Sunday, July 29, 2012

I Don't Know What to Name You

Tomorrow I am flying to DC for a short work-related trip, which might interrupt this blogging momentum I've had going this week.
RHODC -  Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of, err, "Fame"
Lunch with those ladies is on the agenda. Also, when looking for this picture I saw a headline that read "People Watching the Real Housewives Destined to Fail in Life?" - if the answer is yes and the implication is that I must stop watching, why even wake up tomorrow? Slightly related to one of my points below, I just read that Toya Wright might be joining the Atlanta Housewives. I hope it's true! (If you even get this reference, we are soulmates.)

Before I go, let me just say a few things.
If I can't use you, WHAT IS THE POINT?
1. Southern California is not taking to kindly to my constructive criticism. The Tanned Gods of OC have rendered the pool in my complex unusable for the next 3 weeks, at a minimum, while a new drain is installed. Something about safety code non-compliance, blah blah blah.
"Steebie" J and Joseline of Love and Hip Hop- I just..I can't...ugh.
2. I've found a reality show to add to my very short list of those reality shows whose manufactured drama even I am not willing to consume. Love and Hip Hop - Atlanta. This disappoints me greatly because I usually spend weekends catching up on all the crap that my boo doesn't like to watch. With this and other crappier crap (Snooki and JWoww - I expected so much more) making up most of my options, I've been resorting to cooking shows. Sigh.
My photog skills are stellar, I know.
3. I bought four of these prints from the Rose Bowl Flea Market - 3 horizontal and one vertical. I finally got around to framing them, and the plan was to hang them in the dining area. Only now, every arrangement I come up with is worst than the last, and I start hating it all with the fire of a thousand suns.

That is all. Now I am off to eat all afternoon long with my sister-in-law.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

D-bag Retreat at Hermit Falls

Thank you, Mr. Romero, for the pic of your party times
"Did you got to Bass Lake?!"
Um, no, well...I thought I was going hiking. And swimming, but by the looks of it, yes? I did?

Let me tell you the story of how a hike led to inadvertent participation in a doucebag convention. A few days ago I wrote about my homesickness for Portland, Oregon. I find Oregon to be superior to California in almost every conceivable way, but my job and boo have anchored me in Southern California. (That's for anyone tempted to yell "then why don't you go back?!" at me.) As I mentioned, there is an abundance of concrete here in Southern California. You'd need to use both hands and feet to count the number of freeways in the area, and even city streets (in some areas) are huge, multi-lane monstrosities with speed limits nearing those of Oregon freeways.

California Dreamin'.

I admitted that unlike most Oregonians, I was never even all that outdoorsy. But in a lot of Portland neighborhoods, all you have to do to see some nature is step outside your door.
I'm in the forest!!
Unfortnately, the residential neighborhoods in 'SoCal', with their identical, generic landscaping and lack of mature trees, do nothing to satisfy my longing for the lush, green gardens and tree lined streets of my youth.

"Put concrete where the grass is and it's perfect" - boo, a hyper-Californian
In an effort to find things other than sunshine to appreciate about Southern California and surround myself with some foliage, I grabbed my boo and headed into the Angeles National Forest in the San Gabriel Mountains. The mission was to hike to one of Southern California's few fresh water swimming holes, complete with a little waterfall that doesn't even dry up in the summer! It only took us one hour to drive up to the trailhead at Chantry Flats, which is less time than it takes me to get to work everyday. The parking area was pretty crowded, and there were emergency vehicles everywhere. NBD. There were human traffic jams all along the trail, which was frustrating. As we walked, I noticed a lot more litter than I had anticipated, but I tried to ignore it and focus on the beautiful trees and creek.

Once we got to the actual swimming hole at Hermit Falls, my heart sank. It was like all the ugly stereotypes of what young Californians are like were playing out in front of my eyes! Not to mention the graffiti and litter everywhere, including where we were swimming. As U.S. Forest Service officials finished cutting down a hazardous tree, one summed up my thoughts by asking "what is this, the douchebag convention?" 

YES, IT WAS! Get to know the cast of characters in attendance:

As the aroma of mari-huana filled the warm afternoon air, drunk, stoned,  high, and/or otherwise generally idiotic people jumped from rocks anywhere from 15-60 feet from the water. Nevermind the fact that by 2 p.m. that day three people had been airlifted out after jumping. Nevermind the fact that someone is severely injured or killed there at least once a week, according to one of the officials I talked to.

Ugh. It was so gross. I finally gave in and swam a little, even going down the natural granite "slides" a couple times. The whole time I had this sense that we should leave before we witnessed someone fall to their death. How naive I was to think that I would be mostly surrounded by people who had come to the swimming hole for the same reason I did.

The search for enjoyment of California's natural splendor continues.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Deep Thoughts - The (Concrete) World at my Feet

I spend a lot of time looking at my feet. As I walk, that is. I spend a lot of time looking at my feet and in so doing have ample opportunity to notice how substandard the scenery is at foot level. Looking straight ahead does not provide much relief. The only thing I’m surrounded by on my walk home is a major street and traffic. The standard is, of course, what I would see at my feet if I were at home in Portland. (My brain conveniently forgets that if I were walking along Sandy Blvd. right by my childhood home, it would be similar to what I see here. The sights, the sounds, and even the smells would be similar.)
My feet. And the sidewalk.
When I hear or read people gush over California, I bitterly scrunch up my face and wonder what they could possibly see that I don’t. Where are they finding the beauty amid the never-ending sea of cars, car noise, pavement, lanes upon lanes of boulevard and freeway, strip malls, and chain restaurants? (This refers to Orange County, outside of the beach cities.) Maybe they aren’t spending time here HERE. But wait, they have to drive through this mess from airports and transportation hubs to get to the beauty and the glory that is the California coast. Aren’t they seeing this? Perhaps not. Perhaps their eyes are fixed on the brilliant blue sky above their heads rather than looking down at their feet, or worse, straight ahead.
To try to see what they see, I stopped looking at my feet for a moment.  I looked out and up, beyond eye level, to the sky. I was reminded of how much beauty I used to see in California. When I visited as a little girl and when I first moved here as an undergrad, every color was vivid – the blue of the sky, the green of the palms, the terra cotta color of the townhome rooftops, all of it. I took a moment on my walk home to look at the sky, and the trees, and I lingered alongside the train tracks which were blocking the major road below.
My favorite view on my walk home
And then I got to the bottom of the hill and hated everything again. I romanticize returning to the Pacific Northwest constantly, and my sister is quick to remind me how she wishes she could leave, escape the constant dark, gray quality of late fall, winter, and most of spring. Then, just as quickly I remind her that although there is plenty of light here, most of my vistas are gray filled as well. Only for me, it’s concrete and pavement with a blur of rushing metal everywhere I look.
The view for the rest of my walk, and the street I live on.
I wish I could figure out a way to walk while looking to the sky but without falling down or running into things. I’d need to figure out how to drive this way as well. If I could do that, then I could rediscover whatever it is about California that brought me here in the first place. There are many people in this state enjoying its near perfect climate and natural resources every weekend, every day even! I am not one of those people, but I think I should try to change that.

I would like to enjoy this. Who wants to move to Malibu?
It makes my heart a little heavy to think about how slim the chance is that I will ever leave this place. Despite the perfect weather, and even if I embrace and take advantage of all it offers, I will never be in love with California, much less Orange County. But if I am here to stay, I just hope one day we can find a city, neighborhood, or even little tiny pocket of space that feels like home.
In other news, a man in my complex swims in a full body wetsuit. Just thought you should know.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Real Simple is Real Freakin' Full of Lies

One day while checking out at Loehmann's, the young cashier absentmindedly rattled off the mandatory spiel for three free magazine subscriptions. Well, free trial magazine subscriptions. For 3 months, I could get three magazines of my choice for free. All I had to do was provide my credit card information because they would automatically charge for for an annual subscription at the end of the three months.  Three for three for free! I made a mental note to cancel immediately  and took her up on this offer. I chose Real Simple, InStyle, and Food and Wine.

If you know me at all, I'm sure you won't be surprised to learn that I failed to cancel the free trial subscriptions. So, now I get Real Simple. (InStyle and Food and Wine, too.) And you know what? I kind of hate Real Simple. She reminds me of all the pretty mean girls I've hated and simultaneously wanted to be friends with. And she lies.

From this month - "How to Snack Smarter"

Ideas include 5 cherry tomatoes with 2 tablespoons of goat cheese, 2 teaspoons of almond butter on 1 slice of toast, and 1 rice cake with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter.

We could spend a lot of time talking about the ridiculously tiny portions, or how it doesn't seem like a great use of time or food to make chipotle yogurt, minty pea dip, or curried yogurt when you can only eat between 2 teaspoons - 2 tablespoons of each one. But are these really lies or just unreasonable expectations? Let's continue.

I had stupidly high hopes when I saw this part of the "How to Snack Smarter" feature:

Is Real Simple in my head?
I do pretty much all of these. The word or doesn't apply. I graze all day on junk because I'm sleepy and/or bored and it's whatever I have on hand. Because I bought it. Because I fucking love snacks, and junky snacks in particular. If I had a food journal, it would show that I consume copious amounts of potato chips, candy, cookies, ice cream, fruity wine, and sometimes homemade baked goods. My meals are sometimes healthy but also include bacon guacamole dogs, pasta in homemade cream sauce, and pulled pork sandwiches.

I thought I might see some of me reflected in the food journals of the three women with "very different challenges". The "boredom snacker" was a little inappropriately named, I thought. She says she has a hard time steering clear of treats for her kids. Treats(?) like honeyed almonds, raisin bran, and crackers with peanut butter. Um. The "impulse snacker" was more my style, but her descriptions did not include quantities. The "all-day snacker" eats things like yogurt, fruit, carrots, and grilled chicken all day. What a terrible habit! How will she ever break it?!

Hmm....could it be that these women LIED?! Yes, it could be because who in their right mind would let Real Simple publish their actual food journal?

Here are my suggestions, in red, for making these food journals entries, and thus the feature itself, more accurate:

Let's keep it one-hundred, shall we Real Simple (and her readers)?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The New People's Champ of Making Parties

I threw myself a party once. It went pretty well. I've arranged birthday happy hours, which involves little more than picking a location and sending an appointment in Outlook, and those went well too. I think it's because of those, um, "events" that my sister decided to turn to me to request a party for her birthday this year. She asked me before Christmas, giving me plenty of time to plan a party for somewhere around March 31st.

Did I mention she wanted it to be a surprise? Yes. She requested a surprise.

If you want great ideas on party decor, planning, and the like, there are many online resources to help you and also make you feel like a loser for not being able to execute all of the fabulous ideas, even when you start planning months in advance. I made a fabulous surprise party for my sister in April, and it was perfect. Not because I implemented all the million+one ideas that I found on the trusty interwebs, but because the end result was beautiful and great fun. I'm pretty sure that is more important than custom appetizer picks and candy buffets with professionally calligraphied (that IS a word) labels.

See my inspiration. I was feeling pretty ambitious.

I wanted flowers in mason jars and candles in big hurricane vases. I wanted to wake up knowing how to make a flower arrangement. I wanted an unlimited budget. I wanted!
I wanted to serve a few cocktails and mocktails. I NEEDED a photo wall and planned to use fabric for the background. And who doesn't want tissue flowers or poofs or lanterns or all of the above?
Other items on my (ideal) party to-do list included: finding a venue that was wheelchair accessible, coming up with activities to give us something to do (some family parties have been a little...stiff), creating the perfect playlist, getting enough indoor seating and tables (a party in Portland in April - using the outdoors is no guarantee), figuring out a way to keep the kids happy, creating and executing the perfect menu, and actually pulling off the surprise!

Here are some pictures of the actual event:

L to R, T to B: flowers and notecards for birthday wishes; buffet; bar tables with more flowers and notecards; and appetizer table with Wii (that didn't get played due to abundant sunshine)

The decor ended up being heavy on the green and light on the blue in spots, and heavy on the blue in others. We ended up not having any pretty pitchers to serve the drinks with. I think we used a regular ole' cooler when we realized we didn't have galvanized drink tubs. The indoor activities were unnecessary because the surprisingly amazing weather drew everyone outside. Lastly, I had way too much food and seating because some party guests weren't able to come.

Look at that face.

But who cares? There is definitely a middle ground between party perfection and something with as much thought and effort as a bad frat party.

The look on her face was worth every moment of planning and every plan gone awry.

We had good food, good music, great friends and family, and lots of laughs. My sister Sarah acted as head chef, and together we made potato salad, collard greens, green salad with beets and blood oranges, spicy coleslaw, carmelized onion dip, and taco dip (I promise its good). My brother-in-law provided delicious pulled pork, and we also had a fancy meats, cheeses, and olive platter.

Liz's friends helped us mix up a pom-lemonade vodka cocktail, and also had beer, sodas, and sparkling water.

It was a freakin' feast.
I brought what I thought was enough decorative paper to be a backdrop for the photo wall. It was not. So, no backdrop. And you can see the tape holding up the custom sign I made. Meh, what are you gonna do?

The photo wall was so fun. Those pictures are my favorite from all the party pics!

Aw, mother and daughters! Let's just pretend that my mom's eyes are open. 

Also, did I tell you that the sign is gold because it was Liz's golden birthday? She turned 31 on the 31st (of March).

Here are Liz and some party guests enjoying the day. It was so sunny and beautiful Liz could hardly see. One thing I love about Portlanders is their enthusiam for nice weather. Since most times of the year the sun rarely shines, people waste NO time in moving a party outside on a nice day. Even if that means sitting on the ground, which some people did.

Also, please note the adorable tots. My cousin is showing off her manicure, if that wasn't obvious.

We didn't get any pictures of The Liz Quiz, a trivia game I made up about my sister that I forced everyone to participate in, even my friend's boyfriend who had met Liz for the first time that day. I was quite pleased with myself.

If I do say so myself, I made a pretty badass party. Normal, not ready for a magazine shoot, but badass nonetheless. I am a normal party making champion.
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