Monday, April 30, 2012

Carmen



This is a photo from the '60s of my Great Aunt, Cookie. She passed away just over a week ago.

You can't tell from the picture, but Cookie had an amazing head of bright red hair. It was that way forever, and it was sort of her calling card. She was always impeccably dolled up, down to her red lipstick, nail polish, and heels. She always smelled like Cookie -- a smell that became intoxicating when as a child I'd received a number of extraordinary gifts and cards from her, all doused in her perfume.

Cookie was the connecting force in a large family. I'm not sure how I'll ever hear any of the family gossip ever again.

She'd been married, but divorced, and never had kids, and yet somehow she was a mother figure to what seems like dozens of people. Cookie had a way of introducing herself to you that made you feel you'd known her for eons, and you certainly belonged in her larger-than-life presence.

She was a person who knew what she wanted, and she went for it. To be crass -- she had life by the balls. She told the family a few weeks ago that she was feeling better and wouldn't be dying, after all. And even though liver cancer is certain and speedy death, we believed her. If there is a single person on this earth who could defeat such a disease, it is Cookie. I actually remember sighing with relief when I heard of her decision not to die.

Cookie had a few life philosophies I've been mulling over since her well-attended funeral. For starters, and most importantly, she valued family above all else. She'd do anything for them, and she'd also fight with them when they were being pricks. She was pretty much the queen of the hot-headed side of my family.

Secondly, she valued a good time. One should be enjoying oneself in the most fabulous manner possible, whenever possible, and one should look fantastic doing it. For this reason, we are well-stocked with Cookie stories that will keep us cackling into our own old age.

Thirdly, she valued her church and giving back to her community. There were hundreds of people who knew her and attended her services; she made it her business to be known by them.

Some people pass on regretfully not having lived the way they wanted. Sometimes their legacies are muted and gray and sorry. I think the family is thankful this could never be said of Cookie. She touched so many people so profoundly that echoes of her influence will be felt for generations to come. It's an extraordinary thing to walk away from a grave site feeling inspired, but that is how I know many of us felt. We'll miss her terribly, but we're thankful for the reminders to treasure what's important and squeeze as much joy as possible out of each moment.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Silence is golden

For May, I am quitting Facebook.

I'm really looking forward to the experiment. There's a bit of a cliche about facebook -- that it makes you hate your friends, and like people you barely know. I think that's true to an extent. Somewhere along the way, we all forgot it was pretty much anything but normal to share your fervent political leanings with a crowd consisting of the stoner you went to high school with and barely knew, your mother, your co-workers, and your ex-boyfriends.

And believe me, I get the irony. Ho boy, do I get it. I overshare on my blog nearly every day. The difference is if you're reading this, you've chosen to come here and read it. And sure, you choose to visit Facebook, too, but I feel Facebook used to be a sort of safe haven where most people were fairly polite. Now it's just gone haywire. I've hidden updates from nearly half my "friends" because I simply can't stand what they have to say most of the time. Most of the posts I read now are from NPR, my sister, bloggers I've never met, and the hippie dippy web sites I follow.

And I am a huge proponent of free speech. Please, say what you want in whatever forum you like. I just wonder if Facebook is really the proper forum and if we're not alienating our closest friends by being so "connected."

And I know it's a bit trite to create yet another list of "Top 10 Most Annoying Facebookers," but I simply cannot stop myself. If it's any consolation, I don't have 10 -- I have eight. Ha.

So in no particular order, here are the top offenders I look forward to ignoring for the entire month of May. Scream into a black abyss, ya bastards!!

1. Political posts. Look. I am a Democrat. I'm sure I've alluded to that fact in some of my own Facebook updates because I want to Save the Strawberries and rid the world of BPA. But I am not some kind of political expert just because I minored in poli sci and I read the newspaper every day. No, not an expert, just another asshole with an opinion. And you know what they say about those. Whatever your political leanings, I don't give a shit. I just wish you'd shut up about it already. And if you ever post anything about abortion, whether pro or con, your ass is grass. I will hide all your updates with lightning speed and several violent clicks of my mouse.

2. Religious posts. So you love your god, and he (she? ha) loves you. Or you've become an atheist. This is really super. I presume this has brought you happiness. I have my own opinions about god and religion and guess where I'm not talking about them. On Facebook! Just as I do not discuss religion with my friends because -- hello, awkward! -- I choose not to broadcast my beliefs to every person I've ever met and friended on Facebook. Consider it! It's not a novel idea, I swear.

3. People who use their personal accounts strictly to promote a business they work for. What. The. Hell.

4. Vaguebookers. Go straight to hell. Sorry, I mean, you poor dear, what is wrong?!?! Please tell me. Please?? Pleaaassse? Lookie here, vaguebookers. I'm guessing Mommy never gave you the attention you were starving for, and now you're looking for it from, well, every single person you know. Stop embarrassing yourself.

5. Negative posts. These people hate everything, everywhere, everyone, at every moment in time, since forever and ever, Amen. They have nary a positive word for the world to read. They make me feel like there is a black sore festering in my stomach that I'd like to vomit out. Was that graphic enough for you? I just can't handle these people.

6. And vice versa -- positive posts. Everything is wonderful, everywhere, with everyone, at every moment in time. It always has been and always will be. Sunshine and rainbows and cupcakes and no cellulite for eternity, Amen. Falling under this bracket are people who are compelled to list their accomplishments of the day. Few things make me more crabby than reading about inane everyday accomplishments. God bless my friends that do this. I love them but holy hell I will stab you.


7. Vote for such-and-such posts. Feck off with your vote-for-my-third-cousin-once-removed posts. I will never vote for that strange baby. I will never vote for your friend's sister. I will never vote for Mitt Romney. I will, however, hide the hell out of your updates, again with much vigorous mouse-clicking.

8. Sports posts. Oh my god you are not ESPN. If I wanted to know about some awesome play, or the score, I'd fucking watch the game. There's a reason I am not watching, ya douche. I pretty much hate all sports, unless the Niners are playing, in which case, post away. Yes, this is hypocritical of me, but life is full of hypocrites and I'm no exception.

There are so many others, but they're so stupid they don't deserve their own categories. People who post strictly music videos. People who post disgusting photos/links/videos that will disturb the hell out of me for two weeks. People who complain openly about relationships they are in with other people who I assume are also their Facebook friends (passive aggressive much?). People who only post exercise updates (I will kill you). People whose updates literally make no sense, ever.

And look -- I am guilty of every one of the above transgressions. And I am sorry. And if you are my friend and you do these things, first of all cut that shit out, but secondly, I do love you. But I am gonna love you a whole lot more in May.


Monday, April 23, 2012

That tree

Twice a year, the tree in our front yard explodes with fragrant white flowers that perfume the neighborhood with eau de Hawaii. You can smell it from two blocks away, and thankfully, it's a nice smell.


We aren't sure what kind of tree this is. One tree-trimmer guessed acacia, and google seems to agree. 




I wish the tree was like this all year long, but it only lasts about two weeks, and then the wind kicks up and all the blossoms blow into our neighbors' yards. One neighbor suggested we cut the tree down for this reason. It's impolite to give your neighbor the finger, so I just said no. 




For the two weeks the blossoms are on the tree, the whole thing hums with hundreds of bees. Some are honey bees, some are big and black -- carpenter bees, I guess?

 Here's a closer look.




The only problem with this tree is that it's not in my back yard. I'd like to lie in its shade and stare upward for a while.

Friday, April 20, 2012

De Matrimonio

My husband gets better every year. Like, I'm not sure how or why this has happened. I just know that as time passes, I love him more, and I dare say he loves me more.

And neither of us are perfect. We each suffer from our own special brand of neuroses and are perfectly capable of driving each other completely insane. But as time passes, I gotta say: I am finding his neuroses more and more entertaining, and I believe he finds mine sort of hilarious.

So basically, we'll make an excellent old, eccentric couple some day.

We'll have been married six years on Sunday.

Our digits. He still prefers to remain faceless as far as my blog is concerned.

We've known each other for 16 years. While I can readily remember all of our adventures (and misadventures) together, it's a little hard to believe it's been that long.

In any case, I feel lucky to have ended up with this dude.

He's one of the good ones. He collects friends everywhere he goes. He re-tells these funny stories I know by heart but they still make me roar. He doesn't let me suffer by myself when I've hit a rough patch. He has an inventive imagination. He's a morning person, and a night-time person, whereas I'm just a night-time person. He's the reason I have my bachelor's degree. He pushed me toward my dream and now his metaphorical foot is planted firmly in my metaphorical backside so that I fall completely into it. He gets defensive when I catch him falling asleep on the couch, like I've accused him of something heinous. He gets excited when there might be teenagers smoking dope outside because he enjoys being the scary dude who might kick their asses if they don't leave.

I would keep him around purely for entertainment value, but as it happens I'm rather attached to him as well.

Happy anniversary, my love. Let's toast to many new adventures. 


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What I've been reading

So I blew through a few books over several weeks, after spending some time slogging through 202 pages of Shantaram ... Sweet Jesus. Will someone please just tell me what happens in this book? I can't handle the intense level of detail and going-nowhere-ness of this 933-page novel.






That's really the only one I can't recommend that you read, unless you have an intense interest in India.

So I moved on to Bringing up Bebe, by Pamela Druckerson.


This has gotten a lot of play in the media, I think for a couple reasons. For starters, I think there's a hyper-focus on parenting in America. It's of course with the best of intentions, but a bit controversial. Let's just say the French are not into attachment parenting. Mommy and Daddy need time to themselves in the evenings to enjoy some silence and wine, after all. Actually -- I agree with that wholeheartedly.

The other reason this has gotten so much attention -- America's fascination with the French and why the French are skinny and they hate us so much.

There are some very good tips relating to kids sleeping through the night, kids eating the food that is cooked for the family (not some special kid's meal), and kids generally not behaving like little asshole dictators all the time.

Now, sometimes kids are just gonna behave like assholes, regardless, but the objective is to keep that to a minimum and have the kids truly understand who is in charge (it's you. not them).

Of course, the French aren't right about everything -- they have a cultural stigma against breastfeeding, when that's obviously been scientifically proven to be beneficial to children. And there are some other philosophical French-isms I'm not sure I agree with, but overall I'd say this book is chock full of common sense that's unfortunately not all that common in these parts.


The next thing I read was The Last Werewolf, by Glen Duncan.



I almost didn't read it, because the prose in the beginning was a little off-putting. But then it lightens up a bit and becomes acceptable, even humorous. And another reason I almost didn't read it: It's called The Last Werewolf, for godssakes. How many fricking werewolf books and movies does this world need, I ask you?

Well, it needed just this one more. It's good, I tell ya. Highly engrossing, a bit sexy, a bit gross ... If Hollywood doesn't turn it into a movie, they're a bunch of idiots.



Next up was After You'd Gone, by Maggie O'Farrell.


I really enjoyed the good storytelling, even though this isn't what you'd call an uplifting novel. There are a couple of mysteries that keep you turning the pages. The main character is despondent -- why? The main character saw something horrible in the beginning and tried to kill herself -- what was it?

I felt that the story ended abruptly, but it wrapped up fairly nicely, with all questions answered.



Now I'm on Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (still reading it) and really loving it. 





Any time an author can not only avoid cliche, but create new, wonderful descriptions of things -- not to mention create compelling characters and tell a damn nice story -- I am extremely impressed.

I'm a sucker for stories that take place in Florida, so I was a shoo-in reader for this one in the first place. But even if I didn't have a sick fascination with our country's worst state, this book would have roped me in. It's about a family that runs an amusement park of sorts called Swamplandia! that showcases alligator wrestling. They run into some trouble when they're suddenly down a wrestler and a competing amusement park, about death of all things, opens nearby and takes all of their business (I suspect there are some not-so-subtle digs about Disneyworld lying beneath the surface in this book). I can't adequately explain how amusing it is to read about how the family copes with this. You should just read it.

Now, can we talk about the elephant in the room that everyone is calling ...

Fifty Shades of Grey?


So, look.

In case you've been in a cave somewhere without cable TV or the internet, you are probably aware of this trilogy, that is basically the Twilight series re-written about a dude with an S&M fetish who gets with some girl named Anastasia of all things.

I give props to EL James -- she simply wrote the books for fun, posted them for free, and when they got popular realized she could make some cashola. And she has, my friends. And good for her.

But the thing is, these books are fucking terrible.

In fairness, I only read 23% of the first one -- just enough to complete the first sex scene -- but if the rest follows suit, this is some brainrot. For reals.

If you want to read something that's super easy to read but pretty dumb and kind of sexy, try the Sookie Stackhouse series. If you're just wanting the sexy stuff, please, for the love of god -- there are many, many better written sexy novels out there. Jackie Collins, VC Andrews, Danielle Steel. And their stuff might be available for cheaper. Believe me -- your time and money are better spent elsewhere.


Happy reading! Let me know what you've been reading and if you have any suggestions!









Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cambria. Again.

We loved it so much last year, we went again this year.

Cambria.

I still love it. I love it more, actually. I wish I was still there.

Here are my photos. Adieu.

 If you go, ask me where to eat. 
I know this looks like simple eggs benedict, but it's much more than that. 
It's perfect eggs benedict at Redwood Cafe. 


We ordered this delightful pinot gris and a mountain of fried calamari. 
Then it began pouring rain and the power went out. It was utterly perfect. 




 This business (Red Moose Cookie Co) survives purely on word of mouth. 
It's located in a storage facility and if you didn't know about it, you'd never find it. 
They have some very, very good cookies. 
The naughty rods are to die for. 


 At a place we stayed in Paso Robles. 
This was the cutest thing about the room and/or Paso Robles, unfortunately. 
(Although we had a wonderful meal at Thomas Hill Organics)
We left a day early. 


At Eberle winery in Paso Robles. Frankly, poodles freak me the hell out. 



 I took approximately 50 photos of this rock. I don't know why. 


 And there are maybe 20 pics of this chipmunk. 


 There's that rock again. 


 Elephant seals sunning themselves on the beach. There were hundreds of them. They stink.
Like caca.


 More seals. 


 More seals. 


 Seals!!


 At our favorite winery of the trip - Dover. That's the wine-maker's wife and their giant puppy.


 At one point he started snoring and I thought it was the wind blowing loudly outside. 


 Lizard at Oso Libre -- also a good winery. 


 Decided to post this photo because I look so sexy here. 


 So purty. 


Yup. 


*sigh*

I wanna go back. 


Monday, April 16, 2012

loaf

Where food is concerned, I'm really more of a winter person. I like throwing a bunch of stuff in a pot, letting it boil, and calling it delicious.

I feel that spring and summer require a bit more creativity. Which is why I subscribe to food magazines that tell me what to make.

So I made this Greek-style Turkey Meatloaf. It sounds weird, but it's damn good. My husband loved it even though it had ground turkey in it -- he doesn't often enjoy ground turkey. He even suggested we eat this meatloaf for Thanksgiving instead of the traditional roasted bird. I told him that's something a communist would say.

Just kidding.


You start out sauteeing some veggies. This is celery, onion, and garlic. 



 And then you mix the veggies with the raw turkey, an egg, some bread, salt and pepper. 
With your hands. Pretend it's brains, if that helps. 
Oh, that doesn't help?


Then you throw in some dill and feta. Hence the "Greek" portion of this recipe. 
If you're like me, you're thinking: But I hate dill. I hear what you're saying, Friend. 
But it works in this recipe. I daresay it is good in this recipe. 


 Here's what the loaf looks like once you've slapped it on a pan (with parchment paper) and baked it for a while. It's tender, juicy, and really, really flavorful. 


 Meat porn. 


 What a proper-looking dinner. 
That side dish is sauteed leeks and peas. I'll post how to do that below as well. 


Greek-style turkey meatloaf, from the April 2012 edition of Everyday Food

Serves 4 with (LOTS of) leftovers (so consider halving the recipe). Active time 20 min. Total time 1.25 hr

Ingredients: 

- 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small red onion diced small
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 large celery stalks, diced small
- coarse salt and ground pepper
- 1 lb ground white-meat turkey
- 1 lb ground dark-meat turkey
- 1 large egg
- 2 slices white sandwich bread, cut into small pieces (I used wheat - works fine)
- 4 oz feta, crumbled (1 cup)
- 1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped

Instructions: 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium. Add onion, garlic, and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. 

2. In a large bowl, combine vegetables, turkey, egg, bread, 1 1/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Using your hands, mix until combined. Mix in feta and dill. Transfer to a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and form into a 4-by-10-inch loaf. Bake until cooked through, 45 to 55 min, rotating sheet halfway through. Let rest 10 min before slicing. (To store, cover and refrigerate, up to 3 days.)


For the sauteed leeks and peas (adapted from Everyday Food, April 2012):

Slice 2 leeks (white and light green parts only) into half-moons, then rinse thoroughly and pat dry. In a large skillet, melt 3 tablespoons unsalted butter over medium-high. Add leek, season with salt and pepper, cook until translucent, 6 min. Add two 10-ounce bags frozen peas and cook, stirring frequently, until bright green and warmed through, abt 6 min. Season to taste with salt and pepper


Friday, April 13, 2012

Falling Down

I fell the other day.

Like, on my ass. I have the hand-sized, eggplant-colored bruise on my left butt cheek to prove it. I'd take a photo and show you, but I have a moral problem with showing my ass to the internet. Plus: cellulite. I'm sure I needn't say more.

I hadn't fallen in years. If memory serves, it may have actually been 12 years since my previous bail in the dirt. This particular fall was witnessed by all members of my immediate family, and laughed at heartily. It's a humbling experience.

I've been thinking a lot about falling down, metaphorically. We fall, fall, fall, and get back up, dust ourselves off, check out our disgusting ass-bruises in the mirror and then carry on. I wonder if we ever fall, hit our heads, and slip into a coma, but think we got back up and are carrying back on. Like Inception.

I can't address my previous post right now, but I will. I've been thinking about it quite a lot. Thanks for hanging in there.

Friday, April 06, 2012

What

There's some kind of shift happening in my brain and I haven't been able to put my finger on what it is or why it's happening.

I'm normally easily entertained, but of late I've found myself sighing with impatience through TV programs that would usually keep my attention. I've quit playing Words With Friends and Draw Something -- two games I'd felt hopelessly addicted to until one moment, mid-game, when I just thought to myself: I am so fucking tired of this.

I've lost patience with tons of the blogs in my reader and I deleted hundreds of them one day, on a whim. Hundreds. And I don't miss them. And I don't know why.

I've considered deleting my Facebook and Twitter accounts ... I think about it a few times every day. How freeing that would feel. Most of the things I read on Facebook are useless and mind-numbing, if not completely irritating. My blog seems tiresome and old, kind of like me. I have no compulsion to delete it, but it's on my shit list.

I don't sleep well, and I can't lie in bed for longer than eight hours, or my bones begin to hurt. If I don't feel the sun on my skin at some point during the day I feel slightly neurotic.

I think about how much I annoy myself and how much I'd like to take most of my possessions and throw them in a dumpster. 

I started journaling again with brutal honesty. This person has hurt me and I can't stand them right now. That person should slap himself in his own face. I'm not worried about some theoretical person finding my journal some day and being like, Wow, Grandma was kind of a bitch. I'm not trying to explain to someone who the people I'm writing about are.

And despite all that, I don't feel unhappy. I think the apt word would be restless. Have you ever simply felt you were supposed to be doing something different, somewhere else? I feel like I forgot something very, very important, and I just can't remember what it was. Maybe I am supposed to live in the woods or maybe I'm supposed to live on the beach. Maybe I am supposed to go back to school. Maybe I am supposed to get an MRI. Maybe I should have a farm, or a vineyard, or maybe I should raise pigs. Or become a vegan or that person who drives the zamboni at the ice rink.

The way I think about myself is not how others think of me; I know. I wonder if I have inherited a short fuse or wanderlust. I wonder why I want to wear hippie clothes and turquoise jewelry. I wonder where my will power went or maybe it didn't; maybe I did this on purpose. I wonder if I am a know-it-all. I consider what others must say when I'm not in the room. I consider that they may say nothing; I don't speak much. I won't interrupt you. I look like many people. I blend. Maybe I disappear.

I consider how irritating introspection can be. I apologize. I wonder if I am a people-pleaser. I wonder if I care.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Dove's nest




 Guess what that is? 



 It's a nest, of course. On top of our electrical box in the backyard. Perhaps 7 feet off the ground. 


 Do you see it? 


 That's Katniss. Or Peeta. Not sure which one. I named the mourning doves Katniss and Peeta. 


By the way, I saw The Hunger Games over the weekend. They nailed it! It was great.


 Katniss would sit on the nest and Peeta brought her branches to build it with. 



She laid an egg some time yesterday. And then this morning, as I sat in my family room and watched, a crow swooped in and grabbed the egg. One of the doves chased it, but it was too late, of course.

I was so pissed. 

Now neither of them are sitting on the nest. I'm not sure if they'll abandon it.




It's admittedly not in the safest place. A little too exposed. I'll stay on the case and keep you informed.


Monday, April 02, 2012

Sunday drive

After Saturday's rain, we went for a drive on Sunday, when it was sunny and relatively warm, although very breezy.

Lots of other people had the same idea ....



It's lovely to live so close to a redwood forest.

In Davenport, we witnessed a high speed chase on Highway 1. The guy got away.

The waves were very large

Lighthouse

Blurry, but I still like it. I think this is in Pescadero.

I know I'm a schmuck for not having any photos of myself ...