Chef Dan

Chop Chop Salad
My chop chop salad!

Having a son-in-law (to be) who is a chef is a beautiful thing! I’ll admit it – cooking has never been my strength. I grew up in a family of movers-and-shakers; we were constantly “going.” We never focused on cooking because that, of course, would involve time for planning, grocery shopping, preparation, cooking, eating and cleaning. Who had time for that? Ha! Not us.

Fortunately, Dan, my wonderful son-in-law to be, has taught me that cooking doesn’t have to be time-consuming. It’s really quite simple to throw together fresh, healthy meals. His favorite word is “just.” “You just add a little of this,” or “You just cook it until it’s done,” or “You just add as much of this as you’d like,” he says. For him, it’s all “just” that easy.

But, for someone like me whose childhood kitchen never contained fresh herbs, cheese (other than Velveeta), or spices beyond salt and pepper (ok…maybe that’s stretching it…but not much), I have a long road ahead of me to learn to become a decent cook.

Happily, I’ve had time in the last year to take on cooking as a new hobby, and I’m actually getting pretty good at it!  Dan has inspired me with a few of his “just do this” lessons. With his inspiration, in addition to finding fabulous recipes on my other new hobby, Pinterest, I have to admit I’m kind of having fun preparing fresh, delicious food.

Cilantro, basil, REAL cheeses, balsamic vinegar and wine have become staples in my kitchen. It’s a whole new world for a gal who had never tried Chinese, Thai, Japanese or Mexican food until her friends introduced her to it in high school and college.

So there you have it. Anyone can learn to cook. It’s really quite simple. You “just” need a little inspiration. Thanks, Dan!

From Toddler to Bride in a Flash

Kristi Leonard Age 3

Kristi as a 3-year-old toddler.

There’s something staggering about the moment your daughter puts a bridal veil on her head to complete her bridal ensemble. In a split second her entire life whirs by in front of you. In that moment you suddenly realize the cute little 2-year-old playfully smearing flour all over the kitchen counter has instantaneously turned into a bride. Bam! Her childhood is over. She’s moving into a new chapter…and so are you as her parent.

It’s not that I would want her to remain a little girl (please, no!). I very much want her to branch out on her own and be a happy, productive and compassionate member of society. I just didn’t expect that one “veil instant” to impact me as strongly as it did, especially since I co-owned a bridal salon for 11 years and had seen that emotional moment played out many times in my store. But those times were different; those brides belonged to other people. This bride was MY daughter.

Well, I’m happy to report I maintained my composure, and with the help of Nikki and Kathy at Princess Bride, and my sister, my daughter selected her bridal gown, veil and jewelry all in one stop. No tears, no doubts. Just giddiness and joy (and my bankcard, of course).

That day we checked off three items from the wedding to-do list…and created one memory that I’ll never forget.

Kristi Leonard Bridal Gown

Kristi in a bridal gown (but not the one she chose).

Kristi in a bridal gown (but not the one she chose).

Full Moon Weirdness

Full Moon CropI should just stay in bed on full-moon days and write the day off. Yesterday was a perfect example; from start to finish the day was flawed.

I had an in-person interview yesterday for a position that I am really excited about, at an organization that actually saves peoples’ lives, so I wanted the day to flow perfectly. I wanted to head into the interview in a great mood and in a positive frame of mind. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

The trouble started with my morning ritual of peanut-butter-toast and tea. I made a cup of tea, placed the bread in the toaster, and then realized…oh no…we’re out of peanut butter! It’s the same feeling as pouring cereal in a bowl, topping the cereal with beautiful sliced strawberries, only to find out there’s no milk. Bummer….

But, I wasn’t about to let that little mishap dampen my day, so I smeared some jam on the toast and got dressed for my interview. I chose to wear black slacks and a new blazer, but as I headed out the door my daughter shrieked, “Mom! Where is your POWER SUIT?”

“Don’t you think what I am wearing is powerful enough?” I asked.

“NO!” she replied.

So into my closet I dashed and I quickly changed into my “power suit.”

“Much better,” she said. “Doesn’t that feel better?”

“Well actually, no, it doesn’t,” I said.  “It actually FEELS very tight!”

“How did that happen?” I pondered.

But at that point, I was out of time, and I couldn’t change my clothes again.

Sitting in my car I checked my iPhone for the company address and gasped. The email message stated, “Please arrive 10 minutes early for your appointment to complete some paperwork.” Oh great! If I hadn’t had a wardrobe malfunction arriving early wouldn’t have been a problem, but now I’m just hoping to get there on time.

Cruising along the highway I seemed to be making good time and I felt relieved that I was going to get there 10 minutes early. Then I heard, “Pop!” The car ahead of me kicked up a rock that punched a half-inch chip in my windshield. (You need to understand that my car is pretty special to me because I picked it up in Munich one year ago and I was telling someone the day before how happy I was that it was still in perfect condition.) Guess I spoke too soon.

Thankfully, I arrived at my interview 15 minutes early and I confidently entered the office knowing that my skill set was a very good match for the job. The interview went well…until the end. There was just something about the way she said, “You’ll hear from us in a couple of weeks,” that left me disappointed. Somehow I perceived that I was not going to be one of the two finalists selected for the final panel interview. I hope my gut instinct is wrong, but I left the interview deflated.

I didn’t need to be down for long, though, because I was meeting a former colleague for Happy Hour at 5:15pm. I rushed home, changed my clothes, and arrived at the restaurant five minutes early. Then I waited….and waited….and waited…and by 5:30pm my friend still hadn’t arrived. I ordered some wine and a couple of hors d’oeuvres…thinking she’d arrive any minute. (It wasn’t like her to be late.) Then, at 5:45pm I sent her a text and she replied, “I’m at the UW. I can’t make it tonight. I had it on my calendar for tomorrow night. I feel awful!” So there I was, sitting in a bar alone with drinks and hors d’oeuvres for two, feeling like I had a flashing-red beacon on my head saying, “I’m so embarrassed! I really was supposed to meet someone here tonight. Anyone care to join me?”

So I drove home and decided to lay low the rest of the night. I told my daughter, “Geez, what a day. It must have been a full moon or something.”

“It was a full moon!” she said.

Hmmm…Surprise, surprise.

My former colleague and I met tonight and after telling her about my weird day yesterday she said, “You might say you got mooned by the full moon yesterday.”

Indeed I did. And there are 29 days until the next one.

I’m Sorry…But Madonna Didn’t Bring It!

Madonna During Super Bowl Halftime Show
Madonna performing in her Super Bowl Halftime Show. Photo from MSN Entertainment.

Okay. I’m hot. Irked. A bit irritated. I know it’s petty in the great scheme of life. But, I’ve spent the majority of my life dancing, cheering, twirling, performing (or coaching those activities), so I consider myself reasonably knowledgeable in those areas. And after watching Madonna’s Super Bowl Halftime Show I was upset! To me, despite the flashy sets, incredible dancers and fabulous ending, the show on the whole was BORING. Madonna had NO PIZAZZ! No energy. No spunk. No spark! Granted, she looked fabulous, her sets were creative, her songs were proven hits, but she looked like she spent so much time worrying about everything and everyone else that she forgot to enjoy the show herself!

I kept expecting her to loosen up (I can’t believe I needed Madonna, of all people, to loosen up). She seemed preoccupied. She wasn’t INTO her performance. She was only going through the motions. It was as if she was going to finish the performance and say, “Ok. Now I’m ready. Let’s do this thing for real now and have fun with it.” Unfortunately, there were no do-overs on this one.

Thankfully she saved the show with “Like a Prayer” where she finally seemed to loosen up and enjoy the performance. Her ending (where she disappeared into a bright light and the words “World Peace” appeared on the field) was spectacular.

But what has me so exasperated is that people thought she was great! Really? Were they watching the same show that I was? I was literally embarrassed for Madonna during the pom pom/marching segment. She looked ridiculous (and marched with high steps…blaringly OUT OF STEP). Frankly it was an insult to all cheerleaders who know how to use poms (yes…there is a way to “correctly use” poms) and to all who have marched in bands or in the military. She exemplified how NOT to use poms and how NOT to march. Yikes.

I agree that she looks fabulous, not only for her age, but for ANY age! And I also appreciate that many people (again – of any age) cannot do a cartwheel, so they are impressed that she can do one (in heels no less). But she’s a superstar, and is paid accordingly, so if she’s going to do a cartwheel (a BASIC tumbling move); she’d better do it well. And she didn’t.

So there lies my frustration. Madonna is a superstar. She’s amazingly talented. She’s an over-the-top entertainer. As such, I expected her to “bring it” to this halftime show. She brought the sets, the dancers and the guest performers, but she left her hutzpah at home. Darn it! It could have been fabulous. Instead, it was a hugely disappointing lip-synced show. And what really gets me is that other people thought it was terrific. Hmmh….

Oh well. Thankfully it was JUST a halftime show – an entertaining break from our day-to-day lives.

Beautiful Sunset at Mukilteo Beach Tonight

Sunset at Mukilteo BeachSeattle-ites are known to flock to the outdoors whenever the sun shines, and today was one of those days. Though I moved from Mukilteo (near Seattle) last August, I returned to the beautiful beach tonight to enjoy the sunset. The beach was filled with activity – families and friends huddling around campfires, people walking their dogs, parents tossing pebbles into the water with their children, and photographers  snapping photos of the gorgeous view. Mukilteo is one of the most beautiful places in the world.