Monday, September 27, 2010

Do you remember? The 28th day of September!

I came home to these beauties and this sweet note!

Eight years ago, on September 28, the future Santa Monica Luskeys went on their first date, kissed their first kiss and began dreaming of what life would be like as Mr. & Mrs. (Santa Monica) Luskey.

The first picture ever taken of *the future* Santa Monica Luskeys
(September, 2002)

September is a special month for our family. We began our relationship, got engaged and got married (well, the reception lasted until the wee hours of the first day of the month) all in the month of September. September 28 is also Kenny's birthday which makes our anniversary and his birthday reminders of each other.

Happy Anniversary, My Love! 8 down, 92 to go!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Brunch, Bedroom Remodel, and Sukkot

The fig tree outside of the Fairmont Hotel.

The Santa Monica Luskeys spent this past weekend a little bit differently than we've spent the past few weekends. First of all, we were in town - a concept with which we've grown unfamiliar. And secondly, we spent our work free days with friends we don't usually have the pleasure of seeing often: a double treat!

Friday evening, I was at work until 9:15pm so (needless to say) going out was on the very bottom of my "things I want to do tonight" list. Saturday morning, however, we were up with the sun (well, not exactly, but we didn't sleep late, I'll tell you that much) and spent some much appreciated time with Aunt Tracy. We got to talkin' about bedroom furniture and our desperate need for a larger bed was uncovered. I mean, Brian's 6'3" for Pete's sake! A queen just doesn't cut it anymore. Tracy (a feng shue guru) advised us to place our queen on a different wall, that way when we do upgrade to a king it will be easier to swap! And being a fan of the old furniture swap-a-roo, the wheels were turning before she finished her thought.

We enjoyed brunch with our friends Tucker & Tara who we met through Daniel, also in attendance. Below is a picture of my latte and mini baguette served in a paper bag with arugula butter as well as Tucker's camoflauged telephone case next to the coordinating place mat coincidentally designed by a friend of his Mother's!

After brunch, we came home and met our friends Erin & Chris (whose wedding we attended a few weeks ago) as they were in our area mid apartment hunt. After attempting to hard sell them on an open unit in our building and recruiting their muscles to help move our bedside tables, we cooled off with an afternoon trip to Menchie's.

The picture on the bottom is our new bedroom setup!
(For best results, please ignore the clutter.)

For dinner, we met back up with Erin and Chris and had an awesome double date at Manchego. We were expecting a third couple so we arrived armed with three bottles of wine, but when they cancelled at the last minute, we did our best to not let that vino go to waste. (And to be clear, yes, the four of us polished off three bottles of wine.) Oops.

Sunday was spent watching football and perfecting our newly arranged bedroom. We ventured out to Stevenson Ranch for dinner to eat in our friend's sukkah and were home, sweet, home and in bed by 10:00pm.

Man, we're gettin' good at this weekend thing.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Weekend in NorCal

This past weekend, the Santa Monica Luskeys flew up to Saratoga for Yom Kippur. Since this High Holy Day was a Friday sundown to Saturday sundown combo, we knew we had time to travel to be with family. And we didn't think we could afford handle hosting a second dinner party in 10 days.

After work, we flew (Horizon Air's comfortably greener Q400 turboprop) to San Jose airport where the Saratoga Luskeys picked us up and headed home for a quick snack before the big fast. Technically we shouldn't have eaten after sundown, but since we had come from work and didn't get a chance to eat dinner, we thought it safer to eat something before the next day. As long as I fast during the day on Yom Kippur, that's good enough for me!

The five of us (Shelley, Kenny, Jackie, Brian and I) went to services in the morning where we saw some of the hostesses* - Rochelle and Jane. The services were much more casual than I am used to, but it was nice to be observing the holiday with family. Their synagogue also observes an "all white" policy on the High Holy Days which I clearly didn't get the memo. I wore a red dress. Oops!

*I always refer to Shelley's closes friends as "the hostesses" because they are constantly in party planning mode - throwing bridal showers and meet-the-baby parties for each other's children. They are an incredible group of women and we feel so lucky to be on the receiving end of their generous party planning endeavors!

Saturday afternoon was spent lounging around the house trying not to die from starvation. Okay, I'm not only being over dramatic, but I am also keeping my little fasting trick a secret. I like to nap out the homestretch. If I can sleep from 3:00pm to 5:00pm, I am golden. We had a fairly untraditional break-the-fast. We broke fast at Alexander's Steak House. And then, the highlight of our trip happened...

Two bites into our appetizers (truffled french fries, hamachi shots, popcorn crab, cheese and prosciutto) my sister -in-law whispered to me, "Quick, give me your hand!" I reached out my hand and she pulled it across her belly to her right side. We waited a few seconds and... KICK! Followed by a swift KICK, KICK! I felt her baby kick! I couldn't help but get a little teary-eyed, I mean, there's a baby in there. I already love my little niece so much, it was like she just wanted me to know she was there, enjoying the fancy meal right along with us. One tomahawk steak, one filet mignon, two stripped basses, and endless stomach ache inducing sides later, we sang happy birthday to Kenny (a few days early) and ended the evening with some Yolatea fro-yo. You heard me, we went out to frozen yogurt after that meal.

This is what you see when you walk into Alexander's Steak House.
Popcorn Crab and Truffled French Fries
Hamachi Shots
The Tomahawk Steak

Sunday morning we threw together a last minute brunch for eight! You know I never pass up an opportunity to show off my hostess skills so we whipped up a gorgeous spread (if I do say so myself) in no time! The Mounts (Alice & Dave), The Narayans (Alison & Rishi), our beloved Raymond Daniel Goni, Jr. (Goni) and Jackie all joined us for some bagels & schmear, veggie frittata, fruit, coffee and almond champagne mimosas before leaving for the airport.

Our Brunch Buffet
Vegetable Frittata

A few hours later we were home in Santa Monica bearing the most beautiful double orchid (a lovely gift from the even lovelier Alice Mount) which I received at least half a dozen compliments on between security and baggage claim. It looks perfect in our apartment, too!

Propeller planes, synagogue, nap time, steak house, baby kicks and brunch with friends - can't think of a better way to spend a weekend!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sustainable Schedule?

In efforts to stick with the goal I set for myself of finding more balance, I have proposed the below schedule to the Santa Monica Luskeys:

5:45 Wakeup
Leave for gym (find parking, etc.)
Workout (30 min. cardio, 30 min. weights)
Leave gym
Breakfast*/Cool down (ie: stop sweating)
Shower/Get ready for work
Leave for work (sit in traffic)
Lunch* (use this time to email/call/plan/etc.)
Back to work
Leave work
Get ready for bed
Sleep (7.5 hours of sleep)

*Make/bring something healthy!

Will we chose to accept this seemingly impossible mission? Stay tuned to find out!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Design Envy

As a new blogger, I am constantly reading other people's blogs to gain ideas and inspiration. The blogging world, much like facebook, is an intricate web of people who know people and I always get a kick out of which blogs are followed by the people whose blogs I follow. (Make sense?) For example, designers usually follow other design-based blogs, new Moms follow the adventures of other new Moms and cooks follow fellow cooks through their culinary trials and tribulations. Since I am all of the above (well, I'm not a new Mom, but I still like to see what that breed is up to) I enjoy the blogging of all kinds, yet am always drawn to the talent and creativity of the do-it-yourself designer.

Our sister, Jackie, recently made the transition to graduate student, single living and I am ever so impressed with what she's done with her place! She has really turned me onto the idea of painting larger pieces of furniture in funky, off-beat colors. I mean, get a load of this:

*Before & After*
Vote for Jackie's talents in the CB2 Design Contest here!

I then stumbled across this incredible before and after from the blog Three Men and a Lady:


I was especially intrigued with the above yellow piece because the Santa Monica Luskeys are the proud owners of two buffets and one hutch that eerily resemble the before picture. Could we (or better yet should we) throw caution to the wind and paint our humdrum, estate sale furniture funky and wild colors?! Should we copy this amazing yellow statement piece and go even crazier by, say, painting the buffet and hutch... RED?!

Let us know what you think!

Life: The Greatest Balancing Act

"I need to be a castaway on the desert island of my dreams."
- Philippe Petit

I often find balance to be the hardest thing to, well, balance. When I look at my life's components, (career, family, health, money, personal time, friends/community, household, romance, etc.) I get overwhelmed simply by thinking of all of the components. How do I find a balance between all of life's elements? This past summer at our annual Shabby Chic Spa Weekend, my cousin Jill (a life coach, among her many talents) presented us with a pie chart featuring some of the above mentioned "pieces" of life. We were to rank each pie section 1-10 (10 being perfect, 0 being non-existent) and then redraw the outline to reveal a new pie shape. This would illustrate which pieces needed the most attention and which ones were topping the charts. Although I was not surprised when I looked at my newly defined pie parameters, I couldn't help but ask myself, "Now what?" Yes, knowing which aspects need the most attention is the first step, but knowing how to work on them is quite another.

How do I learn to balance not only the illusive segments of life, but mine? How do I fit working out and making our bed and going to work (looking camera ready in case I am pulled into an audition) and staying in touch with friends and calling home and planning for the future and getting/staying involved in some sort of Jewish community and making a healthy dinner and spending quality time with Brian and keeping the apartment clean and exploring Santa Monica and getting enough sleep to do it all again the next day all in one day? I guess when I type it out, there aren't that many moving parts, but somehow it seems like I'm always dropping at least one of the balls I'm trying to juggle.

I've been told the key to that success is forgiving myself if one of those balls does happen to fall. One of my personality flaws (yes, shockingly, I do have them) is I am an all-or-nothing person. I'm on an extreme diet or eating everything in sight. I am on a strict workout regimen or none at all. Part of growing up, I'm learning, is knowing that things will not be perfect. There might be an occasion when I will decide to have a cupcake at work, that doesn't mean I go on a crash course binge and all of my knowledge of healthy eating goes out the window for the following week. I might decide to sleep in and not go on a morning run with Brian, that doesn't mean I punish myself and say things like, "Well, I guess I have to wait until next Monday to start running since I haven't started the week out as a committed runner."

One of the most difficult aspects of pursuing a career in entertainment is the lack of consistency. Ironically, I am most productive when given the least amount of time to produce. When I am working regularly and auditioning often, I am also squeezing runs to the dry cleaners and grocery store into my commute. When I am home without either, I am thinking about all of the projects I want to start, yet sit watching marathons of 19 Kids & Counting.

So my goal is now to not have a perfect balance, but a sustainable balance. A forgivable plan to remind me of my goals (both immediate and far off) and help me to accomplish that feeling of inching toward order. Because in the end, all that matters is who you love and who loves you.

But won't it be nice to know that along the way you got a helluva lot done, too?

Darling, You're an Angel!

Last night the Santa Monica Luskeys were invited to a last minute, mid-week cocktail party! (Cocktail clothing optional, of course.) Our hostess, Angel, had decided to show off her new digs (and adorable new puppy, Youker) and thought a mundane Wednesday night would be the perfect time for an impromptu happy hour style dinner rendezvous. We always love being with the Haights, and were sad to miss Dan (Angel's other half), as he recently took (every guy's) dream job in San Fran. I must say, if I had to be away from Brian and only see him on weekends, I would only be happy to do it in Angel's amazing apartment (complete with all things enviable: in unit washer/dryer, two bedroom/two bath, huge living room with fireplace, balcony the size of Texas, pet friendly building with pool, the list goes on...) and with her super cuddly puppy!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I'm not a hoarder, I'm resourceful.

If your treasures are organized, they can't call it hoarding. Right?

No, the above picture is not my pantry, but isn't it fantastic? Is it sick that I kinda love the way that looks? The Santa Monica Luskeys have taken a liking to the ever popular TLC show "Hoarding: Buried Alive" and it has forced us to take a look at the things we keep and the things we discard. Last night while doing dishes, I had left the recently finished butter container out on the counter. The following conversation ensued:

Brian: Trash? (Holding the empty butter container up for my verdict.)
Kim: What? No! I had that out to rinse and put in the dishwasher.
Brian: Hoarder.
Kim: (Gasp!) My Mom keeps butter containers and she's not a hoarder! It's for leftovers!

I admit, I like to recycle plastic containers for future use, but does that make me a hoarder? I do like to keep ribbons off of gifts and cards from my grandmothers and corks from special occasion wine bottles. Hoarder? I do love to keep things, but I also like to purge so I believe I have a healthy balance of possessions coming in vs. things going out.

But what if this is what the hoarders think about themselves, too? Oy...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Anniversary Weekend: Phase 2

Long before we became the Santa Monica Luskeys, we subscribed to the philosophy of the extended celebration. Let me give you an example of what I mean. For my Mom's 5oth birthday, she received a gift (and by gift I mean a monumental, heirloom worthy gift) each month for the entire year. You see, she wasn't just celebrating her 50th birthday, she was celebrating her 50th year. Now, we are not yet in a place where we can participate in the diamond-of-the-month club, however, we do agree that when celebrating life's simchas one should celebrate in a big a way as possible. So it was no surprise that celebrating our second year of marriage was accompanied by several discussions, planning meetings and eventually the proposed phases.

Our actual anniversary was on a Tuesday and we celebrated by going out to a romantic dinner: Phase 1. (Stay tuned for a future blog post about how we celebrated on our anniversary.) The weekends before and after were taken by Max's Bar Mitzvah and Labor Day Weekend so our first real opportunity to "get away" and celebrate our anniversary was this past weekend - Phase 2!

We decided on Long Beach as the celebratory destination because we had won in a raffle (courtesy of our dear friends Emily & Alan) a fabulous evening including wine tasting, a helicopter ride and a dinner for two! Brian launched into some intense online research to find the best place to stay in Long Beach and decided on The Queen Mary, a retired ocean liner that sailed from 1936 to 1967 and has since been converted into a (supposedly haunted) hotel tourist attraction. We drove down to Long Beach Saturday afternoon (the entire drive took us less than 30 minutes) and checked into the hotel just in time to scope out the ship's promenade and freshen up for dinner.

We enjoyed our wine tasting at Risotante daVinci while we waited for our helicopter ride. This proved to be a good idea because a certain someone (ME!) was a little big nervous (TERRIFIED!) to get on that helicopter...

"Cheers! Hope we make it back from our helicopter ride!"

It looks like we're smiling, but I'm actually crying.
Just kidding. Or am I?

We not only survived the helicopter ride (we recorded the entire flight on our flip camera which we will post as soon as we figure out how to do so) but we actually enjoyed it and went onto have an awesome Italian meal to complete the perfect evening.

Sunday morning we woke up early (the walls on The Queen Mary are paper thin and our room seemed to be sandwiched between two European families with very young, very loud children) and went to brunch. We decided on Claire's at the Long Beach Museum of Art.

Salmon Avocado BLT
Grilled Salmon Filet, Avocado, Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato
Served on Focaccia Bread with Tarragon Aioli

I devoured the Salmon Avocado BLT (pictured above) with the bacon on the side (for Brian) and Mr. Luskey enjoyed the Shrimp Omelette (featuring three large eggs, jumbo shrimp and topped with avocado and tomato bisque). Delish!
Being the planners/dreamers we are, we have high hopes to continue the celebration into a big trip sometime in 2011 when we have more PTO days from work. Hawaii?! No matter where we decide to go or if we decide to go at all, I know our plans will be based on meals and laughing. And, really, what else is there in life?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

We Will Never Forget: A Promise or a Curse?

I remember seeing the first "9/11 We Will Never Forget" bumper sticker and thinking the chosen slogan was a bit odd. What seemed to be a promise of always remembering the day seemed to be a sentiment that went without saying. Could we forget even if we wanted to? I remember the entire day perfectly and the fact that it has been nine years truly blows my mind. I remember hearing the report on the radio in the car on my way into school - I was a month into my senior year of high school - and immediately thinking of how terrified the airplane passengers must have been. I tear up at the slightest turbulence, I can't even imagine the terror of a plane crash. This was all before we knew the size of the planes, the strategy behind "the attack" and the magnitude of the day altogether.

First period began as usual. There were a few students buzzing about people they knew who lived in NYC, but no one had any details about what was really happening. We were high school students in Houston - no one thought to stop and turn on the television. It was reported to us (by teachers) as if a personal prop plane had accidentally skimmed the side of a downtown building. No big deal. I remember a girl in my class announcing a second plane had hit "another building" and there was speculation of this being on purpose. The day began to change. The televisions in each classroom were turned onto CNN and we all watched in silence as the two towers billowed smoke. All I could think about was the people. The people in the planes, the people in the offices, the people walking below on the street, the people in the neighboring buildings, the people who were supposed to be there, the people that were not. The first building fell. I blinked back tears. The second building fell. I called my Mom. An all school assembly was called and the entire student body met in the auditorium. The principal made an announcement that school would be dismissed and we were all to go home and be with our families. I walked to my locker to gather my things and my Mom was waiting for me there. I flew into her arms subliminally asking, What is happening? Why?

I drove home and sat at the breakfast table watching more news coverage on our kitchen TV: images of ash and debris, people bleeding and searching, papers floating through the air. My mind went to specifics - what exactly did it smell like, who made it out by the skin of their teeth, who went back in never to be seen again, what did those floating papers say?

Mimi and Grandaddy were living with us at the time (between selling their house and remodeling their condo) and I remember sitting with them in horror. How did this compare to the other terrible things they'd witnessed in their lifetime? How would it compare to the things I might see in my future? I launched into full blown baking mode - a coping mechanism I inherited from my Mom. When things are falling apart, put something together. Bake.

Several batches of assorted baked goods, and one long nap later, I found myself dazed at the dinner table. Did today really happen? How will tomorrow be different because of it? Will I still apply to college in New York City? Are we safe anywhere?

As time passes, I remember September 11th (as it happened from the point of view of a high school senior in Houston) and marvel at how I still remember the minutia. Will those details fade as time goes on and be replaced with the media images replayed year after year? Will I ever see the optical illusion of a plane too close to a skyscraper without those same feelings rushing back? Would I want those memories gone forever? I think the answer (to all of the above questions) is no. We will never forget. Like it or not. What we can control is what we do with those memories and how we treat others and our world as a result of them.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Shana Tova!

Our Rosh Hashanah Dinner Table... for TWELVE!

Last year, I made the rookie mistake of assuming we would be invited to a Rosh Hashanah dinner or somehow, miraculously I would come home from work and all of my mother's traditional Rosh Hashanah fare would be warming in the oven after preparing itself while I was away at work. Alas, I was disappointed with my lack of foresight and vowed to take matters into my own hands if I were ever faced with another High Holiday away from home and without a surrogate family.

Wednesday evening, the Santa Monica Luskeys hosted our first Rosh Hashanah family dinner! I was so proud of us for the hard work we put into our dinner - as a family - and of our friends for filling our cozy one bedroom apartment with so much love. The preparation began Monday night with a hefty grocery run. Tuesday night was reserved for food prep (we wanted to have each dish ready to go, minus baking, because we both worked on Wednesday), another grocery run and a strategically coordinated folding-table-parking-lot-pickup. We were up all night (literally) cooking, prepping, transforming our living room into a romantic dinner party setting featuring a table for twelve and a coffee table turned buffet with the magic of bed risers!

The Santa Monica Luskey's Rosh Hashanah Menu:

Grandma's Famous "Mock Chop" Bean Dip
Green & Black Figs with Goat Cheese, Honey & Cracked Pepper

Beef Brisket with Carrots and Potatoes
Panko-Crusted Salmon with Lemon & Dijon Mustard
Sweet Raisin Noodle Kugle
Creamed Spinach
Two Round Challahs (Raisin & Sesame)
Apples & Bill's Bees Honey

Farmer's Market Fruit Salad
Vanilla Ice Cream

The evening was lovely, the food spectacular (if I do say so myself) and the feeling I had looking around our Rosh Hashanah table with Brian by my side couldn't be beat. Although we had a long evening of dishes and deconstruction after the last of our guests said goodnight, it was worth the late nights and large donation to Whole Foods. (Let's just say the Santa Monica Luskeys will not be having twelve children!)

Our appetizer/dessert table: Figs, Cake, Challah & Dip!
Our coffee table turned buffet!
View from the buffet: Our hungry guests ready to eat!

I love having leftover flowers after a dinner party!

We always prefer to be with family on the High Holidays, but this year, although we were not with any Luskeys or Harbergs, at least we were with close friends in a home full of love.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day Weekend

The Santa Monica Luskeys at Close LaChance Winery

This past weekend, The Santa Monica Luskeys celebrated Labor Day weekend in Saratoga, CA. Saturday morning we took the 9:30am Southwest flight up to Northern California and headed straight to Rose's - our favorite lunch spot in Saratoga. Brian's parents picked us up at the airport and joined us for lunch and then escorted us to the Farmer's Market where we purchased some fresh flowers, dips and corn (to be grilled the next night).

After retiring to the Luskey abode (and a quick afternoon nap) we got ready for the wedding of our friends Erin and Chris. The wedding took place at sunset at the picturesque Clos LaChance winery and was absolutely lovely. The bride was simply stunning: her hair and makeup exceptional. The cocktail hour featured Clos LaChance wine and the groom's favorite snack - chips and salsa! The place cards were little corks holding our names and we were seated at a really fun table with some of Brian's old high school friends. (Not that his friends were old, but they are old friends. You know what I mean.) They had a great DJ, a festive fall themed candy bar and a delicious lemon cake to boot!

The Santa Monica Luskeys showing off our cork name cards!
The Santa Monica Luskeys with our dear friend, Jake.
I like to fancy myself as a professional wedding photographer.
The First Dance!
Cutting the cake!

Sunday morning was a real treat - brunch with Alice and Dave! I was worried that we weren't going to get to see the Mounts since we gave them all of a ten minute warning that we were even in town. Luckily, because they are such sports, an impromptu brunch date was set and we were in the car on our way to Palo Alto before they could finish giving us their address! We brunched at an adorable French inspired bistro walking distance from their even more adorable house and then did some window shopping in the area. We wanted to spend more time with Alice and Dave, but they had to get to Napa to take a hot air balloon ride. Oh, our friends and their boring lives... :)

Alice enjoying her bowl of coffee!

A table in a charming boutique in Palo Alto - tchotchke central!

Sunday night Randy and Lizzy drove down from San Francisco and my dearest Ali Rae from Berkeley - all to join us for hamburgers and hotdogs from the Luskey's new backyard kitchen. The evening was wonderful - we enjoyed hamburgers (well, I didn't, but others did), chicken sausages, Gardenburgers and farmer's market grilled corn... delish!

Another perfect and labor-free weekend for the Santa Monica Luskeys!