Thursday, October 20, 2011


I ache all over. Painting is not very hard work. However, when you are on the top of a four-story condo building painting gutters while clinging to scaffolding for dear life, it's harder. Factor in the wind and the marine layer, which never burned off in Daly City, and four layers of clothing. It's the contortionism required to avoid sudden death that causes the ache.

Today I'm happy and sore. Happy to have spent yesterday doing Habitat for Humanity with Dave and Jen Pockell-Wilson. Happy that hair spray takes latex paint out of my jeans and jacket. Happy to contribute to a good cause.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Happily Ever After

Dave and I spent last weekend with friends, both old and new.

We drove down to Monterey Friday night and spent the night with Dennis and Margo Donahue. They live in Pasadera, on the golf course, and their life revolves around golf. Dennis fired up the grill and we had steaks and salad, and a lot of wine was consumed.

Turn back the clock 16 years. My alarm clock went off at 4:30am on a Saturday morning. Margo and her ex-husband Mark Bercaw pulled up in our driveway at 5:00am and off we went for an overnight ski trip to Kirkwood. Margo and Mark drove from San Carlos so they were easily up at 3:30a. We got to the mountain as the lifts opened, skied all day, and apres-ski Dave, Mark and I collapsed on couches in the rental condo. Margo then made an amazing dinner of Chicken Piccata and salad. Sixteen years later I still remember the meal. I still remember that she made it after little sleep, driving 4 hours, and skiing all day. That's Margo.

The Margo I saw Friday night is still working her way back to normal after two miserable years of illness. Although I've seen her several times during the last few years it still threw me.

Saturday morning we hopped on the 101 south to Solvang for Andy and Angela DeSomma's wedding nearby. The day could not have been more perfect for a wedding: it was 80F and sunny with a slight breeze. The wedding was at the Gainey Vineyard Ranch in Santa Ynez and it was one of those rustic ranch style weddings Martha Stewart popularized.

The place cards were tiny clusters of flowers in salt shaker vases. The favors were lavender potpourri and Jordan almonds that the Andy's mom brought back from France. Many of the floral arrangements were in mason jars. There bathrooms were labeled Cowgirl and Cowboy. And best of all, dinner was Santa Maria BBQ! Dessert was It's Its. Divine!

Andy is a friend of Dave's, someone I've met just a few times. What struck me most about the event was how fabulous Andy's friends are. They were nearly all from his prep school, college and finance-industry days. Each one was smarter, nicer and more inclusive than the next.

Solvang, the Danish enclave in central California established in the early 1900s, is as kitschy as I remember it from childhood. We were there less than 24 hours and tried three bakeries.

Monday, October 10, 2011

And in the mail arrived a mini vacation.

Thom Singer's Italy pictures came in the mail last week. There were 900. I edited them down to the 120 I want to keep.

I was rather lazy about shooting pictures in Italy; history has shown that I end up using most of Thom's anyway. There are easily a dozen fabulous ones of his immediate family and I can't wait to see which one makes the holiday card.

Here are a few of my favorites, ones I can't stand not to share with you.

Thom, Dave Donell and Dave, above. Thom and my husband Dave met on move in day in the dorms freshman year at SDSU. They've been joined at the hip pretty much ever since. The other Dave is a few years younger than my husband and Thom, and the trio are fraternity brothers. There's a very similar picture to this taken in Provence. Among the lavender which makes me sneeze just recalling it.

Looking at these pictures makes me remember, again, how lucky we are that they married well. Jackie and Sara are just neat women, smart and fun. They jump right in and do what needs to be done, parenting whoever happens to be around, good traits when you're vacationing together. Jackie was kind enough to bring her sister on this trip, too.

Thom easily shot a dozen gorgeous pictures of Dave and Jackie's kids solo. I hope they have a wall dedicated to these at home. Here's a great one of their family taken at Cafe Florian in Venice, where we let the kids order the most expensive and watered-down soft drinks ever. They did come with ice. Who else but a foreigner would pay that amount?! I realize I'm out on a limb complaining about a travel experience that 99% of the people on the planet will never have. I'm grateful, really I am.

Here's Thom and Sara's youngest, Kate, who we affectionately call the Human Tornado, eating gelato outside The Arena in Verona with Liberty and Victoria. I have a variants of this photo taken in Spain, France and Tuscany. There does exist a picture of all five of our daughters eating gelato. However, Paris abhors when I post pictures of her so I am respecting her wishes. This time.

Thom shot this picture in Verona in Giulietta's courtyard. He did a good job capturing the graffiti and the ambiance-destroying element of it. It was rather disgusting.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Suite! My Fairytale!

I'm just back from a business trip to LA. Disneyland to be specific. Even more specifically: a technobabble convention at the Disneyland Hotel. I didn't have time to get into the parks, which was fine since it was pouring rain.

The whole Disney experience is odd when you have kids but they're not with you. Apparently we've stayed on property so many times that we're VIPs. I learned this when I checked in and was upgraded to the Fairytale Suite. If going to Disney without the kids didn't make me feel bad enough, the over-the-top suite did.

Here are the highlights:
  • Animatronic art on the walls: dancing prince and princess, The Beast, etc.
  • When You Wish Upon a Star playing in the foyer whenever the door to the hallway is opened or shut
  • Decor in soothing taupe, cream and light blue
  • A sumptuous four poster bed with tasseled silk draperies
  • Silk carpets
  • A silk chaise lounge
  • An 11th floor corner room with a straight-on view of Downtown Disney and both theme parks
  • Mosaics on the floors and walls that rival those of The Vatican
  • Live orchids
  • New fluffy white towels, tags still attached
  • A TV located behind the large bathroom mirror so the image comes through the mirror. I watched the Today Show while putting on my makeup.
  • A remote controlled TV that emerges from the dresser in front of the bed. There are nine cartoon channels but no Food TV, OWN, E! or Bravo.
  • A Keurig single-cup coffee / tea machine with a dozen flavor options. This was useful as I got up five times during the night to watch the Disney magic still going on in Downtown Disney and the lights on the rides during the wee hours of the morning.
  • Remote controlled draperies and lights throughout the suite. Eh. I like the drapes open when I travel. It reminds me that I'm not in Kansas any more.
  • Under counter flashing (um flickering?) lights in the bathroom vanity, activated by remote. I had to look under the counters to see how they pulled this off. It's less sophisticated than you'd think.
  • Remote controlled ceiling stars.
Truly it was a kick but I would have enjoyed it more with Dave and The Pinks.

The business trip itself was worthwhile. I talked to industry pundits and customers about our particular breed of technology, bonded with my co workers and contributed to California's economy. I even got to experience two new things: driving a minivan (quick errand to Target with my colleague's car) and flying in and out of the Long Beach Airport.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Dancing with myself. A fail.

My gym offers Zumba, a Latin-inspired dance class. Two of The Pinks dance well so it follows that I'd have a bit of innate talent in that area. Nope.

Over the weekend I tried Zumba (again) and it was a fail. The biggest benefit of the class (okay, of the 20 minutes I lasted in the class) was being reminded of the dancing Dave and I did in Carpi, Italy this summer.

Carpi is a teeny tiny speck on the map just south of Villa Bartolomea. Jill and Wally stumbled upon Antica Trattoria Bellinazzo while biking and this Slow Food restaurant became the most visited restaurant of our summer vacation after the pizzeria down the street from the villa.

We had an adults-only meal one evening and devoured Daniele's house-made salami called Stortina Veronese and Parmesan and cinnamon risotto made by his grandmother. Some in our group ate donkey that night but I passed.

After dinner we strolled down the block and discovered that the whole town was out celebrating something or other. In the center of the street was a huge dance floor with people line dancing. Dave and I joined right in. I swear that I could hear our friends laughing over the Italian musicians. Fortunately the dance was simple enough that I could follow.

Much better than Zumba.