Friday, January 30, 2009

Hide and Seek: Torture the Parents Version

Surely we're not the only family who plays this game?!

Thing 2 has always been adventurous. She's clearly related to my dad, and to my brother. She has no fear and that, coupled with a healthy dose of curiosity, lead her all sorts of places. In general, this is a great character trait. Why it does not reach over into trying new foods I do not understand but that in and of itself is worth a whole blog entry. I will spare you from that. Here is Thing 2 demonstrating her curiosity and agility, in the fireplace in our then-new-house, fortunately before we used it.

She graduated from a crib to a bed right around the time she turned three. One night, when Dave went to kiss her goodnight before heading to bed himself, she wasn't there. He looked for her for a good 15 minutes before waking me to enlist my help. The alarm was on so she was in the house, somewhere. Ten minutes later, and just before I was ready to call 911 to enlist someone smarter's help, we found her. She was in his walk-in closet, asleep behind a hanging row of clothes, completely hidden from view. I got more grey hair that night.

Perhaps a year after that she disappeared at bedtime again. It didn't take us that long to find her, though, she never left her room. She simply crawled under her bed with a blanket and decided to sleep there.

Last night, same thing. I finally found her in our bed, completely covered by the pillows, which are only arranged just so once a week -- the day the housekeeper comes. The picture to the left is what our bed looked like made, with her hidden within in. To the right, below, is her asleep, oblivious to the search and rescue mission going on while she snored away.

She had no recollection of this when I queried her on it this morning. I don't think she sleep walks -- she just has a short memory of things not related to soccer, dogs and equity between siblings.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Let them eat (cheese) cake!

We had another family for dinner Saturday night. I've noticed that we entertain a lot in the winter but not in the summer. It's not like we're anti-social in the warmer months; those of you with swimming pools are very forthcoming with invitations to swim and BBQ and we appreciate it. As it turns out, however, our home lends itself to winter entertaining.

For example, we have a fire pit, which is great for making s'mores. We have a Wii. We have three children's rooms stocked with age-appropriate indoor toys. But we do not have a pool. Or a tennis court. Or a trampoline. Or a play structure. Our backyard was dirt when we moved in and we purposely designed it to be rather sophisticated, to optimize the view of Mt. Diablo State Park, which we back up to. Dave and I both grew up with pools and knew we didn't want one as adults.

So this very nice family came for dinner and I made a very nice meal. It was a bit of an intellectual exercise, which I enjoyed, since the mom is diabetic and the son does not eat dairy. I've long wanted to try this cheesecake recipe and this was the perfect occasion. It doesn't sound like it's the best choice for someone who is diabetic but there was no sugar whatsoever in the rest of the meal and the kids had something else for dessert so the son was fine. Let me assure you, it was worth every calorie! After dinner (and three bottles of wine) we introduced them to the Wii and the hilarity of Guitar Hero, Wii Ski and Wii Fit. It was a very nice evening, very suburban America.

I share this recipe with absolute confidence you will love it, too.

Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake
Gourmet magazine, Dec 1999

1 crumb-crust recipe , made with finely ground gingersnap cookies
1 C sugar
3/4 C heavy cream
8 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
1/2 C sour cream
3 (8-oz) packages cream cheese, softened
4 large eggs
1 t vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cook sugar in a dry heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring slowly with a fork, until melted and pale golden. Cook caramel without stirring, swirling pan, until deep golden. Remove from heat and carefully add heavy cream (mixture will vigorously steam and caramel will harden). Cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until caramel is dissolved. Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate until smooth. Stir in sour cream.

Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy, then beat in chocolate mixture on low speed. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, then vanilla, beating on low speed until each ingredient is incorporated and scraping down bowl between additions.

Put springform pan with crust in a shallow baking pan. Pour filling into crust and bake in baking pan (to catch drips) in middle of oven 55 minutes, or until cake is set 3 inches from edge but center is still slightly wobbly when pan is gently shaken.

Run a knife around top edge of cake to loosen and cool completely in springform pan on a rack. (Cake will continue to set as it cools.) Chill cake, loosely covered, at least 6 hours. Remove side of pan and transfer cake to a plate. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

This quilt will be the death of me.

The countdown is on. The class auction project quilt has to be done by February 2. I managed to leave it up at Tahoe after Christmas, thus losing a week of vacation time to work on it. I've been DVRing random trashy TV shows to force me to sit on the sofa and hand applique twenty little handprints. (What was I thinking?!) Finally I finished.

I promised Dave sexual favors if he'd drop the quilt at The Quilting Company so Janna could stitch the front to the middle to the back. Once Janna's done, hopefully in a few days, I have another five hours ahead of me personalizing each house and binding it.

It's going to be close ...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Through the eyes of a child: my child.

Eldest Daughter told me yesterday that she wasn't sure she wanted to have children because they seemed like a lot of work. I'm fine with that; I wasn't one of those women who looked forward to motherhood since my own childhood. Sure, I met Mr. Right and we decided to have a family but the destination wasn't clear cut.

I explained to her that the rewards of having children far outweigh the amount of work that they are to raise. I told her that having your own child look into your eyes and knowing you are its whole world is mind-blowing. I told her that some of the things that come out of her and her sisters mouths make us laugh until we cry and nearly pee in our pants. I told her that I take pride in their accomplishments: that skiing with her is a huge thrill for me and that my heart burst with pride when she was dancing on stage, so obvious was the joy of her doing so. I told her that discovering the world through a child's eyes is a huge gift, one she may decide to do one day. And if she takes a hall pass, that's okay too.

Last year I took Eldest Daughter to New York to see Grease on Broadway. We'd had a wager over who would win the reality TV show and her pick won her a quick turn to New York. This was a significant trip for us to take together because we did exactly what she wanted. I bought the New York City for Kids book and we went to the places she wanted to see: the Circle Line Ferry ride to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, FAO Schwartz, Dylan's Candy Bar, the ferris wheel inside Toys R Us, Bloomingdale's, the top of the Empire State Building (pictured here). As many times as I've been to New York, some of these things I had not done. What a thrill to do them with her!

This presidential election was significant for many more reasons that I will recount here. In our house, it's significant because Eldest Daughter, a a few weeks shy of 11, will remember it. She understands that change is coming, and that this is an awesome time to be an American, and to be part of history.

As her mother, I'm excited to share that with her. No, make that elated.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Squaw Cup!

We were up at Tahoe over the Martin Luther King Day Weekend. This is no surprise to those of you who know and love us. Although it's January, the weather has been warm with no snow for two weeks. It's Spring ski conditions.

Thing 2 had her first race, ever and of the season. Seeing the as-young-as-five-year-olds whip in and out of the gates on the Coin Op is so freaking cute I could hardly stand it. I stood on the side of the course (along with many other parents) and cheered for every single bugger that whizzed by. Thing 2 won her heat but did not finish fast enough to get a medal. Still, we're very proud of her. And she had a blast, which is what it's all about.

Eldest Daughter chose not to ski with her team this weekend but did instead with me and Dave. Confession: I got taken down a notch. She is goooood! Our goal for her this season was to have her skills ratchet up a few notches and for her to know the mountain. She's there. She now skis the same runs I do, with as much confidence although not as much finesse. Her legs are clearly stronger than mine because, on our last run of the day, the Mountain Run, she didn't stop for the whole 2.3 mile trail. My legs were shaking and I thought about stopping to rest. But then I ignored my instincts, trying to keep her in sight, and did a faceplant with spread eagle. Lesson learned: listen to that little voice.

We tried a new restaurant one night: Burger Me in Truckee. The food was good, grassfed beef burgers, handcut fries etc. but not mind-blowing. It was good for Tahoe; how's that for qualification?!

Another night we had our neighbors for dinner. Eldest Daughter and their eldest daughter created an online Tahoe trivia quiz for us. We're struggling with it here. The younger kids were running wild up and down the halls at this time, disturbing the non-owners I'm sure.

My parents are supposed to take the kids up next weekend although I'm not sure this will happen as it will likely storm. We need the snow so it'll be fine whichever way it turns out.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Tahoe Haiku

Well after midnight
Watching snowcats groom KT
I should be asleep

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Of course I am a Sorority Girl

I recently received a Facebook friend request from Daun. We were close friends during college, sorority sisters who sat next to each other during Monday night meetings for three years, plebes who went through initiation together. We lived within blocks of each other in San Francisco after college and after a few years she moved back to the Midwest, where life was less complex and where her roots were.

I accepted her friend request without a second thought, happy to hear from her. And then I looked to see who else she was friends with. There they all were. The Wisconsin Thetas. I felt elated and then nauseous. During the years I spent as an active sorority member these gals were my best friends and sometimes, my worst nightmare. As long as I live I will not forget my torturous last semester of college, victim of The Queen Bee.

Why hadn't I kept in touch with most of them? The only sister in my inner circle is Lynn, who lives in Milwaukee. The picture above is of Lynn, Dave, me and Daun at our wedding. Was our drift apart due to the fact that I moved 2,500 miles away to warmer climes and to the state in which my boyfriend of two years lived? Was it because I was crystal clear on what I wanted to do post-graduation and ready to get on with it? Was it because I confronted one about her anorexia, with the hope of getting help for her? I don't know.

By the time I got married Daun was living in Chicago. She came back to California for our wedding. A few years later I flew to Chicago to attend hers. From her Facebook profile I've ascertained that she's pregnant. I'm happy for her.

Sorority life was a great thing for me. It gave me a family when mine was 5,000 miles away. I spent my senior year living in the sorority house, a lakeside mansion with maids and waiters. See that deck up top? I spent many a Spring afternoon sunbathing there and watching the sailing teams on Lake Mendota.

Theta celebrated its 100th year on the campus a few years after I graduated. Lynn and I went back for the festivities. It was a good time and I was glad to have gone. But then that chapter of my life went into dormancy except for the occasional holiday card or visit with one or another during business travel.

Within 24 hours of re-befriending Daun I've received six invites to befriend other Thetas. I guess they didn't forget about me, the Jewish Alaskan Journalism Major.

Will my life be any more meaningful knowing how my sisters have spent the last 20 years? Will it be any less meaningful? Many more of them are just a few keystrokes away. Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sayonara Alex

I've been fretting about my hair. Not the looks of it itself but the people who tend to it, other than me.

First I was reunited with Amazing Alex. Then the salon where he works charged me an obscene amount of money to have my tresses highlighted by a junior colorist. I reached out to the salon owner with my concern and she rewarded me with an awkward voicemail message left by a receptionist. Since then I've been agonizing over whether I should still patronize the salon knowing I am absolutely at odds with their business practices.

Today the salon called to inform me that Alex has decided to just work from the San Francisco location and asked if they could schedule an appointment for me there. Definately not.

I'm happy that this decision was made easy for me although I know I would have done the right thing in the end.

It's been lovely, Alex. But we're through.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Free makeup anyone?

Now that I'm in my 40s I should wear makeup every day. But I don't. I doll up when I meet with clients face-to-face and also when I do video conference calls, which seems to be more days than not. But when we're at Tahoe, forget it. Days that I only work out, run errands and have no meetings? Absolutely not.

The thing is, makeup is fun! I love Sephora as much as the next girly girl. I love lipsticks especially. And when we were in the Bahamas over Thanksgiving, the only souvenir I brought home was a bottle of Essie nail polish named Atlantis Pink. It's my current favorite.

Today I read about the Anti-Trust class action settlement against most major department stores. To know that department stores and designers conspired to fix prices irks me. To find out that millions of consumers will get a free product out of this makes me feel a little better.

Join me on January 20 to get your free make-up. Those eligible will be able to receive a free product valued up to $25 on a first-come, first-served basis. You won't need any receipts proving you bought the item in question. Instead you be asked to sign a form stating that you purchased one or more of the products between May 29, 1994 and July 16, 2003.

For more details including which stores are involved and what you can select for your free product check out http://www.cosmeticssettlement.com/.

Enjoy!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Free to Bee You and Me

It's another exciting Saturday night. I'm on the cushy leather sofa at Tahoe watching Bee Movie with Eldest Daughter and Thing 2, who came up here with me this weekend. On the floor we've also got Yasmin and Sitara, our neighbors, and Kymi and Kames, our friends from Oakland who came up here with us this weekend. Kymi's husband Bryan is driving up now; he had to work today. It's been fun to have Kymi here; she and I laugh about the same things and she's very low key and self sufficient. She also thinks it's okay to put your pajamas on before dinner, thankfully!

The skiing was very spring-like today. Blue skies and temps in the 40s. I thought the kids would tell me that it was a great day on the mountain but no, their reaction was the same as the days they skied in the storm: pretty good day, Mom. I guess I'm the only sunshine snob?

There are a lot of people here this weekend. The Village was quite busy apres ski. Also the first race of the season was today but not the Pinks' teams. I loved watching the kids go through the slalom course. It seems steep and fast from the bottom. I'd only seen this on TV before and of course done it myself on Wii Ski. I also saw a 12 or 13-year-old ski up a blue run. At a clip faster than I could have walked it! There is some amazing talent on this mountain.

It's strange being up here with only two of three Pinks. I keep looking over my shoulder for Thing 1. Home tomorrow.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Twilight

Vampires really aren't my thing. The sight of blood makes me queasy and frankly, I'm not into fantasy unless it involves Dave or milk chocolate. But I am into pop culture. And so along came Twilight.

Eldest Daughter read the book and was dying to see the movie. I took her and a friend. I thought the movie just okay. It was a little violent and frankly, had she not read the book, I wouldn't have subjected her to that amount of blood onscreen. Of course she loved it.

I tried to resist reading the book but was lured in, much the way a vampire lures in its prey. I felt sick to my stomach while reading it but I couldn't put it down either. So now I'm part of the cult, reluctantly. It's hard to explain the pull of this book. Perhaps it's because it has managed to create amazing sexual energy and tension between two people who barely touch?!

Eldest Daughter is reading the second one now. Wish me luck resisting.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The LA Wrap Up


We were home three days between Tahoe and LA -- during which time poor Dave got horribly sick and hung out on the couch except for paying bills and celebrating the twins' birthdays. I really felt for him; he was so uncomfortable and I could do nothing for him except buy ginger ale, which I managed to forget to do anyway. During those days I unpacked us, did laundry, repacked us and tried to keep the house quiet so Dave could doze off and on.

And then we drove to LA. My sister-in-law (not the ice cream one) is a extraordinary hostess and we celebrated New Year's Eve at their house with Italian food and New Year's Day with turkey. Back to that Jews and food thing again.

Something I love, love, love about LA is that my SIL has ties with a whole bunch of cousins down there. Nicole, who was close to Dave in childhood, and who lives on the Isle of Man, came in with her family. Her mother is someone I like but do not see often enough. Other cousins work in entertainment and I enjoy hearing about their world, which is so different than ours.

Eldest Daughter spent one night at a cousin's house. I can't do justice trying to describe the grandeur of their 12,000 sf French-themed home so I'll just keep it short and tell you that it was tastefully decorated in a micro way and that they have a screening room, where Eldest Daughter saw The Tale of Desperaux, which is still in the theatres. In my next life Dave and I will have his and hers garages, too.

During this trip we spent an afternoon with two of Dave's friends from college. Michael and Mary haven't changed a bit except that they seem to have parented three well-mannered children sometime since graduation. Eldest Daughter was only marginally interested in them until she learned that Michael is the general manager of a Macy's. Apparently they visited us the year I commuted to DC. Guess I missed that! They brilliantly suggested we meet at Universal Studios City Walk and that provided plenty for us to do after a leisurely lunch. The kids made candy bars, too, a fun time-killer, and we bought toe socks at a specialty shop. Doesn't everyone need socks that make their feet look like polar bears?!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Christmas Vacation Trip 2 - LA

I was there when Jenna was born. Not in the operating room but in the waiting room at the Tarzana Medical Center with Dave and my in-laws. It was 13 years ago today. I remember the look on Phil's face as he ran into the room to let us know that he and Michelle were now the parents to a daughter. And I remember the tears in his eyes when he called his father on the east coast. I also remember holding Jenna hours after she was born, in disbelief of her newness, the teeny tinyness of her fingers.

Thirteen years later we're in the San Fernando Valley again, celebrating. Yesterday was Jenna's Bat Mitzvah and the baby in the pink blanket somehow morphed into an articulate, beautiful, Facebook-obsessed young teen. The tears I did not shed at her birth I shed while she was on the bimah chanting.

The party after the Bat Mitzvah was Hollywood themed. We ate, danced and ate more. (Remember, Jewish events = food, food and more food.) The synagogue social hall was transformed into a blinding collage of bright colors and sparkly things. The picture, above left, is of Jenna and her younger sister, Sarah. This was one of two dresses she wore that night. Not sure what that's about.

The kids had their own buffet and activities, which included a smoothie bar, scrapbooking, make your own videos (which were then burned onto DVDs to take home) and a t-shirt station, where you posed for pictures that were then transferred onto shirts ala the black and neon Apple iPod ads. There was a video of Jenna and all her accomplishments in an E True Hollywood Story format. The adults were seated in rounds of ten on one side of the room and the under 21s hung out in Jenna's VIP Lounge on the other. Think plush white couches and rugs with neon accessories. They all kicked off their shoes immediately and ran around barefoot, which made perfect sense.

Thing 2 and Eldest Daughter lasted until the bitter end and took the limo back to the hotel; I left with Thing 1 at 11p. Today my mother-in-law hosted a brunch for out-of-towners and we drove the 350 miles drive north. For kicks, I checked my calendar while we were on the road. In the last five weeks we've been gone three. It's no wonder I can't wait to get into my own bed tonight!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Frozen Chosen

This is my last post on Tahoe for now, I promise!

Hanukah began while we were at the lake. We lit the menorah the first night with our downstairs neighbors. Their daughters are about the same age as ours and this was the first year they really played together well. Their kids are very sweet and also great skiers. It's the eldest's sixth year on ski team and they come up every weekend and holiday during the winter.

On our last night at Tahoe we had dinner with four other families at one of their homes in Tahoe Donner. We each contributed something and it turned out to be a fairly traditional Hanukah dinner: latkes, chicken, matzoh ball soup, salad, baked goods. As with all Jewish events, there was twice as much food as was needed and a good amount of wine consumed.

Overall, it was a great week up at Tahoe. You know how you're usually happy to come home, to your own bed, to your own routine? This wasn't one of those times; I'd much rather have stayed up there another week. The thing is, our tendency is to ditch town the second school is out (or in this case, two hours before school is out because there was break in the storm). Then when the crowds descend following Christmas, we're home. The downside is that we miss hanging out with all of you folks but in reality, we're grumpy when we have to wait too long for a table at restaurants (outside in the cold), or in long lift lines, etc. So this setup is really optimal for us.