Broken Hearts, Crushed Mint, and Other Things (Or Cowboy Hoof Cocktails)

I had a mini breakthrough on my recent heartbreak. I was able to put some of the experience — and my buried feelings about it — into words. Granted, they’re words forever hidden in a journal, but they represent progress for me nonetheless.

(I’m super remedial when it comes to my heart.)

There’s a chance I’ll mine those words at some point for more inspiration, but for now I’m grateful I was able to do something, however small, with my feelings.

In other news, I came across an intriguing cocktail recipe today and thought I’d give it a try.

It’s called the Cowboy Hoof.

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I channel my inner cowboy at times.

#whenintexas

That’s why the name caught my eye.

As if the name weren’t enough, the ingredients sent me over the edge: mint AND gin?

Yes, please.

I’ve been known to sip Sapphire like it’s the sweet nectar of life, and I eat fresh mint garnish instead of the desserts it adorns, so this cocktail spoke to my soul and stuff.

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The drink is MUCH prettier than my pic.

(I’m probably more remedial about photography than I am about my feelings.)

ANYWAY, ignore the basic pic, and just make yourself one.

Cowboy Hoof
12 mint leaves, plus one to garnish
2 tsp simple syrup
3 ounces of gin

Muddle the mint and simple syrup. Add ice and gin. Shake in a cocktail shaker. Pour cocktail through a strainer. Add mint to garnish.

Sip.

Smile.

Repeat.

Oh, and just in case you want to hear the song that ultimately unlocked my feelings, it’s a Bearson remix of James Bay’s Let it Go. The juxtaposition of the chipper, yet haunting beats with the painful lyrics perfectly summarize my feelings. I’m trying to shake it off and move on while simultaneously attempting to acknowledge that it hurt.

 

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Carrot Ginger Juice (Or Let’s Macerate Some Stuff)

For those of you following along, yesterday was the end of my three-day meditative fast. As it turns out, I didn’t touch my script at all. I had intended to do so, but it just wasn’t the right time.

SO much stuff came up over those three days that was more important to address — and by “stuff” I don’t mean people calling me and asking me to go hiking. I mean I-sat-in-silence-and-worked-through-some-STUFF stuff.

It was hard, but it was worth it, and I feel so much stronger now. I might write more about it some time on the other blog, but I’m not ready yet.

Each fast I do brings new and different challenges, and I’m always so much better off afterwards.

Plus a big plate of spicy sausage nachos tastes even more amazing when you haven’t eaten in three days.

Bonus!

If you're wondering what kind of person breaks a fast with spicy sausage nachos and rose, that person is me.

I was so excited to dive into my food that I don’t even think this photo is in focus.

I savored each spicy, cilantro-laden bite and celebrated by watching the “Red Wedding” episode of Game of Thrones.* (No amount of on-screen slaughter could keep me away from food after three hours let alone three days.)

For good measure, I capped my calorie fest off with two balls of cookie dough because Ghiradelli chocolate chip cookie dough is from God.

All of that was so amazing in my mouth, but around 2 am, my intestines had a difference of opinion. I’m not talking stabbing pains, but there was some slight discomfort involved.

Two hours later I was still wide awake, so I decided it was time to just get up.

Some people actually get up at 4 am on purpose, anyway.

I mean, that’s a thing, right? Getting up at 4 am?

Anyway, there I was up before the sun this morning, and I really, really wanted to write. I was so on fire that I actually made it through 60 pages of screenplay revisions before lunch.

Today lunch involved tuna, basil, and artichoke hearts with dijon vinaigrette on a bed of arugula, all of which I washed down with a glass of carrot ginger juice.

And because I’m me, I made the juice myself….

Get ready to get macerated!

Get ready to get macerated, stuff!

I did the math, and making the juice is cheaper than buying it. Just for the record, I don’t do this kind of math on everything — just on things I consume with shocking frequency like bacon, espresso, and breakfast bars.  (I’m not about to go bankrupt because I don’t like drip coffee and whatnot, so this kind of stuff needs sorting out for economic efficiency.)

It’s also nice to tweak the ratio of carrot to ginger to your own liking.

Rabbits did carrot ginger juice.

The Easter rabbits are down with my carrot to ginger ratio. They told me. 

If you have a juicer and want to give it a shot, here’s my recipe.

Carrot Ginger Juice

2 pounds of carrots, peeled and chopped
2 oz peeled, fresh ginger
1/2 lemon

Put carrots and ginger into juicer and let it do its thing. You can also peel the lemon, remove the seeds and throw that in the juicer as well, but I think it’s faster to use a handheld citrus squeezer for the lemon. Maybe it’s just me….

OK, back to my script!

XOXO

*Yes, I know I am woefully behind on the show. Please do not leave comments about future episodes or I might go crazy –King Joffrey-crazy. 

Oh, Canada! (Or How to Make a Bacon Old Fashioned)

While Americans are getting ready to celebrate our independence on Thursday by launching explosives into the sky and burning the tips of our fingers off with sparklers, our neighbors to the north are already celebrating their independence today. July 1 is Canada Day, and as such I’d like to take a moment to recognize all of the wonderful things the neighbors to the north have given me like maple syrup, malt bread, and Carly Rae Jepson.

Actually, it also gave me my mother and her fabulous family, as well the opportunity to make an ill-advised Fendi purchase at the Duty Free in Windsor while legally intoxicated at 19 years of age.

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#drunkendutyfreepurchase #ididdumbstuffincollege #toomanyloonies #istillwearit #rationalizationsrule

In addition to marveling that I’m still wearing that watch five fifteen years later, I’ve also been reflecting on the many differences between my homeland and that of my mum today.

Without getting too bogged down in philosophy or ideology, I think it’s sort of like this: America is like the older sister who had to break in her strict English parents so that her little sister had it easier when her time came to rebel. We had to sneak out of our bedroom late at night to see a boy throw a temper tantrum in the Boston Harbor over the tax on tea so our parents were prepared when our younger sister nicely, politely, with her hands folded asked, “May I please be excused from the table?” 100 years later.

At the risk of sounding like an American a$$hole, I’d like to say…

You’re welcome, Canada.

I really love you. I do. So today I honour you by putting an unnecessary “u” in that word, and by pouring the maple syrup my grandmother purchased in Ottawa into my bacon-infused bourbon to make a bacon old fashioned.

Bacon Old Fashioned from Dogs Dishes and Decor

Behold, there’s bacon in my bourbon.

If you want to make your own, you can find the recipe here. In a vain attempt to make it a little healthier and slightly more Paleo-friendly, you could cut back a bit on the maple syrup and use reduced sodium bacon. Or you could say, “Screw it. I’m just going to put all kinds of unhealthy stuff in my body right now for fun. And not stressing about it will be better for me than any attempt to make it healthy.” #sothere

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to sip my unhealthy concoction, crank up the Call Me Maybe, and scour the internet for a malt bread recipe, ‘cuz you just can’t find that junk here and it’s made of amazing. I’d pay Fendi-level Loonies for it….

Oh, and just in case bourbon’s not your bag and you’re looking for another way to get your maple syrup on, check out this recipe for flourless maple cookies on Things My Belly Likes. They’re gluten free and #iwanttomakethem.

This One’s For You, Justin (Or How to Make a Kale, Banana, and Nut Smoothie)

I’ll never forget the day as long as I live: It was Monday, November 12, around 5 pm. I was listening to the haunting, 80s-esque, synth sounds of Class Actress, and I was elbow deep in my aquarium, scrubbing algae off of the sides. I heard my mother’s ringtone, but I let it go to voicemail. My hands were wet and it wasn’t a good time to talk.

Also?

I had a to-do list a mile long.

I was starting a producing job for the Academy Awards the next morning, and I was trying to get my personal life in order before going back to work.

My mother called again moments later, and I figured it was probably important.

In retrospect, I wish I had been kinder when I answered. My hands were still dripping with water, so I swiped my iPhone with my elbow and put her on speaker. “What?” I said, sort of annoyed.

“I have sad news,” her voice was faltering, and I could tell she was trying to hold it together. I wiped my hands on my legs and picked up the phone so I could hear her better. “It’s Justin,” she said. Then she lost it. Like, gasping for air — sobbing — lost it. If you know my mum, you know she doesn’t break easily, so I knew something was terribly wrong. Yet somehow it almost didn’t register when she told me my cousin had hanged himself that morning.

He was 25.

Justin was a vegan, a home brewer an organic gardener, and an avid cyclist. He was also an absolutely brilliant mathematician who had always struggled with the strict structure of school.

Earlier that morning I had received an e-mail from his mother asking me to pray for him. He had sent her an e-mail on Saturday saying that he wasn’t doing well in some of his college classes, and she was concerned about him. By the time I opened the e-mail and said a prayer for him, he was probably already gone.

After I hung up with my mother, I called my aunt. The police and a priest were still at her house. She asked me if I had gotten her e-mail. “I did. I said a prayer for him,” I told her, my own voice breaking. I barely managed to get out the words, “I love you,” before bursting into tears.

The rest of the evening was a blur. I cooked dinner. I continued to cross things off my to-do list. I called friends. It all felt hollow and unreal. I barely remember setting my clothes out for work. I think I may have pulled out old photo albums, but I really don’t remember.

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Even though Justin and I were separated by nine years and more than 1,200 miles, we spent a lot of time together as kids.

The next morning as I drove to work, my mother was simultaneously en route to my grandmother’s house to tell her that her only grandson was dead.

THAT I remember.

My aunt and mother had decided my grandmother needed to hear the news in person, so that fell to the only person still living in Michigan: my mother. Understandably, she was terrified to deliver the news.

“I’m praying for you. You can do this. I love you.” I texted, as I walked through the polished lobby of the ABC building, head held high. On the outside, I was perfectly put together. It was as if my bright smile and my professional ensemble hid my broken heart. I told no one at work what was going on. I put my head down and crossed tasks off of my to-do list.

Later that afternoon when I was trying to access a work document on Google Drive, I clicked on Google + instead. I never go on Google + and almost forgot I had an account until I accidentally clicked on it.

Staring right there at me from my news feed was this photo of Justin.

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The caption read, “Keep it real. Keep it vegan. Keep drinkin’ beer.”

It had been uploaded Sunday night. It was the last thing he posted before he died, and I’m grateful I accidentally stumbled upon what may be the closest thing my family has to a goodbye note. Justin loved kale and grew it in his garden, so it’s somehow fitting he’s holding it in this photo. His roommates later told my aunt and uncle he had made himself a late-night meal on Sunday when they were heading to bed. Some time between taking this photo and the next morning, he took his own life.

I haven’t had much closure since losing my cousin. Work got in the way. (Or rather, I let work get in the way.) I didn’t attend his memorial because I was working on the Oscars.

On January 10, on what would have been his 26th birthday, I was locked in a room at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for 13 hours without access to my cell phone because it was the day the Oscar nominations were announced. Still I told no one about my loss; I put my head down and did my job. I was torn between feelings of relief for the distraction on his birthday and feelings of intense resentment that I couldn’t let my guard down and miss him even for a moment.

The week of the Oscars, My boss put me in charge of the massive “In Memoriam” gallery commemorating all of the filmmakers and stars who had died that year. It took all of my strength to hold it together as I put endless hours into a gallery paying tribute to strangers when I had hardly taken a moment to honor my own cousin. Still, I told no one at the office.

About a month later, I had a conversation with a close friend who was going to the beach to light a candle on the anniversary of her mother’s death. She has done it every year since losing her mother to cancer, and it struck me that I had done nothing personal to pay tribute to my cousin. Sure, I had contributed to Wheels 4 Life, the charity my aunt and uncle selected, but it didn’t feel like enough. I admitted to my friend that I felt guilty I hadn’t found my own way to honor my cousin.

Last night I had to absolutely drag myself to the grand opening of a new CorePower Yoga location. They were offering a free yoga class, but somehow that didn’t feel like motivation enough for me to drive a mere three miles to the studio. Yet something deep down was telling me to go, something stronger than a desire to take a free class. Something deep inside me kept telling me, “GO,” so I did. The class was great, and I even won a Manduka towel in the raffle.

But the best thing that happened was sort of unexpected… and it didn’t hit me right away.

During the reception after class, I tried a kale and cashew smoothie provided by a local vegan restaurant. I was surprised to discover that it was delicious. See, I’m crazy carnivorous and typically I steer clear of vegan fare, but this thing was actually awesome.

I’m on a bit of a Paleo/health kick right now, so I decided to make my own version of the smoothie today. It wasn’t until I looked over at this note from my aunt and uncle while my Cuisinart was macerating the kale that I realized I was making a smoothie my cousin and I could have shared.

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Food is at the center of our lives. Not only is it essential to our survival, but it can also be an expression of our emotions. We mourn with food. We celebrate with food. And today as I sipped my smoothie I somehow felt like I was closer to my cousin — like I was honoring him in a way.

As I enjoyed a vegan kale smoothie, I realized I had finally found my personal tribute to my cousin.

I haven’t seen his mother (or my own mother) since he passed away. They’re both coming to California next month for their sister’s birthday, and it will be the first time we’ve all been together since we lost Justin.

I decided today that I’m going to make these smoothies when they’re here, so we can all toast him together. We can raise a glass of kale to honor a cousin, a son, and a nephew — a beautiful soul who left us all too soon.

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Justin Russell Drawbert, this kale’s for you. Bottoms up.

If you want to make this simple, healthy snack for yourself, the recipe is below. Even though they’re vegan they’re actually Paleo diet-friendly since the ingredients are mostly alkaline and fairly low on the glycemic index. (More on the whole Paleo thing another time. I promise.)

Justin’s Kale Smoothie

1/3 C coconut water
1/8 C unsalted nuts (I used pecans, cashews, hazelnuts and almonds)
1 ripe banana
1 T agave nectar
2 C fresh kale

Add the coconut water, banana, and agave nectar to the blender and mix to combine. Add the nuts and blend until smooth. Add the kale and blend until you achieve a uniform consistency.

Enjoy!

It’s Dark and Stormy Up in Here (Or At Least in My Glass)

Sorry for the freak out on Friday. Whoa, that was unpleasant. (Thank you all for the encouragement. Sincerely. It really means a lot!)

Anyway, I’m fixin’ to tell you about the elephants soon, but first? We should talk about my love of Fever Tree Ginger Beer.

I adore ginger. Adore. It. I could almost live on it – particularly the pickled kind. I have been known to fight my friend Melissa for the last shred of pickled ginger on a sushi plate. We are obsessed. Like have to order extra obsessed.

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This is Melissa and me with our Long Lost Danielle in the middle. We need Danielle back in LA, like immediately.

So anyway, the other night I ordered a marvelous meat sandwich from the deli up the street and mixed myself a Dark and Stormy with some Fever Tree for a divine pairing that was sort of like au jus and rum nirvana. (For real.)

If you’re not familiar with Dark and Stormies, you should be. They’re a feisty, fabulous, little rum cocktail with a good gingery bite. I think the key to making the perfect Dark and Stormy is using the right ginger beer. Bars often make them with Bundaberg’s and that’s a’ight, but not tremendous. The drink is vastly superior when it’s made with Fever Tree. Trust me.

Fever Tree is amazing, and it even has bits of ginger floating in the bottle. (Heaven!)

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Check out this bottle of feisty goodness!

Technically, the recipe looks something like this:

Dark and Stormy

2 oz dark rum
8 oz ginger beer
lime wedge

But mostly I just pour it all in my glass haphazardly, add some fresh squeezed lime juice, and then sip it with a huge grin on my face.

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Gingery rummy goodness in a glass. Pirates would be proud of me.

Fever Tree can be tricky to find, but you can buy it here.

Now I’m off to the Thai Town Rotary Club Meeting to discuss a fire station fundraiser. I don’t know how I get myself into these things*….

 *Actually I do. Here’s how: last spring, my gorgeous British friend rather sweetly and not so subtly informed an entire fire station that I was a good cook and I’d be happy to make them pasta with spicy Italian sausage. This was overheard by the Rotary Club President, blah, blah, blah, etc., you get it. Suzie was trying to set me up with 14 firemen and now I’m planning a fundraiser. Or something. 

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Suzie is sexy with legs that do not end. She and I exceed at causing trouble together.

Costco, Rotisserie Chicken, and Spicy Margies (Or How to Make a Jalapeno Margarita)

So, I went to Costco on Sunday. When I was starving. After yoga.

#epicfail

I consider it a personal triumph that I didn’t walk out of the place carrying 42 crab legs, 55 pineapples, and 14 rib eyes. The fact that my only unplanned purchases were a rotisserie chicken and a pink polka dotted beach towel is nothing short of remarkable.

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Coscto is so amazing.

I’ll be honest — the whole outing was sort of a mess. I mean, I was that cranky sort of hungry that makes me violent inside. Plus everyone in the store was extra fat and slow, and they were all letting their nine-years old push the double wide cart, which never goes well for anyone. I mostly held it together, though. (I think.)

As long as I’m being all truthful, I should also probably admit that I nearly tore into that unplanned rotisserie chicken the minute I got into my car like some sort of savage, but I thought better of myself and opted for a can of V-8 instead. (Those rotisserie chickens are greasy. Truth.)

Aaaanyway, I now possess more canned tomatoes than any single person should, so I thought I’d make some chili. This turned into I-should-also-make-quesadillas-and-salsa-verde. Oh and jalapeno margaritas.

Who doesn’t love a spicy margy?

I mean…

Since I had to rush off to USC for this fabulous TWIN PEAKS retrospective, I decided to start marinating my jalapeño slices in tequila before I left. (BTW, If you don’t know about Bob and the Black Lodge, get on that s#*@ now. You can thank me later.)

Of course the SAG Awards were on campus the same day as the TWIN PEAKS screening, so it was an absolute nightmare getting to my event. Every entrance onto campus from Fig was blocked off, there were cavalcades of Escalades and town cars converging from all directions, and I had to park absolutely miles away from campus. I may have even had to run in riding boots, but I made it the theater before the first bar of Angelo Badalamenti’s moving score.

Meanwhile, my margies were marinating at home.

So that was my Sunday. Truly riveting, right?

Aaaanyway, if you like a little kick with your drink, here’s how you can make a spicy margy.

Jalapeno Margaritas

6 oz tequila
4 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
4 oz triple sec
1 fresh jalapeno
Ice cubes

Slice one fresh jalapeno into thin slices.

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Jalapeno slices. Riveting.

Place the slices into tequila and allow the chiles to marinate for a least one hour. (The longer you let the chiles sit, the spicier your margy.)

Strain the tequila to remove the seeds and jalapeno slices.

Pour the tequila, fresh lime juice, and triple sec into a shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously. Pour into a glass and serve. Garnish with jalapeño slices for a little flair.

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Drink. And repeat. But not too many times. You probably have to work in the morning.

Let’s Hear it For New York (Or How to Make a Manhattan)

It’s hard not to think about where you were on September 11, 2001. I had just moved across the country for grad school 22 days earlier, and I was only half awake when I heard the caller on a morning radio show say, “When the second plane hit the tower…”.

I had close friends in Manhattan that day, and I won’t pretend to understand the magnitude of the loss or terror they experienced. I didn’t lose anyone dear to me. I only lost a sense of security, a sense that my country was too powerful to be vulnerable. Yet, still it haunts me.

In the days and months that followed, I will admit I questioned what I was doing so far away from my family. Today I find myself reflecting on that same question and thinking about my friends in New York. Thinking about the time I have spent in that city, and the experiences I’ve had there.

Here I am at a cafe somewhere between midtown and the east village on my 30th birthday. Let’s pretend I just turned 30 this year, K?

I find myself at a crossroads of sorts today. My career has been a wild ride, complete with some truly unexpected turns, and my relationship with Los Angeles has been a tumultuous one at times.

So tonight while I reflect on the past and look ahead to an uncertain future, I will do it while sipping a Manhattan. It seems only right.

If you find yourself in an Empire State of Mind, here are two variations on the Manhattan recipe.

This is a “Perfect” Manhattan, and I’m not saying because I’m an amazing bartender or anything. I’m saying it because that’s what you call the drink when you have equal parts sweet and dry vermouth.

Perfect Manhattan

2 oz whiskey
½ oz sweet vermouth
½ oz dry vermouth
dash of Angostura bitters
orange zest, to garnish

Stir alcohol with ice before straining into a chilled martini glass. Add the garnish and serve. (I must admit I sometimes skip the orange zest because I don’t always have oranges in the house.)

This version? With the cherry? It’s the sweet kind.

Sweet Manhattan

1 ½ oz whiskey
¾ oz sweet vermouth
dash of orange bitters
maraschino cherry, to garnish

Stir alcohol with ice before straining into a chilled martini glass. Add the garnish and serve.

Tonight, I’m going with the Perfect Manhattan, and I just might crank up Sinatra’s New York, New York while I’m making it.