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...