Broadway, Balthazar and Camel Balls

Guest blogger: Tanner

It all started with my manic mom. She saw Kinky Boots on Broadway in August, and called us hyperventilating after the show.

“OHMIGOD, OHMIGOD, that show was amazing,” she said. “JIMMY! You have to bring Tanner when you come here for your podiatry conference next month. He needs to see there is more to life than MINECRAFT!”

So, that’s how I found myself spending a whirlwind weekend with my dad in NYC.
We arrived at JFK exhausted after catching the red-eye, and my dad promptly forgot his iPhone in the taxi. Luckily, the guy who got into the taxi after us was a bro. He arranged to meet us at Rockefeller Center so he could give Jimmy’s prized iPhone back!

We dropped our bags at The Days Inn on the Upper West Side, and headed for Cafe 82, which my dad called a “glorified Dennys.” Since I have Celiac Disease, my mom researched gluten-free friendly restaurants before we came. We were pleased to discover Cafe 82 even offered a separate GF menu.

After I finished my delicious GF chocolate chip pancakes, we hopped aboard the subway  headed for the NYU campus for our tour. The campus was absolutely beautiful. Unlike most colleges that have a closed off campus, there is no gate at NYU. It was open to the whole city. We got to see the gigantic library that houses over four million books and the living quarters. The student-guides also showed us a sun-filled, modern classroom, which looked so sophisticated equipped with comfy desks and chairs.

After our tour ended, we walked to a completely GF restaurant famed for its delicious breadsticks, Risotteria. The food was tasty and our waiter was a cool dude who was Tahoe bound!

Later we checked in only to discover my mom had booked us a total 1-star ghetto hotel. We had one bed to share between the both of us. Our room smelled like strong, poisonous house cleaner and was probably infested by bedbugs. I shot off a text: Thanks, Mom, for the shit-shack of a room!!

Room with a view...not!
Room with a view…not!

We had maybe an hour to chill before we had to get back on the streets to go see Kinky Boots. My dad was bitter when he discovered there was no wine opener in our room even though he was paying three bills a night to stay. While I checked my Facebook, he went down and gave the front desk a piece of his mind.

No glassware for Jimbo's vino so a Dixie cup had to do.
No glassware for Jimbo’s vino so a Dixie cup had to do.

The show was phenomenal. Stark Sands and Billy Porter both did an amazing job at their parts. After seeing the show, we were pooped and headed back to our room to relax before the next adventure packed day! Saturday I navigated the City alone while my dad dug into some yummy cadaver feet at his lab in the Bronx—who doesn’t love the smell of formaldehyde in the morning? First, I hit up Cafe 82 again. I was becoming a regular. This time I gorged on fluffy, homemade mashed potatoes and GF pasta with marinara.

Afterward it was time for It’Sugar. Even though I’m almost 17, I still love candy. The place was filled with huge-sized Laffy Taffy, SweetTarts, and Nerds. I got myself some treats, and even brought back a box of extra sour bubblegum “Camel Balls” for Saxon.

Nothing like a big bro who buffs you out with camel testies!
Nothing like a big bro who buffs you out with camel testies!

Then it was time to see Book of Mormon. I had to take the red one line to Times Square-42nd Street. I proceeded to walk the seven blocks to 49th and 8th Street where the theater was located. My seat was so swank, about eight or so rows back, but snack-dab in the middle of the row, perfect view of the stage. Couldn’t ask for better (thanks Katie for the tix!) The show was amazing. It was written by the same people who did South Park, so it was hilarious in a crude humor way. The acting was superb as well, consisting of college-aged men belting catchy tunes that I couldn’t stop singing the next day.

After the show, my Dad, our cousin Katie, and myself went out to dinner at a fancy restaurant, Balthazar. I gobbled up plenty of their delicious oysters while Jimmy and Katie proceeded to down several bottles of beer and wine (Partiers!!).

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The restaurant’s bathroom even had their own employee that would offer you towels after you had finished washing your hands. They also had a small plate of mints, matches, and other miscellaneous crippity-crap in an attempt to achieve a tip.

I am very big into acting  as I have been performing in musicals since the 5th grade. Seeing these shows on Broadway was eye-opening for me to see what it would be like for me if I continue on with my acting through college. I was so impressed by the skills demonstrated by the actors in the musicals.

On our final day, my Dad and I went on a beautiful walk up on the Highline trail. Although the path was packed with deodorant shunning, slow-walking Euros, I enjoyed the unique perspective of the City. We even were able to watch a guy make us snow-cones by scraping ice off a huge block of ice.

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Overall, this trip was one of the most important experiences I’ll ever have. I am so fortunate I was able to go to NYC and see the fantastic city. I’m happy to claim this experience has opened my eyes to many opportunities that I have access to in my life.

At Eataly's Beer Garden. Later NYC! I'll be back. And hopefully I'll be old enough to try the GF brews.
At Eataly’s Beer Garden. Later NYC! I’ll be back. And hopefully I’ll be old enough to try the GF brews.

Go The F**k to Sleep: The Teenage Years

If you read our Curse of the Cussing Skier post, you know I’m not the potty mouth of the family. But over the summer, Tanner hosted his annual Los Gatos Youth Theatre co-ed slumber party.

Some teenage boys might think doing theatre is uncool, but my guys are no dummies. For every one guy at the soiree, there were five funny, creative, head-on-straight girls. As a mom to dudes, I’m a sucker for having these exotic creatures in our home.

Everyone showed up around 5 p.m. Jimmy & I waited on the kids, offering poolside service on a par with the Four Seasons—young, unlined faces were spritzed with Evian, snacks and soda were delivered to the jacuzzi, and the whole backyard twinkled with colorful lights.

The gang finished swimming well after dark, and crammed into our long, narrow family room (aka “the bowling alley”) where they began perusing movies On Demand. Around 11, Jimmy and I retired to our bedroom. Right before my head hit the pillow, I whispered sweetly, “That wasn’t so bad!”

An hour later I was still wide awake. Our home is small. I could hear everything.  All I could think of was “Go the F**k to Sleep.” If you aren’t familiar, the NY Times best selling bedtime story for parents was written by an exhausted and exasperated dad, Adam Mansbach. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, the story captures the frustrations of sealing the bedtime deal with procrastinating kids.

As I lay seething in bed that night too pissed off to count sheep, I wrote my own version of Go the F**k to Sleep…

Mom, can I have my theatre friends over, you begged. I’ll clean the house, even sweep.

We’ll swim, hang out and by a decent hour, fall fast asleep!

Okay, I agreed, but after midnight, I don’t want to hear a peep.

Mama’s almost 50, lookin’ a little haggard. Needs her Botox and f**kin’ beauty sleep.

It’s almost 1 a.m. now and through thin walls laughter continues to seep.

Don’t make me come out there in my mouthguard and lecture you. Please go the f**k to sleep.

All right, I’ll slice up more nectarines from Whole Foods, this organic sh*t ain’t cheap.

If you swear you’ll finish watching “Hairspray,”and get the f**k to sleep!

Hungry again? We just served DiGiorgno and popcorn when the microwave went “beep!”

Your bellies are full, now wrap up the massage train, and get to freakin’ SLEEP!

I get it, girls: “Pitch Perfect” best movie ever. Nick Jonas is hot. Harry Styles, a creep.

See? We’re on the same page? Now get the f**k to sleep.

The LEMON sign has dimmed, the jacuzzi jets silenced, so still is the pool sweep.

Hell no, you can’t go night swimming. You know where you can go? The f**k to sleep!

I come out & see Kevin* face planted on the sofa, probably counting sheep.

Can’t the rest of you follow his lead? Now lie the f**k down,  and sleep!

It’s late now, well past two, my Hushers are crammed so deep.

Stop twerking in my kitchen, and for the love of Miley f**kin’ Cyrus: sleep!

Seriously? Sourpatch popsicles at 3 a.m.? Your blood sugar’s gonna take a soaring leap

Sure, fine, whatever. How about some Red Bull, too. Who the f**k cares? You’re not gonna sleep.

Bleary eyed and dazed, I awaken at 5, the price of being a cool mom is way steep.

What on earth made me ever think you kids would go the f**k to sleep?

It’s morning now, bodies and sleeping bags tangled in a heap, I’ve tiptoed through the house long enough.

It’s 10 a.m., you little sh*ts! Now you’re gonna sleep?

Yogurt and fresh fruit—who told you breakfast came with the deal? A little birdie—”cheep cheep?”

The second your parents pick you up, I’m going the f**k back to sleep!

Around the piano you harmonize to Coldplay, voices so angelic it almost makes me weep.

Come back soon, my darling thespians. Who cares what time you go the f**k to sleep!

Love,

Mrs. Ratcliff

PS: If Samuel L. Jackson is busy, maybe we can get Zac Efron to narrate “GTFTS: The Teenage Years.”

*name changed to protect the sleep deprived.

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San Diego Heaven!

My friend, Dasha & I met during our San Diego college days when we worked as counselors at a YMCA surf camp on Kauai one summer.

dash & kim

Dash was the super on it, responsible counselor who once plucked a gaggle of Japanese campers from a riptide at Lumahai Beach. I was the derelict counselor who read Jaws to the kids by the campfire and looked away when they bought wine coolers at the ABC market. I don’t know why Dasha wanted to be friends with me, but thankfully she did, and after that summer we were attached at the velcro JimmyZ skirts we rocked back in the ’80s.

Every summer Dash and her family graciously allows the Rattypack to descend upon their Del Mar pad. Last year we punked Saxon royally.  We reinjected his Twinkies with Ranch dressing (see Tale of the Tainted Twinkie). I was really hoping to torture him again this year. And, although we alluded to lacing his Hersey’s Cookies & Cream mini-cereal box with laxitive—”How’s your tummy feeling, Sax?”—we sadly ran out of time.

Ever since our Kauai days, Dash and I have been soul sisters of the sea, so we literally spent every second of our visit in the water. We stand up paddle boarded in La Jolla, as grey bellied seals, leopard sharks and brilliant orange garabaldi flitted through the aqua water beneath us. We boogie boarded mondo  surf in Del Mar, careening down waves at eyeball level in a rush of sound and foam. And then, we pruned ourselves to the max sipping apres beach martinis in her jacuzzi.

But even mermaids need to eat, so we headed to Herringbone in La Jolla. If you visit San Diego, this restaurant is a must! Located in a former warehouse, the decor is fabulous…

olive tree:bar

100-year olive trees grow between the tables.

Loved this wall of dried pufferfish!
Loved this wall of dried pufferfish!

There were fireplaces blazing, an array of coral and barnacles, and inside the belly of an amazing light fixture hanging over the bar, this cool whale skeleton…

whale bones

The food was massively delicious! If you go, be sure to order the whole fish ceviche…

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…the crab pasta in brown tarragon butter, and for desert, the Herringbone Sundae—chocolate ice cream, sea salt blondies, marshmallow cream, caramelized nibs drizzled espresso caramel.

Dasha and I were also busy trying to get our teenagers to interact. As you can see, the kids have hung out since they were little…

so little…but for some reason this trip they acted as if they’d never met. Luckily, Dash and I tapped into our inner camp counselors and made them play a raucous game of TABOO together on the beach. Here’s a snippet of the game:

Dash: Okay!!! This is something that happens on the 4th of July or Christmas WHERE A LOT OF PEOPLE WALK DOWN THE STREET!!!!”

Lauren: Mom! You’re being really loud. Is it fireworks?

Dash: NO!!!! THEY WILL OFTEN WEAR COSTUMES!!!

Makena: Mom, please the whole beach is staring. Will you lower your voice? Is it Halloween?

Dash: NOOOOO, it’s NOT HALLOWEEN!!!! SOMETIMES THERE WILL BE MARCHING BANDS!!!!!

Makena: Shhhhhh!!! Oh I know, it’s a parade!

Kim: GOOD JOB, MAKENA!!!!!

Tanner & Sax: Pipe it, Mom. You’re such a grenade!

Needless to say, the teens FINALLY bonded over their loud, dorky moms.

Glad we could help, kids!
Glad we could help, kids!

Dash and I also love to shop. She was busy preparing for an upcoming camping trip, so  I headed up the PCH to Laguna Beach where I discovered Tuvalu, a darling beach chic home furnishings boutique where I could have done serious damage…

Drooling over this double oyster shell chandelier~only $4,500!
Drooling over this double oyster shell chandelier~only $4,500!

 Oh, and this bottle rack chandelier was killer, too. Price upon request so you know it was BANK!

billion dollar bottle rack chandy

Really loved this aqua anchor tricked out with lights, too.
Really loved this aqua anchor tricked out with lights, too.

bottle with sea glass beads

Lucky for Jimmy, my only purchase was this vintage bottle bedecked with a strands of seaglass. I love the colors. They remind me of the hues of the ocean in beautiful San Diego.

While the sparkly boutique finds were gorgeous, our trip reminded me that long lasting, friendships where you can grab your boogie board and pick up right where you left off, are life’s best treasures.

four of us at Herrybone

Can’t wait to come back & visit next year!010

Cheeks ‘n’ Chodes

sax with bunz

After rafting the gridlocked Truckee River and battling the masses for shady piece of real estate at Angora Lake on a recent trip to Tahoe, the Ratty Pack was craving some solitude. I had read about Secret Cove Beach located a few miles up Highway 28 from Sand Harbor not far from Incline Village. You have to park along the highway and hike down a 1/4-mile trail. When we arrived at 11 a.m., there were only a dozen or so cars which was a good sign. Halfway down the path, pine needles crunching under our feet, we caught a glimpse of gorgeous aquamarine water. Another good sign!

view from trail

The closer we got to the beautiful beach, the more excited I became.
The closer we got to the beautiful beach, the more excited I became.

At the end of the trail, we rounded a corner and easily found a spot on the beach. The good news was the crescent of white sand fringed by water in all hues of peacock feather blue! Dotting the beach were only 40 people or so. The bad news? 36 of those beach goers were naked. Yes, we had stumbled upon a clothing optional beach.

Let’s be honest, the RP aren’t exactly the most modest peeps. I got voted “Most Local” in high school (code for “Chick Most Likely to Cut Class & Sunbathe Topless at Cowells). And, one would be hard pressed to find a photo on Facebook of Jimmy actually wearing a shirt.

But we are parents of two teenagers now. We have standards to uphold. Oh, who am I kidding? I would’ve sold my soul for a dip in that pristine aqua water.

No sooner had we unfurled our towels than Tanner whipped out his phone and updated his Facebook status. “The moment when you think you’re headed to a chill beach, and it turns out to be a nudist beach with no inhabitants under the age of 60. Scarred for life.”

He wasn’t the only one who was scarred. We saw a guy floating spread eagled on a raft, baking his buns of cottage cheese to golden perfection. And a pot bellied octogenarian with Brillo pad pubes cruising the beach for geriatric talent.

And a woman with a droopy rack who was a dead ringer for Magda…

You remember her, don't you? The leathery old lady from "There's Something About Mary."
You remember her, don’t you? The leathery old lady from “There’s Something About Mary.”

Let’s just say no one looked like Channing Tatum

…or Kate Upton.

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It was a peaceful scene though as people waded through the cove’s clear aqua water and sunned themselves on big boulders, and truthfully, as more people came, the crowd was half clothed, half not.

The boys pissed and moaned for a while—”Ah, gross,” said Sax. “It’s a parade of cheeks and chodes.” But after a while they chilled out and stopped complaining. Tanner memorized his lines for the Los Gatos Youth Theatre’s summer musical, 13, which—gratuitous plug!—everyone should come see!

The nude dude in the background has no idea Tanner is going to be famous someday.
The nude dude in the background has no idea Tanner is going to be famous someday.

Sax, Jimmy and I hiked around the corner to a deserted spot where giant grey boulders rose from the lake like sleeping elephants. We leapt off the rocks and luxuriated in that clear aqua water. It was heaven.

After we swam back in, we discovered that we had a new nudie neighbor to our left. His privates were mercifully hidden by a granite rock, although we did catch occasional glimpses of his tatted up tush. “If you want to use the floaty, it’s for everybody,” he graciously offered, pointing to a plastic raft tucked into a granite niche. I smiled and politely thanked him. “Boys, any takers?” I said.

“No thanks, we’ll Pasadena on the communal air mattress,” they said.

After an hour or so, we packed up. We had a good giggle on the hike back to the car, but all agreed we would take the serenity of Secret Cove over kooked-out Lake Angora any day. And as a parent, I was proud of my boys for being fairly tolerant. Why is our society so freaked out by nudity? As long as people aren’t lurkers (and I didn’t get a creepy vibe from anyone at Secret Cove whatsoever), Jimmy and I wanted our boys to know it’s cool by us. Live and let live.

Even if I wished it had been Channing Tatum down there sunning his buns.

Shopping Under the Influence

Proof that you should not go birthday shopping w/ your 14-year-old in downtown Santa Cruz after consuming two mai tais at Hula’s:

Not only will he will walk away with $50 donut print Sanuk bedroom slippers

I swear I didn't know they were called "Glazed and Confused."
I swear I didn’t know they were called “Glazed and Confused.”

…but he will also score a pair of WEED kneesocks.

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“Was that a good choice?” tsked Jimmy when we met up at the car.

“No,” I replied sheepishly. What could I say other than the Appletons Gold Rum impaired my parental judgement?

Could have been worse. I’m pretty sure if I’d pounded two Scorpion Bowls, Saxon might have hoodwinked me into buying these…

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When did kneesocks become fashionable again anyway?

The Curse of the Cussing Skier

Every New Year Jimmy resolves to stop swearing. Alas after 21 years of marriage I’ve come to the conclusion that my husband is powerless to profanity.

Ski trips are an especially ugly trigger.

Over break we headed to Lake Tahoe for a few days. There we were changing in the frigid Sugar Bowl parking lot, only to discover that Sax was busting out of his old snow pants. They were two sizes too small, total floods. He couldn’t even zip them.

Already exhausted from packing, driving and unpacking our equipment, that snafu set off Jimmy’s cussfest. “Dammit Kim! I told you to have Saxon try on his pants before we left!”

Oops.

“Come on, dude!” he yelled, shoehorning the kid into his puffy polyester Daisy Dukes. “BUTTON that F***ER!”

“I can’t!” Saxon whined.

“Um, dad, where’s my ski jacket?” Tanner asked sheepishly from the back seat.

“What do you mean, where’s your ski jacket?” erupted Jimmy. “You F*CKIN’ forgot it? You’re 16! What the F**K, man?”

In calmer moments, Jimmy has admitted the reason behind his pyscho-ness. He says it’s because our teenagers have a case of pussitis. He has a point, I thought, as I watched Tanner wrestle his foot into his new-used ski boot along with two pairs of socks and the bottom six inches of his sweatpants. “Dad!!! This boot is too small! If I shove it in, my ankle’s literally gonna break.”

“Well, why are you wearing two pairs of effing socks?” Jimmy yelled, violently ripping a pair off Tanner’s feet, “and get those sweats the hell out of there!”

By now people in the parking lot were staring. I was mortified. When we finally got up the mountain, the weather was windy and freezing, but we toughed it out until the last lift closed. Then per tradition, we warmed up in our toasty car with apres ski brie and brews, sparkling Clementine Izzes for the dudes. “Ahh,” sighed Jimmy. “Maybe skiing is worth all the hassle.”

After crashing at our pricey one-star hotel, we got a late start the following morning, and SKI NAZI was raging. “This trip is costing me BANK! Why can’t you guys get your A$$ES out of bed earlier?”

I felt bad that we slept in, but I was wiped from the holidays. Plus I was dreading the single digit temps. Thankfully it turned out to be an epic day at Squaw Valley, sunny and gorgeous and…

…Uh-oh. There was Jimbo, lumbering across the frozen tundra like a rabid polar bear. “Guess how much 2-day passes for a family of four cost?” he bellowed. “Seven hundred and forty-eight F*CKING bucks!”

Oh shoot. It was 11 a.m. and we were just now hitting the slopes. Plus the mountain was packed. It was practically costing us $10 a run. Jimmy and Saxon left Tanner & me in the dust. Just as well.  I needed a reprieve from the cuss-a-thon.

That night we met friends for dinner at Village Pizzeria. We had a great time, that is after Jimmy made it back from Sports Exchange in downtown Truckee to buy some used ski poles for Saxon. Unfortunately, we neglected to take into account that when your kid sprouts five inches in one year, he’s probably going to need taller poles. Saxon’s were so short, they looked like he stole them off Verne Troyer.

jack-jill-la-premiere-2011-verne-troyer-64874

I googled the store’s address and offered to Map it on his iPhone, but Mario Andretti  peeled out of the parking lot before I had a chance. I shrugged and went in and added our name to the 45-minute wait list. Five minutes later, my phone rang. “WHERE is this place?” Jimmy screamed. “What’s the EFFIN’ address?”

The next morning we rallied and hit the slopes by 9:30 a.m. SKI NAZI actually sweetened up: he tightened our boots, reminded us (nicely) to bend our knees and treated us to warm chocolate cookies from Wildflower Bakery. The four of us skied together and had a blast.

At 4:30 p.m., we trekked to the car, pounded a post-sesh Modelo, packed up, and headed home. Or at least we tried to. It took 35 minutes just to inch out of the parking lot.

“This traffic is SUCH a Cluster F**K!” yelled Jimmy. “The equipment, schlepping, packing, whining, crowds, everything!!! I F*cking HATE skiing!!!”

Look on the bright side, Jimmy, all those coins in your New Year’s swear jar will buy us another trip to Squaw Valley.

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"Seriously, Granite Chief Ski Shop, two hundred bucks for these Electric Blue Boogaloo powder pants? That's an EFF you to me!"
“Seriously, Granite Chief Ski Shop, two hundred bucks for these Electric Blue Boogaloo powder pants? That’s an EFF you to me!”

Dia De Los Muertos–The Blind Side feat. Diego

Guest blogger: Tanner Ratcliff, 16.  

I received an extra credit assignment in my Spanish 3 class to do something along the lines of being involved in the Spanish speaking community. I chose to attend a Day of the Dead, or Dia de Los Muertos event.  Day of the Dead is a holiday for the hispanic culture where people honor their friends and family who have passed away. The celebration was hosted at the Oak Hill Funeral Home and Memorial Park in San Jose. First, my mom and I listened to a mass that was completely in Spanish. I tried to decipher what they were saying, but every 5 to 10 seconds my mom would ask, “Tanner, what is he saying?” It was incredibly annoying, but finally we left the mass and she stopped.

Next we passed a pastry counter and grabbed some Pan Dulce or Mexican Sweet Bread for Saxon (we all know he LOVES treats!) 

Next, we continued to a sugar skull decorating station. Calaveras de azúcar (sugar skulls) are used to adorn altars and can be eaten.

They are often quite elaborate. The table spilled over with icing and sequins, gems and rhinestones, glitter and colored foil. My mom bought me a skull for $3 dollars.

A kid named Diego approached the seller. Diego was a young hispanic child that was on the chubbier side, and was interested in painting a sugar skull. Once he found out about the cost, he trudged away. If you do not know my mom, she tends to be very creepy to random little children we don’t know, such as Diego. Being the Blind Side wannabe that she is, my mom bought poor Diego a sugar skull.

She then proceeded to ask, “Can my son, Tanner, help you decorate your skull?” He replied “No.” Rejection at its finest. Later we walked around. Families had set up tents, umbrellas, chairs. They were grilling on hibachis, and playing boom boxes. Altars dotted graves across the cemetery lawn. At each grave my mom asked the people if she could take pictures, and was constantly pointing at things and people, which was incredibly rude. It is not only rude in general, but also particularly offensive in the hispanic culture, especially during a day where the dead are being remembered.

Editors note: Thank you, Tanner,  for letting me experience Dia De Los Muertos with you. The festive atmosphere, complete with mariachis, was joyful.

Each altar was garnished with a blend of colors and frequently decked out with vibrant images or photos. One even contained In-n-Out bags because the deceased individual loved the restaurant. My favorite was created by two sisters in honor of their mother, and included some of her favorite items: a juicy, red pomegranate. A can of Coca Cola. Brilliant orange marigolds. Tiny boxes of raisins and fun size M’nM’s. A plate of delicious homemade enchiladas ringed by burgundy flowers.

It got me thinking, What would I want on my altar? Fresh tuberose, Salty Dog cupcakes from Icing on the Cake, an icy cold martini, and of course, “The Blind Side” DVD.