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On the Phone

February 6, 2023

Sometimes just cozin’ around the house is all I wanna do. Better still, having a long conversation with an old friend. I was so appreciating the view I snapped a pic.

Choc it Up to Birthdays

February 5, 2023

We are working our way through these. Fortunately, I had a great excuse to bake them (Elliot’s birthday!), and, unfortunately, I never need an excuse to eat them.

How could I resist?

Oh, these are chocolate-almond cookies. You beat eggs with sugar for about ten minutes — until it starts to form ribbons — then add melted dark chocolate and butter, and finally some ground walnuts (I ran out of almonds). That’s it. The dough sits overnight because it really has to be hard in order to roll into balls. The balls get rolled in granulated sugar and baked for 12 minutes and are then dusted with powdered sugar as they are cooling. That’s it! Chewy, light, deep chocolate flavor.

You’ve been warned.

Ages of Aquariums

February 4, 2023

I hear that Uncle Chris and Pam, joined John and his three kiddos at the Long Beach Aquarium today. Here are a couple of pictures that Pam sent me…

River and Magnolia at the hands on tank:

And Juniper riding atop Chris’s shoulders (so cute).:

I was reminded of a time, 19 years ago (!), when the young John accompanied Jim, Peter and me at that very Long Beach Aquarium. John was 18 years old then, Peter was 5:

Today was my approximately semi-annual trip to Berkeley to have breakfast and a walk with my buddy Elliot. It’s a good tradition, and usually celebrates our mutual birthdays (when we meet in January… or this year February). As usual, much ground was covered — both conversationally and literally. (And come to think of it, this may be the first time — ever — that we didn’t talk shop! Starting our friendship as colleagues, work was always high on the agenda… and funny… work now’s been overtaken by kids, grandkids, hearing aids, recent vacations, latest tech-whiz discoveries on our digital devices…)

Fortunately, and hilariously, we both enjoy doing a lot of this:

Here are some of my favorites from today:

Flower ballet:

Elliot getting eaten by a blow-up dinosaur, using the aforementioned, newly learned & mastered tech-whiz technique of blanking out the background:

I just love the variability of the stone size around this window. SO appealing! This was, by the way, a gem of a horseshoe street off of Claremont. To a house, charming!

Got a kick out of their sign, “Since 2017.” A very sweet little cafe, though. On College Ave, I believe.

A Calla Lily to be… and very dewy:

And whatever this is…. the plant seemed very confused to me, part cactus, part flower, part orange tongue:

My god, that trunk!

After saying goodbye to Elliot, I met up with Monica and we headed to an art exhibit by Lucy Ames. En route … on San Pablo… Patti’s Auto Care:

Here is one of the many walls in the exhibit of Lucy’s colorful tree art…

And lucky me! I found one I like and bought it!

I have to wait until the show’s over to collect it, but I have the perfect place picked out; stay tuned for a pic of that in a couple months.

Shawarma!

February 2, 2023

Jim and I are big fans of Sam’s Mediterranean Cuisine at the corner of 3rd and B. It’s a decades-long love affair, pretty much our go-to for take out and one of our favorite bleacher dinners during Little League years. There is one dish that we order there — provided they haven’t run out of rice, which happens a bit too often — the chicken shawarma (over rice). The chicken is roasted on a spit and whatever Sam does with his seasonings, it works for us. It sets the standard for chicken shawarma, and none other has ever come close.

When I was down at the Oxbow Public Market in Napa last week, I bought a few jars of sugars and spices from the Whole Spice folks. (They are a local business and have some great looking stuff… like, for example,. vanilla sugar and cocoa sugar, which will be great sprinkled onto the frothy milk layer of my coffee in the morning!) But I was most excited about this:

I’ve never made shawarma before and hoped it might be as good as Sam’s.

It wasn’t.

However, it was good! I made some greek tzatziki to go with it (I improvised with some yogurt, garlic and cucumber), but have since found a recipe for shawarma yogurt sauce (yogurt, tahini, garlic, dill, mint, lemon, salt) and will try that next time.

Looks a little lacking on the plate, but, again, it was pretty edible. Forgot vegetables! Next time a cucumber and tomato salad. Here’s a close up:

So.. it’s thinly sliced chicken breast, marinated in a mix of olive oil and the shawarma spice. You saute some chopped onions in olive oil, then add the chicken and saute it until done. That’s it. I served it with basmati rice made with onion, garlic and pine nuts.

We might try concocting our own version of shawarma spice. Or…. just go to Sam’s.

Love Thine Own Self

February 1, 2023

Apropos of nothing.. I like this:

Honestly, though… such a sweet way to convey a lovely thought, and always a good reminder.

And actually… maybe it is apropos of something. I’m at an all-time, non-pregnancy weight high. I kinda need to do something about it, but I may as well like myself in the meantime. Right?

Right!

Down on A Street

January 31, 2023

I had occasion to tour the Hillel House down the street today.

Betsy and her dear friend Gail (who Betsy is now visiting up in El Dorado Hills, post her visit here), let me know they were coming to Davis hoping to catch a glimpse of maybe a plaque honoring a mutual friend of their’s contribution to the construction of Davis’s Hillel House in 2011. Their friend “Uncle Joe” (Joseph Pedott) is the uncle of a treasured friend and colleague of theirs — a physician in Southern California — and, funnily, the fellow behind the infamous Chia-Pet (remember those?). They adore Uncle Joe and just had to see what he contributed to here in Davis. (Are you with me?) Well, as it turns out, Joe Pedott is honored with more than a plaque; his name is quite prominent in numerous places around the property, inside and out, due to his sizable and timely donation (a great story worth reading about).

All I really knew about the Hillel House was that it was a big neighborhood deal back in the planning and construction phases. And a wee bit controversial, due to its size. I walk by it several times a week, at least, but had never gone inside. In fact, it’s not all that easy to get inside, due to significant security protocols. (And isn’t that a sad reality.)

Case in point… we were observed taking pictures outside and approached by staff. Once our intentions were sussed out, we were generously invited to come in to look around. We spent nearly an hour touring the place with the director, which was wonderful and so interesting!

This is a great before and after:

I completely remember this tiny house. It was next door to the tiny house of a friend (I met while studying in Sweden) where I spent a little bit of party time in 1978.

And this is it today (and since 2012, I was shocked to learn, my how time flies).

Quinn Spooner / Aggie. The Sam Len Hillel House in Davis.

Note Uncle Joe’s plaque in front (ha! now I’m calling him Uncle Joe and I don’t even know him).

And here’s a shot of the interior.. a large room, also named after him. The whole thing was beautiful, huge, and impressively featured.

It was an interesting juxtaposition… touring the Hillel House today as violence in Israel is so prominent in the news these past weeks. I listened to a lengthy interview with Netanyahu on CNN this evening (talk about dug in) and have been reading about the escalating conflicts and Blinken’s tightrope efforts to simultaneously call for peace in the region and support an elusive two-state solution. I don’t have a lot to say about all that, except that it’d be nice if the harmony and open heartedness that was so much a part of what I saw at the Hillel House today could infuse those warring factions in Israel. (And as the folks at Crooked Media wrote today, “Wasn’t Jared Kushner supposed to have solved this whole thing already?”)

You Are Loved

January 30, 2023

I ran across this statement this evening..

I love everything about what she says here. It was this fundamental idea of building a bond of trust with your child, of assuring him that he was heard, acknowledged, valued and loved that inspired me during pregnancy to read everything I could about attachment parenting. It deeply resonated then, it resonates now; nothing else makes any sense to me. She articulates another benefit of being with your child when he cries: it establishes the expression of emotions as safe, appropriate, human and does not scare me off. Your distress, your anger, your confusion.. they do not drive me away. I’m here, I will always be here, I love you. I will never invalidate how you feel. You’ll figure it out, or we’ll figure it out together.

That, to me, is the basic foundation of thoughtful, loving parenting. (I’m not saying I succeeded every time in this regard, but it was fundamental to me, a natural and obvious expression of love, and it guided me.) When I read this, I reflected on being a mom, on the urgent love we feel for our children, the grace we feel when they’re safe, when they’re thriving. Our certainty that we will be there if needed

Loving our children has been on my mind a lot the past few days with the revelations in the Tyre Nichols murder. That he was brutalized, that he cried out, that nobody came to his rescue..I can’t imagine a human doing that to another human. It’s chilling. I can’t imagine his feelings of confusion and betrayal.

I find it particularly wrenching to listen to him screaming for his mom. I’ve actually only seen that part once. I wasn’t going to watch it at all, but then did. Now I turn it off if it comes on again. Somebody said something that makes sense to me… watching is a way to be with him in his pain, to make sure he’s not alone, or maybe to make sure his pain is acknowledged, seen, understood. People need to know what he suffered, otherwise he will have suffered alone. It also feels important to bear witness, otherwise the horror of it is too easily dismissed. Maybe we watch it for his mom, so she’s not alone in her suffering.

He had his mom’s name tattooed on his arm (I think his arm). They were obviously close, connected. Everything about his murder is senseless and heinous and I hope to god those who kicked the life out of him go to prison forever. But the thing that hurts the most is what his mom is having to suffer through. (I’d say dad, too, but I’m not a dad.. so just speaking for her pain.) She could not save him, could not protect him, could not hold him in his pain. I haven’t allowed myself to imagine if I were in her shoes because even the thought of that is unbearable. It not a thought I want out there in the universe.

None of it makes sense.

Let’s hope we get further down the path this time. I’m trying to stay hopeful that compassion, decency and love will be our more powerful forces as we figure out where to go from here.

This one’s a true long-term friendship. I’m sure I mentioned it before, but as we wrap up a week of hanging out, it’s worth mentioning again: our moms met a bit before either of us was conceived — just a bit — and were friends for the rest of their lives. Betsy and I “met” in April of 1956 (her birthday, or thereabouts) — just about 67 years ago — and we, too, have been friends for our entire lives. There have been years when we were less in touch, but, safe to say, from here on out, it’ll be a pretty reliable relationship.

In the photo above, I’m second from left (as always, tugging at my hem), Betsy’s the blond next to me. (Penny Lambert and Janet Starck round out the foursome.) We’re pretty cute (IMHO), and, funnily, seem to embody the same personalities there that we do now.. me: slightly goofy and fidgety, not quite sure how to pose for the camera, and Betsy: probably took and held her position as asked, probably before the rest of us. (Penny, an older girl with a wild streak who smoked early and wore a buzz cut in college; and Janet who had strict, dark, older parents and became a violin maker).

I’ve already blogged about pretty much everything we did. On our Davis days, we took numerous walks around town, ate meals in and out, went to two movies. Taking advantage of the spectacular break in the weather and a full week of clear, sparkly sunniness, we spent a day in San Francisco, a day at Lake Tahoe, and a day in Napa Valley… which meant we did a lot of this ..

Which was totally worth it, as all the drives were pretty, too. Northern California really showed off for Betsy this week.. made me proud!

We also sat by the fire a bunch (it was sunny, but not terribly warm!), talked and talked and talked, and managed to squeeze in a few hours of this:

Games of choice were gin rummy and the dice game Farkle, a new one for me and man, I wish I knew somebody around here who would play it with me.. super fun.

And yes ma’am, that is a bottle of Fireball whisky, on hand in honor of mom, who enjoyed drinking it (spiking her Ensure is the story Betsy tells). I will note we are also drinking hot tea, so, you know, not completely wild and crazy. I still think mom would approve.

~~

So I got pretty nostalgic this afternoon after she left. Grateful for this friendship — and its extraordinary history — and a small handful of other ones. I’m partial to the friendships that date back to PV days (I’m looking at you Judy and Sally), as they just feel deeply familiar and intimate, reaching back to childhood as they do, building on a shared past. Nowhere to really hide in those relationships… it’s all known and understood.

Feels good.

The Other Valley

January 28, 2023

Over the mountain and into the adjacent valley we went (yesterday)… for food, verdancy, beauty, art, and a bunch of upscale (sometimes overly precious) charm. Makes for a great day…

It’s kind of amazing to drive a block south of our house to Russell Blvd, turn right, and pretty much follow that one road all the way into the Napa Valley.. 5th/Russell becomes 32, becomes 128, which goes through Winters, past Lake Berryessa, over the mountain, right up to and over the Silverado Trail, and then tee right into 29. Boom, Yountville. One hour, give or take. And it’s so windy and bucolic.

I mean.

An early lunch at Mustards Grill just a wee bit north of Yountville was exceptional in every way. Superb service, lovely setting, and the food… just excellent. The owner was sitting at a table right next to us, hosting a little birthday soiree, ordering many of the same things. We had other table neighbors that were enjoying their selections as well, and we were all just happy to be deeply nestled in the foodie heaven that is Napa.

Here’s a bit of that:

Betsy with a flight of pinot noirs (I was a sauvignon blanc)… wine makes her cheeks rosy.

That was about half of the order of onion rings. We shared crab cakes, and a cod tostada that was so good, as well. But the coup de grace was the lemon-lime meringue dessert with gingered lemon peel, which was about 6 feet high..

After that two-hour meal, the rest of the afternoon was wandering around Yountville and then Napa, including the Oxbow Public Market. Then we sat in a bunch of traffic on the return trip east on 80, before bailing out and taking Pleasants Valley Road back to Winters and home.

Another nice Northern California day. A few more shots (vineyard, art in Yountville, Napa streetscape, antique shop browsing: