don’t chase the party

My motto for New Year’s.  Granted it’s harder to chase a party with a 3 and a 7 year old in tow, but I wish I had figured this out when I was like, um 24.  It’s so magical when everything comes together.  Everyone is on the same wavelength.

For several years I had lovely dinners at Campanile on New Years with friends. But, the last few years I didn’t go as baby sitting is difficult and I was tired.  I started doing East Coast New Years.  Countdown at 9pm with a few friends at home and then lights out.

This year was the first in over 30 years that Mark didn’t work New Year’s Eve.  I’ve always had to share him with others.  So, Mark, Viv, Rex and I went down to Palm Springs and spent a couple of nights in a condo.   It was pretty cold down there, but we hiked one day.

We went to a kid’s museum where it’s a treat to pretend to be grocery shoppers. As opposed to when are an adult and it’s the dullest, most repetitive chore this side of unloading a dishwasher.

We went to the snow via the tram another day. It’s pretty fab that you can go from desert to snow in ten minutes.  We learned that our kids are as snow adverse as we are.  Two hours were more than enough for all.  Phew, was afraid I’d have to pay for skiing one day.  Let some other white mom do that.

Sure, first it’s fun.

Then that fluffy white stuff gets cold.  I think this is the moment when the Vivster turned on the winter wonderland.

So, that brings us to New Years.   No planning= magic.  Or at least managed expectations.  Otherwise New Years can be as bleak as Valentine’s day after a break up.

It’s easy to stay at home (or temporary, rented condo home) on New Years when we travel with one of the best chefs.  While Rex napped, Mark made a great dinner, anchored by his roast chicken.  Vivien and I watched “Empire Strikes Back”.  I felt like I was giving her a hit of the pop cultural crack pipe.  “THIS IS THE BEST MOVIE!” I gushed like a pusher.

Viv, “Why is that man in that black case?”  Since Star Wars runs through my brain as if it’s my own life it was odd to have to explain Darth Vader.

“Okay, I’m going to pause it.  Yoda just said to Obie Wan, ‘there is another’, Bookmark that.”

We had a our dinner.  Popped New years crackers with funny hats and toys. We were all chatting and laughing.  Toasting MP for his great dinner.

I asked everyone to say what were the best things about 2012.

“Okay!” everyone went along with me.  Mind you, had the kids not been there Mark and I would have been howling “WHAT a F–ing awful year!  We closed two businesses.  UGH”  But, instead I concentrated on the positive, “Kevin being nominated for an Oscar and Leslie’s wedding“.

Then I asked everyone to write down something they wanted to leave behind in ’12.   I asked that they stay private and that then we burn them.  Everyone was game.  I told Rex he could just scribble his down and think it. But, he said he wanted to share.

” I don’t like being in the car on the freeway.” I was sorry he mentioned it because there is scant chance we can go through 2013 without driving on a freeway.  If so, what does that do to the pain I want to leave behind in ’12? Maybe I can take more surface streets.  My belief in New Years Magic might be challenged.

We went out to the patio and watched the dregs of 2012 quickly burn.  I wanted to have a moment to mediate on us  leaving our hardships behind.  I wanted to allow our collective ritual to digest in our mind.

But, it was really cold and Mark spied the TV,

“Return of the Jedi’ is starting.”  They all ran toward the door.  As Jabba the hut spoke I interjected, “Hey, didn’t everyone feel good about that leaving behind, burning thing? ”  Silence. “That was good, huh?”

Silence as they were focused on trying to get Hans Solo unfrozen.

Princess Leia was in her bikini chained up.  “You know”, I said to no on in particular, use to being ignored at this point. “Carrie Fisher was starving herself and doing drugs to get that thin for this movie.” 6 eyeballs stayed focused on the screen.

The party had peaked.  It’s best to know when to wrap it up.

Happy New Year


A mom kind of Purple Heart


Viv is back in school now after an action packed spring break.  We started off going to Palm Springs where Mark was cooking in the Palm Desert Food festival.  The kids liked the water slide at the hotel, and my friend Trish came out to be my food festival wing man.  I don’t like to drink alone.
Some hang time at home and then the kids and I went with Vivien’s best friend and her mom ( my friend) Renee on a tour de force of San Diego.  This video encapsulates that parental dilemma: I want you to have a great time, I’m knocking myself out and spending lots of money, but do you kids care?  THey liked hiding in a planter in Sea World more than seeing Dolphins.  We left home, why?
The first night in the hotel Rex, sans nap for the day, threw a big old tantrum.  I had to hoist him out of the car, through the lobby into the elevator.  Renee watched the girls while I wrestled him down the hallway.  Then she magically appeared as I herded him into my room promising him M and M’s to quiet the best.  She had a big glass of Chardonnay in her hand.  My kind of traveling companion!

Idol and Water

I felt the Cool in my url last week thanks to two outings.  The darling Soyan On, stylist for Idol, got me tickets to see an Idol dress rehearsal.  That is at 2pm the day of the taping of the show.  Waiting in the hot sun with masses of people wearing black (I was also wearing black, not very original) wasn’t much fun, but when we were let in we saw the mentor for the week Harry Connick Jr onstage.  I have always thought him attractive, but ALMOST LOST MY PANTIES seeing him in person.  Cha-ris-ma!

Ryan Seacrest doesn’t dress up, but the Idols do and they largely run the show true to time.  They redo some things.  There is a hilarious array of fake judges.  Fake Randy calls everyone dog, Fake Ellen likes everything, Fake Kara gushes.  All true to life.  Fake Simon barely gets to speak, so not so true to life.

For Idol watchers it was interesting, because Casey did sound MUCH better in rehearsals, than he did in the show later, which Harry Connick Jr told Ryan later in the live show.  I screamed from my granny gown in my room, “That’s right, he did.”

Actually they all sounded better in person.  TV kills the sound.

Later that day, Mark and I were picked up in a brand new Lexus and taken to a gallery not far from us for a dinner sponsored by Fiji water.   A rep from their company had asked me if MP would attend when we were at the Palm Desert food festival.  Being half in the bag as I was (see earlier post on that) I said, “SURE”. As it got closer, we were both like, “What’s this dinner?” I wasn’t sure what to expect, so when we arrived and I saw candles and champagne I was so glad Mark had worn his suit and I had worn my textured hosiery.  It was on one of MP’s few nights off so that was cool.  They called it Tastemakers of LA.  Other chef’s were there, Susan Fenniger, Mary Sue Miliken, lovely gals, both.  The last winner of Top Chef and Ilan Hall, who won TP before.  I made Mark twitter about him and generally promoted him around the room, so I will try not to be bruised that he didn’t return my email after he said he would be thrilled if my dinner club came to his new restaurant, The Gorbals, next month.  Sigh, whatev.

The dinner was also benefiting Meals on Wheels, a charity Mark has worked with for years. The dinner was cooked by Nobu.  He was there himself.  Pretty cool.

There were some designer reps there, but I didn’t know that until later.  Something I love more than fashion was about to eclipse all other wattage in the room.  In walked Mayor Villaraigosa.  I, being the daughter of a former local politician, waved him over to us ASAP.  We talked for while about wine, food, city deficits, the usual.  Very cool.  Then figuring we had monopolized His Honor enough we drifted toward the tables for dinner.  There were only three tables in the room full of chunky, rough hewn wood, concrete floors and rusted chandeliers.  I saw that the Mayor was at the head of one of the tables and who was seated next to him? My husband.  Well, hello, “A” table! I was on the right side of MP and across from me was Eric Garcetti, President of the City Council and his darling mother Sukey (for  those out of LA, you might remember his father Gil Garcetti was the D.A. during the O.J. trial). After 35 years working in restaurants MP seems to know everyone.  He embraced Mrs. Garcetti.  I’m thinking, I didn’t know you knew them.  Ends up her daughter had worked in one of his kitchens many years ago.

A rep from Fiji water was on my right and I asked her, “What’s this dinner for?”  She said, “We want you to have a good association with Fiji water.”  Well,it was a great evening of intelligent conversation and I regaled them with my tales of growing up with local politics, they could relate to the battles and such.  And Council-member Garcetti and I compared primary stories, he slogging through the snow in Iowa for Obama, me eating Chimichanga’s while working for Clinton.

My mom-self came out when I found out Garcetti was a Rhodes scholar, Naval reserve and he and his wife have fostered children.  I turned to his mom, “How did you raise this kid? I have to duplicate it.”

“Hold them them close and then set them free,” she said cheerfully.  Nice, but there has to be more to it then that.

We stayed late enjoying the hobnobbing with bold face names who were all fun and down to earth.  It was a good association.

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.


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.