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November 29, 2010

"Olive" postponed; Sock knitting books giveaway

Over the past week I started getting letters asking when we were supposed to talk about Olive Kitteridge and could we please add a few days to this month? So, since I wasn't planning to pick a December book anyway, why don't we add a few weeks to our online book club timeline? That way more people can join in! Let's meet back here on Monday, December 13th (which gives you two extra weeks) and we'll chitchat about ol' Olive.

- - -

Today, instead let's have a free book raffle!

TWO lucky winners will each win The Sock Knitter's Workshop and The Enchanted Sole; Legendary Socks for Adventurous Knitters by Janel Laidman. The latter book is even signed by the author!

They are basking beneath my tinsel tree on my desk...

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To be eligible to win, just post a hello today in the comments. Good luck! Word to the sock knitters!

Posted by laurie at 8:33 AM

November 26, 2010

There must have been some magic in that old silk hat they found...

This morning I went to my first-ever Black Friday shoppingpalooza. Well, really I just went to Target for some household stuff -- soap and paper towels and cat food. But it is Black Friday and I was there at 5 a.m. so I think it counts.

I often wake up freakishly early and this morning I was sitting in bed drinking coffee and watching news at 4 a.m. and of course they were interviewing people camped out on a sidewalk outside some electronics store.

"You're insane," I said to my television screen.

Then the reporter mentioned that Target was opening at 4 a.m. and since I was already up and caffeinated and semi-dressed, it wasn't long before I was sitting in my Jeep in a jam-packed Target parking lot.

"This is insane," I said to my steering wheel.

But I was there already, so I channeled my inner Niecy Nash and said, "I'm going in!"

It was actually kind of fun. The shoppers all looked sleepy and happy and the store was about as crowded as it usually is midday on a Saturday, but (unlike midday on a Saturday) the store was packed with red-shirted employees and every checkout aisle was open for business. The electronics area had a huge line, which I avoided, and I meandered around unhindered until I found THE PILLOWS.

Just by chance I found a really great sale on pillows. The good pillows, not the cheapo ones, and they were on Black!Friday!Sale! for four bucks. So I stuffed a few in my shopping cart and moseyed on. All the sudden I became a beacon for every woman in the store.

THE PILLOWS!!! WHERE DID YOU FIND THOSE PILLOWS!! MUST HAVE THE SALE PILLOWS!!!! WHERE WHERE WHERE ARE THE SALE PILLOWS!!

The ninth woman to ask had a wild-eyed look of shopping desperation which was my sign to quickly and quietly exit Target before THE MADNESS set in. At checkout I somehow ended up with both a $15 giftcard and a $10 bonus giftcard, so in essence I was paid $25 to shop for detergent and string cheese and whateverelse. AND I GOT THE PILLOWS!!!!


- - -

Yesterday around eleven in the morning I laced up my shoes and went for a long walk along the Boulevard. It was one of those perfect Southern California days that reminds you that we live in paradise, everything was so golden and crisp and saturated with color it looked like the day had been sucked into photoshop and retouched to perfection. The sky was as blue as a movie set sky, the palm trees were bright green and sharp and waving in the breeze.

Since it was Thanksgiving I was surprised to see the sidewalk cafes full of people but they were. Everyone was relaxing, their faces turned up to the sun, drinking steaming mugs of coffee and enjoying the day. There were folks out all over the neighborhood. Some were shopping -- the grocery store was a traffic jam of cars and pedestrians -- and others were out walking dogs, jogging, pushing baby strollers. A yoga class let out just as I was passing by the studio.

Starbucks looked like a dog convention was being held on the patio, all the tables were packed with people who brought along canines of every size and shape and color. One dog was wearing a little pink bow in her hair, one had on a jingle bells collar.

I love this city but I especially love my neighborhood. I lived here before (back when I was married) although now I live in a different part of the zipcode. I'm just a few steps off the Boulevard and it's one of my favorite stretches of sidewalk in the world.

When my older brother was here visiting in September, he and my parents drove up from Orange County to see my place and go out to lunch and I was babbling on and on about how great it is here and how happy I was he got to see my neighborhood on his trip. He lives in a beautiful beach town just south of Daytona Beach and he has a very happy life there. I think it's funny how absurdly proud I was to show off my neighborhood and my skinny-but-tall apartment when he lives in the picture of American bliss. He owns a beautiful sprawling home with a pool and a huge lawn in Florida, the kind of house that would be impossible to find here unless you were willing to pay a bazillion dollars for the property alone.

Yet there I was, proud as a new mother showing off my rented slice of the city, relieved that there was just enough street parking that day for my dad's truck to fit.

"It's a cool neighborhood, sis," he said. "And your apartment is great."

"Does it make you want to move here?"

"I wouldn't live here if you paid me," he said. "Too many people and way too much traffic. You just can't escape from it out here."

I knew the answer before I asked. And he's right in some ways, of course there is always traffic, there are always people everywhere you go. I'll be the first one to tell you my quality of life has improved dramatically since I quit commuting.

But what drives some people nuts about the city -- the feeling that you can't escape it -- is what makes it so appealing to me. The city itself and all those people are like a teeming hive and I'm part of it. I never feel lonely in Los Angeles. If you want human interaction all you have to do is leave your door and the whole city spills out around you. Everything here involves a crowd: the grocery store, a trip to the coffee shop, a visit to Target any day of the week. Even in my apartment building there are all my neighbors making noise, living life. There's the one who obsessively checks the door handle, and the Russian couple across the courtyard, and the beautiful girl who wears high heels to walk her dog. It's a one-act play every day, a little scene of urban life.

Sometimes the city is a lot to take and you feel relieved to come inside and close the door and be quiet for a while. But it's always there. You're never isolated even if you're a homebody like me. And when you need it, it's always there waiting for you just outside the door. You can count on it. It's a very comforting thing for someone like me.

- - -

AND I GOT ALL THE PILLOWS!!!!!!!

Posted by laurie at 10:25 AM

November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope you have a great day, however you choose to spend it.


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Bob is already full & happy.

Posted by laurie at 10:17 AM

November 24, 2010

Oh, Teevee, How I love Thee

I love that this year's biggest most life-threatening issue in America has been the final three lineup on Dancing With The Stars. Personally I wasn't invested in the outcome, but that is probably because I am still holding a grudge from the season many years ago when Cheetah Girl Sabrina Bryan was voted off. Fester much?

Mostly I was impressed that Jennifer Grey wasn't just the winner, she was a 50-year old gal who could outrun me twice over. Did you see also-50-year-old Robin Roberts shimmy away on this morning's Good Morning America? I love seeing women in their 50s looking smoking hot, it's awesome. What did you think about the season ... were you morally outraged, slightly bemused or just wondering why all the sudden you wished Kyle would win?

By far my newest TV guilty pleasure is The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, even though this is really The Real Housewives of Los Angeles, trust me when I assure you that level of insanity is not particular to the 90210 but is in fact alive and well all over this freakydeaky place. Those fishlips on Taylor and that weird, Frankensteiny blonde twig thing that makes all women of a certain income level look suspiciously alike happens all the way from the 818 to the 714.

The dueling birthday parties episode was high art (Taylor's weird husband, the scene of their kid hanging out alone with the nanny, the terrible despair of getting a new puppy, so tragic!) My favorites are Lisa and her husband and that goofy dog which I believe is half the size of Bob's last hairball.

But it's the former Mrs. Kelsey Grammer that makes this show fascinating and surreal. When she was in her big, hallucinated fight with Kyle (who is truly stop-traffic beautiful) and Camille went on and on and on about how much better her husband was than Kyle's husband I was having fits. My husband won an Emmy and is a celebrity and since I sleep with him I am SO MUCH BETTER than you, you with the beautiful husband and the happy marriage and the cute kids. You don't even have four nannies or eighteen houses or a paid entourage of people to kiss your butt, you are nothing! (smug giggle)

Juicy. Trashy. Teevee!!

As for the new shows, I still watch Hawaii 5-0, mostly for Scott Caan, and sometimes Nikita, along with Detroit 1-8-7 (I have a crush on Fitch), and Hellcats, which I love and don't care what you think of me for admitting it. What are you watching? Have you also been abducted by the Beverly Hills Housewives? Say I'm not the only one...

Posted by laurie at 9:17 AM

November 23, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like glitter!

I haven't been posting much because I've been writing and I can't think of anything more boring than reading about someone writing (except perhaps writing about writing, oh, whoops! I fell asleep for a minute!) so there wasn't much to say but now I'm in some odd flurry, like I caught the holiday flu all on one day and now on the heels of turkey dinner with dressing, there is this:

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My Christmas tree is up and decorated, a veritable shrine to what appears to be a growing collection of Eiffel Tower ornaments. I love it. I love this tree, I got it several years ago when I was still maudlin and morose on the holidays and went shopping for a tree to brighten up Chez Dour.

I was standing in Target in Van Nuys and I looked at all the trees on display and I sighed and decided to cancel Christmas with a wimp-out drama queen thing I was doing back then, but sanity prevailed ("The show must go on!") and I stuffed this tree in the back of my Jeep and brought it back to my tiny house in Encino-adjacent and decorated it and it has been the perfect tree for me ever since.

Last night my friend Corey stopped by for dinner (turkey and dressing, oh my!) and everything was very festive with the tree up. She confided later that she wasn't sure she would like Southern style cornbread dressing but she did like it, even though her family (not Yankees, specifically, but Northern Californians) put stuff in their "stuffing" which I tuned out because all that crazytalk sounds the same to me. I made Brussels sprouts, too, sauteed in a pan and this time they turned out pretty good if I do say so myself. I'm getting better at cooking, probably because I'm not exhausted all the time and running around like my whole life is a hassle. FUNNY HOW THAT WORKS.

After she left I admired my tree a bit before heading off to bed. I love the sparklyness and all my Paris stuff on there and the way it twinkles in the living room and makes the whole apartment festive and warm and glowy. Christmas has a very happy aura if you can strain out the shoulds and could-have-mighta-beens and just distill it into what you like best.

I like: the tree, the lights, the glitter ornaments, the way the weather changes so it's chilly in the mornings and the cats can lie by the fireplace for hours, the storefronts full of sparkles and decorations, mulled cider, champagne at noon on Christmas Day. I like going for a walk on Christmas morning when the whole city has finally calmed down, because from now until Christmas it's nothing but rush, rush, rush and everyone is crazy and on that morning the whole city feels relaxed, a collective exhale.

Sometimes I tend to focus on what's lacking -- particularly around the holidays -- and I never find it works for me, after all it doesn't change anything. So this year I'm skipping the puddled-up parts and moving directly to appreciating what is, which is much more sane and efficient. (Forget enlightened, perhaps as you age, you just want to be more emotionally efficient?)

My apartment is sparkled and ready for the good parts. We did already have an ornament fatality this season, and it was a real messy one, a glass snowglobe thingy that had water and glitter inside and shattered on the floor. Which wasn't even the cat's fault, it was all me, so if you ever invite me over I'm just suggesting you hide your breakables.

Now I'm going to make myself a cup of tea and type up some words, which is boring to talk about ("... and then I spellchecked, it was enthralling!") so instead, I'll give you some Bob on his blankie:

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Everyone likes to cuddle in the winter.

And it is winter!!!! Check out Dapper Dallas... we have cold nights and turkeys and palm trees and a cloud in the seven day forecast!

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It's winter, yo.

Posted by laurie at 9:13 AM

November 22, 2010

Cornbread Dressing is love on a spoon

This is a big pan of cornbread dressing just ready to go in the oven:

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(Fuzzy, oddly colored pic from my iphone)

If you are asking yourself right now, "What is dressing?" then you are a likely a Yankee and all I can say is Bless Your Heart. Aw, don't feel so bad. Ya'll won the war.

I've technically lived in Los Angeles now almost as long as I lived in the South, but I feel most Southern around food, especially anything having to do with cornbread or The Trinity. For many people, Thanksgiving turkey comes with something called stuffing and sometimes it's even inside the turkey (!) and has odd bits in it like walnuts (!!) and cranberries (!!!) and the most far-out of all, raisins. In a turkey. What will they think of next?

You don't have to wait until Thanksgiving to have dressing, I made mine yesterday and cooked a big huge turkey breast in the crockpot and plan to have Thanksgiving all week long.

To make cornbread dressing, first you need to make cornbread. The real stuff, not that fluffy, sweet corn-like muffin thing you get in restaurants. Southern cornbread is not sweet or cake-like or light, it's dense and grainy and chewy and cooked in cast iron.

Real Southern Cornbread

• 2 cups cornmeal (I use yellow, you can use white if you prefer)
• 1/4 cup flour
• 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 cups buttermilk (you can use less buttermilk and add in some water if you prefer)
• 2 eggs
• 1/4 cup oil or shortening or bacon fat (I use oil)
• OPTIONAL - A pinch of sugar, I use a very small amount, maybe 2 teaspoons.
• 8-inch cast iron skillet (makes a taller cornbread) or 10-inch skillet (makes a flatter cornbread)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put the oil in the skillet and place it in the oven to get hot.

Mix dry ingredients.

Mix wet ingredients (except oil, it's in the pan in the oven) and add to dry, incorporate.

Pull the hot pan out of the oven (use your oven mitts, seriously people) and add the hot oil to the mixture, leaving just a little hot oil in the pan to coat it well.

Stir the batter, put the batter in the hot, oily pan and put it in the oven to cook for 20-25 minutes.

*****You can make this recipe totally gluten free by using a good gluten-free cornmeal and adding in white rice flour or some other GF flour in place of the all-purpose flour.****


Once you have your cornbread, making dressing is a snap. It's really just cornbread, toast, spices and of course the trinity of onions, celery and bell pepper. The fact that Southerners and Cajuns call this mixture "The Trinity" speaks deeply to our love and religious fervor about food.


Southern Cornbread Dressing

Ingredients:

* Crumbled cornbread
* 6-8 pieces of bread toasted and cut into pieces
* Oil
* 2 cups (or less) chopped green bell pepper
* 2 cups chopped onion
* 2 cups chopped celery
* 4 cups chicken broth (or more if needed)
* 1 heaping tablespoon dried sage
* Salt and black pepper to taste
* 2 eggs, lightly beaten

To make:

Heat oven to 350ºF.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cornbread and bread crumbs.

Make the Trinity:
In a saucepan over medium heat, sauté the onion and celery and bell pepper in oil until tender. Do not brown. Add in the salt, pepper and sage to taste. I am hedonistic and add a small pinch of cayenne but DO NOT TELL MY FATHER.

Combine the sautéed trinity with the breads in the big bowl. Stir in chicken broth, using enough to moisten. It should be almost soupy. Stir in the beaten eggs, blending well. Spread the mixture in a large shallow pan (measuring about 10" x 15") and bake for 20 minutes uncovered and another 20 or so covered with foil.

*** To make this totally Gluten Free, I used a carton of pre-made gluten free bread cube thingies sold at Whole Foods in place of the toast. It works great. You could also use GF bread and toast it up, but either way you need to soak the gluten free toasted bread cubes in some chicken broth first before adding it to the cornbread. ****


And, as the side dish to my dressing, I made a turkey breast in the crockpot:


Ingredients:

* Turkey breast
* Chicken broth or stock, about 1 cup
* Aromatics: I use a cut lemon, onions, a few pieces of celery, bay leaves, black peppercorns and of course some Bell's poultry seasoning, rubbed all over the meat

Put the aromatics in the bottom of the pot. Add seasoned turkey, add broth and cook on high for 1-2 hours, and low for four to six more depending on size. Make sure your bird is cooked to at least 160ºF using a meat thermometer.

The skin does not crisp up this way, but becomes moist and very easy to remove if you, like me, do not prefer the skin. Also, the turkey stays juicy and tender. This is a super no-fuss way to make a turkey as a very good accompaniment to your dressing!

- - -

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Frankie smells turkey in the air...

Posted by laurie at 10:16 AM

November 15, 2010

Only 39 days left, you know

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Are you horrified?

I wouldn't blame you if you were. But I love Christmas. I love the twinkly lights and the chilly weather and the way it gets dark so early. And why not decorate already? More time to enjoy the view.

Last night I went for a walk and all the shops on the Boulevard were lit up with holiday lights and it felt very festive and happy and sparkly. I haven't put up my real tree downstairs yet, just this little tinsel tree on my desk. But I foresee a Christmas Tree in my week, yes I do.

- - -

This is how a cat walks a human:

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While I appreciate all the well-meaning catloving souls who have sent me pleading letters and written dire comments imploring me not to use a collar and leash because I am killing my cat with a collar instead of a harness, let me assure you that this is as far as we have ever gotten on our "walks" with the leash: the doormat. The collar is merely a decoration, a way of the cat showing me she can get me to do any silly thing she desires.

We've lived together for over twelve years now and I know her persnickity ways. She won't even walk into the kitchen because the tile is too cold for her delicate dictator's toes.

Our "walks" take about 30 seconds. I open the door, she stands in the doorway. Upon discovering that the door does not lead to a catnip forest with flowing rivers of Meow Mix, she looks at me, bored for another day, and then we shut the door. It's not like we're out jogging together.

I think the pink collar is fine for forays to the doormat.

- - -

Other cats get their exercise the old-fashioned way:

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Work it out, Bob!

Posted by laurie at 8:25 AM

November 12, 2010

Name This Movie

My Uncle Truman doesn't use computers. He has never been on the internet and furthermore he is still upset that Walker, Texas Ranger isn't on the TV anymore. He's hilarious. He makes me laugh.

When he needs research, he calls me, because I have "the innernet on a lot." That was how we started talking about this old movie he'd seen this one time and he cannot for the life of him remember the name or who starred in it.

I researched and looked up every keyword combination I could think of but I came up empty-handed. So I'm turning this over to you, Readers Who Mysteriously Know All Kinds Of Crazy Stuff. I can only assume you have more innernets on where you live.

In 1963, my Uncle Truman was a soldier living overseas when he and some Army buddies got sent to West Berlin. He was a 22-year-old kid from South Texas and he said that the most amazing thing he'd ever run across was right there in West Berlin ... not the Brandenburg Gate or Checkpoint Charlie, but a very elegant little nightclub/cafe that he and his friends visited. Inside the club, the tables each had a phone and if you wanted to dance with one of the beautiful women seated there you would call them and ask on the telephone.

Now here's the mystery as-yet unsolved by my home innernets: According to my Uncle there is a black and white movie out there somewhere that has a scene like this, with the bar/club/restaurant that has the phones at the tables.

Have you ever seen this movie? I want to find it for him for his upcoming 70th birthday but I have no idea what the movie is. I asked him if he was thinking of a scene from "Cabaret" but he said no, he'd seen that movie but it wasn't the movie. The movie he's remembering is an old black and white film.

So please post if you have ever seen this movie and know the name. I really do appreciate your help! Besides, I figure that finding this movie for him is the least we can do if we're not going to start a letter writing campaign to get new episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger for him. And we are not doing that. Nosiree.

Posted by laurie at 8:01 AM

November 10, 2010

Cooking With Gas! And Reading With Gasps

The weather has been cold and wintry (read: 68 degrees) and yesterday I cooked up a big pot of black beans, good cold-weather food. I also set out some chickpeas to soak because today I'm making my favorite winter dish, kale and chickpea stew. I know the name sounds awful but it's DELICIOUS.

If you decide to make it, don't leave out the sausage. You don't have to use chorizo, I've used hot Louisiana sausage, spicy Italian sausage and herb turkey sausage instead (and you can use soyrizo if you want a vegetarian version). But the sausage adds the flavor. Also, you may want to get out your food processor to get the kale really finely chopped. I prefer that to big chunks of kale.

My cooking skills have improved quite a bit since I've been home with time to actually cook properly. I'm not constantly rushing, worried that dinner will be lumpy and burned at 11 p.m. I still fall back on many of my basic dishes (roasted vegetables, baked chicken, things that are hard to screw up) but lately I've been making a lot of dishes from the TV show Ten Dollar Dinners with Melissa d'Arabian.

A more accurate name for this show would be "Super Simplified French Cooking On A Budget," which is the perfect show for me. My cooking skills are mediocre at best but I've tried lots of d'Arabian's recipes and so far none have turned out poorly.

I made her version of a French roast chicken dinner for company a few weeks ago and it was unbelievably tasty. Last night I made the zucchini with herbes de Provence and it was outstanding. Later this week I'm making her lentil quinoa salad, which is both good and good for you. I know her recipes may not appeal to super foodies who prefer complicated cooking but for a remedial cook like me this show is perfect.

- - -

This has nothing to do with cooking, but over the weekend I read Portia de Rossi's memoir Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain. It was un-put-down-able.

This book is a very detailed diary of her eating disorder, particularly focused on the years she was on the TV show Ally McBeal. I'll tell you what, I just couldn't stop reading it.

If you've ever watched actresses on TV and wondered how they stayed so thin or if you've ever hated your own body because you can't manage to look like women in magazines, this is the book you need to read. It's a deeply disturbing look at Hollywood Skinny.

I've read my fair share of celebrity memoirs and most actresses aren't as honest about their issues as she was in this book. She didn't do any glossing or careful couching, this story is raw and real and honest. And it's horrifying. All we see on TV and in movies and magazines are women who are bone skinny, and we wonder why we don't look that way. But when I read this book I thought, Holy crap! Even Portia de Rossi couldn't look like Portia de Rossi.

It's the first book I stayed up all night to finish in a long time.

Posted by laurie at 8:51 AM

November 9, 2010

Is this thing on?

As far as I can tell, my internet service provider has three levels of technical support.

Tier One Help is phone support. "My internet service has stopped working," I tell the nice girl on the phone. We go through the normal routine of unplugging, powering down, reconnecting, rebooting.

"Hmmm," she says. "Looks like your internet isn't working."

Tier Two Help is a nice cable repairman who shows up in person and goes through the same routine from the phone call: unplugging, powering down, reconnecting, rebooting.

"Well," he says. "Looks like your internet isn't working."

Tier Three Help is the person who actually fixes things. That person showed up this afternoon with a big toolkit and fancy devices and took wires out of my walls.

"You have noise on the line," he said.

"It's the CIA reading my email," I said.

"Uh, I'm going to check the outside line," he said. And quickly exited.

Now my service seems to be back online but just in case a special Third Tier To The Second Power team is coming tomorrow to check the neighborhood for special internet blahblah stuff. I'm just letting you know, Government, if you're reading. You may want to clear the line tomorrow.

Posted by laurie at 3:44 PM

November 5, 2010

Mysteries (doors)

I'm in the seated position, in a place that is supposed to be sort of pleasant, and that's when I hear the scratching on the door.

Soon I see a small paw insistently waving underneath it, poking in through the crack between the floor and the door. The paw is saying, "Hey, it's me! It's me over here! Open up! Let me in! Did you forget about me?"

I wonder to myself what it's like to go to the bathroom alone without a cat pawing relentlessly at the bathroom door.

Is it peaceful? Is it lonely? How would I know?

- - -

One of my neighbors has door-related OCD. I'm not sure if she even realizes it, and of course I have never met her or spoken to her so I can't be sure either way, but I know her habits. She's quite loud.

This apartment building is long and narrow and all the apartments open up to a long, tiled outdoor lobby that is also narrow. The apartments aren't spread out one on top of the other like some buildings. Instead, each unit is narrow as well, and goes up vertically, with the kitchen and living area on the main floor, bedrooms up a flight of stairs, and a third flight of stairs leads to a small laundry room and patio.

Since the building is tall, the little tiled courtyard amplifies every noise. Most of the neighbors are quiet and you don't notice the echo chamber very often. But one of my neighbors a few doors down has a doorknob issue. She exits her apartment, shuts the door, locks it, then obsessively pulls the door loudly back and forth seven times (to be sure it's locked, I assume.) Sometimes she has to go back inside and repeat the whole ritual. Shut door, jangle keys, lock door, loudly yank it back and forth seven times. It echoes in the courtyard.

Fascinating.

- - -

The weirdest neighbor of all has to be the woman who recently took her cat into the courtyard on a pink leash, with a matching pink collar.

I never intended to be the lady who walked her cat on a pink leash. One doesn't always choose their crazy. Sometimes it chooses them.

Sobakowa started sitting at the front door and meowing. She isn't a meower, so it startled me. After a while I could tell she thought the front door must lead to something fantastic, like a bathroom.

She's getting older, you know. And I like to make all God's creatures happy in their old age. What could be the harm in letting her walk on the courtyard tile for a minute or two?

But if the lady with the loud doorknob ritual came out, she might scare the cat, who might bolt for cover and so I decided to buy the cat a little leash. The cheapest small leash at the store was pink with a matching pink collar. I assumed the indignity of the vomitous colored leash and collar would embarrass the cat enough to give up this mad yearning for the front door to open.

She was undeterred by the humiliating leash. We walked outside, onto the tile, and she looked at me as if to say, "I have trained you well. I meowed. You went to the store and bought me this leash so I could take you on a walk. And now here we are. This is even better than the bathroom."

And, just like that, I became the weirdest neighbor.

Posted by laurie at 8:01 AM

November 2, 2010

Today is the greatest day of the year

Yes, it's election day. And I am going to share with you why this is THE GREATEST DAY of this year. Sure, it's a day when we get to exercise our constitutional right and let our voices be heard and grease the ever-chugging wheels of our federal republic which many people call democracy.

But, more importantly, it is the last day we have to see those constantly blaring negative political ads! For at least one full day we'll be free of the nastiness. Then I assume it starts all over again on November 4th for the 2012 election.

One of the major downsides of all that horrible political campaigning is that no matter who gets elected you feel suspicious and unhappy with the winner. Here in California the TV ads for Governor have been running since February (!!) and Meg Whitman's radio ads started running back in 2009 (!!!) so we've been listening to a YEAR of nasty campaigning. It's like those stores that start decorating for Christmas in June. It makes a person crazy.

The last time I voted I was still living in Encino-adjacent, also known as ghetto proximus. So my polling place was at a Guatemalan evangelical church in a strip mall, sandwiched in between a taco shop and a bail bond business. It was very exciting to vote that day, a line stretched around the block and it took so long to get inside that by the time I got finished casting my ballot I was more than ready for a couple of carne asada tacos. Today I voted at my new polling place, also known as my old before-divorce polling place, it was very pleasant but without the wafting smell of onions and cilantro.

I love voting. The first thing I did on my 18th birthday was have a diet Sun Drop for breakfast ... and the second thing I did was to fill out my voter registration card. I like the retired folks who man the polling stations and the way everyone is friendly and sort of excited. (It's strange how that vibe completely contradicts the awful tone of the campaigns, isn't it?) I love the "I voted!" sticker. I have very strong feelings about the sticker, which is why I never vote absentee.

Now I get to look forward to tomorrow, the first day in a year with no political ads. And if Prop 19 passes I'm going out to buy a bong. Oh just kidding! You know I already have one.


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You want me to pose? Sure I'll pose.


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You put a sticker on me? Very funny, wiseguy.
Wait until I get into your closet.

Posted by laurie at 12:07 PM

November 1, 2010

Another month, another roundup

The first day of a new week and the first day of a new month. The freshest of fresh starts.

It used to be that the start of a new month (and then later, every new week) was the beginning of my new diet. I've always liked the possibility of a brand new month, it meant you could start a path to a whole new you. Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if people had thought I was good enough exactly as I was when I was a little kid. Would I have ever gone on a single diet or had any problems with my weight at all? But you can't go back in time. Only forward. Work with what you have, not what you wish you had.

Even though I'm done starting a new diet every week (or month) I still like the feeling that each new calendar page could contain something better or healthier or happier. It's optimistic.

October was fine. It seemed to go by awfully fast, blink and you missed it. In October I had a few friends over for dinner and made my very first roasted chicken (it was good but took much longer to cook than I anticipated), I visited with my parents and with Grandma, I did some other stuff, blah blah blah.

How have I been doing this far into the year 2010 with my two resolutions? With my "Get Happy" resolution I'm not sure where I am. I'm certainly less stressed out about some things. I don't feel like every day is a chore to be endured like I did when I was commuting, and I take a lot more enjoyment in small tasks like grocery shopping and making the bed.

I have discovered there is a direct relationship between how happy I am and how much I'm writing. For the past two or three weeks I've been doing mostly research and it's less satisfying than the real writing, I start feeling like I'm squandering my time. I want to have my first fiction book completed by the end of this year. I thought I would be done two weeks ago! But I'm starting to understand that I can't power through 80,000 words in a weekend or two if I want even 12 of those words to be good ones.

Anyway, this is the first time I've written anything even remotely like this so it's all new and I like setting a deadline for myself. December 31st, 2010. I need that sense of completion, of being able to say, "In 2010 I wrote my first fiction novel."

My "Get Healthy" goal is chugging along. Sometimes (like with writing) I get frustrated that it's not all happening fast enough. I try to remind myself that real progress can take time. Every time I catch myself berating myself for not being where and who and how I want to be I try to soften it and find something more positive to say. It's dorky but it seems to help.

My goals for November are pretty straightforward. Walk and write. Two things I love to do and both make me feel better about myself and about the future. I moved my treadmill in front of the TV so now in the afternoons I can watch Oprah and walk, the ultimate in multitasking. I'm also going to decorate this month and make my apartment a glittering tomb to the holidays. They're coming whether I like it or not, so I figure I might as well put sparkly lights on everything and enjoy. Every day is what you make it.

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frank-nov-centerfold.jpg

November centerfold model Frankie.

Posted by laurie at 10:57 AM