Saturday, January 30, 2010

A little slice of paradiso

The parental visit is going well, on the whole, although I forget how high-maintenance my parents are. I know that they would protest to that and would then insist that they *NEVER* see me, so of course they want to cram as many activities and as many minutes of talking and 'visiting' as they possibly can, but it's still exhausting. I, then, feel like an ungrateful daughter because I want to be able to get up and make coffee without my father lurking in the kitchen (in his mind, he is helping, but to me, he is lurking). It is good to be reminded me that I treasure alone time and that my wonderful husband gives me plenty of that, because he's an awesome person who understands me.
Speaking of awesome husband, I may nominate him for sainthood after this visit. He has spent far more time with mis padres than I have. While I went to work on Thursday, he drove my parents to San Diego so that my father could meet up with some old Marine buddies. Seriously.

All the complaining aside, we've had some wonderful moments, one of which was last night (I'm up at 2:30 am, by the way, unable to sleep). We ate at a restaurant at which I had been hoping to eat for AGES. Seriously, I've made reservations there twice for different events, but then we opted for another place (I make reservations at multiple restaurants for birthdays and anniversaries, and then as the date nears, we make a decision and cancel the other reservations; I did the same for last night's feast, and my dad had the final word). Anyway, Angelini Osteria was/is pretty much a place where I could eat my last meal and then die happy. So much for Dante's Beatrice being the the personification of love, leading one to Paradise. I believe that I experienced the sublime in last night's meal. I don't necessarily gravitate to Italian food when I want a total 'foodie experience', but Angelini Osteria certainly presented us with one of the most enjoyable dining experiences that we've had. Not only was the small, more intimate space an inviting place to tuck into wonderful bread, a good Chianti and food made from fresh, local ingredients, but our waiter made the meal. He showed us a picture of his "children" on his iPhone - two dogs! As usual, we ate as though we were in a Chinese restaurant, sharing everything, from the roasted bone marrow appetizer, to our more substantial main plates which ranged from a pork chop to veal shank to pumpkin tortellini to venison chops.
This may be my new, favorite, "fancy" but not stuffy place to eat. I'm sure that Michael and I won't be back for at least a year (sad, but true), but it's nice to know that it's here!
We leave for Palm Springs in the morning (in just a few hours - I can't sleep, not sure what is going on). On to the desert and to snow, possibly and crazily?!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Ah, I sort of wish that I were having visitations of the religious or metaphorical nature, but, alas, they are friends and family who are in town, visiting me. We are getting the triple whammie - three weekends in a row with out-of-towners. They vary in nature, which is a bonus, but it's also a bit exhausting, I've decided to have so many visitors. There is the saying "When it rains, it pours". It certainly rained in the Southern CA area last week (and today), and I feel like the social piece in my life is mimicking that.
The first visitor was last weekend when Sara, who was visiting the US from Paris, France, managed to squeeze in a quick visit here, leaving her children with her parents in Chicago. The weekend was filled with great conversation, many laughs, trading stories and catching up, and much good food. I think that she tried to meet her quota of Mexican food for the year in a 48-hour time span. We ate out at a Mexican place on Friday night, after she arrived, and then she grabbed tacos from truck on Saturday and Sunday. Very impressive! She is a huge sports fan, so it was doubly sweet that she was able to see both football play-off games on Sunday.
As for me, I considered the weekend a triumph when I made risotto with Italian sausage for eight people on Saturday night, starting the preparation at about 7:00 pm. I can cook a nice meal for two to four people, but eight people is stretching it! I enjoyed (sort of) the challenge, and the dinner turned out to be quite tasty. Shew! It also produced enough for leftovers on Monday, which is always a bonus.
(A quick aside - I think that I love leftovers! They make me feel so adult, unlike when I was in my 20's and didn't really ever "do" leftovers because I rarely made meals for 4 people or more.)
Sara left on Sunday, and it was a bittersweet farewell. We are planning on a visit to Paris in July, right when every other tourist is there. Still, it is such a great opportunity to see them and tour around the city and other parts of France. I can't wait!

That visit over, I've frantically prepped for final exams this week, reviewing with students and boring myself to tears on occasion. Now, I'm awaiting the arrival of my parents tomorrow. This in a way *should* be a big deal, and it kind of is, but I'm also downplaying it in a way. Not too much - I've learned that the total downplay often exacerbates a situation because I'm pretending that it doesn't matter to me, while it does. However, my ego, sense of self, identity as a daughter and a wife - these do not rest on this visit. In addition, I think that it will be pretty fun. Michael is dealing more with my parents than I am, most likely, because he is the ideal son-in-law. Also, I've planned activities for us that appeal to ME. And to my parents, I promise!
Seriously, we are going to the desert this weekend AND will hopefully see snow too, so they will have that "total" Southern CA experience of beach, desert and mountains all in a few days. We aren't going to cram it into a one day experience, although we could!
I'm excited about snowshoeing on Saturday and hiking in the desert on Sunday. Fingers crossed that it works out for us!

In the meantime, I hope that the entire senior class doesn't implode tomorrow. I have meetings with multiple students whom I want to strangle.

Friday, January 22, 2010


So, today's my birthday - Yeah! And I feel that I've been quite blessed with multiple celebrations and 'treats' over the past week. Last Saturday was sort of a "do-what-I-want-to-do" sort of a day. I did nothing that was school related - did not check email, open a book, dig into my bag, attend a sporting event. NADA!
That was my own present to myself.
Michael has been giving me little presents all week, but yesterday was the motherload. He totally spoils me with cool t-shirts, Prana gear, a sweater from Patagonia, and other fun items. A friend gave me lots of mini-cupcakes too, which I shared with a few people around here and then I took two of them home and Michael and I split them. They weren't the best cupcakes I've ever had, but they were awfully cute. I'm not sure if I really get the whole cupcake obsession that seems to have taken hold of so many people. Still, it was a thoughtful present, I enjoyed sharing them with friends and splitting two of them with Michael. It worked out quite well.
Someone asked me what the occasion was for the cupcakes. In the past, I think I would have made up a creative explanation, not wanting to share the news about my birthday, but I opted for honesty this time. He asked me, "How old are you going to be?" and I answered, "28". The number seriously just popped out of my mouth because, well, I'm not turning 28 but THIRTY EIGHT! Yes, I shaved ten years off my life. I burst out laughing and confessed my total slip-up. It made me realize that as much as I like celebrating my birthday with Michael, I think the number "3 - 8" kind of bothers me. Last year was fine, but wow. I feel like I'm looking down the barrels of forty. Shew.
Despite some reluctance or resentment toward the number, I'll survive.
Anyway, the big birthday present is coming today - a friend who moved away last summer and is living in Paris decided to come back to the States to visit her parents in Chicago AND she is coming to the LA area tonight! Weather permitting, of course, since it's still just dumping and dumping, and I've doubted whether she will make it in at a decent hour or not.
Michael is pretty wonderful to share my birthday with this friend. Mind you, he'll enjoy her visit too, so it will be a fun weekend for all.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

"Chac Mool" - God of rain

Like everyone else in the entire state of CA, I'm a bit saturated with the rain and water and lugubrious weather. Yes, I've grown completely accustomed to the SoCal sunshine, and the generally mild temperatures have spoiled me.

That said, I have found some personal and professiona enjoyment in the rain. In one of the classes I teach, we are reading Carlos Fuentes' story, "Chac Mool". Chaac Mool is the Mayan god of rain, and this is the connection that Fuentes makes. In the story, the protagonist, Filiberto, buys himself a statue of Chac Mool which not only comes to life but also causes torrential rains and flooding in Mexico City and his house.

Is it coincidence that we are reading this story while a series of storms hits the entire state of California?

One has to wonder...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Success on a rainy day

It's pretty sad that I rate the afternoon "successful" based on the fact that my dogs pooped. Both of them.
This is what happens when it rains in Southern California. My world revolves around getting the dogs out of the house for at least a block, all the while keeping my fingers crossed that they will do their business.
Sad? Or funny?
I'm not sure, but it beats over-analyzing meetings, classes taught, students chased and chastened, and, finally, the coup de grace, a dental appointment!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

East-west-east and random happenings

The point being, therefore, it was a treat to be out and about, putzing around Venice and Santa Monica, places we haven't visited in what seems like AGES to us. Venice, I believe, is one of my favorite places to walk - whether it's on the boardwalk, getting lost in the canals or poking in and out of the shops along Abbot Kinney Blvd, it has a great feel to it. Yes, I know that it is too hip for me, but I can daydream about being both wealthy and cool, adjectives that I do not normally use to describe myself!

We arrived early enough to get a cup of coffee at my favorite coffee place in the world, Intelligentsia, which takes coffee drinking and tasting to an entirely different level. I hadn't been to the Venice location, but Michael and I both agreed that we actually preferred the Venice experience over the Silverlake place which is too crowded and noisy. We thought it might be because of the layout of the "coffee bar", as they call it, which was definitely designed with the idea that it would be crowded. So, the flow was great - rather than the line going to just one person, they sort of "triage" the line, splitting people up right, left and center. Also, the crowd was a bit older - 30's and up. I feel agist saying this, but it was a relief to not be surrounded by 20-somethings with crazy tats and lots of piercings. Finally, the coffee was JUST as good, and we also shared some butter in the form of pastries. Heaven! The opening shot is Michael's cup of joe. He spilled some of the foam, but it looked kind of cool.

Afterwards, we walked a few blocks to the beach. At times, I can't believe that I live so close to the Pacific Ocean. It was a lovely morning, and there were lots of surfers riding the waves. Surfing, by the way, is on my wish list - "Things I want to do before I die". I have such a hard time with the cold water of the Pacific, however, that I'm not optimistic that it would be the best experience for me.
Finally, back to Abbot Kinney where we picked up a late Christmas present for my mom at Urbanic Paper. We had ordered it well before the holidays, but there was a glitch in the order (it's an address stamp; they seem to be the rage these days, but it's also cool and something that she will use). So, six to eight weeks after the initial order, we finally picked it up. Success!
The rest of the day's activities bounced us from Santa Monica to the LA Farmer's Market at Third and Fairfax to Glendale and ending at Burbank. The strangest moment of the day happened at Anthropologie. I'm a sucker for looking at items there, and I love to make Michael go in with me. He tends to look at books and home stuff while I eye over-priced skirts, tops, dresses and other stuff.
I was looking at their on-sale stockings, which were super cute and well-priced, and there was a camera thrown on top of the mix. I didn't focus on the camera, so intent was I on the stockings, but as I was about to leave, my gaze sharpened and I finally noticed that there was a real camera just sitting there. A very nice camera - a Nikon. I wasn't sure if it was digital or not, but I grabbed it, then looked around, waiting for someone to yell at me, "Hey you! Drop that!". No one did, which seemed even stranger, and I kept looking around the store. Finally, I saw a blond woman with a walky-talky who seemed to be working and not shopping, and I must have had a questioning look upon my face because she asked, "Can I help you?". So, I gave her the camera, telling her that I found it in the "on-sale stocking bin".
How weird, no?! It was a seriously nice camera, from what I could tell. I hope that the owner remembered going to Anthro and returns to inquire for it. I have lost plenty of nice belongings, and it is a terrible experience. And finding the lost items is a wonderful experience, so hopefully someone reunites with his/her camera. That was my one good deed for the day - maybe for the month? It's not often that you find an expensive camera just hanging about.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lost in translation - awkward social moment

One of my constant "wishes" at this point in my life is to have a wider circle of friends. I very much like the people that I count as my friends, and I'm not referring to my facebook contacts when I talk about these individuals. So, I can live with a handful of people that know me well and with whom I enjoy spending time rather than a huge circle of "acquaintances". I often think of Robert Altman's movie "The Player", when Cynthia Stevenson's character yells at her lover (Tim Robbins in the movie) for taking another woman to an event at which one hundred of her closest friends attended.
Brilliant! My one hundred closest friends!
So, while I'm lacking on the numbers, the relationships are good. No high drama, just lots of good conversation and hanging out with friends.
But, I do feel that Michael and I need to branch out, extend our circle a bit, and he's on board with that idea. It's just hard to meet best friends in a big city, particularly when he works from home, we don't have children, we don't go to church, and our "hobbies" are pretty low-key.
That said, there is a couple whom we've gone out with a few times, and we've enjoyed their company. They are much cooler than we are, but I have gotten over the lack of hipness factor at this point in my life. Once we moved out of Silverlake to a sleepy little hamlet that is part of LA county but not IN the actual city of LA, well that kind of destroyed whatever caché we might have tried to develop.
(Have I mentioned that this blog is a bit of a misnomer?)
Back to the story line here.
So, Michael works with this woman (the female part of the couple - they are heterosexual, FYI), and they were shooting emails back and forth about annoying people at airports or in other public places that talk very loudly on their cellphones. She had mentioned flying out at 6:00 am, and a 20-something male was calling all of his friends and having loud conversations with them and arranging a keg party for that very night. "Beer and pizza at my place!" he said.
She wrote Michael the "Beer and pizza at my place tomorrow!", and he saw that sentence, did not read the rest of her message, and interpreted that she was inviting us over for beer and pizza. So, when I come home, he tells me that we've been invited over to her place tomorrow night for this famous beer and pizza. I text her, trying to be coy, "Am I invited too for beer and pizza?!".
And THEN Michael decides to review the message thread and discovers that she did not invite us over but was merely narrating another piece to the story about annoying people on cell phones. I was so pissed for about two minutes with him because I thought that I had made quite the social gaff and looked like a total ASS.
She, of course, ended up finding it hysterical that we had miscommunicated in such a way. Fortunately, we are set for a social gathering with them in two or three weeks. Shew, I'm not crossed off her list of possible people to occasionally hang out with.
As for Michael, I sometimes think of "Cool Hand Luke": "What we've got here is a failure to communicate."
Okay, it's not a total failure. It's just mixing up communication.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

2010 - "The list"

I find that I have a complicated relationship with lists. I don't LOVE them like some people who avidly make lists for any and all occasions and religiously check them once and twice and then check them off when it's fait accompli. I often make lists when I'm trying to pack for a major trip, organizing holiday card people and addresses, and/or under major stress. My new year's resolution is not to make lists, and I actually hate the notion of "new year's resolutions". Just the term is enough to turn me off.
However, I do like the excitement of a new beginning, even if it is a false beginning of a sort since when does the year truly begin? Do we mark it January 1 or is it okay to begin witha January 15 start date? And what about the Chinese New Year and Rosh Hashanah and the aperture of classes (September for me)?
And so, in order to embrace the new year/new decade (according to some calculations, it's not a new decade, but that's another matter altogether), here is a list of goals/what-I-want-to-do:

- Begin running again! I return to the hot knee doctor, and he is prepared to let me begin to jog the last week of January. I don't want this to be a crazy obsession, but I love the idea of running around the horse trails for thirty minutes 3 or 4 times a week.
- Continue with salsa dancing lessons. Michael and I started them this summer, and a road trip followed by knee surgery interrupted our progress, but we hope to pick them up again in the spring time.
- Read more. In Spanish, in English, fiction, non-fiction, short stories, thick novels, whatever. Just read something every week.
- Go to the Hollywood Bowl this summer. It's crazy, I've lived in LA for the past 5 years now, and I have YET to attend a concert at the Hollywood Bowl. So, I can't wait.
- See Gustavo Dudamel in concert! Again, more on the musical theme. He's the new director/conductor of the LA Phil and is supposed to be a total dynamo and I'd love to see him conduct.
- Audit a class. This is blurring the personal/professional lines, but I'd love to be a student, not for a professional seminar, but in a university class.
- Bake more. I enjoy baking when I do it, but it's a rarity in my life, so I think that I should, as the slogan goes, "Just Do It".
- Go rock climbing. I've been climbing before, but it's now going on two years, and I'd love to get back in the harness this year. Even if it's in a gym. Just climb.

Alright, go me!