Thanks to friends who are members of the voting academy, I get to see movies that haven't been released yet, in the privacy of someone's home. Other than the occasional reminder that this is not to be seen by anyone other than the intended, it is much better than going to a movie theater.
I just saw two movies that I could have never been able to sit through in a regular theater, Benjamin Button and Revolutionary Road. The first was almost three hours long and even though Brad Pitt is the best eye candy in the world, he does not look like himself till it is almost over. The second movie was painful for me to watch and I don't recommend it to anyone who is now or has been in a bad marriage. It definitely put me over the edge.
Hint: even though the cast members are the same, it does not take off from where TItantic ended (had Leonardo lived).
In keeping with the poinsettia theme,South Coast Plaza has outdone itself. This is probably the largest shopping center in California and if I had the money they spent on decorating, I would have a very nice Christmas.
I know this is the holiday season and nobody wants to think about eating healthy, but this is my all time favorite way to serve vegetables. I had recently been to the Santa Monica Farmer's Market and made this for friends as an appetizer. All I did was chop up some fresh veggies, add olive oil, some chopped rosemary (or whatever fresh herb you have), and sprinkle with kosher salt, put them on a cookie sheet lined with foil and broil them till golden brown. I turned them once.
Voila - you have the best way to eat veggies ever. Various ways to serve: as a side dish, with dip or hummus as an appetizer, sandwiches and so on. Not only are they delicious, they are visually a work of art.
Every December, I get a strong desire to work in a flower shop. I love Christmas arrangements and spend tons of money decorating, mostly using the ever popular poinsettia. Long after all the decorations are put away, the poinsettia comes to life. I have never seen a flower that lasts as long as they do. At the end of January when you are sick of all things Christmas and just want spring to hurry up, the poinsettia looks as fresh as it did December first. Then comes Valentine's day and even though it's red, it could never stand up to a rose. I even try to force it's demise by not watering it, but the sucker doesn't want to leave and ends up staying through Easter.
This year I am going to live dangerously by trying to be original and using some ideas that I have collected from years past. I am the type of person that goes into a flower shop, cases the joint, then goes home and makes the same arrangement for one quarter of the price. Maybe I SHOULD get a job in a flower shop. It sure beats sitting in front of a computer all day.
Even though things are pretty bad economically and depression seems the mode this holiday season, I have decided to make a list of what I am thankful for instead of what is lacking in my life.
1. My youngest daughter will be home for ten days over Christmas and I plan on driving her crazy by making up for lost time on the nagging. I've learned that adult children still don't like to make dentist appointments, eye appointments or eat properly. Contrarily to what she tells me, they do have vegetables in Chicago.
2. My other daughter is enjoying her career and even though she works way too hard, her job is really rewarding and she is a better person because of it.
3. Barack Obama is the new President and we no longer have to be embarrassed by G.W Bush.
4. Sarah Palin is back in Alaska and is so busy planning her daughter's wedding, we hardly hear from her.
5. My x-husband's super huge portfolio is in the tank. He may have to shop at Target like the rest of us.
6. Gas prices were $1.69 today.
7. Everything is on sale. If only people had the money to shop, it would be perfect.
8. I live at the beach finally, and couldn't be happier.
9. Thanks to the web site Bargainst, which helped me find a present that I thought would be impossible to find, and at a discount, on top of it.
10. The three little munchkins that are so much a part of my life and I love with all my heart.
11. To great friends who are going through tough times and make me grateful for what I am.
I ran into this adorable dog today and had to share this picture. No, he was not being humiliated by some insensitive owner. He was on his way to a gig at the local hospital, where he is a member of the pet therapy program. Gracias to him for spreading the holiday spirit. He sure made my day.
I don't know why, but it is really hard for me to get into the Christmas spirit this year. I think it's the economic gloom and doom that seems prevalent everywhere you go. Not to mention the collective anxiety, that if you buy something today, it will be reduced to half off two days before Christmas. Then there is the fact that if you buy a gift card, the store may no longer be in business. I read in the Wall Street Journal that Williams-Sonoma, Pier One, Cost Plus, Chico's, Talbot's, Saks and everyone's favorite drug store, Rite Aid, might not be around in 2009. Even Oprah's favorite things were free.
I took my God son to Old Navy last Thursday night, and as I was in line to pay, I saw waiters walk by with trays of martini's, followed by trays of fabulous cookies, fudge and chocolates. It was a promotion for Lucky Magazine and Old Navy. It was the last thing you would ever expect while shopping there. Not only that, but if you spent thirty dollars, they gave you this fabulous gift of wrapping paper in a Lucite box.
Every day in my email I get free coupons, offers for free shipping and discounts of at least twenty percent off. Stores that have never in the past had sales, are now begging you to come buy their merchandise at a discount. We know the world is in trouble when Godiva Chocolates, Sephora, and Saks Fifth Avenue are offering coupons. Next thing you know, Whole Foods will start carrying affordable food.
Maybe this is the year that we will see Christmas without the commercialism.
I have been a fan of Queen Rania of Jordan from the first time I heard her speak on Oprah and the Katie Couric interview. I am so impressed by this woman and everything she stands for. As the queen, she has used her throne to empower the lives of women, children and families. Her endless charitable work has made her loved by the people of Jordan and the world.
I have been watching her on You Tube and if you haven't watched it, I suggest you do. Not only will you be fascinated by her intelligence and charm, but you will learn a few things about Arab women in the interim.Besides, she is also pro-Obama.
Friday night was the annual Holiday walk on Montana Avenue, the trendiest neighborhood in Santa Monica and thousands of people came for the free food, wine, sweets, music and bargains. I went with my friend Paula, her two boys and my daughter Shannon. This is my favorite shopping area in all of Southern California and has some of the best shops, restaurants and art galleries, spread out over seventeen blocks. There is every kind of store, from yarn shops to jewelry to children's book stores, and you frequently see someone famous, out among the common folks. I happened to run into California's First Lady, Maria Shriver, out for the night with her daughter. This isn't the greatest picture of her, but she is very attractive in person if not a bit too thin. I would have loved to have asked her if her cousin Caroline was going to take the place of Hillary in the senate, but I don't think she would have appreciated it.
I enjoyed the art, the decorations, the music; the free food, not so much. Too many cookies, cheap wine,cheese and the few places that had cupcakes, were too crowded. We did get a lot of candy canes and the boys were able to see many Santa Clauses, even though they are too young to know what it's all about.
The music was the best part and they had everything from violins, guitars, carolers to bongo drums. It was quite festive and I must say that I have been coming to this event for years and this was the best one ever. More people, more entertainment and desperate stores offering great bargains.
Some of us had a better time than others, and poor baby Nolin was being such a good sport, but I think he would have rather been at home in bed.
Why is December the worst month as far as eating goes and it is the month you want to look your best? I guess you have to start dieting in January so that you can look good in December and not wait until the Monday after Thanksgiving to start.
That being said, this is a recipe I have made in the past and I love it. From my favorite web site Epicurious.
Creamy Bean Soup with Fresh Herbs and Spinach
yield: Makes 8 first-course servings
active time: Prep: 40 minutes; Total: 50 minutes
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups chopped onions (about 2 medium)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
5 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 15- to 16-ounce cans white beans, drained
2 15- to 16-ounce cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
1 6-ounce package baby spinach leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
Grated Parmesan cheese
Extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add
onions and garlic and sauté until onions are golden, about 15 minutes.
Add rosemary and stir 1 minute. Add all broth and beans. Bring soup to
boil; reduce to medium-low and simmer until flavors blend, about 10
Working in batches, transfer soup to blender and puree until smooth;
return to pot. Mix in spinach and sage; stir until spinach wilts, about
1 minute. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into
bowls. Sprinkle each with Parmesan cheese and drizzle with extra-virgin
olive oil, if desired.
My good old college roommate Kaern, who is quite a talented artist, has decided to put her stuff on Cafe Press. Even though she lives in Kansas City, we still stay in touch and commiserate on things than could have been different in our lives. If you know any dog lovers, please go by her site and buy something, so her husband doesn't have to get another "I love my Cocker" tee shirt this Christmas. Her site is Three Dog Art Studio.
I am a self-proclaimed sandwich connoisseur and could easily indulge in them, three meals a day, seven days a week. That is why I love going to Bay Cities Italian Deli in Santa Monica, every chance I get. This one-of-a-kind gourmet market is the most popular spot in town because of their sandwiches. The wait is at least half and hour and that doesn't include the time it takes to find a parking space in their tiny parking lot. I have seen grown men cry over parking spots in an attempt to get their meatball sandwich before their lunch hour has expired. I almost got thrown out for taking these pictures, so consider yourself lucky that you can see what a top security deli looks like. Not only do they have fabulous sandwiches, but also the best assortment of salads this side of Italy. I don't mind waiting in line forever, because I just walk around the store and fantasize what it would be like if I could afford to buy everything I see. Did I mention the bread that they bake themselves for the sandwiches? That you can buy a hot loaf to take home? Or the millions of olive oils? Or the assortment of olives? The hot prepared foods and homemade marinara sauce? This place is the next best thing to being in Italy!
I have been negligent with my blogging the last two months, mainly because I have been so busy, not to mention obsessed with the election. I was a nervous wreck the month before and couldn't think of anything but politics. The thought of four more years of a Republicans administration and especially Sarah Palin, caused me many sleepless nights. I was finally able to breathe on November 4th at 9 o'clock Pacific Time. All of a sudden the world seemed like a better place. I wish I had volunteered more than I did, because the people I met were the most driven, hopeful and enthusiastic that I have been around in a long time. The city of Santa Monica exploded that night and was probably second to Chicago in excitement.
I did attend the Brewery Art Walk, the weekend before the election, and it was like an Obama-fest. This event takes place at an old Brewery near downtown Los Angels that has been converted into a Bohemian living/studio complex for artists. The artwork isn't the greatest, but the people watching is. Plus you get to tour the lofts and see up close how they live, and believe me, no two lofts are alike. The Brewery is a mini
community, including hundreds of residents creating a wide range of art.
The doors open during the Brewery Art Walk, in which artists show off
and sell their works; several studios also sell clothes at sample sale
prices, among other things. You do get a voyeuristic thrill just walking through each loft and the best part is that parking and admission is free.
I am glad that I went and it was fun to be around an extremely liberal, tree hugging, socially conscious group of people who are interested in art, and not only the stock market. Plus, it gives me a chance to spend time with my daughter, who is the only person I know, that never gets bored with it.
I single handedly baked all the above, the day before Thanksgiving. This does not include the package I sent to my daughter in Chicago for her birthday two weeks ago. You might say I love to bake and have a bad case of Martha Stewart envy.No wonder I have so many friends. Believe it or not, my desserts were upstaged by this fabulous turkey, cooked by my daughters sister-in-law, who just had a baby boy two and a half months ago. Like mother like daughter, the sweet tooth runs in the family. It was a great Thanksgiving, even though my other daughter Erin was unable to come and stayed in Chicago to have her own Thanksgiving with friends. She will be home in a few weeks for an extended stay at Christmas, so I have reason to start baking again.