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.