Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Fun at the Royston House

Christmas came and went in a blink! There's far too many things to tell about Christmas at the Royston household, but here's my best effort in one, long run on sentence:

We cooked a lot of food and we ate it, and we stayed up late and watched movies and we played Monopoly, and then we woke up early and opened presents, and I got lots of cute stuff,  and then we danced around the kitchen to salsa music, and then we ate and watched more movies, and danced some more and ate some more, and ate some more and fell asleep.

Basically, that doesn't do it justice, but Christmas at our house is a really fun, raucous affair, so you just have to take my word for it. Post-Christmas is also fun, because it involves more eating and dancing and hysterical laughter, but more importantly, a new kind of fun has been introduced at our house:

That's right. Fun with guns. My brother got this for Christmas, and he and my sister's boyfriend insist that this is an airsoft gun and that it is NOT the same as a bb gun. Whatever. All I know, is I've had more fun shooting this gun at a little box in our yard than I've had with any Christmas present in a loooong time. I mean utter and complete, squealing joy. And that's the true meaning of Christmas. Playing with someone else's present. Oh, and Jesus. and giving. (Thanks for the striped cardigan, Mom. It matches the gun.)

*Disclaimer: we don't shoot animals at our house, because it's mean, and also because the only animals around are lizards, and the neighbors' cats, and the occasional bunny, so yeah, we only shoot at the little white box. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Directions for what to do in the rain.

In case you haven't noticed or you aren't in Southern California at the moment, it's Day 6 of Rainpocalypse 2010. Which basically means God is drowning LA for it's sins, the chief offenses being traffic, lack of holiday cheer, and the city of Santa Monica charging $61 for parking tickets, but I digress.

To put it another way, here's a quote from my friend Matranga,  "It's like seattle coughed in SoCal's face and infected us with its rain disease." He's an eloquent fellow.

At my work I'm on the Emergency Response Team, and even though this is not even close to an emergency, that means I'm qualified to handle situations like epic California rainstorms and the occasional papercut, so listen up, kids:

1. Stay in bed. Under no circumstances should you proceed with business as usual.

2. Eat comfort food (see previous post if you need help with this).

3. Don't get in your car if you can help it. Only venture out in rain to buy more food, or jump in puddles, or play mud football.

4. If you can't do numbers 1-3 because you are at work (ahem), then take solace in this wonderful, soothing, Rain Days Playlist that I made.  I promise it's even better than the Christmas one (but no, it doesn't have any Destiny's Child Platinum Bells on it. I know some of you will ask).

5. Stay dry, and remember, it's only 3 days til Christmas!

xoxo, BCG

This is for Holidays with loved ones....or days when you just don't get out of bed all day.

So much is going on, I don't know where to start! It's almost Christmas, and this weekend was a crazy whirlwind of holiday fun, involving a white elephant party, (where I had the serendipitous pleasure of meeting one of the awesomely infamous members of the BadMan Blog) as well as participating in a rain soaked pub crawl, and dressing up like the spirit of Christmas Cheer, if christmas cheer took the form of a very festive black girl in holiday pajamas and rain boots.

By the time Sunday morning rolled around, I was done. I mean, done. I had planned to go to yoga in Brentwood, and maybe brave the rain and take on a Farmers Market, but then my body said "Yeah right, silly girl, you're not going anywhere." I slept in until probably 10AM okay noon, and when I woke up, I was ravenous. And that's where I got the inspiration for this post, because I decided to make one of my favorite holiday breakfast foods: Strata.

In case you're wondering what that is, here is the scientific definition: Strata n.1. if scramble eggs and toast got married and then had a party with all of your favorite omelette toppings inside a baking pan, Strata would be their lovechild. 2. The delicious breakfast you make for your friends/family during the holidays, when it's cold and rainy/snowy outside so they'll fall under your spell, love you forever, and do whatever you say (Unless you are SJP in the movie Family Stone, because she tries to make this dish and it ends very very badly).

Anyhow, I was starving. So, I gathered up all the ingredients in my tiny kitchen, and set to work.

 And after 30 minutes in the oven, here was the end result:

Well, that was the end, end result. but here's what strata looks like before you devour it whole:

Yum. Even with my sub par blackberry photography, that still looks kinda good, right?

 So you're probably wondering, "Why the heck are you blogging about what you had for breakfast?" And the answer is, because I love you. I'm giving you this recipe so you can bring breakfast cheer to all. Plus, it's so easy to make, but everyone who eats it will think you're a genius. Note: this recipe is not for the health conscious, and frankly, neither am I. It has cheese, and cream, and other delicious naughty ingredients. Like Julia Child, I believe the only time to eat something low fat is while you're waiting for your steak to cook. Also Note: I made this in my toaster oven in a pan that was probably about 5" x 8", so I've double the measurements for you. So here's the recipe. 

Merry Christmas from the Tiny Kitchen!

Holiday Strata

very lightly toasted sourdough, cut into cubes (enough to layer on the bottom of a pan)
6 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup sour cream
2 cups jack cheese (or whatever kind you like)
1 cup mushrooms
salt & pepper
2 cups bruschetta (this is just chopped tomato, garlic, and fresh basil mixed with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper)

Lightly grease a shallow baking dish and layer toasted bread cubes in the bottom in a single layer. Spread bruschetta and mushrooms over the bread cubes, then layer cheese over the top of that. Combine, eggs, cream, and sour cream in a  separate bowl with salt and pepper.

 Pour egg and cream mixture evenly over the bread and topping, and bake at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until eggs are firm or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Some recipes for strata say you need to let this refrigerate over night, and use day old bread, but I've made this multiple times, and I don't think it makes a difference. Also, if it does, I don't care, because I'm impatient when it comes to food.You can also add bacon or sausage to this, and it's even more wonderful. Just fry it up, add it to the mix, and bake.

Twist: for a little southwest flair, swap out the bruschetta and mushrooms, and add salsa and green chiles. Bomb.

Friday, December 17, 2010

On merriment, dressing up and good cheer

It's Christmastime! You know what that means? Holiday Party time. I love a good holiday party, and this year I have the good fortune of getting to attend an assortment of Holiday parties. In fact, my close friends are having their annual Christmas/White Elephant GetDown tonight, and I couldn't be more excited if Santa himself came down and gave me a brand new a Ferrari being driven by Ryan Reynolds (but Santa, if you're reading this, I've been SO so good this year). 

Speaking of being good, it's time for me to get on my soapbox and talk about giving to the less fortunate during the Holidays, and how you can have an absolutely amazing time doing it. I present you with the Santa Monica Holiday Pub Crawl. I know what you're thinking, "Janae, this is just another excuse for you to wear a holiday costume and guilt everyone else into wearing one too." And given the evidence of the photo below, you would not be incorrect in thinking this.
I especially love matching costumes.

You would also be correcting in thinking that getting dressed up is not something that my friends and I strictly reserve for Christmas. Pretty much any holiday will do. It's kind of our theme, as you can see:
A random Tuesday Night.

Wearing winter clothes counts as a costume in SoCal.

New Year's Eve we get Fancy. (except Courtney, who's wearing Uggs in this photo. Unacceptable.)

Clearly, I do love holidays and costumes, and this event includes both, but the icing on the cake is that it's for charity, and it's giving back to the Santa Monica community that's come to be so near and dear to me. And if that doesn't melt your little heart, it benefits the Westside Food Bank, as in people who don't have any food. You can't say no to that. So here's how it works:
1. Go to the website and sign up.
2. Pick a route (there are three): Wilshire, Main St. or the Pier.
3. Show up, preferably with a group of friends and and 3 non-perishable canned goods each or $5 at the drop off place for your route (this is clearly the most important part).
4.Get a wristband and spend the evening wandering from bar to bar spreading Christmas merriment and cheer!

Even if you don't drink, you'll also get to socialize with other fun Westsiders and  get specials on yummy treats at a lot of cool spots in Santa Monica, in addition to doing your part to help your fellow man.

Lastly, I have a little pre-christmas gift for the lovely people that read my blog. Anyone who knows me well, knows there's nothing I love more than a good mixtape, and so in the spirit of christmas cheer, I've made you all a mix, with my favorite Christmas/winter-y/ songs I'm currently digging. Click away! Happy Holidays!

Beach City Girl Christmas Mix

Thursday, December 16, 2010

New Orleans? Oui, Cher!

I love my job. I meet the nicest, and most interesting people, every single day.
Today, I met with a location scout for a photo shoot, and when I handed him my card, he asked if I was French, and I told him my family on my mother's side is Cajun. He followed up by asking me if I'd ever been to New Orleans, and when I said no, he was genuinely shocked and appalled. He proceeded to tell me all about the beautiful food, art, and music, and how I absolutely must, if it's the last thing I do, go there for a visit.

The more he talked about it, the more I realized that the same things that attracted me to move to Venice, are what's supposedly so great about New Orleans: It's busy and colorful, and so culturally rich and diverse. 

Furthermore, I realized I don't know a lot about my mother's French heritage, so what better way then to do a little digging around and maybe go for a visit.

The more we talked about it, the more I liked the idea, so I've decided that's going to be my next vacation, and I can't wait!

                                          Laissez le Bon temp rouler (let the good times roll)!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Craving Colors

Maybe it's because of daylight savings time, and the way it's dark when I leave for work and dark when I get home, or maybe it's because I was sick this week and had to stay inside, but I've been craving bright colors. Venice is bursting with colors: the sunsets are gold and gray, the oceans are teal and navy, and don't even get me started on the murals, and the people, the food. I love it. I know I sound like a weird art kid now, but colors make me happy, and as it happens, this craving (and the fact that I've had a really gross cold) led me to hole up in my apartment for some nightly painting sessions lately, and I thought you guys might like a taste.

I've been hesitant to post pictures of my paintings because while I usually think they're not half bad, there's always the slight chance that they resemble something you'd find on Regretsy (as a sidenote,  if you're the crafty-artsy type, you should check out this website, because it is hilarious: "Where DIY meets WTF."). Nevertheless, I digress with the inappropriate side comments, here it is:

I whipped up some abstract thank you notes. Because everyone needs those.

Test painting of a friend and his dogs. By test painting I mean "rough draft I normally wouldn't show you" but hey, everyone has off days. This was my 1st attempt at painting someone I know personally, and I don't feel like I did him justice (sorry, DT) but for the sake of showing the process, I included it.
As you can see, I it's easy for me to get carried away in said process, and before you know it, my tiny apartment becomes an art hurricane that takes up all the floor space. Also note the paint blanket. I absolutely cannot work without it. Did I mention my weird attraction to bright colors?
     It's another mini abstract. Okay, I know, you're bored, I'll get to the good stuff. 
This was something I'd been toying with painting for a while, but again, I couldn't get up the courage to paint someone I know personally. Finally, after  the test painting above, I decided to go for it. Let this serve as warning to the rest of my friends: you might end up in a painting so, you should stay on my good side.
And here's a little paint/poetry work in progress.

Well, that's all I've got for now. I'll keep you posted on my creative endeavors. In the meantime, Happy Friday! Go out and paint or draw something this weekend. It's good for your soul.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

You Can Thank Me Later: Fave Raves #1

Yay it's almost Thanksgiving! If you're like me, that's pretty much all you can think about right now, and I promise there will be a delightful post with pictures about my thankfulness for friends and family, and the various holiday gatherings of both, but it's a short week, (which has nothing to do with the length of my posts, usually) and I have something special for you today:

Fave Raves.

You're so excited, I know!!! And you're also wondering "What the heck is a Fave Rave?!"

Glad you asked. Fave Rave is a list of 5 people, places, or things that I am currently obsessed with. Sometimes, I get bored and stagnant, and I need something to look forward to, and the best cure for that is a list of straight up Awesomeness.

So, here's the first of many Fave Raves that I intend to occasionally spice up my blog with, and you're welcome.

1. C&O's Trattoria
 Okay, if you live in LA, and you haven't been to this restaurant at the beach in Venice, you have been deprived, and I'm crying a little for you. I just rekindled my love for this cute Italian bistro because I recently went there on a first date, and also for a group birthday dinner. Besides the absolutely wonderful food and my stellar dining companions, I realized what makes this place so special is the ambiance. You can sit on the heated outdoor patio, the trees are strung with twinkle lights, and at a special point in the evening, everyone sings "That's Amore". It's the perfect setting for a big meal with  a group of friends or a nice dinner date, and you can't go wrong with a big bottle of chianti on every table. If that atmosphere and the singing don't loosen you up, that sure will.

It's like: having dinner in a beautiful backyard in Italy.

2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
This book should come with a warning label: Don't start reading this if you have somewhere to be or something important to do in the next 3 hours, because you will skip it in order to finish this book. Seriously, I stayed up all night reading this book. and by all night, I mean until 11:30PM. Ever since I read the entire Twilight series in 5 days, I've been incredibly a little ashamed of myself and my reading preferences, but this book is written for the exact same crazed teenage girl audience, and has 100 times more literary merit. I don't want to give away the plot, but the heroine in this book makes Bella Swan look like a toenail clipping. I defy you to read this and not be dazzled by it. Thanks, to my good friend Liz for turning me on to this addiction.

It's like: Crack cocaine. In book form.

3. Pencil Skirts
Okay, hear me out on this. I know you're like "Seriously. Pencil skirts?" Yes. They're cute, you can wear them to work, and they're very Fall weather friendly (like I know anything about that), but up until recently, I always thought they were for Other People. Super skinny Other People with no butts. Boy, was I wrong. I just purchased the best pencil skirt from Charlotte Russe in the new Santa Monica Place mall, and I can't believe it, but I don't look like a whale. It's very forgiving,  incredibly flattering, versatile and most of all so comfortable. Plus, it was under $30. I would like to wear it to work every. single. day. Get one:

It feels like: a really, really sexy pair of sweat pants.

4. Movember
Now that I'm done talking about skirts, I can bring up more important topics. Like curing cancer. My good friend Scott recently invited me to a Movember Party, which is basically a bunch of guys with mustaches raising money for prostate cancer research. During the whole month of November, these guys grow out ridiculous awesome mustaches, and put on fun events to raise funds for Livestrong (remember those little yellow bands?). Well this is a kicked up version of cancer research fundraising. There are teams, and games, and galas, and it's a great cause and lot of fun (even if you are a girl and cannot and do not want to grow a 'stache). Check it out here, and donate to team 'Save the Dudes!':

It's like: Tom Selleck asking you to donate to charity. And no one says no to Tom.

5. Smitten Kitchen
This is the food blog to end all food blogs. Deb, the woman who writes this blog is a triple threat: she's a really funny writer, an amazing photographer, and makes the most delicious recipes that I've ever laid eyes on. If this woman wasn't already married (and a woman) I'd marry her. I went through a phase last year where I'd get bored at work around lunch time, and pick something to make for dinner solely based on what was on Smitten Kitchen that day. I may or may not have gained 6 pounds. Seriously, if you're in a cooking rut, or just want to drool for a while at your desk, take a peek:

It's like: porn. Yeah, I said it.

Do you have something/someone/some place awesome you think I should feature in a future Fave Rave? Tell me, because I'd love to check it out.

Monday, November 8, 2010

And On the 8th day, God created Valet Parking.

Well, it's another Monday, which means yesterday was Sunday, and sometimes on Sundays (when I'm not losing at slow pitch softball), I like to go to church. Since I've moved to Venice though, I've run into a bit of a problem.

Over the summer, I went to a church off and on in Hollywood that I really, really liked. The congregation was young and fun, the music and the sermons always felt relevant to me, and although it was a big church and I didn't know many people, I felt like I had found a niche. Now, church is something I grew up with, and that my family takes pretty seriously, but I've just recently as an adult felt compelled to go of my own free will. (Yes, I was the child who tried to fake appendicitis to get out of going to church. My parent's solution to this was that they took me to church anyway so they could pray that Jesus would heal me. I didn't get away with much).

So for me to have found a church that I identified with and genuinely enjoyed attending was a pretty big deal. Unfortunately, after the move, driving from Venice to Hollywood for a Sunday morning service was a little inconvenient (and by a little, I mean a lot). 

So, like any LA dweller I attempted to adapt to my surroundings by finding a church closer to me. I tried one or two, but they just weren't quite what I was looking for, so this weekend, I called up my old roommate, Liz, and we decided to make the drive to the church in Hollywood.

There wasn't a lot of traffic but the drive still took us about 40 minutes and we were about 5 minutes late. The Sunday service meets in a large highschool auditorium, and because this is LA, the highschool has a parking garage (go figure). So we were surprised when we reached the intersection to turn into the parking garage, and there was a line of cars practically around the block. when we finally got to the entrance of the garage we saw a sandwich board sign that said "LOT FULL". No big deal, we thought, we decided to circle the block and park on the street.

We went around the block. Twice. Not a single parking space at noon on a Sunday. Liz mentioned that she heard this church had gotten more popular because UCLA was back in session and a lot of students attend. Furthermore, Details Magazine just wrote a big article about this particular church and their hip approach to the Christian faith. Well, 10 minutes later, we were still outside of this hip center of faith, looking for a parking spot, and we decided to drive by the parking garage again. No luck, the "Lot Full" sign was still in place.

Just as we were about to pass the entrance, we saw two cars coming out. "Hey Liz, don't you think if there are two cars coming out, then that must mean that there are two empty spaces in the garage now even though it says the lot is full?" I reasoned.

Liz agreed with my assessment, and after 2 minutes more of hasty consultation, we decided we would just scooch the sign over a few feet, and drive in and take a peek. This proved to be a TERRIBLE idea:

We got about 20 feet inside the parking structure before a woman in her early twenties came over, waving her arms for us to turn around. We rolled down our window, and she quickly explained that the lot was full, and that we needed to turn around.

"Okay, no problem,"  Liz said. "But where should we park? We've circled a few times and there are no spots on the street." The woman looked at us blankly, and then said "Well then I guess you should get here earlier."

True story. But not so helpful.

As this conversation was happening, another parking attendant was hurriedly approaching our car, and said "Did you take the sign?!" Liz and I exchanged glances, and then saw that two more cars had followed us into the garage. I shifted around uncomfortably and then called out the window and said, "Um, no the sign is still there." It wasn't exactly a lie, I hadn't stolen the sign. I mean, we were on our way to church, after all.

We proceeded to drive down the aisle so that we could turn around at the end, and in the process, were waved away by several more annoyed looking parking attendants. Just as we were making our way back toward the exit, a very upset looking hipster-parking attendant strode very quickly up to our car and put one hand out in the universal sign for "Halt!". Now, before I continue, I want all of you to picture this man. He looked like this: 

photo credit: American Apparel

Except he was wearing a skinny tie and corduroys. And he was not smiling. He was an Irate Hipster. Usually hipsters span a range of emotions from pleased to smug or superior to bored, so we were very taken aback by the level of angry that this man was. The following conversation ensued:

Irate Hipster: YOU moved the sign.

Liz: Yes, and we are very, very sorry. We thought that since a car was coming out-

Irate H.: Well, just so you know that is extremely frustrating and and upsetting to us! We are completely full, and we now have other people trying to get in here! And for your information, I am trying to be graceful with you about this but, like that is just, not cool. In fact, that is so, like, disrespectful and just so inconsiderate!

Liz: Yes, we are so sorry. We are leaving right-

Irate H.: Look, we're cool, okay. But that was NOT okay, and, like seriously, that was just totally uncalled for and really disrespectful. Next time, you just need to get here earlier, like everyone else and find a parking space. Moving that sign, just makes this, like really difficult for us, and is very frustrating to us. I'm trying to be graceful here, but that was just NOT COOL  and you two-

Liz, Me: We're sorry.

The Irate Hipster, who by this time was turning very red in the face, cast his eyes towards heaven, as if to call on help from above, and then let us be on our way.

Liz and I exited the parking garage in shock and silence. We drove about two more blocks looking for a parking space, before we looked at each other and decided that the Spirit was leading us to go home have sandwiches and watch the Kardashians instead of making a further effort to attend a church where we'd be packed in like sardines to hear a sermon with 1,800 hipsters who would be annoyed at us for coming in late.

So that's what we did. We're still in the market for a good church, but we've decided that maybe that church isn't quite our scene. In their defense, we did move the sign (never again, I swear) and I'm sure the whole church is not represented by one very angry man in too tight pants, but I'm also pretty sure I'd rather attend a church with a very friendly bunch of nice blue-haired old ladies than nearly get strangled for trying to find a parking spot in Hollywood just so I can worship in the same place as Joe Jonas.

P.S. If you know of any good, youthful churches in the Santa Monica area, get at me. Seriously.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Giants won the Series. My softball team....well, we had a good time.

For those of my fabulous reader who know me well, (which is probably 4 out of 5 of you) you know that I have a limited abilities in any kind athletic competition. And that's what you would say if you wanted to be extremely generous with your description. Having said that, I feel that it's important for me to let you all in on a little secret:

I've been on a softball team for approximately two seasons. I say approximately, because after the first season, I decided to make an appearance at exactly one game in the second season. Nevertheless, this is a big deal. Why I thought that getting up every Sunday morning to play softball (a game that I have no natural talent for) would be fun, is a still a mystery, but I did it.

Some of my personal highlights included being heckled for wearing pearls while at bat,  hitting myself in the head with a foul ball, and looking like I should be in the Special Olympics or pre-K little league for the first 4 games because I didn't have a left handed glove and I was throwing with my non-dominant hand (side note: after I got my left-handed glove, I think the other teams assumed that a miraculous healing had taken place).

But alas, there's no I in TEAM, so that's enough about me. My beautiful teammate Liz has quite a flair for writing (and wicked softball skills as well), and she managed to document our team adventures pretty comprehensively with her camera, so if you want to see/read a fun little post about  30 of our friends and our shining achievements as the Louisville Chuggers, click here:

I promise you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Settled in but not Settling down.

So I've been in my new apartment for about 2 months now and it's safe to say I've acclimated nicely to life in Venice. Mostly.

You never get used to seeing someone climb out of your dumpster when you leave for work in the morning, or spending more time looking for a parking space at the bank than the time you actually spent inside the bank, but other than those things, I'm feeling like I fit right in, and I've been here forever. I ride my bike around, shop at farmer's markets and spend lazy afternoons at the beach making awkward attempts at beach volleyball (I'm about as good as I was in 9th grade, which is not saying much).

That being said, living alone has been an adjustment. I do miss having roommates sometimes, and even more so, my family. Before you scoff at me and say that I'm a spoiled California girl whose parents live in another beach city 2 hours away (which is all true), take into consideration that I'm living further away from them than I ever have. And in spite of all of the door slamming I did in high school over not having any privacy (italics denote teenage angst), I do miss those crazy people and only see them every couple of months or so.

Yeah okay, I don't feel sorry for me either.

Anyhow, my point is that it was a very welcome surprise when I got a visit from my kid sister and her boyfriend a few weeks ago. My sister Danielle is always a fun, quirky breath of fresh air, and her beau, Curtis, happens to be an excellent photographer, so he took some shots of my apartment and our little walkabout Venice. Danielle has been badgering him to put up more pictures, but here's a little taste for now:

This is the entryway in my 108 year-old apartment building. Quaint, no? 

This cute girl is my Sis.

Curtis managed to make my tiny kitchen look artsy.

We discovered that fire escapes are not just for emergencies.

If you want to see more of Curtis' fun and cool photos, check out

Monday, September 20, 2010

Best Intentions and Miscalculations

"Good tippers make better lovers." -Tip Jar in Isla Vista coffee shop

So I've been putting off this post for a while, for several reasons. The first reason is because honestly, my life is pure poetry right now. I live by the beach, in a really fun city, with really fun friends, and truthfully nothing  exciting enough to write about has happened. Well, except for this one thing....and I've been trying to avoid blogging about it, in hopes that something better, or funnier would happen, but it hasn't.

Luckily for you, Dear Readers, (all five of you) I'm willing to embarrass myself just a little for a laugh. Enjoy:

A couple weeks back, my parents came to visit me in my new place. I'm pretty close with my family, so it was great getting to see them and catch up, and I felt really proud of my new life in a new city, in my own apartment. I spent the cloudy Sunday afternoon taking them all around Main St., Santa Monica, the pier and the beach, and towards the end of the afternoon, we decided to stop for dinner at World Cafe.

We had a great meal, and just before it ended, I commented to my mother that our server was a pretty good looking guy. My mom, supportive as ever, immediately, chimed in that she thought so too, and that she wished I had mentioned it earlier so she could have done some matchmaking while I was in the ladies room. I was ready to let the subject drop, when all of the sudden my mom said,

"Quick! Give me a pen and your business card!"

Knowing immediately that she wanted to leave my phone number with the check, I immediately protested.

"Mom, please don't. This is embarrassing, things like this never go well for me."

She shot me the 'this is for your own good' look and wrote down my number anyway. As a last ditch effort, I retorted, "If you leave my number in there, I'm leaving the restaurant right now..."

"Go ahead." she responded, unconcerned. "We'll meet you in Starbucks."

I forgot that my mother doesn't respond well to threats. Rolling my eyes, I grabbed my purse and started walking down the street to grab a cup of coffee. By the time my parents caught up with me a few minutes later, my mom was proudly beaming that she had told the waiter that I was a great girl, and that I had left my number with the check. She said he seemed amused but that she thought he was definitely going to call. I shrugged off her optimism, and continued sipping my coffee as we began walking back to my apartment.

A moment later, my phone buzzed in my pocket. It was a New York area code and a number that I didn't recognize. My parents looked on expectantly while the following conversation ensued:

Me: Hello, this is Janae.
Caller: Hi Janae....this is Billy your server from World Cafe.
Me (immediately embarrassed): Hi.
Billy: So....I wanted to tell you, I think you're a really cute girl, and I'm stoked to get your number, but.....I have a girlfriend. But....that's not exactly why I called.

Me: Oh. Ummm. Okay. Is everything okay?
Billy, talking really quickly now: Well, I know you guys left in a hurry, and I'm sure you didn't mean to, and I wasn't even sure if I should call, but um, the bill came up short. By like $2.

At this point, I was hoping that he was kidding, or that a small earthquake was about to happen, and that the sidewalk was just going to open up and swallow me. No such luck.

Me: OHMIGOD, OHMIGOD, I'm SO SORRY. MOM, WHAT DID YOU DO?! How much money did you leave in the bill? Like literally, how much, and in what bills?!
Mom: What's wrong???
Me: OH God, I'm so embarrassed and so sorry. We are coming right back, right now, to make this right. I am SO SORRY.
Billy: (at this point he I'm pretty sure he was still talking, but I was too busy having a colossal meltdown to pay any attention to what he was saying).
Me: Mom! Dad! Come on, we're going to the car right now!
Dad: Well, it's just down the block, should we walk!
Me: No!!!! That will take too long, c'mon!

Billy: (I think he hung up, but I'm not really sure because I was still mid meltdown).

I quickly rounded up my folks, handed my parents even more money for poor Billy's tip, and then we booked it back to the restaurant. I was too embarrassed to go back inside, so my Mom, undaunted, went in for the task.

Upon returning, she said that after leaving Billy a sizeable tip and apologizing, she had told him that I was new to the area and that I was really just interested in making friends in my new neighborhood.

"He said that he's new here too, and that he just moved in with his girlfriend out here. I told him you're a sweet girl, and he said that he'd love to make more friends, and that he's going to look you up on facebook. I think this is good, I think he'll call," she assured me confidently.

I didn't have the heart to tell her that this was extremely unlikely.

The takeaway for this story is that my parents love me very much, and have only the best intentions. And also, I can never show my face again in World Cafe.

Oh well. I'd be more devastated if this had happened at Panini Cafe down the street. I love that place.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Next Time, I'll Order In.

 I went down the street to the 24-hour grocery. When I got there, the guy was locking the front door. I said, 'Hey, the sign says you're open 24 hours.' He said, 'Yes, but not in a row.'  -Steven Wright

So the adventure has officially begun! last weekend was a flurry of packing, and moving and running up two flights of stairs with heavy boxes (I'm fairly sure that this new living situation where I routinely bound up and down the stairs is going to do more for my LGN Plan than my Calabasas gym membership ever did (if you want an explanation of the LGN, peep this.)

Aside from the exhaustion of the actual moving, everything went very smoothly, and I settled in. Saturday night, I explored Main, and discovered a sweet new hangout spot (which I will expound upon in a later post), and Sunday morning I even made an early trip to the Farmers' Market.

But Dear Readers, I know my blissful move is not why you read this blog, so instead of rambling on about my cute apartment and it's abundance of closet space, I'm going to tell you about The Dinner Party Preparation Fiasco.

To begin, I love to entertain, and at my old apartment, we threw big dinner parties quite frequently. Now I have no intention of ending my love of cooking for other people, but I assumed that I would need to take a hiatus at least until I got some vital supplies, like uh, dining chairs. Furthermore, my kitchen is just big enough for one person to turn around in, has no microwave or oven, so to put it mildly, I'm a little out of my element.

So yesterday when I received a phone call from a dear friend visiting from out of town, I'm not sure what possessed me, when I immediately said "Yeah, come over! I'll cook!" He agreed and said he and a friend would be at my place in about an hour and a half. After taking a quick look in my fridge, I realized that unless we were going to have toast or leftover curry for dinner, I needed to find a grocery store. My first impulse was to google the closest store and go, but then it dawned on me that in all of the moving, I hadn't yet set up the internet, plus, parking in Venice is the equivalent of winning some kind of lottery and I didn't want to move my car. This left me with the good old fashioned method of finding things, which is to go look for them. How barbaric.

Now, I knew that there were great Farmer's Markets in Venice and I got the vague idea that there would be little bodegas, shops and bakeries on every other corner, in the same way that you can't throw a rock without hitting a Starbucks, so I blithely put on a sun dress and grabbed a green reusable bag and cheerily set out on a search.

My first stop was a natural foods store on Main. I had decided to make pasta with chicken and vodka sauce, so I immediately set out to find tomatoes and pasta. En route to the produce section, I found almond butter, pistachio paste, jojoba extract, and a box of whole wheat-stone ground extra enriched pasta. It cost $8.50 for a box. This wouldn't have been a deal breaker, but then I saw that they only had soy-ice cream, which I think is blasphemous. Next.

Undaunted, I headed down the street to Rose Cafe & Market. Perfect! I thought. It was a cute, boutique type of store that looked like it carried tasty, fattening, normal food. I never got to find out though, because it closed at 5PM. I might as well have been in Malibu.

On to the next option. I quickly texted a friend who suggested the big CVS nearby might actually have food in it, similar to a Super Walmart, so I headed on over. At CVS, I found that one could indeed throw a dinner party with ingredients found there, but only if the guests were really excited for ramen and bananas that night.

By now, dinner time was rapidly approaching and I was sweaty, tired and running out of ideas, so I headed over to the boardwalk. I recalled seeing small bodega on the boardwalk when I had gone searching for apartments a few weeks prior, but I couldn't remember exactly where. Naturally, I decided asking a local was the best way to find out. The following conversation ensued:

Me: Hi, do you know where the closest supermarket or grocery store is in walking distance?

Woman selling jewelry and missing a few teeth: Nope. But you should buy dis necklace, it has healing properties! It look so pretty wit yo skin! You like me to read your palm? I tink yo aura is blue and dis necklace would complement yo aura.

Me: um, I'm just looking for a....nevermind. But thanks?.....I mean, no, bye.

My next encounter with a Venice local wasn't much better. It involved a man wearing hammer pants with a loud speaker and a boom box and a comment about my curvaceous body type, but did not involve directions to a grocery store. While walking to the next block, I was approached by a very small person wearing a masking, selling trinkets. When I walked faster to avoid him, he shook a stick at me.  I decided I was definitely better off finding the store on my own. I walked another 5 or 6 blocks down the boardwalk, and just as I was about to give up, spotted a tiny market on the corner of Ocean Front and Westward. The shop was small, but had everything I needed, so I hastily gathered up tomatoes, lettuce a baguette of french bread, cream, and pasta (which only cost $2.50) and headed home.

I arrived at my apartment, breathless but triumphant, and started unpacking everything, to start cooking. I was mostly done sauteeing tomatoes, onions, chicken and garlic in a pan when I realized that I was missing a key ingredient for vodka sauce: Vodka. Since the only alcohol I had on hand was a bottle of Zinfandel and a handle of triple sec, I decided to make do without it. Luckily no one noticed.

Dinner ended up going really well; my good friend Lo came over and saved the day by bringing ice cream and more wine, and by the time my other friends arrived, no one was the wiser that I had been sweatily running around Venice, desperately trying to locate a grocery store and avoid capture by Venice street performers. We ate, drank, and were merry, and I can pretty confidently say that my first Venice dinner party was a success.

Lesson learned: Set up your internet right away. Oh yeah, and stay away from guys with boom boxes and midgets waving sticks.

These don't quite do it justice, but below are some high quality Blackberry pics of my tiny, but cozy and bright kitchen and dining room:

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Venice or Bust!

"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."  - Andre Gide

If you've ever thought "I wish I could start over/be someone else/ go somewhere new" then this blog is for you.

 I am in search of one thing: Adventure. I grew up all over the world, but my parent settled in a pretty southern California suburb, and I went to college in a sleepy seaside community. I have an awesome job,  beautiful friends, I live in a gated community, my life is happy and comfortable, and that scares me to death. Some people are content not to explore, or discover, or be challenged, and one of my greatest fears is becoming one of those people.

So here I am,  a suburban raised, cul de sac community bred, Pepperdine girl, moving to Venice Beach, one of the most crazy, artistic, vibrant little cities in the country. I'm moving from a 2 bedroom condo with a pool to a beach front studio the size of a shoebox in an 80-year old building.  I'm not sure there could be any bigger of a difference between the valley and this beach refuge that is home to artists, vagrants, peddlers and performers. I have no idea what to expect, and I'm so excited, if not a little terrified. This is the first time I will live alone, the first time I'll be completely independent, and the official beginning of my young adult life.

So the countdown begins: I'm moving in exactly 5 days. I'll face new challenges like a 20 minute commute, searching for a grocery stores, parking, and the perfect local bar spot, acquiring a beach cruiser (and preventing it's subsequent theft, no doubt) and making new friends while holding on to my old ones.

This is my story. It's one part diary, one part restaurant review, one part venting outlet and probably three parts psychobabble. I'll probably screw up and get into trouble, and get lost, and talk to strangers, and if I'm lucky, I just might learn something, and have a little fun along the way. It's more than just switching apartments; hopefully my Venice adventures will bring me a greater sense of self reliance, an openness to new people, food, and experiences, and maybe even love (maybe). And hopefully for you, Dear Reader, it's an entertaining journey.

Here's to losing sight of the shore.