Tuesday, April 27, 2010

To Boise and Back Again

As much as I love shrimp, I've never touched them raw before. On Sunday, something strange possessed me and I found myself at the fish counter asking the guy behind the counter for a pound of headless shrimp. I actually had no idea how much shrimp would be enough shrimp, but I stood off to the side long enough to see that most people asked for a pound. The shrimp monger handed me the plastic bag, and I threw my dinner into the cart and went on my way. It wasn't until I got home that I stared at them sitting on my kitchen counter and realized I had no idea what to do with them.

After a call to my mom and some shrimp video tutorials found online, I pulled myself together and went back into the kitchen. First there was the de-veining business. Bobby Flay made it look easy, and sure enough -- a cut right down the middle, a little tug there -- it was a cinch! In that moment, I felt so real, so connected to the food I was about to eat, a feeling our hunter and gatherer ancestors must have felt. Here I was, rolling up my sleeves and de-veining my own shrimp.

I thought this was pretty darn spiffy and was still riding high on my wave of food competence well into Monday, when work sent me to our new Boise office. During the day, I discovered that the vending machine in the kitchen didn't require any quarters and couldn't believe my good luck. After a hard day's work, and a bag of Tater Skins and an almond chocolate bar later, I got to celebrate the grand opening of the new office and mingled with the Boise team over wine and stuffed mushrooms.

Having spent the entire trip in the office, I struck up conversations with the locals in the hopes that I'd get a better feel for what Boise life was like. One guy put it like this -- he had lived in California for 8 years and in all that time had never known his neighbors, not even their names. Here, the first week they moved in, his neighbors had come over to introduce themselves with pies, a gesture I had written off as something that only happens in the movies. I knew what car my neighbors drove and what they sounded like when they had sex (there was unbelievable amounts of talking), but we had never exchanged baked goods with one another. I had a feeling the kind of relationship he had with his neighbors was very different than the one I had with mine and I felt a little jealous.

When I asked what he did for fun, he told me that he liked going hunting. I imagined ducks being shot down from the sky, and thought maybe I could relate to him with my recent shrimp gutting experience. Nice being able to work with your hands and know where your food comes from, huh? I might have said. But then he said he went after bigger game. "The challenging part of hunting bears is getting them back to your car. I mean, that's 300 pounds you have to carry back with you!" He talked briefly about the methods he employed which made it possible to put bear on the table for his family, but I had stopped listening. Boise had me beat at every turn. The vending machines, the friendly neighbors, the bears.

I called Alan later to tell him about the things we could hunt if we moved here and related the bear story. When I finished, he said "Oh my god" which I wasn't sure if that was meant to mean "We've got to move there now" or something else. But then, he hadn't been the one to de-vein the shrimp. Maybe I could start him off with that and see where things go from there.

My own bear hunting experience: buying, peeling, de-veining, seasoning and searing shrimp

Wrapping it all up

Spring roll dinner

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Our favorite colors

On Monday, we found out that Alan's surgery to reconnect his intestines is scheduled for next Friday, April 30! He's been SO happy, it's really cute.

I'm happy because now we can stop talking about all that silly nonsense and start having those real serious conversations again that we used to have. In fact, the other day we were driving through the rain to get to Denise and Justin's to eat pizza and watch some hockey, when we had one of these deep, contemplative discussions.

"I think I like yellow French Bulldogs most," I said.

"I like the ones that are Angus' color best," he said. (Angus is our friend's Frenchie who is the dog version of calico... gristle??)

"Oh?" I replied.

We were quiet, thinking about Angus and the colors of French Bulldogs. We exited the freeway and listened to the rain.

"I don't like all white ones," he added definitively, breaking the silence.. "They look naked."

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Shot Glass Collection

While other kids brought flasks to the senior prom, I ordered iced tea to sip on. There was something about growing up as the teacher's pet all those years that had convinced me that I knew better. It was rather time consuming to possess and to project such a degree of self righteousness, so when I left for college, I forgot all about the eye rolls I had reserved for the sloppy people who had had too much to drink, and instead found myself clinking shot glasses and saying things like "Bottoms up!" with a big cheesy grin. (Actually, I never said things like that, but if I could go back and do it all over again, I would -- yes, definitely, I would definitely like to say something like that.)

I was learning all sorts of things then and was surprised to learn that some people collected shot glasses for practical use and not just for display like those collectible silver spoons you can buy at the gift shops at Niagara Falls. The shot glass collectors were the ones you had to watch out for because on Friday nights, even if you were just walking past on your way back from dinner, they would beckon you over. And then they would ask which shot glass you wanted. I had figured it to be an innocent enough question, and always a sucker for gifts, I took my time and looked over the selection. I picked out a glass with a tiny acrylic man wrapped around the base of it. He was wearing a sombrero. I had never been to Mexico at this point in my life, and I thought that with the shot glass perched on my desk, people might make me for more of a cultured person than I really was. But when I pointed to the glass, my dorm mate did not hand it over. Instead, she filled it to the tip top with a clear liquor contained in a big plastic jug. She filled a few other shot glasses for some other people she had gotten to join in, and after a few rounds, I had completely bought into her cause.

Very shortly after, I learned what many of my peers had probably learned a few years before. Taking six shots in a row, no matter how cool the shot glass is, is sometimes not the best idea if you don't want to spend the night hugging the toilet. Which is what I did. I spent the entire night saying hello to my dinner and swearing to whomever was listening that I would never touch a shot glass ever again, if only the feeling of imminent death would subside.

The feeling did eventually go away and with my lesson learned, I grabbed onto the handy concept of pacing myself and never let go.

Until Thursday. Thursday was the day that my bold, invincible 18 year old self decided I could, in fact, take the yoga equivalent of 6 shots in half an hour. The yoga equivalent also known as Bikram. Maybe I was dehydrated. Or maybe it was the 105 degree room. It could have been any number of things. But Thursday was the day that I left the yoga class twenty minutes early feeling for all the world like I had just downed a really cheap bottle of vodka. (The one that comes in the plastic jug with the red label. You know what I'm talking about.) I held my hand over my mouth, willing every fiber of my being to keep the Wheat Thins and water I had consumed before class down and to not make a spectacle of myself. I held it together until I reached my car where I collapsed in a heap on the curb. I began bargaining. With God, or maybe just with myself, I don't know. But I promised that if I didn't die right then and there, if I could just not black out and regain control of my heart palpitations, I would be a better person. I would smile more, I would donate more. I would give Goodwill the jeans in my closet that I will never wear again but could never bear to give away.

I was hoping that someone older and wiser might come along and tell me to stop being such a moron or that I was going to kill my liver if I kept this up, but instead everyone I've talked to says to give Bikram a few more tries. I've just gotten a 30 day all-you-can-yoga pass at this new studio, so maybe I will break out the sombrero shot glass, reach down to find the 18 year old in me, and give it another go.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Hip, Hip, Hurrah!

Guess what? Something wonderful. Alan got the results back from his PET scan, and the results are good! Everything looks fine and dandy, which means that the cancer is all gone! Next up... one final surgery and that's it! :)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Better Devil Wears Prada

Lately I have noticed that my nails are a mess. I am not one to have perfectly manicured fingers, but there are mini San Andreas fault lines cracking through some of them which make it hard to deny the mess. The last time this happened I had just moved from L.A. to San Francisco to live with the hallucinating, organic-eating homeopaths and was about to start my new job.

So I've been making conscious efforts to de-stress and to try my hardest to stop thinking the world is about the end. Today I started by sweeping and swiffering the floor (because having a clean floor is like having a whole new beginning entirely) and then I had a piece of cheesecake and watched The September Issue. It's a documentary about Anna Wintour and Vogue's creative director Grace Coddington and the wild process behind their infamous September issue. While the cheesecake was good (especially since I smashed up some fresh strawberries for a simple compote topping) the movie was ridiculous. It was a gazillion times better than The Devil Wears Prada. For just a second you get to be part of the elusive, seductive fashion world. And damn is it sexy.

Monday, April 5, 2010

On the Way to the Cafe

On Saturday, Nat and I had plans to meet up at one of my favorite cafes to get some work done. But as we were walking over, we saw this:

A whole collection of Bassett Hounds! I can't even begin to tell you how much of our days Alan and I spend talking about or making up stories involving Bilbo, his parent's Bassett. I would say a good 10 to 20 minutes of our conversations a day are devoted to him. So I was super excited to see all these fellow Bilbos.


As a point of reference, here is an action shot of Bilbo getting his daily exercise in.

Okay, back to the Bassetts we saw.

It turned out we just so happened to be at the staging area for the beginning of the Easter parade. All the Bassetts were there in support of the Golden Gate Basset Rescue, a very noble organization indeed.

And they're off! Slowly, but surely. If only they would stop smelling everything along the way.


Another parade highlight was the boy scout troop.

I mean, they just exuded confidence.

Check out the navy blue trumpet!

This brings back memories of being in band.

I had to get a picture of the bunny. He was just so very Donnie Darko.

After the parade, we got even more totally derailed on the way to the coffee shop. We stopped by Therapy (all in the name of market research!) and I was bowled over by this adorable glass jar. (FYI, Bay Area readers, Therapy now sells more home goods!)

After all the pre-Easter shenanigans, we finally made it to the cafe.
Proof of us getting down to business.

Lessons from the Company Dog

Life has gotten to be all kinds of crazy lately. We are gearing up for our big work event in May which means that work is hectic, and Nathalie and I are plugging away on our business plan for our online boutique. And in between there's the usual fun life stuff that comes up, like taxes.

When stuff gets crazy, somehow my shoulders, with a mind of their own, lift to an uncomfortable position near my ears and stay that way as I sit at my computer for hours on end, working on spreadsheets and word docs. On Friday, I had been sitting at my desk like this, hunched over and glaring at my screen, for a good few hours when, in the quiet office morning, I heard a strange sound. A sound not commonly heard in quiet offices. It was not an incoming fax nor a print hot off the press. It sounded like one of those farting gag toys, but more real, more... wet and... the smell! Oh, the smell of it.

Curious, I got up from my desk, walked around my cubicle walls and saw that it was not a sales person playing with a whoopee cushion, but in fact it was America, our company's office dog (a really charming, super friendly pup), who had left in his wake a trail of brown watery poop across the carpet by my desk. He had had an accident (apparently from some medication he had taken earlier), but did he care? Was he beating himself up over it or sitting around scowling? No, when he saw me, he looked up, started wagging his tail and then began racing away, free as the wind. It was as if he had a message for me, his point being: Sometimes you just gotta let shit go.

I watched him run, searching for the next best treat, and I thought about what he had just brought to light for me. And then I closed up my laptop and went out for lunch.
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