Sunday, February 27, 2011

Paris Goes to San Francisco

Thing 1 penned the most recent book in the My Friend Paris series: Paris Goes to San Francisco.

Our local chocolate shop, Danville Chocolates, hosted yesterday's book release party. About 50 people came to hear Thing 1 read the book and feast on donut holes, chocolate and hot chocolate. The chocolate shop even created My Friend Paris caramel apples, which sold out pronto.

It was a sweet celebration, clearly!

Paris Goes to San Francisco is available on Amazon and at the San Francisco locations of the Boudin Bakery.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fine. It's 2:32. Mommy. Three fingers. Sleepy.

This was a variation of the conversation I had with Thing 2 every two hours Monday night. There is nothing worse than one of your children hurting.

It started innocently enough. Eight glorious feet of snow fell up at Tahoe over five days. We skied. We sledded. We had snowball fights. We made snow angels. We caught snowflakes on our tongues. We watched the icicles on our roof line grow to 15 inches wide and two stories long. And then one of us reached out and touched one. And down it came with a vengeance, on her head.

The sound of your child's scream is like the sound of a car accident: a sound you never forget and one that brings your heart rate from zero to sixty faster than your neighbor's Porsche. I took the stairs two at a time and brought my daughter inside, where she cried for the next 45 minutes. We held her and gave her Tylenol. Finally her cries dulled to moans and we fled the mountains.

An hour into our trip home I texted my favorite pediatric neurosurgeon, also known as Cousin Hal, with the facts. He texted back: ED ASAP. CAT SCAN.

Next: a call to a friend in Sacramento to find out which hospital to take her to. She recommended Sutter Roseville and the reviews on Yelp confirmed it was a top notch facility with a large, efficiently run ED. When we arrived 20 minutes later the ED waiting room looked like a war zone. There were people with bloody head wounds, limbs askew and on and on. Although the triage nurse was very nice, all that gore was freaking Thing 2 out so we hopped back in the car and continued south.

Finally we arrived at John Muir, our local trauma center, and the hospital where all Three Pinks were born. A wonderful PA named Robin Chastain examined Thing 2 and advised against the scan, telling us that the neuro exam did not warrant the amount of radiation the scan would expose her to. I explained to her that my cousin had advised it. She said, "Do you mind me consulting with him?" And then they were on the phone.

Finally, 7.5 hours after we left Tahoe, we were pulled into our garage. Tired does not even begin to describe how I felt, how we all felt.

And now my baby is back to her normal, active self.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Granlibakken

Instead of skiing on Sunday we went sledding at Granlibakken on Tahoe's west shore. This well-hidden resort and conference center has a snow play area and a teeny tiny ski hill. So teeny tiny that there is just a t bar and rope tow. The sledding hill is just high enough that you can walk up it and also steep enough that you can legitimately scream like a wild person going down it.

I'd like to tell you that just the kids sledded but no, I did, too. It was silly fun. I rather enjoy socially acceptable screaming. Paige and her entourage came with us and her dad, Jim, sledded in a suit and tie as he'd come straight from church.

Granlibakken is a neat place. Quaint yet modern facilities. It's family-owned on 74 acres. It'd be a great summer destination because it's an easy walk to Tahoe City and the beaches.

We try to do something new each time we go to Tahoe, be it try a new restaurant or visit a new locale. I cannot fathom that in April we will have owned our Squaw place ten years. How could that be?!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

I wish I liked hot chocolate.

I should like hot chocolate. I like chocolate. I like warm drinks. I like whipped cream. Sadly, I do not like hot chocolate.

Hot chocolate is becoming more and more trendy in the states. We used to have a Bittersweet Chocolate Cafe in our suburb. I worked there a fair amount. But it didn't make it.

Tara Austen Weaver just covered a Hot Chocolate Crawl on her blog, Tea & Cookies. It sounded great, except for the actual consumption of the hot chocolate.

If ever I was to like a particular hot chocolate it would be David Lebovitz's Hot Chocolate With Salted-Butter Caramel.

Neeracha is a hot chocolate connoisseur and blogs about it not infrequently. Here she touches on some she had in Barcelona.

I went to great lengths to locate La Charlotte de l'Isle the last time we were in Paris. How much sense does that make?!

We're up at Tahoe. It's snowing lightly, as our neighbors tell us it has been since Tuesday. The drive up was long yet we were rewarded with vistas of heavily snow-laden pine trees as far as we could see. We drove the back roads for a bit to escape the drudgery of the slow-and-go freeway and were gifted with a freshly plowed road all to ourselves.

Dave has just returned from a trip to the outdoor spa and tells me that the snow is literally 10 feet tall all around it. Pity the 6-foot-tall man responsible for keeping the path from the door to the hot tub clear. I hope he likes hot chocolate.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Old Friends

When Eldest Daughter was in preschool we often socialized with five other families. As circumstances, interests and situations changed we drifted apart. Some friendships are meant to last a lifetime and some live in a specific time and place. This was situational.

Two of us are still very close and I am grateful for the special friendship which has stood the test of time. Last weekend, we ran into a third at the She's All that Conference. I thought it would be awkward but it wasn't. I was just happy to see her.

And then there's Caryl who I met at my first job out of college. She was the first person I showed the ring to when Dave popped the question. She married a great guy and this year, against all odds, they moved to our suburb.

Together they run an events management firm and I spent yesterday working from their offices while my car had its tires changed. So much fun! We worked, we laughed, Scott ran across the street and picked up lunch for us.

Old friends are such a special breed. So are new friends.

I remember my MIL once saying that anyone she's known less than a decade is a new friend.

Although I will never be able to thank all the people who contributed to Eldest Daughter's Bat Mitzvah, I'm going to try.

Caryl baked donut-shaped cupcakes that were all the rage. She and Scott also took all the care packages for the troops home with them after the party and delivered them to our house the next day.

Paige set up all the activities and signage the night of the party. She also hauled home and delivered the signs and leftover centerpiece elements.

Jill made a crack-of-dawn run to the Flower Market Friday morning then created arrangements. She also put together the vegetables and dip for the Kiddush luncheon and provided Eldest Daughter with the fabulous sparkly shoes she wore with the Betsey Johnson pouf. Jill conceptualized the ribbon explosions that adorned the centerpieces and random collection vessels, and taught me how to make them myself.

Mark and Kristin, our sweet next door neighbors, schlepped wine, signs and coat racks to the party, and then the signs and coat racks home. Jackie procured that fabulous wine.

My Aunt Evelyn made the toffee that went fast.

My mother assembled and delivered the hospitality bags and then she, my father, and my MIL also threw a delicious family dinner Friday night before services. My MIL also contributed four cakes and chocolate dipped dried fruit. My mom was in charge of rugelach.

Lori coordinated the oneg Friday night and talked me off the ledge numerous times. She also created the invitations, with Paris' help.

Barry picked up cheesecakes and hauled balloons away.

Many friends and family cooked and baked for the festivities: Coleen, Honey, Jacquie, Sharon, Lainie, Candace, Jen, Lisa. Lisa even loaned her college-bound Eldest Daughter, a Denon & Doyle party motivator, to make sure the DJ and his team fulfilled Eldest Daughter's every musical fantasy.

Margo and Dennis assembled centerpieces for the party, and moved lights and balloons around once the party got underway.

Let's not forget Tristan, who came out from Salt Lake City to be our masterful beautician for the weekend. I didn't know her all that well before she came but wow, she's talented and fun. We are so grateful to her, and to Paige for hosting her. If you need styling, she's your gal. The only issue we have now is that Eldest Daughter and I want to buy everything she used on us.

Sara and Thom were our go to team. Sara helped me with so many odds and ends the day of the party and we relied on Thom for back up to our very-pregnant photographer. He also did a lot of schlepping.

I owe you guys big.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cherry Crumb Cake

I've baked a lot this year. Between National Charity League and baking for every Jew with a Bat Mitzvah this year that asks, our ovens have gotten a lot of action. Mostly the kids and I make cookies but occasionally I try a new recipe. This one is outstanding. Enjoy!

Cherry Crumb Cake

for the cake batter and cherries layer:

1 3/4 C unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1 stick (112g) unsalted butter
1 C sugar, plus 3 tablespoons
2 eggs
1 t pure vanilla extract
3/4 C sour cream
1 14 ounce can tart, unsweetened cherries, drained

for the streusel topping:

3/4 C brown sugar
1/2 C whole wheat pastry flour (or unbleached all-purpose)
1/4 t salt
1/2 t almond extract
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t ground cardamom
4 T butter

for the cream glaze:

1 C powdered sugar
3 T heavy cream
1/4 t pure almond extract

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9 inch square baking pan. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

2. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Incorporate eggs, one at a time, until smooth. Add in vanilla and sour cream. Beat until smooth. Slowly incorporate flour mixture and mix until just incorporated.

3. In another bowl, combine the dry ingredients for the streusel topping, and add in the butter and almond extract. Mix with hands or mixer until mixture starts pulling together.

4. Spread two-thirds of the batter into the bottom of the cake pan. Mix cherries with 3 tablespoons of sugar. Distribute evenly over batter. Sprinkle 1/4 of the streusel topping. Top with remaining batter and streusel topping. Bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Image and Recipe courtesy of Stephmodo.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Horse, Tar, Booger

What do these three things have in common? They are nicknames for Heroin.

I did not know this until I attended the She's All That Conference Saturday. Things have changed a lot since I went to high school.

Apparently prescription drug abuse is a big deal now. I attended a session with a panel made up of a mother who lost her 21-year-old ASU senior to an accidental prescription overdose, a Danville police officer, a high school vice principal, an 18-year-old recovering drug addict and her mother, and a counselor at an in-patient treatment center.

It was eye opening, in the same way the books Tweak and Beautiful Boy were. I already knew of the problems with the oft-prescribed ADD medication Adderoll because the Race to Nowhere addressed that.

Chelsea, the recovering 18-year-old, came from a family just like yours and mine. Upper middle class. Parents still married. Younger sibling. And yet she succumbed.

Lest you think this conference was all a downer, it was not. I attended two other sessions with valuable, inspiring content. However, this session has been replaying in my mind ever since.

Eldest Daughter expressed her concern that now "everything will change at home". Everything won't change but some things will. For example, we're now going to take her cell phone away after 9:30p. She also told me that we are more lenient than a lot of other parents. Interesting. We don't think we're lenient. Trust is earned. She does not have a TV or computer in her room. She cannot ride in a car when we do not know the driver. We meet the parents at homes we drop her off at.

Anyone want to compare notes on boundaries?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Nitty Gritty

I had not realized how long it would take me to recover, both mentally and physically, from the Bat Mitzvah weekend. Now that I think about it, it really was a marathon.

Wednesday.
Out-of-towners began to arrive.
Friday. Shabbat Dinner for 30 hosted by my parents and MIL. Services at the synagogue. Oneg.
Saturday. Bat Mitzvah. Kiddush Lunch. Party.
Sunday. Brunch and Superbowl for 35 at the house.
Monday. Clean up.
Tuesday. Clean up.
Wednesday. Clean up. Will the house ever be put back together?! The chaos is getting to me.

Shabbat Dinner
My parents and MIL threw a delicious and beautiful dinner for the family and out-of-towners at Pasta's Trattoria Friday night. It was also Eldest Daughter's 13th Birthday.

The Bat Mitzvah
So proud. So happy to have so many family and friends involved. Caryl's cake donuts got a lot of attention at the lunch.

The Party
I chose the Oak Hill Park Community Center for the Broadway-themed evening event. It was ideal for adults and kids; the kids, the kid food and the DJ were in one room and the adults, show tunes and adult food were in a smaller room across the hall. The adults could go back and forth for dancing and not be subjected to the deafening dance music all night long.

Balloon Thrills brought in hundreds of pink and green balloons, and two dozen uplights. There were also strand-lit posters of RENT, Les Miz, Phantom of the Opera, Hairspray and Wicked. Instead of a guest book we did sketch pads with markers, and the talented Jill did the flowers. The requisite sign in board was a Playbill featuring Eldest Daughter. Adult centerpieces were cheesecakes on Martha Stewart cake stands adorned with brown and pink ribbon explosions. The Under 21s had white sofas and pink bean bags, lounge-style, with candy centerpieces on low cocktail tables. Denon & Doyle kept everyone on their feet and we did the Hora with the chairs. Oy!

One of our close family friends works as a party motivator for D&D and Mel did everything within her power to see that this was an extra special evening. We will miss her when she goes to U of O next fall!

The Under 21s ate New York street food -- hot dogs, pretzels, pizza. The Over 21s ate knishes, warm pastrami, corned beef and turkey sandwiches, salad and coleslaw, pickles.

Clyde The Ring Guy turned quarters into Liberty Rings for all the guests. You can get your very own one by clicking here. He makes them for Sundance. They are really cool.

San Francisco Photo Booth shot silly pictures and printed them out on site, which the kids loved. The kids also posed with Thank You bubble signs I created in advance then wrote letters to the troops stationed in Afghanistan and put them in care packages we'd preassembled. Doing for others makes me happy. Very happy.

Marlyss & Stacey created most of the signage and shipped it out. They must buy glitter and string lights by the truckload. Anyone need Broadway party decor? We have a garage full of it.

The adults drank VB and wine we drove up from Southern California, and the kids had Glinda and Elphaba drinks we created in neon, light up martini glasses. Toward the end of the evening a hot chocolate beverage bar with mix and match toppings appeared.

Eldest Daughter did a candle lighting to recognize family and friends, including her gal pal Sophie who came all the way from Cayman, and we showed an embarrassing photo montage. We remembered Ruth, Eldest Daughter's great grandmother, who she was very close to, with a gift of a mink teddy bear made from one of her coats.

At 9:30p the Karavan, the Kara's Cupcake mobile truck, pulled up and the kids and some adults sugared up for another 90 minutes of dancing. Of the four kinds of cupcakes, the s'mores ones went fastest.

Sunday Brunch & Superbowl
The Packers won and we feasted on Millie's coffee cake and family favorites I'd handed off to a local caterer to prep and deliver. Brilliant! Around 7pm the last guest left and we collapsed.

A truly amazing, surreal weekend, that I could not have pulled off without the help of many. More on that in my next post!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Bat Mitzvah - DONE!

It's Sunday night. The Superbowl crowd just left. It's just me, Dave and the kids in the house now, left with the memories of a fabulous simcha and a lot of mess.

This will be a short post as I need to pick up enough so that the housekeeper can do her job tomorrow.

In a nutshell, this weekend was everything we'd dreamed. Although I thought it would rain, as it does on all of our important family occasions (the day we were married, the days our children were born), it was in the mid 70s and sunny. To no one's surprise, Eldest Daughter brought tears to our eyes on the bimah and was poised, gracious and thoughtful the rest of the weekend.

Of course we were thrilled for our daughter's religious milestone, becoming a Jewish adult. However, having the room filled with friends and extended family from as far away as Cayman and the east coast made the weekend incredibly special. Friends met friends. We sang, we danced, we ate. We laughed. We prayed. We tried to leave the world a better place. More on that in another post.

Biggest surprise: the number of 13-year-old boys who came up and introduced themselves to us, and thanked us for having them. Wow!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Top 10 Bat Mitzvah Questions

1. What do we wear? Modest clothing to the service. Anything goes to the party. We will be dressed up. This is your chance to wear the good bling.

2. How many people are you having? Why do people ask this question?! We're having all the people who are important to Eldest Daughter.

3. Do you need help? Oh yes. Thank you for offering!

4. Is it like a Jewish wedding? No. Jewish weddings are shorter.

5. How long is the service? Two hours give or take.

6. Can we skip the service and just come to party? Nope.

7. Are you nervous? No, excited.

8. Will there be food? Hello?! This is a Jewish event. Of course there will be food. I'd recommend you fast all day Friday to be sure you have enough room to eat it all.

9. What should we expect from at service? Lots o' Hebrew.

10. How is Eldest Daughter handling all this? As well as any hormonal 13-year-old would. She's euphoric that her peeps are coming from as far away as Cayman to celebrate this simcha, and she's also worried about missing a few days of school to enjoy them all.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Bento Box Bandwagon

Thing 1 is very picky. At age 9 she still doesn't like different foods to touch each other. Bento Boxes were invented for this child! And fortunately they're all the rage.

For those of you who aren't yet familiar with this craze, a Bento Box is a lunchbox, most often made up of individual compartments.

We had a blast searching online for the perfect box, finally deciding on an actual Japanese import. It's the pink polka dot one with three stacking tiers pictured above. There are lots of local options available, though, given our proximity to San Francisco's Japantown and the significant Asian population in the Bay.

There are entire cookbooks a whole bunch of blogs that cover Bento Box lunches. Here are a few links:

Lunch in a Box
Wendolonia
Another Lunch

It does take longer to pack Thing 1's lunch but I enjoy the creative challenge of it and I'm hopeful that my petite daughter eats more given the visual appeal. Besides, this stuff is so adorable!