Monthly Archives

June 2012

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CHANGE my diet, Part 3

This is an update on My One Word for 2012: Change. Periodically I will stay accountable by letting you know how I’m doing. The good, the bad and the so-so. No holding back.

I haven’t challenged myself lately in regards to food.

In January I gave up meat. In February and March I gave up chocolate. Then we moved, and H’s mom visited and we allowed ourselves to eat some chicken. From chicken it’s a slippery slope to hot dogs. Oh, man, hot dogs. Excuse me while I wipe the saliva off my chin.

I finally collected myself and have gotten settled into a diet that is comfortable for me: pescatarianism. We eat fish a few times a week. Read: fish tacos. Also, this delicious dish.

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We will become fish tacos soon!

I’ve been tracking my calories and foods with My Fitness Pal, and I definitely see some room for improvement. First on my list: More salads.

Enter challenge No. 3:
A salad a day.
For the entire month of July.

It could be a meal-sized salad or a little side salad to complement a meal. As long as there are leafy greens, I’m calling it a salad. I need some help, though. Please point me toward your favorite salad recipes. I want to make sure I don’t just eat the same ol’ salad every single day in July. No, I want to mix it up to keep it exciting! Challenge me, friends. I need to break out of my comfort zone here.

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As long as I’m bearing my soul here about “changing” in 2012, I have to fess up to something: My 33 before 34 list is faltering big time. It’s time I at least attempt something on this list, eh? It’s so very hard for me to be crafty, though. I want to be, but there is just so little time in the day.

Photoshoot: Manual

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I’ve become a lazy photographer lately, always using my cellphone to capture moments craptastically. On the rare occasion I turn on my DSLR, I lazily shoot in auto mode. For some reason this bothered me on a June gloom morning last week, so I set my trusty Olympus to manual and started re-learning all my photography skills.

These are my results.

Cut me some slack, OK? I’m rusty, and there was zero natural light (not that there ever really is in this light-challenged townhouse; we really must get better at picking out houses that fit my criteria for a decent photograph because, as everyone knows, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms is secondary to a good, well-lit photo).

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What I learned: Sixty photos later, I whittled the ones I loved down to less than 20. Of those 20, only a handful looked great in color. The rest I converted to black-and-white.

I had forgotten how much I love black-and-white.

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A good black-and-white photo takes me back to my darkroom days in college. Do they even make photography students develop their own film and process their own photos anymore? I wonder.

If you’ve never had a darkroom experience, I highly recommend it. There might be only one or two darkrooms left on the planet, so you better get on it fast.

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In case you’re wondering, I was tormenting Alexa with a plush giraffe. She kept trying to shroud it in a blanket. I can’t blame her; giraffes wearing floral prints are downright unnatural.

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Do you like my drawering? It’s a cat lady. H was terrified when he saw this photo. He doesn’t understand that I’m an artiste and my eccentricities are not only to be tolerated but loved. Harumph!

Anyway, I’m going to make a concentrated effort to shoot in manual more often. It’s way more satisfying to “get it right” with settings and play around with color balance than it is to choose a filter in Instagram.*

* Don’t worry, Instagram. I can’t quit you.

Homemade Broccoli and Tuna Coconut Curry Recipe

The other night I decided to crack open a can of coconut milk and make some magic happen. What magic, I didn’t know. It was just an idea. Another idea was to bring some broccoli and cauliflower to a boil on the stovetop. Thirty minutes later, and I had a beautiful dish that looked a little something like this:

Tuna Coconut Curry Recipe • Little Gold Pixel

I know it’s more exciting to roast or steam broccoli and cauliflower, but I’ve decided that this method is my favorite. Not sure if I mentioned this before, but during my pregnancy I became extremely averse to the smell of broccoli, to the point that I forbade H to cook it in my presence. It was my only true aversion, and it stuck with me long after Alexa was born. To this day the scent is overwhelming. Alexa is also not a fan, but she will eat it in this dish.

Why?

Butter. After the veggies are nice and mushy, mix some butter in and let it soak in its juices for a few minutes.

Tuna Coconut Curry Recipe • Little Gold Pixel

While you’re doing that, now is a good time to warm up some rice (we cook a huge vat at the beginning of the week) and get your coconut curry sauce on the stovetop.

I’d like to present the most fantastic recipe I’ve found online thus far, via Can You Stay for Dinner?

Full disclosure: I didn’t have any sesame oil or Sriracha sauce on hand, and the curry sauce was STILL AMAZING. Like, my-favorite-Thai-place amazing.

Somehow I forgot to snap a shot of this, but it’s a pretty standard brown sauce that thickens up quickly, so be sure to keep an eye on it. If it does thicken up too fast, cut it with a bit of water. Mwah. So good it jumps out and kisses you.

Tuna Coconut Curry Recipe • Little Gold Pixel

Toss your rice, veggies and sauce together. Fully enjoyable vegan meal (if you use Earth Balance instead of butter for the veggies). BUT. We added a can of albacore tuna, and it was freaking fantastic. If it weren’t a weeknight we might’ve made fresh tuna, which I’m sure would be even more amazing. Still, for a busy day of the week, 30 minutes for a dinner of this caliber is a win, know what I mean?

Tuna Coconut Curry Recipe • Little Gold Pixel

I was so excited about this meal that I started correcting my photos immediately to write this post. In the middle of editing a photo of rice, my trusty yet elderly 2006 Macbook petered out for good. I’m writing this post from my new Macbook Pro. There have been issues getting up to speed, issues that have made me want to pull my hair out (hello, Photoshop Elements, why can’t I install you, huh?). I decided to download Pixelmator in place of PSE for the moment. In the middle of editing my rice photo, the entire computer froze up for about 5 minutes. I nearly lost it, friends. Thankfully I was able to force quit and delete that corrupt photo from my life before it caused more disaster.

This is all to say that I went through a lot to share this recipe (and mediocre cellphone photos in low light) with you. So that means it’s worth it. Try it; you’ll like it.

A Word to the Wise: Never Skimp on Wedding Photography

At our wedding 14 years ago, I remember the anticipation of having my hair styled, the shivers I got as I walked toward my soon-to-be husband, the enormous grin I wore all evening as we danced at the reception. It’s too bad we don’t have the photos to match the experience.

We had the worst wedding photographer. The worst.

The man had never heard of depth-of-field. There isn’t a single unposed photo in the bunch. And then there’s the awesome shot he got of my dad walking me down the aisle.

Hi Dad! Oh, you can’t see me? It must be because your eyes are shut.

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In wedding photography there are usually a few shots that are a given, like a photo of the rings, for example. Or of the cake-cutting. But oh no. Not this photographer. This photog had his own idea of a good time, like this paparazzi shot of the first kiss, which seems to have been taken from the sixth floor of the Book Depository.

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And let’s not forget the oh-so-essential bridal-party-exiting-the-restroom shot. Keeping it classy!

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Oh what I wouldn’t do to go back in time, when my mom mentioned that one of her colleague’s husbands was a wedding photographer and would give us a great deal.

I would’ve said a few things like:
“Oh? Let me see a portfolio of his work.”
“And why is he so cheap?”
“That’s OK. I’d much rather hire a professional photographer to take photos of one of the most important days of my life.”

I often dream of requesting a do-over for this decision. H dreams of requesting a do-over for the decision of not hiring a videographer to capture the actual fun of the wedding.

Because there’s not a single photo from our reception, unless you count the photo of my grandpa drinking a beer at the guestbook table.

(And I don’t.)

Something we wouldn’t do over? Our wedding. It was perfect, even if the documentation sucked.

Fashion Forward: Dip Dying

I might be the only person I know who hasn’t dipped an item into paint or dye or bleach lately. From the looks of the Internet, I should probably get on top of that so they don’t revoke my Cool Kid Card. I mean, my own kid is way cooler than me. She has a dip-dyed dress.

I actually have a hankering to tie-dye a T-shirt like I did in Girl Scouts in the 1980s. I want it to be just as heinous and garish and ridiculous-looking, too. I envision it being a righteous nightshirt, so you don’t have to worry that I’ll suddenly start dressing like a Deadhead, Birkenstocks and all. Although I have to admit that these are pretty damn cute.

Here are a few goodies I think are pretty neat:
Dip Dying Spoons • Little Gold Pixel
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Dip Dying Bowls • Little Gold Pixel
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Dip Dying Planters • Little Gold Pixel
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Dip Dying Necklaces • Little Gold Pixel
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Dip Dying Earrings • Little Gold Pixel
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Dip Dying Shorts • Little Gold Pixel
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What do you think? Are you into dip dying?

Click on the plus signs for the sources.

Photoshoot: 16 Months Old

sixteen months old

Baby girl turned 16 months old on May 28. Each month on the 28th I take a photo of Miss Alexa and her owl to mark her growth because, as everyone likes to remind me, “they’re only little for a short while.”

(In the photo above, Alexa is kissing her owl. She kisses all her stuffed animals, then hands them to me to kiss, too.)

Alexa’s still wearing a range of clothing (from 12 to 24 months, just depending). We’ve been favoring pants because she is running, climbing, jumping … and falling. She’s had a few skinned knees, her first war wounds. Each morning when I get her dressed for the day she will sit patiently on my lap while I put her hair in pigtails, a top knot or a ponytail. Then she will say “get down?” while sliding backward off the bed (like I taught her). She hurries to the full-length mirrors on our closet doors to look at herself. Does she approve? A big smile and coy sway always indicates yes.

We’re still on the one-, sometimes two-naps-a-day schedule. Still two teeth, but the teething grumpiness lately is OUT OF CONTROL, and I can see several whites just beneath the surface.

Guess who’s drinking milk out of a sippy cup? That’s right. I finally convinced Daddy and our babysitter to go cold turkey on the bottle, and Alexa has made a pretty smooth transition. Daddy was worried about her abrupt decrease in intake (and we’re still wasting plenty of milk because we fill the bottles with more than she will drink, yikes), but she is fine. She gets plenty of food, including dairy, and she drinks a lot of water, too.

We’ve been practicing our stair climbing, and she’s gaining confidence taking steps down. She is getting bad at running off in public places and near stairs, so we’ve had to learn the art of holding hands. At first Alexa was resistant, but now she’s pretty happy to do it. Of course there are the moments she yanks her hand away and darts into the parking lot, nearly giving me a heart attack. Incidentally, she had her first time out recently. I’m not sure whether it worked, but after sitting still for one minute (we had to start over and over again) she calmed down a little.

Little girl will climb on everything. She is a little daredevil. I have seen her climb on her short bookshelf, she has climbed on the couch and this morning she climbed atop her toy scooter and stood there, balancing precariously. Is it any wonder she has bruises?

Favorite things: sweeping the floors, brushing her teeth, playing with the ball, drawing, puzzles, sneaking sips of my iced chai, playing on her laptop, chewing on ice, spinning around in circles, going to the park, watching Yo Gabba Gabba, snacking on Goldfish or cantaloupe

Words: NO, hi, hello? (on phone), bye-bye, Mommy, Daddy, “nana” (banana), get down?, ball, booberries (blueberries), mahna mahna (aka food)

She understands so much more than she can articulate, though. Sometimes I will tell her complex things and she will follow through, sometimes even with the requisite toddler pouting and whining, including, “Please throw this away” or “Help me pick up these puzzle pieces” or “Stay away from the stairs.”

Sometimes she will come out of the blue with full sentences, but it’s still rare and we get so excited when we hear them. This morning (Father’s Day) she woke up and shouted, “DADDY! GET ME DOWN!” Daddy was over the moon!

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14 Years and Counting.

We Just Bought Stilts

There are so many treasures just waiting to be found in my old CD cases, especially because I haven’t touched them in the better part of a decade. I guess I should thank my new car (and it’s six-disc changer) for jump-starting my interest in these relics, especially now that Alexa has officially hijacked my iPod for her nightly tunes. She can’t sleep without them, so I can never ever take my iPod to work because her bedtime is so freaking early. Not that I’m complaining about this … I just miss my 5,000+ songs.

Anyway, I found a gem today. It was a plain white CD with the words “Mixed #1” on it. From the sounds of it I’m guessing it was made in 2003, which is a strange nostalgia coming on the day of our 14th anniversary.

In 2003 we had been married for five years, which I’m sure is four years longer than anyone expected this young couple to last. We lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Myrtle Beach. H was in college. I was at my first newspaper job. We were complete night owls. He would be studying or doing homework on our bed while I did things like make this mix CD on the computer.

Late-night walks on the beach were standard, as was starting a movie at 1 a.m. I slept until 11 in the morning most days, sometimes noon or later if I had been out with colleagues after work the night before. We would go boogie-boarding on a whim, sometimes heading out as late as noon even on days I had to work at 3 p.m.

Now we live in a two-bedroom townhouse with a 16-month-old in the South Bay area of Los Angeles. H and I are both working professional jobs with quasi-respectable business hours. We are passed out by 11 p.m. Our evenings are spent blogging (me) or playing “Call of Duty” (him) in the comfort of our living room.

Early mornings are the standard, what with H leaving for work at the crack of dawn and me waking up shortly after to tend to Alexa. A fun day is still a beach day, only there is no spontaneity left. It takes an hour to pack everything we need, and still we forget some things. We are the family that lugs a tent, a cooler and a change of clothes for every situation. When we retire for the night there is a palpable sigh of exhaustion, but it’s a good exhaustion.

I’m so glad we had the chance to experience both of these realities, that we took our time to start a family and that we enjoyed our 20s with a carefree air. I’m so happy I said “I do” to this man who continues to make me laugh day after day and who loves me unconditionally. I’m so lucky to have found my soulmate so early in life, to be able to grow and change with him. I love you, honey.

And, for the rest of you, I present a playlist from 2003:

2003 Mix CD by Little Gray Pixel on Grooveshark

Library List … Or What I’ll Be Reading This Summer

I keep checking out the same book over and over again from the Los Angeles Public Library. I can’t seem to read 1Q84 fast enough to make quick work of it. It is more than 1,000 pages long, so that could have something to do with it. Or it could be because I find myself getting lost in the language and in the nuances of the characters, lingering slowly over each paragraph so I don’t miss anything. Anyway. My second 21-day loan just expired, so now I must wait my turn in line behind 39 other readers to get a third stab at this bad boy, of which I am now a paltry 21% done reading, according to the Kindle app.

I’ve been combing through my lengthy to-read list on Goodreads and have come up with six other books I want to enjoy through this summer … plus 1Q84. I will not be satisfied until I know how it ends. I’m curious: Have you read any of these?

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A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 —“Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled. A love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, a dystopia to rival George Orwell’s—1Q84 is Haruki Murakami’s most ambitious undertaking yet: an instant best seller in his native Japan, and a tremendous feat of imagination from one of our most revered contemporary writers.

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In an unnamed New York-based company, the employees are getting restless as everything around them unravels. There’s Pru, the former grad student turned spreadsheet drone; Laars, the hysteric whose work anxiety stalks him in his tooth-grinding dreams; and Jack II, who distributes unwanted backrubs–aka “jackrubs”–to his co-workers. On a Sunday, one of them is called at home. And the Firings begin.
Rich with Orwellian doublespeak, filled with sabotage and romance, this astonishing literary debut is at once a comic delight and a narrative tour de force. It’s a novel for anyone who has ever worked in an office and wondered: “Where does the time go? Where does the life go? And whose banana is in the fridge?”

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It’s 1996, and Josh and Emma have been neighbors their whole lives. They’ve been best friends almost as long–at least, up until last November, when everything changed. Things have been awkward ever since, but when Josh’s family gets a free AOL CD-ROM in the mail, his mom makes him bring it over so that Emma can install it on her new computer. When they sign on, they’re automatically logged onto Facebook . . . but Facebook hasn’t been invented yet. Josh and Emma are looking at themselves fifteen years in the future.

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Things have not been going well for journalist Sandy Bloomgarten. Her job went down the drain and her marriage quickly followed. After a lengthy bender, she awakens one morning to the stark realization that she is flat broke. Nonetheless, she’s still a crack reporter and when a tabloid offers her a freelance assignment in Memphis—just a stone’s throw from her childhood home in Mesopotamia, Tennessee—she takes it.
Though sent there for one story, she winds up tracking down another: someone is killing Elvis impersonators who perform at the annual Sing-the-King festival. As Sandy’s investigation closes, she realizes that she is sitting on what could be the story of the century. The only problem is she can never reveal what she has found.

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Donna Leigh owns an Omaha ad agency. She is also an energetic and somewhat sardonic menopausal woman. When a former colleague is murdered, Donna becomes the chief amateur sleuth so her toxic relationship with the victim doesn’t land her at the top of the suspect list. As Donna and her colorful colleagues work feverishly to solve the case, they leave a trail of unintentional destruction in their wake; from injured police officers to collapsed buildings. Donna and her team stir things up enough to make the murderer nervous; after Donna receives a threat to “back off” things take on a more serious bent for her, but not for her ever vigilant colleagues who continue to animatedly bungle their way through the investigation until the murderer is behind bars.

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She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah!
When Regina Bloomsbury’s band, the Caverns, breaks up, she thinks it’s all over. And then she makes a wish—
“I wish I could be as famous as the Beatles.”
The Beatles are her music idols. The next day, she gets up to find that the Caverns are not just as famous as the Beatles, they have replaced them in history! Regina is living like a rock star, and loving it. There are talk shows, music videos, and live concerts with thousands of screaming fans. And Regina is the star of it all.

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Brooke Berman moved to New York as a wide-eyed eighteen-year-old eager to call the big city home. Candid, funny, and thoughtful, in No Place Like Home, we follow Brooke’s adventures as she crisscrosses town trying to make ends meet and make her dreams of a life in the theater come true.
With each apartment, from the heavenly to the horrible, she learns more about how to heal the past, let go of excess, and keep a sense of humor while trying to stay flexible in the search for stability. No Place Like Home reminds everyone of the age-old struggle not just to find a house, but to build a true home.

P.S. Danielle also has a great list of summer reads. I’m currently plowing through Diane Keaton’s memoir thanks to it.

The Surrey With the Fringe on the Top

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Beach days are the best. Don’t you agree?

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We rented a surrey and pedaled up and down Huntington Beach, which is slowly taking over Zuma Beach as our favorite SoCal spot. Reason No. 1: Surreys, duh.

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Reason No. 2: Fish tacos, right next to the bike rentals. Convenient!

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Reason No. 3: Fire pits on the sand. A beach barbecue will be forthcoming, mark my words.

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Alexa loved the surrey ride. She loved walking through the sand. But when she caught sight of the ocean she turned around, wrapped her arms around my legs and wouldn’t let go. Our summer mission will be to turn this ocean hater into an ocean lover. Any ideas?