On the Necessity of Living Rooms

Lately I find myself questioning the necessity of a living room. We live in one of those houses that has both a living room and a family room, and I feel like such a cliché because I never use my living room.

When we moved here two years ago, I was all in a tizzy because suddenly I had to furnish a living, family, and dining room in just two weeks. In addition to packing all my belongings, I scoured Craigslist for hours to find the right set of under-priced used furniture that didn’t look like it had been used as set dressing for a serial killer biopic.

My living room is lovely. It really is. It’s got these great couches no one ever sits in, and a cozy leather armchair we inherited from Wes’s parents that I think I’ve sat on maybe a dozen times since we parked it in the corner.

As of right now, the majority of my beautifully furnished living room is dominated by a soccer goal. My son enjoys soccer, you see, hence the soccer goal.

After watching my son and his friends going wild in a ball pit at his birthday party over the weekend, I can’t help but wonder how crazy of an idea it is to turn my living room into a ball pit.

I mean, it’d be pretty great to have a place to toss the children when they get unruly. Plus, I could hide any laundry I don’t feel like doing at the bottom.

It’s brilliant! Of course, then I’d have to find a new place for the soccer goal, but that’s cool. We don’t really need a dining table, right?

Even Iguanas Need to Enjoy The Ride

happy iguana

When I was a child, our family had pets. A lot of pets. Sometimes we’d have just a few at a time, other times our house was a positive menagerie.

We had cats, dogs, rabbits, birds, lizards, fish, snakes, rats, guinea pigs, and mice. At one point, we had a whole shed out in our backyard where we bred and raised rats to feed to our snakes.

I would inevitably fall in love with the cute little baby rats, of course, and plead for their lives, but alas. They couldn’t all be lucky. (Lucky is what I named the one baby rat I was permitted to save. I’d like to think I had a strong sense of irony even back then.)

I think the most exotic of all our pets was our iguanas. We had two, a brother and sister the names of which I can’t remember now for the life of me. They grew to be about a foot long each (their bodies were a foot long, their tails were another foot and a half or so).

We fed them meal worms and fruit and sat with them on our laps while we watched TV at night. They were our buddies.

The coolest thing I ever did with my iguana was take him for a bike ride. My mother and I used to ride our bikes twenty five miles away to a beach called Dana Point. We did this almost every weekend and it was our thing.

One Saturday, I decided I wanted to take my iguana with me. I put him in my backpack and opened the top so he could breathe and then we left. My mother may or may not have known my iguana was in my backpack.

When we’d ridden about halfway there, I felt something pulling my hair, followed by a scraping sound on my helmet. The puling and scraping continued until it stopped, after which I felt a weight on the top of my head.

My mom looked back and cracked up. Evidently my iguana had gotten tired of riding in my backpack and climbed up my hair so he could ride on top of my helmet. He’d dug his claws into the ventilation slits on my helmet and was riding proudly atop my head, mouth open and seemingly enjoying life.

I was in the shower the other night and that memory came out of nowhere. It made me smile.

If one of my kids asked me to take his/her iguana for a bike ride, I’d probably say no because I am staid and conservative when it comes to taking care of things.

But, my young self has reminded me, sometimes it’s ok to let a kid slip a lizard into her backpack. Because even iguanas can enjoy the ride if given the opportunity.

Broccoli is Complicated When You’re Me

I always hear people say, “Oh, I LOVE cooking” and it makes me feel slightly defective. Because I don’t like cooking. I’m really bad at it.

I can make the same meal three times and screw something different up every single time. To wit: If I’m making fish sticks (don’t judge, I think fish is icky and will usually only eat it if it’s breaded and covered in tartar sauce) with roasted potatoes and sauteed broccoli, it’ll go like this:

  • The first time I make it, the fish sticks and potatoes are great, but the broccoli is over-salted and nigh inedible.
  • The second time, the fish sticks are fine and the potatoes are amazing, but the broccoli is still cold inside even though I swear I checked it before serving it. What the heck?
  • The third time, the fish sticks are wilty even though I baked them the same amount of time as the first two times, the potatoes are almost flavorless, and the broccoli is great.
  • Then I order pizza.

When I think of people liking cooking, I usually picture some blissful, clean kitchen where fun music is playing and the person is calmly preparing delicious things. Every once in awhile, the person tastes the sauce and then adds something gourmet to the pan, like a handful of fresh parsley or something.

"I love cooking!"

“I think maybe I’ll just add some of these fresh white truffles I picked up at the Farmer’s Market this morning after yoga class…”

Somehow, when I cook it never looks like this. It’s less Peaceful Contemplation Of A Cookbook and more Frantic Scramble For Ingredients Before The Kids Realize I’m Being Productive And Oh Crap I Forgot A Crucial Ingredient Maybe Wes Won’t Notice If I Cover Everything With Ketchup.

I was trying to figure out why that might be last night when I realized there are two things working against me.

1. The kids. The kids do not care that it’s dinner time. They have NEEDS, gosh dang it, and those needs are no respecter of cooking times and cooking methods. It is very difficult to cook when someone is sneaking up the stairs because he wants to jump down them one by one even though you’ve told him not to and someone else wants nothing more than to be held even though you’ve held her the better part of the afternoon already and hey the phone is ringing and wait, was that the pasta timer or the chicken timer? Meanwhile, there are drinks to be obtained for the boy and toys to be picked up for the girl and hey, I don’t think the chicken is supposed to look like a charcoal briquette.

real cooking

2. My cooking ineptitude. Even if the tiny humans weren’t excellent at distracting me, I’d still make a non-tasty mess of things in the kitchen. Cooking is my Achilles heel. Absolutely hopeless.

The only solution I can see is to have Wes cook everything or to just have pastries for dinner because I am an excellent baker. I guess I could take a cooking class, but then we run into the kids problem again.

Ain’t nobody got time for Chicken Cordon Bleu when there are diaper changes, train tracks, and petty injuries to be addressed.

I think I’ll just keep mangling ostensibly simple dishes. Wes will eventually get the hint and take over. And there it is: Victory through complacent ineptitude.

Canlis FTW!

Canlis book celebration 2013 7

A long, long time ago, Wes and I were talking about things that would be really cool. I mentioned to him that the most amazing thing I could imagine would be to be a published author. Like, for reals and stuff. With a publisher and an editor and all that jazz.

Wes made me a deal. He said if I ever got published, he’d take me out to the nicest restaurant in Seattle to celebrate. The nicest restaurant in Seattle, he said, was Canlis.

I’d never been there but I shrugged and said sure because when you’re making pie in the sky promises to each other that’s just what you say.

Then, something amazing happened. I got published. Wes, being a man of his word, made us reservations and we arranged childcare and then suited up for a night on the town.

I have to say, Canlis exceeded all my expectations. I’ve had some lovely dinners before, but this was a meal of a different caliber entirely. I’ll give you a rundown of some of the highlights, because they bear sharing.

  • We were greeted at the door by a very friendly hostess, who took my coat and asked all sorts of questions about my book. She was excited for me, which I feel was above and beyond her call of duty because, let’s be frank, no one is obliged to be excited about a book they’ve never read by an author they’ve never heard of.
  • We were seated at the best table in the restaurant, with windows on every side and the comfiest seating I’ve ever experienced in a restaurant. The views on every side were astounding.
  • Our waiter was one step short of a sommelier, and knew all kinds of tasty beverages to go with each course we ordered.
  • Our water glasses were never empty. Not even half empty. And the waitstaff were all super friendly and stealthy.
  • There was a live piano player who was playing jazzed-up versions of popular songs. We requested The Darkness’s “I Believe In A Thing Called Love” and Journey’s “Any Way You Want It (That’s The Way You Need It)” and he obliged in high style. Wes and I were delighted (and thoroughly impressed).
  • I ordered the lobster. I’ve never ordered the lobster. Wes is in trouble because now I know that I LOVE lobster.
  • They wrote, “Congratulations” in chocolate on my dessert plate. It made me feel super special.
  • When we got up to leave, the friendly hostess who’d seated us was holding my coat in front of the fireplace so it was nice and cozy when I put it on. I mean, I’ve never even heard of service like that. A. MAZ. ING.
  • Outside, out car was already pulled up in front, waiting for us with the engine running so it, too, was nice and cozy.

Aside from the excellent care they took of us, the food was everything I’d hoped it would be. The whole experience was so incredible that I didn’t to leave. We were there for almost three hours and I wished my stomach could accommodate even more food because I was having such a lovely time.

Last night was one of the best nights of my life. If you ever find yourself in Seattle with something to celebrate, you’d be crazy to miss out on Canlis.

A Rave Review!

I’m so tickled when people are nice to me and my writing. I mean, who wouldn’t be, right?! (Tickled, I mean. Not nice to me. I never take niceness for granted)

But I think my (bloggity) friend Brooke has been extra nice to me because not only did she read my new book (Blood Money, which I’m sure you’re tired of hearing about), she wrote an incredible review of it on her blog.

If you’re on the fence about my new book, or if you just want to see how Brooke writes book reviews LIKE A BOSS, check out her review here.