Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Story, aka My Possession Experience

We are not really Halloween people.

We lit those pumpkins for all of 5 minutes, while we attempted to get some pictures.  It's really hard to get a good picture of an Elvis who looks like he might be wearing the same jumpsuit at Evel Knievel when he can't stand up.  Then we blew the candles out, packed the Bug in the car and went to dinner.  By the time we came home, we had missed all the trick or treaters.

I'm not a scary movie person, either.  When W and I were living in sin and he had to go to Baltimore for 3 weeks on location, I locked every door and window, and at night even shut the dog door so Blu had to wait until morning to be let out (hey, I lived in LA through Richard Ramirez, aka the Night Stalker).  One night "The Ring" was on tv, and I not only did I have to skip over it fast, I had to force myself not to think about it at night, home alone, in the dark.  For 3 weeks.

In my last year of college, my college bestie and I were living in a 2 bedroom condo in Albany.  One random night - nothing special about it, I hadn't been drinking, I hadn't eaten anything funny, there had been no smokey-smokey - I went to bed like any other night. I was lying on my left side, when I woke up to feel something sitting on top of me.  It wasn't just sitting on me - it was super heavy, and I felt it from head to toe, not just in one spot.  And it wasn't just sitting, it was pushing down on me from head to toe - like something was trying to get inside me.  I was completely unable to move, roll over, anything.  Too terrified to open my eyes, I began frantically praying.  After what felt like forever, I felt it slowly lift off and dissipate.

I thought I was crazy.  I thought it was a bad dream.  I rolled to my right side and fell back asleep, only to awaken again with the same sensation.  Same head to toe pressure, same inability to move.  I was sure if I opened my eyes, the devil embodied in some scaly, evil green reptilian form would be lying on top of me.  I desperately prayed again, until the sensation went away.

Ok, this is stupid, I know, but I thought it was me again, and rolled onto my back and fell asleep one more time.  Same thing, head to toe pushing, unable to move, yada yada yada.  I still refused to open my eyes, but at least this time the praying was calmer.  After a period of time, I felt the thing again lift off me, only this time, I felt it lift off me and move to the foot of the bed.  It then came around the right side of the bed and sat down next to me, and when it did this, I had the distinct impression that it was female and she had long, curly hair.

The Chinese believe in something called a sitting ghost, literally, a ghost that likes to come sit on you while you are sleeping and paralyze you.  Many people have told me that's what this was, but to my knowledge, no sitting ghost as ever tried to get inside a body, and no sitting ghost has ever sat down next to a body instead of on top of them.   Oh, and by the way, did I mention?  I don't believe in sitting ghosts?  

I'm a self confessed scardy-cat who's still afraid of the dark.  Something tried to possess me, for G's sake.  Of course we're not really Halloween people.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


A few days ago, I bought a sugar pumpkin.

I had been intrigued by an article in The Daily Green about what you could do to use every inch of your carved Halloween pumpkin.  Everyone toasts the seeds, but no one actually uses the pumpkin flesh.  Most of our pumpkin eating experience falls next month and has to do with the dark orange stuff in the can.  This article had recipes for what to do with actual, raw, pumpkin flesh, and I was sufficiently curious enough to think maybe it would make a good article for the newsletter.

Let's start with the type of pumpkin: if you're going to eat it, you don't want one of the huge ones you're going to carve and leave on your front stoop.  This is the first problem with using every inch of your carved pumpkin - you don't actually want to eat the big ones you want to carve, because the flesh is usually not as sweet.

So I started by cutting the top of the sugar pumpkin like I was going to carve it.  I was, I actually like the look of a bunch of little carved pumpkins as opposed to the big ones.  Here I came to the 2nd problem:  after removing the seeds and the strings, the pumpkin was perfect for carving, not too thick, and the skin of the sugar pumpkin is not nearly as tough and thick as the bigger ones.  Unfortunately, this meant I wasn't really going to be able to get any of the flesh out and still leave enough flesh in to maintain the integrity of the pumpkin for carving.

I was going to stop here and tell you all to just carve your pumpkins as usual and forget about trying to use it all, just throw it in the compost pile and your eco-karma is still good.  But as the hollowed out pumpkin sat on the counter, I thought make I should try the pumpkin bisque soup recipe, so at least I had something pumpkin-y to share.  After all, I had purchased an eating pumpkin, I supposed the least I could do was attempt to eat it.

So here's the soup recipe.  A few notes, though, namely that the soup is simple to make, but you really must use fresh pumpkin.  Don't try to substitute the canned stuff, although I guess I can't really say that since I didn't try it.  Fresh pumpkin is not nearly as sweet as the stuff in the can - its actually more squash like, which makes the soup pretty light.  I thought the addition of so much cider might make the soup too sweet, but I was wrong, it balances out the lack of sweetness in the pumpkin.  Give it a whirl, you can always freeze the leftover pureed pumpkin as baby food (which is exactly what I'm doing, if anyone wants any).

Pumpkin Cider Bisque
Makes 4 servings
Based on a recipe from The Daily Green

Peel a sugar pumpkin (the medium/small ones) and cut flesh into 1" cubes.  Steam until soft and a knife easily pierces the flesh.  Puree the pumpkin until smooth.

In a saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter and add 2 tablespoons flour.  Whisk to smooth out any lumps, cooking for about a minute or two.  Do not allow to brown, you don't want to make a roux.  Add 2 cups whole milk and stir over medium heat until slightly thickened.  Add 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree and heat through.  Slowly add 2 cups apple cider.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Add (2) pinches ground nutmeg, (1) pinch ground ginger and white pepper to taste.  Serve hot, maybe with apple slices as a garnish.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Just Say She's Cute and Move the F On

As I've said before, my mommydom involves make-up and the goal of showering everyday.  I'm not saying as a new mom that this is easy, or that it happens everyday.  It's just a goal, and like all others, some days I score, and some days the ball hits the goal post and bounces out.

It is (unfortunately) true that when you are pregnant, everyone you encounter seems to have turned off the sensor button that lies in the frontal region of the brain and connects directly to the voice box.  Now, if you are Chinese - especially if you are not an ABC (that's American Born Chinese for all you non-Asians) - this phenomenon is really just a state of how you are, that button is like a blinking exit sign.  It flickers constantly and usually turns off just when you need it the most.  It is not a personal thing that every waitperson at a Chinese restaurant seems rude to the western populous - they are rude, they just don't consider it such.  You can't take it personally.

I love hearing the horrifying hysterical mommy stories.  Inspired by my friend The Crazy Baby Mama and her post today (love it!), here are my own personal favorites.

About a year before I got pregnant, when W and I were just "working on it", I had lunch with my mom and grandmother and some distant aunts, not related by blood (not that it matters, they're still Chinese).  Now, these are aunts of my cousin's, and they are notorious for having no filters whatsoever.  As we all stood in the parking garage saying our good-byes, one of them turned to me, gestured at my stomach and asked,

"Are you pregnant, or just gaining?"

Struck with disbelief, I grimaced/smiled and said, "No, just gaining!"

My grandmother turned 100 this year.  To celebrate, our family threw an 11-course Chinese banquet for 200 people at Empress Harbor Seafood Restaurant (all celebratory Chinese banquets that are anything in LA are thrown here).  CJ was exactly 4 weeks old, and as we walked through the doors of the restaurant, W carrying CJ in his car seat, we ran into my Aunt N, standing with her two grown sons.  She exclaimed and cooed at the baby, then turned to me and said, "Oh!  You're working on a second one already!"

I grimaced/smiled again and said, "No, just hanging onto stuff from the first!"  4 WEEKS PEOPLE!!  PAY ATTENTION!!

But my favorite story is not mine, it is my friend G's, and I hope she forgives me for sharing it here with the blogosphere.  G is not someone who ever thought she wanted to have a child, much less be pregnant in her early 40's.  She will tell you upfront that before her daughter, it was all about the G Show.

After 12 hours of labor and the excruciating back and forth of epidural-pitosin-epidural-pitosin, Baby Z came into the world and G was exhausted.  Two days later, on their final walk out of the hospital, Baby-Daddy B was carrying Baby Z in the car seat as they stepped into the elevator with a young, 20-something Barbie blonde with a 12" waist.

As G said, you could tell the baby was fresh.  They were leaving the hospital, Baby Z was bundled with her eyes closed, probably still looking a little purple and tired from her recent expulsion into the world of light and noise.  The stunningly brilliant Barbie blonde smiled at the baby and said,

"Oh look!  A little one and another on the way!"

G bit down until she bled and didn't say what she wanted (really, a first for G).  She also claims she would have kicked some Barbie ass in the elevator, if her own wasn't still throbbing.  What she wanted to say is what all we past, current, and future momma's want to say, and its not hormones talking here.  And I say this with a smile because I love this story, but seriously people!

Just say she's cute and move the fuck on.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Show Me You're Nuts Too, Please?

Its 11:15pm on Saturday night.  My head is ringing with a headache, little teeny pulses just above and to the right of my right eye.  I'm tying typing with my eyes closed.  I wanna go to bed.

But no. I'm waiting on... laundry.  That's right, the bitching in my last post has led to 24-hour karma turnaround.  When W went to wash some whites (I'm a bad wife, he had no clean socks) he found the dog bed in the washer.  From 2 days ago.  In his words, it now smelled like wet ass, and not the clean, good, ooh-gimme-a-spanking kind.  So after washing his whites, I'm now waiting for the wet ass dog bed to rewash.  I'm just hoping I don't have to do it a second time.

My mother has recently gotten into making her own cards (hang on, I'll tie all this together in a minute).  She took a workshop at her church, and was so excited she started stealing ad postcards from stores that had pictures she liked on them (not just one, the stack of them).  I took her to a holiday card making class last week at the Paper Source in Pasadena.  I really hadn't stepped foot in there since I OD'ed on them while planning my wedding.  We made 7 super cute holiday cards that I'm sure she will never give away, and she has called me twice about what specialty crafting supplies she wants to pick up so she can attempt to make more before the holidays.

So this is why I'm nuts (hang on, the tie in is coming).  It's 11:25pm and I'm waiting on a f-ing wet dog bed.  I still have whites to fold, but I'm going to stay in denial a little longer.  I just launched a weekly newsletter which now definitely has to be weekly, because I told everyone on my mailing list that I would.  Talk about committment, now I have to be witty and pithy every Thursday.  I still have to build a website to go along with this newsletter - hey, who's that over there?  Oh, right, that's my web designer and my blank web template, waiting for me to give him/it direction.  What's this on my desk?  Right, blank, white, directionless paper...

There's a sugar pumpkin on the counter that I'm supposed to be carving.  I'm then supposed to scrape out the pulp and steam it and try to make a soup with it, because it's an article I want to include in the newsletter, but I won't until I try the soup myself.  There is frozen white peach pulp in the freezer, which I have been procrastinating turning into actual white peach jam.  And my ass has got to board that train, because pomegranate season is upon us, and in no time my friend A will be leaving bags of them on my porch and scampering away.  Then I will have bags of pomegranates, waiting to be mushed up with berries for jam, not as easy or as quick as it sounds.

And tonight, for some reason, I decided that even though I wasn't going to make my own holiday cards this year (you know, due to time constraints), I could find time to make gift tags, little mini versions of the cards I learned to make last week.  So I hauled out the paper cutter and the icicle punches and now there's a little stack of half-finished (of course they're half-finished!) gift tags sitting on the dining table.  I would take a picture of them (they are super cute, even half-finished), except the battery in my camera died.  The tags are sitting on the dining table, where my husband dined on hot dogs and I ate a frozen pizza tonight because I was simply too tired to cook.

This is why I'm nuts.  Am I the only one? What sane person does this to themselves?  What has splintered in my psyche that causes me to self-flagellate in this way?  And I have a 18 week old son whom I swear, is not neglected.  He's in his crib, sleeping on his tummy right now....

Doh!  Oh well, that's a topic for another Bad Mommy Blog later.  Right now I have whites to fold.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Is Your Washer Running...?

I have had a million things run through my head that I meant to write about in the last week.  When I finally sat down to write last night, nothing inspired came.  Just boring drivel I didn't even want to read myself.  Delete delete delete delete....

As I write this, my husband is on the playmat with CJ, making the plastic doggie sing while the baby tries desperately to gnaw on a round teether.  He has been drooling so much he hates that he has to wear a bib and the smell of formula bib makes me want to gag.  Last week, after he threw up on me twice and went through two bibs, I put his last clean bib on him and told him in no uncertain terms he had to keep that one clean, at least until we got to Target and bought some more.  That, of course, prompted him to throw up one last time, almost immediately.  And smile.  Cheeky monkey.  Cut to exterior car, racing to Target...

About three months before the baby was born, while we were in the middle of a remodel of the cabana that started out at $4,000 (it certainly didn't end there), our washer broke.  Which is of course, just what you need when you are shuffling through credit cards wondering when the remodel will end.  The washer and dryer had come with the house - all the appliances had, as the sellers were relocating for work and moving to temporary housing and didn't want to take anything with them.  We were glad, as we didn't want to buy all these things, but they were/are all... in a word... JANK.  At least they were all energy efficient in their JANKNESS.

Well, one night as we were watching tv, the jank washer started its spin cycle.  Now, we live in a small house.  The laundry room is on the other side of the kitchen, essentially on the other side of the house, so its not like its next to the living room or in a nearby hallway (ok, we only have  1100 sqft  so everything is pretty close).  We knew the washer was going the way of the dodo because every time the spin cycle started, we had to turn the tv volume up to 40 and were often shouting at each other, "Huh?  I can't hear you!" while we sat next to each other.

So this night, as we cranked the volume up to 45 it began to sound worse.  While it used to sound like a Cessna taking off, tonight it sounded like a passenger jet.  I would not have been surprised if the back of the house started to vibrate and Dorothy ran in shouting, "Auntie Em, Auntie Em!"  I swear a breeze started to blow through the house and I heard the theme music for the Wicked Witch of the West.  That was the last time we used the washer, we were too terrified to try it again.

So that weekend, credit card in hand, we were at Sears, looking at washers and dryers prettier than my car.  We wound up with a lovely sapphire blue LG combo (after all, you can't buy only one).  Luckily for us, the top of the line model happened to be on sale and cheaper than the next step down.  Unluckily for us, this total still exceeded our Sears credit line.

You know how people say, "Oh, you'll do SO MUCH MORE LAUNDRY ONCE THE BABY'S HERE!"?  I never understood that until last week.  Don't get me wrong, we loved the new washer and dryer.  I especially loved that I could do all W's work pants in one load, as well as the water saving features, and the fact that now we could hear each other speak in the laundry room as well as other parts of the house.  Until last week, my laundry load had been about the same, maybe 3 loads a week, humming along, the nice little tinkling jingle W programmed the machines to make when they're done.

Then came the day I changed the baby's clothes 3 times, changed my own shirt twice and ran out of bibs.

As my mother used to say about shoes, spend the money on the quality.  Its worth it.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Scrub A Dub Dub

I hate it when my secret favorites get out.

In today's LA Times, they outed my secret little Korean Day Spa.  I guess its really not too much of a secret, but in these tough economic times, their services are even more of a steal than normal.  For a little over $100 you can get their Marine Style Treatment or their Asian Secret Treatment, both of which involve 90 minutes of goodies like body scrubs, facial packs and oil massages.

As the LA Times points out, this is not your Burke Williams experience.  This is not the hush-hush-walk-softly-treatments-in-progress, everyone's covered up, cushy plush robes, slippers and cucumber water spa.  In fact, that's what I love about it.  My first time at the spa (alone, I always go alone) I was struck by the three B's - boobs, belly and bush.  There's a lot of it, and it's all out there; this is not a spa for the naked-shy, and sorry ladies, its not all pretty.  But what I really noticed was the community of the spa.  That night nearly all the patrons were Korean, and they ranged from 10-year old little girls to 80 year-old grandmothers.  They all carried those little plastic bins with handles you can get at Target, for taking your toiletries to the bathroom on the floor of your college dorm, filled with their own personal soaps and scrubs and tinctures.  Old women and mothers were relaxing, some applying lotion to each others backs, while children moved from the spa tubs to the various types of hot saunas and back out to the showers.  No one was shy, everyone was comfortable and respectful.  It wasn't to noisy, but conversations were taking place and the atmosphere was relaxed.

The spa itself is dimly lit and a large open space.  There are three soaking tubs: one cool, one moderate temperature, and the hot one, that looks like a hot tub of tea (because it pretty much is).  The treatment area is out in the open, separated from the rest of the spa by a low wall.  Six tables are lined up a few feet from each other, middle-aged Korean women in lacy undergarments pummel and knead you right there, and yes, they will talk to each other over your prone bodies.  Don't expect new age music and lavender aromatherapy,  but once you close your eyes you won't notice they're there.

When I say pummel, I'm not really exaggerating.  When they say "body scrub" they mean scrub in quite the vigorous sense, and every part of you will be scrubbed (this is not for those with sensitive skin) until you feel a bit red and raw.  This may be the only time my armpits are touched when I am not ticklish, probably because I am distracted by the ferociousness of the scrubbing.  It might sound awful, but really, its quite lovely if you like it a little rough, and your skin is smoother than a sweet baby's butt when they are done.

So there it is, the Century Day Spa, where you can spend $100 steamed, soaked and scrubbed up.  I suppose its good all the way around - the economy is still depressing and everyone could use a little inexpensive indulgence, and the spa will certainly welcome the business.

Just don't ask me about my sushi bar.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Restaurant Review: Arroyo Chop House

Don't bother.

Seriously.  Unless you wish to lose 3 hours of your life you will never get back in exchange for some dry chicken and worse than poor service, stay away.

I don't want to say these things.  I want to give every restaurant I go to a winning review, I want to love the food everywhere and not care what it cost me.  I want carnitas from the random taco cart for lunch and $35 lobster mac 'n cheese from Maestro's for dinner (that's a side dish at Maestros, btw).  I want leftover beef wellington for breakfast and a homemade ham and cheese omelet with home fries for dinner.

What I don't want is to go to a nice steakhouse and be seated next to a loud, drunk, obnoxious party of 12 office workers who need lives outside of their cubicles (all of which we could hear about, with all the yelling).  What I don't want is to wait 30 minutes between my drinks arriving and the waiter coming back to take my order.  What I don't want is to wait another 40 minutes for my entrees to arrive.  I also don't want to be moved to another table in order to get away from the party of 12, pounding their fists on their dining table, only to be set behind the kitchen and completely forgotten.  When you do find me, I certainly don't want overcooked, dry chicken.  I don't want to eat my meal simply because after two hours of waiting, I'm starving, and I certainly don't want to ask for my lovely Grand Marnier and Chocolate Souffles to be packed to go because I've now been here for 2 1/2 hours and my child at home would like to be fed.  I don't want to be ignored for another 10 minutes after asking for he check and desserts to go, and believe it or not, I don't want to walk out of your establishment (sans souffles) without paying my check.

But I did.

After almost three hours of the jerk around, the best service we received all night was the complimentary valet, who brought our three cars up in less than 2 minutes.  They were tipped well.

Our experience was probably the exception, but I'm not looking to relive it.  Like I said, stay away.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Its Time to Sow

I just got notification that my garlic has shipped.

I'm sitting in the feeding chair, attempting to draft my first newsletter for this website idea I'm working on.  I'm struggling and not really getting anywhere; my words are stiff and blase and trite and all I can think is "STUCK STUCK STUCK!!!  I SUCK SUCK SUCK!!!"

I have been procrastinating doing all kinds of things.  My email box is full of newsletters and articles and notification of things I've been tracking and researching for this website.  All of them for the last week are unread.  I was compiling a list of articles I wanted to reference in my first newsletter, local happenings I thought parents would be interested in checking out, and now I have procrastinated so long that some of them have already come and gone.  Three weeks ago I looked at website templates until my eyes crossed and they all looked the same and I could no longer imagine what my website might look like.  There are 3 ripe strawberries on the vines that will be bad by tomorrow afternoon, yet I haven't plucked them.  The basil is big and bushy and begging to be eaten, and yet it sits, a feast for the bugs.  CJ is on the cusp of rolling over, and I just keep thinking, a little more tummy time, maybe tomorrow, a little more tummy time... I used the last of CJ's can of formula tonight and thought, oh, I'll just get more tomorrow morning, I have back-up in the diaper bag...

But the garlic, the garlic shipping today, well... that somehow puts things in perspective.  My garden has been lackluster this year, and since the baby I have barely had the presence of mind to water, much less grow too much more than the crabgrass that is taking over the side yard.  We took a class on growing garlic and ordered several varieties that should grow well in our area.  Garlic is the one thing we are planting this fall, the one thing we think we have the time and energy for, one thing we have never tried before.  A successful garlic planting this year means not having to buy garlic next year and the year after that, it means gifts of stinking roses for friends, it means scapes to try in stir-fries,  it means we can put something into the ground that we can nurture and propagate that will continue to bear fruit for seasons to come.

The garlic shipping means things can no longer wait.  Its time to dig in.