The importance of a theme…

I have two holidays that I host: Halloween & Thanksgiving. Halloween is because we get loads of kids and I don’t want to let them down by going to another house. Thanksgiving was a necessity because Alex and I were tired of eating twice (once with his family, and once with mine). So, in taking on Thanksgiving, you kind of have to deliver on the food.  I prefer to do unique things each year.  Try as I may to do something other than Turkey, my family would rebel if the bird didn’t make it to the table in some form. So, in order to get my creative juices flowing, I always have a theme to guide my menu and keep things interesting. I’ve done French, Spanish, Greek, Beer, Wine, Napa… and so on. It’s usually inspired by a trip we went on during the year. I really wanted to do an Indian theme, but my curry phobic mother would not have enjoyed that. So, this year the theme is Fire. Continue reading


The Proper Care and Feeding of Trees

IMG_1611As I’ve previously mentioned, we have a giant pine tree in our front yard which is much older than our home.   We also have several mature trees in our backyard, which provide much needed shade during our very hot summers, but were very overgrown when we moved in. We also had one dead oak tree, which we thought “added character” to the backyard, but for which our neighbors teased us.   One day, I heard a tremendous POP, then CRACK, in the front yard, almost as loud as a gunshot. A little shaken, I went to the front door, opened it, and found a giant limb of that beautiful tree had fallen onto the yard. I glanced to the right, and saw a neighbor running toward my house screaming “are you ok?” She was shaken too. I’d never met her before, and to this day haven’t seen her again, but she was clearly very concerned about me at the time. I told her I was fine and went back to pondering how I was going to fix this.

IMG_0200Dave, who is married to Minion the French singer two doors up, came out about 5 minutes later to check in with me. “You know, these trees are very brittle. You have to keep them trimmed, or else…” and he glanced at the fallen limb as if to say… “You aren’t taking very good care of your trees.” So embarrassing. But I really wasn’t.  Then he handled me the card to his arborist (a.k.a. the “Tree Guy”).

So I called up the “Tree Guy,” who was in the Pacific Northwest consulting on northern tree issues. He informed me that little could be done until the Fall. He informed me that if you cut the tree now, the Bark Beetle will invade. Very bad. So we had our gardener haul away the limb and hoped that the remaining limbs held out until the fall when we could get them safely trimmed. Thankfully, they did.  As soon as fall set in, I called the “Tree Guy” back up, and he came out to give me a quote. He informed me of his illustrious career as an arborist, where he single handedly planted, raised, and pruned all of Disneyland’s trees (Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but it was illustrious). And then he gave me the quote… the size of my mortgage payment (and that was before removal of the dead tree out back). Um… NO.

So back I went to find another Tree Guy that could be equally as competent, but maybe not so illustrious or expensive.   I consulted our Neighborhood referrals in the newsletter, and came upon a Tree Guy named Pedro. Pedro came out, I showed him the front and back yard issues, and he gave me a much more manageable quote.  The next week, Pedro and his guys had the entire front and back yards covered in tree limbs, trimmings, and leaves 3 feet high. He had to bring another truck and another couple guys to get the job done. Mid trim, Alex brought the guys a beer, they were working so hard. When Pedro and team were done, the limbs on the giant pine bounced upward and swayed proudly. The back yard was well groomed, and the dead tree was now gone. The garden was fresh and clean, and ready for the holidays. Pedro even saved all the wood for our fire pit, and brought some more the next week from another job.

Lesson learned. Maintain your trees: They will provide shade when warm, and warmth when cool.

How to be Neighborly: Vote for Pedro. Tell neighbors about people that do good work, for a reasonable price.

Here’s how you can use some of that wood:

Camp Fire S’mores

  • Graham crackers
  • Nutella
  • Peanut butter
  • Marshmallow

Assemble the bottom layer of the s’more with graham cracker, 1 tsp peanut butter, 1 tsp nutella, and then marshmallow.  If you have a fire going, roast the marshmallow on the fire before placing on the nutella.  You can also broil this in the toaster oven for about 2 minutes or until the marshmallow is brown. Leave the top cracker off until the bottom is cooked.