Saturday, May 30, 2009

We like to work

We're sitting here in fog as thick as soup but still smiling about trip last weekend to Berkeley Tuolemne Camp for their annual Memorial Day work weekend. It's a good deal: they put you up and feed you for free, you work your ass off. A few years ago I wised up and realized that helping sew camp costumes is easier and more fun that mopping the rec. hall and scrubbing bathrooms filled with mud from the winter. And I get free sewing lessons from an amazingly talented and very patient sewing genius.

Last we huddled in in jackets and hats as we sewed next to screened windows separating us from wind and rain. This year we had the most pleasant sweat shop ever.

Husband put his former professional skills to work repairing cabins. These days his most-used tool is the cell phone; I know he misses using the real ones.

We love our time in August with all our friends when camp is a frenzy of activity (most of which I do my best to avoid save cocktail hour on Lower Beach), but we also like the calm of this weekend when camp is comparatively empty and quiet.

The boards damming up the swimming hole are not yet up, so the river is higher, roaring beneath the bridge.

One of my favorite things are the flowering dogwoods throughout camp. By August, they're long gone and the favorites are the fragrant sugar pines.

On the morning the last day we always take time for a hike up to Small Falls.

We saw more spring flowers up there,

including this wild azalea, which we had been told about earlier in the weekend by a fellow camper. We almost missed it on the trail when I remarked on an amazing smell, and there it was.

As usual, Sophie hiked ahead on the trail, nimbly skipping over boulders that we hauled ourselves over with our bad knees and messed up shoulders. She was thrilled to make it to the top of Small Falls

until she realized that, having jumped down from a rock to get to where she was, she could not go back the same way. Water was deep and fast around where she was standing—she was stuck! But because of the roar of the falls, we couldn't hear her shouting to explain this to us. Husband took the line that she got herself in, she should get herself out. I have to admit, it's a strategy we've both agreed works will for raising an independent capable kid. After five long minutes, which included me near tears and begging Husband to go help her, we agreed some intervention was necessary.

Husband hiked up, saw the situation, and wedged a log from the rock on which she was standing to the bank that she could hold onto to make her way through the waist-deep water to where he was standing. In between there was much shouting, wild Italian hand gesturing, and eventually tears. When Husband was done with the rescue, he pushed the log over the falls. From where I was sitting down below, I counted to see how many second before it surface. And . . . it didn't. Imagine if. No, don't. She's fine and I think learned a valuable lesson.

Until August!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

My husband is having babies

So I know I said I was going to post about flowering dogwoods and good stuff like that, but half the pictures are on Husband's camera, which I have yet to pry out of his hands. Suffice it to say in the meantime though that Sophie did not go over a waterfall, although for a while she was in serious danger of doing so. And although the falls are named Small Falls, trust me, they are big enough. She suffered only a pair of soaked shorts and a stern (and loud) lecture from Husband about looking and thinking before she leaps.

So we will have to settle for a picture of . . . The Figs' new kittens!!!

No, they're not all ours, and in fact none of them are just yet. But we have been approved as an "ideal home and family" for one of these kittens by the breeder, thanks to my excellent letter in which I detailed our cat history and habits. Crazy that these kittens cost $700 (!!!!!) and you have to persuade them to sell you one. But I appreciate that these people are not running a cat factory and are truly interested in good placements for their kittens. Even crazier that we are thinking of getting TWO (you do the math).

And yes, I said breeder, which has been a difficult pill for me to swallow, having always been a rescue cat type of gal. But Husband has always wanted an Ocicat, a breed developed from a Siamese/Abyssinian mix, remarkable for their spots and big bat-like ears. And if you had seen him sobbing out in the driving rain while jackhammering a grave for his beloved Zeus last year, you would want him to have one too. He has printed off this picture and keeps taking it out to smile at it and exclaim "Look at them!!!" If he were this excited about Sophie, I do not remember it.

Stay tuned for news later in the summer about two new spotted Figs. I want to name one Ricky.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

We are unhappy at Figs

We take a break here at Figs from cute shoes, good things to eat, and nice things happening in the life of the Fig family in California to bring you this message.

We love love, but we do not love hate, intolerance, or discrimination. We do not even like them.

If you do not like gay marriage, don't marry someone of your own sex. OK? But don't deny someone else the right to do so.

The California Supreme Court got it wrong today. Who cares that "the people have spoken" when the people are wrong? It's not as if people in the south would have voted to integrate schools or share their drinking fountains. 

Fasten your seat belts. It may take us a while, but California will follow Maine, Vermont, and Iowa (since when does California follow Iowa???)  and do the right thing.

You can support the civil rights issue of our generation by sporting one of these bumper stickers on your car for FREE by ordering one here.

Thank you. We will return to our regular programming featuring flowering dogwoods, outdoor stone showers, and Sophie nearly going over a waterfall soon.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Another sign of spring

I'll keep it short this time (you're welcome).

I got these really cute shoes in my favorite color at Target the other day.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I almost bought the sauce

Really. Not hit the sauce but bought the sauce. There's a difference.

Is it just the end of the school year that leaves me so mentally and physically tired? And crabby? And bitter?

To help with this diagnosis, wrap your mind around this.

Tomorrow night is Open House and the Science Fair. Our PTAish group, of which I am (for a few more weeks!!!) president, is hosting a spaghetti dinner beforehand. We give families a chance to sit down and enjoy a home-cooked dinner together without having to cook (or clean up, for that matter); families who commute fairly sizable distances (there are lots, including the Figs) can meet their kids out at school for dinner without having to pick them up, drive home or out to a restaurant, and then hoof it back to school in time; and we make a little money for the school (heard about California's budget problems???).

We've done this a couple of times a year for the past three years. It's not brain surgery. I go into my usual do-it mode and send out an email announcement; print up signs; make a crap-load of meat sauce; and pre-cook pasta. I have a volunteer on board to make pesto and another to make garlic bread. Tomorrow on my way out to school in the afternoon (it's also my carpool drive in the morning) I will pick up frozen lemonade and half-and-half. When I arrive at school, I will make coffee; put on the water for tea; mix up the lemonade; locate and set up dishes, mugs, cups, napkins; warm up the sauce; put on water for the pasta; and set up chairs and tables. I will most likely be there there by myself. If I'm lucky, the principal will give me a hand. I do have a parent (who helps with everything) to help serve. People will no doubt step in to lend a hand collecting money, washing dishes, etc., but no one else has answered my call for set up, serving, or clean up. OR MARINARA SAUCE, goddamn it, until just this afternoon. The woman who offered to pick up a jar of bottled sauce from CostCo has no idea of the lifeline she threw me.

Of course it's the end of the year, and everyone is busy. But like I'm not??? My 3/4-time job is bleeding over to full-time as we scramble for strategies to cover work that will be left by coworkers whose contracts will not be renewed in a few months. My sister and her family of five will be here for dinner on Friday. Early Saturday morning we are leaving for the mountains. I am not sitting around on my ass.

I should delegate more, I'm told. Really? How? I don't know what else to say than "We need help in these areas. Please let us know if you can lend a hand."

But I'm drawing boundaries, if only for myself. My instinct when I checked my email this morning to find that no one was stepping forward on the marinara was (I'm embarrassed to admit) to whip up a homemade batch myself tonight. But I came to my senses and decided to buy some. And came then the volunteer who offered to buy it.

I'm looking forward putting energy where it is more needed and deserved: my work and, of course, my own family. Things are changing so quickly at my job, in ways that while sometimes painful are exciting and long overdue as well. I want to step off the mom track and back in. I have ideas and energy that I'm looking forward to putting back into the job that has given me so much but at which I've been mostly coasting since becoming a mother. I will continue to make spaghetti sauce but for my family and friends only.

Coming up next: Electrical appliances in the Fig kitchen conspire to crap out at the same time. Can a stick blender take the place of all of them? Tune in to see.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

And the Oscar goes to . . .

Sophie! And I get a runner up award. We were playing the roles of two old ladies who were THRILLED to be going to the symphony. We thought the performance was just MARVELOUS, the afternoon DELIGHTFUL. When actually we were bored out of our ever-loving minds, enduring the event only because we had a large bag of Skittles and gave each other massages on body parts we could reach from our seats.

The MIL had procured for us seats to see the SF Symphony's Youth Orchestra, with the idea that because Sophie plays the violin, she would be interested in other children playing the instruments. Not necessarily so, especially when the children are teenagers who are virtually indistinguishable from adults and playing symphonic music a quarter mile away.

After our last chamber music debacle, Sophie understandably wailed "WHHHYYYY do I have to go to something like this again???" Because, I explained, I have totally failed you as a parent and neglected to look out for your best interest [and mine] when your grandmother asked me six months ago if I thought you would enjoy this performance. When I asked the MIL if she thought this would be a performance geared toward kids, she replied "Of course! There are children IN IT!" Because I am an idiot, I took this at face value and failed to investigate further, which would have revealed that this performance was recommended for children twelve and over because even though it was a performance BY children, it was essentially a performance FOR adults.

I came up with the brilliant idea of using this as an acting exercise. "Remember how when you were learning to eat in restaurants we would pretend we were two polite ladies going out for lunch? Let's switch things up a bit." I then proceeded to blow all my general nutrition standards, stopping at 711 on the way to pick up the MIL to stock up on candy ("Anything you want, honey!") and buying her potato chips (for $3 a bag!!) at intermission.

Anything to help her through it. After all, we were partners in this ordeal. But although it was not completely horrible, it did give me lots of time to reflect on the situation. 

We like music. We like classical music. Sophie is perfectly satisfied for me to flip the radio between NPR and the classical station most of the time we are in the car. She enjoyed being in the SF Opera and does not mind my playing our cd of Thomas Hampson singing Verdi arias endlessly; she knows which two are from Macbeth and what she was doing either on stage or backstage when they were playing. We both enjoy ballet. But you know what? 

We hate the symphony. Both of us. Hate it. 

We like music when there is something beside just music: acting, scenery, spectacle (opera) or dance (ballet). And maybe part of it is that the music we heard at the symphony was just not "our music." Feeling the need for a little of this, I cranked the radio on the way home when a live version of Freebird came on. "This," I explained, "was a very important song when I was a teenager." It still is, sort of an anthem to a certain time. After a few verses, I could hear Sophie singing along "I'm as free as a bird now. And this bird you cannot change. . . . Lord, help me I can't cha-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-nge." When we pulled up in front of the house, she climbed up into the front seat to hear out the rest of the extended jam, dancing in our seats, playing the air drums—getting out all our yayas from the day. The contrast between this music you could participate in with your body and the music we had listened to earlier that day sitting on on asses with purses in our laps, audience members snoring softly around us, was immeasurable. I know the MIL is vastly impressed by and enjoys the symphony, but does she ever get off on it the way Sophie and I did to Freebird while dancing in our car?

Walking in the house, Sophie wanted to know if we could go see the band that plays that song. I told her about the summer I missed seeing Lynyrd Skynyrd in concert because we were on a family vacation. Before they could tour again, their plane went down in flames, and that was the end of Lynyrd Skynyrd. So no, I couldn't take her to that concert, although god, what I would give to be able to. Can I put the song on her iPod? "I've just got to have it." Absolutely. I can do that. 

Turn it up.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Go ahead and guess

Look what Sophie and I found at our produce market the other day.

What do you think they are? We would not have known if there had not been a sign.

They're not only cute, they're fun!

The shell is crisp, sort of fuzzy, and filled with air in addition to the surprise inside. Give up?

Fresh garbanzo beans! Before they shell them, dry them out, rehydrate them, and imprison them in a can. Who knew??

I thought they would be good gently steamed, but Sophie and I discovered while waiting in line that they are wonderful raw and taste kind of like a very fresh raw pea. And cracking open their little shells to pop out and eat a bean is about as addictive as pistachios.

I enjoyed a little bowl of them on my desk yesterday, but they also made a nice addition to my cold rice noodles.

If you ever see some, grab yourself a bag! Or come sit at my kitchen table where I'll give you a bowl of some and a glass of iced tea.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I like to laugh at stupid things

One of the advantages of being home with a sick child is that I get to watch the extended version of the morning news, where they venture beyond weather (a source of near obsession in our house) , stocks, and traffic to . . . well, it's hard to call it news. Entertainment? Hell, yes.

This morning Donald Trump takes to the airways to straighten out everyone about Miss California's racy pics! You didn't think for a minute I would let this one go by, did you?

The Donald reports that he has reviewed the photographs. Very carefully! They are acceptable! They are fine! In many cases lovely!! And you know what really killed me? NO ONE WAS LAUGHING. How on earth is that possible? I was wiping tears from my eyes.

Thank you, Donald!

Next up, a few words from Carrie! Honestly, I haven't had this much fun since Sarah Palin. Clad in matching purple blouse and eyeshadow (LOTS of it), she commends Trump for defending her. Fine, not that there wasn't more than a little self-interest involved here. Next she moved on to "thank God." Right on. As if God took out time from his concern over Darfur to ensure that Carrie Prejean lives another day in the media to support "opposite marriage." Honestly, I've been cracking up ever since I heard that term. But you know, she may have a point. I once dated someone strangers thought was my brother. It did not work out. I married someone from a completely different gene pool who is in background and temperament nearly my polar opposite. Opposite marriage, you see. At eleven years, it's going just swimmingly. I had lunch with my high school homecoming date when I was home for Christmas, and he also married an opposite. Whereas my friend is a blond southern California boy, his husband is dark and foreign. They are both ridiculously handsome, but I'm sure it's the opposite business that makes it work for them.

Honestly, it's nearly been too much for me. Opposite marriage. Biblical correctness. Windy photoshoots.

But I wasn't laughing when I read that the California pageant paid for her breast implants because they wanted her to have confidence. Jeez. That just makes me sad. What a message to give to young girls.

Should she keep her crown? She shouldn't have had it in the first place. No one should. These pageants should not exist. Shut them down. After all, as The Donald pointed out, this is the twenty-first century. Haven't we come further than this?

Be careful what you wish for

Remember how on Mothers' Day all I wanted was to spend time with my kid? Wish granted!

We've had LOTS of together time, starting Monday, when we spent all day


The MIL finally turned over Sophie Sunday afternoon—sick, with sharp stomach pains. Of course Husband and I thought it was from her lunch the previous day at Carrows, an assault to good taste if not general health. When Sophie declined even my brown butter raspberry tart (seriously delicious—you should try this), we knew we had a situation. A phone conference with the doctor on call persuaded us to wait until the next morning to bring her in, provided her fever did not spike or her pain become more severe. Once in, the doctors became suspicious of her appendix (as I had all along) and sent us over to Children's Hospital in Oakland.

I explained to Sophie how lucky we are to live so close to such a wonderful facility. Some kids travel a long way to come to this hospital. We had fun listing all the things that make living in the SF bay area so great—the bay, the mountains, Monterey Market, Chez Panisse, and Ifshin Violins. I'm glad to know she appreciates these things. And she might add Childrens Hospital to the list. In spite of how badly she felt, she had an excellent time. The people were nice, the wheelchair fun, the room they put us in interesting, and the no-skid booties (which most people hate) quite satisfactory. All this admiration was brought to an abrupt halt though when they inserted the I.V. No tears (she's not a big crier), but she did wail "I do not like it! I do not like it!" Later, she explained that she liked everything except the pokey part and the waity part. Me too.

After an entire day that included blood work, and ultrasound, and a CT scan, it was determined that there is nothing wrong with her appendix and that she is suffering from an acute intestinal virus. The next morning she added a sore throat and cough, so we're now in flu mode.

Sophie is here on the couch, reading.

I am mostly here, at the dining room table, working. See the manuscript? That means I'm working!

Except for when I'm disassembling and scrubbing the grease and grime from my pot rack. Seriously, it was starting to grow hair.

Or cleaning out our overflowing magazine racks and bundling up three years of Highlights to take to a homeless shelter.

Or making split pea soup out of the Mothers' Day ham bone.

Amazing how productive I can be at home with I should be doing something else. Remember how clean your dorm room was during finals? Kind of like that.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Obviously I got married on the wrong day

Thank goodness I married the right guy. But you know the problem of having your birthday too close to Christmas? People can only handle so much celebrating, and given the choice, they of course choose Christmas. This year our anniversary came the day before Mothers' Day. So not only am I faced with the usual dilemma in my house of Mothers' Day being a celebration of my mother-in-law, but this year I am also deprived of my child on a day she should be celebrating me. Because she is . . . get ready for this . . . with my mother-in-law! How did this happen? By the MIL trying to help but, as usual, not thinking things through quite all the way before making plans. And not consulting me or realizing that as a working mom I actually want to spend time with my child on the weekend.

The MIL bought tickets for she, Sophie, and I to attend an all-Mozart performance yesterday afternoon at which she claimed "children will be performing!!" There were, if you count a few teenagers who were virtually indistinguishable from the adults. Poor Sophie. What the MIL thought was a "marvelous!!!" performance was interesting for about 20 minutes. The rest she spent with her head in my lap receiving the best scalp, ear, and neck massage I could dish out. She was a good sport about it.

The MIL then took her for the rest of the day and an overnight, so Husband and I could go out to a nice dinner at one of our favorite restaurants.Poor Sophie again: The MIL kicked it off with lunch at Carrow's, a place Sophie wisely recognizes as having "very bad food."

Fast forward to Sunday, MOTHERS' DAY, and where is Sophie? At church with the MIL, serving as an usher because the MIL couldn't find anyone else to greet and hand programs to the eighteen or so members of the congregation. On a bad day, I see a vast religious conspiracy, but then I remind myself that the MIL does not realize she is potentially subverting our personal beliefs because she does not realize that we are not a Christian family. Not that there's anything wrong with being that; we're just not.

Husband and I spent a quiet (not really in a good way) morning cleaning out the garage, and now he is driving across town to secure what I really want for Mothers' Day, my girl. Later this afternoon, he will drive back over to bring the MIL over for her Mothers' Day dinner. We're having ham, because as Husband observes "Old people love ham." And Trader Joe's has a knock off of Honeybaked Hams that is pretty good and need only to be removed from the fridge and unwrapped. Truly, the excitement never ends around here.

I hope all my mom friends are having a good day. Enjoying breakfast in bed? A fancy brunch? A spa treatment? Just because I can't doesn't mean I don't want you to.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

It really is spring: The beans are out

It's true: The skis have been put away, and I'm tired of roasted root vegetables. Good thing the fava beans showed up at my produce market this week!

I know they're time consuming to prepare, but I like all the steps. They really bring home what the slow food movement is all about.

Shell, blanch.

Cool in an ice water bath.Peel. If you pinch off one end of the skin and squeeze, the bright beautiful bean pops right out. The tiny beans can be eaten skin and all.

One of my favorite spring appetizers is this fava bean crostini. I toss the prepared fava beans with spring leeks that have been sauteed in a little butter (I don't put the favas in the saute—the blanching cooks them enough and this keeps them greener). I place a slice of soft goat brie on a baguette baguette slice and top with this mixture and a sprinkle of salt.

One of the kids at Sophie's school, quickly coming up on the sullen teen years, recalls one of his best early school memories as laying on his back in the school garden with a friend and feasting on fresh raw favas. Sophie has planted some in her backyard garden, and when they're ready, we might have to give this try. 

In the meantime, it's shell, blanch, cool, peel. 

While I was gone:
Updates on the fem-hi scene

Did you know that's what people who stock grocery stores call the feminine hygiene section? Fem-hi. A friend of my brother once shared that gem, and I've never walked past this section without thinking of it since. Although for the past five years, I have just walked by. . . . Nothing for me to buy there. And instead of rejoicing over money saved and physical discomfort spared, I've looked wistfully. Those were products I should have been buying had not a five-year course of tamoxifen following breast cancer not slammed me into a chemically induced premature menopause. My oncologist said that given my age (46), there was a good chance that after concluding my five-year tamoxifen course, that was where I would stay. So I cleaned out the bathroom cabinet and gave away almost all the fem-hi products (I kept a few in the name of being a good hostess). Even if my period did return, I couldn't bear to look at them for five years. I wheeled my cart around that section of the grocery store the way I do for potato chips. It's best just not to think about some things. I finished my tamoxifen course a few months ago and have been living with the fact that I'm still in menopause. But, hey—I'm living, right? 

The other night I went to bed achy, wondering whether I was showing early signs of pork flu or just the spring bug that has been going around. I dreamt I was pregnant and going into labor. I woke up in the middle of the night sad that it was a dream and I wasn't having another baby. I woke up in the morning and . . . guess what? My body seems to have turned back the chemical clock and returned me to where I should be. It's not like nothing ever happened. You can't look at my breasts without noticing the seven inch scar and thinking "one of these things is not like the other." But it's a piece of putting me back together. 

So I went to the drug store between my office and gym yesterday to reinvest in some fem-hi. Do you know they moved that section from where it was five years ago?? It took me ten minutes of checking every aisle before I found it. And when I did . . . WTF? Pearls???

I like pearls as much as the next person, but . . . down there?? On further investigation I learned that these are the plastic-applicator models. Plastic??? Haven't we learned that plastic is bad for the environment??? What's wrong with the cardboard applicators I used five years ago? I thought we had become smarter in the past five years in terms of environmental care, not more ignorant. It took me several minutes of searching the shelf to find the cardboard ones, of which they still had a few boxes. But if the stocking of this store is any indication of consumer trends, they'd better start digging the land fill pits deeper and wider. 

But overall, I'm happy about all this. Now when friends complain about getting their period instead of thinking they have no idea how fortunate they really are, I can maybe say "Yeah, me too—isn't that great??" Not that I'm enjoying the overlap of hot flashes and cramps, but I'm not complaining either. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Holy caloric intake!

Sometimes the best recipes are the result of a happy accident. Here's what happened recently at our house:

I wanted to thank the lovely friend of my parents who loaned us her condo. in Mammoth for some spring break skiing. She is in the process of losing both her vision and cognitive functioning and is living at home only with significant assistance. My mom said she would probably appreciate some home-baked cookies—much better than the generic arrangement of flowers. I baked her a batch of our family favorite ginger snaps.

But before I could ice them and send them out, my life intervened in the form of our school auction and the cookies sat in a plastic container. And sat. And sat. Until they could have broken off a tooth. Obviously I could not send these as a gift, and even my own family wouldn't eat them. I almost tossed them but decided instead to send them on a little trip through the food processor. After all, they were hard as rocks but not stale. I would freeze the crumbs, and surely I would find something to do with them before long.

They sat in the freezer for a single day before an inspiration struck me. I offered in our school auction four seasons of pies, in other words a pie a season for a year. Thank goodness our carpool family around the corner won this item for the third year in a row, saving me from having to drive pies across town. Carpool Boy, who has put himself in charge of selecting the pies, put in for a banana cream (too late for pumpkin or really good apples and too early for berries or stone fruit, I told him). Fine. Bananas and vanilla, the main flavors of the chosen pie, are some of my favorites. But isn't this pie sometimes a little . . . bland? I know some recipes use a graham cracker crust, but I suffered through too many Sunday school snacks for this to be an option. Might a gingersnap crumb crust kick it up just a little??

Yes! And, in fact, I think cookies of almost any kind would work well here: chocolate chip, snickerdoodles, etc. And this is a much easier crust than the standard pie crust


2 cups cookie crumbs, ground well
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup mashed banana
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3 large egg yolks
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

5 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced

1 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the crust:
Preheat oven to 350 degree. Mix ingredients until moistened. Press into a 10-inch pie dish. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.
Bake crust until set, about 15 minutes. Cool completely.

For the filling:
Whisk sugar, cornstarch, and salt in heavy medium saucepan.Whisk in whipping cream and whole milk, then egg yolks. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add vanilla bean. Whisk over medium-high heat until custard thickens and boils, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat. Strain through a wire sieve into a medium bowl. Whisk in unsalted butter and vanilla extract. Discard vanilla bean. Refrigerate to cool completely, whisking occasionally, about 1 hour.

Stir custard to loosen, if necessary. Spread 1 cup custard over bottom of prepared crust. Top with half of sliced bananas, then 1 cup custard, covering bananas completely. Repeat layering with remaining bananas and remaining custard.

Combine topping ingredients in standing mixer and whip with balloon attachment to soft peaks. Spread over pie. Chill pie until filling is set and crust softens slightly, several hours and up to one day.

The hard part is leaving the cookies around long enough. . . . And yes, the condo. donor did receive a fresh batch. 

Monday, May 4, 2009

Meeting people you know

Sophie has always loved meeting new people, and when she was very young she would ask in anticipation of nearly any outing "Will I get to meet people I do not know??" You would think blog meet-ups would be like this, but they're not. As a wise blogger once observed, you're meeting people you do know. You know what they think, how they write, what they do, and usually what they look like.

On Friday I got to meet two people I have known for a while in the blogosphere, Kerry and Lisagh! And, yes, they are as nice, funny, and charming as they are on-line. And gracious too! I offered to drive us over the Golden Gate bridge and up to Sonoma for lunch and wine tasting. I forgot to mention that my driving resembles Mr. Toad's more than anything else. Lisagh will probably never let me live this down, but they were both very good sports, if not entirely surprised and relieved that I delivered them back to their hotel in one piece. 

We started off the morning with detour to Muir Woods. And here's the picture no one probably thought they would ever see:

Lisagh the Tree Hugger! Lees, in case you did not know, does not like the out of doors. Crazy!!!!! But you can tell she is enjoying getting to know that redwood, can't you? Our trip there was brief because a light rain began to fall once we were a safe distance from the car without our umbrellas and because we had other fish to fry up in Sonoma.

After a stop for a glass of bubbly at Gloria Ferrer, we stopped by The Girl and the Fig, a Sonoma restaurant I have always wanted to try, for lunch.

It was just as I had hoped: charming without pretense, with delicious country French food. Just look at Kerry's Yukon gold potato soup:

Because we dallied so long in the woods and at lunch, we had time for only one winery after lunch, Buena Vista, allegedly the oldest winery in California. The rain made for a soggy trudge up the path to the tasting room, but it also chased away the crowds, and we had the tasting bar to ourselves for a very nice tasting that generously included several selections off the main tasting menu. 

Back in the city for dinner, we took the advice of one of Lisagh commentor's and headed for the bar at Michael Mina in the St. Francis hotel. Tres fancy, but they did not seem to mind that I was wearing jeans and hiking boots. Got to love that about San Francisco! 

We devoured two bowls of the black truffle popcorn and some of the lobster corn dogs (the first corn dog I have ever eaten), along with pomegranate cocktails that were truly amazing. 

My final dish was a lobster pot pie, which was served by a waitron who got down on his knees beside our low bar table to slice the top off the pie and spoon the contents over it on a plate. I have hardly ever had lobster since returning from the east to California (this being crab territory), so this was a particularly special treat. The brandied cream sauce and baby vegetables were a perfect complement to the sweet lobster meat, which although I know was not out-of-the-tank fresh was pretty damned good. 

But the best part of the meet-up was of course the conversation. How many times have you talked about blogging with nonbloggers and realized they . . . think you're kind of nuts? Between sights, sips, and tastes, we talked about why we do it, other people who do it (including several we wish had been there—you know who you are), and what it means to be part of a community of people, who like the three of us, would never otherwise cross paths. From our little screens, our lives are bigger and better for it.