Thursday, April 28, 2011

Deep Thoughts

Time is moving very slowly tonight. I keep glancing at the clock in the corner of my screen, expecting it to tell me that's it's some ungodly hour or other, but lo and behold, it's only 1:49 as I write this.

As I sit up in my living room in the top floor of my old house, listening to the rain hushing and a fabulous episode of Radiolab called Words, my brain is letting itself uncoil and relax. This is my own form mediation, sitting cross-legged with my laptop in front of me, voices droning, fingers twitching across the keyboard. Sometimes I'll just stop and stare at something, like the patterns of the cushions I have propped up around me, or the rug on the floor, and become lost in thoughts. Thoughts such as...

Where did I leave my chocolate egg and that bag of cashews?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Art Program Woes

I keep getting so nervous about school in the fall. Half of the time I actually forget that I will be going back to school. I haven't been in school for a very long time. The last time I attended any kind of classes, it was for Fall Semester 2009. I'm just so used to not being in school now, going back is going to be a big change.

Mostly, whenever I think about being in this program, my first thought is always "Lisa, why are you doing this. You're just going to be a big fuck up, suck at everything, and be miserable all the time. Maybe this was a mistake." You see, children, I have this terrible fear of being mediocre. I want to be the best at everything, because most of the time, I am good at things without having to try. When I come across something that actually requires effort for me to be good at it, I invariably give up, because if I'm not good at it right away, that clearly means I never will be good at it and I'm better off quitting while I'm ahead. I've been told that this is unhealthy, for some reason.

Don't get me wrong though. I really am looking forward to being in this class. I'm going to actually learn all these crazy new things. Yesterday, Tanis and I were walking around Michael's in a giddy daze, and we came upon an aisle full of canvases, many bigger than we were. I asked her "Hey... Will I, like, paint on stuff like this in my classes?" She said "Yup" and all I could manage was "...Wow." Little ol' retard Lisa, painting on canvases taller than she is.

Again though, everytime I imagine it, I just picture myself getting angry because I'm not any good. I'm also nervous about meeting new people, but that's an entirely different story for another time.

Max and everyone else assures me that I'll be fine. Mostly, I believe them.

And now, it's off to work in a rather jaunty outfit that I've put together. Blue shirt buttoned all the way up, velvet paisley vest from Value Village, white jeans with the cuffs rolled up, the cutest little lace up shoes you ever did see, a velvet men's Eaton coat, and my new tweed and brown leather bag. Dear god, does this make me a hipster?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Names

I've always been really interested in the meanings of names, ever since I was a little kid. I would look up the names of my friends and family, and then see how closely the meanings of their names matched up to their personalities. Yeah, I was a bit of a strange kid.

But I found some interesting things. For one, my family all has rather biblical names, which I find strange since none of are religious at all. For example, my brother's name is Peter, which is obviously biblical (Saint Peter, "On this rock I will build my church", etc). My sister's name is Rachel, which typically means 'ewe', but Rachel was also in the Old Testament and is a Hebrew name. My mother's name is Maureen, which is the Irish version of Mary (no explanation needed here), and also means 'great'. My father's name is Giuseppe, which is the Italian version of Joseph, and also needs no explanation.

My own name? Lisa. And of all things, it means "consecrated to God." In case you don't know, consecrated pretty much means sacred, so it all comes down to my name meaning "sacred to God" which is... pretty much the most ironic thing ever. When I was first searching for the meaning of my name, I was really, really hoping that it would be something cool to counter the plainness of my name. I mean, being sacred to God is kind of cool, I suppose, but less cool when you're an atheist.

...Okay, I'm not going to lie, it does make me feel kind of special. But it's still a little dumb.

The biggest pet peeve I have about my name, though, is when people shorten it to Lis. Like, literally why. You're shaving off one letter just to save yourself a syllable? Lisa only has two syllables anyway, you lazy asses. I don't mind so much when it's people that I'm friends with, or family, but when you're some schmuck who thinks it's a bright idea to call me Lis, you're going to be slightly boned because this will actually effect my judgment of you. Don't look at me like I'm crazy. I know lot's of people don't like it when people shorten their names. This is a legitimate thing to be crazy about.

Meanwhile, I've got some heard different things about my middle name. I've read things that say Maria means "sea of bitterness" which is awesome, but then I've found more entries that tell me Maria means "the perfect one" which is still interesting, but less so than "sea of bitterness". On the other hand, my last name, Recchia, means big ears or something in Italian. Hoo-fuckin-ray.

Others around me are more blessed with their names. Max means "great one", Tanis is an ancient Egyptian city (but I've also found another entry saying that it is the "Spanish abbreviation of the Slavic Estanislao 'make famous' from the name borne by several Slavic kings and three saints."), Amanda means "beloved", Carolina means "joy" and "song of happiness", Amina means "Peace and security", Alma means "soul", Travis means "from the crossroads", Chiara means "famous, light"... Yes. Yes, I have far too much free time.

I've always tried to figure out what I would change my name to if I could choose something new. Lately I've been becoming fond of the idea of just being called 'Lee'. The ambiguity of it appeals to me, unisex and open-ended. I've always liked girls with boy names, because it makes them sound tougher. Whenever I try it on in my head, I imagine myself grinning and shaking hands with someone in introduction. "I'm Lee" is short and to the point. I don't like the way people would assume it was spelled, as in Leah, because you just know everyone would pronounce it as "Lee-AH" and that's basically just Lisa without and S.

Tell me, what does your names mean? Do you like it? Does it fit you? And if you could change your name, what would you change it to? Something simpler, or more extravagant? Talk to me, people, let me know that you're still alive out there.

PS. You know you're in trouble when you're typing and typing away, and suddenly you look up and notice that it's dawn and day is breaking. Well, fook.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Big Kid Stuff

Being a big kid sucks. I messed up with paying my taxes for the first time (I did my 2009 taxes in November 2010) and man, has it ever fucked me over.

It mostly messed me up with my health insurance. See, health insurance in Canada is pretty much free... if you make under a certain amount. If you make under $22,000 a year, you get 100% premium assistance, meaning you have to pay $0. But if you make over $30,000 you have to pay $60.50, $109 for a family of two, or $121 for a family of three or more monthly. Thankfully I make waaay under $22,000 a year, so I get off scott free. Unless you don't file your taxes on time, in which case they just assume that you make over $30,000 a year and start charging you their monthly rates. So the health insurance people, assuming I'm rich, have been charging me and charging me, and now I owe them a balance of over $600.

This isn't a huge problem, it just makes things a little sticky. There have been a lot of phone calls, bills received, forms filled out and letters mailed in the past few months, which isn't an awful hassle but it is irritating. A nice man just phoned me though and helped me sort everything out. I could tell he thought I was a bit of an idiot, but then again, I am a bit of an idiot. But I think things will go back to normal once I've mailed this final letter in, which contains my 2009 notice of assessment. Also, I'm never filing my taxes late again.

WOW! Taxes, Lisa? You really know how to keep an audience entertained!

I had a really uncomfortable dream last night, about being on a ferry that people kept falling out of. It had all these hotel rooms for us to stay in, but one wall of the room wasn't so much a wall as it was a shutter. Meaning it would just open up and whatever hit it would fall into the water. The end of the room had this steep slope that would just make anything that rolled down it smash into the shutter, which would fly open. I spent a long time trying to lower myself near it and tie it shut, so I wouldn't have to worry about rolling out of my bed and drowning in the middle of the night. I have a lot of dreams about falling into water, and they're really unpleasant. I almost did fall in during the dream, but managed to pull myself out, which has never happened before. Interesting.

Well, I'm off to another day in the salt mines, and then I have two glorious days off, which will involve sleepovers and... I don't really know what else yet.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Ghosts and Pies

Here's a secret.

I've been sending Yasaman messages on Facebook for the past month now. I know, it's screwed up. She's not reading them. But it makes me feel better. Whenever I get caught up with remembering her, I just send her a message of my musings, and I don't know, it kind of makes it all a little easier. Here's the one I wrote tonight:

Is it weird that I pretend that you read these? I know you're not, but it makes me feel so much better to even pretend that you're sitting in front of a computer somewhere, checking your messages. I also still like to think of you as a ghost. I know it's just a fucked up self defense against sadness mechanism, and it completely goes against everything I believe in, but I like it. You're just off somewhere checking out new things, making new ghost friends, meeting the ghosts of all these famous people and whatever. It's a nice thought, and it doesn't make me sad. I feel this kind of happiness, or peace, at the thought of you still hanging around.

I know it's just a trick. I know, I know that you're in that little cemetery in Port Coquitlam, in that tiny coffin under the cold, hard ground. I know your body is decaying and falling apart, and those great big eyes of yours are closed forever, but let's pretend for awhile that somewhere out there, you're still laughing.
So I've pretty much been imagining her as a ghost for awhile. Yes, I know this is totally contradictory to what I believe, and I'm not changing those beliefs in any way at all just because of this tragedy. That wouldn't be right. But it really is nice to think of her wandering the world, and seeing things she could never have seen when she was alive. I was toying with the idea of drawing a comic about it, but I don't know. The Yasaman I remember is from 7 years ago, and I'm sure she changed in that time. I don't want to draw anything that would be inaccurate as to the way she was, and offend her friends and family or anything. I was thinking of doing something sans dialogue. I've seen a few comics that have no words in them at all, and I think they're really interesting, because then the reader has to interpret facial expressions and body language to figure out that they're saying, and you can also put your own little twist on things. It would be something short, maybe just a page or two and bittersweet. Hm. Short and bittersweet. Pretty much just described Yasaman there, haha.

Ah, life goes on. Went to a fabulous family potluck tonight. There was pasta salad, handmade tofu sushi, mini quiche, drummettes, deviled eggs, coleslaw and barbecued salmon. For dessert, we all enjoyed chocolate mousse, and a blueberry cream pie made by yours truly. Now, call my conceited, but I'm going to go ahead and say I made the best thing there. Really, I'm master the art of these vanilla cream pies. First it was coconut cream, then banana, and now blueberry? What could possibly be next? Actually, these pies are pretty simple to make.

INGREDIENTS
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 2-3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tap vanilla
  1. Mix together cornstarch, sugar and salt in a large saucepan. Gradually whisk in milk, and whisk in the egg yolks until no yellow streaks remain.
  2. Bring to a sputtering simmer over low heat, constantly stirring. Remove from heat and whisk mixture until smooth.
  3. Return to heat and let mixture reach a sputtering simmer once more, and let cook for 1 minute, constantly stirring.
  4. Remove from heat and add in unsalted butter and vanilla, whisking thoroughly until everything is evenly mixed in and mixture is smooth. Spoon directly into prepared pie shell. To set, chill for 2-3 hours.
The key to this pie is whisking. In the original recipe, it says to stir the mixture with a heatproof rubber spatula, but I had to skip that part since my spatula is not heatproof and started to melt an itty bit (don't worry, folks, it didn't melt into the cream mixture). So I whisked it the entire time, and it turned out much, much smoother than the other times I tried this. Also, the great thing about this pie is that it's incredibly accommodating. For example, if you want to make a coconut cream pie, just dumb in a load of shredded coconut before pouring the mix into the pie shell. For my banana cream pie, I did one layer of cream, on layer of sliced bananas, and then another layer of cream and a final layer of bananas on top, and then covered the entire thing in homemade, sweetened whipped cream. For this blueberry one, I poured the cream into the pie shell, and then dotted the entire top with whole blueberries, and had a bowl of sweetened whipped cream on the side for people to use as they pleased. Originally it was supposed to be raspberries, but for some reason Safeway doesn't sell raspberries. But the blueberries were a much better idea. Sometimes the sweetness of raspberries can be a little too sharp, and often borders on bitter. The blueberries were a much more subdued sweetness that went better with what I wanted the pie to taste like. And since you've been good enough to read this far, I'll even give you the whipped cream recipe.

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tsp sugar, icing sugar or honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • a dash of cream of tartar
  1. Combine all ingredients in a large, chilled metal bowl and blend with electric mixer on high speed until at ideal consistency.
The cream of tartar was a last minute addition by myself, so if you don't have any lying around you don't have to go buy some just for this recipe. I wanted a thicker whipped cream, and I knew that cream of tartar was a binding agent, so I thought it would help. Honestly, I'm not sure if it did help at all, but it was the thickest whipped cream I've ever tasted, and it didn't melt or become watery at all, so I'm going to stick with my new plan.

Unfortunately, I have to wake up at a respectable hour and cart myself off to work, so goodnight. Dream of bittersweet ghosts and blueberry cream pies.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Afternoon Tea Minus The Tea

Too busy to blog. But how is that possible, you ask? Everyone knows I have no life! To clarify, I have been too busy doing nothing to blog. And playing Fallout. Yeah, yeah, it's a sorry excuse.

I should be getting ready for work right now, so let me update really quickly. I made my own bread, my dad's birthday dinner was amazing (homemade lasagna and banana cream pie a la ME), Auntie Sue is in town and we've seen each other a bunch, Peter turned 16 and my dad gave him our stupid 1980 Mercedes as a present, Max is almost finished school, I'm now excited about my own schooling starting in September, and tomorrow we're having a big family potluck at my ma's house. Fuck. Yes. I love potlucks. I hope everyone brings something, so I can just be fat and eat and eat. I myself am making a vanilla cream pie, and dotting the top with fresh, whole raspberries. I think I've found my niche (in pies).

The weather is being tres bizarre lately. Yesterday was just about the crappiest day you could ever imagine, and it actually ended up snowing. My dad said it snowed again last night, because when he woke up there was a fine dusting of snow over everything. But now it's glorious outside, so the sun melted it all away. I, of course, slept until noon, so I missed out on all the early morning snow action. April is always a pretty weird month here, but don't despair, my kidlets. May is on it's way and the sun is going to be a permanent guest.

Debating on whether or not I should eat something (anything) before I head off to work. There are some delectable ginger cookies downstairs that I think I'm going to devour for my breakfast at 2:11 in the afternoon. It's too late for brunch, I think, so let's just say I'm having afternoon tea minus the tea. Lovely day to you all, and a proper entry soon.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Dungeness Crab and Mascarpone Risotto

It's very late right now, and I have to get up in 6 hours, BUT I simply have to tell you about the most fabulous meal I that I had the pleasure of gorging myself on tonight.

To give you a bit of background, my Auntie Sue is in town for 2 weeks. She's been sober for 7 months now and we're all so immensely proud, so this trip is kind of just celebrating how great she is. I spent one day of just me and her walking down Commercial Drive, which is her favourite place in Vancouver. I absolutely love walking around with her because she'll just talk to anybody. Everybody who meets her eye gets a smile and a "Hey, how ya doing?"

There are tons of great shops up and down Commercial, but to my shame I have only been in a handful of them, even though I've been frequenting the area ever since I started dating Max. Sue will just walk into any old place and immediately strike up a conversation with the staff, and most times will meet the owner of the place and lavish them with compliments. Both times that she has been out and gone around Commercial Drive with me, we've ended up eating in places that I walk by all the time, but have never gone it. The first time it was this great place called Tony's Deli, where we had the most delicious spaghetti and meatballs for lunch. This time it was a Vietnamese restaurant called Red Pagoda. I'll admit, I did feel like I was being unfaithful to my favourite Vietnamese restaurant, Bao Chau. But I have to say, the food at this place was great, and only $2 more expensive than my other place. I had what I always get: bún thịt nướng, which is rice vermicelli served with some kind of meat (typically pork or lemongrass chicken) and served on top of mixed vegetables (cucumber, carrot and bean sprouts), which I doused with delicious fish sauce (which tastes better than it sounds). At this place, though, they sprinkled roasted peanuts on top of the dish, and what a difference it made. The spring rolls were also fabulous, and somehow not oily at all.

Don't worry, Bao Chau, I still love you.

One thing that comes from being poor is the ability to seek out the greatest deals in the city. My mother is more than pro at this. Every special event, every discounted opera ticket, every cheap-yet-amazing restaurant cannot escape her. She found out about JJ's a couple of months ago. JJ's is the restaurant at the VCC downtown college, and it is run and staffed by students in their Culinary Arts program. It's only open from 5:30 to 7:30, and has a fixed menu with 4 choices in each category (Appetizers, Entrees and Desserts).

My meal was... fucking superb, to put it lightly. Dungeness crab and mascarpone risotto to start, followed by oven roasted duck, with duck confit and herbed gnocchi, and red velvet cake with raspberry coulis and candied pecans for dessert. I died and went to heaven multiple times.

It was just such a great meal, the restaurant itself was nice looking, the staff was really friendly, and I shit you not, they played a song from Fallout. This place is amazing. Also, Auntie Sue, being the true gourmet that she is (gour·met/gôrˈmā/Noun1. A connoisseur of good food; a person with a discerning palate) asked our waitress if we could speak to the head chef to compliment him and talk shop. He came over with this kind of wary look on his face, and then we unleashed the full fury of our amazement. He had this great Scottish accent and was really nice. We left pleasantly full and very pleased. Overall, this was one of the nicest meals that I've ever had, it worked out to be about $25 per person. In a restaurant that matched the caliber of the food, we would maybe have been able to afford the entree for that much. So if you're poor and appreciate fine food, seriously head on over to JJ's, but you better make a reservation because it was a full house tonight. Two women even got turned away because there was going to be literally no room for them.

Okay, I should really stop salivating all over the keyboard. I'll talk about non-food things. My room is finally painted, and I'm so happy because painting gets really old after awhile. Tomorrow the shelves will go up, and then everything can FINALLY be organized.

I should be sleeping, but I just found a great webcomic called String Theory. Totally check it out. Goddamnit, I'm going to be tired tomorrow. But what else is new?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Spring!

It's finally Spring. I don't even mind the rain that everyone was griping about yesterday. It can rain as much as it likes now, because as long as it's Spring I don't really care.

My favourite part of Spring has always been the cherry blossom trees. Their were tons of them in the neighbourhood I grew up in. They lined the streets, and we would wear the flowers in our hair and shake the trees until we stood in a shower of petals. They just bring back all these sweet memories of my carefree childhood, tumbling about in the woods and trails, rolling down grassy hills, catching bugs and climbing trees. Yesterday, I was walking to Max's house, and his entire street was lined with blossoming trees. I don't think they were the same kind, though, but it had the same effect. Just this feeling of joy. And the smell was heavenly too, so I'm thinking they were some kind of apple blossom.

Rachel's off to Europe now, and I am so so jealous. I wish I could just leave and go on a cool adventure. But I have a myriad of responsibilities: school in the Fall that I need to save up for, rent to pay, a wedding to plan... Yeah, that's it actually. I've decided, though, that once I'm done my two year program at Langara, I am going to go on my own solo trip to Europe, as a treat. Armed with my new-found art knowledge, I will traverse the continent in search of adventure!