Monday, March 31, 2008

We Interrupt This Blog Already in Progress ...

It's opening day of baseball season!

Gone Watchin',

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Love & Baseball Part Two

Her name was Danica. She lived on the 10th floor. As much as I wanted to hate her, I couldn't--I imagine she had less of an idea about me than I had about her. And as much as I wanted to hate Jon, I couldn't. Instead, I handled it the only way I knew how. I didn't say a word to him.

Jon had seen Spleen and Digs. They passed each other in the parking lot the night I called them into my room--he was holding Danica's hand. Spleen and Digs prepared themselves, knowing that soon they'd have to hold mine too. I know he expected confrontation, but I refused to, and also couldn't, give it to him. I loved who I was when we were together--I could tell he listened to what I said, he got my sense of humor and we could keep up a witty banter for hours. When he looked back, that was the girl I wanted him to remember. But that wasn't the girl I was.

You know that part in 16 Candles when Samantha's dad explains to her "That's why they call them crushes. If they were easy, they'd call them something else." 16 Candles toned it down, crushes fucking suck. My little 19 year old heart was shattered. I was left with so many questions--Why didn't we just stay friends? Why didn't he tell me himself? Did I misread our friendship? Did I misread the fun we were having? I knew that there was no answer he could give me that would make it all better, so I dealt with it on my own.

He misread my silence as anger and I'm not going to lie, there was anger there. But the silence came from being unable to speak. If ever I saw him my heart would jump into my throat, my stomach would hit my knees and I just wanted to roll the clock back to a time when we were friends and I had no idea how good it felt to have his arms wrapped around my waist and feel his breath on my neck.

Eventually, enough time passed and the sting wasn't as raw. My heart was semi-pieced together and I was back to the frat parties and flirting with new friends of old dormmates. Toward the end of the year, my phone rang. "Hello?" I answered.

Jon said quietly "can I come up?"

To be continued ...

Friday, March 28, 2008

Love & Baseball Part One

I fell in love with a baseball player in college.

Jon pitched for our college baseball team. His dad and brother were major leaguers and he lived across the hall from me in our dorm. I took one look, deemed him a jock and ignored him for the bulk of the school year. Despite not talking to each other much, I somehow was invited to hang out with him and a group of people I knew from school. I said yes, thinking I'd back out at the last second. Instead everyone else bailed and it turned out just to be the two of us. I remember thinking "what the hell am I going to talk to this guy about?"

Turns out we had a lot to talk about. Jon turned out to be smart, funny and perceptive. He was into music and (gasp!) books. He could rival me on movie quotes, had ideas about politics and also happened to be incredibly hot. 6'3 and 200 pounds of baseball player muscle with dark brown hair and blue eyes. I may have been a bookworm, but I sure as hell wasn't blind. We became good friends over the summer and would often stay at each others houses until the wee hours of the morning sprawled out on the floor talking and listening to music.

Jon would tell me about his baseball practice, my eyes would glaze over and we would quickly switch to something else. I had ZERO interest in baseball. I was an English major for crying out loud. I was into poetry and literature and many other way more important things. I had never been into jocks. But as the summer progressed, I was slowly starting to get into jocks ... and one in particular.

Jon would go home to Colorado a couple weeks before school started and I went to visit a friend in Northern California. That separation left me a lot of time to wonder how things would be. Was our friendship just a summer thing, born out of a need to keep one foot in college life? Did he have any interest in me? Could I really be interested in him?

I looked for Jon and his ever present baseball cap when we moved back into the dorms. Pretty soon we picked up right where we left off--late nights in each others dorm rooms, cracking up over inside jokes, listening to music we had found during our short time away from each other. One night I ended up falling asleep in his room and woke up with his legs and arms entwined with mine. I could feel him looking at me, but so many thoughts were running through my mind. Did I want to potentially ruin this friendship? Could he really be into me? Did I really like him?

I eventually did open my eyes, but they only stayed open for a moment. Jon kissed me--soft and lingering at first and then months of spending hours together without touching got the better of both of us. I closed my eyes and fell. I fell into those eyes, those lips and those huge arms. I fell into our sweet, unexpected friendship. I fell into us whispering and giggling about how long we had both wanted to kiss the other. I fell into those hands in my hair and on my back, into rolling around and cracking up one minute to passionate kisses the next. I fell hard.

Our friendship was still very much there but then this bonus of being able to reach over and grab him any time I wanted was intoxicating. We still stayed up late, but this time it was full of conversations peppered with kisses and wrestling, our goodbyes took a half hour, every time he'd try and leave he'd start to walk out the door and would then turn back around for more of the kissing. Oh that kissing. The kind you do when you're 19 and have nowhere to be. I could think of nothing else, it was bliss. Until that one evening.

I don't know how I knew, but something was wrong. I could feel it in my gut. I tried to talk myself out of it, but my body just knew. I was so sick to my stomach with such a sense of dread and pain and angst and yet nothing of note had happened. I called a couple of my girlfriends into the room and said it aloud, it was the only thing I could think of to do. "I don't know how I know, but I just know he's with another girl. I can feel it." I worried they'd think I was crazy.

They sat next to me, held my hands and said "we wanted to see if he would tell you first."

To be continued ...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Cooking with Insomnia

You know how people have grandmothers who wear housecoats, make a mean lemonade and pass along family recipes where the list of ingredients starts out with "2 sticks of Oleo"? I did not have one of those grandmothers.

My maternal grandmother, Gam as we call her, used to put on her leopard print nighty and drink a glass of Chablis before kissing us goodnight and whispering "sweet dreams." She wore Paris perfume, drove a VW bug until her late eighties and went to Europe for the first time when she was 76. She was a role model in many ways, none of which had to do with the kitchen.

I always wanted that quintessential book of recipes full of secrets passed down through the generations. Secrets that made people request your chocolate cake for parties or you quiche for brunches. Fortunately and unfortunately for me, I have to make my own. I say fortunately because this missing ingredient if you will, has fueled my desire to learn about cooking. I say unfortunately because I feel like I'm already behind. My sister and I are building our own repetoire and trade recipes each week or talk about things we want to make. I look forward to cooking with my niece, nephew and hopefully my own kids one day, but sometimes I just want to be with an old grandmother in her kitchen using the measuring cups she's had for years and telling stories about the time she got in trouble for staying out on the porch too long with a boy.

Last night I couldn't sleep, so I padded down to the kitchen. I flipped through cookbooks like I do when I need to relax and came across "Gateau au Yaourt" from Chocolate & Zucchini. The recipe came from the author's boyfriend's grandmother--who I picture as a loving French grandmother with a kitchen full of pots and pans she's had since before war. The recipe sounded easy enough--yogurt, some flour, oil, couple of eggs, vanilla and baking powder. It was so easy that even school children made it! In fact, the author made it when she was 5!

Never mind that it was 1 a.m. Never mind that I was exhausted. I should be able to make a cake that a 5 year old makes, no? I whipped up all the ingredients, threw it in a pan and chucked it in the oven. I had to wait for 35 - 40 minutes, but no problem, I'd clean up the kitchen in the mean time and maybe peruse through a magazine. A few minutes into the baking process however, I smelled something burning. What could that possibly be?

My cake, my so-easy-a-kindergartner-can't-fuck-it-up-cake had bubbled over and was making a perfect circle of batter in the bottom of my oven. "Shit!" I yelled, turning off the oven and grabbing pot holders to take the bubbling mess out of the smoking inferno without managing to singe my arm hair. I threw the cake on the counter and looked at the book. It had called for a 10 inch pan. I had poured the batter into my 8 inch pan. Merde.

By then I was about ready to pack it in. I'd try and make the cake some other time and started wiping up the mess. But then the fragrance started to make its way around the kitchen. It smelled like warm doughnuts, fresh out of the oven. So I paused for a moment and then spread a cookie sheet with foil and placed the 8 inch, extremely full pan in the middle of the cookie sheet and back into the oven. Then I completely forgot about the cake.

I managed to screw this cake up in every way imagineable, but guess what? It still turned out wonderfully. I tried a piece last night when it was still warm from the oven. Heaven. I floated upstairs and had sweet dreams of Gateau au Yaourt with lemon curd and fresh raspberries or Gateau au Yaourt with strawberries and whipped cream. This morning I managed to shave off a slice while running out the door.

I wouldn't trade my Gam for the world. And I bet Clotilde's boyfriend, Maxence, wouldn't trade his grandmother either. But I sure am glad they allowed me to share her for a while.

Gateau au Yaourt
from Chocolate & Zucchini

1/3 c vegetable oil, plus 1t to grease the pan (use a 10 inch pan for goodness sakes!)
1 c nonfat yogurt
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
1T light rum (optional, I didn't use it--rum makes me feel like I'm back in high school and on spring break)
1 2/3 c all purpose flour (I used cake flour)
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the sides of a TEN INCH round cake pan with oil.
Whisk together the yogurt & sugar.
Add eggs one by one beating well after each addition.
Add vanilla, oil & rum (if using) and whisk again.

In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pour the flour mixture into the yogurt mixture and whisk until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the top is golden brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the pan to loosen and flip the cake onto a plate. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

You can't mess this thing up, trust me.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What's the French Word for Tired as Hell?

This weekend in Seattle I was amazed at my niece's ability to fall sound asleep at any given moment. After a particularly busy Saturday, she passed out in the car and slept through being picked up, walked to a restaurant, being seated by the hostess and placing our order. She did however, wake up promptly when the food arrived. She's my kind of girl.

I should have heeded my own warnings. Today I couldn't pull myself out of bed. I finally made it out of the house, dropped the mutt off at doggy daycare and finally got downtown a mere hour and a half later than I normally arrive. I had just about made it to the parking garage but not before almost taking out a bicycle cop. Um, can we say oopsie?

In my defense, he WAS on the wrong side of the road AND on the sidewalk and I didn't ACTUALLY hit him. But there was kind of a tense moment where I was hovered precariously between "you jack ass, why can't you follow the rules of the road like you're supposed to?" and "Oh, HI officer! How are you on this lovely day? We don't have to make a big deal about me almost hitting you, do we? Run along now!" He must have seen it on my face, because he started laughing and waved me through. I waved back and started moving into the garage, but in my exchange with the officer missed the group of SCHOOL CHILDREN moving in a herd down the sidewalk to my left. Luckily no one had decided to jog to school that day, for if they had I would now have a very cute hood ornament. Everyone was fine, except for me of course. I decided to calm my nerves by downing a double espresso.

By lunchtime I had become a whiny mess. When one of the squad asked if anyone was up for Mediterranean food, I almost pouted and stamped my foot when saying "I don't WANT Mediterranean food for lunch," secretly hoping they'd change their minds. They didn't. I ate at my desk. By late afternoon I was done. I spent an hour working on a company's financial statements for 2006. So what's the problem? No problem, until I realized I needed to analyze their financials for 2007.

I picked up the mutt at daycare and she looked just as worn out as I did. I managed to get her some dinner and was just about to get me some too, but when walking past my couch it started speaking to me.

"Hello darrrrrling," my couch purred. It often times becomes a frenchman whenever I'm exhausted. "You look sooo tired. Why do you not come sit down on me just for a little bit, baby?"

"No, I shouldn't." I responded, thinking of that pile of laundry that needed to be put away upstairs.

"Oh come, come now," my couch would not be deterred. "Just for one little moment, it has been sooooo long since we've had some time together."

"Well ... okaaaaay," I sat down not wanting to hurt my couch's feelings.

I slept through dinner, through the sun setting, through the American Idol kickoff and finally woke up--not when the waiter arrived, unfortunately--but when my dog was crossing her paws from having to pee so badly. It's during times like these that I wish I were three again--able to fall asleep in the car without causing anyone physical harm. When someone, other than me, had to look out for my best interests--feed me, clothe me and carry me off to bed when I couldn't walk myself. I may have to unwillingly be an adult, but luckily I'll always have my couch, Jacques.

Bonne Nuit Mes Amies,

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Welcome Bachelorettes!

I am proud to say the bachelorettes listened to me! On this Monday's episode of The Bachelor we had no less than TWO women sing songs to the Bachelor and one woman, refusing to be outdone, showed how freaky her joints were by spinning her arms, hands and TONGUE around in circles. I'd say I was tongue tied, but I don't think I can use that sentiment in good conscience anymore.

So! I was so happy to be of service, I figured I'd pass along a few more pieces of advice, one of which goes directly to the Bachelor himself.

1) Drama, guys dig it.

Make sure to get really upset when the guy you, and 24 other women, are dating has the gall to talk to anyone else aside from you. Don't stand for that shit. Throw a temper tantrum, lock yourself in the bathroom and tell him how hard this is. Especially when you "shouldn't have to compete for one guy." Never mind the fact that you went on a show to compete for one guy, this is about you.

2) The only thing standing between you and the Bachelor are 24 other bitches.

Falling in love can be scary ladies! Especially when you've traversed a video application, ABC personality test, grueling workouts and nerves about meeting your potential Mr. Right. And now you have to deal with 24 other bitches? These ladies have nothin' on you when you follow three simple steps. 1) Give them nasty looks any time they talk to your man. 2) Call into question their true intentions--Are they actors? Young? Gold diggers? It's important you let them know that you're onto them by spreading their real motives around the house. 3) Let the Bachelor know about all the bickering in the house and that you have NO part in it. Do it in code with a lot of nodding, pursed lips and lack of willingness to give up names. He'll get the message and if he doesn't, go ahead and throw a few names at him ... first and last, we wouldn't want there to be any confusion.

3) There is nothing to fear but fear itself.

After meeting a guy for five minutes, a lot of feelings are going to come bubbling to the surface. These feelings mean that he's the ONE. They can be scary. The only way to let those feelings out and fear them less, is to go ahead and just cry and get it all off your chest. Even better if you can cry in front of the Bachelor. If you're worried he doesn't comprehend the level of courage a journey like this takes, let him know how long you've been protecting your heart but that you're finally ready to give it to him. Even better if you can express your feelings in song.

And one final note to the Bachelor.

Good for you to let those ladies open up their own doors and enter rooms behind you! You already know how they feel about you. Who needs to impress them? Save your chivalry, there may not be enough to go around. After all, efficiency in dating is completely under appreciated.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Notes on a Seattle Weekend

1) Every other major city must have been a ghost town this weekend, the entire country's population was in Seattle.

2) Wallingford, I miss living with you.

3) Trophy Cupcakes, will you marry me?

4) Ballard, when did you get so trendy?

5) Green Lake, thank you for your swing sets.

6) Ballard locks, thanks for providing a place where a certain 3 year old can wave "bye boats!" over and over again.

7) Thank you to Salty's on Alki for not locking its doors, turning off its lights and shutting down the kitchen on Easter Sunday, which is exactly what I would have done before hiding under a table with a bottle of champagne.

8) Maltby Cafe, you're a classic. No other breakfast place can touch you.

9) Seattle Magazine, thanks for telling me about two Portland restaurants I've never heard of.

10) Bobs, thanks for letting me crash in your princess playroom. I had sweeter dreams than normal and noticed I was humming a song from "Enchanted" when I was picking up my place this morning ...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Susan Quick Where Are You?

Hello my name is Serendipitous Girl and I am a magazine-aholic.

It started when I was a teenager and read Sassy. Then, when 18 and waiting at the airport to pick up a boyfriend, I grabbed a Cosmo. Eventually Cosmo lead to Glamour and every month I'd head to my dealer (aka Barnes & Noble), purchase my drug of choice and inhale it in one sitting. Cosmo was fun, but I loved Glamour. Glamour encouraged down time, gave me lists of 30 things to do before I turned 30 and they had Susan Quick.

Susan Quick introduced me to couscous, rustic pies, homemade ice cream and decadent chocolate pudding cakes that were cooked in huge latte mugs. Her recipes were true to her name--quick and always easy. Inevitably I'd open up the magazine to her page first. Until the one day when I opened Glamour and frantially searched its pages, Susan was gone. I panicked. What was I supposed to do? Were my newly encouraged culinary skills going to get canned like Susan had been? And speaking of cans, was that what I was going to be reduced to? Campbell's Soup, Chili con Carne and Chef Boyardee? I was devastated and it was as if I were going through a break up. I boycotted cooking, magazines and the kitchen until In Style came around a short time later. And then I was sucked back in--recipes, parties, pretty dresses and horoscopes. In the words of Judy Garland, "oh my!"

Over the years my tastes have grown and expanded-- if anything in sheer volume. In Style and Glamour are still very much around, but they have been supplemented with Sunset Magazine, Bon Appetit, Real Simple and a slew of others. At some point I will confess to the number of magazine subscriptions I maintain but not now. We're just getting to know each other and that number feels almost as precious as that pesky number on the scale ... which you don't get to see either.

This morning, while in the middle of a "going on vacation meltdown," I sat on my couch for a few minutes and opened up the Better Homes & Gardens that just arrived. I tagged a few recipes, all of which I think Susan would approve--risotto with lemon and asparagus, chicken breasts with artichokes and crimini mushrooms and tomato and shrimp soup. Spring has arrived! I'm off to Seattle for the weekend, so cooking will have to wait. But you can bet that next week, when I'm in the kitchen--chopping, zesting, roasting and sauteeing--I'll stop for a moment, raise my wine glass and toast my old friend, Susan Quick, who I imagine is somewhere doing the exact same thing.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

March Madness

Men of Portland, I love you.

The college basketball tournament started today and March Madness is in full swing. The squad headed over to The City, a sports bar in downtown Portland, to grab some lunch and catch one of the games. The place was crawling with men and I was reminded of how much I love guys when they're doing "guy stuff" and how much I especially love the men of Portland.

A couple of years ago I had the chance to be on the market floor of the New York Stock Exchange. It was amazing, and probably one of my all time great life experiences. A group of traders spent a few hours with us, letting us watch as they made trades and taking us around on a tour. By "us," I mean 5 girls. By "tour" I mean showing us that the NYSE is made up of 99.9% men. I don't know if we were on display or if they were, but I suspect it was a bit of both. It was a complete high seeing guys hang up the phone, shove aside their fellow traders and come out of their respective places in "the garage" to check us out as we walked by. But after a while it got old and started to feel a bit like we were New York Strip Steaks about to be devoured. (That's actually a complete lie, it never got old. I just like to tell the story whenever possible). What is it about guys being guys that's so incredibly sexy? All of that testosterone, the focus and energy of men being assertive and doing what they're passionnate about whether its working, watching a game, driving a fire truck, shaving, whatever ... is it getting warm in here?

I had to leave The City before the rest of the squad to get back to the office in time for a conference call (damn you work!) and wound my way through tables and chairs and groups of guys all by myself. I was afraid one of two things would happen. That said men would either a) be irritated that a chick was on their turf or b) be all pervy due to the many beers consumed in the middle of the afternoon. And that's when it hit me how great our Portland men are. Everyone chivalrously allowed me to pass, smiled and gave me an appreciative (not icky) checkout--like "that's kind of cool that a girl is watching sports on her lunch hour" or it could have been "wow, that chick has a massive piece of spinach in her teeth" but I prefer to think it was the former.

Men of Portland, I'm sorry if I sometimes forget how incredibly cool you are. Thanks for letting me enter and exit the elevators first, for opening my doors, for keeping an eye out when strange men in Starbuck's are standing too close while holding large stuffed penguins. Thanks for watching sports and not caring if a girl invaded your space. Forget the Sweet 16, you guys are the real champs.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

How to Get a Guy - Bachelor Style

When I was younger, I'd play a game with my friends every summer. We'd huddle up on the side of the pool, concoct some crazy story about a monster living in the drain at the bottom (double dare points if it happened to be a black bottom pool) and one by one we'd send each other in to face our imagined fear alone. I remember diving into the cold water by myself, squeals of my friends now muffled above and being petrified of something that I knowingly created. I couldn't not touch the bottom though, dignity was above all else what little you had as an eight year old. So I'd force myself to swim to the bottom and touch the drain, wondering all the while if there really was a monster hiding in there just waiting to bite my hand off. I'd swim so hard and fast to the surface, pulling myself to safety and flopping onto the warm, sun drenched pavement breathing heavily. Once again I had survived. After everyone had taken a turn, we'd stand, arms linked and look at each other for a few moments before someone inevitably whispered "let's do it again." This is the same feeling I get when I watch the Bachelor.

I have watched The Bachelor since day ONE. I love how one program can simultaneously push feminism back 20 years and yet show us how far we've come in the exact same hour. The Bachelor is a monster of our own creation and yet we dive in each season because THIS is the most dramatic season in Bachelor history! By now everyone knows there is no fairy tale ending, that every rose ceremony will be dramatic (!) and that someone will inevitably either get carted off in an ambulance, have their heart broken or get so hammered that they'll pass out on camera. If you're lucky, the same person will do all three in the same show. But I'm telling you, I have to do it. The embarassment, the agony, the drama (!) I watch it with my eyes half closed and by the end, I fall backwards on my couch happy once again that I survived.

As such, I feel it's important for me to pass along all of the wisdom I have garnered throughout the years. These little tidbits come from Monday's episode. And here it is ...

How to Get a Guy - Bachelor Style

1) Don't be afraid to flaunt your smarts.

Say things like: "I have a bachelor's degree in nutrition. I want to find a pharmaceutical that will cure something no one has thought of."

2) Show a guy your talent.

Make sure to bring a musical instrument the first time you meet a guy. Even better? Write a song for him. Yeah, yeah! Bring your guitar and sing an out of tune song about how you're the only one for him ... he's the only one for you? It doesn't matter, you're WAY better than the girl who broke out her clarinet. You know that look the Bachelor had? The one where his smile looked like it had been Botoxed there? That means he TOTALLY digs you.

3) Don't underestimate the power of senior citizens.

When the Bachelor says he likes to be mellow sometimes, agree with him by telling him about your "grandma side." Clarify it for him further by telling him how much you like to play board games and sew. Guys love their grandmas!

4) But no granny panties!

Guys may love their grandmas, but not their grande skivs. If you worry the Bachelor doesn't know what kind of underwear you wear, just go ahead and take them off and put them in his non existent suit pocket. Make sure to do it when he's talking to another girl so she can check out your panties too.

5) Don't be afraid to brag!

Don't be outdone, make sure the Bachelor knows you're a winner! Just throw it out there! Don't be shy about being an "Arm Wrestling Champion" or "A Rock Paper Scissors Champion." A guy who played sports at Oxford will SO dig that about you!

6) Don't be afraid to be real.

Break out the white girl ghetto '90's slang, girlfriend! Say things like "all that and a bag of chips" after you BITE a piece out of a tin can or start dancing because sometimes a girl just "has to bust a move." You go!

Here's to a new season of red roses, drama, struggles of what or who to do. Week after week I'll be watching until the final terrifying end when it will all be over in a marriage/non marriage proposal, teary limo ride and a slew of morning talkshow appearances followed up a few weeks later with an article announcing the couples' breakup in US Weekly. At the end of it all, I'll clasp my hands together, take a deep breath and whisper. "Let's do it again."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Diary of a Scattered Mind

Dear Diary,

Um, hi.

I'm feeling a little scattered. We're currently coming up on the quarter end crunch at the office, I leave on Friday for a few days in Seattle and my mind is filled with all kinds of things to write about, but none of them can grab hold for long enough to make an actual post.

Here are my random thoughts, in no particular order:

1) Way to annoy me: Be a pretentious coffee drinker and order your latte to 180 degrees. (I hate to be the one to tell you this lady, I think I saw the barista take it up to only 176 degrees just to fuck with you).

2) Winner for the most random e-mail received today: Award goes to my dad who apparently has been keeping it all bottled up that he is worried about me. Why? You ask. Because this weekend, I'll be driving the treacherous stretch of road (read: Interstate 5) alone between his place (where my sister, brother in law, niece & nephew will be staying) and my friends' place (where I'll be staying). At NIGHT no less! Nevermind the fact that it will take about 10 minutes, he is really concerned.

3) Most surprising e-mail I sent today: Hi Dad, This is your daughter. Who is 33. Who has lived on her own between three major cities over the last 15 years. Who has been driving for 17 years. Who flies in airplanes multiple times throughout the year. Who frequently drives not only at night, but also in the morning when it's still dark out. Who will see you Friday. Who will be the adult and not the 3 year old, that's your granddaughter Elle (my niece). Love you! Me.

4) Thing I'm Most Worried About: Will the coworker who is housesitting for me this weekend report back to everyone at the office about the crumbs in my silverware drawer? What about the way my dog seems to think putting the cat's entire head in her mouth is perfectly fine?

5) Suprisingly Yummy Thing I Tried Today: The Gingersnap Lara Bar. I love how virtuous I feel when I eat something where I can pronounce everything on its label.

6) Today's Wish: Can I please have Julianne Hough from Dancing with the Stars' body? Thanks.

7) Number of Days Until Padres Home Opener: 9!

8) Wine I'll be Drinking Tonight: Ravenswood Cabernet

9) Number of glasses I'll be drinking: One ... two ... and a half.

10) Status of Reconnaissance Mission to determine sexual preference of coworker by bringing your gay boyfriend in to "see the office" when he picks you up for lunch: Aborted, coworker must have sensed the gaydar and was away from his desk for too long to have Wade stay without needing to start collecting a paycheck.

Tomorrow's agenda--Figure out a way to camoflauge a 6' tall, gay man so he blends in with cubicle walls and can finally put this mission to bed. So to speak.


Monday, March 17, 2008

St. Patrick? No, Saint Cupcake!

I never was a fan of Catholicism. A lot of my friends throughout school were Catholic and always got into trouble for "sinning", they couldn't play on Sundays and had to go to classes AFTER SCHOOL to learn more about Catholicism. As far as I was concerned, that was a bunch of B.S. Everyone knew after school and weekends meant play time. God wouldn't want kids locked up in a classroom for any longer than we already were, would she/he? I didn't think so either, so on the weekends I prayed where every good little teenage girl should--at the Church of Malls and Horse Stables ... and occasionally at the Aquarius Roller Skating Rink.

I have warmed up a bit more to the Catholic Church. My sister married a good Catholic boy and my niece and nephew were baptized in the church, so I pick stuff up by osmosis--usually around Christmastime. I love midnight mass (especially when it takes place at 5 p.m. and is preceded by dim sum) and the gorgeous churches that are lit by candlelight. I like that the priests aren't preaching hellfire and damnation and I especially love the stories of the Saints. So when I came upon a place called St. Cupcake in downtown Portland, I just about said 10 Hail Mary's. Was there such a person as a St. Cupcake? And why hadn't my Catholic friends told me about her?

Not literally a saint (but the owners should be at least considered for sainthood), Saint Cupcake is a bakery located in downtown Portland on the corner of NW 17th & Flanders. I pop in there a few times a month for the best cupcakes in town. My friends were visiting one weekend and we had eaten at St. Cupcake so many times that by the time they left on Sunday afternoon the woman working behind the counter said "oh, are you guys heading back to Seattle?"

The first time I set foot into St. Cupcake and took a look at their cheery pink, brown and cream decor I wanted to sit down and write out Valentine's Day cards or wrap presents for my friends in the colorful Sunday comics. I was literally walking back into my childhood when cupcakes meant parties, sugar highs and all of your friends gathered in the same place. I almost started jumping up and down asking if we could have a slumber party. But I refrained, and asked instead if I could have a chocolate cupcake ... and a coconut one ... and a red velvet one too. "To eat at home," I told the girl behind the counter. I admired her ability not to roll her eyes and say "yeah right."

Just as I was about to take a bite, I hesitated. As cute as cupcakes are, they were very often dry. I remember, when I was younger, specifically licking the frosting off their tops for that very reason. The cake, of course, would go to my dad. I tentitively took a lick of the chocolate buttercream frosting. I didn't want to be disappointed by something so cute. Luckily St. Cupcakes are as good as they look--I think a stick of butter goes into each cupcake. So the frosting was delicious, what about the rest of the cake? I closed my eyes and dug in. Moist, delicious and gone in a matter of seconds. Oh, and the one I was supposed to take home? Never made it.

Go now. Or rather, tomorrow. St. Cupcake is closed on Mondays, for even saints get their rest. The service is ummm ... usually lacking in personality. (Sorry St. Cupcake! But lying is a sin, or something, isn't it?) But you won't miss it once you take a taste. The owners, who are lovely, put their personality into where it matters most--a cute, lively place and cupcakes that taste like they've been sent down straight from heaven. Amen.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


My aunt Bette is a badass. She was married to my uncle for about five minutes in the early '60's. They had long since divorced by the time I came around in the mid 70's, but remained friends in the weird way my family does after divorce. Where most couples hate each other and never want to see each other again, my family doesn't believe in such puffery. No, no! We divorce but keep in touch with gusto. Holidays are still kind of odd with everyone showing up in one location and then each going back to their respective homes, alone, after the festivities. It was nice, I suppose, not having to deal with step parents or siblings, but it can become a little confusing--especially when your grandmother breaks her hip and you all go to visit her in the hospital.

"This is Bob, my kids' father," said my grandmother to the nurse she befriended. "Oh, how nice to meet your husband!" the nurse exclaimed, extending her hand to my grandfather. "Oh no, we're divorced, but still friends." My grandmother explained and went on to introduce my father "and this is Ray, my granddaughters father and my daughter Kathy." The nurse asked "your husband?" to my mother. "Oh no, we're divorced but still friends." "Oh!" the nurse exclaimed looking to my aunt and uncle "let me guess. Divorced but still friends?" Bingo.

Bette lived in Manhattan the whole time I was growing up. I had no idea where or what Manhattan was. Afterall, Sex and the City wouldn't come out until years later and I was a self absorbed teenager who thought life revolved around my existence in San Diego. One Thanksgiving it was decided my family would descend upon Bette's cool, childless New York life with our San Diego suburban-ness. I was 13, in 8th grade, big into pegging the bottom of my pants, riding horses and writing notes to my friends. I could usually be found with a phone attached to my ear or nose in a book. My sister was 17, on the drill team, big into teasing her bangs and driving her convertible VW bug down to the tanning salon. I'm pretty sure my aunt took one look at us on her doorstep and wondered what the hell she was thinking.

Bette lived just outside Chelsea, on West 29th Street (in between 6th & 7th if any New Yorkers happen upon this post) and owned an entire floor of an old warehouse. She used half of it for her business and the other half for her residence. Years later, when I could actually take interest in someone older than me, I'd find out that she worked for Food & Wine, with Martha Stewart once (which apparently was more than enough) and as a food stylist. But at that time, if anyone asked me what she did, I'd say "my aunt Bette is an artist like my uncle" and then would stick my nose back into whatever book I was reading. A career as an artist, at that point to me, was normal. My father was an engineer, my mother a teacher--my aunt and uncle were artists, what was the big deal?

We hung out in the city for four days. We climbed to the top of the Statue of Liberty, rode the elevators to the top of the Empire State Building, met my grandmother's actress friend at the Plaza for tea, hit up Balducci's, an outdoor market, ate a pretzel on the street corner, caught the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and rode the subway. The sheer stimulus of the city was incredible. I lived in Suburban San Diego, on a quiet cul-de-sac where I could play four square with the neighbors and ride my bike without fear of getting hit by a car. The New York City streets were about as opposite as you could get from my world--taxis, cars, garbage trucks--you took your life into your hands any time you crossed a street. Instead of shopping at University Town Center where the only two story building at the time was Sears, we shopped in an eight story Macy's. The lights of Times Square were rivaled only by the sheer drama of being able to see the Empire State Building lit up at night from Bette's living room window.

Needless to say, my mind was opened after that trip. The life of an adult now seemed cool and not the tortured, psychosis inducing adulthood of our suburban parents and neighbors. You could have style, excitement and friends who enjoyed a seven course Thanksgiving meal. You could know people who were actresses and liked expensive places like the Plaza. You could find 13 year old children interesting, despite all the reasons their mother told you they weren't. If they could be such interesting people and find me interesting ... than maybe I could ... become something ... become someone?

I would dream about a life in New York from that point forward, I'd read Sassy magazine and think about Jane Pratt and all of her fun friends who lived in the city and wrote articles for girls my age. I'd think about shopping at Balducci's with my aunt and the miniature vegetables she used for photo shoots. I'd think of airy studios and busy New York streets and the possibility of something more.

While I have never lived in New York and honestly don't think I am anywhere cool enough or thick skinned enough to do so, I visit often and love it just as I did then. Bette is now retired, living in Mendocino where she hikes and takes long walks on the rocky Nothern California beaches. I thought of her today. As the days are leading up to Spring, I started craving something sweet and lemony and was reminded of the first dish she ever taught me to make. Easy, delicious and the perfect lazy Sunday morning breakfast, Bette taught me to make these Dutch Babies when I was living in Seattle. I was 22, had just graduated college and was working on becoming the "something" I had dreamed of years prior. I don't know if I'm necessarily there yet, but these pillowy Dutch Babies make me think I'm one step closer.

Bette's New York Dutch Babies

3T butter
3 eggs
3/4 c milk
3/4 c flour

1/2 of a lemon
1/2 c of raspberries
Dash of powdered sugar

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place butter in a cast iron skillet. If you don't have a cast iron skillet, no worries, I've made these in a 9 inch pie tin too. Once the butter is in the skillet, place the skillet in the oven so the butter melts as the oven heats up.
In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, milk and flour together until well combined. By that time the butter should be completely melted--if it isn't, grab another cup of coffee and wait until it is. Grab the skillet from out of the oven, make sure you use a pot holder for goodness sakes, and dump your egg, milk and flour mixture into the melted butter. Place the skillet back into the oven, set the timer for 20 minutes. And in the words of Bette, "no more, no less and whatever you do, DON'T open the oven door until after 20 minutes." She always was a bit of a boss in the kitchen. Once the 20 minutes is up, make sure anyone else who lives in or, ahem, may be visiting your place in the morning is in the kitchen to watch you take this baby out of the oven. It puffs up into something pretty impressive. After you ooh and ahh, squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the top, scatter on a few berries and sift some powdered sugar on the top.

Read the Times and sip your coffee.
Or you can do what I think I'm about to ... curl up on the couch and watch a few episodes of Sex and the City ... but not before I make a quick call to Bette.

Hope you're having a lazy Sunday,

Friday, March 14, 2008

Je Rigole (Just kidding!)

I was in high school when a coup d'etat was staged against Gorbachev (I think--history, no matter how recent, has never been my strong suit). My friend was taking a nap on the couch and in a daze woke up to a Russian newscaster reporting on the coup. He understood every word the woman was saying, despite the fact that he, himself, did not speak a lick of Russian.

"Oh my god, I can understand Russian," he said aloud. Luckily he was alone, as not ten seconds later he realized the person he understood was the translator ... who was speaking in English. I laughed my ass off when he told me that story.

I now know how he felt. I needed to call our hotel in Nice today and give my credit card number to confirm our reservation in September. For the last two days I've been practicing what I was going to say. I had somehow convinced myself that the French classes I took 15 years ago in high school, combined with the fact that I've been planning a trip to France for years and LOVE the language had somehow made me fluent. You can imagine how well that went.

I managed to get through "Bonjour Monsieur, parlez vous anglais?" Luckily he parlez-ed very well and I hung up the phone a shaking wreck of embarrassment. But! Undeterred I am setting out tomorrow to grab some French language books to add to my ever growing stack of guidebooks.

If you happen onto this post and parlez vous francais, or are trying like me, I'd love it if you could post your thoughts or suggestions. In English for now, lest I'm unable to find that pesky translator when I need her.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

My Ten Favorite Things About Today

1) The cherry blossoms are about ready to burst open on the line of trees that lead up to my house.

2) My digital camera came in the mail today, which means actual photos of all the shit I've been talking about over the last couple of months (once I can figure out how it works, of course).

3) My friend saying she went to a yoga class this week. When I asked her how it was, expecting to hear how much she loved it, she looked at me point blank and said "I hated it. The whole class I just kept thinking to myself 'I hate this." I loved how honest and pure it was.

4) A great guy we work with, and haven't yet determined his sexual preference, said while discussing sweets at the office "I like the dark chocolate."

5) Hearing "The Humpty Dance" on the radio (You're singing it in your head right now, aren't you? I know me too!).

6) Finding out one of our sales guys that calls me repeatedly each day and that I CAN'T stand (despite being the angelic, lovely and kind person that I am), is going to be out on vacation for an ENTIRE week! Woo hoo!

7) Eavsdropping on the two guys conversation in line behind me at Starbuck's and digging the fact that it was about something they were both really into. Granted, I didn't understand half of what they were saying--it must have had to do with computers, but regardless, it was cute.

8) That the peeps at work have adopted my high school nick name whenever they refer to me.

9) The hours of daylight that now come AFTER work and not DURING work. Thank you daylight savings!

10) The daffodils I spied on the side of the road while on my way home. Spring is that really you?

How about you? What was your favorite thing about today?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Simple Country Girl

Despite growing up in a beach town and living in two major cities, I absolutely love the country. Old barns, weathered fences, pick up trucks, cowboy hats, cowboy boots, cowboys ... they all make me inhale deeply, relax and want to stay a while. I don't think it was any coincidence that I ended up with a cattle rancher's daughter as a college roommate or that my dog is half cattle dog. I think I would own a cow or two if my homeowner's association didn't frown upon such things.

So when one of the squad sent an e-mail out last week extending an invite to her place in the Willamette Valley, I was in. It didn't hurt that her gorgeous dog had a litter of puppies five weeks ago. Puppies and the country? I wondered silently if I should just go ahead and forward my mail.

On Sunday a few members of the squad and I headed out to Yamhill. The afternoon was beautiful and clear, Mt. Hood was covered with snow and our conversation lulled as we got further and further out of town, each of us lost in our own thoughts and the beauty of the rolling valley hills. "I could live out here," I said in a half whisper as we passed miles of green vineyards and homes that were separated by actual land and not just a fence or common wall.

My mind was working quickly, I could give up Stumptown's coffee (ummm, maybe), Laurelhurst Park, my downtown office, the crazies on the MAX, happy hour at the Saucebox, St. Cupcake (ok, I could drive into the city for St. Cupcake) but otherwise, I think I could do it. I think I could give it all up to live in the country, walk out of my front door early each morning and just breathe in the quiet.

My mind worked quickly, I envisioned the garden I'd plant (flowers and vegetables), the fruit trees I'd have (apples, pears, fig and if could get away with it a lemon tree) all the while forgetting the fact that I don't have a single plant in my house now. I'd milk the cows and make homemade ice cream, so what if I don't know how to milk a cow, I'd learn! I'd sweep the front porch and then sit down on the porch swing and have a nice cold glass of lemonade, homemade of course from my lemon trees.

By that time we arrived at our coworkers place--20 acres planted with wheat and a beautiful mediterranean style ranch house with a barn full of puppies. I almost asked if I could move in and drive the tractor to plow the field (do you drive tractors to plow fields?). We played with the eight little pups for over an hour, watching them run, fall, roll over, chomp on the grass and then repeat the whole cycle over again. Every once and a while you could grab one for long enough to cuddle them and give them kisses before they'd squirm and want to be let down again. It was heaven. We left reluctantly and headed back to the city.

Don't get me wrong, I love my life here too. It truly is the best of both worlds, having so much so close. And I admit, I may have a romanticized view of country life. I know it takes work and money. But honestly, what doesn't? So I have no idea how I'm going to make this happen, but I'm going to! Serendipitous Girl might just become Serendipitous Country Girl--it may be when she's 90 and has no teeth, but she's going to. There's a porch swing and a cool glass of lemonade just waiting and you don't need teeth for that.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Cell Phones, Who Needs 'em? Eh Sonny?

When you work in finance and you're an analyst you spend a lot of time staring at numbers. When you're not staring at numbers, you're staring at a computer screen. Often times you're staring at numbers on a computer screen--or if you're me, you're staring at the clock on the computer screen (which technically is comprised of numbers). Breaks are not only important, they're like lifeblood. And no, I'm not exaggerating. Try and get in the way of us geeks on the way to our morning shots of espresso--we'd mow over a grandma.

So after the morning coffee run and lunch, afternoons stretch long--a highway if you will, with no exits until quittin' time. It starts to get strangely quiet when you take into account the food coma and the fact that we're financial geeks churning out reports like it's goin' out of style ... that is, if they ever were in style. Often times right around 3:00 everyone is looking for an excuse to chat, but no one wants to make the first move, for fear of disrupting the quiet. And then it happens ... someone sneezes and about six people say "Bless You!" simultaneously. That gets everyone up to chat for a bit and that's all it takes. If the flap of a hummingbird wing can cause a tidlewave on the other side of the world, a sneeze can get a group of analysts out of their cubicles in Portland.

The conversations vary--some can be as mundane as who has the least amount of seniority, for it is they who will make the requisite snack run (deemed "you fly, I'll buy" at Goldman Sachs, thanks Digs). Often times the afternoon chats can be politically charged ... or they would be if any of us were republicans. And sometimes, like today they're oddly reassuring.

Today's chat was about our respective parents' utter lack of ability to use cell phones.

Our parents are all relatively successful people, who raised relatively successful children but the thought of a phone not attached to the wall is a veritable quandry to them. It's a display of ineptitude of such magnificent proportion that it caused enough fodder for a good 20 minutes of story telling. So here we go:

1) My mom has the ghetto cell phone that you buy when you have bad credit. You know the pay ahead kind? Yes, she has the cell phone version of a layaway plan. In addition, her phone is a good five years old and has this incredibly loud screech/alarm/death toll that occurs any time she turns it on. In addition to the loud shriek of a sound my mom's phone makes, it always has the courtesy of telling her exactly how many minutes she has left on her "plan." This number? A complete mystery to my mother every time she hears it. It baffles her every time that she could have that many minutes left! Regardless, any time my sister and I are with her we graciously allow her use of our phones to which she always replies "oh thank you, this is NICE," she says while shoving her analog phone back into her tote bag.

2) M will leave a message for her parents on their cell phones. The message they never listen to which she discovered after they called her back asking all the same questions she had left answers to on their voicemail not ten minutes earlier. So she decided to stop leaving messages when she called them, figuring they'd see she rang and give her a call back. At least she tried, until they called her in such a panic wondering if something had happened to her where she was so injured she couldn't leave a message.

3) K's mother in law had accidentally been answering her cell phone on speaker. Everyone could hear her conversation, while she was talking into the mouthpiece and holding it up to her ear like normal. "I thought it was kind of loud," she said after having it explained to her.

Statistics, they're rarely 100% accurate, right? Not in our group. We all discovered that the only time any of our parents turn their phones on is when they are either making a call or know for sure someone will be calling them (eg. airport pick ups, etc). Ahh the parents, you've got to love them or else they'd drive you crazy ... I think I'll go call them right now ... on their cell phones, where I know they won't pick up.

Funny cell phone/parent story? Jump on in and tell me about it, it's way too quiet in this place! Do I have to sneeze?

Friday, March 7, 2008

Office Dares

I have one of those page a day calendars on my desk at work. Last year's calendar had shots of Paris, the year before had photographs of various islands around the world. This year, a former coworker gave me "Dumb Office Dares." I love it. One of the first things I do during my morning routine is tear off the prior day's page and shout out to the squad what the day's dare is. Today's dare was simple--seductively eat a chocolate bar while looking directly at one of your office mates. No sweat. It was just as easy as the time when we were dared to "during a meeting, announce you have to go number two really bad." Or "when hanging up the phone make kissing sounds after you say goodbye, regardless of who it is." Everyone loves the "what would happen if someone actually did that" discussion, but of course we're way too conservative (read: nerdy) to actually do any of them.

So in talking daily about such craziness, like putting your water bottle in a brown paper bag and carrying it into a meeting, I think my "crazy radar" (craydar?) is being dulled. This is a finely honed skill, created over the past 9 months that I've been working downtown. It's not something that I want to give up, self protection is vital for us young "ladies." But I have to admit that my first thought instead of "crazy person, 3:00," is now "wow, that person must take office dares seriously."

Take for instance the time I almost got taken out by a woman who was walking ALONE down the sidewalk in a full fledged argument with ... herself, apparently. I was so intent on determining if it was a joke that I missed the fact she was pulling off the enormous metal trash can lids from their trash can homes and chucking them like frisbees down the sidewalk. It was a narrow escape.

Or today, when I was walking through the US Bancorp Tower's lobby and a guy with an enormous black eye and about 16 layers of clothing asked me if I could give him "my code" so he could get into the bathroom. My first thought was "there's no way that black eye is real." Second thought of course was "uh, wha?"

See what I mean? I feel like I just moved to the big city from a small town in Kansas.

But the kicker was on my way home tonight while stopped at a stop light I watched a guy walking through the crosswalk. He walked purposfully, strides long, head up, he was focused and obviously on his way to something important. In his right hand was a cigarette and in his left? A brown paper bag that had the not too easily camoflauged profile of a bottle ... of the alcoholic persuasion. First thought? He's obviously going to a meeting.

Is there an AA equivalent for this innocence that seems to be taking over my world? "Hello, my name is Serendipitous Girl and I'm a gulible-aholic." Luckily I won't have to find out. On my way out of the grocery store I got accosted by a Girl Scout selling cookies. I gave her a black eye and made my way home.

(Just kidding. I bought two boxes of thin mints and thanked her profusely. Even if she was six feet tall and had hairy legs, the Girl Scout uniform meant she was okay, right?)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Are Strippers the New Black?

Strippers are everywhere these days. Diablo Cody just won an Oscar for Best Screenplay, David Hernandez sings instead of strips on American Idol. It's enough to make a girl wonder if these folks might be onto something? I decided to put my investigative "skills" to work and went to Target and bought the Carmen Electra Cardio Strip DVD.

I popped that baby in the DVD player and waited to see what all the fuss was about. I watched half fascinated and half mortified. It's not Carmen, of course, she's beautiful but it was kind of the whole vibe. Allow me to explain. Carmen and her back up strippers were dressed in short '80's Dolphin-esque shorts, with tube socks. Let's pause here for a moment.

My DAD wore a similar ensemble in the 80's, okay? The shorts might have been O.P. corduroy and not Dolphins, but the tube socks? Very much in effect--he had a tan from his knee to his mid thigh. So that was thought number one when I watched the cardio strip DVD--not really the kind of thing you want to think about when contemplating a sexy dance number you could bust out at a moment's notice and not at all what I think Carmen intended.

Disturbing thought number two--the ladies also wore their hair in pigtails, the likes of which I had in third grade. Third grade was when I wore a purple Izod polo shirt and my mom tied matching ribbons in my hair. I certainly don't feel sexy in pigtails and I definitely wouldn't want any guy to find me sexy when I was nine. This whole stripping thing was getting very uncomfortable. There was also the requisite ass smacking, fingers being bitten and hair flipping, but I made it through in the name of research--I'm a pioneer. That was, until afterward when an even more disturbing thought occurred to me.

What if a lot of other ladies in Portland had my very same idea? And what if said ladies had performed similar moves to the single men of Portland? And what if said single men of Portland remembered? All of a sudden I got this image of my future self feeling fun and sassy and doing a little number for my boyfriend when mid hair toss he thinks to himself "wow, (insert random girl's name here) did this same routine for me once." Within three seconds, the Carmen Electra Cardio Strip DVD was put away, never to see the light of day again.

I confessed this to Digs and she promptly decided to take a survey ... of her friends (who I know most of!) ... over SUNDAY BRUNCH! Mortified, I haven't shown my face around them since. Are you sure there weren't any priests around, Digs? Enjoying their eggs benedict after their stressful sermon? Perhaps they were the ones who stepped away from the table to put a direct call in to god to have him/her ban me from heaven?

The brunch table of course found the whole story hilarious and spent the rest of the afternoon catcalling each other whenever someone accidentally dropped something or did a stripper moves as they stood up from their chairs. The next birthday that rolled around in the SF group, the birthday girl was given Carmen's Cardio Strip DVD and a pair of platform, clear stripper heels. "Ooh, did she like them?" I asked Digs. "I don't know, come to think of it I haven't seen her in awhile," she repsonded followed by "maybe that's a good sign."

Fads may come and go, but I'm happy to say that my "research" did help someone in the bedroom, even if it wasn't mine.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Northern California Adventure Part 3 - Wawona

The first time I went to Yosemite I was six. I was wearing a Princeton t-shirt (the closest I'd ever get to an Ivy League school) and looked at the camera in dazed confusion while my mom, dad and sister smiled. In the background was Half Dome--a spectacular sight, even now after all of the times I've seen it. But at that point, I was six and definitely not impressed. I didn't get what the big deal was about Yosemite. It meant 10 hour drives cooped up in our blue VW bus staring out the window at the dusty and hot valley as we chugged up I-5. There were no McDonald's to be found and instead of riding my horse for hours I had to WALK for hours. I hated hiking. I couldn't say any of this however because the adults LOVED Yosemite, LIVED for Yosemite. Oh the open air! Oh the stars! Oh the lack of McDonald's! Don't these hikes feel GREAT?!

Uh no! Where were the TV's? The malls? And where was the water? I was raised by the beach, I needed water. Sure there were falls--Bridal Veil, Vernal, Upper & Lower Yosemite Falls--beautiful, but unaccessible. You could hike them but not swim in them. The falls were one more thing that I could look at as a kid but not touch. I lived for water and would swim in any body of water that would have me. To this day I have a back full of freckles due to summers spent boogie boarding in San Diego. And then just as I had about given up, we found it. We found Wawona.

Wawona is a small town just after you enter the park through the South Entrance. Wawona had swimming holes in abundance, it had a swinging bridge, rocks to jump off and small rapids that washed over slick rocks we'd use as slides. My uncle would take us swimming in places he found on hikes. We'd dive down deep into a cold mountain pool, swim through a hole in a rock that had been formed thousands of years prior and come out in a different place than where we began. The chill and darkness as I'd plunge deeper into the water scared me but not enough to keep me from saying "let's do it again." And so, as we'd return to Wawona year after year, the pictures inevitably found me in my bathing suit, hair slicked back posing just long enough for my mom to get a shot, but not so long that I'd be kept out of the water for any length of time.

As I got older and would drive up to Yosemite myself, I could finally understand what the adults meant. I'd hit Highway 41 to the east of Fresno where it winds through the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. In the summer the hills are gold and the oak trees a deep shade of green. Driving that section of road would become a favorite part of my Yosemite trips, for it meant I was almost there. As if shedding layers of clothing, time constraints would slip away, school and work pressures would become distant memories. I'd roll down the windows, turn up the radio and an hour later pass the crisp white Wawona Hotel. After a few turns on Chilnualna Falls Road I'd reach the cabin, where inevitably dinner would be waiting.

"Camp Duke" has its own menu--moist chicken marinated in lemon, garlic and rosemary fresh off the grill, roasted squash and red onions, multi grain bread and salad in the wood salad bowl shaped like an acorn. We eat well, and are guilty of planning the next meal before finishing whatever meal happens to be in front of us at the time. Breakfast comes together early with oatmeal pancakes, fruit salad and pure maple syrup. Lunch arrives shortly thereafter with sandwiches stuffed full of curried chicken salad. These are things I could probably get anywhere, but it wouldn't taste the same. This is mountain food.

We did occasionally have some structure in Wawona. My grandmother, mom and I used to walk down to the Wawona Hotel, pretend to be guests and get coffee from the lobby to take outside. We'd sit on their large front porch, ensconsed in wicker furniture and contented silence, gazing out over the meadow that would serve as a golf course once the deer were done with their breakfast. Friday nights included cocktail hour in the hotel lobby where we'd listen to Tom Bopp--the resident pianist--who has been playing and singing at the hotel for 25 years. Saturday nights meant the summer barbecue out on the hotel's expansive front lawn where red and white tablecloths reign and three grills churned out mahi mahi, chicken and steak. Ate too much? No problem, we could work it off at the dance held in the old barn down by the river. Which meant there was always room for one more piece of german chocolate cake. Wawona is full of memories, these are just some of my favorites.

This trip was the first time I had taken the ladies to Yosemite. My uncle was kind enough to host three giggly former college roommates. There would be no swimming this trip, but we did go down to the valley. Half Dome, El Capitan and Sentinal Rock still faithfully hold their posts. The falls were just beginning their springtime rush. The valley floor was blanketed with a late winter snow. New leaves were starting to form on the birch trees that stood pure against a clear blue sky.

The valley was a vison, but the things that stick out most in my mind? Looking into the paned window of my uncle's studio and seeing him at work behind his desk, the smell of the wood burning in the cabin fireplace, Tom Bopp on the piano, chicken on the grill and the music of wine being poured into a glass. Wawona, simple you may be, but oh how deep and rich you make us.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Northern California Adventure Part 2 -Beef Camp

Morning came early on Thursday. After four bottles of wine the night before, us ladieth were slow to start and we finally made it out of the Bay Area by 1:30. The plan was to stop by Spleen's parent's ranch (aka Beef Camp) in Oakdale, a small valley town on the way to Yosemite.

Spleen grew up on a cattle ranch and wove tales of canoeing down the irrigation canal, riding four wheelers or horses and driving fast on country roads in her 1964 (and 1/2!) red Mustang to see her friends who lived at least a half hour away. Digs and I used to listen in awe, as both of us were raised in Southern California and ranch life was as foreign to us as well ... winter. I never tired of hearing Spleen talk about her life on the ranch and couldn't understand why she not only desired to come to San Diego, but didn't mind leaving all of the four legged creatures on her parent's ranch. I was, and still am, gaga for (almost!) any type of animal.

It was our first summer of college and the stretch of three months without seeing each other felt way too long so Digs and I made the trek up to the 'dale to see Spleen and celebrate her mom's birthday. Spleen's directions were pretty straightforward. I-5 to 99, a bunch of other county roads I can't remember and then once you go through the town with two stoplights (they were new!) turn right, and go up a "driveway" that's almost a mile long and you're there! After a few sketchy moments of questioning what exactly determines whether something is or is not a stop light (Do they have to have all three colors? Could a blinking yellow light be defined as a stoplight?) we made it.

Pulling into Beef Camp (our knickname for the ranch not its actual name) meant, and still does mean, instant relaxation. The grass waves in the valley breezes that come at twilight. The skies errupt in spectacular sunsets. Mrs. H's garden to the south of the house yields perfectly ripe tomatoes and peppers and is shaded by an apple tree. A large trampoline in the backyard has provided endless hours of fun for the cows who watch us three jumping girls as we giggle and scream before passing out flat on our backs to gaze up at the clear country skies full of stars. It is heaven and that's even before I start in on the country cooking. Mrs. H believes in feeding her guests and there is nothing like waking up to the smell of monkey bread straight from the oven. Unless of course you're talking about Texas Sheetcake, or fluffy chocolate chip cookies (the recipe, of course a family secret, damn it) or tacos, or nachos, or ... wait for it ... El Ranchito.

El Ranchito is a family run restuarant in Riverbank and the H's have been going there for almost 30 years. It is amazing, the kind of restaurant that remembers you the moment you walk in and can tell how old your kids are because they've watched them grow up just like they've watched their own. The food is just as incredible and the first time we ate there I believe I cried--one, because I was so full and two because it was all gone. "How did you leave this place?" I'd ask Spleen over the years. While she appreciates it, she also loves San Diego--the warm weather, surfing, the laid back atmosphere, the ocean and of course, the mexican food. She has the best of both worlds--the 'dale to visit and San Diego to live. The best part about Spleen is that she recognizes the importance of both.

Spleen is amazing. If I had to pick a body organ she resembled, it strangely enough, wouldn't be the spleen (her highschool knickname) but the heart. She has a big one and wears it on her sleeve. Spleen has every reason to be the stuck up snobby girl you hate--she's 5'10, blonde, can walk out her front door and go for a five mile run without dying. She's a social worker and completely giving. She's a shark at pool, can surf with the boys, cook like her mama and her thighs don't rub together. I'd hate her if I didn't love her so much. We were put together as roommates and became friends, often times marvelling at how we were such opposites but still got along so well. I am, ahem, not 5'10, could TOTALLY walk out my front door and run 5 miles (but would die before I got through mile number one), play pool about as well as I bowl and let's not talk about my thighs, okay? This is about Spleen!

We may be opposites, but one thing is for sure. Opposites attract. And a shared love of Mexican food, guys in jeans and flip flops and a never ending game of "Would You Rather" never hurts. We were only at Beef Camp for a short time, but I still felt that same pang I always do when I leave. I feel fortunate that Beef Camp has become a second home, but I can only say that because Spleen has become family. I too have the best of both worlds.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Northern California Adventure Part 1 - The W (C!) Hotel

I am back from an amazing, whirlwind of a time that covered city living, country living and cabin living. There is so much to write about and not wanting to short-change the two of you who read this blog religiously ... okay you, that reads this blog occasionally ... okay, me ... all of the fun little details that make me grateful for this (sometimes!) serendipitous life of mine, I'll post about my Northern California Adventure over the next few days.

I've mentioned the "ladieth", my former college roommates Digs and Spleen, before. After 15 years, they are less like friends and more like family. If I had to pick the top 10 serendipitous moments in my life, meeting these two would rank near the top. M.F.K. Fisher said our need for food, security and love are so entwined that we can not think of one without the other. I would say my adult memories are so entwined with Digs and Spleen that I too can not think of one without the other ... and oddly enough much like M.F.K. Fisher's memories, many of ours have happened over food and wine.

It was no wonder then, that we drove direct from the airport to Dig's new place and landed promptly in the kitchen. Wine was opened, bread was sliced and drizzled with olive oil salt, pepper & parmesan and placed in the oven while cheese and salami were being arranged on a platter. And the conversation? Had anyone been eavesdropping they wouldn't have understood a word. The ladieth conversations move quickly, jump topics and are peppered with memories, inside jokes and the ability to stop mid sentence without finishing and move on with complete comprehension of what was left unsaid. I'm convinced that if we were ever taken as POW's we could formulate an escape plan in three words or less. That and we've got Digs on our side.

Digs works for Goldman Sachs in San Francisco. No one is exactly sure what she does there, except for me. I've seen Alias and I'm convinced Digs, aka "Sydney Bristow" as I now refer to her, is busy saving the planet. When I call her at the office, I know I'm really being patched through to Thailand where she's doing a roundhouse kick and laying out someone evil. But I can't keep a secret to save my life, so I don't pry.

"Sydney" just bought her first place in Walnut Creek, which immediately became referred to as the "Dub C". It is gorgeous, swank and modern. White bathroom towels are folded and placed just so next to a deep bathtub, every room is filled with large orchids in cool vases, the walls are painted a deep grayish blue color and offset with accent colors of white, espresso and brown. Her bedding came up to my chest with its down filled white pillows and brown duvet. It is impressive, especially to me as I have been in my place for over 3 years and have neither painted nor hung any photos, let alone curtains. In a mere three months Digs has not only painted, hung pictures AND curtains but managed to make her place look like a penthouse suite in a W Hotel. And what could I possibly know about a penthouse suite in a W Hotel? Well funny you should ask ...

So we were in Los Angeles a few years ago. It was Digs birthday and the three of us drove up to L.A. with a few friends to stay for an evening at the W Hotel and party it up at the local clubs. We were ghetto and had told the hotel when making the reservation that there were two people staying in the room but they NEEDED two queen beds. Of course there were 5, potentially 6 of us (I'm sure they've never seen that one before), we were stealth. Kev and Digs went in to get the keys, while our small (but fiscally savvy!) army waited outside in the car. Eventually we'd get the call to come to "PH 12."

"PH 12? What the F kind of room is that? Are we staying in some outhouse of a building that is attached to the W?" We finally figured out what the PH was when we got into the elevator, scanned the numbers up until we got to the "PH", or Penthouse level. We laughed, they were obviously playing a joke on us. "Very funny," we called them back. "What room are we really in?"

Talk about serendipity, we really were in the Penthouse suite. Someone at the front desk must have accidentally put us in the wrong room or thought Digs and Kev were famous or something. We all stared quietly at the two room penthouse complete with two bathrooms, living room, kitchen and bar and wondered if they could charge us for something we didn't ask for or if they would kick us out once they discovered we were nobody. Whatever it was, we weren't chancing it. We promptly started screaming, running back and forth between the rooms, trying on bathrobes and throwing the Bliss bath products in our bags before falling on the couch and cracking open a bottle of wine. We couldn't believe it ... which was the mantra repeated over and over again all night.

As nice as the W was, it didn't hold a candle to Digs place in the Dub C. Like our time in L.A. one night was not enough, but "Beef Camp" and Yosemite called.

And Digs, I know how we really got that upgrade, it was all of those frequent flyer miles you've earned travelling overseas for "work", wasn't it?