Thursday, November 24, 2011

Cranberry cook off

Well here we are on Thanksgiving day and it's cranberry cookin' time.
My attitude about cranberries hasn't changed much, but I am determined to make those little red berries MINE. 

I found a recipe online (
and after a quick trip to Safeway I was ready to go.

 The cranberries actually look pretty. They're a nice deep red color...
I give them style points for appearance.
 I like this recipe because it lets you add whatever you want to the mix.
In this case, I'm going for raisins, pecans and fruit. 
I do NOT want a bitter, sour tasting cranberry sauce!
 Pecans.... yum!
 Cranberries in sugar water, at a boil...
 Adding pecans...
 And now some raisins...
 The frozen fruit...
 And finally, everything mixed together.
A taste test tells me that the sauce is not tart at all -- it's got just enough sweetness, thank goodness! 

I'll post the final dish once it cools enough....

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


What can I bring for Thanksgiving, I asked my mom.
Hmmmm, how about the cranberries, she said.
Cranberries? I said. Ugh. 
I'm not a big cranberry fan, let alone cranberry eater. 
Cranberries are bitter. They taste like pink colored acid. 
Even the name sounds awful.... craaaaaanberries. 
Double ugh.
Now did I stop to consider for a minute that Grandma was doing all of the cooking for our annual feast? That she was hosting our family get-together?
She was doing most of the work, and all of the organizing. Family friends and guests were coming.
All I had to do was bring one little dish of cranberries. 
Was that really such a big deal?
After a few hours of pouting, I decided to get a grip.
How hard would it be to make a simple cranberry dish?
I mean, you just buy a bag of cranberries and put them in the blender, right?
I can do this, I thought.
You could say I got a bit of a cran-attitude. 
I'll take those cranberries and show them who's boss, I said to myself.
I would become a cranberry connoisseur.
This would become my own Project Runway challenge. I'll call it "The Cranberry Episode"

Hey craaaaanberries. Watch out.
I am so onto you. 

To be continued....

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Going all in

I think I’m allergic to gluten, my husband told me.
Really, I said. What makes you say that?
It’s these itchy bumps, he said. They’re on my elbows and my arms and legs.
Skeptical, I looked at his elbows. There were some red little bumps, but they looked harmless. How itchy could they be, really? Was he exaggerating a teensy bit in some kind of bid to get more attention? I’ll admit it can sometimes be hard for Dad to get heard above the daily din of life with three girls.
I looked it up online, he said. The bumps could be one of three things: psoriasis, scabies or a gluten allergy.
I don’t think it’s scabies, he said reassuringly.
That’s a relief, I said.
I think it’s a gluten allergy, he said. I talked to a doctor friend during my last poker game and he agrees with me, he said.
Hold on, I said. You got diagnosed at a poker game?
Yeah, he said. I’m going to go gluten-free to see if I can get rid of the itch.
Great. I’ve already got one daughter who won’t eat vegetables, another one who only eats plain pasta with “no green stuff,” and another who, depending on the day, is a vegetarian.
Now I’m supposed to cook gluten-free?
And what exactly is gluten, anyway? Is it in bread, or is it in potatoes? Is it a wheat thing or a starch thing?
I was hoping it wasn’t bread. I love bread. Sourdough, sweet rolls, pastry puffs, bagels, croissants, those soft chewy pretzels you get at the mall … the list goes on and on. It would be a cruel world without crunchy breadsticks and some nice garlic butter to dip them in.
Bad news. It turns out that gluten is a protein found in wheat, which is pretty much a key ingredient of bread. Bummer.
This “no gluten” thing threw meal planning for a loop, not to mention eating out.
A trip to a favorite fish-and-chips restaurant was a bust.
Yes, the fish is fried in batter, the server said.
A local burger joint could make a hamburger with a lettuce wrap instead of a bun, but it wasn’t quite the same.
Pasta, always a good go-to meal on a busy school night, was suddenly off the menu. So were the frozen pizza and potstickers I had in the freezer. And flour tortillas used for quesadillas or burritos.
I started paying more attention to food labels. There was some good news. Did you know that most Frito Lay chip products are gluten-free, including Doritos, Funyuns, Cheetos and Ruffles? Alas, chips alone do not make a meal.
Googling “gluten-free restaurants,” I came up with a café in Petaluma that offers gluten-free menu items, including pizza and beer.
Arriving at the café, we were presented with a menu. Besides pizza, they also served gluten-free bread and pasta dishes. Jackpot!
This is great, my husband said. I’ve been dying for some pizza. I’m getting the gluten-free beer too, he said excitedly.
When his beer arrived, we both took a sip.
Tastes like beer to me, I said.
Not bad, he said.
The pizza also got a thumbs-up. It was made with some kind of gluten-free flour substitute on a thin crust, but with plenty of cheese and meat.
The owner of the restaurant, who it turns out is gluten-intolerant, came over to say hello.
I put on my reporter hat. Do you get red itchy bumps on your elbows?, I asked. How big are they? How long have you been gluten-free? What are your other symptoms?
My husband gave me a look like I was embarrassing him.
Hey, if he could get diagnosed during poker, I could get a second opinion over pizza.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

From the newsroom on 11-11-11

Friday morning I got to work thinking it'd be just another end of the week kind of day.
Most of my stories were filed and I figured I'd get a head start on Monday's work when I checked the calendar. 
I figured there had to be something happening around Napa on 11-11-11 and sure enough...

Baby’s birthday a notable date

Now there's a birthday no one is going to forget!

I love my job.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Ava at work

Ava had a half day today, so she came over to the Register for lunch. I parked her at an empty desk next to me while I finished some calls.... 
(and bribed her with $2 for the vending machine)

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Kelly's amazing skull

A coworker, Kelly, makes the most amazing Halloween masks. Here is the skull he made this year. The eyes are covered with black pantyhose, so they are see-through. Inside the skull is a fitted cap so the skull stays on snuggly. He also inserted magnets under the paper mache so he can add accessories that can come on and off, like the pointed cap. I told him he should be working in Hollywood, his stuff is that good. 

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Gimme an "H"

Now that we have two girls in high school, I figured it was time to step it up a bit in the school spirit department. And what better way to get in the mood than a high school homecoming?
I’m not going to say how long it’s been since I was at a homecoming (27 years), but I’ll just say my last appearance involved a perm, a calico Gunne Sax–inspired dress and a date driving his dad’s 1972 Pontiac Grand Prix.
When it comes to school, we parents bug our kids about studying. We quiz them about homework. We practically shove them out the door every morning to get to school on time.
But homecoming isn’t about schoolwork or grades. This is our chance to celebrate our teens having good old-fashioned fun. And it doesn’t get more all-American than a homecoming rally.
I knew they’d been working hard all week at the high school, rehearsing skits, designing homecoming outfits and decorating, but could this be the same gym I was just in three days earlier for a volleyball game?
The basketball hoops were tucked up, replaced by giant banners for every class, each decorated in its own “California” theme. Sparkling lights were strung around, a stage was in place and cameras in position. The lights were down and the mood was up.
After the parents filed in and found seats in the center of the gym, the homecoming rally leaders introduced the individual classes. Each ran in to their own music, cheering and waving.
The cheerleaders were there. The football players were there. The principal was there. My husband and I twisted in our seats to get a glimpse of our girls wearing their individual class T-shirts and sitting in their separate bleacher sections.
Normally teens don’t want Mom or Dad hanging around them and their friends, so as I sat there, I felt like a parental anthropologist observing the teenage “natives” in their natural habitat.
Teenagers are often moaning and groaning about one thing or another, but this was a gym full of teens in a really good mood. The energy from all of these happy teenagers bounced around the room like an electric charge. I waved at one daughter and she actually waved back at me. OK, it was half a wave, but I’ll take it.
Lead by the rally leaders, each class took a turn to scream and shout to show that they had the most class spirit. In between the shouting, lights flashed. Horns blared. Someone started the Wave around the gym. A bunch of guys wearing “Blue Man” suits dashed around.
The homecoming court was introduced, each girl linking arms with her escort. As they paraded slowly up the aisle, I silently rooted for my favorites, crossing my fingers for the girls — now young women — that I have come to know and admire over the past four years.
The cheerleaders hit the floor for their routine. Timed to music played at double speed, they jumped and kicked and pumped their arms in sync. Three or four cheerleaders were hoisted up in the air, and in what looked like an extremely precarious move, they twisted and dropped at the same time. I held my breath as one girl tumbled over another in the air and flipped expertly to the floor. Safe! Whew.
The football team made its grand entrance by crashing through paper banners painted with each player’s name and number. A dance team performed. The new school mascot made his debut to more wild cheers and applause.
No homecoming rally is complete without a bonfire, which is where everyone headed next. Outside the gym, the girls scattered away with their groups of friends. Clumps of girls and boys huddled together while my husband and I watched the fire rise up above the school parking lot. Stacked high, the wooden pallets burned higher and brighter, the flames reflecting off the windows of the gym.
Around us, groups of students and families wearing school sweatshirts and hats finalized plans for the homecoming game and dance. Teachers and school staff mingled with parents and alumni. Expectation and excitement floated in the air, along with sparks from the bonfire.
It was good to be in high school again, even for just one night.