Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Clover Brewer

This is the Clover Brewer:

It's not a very attractive machine (even with the Hipstamatic app), but it makes the best damn coffee I have ever tasted.

This particular machine is located at the Starbucks at the Barnes & Noble in Old Town Pasadena.  The barristas are very proud of the Clover Brewer.  They speak about it reverently, almost as if it is a religious artifact with healing powers. 

I hesitate to describe this coffee as "magical."  Chocolate can be magical; coffee is just tasty.  But this coffee is really, really, really, really, really damn tasty.  I always doctor my coffee with a splash of milk.  This coffee is so good, I drink it black. 

According to one friendly barrista, the Clover Brewer works like a reverse french press.  It's an expensive machine and only 100 Starbucks locations have one.  (Thank you, Starbucks, for sending one to Pasadena).

I am pretty certain that you can brew anything in the Clover Brewer - dirt, lima beans, old toothpaste - and it will still taste good.  If you are ever within a hundred miles of a Clover Brewer, you simply must get a cup.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

WTF: Stockings at the Gym

I saw the most appalling thing at my gym this morning: a woman, exercising on an elliptical machine, wearing neon orange shorts, a matching striped cardigan, a visor and stockings.  There are two serious issues with this outfit.  I will begin by addressing the lesser offense.

Offense No. 1: The visor.  My gym is underground.  There are no windows.  In other words, it is never sunny in my gym.  Let me tell you what a visor looks like in an underground gym: stupid.  It doesn’t look cool or hip or even whimsical.  It just looks stupid. 

Offense No. 2: The stockings/pantyhose.  WHO WEARS STOCKINGS TO THE GYM???  If you do not like the way your legs look, there is this amazing invention called PANTS that you can wear.  But shorts and stockings?  That does not enhance your performance on the elliptical machine.  It just makes me an extra cranky pumpkin.    

Halloween is for Halloween, End of Discussion (Ugh)

Excuse me, but I must rant.

I would like to join a book club in Pasadena.  I already belong to a book club, but the members live scattered throughout L.A. County and we meet sporadically, at best.  Also ... we never talk about the book.  My book club is a just an excuse for several women in their early 30s to get together, eat and talk about everything (except the damn book that we were all supposed to read). 

As much as I enjoy my current book club, I am a bookworm and a nerd.  I would love to actually talk about books with some fellow bookworms for an hour every month or two.  I don't want to join a book club that dictates all the books I read, but I would like to spend more time talking about things like literature, reading, writing and books.  Right now, I talk about these things for about two or three hours every year.  There are 8,760 hours in a year.  I think I can do a little better.

Last week, I saw this sign outside my local bookstore:

I rejoiced.  I have not read Brave New World since high school, and I would love to reread it.  And The Thorn Birds?  I just read that during my honeymoon!  It was wonderful and exactly the sort of book I would love to discuss with some fellow book lovers. 

Then, I looked closer.  The book club meeting for The Thorn Birds is October 31 at 6:30 p.m.  It might as well be scheduled for "Halloween when the kiddies are trick-or treating."  Because Halloween is always on October 31.  And kids always go trick-or-treating just as it gets dark.  Halloween is not one of those holidays that moves around like Easter or Thanksgiving.  A person could accidentally schedule a book club to meet on Easter. "Oh, oops!  Easter is in March this year?  That's so early.  Oh well, we'll just have talk about The Thorn Birds in early April."  But Halloween?  You can't accidentally schedule a book club for October 31 and then tell me you forgot about that whole trick-or-treating thing.

Who organized this damn book club, and why do they hate Halloween?  People, Halloween is once a year.  You have 364 other days to schedule a book club meeting to discuss The Thorn Birds.  Why must you insist on a conflict with a major holiday? 

I'm assuming that this always book club meets on the last Monday of the month.  But if Halloween falls on the last Monday of the month, doesn't that warrants an exception?  Move the book club to Tuesday, Wednesday, or any other day that is not Halloween! 

I briefly considered attending The Brave New World meeting, but I don't want to join a book club that scorns Halloween.  That is just too pretentious for me, thank you very much.  My quest for a Pasadena book club continues...

Dinosaur Weed

I spotted this weed growing in front of my neighbor's house.  It looks like something from the Jurassic period.  I would not have been surprised if a Pterodactyl had swooped overhead as I took this photo. 

Then, as I continued my walk, I spotted this fauna planted in front of a neighbor's house, in a proper flower bed.  Oh cruel, cruel disappointment.  This fantastical weed is just a flower eeking out an existence in the gutter.  The Jurassic period is not returning to Pasadena anytime soon.

Maybe my neighborhood can get just one pterodactyl?  A flock of green parrots terrorizes my neighborhood.  They are demon creatures that make the most awful sounds known to man.  If everyone would just keep their children and small dogs locked inside, the pterodactyl could take care of the parrot problem.  Then, I will capture and tame the pterodactyl.  I'll name him Fred, and he will be the star of The Cranky Pumpkin Traveling Circus.  We'll travel the world for two or three years, and then I'll sell Fred to Microsoft. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

An Open Letter to Watermelon

Dear Watermelon,

You are so delicious.  I love you.  A lot. 

If I was stranded on a desert island, and could only eat five foods for the rest of my life, I would want to choose you, Watermelon.  Except I couldn't, because you don't have a lot of nutrients or protein.  I would have to choose something like broccoli or blueberries.  A girl needs her antioxidants (I think I read this in a magazine).

Watermelon, I just think you are the best.  I love you so much, I would marry you.  Except that would be weird, and I'm already married.  Ok, if I'm being honest, I suppose I just like you a lot.  But I'm not ready for a committed monogamous relationship.  I still really like apples, bananas, plums, strawberries - oh shit, nearly every fruit I know is delicious. 

Watermelon, keep up the good work! 


Friday, August 26, 2011

Taxi v. Subway v. Submarine

I am thirty-two years old; I was born and raised in Los Angeles; and today, I used L.A.'s public transportation for the first time.  (Don't look at me, I'm hideous). 

Why, after thirty-two years, did I decide to finally try L.A.’s public transportation system today?  Well, it all started with a sports injury…

My husband Nathan nearly broke his foot last week playing basketball.  His friend drove him to an emergency room in Pasadena.  Nathan's car stayed behind in a parking lot in downtown L.A.  We knew we had to retrieve the car eventually; but at first, we had other priorities (e.g. making sure the foot did not need to be amputated). 
We assumed that Nathan would be able to drive within a week of the injury.  This was a bad assumption.  It's been eight days, and my poor husband is still hobbling around on crutches.  Today, he did something very exciting: he successfully carried a cup of soda from the kitchen to the living room (a stunning distance of twenty feet).  Driving is not happening anytime soon.  It was time for a rescue operation.

The rescue operation needed a leader.  Someone with all the qualities you expect in a hero: courage, compassion, convictions, and charisma.  Since no one fitting that description was available, I volunteered.

I needed to get to downtown L.A. in order to pick up Nathan's poor beleaguered vehicle.  I thought: I'll drive my car.  Then I thought: no, dumb ass, how will you get your car home?  Right!  I needed an alternative form of transportation.

I had three options: (1) the Metro (a.k.a. the subway); (2) a taxi; or (3) a submarine.  I weighed my options:

$5 day pass
At least $40, possibly more if there is a traffic jam or the taxi driver is on the lam and needs a hostage
Approximately $3 billion – I would need to buy a submarine, decorate the submarine to look like Red October, bribe government officials to build a secret underwater passage, build said passage, and buy submarine outfits
Yes! It’s about a 25 minute walk from my house to a metro spot.
Somewhat.  You can’t hail a cab in Pasadena (unless you have a few years to spare), but you can call the switchboard. 
No, but very bad ass.
Can I skip the gym if I use this type of transportation?
25 minute walk to the metro?  Hell yeah, skip the gym!
No, you fat lazy slob.  You still have to go to the gym. 
p.s. I hate you.
Unknown, but who cares?  You own a submarine.   
Adventure Level: Scale of 1 to 10, 10 being Romancing the Stone/Indiana Jones and 1 being “eating a t.v. dinner while watching Wheel of Fortune.”
People watching + navigating the metro for the first time = A strong 6
Varies between a negative 5 (traffic, taxi driver is listening to a radio station in a language you do not speak) and an 8 (you become a pawn in a bank robbery).  A taxi ride is never a 10.
11,947,228 – submarines are AWESOME. 


If I had unlimited time and resources, I would have chosen the submarine. But, since I needed to pick up the car before Christmas 2018, I chose public transportation. 

And I loved it.  I sat on a comfortable if slightly itchy seat in an air-conditioned car.  I looked out the window and saw all new parts of Pasadena.  Although I would like to eventually own a submarine, for now, the L.A. Metro makes me happy.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things: The Maui Edition

I recently went to Maui for my honeymoon.  It was amazing, and my husband and I are already talking about our next trip to Hawaii.  These are some of the things I love about Maui:

1.  Walking barefoot on wet sand.

2.  The Maui coastline - every beach has its own character.

3.  Driving the Road to Hana, Maui's most famous scenic drive.  It's a harrowing drive (windy, narrow roads with one lane bridges) but it's breathtakingly beautiful.  Think panoramic ocean views, waterfalls and lush vegetation.

4.  Vegan ice cream made from coconut milk.  Scientists recently established that ice cream tastes better if it's served in a coconut shell.

5.  Black sand beaches. 

6.  Waterfalls.  Enough said.

6.  After you drive to Hana, there are two ways to go home: (1) backtracking on the road you just traveled, or (2) taking the "back roads" that are considered a little more "adventurous."  We took the back roads.  They were terrifying but then we got to drive through a completely different countryside.  The tropical rainforest was replaced with a barren but beautiful landscape.  

7.  Tropical drinks!  Oh, I would kill for a mai tai right now (excuse me...)

8.  Fresh, tasty seafood.  We ate as much fish as possible during our honeymoon.  Before Maui, I never understood the appeal of fish tacos.  Now I do.

9.  The Serenity Pool at the Four Seasons is an adults only infinity pool that overlooks the Pacific Ocean and Wailea Beach.  We spent at least three days camped out at this pool. 

10.  A blended mai tai served in a real pineapple.  Did I order the drink simply because it was served in a pineapple?  Absolutely!

People Watching: There Were Feathers in His Hat

Yesterday, I woke up feeling empty, drained and cranky.  These days happen.  Sometimes, you just have to give yourself permission to be in a bad mood. 

I resigned myself to feeling out-of-sorts but decided my soul could use an iced coffee.  Yes, I will let myself wallow in a bad mood for a few hours; but, there's no need to be completely miserable.

I stopped at a chain coffee shop close to my house.  It was about 90 degrees outside, and patrons had already claimed all of the indoor tables.  As I was doctoring my coffee with milk, a patron abandoned her table.  The air conditioning was strong, and I had my journal in my purse.  The Universe had spoken.  I would sit and write for a few minutes.

So I sat, wrote and sipped my iced coffee.  Then, the Universe sent me this man:

I quietly thanked the Universe and felt my bad mood start to evaporate.  I love people watching, and this man was beyond fantastic.  Even though it was 90 degrees outside, he was wearing overalls and a pumpkin orange shirt.  He had an American flag sticking out of his backpack.  And there were several feathers in his hat:

Feather Man was the Mayor of the coffee shop.  He knew everyone.  He talked to everyone.  He was cheerful, witty, personable and well-liked.

As he made the rounds of the coffee shop, he stopped at my table and gave me a white flower.  As he offered me the flower, he said, “I thought you could use this flower.”

Why yes, Feather Man, I could use your white flower.  It was exactly what I needed to dispel my evil mood.  The Feather Man and I discussed the way I hold my pen (it's unorthodox), and then he moved on to another patron’s table to debate the virtues of being a secretary versus an archaeologist.

Thank you, Universe.  The next time I'm in a bad mood, I know the remedy: iced coffee and people watching.

Friday, August 19, 2011

I Can't Commit to One Craft

I love crafting, but I am not in a committed relationship with one particular craft.  There are certain crafts I go back to again and again – especially knitting and cross-stitch – but I cheat on them regularly.  Can you blame me?  There are so many wonderful craft projects that must be tried!  Paper mache!  Beading!  Sewing! 

Sometimes, this makes me feel like a bit of a fraud.  If you saw my craft closet, you would assume that I operate a day care facility from my home or that I am the mother of five children under the age of ten; but I am just an attorney that loves crafting.

In the beginning of the summer, I knit two scarves for my brother and sister-in-law, who are volunteering with the Peace Corps in South Africa, where it is currently winter and their house (hut?) is always a balmy 40 degrees.  But after I knit those scarves, I turned to warmer weather crafts.  Who wants a big pile of yarn in their lap during a heat wave? 

These are the crafts that I tried this summer:

Although I loved crafting as a child, I never knew how to make a friendship bracelet.   I remember feeling inadequate as a third grader because I could not whip up bracelets for my friends.  Thanks to this tutorial, I have finally conquered this craft (and I’m only about 25 years late to the party).

I made this wreath for the front door.  That counts as a craft, right?  I did spend an unconscionable amount of time at Michaels, agonizing over what flowers would look best on the front door.  Then, I had to weave them into the grapevine wreath.  Damnit, it counts.

Paper mache: Every few years, I try to make something out of paper mache.  And every few years, it’s a disaster.  I am happy to report that my latest effort was … another disaster.  (Unless you think a collapsed pile of smelly newspaper that refuses to dry is a success.  In which case, yes, it was a success). 

Custom Shutterfly photo albums: Okay, I  realize I am stretching the definition of “craft” here.  But making a Shutterly photo album is related to scrapbooking (they are at least second cousins), even if it doesn’t involve scissors and glue.  As Executive Director of the Cranky Pumpkin, I declare that this counts as a craft.

Homemade Peanut Butter!

When it comes to dieting, my Achilles heel is peanut butter.  From the time I wake up until about 10 p.m., I am a saint.  I eat healthy meals, and I snack on celery and grapes.  Then, it happens.  Around 10 p.m., I hear the siren call of peanut butter and I am helpless.  I stand by the cupboard, spoon in hand, intending to just have a taste.  But as soon as that first taste hits my mouth, my intentions go straight to hell and before I know it, half the jar of peanut butter has disappeared.  I can only assume it has gone to an alternate dimension.  It couldn’t possibly have traveled to my stomach because I only intended to have a small spoonful. 

So I stopped buying peanut butter.  It seems to be the only solution to my little problem.

Peanut butter, however, can be a dieter’s friend (if said dieter can resist going on a peanut butter bender).  A tablespoon of peanut butter + a tart green apple = the perfect afternoon snack.  I found myself wondering if I could control my peanut butter feeding frenzies if I tried a different type of peanut butter. 

Recently, I made homemade peanut butter.  It is the easiest “recipe” ever: buy peanuts; put peanuts in a food processor; turn on said food processor; let the peanuts swirl around madly for about 30 seconds; and viola!  You have delicious peanut butter that would make Mother Nature smile.

The flavor of homemade peanut butter is outstanding.  It’s like your standard store-bought peanut butter, but with more depth.  I only need a tablespoon to feel satisfied.  Success!  Once again, I can eat one of my favorite foods without fear of sabotaging my diet.

I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to any children I might have in the future: I’m sorry that mommy won’t buy Skippy or Jiffy peanut butter.  If you are looking for ways to be a rebellious teenager, just hide a jar of Skippy in the pantry.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Does Anyone Actually Buy Christmas Decorations In August?

I adore Halloween, and every decoration associated with the holiday.  Someday, I would like to transform my front lawn into a graveyard.  No, that’s not entirely correct.  Someday, I would like to turn my entire home into a haunted house with a cemetery outside.

However, as much as I love Halloween decorations, I will not, as a matter of principle, buy any pumpkins, skulls or screaming doorknobs until mid-September at the earliest.      

I went to Michael’s yesterday to buy some craft supplies, and the front of the store was dedicated to Halloween decorations.  There were at least four aisles stuffed with skeletons, pumpkins, tombstones, spiders, ghosts and ghouls.  There was a choir of moaning corpses.  I felt a little like I was being brainwashed or hypnotized.  For a few minutes, I slowly walked down a Halloween aisle, mesmerized by the “haunted portraits,” until I remembered it’s August and hurried away to the beading section.

Then I saw the Christmas decorations. 

I stopped dead in my tracks and stared.  Christmas ornament supplies.  I repeat: Christmas ornament supplies IN AUGUST.

I know, I know, this happens every year.  The stores start pushing Christmas in August.  I shouldn’t be so outraged, BUT I AM.  When the stores roll out the Christmas decorations in August, you know what they are doing?  They are slapping Summer across the face and giving the middle finger to pool parties, bbq’s, and ice cream. 

Why are we always looking ahead to the next season?  In the winter, we complain about how cold it is and look forward to flowers and Easter.  In the spring, we are ready for the summer heat.  By mid-summer, everyone is complaining about the heat and shopping for their new fall wardrobe.  And so on.  It drives me insane.  I don’t want to shop for wool jackets in August! 

I realize that this is not an issue that needs national attention, but I prefer to enjoy the present season.  Right now, it’s summer.  As much as I love Halloween and Christmas, I’m not ready to start buying pumpkins and dancing Santas.   

Add This To Your Netflix Queue: Easy A

Last night, I watched Easy A.  I never saw a preview for this movie’s theatrical release and had zero expectations.  Honestly, I was planning to only devote half my attention to the movie.  It was going to be background noise for a craft project.

The movie was awesome.  I abandoned my craft project, poured myself a glass of cheap white wine, and enjoyed a fantastic movie night.  

Easy A is a high school movie in the same genre as Pretty in Pink and Mean Girls.  The protagonist, Olive Penderghast, is a virgin, but the entire high school believes she is the school slut-whore-tramp.  Emma Stone plays the smart protagonist, and I fell in love with her character immediately.

I don’t want to spoil the movie for you, but every other line of dialogue was brilliant. There were references to Judy Blume and the “Sweet Valley Traveling Pants.”  When Olive complains that “John Hughes did not direct my life,” there is a montage of clips from classic 80s high school movies.  There is even a musical number just because every movie should have at least one musical number.

If you have not yet seen Easy A, I urge you to add it to your Netflix queue post haste.  I myself am going to buy the dvd for my small but reliable collection of movies that cheer me up on “my dark days” (translation: that special time of month when I am a homicidal, hormonal, crazy bitch lady).  

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Pedometer Is Obviously Lying

They say you are supposed to walk 10,000 steps a day.  (By “they,” I mean the authorities who tell us how to shape up, lose weight and stop being a lazy slug).  From time to time, I go on a pedometer kick to monitor just how many steps I am taking.  I just started my latest pedometer phase, and holy crap, the pedometer is obviously lying.

As I write this, it is nearly 11 a.m.  Since I woke up, I have walked miles and miles.  I walked back and forth from the living room to the recycling bin (we’re still disposing boxes from wedding gifts, even though the wedding was three weeks ago).  The distance from the living room to the recycling bin must be at least a ¼ of a mile.  Then, I did some light gardening.  I must have walked back and forth from the rose bushes to the yard waste bin a thousand times.  After gardening, I went to the gym.  The walk from my parked car to the weight room of my local 24 hour fitness?  Easily six or seven miles.  By my calculations, I’ve already walked my 10,000 steps for the day, and then some.

The pedometer says I have taken 4,022 steps.

Seriously?  I mean, seriously?  I need to take another 5,978 steps before bedtime?  These are my plans for the rest of the day: (1) sit on the couch and write; (2) go to the grocery store; and (3) maybe go to a coffee shop and … write.  Somehow, I am going to have to find a way to walk a few miles at the grocery store.  On the bright side, it’s nice and chilly in the ice cream aisle.