Monday, August 30, 2010

The Walt Disney Family Museum

Napa Valley Register |
Monday, August 30, 2010

If your family didn’t get to make a trip to Disneyland this summer and needs a Disney fix, the Walt Disney Family Museum could be just the ticket — the “E” ticket — that is.

Located in the Presidio of San Francisco, this museum of all things Walt Disney opened in October 2009, offering the public a glimpse into Disney’s life — from humble beginnings to the creation of uber-park Disneyland and his death at age 65.

A visit to the museum begins at the red brick buildings of the Presidio’s former army barracks. Inside the meticulously renovated rooms, guests are greeted with signature Disney style by uniformed staff wearing snappy purple bellhop style jackets.

For more about our visit, photos and my amateur movie, click here...

Friday, August 27, 2010

Road trip!

Come Saturday morning at 8am, a friend and I are taking 6 13-year-olds on a girl scout trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for two days.
I've been working on the idea for quite some time now. The girls are getting at that age when girl scouts is not quite as popular as it once was. So I figured now was the time to do one last event with them. Will post from the road...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

First Day of School!

Like most moms I take the typical First Day of School photo. Each year it gets a little bit harder to round up all three of them AND get them to smile at the same time.
Instead they want to hide, or smirk, or frown. I had to beg them just to get one nice picture this past Monday morning. Of course once they get to school they're all smiles. Why is it that our kids save their worst behavior for their own family??? Argh!!!!

(For the record, Allie is holding up 8 fingers for 8th grade, Ava 5 fingers for 5th and Annabelle two fingers for 11th grade.)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Behind the Wheel

By Jennifer Huffman
Napa Valley Register
Monday, August 23, 2010

So we are about to have another driver in our family. A 16-year-old driver. Behind the wheel. Of a real car. On a real road. With other real drivers, who may or may not be equally new at driving.

This terrifies a mom on so many levels. Where do I begin? Well for one thing I should start by saying I hope this will be one of many columns I write about our teen and her driving. But I have a feeling I’ll be lucky to get even just this column about driving in print. I predict that once said 16-year-old starts driving I will be forbidden to write about it. So you could say I am doing a preemptive strike. I’m writing about the driving before it even begins so that once the newbie driver looks at me with daggers in her eyes and says “You better not write about this in your column,” I can respond quite truthfully, “Sure. I won’t write about your driving.” Oh, yes, I am one clever mom/columnist.

Back to the driving.

First of all, I don’t exactly know how it all works yet. I know there is a driving permit to get. And some online course or practice driving with something called Sweet Sisters. I have seen those Sweet Sisters cars around town. Why is it that all the Sweet Sisters cars are cute little Mustangs? Does a 16-year-old really need to zip around town in a candy apple red Mustang for a driving lesson? I think not. There is nothing sweet about a skittish 16-year-old behind the wheel of a potential hotrod.

A 16-year-old should learn to drive in their grandpa’s gigantic olive green 1970s Oldsmobile, in an empty high school parking lot like I did. She should be driving in the oldest, biggest, most sturdy and protected car ever made. Preferably with roll bars and while wearing a NASCAR-approved helmet. And with a GPS system that lets mom know exactly where the new driver is at all times, and relays the precise speed she is driving on Jefferson Street at 3:35 p.m. on any given afternoon. Yes, that is how it should be.

I guess there is also some kind of practice driving that needs to be done — again on real roads in real cars but with mom or dad in the passenger seat. This so-called “practice” driving must continue for six months. Six months of pure terror, I am told. Is it possible to act nonchalant while letting your teenager — who may or may not still sleep with stuffed animals at night — drive you around town? There is no brake on the passenger side of the car. I will be far, far away from the actual steering wheel and completely defenseless. I will be at her mercy. Is your blood pressure going up as mine is as I write this? I may need to see a doctor after the stress of just writing about her driving.

Let’s not forget that 16-year-olds are notoriously unpredictable. They may be able to memorize all kinds of arcane Algebra II formulas and French verbs but they can’t remember what they ate for lunch that day or where their shoes are. One minute they’re driving down the road, the next minute, “Oh, look at that butterfly,” and boom, the car is wrecked and someone has a broken leg or two.

As a parent of a new driver, I should have some kind of remote control button that I can push to instantly freeze all other traffic in town as our daughter makes her way to and from the school on the approved and designated route we will establish for her. Only when she arrives at her destination will all other traffic be free to move about town.

Then there’s the car insurance. I have heard the horror stories of the cost to insure a teen driver. Thousands of dollars a year, apparently. Who’s going to pay for that? I may need a benefactor to adopt her. Please let me know if you are interested.

A mom friend told me I could send our daughter to some kind of CHP teen driving program. Great! Sign us up. Better yet, let her ride along with a CHP officer and see the havoc a drunken driver can bring. Make her look at pictures of traffic accidents caused by speeding drivers. Have her use that ray gun to clock speeders on Highway 121. Scare her straight, I say — straight off the road.

Unlike my husband who lived on a ranch outside of town when was growing up and needed his own car to get to school, I was not one of those kids who rushed out the minute I turned 16 to get my license. My mom taught at my high school. I rode with her to school every morning. I most certainly was not presented a brand new car on my 16th birthday with a bow on top and car keys in a box. (No, I’m not bitter.)

Instead, somewhere around my 17th birthday I finally got my act together and got my license. My first car was our family’s bright green 1976 Volkswagen camper van. The kind with the long stick shift and that swayed like crazy in any kind of crosswind. Oh how I envied my friends at school that had their own cute little cars. But noooooo, I was driving the green VW van. With my mother in the passenger seat. Woo hoo.

So here we go. Next time you’re on the road, if you see a minivan with particularly terrified looking mom in the passenger seat and an impossibly young looking girl behind the wheel, just pull over and let us pass. We mean you no harm.

Surrendering to Motherhood appears every other Monday, alternating with Michelle Choat’s Gal on the Go.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A new boss.

I really liked my old boss. He was a good guy - a stand-up guy. My old boss and I got to know each other pretty well by sitting about 6 feet away from each other for almost five years.

I knew he was messy when he ate. I knew he always started yawning around 2:30 p.m. (which always caused me to start yawning). My old boss liked to get a certain Chinese chicken dish from a restaurant down the street. He'd call and the lady at the restaurant knew exactly who he was from his voice. Over those five years my old boss and I became friends. He laughed at my jokes. He was kind when he edited my stories. He didn't get mad at me when I broke his Mike Grgich bobblehead. He didn't boss me around, not too much.

Now I have a new boss. He's been here three weeks. He sits 6 feet away from me. He does not seem messy when he eats. He does not yawn. He does not get Chinese food for lunch.

My new boss is not the same as my old boss.
I might be ok with it, in about five years.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


We are having drama in the Huffman home tonight. I think work-at-home Dad has had it up to HERE with a certain new 13 year old's A-TI-TUDE. They're bickering like two people that have been stuck in the house together too long. Like a whole summer too long.

I thought the girls would have struck out on their own more these past few summer months. There are three bikes parked outside. Why don't they get on the bikes and go wherever they want? When I was their age (here we go) I rode my Schwinn all over Sonoma County for hours at a time. No cell phone. No checking in. The library was my other hangout. These girls seem to want the action to come to them. Or have Mom personally escort them to where it's happening.

They cling to home. What are they doing all day? They sure aren't cleaning their rooms or making their beds. They've pecked away at their summer homework assignments, but they're not done yet. We're not letting them sit for hours by the TV, that's for sure.

I hope one of their teachers makes them write that essay "What I did on My Summer Vacation." I'd sure like to know.

Monday, August 16, 2010

One World Futbol

Who knew something as simple as a ball could make such a difference? Read on for a story I wrote for today's Register about a new kind of soccer ball, marketed from Napa.

One moment provides spark for One World soccer ball

Napa Valley Register
Monday, August 16, 2010

It was the TV images of African refugee children kicking wadded up bits of trash taped together to create a makeshift soccer ball that first got inventor Tim Jahnigen’s attention.

At the time, Jahnigen happened to be wearing an early pair of Croc-like material shoes. An inventor, as well as songwriter and music producer, “I was fascinated by the properties of this material,” he said. As he watched the documentary about the refugee children playing, “I had those shoes on my feet and it just hit me like a thunderbolt. I can use this material to make a ball.”

Jahnigen was inspired to create an indestructible soccer ball — that would never wear out, never go flat, and never need a pump. Such a “futbol” would let people to play soccer anywhere.

To read more click here...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Hot Couture.

Growing up in Santa Rosa in the 80s, one of my favorite stores was Hot Couture. My mom did not share my love of vintage clothing, and I remember her going into the store with me only grudgingly. Well, more than 20 years later I still love vintage and Hot Couture is still in business. Hot Couture features a range of vintage clothing from the 40s to the 70s and even some fun 80s fashions. Next time you're in Santa Rosa, check out Hot Couture.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A bunch of dummies at the Napa Fair.

As seen at the Napa Town and Country Fair. These are the models at the carriage exhibit inside the fair. I love the mixing of various eras/fashions/headgear. Notice how the girl in the second photo has spiderwebs attached to her head. And the amputated hand of the "lady" in photo number six.
What a bunch of dummies!

Monday, August 09, 2010

A hair-raising tale.

A hair-raising tale

The other morning I noticed something in my bathroom mirror when I was brushing my hair.

Something on my head caught the light.

I put my brush down. I leaned closer, inspecting my part with my fingers.

What was that? I narrowed my eyes. Is that ... could that be … a gray hair?

I pulled out the suspect for a closer look. It was white from root to end. My God, I thought. My first gray hair.

Poking around, I suddenly saw another glint. No! Not another one.

Two gray hairs in one day.

This was almost more than I could take.

The gray hair was at least five inches long. It had been growing on my head for months, even a year.

I felt invaded, as if something alien had sprouted on my head. I am way too young to have gray hair. Right?

Before this I’d never really thought much about gray hair.

I casually dismissed ads for gray hair coloring products or remedies. Who me, gray hair? Only old people have gray hair, I said smugly.

Yeah, I was pretty much asking for it.

After my own gray hair discovery, I was on gray hair alert.

I started surreptitiously checking out my friends and coworkers. From my gray hair patrol, I learned that gray strikes women and men of all ages.

I just found two gray hairs, said a coworker who is 30 years old.

Another reporter in his 30s has gone gray along the sides.

It’s hereditary, he insisted.

A mom friend of mine has strands of white through her black hair. Another colleague has a row of gray at her part. Gray hair — it was everywhere.

My own gray could be a result of bad karma. About a month before my own first gray sighting, I thought nothing of exposing my husband’s own gray hair.

We were standing on the front porch.

The sun hit his head, perfectly illuminating the crop of grays sprinkled throughout his hair.

Wow, look at all your gray hair, I said loudly.

Stop that, he said.

What? I said. It’s no big deal, I said innocently.

Don’t talk about my gray hair, he said huffily.

There were other related incidents.

A few months ago, I found myself squinting at my phone when reading my messages.

I’ve had a mild prescription for distance vision but this was the first time that something didn’t seem quite right up close. I pulled the phone closer and farther, trying to get a better focus.

Odd, I thought at the time.

My eye doctor gave me the news. Your vision has changed a bit, he said. Just try a pair of readers — as in reading glasses.

Reading glasses? I said. But that’s what my mother wears.

Me, reading glasses? (Again with the denial.)

Lots of people wear readers, the doctor consoled me. It’s no big deal.

Is it a coincidence that I noticed my gray hairs and failing vision right about the time when we became parents of not one but two teenagers in the house?

I think not.

Oldest daughter is now 16 and middle child is 13. Even the youngest has left her little girl years behind her now that she’s 10, or double digits, as she calls it.

Naturally, I blame my decline on them.

So what does a newly discovered gray-haired mom do?

I made an appointment to visit my hair stylist pronto.

As soon as I sat down in the salon chair, I confessed what I’d found.

It was a gray hair, I said gravely.

Two of them.

Combing my hair, she took a closer look. There was no hesitation.

Oh yes, she said. I see them.

THEM? How many of “them” do you see, I said in a panic. I thought I had pulled all of “them” out!

Oh, just a few, she said diplomatically.

Don’t worry, we’ll take care of that with your highlights, she said. Two hours later my gray hair(s) were once again camouflaged.

I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to my husband. Your gray hair isn’t so bad.

I’m sure we make quite a distinguished-looking couple.

Friday, August 06, 2010


More art from our new 16-year-old Annabelle. She drew this picture of her friends as Disney characters. Actual size is about 11x14, so we had to take a photo of it to post.
Too cute!

P.S. I just got busted for posting this without asking her permission. She came into my office just as I was downloading the drawing.
"What is THAT?" she yelled, when she saw my screen. "You have to ask the artist's permission before stealing their art!"
Yes, dear.
(At least she didn't demand that I delete this post...)

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

English Beat!

I don't get to take advantage of many freebies as a reporter but last Saturday night DJ and I got to go see new wave classics English Beat and Squeeze at our new-old Uptown Theatre in Napa. Love, love, love the Beat! And they did not disappoint. Dave Wakeling and his new Beat played all the old favorites for 80s fans like me.

Before the show started DJ and got to meet/interview Wakeling and his band. They were just hanging out on the sidewalk, smoking and talking. Super nice and approachable. Wakeling said they were headed to San Francisco the next night. "Where are you going to park your giant tour buses overnight," I asked.
"In the Super Wal-Mart parking lot," he said. No joke.

Here are two stories I wrote for the Register about the evening:

The ’80s are back, or at least they were on Saturday night, when Squeeze and the English Beat managed to squeeze themselves and several hundred of their fans into the newly renovated Uptown Theatre.

For most, it was a night for reminiscing, as many of the 40-and-over crowd went through high school and college listening to the two bands’ combinations of ska, two-tone, reggae and new wave-styled music. Back then, both were at the top of the charts with hits such as the Beat’s “I Confess,” “Tears of a Clown,” and Squeeze’s “Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)” and “Tempted.”

Saturday night, the English Beat’s music centered on frontman Dave Wakeling, the only original band member playing with today’s English Beat.

Beat (and later, General Public) fans will recall Ranking Roger, the band’s original “toaster” — but Roger’s not playing with the U.S. English Beat, instead he’s got the U.K. covered with his own band called The Beat. Concertgoers didn’t seem to mind Roger’s absence, enthusiastically welcoming Wakeling and bandmates to the stage for their first song, a remake of the classic, “I’ll Take You There.”

After a pause to admire the mural on the ceiling of the Uptown, Wakeling launched into a rollicking extended version of “I Confess,” which immediately brought most of the crowd to its feet to stay.

Between songs, Wakeling bantered easily with his front row fans, some of whom he seemed to know personally. A few sported “rudeboy” porkpie hats and Beat concert T-shirts.

This is a musician who seems to genuinely enjoy performing, and even those new to the Beat couldn’t help but get swept up in the infectious brand of “happy” music, as one put it. The band continued on with extended versions of “Tears of a Clown” from the 1980 album “I Just Can’t Stop It,” and “Save it For Later” from 1982’s “Special Beat Service.” Other favorites followed, including “Can’t Get Used to Losing You” and “Never You Done That,” complete with whistle solo by Wakeling.

Next up were hits “Tenderness” and the reggae-infused, highly dancable “Ranking Full Stop,” a personal favorite. All too soon, the Beat closed their one-hour set with an audience sing-along of yet another classic, “Mirror in the Bathroom.”

After a short break when many Beat fans rushed out to the Uptown lobby to buy T-shirts and band stickers, Squeeze took the stage. Also from the U.K., Squeeze first began performing in 1974 and, while weathering a break-up or two, original band members Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford continue to play together today.

Squeeze opened its set with “Take Me I’m Yours” from 1978, then “Annie Get Your Gun” and U.S. top 40 hit “Black Coffee in Bed.”

An accomplished guitar player and vocalist, Tilbrook put to rest any doubt about a band that’s been performing together for 37 years — Squeeze has still got it.

At one point Squeeze drummer Simon Hanson was rocking out so hard, he actually broke one of his snare drums.

Longtime fans probably appreciated the ’80s photo montage of Squeeze photographs and clips that were displayed during one slower ballad on curtains behind the band.

Wearing a brown pin-striped suit with flowered blue shirt and what looked like white patent shoes, Tilbrook went on to wow fans with “Loving You Tonight” and “Goodbye Girl.” Bandmate Difford also took a turn at the microphone for Squeeze’s hit “Cool For Cats.”

The group wrapped up with “Slap and Tickle” from 1979’s “Cool For Cats” album, then another U.S. top 40 hit, “Tempted.” But the fun wasn’t over quite yet.

After much cheering, Squeeze bounded back onstage for a final two-song encore, both tunes from the 1980 album “Argybargy”: “Another Nail in my Heart” and the popular “Pulling Mussels (From the Shell).”

While English Beat and Squeeze continue to tour, fans can also get more of a taste of the two bands via new albums.

Squeeze has a new album “Spot the Difference” composed of re-recordings of old hits, debuting this month.

Wakeling said he plans to release an English Beat EP in coming months, to be recorded in Northern California.

The English Beat/Squeeze combination will end next week, but Beat fans might enjoy the Beat’s next match-up with another ska favorite, Bad Manners.

Dave Wakeling of the English Beat talks about music, life.

Hailing from working-class Birmingham, England, Dave Wakeling and the English Beat entered the music scene in 1979.

Along with contemporaries such as the Specials, the Selecter and Madness, the English Beat became one of the most popular and influential bands of the British ska movement. Today, Wakeling continues to tour as the English Beat, albeit with new bandmates. The Beat played at the Uptown theater this past Saturday night. The Register spoke with Dave Wakeling before the Napa concert.

Are you still in touch with your original bandmates?

Yes. Particularly (Ranking) Roger. Everyone gets on pretty good now. I think the dust has settled on much of the squabbles. It all worked out in the end. (Roger currently plays in England with his band called The Beat.)

Does Roger’s band play the same songs as your band?

Roger takes the easy ones. I sing the difficult ones. This is not a competition — unless you insist.

Where do you live?

In Pacific Palisades. I’ve lived in California for 23 years. When I travel to England, they think I’m a Yank. I’m a proud Californian. It’s a wonderful place.

How much do you tour?

Endlessly. Year-round. I do eight shows in one month and then 15 to 22 the next month.

What is your favorite thing about being on tour?

My favorite thing is that you lose a bit of sense of time and place. Once it gets rolling the tour takes on a life of its own. There is a momentum that keeps you going.

Any favorite tour stops so far?

It’s always great to go to New Orleans. It doesn’t matter if you play or not.

Have you played in Napa before?

We did a private party up there a couple months ago. It was the first time I stayed there. It’s very pretty. If they know their bands as well as they know their wines it will be a pretty jolly evening.

For many of us that grew up in the 80s, your music is a defining soundtrack to our lives, marking significant moments such as romances, high school and college days. What does it feel like to know you’ve been a part of so many memories?

More than anything else, that’s the most rewarding and humbling thing that’s happened to me. You write songs to try and cheer yourself up and hoping that you’ll feel more connected to people. So 30 years later for people to tell you that they lost their virginity to certain songs, they used certain song in the birthing room, (played) other songs at funerals… you feel you did connect. It continues to give me a sense of wonder and humility. We are in fact all one.

What is something that people would be surprised to know about you?

I don’t drink. I’m a vegetarian. I always wanted to be a Buddist monk and I worked for Greenpeace.

You’ve played with music legends such as the Police, U2 and David Bowie — is there any one artist or band you’d like to play with that you haven’t yet?

Van Morrison. He would be amazing I think.

What’s a common question you get about your music or career?

People have developed the misconception that we were overly political all the time. (Politics) was just one of the strands that was woven in (to our music).

What is one of your favorite keepsakes you saved from your early days in music?

A 1982 Clash and English Beat tour pass. I have it in on my office desk. Growing up as a kid I would have never have guessed (the two would play together). I still pinch myself. What a treat.

Do you have children, and are any of them into music?

Yes, I have four children (ages 15 to 28), one grandkid, and one on the way. They are all into music; singing, playing guitar, and playing drums. I’ve (talked) about a tour … (on) the Ska-tridge Family Bus.

Do you miss anything from England?

I miss the puffy white clouds on a perfect summer day. You know it’s going to rain tomorrow, but for today it’s a perfect day. (And) the sense of irony. That droll sense of English pub humor. But I can’t say I miss much else.

What’s your favorite third wave ska band?

I should say it’s a toss up; No Doubt because they spread the genre the farthest. But I could say the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and the Slackers. I could have the Mighty Mighty Bosstones as first. But that might be a slap in the face to No Doubt.

Monday, August 02, 2010

"Gimmee Gimmee"

More from the notorious Register postcard writer Pam Reid. I'm not going to quote her in this blog because I don't want anyone thinking that I agree with what she says in the second paragraph (but it's pretty much everything she writes after "gimmee gimmee")

For further Reid-ing visit:

Pam Reid #1: (Just who IS Pam Reid?)

Pam Reid #2: (Pam Reid hates dogs and so much more)