Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy Birthday Thing 1 and Thing 2!

Seven years ago today our life changed in a big way. There I was at the hospital, on day 6 of my magnesium sulfate-induced stupor, when in waltzed my doctor, who looked at my most recent test results and deemed that THE TIME had come. It was close to 11p as I recall and she said, "How soon can Dave get up here?"

It's been a whirlwind ever since. I look at this picture and Eldest Daughter is being protective of Thing 1. Thing 2, true to herself, is thinking, "More bumps, Daddy. Bring it on!"

"They" say that that first year is a blur. Sadly, it was true. Fortunately the digital and video cameras have captured what our sleep-deprived brains have forgotten.

When we discovered that I was pregnant with the littlest pinks Dave said, "they're going to be the greatest thing that ever happened to us and a year from now, we're not going to be able to imagine life without them". He was right.

And so, on this day where we breakfasted at Country Waffles, then went for mani / pedis and had dinner with our extended family, I raise a proverbial glass to our gemelli, who make us laugh until we cry (and I try not to pee in my pants, remember, I've had three kids ...)

Monday, December 29, 2008

TIT - This is Tahoe

Did you see Blood Diamond? Leonardo diCaprio's 2006 blockbuster on the moral conundrums of the international gem trade? It was interesting and fast moving, and diCaprio is one of the most talented actors of our generation. In it diCaprio's character often says "TIA" which means "This is Africa." It's the cynical mantra he and his colleagues toss around to explain how things are. I have my own take on this, Tahoe Style. TIT. This is Tahoe.

Situation 1
We had DSL put into our condo recently. Other condo owners have it. It took us two hours on the phone with Exwire plus two visits by Exwire to our condo to get it working.

Situation 2
Dave went to a restaurant in the Village last week and ordered a Hot Apple Pie. He asked the bartender if he knew what one was. Yes, the bartender said. The drink arrived at room temperature and with a lemon garnish. Dave asked if he could please remake the drink to be hot since it's a HOT Apple Pie and to garnish it the traditional way, with whipped cream. After 15 minutes the bartender returned with the drink, again at room temperature and this time missing the Tuaca. Dave gave up and drank it this way.

Situation 3
Ski team meets at 8:30a. For perspective, there are 700+ kids on ski team this year so it's a big group that meets. The ski team director updates the web site every morning by 7a so families know if there is a delayed start, the weather is too bad to ski, etc. There is also a phone number you can call, a hotline. On Day 2 we showed up at 8:30a. The start had been delayed until 9:30a because the Funitel is not yet open due to avalanche control. But neither the web site nor the hotline reflected this. Fortunately it was no big deal for us. Our condo is literally two buildings from the meeting spot. But what about the families who drove in 30 minutes from Donner?! The picture at left is taken from our patio. The tree on the far left is where ski team meets. It's that close.

Situation 4
On Hwy 80 there are large digital signs that advise motorists of road conditions. They say things like "Chains Required to Pass Summit. Checkpoint 2 Miles Ahead". But there is no checkpoint and there are 2WD cars whizzing by.

This kind of stuff really used to bug me and it still does down in the Bay. But after seven years of spending a good amount of time in the land of the B Team, I've come to accept things the way they are. This is Tahoe.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Tahoe Top 10 (Winter Version)

1. The view of the people skiing down the mountain as seen from our warm and cushy family room sofa.

2. Daily lemon, butter and sugar crepes from Le Petite Creperie. (Pictured here are our downstairs neighbors and Thing 2.)

3. The way we all leave our doors ajar in our condo development and the kids and adults go in and out of each other's places casually to play, drink and share mountain stories.

4. Snow Angels

5. The groomers on the mountain in the middle of the night, which I can see from our bed, and which I spend far too much time watching when I should be sleeping.

6. The way fresh snowfall clings to the trees and looks like frosting on everything else.

7. Running on the treadmill in our fitness center, watching the snow fall into the swimming pool.

8. Children's ski clothing. It gets more adorable each year.

9. A windless day on the slopes with light powder and blue skies.

10. The ski team tradition of affixing gummy bears to your helmet.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Chairlift Incident

We're just back from a week at Tahoe, during which there fell 5 1/2 feet of snow. It was gorgeous and the skiing today was epic. I have a lot to say about this trip but let's start with ski team for now.

This is our first year on Squaw Valley's ski team. Eldest Daughter is cake: easy going, flexible, happy. Thing 2 is a different story. Let's recap.

Day 1
Conditions: Sunny. 10F. No wind. Groomed terrain with light dusting of powder. This is as good as it gets for December skiing.
What her coach says to me at pickup: She needs a really good night's sleep.
What she says to me at pickup: I am not happy!

Day 2, after 11 hours of sleep and a high protein breakfast
Conditions: Snowing lightly. 20F. Windy. Fresh powder.
What her coach says to me at pickup: She loves powder!
What she says to me at pickup: I had a great day Mom!

Day 3
Conditions: Snowing moderately. 25F. Windy. Fresh powder.
What her coach says to me at pickup: We had a little Chairlift Incident.
What she says to me at pickup: I was not going to ski down that run, Mom.

Apparently her group went up the Exhibition Chair. Thing 2 could only see the steep way down. So while her coach and teammates unloaded, she did not. The slacker lift operator did not notice the 6-year-old downloading. So down the mountain she went, solo. And, by the way, at Squaw no one bothers to pull down the guards on chairlifts and there was no way she could have done it herself anyway.

Meanwhile her coach is screaming at her to hang on and skiing under the chair preparing to catch her if she falls. I have no idea where the other kids were. Thing 2 is yelling, too, because she is really scared. Eventually the chair got to the base of the mountain again and she got off, all pieces and parts intact.

Sadly, knowing how Thing 2's mind works, I am certain this won't be the last Incident in her future. Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Leslie's Lunchtime Lesson

About six months ago I had lunch with a former co-worker. James is someone I just adored when we killed ourselves to bring this technology startup to an IPO. He's a smart, authentic guy, someone who was quick to explain complex technologies to me in layman's terms. I was thrilled when he met the woman of his dreams and then married and had a family with her.

During the time we worked together I was mentored by the company's marketing vice president. I worked for Rich for five years and credit him with much of my success as a marketeer today.

As James and I reminisced about The Good 'Ole Days it came out that he had learned a lot from Rich, too. In fact, over lunch that day he taught me something that he learned from Rich that I had not! How incredible was that?! Ten years after I stopped working for this man I was still learning from him?! Networking Guru Thom Singer has a term for this, I'm sure.

Today I received an IM from James. He's now a full-time employee at one of the companies I consult to. I am thrilled. It was the best thing I'd heard in a long time. Welcome James!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Flying during the holidays?

If so, then this post may come in handy!

When I flew to Bangkok last summer I got awfully tired of holding my iPhone up to watch movies. And when I sat it on my tray table and viewed it down there, I got nauseous.

Here's an easy way to turn a barf bag into an iPhone or iPod Touch holder. It’s simple and easy and I especially love the fact that you can change the viewing angle by adjusting the fold.

A big thank you to Hodenmumps whose picture I have absconded with.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Middlesex

In general, I read to escape. I do the same thing with movies: check out and visit someplace else for a moment in time. My pattern seems to be one business book, one recommended novel and one trashy novel or parenting book. Rinse and repeat.

Every now and then I read a book that just blows my mind. I felt this way about The Poisonwood Bible. I read the entire thing on a 9 hour flight from Tokyo to San Francisco when I should have been sleeping. Likewise I could not stop reading A Thousand Splendid Suns, the second book by Khaled Hosseini, the author of The Kite Runner. It was a horrifying story and absolutely gripping.

I am reading such a book right now. Middlesex won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2003 for good reason.

It's a complicated tale of a young girl who grows into a man. It begins generations before the main character's birth, in a small Greek village, when his grandparents succumb to incestuous desires. Told with both humor and earnestness, the story grows more engaging with every page. There is just something magical about the way the words are strung together. It's an artistic telling of a captivating story. I am eager to finish it.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I scream, you scream

Each June I am overcome with an urge to make fresh peach ice cream. It's an annual event, one signified by the arrival of perfectly ripe, fragrant peaches in the farmer's market.

We are a family of ice cream lovers. Since childhood my family has consumed more than its fair share of the summertime staple. My father had Foremost McKesson Dairies as a customer way back when there was such a thing.

Even people who marry into our family adore ice cream. For the bridal shower I threw for my future sister-in-law, we hand painted ice cream bowls and played "match the name of the Ben & Jerry's ice cream to the flavor." She won. My brother selected his bride very carefully. We've given ice cream makers as wedding gifts more times than I can count.

Eldest Daughter would have nothing to do with one of my favorite uncles, Syd, until he offered her a taste of his chocolate ice cream in the middle of her second year. This is especially funny as she had every reason to adore him from the get go: he was CEO of the toy company Hearthsong at the time!

My SIL, that fabulous gal that my brother married, outdid herself this week. For Hanukkah, my brother's family gave The Pinks the Cuisinart Soft Serve ice cream maker. In pink of course. I would never have thought to give children this as a gift but let me tell you, they went wild. I went wild. And, as you'll recall, I have a thing for appliances. It has three dispensers for toppings and we can't wait to mix and match, in search of the perfect combinations.

Anyone up for ice cream? We're taking reservations ...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Luau in December

The littlest pinks have December birthdays. We don't celebrate Christmas so the whole issue of December birthdays competing with Christmas is irrelevant. Chanukkah is a small holiday in the grand scheme of things so really, we're fine with the December birthday situation.

The thing is, children who have December birthdays typically have indoor birthday parties. In the last six years we've done Build a Bear Workshop twice, Habitot, Gymboree and a princess party where the princess came to the house and turned all the kids into royalty.

This year I had a luau in mind. This is the year that Thing 1 really got into swimming and this being California, kids learn to swim early and strong.

Yes, it's winter. But gosh darn it, we were going to swim! Fortunately, I found a local swim school with an indoor pool to rent. And that's where we spent Saturday afternoon -- throwing a Hawaiian-themed party for two nearly seven-year-olds.

It was one of my better ideas. Sweetening the deal was the fact that it was probably the coldest day of the year thus far. The kids had an absolute blast as was evidenced by the deafening amount of screaming. There were all these amazing pool toys the kids had never seen: logs, slides, large floating mats, animals. The swim school staff did a great job and everyone took a swim test before being let loose in the water. There were four lifeguards for the 24 kids and another staffer orchestrating check in, F&B, etc. The kids swam for an hour and a half then we did goldfish, Pirate's Booty, Swedish fish, juice boxes and Baskin Robbins ice cream cakes.

We kept with the theme for the favors by doing flip flops with Pez dispensers. I loved the parade of bathing suits, too. The kids have such perfect bodies without vanity or self-consciousness at this age. I'm a huge fan of seeing them in teenie weenie bikinis although our kids didn't seem to want to wear theirs on this particular day.

The swimming, coupled with an hour of vigorous indoor soccer that morning, had even Thing 2 into bed at a decent hour. In one of my less brilliant moves, we invited my four-year-old niece to spend the night before with us. She and Thing 2 only slept from 11:30p to 7a. I suspect that a repeat of this is not in our immediate future, as much fun as it was for all involved.

All that remains of the birthday party is a list of gifts for us to properly acknowledge, the aforementioned gifts, a trash can full of recycling and a bunch of really happy memories. Success!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Dan the Man / Part 2

Do you remember our friend Dan? The father of two who is returning to active military duty in Iraq?

The most perfect holiday card arrived from his family this week. On the cover was the requisite picture of his family and in it was a holiday newsletter.

Some people find these off-putting. I love them! How else would I know that our neighbors two doors up (who we never run into) are expecting their first grandchild? Bring 'em on. I want to know the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Streetman's newsletter was perfect. They shared their accomplishments and also that Dan was going to serve our country overseas once again. The tone was just right. I couldn't have written it any better myself and I make my living as a writer!

Dan is stationed in Washington State through January. If your kids have some downtime during the holidays they can send him a note or drawing and thank him for helping make the world a safe place for us all.

Here's his address:

MAJ Dan Streetman
P.O. Box 331204
Ft. Lewis, WA 98433-1204

Thursday, December 11, 2008

In over my head

I'm still working on Thing 2's Class Auction Project. It's a little more ambitious than I'd anticipated and I'm starting to panic at how much is left to finish.

Do know what this block right here is? It's the Mustang Soccer Complex. See? Red and white? Green fields to the side? Use a little imagination please as I'm in that frightening place where I don't know if this quilt is going to be my best or worst ever.

I was feeling much better about this endeavor before I talked to the mom who is doing Thing 1's class project. She's also doing a quilt and she's a professional quilter. She really and truly makes her living designing patterns and fabric. She has my fantasy job. And her work is gorgeous! But I'm not competitive or anything ...

One last comment about this time-suck of a masterpiece. Eldest Daughter looked at it tonight and said, "I know the perfect place for it: the laundry room."

Monday, December 8, 2008

Train and Tahoe

Last week was frenetic. We came back from Atlantis late Tuesday night and were home less than 72 hours before heading up to Tahoe for ski team orientation.

But before we left for Tahoe we did the Niles Canyon Railway Holiday Train of Lights. The train is covered with thousands of lights, both inside and out, and makes a 75-minute round trip through the Niles Canyon between Fremont and Sunol. There are Christmas carollers and Santa and a whole lot of holiday cheer. It's completely kitschy and a blast. We took my parents with us this year, and also our train aficionado friends Seth and Lori. (If you want to do this this year, check craigslist for tickets. This is one of those things that sells out within hours of the tickets going on sale.)

After the train ride Friday night we drove up to Tahoe. We won't be doing that again anytime soon. It was midnight when we arrived and we were all a little cranky the next day. I gave in and made a morning Starbucks run to get the kids expensive drinks whose names had 14 syllables.

Tahoe was gorgeous -- blue skies, warm. No snow. That's only a problem if you had planned to ski. Which I'm sure the merchants at Squaw really wanted. The mountain did open but only one run open and it was on snow they'd made the night before. Essentially the ski team kids tested their equipment and left. Here's a picture I took off our balcony. Ski team is going to be fun; Eldest Daughter and Thing 2 will do it. There are 700 kids on Squaw's ski team. We bought really cute ski team sweatshirts, too.

We drove home Saturday night and spent most of Sunday in our PJs.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Happy Birthday Mom & Dad!

My parents are in the midst of celebrating their birthdays. This is pretty cool, actually. His is Dec 5 and hers is Dec 6. When they were younger they used to celebrate at midnight on Dec 5. Not sure if they do this now.

My parents' first date was in St. Louis when my mom's sister was visiting her college roommate, who happened to be my dad's aunt. They reconnected a few years later, at Mizzou, and their fate was sealed. After a few years in St. Louis my father took a business trip to Colorado. His head cleared, his allergies went away and the next thing you know, my folks high tailed it to San Jose and have lived on the west coast ever since.

My dad is now retired and spends a lot of time with his horses. He has a long history of volunteering for Jewish causes and serving on boards. His membership in the Sierra Club probably dates back to around the time of my birth and he has championed environmental issues long before green was in vogue. He's also got a green thumb and we love eating our way through my parents' garden.

My mom works as a paralegal in the city. She was one of the very first people to graduate from SFSU's paralegal certificate program way back when and has been at it ever since. She is a good sport, supporting my father in his adventures (including that Alaska stint) and creating a normal home and homelife, no matter where the zip code. She loves her five granddaughters and is such an amazing cook that I bring my own Gladware when we have dinner at their house so I can take home the leftovers. (Sorry, Dad!) She is a good friend to many. I often read the best of her book club's picks.

Happy birthdays Mom and Dad!

Friday, December 5, 2008

And the prize goes to ...

the Batross family, for the first holiday card of the season to arrive. Their blond kids have grown so much in a year; one looks just like Mike, one like Kris. Adorable! This was the best piece of yesterday's mail for sure.

Our holiday cards have not yet mailed. Actually, I just approved the proof yesterday so it'll be a while. I fall into the camp of those that like to handwrite notes to the out-of-towners so they take more than just stuffing, addressing and stamping. I have the good fortune to be married to a man who happily does the stuffing and stamping so that part is off my plate.

Do any of you stress over which picture to put in your card? Let's face it: it's hard to get a flattering picture of three kids. Or the entire family. I should have started this process around Halloween but no, I knew we were going to the beach over Thanksgiving and I had the perfect ocean shot in mind. I even hauled my laptop with us so I could order the cards from there, thus starting the process a full week earlier. Didn't happen. I got a great shot of the kids in front of the Christmas Tree at Atlantis but being Jewish, it was questionable how many of my relatives it would offend. Ditto the shot of them decorating gingerbread men at the Christmas Faire.

And so the holiday card picture is of the kids in a big chair outside the casino. It was re-do, actually. The first shot was better but one of The Pinks forgot to cross her legs and well, use your imagination.

The picture above is the one good one we got of our entire family on vacation but it's not the holiday card photo. Who cares what Dave and I look like?! People want to see the kids. I'm disappointed if people send cards without the (in my opinion) requisite photo.

Also -- for the record, I do not send out a zillion cards. I hand address them and mostly send them to people we do not see often enough.

Wishing you greetings of the season ...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Homeward bound

Our Bahamian trip is coming to an end. As I type this it's pouring rain. It's not the drizzle we get at home; it's a full-on downpour that attacks you from all sides. I feel bad for the cruise ship visitors; they expected a day of sun and fun on the water slides. The Pinks still want their hair braided so we'll venture out to the beach-side huts in a bit to see if the braid ladies are working today. I'm hopeful.

We've done some great things this trip. We spent most of a day at the beach. Thing 2 just loves the water and played in the waves for hours. I never tire of watching her body surf, dig in the sand and dive for coral.

The resort put on a Holiday Faire one night so the kids made Chanukah plates, glass bottles with snowmen and decorated gingerbread cookies. There was a band and we danced. I'd be remiss if I did not mention how beautiful the property is done up for the holidays. Okay, Christmas. There's something a little odd about palm trees spiral wound with lights but I'm getting used to it and developing an appreciation for it.

Surprisingly, some cousins of Dave’s are here this week, too. Dana, Mark and their two sons live near my sister-in-law in Southern California. Apparently Eldest Daughter met their 12-year-old son last summer and they are friendly on iChat. So the two of them have hung out a bit. He is sweet, even with the littlest Pinks. We walked through the aquarium together. I look forward to seeing more of them when we’re in LA in December.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dolphin delight

The highlight of the trip for The Pinks was the Dolphin Experience, which they did with my MIL. Atlantis has its own cay with 31 Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins, some of which were rescued from Hurricane Katrina.

We learned interesting factoids including that they have 72 teeth, they live to between 40 and 45 years and they are up to 12 feet long.

The littlest Pinks' experience was with 12-year-old Atlas, who they kept calling Agnes. They got to pet him and feed him fish. They also got to kiss him. Of course Thing 1 passed on this, claiming she didn't understand the instructions.

There is just something about dolphins and whales. They are such magnificent, graceful animals to watch.

Eldest Daughter also did a Dolphin Encounter, but hers was in the deeper part of the cay and included swimming with Atlas and being propelled by him while she hung on to a kickboard.

They all looked pretty cute in the wetsuits. I can see them as surfer chicks!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The lay of the land

We’re at the Atlantis Resort, which covers about 1/3 of Paradise Island. Paradise Island is connected to New Providence Island by a bridge and Nassau, the Bahamian capital, is on New Providence Island. Do you remember where Anna Nicole Smith’s daughter was born and where her son died? That was Nassau. The taxi driver pointed the hospital out to us today when we went into Nassau for lunch. Frankly, it looked pretty dumpy. I’m hoping not to have a medical emergency here.

Atlantis is a big place. On Day 1 I took a run around the property. It’s easily a mile end to end. There are 12 pools. The 63-acre waterscape is made up of 11 million gallons of fresh and salt water. The 11 exhibit lagoons have more than 50,000 sea animals representing over 200 species including sharks, stingrays, sawfish, lobsters, turtles, manta rays and dolphins.

There are 21 restaurants on the property, including Starbucks. But they don’t take Starbucks cards. There’s a Jamba Juice, a Ben & Jerry’s, a Johnny Rocket’s, a Nobu and a Mesa Grill.

There’s the requisite spa and fitness center. There’s a casino with four mammoth Dale Chihuly glass sculptures. I popped this picture, forgetting that in general, photography is not allowed in casinos. No one seemed to mind.

The Atlantis Marina is filled with sparkling white yachts. The kind of yachts that have full-time crews to keep their teak oiled and which have names like Serenity and Outta Touch.

Between 9a and 5p, the cruise ships deposit day passengers and flood (pun intended) the resort. For a $110 USD fee they can enjoy all the amenities that we do.

There’s lots to do in Nassau, although I doubt we’ll leave the resort again on this trip. It’ll be impossible to see and do everything in the week we’re here. I’m beginning to understand why many of the people we encounter are return visitors.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving on Paradise Island

If Disney did an oceanside, water-themed resort, Atlantis would be it. The sky is blue. The sea is turquoise. The breeze is just so. The grounds are manicured. There is no litter in sight. Everyone you encounter is wearing a perfectly pressed uniform (be it the gardeners, lifeguards or restaurant wait staffs) and greets you with a smile.

We spent Thanksgiving much the way we did the day before – on the water slides and in the ocean. My mother-in-law is here with us, which is a win every way you look at it. She’s great with the kids, a huge fan of beach resorts and such a seasoned world traveler that she makes us look like rank amateurs.

Dave and two of The Pinks took me on the Lazy River. That’s a misnomer! Four foot rapids do not make for a serene ride. Dave and I were in one tube and the kids were in another. Toward the end we took different forks in the river and ended up going down The Falls, a four STORY water slide that includes a dark tunnel. Dave lost some hearing due to my screaming but he promises that it’s not grounds for divorce.

There was a Thanksgiving Fair so the kids decorated t-shirts, ate cotton candy, made waxen hand molds and tied pillows. We opted for traditional Bahamian fare for dinner instead of turkey, which was easy to get.

We’re on the same time zone as the east coast and have been sleeping like babies. All of us. Today the first of us was up at 9:30a and that was Dave. By the time we’re out the door breakfast is long over. We need to work on that! As we walked to the pool I thought about what I’d be doing if I was at home: stressing over the state of the house, reviewing the schedule to time the dinner right, thinking about getting the bird into the oven, chopping things. And then I looked up at the sky, framed by the coconut trees, and thought: this isn’t so bad.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Things I am thankful for

Here are just a few things that I am grateful for this year, besides the surreal number of waterslides and perfect weather here in the Bahamas.

1. The Pinks, who make me laugh and cry in much more frequency than I did before I had kids
2. Dave, who is truly my better half
3. My parents and brother, who I love more and more as the years pass
4. Red and blue skies at sunset and turquoise blue water
5. Friends who make me laugh and friends with whom I can cry
6. Books and movies you can lose yourself in
7. A US Passport
8. August tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and blue cheese
9. The great outdoors, especially snow-capped trees and mountains
10. Pointy-toed shoes

That last point seems shallow but it's true. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2008

T minus three

Thanksgiving is three days away.

I love Thanksgiving. It's my holiday, the one I always host. It's an easy one -- friends and family, football, some new recipes, some old favorites.

One of the things I like best about Thanksgiving is the eclectic group we always seem to have: former clients, friends with families elsewhere, random friends of my parents'. The more diverse the crowd, the better a time it is. The highlight of Thanksgiving is my mom's apple pie. I can make it myself but she just seems to slice the apples thinner than I can and her crust comes out flakier. I buy all the seasonal cooking magazines and read them cover to cover. Then I make the turkey I learned in a day-long course at the San Francisco Culinary Academy long before we had kids.

This will be the first year we're not doing a traditional Thanksgiving. Tomorrow we leave for Atlantis. I'm a little weirded out by this but then again, we did have a really nice 4th of July celebration in Provence last year ...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Comfort me with apricots

Anyone out there a Ruth Reichl fan? Ruth is a former LA Times and NY Times restaurant critic, now the editor of Gourmet magazine. She's written three books that I've loved and a cookbook that I never use.

My late paternal grandfather was married three times. His third wife had a son from her first marriage, Michael Singer. Michael is married to Ruth. The last time I saw Ruth was sometime in the 70s.

She is a gifted storyteller and I truly enjoyed the adventures she shares in her books. In her last one, Garlic and Sapphires, she mentions an apricot upside down cake that was the only thing her mother-in-law made well. I don't remember my grandfather's third wife cooking much at all so I took this opportunity to email her for the recipe.

Much to my surprise, two hours after I pushed SEND, Ruth responded to my email with the recipe. It turned out to be her first mother-in-law's creation. But the apricot cake is good, really good, and I'm sharing it with you all here.

Betty Davis' Apricot Upside Down Cake

1 stick butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 large can apricots
3 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 t vanilla

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Melt the butter in 9 or 10 inch cast iron skillet (or a baking pan).
  • Stir in the brown sugar and the nuts.
  • Arrange the apricots, cut sides up, in the pan. Reserve the liquid in the can.
  • In a large bowl beat the egg yolks.
  • Add the sugar, mix well, and beat in 1/2 cup of the apricot syrup. Add vanilla.
  • Mix the dry ingredients together. Mix into the yolk mixture.
  • Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the batter. Pour over the apricots.
  • Bake about 1 hour.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

For the person who has everything ...


Looking for the perfect holiday gift? Are your in-laws hard to shop for?

Search no further: Toilet Tattoos!


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Thailand, again!

My friend Carrie is in Thailand this week. She's off to Phuket and Samui with some friends. I'm jealous. Really jealous. She's never been before so she's going to be in heaven over the lushness of the scenery, the Thai level of service, the Buddhist culture and the added bonus of leaving her little kids at home with their father.

Neeracha returned to Bangkok Sunday for a quick trip to visit her folks. She just blogged about the preparations for this trip and I've got to tell you, it's one of the funniest things I've read online in a long time.

Here's the link: My Life as a Pack Mule

Enjoy!

Friday, November 14, 2008

A quilt

Earlier this year my mother-in-law took an around-the-world cruise.

Before she left on this four-month adventure, I offered to make her a memory quilt of the fabrics she found on her trip.

She came back with some gorgeous textiles. Colorful prints. Subtle ones with leitmotifs. Nubby ones. Large scale ones. Teeny tiny ones. My favorite is a combed black cotton with a complex, vinelike purple floral design. And then came the challenge: I had to figure out what to do with them. Some people do crossword puzzles. Some people do Sudoku. I problem solve via quilting. All these yummy, disparate fabrics and I had to find a way to tie them together.

My mother-in-law probably thought I forgot about them. But no, I spent two months mentally wrestling with the design after she brought them home. I went to Danielle's and looked through all her pattern books. I went through all mine. I looked online for inspiration. And then Eldest Daughter and I went to the local quilt shop and it took her less than 5 minutes to pick out a suitable pattern. Who knew that she had the eye?!

This week I hand stitched the binding on the quilt and voila!

I do have to say, for me, fabric and color selection is a good part of the fun in quiltmaking. Visualizing the final product based on the choices you make in the fabric and pattern is a huge part of the creative process. I've taken more than one class in color theory in order to do this. This is the first quilt I've made where I've not selected the fabrics myself. Are you following my very subtle drift?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The year Thanksgiving went missing

I just came home from volunteering at the elementary school. I've never volunteered in the library before but someone in one of The Pink's classes needed a sub so I gave it a shot. In case you're short on time, I'll net it out for you: I won't be doing that again anytime soon.

The librarian was less than enthused to have me because I hadn't been through "Library Volunteer Training." Oh well. I told her that I was a sub for someone else. Apparently the most desirable subs have been through training.

She directed me to the electronic catalog of books and showed me the search she'd pulled for Christmas books, and how to help the kids find them in the shelves.

I politely, very politely, asked her why the students weren't looking for Thanksgiving books since Thanksgiving was the next holiday. She brushed me off and said, "Oh, we're doing Christmas now." This made me unhappy since Thanksgiving has such great associations and it's NEXT on the calendar.

I said, "What kind of message does that send the students if we skip the holiday about giving thanks?" For this I received a dirty look.

Someone must have peed in her coffee this morning.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Puppy Love

Thing 2 loves animals. All kinds of animals. Big ones like horses. Small ones like ladybugs. She views the silkworm unit at preschool the greatest moment of her academics to date.

My parents have a male golden retriever who was bred this year. Thing 2 is happy for Monte, she thinks he got married. (I'm not going there; she's only six.) She was especially happy that Monte had seven puppies as she had her heart set on one of them. Of course this was never going to happen. Dave has allergies and our home and heart are quite full with three kids. Could we handle anything else? Not sure. Not really looking to find out, either.

There is nothing cuter than a golden retriever puppy. I took these pictures when we visited one of the puppies this weekend. I think my parents were a little sad that they decided not to get one from the breeder. Thing 2 is very sad. She tried to convince them to get one for her, and to just keep it until she was old enough to move out and raise it on her own. (She is very independent so in all honesty, she probably envisioned this being a year, two at most.)

While we on the subject of dogs, which is not a topic I give thought to very often, have you noticed that dog people are really into their dogs? My brother and SIL often take their dog along to visit my parents (30 minutes from their house) when they go for dinner. Likewise my parents bring Monte to visit Bodhe at my brother's house. My brother's ILs always bring their dog when they come to visit their grandchildren. It just seems to be part of the dog owner culture. I can't tell you how many times I've made a makeshift water bowl for someone's dog when they've popped by to visit.

One of my clients, a single woman with no children, had a dog with a serious medical issue. Thanks to her large amount of disposable income, love for this dog and the UC Davis Veterinary Hospital, this dog has a happy, normal life.

Tahoe is very dog friendly and I think many more people would ask to use our place up there if dogs were not verboten.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

They missed the point.

The response, verbatim and transcribed from my voice mailbox, from the salon where I got rooked:

Hi Leslie this NAME at the NAME Salon in Walnut Creek and uhm I’m sorry it’s taken so long to get back to you about your letter that you sent uhm late uh last month but SALON OWNER's NAME was out of town in Japan uhm for a few weeks and then she’s been doing hair shows so uhm she hasn’t gotten a chance to open her mail uhm but she wanted me to give you a call and just uhm talk to you about your experience and we’re happy that you’re happy with the services uhm but we wanted to let you know too that we uhm as far as the color, uhm we do have people who aren’t quite as expensive as Karen and also that first appointment is more expensive uhm, because it takes a little bit longer to formulate and everything but she just wanted me to call you and talk to you about the options and everything uhm if you would like to come back we’d love to see you uhm if you would like our phone number here is PHONE NUMBER and uhm feel free to give me a call if you would like uhm thank you so much uhm once again my name is NAME.

Sadly, they missed the point of my very nice letter, which was to advise them that the twenty-something colorist's fee was above obscene and that patrons should be advised of fees for services in advance, especially if they are astronomically above market.

I went back to my former colorist yesterday and my hair looks just fine -- the garish orange streaks are gone. Now I must tackle the issue of whether I ditch Amazing Alex because I find his employer's business practices questionable.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Meeting Marny

Today was a very special day. One of our authors, Marny Lifshen, was in town for a speaking engagement. I've known Marny more than a year; I edited and published her book, Some Assembly Required: A Networking Guide for Women.

Marny flew in first thing this morning from Austin so we had an early dinner at Esin. I heard via the grapevine that she was very well received at Symantec; book sales remain strong so someone else thinks her words are magic, too!


Monday, November 3, 2008

Possibilities

I have a dumb smile on my face. In today's mail came The Pinks passports. It's the second set for the twins and the third for Eldest Daughter. In the US, children's passports are only valid for five years.

Thing 1's passport picture looks like her: perfect hair, sweet, tentative smile. Thing 2's picture looks like her, too: hair in need of a good combing with a lopsided, face-eclipsing smile. Eldest Daughter's picture looks like her, too: relaxed, confident. She knew exactly what it meant the day we had her picture retaken. This is such a contrast to their first passports: bobbly baby heads that we had to hold up to the camera.

Having current passports means we can wander the world with the kids, expose them to things they can't see here and introduce them to the anonymity of being in a place where you do not understand the words swirling around you. I will always remember Eldest Daughter's first adventure outside the US. She and Dave came with me to Switzerland while I helped with a client's President's Club trip. I met them at the park one afternoon and watched her play with another little girl, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they could not have a conversation with each other.

Travel is one of our favorite things and just the thought of being able to hop on a plane anywhere all together makes me giddy.

The picture above could have been taken anywhere. It's a universal experience: children eating ice cream, a summertime ritual. It was taken in Isle sur la Sorgue, home of the famed weekend antiques market in Provence.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

And then it was November

We live in one of those neighborhoods where very few people trick or treat. It's not that the houses are spaced too far apart or that the driveways are too steep. It's just that it's a small neighborhood not near very many other houses. Thus people go where the goods are easier to collect en masse.

This year, for the first time, Eldest Daughter didn't even trick or treat with us. She went to a Halloween party. Even they didn't stay in the neighborhood where the party was; they headed for an area near the elementary school.

Our strategy is to do our neighbors' houses then drive a mile to one of those areas that turns into a block party. We park just outside of it and walk in.

The main drag is barriered off with police on either end while golf carts carrying young children and their brown-bag-bearing parents whiz up and down the street. Each house on this street is well lit, with some combination of mock graveyards, ghosts, goblins, pumpkins, large spiders and mummies hanging from the grand old oak trees. The Pinks love it. And so do we. It has a surreal vibe, like you're on a movie set. It was also raining off and on this year so that added to the spookiness factor.

This year we went with two sets of neighbors, one of whom was nice enough to have us all to dinner first.

And since Halloween fell on a Friday night this year, all the better!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dress for Success

Lynn sent me an email this week. Lynn's a sorority sister, a commercial interior designer in Milwaukee. She writes that one of her colleagues walks around the office in just his socks and her firm has a dress code that does not allow employees to wear jeans in the office, even on Fridays. It also requires women to wear stockings, year round.

Oh wow. Her world is very different than mine.

I know some industries require dressing up. People who are client facing should dress nicely. It's professional and it shows respect.

I worked today. I'm fairly dressed up for a day working at home: jeans, black boots with a moderate heel, red sweater and makeup. Mostly though, I dress up when I see my clients. The Pinks call this Getting Fancy as in Mommy's Getting Fancy today so she must be going to play with the big people. In tech, where I work, people who aren't customer facing can wear shorts, t-shirts and flip flops year round. This is California.

I am currently working with a client that employs 80,000 people around the globe. Its corporate headquarters is in the Silly Valley and I go there about twice a month. It's an entire city within a city. There are more than 50 buildings on the campus and I am oddly fascinated by this. More than anything else, I love going there to eat. There are cafeteria-style restaurants with good, healthy, interesting food that I don't have to prepare myself. I also nerdily think it's cool that with a few keystrokes on my laptop, I can reserve a conference room in any of the buildings worldwide.

One of the best things about this client is that they make it easy to work anywhere, anytime. This means that I wear pajamas to work a lot. I have a phone and network connectivity. I have collaboration software. I walk downstairs into my home office and get to it.

This is my tenth year consulting. It would be hard for me to transition back to dressing up and going into an office every day.

I don't know what to tell Lynn, except that I'm sorry this is going on in her workplace.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Recent Random Revelations

1. Parent-teacher conferences are not my favorite. The Net Net: Thing 1 loves writing. Thing 2 is competitive. Eldest Daughter is in the advanced math group and her teacher is struggling with how she will teach advanced math and regular math at the same time. I'm not comforted by this.

2. I much prefer the low-key synagogue we belong to now rather than the ones of my childhood. Also, The Pinks have to go to the bathroom more times during the short family services than they do the rest of the day combined.

3. Some wacko tried to sue L'Oreal because she dyed her hair brown with its product and then came to the realization that blondes have more fun.

4. Many people show more cleavage at Halloween parties than they do at the pool.

5. Pro Prop 8 demonstrators really get under my skin. I hope their children come out or that their spouses decide to switch genders, like my friend C's husband did. (Microsoft has great benefits, btw. Every employer should be so progressive!)

6. The new school principal did not deliver on her promise eight weeks ago to put temporary computers in Eldest Daughter's classroom to replace the ones that were stolen the first week of school.

7. The season finale of Project Runway was not worth watching because the remaining designers were lame and I'd not be caught dead in their clothes.

8. When I am stressed, I crave warm baked goods like Banana Bread and also eat huge bowls of carb-laden pasta.

9. The owner of the salon where the colorist took me for a ride has not yet responded to the very nice letter I wrote her three ago alerting her to this horrific event. (This post refers to the event, not the real letter I wrote the salon owner which was, trust me on this, really nice.)

10. Having a set of twins makes people think you are an expert in assisted reproduction technologies.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Winners' Circle

It was a good day in the House of Pink!

Eldest Daughter was elected to Student Council. This is especially sweet as I ran for class secretary when I was in fifth grade and lost, partly because I spelled secretary wrong on all my posters. I lost to Jeff Hawkins and clearly this still bothers me. Strangely, I was at a park 200 miles from here last summer and struck up a random conversation with another mommy. She was married to Jeff. Fortunately he was not with her. I claimed not to remember him.

Dave played in a golf tournament benefiting our local soccer program today. He's a pretty good golfer in general although frankly, I wish he'd play more. He belongs to a prestigious club in the city and does not get there very often. I sent him to short game school at TPC West 10 years ago and although he loved what it did for his game, he hated it.

Fast forward to today: his foursome won!

I am so proud of them both. We're celebrating in our house tonight!

P/S If any of you want to play mid-week, please email Dave. I really wish he played more; it's a great outlet for him. He just has to be home by 2pm to pick up the kids at school unless he gives me lots of advance notice.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Minnie Me?

Dave is brilliant with pumpkin carving. We have books of patterns and a set of special tools just for pumpkin carving. Each year he takes great pride in turning our pumpkins into masterpieces. This year he had a template created from the My Friend Paris book series and here's the outcome. Pretty good, huh?

Tonight we went to our neighbor's Halloween Party. Everyone needs a neighbor whose house is decorated perfectly, who is a seemingly effortless hostess and who is downright nice. That would be Tracy. Did I mention that she has two beautiful daughters, too? And abs that rival Dara Torres'? It was a nice evening catching up with some of our neighbors and having adult conversation. If you need window treatments, check her out. She made most of the drapes in our house, and Thing 1's bedding.

As a bonus, Rosa sat The Pinks. We hadn't seen her in a month or so and not only were The Pinks thrilled to hang with her, she organized their drawers just the way they like them and finished putting away the laundry. I miss Rosa!!!

As is typical of fall Saturdays, we spent part of the day at basketball and soccer. Thing 2's end-of-season soccer party followed the game. (I have got to stop volunteering to plan things!) In between sports we saw Eldest Daughter's former dance teammates perform at the Halloween Street Fair. Seeing the dances but no longer being a dance team parent gave me an odd sense of disconnect, almost an out-of-body experience, which I'm trying not to dwell on. It just feels like that part of our life was a lot longer than six months ago.

It was another Chamber of Commerce Day here -- blue sky and in the 80s -- which made for a perfect night on Tracy's patio but a hot day on the soccer field and dancing on the asphalt.

Interestingly enough, there were two artisans selling glass pumpkins there. I took a special interest in these. One created pumpkins in brighter colors, less lifelike and more artsy. The other employed more sophisticated glass-blowing techniques and used more texture than did Cohn-Stone. Having just become a fan, I viewed these all carefully then decided that I liked the ones we procured last weekend best.

I am looking at a full day in the office Sunday and so I must go to bed, before it actually becomes Sunday.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Dancing Queen

For the last four years, not including this year, Eldest Daughter has danced competitively.

This has meant that she has taken 5 dance classes a week and spent six to eight weekends out of town for dance competitions or performances. The weekends prior to those events she had extra rehearsals. We spent very few weekends skiing these past four years because winter is competitive dance season.

The friends we made through dance team are very special. Not only were her team-mates her friends, the mommies I spent many weekends with were mine. It was at the Tremaine dance competition that Shanta and Julie changed my life by introducing me to The Brow Bar. I perfected my knitting skills and taught others to knit while at dance competitions. I became known as The Carpool Queen, the mommy who orchestrated complex and efficient carpools to minimize our drive time between school and dance class.

Eldest Daughter learned to be comfortable on stage in front of as many as 1,000 people, how to be a part of a team, and how to turn it on even when she was hopped up on Motrin, fighting the flu. She took classes from famous choreographers and grew from a timid six-year-old to a confident ten-year-old with stage presence. She got a tremendous amount out of the experience and for that I am grateful.

The highlight of each season was our annual trip to Disneyland and the performance on the Carnation Stage. We made it a family event, having the cousins and grandparents come a few times, too.

This year she decided that she'd had enough. Between dance, Hebrew and an academic math team, the child had no downtime. I'm glad she was able to make that decision. She loved performing and being on stage. (My eyes used to fill with tears when she performed -- the joy on her face was that obvious.) She loved her dance buddies, older team members who served as mentors to her. She loved running around in sweats and slippers with her friends at competitions and staying up late to watch the high schoolers perform. She loved the awards they won every single time and it made the long hours worthwhile.

But she did not love rushing from school to dance through dinner and into the shower and to bed. I thought she'd miss it but no, she's filled her dance card (bad intentional pun) with a community theater workshop and guitar lessons.

Tomorrow is the first dance event of the season, a performance at our local Halloween Street Fair. I'm a little sad that she won't be there on stage. But I'm also looking forward to watching the other kids, and to being a groupie.

Break a leg Jack! And Cate ... and Erika ... and Steph ... and Rachel ... and Nicole ... and Kelly ... and Ava ... we love you guys!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

High Brow

I'm worn out. I'm working like a nut. Our weekends are insane with soccer, basketball and religious school, and the social activities of season. And now I have a cold.

I'd also be remiss if I did not mention that the current state of my hair is adding to my stress level. In case you're wondering, my hair is now brown with garish, unintentional, asymetrical orange streaks. I'm sure the oh-so-fabulous provider of the $360 plus tip highlights did not mean for it to turn out that way. However it did after I washed it at Tahoe, using the kids' shampoo we had in the shower and not the special shampoo for colored hair that I have down here. I'm wearing a lot of hats until my next appointment (at a different salon) in three weeks.

But back to the brows. About this time last year Julie and Shanta introduced me to the most fabulous thing, heaven for busy women: The Benefit Brow Bar.

It's drop-in access to an aesthetician. Brow Bars are located in Macy's, and you just stop by, add your name to the list, then continue with your shopping until it's your turn.

I went yesterday, in between dropping Eldest Daughter at Hebrew and a volunteer commitment, and felt so much better afterwards. It's a little weird having your waxing done in the cosmetics department, where the whole world can watch but hey, after the indignation of childbirth, this is cake.

I'm still sick but at least I look a little better. And I feel a little better, too.

As an aside, the mall crowd seemed unphased by the current economic news. I was shocked to see how many people were out in full force, loaded down with bags of the latest fall fashions and waving their credit cards this way and that. Maybe I live in the wrong zip code?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

An different kind of pumpkin patch

Last November my husband spotted some blown glass pumpkins in a San Francisco gallery. They came many sizes and shapes and we had purchase paralysis so we didn't buy any. He's been thinking about them ever since. So much has he been thinking about them that he researched them extensively and nearly a year ago calendared where we'd spend October 18, 2008.

These particular pumpkins are made by the Cohn-Stone Glassblowers in Richmond, California. And every October Richard Cohn and Molly Stone open up their studio and set up an outdoor pumpkin patch to showcase their designs.

Today was the day! We met our friends Fabio, Danielle and Gian Luca there. The Pinks were fascinated by the glass-blowing process and even the wild one stood in front of the artisans for a long time, just watching the liquid glass take shape. The mother in me was thrilled that we escaped without inadvertently breaking anything.

Have you ever seen glass being blown? It's magical and we're enthralled by it. Dave and I have been to Venice twice and Murano, the island outside of Venice where all the Venetian glass is blown, twice. The first time we were so overwhelmed by all the choices that we bought nothing. On our second trip, for our 10th anniversary, we did pick out a piece together.

This pumpkin patch was truly a sight to see -- hand-blown pumpkins in shades of orange ranging from nearly salmon to day glo, and red and gold and bronze and green and white and pink. There were glass birds and even some glass fish in the fountain. The smallest ones were perhaps 3 inches across and the largest were closer to 18 inches.

We each picked out a pumpkin and now we have our own little pumpkin patch nicely displayed on the half wall between our kitchen and living room.

After the studio tour we headed to the Richmond Marina Park and enjoyed the city view while eating a picnic lunch. It was a great Fall afternoon!