17 Jan 2011

How’d You Like a Dutch Oven?

5 Comments Cooking/Baking

About six years ago, I was in a cold reading class in Burbank. One day during break, I was talking to a very sweet guy who was in the class. I can’t remember his name, because I’m TERRIBLE at remembering the names of people who aren’t in my every day life. Anyway, he was lovely, and one day we were chatting about random stuff and he asked what I love to do. I told him I was just really getting into cooking and that I found it to be the most relaxing, zen-like, nourishing thing in the world. (I still feel that way). I asked him what he loved to do, and he told me that he and his partner went flea-marketing every weekend.

He asked if I had a Dutch Oven, and I told him I wasn’t into kinky sex. Then he informed me that a Dutch Oven is an awesome pot for cooking soups and stews, and that he would find one for me at one of his flea markets. I thought that was very sweet and then I forgot about it.

About two weeks later, he came to class with a Dutch Oven for me. It was beautiful, orange, and reminiscent of the Le Creuset line of cookware that I had been drooling over at Williams Sonoma. He informed me that this was the stuff that INSPIRED the Le Creuset cookware and that it was original Descoware from Belgium. I was blown away for so many reasons: 1. I now had this pot that I hadn’t even known existed two weeks earlier, but that would apparently change the way I cook. 2. I had never bought something at a flea market before, so I assumed I was going to be washing the shit out of this pot the second I got home. 3. This man who I barely even KNEW had not only kept his word, but he had so kindly bought someone he barely knew a very special gift. Wow.

Well, I promptly took it home and, as previously mentioned, washed the living shit out of it. Then about a week later, I made beef stew for the first time. It was good, homey and comforting. I had broken in my pot. Since then, I’ve made hundreds of soups, stews, and pasta sauces in my Descoware. And every time I do; honestly every single time, I think of the guy (whose name I can’t remember) who told me he would buy me one… And did. It’s my favorite piece of cooking equipment and I will have it forever.

02 Nov 2010

Housewifery

8 Comments Cooking/Baking, Family, Personal Crap

Belts are being tightened around the Arch household. No, not in the “I’ve lost so much weight, my pants are too big” kind of way. More in the “It’s been a slower year than normal and we need to rein it in a bit” kind of way. Don’t worry! We’re fine. I’m not giving you a PO Box to send donations to… Yet. One of the things Russ and I agree on is how to spend money. We’ve always lived a little below our means and, since we’re both in an industry that thrives on never knowing where one’s next check is coming from, we try to keep big purchases to a minimum.

However, we are definitely changing our habits. For instance, we used to eat dinner (and lunch and some breakfasts) out a lot. I’d say on average we’d eat dinner out at least four nights a week. And I ate lunch out almost every day. There were periods of time when I’d cook a few meals a week, but it was never very consistent. And if we had leftovers in the fridge the next night, they’d sit there until they were thrown out, because we were at a restaurant. We don’t go to expensive restaurants. We like casual, diner-type places. But it doesn’t matter. Those meals out add up quick!

So, for about two months we’ve eaten almost every meal at home. I cook now at least four times a week, and we’re eating leftovers the other nights. And can I just tell you? I AM LOVING EVERY FREAKING MINUTE OF IT! I feel so… accomplished. And it feels fantastic to take care of my family like that. I feel like I’m nurturing them. Feeding people is a very powerful thing. I’ve always felt that way. But doing it consistently like this makes me feel like some kind of a super hero!

Yes, I am well aware that there are women (and some men) all over this Earth who cook every single night, and have done so for 10, 20, 30, even 50 years. I get it. I’m not the first person to cook for my family. But I can’t stop congratulating myself about it! I’ve learned new recipes and brought back old ones. I’m making soup and chili and about five different kinds of chicken! I’m roasting veggies and making pasta sauce. I’m putting awesome leftovers in Garrett’s lunchbox! Even the occasional “frozen food” nights are fun. And then I’m really counting the money we’re saving. Oh, and one night we had sweet potato pancakes, scrambled eggs and ham. Everyone was so happy! I’M KING OF THE WORLD!

Seriously though, I’m feeling very proud. Not because of the cooking, but because I’m learning things about myself. I am being given this time without work, and it feels like the biggest blessing. Ever since Garrett was born, I’ve wanted to be home more than anything. I love working, and I do hope to get back to it someday. But right now, in this pocket of time, I’m learning about what kind of wife and mother I am. I’m teaching myself new skills, and I’m finding out that I really like this side of me that I always knew was there. I’ve always joked with my friends, and they will attest to this, that I’m a 1950’s housewife trapped inside the body of a working actress. And, even though I’ve yet to greet my husband at the door with a martini, it’s true. I don’t even mind cleaning so much. I’m not a genius at it, but I’m good. And I like walking into the rooms I’ve cleaned and taking a deep breath, knowing that I did that.

The bottom line is this: I’m grateful and humbled. I’m so lucky that I’m able to stay home for this time, which could end at any moment with the birth of a new job, and find out that I truly love being this person. I feel more like me than I ever have before. That is such an amazing feeling. And I hope to take this new, authentic me to any job I have in the future. Because I think this person is much more interesting and happy than I ever used to be. Plus, if my work days are behind me and I never get offered another job, I really like the one I have right now! I’m humbled because of the women who do this job so beautifully all day, every day with more kids and less resources. I’m amazed at their grace and skills, and their ability to do it with very few thank you’s or pats on the back. I hope they take some time to congratulate themselves, like I just did! I’m also humbled by all the women who never get the opportunity to stay home with their kids because they have to work every day, no matter what. I believe that most of them would rather be mothering than working, and I admire them for doing what they have to do.

Friday night we decided to go out for dinner for the first time in a long while. Garrett asked what we were getting ready for and Russ said, “We’re going out for dinner!” Garrett whimpered a bit and said, “NO! I want to eat at home!” That might have been the best compliment I’ve ever gotten.

20 Oct 2010

Mother. In. Law.

5 Comments Cooking/Baking, Family

Oh shit. My mother-in-law reads this blog. All the personal stuff, all the complaining, all the stories about her beloved grandson, all the evil things I plan to share about her son, she reads. She told me. She was very complimentary and said she enjoyed my writing but that’s beside the point. She reads this blog.

I’ll tell you why it makes me a bit jumpy. It’s the recipes. Yup. Not the personal crap or the other crap, or the other crap. It’s the recipes. Know why? Because when I first met my mother-in-law I didn’t know how to do a gosh darn thing in the kitchen. (Well, I knew how to do SOME things, but I can’t print them here because my mother-in-law reads this blog. Let’s just say I got an engagement ring out of it.) One time on a trip to Oregon, when Russ and I were still dating, I asked if I could help with dinner and she gave me the toddler-sized job of cutting celery. A test, perhaps. I failed. I cut the celery slowly and poorly, one stalk at a time. My mother-in-law stepped over to me, having just plucked and cleaned three chickens in the time I cut half a stalk and said, “You know Lisa, you can cut them three at a time, like this.” She then took the knife and showed me. And we laughed. We laughed a lot. My laugh was saying, “Oh my god. I feel like such an inept asshole. This woman thinks I’m a bimbo.” Her laugh was saying, “Oh my god. My poor son is going to starve to death in that apartment in California. This girl is a bimbo.”

Since then a lot has changed. Now when we visit the in-laws, she trusts me to make three quarters of a meal, if not a whole meal all by myself sometimes! She’ll even ask me cooking advice every once in a while, which I personally think is just to make up for how I still feel about the celery incident. She seems to feel less like her son is being held prisoner and only being fed stale bread and cloudy water through a slot in his metal door. And I think she likes the way her grandson is fattening up.

She and my step-father-in-law are coming to visit for a few days at the end of the month. They usually like to go out to dinner when they’re here, (which I find suspicious), but this time I think I’ll surprise them with a gourmet meal of celery soup, celery stew, and roasted celery. I think she’ll laugh. And her laugh will say, “This girl is a bimbo. But I like her.”

20 Oct 2010

It can’t all be bagels and cream cheese

5 Comments Family, Personal Crap

Growing up, my Grandma used to have us over frequently for Sunday brunch. It was a long drive from Woodland Hills to Fullerton, but just the thought of the bagels and lox, and blintzes and goodies that Grandma would make was totally worth the drive. She and my Grandpa (these are my dad’s folks) lived in a delightfully cozy little house that was immaculately kept and always smelled like something baking and my grandpa’s cologne. Oh, and pipe tobacco.

We always ate at the dining room table in front of the dry sink with the big, wooden salad bowl on it that now sits in my dining room, beneath a picture my dad painted when he was in his twenties. There was always a ton of laughter at the table and a lot of eating. Grandma always made the best coffee, too. A teaspoon for each cup of water plus one for the pot. I still do that today. My grandpa would sit at the head of the table and cut all of our bagels with a giant, serrated knife. I would watch his hands, tanned from golfing with long fingers and thin knuckles. There was something incredibly deliberate and delicate about the way he cut a bagel. I can see it so vividly now.

Grandma would have everything prepared and get up constantly to make sure we all had what we needed. She’d always make sure our elbows were off the table, our napkins were on our laps, and we weren’t talking with our mouths full. Grandpa would usually tell some brilliantly hilarious story, complete with 9 different accents. He was one of the last great story tellers. After we ate, she’d bring out homemade cookies or rice pudding or chocolate cake. Then we’d all go into the family room where there would be a newspaper opened to the bridge section on the table and a book that someone was in the middle of reading. My parents and grandparents would talk about life and politics and my brother and I would play with their metal tic tac toe set or watch TV, or go into the office and look at Grandpa’s things.

I swear I look back at these times as “Rockwellian”. I feel like you could paint a picture of any of these brunch Sundays and hang it in a store that sells Americana. And it would sell. My grandpa passed away when I was 14 and I was devastated. For weeks I felt like I was walking through fog. The next ten years, my grandma and I became very good friends. As soon as I got my driver’s license, I would drive to Fullerton for lunches or dinners just to hang out and talk. She was still cooking and baking, but we’d eat at the kitchen table now; the dining room saved for only very special occasions. She loved to know everything that was going on with me, with boys, and with friends. We’d shop for clothes together. I still have a skirt I bought the last time I shopped with her. I can’t throw it out. That was 15 or 16 years ago.

After my grandpa passed away, my grandma was still very social, very active. She dressed beautifully and exercised daily. But there was a tiny bit of her that had clearly changed. A part of her that was lost. I wonder what my niece and nephew see in my mom now. Is she different to them? She isn’t to me. She’s just in mourning. Grandma passed away when I was 24. She did it gracefully, just like she lived her life. One day I’ll tell you the story.

Tonight Garrett was walking around using his baseball bat as a cane. He put on a different voice and came into the kitchen saying, “Hello!” I said hi and asked him who he was. “I’m Grandpa! The one with Grandma Joan!” I asked if he meant Grandpa Art. “Yes! Grandpa Art! Do you want to come with me?” I said, “Sure! Where are we going?” “Just to my room”, he said. I bent down and hugged him a little too hard. “I miss you, Grandpa Art”, I said. “It’s good to see you.”

Garrett won’t remember much about his Grandpa. Heck, he only knows him walking with a cane or a walker, and that didn’t happen until the last year or so. I hate that he won’t have a memory of him like I do of my grandfather. I hate that he won’t know what my mom was like when she was around my dad. But I sure as hell hope he knows her until he’s well into his teens. I’m so lucky I was able to know my grandparents as long as I did. I had my mom’s mom around until I was 21, too. She was sweet and beautiful and could cook anything better than I’ll ever be able to. I can’t stand that Garrett won’t have stories about my dad. But I’ll tell him as many as I can, and I hope he can see him in those stories the way I see my grandpa still today. At least he’s thinking about him. And he let me see him for a minute tonight, too. That’s a start.

I’ll tell you what I just realized reading this post back. Garrett will have all of these people in his life forever. The way I make my coffee, and will teach him to make it. The way we laugh at meal time (and ALL the time), the traditions we have that will be passed down. The storytelling and the discipline. The foods that we love, the games that we play. All of this is a part of me because of Them. And all of it will be a part of Garrett. That is a very comforting thought. As comforting as a bagel with cream cheese on a Sunday morning in Fullerton.

12 Oct 2010

My Career?

14 Comments Career

I want to share with you a story about what it’s like to be me in this glamorous town of Hollywood.

About 12 years ago, I started working professionally, and I’ve been fortunate enough to make my living at it ever since. However, I’ve probably been turned down for 100 jobs, for every one job I’ve gotten. It’s a rough road, this road I’ve chosen. And to be frank… I’m tired of it.

Let’s back up a step, shall we? I’m a dork. I’m not one of those adorable dorks who’s really pretty and tall and perfect and just says she’s a dork because she likes to read non-fiction and knows about Star Wars. I’m one of those dorky dorks who was never popular in high school and always felt a step behind everyone in everything I did.  I still do.  I was lucky enough to know at a very young age what I wanted to be, but I never felt I was as good as it as other people. Then I discovered comedy and I felt as good as I needed to be, so I stayed there. And 15 years later I started working.

My first major role was on Seinfeld and it was amazing and terrifying and magical. My friends threw a huge party when it aired, and I thought, “This is the beginning”. It wasn’t. I waited tables a bit longer and then I booked MadTV as a series regular. This was another exercise in me feeling “Less Than” everyone else. I was clearly good enough to be there, but I didn’t ever really fit in. I was on the outside, watching everyone else get laughs and fame. I took what little scraps I was given and was let go after a season. It sounds like I’m whining, and I am a little bit, but I want to make it clear that part of it is my own fault. I’m really bad at playing the games you have to play to get somewhere in this business. I always have been.

Time went by and I booked a lot of guest star parts, then I began getting hosting work. But intermixed with all those jobs were about 100 or 1000 auditions that went “really well”, but I just wasn’t “right for the part”. No one ever gets a straight answer on why they aren’t right for a part. So you start thinking things like, “I must be really ugly”, or fat or bad or not funny or too short or too tall or badly dressed or… JUST AWFUL AT EVERY FUCKING THING I DO. It’s nearly impossible to not get a complex unless you just believe in your abilities and looks so much that nothing can ever get you down.  I’ve never met one of these people. So years of rejection can really mess a person up.  And even though it seemed like I was working a ton, it was hard to not focus on all the work I WASN’T getting. Plus, to be frank, I wasn’t getting really high-paying work.  I got close. But I never booked that stuff. I’d “test” for sit-com leads, but never get them. Something wasn’t clicking. Read more

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