Passionately Pursuing the Good Life

Monday, June 21, 2010

Life List #51 – Making like Yogi Bear – It’s a Picnic!

It doesn’t take any great effort to come up with reasons not to like living in Los Angeles. Traffic alone will provide several pages worth of items to gripe about. But one thing we trump all other cities on is consistently beautiful weather. Which is why I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to pack a picnic and go in search of a beautiful place to enjoy it…of which we have many in LA.

Online research for good picnic places seemed a touch uninspired. All the usual suspects were there…Hollywood Bowl, Griffith Park, Hollywood Cemetery for their movie screenings, etc. All fine places but I was looking for something, I don’t know, a little more unique. On a whim I checked out The Getty’s website to see what time they close on Saturdays. I was sold when I discovered that not only do they stay open until 9:00PM, but that parking is free after 5:00PM on Saturdays. That’s a $15 savings! And considering there is no additional fee to get into the museum, the only thing it cost us were the drinks we bought to enjoy with our picnic food.

Check out our view. Not bad. Not bad at all!

Our picnic included an Antipasto Sub, chips and fruit salad.

This was a lovely way to enjoy the evening and time with my sweetheart. I think this may have inspired me to create my own list of “Best Places in LA to Picnic.” To be continued!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Life List #94: Jen, Jen, the Bread Maker!

I finally made a sandwich style bread from scratch! While I keep reading about all these uber simple “no knead” mix it and forget about it type breads, I wanted to conquer the basic first. And I wanted to keep it healthy. So I chose the Multigrain Bread recipe from America’s Test Kitchen (as of now they still have both the recipe and the video up on their website). They used a rather clever trick of using a 7 Grain (or in my case 10 Grain because that’s all they had at the store) hot cereal mix as the bread base. That way you don’t have to throw down like $80 to buy 7 different types of flour.

Here’s what I learned:

v If you follow this recipe, it really does take at least an hour for the hot cereal to cool down enough to proceed to the next level. I highly recommend using a thermometer but if you don’t have one, definitely wait for an hour. If it’s too hot it can kill your yeast. You don’t want to kill your yeast, DO YOU???

v The hardest part about this was the waiting. Your bread dough needs to nap. A lot. I would not recommend doing this on a beautiful, sunny day as the outside world will beckon and strongly tempt you to abandon your bread project and find a field of wildflowers in which to frolic.

v This may sound strange, but if you are like me and struggle with estimating values (i.e., inches, weight, yards), I would definitely use a ruler when it comes to forming/shaping your bread loaf. I had one beautiful looking bread and one that was a little, well, squat if you will.

v Homemade bread makes the most delicious and amazing cinnamon toast. For a primer on how to make cinnamon toast the “correct” way, please consult this lady.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Book Review: The Blind Assassin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Suicide? Check. Secret lovers? Check. Social, political, and emotional corruption? Check. An alien society on a fictional planet…wait, what?

Yes, while the bulk of the novel involves the story of two sisters in World War I era Canada, there is also a subplot intertwined throughout the novel that involves, among other things, an alien planet. If that doesn’t make you flee for the hills, and you’re willing to suspend your assumptions and just “go with it,” I promise it’s worth it. “The Blind Assassin” is a beautiful novel about human frailty, and how with a simple word or action you can set the course of another person’s destiny…and usually not in a good way.

The actual blind assassin of “The Blind Assassin” appears in a science fiction-esque story that two anonymous lovers are crafting together. On a fictional planet that is brimming with all kinds of social corruption , a certain class of children are blinded and abused, and, oh, they weave the most remarkable carpets! But before you feel too sorry for them, their other senses evolve on near bionic levels and they soon make a niche for themselves as assassins. One such assassin is on his way to complete a job, but manages to fall in love with his target who, wait for it, has had her tongue removed so that she cannot scream while being sacrificed to one of the gods. Cheery planet! Can their love overcome the odds of escaping and surviving in such a troubled society? Depends on which lover’s ending you want to go with.

Largely, though, The Blind Assassin is a story about an old woman who is attempting to set the story of her life straight, and to hopefully right some wrongs in the process. She is portrayed as both victim and assailant in the events that unfold. And in the end, the novel is largely about accountability. Even though we are shaped by our society, our upbringing, and our overall station in life, at what point are we responsible for our actions? At what point should you stop listening to what everyone else says is “the right thing to do” and start trusting in what you believe truly is right?

This novel is hardly “breezy,” but if you are up for a challenge and love great writing, you won’t be disappointed with “The Blind Assassin.”