Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Food Fight

I've imagined myself as a participant on a reality TV show before, but there's a new show out that has me blogging on this topic yet again. "Food Fight" pits home chefs against professional chefs in a series of 5 rounds - the home chef picks their 5 best recipes, and can stratagise about which recipe to use to compete against which professional chef. The professional chef for each round must make their own version of the home chef's recipe, and a panel of every-day (not professional) foodies judges whose version they prefer in a blind tasting. Oh, and I forgot to mention that the home chef can win up to $100,000 by beating the professional chefs. Better than a sharp stick in the eye.

I think this premise is delightful, though the actual show can be monotonous to watch. I would not want to be put upon to be so peppy as the home chefs appear to have been coached to be, and the host (Adam Richman of Man vs. Food) irritates me with his facial expressions and talking dumb. Of course I wouldn't actually do this, but I feel like I would want to tell him to get out of my face and space when he came in to talk to me about what I was cooking while I was trying to cook. I would be angry to waste any brain power answering his questions if I only had 15 minutes to cook a dish! The time constraints for some of the courses would clearly be a huge hurdle, though it looks like their allowed to have a lot of their ingredients pre-prepped.

I may or may not be able to beat any of the chefs at the level at which I can currently cook, but I like to think that I am working up to being able to! As some of you know, I've been selling products by the Pampered Chef for the past 6 months. I have a love-hate relationship with this job, but one thing I love is cooking for people, and helping other people get excited about cooking. I mentioned before that I'd like to move in the direction of becoming a private chef and/or teach some specialty cooking classes. As for being a personal chef, the Pampered Chef is the first  my job I've had with an aspect of customer service or sales, and that part is hard for me - sometimes people are difficult and don't know what's best for them (no, I will not cook kale for you!!!), and that's the part that I imagine would be frustrating about being a personal chef, too. My one experience with a personal chef was in Beijing, when some family friends invited my mom and I to their house where a private chef prepared dinner for a small party - if I recall correctly, the meal wasn't especially creative (some kind of beef steak, green beans, mashed potatoes, etc.), but it was especially delicious, and having a personal chef, even if it's just for a very special occasion, is such a luxurious and fun experience. [image]

I was telling my mama about the show "Food Fight" and asked her what recipes she'd choose to compete with. The two she said right away were her famous overnight bread (people, it will blow your minds) and her Indian samosa with chutney. She could whoop the best of the best with those recipes, I'm darn sure.

As far as what I'd cook, I'm still building my repertoire. As I thought about it, I realized how difficult the time constraint would be. Making dough from scratch, letting things marinate, letting things chill - many of my favorite recipes require time that I wouldn't have on the show. I'd also need to learn to use tools like a stand mixer, emulsion blender, vacuum chamber, etc., though those should help with the time constraints. I'm also not good at cooking from memory or without a recipe to at least reference, which could put me at a disadvantage. But, at least I could practice my bum off at home first. Can you tell I've seriously considered being on this show? I like to think I could stand up under the pressure, though. Have I mentioned that my parents threw a shower for Jonas and I before we got married based around the cooking competition show "Chopped"? Our team lost, but it was a really fun shower, and I also got my new-wife-kitchen launched with a bunch of Pampered Chef products as a result of that shower - the BEST! [this picture was an inspiration for my whole wedding design, before I called off the wedding and decided to get married at the courthouse, haha.]

So far (time constraints not accounted for), the recipes I'd consider competing with on Food Fighters might be my great grandma's gazpacho, my prawn and coconut milk ceviche, my dad's xinjiang pilao, this killer ancient mac-n-cheese (a truly amazing mac-n-cheese is rarer than you'd think), and guava-lemon mousse (which is so simple, and incredibly good, but only an accomplished dessert chef would know what to do, I think!). I have some other incredible recipes, like eggnog pancakes, a cheesy chicken pot pie, and a chicken salad in lettuce cups, but many of them are standard enough that I think a professional chef could make an impressive version of their own to rival mine. Although it's in it's extremely fledgling phase, I'm hoping to compile a cookbook of my best recipes in the next few years - it will give me a chance to test and perfect all the "keeper" recipes I've made in the past few years, and as a finished product, what a cool keepsake and easy and personal gift to give, right?!

What reality or competition shows do you think you would have a chance at competing on? And the REAL question, what recipes do you have that no one, not even the best, could beat? Do tell! 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Silver Lining

Do you think you have a natural age? What age is it? By "natural age", I mean an age which you will always feel you are, or ought to be. Some people refer to themselves as perpetual 4-year-olds (though that sounds absolutely dreadful to me), but very few woman would refer to themselves as a perpetual 13-year-old. Some men take pride in acting like they're forever in the 10-15 range, which is only even remotely charming in small doses. Still other people, notably Iris Apfel, really seem to come in to their own as older adults (60+). 

For the longest time, my mom was 36 and my dad was 38 in my mind, even as they were both nearing 50. Those just seemed like the right ages for my parents to be (despite that they're 3 years apart in age, haha). People say my mom was born 30 years old - she's always been serious and future-oriented, and she admits that she needs to be reminded to have fun. I think I inherited some of that from her, as I ferociously pined to be older than I was for my entire childhood. I've always wanted to be independent and I'd spent most of my life wanting to be married, both of which happened when I was 20 years old. I didn't exactly want time to slow down once I turned 20, but I finally really enjoyed where I was in life. 

Still, I hope 20 isn't my natural age. I always want to be growing, and I don't want to be going downhill when I pass my "natural age". In fact, I'm not sure having a natural age is real or good. But I do think it's interesting to think about. The way I see it, ideally we'd all achieve balance between being young at heart and making mature life decisions. That makes me excited to grow older, knowing I will [hopefully] grow in wisdom. At the same time, I hope that age doesn't solidify my nature so much that I stop being able to adapt or change my mind about things at some point. I will be delighted if/when I get a head of silver hair, and I'm on my way already with my first silver hair appearing in the last month (#motheroftwo, much?!). 

Maybe all of this is easy to say while I'm still young, but I am determined to embrace growing older, and eventually just plain old. I know there will be more pain, but I choose to believe that the joy will be deeper too.

Do you believe in having a natural age? If so, what do you think yours might be, and why? 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Ira Alamar Rhys

I have two sons! Is that wild, or what? Here's one of the first pictures I took of Ira Alamar Rhys, born on August 4th, at 7:07 PM. He weighed 8 pounds, 1 ounce, and was 21 inches long. Especially compared to Ishmael's birth, things went quite smoothly, but I'll save the birth story for another post. For now, here is the story of Ira's name, for us to remember, him to read someday, and you to learn about, should you be interested in it.

I wrote a little bit before about how I built a space in my head and heart for Ira by attaching myself to aspects of his name and my dreams of him. We had a hard time settling on a second middle name for him, but all along, I've imagined him wrapped up in images of the ocean. In fact, when I swaddled him this morning in one of the indigo dyed blankets I made, it looked so... right! I made this little image-quilt with images from this Pinterest board that I'd been keeping as he grew in my belly.

To me, a good name should be uncommon, but not outrageous. Both our boys have names that aren't made up or spelled strangely, though they are not well known or often used in our circles. In fact, I've made it a point to google and facebook search my sons' names to make sure there aren't any weirdos or infamous people I don't know about who share their names, and all the Ishmael and Ira Tuckers seem to be african american. Ishmael is a common name among Hispanic communities too, and Ira is predominately Jewish.

I'm more willing to go "celebrity" status with their middle names, though not for the express purpose of being eccentric. When choosing names, we considered the phonic flow of the whole name, the initials, the languages of origin, any pop culture ties that will be triggered when people hear the name, the meaning of the name, and any personal significance the name may have - I like to have a story or reason behind the name. To find three names per kid that fit all those criteria can be tricky, but here's what we decide on for Ira, and why.

Ira (Hebrew, meaning "Watchful". Also the name of a Polynesian sky goddess, apparently).
The first time I heard the name "Ira" was because of NPR's This American Life host, Ira Glass. Our Ira, however, is not named after him. Strangely enough - as these things tend to go - as soon as the name was on my radar, I started to hear it everywhere! I'm a little surprised "Ira" hasn't caught on as a popular baby name in the last few years - it has all the right components, including being short and beginning with a vowel, to name a few. In fact, we recently read that names beginning with "Is" are on the rise too, who knew?! Probably skewed by Isabella after Twilight.

Once again, Jonas was the one who suggested Ira as a first name, and I quickly agreed. That's another difficult criteria I should have mentioned above about how we pick names (that we agree, I mean), so we tend to stick with whatever we both like. We settled on Ira pretty early on.

And no, we aren't purposely giving all our kids "I" names, because a) this isn't the 90s, and b) it's a pain in the bum to abbreviate when texting, for example. Both our sons will have trouble signing emails with their first initial, sorry guys.

Although unplanned, I like that Ishmael and Ira sound nice together and have complimentary meanings. Ishmael means "the Lord hears", so I think it's kind of poetic that Ira means "watchful".

Alamar (Spanish meaning "to the sea", Arabic meaning "covered in gold") 
This is the name with the most meaning to me, and I've been hanging on to it for a long time. Ever since I saw the documentary "Alamar", I was set on having it be part of one of my children's names. I can't believe that not everyone is dying to name their babies "Alamar", it's so lovely to me. I love the way it sounds in my head, (like the ocean, to me) but I don't like the way I pronounce it out loud, and Jonas wasn't as crazy about it as I am, so that's why it ended up as a middle name instead of a first name.

The film "Alamar" is incredibly beautiful, both because of the setting in the coral reef and because of the relationship between father and son. The calmness of the father and the love and gentleness toward nature and wildlife shared between the father and son remind me of Jonas and how he is raising his own sons. A white heron on its migration path stays with the father and son in the movie for a few days, and they christen it "Blanquita". Whenever Jonas and I see a white heron, we also call "Blanquita!" after it. [image]

"Alamar" is not a common name or term in general, but there happens to be an Alamar Avenue in Santa Barbara. It makes me smile when we drive by, and I feel like we'll always be attached to this place in a little way, even if we don't make our permanent family home on the Central Coast. Similarly, every time I come up the hill from Gaviota, headed south, and see the ocean, I think the ocean is one of the most beautiful sights in the world, no matter the weather. I love it when it's grey, I love it when it's blue, I love it when it's green. Maybe Ira will even end up with ocean eyes too, like me. He might not appreciate this later in life, but the whole ocean scene makes me think of that U2 line, "Oh, you look so beautiful tonight."

When I found the second, more obscure (though it pre-dates the Spanish) Arabic meaning of "Alamar", I was doubly in love with the name. I'm so happy to have a small piece of the Middle East in Ira's name, and the image of being covered in gold connotes a sense of the precious to me, beside the fact that I love all things golden.

Rhys (Welsh meaning "Runner", pronounced like a multiple of "rye", as opposed to with a harder Z sounds like "rise")
It was really hard to come up with a second middle name this time. We both really liked "Osiris", but didn't feel completely comfortable with the name's origin. We thought the "IS" ending of  "Osiris" went nicely with the rest of the name, so "Amadeus" was the second middle name for a while, but I never felt really attached to it. Then it was "Xavier" for a while, but I just couldn't divorce it from X-Men (not that that's totally a bad thing). I ended up finding Rhys on some random name list on the internet, and was immediately charmed that it was Welsh (my predominant heritage), for starters. I'd never heard of the name before, but it's apparently very common in Wales. It's also most commonly pronounced "Reese", though I pronounced it "Ryes" when I first read it, which I prefer. I debated whether to change the spelling (which I find totally annoying when other people do), but then happily discovered that "Ryes" is a legitimate pronunciation option as well, according to Wikipedia. I have no huge sentiment one way or another to the meaning of "runner", but maybe it will take on a story as Ira grows.

If Ira had been a girl, his name was going to be Ophira Dahl (Jonas may not know that, haha!!). Other names we liked but didn't ultimately choose were: Soren, Elias, Solomon, Amiri, Atlas, Maalik, Qasim, and Idris. Ira's pre-birth nickname was "Taco", because I craved lots of tacos during his pregnancy, and Jonas and I love Invader Zim, in which our favorite character has a special love of tacos.

In true 20-teens (2014) fashion, Ira's got a hashtag, #iraalamar, along with a regular name, right off the bat. I wonder if it will seem totally normal or totally ludicrous too look back at giving our kids internet names upon birth?

So that's the story! We're so thankful to have Ira finally in our arms, and little guy, we hope you like your name as you grow up. A few weeks prior to Ira's birth, I asked my mom if there were any names she liked now that weren't on her radar when she was having kids. She didn't have anything on the tip of her tongue, but she said that the more she sees her own kids grow, the more she believes that we, as parents, impart a blessing with the names we give our children - that the meanings of names set a tone, in a way. For Ira, I hope he uses his eyes to be attentive to the world around him, to appreciate beauty, and to take special notice of the needs of those around him. I hope he loves the beauty of the ocean as much as I do, and never tires of it or grows out of being in awe of it. He is more precious to me than gold, and as for running, I pray he is always running to do the right thing, running to finish the race strong, and running because isn't it incredible and freeing that our bodies can do that?! Life is an amazing thing. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

July 2014

July has been full of fun. And waiting. Being a stay-at-home-mom has begun to require some creativity, too. One of the hardest parts for me is not making money AND having time to shop. I'm a thrifty shopper, but even so...

Heard: My brothers make fun of me for liking Neon Hitch because Spotify associates her with the Beebs, Nicki Minaj, etc., but I feel like she's way more funky and niche than those cats. I mean, Neon is her real name, she grew up in the circus, and there's a sitar in this song. Definitely feeling it. "Bad Dog" is probably my favorite song of hers, but it's a tad filthy. This song mentions head wraps and Bonnie and Clyde, which is cool with me.

Read: I finally finished reading Lolita (by Vladimir Nabokov) after starting it last fall. I read most of it right away and then got distracted, I guess - all this after beginning to read it years ago and being completely blown away with the writing, but too creeped out by the story. This time, I wasn't as struck with the writing and the plot was still difficult, but I made it through. In fact, I do think it's excellent writing (but not unconditionally the best I've ever read, like I'd previously held it to be), partly because the story is from the point of view of a child molester and yet, there are times when you find yourself in his shoes - I would tend to think that was impossible, thus why I have to credit Nabokov's extremely skilled mind and pen. It's so human that it's kind of uncanny - you realize that in some moments, HH really does love Lolita, and you realize what an unpleasant, but pitiful and broken and precious, person Lolita is. The writing style itself made me feel distinctly that there are people in the world much smarter than I - much of the text is the ramblings of HH's mind, jumping from thought to thought without bridges in between, and I wasn't able to make many of the jumps without further explanations. Many parts of the book simply went over my head. When I was more in touch with the tumblr and Swedish street style blog scene (haha) a few years ago, there was definitely this idolization of Lolita in that sub-set of pop culture. The book to some extent, but the character mostly, I think. After reading the book, I'm troubled that some young woman want to be associated with her. I get it in a way, but also not really. I actually ripped the cover off my copy because I was unsettled by the cover art, but in general, Lolita has some of the best designed covers I've ever seen. I think this one is my favorite.

Jonas and I went on a date to Crawdaddy's in SLO which was a fun experience! I'm excited to have a Cajun place near by and would like to try other stuff on their menu besides the crawfish boil we got last time. I cooked a LOT this month. Some of my favorites: Grilled Zucchini and Leeks with Walnuts and Herbs, Grilled Moroccan Chicken, Watermelon-Strawberry-Mint Salad, Coconut Milk Shrimp Ceviche, Meatballs in Cream Sauce, and Passion Fruit Truffles.

Browsed: With food on the brain so much, stumbling across EatWith and KitchenSurfing was extra fun and mouth watering, and got my brain wheels turning about working up to being a private chef and/or hosting monthly themed dinners and/or teaching small cooking classes. We'll see if that ever develops into more than a seed in my mind. In a similar vein, I REALLY hope The League of Kitchens branches out to California.
I can't wait to get my hands on a cocktail umbrella so I can check for a secret message!
Every time I hear about Kowloon Walled City, I'm bummed it was demolished before I had a chance to see it. At least the internet is awesome and I can see it in a virtual sense. If you've ever played Half Life (my husband has, I think), one of the versions is set in KWC, which has generated some cool artwork and is another way to virtually explore the city. I saw that world-building refereed to as "nerdvana", which delights me. Greg Grirard is kind of THE photographer of KWC, that I know of, and his photos, especially this one, are pretty amazing. This post has some more incredible artwork of KWC, and if you want to get crafty, THIS!

I've been around long enough to realize that even when I can find a bra that feels comfortable (once in a blue moon), I'm probably still in that 90% wearing the wrong size. Well, hello Pinterest link. There is a LOT of information here, and even more if you follow her links (all the ones I linked to were yet more info that I found useful), but I'm definitely on the right path to a better fit now. Several of the links include photos and videos which are very helpful, but NSFW.
Experienced: We found a stray kitten, rescued it from a busy intersection, and my mother-in-law ended up adopting it. Adorableness abounded, and it was sad to not be able to keep it ourselves! [image]

Ishmael and I spent a weekend at our old stomping grounds at the beach house in Silverstrand, Oxnard, to celebrate my mom's Masters in Social Work and my brother Jonathan's graduation from high school. 

Jonas wasn't able to attend the beach weekend because he was at work, earning his level 6 raise! We've been waiting for that for a long, long time, and I'm so proud of him. 

One of my best friends, Emily, married her dream guy in Chicago. I was sad I couldn't be in or even go to the wedding (due to being hugely pregnant), but the couple stopped by for lunch on their honeymoon road trip. 

I also got to go to a fun bachelorette party for my friend Amber, in which we encountered a stranger who advised her not to get married. I, on the other hand, love love.

Boys: It was interesting to watch Ishmael interact with the kitten we had for a day - at first he was thrilled, then indifferent, than a little jealous, which is exactly how I imagine he will feel about a new brother. He was pretty gentle over all, so I'm grateful for that. His stuffed kitty gets shared with everyone he meets, which is pretty sweet. We'll see how long the good sharing lasts with a sibling. He loves to listen to music on headphones (and pause and un-pause the music every 1/2 second), which is convenient for us when he crawls in to our bed around 7 in the morning. He experienced his first quarter in a candy machine and about lost his mind with excitement, it totally made my day. He also loves to flush the toilet, and when he saw me use toilet paper to wipe my nose, he said, "NO! Pee-pee!" I thought baby-brother would be here in July, but he decided to be an August baby. We got his bed ready, pulled out some itty bitty clothes, and I hand-dyed him some swaddling blankets. I even have the blog post about his name all ready to go.

Loved: Feeling rested and having time to finish projects before Mr. Baby 2, spending time with Ishmael, fresh flowers, ocean water in the summer, all the amazing produce at farmer's markets, finding stuff I was looking for at thrift stores. And this chair. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Dream Date

I've always liked asking Jonas (and everyone) "favorite" questions, but it's harder and harder to come up with ones that I don't know the answer to the longer we're together. Thankfully (kind of), Jonas has a tendancy to change his mind about substantial things (like what he wants to get his BA in) and forget to tell me, so sometimes I'm surprised by the answer even if I ask him something I've asked before.

Last night as we were falling asleep, I asked Jonas what his favorite candy was, and he didn't know. I don't know what mine is either, except I remembered just now that officially, it's double salt black licorice.

My next question was, "what is your dream date, if money and time and place weren't obstacles?" He said he'd want to eat at NOMA with me, and I approve of that answer. I love being the person he wants to experience life with. I actually have the original NOMA cookbook, but haven't looked through it in a long time. One of the most recent episodes of Parts Unknown that we watched was entirely about NOMA, and it was pretty amazing. The tasting menu for one person costs $267, so thus the "dream" aspect of a date there (plus, it's in Copenhagen). Here are some images from the cookbook/restaurant to give you a sense of the vibe. It's been ranked as the top restaurant in the world for the past several years in a row.

I'd never really contemplated what my dream date would be, but I came up with it pretty quickly, and it is pretty dreamy. Here goes: First, this date involves a private yacht that magically drives itself, but at some point, a personal chef appears and then goes away again. We would be sailing in warm, clear waters so that we could find some caves to swim in and explore without it being scary or cold. After our swim, our magical personal chef would cook a big, fabulous lunch for us (and do the dishes), and go away. Other parts of the day include catching our own fish to BBQ for dinner and a fancy suite with a spa, large shower, and a bed with candy and kittens. But the kittens are magically free of any guilt on my part for not staying with them every second. Other things I wouldn't cry about: unlimited comic books, full body massage, frozen yogurt (with taro flavor, at least) and popping boba (lychee flavor), this (thankfully, this happens a lot with my husband), and discovering a lost ship on our swim. [images 1, 2]

Some real dates I'm looking forward to in the next few months are brunch at Marisol at the Cliffs in Pismo and trying the new ramen shop in SLO. Here is a Pinterest board I keep of other date ideas in our area. 

What would YOU do on a dream date? 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wedding Inspiration: Paradise

I get so excited when I see a wedding that's not run-of-the-mill, but then again, though I wanted my own wedding to be unique, it still ended up with a very classic vibe. It's hard to step out on too lofty a limb on one of the biggest days of your lives! That's why I love moodboards - I can make up infinite wedding themes and ooh and ahh over the pretty pictures, without the stress of actually making it all come together.

I think a destination wedding would majorly stress me out, but a destination elopement with bright colors, great food, turquoise waters, and parrot-colored attire? I'm so there.

I call these colors Papaya, Citron, Paradise Berry, and Bright Teal. 

Image Credits (clockwise L to R): 1., 2., 3., 4., 5

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Try This At Home: Coconut Milk Shrimp Ceviche

Jonas and I love the restaurant Luna Red in SLO for their unique menu choices and lovely atmosphere. On my first visit there, I got hooked on their shrimp ceviche. The menu mentions the main ingredients in the dish, but I decided to try my hand at recreating it at home, and meshed with this other ceviche recipe I found, here's what I came up with.

Time: 30 min prep, 30 min marinade
Servings: appetizer for 6 adults (or adventurous and ravenous toddlers)

What You'll Need:

  • 1 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and de-veined
  • 5 to 8 limes, depending on size and juiciness 
  • 1/2 large cucumber, deseeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1/2 cup packed cilantro, chopped 
  • 1/2 to 1 (depending on the desired heat) green jalapeno pepper , de-seeded and minced 
  • 2/3 of a 14 oz. can of coconut cream (thicker than coconut milk)
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional, depending on jalapeno heat)
Home made tortilla chips for serving 
Caviar limes (aka finger limes) for garnish (SB farmer's market has them) 


1. Peel and clean the shrimp first, chopping them into bits about the size of your fingernail. Juice the limes and fully cover the shrimp with lime juice. Let the shrimp sit in the lime juice for 30 minutes in the fridge - the lime will "cure" the shrimp, turning them the pink-and-white opaque of cooked shrimp, super nifty! 

2. Next, chop the cucumbers and salt them in a sieve placed over a bowl - the salt will help the cucumbers release some of their liquid so you won't end up with runny ceviche, as well as salt flavor to the whole dish. The longer you let them sit, the more water they'll release, so get this step out of the way early on so they have time to do their thing. 

3. I threw the jalapeno, red onion, and cilantro in to my manual food processor and chopped them to a small dice in one quick step. 

[if you're making your own tortilla chips, you can use any time left waiting for the shrimp to finish to start on those]

4. When the shrimp is ready, pour off a little more than half of the lime juice (you can just toss it, you're not using it later) and combine with the cucumber (shake off excess liquid that may still be dripping) and minced veggies. Pour the coconut cream over everything and combine. You can use more or less cream depending on the consistency you want.

5. Add cayenne to adjust the heat, if desired. Squeeze caviar limes over individual portions for extra pretty presentation. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Now & Again

This morning, I couldn't even bring myself to tell Ishmael to stop pulling every inch of floss out of the floss container. Resistance is futile, sometimes. He doesn't want to go behind the curtain so I can take a cool picture of him, he only wants a rotten peach (or "apple", as he calls it), NOW. While running around the kitchen after breakfast, he smacked his elbow on a cabinet knob and needs me to pick him up and make it better NOW. When I'm cooking with spattering lava-hot oil, he inevitably wants to be in on the fun NOW - I know because he wedges himself in between my legs and wherever I'm standing, stands on my feet (which has become very painful), and rocks on my legs and looks up with saucer eyes and wide-open mouth saying "up?!" until I pick him up or tell him "no" and move out of the way, resulting in a waterfall of snot and blubbering. You have to see that "up" face to understand why most of the time he gets picked up, no matter how pregnant I am or how far away I have to stand from whatever I'm trying to cook.

If I'm trying to read a book or look at something on my phone, NOW is the time he must sit on my lap and read too. If I'm enjoying my dinner, NOW is the best time to commandeer my lap and challenge my ability to keep my food on the fork in the 3 feet between my plate and my mouth. Everything with toddlers is best done right NOW. I'm not a total pushover nor do I give him everything he wants, exactly when he wants it, but having a little guy teaches you that your time is not always your own, and sometimes what he needs is more important than what I was already doing. No matter how convenient, it is one of the best feelings when your child needs your comfort NOW when he's feeling hurt, vulnerable, scared, or sad.

As for AGAIN, you guys all know about this if you've ever spent time with children. Or my husband. Jonas and I are very different in that he is content to go to the same restaurant (if he finds a good one) for just about every date, where as I rarely want to go to the same place twice, even if I loved it the first time. When time is finite, I want to fit in as much variety as possible. Jonas on the other hand, wants to spend his time enjoying the few things he knows are worth his time. Especially earlier in our relationship, when we were most polarized on this issue, it drove me a little nuts. But I remembered this passage I read ages ago in G.K. Chesterton's "Orthodoxy", and it helps me appreciate Jonas, and now my toddler who wants to play the same game or sing the same song 72 times in a row, or as Chesterton puts it, "until you are nearly dead."
“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” 

Isn't that the most beautiful way to look at the endless cycle of "agains"? I love imagining God as giddy as a child, or a child as giddy as God, taking never-ending joy in doing the same wonderful thing over and over and over, until we're truly dead.

I was feeling overwhelmed and short tempered this morning, especially since I have started to feel uncomfortably close to giving birth in the last 2 days and there's still a lot I want to accomplish before that happens. Remarkably to me, however, I am about 2 weeks in to essentially being a stay-at-home mom, and I'm loving it! I was nervous that I'd be bored and soon grow resentful toward Ishmael, but I had an afternoon without him yesterday and it just felt quiet and I almost decided to go to sleep, which I don't usually feel when I'm staying active with him. (here's a photo of what I'm eating as I write this - pizza, tootsie rolls, tums - thanks to my husband for bringing me this special order. Proof of pregnancy, if I know anything)

I think it's harder not to resent my spouse for working outside of the house and then spending leisure time at home when I still see so much work to be done around the house. Thankfully though, Jonas appreciates that I work at home, and that helps me feel less in danger of getting SAHM syndrome where I feel stifled as a person. Like I said, today started out with me feeling a little more frazzled than I have been feeling. After a few hours of me-time during Ishmael's nap that helped me snap out of my funk considerably, I decided to take him across the street to the Discovery Museum, which neither of us had ever been to before.

I can't believe they charge $8 for children (unless they're under 2, lucky us), and I think I would have been considerably underwhelmed if I'd paid $8 for Ishmael's admission, but since he was free and my admission was only $4, it was a well-spent 2 hours of our day. I was quite surprised at how much he enjoyed it, actually! He ran around from station to station, excited about almost everything, and even warming up to play tunnels, which he's sometimes wary of when he can't see the other end. His favorite things were the tractor (complete with a special way to shift gears) and another little car with a wheel he could turn. He was even running up to other kids to watch what they were doing and wait his turn, though the other children helped me recall that I do not like children in general, Sam I Am.

There was one little boy who was probably 7 who was not in the little car when Ishmael ran up, but when Ishmael tried to get in, the boy got in and would have shoved Ishmael to the ground if I hadn't caught him! I think I was too shocked to chew that kid out like I probably should have. Another little boy didn't want Ishmael to ride a little rocking horse that he wasn't riding himself because the horse "needed to be alone in its pen". When the little boy protested when Ishmael started to ride the horse anyway, Ishmael realized that his behavior was making the other boy unhappy and ran out of the pin, hiding his eyes, which he does when he's ashamed or someone he admires tells him "no", like my dad. It completely shatters me when he does that, and I fiercely want to scoop him up and let him know it's okay and that he didn't do anything wrong (in the horse instance, at least).

Other kids, man. They're real jerks.
I'm sure my kids will have some majorly jerkish moments too, but for today, I'm so thankful for my sweet little guy and that I have these few weeks to spend a lot of time with him and all his NOW and AGAINs. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Look With Your Eyes: Geoffroy Amelot

My favorite kind of Lego creation. I'm sure he's not the first to use Legos as color pixels in artwork, but this particular use makes me extra happy.

By the way, this series of artwork I'm posting in between more substantial posts got its name because "look with your eyes" is what my dad used to tell my siblings and me when we'd be at a museum or somewhere else with things to look at, but that we weren't supposed to touch.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Out of the Cul De Sac

My friend Suzanne posted on Facebook today, "What SHOULD a country be? What should its citizens be proud of as a national identity, as national characteristics? What should it not be proud of?", and although my first reaction is that the answer will be different for everyone (for better or worse!), I don't know exactly how I would answer those questions, and that got my wheels turning. 

I love this song. I think it's a beautiful love song, but I also love the tones of exploration, freedom, and perhaps immigration, which I'll touch on later in this blog. 

When I think about my political, or even patriotic leanings, I'm well aware that I'm a product of my environment. It's easy for me to think that my view on the world, which is pretty narrow in some areas, is simply reality, but I appreciate when I can see past that and realize that anyone who considers their own views to be the way everyone sees the world is kidding themselves. When I am in those moments of realization, it helps me reevaluate what I believe and why. That being said, most of the people in my life are pretty conservative, politically, and some are grossly rude in their vocalization of their opinions. I could link to some of the nastier memes I've seen, but I like to think myself above sharing them with any more eyes. I'm aware that I don't have a lot of exposure to the opposite side, though I know it exists, with equally disgusting displays of opinion on the other end of the political spectrum. As it is in my small slice of culture, my disdain for the hypocrisy of a lot of conservatism (particularly when it comes from those who bare the name of Christ and then defile it through their hate speech toward other humans) has led me to be a firm moderate, which reads almost like a radical liberal in my circle. As followers of Christ, should we not be both as wise a serpents, and as gentle as doves? I openly admit my struggle to be both wise and gentle in my response to those that I find both foolish and harmful, and I realize that if can't control myself, I am not in a position to contest anyone else's words.

I wanted to explain that only to give you some background on where I stand politically, and the reasons I'm moving in the direction that I am, even if that reason is often a reaction to others as much as it is my own convictions about particular issues. I say "as much as", because I don't want to downplay that I do think issues through for myself as opposed to simply deciding to resist the larger culture around me. I don't seek to be irritating or rude or hateful when I express my own beliefs, but sometimes I do seek to unsettle people in an attempt to get them to question their beliefs or behavior. I know that not everyone appreciates that, but I do it partially because I appreciate it when someone brings something to my attention that causes me to see an error in my own ways and then I am able to alter my thinking and actions. I think any one of us would be crazy not to want to be righted where we're wrong. Granted, I may not have the skill or the obligation to convince many people of the things I think they're wrong about, but I genuinely feel that I have a calling (pardon how conceited that may sound) to be a challenger, if not a persuader. 

Having grown up in another country, I feel that my perspective on America and being an American is different than a lot of people who grew up here. Although I am, in general, an Obama supporter, I too have questioned and worried about the apparent trend in the dwindling of some rights and freedoms in the past few years, despite the fact that most of the freedoms that are in question (gun ownership, privacy of information) are not things that I feel the need to be completely unhindered in. I assure you, I have felt pangs of anxiety and sadness over what I see happening in this country, BUT, I am far from thinking the country has gone to hell. I firmly believe that history and nations show a repeated cycle of rise and decline, and that America will fit in to that - whether we are truly in decline is up for debate, in my book. Even if we are, that doesn't completely trouble me in the grand scheme of things. I don't believe it's possible to maintain "greatness" forever, nor do I believe America started out as great or as smiled-on-by-God as a lot of people do. While I think my expectations of America started out lower than many, I think my hope for it is greater. [image]

In comparison to all other countries I have ever lived in or visited, I can confidently say that we have been and are still so very privileged and free in this country. Although it would be foolish not to fight for the things that we consider to have made us so privileged and free, I wish there was a greater sense of awe and gratitude for what we do have. A constant doom-and-gloom attitude doesn't contribute to a healthier state, in my opinion. 

Without trying to sound too doom-and-gloom myself, I find my faith in democracy dwindling. Not only from the standpoint of feeling like my voice doesn't affect how the country is run, but whether the model itself is even the best idea. When I see America trying to impose democracy on other struggling nations as if it's a cure-all, I stand back and grimace. Democracy seems more and more like communism to me - an excellent idea, but a system that can't be sustained very well in the long run. As I mentioned above in a slightly different scenario, I find it arrogant to assume that our way of thinking ("democracy is best") can or should be applied to everyone else. I'm not sure that democracy IS best for every country, not only because of any flaws in democracy itself, but because other nations are built on different cultures and principles which may not thrive under democracy.  In the case of many of the countries involved in the Arab spring(s), I think it was noble and necessary for the people to rise up against their corrupt governments, but is democracy then the next step, when the people don't share the same beliefs about what the next form of government should be? I don't know the answer, but I find it embarrassing that we push democracy so hard on other countries, particularly when it seems to be falling apart on our own turf. Democracy has god-like status to many Americans, yet consider that neither we nor our children dream of becoming president when we grow up anymore. 

I'm not sure what that speaks to more - our deep-seated loss of faith in the democracy and the ability of our government to affect change, or a new and better understanding of democracy as we focus on affecting change in one smaller area in our lives that we find important, rather than thinking the only way to have power or influence is to be the president. For better or worse, I think Americans have come to see the position of president in a much more real light - regardless of the person who is president, the position has less power than we thought. As discouraged as I feel at times about my voice or vote mattering at all, I think it would be fundamentally un-American to give up because of that. In the words of Margaret Heffernan, "she had freedom and she [is] ready to use it". Just because my vote may not seem to matter (side note: do we only feel that way when things don't turn out the way we voted for them to turn out?!) doesn't mean I don't have the freedom to speak and act out in other ways - politically and socially. We have almost unparalleled opportunity in this country to say and do what we want in the name of furthering causes that are important to us, even if we have to focus on taking much smaller steps than something like a presidential policy. 

Even so, I definitely feel that pull to give up on failing social systems. I used to be staunchly against getting federal aid of any kind that I may qualify for, but don't really need. Low income housing, WIC food, money taken off our PG&E bill based on how much we make - I didn't want to be a freeloader and further break down systems that have, in part, been ravaged by people taking advantage of them and/or thinking they deserve what is actually a gift. But the further along I go, the more discouraged I feel about maintaining ideals like that. It's hard to get by when everyone else uses what's available to them to get ahead, and in the end, I ask myself what the point is of resisting free help. I already paid for it all in taxes anyway (though somehow the government gives us more money back than we paid in taxes? Not that I'm complaining, but they wonder why this country is broke). Giving in to that cycle is kind of what gives me a soul ache. 

I love this country, and I think my fellow Americans do too. Sometimes love drives us to do stupid things out of fear, when we feel that our treasure is threatened. Yet, what does love mean, if not that "the odds are irrelevant - do whatever the hell you can, the odds be damned." A "hopeless problem" does not deter you from doing any and everything you can. Those are sentiments of Lawrence Lessig in his talk about how .05% of money givers to campaigns control the outcome, or have what we call "influence". But, he points out, imagine you have a child with brain cancer and what you would do to save that child. We would not consider any odds, no matter how tipped against us, to be irrelevant. For the love of America, all is not lost! 

If I could heal one American wound, it would be our immigration system. You know who I think are some of the most patriotic people of all? New immigrants! They appreciate the United States in a way that many of us don't. I'm grateful to have a small
taste of that having spent over a decade living outside the United States and then moving back, even if I didn't have to struggle to be accepted legally. 

Sometimes I feel left out of some deeper level of patriotism because my 9/11 experience, which I think defines patriotism for my generation in some ways, wasn't on US soil. Other than stories about kids being hurt, 9/11 stories are the surest to make me tear up, and that makes me feel intrinsically American. In the end though (and the road there is a different story), I'm so grateful that my experience of living through 9/11 has given me the foundation for that little bit of change that I am seeking to affect in the US, and it has everything to do with protection of immigrants and asylum seekers, especially when they're coming from countries that aren't on good terms with the US. Isn't that what America is about? Don't we have a big lady hanging out at the entry way to this place tattooed with the words, "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me." Why don't we focus on THAT when we talk about the values this country was built on that we're losing? [image]

I get completely disgusted when people go on about how our nation was founded on Christian principles, and we've now turned away from being a God-fearing nation. Bull shit. There's no such thing as a Christian or God-fearing nation, and we sure as hell never were one. God isn't obligated to bless America, and why should he? We aren't and never have been set apart from the rest of the world in his eyes, and the creation of America as we know it wasn't his pet project. Oh, and P.S., our forefathers weren't pillars of the Christian faith or infallible in any way. They were politicians (granted, with many wise and commendable ideas and traits) just like we have today. Why do we insist on clinging to their ways so blindly? Nations, times, and people change - it's okay for us to amend laws and practices created over 200 years ago when the founders had absolutely no way of knowing what their fledgling nation would be like centuries later. We think people who haven't adapted to the last 200 years of life are cooky, so why do we think that sticking to a national code that's 200 years old is always the right thing to do? 

This country was founded on greed and hostility, as well as a need for a place of asylum. Why do we gloss over the greed and hostility, and get rid of the asylum, one actually great part about our beginnings? Furthemore, if we're so worried that our country is losing ground on the world stage, wouldn't the diversity and fresh pair of eyes and new talent brought by immigrants and asylum seekers only aid in making us more relevant and competitive as a nation? Immigration is the issue closest to my heart because I think it is very closely tied to the future and health of our nation. I think there is nothing more hurtful or disgusting than American citizens forgetting that they're only where they are at now because America once let their forefathers in as immigrants. 

Let's get out of our suburbs and our cul de sacs and use the freedoms we have to ensure that our kids have a great, if different, America to live in 50 and 100 years from now. Did you know that the term cul de sac is a French term meaning "bottom, or ass, of the bag". "The cul-de-sac especially, with its uterine shape and having the word 'sac' in it, gave me the feeling that I spent my early years coddled and sheltered in an asphalt womb" (source). Remaining sheltered and blind to our role in a world that is increasingly interconnected is folly. 

As frustrated as I get in the face of bigotry toward immigrants, I love this quote used by Jeff Speck in his excellent TED Talk: "Americans can be counted on to do the right thing after they've exhausted the alternatives." I have hope for this country and I believe in it, even when it's a big pain in my ass. We fight for what we love, right? Or in Biblical terms, where your treasure lies, there also is your heart. As Sarah Vowell put it, "when I think about my relationship with America, I feel like a battered wife. Yeah, he knocks me around a lot, but boy, he sure can dance." Sometimes America and Americans really hurt me, especially when I see how I contribute to the parts that make my soul ache, but I think there is still great potential here. 

So back to Suzanne's question,"What SHOULD a country be? What should its citizens be proud of as a national identity, as national characteristics? What should it not be proud of?" To me, at this point in my life, I think my country should be a safe place, a mother with arms wide open to embrace those who need her. I am proud of my fellow citizens who work diligently to give others the opportunities that we have has American citizens, and I'm proud of my fellow citizens who utilize their freedom to make some small mark on this planet, even if they'll never have the chance to give the president a piece of their mind, change his mind, or be the president themselves. We should never be proud of being exclusive about what we've been given. This independence day, let's remember those who want nothing more to be in on this dream, and think about about how we can make that dream a reality for as many people as possible.  

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

June 2014

I went on maternity leave on the 26th, and I am LOVING IT! Chilling with Ishmael before his world is turned upside down, extra time to cook, catching up on writing projects, staying up later than usual to watch shows, being free to make day trips, even doing some cleaning - it's a sweet time before a different kind of sweet (and exhausting) time with a new baby. Plus, it's summer time. :) I can't get enough. [image]

Watched: I saw that Bram Stoker's Dracula was available on Hulu the night it was going to expire, so I stayed up late and watched it by myself. I'd never really sought it out before, despite my love of Dracula, because, well, it was the 90s, but I thought it was pretty good! Although some key story elements were different (such as Meena being in love with Dracula), I was delighted at how closely the movie followed the book for the most part. I was surprised at how demonic and sexual parts of the movie were, though. Still, pretty impressive! // Jonas and I started watching the new show Crossbones about Blackbeard. It's decent and still has my interest, so that's something! We also watched season two of Orange is the New Black, which started out weak, I thought, but by the end of the season, it was back in all it's incredibly-written and acted glory. We're 2/3 of the way through season 3 of Sherlock (so yummy), and I've just started watching Anthony Bordain's Parts Unknown, which is better than I expected. It's a pretty amazing look into some places in the world that aren't known well in the West, or perhaps known for only one [often violent] thing, such as Columbia for drugs or Libya for Qaddafi and Benghazi. Although Bordain strikes me as somewhat of a d-bag (sorry, mom), he's game for just about anything and is good about being culturally sensitive, which not all travel show hosts are. His crew filmed a camel being butchered, which I managed to never see during my time in China, and was kind of shocking. The show is a little less food-centric than I expected, but I don't really mind.

Heard: Although not totally fitting with the summer mood in general, I've been listening to King Creosote and Jon Hopkins' album "Diamond Mine" every chance I get.

Tasted: This months hits were this shrimp and dill pasta saladsweet potato fries with sriracha mayo, and green gazpacho (Jonas loved it, I wasn't blown away). I also made ebelskivers and dutch babies which were pretty yummy, but no special recipes. This seven-layer lasagna was also not too shabby, but it took SO long to make (days), that I question whether it's really worth it. It left me thinking I'd let other people who make killer lasagna make it and go to them when I want some, and stick with things I love to cook that are amazing and less frustrating. Similarly, I made this chocolate and candied kumquat tart, which was very time consuming. I get it in my head to make these things, despite not having much of a sweet tooth! It wasn't thrilling at first, but I left it at my parents after I'd made it and when I went back a few days later, the chocolate part had really set and chilled properly, and it was kind of amazing. // Right next to a place I love to shop for Thai ingredients in North Hollywood (Seafood City), we found this incredible noodle shop that recently changed its name or Ras Noodle. It is the real deal, and you should definitely go get their noodle soups, which you won't commonly find at other Thai restaurants. // We spent the day at Avila with our dear friends the Gees, and stopped at Avila Barn for lunch. I was really impressed with what their little deli/ice cream shop had to offer - it seems bulked up from previous seasons. I didn't get anything (except tastes of Irish Cream and Swiss Orange Chocolate ice creams, both delicious - I was quite impressed with their whole ice cream selection, and I am a great critic of most ice cream menus), but I eyed the Banh Mi sandwhich on their menu, the Ollaleberry Cake shake, and the Peaches N' Cream dessert (your choice of ice cream topped with fresh peaches, whipped cream, and pecan crumble). Yeah, they haven't seen the last of me....

  • Did you know Google has a patent search function?
  • This photo essay is a really interesting look in to how beauty is defined the world over. One woman sent her photo to photoshop artists in different countries and asked them to make her look beautiful. The results vary wildly (some are kind of hilarious to me). 
  • This list of the crazy things we find ourselves doing as parents had me guffawing on my bed. I haven't yet let someone pull my eyelashes out in order to keep them quiet on a plane, but I DO understand a situation in which that scenario could arise. 
  • A fun blog post about a mama who decided to say "yes" all day to her kids instead of no on top of no, as usual. "Yes you can ride a roller coaster that will probably make you vomit. In fact, you can ride it twice." 
  • On the banks of a river in Thailand, fireflies light up en masse, in sync. It looks both gorgeous and alien.
  • My brother Jonathan graduated from high school, one of the only members of his class to have held a 4.0 GPA or higher for all 4 years! Proud of him, and I'm really going to miss him when he moves to San Diego for school. 
  • We spent a few days in North Hollywood with extended family to celebrate the life of my great grandma Peggy and help sort through her things. It was great to see family, and a very interesting time in general. 
  • Ishmael and I got to go to our little friend Birdie's 3rd birthday, which was incredible because her mom Kenna is a professional party planner. Ishmael went straight for the adult desserts (macaroons) and loved riding all the trikes, wagons, and scooters in the driveway. 
Check out my instagram to see some personal photos from the month.

Boys: Ishmael is not a kid short on personality. He likes to beat box (who taught him that?!), dance with his hips, look at people out of the corner of his eyes, make animals noises, and drum with bamboo sticks on everything. He loves when we pray before meals and always throws his hands up and says "hooray!" (or his equivalent) at the end of the prayer, which is a habit I'm loving adopting. He hates to have his sleeves rolled up and he is inexplicably quite agitated if anyone tried to clean their toenails around him. He loves to start the dishwasher for us, and congratulates himself about all things well done ("good boy!").  He also says "thank you" for everything, but in a kind of flippant way (it's strange and eye opening to have your own voice parroted back to you), like a teacher might say to a kid who did something that was required, regardless of how the child handled it, "thank you!" (with an uptick in tone on the "you"). We went through a rough patch with discipline this month, where he wouldn't listen about anything, but we seem to have gotten over that for the time being, and everyone is happier. He also seems very clingy and wimpery (but in a fakey, "please cuddle me" way), which the doctor confirmed is him reacting to the pheromones I'm putting out as I gear up to have another baby, even though Ishmael has no idea what that all means! Our bodies are crazy and amazing. We've had a few instances of poop smearing after waking up from a nap this month, but hoping that will right itself once we wrap up potty training with real undies and access to the toilet from his new big-boy bed, which he stays in overnight (and for naps!) like a total champ. There's no way our next kid is going to be this easy. Ishmael fell off the kitchen counter this month, which was pretty scary for everyone, but seems completely fine. // Baby #2 is kicking me hard enough to cause pain, but it's all good, I'm still looking forward to meeting him. He's projected to be another big boy (at least 8lbs) and apparently it's likely that I'll have to be induced again, but only time will tell. We're still waffling about his second middle name, so hopefully we can nail that down soon. I've been thinking a lot about different styles of childbirth, and though I respect some aspects of the ultra-natural childbirth movement, I found this article refreshing.

Loved: Being close to my due date and still feeling great (and my favorite Instagrammer liking some of my #maternitystyle photos), and an excellent, powerful, and moving sermon about divorce at our church. // In case you're not up on my favorite color of the moment, it's been pink, hard-core, lately. [image]

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Right Turn Only: Memories of my Great Grandma Peggy

My great grandma Peggy passed away last month at the age of 90, and I've wanted to jot down some memories and impressions of her. This is the first time in my life where I've been a part of going through someone's belongings after their death, and I've found it fascinating and curious how much more of her I suddenly know after spending time with extended family and literally going through the drawers of her life.

Something I definitely did know of her in life was her pride and poise as a proper lady. She was the definition of class, in a way that most woman don't even strive for nowadays. In a story I recount below, I found myself typing, "everything she did was beautiful and neat", and that is probably my most lasting impression of her. This song by Jeff Buckley is actually kind of sad and compares his more ordinary woman to that "other woman" who wears french perfume, manicures her nails, and always has fresh cut flowers. To me, Grandma Peggy was a class of woman who took time for all of those things, but she was no "other woman." Even if I, or my generation, will never manage to have everything quite so together (nor perhaps place such a priority on doing so), it makes me smile deep down to have known a woman who carried out her life in that way with the utmost sincerity.

Grandma Peggy seems to have thrown very little out in the past several decades, but all in all, seeing so many of her things - both treasures and trash - made me wish that I had known her better when she was alive. She was something of a character. There were many things I saw that made me wish I'd had the opportunity to ask her about them, because now there is a little bit of knowledge and history, wrapped up in her person, that's lost forever. Only our constructs of what's left will live on, and it's strange to realize that we'll almost certainly remember some things differently than she would have wanted, or simply just remember things wrongly!

Although I was not blood related to her (she was my mom's step-father's mother), we were always considered her family, and I feel I have more in common with her and am more proud to have been "related" to her than many people probably feel about some of their extended family. She loved fashion and fine things, sat on the boards of Los Angeles art museums, ate and drank well, entertained in style, knew her way on public transport to events like Celine Dion concerts (are you sure we don't share the same blood?!), gave extremely generous gifts (everything was from department stores - she gave me Kate Spade plates, which is pretty jaw-dropping for a family who shops at thrift stores), and was never short on stubbornness or eccentricities. She really enjoyed life, and she was an interesting person, and those are two things I greatly admire in a woman. [the photo above is my absolute favorite that I found of her! It was taken the summer after she graduated from high school, 1942, and the guy on the ground is her first husband, before they were married]

For example, she was famous for never making a left turn when driving. She was also famous for her sherry cake, but absolutely refused to share the full recipe. She would give you most of the recipe, but told people there were "a few tablespoons" of sherry in the cake, when there was really 2/3 of a cup, and she never divulged that there was butter flavored extract in the cake at all. I only know now because my aunt spent an hour and a half going through every single one of her recipe cards until she found the recipe. That's saying something too, because she had at least 100 cookbooks in her house. Although I'm never sure I tasted her sherry cake, I love that story about her, even if it seems totally unnecessary to guard recipes like that.

She would give me her old copies of Vogue magazine (in spite of my mother), and when I got married, she gave me a beautiful silk kimono, the only piece of lingerie I received that I've kept. She was so excited to see my ring when I got engaged [photo below from 2011], and she later told my mother that she not only approved of my wedding, but was impressed, which means a lot to me because she was a very proper and stylish lady in many regards (and because I abhorred planning my wedding and was so stressed out about the details the whole time). After she passed away, I was able to keep the beautifully beaded peacock shawl that she wore when she attended my wedding, which I'm very happy to have.

She lived in Studio City, California for almost her entire life, with the drummer(?) of the Foo Fighters as a neighbor on one side, and Jack Osbourne on the next block. She loved to take us to the Cheesecake Factory or California Pizza Kitchen, or the Italian restaurant Vitello's, where the actor Robert Blake allegedly murdered his wife. When her health started to decline (only within the last year, remarkably) and she went out a little less, she requested that my mom make her a batch of gazpacho from a family recipe. Neither my mom nor I had ever had gazpacho before (nor really cared to try, honestly), but I'll be darned if this recipe isn't in the top 5 best things I've ever made. I'm happy to have it to remember her by.

In going through her things, I found a handwritten cookbook by grandma Peggy's aunt, who owned a Chinchilla farm, and once leaped across a table to scare hiccups from my mother. Unfortunately, it seemed to have worked, because my mother did that to me and my siblings growing up. It didn't work as well on us. Grandma Peggy also kept the April 1972 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine, and knowing how much I love both fashion magazines and vintage fashion, my mom brought it home for me last week. Jonas and I were laughing at all the old ads and advice on how to tell a person's character from their facial structure, when we stumbled upon the real reason for having kept just that one particular issue - the first male nude centerfold (the link shows the photo, but the main "subject matter" is covered, just a heads up) in a popular woman's magazine. We were both shocked and highly amused at the photo and that grandma Peggy kept it.

I also took home the few now-vintage dresses she had kept, mainly from the 70s, which I adore. It was a bit difficult given my stage of pregnancy, but I made an effort to look as fashionable as possible at her memorial, to honor her impeccable style. Years ago, she gave me the orange dress she's wearing in this photo, which was her second wedding dress. I love the [candy?] garter she's wearing in the picture. Along with costume jewelry, nick nacks, most of the contents of her liquour cabinet, and a giant stack of cookbooks I inherited, there was a bottle of  Estee Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia perfume, which I have declared my love of before, but pretty much never dreamed I'd own. It's both strange and wonderful to have so many of her things (a cast iron skillet, some glassware, bras, packets of gravy mix, eye liner, etc. etc.) suddenly part of my daily life for a while.

When people pass away, they seem immediately immortalized and almost larger than life to me, and yet, when you have objects from their every day life surrounding you, it reminds you that they were very much human, and led a very present life only recently. I will miss her comments on Facebook (she was better at using Facebook than many I know who were decades younger than her), and the way she used to sign her name when she left a comment. Everything she did was beautiful and neat. Once, we had Easter brunch at her home and she made these macaroon nests, with little speckled chocolate eggs in them, wrapped in clear bags with ribbon. My family was on the way to a camping trip in Yosemite after we left her house. I forgot the macaroon at the bottom of my backpack, and in the middle of the night in Yosemite, I was awakened by my dad who seemed somewhat on edge, which is unusual for him. I looked over to see a raccoon sitting on my sleeping sisters' head, inches from my face. The raccoons had unzipped two doorways in to our tent, taken out all my clothes and books from the backpack, and retrieved the macaroon. They were entirely unperturbed by my dad hissing at them and shining a flashlight in their faces. I can't remember how we got them out without total chaos ensuing, but apparently we did, since I only remember the first part of that incident.

One of my other distinct memories of her is probably from a decade ago, now, when she spent Christmas with us at the beach in Oxnard. In our family, stockings are fair game as soon as you wake up (ahem, 4am??), but everyone must be present to open gifts. I can't imagine grandma Peggy slept in past 9am, but to us, it felt like she was going to stay in her room until lunch!

Once again, I'm almost positive I have a companion photo for this one, but it's not on Facebook and it could take me quite some time to track it down! I will add it here if and when I come across it later. Anyway, in this photo, Grandma Peggy is second from the right, my real grandma Nita ("Mana") is in the middle, and my mom is on the left, holding me. If I'm not mistaken, the more recent version is of Grandma Peggy, Mana, my mom, myself, and Ishmael. I'm really glad Grandma Peggy got to meet her great, great grandson before she died. At her funeral, the pastor of her church said that she couldn't wait to place a red rose on the alter in honor of her new descendant when he was born, which warmed my heart.

Sometimes I roll my eyes at memorials when every person who has anything to say about their loved on says "they were the best person I knew" or something of that caliber, because we can't ALL be the best people, right:? I've heard that Grandma Peggy could be very stubborn, perhaps beyond what was reasonable or necessary at times, but to me, she was always a lady. I admire her independence, even if it did make things difficult for others at times. Plus, she had a pink bedroom. I love her for it.

We'll miss you, Grandma Peggy, and I'll do my best to carry on your vivaciousness. And manicure my nails from time to time, and keep fresh cut flowers when I can. 
Related Posts with Thumbnails