Friday, December 31, 2010

Season's Greetings to you, too.

Does it look familiar?

There was a thoughtful, handwritten note inside without a signature.

Is it from you?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Top 10 Reasons I Cannot Sleep

I've been up since 3:05a. This is what's on my mind:

1. Thing 1's birthday party is tomorrow. I've done nearly nothing to prepare for it. Why isn't Baskin Robbins open at 4:25a for me to order the cake?!

2. We have lunch reservations at Bouchon. I may be too tired to enjoy it.

3. The Dining Room aka the Bat Mitzvah Staging Room, is a disaster. Chaos makes me nervous.

4. I should be grocery shopping. There is nothing to eat in the house as we've not been to the store since returning from Tahoe.

5. Neeracha has a new pair of Manolos. I am equal parts happy for her and jealous.

6. I am shopping online.

7. Thing 2 has been up all night coughing. I am afraid it will turn into croup. I can sleep through the phone ringing but wake with every cough of hers.

8. The ski conditions are pristine and we're down in the Bay.

9. I need to write an channels education marketing plan. And contact the 38 Cisco partners who participated in a pilot demand generation campaign to see if they followed up on their B and C leads.

10. A bunch of holiday cards came in while we were gone last week. I did not send cards to most of them. Will we have any friends left this time next year?!

Friday, December 24, 2010

The best ski day ever

It's been a great week at Tahoe.

My SIL and her family came up from LA. My MIL came up with her gentleman friend and the extended clan dined together two nights. We've had fresh snow. We've had wind free days to ski. We've had sunny and wind free days to ski. There have been enough people here to make it fun but not so many that it's a zoo.

Today was the best day of all: Dave, the littlest Pinks and I had a epic day on the mountain. There was no fighting, just lots of laughs on intermediate runs with views all the way down to the lake. My head is so swollen with pride that Liberty has embraced skiing so wholeheartedly that it barely fits in my pink helmet!

We've just come back from seeing the Squaw Valley Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade and dinner with friends.

I'm exhausted and content.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Snow Bunny

Thing 1 has resisted learning to ski. I don't know why; downhill skiing is pure freedom, it's akin to flying. While her reluctance to ski has not been the bane of my existence, it's been bothersome. We are a skiing family.

Finally we cracked the code. Thing 1 adores her elementary school teacher. And Mrs. B's eldest son, a junior at CSU Chico, teaches skiing at Northstar on the weekends and holidays. I recruited him.

Bright and early Monday morning Chris called to confirm. Sadly, it was snowing and blowing and we went back to sleep. By 9a the skies had cleared and it turned into a great ski day. Of course Chris had made other plans by then so I worked like a maniac in the morning and then took Thing 1 out myself. Bad idea. There is a big difference between knowing how to ski and teaching someone to ski. One run and we were done.

The skies were bright blue when we woke up Tuesday morning so over Chris came. Sure enough, he taught Thing 1 to ski. I am so excited I can hardly stand it. She looks adorable in her ski braids, and white Obermeyer ski suit with Paul Frank helmet and goggles. And when Thing 1 ran out of steam he taught Eldest Daughter and her two cousins to snowboard.

On Wednesday I took her out again. We did 20 runs on the green Papoose lift. She doesn't need help getting off and on the chair and she rarely falls. More importantly, she loves skiing! One other thing: she insists on putting on her own boots and carrying her own skis. My hero! I hope she can teach it to her uber-athletic twin, who whines when schlepping her own gear the 50 yards to and from the Funitel from our condo.

Today is Thursday, a blue bird day, and Thing 1 is leading Dave around the mountain. She now skis blue runs, including the Mountain Run. Dave and I have accomplished another one of life's checkoffs. This must be why people have children.

Speaking of Chris, I have very little contact with 20-something male college students. Mrs. B has done a terrific job of raising him. He is polite, articulate and great with both kids and adults. It was a genuine pleasure having him around and I'm happy to pass along his contact information if you are looking for a good private ski instructor.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Entertain Like a Gentleman

During my sophomore year in college I took Public Relations 101. On the first day of class I plopped down next to a neurotic New York Jew and we became fast friends.

Ten years later she married Dave Harap in the best wedding I have ever been to -- New Year's Eve in New York City. And ten years after that they divorced.

Her former husband is a great guy: smart, funny, driven. I'm lucky he and my husband have become closer and closer as time has passed. In fact, I saw on Facebook that he had a business trip planned to Dubai and arranged for my husband to tag along as Dubai had been on his punch list for a long time and it wasn't a place anywhere on my list. Sometime during that trip a cookbook was conceived.

Dave Harap's cookbook is now out: Entertain Like a Gentleman.

Here's one of my favorite recipes from it.

Baked Eggs with Gruyere in Prosciutto Cups


Serves 4
  • 8 slices prosciutto
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 oz Gruyere
  • 2 oz fresh spinach
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 small bunch basil
  • 1 small bunch chives
Preheat oven to 350F.

Finely mince the garlic. Cut the tomato in half and push out the seeds with your finger. When you have just the "meat" of the tomato left, chop it into small pieces. Finely chop the 1 T chives.

Heat oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add minced garlic and spinach. Cook until the spinach and tomatoes are tender. Season with salt and pepper then set aside.

Spray a muffin pan with vegetables spray. Line each muffin cup with two slices of prosciutto, being sure that the bottom is completely covered and that the prosciutto extends slightly above the muffin cup.

Spoon a heaping teaspoon of the spinach mixture into the bottom of each cup. Level it off so the egg has an even landing pad. Top the spinach with two basil leaves. Crack the egg and gently drop it into the muffin cup. Top with Gruyere cheese and chives.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the egg whites are set. The yolk should still be runny and the prosciutto becomes crispy. This is rich enough that one makes a satisfying serving. Enjoy.

Thanks Dave!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The road to Tahoe.

Three Days Before. Decide when to leave. Weather forecast calls for biggest storm of the season during optimal drive time.

Two Days Before. Remain glued to radar on weather.com. Revise departure plan hourly, based on forecast.

One Day Before. Continue radar obsession. Experience anxiety over ambiguity of departure. Come to sad realization that this trip to Tahoe will probably not happen.

Departure Day. Anxiety mounts. Check radar again. Pack. Load car. Decide not to stop mail as chances of escaping the 'burbs are slim. 5pm. Text friend who is driving up in the storm. She says there's traffic but that the roads are fine, given the rain.

Departure Night. 7pm. Go to dinner with MIL. China Paradise. Yum. 8pm. Text friend again. She is 20 miles from her cabin and the roads are a mess but there isn't any traffic. 8:30pm. Throw kids in the car and hope we're as lucky. Three hours forty five minutes later we're looking at those Olympic Rings. The last 30 miles were sloppy but we arrived in one piece.

The Next Day. Sleep until 9am. Watch the snow fall. Read paper. Watch snow blow sideways during a three-mile run on the treadmill in the gym. Unload the car. Drive 11 miles way under the speed limit in snow storm to the grocery store. Shop for the week to the tune of $450 in the crazy-busiest Safeway I have ever been in. Nap. Wake and continue to watch snow fall. Make dinner for neighbors and SIL and her family, who spent the previous 10.5 hours driving up from LA for our annual ski trip. Watch iCarly with kids. Collapse.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Driving the Sofa

On the night before Thanksgiving I was rear-ended in the Whole Foods parking lot.

The driver, a sixty-something woman, was distraught. The first thing she said to me after getting out of her car was, "This is the third accident I've had in 12 months. They're going to take away my driver's license."

At that point I was relieved: at least she didn't kill anyone before this happened.

As we exchanged insurance information she told me that she was a brain cancer survivor and that she hadn't been the same since her illness.

So while my Volvo was left with a hanging bumper, at least she had insurance and was nice about it. She thanked me profusely for being nice about the situation. What good would it have done to be upset about it?

My patience is now starting to wear thin, though.

It took her a week to call her insurance company. Meanwhile, I wanted my car fixed. In fact, I drove it to the snow two days after the accident, hanging bumper and all. When she finally reported the accident she confused the date and until she corrects it to match my statement, her insurance won't cover my damages even though she has said she was at fault.

My insurance company paid to fix my car and I will eventually get reimbursed for the deductible. But for now I'm out $500 and about 20 hours into hassling with this. For the last week I drove a rental sofa, a Chevy Tahoe. Very ungreen. At least it had seating for eight and was 4WD. Surprise: I drove it as little as possible.

I'm still counting my blessings. But I'm looking forward to this mess being put behind me.

The silver lining: I discovered a great body shop in our town: Symmons Auto Body. What professionals!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Gunn's Golden Rules: Life's Little Lessons for Making It Work

I recently read this book. What fun!

It was light and entertaining and offered solid advice. It also reassured me that I'm not the only person out there who is anal about manners and protocol.

You can hear Tim Gunn's voice as you read; his thoughts translate as well on paper as they do on television.

This book is filled with dishy stories of fashion’s greatest divas, glimpses of Project Runway’s biggest drama queens, and insights into Tim’s private life. He's gay. Duh. And his family is whacked out. I can't believe his mother speaks to him after reading this book. Perhaps she doesn't?

In the world according to Tim, there are no shortcuts to success. Tim has a lot to say on bad behavior, including a very pointed story of Alexis Stewart, Martha Stewart’s daughter, on her mother’s name-brand merchandise. He describes Vogue’s AndrĂ© Leon Talley being hand-fed grapes and Anna Wintour being carried downstairs by her bodyguards.

Tim had one great love, and that turned out badly. He has a sister and a niece, Wallace, whom he adores. He offers much good advice with examples. One that I wholeheartedly agree with is the manner is which we treat waiters and wait staff.

Gunn's Project Runway revelations are my favorite parts of the book. While I knew deliberations went on for far longer than we see, I didn't realize they often last for upwards of six hours or that certain designers were rude and disrespectful to Gunn.

Fans of Project Runway will find a lot to sink their teeth into. How does Gunn feel about Santino Rice? How did he get involved with Runway to begin with? What does he really think of Michael Kors, Nina Garcia and Heidi Klum? This was such a fun read, really a must for Project Runway followers.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The List

This is fast becoming The Bat Mitzvah Blog, isn't it?!

Eldest Daughter's Bat Mitzvah invitations mailed. I cannot believe how complex the invitation list was.

Some of it was easy: her friends, our close family friends, the g/dparents, her B'nai Mitzvah class, the immediate family. The rest was murky.

The guiding principal was to invite people that Eldest Daughter has a relationship with. As much as we love you, if you are walking down the street next to Eldest Daughter and she does not know your name, it's unlikely you will find a bright pink envelope in your mailbox.

This is tricky when it comes to relatives. I invited a cousin who I have been close to since childhood. She lives in San Diego. Yet I did not invite her parents, who are in Northern California, and whose last visit with my family I cannot remember. You can only imagine what my mother had to say about this. I invited my first cousins although only one has a relationship with Eldest Daughter. We have been invited to their children's B'nai Mitzvahs. Except, oddly, for the one she knows and was so happy we invited.

Let's talk about the neighbors. Danville first. We are closer to some than to others. Yet it seems rude to invite most of a social group and not all of it. Eldest Daughter knows them but they do not have a relationship with her. Now Tahoe. We didn't invite any of them because it's a prime winter weekend and they all ski race. Yet Eldest Daughter has a relationship with them. Exactly how do I apply logic here?!

My mother-in-law is fabulous with these things. She asked to invite no one. She knew that if she invited even one friend then those she didn't invite would be hurt. It was all or nothing for her. Thank you Linda.

Eldest Daughter's list changed daily until the invites actually mailed. I tried to keep my mouth shut. There are a few girls on the list who I would rather she not have invited based on Mean Girl things actions in years past. And then there's another big fear: will the under 18s come to the party and not the Bat Mitzvah service, not understanding that the service is the big deal and that the party is the icing on the cake?!

Who would have guessed that this part of the planning would be so hard?!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Where have all the pony tail holders gone?!

Surely I am not the only person who wonders if they have joined the other sock in the Land of Missing Socks.

In my 12 years of parenting a daughter, and in my nine years of parenting three daughters, I have bought hundreds of pony tail holders and hair bands. Where do they go and why aren't they in my vanity, where they all start?!

Seriously.

Tonight I offered the children each a nickel for each one they could find. Four turned up. They're not in their backpacks. Or jacket pockets. Or under the family room sofa or between the cushions. Or bedrooms. Or bathrooms. They're not in my car. Or in the junk drawer in the kitchen.

One of you must know where they go. Don't take this secret to the grave, okay?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

House Projects?!

Someone emailed me a punch list and timeline of things to do in preparation for Eldest Daughter's Bat Mitzvah. I modified it for my own use and it's now 350 lines long in Excel. Every day I do a few tasks and hope they all get done before Feb 5. A heartfelt thanks to each of you who has offered to help.

On that provided list was "Finish house projects". I would never have added this on my own but it did get me thinking.

Here's what I came up with:

1. Triptych quilt for stairwell.
2. Finish living room decor by buying the one accent table that the room lacks.
3. Touch up exterior garage paint.
4. Purge stuff.
5. Plant flowers two days before fanfare begins.

I finished the quilts and Bill, the handyman / fudgemaker extraordinaire, hung them. It took him three hours and three configurations of his special ladder to put them up. The last configuration involved propping one leg on the upper landing and the other on a small, curved stair. It had me really freaked out and I'm glad I didn't see him up there and also that he didn't fall.

This picture doesn't show the quilts in their full glory; the construction of the upstairs landing doesn't enable me to shoot a picture that shows how perfectly the tops align and that each quilt is a foot shorter than the one to its left. Bill also touched up the paint on the garage, which was more involved than it seemed because it included matching the paint, which is now eight-years-faded.

The accent table presented itself at Loot.

The purging has started. Dave and I are not pack rats but still, one needs to go through the junk drawer every now and then. I gutted the pantry, scrubbed it down, reorganized its contents, threw some food out and set aside other food for donation. If you need brown or super fine sugar, we've got plenty. We also have nine bags of nuts and I'm not talking about the individual portion size.

What else?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thankful.

I am thankful for 10 feet of new snow at Squaw and for the opportunity to enjoy it this weekend. This picture is of our deck, which I happily shoveled over the course of three days. I love shoveling snow; maybe because I don't have to do it?!

Thing 2, my friend Rebel and I drove up Friday morning. I had planned to do just a quick turn and return home Saturday night but by then the storm-du-jour was in full swing and on her way to dumping 16 new inches. Thing 2 did ski in the storm and took her first run of the season on the black diamond saddle with her friends Ben and Yuriy. Oops. She managed to recover.

The fresh powder this morning was pristine and she, Reb and I enjoyed a few hours on the uncrowded slopes. They skied the trees; I stayed on the groomers. Rebel does not have children, which is a shame; I so love seeing her and Thing 2 interact. Neither Rebel nor Thing 2 have any fear and they both tell it like it is.

Both evenings we caught up with my Tahoe neighbors and tried to come to terms with the fact that this is November snow, ski conditions this good so early in the season that the powers that be clearly missed the global warming message.

It was a five hour drive home this afternoon but very worth it for the snow and for the 1:1 time with Thing 2, who is witty and sensitive when not competing with her sisters.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Callie's Old-fashioned Molasses Cookies

This is not a traditional Thanksgiving Day post. But it is about food, which is a big part of Thanksgiving ...

Shanta, Delanie, Eldest Daughter and I made 32 dozen cookies for National Charity League on Sunday. Yes, really. Shanta's contribution was the makings for spritz cookies along with those handy dandy Martha Stewart cookie presses in a yummy shade of baby blue. I pulled out this beloved recipe, which was given to me by my friend Callie.

I miss Callie. She lives in Seattle. Callie and I became friends at work; we lived a few miles apart and her husband, Dan, was so much fun. He and Callie seemed to have it all. They went dancing, shared a shoe fetish and a passion for environmental issues, he had an interesting job at Apple.

Then Dan got a job at Microsoft and they left the Bay. A year passed and we got a holiday card with a return address of "Callie and Gina". Callie was a bit butch so I thought perhaps she and Dan split up and she was now with Gina. Not exactly. With the help of Microsoft human resources, hormone therapy and a surgeon, Dan became Gina. As Callie explained it in that carefully worded holiday newsletter, "The love is the same but the parts are different". They stayed married a few more years and then split up.

A bit after that Callie severed ties with most of us from her other life. While I don't understand that, I respect her decision. I think of her every time I make these cookies and especially in November, when she and Dan/Gina had their birthdays.

Callie's Old-fashioned Molasses Cookies

3/4 C butter
1 c sugar
1 egg
1/4 C dark molasses
2 C flour
2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t ground ginger
1/4 t ground cloves

Cream together the sugar and butter. Add the egg. Beat. Add the molasses. Mix.

In a separate bowl combine the dry ingredients and mix well.

Add the dry ingredients to the molasses mixture and stir until well blended.

Put bowl in freezer for 30 minutes.

Remove and roll 1" balls. Roll balls in sugar and place 2" apart on baking sheet covered in parchment or lined with Silpat.

Bake at 375F for 8-10 minutes. Cool on a rack.

These cookies ripen over time and taste better on days 3 and 4 than they do on days 1 and 2. Serve with cold milk.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

RIP MSF

In my mid 20s I worked for a start-up software company in Pleasanton. Its CEO, the first of a few I have worked closely with in my career, was a charismatic man, a family man, a big thinker with a loyal following.

Although I had not seen Mike in many years, I saw his adult children in and about town, and we have mutual friends.

Sadly, Mike lost his battle with Leukemia and last night was his Celebration of Life, appropriately held at the Blackhawk Auto Museum, where he threw many a party.

I genuinely enjoy occasions like this. They bring back happy memories and also provide a glimpse into aspects of a person that I had not been privy to before. This event brought together captains of industry, former employees who had long-since retired due to his generosity with stock options, and his extended family. His daughter gave the eulogy, which had its pee-in-your-pants hilarious moments. Although I was slightly uncomfortable there, as I noticed that many others were, I was glad I went.

His legacy will live on.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ron Morgan and Loot


Jill and I went to see Ron Morgan. Ron is a hilarious, gifted floral designer who just happens to have an antique shop in Lafayette, Loot.

Loot is a gem. Truly. The shop is arranged by color. From the red room I bought a set of Chinese papered stacking tables, the final item we needed to finish off our living room. Of course I only need two of the four tables. Does anyone want the two extra tables? They are quite chic.

The blue room had Chinese blue and white porcelain. Fu Dogs, in chartreuse, lived in the green room. Christmas decorations were everywhere and it wasn't the tacky stuff! Topiaries and more topiaries. Wide floral ribbons in deep colors. Wreaths made of ribbon and wire butterflies. Floral arrangements. Ron's four books. Some furniture. Antique and costume jewelry. I had a hard time limiting myself to just the tables.

Ron has the gift of gab! He told us funny stories, all the while creating unusual floral arrangements. He made it look so easy. My favorite was the one with mushrooms although I'm replicating the pumpkin one for our Thanksgiving table. He points out things that a normal, regular flower admirer wouldn't notice; things like how the use of one color changes the look of other colors. The man, who must be in his 70s, appears to need very little sleep. Maybe he sleeps on planes in between speaking engagements and traveling the world to stock Loot? The loafers he was wearing were definitely not American, and I type that in the most admiring of ways.

I was twelve again. In a good way this time. I was easily the youngest person in the room by ten years (and Jill was the second youngest). It was the garden club gang, a well-heeled, well-coiffed, well-dressed group of women, some who had come from as far as Modesto.

Back to my dreams of pretty things.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

This bud's for you.

On Friday, Thing 1, Jill and I fled the 'burbs at o'dark hundred for the sanctity of the San Francisco Flower Market. This Market is one of five grower-owned markets in the US. Thing 1 was so traumatized by the thought of our early rise time that she slept in her clothes.

It was easily 15 years since my last visit to the Flower Market. In my early 20s I worked in SOMA, a few blocks away, and my co-workers and I would occasionally go on Fridays around 9am for leftovers and breakfast.

Going into the catacombs with someone in the know is much different, much better. The Market is similar to Costco but with many different vendors. At this time of year many of the flowers come from South America. These people begin their workday at 1a so the Bay Area floral designers, event producers and florist shops can get in and out before the rest of the world needs their goods.

Thing 1 fell in love with these cockscombs, which I'd never seen before. We browsed the ostrich eggs, antlers, ribbons, bark, vases, baskets, candles, tissue paper and cellophane wrap. I could not resist buying tulips, roses and branches with tiny berries on them. We have so many flowers at home that even Fred is holding an arrangement. One of the growers gave Thing 1 some tiny white roses.

It's very special being there in the dark, in the musty, dank smelling space filled with treasures. I liked it less as the sun came up and it became just another sunny fall day in San Francisco. The Flower Market Cafe, where we had breakfast after loading our goodies into Jill's car, was as delicious as I remember. Thing 1 was very happy we made the trek. So was I. Thank you Jill!

Photo credits: Jill

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Disney Halloween

Dave is the idea man. Fortunately one of his ideas was marrying me and I've been benefiting ever since.

Dave wanted to go to Disneyland for Halloween this year since we would be at our niece's Bat Mitzvah nearby the day prior.

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

Disney has been heavy on the TV commercials this fall and The Pinks have been itching to go. They were thrilled when we told them and were very good not to mention it at Sarah's BatM as it was very important to us to keep the focus on her.

The Magic Kingdom is even more magical on Halloween. Tickets are required to attend The Party. The festivities kick off at 7pm and we Trick or Treated, saw the parade and fireworks, and rode the regular rides and the ones decorated just for Halloween, which included Space Mountain and The Haunted House. The Haunted House is truly fabulous on Halloween - I could have gone on it a dozen times to try to catch all the Halloween enhancements. About half the park is open on Halloween and the Disney team goes over-the-top there with that Disney magic dust.

Even better than doing Disneyland on Halloween was our children sharing the experience with a great aunt, a grandmother and her gentleman friend, five cousins and a cousin's partner.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Top 10 List - Bat Mitzvah Fears

Eldest Daughter's Bat Mitzvah is in February. Here are some of the things that keep me up at night:
  1. People will RSVP and not show up.
  2. People won't RSVP and show up.
  3. There will be too much food.
  4. There won't be enough food.
  5. Eldest Daughter won't find anything she wants to wear to Friday night services, her Bat Mitzvah and the party.
  6. Eldest Daughter will only find things I think are inappropriate to wear to Friday night services, her Bat Mitzvah and the party.
  7. Eldest Daughter will want to wear my shoes that weekend.
  8. Eldest Daughter will already have surpassed my shoe size.
  9. We will have a heat wave and record high temperatures.
  10. It will rain.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Larry's Smoke Dried Tomatoes

The package had an odd odor, which I noticed while removing it from our mailbox.

And then I opened it: it was a package of Boggy Creek Farm smoke dried tomatoes! Along with it was a thoughtful note from Sara Singer and some recipes. I've had a dumb smile on my face ever since.

Sara's one of the friends that we travel to Europe with every other year. She is an accomplished cook and once led us on a mission to find saffron in Tangier (which is not in Europe). Those precious tomatoes are sitting in olive oil now, waiting for me to turn them into something incredible. I'm a little afraid to try them as is; just getting near the package makes my eyes burn.

Boggy Creek Farm is 1.5 hours northeast Austin, and Larry and Anne have been running the farm for the last 29 years. Twenty years ago they started a second farm, this one in Austin proper. Their organic produce is sold there and at their local Whole Foods.

Thank you, Sara!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Spectacular Sarah!

We're just back from a long weekend in LA for our niece's Bat Mitzvah. I just love these weekends -- happy celebrations with extended family and friends. It makes me even more excited about Eldest Daughter's Bat Mitzvah early next year. Sarah is on the left here, with her older sister, Jenna.

We yanked The Pinks from school and hit the freeway Thursday at noon. Things have really changed and not in a good way; it's now the mother who needs the bathroom stops. I enjoyed the ride down I-5. All that farmland. Vineyards. Pomegranate and orange trees. The aqueduct that enables Southern California to steal our water. The Pioneer Woman and all that. Takes me right back to the homestead days.

My SIL and her family were kind enough to have the World Series on the big screen when we arrived. That, the cousins running around, and pizza made for a good kick off to the weekend.

On Friday Dave and I took the kids over the hill to Malibu, where we explored the Malibu Country Mart and had a yummy lunch at a fish shack overlooking the water. There are 27 miles of Malibu coastline; we will have to go back and visit some of the beaches when we have more time. There's a great playground at the Country Mart and it was a good release for the little kids before the family dinner at synagogue and following services.

Eldest Daughter's release was a surprise trip to get her ears pierced. She was very excited to finally have them done and to also have Jenna and Sarah there with her for the big moment. I was grateful for my SIL to take her; I had no interest in seeing someone punch holes in my child's head. She was very happy and said it didn't hurt.

There are no pictures of my niece's Bat Mitzvah. One does not take pictures in the synagogue on Shabbat. One does not use electronic devices in the synagogue on Shabbat, either, which was a challenge for the little kids who kept asking if they could play with our iPhones during the three-hour service. (Note to friends: Eldest Daughter's service won't be that long. My SIL and her family are more religious than we are. Still, bring books for your little kids to read if you think they will need entertainment.) Our niece did a beautiful job and I was teary eyed. Thirteen years have gone very quickly.

Saturday night was the big party. Above right are my SIL and BIL making their grand entrance. We feasted on sushi and chicken and salad and dim sum and sorbet and a candy bar dessert buffet and danced and danced and danced. Pictures were taken. Silly hats and boas and peace necklaces and glow sticks were distributed en mass. Smoothies were consumed. Black was consumed. Livestrong-style personalized bracelets were created. Laughter and more laughter. Bonds were formed between our children and distant cousins. Catching up with LA relatives and old family friends such as sisters Sarah Marchick and Patti Kogan at left. Hanging out with my parents, who came down. Eldest Daughter and two of her friends took the limo for an In-N-Out Burger run midway through the evening.

And then Sunday morning we rehashed it all at my SIL's house over brunch. Perfect weather. My MIL's amazing fudge.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Two for two on Shoes

Dave found this at Gayle's Chocolates in Michigan. A chocolate shoe! Was there any more perfect gift for me?! And it's even pink!

And while we're on the subject of shoes, I am so proud of him. He played in a golf tournament last month and the players got to design their own golf shoes, which were then custom made. They arrived this week. The man has good taste -- black, white and red patent Oxfords with a monogram of his daughters' initials.

He's two for two. Not that we keep score.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My newfound love: Mason Jars

Something peculiar has happened: I've developed a fetish for Mason jars.

I bought them in three sizes: quart, pint and half pint. The pint and half pints are wide-mouthed. First I put some sand in the quart-sized ones and added votive candles then lined the steps up to the front door with them. The light over our front door has been out forever and I don't have a ladder tall enough to change the bulb. I must get over that soon as it's getting dark earlier and earlier.

Then I progressed to storing oven roasted tomatoes in them. And grated Parmesan cheese. The real kind from Parma.

Next I put all my makeup brushes in some.

We've used them as glasses.

And the kids took some to organize their Silly Bandz.

In time I will give thought to each of the 527 comments that have appeared on Ree Drummond's post about Mason jars. The above photo is hers.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Preggo and The Little Pear

Although you can't tell from this picture, Ellie is very pregnant. It's Baby #3.

She, Paige, Sylvie Paige and I had lunch at The Little Pear Wednesday and I surprised her with a baby blanket.

The Little Pear was yummy; it's the same chef as The Peasant and the Pear, and The Peasant's Courtyard. I recommend the fried artichoke hearts with aioli.

Ellie was very surprised. That made me happy.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

More Miraval.

I just love this place, which is north of Tucson in Santa Catalina foothills. Neeracha and I hiked and saw the sun come up over Mt. Lemmon. We sat by the pool, napped, read and downed addictive mint lemonades. We painted. I climbed. She mountain biked. We had massages and more massages. I had a pedi. Blue. We slept in. Zip lined. Star gazed. We read some more. We shopped. We kick boxed and cardio drummed. She did Yoga. I swam. We met some interesting people. We read The New York Times at breakfast and ate way too much. At least I did.

I like the silence at Miraval. The way you notice your surroundings. The Southwest-style buildings and quiet room in the spa with the lounges that lure you to sleep. The food chain is alive and well at Miraval. We saw quite a few bugs -- grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, and they were all huge. Measured in inches. Welcome to Jurassic Park. Here and there on the grounds were iron animal sculptures in odd sizes. The rabbits were taller than me and the frolicking horses were three-quarter size. I liked the rabbits the best.

About that food. Sauced proteins. Interesting salads, green, fruit and whole grain. Teeny tiny desserts. Soups. Lots of seasonings and lots of colors. Choices and more choices. Beautiful presentation. Gracious service. All inclusive.

It's healthy but only if you eat in moderation. My favorite food story took place at our dinner on the last night. The waiter presented the dessert menu and I ordered chocolate mousse, ice cream with caramel sauce and two cheese plates. The waiter then looked at Neeracha and said, "And for you?" We burst out laughing because it was obvious to us both that I'd ordered for us both. His response? "Some people do order that much dessert for themselves." Oy! I was bad but not that bad.

Flying home was a comedy of errors. I ended up on the last leg standby, which was complicated by the rain in LA. It never rains in LA. We'd parked the car at the San Jose Airport at 5:30a the previous Thursday and I'd counted on Neeracha remembering where we'd left it. Unfortunately finding the car became my problem alone since we ended up on different flights and it was my car. The shuttle driver was kind enough to drive me up and down the aisles of long-term parking until I found it. Funny in hindsight. Miserable in reality.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Slow down.

Eldest Daughter and I volunteered at the Open Heart Kitchen this afternoon. The kitchen is located in a senior community and we served the low-income residents a hearty dinner and then scrubbed that kitchen until it shined.

Boy those people move slow. They walk slow. They eat slow. They talk slow. It was a great place to learn restaurant skills. No pressure whatsoever. And it forced us to get off the light speed conveyor belt we ride if just for a few hours.

I guess I left my Miraval Zen mindset at Miraval. Bummer.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Mmmm Miraval

Neeracha and I are at Miraval this weekend. It's essentially sleep away camp for adults in the mountains outside of Tucson.

This is my third trip here in ten years; it's Neeracha's fourth. It feels a little indulgent but it is pure heaven: plush accommodations with fluffy beds, low-calorie, low-fat food gourmet food, five star service, and fitness and well-being classes from 7a to 10p.

I'm not the most adventurous person in the world so I was really proud of myself for Ziplining. We walked to the challenge course then climbed up a telephone pole to a platform 50' in the air. I really wanted to stop and look out from the midpoint but then I was afraid I'd not get moving again. The scariest part is stepping off the platform. Fortunately no one else in our group wanted to go first so I didn't overthink it too much and just went. I screamed like a banshee the whole way down but gosh, it was an huge adrenaline rush.

In true Miraval style we had to discuss how we felt about it afterwards. Blah blah blah. This picture is of me and Neeracha at the top of the platform. Note my death grip on the yellow strap attaching my harness to the wire.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Redd

Dave and I drove up to Yountville Monday evening and had dinner with Fabio at Redd. The Napa Valley isn't far from here and often, when we have a nice dinner in the city, we ask ourselves why we didn't just go to Napa instead.

Yountville's main drag, Washington Street, has several well regarded restaurants on it: Bouchon, Redd, Ad Hoc, Bistro Jeanty, the French Laundry. My goal is to get to the three I have not yet been to.

Richard Reddington's Redd is a Michelin one star. It's less formal than the other one star's we've been to and the food was very good. The decor is contemporary and minimalist. White walls. Some wood. Lots of glass. An outdoor fireplace.

I had an incredible Burrata and tomato salad followed by gnocchi with lamb Bolognese. Fabio had oysters on the half shell and skate with creamed corn, cherry tomato, haricot vert salad and basil pistou. Dave had fois gras with stonefruit, pistachios, brioche then duck confit, lentils, foie gras meatballs and crispy spaetzle. The duck was especially good. Dessert was dark chocolate pot de creme, beurre noisette and warm beignets. I don't generally do dessert after a fancy meal because I am so stuffed. I need to work on this.

It was nice to talk pop culture, movies and books with Dave and with Fabio, who I've not seen much of since he moved to Napa. And it was also nice when the Giants won and we could stop sneaking peeks at our Smartphones.

Monday, October 11, 2010

My new favorite food.

Oven Roasted Tomatoes.

Incredible. I didn't think I liked them. I like tomatoes in many ways. Not ketchup but almost every other form factor.

My favorite meal right now is pasta with a few chopped oven roasted tomatoes, a smidge of their own oil to moisten it up, some fresh grated Parmesan and a bit of Fleur de Sel a la Truffe. Heaven!

Jill posted a recipe for these and I've made them three times. I'm so addicted that I am afraid I will run out before next year's tomato season and so I will make one more batch this weekend.

They take six hours in the oven and they make the house smell incredible. I especially like the crusty burnt bits of the tomatoes.

The thing is: two baking sheets of them barely fill a pint sized mason jar. Mason jars are my other new obsession.

Please do not come over and ask for any unless you are willing to trade a car or vacation home for them. I'm not willing to share.

Photo credit: Jill Appenzeller

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Walk & Bike Challenge

Thing 1 recently learned to ride a bike. Thing 2 is a pro. Dave and I got a tandem bike a few months back.

Our community has this challenge going on and today the four of us rode our bikes to school together. It's 2.5 miles, all downhill. And then Dave and I had to bike home. Fortunately he did most of the peddling.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Because my father does.

I had a pretty idyllic childhood. The mother that had a balanced meal on the dinner table each night. Some religion. A little brother for me to initially hate and then finally love. A good dose of adventure.

Some great things I learned from my father:
  • To respect and protect the environment.
  • To stop and smell the roses. This picture was taken at Butchart Gardens, Vancouver Island, BC, 1987.
  • To let a moose have the right of way.
  • To shoot a pistol, a .22 and a shotgun.
  • To ride horses.
  • To cross country ski.
  • To be active with causes that matter to you.
  • To take the road less traveled. How many of you have been through The Yukon?
  • To eat what you grow. I'm still working on that one. The green thumb must have gone to that aforementioned brother.
  • To drive a five speed.
Thanks Dad!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Tulips

I'm not sure what it is about tulips but they've long been my favorite flower. Yellow especially. They are simple and elegant and their season is not nearly long enough. Like Girl Scout cookies, they're around briefly for my birthday.

When I was a child my father did a series of photographs of red tulips. The most stunning of them is taken of the inside of a tulip. Did you think I'd remember this, Dad?

The dining tables at Ilona's wedding had high vases of enormous white tulips. I remember the tulip centerpieces; everyone else probably remembers the endless vodka.

Neeracha brought me back a tulip vase from a trip she did to the Netherlands way before either of us had kids. She also brought me back tulip bulbs, which I temporarily froze in a Ziploc bag and labeled: Tulips - do not eat. To this day Dave teases me about this.

Someday I will see the Keukenhof in the Netherlands and the Skagit Valley Festival in Washington State. In the meantime I will keep going back to Kathy's vacation pictures and be grateful that she let me use this image for my header.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mostly selfish Saturday.

On Saturday Neeracha and I drove to Sausalito to see the Floating Homes Tour. It was a Spare the Air Day, one of not too many we've had this year, so I took BART into the city and we drove to Marin together.

It must have been National Walk the Golden Gate Bridge Day! I've never seen so many camera-happy pedestrians on the bridge before. You couldn't blame them. There was not a cloud in the sky and the temperature easily reached 80F. There were hundreds of white-sailed boats on the Bay made it look like a tricky day to be out there. This view makes me catch my breath every time -- another perfect moment.

A few months ago I read an article on human egg trade in Cypress. It was both fascinating and horrifying. Since I read it I have mentioned it to a few people, who were appropriately horrified but not to the extent I was nor had they seen the article. And then in the car to Marin Neeracha mentioned this article! Apparently she'd read it in the same obscure business magazine I had. This is why we are friends.

The Floating Homes Tour was not what I expected. There are 400 floating homes on Richardson Bay, 17 were open this year. I was looking for two things: designer showcases and/or cleverly designed homes to make use of the unusual space. Nope. They are narrow houses on barges. Some were airy and Lichtenstein-filled. Others were dumpy and needed a good cleaning. Most had optimized the view; a few hadn't. One had a Gaudi-style guest bath. A few had decks at the water line so the owners could kayak. One had an entire upper level of Japanese minimalism. We saw a lot of Ethan Allen traditional furniture and many variations on the spiral staircase. Most are occupied by artists or retirees. There were many for sale and the range was $350,000 to $975,000.

After the tour we had a late sushi lunch and stopped at an off-the-beaten-path travel book store to see what we could find for next summer's adventure. The small shop had a surprising number of interesting books and our Italy collection grew some more.

Neeracha dropped me off at the 16th and Mission BART station. I sat outside of it for a few minutes, taking in swirling tongues of a language I don't understand, the smells and the look of a place I don't usually go. Those ten minutes felt like a very short vacation.

And then I hopped on a train and went back to the Burbs.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Renata

I had lunch with Renata last week.

I close my eyes and still see her as the Renata of 1980. The Renata who didn't yet speak English. The Renata with husband Mark and adorable 5-year-old Ilona. The family my parents and their Chavurah adopted and helped ease the transition of from life in the former Soviet Union to life in San Francisco. The Renata with the red kitchen because here she could have a red kitchen.

She is older than me but not as old as my mother. She and Mark successfully moved their parents and siblings to San Francisco. She retired from her IT job at Levi Strauss, where she spent her whole American career. Her children are grown now. Sweet little Ilona is married with two children and practices Obstetrics while also teaching at Harvard Med School. The twins she and Mark subsequently had are now in law school and med school. They are stunningly beautiful. The whole family. And smart, of course, too.

It was such fun having lunch with Renata. It is amazing how the years just evaporate. I think we can learn a lot from each other and I am so fortunate that we have been back in touch.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Treehouse

I don't know what inspired me to drive past the Orinda house. It's the house I lived in from ages 8-15. It's still there. The mailbox my father built is not. The road to it is still dangerously windy, with a steep drop off into Lake Cascade to the left and homes up steep driveways with blind entries to the right.

A few of the homes have been replaced by mega mansions. Most have been updated with new facades and landscaping. A few are eyesores, exactly the way I remember them. There was a man wearing khakis and a red polo shirt walking his Golden Retriever. Very Orinda.

During my tenth year my father built my brother and I a two-story treehouse in the ginormous Oak tree in the front yard. The tree is still impressive. And the treehouse is still there, although it's just a few moss-covered boards now barely visible from the street.

Around the corner is a multi-acre gated estate, the former home of Ed Daly. Daly is best known for his time as president of World Airways and the company's subsequent rescue of Vietnamese orphans after the war. It's not clear if it's being torn down or remodeled right now.

I spent a fair amount of time in St. Louis before my grandfather passed away. My father always insisted on driving through The Old Country when we were there. Ditto the house my mother grew up in in Memphis. I've been there, too.

What is it that ties us to our childhood homes?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

192 miles.

This is the distance between our Bay Area house and Tahoe.

The first hundred miles are flat and boring freeway driving. Benicia Bridge. Vacaville. Dixon. Sacramento. Roseville. The second hundred miles are more and more interesting as we drive into the mountains: Auburn, Colfax, Nyack, Emigrant Gap, Donner Summit, Donner Lake.

When we drive to Tahoe I start to breathe slower around the 2,000 ft elevation mark. The big trees start appearing. There are train tracks and the occasional train spotting. There are fewer towns. Less concrete and more forest. We see animals. The foothills become bona fide mountains.

I love when we reach Donner Summit because Donner Lake, so gorgeous with cabins clustered around it, is next. The last 30 miles on I-80 are beautiful. It's snowy in the winter and if I'm lucky, there's fresh snow and it's clinging to the trees. The mountains are majestic. The last 10 miles are along the Truckee River and then we spot the Olympic Rings at the entrance to Squaw Valley and we've arrived. The air is pine scented and crisp. Ties are replaced with Teva's. Prada gives way to Patagonia.

Labor Day weekend we saw Hayley and Gordon and we talked about the drive. Until they mentioned it, I hadn't thought that other people shared the drive phenomena.

I'm sad when we leave Tahoe. The trees give way to the flatlands and my mood plummets as we pass Auburn, knowing that just ahead are 100 miles of uninteresting freeway peppered with the occasional McDonald's. My chest tightens a bit and I start thinking about the mail waiting at home.

More of you must feel this way.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

On a bicycle built for two.

Dave got us a tandem bike! A friend counseled us: Wherever your relationship is going, you'll get there faster on a tandem.

We went for a short ride today. I was pretty scared. But after getting over my fear of public speaking Monday this was small potatoes.

When you're on the back of a tandem bike you have no control. You can't see where you're going. You can't steer. You can't shift gears. And you can't break. You just peddle and look at the back of the person in front of you, to the sides or close your eyes.

After a bit I enjoyed it. And Dave and I got to talk about random things without The Pinks interrupting or the distractions of things to do at home.

Don't go looking on craigslist for the sale of our bike anytime soon.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Curse of the Good Girl

I was the very proud event organizer last night of 900 community members at our middle school. This event, hosting Rachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out and The Curse of the Good Girl, was the next step in my plan to rid the world of Mean Girls.

Rachel, who also founded the Girls Leadership Institute, spoke for about an hour then signed books. She is an engaging, funny speaker with great content. I guess you refine those skills when you've been on Oprah and the Today Show a few times! The interactive talk covered what a Good Girl looks like, No Joke Zones, I Statements, Emotions, The Sweet Life of Zack and Cody and My Little Pony. The picture at left is of me, Rachel Simmons and Simone Marean.

I was blown away by all the familiar faces in the audience -- people from as far south as Pleasanton, as far west as Moraga, as far east as Brentwood. This message resonates with us all.
One of the things I enjoy most about these events is watching the dots connect. I'd forgotten that Amy and Lori were college sorority sisters, and that Lori's cousin is friends with Bridgit. I didn't know that Amy and Ellen's daughters played softball together two years ago and so on.

We could not have pulled of an event of this magnitude without an army of volunteers from the middle school PTA and my own posse: Ellen, Sarah, Coleen and Megan, MelissaS and Hannah, Andrea and Nina, MelissaB. I enjoyed working with our school principal, whose support was invaluable, and the vice principal, who is a great logistics front man and whose daughter, it turns out, goes to preschool with my niece. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And because I am a Real Girl, I have a confession to make: when Simone, GLI's Executive Director, asked me to speak for a few minutes on our experience with the GLI workshops, I lost it. I don't do public speaking. I write. I edit. I plan. I do behind the scenes. But of course I agreed then practiced my two-minute talk for the better part of an hour before going on. I have to admit, I was quite proud of myself. And they called me a force! This stuff is hard for introverts. I have to admit, though, that once I got up there I just ran with it and spoke from my heart. It really is easier to do this when you are passionate about the cause. One less thing to fear in life.

The funniest part of the evening took place at the very end as Rachel was signing my book. Thing 1 had an extended conversation with her about her own personal drama in elementary school with her friend and her friend's boyfriend. Yes, the kids are eight. I had to walk away before I peed my pants. Not surprisingly, Rachel handled it very well.

In a fantasy world, this event will have generated enough attention for the workshops to roll out at other local schools, and for the message to be spread even further. I look forward to helping make that reality. Please leave a comment on my blog if you would like me to help facilitate that at your school or in your community.

Dave, who is my biggest champion, had a little fete pulled together at home when we got back. Everything is better with chocolate cake and chocolate dipped strawberries. He is my angel.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Take me out to the ballgame

On September 11 I could have stayed home and rehashed the events of nine years ago. Certainly I was affected by it. I spent that particular day glued to the TV, intermittently running to the bathroom to do those things one does while in the midst of a pregnancy-from-hell.

On September 11 this year Eldest Daughter and I did something much better for our mental health, and for the mental and physical health of some others: we volunteered at the Special Olympics of Northern California Softball Tournament.

It was a treat to spend an afternoon at a local park and to score keep for three games, all the while cheering the athletes on. There is something equalizing about sports. As I often find with volunteer work, I gained far more than I gave. Eldest Daughter and I left in high spirits.

Friday, September 10, 2010

I am twelve.

Are you?

I just finished The Curse of the Good Girl in preparation for the author's talk here Monday. It was not as all-out scary as Odd Girl Out but it riled me up just the same.

The thing is, American girls are raised to keep the peace. We avoid conflict. We smooth things over. If we voice our opinions with candor and conviction we are called bitches. I am so done with this.

Have you ever heard a girl say something along the lines of, "No offense but that shirt doesn't match those shorts." No offense means that the recipient of this barb shouldn't be mad at the nasty girl whose mouth it came out of even though it clearly is an insult.

One Saturday night last fall I was at a party. The previous night many of the same people, myself included, were at another party. Of course the antics from the former came up at the latter. I should have spoken up and said, "Hey. Let's not relive this in front of people who weren't there." But I didn't. And I've regretted it ever since.

On my Febmom list this topic recently came up. Tory, so sage from her expat vantage point in Hong Kong, said it well: inside each of us is a 12-year-old girl.

I recently ran into a woman I have known since my teens. She is professionally successful and tall and blond and smart and thin and has lovely children and a nice husband. She is twelve, too. And she did the right thing in the situation she faced: she confronted the Mean Mommy in the most textbook perfect of ways. It didn't work and she is still hurt by it. Still she did the right thing and I applaud her for it. This stuff is hard.

I think about the friend I confronted a year ago over a Part-Time Friend Situation between our daughters. I would never have looked at the woman the same again had I not brought it up. I had nothing to lose: our relationship never would have recovered otherwise.

Today I met with Simone Marean and the team at our middle school who will welcome Rachel Simmons. During the course of the event walk through, which I took control of in my usual let's-be-efficient-and-decisive-style, I briefly paused and said, "Am I being too bossy?" Simone looked at me and said, "Curse of the Good Girl." I laughed. She was right.

Why does this 12-year-old emerge from time to time? Will putting on our big girl panties and doing hard things like speaking our minds with confidence banish her?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Labor Day Weekend at Tahoe

I've not blogged much recently; there are a lot of moving pieces in my life right now and I'm trying to figure out how to articulate it online without burning bridges. Stay tuned.

The kids are all back in school. Dave and I went to Back to School Night at the middle school last week; Eldest Daughter will do fine. My main observation is that her teachers seem to be dinosaurs. Back to School Night for the elementary school is next week; I always feel clueless until this takes place. Still, the kids seem to like school well enough thus far.

We're up at Tahoe for the long holiday weekend. I'm not sure I've ever been up here Labor Day weekend before. We tend to avoid holiday periods. It's not as zoo-like as I'd imagined. The kids had a furlough day Friday so we came up early enough in the day to get in a swim at The Resort at Squaw Creek with friends before heading to dinner at Jake's. For the record, the Hula Pie and lakeside location at Jake's are amazing; the food is just mediocre these days.The funniest part of the afternoon was Thing 1 asking if she could have a margarita poolside. Apparently Eldest Daughter had ordered a virgin one earlier and I thought it was a regular 'ole smoothie.

Today we spent at Dollar Point Beach and on the boat with my brother, his in-laws and their extended circle. The sky was perfectly blue, the kids had fun tubing and fishing for crawdads, and we just enjoyed the perfect weather. Tonight we had dinner with them at Lakeside Pizza, which was good enough, and satisfied our goal of trying one new restaurant every time we come up here. I think I irritated my SIL's friend by pointing out that she uses one voice to speak to adults and another one to speak to her daughter.

Tomorrow we will do the Alpen Wine Festival here at Squaw to benefit finding a cure for Cystic Fibrosis and then head home. Burning Man wraps Monday and we want to beat the crowds down I-80 back to the Bay.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

This is Nancy.

She is one of my colleagues.

I phoned her perhaps six months ago because she did not show for a conference call we were supposed to do together. This was completely uncharacteristic of Nancy. She answered her cell phone and said, "I'm in the doctor's office. I just found out I have breast cancer. Can I call you back?"

In between now and then she had surgery, recovered from it, received a clean bill of health and trained for the Denver Susan G Koman Three Day Walk for the Cure, which she and her posse, The Pink Divas, completed Sunday.

I am proud of her. And I am inspired by her. But more than that I am incited to get you to act. If you are not current on your mammogram, schedule it today and comment that you have done so. If you are current on your mammogram, leave a comment right here and now and let me know you've done it.

You can read more about Nancy's journey here.

Early discovery increases our chances of winning this battle, one none of us wants to see our children fight.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Because my mother does.

I baked banana bread for my longtime friend Caryl and took it to the house she just bought in our suburb.

I baked lemon cookies for our new neighbors and dropped them off, too. Not this weekend but fairly recently.

Why did I do this? Because my mother always did this. It's welcoming.

I say to my children, "Put a sweater on; I'm cold." Just like my mother did.

I can make chicken in 25 different ways, just like my mother does.

I have too many plastic containers, just like my mother does. I, however, throw them out from time to time and replace them. She still has Tupperware from my childhood.

I get Time magazine, like my mother does and has since before she married my father 40+ years ago.

I sew well because my mother does.

What do you do because your mother does?

Wait 'til I do this one about you, Dad!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Bakesale Betty

The blue hair wasn't hard to miss. I spotted her from way across the Danville Farmer's Market. And then I became an ardent fan of Bakesale Betty and her scones. In the warm months we ate them with strawberries and whipped cream. And in the cool months we ate them plain, one after the other.

Then the Australian import and former Chez Panisse pastry chef disappeared. After a bit she reappeared, husband in tow, and opened a storefront in Oakland's Temescal neighborhood. For a while she still sold at the Walnut Creek Farmer's Market but told me that she no longer did Saturday markets because the retail store was too busy.

Finally I visited that storefront. It has a cult following. She still wears the blue wig. And she sells strawberry shortcake so I didn't have to buy the pieces and assemble them myself. The seating is colorful ironing boards and stools on the street. People rave about her gigantic fried chicken sandwich with spicy slaw. It was good but if you can see the jalapeno peppers then it's too hot for me. My friends raved about the pear ginger scones.

Don't bother looking for the sign. Or for the menu, which is written on the Telegraph Avenue-facing window. But once you find it, it's worth it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Open letter to my precious firstborn

Dear Eldest Daughter,

It's the first day of school.

As you were walking out the door I did what I did every year, I chased you with my camera. I made you stand by the front door while I shot your picture. (At least you were all dolled up; I was out there in my pajamas! And I did notice that artfully applied eye makeup, by the way.) In turn, you made me promise not to post the picture on Facebook or my blog. Deal. I am standing by my word.

It's clear that you think this annual photography ritual is cruel and unusual punishment. Every year you give me the same annoyed look.

Do me this favor, sweetheart. Go to Facebook and see how many parents have posted these same pictures, the ones by the front door.

While you abhor this back-to-school exercise, everyone else you know is being tortured in this same way. And believe me, you will do it with your children, too.

Love,

Mommy

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ambivalent

The Pinks go back to school tomorrow.

While I'm happy that their education will continue, I'm sad to see this summer end. They're at great ages, much more fun than work.

The summer's highlights included:
  • Last night's concert in the park with three other families.
  • Dinner with the extended family at my SIL's house and then ours. This is the only picture I have of me with my two SILs. My brother's wife is on the left and my husband's sister is on the right.
  • The bathtub-warm swimming pool, perfect for laps for this wimp.
  • The cooler-than-usual-days, providing lots of outside playtime without fear of dehydration.
  • Pajama time with the kids.
  • My parents' garden in the spot formerly occupied by their pool, and my own success at growing tomatoes.
  • Driving up the Central Coast with Dave and the littlest Pinks.
  • Celebrating Dennis' 50th and boating with my other SIL and nieces up at Tahoe.
  • Helping promote Rachel Simmons' talk here on Sept. 13.
  • Volunteering at Habitat for Humanity, Children's Hospital, Wardrobe for Opportunity, Tri Valley Haven and Hospice of Contra Costa County.
I am savoring every last minute before the kids head out tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Brown Butter Cookie Company

The other find in Cayucos was the Brown Butter Cookie Company. Although the prices were ridiculous ($1 for a cookie the size of a half dollar), they were quite special.

I stopped by on our way out of town and they were kind enough to open the doors early for me. The day's cookies were still baking but that didn't stop me from buying some prepacked ones and some day old's.

I've been a fan of cookies made with brown butter since I came across this Spoon Cookie recipe.

Their namesake cookie, brown butter with sea salt, is a good: richly packed with the flavor of browned butter. If you are expecting a smooth cookie, the initial impression may not wow you, but stick with it. The cookie is actually gritty with coarse sugar, but it grows on you and becomes a bit addicting.

My next culinary challenge: a batch of chocolate chip cookies made with brown butter.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Triptych

We live in a two-story house with a central staircase that connects the two levels. The expansive, curved, two-story wall has been unadorned except for a coat of Dijon mustard colored paint for the last eight years.

I've had many ideas for the space: framed family pictures, a trompe l'oeil family tree or just a forest, a tapestry. But no, I have to do it myself. I'm working on a triptych quilt for the space. Triptych because we have three daughters and each will inherit one segment in due time.

I'm working with my favorite fabrics - saturated batiks. Each 11" square is the same pattern but a different fabric. After the first ten I was bored silly. I forgot to take that into account. I offered Eldest Daughter $3/each to sew them but she shot me down. I'm now 50 something squares in. Blogging seems like a good excuse to leave the sewing machine.

I really want to be done. The other problem is that all my mini masterpieces are on the floor of Eldest Daughter's room. She returns home tomorrow, after two weeks of sleep-away camp. Back to it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Duckie's Chowder House

Most surprisingly, the best meal of our roadtrip was in Cayucos, on the central coast five miles north of Morro Bay.

Duckie's Chowder House is known for both its New England and Manhattan clam chowder but I didn't eat those, given my past shellfish experiences involving emergency rooms.

The restaurant is across the street from the pier and has an indoor / outdoor bar. You can only imagine the view and the amazing smell of the ocean. Two of us sat inside, two of us sat outside. The place was packed at early dinner time. Cayucos seems to be the place for extended family and friend gatherings. Maybe it's the small town thing? You can't easily lose your people in a town that's barely two blocks in length?

The kids had the chicken fingers, which are ordered individually, and the fries. Dave had a burger and chowder. I drank some of his Firestone Ale, which was pale and divine. I had fish tacos and Nancy's salad. I'm not usually a fish taco gal but these were quite tasty, with the fish cooked just right and the condiments spicy but not too spicy. I ate my entire salad, too, of lettuce, blue cheese, avocado and bacon with a garlicky vinaigrette. That they use sustainable packaging is a bonus!

I'd like to go back but sadly, Cayucos is not exactly on my way anywhere.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I am now an urban farmer.

I've actually grown something I have eaten. Do you see this tomato? I picked it this afternoon and ate it for lunch.

In case you're wondering, it became a salad with avocado and Burrata, and was dressed with Olive's Oil, balsamic and some of the truffle salt Neeracha brought me back from the Dordogne as a consolation prize.

This is a big deal. My parents have green thumbs and I've tried to grow tomatoes for multiple years. Finally the planets aligned!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Roadtrip 2010!

Dave, the twins and I have just returned to the Bay after a week on the road. It's not our usual MO and we had a blast.

First stop: SIL's house 350 miles south to drop off Eldest Daughter. SIL and BIL then took their daughters and ours to sleep away camp, where they will be for another week. I got a letter from Eldest Daughter but sadly, I don't understand it all; it's written in texting lingo. A teaching moment is ahead. Here's a picture of the three cousins, aged 12, 12 and 14, ready to hit the road.

Some other cousins came for dinner with their 10-month-old identical twin daughters. This is the best age of babyhood as far as I'm concerned: all smiles, no stranger anxiety and still with some extra rolls. We just drank them up. So delicious!

Next stop: Rancho Palos Verdes and the new Terranea Resort. The Terranea has an exquisite location on the peninsula. The highlight of this part of our trip was seeing Dave, Jackie and the kids. Oh and the Wayfarers Chapel, designed by Lloyd Wright, Frank's son. It's nearly all constructed of glass and sits in the forest overlooking the ocean.

Third stop: Santa Maria via Santa Barbara. We stayed at the Santa Maria Inn, a historic hotel in built in the old center of town in 1917. Historic = barely modernized with the original antiques. We were upgraded to a suite and it had a beautiful view of a parking lot and Shaw's Steakhouse, where we ate an amazing dinner actually. Santa Maria style BBQ is smokey and tender.

Fourth stop: Cayucos, a fairly untouched beach town on the central coast. We stayed in a kitschy motel, which Thing 1 was so upset about that she cried real tears. Another teaching moment. We walked the pier, rented Thing 2 a wet suit and watched her boogie board, and went into nearly every shop in the two-block downtown. Little sleep was had in Cayucos, however, because of either the funky smell in the room or the mattress quality. Our best meal of the trip was in Cayucos. More on that in another post.

En route home we visited the Elephant Seal Rookery at Piedras Blancas. This was one of the highlights of our trip. The male seals are molting now on the shore. The 4,000 lb beasts haul themselves onto the beach then take a two-month snooze. They line up like logs and look and smell disgusting in the most fascinating of ways.

We toured Hearst Castle and had a very late lunch in Paso Robles before counting the California Missions up the 101 home. Takeaway from Hearst Castle: the original property included 30 miles of California beachfront land. Can you imagine?!

Who knew the central California coast was so interesting? Perhaps the soccer families, who spend a lot of time in San Luis Obispo++. We'll go back again.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Whatcha doin' Sept 13?

When am I going to get off my Mean Girls soapbox? Trust me, I'd like to.

Regardless, I still have three daughters. And there are still Mean Girls out there. And stereotypes of how girls should behave.

Some of you know what I am about to tell you. For those of you in that category, and for those of you who are not, I ask you to spread the word. Please send your East Bay friends with daughters aged 8 to 14 this blog post. Viral marketing (yes, I still work in tech) is effective and the best way to reach like-minded parents with this message.

So ... Rachel Simmons, who wrote the international bestseller Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, is speaking in Danville at the Los Cerros Middle School gym on Monday, Sept 13 from 7 - 8:30pm. There is no cost to attend this event.

I've loved and hated Rachel's content so much that I've twice arranged for Rachel's Girls Leadership Institute workshops to take place in Danville so we could address this as a community.

She will be speaking for 90 minutes from her second book, The Curse of the Good Girl. It provides practical strategies to empower girls and their parents to be confident, courageous and self-aware. The talk is appropriate for ages 8 and up. There will be books there to buy should you feel the need. Or you can borrow mine. (Who has them, by the way?)


More than a thousand people came to hear Rachel speak last year at Gunn High School in Palo Alto. Advance registration is a must. You can register by clicking here.

Thank you for helping me help us all.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Rubby Ducky, you're the one!

Eldest Daughter and I volunteered with Children's Hospital Oakland this week, prepping ducks for the annual Rubber Ducky Derby Fundraiser.

We did this in Frank Ogawa Plaza near City Hall. Is it pathetic of me to be honest and tell you that the best part was getting to know some other NCL moms and daughters and seeing a new part of Oakland?!

Sorting toiletries at Wardrobe for Opportunity, the previous day, was more rewarding. Perhaps because we got to see a few of the people the program benefits? Our summer sampler of philanthropic endeavors continues ...

Did I mention that we also baked eight dozen cookies for Diablo Theatre Company and made a meal for Children's House this week?

I guess I am a Type A after all.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Market Issue


Those three words got me to buy a copy of Saveur, which I have never read before. That and this photo.

Garlic and tomatoes and olive oil. Foodie heaven. Here's the recipe although that's not what this post is about.

Food Markets. Amazing. I go nuts in them. The biggies like La Boqueria in Barcelona. And the small ones like the one whose name I do not know in Cannes. My local Farmer's Market. The huge one in Pellissane with the 5-foot-in-diameter paella pan. The one in Chiang Mai with the fried insects. The Flower Market in Hong Kong. It counts. Some flowers are edible.

I'm not sure what it is about Food Markets. After all, I'm not an especially adventurous eater. Saveur contained an entire article on the merchandising at these markets -- how fruit is stacked in pyramids because it's most appealing.

As much as I consider myself a market connoisseur, I had only been to one of the 30 markets on Saveur's map of significant markets. And I only went to that one once -- it's the Dane County Farmer's Market in Madison, Wisconsin, where I spent four years at college! I guess I wasn't a foodie back then. Hilary, my college friend, did go a lot, which I find surprising since she has lived in NYC since graduating.

Some of our best travel finds are from the markets: Provencial fabric which is now a quilt for Thing 2, bars of olive oil soap, spit-roasted Bresse-Gauloise chickens and vegetables, stinky cheeses whose names I immediately forgot, teeny tiny strawberries, utilitarian baking dishes, spices.

Next summer's vacation rental was selected in part by Saveur's mention that the most beautiful food market in Italy is nearby. I look forward to seeing the mosaic-arranged fruit and letting Neeracha sample the cavallo, the local delicacy of horsemeat. Stay tuned.