Five Kids Will Also Get You Black Walls & Appliances

Two weeks ago, Whirlpool invited Jim and me to spend a Friday night walking through a Victorian house in the heart of San Francisco, every room of which had been gutted and meticulously redesigned by a series of interior decorators to showcase the wonders of this bowl. 

The rest of the decor in the house was pretty alright, too. 


There were gold-flecked rugs that looked like wood floors, creeptastic haunted forest letters crawling up walls, teency nooks for making phone calls or smoking cigarettes or reading books pretty much everywhere we turned. I could have spent 14 hours in the potting shed alone, but the kitchen completely stole the show, as Kitchens of the Year are wont to do. 

Black herringbone backsplash, you guys. 

The whole kitchen was black, in fact. The cabinets were black, the appliances were black, the backsplash was black, the wallpaper was black with shimmering black mica flakes (or something really similar to that) in it. You'd think this would eat a kitchen entirely, but it didn't at all. It worked beautifully, actually. It gave all the natural light in the kitchen something to do with itself, instead of just bouncing off all the pale surfaces and making that room 17 times larger than it already was.

Pics from

My favorite appliances I've ever owned in my whole entire life were my black Whirlpool Cabrio washer & dryer, which I had to leave behind in Texas (and they don't even make anymore, ask me how broken I am about that). I've only ever seen black kitchen appliances in matte, but the Whirpool Black Ice appliances in the Kitchen of the Year were shiny, sleek, and entirely badass.

Our friend and bombdiggety food blogger Stephanie Hua got a picture of the Whirlpool fridge in the House Beautiful kitchen -

Photo snagged from Stephanie Hua of Lick My Spoon

Which is slightly more sensibly-designed than the fridge in our House Cluttered kitchen. 

Still Life with Five Kids #fridgie #cryforhelpie

Still life with five kids. #fridgie #cryforhelpie

We were treated to a live cooking demo with Chef Robin Song, who owns a whiskey, ham, and oyster bar in San Francisco - propelling him to the top of Jim's 'People to Become Best Friends With' list. He prepared a quinoa salad that I not only didn't hate, I am pretty sure I would eat it every day of my life - propelling him to the top of my 'People Who Obviously Practice Voodoo' list. He also made that bowl up there. When you walk through a $17 million home and at the end of that walk have one thing only to say, and that thing is, "Man, I really love this bowl," it's kind of nice to be able to say you met the person who made it. He was a pretty cool dude - not at all pretentious. He gave us a lot of cooking tips that ended up, "Um, well, just do what works for you." Stephanie asked him what he always kept in his fridge and he said something like, 'Errr...does beer count?' Pretty refreshing from someone who's career is kind of exploding right now. 

Speaking of refreshing, this is the recipe for that salad. For real, make it. Once you make it, you will realize that you can change it 5,284 ways and it will still be amazing. I'm pretty sure I'm going with lime and steak and cotija crumbled on top next time, and then tomato and basil next, but this spring veggies one was killer - minus the asparagus, obviously. Jim even liked it, and he'd sooner eat cicadas and chicken fetus' than put a vegetable, or worse, QUINOA, in his face.

A Time to Kill

For 17 years, I was a serial hamster killer. It wasn't an intentional thing; I think it's entirely possible I was cursed by my crazy grandmother who had a penchant for channeling George Washington and/or The Prince of Darkness. No, not Ozzy, you stoner. The other one. No matter the why: if you were a hamster and you ended up in my house it was not a question of if, but rather when, you'd end up getting stuck in the wall for a few weeks/getting dropped one too many times/being thrown across the room when you crawled across my neck in the middle of the night/sliding down the heating duct and roasting like Chirstmas dinner/chewing your own leg off to escape us. I could go on. Dozens of hamsters died on my watch. 

When I grew older and they wouldn't sell me rodents anymore, I moved on to Cookie Carnage. I can bake the most insanely complicated holiday Yule Logs and the most delicate thank-god-you're-lactose-tolerant cheesecakes, but when it comes to cookies, I may as well have had a machete and a hockey mask. The cookies I baked for birthday parties were rock hard and the ones I baked for Santa disintegrated on the cookie sheet - and those are just the drop cookies. Rolled cookies? HAHAHAHAHAHA. Grown men have wept at my cookies. Children have run, crying for their mothers. 

Then I got a cell phone. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. The very first day I got my very first cell phone, I dropped it in a toilet in Aurora, Colorado. Since then, I have gruesomely murdered at least two dozen cell phones. I left my first pink Motorola X on the hood of my car in Denver, CO, trying to put groceries in the trunk. I dropped my second one in False Creek, Vancouver, BC, trying to take pictures of my now sister-in-law's dragon boats. The trail of broken phones, dropped and shattered while getting into cars and getting out of cars, walking down the street, or just standing there doing nothing at all, spans much of the southwest of the USA, and several scenic locations along the West Coast.  


For a brief time in Arizona, I tried my hand at Handbag Homicide, but the sight of the one and only Gucci bag I will ever own flattened by a 30 minute onslaught of oncoming traffic was enough to scare me straight. 

I've never been much of a watch person. When I was younger, I had a calculator watch. I loved that watch. I wanted to shave my fingertips down to sharp, pointy stubs so that my watch and I would have the most symbiotic relationship possible. The cool kids who threw really good punches in grade 4 didn't love my watch as much as I did, however, so I retired it and instead imagined myself entirely too cool to be tethered to the constraints of something as arbitrary as, like, time. Unfortunately, the constraints of time directly correlate to the constraints of payday, so I probably couldn't have afforded a watch anyway.

When I was older, I didn't ever wear a watch because watches only do one thing, and I was a young mother of two small boys. You had to serve at least two simultaneous functions in my life for me to even acknowledge you existed. 

AT&T (@ATT) sent Jim and me Pebble watches to try out and we spent the first few weeks texting each other ridiculously love notes to and from our wrists, as we do. It was lovely and is still - as far as I am concerned - the single best thing about having a smartwatch. No matter what meeting he is in, or how stuck in airport security he is, I know he will get the 8,502th sappy romantic emoticon I've sent him this week. These things matter. 

But second-best to more-efficiently harassing some cute guy I met online is the fact that this watch is actually saving me from Mobile Murder. I was walked though San Francisco a few weeks ago, on my way to a client meeting and waiting for another client to call me before my next meeting. I was in high heels on cobblestone, chugging a coffee, rushing from one meeting to the next, hanging on to my phone so I'd feel it ring and not miss the call I was waiting for. My laptop bag was throwing me off-balance, and what it wasn't doing, the cobblestone was. I almost dropped my phone three times before I remembered that my watch would vibrate when the call came in. I didn't have to flail about Union Square, scaring the tourists, tempting fate. I could tuck my phone safely in my bag and not miss a thing. So many helpless phones could have been spared, had the Pebble only been invented 10 years previous.

The ability to reach someone via their wrist is completely underrated. I can't tell you how many times I have called and called and called and called my 14 year old but have gotten no answer because he left his phone in bed or by the toilet or outside in the driveway for me to run over when I get home. I pay $50 a month to a phone provider for the privilege of never getting through to this kid.

So his dad and I bought him a Pebble, too. 


Jim wrote about a bunch of other Pebble features that we both really love, like being able to check a text at the movies and not worried about getting shot, or being able to screen phone calls discreetly, or convincing the kids their dear old great grandmother has possessed their television set. It also has a great fitness/running app in it that works with your phone to notify you of your progress during a run and then shows the map of your path after, and it even pings you later with encouragement to do better the next time. I know this because I've used it exactly once. If you want, I can tell you how long it takes before it gives up on you. 

I was switching out the watchfaces every week or so, but I've landed on a steady rotation of Calculus and Fuzzy. They're everything I've ever wanted from a watch - something to show my geek streak, and something to let me keep pretending like I am too cool to care what time it is.

Of course I tried to kill this thing, because we are who we are, after all. I took it in the shower, but it turns out, you can totally shower with it on or bath your kid with it on or wash the dishes with it on or sit in the hot tub with it on. 

So I don't know what I'm going to kill next. I've gone from living creatures to baked goods to personal technology. Maybe there is no next; maybe I'm a changed person. I can bake a decent cookie now, I have a watch I really love wearing, and I haven't broken a phone in months. Maybe it's time to start gardening or something.


I never really had a grandfather. My dad's dad was born three days before my birthday and died three days after my third birthday - and that's about the extent of my connection to him. The guy my mother called her dad died well before I was born, and wasn't her dad anyway. The guy who actually was her dad either didn't know it or didn't  acknowledge it - she never met him, and neither did we.  She knew his address, which was just a few blocks from ours, and I remember this one time he was in front of us in the mall parking lot. We all laughed and shouted, "Hurry up, grandpa!" and that was the most we've ever said to him. 

You don't walk into someone's life 40 years later, you just see them at the store or the bank or on the highway and you imagine all the things you will never know about them. 

I never even thought about not having a grandfather. Where I come from, men at all are pretty rare commodities. I didn't know anyone who had a grandfather in their lives. We had a dad occasionally, so we were doing better than most, anyways. Count ye blessings and all. 

My step-mother, who was just my dad's girlfriend for a lot of years, used to bring us to her parents' house when we were visiting Colorado for the summer. It was years before they thought of us as their grandchildren, or before we thought of them as our grandparents, but it happened eventually. We all learned to trust each other over the summers spent in their backyard and their fridge. My oldest brother and I eventually lived in Colorado, just a few blocks away from them, and we found a way to forge independent relationships with these little Italian people not old enough, or tall enough, to be our grandparents. 

Her father, my step-grandfather, had a chair that he sat in, quietly watching the comings and goings of his wife, his children and grandchildren, the neighbors, the kids they took care of during the day, and more John Wayne movies than a body has a right to. I met him after he retired, and occasionally he'd look up at the thermostat, and then over at me, and say, "Hell, it's happy hour somewhere." We never talked about anything important, we never debated ideals or shared our dreams, but we talked all the time,  once upon a time, sitting out on his porch at scotch:30 PM. 

My first birthday party was at his house. My first wedding was, too. He rolled with everything life threw at him, from the navy to his four kids and a sea of grandkids - including four that weren't technically his, but I don't think he technically gave a shit. He was wonderful when we needed him to be, and let us all bow as quietly out of his life as we creeped into it.

He was a good man, with dry humor and a heart three sizes bigger than his five foot nothing frame could hold. That heart stopped beating at 5:26 am this morning.

I wish I'd told him all of this before I couldn't.