Thursday, February 10, 2011

Poki paper

Last night I came home from a rare night out with a girlfriend during a "school night".  My friend's friend's daughter, her sixteen year old incredibly talented daughter, Zoe, was playing and singing at a pub in Santa Monica.  We had expensive drinks (Absolut Ruby Red and soda - my new fave drink) and stood on a sticky floor listening to her amazing talent.  It sooooooo reminded me of my single days when this was more of the norm.  Love it.  It's good to be reminded of the good times and also to get away from all my "stuff", if only for a few hours.  But, alas, I wasn't the only one yawning at 9pm...we were all feeling our non-early twenties age.  Sigh.

I come home feeling relaxed and mellow.  My man is chillin' on the couch, so I sit at the kitchen table (strewn with crayons, legos, homework, and bills - yes, back to reality) so I can check my email on my laptop before I go to bed.  I've got so much on my mind with the planning of this school fundraiser and I want to make sure nothing earth shattering is going on, even though I'm sure I will inevitably dream again about the darn fundraiser.  I can't truly escape it!  Urgh!

My man is working on his current papercraft model (a relaxing and cool hobby of his).  Right next to him on the floor, he's got a grocery store plastic trash bag full little tiny bits of paper cut from his latest creation.  I can hear my cat, Popoki, wrestling around the bag which I don't think twice about.
(yep, that robot is made entirely out of paper!)

A little background on my cat Popoki:  Like a lot of cats, she's kinda weird and rather OCD.  Like a dog and a ball, she brings you a string in her mouth to play with her.  She drinks out of a glass of water that I leave for her on my nightstand, not with her tongue, but with her paw - dip paw and lick water droplet, dip and lick, dip and lick.  Around 9:30 every night, she comes out of the bedroom and either screams at me or gives me The Stare that it's time to go to bed (am I that predictable?)  And, like a lot of cats, she likes to sleep in weird places, like my beloved cat Sydney who used to sleep in the bathroom sink.  Popoki just so happens to like sleeping on plastic bags.  Plastic crunchy bags filled with bits of paper.   
So, plastic bags.  She's playing in and around the plastic bag full of paper bits by the couch, when all of a sudden all hell breaks loose.  Popoki starts racing around the house with the plastic bag flapping behind her.  She races warp speed round and round the house, from the living to the dining room though the kitchen back to the living and around and around and around  and around and around.  She's like a bunny being chased by a cheetah, only with hundreds of tiny bits of paper scattered around the house in her wake.  She is absolutely fearing for her life.  Killer bag!

I am practically on the floor with tears streaming down my face from laughing so hard as I'm witnessing this.  Even after Popoki stops and fearfully crouches in the windowsill (with the bag still attached), in my mind I am still seeing and hearing the blur of the nails scraping, bag flapping, paper flying, running-for-her-life cat.  Maybe you had to be there?  But, OMG too funny.

I blow my nose, giggle some more, recount the hilarity with my man, wipe my tears, and head over to relieve Popoki from her plastic bag entanglement.  The bag's is like a leash around her shaking upper body, with the rest of the bag completely shredded and looking like plastic flames.   Run free Popoki, run free!! 

I know it's mean to laugh at the terror of another beautiful creature, especially my wonderful quirky kitty that I love so much.  But, oh man, was I grateful for the snot and tear inducing guttural belly laugh that melted away all of my stress and worry.  What a perfect and unexpected way to end an already nice evening.  If only she knew that, the great gift she gave to me - maybe it would've helped her the next day as she was so obviously traumatized.  At least she let me make it up to her with plenty of petting and a fresh glass of water for dipping.  Aaah, if only life was that simple for the rest of us.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Cinderella pumps

I've searched and searched for a new pair of black pumps for the last few months.  Granted, it's not like I have all day and unlimited resources to shop at stores all over LA, so by all that searching I mean whenever I happen to be in or near a store that just so happens to carry nice shoes.

You see, last year when I helped run the big formal fundraiser for my kid's school, I wore some pretty black pumps and half way through the night my feet were KILLING me.  They weren't even that high of a heel, but I might as well have been wearing a size 4 shoe (I wear an 8).  Then again, maybe I wasn't really supposed to run up and down the hallways like a crazy stressed out lady in these type of shoes - maybe they are more for standing around and looking all fancy.  And, it's not like I wear pumps more than but twice a year or so (flip flops are more like it), so no wonder my feet protested...big time.

That night, I swore to myself that next year for the fundraiser I wouldn't run up and down the hallways (more dignity) and that I would gift myself a new pair of more comfortable but still pretty pumps.  I had the exact type of high-heels in mind - the sort of vintage looking ones with a little strap and a more rounded toe, oh, and I had to be able to wear nylons with them (my legs are way too pale to be seen in public in February!).  

Unfortunately, I see nothing like that out there.  Everything is either too high or too low or too strappy/sandaly or too old looking or too hip or have the wrong heel or too pointy and so on.  Oh the shoe frustration!  

But, I keep the faith and just know I'll find something that will work and I'd even be willing to, gasp, the name of comfort.  I am, after all, almost forty!

Yesterday was beautiful and sunny and in the seventies and the outside world beckoned me.  Since I had a bit of an off week, both physically and mentally, I definitely needed to take advantage of the return of my energy and positive attitude...and the fact that my mom just picked up the kids for the day and overnight.  Whoo hoo!

I first hit a new thrift store based on an entusiastic tip from an avid thrift store shopper (she does props for the studios) and, yep, it was awesome.  HUGE!   And, it was okay that it was totally crowded and only took cash and I had none and my ATM card was at home.  It was another cool thrift store to add to my roster and I'm giddy.

Next, I decide to drive to the nearby IKEA to shop for some new curtains for my newly painted playroom.  Only, as I almost get there, I hear my own voice in my head from years back caution "NEVER go to IKEA on a Saturday ever again!!" and I cringe and rethink my plan...then change my route to the (oooohh!! aaaah!!) Nordstrom's Rack right up the street.  I drive around for a while and finally find a parking spot far far away, but I'm not deterred.  I walk into the store with focus and b-line to the back to the extensive shoe section.  

And then, then...I see them.  I see The Pumps.  In my size!  Not too expensive!  The little strap I wanted!  And they are prettier than I imagined!  So comfortable!  I practically do the Cinderella glass slipper dance (raise the shoe up in the air and twirl - see pic to the right of my favorite, and I would argue the best Cinderella movie of all time The Slipper and the Rose). 

Now, I'm not saying these are life changing glass slippers (I've already found my prince), but it's a reminder that sometimes I can actually get something I wish for, and it feels so comforting and neat and I love it.  

I'm not completely superficial and think that it's profound and meaningful to successfully wish for silly black pumps and all is right in the world.  After all, it's more important that the all-important fundraiser makes lots of money for my beloved school.  Of course, I wish for lots of deeper things, like for the economy to turn around, the end of wars, that no one goes hungry or without medical care, and the return of more important values and spiritual enlightenment.  But sometimes, it's about the little things like those perfect pumps or finding the turquoise earring I thought was lost forever at the bottom of my laundry basket, or discovering that the sweet mom I recently met at school lives just a few houses away, or visiting a new awesome thrift store.

Wish me luck with the fundraiser...and that my new pretty pumps don't kill my feet that night.  I might, just in case, learn my lesson and put aside my vanity and pack an emergency pair of comfy shoes.  But, I have a feeling my new "Cinderella" pumps won't let me down.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The yummy taste of feedback

I seriously spent the last two days in self imposed down time at home.  I was feeling rather sick, like some sort of cold or virus or a yucky something.  Or, quite possibly, I was mentally and physically worn out and drained.  I'm not sure what it was, but it doesn't matter.  I do know that I definitely needed to fly off to some tropical island and drink mai tai's on the beach for a week or two, uh, umm, I mean, take a break and rest and nap and eat well and ask for help.  I admit, the situation was rather desperate.

When I asked, my husband gladly took over most of the kid duties without complaint.  Maybe he got a wee bit scared seeing my "crazy" eyes or concerned because of my eye twitch and sleepwalking incidents (let's just say it involved getting out of bed, putting on my pants, and wandering around my room looking for kids to film for my fundraiser project...and that happened repeatedly during the course of one night).  Ya, umm, so...just simply getting a break from making lunches, taking the kids to and from school, helping them with homework, and not being the almighty responsible go-to super person can make all the difference.

So, during my downtime, I watched a lot tv in bed - caught up on some recorded shows, like Intervention (always helps me feel better about my life), How I Met Your Mother (always makes me laugh), and Top Chef for excitement and inspiration.

One of the most interesting elements of Top Chef, besides watching the cooking techniques and skills of the full-of-personality contestants, is the judge's feedback after each challenge.  It can be brutal and blunt or full of praise and applause, but regardless it's pretty darn interesting.  The feedback, either good or bad, gives the Top Chef contestants motivation to improve and keep going, confidence (stroke their already big egos), a reality check, areas to work on, and validation for their efforts and training...and much more.

I can't help but think to myself about whether getting more brutally honest feedback in life, like on Top Chef, would be a good thing or maybe not?  There is always room for improvement, right?  I'm not saying I am desperate for more praise and outside validation.  I know that it has to intrinsically come from within - a sense of personal satisfaction...yada yada yada.  But, sometimes, I don't know, sometimes...I just need a little something from other people to let me know I'm doing alright...or not doing so great. Just something that let's me know that I'm being noticed...and not invisible.

I've actually given constructive criticism that changed people for the better.  I remember my first real boyfriend at sixteen.  Todd was very nice, artistic and kind of dorky, but man, a horrible kisser!  Not that I had tons of experience in this arena (I was shy and picky), but I did have the sense to know if the kissing felt right or not, and his kissing was just bad.  BAD.  When I finally couldn't take it anymore, I said right to his face "You don't know how to kiss!" and broke up with him.  Kinda mean, I know, but I was sixteen after all.  I probably needed some honest feedback about my lack of tact.

Years later at college, I bumped into Todd and do you know what was one of the first things he said?  He said, well, begged "Give me another chance and let me show you I know how to kiss now.  I've been practicing!!"  He was completely serious and sincere, but I could not get away from him fast enough.  Eeeww!

Another time, I once asked a good friend if she realized that whenever we talked, she never asked about me and that all she did was talk about herself?  She never knew she did that.  She actually thanked me months later and said she really took what I said to heart and had made a big effort to be different with all of her relationships.

I've heard plenty of honest feedback about myself through the years.  I remember way back when I was in seventh grade I had my hair really short, like boy-cut short.  One day, this boy I didn't know very well said to me "You'd look better with long hair".  At first I was totally embarrassed, but then I really took a look at myself in the mirror and thought my short hair did look kind of weird.  So, I grew out my hair and do you know what?!  It grew out curly!  I didn't even know I had curly hair (a result of puberty?)...and it was really pretty!  Thank you hairstyle feedback boy!

I've given and received plenty of life changing feedback and constructive criticism, and I do know it can be uncomfortable but sometimes necessary.   And, there's a big difference between complaining and feedback.  I hear complaining all the time, after all, I am a mom.  For example, after watching my son eat his entire dinner, sometimes I hear a whiny "I'M STILL STARVING!!! (so defeating and grating!), but, I'd much rather hear "Mom, can I have more to eat next time because what you gave me just wasn't enough" (informative!).  Maybe there will be a girlfriend in his (very distant!) future that will tell him he needs to learn some tact.

I wonder if I was ever a Top Chef  contestant or on any of those other competition shows with judges, would I be able to handle the brutal honesty?   Would I gracefully thank them for the experience or cry in the limo all the way to the airport?  Yikes, I don't know...and I don't plan on finding out either way.

After catching up on all of those Top Chef episodes and after a totally glorious afternoon nap,  I am feeling more like myself again.  I even decide to attempt making fish soup for dinner.  Why fish soup?  I'm not sure, but it sounds good and I've never made it before so it's adventurous.  I look up "fish soup" recipes online, however many are tomato or cream based, and I want more of a light broth.  So, I throw a bunch of ingredients together and hope for the best.  And, what do you know?  It turns out AMAZING.  Yummmm. 
I serve the bowls of fish soup to my kids and husband and happily settle down with my own steamy hot bowl.  Before I can get a spoonful in my mouth, my sweet and wonderful daughter proclaims "Mommy, this is the best soup I've ever had in my whole life!".

Now, I've talked about constructive feedback and how it can be life changing and all, blah blah blah, but her huge compliment feels like a big hug for my soul.  I did something right and I did it great and somebody noticed and I heard it out loud...and...I needed that.

soup recipe (as best as I can remember)
onions and celery and garlic sauteed in oil
lots of white wine to de-glaze - don't be shy :-)
vegetable broth (TJ's Savory Broth) - 2 packets
add water, corn (a lot), orzo pasta (not too much), 
herbs de provence, bay leaf
salt, pepper
cook for a while
then add all of the talapia from a frozen 3-pack package from TJ's - cut into one inch pieces
more salt
cook about 10 minutes or until fish is cooked


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Happymiss fall from the sky

You get shot down over the South Pacific during WWII, almost die, and you feel gratitude towards the pilot for doing it?!?!  Unbelievable.
I was completely struck by this amazing and beautiful "happymiss" story:


‘Mastah Preddi’ fell from the sky, into hearts