Shower Flowers

Fresh cut flowers (and potted plants!) are some of my favorite things! This weekend, at a wedding shower for a dear friend, there were dozens of vases all over the house filled with lovely, bright, cheery blossoms.

And at the end of the afternoon, her mom sent some home with me! Added bonus. Perks of being a bridesmaid! Now they are sitting on my night stand, adding a much needed splash of color. I really should get a potted plant (and keep it alive).

Things My New Dentist Taught Me, or Better Late Than Never.

Did you know that using fluoride coated floss and fluoride mouth rinse can actually repair/reverse small ‘almost’ cavities? Neither did I, until last week. I didn’t even know there WAS such a thing as fluoride coated floss! While it’s valuable info that I have now, I kind of wish I had it when I was, oh I don’t know, 5 years old?!

The new dentist I went to see last week seemed hopeful that the small ‘soft spot’ on my tooth could be repaired with fluoride. And I am really grateful that he suggested trying the $5 mouth rinse for 6 months before charging me $400 to drill the thing out and fill it. But it really got me thinking, “Why aren’t all dentists this honest and helpful?!” And why didn’t anyone tell me this sooner??? If I’d known about the fluoride before hand (and the fact that your teeth are not supposed to rest on each other all day long–that is considered clenching and is part of the reason my fillings are cracking which is why I now need a CROWN), I might have been able to save myself from numerous other fillings. Or at least I’d like to think so.

So here you go, mothers with small children. Things that I wish my dentist had told me sooner:

1) Fluoride makes a difference. It helps strengthen teeth (which I DID know, thankyouverymuch) and can help harden/repair soft spots on teeth that later become cavities. My dentist recommended ACT mouth rinse at night time (so the fluoride can soak into the enamel over night) and Listerine in the morning to help prevent gum disease.

2) Your teeth should always be separated slightly, never touching each other unless you are swallowing or chewing.

Anything that you wish YOUR dentist or doctor had told you sooner? Share the love and save us all some money, would ya?

The Best Apple Pie You Will EVER Eat!

Hey Friends!

In honor of Thanksgiving I wanted to share one of my favorite (and most requested!) recipes! Got this one from mom 4 of 5 years ago. She’s the BEST baker I know :) I love sweets, but most of the time I find apple pie to be fairly ‘plain Jane’–not exciting enough to take my palate away from other options. But THIS apple pie is FANTASTIC. I’m not kidding.

Just as a tip, I like to do the apple filling mixture first, and then let it sit and marinade while I make and pat in the bottom crust.

The presentation alone is always a point of interest (since you bake it in a paper bag). See the recipe, process, and photos below.


Bottom Crust:

Combine ingredients and then take chunks of mixture and press into a pie plate until crust is formed.

1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup canola oil
2 Tbsp cold milk

Pie Filling:

Peel apples and slice into thin wedges. Place in large mixing bowl. Mix dry ingredients in separate dish. Pour dry ingredients over apples and mix together. Then pour apple mixture into pie plate with bottom crust.

approx 5 cups of apples (1 regular sized apple = about 1 cup)
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp of flour
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon


Top Crumble Crust:

Allow butter to soften or soften in the microwave. Mix ingredients and then crumble over top of pie in drops/chunks.

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup butter

Place pie in large brown paper bag (so that pie plate sits on the long side of the bag).

Fold edge over and staple closed.

Bake at 350F for 1 hour and 45 minutes. I recommend baking the pie/bag on a baking sheet, just in case any of the juices ooze out while it bakes.

ENJOY! And Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Carmels are of PARAMOUNT importance or The Thing I Have to Tell You About this Week: Holiday Items at Trader Joe’s


There they were. On the shelves. The FIRST day of November. Fleur de sel Sea Salt Carmels. Hoorah!

For the last 2 years I’ve passed these treats by every week from November through December on my weekly grocery runs saying, “I don’t really NEED those.” Then, last year, the day after Christmas, I realized I DO need them. Especially since I can’t eat chocolate any more. Carmels are of paramount importance. I ran to my nearest Trader Joe’s despite the crispy Seattle weather, hoping to find some carmels still there–maybe that were “accidentally” not put out in time for the holidays.

Sadly, when I asked one of the friedly team members, I was told, “Oh those sell out WAY before Christmas every year.” And so I’ve waited an ENTIRE YEAR for these carmels to come back.

The first day of November I bought 2 boxes. One for me and one for my best friend who also loves carmels. Because I’m realistic. And selfish. And there is no way I’m sharing MY box of carmels.

My other favorite holiday item at Trader Joe’s is (Are? What is correct?! It’s one item, but the package contains multiple cookies!) the special frosted German ginger bread cookies.

They have these thin, weird rice cake type things on the bottom of the cookies. Maybe to help keep the non-glazed side fresh? They also have a dark chocolate dipped version (which are AMAZING btw!) but since I don’t eat chocolate any more (because it makes my skin and tummy angry) I can’t allow myself to buy the chocolate dipped ones–because I will eat them ALL. But the glazed version is still quite nice. I like them because they aren’t TOO sweet. Just sweet enough. They are one of the only kinds of pre-made cookies that I will actually buy since I bake cookies from scratch the way my momma and grandma taught me and am, therefore, a cookie SNOB.

My Favorite Conversation This Week Went Something Like This…

In preparation for my new headshots on Monday (eek!), Renee came over earlier this week to help me pick out wardrobe options for each ‘look’. After knocking the ‘business/lawyer/what the Katie Holmes role SHOULD have been in BATMAN BEGINS’ out with a stellar trench coat and slacks, we got to the ‘edgy’ look.

Thus began what was by far the most entertaining conversation I’ve had in quite some time.

ME: So I think in class they said I was kick ass ‘edgy’… What does that look like? OOOH! Like Michelle Rodriguez in LOST or FAST and the FURIOUS? I like my leather jacket.
Renee: You are BAD ass, not kick ass. Not quite like Michelle Rodriguez. You’re not that kind of athletic. You’re too tall and lanky.
ME: Hm…What about Eliza Dushku? She’s TINY in real life but she still kicks ass on TV. Or like an action hero? Maybe I could drive the getaway car?!
Renee: You think you want to be DOLLHOUSE edgy. But you’re more like the girl who dressed weird in high school, that was actually really fashionable, but everyone avoided you because they thought you were scary or potentially dangerous.
ME: (blank stare and confusion) Um. So how does that translate out of high school to being a grown up?
Renee: Hm. (pulls out clothes from closet and throws them around). Put this on please.
ME: Really? You like this? I was gonna give that away.
Renee: No, don’t give it away. You’re crazy.
ME: I know. At least I know I’m crazy. (puts on brown vest thing and orange scarf with striped shirt and black vest).
Renee: You’re a DRIFTER.
ME: Who is that? Like who is that on TV?
Renee: Kate! It’s like Kate on LOST. She’s kind of stand-off-ish, but mysterious. Maybe dangerous.
ME: OOH! And she totally punched people in the face. And held up a bank!
Renee: (smiles)
ME: I still like my leather jacket. Can I wear that on top instead of the vest thing?

In Case You Hadn’t Noticed, it’s “Fall”

Add a cup of hot tea for a perfect Fall breakfast!

Today is the 7th of October. And in case you hadn’t noticed, Fall has finally made it’s way to Los Angeles. Now let’s be realistic. “Fall” is a relative term here in southern California. I haven’t seen a lot of trees with yellow and red colored leaves (though to be fair, I haven’t seen many trees during daylight hours that are not on my work campus, and I think those are all evergreens–so the facilities people don’t have to clean up a big mess when all the leaves fall off. Somebody was thinking when they planted those things :) ).

I did notice though, that this week it started getting chilly and I’m PRAYING that this year we somehow manage to avoid the surprise heat wave that’s come around for the past 2 years at the end of October. According to accuweather.com this week’s day time low was 64 degrees and evening low was 51 degrees. BRRRRRRRRR!!!!! Tuesday was the first day that I shut all the windows in the house and turned off my ceiling fan since May. On Wednesday it actually RAINED. As in a LOT. As in 6+ hours (almost as long as my neighbors fun new game “let’s crank up the subwoofer and play videogames or bass guitar or something undefinable but really freaking loud and obnoxious that comes through the walls/floors between midnight and 10am”).

Yesterday, I actually put off going shopping for a wedding shower gift for my friend Jess because it was “chilly” and there was an intermittent sprinkling of rain, and I’d left my coat at home. This in and of itself is a bit weird as I bring my coat with me to the office in the middle of summer when it’s 98 degrees (the temperature, not the luke-warm 90′s boy band), to keep from catching a cold under the air conditioner.

Next week could get back up to 90 though…Maybe I should have waited until after next week to officially declare Fall. Oh well. I probably won’t have time.

One productive (and delicious) thing I DID do yesterday was bake some delicious home made zucchini bread, pictured above. I’ve been meaning to make zucchini bread for the last month, and even bought some zucchini on 2 different occasions intending to make some. But sadly the zucchini ended up neglected and eventually moldy in the fridge before I got around to it. So I’m proud of myself for finally doing it! Plus I LOVE to bake.

I’m a stickler for good recipes. Most recipes don’t qualify as “good” in my book. I originally asked my mom to send me a recipe (cause hers are always the best!) but she said she didn’t have a go-to recipe. This always makes me nervous. Having to choose my own recipe.

I surfed around on the net but was having trouble finding a recipe that had less than 1 cup of sugar per loaf, and/or only made one loaf. Then I remembered the gloriousness that is Whole Foods –and ba-da-bing, found my new favorite Fall recipe! I will have to try the recipes from their website more often. I made a few slight changes, mainly using vegetable oil instead of canola, regular all purpose flour instead of whole wheat pastry flour, and crushed roasted unsalted almonds instead of pecans.

The recipe as it exists on the Whole Foods website is:

Natural cooking spray
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 egg
1/3 cup expeller pressed canola oil
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons nonfat plain yogurt
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup grated zucchini
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts

Method:

Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray an 8-inch loaf pan with natural cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, oil, applesauce, yogurt, sugar and vanilla. Add flour mixture and stir until well combined. Fold in zucchini and walnuts then transfer batter to prepared pan and bake until risen, deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes.

Cool in pan on rack for 30 minutes then remove bread from pan and continue cooling on rack.

Today I am DEBT FREE!!!!

I already posted on facebook but I thought I’d log it here on my blog for posterity and all that. Today, Friday, September 2, 2011, I am completely debt FREE. PRAISE GOD! I’ve spent the last 3 years focusing on paying off debt and starting a savings account at the same time.

Though I’ve always been pretty responsible and kept track of my spending (via my checkbook register…no I’m not kidding), when I went back to work at DreamWorks Animation two and a half years ago I started tracking my spending in categories on an excel spreadsheet (again, not kidding)—so that I could track any additional waste or unnecessary spending that I wanted to curb.

During this time I also met with a financial planner who encouraged me to start saving WHILE I pay off debt. Even if it’s just $100 or even $20 a month, being able to look at your savings grow while you also see your debt get smaller is a fantastic motivator!

After meeting with the planner, I also became more aware of how I save and plan. I save smarter. Before this meeting I didn’t know my growth percentage on my savings account (it’s a whopping 6% on the first $500!). Normally savings accounts are between .25% and MAYBE .5%. Not too impressive. So I started researching online savings accounts per the planner’s recommendations. I found an online plan that was endorsed by CNN, Forbes, etc, called Smartypig. The only downside on this is that it’s a variable interest rate and I thought it was fixed. So that kinda sucks. When I first started with them the annual return was 2.15% and now it’s only 1.10%. Still that’s about .75% more than a traditional savings account! And every little bit helps.

I also began regularly contributing to my 401k at work, opened a mutual fund account AND a Roth IRA. So on top of being debt free, I have a few nickles in the bank. And that feels GREAT!

Yup. It’s official, I’m a grown up with (at least) a fledgling retirement fund. And a vacation fund too!

What are YOU going to do today to start saving smarter?!

The Thing I HAVE to tell you about this week: Fun Kitchen Gadgets

Don’t ask me why, but I love kitchen gadgets. As in I LOVE them. I have a garlic press, apple slicer and pots and pans of all sizes (including a fancy one that only requires partial power to heat up–and then you unplug– that I got at the Puyallup fair. Thanks Mom!).

There’s something about having cute, useful and nifty kitchen gadgets that makes me feel the most grown up out of anything I own. Nevermind the fact that I’ve lived on my own and paid my own rent/bills for the last 6 years.

I just purchased a Rhino shaped butter dish

and a set of salt and pepper shakers that look like an apple

These are the things I am LIVING for right now. I can’t wait til they come in the mail. At least this is a much cheaper ‘geek out’ or obsession than, say, fancy red souled designer shoes…

The Powers of Belief

A few months ago, an old college roommate asked me to do a reading at her wedding. “And if it’s not too much trouble,” she said, “I’d really love for you to choose the piece you want to read.” I was honored and excited to be asked to be part of my friend’s special day, but also a bit bewildered as to what I ought to read.
In thinking of her specific journey, the thing that immediately came to mind (and has continued to do so) is Shakespeare’s sonnet number 116.

Though I’ve really made an effort the last few years to follow my gut instinct, something about this just didn’t seem ‘good enough.’ It seemed too easy. So for the past 3 months I have actively searched for alternate choices. Yesterday I actually tried to start writing an original piece, but didn’t come up with much. So why am I doubting the validity and simple power of the thing sitting right in front of me? Why don’t I think its good enough?

The one clear and valuable thought I managed to come up with in thinking about all this was that a wedding is an expression of belief. And this idea of belief (or lack thereof) seems to be an overarching theme in my life right now.

Last year I fought quite a bit with the idea of fear and how many decisions I’d made throughout my life based on fear. Only now as I sit here writing am I starting to understand how belief and fear co-exist together. Whatever I believe (or don’t) informs that fear, and that fear informs my actions.

This has led to much larger discussions over the past 8 weeks and brought up those really BIG questions that seem to come up every few years.

What am I doing with my life?
What do I WANT to do with my life?
Am I really doing the most that I can with what I’ve been given?

While having lunch with my friend Mark on an especially hard day, he made a few observations that really helped shape and give a name to the things I’ve been struggling with during this season. And some things I’ve fought against my whole life.

Generally speaking, I am a very responsible, if not slightly (or very) obsessive person when it comes to managing my life and goals. If you are reading this, then you probably know me, and this shouldn’t come as any kind of surprise.

What DID surprise me though is what Mark said about the way that I carry this responsibility. “You carry too much,” he said gently. “You’re carrying around a lot of broken things because you feel like you need to fix them. But some broken things, you just can’t fix. And you’re not supposed to fix them. You’re just supposed to put them down and walk away.”

This really shook me up. In a good way. But it was also incredibly hard to hear because it showed me something that I DO believe about myself. I believe that I need to fix things that are broken. But some things you just can’t fix. Trying to rack your brain and understand why people die or get sick or get hit by cars. There isn’t really any justifiable reason for those things. They just happen. And trying to figure out the whys doesn’t bring any sort of satisfaction or peace. It only makes you feel crazy and burdened. Not good things.

I don’t generally make analogies using visual pictures, but this one really helped me out. I told Mark I felt like I’d been pushing a boulder up a hill. But I kept thinking that it would be hard to let go—dangerous to move, or tricky to get away from. Mark said, “You don’t have to DO anything. You’re pushing it uphill. All you have to do is step out of the way and let the boulder roll away. That’s it.” Wow Mark. You’re a smart cookie. And I’m really REALLY dense.

I’m still trying to convince myself that it’s truly that easy. Because there is another deeply rooted belief I have that sometimes makes my life more complicated than it needs to be. I believe that life is hard. I’m learning though. I’m trying to accept the truth that life doesn’t always NEED to be hard. Sometimes it’s supposed to be fun.

I was telling Alice this story on Sunday and she just laughed at me. “You mean God is telling you to go have fun, and you’re saying, ‘No, that’s really ok. I’d rather not.’” Yeah, that does sound kind of silly. So I’m gonna take one for the team Alice. I will go have fun. Or at least figure out what that means.

What good things do you believe?
What not so good things do you believe?
What would you LIKE to believe (that is actually true)?
How do those beliefs inform the way you live your life?

The Best Thing in my Closet

It’s tough to find a piece of clothing that wears well over time. It’s even more difficult to find one that wears well AND is something that you actually enjoy–and not just tolerate–wearing, 6 months after you buy it.

A few weeks ago my buddy Mark asked, “If you had to pick one piece of clothing out of your closet that is the most ‘you,’ what would you choose?”

I knew the answer right away. My Italian leather bomber jacket. For oh so many reasons.

First, it’s Italian. It’s warm, lovely, soft and now that I think of it, probably the most comfortable AND comforting thing I own. I bought it at the leather market in Florence, Italy when I went for a quick weekend trip in 2001. Not only is it a great piece that I have consistently worn over the entire 10 years that I’ve owned it, it’s full of great memories and images of cobblestone Italian streets.

The leather market in Florence is HUGE! I walked around the market for an entire day and I know I didn’t see every kiosk there. I came across this jacket at one of the first stalls, early in the morning. Even after walking through most of the market and finding MANY coats that were hand stitched, fine quality lambskin, at the end of the day I had to go back and get this machine stitched, rabbit fur lined, cow hide jacket.

By all accounts I got something fairly low-grade as far as Florence is concerned. But I absolutely LOVE it. And best part: it was right after the Euro was introduced and the exchange rates were more favorable. So I bought this jacket for about $75. WIN.

sporting my awesome bomber jacket in the hallway

This jacket reminds me of all the traveling adventures I had in college–and how much I’m looking forward to running around Italy again some day. Hopefully soon.

What piece of clothing best represents you?