They have the cleanest streets

I now understand the moral isolation of the rich.  For part of Spring Break  got to spend a week on Balboa Island off of Newport Beach.  It’s so clean and delightful my sister asked if we were in “The Truman Show”.  I was lucky to the live auctioneer at our school fundraiser last year who no one could hear.  I also had done research on the items and knew they had low balled the value of this charming house which was up for auction for a week of Spring Break.  So as the bidding progressed Slowly, I jumped in with my bid, no one countered and it was Sold!  To me.kids on balboa island

Mark is working so hard he was not able to come down for a minute.  But, he is so dear as I came in from a break of paddle boarding I phoned him and said, Gosh I was so much a part of the development of Bombo, but now that it’s open you are working non stop and I’m wondering if tonight I should make a Gin and Tonic with lots of lime or a Manhattan with rye or bourbon?

He said, “No, don’t feel bad.  You are taking care of Vivien and Rex.”  So wonderful that my husband really understands a family partnership.  Now, where were those kids??mark peel's bombo

Oh, right, they were not missing the grit of their Hollywood environs, they were having the time of their lives.  Sometimes their cousins were there, sometimes some friends. action kids

The first few nights my mom was with us which was great.  Perfect multi generational vacay spot.  You can scamper, read multi generational travelor rent a boat!

Cruising cousins

Cruising cousins

One night it was just us so we went to the movie theater at Fashion Island nearby.  I was once told the average income around there is $750k a year.  My ticket was $22.  I almost fell out of my ballet flats.

“No way” I wailed.  “we are not going.”  But, Vivien begged and we were there, and it was vacation.  I relented.  “Okay, but we are never coming here again.”  My rant was abated when we walked into the lobby and it looked like a  Four Seasons, or at least 3.  A handsome young man stood behind a counter asking me if I wanted to purchase a glass of wine or beer on tap.  The price of my ticket faded from my mind when he said, “if you would like a second glass during the movie I can bring you that.” Wouldn’t you know it an hour later he did!  Later Rex asked how I liked “Home”.  I thought, gee, I don’t know, seemed more enjoyable than all those other animated movies I sit through with you guys, but I had two glass of nice California white, so my judgement is impaired.  “It was pretty.” I said.

Most of the week we barely drove.  I’m so sick of driving.  I am obssessed with my pediometer app. I was cracking 10 thousand steps no problem as we walked to the ferry, to the paddle boats, to a Balboa ice cream bar, to rent a motor boat.  Water, views, breezes everywhere.  Where were the homeless?  They must ship them up to LA.  I couldn’t figure it out.  In our sister school there was an encampment.. tents, flooring materials, stench, but here, there isn’t so much as a gum stain on the street. ( sidebar, I finally got to the right people in the city and the trees were trimmed and we got the encampment moved).

It’s easy to feel like the problems of the world are far away.  Or at least in Santa Ana.  I do prefer paddle boarding over driving, but hey, that’s what vacations are for, right? But, it seems like it’s always vacation down here in the OC.  Is it wrong to enjoy living like this?  I’ve always thought it was, but now not sure.  Daphne and children

June Gloom

IT has arrived IT is the haze that moves in on Southern California every June ( sometimes May, but we were spared this year).  People who live in colder climates will know doubt say, “cry me a river”.  For us who are use to days on end of perfect days the unceasing haze can drive us to re up long dormant prescriptions for happy pills, or try out new cocktails.

The trip I had postponed so I could be home for Oliver’s prom. With five offspring there is never a good time to get away. By going away this weekend we missed Viv’s best friend’s birthday party and spending time with my stepdaughter who is visiting ( we will see her this week however), but I would lose the money I had put down on the cabin so we went.

Just getting my husband away from striking distance from his restaurant has value.  He is trapped, he has to stay with us.  We drove north and stopped at this cute little place in Summerland.  I really wanted a non corporate cup of coffee and this place, Cafe Luna, reminded me of college days in Santa Cruz.  The kids loved their smoothies.Just when we were going to get back on the road to our “glamping” site Mark spied an outdoor oven in the back.  Ends up they have a chef and make a few things in this outdoor oven for dinner.  Oh, let’s stay I said.  I chatted up the owner ala John Carl Brogdonand ordered the roast chicken- fantastic and the meat loaf, good, but would use a tad less sauce and peppers.  The smashed potatoes had rosemary and truffle oil. Yum.  We brought in our bottle of Sancerre we had.  The kids could scamper on the patio.

a little self portrait

Great places for a family.  We hit the road the next morning awoke to a gloomy day north of Santa Barbara.  Sigh.  There goes the beach swim thing.

Fortunately, a Llama farm hike saved the day.  We hiked up a hill to visit with Llama and goats and sheep with a view of the water. Usually I only see this view from the window of a speeding car.  It was nice to be in it instead of looking at it. We didn’t need clear sun to make this a sweet outing.

 

For dinner we made tri tip over an open fire.  Great for the kids to scamper outside.  Dodge poison oak instead of cars, avoid skunks instead of creepy people who park their cars a little long on a street.  But, dang it, there is NO way to look pretty when you camp.  It can get to me. 

I told Mark that if we could cover our computers, TV and phones at home we could stay in our home comfy home with our full bar and save a lot of money.  He would have to vow to stay with us for 36 hours.  Even on the hike I caught him checking his phone sometimes, “put that down” I yelled.

That night the place we stayed had an awesome band, “The Rawhides”.  Country by way of rocka billy.  They were tight.  I loved hearing music, outdoors and being able to dance with my kids.  The normal schlep of concerts.  Babysitters, late at night, sitting down or standing up in a stinky bar does not appeal to me, but I miss out on the magic of live music.  Here we got it.  I danced some, but the sweetest thing was to see Viv and her dad dance.  They never sat down.

The next morning more haze.  I needed some reframing, ” let’s see the beautiful overcast beach” in my head I thought, “I’ll pretend it’s the Oregon Coast”.  My sensitivity to cloudy weather is a big reason I fled back home after many years in Northern California.  But, this morning I adjusted, we all did.  

I love this picture.

Of course when we got back to the big city the haze had burned off.   I did three loads of laundry. And more gloom with my dinner. It laid an egg.  Oliver didn’t eat it because I had served him a late lunch, Vivien said, “Is that all there is?”  Pork and Salad. What more do you want?

“all pork is dry”

” Where are you picking up these crazy ideas.  It’s pork shoulder not a chop.  I brined it.”

She was use to Sunday dinner with dad when their are more things on the table.  I found some leftover arancini balls and she ate those.  Rex was wound up. Literally.  He was lying in my suitcase, nearby as I had unloaded it’s contents into the washing machine.  ( Later I tricked him into eating while he watched Mickey Mouse on youtube)

I fell asleep holding Rex and smelling the campfire in his hair.  I’ll deal with that tomorrow.

 

Spring Break: Palms Springs


Okay, I’m going to need a little time to get back up to speed. You know when you go on vacation and the various stages you go through?

First is anxiety before you leave worrying about all the things you have to get done. Pack, don’t forget to cancel the paper, board the dog, what have you. I have such a worry check list prior to travel that, even though I don’t have a dog, I still worry about it.

Second, you get to the destination and have to dial down from normal life. “There isn’t cable! I can’t live like this!” “Intermittent wifi, gasp! The room is getting dark; hold me, I’m frightened.”

Third, and this takes me about two days to achieve this totally. Mellow groove. If it’s a trip where I’m living out of suitcase in Europe going to 50 countries in 50 days I click in and think, “I could do this forever. What do I need more than this one black cotton dress I clean in the sink at night?” If I am having a beach vacation, “Why don’t I sell shell necklaces and just stay here?”

So, when I was trying to think of a vacation this year I had a few considerations to keep in mind. Money, travel with an infant. I’m not super plucky in that regard, and if I am going to blow the bank on a big trip I want to enjoy it, and sorry, need older kids in order to do so. I don’t want a 13-hour flight with small kids. Mark works constantly and getting him to take time off is… um, difficult. So, when he was asked to be in the Palm Desert Food Festival I smelled an opportunity. They would put us up for the first night or two (check savings off the list), and it’s close (no long plane ride). I imagined renting a stunning mid-century home until I saw how much they cost and that none had a fence around the pool. So I settled on a condo (more like a townhouse) with a communal pool. Added benefit, they don’t charge extra to heat the pool, which the house rentals do.

Okay, I’m getting ahead of my story here.

First off, the food festival. Which Mark and I have been referring to FOR WEEKS as the Palm Springs ood Festival.  It’s only when we were 15 minutes from the springs that I suddenly came to.” Hey, I think it’s in Palm Desert.”

“It is?” Mark asks. I check my emails. “Yep, it’s Palm Desert.”

Mark: “Well where is that?” Mind you he is scheduled to be doing a food demonstration in about 45 minutes from our conversation.

“Keep driving, it’s about ten more miles.”

I’ve been down here many times. We had our wedding ceremony in Palm Springs (the big, fun one, not the legal one). We easily find the place, and it looks great. Big white tents and a couple people ready to help Mark. Normally he has someone to help he brings, but logistically that would be tough. Now, I could be of some help, except I am alternating pushing Rex in the stroller or strapping him to my body in the Ergo and minding Vivien. So, helping him make the gnocchi is out of the question. What can I do? Try to eat and drink with a mildly cranky 13 month old. Vivien’s been to enough of these she kind of gets the drill. I will find her some yummy nibbles if she lets mommy try that French Red the nice man is going to pour for me. My sister Carole, brother-in-law Kevin and nephew Charlie also came which made it more fun.

I did notice there was no signage for Campanile or Mark at his table, and we hadn’t brought any. Must remember to have a big sign I can roll up and travel with. I stacked some of his cookbooks up around his chafing dish for an improvised sign. His catering director had also made up some cute cards with a description of the restaurants and a recipe from the book.

I hear Mark’s voice loud as he is finally up at the stage showing how to make gnocchi. I think he was about 40 minutes late as they had to be made there. He served them with beef cheeks. Very good. He also had meyer lemon and basil sorbet, but since he was understaffed, so most of that never got served, and we took several quarts to our condo. I wish there was a taste app for this blog because this sorbet is the definition of refreshing.

My sister and her family really wanted to hit the pool at the Riviera where we were staying and so did Vivien. Mark, ever the nice guy, said go ahead! Kevin said he would come back and pick him up later and Mark said that maybe he could hitch a ride.

Well, none of us realized how FAR Palm Desert is from Palm Springs, especially where our hotel was. It was about a 4- minute drive. I checked in, had to change rooms, change a poop diaper, get a snack for Viv. And the place was kind of strange. The Riviera has been redone recently. My family and I used to stay there when we were little kids, so I remembered it had two big pools, which it still does. The grounds and rooms are a nice. The staff is good. Their nice restaurant, where we had dinner, is good. But… the clientele. Well, there is no other way to put it.

WHITE TRASH.

I’m used to being the only one these days who doesn’t have A tattoo, but everyone around us had multiple tattoos, baseball cap backwards, smoking, and bags of fast food. There seemed to be packs of young adults who had gathered for a mini Vegas experience.

We finally made it down to the “kiddie” pool (which was calmer than the wannabe pool) and spent a nice 10 minutes when I hear my phone, “Can you pick me up now?” my husband asks. I’m a kind wife.

“Can’t you get a ride?  It’s really far.” As luck would have it, Kathy Ireland’s chef was leaving right at that moment. So, he got a ride and was given her latest book and a blueberry cheesecake candle. He said he also told the guy Kathy should guest on momversation, which I thought was really cute.

Kevin and I felt kind of bad for abandoning Mark. Kev had noticed two messages from Mark, “Kevin, I’m ready to go now.” As Kevin downed his martini, “I did tell him I would pick him didn’t I?”

“Yes, you did.” As I sipped a gin and tonic bouncing my son on my knee.

In short order, Mark appeared and happily grabbed Rex and went into the pool. I took a bunch of shots from our balcony, but this one was my favorite. What joy!

The next day I dropped Mark off at the festival again, and I made my beeline for what I was sure would please my kids. Sonic burger. Not at the pool, in the car. Now, here in the big city we don’t have Sonics. But I had spotted one in Cathedral City and figuring there is only so much being dragged around my kids would nicely put up with I had to give them a win. And I love Sonic. We get to stay in the car, the waitress with the skates, the toys and I got a chicken wrap, which wasn’t fatty, fat, fat.

I was in mom mode taking them grocery shopping for the week (thanks homeless guy who helped me load the bags into my car, will give you $5 for that anytime), moved all our bags into the condo. Helped a lot by the sweet neighbor Brenda who offered me use of her dolly. How else would I have brought my wine in? But I was thinking, I would like to experience  a LITTLE of the food festival if I could.

Beat it back to the festival in its last 40 minutes.

“Here” I put Rex in Mark’s hands. “Jump in Vivien, I’m going to find you a brownie.” I did… but I also found myself, great bbq, some yummy shrimp and various samples of wine.

Mark said he had a good time at the festival, but he was a tad rattled by one lady. Now, you got to understand that the older ladies of the desert are painted ladies. I found my big take away of the weekend was, “I have to remember to wear LESS make up as I get older and not to wear tight dresses.” One lady who he figured was in her late ’60’s or early ’70’s asked what he was serving.  He gamely offered her the beef cheeks.

“Will you feed me?” she asked. Nervous laughter from Mark.

Then she said, “I’d rather have a chef’s BLANK in my mouth.” I’m censoring the lady here.

Poor Mark, “Um, well, here are beef cheeks.”

“you big stud. They are throwing themselves at you.” I said.  He didn’t look pleased.

We packed our Coleman coolers back in the car and made the pioneer like trek to Palm Springs to start the chill part of our trip.

I told my mom about the hotel and she said, “Don’t you remember why we stopped going to the Riviera?” I was about 5, so no, I only remember when I won the doll whose hair you could wash in the pool games. God, she was a cool doll. I can see her washable hair now.

“It was a nice hotel, but there was a low-class element that congregated there.” Mom continued. “They used to bring their Coleman coolers to the pool.”

Like Sonic, our Colemans stayed in the car.

Water Wings

Okay, so we are all in Palm Springs for break. And though it’s never restful to travel with small children, it’s still great to all be together in a different topography. One major milestone from this trip has been Vivien conquering the pool. I have tried to get her to swim every summer since she was 2 and half. First time we got a little bit done, last summer, was a non-starter. She likes to sit on the steps. So we are here, and her best friend Avery is with us who is a great little swimmer. I thought maybe that would encourage her to even swim out with mom or dad past the steps. No.

Then Avery’s mom, my friend Renee, had to run to Target for some stuff, and she came back with water wings.

“Has Vivien tried these?” No, I said. All the teachers told me not to get them for her, that it would inhibit her from swimming. Renee gave me a “yeah, right” look.

“Avery started on these.” As her little 4 year old  dove in the deep end and swam the length of the pool. Time to give them a try…
First through guidance and then on her own, Vivien went the length of the pool FIVE times in her water wings. She has made friends with the pool, with the water. She has gotten some confidence. It’s building blocks. It was very exciting, and I could tell how proud of herself she was and she was please that we were.

Moral of the story? Don’t listen to teachers.

Sante Fe: What We Think They Will Like

Well, here is what I thought I would be posting last week.  But I came home to find out some people were mad at me that I had the temerity to be upset about being robbed.

Moving on… We really wanted a family vacation. Couldn’t do the 2 weeks Europe I had envisioned when we had money, you know, 8 months ago, so what to do? Fortunately, I have a friend who has a home in Sante Fe, New Mexico. She said if it wasn’t rented out, we could stay there as long as we paid for the cleaning service at the end of our stay. Terrific. I love the southwest, and I really want my kids to see some nature. Yes, La Brea and Wilshire is lovely, but perhaps a tree would be a welcome change for the young ones.

One of our days we took a hike out of town. As Vivien kept saying “I don’t like this; this is boring.” I grinded my teeth and thought, “But I loved going into the woods when I was a kid. “

As parents, we plan for the perfect vacation, and then your kids find something else they like a lot better. Like when we took this shuttle to the rental car, Vivien was joyous.

Of course, she rarely has ever been in a motorized vehicle where she didn’t have to be strapped to a seat so I get it, but to me it was a period to get through. Throw our crap on, then throw it off. For her, it’s an E ticket (except she wouldn’t know what that means.)

Perhaps it’s because kids don’t have the context we have. See her excitement as we show her the oldest house in the US.

We didn’t always drag her to the history and art museums.  We did take her to the kids’ museum, which she loved.

And I would have too if they had sold espresso. Why, why not?

And then there was the most magic moment of the whole trip. Where Vivien herself found the joy, found the out of the ordinary, the thing we don’t do in LA. As we left dinner one night, she heard music playing and asked us if we could go find it. We walked to the plaza, and there were couples on the bandstand all dancing the tango. It was recorded music, but it filled the warm night.

I said, “Do you want me to dance with you?”  She said, “Ah, ah, what about daddy?”

Mark was thrilled, since he is use to her going to me more than to him. She charged up to the stage without any hesitation, and they danced to song after song. She tried to follow the dancers’ footsteps.

Why do I plan? I should just follow.

Where It All Started

It’s not often you can take a child back to the place where her mom was conceived. This summer I was able to do just that. On our way out of Yosemite we stopped for a snack in Tuolumne Meadows. Tuolumne Meadows is an area in Yosemite National Park, and incidentally a place where my folks told me years ago they decided to “start” me. I always liked that, thought it was cool that I could visit a beautiful place that inspired my parents to expand their family. I remember a friend of mine whose parents were teenagers when she was born said, “I’d have to go in the back of a ’65 Volkswagen.”

In college a rock-climbing friend of mine showed me a map of Tuolumne, and on it there is a “Daff Dome.” Whata ya know?

Now here I am with my daughter in Tuolumne taking an ice cream break.

I am still not exactly sure where “it,” happened but they said it was in a cabin.

My Weekend With The Edell’s

Sometimes you feel like family with people who are not relatives, actually often. I have a brother who is not my “real” brother. For any of you who knew me in my radio days you’d know Dr. Dean Edell is a very important person in my life. I produced his radio show and he gave me a chance to become not only his on-air foil, but to co host a TV show of his.  Professionally I owe a great deal to him. In Addition, his influence on my life as a mentor is so immense I have called him my “second dad”, sometimes I have even suggested that he “re-raised me.” Some people need to grow up again, I was one of those people. As if that were not enough, he and his wife Sharon have been warm friends to me.

I reluctantly stepped away from the show, because I felt I had to grow professionally and creatively. If you’ve ever had to separate from a mentor you know how hard it can be. I gave him 10 months notice.

That was in mid 1999. We have kept in touch and I have even filled in for Heather sometimes, my friend who took over my producing job. But, I have missed talking to Dean and getting his counsel. This past weekend Vivien and I went to Northern California and spent the weekend with he and his wife Sharon in their home at the intersection of nowhere, and where the hell am I? It is really, really remote. I loved catching up with them, but most of all to see them with Vivien filled my heart.

You know how you feel when your parents and your kid are digging each other? That’s how being with Dean and Sharon felt for me. Dean kept trying to connect with Vivien and make her laugh, sometimes she was shy, and sometimes it worked. He is a pro, he and Sharon have 8 grown children between them and about 7 grand kids.

We were walking back from the river one day and Vivien, who was walking with Sharon and I suddenly said, “I want to run and catch up with him.” She dashed to catch up with Dean (her floaty on his head), and took his hand. They walked hand and hand back home.

Another family portrait.

Vacation Rehab

I was so excited there was water on our vacation at Yosemite this year, because for many years our butts have scraped gravel while we tried to raft.

I pushed the stroller and carried Vivien up to Bridalveil Fall so she could take in the wonder of the huge, beautiful, glorious falls. See how excited she is? Yeah, that was worth the effort.

Vivien in Yosemite

When I called my sister Cecily on Sunday and she said, “I am so tired.”

“Thank God,” I said, “I thought it was just me.” I came back from my whirlwind, blended-family vacation in Yosemite and Mammoth on Friday the 4th, yet still felt pooped and hit the ground running with work Monday. Also, a National Park vacation means days of laundry upon return. I also had my assisted-living-bound dad over which takes some energy… and clean up.

What’s the vacation people come back refreshed from?

But it all went great. There were 11 of us: sisters, step-children and more. Hiking, biking… and we weren’t camping, we stayed in cottages. I CAN’T camp anymore, I’m too old. (God, then I’d really be tired.)

More favorable than the waterfall, later that day I asked Vivien, “How do you like your hot dog?” Here’s her response.

Vivien gives the hot dog a thumbs-up