Sunday, July 20, 2014

Georgia on My Mind

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm temporarily hanging out in Atlanta for work. I'm only shooting on certain days, which means I've got a looooot of time on my hands. I don't know many people in this city, and the one friend I had here working on another TV show just left to go home to LA today. The past few days have been filled with a lot of lonely me time, which is always good for the soul. Right? Right.

It's taken me about a week to get used to calling a hotel home. Don't get me wrong. I love room service, and I love housekeeping. I love the pool with food and beverage service, I love the spa, and I love the brand-new gym, stocked with cold towels and green apples and free headphones and water. I feel so absolutely spoiled. I'm ecstatic that I'm here. But maybe it's the germaphobe in me - I can't help but think about how many sticky fingers have touched the remote control! Plus, when it comes down to it, I'm away from home home, which, when you've got a loving husband and two furry kitties there waiting for you, is...well, hard. So I'm trying to refocus my germaphobic energy toward exploring this amazing city, and trying to build a little temporary home space for myself out here, even if it resides only in the mind.

Atlanta is bawse. It contains glimpses of cities I've known and loved and lived in: New York and Chicago, as well as the South, obviously, plus a healthy dash of Portland. The Southern food here has really blown me away, as well as the general friendliness of people. Here are some moments that made me at "home" in my mind.

High Museum of Art

The High Museum currently has a really cool outdoor design installation called "Mi Casa Your House." Basically, it's a bunch of red hammocks on a very green lawn! When I walked up, I just made a beeline straight for a hammock and spent the next half hour, swinging. This reminded me a lot of LACMA's outdoor installations in Los Angeles.


Inside the museum, I saw a Mary Cassatt painting that immediately brought back the feeling for me of my shoes echoing as I walk around The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC - my favorite place to go on days when I was cutting school hanging around in New York City before I ever lived there. I have the best fuzzy memories of high school field trips where somehow we were all left to our own devices to wander the grand galleries of the Met, staring at paintings, sketching our own, and walking around the Upper East Side.


This Hopper painting and the similar one below it gave me a Cape Cod-y, mid-Atlantic vibe -- those marine blues and whites, that coastal breeze -- a nice feeling when you're feeling hot and muggy in the South.


Georgia Aquarium

Exploring the aquarium by myself, surrounded by hundreds of kids, reminded me of my time in Chicago, when I was working with these awesome refugee kids from Uptown. I brought them everywhere I could in the city that was fun and enriching and kid-friendly, and I have great memories of them oohing and aaahing at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.


Piedmont Park

Two words: Central Park.






Saturday, July 19, 2014

Homemade Granola

Ahoy! I'm in Atlanta working on a TV show right now - and more about that soon - but now that I'm living in a hotel away from my home in Los Angeles, I've been thinking more than ever about the perks of having a kitchen at your disposal.

Store-bought granola is so damn expensive and never all that tasty, so I've recently started making my own granola and giving it out as gifts. It's super easy and can totally be customized to whatever you happen to have in your cupboards. I based my granola loosely on a mashup of this recipe from Smitten Kitchen and this recipe from author Heidi Schulz

For those who've been thinking about making their own granola - do it! I'm not much of a baker or a cook, and I can't be bothered with time-consuming or difficult recipes, but this one was easy as pie and well worth it. All I knew was that I wanted yummy granola, and to use the large amounts of coconut flakes, coconut oil, and pumpkin seeds I had in the cupboard.

First, I threw all the ingredients (rolled oats, coconut flakes, almonds, pumpkin seeds, dried blueberries, dried apples, cinnamon, and salt) in a big bowl and mixed them up:


Then, in another bowl I beat egg whites (this is key to making it clumpy!) and mixed in grade B maple syrup, vanilla, and coconut oil before distributing it thoroughly in the dry mixture.


Then I lined a baking sheet with parchment paper and pressed it into a big ol' donut shape, to ensure each section got toasty...



...and threw that in the oven for about 45 minutes at 300 degrees, 'til the edges started to get a little golden and crunchalicious.


The problem with homemade granola is that it doesn't cluster as well as store-bought granola, but check out these babies! The egg white trick really does seem to work!


Kept some for myself...


...and distributed the rest in repurposed jars. This is an old Bonne Maman preserves jar.


My first feeble attempt at packaging a granola gift...a big ol' nope!


My first batch went out to my twinsie actress/blogger friend, Lynn, of The Actor's Diet.


Then, I decided to man woman up and just buy some Ball mason jars at the new Orchard Hardware down the street...


...which made the whole gift packaging thing a lot cuter.


And off they went! I love giving unexpected homemade gifts to friends, especially something they can eat for breakfast.

Homemade Clustery Granola 
(A Mashup of Smitten Kitchen's Big Cluster Maple Granola & Heidi Schulz's Clumpy Granola)

1 cups rolled oats
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
2 tbsp coconut oil
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup almond slivers & whole almonds
1/3 cup grade B maple syrup (or honey)
2 egg whites, beaten
1/4 cup dried blueberries (or whatever you have on hand)
handful of dried apples (or whatever you have on hand)

Preheat oven to 300°. Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites til frothy, then add in oil, egg whites, maple syrup, and vanilla.

Pour the wet ingredients into the large bowl and mix thoroughly, ensuring everything is well coated.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and split mixture evenly between the 2. Spread evenly and press down firmly into a thin donut-shaped single layer with a spatula (this prevents an uncooked middle).

Bake in the oven for roughly 45-55 minutes. When it is golden brown on the edges and dry to the touch, remove and allow to cool. Gently break up granola into whatever size clusters delight you.

Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks, if it lasts that long. Serve alone or over yogurt with fruit. For me, one batch only lasted me about five days because I just wanted to eat granola, breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Vintage Tea Cup Terrarium

As I promised last post, here's what I did with those dollar succulents I picked up from the Melrose Trading Post last week.


So it all goes back to the last time I was visiting my parents in New Jersey, I promised to clean out their basement for them. In an old, dusty box, I found the dinnerware set that I grew up eating off of as a little kid:


I remember many a plate of spaghetti bolognese served on these plates on a Sunday night after Chinese school. Turns out this china is Myott/Staffordshire's discontinued Finlandia line, manufactured in 1982 in England.


As you may remember, it's the little old lady in me that can't turn up an old tea cup that was made in England, Japan, or basically anywhere but America or China (unless it's like, old China china). Sadly, cleaning means getting rid of stuff, so I donated the whole set to Big Brothers Big Sisters, in hope that someone will need a beautiful set of dishes to eat off of. In the meantime, there's such nostalgia for me when I look at the print...it's just such a gorgeous hue of blue on white.


I stared many hours at that sugar bowl on our breakfast table, and though my parents rarely used cream in their coffee or tea, we used it on nice occasions. As a kid, I remember thinking that cluster pattern on top looked like weird grapes. And it looks like I'm also not the only person who has an appreciation for this pattern. Blogger Anne Marie, who runs the site Thriftyamos.com did a whole post on how lovely the Myott Finlandia is...

From Thriftyamos.com
 And check out what seller Botanicalgems made for sale on Etsy from an original Myott tea set:

From Botanicalgems on Etsy.com

A pretty awesome jewelry holder!

Had I found that image before I donated all our dishes, I would've kept them and made my own jewelry dishes with them. Or at least sold them on eBay...looks like I could've fetched a couple hundred bucks at the going rate. D'oh!

But alas, old dishes must go, and actors must fly to Los Angeles with carry-on luggage, which means...I saved four pieces from charity. Yes, four of these tea cups were wrapped in underwear and sweaters and stuffed in my suitcase and flown across the country.


Not pictured above is the sugar bowl. Just looking at these makes me happy, but I rarely drink from teacups like that. So I decided to repurpose them in a way that I know all too well...

Just grabbed some basic potting soil and added some perlite...


...and mixed these suckers up, topped with some pretty white rock and sand.


Here's a close up of one of them, sitting pretty on my cluttered kitchen window sill.


I'll give a couple away as gifts and keep the other two so that I can think of my childhood while I do the dishes.



Thursday, July 3, 2014

Flea Circus

Made it out to the Melrose Trading Post last weekend with my pal Cynthia, who was on the lookout for some cheap succulents.

My friend Kai calls it "looking at junk," but I can't resist browsing through all the fun antiques and oddities at the flea markets that pop up all over California on the weekends. Where else can you find a bunch of old typewriters upon which to write the Great American novel...


"It was the best of times; it was the blurst of times."

...mirrors you can turn into trays for your vanity table, or as I did from my Rose Bowl find, a liquor tray for our dining nook...

Just stare into your empty-eyed reflection as you swig the last of that vodka, you sad animal.

...and that Snoopy goodies jar from the 1980s your mom used to keep all the lollipops in?

Yum!

Plus you'll never know when a saddle will come in handy (complete with rope to lasso)...

Yee-haw!

...or when you'll decide to dig out your old Nintendo from your parents' basement and defeat the entire Legend of Zelda game.

Up up down down left right left right B A select start.
Here's King Triton's chest of mermaid jewels...

I consider myself a reasonable merman.

Ah yes. And the succulents. It's easy to forget what you came in for, since there are so many diversions.



Only a dollar each! What a total steal. I picked up a few and decided to gift them by planting them into some little terrariums. More on that in my next post!


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

It's Peony Season

Peonies are a heck of a flower.

The Chinese believe peonies symbolize wealth and fortune, as well as noble status.


The Japanese poets memorialized the peony in haiku:

The Peony
Made him measure it
With his fan.
-Issa

In the stillness,
Between the arrival of guests,
The peonies.
-Buson

The stamens and pistil
Of the peony gush out
Into the sunlight.
-Taigi

Whoah there, Taigi. Don't get too excited.

I loooove these floofy, dinner-plate-sized flowers. Not only are they gorgeous, but they can withstand snow. How's that for badass? When I visited Japan in winter, I noticed gardeners would build a little hut for each peony so it wouldn't get crushed by the weight of the snow.


Every time they're in season, I go nuts stocking up. Trader Joe's in Southern California must have a great dealer, because they are packed to the heavens...


$6.99 for five stems? That's insane! At a fancy Silver Lake florist last year, I bought three stems for 24 dollars ($8 each) and all the petals fell off within 24 hours. On the contrary, my Trader Joe's peonies or the ones I pick up at the farmer's market (at about $3/stem) usually last me up to two weeks.

My guy has caught onto my peony craze and bought me some gorgeous tulips and peonies for my birthday this past week...


And for now, our home is filled with these lovely power puffs of color.





Aaaah. Now doesn't just looking at that make you happy?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Endless Summer


You are 8, and you're sitting in the air-conditioned box that is your grandfather's apartment in Taipei. The sweat of pneumonia has finally left you, Bobby McFerrin is on the radio, and your knees are jutting up on the hard, wooden chair. Between your palms, you hold a precious mango, carved inside out like the softest gold jewel. Juice drips from your hands and sticks to your elbows. You bite.

You are 17, and you haven't left yet. You haven't known death yet, you haven't fallen in love with cities yet. You are lying on your back in a wet field in the middle of nowhere, with a friend whom you will grow apart from. It's the first time stars mean anything to you. You begin to drowse, then you realize that clacking noise you hear is not construction, not a dream. Something begins running out of the woods, and you scramble with your friend toward the car, forgetting your shoes behind you in the grass, laughing with terror.

You are 21, and you are in a Mexican Polish neighborhood of Chicago. The sound of bachata echoes off brick walls. August's humidity hangs limp in the air. You're walking toward your car when a skinny orange kitten mewls at you. He is sitting on the roof of an abandoned car in the alleyway. He jumps off and gets into yours. You say no, but then you say yes.

You are 30, and for once the weather isn't oppressive on your birthday. You're in Sheep's Meadow, buildings like stalagmites surrounding a perfect green carpet. Someone has hung up a dinosaur filled with candy on a tree. You grip a bat. Eyes closed, you swing as hard as you can, wait for the sweetness to fall.




Monday, March 31, 2014

Renovating a French Chateau

Awe-inspiring wanderlust blog Messy Nessy Chic featured a great piece today about a couple who bought an abandoned 18th-century neoclassical French chateau and are, little by little, renovating it.

You guys! It looks like Downton Abbey!

Looks like Australian couple Karina and Craig Waters snatched up this treasure in the French Midi-Pyrénées after it sat on the market for four years. They've been documenting the process of renovating it on their blog.


For someone like me, who daydreams about making it big one day, renovating a chateau in the French or Italian countryside, and inviting my friends to summer with us ("summer" becomes a verb when you're fancy and rich), this is an amazing peek into a dream world. Of course, the fantasy is probably much more fun when it's not your own money that you're spending on tearing down walls and excavating old staircases, and you're not wading through governmental red tape and waiting for months on end to get building permits from the French authorities.



The reno has also yielded some cool archeological discoveries... construction workers recently found a 3-meter wide space below the floorboards, which - surprise! - has a vaulted ceiling. A vaulted ceiling, you guys.


Could this be the ancient remains of a former emperor's palace? Or just some old wine cellar? We'll see...apparently the builders are excavating to see where it leads.



I can't wait to see the finished product, although it'll be a few years. Good thing Karina and Craig rescued it from the former owners, foreign investors who were planning to convert the chateau into seventeen luxury apartments. Can you imagine if this place was renovated to have a gym and a Starbucks on the ground floor? No thanks. In the meantime, I'm following the renovations on their Facebook page and on their blog, and I'm working on getting my own European chateau or villa. If you want to come summer with me in the future, you better be nice to me now. Thanks to Messy Nessy Chic for spreading the word about this amazing project.