Friday, December 28, 2012

Nine and Eleven.

Nine was the number of inches of snow we had in the 24 hours prior to our last day of skiing on this trip.

And eleven is the age our babies will be on December 30. We had a little gathering for them in the mountains, complete with an extended family dinner followed by cake and ice cream with the neighbors.

It was crowded at Squaw but not unreasonably so. Apparently 80% of passholders cannot use their passes this week. This means that the people on the slopes are non-locals or people who are willing to pay full price for lift tickets. While in reality that translates to Amateur Hour, it also means that the lift lines are shorter than have been this week in previous years.

This observation made me think more about the changes at Squaw since KSL has taken over, nearly all of them good. The resort is now run like an efficient, friendly business. I gasped when I saw a bench at the top of a chairlift. One could actually sit down to adjust their boot or helmet before taking off! The mountain is peppered with directional signage and resort employees looking to be helpful by directing confused guests or answering questions. We receive text messages from Squaw on the conditions along the line of: Upper Mountain will open at 10a today due to extra avalanche control measures. The removal of three chairlifts and the installation of Big Blue opened up a large area of terrain for beginners, something Squaw has historically lacked. These are all good things, things that will make the mountain accessible for families and visitors.

My brother and Elliot came over in the morning and Liberty and I skied with them. They are pictured here warming up at Starbucks in the Gold Coast Complex. Then we met up with the Calabasas Cousins and did a run together before my brother headed down to swap kids and we lunched at The ARC. I did a few runs with the Calabasas Clan and then called it a day. One can only handle so much perfect sun, snow and fun. All that powder is tough on the legs.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Eight. Twenty-nine. Eighteen.

Eight. Twenty-nine. Eighteen. Zero. Twenty. That's the number of inches of fresh snow we've had daily since we've come up to Tahoe. It's been extraordinary, the kind of weather I enjoy most from the sofa looking up at the mountains. We're here this week for our annual Calabasas Cousins ski trip.

I'm glad to be up here. Things have been very stressful at work the last several weeks and I really needed to just stare at the falling snow.

Things have changed a bit at Squaw since last winter.

First, lift tickets are now variably priced. That means that a single day child's ticket is $58 this week. That same ticket was $10 two years ago. What the heck?! That's a hefty investment for a young child who may or may not want to ski after they get off the funitel. I'm glad our kids are past that ambivalent stage. The good news is that the consecutive storms scared off the lightweight skiers with their rear wheel drives and chains and the kids got more runs per dollar than they would have had the weather and roads been clear and dry.

Big Blue Express opened. It's a high-speed chair that runs from just below the Gold Coast Complex to Shirley Lake. This alleviates the congestion at the Gold Coast chair and the cross mountain jog to Shirley where us intermediates spend a lot of time.

The Squaw Valley Sport Shop was replaced by an equivalent KSL-owned shop. It's much better lit with modern merchandising and merchandise.

Tori joined our neighbors to see Bethany Hamilton speak. Bethany is the inspirational professional surfer whose story was told in the movie Soul Surfer.

All nine of us took a few runs together the day before Christmas in the sunshine. We like to do the Resort run right before lunch then eat by the firepits on the Resort's patio. However, the patio restaurant wasn't open (again, what the heck?!) so we tried out the new pizza joint, which, fortunately, is better than the Fireside Pizza in the Village. For the record, we believe that the pizza served at Fireside is the same stuff you buy in the frozen food aisle at Safeway.

Christmas dinner was at Mamasake. This is seemingly the only night where there is no wait for a table. After stuffing ourselves with elaborate rolls, sauces and garnishes we waddled home and watched Elf, everyone's favorite Christmas movie.

Somewhere in there one of the kids introduced the subject of oxymorons and we brainstormed until we were laughing so hard that those watching Elf just gave up.

Here are our favorites:
  • Harry the bald guy. (Charlotte's husband on Sex and the City)
  • Jumbo shrimp.
  • Pretty ugly.
  • Comfortable bra.
  • The silence was deafening.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Mutiny in the Buffet

Liberty shared her head cold with me. And so I wandered into the buffet-style restaurant on the ship looking for chicken noodle soup. It being the day after Thanksgiving I expected to find turkey soup. Any variety would have been fine -- tomatoes, no tomatoes, vegetable, cream of, Thai-spiced. Instead I ended up eating duck soup. It was good and also spicy, which my sinuses welcomed. Still, it wasn't turkey soup. And from the snippets of conversation I heard (which were actually complaints based on their tone), the passengers on the lovely Sapphire Princess were quite miffed at the lack of turkey leftovers. While flank steak and tilapia are good, these people wanted their white bread, sliced turkey and cranberry sauce.

My father-in-law has been gone (dead, not fled, may his memory be a blessing) 12 years now and I can't believe it took that long for my mother-in-law, her two adult children and their families to vacation together. The cruise was a good time. We had much to be thankful for, not the least of which was the delicious Thanksgiving meal that someone else shopped for, cooked for and cleaned up from.

At dinner we played family trivia and laughed about the best parts of the trip, one of which was still to come. (It involved an adorable two-year-old Shirley-Temple-lookalike at the talent show and an ill-timed bodily function.) Dave brought pennies so Bob would be with us and also Pecan Pie truffles, reminiscent of Bob's favorite.

We had photos taken in the studio and I also ran into Paige and Celia's youngest sister, who was honeymooning with her new husband. The kids played bingo and more bingo. And loved afternoon tea, Princess cruise line style, whatever that is.

Monday, December 17, 2012


I love this time of year. I especially love doing for others at this time of year. Being Jewish affords me the time to do so because the Christmas Craziness requires as much or as little baking and decorating as I choose. We enjoy the holiday festivities and the happiness of the season.

In addition to baking no less than 20 dozen cookies for various NCL-supported philanthropies these past two weeks, Paris and I volunteered at the Hospice Oak Tree Lighting at Blackhawk. Families light candles for people who have passed and there is a short speaker on behalf of Hospice of the East Bay. Hospice has provided comfort to many families we know. In fact, I remember my childhood friend Jill Singer Douglas telling me just how much they did for her family when her father was at the end of his life and how much it meant to them. Volunteering at this tree lighting was a touching and lovely thing to do on a Friday night in December.

Liberty and Tori have December birthdays so we are indoctrinating them into one of our great loves -- musical theater. Tori and Dave saw Lion King. Not surprisingly she loved it. Liberty and I have tickets to Wicked in February. She already sings along to the music so I think she will have an equally good time.

Tori also read My Twins' First Christmas at READ in Blackhawk this month. I'm not sure if the best part was that her teacher and her teacher's adorable kids came or that there was an event involving dogs next at the store. We all agreed that the Saint Bernard was the most amiable to hugs.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Not my favorite.

My childhood friend Julie Chaiken had a destination wedding in Cabo but we didn't go. The youngest Pinks were just six months old and I wasn't ready to leave them. The wedding, which my SIL and Dr. Phil attended along with many of our mutual friends, was magnificent by all accounts. Dave still wishes we'd went. Fast forward ten years later and we're here, this time with the kids.

We've been here before, on a club trip. It's much more developed than it was back then but the smells remain the same: tequila, harbor, sweat, rotting trash and desperation.

The tender dropped us at the marina and we quickly boarded a catamaran for snorkeling in Santa Maria Bay. Tori, not surprisingly, took to this activity like she was born with gills. After a quick, mediocre lunch in town we headed back to the ship and took long showers. Dave and I watched the sun set behind the famous Arch from our balcony.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

One perfect day in Puerto Vallarta

Hector addressed the oldest three of our children in Spanish. They made that face, that thinking face. Seven years of Spanish between them and they made that face. Then they gave him a puzzled look, the look of non-comprehension combined with sleep deprivation and the necessity of functioning before 9a. He repeated his question and waited one more moment before switching into perfect English. After all, he grew up in West Hollywood.

Reassured that we were the right family, Hector ushered us into his van and drove north, away from the puerto, the port of Vallarta. Along the drive to Punta de Mita Hector told us about his upbringing in Los Angeles and his decision to raise his own family in Mexico. His dual citizenship allows him to visit the states often and his mother still lives in LA. He filled us in on Mexican politics and the holiday that its citizens were observing and the parades we passed during our 45-minute drive.

And then we arrived at the Four Seasons Punta Mita to meet up with Tom and Esty. It is one of the most beautiful resorts I have ever seen. The infinity-edged pool overlooked the Pacific Ocean. The service is five-star and the staff set us up with bottled water, covered lounge chairs and towels poolside. The younger kids hopped in for a quick swim while the older ones wandered down to the beach. There is just something about a Four Seasons resort; they are the masters of elegantly simple decor coupled with anticipate-your-every-need service.

Tom and Esty are there for the week staying with their friend Barbie, who has a house there. Tom is Dave's cousin, also Paris' g/dfather, and Esty sells real estate at the Four Seasons Residences in San Francisco. Barbie's house faces the ocean and has two pools, one outside the master bedroom. There is a full-time cook / housekeeper. Each bedroom is its own suite and the children's wing is separate from the main house. The whole place is so peaceful that I wanted to curl up on one of those outdoor sofas and take a long nap. You can rent similar houses for $5K/night if you're interested in an expensive nap and a view. The picture of me, at right, was taken in the courtyard at Barbie's house.

Lunch was a five-minute golf-cart-ride-away in the tiny, one-street town of Punta de Mita. The beachside restaurant, which we shared with just one other couple, presented our tuna first hanging from its tail on a pole and then turned into two styles of ceviche and finally, tacos. The waiter taught the kids to make guacamole, which we devoured with hand-made blue and yellow corn chips, and tortillas. Margaritas and tequila shots were consumed. The kids bought jewelry. We laughed and enjoyed a long, leisurely lunch. Then it was back to the resort for a quick trip down the lazy river pool and a return to the ship. Where we reluctantly boarded and wished we'd had more time at Punta Mita.

Monday, November 26, 2012

En route to Mexico

Tori is the way I like to see her best: cheek heavy against the pillow, dark brown hair fanned out over the pillow, covers wrapped around her burrito-style. She stirs and slowly opens her eyes. They get big, fast. She says, "It's so beautiful out there!" The curtains and balcony doors in our stateroom are wide open. She sees the sea. Blue. For miles and miles. This is Day 1 of our extended family's Thanksgiving holiday.

It's been more than 20 years since Dave and I have taken a cruise together. Back then we were surrounded by couples our parents' age and older all celebrating milestones. They looked at us like we were crazy and said things like, "You're just on vacation?!"

This cruise, this week, is a little different. There's an American holiday in the middle of it so we're amongst multiple generations of families, our own included. Still, if you average the age of the travelers, we remain on the young side.

The food service is endless and literally around the clock. The plates in the main restaurant, the one with the nonstop 6am to 11pm buffet, are as big as platters. There is an ice cream dispensary at one end of the main pool. On the other side of the pool is a counter serving up grilled food and fries from 11a to 11p. The ship has five more dining rooms for formal breakfast, lunches and dinners. There are six more restaurants (Starbucks-style to pizzaria to steakhouse) and eight bars elsewhere on the ship. There is room service.

We've spent our first two days at sea exercising, eating, reading, seeing shows and sitting by the pool. A lap around the deck is 1/3 mile. They are not easy laps to run because of the geriatric blue hairs. Bonus points for them though. The other distraction is the occasional feeling of weightlessness as the boat shifts. My sister-in-law says it's especially strange during yoga. I never got up early enough to find out.

We watched Monday night football poolside. The kids recruited others to play Colors while Dave and I curled up on chaises with the other 49er Faithful. I tried to not to explode from dinner. Italian night.

The youngest Pinks go in and out of the kids' club depending on their level of interest in the activities. On this day they decorated cakes in the galley under the watchful eye of the head pastry chef. We then ate the cakes at dinner. Or attempted to.

Paris is having the best time running around with her older cousins. They check in with us from time to time and are making the most of the 1:30a teen curfew. Family dinner is de rigeur. The three of them share the stateroom across the hall from us. They refer to it as The Cage. Finally age has its privileges. Our age.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Breakfast at Google

You know you've arrived when the name of your company becomes a verb. As in: Google it.

Cousin Jordana works at Google. We carpool to work as often as we can. Along came a day when we both had extra time after arriving in the South Bay and so she took me to breakfast on the campus and I got a first-hand look at the Google mystique.

People want to work at Google. The company has a reputation for product innovation and taking care of its employees.

Breakfast, like all meals in the gourmet-chef-staffed restaurants, was free. The cafe offered four hot entrees (oatmeal, egg tacos, scrambled eggs and French toast), a cereal bar, a fruit bar, a coffee counter, cheeses and bottled drinks in a trendy, modern tech setting with lots of natural light.

On the way out I stopped in the bathroom. And there I found those fancy Japanese toilets with seat warmers, dryers, bidets, music to disguise the actual reason for your trip to the loo, deodorization and masking fragrances (they are different).

Other Google employee perks include childcare centers and freebies like massages, gyms, pool tables, lava lamps, hair cuts, legal advice, bocce ball courts, a giant climbing wall and bowling alleys. There is also on-campus medical care and, although it's not free, it's very convenient.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Twenty One

That's the number of mosquito bites I have on my left leg below the knee. I am good eats if you are a hungry mosquito!

Neeracha and I are just back from four days at Canyon Ranch. We'd been to Miraval, another destination spa also in Tucson, a few times and wanted to try something new. Why there are mosquitos in the desert I have no idea.

Together we hiked, danced and ate. Separately I did gyrotonics, Pilates and golf while she biked and did knead yoga and Zumba. The teachers had big personalities and I enjoyed that. They worked hard to be entertaining. I liked the belly dancing class the best. And after that the hike. The topography of Arizona is beautiful, much different than that of Northern California and gorgeous in its own way. My golf lesson was so basic that I didn't even see a ball. Yup, I spent an entire hour on grip and stance. But hey, I got a video to take home to wow the kids.

We tried to watch movies at night but didn't stay awake long enough to actually get through one. Our room was beautiful -- fluffy beds, indoor and outdoor seating areas, two dressing areas and two closets, two flat panel TVs.

Southern Arizona has highs above 100F in September so our outdoor activities were done by 10am. Here we are on a 5 mile hike into Lower Bear Canyon the last day of the trip.

We had lunch in the demo kitchen on our last day there and sat with a woman who lives in Boca Raton and grew up in St. Louis. She mentioned she was Jewish and I gave Neeracha a lesson in Jewish Geography. It only took four names for me and Boca Woman to find a connection.

I used to think that Miraval and Canyon Ranch competed. But after visiting Canyon Ranch I see how different they are. At Miraval we met people who'd been to Canyon Ranch. At Canyon Ranch few people even knew what Miraval was, so loyal were they to the ranch.

  • If Miraval is a svelte, hip yoga teacher then Canyon Ranch is an Ironwoman-now-Jazzercise instructor. 
  • Miraval is newer, more innovative, a new age experience. Canyon Ranch is older, quieter, with a broader range of food and activity offerings.
  • People who go to Miraval are looking for a vacation. People who go to Canyon Ranch are looking to change their lives. 
  • At Miraval one signs up for the Equine experience to balance their mind, body and spirit. At Canyon Ranch one signs up for the Life Enhancement Program to learn how to live a healthy life and navigate a transition or meet a personal challenge.
  • People visit Miraval for a long weekend or a week. The first people I met at Canyon Ranch spend three months a year there -- six weeks on each end of their Toronto to Miami snowbird trip.
  • Guests at Miraval are in their 30s to 50s. Guests at Canyon Ranch are in their 40s to 70s. And they go back every year like clockwork.
  • There are some hardcore fitness options at Miraval. There are many more super hardcore fitness options at Canyon Ranch.
  • The quiet spaces, the pool, the meditation rooms are better designed at Miraval. The gym is better designed at Canyon Ranch.
  • The food is great at Miraval. The food is good at Canyon Ranch.
It's hard to say which one I liked better; they are simply different. Miraval did not have hungry mosquitos.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Tomato Derivatives

My parents filled in their pool a few years ago. Replacing the diving board and cool oasis my kids loved so much is an expansive vegetable garden. My mom is really into her garden. She's so into gardening that she emails me and my brother gardening tips she finds online.

Don't get me wrong -- we like it and we benefit from it. There's something gratifying about planting seeds, caring for them, watching them grow and then pulling your accomplishments from the dirt and consuming them. We have such a temperate climate here in California that we can grow a huge variety of edibles.

My parents are away all month and left the garden's bounty to me and my brother. I'm not sure what prompted my mom to plant as much as she did knowing they'd be away.

On Saturday, after two soccer games and a big lunch, the youngest Pinks and I did some harvesting.

Here's what we picked in an hour. And we barely touched the cherry tomatoes. I'll go back next weekend and then do a drop off at the local food bank. Not even two tomato-loving families can eat so many tomatoes.

I roasted a big pan of San Marzano's in olive oil and Kosher salt and inhaled them for dinner. The way I make them turns them into tomato chips. I like them blackened because all the crispy bits turn sweet.

Then Sunday morning we headed to a friend's for a sauce and salsa making session. My friend has canning equipment and I enjoyed learning how it is used. She also has a food strainer, which takes far less time than my score, boil, ice bath, peel and blend method of turning whole tomatoes into puree for sauce.

Liberty really likes cooking so she was a huge help in that area. All that chopping is tedious. I'd never roasted chiles on the stovetop before so that was an adventure. It's a lot of work charring those babies then scraping the burnt bits off, the seeds out and then dicing, all the while wearing gloves.

It's shocking how little 30 lbs of tomatoes reduced down to. But we'll enjoy those tomatoes long into the winter. And so will my parents, whose pantry and freezer I am slowly filling with mason jarred tomato products.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


My friend's father passed away this week after a long illness.

Today I took the youngest Pinks to our friends' house to make a shiva call. Shiva is the formal, seven-day mourning period in Judaism, one that first-degree family members observe. The word shiva comes from the Hebrew shi-VAH, which means seven. During this time the family members receive visitors. It is traditional and expected that these visitors bring food. We baked cookies this morning.

My friend's family are Israeli emigres. His wife's family are Russian emigres. The two met at an American law school. Their home is a mix of Jewish artifacts and antiques.

Today's conversation was in many tongues and the mourning traditions from many cultures were tied together by Judaism. Russians, for example, don't leave keys on a table. Immediate family wears a keriah, or torn outer-layer-garment during shiva. Sometimes this is a tie. Sometimes this is a ribbon.

I did not know my friend's father but was glad to support the family and to teach The Pinks this part of our religion. It gave us an opportunity to talk about what you say to someone when they're grieving. "I'm sorry." "I'm sorry for your loss." Tori, our animal lover, insisted on paying special attention to the family dog as "he must be upset, too."

Shiva is not gloom and doom; it's story telling and laughter and memories in addition to tears. The Pinks played outside with the family's daughters, who they know from Religious School. And I ate some piroshki, Russian puff pastries filled with apples. Divine.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

She was boring.

My friend said this to me recently, talking about someone she'd recently broken bread with.

I knew the woman she was talking about and I agree, she's rather vanilla, although the thought hadn't occurred to me until she mentioned it.

What makes someone not boring? Interesting hobbies? Engaging stories? Humor? A visible passion for something, anything?

I used to work with a woman who was pee-in-your-pants funny. She was completely and unapologetically selfish and her observations were often spot-on but things you'd never say out loud if your parents raised you with any sense of decency. She was not boring in the slightest.

As an aside, I'm beginning to think you are either born with the humor gene or not. My dad and cousin David are funny, and they have the same aptitude for one-liners. One of The Pinks says the funniest things.

One of my fairly new friends has an interesting backstory. Actually a bunch of my friends do. They're not Americans. They've lived outside the US. They've traveled to unusual places and will eat weird food without a second thought. Or they grew up in non-traditional families or have overcome tough odds to land on their feet. Dave tells me that none of my friends are alike. Maybe I am bored with people like myself?

I love the picture above, taken at our house Thanksgiving 2009. I am thankful for friends and family. And the people in this picture are all interesting. There are as many non-Americans as there are Americans. Dave and I like hosting an eclectic Thanksgiving -- the more the merrier.

Liberty tells me that she likes living in a small town because it's friendly and you often see people you know. I'd much prefer the diversity, the anonymity, of a large city.

In business and in social situations, it seems that unboring people are good storytellers. Jim is an amazing storyteller. You can visualize the people in his stories and he is dang funny. I think back to his stories days later. I wonder if Jim tells stories at work, too.

My CEO is a good storyteller. He comes up with clever lines and memorable quips during every conversation we have. Is this a common thread binding serial entrepreneurs?

Dave is naturally on, a natural people person. When we go out and I'm not in the mood I remind myself that I need to be on, that if I accept a social invitation it's my responsibility to bring it.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Go climb a rock.

That's the Yosemite Mountaineering School slogan, the one seen on t-shirts around the world.

And that's just what we did with The Pinks.

Day One: Drive to Yosemite Valley. We're told it's four hours from our house so of course we think we can do it faster than that. Nope. Summer traffic. A gutless-but-fuel-efficient Prius and windy, two-lane roads without guard rails. Night One was spent in relative luxury in a cottage at The Ahwahnee. Tech trivia: Steve Jobs and Laurene Powell married here in 1991.

We swam and played in the river. Don't underestimate the thrill of rock skipping, glacier-created sand between your toes and fast-moving snowmelt on a scorching day. Deer and squirrels were everywhere. The kids couldn't believe that the deer barely gave them a glance. Dave took a tour of the historic hotel, which opened in 1927 so wealthy people would come visit and see how worthwhile their support of this park was. Dolled up. Dinner with Jill and Wally for Wally's birthday. The sun went down and the kids played flashlight games with people atop Glacier Point, 3,200 feet above us and the valley floor.

The Pinks showed the appropriate amount of awe at the Valley. Unprompted. It'd easily been 20 years since I'd been to the park and it's magnificent. Granite rising from the valley floor. I doubt I thought the same when my dad forced me to backpack lengths of the John Muir Trail during my formative years. I traded backpacking stories with friends. All these years I thought I was the only one who cried on the trail, and it wasn't from the sheer beauty of the surroundings, either.

Day Two: Breakfast in the hotel dining room. The ceiling is 34' high and supported by immense sugar pine trestles. Fortunately there is no dress code for breakfast because two of three kids dined in their pajamas. Hike to the base of Vernal Falls. Beautiful. Hot. Many people doing the same thing. The chances of us getting heatstroke were less than of us getting trampled. Visit to the Ansel Adams Gallery.

Depart Ahwahnee for Tuolomne Meadows, up at 8,900 feet. Shoot requisite picture of The Pinks at Half Dome Overlook. Stop at Tenaya Lake for Yosemite Conservancy ribbon cutting ceremony at East Beach. Sand play for kids. Leeann, an accomplished open water swimmer, went for a dip while we played on the beach. She didn't even have the decency to shiver or to breathe hard after doing a fast mile in the 51F lake. No wetsuit, either. And then came the rain. Head for Tuolomne Meadows Lodge.

The Lodge is tent cabins with bear boxes, cots, wood stoves, and a communal bathroom. Eat protein-heavy dinner in dining room, the only option. Witness numerous backpackers come to Lodge hoping for a dry room for the night. No such luck. Rain eventually stops. Play in Merced River. Spend evening making s'mores and laughing. Doze off and on all night wondering if sound outside cabin is bear or deer and if we should have put our toiletries in the bear box, like the Bear Aware Policy suggested.

Day Three: Eat flapjacks and bacon in dining room. Fishing at two different lakes. Bag lunches. Explain to kids Tree Line. Notice that fishing spots at elevation 10,000 feet are making it hard to breathe. Drive back to Bay. Sleep like the dead in my own bed.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Girl walks into a bar.

Jen Pockell-Wilson and I giggled like young schoolgirls when we were waiting for Kim Drew. At The Ship, no less, an ale house at the corner of Battery and Pacific in San Francisco dating back to 1851, two years into the Gold Rush.

Girl walks into the bar. Her smile could easily span the 8-state-divide which usually separates us. She is blonde curls and turquoise eyes and Jen and I attach ourselves to her with a death grip for the rest of the evening.

Fortunately Jen and I are with good men, men who knew their role was to keep Kim's husband occupied while the three of us chattered nonstop on topic ranging from attachment parenting (we are way over it) to discipline (we are fans of it) to other Feb Moms (proud of our nationally ranked triathlete). Jen and Kim have the same quick, biting sense of humor. I am good at laughing.

The six of us ate mostly cow at 5A5 and took advantage of the last few days of foie gras' availability in California. Our visitors were quite adventurous and tried taco (octopus) salad and the lychee and berry palate cleanser.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Looking for Justin Bieber

We're just back from a weekend in Calabasas.

Our first order of business was sugaring up at Crumbs. On our way home from Crumbs we drove by Justin Bieber's house, which is inside the gate within the gate. Jenna is into Justin. Jenna lives inside the gate but not inside the gate within the gate so it took some sweet talking to get past that second gate. Surprisingly, Justin was home. His Fisker was in the driveway and his garage was open. One of his friends was in the garage. Pictures were taken. Not by me though.

Jenna also drove us past Kourtney Kardashian's house, which is literally around the corner from theirs. No paparazzi. They must have been at Katherine Jackson's house, also in the neighborhood. If they could get inside the gate that is. Momma Jackson was in the news last week.

 We packed a lot into a quick weekend! Santa Monica Pier and the Third Street Promenade. The biggest Brandy Melville I've ever seen. Dave and Phil played golf at the Calabasas Country Club. Dips in the pool both day and night. Chinese food. Steaks on BBQ with the usual suspects. A trip to Susie Cakes, which I prefer to Crumbs but which the kids do not. Walking Hayley, the cousins' new Maltipoo. Heading out of town we ran into Keyshawn Johnson at the gas station. Sterns Wharf in Santa Barbara. Riding Surries. Lunch on the pier. Driving home along the 101 and dinner at Dennis and Margo's in Pasadera.

Liberty and I fell in love with Santa Barbara Chicken art and we came home with two pieces. They are unusual and happy and silly, and made us both grin ear to ear. The piece I bought matches nothing in our house and I really love it.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Rocky Treatment

Paris got her braces off a few months ago. And now she smiles a lot more. Of course more is relative when you're a 14-year-old girl.

I'd promised her The Rocky Treatment when her orthodontic torture was finished. And that's how we ended up at the Neiman's counter in the city Saturday.

The Master of Lipstick Picking did not disappoint. Paris enjoyed the experience and Rocky picked out a beautiful Chanel Rouge Coco Shine Shine for her, age-appropriate and in the classic Chanel packaging.

She smiled all afternoon.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Fisker

Our neighbors Dan and Leeann Harvey have a Fisker. And the four of us drove it to dinner one evening. While our friends are super fun and the evening was filled with laughter, the Fisker added a whole new element to the mix.

For those of you in need of a refresher: Fisker is a new American car, a hybrid sedan. Thus far there are very few of these visually stunning works of art on the road.

As it turned out, there was street parking in front of the restaurant. We parked there. And as it turned out we were seated on the patio, with a view of the street and the car.

That baby draws attention. Every few minutes someone would walk up to it and stare. Then they'd point. This was inevitably followed by the appearance of a mobile phone, used either to google the car or shoot a picture. About half the time the photo was accompanied by someone posing in front of it. We laughed the first dozen times this happened.

And then I couldn't stand it any more. A group people were gathered in front of it, gawking. I hopped down from the patio and walked up to them.

Me: What's going on?

Man in seersucker suit and bow tie: It's a new hybrid car. Looks nice, doesn't it?

Me: What's so special about it?

Man: See the solar panels on the roof? That charges the battery.

Me: Oh. It's so shiny!

I run my finger along the door, trying to smudge it. My tablemates are now giggling.

Crowd around car: collective gasp.

Me, pulling out my iPhone and hopping up on the hood: Will you shoot my picture on it?

Man: Um. No.

He backs away.

I look back at our table where Dave, Dan and Leeann are teary-eyed, gasping for air, and close to peeing their pants. The restaurant patrons on the patio have BIG eyes. I slide down the hood and return to our table.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Tahoe Game

Every time we come to Tahoe we make a game of seeing what has changed since our last visit. This time we noted that the ugly fountain outside of the Olympic House was removed, replaced by grass and stepping stone paths. Parts of the Olympic House are no longer a purplish gray paint. There is additional directional signage in The Village and the entrance to the valley is marked with a new Olympic sign.

We had a jam-packed trip up. Highlights included:

  • Boating with the Owles. 
  • Lunch at Sunnyside, the place to see and be seen. The best thing we saw was the smiles on our niecelets faces when we they were offered the chance to join our family tradition of eating Hula Pie before the main meal. appetizer.
  • The first-ever Morris Family Hike. We did enough of the Shirley Lake Trail to eat lunch by and play in the river. The youngest Pinks loved this, especially navigating the rocky trail.
  • Perfect weather. 
  • Listening to a Billy Joel cover band at the bottom of the Granite Chief chairlift.
  • Golf and tennis.
I can't wait to go back in August.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

4 July

I didn't get to sleep in on this particular holiday but in the fun factor of our nonstop day made it worthwhile. Dandiville's annual parade began at 9a this year, an hour earlier than in years past. Some years it's miserably hot and, while this wasn't one of them, it was nice to be out of the sun by noon and before the strongest sun of the day was upon us. I was teary-eyed much of the time watching the floats honoring our troops. I also like seeing old friends and neighbors both march in the parade and be spectators. Not much is cuter than little kids dressed in red, white and blue waving the American Flag. 

While I was doing a rare two-hour commute home from The Silly Valley on Independence Day Eve, Dave and our friends scoped out a good spot the parade route and we were able to watch from the comfort of our shaded chairs 12 hours later. Paris especially enjoyed the parade social scene this year.

After the parade we headed up to a party in St. Helena. Our friends Michaela Alioto and Tom Pier have decided to take a year out of the rat race and spend the next year living in Rome. They leave in August, in time for their three children to begin the new school year. Meanwhile, they are readying their ranch-style house among the vineyards with gorgeous gardens and pool for a year-long rental.

Tom told me about this New York Times article on being busy, which only served to validate their decision. Their kids will take a bus to school and he and Michaela will have time to read the paper and drink coffee out, explore the city and plan weekend trips. I am jealous. Yes, I am happy for them but I am jealous, too, of them going to Rome and stepping off the treadmill.

I do not like being busy. I need a lot of time to myself and I hate it when people brag about how busy they are. Do they enjoy the pace? Are they Tiger Moms and Dads? Are they afraid of being unscheduled to the point they don't know what they will do with downtime? I chatted with a couple, parents of two, at the parade and they told me that they go for a five-mile hike together every Saturday morning and it forces them to have an extended conversation. Brilliant.

The Alioto-Piers have a large extended family and the gathering was perhaps 40 kids and adults swimming, BBQing, throwing around balls, drinking and playing in the hammock and treehouse. I took the picture below at their house. Tom challenged the kids to create a place to hang the flag. Success! I like these kinds of events -- a few people I know, most I don't, activities to keep the kids happily occupied and a diversity of backgrounds and opinions. It was great to catch up with Jeff Barth, who links us to the St. Helena couple. Much of him remains the same as when we met, 30 years ago.

We were going to spend the night in Napa and come up to Tahoe Thursday but instead decided to head out that night. Our risk was rewarded with arriving at Donner Lake just as their fireworks show started. We lucked into a prime vantage point on Hwy 80.

Today I woke up in my own bed at Squaw. We've not been here since ski season so there is zero to eat in the house. I headed to Starbucks for caffeine and breakfast while everyone else slept in, and am now banging away at my laptop with a pine-infused set of lungs and big smile. It's pure magic in the early mornings at Squaw. People walking their dogs. Ambitious hikers and bikers. Nerds like me on laptops. Later Dave will take the kids golfing and give me a whopping on the tennis court. Paradise!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Rory didn't make the cut.

And Tori was sad. After all, they've been besties since she met him at the club when he was practicing and she was there to claim her ski team awards. Well, not exactly besties but she's a big fan.

We attended the Friday round at the US Open with way too many other people. Surprisingly, The Youngest Pinks were really into it. Paris was in LA with her cousins. We parked ourselves at the green on the first hole and watched until Tiger, Phil and Bubba came through. Then we went to the member's only grandstands and watched the eighth and ninth holes until again, Tiger, Phil and Bubba came through. We wrapped up the day with some retail therapy in a tent with an interior as large as and as well-merchandised Nordstrom, and seeing a few groups on 18.

Dave has decided that this is The Pinks' Summer of Golf so they loaded up on adorable US Open logowear in that tent.

The Olympic Club bore little resemblance to the club we know and love; there were grandstands and concession stands and tents everywhere. And people and more people.

On the shuttle bus back to BART we had a hilarious time with four Rickie Fowler groupies. They were dressed in his trademark logowear, monochromatic with flat-brimmed hats. The orange reminds me of European sanitation workers.

It was a long day and definitely one of the best we've had with the kids.

Since then Dave has golfed a bit with The Pinks and the five of us went to the driving range together. Dave's got the right idea -- incentives and everything is a game. I took golf lessons the year we were married and haven't played since. I may have to get back into it seeing how it's now going to be a family activity.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Credit: KTVU
If you had two minutes to grab your most valued possessions and leave your house, what would you take?

I did this today. Into a laundry basket went:
  • Three baby books
  • Jewelry
  • The watch my late FIL gave my husband
  • Cash
  • Passports and birth certificates
  • Binder of negatives
  • My three favorite quilts
  • Work Mac and Personal PC
  • Purse
And then the police told us that the fire near our house was under control and we didn't need to evacuate.

The fire was so close that the local TV news was broadcasting from our gate, the same gate The Pinks walk through to pick up the school bus. We could see the scene from our gate as it played out less than a half mile up Mt. Diablo.

The Pinks were scared at first. Then we listened to the dispatch on and watched all the fire crews put it out. And then we had dinner and went for a swim.

It's summer after all.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

8th Grade Promotion

Our 14-year-old wearing a white dress and six-inch-heels in a sea of 14-year-old girls wearing mostly white dresses and six-inch-heels. Fourteen-year-old boys sweltering in long pants and dress shoes. 88F degrees. Sitting in the sun. Singing. Speakers. Diplomas. A field with a ratio of 3 grasshoppers to each human. Dinner at Chow. Cake. Exhaustion. Summer.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Clinging to childhood.

Paris just finished middle school so that means we now have a high schooler in the house.

This is a picture of her at the western-themed, school-sponsored promotion party. No, I don't think she's showing too much skin. She will never have as perfect a figure as she has right now.

I just came across our travel activity box on an upper shelf in the laundry room. It's a large Rubbermaid container filled with coloring books, small games, stickers, pipe cleaners, finger puppets and puzzles. It's been a few years since I opened it, and of course we are long past needing it. The contents of this box, which I continuously added to as I came across interesting activities, kept The Pinks busy on many a car and airplane ride. Now, of course, they occupy themselves with books, needlework and electronics. I must find a good home for this carefully curated collection of entertainment.

Tori and I reorganized her closet last weekend. Having custom built-ins was one of the best investments we made when moving here; it was easy to reposition hanging bars and shelves. We also transitioned from kiddie hangers to adult-sized ones.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The smell of summer.

The Pinks did summer day camp at the prep school adjacent to our house for a half-dozen years. Just walking on the campus during the summer months made me relax, slow down my pace, breathe more deeply. It was the smell, mostly, and the sounds.

Smell is a funny sense. Every now and then I come upon the cologne that one of my high school boyfriends wore and it takes me back 30 years to him and the dark Alaskan winter. Or I smell roses and think of the garden in the home where Dave grew up.

Last week the smell of summer arrived, this time coupled with the smell of ripe fruit and dry heat. I was instantly transported to a market day Provence, where we vacationed a few summers ago. This is our summer to stay local and I'm sad that we're not readying for another European adventure.

Next year. Some way. Some how.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

An evening with Coldplay

Dave and I joined some friends and neighbors and random others for a night in San Jose's HP Pavilion to see Coldplay. This is one of Dave's favorite bands and the second time we've seen them.

It takes a lot for me to see live music. I like it but find it a hassle; the seating arrangements and ticket procurement, the babysitter, the late night. Chris Martin et al put on a good show Friday night and it was fun to hang with the neighbors, who do this sort of thing a lot. At one point Chris forgot the words to a song he was going at solo and paused, swore and started again. That was funny.

Thirty of us took a private bus to the show; I was delegated the dinner, which the nice caterer at Draeger's assisted with. I also did Kara's Cupcakes, my personal favorite. There was a lot of celebration going on on that bus, and it only increased post show when we were en route home. I heard that it continued once we got back to Danville but I'm not sure; Dave and I were in bed moments after sending Rosa home.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

What do you want to accomplish?

I went walking with a friend this week and she mentioned that she and her husband had recently talked about what they have left to accomplish in life.

Dave and I do have a bucket list. We started a foundation. We teach our kids life skills and empathy. We grow (some of) our own food. We travel.

And then I sat next to a woman at the middle school choral concert Wednesday night and ended up telling her about my recent car accident and the angel looking over my shoulder. Her comment was, "Clearly it wasn't time for you to die. G/d thinks you have something big left to accomplish."

I believe her. Now I just have to figure out what that is.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

It's cherry season!

The littlest Pinks and I dashed up to Maggiore's in Brentwood after school Wednesday to pick our share of Corals. The three of us picked 17 pounds in 40 minutes. That left us time to pick strawberries at Chan's, too. And then rush back to our 'burb for the Math Olympiad End of Year party.

This is our second year picking cherries and it's a tradition I just love -- it's the soft launch of summer.

I tried something new this year -- oven drying some. They are good and I am looking forward to baking some into my chocolate chip cookies this winter. Pitting those puppies by hand is messy! The crafter in me is going to try to dye some muslin with the juice.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

My Foodie Saturday

While Dave went car shopping, the littlest Pinks and I headed through the tunnel to eat with friends. Our first stop was a restaurant I'd long wanted to try: Homeroom.

Homeroom is on 40th St. in Oakland, not near any other restaurants or retailers. It specializes in Mac & Cheese and its owner is a well-known food blogger. I wish the menu featured a sampler. Fortunately we're good at sharing. I had The Exchange Student with artichokes, spinach and feta. My friend had Mac The Goat, with chevre, scallions, breadcrumbs, mushrooms and olive oil. One of her kids had The Classic and the other had Vermont White Cheddar. My rebels had scones and orange juice.

The food was great and very rich. None of us came close to finishing our lunch. Or maybe it was that we were saving room for our next stop, Ici, the artisanal ice cream shop, on College Ave. in Berkeley. I just love the Elmwood district and because it was a cool day, the line wasn't long. The storefront is beautiful and girly, and the owner is a former Chez Panisse pastry chef, impeccably credentialed in my opinion. Apparently I have a thing for Chez Panisse alumnae; I frequent a Temescal bakery and read David Lebovitz religiously. My friend bought ice cream cones to take home; they are hand made with a bit of chocolate inside the bottom. I love that! We shopped a bit; I'm always on the lookout for quirky things to put in the kids' care packages for sleep away camp.

The Pinks wanted to take a dip in the pool after we returned to the sunny side of the tunnel but the sun did not bring the heat on this particular Memorial Day Weekend Saturday. It actually rained in the late afternoon. And so we snuggled on the sofa, under blankets, and watched Tim Burton's remake of Alice in Wonderland.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


I heard that distinct screeching sound that car wheels make when brakes are thrust upon them with the full weight of the driver. And then I felt the impact and heard nothing.

I opened my eyes and saw my car's windshield covered in a pattern of spiderwebbing. I spit the safety glass out of my mouth. I wiped it from my face and chest. I looked up; the roof was pushed in to within an inch of my head. And then I looked to the right, where the front passenger seat should have been. It was gone, replaced by my car's right door and more broken glass.

To my left, in the fast lane, there was a strange absence of cars. I pried open my door and attempted to  retrieve my cell phone from my purse in the back seat. It took me several times to grasp it; that's how much I was shaking. That's when I noticed the truck, now perpendicular to me and upside down. The driver crawled out of the crushed cab. He was bleeding. The witnesses told me that the truck flew over one lane of traffic, turned upside down and slammed into me. I saw nothing.

I called Dave. No answer at home. No answer on his cell. Again. Again. Again. I called my brother. No answer at home. Or on his cell. Or on my SIL's cell. I left my brother a message: I'm fine. I've been in a car accident. I can't find Dave. Please track him down.

Dave called back. My eight calls to him had come while he was in the shower. He drove to San Jose to pick me up. First Responders showed up, police, fire men. AAA towed my car away. We picked up a rental car on our drive back north. I went to the Emergency Room. In the waiting room I emptied my purse and briefcase of more glass. Except for a headache and the pains I envision similar to being checked in hockey, I'm fine.

There was an angel sitting on my shoulder Tuesday morning. That much I know.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

An afternoon at the ballpark

The sky was blue. The sun was shining down on us, both literally and figuratively.

There, looking out on the field at the Giants game, a few tears rolled down my cheeks and onto my orange shirt as my brother received recognition for his philanthropic contributions to the Cancer Support Community.

Fourteen years ago my brother was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Ten years ago he married Kristin Owles. Eight years ago their first child was born. Six years ago their second child was born. With us today at AT&T Park were his two longtime friends and post-college San Francisco apartment mates, the ones backpacking through Europe with him when he learned that something was wrong. Two days after Barry's surgery Jon Deane and Brian Manca drank beers and played cards with my brother on my parents' patio while he was recovering from surgery. And today they celebrated with us.

I wish my parents had been there with us today. No, they're not dead. They were in Chicago for their great nephew's Bar Mitzvah. I hope it was mindblowing because the party they missed in the city certainly was.

Genentech partners with CSC and sponsors this annual Strike Out Cancer event. They hosted us for lunch and a meet and greet with some players. Balls were signed. Barry, among others, received recognition, and we watched the Giants defeat the Oakland A's.

I am so proud of him. Thank you for being a survivor, B, and for helping others to survive.

P/S What is it about the schwag they give away at these things? You can see that it was Fedora Day. What makes a person dying to get their hands on the giveaways that go right into the trash when they get home? Genentech was also giving out messenger bags. At first I was disappointed I didn't get one and then, in the car on the way home, I was relieved.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day 2012

I got to sleep in! And then I went riding with my Dad. I was having such a good time enjoying the scenery that I didn't notice low branches on the tree approaching. And before I knew it I was eating oak leaves and doing a back bend in the saddle. It was funny.

We had my parents and brother and his family for dinner. Dave deep fried chickens (turkeys are not as easy to find in May as you'd think). And then he deep fried frozen french fries, thin-sliced potatoes to dip in tzatziki, and for dessert, Twinkies, Oreos and ice cream. The Chocolate Mint Oreos were the unanimous favorite. I got lots of affection from the three girls who made me a mother, and also wished they'd lay off torturing each other for just one day.

And now my tender sitz bones and I are headed to bed. Next time I will wear my padded bike shorts under my jeans.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Breakfast

The Pinks had standardized testing last week. Their teachers strongly suggest that the kids get a good night's sleep and eat a healthy breakfast.

It then occurred to me that every family in the neighborhood didn't need to make a full breakfast those mornings, just one of us did. And that's how we ended up with 21 people for waffles, bacon, strawberries and French Toast Tuesday morning.

And then we snuck a few non-bus-pass-holding kids onto the school bus.

BTW, my feeling is that these tests reflect on the teachers as much, if not more, than the students. I tell my kids not to worry about their scores.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Clothing Allowance

Let me start by saying that I had one. I don't remember if I liked or disliked it. But it seemed to teach me responsibility and I never left the house naked.

I did, however, dress completely inappropriately for the Alaska winter. Bonus points to Mom and Dad for keeping their opinions to themselves.

Here's the situation at Casa Pink right now. Paris is 14. She has good taste, expensive taste, and I think the timing is right. I polled the cognoscenti before making any decisions. The feedback went something like this:
  • It' a horrible idea because we'd end up supplementing to cover her mistakes. These people are thinking of their child, not mine. Dave and I believe that mistakes create learning opportunities for both parent and child. Parenting creates a whole lot of learning opportunities, doesn't it?!
  • A 14-year-old would not be capable of getting the same deals as a savvy shopping parent and we'd waste a lot of money doing it this way.
  • Shopping is an activity these mothers and daughters enjoy and that they don't want to lose that experience. (I'm not sure what's worse -- the smell or the music in Abercrombie.)
  • They tried it and ended up buying their daughters clothes in addition to the allowance because special events kept coming up and their kids also lost / lent out clothing.
We are still going forward. This will teach Paris when to invest in an item (classics or designer) and when to go with the Forever 21 version for the season (sequined tank tops). We've decided to give her a lump sum on the first of every month to cover school lunches (3 of 5 days/week), clothes and her regular allowance. We'll buy a coat and as many tennis shoes as she needs, and underpinnings. We'll cover her athletic wear. But everything else is up to her. 

I don't foresee this being a problem. She gets book royalties, has a paid job being a teacher's assistant at the synagogue and babysits.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Tale of Two Funerals

I sat in the BLT sanctuary at the synagogue of my childhood, my brother to my left, my husband to my right. The rabbi offered a few words of introduction and consolation, and then friends and family spoke of Ben Harris, the long-time family friend who died too soon.

We celebrated his life at the synagogue, the one my parents have belonged to for 36 years, the synagogue that no longer resembles the building where I learned my prayers during my single digit years. The place where I chanted those prayers alongside Ben's daughter.

The scale tipped heavily toward death this week.

Ben survived the mother of his children by 11 years. Our parents shared a friendship spanning four decades, the same four decades his daughter and I have been friends.

And then Paige Wycoff's younger brother died. In his 30s. In a car accident.

This event gave me an opportunity to tread in new territory: an LDS house of worship. Surprisingly, the service wasn't very different than Ben's memorial. The church was packed with people supporting a family which had long been active in the community. A bit of prayer. A eulogy that made us laugh and made us cry. A peek into the life of someone who died too young, touched those around him and left seven siblings behind.

I would be lying if I didn't admit that these two events affected my mood this week. I spent more time than usual watching The Pinks sleep and counting my blessings.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

I work for a start up.

I work a lot. But not as much as I used to. I'm older and smarter now. I've seen the good, the bad and the ugly and I've no interest in revisiting the latter two.

Working at a start up means I make things up as I go along. I iterate. I test. I brainstorm. I tweak. This is the best part.

My company recently had its annual sales kickoff, three days of high-energy, back-to-back meetings with extroverts. It was a pep rally.

Our CEO said a lot of quotable things and one that struck me the most was, "You are the first hundred employees."

I've been here before. Three times in fact.

We're special, the first hundred. We know each other's names. We do water cooler chit chat because there is only one water cooler. The first hundred employees have the biggest chance to pivot and to benefit financially.

Mike Fields, the late CEO of my second start up, had an opinion on this. He often said that the people who would benefit most from the company's success were the people like his longtime executive assistant, who would be able to buy a house, or the product manager whose child could now attend college without the burden of student loans.

The thrill of another win is enticing. But the fun that comes from trying to make it happen is why I do it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

It was a Good Friday.

It was a rare day, a day The Pinks had school and I did not work. This called for celebration: a leisurely lunch of three couples in Napa. Unfortunately the husbands couldn't go so it was just us girls.

We went to Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bistro. There's one in Las Vegas, another in Yountville, a third in Beverly Hills. It was just right. That's such a simple sentence but really, the decor was just right. The service was just right. The weather in Yountville was just right and I'm not sure how Keller orchestrated that part.  It took me a good 15 minutes to decide what to order. I literally wanted to taste a good two-thirds of the things on the menu. In the end I settled on rillettes au deux saumons, salade Maraichere with chevre chaud, and champignons. The rillettes came with butter on top and is served from a glass jar. One friend had the quiche and the other the scallops. We opted to hit the adjoining bakery on the way out instead of having dessert at the table. This would enable us to share some sweets with the missing husbands.

The bakery had a line out the door and down the sidewalk by the time we rolled away from the table. I came home with a turtle for the recently-braces-freed Paris and croissants, lemon tart and a peanut butter cookie for Dave. The rillettes and sandwiches are for sale at the bakery. The bread is amazing. Crusty and soft inside. Tableside it is served warm.

Yountville is an hour's drive from our house.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

It's all about the buns.

Dave and I were back in our hotel room after a nonstop day that included leaving Shanghai for Suzhou, a city 90 minutes away, visiting the Master of the Nets Garden (a World Heritage Site!), a riverboat ride through Suzhou's old city, lunch in a filthy dirty restaurant with divine, regular-Chinese-people food, a tour of a silk factory, an acrobatics show and three hours in a car.

His reply? "The only thing we're going to remember in the end is those pork buns."

Those steamed pork buns were dang memorable. And so were the dumplings I inhaled a dozen of without regard for anyone else's interest in tasting them. This girl knows know to use chopsticks for both eating and defending her claim! Pork- and broth-filled dumplings are a Shanghai specialty. Who am I to refuse the city's best-loved dish?! We ate a lot in China.

The garden is among the best in China and it's an example of the combination of art, architecture and nature to create metaphysical masterpieces. There were a lot of rock formations in the garden and I'd never seen that before. Frankly, I didn't much care for it aesthetically. Maybe that's just how they did landscape architecture in 1140?

We enjoyed the boat ride through the canals of the old city. Here's a picture of my mother-in-law and her friend Joyce outside the city wall. I like seeing how people live (line stolen from Oprah) and this gave us some sneak peeks. Look at these mailboxes! Our guide told us that many older urban Shanghai residents, those of our parents and grandparents generations, share cooking and bathing facilities. So each family has their own apartment but without bathrooms or appliances. That's done communally.

Dave found a seriously rockin' private tour guide on Craigslist. Harris was with us the second and third days in Shanghai and without him, we would not have covered as much ground nor seen as much. In the end, though, we left our time together reminded that we are free and he is not. I'm glad we found out how he feels about North Korea at the end of our time together and not the beginning.

The silk factory tour was especially interesting given my textile fetish. The littlest Pinks did a unit on this in preschool and that's about as much as I remembered. Did you know that it takes the silk from eight silkworms to make one thread? We watched the process from worm to pupa to cocoon to dying to thread to fabric. And then we saw all the pretty things they make from silk and (surprise!) bought a duvet. I wish I'd done more shopping in China but I didn't see much I really had to have. I bought some  pearls and wish I'd bought more. Next time.

While I don't have any pictures of the acrobatics show to share, it was fascinating in a train-wreck sort of way. The performers are as young as eight. The contortionism is painful to watch. What effect will that have on those children's backs by the time they reach adulthood?

The most interesting part of the acrobatics show, and the scariest, was watching the motorcyclists in a caged sphere. One motorcycle enters it from a gate at the bottom. It drives around fast enough to do horizontal loops. Then vertical ones. Another motorcycle enters. They follow each other then do alternating loops in the cage. Then another motorcycle enters. And another. And another. Now there are five motorcycles driven by five men lacking the fear gene in this cage inches apart. And a whole audience of people holding their breath. I can't believe anyone would do this. I'm sure their mothers were no where in the audience.

Speaking of mothers, it's rare I get to spend so much time with my mother-in-law. I really enjoyed the time we had creating new memories together, and seeing her in her travel-the-world mode.

One last bit on our trip before I get back to reality: we were fortunate to meet up with a fraternity brother of Dave's and his wife on our first night. They'd just moved to Shanghai for her job and took us to a very cool restaurant on The Bund that served Yunnanese food. The enchanted decor was PF Chang's on steroids; it was dark and moody with up lights on Yunnanese stone face masks and high-backed, brightly painted chairs. The food was unlike any we'd eaten before: spicy chicken on chili and green onions, tropical vegetables, shrimp paste with string beans, fried pork (think pork rinds with more meat and flavor). It was our most memorable meal if you don't count the street food, which was better tasting but less atmospheric.

The Pinks apparently did great with my mom and I'm so grateful that she was able to help us out with them. It was a very special trip, albeit one packed with back-to-back adventures! It's a good thing that I had nearly 40 hours of in-air time to recharge.