Monday, December 31, 2007


Yes, we're all well now, thanks for asking. And even though much of December felt like a wash, sometimes a beautiful cocktail is just what the doctor ordered to get back into the spirit of things. With that in mind, I share the following treasured holiday libation.


Rim your martini glass with a mixture of sugar and finely microplaned orange zest.

Fill a cocktail shaker half-way with ice and mix together the following:
1 part vodka
1/2 part triple sec
2 parts pomegranate juice

Shake well, strain into your prepared glass and garnish with a few fresh pomegranate seeds.

Like a vamped-up lipstick on pale, wintery skin, this bold ruby cocktail packs some va va voom for the holidays. And speaking of holidays, I hope you all had a nice one and may your new year be filled with great things.

Mostly I'm praying for peace.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Nice to know that this holiday season we've already received a special gift that's been so popular, it's gone around the whole household. No need to wrap it, stuff it, or make a card. You know when you get it.

Like a great game of tag-you're-it, it spreads it's presence to anyone who'll come close. First my daughter had it, then my husband, and now I have it. Perfect timing too, the week leading up to Xmas. Not like there's anything to do around here but play nurse-maid to sick people. Or lose entire days of precious time in a cold sweat or draped around the bathroom floor.


Hopefully we'll all be well enough for saltine pie on Christmas day, because lord knows there won't be a roast. And we can skip the eggnog. Gatorade cocktails anyone?

On the upside, we aren't traveling the ice-storms this year AND we've already met our New Year's weight-loss resolution. The cleanse just came a little bit early this year. With any luck, we'll all be well by Christmas morning, fingers crossed.

Happy Holidays and be well! You can never underestimate the gift of health.

And by all means, don't get the gift we got!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Did You Know?



If you're smart, you're doing online gift-giving in order to avoid the crowds at the mall, or the narrow parking-less boutique-y streets, not to mention those massive post office lines this time of year. Congratulations. You're a smart cyber-shopper.

And if you're like me, you're also searching make and model #s, comparing online prices to get the best deal possible, not to mention tax-free, which in our 8.25% town adds up quickly.

But here's a quick tip t0 up your savvy. Did you know you can sniff out promotional codes for many online retailers, saving you anywhere from 10-30% off the top of an already good deal, or free shipping, or a free whatnot add-on item? You just have to look for 'em.

I just tested 3 different codes to see which would give me a better deal: $10 off $50 or more, 15% off, or free shipping on a weighty item. (I used two different promo codes on two separate orders from the same vendor to save the most money per purchase.)

Google the name of the site/vendor and the words "promotional code" and chances are you will be able to search through a plethora of deals. Grab the codes and go back and plug them into the vendor's check-out box, and voila, an even better deal. You gotta love that!

Happy hunting and Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Beauty Comes In Small Packages

5 Calla lilies: $3.29

3 Holly branches: $6.99

10 Ruby Red Tulips: $6.29

2 bouquets of holiday cheer all for about $16.....


Here's to an abundant and joyous holiday season!

(p.s. oops!...and a pomegranate. Sounds like it's about time to crack open those pomegranatinis, he he he...)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


It's day 3 in my sick bed, vise around my head, pain at my throat and chest, weaving in and out of delirium. Scenes fast forward and rewind in my brain as I wind in and out of consciousness. The only way to avoid the nausea is to curl up in the fetal position and ride out the wave. I awaken to discover hours have gone missing.

Life bubs along without me as I lie alternately sweaty and chilly in my bed listening to the sounds of the blithering vaporizer. Sometimes I swear I hear voices, music, streaming out of its chute.

I contemplate what it would look like to go missing, to pass on, what that might do to current tangents in my life. I contemplate my family, our home, the school I've devoted so much work on, the mess that is my office, the piles of plans I've made and evacuated. Pebble drops into water...rings reverberate outward, silently. Silently.

Hard to see it, my little pebble, except in the immediate sense of familiar obligation. Like I'm tethered because of them, otherwise I would let go. Release all.

I told my husband last week I couldn't sleep in because if I did, I would never wake up. But when I was mocking sleep, this wasn't exactly what I had in mind. My body, pushed pedal to the metal for months on end, has finally broken down. Enough. It's been years really, since I've had decent--what they call restorative--sleep.
I may never get out of bed.

Except the irony is, all this sleep is now being used to fight off the evil in my body, not the lost time, the deficit I've collected for years.

When I said I was going to take a soft retreat, take on no more obligations, this is hardly what I had in mind.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Top 5 Things I Miss Since Becoming A Mom

This question recently made the rounds on our online moms group. In the interest of being completely candid, I offer you the following uncensored mama bit:

1. I miss that raging do-me-right-now, in a chair, up-against-the-wall-of-a-building kind of sexuality I used to have. Now, sex is so intimately connected to the possibility of life, and death, and the knowledge of how all that changes everything, that that wild in my body God-given feminine power has somehow lessened and become tamed. Sorry, but it's true. Womanly hips and clogs have replaced my come-f-me pumps. The only kind of do me right now I feel is for a cocktail! Or a nap.

2. I miss the tautness of my abs, the firmness of my thighs, and my ability to feel fully dressed in a cut-off wife-beater, mini skirt and rocker boots. When did my Forever 21 days go Lands End! I also miss my perky little A-cups, and would trade in these C-pluses any day without regret.

3. I too miss feeling rested, or getting more than 5 hrs sleep/night. I miss rolling out of bed at 10:30 in the morning to leisurely sip my coffee in silence. I look in the mirror and wonder where the last 6 years went. I feel old and tired and could pack a lunch in the bags under my eyes.

4. Showers! OMG, what happened to showers? I used to always start my day with one. Now I'm lucky if I end my week with one! (Note: when several people ask you, "Hey, did you get your hair done?" and you reply "no, I just washed it," you might want to rethink that shower thing! This happened to me recently.)

5. I don't feel the need to qualify that I love my daughter intensely because that goes without saying, but I desperately miss my independence and having the responsibility be only to myself, my needs, and my work. Now I work when I should be sleeping since that seems to be the only quiet, uninterrupted time in the house.

Bonus round:
God, I miss silence!
Or living without a color-coded family schedule.
Or not having to hide things like Sharpies and gum and chocolates.
Or actually finding something where you last left it.
Or wearing nice jewelry without worrying it will be toyed with and broken.
Or making only one dinner, although I'm doing that more and more now.
Or talking on the phone for hours. OMG, what did we talk about?
I miss feeling no sense of civic responsibility, and the freedom to be as selfish as I want to be.

And sometimes, just sometimes, I even miss my naiveté…

What do you miss?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Peeling Back The Layers

Note: I discovered this one in the bottom of a mixed up folder of writing, something I was working on over the summer. It's a tough piece of writing, perhaps part of my endless mama book, perhaps just a snapshot in time. Although some of it feels dated, and at times desperate, I was amazed at how spot on it felt as a journey through the private inner landscape of balancing motherhood in my life. I invite you to linger, sit back, and enjoy the ride. -T

(insert gorgeous, thought-provoking photo here)

It's not as if anything ever really falls away. It's more like it's put aside, stuffed, buried under immediate obligations despite best intentions, as impassioned as they may be. And so, as the endless pile gets worked through, completed and released, unremembered things return once again to the surface in some ever shape-shifting dune of sand. Created. Released. Re-created. Does anything ever really leave us?

Peeling back the layers of sauce and cheese on some giant lasagne of my life, I come to the first slippery noodle: roadwork. Never-ending roadwork up ahead.

"Don't think so much. Allow it."

"All things, in the end, return."

"Nothing wasted."

Hard to see that point, especially after all the tedious hours, but perhaps it's true. I can never gain perspective at the time. Only afterward, looking through the prism of life, through the layers, the years, the experiences long dropped and almost forgotten, refracted in a gem-like view, multi-dimensional in retrospect, do things start to get clearer and make sense.

We are, each of us, gems, continually faceting, deepening, reflecting, and hopefully as a result, gaining even more sparkle with our growing depth. What disparate experience, skill, or relationship seemingly long-abandoned, will come back this time, never quite lost or fully buried?

I am so not-current at the moment. I am back-logged, drowned in forgotten moments. Oh, that'd be good to write about. Ooh, must document that!

As the sliver of time narrows increasingly, her needs above mine, I remind myself my time will come. Be present. Be here. It's the greatest gift a parent can give her child. The gift I didn't get. The gift I keep giving….and giving…

Still, as the waves of emotion tumble and crash upon my insides, I don't have the luxury to delve down in her presence. The bottomless sad pit. Can't afford it now. Got to keep a lid on it. Things are tight. Money, time, hands, resources. I am hungry, but I cannot eat.

Not yet.

"Soon. Soon," I tell myself.

(I've been telling myself that for years now.)

I can't complain. I have everything I need, though my wishlist is growing.

And I refuse to become one of those miserable women--fully staffed-out and shopping to appease the vaguely nagging cloud that feels like self-loathing, depression. You know the ones, the ones who cannot be grateful for so much abundance, the ones who have everything yet insist they have nothing, who cling desperately to pain instead of joy, who anxiety-ridden drain their swelled bank accounts on therapy and Botox, nannies and dogwalkers, power yoga and trainers and consumerism and glittery status social events.

I see these women everywhere in this town. I see these women around me and refuse to step into that pity-party, though at times I might like to. There's so much possibility all around me. So much to be grateful for. Always want to see the abundance, not the scarcity. Not the lack.

OK, I'll call a spade a spade.

We've been pretty broke here. Yet to what degree, I'm not certain. This town certainly gives off a warped perspective. It's hard to tell. We don't live in a war-torn country or in a shack with no running water. We're not fighting off diseases, clinging to our very survival.

We DO live in an expensive town with no health or retirement benefits except the ones you create for yourself. I guess we like it this way. Wouldn't choose anything else at the moment. But this brand of "freedom" comes with a hefty price tag. The stress of it all is slowly killing me. Not a sudden, "you're out!," but a slow, agonizing, drip by drip depletion met with surges of optimism and determination not to fall prey and secede.

Scanning the bullet points, I guess I've covered my goal of being a present, hands-on mom. Check.

I've defiantly dug in my heels, refusing to break up our family when things got dicey a bit back. That wave, thankfully, has crashed and rolled back out to sea.

I've given of myself to the preschool, the elementary school, the community when they've asked for allegiance, communion, sacrifice. Double, triple, quadruple check.

I've given to the cause. I'm a civically-minded individual…all for one and one for all and all that jazz…but sometimes at the expense of my self-preservation it seems.

I am anchored and solid, and learning to be patient. It's quite a hat trick, let me tell you. Sleight of hand, really, to still be here. My impression is that I've been here all along, and perhaps I have but it doesn't always feel like it. At times, though I'm right here, I too feel I've gone missing.

If anyone's still out there reading, checking in…thank you. I may not be as prolific as before, but I'm here. I'm still here…moving along, finding my way, though mostly it feels like I'm doggy-paddling in circles, trying to stay afloat, looking for shore.

So now what?

I'm pretty sure my child-bearing capabilities are over, or at least severely limited, though crazily I'd like to have one more despite the rocky terrain I've already traveled. My daughter's entering Kinder in the fall and she still feels like a baby to me. I know she's not. And I'm kidding myself about the other thing….so…

The camera slowly pans back to me and asks, now what? Who AM I? What can I do? What do I WANT to do? What's next?

I know I have to get paid. I have to bring in more income. And I know I can do it, I just can't make a choice how. This "stay-at-home" thing isn't me, literally and figuratively.

But I've given away the store for so long. I've side-stepped for so long. I've shape-shifted, delayed my creative impulses, plying myself instead with other gratification, (caffeine, cocktails, volunteerism for instance), in the name of "being the glue," the capable "I can handle it" one, that I am just FULL. And empty at the same time. Does that make sense? Is this the woman's place? To be empty-full, in some sacrificial, beautiful, zen-like way? Full of empty?

Who am I kidding!

I know I must move on from this place. I have high expectations for myself. I always do. I am exhausted yet demand full productivity. Results. Accomplishment. Must do, do, do.

It's stated in my survival manual: in order to feel fully activated, you must accomplish big things. Nothing minor. Big things. BIG, BIG things. Limits exist only in your mind and all that kind of BIG things. (Probably to mimic how small I actually feel.)

I've got this crazy post-feminist "I can bring home the bacon and mind the home store and be a present involved mother and throw down a gourmet meal while giving you a blow job on a daily basis" kind of womanly ideal to live up to. Oh yeah, while also maintaining my sparkling divinity and sense of inner-peace, never getting opinionated or "edgey," while staying downright youthful and thin. Yeah Ms. Over-achiever, let me get right on THAT.

I give myself 4 weeks of 4 days per week camp coverage to be creative and productive and finish my book (haha), which I haven't even started really, unless you count the years of scattered notes and half-thought-out pages, rejected outlines and snippets of thus. But it's all in here I insist, tapping my brain. Or is it here, in my heart? Or that 3-ring binder buried under "I love you Mommy" rainbows and crayon-scribbled flowers? I lived it, I know it, dammit. Doesn't that count for something?!

(The first week was spent unburying after a long absence. The 2nd week is nearly over, somehow. I just want to sleep. Vacate. Rejuvenate. But the 3rd week is looming so the pressure is on…)

I have been so productive, all along, but my bank account remains depleted. So does my inner gas tank. I've got to start charging for my labor, yet I've been giving it away for free. Now it's my turn to get paid. Work and get paid…what a concept... but really I just want to lie on a beach somewhere and sip mai tais, or mojitos, or margaritas, or martinis… (pretty much anything that's magnificent that's got alcohol and starts with an "m")… as I imagine my size 12 body the old 6 it used to be, with the chiseled abs and pretty little smile. Sigh.

I've never worked so hard in my life. Yet I FEEL LIKE I'M NOWHERE.

And why is it that every thing that I do feels so INVISIBLE?

I don't even know what the hell I'm doing, and if that's true, how can anyone else?

Bills glare at me from their untidy stack next to the disheveled receipt pile and medical bills that need attention. Damn insurance. With all those self-employed premiums we pay, couldn't they pay out something?

That snaps me back into focus...self-absorbed naval-gazer that I am, we're just lucky to still be parents for God's sake. How can I write about my mama angst when we could have lost her a few months back? (insert harrowing story of near-fatal accident.)

I adore her, my girl. She's my world. That's a good thing. Such a good thing. An amazing gift of creation she is, especially for me, for where I've come from, particularly for how many slings and arrows I've had to survive to get to her, to get to here.

And still….

For a time I have nothing to say. I am completely silenced. Leveled.

* * *

I realize I'm nothing if I'm not doing. I can bleed to death doing. I'm a no-boundary-aholic. I'm a helper, a doer looking for validation, it's as if my very existence depends upon it.

Quick, get me some "Nos," or better yet, if I'm going to work this hard then let me at least get paid for my work.

It's pathetic, this need to prove myself, this need to be useful, valuable, a problem-solver. This need to bleed for acceptance and love. Pathetic really. Transparent and pathetic.

So within this timeframe, knowing I'm setting myself up for failure, I tell myself, easy. Baby steps. It'll come, honey. Trust it'll come. You have everything you need. You have SO MUCH.

I do. I know I do.

I anchor myself down into the universe of abundance, abating another wave of fear in this crazy rollercoaster freelance life we've chosen.

I scan my choices, but my brain is limited. It can't see what it doesn't know. It's really not that helpful, the brain, after all.

Surrendering to something other, something higher, I wait to be shown.

This is where I am. This is me, right now. I surrender. Not where I want to be, but where I am. Open and willing to take on the next thing.

I know there have been moments. I've seen them. Brief glimpses down a path…

...and then, just as enthusiasm swells, anticipation running high, the immediacy of obligation thrusts its demands in my face like some party-crashing vibe-wrecker disturbing the vision, a stone smashed in the glassy smooth surface of water.

Fuck. Times up.

I feel the clock ticking. For her and for me.

I've already danced through half the keys on the piano, and you get less agile with age.

Wiser, but less agile.

The pressure is on.

Might be easier to just say, "I love you baby."

"I love you too Mommy."

And smiling and nodding, leave it at that.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Comfort Foods

(Note: another piece in my ongoing exploration of food as metaphor for life.)

There's something so comforting about certain foods. You know what they offer and they don't talk back to you. They're comforting in their kind of simplistic elegance. They reach us and feed us from the inside out.

A hot baked potato, or crusty bread slathered with butter for instance, with a sprinkling of good Celtic Sea Salt, ("goodie salt," as my daughter calls it), or a roasted Sunday chicken. It's so simple, yet so fulfilling when done right. It lends a kind of nourishment we long for at the soul level where everything is good and right and just.

Where some foods are fickle, requiring constant fussing and coaxing and maintenance, comfort foods are tolerant and forgiving, reliable as your ratty old pair of slippers tossed halfway under the bed. Left on the stove abandoned, they continue to gather flavor in their ever-inviting way, like a pot of simmering marina or a vat of chicken noodle soup.

Foods that go well together such as tomato and basil, balsamic and arugula, peanut butter and jelly, or lime and tequila, are like best friends, lovers even in their rightness, their togetherness. You can try mixing it up, do your best creative voodoo, a do-si-do shuffle out of shear boredom alone, but when you return them together, you are reminded of just how well they fit in that effortless way, the way you hope to one day fit with your own mate.

Some foods such as pasta take on an "I'll get along with anybody" approach, while others such as turkey and stuffing, apple pie and vanilla ice cream, are classic relationships we rely on time after time. Either way, I find solace and comfort in the predictability of certain foods and what they can offer…a deep connection to somewhere safe, somewhere nurturing, somewhere loved.

I took some green apples, turning and fingering them in my hands, considering their fate….big fat chunks, dotted with raisins, encased in the duality of an upstairs-downstairs house of pie dough. It would have been a classic, a nod to earlier, simpler times: thick, doughy, drippy pie, overstuffed and homey, (well, not my home but somebody's home nonetheless), and entirely comforting. Nothing wrong with that.

Yet today I wanted a special kind of comfort. I wanted to go farther.

My leanings went French, refined, a spiral of beauty, the apples lovingly roasted in cinnamon-sugar until caramelized in their own juices, then hand-mashed and slid onto the toasty golden deck of a buttery pâte sablé tart dough...

...then adorned only with more of itself: paper-thin petals of apple, a perfect spiral, drizzled in melted butter and dusted with a light snowfall of sugar crystals.

Baked off to define her edges, there she was in all her green apple glory. Tart yet sweet, simple yet sublime, open to the heavens yet pulling you into the pure heart of her: the apple elevated to art. True to, yet transcendent of, her original nature.

There is something quite fragile yet sublime about the immediacy of the consumption of food. It's a transient, disposable art form, easily dismissed as irrelevant and unimportant, perfunctory in fulfilling its task to placate hunger, or worse, something to be deliberately ignored or denied as we strive for an impossibly thin silhouette.

"Feed me," we ask, "I am hungry, I am longing, I am sad, I need connection, I need validation, I need nourishment," we plead. And lovingly (or not so lovingly) food obliges us.

Picked at the height of ripeness, cooked to reveal its greatness, served at the peak of readiness, all the while aware of the constant pull of imminent decline on the other side if ignored too long, great--even good--food strives to live up to and meet these in-the-moment demands. Sometimes it does. Other times it fails miserably. And taste can be tricky and subjective.

Yet we as a people consume unaware. Like some jilting lothario we move on to the next conquest. Unconscious of the very nature of the ingredients or the involvement of the chef-creator or the unspoken dance between inspiration and creation or even the limitations of materials to work with, we are unaware of the potential alchemy either towards death or rebirth available to us in every mouthful.

As we enter the holiday season, a time of many shared meals, feasts, and celebrations, I say send a hearty "thank you" to your plate, fully en-"joy" it (ie. infuse it with the energy of joy and deep gratitude) before you delve into it. Revel in the life it is offering you, a gift borne of inherent sacrifice.

Eat well, give thanks, and enjoy the bounty.
 May you be nourished as well as comforted.

Bon Appétit!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Foodie Unwrapped

You may be wondering where I got my inner-foodie mojo. When I think back to how I became so passionate about food, there are many influences, but I grew up with my mother in the midwest, so I would have to say that she was my earliest culinary influence. She had a large lazy susan full of herbs and spices, and encouraged us to get cooking early on. Instead of suggesting which spice went with what, she'd say, "use your nose!" and make us sniff the jars and explore for ourselves. Although that annoyed me at the time, I'm sure it had everything to do with the early development of my palate and my keen sense of smell.

Mom was more of a health freak than much of a cook, but she did insist we have a green salad every night. We would take turns washing the lettuce, patting it dry on a kitchen towel, and pounding the garlic in the bottom of the salad bowl to create a fresh vinaigrette for it. 

She was also an avid gardener, so as a kid I recognized the exquisiteness of tomatoes that still tasted of sunlight, green peppers and beans snapped right off the vine, the crunch of baby cucumbers, or picking sweet-tart raspberries in my own backyard.

As a teenager when I met my Dad, I absorbed his passion for food and art and music, and mostly his uncanny ability to whip together the most delicious and exotic foods in a matter of minutes. On the east coast, he introduced me to worldly flavors, gourmet foods and wine, and encouraged my experimentation in the kitchen. He showed me how to work with eggplants, chick peas, and fresh fava beans, how to eat eggs with pita bread, olives and sliced tomatoes. I learned to balance the creamy-lemony-salty-sharp ingredients of hummus with my eyes closed and my taste buds aware. We made lamb every which way, we roasted ducks, experimented with shellfish, and in the summer entire meals were made out of piles of farm fresh barely steamed sweet corn. "You've got to eat anyway, so why not eat well?" he'd say. We ate very well.

As a young adult, it was my travels and the cities I lived in that expanded my palate. Arriving in NYC at 17, I was exposed to just about every cuisine and ingredient imaginable, and I was curious. I asked questions. I explored markets. From Indian Tandooris to Bento boxes, I tasted and experimented. One of the best schools I went to was living across the street from the Fairway Market on 74th and Broadway. I suppose it was a poor man's Zabar's, but to me it was heaven. There I was introduced to mountains of produce, great breads, amazing cheeses, coffees, imported oils and vinegars, smoked fish, and so much more. It was also right down the street from another favorite goldmine, Citarella's Fish Market, which at the time was a tiny storefront packed with some of the most beautiful and amusing displays of fresh fish and shellfish I'd ever seen. I also worked my way through a number of restaurants to support my music career, and was continually inspired along the way.

New York City offered a huge collision of global influences for me, followed by living and working in the South, but by the time I got to LA a few years later where there's sunshine 95% of the year and just about everything grows here, I truly became inspired by the sheer abundance of cultures and ingredients available -- from every kind of produce, to farm-raised meats, to artisanal cheeses and sausages, to fantastic olives, and incredible world-class wine. It was as if the floodgates of creativity were opened and anything was possible. Roasted turkey with mango-dark rum glaze? Mahi Mahi with plum-cabernet sauce?
Guava roasted beef tenderloin w/ blackberry chevre stuffed squash blossoms? Sure, you bet. You could see it, smell it, grow it and create it here. I found abundance on every street, at every market, at every turn. And food became another creative medium to play in.

I never set out to be a chef. I didn't study with the right people or plan a strategic course of high-profile restaurants straight to the top like so many young upstarts do these days. I was never so self-assured or conscious about my life decisions. It was all so hand-to mouth. Day to day survival really. Perhaps I took my ability for granted because I assumed everyone had to eat anyway and probably already knew how to take care of that need, so for years I didn't value my skills much except as a way out of debt. Now records, that was my goal. A big juicy recording career, never a career in food. Food was just the ladder, the day gig. The bread and butter they called it. I fed the rich to feed my music habit, which somehow always landed me in more of an outlay of cash than an influx of success.

Needing to earn some quick cash, I discovered freelance catering out in LA. It was perfect. I registered with several companies and could book as much or as little work as I needed to. Within months I rose up from a kitchen assistant to head chef and kitchen manager on many very exciting high profile Hollywood events, and then I began getting requested to chef in the private homes of many stunning and unbelievable personalities.

But beyond all that which I'll save for another day, my bottom line, final fork is this: whether cooking in my home, for a group of friends, or for a client, I try to be creative and fearless with food. As a busy mother, time is a luxury these days, so I use what's fresh and available--whether that's what's in my garden, what's on sale at the market this week, or even the leftovers in my fridge, and I do it with as little fuss as possible. I find inspiration everywhere, and believe that color and beauty on a plate are just as important as taste. 

Creating with food is relatively no different than creating with words, or notes, or colors on a canvas. It's playing with form and ingredients to create pleasure and a shared experience. You've got to eat anyway, so you might as well eat well! May we all experience such abundance.

Bon appétit and santé!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

11/4...7...12...13...(now with photo)

Been meaning to post, but each time I sit down to write, life seems to get in the way. So much life, so little time to document it. Specific items from the ever-swelling list, get checked off, and are soon forgotten. Just what the heck have I been busy with these last few weeks and months?

It's a blur, really, a hazy memory. In the post-glance of speed, there is, really, no point of articulation, just motion, then not. And a crick in my neck from trying to stay focused while boulders and galaxies fly by: obligations to the ever-flailing school, this committee, that committee, communications to the administration, the professional development mentor, the booster club, the new "experimental" teacher, then there's the obligations to my family, my husband, his infirmed father, the needs and extreme nighttime neediness of my daughter, the kinder community, the toddler moms, the workout circle, the neighborhood co-op, the Westside parents needing school advice, the 16 projects I'm spread too thin on, and the immediate ones that require promoting, the ongoing what's for dinner, what are you bringing to the potluck, and the what day is it-who's doing the pickup?

To pick up where we left off, I can say this: The smoke has cleared, the air is clear, and we have a lot to be grateful for.

In the meantime, life goes on. We have our own set of paddles and with much effort are navigating our own set of currents, each of us. We are not struggling to save our home from wildfires, or bankruptcy, or dodging bombs, or anything so dramatic or newsworthy. Still, so much effort is expended. So much effort…and so little rest.

I am reminded of a few thoughts that bubbled up over the last year while doing my practice: What if this was the break? How do I learn to rest while in motion? And, be grateful for the soft, the hard, the picking through rough terrain, each with its own unique benefit and challenges. I've been through the picking through landmines months, where I was trying to deftly navigate a fragmented and intensely partisan terrain, and then these last weeks were just plain hard, challenging, and emotionally draining. I should feel so alive, purposeful, with something to push off against as I continue with forward motion, yet frankly I am ready for soft.

I took a vow a few days ago after delivering a fast and furious project, that I would take on no more commitments for a month. Except for what I had already committed to, I am clearing the decks folks. Erecting boundaries. Exhaling stress and obligation and worry, and taking in healing and nurturing, and joy. What a concept.

It feels like a major decision for me, like I might be able to remove the hard shell of tortoise-like responsibility, and what, discover a whole new soul underneath. That's the girl I want to find. She's the one who unencumbered, can really move: the softer, leaner, more effective, more decisive me.

I'm raising that blood orange martini to her.

(Somehow even the blood of the blood orange feels like the appropriate drink right now.

…They don't make chamomile martinis, do they?)

* * *

Blood Orange Martini

I'll beat you to the question:

Blood Orange Martini Recipe

3 parts Italian blood orange soda (I find this at Trader Joe's, but Target also has a brand)
1 - 1 1/2 generous parts vodka
1/2 part cointreau or triple sec

Vigorously skaken over a lot of ice and strained into a delightful martini glass that has been rimmed with a mixture of sugar and finely grated (micro-planed) orange zest. Garnish with a thin wheel of orange, or blood orange if you have it. Cheers.

(Here ya go with the photo op...recipe tested and consumed


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

SoCal's on fire

I guess that's stating the obvious to anyone watching the news right now, but literally, there are fires raging out of control all around us...a circle around our city to the north, to the east, and to the south. The only place not burning is due west of here which would be the Pacific Ocean.

This image was taken by a NASA satellite capturing the billowing smoke coming off of at least 14 massive fires burning around Southern California. More NASA. (
Image credit: NASA/MODIS Rapid Response)

About a half a million people have been evacuated from San Diego County alone. My husband was literally down there just a few days ago, playing a gig and driving back at 3 in the morning through some of those towns. Malibu is just 20 minutes north of here up the
PCH (Pacific Coast Hwy) where I used to commute to feed the rich and famous. Burning. We were in Lake Arrowhead not 8 weeks ago for a much needed family vacation in the mountains before school started. The surrounding towns are in flames. All of it vulnerable to the unpredictably destructive 50-60mph gusts of Santa Ana winds, and the overbearing heat it brings with it.

Here inside the ring, in the
nucleus of relative safety, the air is thick with dust and ash, coating cars and making overtaxed lungs burn. The heavy winds have blown out the usual smog layer revealing a brilliant blue sky with stridents of thick orangey-brown clouds, which on closer examination reveal they're not clouds at all but thick stripes of smoke and ash and god-knows-what remnants from other people's lives, reduced to dust and blown out to sea.

There is an unhealthy air quality advisory for all schools, halting outdoor sports and other outside physical activity throughout LA County. Driving by my daughter's school campus in the middle of the afternoon, usually full of laughter and children running and shouting and climbing, playing games and practicing sports, I find the long stretch of green
eerily vacant and quiet today. And the sky is deceptively bright, orange, dusty, and hot. Outrageously hot for almost Halloween.

My heart aches with compassion thinking of other peoples losses and their current vulnerability to an uncontainable force of nature. It is so random. Unthinkable. Yet in a moment, all could be lost. Up in flames.
Poof. Gone.

It begs the question, what is real? What is essential? What is most meaningful?

And if you had just 10 minutes to grab anything of value to you, what would that be? Where would you find it? Is it ready to go? Or would it be buried under obligation and clutter?

Would you forgive last night's fight with your husband, or that lingering tantrum with your willful child? Would you make amends with your in-laws or parents or girlfriend? Would you spend precious moments searching for the cat or compiling account numbers? Do you have an exit plan, a contingency plan or a store of necessities? Are you ready to say goodbye to all you've built and worked hard for, knowing you might lose it all? Could you start over if you survived the destruction, or would you do something completely different? What would you do? Where would you go?

These are critical times. My heart goes out all around me, embracing us, surrounding us in healing, in love. As the region burns, may we be purified and re-set with what is truly of value.

Many blessings to those who need it...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Random Bits

After many years of ups and downs, (more ups than downs it seemed), I just donated my sz. 14 and 12 jeans to Goodwill and replaced them with a sz 8 and a 10. The 10 is already loose on me.

I joined an 8-week weekly women's group workout in the park. Spartazon. No kidding. First session was Monday in the grey drizzle. To establish our base times, we jogged around the perimeter of a huge field, all 14 of us. A quarter of the way out, I found the urge to connect with my own pace not the group pace, and pushed way out ahead. At an easy, non-competitive, comfortable-for-me pace, I came in first without really struggling. Seems my running/writing practice, though spotty, has paid off in accumulated strength and endurance. Of course, I can't move today after all the squats, planks, push-ups, resistance training, etc. That class kicked my ass. Literally. But I feel good. My body is reemerging from a long, deep, painful hibernation. And I'm just getting started.

I have a new book idea that I have begun to work on and will continue to work on throughout the year. I will be chronicling our collectively bold attempt to take a declining local public elementary school, (declining perception based on low test scores, bused-in kids, white flight), add a layer of Reggio-inspired philosophy to the standards based curriculum with ongoing professional development and workshops for the teachers, as well as a combination of community outreach and publicity, fundraising, and working to unite the community, in order to turn this little neighborhood school into something ground-breaking and fantastic…all the while observing from a mother's perspective as my daughter and her friends navigate the changing climate at the school. For a more organic approach to the writing I have been journaling in longhand in my car right after drop-off. So far it has been a bumpy month and a half…so there is a lot to write about. My daughter is in her 3rd classroom/teacher in 4 weeks. Bless her for being a trouper. She is doing amazingly well with all the changes.

My little Westside Guide to Public Schools Guidebook continues to sell, and is now selling faster than I can print it every time I am asked to do a speaking engagement. I am also selling it in bulk to several private school consultants to have as a public school resource. It has been placed in the parent resources section of the multi-million dollar recently renovated Santa Monica Public Library where my colleague and I have been invited to return for another speaking engagement. We will be lining up several more school survival seminars around town and soon it will be Magnet season, meaning time for another round of "Martinis and Magnets" events with Sandra Tsing Loh and Christie Mellor. Sandra has unofficially coined me "The Good Witch of The West" for continuing to openly highlight public school options to weary, wary and confused parents.

I have several new ideas brewing about expanding the Go Mama Guide brand and Guidebook series, including two new guidebook ideas….mulling.

There might be some interest at a quirky small publishing house for me to write a cookbook. Ok, that could be fun.

Speaking of my long-abandoned food career, after several months of turning it over and over, I rose to the "dare" and put a DVD together (as well as 8 pgs of an essay-style application), and submitted to be The Next Food Network Star. Crazy, right? Yeah, Um. Perhaps. But what was so great about the process of mulling it over, exploring my "culinary point of view," considering my influences, being able to think about pitching my own cooking show, or what that might be, I realized that this would actually be a great job for me. And although the reality TV part of it freaks the shit out of me, the part about what I do with food, how I live, how I can inspire others to be fearless in the kitchen, to rethink their approach to good food, real food, to use tasty, nourishing food as the vehicle with which to nurture and bring people together…I think is a great fit.

So, whether or not I crap out on this particular competition/reality TV show possibility with its accompanying must-sign sign-your-life-away contract…the point is, through this process of mulling it over, I have warmed to the idea of doing a cooking/lifestyle show and have committed to spending the next few months exploring what exactly I would want my show to be if I could put together a show. (I already have what I think is a fantastic idea but I can't tell you just yet).

Meanwhile, baby steps, a little piece I wrote about the inspired professional development session our teachers recently took, which was meant to be shared only with the handful of us on the school's Educational Vision Committee, was then posted to the schoolwide/community listserv. I was then contacted by the Assistant Principal where she asked permission to print it up for the entire staff. I am thrilled because writing about the Reggio philosophy is like dancing to architecture. It's impossible to portray the depth of it succinctly. It's incredibly difficult to articulate yet incredibly powerful to witness. Perhaps my little attempt did, at least initially, give everyone new to the concept a warm and tangible way to approach the philosophy. In addition, it opened up communication between parents and teachers and administration, which is a huge step in keeping everyone informed and interested, and being inclusive, not exclusive.

So that's some of what's been going on lately. Now you're pretty much up to speed. Somewhat. For now.

Meme: Write on Writing

True to form, I face any challenge with equal parts dread and exhilaration. This meme is no different. (Thanks Prema.) Also true to form, the question comes at the most perfect time; an opportunity for reflection in this time of insane action is most perfect and welcome.

First off, when faced with anything, my mind always goes to rules, parameters. Do I make a list? How many items? How much can I say? Is this too much?, and so forth. So in order to calm my brain, I'll just give you my list and get that out of the way:

1. apple
2. cat
3. blank page
4. facing your fear
5. getting it down


Ok, now for the real deal…because I want to rise to the challenge of the question.

First of all, I don't think of myself as a "Writer," capital W. I don't immerse myself in books, in literature, in ways to turn a phrase. I'm not studied, or even well-read. I write in half-phrases, I make up words, I start sentences with And and Because, and most importantly, I listen. I listen to the inner chain of words as they tumble out of my head and onto the page, because I write like I am speaking to you. That's why I work best in silence. No interruptions, no banging of dishes or boundary-less telephone conversations. Drive-by stereos and other audible invasions kill my flow. That's why I write when I should be sleeping, or when everyone is out of the house.

For me, there is an urgency to my writing. I write when I have something to say, something to process and extract, to get it out, to put it "out there" as opposed to closed up "in here." I write to create order out of my mental chaos. I suppose my writing is urgent and passionate and messy, and I suppose my brashness has also gotten me into trouble. But I mainly write to please myself first now.

Writing for me is an expression no different than picking up a tomato, looking at it, and deciding to chop it up and throw it in a hot pan with some olive oil and garlic I've crushed with the side of my knife. As I slip in some capers and perhaps a dash of white wine, toss it with linguine and grate some pecorino over the top, I think, huh, it's just a tomato, it's just pasta, what's the big deal?

I find that a solid commitment for a specific goal is easier than the never-ending "I'm going to write about my life…" It's really about deciding to do something, and just doing it. Then you just focus and write….chop wood, carry water. (Of course, editing is another matter, especially when other people's words find their way into your piece and completely change your intended meaning. Surrender.)

I write best when I combine it with something physical like jogging, doing stairs, or gardening. The physicality gets me out of my head and into a flow of consciousness, or a "channeled" workspace. This is where ideas just come and I've learned to trust that this works for me. It always does. All I have to do is show up, listen, and I am provided with what I need.

But I can't tell a story to save my life. I know nothing about structure and character development, plot and arc. I don't sit around thinking up interesting characters, putting them in far-fetched situations, moving them around like so many players in a game of chess. That's way too difficult for me. I'm much more intuitive about my approach. I write what I see, what I think, what I question, what I know. I write to clarify my experience, to find meaning within the context and the relationships in my life, and to distill it down to its essence onto the page. At least, that's what I attempt to do.

See, at the heart of it all, it's all about me…but "me" as I see myself all fucked up and messy and insecure, with my own take on things. And the older I get and the more confident I am with that, with who I am, the more I see that writing about "me" is really about "we" because we are all interconnected and we share so many like experiences. The universality of human nature, of human experience, extracted from one person's journey is fascinating. It inspires us. It informs us. It unites us and gives us hope.

I so value our online circle of support. You are all deeply cherished. Thanks for letting me spew. And now, in the interest of keeping the fun rolling, I tag Nancy. Although we have not yet met, you sound like one fab lady. You're it.

...update coming soon...

Monday, October 01, 2007

Ed-Op: Back To School

Thanks to the many of you who have left comments, and thanks also to Link for the little nudge. It's been ages since I posted, I know. Sometimes life shows you it's time to act, and other times there is time to reflect. I have been in action mode lately, although in my life there is usually little-to-not-enough time, period.

In the meanwhile, I would love to address some of the wonderful comments you all have left and clarify my pov. While I agree that teachers usually feel unsupported by their district not to mention their school, are paid ridiculously low wages, and many times end up going out of pocket for classroom supplies, I still maintain it should not be up to a merchandiser to tell unsuspecting parents, especially new and about-to-enter-the-system parents what they will need for the classroom. I would much rather receive a letter from either the principal or my child's teacher outlining EXACTLY what my child will need to bring to class in order to avoid buying unnecessary items which only serve to line the pockets of said merchandiser, not the school or the teachers who need it most. I would prefer to show my support to the class and the teacher directly.

If, looking back at our case, we actually followed the merchandiser's suggested list, we would have spent money on items she didn't need, couldn't bring to class, or were redundant to what was already being handed out in class. Frankly, I would have happily donated my $25-50 "supplies" money (or whatever that amount grows to in the upper grades) to a group fund that could buy in bulk for a discount all the items the class actually needed, including offering a little extra for those who might need an assist and having some funds set aside for unexpected teacher/class needs.

Additionally, if throughout the school year the teachers would organize their "wish lists" and circulate them through the school body, you'd be amazed at how resourceful people can be to obtain these items--through the community, businesses, corporate sponsors-- because I believe we all want what's best for our children and will help our child's teacher if notified and pressed to do so. But if you don't ask you don't get. And we can't give if we don't know.

I'm sorry so many teachers end up going out of pocket. That is unfair and a sign that things definitely need to change especially in the public school arena. But I also think there is a general disconnect and lack of specific communication between the school and parents, which might be a first step to getting assistance where assistance is needed. Of course the district is a whole other matter!

All I'm sayin' is let's spend our money on what we really need, not on what the stores tell us we need.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Back To School, Biggie Style

I'm at one of those big box office supply stores today replacing an ink cartridge…

Why is it you always run out of ink in the middle of an important print run of say, monthly bills, invoices, or timely application forms, but never when you're printing out jokes, or recipes from the internet, or dream kitchen layouts…

And I'm not even going to say which office supply chain I'm talking about here, except to clue you in that the exterior had a lot of red on it…

When to my surprise, (really a mixture of shock and delight at the instant "material" it provided me), I spy a kiosk with back-to-school "suggested supply list" print-outs by the entrance door, neatly copied on different colored paper, broken down by grade beginning with Pre K & Kindergarten on up, ostensibly to organize your shopping experience and help you remember what you need.

Looking more like a grocery list than anything else, I quickly scan the Pre K and Kinder supply list since that's where we're headed this fall. I count 18 "suggested" back-to-school items.

For 4 and 5 year olds.

Of the office /art supply /personal hygiene variety.

18 items?

For Pre K or K??

As you can imagine, the next list for 1st, 2nd & 3rd graders jumps to 28 items with a quantity count totaling 44.

I can't even bring myself to look at middle school at this moment, but I'm sure by then they've got you on a 2-page list with an added assortment of handheld electronics and computers.

You do the math.

Ok, I get it with the uber-competitive, over-scheduled, hyper-vigilant parent types who don't wish Little Junior to be un-provided for come the first day of school, and I do love a good organizational tip here and there to streamline our wonderfully full and unruly family lives, so that's not what's bothering me...

And, living in this town, the entertainment capitol of the world, the town that put spin and marketing on the map, not to mention cross-platforming and product placement…I mean whole careers have been made out of merchandising and
ancillary rights

I don't begrudge the effect of a smart business marketing campaign, or a strategically targeted ad, so that's not really it…

But come on, does my 5 year-old Kinderkid NEED 18 items in his backpack on the first day of school?!

Ok, I get the lunchbox and the backpack part, but will the rest of it even fit into his backpack? Or into his little mousehole-sized kindergarten cubby? I guarantee it wouldn't fit in the overhead bin of a Southwest airlines flight let alone inside one of those little wooden school desks.

I feel a bit like a party-pooper, but what will the teacher say when several of the class show up with their very own set of personal paintsets, colored markers and glue sticks, and begin their version of art anarchy, despite the rest of the class?

Speaking of the rest of the class, doesn't the school supply anything anymore?


Then what do they do with our tuition, or our tax dollars?

And furthermore, does each little 5-year old really NEED to bring 2 pocket folders, a handheld pencil sharpener with two hole sizes to Kindergarten, in addition to his own tissues, paper towels, antibacterial soap, hand sanitizer gel and hand sanitizer wipes, as this list suggests?

What, will they be setting up an emergency triage?

Or is this the beginning of some Howard Hughes-style, Michael Jackson boy-in-the-bubble-type germ-o-phobic training?

Besides, didn't we determine that all that antibacterial stuff was actually dangerous and should be taken off the market? Did we forget that hand sanitizer gel if ingested in large doses contains enough alcohol to make a small child dangerously toxic? Should we really be dispensing it so freely to youngsters, or are we falling victim to blatant marketing?

Do they really need all this stuff? And more importantly, should they HAVE all this stuff?

Hey, I'm not here to begrudge the inalienable all-American right to entrepreneurialism, or our right as individuals to load up and hoard warehouse-quantity supplies on the backs of our lower-class third-world citizens. That's what this country was founded on, right? It's capitalism at its very best, survival of the fittest, kill or be killed or make a killing, I'm not sure which. But c'mon folks, from one doting parent to another, I ask you, does little Timmy really NEED all this stuff on his back too? At age 5?

Is it just me, or is this blatant consumerism starting younger and younger and getting way out of hand?

(Don't even get me started on the baby marketing plan that tags you
in utero.)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Look Who Made The News?

The LA Daily News, Sunday Edition to be exact.

It's an article about the recent proliferation of "school consultants" to help frenzied parents navigate the often difficult and confusing school choices in LA, but also does a nice feature on my Guidebook in the 2nd half of the piece.

Here's a clip of it:

With so many school options, confused parents now are hiring consultants to help them pick the right educational answer for their children

Mania over schools

"...Opting to go public doesn't exactly simplify the process. With charters, magnets, lotteries and permits, L.A.'s public system is downright Byzantine. It has become so complex that Tanya Anton, a mother and musician in Mar Vista, decided to write a book explaining it after getting involved at her daughter's preschool.

The handbook, "Westside Guide to Public Elementary Schools: Navigating Magnets, Charters, Permits & More," is a nuts-and-bolts guide to public school options. It grew out of Anton's observation that parents were filled with questions but had no good source to answer them all..."

But the best part is I get the final word at the end of the piece:

"...Whatever its philosophy, the point is that public school quality soars when parents get deeply involved, and vice versa. Anton said she would love to see Angelenos return to their neighborhood public schools. Of course, that might put the educational consultants out of business, a prospect that doesn't seem likely any time soon.

"So much can change when parents get involved and local businesses get involved ...," she said. "That's what I would love to see happen."

For more scroll down to the 2nd half of the article.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Mamawriters Unite!

Look who gathered for coffee and company yesterday?

Why, it's our very own RiversGrace, Jumping In, and yours truly with our offspring. Mamawriters and Bloggerkids unite.
(To be fair, Holly's kids were away with Dad, and mine looks a bit grumpy in this pic even though I assure you she was well-behaved.)

Seems Prema and I might be starting an on-the-way-to-the-airport coffee tradition although it'd be just grand to do longer visits with her, and it was great to meet up with Holly for the first time and put a face to the words.

As the circle grows, shouldn't there be our first annual Writers Life reunion?

Even though we don't know each other, we really (kind of) do.

One giant heart connected in space and time....

Thanks ladies.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


It's been months, yes months since I've been able to go running. Life always seems to get in the way. But today as my body woke from its half-slumber, the following thoughts occurred to me...thoughts so vast and frequent they came two by two, as if cramming to get in the door before the opportunity would be lost.

Sometimes it feels as if I've been tied to other obligations for so long I will never get back to what I yearn I might be capable of. Still, it's all in the becoming.

As my legs push off against the pavement, and when it feels so hard, I am suddenly awash in gratitude:

I have legs!
I have hands!
I have thoughts I can speak out loud!
Thoughts spill into action
Unlimited possibilities
All in one moment
Released from captivity

Observing the path in front of me, dodging fallen branches, stones, or avoiding a muddy pit, I carefully pick my way across the scratchy brown earth.

Then grass, as soft and squishy as my thighs have grown waiting their turn. Not much resistance to push against. Cush makes any rhythm feel sluggish.

When I get to the concrete pavement, my body relishes pushing off something hard, solid, difficult. It's a challenge, but like all challenges I like that it wakes up my muscles after soft or picking. The challenge feels good. I feel my power. I feel capable. I feel fully alive. And I am. I am awake.

The path changes again and my legs adjust, just as we do in life when life happens. Grateful for the hard, grateful for the soft, grateful not to be in a pit, grateful to just to be here and be free to move.

I breathe deeply and expand my consciousness forward, backward, yesterday, tomorrow, and to all the hearts seen and unseen.

In every moment, possibility. In every moment, expansion, or contraction. And the awareness that when we are moved, even if we don't know how or why, open hearts rush in. And they do.

I think of a friend. A friend in the midst of change. A friend whose finely tuned words have both recognized and soothed me. Her words are music, medicine. I send love and hope the sadness has been washed away at least a bit.

There are words that come for her. May they be medicine too:

Nothing was taken away from you.
You created this abundance.
You can create it again, anywhere.
That's what being a Creator is: filling your life with beauty and abundance and wonder wherever you are, in any moment, in any place.

I am here to remind you, my dear Prema,
that you can create whole universes in a blade of grass.
I believe that and know it to be so.

Breathe in fullness
Breathe out anything that isn't love.
Your very breath is an act of love.
All you touch is love.
All you release returns to love
And opens a space for more love…

Let the tears cleanse your eyes so that you may see again.

Let go and let the river carry you on its journey…for ahead lie vistas unimaginable.

Trust that it may be so.

With disagreements, altercations, separations, culminations, physically and environmentally I see upheaval and change all around me right now. It can be perceived as great loss and frustration, or transition and great transformation. I am filled with compassion, for I have been in the sadness, in the wanting too, and it is a mighty current.

And, at the same time, there is always so much to be grateful for, and worlds to create.

Though not always on it, that is the current I will do my best to surf.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Still Peachy

You don't have to go to Georgia to enjoy a fresh peach. No, in LA you just need a little patch of dirt, some sunshine, a baby sapling, and about 8 or 9 years. Oh, and the right amount of "chill hours" each winter to set the fruit.

Luxuriating in the peachy bounty our little tree has offered us of late, may I suggest we raise our Bellini glasses in a hearty cheers. The Bellini--a signature drink made from a combination of fresh white peach puree and Prosecco--is the creation of Giuseppi Cipriani at his infamous Harry's Bar in Venice, Italy, where white peaches were fragrant and plentiful. Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles were said to have held court among others sipping this delightful nectar, finding inspiration in its bounty amidst the grandeur of the canals.

Our homegrown yellow peaches make a delightful version. Sweet and perfumey, slightly tart and effervescent, the Bellini is a delightful summer sipper. And with one of those handheld stick blender gizmos, fresh peach puree is a snap to make. Just don't forget to skin the peaches first.

But another amazing discovery is the Peachy Chicken I referenced a post ago.

Take one whole chicken roaster, rinsed and patted dry. Place in a roasting pan. Slide a few pats of butter under the breast skin and slather with a good dose of (homemade) peach jam or preserves. Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper.

Then, chop up 3 or 4 celery stalks and a red onion in large chunks and add to the pan, scatter in a handful of garlic cloves in their skins, and finish with a few sprigs of fresh thyme and/or Italian parsley.

Slide the sucker into a 375 degree oven and roast for about an hour and a half, basting frequently.
The skin deepens and caramelizes from the peach sugars, but as the veggies break down and give off their juices, their aromatic flavors tame everything to a mellow roasty balance of sweet and savory.

Served hot or cold, this one is a winner. And don't toss those veggies. I eat them straight out of the pan standing over the stove as a "cook's treat." In fact, next time I think I'll add 2 red onions and more cloves of garlic to serve on the side of the sliced chicken.

Bon appétit.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Just Peachy

Summer's here. I've had a few weeks to slow down from the crazy-making pace of our May-June year-end schedule. I am trying my best to temper the "why am I not more productive" urgings with some "relax a bit, it's summer, enjoy some down time already."

Staring at the intersection of my life at this moment, I see a handful of potential paths in front of me. All contain a certain allure. All require more effort and self-discipline than I can muster at the moment. All require a decisiveness that seems to have packed up and left town. As I contemplate next steps, my "role," and what is essential to me, my family, and our future, things begin to get fuzzy. It must not be time to act right now. I am tired and need nourishment.

Honoring the part of me that is learning to relax into motherhood and by extension my life, I notice I have surrendered a bit of my chomping at the bit to get somewhere, anywhere. Right now I am practicing a quiet enjoyment of simple pleasures of my homelife.

I am finding joy in picking my daughter up from camp earlier than expected and spending time with her in the garden or teaching her how to cut her own hardboiled egg with a paring knife or discovering water balloons or allowing her to take her own shower and not worry about spillage. I have enjoyed re-reading Ramona The Pest with her nightly as they both prepare to go to Kindergarten. I have enjoyed watching her swimming improve almost as much as the times we spend curled up on the Big Bed talking about anything that comes into her little inquisitive mind.

Not trying to be either the perfect mother or the perfect achiever, I am instead trying to find the perfection in the moments and soak them up. They fall away so fast...especially if we're always dashing here or there.

* * *

Speaking of jam, I harvested basketfuls of fuzzy rose-blushed peaches from my tree today, (yes, peaches DO grow in Los Angeles and you're lookin' at a shot of 'em above), and made a batch of peach jam. Hooweee.

And, as if that weren't enough yummy goodness, I also made a cache of fresh peach ice cream that I think we all agreed came out most light and flavorful and delish!

I think tomorrow I shall rub some of that jam all over a chicken and roast it with a few savory items and serve it sliced over a tart green salad.

Now that's some simple pleasures.

YUM! Love the summer. Abundance everywhere.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Little Puffs

(Note: it's a long one, but I really wanted to try to capture the raw emotion.)

Although I'm sure we all came from Love originally, somehow on this physical plane-world I chose to take on the path of learning love deeply, amplified by there being a (perceived) big gapping hole of it in my formative years.

I've written about the black hole before. It stems from a deep wound of insecurity, of not feeling loved, of not being accepted. Of knowing I wasn't wanted and being told that repeatedly by the parent who stayed.

Most of the time I've been able to deal with this lack well enough, having become quite resourceful, adaptable and resilient in the process. I'm also a "doer." That helps me enormously. You see, productivity equals value, and value equals love and acceptance in my book.

But this weekend, perhaps weakened by the deluge of (unpaid) activity from the past few months, coupled with feeling just plain squeezed out and exhausted, that damn black hole rose up and bit me in the ass. Like some sugar-crazed hormonal insomniac, the black tide rose up out of nowhere and dragged me out a few hundred yards. Choking and gagging for breath, it's all I can do to get to shelter.

* * *

I'm sitting in a lovely garden surrounded by lovely people sipping lovely cocktails while nibbling lovely carb-ridden hors d'oeuvres when all of a sudden I feel the tide rising in me to an uncontrollable level of not being able to breathe. No amount of makeup or wearing the costume, a form fitting black sweater set over a long linen skirt revealing bejeweled sandals and a shiny deep cinnamon pedicure, can assist me in feeling the part in this verdant oasis.

Seated on a scrolled wrought iron bench with lushly upholstered white cushions amidst every shade of possible greenness, birds tweeter gently to the sounds of trickling water. The air hangs heavy with dewy foliage and I am encircled in light cocktail banter. I should be in paradise. Instead, the woman seated next to me on the bench keeps her back to me for 20 minutes barely acknowledging my presence despite several polite attempts to join in the conversation. She nearly hits me several times with her gesticulating, yet never turns to fully acknowledge or include me. It's not like she doesn't know me. We've spent the last two years together at the same preschool.

Her affluence finally gets the better of me when I hear her state she would rather have spent the $2000 a night lounging with her family at the Four Seasons than stay on the horrifically rustic adventure they chose for their summer vacation. Well gosh. I, on the other hand, have thoroughly enjoyed my days in town spent at the public sprayer pool with my daughter and a zillion other "public" children, getting in for free with my public library card while my husband goes out of town every handful of days with the band.

I have never felt so invisible in my life. Except maybe growing up. Invisible. Needs not met. It's the combination of wanting to be noticed and failing to get the attention. Solution? Remove the need = not being disappointed. No needs here.

Even getting to the party, which doubled as a school fundraiser, was difficult. It almost didn't happen. Because my husband was playing a concert that night it was up to me to find "coverage" for my daughter so I could go to this event. Exhausting our entire babysitter list and even desperately calling around to the neighbors with kids to see if one of them could watch her for a couple of hours this Saturday, I got nowhere. Then, when I was just about to signal defeat and cancel, another mom who was going to this event offered to have her sitter watch both our daughters together, which was such a blessing of generosity when she suggested it, that I almost started crying on the spot. I never would have thought to bother her with my problems.

I have to interject here that many a time I have cast an envious eye on those with family close by who just drop their kid off at grandma's when they need to, or call on the sister across town, or have a high-school-aged cousin look after the kids. Or the more affluent ones whose nannies do much of the drop-off and pick-ups at our school, accompany the kids to weekend birthday parties and such so their parents don't have to. I suppose extending the nanny's shift into the evening some nights is probably not a huge deal if they're already on staff and you can afford it. Or, some smart parents hire a sitter for an ongoing weekly stint--say every Friday or Saturday night --regardless of plans. One babysitter I called told me her Saturdays were usually booked 2 months in advance. Two months? We hardly know what we're doing next Thursday, let alone a few weeks from now! But that's smart shopping: Book the sitter, and the date will surely come. But at the going rate of $12-15 per hour, you'd better have a reason to go out! It adds up quickly.

A little pang of economic inequity coupled with parents who've let me down begins to fester inside. I know I have a lot to be grateful for but we've been the juggling do-it-yourselfers from day one. We've had to be. And usually when hubs works at night, which is frequently, I'd just stay home forfeiting any personal plans.

I gratefully accept the kind help my mom-friend has offered, feeling somewhat less-than and loser-like. Oh, here's the DIY mom who can't get her shit together, sitter-wise. Yet my friend insists it's totally fine, please don't worry about it, and she won't take my money.

So I'm sitting in a luscious garden of abundance all around me yet I can't help but feel like a wilting imposter, like I don't belong, like if I stood still for 30 minutes, not one person would come up and talk to me at all. I know I am creating this projection, and I know it's old business, but here it is nonetheless. I am weak and susceptible. The howling in my head is growing like a cancer. I'm feeling diseased and pitiful. Me, the "uber-doer" parent of the bunch. The recently-coined "highly functioning, high performing" school parent.

Waiters come and go, and the host refreshes another woman's drink across from me. He comes up and generously offers to bring me a glass of Prosecco, then sends the waiter back this way who instead ignores me and refills everyone else's glasses. See? Invisible. Pathetic. Two trips later and I'm thinking the waiter just got it wrong since I don't have a glass to fill, but the host is happily ensconced in dialogue elsewhere, forgetting his offer to me.

I'll just get my own glass, thank you.

Hurt by this ridiculously petty injustice, the anger rises to its whip-slap reaction. Emotions whip out of control like a windstorm on the beach blinding me with sand in my face. I can feel my imbalance like a chemical reaction, yet I am powerless against the internal storm. I am nothing, not even worth remembering. I don't deserve a drink like the rest of them do. I must not be likeable. Not worth fussing over like that other woman in the glamorous dress.

I feel more at home in the laundry room where I painstakingly blotted that red wine stain off the nice woman's expensive white shirt, or doing an unofficial garden tour identifying different varieties of herbs, citrus and vegetation. I feel more at home in the kitchen where two waiters and a nanny bustle around cleaning and baking off platters of thinly-crusted spinach pizzas or miniature roulades of puff pastry and tapenade. Little puffs of air…

My eyes follow the spiral of black tapenade against the gold and I fall into the pastry, comfortable and in my element. My mind starts to envision different fillings and colors. Anything goes with puff pastry. It's so light and accommodating. You could fill it with just about anything…sweet, savory, textured, puréed…something more substantial.

It occurs to me that I spent a good deal of years being "the help" in the kitchen, not the celebrated guest. It is uncomfortable for me to not be "doing" something. If I am not productive, I feel like I am not fully alive, not worthy of just being for being's sake. Although irrational, I know this is a deep wound.

I remember the words of a therapist who once wondered out loud what my life would look like if I had truly felt loved and accepted for who I was and had nothing to prove. Hmmm…would I be the happily married hostess living in the same town as my family wearing a lovely party dress throwing delightful garden cocktail parties never raising my voice at my children or feeling that desperate, burning need to succeed and "BE SOMEBODY?!"

Could I EVER feel like who I already was, was enough already?

I've been walking through my life off-kilter, grown lopsided from accommodating this sense of lack, finding ways to over-compensate and cover the hole.

I feel the lump rising in my throat as I sink further, knowing that the sting of tears behind my eyes is on its way to the surface. Damn. Thought I'd gotten over this one. It's so ridiculously transparent but I'm caught.

Suffocated by listening to bland niceties and feeling ignored, I check my watch and realize it's already 10 minutes past my daughter's bedtime.

Screw pouring my own drink. Screw trying to fit in where I feel out of place. Screw the carb overload, I'm hungry for protein. Shifting my focus on not wanting to take advantage or poach another family's sitter, I grab my bag and dash away, barely throwing goodbyes behind me. I exit stage left under the auspices of picking up my daughter despite there being no real need to, except for my own perceived inadequacies.

I can't get out of there fast enough as the tide crests. I get in my car and rev the engine while opening all the windows. (Damn air conditioning's broken.) Aaahh, air. Motion. Speed. Wind blowing my hair every which way. Cool me, save me, be the salve on my skin. Blasts of air, though empty, somehow are healing now.

I feel miserable. Hungry. I should feel happy and full.

I don't.

Instead I race away to my daughter. This time I need her more than she needs me.