Things to Think About (Or Real Estate and Stuff)

I’m back from Michigan… again.

I’ve made the trek to the Mitten State twice in the last eight weeks.

This last trip included a meeting with an estate planning attorney, four separate roof replacement estimates, a wedding, a baseball game, and meals with my parents (separately, of course).

See?

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Front row at Comerica Park with my papa.

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Papa showing the contractors his fancy gutter guards.

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My brilliant stepsister getting married in Ted Baker…. (I’m thrilled I was there.)

For some reason, I don’t have any pictures of my dinner (and staycation) at Ann Arbor’s Weber Boutique Inn with my mummy, but you get the idea….

I’m grateful I can get away to take care of my parents’ affairs, but I have mixed feelings every time I board the plane to return to LA.

I’ve been in California for nearly 18 years, and while it feels like home, I often question my decision to remain here.

I’m not ostensibly using my film degree(s) at present, which was the entire reason for moving to Southern California in the first place. I do have a strong support system in LA that I lack in my home state, but is that really a reason to stay?

That’s not to say that I don’t have a few truly wonderful friends in Michigan, but I have a much larger network here. I know it’s not about the number of friends you have; the depth of the relationship counts, and my Michigan friends are, without a doubt, made of amazing, but…

I’ve spent the better part of two decades building a life in LA, and it’s hard to think about saying goodbye to it.

Among other concerns, I often wonder what I’d do for money if left Southern California.

I’ve always wanted to renovate and flip houses — a much more attainable goal in a state where you can buy a house for less than the downpayment on a modest (read: small) house in LA, so there is that possibility.

For example…

This house in East Lansing is listed for $187,000.

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I die for these trees. (Photo credit: Zillow)

It has great bones, and a lot of renovation potential.

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Just look at the hardwood floors! (Photo credit: Zillow)

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While the cabinets and floor have to go, that light fixture is midcentury, retro fabulous. (Photo credit: Zillow)

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That bathtub is absolutely midcentury amazing, but the rest could use some help. (Photo credit: Zillow)

So now that you’ve seen an example of a house in my dad’s neighborhood, how about one in mine?

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This is listed at $1,175,00. (Photo Credit: Zillow)

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Yes, really… $1,175,000. (Photo credit: Zillow)

I’m not saying either house is move-in ready, but you get the idea….

So, anyway, I’m not sure what to do with my life. I just know I’m thinking about things I hadn’t considered five — or even ONE year ago.

Everything has changed since my dad was diagnosed with dementia and my mom with Parkinson’s….

Whatever happens, and wherever I go, I know I’m lucky to have these little nuggies by my side.

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They are stinky, and they are EVERYTHING.

Okay, that’s all for now.

I’m going to snuggle with the big dog babies before placing some sort of self-indulgent LA food delivery order.

I may as well do all of the So-Cal things while I still live here… however long that is.

Dog Yoga and Grocery Delivery (Or Things I Do on Sunday)

It’s a rainy Sunday in LA. It’s the perfect day for staying home and making a big mess of bacon-wrapped food.

The sky is a deep gray, both of my Boxers are asleep, and I’m listening to country music while waiting for my grocery delivery.

I realize the confluence of country music and an urban indulgence like grocery delivery is a bit of a contradiction, but I see it as a perfect microcosm for my identity. While I have somewhat of a redneck sensibility, I am also a spoiled urbanite, and I can’t bear entering a grocery store on a Sunday. The parking lot situation alone is reason enough to stay home — never mind the LA drivers who are blinded by a bit of rain on their windshields.

That leaves me over-spending on Sauvignon Blanc and prosciutto so I don’t have brave the “elements” (read: a light mist) to make dinner.

I recently declared 2019 as the year of productive creativity, so I’m going to get back to my novel outline while I wait for my groceries to arrive.

But first?

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Dog yoga

It’s not nearly as cool as goat yoga, and it involves a pose George invented called, “Barking Dog.”

It’s so relaxing living with Boxers… but I wouldn’t change it for anything.

My boys are everything.

 

Strawberry Balsamic Buffalo Mozzarella Salad (Or Easy Sunday Lunch)

It’s 98 in LA today.

98 on October 9, people.

You could basically do Bikram on my sidewalk if you were so inclined. It’s too hot to run, too hot to cook, and almost too hot to be alive.

I came home from church absolutely ravenous this afternoon. Since starving myself is rarely never an option, and neither is turning on the stove today, I decided to create a salad for lunch.

I had strawberries, arugula, balsamic reduction, and buffalo mozzarella lying around, so I threw it all together with a little olive oil and Maldon sea salt.

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Buffalo mozzarella makes everything better.

I’m not even kidding. I would probably eat a cardboard box if it had a ball of buffalo mozzarella on top.

If you want to make the salad yourself (and I think you should), the “recipe” is below.

I’m going to turn up my AC and yell at the LA Rams on TV now.

XOXO

Strawberry Arugula Salad with Buffalo Mozzarella

1 C Arugula
5 Strawberries, sliced
1 Buffalo mozzarella cheese ball
1 tsp Balsamic reduction*
2 tsp Olive oil
Pinch of Maldon Sea Salt

Place the strawberries and the mozzarella on a bed of arugula. Drizzle with balsamic reduction and olive oil. Sprinkle sea salt to taste.

Salt and Straw for Warriors (Or I Reward Myself With Roasted Strawberry Ice Cream)

Yesterday I went to war… and I WON.

I crossed so many annoying items off my to-do list, my hallway is finally back to normal, and Albus is sleeping soundly now that my files are in proper order.

Please stop snapping pictures of me while I'm sleeping. It's creepy.

I do NOT care about your files. Just let me sleep, weirdo.

After my hallway battle, I went to the park, propped myself up on a picnic table, and did some work on my posterior chain.

See?

The dog is right. I am weird.

The dog is right. I am a weirdo.

I’d go into a whole, long story about how I googled ways to make my own glute-ham developer, but I don’t want to bore you. Besides, as much as I love power tools and plywood I do NOT need anything else in my house right now or I will go insane. This place is already bursting at the seems with egg poachers, ice cream makers, and golf clubs as it is.

That’s why I went to the park to work out. I figured I’d find everything I needed on a playground.

I was right.

Besides, who can argue with this view?

Also? Who can get mad about working your core while you’re looking at trees?

I blasted a little “Bootie in Your Face” because Deorro’s beats take the pain away. (They also make me drive like Danica Patrick, but that’s another story.)

I’m sure all of the nannies at the park thought I was a nut, but it’s LA… people should be used to nuts by now.

After my weird park work out, I came home and made bacon with Brussels sprouts and onions. (If you’re nice to me I’ll tell you how I did that tomorrow.)

I ended my day with two scoops of ice cream from Salt and Straw because warriors deserve roasted strawberry ice cream.

There may have been a whole pint in this cup.

True story.

Later!

XOXO

I’m Ready for War (Or the Wreckage of My Calabrian Pork Ribs)

Last night I made myself Spicy Calabrian Pork Ribs from this recipe I found in Bon Appetit. I had high hopes for the ribs, but I have to admit the flavors weren’t life changing.

That didn’t stop me from devouring the dish like a dinosaur, however.

I even got into the cold leftovers for lunch this afternoon.

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And I totally ate them standing up, just like this.

Why?

Because today is Tuesday. And Tuesday is the day to do battle.

I didn’t have time to sit around and have a leisurely lunch. I had to tackle things like a boss.

See, I recently listened to a sermon series Hank Fortener did on the origin of the days of the week, and in it Hank talks about how Tuesday was originally named for the ancient gods of war. The whole series is fascinating (you can find it here), and each talk ends with a guided meditation that is intended to invigorate you. The words that resonated with me in today’s meditation were these, “Thank you, God, for making me for this battle,” and I’m putting action behind the words.

I didn’t wake up looking for a fight because it’s Tuesday. I woke up knowing I needed to fight because the battle has been brought to me, and it’s my job to fight it. My health and my finances have suffered while I’ve been focused writing, so I’m taking action to ensure that I can continue writing with a clear mind that is not distracted by such things.

And even though my hallway looks like a hurricane hit it as I sort through my files, I’m doing the tough stuff necessary to make everything better.

I even have the words of Winston Churchill cheering me on.

It may be frightening my dog, but I have God — and the words of Winston Churchill — cheering me on. 

And even though my body aches, I’m heading out to a park to strengthen my posterior chain of muscles because that’s what I have to do to stop the pain in my back.

I was made for this battle, bitches.

I Make Martha’s Spinach, Peach, and Ginger Smoothie and It’s Only Aight (Or I Decide to Be Happy Anyway)

My grandpa always said people were too worried about whether or not they were happy. He said we should all stop thinking about it and just BE happy.

So today?

I woke up and just decided to be happy. I blasted some great tunes on my hike. Then I turned the music off, sat on my favorite rock in the woods, and got zen for five whole minutes.

When I got home I slurped down this spinach, peach, and ginger smoothie from Martha Stewart because I thought it sounded good.

Smoothie face on Dogs Dishes and Decor

I make a strange smoothie face in this awkward selfie.

Is the smoothie perfect? No. Can I make it better? Yes.

Just not today.

Today I’m smiling even though these photos aren’t perfect and neither is the food.

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#anotherawkwardselfie

Maybe later I’ll head to spinning ‘cuz that… makes me happy too.

But first?

I’m people watching at Peet’s because I love their lattes and I have a great view of some seeeerious characters on the sidewalk. #thesepeoplehavepinkhair

#happy

The Roof, the Roof is On Fire (Or I Attempt to Fry Chicken)

So, LA is beyond weird. I mean, look at this madness.

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We ran into this bizarre little pony and his goat friend on our morning hike recently. They were apparently part of some strange movie being shot in our neighborhood. We also encountered a battered and bloodied Girl Scout running out of the woods wearing a bad beret, and that absolutely freaked Woodley out. She started barking like mad which probably ruined the shot, but that’s what people get for making unsavory low budget films when I’m trying to hike in the morning.

So anyway, I mostly embrace the madness that is LA, but there is a part of me that longs for something sort of homey and normal-like. So tonight in an attempt to keep things real, I made some fried chicken.

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I nearly set the place on fire and Albus had to retreat to the window for some fresh air, but it mostly turned out well.

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It’s probably safer over here.

I riffed off of this recipe from Miss Paula Deen (naturally). I used a mixture of mustard powder and onion powder instead of garlic powder, and it totally worked.

See?

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It was kind of awesome — even if my plating isn’t.

Later this week we’ll discuss last night’s Indian dish. And the state of my bedroom walls, ‘cuz that conversation is LONG overdue.

Now I’m going to crank up the Divine Miss Beyonce and attempt to get the grease off of my stovetop.

Lord. It’s a mess.

I’m in a Long Distance Relationship With a Burrito (Or How to Make Las Fuentes’ Pollo Con Rajas Burrito)

This is my attempt at making the best burrito in LA.

There’s this Mexican restaurant deep in the San Fernando Valley that my aunt and uncle discovered about 15 years ago called Las Fuentes. It’s not a fancy joint, but it’s fabulous. They often get takeout burritos when I go to their house, and I have fallen absolutely in love with the pollo con rajas burrito.

The restaurant is only about 16 miles away from me, but in LA that distance can easily mean an hour and a half in the car, roundtrip. This city is so stupid! I mean, I dated someone who lived 16 miles away before and I swear it was like being in a long distance relationship. Our debates over whose turn it was to drive across town nearly required an intervention from a UN Peacekeeping unit. (Obviously, we broke up.)

So anyway…

Since I can’t justify spending 90 minutes in the car — even for the best burrito in LA — I decided to replicate the tastiness at home.

I made the chicken in the slow cooker, so it’s a pretty low maintenance dish that can be assembled quickly. It would be the perfect entree for a party where you don’t want to spend a ton of time in the kitchen.

Here’s the recipe:

Pollo Con Rajas Burrito

Serving size, 2 burritos

2 large chicken breasts
1 C chicken broth
4 garlic cloves, peeled
dash of salt
1 medium onion
2 pasilla chiles

refried beans
Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
extra large tortillas
avocado, optional

Slice the pasilla chiles and the onion into strips. Place the two chicken breasts in the slow cooker along with chicken broth, garlic cloves, half of the onion, and strips from one pasilla chile (setting aside the rest of the chile and onion slices for later use). Allow the chicken breasts to cook on the low setting for about 6 hours.

Shred the chicken with two forks. Discard the broth, onions, and chiles. Place the reserved pasilla chile strips and the sliced onions on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with oil, salt, and pepper. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until slightly brown on the edges.

Slather refried beans on the tortilla. Top with chicken, chile, onions and cheese.

This pile of tastiness is ready for melting. Then eating.

You can heat the burrito in the microwave or the oven — your call. OR you could heat up the refried beans with the cheese in a pot on the stove and just warm the tortilla before serving. Whatever works best for you.

If you want to add avocado, do so after heating up the burrito.

Top with salsa or salsa verde.

Birthday Girl Betsey Johnson Shows Me Up (Or It’s Time to Do the Splits)

I’m not exactly sure when it started, but there’s been this running thing for years where my friends judge whether or not we’re old by my ability to do a back bend at my birthday party. For those of you not acquainted with this kind of idiocy, here’s a mental picture: from a standing position I lean back and touch my hand to the floor while making a bridge with my body. Some years I touch both hands to the ground, achieving a full Urdhva Dhanurasana.

Other years, I just put one hand down and keep the other arm stretched toward the sky. Either version counts as long as both feet are on the ground and I get into this contortion from a standing position. I think maybe it’s cheating now that I’m all certified to teach yoga and whatnot because backbends are a pretty common practice for yogis. Doing such things in heels, though, is not a common yoga practice, so I guess maybe it’s still an acceptable test.

This pose? Was not meant to be done in heels. Photo Courtesy of Kathlynn Diary

This year I was feeling all proud of myself because I managed a rather epic backbend in a bikini. Well, that is until I saw fellow birthday girl Betsey Johnson (who turned 70 the week after my birthday), do the splits in the middle of the shoe section at Nordstrom.

I dare you to do the splits in the mall like Betsey.

See, Betsey was at The Grove (a Disney Land-like mall, complete with a trolley and hoards of irritating tourists) to unveil a new shoe commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the mall’s opening.

This is the Anniversary Shoe Situation from Betsey Johnson.

I absolutely adore her, so when I read that she was going to be at The Grove, I got all dressed up in a vintage Betsey ensemble, broke my rule about avoiding the place on a weekend, and braved the tourists for a chance to see her.

I mean I have been wearing her designs since high school! Her dresses line my closet, her bras, bikinis, and jammies fill my drawers. And her shoes? Let’s just say I have a lot of those as well. Oh, and don’t get me started on my Betsey jewelry collection. It’s a little obscene. And it involves bejeweled deer heads. For real.

So anyway, now I feel like it’s time to really step up my game. She’s 70. And she can do the splits. Challenge accepted. (Yes, I’m actually that competitive. Besides, I used to be able to do the splits, so it’s high time I get back to business on that.)

Anyway, I didn’t get super fabulous shots of her, but I did have a good excuse to break out one of my favorite ensembles and wear it to the mall, so there was that.

Here’s Betsey talking telephone bags and meeting her fans. I’m really glad I got the boom mic in the shot. #PhotoFail

Here I am in Betsey at the Eclipse Premiere. See? Photographic evidence she’s my girl.

I mean who doesn’t want to walk around the mall in 4″ heels and browse Sur la Table with a bejeweled tea set hanging from her wrist?

I bought this bracelet for Carlton Cuse’s birthday party back in the day. It’s in heavy rotation on my person. Because every girl needs a pink tea set hanging from her wrist.

And now I’m working on the splits. I need to stretch out my hip flexors anyway. They’re super tight from hiking and sitting in traffic. To ease my way into the splits, I’m going to add a lot of King Arthur, Natarajasana, and Supta virasana to my (somewhat half assed) home practice because they all stretch your hip flexors. (Flexibility with my hamstrings isn’t keeping me from doing the splits, but I should probably give them a little love too.)

Oh, and BTW, don’t take this as actual advice from a real yogi or anything because I do backbends while dancing. In heels. I may have completed 500 hours of teacher training, but I’m still kind of an idiot driven by adrenaline and hubris, and I’m known to do many ill-advised things when dared to do so. If you’re new to yoga, you should totally find a studio with smart, safe sequencing and don’t be dumb like me. (I recommend YogaWorks for a solid foundation.)

You know what else I’m working on – other than the splits? Cupcake decorating. You can check out my sharks here and my owls here.

And now, I’m going to crank up David Guetta and Kelly Rowland’s Commander and start making dinner. I’m trying to master the pollo con rajas burrito I adore from Las Fuentes. (It makes magic in my mouth.) When I do, I’ll hook you up with the recipe.

Of Batman and Dancing (Or The Dark Knight is Rising Up in Here)

Luckily, I’m missing that part of your brain that keeps you from embarrassing yourself and just basically doing all kinds of idiotic stuff. Sure it can lead to broken bones, speeding tickets, and your parents shaking their heads in shame, but it does have an upside too. Case in point: I made a lot of money selling books door-to-door in Santa Barbara when I was 18. Also? It means I had this unexpectedly fabulous time last night.

See, I had plans to go out for a girls’ night with my gorgeous British friend, but she called and put a kink in things.

“Forgive me, but I was wondering if perhaps we could reschedule?” She went on to explain there was a coffee shop in her neighborhood that projected movies on the wall, played music, and provided a space for people to dance. “I’ve just been feeling I need to get in my body and out of my head. It’s a bit weird, but if you fancy joining of course you’re welcome.”

Weird dancing? Of course I fancy joining! (I excel at weird.)

So, I’m picturing this small, dark room and general strange rave-y-ness all around. I spend all of this time applying eyeliner, creating a coordinated ensemble with black heels, a big blingy Kate Spade bracelet, and the sort of shirt you’d wear to a club. I also put on my don’t-you-dare-get-fat jeans. Every woman owns them. They’re the sort of tight pants that are absolutely unforgiving in every way and they remind you that it’s a terrible idea to finish the entire pizza while watching Dallas.

I arrive at the coffee shop (late, of course) and find my friend reading at a table. She’s not wearing club attire but workout pants instead. (My first clue the evening might not go down quite the way I expected….)

She suggests we take a peek in the room and check out the current dancing sitch. Upon doing so, I immediately notice everyone else in the very large and very bright room is wearing dance attire – like jazz shoes with Lululemon — and I’m basically dressed for a frat party.

There is no movie on the wall and talented people are basically freestyle pirouetting all over the place. Well, shit. I haven’t done ballet since I was 19. This is going to be interesting….

We pregame with a little chamomile tea (I swear to God) and head in. I remove my three-inch heels and my jewelry, and I also twist my hair into a makeshift bun because I have absolutely no hair ties on my person, and this is looking like it’s going to be an athletic endeavor.

Now, let me remind you again lest you forgot: I am in my super tight jeans that basically make me hate life. I am also not wearing a sports bra but a lacy ditty by Betsey instead. Things could get ugly.

My friend is a little more reserved and has a much stronger sense of propriety and shame than I, so she’s slowly beginning to bob her head to the music and tentatively moving the rest of her body. I decide to just go for it with something resembling reckless abandon – but not so reckless that I rip my jeans, mind you. (I absolutely hate paying to replace things I destroy through utter stupidity – particularly when those things cost about $200.)

Soon, more amateur civilian-types join us, including a guy wearing a t-shirt and a canvas kilt that basically looks like Carhartt has gone into the business of creating fashion for bagpipers.

I am making a complete fool of myself with my limited range of motion and ability, my friend has gotten more into it as well, and it’s just all kinds of awesome. (Also, Betsey must know something about gravity and stuff because somehow that business is all still in place. So sad about her bankruptcy. That woman knows bras. And bracelets.)

Midway into the evening, we meet a lovely woman who informs us we’re in the company of a dance troupe. A dance troupe. And a former Cirque du Soleil performer. Um, so yeah. I’m NOWHERE near as good as these people, but I don’t care. I’m having fun. And the truth is: everyone is so into their own performances that they’re not looking at me anyway.

Soon the other amateurs leave and it’s back to the core dance crew. And us. We wind up on the outside of a circle, clapping and encouraging others to move into the middle and showcase their skills, which include insane break dancing moves and some serious acrobatics. My friend has the good sense to get us out of there before we are called into the middle of the circle to make epic fools of ourselves. Had I not been so inappropriately dressed, I might have gone in the middle without prompting and done a heinous barefoot tap dancing routine, but the world has been spared of that. (For now.)

So we leave all sweaty and happy, and we decide this is our new thing.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I say terrible things about LA all of the time, but nights like this remind me that I will probably never leave. Sure other cities have cool shit like subways and men who drink scotch, but I like it here, thanks.

SO, now I have a fabulous new “thing” and I must do it again. Like every Sunday. I’m never going to be able to spin on my head or balance my entire body on my elbow, but it’s OK. I can burn off a few burgers with my own amateur moves and feel truly free for a night, because let’s be honest: there aren’t enough opportunities in life to escape the confines of our thoughts and just feel the music.

Now my problem becomes what to do about next Sunday night. I’m murderously over-scheduled what with my commitment to see The Dark Knight Rises, followed by drinks AND a dinner party. Somehow I have to squeeze in my weird dancing too.

I’m contemplating rescheduling dinner and drinks — because what I really need in my life next Sunday is Batman. And my bad dance moves.

While we’re on the topic of Batman, you should know that Batman was a bad dancer too and you can see it here. Hmm… maybe next time I should show up in a cape and super hero tights. The ensemble would allow for more range of motion than my evil jeans….

I mean I have already decided to make Batman and Robin costumes for the dogs, so I could just make one for myself as well. See, I found this excellent pin from Sugartot Designs with downloadable Super Hero logos, and now I’m all inspired and whatnot.

Photo Courtesy of sugartot designs.

Sure, they’re probably intended for actual children and not Spaniels, but I don’t care. Obviously, the dogs will also need masks like this:

I loved the Adam West Batman as a kid. I might still watch it on The Hub now, but shhh, no one needs to know that.  (Photo courtesy of Dial B for Blog) Kapow!

Did I mention the last time I sewed anything I was nine? And that it only slightly resembled a panda? See, I decide to tackle enormous sewing projects with all of the hubris and reckless abandon that I apply to dancing wildly in public and almost everything in my life because, truly, I do not have a healthy fear of failure. Or shame.

One guess who will be Robin in the dynamic duo.

Poor Woodley….

If you do have actual human children and you like Batman half as much as I do, this would be an amazing DIY painting project:

I cannot find the original source of this pin, but holy tiny car, Batman, it’s awesome.

Oh, and one last thing, If you’re into Batman and you like laughing, you should check out my friend’s video on Funny or Die here.