Friday, December 28, 2012

Nine and Eleven.

Nine was the number of inches of snow we had in the 24 hours prior to our last day of skiing on this trip.

And eleven is the age our babies will be on December 30. We had a little gathering for them in the mountains, complete with an extended family dinner followed by cake and ice cream with the neighbors.

It was crowded at Squaw but not unreasonably so. Apparently 80% of passholders cannot use their passes this week. This means that the people on the slopes are non-locals or people who are willing to pay full price for lift tickets. While in reality that translates to Amateur Hour, it also means that the lift lines are shorter than have been this week in previous years.

This observation made me think more about the changes at Squaw since KSL has taken over, nearly all of them good. The resort is now run like an efficient, friendly business. I gasped when I saw a bench at the top of a chairlift. One could actually sit down to adjust their boot or helmet before taking off! The mountain is peppered with directional signage and resort employees looking to be helpful by directing confused guests or answering questions. We receive text messages from Squaw on the conditions along the line of: Upper Mountain will open at 10a today due to extra avalanche control measures. The removal of three chairlifts and the installation of Big Blue opened up a large area of terrain for beginners, something Squaw has historically lacked. These are all good things, things that will make the mountain accessible for families and visitors.

My brother and Blondie #2 came over in the morning and Thing 1 and I skied with them. They are pictured here warming up at Starbucks in the Gold Coast Complex. Then we met up with the Calabasas Cousins and did a run together before my brother headed down to swap kids and we lunched at The ARC. I did a few runs with the Calabasas Cousins (and their parents, my SIL and BIL) and then called it a day. One can only handle so much perfect sun, snow and fun. All that powder is tough on the legs.

I am seriously envious of people just on their way to Tahoe. The next three days will be sunny with temps in the twenties -- perfect ski weather and conditions on eight feet of base.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Eight. Twenty-nine. Eighteen.

Eight. Twenty-nine. Eighteen. Zero. Twenty. That's the number of inches of fresh snow we've had daily since we've come up to Tahoe. It's been extraordinary, the kind of weather I enjoy most from the sofa looking up at the mountains. We're here this week for our annual Calabasas Cousins ski trip.

I'm glad to be up here. Things have been very stressful at work the last several weeks and I really needed to just stare at the falling snow and take deep, cleansing breaths. More on work in another post.

Things have changed a bit at Squaw since last winter.

First, lift tickets are now variably priced. That means that a single day child's ticket is $58 this week. That same ticket was $10 two years ago. What the heck?! That's a hefty investment for a young child who may or may not want to ski after they get off the funitel. I'm glad our kids are past that ambivalent stage. The good news is that the consecutive storms scared off the lightweight skiers with their rear wheel drives and chains and the kids got more runs per dollar than they would have had the weather and roads been clear and dry.

Big Blue Express opened. It's a high-speed chair that runs from just below the Gold Coast Complex to Shirley Lake. This alleviates the congestion at the Gold Coast chair and the cross mountain jog to Shirley where us intermediates spend a lot of time.

The Squaw Valley Sport Shop was replaced by an equivalent KSL-owned shop. It's much better lit with modern merchandising and merchandise.

Thing 2 joined our neighbors to see Bethany Hamilton speak. Bethany is the inspirational professional surfer whose story was told in the movie Soul Surfer.

All nine of us took a few runs together the day before Christmas in the sunshine. We like to do the Resort run right before lunch then eat by the firepits on the Resort's patio. However, the patio restaurant wasn't open (again, what the heck?!) so we tried out the new pizza joint, which, fortunately, is better than the Fireside Pizza in the Village. For the record, we believe that the pizza served at Fireside is the same stuff you buy in the frozen food aisle at Safeway.

Christmas dinner was at Mamasake. This is seemingly the only night where there is no wait for a table. After stuffing ourselves with elaborate rolls, sauces and garnishes we waddled home and watched Elf, everyone's favorite Christmas movie.

Somewhere in there one of the kids introduced the subject of oxymorons and we brainstormed until we were laughing so hard that those watching Elf just gave up.

Here are our favorites:
  • Harry the bald guy. (Charlotte's husband on Sex and the City)
  • Jumbo shrimp.
  • Pretty ugly.
  • Comfortable bra.
  • The silence was deafening.
And on that note I'll wrap up this post. Wishing you and yours lots of merry and happy.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Mutiny in the Buffet

Thing 1 shared her head cold with me. And so I wandered into the buffet-style restaurant on the ship looking for chicken noodle soup. It being the day after Thanksgiving I expected to find turkey soup. Any variety would have been fine -- tomatoes, no tomatoes, vegetable, cream of, Thai-spiced. Instead I ended up eating duck soup, which I loaded up with white white. It was good and also spicy, which my sinuses welcomed. Still, it wasn't turkey soup. And from the snippets of conversation I heard (which were actually complaints based on their tone), the passengers on the lovely Sapphire Princess were quite miffed at the lack of turkey leftovers. While flank steak and tilapia are good, these people wanted their white bread, sliced turkey and cranberry sauce.

My father-in-law has been gone (dead, not fled, may his memory be a blessing) 12 years now and I can't believe it took that long for my mother-in-law, her two adult children and their families to vacation together. The cruise was a good time. We had much to be thankful for, not the least of which was the delicious Thanksgiving meal that someone else shopped for, cooked for and cleaned up from.

At dinner we played family trivia and laughed about the best parts of the trip, one of which was still to come. (It involved an adorable two-year-old Shirley-Temple-lookalike at the talent show and an ill-timed bodily function.) Dave brought pennies so Bob would be with us and also Pecan Pie truffles, reminiscent of Bob's favorite.

We had photos taken in the studio and I also ran into Paige and Celia's youngest sister, who was honeymooning with her new husband. The kids played bingo and more bingo. And loved afternoon tea, Princess cruise line style, whatever that is.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Hospice

I love this time of year. I especially love doing for others at this time of year. Being Jewish affords me the time to do so because the Christmas Craziness requires as much or as little baking and decorating as I choose. We enjoy the holiday festivities and the happiness of the season.

In addition to baking no less than 20 dozen cookies for various NCL-supported philanthropies these past two weeks, Paris and I volunteered at the Hospice Oak Tree Lighting at Blackhawk. Families light candles for people who have passed and there is a short speaker on behalf of Hospice of the East Bay. Hospice has provided comfort to many families we know. In fact, I remember my childhood friend Jill telling me just how much they did for her family when her father was at the end of his life and how much it meant to them. Volunteering at this tree lighting was a touching and lovely thing to do on a Friday night in December.

Thing 1 and Thing 2 have December birthdays so we are indoctrinating them into one of our great loves -- musical theater. Thing 2 and Dave saw Lion King. Not surprisingly she loved it. Thing 1 and I have tickets to Wicked in February. She already sings along to the music so I think she will have an equally good time.

Thing 2 also read My Twins' First Christmas at READ in Blackhawk this month. I'm not sure if the best part was that her teacher and her teacher's adorable kids came or that there was an event involving dogs next at the store. We all agreed that the Saint Bernard was the most amiable to hugs.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Not my favorite.

My childhood friend Julie had a destination wedding in Cabo but we didn't go. The youngest Pinks were just six months old and I wasn't ready to leave them. The wedding, which my SIL and Dr. Phil attended along with many of our mutual friends, was magnificent by all accounts. Dave still wishes we'd went. Fast forward ten years later and we're here, this time with the kids.

We've been here before, on a club trip. It's much more developed than it was back then but the smells remain the same: tequila, harbor, sweat, rotting trash and desperation.

The tender dropped us at the marina and we quickly boarded a catamaran for snorkeling in Santa Maria Bay. Thing 2, not surprisingly, took to this activity like she was born with gills. After a quick, mediocre lunch in town we headed back to the ship and took long showers. Dave and I watched the sun set behind the famous Arch from our balcony.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

One perfect day in Puerto Vallarta

Hector addressed the oldest three of our children in Spanish. They made that face, that thinking face. Seven years of Spanish between them and they made that face. Then they gave him a puzzled look, the look of non-comprehension combined with sleep deprivation and the necessity of functioning before 9a. He repeated his question and waited one more moment before switching into perfect English. After all, he grew up in West Hollywood.

Reassured that we were the right family, Hector ushered us into his van and drove north, away from the puerto, the port of Vallarta. Along the drive to Punta de Mita Hector told us about his upbringing in Los Angeles and his decision to raise his own family in Mexico. His dual citizenship allows him to visit the states often and his mother still lives in LA. He filled us in on Mexican politics and the holiday that its citizens were observing and the parades we passed during our 45-minute drive.


And then we arrived at the Four Seasons Punta Mita to meet up with Tom and Esty. It is one of the most beautiful resorts I have ever seen. The infinity-edged pool overlooked the Pacific Ocean. The service is five-star and the staff set us up with bottled water, covered lounge chairs and towels poolside. The younger kids hopped in for a quick swim while the older ones wandered down to the beach. There is just something about a Four Seasons resort; they are the masters of elegantly simple decor coupled with anticipate-your-every-need service.

Tom and Esty are there for the week staying with their friend Barbie, who has a house there. Tom is Dave's cousin, also Eldest Daughter's g/dfather, and Esty sells real estate at the Four Seasons Residences in San Francisco. Barbie's house faces the ocean and has two pools, one outside the master bedroom. There is a full-time cook / housekeeper. Each bedroom is its own suite and the children's wing is separate from the main house. The whole place is so peaceful that I wanted to curl up on one of those outdoor sofas and take a long nap. You can rent similar houses for $5K/night if you're interested in an expensive nap and a view. The picture of me, at right, was taken in the courtyard at Barbie's house.

Lunch was a five-minute, golf-cart-ride-away in the tiny, one-street town of Punta de Mita. The beachside restaurant, which we shared with just one other couple, presented our tuna first hanging from its tail on a pole and then turned into two styles of ceviche and finally, tacos. The waiter taught the kids to make guacamole, which we devoured with hand-made blue and yellow corn chips, and tortillas. Margaritas and tequila shots were consumed. The kids bought jewelry. We laughed and enjoyed a long, leisurely lunch. Then it was back to the resort for a quick trip down the lazy river pool and a return to the ship. Where we reluctantly boarded and wished we'd had more time at Punta Mita.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mountain View in the Rain

Julie inspired this post by blogging about a walk around her neighborhood. And Caryl inspired this photo, which is taken in a style that I've come to view as Caryl's trademark.

On the way to work today I saw the most glorious rainbow. It touched down on both sides and, other than seeing my kids off to school, it's been the highlight of my day.

By 2p my eyes were begging for a break from this monitor and the monotony of a marathon technobabble editing session so I threw on my rain boots and went for a walk down Castro Street. Although the sun was out, it was raining. I window shopped. I picked up pho for Thing 2. I observed men in skinny pants and women in short skirts, black tights and mostly low-heeled boots. It is a rainy day after all. Red, orange and yellow leaves litter the sidewalk. It's surprisingly warm.

The perpetually dirty fish store is getting a new shipment of fish. Perhaps the last ones died from the filth? The tiny grocery on Castro has great produce and foodie products like Ciao Bella Gelato and Acme bread. The cashier wears black fingerless gloves, a vest covered with patches and pins that remind me of the Girl Scouts and jeans. I bought dried apricots.

Vacant is the storefront that used to have architects. In the window of TAP Plastics is a Merry Christmas sign in blue and white. The lobby of my high rise has two Christmas trees with metallic globe ornaments and many white boxes beneath them. I will have to see what it looks like all lit up once the sun sets.

I want to go home and be with my children and husband.

Monday, November 26, 2012

En route to Mexico

Thing 2 is the way I like to see her best: cheek heavy against the pillow, dark brown hair fanned out over the pillow, covers wrapped around her burrito-style. She stirs and slowly opens her eyes. They get big, fast. She says, "It's so beautiful out there!" The curtains and balcony doors in our stateroom are wide open. She sees the sea. Blue. For miles and miles. This is Day 1 of our extended family's Thanksgiving holiday.

It's been more than 20 years since Dave and I have taken a cruise together. Back then we were surrounded by couples our parents' age and older all celebrating milestones. They looked at us like we were crazy and said things like, "You're just on vacation?!"

This cruise, this week, is a little different. There's an American holiday in the middle of it so we're amongst multiple generations of families, our own included. Still, if you average the age of the travelers, we remain on the young side.

The food service is endless and literally around the clock. The plates in the main restaurant, the one with the nonstop 6am to 11pm buffet, are as big as platters. There is an ice cream dispensary at one end of the main pool. On the other side of the pool is counter serving up grilled food and fries from 11a to 11p. The ship has five more dining rooms for formal breakfast, lunches and dinners. There are six more restaurants (Starbucks-style to pizzaria to steakhouse) and eight bars elsewhere on the ship. There is room service.

We've spent our first two days at sea exercising, eating, reading, seeing shows and sitting by the pool. A lap around the deck is 1/3 mile. They are not easy laps to run because of the geriatric blue hairs. Bonus points for them though. The other distraction is the occasional feeling of weightlessness as the boat shifts. My sister-in-law says it's especially strange during yoga. I never got up early enough to find out.

We watched Monday night football poolside. The kids recruited others to play Colors while Dave and I curled up on chaises with the other 49er Faithful. I tried to not to explode from dinner. Italian night.

The youngest Pinks go in and out of the kids' club depending on their level of interest in the activities. On this day they decorated cakes in the galley under the watchful eye of the head pastry chef. We then ate the cakes at dinner. Or attempted to.

Eldest Daughter is having the best time running around with her older cousins. They check in with us from time to time and are making the most of the 1:30a teen curfew. Family dinner is de rigeur. The three of them share the stateroom across the hall from us. They refer to it as The Cage. Finally age has its privileges. Our age.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Foolproof

That's the title of Ina Garten's new cookbook. In general I find her recipes foolproof. Does all that butter and cream make them foolproof or is the combination of ingredients and technique that does it?Regardless, I go back to them time and time again.

Neeracha, Jill and I stood in line, a long line, to have her sign Foolproof at Williams Sonoma at Stanford. Three hours in that line. Punctuated by interesting conversation with the women behind us and grilled cheese sandwiches from MELT. Good sandwiches, incidentally. Try MELT.

Ina was there long enough to sign 1,000 books. A big poster at the entrance to the store spelled out the rules: No personalization. You can have your picture shot with Ina but she will not pose. After all, she had all those books to get through before heading to her next gig.

At least it was a sunny day, the kind of day people move to California for. Apparently it was cold and foggy the day Thomas Keller was there. I was smart enough to pre-order three books and so it was worth the wait.

Although the day was really about Ina, Neeracha brought me a personalized, signed copy of Charles Phan's new cookbook. Tory and I are on a Vietnamese kick right now so I'm looking forward to digging into this one too.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Day 28

I've been gluten-free for nearly a month now. I do feel better, physically. But it's hard to stick with in an absolute sense when it's not medically necessary. Crises come up in daily life (work deadlines, sick kids, volunteering at local events starting at 6am) and the foods that are readily available are not always gluten-free. The few times I've eaten gluten in these last four months I could tell the difference.

As a co-owner of Triumph Dining, I want to make it easier for people to live a gluten-free lifestyle, be it by choice or medical necessity. And part of that is talking to people about the benefits of living gluten-free and helping gluten-free products gain traction in the market.

As long as I see, and feel, the clear benefits I will stick with this.

Thanks for sharing in my journey.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I'm not happy for you.

My colleague resigned this week. Resigned is a flowery, sweet word, a PC word. Really, he quit.

We both came to the company a year ago. And I liked him both personally and professionally. He did good work in spite of the pivots and ambiguity inherent in startups such as this one.

He says he is leaving this employer for what he thinks is a better opportunity. And that this opportunity just presented itself. It's his seventh employer in nine years. Read that again. Seventh employer in nine years. He's been out of college nine years. It's hard not to draw any conclusions from that.

I get it. His generation is different than mine. They move around more frequently. And as a broad and mass generalization, they are less transparent about their motives. There is no loyalty, even transparently veiled.

Honestly, I'm not happy he's exiting. And although I told him the truth, that I hoped he would do great things, I'm not going to congratulate him on his big move. He told me that he is surprised that people are not offering him kudos and that his lame duck period is awkward and uncomfortable.

Is it right to expect the people you're leaving behind, the ones you're saddling with additional workload until you are backfilled, to be happy for you when you're only a year into a job and beginning to see results from your efforts?

In my opinion, no. Care to weigh in?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Halloween be gone!

The night before Halloween I realized that I hadn't signed up to bring anything to the youngest Pinks Halloween parties. In fact, I hadn't seen any email on it at all.

When I asked the Pinks about it they told me that their principal had cancelled all Halloween parties this year except for the kindergartners. My inclination is to blame this principal for all the evils in the world but I did not this time. Instead, I queried the school parents who might know more than me.

Sure enough, I was told, the principal decided to follow the school district's guidelines and limit the students to three parties during the academic year. A very involved mommy, one I know and respect, said that the teachers voted to nix Halloween.

From a big picture perspective, I find this surprising and disappointing since Holiday parties are more controversial and Valentine's Day parties are sweet and lovey, which does not exactly match the demeanor of most elementary school children. Valentine's Day is a big Hallmark Holiday in my book. And Halloween has all the decorating and dress up fanfare accompanying it.

Another decision I disagree with.


Friday, October 26, 2012

The Library

I've worked in downtown Mountain View more than a year now. I still like the eclectic mix of shops and restaurants, and the feeling of being in the center of the technology universe.

Exactly one block from my office is the city library. My bad for not discovering it sooner. It adjoins a big grassy park and I've been taking advantage of both this fall.

Just this week I polished off a quick trashy novel and checked out the Steve Jobs autobiography. Now, instead of using Amazon 1-Click, I walk over to the library and check out or reserve the book I JUST MUST READ.

I'm having flashbacks to my childhood summers where I checked out as many books from the Orinda Library as they would let me and then holed up in my room devouring them.

I'm digging this adult version.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Thinker's Cafe

I'm thinking about how easy it was to drive into the city today, much easier than I'd envisioned. It's easily been 15 years since I'd participated in the casual carpool. The casual carpool is a Bay Area institution, one that's existed for at least 30 years. People queue up in specific East Bay locations and other people pull up in their cars, two riders hop in, and they drive into the city taking advantage of the carpool lane. There is a generally accepted drop off area downtown and the riders exit. Thank you's are said and everyone goes in their separate direction. Yes, I had two total strangers in my car today. No, it didn't cause me any angst at all. Only in the land of the fruits and the nuts.

I'm thinking about why I picked this dank Potrero Hill cafe to meet my childhood friend, Wendy. It's grittier than I'd thought it would be and offers few breakfast options, which is only a problem since I'm gluten-free.

I'm thinking about having lunch with my friend who is in San Francisco on a year's work assignment. I'm wondering if the restaurant I have picked is as good as it was when we celebrated Leeann's 40th birthday there.

I'm thinking about how chaotic the city will be tomorrow when the World Series starts. And I'm thinking about how beautiful the drive was this morning and how lucky I am to live close to San Francisco, a city that takes my breath away every time I see it even though I've lived here 25 years.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Twins. But not mine.

My friend texted me this picture last week. It was her 42nd birthday. Her oldest is a college freshman and her youngest is in kindergarten. These identical twins will be her 5th and 6th children.

I am thrilled for her, for them. I know how much fun twins are and I've seen first-hand what an amazing mother she is. She has a large, helpful extended family and these kids will have an interesting, happy life surrounded by people who adore them.

I am saddened, however, by at least one of the comments people have left on her blog. One woman responded "having twins is my worst nightmare". Wake up sister. Does any pregnant woman need to hear that? I hope she pulls that comment down.

The hormonal ups and downs are hard enough when you're pregnant with a singleton. Imagine twice the amount of joy and anxiety.

We're here for you Celia. And I believe that these babies are your and Carl's reward for being such wonderful parents and good people.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Day 18: Regret

Eldest Daughter baked brownies last night. The boxed kind. She asked me to make butterscotch sauce to accompany it. I obliged.

She enjoyed them together last night. As did I for breakfast this morning. Really bad idea. Even if it was hormone-driven.

I'm having a hard time focusing on my work, which today is copywriting. My stomach is churning. I have a headache. And I feel guilty, too.

That'll teach me.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Day 14

Do you crave sweets after eating protein? I do. And I've heard that others do, too. I think this is why steakhouses offer a heavy dessert selection. Heavy as in calorie-laden and heavy as in broad selection. Would anyone really enjoy a fruit plate following a session of carnivorous gluttony?

This presents a problem when you're off gluten. For me, the gluten-free friendly way to handle this urge is dried apricots. I'm eating them at least once a day now.

The bread products I don't much miss. Much is the key word in that last sentence. I did on Saturday morning when the kids wanted ebilskivers for breakfast. And I made them. I missed gluten a bit on Friday night when we went to the elementary school Fall Festival and I volunteered at the cake walk, surrounded by tables of sticky sweet, Halloween-themed baked goods. But mostly I don't think about what I'm missing.

Do I feel any different? Yes. But not a lot. I haven't hit the part where you sleep better and have more energy. I think I feel better because I'm eating healthier, cleaner. A lot of people I know are sick right now, victims of the the summer to fall weather transition cold. People seem to be suffering from seasonal allergies right now. I've managed to avoid those, too.

Dave and I went out to lunch with a mutual friend last week and I thought long and hard before joining them. I wanted to make good choices. I also picked the seat at the table facing the wall, not the one facing into the room where I could see the fish and chips I ordered in my past life.

I talked to a mom at the Fall Festival and she was diagnosed with celiac disease five years ago. It's a challenge staying gluten-free and also cooking for a family of five. That's a blog post for the Triumph Dining blog.

There's another Triumph Dining blog post in another dilemma, too. Now that I've done a great deal of reading on the benefits of a gluten-free diet I want to share my findings with others. A friend has been recently diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. There is a fair amount of research showing that removing gluten from your diet can alleviate some of the symptoms. But as a gluten-free newbie and also one who tends not to proselytize in general, I don't want to give advice.

Week three begins.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Breakfast at Google

You know you've arrived when the name of your company becomes a verb. As in: Google it.

My cousin works at Google. We carpool as often as we can. Along came a day when we both had extra time after arriving in the South Bay and so she took me to breakfast on the campus. And I got a first-hand look at the Google Mystique.

People want to work at Google. The company has a reputation for product innovation and taking care of its employees.

Breakfast, like all meals in the gourmet-chef-staffed restaurants, was free. The cafe we dropped by offered four hot entrees (oatmeal, egg tacos, scrambled eggs and French toast), a cereal bar, a fruit bar, a gourmet coffee counter, cheeses and bottled drinks in a trendy, modern tech setting with lots of natural light.

On the way out I stopped in the bathroom. And there I found those fancy Japanese toilets with seat warmers, dryers, bidets, music to disguise the actual reason for your trip to the loo, deodorization and masking fragrances (they are different).

Other Google employee perks include childcare centers and freebies like massages, gyms, pool tables, lava lamps, hair cuts, legal advice, bocce ball courts, a giant climbing wall and bowling alleys. There is also on-campus medical care and, although it's not free, it's very convenient.

Isn't your day more interesting now that you know this?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Day 7

I've not cheated at all. Then again you can't cheat when you're adopting a lifestyle and not dieting. Living gluten-free is a lifestyle, a choice at least for me who has not been diagnosed with celiac disease.

Some things I've noticed:

I grocery shop more than I used to. This is a big deal since my husband does the shopping and does it dang well. But now I shop because I want particular things and because I'm so new to this that I need to take my time and read labels.

At the grocery store I spend much more time on the perimeter than I do in the aisles. Meat. Fruits and veggies. Eggs. About the only thing I got from the beautifully merchandised Halloween decorated aisles today was walnuts and bottled sparking water. Although our local grocery has plenty of gluten-free products (and I carry my Triumph Dining Grocery Guide around with me, which is very helpful), I've stuck with whole foods thus far.

I've lost a few pounds. But not many. My body has reorganized my waistline to differently display the whole foods I'm eating. I have not worked out the last week because boneheaded me fell down the stairs on Day 3 while taking a load of laundry to the wash. That'll teach me to do laundry before the sun rises.

Planning is key. I prep lunch the night before and bring it to work because I don't want to be tempted by Posh Bagel on the ground floor.

I'm in a good mood. Is that the lack of gluten? The busy, interesting work week I had? The perfect fall weather here in Northern California? I'm not sure.

I've developed a serious craving for oven-roasted tomatoes. My parents have been in Africa the last five weeks and I've been harvesting tomatoes from their garden. I slice the tomatoes in half, sprinkle them with Kosher salt and drown them in olive oil from Tom & Esty's weekend home. I cook half until they look just like this picture then cook the other half until they're crispy and chip-like. The crunchy sweetness is addicting.

For those of you who live a gluten-free lifestyle, do you remember your transition?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Day 1

My alarm went off at 5:15a like it does most Monday mornings. By 6a I was in the car on the way to work, my stomach in knots. Was it because I was hungry or because it was upset?

And so today, October 1, I'm doing what many other people have done: cutting gluten out of my diet to see if it makes a difference.

Two years ago celiac disease and a gluten-free lifestyle became regular words in my vocabulary because my husband, our friend Bobby and I bought Triumph Dining, a publishing company devoted to this market.

Since then I've learned a lot from our readers, our advertisers and our bloggers. If this is on your radar, by all means check out the Triumph Dining Blog or sign up for the newsletter.

Stay tuned. Today I begin to walk the talk. 


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Twenty One

That's the number of mosquito bites I have on my left leg below the knee. I am good eats if you are a hungry mosquito!

Neeracha and I are just back from four days at Canyon Ranch. We'd been to Miraval, another destination spa also in Tucson, a few times and wanted to try something new. Why there are mosquitos in the desert I have no idea.

Together we hiked, danced and ate. Separately I did gyrotonics, Pilates and golf while she biked and did knead yoga and Zumba. The teachers had big personalities and I enjoyed that. They worked hard to be entertaining. I liked the belly dancing class the best. And after that the hike. The topography of Arizona is beautiful, much different than that of Northern California and gorgeous in its own way. My golf lesson was so basic that I didn't even see a ball. Yup, I spent an entire hour on grip and stance. But hey, I got a video to take home to wow the kids.

We tried to watch movies at night but didn't stay awake long enough to actually get through one. Our room was beautiful -- fluffy beds, indoor and outdoor seating areas, two dressing areas and two closets, two flat panel TVs.

Southern Arizona has highs above 100F in September so our outdoor activities were done by 10am. Here we are on a 5 mile hike into Lower Bear Canyon the last day of the trip.

We had lunch in the demo kitchen on our last day there and sat with a woman who lives in Boca Raton and grew up in St. Louis. She mentioned she was Jewish and I gave Neeracha a lesson in the Jewish Geography game. It only took four names for me and Boca Woman to find a connection.

I used to think that Miraval and Canyon Ranch competed. But after visiting Canyon Ranch I see how different they are. At Miraval we met people who'd been to Canyon Ranch. At Canyon Ranch few people even knew what Miraval was, so loyal were they to the ranch.

  • If Miraval is a svelte, hip yoga teacher then Canyon Ranch is an Ironwoman-now-Jazzercise instructor. 
  • Miraval is newer, more innovative, a new age experience. Canyon Ranch is older, quieter, with a broader range of food and activity offerings.
  • People who go to Miraval are looking for a vacation. People who go to Canyon Ranch are looking to change their lives. 
  • At Miraval one signs up for the Equine experience to balance their mind, body and spirit. At Canyon Ranch one signs up for the Life Enhancement Program to learn how to live a healthy life and navigate a transition or meet a personal challenge.
  • People visit Miraval for a long weekend or a week. The first people I met at Canyon Ranch spend three months a year there -- six weeks on each end of their Toronto to Miami snowbird trip.
  • Guests at Miraval are in their 30s to 50s. Guests at Canyon Ranch are in their 40s to 70s. And they go back every year like clockwork.
  • There are some hardcore fitness options at Miraval. There are many more super hardcore fitness options at Canyon Ranch.
  • The quiet spaces, the pool, the meditation rooms are better designed at Miraval. The gym is better designed at Canyon Ranch.
  • The food is great at Miraval. The food is good at Canyon Ranch. Can you guess which one serves alcohol?
It's hard to say which one I liked better; they are simply different. Miraval did not have hungry mosquitos.

Monday, September 17, 2012

I'm done being polite.

For the second year in a row a large volunteer organization I am active in has scheduled a meeting on Yom Kippur. Clearly the group didn't get the message when a few of us raised the issue the previous year. This year I reached out to the chapter president and  politely expressed my unhappiness with this. She was, of course, apologetic.

Frankly, I am used to this kind of oversight. Herein lays the problem. Does this continue to happen because people either don't say anything or instead, gently express their unhappiness the way I did?

Our elementary school has scheduled a Lunch on the Lawn on Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar and a day many Jews fast.

There are approximately 5 million Jews in the US, enough so that my SIL's public schools in Los Angeles are closed for the Jewish High Holy Days. As are my friend Kathy's public schools in Boston. And Barbara's public school in Philadelphia. But here in my northern California suburb our school scheduled an event where families join with their children to eat. And it's not like the Jews in this town are invisible -- there's even a temple here!

There is something seriously wrong with this lack of understanding. Clearly I'm not making enough noise. You can bet that will change.

L'shanah tova, all.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

We do not have hantavirus.

Yes, we were in Yosemite this summer. No, we did not get hantavirus. A lot of people have expressed concern about our exposure to it. Thank you.

For those not yet acquainted with hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS), there is no cure and people have died from it. Humans are infected by contact with the saliva, urine or waste products from rodents. We're not big fans of those things so we're all clear.

Kudos to the National Park Service for its aggressive efforts to inform this summer's Yosemite Park visitors of the outbreak. I received two emails and one voicemail message alerting me to the symptoms and telling me where to go for additional information and help.

Summer reservations in Yosemite sell out a year in advance. This may not be the case next summer.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Tomato Derivatives

My parents filled in their pool a few years ago. Replacing the diving board and cool oasis my kids loved so much is an expansive vegetable garden. My mom is really into her garden. She's so into gardening that she emails me and my brother gardening tips she finds online.

Don't get me wrong -- we like it and we benefit from it. There's something gratifying about planting seeds, caring for them, watching them grow and then pulling your accomplishments from the dirt and consuming them. We have such a temperate climate here in California that we can grow a huge variety of edibles.

My parents are away all month and left the garden's bounty to me and my brother. I'm not sure what prompted my mom to plant as much as she did knowing they'd be away.

On Saturday, after two soccer games and a big lunch, the youngest Pinks and I did some harvesting.

Here's what we picked in an hour. And we barely touched the cherry tomatoes. They are my least favorite and we just ran out of steam. I'll go back next weekend and then do a drop off at the local food bank. Not even two tomato-loving families can eat so many tomatoes.

I roasted a big pan of San Marzano's in olive oil and Kosher salt and inhaled them for dinner. The way I make them turns them into tomato chips. I like them blackened because all the crispy bits turn sweet.

Then Sunday morning we headed to a friend's for a sauce and salsa making session. My friend has canning equipment and I enjoyed learning how it is used. She also has a food strainer, which takes far less time than my score, boil, ice bath, peel and blend method of turning whole tomatoes into puree for sauce.

Thing 1 really likes cooking so she was a huge help in that area. All that chopping is tedious. I'd never roasted chiles on the stovetop before so that was an adventure. It's a lot of work charring those babies then scraping the char off, the seeds out and then dicing, all the while wearing gloves.

It's shocking how little 30 lbs of tomatoes reduced down to. But we'll enjoy those tomatoes long into the winter. And so will my parents, whose pantry and freezer I am slowly filling with mason jarred tomato products.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Noise.

The Pinks are back in school and we're slowly settling into a routine.

Grocery shopping for lunch items. Carpools. Dance. Soccer. Religious School. Golf. National Charity League. Shopping for clothes and school supplies. Homework. Reduced screen time. Enforced bedtimes.

Since the week before school began I've been inundated by verbal vomit. Teacher and class assignments. Changes to teacher and class assignments. Calls for volunteers. The kids (and it's not just mine) and parents have a lot to say on the above topics.

It's no wonder I napped this afternoon. Thing 1 is feeling it too. She had a complete meltdown yesterday at dim sum. And this is the kid who loves Chinese food.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Shiva

My friend's father passed away this week after a long illness.

Today I took the youngest Pinks to our friends' house to make a shiva call. Shiva is the formal, seven-day mourning period in Judaism, one that first-degree family members observe. The word shiva comes from the Hebrew shi-VAH, which means seven. During this time the family members receive visitors. It is traditional and expected that these visitors bring food. We baked cookies this morning.

My friend's family are Israeli emigres. His wife's family are Russian emigres. The two met at an American law school. Their home is a mix of Jewish artifacts and antiques. My friend has the most interesting tattoo I have ever seen. In time I will get up the nerve to ask to photograph it then blog about it.

Today's conversation was in many tongues and the mourning traditions from many cultures were tied together by Judaism. Russians, for example, don't leave keys on a table. Immediate family wears a keriah, or torn outer-layer-garment during shiva. Sometimes this is a tie. Sometimes this is a torn ribbon.

I did not know my friend's father but was glad to support the family and to teach The Pinks this part of our religion. It gave us an opportunity to talk about what you say to someone when they're grieving. "I'm sorry." "I'm sorry for your loss." Thing 2, our animal lover, insisted on paying special attention to the family dog as "he must be upset, too."

Shiva is not gloom and doom; it's story telling and laughter and memories in addition to tears. The Pinks played outside with the family's daughters, who they know from Religious School. And I ate some piroshki, Russian puff pastries filled with apples. Divine.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

She was boring.

My friend said this to me recently, talking about someone she'd recently broken bread with.

I knew the woman she was talking about and I agree, she's rather vanilla, although the thought hadn't occurred to me until she mentioned it.

What makes someone not boring? Interesting hobbies? Engaging stories? Humor? A visible passion for something, anything?


I used to work with a woman who was pee-in-your-pants funny. She was completely and unapologetically selfish and her observations were often spot-on but things you'd never say out loud if your parents raised you with any sense of decency. She was not boring in the slightest.

As an aside, I'm beginning to think you are either born with the humor gene or not. My dad and cousin David are funny, and they have the same sense of one-line humor. One of The Pinks says the funniest things.

One of my fairly new friends has an interesting backstory. Actually a bunch of my friends do. They're not Americans. They've lived outside the US. They've traveled to unusual places and will eat weird food without a second thought. Or they grew up in non-traditional families or have overcome tough odds to land on their feet. Dave tells me that none of my friends are alike. Maybe I am bored with people like myself?

I love the picture above, taken at our house Thanksgiving 2009. I am thankful for friends and family. And the people in this picture are all interesting. There are as many non-Americans as there are Americans. Dave and I like hosting an eclectic Thanksgiving -- the more the merrier.

Thing 1 tells me that she likes living in a small town because it's friendly and you often see people you know. I'd much prefer the diversity, the anonymity, of a large city.

In business and in social situations, it seems that unboring people are good storytellers. Jim is an amazing storyteller. You can visualize the people in his stories and he is dang funny. I think back to his stories days later. I wonder if Jim tells stories at work, too.

My CEO is a good storyteller. He comes up with clever lines and memorable quips during every conversation we have. Is this a common thread binding serial entrepreneurs?

Dave is naturally on, a natural people person. When we go out and I'm not in the mood I remind myself that I need to be on, that if I accept a social invitation it's my responsibility to bring it.

Thoughts?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Go climb a rock.


That's the Yosemite Mountaineering School slogan, the one seen on t-shirts around the world.

And that's just what we did with The Pinks.

Day One: Drive to Yosemite Valley. We're told it's four hours from our house so of course we think we can do it faster than that. Nope. Summer traffic. A gutless-but-fuel-efficient Prius and windy, two-lane roads without guard rails. Night One was spent in relative luxury in a cottage at The Ahwahnee. Tech trivia: Steve Jobs and Laurene Powell married here in 1991.

We swam and played in the river. Don't underestimate the thrill of rock skipping, glacier-created sand between your toes and fast-moving snowmelt on a scorching day. Deer and squirrels were everywhere. The kids couldn't believe that the deer barely gave them a glance. Dave took a tour of the historic hotel, which opened in 1927 so wealthy people would come visit and see how worthwhile their support of this park was. Dolled up. Dinner with friends. And other friends. The sun went down and the kids played flashlight games with people atop Glacier Point, 3,200 feet above us and the valley floor.

The Pinks showed the appropriate amount of awe at the Valley. Unprompted. It'd easily been 20 years since I'd been to the park and it's magnificent. Granite rising from the valley floor. I doubt I thought the same when my dad forced me to backpack lengths of the John Muir Trail during my formative years. My friend and I traded backpacking stories. All these years I thought I was the only one who cried on the trail, and it wasn't from the sheer beauty of the surroundings, either.

Day Two: Breakfast in the hotel dining room. The ceiling is 34' high and supported by immense sugar pine trestles. Fortunately there is no dress code for breakfast because two of three kids dined in their pajamas. Hike to the base of Vernal Falls. Beautiful. Hot. Many people doing the same thing. The chances of us getting heatstroke were less than of us getting trampled. Visit to the Ansel Adams Gallery.

Depart Ahwahnee for Tuolomne Meadows, up at 8,900 feet. Shoot requisite picture of The Pinks at Half Dome Overlook. Stop at Tenaya Lake for Yosemite Conservancy ribbon cutting ceremony at East Beach. Sand play for kids. My fish friend, an accomplished open water swimmer, went for a dip while we played on the beach. She didn't even have the decency to shiver or to breathe hard after doing a fast mile in the 51F lake. No wetsuit, either. And then came the rain. Head for Tuolomne Meadows Lodge.

Lodge is tent cabins with bear boxes, cots, wood stoves, and a communal bathroom. Eat protein-heavy dinner in dining room, the only option. Witness numerous backpackers come to Lodge hoping for a dry room for the night. No such luck. Rain eventually stops. Play in Merced River. Spend evening making s'mores and laughing. Doze off and on all night wondering if sound outside cabin is bear or deer and if we should have put our toiletries in the bear box, like the Bear Aware Policy suggested.

Day Three: Eat flapjacks and bacon in dining room. Fishing at two different lakes. Bag lunches. Explain to kids Tree Line. Notice that fishing spots at elevation 10,000 feet are making it hard to breathe. Drive back to Bay. Sleep like the dead in my own bed.


Monday, August 13, 2012

The Orchard

My cousin works at The Orchard. We carpool one day a week so I hear a lot about it. She likes The Orchard and has worked there for four years. It is 60 miles from her house. Assuming she works 48 weeks a year, that's 115,000 miles she's put on her car just commuting. In actuality it's a bit less because she sometimes takes the gbus and sometimes I drive. Still, that tells you how special The Orchard is.

Today I had a chance to see The Orchard. If you read carefully, you'd have a small clue that The Orchard is part of Google, one of its childcare facilities.

Wow. It was like Camp Galileo only better. I seriously wanted to stay and play. Of course it was quiet when I toured at 7am and it doesn't stay that way for long.

We entered through the staff kitchen, which was stocked with healthy, packaged snacks, fruit and cereal, drinks, boxed, refrigerated salads and sandwiches, and yogurt. There were probably other things I didn't see, too.

And then we walked into the children's space. Any child would love it there. It was like Habitot or other children's museums. Children's art on the walls. Stations for gardening, reading, cooking, sculpture, dress up, building, resting, sorting, painting, drawing, clay. It was colorful. And clean. There are teeny tiny wooden tables with teeny tiny wooden chairs. No plastic. There are shelves upon shelves of color sorted buttons and crayons and markers and feathers and glitter and pipe cleaners and ribbons and fabric and bottle caps and popsicle sticks. And each room was done like this!

There are three separate age-appropriate outside play areas and a garden, where the children plant  and harvest their own food. Which of course they then eat. There's a huge, freeform sand box and a mud box and an inches-deep river. The play structures look like Michael Graves designed them.

A dedicated Google department preps the children's food on the main campus then finishes it up on site at The Orchard . It is nutritionally balanced and aesthetically pleasing. There are shelves of Earth's Best baby food in the children's kitchen (not to be confused with the staff kitchen) for the babies.

The learning philosophy is Reggio Emilia, a self-guided curriculum based on responsibility, respect and community via the child's interests and enrichment. To me it just looks like straight up fun.

Seriously, people, if you are inclined to work full-time and have little kids, put Google on your short list. I understand now why my cousin commutes.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Olympics are killing me.

It's summer. The kids are up late. We are, too, watching the Olympics. The kids sleep in and I get up early to work or work out. It's a good thing they only last two weeks. I will need a vacation after this.

My favorite sport used to be gymnastics. Now it's synchronized diving. The higher the platform the better. I watched kayaking today. Yawn. Pole vaulting was pretty impressive. Is it a big sport for short Jews? I must research.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Girl walks into a bar.

Jen and I giggled like young schoolgirls when we were waiting for Kim. At The Ship, no less, an ale house at the corner of Battery and Pacific in San Francisco dating back to 1851, two years into the Gold Rush.

Girl walks into the bar. Her smile could easily span the 8-state-divide which usually separates us. She is blonde curls and turquoise eyes and Jen and I attach ourselves to her with a death grip for the rest of the evening.

Fortunately Jen and I are with good men, men who knew their role was to keep Kim's husband occupied while the three of us chattered nonstop on topic ranging from attachment parenting (we are way over it) to discipline (we are fans of it) to other Feb Moms (proud of our nationally ranked triathlete). Jen and Kim have the same quick, biting sense of humor. I am good at laughing.

The six of us ate mostly cow at 5A5 and took advantage of the last few days of foie gras' availability in California. Our visitors were quite adventurous and tried taco (octopus) salad and the lychee and berry palate cleanser.

Thank you, Kim, for taking on a client in the Bay, and for playing with us!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Looking for Justin Bieber

We're just back from a weekend in LA. Calabasas, actually.

Our first order of business was sugaring up at Crumbs. On our way home from Crumbs we drove by Justin Bieber's house, which is inside the gate within the gate. My niece is into Justin. She lives inside the gate but not inside the gate within the gate so it took some sweet talking to get past that second gate. Surprisingly, Justin was home. His car, which is the same as our neighbors, was in the driveway and his garage was open. One of his friends was in the garage. Pictures were taken. Not by me though.

My niece also drove us past Kourtney Kardashian's house, which is literally around the corner from my niece's house. No paparazzi. They must have been at Katherine Jackson's house, also in the neighborhood. If they could get inside the gate that is. Momma Jackson was in the news last week. Google if you're curious.

 We packed a lot into a quick weekend! Santa Monica Pier and the Third Street Promenade. The biggest Brandy Melville I've ever seen. Dave and our BIL played golf at the Calabasas Country Club. Dips in the pool both day and night. Chinese food. Steaks on BBQ with the usual suspects. A trip to Susie Cakes, which I prefer to Crumbs but which the kids do not. Walking Hayley, the cousins' new Maltipoo. Heading out of town we ran into Keyshawn Johnson at the gas station. Sterns Wharf in Santa Barbara. Riding Surries. Lunch on the pier. Driving home along the 101 and dinner at Dennis and Margo's in Pasadera.

Thing 1 and I fell in love with Santa Barbara Chicken art and we came home with two pieces. They are unusual and happy and silly, and made us both grin ear to ear. The piece I bought matches nothing in our house but I really do love it.

Eldest Daughter is at sleep-away camp for the next two weeks. She's asked me not to blog about her. I will anyway. Lots. Next time.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Rocky Treatment

Eldest Daughter got her braces off a few months ago. And now she smiles a lot more. Of course more is relative when you're a 14-year-old girl.

I'd promised her The Rocky Treatment when her orthodontic torture was finished. And that's how we ended up at the Neiman's counter in the city Saturday.

The Master of Lipstick Picking did not disappoint. Eldest Daughter enjoyed the experience and Rocky picked out a beautiful Chanel Rouge Coco Shine Shine for her, age-appropriate and in the classic Chanel packaging.

She smiled all afternoon.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

St. Joseph's Church

A block from my office is a Catholic church. I notice it often.

The question: can you just go in and take a peek? I wanted to because the outside is very pretty. And in Europe we do this all the time.

Today I tried going in. And it was locked. There was a sign on the front door saying that, due to vandalism, the church is closed except during worship services.

That's sad.

Instead I walked around the corner and into a restaurant where no one except the cashier spoke English.

Mini vacation at noon.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Fisker

Our neighbors have a Fisker. And the four of us drove it to dinner one evening. While our friends are super fun and the evening was filled with laughter, the Fisker added a whole new element to the mix.

For those of you in need of a refresher: Fisker is a new American car, a hybrid sedan. Thus far there are very few of these visually stunning works of art on the road.

As it turned out, there was street parking in front of the restaurant. We parked there. And as it turned out we were seated on the patio, with a view of the street and the car.

That baby draws attention. Every few minutes someone would walk up to it and stare. Then they'd point. This was inevitably followed by the appearance of a mobile phone, used either to google the car or shoot a picture. About half the time the photo was accompanied by someone posing in front of it. We laughed the first dozen times this happened.

And then I couldn't stand it any more. A group people were gathered in front of it, gawking. I hopped down from the patio and walked up to them.

Me: What's going on?

Man in seersucker suit and bow tie: It's a new hybrid car. Looks nice, doesn't it?

Me: What's so special about it?

Man: See the solar panels on the roof? That charges the battery.

Me: Oh. It's so shiny!

I run my finger along the door, trying to smudge it. My tablemates are now giggling.

Crowd around car: collective gasp.

Me, pulling out my iPhone and hopping up on the hood: Will you shoot my picture on it?

Man: Um. No.

He backs away.

I look back at our table where my tablemates are teary-eyed, gasping for air, and close to peeing their pants. The restaurant patrons on the patio have BIG eyes. I slide down the hood and return to our table.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Tahoe Game

Every time we come to Tahoe we make a game of seeing what has changed since our last visit. This time we noted that the ugly fountain outside of the Olympic House was removed, replaced by grass and stepping stone paths. Parts of the Olympic House are no longer a purplish gray paint. There is additional directional signage in The Village and the entrance to the valley is marked with a new Olympic sign.

We had a jam-packed trip up. Highlights included:

  • Boating with the Owles. 
  • Lunch at Sunnyside, the place to see and be seen. The best thing we saw was the smiles on our niecelets faces when we they were offered the chance to join our family tradition of eating Hula Pie before the main meal. appetizer.
  • The first-ever Morris Family Hike. We did enough of the Shirley Lake Trail to eat lunch by and play in the river. The youngest Pinks loved this, especially navigating the rocky trail.
  • Perfect weather. 
  • Listening to a Billy Joel cover band at the bottom of the Granite Chief chairlift.
  • Golf and tennis.
I can't wait to go back in August.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

4 July

I didn't get to sleep in on this particular holiday but in the fun factor of our nonstop day made it worthwhile. Dandiville's annual parade began at 9a this year, an hour earlier than in years past. Some years it's miserably hot and, while this wasn't one of them, it was nice to be out of the sun by noon and before the strongest sun of the day was upon us. I was teary-eyed much of the time watching the floats honoring our troops. I also like seeing old friends and neighbors both march in the parade and be spectators. Not much is cuter than little kids dressed in red, white and blue waving the American Flag. 


While I was doing a rare two-hour commute home from The Silly Valley on Independence Day Eve, Dave and our friends scoped out a good spot the parade route and we were able to watch from the comfort of our shaded chairs 12 hours later. Eldest Daughter especially enjoyed the parade social scene this year.

After the parade we headed up to a party in St. Helena. Our friends have decided to take a year out of the rat race and spend the next year living in Rome. They leave in August, in time for their three children to begin the new school year. Meanwhile, they are readying their ranch-style house among the vineyards with gorgeous gardens and pool for a year-long rental. If you know someone who wants to live the wine country dream for a year, I'll put you in touch. I'd move there in a second.

The husband told me about this New York Times article on being busy, which only served to validate their decision. Their kids will take a bus to school and the husband and wife will have time to read the paper and drink coffee out, explore the city and plan weekend trips. I am jealous. Yes, I am happy for them but I am jealous, too, of them going to Rome and stepping off the treadmill.

I do not like being busy. I need a lot of time to myself and I hate it when people brag about how busy they are. Do they enjoy the pace? Are they Tiger Moms and Dads? Are they afraid of being unscheduled to the point they don't know what they will do with downtime? I chatted with a couple, parents of two, at the parade and they told me that they go for a five-mile hike together every Saturday morning and it forces them to have an extended conversation. Brilliant.

Our friends have a big extended family and the gathering was perhaps 40 kids and adults swimming, BBQing, throwing around balls, drinking and playing in the hammock and treehouse. I took the picture below at their house. The husband challenged the kids to create a place to hang the flag. Success! I like these kinds of events -- a few people I know, most I don't, activities to keep the kids happily occupied and a diversity of backgrounds and opinions. It was great to catch up with the friend who links us to the St. Helena couple. Much of him remains the same as when we met, 30 years ago.

We were going to spend the night in Napa and come up to Tahoe Thursday but instead decided to head out that night. Our risk was rewarded with arriving at Donner Lake just as their fireworks show started. We lucked into a prime vantage point on Hwy 80.


Today I woke up in my own bed at Squaw. We've not been here since ski season so there is zero to eat in the house. I headed to Starbucks for caffeine and breakfast while everyone else slept in, and am now banging away at my laptop with a pine-infused set of lungs and big smile. It's pure magic in the early mornings at Squaw. People walking their dogs. Ambituous hikers and bikers. Nerds like me on laptops. Later Dave will take the kids golfing and give me a whopping on the tennis court. Paradise!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Rory didn't make the cut.

And Thing 2 was sad. After all, they've been besties since she met him at the club when he was practicing and she was there to claim her ski team awards. Well, not exactly besties but she's a big fan.

We attended the Friday round at the US Open with way too many other people. Surprisingly, The Youngest Pinks were really into it. (Eldest Daughter was in LA with her cousins that weekend.) We parked ourselves at the green on the first hole and watched until Tiger, Phil and Bubba came through. Then we went to the member's only grandstands and watched the eighth and ninth holes until again, Tiger, Phil and Bubba came through. We wrapped up the day with some retail therapy in a tent with an interior as large as and as well-merchandised Nordstrom, and seeing a few groups on 18.

Dave has decided that this is The Pinks' Summer of Golf so they loaded up on adorable US Open logowear in that tent.

The Olympic Club bore little resemblance to the club we know and love; there were grandstands and concession stands and tents everywhere. And people and more people.

On the shuttle bus back to BART we had a hilarious time with four Rickie Fowler groupies. They were dressed in his trademark logowear, monochromatic with flat-brimmed hats. The orange reminds me of European sanitation workers.

It was a long day and definitely one of the best we've had with the kids.

Since then Dave has golfed a bit with the kids and the five of us went to the driving range together. Dave's got the right idea -- incentives and everything is a game. I took golf lessons the year we were married and haven't played since. I may have to get back into it seeing how it's now going to be a Family Activity.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Fire

Credit: KTVU
If you had two minutes to grab your most valued possessions and leave your house, what would you take?

I did this today. Into a laundry basket went:

  • Three baby books
  • Jewelry
  • The watch my late FIL gave my husband
  • Cash
  • Passports and birth certificates
  • Binder of negatives
  • My three favorite quilts
  • Work Mac and Personal PC
  • Purse
And then the police told us that the fire near our house was under control and we didn't need to evacuate.

The fire was so close that the local TV news was broadcasting from our gate, the same gate The Pinks walk through to pick up the school bus. We could see the scene from our gate as it played out less than a half mile up Mt. Diablo.

The Pinks were scared at first. Then we listened to the dispatch on firedepartment.org and watched all the fire crews put it out. And then we had dinner and went for a swim.

It's summer after all.



Saturday, June 16, 2012

8th Grade Promotion

Our 14-year-old wearing a white dress and six-inch-heels in a sea of 14-year-old girls wearing mostly white dresses and six-inch-heels. Fourteen-year-old boys sweltering in long pants and dress shoes. 88F degrees. Sitting in the sun. Singing. Speakers. Diplomas. A field with a ratio of 3 grasshoppers to each human. Dinner at Chow. Cake. Exhaustion. Summer.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Clinging to childhood.

Eldest Daughter just finished middle school. For those of you slow on the uptake, that means we now have a high schooler in the house.

This is a picture of her at the western-themed, school-sponsored promotion party. Some of you will be appalled by the way she's dressed. My mother most definitely. No, I don't think she's showing too much skin. She will never have as perfect a figure as she has right now.

I just came across our travel activity box on an upper shelf in the laundry room. It's a large Rubbermaid container filled with coloring books, small games, stickers, pipe cleaners, finger puppets and puzzles. It's been a few years since I opened it, and of course we are long past needing it. The contents of this box, which I continuously added to as I came across interesting activities, kept The Pinks busy on many a car and airplane ride. Now, of course, they occupy themselves with books, needlework and electronics. I must find a good home for this carefully curated collection of entertainment.

Thing 2 and I reorganized her closet last weekend. Having custom Closet Factory built-ins was one of the best investments we made when moving here; it was easy to reposition hanging bars and shelves. We also transitioned from kiddie hangers to adult-sized ones. If you need 100 teeny tiny hangers, call me.

It's another sign that they're growing up.