Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The End.

Five and a half years ago I began this blog.

Since then I've taken you to a whole bunch of places in the US, including Tahoe about 20 times, Italy, France, the UK, Mexico, Spain, Thailand, Morocco, Singapore, China, and the Bahamas.

My kids have moved from elementary school to middle school and from middle school to high school. Two are now taller than me. All three have entered Jewish adulthood and have volunteered extensively in our community. Friends have married and divorced. Some have died. Dave hasn't changed the locks on me yet and I'm trying to keep it that way.

I've bitched and quilted and entertained. Some of my favorite recipes have appeared here, including Callie's cookies. I've blogged on movies and books. And mean girls, one of my largest sources of irritation and one that I am passionate about eradicating the behaviors of, one hormonal preteen at a time.

You know what I think about being a dance mom. Here you've read more about cupcakes than you ever wanted to know.

For the last five and a half years The Pinks have wondered which of their adventures would appear on this blog. As, in all likelihood, have some of you. The Pinks have asked me to stop blogging about them and so I am signing off. I will still write, of course, because that's what I've done faithfully since I learned to hold a pencil, but it will no longer be for public consumption.

Monday, December 29, 2014

For Sale

One slope-side condo at Squaw Valley. KT-22 and Red Dog views. Two bedrooms, two full baths. In-unit laundry. Fireplace. Balcony facing mountain. Murphy-bed-style dining table. 1,100 square feet. One block from Village. Next to Cable Car and Olympic House. Underground parking for two cars closer to lifts than is Squaw's parking. 2 hours 45 minutes from our suburb without traffic. Pool, hot tubs, gym, tennis courts. Built in 2001. $844K.

Yup, we are selling our Tahoe place. We don't use it enough to justify the cost of ownership. I'm sorry to break this to those of you have become used to your annual vacation there. Or more than annual. That would be you, Dad. And it was our pleasure for you and your entourage to make it one of your homes away from home, too.

This place was a fantasy when The Pinks were younger. We closed on it a month before I got pregnant with the youngest ones. I loved its efficient size -- easy to clean up compared to our home in the Bay. We achieved our goal, which was having all Three Pinks ski well and having a place for us to create memories. There was no schlepping of gear. There was no wondering if there'd be games / pool toys / snacks / sunscreen there. It was so easy. And it's still easy, it's just empty most of the time.

Things I will miss:

1. The ritual of the drive: No electronics until we cross the Benicia Bridge. Pass the Jelly Belly Factory. Whiz past the Mondavi Center at UC Davis. The Yolo Causeway is two hours from Tahoe. Skirt Sacramento. Roseville. Rocklin. Stop at Ikeda for produce, snacks and Dutch Apple Pie. Historic Auburn. Gain elevation. Start to notice pine trees. Watch for snowline in winter. Gold Run. Soda Springs. Boreal. Descend to Donner Lake. Exit I-80 at Truckee and drive 10 more miles to the Olympic Rings! Three miles to go. Squaw Valley meadow. Arrive.

2. The view of the ski slopes from our bed. Skiing until 2pm then napping, waking up just in time to see the last of the skiers come off the mountain.

3. Not touching the car for a whole weekend. Who needs to when your activities are right outside your door and there are also restaurants, shops and a Starbucks?

4. Our neighbors, whose kids come in and out of our condo like it is their own. As do our kids with theirs.

5. The convenience of a season ski pass.

6. Winter days skiing with my brother and the extended family. Summer days at the Dollar Point Beach with the extended family.

7. Three generation ski trips which usually included dinner at the best restaurant in the Village, Mamasake.

Memorable moments:

1. The ex-wife of a still-friend who said to me as she was departing from her week-long stay, "How come there was no good coffee in the condo? I had to walk to Starbucks."

2. The nonstop snow, the mountain-closing kind, that kept my father, Thing 2 and I indoors the entire duration of one Three Generation Ski Trip.

3. Teaching the kids to play poker.

4. Paige teaching me that it's perfectly acceptable for kids to ski in their pajamas.

5. The ambulance ride to the Tahoe Forest Hospital when one of The Pinks had croup so badly that she was turning blue. Another time when I fled the condo at 2am and drove back to the Bay with all Three Pinks after getting one's croup under control after realizing that I had no chance of falling back asleep that night anyway.

6. Barry and Kristin's wedding on the west shore in August 2002.

We'll not stop skiing at Squaw. After all, The Pinks gain a huge amount of satisfaction knowing they can beat me down every single run. I maintain that my form is better. But we'll ski other places, too. And we'll look back on those years happily.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Dylan's Candy Bar, The Rockettes and The Statue of Liberty

As I mentioned while blogging about my trip to London and Paris with Eldest Daughter this spring, it's special traveling with only one other person. You get to focus on their needs, have in-depth conversations with them, just go where the road takes the two of you. During this trip to New York I got a refresher on how witty Thing 1 is and how fiercely independent she is, too.

It was important to me that she ride the subway and so, on the way back from the Statue of Liberty, we caught it. I paused in front of the ticket machine, reading the instructions. She became impatient and pushed me aside saying, "Really mother, this is not that difficult." She pressed a few buttons and then said to me, "Insert three dollars and we're done." And that was that. She also navigated the subway map and signs to get us on the right uptown train. I loved every minute.

Several people had recommended Max Brenner's chocolate-themed restaurant near Union Square. Both the food and the chocolate desserts were excellent. We are now fans!

Perhaps the best part of our trip, other than the one on one time, was seeing the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular featuring The Rockettes. The red and gold Art Deco auditorium, a masterpiece built in 1932, seats 5,900 people. Yes, almost 6,000 people can see The Rockettes at a time. The Wooden Soldiers number is a synchronized perfection in precision. Thing 1 and I liked that best although the Raggedy Ann dance in Santa's Workshop in the North Pole is magical, too. There are live camels in one of the dances! Around the corner from Radio City is a second location of the Magnolia Bakery. We got cupcakes there although neither of us really liked them; we both prefer them less sweet.

A trip to New York would not be complete without a visit to Dylan's Candy Bar. We made some good contributions to the local economy there and even returned for a mediocre lunch after learning that the wait for nearby Serendipity 3 was more than two hours. Of our meal Thing 1 said, "They should stick to sweets."

It is impossible to even scratch the surface of the city in a long weekend. In fact, I counted that this was my 14th time to New York and still, I did two new things! I dragged Thing 1 to Times Square and fed her a bagel. She would not eat pizza.

We gave the Christmas windows along Fifth Avenue a good long look and actually spent the most time dissecting the ones at Bergdorf's, across the street from The Plaza. We went into Tiffany and looked at the really big stones. And we were sad to come home Monday afternoon.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Same post, different year.

For the 12th year in a row, I think, we've gone up to Tahoe over Christmas. For most of the last several years Dave's sister and her family have come up from LA to join us. They did this year, too, and stayed with us for four nights. All that togetherness was great. I was reminded again how hilarious my niece is (aged 17) and the youngest Pinks liked all that extra time with her. I love having houseguests up at Tahoe because I'm on vacation, too, and Squaw provides so much to do outside, both summer and winter.

We skied. We ate. We played poker. We watched It's a Wonderful Life. We did a puzzle. My SIL did most of it. She has a lot of patience. We watched the snow fall on Christmas Eve and stayed an extra night to avoid the mess that had become I-80. We ate Japanese on Christmas Eve, too, because there's no Chinese food at Squaw.

My mother-in-law got each of her grand daughters selfie sticks so we played with that on the chair lift. Dave shot the picture here, albeit a bit nervously because what do you do if the iPhone falls out and into the snow below?!

On Day 1 I took a wrong turn off the Shirley Lake chair and ended up on the mogul course. If it hadn't been so icy I would have given it an upright shot. But instead I took off my skis and walked down. Until, that is, I slipped and came down a ways on my tush. Which again, would have been fine had I been wearing ski pants. Oh no. Thing 2 outgrew hers and so I was in jeans. Which then filled with cold snow. And one of my skis flew into the air and landed on my arm, which I thought might have been gashed open by the sharp edges. It wasn't, fortunately, but it is 50 shades of purple and yellow now. The orthopedic surgeon (the BIL) took a look and deemed it ugly but not dangerous.

Dave, Thing 1 and I met the Inverarity-Moffat's for dinner in Truckee one night. They are in from London and the meal was over in a flash. So good to see them as always. It makes me want to just hop the pond and weekend with them in places like Vienna and Berlin.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Breakfast in the Palm Court

Breakfast was included with our room at The Plaza and so every morning we dolled up and took the elevator down to the Palm Court. It's similar to the Sheraton Palace's Garden Court. They both have light furniture and stained glass ceilings. The Palm Court was mostly filled with multi-generational families, all well-dressed and well-coiffed, even the teeny tiny children whose plastic covered strollers awaited them post oatmeal. When the hotel is sold out, as it was during our stay, breakfast is limited to hotel guests only. These picture-perfect people seemed to be enjoying a Christmas time tradition of visiting the city. A few tables had work-related meetings going on. At the table next to us was clearly a job interview. I eavesdropped. Just in case you're wondering, the best part of breakfast was the fresh squeezed orange juice. Thing 1 had Eloise Pancakes and I had Eggs Benedict. And the New York Times.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Welcome to New York, Darling Daughter.

With big eyes and a death grip on my arm, Thing 1 was uncharacteristically quiet. After all, we were in her first New York taxi, in rush hour traffic no less, en route from the airport into the city. Why it is called rush hour will continue to remain a mystery since there is a lot less movement in bumper-to-bumper traffic occasionally punctuated by an expletive and accompanied by a slamming on of the brakes.

Welcome to New York City, my darling daughter.

Ninety minutes later we were deposited at The Plaza hotel on Central Park South. It was lovely, just lovely. Old world elegance at its best. The bellman took our bags and we located our antique-filled room with its own balcony and lounge chairs. Mosaic tiles in shades of gold and white greeted us in the bathroom, which had a separate shower (with gold rainfall fixture plus a handheld) and deep tub. The toiletries were Caudalie, which David Lebovitz just blogged about, and the vanity was solid white marble.

The bathroom reminded me of the Fairy Tale Suite at the Disneyland Hotel. All it was missing was the  cloyingly sweet voice coming out of the mirror-disguised entertainment system.

Given the choice, my child would have elected to hole up in our room all weekend, it was that beautiful. However, we were in New York, not Bakersfield, and so we freshened up and walked out through the revolving door in the hotel lobby, the lobby with no less than four mile-high Christmas trees sparking enough to give Tiffany, just down the street, some serious competition.

How did Thing 1 and I end up at The Plaza a few weeks before Christmas? Here's the truth: there is nothing like having two people you are close to newly diagnosed with cancer to prompt you to go big at the Cancer Support Community annual gala. And so Thing 1 and I did a long weekend in the city of all cities during the Christmas season, her choice and a very good one.

The first thing you see when exiting The Plaza is the Apple Computer logo. It is seemingly suspended in the air in a 32 foot tall glass cube. The store proper is subterranean. It's also open 7x24 in case you're having a technology crisis. The individual iPads that operate the temperature and lights in the hotel's guest rooms are fairly finicky so maybe the store's location is strategic?

Just to the right of that was our first stop: FAO Schwartz. It's organized like a high-end department store, by brand or category: The Jungle, Life Sized Stuffed Animals, Natural History, FAO Schweetz, Muppets. Knowing it was barely a block from our new home, we only spent an hour there and I promised we'd come back. We spent the rest of the evening window shopping and returned to the hotel in time to have a late dinner in the Todd English food hall. 

Assisted by the night-time cold medicine she needed as she was fighting a miserable head cold, Thing 1 fell into a deep sleep in the fluffy white bed.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

She is twelve.

And when you are 12 to 16 you seek out places that have appeared in your favorite TV shows. Do you recognize this location? Clue: It's in New York City on West 63th Street by the Lincoln Center. I did not. And I have not seen the TV show that this facade is in. It's Gossip Girl. The Empire Hotel was Chuck's first purchase as a baby mogul. What that means I have no idea. But it was on Thing 1's list to do in New York and so we went. Fortunately it was across the street from The Smith, an American brasserie that Matt and Kim took us to, and so we had a good lunch there.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Touring Tesla

Clean. That's how I would describe the Tesla factory. Thus far there is only one place that Teslas are manufactured and it's in Fremont, California, about 25 miles from our home.

Part of the draw of touring this factory is that it's not open to the public, as was the Ferrari Factory in Marinello, Italy, which I dragged my family to the museo portion of.

Prior to taking the tour you sign away your life on a three-page NDA. This is the first sign that Tesla is a tech company, not a car manufacturer. If you actually read the NDA then you know that you are subject to being hung and then shot if you so much as pull your cell phone or camera out during the 45-minute tour. Tesla paid $42M for 5.2M square feet in this former NUMMI factory, which is a steal given the price of Bay Area real estate.

Most of what I saw I cannot write about due to that NDA. However, I can share with you that I felt this eerie sense of deja vu while there. Only when I was back in my Prius, which I liked a whole lot more before experiencing the Tesla 0-60 in 3.2 seconds, did I realize that it felt like I'd been in Tony Stark's Iron Man workshop, ala Marvel Comics.

Unlike most of the men and women who work in auto manufacturing, Tesla employees are not part of UAW. This has been covered extensively in the press. Hopefully Tesla continues to pay its people a living Bay Area wage so that the workforce can remain unrepresented.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Turkeys. And those who eat them.

Like many of you, I sat down to a Thanksgiving dinner with friends and family, and a table of nutritious, beautifully presented savories and sweets that could easily feed our group twice over.

On Tuesday The Pinks and I volunteered at the Monument Crisis Center handing out turkeys to families who might not otherwise have them on Thanksgiving. This was different than most of the volunteer work we do. It wasn't taking care of The Bounty Garden, which grows vegetables that benefit the food bank. It wasn't building homes for people who might not be able to afford them otherwise. It wasn't baking cookies for a community theater performance or washing rubber ducks.

We interacted with the people who will be cooking those turkeys. There were easily 300 people lined up around the block when we arrived. Most expressed their gratitude verbally, some just took their turkey, eyes averted. Some had babies on hips and toddlers by the hand, others wheeled oxygen tanks behind them.

I thought about those people Thursday night.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Pre Ski

I'm up at Tahoe with three twins and one more. Each of my twins brought a friend, one of whom is also a twin.

We drove up last night in a rental car, a Chevy Tahoe that we call The Island. It is the largest thing I have ever driven. One of our cars is in the shop because Eldest Daughter was rear-ended in front of the high school two weeks ago. This stuff happens. I could have driven the Volvo but it has 98K miles on it and our tendency is to replace our cars right before they reach 100K miles. There's no sense in rushing that.

Today has been very peaceful. The kids have been in and out of the hot tubs, (In case you wondered how many pool chairs could fit in one, the answer is eight.) in and out of Starbucks and Soupa, and in and out of our condo playing board and card games. I love this age.

It's raining here in the valley and snowing up top. The temperature is dropping and it will be snowing down here any minute. The fall colors are stunning adjacent to the tall green trees up the mountain and the falling snow line. This picture doesn't do it justice.

Dave and Eldest Daughter got a tour of Evanston, Illinois today courtesy of my aunt and uncle. Tomorrow is shopping the Magnificent Mile and Monday is the official Northwestern campus tour. From there they head to Ann Arbor. I find this all horribly unsettling since I basically birthed her yesterday.

My father recently put together a blurb book on the summer of 1987, when our immediate family moved from Alaska to California. The book covers our trip south on the Alaskan Marine Highway and ALCAN. I journaled during this 6-week voyage and went back to my journal to fill in some details for him. Looking back through those entries was a scary thing in so many ways. In retrospect, the trip itself was really dangerous. Second, I was a selfish terror at age 20. The comfort in journaling is the writing, not the re-reading. Funny, though, that I don't feel the same way about this blog. At least yet.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A normal fall weekend featuring Ariana Grande

On Friday afternoon The Three Pinks and I fled the suburbs as soon as school was out and headed to Palo Alto. On the way down we stopped at Coffee Bean and Pizza My Heart, two of the kids' favorite eateries. Our next stop was a Halloween party at one of the large Silicon Valley tech companies. The entertainment was Ariana Grande, a 21-year-old singer / songwriter / actress who is moving her way up the charts right now after feature roles on two Nickelodeon TV shows.

She played a 40-minute set and was super sweet with the fans. The Pinks managed to get pretty close to the stage while I hung back, seated on the lawn. I downloaded her most recent music the week prior and while I liked her vibe to begin with, seeing her on stage made me really like her. The Pinks had a blast. The party was well done with a carnival theme. We also oohed and aahed over the little kids dressed up for Halloween.

This was The Pinks first time on a large Silly Valley tech campus and Eldest Daughter noted that with all of its open space, modern buildings, bike parking, walkways, gym and restaurants, it looked like a college campus. Valid point.

After the performance Ariana and her entourage high tailed it to the airport as they also played the Hollywood Bowl that night. We headed for Sprinkles at the Stanford Shopping Center and then to a late dinner at Max's.

On Saturday morning the big bags under my eyes and I went to Marin to celebrate the Bar Mitzvah of a childhood friend's son. What struck me most, aside from all the generations of love in the room, was how comfortable he was up on the bimah. I wish I could have stayed for the evening celebration but with Thing 1's first dance performance of the year in the afternoon, it wasn't to be. The cantor at their temple is spectacular, too, and I caught up with a few people I hadn't seen in many years. My parents and I went together and it was a treat to hear about their recent trip through the Southwest during the car ride, just the three of us.

Thing 1's dance performance went well, in spite of a last minute venue change caused by not-expected-but-much-welcomed rain. This is my favorite performance of the year because the team routines are unveiled. Being the data nerd that I am, I love watching them and then guessing which ones will place high during the year's competitions, which kick off in January.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The scenic route

Over the summer I drove to Tahoe via the Eastern Sierras. I hadn't planned to drive this route but having children means you sometimes take a detour. I spent the first part of the drive, the ugly freeway part, on a conference call. And then it was four lane roads narrowing to two lane roads into the mountains. As the trees got bigger I started to relax. I rolled down my windows and took deep breaths of the pine and earth smell.

After an hour-long stop at a lake where I spent part of my childhood and where I retrieved a child who was in the midst of hers, the two of us continued the adventure. There were no gas stations for the next 100 miles. She was chatty. We drove up and up and up until we hit the pass, and then drove down and down and down into the increasingly arid Nevada desert and where the landscape looks like paintings. We stopped for a late lunch at a dive pancake house. Finally we made a sharp left and after ten more miles of narrow, windy roads, saw Lake Tahoe. It was a relief to see water after so many landlocked miles.

It's not often I travel off the -- off my -- beaten path. This single-day journey was fun because it was unanticipated and because I got to experience it with one of my children. It made me want to take a road trip.

The Safeway in King's Beach had parking spots but inside there was barely any room to maneuver. This was expected at 6pm the night before a holiday. My daughter spotted a classmate's father, one who lives less than a mile from us in our suburb, We shopped and then drove on to Squaw Valley, where I stopped trying to keep my eyes open at 10pm and awoke 11 hours later.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

And more luau.

There were three hours between the end of the Kiddush and the party set up. The most significant thing that happened during that time was that Thing 2 chopped 12 inches off of her hair. She went back to her signature bob and harmony was restored to our home! Long hair is beautiful if you have the patience to take care of it. She did not. She looks like herself again and she is so happy to not have all that maintenance! As are we.

Now on to the luau. Although the fabulous Jenna was running the show, it still took a small army to pull it all together. Thank you Singers, Dave Harap, Bentleys, Willmarths, Wycoffs and The G/dfather. It takes time to pin grass skirts on table cloths, string lights and lanterns in trees and on poles, arrange rental lounge furniture, instruct the caterer, DJ, photo booth people, balloon lady, and set up tables for gifts and sign in boards plus two bars. (About that adult bar: I conveniently forgot that our little town only lets you serve beer and wine in its venues. We may have forfeited our security deposit over my interpretation of this rule when we served mai tai's but I won't know for another few weeks.)

The big takeaway from this luau was that the kids had a blast. Their smiling faces and moving bodies dancing will stay with me. Most of the kids had never been to a celebration such as this and the DJ and crew did their job of keeping the kids busy and happy. A few of Thing 1's dance friends are Jewish and they showed the new-to-this-scene-kids how it was done.

One of the dance team friends, a few years younger than Thing 1, came up to both me and Dave individually as she left and told us that it was the best party she'd ever been to. It was the sweetest thing.

Dave and I have a fairly diverse group of friends and the kids and adults just mixed and mingled. Melissa, the super-sweet new wife of one of Dave's childhood friends, came in from Dallas and explained her daughter's easy entry by saying, "This one has never met a stranger." How fabulous is that?!

In addition to dancing, the DJ did:
  • Some sort of game involving stuffing children in large t-shirts with balloons
  • Limbo
  • Hula hoop contest
  • Volleyball
  • Macarena
  • Dances involving hats, sunglasses, glo-sticks, flashing rings, floral leis and blow up microphones, guitars and saxophones
  • YMCA and
  • Who knows what else. I didn't see it all.
Denon and Doyle provided the entertainment, which is four people: the DJ, the emcee and two party motivators. The party motivators make sure everyone is up and participating, and they also hand out those sunglasses, glo-sticks and air guitars. These people deliver a high-quality product. As Dave likes to say, as soon as you pick your Mitzvah date you call Denon and Doyle to see if they're available. If they're not, you change your date.

We did a candle lighting where The Pinks thanked special groups of friends and family by reading a poem. Pictured here are Thing 2's lacrosse friends after they lit their candles.

There was the slide show, previously mentioned. At the end of the slide show I said a few words about The Pinks and told them how proud we were of their accomplishments. I reminded them of their continued responsibility to Judaism and to tikkun olam, making the world a better place.

We are a family of strong women. My mother and mother-in-law have long devoted themselves to volunteer causes. One of my grandmothers was a journalist, the other a force to be reckoned with in Memphis' Jewish community. Dave's grandmother owned and ran a women's dress shop in Napa for 52 years, back during the years that women just didn't do that. After Dave's grandmother passed away my mother-in-law had a few of her mink coats turned into teddy bears by a New York furrier. Each of her great grand-daughters received one at their Bat Mitzvah.

Dave spoke to the legacy of women in our family and The Pinks received theirs that night. (Sidebar: Thirteen years ago, when Dave and I found out we were having twins, he called his mother and said, "Mom, we are one teddy bear short." She didn't miss a beat and said, "You're having twins?! That's wonderful, David." And so another fur coat was shipped to New York and a fifth teddy bear was born.)

It was hard not to think about Dave's grandma Ruth that night because The Pinks spent a lot of time with her prior to her passing. She lived in an assisted care community near our first house in Danville and we visited her 3-4 times a week. We'd go over there and The Pinks would ride their scooters around the unit, play their toy musical instruments, and sing and dance. Not only did Ruth love it, the other residents did, too. The more chaos the better. It was a great diversion for everyone. (Confession: Visiting Ruth kept ME sane. It is HARD parenting twin toddlers and I loved every moment we spent with Ruth because I could relax.) I still think that Dave's father moving his mother near us was the greatest gift ever.

The picture above at right is Thing 2 with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. I love how Sara Singer, who always is wearing the exact right thing, was captured in it, too. Sara -- you must take me shopping.

The caterer was a risk. I let go, though, and truly trusted Jenna. She'd heard they were good although she'd never seen them in action. (Like the Jewish community, the Mormon community is tight. They might be in the same ward.) I put it out of my mind and figured I'd just double the alcohol if the food turned out to be bad. It wasn't. It got raves. We also had Hawaiian Shave Ice for dessert and the kids sang its praises although I didn't see it apart from the set up. Thanks Bentley cousins for the idea! They did it 18 months earlier in Santa Clarita. Heck, the little people share everything in our family. Jen -- have you figured out what we lifted from your suitcase yet?! Better install some locks on your closet door before we visit in March.

The last picture here is of my brother, his wife and my niecelets, and his in-laws. We spend a lot of time with Cathy and Steve at Tahoe, where they live full-time, and were glad they joined in the full weekend of festivities with us. They truly are family.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Luau

Much to my surprise, the gemelli agreed on a theme for their post-B'Not Mitzvah celebratory party: luau. One has the tendency to dress up while the other prefers to dress down. This worked for both and it also gave the guests a choice, too.

How hard could it be to outfit the four females in our family for this party? It was more challenging than you'd think. By contrast, Eldest Daughter and I had it easy. She found her dress in London, in the most beautiful Anthropologie I have ever seen. I bought mine at a boutique in Paris. Eldest Daughter's dress is so stunning that I'm going to lose 20 lbs and wear it to something. Dead serious.

Thing 1 is just picky and we easily bought and returned a half dozen dresses before she found "the one." I finally talked Thing 2 into wearing an Athleta dress of bathing suit material, very comfortable and casual. Then, at the last minute as we were dashing out to the party she decided to throw on a little dress she picked out on Catalina Island and I was so worn down by that point I just gave in even though it was strapless and I feared it would fall down. It didn't. (She apparently takes after Dave's side of the family.) It looked adorable and no one would ever know that it wasn't the original plan.

The party was held at the Danville Community Center adjacent to the library. This gave us both indoor and outdoor space. I wanted the adults to have some space away from the kids and also for the adult bar and kid bar to be at separate ends of the venue. 

We strung globe lights across the patio and added large Chinese lanterns. In the trees surrounding the patio we added twinkle Christmas lights and hung teeny tiny Chinese lantern on those, too. The tables had coverings in bright pink, orange, purple and red, and each was skirted with grass. Double orchids (we have twins) were in bamboo vases on each table.

Guests entered through an aisle bordered by 10' tall balloon palm trees and tiki torches. Passed h'ors d'oeuvres were Hawaiian meatballs and stuffed mushrooms for the adults, yellow M&Ms and gummy fish for the kids.

Adults had the option of mai tai's, Hawaiian beer, sodas, water or wine. Under 21s were offered Baja Blast, lemonade or water served from plastic pineapple and coconut cups.

The kids had their own luau lounge with couches and chairs. Over the summer Eldest Daughter made Hawaiian print throw pillows for them. There was also a photo booth, which you've already seen some fun pictures from.

Thing 1 made her grand entrance on a beach-towel-draped Cleopatra carrier. Thing 2 arrived standing on a surfboard. The DJ later told me that he'd never actually seen anyone stand on the surfboard before for an entrance. What a surprise -- my fearless kid was the first.

From there we launched into the Hora and the family going up on chairs individually. Something I love about the picture of Thing 1 at left is that one of our late additions is right in there helping. Our neighbors mentioned that they could only stay at the party a bit because their adult children and grandchildren were visiting for the weekend. As it turns out, we're friendly with their adult kids so I suggested they just bring them along. And they did!

The picture above of my mother-in-law and the gemelli dancing is spectacular, not just because of the look on Linda's face but because the photographer also captured my sister-in-law and Aunt Janice, my mother-in-law's sister, in it too.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

September 6, 2014

This was Thing 1 and Thing 2's big day, the day they celebrated their entry into Jewish adulthood. We did the service at our house, in our backyard looking out at the golden foothills of Mt. Diablo.

On Friday came the deliveries: the 225 chairs, the risers, the chafing dishes, the sweets. It was surprisingly easy to fit all of those chairs in our yard. We'd planned to seat overflow in the family room, looking out to the yard, and also in our upstairs bedroom, overlooking the yard. The upstairs seating didn't end up being necessary but a few people did sit inside, presumably to get of of the direct sun. Fifty people were easily seated under the shade of the pavilion.

A few weeks earlier we'd had 200 people in the yard for a BBQ for local incoming San Diego State freshmen so we knew the space would work out fine. The weather, I wasn't so sure of until a few days prior when we saw that the forecast was for sunny skies and warm temps but not super hot temps. We were prepared for the sun with bottled water and sunscreen available to people as they entered and throughout the service. If it were a few degrees warmer, out would have come the soccer canopies!

I loved having this simcha at home and would recommend it. I created custom siddurs (prayer books) online then printed them out. This gave us the flexibility to include the songs and readings that were meaningful to us. The service was on the shorter side, perhaps 75 or 90 minutes, which was comfortable. We were able to video tape the service because it wasn't in a synagogue. Two guitars played by one rabbi and one rabbi's son provided beautiful music. Rabbi Rick encouraged people to get up and move around if they needed to get out of the sun or get water. That's another thing you can't easily do if you're in a synagogue.

The women in our family all wore white, which is traditional on shabbat. Shabbat is referred to as the Sabbath Bride.

My parents got Things 1 and 2 each a tallis, which they picked out on a shopping trip with my mom. You can see these prayer shawls in the pictures. Only Jewish adults can wear them.

Thing 1's d'var Torah (speech) was very funny because her section of the Torah portion included the laws around prostitution, which she didn't want to talk about. Nor did she want to talk about the conditions under which a man whose twig or berries are injured can enter a house of worship.  In case you're wondering, the answer is never. In the end and after some awkward moments and terse discussion, she decided to talk about the necessity of rules and how her portion was about things that, if made into a movie, she would not even be old enough to see it.

Thing 2's d'var Torah was about rules, too, and she let everyone know how ironic it was that her portion was about rules since she isn't very good at following them. The picture below at right is of Thing 2 reading from the Torah itself.

At the end of the service Eldest Daughter surprised her sisters with a pelting of wrapped candies thrown by the handful from the fists of guests with pent up energy from sitting still through the service. Thing 1 screamed and crawled under the bimah to get out of the line of fire. Then the little kids hopped up and gathered up all the candy to eat, pinata-style. The candy represents the sweetness of the occasion.

Rabbi Rick does the hamotzi in a way that everyone connects to each other -- physically. A few people hold the 4 foot long challah and then everyone touches a part of another person until everyone is attached. Then he leads the blessing and the challah gets ripped apart from every angle. Some families cut the challah into nice neat slices. We are a family of rippers and tearers. (In my opinion, the only reason to slice challah is if you are making French Challah for breakfast.) This particular challah had sprinkles on it, something that Dave feels strongly about. The blessing over the wine used wine we saved from Eldest Daughter's Bat Mitzvah four years earlier. Those of you who attended her Bat Mitzvah might remember that we used wine from our wedding for that.

A few of Thing 1's dance teammates are Jewish and it was neat to see them explaining the traditions to those not in the know. One of Thing 2's secular friends sat right up front so she could catch every last word. One Jewish adult friend, who should have known better, chatted with the person next to him throughout the service. Another napped. People brought young children who were not invited. The young children squirmed, as was age-appropriate. All but one of the great aunts and uncles came. My mom's siblings were in town for a full week so we were fortunate enough to spend additional time with them.

Immediately following the service we had a kiddush, which is light snacks. We served some of our favorite foods, including bagels, lox and cream cheese, strawberries, watermelon, chicken salad sandwiches, Claire's lemon cupcakes, my mother's three-layer brownies and my mother-in-law's fudge, almost none of which we got to eat because we were socializing and just being proud. People hung out for about an hour, the tween set popping picture after picture of themselves all dolled up.

At one point the little kids hopped in the neighbor's golf cart and attempted to drive down the street. Fortunately the rabbi's son, who is 16 and licensed, clued into this joy-ride-to-be and gave the littles a short ride to placate them.

Here's one especially good picture of the tweens.  Look how gorgeous this group is! That morning I'd asked Thing 2 to put on shoes. Apparently she went into my closet and took a pair of mine that matched her dress. I'm loving that we wear the same size shoes these days. One clever mom popped a similar picture and then turned it into a card prior to the party. Best card ever!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Wellness Gala

Dave and I, and my parents, attended the Cancer Support Community's annual wellness gala with my brother last night. My brother is both a board member and a survivor. The event was at our local country club, which was the icing on the cake. We missed my sister-in-law, who stayed home with my sick niecelet.

It's hard not to be touched and inspired by the people we met, the stories we heard, the content of the program itself. It's an easy cause to contribute to because so many people each of us know are affected by it. At the Friday night dinner prior to Liberty and Victoria's B'Not Mitzvah I was seated at a table of ten where three people had first-hand cancer experiences.

And as a bonus, we ran into some friends we hadn't seen in several years. I out-shopped them all. For the cause of course.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Things are finally getting back to normal around here. 

Magbooth gave me access to the digital files. These are some of my favorites. I thought they did an excellent job. I had to ask The Pinks who was who in some of the pictures as that's how much some of their friends had grown over the summer. Dressed up, the girls who have hit their growth spurts look like elder teens. The boys, not so much yet. If your child mentioned that they were in some pictures and you want the files, ping me and I'll send you the link and password.

I've cleared off my dining room table by returning all the platters and plates, and put away the extra cellophane bags we used for the out of town hospitality bags. I easily have 50 left and that will benefit some NCL philanthropies if I ever feel like baking again!

Back to Target went the extra globe lights and candles. Back in boxes went those grass table skirts. Back to the neighbors went the twinkly Christmas lights. Back to Jenna, event planner extraordinaire, went the crock pot that was hiding when she came over to retrieve it earlier in the week. Back to the shelving in the garage went the extra water bottles, now all dressed up in colorful luau labels. Back to my brother went two extension cords. Back to Magbooth went that mustache on a stick pictured here, the one that somehow came home in the box of paper lanterns.

Friday, September 12, 2014

A week post B'Not Mitzvah

It's Friday at noon and I'm still in my pajamas. I've been on conference calls since 8am with the exception of a quick run to school to retrieve a sick child. I think she's still exhausted from last weekend and so I'm having her write one thank you note an hour so the day is not a complete boondoggle. BTW, this child has the worst penmanship ever. I just hope the thank you notes actually reach their destinations. Incidentally, she wants you to know that the best gift she got was a potato gun. Yes, really, a toy gun that shoots potato pellets. It's occupied her for hours and irritates her sisters. I love that one of her friends knows her so well.

So the B'Not Mitzvah was over in about 30 seconds. Or so it seemed. Four years of Hebrew and Religious School, six months of intense prep and three days elapsed in what seemed like the blink of an eye. The pictures in this post show some of the things I'm doing - laundering tablecloths, deciding what to do with the few orchid centerpieces that remain, returning things that arrived too late to use. These fish ring pops are adorable. So were the Jack Rogers shoes that arrived today!

We are the proud owners of 20 round and rectangular tablecloths in assorted bright colors if you'd like to borrow them. Ditto 30 8' long grass table skirts and about a hundred plastic pineapple and coconut cups. Luaus R Us.

The Rabbi Cousin was able to help us achieve the exact service we envisioned. Personal. With lots of music. Set against the golden grasses covering the Mt. Diablo State Park foothills. Sunny. Less formal than a synagogue setting. Happy and funny. I would highly recommend this approach for unaffiliated MOTs.* We borrowed a Torah from the San Francisco Jewish Community Center's lending library. It was pretty interesting (and nerve-wracking!) to have such a sacred religious object here for a week and we took the opportunity to take a very close look at it, too.

There are some pictures that people posted on Facebook and I will provide more details when I get better pictures back. I made a point to put away my iPhone last weekend and leave the photography to the people with real cameras.

One of the things that won't appear in the photos is the laughter I heard when people were watching the slide show. I liked seeing which pictures got a reaction.

Dave and I are so proud of our gemelli. They did a beautiful job and remained themselves all weekend long.

*MOTs = members of the tribe

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Slide Show

Eldest Daughter was going to do this for the B'Not Mitzvah. But then I started playing with iPhoto and got so far along that I decided to just do it myself.

A zillion hours later later I've learned that there's a reason people do this for a living. I'm not one of those people.

Here are some observations:

1. We've dragged the kids to a lot of places. Things 1 and 2 have been to Europe four times. Eldest Daughter has been there seven.

2. Ice cream is a big part of our vacationing. Every day, sometimes twice.

3. One set of friends appears most often in photos. And they have never been to Europe with us! Nor did we see them at all this summer. Boo hoo.

4. I am most often behind the camera. After pictures of the kids, architectural details are my second most-photographed item.

5. Thing 2 has a mega-watt smile that she flashes during thrill-seeking activities.

6. Thing 1 can sleep anywhere. Anytime.

This picture is an oldie but goodie that did not make the slide show. We're in our happy place.

Do me a favor, please. After you see my masterpiece, tell me how fabulous it is. Maybe even twice. Eldest Daughter would be driving a baby blue convertible Beetle if I was paid my consulting rate for all the time I've put in to this ...

Sunday, August 24, 2014

T minus two weeks

Two weeks from today the B'Not Mitzvah will be behind us. Right about now we'll be sitting on our family room sofa, exhausted and proud.

I spent part of today running errands. I hate running errands so it seemed appropriate to do on the saddest day of summer, the day before school begins. I ordered mini bagels from Noah's and coffee cake from Millie's. My father helped me cut some bamboo I need for a project. I also picked up some prints from my parents house. My father is a whiz with Photoshop.

A few people have texted and emailed me with questions about the B'Not Mitzvah and so I'm going to take this opportunity to answer them in a public forum in case others have the same questions.

1. We just come to the party, right? It's like a Mormon wedding? No. You have been invited to the service and the evening celebration. The 90-minute morning service is the main event. Some people will come to the service and not the party. They have been kind enough to note that on their RSVP. Very few will just come to the party as the service is the important part.

2. Can I bring a date / my very young child / my college roommate and her husband, who are visiting for the weekend? No. Trust us on this one. Your date, very young child and house guests will be bored silly because they do not know the celebrants. We gave a lot of thought to the guest list and if your name appeared on the big green envelope that showed up in your mailbox then you are special to us and we hope you will be able to come.

3. You have invited our whole family. Josh has a soccer game and Kevin coaches the team. Can the rest of us still come? Of course. We understand that people have other commitments and that choices have to be made. We hope you will come without them.

4. You haven't invited our whole family. Can the rest of us come? Refer to question #2.

5. Do you mind me asking who else on the lacrosse / dance / soccer team was invited so we can carpool? Not at all. Call or text me.

6. What do we wear? A dress or nice pants are appropriate for the service. It's the same kind of clothing you would wear to church. I would avoid spiked heels for the service as you may be seated on the lawn. I'd also apply sunscreen in case you sit in the sun. Luau wear is appropriate for the party. Eldest Daughter is wearing a dress she bought in London. Thing 2 is wearing an equally fabulous dress, one that's fairly casual.

7. Where do we park? There are signs on your street that say No Parking. Ignore them and park on the street. I doubt the neighbors will complain because most of them will be there with us. And if they do, they'll complain to the HOA Board. You have one guess who's president of it this year.

8. Can I help? Yes, I'd love help. Please call or text me.

9. Are you guys all ready for this? No. Refer to question 8.

10. Will there be drinking at the luau? Yes, adults will have the opportunity to have adult beverages at the luau. There are separate bars for kids and adults. We are not planning to serve your child alcohol. However, we're not going to be watching Johnny Jr. to see if he is picking up wine glasses that adults have set down and finishing them off.

11. What time should we get there? What time will the service end? The service will start promptly at 10:30am. What time you arrive depends on how far away you want to park and if you want seats in the nosebleed section. There will be a Kiddush lunch after the service. It's not a lunch, though, it's a light snack. If you are dropping off or carpooling, 12:45pm is a safe time to pick up.

12. Can we post pictures to Instagram or Facebook? Yes. Please help us out by tagging them #twopinksbigday. We would love to see the pictures you shot this day. Thank you.

In other news, Rabbi Rick was over a few week ago and we finalized many of the details. It was a very sweet evening. One of his sons, who is Eldest Daughter's age, brought his guitar and played all the melodies we have our choice of for the prayers and songs. The cantor that the Rabbi, Dave and I grew up with created many beautiful melodies and we will incorporate many of those in the service.

I've been recipe testing, something I didn't give much thought to until we started publishing cookbooks. You can look forward to some good food; this is a Jewish event after all. I made this incredible pesto tonight from basil I picked in my mom's garden six hours earlier. Keep that basil coming, mom!

We are excited to have friends and family coming from near and far to celebrate with us. It's going to be a crazy weekend in the happiest of ways. Dave and I have a tendency to be inclusive so over the years many of our friends have become friends. It's going to be a friendly crowd.

It's also a good thing that we have Labor Day weekend between now and then. Some people, who shall remain nameless, still have a few prayers to polish ...

Saturday, August 9, 2014


Please step away from the screen and then squint. Hopefully you'll see the houndstooth pattern. I made this quilt in the spring for my youngest niece. We picked out the fabric together.

I should have made the blocks smaller. Live and learn. The backside is polka dot purple minky, super soft and great for snuggling under. This is especially important on California days like today where the temperature hit triple digits.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Fondling the Flowers

An early morning run to the San Francisco Flower Market with Jill and one of the Pinks. The summer solstice is only three weeks past so the sun is up by the time we arrive. We are the only ones still wiping sleep from our eyes. The vendors have been there for hours and the florists are long gone.

I come home with ribbon, bamboo in many forms, vases, cellophane bags and five varieties of cut flowers I don't need but can't resist.

On Tuesday I bring orange tulips to my client to celebrate her recent promotion. She gets all goopy on me.

My purchases join the tablecloths, paper goods and bottled water in our dining room, for the next two months the B'Not Mitzvah staging area.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Just Don't Look Down

Today, July 5, the five of us went to Tahoe Treetop Adventure Park. There we zip lined, made our way across bridges suspended 40' above ground and overcame any fears we had of flying through the trees like monkeys. Thing 2 skipped the beginner course altogether and by the end of our two hours there had done all the intermediate and advanced courses. I stuck to the beginner one which, with eight separate challenges, wasn't all that easy!

Like bicycling around Seattle, this was a reach for me. Again, I'm glad I did it. And although I'm exhausted, I'm proud. The Youngest Pinks and I had been there before and I've got to tell you, it was a lot more fun this time when it wasn't raining buckets.

Monday, June 30, 2014

It's past my bedtime.

I spent the month of July working with just one client so I've had a lot of time to hang with the kids and Dave. It's been great! Summer is the best time to have a light workload. I thought about tagging along for part of Neeracha's annual trip to Thailand but decided not to after learning that her sister came this year, too. It's one thing to crash your friend's exotic beach vacation, it's another to elbow your way in on a multi-generational family trip, one I'm sure her parents were really looking forward to.

One day we went to Cowell Beach with Paige and her tribe. There were more than 30 of us. They had extra wetsuits which enabled Thing 2 to boogie board for four hours straight. It was a good thing she ate pizza before getting in. The day was overcast and it even rained for a bit but that didn't stop the kids from going in and out of the water, trying to catch sea gulls and building sand castles. One of her twins drove down in our car and we sang show tunes.

Paige's family has beach days down to a well-oiled machine. They caravan. One picks up pizzas on the way in. Once the kids are fed and playing, someone else walks to The Picnic Basket and buys gourmet sandwiches for everyone else. Chairs are set up. Umbrellas are erected. Trashy magazines come out of beach bags. The laughter begins.

After the afternoon at the beach we hosed the kids off and went to the Boardwalk to take advantage of $1 Monday night rides and eat trash for dinner. We can't wait to go back!

Thing 1 spent most of July in dancing. Ballet. Technique. Team rehearsal. One of the moms brilliantly suggested that we take turns entertaining them between classes. On my day, pictured above, I took them to breakfast at Country Waffles. Another mom took them to the pool. Another day was Bagel Street Cafe. All around town you would see girls in buns traveling in packs. One day Thing 1 and I met a friend and her mom for breakfast at Chow.

Thing 2 wrapped up July in a lacrosse tournament. She even scored two goals while her grandparents were watching. We have a lot to learn about lacrosse but I like what I've seen so far.

I start working with a new client in early August, kicking off the project with a two-day meeting in Boston. Although it's a very quick trip with a packed agenda, I can't wait. I miss business travel.