Friday, September 25, 2009

Santa Ynez Coffee Co. aka. Attempt #2

Don't ask me why this is center aligned. I don't know. My browser and blogger have been acting weird ever since I opened them in this coffee shop. I tried to change the alignment and it will not change. But, other than the peculiar effects on my computer, this is a better coffee shop than yesterday's for writing. Bright light comes in from two walls of windows, the AC is on, there is a plug in the wall for my computer, and they have really lovely unsweetened passion fruit iced tea (I overdosed on coffee yesterday). And -- they have the most amazing delicious juicy paninis on the planet. I took a picture of them, but I forgot to put my memory card back in my camera from uploading the last picture and can't figure out how to transfer the panini picture from the camera's internal memory to something I can use. This coffee shop seems to foster technical difficulties.
There are high school age kids here - nice, conservative, quiet and uniformely white. There are older men and women here too - nice, conservative, quiet and uniformely white. I'm going to take a wild guess and say they all go to the same church too. That's the thing that has always creeped me out about this place. As nice as this coffee shop is with its country music, western decor and big comfy couch, it is populated almost entirely with the Valley's Presbyterians. I've seen many Bible study groups meet here over the years. But, they make a damn good panini.
Back to work for me - and I'll see if I can re-align this post later.
Update: If you think I'm exagerating about the prevalence of Presbyterians, the three nice quiet highschoolers are currently discussing who is and who is not "Christian" (and who is pretending not to be Christian - whatever that means). Good God, I am so glad I'm out of high school.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Hunt for the Perfect Coffee Shop - attempt #1

I'm in the coffee shop that used to be Thanks A Latte in Buellton. That's how it is in small towns. Locals get accustomed to one name, and that name is forever attached to the establishment, no matter how many times it changes hands or changes names. So this is the place that used to be Thanks A Latte, and even though I'm sitting here now, I have no idea what the current name is.

I'm sitting in the back with a view of the front door and counter. Not only is this a power position in Feng Shui, but it's very handy for knowing who is coming and going. This is important in a small town; there's a good chance I'll know the people who come in. But around noon on a Thursday, I'm just hoping to find some peace. I don't know if this is THE coffee shop - you know the one. The one where I can go and focus gloriously on work in a hip environment that feeds me creative energy through coffee, music and overheard chatter. Right now the loudest sound is coming from the refrigeration unit in the Snapple machine. Damn Snapple. The hum is annoying, but the "world music" is just about right. Though there are some frenchish/tangoish songs that always make me feel like a comedic mime - and those play here sometimes too. Something about that kind of accordian music makes me spill things, break things, trip, and become a total destructive klutz. I almost smashed my paper coffee cup while trying to put the lid on, all because of the frenchish/tangoish accordian music.
But, overall, this isn't a bad spot to hole up and work in. Speaking of which, I am off to do just that. Work. I have quite a bit of work to do this week, which is utterly fantastic.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Spicemonkey is getting all the love these days

If you want to know what I've been up to - look at SpiceMonkey. Seriously, cooking and cleaning up after I cook is all I've been doing, and it has been fabulous. I might have to slow down for the next week since I have some writing work to do (tough life, I know) and a horse to exercise, but a sourdough loaf is still on my to do list. Making bread is tricky, so if you don't see a beautiful picture of fresh baked bread on Spicemonkey within the next few days, that's because I will have failed in my mission. Will it be bread, or will it be a brick? Stay tuned to find out.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hotel Del Coronado

San Diego is such a beautiful city. When crossing the bridge to Coronado island, it looks a lot like Tokyo with the bays, bridges, boats and towering modern skyline. Coronado is more quaint than the fantasyland of Odaiba though. Every street has renovated Victorian, mock-Tudor, Greek revival and Spanish style houses - but the crowning glory is the Hotel Del.Charles and I came here last weekend during the 50th anniversary of the filming of "Some Like it Hot" with Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe. In fact, the day we were there, the hotel was hosting An Evening with Tony Curtis - but we didn't spot him. We did, however, spot these two in their very formal bathing attire.The beach at The Del glitters with gold dust. I've never seen anything like it. It's as if a kid dumped ten tons of craft sparkles over the sand.We walked around the expensive shops selling overpriced clothing and jewelry, but I stopped dead in my tracks when I smelled caramel and chocolate from the chocolate shop. If you're going to spend money at the Del, spend it here (and not at the crummy ice-cream place; it looks like good ice-cream, but isn't).
Yes, these were expensive too. And fattening. So I took a picture - it lasts longer and has no calories. Then we went to the aforementioned ice-cream shop, which was a mistake. No pictures of the ice-cream, we tasted, we said "Blech!" and threw it out (though not before Charles' ice-cream cone melted all over his hands). An imperfect ending to an otherwise glorious day.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Google Analytics

After two years of blogging, I listed AnglophileinLA on Google Analytics to see if anyone besides my immediate family reads this thing. I know, I know, that's really un-tech savvy of me to have waited this long. But really, this blog has had two purposes for me - as a resume supplement for my writing, and for my own enjoyment. And my mom likes it.

I opened up Google Analytics today and found this: 126 visits from the United States (thanks mom); 14 visits from the United Kingdom; 14 visits from Brazil...; 5 visits from Germany; 4 from France; 4 from Poland; 3 from Argentina; 3 from Spain; 3 from Canada; and 2 from Lithuania.

A total of 204 visits. And I just started tracking last week.

So, to my mysterious visitors: Welcome! And I have some questions. Why did you click on this site? What were you hoping or expecting to find?

Google Analytics torments me. I want to know what people find interesting about my blog. Why, why do they come? And why aren't my friends in Japan reading my blog? Huh?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Falling off the food wagon for a pie plate

I'm breaking down and going to the grocery store. I should explain - it's not like me to weaken my resolve like this, but I found the most beautiful apples from an apple stand in Santa Ynez. And I have pie crust dough in the freezer from...many moons ago. What I do not have is a pie plate. Which is why I need to go to the grocery store.

While I'm there, I'm going to get the cheap French Bread, salted and unsalted butter, tortillas, cheap cheddar (I have a coupon!), and green onions. The bare minimum for my dinner menu this week. If you're curious to know what a girl can do with what she's got, here is my menu:

Tonight: Boef Bourguignon
Ingredients: frozen Costco steak that has lived in the freezer for (I'll leave it to your imagination - if I put the actual date I suspect it was purchased, I'll catch Hell from my mother). Carrots, wine, Colman's mix and onions and bacon.

Tuesday: Parmesan Zuchini dippers with home-made marinara, and Bruschetta (I got a TERRIFIC deal on heirloom tomatoes from a vegetable stand in Santa Ynez yesterday)

Wednesday: Pulled pork enchiladas with Southwestern Rice Salad

Thursday: Caribbean Pigeon Pea Curry with Fry Bake bread

And Apple Pie.

All recipes will be posted with pictures on SpiceMonkey.

It's amazing how much food we have to work with since I've been freezing almost everything we don't eat. The leftovers from these dinners alone will provide my lunches for the next week and a half.

UPDATE: Forget the grocery store when it comes to pie plates - I got one at GoodWill for half the price of the ones at the grocery store.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fun with Frugality and Foraging

I can't forage for mussels because the water is polluted.
It's really difficult to make acorns into edible acorn-meal. I looked it up.
So many mushrooms are poisonous...better not to risk it. Charles doesn't like mushrooms anyways.
Escargot with the garden snails? Yuck.

This leaves visiting Dad and picking his leftover tomatoes as the only viable foraging available to me in Southern California. Not very satisfying. I will continue my search.

I'm really fascinated by hunting for free food now that I'm less-employed (not unemployed because I do work for money, but certainly less employed than I was). But first I need to exhaust the resources I have on hand. I've been stuffing food in the cupboards for years like a squirrel hoarding nuts for winter - don't we all? But now I look at the piles of pasta, rice and canned soup I have accumulated, and the italian-style bread crumbs, curries, instant potatoes and the bag of "pigeon pea", with renewed interest. Fervor even. Because I'm going to use it. We're going to eat it. And we're going to save a heap of money in the process.

For me, it's an adventure in Frugality. Frugalism? Frugalness? Either way, it's actually a lot of fun to be resourceful. (You can probably tell that I have not yet run out of coffee - I found half of a bag in the freezer last week from God-knows-when).

No such thing as a free coffee

Since my boyfriend vetoed the Urban Foraging idea, I've devoted the day to getting free food online. Which isn't that easy, oddly enough. But, I have 2 sample boxes of cereal coming and one granola bar, which is a good start. Then I got greedy and sought free coffee, which is where I ran into trouble. See, they try to get you to bite on a million other offers before you can actually get to the free coffee form, and I accidentally said I was interested in furthering my education. Three minutes later - I'm not even to the free coffee form yet - I get a call from someone who says "I have here that you're interested in earning your two year degree, is that right?"


"Oh, alright. Have a nice day."

And I hung up, feeling like an idiot. Do they offer degrees in How not to be a Dupe? In that case, I might be interested in enrolling. Oh well, no such thing as a free coffee.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

SpiceMonkey Adventures in Little India

I dragged Charles to Little India last year to explore these few mysterious blocks in Artesia, but it didn't take us long to figure out that we had Nooooo idea what we were looking at. I needed a guide. A couple weeks ago, I finally found my sherpa: my cooking cohort from SpiceMonkey (who prefers to remain anonymous). She is Indian and has lived in the Los Angeles area for years, but has never been to Little India. But, her family had a number of recommendations for us, the first being Woodlands Restaurant. This is one of the few Indian restaurants that serves South Indian food - most places serve North Indian recipes which is where you'll find Tikka Masala and naan. Each region of India has very different kinds of food and I'm just beginning to learn about them, but one of the things to look for in Southern Indian cuisine is the dosa.

I can't help but compare Indian food with Mexican food. It's beans and rice wrapped in an Indian-style tortilla to me. Ok, I'm half joking. Indian food is more complex than that. But I still think of dosas as Indian burritos.

Don't ask me what the curries are, but they were very good!

Again, I have no idea what this is. It's not fried eyeballs, that is all I know. [edit: they are called Gulab Jamuns]

Chapati, I think. But it looked really cool glowing in the light! [Not chapati after all: these are papads a.k.a appalams a.k.a. poppadoms]

After our South Indian lunch we walked around the four blocks that make up Little India between 183rd St. and 187th St. I love the store windows of the sari stores...

but the demon-children freaked me out a little. Yes, that little boy does have glowing red eyes.
Being girls, we couldn't resist looking at the saris. Whether cotton or silk,the fabrics are beautiful, bright, and elaborately embroidered. And my friend persuaded me to try one on, even though I was sure I'd look silly. Even in India, saris are not cheap. And if you're a white-girl like me standing in a shop in Little India, the price goes waaaay up. I'm saving my rupees for my trip, but this was a good test run. At least now I know I can wear bright colors and still look pretty good. Then we hit the Indian grocery stores - plural. There are a lot of them.
I love the "farm fresh" "Gripe Water".
Fairy soap! The perfect gift for the guys in our lives.

Real sugar jam in mango and passion fruit.

The bags of spices are huge. It takes me over a year to go through my small store of turmeric; this bag would last me at least 5 years.
Betel Nut: surprisingly decorative. I want to put it in a potpourri bowl with some dried coconuts - my friend thought this was a funny impulse.

I love how the "Special Masala" chick is pointing at me. Like, You are SO COOL - Check YOU out! You're buying the SPECIAL Masala! It's an ego boost in a bottle.

Indian sweets. Ok, now I've tried Japanese sweets, and some of them are a little weird. Like green tea flavored caramels (which are actually really good). But Indians, I don't think they get it. Their snacks taste a bit weird to my American taste-buds. However, I will return to this place for further exploration of Indian snack foods.

Does this look like fried chow mein noodles to anyone else?

Thus ends the first Spicemonkey foray into Little India. I'm sure my friend will have comments and reminders of what some of this stuff is, so this post may be edited substantially in the near future. Namaste!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Recovery and Reconstruction

It has been a while since my last post. I’ve been a bit busy. I quit my job three weeks ago (about which I will NOT be writing), and then slept for three days solid. It was some sort of stress reaction to finally leaving a job I have long considered to be fodder for many years worth of nightmares. When I finally woke up, I had a few days of utterly manic energy, during which I decided to: work out until I have the body of a Victoria’s Secret model, finish the Hawaii blogposts, learn a smattering of Japanese, write a short fiction story, write a novel, and extend my trip to India to include a week in England and a week in Tokyo.

Now that I’m actually seeing all that in print, I wonder if that job really did drive me crazy.

So, for the past three weeks I’ve been writing for pay, getting back into shape (stress eating for almost 2 years does take its toll, even at the age of 25), and recovering in general. And slowly, I am making some progress on that colossal To Do list – though I think the whole VS model body is highly unlikely, especially since I’ve been cooking a lot.

I’ve been enjoying living on a smaller budget. I have given myself the “use what you’ve got” challenge for the next week, during which I will NOT go to the grocery store for anything. I’m running low on coffee though, which could be a problem. Hmmm, maybe I’ll blog about this project. I should extend it to two weeks to add some drama and maybe, towards the end, do some “urban foraging.” One of the little luxuries I'm missing is the super expensive basil-infused olive oil which would be Soooo Goood drizzled over homegrown tomatoes and mozerella. So I will be infusing my own olive oil sometime this week with results posted on SpiceMonkey.

Oh, and don’t ask me what the novel is about. I know that question is coming, so just please – don’t ask. If it actually gets written, then we’ll talk.