Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas at Squaw Valley

As usual, we fled the Bay as soon as we could Friday night. Ski Team picked up where it had left off the previous weekend and we shoved Thing 2 out the door at 8:30a Saturday morning.

We've had an early and abundant snowfall this winter so the mountain is quite well endowed for December. Dave's sister, BIL and kids came up from LA Sunday and The Cousinfest began. It stormed heavily one day then snowed lightly off and on a few more days. In general, though, the conditions were great and Dave and I both got in four days. After eight years of being neighbors and friends, I finally skied with Downstairs Lora. It was humbling although I really appreciated the lesson and her taking her game down several notches for me.

I just love skiing with the kids; they're at the point where we can all ski together and just enjoy the mountain. I had the luxury of skiing by myself Christmas morning. The sky was blue, the slopes were nearly empty and the snowboarders, who I fear will run me over from behind and leave me maimed for life, were absent. It doesn't get much better than that.

Squaw Valley does a Christmas Eve Parade of Lights. Instructors and coaches ski down KT wildly waving flares and it's a beautiful thing to see. It was even more fun this year because we met up with Aaron and Jessica, and five-week-old Sierra. Yes, they live in Truckee and named their daughter Sierra. Incidentally, there's just something delicious about babies. No matter how many you've had, newborns just draw you in. It's quite impressive that Jessica is back on skis so soon postpartum. Either it's the healthy mountain lifestyle or the fact that her career as a neonatal RN made her smart enough to do the right things for Sierra en utero and stay in shape during her pregnancy.

The littlest Pinks turn eight this month so we had a celebratory dinner with our neighbors. With my MIL and her gentleman friend, who came up for the night, there were 28 of us. You can see Thing 2 above with her candled carrot. She didn't want a cupcake. (More for me. My scale proves it.)

The older cousins watched the younger cousins one night and the adults got a expensive meal at Plumpjack.

All in all a great week in the mountains. I was a little sad to come home but what with two birthdays in the family this week, it was time.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

December 26

Be forewarned, friends and family, the Room and Board Sample Sale is not for the faint of heart.

I'm not sure I've ever been shopping on the day after Christmas. But, spurred on by the increasing unhappiness we feel toward the uncomfortable and too-small-for-our-clan family room sofas, I got up early and drove into the city. Not knowing how many cars would be joining me on the road led to my arrival 45 minutes before Room and Board opened. I got into the parking lot, barely. There were perhaps 75 people in line when I arrived and when the store opened, the line extended another 300 people easily. Who knew?! Fortunately I had The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo with me and the time went quickly.

Once inside, it was a stampede. The cognoscenti had scoped out the store in days prior, noting where their picks were located. Then on this day they ran for them and plopped themselves down, waiting until a sales associate passed by and wrote up their order.

I didn't have a snowball's chance in hell. C'est la vie. I'm still glad I went.

Five days of skiing left me a little achy so I took a chance that Suchada, my favorite Thai massage place, could take a walk in. And they could! So I had a great rub down before heading to the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market, the best California has to offer IMHO. Of course parking was a nightmare but after having read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle I was on a mission!

Now for my next moment of discovery: the market takes two weeks off for the holidays. At least Ferry Plaza has lots of foodie options. I left with four kinds of mushrooms, including Black Trumpet, which I'd never seen before, Prather Ranch beef and a Miette cupcake.

Sur La Table was having a big sale so I bought a few things and didn't buy many others. (Are you reading me, Dave? The bag I brought home did not include the cupcake wrappers, $160 Scanpan and cutting board that was not on sale.) My big coup was a green paring knife, pictured above. It's Kuhn Rikon and it's the best knife I've ever owned. I'll be cooking this weekend.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Where are you?

The problem with blogging, and following blogs, is that it becomes addictive. The iPhone app I use most is my blog reader.

I began following Orangette perhaps six months before Molly and her husband opened a restaurant. And then she took a hiatus from blogging. I was okay with that actually. She had been doing a lot of vegetable recipes. However, the post about the food at their wedding is among the best pieces of food journalism I have read. And reread.

Kathy jumped into the mommy blogging circuit bigtime and blogged several times a week until November 10. And then she went dark. Where did you go, Kathy?

Neeracha blogs primarily at the intersection of food and travel. Her blog is only updated when she has a special meal or is on the road. At least I know this upfront.

Kim blogged on her journey to become sugar free. And then she had an unrelated medical issue and stopped.

David Lebovitz blogs frequently, perhaps because his livelihood is tied to it? For that I am grateful. And at least ten pounds heavier.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

Did you know that turkeys have sex? Frankly, I hadn't given this much, actually any thought until the second to last chapter in Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. So yes, turkeys do have sex. And Kingsolver watched and documented this in case you never have the chance nor desire.

This book isn't your typical page turner, as was The Poisonwood Bible, which I read cover to cover on a flight from Narita to SFO several years ago. But it was an absolutely fascinating read and included recipes, too! Click here for the recipes, some of which sound incredible.

Essentially, it's a review of the food supply chain during a year in Virginia's Appalachian mountains as experienced by the Kingsolver Hopp family. They move from Arizona to a rural farm and challenge themselves to a year as locavores. Kingsolver is one of my favorite novelists and this book is hilarious at times. She writes of her 8-year-old daughter's egg selling business, how they disguise zucchini in chocolate chip cookies, and how her husband bakes their daily bread. Because of this book I am going to try to make cheese. Yes, really. I now have a cheese making kit. My husband is a little freaked out by this but I've promised him I won't quit my day job. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Kingsolver's writing is colorful and memorable albeit preachy in this book. There is a smugness to her tone that does not exist in her fiction. You can read this book and feel good about your eating habits or feel really, really bad. Kingsolver presents a compelling case for trying as much as possible to buy food that is locally and/or organically grown.

The parts about how corporate agribusiness has changed the way Americans eat are quite unsettling. She reminds us that with a small amount of gardening space anyone, can raise some of their own food. I was sad to read how so many varieties of grains, vegetables, and even poultry are virtually obsolete, pushed out of the picture by types favored by big business.

In California we are blessed with easy and year-round availability of organic produce. One more thing to be thankful for.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My babies

These are my daughters, the three young people that have most changed my world. They have taught me how to function with very little sleep, belly laugh at things most people would find disgusting, and set aside my selfish tendencies.

Sherman Chu shot this picture, among others. We were very lucky to be the high bidder for his services at an auction last year. His niche is high-end weddings and I love to read his blog. It transports me to exotic celebrations on foreign soil and reminds me of the promise of marriage, of the way I felt when Dave and I tied the knot. A former news cameraman, his point of view is incredible, too.

Here's the backstory: Eldest Daughter is flexing her adolescent muscle by nixing the sweater I bought her for the photo shoot in favor of a top of her own choosing with high-topped Converse. Thing 1 is wearing a skirt, impervious to the cold at 8:30a on a November morning. Thing 2 is in a shag vest, reminiscent of my parents' Golden Retriever, whom she loves more than anything, with patent purple boots.

This photo makes me happy.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Happy tears

I've just had a good cry after returning home from dropping off the gifts for the family which Thing 2's class "adopted" for the holidays. One of Thing 2's classmates has a much larger SUV than mine so they graciously (for many reasons) drove. The gifts, pantry items and general household supplies filled up the entire back of their Yukon.

The generosity and huge way Thing 2's classmates and their families undertook this project blew me away -- not only did people donate requested items such as work boots but they added socks and extra laces. One family donated toiletries and dressed them up in a basket with cellophane and a ribbon. Another donated toys for most of the kids to accompany the gift cards the family had requested.

While the family received the actual items, I truly believe that we received the biggest gift.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Welcome home, Dan!

After 13 months serving our country in Iraq, our friend Dan has returned home.

It's been interesting to follow his time overseas on Facebook, and by email and text. Communications have come a long way since the US began fighting wars on foreign lands and we are fortunate to have been able to be in close touch with Dan this last year. I cannot fathom what his wife and kids have been through, and I look forward to hearing more about this past year. We missed the Welcome Home Party last weekend. (You know how there is one weekend a year where every imaginable social obligation occurs? That was it.)

My high school friend, Chris, has three months left on his second tour of Afghanistan. He is an Army Chaplain and his Facebook posts are filled with poignant musings and political commentary.

I keep waiting for the fighting to be over.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

It's OVO!

Both of my parents had birthdays this weekend.

We were fortunate to see OVO with them, and with my mother-in-law and her gentleman friend, too. It's currently in San Francisco, in its custom big top adjacent to Pac Bell Park.

This Cirque du Soleil does not disappoint. It's in the Bay Area a few more months. Go!

Ovo means egg. Beautiful, brightly colored insects discover an egg and use it in a roundabout love story. The adults and kids in our group were transfixed. I liked the Diabolo act the best: spools tossed, juggled and spun on a length of twine suspended between two sticks. Most kids have played with the Diabolo, but this is really an art form with the performer juggling up to four spools at a time, seeming to make them come alive. Of course I bought the kids Diabolos in the concession shop. How hard could it possibly be?!

The other mindblowing performance was a trampoline-wall act. A dozen acrobats bounced across the stage on trampolines, then flew back toward the rear of the stage jumping and running up a vertical wall. It seems to defy gravity.

I was sorry that Eldest Daughter was unable to come with us. She spent the weekend performing in a local children's musical theatre production of Alice in Wonderland. If I blog any more about it she'll be mad at me and give me THE LOOK.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Beating the blues

If you read my last blog post you'll know that I'm reeling from the news that friends of ours split up. It's been a draining week, frankly. I'm working on an exceptionally fun and also time-consuming client project, Dave was out of town one night this week, and Thing 2 was home from school sick one day.

When I'm feeling down I try to do nice things for others. This forces me not to dwell on things I cannot change. Today I took frou frou cupcakes from a specialty bakery to a friend's house. She'd had a long night in the ER with one of her kids. And when I showed up at her doorstep and gave her a hug paired with chocolate, she got all teary.

I also undertook another project this week: we adopted a less fortunate family for the holidays. Our extended family did this for many years and it was fun to imagine the joy these material things we take for granted (clothes, toys, pantry items and cleaning supplies) would bring them at Christmas. It's funny if you think about it: a big Jewish family putting together someone else's Christmas.

"We" this year is actually Thing 2's Second Grade Class. Our family has 15 people in it and I am in awe of how generously and enthusiastically people are donating. I was concerned about asking people to take on one more thing during the holidays, and during a year when so many in our own zip code are out of work. Yet the families jumped aboard this idea without pause. I think we all know that no matter how bad things are in our affluent suburb, they are worse elsewhere.

I am honored to be a part of this community.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Til death do us part

Dave and I have been married 16 years. Over the weekend he came across some pictures from our prenup dinner. There was one of me, Sharon and Cheryl. Cheryl got married the year before us; Sharon got married the year after us. And both have since divorced.

We recently found out that another couple who attended our wedding split up. They were a neat duo, opposites who seemingly found common ground and had a nice life with two kids and a Golden Retriever.

I talked to Neeracha about this last night and her response was, "The US divorce rate is 50% but we're not that demographic."

I'm not sure I agree. I'm not planning on a divorce. If you've met my husband you'd know why. He's truly my better half. But our friends are. Of the 22 houses on our street, 10 are occupied by someone who was previously married to someone else.

My parents are still married. My in-laws were married until my father-in-law passed. And this has set a damn good example.

Still, I'm unsettled today.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

Warm but not so warm as to be Earthquake Weather.

Morning walk with Dave and the kids up to the swing at The Athenian School. Beautiful view of hills. Home in time to throw the bird in the oven and watch football.

First guests arrive at 3pm. Scavenger Hunt for the nine kids with Flip videos. Hilarious footage of the neighbors. A fire in the fireplace after the sun set. More football.

Traditional Cognac and apple roasted turkey. Laflamme's deep fried turkey. An audience watching Louis deep fry the turkey. Leslie and Neeracha eating the yummy skin from the aforementioned deep fried turkey. Ronald's lemon tart. Sibby's cupcakes. Cookies by Design. Brussel sprouts in cream. Mom's apple pie. Margo's salad. Cynthia's orange rolls. Hayley's date pudding cake with the aesthetically perfect glaze. Mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes and broccoli and stuffed mushrooms and chopped liver. Pecan pie. Pumpkin pie. Barefoot Contessa chocolate cake made by someone, who shall remain nameless, who does not like desserts. Weird. Clearly not a relative of ours. Homemade vanilla ice cream with candy toppings. Cranberry sorbet.

China, crystal and silver for 26. Floral and glass pumpkin centerpieces. Candles. Champagne and an imperial of 2004 Provenance Cab. More red wine. Wine charms.

Walk around the neighborhood in the dark with Neeracha and Jacquie to stretch legs.

My favorite day. Counting our blessings. Friends and family and laughter. Too much food.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Twas the day before Thanksgiving ...

Twas the day before Thanksgiving
And all through the house
I was looking for chairs
The Pinks were, too, and my spouse.

For the very next day
We'd have 26 for dinner
And it being Thanksgiving
There was no chance we'd get any thinner.

We'd set up three tables
On Sunday afternoon
We'd polished the silver
It's never too soon.

The Willie Bird was on order
From our local butcher shop
I set out serving dishes
I couldn't seem to stop!

The Scavenger hunt was created
And the lists were printed out
All dozen kids will participate
No matter if they pout.

There are crafts for them, too.
Things to decorate, build and stuff.
This should keep those small ones busy
I think I bought enough.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday
It's about family, food and friends
Hosting means we get first choice of leftovers
Still, I'm sad when the day ends.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cranberry Sorbet

We had our friends Seth and Lori for dinner Sunday night, which was a good finish to a weekend which included a 40th birthday party at Chez Papa in the city and salsa dancing, family pictures and Thanksgiving prep.

Incidentally, Chez Papa Bistro was wonderful. It's an adorable spot on 18th St. at Missouri and the goat cheese salad I had was better than anything I'd eaten in France. (Read David Lebovitz to understand why the French lack in the salad making department.)

Thing 1 loves cranberry and talked me into making this for dessert. It's adapted from Bon Appetit. If you are a cranberry fan then you will love this.

Cranberry Sorbet
1 12oz package fresh or frozen cranberries
2 1/2 c water
2 c sugar
1/2 t Kosher salt
1/4 c fresh lemon juice

Combine cranberries, water, sugar and salt in saucepan. Boil until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to low; simmer until cranberries pop and are soft, stirring occasionally. Cool to room temperature.

Working in batches, puree mixture in blender. Strain into large bowl and discard solids. Stir in lemon juice. Refrigerate cranberry mixture until well chilled, at least four hours.

Transfer cranberry mixture to ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer's instructions. Enjoy.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

New Moon? Check.

Of course we saw New Moon this weekend. Friday to be exact. The day it opened. After school. With the Pinks and an extra.

The CGI are good. If you're into Taylor Lautner then you'll enjoy this film. It showcases his hard-earned assets much the same way 17 Again showcased Zac Efron's. It follows the book fairly closely and, to cut to the chase, it delivered on the promise.

The scene at our local movie theatre was just that -- a scene! Dave, who is continuing to win awards from his daughters as Father of the Year, drove to the theatre early to ensure we got prime seating. He was first in line and thus we got first choice of seats. Thanks Sweetie! It seemed as if half the middle school was there with us, along with a few moms. The pubescent screams during the movie were deafening at times.

And so the wait begins for Eclipse.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Happy Birthday Michelle!

The second November birthday in our family is my sister-in-law Michelle's. Michelle and I have been friends since third grade. Sixteen years ago I married her older brother and got the sister I always wanted.

Michelle is the great entertainer. I can't tell you how many good times we've had at the home she shares with her husband and two daughters in Southern California. Her husband is named Phil and the littlest Pinks nicknamed him Uncle Fish when they were just learning to talk. If he dislikes that, he keeps quiet about it.

Michelle is a people magnet. She's the Kool Aid Mom and is always surrounded by friends and more friends. She makes life fun for herself, Phil and my nieces.

I'm grateful that her daughters are older than mine because she always knows how to counsel me on girl things. And when my girls drive me nuts I just stick them on a plane down south and she welcomes them with open arms.

Happy birthday Michelle!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

It's always the shoes.

Recently I worked up the courage to do something I have meant to do for many years: visit the US Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.

Three years ago I consulted to a company in the DC Metro area and had many opportunities to visit the museum. But I couldn't bring myself to go.

I've regretted it ever since. Although I did not enjoy my afternoon in the museum, I'm glad I went. It's a living memorial to the millions who died during the Holocaust and a reminder of how fragile freedom really is.

I started with Daniel's Story, the exhibit for children aged 8-11. Let's just say I won't be bringing even my 11-year-old there anytime soon.

From there I worked my way through the exhibits in chronological order, as the docents recommended. The story of Nazi reign is told through photographs, films, eyewitness testimonies and artifacts.

Of course it was the shoes that got to me. The assemblage of shoes. The pile of shoes that were once on someone's daughter, someone's son, someone's child. The shoes of the victims. Although really, we are all victims. The clothes pictured above were once worn by someone who did not survive.

I find it chilling, chilling to the bone, that this all took place just before my parents were born.

It's been a long time since I studied World War II and I'd forgotten some of the details: how widespread the Nazi reach was, how the Nazi's had encouraged Aryan population growth, how long it took President Roosevelt to decide to intervene.

I spent a long time at the Righteous Gentiles exhibit, which told of the non-Jews who risked their own safety to hide Jews during this period, to help them escape.

Elie Wiesel is perhaps the best-known Holocaust survivor. His memoir, Night, tells of his concentration camp experience and he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. The museum has many of his quotes showcased on its walls and it took me right back to age 12, when I read the book in preparation for my Bat Mitzvah.

Twenty-five years ago I visited Yad Vashem, Israel's memorial. Yet this was different. Perhaps because I now have the wisdom of an adult? Or because this is my country's acknowledgment of the horror and our role?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Happy Birthday Barry!

Dear Barry,

I remember when you were born. Well, I remember mom after she came home from the hospital. I don't much remember you until you were about six months old and I fed you a Popsicle at our annual 4th of July Party.

On the occasion of your birthday I forgive you for the following things:

1. Your cushy college experience. How come Mom and Dad didn't pay for me to spend four years in Santa Barbara?!

2. The perfect weather on your wedding day. As you'll recall, it poured rain on mine, forcing an outdoor event into a wine cellar.

3. The fights we had over sharing the car once you turned 16. I get it now. I returned home from college for the summers and messed with your routine.

4. You breaking your leg, thus delaying our planned trip to Disneyland. I've been at least a dozen times now and would be happy to never go again.

5. Your daughter cracking her head open right before we got into the car to return her from an overnight stay here. I was never so scared in my whole life. Blond hair shows blood a lot more than brown does.

6. Marrying a girl who can snowboard faster than I can ski. What's up with that?!

7. Being in a place without cell phone coverage when our twins were born. Granted, they were born over a holiday weekend ...

8. Reading my diary while we were on The Deadliest Catch voyage from Alaska to Washington. What else were you going to do? One can only watch so many cleaving glaciers and killer whales.

9. Not coming with us to Spain last summer. We missed you but really, the food sucked.

In all seriousness, though, you are such a mensch and I am so proud of how I raised you. You gave me an amazing sister-in-law who shares my adoration for shoes and ice cream. You had two beautiful, fun daughters for me to spoil. And trust me, no child ever died from eating Krispy Kremes for dinner. You are generous with your time and resources. You mix a good drink and grill a good steak.

You are 14 or 15 in the first picture. It was taken on Lake Washington, I believe, during the summer of 1987 on the aforementioned Deadliest Catch trip. The second picture is one of my favorites. You're with your 15-month-old on the couch at about 8am in the villa we rented in Siena, Italy. You've been up with her a long time. You're a good father and a good husband because you dealt with my perfect niece while my Ice Cream SIL got some shuteye in preparation for the marathon shopping trip we dragged her on that day.

Although it's your birthday I'm feeling like the one who got the gift. And after all, it's all about me since this is my blog.

Many happy returns, Barry! Love you!

Leslie

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Snapshot: NYC in November

One of my college friends has her hands exceptionally full this fall. Her husband is teaching in Singapore and her step-daughter, who they have primary custody of, is going through the college admissions process. This process is even more complex because she is being courted by several schools for an athletic scholarship. And then there's the adorable four-year-old, too. Here is a picture of us from our sophomore year in college.

I attempted to visit them all in NYC last week. Most disappointingly, my friend was quite ill the day we had planned to spend together. So instead of seeing Central Park through the eyes of a urban four-year-old and her mother, I had several hours free in NYC to wander around. This is where the cupcakes came in.

It was an easy train ride up from Washington and I arrived just in time to see the Yankees win the World Series. My hotel was one block off Times Square and the normally crowded area was even more crowded on this particular night. Have you see The Deadliest Catch on the Discovery Channel? Picture how those crabs are packed into the holding tank in the bottom of the fishing vessel. That's how it was on Times Square except louder and with alcohol. The next day I went wild in Toys R Us, buying birthday presents for the adorable four-year-old and indulging my own kids in the New Moon department. Yes, Toys R Us has a whole department devoted to New Moon. For those of you looking for a good, centrally located hotel: Hotel Mela was it. Spacious room (with a bathtub, rare for NYC!), high thread-count linens, free wifi and quality bath products. It's at 44th St. between 6th and 7th Aves.

My aunt and uncle were visiting from Chicago and I had dinner with them Thursday night at Vice Versa, which I'd read about on Chowhound. The last 1:1 time I had with them was while I was in college, near their home. It was such a treat to catch up with them, get the detailed scoop on their kids and grandkids, and hear about their travels. My aunt is counting the days until my mom retires and they can hang. I think my mom is, too.

My friend and I grabbed a quick bite Friday morning before I left -- I needed to hand off the birthday presents and wasn't ready for my trip to be a complete aberration.

And then I headed for JFK, sad to leave the big city behind but very excited to see the kids and Dave, whom I really missed. (Note to those flying JetBlue: the terminal at JFK is new and modern but lacks AT&T cellular coverage, which makes it very hard to do a conference call from the boarding area.)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Magnolia vs Crumbs

I've just returned from a trip to DC and NYC. Some work, some play.

During the day and a half I spent in New York, I managed to sample cupcakes from three different venues.

Dean & Deluca, which I stumbled upon while looking for Zara, did a fairly good Red Velvet with cream cheese frosting. Ina Garten does divine cream cheese frosting on coconut cupcakes and this was pretty close. I wasn't planning on having a snack there but I was hungry after walking through Soho, Tribeca and Little Italy and the cupcake looked better than anything else in the pastry case so I indulged. I was pretty excited to have found Dean & Deluca's original location as I'm a fan of the St. Helena outpost and have sent many a wedding gift from there.

The Magnolia Bakery, in the West Village, has been credited with starting the 1990s cupcake craze. You may have seen it in Sex and The City and The Devil Wears Prada. Frankly, I was underwhelmed. They make vanilla and chocolate cupcakes with vanilla and chocolate frosting. That pretty pink frosting you see above tastes the same as the white one: vanilla. And that's just not right. I ate a chocolate on chocolate one and it was like eating Betty Crocker frosting right out of the can.

Crumbs, which has several NYC outposts, does more than 50 daily varieties. They are large cupcakes. I'm a fan. I even managed to bring some home for Dave and the kids: Apple Cobbler, Caramel Apple, White Hot Chocolate, Oreo, Blackout and Yankees. Fortunately or unfortunately, they have a shop in California quite near my sister-in-law's house in Calabasas.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

My treat.

While trick or treating with the kids Saturday night, my neighbor Jill lent me a book.

It's called The Most Beautiful Villages of the Dordogne. Oh my.

It's pure eye candy. Medieval villages perched on cliffs. Undulating hills and warm limestone valleys. Have you even heard of the Dordogne? It's not an especially popular tourist destination, at least for Americans. But in addition to stunning scenery, it offers some of the best food in France including truffles (yum!) and fois gras (not my thing). Did I mention I'm going to the village at right, Beynac, in April?

Perhaps 15 years ago Dave and I took the Glacier Express from St. Moritz to Zermatt. Since then I've thought that the Swiss Alps are the most beautiful place on the planet. We'll see if I still believe this after visiting the Dordogne.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Who's calling please?

I finally learned how to make custom ringtones for my iPhone.

Only a few of you have special ringtones, though. I'm working my way through the rest of you.

Mom, you are Marc Cohn's Walking in Memphis.
Dave, you are Honey, Honey from Mamma Mia.
Ice Cream SIL is Cheetah Girls Cheetah Sisters.

My client, who is the most frequent caller to my cell phone, is Wild Thing. She selected this herself.

Amy and Paige -- suggestions for yourselves?

Neeracha -- the options are numerous for you. John Denver's Leaving on a Jetplane? One Night in Bangkok? Something by Madonna?

Anyone else?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween 2009

12:45am
Dave comes home from Tracy & Matt's Halloween Party. Try to engage him in conversation. It's futile.

8:20am
Thing 1 decides to serve us breakfast in bed. It's a very sweet gesture yet it's too bad she had to wake us to do so.

8:45am
Get out of bed and doll up because I absolutely positively have to shoot my work video while my hair is still perfect from my Friday afternoon trip to the salon.

9:30am
Set up the Flip camera and stage the living room. Coerce kids into being human teleprompters. Eldest Daughter yells at me that she doesn't like being told what to do. After all, she's taking Video Production in middle school. Bite tongue to stop from telling her what I think of her attitude. Give husband two extra strength Tylenol and a bottle of Propel.

10:00am
Am starting to get frustrated with the video shoot. Not as frustrated as the human teleprompters, though.

10:30am
Realize we need to be at soccer in 20 minutes. Throw soccer clothes at Thing 2 and tell her she can get dressed in the car. Check on husband. He decides to meet us at the game.

10:55am
Arrive at soccer for pre-game face painting and then warmup. It's Halloween after all.

11:30am
Soccer game. Greet my parents, who have come to cheer on Thing 2. Notice that my mom and I have very similar haircuts these days. Discuss easy appetizers with Soccer Moms.

12:20pm
Console Thing 2, who is either hysterical that the season is over or that they lost. I never did find out.

1pm
Grocery shop. No idea why since I am leaving town for the week. Earn bonus points for not purchasing the People New Moon special issue. Figure I can buy it at the airport if I still want it.

2pm
Reshoot video, this time with husband as teleprompter. It still sucks. Bathe Thing 2. Prep appetizer for tonight.

5pm
Drop Eldest Daughter at Halloween Party then go Kristin & Mark's for dinner.

6pm
After dinner, trick or treat with kids in nearby neighborhood since ours is dark on this holiday.

8pm
Go to Maddy & Tim's for their annual Halloween Chili Feed while all the kids in our neighborhood trade candy upstairs in their house. Discuss bike shopping with Jill and Leeann. Ooogle at our neighbors' beautiful babies. It makes me want another. For about thirty seconds.

9:30pm
Walk home from Maddy & Tim's just as Eldest Daughter is dropped off. She tells me that she has returned with 176 pieces of candy.

10pm
Consider raiding Pinks' candy but decide to hold off until morning. Also consider shooting video again but instead, crawl into bed, thankful that we get an extra hour this weekend.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Penelope Trunk is a freak.

But her blog is an interesting read and she occasionally has a nugget.

For example, she blogged on how to write a blog post people love. You can read it here.

Ms. Trunk writes on the intersection of work and life. One of the things I like about her is that she freely admits that she has limited social skills.

She has an editor for her tweets and blog posts and still they are out there. Here are some examples of her bizarre posts.

High Income Women Get More Oral Sex Maybe

Miscarriage is a Workplace Event

Why Men Should Give Women Flowers


This last post reminds me of my friend Bobby, who once told me that during stressful times at work he wishes he'd made a career of arranging flowers. He'd go to work every day and be surrounded by beautiful things. And then he'll take them, make them even more beautiful and they will go to people and make them happy, too. I think about this from time to time.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

They make me happy.

Cherokee Purple. Stupice. Green Zebra. Yes, heirloom tomatoes. Our neighbors bought them in local farming community today and delivered some to our doorstep. They made me silly happy. Silly happy because it's the end of October and silly happy because they taste so damn good. I made a special run to the artisan cheese shop this afternoon to get fresh mozzarella to pair with them. Stand back, sisters and brothers. I'm not inclined to share.

Two weekends ago I made dinner at my parents house. My mom is a phenomenal cook. I may have said this before but it deserves repeating. I never knew how good my brother and I had it growing up until I went away to college and started going home with my roommates.

The funny thing is, I never clued in to how different our kitchens were until that weekend. I have a gas cooktop. Hers is electric, the kind that's flat and easy to wipe clean. It was her choice; she remodeled her kitchen perhaps five years ago. She has two kinds of salt: table and Kosher. I have seven. I have four sets of dry measuring cups. She has a single set of wet ones. (No idea why I have so many -- one was a gift and they are very cute.) She has McCormick Schilling Vanilla. I have Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla and Mexican Vanilla.

Our generation has been taught that the best food comes from the best ingredients, thank you Alice Waters. Yet, my mom can outcook me any day of the week blindfolded. I can cook. Fairly well. But cookbooks were made for me. I don't deviate. I follow the recipes step by step and come out with the expected results. Timed correctly with the other courses if I'm lucky.

Can someone explain this to me? Is love the secret ingredient or are some people just born with the gene?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Top 100

Have I mentioned lately how much I LOVE to travel?

Each year Conde Nast Traveler comes out with its Top 100 list of Hotels and Resorts Worldwide. Dave and I go through the list religiously and see how many we've been to. I think Neeracha does this, too.

This year I've stayed at 12 of the top resorts. For the record, The Four Seasons Chiang Mai was the best of them. It was like staying in a manicured jungle and we spent a few hours on the pavilion attached to our room each day when Eldest Daughter, then three, napped. The Oriental Bangkok, however, was a close second because of the gold embossed stationery with our names on it and the bathroom the same size as our bedroom at home.

I've stayed at 10 of the top hotels. For the record, I do not think that the Hyatt Regency Reston, where I spent three months of my life, is deserving of this honor. I do, however, think that the Westin Excelsior Florence was. I clearly recall the view of the Arno from our terrace and also that we used Westin points to pay for our stay, which made it all the sweeter. The picture at right was taken on the boat at the Westin Excelsior Venice, where we went to celebrate our 10th anniversary. It made the list, too.

Full disclosure: there are more than 200 properties on the list; they are sliced and diced a few ways.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ooops I did it again.

I'm a glutton for punishment. If you've been reading my blog for a while you know that I work myself up into a complete frenzy over class auction projects. The only creative thing I do well is quilt so that's my weapon of choice.

No one volunteered to do Thing 2's class auction project this year so of course I took it on. If you translated the number of mental hours I've already put into it into my consulting bill rate you'd be as sick as my husband is.

I'm doing a Halloween-themed quilt with the children's hand prints. It's going to be cute, not as elaborate as last year's masterpiece but sweet none-the-less. I love Halloween and hope everyone else does, too.

Our house has a tall, curved stairwell and it's been bare since we moved into this house seven years ago. I've long wanted to hang a quilt there in four parts so it fills the space. But it will easily take me a year to create it so I want to be sure it's something I love and that the kids will love to inherit. So on my continued quest for the perfect design, my mom and I hauled The Pinks to the Pacific International Quilt Show in Santa Clara this weekend. It's the biggest quilt show I've ever been to, and I've been to quite a few. It also had the best quilts I've ever seen. Fabric art, really. Quilts that were essentially paintings made of fabric. The gallery was from artisans worldwide and the range of techniques was just mindblowing. It was truly inspirational and I shot enough pictures to keep me quilting for the next decade.

There were vendors there selling every kind of sewing and quilting item imaginable. I bought a few yards of fabric and let The Pinks pick out some fat quarters of batik flannel. (A fat quarter is a quarter yard cut in a square instead of a long rectangle.) Since we've been home they've been hacking at them and pinning. I can't wait to see what the end result is!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Leslie Loves Lemons

I've been cooking quite a bit lately. I seem to be a receptacle for chocolate chip cookie recipes but more on that another time.

This recipe is my current favorite. I've been a lemon junkie for a long time. My in-laws had a big Eureka lemon tree at their house and my parents have an out-of-control Meyer. When lemons are in season I juice several dozen and freeze the byproduct in ice cube trays. Dave cannot believe we devote an entire shelf in our freezer to lemon ice cubs but we always run out before the tree produces again. And nothing kills me more than paying for lemons! I do not understand why everyone does not adore lemons the way I do. They are simply the greatest food ever after milk chocolate.

I am almost to the end of my jar of Moroccan Preserved Lemons. I will make more as soon as the Meyer lemon tree produces another crop. I add them to roasted potatoes, pasta, chicken, ice cubes, soup.
  • Scrub the lemons with a vegetable brush and dry them off.
  • Cut off the little rounded bit at the stem end if there's a hard little piece of the stem attached. From the other end of the lemon, make a large cut by slicing lengthwise downward, stopping about 1-inch (3 cm) from the bottom, then making another downward slice, so you've incised the lemon with an X shape.
  • Pack coarse salt into the lemon where you made the incisions. Don't be skimpy with the salt: use about 1 tablespoon per lemon.
  • Put the salt-filled lemons in a clean, large glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Add a few coriander seeds, a bay leaf, a dried chili, and a cinnamon stick if you want. (Or a combination of any of them.)
  • Press the lemons very firmly in the jar to get the juices flowing. Cover and let stand overnight.
  • The next day do the same, pressing the lemons down, encouraging them to release more juice as they start to soften. Repeat for a 2-3 days until the lemons are completely covered with liquid. If your lemons aren't too juicy, add more freshly-squeezed lemon juice until they're submerged.
  • After one month, when the preserved lemons are soft, they're ready to use. Store the lemons in the refrigerator, where they'll keep for at least 6 months. Rinse before using to remove excess salt.
To use: Remove lemons from the liquid and rinse. Split in half and scrape out the pulp. Slice the lemon peels into thin strips or cut into small dices. You may wish to press the pulp through a sieve to obtain the flavorful juice, which can be used for flavoring as well, then discard the innards.

Photo and recipe credit to David Lebovitz

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Come one, come all!

I just love Thanksgiving!

It's the perfect holiday: food, football, a fire in the fireplace, friends and family. It's my holiday. The one we host just about every year. It's the holiday our children will remember in our home.

I love assembling an eclectic group of friends and family, reading cooking magazines, testing recipes, pulling out multiple sets of china and silver, and eating my Mom's apple pie. I love the smell of roasting turkey. I love our family tradition of going to the park to celebrate what we're thankful for.

The more diverse the group, the better. We've had Japanese cowboys and American cowgirls, former clients, close family and weird relatives. Dave had a Chinese roommate at one time and his family always served Peking Duck on Thanksgiving. We like Peking Duck so we do that, too.

Caryl and I took a Thanksgiving cooking class at the California Culinary Academy before we both had kids. Then we did Thanksgiving together. We hollowed out tiny gourds and put tea lights in them. We made the simplest turkey recipe, which is still my favorite although I've tried at least a dozen recipes since. We used the chef's technique to carve the turkey, and the CCA's recipe for cranberry sauce, which no one prefers to canned.

Edible centerpieces are one of my trademarks. I've done cookie bouquets and Joseph Schmidt sculpted chocolates, among other things. (Hershey bought Schmidt and closed it down this year -- a true foodie travesty.)

Dave took one business trip the entire time I was on bedrest, pregnant with the twins; it was to Sydney over Thanksgiving. Eldest Daughter and I went to my parents house, where a family friend dropped off dinner because my mother was tending to me, her 3-year-old granddaughter and my father, who was recovering from broken ribs and a broken collarbone courtesy of a horse who is much better trained now.

Last year we spent Thanksgiving at the beach and, while it was a great trip, it felt wrong not to spend Thanksgiving cooking up a storm in my own kitchen.

The family picture here is from 2003, when The Pinks were two and six. I am struck by how young Dave looks. And how much I miss that sofa. It was the most comfortable piece of furniture I have ever owned.

If you don't yet have solid plans for Thanksgiving and want to join our gathering of the pygmies, come! Bring your favorite traditional dish to share. You can even RSVP in the Comments section below.

Monday, October 12, 2009

We went for the wrong reason.

Our favorite babysitter, Rachel, is on Pom at the local high school. We've long wanted to see her pom and Friday night was the night. Little did I know that it was the biggest football game of the season, and also homecoming.

The opponent: De La Salle, which holds the national record of 151 consecutive football wins. Joe Montana's sons have gone to school there, and Tom Brady's uncle is currently the principal. To say it has an extraordinary football tradition just doesn't do it service.

Dave was in the city all weekend, volunteering at the President's Cup, so it was just me and the kids. Surprise 1: We had to park almost a mile away. Surprise 2: There were a lot of community supporters there, families without high-school-aged children! It was quite the social event.

Rachel's parents are about as nice as they come and I was happy to have more time with her mom, especially. We sat with them and her brother, who is also seven. Sat is not exactly accurate. Eldest Daughter found her peers immediately and ditched us, texting me periodically to let me know where she was. The little kids played on the hillside next to the bleachers. It was an absolute zoo there -- and I know a thing or two about chaos and football, having gone to a Big 10 college and some Raiders games.

For those of you who care about football, it was an exciting game. Our team held its own fairly well until the third quarter. And then De La Salle kicked into gear and scored one more touchdown, which would lead them to the final victory.

The last high school football game I went to was when I was at Miramonte. Although we had a football team in Anchorage (it produced Mark Schlereth, who went on to play for the Redskins and Broncos), hockey was the much bigger sport.

The jury is still out whether Friday night's game made me feel very young or very old.

Friday, October 9, 2009

SOS - Save our School

Our elementary school is not going to close. But class size may go up again and we may lose music, the full-time librarian I have issue with and PE if we don't solve our budget issue. How a school that feeds into a high school where 98% of graduates go on to four-year-colleges faces these issues is beyond me. Still, it's the talk of the town.

Our wonderful principal, who sadly came to our school two years ago just when the going got rough, sent out an email asking if people had fundraising ideas. Being wacko an out-of-the-box thinker, I suggested the following:
  • A $10K donation allows the parent to choose their child's teacher the following year.
  • A $250 donation allows the parent to request that a child not have a specific teacher the following year. $250 also buys the right to have your child not in a class with another child you predetermine.
  • $100 buys you out of an unexcused absence. You don't have to lie and say Little Bobby is under the weather when truly he's under a cabana on Kaanapali Beach.
  • $100 and Little Bobby can bring in sweets on his birthday, something that is now against district policy.
  • $1K and Little Bobby can announce the Pledge of Allegiance over the intercom.
  • $250 buys Little Bobby the right to pull the week's ABC cards.
  • $250 and Little Bobby can skip the semi-annual timed mile run.
We'll see if they take any of my suggestions. Do you think I should give up my day job?!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Mean Girls? Find another zip code.

In 1984, the bedroom town of Orinda, California made headline news when 16-year-old Bernadette Protti murdered 15-year-old Kirsten Costas by repeatedly stabbing her with a kitchen knife. The girls were acquaintances, both students at Miramonte High School, and the act was motivated by jealousy. My family had moved from Orinda to Anchorage the previous year, however, this really shook me up. It shook everyone up. Things like this just didn't happen in Orinda.

Our daughters face challenges growing up to be emotionally intelligent, authentic, assertive adults. Girls bullying girls is real. And if you read my previous post on this topic you'll know that I am on a mission to help our community get through this. Why get your panties in a bunch when you can do something about it?!

I am pleased, over-the-moon happy, dancing around the house giddy, to let you know that I have arranged for Rachel Simmons' Girls Leadership Workshops to come to our community. The workshops are for 2nd and 3rd graders, and for 4th, 5th and 6th graders. They cover topics such as Responding to Mean Girls, the Double Sorry, Steps to Healthy Conflict, Emotional Intelligence and Relational Aggression.

Just so you know, it's possible to be petrified while on Cloud 9. Based on conversations I've had with parents on the soccer field, at Back to School Nights and at Trader Joe's, I think this program will be well-received. Our elementary school principal was more than happy to endorse it and have it on our campus. If no one signs up then I look like an idiot, an overbearing mother. If the program takes off then our girls will develop valuable coping skills and suburban parents such as ourselves will have to self medicate less to get through these years.

Many of you are located in other geographies. You, too, can bring this program to your area! More information about Girls Leadership Institute can be found here. More information on Rachel Simmons and her books can be found here.

I look forward to sharing our lessons learned.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Soccer Saturday, Soccer Sunday

Thing 2 had soccer games both days this weekend. That, coupled with Soccer Pictures and a trip to the grocery to shop for Soccer Snacks, which it was our turn to bring, pretty much summed up our weekend. Fortunately the Fall weather has stayed so it was gorgeous out both days, sunny with highs in the upper sixties.

The seven-year-olds have really stepped up their game. They no longer play "cluster ball" and instead pass to each other (sometimes well, sometimes not so) and occasionally score. They know which goal is theirs without frequent reminders and they no longer raise their hands, classroom style, to be selected to throw the ball in. At right is Thing 2 scoring.

Our coach understands the nuances of girls now and when he's assigning positions for the upcoming quarter he tells those sitting out, "You're the cheerleaders this time." I don't expect boys hear the same thing.

Thing 2 does not generally go for frou frou hair. But there's something about soccer and she lets me do her hair in pig tails or braids. Today she chose to have it flat ironed. The other thing I just love is how she apologizes to people she inadvertently trips or slams into. Now if only she'd be as kind to her sisters on a regular basis ...

Friday, October 2, 2009

Sleepless in the Suburbs. Again.

One of The Pinks woke up in the middle of the night with growing pains. I had these so I understand and am sympathetic.

However, she had forgotten our conversation about when we used up the last of our liquid Motrin, we'd be transitioning to children's chewables. This reminder was not well received at 4:30a when I discovered that the last of the liquid was gone.

She opted not to take the two different flavors of chewables we had in the house and to instead, suffer. This is when I ran out of sympathy and woke Dave to take over.

We're all pretty tired today.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Yom Kippur in review

Yesterday was Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of repentance. On this day we ask for forgiveness for all the bad things we did the previous year and also forgive others for their wrongdoings. I really enjoy going to synagogue now; I find the sermon generally interesting, the music beautiful and following in the traditions of my ancestors reassuring.

I went for the morning adult service and my brother showed up in the afternoon with all of our little kids for the children's service. The sight of my dark-haired daughter and her two very blond cousins all snuggled up during the service made me teary eyed. Even the rabbi commented on it.

Last evening we hosted Break the Fast. Most Jews fast on Yom Kippur so at the end we do one of our favorite things: eat.

We had 32 to the house, more than half children. It's a fairly easy meal to do -- dairy only and things like fruit, bagels, lox and cream cheese, kugels and cakes. Dave's favorite is Cheese Blintz Souffle so I found his mother's recipe. It went fast.

Cheese Blintz Souffle
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1 1/2 c sour cream
  • 1 T orange juice
  • 1 dozen cheese blintzes
  • 2 T butter, melted
Butter baking dish. Set blintzes in dish in single layer. Mix remaining ingredients together and pour over blintzes. Bake 1 hour at 350F. Serve hot.

My Mormon friends Paige and Celia have a fascination for all things Jewish so I invited them and their families, too. There are a lot of similarities between Jews and Mormons, which I'll encourage Paige to blog about. They showed the appropriate amount of enthusiasm at the amount and type of food although I'm not sure if Celia was more impressed with the gluttony or my walk-in closet with its entire wall of meticulously organized shoes. The picture here is of the three of us. I look 12. For those of you who have never seen a shofar before, I am holding one. And this is the leftover food, not at all representative of the initial spread.

Fall arrived overnight. Not seemingly overnight but really and truly, overnight. It was over 100F Sunday and on Monday the high here was in the 70s. So much for me washing the patio furniture thinking we'd dine al fresco last night ...

Friday, September 25, 2009

It's a good thing we moved to Anchorage.

It got me away from the mean girls.

Tween and teen girls just do this thing. They are competitive. They turn on their friends. They pretend to be friends with someone and then tear her down. They talk. They text. They are just horrible to each other.

There are many books written on this subject, Odd Girl Out and Queen Bee and Wanna Bees being amongst the most popular. I have read them both. They are both incredibly disturbing books, in spite of their chapters on why this happens and how we can teach our daughters to cope with it.

This has become my issue.

In junior high school I became friends with Karen, Sara and Tracy. They lived on the same street and I was the Odd Girl Out. In high school we parted ways and I was best friends with Vickie, who ran hot one day, cold the next, had way too much freedom and introduced me to things that people who don't live in affluent suburbs don't experience until college.

And then we moved to Anchorage. Where I met up with Courtenay, Kelly and Michelle, who were as normal as you can be when you live in Alaska. It was a foursome without backstabbing and we shared the common threads of intelligence, theater and the goal of college in the Lower 48. We hung out with mostly boys, not surprising since we were teenaged girls and males outnumber females 3:1 in Alaska.

Fast forward to today. Dave and I have three daughters. We are obligated and it is our absolute honor to raise them to be nice, socially conscious women, and to make the most of their gifts. Words and actions are powerful and we tell them, "Use your power for good."

Eldest Daughter is 11 and in middle school. I've been chatting with the other middle school mommies and I am not liking what I hear.

Again, this is my issue.

I wish they knew what I know at 42: Girlfriends are a tremendous gift. Treasure them. Do everything you can to help them. You will laugh with them and you will cry with them. You will call them, completely hysterical, from the doctor's office when you learn you are having surprise twins. They will call you moments after their children are born and say, "This has to be quick. I still need to call my parents." They will take you to the ER in the middle of the night when your husband is out of town and they will stay up all night with your newborn twins and cook meals for your freezer so you can get eight consecutive hours of sleep.

At Starbucks a few years ago a woman spotted me reading Odd Girl Out and struck up a conversation. She told me about her 17-year-old daughter, and the things she does. This woman had DENIAL tattooed on her forehead as the things she said clearly pointed to her daughter being the Queen Bee. She told me, "She's a good girl. She gets good grades, plays sports. What's the big deal about TPing a few kids' houses in the middle of the night?! The mother of a classmate called me a few months ago to talk about how our girls interact at school and I told her to have her daughter develop a thicker skin." I restrained myself from slapping her upside the head. Just barely.

Again, this is my issue. And I am doing something about it. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mommy Dearest (almost)

Have you read October's Vanity Fair? Levi Johnston, the Wasilla, Alaska 19-year-old who impregnated former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's teenage daughter, Bristol, tells all. And it's not pretty.

The article is a fun read, whether its content is true or not, or lays somewhere in between. Before I launch into the highlights for you, let's consider the source.

Johnston is a high school dropout whose mother was arrested last year on six felony drug counts. He is currently capitalizing on his 15 minutes of fame by providing this look into his life with the Palins, hoping to turn it into a book, and by modeling and pursuing movie roles (none of which have been inked at the writing of my blog post.)

He tells Vanity Fair:

"The Palin house was much different from what many people expect of a normal family, even before she was nominated for vice president. There wasn’t much parenting in that house. Sarah doesn’t cook, Todd doesn’t cook—the kids would do it all themselves: cook, clean, do the laundry, and get ready for school."

People in glass houses should not throw stones. Normal is a relative term in Alaska anyway.

"When Sarah got home from her office - almost never later than five and sometimes as early as noon - she usually walked in the door, said hello, and disappeared into her bedroom, where she would hang out. Sometimes she'd take an hour-long bath.Other times she sat on the living-room couch in her two-piece pajama set from Walmart watching house shows and wedding shows on TV."

I thought the governor worked quite a bit Juneau, the state capital, a little under 1,000 miles from Wasilla.


"Sarah Palin has said she's a hockey mom and a hunter but that's really not the case. She pays no attention to her kids when the camera is not around. [Palin's oldest son] Track and I grew up playing hockey together, and I only saw her at about 15% of the games. I've never seen her touch a fishing pole. She had a gun in her bedroom and one day she asked me how to shoot it. I asked her what kind of gun it was, and she said she didn't know, because it was in a box under her bed."

Where did he come up with the number 15%? That's quite specific.

He goes on, "She just couldn't believe the free clothes, the free room service, the private jets. ... They did all the shopping for us [at the Republican National Convention] and all our clothes were already there. Sarah would have a new getup every day, sometimes twice a day, all steamed and pressed. She was all smiles and giggles. She loved the lifestyle and that she impressed everybody. The campaign asked for us to give them back after we lost but I still saw some of it around the house after the campaign."

Duh! The only way to get Gucci and Jimmy Choo in Alaska is by getting them from the Lower 48. Nordstrom, the nicest retailer in town, doesn't even carry them.

Johnston goes on to describe the way Palin treats Trig, her Down's Syndrome child, but I can't even go there because I refuse to believe it could be true.

The October issue of VF is a good read, because of or in spite of this article. It also has a good piece on Jackie O and on the Craigslist killer.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A year later.

My friend Paula died a year ago today. Her son is 365 days older. So is her husband. And so is her twin sister. But Paula will forever remain 49.

As I sat in synagogue this weekend bringing in the new year, I thought of Paula. Paula would have been sitting in her Connecticut synagogue. With her family. And this year Rich and Jack sat alone. Not entirely alone but still, without Paula.

I miss her.

Friday, September 18, 2009

What the tween taught me this week ...

Did you know that you can share iTunes libraries across your home network? Legally? This is a beautiful thing. Now I can listen to Eldest Daughter's music and work on bringing my hipness factor up. Some of her choices are very good for running. Go to iTunes and use the "Share Home" function. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Tohmato, Tomahto

Although it's now September, our local Farmer's Market still has the most amazing summer produce.

A few Saturdays ago Thing 1 and I got up early and exercised before hitting the market. She rode her scooter and I walked. It was in the mid-60s out and just a perfect morning to be outside. The Ironhorse Trail was quite crowded, not surprising given the weather and the fact that so many foot races are in September and October around here.

We stocked up on white peaches, strawberries, raspberries, eggs and heirloom tomatoes. A few weeks ago I was out of extra virgin olive oil and bought two house-brand bottles at Whole Foods, one Spanish and one Italian. I prefer the Spanish one! So for a late morning snack I sliced up a tomato, put a little Spanish oil and blue cheese on it and went to town.

I will be sad when the summer produce leaves the market and is replaced by apples and decorative gourds.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday is for Foodies

I worked from my client's San Francisco office today and also had two very good meals. It was a perfect Fall day and the San Francisco Symphony gave a free concert in Justin Herman Plaza at noon. The whole town just seemed to be out celebrating life; September 11 does tend to remind you of your blessings.

Lunch was at the Slanted Door with Wendy, who came in from Marin. Wendy's a smart cookie -- she took the ferry. Slanted Door opened in 1995 and has had rave reviews since. Sadly, I had not been until today. It's so well regarded that I gave a gift certificate to my client this summer when she brought her two sons on vacation. It is a good spot, because of its modern Vietnamese food using local produce and ecologically farmed proteins, and because of its location in the Ferry Building looking out on the Bay. Wendy had cellophane noodles and crab. I had Shaking Beef. We shared baby bok choy with shitake mushrooms. And both of us had fresh-squeezed lemonade that was more tart than sweet, yum! Who wants to go back with me?

On the way back to the office I popped into Miette and took away a lime tartlet smothered in meringue for a late afternoon snack.

Dinner was at Bix, a restaurant Dave and I have enjoyed many times. Bix is clubby, dark and feels like a 1930s speakeasy. One of the previous times we were there we played a great joke on friends visiting from Philadelphia. They'd been visiting other friends in Sacramento prior to having dinner with us. Peter, the husband, is tightly wound in general and, while we hid in the restaurant watching, the maitre d' told them that our plans had changed and that we would not be coming. Peter went ballistic and we nearly peed our pants.

Tonight was without similar incident. Our group of six ate family style sharing salmon, tuna, truffled fries and grilled cheese, chicken hash, foie gras, mozzarella and tomatoes, lamb sliders and ceviche. This was a nice ending to a frenetic work week.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Princesses of Tides

On Labor Day Neeracha and I took a subset of the kids to Bean Hollow State Beach to visit the tide pools. The timing wasn't great on two fronts: Dave had just returned home from running the Disneyland Half Marathon, his first (Good job, Sweetie!), and the tide wasn't far enough out to see much. But the ocean breaking against the rocks was spectacular and we all had fun crawling around on the rocks and pebbled beach. Thing 2 has the dexterity of a mountain goat and a lot of curiosity so this was a perfect outing for her.

The terrain was unlike anything I'd ever been on -- very much like I picture the moon to be, craggy in some places, smooth like firm sand dunes in others. The weather was Chamber-of-Commerce perfect -- 70ish and sunny. I recently got a Flip Video. Clearly I am still perfecting my technique, as is evidenced below!


video

As is typical of any outing Neeracha and I do, food played a part. Bean Hollow is nearly two hours from our house so our first order of business was lunch. By the time we got to Pescadero, the line at Durate's was very long so we had a quick bite at the local BBQ / grocery / pizza place. There was live music outside and lots of people! Pescadero, population 2,042, is not exactly a metropolis so this was surprising.

After the tide pools we drove up to Half Moon Bay for a stop at the Moonside Bakery on Main St. The last time Neeracha and I were in Half Moon Bay together was for my 35th birthday, a weekend we all spent at the Ritz-Carlton. Next to the bakery was a gourmet cookshop and the kids talked me into buying an Ebelskiver pan, a purchase that didn't require too much convincing after eating the kinda-sorta-pancakes our neighbors make with theirs. I'd be remiss if I did not mention our two stops at farm stands.

As I read back through this post I think it should be renamed: Hwy 1 Eating + a stop at Bean Hollow.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Our health insurance sucks.

Health insurance is tricky whether you get it from your employer, you have an individual or group policy, or you're without it altogether. For the eight years that my husband worked at a large technology company, I read through the information each year at benefits re-enrollment time. I found it a hassle. I had an inkling how good our insurance was when our twins were born, premature and after a complex pregnancy, but I took it for granted. Now I really know how good we had it.

Earlier this week I attended a webinar on the health insurance maze, hoping to learn something to make better our current situation. We have an individual policy, which means we purchased it through a broker. Our co-pays are high, our deductible is obscenely high and not all that much is covered. I ended up in the ER perhaps six months ago and it was more than $2,000 out of pocket for the 45 minutes I spent there. My injury was definitely compounded when I got all the bills.

After listening to this webinar, though, I feel fortunate we have an individual policy at all. Apparently they're hard to qualify for. You're diabetic? Forget it. You've broken more than two bones? Forget it. You have a heart murmur? Not a chance.

Universal healthcare is tricky. No one should die just because they do not have access to medical care. But how do we provide quality healthcare for all? My husband read in the press that the city of San Francisco spent $13.5 million last year to transport 225 vagrants from the locations they passed out to San Francisco General Hospital. Is the US government really capable of providing the solution?

My friend's mother is a breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed and treated in the country in which she lives, and where there is socialized medicine. David Lebovitz speaks highly of the French healthcare system. Our Canadian friends are just fine with it and my cousin, the pediatric neurosurgeon known for his pioneering treatment of Saggital Synostosis, did some of his training there. Perhaps it's just the transition which will be so painful?

At least we have health insurance. For now anyway.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Back to School, Back to Work

In the schoolyard, kindergarten year, the mommies talked about returning to the paid workforce once their children went full days in first grade. Now that the economy is weak, many of them are actually doing this.

Not a week goes by that someone doesn't ask me how to find a flexible work situation. They see how I volunteer in the classroom and have a career and somehow think I've figured this out.

In reality, I gave up the career when Eldest Daughter turned one and I left my corporate job. The climb up the corporate ladder stopped then and there and I didn't care. In fact, I still don't. I just want to keep my brain engaged, set a good example for our daughters and provide for my family.

Here are some ideas for those of you mulling this over:

Retail. Jodi's husband was transferred four times during the first decade of their marriage. She worked for the Gap and whenever they arrived in a new city, she found a local store that needed a manager or assistant manager. You can also work just nights, just weekends, just while your kids are in school, or just during the holiday season.

Teach. You have summers off and work primarily the hours your children are in school. If you teach at the college level, you can teach a night class or two and your husband will have valuable time with the kids.

Jobshare. Do you have a friend who loves their job but only wants to do it half time? Approach them. This is a win for the employer, too, since they have two brains working on the same job, which often means better outcomes.

Work from home. I have a virtual assistant in Ohio. We've never met. She works from her house. You can do web design from home. Or bookkeeping. Or editing. You can do a corporate job from home a few days a week if you've already proven your worth to your employer.

Turn your hobbies into revenue. Do you love to scrapbook? Many people would love to have scrapbooks of their child's first year but aren't crafty. Are you a fabulous cook? Become a personal chef - one of those people who makes meals for busy families then drops them off to go straight into the freezer. Do you speak a second language? Tutor a few kids.

Of course all these things involve putting yourself out there. It blows me away when the most extroverted people I know tell me that they can't network. If I can do it, and those of you who know me in real life know that my social skills are marginal at best, you can. What is networking anyway? It's listening and talking. If you can talk to the parents at school functions then you can talk to people about what you want to do for work. It takes a village either way.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

I'm wiped out.

And I'm not the only Over 40 feeling this way today.

The first week of school is behind us. I just want to stay in bed all weekend but we all know the chances of that happening. It's 105F out I'm grateful that The Pinks aren't in a soccer tournament.

Although my husband does more than his fair share of the parenting, I still found this week draining. Three kids at two different schools with six schedules in total: Minimum Day (first day), Wednesday schedule and Regular Schedule (Thursday and Friday). Six different times that the bus picked up and dropped off. Three days of homework to supervise to completion, three sets of paperwork to process each night, three lunches to make each morning. Three children to coerce into bed at a decent hour each night and then out of bed the next morning.

And, to top off the week, my husband decided to orchestrate a neighborhood block party since many of our neighbors are now home from their summer travels. He planned this well in advance and executed it flawlessly. I did little except show up last night and clean up this morning. He is THE MAN!

Although the kids had ten weeks off school, I only had three. Why, Leslie, you may ask, did you go to school this summer? It's not that I went to school, it's that I spent a whole lot of time thinking about school.

The work I do right now is with technology solutions in education. It's really fun stuff, things I can absolutely relate to and it's interesting and challenging as well. But I cannot dispute the fact that I didn't really get away from school this summer.

The Pinks all seem quite happy in their new classes. Eldest Daughter started middle school and, aside from the huge, ugly and mandatory PE outfit, she's good with it all. I'm not sure who loves the bus more -- the kids or us. They just walk out the door in the morning then back in after school. In one more week after-school activities start (gymnastics, theatre, Hebrew, etc.) so Dave will be back to picking them up and driving them around but for now it's a beautiful thing.

Is it naptime yet?!