Old Friends Know What You Need (Or Emergency Encouragement)

Last night I was glum. I was watching Grey’s Anatomy when my phone vibrated next to me. Delighted to see it was my dear friend, Chris, I responded immediately.

He texts me when he’s working the night shift in the ER. He’s in Michigan, so I’m one of the few people still awake during the long, odd hours he is on his feet pulling bullets out of people.

We caught up on life: his twins, my dog, the state of my love life.

I admitted that my writing wasn’t going well. Forever an optimist, and forever my biggest fan, he encouraged me.

My life may not have been hanging in the balance, but my motivation certainly was. His belief in me was just what the doctor ordered.  (Forgive the cliche.)

As we texted, it occurred to me that the men already in my life — my friends — have set the bar exceptionally high and I told him as much.

“I pity the poor man who has to live up to the standard you’ve all set,” I told him.

“You’re too kind,” he replied.

“Well, it’s true,” I countered.

And it is.

Chris and I have been friends since we were 12 years old, and he is a tremendous human being. He has forgiven me for paying more attention to his soccer teammates when I was tutoring them in calculus… and other transgressions.

He has also come through for me with words of encouragement, a listening ear, and loyal friendship for 26 years. We first bonded over a mutual love of Twin Peaks at 7th grade camp, and we’ve never looked back.

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That’s why it was easy to give a toast at his wedding.

After last night’s pep talk from the doc, I’m ready to do a little writing today.

(Writing other than this, that is.)

 

Marriage, Madeleine Ferguson, and the State of the Mirror (Or Things Delayed)

Today I could, or rather, should do seven loads of laundry and seek intervention in the form of a pedicure. I’ve opted to read my new book and watch my dog sleep instead.

I’m ambitious like that.

Honestly, I worked six days last week, today is my one day off before it starts all over again, and I just don’t want to be productive.

Besides, I hung my own mirror this weekend.

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What more do you want from me?

The man who was supposed to do it for me is in Minnesota… perhaps permanently and I’m mad at him for as many reasons as that state has lakes.

In truth, I never really needed his help.

I was merely trying to make him feel useful when I asked him to do it for me, and if I’m being REALLY honest that was sort of a crappy move on my part, but I needed to know if he would do what he said he would, and he didn’t.

I wanted to give him a chance to show me who he was. And he did. In more ways than one. (It wasn’t just the mirror.)

As I recounted the story to my friend Mike on a recent phone call, I told him it was imperative that I could count on someone.”Yes,” he agreed, “because they can count on you.” #aww

That’s the beautiful thing about friends.

They know you. They see you.

They know who you are. They’ve walked with you through so many seasons of your life that you show yourselves to one another again and again, sometimes without even meaning to do so.

I find it hard to replicate this while dating, everyone on their best behavior at dinner, struggling to be mysterious or romantic or whatever. It just doesn’t feel like real life.

Real life, to me, involves situations like: Can we hang my faux deer head without killing each other even though we’re both covered in the gum we accidentally melted with the hairdryer? (Obviously that example is too specific to be fictional.)

My parents practically filed for divorce every time they put up wallpaper or got in a car to go anywhere that involved a map, so I’m not trying to subject any future hypothetical children to that noise.

I’m not saying I have anything against dinner (I’m actually quite fond of it), but I guess what I’m saying is: the other stuff matters more to me.

I started this post for another purpose, and now it has become this.

Oh well.

Like the laundry that should be thrown into the machine and the nails that should be filed and polished, those words and that purpose will be delayed another day.

Now I’m going to straighten the art my dog decided to rearrange last night and go back to my book.

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Apparently he has a problem with Laura Palmer, Madeleine Ferguson, and all things Twin Peaks.

I, have a problem with my couch.

I almost can’t even look at that wretched thing.

Send help.

My Macabre Musings (Or I Return to My Roots)

Maybe it started with the Raymond Chandler novel my aunt encouraged me to purchase at The Last Bookstore, or maybe it’s my mood about my dog’s cancer, but I recently abandoned my usual girlie reading material for more macabre fare.

(Translation: no more Emily Giffin for a minute.)

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I read the entire Chandler classic in the Mexico City Airport.

Now I’m reading two rather grim books, and I’m LOVING both of them.

(If you must know: The Murder Room by Michael Capuzzo, and Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter are riveting. The former is non-fiction, the latter, fiction.)

Also?

The Last Bookstore is AMAZING, and you ABSOLUTELY have to go if you’re in LA. It’s like the only real culture we have here.

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Aptly named, it’s also basically THE Last Bookstore in LA.

Inspired by my dark books, I tweeted last weekend, “Given the state of my love life, I think it’s time to shelve my rom com ideas and write stories about serial killers instead.”

I gained a few new followers after the tweet, so maybe I’m on the right track.

I have been utterly unable to write ANY of the soapy/rom commy ideas I’ve outlined in the last six months. Every time I sit down to write, I feel hollow, empty, and devoid of inspiration.

Sure, I actually had feelings for the first person in FOUR YEARS this year, but that was a raging dumpster fire of a disaster, and while the fallout SHOULD have sent me into a writing frenzy, it has utterly failed to do so. I spent hours journaling, trying to mine my heart and brain for reasons, but I came up empty.

Why was I crazy about him and unable to put the experience into words?

What was different this time?

Other heartbreaks have inspired my best work.

I mean, I should have known better than to fall for him in the first place, but feelings aren’t logical and that’s why I find them so maddening.

I had a date last week, but I couldn’t bring myself to go on a second with the poor guy. My feelings on the practice of dating remain unchanged. (#ihateit) I’d rather just hang out casually and slowly decide if someone annoys me or not.

Sure, I can be sentimental, and I am a bit of a princess (or so my friend Tim says when he hands me my Sauvignon Blanc after work), but I’m not sure I’m suited for the traditional trappings of romance. It all feels forced, contrived, conventional, and more disgusting to me than a rotting corpse covered in maggots.

I spent my adolescence devouring Stephen King, Thomas Harris, Christopher Pike, and Peter Benchley. (I read Jaws in the fifth grade for crying out loud.)

My friend Mike was recently shocked to learn that I have never seen The Notebook. He’s known me HOW long, and he’s surprised by this?!? (In his defense, I guess I was equally surprised to learn he HAD seen it.)

I think maybe my perky, let’s-put-a-bow-on-it, party planing side throws even my closest friends, but COME ON…

Have you seen the art on my walls?!?

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My living room is a shrine to David Lynch.

(I am QUITE aware the prints are not hung symmetrically and it KILLS me.)

The stills are limited edition Richard Beymer originals from the set of Twin Peaks.

Also?

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Who hasn’t noticed my creepy bathroom art situation?

My sorority roommate’s mother let me pick out one of her prints at the Ann Arbor Art Fair back in the day, and I selected the most disturbing one she had.

It’s a vintage mannequin head, and it looks simultaneously serene and unsettling to me.

I love it.

So, anyway, I think maybe it’s time to write about murder because I’m just NOT feeling love at the moment.

Puppy Teepee (Or Ziggy the Fluffy Messiah)

OMIGOSH, it has been SO long since I talked to you about dogs… or decor. So today I’m totally talking about both.

Last weekend I went to see my long lost Gillian. She and I went to USC together and bonded over a mutual love of Twin Peaks when we were wee ones in grad school. We worked in the same office for separate non-profits when we were students, and after graduation we coincidentally worked for two producers who happened to be best friends.

We used to talk every day.

Now she is an incredibly successful producer in her own right, and she travels a lot for work.

We see each other when we can, and even though we don’t talk every day it’s as if no time has passed at all each time we do.

That’s the amazing thing about old friends. ❤

Anyway, she has this darling little dog that I used to babysit when she first adopted him. My mummy met him once, and she loved the little guy so much she referred to him as the fluffy messiah. (My mum doesn’t even like dogs….)

When you see Ziggy you’ll see why she was so taken with him.

Here he is at our Thanksgiving Dinner.

He loves meat pies.

Couldn’t you just die?

His bow tie is beyond.

His bow tie is beyond.

Do you know what else is beyond?

His dog teepee.

Chevron + Puppy Tee Pee = <3

Chevron + Puppy Tee Pee = ❤

Gillian’s interior designer found it on Etsy… and when I saw it this weekend I was like, “I need one for my bubba!”

The only problem?

This is my dog.

He is the size of a teenage boy.

He does not weigh nine pounds like Ziggy.

He is the size of a teenage boy.

His teepee would take up way too much real estate in my little place.

So, we’ll just have to wait on that for now.

If you don’t have a man-sized dog and want to get a puppy teepee, here’s the link to the Etsy store.

Come on, you know you need one….

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.

Peter Pan Party Aftermath Post 6 (Or Babies and the Best Banana Cupcakes Ever)

Banana Cupcakes, mateys.

If you’ve been reading my little bloggy for a while, you know I was prepping for a baby shower as well as my birthday party last week. And if you’re starting to feel like I’ve been a total only child by only writing about my Peter Pan Party, let me take you back to last Friday for a moment.

Picture this: It’s August 3. It’s 5 am. And it’s my birthday.

A certain puppy’s plaintive cries rouse me from my sweet birthday slumber. I decide to stay up even though it’s still dark outside because I’m absolutely up to my eyes in sewing owl sachets and baking and whatnot.

We never wake you up before dawn and go back to bed. Ever.

After walking the baby beasts, I settle in with my latte and tear into my stack of birthday presents like a wild dog. After the requisite calls to thank thoughtful family members (who were all in the eastern time zone, where it wasn’t OBSCENELY early), I settle in to do battle with the bobbin on my sewing machine. More on that later….

After sewing 19 owl sachets I decide to switch gears and begin baking the banana cupcakes that would be the base for these owl cupcakes.

I am just about to pour the banana cupcake batter into the owl cupcake liners when I get a phone call from my friend and co-host of the shower saying, “Stop everything! Jody’s water just broke.”

True story.

It was five weeks before our friend’s due date, so we thought we were totally in the clear holding the shower on August 4. Nope.

I pull out my lime green polka dotted liners and decide we will be having banana cupcakes at the Peter Pan Party instead of chocolate ganache-filled cupcakes with seven minute meringue frosting.

See, I had planned to make the chocolate ganache-filled cupcakes for the shower and since the recipe makes 24 cupcakes and is not easily halved, I was going to split the confections between the two parties. (Obviously I was going to wait to frost the second dozen until the next day with a fresh batch of frosting because the frosting looks way heinous if it sits out.)

Change of plans.

I totally switch gears from baby shower prep to birthday prep and go about my day hoping everything is going smoothly for my friend over at Cedars-Sinai, where absolutely everyone has their babies.

A few of my friends join me later for low-key take out and drinks and I force them to watch the Twin Peaks pilot like the spoiled birthday brat I am.

Then the news comes that Connor has arrived. On my birthday.

The funny part is both of his parents went to Michigan with me, and we’re all a little obsessed with Michigan football — like someone should probably check us in for treatment — obsessed. (I should mention Connor’s uncles and grandfather also went to Michigan, and so did the co-host of the baby shower. When you get all of us in the same room together, it’s a little frightening.)

Connor’s dad had been teasing me earlier in the day on Facebook about my love of Tom Brady, the Super Bowl MVP and former Michigan quarterback, with whom I share a birthday. And now his son shares a birthday with him too, which seems absolutely appropriate for the ultimate Michigan Wolverine baby.

So, anyway, the good news is everyone is happy and healthy, and my friend got to skip five weeks of pregnancy while it’s like 100 degrees in LA. Plus the people at my birthday party loved the banana cupcakes even though they weren’t on the original menu.

And now I have a new birthday buddy to add to my list that already includes two of my closest friends – plus Tom Brady, Martha Stewart, and Tony Bennett.

So, here’s the recipe for the banana cupcakes. It’s adapted (err, mostly stolen) from this recipe for the most amazing banana cake ever that I bake absolutely all of the time.

May the cupcakes make your friends go into labor too. Or something.

Banana Cupcakes

2 1/4 C cake flour (not self-rising)
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about two large bananas)
1/4 cup buttermilk*
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 C unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature

Mascarpone Cream Cheese Frosting 

1/2 C butter, room temperature
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 C powdered sugar, sifted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
4 oz mascarpone

Sliced bananas for garnish

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Place 16 cupcake liners in cupcake tins.

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Mix bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla in a separate bowl.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until blended. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing to blend after each addition. Add half of the dry ingredients and beat the mixture until just blended. Next add the banana mixture, followed by the remaining dry ingredients, just barely beating after each addition.

Pour the batter into cupcake liners. (Do not fill the cupcake liners to the top. You need to leave a little more room in the liners than you would ordinarily. This is because these cupcakes rise more than regular cupcakes.)

Bake until the tester inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, and the tops of the cupcakes have begun to change color, about 18-20 minutes.

Cool cupcakes completely on wire racks.

For the Frosting

Cream butter and cream cheese with the paddle attachment of your electric mixer. Add vanilla and a pinch of salt and mix to blend. Gradually add sifted powder sugar and mix until fluffy. Add mascarpone and carefully mix the frosting. (Mascarpone can curdle if it is whipped too much, so this last step is a bit delicate.)

If you want to skip the mascarpone altogether, just use 8 oz of cream cheese instead.

Place the frosting in the refrigerator until it’s the proper consistency for spreading, about 10-15 minutes.

* I don’t buy an entire container of buttermilk when I only need ¼ C. It’s a colossal waste. I make my own buttermilk instead. You can do this by adding a few teaspoons of vinegar to whole milk and allowing it to sit and curdle, about five minutes. If you don’t have vinegar, lemon juice works as well.

Peter Pan Party Aftermath Post 2 (Or How to Age Paper)

I used to draw. Then I started high school and thought it would be appropriate to fill my schedule with heinous things like extra AP Chemistry and AP Calculus classes — all while swimming, skiing, serving on student council, working on the Homecoming float committee, blah blah blah, etc. College was a similar story. Come to think of it, so was grad school. And don’t get me started on my life in the entertainment industry….

So, you get it. I’m a masochist. And a maniac.

I didn’t draw for YEARS and when I tried to take it up again recently, I was frustrated that I wasn’t very good at it. (Big shock.) I have decided it doesn’t matter if I suck. I need to be patient with myself because I’m never going to get better at drawing if I don’t actually draw. I’m sure this mentality could be applied to other areas of my life, but I’m not that evolved yet.

So, anyway, since I’m trying not to be all dead inside anymore, I thought it would be a good idea to make the decorations for my Peter Pan Birthday Party. I should point out, however, that it’s hard for me to go halfway, so I went totally overboard on the decorations and the baking, but you can’t give up overachieving overnight. (Or maybe ever, actually.)

Albus is concerned about my to-do list — mostly because he doesn’t see “Spoil Big Dog with Hikes and Kisses” anywhere on it.

I came up with the idea of making a map of Neverland and aging the paper.

Here’s How I Did It:

You can use black tea or coffee to age the paper. Since I’m not much of a tea drinker, I didn’t have any in the house. I opted to go the espresso route for aging instead. (I do so love my espresso – and my DeLonghi espresso machine. It’s magic.)

I preheated the oven to 200 while I watched Twin Peaks and made a freehand sketch of a Neverland map. You’re supposed to print or draw on the paper before aging it and then pour the tea or coffee over the finished product. Since I had done my sketch in pen, I was afraid the pouring method would smudge the drawing too much.

If your’e wondering why this drawing is on my floor it’s because there were white chocolate-dipped marshmallows covering every surface of my home. I had to sit on my floor while drawing this.

I decided to use a pastry brush to carefully apply the espresso around the ink instead. I also had instant espresso powder leftover from this Bittersweet Whiskey Cake a while ago. I sprinkled a little instant espresso powder in a couple of spots to give the paper areas of darker aging. I brushed those areas with espresso as well.

My paper-aging tools. Riveting, right?

While the paper was still wet, I distressed the edges with my thumb and forefinger to give it more of an aged, vintage-y feel.

Then I set the paper in the oven to dry.  Since it was too big to fit in the oven with the door closed, I left the door open and dried the map one half at a time. It really didn’t take long to dry the paper, and this was probably because it was 200 degrees in my oven and about 110 degrees in LA that afternoon.

Here’s the map drying and stuff. (And, yes, I know my oven door is filthy.)

Despite the drawing itself not being Dali-quality (my fave), it came out mostly OK. Here it is in action.

Map and table runner situation.

Oh, and the table runner is actually wedding wrapping paper from Target. Since the table was too long for one sheet, I taped two pieces together in the middle and used the map to (mostly) cover up the seam.

My plan was to use a v-cut on the ends of the paper so the runner would look like this:

I adore v-cuts — and basically everything about this tablescape. (Photo Courtesy of 100 Layer Cake)

but somehow after four trips to my friend’s house to drop off desserts, napkins, and salsas, I had forgotten the yardstick I needed to make the cuts and she didn’t have one. I decided not to bring it back on my fifth trip and to accept that everything was not going to be executed according to my vision. Sometimes you just have to cut your losses. I think I’m learning that.

So there you have it. I aged paper. And I made a drawring. More on the dessert table and the floral arrangements later….

[And if you want to check out the blog post I consulted for paper aging instructions, it’s here.]