Monday, June 20, 2011

Baking with Chula

Here's a true story - I have a small apartment kitchen. One time I thought it'd be a good idea to paint the small apartment kitchen cabinets white so the space would feel larger, lighter and more open. I accomplished my desired results, but paid the price with hours upon hours of manual labor and anxiety levels through the roof over this seemingly small project that is actually A LOT, I mean tons, of work. I lost sleep over those cabinets. I even lost my appetite, which is damn near impossible, ya'll. One day I will show you before and after photos of said project, but that day is not today because last night I baked. There is currently a pile of dirty baking dishes in the sink and flour coating most surfaces of the kitchen. I even managed to get flour on poor Chula.

Maybe that'll teach her not to hover in the tiny kitchen while I'm baking Berry Galette.

Berries are at their peak deliciousness right now so I've been making an effort to incorporate them into everything I'm eating lately. Whether it's tossing some berries into my morning oatmeal or topping salads with fresh strawberries and crumbled feta, berries are so so good right now that the idea of a rustic berry galette has been tempting me all week. Since Justin has been out of commission all weekend resting his back, it was prime baking time for me and prime dessert eating time for him.

I made a much smaller version of this recipe, using only what berries I had on hand. This will definitely be made again and next time I'll make sure to have fresh whipped cream to top it off. I should also look into a baking apron for Chula if she's going to be helping out in the kitchen in the future.

Friday, June 17, 2011

He Fell

It looks like we may need to purchase a subscription to Life Call for my dear boyfriend. Yesterday morning, while getting into his car, Justin fell... and he couldn't get up.

To clarify, Justin suffered an injury in college that caused a slipped disc in his spine. Every now and again he'll do something to agitate it and suffer in pain as a result. It can be anything from heavy lifting to sneezing too hard. Usually the soreness subsides after resting his back and taking it easy for a few days. When he tweaked his back earlier this week the pain wasn't subsiding and was worsening as the days went on. Yesterday he went to get in his car to drive to work and his back gave out, causing him to fall to the garage floor. Luckily he wasn't injured in the fall, but he did have to crawl from the garage back to our apartment because straightening his back wasn't an option. (This is where Life Call would have come in handy.)

The pain and the inability to stand or walk had Justin freaked and he wanted to go to the emergency room to make sure there wasn't a serious problem. Well actually, he wanted to call an ambulance, but the thriftier person in this relationship refused to pay $1,000 to have an ambulance take him to the ER three minutes away so I left work and took him to nearby Sherman Oaks Hospital. After that experience I can now say that unless I am moments from death, please make the extra drive to UCLA if I'm ever in need of emergency care. This place was a little scary and alot unhelpful.

To be fair, they administered three shots and gave him two oral painkillers and one or a few of those things got him to the point where he could at least walk again. But why we had to wait an hour before receiving those medications and an hour after receiving them, I'll never know. Oh, and when someone comes to the front desk asking for a wheelchair, I think that's a cue that someone in the parking lot is unable to walk and the person who brought them may need help lifting them out of the car. But just point to the wheelchairs, that's fine.

After a few worried hours in the hospital we were sent home with a slew of medications to help ease what is most likely an inflamed disc. Justin's been on bed rest ever since so I stayed home with him yesterday and last night I made a big batch of creamy pasta for his recovery meal. Pasta heals all wounds, right?

This recovery meal was dangerously good. Dangerous because we didn't have any tomato sauce in the house, which is what I'd normally use, but I did have about 2 to 3 tablespoons of heavy cream in the fridge so I made a cream sauce instead. The broccolini and heirloom cherry tomatoes cancel out the dairy, right?

PS, Bonus points are awarded to you if you caught the LOTR reference in the title. "Lord Aragorn, where is he?" "He fell." 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bikini Shopping (or the quickest way to feel bad about yourself)

For the past few weeks, I've been preparing for an upcoming week-long trip to Hawaii with my familia. Yay! That meant I needed to go bikini shopping. Boo! I think it's pretty common for females to avoid this task like the plague and only do it when absolutely necessary. Kinda like visiting the dentist. But with my Hawaiian departure date looming, I knew this past weekend was the time to face those spandex demons.

I walked into ValSurf with my head high. Justin and I parted ways so he could search the men's section for his swimsuit, a search that took him mere minutes, while I carried at least 15 different bikinis into the dressing room. Many thoughts crossed my mind as I tried one after the other with absolutely no success - thoughts like, "Is this on backwards? Surely this amount of material isn't meant to cover my butt" and, "Do surfer girls not have rears or something?" And finally, "WherethehelldoesKimKardashianbuyswimsuits?!"

Yes, I have a butt. It's always been there and will always be there. Even when I was a skinny minny in high school, the bootay was still there. My college roommate and I used to say, "Butts are in." But ValSurf did not get the memo. Cut to me feeling bad about myself as the hopeful ValSurf employee asked if any of the suits worked out.

I did not want to continue my search, but a girl needs at least a handful of swimsuit options when on a beachy vacation, so images of our vacation rental in Hawaii kept me going.

I thought I'd get burned by another "surf apparel" type of shop, but after stopping by Bloomingdale's and finding alot of super cute suits that broke my heart when I reached for the price tag, I swung in to PacSun (I know, am I in high school?) The clouds parted and the sun came out as I spotted bottoms with full butt coverage and price tags under $20 per piece. Jackpot! I ended up falling in love with no less than three swimsuits and spent just around $75 thanks to a buy one, get one half off sale they were having. Three swimsuits! Let us take a look at the loot. (Disclaimer: That is not my body.)

Check out that booty coverage. Appropriate enough for a family vacay, I'd say.

This story has a happy ending. My attempt at spin class last night to prep for aforementioned bikinis, not so much. Great workout but one of the most uncomfortable. Am I supposed to be able to sit today?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Baby Bat Pig

This title refers to my beloved Boston Terrier, Chula. For non-Spanish speakers, "chula" is slang for someone or something that is cute or precious. Essentially her name means cutie, and that she is. Just look at that neck roll.

I received Chula when she was almost a year old. I call her a rescue dog because I did adopt her, just not from a shelter. She and her sister Bella were owned by my parents' good friend Cindy. It quickly became apparent to Cindy and the dog trainers that Chula was the Alpha female of the litter, and poor little timid Bella was on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. Chula's wild energy and Bella's introverted personality did not mix well together. The trainers advised Cindy to split the two and train them separately. That's where I came in. There I was off at college living in a cute little house with a fenced in backyard and I was itching to get a dog. More specifically, a Boston Terrier. I was giddy when my parents told me that Cindy was looking for someone to look after Chula for a few months. Of course I would do it! I was told that I was going to take Chula, because Bella was so timid that she wouldn't transition as well to the change in homes. When I arrived to pick up Chula, the first thing I noticed was her googly eyes. The second thing I noticed was that she was way more wild than her sister. While Bella was content to sit and lick your hands as you pet her, Chula was incapable of sitting still and did a crazy happy dance when greeting any new acquaintances. I knew I was in for an interesting ride.

I drove Chula back to Ft. Worth with me, hoping I hadn't just made a huge mistake and bitten off more than I could chew. Having a dog is a big responsibility, especially when you're still in school. I was also taking her away from her sister, and I hoped she would adapt well to living with me for awhile. As Cindy suspected, Chula showed no signs of difficulty adapting to a new environment and Bella was much more at ease being the only dog in Cindy's household. After a few months of looking after Chula and bonding with her, Cindy asked if I'd be interested in keeping her. And that is the story of how I adopted Chula. She's been with me for around six years now and the only tricks she knows are the ones the trainers were able to teach her before she shacked up with me. Oops! Justin's working on a "high five" move with her. I'll keep you updated.

Truthfully, I tend to forget about Chula's googly eyes until someone brings them up. I get alot of "How can you tell what she's looking at?" and "Can she see straight?" comments. When I see Boston Terriers with normal eyes it throws me off because I'm so used to Chula's. They're just one small part of her quirky personality, which you'll probably see alot more of on this blog. Below is a small photo sampling of the uniqueness that is Chula.

It's rare, but sometimes I do get a normal photo of my baby bat pig.

PS, "baby bat pig" is something Justin just recently called Chula and we think it's pretty darn appropriate.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I Say "Ya'll"

If you've spoken to me for any longer than five minutes, I probably mentioned that I'm from Texas at least once. I'm a Texan, it's true. And I'm pretty darn proud of it. Unless you're from Texas it's hard to describe what it is to feel Texas pride. Maybe it has to do with being from one of the largest states in this country or the fact that our state was once its own nation, but for me those things didn't affect me everyday when living in Texas. Things like the culture, the Southern hospitality, the open spaces, the lakes, the passion for football and most largely, the food, did. I've done my fair share of traveling in the States and internationally, and the food I will always miss the most is the food of my home - Texas. Sorry Italy, it's hard to trump nostalgia. Ok, but seriously that gnocchi I had in Italy was life-changing. So if I can't be savoring fresh caprese salads and gnocchi with Gorgonzola cream sauce in Italy, I'll take good ol' Southern comfort food, BBQ and Tex-Mex any day.

Last night's dinner took me back to my roots with some soul satisfying pork ribs baked in a foil blanket in the oven for a good hour. While those cooked, I tried this recipe for Southern Skillet Corn. Um. Wow. I mean, I like corn as much as the next girl. No more, no less. (Update: How did I forget about popcorn when I wrote this? Popcorn is definitely corn and it's my all-time fave snack. Sorry I forgot about you, popcorn. Never again. ) But this corn sent my love higher than I anticipated, into overflowing smitten-kitten levels. If only corn counted as a veggie. Sigh.

Bonus for being super easy to make with a few ingredients that are always on-hand.

The first day of summer is June 21st but with corn this good on my plate, I'm already there.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Taste of S'mores

I tricked ya. Here you thought I was going to share with you photos of ooey gooey marshmallows with melty sweet chocolate sandwiched between crisp graham crackers, but believe it or not I actually went camping and didn't get a picture of the s'mores I consumed during the trip. Failure. What I will share, however, is an account of my first trip to Joshua Tree, California. Hope that makes up for the lack of s'mores photos.

Me and Justin (that's my man friend) set out for the Indian Cove campground early Friday morning of Memorial Day weekend. When we left Los Angeles it was probably 72 degrees out. When we stepped out of the car upon arrival in Joshua Tree it was a blazing 95 degrees out. What a difference a two and a half hour drive makes! We set-up camp and then promptly got back in the car and drove ten minutes to the Home Depot we spotted on our way in to buy a canopy for shade. Contrary to what the name leads you to believe, Joshua Tree does not contain any shade providing trees. (This is where my man friend jumps in and says, "Becky, we were technically in 29 Palms so...")

The canopy was absolutely essential for relief from the sun's rays. Ms. Chula took the approach of hiding under the picnic table for shelter. A camper she is not.

Despite the harsh sun, the setting was stunning and we occupied our time until the other campers arrived by entertaining our inner child and climbing every rock in sight. When the day's sun had faded we went off in search of a beautiful sunset. We found it!
Our dinner was extremely gourmet - hot dogs and pasta salad with banana bread beer.

We later tried to make Jiffy Pop over the fire, quite unsuccessfully. The following day the entire gang arrived, making our group complete with nine people and five dogs. We did alot more rock climbing and exploring that day and ended the night with delish hobo packs and s'mores. Hobo packs are tin foil packs filled with meat, potatoes and other vegetables, which you place near the coals in the fire pit to cook and steam themselves into a lovely meal. When you cut open the foil and those aromas escape and you pierce a beautifully cooked piece of potato with your fork, there's nothing like it. And yes, here you're reminded of how I failed to take s'mores pictures. I had two and they were divine. They almost helped me sleep, but the constant flapping of our tent in the wind counteracted the s'mores coma and kept me awake most of the night.

After breakfast tacos the next morning (thanks Shan and Paul!), we were on our way back to Los Angeles. But not before a stop at the Sonic we spotted on our way into the park. Warning, a rant is coming in 3...2...1. Do you know how frustrating it is to be subjected to the barrage of Sonic commercials on television when the nearest one is more than 30 miles away? Oh cool, Sonic has new menu items. Must be nice for those people who live near a Sonic! When I lived in Texas it seemed like there was a Sonic around every corner. It's not actually just Sonic commercials that torture us Angelenos, there's a long list of businesses we get commercials for in LA that would require an hour drive or more to get to the nearest location. Dairy Queen, Dunkin Donuts, Red Lobster and Carrabas are on the list. (Note: I can live without the others but Carrabas used to be my fave in high school when I thought it was a "fancy restaurant".) Oh Sonic, how I've missed you!

Please excuse the cell phone camera picture. Coincidentally, I think these trees are Joshua Trees.
So with our Oreo Sonic Blasts in hand we said our last goodbyes to Joshua Tree. It was a great trip with great friends, but I think the dogs were the most excited ones to get home to their comfortable digs. As you'll see from the background of the photo below, my friend's dog Kennedy was in the car long before we were packed, hinting that he was ready to hit the road.

Friday, June 3, 2011