Gravy

For a long time my mother’s younger brother Basil, or simply “Bas” was the heart of our family.

He had a movie star smile, a warm and loving demeanor and his eyes lit up when he talked to not just me, but everyone else. When he hugged you and told you he really had missed you, and was so happy to see you, there was no question that it was 1,000 percent true. I would like to think that I was special to him and undoubtedly I was, yet I always had the sense that he loved us all the same. Now, looking back, I think he did.

When I was a little girl he had a small farm in Langley, British Columbia. It had a quaint little house with a guest room that my sister and I shared. My Aunt Debra was an excellent homemaker and her home was always spotless. When we came to visit she would take pains to make sure her refrigerator was stocked and everyone was comfortable. Our sunny bedroom would be ready with the bed covered in warm cotton quilts.

In the morning, Bas would make everyone breakfast. Bas liked to put blackberry jam on his eggs and this alone was an amazement to us. After breakfast he would take my sister and I to the auction in town. In those days everyone spoke French in Canada even the auctionaire. There would be the smell of chickens and cows and hay in the air.

Later, as Basil became more and more successful, as everyone knew he would, he moved to Vancouver, British Columbia. I would often visit as a teenager. My aunts and uncles would take my friends and I to concerts and we would all go out dancing, and have giant family dinners. My other aunts and uncles were near-by and we spent time with them and my many cousins. When I was in college I spent a summer working for him in his commercial printing business. We became not just family, but friends. These were what we would later refer to as the “golden” years.

When I was in my mid-twenties and living in San Francisco, Basil was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Our family gathered around him, but there was nothing anyone could do and he died at the age of forty two.

Heartbreaking doesn’t begin to describe his passing from our lives, but the worst part was after his death our family scattered in all directions.

Gone were the sunny days on his Chris Craft boat playing backgammon on Horseshoe Bay, the nights dancing and laughing at the Sneaky Pete’s nightclub downtown, or the extravagant dinners in Gas Town. There were no more family dinners where we pushed the furniture against the walls and we all got up and danced.

Before he died I went to see him. We sat in his cheerful living room together. The brain is a funny thing, and because of the tumor he would get lost in time, alternately seeing me as a child, then he would remember I was all grown up. This went on all day long. Back and forth through time and the many days we had spent together. One morning, he was talking about gravy and how much he loved to make gravy, and how important it was to do it right.

He always addressed me by my baby name and called me “Sis” as did all of my extended family. He explained to me in great detail how to make gravy. As an auditory learner I committed his words to memory.

When the time came for me to host my first thanksgiving dinner I stood at the stove and could hear his deep kind voice instructing me in my mind as I worked.

“Sis, there must be absolutely no lumps. You cannot take your eyes off of it for a second.” And so on. It came out silky smooth and perfectly seasoned. Delicious. From that day forward I make the gravy wherever I am whether I’m cooking or not. I am now known as the gravy maker.

You will find me on Thursday making the gravy. Uncle Basil will be with me in spirit as I slowly heat the liquid in the roasting pan and mix the flour and water separately. I will add the mixture slowly, all the while using just a simple fork to stir until the gravy is silky and smooth, and I will not for one second take my eyes from the pan.

Love and blessings to all.

Me and Uncle Basil 1982

Building A Business

I’ve been watching people read my sleeping blog. A place I poured my heart into for two years while building Oceans SF.

I broke my arm a few days after announcing I would no longer write my blog. I’ve been working for other entrepreneurs and dating and as temping as it was/is to write about these endeavors it’s not really ethical. Plus, after the break I couldn’t type at all.

My attorney tells me my friends and family know I’m a lifestyle writer so they are aware they can land on my pages at any time. I always read my posts to my kids before publishing, and ask their permission first and in every way try to be considerate of the privacy of others while maintaining my own authenticity.

For my friends and business associates as forewarned as they are, I am as cognizant of the power of my words, and understand when you have 80,000 hits in 72 countries what you say has meaning.

Recently, I’ve watched my analytics with interest; Canada, France, Brazil, Jamaica, Spain, Australia and can’t believe I’ve given up something I’ve loved so dearly. What’s nice about my website is I can pick it up whenever I choose because it’s something I’ve built and own.

I love writing my 24/680 News Column as well, but I do have editors and they choose my titles and weigh in on my content, but mostly are my biggest fans.

Ocean SF has recently been funded, due to investors who found my company through my writing and hard work in promoting my company and brand day in and day out for the last several years. I’m busy working behind the scenes with some amazing people on that. Ocean SF is also something I’ve built and can cultivate as I choose.

I saw off my friends to the Pacific Cup Race to Hawaii at the St. Francis Yacht Club last week. They took my apparel to really prove it at sea. It’s been sold into some of the most prestigious yacht clubs in the world now and I’m excited to have my products in stores this fall. It’s also gratifying after so much hard work, time and energy to finally have my company up and running.

I’ve also picked up some independent consulting work as I roll off of my enjoyable, but seasonal catering side hustle. It was a gift to learn from so many hard working and dedicated entrepreneurs. It takes commitment and dedication to be successful and I will implement what I’ve learned over the past six months as I continue to build my brand, business, and team.

It’s interesting that my most popular post recently has been Love & Money as I feel that to be truly successful one must have love and this is in direct proportion to the monetary rewards of life. This is just my own observation of course, but I’ve noticed that loving your life, the people around you, and being both generous and kind brings countless blessings and rewards, many of them financial.

I’ve certainly found this to be true recently as I’ve decided to center my attention on my family, friends and the work and people I love most.

I’ve had some hard lessons this summer. My business had some ups and downs and I almost gave up on it. I broke my arm for the second year in a row on Father’s Day and have been in a good deal of pain. I compounded this by dropping an iron umbrella stand on my other hand.

Yet, my friends and family have surrounded me with love and I’ve truly surrendered to my circumstances and because of this, I’ve actually had a really wonderful summer with the added bonus of some spectacular business success.

From working in the kitchen at the catering company I’ve developed an interest in making cakes. I’m a horrendous baker historically, but I actually adore making birthday cakes. I’ve made four over the past few weeks for milestone birthdays and just ordered my professional baking supplies so I can make bigger and better cakes in the future. I absolutely love doing this for the people I love.

As I’ve said before, it’s not what I would have expected, but nevertheless joy.

Love and blessings to all.

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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Easy Recipes for Drunk Moms

A few years ago, I had wanted to write a cookbook for drunk mothers. At that time, I had regular dinner parties at home in the Bay Area, or at our second home in Tahoe. My friends and I would be cooking for a crowd and simultaneously drinking wine. Sometimes mixed drinks, but mostly wine.

These two activities are mostly incompatible as there are many pitfalls to engineering a meal that will likely be served on your second cocktail.

Of course, you don’t have to be a mother to throw a disastrous dinner party. This was evidenced by my hipster co-workers who were mixing cocktails while executing a complicated and expensive recipe for Cioppino, a crab and lobster fish stew, for their girlfriends. Needless to say, the entirety was eventually fed to the garbage can, and Chinese takeout predictably ordered.

I would hear of these escapades on Monday, over lunch, and then another dinner would be planned for the following weekend, again to disastrous results. I finally pulled out a pen and wrote a simple menu on the back of my napkin.

Drunk men should not be making pizza at home for guests. Pizza burns when unattended. Yes, it’s true. If you put a pizza in the oven at 400 degrees it will be black by the time you notice the kitchen filled with smoke.

I was very motivated to solve this paradox as dinner is my favorite meal of the day, and I personally can not drink alcohol unless I’m well nourished. Plus, I wanted to enjoy my friends and not be the distracted cook and dishwasher at these events.

Over the years, I’ve devised many strategic recipes to get dinner on the table with a party in full swing. We entertained so frequently that I became an expert in this area.

In the early years, it was tempting to forget dinner and just serve heavy appetizers, but as the little ones arrived this was not an option.

It was no easy task to execute dinner for twelve with six screaming kids, music playing and my best friend telling me a funny story, all of this with a delicious chilled glass of Chardonnay in hand.

There were also those long summer evenings with the toddlers when my husband worked late, or took friends to a Giants game, or played a round of golf. After a full day with the little ones and the housework, (I’m not complaining I cherish those days) I needed a respite to recharge. It was then that I would pour myself a water glass size margarita and go outside to water the lawn and flowers while the cartoons played on.

As necessity is the mother of invention, I devised very clever ways to get dinner to turn out perfectly with the minimum amount of attention.

More to come on this project, but in the meantime, I’m putting my finishing touches on my book about grief and the year following the sudden death of my husband. It was a transformative time, but I miss my good humor and playfulness. It is this part of my character that I now wish to embrace moving forward.

Love and blessings.

Original White Lasagna 

Original White Lasagna

I created many original recipes when my kids were young. My younger daughter disliked tomato sauce, so I made this gorgeous baked pasta dish with fresh whipping cream. Below is my recipe. 

White Lasagna

Ingredients:

1 package dried no boil Lasagna 

15 oz.  whole milk ricotta cheese 

2 cage free eggs

1 pint organic heavy whipping cream

8 oz. mozzarella balls

1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest

Fresh basil leaves

Fresh grated Parmesan 

Salt and pepper 

Steps:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Whip eggs with ricotta by hand or with mixer.
  • Layer ingredients starting with cream on the bottom and ending with layer of cheese on top.
  • Cook until brown on top.
  • Allow to cool before cutting.
  • Sprinkle with Parmigiana cheese.

Sydney’s White Lasagna

Love and blessings to all.

Chicken Soup

Quick Chicken Noodle Soup

Because of the healing properties in chicken soup, I always make a version of one of many recipes when someone is ill.

I even made it for my dog Polly. She cut her paw open on a piece of glass walking through the creek with the kids when she was a puppy, and it refused to heal and became infected. She then had an adverse reaction to the anitibotics, so taking matters into my own hands, I fed her homemade chicken and brown rice soup and vanilla Greek yogurt.

Sometimes, I make my own noodles and you can do this with a simple pasta recipe, a rolling pin and a knife. This was fun for the kids when they were small, as making and handling dough is always high entertainment for children. Then, you simply cook the fresh pasta in the broth and vegetables. Or, I use orzo, or any kind of rice.

For myself, I like rice, tarragon, and lemon when I’m feeling under the weather. If I’m just hungry, I like to add bourbon and cream (see my recipe for Chicken, Whiskey and Wild Rice Soup here). 

My daughter wanted egg noodles and just carrots, so that’s what I made. I usually make my own broth, and this is obviously better, but time was limited, so I used this quick recipe instead.

It’s no secret that you can now buy excellent organic broth and pre-roasted organic chicken in most grocery stores, and although not made with fresh herbs from my own garden, they are not as bad as they once were.

Quick Chicken Noodle Soup

Ingredients:

2 cups shredded cooked organic chicken from Whole Foods

32 oz. organic chicken broth

1 cup diced carrots

1 package egg noodles

Sprig of thyme

1 teaspoon lemon zest

Salt and white pepper to taste

Steps:

  • Add diced carrots and broth and bring to a rolling boil to cook carrots.
  • Reduce heat, add noodles, and cook per package directions.
  • Remove from heat, add thyme, lemon zest and season to taste.

Love and blessings to all.

Margarita Pizza

Handmade Margarita Pizza
On Friday, I got the big guns out, after my daughter who recently had knee surgery refused to eat anything but, donuts and candy. My chicken noodle soup could not compete, so I had to get creative.

I made her favorite soup (recipe to follow), which she enjoyed for two seconds, and then went back to the pounds of candy delivered by friends. Being desperate to get her to eat something more nutritious I made her favorite pizza.  

Making pizza is fast and easy, but you do have to stay close to the kitchen, and keep an eye on it as it cooks. I had enough dough for two, so while they were baking I made her a white lasagna (recipe to follow).

Note: The oven must be well preheated and very hot. 

Margarita Pizza

Pizza dough (Whole Foods)

3 tablespoons tomato sauce (any kind)

1/2 oz. extra-virgin olive oil

2-4 ounces fresh mozzarella (small balls)

4 to 5 basil leaves

Instructions:

  • Let dough rest for half an hour in a warm place. In the meantime, preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Rollout dough with extra flour on stone. Place a pizza stone (or cookie sheet, but grease with olive oil) to warm in the oven.
  • Roll dough with a rolling pin into a circle. Spread the sauce using the back of a spoon evenly across the surface, stopping approximately 1/2 inch from the edges.
  • Cut each ball in half and place evenly and gently on the sauce. 
  • Place onto the heated stone or tiles in the oven. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling, approximately 4 to 8 minutes.
  • Add fresh basil. 

Make as many as you have time for, as these disappear magically. They can also be eaten cold, or reheated with excellent results. 

Delayed Reaction 

Yesterday was my late husband’s birthday, I met up with my college friends at the Lafayette Art and Wine Festival, we laughed in the way only old friends can, over nothing, like we were nineteen again. After, I came home and let Siena have friends over since she’s on crutches and I want her close. I made dinner, and watched a movie.

This morning, I woke up feeling a little depressed, so I went to church, then grocery shopping. I had that same lonely feeling I often had as a kid, but rarely feel now. 

I wondered around the grocery store like a ghost, and came home with ingredients for ten different dinners. Comfort food. Right now, I’m making chicken and wild rice soup, with fresh cream, bourbon and thyme from my garden.  I will move onto linguine and prawns in a lemon butter sauce next. After, I’m toasting rosemary focaccia with olive oil and fontina cheese.

Happy Sunday.

Love and blessings to all.

Birthdays & Milestones

It’s my late husband’s birthday today, if things were different, I would be having a party for him tonight and cooking ribs, BBQ chicken and smashed potatoes with bacon and cheddar cheese. He would have a mint chocolate chip ice cream cake with his name on it.

That was the past.

Yesterday, the men’s signature jacket prototype arrived for Ocean SF. Which after a year of development was quite a milestone. 

This is the future. 

I am on the advisory board for a new nonprofit my friend Nick Firestone started in partnership with Tesla. The organization will bring renewable energy to hurricane impacted communities.  So, yesterday I went to the Yacht Club to help with the filming of his video documentary, but on the way, I stopped by the sailing club to give my sailing instructor, Tom Dryja his jacket. 

Because Tom and Nick are also friends, Tom came along, and after filming, we had dinner with the video crew.  This is not the life I thought I would have, but it’s a very good life nonetheless. I’m grateful to have work I love, inspring people to spend my time with, and countless other blessings. 

Later, the girls and I will have a three way call to say a prayer for their father, as we will all be in different places this afternoon. 

Another first. One more milestone. 

Love and blessings. 

Grounded

Manicotti

I’ve finally started to feel grounded again, after a busy few weeks, I thought spending time alone in Tahoe would make me feel better, but it didn’t. 

What has helped me has been to come home, water my pink and white flowers, and pots full of impatience, pansies and daisies, tend to my basil plants, and trim my beloved Meyer Lemon tree and cook for my children. 

I should have known this, because nothing comforts me more than the fog rolling in and cooling off my creekside home in the summertime. I love the wildlife that thrives in our beautiful town, and the way we are so close to the city, but feel so far away. 

There is no better feeling than puttering around barefoot, watering the plants, and making dinner for the kids.

Love and blessings.