borrow an extension cord so that I could have heat. So, no tree decorating! Only collapsing!

    In other news, I have been a somewhat rotten parent this last month, at least that’s how it felt to me. I was often sick with a cold, barely able to get around the boat and its stairs and trying to keep it together till bedtime (ie not crying, and not taking painkillers), didn’t have the right food in the house most of the time (um, we are having hot dogs… again), was gone for a week on a trip to NY right at the holidays, and when I was here and wasn’t in bed hiding from the world, was emotionally caught up in a situation of my neighbor’s. Basically I used whatever energy I had to help out with her domestic violence and court situation, and things came out pretty well, but it upset me on top of being sick, I could not blog about it openly because it was too personal, and it seemed like the only decent thing I did for Moomin was to read to him lots and lots at night and watch his dance practices (which are great – they have a 5 minute long routine to Tabloid Junkie). I’m sure there were good moments and I’m being too harsh. We did kayak a bit during the 3 days I wasn’t sick, including a nice trip out with a new neighbor kid, Dani. On the trip, I had a fabulous time, and wasn’t sick, things were great but very tiring, and I got to play with L.Q. and M’s daughter, Little Ada and went with her and Big A. to Plimoth Plantation — feeling bad that Moomin wasn’t there. Anyway, I feel more myself again this week. Back in the saddle!

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    Halloween parties and parades

    My Zomboni from Plants vs. Zombies costume came out great. I painted the Zamboni design on white fabric with cheap tempera and tied it over my lap. A cardboard box would have made it too awkward to wheel myself around the neighborhood. Another section of white sheet was draped behind the chair back to make the Zomboni’s ice trail! Only one person recognized the costume from the game. She pointed and laughed and gave me the thumbs up. Other people, well, I have no idea what they thought!

    Zomboni

    Oblomovka was Crazy Dave from Plants vs. Zombies. No one recognized it and most people said things like “Oh! You’re a POTHEAD!”

    crazy dave

    Or “spilled breakfast.” One tiny kid pointed and screamed “Pan on the head! Pan on the head!!!” So I’d say it was a successful costume.

    Moomin’s The God Horus costume came out well too. For his dance studio’s party, he left off the double crown of the Pharoahs of Egypt, but was still cheered as a finalist in the party’s costume contest!

    Milo as the God Horus

    I love to make costumes and to see how people dress up. The quality of store-bought costumes has really improved since I was a kid. The only year I remember having a boughten costume (as Laura Ingalls would say) it was a trash-bag-thin piece of plastic with a skeleton printed on it.

    Over the last few days I’ve been to Egypt Day, Oblomovka’s daughter’s school Halloween Parade, Moomin’s dance studio’s party complete with home-made haunted house in a tent, trick or treating up and down Cortland Avenue in Bernal Heights, and then a long night of handing out candy as swarms of kids ran around in the dark. Tonight there’s a Dia de los Muertos parade in the Mission, so I’ll don the Zomboni costume one more time!

    The school parade was very old school. All the kids walked around a small blacktop courtyard while the principal or someone yelled muffled things through a bad PA system. The best part was when all the superheros and ninjas were called into the center of the courtyard to pose for a photo. Instead they piled on top of each other in an epic melee.

    The Bernal party was great though I have never loved the idea of going up and down a street or a mall full of businesses. Half the point of the holiday is getting to knock on doors of strangers and neighbors, to feel that everyone is generous and to peek inside their houses. I also like how many people who don’t have kids enjoy this holiday and dote on the children in their cute costumes. This still happened in Bernal, in fact, it happened so much that we gave away two bags of candy, some Twizzlers (unwrapped) and Oreos and a bag of marshmallows (also unwrapped) and then were reduced to handfuls of coins from the change jar. The main drag with businesses was friendly too but because it was so crowded, felt less free and easy. I was happy to see a lessening of unwrapped-candy paranoia, as I was given handfulls of jellybeans, cookies, and apples.

    Here are some other highlights of Halloween:

    A small, charismatic police officer:

    Police costume

    Dance performances:

    Community Street Jam

    The head-on-a-platter costume:

    Community Street Jam

    And Moomin (not in costume) heading off on Halloween morning on a bus with his entire 6th grade class, on a camping trip!

    Milo

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