Saturday, August 30, 2008
Having them for dinner last night was a good excuse to try out some new recipes. I grilled fillets and topped them with lemon herb butter courtesy of Sunset. And then I made herbed potatoes, a la Orangette. The Orangette gal, Molly, is fast becoming my new BFF. She claims that the potatoes are equally good eaten hot, room temperature or cold and I wholeheartedly agree. The leftovers are long gone.
When we moved into our house six years ago and were faced with landscaping the backyard, my sole request was for a covered Thai-style pavilion. I don't do sun. As a whim this summer, we added globe lights around its perimeter. For those of you who go all out for Christmas, hanging things like this is no big deal. It took us, the amateurs, a few trips to the hardware store and a lot of measuring to get them just right.
Last night was warm but not too warm. The kids played in the yard with neon glow sticks. The adults watched the sun turn the hills yellow then bronze then brown, Riedel glasses of 2001 Georges De La Tour Private Reserve in hand. With the hurricane lamps on the table and brightly colored cotton tablecloth and pillows, it was a Pottery Barn photo shoot moment. And it was much needed after the kids' first week back in school.
Here's the potato recipe. I used reds instead of fingerlings, and I skipped peeling them.
Fingerling Potatoes with Chives and Parsley
Adapted from Gourmet, July 2008
These would be delicious with almost anything: roasted chicken (served hot or cold), eggs any style, salmon, you name it.
1 ½ lb. fingerling potatoes, such as Russian Banana
1 ½ cups water
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large garlic clove, pressed
½ tsp. salt
A few grinds of black pepper
3 Tbsp. chopped chives
1 Tbsp. chopped Italian parsley
Peel the potatoes, and halve them lengthwise. Combine the potatoes, water, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper in a nonstick 10-inch skillet. Place the skillet over medium-high heat, and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat slightly, and continue to simmer briskly, shaking the skillet occasionally, until the potatoes are just tender, about 10 minutes. Remove the lid, and continue to cook until most of the water has evaporated and the potatoes are glazed, about 5 minutes. Stir in the herbs. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature, with extra salt for sprinkling.
Yield: 4 servings
P/S We made the banana bread today. It's better than my old standby banana bread recipe but next time I'll make it with light brown sugar instead of the dark, and about half as much topping.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Every year I shoot a picture of the kids by the front door right before we leave for school. Here's Thing 1 - with her typical level of enthusiasm. Thing 2 was agreeable. Eldest Daughter was unhappy to do this for a second year in a row.
The Return to School means that daily lunches must be packed. And the quest for healthy snacks begins all over again. I like banana bread so we bought bananas over the weekend with plans to make a loaf or two mid week. It's Thursday and the task is not yet completed because it's silly to heat up the kitchen when the thermometer outside still reads in the 90s. It's a good thing we've procrastinated, however, because one of my favorite bloggers just posted a new banana bread recipe. Clearly I'm not the only one with bananas on the brain this week.
I'm especially excited about this recipe because it's Bakesale Betty's. And I worship her shortcakes, which I used to be able to buy at our local Farmer's Market. Bakesale Betty, aka Alison Barakat, is a Chez Panisse alum. Around here, credentials don't get much better than that. I'll let you know how it is.
Banana Bread with Cinnamon Crumble Topping
Adapted from Bakesale Betty and Bon Appétit, September 2008
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 3 medium bananas)
2 large eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup honey
¼ cup water
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 ½ tbsp. packed dark brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour a 9- x 5-inch metal loaf pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together the banana, eggs, oil, honey and water.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and stir well. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.In a small bowl, mix together the topping ingredients. Sprinkle them evenly over the batter.
Bake the bread until a tester inserted into its center comes out clean, about 1 hour, give or take a little. Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Then carefully remove the bread from the pan, taking care not to dislodge the topping.
Cool completely before slicing.
Monday, August 25, 2008
And sometimes the mommies even ask exactly what it is that I do.
The thing is, I do a lot of different things. But mostly they fall into two categories.
1. Consulting - Deliberate Communications. I hung my own shingle nearly ten years ago. Eldest Daughter was a year old and the thought of working full-time and commuting was very unappealing. The Dot Com Boom was in full swing and I had three successful startups under my belt. I began providing marketing consulting services to technology companies and I've stuck with it except for the year I was pregnant with our twins. To me, consulting is a lot of writing and editing of technobabble. I orchestrate product launches, write web content and develop sales tools like brochures and presentations. Sometimes I get tasked with selecting and ordering promotional products like logo'd golf shirts and thumb drives.
2. Publishing - New Year Publishing. My husband and I, along with our friend Thom Singer, started this company three years ago. Thom was an up-and-coming speaker on social networking and we wanted to help him launch his professional speaking career. Three years later we've published six books and Thom is right on course. I am his editor, the person who makes sure his words stand up and behave themselves. We also do credibility press because many people want to be published authors.
I love what I do professionally and am incredibly fortunate to be able to make a living doing what I love. I've worked with some incredible people over the years and many of my clients are now my friends. In many instances, I work with the same people over and over again. I'm always learning new things and I meet interesting people.
The thing is, I think it's harder to be a stay-at-home-mom than it is to work. So many of you are really good at it and I applaud you. But I can't be one of you, at least not now.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Right before she left I suggested that she start a blog so it’d be easier for her to keep the interested masses up-to-date on their new life. She nodded politely, told me that it was a great idea, and then waited 11 months to do it. I forgive you, Kathy.
She’s a mother-of-twins, too, and life in North Carolina is very different than the life she left behind in our fair suburb. Her observations are hilarious and I’m grateful for a glimpse into a world I’d never otherwise know.
The two of us are wondering, though, why more people don’t leave comments on our blogs? Paige’s readers have this down. Thom’s readers know the drill. David Lebovitz’ practically leave novellas. Kathy had an astute observation – she knows people read her blog because they send her email on it. But why not just use the comments feature in the blogging software? It’s my theory that only bloggers comment because they’re familiar with the way it works.
So here’s your open invitation and offer of the proverbial penny for your thoughts – feel free to use comment on our posts within the blog. We care about what you think!
Monday, August 18, 2008
The thing is, she kept us sane. Three kids. Two careers. She made it all work. And I'm a little scared now.
Fortunately, Rosa's now in a position to work toward one of her dreams, perfecting her English. After a few weeks' vacation "home" she'll take English courses and continue to work for the family we've always shared her with.
Our kids have learned the importance of making their beds, and where their clothes go once they're folded. They know how to empty the dishwasher and put their shoes in the cupboard as they enter the house. They know that brushing their teeth is a prerequisite to coming downstairs in the morning. And they know that Rosa loved them, perhaps as much as Mommy and Daddy.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
While she made new canine friends I did one of my most favorite things -- saw a movie by myself! Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 was playing near the party so I treated myself to some me time. It was not as good as the first movie but it was entertaining in a mindless chick flick sort of way. Incidentally, the movie was not showing in the main theatre. It was showing in a 36-seat theatre. Have you ever been in a movie theatre that small? That was an experience!
The real score of the day was my late lunch at the Alekos Cafe, adjacent to the theatre. I had a Troy Salad, which was grilled chicken atop a Greek salad. I don't often go to Orinda but will make a point of going back to this unexpected gem of a restaurant.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Chocolate chip cookies are a staple in our house. About a year ago Eldest Daughter came home from school raving about the chocolate chip cookies a classmate brought for his birthday. I tracked down the mommy and the recipe, which turned out to be the old Fanny Farmer one. It was good, too, but not all that different from the gold standard, Tollhouse.
When I came across this recipe on Orangette, I knew I had to try it. The recipe really is a tease. You make the dough one day then allow it to rest for 24 hours before baking it. (What percentage of the dough is actually left by then, do you think?!)
The cookies were good; the pinks and their friends verified this poolside last night. They were very different than the original Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie, however. Lighter. With more leavening.
Here's the recipe:
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from The New York Times, David Leite and Jacques Torres
- 2 cups minus 2 Tbsp. (8 ½ oz.) cake flour
- 1 2/3 cups (8 ½ oz.) bread flour
- 1 ¼ tsp. baking soda
- 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
- 1 ½ tsp. coarse salt, such as kosher
- 2 ½ sticks (1 ¼ cups; 10 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 ¼ cups (10 oz.) light brown sugar
- 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (8 oz.) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 ¼ pounds bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks, preferably about 60% cacao content, such as Ghirardelli
- Sea salt, such as Maldon
Combine flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Whisk well; then set aside.
Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until very light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
Reduce the mixer speed to low; then add dry ingredients, and mix until just combined.
Add the chocolate chips, and mix briefly to incorporate. Press plastic wrap against the dough, and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. The dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
When you’re ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F. Remove the bowl of dough from the refrigerator, and allow it to soften slightly. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.Using a standard-size ice cream scoop, scoop six mounds of dough onto the baking sheet, making sure to space them evenly.
Sprinkle lightly with sea salt, and bake until golden brown but still soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then transfer the cookies onto the rack to cool a bit more.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Today was the day I consider to be the hardest day of the school year -- and it wasn't even a real school day.
Today was school registration. It was the day I learned of my daughters' class assignments and more importantly, learned who else was in their classes and who was not in their classes.
It was a good day, excepting the stress of it all. (And from the looks on the faces of the other parents completing the same exercise, I wasn't the only one feeling the pressure.) Although two did not get the teacher I would have chosen for them, their teacher assignments are just fine and they're all in class with at least one friend. More importantly, my children are not with the class terrors from last year. There will be new ones, of course, but at least we won't be showing up on Day 1 with that apprehensive dread of things to come.
Thirteen more days of summer ...
Monday, August 11, 2008
3. Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles. Life must be good there. (See my smiling friends, at right.)
4. A 45-minute cab ride across down costs $3 USD.
5. Thai silk
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Friday, August 8, 2008
After our treatments we had tea in the lobby, and watched the Thai police and Secret Service agents prepare for President Bush's arrival, that evening, where he stopped en route to the Beijing Olympics.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
I don't remember the food being all that great the last time we were here. The thing is, I don't like Thai food. I love Thailand: the culture, the people, the scenery, the hospitality. But I like my sweets sweet and my savories savory. Coconut in my beef? No thanks! Rice for dessert? Why bother? However, it's different this time. We're doing a lot of eating this trip. Not only do we eat, we talk about our next meal while we're eating the current meal. We plan our daily activities based on what we're in the mood to eat. Apparently this is very Thai. (This is very Jewish, too, actually.) I could devote multiple blog entries just to the available eating options here in Emporium but I'll try to summarize for you.
- A high-end grocery store. I browsed it on Day 1 and noticed that the strawberries were imported from Watsonville. They are in the exact same packaging I find at my local Safeway.
- A take home food section. These are prepared foods or foods they cook up right there for you to take away. Think of San Francisco's Ferry Plaza. Dim sum. Sandwiches. Donuts. Grilled fish. Salads. Sushi. Smoothies. Tea. Greek food. Mediterranean food. Bakeries. Seven different outlets for ice cream. Two for gelato. Japanese food. There were about 25 different sellers within this area. The pictures here are from the take home foods. I bought some of these cotton candy balls for the kids. And the cupcakes here were just as good as Kara's Cupcakes (and almost as expensive).
- A food court for dine-in eating. The Thais have greatly improved on the American execution of this. Here's how it goes. You walk in and each person in your group is given a bar-coded card. Then you sit down at your table of choice. Your waiter writes your table number on your card. Then you stand back up and walk around and decide what to eat. There's an Italian place. An Indian one. A Thai one. Chinese. Japanese. Frou-frou drinks. Burger King. Sushi. Your card is scanned after you make your choice and then you return to your table. After your food is made, it shows up at your table. And after you're done eating, you take all your group's bar coded cards and pay at the cashier on your way out. The food court at the Emporium was nice. The one at the Central shopping mall was mind-blowing.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
I find fibers just yummy. Put me in a room with textiles and yarn and I am in heaven.
Jim Thompson's Thai Silk Company, however, is alive and well. It has retail shops all over Thailand and even a few abroad now. They are even available at the San Francisco Design Center. After the house tour we took a tuk-tuk over to the flagship store and I demonstrated amazing self-restraint. (As I type this I think Dave has probably looked at our VISA bill online and dismissed the charge as a warm up.) In reality, I probably would have spent more $$ had the strangest thing not happened there. While on the fourth floor, in the bedding and furniture section, a 6 or 7-year-old boy was jumping on one of the display beds. His father was yelling at him to get down and his mother was chasing their other son around the room. The child loved the attention and kept jumping. The reserved and horrified Thai staff looked on in shock. I toughed it out for just a short amount of time before heading down the stairs. Even I can't shop in those conditions.
In the scarves department, a floor below, I was making my purchase when the child appeared again. He was solo this time and was entertaining himself by hurling himself over the stair railing and jumping from one floor to the next, a drop of about 10 feet, to the landing. I've never seen anything like this in public.
Neeracha's parents were kind enough to watch the kids last night while she, Sean and I went out for an adult evening.
We started with dinner at Breeze, on the 52nd floor of the Lebua Hotel in the Silom district. We dined outdoors (until it began to rain, at which time an army of hip, white-Thai -silk-clad staff moved us and the other diners indoors in record time) and feasted on elegant, modern Asian seafood. The entrance to the restaurant is across a 25 meter glass skybridge suspended above a lily pond. Dramatic doesn't even begin to describe it. Oh. And the skybridge is underlit in soft neon, like the walkway to the satellite United terminal at O'Hare. So we're looking down at frenetic Bangkok and eating an elegant meal. In Thailand, labor is inexpensive. So there was one gentleman whose job it was to stand near the edge of the patio and caution you against going too close to the edge. Another stood at the bottom of the single step leading to the skybridge and held a flashlight to the already underlit step. The service was beyond attentive.
After dinner we hopped into a taxi (orange, I think -- more on this taxi stuff in another post) and went to the Patpong Silom Market, an open-air market in Bangkok's notorious red light district. Dave, Eldest Daughter and I came on our last trip to Bangkok and I was in search of more inexpensive silk pajamas. Patpong is eye opening for sure. The sex industry is alive and well in Bangkok. I found it disturbing but it is what it is -- I am the farang, or foreigner, here. We saw quite a few gorgeous Girl Boys -- I need to take a makeup lesson from one of them!
Sunday, August 3, 2008
The chocolate fondue area offered white, milk and dark dipping options. There were Crepes Suzette and a gelato bar. Truffles. Traditional mango and sticky rice with coconut sauce. I love sweets so the bulk of my caloric intake this day came from creme brulee, tiny lemon tarts and their version of the Oreo. I also did some good damage on the cheese display, restraining myself to only eat the 11 ones there I had never tried.
After brunch we changed into grubbies, put our jewelry in the hotel safe and took the Skytrain out to the Chatuchak Weekend Market. The Skytrain is the easiest way to get around Bangkok, which has legendary traffic.
I'm fairly wimpy when it comes to smells but for some reason, I really enjoyed the strange food smells in the market. Much food is sold there from food stands, both hot and cold. And whiffs of the spicy things I liked although I would never eat them. I hate spicy food. These particular smells made my eyes tear and my heart beat fast and it was a fun, temporary high. (I'm so easily amused.)
We made our way back to the Skytrain station around 6p, walking through a park that reminded me a bit of the Boston Common, and took long showers back at Emporium. We had a late dinner of surprisingly good pizza at Basilico and crashed.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Friday, August 1, 2008
Kudos Marny and Thom!
On the flight over I read the second half of The Glass Castle, two issues of People, Real Simple, Architectural Digest and Sunset, and watched 21 and four episodes of Sex and the City.
- The JAL flight attendants, chicly dressed including hats, were concerned with service, in addition to safety. The food was free, plentiful and edible, and they even gave us those small hot washcloths to clean up before meals. When you ask for water, they offer you the entire bottle.
- The seats on JAL were the smallest I'd ever seen on a plane. This was fine for petite me but the few taller people on board did not look so happy.
- The personal entertainment system in my seat had on-demand movies plus video games and a nifty camera that let me watch the takeoff and landing from outside the plane.
- People wear the strangest things to travel. I was wearing Lucy pants, a t shirt and a light jacket. Other people wore short skirts and spiked heels, and others wore skintight jeans with tube tops. How comfortable could that have been?
- Moving walkway etiquette is the exact opposite of here. Walk on the left side; stand to the right.
- The security checkpoint at Narita offered guidelines, not hard and fast rules. They suggest you take your shoes off but do not require it. They suggest you leave your water bottle outside it but do not insist you do it.
- iPhones are not yet distributed in Asia so using one causes people to stare.
I slept four hours, read the Bangkok Post (see very interesting ad from the front page!) then called and woke Neeracha and met up with her for breakfast. The hotel's breakfast buffet is on the 25th floor and has both Western and Asian foods. She ate this rambutan and I had scrambled eggs and pineapple. There's a Starbucks in this building, too, so we got coffee for her husband Sean, who got up a little later. The coffee is all the same but the pastries look even better than the ones at home.
And that brings us to right now -- where I sit on the couch with her MacBook Air while she and Sean read the paper, and their daughters play.