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January 25, 2011

Me so Tuesday, oh me so Tuesday

Approximately 56% of my readers will not know that the title today is derived from a crude, unimaginative 1980s song that I loved and spent most of 11th grade gyrating to while I applied unhealthy amounts of black eyeliner and blue eyeshadow to my face.

My bangs were four inches tall and even then I was a mere weakling amongst my hair overachiever peers. Oh, the 1980s. Best decade ever.


- - -

Did you watch HEAVY last night? Or am I the only one on Obesity TV Watch? I find this show less horrifying than HOARDERS, yet more unsettling than most obesity TV. Oh come on, you know what I mean: The Biggest Loser, National Body Challenge, True Life, Brookhaven, I Used To Be Fat, etc.

This show is unsettling because you don't really have a sense that the participants will succeed long term, as a viewer you don't really learn anything from it (since none of us will be spending the next six months in a special hermetically sealed facility with a hot trainer, it's not very applicable to real life) and the show feels like it is produced entirely from the perspective of people who have never been overweight. The latter isn't an overt part of the show, it's not like the network is doing a man-on-the street interview about fat people. Something about the show is just off.

Yet I watch.

- - -

Oscar nominations are out! The Oscars are my Super Bowl. How exciting to see that Winter's Bone was nominated for best picture! And Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Ree Dolly, was nominated for a leading actress award. Now aren't you glad we read the book?

When we were talking about Winter's Bone I was surprised by how many readers commented that they disliked the book because of the (gritty/sad/scary) world of meth addiction, something I thought was used rather lightly in the book only to sketch a background. The story (to me) never seemed focused on meth use at all, I thought it was a character study of a teenage girl. The book seemed far less scary or sad or gritty than an episode of CSI or Bones or even the nightly news, all those shows on network TV that show dead bodies and autopsies freak me out.

Anyway, I was really happy to see Winter's Bone get a Best Picture nomination. The book is one of my all-time favorites and I thought the movie was true to the feeling of the characters.

- - -

Yesterday after watching Oprah's show (she announced she had a long-lost sister) I called up my parents to ask if I had any sibling surprises.

"Did you ever have a baby named George Clooney and give him up for adoption?" I asked.

"No," said my mom. "Also, what you're thinking there is illegal, not to mention a little gross."

"OK, did you have a son named Vlad Putin and put him up for adoption?" I asked.

"Just how old do you think I am?" she said. "I'm hanging up on you now."

- - -

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Doesn't Soba look like she's having an a-ha moment?

Posted by laurie at 9:55 AM

January 24, 2011

Perfect centerpiece

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Taken with my iphone camera.

Posted by laurie at 9:58 AM

January 21, 2011

More bullet points

A formal apology for the bleeping bullet points. This online diary is accidentally turning into a poorly designed powerpoint slide. Oh powerpoint, what would the executives of America do without your bulleted lists and flying pie chart animations?

• Fat fingers

Every now and then I will be typing -- you should see me type, it's like watching a raccoon play piano -- and I will use one of my three typing fingers to press a button and a weird combination of return and shift and perhaps backspace deletes the open essay from the database. It's surprising because I couldn't replicate the keystrokes if I tried (I've tried.) It's happened maybe four times in six (seven?) years of writing this here website, so I usually take it as a sign from the Universe to write something better or different. So I do. I figure if even a soulless computer database hates the essay, it's time for a do-over. And how handy of the Universe to provide a newly empty screen in which to start over. Thanks, Universe!

ANYWAY. Hopefully that will address any lingering concerns anyone had about my mysterious, deep, dark secrets and the shady underbelly of a disappearing doodad. The secret is out: I have sausage hands. And, apparently, I also sort of believe the database is a person who occasionally hates what I write.

• More updates on doing nothing

Yeah, still no clutter management happening in the apartment. My idea was to de-stuffify the office so that when I have a houseguest stay with me that room would be open and inviting. I think some people refer to it as a "guest room." Fascinating. What I have is a yarn and books room.

My first-ever houseguest is arriving in just ten days or so. If I fail in clutter removal, I have a backup plan -- either make the houseguest a cozy bed downstairs and let go of the guest room concept entirely OR go ahead and use the yarn room as a guest room but keep the guest totally intoxicated for the entire visit so that the clutter is less memorable. Always have a backup plan!

• Breaking News: Large Pack of Real Housewives in Beverly Hills Try To Eat The Injured Housewife
Last's night's finale (not true -- the reunion show is always the finale, yes?) featured Sad Kim being encircled and taken down by the other botoxed gazelles. It made me sad. One of my favorite movies from the 1980s was Tuff Turf, and I kept expecting Frankie's scary Adam-Ant lookalike boyfriend to come save her. Life is so much better in the movies. Even if you're a celebrity.


And, finally, no powerpoint diary is complete without some visual aids:

Summertime!
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Dapper Dallas says, "Use extra-hold spray this week, folks, we've got a light 45 mph breeze...."


Cats!
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Bob making biscuits. So damn cute it offsets all the world's ugliness.

Posted by laurie at 9:19 AM

January 20, 2011

Thursday

Thursday is my favorite day of the week. Good TV, excellent placement in a list of days, never feel sad on a Thursday. Who else sings the praises of a Thursday if not me? I was born for this, people! I am all about the day of Thurs! Heed me!

Last night Jennifer and I went to dinner and talked about inner circles. Do you have one? How many people do you truly trust? Who can you call in the middle of the night? Do you feel your circle is small, as I do? Sometimes I envy those with a big circle.

At dinner Jen and I had flatiron rosemary steak, tuna tartare, shrimp and some kind of meat shish-kebab. God bless the invention of tapas. I love tapas and want to marry them and make them part of my inner circle. With a side of wine.

Still cannot manage to get rid of anything in my clutter-house yet plan instead to concentrate on cleaning my oven, because what is life without achievable goals? I can achieve a clean oven. Perhaps. Am going to clean the oven, appreciate my achievement, and then re-evaluate my life.

Will let you know how that goes.

Posted by laurie at 1:47 AM

January 19, 2011

Wednesday List

Because when all else fails you can 1) start a sentence with "because" and 2) write a list. Even a sentence can be a list!

• Happy Making Tasks
Last night I made a list of things I could do that would make me happy. I'm starting to wonder if the state of happiness, which I can only seem to maintain in small bursts, might be amplified by simply doing small things that alleviate anxiety. For example, I have a pile of large items that are too big to be washed in my tiny urban-dweller washing machine, so I have been meaning to take them to the laundromat for eleventy nine days. If I just got up, loaded them in my Jeep and actually went to the laundromat and finished this task, I believe it would contribute to happiness by eliminating the low grade dissatisfaction that comes with being a big old pile of loose ends.

I will not even pretend to you that my list was a short one. But even just writing down the few things that were nagging at me in the background seemed to help. I am going to try out my laundromat theory and get back to you.

• A drought, then a deluge
I have done no publicity events in forever and now with 2011 already here and trucking onward I have two back-to-back events in mere weeks. The first is April 8th at the RT Booklovers Convention and the next day, April 9th, I am at Literary Orange. If you're able to come I'd sure love to see you! All this time to ponder my navel alone has apparently made me more happy about visiting with total strangers. Who knows what dumbass stuff will come out of my mouth! Like the time I told a group of women at an empowerment conference that I had a PhD in Drunkenology. AWESOME.

• Still can't get rid of anything, send Peter Walsh
Really.

• Teevee scares me
Not sure why I watch "Jersey Shore" but it has that trainwreck factor. Do young women really act like that? Do young women really go home with random men they meet in bars and have drunken sex in front of a camera crew and other strangers? If so, we have failed you. We, the people who are the wave just before you, have failed you profoundly. We didn't want you to face the same bad-girl stigma we were imprinted with, but we also didn't want you to lose your damn minds and give away your cookie to every hungry, anonymous stranger that looked sideways at you. We failed you.

• And Teevee burns calories
I started Tivo-ing shows I could watch while riding the exercise bike and my Tivo list has changed a bit. They have to fit a certain criteria -- the show must keep me engaged enough to keep pedaling and the show must be fast-paced enough to keep me pedaling like a hamster. I've been watching Detroit 1-8-7 since it started, and it is so good, and Hawaii 5-0, but now I have added Southland, Off The Map and a few CSIs. Do you have any actiony show suggestions?

• Knitless
I haven't been knitting much at all lately, I think I got slight burnout from the hat-making factory I became back in November. And of course it's been sunny and eighty degrees every day so it feels very un-scarflike. I love winter in Los Angeles. And when summer comes and it's time to hibernate inside a cool air conditioned room I am sure to become a sweatshop of one again.

Posted by laurie at 11:40 AM

January 18, 2011

When in doubt, make a list

• Regis is what?
Regis Philbin announced today that he's retiring from his TV show. I didn't realize I had strong feelings one way or the other about Regis until he decided to up and leave. Apparently, my deep dislike of change extends even to things I pretend to care nothing about!

• So what if I want to change -- I would like everything else to stay the same

Just yesterday I was driving down Magnolia Blvd. in the valley and saw that a garden shop and pottery place that has been there for a million years is going out of business. The first thing that popped into my head was, "No! I don't want my Valley to change!" I felt the exact same pang of personal loss when The Ivy on Ventura Blvd. posted a going out of business sign. Even if I don't shop there. Apparently I want to live in the Barbie Dream House where everything stays the exact same and only Barbie changes her clothes and accidentally gets her hair cut off with manicure scissors.

• Heavy
Did you watch A&E's premiere of the new TV show HEAVY last night? Part of me was thinking that I really want to go spend a month locked in a room with that male personal trainer. And part of me was thinking you could not pay me enough money to get in a bathing suit on national television. Ever.

• I bought a bathing suit
Hey, that could be the opening line for my future horror novel!
Yes, last night I sat in a darkened room and scoured the internet for a bathing suit that would cover all my parts. Apparently those are called "wet suits." Why, you may wonder, would this woman who gets hives just thinking about spandex be contemplating bathing gear?

In early December I sprained my ankle and I haven't been able to walk obsessively every day all day (gosh, I wonder how I sprained my ankle?) so I thought I might visit the local gym which has a pool. Sounds good, yes? Except to get in a pool you need all kinds of mental preparation. If you are me, which I am. There's the bathing suit, for one thing. And there's the Everest-like task of removing all body hair from all parts near and wide, and wider, and then there is the fear that each person at the pool will be a Hollywood actress slash model slash rockstar because this is Los Angeles and I am more of a Mississippi magnolia. If you know what I mean. And I think you do.

• Summer
Our weather has been spectacular, like the best parts of summer all rolled into one week. Yesterday I thought I should do some spring cleaning and I tried, I tried to declutter a bit and de-stash but all I did was rearrange my stuff. Why is it that sometimes you just want to cling?

Posted by laurie at 10:12 AM

January 12, 2011

Milk, bread and toilet paper

I talked to one of my old friends back in Tennessee this week and he said they'd stocked up on the big three for the snowstorm -- milk, bread and toilet paper. I always stocked up on beer, chips and magazines but each to their own.

Here in Los Angeles we have been dealing with winter, too. It hasn't been close to 80 degrees since... well, since last year! Like, December of 2010! So we are looking forward to relief:

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Love me some Dapper Dallas Raines.

Posted by laurie at 9:06 AM

January 10, 2011

Leaves in a bowl

Well, I lied. I didn't mean to lie but there you have it. While I often go on and on about how I don't love salad, especially the salads that are just a pile of leaves and grass in a bowl, there is actually one salad of this variety that I love. I just forgot about it. Probably because I only have it at restaurants, and even rarer still because when I eat out I have a hard time justifying a $15 salad. SERIOUSLY. Give me the steak instead.

So, the salad I'm talking about is a Caesar Salad, and I remembered it because of the January, 2011 O Magazine which features a Caesar salad recipe by Cristina Ferrare.

You know until recently I didn't realize people made their own salad dressings. I mean, yes, of course I saw people on TV shows do it. But I also saw people on TV who worked in coffee shops yet could afford to live in huge, amazing apartments in New York City. And we all know that doesn't happen in real life. I just assumed it was the same with salad dressing. Like people really make that at home!

As it turns out, one can actually make salad dressing at home. Fascinating.

Here's the recipe:

Ingredients

For croutons:

* 1 clove garlic , peeled and smashed
* 3 Tbsp. olive oil
* 3 cups roughly chopped bread cubes (like baguette or sourdough)

For dressing:

* 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
* 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
* 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
* 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
* 1 clove garlic , minced
* 4 anchovy fillets , chopped and mashed into a paste
* 1/4 cup olive oil
* 2 Tbsp. canola oil

To assemble:

* 2 heads romaine lettuce (about 1 pound)
* 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
* 1/3 cup and 2 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 ounce)

Directions
Active time: 20 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes

To make croutons: Place rack in middle position of oven; preheat to 350°. Combine smashed garlic clove and olive oil; infuse for 20 minutes.

Remove garlic from oil (it can be reserved and used to make the dressing). In a large bowl, toss oil and bread cubes together.

On a sheet tray, spread cubes in an even layer and bake, stirring occasionally, until golden and crunchy, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove and cool. Croutons can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.

To make dressing: In a medium bowl, combine lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, garlic, and anchovies; whisk until smooth.

In another bowl, briefly whisk together olive and canola oils. Whisking lemon juice mixture constantly, add oil in a slow, steady stream. Use dressing immediately, or store in refrigerator for 1 day; shake well before using.

To make salad: Wash, dry, and tear lettuce into 11/2-inch pieces. In a large bowl, toss together lettuce, salt, 1/3 cup Parmesan, most of the croutons, and 1/2 of the dressing (reserve rest for another use). Toss salad together, making sure everything is thoroughly mixed. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and a handful of croutons.


I followed the recipe to the letter with just a few exceptions. I used Garlic Gold oil (which is a garlicky infused oil) on the croutons. And I used a gluten-free bread instead of a baguette.

Now listen, I have tried just about every single brand and kind of wheat-free bread available in Los Angeles County. I have even tried making my own (with disastrous results). When I was out at Whole Foods shopping for the anchovies, I saw a new gluten-free bread, Rudi's Original Gluten Free bread. I bought a loaf to try it out and I was shocked, shocked I tell you! I do not work for these people but I would, and you know why? This is BREAD. It actually looks and feels and tastes like bread. It's still not Wonder Bread, mind you, but it is by far the closest thing I have found to real GF bread. It's the texture. They got the texture just right.

Call your stores and request it. We have to keep these people in business -- my freezer can only hold so many loaves. They make a multigrain bread which is tasty, too. If you are allergic to wheat, or sensitive to it, or have Celiac, you have to try this bread (you can order it online, as well). And they have a $1 off coupon available to print.

After I made this recipe I called my mom to rave on and on about my awesome cooking skills (I made salad!) and she told me that if you're squeamish you can just buy anchovy paste instead of the fish an a jar, and while I am not squeamish and actually kind of liked mushing them up with a fork, you may not. I thought I would pass that tip along.

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Recipe


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Croutons-in-waiting


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Salad success


Leaves in a bowl ... I think this counts as cooking!

Posted by laurie at 10:03 AM

January 6, 2011

Velcro

Today at some point I must give Frankie a pedicure because when she walks on the carpet she sounds like velcro.

I can't tell you how much we both are not looking forward to that event.

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Cat ennui.

Posted by laurie at 8:21 AM

January 4, 2011

You got my attention with your big orange sticker!

Over the weekend Jennifer and I went to the movies and I had popcorn which means my New Year's resolutions are off to a good start. I should have tried this years ago -- resolve to do more things that are fun! After all, if the only thing I achieve in all of 2011 is watching movies and eating popcorn, could it be that bad of a year?

- - -

At the beginning of every new year I tend to get some kind of wild hair up my youknowwhat to clean something, usually the pantry or the fridge. This year I am starting with my freezer, since just last week I realized it was too full to fit a single popsicle inside it.

You see, one day in early June I went to the grocery store. This does not sound like the beginning of an awesome story, does it? But anyway, stay with me.

So it was 10 a.m. on a Tuesday. This was quite a novelty for me. I had not been able to go to the market at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday in over a decade or two because I had a job and a commute and so like many people I did my grocery shopping on the weekends or after work, when the stores were always packed with people and the goal was to get in and out and be done with it. Just another chore, which sucks, because I love grocery stores.

When I travel to other countries my favorite thing to do besides eat and sleep and order wine using my poorly accented phrasebook lingo is to visit the local grocery store. I have grocery shopped in Iceland and in Poland and in all kinds of places in between. But that's vacation, when life is easy and no one is honking at you for your parking spot at the local Ralph's.

So there I was, reveling -- no, basking -- in the practically empty grocery store right there in my own neighborhood at ten o'clock in the morning one Tuesday in early June. As I leisurely wandered the aisles I looked at the few other shoppers there. "Who are these people?" I wondered. "What kinds of lives do they have that they get this luxury of shopping on a weekday morning? Am I now one of these creatures? And where did that lady get that cup of coffee?"

In the mornings at Ralph's they sell fresh coffee. You can carry it around in your little to-go cup while you leisurely shop. I poured my coffee and carried it around the store and thought that life was just so good it couldn't get any better.

Then I wandered into the aisle with the fresh meats and I saw a whole little section full of packages of great looking steaks and chicken and all sorts of stuff with a big orange sticker on each package that yelled, MANAGER'S SPECIAL!!!

There were big, gorgeous New York strip steaks all packaged up and looking perfect yet they were marked down to $2.50. FOR A WHOLE STEAK. There was some organic ground beef, some rump roast, all of it was marked down by at least 70% with these bright stickers and I thought I had hit the jackpot. I happened to get unemployed and show up at the grocery store on the same day the manager went buckwild crazy and put all this stuff on special.

I bought all of it. I packaged it away neatly in my freezer and felt comforted and also, very lucky.

So imagine my surprise when one week later I was back in the store and I walked down that same aisle and a nice Ralph's employee was unloading a little tray of delicacies all again marked with MANAGER'S SPECIAL!!!!

"This is amazing," I said to him. "Is this something new? How do you sell a filet mignon for four dollars? Did your manager develop a crack habit and get sticker happy? Are you all going out of business or something?"

As he works with The Public and also The Public of Los Angeles he was completely unruffled by what I now realize is a crazyass looney bin kind of question. He was just as polite and nice as could be.

"No," he explained. "We just mark down the perishables as the sell-by date gets nearer or when we get in a shipment that's too large."

"Ooooooooooh," I said, as the light came on inside my small brain. "So you do this all the time? Usually I've come on the weekends and never noticed."

"We have specials every weekday, just about. Anything on the weekend would sell out early, though, because of the crowds," he said.

So that is how I discovered the MANAGER'S SPECIAL!!!! and I spent the next two months telling everyone I knew about this miracle thing I had discovered that was kept secret from me, a formerly late-night and weekend-only shopper.

But with my excitement and overzealousness now I have all this stuff in my freezer, which is why this week I am starting off my new year by eating all kinds of fascinating steak dishes and recipes using things I normally never buy but could not resist once they were eleven hundred percent cheaper than usual. After all, those MANAGER'S SPECIALS!!! won't keep indefinitely.

Every time I open my freezer and pull out another ridiculously insanely inexpensive YET STILL perfectly good steak or cutlet or chicken breast, I feel like I have beaten the system. I am not sure what this says about me. Probably not something good, but nevermind. I have found the MANAGER'S SPECIAL!!!! and that is what really matters.

And also my freezer is being excavated for the new year. All is well.

Posted by laurie at 6:51 AM

January 1, 2011

2011: Prime Year Resolutions

The resolutions I made for 2010 were kind of heavy duty so this year I'm lightening up and resolving the following:

• Lighten up!

• Write write write! I will write here on this diary and in my paper one and write books and my first screenplay and maybe I will even write you a letter. And haiku and limericks and everything in between! I will write because I love it and because it is so much easier than dating.

• I will try to say Hey, hey, hey in a Fat Albert voice!

• I will shake my maracas! I do not care if I am large as a country ham as long as I am able to bump and grind. And anyway, I already bought myself a new pair of tennis shoes.

• I will try out a CSA! It's like some kind of communist vegetable proletariat thing and I am all for it, because I think Vladimir Putin is sexy, which my Uncle Truman says makes me a Total Communist. I found a vegetable CSA that has a drop-off site near me and I signed up for a two-week trial run and I will let you know how it goes (see bullet #1, write a lot!) I've gotten pretty good with the cooking and I love vegetables and I support small farms and I worship at the altar of organic so this seems like a good idea.

• I will plant a miniature garden on my rooftop patio! Something small and inexpensive, probably just herbs and peppers and maybe a squash. Because I long to be the proletariat farmer, too! And Vladimir Putin will think this is sexy and ask me on a date, but I will be too busy writing! And waiting for Al Gore to call!

• In 2011 I will either sh*t or get off the pot! Metaphorically! (Also, probably realistically, too.)

• I'm going to try Zumba! Because I like the name, and because it sounds hilarious and because one day when I am famous and married to the leader of mother Russia and/or Al Gore I will probably not be allowed to Zumba in public!

• I'm going to go to the movies a lot and eat popcorn!

• And I picked a word for 2011, because I thought that was a neat idea and could still be a bullet point, so all things considered it's pure listy joy. My word for 2011 is POSSIBILITIES! I will be open to possibilities and have the guts to take them on.

- - -

In my vast wisdom and nosepicking from 2010, I have learned that the universe is mysterious and kind of slapstick. Thanks, Universe. Really appreciated that you sent me a Bill Lumbergh last year. HAVE YOU FILED YOUR TPS REPORTS, UNIVERSE? Also the Universe has a sense of humor because not two hours after I made my whole "Lighten up!" resolution to encompass the whole year my drunken next door neighbors had a party that went from loud revelry to crazyass shouting and police and people being pulled out on stretchers and when that even did not make them stop hollering I went to knock on the landlord's door at 3 a.m. (he was gone of course) and the horrible next door woman saw me and cornered me in her drunken, fuming haze. She was skeery. She was so mad at me. Because clearly I was in the wrong to desire sleep. So thanks Universe for testing me so soon in the new year to lighten up. Really appreciate that! (I failed that test but now the bar has been set low and I have nowhere to go but up. See me lightening up Universe? DO YOU SEE?)

I am glad the Universe has a sense of humor because that goes a long way toward explaining things that cannot exist unless the Creator was having a field day of hilarity, things like gonads and farts and slugs. Seriously. Someone was either drunk or laughing when the testicles got put on the outside.

Thank God I was born a female!

Anyway, those are my resolutions, plus I said TESTICLES and TPS REPORTS. Oh, the innernet, where there is no editor and words are free.

Hello, 2011! Hey, hey, hey! I will be making your acquaintance now. Also, I will be making many vegetable stews thanks to the communist gardening I have signed up for! May we all Zumba and be open to possibilities and get off the pot in a timely fashion!

Posted by laurie at 9:47 PM