Thursday, May 26, 2011

My hands are stained.

And I don't much care. I've just pitted four pounds of cherries.

Incredible!

Paige's family has a cherry fetish. Celia lives in Brentwood and calls in the sister wives as soon as Maggiore's opens. The sister wives and their young children make a run for the farm and pick and pick and pick. And eat and eat and eat. This was Celia's second trip to Maggiore's this season.

After several years of hearing about this tradition and Paige sharing some of her precious cherries with me, my mom, kids and I tagged along.

Tip 1: Go during the week. We had the orchard (and ladders) nearly to ourselves.
Tip 2: Bring cash.
Tip 3: Pick fast. It takes a long time to pick cherries.
Tip 4: Get over your fear
of heights and climb the ladder. The ripest cherries are up high.
Tip 5: Moderate the amount you eat while picking. It is an hour's drive home, after all.

In the end there were five mothers and 13 kids between us. I think cherries are so sought-after because the season is so dang short. The Coral Cherry, the one we were after, has a 10-day season. It was surreal standing amongst so many loaded cherry trees. Paige described it as The Garden of Eden. I have to agree.

We were so efficient that we had time to go to Chan's for You Pick strawberries. As much as I love cherries, the strawberries were even better and unlike any I'd ever had. Warmed by the sun and then popped straight into my mouth, they were the sweetest fruit I've ever had. The kids were amazed at the bounty and quickly gathered the equivalent of a flat.

Celia was kind enough to have us all to dinner at her house (which she so smartly prepared in advance) and then we hoofed it back to our suburb for Open House.

I can't wait to go back for more strawberries. Who's in?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

M's Bat Mitzvah

Yes, I went to another one!

This time I went with my parents and some of their friends. The Bat Mitzvah (that's a noun in this instance, referring to the person) was the daughter of my childhood friend, Wendy. I'm sure I can find a picture of me and Wendy at one of our BatM's if I look hard enough.

When we walked into the synagogue on Saturday I realized that it was also Wendy and her husband's anniversary. Sixteen years ago many of these same people stood on the golf course at Diablo Country Club and watched the two of them under the chuppah.

This was another B'nai Mitzvah - a double service. This picture is of M carrying the Torah around the synagogue; Wendy is behind her. The other Bat Mitzvah inserted a bit of humor in the service; her friends led everyone in a Justin Bieber song. It was, um, different.

The service brought me to tears not just because M did a beautiful job but because there were some very sick members of their family there beating the odds. Wendy's mom, M's grandma, has been gone ten years now and her absence was painful; Sandy was a force to be reckoned with, an amazing matriarch. The synagogue was filled with old family friends who, fortunately, have stuck by Wendy's father. Wendy is one strong cookie. She was weeks away from having her second child when her mom passed and the eulogy she gave at her mom's funeral was among the most heart-wrenching things I have ever seen.

It was strange to be the kid. People kept asking about my kids and I was just trying to behave myself with my parents and their friends.

The Pinks had packed day with two community theater performances and softball Saturday so I skipped the big party as this simcha was on the other side of the Bay.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

I'm jazzed!

I'm a consultant: I make my living taking care of whatever keeps my clients awake at night professionally. And I've been doing this for 12 years now. Consulting is all about giving. Whatever is best for the client is what I provide.

Last week I did something amazing: I attended a conference where it was all about what I do. My former client Steve Gershik orchestrated DemandCon and I am grateful. So grateful. It was the best thing I have done for myself professionally in a very long time.

I've worked dozens of conferences and until last week had never been the target audience. It was amazing -- the speakers talked about things that are important to my clients and to my own business. I learned new ways to provide the services I've become known for. I met people who do the same thing I do, both in-house and on a consulting basis.

Jill Konrath was hilarious as she told us how to sell to busy people. Thom Singer did his song and dance on networking skills. I left before he got to his trademark Kate story; it makes me cry every time. Rick Altman told us why most of our presentations suck and gave us pointers on fixing them. I learned new uses for LinkedIn. Ardath Albee talked about storytelling in business. Steve Bernstein covered customer loyalty. Jon Miller gave us his view of marketing automation. Greg Ott at Demandbase showed us how his company can serve up custom content to the visitors to your web site by knowing who they are in advance. Brilliant stuff!

I am so psyched to give these things more thought and put some of them to work for my clients!

Steve -- you are the man. Thank you.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Run, run, as fast as you can ...

With 100,000 other people for the 100th running of the Bay to Breakers. That's was our Sunday morning save for the running part.

San Francisco's famed foot race goes from the Bay side of the city to the Breakers (or ocean) side of the city, 12km total. This year a Moroccan male won it in 34:26 and the top female finisher did it in 39:12. We hadn't even crossed the start line by the time the winners had claimed their victories. That's how much of a zoo it was.

The kids were not wild about this family adventure, which began with a 5:45a wake up call. They disliked being hit in the face repeatedly with tortillas en route to the start. They disliked the San Francisco micro-climates that ranged from 60F and sunny to 45F with rain blowing sideways. They found the Porto potties unclean and the 46 hairy naked men they counted along the way inappropriate. Duh! At least they liked the costumes: the butterfly centipede, the gorillas and Ghost Busters, the Alcatraz escapees, the Smurfs, the Royals and the Power Rangers.

The above picture is of Thing 1 taking a little snooze on Dave's lap on the shuttle from the finish line back to the BART station.

Another day in the life of a Californian!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Z's Bat Mitzvah

Some of the people who read this blog really like the fanfare posts. This one's for you gals!

As I mentioned a few weeks back, Eldest Daughter's sleep-away-camp friend became Bat Mitzvah. The big to do took place in a local suburb in the synagogue of my childhood, which barely resembles the synagogue I remember of the 1970s.

This was a B'nai Mitzvah - two Bat Mitzvah's at one time. Each young woman chanted from the Torah and Haftorah, and gave her interpretation of the portion. The sanctuary is large and it was perhaps 90% filled, testament to the strength of these girls' community.

I'd never been to a B'nai Mitzvah before and did not realize that one set of family and friends generally sits to one side and the other set sits to the other. Oops. Ditto for the luncheon afterwards. It's a good thing that we're friendly folks. We stopped at Border's on the way to the service and our purchases kept The Youngest Pinks from squirming too much in their seats. Eldest Daughter sat with her friends, not surprisingly, while we sat next to a group of middle schoolers, friends of the other B'nai Mitzvah. The boy next to me, looking uncomfortable in his pressed khakis, starched oxford shirt and stiff shoes, asked a lot of questions. "Can I go to the bathroom in the middle of the service? Do you know where the bathroom is? We really can't text in here?"

Z looked like a little girl that morning -- flats, minimal makeup, a floral dress. This was in huge contrast to how she looked that evening -- absolutely sunning with big makeup and hair and wearing a gorgeous, backless pink and black dress. I really like Z; she doesn't much filter and is fun and funny. Last summer I took her and Eldest Daughter into the city for the SF Pride Parade. The picture here is of Z and her mom.

The luncheon wrapped about 1p to give the decorator and caterer time to prep for the evening celebration, held in the synagogue's social hall. My Bat Mitzvah and luncheon were in that very same location in that very same month 31 years prior. I remember the pale yellow and green tablecloths. This evening everything was hot pink, black and white.

Z's family is very close and Z is very clear that her 15-year-old brother is her bestie. The very first picture is of the two of them. A has Asperger's and their inner circle includes other families with children on the spectrum. It was such a blast seeing the stereotypical young teens, the non-stereotypical young teens and the extended family and friends celebrating Z's
simcha by getting down on the dance floor, laughing, eating and drinking. There was no us and them this evening, and likely for any other event for this group. I'm in the green screen adult group photo wearing a classic Armani little black dress and my current favorite Jim Thompson silk scarf.

The food was tasty and abundant of course: Mexican and an ice cream bar for the kids and salad, steak, roasted potatoes, Mediterranean veggies and chocolate cake for the adults. No one went home hungry, that's for sure!

Dave was out of town at a golf tournament so it was just me and The Pinks. Thing 1, who is nine, wore a fair bit of makeup. Thing 2 went to town on the dance floor. One of the party motivators
was Ben, who we know because he used to date our friend Melissa. He told me that he loves dancing with Thing 2 because she has so much energy and he was excited when he realized we were there. You can see from this picture how much she enjoyed herself.

As time goes by I enjoy these more and more, regardless of how many people I know there. I find happiness in the ritual and in the celebration itself. And of course it's an honor to be included.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mother's Day 2011

Both my mom and my mother-in-law were out of town this year! And so my immediate family was left to our own devices on this Hallmark Holiday.

I've long wanted to go to the Temescal Farmer's Market. Kymi lives near there so we met up with her family and walked / Razored / biked over. The kids had crepes for breakfast and the adults drained our wallets on pig, bread, strawberries, snap peas, grapefruit, avocados, mushrooms and baby lettuce. Oh yes, and the first cherries of the season. I bought one small bag knowing that in a week or two I'll get "The Call" and go to the secret farm in Brentwood with the Greenbombs to gather as many as we can carry.

The food vendors there are different than our farmer's market -- there is a the high-end chocolatier, Vice Chocolates, Blue Bottle Coffee, Donna's Tamales, Scream Sorbet, thin crust pizza and Thai food. There is dog parking, too. Who knew?!

Kymi, Eldest Daughter and I walked to Bakesale Betty's and learned that The Aussie and The American shutter their doors on Sundays and Mondays. We met back up with the husbands and played a bit of Michael Jackson Wii. I suck. But it was fun in a belly laugh sort of way.

The biggest surprise of the day was how many people we saw that we knew at
our next stop. Fenton's is an institution -- an ice creamery on Piedmond Avenue. Dave's family has gone for generations and I was shocked to meet up with a former client, a synagogue family and an elementary school family, none of us living anywhere near Fenton's!

Late in the afternoon Hayley and I saw Water for Elephants. I loved the book and the movie was good entertainment. Some of the cinematography was stunning. I don't think it'll win any awards, though, because neither Robert Pattinson nor Reese Witherspoon reach far.

I leave you with two pictures -- me and Kymi at the market and me and my mom during my first year. My mom was barely old enough to drink in this picture. That's my dog, Leslie's Lord Sampson, the first of two of my childhood Golden Retrievers.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Dirty Life

I just finished this memoir, written by NYC journalist-turned-farmer Kristin Kimball. It was a great read, one I'd highly recommend.

The story is fairly simple: East Villager forays into the country to interview a farmer. They fall in love. They move to Upstate New York and live happily ever after. But not without a lot of detours en route.

Kimball is a gifted, honest writer and she manages to promote farm-raised food without coming across preachy, ala Barbara Kingsolver. She and eventual-husband Mark come up with a new model of farming, a CSA-style cooperative that provides a whole diet.

One thing of the best things about this book is that the author doesn't shy away from the gory part of life on Essex Farm -- the killing, butchering and preparing meals of farm animals, and the tending to their health, which involves castration and artificial insemination. And while we all guessed that farming is hard work, she details how endless and exhausting it is without whining. There's the sleep deprivation in the peak season, living on the edge financially, the constant assault of weeds, the shear physical labor from milking the cows to planting to building fences and repairing barns, the hauling of crops, the canning.

Kimball praises their farming community and the relationships they develop with their neighbors, who help with the horses and pigs and chickens and rats, the wedding and the weeding. And she talks about her relationship with dirt, days too busy to bathe, change clothes or do laundry.

In the end she fully commits to farm life and to Mark, and the journey there, shared with us, is treat I am glad she shared

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Birthday Scavenger Hunt

Someone had a birthday yesterday. It wasn't me.

Let's have a historical look at birthday celebrations in our house. I think about birthdays. I know they are coming. I procrastinate on how to celebrate them, except for the kids' birthday parties, which I plan and execute in great detail. I am pretty good with milestone birthday parties, too, as was evidenced by Dave's 25th birthday party in my Marina apartment, his 30th birthday party at the Meadowood Croquet Lawn, and his 40th birthday party at our house with the bleached blond sommelier.

Actual celebrations on the birthday are not my specialty. But for the someone whose birthday it was yesterday, I was determined to make this one memorable.

That someone was woken up by his three daughters. They unrolled a scroll and deemed it the day of The Birthday Scavenger Hunt, Amazing Race Style. Said Birthday Boy needed to get up pronto and start tracking down the clues.

Stop #1 led him down the street to our neighbors' very large, lush garden where he had to wander around looking for something suspect. He found the Mylar helium balloons, birthday gift from his in-laws and his second clue.

Stop #2 took him to our next door neighbors' house. There he did the secret handshake before picking up the decorated golf cart and driving to the local post office where his third clue was waiting outside, thumb tacked to the community bulletin board.

Stop #3 led him to Danville Chocolates in search of the special caramel apple and next clue. This proved a bit more challenging as the woman in the chocolate shop forgot about the special apple and our extended conversation about it the previous day. Dave had to meander around the shop long enough for her to remember that she was expecting a slightly confused forty-something looking for an apple accompanied by a bright orange envelope.

Stop #4 took him to his friend Bryan's office. This was complicated by the fact that Bryan's office moved and thus, the address I put on the clue was incorrect. Additionally, Dave got there before Bryan. In the end this was all good and fine and rectified by a leisurely lunch at The Prickly Pear Cantina with margaritas.

Stop #5 didn't take place until 7pm, when Dave was surprised with three couples joining us for dinner at Esin. Dennis and Margo even came up from Monterey. Love you two! Good wine was consumed, including 2000 and 2003 Silver Oak's.

All in all, he was a good sport and had a birthday he won't soon forget. Neither will the people who saw him driving down Diablo Rd. in the decked out golf cart!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Who are your parents?

I felt like a Southerner as I was asked this again and again this weekend. That's what happens when you show up some place where your parents have long roosted.

We attended Z's Bat Mitzvah at the synagogue my parents have been affiliated with for 35 years. Z and Eldest Daughter became friends at sleep away camp and we've become friendly with Z's parents.

Z's father and his family have a long history at the synagogue, too. Re-entering the sanctuary was like being part of Alice and Wonderland; things were just a little bit odd.

The first person I noticed was the rabbi of my youth, the rabbi emeritus of this synagogue, also a guest. I remember him as soft spoken in person yet larger than life on the pulpit: passionate, political, articulate. He is now in his mid 70s.

Way back when, he was granted a lifetime contract, which is the equivalent of hitting the proverbial jackpot for a congregational rabbi. Yet apparently the price of its receipt was too much and he eventually left to pursue other rabbinic work. This resonates with me more now that I am an adult and am painfully living through the departure of our own synagogue's rabbi, a protegee of this man.

The synagogue structure has been rebuilt since my childhood. The Jewish Day School now resides on the property and there are also administration and education buildings. Really, it's a small campus. In the modern sanctuary, above the arc, is a floor-to-ceiling multi-colored stained glass window. I think it symbolizes creation although what it really says to me is BLT Sandwich. Truly, there are panels that look just like pieces of bacon.

I looked very carefully at this synagogue, wondering if it would be the right fit for our family at this juncture. I still don't know. I see the ghosts of my childhood there -- the rabbi and cantor who are long gone, the hideously wallpapered women's bathroom with the old vanity and couch that I gossiped on with my elementary and middle school friends, the uncomfortable blue pews. I can still envision the original arc with its ironwork, a decade ago replaced by a stunning, up lit etched glass version. Where do old arcs go, anyway?

So many thoughts in my mind as I drift between old and new. How do I, how do we, instill our children with a sense of our communal Jewish house of prayer when the synagogue we have chosen to raise our children in no longer exists? This keeps me awake at night.