Of Insomnia (Or Family Stuff)

It’s after 11 pm, and I’m still awake — a state yet unaltered even after listening to a sermon podcast, a few carefully selected songs on iTunes, and an hour of Harry Potter on Audible. After all of my *valiant* efforts at relaxing, I gave up and got out of bed.

I really thought I was tired… but I guess not.

So, here I am now… pouring out my heart to the internet at nearly midnight on a Monday. (Note to self: I really should pick up that prescription for insomnia meds from CVS….)

I’m in a weird place, which is probably why I can’t sleep.

I have a lot that’s going well in my life: I have two dogs I love more than my own life, many close friends, and a wonderful family. On the flip side, one of my dogs is living on borrowed time after a cancer diagnosis two years ago, I don’t see most of my friends as often as I used to (distance, kids. etc.), and my parents are facing health challenges that come with age.

I’m not really complaining: I’m glad I have people and pets I love enough to keep me up at night. That said, some nights the weight of life and loss weigh heavier than others.

I’m presently preparing for a trip to Michigan to see my family at the end of the month, and as much as I’d like to think I’ve prepared for it mentally, I know you just can’t prepare for what I’m facing emotionally… or otherwise.

Without betraying confidences, I will just say I’m preparing to parent a person who once parented me, and that’s scary.

It’s a kind of real no one can prepare you to face.

I’m going into the situation with the faith that God will lead me (as he always has), he will comfort me (as he always has), and I won’t be alone because I have him and all of the people he has placed on my path.

I’m not saying any of this is going to be easy, but it won’t be impossible.

But also?

If I’m being honest, human, and absolutely real… I have to admit this sucks a little.

I didn’t ask for this, but most of us didn’t ask for our lot in life. We all just play the hand we were dealt. We’re absolutely allowed to complain a little for a minute, but then we need to play the cards we’re holding the best we can. (It’s probably important to mention that I’m a lousy poker player so perhaps this entire analogy is crap.)

Analogy aside, I think we just have to do our best with our circumstances… whatever they are.

And in my case, I can say without a doubt as hard as this next chapter will be in my life, I know I’m the only person who can do what I have to do.

My entire life has prepared me to fulfill the role I must play — both because of my biology and also because the man who made me strong enough to face this needs me now.

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I’m strong because I’m yours.

And?

He made me stronger because he couldn’t let his only child off of the hook; she had to be as strong as he.

I love you, Papa, and whatever we’re facing, we’re facing it together.

You and my mummy made what I am, and I’m strong enough to slug it out until I’m tired enough to sleep.

Tonight maybe that means writing until I’m tired….

 

Of Cancer and Gift Baskets (Or Smiles and Tears)

Friday my monster had surgery.

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His post-op lampshade situation was short-lived, however.

He figured out how to remove it because he is a canine criminal mastermind — even when he’s high on morphine.

I am supposed to find out this week if his cancer spread and if we’re facing the beginning of a battle — or the end. I try to put it out of my head as much as I can because I don’t want to waste time worrying until I know it’s necessary, but prognosis aside, his three big incisions break my heart. I almost cried when I saw them.

Full confession: I love my dog more than I love most people, so this isn’t easy. Maybe that makes me a misanthrope, or maybe he’s just a very special beast. Either way, I have been loathe to leave my house since bringing him home from the vet. I’ve turned down dinner invitations, hiking offers, and I bailed on book club. I just want to be home so I can watch him sleep.

Here he is crushing Cee Cee the Cancer Lion during a recent nap.

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Die Cancer Lion! Die!

I bought Cee Cee for him the day his initial needle biopsies came back positive for cancer. I cried so much that night that I woke up the next morning with my right eye nearly swollen shut. I had to ice my eyelids before I went to work. (It wasn’t awesome.)

I did manage to drag myself away from my patient this weekend to make an appearance at a baby shower, albeit, a brief appearance.

I probably spent more time putting together the gift basket than I spent at the shower, but I did what I could.

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I like presents.

That’s why I get carried away making them look pretty for people.

Like this one.

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Even boys need bows on their birthday. Fact.

Presents help me deal — and they help me express things I sometimes fail to communicate properly.

That’s also why I cook for people. It’s my way of saying I care about them even if I’m lousy at saying it sometimes.

Okay, enough rambling. I’m off to blast some Matoma remixes and make myself a quiche because I need to show myself a little love via my mouth now.

 

 

Beauty in Unity and Resistance (Or My Fight)

Yesterday I didn’t march. I regret it a little….

OK, maybe I regret it a lot.

Seeing the inspiring photos of my friends making history all across the country made me slightly ashamed I was only experiencing a powerful movement via my Facebook newsfeed.

I’m working a TON right now, and Saturday was my only chance to get groceries, make food for the week, and take down my twinkle lights… so I stayed home.

I realize how hollow those excuses sound.

That said, I did have a wonderful day embracing beauty and diversity in my community.

See, I decided to walk to Trader Joe’s to get groceries and on my way I came across an absolutely incredible acapella quartet outside of the Pantages Theater.

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Tremendous soul is a serious understatement.

They made my day.

They were like Boyz II Men x 10.

I stopped to watch them a second time on my way back because I loved them so much. (I donated twice. #duh)

I also took a video of their performance and shared it with my family. On a day when we were divided by politics, I felt blessed I could share something that unites us like good music. Everyone loved it — Republican and Democrat alike.

You just can’t deny soul, after all.

While I’m never going to back down when it comes to my beliefs, I’m never going to turn my back on good people who disagree with me either, so I was happy to find something that could unite us. I love my family, and finding our common ground is crucial to me.

As if a surprise serenade weren’t enough, I also met a talented homeless man making art out of palm trees.

He was only asking for donations for his work.

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I totally bought the cross.

I shared the photo — and the story — with my family. While politics and faith divide us, art unites us, so I was happy I could share this as well.

After I returned home, I made tomato soup, jammed to songs of resistance, and then I went to work at the Saloon.

If you want a taste of yesterday’s playlist here are a few highlights, in no particular order:

Fred Hammond, No Weapon

Dixie Chicks, Not Ready to Make Nice

Yolanda Adams, Never Give Up

Weekend Round Up (Or Kygo and Persimmons, Oh My!)

It’s technically the weekend even though I’ve worked every day. Don’t worry: I have still managed to squeeze in some fun, though.

Friday I saw Kygo with Lola at the Hollywood Bowl.

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It was beyond.

Seal came on stage for a cover of Sexual Healing.

And there were fireworks.

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Tons of fireworks.

Saturday was all about sushi and football.

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As every Saturday should be.

And today I went to the Mar Vista Farmers Market in search of persimmons for a Halloween Party appetizer.

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My search ended in victory.

It’s persimmon season in LA, and I couldn’t be happier. I plan to slice these beauties and serve them with basil, mozzarella, and a balsamic reduction. It’s like Caprese but better because persimmons > tomatoes.

The Mar Vista Farmers market is near a Mexican grocery store that sells my favorite salsa verde in LA, so I try to make it a two for one when I head over there.

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Plus they have goblins. 

And free dog sitting.

I’ve never tried bringing my dog, though. I’m pretty sure Albus would figure out how to break out of the enclosure and head straight for the wild seafood.

Or the goblins.

He’s a magical dog.

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With big magical paws.

Okay, I’m off to watch the Packers before I head to work, but before I go I’ll leave you with a Kygo track because I’m generous like that.

It’s a remix of The Weekend’s Often, and I love it.

Albus and I Hit the Road Again (Or Big Dogs and the Salmon Cooler Taco Adventure)

OK, I’ve been gone for a while because WHOA, there’s been a lot happening.

Last week I was cleaning up after Thursday’s Beef Brisket dinner party and prepping for Friday’s Salmon Taco dinner party when I received a last-minute rental request for my place. The money was too good to turn down, so I accepted the request even though the timing wasn’t amazing considering I had a fridge full of leftovers and whatnot.

I mean, I wasn’t about to leave this salmon situation behind.

I'm selfish like that.

I’m selfish like that.

In addition to the logistical challenge presented by copious leftovers, accepting the request also meant that my dog and I would have to be out of our home within 24 hours and would have to find a place to stay for TWO WHOLE WEEKS.

Um… not exactly easy.

See, if you’ve been following along for a while, you know my dog looks like this:

He doesn't exactly fit in my purse.

He doesn’t really fit in my purse.

I can’t sneak him into places where he’s technically not allowed because he’s enormous, enthusiastic, and just generally about as subtle as a hurricane, so I have to be legit about our arrangements. (Also, being legit is less stressful for my soul and stuff.)

That place? Also needs to be cheaper than my nightly rental rate or our adventure ends up being purely for the sake of anecdotes because it’s a wash financially.

Albus has been a trooper this year while I’ve been on a writing adventure that has virtually upended every aspect of our lives, but I think he may have been starting to lose his shit a little when I was packing us up to hit the road yet again, ‘cuz this happened.

Look Lady, I gave up my venison food so you could save a lousy $7 a month serving me lamb, but you had better bring it with us because lamb is the last straw.

Look, lady, I gave up my venison so you could save a lousy $7 a month serving me lamb, so you had better bring it with us because this tin of lamb is the last straw.

The poor beast. I kissed his head and told him my salmon might have been farm-raised instead of wild-caught. I mean, we’re ALL making sacrifices here.

ANYWAY…

Our first night out of our place, we stayed at the Motel 6 in Thousand Oaks because all Motel 6 locations are dog-friendly and because my first friend’s home would not be available until the following day.

Motel 6 also does not require pet deposits, and they don’t have size, breed, or weight restrictions. (If you’ve ever been on a road trip with a big man-dog, you will know this policy is a rare and wonderful combination.) I picked the Thousand Oaks location because it was close to my next destination in the valley, was still less expensive than my nightly rate to rent my place, and because it was cheaper than the LA locations. Besides, I like getting out of the city for a minute whenever I can.

Also?

It was kind of cute for a Motel 6.

(Like the Santa Barbara locations, it has recently been upgraded.)

How long are we staying here? But more importantly, when do I get some of the leftover salmon tacos you stashed in here?

How long are we staying here? But more importantly, when do I get some of the leftover salmon tacos you stashed in our cooler?

A few nights later, I finally got into the leftover salmon. Somewhere between my first and second salmon cooler taco, I started to question the wisdom of eating fish that had been on the road with me for days. I happened to be texting with my friend and shared my concerns.

His response?

“When in doubt, eat it.”

Since I was pretty much past the point of no return on the tacos, I was glad he helped me rationalize my questionable decision. I figured if I was vomiting the next day at least we’d BOTH be wrong. (I’ll spare you the suspense: I was fine.)

I’ve had many other moments when I’ve questioned myself on more than the tacos this week, but so many amazing people have come through for me in so many ways that I am not sure I will ever be able to properly put that into words.

So anyway…

I might write more about the who, what, when and where of our unfolding adventure or I may just need to hug all of the fabulous people in my life, throw them a massive thank you dinner when this is all over, and never speak of this again. We’ll see.

But for now?

I leave you with this: salmon cooler tacos are awesome, Motel 6 is the cheapest, easiest place to stay with a big ass dog, and I think you should listen to this song because I love it.

Goodbye.

I’m off to finish the script that I had to put on hold during the where-the-eff-are-we-staying-for-two-whole-weeks?!? fire drill that has been the last five days.

Easterelle Day (Or Easter + Elle’s Beach Birthday Celebration!)

I know Easter was so four days ago, but I’m finally ready to write about it. I’ve been in major screenplay mode all week, and I just didn’t have the time or energy to put together a post about my weekend until today.

So…

Here are a few shots.

I started my Easter celebration by attending the intimate, outdoor sunrise service at Bel Air Presbyterian.

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Fire pits are essential before the sun comes up ‘cuz it’s cold in SoCal when it’s dark….

And actually, it’s still cold after the sun comes up….

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Did I mention it was cold?

ANYWAY, After freezing my tukhus off at church, I came home and made an Easter basket for my cousin Maddie.

See?

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So much pink.

I even put a bow on it because everything is better with a bow on it.

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Everyone knows that.

Then I picked Maddie up, and we went to the beach for Easterelle Day. (Easterelle Day = Easter + Elle’s Actual Birthday. Just in case you were wondering.)

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The birthday girl is barely in the pic, but I promise she had fun.

And the food was epic.

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All of the boys thought so.

Actually, everyone thought so. (I’m going to take their word for it; I was still sick so I couldn’t really taste any of it.) We didn’t even get that much sand in any of it either, so that was awesome.

I’ll get to the cupcakes and the leek and pea puree in parm cups later. I need to get back to my script now.

But before I go… here’s one of my favorite songs at the moment. It’s the Mr. Fiji Wiji remix of Tiesto and Kyler England.

Just ‘cuz.

❤ XOXO ❤

 

All Roads Lead to Bacon (Or Balsamic Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Onions)

You know that scene in Dirty Dancing when Dr. Houseman tells Johnny he knows he’s not the one who got Penny pregnant?

He’s all, “When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong.”

(The moment is at 4:28, in case you’re interested — or in case you just wanna watch pretty people dirty dance.)

ANYWAY, when I’M wrong, I say I’m wrong too.

So, here’s one of the ways I’ve been wrong lately: I think I may have been too hard on the Spicy Calabrian Pork Ribs.

They’ve been sitting in my fridge since I made them on Monday and I’ve been snacking on them all week. I’m liking them more now than I did initially. I think maybe the marinade needs to be made a few days in advance so the flavors have time to marry. I might try this experiment another time. (If I do, I’ll totally get back to you.)

The other experiment I want to try?

Involves the maple chile glaze from this pork chop recipe. I think I want to put THAT on pork ribs as well. This brings me to another thought….

It’s possible my pig obsession is getting out of control.

I keep telling myself at least it’s not as bad as this guy’s:

I mean I haven't declared my love on my car yet….

I mean I haven’t declared my love on my car yet….

But I probably would wear one of these to work out.

If you're as nuts as I am about bacon, you can buy these shirts here.

If you suffer from the same affliction, you can buy these shirts here.

An intervention may be necessary.

Even if things ARE a little out of control, I’m not ready to stop the obsession yet, so let’s just keep oinking, K?

Yesterday I promised you the recipe for Balsamic Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Onions, so here it is.

Spence the Spinosaurus is trying to control himself around this goodness.

They were a huge hit with Spence the Spinosaurus.

I had some bacon leftover after I made the dish, so I decided to candy it with spices and maple syrup. (Recipe here.) Then I cranked up the Kygo, and danced in my kitchen while I waited for my candied bacon to cook because that’s what lunatics people do.

Just try to listen to this track and not do a little dirty dancing of your own.

I dare you.

I double bacon candy dare you.

Don’t Give Up (Or Sometimes It’s OK to Vandalize the Kinkos Bathroom)

So I really want to wallow in self-pity today, but I’m not going to do it. I’m back in LA after a trip to Michigan, and now I’m experiencing some sort of post travel hangover.

You know, the kind that makes you want to get in the car again?

To go somewhere. Anywhere. Just so you don’t have to be in your own home facing your life again.

Because I kind of resemble a responsible adult, I’m not allowing myself to do that any more than I’m going to be all gloomy today.

See, my mother’s siblings and I went back to Michigan to celebrate my grandmother’s 86th birthday last week. While it was wonderful to be with my family, my grandfather passed away the day before her birthday two years ago, so the annual trip is always a bit bittersweet. I’ve allowed myself some time to be sad — and to celebrate with my family — and now it’s time to get back to business. This means blogging, setting calls, dusting around the TV, and other sorts of tedious activities. Well, not that blogging is totally tedious. I quite like it, actually.

I just find it hard to be all perky and witty when I’m not feeling it, but I guess life is about doing things even when you’re not feeling it sometimes. It’s about swinging at another pitch when your arms are aching. Getting out of bed when your heart is breaking. Walking another mile when your blisters burst two miles back. It’s about not giving up.

And sometimes, when you aren’t sure you can stand it another moment, someone else gives you the motivation.

I came across this graffiti in the Kinkos bathroom when I was having a bad day, and I was sort of glad someone had defaced the place with a Sharpie because I needed motivation. I also needed the reminder today when I wanted to crawl back in bed with the third Hunger Games book and avoid my life.

So, I’m going to be an adult today.

This means I’m going to turn off sad songs by The xx and blast the Billy Ocean so I can write my long overdue Foodie Pen Pal Reveal Post. I’m going to be an adult today.

Hell, I might even dust.

Drive By Bike Insults (Or I’m Not Sharing My Steak with Blue Cheese and Jalapeños)

Here’s what I love about my neighborhood: it’s dog friendly and it isn’t an uptight community where overbearing people tell you how you should be holding your dog’s leash or whatever. Here’s what I don’t like: weird people who shout at you while riding by on their bikes.

Usually I walk the dogs in some sort of baseball cap and yoga attire, but yesterday I was dressed in a sundress for church when I took the dogs out. Some guy with a strange fauxhawk thing happening on his head shouted at me, “Get a boyfriend!” as he rode by on his BMX looking bike.

Um, what?!?

Freak.

Is that what he said to you? I should have bitten him through his skinny jeans.

First of all, who says I don’t have one. (I mean, I don’t, but how does HE know?) Second, why is this any of his business anyway? And third… what in hell does he think he’ll accomplish by shouting at me?

Does he think I’ll go out with him because he’s the perpetrator of a drive by bike insult? Does he think I have dogs because I’m some sad, lonely spinster? Or is he just some weirdo being weird? (Most likely scenario.)

Does this sort of thing happen to other people or is it just me?

I mean I have had baristas who would harass me for being single. Like it’s so hard to believe a woman can like dogs, steak, and football and not be some guy’s girlfriend. Whatever. (“Just hand me my whole milk latte, Chuck Woolery!”) I mean it’s not like I don’t date.

I just, oh, never mind….

Let’s change the subject to happier things. Like the new album by The xx. And steak.

I would like to eat one tonight while I watch Denver and Atlanta on Monday Night Football.

Even though I think a New York Strip can totally stand alone on its own merit, I also think it can benefit from blue cheese and chiles from time to time.

Tonight I used this recipe to make a jalapeno and blue cheese sauce for my New York Strip.

The longer I stay single, the better I get at handling power tools and lighting a charcoal grill without setting myself on fire, so there’s that.

I also added the blue cheese jalapeno mixture to my baked potato, but you should be careful with this because the blue cheese can get a bit overpowering if you slather it all over everything.

Suck it, weird bike boy, I’m not sharing my steak. Besides, I bet you’re a vegan anyway.

There’s Booze in my Bon Bon! (Or How to Make Spiked Cherry Bon Bons)

This is my friend Tony.

Here we are on Thanksgiving. Giving thanks.

Tony is from Tennessee. And Tony makes moonshine. No, really.

See? Real legit moonshine.

He has a company called Ole Smoky, and they have been featured at the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen and all kinds of other fabulous places. Even though Tony couldn’t come to my birthday party this year, he sent some of his amazing moonshine cherries in his place. (Almost as awesome as having Tony at my party. Almost.)

The cherries are great by themselves and in cocktails, but I was looking at them this week and thought, “I must put these in chocolate.” So that’s sort of the genesis of my spiked cherry bon bons. (I also look at Slurpees and think, “Vodka!”, but that’s just me.)

If you don’t have access to Ole Smoky, you can soak maraschino cherries in vodka for 24 hours and use those. I tried both versions and I have to say the moonshine cherry variety was a little more subtle than its vodka soaked friend. I’m not just saying that because I love Tony. (For real.)

So anyway, if you want to make your own spiked cherry bon bons, here’s how you do it.

Spiked Cherry Bon Bons

Serving Size, 12 bon bons
(measurements are approximate)

12 moonshine cherries
12 oz semi sweet chocolate chips
4 C vanilla ice cream
4 tsp shortening

Scoop ice cream with an ice cream scoop. Place a moonshine cherry in the center.

It’s essential to use a pig scooper to remind yourself not to eat all of the bon bons in one sitting.

Fold the ice cream around the cherry, forming a ball with your hands. Place immediately in the freezer. Repeat with remaining cherries.

After the ice cream has sufficiently frozen, melt the chocolate chips over a double boiler adding shortening, as necessary, to thin the mixture until it is suitable for dipping and pouring.

Dip the ice cream balls into the chocolate. If you find that the chocolate is not adhering uniformly, you can drizzle a little more chocolate on those areas later.

Immediately return the bon bon to the freezer and allow the chocolate to harden completely before serving. Repeat with remaining ice cream balls.

This boozy bon bon is all kinds of amazing. Truth.

This would probably work best with a firm ice cream (especially a homemade vanilla like this one).

I used a rather cheap generic vanilla and found that it melted faster than I would have liked. It still tasted amazing, though.

Now, crank up George Jones’ White Lightning, and go out and get you some moonshine. Now. Here’s a list of the places where you can pick some up.