Thursday, April 29, 2010

Who is Carey Mulligan?

Vanity Fair calls her one of the new generation of talented actors. She'd be easy to miss, though: her face is forgettable, her haircut is nondescript. But she puts on a heck of a performance in An Education.

This was one of the best movies I've seen in a long time, set in the moment just before England started to swing, just before the Beatles arrived. It's a coming-of-age story of a young woman in the 1960s in England. Among them is Jenny Miller, a 16-year-old girl of talent, intelligence, passion, and ambition who harbors dreams of college and travel and men and mirth and music. One afternoon, she and her cello are caught in a downpour and accept a ride home from David, an older man of taste, means, and, though Jenny doesn’t quite allow herself to notice, secrets and cunning.

That short car trip is the first leg of a journey into the future, a dazzling horizon of concerts and suppers and night clubs and champagne and cigarettes and sex and more than a few lies. This new life entices her, in no small part because of its contrast to her dully proper suburban home. For all her uncommon assets, remember, she is still only a schoolgirl, and the conflict between the dictates of her parents and teachers and her own strong-willed impulse toward personal freedom is a matter of real struggle and drama.

It's rated PG-13 and I think I will let Eldest Daughter watch it. The lesson is that good.

Watch it. Soon.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Can nice girls excel at competitive soccer?

I think so.

Thing 2 is trying out for Division 3 soccer. We'll know in the next few days if she made the cut.

During the first round of tryouts, last weekend, I noticed that five girls from our Girls Leadership Workshop were there. How great would it be to have a team of all GLI graduates? The kids would get along fabulously and the parents would not tolerate any girl drama. Of course this will never happen but it's a nice fantasy.

I'm very happy to let you know that Rachel Simmons' workshops are returning to our suburb in October. We should have our original, brilliant facilitator, GLI assistant director Julia Loonin.

There are two sessions -- one for grades 2 & 3 and one for grades 4 & 5. Each workshop is four weeks long and it's for 1.5 to 2 hours each week. The younger girls are Tuesday evenings, the older girls are Thursday evenings. It's limited to 15 parent-child sets and the cost is $160 per pair. As I type this, they are about half full.

We got so much out of this. We now know about part-time friends, how to confidently respond to or walk away from a bullying situation, and how and when to apologize. We know why girls are aggressive and how to diffuse them. We know the power of using body language to reinforce our words. The kids especially loved the role play because they could play out real situations in a safe environment. Just today The Pinks used the double apology technique during an argument.

As an aside, I don't profit from this other than helping to shape a community we're proud to be a part of, and one that will be easier for our daughters, and for our families. Quite a few people have asked me if I teach these. Gosh no!

Consider this an investment in your future sanity and encourage your friends and their daughters to check this out. More information about the Rachel Simmons' Girls Leadership Institute can be found by clicking here. You can register for the workshops by clicking here or by using the link at the top right of my blog.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Top 10 - Dordogne Vacation Cancellation

I'm still working through the disappointment of not going to southwest France this week. However, there are more than ten good things that happened as a result of this change in plans.

1. I skied in a storm. It's been years since I skied in a storm. And a storm isn't bad when it's just falling snow unaccompanied by wind. The powder was pristine and it was a great day on the mountain.

2. Thing 2 and I rode our bikes to school on Earth Day.

3. I got to know H's twin a bit, the other Leslie. She paints! And now she blogs!

4. I discovered Fountains in Roseville, a cute outdoor mall with good restaurants (including The Counter!) that we'll be able to stop at en route to and from the mountains.

5. I became a fan of Tina Fey and Steve Carrel.

6. I got three consecutive nights of 8+ hours of sleep.

7. I am able to attend the community forum on our schools, which are in crisis due to state budget cuts.

8. I learned to Skype.

9. Paige and I had time to catch up. Really talk. About the kids and men and school and skiing and food and movies and books and travel and celebrities. Did you notice that we never even turned on the radio in the car, Paige? My jaw got an equal workout to my legs!

10. Eldest Daughter and I were able to attend the first NCL mother-daughter meeting together. The most exciting part about this is that the philanthropies that I was most interested in, she was too!

11. I only visually consumed the caloric intake of all the ice cream Neeracha ate in France instead of actually ingesting it myself.

12. I still got to plan the trip, which is a big part of my enjoyment. I love the anticipation of an adventure and doing all the research. (In case you are wondering, no, I will not give up my day job to be a travel agent.)

As an aside, I called Delta yesterday to refund my airline tickets. The first representative I spoke with told me that the second leg was not refundable because the flight had not been canceled and may, in fact, fly as scheduled. I tried to explain to her that I never got to France because Delta canceled my hop over the pond. This was beyond her comprehension. I hung up and called Air France, the code share partner. They obliged immediately.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Date Night (with Paige)

While Neeracha and H are gallivanting around the Dordogne intermittently crying that we're not with them, Paige and I came up to Tahoe for some late Spring skiing.

The French contingent go to the caves at Lascaux II and look for Michelin-starred restaurants for dinner. It's Monday and none are open so they have a traditional, three-course Perigord meal in Domme for the bargain price of €15.

The Squaw contingent enjoys a windless day of Spring skiing with blue skies, no crowds and temps in the 50s mostly on Shirley Lake and Granite Chief. Paige gets a stellar deal on boots and skis. And then they go to the movies. Did you even know there was a movie theater in Tahoe City?!

The Boston contingent purges closets in Boston. (So sorry, other Leslie!)

Late in the day the French contingent and the Squaw contingent Skype and Team Tahoe is given a tour of the Beynac house. We all laugh over the bizarreness and hilarity of the situation. I find it so strange to have the four of us in one virtual place although I'm not sure why since I spend half my working hours on WebEx video calls.

Date Night, starring Tina Fey and Steve Carell, made us laugh. The actors share an excellent chemistry and play off each other's antics really well from wit to the timing of their physical comedy. I had a big smile on my face when I left the theater because it was one of those movies where I just had a good time watching it. No Eldest Daughter, you will not be seeing this.

Supporting roles go to the shirtless Mark Wahlberg, Taraji P. Henson, Mila Kunis, James Franco, Common, Jimmi Simpson, William Fichtner and Ray Liotta. My favorite part of the movie takes place when Fey's character climbs up a fire escape on Avenue D in heels and she references Rent.

Today, Tuesday, the comedy of errors continues. Paige and I had plans to hit spa at the new Ritz Carlton at Northstar. But no, the hotel is closed for three weeks for conversion from winter to summer. However, it's been snowing all morning and we may yet get out and enjoy some freshies.

I'm still grateful we're not one of the many thousands stranded and sleeping on an airport floor. And Neeracha and H are doing a great job of making us feel like we're there with blog posts and Facebook updates.

Friday, April 16, 2010

This doesn't look like Miraval!?

It started out as a spa trip.

, always up for an adventure, mentioned that we were due for a spa trip. About that same time I came across the Stephmodo blog, where Stephanie detailed her recent and loving restoration of a house in Beynac-et-Cazenac, France.

I said to Neeracha, "Let's go to the Dordogne instead." She only paused slightly before responding "I could do that."

The house slept five so we invited H. She didn't commit for many months; in fact, she never actually let me know she was coming. But I knew she would. Rounding out the party were H's twin sister and the famous blogger, Paige.

La Maisonette has no pool and no yard. It's simply a tastefully decorated village house with a view of the Valley of the Five Chateaux. We planned to leave the kids at home.

Dave tells the story this way: My wife planned a trip to France with her friends to look for houses to us to rent next summer. And then she decided that we'd go to Italy instead. This makes perfect sense depending on how well you know me.

Unfortunately there was the teeny tiny issue of a volcano erupting in Iceland this week, pushing ash into the skies and causing unprecedented bottlenecks in global air traffic. As I type this, 17,000 flights have been canceled. I really thought the airspace over France would be safe to enter by Saturday afternoon. Yet a a mere three hours before our flight was to take off we got the text: AF 083 canceled.

I was stunned. Neeracha and H are already on the continent, having flown in a few days earlier to work. H's sister, coming from the east coast, was able to rebook for Monday. But there are no seats for me and Paige across the pond for six more days.

Right now the spa trip is looking like a local pedi after The Pinks' softball game tomorrow.

I'm happy that three of our five will enjoy the Dordogne and I look forward to reading about it on Neeracha's blog. But I'm sad that I won't be there with them. And I feel like I've disappointed them in not being able to get there to join in the fun. If you have a private jet to lend, now's the time to speak up. This stuff happens. I know it does. And I'm so lucky to be able to do things like this and for it not to be a once in a lifetime trip. But it still stings.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Foursquare is not like hopscotch.

Do you know what a Super Mayor is? If so, you are probably on Foursquare, too. I’m not a Super Mayor and rarely am I a Mayor but I am having fun with this new location-based social networking tool. I use it from my iPhone.

Users earn points and badges, and, if you’re really on top of it, mayorships. Really though, it’s about finding your friends. I don’t get out of my home office much so I like to know where the action is for those times I do get out. Also, a bunch of businesses have deals on Foursquare; check ins result in freebies and discounts.

Look for me on Foursquare!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Taking care of Thom

Dear Thom,

As you very well know, we don't have a guest room. That's because we don't often have house guests. At least down in the Bay. We have them all the time at Tahoe but that's another story.

You are the only house guest we've had in many years. And until now we've ousted Eldest Daughter and put you in her pink, lavender and turquoise room with Marabou boa valences. As the father of two daughters, you are quite at home in there.

However, this is about to end. After a long and arduous hunt, we now have a sofa bed in the family room. The Pinks call it Thom's Room. I know you are a tall man so it's queen sized. Very apropos in our house of girls. Look very carefully at the luxurious brown fabric, Thom. I picked it out knowing how much it would make your baby blues pop. Please let me know what kind of bedding you want for it -- thread count, colors, pillow density, down comforter vs electric blanket, etc. We want you to be as comfortable here as possible and look forward to your return soon.



P/S Read on to hear about my shopping ordeal.

Until last week and the arrival of the sectional with sofa bed, the five of us could not sit together in the family room to watch a movie, the Olympics or have a family discussion. Several months ago I began the quest to replace our existing furniture. And I hate shopping for this kind of stuff.

I looked at all the usual stores: Crate & Barrel, Macy's, West Elm, Room & Board (even venturing there during their sample sale). Nothing seemed quite right. I dragged the entourage down to Eastern Furniture on Superbowl Sunday. Nada except me owing Dave. Have I mentioned how much I hate picking out furniture?

And then we were at our neighbor's place in Tahoe and they had a comfortable, modern sectional with a sofa bed. Which they bought at a very competitive price through our condo's management company along with easily 100 other condo owners buying sectionals. My nightmare was soon to be over!

The office manager was happy enough to get me a quote once I picked out the pieces and fabric. But she reneged once I asked her to have it shipped to our home in the Bay. Nope. The special pricing is for use only up at Tahoe.

So then I had to find a manufacturer's rep in the Bay and start all over again. By the way, I hate this stuff. Tara was very patient with me as I took fabric samples back and forth, had her price upgraded cushions and seats, and a mattress. Unfortunately her price was nearly $2K more than the quote I got for Tahoe. Ouch! I considered having the sofa shipped to Tahoe and then hiring someone to move it down to the Bay.

Fortunately my husband is a smart and fair guy, having spent 18 years in sales and sales management. He told me to give it to Tara straight: You earned this business and I want to give it to you. However, I have another quote for $2K less. Do you want the opportunity to match it? I am happy to fax it over so you can renegotiate with the manufacturer.

And she did!

So now the new sectional is in our family room and the kids spent the better part of one day last week watching TV on it. Thing 2 even spent the first night sleeping on it. Bring on family movie night! And Thom!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The countdown is on.

One week from right now I will be tucked into bed in an antiques-filled house in a Les Plus Beaux Villages de France.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Riding the storm out

Spring Break. I had visions of Hawaii. San Diego. Someplace warm. But then I decided on a girls' trip later in the month so we stayed local. Tahoe is local enough when you have a mortgage payment there. And with a series of storms hitting California the week before Spring Break it was an easy decision.

My Dad, Thing 2 and I drove up during Monday afternoon's storm. My Dad was a star and drove while I did conference calls.

Monday's storm gave way to blue skies Tuesday. I worked in the morning then skied in the afternoon. My brother, ice cream SIL and two blond nieces joined us so my brother and father took the kids skiing in the morning and my SIL proved to me in the afternoon that she can still beat me down the hill on a snowboard. My only goal for this trip was to not break anything; that would really screw up the aforementioned girls' trip.

I do have to give my brother credit. Even his three-year-old now skis and rides the chairlift. I cannot believe she got with the program in 24 hours. Apparently she gave it every last bit of energy she had and after several runs fell asleep on the chair. My brother carried her down the last run and on to the funitel back to the base of the mountain. I wish I had seen this!

We saw two sets of friends from the Bay -- Thing 2 did snowplay with one set and we had the other family over for dinner. Thing 2 was in her element -- lots of kids to run wild with and weather great enough to build snowmen in without worrying that they'd blow over.

I'm sad to go home tonight.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

It works, it works!!!

We had a fairly casual gathering of four families here for dinner Saturday night. I made Dorie Greenspan's chicken in a pot, which was easy enough for the 19 of us.

The highlight of the evening, as dumb as it sounds, was one woman telling me that her daughter successfully used one of the Girls Leadership techniques with a classmate. I cannot even put into words how happy I was that my dream for this program is working, one encounter at a time.

Two of the families were not Bay Area natives and the wives spoke of how different California is from the midwest and east coast, where they'd lived previously. I've lived here since college, now more than 20 years, so I'd never given this topic much thought. We have cultural diversity, good weather and good food. What else is there?!

Do Californians share? Are we unfriendly? I know a lot of people who were born and raised here in this suburb, only having left for college, and who have come back to raise their own families. As a mass generalization, those people seem less interested in cultivating new friends as their closest friends are still their childhood friends.

When I had just one child I could never get friends to refer their babysitters. They were a much guarded secret and of course I had my own parents nearby to sit on occasion. Yet mothers of multiples share babysitting resources because there are not very many sitters who can handle twins from birth to age 4. As another mass generalization, I've found mothers of multiples very inclusive, maybe because we are a sorority of sleep-deprived women, at least during the early years?

I will have to give more thought to that. I think I share. I think I'm friendly. I hope we're teaching The Pinks to be that way, too.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Urban Farming

Everyone's doing it. This is California after all. Our backyard has two raised beds, which is actually a misnomer because they are lowered beds cut into the back slope. Nonetheless, they were constructed for this very purpose: the growing of food.

Every year I plant tomatoes. And every year we don't eat any because there aren't any to eat. One year a vole got them. Another year the sprinklers didn't work right and they withered. And another year we had a windstorm and the tiny plants blew right out of the ground and to places still unknown. Last year I planted them too late. You get the idea?

The only thing I seem to be able to grow is carrots. I love this picture of Thing 2 in my parents' garden. It's the moment when she discovered that carrots actually come from the ground.

This year is no different. I planted tomatoes over the weekend. Two kinds. Cross your fingers for us.

One of Thing 2's friends has a huge garden, probably 1000 sf. I envy their summer bounty. I don't envy their pet tortoise and Spike is the reason that I don't just go over there and raid it in the middle of the night. He might be a trained guard tortoise and I don't want you all to read about me in the paper.

You guys have green thumbs. I know you do. And you have gardens that produce. So here's my ask: when you have too much, call me. I will pick it up and turn it into delicious food we can all eat. I will even come over and pick it myself. I can tend to your garden while you're on vacation this summer!

Remember Jill and her oranges? That's the strategy. We don't even have to eat it together if you don't want to. I will make food for your freezer! I will post my yummy recipes. I might even babysit your kids. But not if they're still in diapers.

Don't these peaches look good? They could morph into peach ice cream for you. Or peach and raspberry cobbler ala The Barefoot Contessa. You know where to find me.