Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Grace in Small Things

1. Clean sheets and towels

2. A plane ticket to NYC in my inbox

3. Smoked salmon for lunch

4. 75 degrees here when it's 100 back home in Virginia. I'd be dying.

5. Excitement of a date later.

My own devices

Everyone has food that they knee-jerk to when they are on their own for dinner. For some, it's just a bowl of cereal or Lean Cuisine. Others have their favorite take out place. Someone recently told me that when left to their own devices, they almost always end up eating "melty, cheesy things".

For me, it's one thing - pasta. I can't help it, and I try to break it up a little bit, but whenever I'm in charge of myself for dinner, I almost always end up making some incarnation of pasta. Angel hair with whatever veggies I've got on hand and lots of cheese... Cous cous with chopped chicken and herbs... Shit, when I'm really feeling cheap and want to revert to being a kid, I make myself Hamburger Helper, and then eat on the leftovers for the rest of the week. No matter what I do, I cannot seem to wean myself off of my pasta addiction.

Last night it was leftover slow roasted tomatoes with angel hair pasta, olive oil, feta cheese and lots of fresh pepper. I chopped up the tomatoes and the sweet juice that oozed out blended with the olive oil to create a thin and yummy sauce that totally coated the pasta. That, combined with the salty, tangy feta was awesome. And I have another portion leftover.

So that's me. For better or for worse (says my waistline) I just can't stop eating pasta. How about you? When totally left to your own devices, what do you usually end up eating?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Delicious Reading: A Homemade Life

I don't know where I've been, but somehow I have just started reading Orangette, the uber-famous food blog by Molly Wizenberg. And I only really started reading the blog, because I kept seeing her book, A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, everywhere. After eyeing it for months, I finally picked it up a few weeks ago and delved in.

Most of the reviews that I've seen so far have been warm and glowing, just like the entire feel of the book, but I have seen a few sparks of criticism for the fact that we were reading a "memoir" from someone supposedly too young to have that many memories. I can definitely see that point, especially since there was a time or two in the book where I wondered to myself if the author was actually a kinda boring person (I mean, come on - she talks about having only been drunk once, and she's sometimes a - gasp - vegetarian...), but those thoughts were pretty easily brushed aside. Because the thing is, the book is
really lovely.

It's comforting and cozy, and almost every chapter left my stomach growling. I love how she mixes totally old school, suburban recipes from her parent's friends with more trendy, foodie-ish things to try, and for as many cooking memoirs as I have read in the last few years, I have never actually taken so many must-try recipes from the pages. (People, hear me now - the slow roasted tomatoes are to die for, and ridiculously versatile.)

This book is definitely worth picking up, as a feel-good escape if nothing else, and a must-read for all of those who love food writing and follow the scene online. And come by my apartment this weekend if you want to try some of her banana bread with chocolate chips and crystalized ginger. I know it's going to be delectable.

Grace in Small Things

1. Margaritas with salt on a beautiful afternoon

2. Playing fetch with my cat

3. Luxuriating in my favorite weekend activity - piddling around the apartment.

4. Spending the last few days indulging in some mega Chick Lit - Lauren Weisberger's third book. (Title of which is too embarrassing to even write here.)

5. Daydreaming about the very real possibility of spending a few days in Mendocino for work.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunday afternoon

This afternoon, I got to go on my fourth boat ride in two weeks. Not bad odds. I am one lucky woman.

Saturday night

At my first San Francisco Gay Pride celebration:

Inspiring, special, and most of all - fun. I love this city.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Conversation with a stranger

Last night I found myself chatting with a fellow, and the conversation took an interesting turn. He had asked me a dreaded question these days - "What do you do?" So I tried to give the abbreviated version. My last real company went out of business and I've kinda been bouncing around ever since, recently quitting a very miserable job and working on a few part time things.

Him: "So how do you spend your days?"

Me: "Well, I'm doing some part time work with this start up website, so this week I've been spending a few hours a day working on that, and then I've pretty much been cooking and reading the rest of the day. And I have to tell you, it's been awesome."

And I couldn't help but break into a genuine grin.


"Yeah! I'm not going to lie - spending my days like that makes me really happy."

"You know, I don't really know you, but let me tell you something. When looking for your next job, you should remember that statement. That you are genuinely happy with how you are spending your time right now, and try to work like that."

Needless to say, I liked this conversation.

Woah... Deep

Ladies and Gentlemen, my horoscope for Friday:

Circumstances are changing with regard to your professional aspirations, Erin. You may have been thinking about making a change for a long time, but someone that you meet with today, perhaps even in a social or other casual situation, could provide just the motivation you need to finally commit to a decision of some kind. This is not only the result of outer changes. You've been changing inside yourself, and you just aren't the same person you were when you chose your current job. Think about it!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Grace in Small Things

You know, I'm starting to realize that this series should really be called something like "Cool Things Going on With Me Right Now" or "Things I'm Excited About", because a lot of the things I list aren't exactly small. Oh well. Here goes today's list, however titled:

1. The first shower, back in your shower, after a few days away.

2. Plans to attend the Dyke March during Pride this weekend.

3. Big chunks of lobster in the mac n' cheese I ordered at First Crush last night.

4. Bittersweet chocolate cake.

5. Watching the kitty play with her new toys.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Grace in Small Things

1. Spending less and less time on Facebook.

2. A guy who's really good at spooning.

3. A fresh pedi, in a pretty pink for summer.

4. A yoga class today, and a hike tomorrow.

5. Homemade lemon bars.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Grace in Small Things

1. The ever-charming Golden Gate Market, three blocks away from my apartment, and their fabulous sandwiches made on Acme French rolls.

2. A blissfully busy schedule. Appointments, appointments, appointments!

3. Being whisked away to Pebble Beach for the weekend.

4. New bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash.

5. Frasier reruns.

Reality check

Right when I can use it the most, this article in the Wall Street Journal came along. I found it because I follow the people behind the fabulous Corperette Blog on Twitter, and they posted the link. The article is a must-read for anyone in America who is active in the career world, and uses their station therein to define themselves. And let's face it - we all do to at least some extent.

I won't attempt to paraphrase it here because, well, you are all totally capable of clicking over and just reading the real thing. And please do, because I think it serves as food for the soul and a reality check at the same time. It did for me, at least.


Yesterday, very serendipitously, an old friend from college called in the middle of the day to catch up. I'm always overly flattered when people think to call me for no real reason, even if it's just for their own procrastination's sake, so it was really good to hear from him. However, anyone who hasn't talked to me for the last few weeks is going to get quite an earful if they ask the question - "So, what's going on with you?"

Um... a lot.

We broke up, for one thing. Explaining what happened to someone who had no idea that anything was wrong can take a while.

Also, I quit my job running the wine tasting room. I had to. I was so bored and stifled that it was making me truly miserable and trickling down to affect other areas of my life. I kept remembering the very first thought that went through my mind when I was offered the job months ago - "I did not move out here to sit in this little store full time." It's a of a leap of faith, because while I am interviewing with several companies right now, and have two more part time gigs lined up, exactly what I'm going to do next is up in the air. Yes, I have a plan for tomorrow, but by next week I could be on a totally different path.

So the first week was really hard and overwhelming. Those two, pretty major, life changes happened within twelve hours of each other, so while I was trying to feel excited about the job and sad about the breakup, what really happened was that I was just numb. Now as the dust settles on both situations, I am excited, and really feel alive for the first time in months. I had been using both sub-par situations as simultaneous crutches, and now that they are tossed to the side I feel like the possibilities are endless again.

"Wow," was all my friend could really say as I finished my lengthy answer to his simple question. "Erin, that's all so great."


"Yeah. I hope you know how much courage you have, and how amazing that is."

"Um... yeah... you think?"

This is not the first time someone has called me courageous, and I never really know what to make of it. Ok, I guess not many people would have moved to NYC by themselves at the age of 22 with no friends there and no job lined up, just to fulfill a dream. I guess. And the same thing for moving across the country, traveling to Italy with people you barely knew, and quitting a job that you were miserable in without having the next one solidly lined up.

But it doesn't feel all that courageous when you're crying to your mother on the phone, asking her to help you with rent if you need it in the next few months. It doesn't feel all that courageous to be thirty and barely able to afford your health insurance, because you haven't had a decent job in the last year to provide it for you.

But it does feel good to be excited about things again. For all the near panic-attacks, and annoyance at not being sure if I can afford cable and other stupid little things, I really like the niche of people, and places, and experiences that I have carved out in my life. And it also feels good to know and trust in my heart that the little things, like money worries, will not last forever, and that life will fall into place exactly as it is supposed to, now that I have opened myself up to the endless possibilities that are out there.

So while I'm not so sure about courageous, but I am pretty positive about lucky. And alive. And happy.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

In my first year

I need to look up the exact date, but basically I've been in California for a year now. It has been an amazing, but not exactly smooth, year. Every once in a while I look back at some of the things that have happened and remind myself of my favorite old adage - "watch what you wish for, because you might just get it." I left Richmond a year ago essentially because I was bored, and needed some adventure. And for better or worse, the past year has definitely not been boring. Here are some of the things that have happened:

- Fallen in love with a town (Sausalito)

- Fallen into and then out of love with a man

- Went through one roommate in a whirlwind two months

- Popped quite a few corks - socially and professionally

- Made my cat endure what turned out to be a 13-hour cross country flight

- Watched the company I moved here for go out of business

- Made some truly great friends

- Signed two leases, broken one of them

- Barely traveled at all - boo

- Lost money

- Taken several leaps of faith

- Hosted a few visitors

- Loved and felt inspired by a job

- Hated a job

- Looked for a job (twice)

- All but given up on high heels

- Listened to way more Gypsy Kings than anyone should (mandatory salsa music at the hated job)

- Gone to the opera

- Sailed on the Bay

- Hiked through mountains and vineyards

- Taken a helicopter ride

- Eaten abalone

- Taken about a dozen + books out of the library

- Learned to make jam

- Been more stressed out than I ever have been in my life on several occasions

- Re-ignited a relationship with yoga

- Eaten a lot of really good food

- Cried

- Laughed

- Taken several deep breaths

- Learned my way around Napa

- Leaned on people more than I ever have before

- Gotten to the point where I can't not have coffee in the morning

- Fulfilled the dream of living in a place with wonderful window seats

Whew. Can't wait to see what the second year brings!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Grace in Small Things

1. Organizing my recipe binder for the first time in years

2. Crockpot themed dinner parties

3. A really clean bathroom for the first time in... um... yeah...

4. A hot shower after a long hike - the kind where somehow your feet get dirty and you really feel like you are cleaning off

5. A mid-afternoon lunch/dinner

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Grace in Small Things

1. Sunday afternoon sailing on the Bay.

2. First kisses.

3. More free Meyer lemons!

4. Making brownies for the sailing trip, but deciding to keep them all to myself instead.

5. Discovering a honeysuckle bush that just started blooming on the path leading up to my apartment.

Reclaiming my apartment

Breaking up with someone is weird. For me, the shock subsided quickly as a great group of friends swept in and kept me entertained and alcohol-lubricated for the first week or so. Yes, in the two weeks since my romance ended, there have been a few moments of odd re-adjustment - like figuring out this weekend that you actually have to make plans on Saturday, and just plugging my phone in at night rather than keeping it on my nightstand to be able to receive the good night phone call - but for the most part, venturing back into the single world has been ok.

I'm actually excited about dating again. Flirting and meeting people is fun. It's nice to wake up in my own apartment every morning, and stumble into the kitchen for my own coffee routine, rather than scrambling into yesterdays clothes and making the drive home before your day even starts. And it's exciting knowing that I can now really dig into finding the right person, rather than convincing myself that the person I was with was.

But the best thing, by far, has been reclaiming my apartment. Really getting to spend a lot of time in my charming little attic studio with the gorgeous views. Buying flowers every week, because I'll be here to enjoy them. Throwing out the extra toothbrush, the gourmet S'mores set (I hate marshmellows), and ugly candle holders that were all here because of the wrong person. As much as I did enjoy stocking a few of his favorites in my refrigerator, now it's just as satisfying to have it be all mine again. I can use my white noise machine every night when I go to sleep now, because there's no one here that hates it.

Because I really do love my apartment, and now I get to soak it up every day.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Mood meals

Ever wonder how I'm feeling about my life? No need to be silly and ask me flat out. Just feel out what I've been eating lately. When everything is in order and I'm feeling good and balanced, my meals will reflect that. Whole wheat toast for breakfast, salad for lunch, relatively balanced dinner, one cup of coffee, maybe two of wine. My diet will show that I know what I need to do to be healthy but that I'm not afraid to splurge on things I love.

So, given the stress I've been in lately (entirely career related), I suppose it's no surprise that this is what I've eaten in the last twenty-four hours:

- A large bowl of pasta garnished only with lots of olive oil, pepper, Parmesan, and two fried eggs
- A bowl of cereal
- A bag of chips
- 2 cups of coffee
- A chocolate bar broken up in pieces and dipped into peanut butter straight out of the jar. (This one I've actually done twice at this point. Ouch.)

No wonder I can't shake the feeling that I'm about to throw up.