Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Sophie attends school as an interdistrict transfer to a three-room school in an unincorporated area in the midst of a beautiful redwood canyon. One of the families in the community has hosted our auction at their home for the past several years. It's the most amazing house ever. The owner founded and developed a very successful construction company, building for himself the most amazing house out of mostly reclaimed lumber. The column on the left is the elevator, which takes one to the main level of the house on the third floor. Very handy for hauling up the goods for an auction.
I was lucky to have my girl lending a hand in the morning as we put things together.
She never goes anywhere without a well-packed handbag. Her mom's girl.
The main room of the house has a soaring timber ceiling, with a view out over the canyon. No decorating necessary.
It's a very casual affair, and there are as many people there in jeans and t-shirts as dresses. Admission is a paltry $15 and includes the most amazing vegetarian feast you could imagine (no meat, no eggs per request from the homeowners, who are very devout Hindu converts).
We may not have a fancy ballroom or a gazillion cellophane-wrapped gift baskets, but we've got everything a good auction needs.
An auction dog.
Great live music. The 3-4-5 teacher grabs the mike throughout the night to add vocals.
A great group of parents staffing the check-out station.
Here's Husband nabbing the Sugarbowl lift tickets! Good thing since at that point in the evening I was stuck at that check-out station. His performance is a vast improvement over last year when every time I would catch a glance at him from behind a computer he was idly chatting, drinking wine, and not bidding.
Here's the dessert I contributed: strawberry tarts with an orange-scented marscapone filling. Last year I baked all the shells and we did this full-sized. This year, we cut ourselves a break and bought the shells, so all I had to do was pipe in the filling, add the berries, and glaze with a lavender syrup. I had wanted to find smaller berries that would fit the shells better, but large ones were all my produce market had that morning, and so I had to make do and halve them.
OK, so what's my beef? It's this: I am BURNED OUT. To a crisp. I was so exhausted the morning of the auction that I really didn't want to even go to it. But after putting in probably over a hundred hours (working on it since January) soliciting donations, logging them, producing a catalog, cranking out bid sheets, sending out numerous email message updating people on auction progress and begging people to put their damn names on the volunteer sign-up sheets, supervising all the other committee chairs, cooking at the school Friday evening (this was actually fun), logging last-minute bid items the morning of the event (thanks very much, passive-aggressive parents who ignored my pleas to get items in in a timely manner so as to not cause undue inconvenience to people [that would be me] processing donations), spending half of the event itself working the checkout station, and then cleaning up until 11:30 that night I AM FUCKING OVER IT. I just cannot take it anymore. Volunteering for my daughter's school has come at the expense of my caring for my daughter and being a present member of my own family. And it's just not worth it.
I'm not entirely sure how it happened. I know it started when two years ago I went to my first P.T.A.-like organization meeting and offered to take on the job of logging auction donations. I was happy to have a behind-the-scenes job, but I remember feeling at that meeting how like a little club that group was and how awkward it was to be a newcomer and started thinking how it could be different. Since taking leadership, I've tried to foster an environment where everyone feels welcome with whatever they have to give. It's been more my style to offer opportunity than guilt people into feeling obligation. My face hurts from smiling, and I'm losing my ability to encourage and reassure. I'm sick of asking politely. And if I can't get things done that way, I don't want to get things done at all. I want people to volunteer because they want to make a difference and show a commitment to their child's school. I do not want to have to threaten or beg. What I want now is to walk away. Maybe what the school needs is someone with a different style, someone who tells not asks. That someone is not me.
In the meantime, I need to focus my energy somewhere else. We have wonderful plans for summer camping through the Tetons and Yellowstone, up to Montana to celebrate my parents' fiftieth wedding anniversary. Sophie has the San Francisco Opera's Das Rheingold coming up. And the good part of school volunteering—trying my best, making someone wonderful friends—I can keep as I let the rest go. So I guess I'm glad I didn't shoot myself.
Monday, April 28, 2008
Things have been a little up in the air this time. Since Sophie did Macbeth, she was on the list of kids called to volunteer for the summer season, which starts with Wagner's Das Rheingold. They want forty kids (we thought they were insane with twenty kids for Macbeth), and the Macbeth kids were the obvious place from which to start. I filled out the forms, sent them in, and then didn't hear back. Finally, after a few discrete inquiries, I learned that the casting department was concerned with Sophie's coloring. Apparently they want children with dark hair and complexions ("ethnic looking," they said) given that the children are to be Alberich's slaves, toiling beneath the earth to satisfy his greed.
A friend whose child was already cast insisted on our behalf (thank you!!!) that Sophie's hair is not dark blonde but medium brown with minor highlights. The door opened a crack: Would we consider a nonpermanent rinse to darken her hair? Heavens, yes. What could be more exciting than dying one's hair for the opera? Then we received word that based on a picture (this one right here from Macbeth) casting was concerned about her "rosy complexion." "Isn't that what makeup's for?" I asked. Turns out they're a week and a half away from starting rehearsals and still short ten kids, so they're inclined to agree.
Off to our fitting we went.
We're not out of the woods yet, but when Sophie asked the fitters "So am I in?" they said that they had assigned a costume to her and so assume she is.
I know that even if it doesn't work out, there will be other times. But it's hard to steer my daughter into a situation where she may face rejection, regardless of how objective it may be and how well I've tried to prepare her. It's not about you, I've explained, it's about the art. And I think from her last opera experience that she understands this. It's probably me who has more of a problem.
On another note, I feel brought full circle by recalling that Sophie's first opera experience was the impetus behind the start of my blog. Wishing to document and share her experience, I stumbled upon something I had not anticipated: a creative outlet and a community of friends as well as a way to document and remember. Here we go again.
Friday, April 25, 2008
The sale runs May 1–4 and is for $20.00 off every pair of Bonanno's. Here's what happened last time they had a sale:
These are my favorites, and if I get another pair at this sale they will be this style. Maybe black with white? I also think the white/shell combo. looks nice.
Even at $20 off, it's a pricey pair of sandals for me, but I really do think they're worth it. They are beautifully made and come feeling already broken in. And who can resist their interactive "customize your sandals" page? I
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Much of the afternoon's success is owed to Ellen, our fabulous teacher who would have none of my claims that I am creatively impaired once removed from the kitchen. She patient with and encouraging to both of us.
We started off with pipe cleaners, winding colored embroidery thread around and around to make the limbs.
It's starting to look like a doll, isn't it? Ellen takes a very flexible approach to it all: things don't have to be done a single certain way, and if you mess up, there are lots of ways to fix things. Or you can just leave it as is because, as she pointed out, it's a doll. I like her philosophy.
I was worried though when we got to the next stage: dressing the doll, which Ellen claimed to be the fun part. Not really to someone who can hardly dress herself. But we had oodles of fabric, ribbon, buttons, rickrack (love that stuff) from which to choose, and I think I did alright. I made two: a flower fairy and a woodland fairy.
Sophie wanted to make an entire family and made a good start by producing the girl and the baby. We got to take some materials home so she can finish the dad and the mom. I don't think there is to be a brother. She did really well, following instructions and behaving well for three hours, especially considering it really was an adult class.
Thank you, Ellen, for a wonderful afternoon! We'll be back for more classes soon!
In the meantime, our dolls are happy in their new home and have been playing the garden.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
When I looked at pictures my brother emailed of his family skiing this past weekend, my feet still itched to feel the snow beneath them, but my mind is sort of looking forward to letting go of the constant jonesing for the white stuff. Racks are off the car, skis are in the closet. There's hiking, camping, gardening, and work on the house to be done.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Here's the contents of the hefty box that landed on my steps this weekend:
We've got the most amazing Chocolate Bark. It's on the way up to my face in this picture.
As is this double chocolate cookie.
And we've also got homemade chocolate pudding mix, which Sophie has claimed as her own. This is fine as long as she agrees to spoon feed it to me while I'm sitting on the couch with my feet up and my eyes closed.
What's the problem? It's school auction time.
I coughed up an auction catalog last weekend, and this weekend I worked on bid sheets. Did I mention that I sent a couple hundred letters out to solicit much of this schwag and then logged it all into my kick-ass little database? I did. And so you would think that someone else could step in to help with these stupid bid sheets. But they haven't, and that's at least partly my fault. I haven't asked. But that's because getting people to volunteer at the auction itself has been like pulling teeth, and whereas I am capable of staying up to midnight cranking out these stupid sheets, I am not capable of prepping food, working check-in and check out, and doing cleanup at the auction without killing someone. Which I just might do anyway.
Especially if someone comes up to me at the auction to tell me "Oh, I see that we don't have X donation this year! Oh, that is just too bad. Why is that?" Or tell me if I ask them to give someone working a station a bathroom break "Oh, you know, I'm talking to my friends right now!" To which I want to answer "Oh, I didn't realize people like you had friends."
And if at this point you're wondering if I am perhaps not temperamentally suited for this role, I would concede that you're probably on to something. In our high school senior class book there was a section where people were voted "Most Likely To." I was not identified as most likely to become president of the P.T.A., but if there had been a "Least Likely" category here, I would have had a lock on it. I have crafted an entire professional career around avoiding meetings. I'm neither a leader nor a follower; I like to take care of details behind the scenes. I get shit done; I have little patience with people who dither, procrastinate, or fuss. I have a quick temper and often a big mouth. So WTF am I doing? It's important I remind myself of this several times a day: I am becoming part of a community that is built around the children of our school. I am making friends who support me and who I sometimes get to support in the most insane and questionably advised undertaking, being a parent. I am learning that with volunteers, you don't get to pick your team. You try to find what everyone has to give and accept it with equal amount of gratitude. I am showing my daughter that she and her school are a priority for me. At the end of most days, that's enough.
I said most, not all. Thanks, Trish, for sending a little something to get me through the next week (the auction is Saturday). And apologies to the rest for being a bad blog reader and commenter and a probably incoherent blogger myself.
Friday, April 18, 2008
So you can imagine the big snort that emanated from my nose when I received this invitation by email this morning (I took Sophie and the MIL there for Christmas tea a few years ago, suffering some of the worst service I have ever experienced, and have been on their email list ever since).
$94 a person?? Does anyone else think that's a little extreme? Let's do the math. For Husband, the MIL, Sophie, and me the total would be $336, before the gratuity and that second glass of champagne. What the hell is in that spa bag anyway?? Jeez. Probably soap and bath gel.
But I'm having fun already planning the brunch I can serve at home half that. Chilled lobster salad? All the asparagus—both green and white— I want. Fancy cheeses? Heck, why tax my imagination? Let's just take a look at their Sunday brunch menu.
Assorted Fresh Fruits with Whipped CreamBourdain's right. Half of those dishes smack of recycling. And do any of them look like something I couldn't make at home? Nope. But I'm going back to my own menu planning. Anyone want to join me? If you're celebrating at home, what are you planning on serving? It's never to early get a start on things like this.
Mini Bagels with Cream Cheese
Grilled Asparagus with Red Pepper Aïoli
Grilled Asparagus Salad
Pasta Primavera Salad
Mixed Greens Salad with Assorted Vinaigrettes
Smoked Fish Platter Including Smoked Salmon, Gravlax,
Peppered Mackerel and Applewood Smoked Salmon
Variety of Sliced Deli Meats and Assorted Patés
Caviar Station with Fresh Blinis and Traditional Garnishes
Seafood Display with Cracked Dungeness Crab, Blue Point Oysters and Shrimp
San Francisco Seafood Chowder
Slow Roasted Prime Rib Au Jus
Honey Glazed Ham with Wild Berry Madeira Sauce
Fruits de Mer Ragout with Sea Bass, Day Boat Scallops,
Prawns, Green Lip Mussels and Lobster
Veal Scallopini with Ratatouille and Marsala Sauce
Chicken Pepperoncini with Penne Pasta
Yan Chow Prawn Fried Rice
Stir Fried Seasonal Vegetables
Eggs Benedict with Hollandaise Sauce
Scrambled Eggs with Shaved Parmesan and Chives
Poppyseed Pancakes with Warm Maple Syrup
Smoked Bacon, Link Sausage and Canadian Bacon
Cajun Spiced Potato Wedges
Assorted Dim Sum with Three Sauces
Various Pastries and Desserts
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Anywhoo, no—he's on a Dude Trip. Meaning that he took off with his dude friends for a long weekend of skiing, camping, hot springs soaking, and hiking at Mammoth. One of the dudes is turning 50, so the shebang is in celebration of that. And even though this means that Husband skis and I don't (something I usually do not tolerate), I was happy to send him off on this trip for several reasons:
- I love all these guys. If I weren't married to Husband, I'd probably marry any of them.
- It's going to be butt ass cold at night. I sent Husband off with both of our bags to use one inside the other, and I'm still worried he'll be cold.
- I'm really not interested in putting on a pair of cramp-ons and climbing half a day to bag a run I can barely ski anyway.
- Every once in a while a dude needs a dude trip.
- As I noted, they will be skiing, and I will not. (He took the racks off my car and put my skis in the closet. Sniff!)
- They will be in the eastern Sierras, which I really love, and I will not.
- They will be soaking in wild hot springs (the ultimate for wilderness camping: you get into your bag at night clean), and I will not.
Me: I notice Eric thinks you are driving the CRV. Which is my car.And then a little later:
Husband: Yes, we're thinking about that. Would that be ok with you?
Me: Sure. It would cost much less in gas than your truck.
Me: You realize don't you that if you take my car I will have to drive your truck while you are gone.Right. With a carpool load of kids to school. And over the bridge to Marin on the weekend to take Sophie and a friend to a party. Duh. So he's gone now. In his truck.
Husband: Yes, I had thought about that. That will not work. I do not want you driving my truck.
Me: Are you aware that our life will not come to a sudden halt because you are not here?
Husband: Can't you just ride your scooter?
Stay tuned for the exciting plans Sophie and I have for the weekend. We're starting off with her sleeping in Husband's place in our bed. As she said "We can sleep in a hug all night." Good night.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
I've modified this recipe from one for Thai beef salad, where the beef is served over romaine lettuce. I'm not a huge beef eater, but when I eat it I prefer it lean, not too rare, and well-seasoned. I had a flank steak but didn't have time to marinade it. The vinaigrette in this recipe provides an effective cheat and works just fine.
THAI BEEF WITH LEMON VINAIGRETTE
Rinse, pat dry, brush with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt a flank steak. Grill, let rest, and slice thinly against the grain. Or thinly slice any leftover roast beef you can find in your fridge.
While the meat is grilling, make the vinaigrette by combining
3 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
3 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice
3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sugar
lemon zest from above lemons (might as well use it, right?)
a couple stalks of green garlic, minced (or use a single clove of mature garlic)
small bunch of fresh mint, mincedPour marinade over sliced beef. Add
carrot cut with a zester (you've still got it out from zesting the lemons, right?)
sliced green onions
The class is offered at Stone Mountain Daughters, our local fabric mecca. Here is the class description:
Come give sewing a try! This one-session class introduces you to a sewing machine and the basics of using it. Work on a pillow and learn how to use a sewing machine, measure and cut out your project. Come get excited about sewing! This class will help you figure out what features to look for in a sewing machine; different types of seams, skills such as turning, corners and, backstitching; and how to work with the bobbin. After this class jump into any of our Beginning Level (101 or 102), Easy Intro (80) and/or Apparel Open Sew Labs (204).
Do you notice they say work on a pillow? Implying perhaps that I might not finish the pillow? I will be sad if I come home with just a bag of fabric and thread. But the class is three hours. That should be enough time, don't you think?
My class is on May 27, and there is one more space open. Calling Monica! Come join me before summer annihilates your free time!
And thanks again Leesie for the kick in the pants!
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
I came home yesterday and expected nothing in my mail box but the usual bills and catalogs. I was surprised to find something larger, something sort of mushy. Had I ordered something I forgot about? After all, it happens around here.
But no. It wasn't anything I ordered or expected. But it was something I really wanted. As in really wanted.
Goddamned if it wasn't one of the pin cushiones from Lisagh's blog give-away I had lusted after, enough to shamelessly enter her contest four times.
And the love goes on. Trish (who had never won anything before) was the person who won the pin cushion giveaway square and fair, and so she had to host her own giveaway, which I won (picture posted when my prize arrives—I can't wait!!). So now I have host my own giveaway. I have a little shopping to do. Since the pin cushion comes with a promise on my part to sign up for a sewing class, some day I'll be able to host a giveaway featuring aprons, pillows, and other clever crafts, but for now I'm going to stick with what I know: bounty from my garden, recipes, and cocktail equipment. Stay tuned.
Monday, April 14, 2008
How about if we never wore them at the same time or if we did we never left the house? We could totally scare Husband in these.
Tell me what you think.
- No, Cindy. You are a hopeless retard.
- OK, but only if no one ever sees you in them at the same time.
- Buy the dress for Sophie but not for you.
- What a brilliant idea. You and Sophie will look adorable. Be sure to have a picture taken.
- None of the above. Here's what I think: __________________
When I'm in a fix like this, Trader Joe's frozen uncooked prawns are my go-to ingredient. There's always some in my freezer. I had bought some fresh romanito tomatoes at the produce market the day before and had from my weekly produce box leeks, spinach, and green garlic. I had in the fridge kalamata olives, shredded parmesan, and a block of feta cheese (I like Bulgarian for it's big gamey taste).
And so I made this:
Which doesn't have a name but was quick, easy, and good. Here's what I did:
I thawed the prawns in a colander in the sink under running cold water. I drained and then dried them in a kitchen towel. I sprinkled them with a little sugar and salt and then sauteed them in olive oil. When they were just pink, I added minced garlic, tossed, and then transferred into a bowl.
I added a wee bit more olive oil, and sauteed the leeks. I then deglazed the pan with about 1/3 cup white wine and added the tomatoes (halved), olives (pitted and sliced), and spinach. When the tomatoes were soft and the spinach wilted, I added the prawns back in, tossed over heat, and added the cubed feta. I served over pasta with shredded parmesan.
Did I mention that I am totally over our school auction and completely sick of being the president of Sophie's school's P.T.A.-like organization? Sick sick sick. But it's Sophie's school, and it's about her and her education. That's what I've got to keep reminding myself to keep from going postal and telling everyone to go f*&$# themselves. Because that's really what I'm wanting to do right now. More on that later.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
I put the chickens in the oven first (I always make two so the MIL has one to take home). Although the recipe doesn't list it, I always like to tie a roasting chicken. I make a loop around the end of each leg, pull together, and tie.
I then bring the ends under the bird, crossing, and bringing up to the top to tie again.
While the chickens were in the oven, we started with her appetizer of fava beans, radishes, butter, salt, and bread. The combination is like a bite of spring bursting in your mouth.
For our cocktail I chose the South Side, which blogger Melissa Morris gave the recipe for last summer. It's been a warm-weather favorite at our house ever since and is another great use for the Meyer lemons and mint in my garden this time of year.
When the chicken was ready
I served it with chilled asparagus with tarragon mayonnaise (I often make my own mayonnaise, but I wanted to try Best Food's new canola-based version; Cook's Illustrated gave it a good review, and I concur—not bad at all for something that has no cholesterol and half the fat!)
and baby Yukon gold potatoes and artichokes.
We finished with a salad, including some wonderful red lettuce from our box,
and a simple dessert of fresh sliced strawberries in lavender syrup over vanilla ice cream.
And the best part of dinner? My happy MIL. Picture taken by Sophie.