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.