Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cake bars for the brudder

I just pulled out a pan of “cake bars.” My brother and I love these. We used to make them all the time as kids and eat like ¾ of the pan in one sitting. They’re ridiculously easy, and we prefer them a little doughy. Sometimes we sprinkle powdered sugar on top. I generally only eat them when I’m with my brother now, and guess what? I’m gonna be with my brudder tonight! He’s coming out to hang with me and B for a long weekend, and there’s a fresh batch of “cake bars” ready to go (and maybe his favorite homemade mac and cheese too)!

1 yellow cake mix

2 eggs

1/3 cup melted butter

chocolate chips as you wish

Mix it all in a 9x13. Bake at 400 degrees for about 17 minutes. Voila.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Learn how to die

A dear friend faces death today. Not her own, but the death of someone so close to her that surely the flowers, the happiness, the sun, of her own heart will die for awhile.

The church I went to in Minnesota held a service each year dedicated to recognizing the pain and loss that comes with the death of loved ones and then also remembering them. One year they played “Learning How to Die” by Jon Foreman (of Switchfoot). I already owned the EP (Winter) with this song on it and knew the words, but as I heard it that night among people who were hurting and remembering, it took on new meaning.

I actually played that EP a few weeks ago and remembered how good it was. B and I have been listening to it over and over again. Thus, as I think about my friend today, the words of “Learning How to Die” run through my mind.

We tend to distance life from death. In our minds they oppose each other. In fact, we arrange our lives to avoid death at all costs. Actually though they’re intricately linked. Shouldn’t we live today—say the words, do the deeds, ask for forgiveness—as though we’ll die tomorrow? Then, at death, like the person in my friend’s life, we can look back and say it’s been good…it’s been real good. You do life well, you do death well.

Learning how to die. I don’t presume to know exactly what Jon means with his words, but for me, learning how to die means fumbling along this faith journey on this earth...learning how to grow closer to God because I know dying means living with Him. In that way, I need to learn how to die.

So, anyways, a hug and a song to my friend.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

With a side of avocado, please

We’ve maybe become a little more Californian over the past few weeks.

1. We hit up a guy in Westchester who was selling a few boogie boards on Craigslist. We got two for $15. One pink. One blue.

2. B went surfing Sunday morning for the first time ever. He joined the myriad of others who thinks its great fun to get up early on a weekend, put on a wetsuit, and then jump into the freezing cold water. I stayed nice and warm cuddled under the covers. B did catch a few waves though and now has the itch to go again. He saw sea lions and thought this was cool, but was told...not so cool because sharks love sea lions.

3. Don Johnson passed us on the road, driving a pretty darn expensive vintage white convertible of some sort. I slowly turned to B and asked, "Um, was that…Don…" And B finished, "Johnson? Yes, yes, I think it was."

4. We also saw (on the same day) Isaiah Washington of Gray’s Anatomy in Barnes & Noble looking much blacker and much more distinguished with glasses and a little gray in his beard than he ever looked in scrubs on TV.

5. B and I watched Sideways and got all excited that we’ve now (after doing some tastings up north of Santa Barbara with mom and dad recently) been to the wineries in the movie! Although I suppose if you're true Californian, you don’t get super excited to see a place you’ve been to on TV…it’s just normal.

6. We seem to be eating a lot of avocados. I’ve discovered that at restaurants if any dish is made California-style, it's got avocados in it. A California omelette will have avocado. Cali eggs benedict, avocados. A Cali grilled cheese, avocados.

7. We had an earthquake. A small one, but an earthquake nonetheless. My brother who’s coming to visit on Thursday asked if we are still connected to the mainland. "Nope," I told him. "Once you land at LAX, you now have to take a ferry to get to our house."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Zeal to play

Last night as I waited for B to get home—he was stuck in nasty South Bay traffic, ugh—I turned on the lamp sitting atop the piano. I pulled out the bench, which I can’t even get shiny with a serious coat of Pledge, thanks to so much use. It is matte-finished while the rest of the piano is still shiny. I opened the bench and pulled out four books, my favorite ole’ standbys of classical music. They are scuffed and marked up in pencil from my piano teacher in Tennessee. I plopped down and turned to Beethoven’s "Six Ecossaises."

I winced. I was so out of practice it wasn’t even funny. I sighed and continued. I found myself focusing hard and long on the notes…was that the right note? I’d pause to look at the fingering that was circled on the pages. And then I’d stop to make sure I had the beat. My teacher had penciled…"1, 2, 1, 2 with gusto"…was I doing that right? After about 10 minutes of frustration and switching songs every 15 measures to see if I’d be better at the next one, I realized something somewhat hesitantly. If I gave in a little bit…if I stopped thinking so hard, I played better! The music came back to me, if I didn’t get lost in the details. And suddenly, it was more enjoyable. Now, don’t get me wrong. I was still disappointedly rusty, but it had turned fun. I could close my eyes for seconds at a time and get lost in the music and remember why I liked to play.

This morning I talked to a pastor of a massive church in Florida for about 45 minutes for a magazine feature I’m freelancing. At one point, as we talked about churches getting lost in the minors (music, buildings, names, how we do communion, etc.) instead of the majors (Jesus! His love for us! Our responsibility to share this!), he said we’re all like musicians standing over a piano…

“Asking , ‘Is that really an A? Who determined that was an A? Why is that an A?’ When really we should just use our zeal to play! Stop questioning the notes. Analysis leads to paralysis.”

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Fro-yo on Cali time

B and I may or may not be obsessed with fro-yo (frozen yogurt). We go at least once a week to Fro-Yo Life or Tutti Frutti, depending on which place we have coupons for. B’s a sucker for peanut butter. I’m cookies ‘n’ cream or cake batter. We love the control—we get to pull the yogurt lever and make our own fat swirls to fill the cup that we selected as high as we want with as many ounces as we desire.

A few Saturday nights ago I called Tutti Frutti just minutes after 10pm.

Me: Hi, just wondering how late you guys are open tonight?

Tutti Frutti: 10pm

Me: Oh, bummer. Ok thanks.

Tutti Frutti: But, I don’t really know when we’re closing tonight. When do you think you’ll be here?

Me: Oh? Um, well, we can be there in like 5 minutes.

Tutti Frutti: Sure, we can be open.

I got off the phone and told B they closed at 10pm…but they were open. He raised his eyebrows questioningly. I shrugged…I don’t know. Don’t ask questions and don’t ask for explanations. That’s the best way to go in Cali.

Last night, we hit up Tutti Frutti again. This time 9pm. As we opened the door, I noticed the hours listed said it closes at 9pm on Mondays. I kind of cringed and asked the two tanned surfer high school boys working behind the counter if they’d still let us come in? The one whipped his long dark curls out of his eyes and looked at me confused, like yeah, duh. I said, "oh, well, we noticed it says 9pm on your door." He said, "oh yeah, we don’t really do that. Close at 9pm." His coworker turned to him and asked slowly, "Oh really? We’re supposed to close at 9pm? Are we closing at 9pm tonight?" The other guy shook his head like Nah, not tonight, we have better things to do than close at 9pm.

I've heard people use the phrase "on Cali-time": "oh, he operates on Cali-time" and "yeah, well, not on Cali-time." It always has a negative connotation and is usually used when someone's waiting impatiently for someone or something who thinks clocks are over-rated. But as I enjoyed a spoonful of nummy cake batter fro-yo last night after 9pm, I realized that I think with Tutti Frutti, we're actually benefitting from Cali-time.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Waiting to be picked up

When I was little I went to a babysitter named Iris. She lived on Regent. She was married to Gary and had a daughter named Holly who at the time was in her teens. I wanted to be just like her—just like “Howie.” Iris had a dog named Benson, and she made buttered noodles (elbow macaroni and straight-up butter—still one of my comfort foods) and egg salad sandwiches (Sick! Still won’t eat ’em.) Because I didn’t wet my pants, she let me take naps on her bed while the other kids had to sleep on the floor on mats. My memories of Iris and my time there are quick, unrelated snapshots. None are particularly long or complete. They don’t make stories with ends or beginnings. They’re just unique images and smells and sounds.

One of my memories is kneeling on the couch in the front room, elbows on the back of it, peering through the sheer curtains waiting…watching…for mom in a white station wagon. I don’t remember mom ever picking me up—although she must have. I just remember waiting for her on that couch. Sometimes it'd be dark outside (must have been winter) and sometimes it was still light.

That image came to mind today as I am once again that little girl waiting. Mom and dad are currently in the air on their way across the country to visit me and B in our new digs!!! I’m 30 years old, and yet I’m eager, expectant, and excited to be with my parents.

Maybe they’re peering out the plane window, waiting for me to come pick them up in my silver station wagon.

I'm on my to LAX...

Monday, June 06, 2011

To the alley and beyond!

When we first moved in, our landlady told us that if we had stuff we wanted to get rid of, we should put it out in the alley on the weekends before the trash comes on Mondays. People, she said, drive through the alleys and take stuff. It’s a very convenient way to get rid of things you don’t want. Really? I thought. I mean, I was slightly disturbed that sketchy people basically drive through our pseudo-backyards and take stuff. And I also didn’t really believe her. You should see some of the stuff we have and want to get rid of, I thought. I highly doubt throwing it in the alley will make it disappear!

Well, as we continued unpacking, B and I tested the process. We threw our “trash” into the alley. Like these ridiculously huge size 14 traditional wooden clogs B picked up on one of his Europe trips. I swear, I probably could have crawled into one of those things and used it as a kayak. Like a straw Chinese rice hat (no comment). Like a huge dirty rug we had in our garage. Like a bug zapper. The list is endless. Guess what? It was all gone within minutes, or hours, in some cases. But gone nonetheless! Genius! This is a brilliant little thing they got going on here, we thought.

Still, I was just a little alarmed thinking of strangers driving through our neighborhood for stuff. What's to stop them from seeing what we have behind our alley gate? My fears have since subsided though. During one of his visits, our next door neighbor, the one with the airhorn, told us that he actually took our bug zapper and a few other things we had sitting out…he hoped we didn’t mind. I guess he’s a dancer, so I wondered if he also took the clogs?

Then, a week later, B and I were returning from a run, walking through the alley, and we saw these really cool, old, white wood-framed windows that someone was throwing away. We thought they’d look great hanging on our fence outside. So we snagged them. And as we carried them home, it dawned on me…our neighborhood…really, we’re all just trading trash. WE are the sketchy ones, just taking each other’s stuff!

And I took it to another level the other day. Once again, we were on our way home from a run and we passed the garage of the KISS neighbors. They had a box of books and magazines that caught my eye. I stopped. B continued a couple steps before stopping and turning to look at me with his eyebrows up. On top was a stack of May 2011 magazines. I proudly and quickly snagged Glamour. "Really," B asked? "Did you really just do that?" I said "Heck yeah, Who needs a subscription to a magazine when you live in our neighborhood?!"

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Mock. ING. Bird.

We’ve had a reprieve the past few days from the construction across the street. I’m not sure why, nor am I asking why! We’ll take it, but we have new sounds at new times now.

As we crawled into bed late last night, I felt like we were in the bird building at the zoo. “This is tripping me out,” B said. “It feels like it should be 5:45 in the A.M.!” Yet he promptly conked out as usual, while I lied awake listening to a bird singing away.

So, after some research, it seems we are home to a bachelor mockingbird singing desperately for a mate. (Instantly I think Dumb and Dumber’s Mock. Ing. Bird.) All mockingbirds sing throughout the day, but only bachelors sing at night, and usually they only have to sing for two to three weeks before finding a wife.

Maybe I should warn him…he’s singing from a home where it took 11 years for girl and guy to get together! Maybe he should go next door. I mean there’s an airhorn over there, but his chances might be better!