Friday, August 31, 2007

Life List Day 166 - Bake a Cake from Scratch

My friend, Mary Jo, recently had some good news involving a giraffe (I don't know if I'm allowed to reveal more than that, so I won't). Anyway, it's the sort of good news that I thought ought to be celebrated with a cake.

Today I set out to bake one.

It's been forever since I've made a cake at all, let alone one from scratch. To get a recipe, I called my Mom, keeper of all things delicious. She and I debated for a while what recipe might be the most giraffey and settled on this one (from Barb Myers...hollah!):

Peanut Butter Cake

In a large saucepan, mix:
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. water
2 sticks margerine
Bring to a rolling boil. Add:
2 c. sugar

(Oh, and at this point in telling me the recipe, my mom, a dedicated Weight Watcher, actually said, "Or you could use Splenda!" to which I merely snorted a laugh - there's enough fat in this thing to clog the arteries of the town of Buffalo, and we're worried about a little sugar?!)

In a separate bowl, combine:
2 1/2 c. flour
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
Mix saucepan mixture with dry ingredients, then add:
1/2 c. buttermilk
2 eggs
Combine with a mixer on slow and pour into an 11 x 17 pan (or a 10 x 15 pan if, like me, your oven is so small it can't accommodate anything bigger)
Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Cool.

6 T milk
1 stick margarine
Now add:
1 t vanilla
1/2 c. peanut butter
3 1/2 c. powdered sugar
Pour over cooled cake

I cut it into thirds lengthwise & decorated.

Here's the finished cake:

I don't know if it tastes good since we won't be breaking into it until we get together for book club tonight, but it sure smelled swell...and you've got to admit, it's giraffey!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Life List Day 165 - Confront One of My Personal Demons: Power Tools

When it comes to choosing what to do each day for my life list, I try to err on the side of things that are fun, new or in some way enjoyable. Once in a while, though, I feel compelled to step into the arena of personal growth. This is one of those times.

Yes, today I used a power tool - a drill to be specific (well, actually just the screwdriver part).

This is another one of those things, like grilling, that I always get someone else to do for me. I happen to own tools. Some I inherited from my son's dad, others my son got as gifts. Which is why I've been able to avoid it all this time: even after we divorced, my ex would still do all the manly work around my house (good-naturedly grumbling that if he didn't get the man-of-the-house "perks" anymore, how come he still got the chores?), and when he died, my son was old enough to take over.

But lately - even though I've offered to pay cold hard cash - I can't get Danny to handle the jobs requiring power tools. That left me with two options: 1) get married again (preferably in the next day or so because I could really use some hooks hung) or, 2) do it myself.

Yep. Exactly.

My first job: screw in a hook that I couldn't do by hand (and Lord knows I tried...I nearly got a blister).

I'll be honest: there was much grumbling and swearing and carrying on as I attempted to figure out the drill, technology of any sort not being my forte - but in the end, I prevailed.

Here was the hook before (using the regular screw driver):

Here it is now:

As it turns out, I'm a regular Rosie the Riveter. And now that I have the hang of it, I do believe I'll try putting up those window blinds - although I'm sure the neighbors will miss the nightly Jill & Danny show when I do.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Life List Day 164 - Take a Trip Down Candy Memory Lane

I was at a tiny market by the beach today, when I saw one lone sucker on the candy shelf and found myself utterly bowled over by nostalgia.

It was a Slapstick lollipop. Caramel on a stick with some sort of swirlies.

I've seen many of the candies from my youth, but this was one I hadn't remembered until I saw it sitting there.

Without even thinking, I grabbed it up and bought it.

I'd had no intention of having a treat - I didn't even have any sort of hankering for sugar - but I immediately broke into it.


The swirlies were nasty, fake, sugary banana flavoring.

I ate it anyway. It brought back memories of hanging at Lake Huron, jumping off the dock and splurging all my pocket money on stuff like...banana flavored lollipops.

What candy reminds you of YOUR youth?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Life List Day 163 - A Lunar Experience

I read online there was to be a lunar eclipse at 2:52 a.m. PST. Normally, I'd think, Heh, what suckers are going to get up to see a stupid shadow on the moon? But this life list is making me do crazy things. I set my alarm for 2:50 a.m. and, when it went off, I rolled out of bed, stepped into sweatpants, and went out onto my front patio, looking for the moon.

There it was: hanging there. I waited five minutes, didn't see anything spectacular, and went back to bed.

Then at 6 a.m. I got up to pee (too much information?) and on my way, I saw the prettiest scene through my window: the full moon suspended over the house next door. I just looked at it for a while, then went to get my camera - my REAL camera, the one that uses film and is covered in dust it's been so long since I've pulled it out - and took a few shots.

The photo here doesn't do the scene justice: it's just a snapshot using my digital camera, and by the time I got around to taking this, the moon was below the building. You're going to have to trust me. It looked really cool in that way that sometimes the moon just does.

So that was my lunar experience.

(And maybe that full moon explains my son's unusual behavior yesterday...)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Life List Day 162 - Make Up an Errand

I picked up my son today from a friend's house - the thought nagging at the back of my mind that I still needed to do something for my life list. Danny got into the car and was, to my surprise, downright chatty. He started off on a story about something that happened in football, speaking in actual words, stringing them together into sentences. You have to know my son to understand: this rarely happens. Maybe when the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars. Otherwise, he is a boy of few words.

That's when I figured out what to do for my "thing" for the day: a meaningless errand. Something, anything, that would prolong the chatter. Once we got out of the car and into the house, I knew, the moment - this odd miracle of open communication - would be over.

So I said, "Hey, we need to go to Mervyns right now because hoodies are on sale half price. Real nice ones."

Off we went - and darned if we didn't keep up the conversation through the drive, shopping for hoodies, and all the way home...where he said, "See ya!" and retreated into the basement.

Definitely a meaningless nothing for my life list that I enjoyed quite a bit. (And as it turned out, hoodies WERE on sale!)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Oh, and a Quick Note...

I'm in the NY Times today! They interviewed me & took a photo at my new beach house for a story they were doing on people who keep life lists. Here's the link:

10 Things to Do Before This Article Is Finished

Life List Day 161 - Go Out Into the Rain

I was walking back from the local market this morning when, I swear in a matter of minutes, clouds rolled in and it started to rain. I bolted into my house just in the nick of time...and then I said, what the heck. It hasn't rained here in FOREVER. Why not go check it out?

So I switched from sneakers to flip-flops, threw on a hoodie, and headed out.

Strangely, people were out and about - no umbrellas - happily walking around as if it weren't dropping wet stuff from the skies. It made me feel as if we were all part of a fun surprise.

Plus, I'd forgotten how great rain smells. (I'd have to put it up there with Coppertone suntan lotion, freshly mown grass and Cinnabon as my nose's favorites of all time.)

Anyway, the big storm lasted all of about 20 minutes.

I'm glad I got out in it.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Life List Day 160 - Try Clams and Mussels

My Aunt Marcy had a "kitchen clambake" for her birthday - that's her in the photo (and in case you're wondering what I'm doing with such a hot young chick for an aunt, my mom is from a family of 10, and Marcy's the baby...three months younger than me, which she never lets me forget).

Anyway, she's an amazing cook, so I figured if anyone could get me to like clams and mussels, it would be her. I tried them years ago and thought they were disgusting.

It isn't the taste. It's the texture.

So today, I gave them a try again.

They were okay, but I still have the texture issue...besides, they were blocking the way to the shrimp (sauteed in butter and garlic oil), which I LOVE.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Life List Day 159 - Celebrate the Swedish Edition of My Novel with a Trip to Ikea

Today, I received in the mail the Swedish edition of my novel, The Next Thing on My List (Nasta Sak Pa Min Lista in Swedish).

I wanted to do something to mark the occasion. After some brainstorming, I came up with the great idea of going to Ikea - land of Swedish meatballs and furniture named things like the Sven and the Slurrg.

So first I read a bit of my novel. The opening line: "Nasta sak pa listan: Kyssa en framling" - Next on my list: kiss a stranger.

Then I drove to Ikea, shopped around, bought a rug, frozen Swedish meatballs and Lingenberries to go.

Now I can't wait to get the Korean edition (which I'm thinking would be swell to ring in with Korean barbeque).

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Life List Day 158 - Lunch with the Ladies at a Restaurant I've Always Wanted to Go To

I've always wanted to go to Michael's - a chi chi restaurant in Santa Monica. I've never gotten around to it, 1) just because I haven't and 2) it's kind of pricey (not terrifyingly so...just enough to make other things win over instead).

Today, I finally went there.

What finally prompted me: a promotion called "Dine Out Los Angeles," where for a limited time, participating restaurants offer price-fixed meals for $25 lunch and $35 dinner, and a donation goes to Share Our Strength, a hunger-relief organization.

The meal:

- chilled sweet corn soup with pistachios
- chicken with creamy polenta and haricots verts (yep, those'd be green beans)
- shortcake with berries, whipped cream and raspberry puree

Yummy...and one more thing checked off my list.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Life List Day 157 - Fold an Origami Fox

Shoot! My digital camera is out of batteries ... so as soon as I get it recharged, I'm going to post a photo of the origami fox I just folded. It's a beauty.

I've written books on origami for kids, and for a while, I could fold a thing or two. These days, all I can fold is a cootie catcher, and it's embarrassing. I feel like a big phony.

So today, I decided to learn the fox. It's one of my favorites because it's a puppet as well as a decorative paper sculpture - kids love it.

I'm going to keep at this until I can fold it without thinking. Drunk. On a cocktail napkin. So the next time someone says, "Oh, you've written origami books? Fold me something!" I won't disappoint.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Life List Day 156 - Dinner at a New Restaurant

My friend, Monica, and I decided to take our sons to dinner after football practice. The boys were clamoring for Cheesecake Factory, but Monica and I were in the mood to try something new (and we were paying, so we win).

The choice: Coyote Cantina, a Mexican place in a stripmall that'd I'd never have thought twice about, except I'd heard it's freakishly good for a Mexican place in a stripmall.

As ordinary as it was on the outside, the inside was a delightful surprise: lots of funky art, and really buzzing for a Tuesday evening (in a stripmall).

As for the food, I was tempted by the BBQ chicken salad (because I always love those) but I promised myself I'd order one of their specialties. I went for the "Pasta California": sauteed breast of chicken, roasted corn and avocado tossed in a jack cheese cream sauce with chili linguni. I know. It was so good I almost wept.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Life List Day 154 - A Missed Drum Circle...and a Nice Sit on the Pier

This was one I was looking forward to: I planned to join in on a drum circle advertised in the local paper. It was supposed to be at the pier at 9 AM, and open to anyone. A drum circle - a bunch of people sitting around banging wildly and freely on drums - is the sort of thing I'd HATE, which is exactly why I was dying to try it.

Alas, I got there and there were no drummers to be found.

I waited and looked for a half-hour and - when I finally accepted that it wasn't going to happen - I took a seat on the pier & just watched the world go by for a while...not what I wanted to do, but an OK moment for my life list anyway. Sometimes things don't go the way you planned and you have to march to the beat of a different drummer.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Life List Day 153 - Go to a Local Art Walk

Every year, my city hosts an Art Walk - a small art fair with local artists -and every year I say I'm going to go. I never manage to get around to it.

Today, I finally made it there.

And FYI, this is an example of why I'm glad I'm doing this life list. I don't think I'd have rallied if I didn't need to come up with SOMETHING to do for the day. As it turned out, it was a cute little event....nothing earth-shattering, but a pleasant way to pass an hour on a Saturday afternoon.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Life List Day 152 - Rub a Dub Dub, Try Out My Tub

Here's the tub in my new house. I've been here two weeks and, so far, I've stuck strictly to showers.

Today, I decided to give the tub a go.

A friend who was touring my house dubbed the tub "very sexy." It sits right in the midst of a spacious room, and the skylights give it an oddly exposed feeling. I added some candles and cucumber melon bubble bath ... and, of course, ME.

At first I tried reading (a Cathy comic book...I'm between novels right now).

But here's the thing about this tub: It's shaped in a way that you really have to lay back in it or your neck gets tired.

So I gave up the reading, turned off the lights, and just relaxed.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Life List Day 151 - Walk Music-Free

Since the first portable sound device - and I go back to the days of a boom box propped on my shoulder - I NEVER walk by myself if I don't have music to keep me entertained. I've been known to get to the gym, realize I forgot my iPod, and turn around and go home.

Today, I decided to take my walk down the beach and take in not only the sights, but the sounds as well.

The upside: hearing the ocean crash, the "ching ching" of a bike bell, and noticing more details in general because I was actually focused on what I was doing.

The downside: Without a musical beat to put that pep in my step, my pace dragged.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Life List Day 150 - Barbeque Without a Net

I've barbequed many times - but never by myself. I always get someone else to a) light it, b) decide how/when things are placed on the grill, c) tell me it's done.

Today, I had my writing friends over (we call ourselves the Javiers because we all made a point to put a character named Javier in our books). I barbequed for them, using my new gas grill and relying on no one but me for how things turned out.

I made:

- chicken and shrimp skewers, marinated in a garlic/lemon sauce
- veggies in a bbq pan, with potatoes, fennel, onions and red and green peppers
- eggplant (which my friend, Kate, supplied all cut & seasoned, but I grilled)

I managed to light the grill, warm it up, put on the food in the order I thought made sense, and watch it.

Everything turned out great, and my barbeque confidence is sky-high.

Maybe someday I'll take on what I consider the ultimate bbq food: lobster.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Life List Day 149 - Check Out an Art Gallery

Today, I wandered by an art gallery - Gallery C in Hermosa Beach - and decided to wander in.

Several artists' work was on display, the main exhibition being for an artist named Kirtland Ash. Here are a couple of his paintings:

I stood in front of several for a long time trying to "get it." It's strips of color in oil, basically. (I remember I once took an Artist's Way class with a lovely woman who made her living as a painter of similarly abstract paintings, and she was hurt that people often said about her work, "I could do that.") Anyway, I can't say it held my interest in the same way that, say, those Magic Eye 3D pictures do, but at least I gave it a shot.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Life List Day 148 - Swing

Sorry, folks, that's not "swinging" as in trading sexual partners (I'd have to HAVE one first to trade) but, rather, swinging as in getting on a swingset & going for it.

I'd been taking my morning walk when I saw empty swings on the beach. On a whim, I detoured over and decided to swing a bit.

I can't think of the last time I sat on a swing and really went for it - legs pumping and trying to get some decent height. I had my iPod on, and I started swinging to Paolo Nutini's "New Shoes," and then just kept going through six more songs. It was weirdly free and fun. I didn't want to stop, and in fact, the only reason I did was that my arms were killing me.

When I got off, I actually felt sort of wobbly.

Who knew swinging was such a workout?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Life List Day 147 - Sit on MY Beach...& a Celeb Sighting

I've been in my beach house for over a week, and even though I've walked along the beach...and dipped my toes into the water...I've never brought a towel and chairs and parked my butt ON the beach straight out from where I now live.

Today, I did.

My Aunt Marcy and Cousin Danica came to visit, and we headed out to the beach, saying lots of fun things like, "Oh, who cares if we forget anything? We're only steps away if we need to go back to the house!"

After we settled ourselves, I realized we were sitting right next to Chris Knight (aka Peter Brady) and his wife, Adrianne Curry, who won Season 1 of America's Next Top Model.

(This isn't them at the beach...she was much more scantily clad, much to the delight of my 15-year-old son, but I didn't have my camera & even if I did, now that we're obviously neighbors I want to be "cool" and give them their space.)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Life List Day 145 - Wiiiiiiiiii!!!!!!!!!

I've been trying to get a Wii now for months. I figure it'd be a good mother/son activity, and those are pretty hard to come by these days.

I started my morning making a round of calls as I often have to Target, Best Buy and Frys to see if they had them in stock. The answer was always "no," but today, the guy at Best Buy said, "I have 21 of them, and if you want to be sure to get one, you should be here at noon because that's when we unload the truck."

I was, and I got one - woo hoo!

I LOVE the bowling (it's the Polish in my blood), and the tennis is pretty cool, too. I have yet to try my hand at boxing, but I hear it's quite the workout.

This is definitely my type of video game: something that gets you up & interacting (vs. the type that make you sit there and stare numbly at a screen).

And my son and I played for HOURS. That's a lot of mom/son bonding for the money.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Life List Day 144 - Go to See Live Comedy

I absolutely love live comedy, and I now live walking distance from one of the best comedy venues in the country: The Comedy and Magic Club, which draws lots of big-name comics, and is also where Jay Leno plays every Sunday.

Today, I met friends to see the big names, but a couple of comics from Last Comic Standing, and definitely plenty of laughs.

I'm saying it here & now: I PROMISE I'll go there regularly now that I live so close. It's SUCH a joy for me seeing live comedy, and I know laughing is good for the soul (and I'm convinced it burns calories, too).

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Life List Day 143 - Take a New Route

I get my hair done at Umbertos in Beverly Hills - a 50-minute trek that often turns out much longer thanks to traffic on the freeway. I should find someone who is closer (and cheaper), but I've been going to Gabby for over 15 years now, and I swear she's the best therapist I've ever she doesn't try to do anything crazy with my hair, and that alone is worth the drive.

Today, I decided that - rather than hop on the freeway like I always do - I'd find a different route.

I drove along the beach, and then zig-zagged my way down streets, trying to aim north and east.

I'm usually terrified to deviate from my usual route. I get lost so easily. Plus I like taking the same old way - even if it doesn't make sense to do so -because it's safe. I KNOW it. I don't have to think.

Anyway, I'm thrilled I tried something new. I got there in 40 minutes at the height of rush-hour traffic, plus I had a pleasant drive looking at beaches vs. concrete, and new stores and shops vs. places I've seen a million times.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Life List Day 142 - Try Asiago Cheese

In restaurants, I'll often avoid dishes with unfamiliar cheeses for fear it'll be a stinky cheese - bleu, gorgonzola, etc. - none of which I like.

Today, I ordered roasted vegetables at a restaurant - even though it came covered with Asiago cheese, which I'd never heard of before.

Good choice!

The cheese was mild, kind of nutty, and totally yummy.

It makes me want to risk new cheeses in the future. Maybe even some day I'll learn to appreciate the stinky ones.

(Maybe. Someday.)

Monday, August 6, 2007

Life List Day 141 - Delegate (Sort Of)

Every time I ask my son to do any sort of chore, he complains so relentlessly that I often just do it myself - it's faster, quieter, and ultimately easier.

Today, I needed to go to my old apartment and do some spackeling and painting. I desperately wanted to just head over there and handle it. I could crank music, drink Diet Coke and have a swell time. I happen to enjoy spackeling and painting.

Instead, I made my son come with me and help. I could hardly hear the radio over his pissing and moaning, but much of what needed painting were areas of wall that he'd 1) bumped, 2) punched, or 3) got so dirty with his hands/feet simple scrubbing wouldn't be enough.

Anyway, this is on my life list because I know I need to do it more often - refusing to be swayed by my son's protests that is.

(And there are variations on this same theme already on the list, but apparently it's a lesson that's going to take me a while to learn!)

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Life List Day 140 - Play Games

I think it's because I'm now living in a cottage, all of a sudden I have this mad urge to play games (like when we used to when we stayed at the lake when I was a kid). Today, my cousin came over, and while we hung out on my patio, instead of just gabbing, we had a Yatzee marathon. Later, I talked my son into a game of Careers (my childhood favorite) and a few rounds of Boggle. I had so much fun, I established a games bin in the living room - I just hope my newfound enthusiasm for gaming doesn't scare off all my prospective guests.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Life List Day 137, 138, 139 - New Things Adjusting to Life By the Beach

This life list is a work in progress, and here's what I've discovered: by taking on something big like my #1 goal - live by the beach - it (at least temporarily) overwhelms all the little things I might do for a daily life list. Pretty much everything is about the move. Plus, so many things are different - from the water pressure in my shower to how I load my dishwasher to where I keep my cutlery to the grocery store where I shop - that it almost seems redundant to search for something new. EVERYTHING is new.

Anyway, here are my life list things for the past few days (I've been unable to blog because the move left me briefly without Internet service):

Day 137: Check out my local market (I bought Cheez-Its and a Perrier). The reason this is on my life list is because I've passed this market a hundred times and always thought, "what a cute little beach the places I used to go to on family vacations." Today - the first day I start moving my stuff into my house - it's MY market.

Day 138: Meet my neighbors. I lived in my last building for a year and not only couldn't name my neighbors, I couldn't even identify them in a police lineup. Today, I leaned over my fence & said "hello" to the people on either side.

Day 139: My first morning waking up in my beach house, I have my morning Diet Coke (nasty habit, I know) and walk straight the water & dip my toes in.

Can't wait to see what's up for tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Life List Day 136 - Buy a Beach Cruiser & Take It for a Spin

Since I'll be living at the beach as of Friday, I figured I'd better buy myself a spiffy bike for riding up & down The Strand like all the cool kids have.

Today, I bought a Schwinn beach cruiser I saw on (a "something new" in and of itself - I've never used Craigslist before). I was going to have the movers take it on Friday in the truck, but I couldn't wait. I borrowed a bike carrier from a friend and hauled it to the new place. Then I took it for a little spin.

It's so strange riding a bike without gears and with foot brakes (vs. hand brakes). It rides like a dream, though, and I love the way the handlebars are upright so - instead of hunching over like I did on my old mountain bike - I sit straight and take in the sights.

Here's a promise to me: that I'll take it out for at least a brief spin every day (at least every day it's not raining, which is most days in L.A.).