It’s hard to believe, but it’s been more than FIVE YEARS since I’ve written in this blog. It’s easy to wonder where the time went, but frankly it’s just been a matter of prioritizing other areas of my life over putting pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard, as it were).

Lots of new and interesting things are happening these days. I’m working as a culinary instructor, for one. That’s quite a big deal for me! New classes start next weekend. This session’s only for kids ages 6-17; classes for adults will start happening soon as well, but not just yet.

I’m also working as a wine educator and consultant. My first tasting is coming up next weekend as well. (For those of you in the SoCal area, you can get more info about that here: Booze on a Budget with Sarah Whittenberg of The Dilettante’s Table/) Oh boy! It’s gonna be a busy weekend.

In the meantime, back in the kitchen, you can find me formulating recipes for a version of Pad Prik King Moo with ground pork, as well as an updated version of the classic Depression-era, porcupine meatballs. Updates on those will be forthcoming.


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Gratitude in the shadow of grief

Today is September 11th, 2011.  The tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. And as you go about your business today, you’re going to run into a number of folks. What do we say to each other? “Happy Patriot Day?” Not likely. There’s not much of anything happy about this particular “holiday”. Often we will discuss where we were when we heard about the attacks, much in the way people of my generation talk about the Challenger disaster and my parents speak of JFK’s assassination.

It’s easy to talk about where we were on 9/11/01; it’s not nearly as easy to talk about who we were, and how we were changed by the events of that Tuesday morning on the East Coast.

For my part, I can tell you that at about 6am PDT, I was leaving a warehouse about 2 miles from my house and returning home after having picked up my samples for the week (I was in the wine industry at the time). I turned on the radio and a couple of very confused DJs were talking about reports they were receiving about a plane that had hit the World Trade Center. At the time nobody was sure if it was an accident or not. I went home, turned on CNN, and started to watch the horrific scene unfold. About and hour later I called my boss and told him I wasn’t going out into the field because I was unsure if this was the end of the offensive or if there was more to come — and if it was still coming, and there was a potential for disaster here in SoCal, I wanted to be with my family. After that I went to my parents’ house, where my mom and I were glued to their (very large) television for the next several hours.

I doubt my initial response would have been any different if my life had been uneventful at the time, but the fact is my life was chaotic. Twelve days earlier — August 31st, the Friday before Labor Day — my mother had received a diagnosis of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. That was an overwhelming tragedy in and of itself, and I wasn’t coping very well with it. In the space of two weeks I went from a confident, successful wine sales broker to a defeated, 31-year old foundling. My sense of security had evaporated. I began looking at my career, my social life, really every aspect of my adulthood as being trite. I threw myself into volunteer work to attempt to give my existence some purpose. It didn’t work. Between 9/11 and my mom’s cancer I felt I had been dealt a one-two punch.

Now go back and read that last paragraph. I jut told you the 9/11 attacks happened to me. That my mom’s diagnosis happened to me. But here’s the reality check, one that was “lost in the mail” for so long: they didn’t happen to me. They just happened.  And really, they happened to others. Did I have cancer? No. Was I dead (like almost 3,000 people were) or injured (like more than 6,000)? Did I lose anyone very close to me that day? Mmmmm… no. So as devastating as Summer ’01 was for me, the truth was that I got off pretty much scot-free. And I am filled with humility and gratitude for it.

And in that spirit, I’ve started looking at the events of ten years ago with new eyes. As horrifying as 9/11 was to our collective American consciousness, it would have been so much worse if the passengers on United Flight 93 hadn’t been so heroic. We feel a surge of pride when we think of those men and women, instead of dismay that one more plane hit another high-profile terrorist target — namely, the White House.

As scared as I was about my mom being sick, I have to say that it could have been much worse. My mom is ALIVE, and she is AMAZING. She’s been cancer-free (aka no evidence of disease, to those of you who are up to speed on cancer-ese) for years. When she went through chemo, she didn’t lose her hair. I don’t even remember her throwing up.

There are so many aspects of my life that I’ve reframed as well. Yes, DS was born with congenital heart defects. But he’s growing like a weed, runs and plays and never runs out of breath; not many of the other children in the waiting room of his pediatric cardiologist can say the same. I was with friends in New Orleans smack dab in the middle of Hurricane Ivan. But as scared as we all were as the storm passed, I know we were all grateful that our trip to NOLA was in September 2004 and not August 2005, when Katrina battered the city without mercy.

Most of the planet (about 85%, according to wikipedia) claims to have a relationship with some kind of divine entity — God, G-d, Allah, a pantheon of gods, what have you. And the vast majority of the prayers of this population is made up of petitions: “Please make __________ happen.” We hardly ever go back and say thanks, let alone thanks-for-making-it-less-awful-than-it-could-have-been.

As much as we grieve for all the losses in our lives, the one thing for which we ought most be grateful is this: that over time, those losses are less acute in our psyche, the sting being replaced a sad wisdom. I sure hope so, anyway.

It’s Patriot Day. Be happy.

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What I Want for Mother’s Day

I originally posted this on my personal Facebook page, but I got so much feedback about sharing it with a wider audience, I thought I should post it here as well. ~DT

This is going to be my third Mother’s Day as an official mom. (Technically it’s my fourth, but in 2008 Noah was still just a mass of cells in utero. I wasn’t even 100% sure I was pregnant.) Being a mom has drastically altered my life. Wait — is there a more extreme word than “drastically”? ‘Cause that’s me. So naturally Mother’s Day is a big deal to me. Big. HUGE. And while I will spend lots of energy recognizing the other moms in my life, I really do want some recognition too. This is not a time to be a martyr; this is a time to sit back and receive appropriate adulation.

You can stop laughing now. Or not.

A lot of moms out there are partial to flowers, or jewelry, or breakfast in bed. I am not one of those moms. I’m not super into “stuff”, as it were; I’m more into “experiences”. My DH has been known to kvetch about how hard it is to buy for me; I disagree, but I am apt to disagree just based on principle. So I’m going to make it easy for him this year — and anyone else who needs to buy (aka invest, aka leave a sacrifice at the altar) for a mom-like figure in the next week or so.

1. A  card is essential. The price of the card is not, nor is the pre-printed  message inside. What is all-important is the heartfelt personal message that YOU write. This may be tough for some guys. I get it. Don’t rush it — take your time, write what you feel. You might want to scrap 2011 and just start on 2012 now. Incidentally, there should be one card from each child and one from the babydaddy. Maybe even one from the animals.

2. Let me sleep in. Or at least let me get up and go at my own pace without having to race to change diapers, make the coffee, etc. It would also be a good idea to let me take the first shower, since this is one day you don’t want to risk the hot water running out while I am lathered up.

3. If any meals are to be made in the house, it should be optional for me to get involved in their preparation. But be forewarned: I will not wash a single dish today. So on Monday morning, the kitchen has got to be spotless. If that means every meal today is either catered or eaten in a restaurant, so be it. But a dirty kitchen is super-bad karma. (At this point you should remember that Father’s Day is five weeks from now, and I will remember everything you did today when I start planning.)

4. OK, guys: you have a mom. She is YOUR mother, not mine. Ergo it is YOUR job to provide for her recognition. If I end up taking care of this… well, please refer to #3.

5. There does need to be some kind of additional acknowledgment; you know, like a gift. Every mom is going to differ on what they want to receive; my list is probably going to vary from your own shopping list (unless you are purchasing for me, in which case I just made it reallllly easy for you). So here are some thoughts:

  • I would like to have the opportunity to get the garden started. That means I need to go to Home Depot. You can come with me, or not. If you’re not coming with me, I’m not taking the kids along. When I get back, you all can help, or you can watch the kids while I am in the dirt.
  • I would like an energy audit for the house. I would like for you to set this up.
  • I have a to-do list that desperately needs tackling. The greatest gift you could give me is to offer up a number of hours where you will work on said list. The second greatest gift you could give me is to not b**** about having to be Mr. Handyman while you work on said list.
  • I reallllly would like to have some time at the spa. I am reallllly bad at scheduling this, because as a mom I have a tendency to give away my me-time without a second thought. This is why my pedicure looks like crap. So please don’t just buy the services; I need you to schedule them for me, and I need to know that the kids are being watched while I am away.
  • Before I drift off to sleep on Sunday, May 8, please tell me how much you love me. Tell me that you think I’m a great mom. Tell me *why* you love me and what *exactly* makes me a great mom. I know this is kind a replication of the card thing, but trust me… it’s in your best interests if you double dip on this one. Seriously.

I know there are some other mothers reading this. What do *you* want for Mother’s Day? PS Feel free to forward this on to certain people who need some prompting in this area. You know what I’m talking about.

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Hello world!

I’m so excited to be blogging. Thanks for stopping in. I hope to inspire in you some of the delight I find in cooking, wine, reading, entertaining, the outdoors, the planet — just about everything!

Take big swigs from the cup of life!

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