Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Lizard Part Two (Because I Know You're All Wondering How It Ended)

If you read my last post, you know that Friday a lizard was being held captive in my kitchen. Or rather, he was holding me captive in the dining and living room... After several panicked IMs, phone and Facebook messages, and tweets, I was able to get my mom on her cell and have her coach me through what I should do to capture this little critter. This was, of course, after she laughed hysterically at me for several minutes.

Let the record show that when my mom was a kid, she was known throughout her neighborhood for using a shovel to cut the heads off of horned toads. She says it's because they were gross and would spit blood on you. I think it was really just her own thirst for blood and carnage... Don't mess with Mama Hetherington. She'll getcha.

Anyway, she suggested that I slide a yardstick under the fridge (very slowly) to try to gently prod Mr. Lizard back into the daylight.

Of course when I tried this, the yardstick was too thick.

So I decided to pull the front plastic grate off the fridge to see if that helped. It more than helped—it revealed Senor Scales sitting right on the other side. I immediately thought of Janice's post about meditating the rats out of her Parisian apartment, and decided to use the power of positive energy and a soft speaking voice to try to turn the situation in my favor. I explained to the lizard that I was on his team; I just wanted to help him get back outside where he belonged.

I kept talking to him the entire time I nudged him with the yardstick. "Come on little friend, lets just get you into the box so you can go see your family and not jump onto my face."

It may have been the soft tenor of my voice or the scent of reptile in the air, but of course both cats came to see what was going on in the kitchen. Knowing the little one wouldn't be smart enough to walk around to the other door, I closed the pocket door in her face. The fat cat came in and laid down on the rug, where I knew he would stay until I was finished. Chasing lizards is far too much work for him.

Eventually Mr. Lizard scurried out from the side where he'd entered and I was able to trick him into walking onto my dustpan. Then I slid the dustpan into a small box and tipped the box over so he fell in.

My toes were curled the entire time.

Too chicken to pick up the box with my bare hand, I slid the dustpan under it and carried him out to the back lawn where I gently tipped him onto the grass. He went on his merry way, back to his lizard family, boasting tales of black and white tile and stainless steel appliances.

I went in the house and collapsed on the couch. At least now I know what to do if he ever returns.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Needing a Second Opinion

A harem (yes, I looked it up) of seals in the waters off the coast of Big Sur.
I'm pretty sure they're all soliciting advice from one another in this shot.

According to the Myers-Briggs personality test, I am an extrovert. And as such, I am prone to seek external input when making decisions or processing ideas. I may turn to my family or my friends or my blog readers or, usually, all of the above.

The funny thing is that I tend to end up following my own instincts anyway, but having that additional support from someone else makes whatever I'm leaning towards seem all the wiser. It's the old feeling-better-because-I-got-a-second-opinion chestnut.

When I was in college and my boyfriend broke up with me then decided he wanted me back, all it took was my dad saying, "I like him," for me to give it another go.

And this week, when a virtual marketing company contacted me (hours after my last mopey post) about a work-from-home, semi-permanent freelance copywriting job, all it took was Mr. W saying "if you think it's a good fit, take it," to push me into a contract. When they asked if I could fly to San Francisco for a company off-site next Thursday, I was struggling until I turned to Mr. W again and he told me I should do it.

It's so nice to know that I can now blame any failures I encounter on him.

Just kidding. But it is really nice to have a counterpart to help me along when I'm grappling with situations like these. Especially when I'll probably need him to reassure me as I'm readjusting to being on the clock again during the day.

****NEWSFLASH: Just as I finished writing this post, I went into my kitchen and was greeted by a lizard. In addition to running away very fast, I immediately IMed and texted Mr. W (who has not responded), posted a cry for help on Twitter and Facebook, and called my parents and sister. No one has been able to help me yet and the lizard has relocated himself under or refrigerator. I am so screwed. I'm totally waking up with a lizard on my face tonight.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Advertising Should Have Prepared Me for This

When you work in advertising as a creative person, you discover very quickly the need to develop a thick skin. Everyone and their dog has an opinion on your writing and oftentimes those opinions aren't what you want to hear. So you learn to bury your ideas without mourning them. There will always be another one and it wasn't personal when your creative director told you that last one sucked.

At my last job, we literally had a sign in our conference room—where campaign concepts were often generated and reviewed—that said this:

My comical cohorts had a little paper table tent with "Doron" written across it, so if you suggested something really stupid, you had to sit with that in front of you like a name tag until the next moronic idea was presented.

It was sort of like being in a frat.

As you might imagine, I got really good at taking teasing and idea-squashing in stride.

But I'm beginning to think that being out of the workplace for 3 months now has completely thinned my skin. In the last few weeks, there's a level of sensitivity plaguing me that hasn't been around since maybe the junior high locker room.

One innocuous comment from Mr. Wonderful can turn me into a weepball who is convinced her muffin top and inability to shower before noon is making him find her thoroughly unattractive. One well-written blog post (like this one) sends me into a spiral of self doubt about my abilities as a writer. Cat litter pebbles on the rug leave me thinking I'm a terrible housekeeper who fritters away her days being utterly unproductive. Never mind that I'm working out almost every day, writing and exploring new creative avenues with friends and probably keeping the house cleaner than I ever did when I had a job.

None of that matters because my thin skin is continuously sending me signals that I'm an out-of-shape, hack writer, terrible wife.

And no, I'm not pregnant nor have I had PMS for the last month.

So I'm left wondering: will my rhino hide only return if I go back to a 9-to-5 job? Or am I in some sort of emotional growth spurt that will soon enable me to handle all of this without the help of a critical creative director?

Or is this just what life is like for stay-at-home writers and tortured artists?

It gives my wimpy skin goosebumps to think about it.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Bounty Hunting

 We're not sure if our carrots will be very long, but there are several bunches of them—
so even if they're shorties, we'll be able to enjoy them for multiple meals. 

Two weeks ago, Mr. Wonderful and I watched a show on Food Network called The Big Waste, wherein chefs Bobby Flay, Michael Symon, Anne Burrell and Alex Guarnaschelli were tasked with creating gourmet meals out of food that was on its way to the trash. We had no idea just how much food gets thrown out in this country simply because we as Americans have come to expect every morsel of produce, meat, bread and dairy to be 100% perfect and unblemished when we buy it. I think the statistic in the film was somewhere around 40% of food produced on our soil.

Our broccoli is blooming like a superstar. In addition to the crowns, there are little individual
babies popping up along a lot of the places where stalk meets leaf.  

As we watched the chefs visit markets and pick-your-own-food farms, we were amazed at how the tiniest of flaws could send a completely edible piece of food to the garbage. When you grow your own food, that does not happen. There's a totally different mindset when you go into your garden vs. when you enter a grocery store. In the garden, you want to make the most of every possible thing you've grown. You're proud of what you've cultivated. You want to reap your own bounty and you're not going to let bugs or blemishes stop you! I just picked a bunch of spinach this weekend that was riddled with holes from earwigs. It's going to taste exactly the same and maybe on some karmic level, it's good I let someone else enjoy my food before I got to it.

 Last year's strawberries struggled a bit against animals and bugs, but we're hoping to enjoy
a nice crop of them this year.

I grew up in a family of DIYers, so it's in my blood to want to try to do stuff on my own and decrease my dependency on other people and corporate America. My parents have always grown all sorts of goodies in their backyard. My mom made my prom dress and almost tackled my wedding dress. And I don't know if my dad has ever set foot in a car wash. When I was 16, he taught me how to give my Ford Escort a professional scrub in the comfort of our own driveway. Mr. W (who made another batch of his own bread this weekend) is totally wired the same way as us Hetheringtons. I think I shall keep him.

 Oh spindly lettuce, why do you break my heart? We're not sure why
the lettuce doesn't want to grow this year. We've been picking it anyway,
as its paper-thin leaves are still packed with vitamins.

Mr. W's and my desire to do out best to become urban farmers and homesteaders may have been part of what pushed me to add another movie Forks Over Knives to our Netflix queue. It looks at nutrition in this country and around the world and draws the conclusion that we would all be a lot healthier if we tended toward the vegan diet.

Now, we're not planning to give up our beloved proscuitto, short ribs, cambezola, coffee ice cream or any of the other meats, cheeses and non-vegan delicacies we regularly eat. But we're hoping we can be more mindful in our food consumption, trying harder to buy locally-sourced items and naturally fed, humanely treated animal products, plus plan better so we don't throw away as many leftovers and uneaten food.

We also agree that we want to to increase the amount of vegetables we consume. And we're pretty darn happy we can start that end of things right in our own backyard.

The rogue tomato plant continues to be my favorite thing in our backyard.
The fact that it's producing in the middle of winter is something
of a miracle.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What We're Making: Sweet, Sweet Pillow Talk

After the severity of my last post (no severed-head pun intended), I thought I'd lighten the
'S Wonderful mood with a little between-the-sheets story and some sewing show-and-tell.

Excerpt from an actual conversation Mr. W and I had in bed the other night (for the record, we were clothed): 

Me: I think something just hit me in the face. Did it fall out of your nose?

Mr. W: Uh, no pretty sure it didn't.

Me: Really? Because I could swear I felt something...

Mr. W: Nope. [Subtext: I am not the gross one in this relationship. If anyone is going to shoot nose floaters, it's you, Old Lady Washcloth Face.]

Me: Kinda makes me think of that time I fish-hooked your nostril with my pinky.

Mr. W: That was so funny!

Me: I think you just spit on my face.

Now I have to compose myself after rereading the fish-hook-nose blog. I had forgotten just how funny that was...Anyway...

There was another kind of pillow activity going on here last week after I bought some cushions at Home Goods for our fireplace hearth.

Fancy, aren't they?

My plan was to recover them in fabric I had left over from making pillows for our couch. And after much cursing and fumbling with my sewing machine, I reoriented myself with how to operate it and turned the cushions from green to gorge:


Now our guests will have two more comfortable options for resting their tooshies. Next, I'm going to sew myself a few handkerchiefs to keep in the nightstand drawer in case Mr. W continues to spit on my face in bed.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Yet Another Reason to Relocate

 A sunrise view from our front deck...in the Hills of Horror.

As if my recent issue with the post office weren't enough, Hollywood is pushing me again to flee to someplace more sheltered and rural. Only this time, the city's gone balls-out scary.

I should back up and say we've had a stint of shady activity over here recently. First there was the guy who went on the shooting rampage a couple miles from our house. Then there was the New Year's arsonist. And yesterday a horrific discovery on a hiking trail I frequent.

I was sitting at my dining table, chatting on the phone with a friend when I noticed the hum of several helicopters overhead. This is far from uncommon in our area, but they were lingering for awhile so I decided to check my #1 source for local news to find out what was going on: Twitter. I logged on and did a search for Hollywood only to discover a series of posts and links about a human head being found in a bag on a hiking trail. A trail I love to visit because it's pretty and safe. A trail that connects with the one where I took my nieces hiking over the weekend. A trail that is a few streets over from our house.

I immediately felt a sick wave of panic wash over me.

I IMed Mr. W at work to tell him and he replied, "It's time to move." Then, still shaky and filled with fear, I texted a friend who lives nearby, IMed another one and called my mom. I have a tendency to try to suck other people into my stressful situations so I don't have to experience them alone.

When my mom picked up, I asked if she and my dad were watching the news (by that time, the story had traveled  from Twitter and a couple websites). She said no, so I told her what had happened and that I was afraid there might be a serial killer on the loose.

"Oh, there's serial killers all over the place," she replied.

Words of comfort in my time of need. Thanks, Mom.

I was semi-glued to the television and the laptop after that, trying to find some piece of reporting that would make me feel better. But once I got the tidbit that made me feel relieved, I also felt a little guilty for not maintaining my stage-five flight of terror.

It was a 40+year old man's head. Not a 30-something woman.

Just knowing it wasn't my in demographic made me somehow feel safer. I told myself maybe it was an Armenian mafia hit or a drug deal gone bad.

I know terrible things can happen anywhere—and even small towns have their share of creepy situations—but if the trend here in Hollywood continues, Mr. W and I may need to consider moving up our moving date.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Going Postal

Earlier this month when Mr. Wonderful and visited Solvang for New Year's, I really started to think about what life might be like if we moved to a small town. Solvang is on the short list of places where we'd like to relocate, but as we traveled its streets and spent time in its neighboring villages, I began to worry that I might not be able to handle the smallness of it.

I grew up in a quaint, little town and I love the communal atmosphere it offered, but I also had the highrises of downtown LA twenty minutes away. I could venture to the tri-city area of Pasadena/Glendale/Burbank to try new restaurants or watch a taping of The Tonight Show. And now I'm right near the center of Hollywood, which affords me endless possibilities for dining, entertainment and freaky people-watching.

After this last trip, I was questioning whether I'd be able to hack it again in suburbia.

And then I went to the Hollywood post office.

It was Monday afternoon and when I walked in, there were about a dozen people in the regular line and half a dozen at the automated postage machine—and everyone was pissed about being there. The air was filled with sighs and grumbling, and after fifteen minutes of standing in line, I aborted my mission and walked back to my car.

The next day, I decided to run errands in my beloved hometown of Montrose. The post office was one of my stops.

Two feeble-looking old men stood in front of me in line, both of whom sweetly bantered with the postal worker who called them "hon." Within five minutes, I was at the counter and when I told her my package held homemade jelly, she stamped it profusely with her "fragile" stamp. She was all smiles and sugar and after I paid I found myself telling her how much better of an experience it was coming to that post office vs. going to the Hollywood one. She said, "Awe hon, it was a Monday. They're always crazy!" But I have a feeling even if I'd gone to the Montrose post office Monday, it would have been just as enjoyable.

A woman in line behind me heard us talking and said, "I purposely came to this office instead of going to the Burbank one. That one's nuts, too!" This interaction only added to the lovey doveyness that had overcome me.

I guess I really am cut out for small town living. Mr. W and I can always come down and stay with friends in LA if we need a dose of hipster culture or a night out at crowded bar. I'll just be sure to get all my mailing and shipping needs taken care of before we drive south...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Casting a Wide Net: Good Practice for Freelancing and Internet Dating

 Photo courtesy of larrygerbrandt on Flickr

A few weeks ago, one of my favorite bloggers wrote a post about setting parameters when looking for love online. I wholly appreciated her post, not only an ex-online-dating-champ, but also as a freelance (under-employed) writer who is searching for matches online. Just like a single gal on a dating website.  

Back when I actually was a single dating gal, I employed a tactic I affectionately referred to as Operation POE. Process of Elimination. I realized that It didn’t matter how many dates I went on—good or bad—as long as I stayed clear in my own head about who I ultimately wanted to find. I knew that the more people I let into my life, the better my chances of meeting the right guy, thus making every earwax-talk-filled dinner worth it. 

That said, when I set up my "seeking" list on Yahoo! Personals, I included "college degree"  as a must. 

In my mind, college degree = smart. And that's what I was really hoping to find. Someone intelligent, ambitious, open-minded and creative.

It was pure luck that Mr. Wonderful made it across my criteria drawbridge. Like the late great Steve Jobs, Mr. W is a brilliant college dropout. Which is likely why he was smart enough to lie about his education on his dating profile (I think this is the only honesty infraction he’s ever committed since I’ve known him). Had he told the truth, me and my rigid standards may have ruled him out.

Being clear on what you or I hope to find is always the best starting point for attaining it—whether it be a man or a job or a house. I don't think anyone can make their dreams come true without knowing first what those dreams really look like. But I learned from the old online dating stint that you can't just size up the exterior of a package and label it "not the one" without taking the time to open it and see what's really going on inside. 

I have to thank Jane for reminding me about all this as I try to build up my copywriting work. It’s best for me to cast a wide net and try to connect with as many potential clients as possible—and not worry that one may appear to be an imperfect match on the outside. Because the truth is, I won’t know how compatible we are until the first or second date. 

And if the client isn't really who I'm looking for, I’ll just tell them I’m really, really busy next time they call. Process of Elimination style.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Little Peek at Life in Our Bedroom...

Admit it: you only clicked on this post because you thought it was going to be about sex. You thought I was going to divulge some crazy story about how Mr. Wonderful and I tried the new KY mortise and tenon formula and it was AMAZING. Well we didn't. And that's not what this post is about. So pick your mind up out of the gutter, dust it off and check out how cute our duvet cover is. Right?

My real reason in writing this post was to showcase the super fantastic vintage Santa Barbara map Mr. W bought be for Christmas.

At the end of last year, one of the things we put on our 2011 To-Do list was to buy a nice print for the bedroom. We considered having one of Mr. W's pretty wine country photographs blown up or even buying a stock photo of a vineyard somewhere. Our goal was to hang something on the wall that would have us going to bed and waking up focused on where we wanted to land in the future. Hello, visualization and manifestation.

Mr. W hit the nail on the head with his purchase of this hand-drawn vintage map. It totally supports our dream of wormholing back to old-timey California farm days. Just kidding. But the simplicity of the rendering does underscore our desire to move to a simpler life somewhere. And there are even little drawings of some livestock, which we one day hope to own in the form of some sheep and a couple pygmy goats.

So there's our bedroom. I won't tell anyone about the pervy thoughts you were having when you first landed on this page...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What We're Making: Pomegranate Jelly

Now that we're four whole days into the New Year, I thought I'd start a new little posting series on the blog. Although he hasn't "made" a single blog post yet, Mr. Wonderful is always making something in our house (often with my help) so I thought I'd start sharing some of his creations here. Who knows, maybe they'll inspire some of you!

This week's creation came as a result of receiving homemade wine jelly from my parents for Christmas. Once we ate it, Mr. W was hooked and decided he should use the many, many pomegranates his dad had gifted us to make his own batch of jelly. Thus began our kitchen's transformation from culinary laboratory to crime scene...

Mr. W took on the tedious task of de-seeding the pomegranates while I watched the season premiere of The Bachelor. AKA, Crazy Nutbag Chicks and the Winemaker They Love. No we did not add the asparagus pictured above to any jelly. This was a pee-friendly recipe.

Using the tomato grinder I bought last summer from Williams-Sonoma, Mr. W then ground all the seeds to collect their juice without getting the bitterness of the pits.

I had to document the camouflaged kitchen helper. He lays on that rug and we can barely see him, which means his tail has been stepped on many a time.

All that grinding covered the kitchen with a fine mist of purple juice. We mopped the floor 3 times during the process.

See what I mean? Looks like Dexter's been in our house.

Our All-Clad runneth over with juice and pectin. I think... There might be sugar in there, too, but Mr. W isn't on IM right now, so I can't confirm. Oh, and see those peppers over there? Those are from our backyard and Mr. W used several of them to add a spicy kick to some of the jelly jars. He thinks they're jalapeños, but I've never seen a red one like that before.

Farmer Maris carefully sterilized (dipped in boiling water with kitchen tongs) each of the jelly jars we purchased at the grocery store.

Then he carefully filled each jar with his trusty ladle and screwed on their lids.

The jars were then added back to the pot of boiling water so that the lids could form airtight seals.

A few minutes in the pot and voila! We have a bajillion little jars of delicious pomegranate jelly!

I'm not certain where Mr. W got his recipe, but if you're interested in trying to make your own jelly, here's a link to one that sounds similar: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/pomegranate-jelly/detail.aspx