Needed: One cup of tea. Cooler weather. Oh, and this room.

November 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

from Anthropologie.com

What’s in a name?

November 3, 2010 § 1 Comment

As many of you know, about five years ago I changed my name.  For the first 18 years of my life my family and friends, teachers and coaches, coworkers and classmates called me Becca (or during first grade when I wanted to sound grown up, Rebecca).

The year before I made the switch, my childhood friend Amy was living with me.  As a sort of joke we called ourselves by our middle names – Liz (for Elizabeth) and Jane.  We documented our adventures of the year (and what adventures we had!) in a journal, always referring to ourselves as Liz and Jane.  But our fun only went so far –though we schemed that we would go by these names at our community college, both of us chickened out and did not ‘correct’ the teacher when she called our name during role the first day of class.

But then, going off to college, I had another chance — a chance to do something utterly random, a chance to change my name and get away with it because there were few people at the school who knew me as “Becca”.  I asked my brother if he thought I should do it, if I should go by my middle name, and he said “why not?”  That became my new mantra when asked why I changed my name.  There was no other intention behind it, nothing that made me want to stop being called Becca and start being called Jane (although my grandma’s name was Jane and I think it is a lovely name).

The initial days were a little rocky.  My first attempt to introduce myself with my new name I said, “Hi, I’m…….Jane.”  I’m sure it must have seemed odd for someone to hesitate to try to remember their name.  Later, just seconds after I had introduced myself to my now dear friend Kat, my Dad came around the corner and said, “Oh, so you’ve met Becca?”  I believe Kat just looked back and forth between me and my Dad until I explained myself.

Gradually, I became comfortable telling teachers and employers that “I go by my middle name,” and my response time to my new name shortened until it seemed almost normal.  My brother and sister obstinately refused to call me Jane, and many non-college friends remained confused, despite my assuring them that they could still call me Becca.  Other friends, upon discovering my recent change, decided to combine the two names and call me “Becca Jane.”  One friend decided that she would call me Jane when she wanted advice, and Becca when she wanted to have fun.

Now I have trouble responding when friends call me “Becca.”  I momentarily think to myself “who’s that?”  I feel oddly disconnected from the name that was close to me for some years, the name my parents gave me and that will still grace all my official transcripts and records since I made no legal change.  When my dance teacher neglected to hang on to her initial role sheet (with revisions from me), I did not correct her again.  Every time she calls me “Rebecca”, I treasure it (after a 2 second lapse of trying to identify to whom she is referring).

Living in Fullerton

October 15, 2010 § 2 Comments

It has been a great thing that Alex and I decided to up and move to Fullerton for year 2 of our marriage.  We live on the 650-square-foot top floor of a triplex, with interior walls of a light grey color, some beautiful painted white woodwork and built-ins, and a bedroom with two large windows that peer out on a lovely tree.  We live on the edge of downtown, close enough to walk to a frozen yogurt place, to Starbucks, to shops and to get our haircut.  Since Fullerton is an older town, it is home to some of the more elegant and quaint architecture in our area of L.A., including Fullerton College, which has a sort of Spanish Architecture and to which I walk every Monday and Wednesday for my dance class.

Yes, DANCE CLASS. This fall I started dancing again, and it has been so good.  I enjoy the teacher, and have enjoyed feeling my body get used to modern dance movements again, by learning to let go and sink into the floor and maintain balance and be strong in the midst of it.

There are some fun and quirky things about living in our new place, as well. I have already mentioned the strange habits of our garbage man and the dripping flowers on our tree. I should also say that our kitchen is the size of a small walk-in closet and the counter-space barely surpasses the square footage of an ironing board. Our shower also resembles a cave, which you must sort of duck/climb in to – but the drain works and the water works so we are HAPPY.

Overall, I love it. I love the light in our place  —  the early morning darkness that becomes a cool blue light, the tired, late afternoon light, the brightness of light mid-morning on a Saturday, and at nighttime, when the only light comes from our lamps, a few overheads, and the glow of the computer (it had to be said). And the company? (meaning my husband of 1.25 years) Can’t be beat. (It is Alex’s birthday this weekend. Consider this the birthday celebration shout-out to the one I love).

Banana Bread

October 8, 2010 § 1 Comment

Image credit: http://www.moist-banana-bread-recipes.com/

Tonight I had two things on the agenda — make soup for dinner, and make banana bread.  The soup was a nice smattering of ingredients – I started with frying some bacon, removing the bacon and sauteing shallots, garlic, celery, carrot, mushrooms and potatoes (in the bacon grease, of course) – then throwing in some chicken broth, the crumbled bacon, and bits of cooked rabbit. Finished it off with a couple sprigs of rosemary and let it simmer while I worked on….

Whole-Wheat Banana Nut Bread (From Williams-Sonoma’s baking cookbook)

This recipe makes two loaves.

2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour, plus extra for dusting

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing

2 cups sugar

2 cups mashed ripe banana (4 large bananas)

4 eggs

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease two 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 loaf pans and dust with flour.

In a bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until blended; a hand-held mixer is useful for this step. Beat in the banana, then beat in the eggs until completely mixes; don’t worry if the mixture looks lumpy and curdled. Stir in the nuts. Add the combined dry ingredients and stir just until blended (At this point, it is totally fine to taste the batter. multiple times).

Pour and scrape the batter into the 2 prepared pans and spread evenly. Bake until a thin wooden skewer (otherwise known as a toothpick) inserted into the center of the loaves come out clean, about 1 hour. Allow to cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely (or if you’re me, leave them in the pans for an hour because you decided this step was not worth getting up off the couch for).

________

The soup was pretty tasty. The banana bread – downright delicious. Alex and I each enjoyed a piece fresh from the oven, topped with a bit of butter and accompanied by a glass of cold milk. That’s right – downright. delicious.

What’s been cooking…

September 18, 2010 § 2 Comments

Image Credit: http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://yvonneshealthykitchen.com/images/592963_kitchen_tools.jpg&imgrefurl=http://yvonneshealthykitchen.com/&usg=__n8vwF3Te1TCsXHJCopJL2ehJYa4=&h=276&w=300&sz=17&hl=en&start=0&sig2=BNiwYQRtid1LIMRtr1bCbg&zoom=1&tbnid=JjYoO5ms88FlYM:&tbnh=124&tbnw=145&ei=aEuVTNGcOZG6sAPMv_jACg&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dkitchen%2Btools%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26client%3Dfirefox-a%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla:en-US:official%26biw%3D1440%26bih%3D670%26tbs%3Disch:1&um=1&itbs=1&iact=rc&dur=556&oei=aEuVTNGcOZG6sAPMv_jACg&esq=1&page=1&ndsp=24&ved=1t:429,r:1,s:0&tx=95&ty=46
Without the use of Alex’s beloved camera (it has an error message that we need to get checked out), it has been harder to think it worthwhile to document our weekly cooking. However, I have been having a lot of fun experimenting with cooking recently, so, pictures or not, you are going to get a record of these experiments:

Picnic sandwich on ciabatta loaf with bologna, salami, pesto, artichoke hearts and havarti cheese
Lemon Crumb Bars

The above two items I made for Alex and my anniversary date to see Planet Earth: live! at the Hollywood Bowl.  The sandwich was made by improvisation, the lemon crumb bar recipe can be found here. It was quite easy, and they were delicious.

We had our friends over for dinner one night, and I had fun with the following recipes:
Goat Cheese Empanadas. For their July issue, Real Simple had a section featuring three-ingredient recipes. These had goat cheese, placed into store bought pie crust, baked and served with store bought salsa. Some things need to be simple. Alex actually made these while I worked on the main course.
Chicken with Olives. Thank you, Pioneer Woman. This was delicious (If I do say so myself). The chicken was quite moist and the olives complimented the flavors nicely. I served it over brown rice.
Blueberry Ice cream. What I love about homemade ice cream is that it is easy to make and loved by many.  Often ice cream recipes are only 3-4 ingredients, mixed together and placed in the ice cream maker which does its thing while you get on to more pressing chores. I also added chocolate chunks to this ice cream — what can I say, I tend to think things only get better when you add chocolate.

Random experiments:
Strawberry and Chocolate Gelato. Supposed to be Cherry-Chocolate Gelato. Fresh & Easy’s jam selections are limited. The flavor of this was not.

Moussaka. Greek dish. Eggplant, ground beef, cinnamon, Parmesan, bechamel sauce. It might sound strange, but it was quite good. Alex and I made a real supper of it with salad, french bread, and some red wine.

No-bake lasagna. Being the first time I made lasagna, I decided to do an entirely nontraditional version that was also less time intensive. This lasagna alternated layers of typical lasagna noodles with cooked zucchini, summer squash, tomatoes and ricotta. I also threw in a few pieces of salami to add some flavor (for me) and “meat” (for my husband). As the title indicates, this lasagna does not need to be “popped in the oven.” Fresh and yummy.

Spinach Quiche with whole wheat crust. This was made on a Saturday night, out of a need to use up extra milk, cheese, eggs and spinach. I had pepper-jack cheese on hand, so there was a nice spicy kick to it. The simple, laid-back, yet strong flavors of a hot quiche really hit the spot, especially since the weather had become cooler that evening.

Pork Chops with Gruyere Polenta and cherry tomatoes. This was dinner for this week, or for at least two of the nights. In recent years I have come to really enjoy polenta, particularly the fine-grain version cooked fresh on the stove top (rather than the pre-cooked, shaped version). I still am not the biggest fan of pork chops, though I continue to try them when they are a part of recipes whose other parts look delicious. I love cherry tomatoes and eat them by the dozen.

Finally, Alex’s parents gave us a hefty supply of apples and plums from their fruit trees in Fresno. Even if each of us ate one apple and one plum per day, we might not have made it through them in a month’s time. Hence, the three recipes listed below:
Plum and Apple Sangria
Peach and Plum Shortbread
Plum-Apple Butter

Next-up…
Preparing for the Supper Club meal we will be hosting on October 23rd. In case you aren’t aware of the fun involved in this group gathering, the Supper Club requires a minimum five-course meal prepared for 8 people and themed around the book chosen by the couple who hosted previously. Alex and I will be experimenting with and choosing dishes centered around Wendell Berry’s Nathan Coulter. Tonight we are going to go out to a southern restaurant in Los Angeles called Tart (for inspiration) and then to Barnes and Noble to peruse the cookbooks. Wish us luck.

Three things that are funny, one that’s absurd.

September 17, 2010 § 1 Comment

ONE. Our forest green honda. It has tinted windows, a large dent on the drivers’ side door, and a subwoofer that takes up half the trunk. In its current parking space, a tree consistently seeps pollen on it so that 1) it is embarrassingly dirty two days after its washing, and 2) it attracts ants, who happen to like this pollen and crawl all over the hood and roof (also embarrassing, hoping no one sees the bugs crawling all over your car). One of the only bugs I fear is ants. Today when I was driving with the window down (because there is no air conditioning), I imagined lots of tiny ants flying onto me. Also, it is impossible for me to get out of the car in any elegant manner (it being so close to the ground), which is made even more complicated by the pencil skirts I wear to work.

TWO. Our trash man. Every time we leave for work on Tuesday morning, the landlord has kindly brought out the trash cans. These are neatly placed to the side of our parking spot, so that we can easily back out our car and head off to work. Every time we return from work that same day, we find the three trash cans spaced a yard apart from each other, ENTIRELY blocking BOTH parking spots we have been given, and making pulling in to our parking spot (without getting out to move the trash cans) difficult to impossible. I don’t know what we did to the trash man, but he is exacting his revenge, one week at a time.

THREE. The fact that we live across from a fire station.

ABSURD. How long it takes me to make decisions, and the number of times I change my mind while doing so. Today, I wondered around Cost Plus World Market for 45 minutes looking for cushions for our dining room chairs. I held 6 cushions in my arms, walked back and forth across the store to the various locations for cushions, scattered the cushions on various tables to see how they looked against the wood, asks the sales people whether the 14 different types of cushions they had in the store were all they had, walked next door to Target to look for cushions, realized their selection consisted of one small shelf of mismatched cushions, went back to World Market, resumed the process, chose a cushion, walked around the store with it once, put it back, chose another cushion, walked around the store twice, put it back, called my mom for advice, tried to think of any other friends I could call for advice, panicked, bought a bar of chocolate, refused to let the sales reps take any of the six cushions I was holding to the front because “I was deciding between them”, and finally ended up taking home two mismatched cushions so I could “try them out.” When I approached the register with these two mismatched cushions, the salesman looked at me and said, “Couldn’t make up your mind?”

Right man. Like I needed you to tell me that.

Ten things I learned from my husband

September 16, 2010 § 1 Comment

image credit: http://weheartit.com/entry/44556

1. How to not panic when writing a college essay. This involves not being afraid of the hard work, but also sending the paper off to loved ones for some editing. When you’ve hit a wall, stop working, get a cup of hot chocolate, and watch an episode of something on Hulu. (Also, when I (memorably) panicked sophomore year, he sat with me for two or so hours to help me rethink my argument. This we call “woo-ing”).

2. How to be curious in a way that reading satisfies, and how to be glad when your husband decides that library books are as satisfying to his curiosity as those purchased on Amazon.

3. How weather works. No, really. These things are fascinating to me, and he has a good enough memory to recount all the details he learned in 7th grade science class. Once when we were driving up the coast, I asked him why the temperature was cooler outside then it had been earlier that week. He proceeded to tell me about moisture, humidity of the air, cold and hot fronts, wind directions…and then entertained my questions about earthquakes, tectonic plates, volcanoes, hurricanes, and tsunamis.

4. The history of Rome. and England. and Israel (the latter he has repeated to me time and time again, without frustration and only the occasional laughter at my inability to hold historical facts in my head for longer than 4 days).

5. Food fact number 1: Sometimes, simple tastes are better – like vanilla ice cream. and bacon. Me, I would want to mix these flavors together. Experiment. Alex prefers them independent from one another and at the appropriate times of day. (Not that he doesn’t sometimes eat ice cream for breakfast).

6. Food fact number 2: Sometimes, simple tastes are not better. One day at the school cafeteria, Alex suggested we exchange preparing breakfast for each other. In an attempt to introduce me to a new creative concoction (since he knows I like these sorts of experiments), Alex brought me a nice bowl of sticky oatmeal and cantaloupe. These foods, while nice on their own, are quite bland when slopped together. I did not eat the oatmeal. (Poor guy). But I did laugh at him and think him cute. (Poor guy).

7. How to be moderate.

8. Patience… partly from his tendency to run a little late, but more from his example (See #1, 3, 4).

9. Kindness. Gentleness.

10. Life isn’t perfect – you can still have joy. Joy doesn’t come despite imperfection, it comes alongside imperfection, because joy is unrelated to our perfection or imperfection. Joy is about the grace of God in our lives, therefore take joy in the Lord in the midst of an imperfect life (this one I am still learning).