Monday, April 21, 2014

Light the Rockets!!

1. If you're looking for a new Easter tradition, how about you shoot off rockets at a rival church's bell tower. This is apparently what they do in some town in Greece and I've been giggling over all sorts of reasons as to how this whole thing started. Clashing paint colors. Nuns talking smack. Who gets what street during holy day processionals. Some local tough from one church steals the holy water from the other church and someone shouts, "Light the rockets!" And 125 years later they're still shooting them off.  Here are some pictures of the festivities.

2. In other Easter news, we got together with my mom's side of the fam and I felt like a midget. These people are towering. My cousin's 11 year old daughter is taller than I am by a good 4 inches. But I love them all. We talked books for a large portion of the night.

3.  I put in a movie on Saturday night and thought, great, it's 6:30. This means the movie will be done by 8:30 and I can be in bed by 9. Because I'm 80. Don't be jealous.

4.  My mom and sisters and I went down to Dana Point on Friday night for this little craft fair. I love a craft fair. How else am I supposed to feed my addiction to hand-made soaps? Anyway, I haven't been to Dana Point since I was a sophomore in high school and we took the biology boat out to the angry sea to touch fish and measure visibility depth. Oh, the rolling and bobbing that went on. It was cold and rough. As we pulled into the parking lot of the marina I said, "I remember this place. A lot of vomiting has gone on here."

5. Katie update: Her nose is still very tender but she went back to work and cooked dinner tonight. On that note, we have the best friends. We had dinners brought in every day last week. Our fridge and our hearts are overflowing. Thanks everyone. You're the greatest.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

There must be no slime

I ordered eggs benedict for the first time and it was a revelation.

I've made eggs benedict before to middling success. The hollandaise sauce was good but the poached eggs were a bust. And everything needs to be finish at the same time, which is like rocket science. Have you tried poaching an egg without an egg poacher? Double rocket science with a hint of string theory. Tricky business. And then after doing all that advanced math it still pretty underwhelmed with it.

I've never ordered them before because, if I think about it too much, I get a little squeamish about eggs. I mean, they're gross, right? But they're also delicious. Runny yolks are so good. But also kind of make me want to gag. I'm a mixed bag of emotions here. So I only ever order scrambled eggs when I'm out. Like I'm going to trust some guy at Denny's to get the yolk just right. I need a distinctly over-medium egg because if I see any of that slimy white bit that's attached to the yolk I realize that what I'm actually eating is chicken embryo and I'm done. (Fact, at least twice while writing this I have decided to go off eggs forever, and then have talked myself back.)

But we went to this really adorable place called Clementine and it just felt like the right setting to order eggs benedict. I actually talked myself out of it several times (because there were so many other really great sounding options) but Camille was firm and said I had to. So I did and they were a winner. The hollandaise was tangy and the ham was sliced nice and thin and the egg was poached to perfection. I didn't gag once. In fact, I wanted to lick my plate.

(Side Story:  I got the tale end of a conversation Katie had with our friend Taryn tonight (Thanks for dinner, Taryn.  It was great.) about how I'm a picky eater. Except that I'm not. I actually love most food. And I'll try just anything. It's just that I'm ridiculously opinionated and also a loud mouth. So if I don't like something the world will know. And there's no one on this blog that's like, "Rachel, calm down. Tuna casserole isn't all that bad," to temper all the opinions I'm throwing out. Except, come on guys. Warm canned tuna? Pass the barf bag.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"Don't be alarmed. I'm fine"

You've seen the movie Heavy Weights, right? Because it is Ben Stiller at his finest. I'm not even kidding. It's probably one of my family's most quoted movies. Specifically, many lines from this scene:



So imagine how excited we were when we learned that Katie also had a severely deviated septum. Just like Lars!!!

But that can be fixed so Katie had surgery on Friday. I took her in and hung out at the hospital and then took her down to Mom who is far better equipped to tend to someone with a constant bloody nose. I fully admit that I'm not good around blood, or vomit, basically I don't want to see any bodily fluid coming out of another human being. Although I'm counting it as a personal victory that I changed her gauze several times.  And listened to her doctor use rather graphic terms to describe exactly what he did. The words "crammed" and "shoved" were used multiple times.

When Katie told a coworker that she was having the surgery she said to her, "So are you going to have your nose worked on too?" Which is both funny and horrible. For the record, Katie's nose is great.

She pulled through like a champ and everyone at the hospital was really great. Every nurse that came by would say, "Are you sisters? Twins?" We get that a lot. But one nurse, Pa, took it a step further and said, "You both are so beautiful! You're eyebrows, your lips, your noses, your ears, your cheeks, your foreheads." It was lovely but also really bizarre.

I was slightly disappointed with Katie's recovery immediately after the surgery. I met with the doctor when they were done and then a little while later they said I could go back because she was waking up. I was kind of hoping for some outrageous behavior, the likes of which you see on YouTube after kids have their wisdom teeth pulled. Katie is prone to really funny confessions from her childhood in her more lucid moments and I was wanting to hear more but she didn't say one loopy thing. She just dozed in and out and I fed her ice chips while the woman in the bed next to hers dry heaved for 10 minutes. Oy.

I had to stop for gas on the drive home and I hope that the people at the gas station got a nice laugh out of the nose sling that Katie had to wear.

She's doing much better and catching up on books and movies. And people have been bringing over meals and she gets a week off of school and work and church responsibilities, which is not a bad trade off for someone excavating your nose.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Postman's Office

There are several mail carriers who use the men's room at the Institute. But one in particular has turned it into his lounge. He comes in at least twice a day and will stay in there for 30 minutes. On several occasions guys have come out of the office and asked, I feel like in 30 minutes you can do just about anything you need to get done in a bathroom plus do your taxes. But whatever. Except that sometimes he comes in just before I'm about to leave. And then I have to wait 30 minutes for him to get done. And it's not like I can just poke my head in and call time.  I guess I can, that's just awkward. But again, it's not that big a deal.

For me, that is. But apparently it's a big deal for the United States Postal Service. A guy with an official looking badge on a lanyard came in and said, "Tell me about the postal worker who uses your bathroom all the time. The one who camps out in there." So this guy is a route inspector and he'd been working with the carrier all morning and he spilled all the juicy details. It was only 11 and already the guy had stopped in at the Institute twice, and had parked under a shady tree to play a game on his phone, calling it his lunch break. All while the inspector was with him. Which seems like such a boneheaded move. He'd been on the job for 3 hours and half of the time had been spent not delivering mail. And bonus, we're not even on his route. He's not our postman. Our postman zips in and out like a speedy ghost in the night. I barely have time to yell thank you to him as he's running out the door. So this other postman goes out of his way to use our facilities, presumably because it's a nice bathroom that has air conditioning and what must be the world's most comfortable toilet seat.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Really? A robot?

From time to time I'll go back and look over some past writing I've done. I have a file that is nothing but single paragraphs, just the start of a story, and reading over them a few years after the fact is kind of funny because I have no idea where they came from. If I used a prompt I always put that at the top of the page but there are some that have nothing which means they came to me by way of a Muse. A really inept Muse who stays for like half a page and then flits off to get a pedicure with the other Muses.

I wrote this one about a robot who does nothing but walk. How did I end up writing about a robot? I don't even like robots. They kind of scare me.

Or the one about a man trying to sell a pair of wool socks he claims were worn by Hemingway when he wrote A Farewell to Arms. This one had me rolling. I like the guy.

There's the one about a mother of seven grown sons who all still live at home and who, she believes, will never find wives who will love them the way she does. It's a comedy. And I'm telling you I can see all seven sons like they're standing in front of me. One of them is named Seth.

I wrote about one of my very first memories, when I was 2 and saw a tree stump entirely covered in ladybugs. The stump looked like it was wiggling.

There's the story about a bike race that goes across the state of Illinois and a woman who sells meat pies at one of their stops.

I wrote about a man who got to choose either to go to Rome or go into space and he chose space because he loved astronaut ice cream when he was a kid but then realizes that gelato is better and was regretting his choice. I was way more descriptive than I normally am in this one and I questioned whether or not I even wrote it.

Which one do you think I should flesh out? Don't say the robot one because I have no idea where I was even going with it.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Hang up your surf board, Moon Doggie

Camille organized a little beach bon fire but when we got down to Balboa there were signs everywhere saying we could only burn charcoal in the fire pits. No worries, we lit a fire merely by the power of our rage.

It turns out that Balboa, Newport and Corona Del Mar have all banned wood burning fires.  And Southern California culture as we know it has died.  We drove up to Huntington in tears. Because who goes to Huntington for bon fires? Their pits are like a mile away from the water. I may have driven up PCH with my windows down screaming, "You're dumb!"

Basically what has happened is the people who live nearby, and who no doubt have ties to the SCAQMD and coastal commission, complained about the smoky air and noise coming from the public beaches and killed all the joy in the world.  YOU BOUGHT A HOME RIGHT BY A PUBLIC BEACH!!!!! If you wanted a pristine beach experience MOVE TO A PRIVATE ISLAND!!!! STOP MESSING WITH SACRED THINGS! Bon fires are essential to our lifestyle. There is zero appeal to sitting around a pit full of charcoal. It would be like telling a Texan he has to barbecue his brisket on a George Forman Grill.  It just isn't acceptable. When my cousin Sarah showed up and we told her that we may never be able to have a bon fire at Balboa again she said, "And did Disneyland close too?" Because that's how integral it is.

Naturally, I am starting a vigorous and extensive letter writing campaign. I have already joined Friends of the Fire Ring and have stared composing letters to SCAQMD, the mayor of Newport Beach, and the California Coastal Commission. If I'm reading the rules correctly it seems like all we need to do is move the fire pits 100 feet apart from each other. Can't we find a boy scout who needs an eagle project? Let's make this happen. If we can get the fire pits back I promise to throw a giant beach party the likes of which have not been seen since Frankie and Annette hung out with the gang in Beach Blanket Bingo.  We will light the biggest fire and dance around it with wild abandon.

We still managed to have a good time at Huntington and I made the perfect s'more. I mean, seriously, it was a revelation. But it really only emphasized just how much this is a part of my life and how much I would miss it. There is something magical about sitting around a fire with your friends on a cool night at the beach.

Dear Orange County,
I'm going to cut you off and shove you out to the ocean so you can be your own island and Chino can enjoy beach front property with fire pits that burn wood.
Hugs and Kisses, Rachel.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Art Society and Taquitos

The general Catholic consensus is that the little kids in white were receiving their first communion. They're just really young. So, mystery solved...or so we think!  Next time I'm just going to go in an ask if I have a question. You know how excited a Mormon would be if someone just came into one of our churches and asked a question? I like to think that all religions are like that.

I was at Olvera Street with Heather and the Art Society on Saturday. We also went up to Chinatown. It should be noted that this is not the Chinatown of your dreams. There are no dead chickens in the windows. But there are plenty of those waving cat figurines and laughing Buddhas. And a shop keeper actually said, "You break, you buy," which was appropriate considering that kids literally pick-up and shake everything in sight.

Here, look at some pictures:

This is just prior to taquitos. The other day I wrote to someone that all I ever want in life is a satisfying lunch. Taquitos from Cielito Lindo is the lunch I'm always looking for.


 Jarron bought this hat with his hard earned money.  Which naturally made me love Jarron even more:


We were walking  up the street and Sam stopped by this fire hydrant and said, "Take my picture!" Yes Ma'am!



Kaiya, alarmed by the size of these sparkly pigs.


Quinn doesn't like me. It's okay. Sam didn't like me in the beginning either. And then we had one long night of her crying it out and now we're best friends. I'm going to have to schedule Quinn's Night of Tears so he can get over it and love me forever and I can kiss those cheeks without him giving me the old stink eye.



In other past weekend news, Katie and I took Angela into LA for the first time and at the end we went to Neveux for ice cream and when we walked in Leo, the da Vinci of ice cream, raised his arms and said excitedly, "I didn't know it was going to be this kind of day!" Which is exactly the kind of reception you want from the guy making your ice cream. We tried the butterscotch rosemary. Wow-wee!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

For all your religious questions

Not for the first time I realize that I need more Catholic friends. I used to work with several Catholics at the Pod and now I work for the LDS Church which means I may as well just be in Utah. It's Mormons all the time up in here. Which is great, but sometimes I have questions about other religions and there isn't anyone regularly in my life who can answer them. And the internet really only generates more questions for me. Therefore, I'm starting a consortium of religious people, with the hopes of getting some answers straight from the source. Also, I would like to discover other religions' equivalent to funeral potatoes.*

Here's the question: I was near a Catholic church on Saturday and throughout the morning I kept noticing families walking in with little children, around 3-5 years old, dressed in white - boys in nice pants and shirts and girls in dresses with veils. What was going on? I initially thought it was their First Communion but then I thought that they looked really young for it. I was under the impression that it happened around 8 or 9. They were also going in at different times, like a family would be leaving as another was coming in. Maybe it was their first communion and I just have the age wrong. Was it their first confession, maybe? Isn't that the sacrament done in between baptism and communion? Oh, what do I know. I should have just stopped someone and asked but I didn't want to disturb anything important. Also, as all good church-going people the world over, everyone seemed to be running late.

Feel free to answer. And also, to join my consortium. I will take all faiths. I have a lot of questions. And you can ask all of your random Mormon questions ("You baptize dead people?!" We don't.) You should not be surprised that an item on our first agenda will be looking into matching windbreakers.

* Note for those who aren't familiar: Like other faith communities, when there is a death Mormons make food. And they provide a lunch or dinner following a funeral, because who wants to be thinking about cooking at a time like this. And at nearly every funeral there is a potato casserole that is made of hash browns, cream of something soup, and cheese, and it's topped with crushed up potato chips that have been drizzled with melted butter. It is a comforting hug in a 9x13 pan. We didn't invent it, but we have certainly made it our own.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Bright Light City

Camille won tickets on the radio to see Tim McGraw and Faith Hill in Las Vegas and a night at the Venetian Hotel.  Lindsay went to the concert with her but I tagged along because you never pass up an opportunity to get out of Dodge.

I believe that Las Vegas could go up in a blazing inferno and we'd all be the better for it. Good riddance, I say. It's ugly out there, and it's generally hot, and it doesn't matter how gilded the place is, it's still really trashy. The Venetian seems to be a lovely hotel and the rooms run for a few hundred dollars, but it still had stains on the couches and towels felt just like towels you would get at a Motel 6 and we were still next to a room full of drunk frat boys. But whatever, FREE! And it had a giant tub. And there's something magical about blackout curtains and lounging in bed until noon.

A few observations:

1.  There seem to be 3 options for men wanting to wear shorts:  plaid, neutral, or coral. Is there an ad running on ESPN that says to wear coral shorts? Because they were seriously everywhere. I'm not complaining, coral shorts are just fine. I just think it's cute that every guy seems to have a pair now.

2.  And do you know what every woman has? A Vegas Dress. What makes a dress a Vegas Dress is its size. It has to be two sizes too small so that your belly button is clearly outlined, it has to be about .5 centimeters below your butt, and it has to constantly ride up.  There's also a special dance that goes with the Vegas Dress: you tuck your clutch under your arm, you hold a drink in one hand and use your free hand to pull your dress down so you don't flash the casino, all while walking around on 6 in heels. The Vegas Dress is not for the faint of heart.

3.  I saw a lot of fanny packs. I absolutely love how they have never gone away. They're the cockroach of fashion.

4. Is there anything sadder than the people who make their living dressing up as super heroes and show girls for tourists to take pictures with on the strip? Maybe the tourists who take pictures with them?

5. The only worthwhile thing in Las Vegas is the garden in the Bellagio.  These are the only pictures I took because otherwise it would just be pictures of people walking around with those foot-long margarita cups. I know you'd rather see tulips.






Is Camille wearing coral shorts?!

 
6. Whenever I'm in Vegas I have a constant loop of Elvis songs in my head. Which is fine by me.
 
7. This has nothing to do with Las Vegas but have you seen that video of the little girl singing along with Elvis? Here. Make sure you watch to the end. And then you can die. 
 


Friday, March 21, 2014

Grit

There was a pretty interesting story on NPR the other day about how schools are starting to implement the of idea of grit into their curriculum. You know, School of Hard Knocks kind of stuff. They embrace failure as a means to greater learning and resilience. Which is all well and good, it just seems unsettling that schools have to teach something that used to be learned simply by living.

So it's been on my mind. And then I came across this article a few days ago about the Overprotected Child. It opens in a playground in Wales that resembles a junkyard - full of old tires and metal drums to light fires in (seriously, kids are lighting fires in them).  There are adult supervisors but for the most part the kids are free to roam the piles of wood and discarded furniture all in the name of imagination and childhood and fun. I understand the fear of them lobbing an arm off as they chop wood with a hatchet or fall onto a rusty nail. And yet I'm still going to side with the fire-builders on this one. Kids need time away from adults. And they need to do outrageous things that make them feel older and powerful. They need to be able to take their bikes and ride out into the world. They need to come across a problem and come up with a solution on their own. And also, kids get hurt. And they get hurt doing the most mundane things. I cracked open my head just spinning around to make myself dizzy and I spun into a mirror, and that was in the safety of my home with my mom watching.

The worrier in me kind of panicked with I read about all the seemingly dangerous things these kids were doing. But then the author noted that the people who run it keep an injury log and there hadn't been anything more serious than the scraped knees that always come with playing. Not any of them have burned up from lighting a fire in a metal drum. She also noted that she figured out her 10 year old daughter had only spend about 10 minutes completely unsupervised in the whole of her lifetime. Ten minutes! That's 10 whole years entirely in contact with an adult. This seems shocking to me. Although it I also walked to kindergarten with just Gina, who was 7, in Pomona. We regularly walked down to the liquor store for candy. We had a pile of wood with nails in it on the side of the house that we always played in. So did our neighbor. If you ask my siblings what the best park was they would say the one that had the enormous metal slide that didn't have any railings and that you could easily fit 20 kids on. It's gone now, along with all the other really fun stuff. Which is such a big shame.

Let your kids be free! (So says the childless spinster.)