Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A walk down Memory Lane. I mean Second St.

My first job out of college was in magazine publishing. Like pretty much everyone else I knew, I lived in one part of San Francisco and worked in another. SOMA, where I spent the first three years of my career, was a neighborhood in transition back then. It had none of those cute work-live lofts it has now, and none of the hip wine bars and high-end nail salons. South Park, (nee 1855) had homeless people on its benches instead of the mothers and strollers it has today. Moscone Center was just one building back then (it's now four) and the further south you went, the grittier it got.

I worked in one of the nicest buildings around, 501 Second St. There was security in the lobby and both a deli and Gold's Gym on the ground floor. I belonged to the gym for a time, the years of high-impact aerobics, but then quit because I couldn't work out and clean up in the hour I had for my lunch break. And that neighborhood was not safe enough after dark to stick around!

Fast forward twenty years. I have a client meeting in the city. And it's in that same building, on the same floor I worked. Gold's Gym is gone. So is the deli. There's no 20 foot tall Christmas tree in the lobby with turquoise and salmon colored ornaments. (So early 90s!)

The walk down Second Street from Market is a walk down Memory Lane. Eddie Rickenbacher's, where I spent many evenings is still there. The Flytrap now serves Persian food. Patelco, where I got my first car loan, remains. Adolph Gasser, the iconic camera and photographic rental house is still there. The San Francisco Dancewear outlet is gone. Boy do I need it now! So is the three-story Chinese restaurant. Chaiken & Capone's first offices were on Second Street. It's now just Chaiken and Julie moved a few blocks over to New Montgomery last I checked.

Just four of us were in my client's offices that morning. I hoteled in a large open space with a view toward the west, a view I never had from my windowless cube back in my publishing days, the days I had to take my lunch from exactly 1pm to exactly 2pm. The 5th floor patio was still there, the patio where Scott, Cynthia, Guy and I ate many deli lunches and soaked up the occasional San Francisco sun.

I was so naive back then, so green in business. I took it all in, realizing that the editorial side of a magazine would never hire someone who had worked on its advertising side, figuring out how to work with prima donnas and high functioning alcoholics. Playing with one of the first NeXT computers, moving up to traveling around the country on the trade show circuit. Learning how to plan $100K corporate holiday parties from two executive assistants. Met Caryl, who I am still close with today, and Callie, whose husband became Gina after they moved to Seattle.

Ah, the good 'ole days ...


Thursday, December 19, 2013

The glamorous life.

I recently read an article in the New York Times which described Facebook as often providing its members with the sensation of feeling a little left out when their friends post from that party they weren't invited to or from someone's last trip to an exotic locale. In this same article Instagram was described as a vehicle for unadulterated voyeurism because it is almost entirely a photo site with a built-in ability, via the retro-style filters, to idealize every moment, thus encouraging users to create art-directed magazine layouts of their lives.

Just in case you were wondering, my life isn't like that.

Here's an example. One of the things I do for my current client is host and moderate webinars. Last week's webinar featured a speaker nine hours ahead of me. This presentation, which had more than 200 attendees, was scheduled to start at 7am Pacific Time. I decided to forgo the 4:30am wakeup call, get two additional hours of sleep, do my duties from the house in my snowman print pajamas, and then doll up and drive the 50 miles to work. The only problem was that the internet was down in our whole neighborhood at 6:30am, which I only learned by running around the neighborhood in those aforementioned PJs pounding on the doors of all neighbors with lights on begging for a live internet connection. Glamorous, huh?

Today was the Thing 1's Ballet Tea Demo. It's a short performance at the end of her ballet class. I popped this picture of the little ballerinas doing a frog stretch. Why do they do frog stretches in ballet, anyway? Thing 1 dislikes ballet but takes the class because it's required for dance team. After seeing the demo today I honestly believe that teaching ballet is the most boring job on the planet.

The last time I went to one of these demos was when Eldest Daughter took ballet at this studio. We skipped this event during her last competitive season because she was upset that it was all Christmas music. I was good with that since it was only a performance for the families, not a competition. Oh no. I got a less-than-friendly call from the studio owner reminding me that we were not the only Jewish family who took ballet. Again, so glamorous.

Thing 2 did something quite glamorous last weekend if you're the Sporty Spice type. She took a LAX clinic with the Cal Women's LAX team at Memorial Stadium. Go Bears.

It's a good thing I still blog. After all, you're not subject to learning which party you weren't invited to or which World Heritage Site I checked off my list this week ...

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christmas Lights

I had a quick business trip down south this week and was able to get dinner in Newport Beach with Nini and Sydney, my aunt and uncle. We had a blast when we visited them in August and I was happy to see them again so soon.

On our way home from dinner we did a drive through Balboa Island and saw some of the decorated homes. So much fun!

And of course it was nice to have my aunt and uncle all to myself, just like I often did 20 years ago when we all lived in San Francisco.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

An open letter to our friends at Safeway.

Dear Safeway Corporate Buyers,

We're loyal. We're your target audience. You provide a clean, convenient, generally easy-to-find-parking-at store in our suburb and we spend thousands of dollars there each year.

However, while I was shopping for Thanksgiving I noticed the large display of Passover items. Apparently you didn't pay attention to the 2011 Whole Foods Incident in Washington DC. These items were in a stand-alone display, far from the regular Kosher or ethnic foods where we MOTs (Members of the Tribe) find everyday Jewish mainstay foods such as packaged matzoh ball soup mix and Manischiwetz. Clearly this setup was an intentional act, one that took space away from other manufacturers. We've seen this in the early fall, too, around the time of our Jewish New Year.

The thing is, we only need those unleavened cake mixes, macaroons, jelly candy and gefilte fish during Passover. Passover is in the spring. So when you start thinking about that big pastel-colored bunny, you're there.

Here's the way our conversations go down at Rosh Hashana and Chaunkah dinners:

"Oy vey, Phyllis. Did you see the three-story matzoh display at Safeway this week?"
"Yes, Sadie, I did. Messhuganah, those people! When are they going to figure out that every Jewish holiday meal does not end with chocolate-covered matzoh?"

So, friends at Safeway, we really and truly appreciate you thinking of us. And we know it's hard to keep all of those Jewish holidays straight. Heck, if you need help correlating your sales reports with your buying plan, I can recommend a great software vendor or two …

Loyally yours in latkes,

Jewish Suburban Wife of One, Mother of Three

Monday, December 2, 2013

Sam

Sam was my buddy last Wednesday. He's still my buddy but he's back in the corral now, with Prince and a whole bunch of mares. Thing 2 has woven a complex tale about the drama in the corral and which mare is Sam's girlfriend, likely fueled by my father's input, either imaginary or not.

Sam took me on a beautiful ride up into the Walnut Creek Open Space (yes, all proper nouns!), rewarding me with a view of the spires in the Castle Rock Regional Recreation Area and of the surrounding cities.

While so many others were cooking and baking (our gemelli included, with my mom), my father and I let the horses do the work and enjoyed the ride.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Fifty six.

I love this time of year. People are in a good mood as they get into the holiday spirit. Thanksgiving is in two days and I did our grocery shopping last night after visiting the fabulous Janine for a cut and color.

The Safeway near the salon is not near our house so I didn't see any familiar faces, thus eliminating the stress of "our kids used to dance together or are you one of Dave's friends from college?" and "oh yes, Keeley / Kallista / Kimie was in class with which of our twins in first grade?" The whole shopping experience was quite pleasant as I was all by myself and in no rush. I even returned the cart all the way to the front door of the store, not just the corral in the parking lot.

Still, the thing that blows me away this time of year is the view from our kitchen. I walk into the kitchen, look out the wall of windows to Mt. Diablo State Park and see that beautiful light dusting of … flour. Yes, flour. A fine layer of flour over the granite countertops. 

No matter how carefully we scrub those counters after baking there still remains the tiniest trace of flour. I honestly think that the counters are pristine when we're done scrubbing and that the iRobot re-flours them as it's vacuuming the floors each night. It's sick how much thought I've given to this, isn't it? 

Thing 1 learned in cooking class that if you crouch down and view your counter at eyeball level then you can more easily see what remains on it to be cleaned. At this time of year it's always flour.

What does the number 56 have to do with the flour on our counters? It's the number of dozen cookies that Eldest Daughter and I somehow committed to baking for NCL this holiday season. Yes, it's for a variety of causes: Danville Community Band, Hospice of the East Bay, Children's Hospital. But still it's 56 dozen cookies. Do the math, friends. Heck, I'll do it for you. It's 672 cookies.

Adding to that is the fact that Thing 1 loves to bake. In fact she's going to my parents' house tomorrow to bake  for Thanksgiving. And Jill phoned last night to confirm today's playdate with her, also to bake.

As long as Deidre and others keep posting links to recipes such as these Brown Butter Salted Caramel Snickerdoodles we'll keep at it. And until it's over that light dusting of flour will remain a constant here at Casa Pink.

Happy Thanksgiving all. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Rock City

We live just off the road that leads into Mt. Diablo State Park. One of my epic fails as a parent is spending time with The Pinks in the park. It's practically in our back yard and people come from all over the Bay Area to visit it. We mostly ignore it except when there's a bike race or fire.

A few weeks ago the youngest Pinks had minimum days and a friend and I piled the kids into the car and drove up the hill to Rock City. She, of course, had been several times and knew the drill.

We ate a picnic lunch then hit the rocks. The kids scrambled around like goats. My friend and I were a little slower. The next day I was very sore. Although I've been running, the contortions my body did to climb those rocks did a number on me.

I had hoped to see the burn area from the Morgan fire but we weren't close enough. I guess that's a good thing.

This expedition made me wish we'd been up there with the kids before. But I won't make that mistake again. It won't be long before we're back.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Go Team Oracle!

One of our neighbors throws the to-die-for Halloween party each year. This year Dave and I were part of a group. As one who generally finds more comfort in solo activities, I really enjoyed this! We had a brilliant idea -- Team Oracle. And it was easy to outfit given the recent America's Cup victory.

The cup was part of Jill's tea service. A magnum of champs was another prop. We brought our attitude. We were comfortable in our tennies and danced and danced and danced. It's been a long time since I had so much fun at a huge social gathering.

Although our costumes were the best (no bias there!), the host and hostess were fabulous in their pink loofah and Mr. Bubbles outfits. The Halloween costume du jour appeared to be the Duck Dynasty Family.

Happy Halloween!


Sunday, October 27, 2013

I am not related to you.

We had the strangest conversation with Thing 2 a while back. She thought she was only related to Dave, and not to me. Here's her reasoning:
  1. I like to stay up late, like Daddy.
  2. I am good at sports, like Daddy.
  3. I am tenacious, like Daddy.
  4. I am outgoing, like Daddy.
  5. I am good at math, like Daddy.
  6. I'm tall, like Daddy.
  7. I snore, like Daddy.
I love the way this kid's mind works. I love having a mini-Dave daughter.

Monday, October 21, 2013

I am twelve. Again.

Two incidents occurred last week that sent me right back to age 12. Both incidents could have been avoided had the people who instigated them put on their big girl panties and taken a less comfortable approach.

One of The Pinks had an "I am 12 Moment" last week, too, even though she's only 11. We pinky swore to both get over it quickly and focus on more important things. 

Because I work outside the home and outside of the leafy suburban bubble in which I live, I spend my days with a cross-section of people. Men don't ever seem to revert to age 12. Men, in a gross and broad generalization, care far less if people like them. Our culture rewards them for strong, leadership behavior. Women want to be liked. Sheryl Sandberg writes extensively about this in Lean In.

Many years ago one of my friends had a job in M&A. She told me that the first time she exited someone she ran into the bathroom afterwards and threw up. After six months of this she told me that she could literally be sitting at her desk eating an sandwich while telling someone that their job was eliminated. Progress.

Working more than 20 years in tech has given me a fairly thick skin. Still, I'm irritated when smart women don't have the hard conversations. If they aren't working for a paycheck, great, that's their personal choice.  I applaud them for their decision. However, use your brains, use your power for good, people! These are the same women who don't step up to leadership roles in their children's schools, their churches, their community at large because they are afraid of conflict. They leave the hard stuff to others. What a missed opportunity. What a waste of talent.

If you need coaching on doing hard things, things outside of your comfort zone, call me. I promise you will feel better afterwards. And you will still have friends.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The city mouse and the country mouse

I'm a city gal. At least I think so. I like tall buildings. I like architectural feats. And diversity. I like entertainment options. And eating options. And museums and shops and subways and buses and taxis and elevated walkways.

One of my friends lives in a city of 5 million people. She moved there from a city of 8 million people. She likes the anonymity of city living. And the ethnic and socioeconomic diversity.

I live in an incorporated town of 48,000 people. In a seven-county metropolitan area of 7 million people. Within 50 miles of me are two cities each with 900,000 people.

This does not make me a real city gal. I have never lived in a city. How can I consider myself a city person if I've never actually lived in one?

Another of my friends moved across the country for work. He now commutes daily into Manhattan. I was disappointed when he and his family bought a home in Connecticut because I wanted him to have a city life. But he told me that he's a suburban guy at heart and didn't want to live in the city.

The Pinks like the suburb we live in. They like seeing people they know at Starbucks and at stoplights and at the car wash. If we lived in a real city we wouldn't have a car to wash.

I want to live in a city. Would I like city living if I didn't have the same ready access to Tahoe?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Ironman

We woke up to a light drizzle in Tahoe on Saturday morning. Two sets of twins plus a singleton dressed in ski clothes. Paige and I threw on whatever warm clothes were left and piled the litter into the car and headed to the Treetop Adventure Park at Granlibakken. Rain or shine, we were going ziplining. Although it was cold and wet, it was not as cold and wet as our athlete friends were going to be the next day during the inaugural Lake Tahoe Ironman. That kept us going as the drizzle turned into a full downpour.

In case you need a refresher, an Ironman is a 2.4 miles swim followed by a 112 mile bike ride followed by a marathon. I've always thought it extreme. After seeing one I think the willing participants do have more than a few loose screws. More on that later.

The Adventure Park is very well done and we can't wait to go back on a warm day. It's a series of ropes courses and you are harnessed in. Thing 2, Monkey Girl, loved every minute of it because she left her fear gene down in the Bay.

A full downpour at elevation 6500 F means snow not too much higher. And we were not disappointed by the beautiful snow that followed. The Ironpeople, not so thrilled. I choose to believe that this is a sign for an early and wet winter. In all, this storm brought four inches of snow to the upper mountain.

We had five friends compete in the Ironman -- and all five finished. That is an amazing feat given that 20% of the people who started the race did not finish.

Squaw was Ironman Central so we were well-situated for the fanfare. On Sunday, race day, we positioned ourselves at the bike to run transition and then four times along the marathon course, which passed through the Village twice. We also saw all five friends finish. These athletes began at 6:30am and the fastest, a multiple-time Ironwoman, finished in 12 hours, 30 minutes.

Yes, we were still warm in our beds when these crazy people started and finished the swim. In fact, I'd say we'd only progressed to drinking our Starbucks in our PJs (fetched by some subset of the five girls) while most participants got the first 50 miles under their wheels. By the end of the day I was grateful for my peaceful, caffeinated start.

Although I'm know that competing is stressful and that this next part is going to make me eligible for the Super Ninnie Award, we didn't have much downtime once the participants started passing through the valley. It is a lot of work tracking five athletes online and then taking the right poster to the right spots on the course, watching for them, and then screaming until you are hoarse. I had no energy left to drive home Sunday night -- the kids and I were completely spent. We left Monday morning.

It is a beautiful thing to become an Ironman, one that our friend Sherman got talked into by a childhood friend and achieved with a dance across the finish line and then tears streaming down his face. I am in awe of him, our other friends and frankly, all the participants. It is an enormous physical and mental challenge. We saw lots of people quit after the bike ride. And lots of people being assisted off the course in various forms of distress. This race, at elevation and with an especially punishing bike ride, had the slowest finish times and highest DNF rates of any Ironman event this year.

The very last picture on this blog post is my favorite - us cheering on Sherman at T2. His smile is genuine and the emotions on all of our faces are raw, pure joy at the being in the moment of achievement.

One other thing of note. There are two routes from the Village to our condo. One passes in front of the Olympic House, between it and the Cable Car building. The other passes around the back, the mountain side, the side with the ski lifts and sun deck. After we cheered our last friend across the finish line and gave him the requisite and well-deserved praise, we headed back to the condo to meet up with the kids. Brilliant moi suggested we take the mountain route. While we were the only ones walking that way and it was unlit, the Village, not 1/4 mile away, easily had 2,500 people mulling around and very loud music playing. As it turned out, Paige and I were not alone after all: I spotted a bear climbing a tree not even 10 yards from us. I then proceeded to forget everything my father taught me about being in the wild and screamed BEAR!! as I high-tailed it toward to condo door. Paige followed suit, trying to outrun me because, in the end, only the slowest person gets eaten.

Another day in the life of two ski-obsessed suburban mommies.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Old Friends

Lynn and Mark passed through town this week en route to celebrate a friend's big birthday elsewhere.

Old friends are so comfortable, so easy to settle back in with. We took them on a drive along the northern perimeter of the city before dinner and watched the kite surfers off Chrissy Field, the dogs on Baker Beach and the view of the underside of the Golden Gate Bridge from Fort Point.

Dinner was at Lupa in Noe Valley. It's my favorite kind of restaurant: Roman-style food and a neighborhood joint, the kind of place Dave reminds me that we look for in our travels far and away. We ate a great meal and laughed over the contrasts between our children, aged similarly and gendered differently. Afterwards we window shopped along 24th Street and wondered about the people who dared to open a store just for pajamas or that only sells chocolate in keepsake tins.

The evening was over far too soon.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Bounty Garden

I couldn't do anything about the color of the sky Monday morning, the blue sky that turned grey and red and spread. I couldn't do anything except tell my kids that they should take the media reports with a grain of salt, that sensationalism sells. I couldn't do anything except hope that the firefighters on our mountain were staying safe and that they were saving the lives and homes of the people and animals in the fire's path, which was 3,200 acres by day's end.

What I could do was help others. I dropped the kids at school and headed for The Bounty Garden, our community's organic contribution to the Contra Costa and Solano County Food Banks. I harvested squash and weeded and composted. It felt good. And it was still cool outside, a brief respite from the temperatures over 100F for four consecutive days.

There's just something I love about The Bounty Garden. It's not the bugs and worms. It's a visual place, 24 raised beds all in some cycle of growing. It smells like dirt, clean, healthy dirt. It's cute. The log books for each bed are neatly displayed in a rack by the shed door. The sign is iron. The compost bins are well designed, with removable horizontal slats. The tools and gloves are colorful and all put in their correct locations.

Heidi and Amelia Abramson are the mother daughter duo who came up with the idea then founded The Bounty Garden while Amelia was in high school. In the summer of 2012 three members of Danville Boy Scout Troop 223 built and installed raised, irrigated vegetable beds to earn their Eagle Scout designations.

More community members wanted to participate than there were vegetable beds available. Our NCL chapter was chosen.

The Morgan fire on Mt. Diablo is out now. More than 1700 firefighters helped put it out. There were no fatalities. Dave and I are in awe of the number of people who reached out to us offering assistance in the form of trucks, strong backs, beds and food.

I wish for you to never be in the position to mentally sketch what your home will look like when you rebuild.

Neighbors who move out of our 31-home community always say that our neighborhood is special. People inside it say the same thing. I don't know any differently. All of you seem to have close friends as your neighbors. The kids and adults play well together. I think that is what I'd miss most if our home were destroyed -- the neighbors who didn't come back.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Belize

That's the paint color on Thing 1's bedroom walls now. It's pretty. Much prettier than I thought it would be when I tried to talk her into one shade less saturated.

Normal people hire painters. In my family we paint our own walls. Mostly. I inherited my love of painting from my mother.

While I'd like to tell you that Thing 1 and I painted her room together, in reality my Mom did 90% of it with her.

Isn't it gorgeous?

Monday, September 2, 2013

The All Sport Store

Nordstrom for Sporty Spice. A three-level sporting-goods store with masterfully displayed firearms, boxing gear, bowling shoes, stand-up paddle boards and camo lingerie.

Dave, The Pinks and I made it a destination while we were up at Tahoe this summer. There's one in Reno that opened in 2008 and where we could have spent the whole day, including three square meals. The store is 295,000 square feet. You enter by walking under a 16,000 gallon aquarium. In the center of the store is a 65' tall Ferris wheel. We rode it of course.

Scheels started in Minnesota in 1902 and now has 24 stores in ten states although none are in California. The Reno store is worth a trip. Dead serious. If you get bored you can always go to the Legends of Sparks Marina outlet mall next door. Does anyone know why the mall is called Marina when it's not near any significant source of water?!

While walking through every department we took our best shot at the indoor shooting range, bowled a few frames and ate fudge. The backpack display was so overwhelming that the kids had purchase paralysis. I was tempted to buy shotgun shell Christmas tree lights for our next door neighbor.

Scheels doesn't have the smell or cramped feeling of a Big 5. The departments are spacious (land is cheap in the 10 states they operate in??) and the displays well-stocked. I was fascinated with the hunting clothes department. It had your basic utilitarian wear, things people who want to kill animals would wear. And then camo baby clothes. And camo lingerie. And camo bathing suits and camo six-inch-heels suitable for who-knows-what in the wild. In case you aren't into guns you can buy bows and arrows there, either for hunting or archery. Or fishing rods and reels. Want to fish from your canoe? You're covered.

Amidst the gear were displays of the US Presidents and facts about them. This seemed a little odd to me, frankly.

A bush plane replica hangs from the ceiling. Tired? Take a nap in a hammock or cot in the camping department. There's even a Disney Princess tent if your daughter needs a rest or diversion. Attending the University of Nevada at Reno? Or just a fan? Get your Wolfpack wear here. Buy new running shoes and shorts to wear with that Wolfpack wear. Or get some Rollerblades. Or a new bike or nine.

We're going to go back during the Holiday Season. I can't wait to see how they decorate for Christmas.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

From Bakersfield to Boston

 In August I spent two days in Boston doing strategic planning with my new client. My last client operated only in California and so I am done with travel to places like Bakersfield and Sacramento, at least for a while. I really enjoyed this trip east, as quick as it was and even though it lacked any extra time to see the locals. I’m sure Kathy would have gone on an early morning run with me but who am I kidding – it was brutal enough doing those meetings on five hours of sleep. My client has funky, hip offices, more Google-style than Big Blue. In one of the kitchens there are large canisters of M&Ms, gummy bears and chocolate covered pretzels. I needed those M&Ms to supplement the 7:30am breakfast (which was 4:30am in my head)!

We were in Cambridge, actually, an area I do not know well. The client offices were on the MIT campus and during the 20 minutes I had to myself I took a close look at the Frank Gehry-designed Ray and Maria Stata Center. The Stata Center houses MIT’s Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science Labs. I’m a fan of Gehry in general and this building is especially interesting. It looks as if it's about to collapse. Columns tilt at scary angles. Walls teeter, swerve and collide in random curves and angles. Materials change wherever you look: brick, mirror-surface steel, brushed aluminum, brightly colored paint, corrugated metal. Everything looks improvised, as if thrown up at the last moment. It’s a metaphor for the freedom, daring and creativity of the research that's supposed to occur inside it.

It was a mild summer day with temps in the 70s so it seemed that everyone in Boston with an urge to exercise outdoors was doing it along the river.

(Sidebar: We stopped briefly at UCLA en route home from Newport Beach. Many buildings were named: Jules Stein Eye Institute, Davies Children’s Center, Geffen Playhouse, Armand Hammer Museum. I don’t remember this from my Midwestern college days. Maybe it’s because the buildings were old and historic?)

The MIT campus is beautiful, a mix of old and new architecture and grassy open spaces. I kept hoping that the older, more historic buildings would be labeled so I’d know more about them without having to resort to Google later. This wasn’t the case.

Every time I come to Boston I remember how much I like it and hope one of our kids will go to school there. And then I remember that it’s 2,500 miles from where we live and that I’d miss them. It’s a good thing that I don’t get to make these decisions for them.

We had two amazing working dinners – the first at The Red Lantern, where the wait staff seemed to push the drinks more than the seafood-heavy Asian food – and the other at Al Dente, traditional, heavy Italian dishes in the North End.

On the way home I caught an earlier flight and the gate agent even waived the change fee as they were in a rush to close the doors and depart.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sprinkles Ice Cream

Sprinkles, the cupcake bakery that started in Beverly Hills in 2005, now does ice cream! There's only one Sprinkles outpost in Northern California and that's at the Stanford Mall. I've been a few times. What a surprise. It's very convenient to Neeracha's house. And my new client, now that I think about it.

In Newport Beach there exists Sprinkles Ice Cream, two doors down from the cupcake shop. It's ridiculously pricey, as is everything in Newport Beach because it includes the de rigueur valet parking, and we waited in line 25 minutes to indulge.

Pictured here is Dave's ice cream sandwich, which is made from two cupcake tops and ice cream. My single scoop of strawberry ice cream was very good.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Penny Boards

We're in Newport Beach this week for one last hurrah before school starts. We're staying with Nini and Sydney, my aunt and uncle.

Yesterday we walked around Balboa Island and the Balboa Peninsula. Nini and Syd are often visited by their grandchildren so their home is equipped with Razor scooters, boogie boards, beach chairs and umbrellas and a gazillion towels. I love how they have posted Summer House Rules. Seriously! No electronics at meals. Wet towels are shaken out and then go straight into the washer.

Newport Beach is beautiful. I'm surprised how uncrowded it is, especially the beaches on the Peninsula. We ate lunch at Ruby's on the pier and watched one very smart pelican eat all the small fish that the locals landed from the pier. A sea lion entertained us. The tiny beach houses are very cute and I want to rent one for a week or two. The dilemma: island for the cuteness or Peninsula for the beach??

The youngest Pinks got Penny Boards, adorable plastic skateboards. You can buy them off the rack or customize them by choosing the board and wheel color. Too fun!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The acupuncturist.

I've long been fascinated with eastern medicine. I love Thai massage. I believe in reflexology. And I believe that there are some gaps in what western medicine can accomplish.

While up at Tahoe last week I went to an acupuncturist, one recommended by a friend who found relief from his back pain there. My elbow had been hurting and now the pain was moving to my hand. As a writer, I spend the majority of my professional time banging away at a keyboard so this was a problem.

Tyler, aka Mr. Needles, was a nice enough guy. His office was in Tahoe City and looked like a cross between a doctor's office and a masseuse. Clean. With framed diplomas in all the right places. And a plush treatment table.

Mr. Needles took a detailed health history from me and then took my pulse from several G-rated locations. He looked at my tongue to gain insight into disharmony in my corresponding organs. Evaluating pulse strength apparently provides insight into systemic functions. Mine was strong in some places, weaker in others. Apparently I have some work to do to get back to being energetic, restorative and vital.

(As an aside, the evening prior Thing 1, Thing 2 and I did an outdoor yoga class. The yogi was way too spiritually goopy for my taste. Even Thing 1, who loved the class, later said to me, "What was all that stuff about empowerment and love and Republicans, Mommy?" We get it. This is Tahoe.)

Back to Mr. Needles. He then slowly inserted about a dozen needles into my hands, feet, arms and legs. I felt a little pinch when they went in and then, on some, a tingle. My toes got warm. I assumed that was a result of the needles but no, it was a result of the heat lamp pointed at my feet! Then I lay there for 20 minutes trying not to fall asleep. Mr. Needles had going the very same George Winston music I listen to when I am trying to fall asleep on a plane. Yes, Pavlov's Dog.

After that, Mr. Needles heated some of the needles using dried mug wort in stick form. Then he twisted some of the needles. Finally he pulled them out and advised that I would start to feel the effects in a day or so.

When I got home Dave asked me how I was feeling and if the treatment involved voodoo or waving dead chickens over my head.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July

I spent the month of July working with just one client so I've had a lot of time to hang with the kids and Dave. It's been great! Summer is the best time to have a light workload. I thought about tagging along for part of Neeracha's annual trip to Thailand but decided not to after learning that her sister came this year, too. It's one thing to crash your friend's exotic beach vacation, it's another to elbow your way in on a multi-generational family trip, one I'm sure her parents were really looking forward to.

One day we went to Cowell Beach with Paige and her extended family plus friends. There were more than 30 of us in the end. They had extra wetsuits which enabled Thing 2 to boogie board for four hours straight. It was a good thing she ate pizza before getting in. The day was overcast and it even rained for a bit but that didn't stop the kids from going in and out of the water, trying to catch sea gulls and building sand castles. One of her twins drove down in our car and we sang show tunes.

Paige's family has beach days down to a well-oiled machine. They caravan. One picks up pizzas on the way in. Once the kids are fed and playing, someone else walks to The Picnic Basket and buys gourmet sandwiches for everyone else. Chairs are set up. Umbrellas are erected. Trashy magazines come out of beach bags. The laughter begins.

After the afternoon at the beach we hosed the kids off and went to the Boardwalk to take advantage of $1 Monday night rides and eat trash for dinner. We can't wait to go back!


Thing 1 spent most of July in dancing. Ballet. Technique. Team rehearsal. One of the moms brilliantly suggested that we take turns entertaining them between classes. On my day, pictured above, I took them to breakfast at Country Waffles. Another mom took them to the pool. Another day was Bagel Street Cafe. All around town you would see girls in buns traveling in packs. One day Thing 1 and I met a friend and her mom for breakfast at Chow.

Thing 2 wrapped up July in a lacrosse tournament. She even scored two goals while her grandparents were watching. We have a lot to learn about lacrosse but I like what I've seen so far.

I start working with a new client in early August, kicking off the project with a two-day meeting in Boston. Although it's a very quick trip with a packed agenda, I can't wait. I have really missed business travel.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Ten Years

Our family has officially graduated from elementary school. We spent ten years there watching our children grow, learn and occasionally be beaten down. Our kids learned a lot. So did Dave and I.

I will miss
  • The sounds of laughter on the playground
  • Performances like Geology Rocks and Rumpus in the Rainforest
  • Amazing teachers: Marc Trapani, Melanie Carbrey, Brenda Aepli, Lori Ransdell
  • Gold Rush Day and The Old Schoolhouse field trip
  • The Halloween Parade
  • Breakfast Book Club
  • Lunch on the Lawn
  • The elaborate, over-the-top Teacher Appreciation celebrations we could do in the early years to spoil our wonderful teachers rotten
  • Volunteering

I will not miss
  • The parents who disregard the carpool pickup line
  • The revolving door on the principal's office (three in ten years)
  • Recorders and recorder concerts
  • Questionable cafeteria food
  • The cold water in the bathrooms when the taps say there is both hot and cold
I'm not sure how our children can be so old. Probably my parents ask themselves the same thing.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Summer means peaches.

Paige and I hauled our two sets of twins to Brentwood today to pick peaches. I'd only picked peaches once before and strangely, she picked the same place Dave and I had taken the kids five years earlier.

The peaches were just as good as I remembered and we came home with 5x as many as we did in 2008. Seriously. 50 lbs. We went a little crazy. But they just tempt you, the rosy orbs clinging to leafy branches within easy reach. Fortunately The Pinks are old enough to look through cookbooks for recipes now and bake with me!

Still, 50 lbs is a lot of peaches. If you're nearby and want some, come on over.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I cried.

I picked Eldest Daughter up from Driver's Ed and we went to Trader Joe's. In front of us at the cashier was a baby in the shopping cart basket. She was 10 months old.

She had dark brown hair and big blue eyes rimmed with ridiculously long lashes. She was all smiles, in the unstoppable way 10-month-olds are. She was round and soft, with those delicious extra rolls and folds of skin. If not for my good manners and self-restraint, I would have scooped her up and hugged her. She was that yummy looking.

Instead I cried. The tears silently down my cheeks puddling on my white t-shirt.

I looked at Eldest Daughter, standing beside our cart. She is tall (5'3" is tall in our family). She is thin, all legs. Her makeup still looks perfect at 5:30pm. I struggle to make the connection between the sweet baby girl in the cart and my articulate, well-groomed daughter.

Eldest Daughter looks away, embarrassed by my display of emotion.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The pool. The lake. The river.

Three perfect days at Tahoe.

Day 1 we spent with friends, first at the Truckee 4th of July Parade and then at Northstar. The Truckee Parade is very sweet, it's what Danville's was before it got huge and crazy and commercial. We got there 20 minutes before it started, sat down in the shade and enjoyed the mountain-style patriotism. It lasted an hour and that was just right.

Day 2 was spent with my brother's extended family and friends at Dollar Point. We kayaked on the lake for the first time and Eldest Daughter, Thing 2 and I just loved it. I can't wait to do it again. There's a certain peacefulness out there on the water.

Day 3 was our biennial raft down the Truckee River, this time with two other families. It was hot but not too hot. It was also crowded, which makes for lots of water-gun fights, within our clan and impromptu with others doing the same thing. It was a good, wholesome day enjoying the best of Tahoe.

On Day 4 we packed up and came home. This is starting to sound biblical. I started missing the mountains the minute we crossed Donner Summit. En route home we stopped at Machado Orchards for pies and produce. Usually we stop at Ikeda, across the highway. Machado is lesser-known, smaller and cleaner, without the attached greasy spoon and bathroom line. The kids ate all of the peaches I bought before we got home and we're going to try the peach pie after dinner tonight.

Dave shot the picture at left with his iPhone on Day 1 from the Village at Squaw. You can see the low clouds and then the amazing sunset. I've never seen anything like this. We have two friends who are professional photographers. It just makes you wonder what a DSLR could have done here.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

There's a new sheriff in town.

And it's Eldest Daughter.

The good thing is that she's completed Driver's Ed.The bad thing is that she knows the rules of the road and she can quote them every time I deviate from them. For example, your turn indicator has to be on for a full five seconds before you change lanes or turn. Heck, sometimes I don't decide to do it that far in advance! I now know, during city driving, how many blocks ahead I should look for obstacles.

I have decided to make this into a game. Every time she catches me doing something wrong and can show me the place in the California Driver's Handbook that cites it, she earns a quarter. It's a win all around -- I get a refresher course in the rules of the road and she will have that book memorized by August, when she can test for her permit. She earned a whopping $.75 this weekend for the 3 hours we spent driving to Sonoma and back. At one point I drove over the speed limit on purpose. It was a two-lane road and eight cars were in line behind me. What would you have done?

File this one under adventures in parenting.

Friday, June 28, 2013

National Ice Cream Month

Dear Kate,

In 1984 Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month. In homage to that, the House of Pink challenges you to try a new flavor every day in July.

Having seen you eat gelato twice a day in the past and also happily try flavors such as puffo and fresh coconut, we believe you are up to this summer challenge. We are hopeful that you and your father will blog about your adventures doing so.

Are you in?

Team Pink

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Wedding Gift

Jen and Steve are making it official! It was a foregone conclusion to those of us who know and love them. They're great people individually and even better together. As Eldest Daughter said of Steve, all dappered up at her Bat Mitzvah, " He cleans up nice!" This is an impressive observation from a 13-year-old who, as parents of teens know, tends toward inward focus.

A friend's mom makes these heirloom art pieces out of vintage letterpress blocks. As a gift from the Febmoms, I commissioned a piece for the happy couple with their names, the names of Jen's kids from her first marriage (who are very close to Steve), their wedding date and the words We Are Family. I cried when I received it and so did Jen when she opened it.

We wish you and Steve all the happiness, Jen! Love you both!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Lean In

I've been thinking about Sheryl Sandberg's book ever since I put it down two months ago. Sandberg has been Facebook's COO since 2008 and is the new face of women in the workplace.

While I disagree with some of her views such as that it's okay for women to cry in the workplace and that women don't need mentors, the bulk of her content and the way she tells stories, backed by data, fuels my ambition. However, I am on the older side of the demographic for this book; I've already made significant career choices and completed my family.

Her point, in a nutshell, is that the many gender biases that still operate in the workplace aren't an excuse for women hitting the glass ceilings. Justifications won't get us anywhere. Instead, women should believe in themselves, give it their all, "lean in" and have confidence that they can successfully combine work and family.

"When a girl tries to lead, she is often labeled bossy," Sandberg writes. "Boys are seldom bossy because a boy taking the role of a boss does not surprise or offend." She goes on to share the Columbia Business School case study that measured "likability" among men versus women in business. One group of students were told of an aggressive, successful venture capitalist named Heidi; another group of students were told the same story except that Heidi was Howard. Even though no other details were changed, students found Howard the more likable of the two.

The data points in this book make my blood boil.

Sandberg points out that men apply for jobs when they meet merely 60 percent of the listed requirements while women wait until they meet 100 percent. Men also negotiate for higher salaries far more often than women. For example, of a graduation class of Carnegie Mellon students, 57 percent of men initiated negotiations as compared to 7 percent of women.

Men are often hired based on their potential whereas women are hired based on past successes. Just this week my friend "Craig" asked a hiring manager why the previous person in the job they were discussing had not worked out. Craig was told exactly that, "I hired him based more on his potential than his fit for this job."

I spend a fair amount of time counseling early- and mid-career-stage women to not settle for less than they're worth, for doing their part to close the wage gap between men and women. They tell me that they don't have the nerve to ask for a flexible work situation or more money. They tell me that "things are just as bad out there" as "where I work now". I challenge them to better their situations.

Sandberg tells us that the most important decision a woman makes is picking her spouse. To achieve big in corporate America one needs a partner who will do his or her 50% and support their partner's career choices.

I hit the jackpot on this one. I have learned a lot about negotiation from Dave. Who do you think gives me the confidence to go after what I'm worth and to pursue new interests? Who is just as good, if not better, with the kids? I actually think they like him more. He's definitely more fun.

Sandberg encourages women to face their fears. After more than 20 years in technology I still have days that I feel like a fraud. And I still sometimes find myself spoken over and discounted while the men sitting next to me are not (and they are mostly men as I work in a technical field). But now I take a deep breath and keep at it. I have learned to sit at the table. When one of my male colleagues pops out of his office and yells to a female on our team, "I want to talk to you" I grimace. This is another behavior Sandberg cites as something a male would never do to another male. I have pointed this out to the women on our team so they can make their own decisions about how to react.

Most of my professional women friends have read this book. If you have not, and are a woman who works or are planning to return to work, I suggest you do yourself a favor and spend a few hours raising your blood pressure in favor of closing the gender wage gap.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

It was a good book, a classic, in case you haven't read it.

Brooklyn is trendy now. Really trendy. And while Dave and I have been to New York many times, we've only seen the inside of one particular steakhouse there. The time came to rectify that.

I went to my trusted source: Context Travel. We took a Context Travel walking tour of Venice with The Pinks two summers ago. It was the best tour ever.

We loved our architectural walking tour Brooklyn, too. Matico Josephson was our guide. He's an urban historian and PhD student at NYU. We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge dodging the children on school field trips and trying not to pass out in the 90 degree heat and explored the DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights. It was impossible not to picture ourselves living there as we walked the neighborhoods, admiring the gorgeous view of the New York skyline, the leafy, tree-lined streets with the shade we really needed and the Federal-style brownstones.

From Matico we learned that the steel diagonal cables on the bridge don't actually serve a purpose more than aesthetic. There were originally added so that the bridge would be able to bear additional load. However, more recent load tests have shown that they do no such thing. Of course they'll never be taken down as they are a recognizable part of this National Historic Landmark.

Matico took us to Henry Ward Beecher's Plymouth Church, which was a famous stop on the Underground Railroad. From his pulpit in the more-amphitheater-than-traditional church, Beecher held auctions where congregants bid for the freedom of slaves.

After our tour we had a late lunch at Grimaldi's Pizza. Yum. Stomachs full, we took the ferry back to Manhattan. And then napped before heading out to Spider-Man.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The NYC Food Report

Dave and I ate pretty well in New York. It was a combination of New York's good food plus our ability to eat whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted, as fast or as slowly as we wanted.
Here are the highlights.

The Smith. Dinner with Matt and Kim. Upper West Side. We wanted the nightly special, chicken and waffles, but sadly it was gone by the time we arrived at 9pm. I had fried artichoke hearts and a burrata salad. Dave and Kim had salads. I don't remember what Matt had. We were kinda busy catching up. 

Grimaldi's. This is the Brooklyn coal brick oven pizza pizza place that everyone claims is the best in New York. Even though it was 90F that day and we'd just walked three hours on an architectural tour, we gobbled down a pizza and enjoyed every bite. It's just as good as our favorite pizza spot, the Rome Stazione. And it's just as conveniently located.

Blue Ribbon Bakery. Our neighbor suggested this spot in the West Village. It was worth the trek. I had steak tartare and a leafy salad. I think Dave had the burger. Look how cute the menu is!

After Book of Mormon we got a late snack at the Carnegie Deli. I had the bagels, Nova salmon and cream cheese with their to-die-for pickles (I'm a purest and like the full dills.) and Dave had chopped liver. 

The biggest surprise of the trip from a food perspective? As hot as it was, we had no ice cream. There was no particular reason for it -- we just didn't.

On our last day there we tried to get into Balthazar for lunch but there was a long wait. Instead we got take-out for the flight home which included a delicious piece of cheesecake. It was nice and gooey by the time I ate it at 30,000 feet.


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Him and me. NYC.

The Pinks are fun. A lot of fun. But every once in a while it's good to revisit the life Dave and I had before we had kids. Our weekend in New York was just that.

I'd always wanted to see more of Central Park than just what you glimpse from the perimeter. On this trip we rented bikes and explored. We saw the reservoir that makes its appearance over and over again on the big and small screens. We saw Strawberry Fields and Sheep Meadow. You cannot ride a bike through the whole of Central Park; there's a systematic way to do it. Imagine a road two lanes wide but divided into three lanes. On the far left are people on foot, either running or walking. In the center are the leisurely bikers. To the right are the speed demons. Everyone travels counterclockwise, south to north. It's very orderly.

We saw The Book of Mormon on Broadway. It's quite shocking actually. However, it's incredibly creative and was, of course, very well done. Still, I did not expect to be so offended by it.

We also saw Spider-Man. Wow! I enjoyed this far more than I expected to. Our seats were in the very first row so we got a look behind the scenes, too. The actors were literally as close to us as my screen is to my face while I type this! We could see that the actress who plays Mary Jane has had surgery on both knees. The sets were beautiful: cartoon meets pop art. You know those graphic novels that the kids are all about these days? Picture those in 3D and moving. The audience really feels as if it's in the middle of the action. The action scenes themselves were beautifully choreographed, the high-flying acrobatics mid air reaching all three levels of the theater and on the stage.

If you've read any of the press on Spidey you'd know that five people were seriously injured during the creation of it and that it was more than three years delayed coming to the stage. One Spider-Man stunt-performer fell 20 feet and through the stage into the orchestra pit when his harness came untethered. In all, Spider-Man cost $75M to produce, compared to the typical $5M - $15M other shows on Broadway take to bring to life.

Bono and The Edge did the music, which is how we ended up there in the first place. These guys are among Dave's favorites. I'm so glad we went.

Next post: the eats!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The silence was deafening.

Dave and I are just back from a long weekend in New York. (Happy 20th anniversary to us!)

The very last thing we did on our trip was go to the 9-11 Memorial.

In a city of 8 million people, of nonstop frenzy, it's
the quietest spot.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Round Two at the Dance Recital - Team Version

A year ago Thing 1 had just tried out for a competitive dance team. A year ago I was both excited and apprehensive to re-enter the competitive dance team circuit. I would have more in common with the older dancers' parents, who I knew from Eldest Daughter's team years, yet I would be hanging out with the younger dancers' parents.

As I type this, Thing 1 is performing her last recital number for the season and we're waiting to see which team(s) she will be on next year. I'm apprehensive this time but not dreading the email. This season has been fun for both of us. She made some new friends, studied under some incredibly talented teachers such as Momo Lebeau, performed at Disney's California Adventure, and learned that no matter how well your team performs, sometimes you just don't win. She also learned that even when you're tired and fighting a bug the show must go on. The picture above is in the team dressing room at the recital.

This child takes dance very seriously. We've spent lots of time discussing and then shopping for gifts for her elder dance buddy. Our extended family and friends have seen her at competitions and performances this year. She can even do her own hair and makeup.

Here we go again.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Meeting Fred's Relatives

On Mother's Day I dragged the kids into the city to the Asian Art Museum to see the Terracotta Warriors Exhibit. Dave did not have to be dragged. This outing will be forever remembered as Meeting Fred's Relatives. Fred is the life-sized replica Terracotta Warrior that greets guests in our foyer at home.

It was a beautiful day in the city and we spent an hour elbowing our way through the three very crowded exhibit spaces looking at the Warriors and their accompanying artifacts: spears, coins, helmets and suits of armor. For those of you looking for the Cliff Notes version, China's First Emperor, Qin Shihuang (259-210 BCE) built himself a vast underground tomb city guarded by a life-sized terracotta army of warriors, infantrymen, horses, chariots and all their weaponry. This tomb was accidentally discovered by Chinese farmers in 1974 and is estimated to include more than 7,000 figures and 10,000 weapons. It's fascinating. Really. It's a long trip not on my short list to get to the Chinese burial complex so I was happy to see the touring exhibit.

After the exhibit we spent a few hours eating our way through San Francisco. First stop: Civic Center Farmer's Market. Cherries are in season. Second stop: Ferry Plaza. We ate Mijito and a subset of us had Ciao Bella gelato. I just can't get excited about gelato until peaches and strawberries are in peak season. We browsed the people selling crafts in the Justin Herman Plaza outside the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero and Thing 2 played in the Vaillancourt Fountain, the very same fountain I played in as a child.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The book fair.

Here and now, at the end of my youngest children's 5th grade year, I did a major purge of The Pinks bookshelves.

I also ran a total of how much we supported our elementary school during our decade-long stay. Two book fairs a year. Times three children. Six years per child. Factor in books purchased for the individual classrooms and school library.

Niecelets: do you read your favorite auntie's blog? If so, head's up: there are some good reads coming your way.

Future grandchildren: I hope you like to read. Grandma Leslie will have the best collection of children's books for you. You show up and I will bake you chocolate chip cookies to eat with them.

The rest were just posted to freecycle.

Thing 2 is reading her way through my childhood set of Little House on the Prairie books now, ones that my mom saved. This makes me happy. We can't figure out why my brother's name is penned in them. In my mom's perfect script. Go figure.


Monday, April 29, 2013

I hate shopping.

Buying? Now that I'm great at.

Cars. Shoes. Gifts. I am a pretty savvy online shopper. Catalogs and Daily Candy are my friends. I've had my credit card number memorized for years. I can shop anywhere, anytime.

The only time and place I happily shop is while on vacation. I bought 17 pair of shoes on a trip to Italy. In my own defense, only 13 were for me. And six of those I still wear, almost a decade later.

I have so much respect for those of you who can spend all day shopping. I do a few hours here and there with Neeracha and my eyeballs are bruised. In fact, I'd rather she or Carolyn Rovner just pick out my clothes for me.

A few years ago I took Eldest Daughter and Thing 1 to THE MALL in search of spring and summer clothing for them. They love to shop: to browse the aisles, to try on pretty things, to accessorize, to debate the right shoes for the outfit, to try on more pretty things. I would rather have a Brazilian on sunburned skin.

But I went, because this is what Good Mothers do. I lasted three hours. They had a blast. We went to Abercrombie, where I said several times, "Even though you have beautiful legs, your father would kill me if I bought you shorts that short." We went to Pumpkin Patch, where each outfit was cuter than the next and where Eldest Daughter didn't even look at her size. We went to Claire's, where they both bought accessories with their own money. We went to Wet Seal, which has really cheap, trashy clothes that fortunately Eldest Daughter did not fit in. We went to Justice, which had some suitable things mixed in amongst the Britney-Spears-style-junk. And we went to Hollister.

I was exhausted when we came home. Fortunately our next door neighbors had invited us to dinner so I got a Baby Andrew fix and felt much better after that and a good burger.

Summer will soon turn to fall. And shopping season is here again. I'm bracing myself.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Cousin Love - LA Style

Although it was improbable given the physical miles between us, I grew up very close to my first cousins on my father's side of the family. There are three of them. Youngest Cousin is four years my senior and has a wicked sense of humor likely gained from years of being pushed around by her opinionated, strong-willed siblings. Oldest Cousin and I share a love of sewing. Middle Cousin was in law school in Chicago while I was doing my undergrad in Madison, thus he become my safety net when drama arose.

I looked up to my cousins, much the way The Pinks look up to their Calabasas cousins.

The summer of my 16th year was when my cousins dressed me up for my first New York City bar hopping experience. During Thanksgiving of my 20th year two friends and I stayed in Youngest Cousin's apartment (she left town and also left behind the car and keys) and shot the 1986 equivalent of Selfies all around Chicago. There may have been some wine coolers involved in that; why else would we pose on the outside viewing deck of the then-Sears Tower on a day too foggy to see anything?!

Middle Cousin and I visited the bears at Denali together, took a dunk at Chena Hot Springs and cruised around Prince William Sound in a Zodiak . He also cooked for me -- I had dreams about his linguine with clam sauce for years. He also took me to some Italian restaurant in Chicago and did a standing back flip right there in the dining room, for a reason that must have been a dare.

Eldest Cousin took me to the beach at Narragansett and also made me the Great Expectations quilt when I was pregnant with the Youngest Pinks.

Fast forward 20 years. Eldest Cousin practices law in Providence. Middle Cousin practices law in Chicago. And  Youngest Cousin is enjoying some time at home with her two sweet sons in LA after many grueling years in the the entertainment industry.

We met up with the whole entourage last weekend to celebrate the Bar Mitzvah of Youngest Cousin's Eldest Son. The years disappeared and the next generation of cousins picked up where our generation left off. Next Generation is pictured at right, ages 11 to 17.

The last time this same group was together was Youngest Cousin's wedding, 15 years ago. At that time Oldest Cousin's Youngest Child was two and very attached to his lovey, a cartoon character doll named Ben. Ben was intentionally excluded from the formal family picture and in that picture, Youngest Child is wailing hysterically in response. Today Youngest Child is a high school senior. Dave brilliantly found and procured a Ben doll so we could recreate this photo, to the merriment of all involved.

Thing 1 and Youngest Cousin's Youngest Son, also age 11, bonded over their shared diminutive stature. Look closely at the picture below; they could easily be mistaken as twins. For Eldest Daughter, the highlight of the weekend was realizing that her towering height of 5'2" made her (much!) taller than all the other women in our clan. In heels she was positively Amazonian. Sadly, it also meant her feet were larger than Youngest Cousin's. Youngest Cousin's shoe collection rivals my own.

The Pinks and I drove halfway down Thursday night. We spent the night at the Harris Ranch Inn, which Thing 1 aptly summed up by saying, "If cows had sensitive noses they'd be barfing right now." The property has gorgeous, manicured, flowering grounds, which are complete waste because the stench coming off of the surrounding cattle grazing land, is vile. (Sidebar: How come no one mentions the cow smell on The Pioneer Woman's Oklahoma Cattle Ranch?!)

Friday morning, after a call to the schools declaring that The Pinks were sick with Spring  fever, we met the cousins for an attack on Magic Mountain. There we broke into two groups: thrill seekers and non-thrill-seekers. Once again I held my own on the roller coasters.

After a quick dip in the hotel pool we joined up with the rest of the extended family for Friday night dinner. The Bar Mitzvah boy did a beautiful job Saturday morning and his interpretation of his portion brought us all to tears. After the service we ate and danced and ate more, as is traditional. My aunt and uncle, who I have been close to since we all lived in San Francisco during my post-college years, were in their element surrounded by their mischpucha. And then we went back to Youngest Cousin's house and ate more. The kids, led by the 26-year-old bassoonist who just married Oldest Cousin's Oldest Child, launched an aggressive Nerf gun war. And of course we ate more Sunday morning before hitting the road.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

We're doing it.

I just pulled the trigger. There's no turning back now. We've decided to do the youngest Pinks B'nai Mitzvah in Israel.

There are so many reasons we wanted to do this. It will be an incredibly meaningful way to celebrate the Pinks arrival into Jewish adulthood. It will be a memorable extended family and friends trip, similar to the ones we've done to Italy, France and Spain. Our parents are still young and healthy enough to do it. Eldest Daughter will be a high school junior and it may be our last chance for a long, exotic vacation with her.

A sample custom itinerary was in my email this morning. It included a desert camel ride, a chocolate making class, a float in the Dead Sea and the tram ride up Masada. The countdown is on.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Three is the new two.

On the subject of children, it seems like we know an awful lot of people who have three or more children.

It could be because we have three, and people with more than two children gravitate toward other people with larger-than-the-national-average-number-of-children. We're less intimidated by the chaos.

Dave and I were anomalies in the neighborhood where we bought our first house. Most of our neighbors had children and one family seemed to have a lot of them. Now that we have kids of our own we realize that this particular family only had three. But it sure seemed like more when they were little!

Greg and Alice have triplets. Greg, who is one of the funniest people I know, calls grocery shopping "provisioning" and couples who have less than three children "slackers".

The Littlest Pinks went through a stage in preschool where their best friends were only children. What was that about?! Of course we never see those families now because they are too busy micromanaging one child and they mostly go to private school. That seems a little harsh to type but it's true.

Our Tahoe neighbor pointed out that her husband has four children by four different women. This is not as promiscuous as it sounds; one was from his first marriage, one is a biological product of their marriage and they adopted two children.

One of our Bay neighbors has two biological children and two step-children. A friend has two children with her husband and three step-children, happy bonuses of her husband's first marriage. Paige has four. Kathy has four. They seem sane. I skied this year with a friend with four children. Her adorable, teeny tiny six-year-old beat me down the hill more than once. I love that stage, the one where the kids are fearless.

While Dave and I never expected to have three children I'm glad we did, especially as Eldest Daughter pulls away from us. I find there are days where she and I speak very little outside of limited necessities we cover during the drive to school. And that makes me sad.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Manskirt

I love a well-made manskirt. Although I haven't seen it on Project Runway, it's very fashion forward. And I think I'd like the man ballsy enough to wear it. Do you think he's a handyman? Or a soccer dad? Or hippy dippy? Or just plain metrosexual?

You can get your own at the Treasure Island Flea Market or by contacting Stumptown Kilts directly.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

This is Shannon.

We work together. She's helping her parents out in the Village Goose booth at the Treasure Island Flea Market. And here she's helping Thing 1 create a piece of custom art for her room.

If I wasn't in the office when Shannon told me about her parents' business I would have been jumping up and down screaming. It's so me. I already collect letterpress tiles. And her parents make it easy for people to turn them into personalized art.

I'd always wanted to go to the Treasure Island Flea Market and a free Saturday plus the discovery of this business meant for me was the impetus. I dragged Thing 1, Eldest Daughter and Eldest Daughter's friend.

The Market itself was well worth the trip. There were about a dozen food trucks so we had grass-fed beef and pulled-pork sliders for lunch. The vendors were about half traditional flea market and half interesting art and jewelry. This being the Bay Area, home of the Giants loyal, there was no shortage of Giants-wear, especially as it's baseball season. The coolest thing I saw was Giants t-shirts with a Day of the Dead, sugar skull style face. I will buy one next time. Or maybe I'll just order online. They were that cool.

The market is the last weekend of every month. People today told me that in the summer it's twice as big as it is in the winter. I'm already planning a trip back.

We spent a long time at Exit Plan B, a booth selling letter art photography signs, and with Emily Ireland, whose hand-painted Toms we really wanted.

The view of the city from Treasure Island is the best view I've ever seen. If waterfront homes ever come on the market Dave and I will need our very own Plan B.