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Fragile Little Flower

balcony garden

This picture was taken once upon a time* when I had a dreamy job working from home. Whenever the weather was nice enough, which it almost always is, I would sit out there to work. Eight hours in front of a computer isn’t so bad when your cubicle mates are humming birds. I miss sitting out there.

For the last two months I’ve been working long hours in an office. It’s only temporary and it’s a beautiful office, but it kills me how little time there is left in a day when you work away from home. I mean, I never used to have to put on makeup or plan my outfits or shower, even. I feel like I lose hours every day just primping. It’s kind of fun, actually. I’ve never felt so feminine. But that’s not the point. The point is, from waking until almost bedtime I’m either preparing for work, working, or doing household chores. Most days I don’t get a minute to myself until after nine-thirty at night. How does that happen? Where do the days go?

While we’re on the topic, how on GOD’S GREEN EARTH do parents with fulltime jobs make it through a week? Seriously. Because I can barely manage it and I only have dogs. I don’t know how I would manage my life and my marriage if I had another human being to look after. I don’t think I would ever sleep, ever again. I’ve already given up exercising. I haven’t moved my body, except to stand up and sit down, in two months. And for the record, I’m not getting enough sleep. It’s horrible. I should go to bed right now, but then I wouldn’t get to sit here and complain about how hard my child-free first world life is.

I know there are people reading this blog who have careers and happy marriages and children and always look great and put together and I cannot wrap my head around how they do it. I feel like it would be impossible. Am I just incredibly weak? That must be it. I’m a fragile little flower. No wonder I love sitting out on the balcony in the sun all afternoon. It explains everything.

How do you do it? You super-people with your careers and your babies and your perfect hair? I want to know.

The cat on the table and the child in my head

I’m chopping vegetables when she starts crying, a plaintive meowing. She paces across the kitchen table, coat gleaming, belly hanging, begging for my attention. “I’m sorry, Cat. I’m fixing dinner. I’ve got nothing for you.”

In my head she’s a little girl. Three or four. Her eyes wide and pleading, “Mama, play with me!”

“I’m sorry, Baby. I’m fixing dinner. Papa will be home soon and I’m hungry! Would you like to help?”

She peels the garlic and breaks heads off brocoli stalks. “They look like tiny trees!” She is gleeful. I’m in awe of her strong little hands and the pleasure she takes in such simple tasks.

And then I chide myself for being so stupid. Getting lost in childish imaginings. Children are not in the picture. Not now, not for years, maybe never. Maybe because you never know and maybe because it just seems impossible. The other day I asked Michael, “How will we know?”

“When I have a job and we have health care and we’re ready to buy a house and we’re not worried about paying bills every month. Maybe then.”

Maybe we’ll wait until we’re in our forties and adopt. I can see myself, like all those women I watched in Manhattan with long silver hair and ethnic children. I could love any child I held in my arms, I know that.

By now I’ve peeled and chopped a whole garlic bulb, but I don’t care. I sprinkle it over the vegetables, slide it into the oven, set the timer. I over-season everything. Fresh cracked pepper makes raw chicken black. Kosher salt, onion flakes, garlic powder, oregano, basil, sage smells like pee but I sprinkle on three-times the amount you would anyway. The chicken will come out of the oven crunchy for spices but I don’t care. I like it that way. Just like I like my food burned crisp. Everything tasting like it came out of a campfire. Smoky.

I reach for another beer. Dinner is in the oven but Mike won’t be home for three hours at least. I’ll eat alone while I balance the budget. Wait up for him. Reheat a plate for him. Press my face into his neck while he eats. Breathe. So glad he’s home.

This is my second installment of Just Write, an exercise in free writing your ordinary and extraordinary moments, begun by Heather of the EO. You should totally join in.

Hello Foxy

hello foxy

Remember this guy? I like this photo because he looks just like a little dog. A little dog who is missing most of his face and has plastic eyeballs and is awfully dried out.

I cannot believe it’s already Friday. This week went by very fast. I had so many plans for all the wonderful posts I was going to write about Bolivia and all the little things we’ve done around the house, there were going to be pictures and everything, but now it’s very late on Thursday night and I’m trying to get something up for tomorrow and it’s not much but dag nabit if I don’t get back into the habit of posting every day I’ll go crazy. I really will. I need blogging like a pregnant lady needs ice cream and pickles.

And I’ll leave it at that. Until next time.

Serious Nesting

We’ve been doing some serious nesting lately, the kind of nesting that involves closet reorganizations and trunk-loads of items for Goodwill and that sort of thing. In the last two weeks I’ve reorganized our bedroom closet, the office closet, all of the cabinets in the hallway, all three drawers in the kitchen sideboard, the kitchen cabinets, the master bathroom cupboards and the second bathroom cupboards. I told you! Serious nesting. But look what it got me:

manicure closet

My very own manicure cabinet! See? This is what I love about organizing. Before the great Closet/Cabinet/Drawer/Cupboard Reorganization of 2011, the medicine cabinet in our second bathroom was just stuffed with random odds and ends. Now, it’s an adorable little manicure cabinet. Every time I open it I get all happy inside. Same with all of the newly organized spaces. My heart sings with happiness when I open a drawer and everything inside is neat, tidy, and easy to find. Love!

While I’ve been busy organizing, Mike’s been nesting on the balcony like a mad man. I can’t wait to show you pictures of the window boxes and planters he’s been building. I keep trying to snap nice photos but whenever I’m out there the sun is in the wrong place and the photos turn out horrible. In the meantime, here’s something else we’ve been working on:

enter-exit

We’re lucky enough to have a private entrance to our apartment and Mike has all kinds of plans for how he wants to fix it up. This is what we’ve got so far. (Except since I snapped this, he moved that little table in the corner to the balcony. It’s adorable out there, but I loved it here, too.) The hooks on the wall were originally the pot rack Mike custom built for our first apartment in New York. Then he rebuilt it to fit our kitchen in Harlem, and now he’s repurposed it for all of our dog accoutrements. You’ll see we use it to hang the leashes, a little towel to dry dewy dog feet after morning walks, and a canvas tote full of poop bags that I carry on all of our walks. On the wall to the right is a basket full of dried eucalyptus that my mother gave us. Eucalyptus wards off spiders and smells fantastic. The door mat was there when we moved in and I’ve never given it two thoughts, but looking at this photo makes me want to hurl it out a window and replace it with something more attractive. I’ll add that to my to-do list.

Later this week (or maybe next week) I’ll post some family room updates. That room is really coming together and I’m super excited about it. I’ll bet you’re just dying to see it, too. I mean, it’s been like, three whole months since I’ve posted a family room update. How have you survived?

P.S. A hug and a kiss to Adam for making sure I met my fundraising goal for the Epilepsy Foundation. From the bottom of my heart, Thank You.

Daily Grind

I sat down wanting to write about so many different things but the moment I put fingers to keyboard everything flew right out of my head. I’m tired, but things are good. Mike’s two classes are going really well. He gets to watch his Anatomy professor cut dead people up into little pieces and I’m only a little bit jealous. Not that I want to see people being cut into little pieces. I don’t mean to the give the wrong (and super creepy) impression. But I have always wanted to dissect a human cadaver, so yeah, I’m a little bit jealous.

Thank you very much to Dori and Kim for donating to support research for Epilepsy! You girls rock my world. If I can convince eight more of you to donate five bucks each, I’ll have reached my very reasonable goal of $100. Come on guys! You can do it! End Epilepsy! Donate $5 HERE.

airsoft

I found this picture the other day while I was sorting through old photos on my computer. I haven’t played airsoft in AGES. It has literally (not figuratively, literally) been months. You like my gun? You know you do. It’s a – um, I have no idea what kind of gun it is. It’s an airsoft gun and it’s rad. My brothers are playing WWII reenactment airsoft this weekend. Ty pointed out that it’s just about the geekiest thing we could ever do because it involves playing dress up. Mike and I aren’t playing because we don’t have 1940’s outfits yet, but we’re putting them together. We’re going to be partisans and I’m going to dress up like this woman:

skirt gun

I can’t imagine the courage it must take to pick up a weapon and fight for your country. God bless our troops. That said, there is something pretty remarkable about a woman in the 1940’s who’d take a gun off a dead man and fight in the resistance. That is some serious nettle. I have no idea if I could ever be that woman, but I can spend an afternoon pretending to be her.

Kids dress up like super heroes, grown-ups dress up like war heroes. Er. Geeky grown-ups dress up like war heroes.

Mike and I are trying out the various fitness clubs in our neighborhood. We’re getting guest passes at all the gyms and hopping from one to the next every week. Last week was Spectrum, this week is LA Fitness, next week is 24-Hr Fitness. We’re trying to decide which one to join, but so far, I’m just thrilled to be getting back into a consistent work-out routine. We haven’t had a good, solid routine down since 2008, so this is a little overdue. Our workout consists of twenty minutes on the treadmill, 10 minutes of abs and calves, followed by thirty minutes of weights. We’re on a three-day split; Sunday legs, Monday arms, Tuesday back, Wednesday legs, Thursday arms, Friday back, Saturday rest. It’s kicking my ass. I can barely walk  up the stairs. I can barely lift my arms over my head. It hurts to sit down, it hurts to stand up, it hurts to breathe. But it hurts so good. I love the feeling of sore, hard-worked muscles. It makes me love my body and how strong it is. Mike is a relentless coach, upping my weight when the exercise is too easy, coaxing me through an extra five reps at the end of a set. I love working the machines together, changing each other’s weights, counting each other’s reps, spotting one another. It’s the only real time we spend together during the week so it feels sacred. I’m a little nervous I’m going to get giant man-muscles, but Mike promises that no one will ever mistake me for a dude. He better be right or else I’ll have the man-muscles to make him sorry he was wrong.

Work is good – it’s busy and getting busier. I feel like I’m spinning a dozen plates but for now they’re all spinning happily away. I just have to keep them going nice and steady. I’m hoping to spend a little time this weekend writing more about Bolivia. It seems so far away now. I am eager to get all my memories down before they evaporate. There are also half-a-dozen projects I’d like to do around this place, and of course, a husband I’d like to spend some time with. And there are chores, too. And lots of pictures I’ve been taking and meaning to post here, but haven’t gotten round to yet. I just want an easy weekend filled with nesty things. I’ll do a project or two, write a little, do a few chores, maybe read a little. What are you doing this weekend? How’s your week? I’ve been talking all about myself. Now tell me, what is new with you?

Help Me

happy wiener

That is one seriously happy wiener.

Last night I was clearing the kitchen table so I could put together some favors for an office event. I’m picking up screw drivers and receipts and mail and recently-removed lampshade hats and I’m thinking to myself, “My goodness. We’re just living all over this place.”

What a funny thought. And so perfectly true. We’re living all over the place. Our lives are simple — work, school, chores, dog walks, dinner, work, school, chores, dog walks, dinner, work, school, chores, dog walks, dinner — but we love it that way. There are things we could whine and bitch about, for sure, but we have a good life. We’re in love. We’ve got these two stupid dogs and these two mean cats and a python that thinks we’re just barely too big to eat. We’ve got a huge, wonderful extended family. Mike is in school and I love my job and everything is kind of perfect. We’re living and enjoying our life instead of sloshing through it just to survive. And sometimes that means there are wads of dog hair under the kitchen table and piles of mail on top of it, but my point is: Mess on the kitchen table and all, I wouldn’t change a thing about our life.

Or would I? I’ve been thinking a lot about babies. (Like that’s new.) At first I thought it was just because I was ovulating, but that was weeks ago and I’m still baby crazy. (More than usual.) But then I think about our life now, and how different it would be if there was a baby. And I think about how much work a baby is and I know that I would end up doing most of the work because Mike doesn’t have boobs and how could I balance it with my job? And what if I suck at it? What if I hate it? What if I resent the baby or Mike resents the baby because everything was perfect and then we had a baby and ruined everything? I hear that’s what happens to people. They have a new baby and for the first three months they stare at that screaming thing and wonder what on Earth they did to their life.

I don’t want to feel that way about a baby. I want us to be stupidly, madly, happily in love with our baby. But what if we’re not? THEN WHAT?

This is what keeps me awake at night.

There’s A Lot Going On

I have an intern. She’s fifteen, green-haired, and brilliant. She’s taken over RonAndRobertOnDivorce.com. In fact, she’s manning our entire social media campaign. The kid is so smart that half the time when I’m looking over her work I have to consciously hold my mouth closed or risk my jaw falling into my lap.

For the record, she’s also a lot of fun to work with. She’s smart and funny and she wears Doc Martens and listens to the Pixies and rocks her faded green  midnight-blue-with-turquoise-streaks* hair. She is one of the raddest chicks I’ve ever hung out with. And I hang out with some pretty rad chicks.

So I have an intern and that is fabulous. What else? Last weekend Mike and I catered a private film screening in a gorgeous house in Malibu and it was a huge success. I am super proud of us for pulling it off. The food was incredible – Mike planned the menu and cooked everything himself. His presentations were stunning. I cannot forgive myself for failing to take photographs of the table because you would have died. He served everything except the desserts on hand-painted Italian china and the desserts were served on antique silver. He cut beautiful, flower-like garnishes out of lemons and tiny red, gold, and green peppers. I’ve never seen anything like it. My husband is a god in the kitchen. Here are some crappy snap shots I took with my Blackberry while he was practice-cooking earlier in the week:

stuffed tomatoes

These have a fancy name but I can’t remember it. They are little tomatoes stuffed with lamb and goat cheese. So. Delicious.

endive salad

A little endive salad. These were so beautiful – the endive leaf is shaped like a little boat, and it’s filled with baby arugula, radiccio, sliced figs, goat cheese, candied walnuts, and a sprig of fennel.

He also served gorgonzola-stuffed bacon-wrapped dates, stuffed mushrooms, made-from-scratch spanakopita, crostinis with fresh tapenade, and the crown jewel was an onion tarte. For dessert there were lemon tarts and fruit tarts. Made from scratch. I’m telling you. Kitchen god.

We are both exhausted. Between last week’s catering gig, our jobs, social commitments, training for Bolivia, and planning for Bolivia, we are working from the moment we wake up until the moment we fall asleep.

Last night Mike and I took a night off from everything and watched four episodes of The Gates. It’s a ridiculous soap-opera about vampires and werewolves and it is mind-numbingly delicious. So we took a night off and watched four episodes while we gathered all our gear and cleaned it and folded it and sorted out what clothes need to be washed, packed our backpacks, ate dinner, and folded clean laundry.

See? Even when we take a night off we don’t take a night off. Though in all honesty, last night was perfectly lovely. It was fun to sort through our gear and I discovered all kinds of wonderful secret compartments in my hats and my backpack where I can stash emergency money in case we get robbed.

Which reminds me. We have to make our fake wallets. That way, if we do get robbed, we can hand over fake wallets with fake credit cards and fake drivers licenses and enough cash to make the thieves leave us alone. Brilliant, right? As long as they don’t search our bags. And if they do, we cross our fingers they don’t find all the secret compartments.

We’re going to be fine. I just have to remember to breathe.

*Ed: She changed colors. She’s a chameleon, that one.

Seriously Neurotic

I’m really sorry I haven’t been posting. I hate to start out with an apology, but I need do. I’ve also been an asshole friend lately, I know. Tonight? I totally flaked out on Thursday Night Family Dinner. I pretty much suck.

But my goodness, I need to take a minute and breathe. There is so much going on right now that when I think about it I want to cry. I’m completely freaked out about a million different things and even though I know, I really know (or I desperately hope) that everything is going to be ok, there is a part of me that’s terrified.

I cannot believe I am going to Bolivia in two weeks. Two weeks from Monday. I honestly don’t remember how I got roped into this, but somehow I did and now I just hope I make it through the twenty-hour flight without vomiting. I really hate vomiting. If I don’t vomit or have diarrhea on this trip, I will consider it a success. Of course, I also hope we don’t get raped and none of us are murdered, or killed by wild animals, or maimed in some horrible accident. But if none of those things happen, if we make it back to Los Angeles with our bodies intact and none of us ever having vomited or experienced diarrhea that shoots out of your bum and won’t stop, I will consider this trip a rave success.

We have eleven doses of Cipro, a water filter, and a stockpile of pro-biotics. Eleven is my lucky number and the rest of that stuff is for good measure.

I know we’re going to be fine.

And then I’m nervous about money. I hadn’t factored in the loss of income when we saved up for this trip, so it only occurred to me yesterday that perhaps we can’t quite afford this. I mean, we can, it’s going to be fine, things are just going to need to be a little bit tighter when we get home. It’s not a big deal, these are first-world problems, I know. In this economy, the fact that we can afford this trip at all is proof that we are doing just fine, but I’m the kind of person who really prides myself on having good financial management skills, so when I realize that perhaps I didn’t quite plan the finances as well as I thought I did, my ego hurts. (You can tell how upset I am by the run-on sentences.) Then I think about how irritated our employers are that we’re leaving for three weeks and suddenly I think I might have diarrhea so bad it shoots out my bum and won’t stop.

Mike and I had a major heart-to-heart last night because I’ve been very vocal lately, mostly during our training sessions, about how much I hate this and that I don’t know why the (expletive) we’re doing this. He told me again that I don’t have to go, that I really can stay home. He’d said he’d rather I stay home than come along and be miserable.

And I thought for a minute, I really took a moment and thought about it. The thing is? For all my anxiety and terror, I am pretty sure that, even though there might be some really horrible moments, even if we get robbed and we need to take an anti-biotic to stop the shooting-from-bum disease that is travelers diarrhea, there will most likely also be moments that are life-alteringly-beautiful. Yes, I realize “alteringly” isn’t a word, but I think this trip is the sort of thing that can help shape a person’s life. It will build character, as they say. I just pray to the Lord Almighty that we are re-shaped in a healthy emotional way. As in, we make it back to L.A. closer as a family than we were before, and with all our parts attached.

wiener dog

I’m betting you’ve missed the wiener dog. How could you not? Look at that face!

Bookends

Bookends

Just like little bookends, they are. Little, meowling, needle-clawed, hunter-of-house-finches bookends.

Where Does Quinoa Come From?

I love Quinoa. My mother introduced me to it, but it was GGC who taught me that quinoa is something you can eat a million ways and seventy times a week.

Ok, not that much. Everything in moderation.

My favorite way to eat quinoa is as breakfast (with hot milk, cinnamon, a sprinkle of brown sugar) or instead of pasta. It cooks up super fast, has tons of protein, tastes good, and is way better for you than pasta.

First you clean it. I rinse it the same way I rinse a bunch of grapes, only instead of a regular colander, I use a tiny mesh colander.

rinsed

Then I put it in a little pot with maybe a quarter inch of water on top of it. Like so:

just add water

You want to let it come to a nice boil over medium heat. When it boils, turn the heat way down, cover it, and let it simmer for ten to fifteen minutes. The water will soak into the seeds until they open and become almost transparent. They are surprisingly beautiful, strange looking little grains.

needs a fluffer

You just can’t tell in this picture.

We like to dish it out, then smother it in homemade pasta sauce and Asiago cheese. We eat it out on the balcony and watch the sun set. And when I try to take a photo of Mike with his wonderful quinoa dinner he says, “Seriously? I’m chewing.”

he is chewing