No photo today.  In fact, that I know of, there may be only a small handful of photos of Miss Celandine and me together–ironic, considering how long and faithful and brilliant our friendship has been.  We met in graduate school, years ago.  We got on famously.  We still do.  I thought I’d talk about two big reasons Miss Celandine is a great favorite.

One.  She beat the rush, got on a plane, and came to Spain.  To see me.  She stayed for ten glorious days during which we hit up museums (MNAC! Picasso!), sampled gelato (Llet Merengada!), wandered the streets of Born, Gotic, and Eixample (Tous!), hiked every inch of Park Güell, braved the evening tapas crowds (yes, we survived Tapas 24 and have earned the right to tell the tale), and hopped a train to Tarragona to see the Roman ruins and claim a spot in the sand, where we soaked up the Mediterranean ocean and sun for an afternoon.  Incurably funny, she charmed the petals and teased Goose.  To us, she’s an Event.

Two.  She beat breast cancer last year.  Yes, she did this.  With the help of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and intense personal grit.  Here in Spain was only the second time I had seen her since her diagnosis.  This trip was both a vacation and a celebration for her.  I could say Miss Celandine is brave, that she’s a fighter, but these are platitudes.  What’s true is that she did the work, and it was unimaginably painful, and she is now well and as alive as I’ve ever seen her.

This morning I put her on a plane bound for JFK and then for home.  She’ll resume her life as a university professor and All Around Extraordinary Woman.  Fly safe, Miss Celandine.  And by the way:  the Eleven O’Clock Mom thinks you’re grand.

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Snow Capped Mountains

So I watch my kids interact with each other as we travel. Three things catch my attention.

One. They play.  It’s hard not to have affectionate feelings for people you play with. Seriously. Sure, occasionally somebody wants to be king or queen of the sandbox, and a battle for sovereignty ensues. But by and large, people who play together enjoy each other. Seems axiomatic, don’t you think?

Two. They make memories.  My kids record playtime as Happy Memories. That is, their happiest remembrances of siblings are linked to times they played together (or got into mischief together). Who doesn’t want to grow their cache of Happy Memories? You know–throw some more treasure onto the pile?

Three. Their fun begs to be watched!  Watching your kids play together makes you smile, which ups your happiness quotient. I defy any mother (or any-Anyone, for that matter) to witness a round of robust playtime and then decide she’d rather hang onto her so-so mood.  Really.  Me?–I find it hard to feel partly cloudly when my kids are spraying sunshine at each other.

Playtime.  Yep.


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Miss Lavender and Miss Tulip.  Just a bit of (splendid) nonsense.  Which will make you smile. Especially if it’s been a while since you played like this with a friend. Todo les parece divertido, no? Perhaps you ought to grab a friend you play well with and proceed immediately to your local park.

I happen to have a best friend in town at the moment.  (We play extraordinarily well together.)  We did not make it to the Parc d’Horta, but we did do some rather impressive wandering yesterday, down through Plaza Catalunya, into La Iglesia Santa Anna, out into Barrio Gotíc, then through Plaza Jaume, into the Born neighborhood, doubling back to catch the Palau de Música, then catching the metro for home.  Of particular interest to us was the Llet Merengada gelato at my favorite place in Born.  Llet merengada:  merengued milk, glazed with fresh-ground nutmeg powder.  It was, well, more than satisfactory.

Today it’s Park Güell. (!)  Plus, the sun is out.  So thank you, weather gods.  By the way, I have tentatively named my friend Miss Celandine.  (Technically, she would of course be a Madame Celandine, but she doeesn’t look a day past ‘Miss.’)


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When Your Bike Is Smarter Than You Are

by Becky on April 16, 2013 · 2 comments

in Fun, Travel

Smart bike_8855

People bike here.  Everywhere.  All the time.  So it’s no surprise that from a cycling culture, the eBike would emerge, a set of wheels with a nice IQ as well as added power to help you pedal around town when your quads start to feel rubbery.

smart bikes_8861

smart bike_8858

Tucked behind the Barcelona Cathedral in a narrow alley, the We Boutique feautres the SMART bike–their version of the eBike.  The store is a hub for a collection of bicycles designed to dial you right into the history of the city as you bike through it, with a little help from your electric power when the hills get stubborn.  You can set off on the Gaudi tour, the Old Town tour, the UNESCO World Heritage tour, The Mediterranean tour, and more.  Each tour includes your bike, an iPhone with the app for your tour, ear buds, and a briefing about how all your equipment works.

Then you’re off:  you, your wheels, your ‘tour guide,’ and BCN.  Tours last anywhere from two to eight hours.  Very cool, no?  (And, thanks to that electric power boost that kicks in when you need it, you’re not even a sweaty mess by the end of the day.)

(Top photo:  reflected in the glass, Miss Zinnia considers the virtues of a bike that pedals you when you want it to.)



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Facing forward_1707

You want your daughters to fly–if not from the walls of old fortresses, then at least into their futures, with confidence.

Levitating in ruins_1711

This thing Miss Lavender does, where she ‘levitates’ in some gorgeously odd spot, has a cool factor of like a gazillion–don’t you agree? And for me as a mom, it’s not just the illusion of flying that I find breathtaking; it’s the way the image just shouts girl power.

Levitating two_1254

I’m not saying I want my girls to rule the world.

Once again_1255

But I want them to rule themselves. And to be able to count on themselves to go far and fast when they desire to.

Tessa levitating in Sagunto_1245

To gather motion as they organize their goals.

Tess and Millie in air_1265

And to take care of each other, so that all the nonsense that too often pulls girls down won’t. Because they’ll know how to rise together.

Also:  for a look at the breathtaking images of the Japanese girl whose self-portraits inspired Miss Lavender to want to try levitating, visit her website with your kids!  It’s impossible not to be amazed at the mindblowingly graceful way she seems to defy gravity.  Her last post was in 2011 (sad!).  But all the material leading up to that post–wow!


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More spinning_7142

Museums. You might think of them as Highly Serious Places. Not Miss Tulip and Miss Lavander.


They think of museums as places in which to spin (as well as consider the Serious Historical Importance of relics from the area, yes, of course).

Tessa spinning Caitlin_7141

You know, don’t you, that you can be both a Serious Museum Goer and also a bit of a child–in equal proportions, if you feel like it?

Levitating again_7256

Of course you do.


So the question becomes this: is it the beauty of a particular spot in a museum that causes something to bubble up from inside you?

By the railing_7389

Or does what’s inside you make the spot special?

Tessa spinning, Caitlin leaning_7393

Sitting on railing_7354

Sitting on the railing_7410

Sitting together_7413

Either way, a trip to a museum takes on Greater Personal Significance when one of your favorite petals is by your side.

Looking out the window_7120

Standing together_7494

That’s just the way it is.

(Miss Tulip: just so you know, the local museums–and most other places as well–will not be the same without you!)

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Tessa levitating_6265

Miss Lavender, she of the floral print skirt and polka dotted tights, appears to be on her way to get something.

Tessa marching along_6260

Perhaps it’s her pink coat?

Scarf hugging Tessa_5915

Found it! Hooray!

Tessa in pink and teal_5909

And her scarf, too.  Teal and pink. Works fine on a gloomy afternoon.

Tessa swinging scarf_5902

Below:  Miss Lavender does ‘Studied Insouciance’ better than anyone I know.

Tessa with scarf wrapped around her_5872

In·sou·ci·ance: nonchalance, lack of concern. Word for the day.  But who wouldn’t feel appropriately insouciant in a pink, wool coat?  Like anything else really matters.  (At least for the moment!)

Miss Lavender’s outfit:  denim top, Crossroads Trading, a consignment store in Costa Mesa, CA.  Skirt and shoes, Anthropologie.  Tights, Calzedonia, in Barcelona.  (Very) bright pink coat, Kling, also in Barcelona. Just so you know, we are sale stalkers, bargain lovers, and deal hounds. I seldom pay anywhere close to full price for anything! With four kids, that’s the way Eleven O’Clock Mom rolls.

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Image from Park Güell in Barcelona Spain

Parks abound here in Barcelona. Some are historic, like this one, designed by Gaudí. Drawing visitors from all over the world, Park Güell looks like nothing you’ve ever seen. It is one of Gaudí’s modernist dreams writ large.

Image from Park Güell in Barcelona Spain

Image from Park Güell in Barcelona Spain

Image from Park Güell in Barcelona Spain

Image from Park Güell in Barcelona Spain

Image from Park Güell in Barcelona Spain

Image from Park Güell in Barcelona Spain

Smaller parks abound here, too, of the less spectacular variety. With their soccer courts, their pathways for strolling, and their playgrounds for little bodies, they are afternoon dreams writ small. Goose and I headed to his favorite park today.  You’d never know it was there if you didn’t go through the breezeway that appears to lead into an apartment building but doesn’t!  Suddenly, you’re in open space: buildings on four sides, park underfoot.

He loves to play soccer (fútbol) there with some new friends. As might be expected in a city that literally erupts when Barcelona wins a soccer match, these boys can dance around a ball in ways that seem to defy gravity.  The court they play on is brick; the goal posts are merely imagined ones, since other children also share the space.  This afternoon, as I watched Goose strap on the goalie gloves another boy loaned to him when it was his turn to protect the goal, I thought, Man, is he happy in the park.

Maybe the real boundary between childhood and teenagehood is What You Do At A Park.  Goose, he launches himself in every direction in order to stop balls from becoming goals.  But Miss Lavender, she reads on a nearby bench.

Today I found myself wanting Mr. Goose to have quality park time.  Lots of it.  The reason is obvious, isn’t it?  I want his childhood to last as long as it can.

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Girl with basket_3303

So you take 60 tons of sweets. And myriads of expectant children. And over 120 horses parading through the streets of the Old Gracia district in Barcelona, their riders reaching into saddlebags laden with candy. You throw it (literally) all together, and you have the Dolça Festa, every March 3rd–a colorful, tasty whirl of a festival that reminds everyone why being a child is so magical!  One thing I’ve learned about this city:  Barcelona loves a reason to celebrate.

Two horses_2971

Young boy on horse_3026

Man on horse throwing candy_3583

Man on horn_3402

Woman on horse_3190


Carriage wheels_3492

Mom with little girl_3095

Mom and girls reaching for candy_3099


Little girl reaching_3334

Child with dark hair_3558

Boy in shades_4084

Boy on dad's shoulders_4086

Don’t you love the festooned carts and lorries? The colorful hailstorm of candy? The petal-fresh little faces? The pink, patterned rainboots? (Do those come in a size 8?) And how about those aqua shades on El Rubio (Mr. Blondie)!? Apparently, candy-catching is a fashion-forward affair. Mmm–to all of it!

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T and L up high_1794

Tomorrow, Miss Primrose will be delivered once again to the airport, where she will get on a plane. Miss Lavender will say goodbye to her, and they will go about the business of being (very lovely) Teenagers Soon To Go To College.

But flying tomorrow?–no big deal. They flew together, this afternoon.

Up high number two_1795

Because that’s what best friends do together: they take turns flying.

Tessa levitates_1780

And they take turns watching.

Laurel levitates_1781

When you see them, you think, They are as breathtaking in the air as they are on the ground.

Girls levitating_1788

Who knew they could do this? That they could grab hold of each other and just . . . rise?


I didn’t.

T and L levitating heads to the side

But I suspected it.

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