Sunday, September 26, 2010

It's A Brunch Kind of Sunday

This weekend, amid a rare Los Angeles heat wave (90's might not seem like much to you Texans, but when your apartment complex has no air conditioning, it can be unpleasant!) M and I spent most of Saturday cleaning and decorating so that we could have our first little party. This flurry of activity finally jumped the apartment into feeling at least a little put-together, and we both enjoyed the joint activity.

On Sunday, we hosted a brunch for the math department of M's school + the physics teacher and his wife. It was a tidy little group, and though I didn't know anybody very well, I felt like it was a jovial group and everyone had a good time. I'm glad to finally get to meet some of the people M has said so much about, and hopefully nudge a cranny out for myself.

Additionally, I felt glad to know that people seemed to like our apartment and my rudimentary cooking skills. We hauled out my grandfather's waffle iron and put strawberries, blueberries, and chocolate chips nearby so people could make waffles to their specifications. I made pan-fried potatoes, sausage, bacon, and two kinds of scrambled eggs- one batch with tomatoes and one with cream cheese and chives. One of the Algebra teachers brought homemade monkey bread, and two others brought fruit. MMMmmmm! Once the physics teacher's champagne contribution was in the mix, not bad at all!

The monkey bread required a little touching up in the oven, which was an adventure. While it was baking, the topping started dripping over, causing it to smoke and burn. We had the fire alarm go off twice, and the living room filled with smoke for the first half of the meal, but for some strange reason I think I actually liked it better that way. I have a tradition of smokey kitchens, after all:And... at least now we've tested our smoke alarms!

Our guest list was limited by the fact that we only have 6 full size plates, but maybe I will look for some more soon and then be able to have a few of the people from my work over as well. It's a good start, plus, now the apartment is ready for my dad's visit on Tuesday!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Teacher's Girlfriend

M is 5 weeks into his third year as a teacher; something that I am extremely proud of, and often find very frustrating to live with.

Don't get me wrong, it's wonderful that he's doing something so important, and I'm very impressed with the amount of resilience with which he approaches a very difficult student body and a very difficult teaching environment. He really puts his all into this job; and I couldn't be happier to see him really feel like he's doing something important. It's a feeling we need to feel good about ourselves, and I'm very happy for him.

I also enjoy the ways I get to participate. First, M often asks for advice with lessons or with his Teachers' Union duties, and I like the Abigail Adams feeling it gives me to know that my advice is helpful and valued by M when he is doing something I also view as important.

Secondly, I get to help M decorate his classroom, which has always been a not-so-secret fantasy of mine. This year he went with a tropical theme in honor of Joe the Rasta Banana- won by his friend from math camp at Six Flags:
which resulted in the highest-test-score-awards:
and a super-sweet paper palm tree:
and I just really like my "post ironic shapes":

But, as cool as decorating is, it's just a little bit frustrating, when I come home after a- let's face it- fairly boring day at work, to find that he will be grading tests or lesson planning all night. It's not that I don't have lots of projects I could see myself doing, it's just that I usually find myself in a limbo- lacking the energy to go buy supplies and get to work, but with too much energy to just happily read a book after sitting still in one place all day.

I'm not sure how to combat this difference yet. Any suggestions?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Garden Time

Gardening is one of my very favorite pastimes. I like the feeling of nurturing something. I like that plants have a code that you learn to read with experience. Yellow leaves usually mean too much water, and droopy ones- not enough. If the plant is flowering/bearing fruit, you are probably doing it right. I like that it's a skill that you can always get better at, and I like the community of people who also garden.

Last weekend M and I went on a tour of the Mildred E. Mathias UCLA Botanical Garden.

It's lovely, approx. 7 acres of trees, palms, bromeliads, hibiscus, cacti and succulents- native to California, Asia, Africa, Australia and elsewhere. There's even a circulating stream with a multitude of turtles. The best thing? It's super close to us! The tour helped me pick up some interesting tidbits about gardening in this new climate. For example: native California plants go dormant in the summer, not in the winter like most other places I'm aware of.

This knowledge has emboldened me to try several plants that might not normally be fall/winter plants and see what happens.

In that vein: we've made two trips to the Amstrong Garden Center so far, and let me tell you, I am in LOVE with this place.

It's large (a rarity for any commercial establishment where we live), staffed by friendly and knowledgeable people, carries a variety of really healthy looking plants (including HUGE 6-packs), and many of their seedlings and seed companies are organic.

I've unsurprisingly gone a little overboard:

and brought home more than I intended to: a fern, a tomato seedling, some thyme, a six pack of alyssum, and a six pack of dahlias, an unidentified plant from the near-death-rack, an Armeria, and a very-Californian-Hens and Chicks. I've also refilled the six-pack containers, and made pots out of a milk carton and some water bottles in order to start my own seedlings of parsley, morning glories, nasturtiums, and sweet peas. We'll see what happens now!

I've also muddled the growing conditions because all of these plants are growing in the sunroom- a partially indoors/partially outdoors space which gets patches of bright sunlight depending on the windows. I feel so nice to have some things growing now, and very interested to see which experiments work and which don't.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Pillow Fight

Today I was feeling very frustrated because I don't ever seem to get anything done after work. It feels like such a colorless life to only have work and getting ready for work to look forward to. Malcolm's response? To start a pillow fight. Perfectly awesome. :-)

Monday, September 6, 2010


Los Angeles has what seems to me to be a really comprehensive recycling program, but unfortunately, when we moved in, our apartment complex didn't have it set up. As a result, I've made very little progress where the sunroom was concerned, because it was mostly serving as my plastic container/IKEA cardboard box storage, since I wasn't willing to throw out anything I knew was recyclable.

Luckily, setting up recycling for "multifamily units" is actually really easy, you just have to contact the sanitation department with all the relevant information for your unit, and then hope the building manager-

(remember Amir?)

-will agree to allow it to be set up. And why wouldn't a building manager, since it's totally FREE? After a couple of weeks of waiting patiently, the sanitation department worked its magic, Amir agreed, and on Thursday this shiny new thing arrived outside our apartment complex:


However, I noticed on Friday afternoon that someone had incorrectly decided that a giant smear of barbeque sauce was recyclable, a grave misconception quickly followed by a half-filled milk carton and a Starbucks cup. Sigh. Such a sort lived triumph.

I'm opting in favor of the belief that the big-city dwellers of my apartment complex just don't know what should and should not be recycled. (Notwithstanding the very clear flier from the Sanitation Dept., strewn throughout the unit like a Chinese take-out menu). Hopefully if I go door-to-door and explain about the new bin, people will take more ownership, and commit to treating it right.

In that interest, I made a flier to hopefully more efficiently drive home the important points about what to do/not to do where recycling is concerned:

Tomorrow I'll try this method, and hope it helps rather than simply annoys my fellow residents. I'll let you know. :-)

Saturday, September 4, 2010


We brought a fish home today! His name is Darlington Poirot because we live on the corner of Barrington and Darlington- and wanted something that referenced where we are in life, and because he is small, dapper, and dramatic- which somehow reminds me of Hercule Poirot. M was very adamant about a castle, and I am happy to have furnished him with a nice BIG vase. Without further ado, here he is:

Here's what his bowl looks like:

And where he is located in the apartment:


And just in case you've been wondering, the great capital letters with which I've been heading my recent blog posts, are coming from Daily Drop Cap, an excellent project by Jessica Hische, professional typographer.

Oh Yes, There I Am.

I want to share a moment I had while driving to work yesterday. I was performing a very mundane task: merely steering my car through the early morning haze, around 7:10, not really paying attention to my surroundings. I didn't really notice the pink orchid-like flowers in the trees planted in the median, the turquoise window displays in the trendy department stores, or the streetlight-banners cleverly proclaiming both the date of a "taste of the town" event, and the fact that I was driving through the most famous zipcode on earth: (9.02.10). Then a ray of light cut sharply through the morning fog and between two towering building, and I found myself marveling at the beauty I was able to witness in this most absurd of places.

That few seconds of wonder caused a realization that stunned me: this ability to witness beauty and find deep joy in it, is a feeling I identify as "me". I was acutely aware, in that moment, of how out-of-touch with myself I've been feeling recently, and how good it was to be reminded of who I am. It was like I was getting to hug a friend I hadn't seen in a very long time, except that friend was myself. I think this is a good sign, I think this means I'm acclimating to my new situation, and that maybe I'll finally begin to have some sort of answer when people ask how I like my new home/life/state.

Today, life is very good.