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.