Jessielah!

adventures in awesomeness…

The Creeps

Today I went to see the doctor about my lower back pain and the numbness in my foot. It seemed rather routine.

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She took my blood pressure, told me to stop drinking coffee and try celery juice instead, gave me a prescription and some exercise routines, and then as we were wrapping up, she asked me what my husband did and what I did before becoming a stay-home parent.

Oh, I sang opera.

My doctor gets very excited and starts telling me about another opera sining patient of hers who sings with the Symphony. And then she asks me to sing for her. Just a few bars.

Um… okay… I don’t know why I said yes. Maybe because she reminded me of my old Belarusian roommate.

It was too late to lie my way out and avoid the stares from the waiting room on the way out. So I sang a few bars and she starts crying. Tearing up. Gushing and giving me career advice. Ugh. I hate career advice. If I wanted to sing, I’d be singing.

But I smiled and nodded while plotting my escape as graciously as possible.

Whew. Weird.

And then about 5pm my phone rings. 858… Is it my Dad? I answer. Sounds like Marilu.

Hi Jessica, it’s Dr. Foreign-Last-Name. I have two tickets to the symphony tonight and it’s a choral … If you would like to go?

What!?!? Why did I answer the phone?!?

The worst part is that I FELT BAD for saying I had other plans (which I did).

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Baking by Fire!

I knew I was supposed to make spaghetti and meatballs AND cookies for the boys’ Pre-K Holiday/Cultural pot luck, so I don’t know why I waited until the day before to make EVERYTHING.

I also thought this would be a good day to go on a 7 mile bike ride and fast. (I have no idea what is wrong with my brain sometimes.)

So after laying on the couch, panting like a dying dog, I force myself to get up and start baking. I manage to whip up 2 cookie batters before I have to go back to preschool. Then we rush home and I make 3 more different types of cookie dough (yeah, something is definitely going wrong inside my brain) before realizing that we have to go to the store to get EVERYTHING for spaghetti & meatballs.

I start out making these, Chocolate Peppermint Cookies from Martha Stewart’s Living Magazine:

Martha Stewart RecipesDon’t they look just delightful!!

I follow the recipe to a T and the resulting cookies… delicious! They taste exactly like a thin mint!

Amped up about making a tasty and attractive cookie, I move on to a chocolate thumbprint cookie filled with ganache (also Martha Stewart, from the same issue). I didn’t have enough softened butter so I decide to cut the recipe in half. Again, the cookies come out looking great (thank you Martha!) but when I go to eat one… whoa, I can really taste the salt in there.

GODDAMNIT! Who forgot to cut the salt in half and added TWO teaspoons instead of one?

DOH!Me. I ruined the cookies.

But, I thought, perhaps they could be saved with the ganache filling. Wrong! The salt overpowered everything. I was starting to feel like Jamie in Top Chef when she over salted her celery and went spiralling out of control. They were the first, but not the last, cookie to go in the trash.

I take a break from cookies to get the meatballs made, as the boys are starving and I won’t let them eat cookies for dinner. After a horrible trip to Target, I get the spaghetti and meatballs going and return to my next cookie, the Key Lime thumbprint cookies.

They turn out okay, but I don’t like shortbread that is too thick, so everything kind of sticks to the roof of my mouth. I leave out the key lime filling for the second batch and add strawberry jam straight from the jar. Much better! And more festive. Yay.

Spirits up I decide it’s time to coat these peppermint cookies with white chocolate. But as my stove is filled with spaghetti noodles and sauce and meatballs, I have to use the microwave, which is always tricky, even for reheating coffee. The chips don’t look like they are melting so I add butter. And my chocolate turns into a grainy clump.

Seized White ChocolateWHAT. THE. HELL??

Apparently, you are not supposed to put even like a speck of water in chocolate or it will seize up. Even a moist wooden spoon can cause your delicious Ghiradelli chocolate to turn into junk. Luckily I had two bags.

I use a water bath/double boiler this time and things are going along well. And then…. JUNK! Fuck, fuck, fucking fucker fuckaholic! I am pretty pissed. I am also tired and hungry. Plus the damned dog is scavenging around, ducking in and out of the shadows looking for the moment when my back is turned to climb up the step stool and eat everything off the counter. (Yes, the dog have evolved and can now use tools, like an ape.)

We eat, I put the boys down, I almost fall asleep on the floor, and then I slowly, sadly, trudge back to the kitchen. It’s almost nine pm. Where did my day go?

So Chocolate Peppermint cookies have no coating. I try to “frost them with the white chocolate but it looks ugly and makes the cookies soft. I try making sandwiches out of them with the ganache. I decorate them with stencils and powdered sugar. But none of them really taste that great or look that great and it’s a ton of work I don’t want to do now that it’s ten pm.

And then I realize I have two more cookies in the fridge that need to be cooked. I decide that it’s time to get drunk.

It makes making my ammonia cookies a bit easier. I decide, after burning the first batch, not to make the Meyer Lemon Lace Tuiles.

It’s 12:10am. I’ve been awake for 17 hours, baking for 14 of those hours. My feet ache. My back aches. But… But. I have a fabulous tray of cookies that look good (enough) and taste yummy yummy.

Seacrest out!

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It’s Cookie Time!!

It’s my favorite time of year, Christmas cookie time! The boys and I are starting things off with a bang — and finally opening the baker’s ammonia I’ve been chomping at the bit to use. (Much thanks to my awesome mom-in-law!)

So I really, really wanted to do an ammonia cookie (also known as Swedish Drömmar or Vanilla Dreams) and omit the coconut and make a thumbprint cookie with the dough.

 What’s left of my failed thumbprint cookie.

While very tasty, the resulting cookies were a hot mess to look at. The jam had fallen through the cookies creating a huge hole in each one. I just could not keep the cookie from spreading and sagging beneath the weight of the jam. So I made a new batch, this time adding color by rolling them in red & green sugar. The ones that I didn’t burn turned out fabulous.

Yay! It’s delicious and good-looking, just like my husband!

Here is the recipe I used, a mashed-up modification of recipes I found on the internet.

2 cups plus 2 tbs all-purpose flour

1 ¼ cup of sugar

1 cup of butter, softened

1½ tsp vanilla

1 tsp baker’s ammonia

½ – ¾ tsp salt (to taste)

colored sugars, optional

Preheat oven to 300 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cream the butter and sugar just until sugar is incorporated into the butter, 30sec – 1 minute. Add vanilla.

Crush baker’s ammonia, being careful not to inhale it! They were used to revive fainting people for a reason. You don’t want to end up with a burned nostril and a wonky eye like me. =D

Sift together flour, salt, and ammonia and stir into butter mixture.

Dough will be very stiff. Roll dough into 1 inch balls. I used a 1/2 tablespoon to measure my dough. Roll balls in colored sugar and place on baking sheet about 2 inches apart. If your balls are soft (he he he) then put them in the refrigerator for an hour.

Place in middle rack of oven and bake 6-10 minutes, depending on your oven. Tops will be pale and edges should be golden brown.

Let cool and then enjoy!!

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Days Ten & Eleven of Thirty

Two days and only 800 words written. Officially behind schedule since starting. Tomorrow is day 12 and I need 20,000 words to stay on schedule. Going to get some done now!

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It’s November! Time for NaNoWriMo!

National Novel Writing Month

I’ve always been writing stupid little stories, creating characters and situations, and never finishing them because, well, they were just for my own personal entertainment. However, now that both boys are in Preschool for a few hours a day, I decided that this would be the perfect time to actually sit down and finish a story that is more than a few hundred words long.

Along comes NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, challenging would-be writers like myself to complete a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. The mathematical breakdown rounds that out to be 1667 words per day. So I have to write on Fridays, weekends, even on Thanksgiving.

To add some peer pressure to the mix, I will be posting my daily word count to keep me accountable (because I will tell a lie to get out of work in a heart beat.)

Do you have a challenge you need to overcome? Then join in with me! It doesn’t have to be writing, it can be eating right, going to the gym, driving less, or trying to stay on a budget. Challenges are fun. Especially when you win a free t-shirt!

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Jessielah Gets Her Hair Did!

Some days, if I’m lucky, I run a brush, too much styling product, and a curling iron through my hair and it looks like this:

What is up with those bangs?!

But most days (i.e., almost every day) it looks something like this:

Bangs Gone Wild. That’s why I look that way.

I’ve been on this whole “taking better care of myself” kick and decided that getting my hair done by a professional was in order. The last time I went to a real salon (not counting Uncle Richard who gave me a trim last, last October) was June of 2007. That was almost 4 years ago. I’m a little overdue.

My biggest problem has been finding a place that can do MY hair (black, mixed, relaxed, textured hair WITH trendy bangs) where I feel comfortable, where they do a good job, and where they don’t charge me $120 to cut an upside down V at the nape of my neck. I hit the internet (as I have no friends in the know RE: LA hair) and stumbled upon a Yelper who did reviews for a bunch of different salons.

And that’s how I found Lesa Marie at Women of Color Salon. I LOVE-LOVE-LOVE that she had a website with photos and prices. I saw the exact hair style I wanted. Yay! And what is this? I can schedule my appointment …. online? And there is a Saturday availability? Shut yo mouf! Whoo! Since I had relaxed the top half of my hair back in Jan / Feb and it didn’t seem too overgrown, I booked a Press & curl with a Deep Condition and trim.

A breezy 30 minute drive took me to downtown Inglewood – and past the famous donut sign!

Don’t get a divorce, get a donut! Wait, that’s not right…

I arrived a few minutes before my appointment parked out front in the meters. My only gripe is that the machines take quarters only… or credit cards. Wtf? I popped in all the quarters I had and hoped I’d be out in enough time.

After a warm greeting, wash, condition, and dry by Lesa Marie’s assistant (and online guru) I was sent to the private booth (complete with television and totally addicting Lifetime movie) where Lesa Marie spent AT LEAST one and a half hours trimming and pressing and pressing and pressing and pressing my hair from a hurrah’s nest to silky magic!

My hair after Lesa Marie’s magic hot-comb hands!

So long, so silky, so all mine!!!!

It was fabulous. Fab. U. Lous. I felt like a million bucks. I couldn’t stop touching it. You would have thought I was in a Timotei commercial.

Swangin’ !!!!

She told me that if I pressed it every few weeks that I wouldn’t have to use a chemical relaxer anymore (Huzzah! Good bye gloopy mess.) and could have straight and natural hair. Whoo! And then I got to go on an impromptu hair photo shoot. Talk about glamorous!

Bottom Line: Three hours … no ticket and hair that is Damned Sexah!

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Irrrrrresponsible!

… and for the record, my netbook is snug and secure in my nightstand drawer.

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Power Kegels or: How I Found My Way Home While Hating the Garmin

It began so innocently.

I had the rage, all I needed was the Geto Boys

After almost 6 months of procrastinating, I was finally taking my iPod touch to be repaired. I grabbed my coffee, Mylo, and my shattered iPod and hopped on the road. The repair shop was located 11 miles away. Google estimated 27 minutes. When I typed the address into the Garmin GPS, it tells me it can get me there in 20. Nice. I had planned to drop off my iPod, stop by the mall to get my glasses fixed and buy a gift for Matt’s birthday, pick up my (hopefully) repaired iPod and be home in time to pick Jaxon up from school at noon.

We drive a total of 2 miles before the shit hits the fan. Instead of taking a route that utilizes freeways, the Garmin decides it would be faster to take the streets through Hollywood and Beverly Hills. The Garmin was WRONG. 45 minutes later we arrive and I have to pee.

I drop off my iPod (more about that experience in another post) and rush back to the car. It’s 11:28am. So much for getting my glasses fixed and going to the mall. Doing the pee-pee dance, I tell the Garmin to take the fastest route home. I pull onto the road, squeezing my Detrusor muscles every time the car hits one of the millions of Los Angeles city street pot holes. Surely, I thought, the Garmin would surely direct me to the 405 N, which was much closer than trucking back across town.

WRONG. It wants me to go back through that horrible mess of congested, single lane streets. I try to pull up a map to see if I am actually close to the freeway. The Garmin won’t let me see a map. I try to find out where it’s planning on taking me. It doesn’t feel like telling me. I can feel my anger level rising and like the Hulk, I’m about to explode. But not into a mash of green muscles, but a burst of pee! I throw the Garmin aside and turn left. “RECALCULATING…. TURN RIGHT AT….”

Oh shut up stupid Garmin. I am not going that way. I see the freeway. EFF. YEAH. I groan, squeeze, and turn up the bumpy on-ramp. “RECALCULATING…. EXIT IN POINT FIVE MILES…”

I am not exiting! I am not spending the next 45 minutes weaving up and down everybody’s back alley! I make it over the mountains and down into the valley.

“IN ONE POINT FOUR MILES, EXIT ON VENTURA BLVD.”

WHAT?? Why is this stupid thing trying to put me on the streets instead of taking the freeway? I asked for FASTEST ROUTE! The 101 S runs parallel to Ventura!?!!! I am very angry now. Angry at the Garmin and angry at the idiots on the road. Doesn’t anyone know that I have to PEE??!!??!! Today must have been Leave Your Brain At Home Day because no one was doing any thinking. You would have thought there was massive traffic considering how slow everyone was going. Nope, no traffic. God just blew a nasty snot wad on the road and we were all stuck. Stuck behind stupid.

Since I did not get the brain-removal memo, I managed to unstick myself from the annoying wad of traffic and get home. Too late to pick up my son, though. Luckily Matt was able to get him.

And I peed for one minute and two seconds. I timed it.

The Garmin. Great for finding an ATM in a jam, but sometimes you need to rely on your own brain to get you home.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

It’s that time of the year where single people rush to get a date or go out in a group or hide under their covers while couples send and receive flowers and chocolates and make reservations for fancy outings called ‘dates’ and cynics complain about how much greeting card companies profit from it all.

Heart-Shaped pancakes taste better than regular ones.

Me, I cleaned my house from top to bottom, from the microwave to under the sofa and didn’t find time to shower until after dinner was started. But don’t feel too sorry for me. I had a blast making heart-shaped pancakes for the boys – which they gobbled up, plate after plate – leaving Matt with the clippings.

Baby hearts for my baby boy.

And then I was pleasantly surprised with a lovely red rose that Mylo almost destroyed and a tin-foil wrapped gift that Matt hid in the fridge. How sweet!

Flowers, books, and Coke Zero… Can a Valentine’s get any better than this?

Um, yes. Two hours later, Jaxon comes home from Preschool with a giant red bag filled with a shit-ton of cards, pencils, toys and candies. Jumping Jehoshaphat! What is all of this? My gift has just been put to shame. Jaxon is laughing (high on sugar, obviously), shoving as much candy into his mouth as fast as he can before I confiscate it, or worse, make him share with Mylo. But that’s not all. Matt starts going off about Jaxon’s Valentine party (and I start wishing I was three) and unveils Jaxon’s party plate. Pizza, cookies, cupcakes, and a doughnut!?!!? We all get excited about how great Preschool and Valentine’s Day is and help Jaxon with his goodies.

Valentine’s Day: It’s okay to be dateless and in yesterdays pajamas as long as there are Choose Your Own Adventure books, a clean house, and lots of free food.

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Flashback: Music!

This morning I had the most awesome opportunity to wake up at the butt-crack of dawn and get out the house all by myself!! I got to walk-in to get coffee, I didn’t have to break up any fights, and best of all… I got to listen to the radio as loud as I wanted.

And what were they playing on the radio, you ask?

The Blue AlbumWeezer’s “Say it ain’t so”

Things don’t get much better than the radio playing your favorite karaoke song while blazing down the highway, singing at the top of your lungs.

DookieGreen Day’s “Welcome to Paradise”

I remember sitting in the car on the way to school, angrily thinking how I’d sing this to my mom after running away because she was so mean and oppressive with her “rules” of not allowing me to do whatever I wanted… which pretty much consisted of hanging out with Adelle & Elizabeth, making prank calls, and listening to CDs.

Urban HymnsThe Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony”

Obviously, nothing is hotter than a lanky, shaggy haired guy with giant lips. Hotness.

SmashThe Offspring’s “Self-Esteem”

What is this?? Is it 1995?!? I felt like a 16-year-old again, reading SPIN magazine in the back of chemistry class with pony-tail Troy, who stopped liking The Offspring when we found out they were nerds.

Bottom Line: 1994-1996 = best years ever!

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