On Wednesday evenings I cook dinner at my sister Janet’s house in San Dimas. It’s the only night of the week when all the kids are home for dinner, and it’s the one night a week I get to spend some quality time with my family. I usually grill up some flat iron (or flank) steak and serve it with bacon-wrapped baby potatoes or some other bacon-wrapped side. The kids love steak and bacon, but it’s definitely a treat in my sister’s very healthy household. She always provides the veg and salad, and the kids help me prepare dinner after homework.
Janet has four kids and is an incredible mother. I don’t have kids (except for my three dogs that I treat like kids!), so I’ve always made an effort to be a part of their lives. Cody is 19 and is currently training to be an EMT and firefighter like his dad. Camron is 22 and lives nearby. The twins, Kindal and Chace are the kids that I spend the most time with now, and today the twins are turning thirteen!
My two passions in life are food (obviously) and music, so those are the things that I’ve always shared with the twins. As I posted in the “About” section of the blog, a few years ago I started the “Chef Monkey” cooking club just so I could spend more quality time with my niece and nephews. Up until a few months ago, we held regular classes at my sister’s home, but now with the kids after-school schedules so overbooked (soccer, basketball & homework), we hold the club during the summer months only.
The Chef Monkey club motto is “We Cook Because We Can… Duh!”. A fun and important part of the club is making up songs to help the kids (and us grownups!) remember food terms. I still sing the “Mother Sauce Rap” when I’m making a pot of Béchamel or any of the five classic French “mother” sauces: Béchamel, Veloute, Español, Tomato, and Hollandaise.
The Mother Sauce Rap:
Béchamel is white
It’s so easy to get right
Velouté is made with stock
The flavor really rocks
Español is brown
It’s used all over town
Tomato sauce is easy
Sometimes we make it cheesy
Our favorite Hollandaise
It’s just lemon, butter and eggs
This is what we call…
the Mother Sauce Rap 2, 3, 4…
The Mother Sauce is Wrapped… Out!
Over the years the kids cooked for firefighters (at the fire station!), volunteered at a women’s shelter, and catered special “Panini Night” fundraising events. This past summer we held a “Chef Monkey Cooking Camp” at Alexandria House, a transitional residence for women and children. The Chef Monkeys got to share their joy of cooking with kids less fortunate, and at the end of the lesson we enjoyed the meal together. It was amazing and we plan to do again next summer.
When the twins were five I started teaching them how to play guitar. My husband Peter taught me, so I would learn a few chords then show the kids. I’ve played piano and written songs since I was five, but guitar really changed my life and I loved sharing it. When Chace learned to play the drums, we started a band and called it “Kitten’s Whip”. The name was because of Kindal’s fiery attitude. Nicknamed “Kitten”, she has always had that “rebel rocker” thing going, even as a toddler. Chace has always been the calmer one, and he would often roll his eyes at his twin sister (he still does).
For the twin’s fifth birthday, Peter and I held a “Rock Show” in our back garden. They performed to the Monkee’s “I’m a believer” and Madonna’s “Don’t Tell Me”. The twins didn’t actually play guitar for that “gig”, but had a great time being on “stage”, singing to all the fans. We had tour posters, t-shirts and a packed garden full of friends cheering them on in the “audience”. It was crazy but the kids loved it! Two years later, Kitten’s Whip was on stage at the world-famous Whisky-a-GoGo.
The gig was for my 40th birthday and it’s something we thought was “once in a lifetime”… until January 8th, 2007 when we played on stage at the Troubadour. This time it was for Peter’s 50th and we opened for his band, Rubylith. The twins were just turning eleven and the whole family joined in for this gig. Kindal on guitar and vocals, Chace on guitar and vocals, Cody on drums, Camron on base, myself and Janet on guitar, with her husband Paul acting as our stage “security”. Even our brother Greg flew in to play keyboards with us. He lives in Scotland with our dad and came in for both the Troubadour and Whisky gigs.
We played two songs at the Troubadour show and it was important to me that we all play our instruments on stage (no cheating!), and also that we put on a good show for Peter and his friends. Band practice was held every week at my sister’s house and it was hilarious. Week after week of Poison’s “Nothing but a good time” and Motley Crue’s raucous version of “Smoking in the Boys Room” would sometimes turn into a chorus of “we are never going to get the timing down!”. We did, and it was fantastic fun.
I remember being in the dressing room before I went on the Whisky-a-GoGo stage (for my 40th). Kindal came in and I asked her if she was nervous, because I was getting nervous. I mean… this was the stage where I used to see “X” and Motely Crue perform when I was a teenager. At just SEVEN years old, she looked up, smiled and said “No way. I’m not nervous… I’m just really excited!”. That changed my attitude right then for the Whisky gig, and also at the Troubadour show. We practiced those two songs for an entire year, got on stage, and NAILED IT. It was awesome.
We still play music together regularly. Besides the electric guitars, the twins each have an acoustic and a drum set. Kindal even writes her own songs and Chace backs her up when they perform for friends. Needless to say, whenever I spend time with the kids we are either cooking or playing guitar… usually both.
Over the years, friends have asked “are you trying to get signed?” or ”are you trying launch music careers for the kids?”. Living in Los Angeles has many benefits, especially with Uncle Peter’s job (he’s a VP at a movie studio). So that means the kids get to attend movie premieres every so often, and we get to rent out a legendary nightclub for a special evening, but it also means that no one believes you when you say “we’re just doing this for fun”. It’s not about playing on stage and trying to be “famous”. For me it’s about the precious time we spend together… the weekly visits, working together, learning together, laughing, struggling, then coming together at the end and delivering.
Whether it’s cooking with the twins or playing music with the twins, they both fill me with so much joy and love, that I never missed having my own children.
So on this, their thirteenth birthday I want to say… thank you to my super, fantastic wonder twins. Thank you Kindal and Chace for always being so good to your crazy Aunt Jo.
Here’s to many more years of music, cooking and wonderful adventures together.
Happy Birthday! xoxo
Update: Photos from the twins 13th Birthday Dinner at “Claim Jumper”!
Chace with his date, Marissa
Kindal with her date, Tony
A Teen Food Fest
Chace… attempting death by chocolate!
he survived (with help from Tony) !
“I’m not telling you what I’m wishing for!”
Kindal and her best friend Ilana…. who is also an original “Chef Monkey”!
Wrapping up the evening…
Chace & Marissa
Tony & Kindal
More Photos on Flickr
Rubylith (Peter’s band)
Chef Monkeys on YouTube
Our birthday gift to the twins: Dinner at Michael Mina in San Francisco!
“ Wonder Twins” Written by Jo Stougaard ©MyLastBite.com All Rights Reserved. No usage allowed including copying or sharing without written permission.