Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dolphin delight

The highlight of the trip for The Pinks was the Dolphin Experience, which they did with my MIL. Atlantis has its own cay with 31 Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins, some of which were rescued from Hurricane Katrina.

We learned interesting factoids including that they have 72 teeth, they live to between 40 and 45 years and they are up to 12 feet long.

The littlest Pinks' experience was with 12-year-old Atlas, who they kept calling Agnes. They got to pet him and feed him fish. They also got to kiss him. Of course Thing 1 passed on this, claiming she didn't understand the instructions.

There is just something about dolphins and whales. They are such magnificent, graceful animals to watch.

Eldest Daughter also did a Dolphin Encounter, but hers was in the deeper part of the cay and included swimming with Atlas and being propelled by him while she hung on to a kickboard.

They all looked pretty cute in the wetsuits. I can see them as surfer chicks!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The lay of the land

We’re at the Atlantis Resort, which covers about 1/3 of Paradise Island. Paradise Island is connected to New Providence Island by a bridge and Nassau, the Bahamian capital, is on New Providence Island. Do you remember where Anna Nicole Smith’s daughter was born and where her son died? That was Nassau. The taxi driver pointed the hospital out to us today when we went into Nassau for lunch. Frankly, it looked pretty dumpy. I’m hoping not to have a medical emergency here.

Atlantis is a big place. On Day 1 I took a run around the property. It’s easily a mile end to end. There are 12 pools. The 63-acre waterscape is made up of 11 million gallons of fresh and salt water. The 11 exhibit lagoons have more than 50,000 sea animals representing over 200 species including sharks, stingrays, sawfish, lobsters, turtles, manta rays and dolphins.

There are 21 restaurants on the property, including Starbucks. But they don’t take Starbucks cards. There’s a Jamba Juice, a Ben & Jerry’s, a Johnny Rocket’s, a Nobu and a Mesa Grill.

There’s the requisite spa and fitness center. There’s a casino with four mammoth Dale Chihuly glass sculptures. I popped this picture, forgetting that in general, photography is not allowed in casinos. No one seemed to mind.

The Atlantis Marina is filled with sparkling white yachts. The kind of yachts that have full-time crews to keep their teak oiled and which have names like Serenity and Outta Touch.

Between 9a and 5p, the cruise ships deposit day passengers and flood (pun intended) the resort. For a $110 USD fee they can enjoy all the amenities that we do.

There’s lots to do in Nassau, although I doubt we’ll leave the resort again on this trip. It’ll be impossible to see and do everything in the week we’re here. I’m beginning to understand why many of the people we encounter are return visitors.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving on Paradise Island

If Disney did an oceanside, water-themed resort, Atlantis would be it. The sky is blue. The sea is turquoise. The breeze is just so. The grounds are manicured. There is no litter in sight. Everyone you encounter is wearing a perfectly pressed uniform (be it the gardeners, lifeguards or restaurant wait staffs) and greets you with a smile.

We spent Thanksgiving much the way we did the day before – on the water slides and in the ocean. My mother-in-law is here with us, which is a win every way you look at it. She’s great with the kids, a huge fan of beach resorts and such a seasoned world traveler that she makes us look like rank amateurs.

Dave and two of The Pinks took me on the Lazy River. That’s a misnomer! Four foot rapids do not make for a serene ride. Dave and I were in one tube and the kids were in another. Toward the end we took different forks in the river and ended up going down The Falls, a four STORY water slide that includes a dark tunnel. Dave lost some hearing due to my screaming but he promises that it’s not grounds for divorce.

There was a Thanksgiving Fair so the kids decorated t-shirts, ate cotton candy, made waxen hand molds and tied pillows. We opted for traditional Bahamian fare for dinner instead of turkey, which was easy to get.

We’re on the same time zone as the east coast and have been sleeping like babies. All of us. Today the first of us was up at 9:30a and that was Dave. By the time we’re out the door breakfast is long over. We need to work on that! As we walked to the pool I thought about what I’d be doing if I was at home: stressing over the state of the house, reviewing the schedule to time the dinner right, thinking about getting the bird into the oven, chopping things. And then I looked up at the sky, framed by the coconut trees, and thought: this isn’t so bad.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Things I am thankful for

Here are just a few things that I am grateful for this year, besides the surreal number of waterslides and perfect weather here in the Bahamas.

1. The Pinks, who make me laugh and cry in much more frequency than I did before I had kids
2. Dave, who is truly my better half
3. My parents and brother, who I love more and more as the years pass
4. Red and blue skies at sunset and turquoise blue water
5. Friends who make me laugh and friends with whom I can cry
6. Books and movies you can lose yourself in
7. A US Passport
8. August tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and blue cheese
9. The great outdoors, especially snow-capped trees and mountains
10. Pointy-toed shoes

That last point seems shallow but it's true. Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Comfort me with apricots

Anyone out there a Ruth Reichl fan? Ruth is a former LA Times and NY Times restaurant critic, now the editor of Gourmet magazine. She's written three books that I've loved and a cookbook that I never use.

My late paternal grandfather was married three times. His third wife had a son from her first marriage, Michael Singer. Michael is married to Ruth. The last time I saw Ruth was sometime in the 70s.

She is a gifted storyteller and I truly enjoyed the adventures she shares in her books. In her last one, Garlic and Sapphires, she mentions an apricot upside down cake that was the only thing her mother-in-law made well. I don't remember my grandfather's third wife cooking much at all so I took this opportunity to email her for the recipe.

Much to my surprise, two hours after I pushed SEND, Ruth responded to my email with the recipe. It turned out to be her first mother-in-law's creation. But the apricot cake is good, really good, and I'm sharing it.

Betty Davis' Apricot Upside Down Cake
1 stick butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 large can apricots
3 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 t vanilla
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Melt the butter in 9 or 10 inch cast iron skillet (or a baking pan).
  • Stir in the brown sugar and the nuts.
  • Arrange the apricots, cut sides up, in the pan. Reserve the liquid in the can.
  • In a large bowl beat the egg yolks.
  • Add the sugar, mix well, and beat in 1/2 cup of the apricot syrup. Add vanilla.
  • Mix the dry ingredients together. Mix into the yolk mixture.
  • Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the batter. Pour over the apricots.
  • Bake about 1 hour.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A quilt

Earlier this year my mother-in-law took an around-the-world cruise.

Before she left on this four-month adventure, I offered to make her a memory quilt of the fabrics she found on her trip.

She came back with some gorgeous textiles. Colorful prints. Subtle ones with leitmotifs. Nubby ones. Large scale ones. Teeny tiny ones. My favorite is a combed black cotton with a complex, vinelike purple floral design. And then came the challenge: I had to figure out what to do with them. Some people do crossword puzzles. Some people do Sudoku. I problem solve via quilting. All these yummy, disparate fabrics and I had to find a way to tie them together.

My mother-in-law probably thought I forgot about them. But no, I spent two months mentally wrestling with the design after she brought them home. I went to Danielle's and looked through all her pattern books. I went through all mine. I looked online for inspiration. And then Eldest Daughter and I went to the local quilt shop and it took her less than 5 minutes to pick out a suitable pattern. Who knew that she had the eye?!

This week I hand stitched the binding on the quilt and voila!

I do have to say, for me, fabric and color selection is a good part of the fun in quiltmaking. Visualizing the final product based on the choices you make in the fabric and pattern is a huge part of the creative process. I've taken more than one class in color theory in order to do this. This is the first quilt I've made where I've not selected the fabrics myself. Are you following my very subtle drift?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The year Thanksgiving went missing

I just came home from volunteering at the elementary school. I've never volunteered in the library before but someone in one of The Pink's classes needed a sub so I gave it a shot. In case you're short on time, I'll net it out for you: I won't be doing that again anytime soon.

The librarian was less than enthused to have me because I hadn't been through "Library Volunteer Training." Oh well. I told her that I was a sub for someone else. Apparently the most desirable subs have been through training.

She directed me to the electronic catalog of books and showed me the search she'd pulled for Christmas books, and how to help the kids find them in the shelves.

I politely, very politely, asked her why the students weren't looking for Thanksgiving books since Thanksgiving was the next holiday. She brushed me off and said, "Oh, we're doing Christmas now." This made me unhappy since Thanksgiving has such great associations and it's NEXT on the calendar.

I said, "What kind of message does that send the students if we skip the holiday about giving thanks?" For this I received a dirty look.

Someone must have peed in her coffee this morning.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Puppy Love

Thing 2 loves animals. All kinds of animals. Big ones like horses. Small ones like ladybugs. She views the silkworm unit at preschool the greatest moment of her academics to date.

My parents have a male golden retriever who was bred this year. Thing 2 is happy for Monte, she thinks he got married. (I'm not going there; she's only six.) She was especially happy that Monte had seven puppies as she had her heart set on one of them. Of course this was never going to happen. Dave has allergies and our home and heart are quite full with three kids. Could we handle anything else? Not sure. Not really looking to find out, either.

There is nothing cuter than a golden retriever puppy. I took these pictures when we visited one of the puppies this weekend. I think my parents were a little sad that they decided not to get one from the breeder. Thing 2 is very sad. She tried to convince them to get one for her, and to just keep it until she was old enough to move out and raise it on her own. (She is very independent so in all honesty, she probably envisioned this being a year, two at most.)

While we on the subject of dogs, which is not a topic I give thought to very often, have you noticed that dog people are really into their dogs? My brother and SIL often take their dog along to visit my parents (30 minutes from their house) when they go for dinner. Likewise my parents bring Monte to visit Bodhe at my brother's house. My brother's ILs always bring their dog when they come to visit their grandchildren. It just seems to be part of the dog owner culture. I can't tell you how many times I've made a makeshift water bowl for someone's dog when they've popped by to visit.

One of my clients, a single woman with no children, had a dog with a serious medical issue. Thanks to her large amount of disposable income, love for this dog and the UC Davis Veterinary Hospital, this dog has a happy, normal life.

Tahoe is very dog friendly and I think many more people would ask to use our place up there if dogs were not verboten.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

They missed the point.

The response, verbatim and transcribed from my voice mailbox, from the salon where I got rooked:

Hi Leslie this NAME at the NAME Salon in Walnut Creek and uhm I’m sorry it’s taken so long to get back to you about your letter that you sent uhm late uh last month but SALON OWNER's NAME was out of town in Japan uhm for a few weeks and then she’s been doing hair shows so uhm she hasn’t gotten a chance to open her mail uhm but she wanted me to give you a call and just uhm talk to you about your experience and we’re happy that you’re happy with the services uhm but we wanted to let you know too that we uhm as far as the color, uhm we do have people who aren’t quite as expensive as Karen and also that first appointment is more expensive uhm, because it takes a little bit longer to formulate and everything but she just wanted me to call you and talk to you about the options and everything uhm if you would like to come back we’d love to see you uhm if you would like our phone number here is PHONE NUMBER and uhm feel free to give me a call if you would like uhm thank you so much uhm once again my name is NAME.

Sadly, they missed the point of my very nice letter, which was to advise them that the twenty-something colorist's fee was above obscene and that patrons should be advised of fees for services in advance, especially if they are astronomically above market.

I went back to my former colorist yesterday and my hair looks just fine -- the garish orange streaks are gone. Now I must tackle the issue of whether I ditch Amazing Alex because I find his employer's business practices questionable.

Monday, November 3, 2008


I have a dumb smile on my face. In today's mail came The Pinks passports. It's the second set for the twins and the third for Eldest Daughter. In the US, children's passports are only valid for five years.

Thing 1's passport picture looks like her: perfect hair, sweet, tentative smile. Thing 2's picture looks like her, too: hair in need of a good combing with a lopsided, face-eclipsing smile. Eldest Daughter's picture looks like her, too: relaxed, confident. She knew exactly what it meant the day we had her picture retaken. This is such a contrast to their first passports: bobbly baby heads that we had to hold up to the camera.

Having current passports means we can wander the world with the kids, expose them to things they can't see here and introduce them to the anonymity of being in a place where you do not understand the words swirling around you. I will always remember Eldest Daughter's first adventure outside the US. She and Dave came with me to Switzerland while I helped with a client's President's Club trip. I met them at the park one afternoon and watched her play with another little girl, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they could not have a conversation with each other.

Travel is one of our favorite things and just the thought of being able to hop on a plane anywhere all together makes me giddy.

The picture above could have been taken anywhere. It's a universal experience: children eating ice cream, a summertime ritual. It was taken in Isle sur la Sorgue, home of the famed weekend antiques market in Provence.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

And then it was November

We live in one of those neighborhoods where very few people trick or treat. It's not that the houses are spaced too far apart or that the driveways are too steep. It's just that it's a small neighborhood not near very many other houses. Thus people go where the goods are easier to collect en masse.

This year, for the first time, Eldest Daughter didn't even trick or treat with us. She went to a Halloween party. Even they didn't stay in the neighborhood where the party was; they headed for an area near the elementary school.

Our strategy is to do our neighbors' houses then drive a mile to one of those areas that turns into a block party. We park just outside of it and walk in.

The main drag is barriered off with police on either end while golf carts carrying young children and their brown-bag-bearing parents whiz up and down the street. Each house on this street is well lit, with some combination of mock graveyards, ghosts, goblins, pumpkins, large spiders and mummies hanging from the grand old oak trees. The Pinks love it. And so do we. It has a surreal vibe, like you're on a movie set. It was also raining off and on this year so that added to the spookiness factor.

This year we went with two sets of neighbors, one of whom was nice enough to have us all to dinner first.

And since Halloween fell on a Friday night this year, all the better!