Monday, March 31, 2008

I have a new purse

I know, not a big deal for most people, but it is for me. I simply do not understand (although I admit I admire) women who match their bag to their outfit (or even their shoes!) and use a different purse every day. Do they stand there in the morning with a shovel, moving the contents of one bag to another? What if the bags are different sizes and hold different amounts of stuff? Then you have to decide what gets to come along and what has to stay home. And where does the stuff that stays home go? In a pile on the counter? In a special box labeled "Does not fit in today's purse"? What if you need some of that stuff later in the day? I'm sure these things are perfectly obvious to many, but figuring it all out would push my life to a level of complication I find unacceptable. I know my limits.

So I have something like four purses. A big black Coach bag that can hold about thirty pounds of stuff (a girlfriend once called it my Winnebago), a pretty light green leather bag (also quite large), a teensy black Coach bag for evenings when I need only a credit card and lip balm (I don't use it that often—even a hairbrush is too large), and a few other assorted bags I almost never use because . . . well, I just explained that.

But I popped in to REI to shop for a birthday present (with my annual rebate check burning a hole in my pocket—I obviously bought more than I thought last year), and found this:
On sale. I think it's cute, it's BIG, it has little straps on the bottom for a yoga mat (or jacket) and a strap to go around your waist so you can wear it on a bike. And I like that it's the kind of bag you can throw on the floor of the car, step on with muddy boots, and take home and throw it in the wash. And the fact that it's my favorite spring color is a bonus, especially since I know I need to work on easing my way out of ski season (soon—not quite yet!) and into the summer, especially because we have some great trips planned.

I made a few other spring purchases.

Camping margarita glasses for the birthday boy.

A new pair of Crocs for Sophie (the smallest women's size—she's eight!). Her school has a creek that runs through it and more or less serves as their playground, so water happy shoes are important.

I'm not sure, but I think I might need these for the summer. I didn't buy them because there were about two hundred people in the shoe department. I'll go back on a weekday.

I also wanted these, but they didn't have my size, so I'll have to mail order them.

Love that store.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Accordians & champagne:
The last of us turns 40

Truth be told, we've been celebrating more 50s around here. But Saturday night's party marked a milestone for our group of friends, the Usual Suspects: We celebrated the birthday of the last Suspect to turn 40.

And thanks to his lovely wife, we did it in great style. When 40-year-old Suspect was in college (many, many years ago), friends threw him an accordian and champagne party, which he remembers as one of his best birthdays. So his wife set out to find an accordian player. They don't list themselves in the yellow pages, you know. But she was smart enough to ask a friend who plays the fiddle and is active in the local music scene to post a message on some music list serve. The results? "Raining accordian players," my friend reported. Evidently, they're eager for work, and several even offered to play for her on the phone. I'm not sure how she made her choice, but she hit pure gold.

Meet Renee, the official accordian player for the Usual Suspects:

The woman is seriously brilliant. Providing her own percussion by stomping or jumping up and down, she moved from classic polka to the Violent Femmes (great cover of Blister in the Sun) to Bob Marley. And how about that outfit? The skirt is leather.

She played for the dog,

for the kids,

and got everyone dancing (not that it takes much to get this group going).

We had tasty food: the official meal of the Usual Suspects, taco narf.

I'll add a few more pictures later but wanted to get in the weekend report so I can start blathering on about other things. Gotta keep current, you know. 

Burn, baby burn:
A report from Sophie's Disco Inferno

We did it all.

Husband hung the disco ball.

One of the school parents, a professional DJ, generously volunteered his time. (Note to self: Take this man to lunch!)

Sophie blew out candles.

We devoured a cake,

danced like chickens,

learned the Cha Cha Slide (good thing my girlfriend has been to so many bar mitzvahs and really has this nailed),

hung out with our favorite friends,

and crowd surfed Sophie around the room.

At the end the evening, the pizza boxes were empty, streamers were on the ground, and the cake leveled. I found a small pair of tights in the middle of it all. I think that's a sign of a successful party.

At the end of the evening, Sophie was exhausted but happy. She said it was the best party she ever had. But Husband said it was too large, too unstructured. So next year I'm letting him plan the party. The whole thing. He says he has lots of ideas, starting with snail races, which he imagines will be a quiet activity. Don't worry—I would never to that to my girl. But if the party were a wee bit smaller, that would be ok.

Thanks to readers for the moral support and good wishes!!

Coming up: A report from last night's champagne and accordion party for the last of our pod to turn forty. The fun never ends. Hope you're having a good weekend!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Green revealed

Thanks for playing along with my riddle-me-this jelly bean guess. Some very good guesses, such as

green apple




lemon lime (now we're getting close)

But the winner was that smarty pants Adrienne over at d.c diaries, who correctly identified the mystery bean as . . . 7UP. Gross!

It's part of Jelly Bellys' soda pop series.

I'm sort of naueseous just thinking about it. Truly, I chose this bean solely for its color. But since I am easily amused, I had a excellent time all evening trying to people to taste the bean and then guess. Lemon lime was as close as anyone got.

You'll notice that I've survived last night's festivities in sufficient shape to plop myself in front of my computer (still in my robe). It was a hit. We didn't burn down the school. No one went to the hospital, and only one child cried. A full report forthcoming when I locate the camera.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The calm before Disco Inferno;
and, Guess the Green

It was looking too easy, the birthday cake and all. Sophie and I agreed on design and flavor, and the task looked manageable. What I didn't count on was that I would have to drive to hell and back to find the jelly beans, meaning I went to three Safeways and two Andronico's, called about eight candy stores, and giving up on a local source drove forty-five minutes each way to the damn factory. Can you believe I was dumb enough to call ahead to confirm they had a store? As if this headquarters of sugar consumption would miss out on an opportunity to sell you jelly beans to take home in case you weren't satisfied after eating your way through their manufacturing tour.

God—the horror. Freaked out, overweight kids with little paper hats in line for their tour, in line at the store counter, in line for pizza shaped like a jelly bean at the cafe. Thank goodness I had TimTim (my GPS device) to guide me safely home.

But while we're on the subject of jelly beans, riddle me this: What flavor do you think those green ones are?

The pinks are cotton candy, but the mysterious greens . . . go ahead, guess. Think outside the box of naturally occurring flavors. Way outside.

Sophie and Husband are out on their weekly date night (swimming and dinner every Thursday), and so I'm at home enjoying the calm before the storm. My dining room table is the staging area, and I'm in pretty good shape. I think.

This in spite of the fact that Husband asked tonight "But isn't the party on Saturday?" NO, DAMNIT! All I can say is, he better have that disco ball installed and operational by 6:00 sharp TOMORROW. On FRIDAY. Usually the only this he has to do for any entertaining "we" do is show the hell up, but this time I've put him in charge of a very important task. Who says I can't delegate?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wake up: You're it
The blog gal morning challenge

Because I am malleable and she is charming and persuasive, that crazy lady Gwendomama has talked me into some crazy stuff. Like putting paid advertising on my blog (still waiting for that first check) and posting pictures of myself when I first wake up in the morning—no make-up, no tricky lighting, no PhotoShop. Some other nut started the photo expose (Gwendo can tell you who), and it has spread like the virus in my head. If you read this, consider yourself sneezed on.

Warning for the faint of heart: What follows is not pretty.

Once I'm a little more awake, I always cover my yawn with my hand.

I can blow my nose and take a picture at the same time! 

Wait . . . is that really a camera?

And like Gwendo, there's not a whole lot that goes on between my "just out of bed" and "off to work" conditions. I can't be bothered, and really, at my age, what's the point? I am a busy lady, you know, with fish to fry and cakes to bake. 

 I know: there's some hair problems going on that various products could fix. I was feeling too crappy last night to beat my hair into submission with a dryer; this is it in its natural state. It will calm down in a day or two.

Happy Wednesday! 

Put that camera beside your bed tonight! It's all good fun. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I'm insane, right?

Or maybe just sort of stoopid. Because the other week I sent out an Evite invitation to my daughter's eighth birthday party to FORTY CHILDREN. And their parents. And any younger siblings who want to come. The festivities are scheduled for this Friday evening ("At night!! At NIGHT!!!! she keeps reminding everyone).

This scheduled disaster is admittedly one largely of my own making. Allow me to explain by reviewing past birthday spectacles.

At five we went to a children's art studio, and I inadvertently made a cake resembling the Oakland Mormon Temple.

For six we went to a children's magic and comedy show (funny only to those under the age of seven or eight, which everyone who mattered was), and I pulled out the requested pirate ship cake.

See those canons firing out of the side of the cake? Skinny candles stuck in Rollos. I know, brilliant.

Last year for seven, Sophie generously agreed to scale things down a bit and invite only the girls in her class and a few other friends. The theme was Fancy Ladies' Tea. The girls decorated straw hats (a steady stream of cosmos convinced my girlfriends to stay and staff the glue guns); played freeze dance to the Scissor Sisters; dined on petit fours, miniature eclairs, and heaven knows what other small fancy things I whipped up; and smacked a pinata around. Partial amnesia has mercifully set in, but I do know that not a single piece of my MIL's Spode china was broken.

My sister claims that as kids get older, the parties get smaller, but we see no sign of this at the House of Figs. This year Sophie insists on inviting not only everyone in her K-1-2 class but everyone in 3-4-5 as well. Plus family friends. As much as I admire her generous little spirit and am happy that she does not want to exclude anyone, I almost threw up as I pulled the trigger on that Evite invitation.

So here's what we've got planned: Noticing how cool the little kids think the 6-7-8 class's dances are, I thought, why not have a dance for little kids? A regular disco inferno. Not at my house, of course. I'm borrowing the school's multipurpose room, I've got one of the dads who is a professional dj doing the music, and my spin teach is loaning me a real disco ball. I'll feed the kids a little pizza, have some dancing, serve some cake, and then they can all go home. 

You would think from my past birthday extravaganzi that this would be a walk in the park. But I'm a believer in what doesn't kill you can drive you slowly insane, and my mental status is clearly on the decline. A few wheels have come off the cart since those previous parties, and I've been slooooooooooooowly losing it a little more each year. By the time Sophie is in college I should be licking walls.

Nevertheless, I'm going to try to pull my ass together enough to crank out this year's cake. Thank goodness she did not request a "theme cake" but asked for "just a birthday cake." A really fancy one, of course. Fine. I let her choose from between these two:

She chose the jellybean cake, which is good because you can sort of imagine the frosting disaster the other one could turn into. Especially with the icing bag in my shaky hands.

Did I mention that I'm sick? Woke up in the middle of the night with a sore throat. Oh, well. Should be easier than the three-year-old party when I had pneumonia. The party will go on, but wish me luck!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Priorities; or, why nothing ever gets done on our house

It's more than "the cobbler's children have no shoes." We still have tarps on the front of our house and our "new" (haha—that's a good one) front door is still on braces in the garage, and so what did Husband decide to do on Easter morning while Sophie was at church (yeah, I know) with her grandma?

Build her an archery range.

To go with the compound bow and arrows he bought her for her birthday.

There is a path of stairs along the side of our house that leads to what is called in this neck of the woods a "pocket park," in our view a satellite yard. No one really uses this space, and lawyers have decreed that our home owners association remove the slide and swing set that were once there. We feel it our civic duty to take over and put the space to good use. Hence, the archery range. And later this spring, our personal badminton court.

I get plenty pissed from time to time about the (lack of) progress on our house, but am I cross about this one?

Nope. Not possible. Especially since this evening I could hear peels of laughter and shrieks of delight wafting up the hill. Someone (well, maybe two of them) almost hit a bulls eye.

Springtime in Berkeley

So what do people who do not subscribe to a particular organized religion but believe in our connection through nature and think that regardless of who this Jesus person was that he had some really good ideas do on Easter? They go for a hike. And in our neighborhood, they admire the bright green hills (which will soon turn to gold) and breathe the sweet smells of eucalyptus, damp earth, fresh grass, and blooming flowers.

We hiked the Selbey to the Big Springs Trail in Tilden Park, which we live on the edge of, but not before I got out my camera to appreciate what was right in and near my own yard.

My magnolia tree (makes a big mess but very pretty, and the petals make good fairy beds and boats).

Baby figs!! This is a black mission, and we also have a brown turkey. This seems a little early to be getting fruit, but there's lots of it, so perhaps we're for our first big crop. We started both trees from bare root a few years ago and have only harvested a handful of fruit from each so far. 

 Our persimmon tree. It's beautiful as it emerges from dormancy, but it's best time is in the fall, when the leaves turns a bright yellow. We also started this from bare root. No fruit yet; it just looks good.

Our neighbor's flowering cherry.

Flowering something or others across the street from us. 

Around the corner from us is an empty lot that grows over a hundred calla lilies this time each year. I sneak down with my scissors for an armful every couple of weeks.

And here's our maple tree, the star on our block. We can take no credit for it though: it came with the house. 

We've been out of town the past two weekends for three-day trips, and so I just wasn't up for my monster Easter brunch this year. Instead, we had a quiet Easter dinner with just the MIL over. 

We started with a few appetizers. On the left are Trader Joe's crabcakes. Have you tried them? I usually turn up my nose at all TJ's frozen  prepared whatnots, but these are really tasty. 

For dinner we had barbecued rack of lamb with homemade mint jelly (we used up all I had, so I'll make some more of this soon), lemon roasted potatoes, buttered baby peas, and green salad with Meyer lemon vinaigrette. Aside from the fact that this is the MIL's favorite dinner, she loves to see her mother's spring china, which has now become my spring china (sort of funny that someone who didn't register for any china for her wedding has ended up with so much of the stuff).

For dessert I made a Swiss Easter Rice Tart from last week's New York Times food section. The filling is more or less a rice pudding, into which you stir ground almonds, lemon zest, and eggs. My family liked it, but I have to admit that it wasn't really my style of dessert: sweet and sort of bland. Swiss, right? A Meyer lemon tart with a big citrus zing is more typical of something I would have made. I guess subtlety is just not my thing when it comes to desserts.

I hope everyone had a happy Easter no matter how they celebrated it and a good weekend if they did not celebrate it. Happy Spring.