Thursday, April 30, 2009

Blog meet up: Guess who's coming to visit??

In fact they're already here, right across the bay in San Francisco! And I'm sure they can feel me waving wildly from my office window in Berkeley. Two of my favorite bloggers, Lisagh (known in my house by Sophie as Crafty McDafty) and Kerry are in tearing up San Francisco as I type (or they might be finishing breakfast). Kerry is here on business, and Lisagh decided that it was time for a little vacation to parts not so chilly as Winnipeg. Since I'm not much of a city girl and my knowledge of San Francisco rivals that of the average person from Lincoln, Nebraska (I used to do a great city tour when I lived in Washington, DC—in the summer I would take people on a wading tour of all the great fountains. I don't know what's happened to me) and I can only take a single day off work (they fly out Saturday morning), I've opted to let them tour the city today and take them up to Sonoma for a little wine tasting tomorrow. 

I'll pick them up in the city bright and early (not too), and they have gamely agreed to let us swing by here on our way up.

I'm not letting anyone leave my fair part of the state without seeing some of these.

Don't tell them that I've got a couple redwoods on the side of my house. They're on a steep slope, and it will be much easier to get a picture of Lisagh hugging a tree here.

Then, in the name of recovery, we'll tool on up to herefor a little of this.

And then venture on north to here

and here

and here.

But it will not look like this

because it is supposed to RAIN, godamnit!! Can you believe it? We are having a DROUGHT. And so whereas we generally greet rain with much enthusiasm, I am cross that my parade will be rained on. Not that this will stop us. But cancel the cute outfit and nice shoes! I am also canceling (unless I am awaken by streaming sunlight) the picnic I had planned. It just wouldn't be the same eaten in my car. A good hostesses does not serve lunch in her car, does she? 

And anyway, I do not think I can compete with this.

See you tomorrow, girls!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

There is a dead fox on my back patio

Want to see? Here it is.

Look at that pretty tail. 

Just the other day, Husband came in from pruning our rosemary bush up on the street (see previous post concerning pruning shears) and reported that a fox had just walked past him and down the path that runs near the side of our house. We live on the edge of a regional park, and whereas it's not completely unusual to see a fox now and then, it is completely unusual to see one walking down the street in broad day light. Husband said it looked thin and mangy.

Last night I went out to our patio to take a quick soak in our hot tub before getting in bed and almost ran into a retreating opossum. I didn't realize what it was up to until I almost stepped on something that wasn't there before while unlocking the cover of the tub. I ran in the house to get a flashlight and confirmed that there was the fox Husband had seen the day before. Seems that opossum had been busy chewing the ear off the fox. I didn't know they did that. 

The little fox was very dead, and we covered it up with a blanket to keep other animals away from it in the night. I could hear someone rustling around in the bushes, so I submerged myself in the hot tub like a hippo, with just my eyes above water, and waited to see if that opossum would dare return. It didn't.

Animal control is coming later today to take my fox away. What a pretty little thing it must have been in its salad days. What a sad end to come to on my patio. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Fast forward and back again

One of the things I enjoy most about our annual school auction, which was last Saturday (hence lack of posting), is chatting with some of the parents I don't see that often at school as we pass on different work and car pool schedules. I always enjoy talking to parents whose kids are a few years ahead of mine. I like to know what's coming up—good and bad. So I can't say I wasn't warned. From a woman who admits that, like Sophie and me, she and her girl are the best of pals: "The disdain. The eye rolling. That's hard." I try to imagine what that would be like. I'm so used to the adoration. 

Last night I got a taste of things to come. And I wondered if is this what life with a teenage is going to be like: She hurts me; I want to hurt her. We both dig in. She tries to move forward, I pull back. Thank goodness she does not give up. But some day she might, and when I move back to her, she might not be there waiting. 

This is what happened. I was unloading groceries, making dinner, and helping Sophie research the Panama Canal—a normal multitasking evening in our house. Husband came home from work and wanted his pruning shears. Where were they? I had used them last. He needed them now. If I had just put them back where I they belong, he wouldn't need to be asking me to find them right now. Honestly, sometimes I think I live with two children. I'm sure in his mind making me this mad is his way of ensuring that I will correctly replace the pruning shears next time. Brilliant. I turned off the stove, rinsed my hands, and stormed out into the garage muttering "Fucking idiot!" Which of course Sophie heard. 

Later when the pruning shears had been found and I had cooled off, Husband came into the office, where I was Wikipeding the Panama Canal, to inform me that Sophie had told him I called him a fucking idiot. So now we have another little fight. I am sorry. Husband goes on for a while. We work it out. 

But my girl had betrayed me, which she has never done before. She tattled. And she did something she knew would get me in trouble. And I thought maybe she's not my pal; she's just my daughter, and this is what mothers and daughters do to each other. For the next hour I was uninterested in her cheery chatter ("Look, Mama! This purse had a special place for a water bottle!" "Fine.") and rebuffed her attempts at making up. I was finally able to hear what she was really saying: It hurts her when I hurt her daddy. I agreed to try not to do that. She agreed to talk to me if she does not like something I am doing. 

"But," I said, "you know, sometimes he really is . . . " 
"Yes, Mama, I know."

I've got a few years to get this worked out, right? Or maybe not. 

Friday, April 24, 2009

They had me at smoked paprika

Because this is one of my new favorite ingredients. Unlike regular paprika, which I've always assumed is more for decorating things like deviled eggs and has a sort of dusty flavor, smoked paprika has a taste that is (not surprisingly) smoky and spicy without being too hot. It more or less gives me what I want but cannot have from chipotles (smokes jalapenos). I love the smoky taste, but most chipotles are just too hot for my white-girl taste buds.

And Bon Appetit, where I found this excellent recipe for rib-eye steaks with balsamic-caper vinaigrette, is becoming one of my favorite magazines. 

Although I've long been a fan of Cooks Illustrated, which my mom gives me a subscription to every year for my birthday, it's seemed to me a little stodgy lately. I do like most of the explanations of how they develop recipes ("The tomato soup now tasted great, but it was orange!"), and I love the pen and ink illustrations of vegetable groups on the back cover , but I miss big glossy color pictures. And I've never thought Cooks ethnic recipes are that good. And besides, I have a subscription to Bon Appetit for free! I was in line behind someone at Sur la Table who qualified for a free subscription because she spent so much money. When she didn't want the subscription, the sales woman offered it to me, who was buying a single rubber spatula. Nice! And I like it so much I will probably subscribe again, which I guess was part of their plan to begin with. 

The May issue takes standard American classics and tweaks the recipes to make them a little healthier and a little more sustainable. I've already made mac and cheese that has a layer of sauteed Swiss chard in the middle. 

Chard is a side dish I would certainly serve with this dish, but I had never thought of sticking it there in the middle. Smart!

I also made Moroccan chicken with green olives and lemon from a different part of the magazine, the standard Fast Easy Fresh. I used boneless chicken breasts instead of a cut-up fryer and served it with steamed couscous and a green salad. This section has lots of great weeknight meal ideas.

And the sausage risotto with spring greens I made last night was delicious, with just enough sausage to prevent my husband from scanning the table and asking "Where's the meat?" (We eat meatless meals fairly often, but that doesn't stop him from looking for the meat.) I don't think I've ever cooked so many recipes out of a single issue of any magazine. Count me impressed.

But back to that smoked paprika . . . The steak recipe uses smoked paprika and salt as a dry rub before grilling. This produced as steak so delicious that it would have been wonderful without the sauce. I'm going to try this rub on chicken and pork now. I'll let you now how it is. 
In the meantime, go get your hands on some of this. It's also great on popcorn.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Sound Track to High School

A few weeks several of us in my noontime spin class were lamenting the sound track my pal, coworker, and spin teacher Cheryl had chosen. Who are those artists?? What are these songs?? They were from the 1990s. Not that it wasn't good spinning music, but the fact that the 20-somethings seemed to know all the words to songs we had never heard of had us feeling old. 

To plot our revenge, Cheryl, who is ten years younger than I, agreed to put together a 1978 mix, that being the year that one of our classmates who just celebrated his fiftieth graduated from high school. Back in the office, Cheryl consulted me, given my expertise with that time period as a 1980 high school graduate. Top 40 lists reveal that there was a ton of crap released that year: The Bee Gees, Debbie Boone, Donna Summers, and the Commodores were all big, and good groups like the Rollings Stones and Steely Dan released some really bad stuff. But that was not what we were listening to. 

High school may have been bad, but the music was good. Here, then, is part of my soundtrack and the mix for today's spin class:

David Bowie, Sound and Vision
Van Halen, Ain't Talkin bout Love
The Cars, Don't Cha Stop
Talking Heads, Take Me to the River
Led Zeppelin, Rock and roll
Cheap Trick, I Want You to Want Me 
Boston, Smokin'
Elvis Costello, Pump It Up
Blondie, Hanging on the Telephone
Devo, Uncontrollable Urge

And for our big finale hill climb, when everyone was probably expecting Stairway to Heaven (remember we already had a Led Zeppelin song), we killed them with  .  .  . Lynyrd Skynyrd's Freebird.

Cool down was to The Who's Squeezebox. I can't tell you how many hours my friends and I sat around stoned and discussed what is that song really about??? The answer is, of course, accordions.

I'm not saying this was the best or denying that there are not some notable omissions. I remember, for example, exactly what I was doing the first time I heard Steve Miller's Fly Like an Eagle, and the first concert I attended was the Pink Floyd Animals tour. Very important stuff, but a spin class is only so long. 

Cheryl and I knew people would either love it or hate it. Fortunately, since I attend this class three times a week, they loved it, and we got a nice round of applause at the end, including from people who were probably not born when some of these songs were recorded. Next up will be Cheryl's slightly different version of the same time period. She wants to include Foreigner (well, ok . . . ) and Toto (must she really???). I'm working on her to throw in The Outlaws'Green Grass and High Tides for the hill climb. Wouldn't that be excellent? It's got an extended guitar solo that I think is even better than Freebird's and of course some great stoner lyrics.

What's playing on the sound track to your high school years?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dear Ray,

Happy Earth Day.

May your dick shrivel up and fall off.

And may our raucous badminton games drive you crazy all summer.

No love,
The Figs

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

We hate our neighbor Ray

There he is, right down the hill from the back of our house.

Can you see him? He is sitting at his computer typing threatening letters to us that address me as "Mrs. Husband's-Last-Name," which is never a good way to start things with me.

What is Neighbor Ray's problem? He is old and crabby, and more specifically, he wants a large Monterey pine on the property line that runs between us cut down. He claims he is worried it might fall on his house, which is unlikely because it leans up the hill, which means it would more likely fall on us. What he really objects to is the fact that the tree sheds needles and cones that clog his rain gutters and that he has to sweep from his porch. To which I say "Dude, you live in a WOODED NEIGHBORHOOD. If you don't want to deal with those things, move to SCOTSDALE" where I understand this is not a problem.

Ray pestered us about this tree a few years ago. He wanted to have it removed and wanted us to pay half. No, we said. We will pay half to have it trimmed. Ray did not answer.

A year goes by. Ray's wife calls to complain about the archery range we have installed in the pocket park next door to him. Children could be hurt! [More to her point] We can see it from our house!! Fuck you, we essentially said. My daughter shoots only under adult supervision, and we don't care if you can see our hay bale stack from your dining room window. The homeowners association generously backed us up on this, noting that it was an excellent use of common space. We've now added tubes into which we can insert the poles for our badminton set, which I'm sure they like even less. All that laughing and noise.

Another year goes by. Ray still wants the tree down. This time he is willing to pay for the entire thing. Makes litigious noises. The tree is coming down this afternoon. 

It's probably the right thing to do. The tree is near the end of its life cycle and would need to come down within the next ten years anyway. This gets the job done at no expense to the Figs and at considerable expense Ray. But we're unhappy being pushed. 

And we're sad. Although it is a scrappy, unattractive tree, it's part of our yard ecosystem and a living thing. I went out early this morning to say goodbye. And sorry. When I get home this afternoon, it will probably be gone. 

The only thing that would make me happy now is if by some freak accident during the removal, the tree came down on Ray's house, narrowly missing Ray himself. Very narrowly. Just think of the sweeping that would entail. 

Monday, April 20, 2009


as in I DO NOT GIVE A RIP that my pal Jen just got an enormous dump of spring snow. When we are unpacking and storing the contents of our ski duffle bags and packing up the sticks. We are not even remotely phased by the fact that Husband returned Sophie's season rental package yesterday. Nosiree.

Because we have fresh English peas at my produce market.

And nothing calms me down more than shelling peas. 

And did I mention that we have beautiful French radishes, crisp fennel, and tiny baby carrots that are almost too cute to eat? She probably doesn't have them, well at least not quite yet anyway.

And not that we're keeping score or anything, but we did enjoy my spring vegetable combo. of asparagus, snap peas, and English peas blanched quickly, sauteed in a little butter, and sprinkled with fresh mint. I'm just saying. 

But wait. I understand the snow is heavy and wet. And she's now waiting for it to melt and start mud season. Hmm. We don't have that here. 

There's a point here somewhere, but I'm too fried to find it. I spent almost my entire weekend working on our school auction, which is next Saturday: Logging bid items (don't you love the people who ignore the form where you list description and value and instead give you a big box of STUFF to sort through, write up, and price?), creating a catalog, making the bid sheets, and fielding questions and comments about food, set up, etc. Don't get me wrong: It's a really fun event, and I have a great group of people working with me, but the problem came into focus. It was a beautiful warm afternoon, and Sophie asked me if we could put on  our swimsuits and go to Lake Anza for the afternoon. It's about five minutes from our house, and the sound of people there laughing and shrieking drifts up the hills to our back patio. 

And I had to tell her no. I had to sit inside in front of a computer screen and finish the auction work. She understood, but I don't. Since when does work I do to benefit my kid (I'm the president of her school's P.T.A.-like group and am chairing our auction for the third year in a row) come at her expense? More often that it should have for the past three years. At the end of this school year, I am done. I term out as president, and while I'll be happy to make cupcakes and buckets of spaghetti sauce, I will take at least a year off from chairing anything. Time to refocus.

Who knew I would get to here from snow and English peas? I guess talking about what I care about. 

Friday, April 17, 2009

Easter with the Figs

So I'm a little behind on things in just getting my Easter post up, but as long as I get it in before the weekend, it's all good, right?

I delighted Husband by not having a big brunch and inviting everyone we know. He always enjoys these events but works himself into a big fuss beforehand. I had just finished taxes and am still working on our school auction and just lacked the energy to deal with either him or a big event. We had just a slightly fancier version of our regular Sunday dinner with the MIL, which I always enjoy.

We start off with appetizers and a fancy cocktail, a lemon drop martini this time—we've been working through a batch of my homemade limoncello and so have been drinking a lot of these on Sundays. Husband, Sophie, and the MIL play dominoes or cards at the kitchen table while I (who hates playing games) work on dinner.

I borrowed this clever idea with the radish from over here. If you ever need ideas or inspiration for table settings, this is the place to go.

We had roast rack of lamb, mint apple jelly, lemon roasted potatoes, and grilled asparagus, with rose geranium-white chocolate ice cream garnished with pine nut brittle for dessert.

These potatoes are a modification of an old Martha recipe. Her's are good; mine are better. They're very easy but take quite a lot of baking time, which can be a problem if you only have one oven. I always serve them with a main course that can be done on the grill.

8 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced into bite size
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons salt

Heat oven to 500 degrees. Combine ingredients in roasting pan large enough to hold potatoes in a single layer.  Toss to coat potatoes and bake, uncovered for nearly an hour. Halfway through baking, slide a metal spatula beneath potatoes to loosen from bottom of pan and turn for even browning. Do this several more times before potatoes finish baking. 
And in case you're wondering if the Figs have gone and found religion on Easter, rest assured it's not true. We celebrate Easter as a turning of the season, where we move from skiing and root vegetables to hiking and fava beans. Sophie did accompany the MIL to church in the morning, but we had a little talk about this first. I told her the traditional Easter story, which for me is one of the most problematic parts of Christianity. A birthday of a good person we want to remember is something I can be down with. I'm fine with repressive governments and prostitutes—these things really exist. Bodies disappearing, dead people coming back to life, gods in the air—not so much. I warned her "You know all that stuff they will be talking about at church—it's not true. Just like things in some of your books. They may be fun to read about and imagine, but they didn't really happen." "Right!" "But Grandma thinks the Easter stuff did happen, which is fine. You don't need to make a big point of the fact that we don't believe these things. It might make her feel badly." "I will just smile." "Good. Sometimes that's the right thing to do." 

But it's not like we don't believe in anything. In fact, we spend a good deal of time talking about what we do believe in. It's mostly love. We believe in love. And you don't need a god for that. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tax time: Ready, set, GO!

Not GO as in, let's go but as in my new tax preparer. Allow me to explain.

I've had good luck choosing professionals by their names. When I lived in Boston and had a job but no dental experience, I chose a dentist out of the phone book. Because it seemed the A's had an unfair advantage here, I decided to start with the W's, calling in groups of five until I found a price for teeth cleaning I thought I could afford. I was in luck and able to stop at Wong. Being new in town, I didn't realize until I found the office the day of my appointment that I was in Chinatown. No problem, I thought, although there was nothing in the waiting room I could read. But it turned out to be wonderful. Instead of berating me for insufficient flossing, this dentist raved on about the spectacular condition of my teeth and my marvelous orthodontic work.

So when I was perusing the H & R Block website for a tax preparer near me, I chose someone by their name alone: Mega Go. Who can resist that??? Actually, this is not really her name. I believe she is Indonesian, and her first name is something like Megawara. Her last name starts with Go and is then followed by about twelve syllables, so she shortened it: Mega Go. How practical!

Is she not the cutest thing ever? And even more so in person. She had on a jaunty little baseball cap and fancy jeans. She LOVES doing taxes. Crazy, no? Taxes make my tummy hurt and my head get all fuzzy. Which means paying Mega Go to do them for me is a good idea. 

We decided to retire our old tax person. He made me do too much work (about thirty pages of material I had to fill out). He was mean to us: He would yell at us for not having the right number of exemptions, but when we asked what they right number might be, he would go on and on million miles an hour, jumping from one seemingly irrelevant anecdote to the other, leaving Husband and I looking at each other and asking "Whaaaaaahhhhh??????" 

Mega Go is very clear in her communication. When I handed her the folder into which I had shoveled all our paper, she sorted through, noting "yes" (translation: "I can use that. Thank you.") or "no" (translation: "You have got to be kidding. Of course that is not a deductable expense." or "This is for the wrong tax year.").  She was not pleased with the material Husband had provided, all of which was in envelopes: "No envelopes. They are confusing." When I asked her about exemptions, she draws a picture of the form and marks it according to her instructions. As if we are total idiots. Which is clearly the case. She undoubtedly wonders how such morons can own a house, hold down jobs, and have such a nice investment portfolio. We do too. 

Mega Go is very strict with me. "Ceenthia. Mega. You come to my office right now." And I am in the car. I bring her more papers. I sign. I pay. I am very happy. I ask if Mega will be there next year. "I will always be here." And some how I believe this. 

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter candy: Not all Nerds

Although a lot of it is given that they're one of Sophie's favorite candies and I admit mine too. Have you ever had a Nerd Rope? They're just insane. Some of our candy is See's, which is a California tradition. I was amazed when I moved to the east for a while to realize the entire country does not have those black and white shops with chubby ladies who give you a free sample every time you buy anything.

I also made some pine nut brittle. I started out wanting something to garnish the white chocolate-rose geranium ice cream I made to take to my book group the other night. I always add a fresh sprig of rose geranium but wanted a little something else. Brittle sounded like a good idea, but I was out of peanuts or (my favorites) shelled pistachios.

But I had a big batch of pine nuts roasting on the stove for a batch of pesto I was making. There's something delicate and soft about pine nuts, and it turns out they made a lovely brittle.

It's important to cook the syrup mixture to 300 degrees. It takes a while, and the only way I know it figure out whether you're there yet is to use a candy thermometer.

A Silpat mat is perfect for this, but any buttered surface will do.


1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup toasted nuts—peanut, pistachio, or pine nut

Lightly butter a large baking sheet.

In a heavy saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt. Bring to a full boil. Cover and boil for two to three minutes. Uncover and without stirring, start testing for temperature.

When temperature reaches 300 degrees, remove from heat and add baking soda, vanilla, and nuts. Mixture will bubble and foam.

Pour mixture onto prepared baking sheet and spread in a thin layer with a buttered spatula or knife. Let cool for five minutes and then break into small pieces. Store in an airtight container for one week or in the refrigerator for one month.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

It's official: The Figs are crazy

And possibly financially irresponsible. To console ourselves over the end of our ski season, Husband logged onto the Squaw website this morning and signed up Sophie for next year's ski team and bought himself and me season passes. Among the reasons for this:

There was a pretty good special on the passes if you buy them before May11. Many thanks to the Naked Man in Travertine Hot Springs, a long-time Squaw employee, who alerted me to this. Apparently Squaw is celebrating opening 60 years ago and hosting the winter Olympics 50 years ago. Put another candle at the top of KT-22.

Husband has bitterly conceded that he has nothing left to teach Sophie (I realized this last year and got over it in about five minutes). He simply cannot get out of his mind she telling him that the only reason she skied behind him at Mammoth is that she did not know where she was going. Big of him to respond thusly after a week of moping, no? But he's right. It's time.

Another winter of neglecting our house? Living out of duffle bags? Not knowing if I'm coming or going? Skiing our asses off? Bring it on!

Does my husband work in the construction industry? Yes! Are we currently in a recession? Yes! Could he lose his job at any moment? Why, yes! Are we out of our ever-loving minds? Yes! But we sort of like it that way.

Spring break, continued: Ski sandwich duels

Ski sandwiches are serious business around the Fig house. We're too cheap to pay for lodge food, and besides, we think it is usually pretty bad. We bring our own lunch and then munch on it smugly while other skiers wait in half hour lines, spend $12 a person, and eat food of questionable quality and taste.

Last year this sandwich ruled the lunch bag. And we still like it. I banged out about twelve of them every day in our room for our group when we were at Alta earlier this year.

But this year it has some competition. Remember the little jars of stuff I made before our last ski trip? Using some of those items, here's what I made:

We've got sliced bread, one side spread with romesco sauce, the other with citrus tapanade. In between is roast beef, sliced avocados, and caramelized balsamic onions. YUM!

But one the way home, my sandwiches' butts were kicked by this place:

The Mountain View Barbeque was conveniently located in Walker, on Hwy. 395, not too far from Travertine Hot Springs.

You know a barbeque joint has promise when you see one of these out in front, along with a group of bikers.

Here's my pulled pork sandwich, along with homemade potato salad and a local pilsner. The pork was perfect: tender, lean, with sauce smoky, tangy, and not too sweet. If you were there for dinner, the ribs looked really good too.

But perhaps the most attractive thing to me is that I did not have to make it. Sometimes it's just good to be served, you know?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Spring break, continued: In which you
think Husband would know better

So here, in response to Sasha's request, is the story.

On our last day at Mammoth (we are slap happy and punch drunk on snow and sunshine), our friend Matt found us a lunch table that gave "ski-in" a whole new meaning. Sophie, in fact, kept her skis on through her entire lunch.

Once she finished eating, she had to use the restroom (she knows nothing annoys me more than having to make a pee stop after being back out after 20 minutes).

"I guess you'll have to take off those skis," I said, ever the voice of reason.

"I'll pay you twenty bucks if you go to the bathroom with your skis on!" says Husband, the doof. Sometimes I wonder if I am not traveling with Homer Simpson.

Off she went, on the skis. The restrooms were conveniently located just off the deck, so it's not like she had to tromp through a lodge. But still. I followed close behind, opening doors, excusing ourselves, and making sure we stayed out of people's way as much as possible. Reactions were mixed: Some people obviously thought we were complete idiots (me especially for allowing this ridiculous behavior), but others loved it, especially the guys at the outside bar, who wished Sophie well on the way in and gave her a rousing cheer of congratulations on the way out. Of course she had to announce to everyone "My dad is paying me twenty bucks!!"

I had the camera along to make sure she held up her end of the deal.

Back at the table, Husband was true to his word and paid up.

And someone now had sufficient cash to do a little shopping: stickers, a thermometer key chain, and a Mammoth charm bracelet that she has yet to take off. And I didn't have to pay for any of it.

Sometimes being a bad mom is really fun.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Spring break:
Slopes were steep, springs were hot

We're back from Sophie's spring break Sierra ski tour. Although we've been suffering enjoying almost summer-like weather in the bay area, we knew there was still snow in California. It was our mission to go in search of it. We loaded up our van with all the skis in our house and tons of food and set out last Wednesday morning.



First stop on the way down to Mammoth was Kirkwood, where there was big news. I kicked the butt of a run that seriously kicked my butt two years ago. That's right: I SKIED DOWN THE WALL. Twice, just to make sure it wasn't a fluke.

The Wall is ridiculously steep at the top (hence the name), and what is unusual is that there is only one way down from the lift that services it. Once you're on the lift, you are committed.

And hence, the sign, which two years ago I did not take seriously enough. It was not a good day on the top of The Wall, with humongous chunky mogels and way too many people. I totally lost my nerve and side-slipped down off the top at the least threatening spot, which was unfortunately right under the chair lift. Total humiliation and defeat.

But this year, it was mowed almost all the way up (amazing what they can do with a groomer at Kirkwood), and it was only the first turn off the very top that was hairy. Once past that, it was just ordinary steep stuff. I did it once. I did it twice. That was enough. I had three days at Mammoth ahead of me to think about.


This was my first trip to Mammoth as a person who knows how to ski, and all I can say is WOW. Actually I can say more than that, but still: WOW. What a mountain. It is like four Squaws put together!

Driving from Kirkwood at the end of the day to Mammoth was an easier drive than driving back home, and of course it was a much more beautiful one.

The eastern Sierras are amazing, and every time we visit I wonder why we don't spend more time there. Maybe the six hour drive?

Anywhoo, we had three great days of skiing, excepting the afternoon of the first day when wind shut down even most of the lower mountain. People at Mammoth take their wind very seriously. The gondola up to the top was down in the morning, but there was an hour or so window in the middle of the day, and we jumped right on to ride up and grab a few runs before it shut down again.

That night our friend Matt drove down to join us, and we did it again. And again. And again.

You can't tell because Sophie and I have our faces covered (it was pretty cold most of the time and especially at the summit), but we're smiling as much as Matt.

I was seriously pooped at the end of the last day as fatigue set in from chasing Husband and the Pink Rocket all over the mountain. I sort of miss the days when we would put Sophie in ski school in the morning, ski our asses off, and then pick her up and cruise in the afternoon with her. These days she is right on Husband's tail the entire time, and I feel like we hammer the entire day.


One thing we love in the eastern Sierras are the nearby wild hot springs.

After skiing, the ones in the Owens Valley were a quick drive away.

This one was nice but not hot enough. The next one we tried was a perfect temperature but too exposed to the howling wind and filled with naked hippies. You should appreciate I am not including pictures.


We three finally found one that was just right.

Crowley's had a nice boardwalk out to it, was out of the wind, a good temperature (could have been a little hotter), and large enough to accommodate the three of us and a few twenty-somethings on their spring break from culinary school.

We came back here a couple days later with our friend Matt.


We stopped at Travertine Hot Springs on our way home. Husband and Matt had been here before, but every time I've been in the area it's been too hot to consider soaking in hot water in the direct sun. On a winter afternoon though it was perfect.

Coming up soon: How Sophie won a $20 bet with her dad, a really great ski sandwich, and truly amazing barbecue in Walker.

Now that I'm sort of caught up here, it's time to get caught up on a little blog reading. Anyone have a baby while I was gone???