Friday, January 22, 2010


My friend's response, after telling her that a huge tree fell over into our pool:
"You have a pool and you've never invited me over to swim?!"

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I Got Nothin

I've mentioned how much I love books, reading, and stories. ("We get it, Lisa," you must be thinking. I know.) But reading books for me is more than enjoying a narrative; it's the prose that I obsess over, too. I love good writers' writing--when they violate punctuation rules, spell dialogue phonetically, and come up with their unique styles. Style, voice...they're tough things to have.

I love the art of writing. I love the English language. I'll never master it, and I like that about it. I'll be learning it forever and ever, and blogging is part of that process--what should I write about, and how should I write it? I feel so much satisfaction when I am able to post something that comes from my heart and is articulated well, creatively written, funny, didactic, meaningful...I love being proud of something I've written.

And other times, like right now, I mistakenly believe I hate writing. I can't think of a single thing in this indefatigably fascinating world--full of succulent, delicious, tantalizing, mouth-watering things--that I want to write about. Or is it the other way around...are there too many thoughts swimming around in my little brain that they're all just drowning each other, and I'm left with nothing?

One of the best feelings in the world is being able to strike when the Iron of Inspiration is hot. Yet, often, it's a cold war between Fleeting Thought and Smug Cursor--oh, how it taunts me with its blinking.

I wish there was a way to manufacture inspiration as I fancy it, to yield creativity on a whim, for ideas to come a-knocking when they're beckoned.

Maybe I'll figure it out someday...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Inner Monologue

If I had been nominated for a Golden Globe tonight (for best original screenplay, obviously)...I am sure the following thoughts would have gone through my mind at some point in the evening:

Is my hair frizzing out?

Wait, what is our governor doing here?

Thanks a lot, Mo' my mascara's going to be smudged for the entire rest of the night.

Take little bites. You never know when the camera is going to turn on you.

Amy Adams is just the cutest little nugget of a pregnant woman on the planet.

Who gets these centerpieces after? Like, could I take one?

OMG...Robert Downey Jr.'s sitting at the table next to me. Be cool, Lisa, be cool...

Quentin Tarantino creeps me out. Must not make eye contact with him.

I hope Mickey Rourke never changes. Ever.

Don't go to the'll miss something funny or important.

I wonder if Jesse James remembers me from that one time we ran into each other in a Russian submarine in San Diego. Or if Kevin Bacon remembers me when I met him at the Coach House after seeing the Bacon Brothers. I bet they do.

I'm so glad Christoph Waltz won. Not really sure what he said up there though; I hope he works on his Oscar acceptance speech. He will win the Oscar, after all.

Chloe Sevigny--what was she thinking? I appreciate her courageous fashion efforts, but...yikes.

If I win, how do I get to the stage? Do I take the most direct way? Or do I take the way that passes Sir Paul McCartney? Must strategize quickly...

Where is Sam Worthington and how do I get him to notice me? I didn't learn to say “Kaltxì. Ngaru lu fpom srak?” for nothing.

What...what? They called my name? I won?! Oh....gotta go!!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


You can focus on the depressing stuff about Las Vegas—the ancient stains, chips, cracks, missing sequins, bulbs that aren’t flashing, or you can see the glamour, the shine, the excitement, and, maybe, even the beauty, too. There are roses blooming among the thorns.

So, here they are...the things I enjoyed in Las Vegas, my favorite desert roses:

1. The Gallery of Fine Art at the Bellagio. Yes, Virginia, there is fine art in Vegas. The current exhibit reveals the brilliant architects and artists responsible for the stunning new CityCenter, including works by Claes Oldenburg (his piece Typewriter Eraser, is below at the CityCenter), Peter Wegner, and Maya Lin (who designed, at age 21, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C.—one of the most moving works of art ever created.) Seeing the exhibit gave me a greater appreciation for the CityCenter, which is changing the skyline of the city from a graphic one to an architectural one, and bringing style and class back to a city losing its luster.

2. Serendipity 3. I hate to shun America's beloved buffets, but...not really. Serendipidy 3, a New York institution, was a fun choice for Friday night sustenance, and its cotton candy-pink lights happened upon us right as we were about to wave a white flag to Las Vegas Blvd. and find a casino food court. The atmosphere was whimsical, darling even, and the famous “Frrrozen Hot Chocolate” was delicious.

3. The Bellagio fountains. There’s something absurdly and frivolously magical about dancing water in the middle of the desert. Choreographed to music and illuminated by golden lights submerged underwater, the streams burst into the night air like powerful geysers, fall like wet spaghetti noodles, and sway gracefully like languid ballerinas. It’s a mesmerizing show to watch...and I will admit, brings me to tears almost every time.

4. The Forum Shops at Caesar’s, Bellagio boutiques, and Crystals, the retail section of CityCenter. Why? All of these places have a Tiffany & Co. I don't know anywhere else in the world where you can find three Tiffany's on one street. And no, I didn’t buy anything. I just love the legacy, the history, and the institution that is Tiffany’s, and that calm robin’s egg blue color and those pretty window displays invited me in to pretend I was Audrey, just for a few moments.

5. Assouline. Quick—what’s the least Vegasy thing you can think of? A luxury bookshop? Jackpot! Unseen forces reeled me into the comforting embrace of Assouline with a taut line, and I couldn’t handle what a beautiful store it was—from the alphabet carpet to the floor-to-ceiling displays of lifestyle, art, and fashion books, this store gave my soul a hug.

6. Dinner at Mesa Grill in Caesar’s Palace. Bobby Flay’s restaurant didn’t disappoint. My dinner was definitely one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten in my life. I got the sixteen spice crusted chicken with roasted garlic mango sauce and buttermilk-chive mashed potatoes. My mom got the New Mexican spice rubbed pork tenderloin with bourbon-ancho chile sauce and a sweet potato tamale with crushed pecan butter. It was all a-MESA-ing!!

My cute mom with her Bette Midler ticket and white peach margarita.

Goat cheese queso fundito with blue corn chips.

Churros with chocolate sauce for dessert. YUM.

Las Vegas, I'll be back....

Lost Vegas

I spent my entire weekend with my mom in Las Vegas trying to decide whether to like the city or not. It is a unique place, a revoltingly fascinating place. Vegas doesn’t intrigue you with its history of ancient days or noble founding fathers. It doesn’t romance you with stories of heroes and epic battles. And it certainly doesn’t charm you with timeless landscapes, natural wonders, or breathtaking beauty. It's not a city that will woo you; it just wants you. It won’t whisper sweet nothings into your ear; it will only scream, “TWO FOR ONE COCKTAILS!” or “LOOSEST SLOTS ON THE STRIP!!” It’s a city that will assault you with its noise, colors, characters, and demands.

Las Vegas demands your attention the same way that your trouser-yanking sticky-faced little cousin does at family Christmas parties. The cornea-burning LED signs are read forced and reluctantly, like eviction notices or paragraphs on reading comprehension exams. And all those lights—spastically flashing at the same rhythm as car lights on panic mode. It’s a dizzying and disorienting place…a place that kept me on edge all weekend. Young girls were shrink-wrapped in tiny tubes of 100% manmade material and yelled “’SCUSE YOU!” when they bumped into each other in their inebriated states and spiky heels; young men had shiny foreheads and smelled like they were wearing cologne with names like “Growl” or “Stallion.” Profanity-spewing tools were inescapable, traveled in frat packs, and playing their broken records: “WOO!! VEGAS, BABY!!” The corner card-clickers sounded like the aliens from Signs and District 9…and what they had to offer disturbed my heart more than seeing a real alien would. Morale was eroding by the second, debauchery was celebrated, sin was embraced…devoured.

I’ve been to a lot of incredible cities, and can appreciate places for their uniqueness, history, and personalities. But Las Vegas…I don’t get it. It definitely has wonderful things to offer, but overall, I just don't get it. (And I don’t fit in, either...pearls and a wool blazer made me feel like a prude…and maybe I am one.) But to be fair, I appreciate that I find myself faulting Vegas—Sin City—for being too, well, Vegasy—too flashy, sparkly, sinful, busy. But it’s a city without pretense, and all that glitz and glam, class and trash…it’s exactly what keeps people coming back.

Now that all of my Holden Caulfield angst is out of my system, I really did have fun (that post is next). I liked Vegas. But I liked it the same way I liked popping the giant blister on my pinky toe Sunday night—my souvenir from hoofing it through those casinos all weekend: It was a little painful and took some effort, but in the end, it satisfied my curiosity. And, weirdly enough, I’d do it again.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


The NASB translation of the Bible contains this version of Psalm 46:10—

Cease striving and know that I am God.

Many Christians know this verse as “Be still and know that I am God”—it’s short and sweet and looks really great on DaySpring greeting cards with sunshine and flowers. But I had never heard it this way before, and it seemed to capture what I’ve been feeling for a while now.

First, a thought on striving: It’s not an inherently bad thing. How on earth would you grow, learn, and improve unless you challenged and stretched yourself by creating goals, taking it to the limit, going out on a limb? We strive to do the right thing when we are caught in ethical and moral dilemmas, say the right thing to that person that needs comforting and encouragement, to be good people, better people.

I’ve been asking myself lately if I’m striving for the right things or for the right reasons. I often find myself striving for approval—mostly from myself and the impossible standards that I burden myself with, but also for approval from others. I feel like I have to convince people that I’m worth their time, that I’m cool and smart, relevant and fun. I feel like meeting people is sometimes an audition--give 'em the old razzle dazzle, knock 'em dead, break a leg--and I dread the critics’ feedback. Four stars? Poignant and charming? Vapid and a waste of time? A work of art…a masterpiece?

Cease striving, Lisa.

We’re all striving for things that don’t matter, whether we are consciously aware of it or not. We strive to be in control, to create order, to look better than her in a bikini, to bench more than that bro, to raise “better” kids than theirs, to have the most facebook friends and re-tweets, to own the greenest lawn and most expensive car on the block. We arm ourselves with stuff and mistake it for worth; we arm ourselves with information and pass it off as intelligence; we stuff our calendars with church activities and think it's piety. We’re always ready with our hat tricks, trump cards, check mates, last laughs, and one-ups.

Cease striving.

We want to have it All Together. We are terrified of drowning in irrelevance, in The Ordinary. But by striving to keep our heads above water, maybe we're not seeing that we already are in too deep.

This habit of striving sneaks into my spiritual life and creates a busy, graceless relationship with God. Where did it get to the point that I decided I needed to induce his love? That grace was earned? That I forgot to stop Martha-ing and sit at his feet in complete awe?

Brennan Manning writes, “I’ve decided that if I had my life to live over again, I would not only climb more mountains, swim more rivers, and watch more sunsets; I wouldn’t only jettison my hot water bottle, raincoat, umbrella, parachute, and raft; I would not only go barefoot earlier in the spring and stay out later in the fall; but I would devote not one more minute to monitoring my spiritual growth. No, not one…what would I actually do if I had it to do all over again? Heeding [the gospel of] John’s counsel, I would simply do the next thing in love.”

Cease striving. Cease striving. Cease striving.


Monday, January 4, 2010

Greyt TV

It wasn't long ago that I was unable to hold my own in a conversation about any currently popular television shows. My water cooler chatter was mostly about, well, why there was no ice in the soda machine. But in 2009, that changed. In fact, I’ll be the first to admit that one of the reasons I didn’t read as much last year was because I got caught up in some really great TV shows. And the one that I loved most was Grey’s Anatomy.

Now, if you don't watch TV, that's fine; I know there are legitimate reasons for it. (I once gave lame excuses myself.) But let me tell those of you who say with that Air of Snobbery that you “don’t watch TV,” or even better, that you “don’t have time to watch TV,” as though you live a more meaningful, busy, and important life than the rest of us—you’re totally missing out. Many fellow bibliophiles deliberately try to distance themselves from the Common Man's form of entertainment--the boob tube--but I can tell you with confidence, kindred spirits, that if you like reading, you’ll like some TV. Although soaps and sitcoms will never replace our first love--literature--there are plenty of amazing shows out there that provide what we're looking for in books—adventure, drama, wit, history, romance, heroes and heroines, humor, mystery, intrigue, escape, and of course, hot doctors with incredible hair. A great TV show includes a compelling narrative with dynamic characters that’s told in a unique, captivating, entertaining way. Like Grey’s Anatomy.

I can watch episode after episode of this show (which I am not necessarily saying is a healthy lifestyle choice). I love the characters and could talk about any of them like I know them in real life. I almost feel like they really are my friends. (We’ve been through so much together, after all.) And the patients—I mourn their deaths almost as though they’re real people...people I knew. I cry with them as they beat cancer or get transplants. I’m scared for them as they discover that a tumor has spread or they receive a scary diagnosis.

And then I laugh at myself for watching TV for hours, often wrapped in a pink snuggie, free-flowing tears streaming down my face, completely distraught and consumed after each episode. The drama, heartbreak, humor, and characters captivate me...every time.

And now that I have a Netflix subscription, I can discover even more shows in 2010...any suggestions?

Where's the remote?!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Valli Girl

Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in the 1960s.

Don’t let my unapologetic devotion to crappy pop music fool you; I’m a fan of many genres of music, especially oldies—the music of my parents’ youth. While my friends were listening to Hootie and the Blowfish, Janet Jackson, TLC, and Coolio in middle school, I had my radio tuned to KRTH 101, played the Beach Boys, The Four Seasons, and Bobby Darin to pump myself up at swim meets, and memorized Beatles lyrics (I listened to Rubber Soul virtually every day in 8th grade). So I was very excited to see Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in concert last night at the Orange County Performing Arts Center.

I never know what kind of concert experience to expect when I see musicians who are decades past their prime. I’m just excited that I’m going to see music icons, and if they happen to remember all the lyrics to hits they had forty years ago and not fall down on stage, that’s icing on the cake. Regardless of whether or not they’ve still “got it,” it’s a thrill to see them perform. I’ve been lucky enough to see some American legends in concert—Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Tony Bennett…and some definitely sounded better than others.

The thing is, after all these years, Franki Valli is still sprightly on stage and sounds incredible! His famous voice is still clear and distinct, and not only did he sing well, he performed well. Frankie is a born showman—he took time to shake every single person’s hand in the front row, told a few stories, encouraged the audience to sing and dance, and thanked everyone for coming with enough sincerity that it almost brought tears to my eyes.

And the Four Seasons sounded great, too. They’re obviously not the original Four Seasons, but four charming young men who looked and sounded sharp. Their slick finger snapping, synchronized feet tapping, and wonderful harmonizing would give any doo-wop group of the ‘50s or ‘60s a run for their money. I could tell they were having a blast being on stage singing with Frankie.

Accompanied by a 10-person band, they sang all the hits we were hoping to hear, including Grease, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Rag Doll, Oh What a Night, Let’s Hang On, Candy Girl, Bye Bye Baby, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, and Sherry. They also performed a medley of Groovin’ and My Girl. Yes, many of these songs are cheesy and have kitschy rhymes that tell silly stories, but they are so fun…it’s music that just makes you feel good.

I'm sure I was the youngest person at the show; most people from my generation are probably more familiar with Heath Ledger’s version of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” from the film 10 Things I Hate About You than Frankie Valli’s version. But I actually got a kick out of seeing these older people who were so excited to see Frankie. His music was the soundtrack to the best years of their lives, and seeing them smiling and swaying in their seats made me hope that I have that much fun when I’m their age. Oh, what a night!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

California Love

Forget resolutions...I'm making a FUNgenda for 2010. I'll probably be keeping travels pretty domestic this year, which is fine; there are so many things to do in Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego, etc. So, I decided to make a list of fun things to do in 2010. Here's the short list:

Visit more museums. I've been to the "biggies" but there are still many museums that need exploring...MOCA in L.A., the Bowers Museum (they currently have a collection of gold and jewelry from Troy!), and the Laguna Art Museum are just a few I want to visit.

See (and read) more plays. Yes, I see many musicals, but there will be several Pulitzer Prize-winning plays showing locally in 2010, including Fences and Crimes of the Heart, and I want to get some cheap seats to see them. Some of the best writing I've ever read has been in play form. I'm excited to explore this new literary realm.

Re-enact the knife fight from Rebel Without a Cause at the Griffith Observatory. Just kidding. I might just quote a line or two from the movie instead. I've never been!

Get a hot dog at Pink's in Hollywood. They have vegetarian selections. I already checked online. And then maybe drive down to Venice, rent a beach cruiser, and ride up to the Santa Monica Pier.

Find some really good used bookstores. I'm getting a little sick of Barnes and Noble, plus used books are cheaper, and sometimes they smell so good. I also want to find an old typewriter.

Take a cooking class with Sam the Cooking Guy in San Diego. My dad and I love Sam's shows, so we've decided to take a class next year. It'll be like watching the show, only we can eat everything being made!

Speaking of San Diego, I'd also like to go to Petco Field to see a Padres game. I can't believe I've never been. This is a top priority for 2010.

Visit the Westwood Memorial Park and Hollywood Forever Cemetery. (Is that weird?)

Visit Salvation Mountain, kitsch at its finest. Huell Howser has convinced me that it's worth the trip! I'd love to chat with/interview its creator, Leonard Knight. I think it would be a memorable outing.

Go to Knott's Berry Farm and the San Diego Zoo; I haven't been to either place in over a decade.

Take pictures in front of the Chiat/Day Advertising Agency in L.A. and the Hollywood sign...I'm willing to drive through obscure L.A. neighborhoods and even hike for a perfectly framed shot...whatever it takes.

Visit the Bradbury Building in downtown L.A. where the last scene from 500 Days of Summer was's gorgeous!

Anyone want to join me on my adventures?

2010 is going to be a fun year...let's fall in love with California.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Hip to be Sugar

I heard through the facebook-status-update-grapevine about these incredible hippo-shaped sugar cookies found on Balboa Island. Now, I generally love delicious things, but when delicious things are shaped like cute animals, resistance is futile. So I knew I had to find these little guys when I went to Balboa for lunch with a friend this week.

We sat down for lunch at Ruby's on the pier and I said, "So, I've heard about these hippo cookies on Balboa. Can we go look for them?"

"Wait. What?"

"Cookies. Shaped like hippos. They're on Balboa Island. They're like, these fabled, amazing cookies. We have to find them. I don't know where they are though. Can we try to find them?"


"Okay, why not?" (She's a good friend. Plus...she knew that protesting would be fruitless.)

So after lunch, we drove all the way around the peninsula onto the island and started our treasure hunt. We had nothing to go on except "Hippo cookies. Balboa Island." But they weren't hard to find.

Tucked away among the trays of donuts in the pastry case at Dad's Donuts, which is famous for its Balboa Bars and chocolate-dipped bananas, is a single out-of-place tray of colorfully decorated hippo-shaped sugar cookies, their icing glistening, rainbow sprinkles (two kinds!) haphazardly thrown onto them the way a five-year-old would decorate a cookie, their alert M&M eyes staring back at you...

We gladly paid $1.75 per cookie, satisfied that we had accomplished our mission. And then, the moment of truth: sitting on the bench outside of the shop, we sunk our teeth into the sugary confections. And....our little hippos didn't disappoint. In fact, they were absolutely fresh and sweet and delicious, not dry as sugar cookies are wont to be, and the icing was perfect. They made our fun outing to Balboa complete.

Don't get me wrong. They're no big deal. I mean, they're just sugar cookies. But seriously...they might just be the best sugar cookies you'll ever eat in your life.