The Exploratorium

Isn’t that a great name for a children’s museum? What’s more, it really lives up to it. (My only criticism would be the very mediocre food – it doesn’t seem right to eat rubbish fish ‘n’ chips while staring at the sea ocean.)

Located on Pier 15 (on Embarcadero half-way between Fisherman’s Wharf and the Ferry Building), The Exploratorium is packed with interactive exhibits split over six galleries. The entrance fee is quite steep ($29 for me and $19 for the Jam), particularly for those accustomed to free museums in London, but we barely saw (heard, touched, smelled etc) half of what was there.

We spent most of our time in the “Seeing and Listening’ gallery as the Jam dashed from one exhibit to another. We particularly enjoyed fixing our shadows on the wall, the monochromatic room and the Alice in Wonderland (my name) room:

My big boy
My big boy
My baby
My baby
For some reason, most people choose the ordinary drinking fountain just to the right...
For some reason, most people choose the ordinary drinking fountain just to the right…

We also enjoyed the “Tinkering’ and ‘Living Systems’ galleries. In the latter, the Jam thought the looped video of a decaying bird was another highlight. Despite being a little too young for many  of the exhibits in the ‘Human Phenomena’ area, he enjoyed the unusual drinking fountain:

We only had around fifteen minutes with the ‘Outdoor Exhibits’ – the Jam liked the echo tube – but there didn’t seem to be very much happening on the day we visited. We didn’t have time for the last gallery (‘Observing Landscapes’) but it seemed more adult-orientated anyway.

I would definitely recommend this place to anyone with kids (or big kids aka husbands) visiting San Francisco. It’s definitely worth the ticket price but make sure you allocate enough time to get your money’s worth!

 

 

Wooly Wednesday – Imagiknit Rainbow

Actually I bought this last Thursday, on our way to before our visit to The Exploratorium, but it’s so pretty that it deserves a post of it’s own.

rainbow yarn

I’ve been planning to explore the knitting shops here since sending Ben on a yarn buying mission on one of his work trips, and Imagiknit was top of my list. It didn’t disappoint! They had every type yarn I could think of (and a few I’d never heard of) all organised by weight and filling two rooms (one for animal fibres and the other for cotton etc). I only bought one skein, chosen by the Jam for his winter hat, but I’ll definitely be back.

The important bit….

I know that there are a few of you reading this blog who are not related to me, not fascinated by knitting and not here for my erudite rambling about cake and books. I think that you’re following the Jam’s progress and I suspect one or two of you have children with similar heart conditions. I hope that the year long gap in posts wasn’t alarming for you – it really was a case of ‘no news is good news’!

At the Jam’s first post-op check up the report was good and we’ve been making the most of all new possibilities.  The only side-effect is that I’ve been so busy living a so-called  normal life (as instructed by Dr M.) that I haven’t had time to blog about it. As with most things, the longer you leave it, the harder it is to start again so rather than a huge post trying to cover the whole year, I thought I’d share a few moments and milestones, some of which we never dared hope to achieve.

schoolwork
Showing off his work

1. The Jam started (Nursery) school. Okay, we did expect him to go to school, but we did without a complicated care plan and with him doing the same hours and activities as everyone else. We were very lucky as there is another boy at the school with CHD who is also under the care of the Evelina, so everyone took the Jam’s condition in their stride. As well as a making some great friends and is loving learning new things, from reading to music. He’s just finished the year and is very excited about moving up to Reception next year.

2. We felt secure enough to leave him with a non-family babysitter. It might seem silly, but being able to go out for dinner without having to rely on the kindness of family feels very liberating. DH and I finally get some time together.

Sports' Day
Sports’ Day
Skipping
Skipping

3. He joined in with swimming lessons, Sports’ Day and even a sponsored skip for the British Heart Foundation. I was a little bit tearful at all three, especially when he won the egg and spoon race. (Apparently it wasn’t competitive and they were racing against their own PBs, but he crossed the line first, which is good enough for me.) Having two CHD children in the school obviously pulled  a few heart strings (pun intended) because they raised more money for the BHF than in any charity events they’ve held previously.

4. I have a proper job again. With the Jam safe and happy at school, it felt like the right time for me to go back to work. I managed to pick up some supply teaching in the senior part of his school, which evolved in to a permanent job, starting in September.

5. We flew long-haul! All the way to San Francisco – and we’re still here – more posts about that later.

Ball Winder

Last Christmas, I was given a ball winder by our FFF. As most of the yarn I buy is already wound into balls, I haven’t had a chance to test it until now, when I decided to use some gorgeous Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend that I accidentally bought on eBay.

It’s brilliant! The ball was neatly wound, without being too tight, in a fraction of the time. It looks pretty too…

Smile

In a few hours it will be exactly four years since my Mum died, and I’ve been thinking about the Christina Rossetti* poem I read at her funeral:

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann’d:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
A smile to remember
A smile to remember

I imagine it’s quite a common choice for that sort of occasion and that a many people find the sentiment in the sestet (final six lines) very comforting; I know we did at the time. What struck me tonight is how as time passes, feelings subtly shift. I still miss my Mum and often think of her but I have reached a point where I can remember and smile – the alternative is forgetting, and that would be sad.

*Oddly enough, Rossetti’s other poem about remembering was a reading at our wedding.

Berlin

A couple of weeks ago, DH and I spent a few days in Berlin – our first break together since the Jam’s operation in January. We didn’t have a lot of time but we managed to squeeze in some history and culture, chocolate and cocktails, a walk in the park, a little football and a lot of bears.

To say the city defied my expectations would be inaccurate, as I didn’t know what to expect in the first place. I’ve only been to Germany once before, and Cologne in December with 40+ Year 7s doesn’t compare to Berlin in June with just my lovely husband! I knew most of the city was heavily damaged by WW2 bombing raids and that the architecture would reflect the subsequent division, and I knew that Berlin, especially post-reunification, is considered to be one of the most vibrant 24 hour cities in Europe. I didn’t expect it to be so welcoming or so beautiful.

Checkpoint Charlie
Checkpoint Charlie

We only had one full day and we spent most of it walking. From our hotel near the Tiergarten in what was West Berlin, we strolled along the river and then up past what remains of the Anhalter Bahnhof to Checkpoint Charlie. There we crossed into what would have been East Berlin and walked to the Gendarmenmarkt – a beautiful square that is home to the amazing Fassbender & Rausch chocolate shop. The plan was to stroll up to the Brandenburg Gate and pass through it before wandering back through the Tiergarten. However, we didn’t consider the huge outdoor football viewing area that had been created for Germany’s opening World Cup match against Portugal. After a brief surreal moment of being trapped in East Berlin, unable to cross over without long queues and bag searches, we realised we could simple walk a few blocks south and back along the edge of the park instead.

A little later we ventured back out to visit the Reichstag building and see the amazing views from the dome. We also heard the build up to the football but somehow the atmosphere was more jovial and less intimating that football crowds here in England – maybe it’s because they win – though I did spot a few fans downing the bottles of wine that they weren’t allowed to take into the viewing area, so it’s not just us that overdo it before we begin!

Marzipan Törtchen
Marzipan Törtchen

I should also mention the eating and drinking highlights. Our hotel had a fabulous cocktail bar, named after Marlene Deitrich, which served an impressive range of delectable concoctions, and Weissbier for DH. On the first evening we visited a restaurant recommended by a friend of Dad’s – Schildkröte – which seemed to be popular with locals and tourists alike. The waitress was very helpful but her English was about as good as my German. We were seated in the back room, which seemed to be reserved for bumbling English speakers, and we managed to get through a very pleasant meal (and quite a lot of Riesling) with only one significant miscommunication. However, the gastronomic highlight had to be lunch at the Fassbender & Rausch restaurant, which reminded me of Rabot 1745 in Covent Garden, as every dish contained chocolate in one form or another. The best bit was definitely the Törtchen!

Berlin also has a quirky side. We spent far too long in the Unter den Linden branch of the Ampelmann shop, buying trinkets for the Jam. Last but not least, as we explored over the three days, I collected as many pictures as possible of the ubiquitous Berliner Bären: