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.

Surgery & The Northern California Fires

I knew there was a problem when I went to bed on Sunday night. I saw the report on my iPad that there was a small fire in Napa. The wind was howling outside, and I could hear my beautiful Birch trees hitting my house and windows.

The wind was also tapping the blinds against the windows down the hall. Even though, it was a warm night, I walked around the house closing all the windows. 

I remembered, my market umbrella was up, and I went outside to close it. Later, as the winds picked up further, I went back into the darkness and pulled the entire umbrella out of the table and left it on the patio.

By morning, smoke was in the air, and my pool was full of branches. However, I had other things to worry about because my daughter was having knee surgery the next day. 

I called the surgeon and asked if I could pick up the prescriptions that day, so I wouldn’t have to leave my daughter after the surgery. Without her Dad around, and no reliable family to help, I have to plan ahead. 

In the morning, I ran all the errands, and got gas, and went home to get everything I could done before the next day. 

My wooded acre of land was a mess, but the winds were still dropping branches and I had other things that took precedence. My business partner was in LA with our Sales Director in meetings for Ocean SF, and I was either on the phone with them, or texting them and our pattern maker, who had been evacuated from her home in Irvine. 

In the end, our neighbor Dan, had made a list of everything Siena needed, and showed up the next day with her favorite foods and drinks. During surgery he waited with her at the hospital, while I went to the pharmacy, and picked up her perscriptions. 

Meanwhile, around me Northern California is literally burning down. Beautiful Calistoga a place of tremendous beauty and tranquility, has been reduced to ash and rubble. 

This has been the theme of the last year or so, and I have become a master at focusing with military precision on one thing no matter what else is going on around me.  It’s possible, I inherited this quality from my father, a decorated war veteran, but it’s something I wish I didn’t need. 

My daughter has been slow to recover, she’s not bounced back as expected.  She has been in a great deal of pain, so much so that I’ve been on the phone with her surgical nurse off and on for days. We’ve had to try several strategies to help her, and maybe today will be the day she turns the corner.

I lie next to her at night, and let her squeeze my hand. While she sleeps, I secretly check the Internet for the status of the fires. I close my eyes and pray for recovery of my daughter, the fire victims, the brave emergency response teams, and myself. 

The second surgery to repair her ACL is planned for November. Initially, the date was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, but I moved it. On Thanksgiving, God willing, we will be sitting in our cabin in Truckee watching the snow fall.

Love and blessings to all. 

The Shifting Winds

After a stressful day of knee surgery and a rocky recovery, I went to bed early with my daughter and patient. 

After the Napa fire had shifted late yesterday afternoon, the smoke cleared, but this morning the smoke was back and thicker than ever before. Everything smells of smoke now. 

In the early morning I went outside to skim the 20 pounds or more of redwood branches out of my pool from the high winds the day before. The sky is grey, but the sun filtered through the dark smoke turned orange. 

I filled in a few cracks in my skimmer, ran my pump, and added some shock and clarifier to return the pool to clarity after clearing out all the debris. This literally took hours, but it’s calming to be in rythym with the water, the net and the redwood needles and branches. It takes  patience and skill to retrieve the small particles from the bottom of the pool with a brush and a net.

Then, I worked on my taxes. In between, I ran up and down the stairs, caring for my daughter, talked on the phone with an old friend in New York, and made homemade chicken noodle soup. 

The sky is still thick with smoke, but I feel like my own personal skies have cleared. It’s easier to get things done now. 

After months of grief where I had to force myself to get the mundane done, things come easily now, even the things I dislike doing the most are quickly completed. 

I feel like the winds of change have shifted, and the dark cloud that has hung over me for so long has lifted. 

Love and blessings to all. 

Hiding My Light

When my kids were small, it was in fashion to parent in a way that brought out the brilliance in every child while honoring their unique talents. For me, growing up the opposite was true. I hid my brilliance, my light, my authenticity, or whatever you wish to call it.

My relatives didn’t sit in their rooms reading Chekhov or Dostoyevsky for fun. My relatives were boisterous and charismatic. They could tell jokes, and they didn’t want to work for Lobbists and change the world. 

As a kid, I felt it was important to fit in and not draw too much attention to myself.  There was a definite “we” in my family, a party line, and a host of secrets to go along with it. 

When I graduated from college, my mother told me that she was surprised that I had graduated. When I asked her why, she said she didn’t think I was smart enough. I can’t blame her, as I skipped most of my high school classes to hide out painting in the art room, or to read novels in the library.

My mother encouraged me to get an M.R.S. degree and was astonished when I abruptly broke up with my long term college boyfriend a few months shy of college graduation. 

I married late, and when I had children, I quit my lucrative career, and hid my intellect again. Looking back, I can’t believe I did this. The only thing I can attribute it to is that I fell in love with my family.  

Now that I am on my own again, I love staying up all night reading philosophy, or learning anything new. I love working and starting companies and nonprofits that can change the world. 

My children are so much like me that this truly is the new normal. I encourage each of them to shine as brightly as they can.  There are no secrets. The children tell everyone my embarrassing stories, and they take countless photos of me, eating, or sleeping, or driving, and post them on Snapchat. 

I don’t care. 

I am as much as I possibly can be, my truest, brightest, most authentic self.

Love and blessings. 

Love & Relationships

As I take care of my daughter after knee surgery, I remember an incident when a close family member of mine came to my home after I had surgery.

I have a rare lung disease, and am now in remission, but for a time I was not. And this family member stole all of the pain medication I needed to help me recover from having my neck cut open and parts of my lungs removed.

On my second day in recovery, my close relative left me with one pill out of thirty.

When I called her, and asked if she had taken my drugs after visiting, she insisted it was my 17 year old babysitter, who had taken them, and not her.

No one can ever say that I’ve not been forgiving. I trusted and believed my close relative and distanced myself from my beloved babysitter.

Later, I saw the truth, but I still forgave and allowed this harmful person in my life.

“Family is not necessarily your blood. We are raised to think that but sometimes our family lets us down and we end up creating a new family for ourselves. Family is the people you can rely on, people who won’t judge you, people who have your back, people you can trust, people who are loyal.’

– Madonna

Love and blessings to all.

Love Her More

For some reason, I was thinking endings when I dropped my daughter off in LA to start her college freshman year, but instead we are now at a new beginning, and are closer than ever before.

Over the last year or so, we were literally like two ships passing in the night. We would often have lunch together, grab a quick coffee or take a short trip together, but I wasn’t really listening to her, I heard her voice, but did not discern, or hear the inner thoughts, behind her words, like I once did.

When she was little, she told me everything, but during the teen years, I discovered she hid many things from me, as is normal. Many times, I would find out what she was up to, we live in a very small town after all, but I would stay quiet to allow, and protect, her privacy.

A few times, I got that call, but it was never from her, but one of her grade school classmates, asking me to collect her from a party, because she wasn’t feeling well.

I loved these calls, as these friends still call me Mrs. Thomas like they did when I was their room mom. I would then pick up my disheveled child, take her home, feed and hydrate her, and watch her sleep.

There is no better place to raise kids than Lamorinda. I heard this often as we settled into our dilapidated, five bedroom, fixer upper, and now I believe it to be true.

Recently, my younger daughter had a dozen friends over, the boys showed up at the door with a cracker platter, clearly raised by their well mannered mothers, to never show up empty handed.

Now, my daughter is in Southern California, we FaceTime, we text, we email, we share google documents of her writing projects, we tag each other in photos, we talk on the phone, I send her videos of me, the house, the dog, or her sister’s messy bathroom. I send her packages. And most recently we Snapchat. We are far away, but close again.

Her room is now empty, it looks like she walked out leaving everything she didn’t want behind. The unloved clothes hang forlornly in the closet. And I miss her, but she is with me now as I go about my day, so I am cherishing this time simultaneously.

When I had this child, and held her in my arms, I didn’t think I could ever love her more than I did at that moment, but I did, and I do.

Love and blessings.

Whittier College 

Sydney & Paris, Whittier College

I am blessed to have my best friend in Newport Beach, so I was able to drop my daughter at college and then come back the next day when it was not so hot. 

We made friends over the summer with another student, Mckenna and her mother Debra, so we met for lunch and walked the beautiful campus together on Monday.

I peered into the bookstore, so many interesting books to read, topics like: social justice, politics, biology and philosophy. Many of them I’ve read, but I can see my daughter perched somewhere on this beautiful tranquil campus obsorbing the knowledge of the ages. 

Whittier is one of those rare places, where the architecture of the future has been perfectly melded with the past. Every nook and cranny is beautiful with graceful arches, red tile roofs, winding paths with white flowers along the logical shaded walkways. The trees are the work of a century of talented arborists, and the new buildings are deeply embedded in the landscape as if they were always planned to be built there, made of flat sandstone and thick green glass. Stunning. 

My daughter, calm and lovely, wearing a pink linen top, with her hair pulled back in a simple knot like a ballerina, sits on a park bench beside me, as if she were always meant to be there as well. 

I know there will come a moment when I have to say goodbye to her, and I’m not sure how I will feel. 

In the end, I hug her and tell her how much I love her, and then I drive away. 

After the year she’s had, there is no way that this is not a happy occasion. I think of all the ways this story could be different. I don’t know if I could lose my father, and be sitting where she is, only a year later. 

She told me she looked forward to the calm of college, and meeting new people, and having time to read. Few people go to college to be calm, but if that’s what she is looking for, then I think she’s found it.

Love and blessings. 

Performing Arts Center
Dorms for upperclassmen
Student lounges and cafeterias
Faculty housing
New Friends

College Dropoff & The New Normal 

Of course it took eleven hours to get there. The temperature was rising as we sat still on the scorching freeway, the car thermostat reading 116 degrees. 

Cars were scattered along the road. Break downs and accidents both. We stopped for dinner. My daughter was eerily agreeable to everything as she has been now for weeks. Every time she put her arms around me and thanked me for anything, I would think, this is going to be really hard. Very hard. 

After months of gathering items for her dorm room, we left arguably the most important things; her sheets, pillows and down comforter behind. My dear friend, Sandy drove them down to us the next day. Thank goodness for friends. 

By 11 p.m. we were passing hills that were burning. It was surprising that we could just drive by while they blazed. I thought, well, this is fitting.

We spent the weekend in Newport Beach with friends. We had done this so many times before it didn’t feel unusual. We made breakfast, walked the island, had friends for lunch, and went to the beach. Fun. 

On Sunday we moved her in.  It was 110 degrees outside and 120 inside.  

After, I headed back to Newport for a birthday party. Normal. The new normal. 

Winding Down

The days are winding down until my daughter leaves for college. I know she’s ready, so I don’t have the normal anxiety of letting go, because I know she will be fine. Still, there is this shadow around her leaving. 

Its difficult to not think of this as an ending to the journey we have been on together. I think about the day she came into the world, and now in a few days, I will be walking away from her, leaving her behind. This seems like an impossibility no matter how much I have prepared for it. 

There have been too many endings this summer, and I see this as true because my sixteen year old has been very close these last days. She is on my heels as I walk around the house, she peers into the rooms I am sitting in as I work. I ask her what she needs, and she tells me nothing, and walks away.

We’ve always thought of our beautiful two story traditional home as our fifth family member.  We are each attached to it and it’s light filled rooms, and the many memories we’ve shared together here.  Soon, it will be just two of us, but I am hoping that the space that is left behind will be filled with something new.

The possibilities are endless of course: a foreign exchange student, a foster child, or maybe more friends and visitors. My life during this past chapter has been lived beyond this house; I’ve spent my time out in the world, or on boats, or in Tahoe. 

I’m now looking forward to being home again, and my life opening up once more, and seeing simply what life will bring to me without my having to look for it. 

Love and blessings to all. 

On Motherhood

IMG_3112

I have been reading an interesting book by Dr. Shefanli Tsabary called The Conscious Parent. I’m only half way through, but it has made quite an impression on me so far. I think in many ways I intuitively knew many of the things that Dr. Tsabary writes about, but to see them in print has given me more confidence to follow my instincts.

To start, I am absolutely in many ways a Tiger Mom and if you haven’t read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, I highly recommend it. It’s worth the read for no other reason than to have the insight to say to your children, “At least I didn’t light your stuffed animals on fire if you got a “B” in grade school!” But for all of the acidity author Amy Chua still makes the very valid point that parents are responsible for the future of their children. Both my children attended the Talented and Gifted program at UC Berkeley. I think it provided an amazing academic foundation for them, and if the child is willing to do it, and enjoys it, then it can be a positive experience. Not that all children need to spend their summers turning a classroom into the bottom of the ocean floor at five or dissecting a lamb heart at ten.

The tricky part comes now as my older daughter finishes her Freshman year of High School. She has just earned an 89.59% on her final biology exam. Amy Chua writes that a “B” is not a good grade and like her there is a part of me that is livid, but the other part shrugs my shoulders. If she wants to be a student athlete and have a 3.5 GPA who am I to tell her that’s just not good enough?

I believe we are responsible for ensuring our children are reasonably equipped to encounter an increasingly complex world, but I want to adopt more of Dr. Tsabary’s methods. In the ground breaking parenting classic from 1994, Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls, Mary Pipher writes that we let go too soon of our teenage daughters. And the number one fault of parents is not protecting our daughters from societal pressures. We are caught in the constant ebb and flow of holding on, but not too tightly and letting go, but not too much.

In her award winning book Dr. Tsabary encourages us to sit with our children and connect with their souls. She writes that there is a sacred bond between mother and child. She asks that we awaken and accept our children for who they truly are. Easier said than done. On one hand, I am passionate about raising a happy child, but then on the other, I want all doors flung wide open for my children and in our society that means attaining academic excellence for college applications.

One of the things that Dr. Tsabary writes about is accepting the child you have and not projecting onto them the attributes that you desire, but love and honor the person they innately are. The last thing we want is a child who has relinquished the person they truly are for some parent inspired fantasy of the perfect son or daughter. Our children aren’t our grand experiment. They are people. I remember holding my baby in my arms thinking with amazement, “this is really a person.” “They aren’t dolls” I tell my husband all the time of our children. They have feelings and interests and plans all their own.

The Conscious Parent also asks that we connect with our own souls. The author advises that we accept ourselves and sit with our own emotions. As my daughter approaches me I allow myself to sit in silence and let the door in my heart open. I trust she will make the right decisions for her own future. And I know that no matter what I do she will be some version of fine. As she gets into the car I stop myself from asking her questions about exams, extra credit, final grades. At the beginning of the school year I realized I could learn more listening to the lyrics of the songs she plays over and over in my car than anything she would say. As the sun slants through the car, she plays a song by Two Door Cinema Club, the lyrics go something like this:

You gotta step up your game to make it to the top

So go

Gotta little competition now

Your gonna find it hard to cope living on your own

Oh oh, oh oh

Let’s make this happen, girl

You gotta show the world that something good can work

And it can work for you

And you know that it will

On this sunny day driving away from the high school I glance over at my daughter and sit quietly with her soul. And I realize that she is going places that I don’t even know exist. All I have to do now is allow her to be the person she wants to be and keep her safe. I have a front row seat watching the girl fall away and the woman emerge. Luckily, I still have her little sister.