All right, I’ve been asleep since last Sunday.
The retreat was amazing, and exhausting, but worth every minute of planning over the last eight months. All the Broad Summit organizers love to entertain, so we incorporated lots of details.
We met up in Guerneville, CA, which is near our cabin, so I brought over my collection of vintage wool blankets. We use them at the cabin all the time, and we had a bonfire planned for the retreat, so I knew we’d need them. Bryan mocks me whenever I come home from the flea market with yet another blanket, but seeing them all stuffed into our laundry basket on the lawn was profoundly satisfying.
We got use out of them all weekend, and they smelled amazing because we store them in a cedar chest to protect against moths. When I was passing them out, I swear I heard Martha Stewart howling at the moon.
It was a small enough group that we could really personalize everything. We wanted to make sure the gift bags really felt like gifts, so before we decided how to fill them, I told Laura that my dream was to get monogrammed totes from Land’s End. She just called and Land’s End and figured out how to make it happen, then collected guests’ initials via email. Then I proposed to her.
We spent Friday afternoon stuffing the bags (more on the gifts inside later), and when they were all set up, they looked zowie — though they do sort of evoke the image of having thirty bridesmaids. I feel slightly faint at the thought of getting that many girls to wear the same ugly dress.
Instead of hiring a caterer, we arranged for a taco truck to arrive before cocktails. For a large group, it’s a surprisingly economical.
Plus, there’s something so decadent about walking up to a window and ordering whatever you want without having to dig out your wallet.
If you’re planning a casual, fun wedding, taco trucks are the way to go. Delicious, and they make for great photos.
After tacos, we headed over to the sangria and soda pop bar. There were lots of non-drinkers and pregnant ladies in attendance, so we took inspiration from Jordan Ferney’s adorable soda bar. BevMo had a huge selection of cute pop in bottles. I called Jordan last-minute to ask where we could get striped paper straws in San Francisco, she offered to tap into her extensive personal collection. Score.
After cocktails, we all changed into our pajamas for a Milk and Cookies PJ Party by the bonfire.
A few days earlier, we found this milk-carton vase at CB2. Perfect.
Cookies were from Annie the Baker, who makes cookies for folks who would prefer to eat straight cookie dough. (Peanut butter. Order the peanut butter.) We also had a selection from Bountiful Vegan, because we were hosting women with all kinds of food preferences and allergies.
We pulled over the chaise loungers from the pool area, wrapped up in blankets, and used the milk to mix White Russian nightcaps in our coffee mugs. It was very Prohibition.
If you’d like to see more, Jean Aw took some gorgeous photos of the bonfire and hotel over on NOTCOT. More details from me Monday, have a good weekend.
This is what bloggers look like when you drag us, mewling, from the soft glow of our computer screens and into the light of day. The Broad Summit was ludicrous fun.
So last week, before the paragliding fiasco, I went zip-lining. Melissa and I were supposed to go in Puerto Rico, but then one of you mentioned in comments that there was a newish operation nearby in Santa Cruz. I decided I’d rather zipline through Redwoods, so we signed up with Mount Hermon.
I called Evany to see if she wanted to come along.
– Do you want to go zip-lining with me?
– Wanna go zip-lining in Santa Cruz?
– Is this a life list thing?
– What does zip-lining entail?
– I do not know.
– Hmm. I don’t know if I can be away from Desi for the day, I’m nursing.
– Bring the baby. We’ll strap him to you.
Then the folks at Mount Hermon were all, “You cannot strap a newborn baby to you while you’re zip-lining six stories above the ground.” And we were all over Twitter like, “MT. HERMON HATES BABIES!”
Oh, but I kid. Evany’s husband Marco came along for baby support, so Evany could feed Desi and still live life on her own terms. Boo-yah.
She fed the baby, and then Max and Jon (our instructors) strapped us into our harnesses. That may be the kinkiest sentence I’ve ever typed.
I was impressed by Evany’s willingness to do something so daring right after going through labor. New moms tend to be mortality aware, and Desi was very concerned for our well being.
Speaking of mortality, let’s revisit the six-stories-up concept. Once again, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I pictured some roadside operation with a little cable strung between two trees, and people zooping back and forth ten feet off the ground. Zoop. Zoop! Sort of like the training course, but slightly higher.
I realize my ignorance has become a running theme with these sportier adventures, and my reasoning is thus: If I were to research these things beforehand, I would not go. I’d simply spend a few weeks obsessing over what could go wrong, and I’d eventually decide adventures were for stupid people. Then I’d snuggle up with a down comforter to read back issues of The New Yorker until I grew old and withered — which sounds rather pleasant, actually.
At any rate, that’s how I found myself on a platform contemplating the surprising chasm below. Surprise!
Actually, it doesn’t look as threatening in the photo, but that’s only because you can’t see the giant teeth lining the edges. In real life, it looks more like this:
Intellectually I knew I was safe. They let ten-year-olds zip-line, because it’s difficult to seriously damage yourself. At every point, you’re double-hooked to cables so strong that they’d shear an old-growth redwood in half before they snapped. I was safe, but my spine begged to differ. My spine thought we should go find a nice glass of warm milk and see what was on the History Channel.
I peeked over the edge of the platform.
If I hadn’t signed a contract with Intel saying I wanted to do this (for fun! for kicks!), if Evany had not been equally terrified but holding her ground, it’s possible I would have walked away.
Instead, my medulla was throbbing like a dental drill. I tried to fight the vertigo with Zenlike thoughts. I am well. I am healthy. I am whole. I am plummeting to my death.
Evany went first, and I couldn’t watch. When Max told me the line was clear, I closed my eyes, let out a low whine, and stepped off the edge.
I could feel the wind on my face and hear the cord humming, so I peeked to see my feet dangling above the abyss. Bad idea. I closed my eyes.
About half way across I started to relax. I felt strangely light, like I was flying. It was exceptional. I opened my eyes again and my keening turned into laughter.
Then the next platform was heading at me like a bullet, so I grabbed the cable with my hand and stopped a few feet shy. I had to do what they call a self rescue, which involves dangling with your back to a chasm while you pull yourself hand over hand to the next platform. It’s a treat.
There were six or seven lines on the course, plus an air bridge, and after that first zip, both Evany and I relaxed considerably. I felt the most vertigo and distress on the platforms, perhaps because my brain kept trying to balance so I wouldn’t “fall.”
Every time I left the platform, I had to disregard my terror. I felt my heart in my mouth, swallowed it, and stepped off the edge. Once I was moving, my body understood the physics involved, and I could fly. Evany said, “Next time, we should bring capes.”
The day made me braver, and more secure in my ability to tell the difference between actual risk and perceived risk. I have never been so afraid of something — with the possible exception of labor — and done it anyway. If you’re anywhere near a zip-line, I hope you’ll try it. It will change your subconscious.
Here’s to fewer falling nightmares, and more flying dreams.
Let’s take a momentary break from my sympathetic nervous system to discuss the finest meal I’ve ever had.
Bryan started calling for a reservation three months in advance, and we ultimately secured a table for four on a Tuesday night at 9 p.m. I asked Bryan if that would mean we were getting the B team in the kitchen. His response, “The French Laundry doesn’t have a B team.”
Our dear friends Kayla and Josh Cagan were our plus-two, but Josh called in a bit of a panic two days before. He had a bad case of the flu. The French Laundry being a bit particular about reservations, we were doubly concerned. I wasn’t sure how we’d even begin asking other people. “Hello. Are you free tomorrow night? In that case, I have a personal financial question for you.”
Fortunately, one 48-hour nap and a clean shave later, Josh rallied and the Cagans flew up from Los Angeles to join us. You’d never know from this photo that Josh is sweating espresso:
The day of, Bryan spent a few hours studying wine in hopes of convincing the sommelier that we took him seriously. We got all dressed up, arrived about fifteen minutes early, and stood around laughing too readily.
All of us felt oddly nervous and self-aware until the sommelier came out and asked us if we’d like to have some Champagne in the garden. Yes, we certainly would. We walked outside to find Pink taking a smoke break with her husband.
(Aside: How crazy loveable is Pink? She was having this passionate, animated conversation with her husband — who I recognized from an ancient episode of Punk’d — and it made me feel all glowy for her. Hooray for the strong, fun girls. I didn’t shove my camera at her head, so if you’re curious, she looked like this:
But there was no carousel horse for her to straddle. So maybe more like this?
Only wearing a cute strapless maxi dress. Anyway, I digress.)
The meal was, appropriately, the meal of a lifetime. Our menu:
Ahi Tuna Waffle Cone with Crème Fraîche
Remember what I said about Santorini? This smelled like Greece to me.
Oysters and Pearls
“Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar
Moulard Duck “Foie Gras Au Torchon”
Summer Grapes, Hazelnuts and Frisée
The guys figured out that this was essentially the world’s most amazing peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was served with warm brioche, which was replaced every few minutes to ensure that the temperature would be right for softening the Foie Gras. It was the epicurean equivalent of having someone hand you a dryer-toasty towel right as you step out of the bath.
Very, very old salt from various regions of the world
Sautéed Fillet of Sablefish
Sunchokes, Navel Orange, Pine Nuts, Arugula, and Niçoise
Maine Lobster Tail “Pochee Au Beurre Doux”
Heirloom Beets, English Cucumber, Pumpernickel Purée, and Horseradish Crème Fraîche
The champagne grapes on the plate are not grapes. I believe they were bits of cucumber cut with the world’s tiniest melon baller. Also, they were frozen, which made me gasp.
Salmon Creek Farms Pork Belly
Ibérico Ham, Candy Stripe Figs, Corn Beignet, and Sauce Pimentón
Marcho Farms “Coeur de Veau”
Caramelized Apple Dumpling, Watercress, and Pickled Walnut Condiment
My bread was stacking up, as I was getting dangerously full. All the baked goods are made at sister Bistro/Bakery Bouchon.
Snake River Farms “Calotte de Boeuf Grillée”
Hen-of-the-Woods Mushrooms, Broccolini, Tokyo Turnips, and Black Garlic Jus
Andante Dairy “Cavatina”
Sour Cherry “Chiboust,” Fennel Bulb, Nasturtium, and Mustard Seed Shortbread
The top layer of this gave no resistance against the fork, almost like a meringue. I rubbed it all over my face.
Honeydew Melon Sorbet
Compressed Watermelon and Basil “Nuage”
I love how the seeds on the plate read like caviar.
“Gâteau Saint Nizier au Manjari”
Mango-Chili Relish, Mast Brothers Chocolate Cocoa Nibs, Lime Foam, and Coconut Milk Sorbet
Lemon Verbena “Vacherin”
Tellicherry Pepper Panna Cotta, Lemon Verbena Sherbet, and Chilled Silverado Trail Strawberry Consommé
I’ve decided I want one of these bowls. Gorgeous:
Can you tell I was a little tipsy by this point? Yeah:
They even sent us home with little packages of shortbread, which I rationed over four days of afternoon tea.
It’s so rare to come across new flavors and sensations as an adult, experiencing so many in one evening has made me more aware of how much cruddy tasting stuff I eat without thinking about it. Eating like this is one of the most personal ways you can experience art, and I’ve decided to look into more restaurants I’d like to try so I can add them to the list as well. In the meantime, I’m paying a lot more attention to how my everyday foods taste, and investing a little more to buy better produce and prepared foods.
In all, it was an unforgettable night, and the company was just as good.
As part of my Mighty Life List campaign with Intel, I thought I’d go parasailing. I figured I could do it in Puerto Rico or Greece, but it wasn’t available, so Bryan did a little research near home. We’d mostly missed the parasailing season, but we could go paragliding instead, he said. It’s really similar, he said. Sure! We booked it. Then, I did a little research.
Y’all. Paragliding is nothing like parasailing. They are so dissimilar, in fact, that the description on the parasailing Wikipedia page actually reads, “Parasailing is primarily a fun ride, not to be confused with paragliding [which is terrifying and will kill you dead.]” I teased out the subtext for you on that last bit.
The paragliding we booked involves strapping yourself to an instructor who’s attached to what can only be described as a large fan. Then you run along the beach and lift off alarmingly high in the air. It’s like flying a helicopter without an actual helicopter around you, or skydiving without an airplane, or building a pair of wings from feather and wax and jumping off the roof of your apartment.
Nonetheless, we flew to LA to meet the paragliding guy on the beach. Between kayaking and zip-lining (which we’ll discuss in more detail soon), my adrenal system was rather taxed. My body wasn’t used to all this fight-or-flight action — the most my pulse usually quickens is when there’s a new episode of “So You Think You Can Dance” on the TiVo — so I was kind of a mess.
It was too foggy to take off from the beach, so we had to wait around while I pondered the intricacies of Fast Descents and In-Flight Wing Deflation with my head between my knees.
A pinhole of light came through the fog, so we helped our instructor tow his equipment out onto the beach, where we waited for a few more hours. Four stomach churning hours, while sorority girls made human pyramids in the sand next to us, and I looked around for a paper bag into which I could breathe.
When the weather refused to cooperate, our instructor decided we’d just have to go up on the nearby hills and jump from there instead. I lifted my head from between my knees and threw Bryan a panic-stricken look. “Uh,” I said. “Um.”
Jumping off a cliff strapped to a fan was so very far from my original goal of being swept up like a kite over the water that I could no longer squint and see the comparison. Jumping off a cliff was not on my effing list. My throat began to ache.
We walked over to the cars to prepare for our drive. “From where will we be jumping, exactly?” I asked. “The hills up there,” the instructor said.
The taste of tin filled my mouth. I blinked back tears.
“No,” I said.
“You’ll like it,” the instructor said.
“No,” I said.
“I’ve done it from there many more times than from the beach. Thousands of times.”
“No,” I said. “I have no desire to do this.”
And so we drove to the hotel, where I wept with relief and disappointment at my failure to strap on a pair.
And several glasses of wine.
And after that I felt much better.
Courtney saw this BCBG Max Azaria pantsuit at Crossroads long before rompers came back in style. She couldn’t immediately figure out how to put it on, which she felt was a good sign. After some time wrangling in the dressing room, she decided to bring it home and figure it out.
Smart move, because it’s become Courtney’s version of the little black dress. That little diamond of exposed tummy skin is spot on. Courtney is smart about finding sexy clothes that don’t make her look too willing, if you know what I mean. She now thinks the jumper was an early sample, because she saw one at Nordstrom recently. She appears to be correct, because here it is. Did you pay $380 for yours, Skott? Yeah, I didn’t think so. High five.
The leafy earrings are Eliza Page, an Austin-based jeweler owned by a friend of Courtney’s. Lots of great stuff there, by the way.
Metallic sandals are Kenneth Cole Reaction.
And so Courtney Skott’s Mighty Closet comes to a close. Does anyone else feel like they could use a cigarette?
This is Courtney just home from a long day of wit and wallpaper samples at Sugarbaker Designs. If you listen closely, you can just make out the opening strains of “Georgia on My Mind.” The red cuff is from Banana Republic.
The dress is Joanie Char Silk San Francisco, a score from the Goodwill. The details on this piece are lovely, including the line of shell buttons down the left hip.
Also? Epaulets with contrast piping. Thaaaat’s what I’m talking about.
The pumps are vintage Charles Jourdan. I’m pretty sure you can play basketball in those.
Tomorrow we conclude our presentation with a jumper that out-awesomes all the other jumpers. See you then.