Birthday Cake

Before


Maya requested carrot cake for her birthday party. She loves carrot cake and chocolate cake about equally. Last month was her Uncle Steve’s birthday, and as Steve had chocolate cake, she wanted carrot. I thought about buying one at the bakery, but decided the best way to go was going to be homemade, because there is THE family carrot cake recipe.

This is what we call “Mother Thomas’s Carrot Cake”, because it is the carrot cake made by Ted’s Grandmother Thomas. It’s from a cookbook, which I believe was part of a woman’s auxiliary, and that’s all I know. My ‘chili relleno’ recipe is from the same cookbook.

I was reading online about carrot cake, and they seem to call for a LOT of oil. One recipe I read, there was a comment where someone said that they found that sometimes carrot cake tasted oily to them, so they substituted 1/2 cup of buttermilk for 1/3 of the oil, with very good results. I’m game, but also chicken, so I decided to make a test run. On the Wednesday before the party, I made a carrot cake, and frosted it, and we tried it. It’s delicious! Then Ted packed the rest of it up and took it to work with him, and his coworkers scarfed down the rest. He even cut it up nicely so they didn’t have to see that they weren’t getting the entire cake. It got rave reviews at work. These pictures are from her actual birthday party yesterday.

After


If you need a carrot cake recipe in your life, and trust me, you do, here is a definite winner.

Mother Thomas’s Carrot Cake
Ingredients
1 1/2 cup corn oil *
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 cups flour
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp soda (clearly they mean baking soda)
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
1 7-oz box coconut
2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans, which I toasted for a few minutes)
1 can (8 3/4 oz) crushed pineapple and juice (clearly sizes have changed. I only found 8oz cans.)

Sift together dry ingredients, and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, mix together oil and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat well. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Fold in coconut, carrots, nuts, and pineapple. Pour into lightly greased and floured 10×15-inch pan.**. Bake at 350F for 45 minutes. When cool, frost with Cream Cheese Frosting. Yields 16 to 20 slices.

* I suspect you could try any kind of oil you want. I would suggest a neutral oil, like peanut, but I did see a comment that said, once you try olive oil carrot cake, you’ll never go back. I haven’t tried this. Also, I used 1 cup oil and 1/2 cup buttermilk.

** I wanted a two layer round cake, so I used two 8″ round cake pans instead. I thought it would be ready much faster that way, but I think it turned out to be about 45 minutes. I just kept an eye on it after the 30 minute mark.

Cream Cheese Frosting
ingredients
2 3-oz pkg cream cheese (again, sizes have changed. I used 1 8oz pkg.)
1 box (1 lb) powdered sugar
1 stick soft margarine (I used butter)
1/2 tsp vanilla

Mix all ingredients with electric mixer until very creamy and smooth.

The Recipe

Birthday Wine


Back in December of 1997, I worked at a company that had our department holiday party on the Napa Valley Wine Train. I was in HR at the time, and there were 4 or 5 of us, I think, not a big crowd. The Napa Valley Wine Train is a passenger train that goes up Napa Valley for maybe an hour, and then comes back. It stops at one winery on the route, and serves pretty nice food and wine along the way. The train cars are decorated in an old fashioned way, like I imagine they might have been in the old west. You depart from a train depot in Napa, which of course has a gift shop with lots of wine stuff to be had. So that December day, just outside of the gift shop, were some crates that said, Maya. “Wow,” I thought, “Is there a Maya wine?” I went in and asked. The answer is yes, there is a Maya wine, and no, you can’t have any. Turns out it is a botique wine, very difficult to come by.

Well, if you’re at all like me, once someone tells me I can’t have something, I WANT IT MORE. Suddenly I was all about the Maya wine. I remember my BFF, Rosemary, and how when I would go to her house, there was some wine on top of the fridge that never got touched. I asked her about it, and she said her dad had bought each of the kids a bottle from the year they were born, and was saving it until they were old enough to drink it. Well, you can only imagine how wine stored on top of the fridge turned out to be (not good), but I liked the idea. And here was a wine that shared my daughter’s name! I MUST BUY SOME.

So, I started calling around. I called the vineyard, but they didn’t have any to sell. I called several small, independent wine stores, and got a resounding NO everywhere I called. One man laughed in my face (Well, in my ear, as I was on the phone). One man told me that they SOMETIMES got a case, but that the owner of the store gave or sold the bottles to his friends, and customers never got any. I had no idea there was wine that was difficult to procure. I’m a Safeway wine shopper.

Finally, I got lucky. I called a local wine store and told him my story. My daughter is Maya, and born in 1996. I want a bottle of 1996 Maya wine to toast her with on her 21st birthday. He said, “Most of the people who come in looking for that wine are posers wanting to show off for their friends. You’re the first down to earth person I’ve come across on this search. If I get any in the store, I will call you.” And he did. I don’t remember what year it was, probably 1999 at this point, but he called me and told me my wine was there. I was thrilled. I rushed to the store and bought it…the only time in my life I’ve paid that much for a bottle of wine (I think it was about $130, about 10x what I usually pay). It has been carefully stored in Ted’s brother’s wine fridge ever since, safe and sound.

Until Saturday. Saturday, we will celebrate my darling Maya’s 21st birthday with lamb curry, carrot cake, and a glass of Maya wine. I think there are 9 of us, so no one will get a lot, but we will toast to her health, and she can keep the bottle as a memento to her mother’s obsessive personality.

I hope it’s not corked.

Failure and Success

image
Tuesday was Maya’s 20th Birthday, and also Spring Break for the elementary school where she works, so she didn’t have work that day. Spring Break at her college was last week, so she did have school, but she decided to play hooky and spend the day with us, her loving parents. I love this kid. (Not a kid at 20, but still MY kid)

We recently watched the movie “Chef” on HBO. Have you seen that movie? It’s really cute, about a chef in Los Angeles who is working for a restaurant that is uninspired and doesn’t allow him to showcase his creativity, and he ends up quitting his job, flying across the country, and starting up a food truck, driving across the country selling Cuban sandwiches. Maya decided that for her birthday, she wanted to go into San Francisco and get Cuban sandwiches. So she went online and found a place that gets fabulous reviews, which is in fact a corner store that also has a little sandwich area. So off we went. When we got there, we discovered that it wasn’t a traditional Cuban sandwich like you might get in Havana, but is instead a Torta Cubana, which has ham, cheese, mayonnaise, chorizo, chicken, pickled peppers, sour cream, fried egg, milanesa, avocado, and hot dog slices. Way too much, when what we were looking for has roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard on Cuban bread, which is buttered and grilled in a press, like a panini. Failure

So I looked on my phone, and found another restaurant, known for the Cuban version (rather than the Mexican Torta). We drove across town, and when we got there, discovered they had shut down, permanantly. Looked for another place, also shut down. Clearly, our internet research skills are lacking.Failure

Ted had to go to work that afternoon, so we found a sandwich shop near his office, and had a late lunch there. No Cubans in sight, but it was nice nonetheless. Since Maya was born in Philadelphia, I had the Philly Cheese, which was quite good. Success (at last)

After dropping Ted off at work, Maya and I went to the Legion of Honor, so we could see a lovely painting by Raphael, Portrait of a Lady with a Unicorn. We do love the Legion of Honor…the views of San Francisco’s skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge, the smell of the sea, the gorgeous Cypress trees, and of course the beautiful paintings and sculptures. The current exposition is a collection of Pierre Bonnard’s paintings from around the world, which we very much enjoyed. Success

The following day, I saw a recipe online that looked pretty good to me, for Rajma, or Red Kidney Bean Curry, which popped up on Facebook, since I follow Smitten Kitchen there. In her post, she mentions a spice mixture that she found at Whole Foods and loved, and eventually figured out how to make herself. I thought that perhaps I might try it, and since sometimes spices in my cabinet can get a bit old, I’d just use the mix. So I went to the spice blend website, which said it was carried at both our local Whole Foods and at another local grocery store. So I went to Whole Foods (since I was in that neighborhood), and searched for the mix. Nope. Not in the Indian food section, nor in the spice section. I asked at customer service, and they said they had never heard of the brand. Sigh. So I went to the Indian spice shop across the street, where I was also out of luck. Failure I asked the woman at the spice shop, and she said the spices for Rajma are coriander, cumin, and garam masala. I had cumin at home that was fairly fresh, so I bought some coriander and garam masala and went on my way. I made the recipe for dinner and served it with rice, and it was delicious indeed. Ted said he could eat it every week, so I suspect I’ll be making it again soon. I varied the recipe in that I added a bit of garam masala, which the recipe did NOT call for, but the woman at the spice shop said it should. Really good. Success

Another recipe I tried this week was something that I saw on America’s Test Kitchen, which was lentils and rice with crispy onions, which included cumin and cinnamon. As they are known to do, America’s Test Kitchen tries the recipe several ways and tweaks it until they feel they have it just right. The recipe was supposed to be a pilaf type recipe, with tender lentils and fluffy rice, and crispy fried onions. When I made it, however, the rice came out gloppy and disgusting, and the flavors were blah. So Maya and I had bagels for dinner, and when Ted came home from work he had leftovers. Failure

Maya, as you know, has been attending our local community college for the last two years, in order to save money. Now she’s finishing up her Sophomore year, and is getting ready to transfer. She applied to one California State University, SF State (where Ted and I met!), and perhaps 6 University of California schools. She has heard from SF State, UC Santa Barbara, and UC Santa Cruz, and she is accepted to all three. YAY! She likely won’t hear from the others for a few more weeks. Her first and second choices are UC Berkeley and UC Davis, so we’re hoping for those. But if they don’t work out, she has some very good options to consider. Success!

Miscellaneous Stuff

Avo Bagel
Look at that awesome breakfast. Bagel, toasted, with avocado and lemon pepper. That’s it. So delicious. Served with OJ and tea (PG Tips, a bit of milk and sugar). One nice thing about Facebook is that some people post pictures of their food, and you can choose to be inspired by their pictures. I’m not sure I would have come up with this combination on my own, so thank you Facebook!

Then there’s this…the Gluten Free Museum. Famous paintings, with any offending gluten removed. Click the link to see more awesomeness.

Are you a fan of the ‘Little House’ books, by Laura Ingalls Wilder? If so, and if you like knowing the background behind these fictional books, I recommend the newly released “Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography“. It’s an amazing amount of research into almost every detail of Wilder’s unpublished autobiography, “Pioneer Girl”. Wilder first put her memories down and tried to publish them as “Pioneer Girl”, which is the story of her early life. The story is not written for children, and has some darker elements than the ‘Little House’ stories. The decision was made that the stories would better be told as children’s books, and Laura and her daughter Rose worked through the same material, and they turned into the ‘Little House’ stories that we all know and love. The difference between reality and fiction is sometimes jarring. That she had a little brother, who died as an infant, I knew. That the infamous Nellie Oleson was a composite of several girls in Laura’s youth, I knew. But that Jack, Laura’s beloved brindle bulldog and constant companion, was actually given away when Laura was 4…that was too much for me, and I thought I was going to have to breathe into a paper bag to keep from passing out.

If you’re looking for a good book to read, I really enjoyed ‘The Precious One‘, by Marisa de los Santos. I’ve read a couple of her other books, and I really enjoy them. They’re light enough to be an easy read, but I love her writing and her lovely use of language.  Without giving anything important away, this is the story of Taisy and Willow, sisters 18 years apart in age.  They share the same father, who is imperious and overwhelming and towers above their lives. They’ve only met once before, when Willow was a baby, when Taisy comes to stay for a short time at the request of their father.  Taisy is determined to find answers to how her father turned out to be the man he is, the kind of man who would leave her, her mother, and brother, and start over with a new wife and daughter.  Willow is focused on her dislike and jealousy of Taisy, and trying to navigate the treacherous waters of High School, after a life of being home schooled.

Ted and I went to see ‘Wild Tales‘, which was in town for about 15 minutes.  We’re fortunate that there’s one theater in town that plays independent and foreign films. I knew nothing about the movie going in, except that I wasn’t interested in any other movies that were playing, and that it was a foreign film. It’s a series of stories with a common theme, and that’s all I will say. Also, fairly dark, but not horrific, and pretty laugh out loud funny in some parts. Ted thought one woman in the audience was going to choke, she was laughing so hard. I’ll be watching for it to come to Netflix or something, so I can see it again.

Whew.   Now you’re all caught up.  I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve posted…I blame my iPad.  I don’t really like the WordPress app on it, so I get frustrated and don’t bother.  For this post, I pulled out my old laptop.  I should do this more often, clearly. I’ll leave you with the knowledge that Maya is now 19, and that we had a lovely weekend celebrating. Also, if you like to laugh, go look at this.

Proud Mama


The other night was awards night at Maya’s high school, where the Seniors with awards of one kind or another are recognized before their families and their peers. The kids who are members of CSF (California Scholarship Federation), the kids who have received special honors from the school or district, the kids who have received outside scholarships, the kids with athletic honors. All are honored. We knew what some of Maya’s honors would be, but there was one (The Walnut Creek Women’s Scholarship) that we did not know about ahead of time. We knew she had applied…it was the scholarship I mentioned in an earlier post. So we’re sitting there, listening to all of the scholarship awards, and they came to this one. They said something like (I got excited, so I don’t remember exact words), “This award, we received many applicants. But when it came time to choose, we were unanimous. The winner has been a girl scout for 10 years. She has an accomplished GPA and academic record. She has volunteered for…and then she went on to list the many volunteer activities in which she has been involved. I imagine it’s kind of like being at the Oscars with your child, when they win an award. We were SO happy, so excited, and then they called her name! (of course they mispronounced it. She is Maya, but we pronounce it “May-Uh”, not “My-Uh” Who knows that? No one but friends and family.

Do you know what this means? It means that between the two scholarships she has received, her first year of college is paid for. That, my friends, is an amazing feeling. In this day and age, when costs have gone up SO MUCH, and we have saved so little. And it was so wonderful to see her receive the award, to go in not knowing, and then to come out knowing. Wonderful. I’m so proud of my hard working daughter.

And no, we have no pictures. We were pretty far back, and pictures we took came out blurry. There were official pictures taken later, which I’m sure we will have the opportunity to purchase later. We’ll see how that comes out.

Next week is graduation. I’m so looking forward to that. I know it’s a boring evening, until you hear your own loved one’s name called. But when it is your own loved one, your child, it’s suddenly not so boring to hear the speeches and the other kids’ names. At least I hope that’s the case.

Friday Randomness (belated…)

Graduation Invitation
Isn’t that a cute Graduation Invite, for a proud parent to send out to invite her friends and family to show off her daughter, and celebrate said daughter’s accomplishment in school? Yes, it is. See how cute, the picture of her Kindergarten graduation? Her official Senior photo (in my great aunt’s pearls), her other, casual Senior photos? Sigh. The thing is, Maya doesn’t want a graduation party. She doesn’t want to hang out with a bunch of Ted and my friends, feeling self-conscious because everyone is looking at her. She and her friends will have been partying at the ‘All Knighter’ (They’re the Knights), and she’d rather go from party to party at her friend’s houses. I don’t blame her. But still, I’m a little disappointed. I have attended parties for several of my friends’ kids, and I enjoyed them. I enjoyed admiring the graduating senior, hearing about their plans going forward, all of that. I want my friends to enjoy that coming to see my child. So here I am, letting it go. LETTING IT GO. It’s her graduation, not mine. I’ll have a party later in the summer with my friends, and we will have a lovely time. They will admire my child, not because it is her graduation, but because they love her, and they love me. So there.

Friday afternoon, our front door lock broke. Always on a Friday, right? Of a holiday weekend? That’s when the kid comes down with a fever (though generally they wait until the doctor’s office is closed), the stove/air conditioner/hot water heater goes out, that kind of thing. All things you want fixed NOW, and you will have to wait until Monday. I’ve heard that what duct tape doesn’t fix, WD-40 will, I tried oiling the dead bolt. No help. (The issue was that the dead bolt would only come out about 1/5 of the way, not the full extended way.) So I took the door knob thing apart (two little screws were all that was needed), figured out what was wrong, then went to look in my ‘fix everything around the house’ book that my Grandmother gave us years ago. No help at all. None. So I took the pieces to my local Ace hardware store, hoping that they could either tell me how to fix it, or sell me a replacement. Nope. However, at 4:40 in the afternoon, they gave me a recommendation to a local locksmith. Across town. So I called them and asked them if they could maybe stay open until I got there. They helpfully said yes. Across town I sped, thankfully against the afternoon traffic. I got there at 4:55, before they even had to stay late. The locksmith took one look and said, “Nope, can’t fix it. The part that’s broken, they don’t sell just that part.” So we looked at the several options. One was $15, but very temporary. One was $300, and required us installing the new door stuff ourselves. The fact that I call it ‘door stuff’ should inform you about how good I am at this stuff. Ted is better at it than I am, but he’s not a handyman, he’s an academic. The third option was to pick a different brand of hardware (aka, door stuff), which would be cheaper on the parts, but would mean drilling and painting our stupid door. Blech. So here I am, it’s 5:05 on Friday of a three-day weekend, and I’m frustrated. Finally, the locksmith said, “There’s another option. I can remove the broken part, which isn’t necessary. The broken part, being broken, is getting in the way of the rest of the mechanism. It will certainly get you through the weekend, and it may even work long term.” OK, I’m in. Why couldn’t he have suggested this to begin with, I wondered. However, all I said was, “How much?” Free. I love that price. I said no, he should be paid for his time and expertise, and he said no. So he took out the broken part (which required some expertise to do), and I took it home and put it back together. The door knob is looser, doesn’t fit just the same anymore, but it works. It works well, locks properly, and was free. So I went on FB and yelp and gave full props to the locksmith, hoping maybe I could pay them back in some way. If the solution falls apart and it turns out that we need something more, they’ve earned my business and I’ll go back to get a long term solution.

This morning, Maya had a job working for one of her teachers (who has a successful side business, Pinot Days, very wine related), so while she went and took care of that, Ted and I went and ran errands. We went and picked up the badges earned by Maya’s Girl Scout troop, then to breakfast at a place we haven’t been to before. It was tasty. It was a little expensive for a semi-fast food breakfast place, but the quality of the food was good. We liked it. Then we went to the farmers’ market and got the essentials…strawberries, nectarines, and eggs. We ran a few more errands, then came home, and I took a delicious nap. Saturdays can be lovely indeed.

The other day I went to the video store…we still have a video store we love to try to keep open. I picked up a DVD, ‘Labor Day’, with Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin. For some reason, I knew nothing about the film, and thought it might be a romantic comedy. It wasn’t. It was closer to a love story. Josh Brolin is an escaped convict, convicted of murdering his wife and child, who forces his way into the home of Kate Winslet and her young teen son. He’s camping out for a few days. The pace is slow, the acting superb, the story not quite as dramatic as you might want, but at the same time, because of that, it seems more real. We really liked it a lot.

I’m reading the new ‘David Sedaris’ book, borrowed from our library. I like it a lot, though I can’t plow through it as quickly as needed for the online rental. We’ll see how I do, if I finish in time.

In other news, I tried a new quinoa recipe. YUM. So good. I’ll post it here soon. It had pickled onions, nectarines, and arugula. Really good.

Enjoy your weekend.

Maya’s Senior Ball

2014-05-18 15.26.24Last night was the Senior Ball for Maya and her classmates. The ball was held in San Francisco, at the new Exploratorium (which Ted and I have not yet seen). They started out with pictures in a local park, then moved on to dinner, then a limo ride into San Francisco for the dance. Home again, then to an after party/sleepover at a friend’s house. She drug herself in at about 6:30 this morning, and as of this writing, is still asleep.

I remember my Senior Prom well, what a good time I had, and how nostalgic I started feeling for my classmates, and how we were on the verge of going on into the world and our many separate ways.

I mentioned something about the dance to the checker at Safeway, because I was getting cash back for her share of the limo ride. The checker said that when she tallied up the price of her daughter’s senior ball, it was about $1,000. I was horrified. And very thankful for my daughter, who wore her cousin’s dress, shoes from last year, carried her aunt’s clutch. She did her own makeup, and I did her hair. So we paid for limo, restaurant, earrings, the ball, and a manicure/pedicure. They didn’t do official photos, as they all gather at the park for photos. I’m not sure exactly how much the total would come up to, but it was definitely around $200.

Her date is an aspiring photographer, and actually took her senior photos for her last summer. He had a fabulous camera set up. I’m looking forward to seeing the pictures he took of the group.

Ted put together a slideshow of photos from his phone. Go check it out on his blog.  Gorgeous!

Still Alive

Still Alive
Yes, I’m still alive. I know, it’s been awhile. I hate writing that at the beginning of a blog post, but somehow, I find myself doing it more and more often. Today I took a few minutes and looked at blogs that I link to from my blogroll. So many of them are defunct, or might as well be. Last post in 2011, 2012, 2013. I should clean them up, move them out. But I don’t use an RSS reader or anything like that. My way of checking to see if you have a new blog post is to click my link, and go look. So I keep them. I want to see if some of you come back to blogging. Who knows…it could happen.

As is often the case when a household consists of two adults and a teen, most of the news around here is about the teen. Let’s see. Well, in one crappy week, she was in her first car accident, and had her first flat tire. Thankfully, the car accident was a tiny fender bender, and no one was hurt. Of course, nowadays a tiny fender bender still means a new bumper, new grill, etc. It wasn’t her fault, so the other insurance company paid for the repairs. Perhaps she could have avoided the accident if she had been paying closer attention, perhaps not. She was parking, and the other driver backed out of a parking place and into the front of our car. She didn’t see it coming, because she was looking into another row for a place there. So I’m glad she learned the lesson of paying better attention now, and in a safe place without getting hurt. Sadly, part of the lesson was that people can be jerks, as the woman who hit her got out of the car and yelled at her. The flat tire came the next week. Don’t know what she hit, or if maybe it was just the tire’s time. What she didn’t know was what a flat tire felt like, so she continued driving, wanting to get home. Bad move, but again, we were lucky and her driving on a flat didn’t cause any damage to the wheel. So…she’s learned a few things about auto stuff lately.

Also, she had her first opportunity to vote! We had a tiny little special election here, to renew a bond measure for the local high school district. I was unsure as to WHY they chose to have a mail-in ballot in May, when there is a much larger election scheduled for June, which will surely attract a much larger voting population. We (Ted and I) decided that it must be because they felt like they would get a better, more dedicated vote than they would get from the general public. Whether that was the reason for the strategy or not, it worked, and the bond measure passed. So the local high schools will continue to be well funded.

Which chaps my hide. Don’t get me wrong, I voted for it. I want the schools to be well funded. But it’s frustrating to the nth to me that this is how our schools work. You live in a wealthy enclave, and the people vote to support the schools. Why? Because it’s OUR KIDS. But a vote to support the schools on a larger, state wide, basis? A vote that would make the schools a bit more equal? Hell no. Why would we want to vote to support OTHER PEOPLE’S KIDS? Grrr. I miss the days back when I grew up, when schools were better funded, there was money for things like school buses, art, PE, etc., without having to tap different areas for different amounts of money.

So anyway, she voted, we voted, and the measure passed. That was a mail in election, and the next one will be a walk in election. I have, in the past, requested a mail in ballot, because gosh, it’s just SO DARNED EASY. Deep down, though, I can’t get past the idea that maybe they don’t bother to count those votes. Also, I kind of like the ritual of going into the little ballot box and marking the ballot myself. I liked when we lived in Philly, and you made your selections, then pulled a big lever down that punched holes or something. That was pretty satisfying.

We received news that Maya was awarded a scholarship for $1,000 from Burger King, which is funny because we don’t eat much fast food. I’m the junk food junkie in the house, and I don’t eat it THAT often. I think she’s probably been to BK twice in her life. But anyway, we applied for the scholarship, and she received it, which is great news. $1,000 now will pay for most of a semester’s expenses at a community college, as long as you live at home. Tuition and books. Which brings me back to my earlier point about funding the schools. Back until the mid-80s, community colleges in California were free. Then in 1985, they started charging tuition, which was a flat $50, no matter how many courses or units you took. When I transferred to San Francisco State University, it was about $450 a semester for tuition. My friend Janet transferred from community college to UC Berkeley, and her tuition was a little over $700. So a semester at a community college now is about the cost of a semester at Cal back in the late 80s. Which would be very well and good if wages had gone up that much, but of course they haven’t. Wages are higher, but the minimum wage has about doubled, which college costs have exceeded that at an alarming rate. She’s applied for a few more scholarships, and we’re hoping to get her next semester’s fees paid for as well. If we can avoid dipping into the little bit of savings that we have until she goes to a four year as a JR, that would be great.

Which brings me to my next thought. Really, a brag. The same week as her AP test, I found another local scholarship I thought she should apply for. One that required her to write 2 very short essays, get letters of recommendation, and have a resume. Being the quick turnaround time (2 days), I offered to write the resume for her, as she’s never done one for herself, and she had the AP exam to study for. I’m impressed. There are surely kids who have done more, and kids who have done less. But she’s an AP Scholar with a strong GPA, is a member of 3 clubs at her school (for 2 of them, she’s co-president), she’s been a cheerleader, in the school choir, and on the school paper. She’s volunteered over and over again (mostly through Girl Scouts) to wonderful organizations that help children, animals, and adults in rough times. I wish my resume had looked like that at her age. Mine was more like, “Two years at Mr. Steak, three years in the Dungeons and Dragons club, crappy GPA, decent test scores”. So yes, I’m proud.

Along with the end of High School (she graduates June 13th) comes the Senior Ball next weekend, and the end of Girl Scouts. She’s been involved for 10 years now, and I am so glad that she joined, and that she stuck with it for this long. The troop has dwindled down to 5 girls, and they don’t see each other or keep in touch the way they once did. But they’re still close, and have shared wonderful experiences. They have put in a lot of time, volunteering, camping, working on badges. I hope they are forever friends, even if that means the kind of friends who keep in touch online only, once in awhile. They’re all great girls, doing wonderful things with their lives, and I’m proud of them all. This next chapter will be an exciting one for them indeed.

My life? Not as exciting, but still pretty good. We went to Stockton a few weeks ago to celebrate my Great-Aunt’s 90th birthday. My Great-Aunt, who was in the delivery room with my mom when I was born. She took me on a trip with her and her daughter in the late 70s. We drove through Yosemite (drought, so no waterfalls), up to Tahoe, and had a great time. She loaned me money to pay that first $450 tuition check at San Francisco State, because my mom had no money and I had blithely moved out, gone out on my own with no money to my name, trusting that all would work out. Somehow it did. My roommate’s father loaned us money for first/last/security deposits. My great Aunt payed my tuition. My friend’s parents let me sleep on their sofa until we had our apartment, and while I started my job and got money for school books. Looking back, I can’t believe I got away with it.

I have a new computer for work. I love it. It’s faster, and a newer operating system. What I like the most about it is that it’s a laptop, which means when it gets hot here, I can work downstairs where it’s much cooler. My office is in the bedroom, which is upstairs and gets full on afternoon sun, which is lovely in the cold of winter, and fine until the temps get to be about 85 or 90. Once it’s 90 degrees outside, and 3:00 or so with the sun beating through the window full force, it gets to be about 80 downstairs, and I don’t know how much hotter upstairs, but I start sweating while at my desk, which I DO NOT LIKE. I don’t like turning on the A/C when the sun is hitting that room, it feels like it’s fighting a losing battle. I’d prefer to wait until the sun goes down, and then turn on the A/C if need be to cool the bedroom down enough for sleep. Now, when I’m upstairs, I have a docking station for the laptop, which means a huge monitor (good for my aging eyes), a full sized keyboard, and a mouse. Downstairs, I can bring all of that if I really want to, or I can just bring the laptop down with me. It’s great.

This coming weekend, my parents are coming for a very quick visit. They live in Portland. My step-mom is a big wig in the yoga community, and owns a very successful yoga studio there. One of the museums in SF has an exhibit about the birth of yoga, so they’re coming down on Friday, seeing the exhibit on Saturday, going home on Sunday. Maya’s Senior Ball is Saturday night, so we’re not available that day, but we will go into the City and have dinner with them Friday night. I’m excited to try the fancy French restaurant where we have a reservation, and of course I’m excited to see them.

That seems like enough for now. I did try a nice sausage and polenta recipe the other day that I may share soon, and we might go to a movie for Mother’s Day tomorrow. If we see something worth seeing, I’ll let you know.

Doing Your Part

(Jesus the Homeless, by Timothy Schmalz)

Last Saturday morning found Maya and me (and her friend) in San Francisco, handing out meals to homeless people. We had done this once before, when she was in 7th or 8th grade. In that instance, it was for a class, Teens Around the World, in which they learned about kids in other cultures. A group of 10 or 15 kids, the teacher, and several parents went into the city and handed out bag lunches, which the student had assembled the day before in class. It was kind of an amazing experience, and I think it helped Maya to overcome her fear of homeless people.

Back when she was 5 or so, we were in the city for the day, and walking around Union Square. There was a very angry, confused, smelly, and LOUD homeless man, who was yelling profanities at people as they passed by. He was scary. From then on, Maya said she didn’t like San Francisco and didn’t want to go into the city. As time went on, she amended that to say she didn’t like downtown, but the park and some of the outer neighborhoods were OK. Finally, as she got older and had more good experiences in the city, she finally overcame her dislike of downtown, though it took engagement and interaction with homeless people in 7th grade to cure her of her fear. It helped her to humanize them and realize that they are people, just like everyone else.

So for her senior project in English class, she had to write a paper, work with a mentor, have a practical aspect, and give a presentation.  For the paper, she worked with her mentor, who is a journalist at the San Francisco Chronicle who focuses on homelessness. The practical part was giving away sandwiches.  So she recruited some students from her Human Rights Club at school to assemble lunches, and then she and one other girl went to Civic Center and started handing them out. Again, it was really a rewarding experience.  Taking the time to stop and look at, talk to, the homeless amongst us not only reminded us of their humanity, but of course of our own as well.  Similar to volunteering at a soup kitchen or delivering Meals on Wheels, I think that when you do these things, do just a little bit to lighten the load of someone in need, you get more than you give.  Maya told me that not many of the kids in the club could come that day, but they were inspired by assembling the meals, and they may try to organize a bigger group and go in again.  I hope they do.

Birthday Girl

Mayas Cake
Isn’t this a pretty cake? Gah, it’s sideways. I’ve decided to ignore that for now. I love the little brown branches, and the cherry blossoms. I’m afraid to say that the butter cream frosting was just too sweet. Should have tried for a cream cheese frosting, I think. The cake itself was chocolate with a fudge chocolate filling. It was very nice, except perhaps for the too sweet frosting.
Maya and her Cake
Maya and her cake. My darling BFF sent her a tiara for her birthday, an appropriate gift indeed. She wore it all day.

It’s hard to believe that my baby is 18 already. Our little row in the condo complex is full of young couples with young children, and when I see them, it takes me back to when Maya was so little and young. Of course, there’s something about a child’s birthday that takes one back to when your baby was born. I remember when Maya was a toddler, or a pre-schooler, doing all of the cute things that our neighbors’ children are doing. I did love that time. One of the wonderful things about children, though, is that (contrary to popular culture), every age is wonderful if you’re lucky. Maya has been a joy from the moment she was born (aside from those many horrid hours of colic when she was a baby), and we’ve enjoyed every stage she’s gone through since then.

Happy (belated) birthday, my darling girl. You are my dream come true.

Friday Randomness


I’ve been off almost all week. Tuesday I thought it was Wednesday, Wednesday I thought it was Thursday, and Thursday I thought it was Friday. But finally, Friday is here. Yay Friday! This will be a busy weekend for us, because…

Tomorrow is Maya’s birthday! She turns 18, which is INSANE. I cannot believe my baby will legally be an adult. She can gamble, see R rated movies, whatever she wants to do. Every year I find myself reminiscing about those early days…so 18 years ago today, I was going into the hospital. I spent the night, and was induced in the morning. Gross, but effective. OK, gross is not the right word. The right word is pain inducing, which is, I guess, the entire point. So 18 years ago, the whole thing was starting to hit me, that I was going to have to go through this, that I was going to have to get my baby safely out of my body. Terrifying.

So tonight is her birthday party with her school friends. They’re going to dinner without an adult to accompany them. Symbolic I guess. I hope they have a great time.

Tomorrow will be the family party. Maya loves Ted’s lamb curry, so we’re having lamb curry, chickpea curry, curried pumpkin, roti (aka, naan), rice, and appetizers. It will be a lot of fun, as always.

Yesterday was Meals-on-Wheels. One of the couples on my route has a big bush out front, with lovely birds of paradise. They let me cut some blooms to decorate the house for Maya’s birthday party. I love the vibrant orange, with the hint of purple. I was thinking I would buy some irises to put with it, and how that might look nice. Guess what? Maya came home from school with a bouquet of irises. She has NEVER come home with flowers for no reason before. Synchronicity! They’re lovely.

Before the flowers, yesterday was kind of a crummy day. I can’t point to anything specific…just kind of work wasn’t going great, I was tired, I don’t know. But then Ted’s mom called and said, “I have some crab for you, still alive it’s so fresh”, and she appeared with crab. YUM. We had delicious crab with ciabatta bread, chardonnay, and salad for dinner. I got flowers from my MoW folks, and then from Maya. I had two things I wanted to get done for work before the end of the day, things that have been hanging over me and bugging me. I am taking next week off from work, and I wanted to get things done before going. Happily enough, it worked, I got the chores done, and now they are off of my plate before my week off. Right when I was getting ready to put dinner together (very quick, as I had already cooked and chilled the crab), Maya said she was going to go for a walk. After she left, I considered sitting down and having a glass of wine and reading my book. Then I thought, “No, I’m going for a walk too.” So I did, which felt good and took away that tired feeling. So the day started out kind of bleh, and came out really nice.

What else…well, Maya has been accepted into 4 good colleges. She didn’t get into one (very competitive) school, and is wait listed at another. I’m SO proud of her. She has worked so hard on all of this, with her AP classes and volunteer work and so on, and now it has paid off. The frustrating part is that, so far, there isn’t enough financial aid coming in, so she may end up going to a community college for the first two years. I was fine with that for me, and Ted was fine with that for him, but neither of us were so focused or hard working as she is. We SO wish that we could afford to send her to a 4-year right out the door. There’s still a chance…she has applied for a couple of scholarships, we haven’t gotten financial aid offers from 2 schools, what if she lives at home, etc. Chances are it will be community college, and if that’s the case, she will do well there. But we’re holding out hope still for a 4-year to work out in the next month.

I took next week off, because I haven’t really had any time off since December, and I like to take a couple off weeks off every year. OK, more than a couple. A few. This will be spring break for Maya. She is taking an art class, and one thing they have to do is to go to either a museum or a gallery, and report on a work of art. The SF Legion of Honor has an exhibit starting today, Impressionism from the National Gallery of Art. It’s stupid expensive, but I’d like to see it anyway. The first Tuesday of the month is free (not for this exhibit, but at least the general museum admission), so I’d like to go do this on Tuesday. I’m not sure what else we’ll do…maybe go to the ocean, though it’s colder now than it was in February. Not cold, but colder. It’s been raining off and on over the last week, which is delicious and lovely. Not really enough to end the drought, by any means, but every bit helps.

Speaking of which, I described the crummy showers we’re taking, right? It has paid off. Governor Brown asked that everyone cut their water use by 20%. We already have low flow toilets and a high efficiency front load washing machine, and we don’t have a lawn or any trees, so that’s kind of all we can do. We received our first bill since cutting back the other day, and our water use has been cut by 21%. Yay us!

I’ve been reading about this drought, and how difficult it is going to be on farmers. California has really taken advantage of the demand for almonds, and a lot of fields that used to grow other produce now have almond orchards and grape vines. All very well and good when there’s enough water, but one thing about orchards and vineyards is that you can’t leave the fields fallow in dry years. The trees take years to grow and become productive. With tomatoes or lettuce or whatever, you can leave the field fallow and not grow anything during a drought. But with trees and vines, they need water, no matter what. So look for your California products to get pricey this summer and so on. Careers are falling apart, people are losing their farms, trees are dying, cattle are dying. It’s ugly. So yeah, I’m enjoying the rain, and I wish that it could somehow be enough to solve a few problems.

Lastly, on a lighter note, did anyone watch ‘True Detectives’ on HBO? We binge watched after the season ended. I really liked it a lot. Ted was a little disappointed by the finale, but I liked it. Really interesting storytelling, really good acting, all of that.