I Dedicate This to Bumpa (Or I am Grateful to Receive the One Lovely Blog Award)

I am one of those terrible people who sometimes checks her phone while hiking. It should be a sin when one is among trees to consult a miniature computer, but sometimes it beckons from the pocket of one’s purse and it must be consulted so that the racket will stop.

Yesterday it was beastly hot by LA standards and it was actually even a bit humid. It was almost humid enough to make me happy, but not really. See, when you live in the desert and it wreaks all kinds of havoc on your dry hair and skin you, too, will wish for moisture in the air. And those of you who are enduring 107 degree heat with 99% humidity, I would feel sympathy for you except that your mortgages are less than my rent and the men in your state wear baseball caps instead of fedoras.

So anyway, I was having this weird hike in Griffith Park, keeping to the shady parts so my dogs didn’t die of heatstroke and whatnot. There were these two old Asian ladies singing songs at a picnic table for no apparent reason, Albus was trying to pounce on tiny lizards, Woodley was straggling behind sniffing for squirrels and other prey, and there was basically all kinds of chaos everywhere. Meanwhile, my phone was making the mail sound.

I checked it and, lo, it brought glad tidings of a blogging award! There I was among the majestic trees feeling all humbled and proud to learn that I had received the One Lovely Blog Award. Seriously, thank you Kenley of Beyond the Green Door! You are like my young Fairy Blog Mother with the Awards! I adore you!

Now I am supposed to tell you seven things about myself and nominate other bloggers. Since I am terrible at following rules I haven’t personally made up, I am going to start by telling you eight things about myself.

So here it goes:

1) I would die without music.

Here I am DJing in diapers and basically being fat.

My momma raised me on Motown. Marvin GayeAretha, and the Four Tops were the soundtracks of my childhood.

Here we are with her older sister being fabulous hippie types in the grass.

Her little sister contributed a bit of Barry White, Miles Davis, and Arthur Prysock to my musical education.

My mom’s little sister introduced me to great music and gave me my first Cuisinart.

And her baby brother rounded it out by covering Patsy Cline and the blues.

My uncle’s dog, Decca, was named after Patsy Cline’s recording label. Patsy and Decca were amazing.

All of us can trace our love of music and our brown eyes back to the Patron Saint Everything Tremendous, my Bumpa, Harold Lawrence Russell. (I couldn’t say Grandpa when I was little, and the Bumpa bit just stuck.) He taught us to love darts, dancing, and the better things in life, like cocktail hour. He is my hero, and both of my dogs are basically named after him.

Woodley Russell and Professor Albus Lawrence sit nicely for biscuits in Coldwater Canyon Park.

2) Speaking of which, I have always loved dogs.

Here I am in Athens, Georgia with my cousin, Abbott. He would later sail to St. Croix on a tiny sailboat with our Bumpa because his mommy and daddy were moving there to study coral reefs at the NOAA Hydrolab.

3) I worked in the writers’ office of LOST for seasons 3 and 4, and Carlton Cuse is hands down my favorite boss ever. He is funny, smart, talented, and a true mentor in every sense of the word. (I’m super excited about his new show, Bates Motel, on A&E. You should be too. You should also read his article about college sports here.)

My old LOST office in Bungalow 23. Note: we were NOT in Honolulu. The writers’ office was on the Disney lot neighboring “What About Brian?” instead of the beach.

I wore my NOAA Hydrolab shirt into the office during the writing of the Hydra Station episodes because it seemed like the right thing to do.

Hurricane Hugo destroyed my uncle’s lab in 1989. This shirt is a collectors’ item now or something, but I wear it to bed.

4) I psychotically LOVE football.

I am a Green Bay Packers fan because my dad grew up in a super remote part of Michigan that is actually connected to Wisconsin.

Here the Kohon cousins are keeping it classy in a fine establishment called The Rusty Saw Blade Bar. What else?

My true love is college football, though, and the Wolverines are my second religion, you know, after the Presbyterian part.

Only my friend Melissa wears a cashmere Hermes hat to the Big House. I love Melissa.

5) I quit being premed when I had about six credits left and decided to get my MFA in film producing from USC instead.

Because THIS:

is more fun than THIS:

6) There is a road called Kohon Road in Michigan. It’s not one of those coincidences — it’s actually named after my dad’s parents. It’s very weird putting your own name into the GPS. Truth.

Here I am on the side of a highway posing with a sign. It’s not weird… honest.

7) I love absolutely everything about trees.

Sitting in them.

There may be some truly questionable parenting at work here… because this limb? It’s nowhere near the ground. (Just kidding mom and dad.)

Planting them.

Bumpa planted a tree for each of his grandchildren at our cottage. This is my blue spruce as a baby — and also me as a baby.

Decorating them.

Here’s my Bumpa bringing me a Christmas tree.

Hauling them.

Here I am being an amazing helper. I exceed at helping Bumpa.

30 years later, still hauling…

And burning them.

We could sit by a fire absolutely for hours. It’s one of the few things that actually made us sit still.

We lost him in October of 2010, and nothing will ever be the same again. Ever.

I stenciled trees on my hallway wall in remembrance of him.

My birch trees are the first thing I see when I come home.

8) I spoke on behalf of the family at his funeral, and I still don’t know how I did it without crying what with Danny Boy being played in the church and all.

A year later we gathered to plant trees and scatter my Bumpa’s ashes at the cottage. We popped the bubbly and toasted the man who made all of our lives happier, richer, and so much more fun by being by our sides.

I would like to dedicate the One Lovely Blog award to him because I would not have returned to writing if it were not for his courage, his faith, and the legacy his integrity left behind, but that’s a long story for another time.

So now, I’m supposed to nominate 15 other blogs, and it’s not that I don’t want to follow the rules, but I want to be truly heartfelt today. I’m still new to blogging and I’m slowly amassing a list of blogs I love. These are the four blogs I adore right now, and I want you to read them. They speak to my soul and stuff.

But before you do that, you should listen to In the Mood by Glenn Miller because it’s a happy kind of song, it was my Bumpa’s favorite, and it’s good for dancing in your living room during cocktail hour. Even if your only dance partner is your dogs.

Peppermint Bliss. I discovered Bailey’s blog because her home was featured in a Design Sponge tour, and it was quite possibly the most amazing home tour I have ever seen. Never have I pinned more photos from a single spread. Ever. Her playful, colorful, yet sophisticated style epitomizes the aesthetic I aspire to create for myself. Plus she’s really funny, she’s a talented designer, and she has a Cocker Spaniel. You must check out her blog. She has a fresh voice, which is more rare than you might think in the blog space.

Living Luxe for Less Bucks. Sarah is hysterically funny. You will laugh at her anecdotes about ugly undies and awkward body waxing incidents, but you’ll also learn lots of money saving tips on her blog. She has not let her kidney transplant limit her life or dim her spirit. You should know about her. She’s truly one of a kind. Her courage, individuality, and beautiful spirit come through in her writing.

LindO Designs. Angela is a gifted architect and artist. She transforms furniture, knows how to install her own chandeliers, and she’s doing all of this while running a business and running after a miniature Michigan football player in waiting. (No, really.) In addition to her furniture business, she also has a prop company. She’s presently doing fabulous things involving Dr. Seuss for her prop company. I mean, who doesn’t love Truffula Trees?

Dirty Centaur Pictures. John is beyond funny. Last year, he and his writing partner wrote a web series that I produced for a compact car company that will remain nameless for a whole host of reasons. It was absolutely the most fun I have ever had at any job ever. You need to know about John because we all need more laughter in our lives.

I’m Feeling Nostalgic (Or How to Make Orso’s Seafood Saffron Risotto)

Seafood Saffron Risotto with Parsley Garnish Inspired by Orso’s Dish.

It was January 2004, and Brett Favre was still known as the Packers’ Super Bowl-winning QB instead of a grandfather accused of sexting with a Maxim model on the Jets sidelines. For some reason I was feeling cocky (pardon the pun) during the NFC playoffs, and I placed two bets on the Eagles/Packers matchup with two of my best guy friends.

Needless to say I lost both of those bets after the Eagles got a first down on fourth and 26 (devastating clip below). Not only did I lose a case of Heineken to Neil, but I also owed Josh $50. Never mind that my team also lost the game…. It was kind of a bad Sunday.

I’m not going to lie: handing over a dozen Heinekens to a diehard Eagles fan hurt a little, but I’m not one to bilk my buddies on a bet. I was also prepared to fork over 50 bucks to Josh (even if he only bet against my team to antagonize me), but he decided it would be more fun if I took him out to dinner instead. I never pass up an excuse to go out to eat, even if I am paying, so obviously I agreed.

How we ended up at Orso, an Italian restaurant in Beverly Hills, at 10 pm is a very long story that involves a Brett Ratner movie wrapping late, Dick Cheney’s fleet of black Suburbans backing up traffic all over LA, and Nozawa, the Sushi Nazi of the San Fernando Valley, refusing to let us in when we arrived five minutes late.

So, anyway, there we were on the Orso patio, absolutely famished. Everything that could have gone wrong with our dinner plan had gone wrong thus far. Our luck changed when I surveyed the offerings and saw that the rotating menu included seafood saffron risotto.

“Sweet salvation by carbs!” I cried. (It was my favorite dish at the restaurant, and it was not always available.)

Even if Dick Cheney’s cavalcade of cars had kept us from our fancy raw fish, I was still able to have some seafood, and the dish was divine.

After salads, entrees, pinot grigio, moscato, and biscotti, I think my $50 bet ended up costing me more like $150, but we had a blast, and it did make me forget about the end of the Packers’ playoff run, if only for the night.

Sadly, the restaurant (named after a Venetian dog) closed years ago.

So, here I am eight years later, unable to name a dog “Brett” as I had once planned (see earlier sexting scandal), and feeling a bit nostalgic about football and the seafood saffron risotto at an LA restaurant that is no more.

I created my own version of the dish as best I could from memory, and I intend to eat it tonight while watching Michigan’s overtime win in the 2012 Sugar Bowl that is still saved on my DVR. You might want to pair your meal with something more soothing like, say, Chet Baker, but I need more football in my life.

My version of the recipe is below:

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Seafood Saffron Risotto

5 Cups chicken broth
¾ Cup dry white wine
6 Tablespoons butter
4 Garlic cloves
½ Teaspoon saffron threads
1 Pound of Trader Joe’s mixed seafood (shrimp, calamari and mini scallops)*
2 Shallots
1 1/2 C Arborio rice
Chopped Italian parsley for garnish

Bring broth, saffron threads, and ¼ C of wine to simmer in a saucepan. Reduce the heat; keep mixture warm.

Place the frozen seafood in a colander and run hot water over to slightly thaw it. Drain completely.

Melt two tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add 3 cloves of minced garlic and the seafood mixture. Sautee the seafood until the shrimp begin to turn pink. This should take about 2 minutes. Add the remaining ½ cup of wine and simmer until the seafood is cooked. This will take about 2-3 minutes. Set aside the seafood and cooking liquid.

Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped shallots and 1 remaining clove of minced garlic. Sautee until the shallot is cooked, about 4 minutes. Add the Arborio rice and stir to coat, about 2 minutes.

Add 2 cups of the broth mixture. Simmer until the liquid has been absorbed, stirring frequently. Continue adding the broth mixture, 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently, and simmering until the liquid is absorbed before adding more. This will take about 20 minutes. Stir in reserved seafood liquid and the seafood. Cook until the rice is slightly tender, and the mixture is creamy. This will take about 5 additional minutes.

Season the risotto to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley and serve.

*You can obviously use fresh seafood, which will improve the taste. I was looking to cut costs a little. The dish is still very tasty even with the frozen fare.