Sunday, July 31, 2016

Lessons learned

Every day is a school day, so they say.

I learned about a whole new species of shellfish last week. We were bombing around H-Mart, TLOML's new favourite Korean grocery store, stocking up for a Korean feast we were planning for Lady P's godfather, The Gambler, and another old friend. After the unfeasibly inexpensive vegetables and before the yards of chiller cabinets full of frozen dumplings, is the seafood section. Including the flukes.

Here they are, great big long elephant trunks. Yikes.

I'd never seen a fluke before. No thanks, said I, and on we went to stock up on frozen gyoza.

A few days later we were out for dinner with WeHo friends at Providence, and what should pop up on the tasting menu but fluke sashimi. Not wanting to appear picky, I didn't object. Besides I was curious to see what kind of sashimi one of those grey schlongs would make.

Imagine my surprise when this arrived.
It turns out fluke is a fish. A mild, slightly sweet kind of flounder. Delicious. I suppose that label in H-Mart was for a different tank.

I was also surprised when the duck turned up with a delightful little sliver of rhubarb.

I had no idea you could get rhubarb over here. certainly not in California. I guess I just hadn't looked hard enough.

I was so excited I went to Vonn's the next day, where sure enough it nestles in between the courgettes and the beetroot (seriously! not with the fruit! no wonder I could never find it). I made rhubarb crumble this weekend when we hosted our dear South Bay friends, the reason we moved here. (I may abbreviate them to The Reasons, going forward).

Which is all another, long-winded way of saying that in one week we enjoyed discounted Korean groceries, fine dining in Hollywood, and some good home cooking. A sweet spot indeed.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Santa Barbara, where even the no smoking signs are Mission-era

A couple of weekends ago TLOML, Lady P and I drove up to Santa Barbara for a weekend at a friend's place. Besides the obvious pleasures of a mini break, eating and drinking and catching up with friends, and exploring new playgrounds, I especially loved Santa Barbara itself.

After life in Hermosa (founded 1907), it was really lovely to be somewhere with more than a hundred years of history. Santa Barbara was established as a Spanish mission in the 1780s, and much of it was built in a grand colonial style after an earthquake in the 1820s destroyed the adobe huts they'd been living in before then. Which is to say, it is an old city, by Californian standards at least. And it's architecturally coherent, in a way that Hermosa, with its Portuguese castles next to modernist white boxes, is just not. Much of the city's roofs are red tiled in the Spanish style, and there are some really well preserved buildings.

Take the courthouse, and this fire station, for a couple of examples. Both still functioning with their original purpose, and in their original form.
The courthouse

An actual working fire station
Then there's this charming multistory carpark, beautifully preserved from the colonial era with the original signs and all.
Wait... what? The dudes who ran the Mission had the foresight to build parking structures? No, you're right, it's just a modern car park that has been designed to meet Santa Barbara's code for downtown construction, and blend in.

Much like these signs, which I'm guessing weren't there when the courthouse was built in 1850.

Hey, I'm not hating this faux-old stuff. Santa Barbara is such a beautiful city, and much of its appeal lies in the visual unity of its architecture. It's entirely fitting that the powers that be would want to preserve that appeal. I felt rather shame-faced about how little regard I paid to the 16th century buildings of my college.

Still, it was refreshing to get back to messy, chaotic, apparently unplanned Hermosa with all its quirks.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Crafting fever

Meanwhile, as I was wandering the aisles at Vonn's, Lady P was caught up in her own time-suck.

I was eager to find some fun stuff for her to do the week that school was closed - and there is only so much time I (or our babysitter) wants to spend at the park or the beach. So I bought a few craft kits.

They're for the kind of activities a better mother makes up with old clothes pegs and some pipe cleaners she happens to have lying around. Clearly I'm the kind of mother who likes to throw money at her problems. About $50 in total, for 5 boxes of carefully curated creative content. I thought P might spend a couple of afternoons doing them and we'd have some left for our flights this summer.

But it turned out I created a monster. Lady P was like a child possessed. She crafted all day long at the expense of doing anything else whatsoever. Her first request on waking, or returning to the house, or when she was supposed to be doing anything other than crafting, was 'Can I do craft?'.
Crafting in PJs

Crafting when we were supposed to be heading to the beach

Crafting naked
I tried to say yes as often as I could but really and truly you cannot craft every waking hour. You need to eat, sleep, get dressed, maybe even leave the house. Or so I kept telling Lady P.

She would not be moved. She only wanted to craft to the point of grumpy, fractious, hungry exhaustion. It was a little frightening at times. Like the way I imagine you'd feel if you were trying to take a mother bear away from her cubs, or a lion away from his kill.
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!
Fifty dollars and five days later we have a house full of tiny bits of tissue paper and lollipop sticks. Oh, and of course all Lady P's creations. And while it made her very happy, she tore through those boxes so quickly I'm not sure it was great value.  Next time I think we'll just switch the telly on.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Lost in Vonn's

I don't think I've ever taken so long between posts. I just popped into Vonn's to buy some cheese and some raisins and before I knew it a month had gone by.

Let me explain why it's so easy to get lost in Vonn's. Here's a map showing the layout. I highlighted cheese in pink and drew circles around the various places you might look for raisins.

It's not quite to scale and a little bit fuzzy but I think you get the picture. Look how many different places they keep the cheese (6, by my count).

This, hilariously, is the fancy cheese - in the fruit & veg area

A few feet away behind the deli counter, cheese in breeze block format

Far far away beyond the egg nog some other cheeses. Wonder if this guy is as confused as I am.

I think of this as the secret cheese. It's between the ice-cream cakes and the doughnuts. Obvs.

And as for the raisins, well it makes no sense. They have a very limited range - America knows nothing of currants or sultanas, just raisins. Yet they scatter them about as if to tease someone, some confused Brit maybe, in search of different dried fruit.

Also witness how the porridge and proper muesli, classed as 'hot cereal' are far away from all the other cereal.

It's madness. And that is why I have been so slow to post. (Nothing to do with a trip to NY, a beloved house guest, 4th of July stuff, P's week off school, and general busybusyness).