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December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and bon voyage to 2008 .. it's been a wacky, crazy, happy, hairy, upside-down, right-side-up-again year. I'm ready for a little break before a new year starts again.

Here are some of my favorite pictures from this past year, with my favorite things in life. My favorite people. My little fur-covered friends. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy End Of Year and here's to hopeful beginnings for a new one!


















p.s. Love you all.

p.p.s. See you next year!

Posted by laurie at 1:26 PM

December 22, 2008

Rainy days and Mondays always get me chocolate


What ... are we turning into Florida or something? This is at least the fourth day of rain this year! Four days when the sun didn't shine and water came from above! Personally, I'm against it. I've lived here for something like 15 years (gasp) and I have officially become insulted by the rain and prefer that it stops, now.

Also, it has been cold! It was 36 degrees yesterday morning which is cold in any language. So for dinner I made a pot roast in the crock pot (very easy -- take a roast or a brisket or even tri-tip and coat it in a mixture of black pepper and crushed garlic -- I buy the stuff in the jar at the market -- and brown it in a pot, then put the browned beef into the crockpot with some onions sliced up. For liquid, add broth or some people do Lipton's onion soup, or beer. What I did last night was to deglaze the pan I browned the meat in with some beef broth and add that to the crockpot as the liquid. Deglazing sounds fancy, yes? You just add broth to the pan and scrape up the browned bits, easy!)

I like pot roast and I like the idea of adding in the veggies and having a one-pot meal, but I don't like all my vegetables to taste like pot roast. And after they've been cooking that long I just think they're mushy. So usually I make mashed potatoes as a side, but this time I tried something new, I roasted the vegetables separately in a pan in the oven and it turned out great!


I lined a cookie sheet with that Reynolds Release tin foil which is MIRACULOUS, love it, it's a non-stick foil and I use it for everything. Then I cut up a purple onion, peeled and cut three carrots, peeled and sliced up two parsnips, and added about four small yukon gold potatoes sliced up, too. I chopped some garlic, sprinkled the pan with salt and cracked pepper and added a little drizzle of olive oil. I also cut up a leek and added it in but you may want to skip the leek -- it got kind of crunchy (which I don't mind but then again I am not very picky.)

Then put the whole pan in the oven at 425F and bake/roast for as long as it takes to get everything the amount of done you like (I roasted mine for about an hour, and I stirred everything up a few times in between with a big spatula.) TASTY!!!! I don't know why I don't do this more often, I love roasted anything and this is a big healthy plate of yummy. Perfect for a cold blustery winter's day!

Posted by laurie at 10:01 AM

December 17, 2008

I saw you (and him) walking in the rain...

That title is from one of my favorite eighties songs, "The Rain" by Oran "Juice" Jones. My favorite line from the song is "You know my first impulse was to run up on you and do a Rambo!" but that didn't seem like a good title for a rainy day. Which it is! Again!

My view from the bus this morning:

Not sure if you can tell from my stellar photography, but we are at a standstill. By the time I got to work, two hours after leaving my house, I had reached the Zen Acceptance place. Not so much my coworkers ... poor New Jersey! I have no idea what state he will be in today. But on Monday it misted and sprinkled and he came into work late and exhausted already because of the weather. Oh, the mist of traffic doom!

"I don't get it," he said. "It wasn't even raining! It was barely misting!"

And he had that look -- you know, the LOOK. It's that What the hell have I gotten myself into moving to a city where mist creates gridlock and yet earthquakes that shake the whole office building are no big deal? look.

When I first moved here I was just as innocent and confused by these things but in time you learn that there are other places and then there is Los Angeles. And one day you're no longer wandering around dismayed by rain-based traffic apocalypse, you're more concerned about whether or not SAG will strike and if there will be valet at Whole Foods because you need some organic wine and you don't want to get your Uggs wet.

Here's another reason why I love this bizarre city:


One giant billboard on Van Nuys Blvd. referencing both the insidious L.A. traffic and the weirdness that is the paparazzi ... all in SPANISH.

But of course that picture was taken on Saturday when it was sunny and the world was still spinning on its axis, not its axles. Today we're all at a standstill. I hope my KMS anti-frizz mousse can hold up under the atmospheric pressure!

Actual rain! My Soggy City.

Posted by laurie at 9:27 AM

December 12, 2008

Mexican Standoff at the O.K. Cat Corral!



Someone apparently needed a bath and didn't really want one. It's not all fun and games around here, folks, there is drama! Action! Intensity!

Also this weekend there will be mad rushing! Because Christmas is a mere 12 days away and I am now nearing full panic mode as the sum total of my holiday preparation is the following: I have written one (1) sappy entry about holiday lights, I have listened to four (4) Christmas carols accidentally, and I have purchased the whopping accomplishment of one (1) gift, which isn't even for a human but is for my parents' new DOG. Seriously.

But anyway the dog will still like me after the holidays. Maybe he can move in. Frankie will give him a bath!


Posted by laurie at 9:30 AM

December 11, 2008

It's the end of the world as we know it.


Drew called me last night.

"Guess why I can't go to the gym?" he asked.

"Oh, fun!" I said. Because trust me when I tell you I will be calling in sick at the gym for a long time to come. I love this game.

"Ok, so are you calling in drunk?"

"Not this time," he said. "They won't fall for that one again."



Then we laughed and chitchatted and temporarily forgot why he was calling me. Later I said, "So what is your reason for not going to the gym?" Because Drew is not allergic to the gym like I am.

"OH," he said. "GUESS WHAT!"

"What?" all over again. Fun!

(By the way can you see how we're both so easily amused. It's like Waiting For Godot in reverse. We're even worse in person.)

"It's snowing!" he said. "HERE! In HOUSTON!"

"Oh my God, it's the end of the world! Do you have wine?"

"Yes! Thank Goodness!" he said. "We have a Hurricane Kit and now it is SNOWING! In HOUSTON!"

"Have you taken pictures? Video? Is it really snow?" I asked. Because ya'll, I was born in Texas. You cannot fool me. Houston is where people go to sweat and then die. Never wear polyester blends south of Kerrville.


"You know," I said, because I am a good friend, "you see, in mathematics and barometrics and also logical blahblahnese, if it's snowing it's an indication of coldness. Generally speaking."

"It's all Al's fault," said Drew. Also because he is a good friend.

"No," I said. "Al Gore is perfect, have you seen him? He's lost weight. Mmmhmmm. He's not calling in sick to the gym! So THIS SNOW my friend is a bonafide Christmas miracle!"

"You're right," he said. "I don't have to go to the gym, I can drink wine and have a fire in the fireplace without turning on the air conditioning! Because it is a Christmas Miracle! Two weeks early!"

So ya'll it is snowing in Houston. What's next? Carbs come back in style? People in Los Angeles stop wearing pajamas to the market? Cats become aerodynamically sound and fly from place to place? If it can snow in Houston anything is possible. Well, anything is possible except for me going to the gym. I called in a snow day long ago, never to return. Because Drew is SO right, it's much easier than calling in drunk! Call in snowing! It is a Christmas Miracle.

Posted by laurie at 9:01 AM

December 10, 2008

The holidays are in the air and in the mind. And in the hair.

Yesterday at Moskatels I saw a crazy upside-down Christmas tree suspended from the ceiling:

(Click image for a gigantic picture.)

I've always wanted to do an upside-down tree, this one was sparkly and wacky and I really liked it. I have yet to put up my tree and Sobakowa is wondering where the greenery and sparkle is in her honor:

Where is my tree, human?

Doesn't she look ready to launch an invasion, plan a war, create an empire? That cat has a secret life I can only imagine.

And yesterday on the bus I was knitting and I was half-asleep, my sleep deprivation is reaching near-2005 levels at this point, which is insanity, but anyway I looked up in my fugue state and noticed a wisp of yarn fiber from my scarf-in-progress had become airborne and attached itself to the head of the person riding in the seat in front of me.


What a moral dilemma! What to do? I could either remove it, which would involve me touching a stranger's HEAD and also alerting the person I had shed upon them. Which is weird, even by Los Angeles standards. Or I could do nothing and hope for a wind storm.

I won't tell you my decision, but I will tell you we had Santa Anas yesterday, and I trust Mother Nature on these issues....


Only 14 days left until Christmas. Can we call a time-out?

Posted by laurie at 10:22 AM

December 8, 2008

Arms and legs and spaces in between

My leg is much better. I'm practically a healing machine, I am certain of it. I have a lot of theories about why my body betrayed me and I have finally decided it's because I haven't been drinking enough, or at all. Sometime back in September I stopped drinking wine (or anything) because I was entering into one of my famously freakish health nut phases where I was purifying with smoothies and flax oil and decaf greet tea and kale. Seriously, one day someone at work asked me if I had eaten anything without kale in a month and the answer was, um, sadly ... no.

So I believe this is my body's way of asking for wine, STAT.

In arm news, I discovered these super cutie cute armwarmers at Target for $10:


There are two reasons why I bought these. One, I loved them. And two, I am certain I can deconstruct the pattern and make a pattern of my own based off these. I know there are probably 176,000 armwarmer patterns on the internet but ya'll know how I can be. I want to make something of my own with trial and error and possible need for felting. Also the upside is that once I figure it out, I can put it here for free to warm all the arms of the world!

It has a thumb gusset, too:


And since my Great Mitten Experiment I am all about the thumb gusset. I think I'll start armwarming away as soon as I finish my current project, and also all other projects, and so one day in 2013 I'll post a pattern.

Just a few days ago my friend Corey and I were talking about our knitting and she and I have both realized we're at an age in life and a level of both maturity and insanity where we might, might, be ready to take on a cardigan. Maybe.

One day. Right after I drink some more wine and pretend I'm not already seven months behind on real life.

Posted by laurie at 11:49 AM

December 4, 2008

In which I am incredibly sappy. And later you may go into sugar shock over it all.

Last night traffic was horrendous and I exited the freeway and stopped off Woodman Avenue to get gas ($1.99 a gallon! Incredible!) and then I took back streets all the way across the Valley. I love this valley, I know it like the back of my hand. It's the longest I have ever lived in one geographical area. Before moving to Los Angeles the longest I ever stayed in one city was the four years I spent in college in Tennessee. Now I have been here more than a decade and I love that easy familiarity with all the backroads and shortcuts. You need them here, where traffic is sometimes so slow it's moving backwards in time.

As I drove through different neighborhoods I saw blue lights, menorahs, christmas lights strung in the formation of the Mexican flag, a house with nothing but white sparkly icicle lights (my favorite). I saw a man and his kids standing around a ladder with an inflatable reindeer. I think someone was tangled in something but they were soldiering onward, no reindeer left behind! I don't know why seeing all the Christmas stuff in stores and hearing Christmas songs makes me so pensive and maudlin and puddly. It's like this every year! I am a dork. You would think I'd become desensitized to it but alas. Dorkdom perseveres.

Christmas is such a strange time of the year. It makes you grateful for what you have and sometimes, for some people, it can be lonely. Or it can be stressful, I suppose, if you have a huge family and so many obligations and of course there is always traffic. This year I have planned well for the holidays -- I'm a planner, sometimes -- and I feel happy about my Christmas season. But it's always there anyway, this undercurrent. When you hear "Chesnuts roasting on an open fire..." and you get that little pang of blue.

Or is it just me?

I think it's so much easier to fall in love when you're young. When you're still young and fresh you haven't been washed over with complicated (and expensive) despair, you haven't failed so much. You still feel optimistic and hopeful and still believe in finding the right person, and you believe in happily ever afters. And Christmas is romantic and hopeful and only stressful because will you buy him a gift that says too much? Are you going overboard, are you too excited? You want to hold back and at the same time you want to rush forward.

When you're very young you still look forward to finding that right fit of a person who will Jerry Maguire you -- maybe we're an entire planet that suffers from Jerry Maguirism, more commonly known as "You Complete Me!" Syndrome. And when you're young you plan on getting married and buying a riding lawnmower or an SUV or a dining room set or whatever it is that symbolizes grown-upedness. And of course later you're older, you already have a dining room table, and you have to tell him your story and he tells you his and each person carries around a little shell, a little roadmap of where they have been.

I love listening to my parents talk to each other because they have been together for so long, through so many ups and downs that they're just so comfortable with each other and funny, and now of course they have this dog which is Their New Favorite Child. My dad is great in a million ways but mostly because he showed me by living example what great men are like and how men should treat women.

A few weeks ago a friend asked me to describe my Mr. Right and I couldn't do it. I got completely flustered. Of course like a lot of girls I made a list once a long time ago, I think it was a pretty specific list but I can only remember one thing on that stupid catalog of traits for Mr. Perfect: "Doesn't watch a lot of porn." (Clearly I made that list during Post-Divorce Year One: Dating In Freakangeles.) (This is a very strange city, my friends.) But I didn't say that one detail in the conversation, because really, isn't that sort of portentous that the single thing I can remember on the so-called List of Traits Mr. Perfect Will Have involves not being a porn addict? Even I know when to keep my mouth shut sometimes.

But I knew I had to come up with something to say about So Called Mr. Right because my friend was still waiting for my reply. Finally I just said the only thing that's true -- I want this alleged Mr. Right character to be madly in love with me and I will be madly in love with him. That kind of sums it up. (Oh, and it would be nice if he weren't a porn addict. JUST SAYING.)

Although I can't help but wonder ... does anyone fall madly in love after age 17? Or maybe 19? I can't believe this is me talking, the me who grew up in love with love, the one who used to think it was the only thing to wake up for each day. Apparently I am a pathological optimist in all areas of life except one... love. I'm not sure anymore. Maybe I'm jaded or maybe I've been so busy with my life and building my little dreams word by word that I don't think about the future except in terms of deadlines and vacations and when will I ever be able to afford a Jeep with air conditioning? There are so many great things about being independent and self-reliant that it's seductive.

It's easy to be alone once you know how, once you know you can have company any time you please (this is after all a wide and varied city full of people) but somewhere I stopped thinking about Love. Maybe I just gave it up to the Universe, maybe I just decided it was best to spend so much time focusing on my own improvement and health that the rest would somehow occur naturally. I honestly don't know. Or maybe at a certain age Love means something different, maybe Love isn't all-consuming and rapturous, maybe Love is someone who wakes up crazy early to call you one day because they know you'll be too busy to talk for the next 87 hours and they just want to say hello.

My parents aren't perfect, they get irritated with each other and they sigh with great abandon at each other sometimes, we're all very dramatic in my family with our facial expressions and existential sighs. But then one afternoon over the telephone, my mom tells me how my dad was concerned that the dog was cold so he let the dog sleep under the blanket. And it was just the way she said it, that little softness in her tone, where she's so fond of this man and you know that's real Love. Proof to me that the impossible never happens. It's out there, it just may look very different from You Complete Me.

Posted by laurie at 7:03 AM

December 3, 2008

London calling!

This was the airport over Thanksgiving weekend:


That's the International terminal of LAX with nobody and I mean NOBODY in line, no one jostling through baggage screening, no one at all. I had to take a picture because HOLY RECESSION BATMAN!

Then I took a picture of my baggage because I am most amazed at myself for being able to actually go anywhere for more than six hours without needing a sherpa. Usually I pack a huge suitcase and need to pay for a camel and a guide. That's my teensy carryon, my coat, and my shoulder bag with my little grey pillow inside its little grey case. I like those neck pillow thingies, I know inflatable ones are easier to carry but I like my smooshy one.


So I conquered a tiny piece of Europe in a wee few days with my magical carry-on. And I used most of the luggage space for my handknit wool scarf that I have never once worn because newsflash -- I live in Los Angeles -- but I was willing to forgo three extra cute tops for one hulking scarf of my own making. More on that later.

In my carryon shoulder bag I usually pack a book, my notebook for scribbling, ipod and headphones, camera, and a smaller traveling purse tucked inside the middle part that holds all my normal purse stuff and money and passport. In another compartment I have my stupid 3-ounce liquids in the stupid magic ziploc of defense, and I leave some room in the bag so later I can buy some bottled water and I usually bring at least one little snack, this time it was an energy bar. You've already seen the pillow bag which in addition to my mini-pillow also holds an eyeshade, earplugs and little ziploc with these soft slippers that fold up very small. I found them at Target for $2 on clearance and I always taken them on the plane so I don't have to sully my socks. When I get home I can just throw them in the wash. I hate walking into the airplane bathroom in my socks. EEEEWWWW.

I am not a low-maintenance gal, I suspect.

But truly I love airplanes, which makes me probably certifiably insane. I love them. I love traveling, I love going to the airport. I've always been this way and maybe it's because I grew up in a town so small we were outnumbered by chickens and I never thought I would end up being a girl who has seen anything and so every time I get on an airplane I still feel like it's a little magic. My parents think I am silly and remind me they took me to California and Mexico when I was a teenager and that I am not from a barn but you know, I guess I always felt smalltown. Truth is I am smalltown, even in Los Angeles, because it's just a part of me. Maybe that's why traveling never gets old.

And so I arrived at Heathrow and went to use the facilities which is why my very first official picture in London was this:


Pictures in airport bathrooms. God I am classy. Also, in America we call these "mints" but in British they say "chewable toothbrush" apparently.

Here is my hotel room:


Small but cute and clean, and I got a GREAT deal by using this website, LateRooms.com. I had never used the service before but now I can recommend it, at least for me it worked out perfectly.

This is the loo but it looks just like a bathroom to me....

Note to self. Turtleneck not flattering. But warm!

It was VERY COLD in this London place, which I thought I would like what with my already perfectly insulated body but even with a T-shirt, turtleneck sweater, gloves, coat and fabooscarf it was COLD! I was so happy to wear my enormous scarf that I didn't even care my nose was freezing off my face:

Me on the Millennium Bridge with St. Paul's in the background. Please ignore that I have not had a haircut or highlights in ten years. I blame it on traffic. Or something.

Saw the Globe as Shakespeare intended it... what light by yonder scaffolding breaks...


Had breakfast at Leon's where I got the most delicious yogurt I have ever eaten and it was covered in warm blackberry compote:


I wanted to bathe in it. I resisted.

Then I went to the very highlight for me, as I am an Art Geek Extraordinaire:


They had an amazing Rothko exhibit:

By the way, most of the museums in London are free and you just pay for entrance to the special exhibitions. I support that philosophy! Also you aren't really supposed to take pictures even without flash (which I suspected) but I had it firmly confirmed to me by a woman who sounded a lot like Scary Spice.

After the museum, I found an old church whose name I have already forgotten because I was jetlagged:


Then I walked around some more where I took pictures of only important things:


And finished up my trip with an awesome steak with garlic butter sauce and a bowl of fries, maybe my favorite meal combination. I had this meal at the Ebury Street Wine Bar & Restaurant which I did not make reservations at but they let me sit at the bar and chitchat with the bartender and the food was outstanding.


It was all in all a great, short, perfect trip. This is the third trip I have taken overseas by myself -- you know all about Rome which I blathered on incessantly for days and days and of course my whole travel obsession. That was the first trip alone and it was great. In April I went to France which I kind of kept all to myself, because some things in life are just for you, you know? And that trip was good and sometimes strange but I'm glad I did it. So far, this trip to London was by far both the shortest and the best solo traveling I have done.

It's been so long that I have traveled to any place that speaks my own language that I forgot how much easier it makes everything. I always work on my language skills a little before I travel someplace and I think I can order a beer now in about six languages, but there is a huge cushion of ease when you can turn to someone at the Underground station and ask, "Is this an off-peak day or a peak day?" and it's so nice to be able to chat with the waiter or ask anyone nearby for directions. It's less lonely, too, because you do have social interaction and not just "please" and "thank you" conversations. So if someone from here were to ask me where they should go on their first trip alone abroad, I might still say Paris (because it is so unbelievably beautiful) but depending on your level of comfort with traveling and being alone, a common language makes everything seem easier somehow. When you're alone and far from home it could make a difference. It all depends on the traveler, I think. I tend to never pick the easy solution but this time it really made a very short trip so much smoother.

I loved London, it was great and cold and I got to wear my scarf and drink wine and eat chips, which are not chips at all but look just like french fries. And now I have a fond reminder of my trip, which is the bruise on my leg which kind of resembles a Rothko actually. (I don't have to get amputated by the way -- I'm fine, as I suspected.) My only regret is that I didn't stay long enough to develop a fake British accent like Madonna.

Oh well, there's always next time!

Posted by laurie at 11:18 AM

December 2, 2008

Whoops! It's December already!

Hello, December! December, the month I wanted to spend writing each and every day and now it's only five hours into the second day of the month and already I have failed. AWESOME!! What shoes accompany failure, you think?

Yesterday I meant to write a very long chatty travelogue of my trip to London -- I spent Thanksgiving weekend over the pond with all those cute accents -- but today I am going in for some kind of special X-ray on my leg which is purple from pulling some muscle from some other thing and really, today it's so much more fun to tell you how I got this injury which will explain perhaps why I am not, nor will I ever be, a great athlete. Or even a bad one.

I injured myself by walking across the street.

Yes, folks! That is how I felt a pop -- just like the day I was running for the bus a week or two ago -- only this time I saw stars and wondered if I had somehow been shot while walking to the Victoria tube station. It was so strange. I was not kung-fu fighting, I wasn't doing pirate swaggers after three liters of wine, I wasn't even doing my ridiculously dorky laurieperydance which is a weird combo of the white-girl cabbage patch and the samba roll. No, it was just my fine talent for WALKING that caused a great bodily injury. Anyway I tried to ignore it and walk it off because vacation! Walk it off, soldier, we have art to see and french fries to eat! And then Sunday night when I got home from my 1,000 hour plane ride I took off my knee socks and noticed one leg looked as if it were still wearing a black and purple argyle sock. Boy that is so sexy!

So yesterday instead of writing I waited at my Doctor's office for fourteen hours while people around me coughed -- I hate the doctor's office, there are sick people everywhere! And tried to covertly clean the armchair I was sitting in with anti-bacterial wet wipes but people stared because they don't know the magic which is the travel-size antibacterial wet wipe, hence why they are COUGHING. But I didn't care that they caught me in mid-OCD form because they were sick! Germy! And I am perfectly well aside from having a bruise roughly the size of Rhode Island on my rapidly enlarging calf area.

Now today I get to have an ultrasound done because apparently I did not know how babies were made and my leg, as it turns out, is three months pregnant. Lord, all I can say is it is one ugly and painful baby. No really though, in all seriousness people, there is a greater reason for me writing about my leg. I need a much better story about my injury! One cannot hobble around with an elephantine purple left leg and explain it with a suave, "Oh, you know, I just hurt it when I was WALKING."

I am thinking that for the folks at work who are very business professional and always look so perfect in their pantyhose (while mine are riding down halfway between my knees and my crotch -- another story for another time perhaps) I will come up with a really good leg injury explanation story that involves bondage. No?

For random strangers maybe I'll say I was climbing over the gate to George Clooney's house and apparently the dogs and security team discourage it but isn't it funny how my bruise is kind of shaped like George Cloooney? Doesn't it look just like him? He loves me you know. I heard it from that time Elvis spoke to me.

For my friends, especially the ones who read this, let's pretend you don't already know about my natural grace and agility and let's assume I was injured during my rigorous training for the Ironman triathlon... again....

Tomorrow though, after they do all this great medical imaging and x-raying and ultrasounding and eventually tell me what I already know which is "Take two motrin and don't go ballroom dancing for a while," I plan to share with you my pictures of London including the best steak EVER and wax on and on about how the very best part of saving for a rainy day is having one in another city where everyone sounds so good with their swanky yummy accents. Travel is my favorite thing on earth.

But for now I'm going to drink coffee and come up with a way to work in a shark bite story explaining my limp. I'm certain it was very dangerous and exciting! he was a toothless shark, very rare in the English Channel, but he gummed my leg....

Posted by laurie at 5:30 AM