We’re Freezing Our Assets and Our Dinner (Or I Have a Freezer Fetish)

I recently registered for a financial planning course offered at my church. Though I have grown up a lot since my 20s, there’s still room for improvement. Plus, there’s a lot of instability in my industry, and I want to make sure I’m preparing myself properly for it.

Also, Albus was concerned we were spending too much money on lift tickets and not saving enough for retirement.

I think we need to talk about your mutual funds.

My parents are beyond fiscally responsible, and they could have taught me most of what I’m learning in the course, but they’re not patient people. And impatience? It runs in families… so I’m as bad as they are.

So, that’s why I’m paying Dave Ramsey to teach me the things my parents could — because his course was cheaper than the family therapist we’d need if my parents taught me this stuff. (See? I’m already being financially responsible.)

I’m learning all kinds of things I sort of already knew, but the difference is I’m actually putting them into practice willingly. And Albus has gotten into it.

He’s a financial gangster.

Obviously, I need a budget that includes a savings fund, but I need one that doesn’t make me feel too deprived either. I’m not capable of eating the same entrée night after night, but I also can’t justify wasting money by throwing away leftovers.

I’m still working out the kinks in my budget to balance quality of life in the moment with quality of life in the future, but I’m already seeing some great results from my efforts.

One way I’m working around the variety versus spending dilemma in the food category is to make dishes I can freeze. That way if I find myself running low on money in that section of the budget I have tons of options in my freezer that will satisfy my need for variety. I keep the containers small so they represent single serving sizes for a single girl like me. (Not only does freezing make financial sense, but it’s also super helpful to have meals made ahead if you work long hours and come home ravenous like I often do.)

My freezer situation.

My labeling system was inspired by my grandmother. She has a crazy enormous freezer in her basement that is filled with everything from frozen vegetable stock to pot roasts. (Don’t they all? I think that might be a requirement for being a grandmother, actually.) And everything is labeled with masking tape and a sharpie. Personally, I went the painters tape route because I like it better.

So, the freezer is one tool that keeps me on track financially. Menu planning is another. Look out for a post on that soon.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to put on my Ravenclaw pin, grab my owl, and hit up some bars for Halloween in my Hogwarts garb.

Once I get my owl away from the candy gummies, that is….

And, yes, I have a category in my budget for barhopping….

No One Likes Her (Or I Eat Shrimp and Tilapia Soup While Sandy Punishes the East Coast)

So, here’s what my Facebook newsfeed looked like last night:

“Does anyone in Brooklyn have any wine they could spare? Preferably a Gruner? The shop up the street is closed because of Sandy and we could really use some right now.”
*Comment from Concerned Friend* “I hope you don’t have to settle for a chardonnay, dude.”

“Do you think they’d deliver more Makers by canoe? We’re almost out on the UWS.”

“If only candles powered cable TV.”

These updates were interspersed with instagram photos of abandoned SUVs in flooded streets and wet little dogs looking really sad and bedraggled in their ineffectual coats.

And now you know what was on the minds of my New York friends last night. Sandy might have been wreaking havoc in their streets, but she did nothing to diminish their senses of humor.

I’ll admit I felt a bit guilty that it was 88 degrees in Southern California yesterday. As the sun set outside my window, I watched the coverage of Sandy’s devastating power, and I was grateful I was warm and dry. I chuckled as I read a variety of tweets and status updates, glad my friends were safe — even if they were soaked from walking their dogs in the storm — and nearly out of booze.

As the evening wore on, the air cooled considerably and I found myself craving something warm and hearty. (Maybe it was those shivering reporters standing in knee deep water….) I decided to make a comforting shrimp and tilapia fisherman’s soup from a recipe I found online last week.

It’s delicious, simple, and definitely worth making. You can find the recipe on Cookin Canuck here.

This shrimp and tilapia soup is easy to make, and it’s also good the next day.

As my grandpa would say, “It’s better than a kick in the head.”

Or a shark in your street….

The photos of a shark in a New Jersey neighborhood have gone totally viral. Kevin McCarty posted them on his Facebook page and insists they’re legit. Photo Courtesy of Kevin McCarty via Grind TV.

I think my friend’s five-year-old niece summed up the storm best. Upon learning that school would be closed the following day because of Sandy, she told her mother, “No one likes her.”

That’s right, Sandy. No one likes you.

Now, here’s hoping the east coast recovers quickly because as funny as my friends are, there’s nothing funny about the devastation Sandy brought….

Nursery Ideas for My Friends (Or No, Mom, I’m Not Pregnant)

Progress on my bedroom redesign project has been agonizingly slow. The entire process has been complicated by a tight budget, some pieces I don’t really like (but can’t financially justify replacing), and severely limited space. I’m closer to a breakthrough than when I began the project last spring, though. I no longer want to keep the lights off or close my eyes when I enter the room, so there’s that. That said, I’m not really ready for a work in progress post. It’s just so disjointed you’d wonder what I’ve been smoking all summer. I essentially know how I want to connect the design dots, but it’s all in my head. And it won’t translate to a decent post yet.

Instead, I want to switch gears and discuss a different kind of bedroom.

I want to talk about nurseries.

Not because I have any need for one, mind you, but because three of my good friends will this spring. I promise this isn’t one of those, “I have this friend who is pregnant and needs ideas,” posts. I’m really not pregnant. (Please assure my mother of this if she calls and asks.)

Also? I’m not baby crazy. I just like nurseries. I think it’s probably because I’m basically a big kid myself and nurseries provide a real opportunity to be whimsical and indulge your inner child in your design. Plus I like toys and bright colors, both of which go hand in hand with babies.

Here are some of my favorite nurseries.

I LOVE the Shel Silverstein “Giving Tree” closet in this nursery. I mean, I need it in my life. Photo courtesy of Apartment Therapy.

This Tin Tin inspired nursery is delightful. I adore the soft blue and yellow juxtaposed with bright accents. Photo courtesy of Apartment Therapy.

I can’t help myself. I’m in loooove. Can anyone say Cowboy Baby? #texasforever Photo courtesy of Apartment Therapy.

I dig the vintage-y Jenny Lind crib in this room, and I like the way it stands out against the charcoal wall. Maybe it’s just me, but I think this is a fairly gender neutral nursery… for your friends brave enough to want to be surprised by their baby’s gender. Photo courtesy of Apartment Therapy

This nursery is way sleek and totally gender neutral. Photo Courtesy of Houzz.

And now it’s time to get a little more girly.

I like the subtle feminine influence in this nursery. The room is soft and a little frilly without being too princess-y or over the top. Photo Courtesy of Apartment Therapy.

I love the use of black and white in this nursery from 346 Living. It’s eye-catching, and it prevents the feminine elements from taking over.

I’m way into this navy and white wall. The mobile and the baby animal print from The Animal Print Shop are great accents too. Photo Courtesy of the Animal Print Shop Blog.

And last but certainly not least is this amazing nursery from Bailey McCarthy of Peppermint Bliss. If you haven’t checked out her blog, you must. She is crazy talented. And hilarious.

I adore Bailey’s designs! They are bright, courageous, and playful. Photo Courtesy of Design Sponge.

And because one pic of this nursery isn’t enough, here’s another angle.

I die for this chandelier. Die. Photo Courtesy of Design Sponge.

If you want to see a more comprehensive photo gallery, check out the Nursery Board I created on Pinterest. You know, just in case you have a pregnant friend. Or something.

Of Medical School and Macaroni (Or I Like My Mac and Cheese with a Side of Broccoli)

When my friend was in medical school, he basically lived on macaroni and cheese from a box, but he found ways to make it more interesting. I used to come back from California to visit him at Christmas and we’d hit the college town bars. Afterwards, he’d make me his late night mac and cheese specialty. It involved powdered cheese, steamed (frozen) broccoli, and chicken breasts on the George Foreman. He’d mix it all up and serve it to me. Now, this wasn’t exactly gourmet but it did go nicely with all of the cheap beer and dollar long islands we consumed. Plus the combination was sort of inspired.

Now that I’m a slightly more civilized adult, I often make my own macaroni and cheese from scratch. It’s a great way to use up cheese, and it’s the sort of thing you can freeze pretty easily. I usually throw together some combination of sharp cheddar, aged Gouda, and Jarlsberg to make it more interesting.

I made a batch recently and decided it needed a bit of the med school special treatment. I steamed fresh broccoli and grilled some Italian chicken sausage to go with it.

Here’s the recipe in case you want to make your own mac and cheese. I recommend adding the broccoli and chicken sausage. It adds a lot of flavor.

Macaroni and Cheese
Modified from this recipe.

½ C unsalted butter
6 T flour
5 C whole milk
6-7 C of cheese (I like to use a combination of cheddar, aged Gouda, and Jarlsberg because I usually have them in the house. Gruyere is also good.)
½ C fresh grated parmesan
2 tsp salt
½ tsp fresh cracked pepper, optional
1 pound of elbow macaroni

Preheat oven to 400.

Bring water to a boil. Add macaroni and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and set aside, reserving one cup of the water.

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat and stir in flour. Cook roux, stirring constantly, about 3-4 minutes. Whisk in milk and bring the sauce to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat and allow the sauce to simmer, stirring occasionally. Add the cheeses, salt, and pepper. Mix to combine.

Add noodles and the reserved water to the cheese mixture. Place into a buttered baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes.

I often bake my macaroni in batches using chafing dishes.

You can top the macaroni with a buttered breadcrumb and cheese topping, but I usually skip this step.

Here’s the mac and broccoli before I added the sliced sausage, mixed it all up, and devoured the mess.

Of Mustache Men and Shrimp (Or I Make the Shrimp Dish from Bon Appetit)

A few years ago I was dating this guy. I was starting to have some misgivings about the entire situation (long story), and I wasn’t entirely surprised when he initiated the break up conversation. The way he started the conversation, however, really solidified that our parting was for the best. It went like this,

“You’re just too into sports for me.”

Too into sports?

Only in LA.

I mean, go to a gallery opening by yourself and enjoy the bouquet of your chardonnay without me, dude, because I have first baseline seats to the Dodgers. And I’ll be drinking beer while I cheer for them. Sure, I like art A LOT but you probably shouldn’t care about it more than I do.

SO, anyway, the World Series begins in San Francisco tomorrow night, and I’m super excited because my Tigers will be playing the Giants. The last time they won the World Series I was six. And Kirk Gibson was still on the team.


Can we talk about the crush I had on Kirk Gibson as a kid? Oh. My. God. Photo Courtesy of Classon Avenue Blogspot.

I mean, if that mustache doesn’t make you want to be a Tigers fan, maybe this one will.

Magnum was the original mustache man. And Detroit Tigers fan. Photo courtesy of razz ball.

Now that you’re all convinced I have some sort of closet facial hair fetish, I should switch subjects because I probably can’t convince you otherwise. Yes, I’m excited about the World Series, but I’m also excited that I have the perfect leftover dish to eat while I watch the game.

See, I made this shrimp dish from the October Bon Appetit, and now I won’t have to worry about cooking tomorrow night.

This shrimp dish is simple and delicious. Plus it has World Series written all over it. Or something…

Now I can concentrate on the game while I shovel shrimp into my mouth instead of making dinner. I might pan fry some spicy sausage and add it to the dish because it would be all kinds of awesome with some chorizo. You should do it too. Even if you’re like the ex and don’t care about baseball.

Bon Appetit to Me! (Or I Try the Pork and Fennel Ragu Recipe from the October Bon Appetit)

I have had a subscription to Bon Appetit for more than ten years, and I adore it. Like, you have no idea. Each month when the new issue arrives, I get so excited you’d think Tory Burch was handing out free riding boots in my lobby or something. I have received about 120 issues over the last ten years and the excitement is yet to wane.

Let’s be honest: the only other creatures capable of displaying more enthusiasm are perhaps my dogs.

This big blur is my very excited Boxer who displays unbridled zeal for essentially everything.

This month, the first recipe that caught my attention was a pork and fennel ragu in the r.s.v.p. section of the magazine. If you’re not familiar with Bon Appetit, first of all, shame on you. Second, I’m not sure we can be friends — online or otherwise. OK, maybe I didn’t mean that last part, but you should probably get a subscription anyway. It’s like $12 a year here.

You’re welcome.

ANYWAY… the r.s.v.p. section is a feature where readers write to the editors and request recipes for their favorite restaurant dishes. The pork and fennel ragu I made this week is from Oenotri in Napa Valley. Next time I head up to northern California, I think I need to try Oenotri’s version. I mean, my ragu was pretty good, but I bet theirs is better.

You can find the recipe here. It’s great the next day, and it freezes well.

Make this pork and fennel ragu from Oenotri. You will thank me.

(Oh, and BTW, I used penne instead of garganelli, and it was a solid substitute.)

I Have an Ice Cube Problem (Or There’s a Titanic in my Gin and Tonic)

I’m a sucker for wacky things. Like, I see a bottle opener shaped like a shark and it takes all of my self-control not to purchase it. It’s not like I need another bottle opener, but you should hear the arguments I make in my mind for its utter necessity. Never mind that the item is not even an anatomically accurate representation of a shark….

How could I live another day without this? Photo Courtesy of Amazon.

Sometimes, my rational side loses the argument and I buy completely frivolous items — particularly when there’s a theme party involved. Like the skull and cross bones ice cube tray I just had to have for my Peter Pan Birthday Party last summer.

Or my Gin and Titonic ice cube tray. In my defense, that ice cube tray was a gift — from a lovely person who obviously gets me. Gin and Tonics are one of my favorite cocktails, and they’re so much more fun when I can drop a few iceberg and ship shaped ice cubes into them.

See? Fun.

If I liked the movie Titanic, this would be the perfect cocktail for a Titanic movie night with the girls, but I don’t. Incidentally, if I were entertaining company with G&Ts, I would probably buy Fever Tree Tonic instead of the more pedestrian Schweppes, and I might even substitute a more complex gin like a Hendricks instead of my go-to Bombay Sapphire, but I digress….

If I’m being honest with myself, I’m much more likely to host a Star Wars party, though. I think that means I neeed to get these Han Solo in carbonite ice cubes. I mean, these things are so amazing. I die. (See how the rationalization starts?)

Come on. I need these, right? Photo courtesy of Amazon.

While we’re on the topic of movie theme parties, I probably need these Batman ice cube trays so I can throw a Dark Knight Rises party in honor of the DVD release on December 4.

Photo courtesy of Amazon.

So, anyway, this is how my mind works. And this is how I spend $50 I should probably just put in my savings account….

Baseball and The Evolution of My Bookshelf (Or I Paint an Old Piece of Furniture)

When I was a kid, I remember my dad listening to Detroit Tigers games on the radio while he was tinkering with the lawnmower or whatever. Today, I’m bringing back the radio. Sort of.

See, TBS has made the sound scheduling decision to air reruns of The Mentalist instead of game four of the ALCS. Reruns. Instead of a pivotal game in the American League Championship Series. Since I can’t miss the game, my life has been reduced to listening to ESPN radio online while I write my post about my bookshelf redesign.

So anyway, let’s talk about the bookshelf instead of TBS. I’m not sure I’m done tweaking the accessories, but here’s the evolution of the piece….

The bookshelf project began with a bargain purchase at the National Council of Jewish Women Thrift Shop. And a power sander.

After painting the piece, I tinkered for absolutely forever with the accessories.

I tried a combination of books and white pieces, but decided I hated the books. Also, Albus broke the gravy boat when he investigated it with his face.

This gravy boat talk bores me, lady.

So, after brooming the books, I tried a different arrangement of white dishes, minus the broken gravy boat.

But I didn’t like this either. It looked like my Jonathan Adler salt and pepper shakers were getting married or something.

So, then I tried this.

And I THINK I like this. For now.

But I still don’t know what to do with the TOP of the bookshelf. I mean, I think this is too busy looking.

And I know I’m not getting any points for my floral arrangement here. They were clippings the gardeners left on the sidewalk, and I thought they were too pretty to go in the trash.

So anyway, that’s where I am right now. Sort of liking the shelves. Sort of stumped with the items on the top issue.

And now I need to deal with my bedroom chalkboard wall redesign. More on that later.

Xena the Warrior Puppy (Or I’m a Warrior for Puppies)

I had originally planned to post about my bookshelf redesign today, but my plans changed when I logged into Facebook this afternoon.

Here’s the bookshelf before photo. This situation can wait.

See, last month, I began following a severely neglected puppy’s remarkable journey of rehabilitation via her Facebook fan page, and today marks her one-month rescue anniversary. I wanted to acknowledge it by sharing her photo slide show.

And her story.

Her transformation has been absolutely remarkable. Her heroic rescuers have named her Xena the Warrior Puppy, and when you watch her slideshow, you’ll see why. When she was first brought to the shelter, she had no hair on her body, and she was so emaciated, they did not know if she would survive one more day let alone a month. Now she is a playful little girl on the road to recovery in a foster home.

This little girl has come a long way in only one month. She and her kind caregivers deserve recognition. Photo Courtesy of Xena’s Dekalb Fund.

Though, Xena is just one little pup, her story reminds us that there are so many more dogs like her. So many abused, starving, and neglected creatures suffering at the hands of cruel and callous people.

Because I support the Humane Society and the ASPCA, and I also follow a variety of rescue blogs, I regularly see photos of abused or neglected animals like Xena. Each time I do, I cry a little. And then I kiss my rescue dogs on their spoiled heads for an hour.

My beasts may be spoiled, but they walk to raise money for their less fortunate friends through the Race for the Rescues every year. This year the Race raised over $303,000 for 12 animal welfare organizations.

Of course, I do lavish them with Jax and Bones gifts after their walk because I think they deserve rope toy rewards.

Here is Albus with his new Bambi. Jax and Bones donates a portion of their rope toy sales to the Rescue Train.

I’m often reminded of the human capacity for cruelty and also for compassion. There are so many dedicated people caring for the animals cast aside by others, and it’s important to remember that so we don’t focus so much on the suffering and the sadness that we lose hope.

So, that’s me. I’m a lunatic for dogs.

We’re all different, and not everyone was wired to love dogs like I do. I like it that way. I mean, I love that our hearts all break for different causes ‘cuz someone needs to worry about actual human orphans while I’m fretting over every one eyed, three legged puppy mill dog I see.

Speaking of which, tomorrow night, I’m attending the Burbank City Council Meeting to voice my support for a citywide ban on selling puppy mill dogs in Burbank.

More on that later.

And also the bookshelf…..

Crimes Against Architecture (Or Someone Needs to Renovate Now)

I wanted to be an architect when I was young. I’m not saying the world would be a better place if I had followed that dream, but two film degrees later, I still can’t shake my obsession with structures. I can’t look at a building without envisioning ways to improve it.

Whether it’s just a facelift to improve the curb appeal, a sketch for an addition, or full on fantasies about jackhammers, crowbars, and drywall, my mind never stops working — particularly as I’m walking my dogs around the neighborhood.

Maybe it’s because there are so many buildings in Hollywood that are in need of my enthusiasm and my arsenal of power tools. Or Maybe it’s just an unsatisfied dream. I’m not sure, but either way, I can’t stop dreaming about making Hollywood a prettier place, one dump at a time.

Here are my nominations for places in need of a little love. And Imagination.

I mean, these places represent some serious crimes against architecture presently.

Never mind that this place looks like a frat house. It has potential!

Obviously, it needs a new roof and new paint, among other improvements, but there is a lot to love here.

Just a few houses down, is another structure in need.

The things I could do to this place….

Forget about the plywood in the windows for a second and the peeling paint and just look at the potential.

Do you fantasize about renovating things or is it just me?