Monday, January 31, 2011

Production Notes

And it's a wrap. The shower has fallen and cleared (accompanied by actual downpours) and I'm going to call it a success!

When it came down to it, T, C and I were a lean, mean machine of party prep, and T's house looked gorgeous (too bad someone got purple Sharpie all over her white couch--oof! I swear it wasn't me!) She had all these crazy tiered dishes and platters, and I had fun arranging my hot-pink cupcakes and tea sandwiches on them. C placed beautiful flowers everywhere, and did not skimp on the Prosecco. The "Hawaiian Volcano" punch, filled with scoops of rainbow sherbet (why? because there's something to be said for certain cheesy party traditions) looked great and tasted even better. T even had this cool black stone slab where I arranged the cheeses (including one called Drunken Goat), and then wrote in chalk underneath what they were called, surrounding the whole adorableness with red grapes and fig spread.

I am suddenly kicking myself--hard--for not taking photos of the set-up. What is my problem? I should not be allowed to blog.

Lindsey and I were in no mood for egg salad at the actual party, after having been roundly punished with egg fumes at midnight and again at 7:30 a.m. when we had to de-crust bread triangles and stuff them with watercress and gooey stuff. Her entire apartment smelled like egg--we each felt like we'd already eaten a whole bowl.

And I learned that it's not just propaganda that L.A. women scorn carbs--we had over a dozen bagels, and--be still, my heart--about 15 cupcakes--left at the end.

Baby Bingo was strangely popular, and people got really competitive about it, questioning the rules and policies until my head spun. ("If something is both "pink" and "fluffy," do we get two squares? If it's both a toy and a rattle, will you make the official call?") And everyone seemed charmed by the baby-shaped homemade chocolate favors.

("Not chocolate babies," says David. "No cannibalism at the shower." Actually, they were little bottles, duckies, booties, blocks, trains, pacifiers, etc.)

Though I had to hover, I believe everyone wrote their advice and best wishes in the guest book for Lindsey and Thomas (probably skewing towards the best wishes column, since most of the guests did not have children) and Lindsey got some really cute loot (heavy on the blankies) as well as some practical items like a bathtub and Diaper Genie. Everyone exclaimed on how amazing she's looking (she's only gained 16 lbs) and she seemed to be having fun.

T and I ended up sharing a couple of OCD traits: a no-shoe policy (a bit inconvenient on a rainy day--my bare feet felt like they were encased in ice) and a powerful desire to have the kitchen spotless even during the party. I met a lot of nice people and got to catch up with four friends of Lindsey's whom I've known a long time. Lindsey tore through the gifts and people were off shortly after, so we were actually done early.

Nice to have a trunk full of cupcakes and bagels to bring home to David and Jarrah, too. Not to mention extra chocolate babies. When I finally got back to San Diego (after a detour to visit my mom and pop in the OC) I was ready for bed at 8:30.

Couldn't have done it without Lindsey and Thomas--it's a bit cringe-y to think how much they did to help, but I'm thankful. And they took me out to Father's Office (where some people actually gave us their table because Lindsey's pregnant--she was all like "no, that's okay, really" but Thomas and I were like "thank you!" and sat down--the place is wall-to-wall people) and Sweet Lady Jane (I'm fairly certain my slice of Classic Chocolate Cake could win awards for both taste and size) on top of that.

I wish I could say that I could sit around and watch "Gossip Girl" and congratulate myself today, but I have a major project for my new college class, and a play that isn't going to cast itself, so I need to stay focused. I want to thank all of you for your support and suggestions--I really did use a lot of them, and my appreciation is boundless.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Girlish Weekend

Operation Baby Shower is under way. I am writing from L.A., from my very own air mattress in Lindsey and Thomas's apartment. Lindsey and I had a lovely walk to Whole Foods with our recyclable bags, and returned with cage-free eggs, hydroponic watercress, organic chives and various other yummies to make egg salad for tea sandwiches tomorrow. I know it's untraditional to prepare the shower with the guest of honor, but it's fun; I can't remember the last time we chopped vegetables together. Now the boiled eggs are resting in their ice water bath and soon we'll head out to dinner somewhere special.

Which is an embarrassment of riches, because I've already had a scrumptious lunch out today, my friend Bryan's treat, at his favorite place in Beverly Hills, Kate Mantilini. He seems to know everyone there. We shared the Grand Marnier french toast and talked non-stop for two hours. I was so chill afterwards that I didn't even get stressed out by the lights on Wilshire. Not so true of the traffic on the freeway coming up; even with the comforting pings and cadences of the GPS, I was gripping the steering wheel like it was Play-Doh. For the record, I am not a fan of driving in L.A.

It's been a big week--lots of shower plans, and my second rehearsal for "VM." Though I had a whole new crop of faces the second time, they were no less enthusiastic than the first batch; I love how open and willing they are to plunge right into whatever I suggest.

And this was also a landmark week, Readers, because I went back to college. That's right, I'm a shiny co-ed again, swinging my book satchel as I cross the quad. Thanks to a suggestion from my friend Lisa, I've registered for an Advanced Acting class at Grossmont--the professor was kind enough to waive the three prerequisites--and already taken my first class. Let's just say I was the only one in there to whom he did not give the advice "That Shakespeare character is too old for you. Choose another soliloquy." That's okay, though, because my acting self needs toughening up. I can tell I'll learn a lot. And already I've experienced ridiculous pleasure from the act of purchasing a parking pass. I'm back, baby! And I'm gonna rule the school.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Rainbows and Unicorns

A few weeks ago, we had a sixth birthday party for Jarrah at the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe. It was a really special day, and I have to thank my friend Stephanie for recommending their parties--it was the easiest one we've had.

Jarrah--bless her heart--insists on very LARGE birthday celebrations, which makes my job quite difficult, especially now that she has two schools of friends to draw from. In the end, I did the best I could do with the guest list, every single person came, and I think everyone had fun.

The party began with a craft to make a snake, and then moved into horse shoes, hula hoop and sidewalk chalk in the yard. It was a chilly day, but nicely sunny, so I didn't protest when Jarrah wanted to wear her ballerina outfit again.

Next the kids got to meet four animals, all chosen by Jarrah. And, of course, so typical for a six-year-old girl, she wanted to meet a snake (a Rosy Boa--several of the children thought this was her name.) A tortoise ("You could also have a turtle. What's the difference?" She rolled her eyes. "Mom. Turtles swim. Tortoises are land-based.") and a GIANT HISSING COCKROACH. She was actually torn between the cockroach and a big, white, fluffy, long-haired bunny, but you know what decided her? "I want to freak my mom out," she said. "Tell them that." I did. As you can see, I got over my fear well enough to submit to holding the thing and letting it crawl around my hand. And you know what? I think I might agree with one of the on-site educators that it was, in fact, "adorable." I liked feeling its little pincers gripping my hand as it walked.

We also met an unarguably adorable miniature horse, which for some freakish reason I have no photo of. After the meet-and-greets, the kids were turned loose in another yard that had been set up with hay bales, "life-size" horses and other stuff that apparently kids love because they had a blast. I reigned myself in on the food offerings this year--kids do not want my tea-sandwiches at 4:00 in the afternoon--and let them have at the Cheese-Its, fruit snacks, string cheese and juice boxes. Then there were cupcakes from VG Donuts--the best ones around--courtesy of Paul and Joy and poor Mary who was too sick to be there.

Check out the look on little Levi's face as the kids are meeting the Giant Hissing Cockroach. I think he almost hurled and sobbed at the same time.

I passed out goody bags I was especially proud of, as they contained teddy bears I'd scored at the dollar store. Not exactly an animal found at Helen Woodward, but close enough. Sadly, I hadn't made enough of them--who knew that everyone would come?--and Jarrah had to go without, which we then heard about in lamenting tones most of the way home. We're at an age, apparently, where the gratitude is richly displayed on all occasions.

But I got all the reward I needed when the sweet, smart girls who were running the party brought me to the office to sign the contract afterward. "We had a great time," they said. "What an incredibly nice bunch of kids. Every last one of them. What a pleasure for us."

It was like I had an adorably fuzzy little miniature horse where my heart should go.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Planning and Pouting

Okay, smart and savvy womenfolk (yes, that means you!): I need some help.

Back when my little sis said she was expecting, I offered to throw her a shower. She happily accepted. I won't bog you down with all the back story, but that shower is coming up next weekend. And I'm at my wit's end. (Don't worry--in real life, my wit doesn't have an end.)

The particulars are these: My sister lives in L.A, a 2.5 hour drive (sans traffic) from here. A friend of hers whom I don't know offered to host at her house, in L.A. Another friend (none of us know each other) offered to help. Then I was handed a guest list of 42 people ("don't worry, most of them won't come") and told to have at it.

Though you may be aghast, I'm not great on the phone, especially with strangers. I really dragged my feet about contacting these two other "hosts." It just seemed so awkward. But now I was saddled with a wedding-sized gathering and quite nervous about how to get everything done, and more to the point--how to pay for it.

I sent out an e-mail to the others. I'll call them T and C. C wrote back that she will handle all beverages and flowers. Pretty specific. T said we had "free rain" of her place and sent an extremely long list of kitchen utensils that sounded like "Serving spoon. Chip n' dip. Crudite platter..." but went on for several pages. I wasn't sure what to do with this. So I sent another e-mail.

"Let's all say what talents and resources we'd like to contribute to the shower!" I euphemized. Hoping the issue of money would somehow come up. It didn't. Now I was even more worried.

If I didn't live so far away, I would go on a spree of baking, cooking and prepping and all would be well. But because the shower is in the morning, I need to drive up the day before. Which means all perishables will need to be purchased up there.

Last week, I sent another e-mail, asking if the two other gals planned to meet up with me on Saturday to shop, cook, decorate and plan. C said no. T said she would be out of the town until the party. She said she thought we'd agreed I had "food and extras" all covered.

I talked to my sister. (Confession: I texted her over and over saying "Call me immediately. Are you ignoring me??? until she called.) She said she would help me and not to worry. I refrained from writing back to T and C because I had a few choice words for them and those were not the words I wished to choose. Eventually, T wrote herself, asking where we were with everything. I told her I'd figure it out and that my sis was helping me.

She wrote back that she would rather cancel her trip than have my sister lift a finger. (She also said some other mysterious things that led me to believe either a) she doesn't realize the person in question is my sister or b) T thinks she's throwing a shower for someone else, because she told me that Sis "doesn't like cake" and "hates being the center of attention.") I wrote back and explained--for like the fifth time--that I live far away and don't have contacts in LA. I can't possibly shop and cook for that number of people by myself if I have to come up a day early. I can't prepare a meal on a hot plate in my car. She seemed mollified in her last message.

My gut reaction is to wash my hands of her and just accept that I won't be able to control anything about this party. My sister will help, and we'll get some bagels, throw together some Costco fruit salad, and I'll pick up cupcakes in San Diego that may be slightly stale by the next day. I've planned some games (even though T made it pretty clear she thinks they're tacky) and prizes, and I'm going to make homemade chocolates in the shape of baby things for favors. What else can I do?

I mean that literally, not rhetorically, Readers. If you were in this sticky wicket, what would you do? I've got a week for damage control, so don't be shy.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I Heart My New Gig

I have posts brewing that require a lot of photo archiving, so they will be a smidge out of date when they reach you. In the mean time, I have exciting news that doesn't require visual aids (thank goodness, you'll be saying, in just a moment...):

I have my first theatrical directing job! (Unless you count the time I taught summer school in Utah and directed a mash-up of Grease and The Importance of Being Earnest with middle-schoolers, but I'm guessing you don't.)

And...I'm directing The Vagina Monologues! No, not the one I auditioned for a couple months back. I know that's confusing. This is a totally different production, produced by three San Diego pro-women non-profit organizations (I need to check if I'm allowed to blog about them) and--did I mention?--directed by ME!

My friend Barb attended their first meeting and learned that they were still looking for a director, and sang my praises. Thank you, Barb! A couple days after a long phone call in which I tried for once in my life not to downplay my accomplishments, I was having lunch with my four new bosses and getting a crash course in activism and fund-raising. We also had a tour of the gorgeous, recently-refurbished Art Deco Birch Theatre, which seats 731, and interviewed their charming house manager and publicity director.

Today, we met to discuss various techniques to fill those seats. And tomorrow, we start rehearsals proper. I will be casting from a large group of enthusiastic women who are members of the aforementioned organizations, and possibly a few local celebrities, to be determined. We're hoping to have "Rehearsal Happy Hour" (don't worry, there won't actually be drinking involved) every Friday night, but tomorrow is big because I will be reading everyone and deciding where they fit.

In the mean time, I've printed and bound my director's copy of V-Day 2011, and am brushing up on the rules and guidelines. It's all very exciting. We might even open with a song--my idea, I must confess.

Funny, one of my resolutions for 2011 was "Direct a play." And here it is, still January. Who says I'm a big procrastinator? (Well, I do, but this time the universe played a little prank on me.)

We'll see if this experience transforms me into one of those "I Heart My Vagina"-t-shirt-wearing types. Hard to imagine, but stay tuned.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Good Citizen

It's been a rough week. Just when I thought I was about to shake this cough/cold/crapcake I'd had for nearly three weeks (three weeks, Readers!) a new front blew in and I was brought down by a totally different version that took me back to square one. How is that even possible? Luckily, this one doesn't seem as tenacious, and I'm hopeful that a long weekend will take me back to my old self. In the mean time, I'm over here with my tissues and my Sambucol (do you think it really does anything? It sure tastes yummy.)

A highlight of my misery, though, was attending my first-ever elementary school assembly yesterday. I wouldn't normally frequent such an event, but we'd received an invitation informing us that our child had been selected to receive an award. Well, if that isn't the consummate parent lure, I don't know what is. So there I was, standing in the back and coughing into my elbow, as the kids filed in with their classes.

A gang of third graders stood on risers, and led by the adorable music teacher, they launched into a surprisingly tuneful rendition of a song I had never heard before, I believe called "I Love America." All I remember about it is that it was very catchy, and that they repeated "I do. I do. I do." a lot like they were all getting married to it. My favorite part was where they made a slow square in unison between verses, shuffling like they had sandbags tied to their ankles. It was freakishly sweet.

Then the classes were welcomed up to the stage one at a time--one teacher and about four students from each room, and one by one they came under the principal's hand as if for a blessing or a spell. It amazed me that he never repeated an introduction, and I'm still laughing about Jarrah's. She was wearing a dress with a large butterfly on the back, and as he ushered her into the spotlight, I saw him glance at the dress, then launch into his intro with "This social butterfly here..." Hee. She received her award for excellence in reading, which of course made this reader very proud. I noticed that the awards were for lots of different things--writing, math, good attendance, even "excellence in all they do." Harumph. I certainly think Jarrah deserved that one. Oh well. Next time.

There was a lot of snapping of cameras, and a slow exodus of parents after every class grouping, to the point where I joked that the last group of kids would hear "Yay!" and the clapping of just their own parents. Each child was presented with a pencil, a certificate, and a card entitling them to a free meal at Applebee's restaurant. Later, I saw that the free meal card read "Applebee's--A Place for Scolars," which just about sums up what I think of that place.

After, the honorees were ushered out one door while their respective classes exited through another. The reason for this became clear, as there was a cookie reception laid out for the award-winners in the back. The sign said "Only Two Each!" and I pointed this out to Jarrah. Just then, one of the minding moms anxiously shouted "That means only two! Just two!" to Jarrah, and when I shot her a look, she smiled sheepishly and said "I think she thought I meant she could have two of each KIND." I narrowed my eyes at her and said witheringly, "I think she got it." That'll be my lot in life--giving helper moms the stink eye over paper plates of Chip Ahoy.

Jarrah, of course, was not pleased that she couldn't have seconds and thirds after her two cookies were gone, but I think she liked getting the award. It's hard to know, since unlike some of the other recipients, she wasn't beaming ear to ear while getting it. She looked a bit grim, in fact. Of course, it's hard to know, since she'd handily removed my off-the-face hairstyle from the morning and the whole thing took place behind a curtain of hair. Every time I tried to snap her picture, she was either inexplicably looking at the wall behind her (checking for spies?) or trying to leave. Sigh. It was still pretty exciting. And the principal even pronounced her name right. Usually we get a lot of "HARA" and "Ja-RAH." Even "Ja-RAY" once. Who knows? Maybe the principal really knows her. He did call her a social butterfly, after all.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hey, Rerun! Let's See That Dance Again!

Getting a bit behind in my blogging, so I thought I'd re-run one of my old faves for your reading pleasure.

Hope you enjoy. (Click on the link. See?)

Butt stay tuned for more current developments, hopefully this weekend. I'm a bit sick at the moment.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Six? Or Two?

Sam: Why are you still naked? Put your pajamas on and get into bed. I'm sick of this. Give me that belt buckle.

Jarrah: NONE OF MY ANIMALS LIKE IT IN HERE! THEY ONLY LIKE IT IN YOUR ROOM! (sob) (wail) (hurling pillow pets across room)

Sam: They're not going in our room.

Jarrah: I AM MOVING THEM TO YOUR ROOM! (sob) (wail)

Sam: I'm moving them to the garbage in a minute.


Sam: Alright, stop yelling in my ear. Lay down. Good night.


Sam: I'll say.


Sam: Good night.

Jarrah: (sob) (wail) (thump) (thump) (silence)

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Stuff I'm Liking These Days

1. That I'm finally feeling a smidge better today. I even made it to the gym. When I talked to my sister on Friday, she was disgusted with me for being sick for a week. "Go to the doctor already! What is wrong with you???" "What should I say to the doctor?" I asked. "That my nose is stuffed and I'm tired? I don't think he'll be super-impressed."

2. Jane. December is when we can count on a visit from her, and it's the most wonderful tiiiiime of the year. Plus she took me out to lunch at Phuong Trang and a reflexology spa on Convoy St., which was also awesome. But it's awesome just catching up with her over coffee.

3. Solare, a new-ish Italian restaurant in Liberty Station. We went there with Jane for New Year's Eve dinner. It's all sumptuous and satiny in there, and the food was yum. Felt like a great place to celebrate, to send out the old and ring in the new between bites of pillowy ravioli and creamy burrata and bright-green pesto and flourless chocolate pie.

4. Jessica. She's a long-time friend-of-a-friend but now we both have families formed from international adoption. Had a fantastic playdate with her and our friend Synthia at J's beach pad in IB on a blustery day. The kids had a lot of fun together, and us girls got to talk for hours and hours. Jessica is good for lifting my spirits--something about her. I'm also loving the book she just published, which I truly could not put down: Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir, about her experience living in Guatemala while trying to facilitate her daughter's adoption.

5. Luna Grill. Discovered it the night we went to Christmas Card Lane with Mary, Paul and Joy. It's vaguely Greek, and fast-food, but totally scrumptious. Went there again today for lunch and the egg-lemon soup and barberry rice were especially delish. The portions are so big we didn't even have to buy anything for Jarrah--she just ate off our plates. (In the expression she's co-opted from her dramatic mommy, this is called "I'll just have a crust of bread.") The menu has long explanations of how everything is healthful, natural and hormone-free. I'm officially in love.

6. Exit Through The Gift Shop. "Liking" is not really adequate. I'm obsessed. I've spent the afternoon Googling all the people associated with the movie, reading artist histories, exploring the hoax theories. But I get ahead of myself, if you aren't familiar with this documentary, which will definitely be up for an Oscar (you heard it here first.) Released as "a Banksy film," Exit tells the story of Thierry Guetta, a French immigrant to LA who becomes obsessed with "street art" after learning that his cousin is the famous graffiti artist Space Invader. Following Invader and his pals with a camera leads to an association with Shepard Fairey (whose street cred, as it were, went mainstream with his Obama "HOPE" posters) and, eventually, to Banksy, who works under cover of anonymity and has become quite a legend in contemporary art. (His interviews are conducted with the subject fully shadowed by a black hoodie and voice distortion partly masking his English accent.)

What makes the movie fascinating is that it starts out as a documentary about famous street artists, shot by admiring groupie Guetta, and is eventually turned on its head when Banksy himself uses the footage to relate Guetta's trajectory from camera-toting schlub to...well, I don't want to give it away--you should really check it out. Along the way, we learn that Banksy is not only talented at street art, he's smart and totally hilarious. His deadpan soundbites are the funniest thing in the movie, and--trust me--that's saying something. I didn't know a thing about this movie before seeing it, and I found every development surprising and delightful. You will, too.

7. Freecycle. It's a Yahoo! group you join if you want to give something away. You can get things, too, but you have to give something first. It's all about avoiding landfills. We finally off-loaded our old, torn couch today, to a father whose son just got his first place. They had a mighty big truck, which was good, because it's a mighty big couch. Their bumper stickers suggested that their politics are scarily different than ours, but I guess they still need couches. 'Nuff said about that.

8. Other stuff: sleeping in (which will end tomorrow, alas), hanging out with David during the day, lots of playdates with friends, reading novels, not getting yelled at, weather appropriate for Uggs, planning Jarrah's birthday party, and Jarrah's new passion for Nutella on toast. (I tried it, too. Doesn't suck.)