Archive for April, 2013

Out and about in Healdsburg

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

Today, I was reminded of the way it felt two years ago when our house was on the market and we had to wipe the crumbs off of the kitchen counter, make sure that the cats hadn’t made any recent deposits in their litter boxes, and stash the dirty laundry in the cupboard so that a real estate agent could show our house to prospective buyers.

Even though moving boxes are starting to stack up around the perimeters of the rooms, we went through the same “staging” routine today because we are moving out of our rented condo in about 10 days. The landlord is hoping to have the new renters move in before the carpeting has even had a chance to spring back from our footsteps carrying out the last moving box.

While I typically would have spent my Sunday afternoon at home staring down the account balances in QuickBooks in the hope they blink first, Steve and I needed to make ourselves scarce while the landlord held an open house to find a new renter.

So, what to do with ourselves for four hours? There wasn’t anything worth spending $20 on to see at the movies so we decided to visit a nationally-recognized Sonoma County landmark: downtown Healdsburg which was recently named one of the 13 “most beautiful town squares” by Travel and Leisure magazine.

Healdsburg is certainly charming on a beautiful warm spring day. We sat on a bench in the square watching the passing tableaux – that’s a fancy way of saying we were people watching…and goodness knows Steve and I watched a lot of knobby knees in shorts pass by us…while we shared a cup of double espresso gelato and made silly jokes about whatever passed in front of us.

Had we not been forced to get out from behind our computers, I’m sure we would have missed out on enjoying some uninterrupted time together on a gorgeous day. If a delightful afternoon together wasn’t enough, I came home to uncluttered rooms and clean counters. Now it’s back to packing.

College calling

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

I think the onslaught of communications from college admission departments to our daughter – who is a junior in high school – can be traced back to a year ago when Jennifer, Steve and I attended a college fair.

If students pre-registered for the fair online, an ID tag with a bar code was waiting for them at the door of the auditorium which was filled with row after row of rectangular tables each draped with the college’s name and logo. The way the bar code worked was that as the students circulated among the tables, if they were interested in a particular college, the representatives from the college would scan their bar code. And faster than you can say “$50,000 a year in tuition and living expenses” the high school student would be added to their mailing list.

Ever since then, you would think that it’s still election season because our mailbox is so stuffed. Except now, instead of campaign photos of middle-aged white guys on the mailers, the photos on the mail that Jennifer gets from colleges has pictures of ethnically diverse 19-year-olds with perfect teeth and hair lounging and laughing on manicured lawns with ivy-covered buildings in the background.

One day, Jennifer received 14 pieces of direct mail from colleges throughout the country – that was a record amount. Each one was addressed to “Jenniferl.” Her middle name is Lynn and she must have left out a space when she filled out the online registration.

One of the tables Jennifer stopped at during that first college fair was SCAD – the Savannah School of Art and Design in Georgia. For a few months, it was her fantasy school, mostly because of their beautifully designed marketing materials (one can only hope that it was designed by some SCAD alumnae) and the fact that the college as far away from Cotati as she could get and still be on the same continent.  Jennifer had a major crush on SCAD…sneaking visits to the website during class the same way that some girls stalk boys on Facebook.

I wonder if SCAD has a sophisticated tracking program that makes it possible for them to cross-reference the kids who have their bar code scanned with website visits because it wasn’t long before Jennifer received an overnight envelope from FedEx. Inside was an inch-thick brochure about SCAD. She wouldn’t have been as happy if she had received a dozen roses from a secret admirer.

If we had the money to send her to SCAD (we don’t) and SCAD was a good fit for her (it isn’t) don’t you think that a 16 year-old who has a college wooing her with overnight FedEx packages would be begging for her parents to pony up the hundreds of thousands of dollars to send her there?

Those college admissions people are evil geniuses.

Now, in addition to getting a ton a mail from colleges, Jennifer is starting to get phone calls which we always ignore. The caller ID says “College Admissions” or “University” or my particular favorite, “Higher Ed.” Maybe if “Lower Tony” calls I’ll answer it.

Faux Dough

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

Our youngest daughter, Jennifer who is 16 years old, likes to try new things – and thankfully, her desire to experiment hasn’t ventured into dangerous and illegal things that would give her dad and me a heart attack. So far, she has expressed her adventurous nature by trying new sports, schools, musical instruments and recipes.

Oftentimes on the weekend, when Jennifer is procrastinating doing her calculus homework, she falls into the black hole of Pinterest and the millions of food bloggers who post enticing photos of interesting new dishes.

This weekend, she found a recipe that intrigued her; it was for Dessert Hummus. I really like hummus, in fact, I regularly buy the twin pack drums of it at Costco; and I really like dessert – I haven’t ever met one I haven’t liked – but Dessert Hummus seemed like an oxymoron.

According to Jennifer, the recipe promised to be a healthy version of chocolate chip cookie dough. It could be used as a dip for graham crackers…or eat the whole bowl yourself guilt-free because it’s gluten free (of course that cancels out the chocolate chips) and high in protein.

The recipe was simple enough – just throw everything into the Cuisinart – chick peas, some peanut butter, a little baking soda (not sure why), and some sweetener – blend it all together and stir in the chocolate chips and voila! You’ve got a dip that will have guests begging for the recipe.

Guess what…the recipe tasted like we had taken the Sabra hummus from Costco and stirred in peanut butter and chocolate chips. Jennifer even added some butterscotch chips that we had to no avail. There’s just no way that ground up chick peas are going to ever taste like butter and brown sugar.

It reminded me to beware of recipes that purport to be healthy versions of not-so-healthy foods. I can remember back to when I was about Jennifer’s age and the Atkins diet was all the rage. My friends came over while I attempted making the Atkins version of pancakes. The recipe was basically pureed cauliflower that somehow was supposed to hold together in a frying pan. Good thing we had a box of Aunt Jemima mix in the cupboard.

I certainly applaud Jennifer’s experimentation in the kitchen. There was one good thing about the Dessert Hummus recipe, it started my craving for real cookie dough. The internet didn’t fail us this time; the New York Times recipe for chocolate cookies is absolutely killer.