Things I’ve Bought that I Love

Yes, I stole the title of this post from Mindy Kaling‘s amazing (and now, sadly, defunct) blog. And it’s a little bit of a misnomer, because I haven’t bought all of these things, but since I feel like I’m constantly accosting strangers on the street – as well as my own friends – about them, and because I remembered I had an open forum in which to express my love, I present to you the things I’m currently obsessed with.

As always, none of these are Affiliate links. I’m not that fancy.

Podcasts
Like everyone else in North America, I was and continue to be obsessed with Serial. But unfortunately Sarah Koenig is telling stories that, at least for now, have some sort of resolution or ending; these provide a regular giggle:
How Did This Get Made?
Do you love bad movies? Do you love excellent comedians? Do you love excellent comedians talking about bad movies? From I Know Who Killed Me to Hercules in New York, the movies reviewed are literally garbage and there is something for everyone.
Gilmore Guys
These fellas have a major in girls and a minor in women and think Kelly Bishop is queen. Enough said.

Books
The Best of Enemies
I Tweeted that the only issue I take with this book is the fact that it isn’t a movie I can watch, repeatedly, right this very second. Funny and heartfelt and begging to be read in one sitting, I love the voices Jen Lancaster gives to two very different but very engaging and likeable women.
Oh! You Pretty Things
A book that will transport you to (or back to) Los Angeles. Shanna Mahin has such an observant and perfect and perfectly sardonic voice that I just want to hang out watching trashy TV with her.
Luckiest Girl Alive
I’m usually great at seeing a plot twist coming – honestly, it’s what makes me so very irritating to watch movies with. But Jessica Knoll managed to both intrigue me and to trick me and to do so with such a shockingly funny, sharp voice.

Misc.
Washi Tape
I’ve recently begun scrapbooking again, and since I am the kind of person who cannot see a roll of tape (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE) without wrapping some of it around my fingers, I’m delighted someone finally thought to print patterns on masking tape and sell it for $2 per roll. (That sounds like sarcasm, but it isn’t, as I would gladly be suckered into paying at least double that.)
The Wildlands Prints
As I may have mentioned, I have a small goddaughter, and that small goddaughter has a pink(ish) bedroom. And because it is my prerogative, as an adult, to decide she loves zoo animals, I adore these fun print sets from The Wildlands, which looked even better in person.
Paper-Mate Flair Pens
Are you almost anal-retentively organized? Me too. And being able to color-code my daily notes and to-do lists at work is way more fun with felt-tip pens in bright colors.

Granted, I have also recently purchased an iPad, but since I’m currently in a fight with Angry Birds and bought the damn thing the day before it dropped $100 in price, we don’t need to talk about that.

But Actually, Food

I feel it’s important to caveat, given the title, that I don’t speak Italian. At least, not beyond a few curse words and a completely useless ability to accurately identify 37 types of pasta by their proper names. Which I promise is (somewhat) relevant to my point.

I love ot cook. In fact, in the very title of this blog, I promise FOOD! Needless to say, I haven’t delivered.

I think that food is about joy. That food is about love. And that really great, delicious food is a reflection of the state of your soul. A tasty barometer of your mental health, as it were, at least for me.

And for years, I made really great food. Delicious and inventive and made with ingredients I sourced from wherever I could, from wherever interested me – Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, a questionable-looking van full of peaches. If you can name it, I could make a meal out of it, and send you home with seconds to sneak at midnight.

From the time I was a senior in college until I quit my first real job in my chosen industry, I was a serious home chef, possessed of dozens of beautiful cookbooks kitchen equipment that ranged from utilitarian to ridiculous (I’m looking at you, banana ice cream machine.) I truly loved being in the kitchen, and was forever testing recipes on myself and my friends.

But things change. Sometimes you quit a job that doesn’t seem right for you in the moment for one that does, and you don’t say anything even as you begin to get crushed under the weight of spending too much time doing something you don’t enjoy. Sometimes that manifests itself in a lot of shitty takeout.

Like 18 months’ worth.

And sometimes that turns into a habit that lasts for another six months, even as you gain traction in your new job (you know, the one that really, really makes you happy).

But habits, like rules, are meant to be broken. And sometimes breaking habits means spending $30 on one delicious, perfect, simple meal without regretting the time or cash investment. So I share with you my breakthrough meal, something so simple and full of goodness that it’s bound to make you smile:

Italian Flag Salad
11-oz clam shell of baby arugula
8 oz diced pancetta
1 pint grape tomatoes
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 large shallots
Butter
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Salt
Pepper
Lemon juice

In a large sauce pan, melt just enough butter to caramelize your diced shallots. When shallots begin to become translucent, toss in pancetta and brown along with the onions until crispy. Lightly toast pine nuts before draining. Add a small amount of olive oil to the pan along with halved grape tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and saute until tomatoes are just heated through.

Drain pan again, and toss mixture with baby arugula, along with 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1/8 cup of balsamic vinegar and salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.

Tiger, Tiger

It’s been nearly half a decade, but 2010 still stands as one of the best/worst years of my life. It was the year I graduated college, began my first real job and moved across the country (and back again).

I come from a small town. An insanely small town. A town that would barely take up the full head of a pin if you were to mark it on a map. And it’s an idyllic place, the sort where you can keep your car doors unlocked and the worst crime spree we ever experienced was when a classmate of mine started stealing change of out said unlocked cars. There was a murder a few years ago, but since it didn’t involve anyone who actually lived in town, we didn’t think much about it.

(Of course, we’re still talking about it, so take that with a grain of salt.)

And so when I decided to move clear across the country in my senior year of college, it was a big deal. I hadn’t really spoken to anyone from my high school in a few years, but suddenly there was a Facebook outpouring of questions and support, which was rather lovely. I was completely exhilarated, and there was no room in my head or my heart for practicality.

Which is probably why, just before I left, I managed to give myself a second-degree burn on the arm with my flat iron. Of course it hurt, but it was a little bit worth it when, later that night, I was with friends at a diner and the waiter asked if I’d been clawed by a tiger. It became a great joke with my friends – the night Your Gal got clawed by a tiger.

The Scab, as it came to be known, accompanied me to LA, and its sheer size was enough of a curiosity that it helped break the ice with my coworkers at my new internship. They were (and remain) a great bunch – funny, sharp and immensely creative as well as being kind and welcoming. I’ve lost contact with most of them, but they remain 90% of the reason I was sad to leave.

Which brings me to my first High of 2010: moving across the country, by myself. And the low? The resulting raw homesickness, abject fear of your terrible salary and mild-to-moderate emotional breakdown that made me move right back six months later.

There were other highs – seeing my writing garner positive comments, meeting people whose work I so admired, being recognized for being a hard worker and a leader. Lows came, too – the first car I’d purchased by myself having issues right after I drove it off the lot, realizing that the salary negotiations you see in the movies are kind of bull$hit and finally understanding that there are truly people who just don’t want to be good.

I graduated college. I fell in and out of love. I discovered Yogurtland.

And I felt fear. When I realized I wasn’t ready to be on my own and more than 3,000 miles from my entire support system, it was the first time I really, viscerally felt fear.

Through it all, in hot and sunny Los Angeles, people continued to be fascinated by the scar. When they asked, in that forthright, charmingly gregarious way of musicians and artists and Californians, I told them I’d been clawed by a tiger; we’d laugh and I’d tell the real story of my bumbling.

When I moved back to the East Coast, it continued to be a conversation piece – I was job hunting in the heat of summer, and it was always exposed when I went to interviews. It was with me when I ended up stranded in a strange city for the day with a direct marketing company, on a “practical interview” and in four-inch heels; it was with me when I found a job that seemed perfect for me.

It was with me when I realized that said perfect job was a ticking time-bomb. And it was with me when I reconnected with a friend from college, who over the past five years has become someone who understands me better than I do myself.

The scar was there when I realized I couldn’t live with my parents anymore. It was there when my brother and I began to grow apart. I carried it with me through four car accidents that year.

And then it began to fade.

In the successive years, I’ve made friends and lost friends. I’ve reached a level of professional success and satisfaction that I couldn’t have conceived of when I was that small-town girl. My life is my own to guide, and thankfully, luckily, blessedly (and despite my insecurities) I’ve realized my instincts are good. And that they’ll take me as far as I’m willing to go.

As I’ve become more confident, more grounded (and, hell, more adult), the scar has faded. I’m not sure when it disappeared to the point where even I’m challenged to identify it, but it’s happened. And I’ve barely noticed. It will always be there, I’m sure, because that’s the nature of a scar.

It’s also the nature of fear. And while I’m long since past feeling it every day, that fear that came with being an adult, that crept in when I realized I wasn’t invincible, that I could fail, it’s still there. It’s always going to be. But I have the tools to deal with it now. I don’t need my tiger to start a conversation, or the funny anecdote to hide behind. I am who I am, and the core of me probably isn’t going to change. I’ve made my peace with that.

And I’ve realized that’s what’s important.

Trust yourselves, chickadees, and the rest will follow.

Love,
Your Gal

Death of a Skirt

A day in the not-too-distant past, which should neatly outline why, in the back of my mind, I secretly believe I have one great sitcom script in me.

6:30am: Awaken for morning ablutions.

7:16am: Burn forehead with flat iron. Curse appropriately.

7:18am: Burn scalp with flat iron. Curse inappropriately.

7:22am: Run tights on pretty but spiky shoes. Find another pair. Curse again.

7:38am: Late for train! Get in car.

7:46am: Car incident of which we will not speak. Call an Uber.

7:48am: 3x surge???!!! Resign self. (Curse again.)

8:50am: Ride elevator many stories, cursing weather, bad drivers and Henry Ford himself along the way. Realize Uber was over $50. Curse again.

9:00am – 6:00pm: Great meetings. Faith in humanity/good mood restored! Decide to walk home (four miles away.)

6:45pm: Leave work. Is it slightly windy? Procure coffee. Commence Homer Simpson-esque drooling. Mmmmmmm, coffee.

6:49pm: Skirt flies over head.

6:52pm: Skirt flies over head. Gather pleats and hold against legs.

6:59pm: Skirt flies over head. Curse. Call an Uber.

7:00pm: 3x surge? NEVER AGAIN.

7:13pm: Skirt FLIES over head. Download Lyft.

7:14pm: 25% Prime Time? Worth it.

7:18pm: Lyft arrives. Slide into warm, cozy car and realize you are soaking a very nice gentleman’s car seats.

7:35pm: Jump out of car, apologize.

7:36pm: Fumble for keys. Skirt flies over head.

7:40pm: Skirt goes in trash. NEVER AGAIN.

Giving Good Desk

image

Back in the halcyon days of my early twenties (remember those? When ramen noodles were an acceptable dinner and you looked so damn cute in your Forever 21 jackets?), I was installed at my very first grown-up desk.

Having previously only experienced the cramped joys of hot-desking at a work study job, I was thrilled at the prospect of having (and decorating) my very own slab of Ikea’s finest green lucite. I decided I’d always have fresh flowers and would dedicate a whole drawer to healthy snacks and supplements to share with the rest of the office. My plastic paradise would be immaculate!

Of course, three very important things happen when you’re a) the closest desk to the door and b) the most junior person on staff:

1. Your desk turns into an absolute garbage dump.
Stray packages, doggy chew toys, Palm Pilot chargers from 1999, scribbled-upon Post-Its, half-chewed pens, denatured plutonium – if you can name it, it will end up on your desk. And it will somehow asexually reproduce, leading you to believe that spontaneous generation is totally real.

2. Fingerprints, fingerprints, fingerprints.
Have a little pressed powder and a makeup brush you don’t care about? Great. Dust your desk for fingerprints. It’s fine to feel a little bit faint – normal even! Just put your head between your knees and breathe deeply until the bad thoughts go away.

3. You will hold Sharpies and Dry-Erase markers for ransom.
Everyone who has ever worked in an office has thieved one of these items. It is a rite of passage, and it is a fact. Keep your favorites in your purse.

Four years and five desks later, I’m slowly learning to accept the fact that unless I suddenly start working for Poppin (or Kate Spade’s office line) there’s a really good chance that my desk will never be the pristine space I’ve dreamed of.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped me from color-coordinating the hell out of everything on it and hoping for the best. So there’s that.

Love,

Your Gal