Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My New Home for the Holidays

It has officially been one month since I moved in with Mr. Wonderful. And I'm happy to report things are going quite well. As you can see, he allowed me to fancy the place up for Christmas. Although I refrained from setting up the cat nativity scene out of respect to his manliness.

Up until this week, I was having some pangs of longing for my apartment. Whenever the thought of that place would cross my mind, one word came up: HOME. I lived there so long, it was completely my haven. That place where I would shut the door and exhale. It was wholly my space and nothing comforted me quite like it.

I remember thinking during my last move - to London in summer of 2009 - that if I had my car and my cats and reliable Internet access, it might feel more like home.

However, when I came to reside in Mr. W's, I had all of those things. And it still didn't feel like that exhaley haven I craved.

The first time I drove up to my town after the move, I felt the prickly warning that tears might be on their way. It's not that I wasn't happy to be living in the big city of Hollywood, it's just that my sweet small town of Montrose had such a different, familiar, welcoming feel. It made my chest hurt.

But something sort of amazing happened Monday night. I went back to Montrose for a haircut appointment. And when I got on the freeway toward Hollywood, the pang sort of reversed. I was longing for my new home. My home where Mr. W and my cats and my Christmas tree were waiting. My home where the entry hall closet is crammed full of perfectly organized stuff because we don't have enough storage space. My home where the roof leaked on my Grandmother's dining table Sunday. My home where I see grapevines from my bedroom window. It's my new exhaley haven.

I'm looking forward to celebrating there on Friday night and Saturday morning. Just me and my little fiance/feline family. And I'm a bit worried that when Mr. W returns from his travels abroad, the house is going to feel more like mine than his.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Cure for White Man's Overbite?

If you asked any of my high school friends about my ability to dance, they would probably bite their lower lips and say, "She has a tendency to do this."

I've never had much rhythm. As a kid, I wanted to join a cheerleading team but it was expensive and I don't think my parents wanted to deal with driving me to practice and competitions. So while some of my friends were cultivating the ability to groove to a beat and pick up the latest moves from their instructors, I was writing poetry and playing out dramatic storylines with my Barbies (yes, I was a late bloomer).

I would only dance to slow songs at school dances. And in college, when we started going to clubs, the white man's overbite would creep out every time. Thankfully, my kind friends would point it out and laugh hysterically so I could amend my facial expression when necessary...

I've gotten better about the lip-biting, but I still wouldn't say I'm a great dancer. Unless there's disco music playing. Then I can tear it up. But dancing properly at weddings and stuff? Definitely not my forte.

The night Mr. Wonderful and I got engaged, we were celebrating with drinks and dessert at the Madonna Inn, when suddenly the lead singer of the band said, "Now we'd like to have Melissa and Mr. W come to the dance floor for a special dance in honor of their engagement."

We both froze. And Mr. W's then roommate, Dirty Painter, laughed really hard.

He knew we couldn't dance. But there was no getting around it for either of us. We were on the spot. So with a couple dozen people watching, Mr. W and I took to the dance floor and tried to perform while the band played "Crazy Little Thing Called Love." We were both blushing profusely and I was sweating like a transvestite in a trucker bar. So many eyes on us. So many toes attached to my feet. So much room on that parquet floor. And it's not like Mr. W has stellar dance skills and could just lead me around, hiding my ineptness.

We were a pretty sad pair. And we knew this spelled big trouble for our first dance at the wedding.

But being the über thoughful superhuman he is, last night Mr. W gave me an early Christmas gift: 2 private dance lessons for us to squeeze in before he leaves to work in London for two months. I'm hoping this means our toes will be twinkling and our overbites will be concealed by the time the big day rolls around.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Did I Forget to Mention the Upsides?

Because my last post served mainly as a snapshot of the challenges of my new cohabitation situation, I thought I would balance it out with a look at the positives. There are quite a few, you know. Like...

Being able to talk to each other in person at night. Previously, we would each stay on IM until bed in case one of us wanted to tell the other something. This meant continual computer checks and, at times, long pauses between answers. Now I can yell down the hallway or whisper in his ear. While I'm addressing Christmas cards or petting the cats or filing my nails. Hooray for multi-tasking!

Mouthguard kisses. Hot, right? Well they're a heck of a lot better than the little smoochy face on IM.

A garage. I've never parked in a garage before. I mean, I've parked in a garage. But I've never had my own spot in one. It's quite delightful. My car will stay dry if it sprinkles at night. There's no bird poop on my windshield. And if I happen to need some drywall screws or Halloween costumes on my way to work, they're right there for me to grab...

The (Angels Singing in Heaven) dishwasher. This might be my favorite acquired item. I cannot tell you how many nights I spent cursing under my breath as I washed my dishes by hand at the apartment. Having a dishwasher is seriously the best thing ever. I haven't loved loading and unloading something this much since I got that Fisher Price shopping cart when I was 3.

Mr. Wonderful's cooking. It's Shut Up Good. Sometimes I think the food turns to gold when it hits my lips. The man is talented.

The view. Yes, that's it up there. The house is technically in The Hills (yes, those hills), so we have an incredible view of downtown LA from the front deck and living room window—and you can see even further from the top terrace patio in the backyard. Swoon.

A composter with live worms. Not dead ones.

My very own bathroom to stink up. Yes, I know I had my own bathroom at my apartment, but whilst living there, I would have to use Mr. W's bathroom whenever I stayed over. Now I can better maintain the facade that I am a delicate flower whose fragrance never shares a likeness with 3-day old hard-boiled eggs.

Grapevines in the backyard. Every morning, I open the curtains behind our headboard and stare out the window at the few little grapevines Mr. W has planted in the backyard. It's such a nice thing to wake up to. And it's totally helping me manifest that vineyard in our future...

The built-in exercise. I have to climb a couple flights to get from street-level to the house, and I'm really hoping it helps burn some of the thigh fat. I also feel like I have to walk a little further to get anywhere in the house. And then there's the constant sweeping. Surely, I'm going to be in killer shape by the time the wedding rolls around (99 days from today!)

The wine fridge. It's overstocked. We have bottles on the floor that won't fit in it and it's an absolute delight to go shopping around there and find the perfect pairing for whatever Mr. W's cooking!

The W. Of course that's the very best part of living with him. The living with him.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cohabitation and Recalibration

When it comes to personal living spaces, I'm a bit of a brat.

It's not that I've never shared a room or a house with someone. I don't remember it, but my brother and I shared a room when I was a baby. Then in college I had bunk beds with my roommate for 7 months. And my evil ex lived in my house for 3 months.

The difference with the two latter instances was that there were second homes involved to which one or the other of us could flee. In college, I could retreat to my parents' house and my childhood bedroom. When I was living with the ex, he was gone a lot at the fire station.

This is the first time I've really been in a 24/7 cohabitation situation.

For the last 8 years, I've been in my beloved apartment with only the cats. The 5 years prior to that, I lived in a cozy studio. And for almost 21 years before that, I had my own space at my Mom and Dad's.

Now I have a bathroom. And a desk/workspace corner.

It's weird.

Don't get me wrong: I'm overjoyed to be living with Mr. Wonderful. I wouldn't want anyone else as a housemate. But there really is a lot of adjusting and recalibrating going on right now. For both of us.

Downtime is different. There's a sort of sense that "stuff" should be getting done. Cat litter particles should be getting swept; rugs should be getting vacuumed; dishes should be getting scrubbed. Routines have changed. Rather than the normal race-around-getting-ready-leaving-debris-in-my-wake modus under which I normally operate, I'm trying to put things away and be more conscientious in the morning. Which adds time to my previous primping timeline. Working out is also different. It's much harder to get out of bed with a warm body next to you. And if you make it out of bed and that poor body has to see you with a greasy ponytail and yesterday's black socks doing step aerobics in his office, well, I hope he doesn't go blind from the horror.

Poor Mr. W has had to adjust to an additional facet of cohabitation that I've fortunately dodged. He's allergic to cats. And now he's living with 2 (and a half if you count the fat one as 1.5). He's come to tell me seven or eight times in the last 2 weeks that my little Zoë has thrown up on something. Like his couch and rug and old VCR. (He presented that last one like a tray covered in bio-hazardous material. It was kind of awesome.) His tingly nose has been driving him nuts, despite the purchase of two giant air purifiers.

On top of that, I'm sure my chick-knacks around his house are a little unsettling.

But we're working hard at acclimating. Saturday I bought Mr. W a mini tiramisu cake to honor him for being such a trooper. And Sunday, after about a month of meltdowny-ness and a ridiculously busy weekend on my end, I came home to a bouquet of flowers.

So, it seems we're doing some things right. And hopefully they'll continue to dull the growing pains.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Ode to My Apartment, The Final Act

I saved my favorite room for last.

My bedroom was the room in my house that came to represent me most. This was not by accident. In 2006, I decided that my semi-tortured single self deserved a sanctuary. I wanted a space that captured my personality and welcomed me into it whenever I passed through its door. I wanted it to feel bold and bright and remind me that I was also bold and bright. I was not a girl in need of a boy. I was not a girl who wished her bed had someone else lying in it. I wanted this to be MY room to the nth degree. With a mattress I could lie on and stretch my limbs across to touch all four corners—leaving no room for anyone else. And a bedspread that a male would never pick. This was going to all about me.

So I did something I thought I'd never do. I bought a schmancy expensive duvet set from Pottery Barn. And when I moved a week ago, it broke my heart a little that I wouldn't be fanning it out across our guest bed (which is in Mr. Wonderful's office). When my niece told me she would take my bedspread, I almost cried. That single item had become my pet over the years. It represented a time of independence for me. Of repair. I didn't want it to go to the Goodwill. It needed to be passed on to some other deserving soul. Like the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

It makes my heart sink a tiny bit to look at the pictures above. That single girl I knew so well and tried so hard to take care of is moving on. With luck, she'll never ever have to buy a ME bedspread again. And her bed will always have a soft concave spot carved out for her lifelong partner. But don't be surprised if at some point, she writes about taking a nap under her niece's duvet.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Too Much Sh*t in My Purse

Nearly two years ago when Mr. Wonderful and I took our first big, long vacation together to Italy and Greece, we discovered that my capacity for load-bearing is severely lacking. If I have too much sh*t in my purse, I lose it. Not like I lose the sh*t in my purse—I lose MY sh*t.

Despite the fact that I'm a backpacker who has ferried 30+ pounds of gear on my back into the desert and the mountains, I cannot handle having a heavy coat, a purse and a duffel bag hanging off my body. I might have thrown a duffel bag several feet in LAX at an early hour when we were departing for that Greece/Italy trip. I might also have thrown several temper tantrums because I had two cameras, a mini tripod, maps, a wallet and many other items in my purse while sightseeing throughout Europe. It seems that I am just not made for carrying loads over a certain weight.

Knowing this, it wasn't a huge surprise that I came within inches of a full-blown meltdown Tuesday night. For the past several weeks, I have been carrying not only physically heavy loads—back and forth from my house to Mr. W's—but hefty mental cargo, in the form of to-do lists and continual planning and transition emotions. You see, last weekend I moved into his place.

My apartment of 8 years was packed into a million boxes and bags (some of which landed in the trash and Goodwill). My car became a mini moving van, seeming constantly filled with stuff that needed to be relocated somewhere. My routine and normalcy were hit by a tornado. It all felt very, very heavy to me. Too much to do. Too many ends to tie up. Too many things to find spaces for in this new life. Too little time for it all. Tuesday night, I wanted to strip it all away, strip off my clothes, and go running into the night with nothing weighing me down.

But I didn't. Instead, I came to my new home and told Mr. W that I was so DONE with the moving process I wanted to cry. And he hugged me and told me that it really was done—I had cleaned the last traces of my life out of my apartment that night. I had only one home to bear, not two. Things were going to get lighter. His hug was like helium.

I don't know if I'll ever adjust to having baggage and belongings and burdens pressing down on me. I might have a lifetime of meltdowns in my future. But at least I know there'll be someone there to scrape me off the pavement and throw my purse over his shoulder. Even if it's overflowing with sh*t.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ode to My Apartment, Part 3

When I turned 28, I remember thinking I was getting old. Almost 30. I was single, unhappy in my job and in much need of a wild night out with girlfriends. So I wrangled about half a dozen of them and we headed out to Hollywood's Beauty Bar for an evening of martinis and manicures.

The problem with this idea was that I wasn't a martini drinker.

The bar offers a variety of fruity doozies disguised as martinis. They go down like liquid Jolly Ranchers. I remember I had a bad farmer's sunburn from hiking that morning, and the martinis took the sting off in no time.

Not being a martini drinker, I didn't know that it wasn't a smart idea to consume them like the water cups they give you at marathons. One at every mile.

My college roommate was with us that night and I hadn't seen her forever and it would have been rude to turn away a drink she purchased to celebrate my birthday. So I downed them left and right until I was smiley and slurry and making friends with guys named Sven.

I woke up fully clothed on my couch at 3:30 a.m. It was Easter and I knew I'd have to meet my family in the early afternoon. I thought I had it in the bag. I drank a little water and retreated to my bed to "sleep it off."

When I got up several hours later, my college roommate called to check on me. She wanted to come by to show me her recent wedding pictures. I sat at my dining room table with her, spinning and sweaty as she thumbed through the album. Finally, I excused myself and retreated into my adorable mint green 1950's bathroom to puke.

Yaking when you're in your later 20s is so much harder than when you're in your early 20s. I remember thinking I was going to have to call an ambulance. Surely, I was dying. My poor roommate came and brought me a glass of water. Which, of course, made me vomit again. I apologized profusely and told her I probably needed to lie down. Or go to the emergency room.

I didn't get up for about 5 more hours when it was time to go to my Grandma's house for Easter. I looked like I had crawled out of the sewer. Thankfully, a little honey baked ham and Hawaiian rolls did me right. I was back to my old self by bedtime.

But I haven't had a martini since. And I think every now and then I could hear my bathroom murmuring, "Thank you."

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ode to My Apartment, Part 2

In 2003 when I got laid off from my advertising job, there were some days when I never left my apartment. Maybe it was because I was depressed. Maybe it was because there was really no need for me to go outside other than to collect the mail from my front porch. During my 4 months of unemployment, my house became a cocoon of comfort for me.

I would sit at the table, at my desk, on the couch, on the floor, pounding away at my laptop keyboard, pouring my heart into a novel attempt. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I remember thinking, "Wow THIS is what it could be like if I became a real writer." I could just wake up in the morning and start working on my book. I wouldn't even have to put on clean underwear. But I wouldn't have any human interaction, either. And despite the days that I spent willingly avoiding contact, that was the thing I missed most about being employed.

I did a lot of cleaning during that time. And rearranging of knickknacks. When you spend that much time in one space, you can't help but want to spruce. I refused to paint, though, because I was convinced I'd fall in love and move on before the paint job really became worthwhile. Here we are, 7.5 years later...

My sweet living room has gotten me through a lot of rough patches. The carpet in it has been a soft landing place for me many times. Its electrical outlets have powered my writing and reading and online dating. And even though its walls stayed a bland shade of off-white, they also kept me safe and sheltered, in career sickness and in health.

I am 100% sure there will be nights that I miss this little place.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

1095 Days

Three years ago today, a wonderful romance started over a pot of fondue and a couple glasses of wine. We started with cheese, in four months we'll end with cheers. I guess it'll be more of a beginning than an end, but you get where I'm going.

I had forgotten until I went back and read this post that Mr. Wonderful made a joke about us being married on our first date. So last night, as a friend of ours was talking about how he may have met the girl he's going to marry, I asked Mr. W when he knew that I was The One.

"Was it after our trip to San Francisco?" I guessed.

That was our first weekend away together—to a wine festival in the city. We'd been dating two and a half months by that point and I was 100% sure I was crazy about him. Even though he knew he might be falling for me, he wouldn't say the words for another six months.

"Yeah, I think I knew because you didn't bug me," he replied.

Ah yes, that's what love is. The winning recipe for an engagement ring: don't bug them. You don't have to be witty or pretty or interesting. Just refrain from bugging.

Good thing he was nice to me when he took me out for a schmancy dinner at Spago Monday night...

Happy 3rd Anniversary to my other half. :* :* :*

Friday, November 5, 2010

My Favorite Mistake

Funny things happen when you get engaged. (Or maybe it's just me.) In addition to having surges of fear, you sort of find yourself cataloging your life up to this point. You think back on all the past loves that led you to this one. Sometimes you smile at the memories. Sometimes you cringe. Sometimes you thank the heavens for the lessons.

As I've thought through my modest list of relationships, one guy clearly stands out to me as my favorite mis-match. He's the perfect combination of timing and learning and endearment.

I met Patric (no k) when I was 29. I had just started my current job, had just come out of a failed attempt to rekindle things with my college boyfriend, and was itching to have a carefree, hot summer romance.

Patric was only 26, the coworker of my best friend's husband, and a month away from moving to New York City. He asked me out after we spent a day at the beach with my best friend's family. I told him I wasn't sure if it was a good idea—he was leaving the state in 30 days, after all. But he was cute and charming and it was summertime. So I caved.

On our first date, I got a nice dose of Patric's dramatic side. I made a joke about how my voice sounds like a muppet's and he reached across the table, taking my hand (my best friend likes to think that he pressed one finger against my lips and shushed me, but I don't think that's how it went) and said in a sultry, whispery voice, "Don't talk like that." That moment pretty much set the tone for the next few months. Intensity. Theatrics. And of course, entertainment. I don't think I've ever written so much poetry as I did that summer.

His NY move date got pushed by several weeks, which meant we had more time to cultivate our tumultuous relationship. I saw Patric cry in Target. I laughed hysterically with him over inside jokes we made. I found myself, on more than one occasion, feeling like the only girl in the room—or the universe. He knew how to cast a spell, that boy.

There were plenty of things I didn't like about him, but knowing I might only have him for a short time prompted me to try to appreciate every moment. What a great lesson that was.

Before he left, I gave him a wooden box filled with pictures and poems and other things to remember me by. I decoupaged a page from the Thomas Guide with my neighborhood on it so he could think of me across the U.S. whenever he saw it.

When he told me he couldn't handle the long distance, I was heartbroken. Even though, on some level I knew it was for the best. He wasn't the right fit.

The wooden box appeared on my doorstep a couple years ago with one poem still inside it. I appreciated that he returned it. I even called to thank him, but never heard back. Lack of response adds to his drama. I've stalked him a little on Facebook and I'm glad to see he's happily married now. I'm also glad that he gave me that one summer.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ode to My Apartment, Part 1

We finally closed on the house. Which means a whole lot of change is going to be upon me soon.

Last night, I got a little nostalgic knowing that it would be my last time voting at the poll I've been going to for years. My parents' address is still on my driver's license, so I get to go vote at my elementary school. As I walked out of the auditorium last night, I paused to look at the lunch tables. I remember sitting there, awkward and skinny, not wanting to eat my sandwiches. It made me a little sad that I won't have a reason to go back for visits anymore.

As part of this whole packing-up-and-moving-on process, I'm feeling compelled to write posts honoring the apartment that has housed me for the last 8 years. I never thought I would be there so long. I remember talking myself out of painting and making changes many times because I thought, "I'll probably move soon anyway." Oh, how time flies.

The little yellow 1950's masterpiece below is my kitchen. It's a place that I have loved and hated through the years. Loved its extensive storage space, its warmth, its ability to provide me with what I need to prepare great meals. Hated it for being the place that forces me to do dishes. I cannot wait to have a dishwasher.

It's also the place where Mr. Wonderful cooked for me the very first time.

Before he and I met in person, we teased each other back and forth online about who would cook for whom first. Naturally, the gourmet won.

He showed up to my house with chocolate soufflé batter in a Tupperware container, a bottle of wine and all the fixings for chicken Marsala. He was wearing a brown and turquoise striped shirt and I remember being excited because I was wearing the same colors. A sign, perhaps.

He seemed a little nervous as he found his way around my kitchen utensils and pans. I sat on the counter and watched him, thinking his awkwardness was adorable. Maybe he was just thrown by my olive green 70's stove...

After we ate his delicious soufflé and polished off the bottle of wine, we sat side-by-side on the couch looking at vacation pictures on his iphone. I was enthralled in the images of Italy when he grabbed the phone from my hand, took me by the shoulders and kissed me. The rest is a post for another time...and maybe another website...

Thank you, Kitchen, for helping facilitate that first kiss.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Because How Else Would I Sign Escrow Papers?

I knew that buying a house could be stressful. I think I've heard that it's a line item on The Most Stressful Life Events List. But for some reason, I really didn't think it would be so bad. I figured that with Mr. Wonderful's extensive real estate knowledge and my stellar credit history, the whole process would be a snap.

Oh, how the Universe loves to eff with naive people.

Every step of this process has been riddled with mishaps, hassles and anxiety. It sort of felt to me like if it could go wrong, it did go wrong. The funny thing is that for almost 3 months, I sat waiting to hear whether all the banks associated with the home's short sale would be willing to accept my discounted offer. 3-stress-free months that I should have used to gear up for the past 4 weeks.

Because once we got the go-ahead, all hell broke loose. Papers were faxed (long distance in one case) back and forth, then deemed unreadable. Documents were misplaced. Parties involved were misnamed. Deadlines were missed—spawning even more stressful deadlines to try to make up time. The clock was constantly ticking. My heart was constantly palpitating. And most of the time, I didn't even fully understand what was going on because Mr. W was acting as the point person for a lot of stuff.

Given how things had been playing out, I should have known that I would have to sign my final escrow papers yesterday. The day of my company Halloween party and potluck. And I should have known that another ridiculous deadline would call for me to drive to the escrow office...dressed in my zombie bride costume...rather than have the notary come to me. I should have also expected that I'd be waltzing into Chase bank in that same costume to make a wire transfer. Feel like a tool much? Um, yeah.

I can't exhale about the whole thing yet because we haven't officially closed, and of course there's an issue still up in the air that could make or break the deal. I'm hoping all works out and that by Tuesday I'm toasting the new house and stopping the heart palpitations. Otherwise, I may turn into that zombie bride permanently.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I Breathed the Same Air as Oprah

And it wasn't as exciting as I thought it would be. Maybe she's better one-on-one.

I saw her Tuesday at the Women's Conference of California. I've attended events around the conference in the past couple years, but this year I was lucky enough to get a ticket to the main event—where I got to listen to legends like Sandra Day O'Connor and Diane Sawyer, passionate powerhouses like Suze Orman and Jillian Michaels, and inspiring activists like Eve Ensler and Maria Shriver.

Michelle Obama also participated in the morning session, causing crazy human traffic jams thanks to the heightened security. Sadly, I didn't find her as compelling as I thought I would. She was good, don't get me wrong. I just expected to be more moved by her.

One of the highlights was listening to hilarious Brian Williams talk to NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, Nike chairman Phil Knight, and Starbucks President Howard Schultz about "Men Who Get It." I love that Brian Williams can deliver a joke just as well as the NBC evening news.

I almost rubbed elbows with Oprah's best friend Gayle King as she walked past me on the expo floor. And I was excited to see Rita Wilson up close. Jessica Simpson was adorable in person, and I wanted to put Giada De Laurentiis in my purse and take her home with me. I had her sign a cookbook I bought and I told her how much I loved her short ribs with chocolate recipe. She gave me a huge Giada grin and said, "Isn't it good?! Thank you for making it." How adorable is that? Seriously.

The theme of the conference was "It's Time," and at one point Maria Shriver spoke about all the different things it could be time for each of us attendees to do. It got me thinking about all the things it's time for in my life.

It's time to get married.
It's time to buy a house.
It's time to really, finally feel like a grown up.
It's time to stop stressing.
It's time to really learn to meditate.
It's time to make time to write.
It's time to stop making excuses.
It's time to lose the muffin-top.
It's time to expand my cooking horizons.
It's time to adjust my 401k allocation.
It's time to slow down.
It's time to do more for others and the world without sacrificing self care.
It's time to commit to change.

What time is it for you?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Different Paths, Same Destination

I have racked my brain trying to figure out if there's a "right way" to tell someone they deserve better than who they're dating, and I'm pretty sure it doesn't exist. Particularly if you're related to the person you want to advise.

Prior to meeting Mr. Wonderful, I brought home several guys of whom my sister did not approve. She tried to communicate her feelings in different ways—sometimes with sarcastic remarks, sometimes with serious warnings, sometimes with leading questions. No matter what approach she took, it felt like she was telling me I had failed. Her judgment of my boyfriends felt like judgment of me. And the hardest part about it all was that there were many times when I knew she was right.

I would rationalize my decisions, telling myself that she and I were different and she didn't understand where I was coming from. She wasn't born in the same decade as I was; times had changed. She didn't get it because she settled down so early.

But the thing she knew that I didn't was that dating should be built on a foundation of happiness. That crying or feeling disappointed or unsure were telltale signs that things weren't right. She wasn't trying to condemn me or my choices, she was trying to protect me from making mistakes and getting hurt.

Unfortunately, her disapproval hurt too. And compounding that was the inadequate feeling I got when I looked around my family and saw that everyone had gotten married and purchased homes by the time they were my age. I felt so far behind. How would I ever catch up? How would I ever live up to the expectations they had set?

Then, when I met Mr. W, everything changed. My sister still voiced concerns about him (worrying his quietness might not mesh with our loud, obnoxious family) but they didn't matter anymore because I knew he was right for me. Suddenly that was all that was important. I didn't need a house or 5 kids because I was happy with what I had in the moment.

I've thought a lot about what it will be like when my nieces start dating. I'm sure one or all of them will bring home boys that the rest of us don't like. But I'm going to do my best to make sure they know that just because I may not choose the same person for them that they've chosen for themselves, it doesn't mean they are wrong or incapable of making smart decisions. My uncertainty about their boyfriends is not a reflection on my feelings about them.

We all have to take different paths and follow different timelines to get to where we want to be. All that matters is that happiness is the place we end up.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


If you've ever looked for me online beyond this blog, you know that I work for a big, fat Internet company that's known for treating its employees well and its stockholders not so great. It's a place where ideas are welcomed, friendliness is the norm, and social decorum is upheld in most every situation.

So yesterday, I was truly shocked when a coworker came back to his desk from the restroom and announced that someone had blown chunks all over the sink, trash can, and floor.

That's not the way of our company! If you're going to puke here, you make it to the toilet! And if you accidentally miss, you clean up your mess!

Horrified, I avoided going to the women's restroom for as long as I could. I didn't want to catch an updraft of what was pooled up in the men's.

When I finally couldn't hold it any longer, I walked down the hall and noticed that several yards beyond the entrance, a couple people from facilities were dousing the carpet. Remember that powder stuff from elementary school that they'd always sprinkle on puke? Pretty sure they were using that. And they had a yellow caution sign. Slippery when wet...with vomit. I was so grossed out.

When I came back out of the bathroom, I heard two girls in nearby cubicles talking about the incident. I couldn't help myself. I walked over and asked, "What the heck happened?!"

One of the girls chuckled and said, "It was an interviewee."

Wow. How'd you like to be that guy? Wouldn't you reschedule if you had the stomach flu? If I were him, I don't even think I'd accept the job after this. Unless I wanted to be known as Ralph for the rest of my tenure here.

Maybe he was actually just an employee from Google playing a nasty prank...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Los Olivos and Other Magnificent Fruits

It's no secret here that Mr. Wonderful and I are winos. In the almost 3 years we've been together, we've visited Napa and Paso Robles twice, the wine country around Santa Barbara five times and the Burgundy region of France once. But all these places have so much more to offer beyond wine alone. There's a wholesome earthiness about each of them that I just adore.

My favorite town in the area above Santa Barbara is a little spot called Los Olivos. I loved running through this area during the marathons I did. I think the population there is only about 5,000 and it has every lovable quality a small town could possibly have: cute shops, charming restaurants, friendly people and a great sense of community. The wine tasting rooms don't hurt either.

When we visited Los Olivos over the weekend, they were having a little street festival, complete with craft stands, barbecue and, as you can see, lots of tractors.

There were also a live country band and some meandering square dancers. There's something so honest about this kind of place. Just good folks trying to live a good life. It's really endearing. Every time we visit, I tell Mr. W I want to live here.

The weather wasn't great, but the landscape around this part of California is always breathtaking. Golden hills dotted by oak trees. Wildflowers and small farm plots. Rows upon rows of gorgeous green vines. We were a bit surprised to see that many of the vineyards hadn't yet harvested their grapes. Apparently the chilly weather this year forced the winemakers to push back picking.

The cacti out front of Alma Rosa's tasting room were beautiful. I don't know what kind they were, but their fruit grabbed me right away. Don't they look like big, fat Christmas lights or holiday ornaments?

On our way back to the 101 freeway, we couldn't resist stopping at a roadside pumpkin patch. We bought two sizable pumpkins for $4.00. Mr. W said he felt so bad they were so cheap that he wanted to give the farmer a $20 tip.

I hope that one day (if I'm still writing here) I'll be writing from the hills above Santa Barbara, finding time to blog between raising my chickens and sheep, and tending to my pumpkins and grapevines.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Give Me Some Demerol, Please!

You know those women who yell at their husbands when they're in labor, "YOU did this to me!"? I'm feeling like one of them.

Bless Mr. W's heart for proposing to me. And convincing me to buy a house. I just wish it wouldn't have happened all at the very same time. The pains of these labors are making me want to treat him like the man who got me pregnant.

We are in the throes of escrow. Which is probably totally cool if you don't have deadlines at work and 96 ribbons to glue to 96 candle holders. No, I take that back. Everyone I know who has ever bought a house said it was stressful.

Much like working in advertising, there's a lot of "We need this RIGHT now!" So you frantically scramble to produce requested items, and then you sit. Every day this week, I've come home to a different packet of stuff on the front porch that needs to be signed and returned. I'm ready to amputate my own hand just so I can have a break from signing papers.

Then there's the behemoth of a To Do list I'm carrying around in my mind. ALL the packing. ALL the moving of things. The garage sale I need to have. The couch I need to sell. The envelopes I need to print for our wedding invitations. And Thanksgiving is only 42 days away! The holidays are coming!

It's enough to make me want to grab someone by the collar and tell them to give me drugs and wake me up when it's all over. I would say, "Thank God we're going to Santa Barbara to drink wine for the weekend," but I almost think I'd rather be here cleaning out closets...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Knocking Knees

When I was first learning to drive, nothing scared me more than having to navigate my way from the freeway on-ramp into speeding traffic. My fear made me drive slowly and more cautiously—thereby annoying other drivers so they were even less likely to let me in.

Several years ago when my ex-boyfriend moved in with me, I sort of resisted letting him make my apartment feel like his own. I never encouraged him to put his art on the wall or knickknacks on the shelves. Instead, I found places for them...which made it seem like he was just a visitor in my apartment.

If you're not picking up on the theme here, it's about me struggling with The Merge.

My latest difficulty with this concept doesn't involve fear of crashing or a mental siren telling me I shouldn't have let my boyfriend move in in the first place. Nope, this time the merge-worry is of the what-if-he-dies variety.

In my decade of dating before Mr. Wonderful, I became quite accustomed to seeing the backs of men as they walked away from me. And through all those losses, I knew I could always retreat to my single life. Like a convenient side street that ran parallel to the freeway. It was calm there. There weren't other people around. Everything was familiar.

Getting married is like entering the merge superhighway and knowing that you don't want to get off because most every exit leads to a bad part of town. I'm going too far with the driving analogies, aren't I?

The bottom line is that if, God Forbid, something should ever happen to Mr. W, I won't just be able to go back to my old single life like I used to. We will be so inextricably linked. My every emotion will be intertwined with and pinned to his existence. He will be my other half. And that wrecks me. Because someday, I might lose him. And even if it's 50 years from now, that just means I'll have to carry around 50 heavy years of memories.

Merging is scary.

My older sister told me this sort of fear was totally normal before one gets married. I thought people only got worried about being committed to the same person for eternity and how that could be like eating the same thing for breakfast every day for the rest of your life. But apparently there's this whole other chapter in the wedding jitters book.

I remember when I was in college, in my on-again off-again relationship, I thought the only emotion I could feel that would be strong enough to overpower love would be hate. But now I think maybe fear is the only equally powerful feeling. To let yourself love someone SO much makes you SO vulnerable. It's seriously terrifying.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Vietnamese Corn, 5-Spice Pork Belly, and Kevin Bacon

I never pictured myself becoming a "foodie."

I grew up loving TV dinners, mac 'n' cheese and Hostess desserts as a kid, then graduated to fancy establishments like The Olive Garden and El Torito as a young adult. The real culturing of my palate started slowly in my mid-twenties. I discovered that I loved a good, bloody steak with a glass of red wine. Then I slowly began spreading my oral wings into the realm of higher-end ethnic foods and pricier vinos.

When I met Mr. Wonderful, all hell broke loose.

He introduced me to proscuitto and cheese plates and the culinary joy that is Katsuya. He scrambled my taste buds and now there's no going back. We live to try revered restaurants. We watch The Food Network and The Cooking Channel. We are willing to spend $8 on a hunk of taleggio.

Last night we joined Dirty Painter and Southern Belle at Susan Feniger's STREET in Hollywood. My mouth hasn't been so happy in months. Although everything I tasted was absolutely incredible, the highlights of the night were the Vietnamese corn with 5-spice pork belly, hot chili pepper and scallions; the kaya toast—white toast with coconut jam that you dip in a fried egg and dark soy sauce; and the Burmese melon salad with toasted coconut, peanuts, fried onions and sesame ginger dressing. Seriously amazing.

And it might have tasted even better after we spotted Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick dining in the corner. I think Josh Radnor from How I Met Your Mother was also there.

Just when we thought the night couldn't get any better, the server showed up with this:

Do you see why I am ruined?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

LA PR in STL and FL

Lots of people in lots of places have ideas about what Los Angelinos are really like. Thanks to Hollywood, the Venice Beach boardwalk, and shows like LA Ink, people from Phoenix to Philadelphia believe that most of us are surgically enhanced bimbos, tattooed freakshows or burnt-out surf bums who know nothing about what goes on outside our sunny little bubble. At least that's what I think the perception is outside my sunny little bubble...

Given the stereotypes that exist, it's no surprise that I feel a sort of duty to defend homegrown Angelinos like myself when I travel to places like the Midwest.

This weekend was a junket of sorts, where I had to properly represent myself as a So Cal girl, a bride-to-be, a future family member, and a future wife to Mr. Wonderful.

At our first stop, St. Louis, I did my best to ingratiate myself to the Greek family and friends who are inheriting me. Mr. W and I aren't high up on the list right now because we're not having a proper, enormous, ethnically appropriate wedding. But I think I was charming enough that the small group attending will still like us when all is said and done. The worst thing anyone said to me while we were there was, "You smile too much." And that came from Mr. W's hilarious 7-year-old niece. So I think I'm in the clear.

The best thing anyone said was not actually to me. We were taking pictures with a group of friends and new acquaintances near the St. Louis arch, when one of the girls asked Mr. W if he could do a backflip across the street. He looked at her quizzically and answered, "No."

Then later she asked me if it made me nervous to date someone with such a dangerous job. Visual effects producer isn't exactly a risky profession... "Aren't you a stuntman?" the girl asked Mr. W. And using my PR skills, I held myself up instead of rolling on the ground, laughing at her mistake. The only stunts Mr. W ever pulls usually involve a fly swatter or high-jump to reach a piece of fruit in his fig tree. (Oh, but he's very very macho. Don't get me wrong.)

When asked if the bar in St. Louis was different from bars in LA, I took the opportunity to explain that LA has many pockets and a wide variety of hangout spots. We are not crazy, $30-for-a-beer, hoity toity animals out here, people. We are just like the rest of you.

During the second leg of our tour, in Tampa, I did my best to prove the worthiness of my engagement to Mr. W's mom and stepdad. I shared pictures of the bridesmaid dresses, my own dress, the reception venue. I commended his proposal. I made jokes about how I'd always let Mr. W be the boss in the relationship. And on our second night, his parents toasted me as a new addition to the family.

It's hard work convincing so many people that you're an ok gal. Thank goodness my Communications degree required some PR studies...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Goal Keeping

I'm not sure when the lists-making first started. May have been college. Or even high school. But for many years now, I've been documenting my evolving life goals in journals and on notepads.

It's fun to look back and see what mattered to me when I was 19 or 25 or 31. Some things haven't changed (travel and writing) some things have melted into nebulous blobs of uncertainty (children). Some things—like "meet the man of my dreams in the next six months"—just make me shake my head and smile. Some goals just can't be tethered to a time line.

This is what I told Mr. Wonderful when he approached me recently, suggesting that we make a list of all that we want to accomplish after we're married. He thought we should break it down into one-year, 3-year, 5-year and 10-year categories, but that seemed a bit too strict to me. After all, we really have no idea where we'll be in 3 years. We could be living in Barcelona. Or I could be a famous author. We could discover a new varietal of wine grape. The possibilities are endless, really.

So Mr. W drafted a big long list of places he wanted us to visit and things he wanted us to do, and emailed it to me yesterday for my input.

I thought long and hard. I mentally scanned the globe, adding exotic destinations to the travel list. I contemplated my career goals. Thought through the things that mattered in terms of my health and upcoming marriage. And then I remembered the list of To-Do's-Before-40 that my girlfriends and I made on our 30th birthdays.

The only two points that were still etched in my memory from that missing list were 1) Eat an oyster shooter and 2) Go to a topless beach. So I added them to Mr. W's draft.

I also felt compelled to reorganize some of his line items that I knew we might actually accomplish in the next year. Visit the Amalfi coast, Capri, Naples and Rome (this is our honeymoon plan). Do more stretching and more cardio. Get back to cooking one new dish a month. Plant a more plentiful garden. Organize the house properly after I move in.

I sent it back to him and he replied later saying he had made a couple more adjustments and marked the type in red. Of course, there at the top of our One Year Goal List in glowing crimson were 1) Get Pumpkin to eat an oyster shooter and 2) Take Pumpkin to a topless beach.

Surprising? Of course not...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Shoe Bedazzle: Before and After

I'm sure my male readers will really love this post...

When I started looking for wedding shoes, my main concern was comfort. Given that the shoes may not even make a single appearance during the evening (because they'll be hidden under my gahorgeous dress) it seemed silly to spend a lot of cash on super fancy footwear.

I wandered into DSW one day, and when I saw these cute comfy beigey-gold little slippers, I thought they might be exactly what I needed. I already had a pair like them in black—so I knew they were comfy. And it seemed like they could be easily embellished with elements that would match my jewelry and dress. (Plus they were only about $30. Score.)

I sewed one pearl on them above before deciding I might need to snap a pre-makeover picture. As you can see, they're sort of a brushed silk type fabric and are completely flat—which should help my dogs from barking too much at the end of our reception.

I used some leftover Swarovski pearls and crystals I'd purchased to make wedding jewelry (that's another post) and spent the evening sewing everything into place.

I think they turned out pretty cute, and will serve me and my toesies quite well on the dance floor!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Feeling Baaad about the Meat Eating

Is it the height of hypocrisy to call yourself a carnivore and an animal lover? I certainly felt conflicted over the matter when I went to the Los Angeles County Fair this past weekend with Mr. Wonderful and Southern Belle. I had been looking forward the baby animals more than anything else—even the old-time western photos and the mariachi band. So I was delighted when our first stop turned out to be the petting zoo.

The pygmy goats are by far my favorite. Mr. W and I often joke about how we're going to have "kids" one day...but they'll be baby goats (Get it—"kids"? Knew you'd love that). They're like little puppies who jump all over you and want to play and eat your socks. So cute.

The black lamb reminded me of my 20lb. black cat. He also reminded me that I'm proud to be a non-baby-eater. That is, I won't eat any animal that's a baby. No veal. No lamb. No suckling pig. I've also pretty much taken duck and rabbit off my list. Those animals are pets to me, not food. The baby chicks made me feel pretty guilty about my poultry consumption...

And the ginormous pigs made me sad that I love bacon so much. And salami. And ham. Serrano and proscuitto. Pigs are really brilliant, sweet animals. It's a shame they taste so good. It seemed like a slap in the piggy face that right outside the petting zoo barn was a stand selling chocolate-dipped bacon churros. Do you think they know it's THEM cooking when they smell bacon?

We did cave and eat pulled pork sandwiches for lunch. I said a little mental prayer for forgiveness before chomping down on that delicious barbecued meat. Dessert, although more humane, was brutal by sheer volume. It might do my waistline some good to add the ice-cream-animal to my Do Not Eat list...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

How to Make a Vase out of a Wine Bottle

This may be the first of several peeks into the DIY activities of our wedding planning—and if you're not into DIY, I apologize for the boring post. If you like this kind of stuff, you'll love the degree of engineering Mr. Wonderful put forth to make it happen. Yet another reason he has earned that name.

A few months ago, I was on Etsy and I saw these. I thought they were so cute, and being the winos we are, Mr. W and I agreed it would be fun to try to incorporate something like them into our wedding decor. I loved the idea of using our favorite wines as the vases/table names so that people would look at their place cards and see "Melville Chardonnay" instead of "Table 8." Always up for a challenge, Mr. W started researching bottle cutting options. He tried the lighter fluid-soaked string approach. Then a tile saw. But this latest contraption really does the trick.

I have no idea how he figured out the best way to construct this little tool. I told him I want to enter it in the local elementary school's science fair. The bottom of the bottle rests on the rollers, and the opening fits on a (lubed with WD-40) rubber cork.

There's the bottle suctioned to the cork.

He then clamps a couple of blocks up against the bottom of the bottle to hold it in place as it spins on the wheels.

A simple glass cutter (you can get them at Home Depot for like $5) is then used to score the bottle at the point where we want it cut.

I don't know if the process really WAS easy or if he just made it look that way, but all he did was hold the cutter straight and spin the bottle on its rollers—and a perfect score line was made across the glass.

From there, we took the bottle to the kitchen where Mr. W had boiled some water and set up an ice bath. He poured the water directly over the score, then dunked it into the ice water. It took a couple rounds of this back-and-forth.

He tried pre-bathing the bottle before pouring the hot water on it, but that didn't seem to make the process any faster. You just kind of have to keep alternating between the hot and cold a few times.

Like magic, on about the 4th hot water pour, the bottle just sort of popped apart. No broken glass. No jagged edges. (The bottle above came out a tiny bit crooked, but the 3 he did before it were perfect). He plans to sand down the top of the vases with a dremel tool, so they're nice and smooth for the wedding. We think our guests will enjoy the little glimpse into what dazzles our vino-soaked palates.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Another Reason I Never Went to Law School

Despite the fact that I consider myself pretty intuitive and well-versed in human behavior and personality quirks, I have an uncanny knack for completely misjudging people.

Like about 50% of the time.

One of the designers I helped interview at work—who received my wholehearted endorsement—turned out to be the worst employee ever. Guys I've dated have gone from Wow-He's-Great to What-Was-I-Thinking in a matter of weeks. People who I've thought were delightfully friendly have turned out to be completely psychotic.

On the flipside, I've often written people off, only to discover later that they're awesome individuals. I couldn't stand my friend C when I met her. I thought she was a total know-it-all and I wanted nothing to do with her. Now she's one of my closest cohorts. And she's not the only person I decided I had nothing in common with, later realizing I was dead wrong.

Even when I first started corresponding with Mr. Wonderful, I was convinced he was some haughty Hollywood player who was only being nice to me because he wanted some action. How incredibly inaccurate my perception was...

It's dangerous, this flaw in my judgment. It causes me to turn over my trust to people who don't necessarily deserve it. And it pushes me to steer clear of people who could positively impact my life.

Maybe I shouldn't worry about this too much because it all usually works out in the end. Maybe my accurate judgment is just late-blooming. Like my bustline.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

No Going Back Now

In my college creative writing class, I wrote a short screenplay about a girl on her wedding day. Like Elaine in The Graduate, my bride ran out on her nuptials. My script was called, "Out the Window." You can figure out how she escaped... If memory serves correctly, my instructor enjoyed the story so much he read it aloud to the rest of the class.

At 21, I was enamored with the idea of getting married. But on some level, it also terrified me.

I knew I hadn't lived enough to take a committal step as large as matrimony. I knew that if I settled down at a young age, I would always wonder about all the things I had missed. I remember even being afraid that if I married my college boyfriend of 4.5 years, I might cheat or end up divorced.

When the Evil Ex first brought up the topic, asking me "what I would say if he proposed," I instinctively told him I would say yes after he finished fire department probation. I stalled. Again, I knew on some level that I wasn't ready. Or that he wasn't right.

I have never felt this way with Mr. Wonderful. Only a few weeks into dating him, I had a dream that he popped the question. In my dream, I thought—"This feels pretty fast, but it also feels SO right." It's so amazing not to be afraid. Finally.

Last night we sent out save-the-date emails to most of our guest list. We have a website. This thing is official. There's no going back. And I wouldn't want it any other way.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fiancehood Fine Print

Apparently I didn't read the terms of my ring acceptance carefully enough. If I had, I might've noticed the line in there about how, upon getting engaged, Mr. Wonderful would become bossier. Like to the point that I've had to say, "Dude, you're not the boss of me" many times over.

A few weeks ago, I went to wash my face before bed and my washcloth was missing. "Did you take my washcloth?" I asked him.

"I smelled it and it was musty."

"You smelled my washcloth?"

He nodded.

I'm sure the washcloth was fine. I'd only used it a couple of times. It's not like there was toxic black mold sprouting up all over it. He could've at least asked before throwing it into the hamper...

Last weekend when we were driving to the beach to see Foodie and Preggerington, Mr. W misdirected me on the freeway then insisted that I pull over so he could drive. Of course, once he was behind the wheel he nearly missed the interchange we were supposed to take... Ha! Take that Captain Driver's Seat!

When I told him I was staying up last night to work on wedding invitations, he told me if he were there with me, he would drag me to bed. I pictured him in a fur loincloth carrying a big club and pulling me across the carpet by my ponytail.

If he were here right now, he'd probably tell you that I've been bossier toward him, too. Like when I told him I was going to do monthly inspections on the garage after we cleaned it out. (You have no idea what kind of brain damage a person can incur after sorting 9,435,687 different nails and screws for 2 hours). Or the way I picked out his shirt for our family portrait this past weekend.

The difference between us, though, is that he has great ways to retaliate. He gives me the "Yes, ma'am" a lot which drives me crazy. And the shirt incident caused him to call me by my mother's name. Not that there's anything wrong with that, Mom... My retaliation? "Dude, you're not the boss of me."

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful life of power struggles...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Strangers with Comments

A friend who I once worked with in advertising has a fantastic blog that I love to read. She's always writing really inspiring, moving posts. And I cannot help but comment on them. Actually, I can't help but comment on most of my friends' and readers' blogs. I want to let you all know I'm listening. I hear you. I relate to you. You're not alone. And you should keep on trudging through if you're stuck in thick mud.

Apparently, some people don't subscribe to this way of thinking. One of the guys who reads my friend's blog, dedicated an entire post to me—and how my continual, perky attitude annoys the pants off of him every time he sees one of my comments. Unfortunately, he took said post down after I commented on it. Perhaps it was a test just to see if, as usual, I'd have something to say.

When I started this blog nearly 3 years ago, I didn't know how things worked in this space. I didn't know whether it was cool to chime in or better to keep your mouth shut. But then I sort of fell into a wonderful circle. I noticed the same people writing responses on each other's posts again and again. And the next thing I knew, they were commenting on my posts. This led to lots of really insightful, meaningful offline conversations—and several meetups with new friends.

The comments I receive from all of you usually light me up. Sure, I can count a handful of remarks that made me seethe. But for the most part, the things people have to say make me think. Make me smile. Make me want to keep writing. And because of that, I want to pay the kindness forward to other writers.

Do I dole out tough love on occasion? Totally. Do I harass people? Mostly only Brett. But that's out of love. I never intentionally try to hurt people or put them down. I try to find the bright side—and send goodness their way with words. Apparently to some, that makes me too chipper and irritating.

When I was in high school, I did try out for cheerleading. I did not make it. Instead, I became a writer/editor for my yearbook. I guess those to paths weren't as opposing as I once thought.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

This Cheese Stands Alone

In the hills of Hollywood, nothing says labor like a little Labor Day cheese-making. That's right, kids: Mr. Wonderful and I attempted to make cheese this weekend. It could have been the delicious buffalo mozzarella we shared with two of our favorite friends, Foodie and her sister Mrs. Preggerington, Saturday night. We joined these lovely ladies at their beach house and had a make-your-own-pizza night. Mr. W and Foodie exchanged some fighting words about which preparation methods were correct. And although Mr. W pulled the "I used to work in a pizzeria" card, I think Foodie may have turned out to be the better dough spreader.

But back to the cheese. So yes, likely in an effort to dazzle me, Mr. W purchased a cheese-making kit online. Its packaging sung an alluring story about how you could create everything from ricotta to cheddar to Parmesan, but we settled on mozzarella because it was one of the faster recipes. As you can see, Mr. W worked diligently, heating the milk to just the right temperature—first on the stove and then in a hot water bath.

I drank wine and watched carefully over his shoulder. There is only one domestic goddess in this relationship. And he really prefers to be called "Kitchen Boy." Or "Cookie McHotpants."

The whole process was WAY more complicated than either of us realized. And we didn't even have the citric acid or whatever sort of crazy curdling element you need whence making cheese—so we had to use lemon juice. And we sort of guessed on the amount to add... Nice curds, huh?

Because I was drinking wine (a delightful Caymus Cabernet, btw) the details of Mr. W's endeavors aren't totally crystal clear to me. I tried to document the process, but looking at the pictures now I'm not exactly sure what's happening. I think we put the curds back in the whey (above) and then like squished them together while also trying to stretch them out. Except they wouldn't really stretch...

So in the end we had mozzarella balls that you could pretty much bounce on the floor. They tasted okay...sort of like solidified whole milk. I don't know how real cheese-makers produce that cheesy flavor, but Mr. W and I certainly didn't do it. We may give this process another whirl to see if we can get it right with whatever that creepy acid ingredient is...or we may just keep hitting the refrigerator section of Trader Joe's.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Grind

Up to this point, I have had exactly 11 jobs. I've been a nanny, a freelance writer, a cashier at the Hallmark store, a doctor's office file clerk—even an aid at a Korean tutoring center. But the position that seems to stick with me the very most is coffee barista.

When I realized the Korean tutoring center wasn't my cup of tea, I interviewed at a local coffeehouse—hoping espresso was more my taste. I was 18. Naive. Just starting college. I had no idea that this job would shape me and impact me forever.

I know, I know. I'm a writer. The jobs that should've changed my life are the ones that helped me hone my craft. But those jobs didn't force me out of my shell the way the coffee job did.

I started out there trying to control flustered blushing attacks that sent me running to the kitchen (particularly when a hot guy would approach the counter). It was my first time having to manage people. First time employing PR skills to smooth over customer upsets. I'd never actually made a cup of coffee, let alone a double latte with soy milk and a shot of vanilla. And I'd never really had to schmooze.

I grew during my 4+ years at the shop. I came out of my shell and got so deep in the processes of the business, I almost felt like I could've run the place. When I was weeks away from graduating, one of my regular customers said, "I would buy this place if you'd stay here and be in charge of it." I was flattered, but I knew I wanted to fry some other fish...

Of all the jobs I've held, the coffeehouse gig is the only one I dream about on a regular basis. Just about every two months, I'm back behind that counter, straining to remember prices or drink recipes. Just this week, I dreamed I was trying to make a cappuccino. I clicked a serving of espresso grounds into the banger (I can't remember if that's what it's actually called) and was trying to level it off so I could insert it into the machine, but I just ended up making a big mess. I'm sure this is wholly indicative of some area of my life right now. Trying so hard, but can't quite get it right.

I wonder how long my coffee dreams will haunt me. If, when I'm an old lady, I'll still be thinking about my go-to greeting, "Hi, what can I get for you today?" Sometimes I wonder if I'll someday be beside an espresso machine again. Maybe in Napa or Florence. Only this time, I won't hide in the back when the handsome Italian men want to come in and woo me as I steam their milk...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Good Things to Come

Wednesday night, Mr. Wonderful sent me a picture of our cluster of newborns. We love dreaming about the vineyard we'll live on one day, with goats and chickens roaming about and a small production of chardonnay or pinot noir growing in neat rows.

It's hard to stay focused on the present when there are so many things to look forward to.

As I drove down Franklin Avenue in Hollywood this week, I watched a chic hipster girl walking her dog in sunglasses and earbuds. "Am I going to be that girl when I move here?" I wondered. I can't wait to call myself a citizen of Tinseltown.

I cannot wait to cohabitate with Mr. W and I cannot wait to marry him.

But I know that this time right now should be cherished. I need to slow down and be in these moments of puzzle-piecing anticipation. How are we going to make everything fit together for our special day? I should be enjoying the process like love of the game.

I sort of forgot this for a little while. Then I was making an appointment to go look at bridesmaid dresses this weekend and the woman on the phone said, "Are you the bride?" I am the bride. I had almost forgotten.

Tonight Mr. W and I met with our officiant. I researched a variety of people online, and as soon as I got to her website, I just felt like she was it. There was an energy about her that came off the page, and her site was peppered with pro-gay marriage messages, which was exactly what I wanted. Sitting in the coffeeshop with her tonight, I got teary as she walked us through the vows she had prepared. Like the moment I tried on my dress and remembered: I'm getting married. This isn't a race to the perfectly planned party. It's a single season in my life that I'll only experience once. So I'm going to be much more careful about enjoying it.

204 days to go until The Big Day. I'll try to tackle each one slowly.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Where'd My Gouda Go?

When I was in my twenties, a coworker bought my mom the book Who Moved My Cheese. I remember thinking it was...well...a cheesy book, but I read it anyway—just to see what all the hype was about.

It's a funny little parable that follows miniature people and a couple of mice as they carry out life in a giant maze. One day, the cheese they subsist on is moved. The mice quickly begin exploring uncharted parts of the maze to find new cheese, and the people wander around whining. Every day, they go back to the spot where the cheese used to be and lament the fact that it's not there anymore.

How many times have we all done this in relationships?

You have a friendship that was once supportive and fun and then one day turns into a cat-and-mouse game of flaky unresponsiveness. You call and email and expect she'll turn back into her old self, but the brie you once shared is gone. Yet you find yourself trying and trying to get it back...

Or you have a boyfriend who courted the spanx off you in the beginning and then turns into a cold, inconsiderate stranger who on some level you know you shouldn't be with—but you keep trying to get him to be his old self again. The attentive, nice guy who made your manchego melt. No matter how much you try, though, he won't change his ways.

It's funny how we'll go through the same steps a million times and expect that maybe *just this one time* things will be different. But even if you get your one time of difference, isn't it almost a given that at some point you'll end up in the same cycle you were in before?

We hang on to that 10% of goodness—when 90% is lacking—fully hoping by some miracle that we'll suddenly get 100% of our precious Parmesan back.

But the truth is that the cheese is gone. And no matter how much we shake our fists or cry about how things should be different, they are not. And the best we can do is move down a different corridor of the maze and see if we can find something new to sustain us.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Seamless in Seattle

Last week, Mr. Wonderful and I set out to explore two hotspots in the Pacific Northwest. When we discovered that Mr. W had never been to Seattle and I'd never been to Vancouver, BC (or Canada at all for that matter) we knew we needed to plan a trip.

My goodness, what beautiful cities they both were.

During my trip to Seattle 7 or 8 years ago, I stayed with friends and didn't really stop to appreciate the full lay of the land. The thing that struck me about the city this time (and Vancouver too, actually) was just how well-thought and cohesive everything was. You can walk everywhere. There's art everywhere. And beautiful architecture. There's public transportation and coffeeshops and interesting boutiques on every block. It's convenient. And it's amazingly clean.

On the Seattle Underground Tour, we learned that the city wasn't always like this. Apparently the founders of Seattle initially built everything on top of sawdust from the local mill, causing it all to sink after while. They made a few more attempts—at one point elevating the streets above the shops and sidewalks, so people had to climb up and down ladders to switch levels—but failed until they finally made a vow to "do it all the right way." And do right they did.

In addition to the general chicness of the city, Mr. W and I got to have dinner with the eternally hilarious, charming and chic Miss Sizzle and her Mr. Darcy. We went to a great wine bar/restaurant called The Purple Cafe, filling our tummies with cheese and pork medallions and beef tenderloin and chocolate. That Sizzle has great taste! What a fun night.

When we drove to Vancouver Saturday morning, I was again blown away by just how consistent and well planned the cityscape was. LA isn't like that. It's patch-worky and mixed up; there are trash and hoodlums on the streets, with pockets of greatness tucked between freeways and strip malls. Don't get me wrong: I love LA. I love its mini-metropolises and its suburbs. I love downtown and Hollywood and Pasadena. It would just be really cool if everything felt like it was designed with a plan in mind. Like it all went together. Like it was meant to have people traveling its streets (not in bumper-to-bumper traffic).

Even the food in Vancouver was impressively orchestrated. We went to a sushi-esque restaurant and they delivered a full forest-like set piece to our table with our sashimi attached. That takes some brain power and nimble fingers. By the way, the fish was fantastic. I had my first few mussels there. Wow. Seriously delicious.

At various points, Mr. W and I both said to each other, "I could probably live here." He's lived in Vancouver before, so it wasn't a huge stretch. And I think the gorgeous weather probably influenced our opinions quite a bit.

But as much as I loved both of our stops, I felt a sense of relief when we returned back to the stifling streets of Burbank this afternoon. They may be lined with bits of litter and big commercial retail chains, but they lead the way home.