Sunday, December 17

Ice Skates and Chocolate Fountains

Today Bryan and I went to the holiday skating party for the company for which I read and write coverage.

Now when I get an invitation for a Holiday skating party I'm thinking maybe 50 people and a table of decent booze. In fact it was a winter wonderland, but sadly, a dry one. It was held at the Culver City Ice Rink and the last time we were there was to film Patrick to prove to Marty in Canada that he could ice skate so we could cast him in our movie. But I digress...

We entered what was a huge party and worked our way around the ring, past the Santa and giant penguins who were taking pictures with little kids, past Lady Santa who gave us quarters for the video games and into the tent in the back where all the real action was at. We quickly realized that this was not the kind of party that was going to serve us wine. About 1/4 of the attendees were under 15. Instead of booze there were 2, count them 2, chocolate fountains, a huge buffet and enough arts and crafts to keep even the most industrious artist busy for hours. In truth if we'd had kids with us it would have been heaven. Chocolaty heaven. But being as we are and as Bryan had just come off a shift that started at 6am, we were a little too dazed to really partake.

Beyond that I don't really trust chocolate fountains. I'm down for some hot chocolate fondue, but the chocolate in those fountains isn't really hot, and it doesn't harden on the things you dip on it. I am wary of whatever chemical they add to keep it pumping. It seems a little gross to me. I tasted it. It was a little gross.

Anyway, Bryan and I decided to try our feet at ice skating. It's been a good 10 years for me and he claimed 15 years since he'd skated. For the record, I am still awesome. For the record, Bryan...not so much. Who'd have thought there would ever be a sports-like activity at which I would excel over Bryan. Not me, that's for sure.

I wanted to take pictures, but I knew I'd break my camera if I took it on the ice and so it ended up in a locker with my purse for the duration of the party.

I will say one last thing to the people who will be at Christmas Eve: The people whose adjectives sent me to the dictionary will get a really fun prize come Christmas Eve night. And that's all I'll say about that.

Saturday, December 16

I Knew I Shouldn't Trust Amazon

Remember how I said I was finished with Christmas shopping? Well Amazon decided to spite me and claim that it would have to wait until after Christmas to deliver several of my gifts. Fie. That's what I get for trying to avoid the malls.

Back to shopping I go.

Tuesday, December 12

Craig's (In)Famous Holiday Party

Sunday was Craig's Holiday party; a party he holds each year with great success. Those of us who know him from back at SC figure we've been coming to this party for the past seven years. I had said nine until it was pointed out to me that nine years ago I was still in high school. I think in my heart I've always been at this party.

Last year was Bryan's first year at the party and as you can see, he's taken to it like a duck to water.

Bryan, Tim and Craig's friend from Arkansas
Without a doubt, the most impressive thing about this party is the spread that Craig puts out. The man spends at least 24 hours cooking in preparation for his shindig.

Tell me that doesn't look tasty, even as a Vegetarian I appreciate it
And you can tell. How? One turkey, one ham, one salmon, stuffing, bacon-wrapped asparagus, spinach dip, veggie gratin, salad, green beans, mashed potatoes, roasted veggies, cranberry sauce and four, count them, four desserts. Heaven.

I counted about 22 people at this year's party. Some were new girlfriends, some have been around since the beginning. We had out annual gift exchange in during which numbers are drawn and one can either open a present or steal a present from someone else. Three possessions of a gift equal keeps forever. The quality of the gifts has significantly increased over the years. This year we ended up with a dartboard. I'm psyched.

Ethan prepares the tazer
Good foods, friends and wine is all well and good, but the highlight of the evening was when most had left and Ethan busted out his tazer. It's not a police one, it's the kind that requires a couple of 9volt batteries. Bryan insisted that it be tested on him. It was. Then it found its way to me. It was tested on Bryan a couple more times for comedic effect.
Bryan after being shocked; his heart's still beating
Mostly I think it was the equivalent of a really bad static shock. He didn't seem too fazed by it. Good times.

Friday, December 8

Christmas Shopping

I have officially finished my Christmas shopping today. If that doesn't qualify me as deserving of a nice glass of wine, I don't know what does.

I will say this, there is a definite theme to the gifts I've bought this year and no it's not "things you can get at Amazon" though I'll be expecting those boxes to arrive presently. It has much more to do with NPR than anything else.

And that's all I'll say about that matter. I know some of my readers are expecting gifts, fortunately there aren't very many of you (readers that is). You won't be disappointed.

I've also come up with a Christmas Eve menu, but I'm waiting for approval from powers greater than myself. You better believe it will be a tasty feast.

Monday, December 4

The Skateboarding Dog of Venice Beach

Yesterday, Bryan, Mel and I took a drive down Topanga Canyon, which ended in us eating lunch in our old stomping ground of Venice Beach. If Mel were a kid we'd probably have told her we wanted to show her where we used to live. We may have told her that anyway.

At any rate, as we were enjoying some winter sun, we noticed a bull dog with a special talent.

This guy was just cruising along with his owner, dodging tourists and barking at anyone who might get in the way of his board.

A couple of times he got stuck in the grass, but help was on the way.

Though his owner helped him out this time, another time I watched as he managed to flip the board on it's side and carry it out of the grass under his leg, in a manner that was surprisingly similar to the way surfers carry their boards.

Fortunately he was soon able to rejoin his pack.

You've got to love Venice.

Sunday, December 3

Don't Tell Me you didn't see this coming

I mean, the sun moved. And I was in the shower.

Now If I could just get that present out of the way...

Friday, December 1

Thanksgiving at the Buckley's

Here are my promised photos of Thanksgiving at the Buckley's home up in Mill Valley. First of all, to say that they live in Mill Valley is a little bit of an untruthitude, it's more like they live on top of Mill Valley. Once you drive through the cute little town, you drive up, and up until you arrive at this:

A view from the house.
which is not a bad backdrop for a Thanksgiving feast. Those roofs at the bottom of the frame are their house. That blip that's really light in the distance, is San Francisco. It's much prettier in person. I attended this Thanksgiving about four years ago and afterwards someone asked me if their house had a view. I said I wasn't sure. I'm assuming either I was overwhelmed by Thanksgiving at a (then) new boyfriend's family home, or the city was fogged in. Either way, I missed something really spectacular.

Throughout the day people arrive and gather on the upper lawn terrace outside the house.

In this photo above, everyone is looking at a remote control UFO spinning thing that Susan brought and which required a great deal of concentration to keep out of trees.

It works like this...
I recall one Christmas a similar device arrived at our house and I think lasted a full 10 minutes before it came to find its home on the roof.

Bryan as pre-feast athlete.
Much silliness and eating ensued.

A more realistic action shot - M'lu and Grand B diving in to Peter's tasty Abalone
And the next morning we climbed up that big hill behind the pool that winds up and up...

If only it weren't WAY TOO COLD for a nice dip.
and took in the view. This is what Bryan thought of it:

We're thinking of making this Bryan's directing headshot.
Is it just me or does he make this same face in every photo I take of him?

Thursday, November 30

The Sun is so Nice...

especially after someone has made you take a bath.

If I just had a pillow, this nap would be complete.

Tuesday, November 28

Road Trip Down Memory Highway

I haven't posted in awhile. This is not because I haven't wanted to nor that I haven't had material. I've been to Las Vegas and San Francisco, logging at least 1400 miles in the past week, and I've been trying to put together a solid schedule and budget for our new movie. So I've been a little busy. And I continue to be busy, and so I am not using this post to show you pictures of Thanksgiving, though they are fun. You'll have to wait for those.

Instead, for this post I am stealing the work of our friend Kevin Obsatz, who just posted an interview of Bryan and I on his website. Check it out...


In May he came to LA and interviewed a bunch of us kids who went to film school with him. The idea is that he's going to periodically interview us about what's going on and thus create a sort of film school version of the 7UP series.

As you will see in this video, apparently I talk a lot. My memory of the interview was not that I took over, though it's not beyond the realm of reasonable belief that I did.

Enjoy our story of how not to shoot a movie in Canada.

Tuesday, November 14

The Life and Times of a Spoiled Dog

I was sick all last week so I have little to report which is why I'm devoting this post to Mel. Lately Mel's taken to trying to make friends with the Chihuahuas next door. There are at least six of them. They aren't buying her bids for friendship. Mostly they just get freaked out when they see her and bark a lot. Every day this week she's tried again. Her refusal to give up is impressive. Maybe with enough time she'll win their favor just like the Democratic Party did last week. I can only hope for her.

I want to hold your ha-a-a-and....

For a long time Mel was afraid of the stuffed octopus we'd bought for her before we picked her up at the vet's office. Recently she got over this fear and has spent a significant amount of time playing with it. She's scared of squeaky toys, though, and so every time she'd cause it to squeak, she'd then have to run away from it and then attack it. When she realized she could bring it to me and I'd hang onto a leg and we could use it for tug-o-war it was really only a matter of time until all the legs were pulled off. I helped with the first. She did the rest by herself.

The aftermath
(that's the squeaker on the right)

Now I feel guilty for helping her destroy the toy she's come to love.

Who me?

Sunday, November 5

Maybe the Path Wasn't Built That Well Afterall

I guess I should have piled more soil on the side of the brick path. The Halloween party did a number on it. That will be the next chore in the garden - fix the path, again.

Remember when I said that the freesias were beginning to bloom. I lied. They're actually paper whites. But they are in bloom. And how.

Saturday, November 4

The Happiest Place on Earth

Yesterday, Bryan and I work up around 7:30 and decided to be spontaneous. He's been having a craving for Disneyland for the past few months and his repeated enteritis that we visit finally got into my head as well. We dropped Mel off at Wagville (also known as Puppy Disneyland) and headed to the Magical Kingdom.

Goofy may have been too busy for a photo op, but Tigger was ready
Though neither of us had been for a good 10 years, we didn't buy into this whole California Adventure Land nonsense. We wanted traditional Disneyland, and for the most part that's what we got. We were happy to see Star Tours has not been updated, but approved thoroughly of the new Space Mountain.

And I was finally ready to appreciate this ride instead of mock it
Sadly, It's a Small World and the Matterhorn were both closed for seasonal maintenance.

As per usual, most of the pictures we took were of us being sad at life's little disappointments.

Here's a breakdown of what I thought of the "new" Disneyland:

1. The addition of animatronic Johnny Depp to Pirates is completely unnecessary, and the change in music in the Pirate village scene makes the ride less fun.

2. I don't understand the Haunted Mansion as Nightmare Before Christmas, but I think I like it. Does it go back to be regularly haunted during other parts of the year?

3. Splash Mountain is still awesome, especially if there is a big guy in front of you to absorb most of the splash.

4. A weekday in November is the perfect time to go to Disneyland to avoid crowds - the longest we waited was 20min for Indiana Jones.

5. Indiana Jones is lame (the ride, not the franchise).

6. I don't understand the moral behind Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Why do we end up in hell after being sentenced for riding too wildly? Are we to assume that Mr. Toad gets killed, because I don't remember that in Wind in the Willows.

7. Most of the rides are surprisingly scary. A little girl riding behind us on Snow White told her mother she didn't want to go on any more of these scary rides, and I had to agree that Snow White ends on an unnecessarily scary note.

8. The Swiss Family Robinson Tree House is better as the Tarzan Treehouse.

9. DON'T BE TRICKED by Innoventions. It's a live infomercial for HP products. Don't be sucked in by it's appealing spinning room!

10. Honey I Shrunk the Audience was way better as Captain Eo (so says Bry, I wouldn't know having missed the Michael Jackson hit entirely in my youth)

11. Big Thunder Mountain is the perfect roller coaster.

12. Though the park may stay open until midnight, one really only needs about 6 hours at Disneyland to get your fix.

T-I-double g-er
Overall, a surprisingly fun time, but as I said this morning, if someone were to tell me I could get into Disneyland today for free, I'd probably pass.

Tuesday, October 31

Happy Haunting

This is Chuck - your financial advisor - scary no?
The lack of a forensics team tearing up our yard tells us that that bone we found was in fact an animal bone. I think I'm glad. I think I'm really glad.

Sunday, October 29

Pecan-Stuffed Mushrooms

So Tasty!
I made this as an appetizer for a small dinner party Friday night. They were a huge hit so thanks to Martha for the recipe I adapted. This recipe serves 8.

Pecan-Stuffed Mushrooms

24 cremini of baby bella mushrooms with stems (1 1/2 - 2 inch wide)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter + some for dish
1 minced garlic clove
1 1/2 tsp finely chopped oregano
4 oz (1 cup) pecans, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp back pepper
1/3 cup cream
2 Tbsp Parmesan

Preheat to 400. Trim ends of mushrooms stems and separate stems from caps, reserving them. Arrange caps in a buttered shallow baking dish.

Finely chop stems, then cook with garlic and oregano over moderate heat, stirring until lightly browned, 5min. Stir in pecans, S&P and cook stirring for 1 min. Stir in cream and bring to a simmer, then remove from heat. Add Parmesan.

Filling? Filling.
Sprinkle inside of caps with salt then divide filling between caps. Bake until browned and caps are tender, 30min. Serve drizzled with pan juices.

(These can be assembled the day before and refrigerated. Bring to room temp before baking)

Thursday, October 26

Everyone has Skeletons in their...Flower Bed?

OK so I just finished giving a statement to the police. Seriously. Two patrolmen and two detectives just left my house. I wish I had thought to take pictures. But I'm getting ahead of myself, let me go back to the beginning of this story.

As I've mentioned, I've been cleaning up the yard in anticipation of the big Halloween party on Tuesday. In the process of pulling all the weeds out of a particular flower bed on Polly's patio, I found some pots and bits of ceramics. There was also a jawbone of what I figured was a coyote or some animal. In one of the pots that was covered in weeds there was also a what turns out to be the bottom spinal bone. It's the piece that fits into the coccyx. I, of course, didn't know that then. I looked at it and thought - another creepy animal bone, I'll leave it for Polly in case she wants to add it to her decoration for the party - and then I immediately forgot all about it.

So this evening Charlie, Polly and her mom are all sitting on the patio and they call me down and ask me where I found this bone, which I tell them, and then Polly says that she's pretty sure it's human. We debate this for a minute and then Polly calls the police to let them know that we think we found a human bone.

A half hour later two patrolmen show up, look at it and say that they don't know but it could be human so they call it in.

Another half hour later two detectives show up. I tell them where I found it and they ask some questions about the house. The older one thought it was an animal but the younger wasn't sure so they booked it and bagged it as evidence.

I want to point out that the younger, female, detective was in fact wearing a low cut top under a stylish jacket with really cute slacks and boots with heals. Her hair was also done up in a loose curly style. I mention this only because she looked like she's walked off a CSI set and I had always found the outfits on that show to be unrealistic. Apparently I was wrong.

In the process of this, the older detective started chatting with us and we were talking about downtown and he mentioned that we should be extra careful for the next couple of nights because they'd just done a raid of skid row and when they do that people often wander to the outskirts of our neighborhood. I am thankful for Mel.

Then we started talking about OJ, and he said that he'd been partners with Mark Foreman. (!!!) Then he said that a lot of good came out of the trial because it was so embarrassing for the LAPD that they became the first police group to have their own forensics lab, even before the FBI. Also they started training their officers outside of the LAPD instead of doing everything internally. He said that now there's a whole new generation of officers and it's a very different and much better organization.

I think all of this (minus the info about Skid Row) is extremely comforting. And I'm glad I have Mel who always looks out the front doors looking tough.

We'll see if it turns out I dug up a human bone. What a weird Thursday night.

Wednesday, October 25

October Gardening - Part 2

I've spent the past couple of afternoons in the garden trying to get it presentable for the Halloween party on Tuesday. I spent most of that time in the patio below us pruning back plants that had threatened to overtake the yard. Specifically I took about 60% out of the marigold bush, and all the lower branches of the Pomagranate Tree that had been threatening to grab anyone who walked near it. Under the Marigolds I discovered about a dozen really cool pots that had been completely hidden. I'm thinking of planting more flowers now on my deck.

Finally, my repaired path - once again, not as hard a job as I'd expected - not unlike the irrigation repair
Then this afternoon I turned my attention to that path we destroyed last spring. I pulled out all the bricks, leveled the dirt as best I knew how and added about 90lbs of sand to the top. When I replaced the bricks I came up about 10 short. I'm not quite sure how I managed that. I filled the gaps between bricks with potting soil and the plan is that I'm going to sew Sweet Alyssum seeds to fill in the spaces with sturdy little leaves and flowers.

Isn't it great when you know a party is about to happen in your yard/house so you finally get motivated to clean up the stuff you've been wanting to forever? After nearly breaking my ankle on the path yesterday and then being told that this was the path the band would use to get to the stage, I was extra motivated. There's nothing like the potential to hurt someone else to make you level your path.

Meanwhile the bulbs that I so carefully avoided in my weeding last week have started to bloom.

Fall's First Blooms
I now remember that they're freesias. And apparently yellow at that.

Also, I noticed today some new bulbs making their way to the light.

Isn't Nature Cool?
I'm pretty sure these are going to be daffodils, but I could be lying.

And finally, the lavender I bought last week is waiting patiently to be planted. I'm thinking next week, after the party, so they don't get trampled by the band.

Lovely Lavender - the last belle at the ball

Tuesday, October 24

Asparagus Lasagna

Yesterday I made my famous (in our house) asparagus lasagna. It's famous because Bryan swore he hated asparagus until he tried this. Now it's one of his favorite meals. It's also a really easy recipe.

Asparagus Lasagna

The Finished Meal

Lasagna Noodles (handmade or store bought)
3 1/2 cups non fat milk
1/3 cup flour
5 Tbsp Pesto (2 Tbsp pine nuts, 1/2 cup olive oil, 3 Cups basil leaves - processed - add 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese)
3 cups part skim Mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 lbs asparagus - stems cut into 1/4 pieces, tops reserved
10 roma tomatoes - quartered and roasted for 20 min at 450

First, roast the tomatoes.

Roasted Tomatoes
The original recipe didn't call for tomatoes but I think they are good to add so that the dish has a little kick to it.

Whisking the White Sauce
Next make a white sauce by mixing the flour with 1/2 cup of milk over med heat until it dissolves. Slowly add the remaining milk and some salt. Whisk while bringing it to a boil to thicken. Remove from heat.

The Traditional Pesto
Take the pesto and add it to the white sauce to create a lovely light green sauce.

Whisking The Green Sauce
This will form the basic glue for the lasagna. Now saute the asparagus stems in some olive oil until tender, about 3 minutes. And add some garlic and salt to this.

Asparagus for us!
Now assemble! Oil your lasagna pan and add a layer of noodles. Follow this with 1/2 the asparagus, cover with green sauce and cheese. Repeat. To top it off place a layer of noodles, a layer of green sauce, asparagus tips, tomatoes and the final cup of cheese. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes. Let stand 10 - 20 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 21

October Gardening - Part 1

This morning I ventured out to the nursery because I've discovered I'm much more motivated to clear weeds if I have fun new plants to put in their place. I decided to stretch a bit from my usual Sunset Nursery in Los Feliz so I drove to Pasadena and went to Burkard's.

Buckard's = disappointing
Burkard's is the kind of place that every gardening magazine mentions as the best nursery in Los Angeles. It's not. Well, that's not fair. It has an extensive selection, so much so that I ran into Amoeba's complex - too much selection. I'm sure if I were a professional landscaper I would love it. But I'm not, and I didn't. Also a lot of the plants seemed really stressed, like they hadn't been taken care of correctly. So I left and found a much smaller nursery in Pasadena called Bellefontaine. The guy working there was great and spent a lot of time telling me about the plants I was buying and making sure I had space for them. I do.

So today I cleared 3 beds and planted two of them, along with cleaning up some of the lower beds. The first one was filled with nasturciums, grass, two old zucchini plants and the beginning of some bulbs. Doing my best not to flatten the bulbs, which is tricky because man those suckers are delicate, I pulled out all the grass and left the nasturciums mostly intact.

Pretty in Orange
I covered the exposed bed with bark chips and filled in some snapdragons for color.

I swear this looked right when I took it
For some reason this picture looks sideways, but when I turn it, it looks just as weird. Sorry, but you get the idea.

I have not yet repaired the path. That's for another day.

How many times do I have to almost break my ankle before I fix this? A lot!
But if anyone knows a good way to get caked mud off the bricks, I'm all ears.

Bed #2 got a similar treatment in that the grass was removed and the bed covered in bark chips. In this case I left the lavender, sage and rosemary I planted in the early summer.

My herb and cutting garden
I was thinking I would make it all herbs, but then I didn't see many herbs that I thought were interesting so I filled in with poppies and more snapdragons (you'll see it's a theme). I'm thinking about adding some kind of low ground cover that flowers but would allow a rotating series of flowers to poke out of it.

Purple Solarum to hide tha gaps
To the left of the giant climbing rose that I have no great love for but my landlord does so I can't remove it, I planted a Solanum xanti 'Salmon Creek'. It will grow to about 2' and spread out about the same. The fellow at the nursery said it stays smaller than most Solanums so I'm hoping it'll just cover the ugly part of the wall that's now exposed. It's draught resistant, which is perfect because that little spot doesn't get hit very much by the sprinklers. Also the Flowers are way more purple than they look like they are here.

I then realized I was feeling light headed and figured it was from the physical work, until I realized that it was 3 o'clock and I hadn't eaten since an early breakfast. So I fixed that and got back to the garden. I replaced the petunias that were looking really leggy and sickly with three of the deep red snapdragons.
Snap, snap, snapdragon
Clearly I need to fill in the front of the container with something else. I'd like to have something that wants to spill down the front, or I'll turn it and have those be the low front and something else taller in the back. Any ideas?

Ready for veggies - or a party
Finally I decided that the way the sun works in the yard, it's really best if I only use the middle bed for vegetables. This is a little sad because it limits my veggie capacity but it also may help me to focus, so I'm not complaining. I pulled out the dead tomatoes, lettuce and peppers and cleared out all the weeds, even under the new growth of artichokes. I was so surprised when these came back, I was certain I'd killed them over the summer. It turns out they were just dormant. They're supposed to look dead, according to my friend at the nursery. He said most people drown them in the summer thinking they've not gotten enough water. Lucky for me my irrigation didn't work over the summer so most of the garden wasn't watered enough. No drowning here.

I'm waiting until after the Halloween party and Polly's decision of whether or not she's going to have a platform built on this bed for the band to play before I plant it with veggies.

Tomorrow my plan is to attack the bed under the fig tree and maybe plant one or two of the fern-leaf lavender plants I bought today there. I think they'll have enough sun if I plant them in the front of the bed, of course then the rest of the bed is blocked, so I'm still debating. They may go over in the bed by the peach tree.

Friday, October 20

Happy Birthday Bryan

Today is Bryan's 27th birthday. Happy Birthday.

Bryan is not a big fan of having his picture taken at the computer - I have a ton of pictures exactly like this one
We ate sushi and saw LITTLE CHILDREN, which turns out to be a really excellent movie. It's not really about pedophilia the way it has been described, it's really about suburban desperation. It manages this perfect tonal balancing act between really funny and really tense. The narration is fantastic. I highly recommend you go see this movie in the theaters because my money is on it for best adapted screenplay at least. Plus, I don't know how anyone could market this movie correctly, so there's been little press and little attention. Go see it anyway. Seriously. It's really good.

Wednesday, October 18

October Garden - Before

I noticed that Mel had found a nice spot in the sun this morning and went out to take a picture for the blog.

Mel has made a nice bed of weeds in the sun
While I was out standing in the garden I decided to check out the pathetic state of neglected affairs. Much to my surprise I found the artichoke plants had come back. During the summer they had died down to brown dead leaves with no sign of life.

The Great Artichoke Comeback!
(note the remaining dead one from last season)

I'm assuming it's the regular watering and cooling temperatures that have brought them back. The thing about fixing the irrigation is that now all the weeds are green. And that's mostly a good thing. At least it means the irrigation is working.

Now all my weeds are green
Polly is throwing a big Halloween party at her house (the front house) and is having a band play. She and I decided the only logical place for them to play would be on a platform over the garden. That means people are going to be in the garden. That means it's time for my fall cleanup/planting. So that picture above of all the green weeds, that's the before picture. Hopefully after this weekend there will be some after photos as well.

The nasturciums have taken over my squash patch, but that's okay because the squash didn't get enough water or sun and so didn't do very well anyway. I need a bigger yard, but that will come soon enough.

They always come back.
The limes are ripening much to my pleasure. I've been soaking the tree to bring it back from it's stressed out place of non-production.

Lime Heaven
That's it for now. More adventures in beginner gardening will follow. I'm thinking lettuce. And lavender. Maybe some succulents by the back where the irrigation doesn't quite reach. Also more herbs for cooking.