Thursday, January 29, 2009

Our ski trip: The good and the not so

No time to post pictures as I do 900 loads of ski laundry, throw together three days' of food, and pack the car to run up to Tahoe for some more of the stuff, but when I return I'll post pictures explaining why my Alta trip started out here and ended here.

Spoiler: My dad took a huge cartoon-like (but not funny) biff and broke his leg (really badly) on the third day (thank goodness not the first). He'll have surgery to get things pinned back together and plates added in about a week after the swelling goes down, and we expect to see him back on the slopes (I recommend at a slower speed, but he never listens to me about this) next year.

The silver lining? (I'm always looking for it.) I had anticipated this being a stressful and complicated day, but it pales in comparison to the complications of the past day and a half where I had to coordinate people and luggage—some on the mountain, some down at the hospital—to get the right people and their luggage going to the right place once we decided where that was. Many thanks to a great group of friends who were there to help at every turn, a fleet of radios that kept us all in contact throughout it all, wonderful ski patrol and mountain clinic staff, a rockin hospital, Southwest Airlines for flexibility, my sister for receiving my parents on the other end, and my brother-in-law for replacing my parents' blown hot water heater by the time they got home. Teamwork, you know.

I'll be back in the mix on Monday. In the meantime, have a good weekend!

Friday, January 23, 2009

We're packing up the sticks!

And all sorts of other gear to head to Alta, Utah tomorrow in search of snow. Not hard scratchy stuff that melts in the day and freezes again at night. We've got that in the Sierras. We want the real stuff.

This is our first destination ski trip as a family. Amazing the amount of stuff needed (this isn't all of it).

For the three of us, we have five sets of skis, ski boots, snow boots, apre ski boots, helmets, radios, ski clothes, dinner clothes, and sandwich makings. Yes, the lodge where we will be staying serves breakfast and dinner but not lunch, which I've been convinced to supply. It won't be the first time I've slapped together sandwiches in a hotel bathroom.

We're a little concerned that we have too much stuff.

Could we save by shipping the kid and her skis? Blogger pal Katie offered to receive gear we might want to ship. Do you think she would mind this package?

We fly home Wednesday night, do a quick turnaround on Thursday (wash the ski clothes, pack more food) and drive up to Tahoe that evening so Sophie can be on the slopes first thing Friday morning for her NASTC Kids Ski Camp. Did I mention I have a moms' (no dudes or kids allowed) ski trip the next weekend? I know. 

Thursday, January 22, 2009

But what did they have to eat??

At the inauguration luncheon, that is. That is my question about almost every event or occasion, especially a luncheon, which we all know is vastly more important than just a lunch.

In case you're wondering, here's what they had, with wine pairings:

First Course
Seafood Stew in puff pastry
Duckhorn Vineyards, 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley
Second Course
A Brace of American Birds (pheasant and duck), served with Sour Cherry Chutney Molasses Sweet Potatoes
Winter Vegetables
Goldeneye, 2005 Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley 
Third Course (some people call this Dessert)
Apple Cinnamon Sponge Cake and Sweet Cream Glacé
Korbel Natural “Special Inaugural Cuvée,” California Champagne
Well, then. That sounds like a lot of food and beverage for a midday meal. Was it followed by an inaugural nap?

And I have a few other questions:

Since when is asparagus a winter vegetable? According to the recipes Di Fi has thoughtfully made available, the vegetables included carrots, Brussel sprouts, wax beans, and asparagus. Asparagus in January? That's just unpatriotic. No way that was grown in the U.S. At least Di Fi used her clout to insist all wines be from California.

What is a brace of birds? I looked it up. Merriam-Webster's 11th lists a panoply of definitions, many of which are clearly not what is meant here. But there is 6: a position of rigid attention. Could be. Maybe they had those birds sort of propped up. Or 7: something that arouses energy or strengthens morale. Yes—that's got to be it.

Why didn't they let George Bush stay for lunch? According to the schedule, they put him on his helicopter and waved him away just before lunch. Maybe he got a boxed lunch. Could that be what Michelle had in that box?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What I thought of it all

I know everyone's just dying to know, so here's my wrap up, illustrated by photographs shamelessly borrowed without permission. We'll go in chronological order.


I am crazy about most things green, so you can imagine what I thought of Michelle Obama's green gloves. Which matched her green shoes. So happy about that.

While I didn't think Aretha Franklin sounded on the top of her game (I can imagine Jennifer Hudson having sung this better), there is absolutely no doubt that she was working that hat. To wear a hat like that rather than having the hat wear you is something only she could have pulled off. She looked fabulous.

I absolutely loved the adaptation of Copeland's "Simple Gifts" performed by Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Anthony McGill, and Gabriele Montero. My MIL appreciates Ma's playing but is consistently disturbed by his facial expressions and movement, feeling that it distracts from the music. To me he looks like a man who takes joy in the music and the connection with other musicians, and I love seeing it. Too bad they look like they're playing in front of a baseball backstop.


Hmmm. As a nonbeliever (did you hear the shout out to us in the address?), I'm uncomfortable with invocations, benedictions, references to god, participation of clergy (especially one of these), and bibles in public ceremonies. Separation of church and state anyone? But the history of the bible used today was undeniably interesting. Not only was this bible used for Lincoln's swearing in, but Lincoln's oath was administered by Robert Taney, the Supreme Court justice who wrote the majority opinion in the Dred Scott decision, which extended slavery into the territories. And today a black hand rested on it to take the oath of president.


Sasha and I agree—a job well done. I think he hit the right notes in a message of both hope and caution. To me, this seemed like an address that reached out to and celebrated all Americans. I wonder though how it played to conservatives. If we can resist from a slugfest, I'd love to hear what people outside my liberal bubble thought. Are you hopeful? Do you feel we stand together or still apart?

I particularly liked what he said concerning one of our greatest challenges:
To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict or blame their society's ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
My question is which comes first: the unclenched fist or the hand? A diplomatic game of rock, scissor, paper. Are we big enough to reach out a hand to a fist? Today I feel hopeful that we might be.


As angry and disappointed as I have been over the past eight years, I am grateful for the goodbye being civil and dignified on both sides. Just one thing, Mr. Bush. Keep going. Don't look back. The place to look now is forward. Have a safe trip.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Organizational meltdown

Warning: It's not pretty. You may be offended and never read my blog again.

But let's agree on one thing: Most of the time I am a pretty organized person. I think it's important that everything have a place where it at least should go. In theory, you know.

Remember the cocktail napkins?

And check out my our craft supplies:

But the wheels came off the cart this afternoon while I was putting away the Christmas decorations. (We like to enjoy them. A lot. Which usually takes us well through January. OK, the truth: As long as we're getting in some skiing, we don't give a rip what our house looks like.)

The problem is that these items escaped my net:

Sophie calls this her "Jesus set," a gift from my mom. (We're devoted atheists but are down with most of the teachings of Jesus and don't mind exposing Sophie to the Christmas story in the historical sense.)

And remember these little devils, which graced my Thanksgiving table?

After an entire day of house cleaning (thank you, Dr. King), lacked the energy to open one of the boxes I had strategically fit back into the closet. This is going to have to do until next year.

Do you think Jesus would mind? I mean, he was born in a stable with animals. Or so they say.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

More fun with pears:
Caramel pear butter

Yeah—Christmas tree still up and not because I'm enjoying looking at it. In fact, it's really annoying me. This weekend. Really. I hate taking it down and wrapping each of the glass ornaments and figuring out how the hell to get it all back in the closet, but for a brief moment when the tree comes down, my living room looks larger. I said brief. It's usually a matter of minutes before something takes its place.

In the meantime, more canning. Pears won't be around forever, you know.

This recipe is sort of like making thick applesauce with brown sugar. The nutmeg gives it a rich flavor and makes the house smell really nice.

Do you have one of these food mills? Very useful things, and they make the most perfect mashed potatoes ever.

It's a good idea to simmer this in a deep pan so the popping bubbles don't spatter all over your stove.


1/4 cup apple juice
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
7 pounds ripe pears
3 cups packed
golden brown sugar
1 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Combine apple juice and 4 tablespoons of lemon juice in a heavy large deep pot. Peel, core, and dice pears, one at a time, and add to juice mixture. Toss gently as you go to coat the pear so it doesn't brown.

Cook over medium heat until pears release enough juice for mixture to boil, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and simmer until pears are very tender, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes.

Remove pears from heat and run mixture through a food mill into a large bowl. Return mixture to pot and add remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, brown sugar, nutmeg, and salt. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer uncovered until mixture thickens and is reduced to about 8 cups. Stir frequently to avoid scorching, about 1 hour.

Ladle pear butter into hot clean jars (I pour boiling water over them in the sink), leaving about 1/4 inch space at the top of jars. Cover with hot lids and apply screw bands. Process jars in a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes. Cool completely. Store in a dark place for up to 1 year. Or eat immediately.

We'll be spreading this on cinnamon toast and pumpkin bread. And I can't wait to try it as a filling for my round pancakes. Husband will probably just eat it over the sink with a spoon.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Advice needed:
Fairies and pierced ears a
reasonable combination?

Being blissfully oblivious to the economic recession, Sophie has already settled on what she would like for her birthday. Which is in March. Didn't we just finish Christmas???

Oh, well. It's always good to plan ahead. Here is what's on her list:

She got a few of these fairies from Santa Claus, and I gave her cousin the carousel. Sophie would like a few more fairies and the carousel to add to her fairy Ferris wheel to make a fairy amusement park. Good enough.

She would also like this "-ology" book. We have a few of these books, and they are really fun. Lots of pop-ups and little compartments where you can lose yourself for hours. We always like books.

But she also would like . . . to get her ears pierced. NO! I shriek without giving it any consideration at all. But I'm willing to consider it. She will be nine. I had thought ten. She has her arguments marshaled.

Serena has pierced ears! I am not impressed. You, I point out, are not Serena.

And yes, I have pierced ears as well. But I wear thong underwear, walk around the house while brushing my teeth, and use bad words (not often at the same time). I am a grown-up and get to do all sorts of things that kids do not.

But, really. Am I completely out of step here? When is an appropriate age? Anyone?

Thanks for your help.

Just because you can does not mean you should

Film and ski is what I'm talking about here. But you've got to admire the grip my Dad's got on the camera as he goes down (watch to the end).

I'm over there on the left in the light blue, and the blur of pink my Dad is trying to catch up with is Sophie. I gave up trying to keep up with the Pink Rocket (Pink for short) last year. Time for Dad to get a clue.

Monday, January 12, 2009

When kids ski badly

Have you ever met a kid who thinks they can't ski? All kids think they can ski. Usually really well. You've got to admire their little spirits. My beef is not with them but with their parents who just don't have a handle on the situation. I've been a victim of the claim
Oh, she is an intermediate skier! She has had lessons!!!!
Really? Two? Three? Why then, when her father was parked in the lodge bar, did I have to carry her skis down the hill while she slid on her butt after half an hour of tears and frustration (on my part as well)? I love skiing with kids, but I have completely absolved myself of teaching kids how to ski or generally putting up with any kid who cannot handle themselves on the mountain or at least keep their shit together if things do not go well.

While the rest of our group had a fabulous weekend skiing two days at Squaw (even if the snow was decidedly less than fabulous), my poor friend Matt spent the first day with his daughter's friend. I'm not sure what exactly her mother told him when approached with the idea of her coming on our ski trip, but it should have been this:
Oh, no—she can't really ski at all!! I mean, she's ok on the bunny slopes. Well, kinda. But she likes to watch tv in the ski cabin!! And she likes the lodge!!! And don't worry if she cries on the slope!! That's just what she does! Lessons? Oh, no. She wouldn't like lessons! Especially if everyone else is out there skiing!! OK! Bye!!!
And that probably would have encouraged the desired effect of having her daughter disinvited. If not, perhaps the mom could have added this:
Well, she doesn't have a lot of experience being away from home without us! But if she wakes up and starts crying at about three in the morning, just call us on the phone!! We won't mind at all!!!
Matt was a saint, claiming that this was his "cross to bear" and insisting that we not hang around them on the slopes to "share in the misery." The kid? She claimed later to have had a great time. Like I said, you've got to admire their little spirits. Or faulty memories.

Up later today: My Dad Films His Own Wipeout or Why Seniors Should Not Multitask, at least on the ski slope.

Friday, January 9, 2009

You've got your priorities; I've got mine

And I'll admit they're sometimes a little strange. We were gone last weekend, we're leaving for this weekend, my house is a mess, I haven't done anything about this year's taxes or our school auction, and the Christmas tree is still up (go ahead and judge), so what do I do? Can pears. I know. Let me explain. I've been stressed out to the point of waking up in a panic in the middle of the night only to lay in bed making lists of what I need to do. So I needed to relax, and for me canning is the equivalent of watching reality tv, only more fun and certainly more productive.

And besides, it wasn't my fault that Forelle pears were on sale at my produce market for 59 cents a pound.

Sophie thinks they look like doll pears, but I wouldn't let the American Girl person who lives in our house have any. I'm tired of her taking things in Sophie's room and leaving them there to rot.

I love a good recipe, but I also love the creative shot of flying by the seat of my pants and making it up as I go. I started here with a bottle of Riesling and added another half a bottle of water, about a cup and a half of sugar, a cinnamon stick, a few cardamon pods, some whole allspice, and some Meyer lemon peel.

I poached the pears (peeled—nothing more relaxing that peeling, right?), removed them to canning jars, reduced the liquid a little more, and added it to the jars to cover the pears. Twenty minutes in a hot water bath left my kitchen all warm and steamy and the pears preserved for the next year.

These will be good over vanilla ice cream or on their own. And I love feeling like a squirrel in winter with all sorts of canned goods in my larder. Not that they ever last that long.

But before you judge me a total nut, may I just point out that our ski bags are packed and sitting by the door? What? You think that the fact they are packed all through ski season means this doesn't count? Fine. Did I mention that we are just not done enjoying our Christmas tree?? It's really pretty.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Welcome to my mammogram!

Whee! It's that time of year. And this time I got to go to the NEW Alta Bates Summit Carol Ann Read Breast Health Center. As a person who has a lot of experience with these types of facilities, I tell you, this place is THE BOMB.

Come along, and I'll take you on a little tour.

My visit began with an offer for (free!) valet parking. I declined because I am fussy about letting other people ride my motor scooter. I'd rather just park it on the street myself.

Patients enter down a hall and through this round room that has soft lighting piped in sounds of moving water and chirping birds. This is, I assume, the room where you collect your shit before continuing in to deal with your shit. I don't have too much any more, but I do remember walking into the place that preceded this one on legs that I couldn't feel and a head that was swimming with fear. I guess this room would have been nice.

Once through this entrance, you are greeted by a smiling person and seated in an enthusiastically decorated lobby. I don't know what's up with the hats (to cover bald heads??); I know what's up with the pink, and although I generally deplore the pink commercialization, I appreciate the sentiment most of the time.

There are even decorations on the ceiling—I guess so you have something to look at if you pass out and wake up on your back.

There's an attractive room if you need to deposit your child (thank goodness I never had to take her along on any of these visits).

And at the check-in desk, they have thoughtfully removed all previous surly staff who when I had trouble giving my correct phone number because I was so overwhelmed would sigh, gaze off over my head, and tap their two-inch fingernails on their keyboards. There were several like this, and I always seemed to end up at their desks. Assholes. 

Art is absolutely everywhere, some of it sort of interesting,

some of it sort of silly.

Something for everyone, I suppose.

And they are ever so organized. At check-in I was given a card with a nice photographic bamboo design. Once I changed, I was directed to . . . the bamboo waiting room! And when I was done and was to wait for news that they had enough images, I went right back to the bamboo room. No chance of getting lost. Here is the tastefully decorated and very comfortable bamboo room.

The bamboo room also featured this flat screen tv monitor that rotated pictures of various flowers and played relaxing "nature sounds." Can you just feel then tension dissolving? That's the idea, I guess.

But the absolute best part? THE ROBES! Not paper or faded cloth that opens in the back but REAL COTTON ROBES. Like you would have at a spa.

In fact the whole thing looks more like a spa than a medical facility. I'm sure this really works for some people; for me it sort of misses the point. I'm as comfortable in the MRI facility I visit once a year with it's beige walls, cold linoleum, bad gowns, and no art. The people are just as warm, compassionate, and professional as they are at the breast spa, and that's what makes the difference for me. But I realize that I've been desensitized to medical surroundings and apparatus in a way that some people haven't (and hopefully won't ever need to be), so maybe all the trappings serve a purpose that truly helps some people. In the meantime, I'm very excited about the zoomy new digital mammogram screeners and other equipment that the $13 million spent on this facility bought. 

Only one real gripe, but one that came with a silver lining: For some reason even returning patients are asked to fill out paperwork for information these people surely already have. Have I had any breast surgery? Um, yes. How many? When? And you know, I don't remember, which put the biggest smile on my face. The number of surgical procedures, including various biopsies, a mastectomy, and seemingly endless reconstructive surgeries, used to be a number burned in my mind. But now it's just "lots." And the date of my mastectomy used to sit there in my mind next to my birthday and Sophie's birthday. It was in August 2008. I remember this because Sophie was four, a fact that will forever anchor the chronology. But the exact date in August? I have no idea. "Look it up if you really need to know," I told them. Back in my office, I could look it up too, but I don't. It's no longer important in that way.

Monday, January 5, 2009

2008 travel list

Another annual list demonstrating that we are neither globe trotters nor luxury travelers. But we like where we go and how we go.

Newport Beach, CA (my parents live here)

Homewood, CA (the ski cabin we rent so often it feels like home)

Incline, NV

Berkeley Tuolemne Camp (near Yosemite; we weren't able to go for our summer trip but pitched in at the Memorial Day work weekend to help get camp ready to open)

Ten-Mile Hotspring (near Wells, NV)

Grand Tetons (Jenny Lake)

Yellowstone (Slough Creek)

Hawley Mountain Guest Ranch, (sort of) near McLeod, MT

Comptche, CA (our good friends have a weekend house here)

Cayucos, CA
It's been a great year. No European tours or Mexican spa vacations, but our family pod did get to spend plenty of time together in tents and ski cabins and with good friends.