Panini Cafe

Sometimes I go to a restaurant just often enough to know what I like, but not often enough to want to go beyond that. Right now, that’s the stage I’m at with Panini Cafe.

I know I like the falafel wrap, although I could do without the pickle slices (?) that are included. The couscous, with nuts and raisins, is excellent (and generous–I brought half of this side dish home). But I also know that I want to branch out, at least as far as the chicken dishes. The chicken is marinated in and/or rubbed with incredibly flavorful spices, and is incredibly tender. One of my friends ordered this in a shish kebob, and we agreed on a chicken-for-couscous trade. Some day, when I have a kitchen in which I can actually cook, I may even learn how to make it.

Oh, and did I mention that they also have panini? There are several different selections with chicken and turkey, and even a ham and brie panini. If I go there often enough, I may make it through all of them–with the exception of the eggplant dishes.

My Dream Vacation

Before J and I were married, I was working on a project that was extremely stressful. I told him that I wanted a beach vacation–“But not just any beach vacation. I don’t want to have to cross the street to get to the beach, or take the elevator down from the 15th floor and walk through the lobby to get to the beach. I want to walk out the door and be on the beach.”

Fast-forward four and a half years. I’ve just wrapped up a month of stressful projects, and what got me through was the knowledge that there was a beach vacation at the end of it. And, although I didn’t realize it until the day before we left, it turned out to be the beach vacation of my dreams.

Our friends D and A invited us to join them; for the past 10 or 12 years, D’s parents have rented the same beach house in Newport Beach. It’s a split-level with two floors. The bedrooms are a half flight up and face the street. The kitchen and living room are another half flight up and open onto an enormous balcony overlooking the beach. On the ground floor, exit the front door (actually on the side), turn right, and walk 10 feet. Presto. You’re on the beach. No elevators, no streets. Just the beach.

It doesn't get better than this

We spent two days with their family, reading on the balcony, oohing and aahing as D’s father flew an elaborate kite, lounging under beach umbrellas, watching surfers, swimming, and splashing in the shallows. In the evenings we ate delicious food and watched the Olympics. It was relaxing and healing and everything I needed.

Let's go fly a kite!

Let's go fly a kite!

Surfin' USA

Surfin' USA

The truth is that it was better than the vacation I imagined, because we got to share it with dear friends. I miss it–and them–already.

If You Like “Lost”

You’ll love NBC’s Crusoe! Or will you? Don’t get me wrong–I’m happy to see classic literature adapted for the small screen. But I’m suspicious about this choice, considering the success of ABC’s Lost.  Plus it looks like they’ve added a romantic entanglement using (gasp!) flashbacks. Because everybody knows that women won’t watch a show that doesn’t feature a woman, and preferably a woman in love. (Apparently it counts for nothing that I watched the original Law & Order for two years without being aware that it lacked women; I just thought it was a really good show.)

I think I’ll stick with the Olympics and Mad Men.

What Kind of Cereal am I?

You Are Cheerios

Like other Cheerios eaters, you want to be a responsible adult.
But you can’t help but still be a kid at heart!

You try to make good decisions. You’re a clean cut, conscientious person.
You’re the type of person who would never skip breakfast.

Part of you thinks that breakfast is too important to miss…
But a bigger part of you knows it’s too fun to miss!

I have to say that this isn’t really a surprise. I love Cheerios.

Shanghai Red’s

For the life of me, I can’t figure out the name of this place. There is absolutely nothing Chinese about the food at Shanghai Red’s. A friend suggested that we meet there for brunch, and since I’d heard good things about the restaurant but had never been there, I agreed. Then I looked up the menu online and thought, “This had better be good. Because I normally save meals that cost this much for splurgy nights out with J.”

You enter the restaurant through a tropical, quasi-Asian walkway dripping with ferns. The tables are spread through several rooms, some indoor and some out. The setting is terrific–in the heart of Marina del Rey, with views of the water and boats. And who doesn’t like looking at boats?

There are at least three lavish brunch stations: a long room filled with hot dishes ranging from tamales to eggs Benedict to crab legs; an omelet and waffle station; and a room filled with desserts. Everything was excellent, down to the crisp-but-not-burned bacon (and I do love bacon).

On top of that, I got to spend time with a good friend I haven’t seen in months. And really, you can’t put a price on that. Especially when it comes with delicious food. And boats.

Shake, Rattle, and Roll

Today we had an earthquake. Sure, there are earthquakes just about every day. But I don’t feel most of them, so this one seemed noteworthy at 5.4 on whatever scale it is that they use these days. According to the geologist who participated in the post-earthquake online chat in the Washington Post, the Richter Scale is so 2007. Who knew?

I was on the 10th floor of our office building, which is built on some rollers–the better to withstand earthquakes. And the construction seems to have worked, because the building was definitely rolling. After some period of time (it seemed like a couple of minutes, but really I have no idea), the building creaked through its final adjustments as it settled back into place. Then we began the time-honored tradition of telling The Tales of Earthquakes Each Of Us Has Experienced in the Past. They’re basically all the same story. And now I have another version.

Happy Birthday to Me

It’s not my birthday. In fact, it’s nowhere near my birthday, which was in February. However, two of my friends gave me a gift card to Lawry’s. If you’re not familiar with Lawry’s, since the 1930s they’ve served prime rib with mashed potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, and the restaurant’s Famous Original Spinning Bowl Salad. My family loves Lawry’s so much that a homemade version has become our annual Christmas tradition, although we’ve never tried to make the salad.

The salad is made by spinning a bowl in a larger bowl of ice, and the dressing is poured on in a continuous stream. The recipe includes canned beets, which I thought sounded horrible, but actually turned out to be a nice addition to the mix.

The prime rib is carved tableside, in a large steel cart that is wheeled around the restaurant. And unlike the beef I’m generally able to buy for our traditional Christmas dinner, the prime rib is actually prime–more tender and flavorful than most steaks you’re likely to encounter. We also ordered sides of asparagus with hollandaise sauce, and creamed corn. Christmas dinner features creamed spinach in place of those, but based on tonight, I may want to introduce creamed corn to the tradition.

One of the things I like about Lawry’s is that many traditional restaurants have male servers, as though somehow men are inherently classier than women. At Lawry’s, the servers are women–although the carvers, at least the ones we saw, were men. The service, by the way, was excellent. At the end of the meal, our server brought me a complimentary serving of the restaurant’s trifle (what’s a traditional English dinner without trifle, after all?).

So in the end, what does it matter when my birthday really is? This would be a welcome gift at any time.

Gentlemen Prefer Fixer-Uppers…

…but men marry move-in ready. (Anita Loos, I’m not)

The original plan for today was for both of us to take a vacation day, so that we could meet with a financial planner. This was rescheduled from about three weeks ago, when the financial planner canceled on us. Naturally, the financial planner called today to cancel. We’re starting to wonder how badly he wants our business.

So instead, we ran a handful of errands (once again, I owed money to the public library) and drove by a few houses. Several seemed like they would be worth visiting with the realtors, but one stood out–not because it seems like our dream house, but because we like the idea of it.

The house is small, and in pretty rough condition. The lot, however, is enormous–1/2 acre in an L-shape. There are two other houses adjacent, and both of them appear to be empty as well. Our guess is that there was originally a much larger lot, and that two parcels were sold off, while the remaining one and land behind those parcels was retained.

There’s plenty of room to build something fantastic, if only we could afford to both buy and build. And even if you put a larger house on the site, you’d still have a lot of open ground. J said, “You’d have plenty of room to grow organic vegetables,” and I said, “I’d have to quit my job, hire workers, and sell everything at the farmer’s market.” And that’s just not going to happen.

But it does have a certain draw, particularly since the other houses and lots in the area are also a bit ranch-y. It’s a neighborhood that retains a touch of its historic flavor, and both of us find that appealing.

In the end, though, I think J summed it up nicely: “I want to fantasize about it, not marry it.”

Greening Our Home

Here are things we want to do to reduce the environmental impact of whatever house we wind up buying.

  • Add solar panels
  • Plant a vegetable garden and fruit trees
  • Insulate, insulate, insulate
  • Install weatherstripping
  • Recycle
  • Compost
  • Set up cisterns for water catchment
  • Put in an attic fan
  • Build a windmill (okay, a turbine) (J is Dutch) (half Dutch)
  • Set up some sort of gray-water system
  • Cover the windows with triple-cell honeycomb blinds
  • Buy a front-loading washer
  • Use a clothesline (we air-dry a lot now, but it takes up a lot of floor space inside)
  • Build a water-permeable driveway

Hmm. It seems like we have more goals than that. But it’s a start.