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.