Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Alawesome: Burma Superstar

I've found my new favorite restaurant.

BACK STORY: At the end of July, we moved to Alameda, California. Which is tiny island in the East Bay. The last time I lived in San Francisco, I came to Alameda about this many times: none. I hardly knew the East Bay existed. Save for trips to Ikea and some aspirational trips to Berkeley, I almost never crossed the Bay Bridge. Oh, wait there was that time we went to the Oakland A's game and my dad TOOK HIS SHIRT OFF in the stands. Errrr, awkward, Pops. Saving that story for another blog post.

FACTUAL INFO: Alameda is about one half the size of the island of Manhattan. And (according to my math genius of a husband) Manhattan packs the entire population of Alameda (pop: 70K) into one slightly higher priced square mile.

NEW SERIES: I'm going to write about things we do around town. Because I like to try new things and I have an idea about pitching these to the local paper or maybe the travel website bloggers I met last week at the CBS mixer. (Hi, Alison.)

Okay, so the fact that there are a few places that have popular strongholds in the city that have expanded to open outpost on the island makes people I know trill: "Alameda has everything!"

One such place is Burma Superstar.

I think the number of times I've eaten at a Burmese restaurant before tonight was this many times: none. I scanned the menu before we went in we inside. Seeing eggrolls and rice convinced me that we could bring the kids. We were quickly seated at a booth by the door. The girls almost immediately began tapping their chopsticks on their water glasses xylophone style. Did you know you can download all sorts of educational and fun applications on iPhone? Including various flashcards, word scrambles and Labyrinth.

Looking over the menu, I realized that the number of things that looked good to me: all. And the number of things I might convince Lula to try: four.

We ordered:

Tea Leaf Salad *
Salad prepared with imported Burmese tea leaves, tomatoes, lettuce, dried shrimp (or vegetarian), fried garlic, sesame seeds, peanuts, and split yellow peas.

*photo & review at Ono Kine Grindz

The menu actually says this item is a party in your mouth. Completely amazing. Beautiful presentation. Our awesome waiter even brought out a mixture of the seeds and beans on the side for the kids.

Salt and Pepper Chicken

This was basically bits of fried chicken. Ordered as a safety for the children.

Mango Shrimp

The girls like shrimp and they love mango. I didn't hear a word about the sauce or the green garnish or the onions. And I only had to twist an arm and cut the shrimp into little bitty pieces, and Lula cleaned her plate. Oh, and the garnish was two pieces of broccoli and I witnessed Hazel take the vegetable and rub it in what little sauce remained on the plate and gobble it up. Note to self: buy more broccoli.

Fiery Beef with Tofu
Stir fried beef with tofu, string beans, red bell peppers, and basil in our five spice, sweet heat sauce

Erik's pick. What can I say, he likes things hot. It was very good.

Tan Poi *
Basmati rice cooked with cardamom, cinnamon, raisins and nuts

Jasmine long grain rice

Another safety for the children.

We all drank water and were official members of "the clean plate club." The ambiance and waitstaff were impeccable. It was so nice to go out for a fun meal with my family. I can't wait to have an excuse to eat there again.

Our bill with tip was $61. This is a little spendy for me but it was well worth it.

Come back next week when I review Color Me Mine.

The sky IS the limit

Go check out Tracee Sioux's Empowering Girls:So Sioux Me: blog and submit a picture of your daughter. Mine was the poster girl last Friday.

I'm so proud.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

C'mon - buy some crap, it's for a good cause

It's time for the fall fundraiser and I am so conflicted.

This is the third public elementary school the girls have attended and once again they've been sent home with catalog of crap amazing gift items to sell to their friends and family. The times have changed since I hawked items solo door-to-door. Obviously we can't send them out to cold call. Shilling makes Erik uncomfortable. We're new in town. Our whole sales strategy is in chaos.

Oh, and I'm down on stuff. I'm unofficially participating in spending hiatus. I avoid big box stores because I don't want to buy things. I'm working freecycle.com and craigslist.com for as many things as I think we need or no longer want.

Lucky for us, both sets of our parents are divorced expanding our grandparent options. Yay! Us!

The fundraiser organization baits the kids with the promise of reward prizes. So on the day their backpacks came home filled with trees the packets of paperwork, they were so excited about the potential of what they could win. The ipod touch! The $250 cash. And the item they'd personally set their sites on - a 15 inch flat screen TV!!!!!!!!


I'm really down on excess TVs. And TV watching. And Disney Channel. I'm talking to YOU Zack and Cody. I don't want a TV in my kitchen. Or the kid's room. Or even my bedroom. And they have to sell 150 items to get the TV. One hundred and fifty items. I wonder if my pals will pony up for 10 items each? And isn't that too much to ask? At a more realistic and attainable level of 25 items sold - the prize is a water snake.

My husband is of the thought that the school should just give parents an cash payment opt out. Make a $200 donation and we'll call it even-steven. Everyone is happy, especially the landfill.

But here is my rub, my mom thinks I am denying the girls a chance at realizing a dream. Stealing their joy. Squashing their goals. Ripping their hearts out with my inability to embrace the fundraiser.

She is willing to buy 20 low priced items and thinks the other grandparents should as well. I think if she wants us to get a flat screen TV so badly, she should order us one from Amazon and add a few dozen inches.

We go round and round about it. I have managed to find a few items (the turquoise earrings, a subscription to Real Simple) that interest me but I don't want them fifty times over.

Oh, and have I mentioned I have a full time job? That I can barely hold it together enough to get the daily to-do checked off. That the list of things I want to do and should do is a mile long. Toward the end of the list, I've added: turn in payment and complete paperwork for the fall fundraiser by October 6.


Please tell me how you feel about this subject. Or, on the off chance you've got money to burn, email me and I'll send the link to the online order site.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Nice Zit

So I stopped by the Bay Area Blogger Mixer last night. My two word assessment of the evening was: BlogHer Lite.

The room was packed, there was food and drinks and people passing out their cards. I met many fun and interesting bloggers. Saw a few familiar faces from the actual BlogHer conference. Saw a few lonely name tags of people who didn't make it that I had hoped to see. In the end, I wish I had spent twice as long at the mixer vs. missing two buses and hanging out half the night in the AC bus terminal.

(You'd think that I'd have gotten the hang of reading a transit schedule by now. Don't assume that they're all alike. They are not.)

OK - so at the mixer. There was a man with a video camera. He worked the room asking people to say the name of their blog, their blog address and a brief description. I had about thirty seconds to prep my answer. The words just kind of flew out of my mouth.

I say I have a carefree approach to parenting. Bahahahahahahahahahahahahah!

I come in around the 8:50 mark. I stutter. I stumble. I have a HUGE pimple above my brow.

I don't really think I have a carefree approach to parenting. As if. I think have an insecure, judgmental, fear-based, loving, proud, intense, laid-back, supportive, nurturing, overwhelmed, anxious, careful approach to parenting.

And I hate to have my picture taken.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I've bitten off a bit more than I can chew.

Isn't admitting you have a problem half the battle?

I've gotten myself into a pickle with more work than I can humanly produce. I'm considering outsourcing or a sister wife as a solution. Neither option is looking terribly realistic. The proof is in the lack of responses to my posting on Craig's List.

I find myself surrounded by people who speak many languages, the least of which is CSS and various other forms of computer code that the mere name of escapes me. And  by people who compete in triathlons on the weekends - for fun. All of this creates an overwhelming urge to throw my cards on the table and scream:

Oh yeah? Well, I made MILK come out of my Boobs!

Surely that trumps just about everything, right?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Pulling a Double

When I was in college I waited tables at an extremely busy cajun restaurant Pappadeaux's. They had a rigorous training program and stringent set of rules. The uniform was militant. We had to wear orthopedic SAS® shoes, nude hose and a white oxford button down shirt starched hard. We were required to bring a $50 bank to each shift with prerequisite denomination including $5 in change. In addition, we all carried a wine opener and a lighter. You could be reprimanded at any moment if any piece of your uniform was missing or dirty. And we were vehemently prohibited from wearing any sort of  pieces of flair

There was a lot of BS to put up with at that job, but there was always a line of hungry people out the door. Which meant, in a pinch, I could pick up an extra shift and secure the cash I needed for something important like say, my rent. A double shift meant you were on your feet for over 12 hours serving up fried seafood and jambalaya until almost midnight. 

One night after a particularly grueling day I remember coming home taking off my apron, turning on the TV and sitting down on my bed only to wake up with my apartment flooded with sunlight and still dressed in my uniform.

I think I feel exactly the same sort of tired tonight. Only now I'm not wearing a bow tie.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Secret To Life

Last night I learned a very important life lesson. I had what Oprah would describe as an "ah-ha!" moment.

I was attending a very fancy industry event. A very fancy advertising industry event.

If I had more time I'd bore you with the details of how I didn't have time shop or primp. Or how I ran into a dear old (boy)friend and he commented on my toenail polish. Or how I got locked outside when I went to give Charlie (Hi Charlie!) a hug. Or how I went to the party with highly contagious cold, contemplated wearing a face mask but then just ended up drinking vodka/grapefruits and washing my hands alot. 

And thank goodness I did, because I learned the secret to life. And it couldn't have come at a more opportune time.

I was talking to another dear old (boy)friend of mine, let's call him Mr. Fabulous.

Me: You sure are busy, Mr. Fabulous.

Mr. Fabulous: Baby, I'm always busy. But what are you talking about?

Me: Well, your status updates on Facebook. It's just one thing after another. NewYork. Belgium. St. Paul. Miami. Wichita. I mean one day you're running with the bulls and the next your dog wins best show.

Mr. Fabulous: Oh, honey. I make that shit up.

And there you have it. The secret to life: Make shit up! 

Sunday, September 14, 2008

What's in a name?

When we lived in New York City, the local public radio station had the call letters WFUV. All US radio stations start with the W or a K depending on their location.  My name is Vanessa. Many of my friends call me V. And FU. You know what that stands for. 

So day in and day out, EVERY time the radio station said WFUV on air, I heard,  "F You Vanessa!"  I could never understand why the peace loving NPR DJs in a city of millions had it out for little ol' me?

Recently, I recieved an office issued email address that uses my first initial and the first 5 letters of my last name. In my case, Vlaymo. Here we go again. Every time I type it the voice in my head says, "Vanessa Lame-o! Lame-o! You're so lame-o!" Not great for the self esteem, but I'm working on letting it slide. And I'm secretly, hoping my co-workers aren't thinking poorly of me each time they compose an email.

For all of my life, the people closest to me have called me Ness. My parents, family and friends all lovingly refer to me as Nessie or Nessa, but mostly Ness. My husband, takes it a step further and adds an adjective: SweetNess, GoodNess, HappyNess. Awwww. Cute, huh? And now I have a hip-hop mogul and fashion icon jumping on the bandwagon. 

No Bitch Ass Ness.

No Bitch Ass Ness?!? Attacking my persona and my body on the television, internet and apparently for sale online and by counterfeiters alike. Oh dear. This is like the last thing I needed.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Never Forget

I thought it might be too flippant to mention these facts in my post yesterday:

On September 11, 2001 my husband and many other New Yorkers took stocking up on supplies to mean clean the shelves of the nearest liquor store. That day he brought home hundreds of dollars worth of wine.

Many babies were conceived in the weeks right after the attack. Lula however, was already a cluster of cells patiently waiting for her mom to wise up and pee on a stick.

I bought FDNY & NYPD shirts and hats for for my family that Christmas. 

I was kind of unaware that other parts of the country were so affected by the attacks. I was always surprised to hear people talking about the ramifications it had on them in places like Dallas.

Erik's company was throwing him a "welcome back" party on 9/13. Invites were out. Space rented. Babysitter was hired. The party however, was cancelled. 

Soon after advertising creatives were tasked with coming up with a campaign/message to improve morale and reassure tourists. I (heart) NY More Than Ever was born. My friend Gail (Hi Gail!) wrote the same line but her agency did not win the account and thus she didn't get the credit. Gail did write the line: Eat More Chicken for Chick-fil-A. She's a rock-star.

Yesterday someone IM'd me this joke

Knock. Knock.

Who's there?


9/11 who?

You said you'd never forget.

We both agreed that the best part of the joke was the relief that the punch-line wasn't more offensive.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven Years

On the morning of September 11th 2001,  I woke up in our apartment on the Upper West Side of New York City. I was tired from traveling. Having flown cross country the day before with Hazel, who was 8 months old. 

Erik had left for work about 20 blocks away and I remember there was a Baby Einstein VHS playing when the phone rang.

"A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center." she said.

I clicked over to NBC.

It was impossible to make an outgoing call. 

We'd only moved into our apartment 11 days before. I didn't know what to do. I turned on local news radio. The announcer barked the warning that we were under attack and urging people to stock up on supplies.

I took my baby and walked across the street to the grocery store. The shelves were bare. There was no water. No diapers. I remember staring at the empty shelves and the crowded store and the panic and fear on everyones faces.

One block away a fire station stood empty, the whole crew answering the call. I remember watching the buildings burn and wondering how they would ever put that fire out.

We lived adjacent to American Red Cross headquarters. Almost instantly, the building sprung to life including a line of blood donors snaking all they way around the block. Emergency teams prepped for victims.

The Episcopal church on the corner handed out free bottles of  water and I remember seeing a business man walking down the street with his jacket on his arm, briefcase in his hand and his entire face black with soot.

Later the Red Cross used megaphones to urge people to go home. They said they would make an announcement if they needed volunteers. As hospitals, doctors and nurses stood ready to treat the injured that never came.

Friends came over. I remember Stef, Ro and Lori. We all worked in advertising. We sat together in my living room watching the news for hours barely speaking. They replayed the clips over and over and the whole time we watched, I remember there was never a single commercial interruption.

Monday, September 8, 2008


If I were a farmer and my legs were the field and my razor was a combine - I'd leave half the crop in the ground.

When I was a teenager and I was finally allowed to shave my legs were as smooth (and white) as a cue ball. Every. Single. Day. I lived to shave and I shaved to live. Looking back, I think I would have sooner died than found a errant hair on my long, light legs.

This is how I know I'm getting old.

Old ladies have hair. Hair springing out of places it's got no business sprouting.

And young girls, young girls think they'd rather die than live through some bodily embarrassment.

This summer, I'd catch a glimpses of whole rows I'd missed. Or even worse, the wind would blow and I swear I could feel it tickling the inside of my left calf. Like a

yep, just like a tree in the wind. 

So tonight I was yapping on the phone and flopped down on my bed and lifted my right foot to my left knee and the light from the bedside lamp shown brightly against my leg to reveal a backlit FORREST. I have long hairs around my ankles and on the top of my foot that make stare and cringe. Kind of in awe.

My grandfather raised hogs, wheat and cattle in rural Kansas. That man never left money in the ground. He'd measure once, sickle twice.  Okay, I know. I'm human. It's part of the deal to have body hair. But it's my crop and I'm not getting it all when it's time to reap. Not anywhere close.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Porky's for Parents

Remember that movie Porky's? In case you don't, it came out in 1982. Wikepedia says it influenced many filmmakers in the teen movie genre. All I remember is the peephole. Come to find out it stars a young Kim Cattrell. I think I'm going to add it to my Netflix™ library request que. I bet it will seem really tame to me now.

Let me get to the point of my post. Dirty movies and child rearing.

Hazel has started Ballet. I love watching my girls in their activities. In NYC the studio had a small two-way glass window. Imagine 3 mommies and 24 nannies all squished together trying to observer the little prancing dancers. The new studio has a different method of observation.

This is my view:

So much better than the shower scene.

For what it's worth, Howard Stern's production company bought the rights to remake the Porky's movies and filming is set to start soon. Oh, and Kim Cattrell played Lassie. The girl who howled during sex. How telling.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Everyone makes mistakes

No. I'm not talking about

(Although, am I the only one who was SHOCKED she accepted the nomination? Heaven help us. I'll borrow the phrase and fact that Sarah Palin would be a 72 year old heartbeat away from the presidency. Don't even get me started on my tolerance for McCain. McNooooooo!)

Okay- mistakes I have made. So I thought I'd tipped the scales yesterday when I committed TWO of my most common email errors. Number one: sending out a work email and forgetting to add the attachment. Ugh - I really hate it when I do that!

Another doozy I do quite frequently is sign off with a Thank Your as my email salutation. Embarrassingr! Although I read once the you/your mistake is quite common and obviously not caught by spell check.

As a salve to the blunders, I'll bring up other peoples mistakes. I got an email late last night from my daughter's first grade teacher with this post script:

P.S. Sorry about the multiple emails….I finally figured out how to do a distribution list, but while I was practicing I sent you 2 accidental emails with subject lines ANNE and WOW (ah, technology)! Please delete these emails. Thank you!

Yep. She sent at least four emails to the class list, including sending the correct subject/message two times. I bet she's happy that the WOW email wasn't intended for her girlfriend distribution list and ranted about how she really feels being trapped in a room with 20 six year old all the day long. And that one child, Lola or Lulu or Lula (what kind of name is that?) does she have any volume control? I'll be deaf by 27. For reals. TGIF. PS - What time is happy hour? The bell rings at 1:50. Text me.

And a mistake that is even worse. This belongs in the Guinness Book of email errors. An advertising agency in New York accidentally sent out an email detailing major layoffs to its entire staff vs. the senior management team it was intended for. Their document INCLUDED the powerpoint attachment with a script of what to say to the people being let go, the people who remain and the agencies clients. OUCH! Get the PDF in case your looking to let go of some employees, want to thank your lucky stars you don't work in advertising or just generally want to feel better about your individual situation.

This morning I was on a conference call at 7:30 am. Everything was going swimmingly, New York was loving my presentation, I was going to be able to wrap it up in time to walk the girls to school. So of course, as we were discussing next steps and saying good bye I interjected a hearty "Thanks Mike!" before hanging up the phone.

His name is Matt.

What do you think the chances are that he didn't hear me?


In other who gives a sh*t news:

Mama got an iphone! It's official the iphone product life cycle has moved from early adaptors.

I contacted a "sponsor" and get to try a new product for free! Look for that feature coming soon.

I was interviewed for a magazine article about the ridiculous trend of bras for young girls after she googled "childrens bras" and found this post. Actually, I get quite a few readers from that search. Hi, Pervs! Present reporter company excluded.

Going back and reading that, reminded me that I have almost been blogging for one whole year. Just call me Dooce, Jr and send gifts. Lots of gifts. In blue boxes or office envelopes stuffed with cold hard cash.

I got less than five hours of sleep last night.

Have a great weekend.

Thank your -V

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What do I know? I just spend too much time online.

After it became public knowledge that Jamie Lynn Spears was pregnant, I crafted a story idea on the effects of the announcement on tweens and what area educators planned to do about it and pitched it to the editor of our local newspaper. Right out of the gate, I was hit with the fact that in the previous year there were 7 middle school pregnancies at our area school. Let me say that again, SEVEN middleschooler's were with child in a top-rated school of choice in our safe, squeaky clean Dallas hamlet. It's flabbergasting to me even now.

When I was in middle school....uh....nu-huh. I don't know if I was even in the stadium, much less crossing home plate. And I was much more, shall we say athletic than I hope my girls to be. (In reality, I probably have selective memory.)

A few years ago, when Hazel still talked with a toddler's lisp, she asked me, "Mommy, how old are you when you can have a baby"

"Thirty" I replied, without missing a beat.

So this whole Sarah Palin is really Trig's grandmother...that's impossible because Bristol's knocked up now...business has about got me baffled. Not to mention the my water broke but I need to travel across country, past countless hospitals to birth a baby that doesn't appear on the hospital website delivered by a Doctor who has suddenly gone MIA.

I keep running over to here and here to get more.

I watch things like this:

Which has nothing really to do with the pregnancy, but is funny and follows the Obama model of children being off limits.

So I try to figure it all out and try to write or say something that will make sense to my kids...but I can't even make sense of it myself?

I mean seriously! Have you seen the pictures of Palin during her first pregnancy? But props to Mrs. G, whose response post is kind and poignant.

I'm going to go out on a limb and on the record and say that I do NOT think that Palin is Trig's mother, I think she is the grandmother. And I think that this "news" of Bristol's current pregnancy will be followed with a convenient miscarriage cover up.

But what do I know? I just spend alot of time doing online searches.

Still I'm going to have to go Miley with this one:

You have a four month old, a son going to war, a pregnant daughter and you want to be vice-president SAY WHAT?!?!