Saturday, January 30, 2010

Twelve.

Eldest Daughter turns 12 this week. Her party was over the weekend -- pizza, designer cupcakes and the roller rink.

Observations:

1. Gift cards are this year's IT gift.
2. A child that is not permitted to spend her gift cards until her thank you notes are written gets them done very quickly.
3. Taylor Swift is played a lot at the roller rink.
4. Inline skates are more popular than quad skates.
5. The local roller rink has not been redecorated nor had its carpet replaced since it opened in 1976.
6. Roller skating uses different muscles than does downhill skiing and the floor is a lot harder than snow, too.
7. The line to get in is very long on Friday nights and seems longer when it's raining.
8. Sisters and parents are a liability.
9. Roller skates come in sizes ranging from Toddler 6 to Adult 15. Surprisingly, there were a lot of preschoolers there.
10. The DJ thinks his britches are bigger than they actually are. And he's creepy, too.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I can see clearly now.

Actually, it's Dave that can.

He got Lasik today! He's wanted to do this for several years and finally his vision had been stable long enough to do so. The doctor he picked has done these for 20 years and claims to have done more than 65,000 pairs of eyes. Dave put it this way: I'm not as much interested in the number of times he's done the procedure, I'm more interested in him having seen all the problems it could possibly cause and knowing how to fix them.

The procedure room has floor-to-ceiling glass facing the waiting room. I didn't watch, though. Just the thought of it made me queasy.

Dave joked that he needed a personal assistant to manage the recovery. He wasn't kidding! Two different kinds of drops for five days at different intervals, another set of drops once an hour when he's awake for six weeks. Goggles so he doesn't scratch his eyes nor get any dust in them -- different ones for indoor and outdoor, no swimming or hot tubs for a week, and no contact sports for six months.

It's been fun tending to him today. In all our years together I've nearly always been the patient: two challenging pregnancies, a spur-of-the-moment Achilles tendon surgical repair and the removal of my appendix and gallbladder. I'm glad to be able to give back, at least a little!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Snow Days

After two days of pouring rain down here in the Bay, I couldn't stand it anymore. Late Sunday night I drove to Tahoe. It was just as I'd expected: a painstakingly slow drive in a snowstorm. More than a foot of new snow had fallen since I'd last been up and the magic of Tahoe was in full force: pine trees seemingly dipped in white frosting, pristine white snow covering the homes and a ski village full of happy people, drunk on fresh powder.

I had a lazy Monday grocery shopping, reading and visiting with our neighbors, most of whom were heading back to the Bay that night. On impulse I decided not to cook dinner and instead went to Mamasake, my favorite restaurant in The Village. There I ran into Dan, just back from his year in Iraq, and his family. What were the chances?! It was great to catch up with them and a huge surprise to us all.

Tuesday I spent working from the couch, watching more and more snow fall. Late in the afternoon I drove to Rebel's house, played Scrabble and made dinner there. Dorie Greenspan's Chicken in the Pot recipe is both simple and delicious, and so I'm sharing it.

Rinse and repeat Wednesday without the dinner. The storm was still in full swing and the mountain was closed. The happy residents of Squaw Valley turn grumpy when there is fresh powder and no easy way to the top. Not wanting to be dragged down by them and also seeing the forecast of heavy snow for the rest of the week, I packed up the car and drove home in the same slow manner in which I drove up.

I'm irritated as I type, however, because the storm changed course and this morning turned out to be clear and crowd free. My brother taught me this one: it was a There-Are-No-Friends-On-Fresh-Powder Day. Bummer for me.

CHICKEN-IN-THE-POT
Makes 4 servings
  • Approximately 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 heads of garlic, broken into cloves, but not peeled
  • 16 shallots, peeled and trimmed, or 4 onions, peeled, trimmed and quartered, or 4 leeks, white part only, halved lengthwise
  • 8 carrots, peeled, trimmed and quartered
  • 4 celery stalks, trimmed and quartered
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 chicken, whole or cut-up
  • 1/2 small (2 lbs or less) cabbage, green or red, cut into 4 wedges (try Savoy cabbage)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup white wine, or another 1/2 cup chicken broth
Preheat the oven to 450F.

Set a large skillet over high heat and add about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Toss in the garlic cloves and all the vegetables, except the cabbage - you might have to do this in two batches, you don't want to crowd the skillet - season generously with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are lightly browned on all sides. Spoon the vegetables into a large Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid - you'll need a pot that holds at least 5 quarts. Stir in the herbs, lemon zest and prunes, if you're using them.

Return the skillet to the heat and add another tablespoon or so of oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and brown the chicken on all sides. Put the chicken in the casserole, nestling it among the vegetables. Fit the cabbage wedges around the chicken.

Stir together the chicken broth, wine and 1/2 cup olive oil and pour the mixture over the chicken and vegetables.

Cover the pot with a sheet of aluminum foil and the lid. Slide the pot into the oven and bake for 70 minutes. If you need to keep it in the oven a little longer because you're not ready for it, don't worry - turn the heat down to 325F and you'll be good for another 30 minutes or so. If the chicken was whole, quarter it and return it to the pot, so that you can serve directly from the pot, or arrange the chicken and vegetables on a serving platter.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Birthday party? Check. Quilt? Check.

This weekend brought Martin Luther King's birthday and also dark skies which threatened rain. Thing 1 had her birthday party so going to Tahoe with the rest of the San Francisco Bay Area ski population wasn't an option.

I dragged Eldest Daughter to services at the synagogue nearest our home on Friday night. I'm glad we went because it was good for her to see how different groups worship. It also validated our choice to affiliate with a synagogue a bit further away, and where our cousin is the Rabbi.

Our Saturday morning was spent at Zaza having our nails and toes done, and eating Rice Krispie sushi, doughnuts, chocolate fondue, Jamba Juice smoothies and her favorite candy. Thing 1 was in her best, girliest form and it was a sweet, intimate fete. I just love Target. She's working on her thank you notes as I type.

Note to locals: the doughnut shop near our house was a zoo at 9am! I'm not sure what that was about -- it's not soccer season. The line was out the door both when we arrived and when we left. Is it the only purveyor in town?!

I did manage to finish The Quilt and am happy to have it off my to do list and ready for all of you high rollers.

Other weekend highlights included an impromptu dinner at Norm's with another family and Sunday night dinner at Wally and Jill's, down the street.

The low point of the weekend, if you asked the kids, was our venture to the south bay to look at new family room furniture. Both the drive and the time we spent in the showroom were too long for their taste. Fortunately they had several TVs on showing football so that placated Dave, who was a very good sport. Anyone out there want to finish up this project? I've been at a loss since our interior designer moved to St. Louis three years ago. I've got a lot of skills and interests, however, home decoration is not one of them.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Thanks but no thanks.

I could not make this stuff up if I tried.

Our gemelli just turned eight. And because their mother is a stickler for manners and a writer, the rule in our home is that gifts must be acknowledged before they are used.

Our thank you notes are formulaic: they must be at least three sentences of not fewer than five words. One of The Pinks, who shall remain nameless but who is referenced further in this post, tried to use Peace Out Sucker as a closing. You can imagine what I told her as I laughed until tears ran down my cheeks.

Thing 2 wrote this note to our nanny. Fortunately Rosa does not have a computer and will never know that this piece of stellar writing existed, albeit briefly. When Thing 2 and I reviewed this note and discussed the reasons it might not be appropriate to send, she tried to convince me that honesty was the best policy.

Oh my.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

It's ski race season!

Thing 2 had her first ski race of the season on Saturday. She was the fastest one in her group. Sadly, she forgot all about the gates so you can imagine the end result. Live and learn.

Dave joined The Olympic Club downhill ski team this year and his first race was Saturday at Northstar. He did great -- finishing 4th out of sixty.

After the races we had dinner with the extended Farley clan at the beautiful log-style home they rented on the other side of The Valley. They put together a great dinner and there was lots of space for the kids to run around. It was a really nice night and also a treat to leave The Village, which we don't often do during ski season.

Thing 2 wasn't much in the mood to train with her team Sunday so she, Eldest Daughter and I skied with my brother and his five-year-old, who I affectionately refer to as The Blond Bombshell. She has creamy skin, blond curls and big blue eyes.

It's been a long time since I skied with my brother and I wish I'd had my Flip instead of my digital camera. He skis like the boards are a natural extension of his legs. It was fun watching him ski backwards spotting The Blond Bombshell. Here's a rare picture of the two of us. He has somehow taught The Blond Bombshell to put on her own boots and carry her skis. I have some work to do with Thing 2.

Thing 2 is happiest when barreling down the mountain at full speed and we all had a blast together. That the skies were blue and the temps in the 40s was just a bonus.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Just put one foot in front of the other.

Our friend Bill is going to attempt to summit Mt. Everest this spring. Bill is an experienced mountaineer and does not yet have children so really, it's just another Boys' Trip, albeit a long, expensive one.

We saw Bill up at Tahoe over the holidays and he said one thing has been on replay in my mind ever since: I hate every moment of climbing.

Excuse me?!

He told us that climbing itself isn't glamorous. Two plus months without a shower. It's hard to breathe. Your pack is heavy and you're pulling a sled of gear behind you. It's hard to sleep. The food sucks and your digestive system is whacked out. It's cold. You smell. Your climbing buddies smell.

Why do it then? For the thrill of the accomplishment? For bragging rights? For that one picture from the top of the country / continent / world?

No. Bill says he does it for the solitude. It's hours upon hours of think time, time he just doesn't get in his daily life. It's 12 hour days of putting one foot in front of the other, letting the mind wander and being able to contemplate.

I respect this. But I'm not sure I understand it. If you dislike the actual climbing then isn't it easier to rent a deserted Mediterranean island for a month and go solo?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Back in that scary place

No one volunteered to do Thing 2's Class Auction Project this year so here I am again. I did another quilt, this time with a Halloween theme. Everyone loves Halloween, right? It's not as technically sophisticated as last year's fabric recreation of our community but it is clever in a children's sort of way. I think.

Thing 1's class did a Halloween quilt last year. The parent who made it is a professional quilter and both the design and execution were gorgeous. It did not go for as high as either of us expected, and the parent later speculated that she thought its use might be limited as people will only display it during the Fall. Heck, if I had been the high bidder it would have hung front and center in our home year round. But it went to someone else. My creation of another seasonal quilt will test this theory.

Sadly, I'm in that place where it just needs finishing touches and I can't decide if it's the ugliest thing I've ever stitched or if it's really cute. I only feel this way about Class Auction Projects because so many people see them. It's as if a bit of my self worth is tied up in how much this project brings in for our school. With the quilts I make for my family and friends I don't give this a second thought.

Time to get over it and just be done with it! Bring on the high rollers.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Welcome Mr. Squiggles!

Dear Cepia, LLC,

Our twins are now the proud owners of three Zhu Zhu Pets: Mr. Squiggles, Numb Numbs and Chunk. Thanks to a shopping savvy friend, our precious offspring have this year's IT toy.

I've gotta tell you -- these motorized toy hamsters rock! Although they make 40 annoying sounds, they do have an OFF button, unlike the iDog, which drives my blood pressure up every time I think about it.

Their Fun House and Hamster Wheel were easily assembled by the now-eight-year-old and in the 18 hours since their arrival Casa Pink, have provided much entertainment, which was a relief to last night's babysitter.

Our children have long been pet deprived due to my lack of interest in taking on one more thing and my husband's allergies.

I am especially grateful for these creatures given my own childhood experience with hamsters, culminating with the escape of one and my father having to use his jigsaw to cut apart the back wall of the bathroom cabinet in order to rescue it.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts, creators of Zhu Zhu Pets, for helping us save face.

Sincerely,

Three Pinks Mom


P/S Thing 2 really wants a horse. Do you have anything in the works there?

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Tiffany bookmark.

I came across this gift enclosure in the most roundabout of ways.

Two weeks ago Dave received a Facebook friend request from one of his college roommates. After not thinking of Tim for more than 20 years, perhaps a month ago Dave and I were reminiscing about the double date we'd had with Tim and his girlfriend-now-wife sailing in San Diego's Mission Bay.

And then this week Tim arrives on our doorstep, bag in hand, to stay with us while his 16-year-old played in a local basketball tournament. It was great to catch up with him. This led me to pull out my scrapbooks, in search of those sailing pictures.

I didn't find them. But I did find this note from Hillary's parents that accompanied a Tiffany bookmark they gave me as a graduation gift. They have no idea how much I've used that bookmark over the years, how much it's helped me sate my obsessive love of language. In fact, it's in the book I am reading now, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

I thought it such a classy gift at the time and still do. Sharon and Lou -- many thanks again. You have no idea how much your gift touched me, and continues to.