Sunday, May 30, 2010

Lucky Seventeen!

Seventeen years ago today Dave and I got married in a torrential rainstorm. The last time it rained in the Napa Valley on May 30 was 99 years prior.

"They" said that it's good luck if it rains on your wedding day. "They" said that it means you'll have lots of children. We laughed. And moved our outdoor winery wedding into the cellar. It was more intimate than we'd anticipated but the end result was the same -- we got hitched.

Apparently "they" were right as we've had three children together, something I would never in my wildest dreams have imagined. It's been a heck of a ride and I'm glad Dave and I are in this together.

Happy anniversary, Sweetie. You are truly my better half and I am grateful for you every single day.

Friends and Family -- any memories to share from this day?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

So you want a cell phone?

Dave is brilliant. Just brilliant.

The eight-year-old Pinks want cell phones, just like their big sister. They don't need cell phones.

Every now and then, at the end of the school day, Thing 1 borrows some random child's cell phone and calls us from the bus to let us know Thing 2 is not on the bus. Then Thing 2 hops on the bus at the very last moment and Thing 1 calls back to tell us that Thing 2 did not miss the bus after all. In the nine months that The Pinks have taken the bus, Thing 2 has never missed it coming home.

The thing is, cell phones are easily misplaced. If we had an extra phone for the little kids, chances are they'd lose it.

Here's the part where Dave's brilliance comes in.

Today he gave the little kids each a golf ball. They need to keep track of it and at any given time one of us can ask where their "phone" is and they have to be able to produce it within 60 seconds. They don't have to keep it on them, they just have to know where it is. This will show us if they're responsible enough to have a phone.

As I am typing this Thing 2 has come in here asking if I know where her "phone" is. What do you think?!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

iPhone Fun!

I discovered a new use for my iPhone on Monday! The kids and I headed to the local retail shopping district and I parked at a meter. Then I set the timer on the phone to ring when there were 10 minutes left before the meter expired. How ingenious was this?!

My guilty iPhone pleasure these days is a game called Words with Friends. It's social Scrabble. The game is played over hours, days or weeks between two iPhones. Users take turns and the application keeps score, as you have to do manually in Scrabble. I am in four games now -- one with Neeracha (although I don't think she knows it -- your username is Neeracha, correct?), one with Amy, one with Abby and one with Wendi, my work friend who was up way past midnight on the east coast doing this last night. This has replaced Wurdle as my favorite iPhone game.

David Lebovitz just released an iPhone app and I have it but it's not one of my go to apps. I guess I could use it in the grocery store if I forget to meal plan. Who I am kidding here?! I don't grocery shop.

What do you like about your iPhone these days?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Dancing with myself

Yup. We're Gleeks. Eldest Daughter, Paige and I flew to LA yesterday and met up with my sister-in-law and nieces to see Glee Live.

Lea Michele, not surprisingly, stole the show. She is a talented vocalist with strong stage presence. The staging, while not elaborate, was creative enough for a four-city tour. All 6,000 seats in the Gibson Amphitheater at Universal Citywalk were within 150 feet of the stage. We had a good view!

The show included well-loved hits -- Sweet Caroline, Rehab, Jump, Like a Prayer, Beautiful, True Colors, Somebody to Love, Push it, Don't Stop Believing, and my personal favorite: Defying Gravity.

Heather Morris, who plays dumber-than-dirt Brittany, surprised us all with her dance moves. Who knew that Naya Rivera, "Santana" could really sing?! Dianna Agron, aka Quinn, faded into the background. My favorite character, Kurt, was fun to watch, especially in his Lady Gaga getup, which will been seen on TV this week. Most of the performance was live.

We left the show hoarse from singing at the top of our lungs and tired from all that dancing.

Thanks, Michelle, for a fun time! And for making us breakfast this morning before our too-early flight!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Adventures in Entertaining

Our neighbors, Jill and Wally, are wonderful entertainers.

We've been to several parties at their house and had dinner there, too. A while back I asked Jill if I could be her sous chef while she prepped for a dinner party. I could be helpful and learn, too. We tried to sync calendars and it didn't work very well. Finally Jill suggested we co-host a dinner party.

That was Saturday night.

We served David Lebovitz's Fresh Ginger Cake with berries, Caesar salad with grilled romaine, fish tacos, guacamole and chips, and margaritas. Note that I led with dessert!

On Friday Jill and I set the table, arranged flowers and baked. Saturday I did the Farmer's Market run, made the whipped cream and Caesar salad dressing, and chopped tomatoes, cilantro and scallions to go in the guac. Then Jill and I assembled everything. I'm not much of a fish taco girl as Rubio's is really my only comparison point. However, these were really good and I'll make them again in a heartbeat. Jill insisted we get the tortillas and chips from a Mexican restaurant instead of the grocery store; I'd highly recommend this approach.

My ever-thoughtful husband got off a plane from Chicago on time and made it to dinner just as our friends from Mountain View arrived.

It was a really nice evening -- the four couples had much in common and I was surprised how late it was when we got home.

David Lebovitz's Fresh Ginger Cake
  • 4 ounces fresh ginger
  • 1 cup mild molasses
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil, preferably peanut
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature

Position the oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9 by 3-inch round cake pan or a 9 1/2 inch springform pan with a circle of parchment paper.

Peel, slice and chop the ginger very fine with a knife (or use a grater). Mix together the molasses, sugar, and oil. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper.

Bring the water to the boil in a saucepan, stir in the baking soda, and then mix the hot water into the molasses mixture. Stir in the ginger.

Gradually whisk the dry ingredients into the batter. Add the eggs, and continue mixing until everything is thoroughly combined. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for about 1 hour, until the top of the cake springs back lightly when pressed or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. If the top of the cake browns too quickly before the cake is done, drape a piece of foil over it and continue baking.

Cool the cake for at least 30 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Remove the cake from the pan and peel off the parchment paper. Serve with whipped cream and fruit.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Don't bother with your VISA card for Chanel purchases at Neiman's

I'm not much of a Neiman's gal. The shoe salon is too tempting. (Hello Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin!) Every now and then I have a quick lunch at the cafe, which is very close to Britex Fabrics, one of my favorite stores. But mostly I walk past it.

However, many moons ago Kymi told me about Rocky, the guy at the Chanel makeup counter. Apparently Rocky is the master at picking lipstick.

So this week, while I was in the city for a conference, I dashed across Union Square to Neiman's and sought out Rocky. He did not disappoint.

I challenged Rocky to find me the perfect red. I think red lipstick is so elegant but I don't have the nerve to wear red red. After a long and somewhat complex process which I won't go into because it was quite fun and I'd encourage you to have a go at it, Rocky and I found the ideal classic red shade for me.

However, when I pulled out my VISA to pay for it, Rocky nicely let me know that my options were AMEX or Neiman's cards, or cash. Hmmm. Fortunately I had enough cash in my wallet to cover it.

We'll see how long it takes me to get up the nerve to wear this gorgeous red out of the house!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Just show me the kitchen.

It's that time again -- I'm looking for a Summer 2011 vacation rental. The best houses let a year in advance so it's me against the clock right now.

We take a big family vacation every other year. Last summer we went to Spain with our extended clan. Next summer we're probably going back to Italy.

What's not to love about Italy?! The pasta / gelato / pizza / wine is incredible and even the most discriminating young child will eat something. The locals are welcoming. The scenery is beautiful. The architecture draws you in, especially the ornate churches. And the shoes and leather goods are tempting enough to get even the most conservative shopper into debt.

After three go rounds at this we know that the kitchen is the most accurate gauge of the condition of the rest of the house. If the kitchen is spotless and modern, the rest of the house will be, too. If it's got cracked countertops then the floor boards in the bedrooms will squeak. If the chairs at the kitchen table are mismatched then there will be no recliners by the pool. If there is art hanging in the kitchen then the flowers outside the front door will be in full bloom when we arrive. Trust me on this one.

The two kitchens pictured here are on our short list for 2011. I've just emailed the owners. Let's hope that one of them is available on our chosen dates.

We're getting pickier over the years, too. We like the pool to be not too close to the house. We like to have our own bathrooms. We like screens on our windows. We like to be walking distance from town. And we like our wifi to be reliable and fast!

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The difference between an apology and an excuse

This was something else we learned in our Girls Leadership workshop.

For an apology to work, it has to be sincere. Often people confuse apologizing with making excuses.

Here are some examples:

Apology: I'm sorry I was late picking you up at school today.
Excuse: I'm sorry I was late picking you up at school today; there was a lot of traffic.

Apology: I'm sorry that there is no milk in the house for your cereal; I know you prefer cereal over waffles in the morning.
Excuse: I'm sorry that there is no milk in the house for your cereal but your father forgot to stop at Safeway on his way home from work last night.

The word "but" has no place in an apology. It's a clear indicator that the apology is really an excuse.

Listen to your next apology and see if it's really an apology or if it's an excuse.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day 2010

Leslie and Linda and Leslie's Lord Sampson. 1967.

Slept in. Had Eldest Daughter's biscuits for breakfast. Watched Mean Girls. Napped. Quilted. Read. Made dinner. Enjoyed dinner with extended family. Getting back in bed with book now. Pure heaven!

Happy Mother's Day all!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

What's your favorite cookbook?

I was just in the kitchen, looking at my cookbooks, thinking of what to make for dinner with the extended clan on Mother's Day.

As I've mentioned before, I collect cookbooks. The newest one is A Passion for Baking. I bought it because my friend Jacquie often bakes from it. Every single thing that comes out of her oven (even those scalloped potatoes) is so good that I want to run away and hide and not share. I can't do this, though, because I'd be unpopular amongst the softball parents, who benefit from Coach Jacquie's baking at almost every game.

There's a rice cookbook named Seduction of Rice which I've never used and is now out of print. But I won't throw it away because I bought it after a long conversation about rice with my late father-in-law.

I use Chez Panisse Vegetables and Chez Panisse Fruit all the time. These are my go to books when I buy something random at the Farmer's Market.

Thom and Sara thoughtfully sent me the Mario Batali and Gwyneth Paltrow Spain cookbook, based on their trip and PBS series. I like the pictures and am reminded of our trip. But Spanish food isn't my favorite.

A few years ago Neeracha bought Eldest Daughter Cupcakes! I bet I've made half the recipes in there. The best is the one that resembles Millie's coffee cake. We also like the banana caramel ones.

I bought The Silver Palate cookbook at the suggestion of S, whose favorite it is. Bleh.

My favorite cookbook, my go to cookbook for all things, is the original Barefoot Contessa. The roasted chicken. The coconut cupcakes. The swordfish. The Indonesian ginger chicken. The chocolate chunk cookies. Everything I've ever made is divine. I love you, Ina, even though you're a bit of a freak on TV. Thank you for making me fat, dumb and happy.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Happy Birthday Dave!

It's my better half's birthday. Isn't he adorable?! He's taking one for the team today (hopefully it's not too much of a sacrifice, Sweetie!) and playing in The Pinks' elementary school golf tournament fundraiser.

Here are ten things you may not know about him:

1. His favorite ice cream is Loard's peppermint.
2. He is smart. Really smart. I don't tell him this very often because I'm competitive.
3. He is an exceptional, loyal friend.
4. He thinks camping is when you don't stay on the concierge level of the hotel.
5. He, his mother and his grandmother were born at the same hospital in Oakland.
6. He makes the best guacamole! This may be a residual from going to school in San Diego.
7. He has only lived outside of California once, and that was during a college summer when he went to school in Hawaii.
8. He is very proud of his high school friend Bill, who hates climbing and is attempting to climb Mt. Everest this month.
9. His daughters are his whole world. Giving up that sales management job paid off because they are very attached to him. In addition, they tell me, "We prefer the lunches Daddy makes us."
10. He always knows what to say and what to do, and he says and does them. He is my best source of advice, both business and otherwise, logic and sanity.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Roast Chicken with Carmelized Shallots

I could be friends with David Lebovitz. He lives in Paris, he's funny, he leads chocolate tours, he bakes and cooks better than Martha and his recipes never disappoint.

Sunday night seems to be a good night to post a homey, family-style chicken recipe. No, I didn't make this tonight but I well could have. This chicken recipe could well become one of my staples. It's easy to make and you can use the leftovers in so many different ways: in soup, in sandwiches with the shallots on top of the chicken, tossed with pasta, in risotto. Enjoy!

Roast Chicken with Carmelized Shallots
serves 4-6

I used eight pieces of chicken -- breasts and legs. You can use the equivalent of a whole chicken in any way you want.

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
4 large shallots, peeled and sliced
sea salt or Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
One whole chicken or 8 pieces of chicken
One generous
handful of coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. Preheat the oven to 425F.

2. In a large baking dish, one which will hold all the chicken pieces in a single layer, mix the olive oil, vinegar, soy sauce, shallots, and some salt and pepper.

3. Toss the chicken in the mixture, so they're completely coated with the shallots. Turn the chicken pieces so they are all skin side up.

4. Roast the chicken for about twenty minutes, until it starts to brown on top. Turn the pieces of chicken over. Scrape any juices and shallots over the chicken that may be clinging to the pan, and bake for another twenty minutes, or until the pieces of chicken are cooked through and the shallots are well-caramelized.

5. Remove from oven and toss in the chopped parsley, then serve.