In anticipating our trip to San Francisco, a visit to Valencia figured large in our plans. Valencia is a funky district dripping with hipster coffee shops (we saw a heavily bearded, skinny-pantsed young man un-ironically knitting a scarf over his laptop in one), unspeakably cool antique shops, upscale bakeries, used books an the like. But the reason for our great and slightly giddy anticipation was 826 Valencia, Dave Eggers' infamous pirate-shop-slash-writing-workshop.
The delightfully publicity-shy Eggers, who (in case you don't remember) was catapulted to fame in 2000 by the publication of his slightly-fictionalize memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, has since spearheaded the brilliant McSweeney's Internet Tendency (and the wonderful print version, to which my husband was sweet enough to subscribe me). In addition, he was instrumental in creating 826 Valencia, a forum and venue for inspiring gradeschoolers and highschoolers to literary creativity.
The "pirate supply store" helps to support the writing workshops, but also serves as an inspiration and imaginary journey in its own right.
We have been watching 826 Valencia since its inception, and couldn't wait to visit in the flesh.
Even large as it has loomed in my mind, the pirate supply store outdid my expectations. I'm not sure why (as creative as has been the conception and execution of the McSweeney's issues I've received in the mail, I guess I should have expected more) but I thought it would be a bit more perfunctory. I pictured a bin of string-headed mops for deck swabbing, and a hardware store pegboard of ziplock bags containing eye patches and peg legs. In fact, this is a beautifully hand-hewn haven of the imagination, at once homey and deliciously exotic.
This case featured glass eyes, and "glass eyedrops", all displayed like jewelry on black velvet.
QQ was riveted.
At the back of the store, a rope strung with a pirate flag warns shoppers away from the writing workshop itself, populated by vintage school desks and library ladders.
The layout and conception of the store is makeshift, moody and creative, and its offerings myriad and tempting.
Notice anything unusual about the pirate dummy? Yup, it's a female department store mannequin under that pirate beard and eye patch.

A puppet suspended like a hangman from the rough-hewn beams of the ceiling.
Here, I was attempting (dorkily) to take a shot of myself centered in front of a moustache on a wall full of moustache-and-beard mirrors. I never claimed to be cool (or to have any sort of sense of dignity).
Daddy and Q exploring the lore of the high seas.
Here there be monsters. I love the handmade shadowbox paper cuts.
A tea set sits displayed over bottles of tincture labeled "Land Legs".
Various magic potions.
I adore the cockeyed shelves, spice-cabinet drawers and sea-themed shadow boxes. What a wonderful spot.
Our greatest asset on our trip was a series of printable, customized Google maps made for us by our friends Jaeha and Jen. The maps covered districts of the city from the tourist-y Fisherman's Wharf to Valencia to Japantown, where we were based for the week. One of the recommended stops in Valencia was Paxton Gate (see the first photo), a bizarre taxidermy-themed curiosity shop which seemed right up our alley. Unfortunately, like many of SF's coolest stores, Paxton Gate forbids photography inside. We did, however, visit twice, leaving with a couple of very cool mementos which I will detail in a future post.
Another spot on our customized map was X-21 Modern, the coolest of the cool antique shops. Sadly, this was far outside of our meager budget, but we enjoyed exploring and daydreaming here.
If only.......(yes, I absolutely would have that fish skeleton suspended from my ceiling, if I could afford it. I would also have the various old-Hollywood klieg lights stashed in corners of the house.
If I were rich, this is where I would come to furnish my home. Oh, yes.
A bit of a street mural.
A lovely window.
Row houses in the rain.
A Chinese-themed safety gate over an anonymous doorway.
The best restaurant sign we came across.
We didn't have a chance to sample the food here, but the concept tickled our fancy.
What fond memories I have of riding on my own Papa's shoulders, and how it does my heart good to see QQ enjoying that particular pleasure while exploring the city with her Daddy.
I love San Francisco trees. In the rain, they are even more sculptural and alien in aspect. Just wonderful. Someday, I'll have to draw them.


San Francisco, Part 2

Under the cherry blossoms at the Japan Center.

Would you even guess we were still on US soil? In the rain, the outdoor gardens were sheer poetry.

And I thought I was going to have to wait another couple of months to see the crabapples in bloom again! This was really a surprise bonus, and now I feel like I can wait for spring!

Our smiling girl, setting off for Valencia.
She likes to rub her chin on daddy's shoulder.
I had forgotten how lush San Francisco is. Every plant seems to thrive with vigor and health.
Doesn't she look cute with her little bunny ears hanging down her back?

Outside the Asian art museum. I couldn't get enough of these trees. Aren't they artful?

Basically, QQ enjoys everything...every morning, every adventure, every new experience.

We got lucky enough to be there for the Bhutan exhibit. It so happened that it was President's day when we first found ourselves near the museum, and the exhibits were closed. But we came back, and had a wonderful day exploring the exhibits. More on that in another post!


Bursting with pride

I'm just so proud of our girl today, I'm ready to bust.
I have to brag a little!
We had two big appointments today, one being QQ's speech therapy evaluation (including the government rep, the occupational therapist and a speech therapist). The second was our pre-operative appointment with the plastic surgeon who did Q's palate closure and lip adhesion.

The therapists sat down with us and asked us a lot of questions about her development, and watched QQ play with some evaluative toys for about an hour.
All three therapists were not only thoroughly charmed by her (a common reaction) but also extremely impressed with QQ's social abilities as well as with her development.
Their evaluation was excellent - much better than we had expected. They felt that she was extremely socially adept (but we knew that much!), and that she was also very bright, curious, willing and capable for her age. They said they felt that she would probably only need a nudge in the therapy department, and that she would probably be off and running with language very quickly, since her comprehension is extraordinarily high at this point. They said they anticipated that we might not need the therapy sessions for very long.
One of the evaluative toys was a small pegboard with loose pegs, and to my absolute delight and pride, QQ was able to put the pegs in their holes quickly and accurately. This is a very new skill for her, and I was amazed once again by her aptitude and dexterity.
They were thrilled with her affinity for counting games, her direct eye-contact and agility with communication, her eagerness to learn and her comprehension of both words and concepts (they could not believe that she had already grasped the concept of prepositions! Through, inside and outside, etc are among QQ's favorite things to demonstate, which amazes us as well).

The word "gifted" was tossed around, and one of them suggested that we might want to look into programs for gifted children in the local school systems even before she was ready to enter.
Of course, we feel that she's extremely apt, but it was really thrilling to hear our suspicions confirmed. After all, doesn't every parent assume their child is exceptionally bright?

As for the pre-op, the surgeon felt that she had healed beautifully from the initial repair, and that this upcoming surgery would be much easier than we had anticipated. If we're lucky, she may even be able to come home the first night, instead of spending the miserable night in the hospital like we did last time. This, too, left us walking on air, since we were all dreading another surgery and the attendant pain and lengthy recovery period. If this second surgery involves only the completion of her lip repair, she will only have to wear arm braces at night for the first week, as opposed to three weeks of misery on all our parts following the inital surgery. She really hates those arm braces - we think that was the worst part of the whole ordeal for her, even worse than the pain (which was probably pretty bad after that 4-hour palate repair!)

Just like the first time, it's hard for me to imagine her face being changed yet again. I have grown so accustomed to her cute kitten-face that I have a hard time visualizing what she will look like after her lip is fully closed. Her mouth is going to be teensy! But having been through it once already, I know that I will quickly adjust to her new face, and that she will be just as beautiful and expressive and funny and gloriously happy as she has been all along.

All of this is fantastic news...the best we could have hoped for, and I am so very, very proud of our bright, eager, swiftly-growing girl!

Now, if she can just slow down her pace of growing a bit, I would really appreciate it! She is such a joy at this age, and her astonishing growth rate makes me feel like she's going to be 13 the next time I blink, which scares the crap outta me! I want my baby to stay a baby for just a bit longer, please!!


Surprise! One of my illustrations (not this one. One you haven't seen before!) Is up on the Pioneer Woman's beautiful site today, in her "Confessions" section. Go check it out! She may have something new for you on her site in the bargain!