"We crank up the grill, we throw on corn, fruit, a piece of meat, we have an appetizer and a bottle of wine," Cat says (pronouncing it "whan," in her throaty Southern drawl).
Much like her TV persona, Cat is cool under pressure, with almost-military posture, but around her family she's also quick-witted and easy with a laugh.
At the moment, with 21-month-old Nash hanging on her sundress and heaps of fresh corn on the grill, she looks like any other multitasking mom attempting to placate four young kids and an anxious Chihuahua while serving appetizers to her friends (except that her friends are feasting on smoky-sweet grilled-pineapple guacamole).
Usually, Jennifer, 40, helps prep the food or bathes the babies while Cat cooks; favorites include salmon, flank steak tacos, or the grilled chicken skewers with garlicky herb-flecked chimichurri sauce on tonight's menu.
Cat met Jennifer Johnson, a veteran nanny from the Bay Area, in a crowded ski lodge at Lake Tahoe in 1999. "We were drinking Coronas, listening to the band, and we just struck up a conversation," Cat recalls. The spark was immediate, though neither had any idea that the other was gay. "I asked if her male friend was her boyfriend," says Cat. "She said she didn't go out with guys, and I said, 'Neither do I!'"
On an early date, "Cathy"—as Jennifer calls her—arrived at Jennifer's house and was overcome by the smell of burning popcorn. "She knew then there was a problem with my cooking," Jennifer says with a laugh.
The couple married in 2001, and, dreaming of a big family, moved from the Bay Area to the picturesque coastal enclave of Santa Barbara because it felt like "old-fashioned-living, where you know all your neighbors and the kids ride their bikes and play at each other's houses," says Cat.
Jennifer conceived Zoran using a sperm donor in 2003, and Caje and Thatcher followed in 2007 and 2009.
In 2008, while Jennifer was pregnant with Thatcher, Cat took time off to try to get pregnant, too. She gave birth to Nash three months after Thatcher arrived (all four boys share the same sperm donor, but Zoran and Nash were conceived using Jennifer's eggs, and Caje with Cat's; Thatcher's exact provenance is still unknown, since both women's fertilized eggs were implanted in Jennifer's uterus).
"I was scared of us being pregnant at the same time," admits Cat. "I thought, 'Who's going to lift things? Who's going to take care of us?' But we took care of each other."