Yesterday on the USS Potomac – F.D.R.’s “Floating White House”

What a treat!

Valerie got tickets from a co-worker for a city lights cruise on the USS Potomac from 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm.  We enjoyed every minute, and when the sun set it was quite a spectacle. It was followed by the city scape of San Francisco with lights everywhere, in all the buildings, and, of course, those marvelous bridges. And let us not forget the sky, and the crescent moon…

If I sound awestruck it is because that is how I felt.

We are so lucky to be able to enjoy all that Mother Nature and the San Francisco Bay have to offer, especially since the sun continues to shine on us every day.  The weather allowed us to enjoy this cruise, and Guido was happier than I have ever seen him recently.

As we commented afterwards, this was quite a treat. Now we have to wait until the big ships come out of hibernation (dry dock for maintenance) and we’ll be ready for more!

This was followed by dinner at a restaurant here in San Rafael. We are so lucky that our house is close to everything – downtown, doctors, restaurants.  And this one had the best food we’ve had in some time, as well as exceptionally good waiters. When I asked where they got the arugula, as it was so good, the Chef himself came to or table to tell me.  And Valerie and Creg were in stitches when they realized I was flirting with the Chef…(I had only one glass of wine, but he was so cute…)

All in all, it was a wonderful day, and I slept the sleep of the just, something that had not happened in some time.

Obviously, I need more of this, even though I was afraid I would not be able to endure so much. I did, and I am very happy about it!

From Facebook:

City Lights Cruise on the USS Potomac. (4 photos)
Martha Paley Francescato  It was awesome!!! The name of the boat, Potomac, is after the river, not our former neighborhood… And to think that it was now, today, 4 January 2014. Winter here is what I love! And then, we had dinner in a superb restaurant in San Rafael! Click on the photo to see the other three.
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Another Lazy Sunday in San Rafael, California

Another lazy Sunday in San Rafael, sunny California, with very blue skies and temperatures in the 60s. Where is the rain?  I am starting to miss it – but not the snow!

I had very good responses to my previous post, so I decided to write another one.  I am also glad that some have understood my feelings so well. I hope that Jean-Paul does not mind if I quote him, because he has expressed exactly what I meant to convey: “ I know that whatever health problems you might have not just vanished but you seem to take them more in stride.”  Indeed, health is a subject I didn’t want to discuss, as it has become repetitive and boring.  Suffice it to say it is not good … yet!

Valerie’s wedding will be in June, but they have already started planning. There is so much to get done! I wish I could help, but so far they are doing everything themselves.  The wedding will be bi-cultural, bilingual, and “bi-gender”… There will be two ordained ministers – Andrés, our very good  “old” friend, will officiate at the event in Spanish (porteño)  and Laura, Valerie’s friend, will do it in English. The bride is Argentine, and the groom “Unitedstatesian” (“Estadounidense” -we use this term in Argentina, as we consider ourselves American too.)

Rosana’s and Valerie’s friends have helped greatly with our acclimatization. They visit, call, write, and really care.  This is something we have noticed in California – people are so much warmer and friendlier than what we have experienced in other places.  Still, I need to add two exceptions – Urbana (Illinois) and Amherst (Massachusetts)

Two days ago we drove around the area.  I mention this as a big thing because it is. We had so far gone mainly to doctors’ offices, and our daughters and Creg had taken us on leisure drives. The day was gorgeous, and we went on a winding road that had the mountains on the left and the Bay on the right.  It was incredibly beautiful, and we were also struck by all the boat marinas along the way. One thought came to our minds – why not have our Grand Banks, still in Maryland, trucked here? It is not that expensive, and we can have a marina 10 or 20 minutes away rather than one hour, as we had it in the Chesapeake Bay. But it is just a thought.  I don’t know if we are up to it, but both Valerie and Creg love sailing,  so, who knows???  Wishful thinking, almost certainly…

For the first time in many years the six of us were together on the 25th, and it feels good to know that this “trend” will continue.  It is all our family in this country.  For all this I am very grateful.  It makes me feel much better, at least emotionally. And it is a great feeling, indeed!


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Latest News…


Let me see. Where did I last stop? Now I can’t remember, and I don’t feel like going back to check. I only remember it was a long time ago. No apologies, though…

I will just think out loud and see where this takes me.

We were 22 for Thanksgiving, and Valerie had done all the cooking. Rosana contributed her famous pies. We love their friends, and they have been very welcoming to us.  Now we have invitations to their homes, most of them in the city (“city” here means San Francisco) Among their friends, there are three architects, so Guido can feel triply accompanied.  And it didn’t feel crowded at all.

The weather continues to be mild – 40s at night and 50s to 60s during the day. No rain yet, which is quite strange. Since we moved here in May we’ve had two rainy days, and even those were mostly drizzle and not all day.  We are just “stuck” ;)  with gorgeous blue skies, and since many trees are not deciduous, we still have lots of green.  There were some whose foliage turned bright red, orange, and yellow, so we have a bit of everything.

From the windows in my room I can see the mountains.  Actually, we can see them from most rooms, but mine has huge windows. That is a feature we love about this house, among many others. The windows reach from my knees to almost the ceiling (well, that’s considering my height) and there are windows everywhere, and bay windows in the living room and what is called a “garden window” in the kitchen. It is really amazing that, in a house this old (1900), the kitchen is so well planned, with all sorts of cabinets and pull out shelves. A dream! And every room, even the laundry room, has windows.

Some features are puzzling – the stairs to the second floor (second in US standards) that lead to the three rooms and bathroom, have 19 ½ steps. Yes- the top step is half of the others. We still don’t understand why. The ceilings are quite high in the first floor, so that when we need to change a light bulb we have to ask Creg to do it, and he has to use a ladder.  The 19 steps attest to the high ceilings.  Our “old house” had 13 steps from one floor to the next.  All in all, the house is feeling “ours” more and more each day.

We don’t go out much, and I will not dwell on health issues. They are the same.  Valerie does almost all of the shopping, in addition to cooking for us almost every night. Sounds good? It is, trust me!  I love being here, at the computer, inside Facebook (I have managed to get inside – I believe in science fiction)  watching films, and reading a lot, as well as helping several writers who have entrusted me with their creations.  It all keeps me busy, and if I get bored I can go to the backyard or gaze out the windows. There are many birds of all kinds which of course I don’t recognize, but I enjoy them. No need to know what they are.

What also makes me marvel is the sky at night.  We are in a valley, and not too close to many lights. I can see the stars very clearly, and was in awe when I first saw Venus. I had never seen her (yes- she is feminine) so large and so clearly.

Something that is quite unique and new to us is the sense of community here, in San Rafael. I imagine it exists in other places too, but I had never had this before. I got this message today:

“One of the real joys of the holiday season…

…is the opportunity to give thanks. Thank you for being a member of Nextdoor and helping to bring back a sense of community to neighborhoods around the country.

Season’s greetings and best wishes for the new year from our Nextdoor family to yours.” 

It is a community site where neighbors post their concerns, objects for sale or required, anything they want or need. It brings us all together, a wonderful idea!

Thanksgivakah 2013 –
A once-in-a-lifetime event (Thanksgiving and Chanukah rarely fall on the same date) celebrated in style at the San Rafael Francescato Compound. One of Valerie’s friends even brought a menorah

And so it is goodbye for now, hoping that you are all well, and sending you my very best wishes, not just for the holiday season, but for the rest of time…


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Latest News and Happenings -In Words and Pictures

Dear all,

Once again, you’ll have to excuse me for writing a collective message to “undisclosed recipients”.  Be assured that I am thinking of all and each of you, but I do not have the stamina yet to write individual messages.  Here go our latest news.

We are now officially Californians – our license plates are proof of that, even though the dealer’s name is still from back in the boondocks…

Car license plates CA
We are enjoying the back yard of several levels, and the weather. It has been unusually hot for this time of the year, but it gets cooler at night, and there is always a wonderful breeze from the ocean.  Here is one of our outdoor dinners (made by Valeria and Creg) in our lovely back yard! The plums are from our trees… It is a summer dinner  – grilled swordfish, caprese salad with heirloom tomatoes and wine, of course!  Even a vase with our flowers!
San Rafael dinner June 2013
A very proud San Francisco! Our opera house, Coit Tower, SFO, City Hall-  Today is Gay Pride Parade, and many buildings have the colors that go with it! 
SSan Francisco Gat Pride Parade 30 June 2013

We were in San Francisco yesterday for Rosana’s Solarthon Fundraising Barbecue Extravaganza ( It was the first time we saw her condo and met many of her friends. I had a great time!  Guido went to lie down on a bed part of the time. I was having such wonderful conversations that time flew by. There were younger and older people, all of them extremely interesting and very, very friendly. It made me feel good, and I hope to have made some lasting friendships. Guido stayed close for a long time to a couple that have a sailboat, and they have invited us on it soon😉

Today I could hardly get up after having partied for so long. We were there for a few hours, and it was worth it!!!

And this is what it looked like a few days ago, when it rained (actually just drizzled) for about two days. It was a welcome change after too many deep blue skies :)  I need to acknowledge that this photo was taken by Rhys Bowen, an excellent writer who lives close by.  She managed to take a beautiful photo from the balcony of her home. Her view is much nicer than ours, though… We are planning to get together soon!

San Rafael view from Rhys Bowen's balcony

It is hot these days, and we are starting to feel it, but with some fans, open windows, cooler nights, and low humidity, it is quite bearable. It was at least 10 degrees lower in San Francisco!!!

Next, we have another party – a Fourth of July neighborhood picnic! It is hosted by our neighbors across the street, and it will be easy to get there, for sure!😉

Finally, Valerie managed to finish opening and organizing the content of the last four boxes in the room, and now we can start breathing a bit better. We are still waiting for the contractors to finish the work in our house in Potomac,so we can sell it…. Then, it will be truly goodbye to the past!

Many hugs,

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New City, New Home, New Life!

It is high time to write about our recent experience, moving from Maryland to San Rafael, California.  I am still panting and opening boxes and feeling tired from the move, but I want to start sharing our adventures.  And you’ll have to excuse this collective message. Just remember that I was thinking of YOU when I wrote it!

Before getting started, I want to thank the friends who drove us to the airport, sent us cards and flowers and above all, chocolate!

From DAY 1 –  Valerie and Creg went to Potomac to stay with us a week ahead of the movers sometime in May (who remembers when?  It doesn’t matter. I no longer care.  It is in a past that we have left behind.)  They helped us organize everything. They also looked after our belongings and showed the movers what to pack.  The following day the movers loaded the truck, and again V and C supervised the procedure.  Guido and I are quite limited, but with their aid it all went smoothly.  We even decided to “move” our car to have transportation as soon as we got here.

At the airport we asked for a wheelchair (for me, obviously), and that turned out to be a great move. We were whisked to the front of the security line, and since the other three were family members, they could come with me.  The plane was delayed due to thunderstorms, but I didn’t care much, as I was on my way to the “promised land.”

We arrived on the 22nd of May 2013, and started our new life in our new home (actually old, as it dates from 1910!)  Some of the rooms have slanting roofs, and all of us have been “baptized” so far. It is not easy to see where the ceiling starts “falling” and our heads have had to let us know…

Even though the movers unpacked a lot (they had to because they were late, and it was much better than having to do it by ourselves – good came from failure on the movers’ part to arrive when they had told us they would) we still have boxes everywhere, and some had been mislabeled, so we are still wondering where some things are. Although it is a bit inconvenient, we have to be patient (something I am not!)

V and C have been doing most everything, since G and I are still somewhat incapacitated.  But they both work, and even though they live here, just below us, they can only do it mostly in the evenings (in addition to cooking) and weekends.  They have earned their place in Paradise, no doubt!  Rosana has also come to help, but she lives in SF, and it is harder for her to get here.

What impressed us was all the things V and C were able to build or assemble – furniture, electrical work, installing shower heads, setting up the computers and internet connection, Guido’s music room set up, my desk built, in addition to so many other tasks, and others to be done.

I was very happy and touched when Creg told us that a friend was wondering if he and V would be comfortable dining with us almost every day. This led C to realize how much it meant to them to have dinner at the table, enjoying the food, feeling comfortable, and allowing us all to chat and get to know one another better.  Yes- they not only cook for us but do it here and join us! At one point, when V was still not here, C told us (asked?) he’d like to marry V.  We agreed, as we felt he wanted our opinion.  They have become officially engaged and will get married sometime, maybe in October!

So far, we love it all.  The house is smaller than what we had, but has lots of useful and “antique” features; the weather could not be better – the bluest of skies and temperatures from the low 60s to the high 80s, but since there is hardly any humidity we don’t feel the heat; the back yard is truly spectacular.  Some of the people who have seen it are in awe.  Even if I posted photos they would not do justice to it.  We have all kinds of flowers and trees and fruit (so far, plums and raspberries and lemons) and who knows what else.  Time will tell…

We have become true Californians. We got our car registered yesterday, and we already have the new license plates!  And as C and V take us on tours, we appreciate the beauty of this area – the Bay with the ferries alongside the coast (I want to take a ferry ride soon), the lamp posts with garlands of flowers, the mountains in the background… The first night here we had takeout dinner – from Sol Foods, a Puerto Rican restaurant.  The second takeout was from Pizza Orgasmica.  Then we knew we were truly in California!  And it is fascinating that there are so many different countries represented, not just Mexican, as many people think.  There are stores and restaurants from all over – French, Chinese, Italian, Puerto Rican, Peruvian, Spanish, among others. Just for you to get the idea.

Our goal now is to find a good doctor.  We had an interview with one who belongs to MDVIP, and our former pcp had already talked to him.  He is close by – we could almost walk to his practice! He seems OK. We can start and see if he is the right one. I am already feeling much better because it is easier here to be outdoors, in our own back yard (the Park, as we call it) or around town.  One neighbor has already invited us to a party she is having on the fourth of July, and friends of Rosana and Rafael have invited us to a party at their place next Saturday. And I must make it! And we must be able to have a party here soon too – if we can find some items (such as the good knives) that have mysteriously disappeared!

Still, we may have some visitors. My cousin’s son is thinking of coming here from Buenos Aires to celebrate his son’s 10th birthday in December. Who will be next?  Although the studio apartment is now being used as a basement, where everything we don’t know where to put is dumped, there are guest rooms available. And we can use more hands to help us with the boxes!😉


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Guido’s Surgery and House in San Rafael and Elevators and Stairs and Earthquakes…

Good evening!

Here we are, after Guido’s cataract surgery back on Tuesday. The second eye was a bit worse because the pupil had become smaller. and there is a veil now covering that eye. According to the surgeon, it will eventually go away as the pupil returns to its normal size … we hope!  Other than that, he is doing fine. He had to get one of those glasses they sell at the drugstore for reading.  It will be great for him to be able to see from afar!!!

Friends have been kind, and we welcome the messages, calls, and cards (although there were fewer this time).  But those were even more appreciated!!!


I am starting a different subject. I state it because I notice that when I do it without warning, many do not seem to realize there is something else and don’t pay any attention. Yes, there is more!

The house in San Rafael does NOT need an elevator, as some have recommended… (yes)…  If you look at the entrance (again), you’ll see that it is flush with the street level. This is the entrance to the top two floors, where we shall dwell.  Valerie has the lower one, but you can only see it from the back, as the house is on a slope, as most in that area. Then, even below that, is the studio apartment.  Therefore, we are not reckless or foolish for having bought it (as was intimated by couple of people out there…) Where we are now there are three sets of steps, and they do not trouble us when we go up and down several times a day, even though I am not well enough to do it even more!  On the contrary, they provide some needed exercise as we go up and down with no problem. Thanks for the recommendation, but we are not planning on getting an airlift, please.  At least, not yet!

Take another look at the front:
House fron door

144 Bungalow Aven
San Rafael, CA 94901

And look

Back of the house
our unit consists of the two top floors; Valeria and Creg have the lower one, and the lowest is the studio. The garage is on the right, with a lower floor for storage.

House San Rafael - back

Rosana has already left, and we are once again all by ourselves.  I don’t mind now, as I know it will soon be over.  Both Rosana and Valeria are “old timers” in the Bay area.  They have lived there for about 28 years, and are very well informed about everything.  In addition, Valeria took a course and she is a volunteer through it – NERT – neighborhood emergency response team. She knows exactly what to do in the event of an earthquake!  Valeria and Creg have many friends and like to have them over.  We’ll be surrounded by young people!  I know most of them through Facebook, so they will not be strangers.  She will be coming back here when we are ready to move in order to help us. And it IS getting closer – I started this message 20 minutes ago, and it is now later, and soon it will be tomorrow, and then it is April……

Time to sign off and wish every body good night … and good luck!
good-night-1 an sweet reams

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Our House – 144 Bungalow Avenue, San Rafael, CA 94901

This is a report on our house hunting.  Finally, we can disclose it!  We had not said almost anything, except to a couple of very close friends. We did not want to be overwhelmed with questions (or having it jinxed, if you believe in it… I do!)    I have received many questions about it because of my latest message.  I cannot answer them all, so this goes to everybody. I know you will undertsand!  Well, I hope…

As many know, we had been considering moving to San Francisco to be closer to our daughters – the only relatives we have in this country. They come here often to help, but they have jobs and a life, and as we get older (and sicker), we need them more than ever.

We started in October 2012, when we felt we were ready to take it seriously.  With the help of a realtor, Valeria and Rosana went to see many houses.  Not easy. We were looking for a “double unit” – that is, a house with two separate living quarters. Valeria and Creg would live in one and we in the other.

It was not until February that we realized San Francisco was out of bounds for several reasons – houses tended to be too small or poorly maintained, but it was due mainly to the cost. One of the houses we liked better than others had … 17 offers! Yes- and it sold for 300,000 above the asking price, which was already over one million!!!

The next step was to see what they had to offer in neighboring counties.  The first house we found was in Marin county, in San Rafael.  Then, as we all liked it and it was reasonably priced, we made an offer and it was readily accepted!  Since then, we have been incredibly busy with mortgage specialists, three realtors, two banks, and a lawyer.  We even had a notary public come to our home here (for a hefty fee, naturally) to sign all the documents for the closing.  It took one whole hour!

The house is ours as of 21 March 2013!!!!  However, we cannot move in yet. The people who live there now will not leave until May 1st, and for us it is better, as we cannot be ready so fast.  we are not well, as you know. Valeria was here for almost two months helping us get rid of all the “junk” accumulated in the 32 years we have been living in this house.   It was not easy. What they labeled “junk” was a treasure for me… But, as the house is smaller, we have to adapt, and I closed my eyes as things went to several charities.  It was the books  I could not let go, but having Kindle helps, and  I realized I could not keep all of them. Fortunately, many students benefited from them, but libraries had too many restrictions…  Moving everything across the country will not be easy, so we have to be realistic.

As long as I am sending this to many, and some have asked, I will add that Guido is now in limbo – he can see better with the eye that had the cataract surgery, but he has to wait until next Tuesday to have it on the other eye.  In the meantime, he can’t wear his glasses, but needs them for one eye.  Catch 22, indeed!  Maybe a monocle? Very dandy!    We hope by mid April everything will be better.  Rosana is now here to help and also to take Guido to the doctors, as I am not allowed to drive.

For those who assumed that we are moving now because we are better, I am sorry to have to say that is not the case.  As it is, I am worse, even after having turned to yet another highly recommended endocrinologist… He seemed quite capable, but could not help much. He told me I have to wait until 2014 for the new Synthroid dosage to be effective. I am not joking!

Let me also remind you that after the very strong earthquake in San Francisco in 1989 Valeria took a course on earthquake readiness and survival.  We know all about it, naturally, even if she had not taken the course, so do not worry!

We will probably be moving sometime in June.  By then, I hope I will have been able to close my eyes and discard everything that we won’t be needing there.  Clothes are the easiest, as the weather will be much sunnier and milder than here!  And less foggy than San Francisco – one advantage.  Also, Isabel Allende lives there, so we may be able to resume our lapsed friendship.

We are now eager to be in California.  Guido was somewhat hesitant for almost two years, but now he is also looking forward to it.  He even has drawn a plan and is “placing” furniture in the rooms (remember he is an architect)!  And there will be time for Valerie and Creg and Rosana and Rafael to go and see what else needs to be done to the house so that when we move it will all be ready, waiting for us with open arms!


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