What the heck does that mean?

All about working as a waiter, pursuing my dream, eating vegetarian, and loving where I live!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Absurd Customer of the Week #6

Sometimes, you have a customer you just know you're going to blog about the minute you encounter them.

Three older people (two very nice ladies and one PILL of guy) give me their orders like I'm an idiot, as if they require special explanation. One of them had also been asking me, what's the difference between *this* dish (pointing) and the Linguine di Mare. Well, I explain that the two are essentially the same... same pasta, same sauce. One just has an assortment of seafood while the other is only shrimp.

"Clams," she says.
"I'm sorry?"
"Clams. Not shrimp."
"OH! I'm sorry, I thought you were pointing at the dish above that. Well, the only difference between the Linguine with Clams and the other dish is that with other one you get a variety of seafood, and in this one you only get clams. And a choice of white or red sauce. The two red sauces are the same."

I don't know if she couldn't read the menu descriptions without glasses or if she was just too lazy to read. But I eventually get their order, making sure to repeat it back to them. Apparently, though, when the food came out to the table, the old man barked at the server who ran it.

PILL: What is this??
SERVER: Veal Picatta?
PILL: Why is there sauce on this?! I don't want sauce! Take it off!

So the server takes it back. I didn't witness this exchange, but saw that the food was on the table. Realizing the veal picatta was missing, I told the old Pill I'd check on it for him.

Tyler Florence Veal Picatta
PILL: There was SAUCE on it. I didn't want sauce! Just tell them to dump it off and put it on another plate and bring it back out.
ME: Oh... so just, dry? Or easy sauce?
ME: I'll go check on it in the kitchen.

So I scurry off to the kitchen. The new veal picatta is already ready. They left the lemon zest and capers on it, but the veal is dry and the spinach isn't cooked all the way. I bring it out  and try my luck. I drop it off on the table and hesitate to see what he says. Which turns out to be nothing, but the ladies at the table ooh and ahh and say it looks great. So I leave to attend to my other tables. Minutes later, another server tells me that this table wants to speak with me. I return.

ME: Yes, sir?
ME: Um....  you said you didn't want sauce, so they made it without sauce.
ME: Um... would you like us to make you a new one with just a little bit of sauce?
PILL: Where's the lemon??
ME: Well, they did leave some lemon zest and capers on there for you...
PILL: It's terrible!
ME: We can get you something else or make you a new dish.
NICE LADIES: No, no. Just bring some sauce on the side for him.

So I go back to the kitchen and request some sauce and grab a plate of lemons. I bring it out promptly and let him know that they're heating up some sauce for him right now and will bring it out in a jiffy, but here's some fresh lemon.

PILL: ACH. Just take it. I don't want it. It's terrible.

So I take it back and tell the kitchen not to bother with the sauce. I let my manager know and ask him to take off the veal for me. Ironically, when a different manager stopped by at the end of the meal (not knowing the story), the group told him that everything was great.

Meanwhile, while this whole thing was going on, I was trying to accommodate a lady who was allergic to wheat, corn, soy, dairy, and who was also avoiding hormones. Luckily, our restaurant offers gluten-free pasta made out of rice that fit all her specifications. She asked me to make it with oil, garlic, and basil with a side of spinach and salmon. I repeated her order MULTIPLE times to make sure I had it right... and when I brought it out, she said, "Oh! I wanted tomatoes!" Never, ever, did she say tomato. Was that supposed to be implied? Perhaps she could have just saved us both the trouble and asked for pomodoro.

On a completely different note. Tonight, I had a table leave me the most ridiculously large tip I have ever received. I don't know if they misread the bill, or someone gave me more money than they thought they did, or their math was bad, or if they just felt generous. Even when the tip was already absurd, another person came up to me later and gave me even MORE money. I guess they felt bad for coming in so late and staying there so long. I mean, they didn't leave until TWO HOURS after closing. But, with the money they gave me, I wasn't going to complain one teensy tiny bit.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Birthday Bust

No, it wasn't my birthday. That's not for another month. It was LP's birthday this weekend, and we had such big plans for it... but California weather had something else in mind. For the past couple of years, we've both gone snowboarding for our birthdays. Leading up to this weekend, there hadn't been much precipitation in the mountains, so if snow was sparse, we thought we'd go to Disneyland or our favorite, the L.A. Zoo. The just opened up the Elephants of Asia exhibit, and we've really been looking forward to going. 

It was shaping up to be a great weekend. Best of all, my manager was generous enough to give me the entire weekend off. I think this was an exchange for New Year's Eve (we'll see). Anyway, like I said, the weather had different plans. 

 I had been hoping for rain. My fingers were crossed. Rain in Los Angeles usually means snow on the mountains this time of year. But it's just too warm. The slopes were even shut down today. Everything is too slushy and mucky and gross. Bare patches everywhere. So... no snowboarding. And our boards continue to sulk in the corner, looking all dejected and unloved. I'm so sorry, babies!!

But all of this rain ruined our back-up plans, too! We never actually considered that rain would be an issue. We thought rain would mean good snow conditions. We thought bad snow conditions would mean a bright and sunny day. We've gone to the zoo in a light drizzle before. Especially if it starts and stops throughout the day. But California is getting a shock to its system by getting non-stop rain. We were flummoxed. What to do?
We considered going to a museum, but even most of the museums out here (like the Getty) aren't as nice on rainy days. So... we just sort of hung out. Saturday night, we met up with a bunch of LP's friends for beer. And Friday night we went to another friend's holiday party. So, we still had some nice social time out and about. Buuuut, things just didn't go as planned. Still, we've both been working so much lately that it was really nice to just bum around together.

I wish I could say I was the world's most awesome partner and surprised him with something amazing... but, the best I could do was give my time and nimble fingers to his dreadlocks. We spent several hours last night watching holiday movies while I performed some much needed maintenance on his hair (click the link if you aren't familiar with the finer points of white boy dreads). For someone who hates people buying him gifts, this was the best present I could offer.

Happy Birthday, my handsome dreadlocked boy!

Unexpected Generosity

The holiday season brings some of the oddest situations and guests, and the cheapest and the most generous tippers to the restaurant. Last year, on Christmas Eve, I had a woman tell me she was ready to kill herself or her entire family because they were driving her crazy. She said this in front of her family. It was awkward, to say the least. Then, we served raw chicken fingers to her kids. *sigh*

That's the other thing about the holiday season. The restaurant undergoes such a huge influx of customers, usually all at the same time in big waves, that it definitely puts strain on the kitchen. I would say that they do a great job 99% of the time during the entirety of the year, but during the holidays, things start to fall through the cracks. Trust me, they still to a great job, but you start to see about 4% more issues.

The other day these two poor ladies got steak that was rare when they asked for medium and a meatball that was cold. The first time, they were upset, the second time they were just about livid.

ACTUALLY, A VERY NICE LADY: Look, I know you're busy and have all of these big groups come in, but to have a raw steak and a cold meatball is just ridiculous!
ME: You're right, that's unacceptable.
LADY: Now, I can take this meatball home and re-heat it, but...
ME: No, ma'am, please, can I take it back to the kitchen so the chef can see it? He really should know when something isn't right, and I'll have them bring you something better.

The very nice lady continues to huff and puff, and in about two minutes I bring her two piping hot meatballs. Luckily, these are much better and she's pleased that she gets an extra one to take home. Our executive chef brought out the steak himself and apologized profusely. The ladies were charmed. We took off the meatballs and the steak and the very nice lady who had done all that huffing and puffing actually left me $30. On a bill that was only about $30.

On Friday, I was stuck in a shit section for lunch. Four tables (no booths) in an area nobody wants to sit in. Every other server had 5+ tables.... for some reason, I got screwed. Normally, I get great sections, but... c'est la vie. On top of this, I had three of my tables reserved for a party that was due to come in at 12:30 PM. So I spent the first hour of my shift twiddling my thumbs, folding napkins, and helping other servers. For my entire seven and a half hour shift, I only had one party of 13 and a 3 top. That's it. Once the party was done at 3:30 PM, management would not let me leave! Even though the entire restaurant completely died, I was held prisoner until the dinner crew came on. Here's what I accomplished:
  • folded 250 napkins
  • swept the entire restaurant
  • refilled all of the oil and vinegar containers
  • lit all the candles
  • restocked/zoned just about every area of the place. 
Why they complain about labor costs and then do things like that is beyond me.

On the bright side, for having only two tables, I did leave the restaurant with $85, some chocolate, and a hand-blown glass sea turtle ornament. One of the guys at my party was showing his co-worker a gorgeous glass sea turtle ornament he had made. I commented on how pretty it was, how impressed I was that he had made it, and that I sort of had a "thing" for turtles. At the end of their meal, our maitre^d came up to me and said "Merry Christmas." The guy gave me the ornament! Luckily, he was still there, so I was able to thank him profusely, and he told me about the gallery he represents. The group also left me a little wrapped chocolate because "I probably don't get 'treated' very often."


Excuse me while I wipe away a couple tears, alright?

Friday, December 17, 2010

French Happy Hours and Decorating

Last night, I spoiled myself. I went to The Grove and finished my Christmas shopping. Since I had a package at the UPS warehouse that I couldn't pick up until 8:30 PM, I killed time at Monsieur Marcel (a little Frenchophile shop and bistro). It's the neatest/cutest little place in the middle of the Farmers Market and I was lucky enough to discover their Happy Hour with 1/2 off wines and cheap-o appetizers. I had some mozzarella/ricotta croquettes and a bowl of lentil soup. The soup sort of broke my rule of not eating things at restaurants that I can easily make at home, but it was really, really good.

My favorite part, though, were the free olives given with the bread. Yum. I'm sure I had about 20x the normal amount of saturated fat one should eat in a day.

At home, I finished putting up the lights and ornaments. LP says I like to decorate like a Who from Whoville and when he gets back from San Francisco, he'll probably re-do it. But I'm OK with it just the way it is!

Do I mind the mixing of white lights on our garland with the colored lights on the window? ABSOLUTELY NOT! We also have a poinsettia and a mini fake tree with photos of LP's family on the ornaments. It's very cute and so sweet. Oh, and that's Bruce the Penguin. He hangs out year round in the living room. He just puts his hood up for the holidays.  

Our tree is a real one! I'm loving the smell. We might get a fake one some day, but the only decent ones were way too huge for our place. Since the tree is only about 3.5 feet tall, I put it on top of a big cardboard box. More room for presents! :-)

Sorry, Obama, you'll have to hang out behind the tree this Christmas. And if you're wondering who that is hanging out at the base of the tree, that's Puck. He's LP's love child, created for our indie production that's currently in post. We found Puck a tiny little wicker chair at IKEA this summer so he can hang out in the living room with us.

I'm really enjoying making the apartment a bit more homey this season.  Even if it's in our own tacky little way. Someday, I'll figure out how to use my mom's old camera better so I can use something other than my cell phone!

Tonight, I baby-sat my niece so that my brother and SIL could enjoy a night out. Watching an 8 month old is pretty easy when they go to bed so early. Read a few stories, give her a change, and nighty-night! She was SO CUTE! Also cute? Her "brother" Spike who was all curled up in his bed!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Working 8 days a week

I was so cozy at intelligentsia, I didn't want to leave!
Well, that's what it feels like during the holiday season at the restaurant. Last week I worked 9 days straight. By the seventh day I was desperately trying to give my shifts away. I had just enough time before my shift to grab coffee with a friend, and I was having such a nice time I was sorely tempted to call in sick. By Sunday, I was a Grumps Meister Deluxe. I didn't even care about making money at that point, I just wanted to run errands and spend money! I felt pretty bad, I was snapping at everyone. I just can't wait tables that many days in a row!

Besides work, I've been getting Christmas presents for the family and buying lights to make our apartment a little more festive. My mom sent me a box of my old ornaments-- I'm so excited to put them up on the little tree LP and I bought. Sadly, he's out of town for a couple days for work, so I'm going to finish putting everything up by myself. We're total procrastinators, but better late than never, right? Since we're in agreement that holiday decorations can stay up until at least January 5th, we aren't fretting about getting this done so late. I'll post pictures when it's done!

I also had an audition on Monday that I think went pretty well. It was for a short film, and at the very least, I had a good time at the audition and the guys running the thing were incredibly nice. So, whether or not I get the part or even a callback, we'll call it a success.

Since I still haven't had much time for grocery shopping and I'm not at home to eat or cook much anyway, I've been making some really random meals (supplemented by "stealing" some of the groceries LP has bought). That's a fried egg with salsa and cheddar on a corn tortilla with fresh tomatoes, avocado, and creme fraiche (I still haven't used it all)... I put a little white balsamic vinegar on the "salad" with some salt and pepper.

I'm really relishing having today off. Going to finish up my Christmas shopping, do some laundry, and finish decorating. You know you've been working too much when you look forward to doing laundry!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

One for the record books...

This was an epic one, but in a good way. It was an easy night, a quiet night, and was able to pull in a decent amount of cash for how slow it was. What was so absolutely fucking amazing about tonight was that the last customers came in 45 minutes before we closed and at 10 PM (lock the doors!), all the checks were down on the table. At 30 minutes to close, we could not believe our luck. The host stand, the bussers, the kitchen, the servers, and even the management... we all noticed. Would it be possible? We were so sure that a party of 20 would walk in two minutes to closing time. But it didn't happen. The only people who came in over the next fifteen minutes sat at the bar, ordered carry out and had a drink. It was amazing. We were able to give everything a solid cleaning, I scrubbed things that I normally do not scrub out of a simple good will and cheer that I had no customers left. As a closer, I left the restaurant at a decent hour.

Tonight, citizens of West Hollywood decided to eat dinner at a normal hour. It was slow and steady the whole evening and I walked out of there with a respectable amount of cash for very little stress.

Tonight was a night for the record books. In the 365+ days that I have worked at that restaurant, this combination of awesomeness has never occurred. Not Once. Not EVER.

So, thank you World, for being on my side tonight. Thank you for not giving me any absurd customers to complain about, even if it makes my blog entry a little dull.

Thank you.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Holiday Treats and Hodgepodge Meals!

 I had an absolutely lovely day with my friend Amy yesterday! We went to Sprinkles for the sole purpose of getting some Peppermint Chocolate cupcakes! Amy truly understands and supports my cupcake obsession! Neither of us ever has to feel guilty when we get cupcakes together! After some coffee and cupcakes, we went to The Grove to enjoy some window shopping and pretty lights! Even though I work at The Grove, my restaurant is on the outskirts, so I don't get to enjoy the pretty displays.

While we were hanging out in the Farmer's Market, this really crazy looking lady approached us and asked if we were actors. After a moment's awkward silence, I asked why she wanted to know. She then went on rambling about some kind of acting studio and how great it was. She gave us cards and when I tried to brush her off with a "sounds good, I'll look it up" she asked me if I wanted to go in for a reading right then and there. It was so bizarre. After looking the place up, it definitely looks like one of those places that offers some classes, but is mostly a money making machine designed to get you to pay for their headshots and helps you make a "reel." Obviously, this lady got something for getting others to sign up.

My lunch before meeting Amy was another one of those hodgepodge meals... Leftover brown rice with kidney beans (seasoned with a leftover taco packet!), spinach, tomatoes, and creme fraiche with lots of pepper and fresh lime juice! This was actually pretty tasty! Although similar, it was way better than the last thrown together meal. We're running so low on groceries that I just got a Subway sandwich tonight. I'm also tired of dishes. It was a long lunch shift. The holiday season is definitely upon us! I worked from 10 AM and didn't leave work until 7:30 PM!!! But the money is good, so I can't complain.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Mint Toothpaste and Cashews

That's what LP always accuses me of using to concoct hodgepodge meals. I'm one of those people who can't stand to buy groceries unless the cupboards and fridge are nearly bare. I hate letting food sit at the back of a shelf or go bad in the refrigerator. Unless I have a hankering to make a specific recipe, I try to use what I've got sitting around. Comes from having frugal parents, I suppose. And it does help me to stretch my grocery budget.

Yesterday was definitely one of those Mint Toothpaste and Cashew Hodgepodge kind of meals. What you're looking at here is leftover wild rice with black beans, tomato, sauteed red onion, spinach and radicchio, with a dollop of creme fraiche on top and cracked black pepper. It was pretty good except for the radicchio. Cooking it just made it bitter. It's obviously better left raw. You can't see the beans or the rice so it actually looks more appetizing in the photo, I think.

I just finished off some of the last of the cereal and soymilk this morning. Still oatmeal left to eat.... but the rest of my meals are going to be odd like this!

On another note, it looks like we're finally getting to autumn-like weather in Los Angeles! I love the street where I park for work. Real deciduous trees! I go out of my way to crunch through the leaves!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Healthy Food and Houseplants

The LP is back from visiting family for Thanksgiving. I picked him up from LAX late Saturday night/ early Sunday morning. It's almost silly how much I missed him. It was only a week, but LP vowed that we would never again spend our holidays apart. Time with the family is nice, but we're a family too, so no matter where we go to celebrate a holiday, we should spend that time together. 

I had to work yesterday lunch, but I got out at a decent time and we went out for pizza, beer, and gelato for one last splurge before we spend the rest of the month eating healthy and frugal. I don't really get the idea behind pigging out all through December, only to beat yourself up after the New Year. Now is the time for better eating. Although... I may make some exceptions for cupcakes. :-)

No work today, so I slept in. Here's today's healthy lunch:

Homemade hummus with rice/nut crackers and a Spinach and Radicchio Salad. I tossed in some dried cranberries, toasted pecans, and bleu cheese. It's very similar to what I made for Thanksgiving, except that I didn't have any Asian pears. I sauteed some red onions in olive oil before adding them to the salad to help wilt the spinach a little bit. The dressing is my own concoction of apple cider vinegar, oil, and pepper. So good!

As I took pictures of my lunch by the window, I couldn't help myself and took some of our houseplants, too! We don't have the greenest thumbs, but we try.  We've got a couple of avocado trees growing that we started ourselves from pits. LP has been trying this for years and there's been some losses along the way. But these current guys seem to be doing pretty well. My pride and joy is my Philodendron. These are about the easiest plants to grow because they are nearly impossible to kill. I've had this one (middle) for about 3 or 4 years and it's just exploded recently. Philly sits on top of a speaker and its tendrils nearly reach the floor! The last plant... I call it a Polka Dot plant. It used to be a lot taller, but it got sort of weedy looking and couldn't support itself. After some research, I discovered that these plants have to be cut back. So I chopped the whole thing down to little nubs and it's really thriving now! I'm just glad I didn't kill it!

I realize that plant talk may be about the most boring subject in the world for some people, so I apologize. But we don't have any pets aside from my sad little goldfish, so we really obsess over our plants instead. We really need a dog.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Elephants in my Life

Recently, Billy the Elephant at the L.A. Zoo got to move in to a completed section of his new exhibit. The beautiful elephant enclosure is due to open on December 16th and Billy will be joined by two female elephants (rescued from a private owner) on loan from San Diego.

Check out this video and tell me if that isn't the happiest elephant you've ever seen!

I have a very special place in my heart for elephants. Besides being beautiful, fascinating creatures, they always remind me of my Grandma G who has been collecting elephant objects for years. I once tried to count them all (excluding jewelry and clothing items) when I was a little girl. The number, I believe, was over 75 items.

My collection pales in comparison. Only four items! The bag was given to me by my friend Brittany. She bought it for me while she was in Thailand on her honeymoon as a thank you for being a bridesmaid in her wedding. 

The big gorgeous elephant statement necklace was a gift from LP. He was filming a designer, Leslie Homan, for her Kitsch 'n' Kouture line. He happened to mention me and after talking a bit, she let him pick something out! Small perks. :-) It's now one of my favorite pieces of jewelry.

The other two items, the pin and the bracelet (many tiny elephants in a row) belonged to my grandma. She gave them to me several years ago. She's still alive and kicking (fiercely, I might add) and I'm sure these aren't the last elephant items I'll receive from her!

LP and I have a very special connection to Billy the Elephant, in particular. We're members of the L.A. Zoo and go there as often as we can. When we were both unemployed and exceedingly broke, we were there about once a week. For over a year, the zoo has been working on a state-of-the-art enclosure for Billy and the friends that will join him. But there's been controversy. There were a lot of attempts to halt construction by animal activists and celebrities. There was even a City Council meeting on the matter, and the zoo invited members to come and speak. I wasn't able to make it, but LP went, spoke, and got to meet Betty White who said that he was a "very nice, well-spoken young man." (HE'S MINE, BETTY! BACK OFF!)  ;-)

But the L.A. Zoo won and Billy's new home will be unveiled to the public on December 16th. Eventually, as many as 11 elephants could live there and it will be the largest elephant habitat in North America! We're very excited for Billy, and we're pretty sure he's happy, too!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Few Thanksgiving Photos

Since I didn't end up taking any pictures on Thanksgiving, I had to steal these from my baby niece's blog. Thanks SIL for taking the initiative! We had a really nice crowd gathered. You can see me in the back next to my two brothers and the baby. Everyone else is a friend of my oldest brother and sister-in-law. 

It was a really great Thanksgiving and one that I'll always remember. First one in the new house, first one with Baby Z... It was really wonderful. That first photo is the most you'll get of my soup! Everyone really liked it, though!

Even Baby Z, who has just started eating real food. She normally rejects everything, but she really liked my squash soup. Just goes to show that she has a sophisticated palate! All she wanted was seasoning, DUH!

Even though I'm not religious in any way, I really do love the holiday season! It's so joyful! :-) It's about time to put up those twinkle lights, I think!!!!

Friday, November 26, 2010


Stuffed. To. The. Brim. 

I rarely eat until I'm full. I usually save something for later or eat multiple little meals throughout the day. Today, I am crammed. This morning I just nibbled on little bits of this or that while I was cooking. From the moment I reached my brother's place at 2:30 PM until 12:30 AM it was non-stop eating. I'm so uncomfortable right now and all of the wine didn't help either. I don't think I drank any water today. Just wine, coffee, and Bailey's. 

I have to say that I am fairly embarrassed because I FORGOT TO TAKE PICTURES! All of that work... undocumented. *sigh* When I got to my brother's, I immediately started setting up the food I brought, then kept my niece entertained, and then started to help serve food. It would have been pretty rude to stop and take photos. So... :-( Lots of other people took pictures though, so maybe my food is hiding in some of them. I hope.

The soup was a major hit. I roasted the squash for 35 minutes along with two peeled and sliced Granny Smiths. Then I caramelized two sliced leeks (white parts only) in olive oil in a big Dutch Oven, then added two cloves of garlic and a 1/2 cup of white wine. After I cooked that down, I added the squash flesh and cooked apples, 6 cups veggie broth, and 1 bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. Then I let the soup cool overnight and blended it in the morning, then cooked it for 15 more minutes in the slow cooker on low. We served the soup with Creme Fraiche (whipped with apple cider) and sliced leeks. EVERYONE loved it. Well, except for one lonely squash hater in the group, but there's no pleasing everyone. This was waaaaaaaaay better than when I made it the last time with butternut squash. Too sweet.

I also made a Wilted Spinach Salad tossed with frisée, radicchio, toasted pecans, thinly sliced Asian pear, cranberries, and bleu cheese. I also finely chopped one shallot, blanched it for 20 seconds, then mixed it with 2 Tbs of apple cider vinegar for a dressing. Then, right before serving, I heated up some olive oil and poured it over the salad. That went over really well, too, but since it was just salad, no one seemed to go crazy over it.

The Autumn Rice Rissoles were just OK. I felt like they were a little dry and a bit too herb-y for my liking. I felt like all I could taste was the sage. Next time I would probably cut that down a tad and maybe use hot cooked rice instead of room temperature. Maybe that would add a bit more moisture. I also felt like the recipe's suggestion of serving it with cranberry sauce was just too sweet. I would make a vegetarian gravy instead. I'm a bit bummed that I forgot to grab those leftovers to take home because I know the bro and SIL won't eat them. 

I have to be at work early tomorrow. Is it wrong that I'm kind of frightened of that Black Friday shopping crowd? I'm going to be sluggish. Wish me luck!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

3 AM Thanksgiving Prep

Last year, I was training for my current job. I spent the entire holiday following another server around, getting bread, water, and drinks for his tables. Since we have a completely different menu for Thanksgiving day, this training was almost completely pointless. I was stuck at the restaurant for the entire day and didn't get out until 10:30 PM. I missed it. "Upset" doesn't begin to describe how I felt. I called my brother as I was getting out of work, and everyone was already packing up and going to bed. I cried. It was thoroughly depressing.

But not this year!!!
My usual grocery bill for two weeks! Eek!
My restaurant demands that employees work 5 out of 7 mandatory holiday shifts. This year, my big pick to get off was Thanksgiving. Although I miss LP (visiting fam in Michigan), I'm still really excited for the holiday. We have a 5 year strong tradition of my oldest brother and his wife hosting the dinner for the siblings and their L.A. friends who don't have family nearby.

Since I had to close tonight, I didn't get home until after 11 PM and immediately got to work. I am the SLOWEST cook in the world, so prep is very important for me. I'm the only vegetarian in the family, so I usually bring a little extra to make sure it still feels like a feast to me. Never know if the person responsible for the green bean casserole is going to throw in some bacon grease. 

Autumn Rice Rissoles
Wilted Spinach Salad
Winter Squash Soup

After much debate, I settled on these three after pouring over a year's subscription of Vegetarian Times. Tonight, I formed the Rissoles patties (currently chilling in the fridge) and got started on the soup.  The "Autumn Rice Rissoles" are just fancy veggie patties. I'm not cooking them up until tomorrow, so we'll see how they turn out. I don't often have luck with this kind of thing. 

The recipe calls for 1 cup each of cooked wild rice and brown/basmati rice. Thank goodness for Trader Joe's! These fully cooked packages cost the same or less than their raw counterparts! I'm so glad I didn't have to waste 45 minutes ruining rice this evening. And no, I don't have a rice cooker! Some day we'll have the extra cabinet space, and THEN I'll get one!

If the Rissoles turn out, I think the secret will have been to chilling them for several hours AND... uniformity!

I used our beloved Alton Brown measuring plunger to dole out the prescribed 1/4 cup and then smooshed the rice mixture on to a parchment lined baking sheet while still in the plunger. Definitely easier than trying to make them with my bare hands, anyway! The real test will be when I try to cook them on the skillet! I love the flavor combination, so even if they fall apart, it could still be a tasty casserole! They have Wild and Brown rice, toasted pecans, cranberries, marinated artichoke hearts, fresh sage, rosemary, and thyme, and red onion. My one twist on the recipe was using Pecan Rice Crackers instead of plain or saltines.
This is what Red Kuri squash looks like!!!

The Winter Squash soup features Granny Smith apples and leeks. I actually found the recommended squash, red kuri, at Whole Foods! Last time, I made this with butternut. It was OK, but a tiny bit bland. I also bought actual Creme Fraiche this time to use as a garnish.

My big problem with squash is its de-assemblage. This time, like last time, I cooked it for too long. The flesh and the skin just fell apart and while the rind was soft enough to eat, it probably would have added bitterness to the soup. But even taking out the stringy bits and seeds is difficult.

My recommendation? See item #17, on the left. It's a grapefruit spoon. I'm sure you can find them at any kitchy kitchen store. However, I received my pair from my grandma. Not only are they extremely useful for eating grapefruit, they are the IDEAL tool for scooping out squash goo.

Roommates will also use them to eat cereal when no regular spoons are left clean. It baffles the mind, people. Right now, I'm letting the soup cool for several hours so I can put it in the blender (WHY didn't I buy an immersion one, WHY?!) before reheating it in the slow cooker.

TIME FOR BED! I'll let you know how it all turns out


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Too Much Caffeine

Anyone ever experience this?

You've had so much caffeine that you feel like you're going to crawl out of your skin...

Like you're short of breath.

Like you need a shower.

Like you will never sleep again.

You are totally PARANOID and ANXIOUS.

This is me. Right now.

It started with home-brewed coffee around 9 AM. Then a grande non-fat cappuccino from Starbucks. And then finishing up the evening with another double non-fat capp AND a gingerbread latte from Aroma, along with a GINORMOUS piece of chocolate mocha cake. (I didn't eat all of it, by the way! Even with my friend, Amy, helping me, I still brought half of it home!) Everything was delicious, but I definitely overdid it.

It's all catching up with me now and I think I'm going to have a panic attack.

Commence freak out NOW.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Illegal Audition

OK, well... I barely got my foot in the door today, but I knew that was coming. The print campaign was for a casino and was required by law to hire people who were 25+ years old. I turn 25 in January. Hoping that the print campaign wouldn't post until January or later, I went to the audition anyway. Well, they checked IDs at sign-in and I was promptly turned away. Oh, well. It doesn't hurt to try!

I did, however, look very editorial today. Wish a better photo was possible. I love the zipper details that were on my skirt. And anything with skulls on it is always awesome.

And to comfort myself, I visited Pure Luck and got a faux Caesar salad with tofu and avocado and a 3 Philosophers draft beer. That thing was either really strong or my tummy was really empty, because I am still buzzing from it.

Better luck at the next audition! And... not lying about my age would be helpful!

Time to enjoy a chocolate coconut cupcake from Lark! I'm saving its buddy, the carrot cake one, for LP! Until he gets home, I'm just going to veg out, re-read Harry Potter #5 and eat a cupcake. Bliss.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Audition tomorrow!

This morning I got a call from a casting director. I have an interview/audition tomorrow. For a real job. Not some student thing, but an actual bona fide audition for a Vegas casino. It's just for print/internet use, but it pays pretty decently. I don't have high hopes for snagging it, but I'm happy just to get called in.

I'm supposed to wear a "casual short skirt and top." I only own three skirts, two of them are almost knee length and the other wouldn't really be considered short or casual since it's grey wool. Cute... but definitely not "Vegas." I may have to hit up the Forever 21 if I have time tomorrow. I'm really glad that I just happened to have the day off.

No matter what, though, I'm going to have to wear leggings! Look at the gnarly bruise I've got on my shin.  I bruise really easily, so I'm never quite positive where they come from, but I'm pretty sure this is the result of moving chairs around at work.

I'll never be a leg model.

In other news. Can I just share the most delicious meal in the world with you? In an ideal situation, this would be paired with red quinoa and some caramelized red onions , but since I didn't feel like dirtying many dishes and wanted dinner in less than ten minutes... I left them out. But still...

Brussels Sprouts, walnuts, veggie bacon, and Feta with fresh lemon juice and lots of sea salt and pepper. We already had the sprouts prepped in the fridge, so I just steamed them for a few minutes before throwing them into the iron skillet with the nuts and veggie bacon.

I eat this meal with random variations (different cheese, nuts, grain) with an absurd frequency whenever sprouts are available on the stalk. I'd never eaten sprouts until I watched an episode of Good Eats on it. I love Alton Brown.  So, so much.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Back to Work, Absurd Customers and Sunday Funday

Sometimes time flies and sometimes it crawls. It's hard to believe that I only went back to Iowa for 6 days, two of those being travel days. Then, when I was back in LA, I had two more days off of work. So I went one solid week without waiting on a single damn table. It felt like I'd been gone for a month.

The first day back is always the hardest. Of course, I desperately need the money, but having had the time off made me incredibly lazy. But now Thanksgiving is approaching and with it, the holiday shopping season. The restaurant will be packed. It's hard to believe that I've been working at this place for a year now. Last year on Thanksgiving I was shadowing another server, so I didn't make any money and the entire holiday was ruined. Blech. I made sure to get it off this year. Epic cooking will ensue, just you wait.

I'm looking forward to the busy season because the money will be most appreciated. But last year I ended up working 6 shifts a week, doubles almost every day.   

I lost 15 lbs in a month and a half.  

And I was already pretty thin to start. By January last year, I was completely emaciated and weak and every shift wore me out. I felt sick all of the time. I honestly believed I had cancer or something. I'm not allowing that to happen this year. It took me several months to gain back five very necessary pounds. Clif bars are coming with me to every shift

The holiday season makes some people more joyous and generous, while others turn NASTY. Last year on Christmas Eve, a lady told me she was ready to kill herself or her family, she was so annoyed with them. They spent the entire dinner bickering and getting drunk. I thought someone was going to throw a punch. And then, because she asked me to hurry the kids' food, they ended up with RAW chicken fingers. The restaurant poisoned her children. It was bad. 

Yesterday, on Sunday Funday, I had to make 10 trips to box up all the leftover food this family had because they got unnecessary refills on all of their Family Style items. Then they had the audacity to ask if we could hold it for them while they went shopping. No. We can't. Sanitation laws forbid it. And while I'm in the middle of trying to clear this epic feast of theirs, one of the guys asks me if we have toothpicks. You haven't even had dessert yet, can this wait? "We have toothpicks, they are right up at the host stand!" I say brightly. Two minutes later after I box up MORE of their food, he asks if I had gotten him a toothpick yet. Is it really so damn important? Sure, I'll just run up to the very front of this gigantic restaurant and get toothpicks for you. Everyone else can wait for me to take care of their needs. I'll just leave these dirty plates in front of your family while I get you some toothpicks. OK. Great. 

So I did.

It begins.

Friday, November 12, 2010

I'm such a LUSH

It is unfair that night owls like me lose an hour of our precious evening during daylight savings time. I depend on that extra hour of daylight to make me feel like I'm still being productive during the DAY, instead of waiting to do anything until sunset. Meanwhile, the sun is rising before 7 AM, filling our bedroom with light and making me panic that LP has overslept. Moving on. Just saying. Stupid Daylight Savings Time... grumble grumble...

On a lighter note, I just wanted to say how much I adore LUSH. No, I'm not talking about ladies who drink too much. I'm talking about the most amazing body/cosmetics shop in existence. Everything is handmade and fresh, with natural ingredients. A majority of their products are vegan and they NEVER test on animals. They also try to use environmentally friendly ingredients and reduce excess packaging. Plus they smell awesome and work great.

I discovered them waaaaaay back in high school when my family went on vacation to Toronto and bought mail order products from them whenever I felt like spoiling myself. So imagine my delight when I moved out to California and discovered that they were setting up shop all over the place! Less than 10 years ago, they didn't even have stores in America, but now they're all over southern California. Since a lot of the products they make are solid, they're really good for taking on vacation if you don't want to check luggage. I used my recent trip home as an excuse to buy some Lush goodies.

Now, these have been used, so they don't look as pretty as when I first purchased them... But you can tell what a fanatic I am because I have the reusable tins. This past trip I got the seasonal facial cleanser/scrub called Buche de Noel. It has cranberry bits, almond, and brandy. It smells AMAZING and is really good on my very dry, sensitive skin. I also picked up a solid shampoo called Trichomania. You just rub the bar into your hair and it gets super sudsy. This one smells AMAZING, but then, I'm a sucker for anything coconut. I wish it was just a little more conditioning, because I still need a conditioner after it to de-tangle. But it can't work miracles!

Clockwise from top left: Porridge, Buche de Noel, Trichomania

Finally, I got one of my favorite soaps, Porridge. It smells like breakfast: vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange juice, oats... Yum. It lathers really well, exfoliates, and is sort of toning. Makes my skin look really good. The only downfall of porridge is that the little exfoliating bits get EVERYWHERE and it doesn't last as long as I'd like (but that's almost everything that's a Lush solid). I also wish it were a bit more moisturizing. This bar is perfect for me in the summer, but my skin gets SO dry in winter, I probably will try something else when this runs out.

I promise that LUSH did not send me these products... I just love them that much. Adore.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Trip to Iowa!!! Weddings and Family

My cousin got married in Iowa this weekend, and since I can't go home for Thanksgiving or Christmas (and probably won't be able to visit again until MAY), it was the perfect opportunity to see family I haven't seen in ages. Highs of 98 in LA, Lows of 22 in Iowa. I had to borrow a coat.  BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

On Thursday, I flew to Cedar Rapids, where my friend Keri picked me up. We've been friends since Kindergarten-- great to see her. We went out for drinks in Iowa City that night with her boyfriend (also known since high school) and I spent the night at her place. We got incredibly trashed on cheap booze ($3.50 martinis, WHAT?!) and watched a horrible movie at her house called "The Room"... a long standing tradition of ours. When we were broke in high school, we would rent bad movies for 50 cents at Family Video and make fun of them in classic MST3K style (before we even knew what that was). The next morning she drove me to Davenport.

Friday night, my parents, Keri, and I went to my old high school to see a performance of "Seussical." It wasn't as horrific as it could have been...it's a pretty easy show to put on. And the girl they had playing the Kangaroo was actually better than the girl who played that part at my University! So props to that young lady, she had an incredible voice and lots of sass. Mostly, I was glad to say hi to my old band, drama, and choir teachers!

Saturday was the wedding in Indianola (near Des Moines) at 4 PM. They had it at the local nature center, and even though it was breezy and bit chilly, the ceremony was outside. But the view was really gorgeous and they kept it short, so we all survived. Super cute was when my other cousin's 4 year started shouting "YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!" when the couple was pronounced husband and wife.

 One my favorite elements of the wedding was the couple's personal logo. The husband is a graphic designer and he created this cute little cartoon of them. They had it on everything! It was on their invitations, the RSVP, the couple's wine glasses... but my favorite was their boxy wedding cake topper and their Yahtzee score card! Apparently, my cousin is obsessed with Yahtzee, so she had these and a bunch of dice at every table. My family played (mom won), and since there wasn't dancing, I thought this was good alternate entertainment.

The cake was cute, too. My uncle (her dad) made it for her. I guess it was a childhood tradition for my uncle to make them angel food cake each year with his special "7 Minute Icing," which the girls could have in whatever color they wanted on their birthday. It was tasty! They also had angel food in cupcake form, as well. I think I ate five. It's my favorite!

I was also extremely pleased to discover that my cousin is now a vegetarian, and while everyone else got pulled pork sandwiches (it's Iowa, this is very common at weddings), we ate black bean, sweet potato, and barley patties that were very tasty. They also had veggie meatballs. YUM! One of the first weddings I've ever been to where I got something besides vegetables and salad! She also made sure all of the table runners were reusable (muslin, for the groom's canvas art projects) with bio-degradable plates and napkins and silverware! The centerpieces featured bamboo (that people could take home) and Christmas lights (obviously reusable). Some people had gripes, as will always happen at weddings, but I thought it was lovely and personal and very thoughtful. At least it reflected the couple! I'm really happy for them!

After the wedding, the younger part of the crowd went out to a German Beer Bar in Des Moines and I stayed the night at my other cousin's apartment... Thanks Chelsea! We're 51 weeks apart in age (she's older, I'm the baby on both sides of the family) and we were shocked to see each other sporting the exact same haircut/color! We look so much alike, it's freaky. Except that I'm practically a foot taller...but other than that. Super short blond hair. Is it genetic to have a hairstyle preference? :-)

We drove home this afternoon and I was surprised by a big family dinner at Grandma's! I didn't know that my grandma and grandpa were hosting dinner at their house and had invited my cousins and aunts and uncles! I was so glad because I don't get to see them all very often.

Random thought: does everyone else refer to their uncles and aunts' spouses as their uncles and aunts? I always say "my aunt Jackie" because that's what I called her growing up. She's not blood related, but of course she's my aunt! I didn't really think about it until my one uncle got divorced and re-married. His wife Pam is lovely and so thoughtful and friendly. I like her a lot. In fact, I like her much better than my cousins' mother, the ex-wife. But that's who I grew up calling Aunt. And I don't automatically refer to Pam as my aunt. I would say, "my uncle's wife." But that's not fair when I would introduce my other uncle's wife as "Aunt." Confusing? Yes.

I've only got Monday left, and then I fly back home to L.A. on Tuesday. Short, but sweet!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Cooking and Voting and LACMA-- oh my! EPIC POST

Okay. So I'm a slacker. It's Saturday and I'm going to write about Monday through Wednesday. It's been a busy week. So sue me. But it's been a great week and I feel like I've had the perfect blend of productive and fun. I've also been submitting for roles on LA Casting and Actors Access every day. I even booked an audition, but the director changed her dates and I couldn't go at the new time. C'est la vie... but it's nice to be considered, at least.

Monday was spent cleaning the apartment and researching for the Tuesday election. I posted to my other blog, as I wrote about last time, and got tons of hits. It was really a shock. But I felt good about making a conscientious effort towards my voting and made myself a tasty veggie medley to nibble on while I researched. Look at the color! Roasted potatoes, carrots, and red onion with just a little EVOO, fresh thyme and basil, salt, pepper, and fresh sauteed spinach. It was soooo tasty and satisfying! I also made a homemade vegetable stock (LP helped, thanks!) to use for a soup recipe the next day. I hadn't been able to cook as much lately, so I felt great about this. I did all this and worked the dinner shift!

Tuesday was just fantastic. I slept in a little, made myself a healthy berry-banana smoothie and an egg on a bed of spinach, then walked to our polling place with my current and former roommate. Yay for voting! I felt really informed and prepared with my little sample ballot filled out and ready to go.

After voting, I took our five full bins of recycling to the center--a herculean task, I assure you! Turns out we actually had $17 worth of stuff! WOW! There was about 72 lbs of glass alone. And I hauled that around by myself! It makes me glad that we don't throw all of that away. (Random side note: when driving back I was listening to Market Place on NPR and even that reporter commented that on Project Runway, MONDO was robbed. Completely unrelated to the topic at hand, and I totally agree. It just had to be said.)

After that, my friend Amy and I got fancy coffee and shared a crepe at Solar de Cahuenga in Hollywood. Nutella and Strawberries....mmm. Amy swears that she saw Josh Radnor of "How I Met Your Mother" out on the patio where we were sitting. I was completely oblivious, but she was probably right.

We waited until 5 PM, which is the magic hour for me in LA, because after that the LACMA is free to local residents. That leaves 3 whole hours for leisurely browsing before they close. The museum has a great collection for being as small as it is and I've been there quite a bit. And I always have to take a peek at my favorite painting of all. I geeked out the first time I realized it was there!

But we especially wanted to see their newest building and the latest exhibit on the History of Fashion. The clothes were GUH-OR-geous. Amy and I had an interesting conversation about feminism and fashion. She regrets not getting to dress so outstandingly today, but I feel like you can dress however you want... hoop skirts and corset? SURE! But if I felt restricted in my clothing options, you can sure as hell bet that I would rebel against whatever it was I was expected to wear. Even as recently as my mother's generation, girls could get sent home from school for wearing pants. PANTS, ladies! I can't imagine not getting to wear jeans, and I love that I have the option of wearing a skirt if I feel like it, men's clothes if I feel like it. Punk one day and feminine the next. Isn't it FANTASTIC that we have choices? I feel privileged.

I love the outside "sculpture" at the LACMA... its iconic light posts. One of my favorite LA image.

After a couple hours at the museum, I took Amy home and then went home to cook! I used my homemade stock in a Butternut Squash, Green Apple, and Leek soup! I took the recipe from the November/December issue of Vegetarian Times. My brother got me a subscription for Christmas and I definitely want to renew. They have a lot of great ideas and are a major source of inspiration for me. I wanted to test-drive the soup before Thanksgiving. It's one of my favorite holidays and I asked off for it this year so I can really make a feast! My oldest brother hosts, but I always bring something vegetarian. The soup was definitely a winner!

Tuesday was a great day, and I was so eager to make Wednesday great, too. LP got me up early when he forgot his keys, but I thanked him for it because that gave me the time to make Vegan Buckwheat Pancakes for breakfast! From a technical and taste standpoint, these were the best pancakes I've ever made. I even had leftovers that I ate the next morning for breakfast, spread with a little peanut butter (to go!). I spent the rest of Wednesday running errands before going to work at night.

And the rest of this week? Well, I doubt I'll have much time to update, but right now I'm in IOWA for my cousin's wedding! I'm so excited to see family that I haven't seen in two years or more, but I'm not so excited about the chilly weather. Going from 98 to 27 degrees is freaking brutal. But more on that to come!