Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sensing Sunday: August 29, 2010

What I am:

Hearing: The 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards

Seeing: A nice clean house with all the dishes done and almost all of the laundry

Smelling: My new dragonfruit candle

Tasting: A sip of Pinot Noir

Feeling: Excited. I went to a good friend's baby shower today. It was absolutely lovely and I cannot wait to meet her sweet daughter in about a month or so.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thursday Night Review

With the new job, I work three full days a week and two six hour days. I LOVE this schedule. I love working the six hour days because it makes me motivated to take advantage of those two hours that I have to myself. I think I took advantage of those hours to the fullest today.

3:00-4:30pm: I headed over to my mom's house. She is off right now and getting ready for the new school year to start (for those that don't know, she is a college professor). She decided to have a couple of small moles removed that were on her face. I hadn't really noticed them but she had and thought that, with the time off, she could get this done. When I talked to her she told me that she didn't want to leave the house because they had put stitches in her face. All she wanted was a diet cola for two days so after I got off work I made a quick stop to McDonald's to take advantage of their 'any size drink for a dollar'. Isn't this the best thing to happen this summer? When I showed up to drop off her diet Coke, I couldn't hide my reaction to seeing her face. Oh, my poor mom. She looked like ants were crawling all over the right side of her face. My heart was breaking for her. The good news is that she gets the stitches out on Sunday.

4:30-6:00pm: Normally I would go to Sephora for any beauty needs but today I thought I would give the new Ulta a try. I have a friend that is a hairstylist there and, although she works in the Salon at Ulta, I had high hopes for the rest of the store. I like that Ulta has both high end and bargain products. For some reason I will spend a small fortune on skin care but when it comes to actual makeup I stick to the cheap stuff. I didn't want to go too cheap on this trip but...well....I hate to say it but I ended up disappointed from my first trip there. I planned on testing out products in the Ulta Collection. I had picked out a mineral powder and was trying to find my shade in the tinted moisturizer I wanted. There were tons of empty holes on the shelves and when I asked someone if they had more, she keenly inspected the same shelf that I was already looking at and told me 'Oh no, we're out of that. I think we get a new shipment in on Friday...wait what's today? Thursday? Oh yeah, we get a shipment in tomorrow. ' Ok, I don't want to sound too harsh but her name tag said that she was a manager. Good grief! At least she was friendly enough. All the employees were. There was so much staff there and not very many customers, shopping there gave me the feeling of stepping on a used car lot. They did have some good 'buy two get one free' deals and I scored with products from Covergirl.

6:00-7:30pm: I need a new pair of flip flops. I lost my best pair on the Float and Bloat and thought because it is so close to fall that the stores would be putting out their new fall stuff and severely discounting their summer stock. I was hoping to score a decent pair but no such luck. I went to MJM Designer Shoes and saw some really great stuff. The new shoes they have in are super cute and they have some fantastic purses as well. I don't really need any other shoes other than flip flops and maybe a new pair of sneakers. I don't need a new purse thanks to my gorgeous birthday present from my best friend G. Next door to MJM is Burlington Coat Factory. I walked over just for the heck of it. Burlington is one of my favorite places to get fun costume jewelry for almost next to nothing. I don't think I saw one pair of flip flops. What I DID see what a fantastically tacky, 'gold chain' looking, bed-in-a-bag set. Upon closer inspection I saw that it was an 'Apple Bottom Bed-In-A-Bag'. It was too awesome to not get a picture. Unfortunately the only camera I had was the one on my phone. The 'Apple Bottom Bed-In-A-Bag' didn't make it into my shopping cart. I walked away with a new wallet and a the cutest little pearl and gold cherry pin. I have become a die hard Mad Men fan and thought that the little pin was very swinging 60s. I can't wait to wear it. The wallet I got was the type that insists that can hold everything. So far so good, it holds everything comfortably with plenty of room to spare. I was afraid that it might look a little too grandmotherly but I still feel that it looks chic. Well, chic enough.

7:30-8:00pm: I made a quick call to the Mr. and found out that he was playing softball tonight and that I was on my own for dinner. Instead of making the obligatory stop at a fast food joint, I splurged. I made a call to Sushi Garden and half an hour later I was home dining on the Tiger Roll and sipping on Diet Cherry 7-Up. For dessert...two Otter Pops. Poncho Punch and Alexander the Grape.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

When You're Perfect

My house is a disaster right now. There is clean laundry in the recliner, five pairs of shoes scattered around the front room, the sewing machine is out and taking up space in the office and I really don't know what is causing the smell that is wafting from the kitchen. Speaking of smells, the Mr. has been butchering for his best friend to help out (its more of a help for us right now) and every day comes home smelling a combination of meat, vinegar and sweat. It is appalling. Every time he would come near me my gag reflexes took over and I would have to back away. It took me almost a week to recognize why I was so repulsed. Please forgive me for the lack of 'political correctness' but...he smells like a homeless person. He smells like a person that had not had a decent shower all summer long. He has been working very hard lately and I try not to give him a hard time but, yikes. The dog is overweight and now that the Mr. and I are both working full time, she never gets out of the house. I never make it to the gym myself and the longer that I stay still the bigger my rear end gets. My face is breaking out (after becoming an esthetician, I have become quite OCD about my skin). My cuticles are raggedy and sometimes the bills don't get paid on time. The truck is in the shop and the repair costs amount to enough to feed a small underdeveloped country. The other car is sitting in front of the house where it hasn't moved in months, its next to go into the shop. There is a film of dust covering it and it now looks like 'rich taupe' instead of the color it is, 'snowdrift white' (I made that color up, by the way). Life has thrown us many curve balls (some of the worst I haven't mentioned here and won't) but we know that we could have it much worse than we do. It is hard to remember that when we are in the midst of dodging those curve balls though. With the invention of social networking I start comparing my life to what I think others do or have. It is easy for me to think, 'Why me? Why is it that MY life is so tough and others seems to have it easy?' I look online and everyone else seems so perfect and I think 'What did I do wrong?'
I was just on one of those social networking sites and a friend that I have known for years was feeling the same way. I told her, 'Fake it, that's what I do'. I said it as a joke but then I really thought about it. I do fake it, most of the time. I fake that my life is more picturesque than it actually is. For me it makes me feel better. For me it is kind of an escape. When things get rough in the real world, I can relish in the small things that bring me joy. Today I treated myself to some delicious frozen yogurt at a local favorite yogurt shop. Dulce de Leche. It felt so decadent. It made my day and became my 'status update'. Last night I was a super ball of stress and woke up with bags under my eyes but today it was all turned around by a simple cup of frozen yogurt.
This is why I write about the 'little things'. This is why I write about San Francisco, cupcakes and day trips. This is why I post wistful photos, nostalgic art and classic literature I am reading. Maybe I am luckier than I think I am. I am able to fully leave reality even if it is only for a few moments at a time. These things are my escape. This is how I 'fake it'.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sensing Sunday: August 22, 2010

('Le Moulin Rouge' Antoine Blanchard)

What I am:

Hearing: The washing machine on the rinse cycle

Seeing: 'Moulin Rouge' with Nicole Kidman and the dreamy Ewan McGregor (mmmm...)

Smelling: 'Stella' Stella McCartney

Tasting: Sun tea and sourdough pretzels

Feeling: A little sad and reflective. Nine years ago today my view of the world was forever changed when my grandfather passed away from cancer. It was the first death of someone close to me that I had experienced up until that point. Three weeks later, on September 11, 2001, the World Trade Center was brought down by terrorists and everyone's view of the world was forever changed. I can't think of one without thinking of the other.

Pinecrest and the Hike of Death

Today, I became acutely aware that I am out of shape.
In January I started joining my dad on his daily walks as a means to spend some time with him catching up and as a means to be a little more active. He walks, on average, six miles a day. This is not including the 18 holes he used to play a day which put his distance covered at about 10 miles! It had been quite a while since the last time I walked with him (I like to say it is because he started working and our schedules conflicted but really it was mostly sheer laziness on my behalf. So lazy in fact that I couldn't even pick up the phone...bad daughter) On Thursday I casually called my dad to see if I could join him on his afternoon/ evening walk over the weekend while the Mr. was going to be out of town. He said why don't I come with he and my stepmother to Pinecrest and we would hike around the lake together. He thought that it was about two or three miles and we could probably do it in a couple of hours. My stepmother's two nieces would be with us as well as the dogs. The older niece would even do the hike with us. She is eleven. I tell you all of this to understand that my father made it sound like this 'hike' would require only a little more exertion than was needed for a normal walk. I thought, 'Great! A walk with a view. Count me in.' Famous last words...
Please see my internal pep talk below:
0-0.5 miles: 'Holy s*&t! This part HAS to be the worst of it'
0.5-1.5 miles: 'Is that my pulse rate that I can feel beating on the inside of my head?'
1.5 miles: Little did I know that while we were taking our 'halfway' break that my legs (and the rest of my body for that matter) were plotting to go on strike. My legs were basically getting ready to give me the big 'Eff you Jen!'
1.5-3 miles: 'Please don't fall down these rocks, please don't fall down these rocks...' (At this point we were passed by a group of about 20 strapping young men. This irritated my father because he is not used to being passed up. I know this because he explained it to me while I was bringing up the rear.)
3-4 miles: Honestly, I really can't remember much from this point. I think the high altitude of the mountains was getting to me. I do remember passing the restrooms and thinking that the drinking fountain outside of it was a mirage. The only communication I was capable of at this point was the 'thumbs up' when my dad asked me how I was doing. I may have been exhausted but I wasn't about to wimp out.
When we got back to the picnic area all I could do was immediately lay down and close my eyes. I attempted to eat a little and drink some fluids but all I wanted was a nap. After my nap the only thing that made me feel better was the soft serve from the snack bar. After resting for a bit, I felt that I had just enough energy to snap some pictures of the beautiful Pinecrest Lake.
(Hike of Death)

(the pretty Pinecrest Marina)
(Sadie was kinda over it)
One of the things that I wish we could have stayed for was 'Movies Under the Stars'. Starting at 8:10 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights through the summer season, movies are shown in the Pinecrest Amphitheater, just as it's advertised, under a blanket of stars. Movies shown are relatively new releases and family friendly. Tickets are $6.50 and children under the age of three are free. 
One last thing. Another mirage appeared when we returned to the picnic area after our hike. Remember those 20 strapping young men that passed us around mile three? They happened to be a local collegiate water polo team. They happened to be taking a team photo to commemorate their Pinecrest trip. I happened to have my camera ready. Ta da!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Best. Game. Ever.

(from Improve Everywhere)

"A little league baseball game is turned into a major league event. All players, coaches, and parents do not know what is happening. We worked with the league commissioner to get the kids' names and access to the field to setup our equipment the morning of the game. He was the only one in on it. NBC Sports worked with us and got us the jumbotron and the blimp."

Awesome, right? What's not so awesome? The last day of summer is about a month away...(heavy sigh)...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Embarcadero and Market

(strangers enjoying better days)

One of my absolute favorite things to do when I lived in SF was to go atop the Hyatt Regency, at the foot of Market Street and  Embarcadero, and have a leisurely cup of Jo and dessert at the Equinox. The best part of the Equinox? While sitting in the restaurant you could enjoy breathtaking views of the city and be right where you started after a 40 minute rotation. Dinner was a little too pricey for me but for a little over the price of toll for the Golden Gate, you could get the same experience by ordering only a piece of decadent chocolate cake and a glass of champagne (my most favorite of all things to order there). It is only a block away from the Embarcadero BART station and this made it easy to get there. I have friends that are going into San Francisco tomorrow and they were looking for a nice place to see the sunset. I immediately thought of the Equinox, what could be more perfect? Looking into more information for my friends, I discovered the most devastating news.
In January of 2007, The Hyatt Regency was bought out by Dune Capital Management and Di Napoli Capital Partners. Doesn't sound that bad, right? The horrible thing is, when this happened, the new owners decided to close down the Equinox and in its place open an elite club called the Regency Club Lounge. Boooooo!!!! Grrrr!!!! Wait... it gets worse. There is now a hideous concrete frame surrounding the former revolving restaurant making it stationary forever. Still not bad enough for you? Like I said, this club is elite making it only open to certain guests of the Hyatt Regency.
It is a sad, sad day my friends (although it has been closed for a couple of years now apparently, the pain is still brand new for me). I hold too many wonderful memories. My first time, when I was about 8 years old and not yet afraid of heights, was amazing. My last time, sipping that champagne, nibbling that chocolate cake, and watching the stars come out over the Bay Bridge... oh Equinox, I will miss you everyday.

(the monstrosity it is today...ewww...)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pulling Weeds and the Best Cupcakes EVER

(taken through the sunroof of a borrowed car while the truck is in the shop)

Last week, the weather was perfect. For the valley it was almost fall like. I love the fall. I was in a great mood and was inspired by the sunflowers that I kept passing on the side of the road. I pulled off and plucked a few. When I say sunflowers, they aren't anything more than glorified weeds. I even had to fight off some bees that tried to hitch a ride home with me. When I got home, I arranged my weeds in my lil Ikea vase that I bought years ago. A little trick that I learned to arrange flowers is to use scotch tape and tape a grid to the top of the vase. By doing this I was able to arrange the flowers without them looking like a 4 year old did it. I was pretty proud of myself. Even though I was super proud of my 'grown up' flower arrangement, my biggest accomplishment was what I like to call...the best cupcakes EVER!

These have so much flavor. They are light, fluffy and really moist. These cupcakes are definitely my new favorite.

Cinnamon Toast Cupcakes
(Thanks How To Eat a Cupcake!)
Makes 20-24 cupcakes

1 package (18.25 oz) plain yellow cake mix
1 package (3.4 oz) vanilla instant pudding mix
1 1/4 cups whole milk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp cinnamon sugar for sprinkling (1 Tbsp sugar + 1/4 tsp cinnamon)

1. Place rack in the center of the oven and preheat the over to 350 degrees F. Line 24 cupcake cups with paper liners. Set the pans aside.
2. Place the cake mix, pudding mix, milk, oil, eggs and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and blend 1 1/2 to 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides again if needed. The batter should look thick and well combined. Spoon 1/3 cup batter into each lined cupcake cup, filling it 3/4 full. (You will get between 20 and 24 cupcakes; remove the empty liners, if any.) Place the pans side by side in the oven.
3. Bake the cupcakes until they are golden and spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 18-22 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and place them on wire racks to cool for 5 minutes. Run a dinner knife around the edges of the cupcake liners. Lift the cupcakes up from the bottoms of the cups using the end of the knife, and pick then out of the cups carefully with your finger tips. Place them on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes before frosting.
4. Meanwhile, prepare the Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
5. Place a heaping tablespoon of frosting on each cupcake and swirl to spread it out with a short metal spatula or a spoon, taking care to cover the tops completely. Sprinkle the frosting with the cinnamon sugar mixture. Place the cupcakes, uncovered in a cake saver, in the refrigerator until the frosting sets, 20 minutes. The cupcakes are ready to serve.
Store the cupcakes in a cake saver or under a glass dome at room temperture for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Or freeze them, wrapped in aluminum foil or in a cake saver for up to 6 months. Thaw the cupcakes overnight in the refrigerator before serving.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes 3 cups

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese at room temperature
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Place the cream cheese and butter in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until combined, 30 seconds. Stop the machine. Add the confectioners' sugar a little at a time, blending with the mixer on low speed until the sugar is well incorporated, 1 minute. Add the cinnamon, then increase the mixer speed to medium and blend the frosting until fluffy, 1 minute more.


Monday, August 16, 2010

25 Little Things About Me

('The Temptress' Jack Vettriano, my favorite artist)

This was originally posted on February 2, 2009 but most of it still holds true today (although I am back to being a worker bee and am currently not in school *sad face*)

1. I really enjoy not working and going to school. I have been working nonstop for 13 years and I don't want to go back.
2. I love to read and will read almost anything that I can get my hands on.
3. I read that book The Rules when I was single and decided to test it on the next guy that I dated. That guy was the Mr. He was supposed to just be the guinea pig in my social experiment.
4. I enjoy being married much more than I ever thought that I would but there are some things about being married that have completly surprised me.
5. Even though I play it cool to some of my friends, I can't wait to be a mother.
6. I have a hard time sqeezing into my pants and for the very first time in my life I don't determine my self worth by the size of my clothes. Not that I enjoy being a fatty, its just that I don't feel like I am the scum of the earth because of it.
7. I walk with my head held high and a smile on my face almost all the time.
8. I love things that come in individual sizes (ie: cupcakes)
9. The best job that I ever had was my first one, bagging groceries. If I could have had this as my lifelong career I would have done it in a heartbeat.
10. I have been crocheting since I was 9 years old. I was the only girl in the family that learned it from my grandmother.
11. I am completely jealous of my overachieving mother and brother but am happy that I am their number one cheerleader.
12. I am horrible with money but am trying to get better.
13. I love music from the 40s, 60s and 90s.
14. I have always been a night person and have always wanted to be a morning person.
15. Sometimes I miss smoking...but I try not to resent my husband for making me quit.
16. I wish that I was a runner. I have always envied those that say "I am going for a run"
17. I want to learn french, spanish and itlaian but I have a feeling that my ego stops me.
18. I want to learn to sew, garden, paint and floral arrangment but I have a feeling that it is just sheer laziness that stops me.
19. I am still naive in the sense that I think that no one talks about me behind my back, I am always surprised to find out they do.
20. I love to learn but absolutely hate homework.
21. I have been enrolled in 5 colleges in my lifetime, not all at once though.
22. Most women say that they will be bored as a stay at home wife and mother, I think that was what I was born to do. I have enough crafts, hobbies, classes and charities that I want to work with to keep me more than busy.
23. I didn't fully realize how much I hated my last job until I quit.
24. I will sometimes avoid social situations because I just don't feel like making small talk.
25. I have never mowed a lawn in my life. It is the only 'princess' quality that I insist on maintaining.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sensing Sunday: August 15, 2010

What I am:

Hearing: 'Delia's Gone' Johnny Cash-American Recordings

Seeing: My pup snoozing at my feet

Smelling: 'Daisy' Marc Jacobs

Tasting: Country Time Sugar Free Lemonade Candy-'Peach Lemonade'

Feeling: Excited to start my week and anxious to see if I get the classes that I want and if I hear about some job offers by the end of the week.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

At least I showered...

I made a pot of coffee. I did all the laundry in the house. I watched some West Wing but not the Price is Right this morning (sorry G). I cleaned out the back of the truck from the Float and Bloat. I took a shower today. That's about it. I thought about writing for a couple of hours. I thought about going to the gym this morning. I thought about taking the dog for a walk. I thought about starting my french lessons. I thought about making some lemonade but that would have meant that I would have had to go to the store to get lemons. I thought about making that peach pie with the peaches from the neighbors house so that I would have something fun to blog about. None of the things I thought about doing ever made it to the point of things that actually got done. Instead I found some fun things to share.

I write like David Foster Wallace.

All the good men ARE taken.

This guy knocks it out of the park!
(via The Only Living Boy in New York)

Every month I say I am going to do the SF Cupcake Challenge. Last month's was alcohol. Who wants to make me commit to it?

After taking Another Great Cake Class, I really want to take the French Macaron Class from Baking Arts.

I need to make it to a Pick You Own Farm before the summer is over.

Oh yeah, I need to make these caramels of these days.
(via Cupcakes and Cashmere)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Float and Bloat

I live in the Central Valley of California and because of this I am lucky to live a day's trip from almost anywhere in the state. A couple hours to San Francisco, half a day to Los Angeles, a few hours to the central coast...anything is within reach for me. One of my favorite things to do is to get lost in the foothills to my east. About 15 minutes from where I live is the tiny, tiny town of Knight's Ferry. There is one main street, one bar, only a couple of little restaurants and not much else but breathtaking views. The pride and joy of the town is their historic covered bridge. Finished in 1857, the covered bridge boasts the record for the longest covered bridge west of the Mississippi. Growing up close to Knight's Ferry, one of the summer rituals was to pack up a two man raft, an ice chest and some sunblock; call up a group of your best friends, and head east to 'float' down the river. From the drop off in Knight's Ferry to Oakdale it is an all day float. Along the way you will see small rapids, cows that walk up to the water, Lover's Leap, and tall hills that make you feel that you have stumbled upon a secret spot in the universe. For the more brave (or lubricated) at heart, there are cliffs that jut strait up that you can dive from (although I am sure its frowned upon). Consumption of alcohol is legal but discouraged by Sunshine Rafting, the professional rafting company that charters group trips. Because the Mr., myself and all of our friends enjoy the consumption of alcohol we pack up enough 'Stones to survive the trip. When we drink we get a little clever. That is how we came up with the name, Float and Bloat.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Palm Springs

Sorry for the delay again but this time I had a legitimate excuse. I denied myself computer access for 5 days while I rested and relaxed in beautiful Palm Springs. My best friend celebrated his 30th birthday in style and rented out an entire commune (what seemed to be anyway) for 4 days. We stayed at the Blue Belvedere in what is known as the Movie Colony. During its heyday, the Movie Colony of Palm Springs was a getaway to such celebrities as Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and the rest of the Rat Pack. We all had the best time and the whole vacation seemed surreal. I think I lived in the saltwater pool for 3 days strait with my only worries being reapplying sunscreen and refilling my cocktails.

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