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.