Sunday, February 26, 2012

There goes the neighborhood.

There are thirty-something homes in our neighborhood. We know all but a few of the neighbors and socialize with several of them. Two are close enough friends that they came to Italy with us last summer.

Something is going on this year, though: a bunch of them are moving. There's no one event driving this. Two are becoming Empty Nesters. Two more are moving to retirement communities. Another couple is retiring and moving closer to their adult children. One is selling so they can turn their wine country home into a family compound and live there full-time.

We've been in this house ten years and don't foresee moving until the kids go to college. Then it's off to the Four Seasons Residences in the city.

Still, it's unsettling because there hasn't been much turnover in this neighborhood to date.

I wish my brother and ice cream SIL would move here. But they won't. They enjoy remodeling too much to buy a home that's move-in-ready.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Finally, a real ski weekend.

Some snow has fallen since Christmas. Not a lot but enough to make a trip to Tahoe worthwhile.

I have missed the mountains. I have missed the snow. I have missed the scent of pine trees. I have missed our neighbors.

We skied. We had dinner with our neighbors. We ice skated at Northstar with friends and had dinner. I'm going to start calling Northstar the northern outpost of our Bay Area suburb. So many familiar races around the rink! Thing 2 waited in line for 1 hour 35 minutes to have her face painted. Who knew she had such patience?!

Now let's talk about the much-hyped ski-through Starbucks, the first one of its kind in the US. It's been featured prominently in the news, even on CNN. Well, it's not so much ski-through as it is ski-up. It's really a window in the Gold Coast Complex. So if you hop off the Funitel, carry your skis and poles down the long corridor and put on your skis prematurely then you can scoot to the window and order your grande, extra-hot Caramel Macchiato with half 2% milk and half whole milk, no whipped cream. And then ski uphill a bit to the bunny hill chair or ski down to the intermediate and advanced chairs. The reality is this: anyone with any ski ability whatsoever takes the back door off the Funitel and bypasses Starbucks and the novice skiers altogether en route to the more challenging terrain.

And, for the record, I saw no one on skis holding a Starbucks cup. So there you have it. The world according to Leslie.

I was sad to come home today.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lemon Coconut Cake

We spent the week before Christmas at Tahoe as usual. Unfortunately it was blue skies and dry the whole nine days we were in residence. It turned out to be okay. It would have been hard for me to focus on work if the snow conditions were pristine. And I did have to work.

We spent one afternoon ice skating at Northstar. They have quite the setup there. Skating is free and ice skates are $5. This could be the biggest bargain on the north shore. The rink is lined with fire pits and heated cabanas. F&B can be ordered and consumed right there. And there was a live band playing. Even the break for the Zamboni was an event with people lining up around the outside edges of the rink high fiveing the driver. We killed a few hours with my parents, my brother and his family, his sister-in-law and her kids, and his in-laws, the Owles. Northstar was very lively compared to Squaw.

After that we headed to the Owles' nest in Dollar Point for drinks and appetizers. My parents birthdays are Dec 5 and 6 and I'd baked a cake that morning for a belated celebration at the Owles. It was one of the best cakes I'd ever baked. The cream cheese frosting is worth every calorie.

Layered Coconut Cake

  • 1 cup butter, room temp
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons good quality vanilla
  • 3 cups cake flour, sifted
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup dessicated coconut

Lemon Curd

Fluffy Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 8-ounce packages Philadelphia Original Cream Cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon good-quality vanilla extract
  • 2 cups powdered sugar

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese at high speed until light, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, then the confectioners’ sugar; beat at low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter 3 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper (Sur La Table carries pre-cut parchment rounds). Butter the surface of the parchment paper as well. Lightly sift flour all over the sides and bottoms of the pans before tapping out any excess. Set aside.

In a fairly large bowl, sift the cake flour before adding the baking powder and sea salt. Whisk the three dry ingredients together and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer place the softened butter. Using a paddle attachment, cream the butter first on low speed, gradually increasing to medium speed. Once light and fluffy, add the sugar; again, beat until light and fluffy (this should take about 3 minutes or less). Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add the vanilla and mix for an additional minute.

With the mixer on medium-low speed, alternate adding the flour mixture and the coconut milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Divide the batter between the 3 buttered/floured pans. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until ever-so-lightly browned on top. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and cool for ten minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and continue to allow them to cool on the wire rack.

Once cooled, place one cake on a cake plate and start layering. I like to begin with the frosting, then add the desiccated/shredded coconut and last the lemon curd. Repeat twice. Take cake under table and eat it there so you don't have to share.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

People Watching

On most Sunday mornings I work from a coffee shop. The Pinks go to religious school and I have three hours to work, blog, read and exercise before I pick them up. Our synagogue is 18 miles from our house so I don't go back and forth.

I change up where I work. This keeps it interesting and exposes me to things I might not otherwise see. The writer is an astute observer. This morning I'm camped out at a Starbuck's that I come to a few times a year.

To my left is a heavily tattooed couple coming down from a recreational Saturday night. Their conversation is surprisingly mainstream and she apparently works for Taleo.

To my right is a mother and young daughter. She is speaking to the child in baby talk. The child has long, dark hair in tight ringlets, the kind that is adorable, that her mother works hours to style and that she will hate in ten years. Her lashes are unfairly long and her lips are the shade of red that only children have. The contents of the little girl's purse are on table. It contains a pack of gum, strawberry Lip Smacker, roll on body glitter and curl enhancer.

Three firemen just walked in, wearing regulation blue trousers, pressed blue shirts, woven black belts and shined black shoes. Clean shaven must be regulation, too. Their hands are in their pockets when they are not drinking their juice. One has a military-short haircut. Do they notice the tattooed couple with bloodshot eyes?

A little couple and their little child are in line. They are greeted by another woman. The child is beautiful. I wonder if she models like my high-school-friend Jon did. Do Jon and his wife Jennifer model together? I must Google.

This Starbucks recently remodeled so there are more communal tables and fewer cushy chairs. Every so often someone does a double-take when they walk in, surprised as I was at the new set up. There are no black aprons behind the counter and the line out the door is testament to that.

There is a blond father with a set of preschool-aged blond twin girls. Their attire suggests they are either en route to or en route from church. He is also carrying an infant car seat and from this angle I can see tiny black patent leather shoes peeking out. They sit next to a table of high school girls wearing PJ bottoms tucked into Uggs.

I wish I had the nerve to shoot pictures.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Boo hoo on Jason Wu

This is Caryl. This is Caryl on Sunday morning. I convinced Caryl to accompany me to Target, where we planned to be amongst the first to see the new Jason Wu Collection.

The first Target we visit doesn't carry the line. We drive ten miles further. And there we discover that serious Jason Wu Wannabees queued up an hour before the store opened and then picked it clean.

When we arrived, at 9:05a, the parking lot was nearly deserted and the selection was down to one slim rack showing only the uglies and rumpled things retrieved from the dressing room floor.

We got a good laugh out of our adventure and meandered down the makeup and home decor aisles.

The funniest part was that Thing 1, who was in Hebrew class, somehow got online and commented on a picture Caryl had just uploaded to Instagram. "I see my mom in the background!" Busted.