Kids, Love & Food

I have a bad habit of spoiling the ones I love. I do this in many ways, but in no way is it more obvious then in how I cook for the people I absolutley adore.

No matter how tired I am, or what I am doing, I always find time to drop everything and make something amazing for one or the other of my daughters. All they have to do is look at me and tell me they’re hungry and I go running off to the kitchen like they were four years old (I once did this for my late husband as well).

Today, felt like a Sunday, and we had all eaten a very late lunch, so no one was interested in dinner, my older daughter went out, but as eight o’clock rolled around my younger daughter, who had been studying all day for the SAT gave me that sad look and told me she was hungry.

I’ve made these little pizza’s before and they are a favorite. So, this is what I made for her. I took the picture above and wanted to share this very easy and quick recipe with you.

Mediterranean Pizza

1 pita

1 onze pesto (this was actually a chimichurri sauce, but I’ve used both)

1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup mixed spinach, chard and kale

5 kalamata olives

2 cherry tomatoes halved

Salt and pepper

The first thing you do is pull out a frozen pita (Costco) and put it immediately in the oven on the rack with a cookie sheet under it at 400 degrees. This helps it defrost. Then I put a pan on the stove to preheat turning it on high (my stove is slow to heat up so adjust as needed). I use a nonstick pan. I gather the other ingredients while everything is heating up.

Then, I pull the pita out of the oven and spread the pesto lightly. I always do sauces on the light side, but give the kids some on the side for dipping. I then add the cheese and let the cheese melt. I usually cut up some fruit at this time because it’s a good time to get, said child, to actually eat it.

I know she’s seventeen, but I still care and worry about her. So, tonight she had strawberries and ate them all.

While the cheese in melting, and before the pan gets too hot, I add the eggs and cook them over easy. I make one for the dog (I can’t help it I love the dog as well) and the dog is now eleven so what is the harm at this point in giving her people food?

I keep an eye on the bread and when the cheese has melted (7-10 minutes depending on your oven) I pull it out. At this point I cut it into four triangles for ease in eating. I put the salad mixture on top, add the olives and tomatoes and top with the egg. I always plate with salt and pepper, but not all humans like this I’ve found, so do what works for your loved ones.

This process literally takes so little time and it delights my children beyond what you might expect. I also make it with fig jam, Brie and arugula which with friends over is a very welcome snack.

Love and blessings to all.

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Nevertheless Joy

On most days I walk my dog Polly to the park in the late afternoon. It’s been a refuge for me during this very stressful time and allows me to decompress from my busy days. Finding a work/life balance can be the most challenging part of being an entrepreneur.

I’ve been extremely focused and because I love what I do it’s possible for me to sit for 10 hours straight writing or managing my other companies. It’s not unusual for me to work from 8-6 without a break, and then sadly to work for another few hours after dinner. It won’t last forever, but that’s what it takes to start a company and get it off the ground.

This short walk gets me outside and I am able to witness the changing seasons. There is nothing better than fresh air and exercise no matter what you’re doing, however, this is especially true in my situation.

Over the past year, I’ve dedicated myself to my clothing apparel company, my nonprofit, and I’ve written two books. I’ve been blessed to be able to work at home on projects that are close to my heart, as well as having time to mother and guide my two daughters. I am also grateful for my beautiful home and the community that surrounds me. It’s been especially fun to write my column for News 24/680. I’ve enjoyed the comments and having people stop their cars in the street to tell me how much they enjoy my articles. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that would happen.

During my walks I always see a few friends along the way. I love socializing with my neighbors, they are from varied backgrounds and have so many interesting stories and insights. Everyone has an expertise and are always helpful in sharing their knowledge and wisdom. Because of them, I need never be lonely. On Saturday nights they BBQ and everyone brings food to share. If I’m home, and am able to attend, I make a point to drop by the park and say hello. I’ve been doing this for the past 10 years. It reminds me a little of Europe where there are always locals sitting in the park playing checkers.

The other day, I was sitting on a park bench and this adorable beagle came running toward me. I picked up my phone to take his picture and before I knew it he was licking my face. I have no idea why he targeted me. It was completely random. No matter what else happens there are always unexpected blessings, and nevertheless joy.

Beagle on his way to say hello…

Love and blessings to all.

Rats, Cats & Love

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I adopted a black Burmese cat one summer when my home was over run with rats. During the drought the Norwegian Roof Rat ran rampant through my neighborhood and being on the creek our home was a major attraction. Soon a nest of them were living under our house and in the attic. Exterminators were called, measures were taken, and still they were running through the house eating out of the dog dish. I was not exactly hysterical, but as a responsible mother, I packed the kids up, and headed to our second home in Tahoe where I stayed for several weeks to avoid them.

My late husband called one day to say that they were running up and down the stairs and he couldn’t sleep. I agreed to come home and resolve the matter. I talked to the neighbors and read countless articles on rat removal. I bought giant traps and covered them with peanut butter. I caught one and I killed another with a mop one morning in my kitchen. But, there were so many more. Finally, I did what any other girl who grew up on a farm would do. I got a cat.

At the pound, we looked at 100 cats. My girls of course wanted a kitten. A kitten was no match for a 10 inch roof rat.  I noticed a black cat and he was looking right at me. The volunteer told me he was nine years old and wasn’t suitable for a family.  But, I kept coming back to him and he looked at me as if to say, “Where have you been? It’s about time.”

He was tall, thin and frail. My late husband was unimpressed. He methodically went from corner to corner in every room in the house and then hid upstairs. The cat and the rats were roughly the same size, so he had to gather his strength. However, he acted as a deterrent and rats running up and down the stairs at night became a thing of the past. The floors were scoured and I plugged all of the exits and entry points with steal wool and foam. I took the cat to the vet and put him on a nutricious diet. As time went on the cat grew stronger. One by one the rats appeared dead at the backdoor. As did bats, birds, lizards, and anything else he could get his paws on.

I’ve always been allergic to cats. I have a hypoallergenic dog that I special ordered from Roanoke, Virginia. My allergist even discouraged this as I’m also allergic to pollen, dust and any form of dander. I sneeze at the dog park when the Golden Retrievers run past me.

The cat began sleeping with me. Right next to my pillow. For whatever reason this was not a problem. Soon, all of the rats were gone without a trace. Since the black Burmese was by now eleven, I adopted a second cat as his apprentice. Dash handles the house and the small mice, or more appropriately Dash catches the mice and he and Polly our Goldendoole play with them. These are mice that look like the mice from Beatrix Potter stories. I rescue them and toss them out the front door. I often wonder if they don’t enjoy this game because they are often back the next day.

Polly and Dash

A friend of mine told me that cats just use us. We feed and pet them and they do nothing for us. What a dismal point of view. The other morning, I woke up with Paris to my right and Siena to my left, and the cat sitting squarely in the middle of my chest clutching me with both paws purring. It was a bit overwhelming to be so loved, but I took a moment to enjoy this endearing situation because I think it possibly will never happen again. I thought to myself how else can this little animal prove his love and appreciation for me? He leaves me countless rodents, purrs at my presence, and is never not happy to see me. He curls up next to me while I write like a hot water bottle. Once, I found a gorgeous finch in my handbag. Another time, I found a beautiful sparrow on the kitchen table in the space where I used to sit. This was when I did family meals in the kitchen, now we sit in the larger formal dining room where the light is beautiful, and the rose bushes are in view.

This cat is now 18 years old I think. He certainly doesn’t look it. He still looks like a kid. My vet told me Bermese live to be twenty five. I certainly hope so.

Love and Blessing to all.

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Jammy
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Jammy

Happiness Is A Choice

It’s been a busy few weeks, but finally I am home again in the evenings with my kids and pets. I’m excited about the terrific team we have built in Los Angeles for Ocean SF where our clothing is produced.  We’ve made eight prototypes of our signature jacket. It takes time to do things well, but it is paying off as we are now making some truly beautiful things.

My daughters have been busy too, and we are often more like ships passing then a family, but we are very close and throughout the day I am in contact with one or the other of them every few hours. I think our love for each other has continued to deepen and I am thankful for the close and loving bond that we share with each other. One of the positives of hardship is this type of closeness that is forged through difficulty. I doubt that anything could ever come between us.

Things are peaceful now like when the kids were little and we had predictable routines and the atmosphere was relaxed and enjoyable.

I walked my dog today, and Moraga is so full of beauty it is astonishing. I passed many happy people with their kids and dogs heading down to the park in the cool sunshine. I treasure my neighborhood and my neighbors. We had a wonderful Easter brunch with friends we met when my younger daughter played soccer a dozen years ago, and then a beautiful dinner with our neighbors around the corner that we met when Polly was a puppy a decade ago.

When the girls are home there is laughter, and when they aren’t home there is a happy silence as I walk through the rooms of our home. Our dog Polly is back to sleeping on the white sofa when no one is looking, and even she looks happy again. I feel like I’ve finally stepped into the happy future I so longed for.

Happiness is a choice. You have to choose it and you have to fight for it.

Love and blessings to all.

A Rich Full Life

Many people wouldn’t think of me as lucky from the outside looking in, but every single morning before I get out of bed, I count my blessings. And it doesn’t take very long for me to feel grateful for the many good things in my life. 

First of all, I’m in excellent health. On most days, if I’ve not burned the candle at both ends, which I often do, I feel fantastic. Then, I have my wonderful family, and in particular my spectacular daughters. Then, I have the most hilarious golden-doodle, named Polly, and her two side kicks the black and white cats, Dash and Jam. 

Next, I have friends galore. And make more everyday. I have been spending time with my sailing friends this week. Especially, my business partner, and my sailing instructor Tom. There is nothing like a common interest to connect and deepen ties with people.

But, I especially love my neighbors and my beautiful neighborhood. I have so much love and support here that I feel blessed everyday. My neighbor Sandy, who brought Paris’ bedding to her college dorm in LA after we forgot it, my dear friends Craig and Denise who help me with everything I do, including building Ocean SF. My husband’s three best friends, and their families, that are always here for us. And, my neighbor Alecia, who made me the beautiful pearl and rose quartz necklace I’m wearing above. And Barb, who I met when our daughters were two, who took me to the polo tournament where the above photo was taken a few weekends ago. 

Recently, one of my neighbors sent me the following note. It was so generous and kind it brought tears to my eyes. 

“Dear Sydney,

I have been thinking about you a lot over the last few weeks knowing that a year has passed since losing your husband. I have not seen you in years nor spoken, but I do want you to know that I have always admired the woman, and Mother that you are. You have been a true role model from the day I met you. My daughter, has always spoken of you with admiration and your unconditional kindness towards her made her love being in your presence. Both Siena and Paris are so fortunate to have a loving, attentive, involved, active and beautiful Mother who truly loves her children. I believe Paris must be heading off to a College, and that must be an exciting yet difficult transition after your past year. These next two years will be very special for you and Siena. Time is precious as you are aware, and it’s never too late to tell someone how wonderful they are. So before I turn in I wanted to let you know how much I admire you and if you ever need anything I’m here for you.”

People like this, and the precious town I live in, give me deep roots, and a priceless sense of security. 

Love and blessings to all. 

Sydney on Motherhood – Misdiagnosed

As the year comes to a close I have taken time to look at my analytics and discovered some of my most popular posts are those that touch on the topic of motherhood, so I wanted to write something on this topic to close the year.  2015 has been one of the most spectacular for me.  I have learned so much and can finally see myself becoming the person I could have only dreamed of being.  It has been a long journey with many twists and turns along the way, but I am thankful for my experiences, good and bad, as they have shaped the person I am today.

 

Misdiagnosed

Ten years ago I was misdiagnosed with a fatal lung disease. My children were just four and six. I was given the news the day before my daughter started first grade. Nothing could have been more dramatic for a mother. I wore dark glasses and cried behind them on the first day of school. Luckily, all the other mothers and kids were crying too and no one noticed.

Huge epiphanies arose from the news. Everything I had valued up to this point was worthless. I was willing to give up everything in the world just to watch my children grow up. It took several months to go from, “get your affairs in order, Sydney” to “do you know how incredibly lucky you are?”

From that day forward I have really lived. When I was sick, really sick, I would lie in bed and wish that I was well enough to sit in my backyard and have a glass of wine. That was all I wanted to do. As time healed me (and an acupuncturist in Berkeley), I started to plot my future. I decided that I wanted to buy a house in Tahoe and be a ski instructor. I had always wanted to do that, but had thought that ship had sailed, but life sometimes hands us a second chance. So I took it and made it happen. I had always thought I would be a writer and I started to write. I had always wanted my children to have a dog, a black dog like I had growing up, so along came Polly.

I’ve continued to live my life through the lens that our days really are numbered and what we do with them matters greatly.  As I move through each day I am acutely aware that I am a reluctant role model for my daughters and all of the extraordinary young people I come into contact with.    I know I must do my best to be my best self.

I read once that the most important thing that I can teach my children is to tolerate anxiety, and I believe this is the single most important thing all of us can do as we attempt to live fearlessly.  Courage is necessary to attain our goals and dreams no matter what they are.   I wrote about this theme in my blog post on December 8th, Pacific Cup Race to Hawaii, and as out of my comfort zone as I am casting off from San Francisco to Hawaii – I am going to be fearless and do it.

When you are told you’re lucky to have six months to live, and you survive that, nothing else really bothers you that much.

Because of my illness, I learned that the simple things are the most important; the people we love, good books, cotton sheets, hot coffee, flowers in a vase, a loyal dog and of course, a glass of wine in the backyard watching my daughters turn cartwheels in the green grass.  These are things that money can not buy.  Be brave my friends, and wise with what you value, and with what you teach your children to cherish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Dogs & The Cypress Inn – Carmel-by-the-Sea

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Cypress Inn Carmel, California

 

There are few things in life that a day or two in Carmel, California can’t cure.  The Cypress Inn on the corner of Lincoln and 7th is in the heart of this seaside town.  Surrounded by quaint shops, restaurants and galleries and a mere few blocks to Ocean Beach it is the perfect boutique hotel experience.   For an additional $30 the hotel will allow your dog to be their pampered guest.  They provide dog treats, a dog blanket and water and food bowls for your room.  Established in 1929, the Cypress is beautiful and reminded me so much of being in Paris.  Our room was small, but the hotel had an elegant room with a stone fireplace to sit and read with your dog at your feet.  Later in the evening the hotel provided entertainment and a classical guitarist played into the night.  We had a wonderful dinner on their patio in front of a big fire with the waves crashing in the distance.

In the morning the hotel provided a delicious breakfast with eggs, country potatoes, fruit and a to die for pastry selection (this was amazingly included with your room).  The mini chocolate croissants were some of the best I’ve ever had.  Later that day we ordered pizza and ravioli  from one of my favorite restaurants, El Fornaio, at the Pine Inn, which is on your way to the beach. We had a glorious picnic looking out over the ocean with our dog.  There are also dozens of restaurants that take dogs and some even provide a dog food menu.

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Ocean Beach, Carmel

Carmel is definitely a dog friendly town and Polly Lou had a blast.  This was one of our favorite trips to Carmel ever.

When I started this blog about my favorite things I knew I wanted to write about dogs.  To say that I love dogs is an understatement.  I am in love with our dog.  Almost eight years ago I decided that a dog was the only thing that our family lacked.  I was warned by friends and family that once the dog was no longer a cute puppy the kids would want nothing to do with it.  The wise advised me not to get a dog unless I was ready to be the sole care taker.  I had grown up with a black lab named Sport that I loved, but was horribly allergic to.   I began my search looking for a Labradoodle which is a crossbred dog created by crossing the Labrador Retriever and the Standard, Miniature or Toy Poodle. The term first appeared in 1955, but was not popularized until 1988, when the mix began to be used as an allergen-free guide dog.

Over several months I researched dogs and looked at so many dog website that I saw nothing but dogs in my dreams.  White and fluffy, cinnamon and chocolate brown.  Little dogs in baskets and little puppy mug shots.  I was ready to buy a grey Labradoodle from Bakersfield when one last Google search put a beautiful black Goldendoodle on the screen.  This was the closest to love at first sight that I have ever experienced.  She had the most beautiful nose for a dog.  I started to read all of the reviews from people who had bought dogs from this breeder and the common thread in all of the reviews was how funny the dogs were.  As someone with a keen sense of humor I kept wondering how could a dog be funny?  Well, I was about to find out.

Along Came Polly

Polly has done nothing but make our lives happier.  We all love her and although I do spend the most time with her everyone participates in her care.

If you are in need of a get away, and would like to take your dog along, the Cypress Inn in Carmel provides a unique and magical experience.