Saturday, October 24, 2009

They make me happy.

Cherokee Purple. Stupice. Green Zebra. Yes, heirloom tomatoes. Our neighbors bought them in local farming community today and delivered some to our doorstep. They made me silly happy. Silly happy because it's the end of October and silly happy because they taste so damn good. I made a special run to the artisan cheese shop this afternoon to get fresh mozzarella to pair with them. Stand back, sisters and brothers. I'm not inclined to share.

Two weekends ago I made dinner at my parents house. My mom is a phenomenal cook. I may have said this before but it deserves repeating. I never knew how good my brother and I had it growing up until I went away to college and started going home with my roommates.

The funny thing is, I never clued in to how different our kitchens were until that weekend. I have a gas cooktop. Hers is electric, the kind that's flat and easy to wipe clean. It was her choice; she remodeled her kitchen perhaps five years ago. She has two kinds of salt: table and Kosher. I have seven. I have four sets of dry measuring cups. She has a single set of wet ones. (No idea why I have so many -- one was a gift and they are very cute.) She has McCormick Schilling Vanilla. I have Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla and Mexican Vanilla.

Our generation has been taught that the best food comes from the best ingredients, thank you Alice Waters. Yet, my mom can outcook me any day of the week blindfolded. I can cook. Fairly well. But cookbooks were made for me. I don't deviate. I follow the recipes step by step and come out with the expected results. Timed correctly with the other courses if I'm lucky.

Can someone explain this to me? Is love the secret ingredient or are some people just born with the gene?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Top 100

Have I mentioned lately how much I LOVE to travel?

Each year Conde Nast Traveler comes out with its Top 100 list of Hotels and Resorts Worldwide. Dave and I go through the list religiously and see how many we've been to. I think Neeracha does this, too.

This year I've stayed at 12 of the top resorts. For the record, The Four Seasons Chiang Mai was the best of them. It was like staying in a manicured jungle and we spent a few hours on the pavilion attached to our room each day when Eldest Daughter, then three, napped. The Oriental Bangkok, however, was a close second because of the gold embossed stationery with our names on it and the bathroom the same size as our bedroom at home.

I've stayed at 10 of the top hotels. For the record, I do not think that the Hyatt Regency Reston, where I spent three months of my life, is deserving of this honor. I do, however, think that the Westin Excelsior Florence was. I clearly recall the view of the Arno from our terrace and also that we used Westin points to pay for our stay, which made it all the sweeter. The picture at right was taken on the boat at the Westin Excelsior Venice, where we went to celebrate our 10th anniversary. It made the list, too.

Full disclosure: there are more than 200 properties on the list; they are sliced and diced a few ways.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Come one, come all!

I just love Thanksgiving!

It's the perfect holiday: food, football, a fire in the fireplace, friends and family. It's my holiday. The one we host just about every year. It's the holiday our children will remember in our home.

I love assembling an eclectic group of friends and family, reading cooking magazines, testing recipes, pulling out multiple sets of china and silver, and eating my Mom's apple pie. I love the smell of roasting turkey. I love our family tradition of going to the park to celebrate what we're thankful for.

The more diverse the group, the better. We've had Japanese cowboys and American cowgirls, former clients, close family and weird relatives. Dave had a Chinese roommate at one time and his family always served Peking Duck on Thanksgiving. We like Peking Duck so we do that, too.

Caryl and I took a Thanksgiving cooking class at the California Culinary Academy before we both had kids. Then we did Thanksgiving together. We hollowed out tiny gourds and put tea lights in them. We made the simplest turkey recipe, which is still my favorite although I've tried at least a dozen recipes since. We used the chef's technique to carve the turkey, and the CCA's recipe for cranberry sauce, which no one prefers to canned.

Edible centerpieces are one of my trademarks. I've done cookie bouquets and Joseph Schmidt sculpted chocolates, among other things. (Hershey bought Schmidt and closed it down this year -- a true foodie travesty.)

Dave took one business trip the entire time I was on bedrest, pregnant with the twins; it was to Sydney over Thanksgiving. Eldest Daughter and I went to my parents house, where a family friend dropped off dinner because my mother was tending to me, her 3-year-old granddaughter and my father, who was recovering from broken ribs and a broken collarbone courtesy of a horse who is much better trained now.

Last year we spent Thanksgiving at the beach and, while it was a great trip, it felt wrong not to spend Thanksgiving cooking up a storm in my own kitchen.

The family picture here is from 2003, when The Pinks were two and six. I am struck by how young Dave looks. And how much I miss that sofa. It was the most comfortable piece of furniture I have ever owned.

If you don't yet have solid plans for Thanksgiving and want to join our gathering of the pygmies, come! Bring your favorite traditional dish to share. You can even RSVP in the Comments section below.

Monday, October 12, 2009

We went for the wrong reason.

Our favorite babysitter, Rachel, is on Pom at the local high school. We've long wanted to see her pom and Friday night was the night. Little did I know that it was the biggest football game of the season, and also homecoming.

The opponent: De La Salle, which holds the national record of 151 consecutive football wins. Joe Montana's sons have gone to school there, and Tom Brady's uncle is currently the principal. To say it has an extraordinary football tradition just doesn't do it service.

Dave was in the city all weekend, volunteering at the President's Cup, so it was just me and the kids. Surprise 1: We had to park almost a mile away. Surprise 2: There were a lot of community supporters there, families without high-school-aged children! It was quite the social event.

Rachel's parents are about as nice as they come and I was happy to have more time with her mom, especially. We sat with them and her brother, who is also seven. Sat is not exactly accurate. Eldest Daughter found her peers immediately and ditched us, texting me periodically to let me know where she was. The little kids played on the hillside next to the bleachers. It was an absolute zoo there -- and I know a thing or two about chaos and football, having gone to a Big 10 college and some Raiders games.

For those of you who care about football, it was an exciting game. Our team held its own fairly well until the third quarter. And then De La Salle kicked into gear and scored one more touchdown, which would lead them to the final victory.

The last high school football game I went to was when I was at Miramonte. Although we had a football team in Anchorage (it produced Mark Schlereth, who went on to play for the Redskins and Broncos), hockey was the much bigger sport.

The jury is still out whether Friday night's game made me feel very young or very old.

Friday, October 9, 2009

SOS - Save our School

Our elementary school is not going to close. But class size may go up again and we may lose music, the full-time librarian I have issue with and PE if we don't solve our budget issue. How a school that feeds into a high school where 98% of graduates go on to four-year-colleges faces these issues is beyond me. Still, it's the talk of the town.

Our wonderful principal, who sadly came to our school two years ago just when the going got rough, sent out an email asking if people had fundraising ideas. Being wacko an out-of-the-box thinker, I suggested the following:
  • A $10K donation allows the parent to choose their child's teacher the following year.
  • A $250 donation allows the parent to request that a child not have a specific teacher the following year. $250 also buys the right to have your child not in a class with another child you predetermine.
  • $100 buys you out of an unexcused absence. You don't have to lie and say Little Bobby is under the weather when truly he's under a cabana on Kaanapali Beach.
  • $100 and Little Bobby can bring in sweets on his birthday, something that is now against district policy.
  • $1K and Little Bobby can announce the Pledge of Allegiance over the intercom.
  • $250 buys Little Bobby the right to pull the week's ABC cards.
  • $250 and Little Bobby can skip the semi-annual timed mile run.
We'll see if they take any of my suggestions. Do you think I should give up my day job?!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Mean Girls? Find another zip code.

In 1984, the bedroom town of Orinda, California made headline news when 16-year-old Bernadette Protti murdered 15-year-old Kirsten Costas by repeatedly stabbing her with a kitchen knife. The girls were acquaintances, both students at Miramonte High School, and the act was motivated by jealousy. My family had moved from Orinda to Anchorage the previous year, however, this really shook me up. It shook everyone up. Things like this just didn't happen in Orinda.

Our daughters face challenges growing up to be emotionally intelligent, authentic, assertive adults. Girls bullying girls is real. And if you read my previous post on this topic you'll know that I am on a mission to help our community get through this. Why get your panties in a bunch when you can do something about it?!

I am pleased, over-the-moon happy, dancing around the house giddy, to let you know that I have arranged for Rachel Simmons' Girls Leadership Workshops to come to our community. The workshops are for 2nd and 3rd graders, and for 4th, 5th and 6th graders. They cover topics such as Responding to Mean Girls, the Double Sorry, Steps to Healthy Conflict, Emotional Intelligence and Relational Aggression.

Just so you know, it's possible to be petrified while on Cloud 9. Based on conversations I've had with parents on the soccer field, at Back to School Nights and at Trader Joe's, I think this program will be well-received. Our elementary school principal was more than happy to endorse it and have it on our campus. If no one signs up then I look like an idiot, an overbearing mother. If the program takes off then our girls will develop valuable coping skills and suburban parents such as ourselves will have to self medicate less to get through these years.

I look forward to sharing our lessons learned.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Soccer Saturday, Soccer Sunday

Thing 2 had soccer games both days this weekend. That, coupled with Soccer Pictures and a trip to the grocery to shop for Soccer Snacks, which it was our turn to bring, pretty much summed up our weekend. Fortunately the Fall weather has stayed so it was gorgeous out both days, sunny with highs in the upper sixties.

The seven-year-olds have really stepped up their game. They no longer play "cluster ball" and instead pass to each other (sometimes well, sometimes not so) and occasionally score. They know which goal is theirs without frequent reminders and they no longer raise their hands, classroom style, to be selected to throw the ball in. At right is Thing 2 scoring.

Our coach understands the nuances of girls now and when he's assigning positions for the upcoming quarter he tells those sitting out, "You're the cheerleaders this time." I don't expect boys hear the same thing.

Thing 2 does not generally go for frou frou hair. But there's something about soccer and she lets me do her hair in pig tails or braids. Today she chose to have it flat ironed. The other thing I just love is how she apologizes to people she inadvertently trips or slams into. Now if only she'd be as kind to her sisters on a regular basis ...