Virgin's Guide to Burning Man

A Virgin's Guide to Burning Man can be found here.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Waiting For the Other Shoe to Drop

I am thankful to say I'm past the blues which plagued me yesterday. However, there is a certain bit of anxiety I still face today. Recently, I told a certain person off, something I almost never do because I tend to shy away from conflict. I tend to choose understanding and forgiveness, and tell myself this is the higher path; though if I am being honest, sometimes it is because I lack the courage to face the conflict directly. But I am trying to be better about facing conflict more honestly, and more maturely, with a level head, and fair mind. And I had quite literally reached the end of my rope with this person, and I felt I needed to stand up for myself, and not allow them to treat me with such little respect simply because they are used to treating everybody in that manner. I realize part of the reason I am so highly offended is related to some degree of cultural difference, but I think most people would agree the basis of my complaint is reasonable, even if they don't find it quite as offensive as I do. (I hope it is understandable that I don't divulge the particulars publicly.)

I tried to be as fair as possible without getting mean at all and even made several efforts to compliment them where I felt it was due, though let's face it, criticizing someone is never a pleasant prospect. Perhaps it wasn't my place to say some of the things I did, especially since there is a high probability that others might be affected by my decision. But I did feel it was fair to tell them that I did not appreciate their conduct towards me, whatever anyone else might feel with regards to themselves. I made a pact with myself that I would only say it this once, so that my feelings at least be made known, and this person can choose to consider them or not. At least I know I've made the effort, and the person will know why I might be distant and reserved around them.

But I told the person my feelings about a week ago, and I still haven't received a response. I'm not sure if the person will respond outright, but it's a bit nerve-wracking waiting to find out the consequences of my actions. I will try to face them honestly, whatever they are, and not back down simply because conflicts make me nervous. But the more time goes by, the more nervous I become waiting to discover the result.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Monday Blues

I feel vaguely disgruntled today and I can't really fathom why. There is just this indistinct sense of irritation and melancholia plaguing me today and I can't pin down the cause. I have many blessings in my life that I feel grateful for, and no real dire concerns to speak of. Just a few petty inconveniences, but maybe they add up...

My husband has been out of town, and I'm not sure if he'll return tonight or tomorrow morning. I tell myself he'll return tomorrow, so that way I might be pleasantly surprised if he returns tonight. But in the interim, I have spent several days in near total solitude, which, while nice at first, tends to weigh on me after awhile. I enjoy my solitude, but I begin to miss the society of others. And friends I might normally have called upon, have also been busy and out of town for one reason or another.

I'm making progress on my work and projects, but it is going rather slower than I would like. Mostly my fault as my attention span is not quite what it should be. But at least I am making forward movement and feeling very ready to be productive today.

I have also been sleeping A LOT lately, and I'm not quite sure why. Maybe I'm a little burnt out and need the rest, though I don't feel I should be burnt out. So it makes me think I really should nip that lethargy in the bud.

Looking through some recent photographs, I've noticed my face is starting to age. I've been lucky in that my face had looked pretty much the same from 15 to 25 or so, thanks to having inherited my mother's soft, youthful Asian skin. But age is beginning to creep up on me, and it wasn't until I did the facials this weekend and noticed the vast difference a little skin care could make that I realized it's time to amp up my skin care routine. I've been lucky so far in that I really haven't had to do much in the way of skin care. In my early 20s, I realized inexpensive makeup no longer cut it and I had to switch to higher quality products, but ultimately I needed very few products. But now, on the cusp of 30, I'm going to have to invest in a more extensive skin care regimen if I want to maintain any sort of youthful suppleness and glow.

So all in all, nothing really worth complaining about, but there you have it. Maybe I should go for a walk, get some fresh air to clear my head. Now I think about it, it is past noon and I haven't had my coffee yet. Perhaps that is the real reason lurking behind the suicidal tendencies...

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Pamper Yourself Madly

A few weeks ago I came across a blog with recipes for homemade facials and I became so excited; I had to try it at the first convenience. (They were so wonderful, I just had to share.) So with my husband planning to be out of town this weekend, I began making preparations for a full day of pampering. Seriously, I even had dreams about it. Then the day before I planned the decadence extravaganza, Adrienne mentioned she would have a lavender milk bath. I had no idea what a lavendar milk bath was, but it sounded decadent enough, so I thought it would be the perfect addition (it was).

Step 1
So to start the pampering, I began with a 90 minute yoga session, to stretch and meditate and relax. Then, using this recipe I found for a lavendar milk bath, I immersed myself in the pure luxury of bath salts and essential oils. The recipe called for nerouli oil, but I could only find a 5 ml bottle for $40 – a little too much for my blood. I used a combination of grapefruit and jasmine instead of the nerouli oil.

It smelled so heavenly! Complete with tealights and my favorite music, true bliss was achieved. There is something about floating in lavender and cream that makes you feel so soft, feminine, and sexy. I began to wish my husband wasn't out of town! Had I known about this, I would have made sure to do this on the day of my wedding. I also left the bath undrained for a few hours extra after I finished and my bathroom smelled deliciously of lavender. P.S. It helps to keep well hydrated with this bath. I felt so relaxed, soft and suppliant, but I was definitely thirsty afterward.

Step 2

Then I began the facial treatments, using the recipes I found on Our Best Bites. They were all amazing. I started with a steam of lemon and mint. It felt so soothing and calming, not to mention lovely just smelling the lemons and mint leaves.

When I finished the steam, I exfoliated with a paste of oatmeal and baking soda. I used regular rolled oats, but I suspect baby rolled oats might have worked better, being smaller and easier to mush.

I must admit I felt a bit stupid plastering oatmeal to my face, but I was home alone, so whatever. But I enjoyed the way it made for a gentle scrub. And it was most satisfyingly followed by a cleansing honey yogurt mask.

Made of yogurt and cucumber with a swirl of honey, it was super cooling and soothing on my face—once I actually stopped sneaking tastes and managed to put it on.

Next I tried the tightening strawberry-lemon mask. It's a simple mixture of strawberries, lemon juice and cornstarch (though I ended up needing quite a bit more lemon juice than the recipe called for to make a decent paste), but it did wonders for my skin.

I looked something like a horrific strawberry shortcake when it dried, and this one was probably the hardest to wash off. But when I rinsed it all off, my skin was suddenly soft and glowing.

After all the masks, my skin was definitely ready for some moisturizing, and apparently avocados are amazing moisturizers. I made a final mask with avocado, and added honey for brightening and tightening, and egg yolk and olive oil for softening and moisturizing.

And TA DA! When it was all said and done, my skin was so soft, smooth and glowy. I think the strawberry-lemon mask and the avocado finish worked the best on my skin. I couldn't believe how well these homemade facials worked. Makes me wonder why we pay so much for them, when we can get just as well from all natural ingredients available at the local Farmer's Market? Most of the chemical ones we get at the beauty shops are made from natural ingredients anyway, might as well go whole hog, no? I am so doing this again, next chance I get, and sharing with my mom and sister next time I go home.

Step 3
And because all the above did not constitute quite enough girly time for myself, I popped in Pride & Prejudice (the BBC version of course – these things must be done properly!) and spent the rest of the day watching Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy dance, while I ate fresh strawberries and soft-baked cookies. YUM. I {heart} Colin Firth. Gentlemanliness is so sexy. And under-rated these days I think. Plus, there is no more pleasing expression than that of a man looking with love upon his beloved.

All told, almost 12 hours of solid pampering = a totally contented Jade. So, ladies, pamper yourselves immediately and pamper yourselves madly. And let me know if these recipes worked for you too!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Tribute to MJ

Image from:

I wasn't planning on writing this. Probably everything I want to say here has already been said a million times, by a million voices all across the globe. With twitter and facebook, I could literally watch the world's response ripple out as we learned the news. I'm not normally engaged with celebrity lives and don't usually give a rat's hoot about any scandal or other such thing involving people whose name I know simply because they've been on TV. But MJ was more than just a pop star, and even when I woke this morning, I still felt saddened by his loss. (And yes, I know a bunch of other crises are going on; I'm capable of caring about multiple things simultaneously.)

I think we feel his loss so keenly because he was not just some really talented performer. He is the backdrop of so many memories in our lives. Who here, who has lived through the 80's, hasn't sung Beat It at the top of their lungs, or tried to moonwalk in socks on their mom's kitchen floor? Who doesn't remember watching Thriller on Halloween? Who hasn't danced to Billie Jean at skate nights and weddings? Who hasn't felt the bitter truth of Man in the Mirror? And when he sang Heal the World, I almost believed we could.

Looking back over his life, I am struck by what a tragic figure he was. He gave us so much, in music, in dance, in fashion, not to mention hundreds of millions of dollars in charity to children's foundations and famine relief. But the cynics don't like to remember that part. What they remember are the scandals, mocking him for bleaching his skin, when really he suffered from two separate skin diseases (lupus and vitiligo). And of course the child molestation charges. I'm not entirely sure I believe those (maybe just because they're too horrific to imagine), but what I do believe is that he was an exploited child, who lost his childhood before he even could experience any of it. And I have seen others who have lost their innocence too young and how it left them psychologically stunted. So I have no trouble believing that all his strange behavior came in part from not being able to grow up in a normal way and in part from his desire to recapture childhood. And he cared so deeply about children because of it.

But instead of falling into bitterness and anger, he seemed to accept that his life made him who he is, and he chose a path of love and forgiveness instead. Speaking with the public, he was nothing but humble and shy; respectful to his parents and gracious about his achievements. But his lyrics, and how they've changed over the years, tell us quite plainly who he was, with almost a childlike simplicity. From the fun and vibrancy of early years, his later music shifted to plain speaking calls for love, understanding and acceptance. He was hurting and he told us so through his music.

There are always going to be the haters and cynics, who find it easier to point fingers and pass judgment, than to find optimism and forgiveness. But MJ, when you left us, we played your music for you. We danced and we sang your songs in tribute to you. Because even though you're far away, we wanted you to know, "you are not alone."

So here's to you, Michael, who died of a broken heart.

Rest In Peace
Michael Jackson

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mint-Yogurt Chicken with Fried Polenta Tomatoes

Being super busy this week, I really just wanted something quick and easy, but still light and flavorful. This chicken and tomato combination was the perfect solution. I marinated the chicken and then prepared the tomatoes while it was marinating and broiling. The marinade was so tasty just on it's own, I would recommend it as a sauce to put on top of sauteed tofu for my vegetarian friends.

Ingredients for the chicken marinade:
3-4 chicken thighs
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons greek honey yogurt
juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon turmeric
salt and pepper
1 handful mint leaves, chopped

Mix the garlic, honey yogurt, lime juice, turmeric, salt, pepper and mint. Cut slits into the chicken thighs and immerse into the marinade. Keep covered for at least 40 minutes. Broil for about 18-20 minutes, or until cooked through, turning it over at the halfway point.

Because I thought the marinade itself was so tasty, I made a little extra with just 1 tablespoon of the honey yogurt, ½ a lime, some turmeric, salt and pepper to make a sauce to pour over the chicken after it was cooked. It added extra flavor and kept the final dish moist and juicy.

Ingredients for the tomatoes:
1-2 beefsteak tomatoes, not quite ripe
½ cup polenta
sprinkle of dried oregano
sprinkle of garlic powder
½ cup of flour
1 egg, beaten with Cajun seasoning
2 tablespoons of oil

Mix the polenta with oregano and garlic in one bowl. Put the flour into another bowl, and the egg into a third bowl. Cut the tomato into thick slices. Dip each slice into first the flour, then the egg, and then pat the polenta mix to finish. Heat a pan with the oil and fry the tomato slices. Each side probably takes 2-3 minutes to fry, but you can see the edges start to brown so you get a sense of when to flip it.

My thoughts
This dish was so yummy! The chicken was moist and tangy, and the tomatoes were so crispy! Served up with red potatoes, it was the perfect dish for summer and pretty easy to make. Plus the leftover polenta mix and egg can be saved for the next morning to make a little light egg and polenta scramble. YUM.

My rating:
♥♥♥♥♥ Omigod this is awesome, I could eat it every night!

Rating System:
♥♥♥♥♥ Omigod this is awesome, I could eat it every night!
♥♥♥♥ Wow this is amazing for a special meal!
♥♥♥ Great choice for a dinner party!
♥♥ Hey, that was pretty good. We should have it again sometime.
♥ Eh. S'all right....
♠ Ugh, no! That was so bad I just had to share.

Wardrobe Fail

I went to the market today, and as I was paying for my groceries, the guy bagging the groceries complimented me on my shirt. He went on in quite some detail about the little images that were printed on the shirt and how he really liked all of them. I smiled and said "thank you", paid for my things and went on my way.

Then I got home and happened to walk past the mirror. That's when I realized the shirt I was wearing today is a tiny bit see-through and my bra was...shall we say, slightly off-center. And thus bagger-boy had most likely seen more than just shirt. I'm officially never wearing this shirt in public again. Wardrobe fail.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


So I've gone underground the past couple of days and haven't kept up with posting, but I swear it's been because I've actually been {gasp!} productive. When I haven't been banging my head about transcribing interviews, I've been making new revisions to my manuscript, AND....designing my own website. I'm very excited about this. The design is a something like Jane Austen with a hint of Kurt Cobain. Actually I had planned a little bit more Kurt Cobain, but achieving that level of grunge was just too much effort.

...and I realize you probably have no idea what I'm talking about here. I want to show you, give you a sneak peek, but I won't. It'll just have to be a surprise. I've laid out the blog/home page, which is the main bulk of the design. Now I just have to put together some of the other pages, which should go very quickly now that I've gotten the main design fleshed out. Then Tech Support (aka: my husband) will help me work it into wordpress. And then Tasting Grace will have a new home! It will be at jadekeller[dot]com. But don't go there now. Now there is just a half-assed pre-made wordpress layout. Very boring.

And hopefully, design trends won't quite change in the next 5 minutes making me look out-dated just as I got in. I'm hoping to be a published, pregnant woman who can work from home before I have to do another design overhaul (which, as those of you who are familiar with the Jadian timeframe know should be a few years off), because it's a lot of work! On top of other career work to do...

Anyway, that's where I am. If I disappear for a while, it's because I'm tidying up my manuscript. In the meantime, here's a little tidbit for all the Buffy fans out there. Nuala, I think you especially will enjoy this.

Buffy v. Edward.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

I love you, Dad

So I wrote this post: Lessons From My Father in some state of anticipation of Father's Day.

But now as I reflect, I think more needs to be said. My father is losing his ability to remember things. It makes me cry to think about it because, as frustrating as it for the rest of us who must hold the same conversation with him multiple times and help him manage his life, it must be a billion more time frustrating, frightening and debilitating for him. My daddy was my larger than life super-hero, and it is so very hard to watch him become broken by the processes of time.

Because he is losing his ability to remember, the rest of us must do more to keep the memories alive. So Dad, here is what I remember:

I remember riding piggy-back on your shoulders and laughing like I couldn't ever stop.

I remember playing hop-skotch at the playground after school and then running to the swings. At my beck and call, you would push me higher and higher in the swing and I'd watch my feet kiss the sky.

I remember when I was six and found out it was your birthday, I felt horrible for not having a gift. So I took a book from your library and wrapped it. When you opened it, you still pretended it was the best gift ever.

I remember wishbones, and how you'd always let me have the wishing side.

I remember you giving me rides to friends' houses, piano lessons, school and wherever else I needed to go. We always had our great "talks" in those car rides.

I remember how you always made my sandwiches so lovingly. And those sandwiches always tasted better than any other sandwich, because they were seasoned with Tender Love and Care.

I remember every single time you told me I was beautiful, I was talented, you were so proud of me and I could do anything. Even if my self-doubts meant I didn't really believe you, some little place in my heart always did.

I remember when others say you as being too gruff, too demanding, I always wished they could see through the surface and really understand you. You weren't being mean; you were trying to help them be better people. Because you hold yourself to such a high standard, you try to teach others to do the same.

I remember how giving you always are. When you find a true friend, you give them everything you have and more.

I remember all the times you helped me move, from dorm to apartment to apartment. You even helped my boyfriend move, when he was too sick to do it himself.

I remember how you kept my secrets; the ones I dared not ever tell anyone else.

I remember how you used to call every night and when you'd complain three days was too long to go without hearing from me.

I remember when I told you I was getting married, my fiance instantly became family.

I remember on my wedding day, when we danced, how you lingered at the end, not quite ready to let go.

And through everything, I remember how your eyes would light up and I could read every emotion in your face. And I remember your big, warm embraces, and how no matter how big I got, I always seemed to fit just right.

Happy Father's Day, Dad.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Do you ever feel like you're hurtling through weeks, swinging from one anxiously-awaited Friday to the next? Where Monday through Wednesday is some lengthy abyss that seems never-ending, until suddenly it's Friday and you feel a glorious reprieve...only to have the next Monday come all too soon? It's like you're on a weighted pendulum, with the momentum all at the wrong end. Meanwhile, Fridays keep flying past you, 'til suddenly it's past mid-June, and you wonder where all the weeks went. They went the way of the endless roller-coaster of anticipation and dread.

Yes, I suspect some of you might be familiar with that feeling. It's called the rat-race, and it's probably the reason why every Friday I log into Facebook and half the words on the screen are TGIF. And I nod in blessed agreement every time I see it. I wish there were some way to slow it down and balance it out. To even out the time spent on work I don't want to do versus projects I love to work on.

I want a life where I can scale things back. Where I can bake my own bread and smother it in pesto sauce made with fresh herbs from my garden. Where I have a garden full of staples like bell peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and a lime tree. Where I have the time to read and write books, and still work on artsy-crafty things for the house. A life measured more by pride in my little projects and less by convenience.

And this is why I feel so lucky to live in the States. We have the option to scale it back and still live luxuriously. We "can" bake our own bread (with ingredients from local farmers), not "have to". Or we can shop at Nordstrom's and Urban Outfitters, and have a night on the town, cocktail-style. We can choose between a mass-produced life or one wholly closer to home. We can even move fairly effortlessly back and forth between those options at whim.

The trick is to find a way to do more of what I love and less of what I don't and still have a sustainable income. I haven't figured that part out just yet.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Get Your Wrap On: Asian Stir-Fry Wraps

This week’s food experiment is very similar to a Thai dish I make fairly regularly. The Thai version would use fish sauce and lime juice instead of cornstarch, soy sauce and vinegar, and it would include mint and shallots or red onion, rather than white onion, bell pepper and ginger. But this recipe is closer to Chinese-style food and I was up for a little twist on an old favorite.

I found the recipe on Martha Stewart's website, but you’ll notice I’ve added my own personal tweaks; being Asian and all, I have my peccadilloes. So I made a spicier version with pork, in a somewhat Thai-Chinese fusion.

Asian Stir-Fry Wraps

1 ½ pound chicken breasts, cut in thin strips (I used ground pork; ground chicken or ground beef might also be used)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 small white or yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons peeled and grated ginger
red-pepper flakes or dried crushed red chilies to taste
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch, mixed with 1 tablespoon water
Plenty of lettuce leaves to serve (I used iceberg lettuce. Boston lettuce or Chinese cabbage would also work)
(optional: chopped Serrano chilies to taste)


Season meat with salt and pepper. In a wok or large, nonstick pan, add 1 tablespoon of oil over high heat. Add the meat and stir-fry until cooked. Transfer to a plate.

Add remaining oil to pan, along with the onions and red bell pepper. Stir-fry until onion is golden brown and red peppers are softened (reduce heat if it browns too quickly).

Add garlic and ginger (and optional Serrano chilies); stir-fry until fragrant.

Stir in soy sauce, vinegar, and cornstarch mixture. Then add the meat back in and red-pepper flakes (or dried chilies) and stir until evenly coated in the sauce.

Serve with lettuce for a light appetizer or small meal, or serve with rice if you prefer something more filling and hearty.

My Thoughts

I would say this recipe is pretty forgiving, so if you're feeling bold, you might experiment with different flavors, perhaps adding basil or chopped mushrooms, or using different types of meat or tofu instead. Or try going Thai style! The only caveat is that the recipe described here is about as fusion-y as I would go. Choose either Thai style flavors (with mint, red onions, fish sauce and lime juice) or Chinese style (with bell peppers, ginger, cornstarch, vinegar, and soy sauce). Don’t mix and match.

This recipe turned out to be very yummy and was fun to eat with the wraps for a little change up from the regular routine. It is light and fresh, surprisingly filling, and pretty simple to make. Served with rice, I think it could easily be a staple dish to eat regularly. Served with lettuce wraps, it does get a little that might be more fun as a party appetizer or some other special occasion where you don't mind having a little fun with your food. Top it off with a cool beer, and you've got yourself a great summer dish.

My rating?

Weekly Food Experiment Rating System:
♥♥♥♥♥ "Omigod this is awesome, I could eat it every night!"
♥♥♥♥ "Wow this is amazing for a special meal!"
♥♥♥ "Great choice for a dinner party!"
♥♥ "Hey, that was pretty good. We should have it again sometime."
♥ "Eh. S'all right...."
♠ "Ugh, no! That was so bad I just had to share the failure that was this meal."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Year of Wonders

Book Review: Year of Wonders, A Novel of the Plague
Author: Geraldine Brooks

This book is an amazing testament to the vivacity of the human spirit, our ability to meet calamity, to sacrifice ourselves for a greater good, and find the strength and will to endure.

Set in 1666, the novel chronicles the goings-on of a small mountain village in England, where an infected bolt of cloth had carried the plague from London and beset the village in tragedy. The story is told through the eyes of a young, widowed housemaid, Anna, who unwittingly becomes the town's healer. Led by their minister, the town voluntarily elects to quarantine themselves to prevent the spread of the plague, thus sacrificing themselves to save other towns from the same fate. As the town suffers, not knowing the cause nor cure for the disease, they battle with questions of faith, of good and evil, and of justice. And the town learns that sometimes disease is not the only threat to survival.

It's a relatively short book, especially for a work of historical fiction, but it is chock-full of truths about humanity and our existence in this life. It is vivid and engaging, with strong and well-developed characters. It does a fantastic job of transporting the reader to another world and another time. I was feeling a little melancholy before I read this book, but envisioning the hard lives of our ancestors makes me only that much more grateful for the time in which I now live. True, suffering is a constant part of human existence, ever eternal and universal. But going back to another time helps put some things in perspective, and serves as a reminder that sometimes petty grievances and just petty grievances.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What Do You Give a Father Who Doesn't Want Anything?

At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, I must confess Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, and Father's Day are all among my least favorite holidays. I love giving gifts spontaneously, just because I saw something that reminded me of someone, or because I hit a fit of gratitude and wanted to shower someone with love. Birthdays are great because you are really celebrating a day that is special in a person's life, celebrating the fact that they are alive and a part of your world.

But these holidays are just random days some bureaucrat picked off a calendar and decided the whole nation should be obliged to observe. And I am not a fan of obligatory gifts; both as a giver and as a receiver. It feels to me like these holidays supposedly meant to be a special day to show someone you appreciate them are really only contrived routines perpetuated by an industry playing on people's guilt feelings and celebrated by people who appreciate their loved ones all year long, and thus do not need a special day. The ones who don't, forget or don't even bother.

For me, gifts for my parents are also always the hardest. It's not because I don't love them or that I don't want to celebrate them and show them they are appreciated. I call them on the phone regularly, sharing our life stories. I drive down to visit often, and I consider their needs whenever I make important decisions. And when we are together, I love to do things for them and spend time with them. We show our love in shared moments, not in a collection of "#1 Dad" trinkets.

My parents are getting older. They don't want or need things, and especially not cutsy knickknacks. The stuff they do have, they're really selective about. So as a daughter, my range of gift-giving possibilities for my dad on Father's Day is quite limited. And really there are only so many Borders gift cards, wine and cheese baskets, and gift certificates to "a dinner with your loving daughter" one can give before the whole idea grows stale.

Life was much simpler when I was 10 and I could just paint my dad a rainbow and write a card in crayon, where the color of each letter in "I love you" was painstakingly selected. Because really, everything that needed to be said was contained in that little piece of crayola and construction paper.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Worst Birthday Gift Ever

In honor of my birthday, which was yesterday, I would like to tell you a tale of the worst birthday gift I have ever gotten in my entire life.

Back in college, there was a short period where I was dating a young musician. Let's call him "Drummer Boy". Every Tuesday my bff/college roommate and I would go to his studio and I would hang out with Drummer Boy and his friends, watching him play, while my friend went and spent the evening with her then boyfriend (now husband). Drummer Boy was fun to hang out with (read: make out with) for a while, but he reached such heights of total stoner-hood that I was quickly over it. It was so bad, we ended up calling him Four Tuesdays because that was how many times I knew I'd see him before summer came and I could gracefully make an exit sans scene. (You know it's bad when there's a countdown.)

Let me illustrate. Right before the arrival of that summer, it's my birthday and I invite Drummer Boy to meet me and my friends for dinner. He arrives, complete with gift, and we have a fun dinner. Good times. And then I open gifts.

Drummer Boy's gift comes wrapped in a brown paper bag à la grade school sack lunch. It isn't taped shut; just the open end is folded closed. I start to open it, then stop.

"Uh, it's all sticky," I say, completely befuddled, wondering what mystery substance is now all over my fingers.

"Oh yeah," says Drummer Boy, in that long, low stoner drawl. "I didn't have tape, so I tried to seal it with honey."

Pregnant pause as I try to school my face into a look of polite understanding and commiseration, rather than scathing derision.

I continue to open the gift, trying carefully all the while to not spread the stickiness. I pull out this little box and I see it is a tiny, stuff-in-your-junk-drawer type sewing kit. Moreover, the package is open and some of the spools are half empty, so clearly it has already been used.

I look at him and he flashes me a devil-may-care grin and says, "I figured girls like to sew."

Thanks, Drummer Boy.

So I told you that story, to tell you this story. This weekend, my husband and I were with some friends, and he was telling my friend about the nightmare that was the wedding tux situation when we were getting married. We had ordered tuxes for him and all the groomsmen from Men's Wearhouse and they F-ed up the order three times in less than two days--which also happened to be the two days before the wedding. Long story short, the groomsmen had tuxes but they believed for some unknown reason that the groom didn't need his tux.

I mentioned I should have known not to go with Men's Wearhouse, considering I had dated Drummer Boy (who worked there), and thus had become familiar with all the potheads who work there (but think they're Rico Suave because they get to wear fancy suits to work). It should have come as no surprise they would F up something so simple in such a retarded way. And so I told the story of Drummer Boy and his fabulous previously owned gift, wrapped in a sack bag, and sealed with honey--because really, I love to tell this story.

And that's when we collectively realized that, not only was that a Gift Fail, he probably got off work, realized he should probably bring a gift, looked around Men's Wearhouse and tried to think, "What in Men's Wearhouse can I bring that a girl might like? Oh, I know! A sewing kit!" Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf is just a few stores down, so that's probably where he went for the honey.

We laughed so hard at the poor boy's foibles, we were practically crying. And thus I came to the conclusion that the worst gift ever had actually become one of the best gifts, because the running joke keeps me laughing every time. It's like a gift that just keeps on giving.

So, thank you Drummer Boy, where ever you are.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Where, Oh Where Have the Accoutrements Gone?

Hats need to come back in style. Yes, I know some people wear hats (especially baseball hats) all the time. But I think it's mostly guys who do so and a few brave girls looking cute with a special outfit. But we as a collective don't wear hats all the time, everywhere, like we used to in the old days. Like the 1920s when everyone was bedecked with an embellishment for their noggin.

Hats need to be a staple accessory like socks. Or maybe watches. They're so expressive; I think the kind of hat someone wears and how they wear it can say a lot about a person.

I have a couple of hats I love, and I would wear them every day, except I feel awkward doing so. As if people think I'm trying too hard to be cute, when really I'm not...I just like my hats. So I end up never wearing my hats because most of the time it doesn't feel appropriate.

Maybe the biggest area where the social acceptability of hats needs to change is at work, in the corporate office. People used to wear hats to work every day. Now if you come in with a hat, people would look at you funny. Or maybe even suspect you're unprofessional. I hate when people choose stupid reasons to think others are unprofessional.

But I digress. I think if it was acceptable to wear hats to work, people would wear hats more often.

Maybe I should be taking advantage of the fact I no longer work in a corporate office. Maybe I should just dare to wear my hats. Maybe I can boldly go where no hat has gone before. Maybe I can single-handedly change the hat world, one hat at a time.

Ha ha, or maybe I can just get over myself and wear the stinkin' hat.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Food Experiment of the Week

With summer fast approaching, my creative food juices are kicking into high gear. I've decided to try a little project where I will experiment with one new recipe a week and post the results here. By experiment, I mean I tend to adapt recipes to suit my tastes and needs, so usually these recipes will be something I've never tried making before, but have altered in some way or created an amalgam of multiple recipes. I can't guarantee it'll be the same day every week, but I will try to do it in advance of the weekend in case anyone likes what they see and wants to use it over the weekend. I will post the recipe, my thoughts on it and its social uses (in keeping with the theme of my blog), and my rating, according to the system below.

Rating System:
♥♥♥♥♥ "Omigod this is awesome, I could eat it every night!"
♥♥♥♥ "Wow this is amazing for a special meal!"
♥♥♥ "Great choice for a dinner party!"
♥♥ "Hey, that was pretty good. We should have it again sometime."
♥ "Eh. S'all right...."
♠ "Ugh, no! That was so bad I just had to share the failure that was this meal."

Food Experiment of the Week
Feta and Roasted Garlic Pizza

I've never made a pizza entirely from scratch before. I've tried using pre-made dough, but was less than satisfied. But this week I was feeling confident, mature, self-composed, adventurous... :) So I thought I would give it a shot.

For the dough
Makes one 10-12 inch round pizza base
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon rapid-rise dried yeast
1/2-3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon olive oil

Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl and stir in the yeast. Make a well in the center; pour in the water and oil. Mix to a soft dough. Knead the dough on a lightly floured board for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Place in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave until doubled in size - about an hour. Turn out on to a lightly floured surface, knead gently for 2-3 minutes and roll out to desired pizza size and shape.

For the pizza
1 whole garlic bulb, with cloves peeled
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 red bell pepper, seeded and quartered
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and quartered
2 plum tomatoes
1 1/2 cups feta, crumbled
12 oz. artichoke hearts
pinch of black pepper
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano

1. Preheat oven to 425. Toss garlic cloves in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Cut artichoke hearts in half and use a little of the garlic and olive oil mixture to lightly saute.

2. Broil peppers skin-side up, turning them until skins are evenly charred. Place in a covered bowl for 10 minutes, then peel off the skins. Cut the flesh into strips.

3. Make a slash in the skin of each tomato, then put them in a bowl and pour over boiling water. Leave for 30 seconds, then plunge into cold water. Peel, seed and coarsely chop the flesh.

4. Spread pizza dough into pan and push up the dough edges to form a thin rim. Brush with olive oil and scatter with the chopped tomatoes. Top with the peppers, crumbled feta cheese, artichoke hearts and garlic cloves. Drizzle on any remaining oil and season to taste with pepper. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until crisp and golden. Garnish with chopped oregano and serve immediately.

My Thoughts

I served it up with a strawberry-balsamic vinegar salad, and finished the meal with a shot of limoncello. Bellissimo! I really enjoyed this pizza and pretty much talked about it the rest of the evening. It was a little time-consuming but on the whole, rather easy to make. I must say homemade dough is SO worth the effort. This pizza was so much fresher and less oily than anything I've eaten in restaurants (let alone frozen or by delivery). Because it does take time, I couldn't do it regularly, but it is a nice option for special occasions. This would be a great option for a romantic dinner at home. Or, alternatively, instead of one big pizza, one could easily cut the dough into smaller circles and have mini-pizzas which might be fun for party appetizers to share with friends.
My one mini-complaint was that it was a tiny bit on the dry side. Not bad, but I think the next time I try this, I will either add more tomatoes or perhaps brush on some pesto sauce before layering the veggies et al, to give it something to tie it all together. My husband suggested marinara sauce, which I think could work, but I would be afraid it might be too overpowering. Perhaps plain tomato sauce would do the trick. The flavors are so light, fresh and delicious, I wouldn't want to risk them getting lost under something heavy.

My rating? ♥♥♥• Three and a half hearts. Buon appetito!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Nesting Pains

I promise I'm not ready to have kids yet. I'm still very much enjoying the Simple Married Life, which is so full at the moment and getting fuller towards the horizon. So the thought of taking on the responsibility that is motherhood is something I'm just not up to tackling just yet. Plus labor pains. Oh labor pains. How I do not look forward to thee.

But I find myself spending increasing amounts of time thinking about what kind of mother I will be. Will I be strict and over-protective? Will I be haphazard and over-indulgent? Will I be the one my kids come to for advice? Will I be the one they ask for an extra special treat? I quietly observe other mothers with their children, mentally taking notes of what I admire and what I hope to avoid. I peruse blogs of families with their stories of pregnancy, childhood and the sweet things kids say. I'm constructing my little mental nest for my future chicklets, in preparation for what might become.

It's slightly dangerous to do this; dangerous to my emotional well-being because it might be quite a while before we really do have kids. And in my family, the women have a history of miscarriages. I might be prepping myself for a child who will never be. And what if...what if we are one of those couples who cannot conceive? I almost can't believe I wrote that down; a thought too unfathomable I feel I shouldn't have put it in words.

I shudder, try to rid myself of the thought.

And I go back to perusing blogs and imagining all the cupcakes I'll make, the sweet little party ideas. I imagine I'll be the kind of mother who bakes fresh soft chewy cookies, decorates the kids' bedrooms in super-cute creative yet classy ways, and throws birthday parties that look like this.

I imagine I'll be the kind of mother my kids know not to piss off. But I'll also be the one they come to when they skin their first knee, when they lose their first tooth, when they discover a best friend, and when they have their first heartbreak. My husband will be the one they go to when they want to ride their first bike, blow sh*t up, and explore adventure at break-neck speed. He'll teach them the value of independence and self-confidence. I'll teach them the value of family and taking care of one another. Together, we will take our kids to museums and libraries (and probably far-off places) and show them the world.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Oh Hate, How I Love Thee

Perhaps a little known thing about me is that I truly admire New Yorkers' ability to hate so well. All the New Yorkers or New-Yorkers-at-heart I know are so gleefully misanthropic, I die laughing at their caustic witticisms. They love to hate, and they hate with love. It's not blind hatred; it is hatred which comes from seeing through someone so well you can't help but mock their foibles.

I've never been able to hate very well, and sarcasm comes to me only in small doses prompted by lively conversation. When I was a kid, even my enemies at school never gave me much to worry myself over. I certainly never had one of those Potter-Malfoy type of relationships. Hating just took too much energy. Why hate when so much else was going on in the world? I very much subscribed to the notion that hatred only hurt the beholder. Very zen, I was.

But now, maybe I'm getting crotchety in my old age. I'm starting to learn there's two kinds of hate in the world. One is the blind, all-consuming hate that saps you of everything. The kind of "I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! DIE, DIE, DIE!" kind of hate (Did anyone catch the Dave Matthews reference?), which I still don't subscribe to very much. The people I could feel this way towards, I just don't think about often. It's wearying, and I have other things to think about that are far more worthwhile. Like belly button lint.

But then, there is another kind of hatred. I don't know if you can even really call it hatred because hate is such an ugly word. It does not at all capture the pure glee there is in hating some people. People I enjoy thinking about because I love enumerating in my head all the reasons they're deserving of scathing, pithy remarks. People I hate so much, it gives me energy. (Dylan Moran is a god for coining that phrase.) As un-Buddhist of me it is to feel this way, and no matter how I try to Catholic-guilt my way out of it, there are one or two people I can't help but hate, liberally and gleefully. With these folk, there is no end to the sharp-tongued witticisms and blistering commentary just begging to be uttered. I try to be discreet and keep my thoughts to myself, but I'm fairly dancing with all the vitriol I'd like to spew.

Lest you think I'm a hate-filled, spiteful being, I'd just like to reiterate that there's only a rare one or two people who bring out my inner New-Yorker. And I swear these people are "special". Maybe I was just more mature as a kid than I am now, but I think I shall lovingly cling to this little slice of hate pie.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


For my dissertation, I'm trying to come up with easy ways to refer to the high schools I worked with that makes them easily identifiable in the context of the book but still preserves their anonymity. Something short and sweet, so I don't have to keep saying "the homogeneous, upper-income, predominantly white school" or "the diverse, bi-modal school" every time I want to refer to them.

I have three schools:

1) fairly homogeneous, predominantly white, mid-upper income. (Top test scores of the three schools)

2) bi-modal racially and economically. It is half rich white kids and half poor Hispanic kids. (Second best test scores of the three schools.)

3) predominantly low-income Hispanic, the rest of the students are a mixed bag of white, Asian, black, etc. (Lots of gang activity in the surrounding neighborhood and lowest test scores of the three schools.)

"Alpha", "Beta", and "Gamma" have already been used in someone else's work. The only descriptors I can come up with are colorful enough to get me my a** whooped. So I am in desperate need of help. Any suggestions?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Musings on a Friday Blessing

There are a lot of things going on in my life right now that I could complain about: it's a rainy day, with plans thwarted, mini-stresses, and plenty of inconveniences that should make me grumpy. But when I woke up this morning, I felt inexplicably happy and at peace. Maybe because it is Friday, I feel more like celebrating than grousing. I have many reasons to feel blessed and thinking of those blessings seems to me like a good way to start the weekend. So, instead of the rain outside today, I take a picture of a sunflower rising.

Today I must focus on finishing my theory chapter of my dissertation. I've set a deadline for myself to finish it by Sunday night so I can give it and my Intro chapter (which is already more or less complete) to my committee. Such relief it will be to have that finished, because once it is complete, I'll be doing data entry for a (long) while. While that probably sounds tedious--and it is--it'll be a nice break from the craziness that has been this past year. Plus, it will also give me the requisite mental space for getting back to my manuscript in the evenings. One more set of revisions await completion, and once those are ready, I can send my manuscript off to agents and publishers!

On Saturday, I'm holding a Thank You BBQ for my students and I'm really looking forward to it. They've done fantastic work this quarter as research assistants and they deserve a little party in their honor. Plus, I really do enjoy my students as people. I'm looking forward to an opportunity to know them better as individuals, and let my hair down so to speak, so they can know me better too. At this stage in their careers, they should know I'm rooting for them and happy to support them any way I can.

I have an awesome, amazing, wonderful husband who brings me joy and giggles every day. This little slice of bliss has become even more important than I imagined. It gives me a safe foundation where when everything else in my life goes to sh*t, there is a space where I can come home and say, "Life isn't so bad".

I have amazing friends. Even though almost all of them are far away--and one is due to leave soon and another is going halfway around the world!--they are all incredible people to know and love. I feel extremely happy for them as they embark on their new journeys and I feel lucky to have them in my life. I'm looking forward to the celebrations in their honor, bitter-sweet though they may be.

Now that the data collection phase of my research is done, I can work almost entirely at home. This makes my little heart go pitter-pat. Working at home is the shiz-nit because you can wear whatever you want.

And last but not least, it's FRIDAY and I'm just about to enjoy a good cup of coffee. Sounds like bliss to me.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What Were Your Favorite Childhood Books?

I probably would never be able to compile a comprehensive list of all my favorite childhood fairy tales, stories and books. Being an only child, I read A LOT, and developed early on a love for reading and the way books can whisk me away to foreign lands and the lives of others (even if they're fictional). How does one choose between the likes of Shel Silverstein, Judy Blume, and Madeleine L'Engle? How many times did I re-read Ray Bradbury's Farenheit 451 or The Halloween Tree? Or Beverly Cleary's Ramona books and David Sobol's Encyclopedia Brown? Not to mention classics like Where the Red Fern Grows, Anne of Green Gables, and Charlotte's Web. (This, of course, does not include books like Harry Potter which I read later as an adult.)

But one story that always stuck with me, that is the one I always think of first when I think of childhood favorites is Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Match Girl. (Read the short story here.) The story is about a little girl on Christmas who braves the freezing snowy cold to try to sell matches. At the edge of her means, she strikes a match to warm herself. In the glow of the match's light upon the wall, she sees warm, wonderous visions—until the match burns out. She lights match after match trying to catch the visions, until she sees one of her beloved grandmother. She watches this vision until the last match dies. As the flame goes out, so does her life.

I think what draws me so much to this story is the little match girl's ability to find beauty in tragedy. It has so much to it: the plight of the rich versus the poor, life and death, coldness and warmth. But this theme of transcendence is one that inspires me. There is comfort in knowing that even in the depths of despair, we as humans can find the strength to rise from the ashes and learn to fly. Out of our deepest sorrows come our greatest joys, and I hope I should always have the will to find grace.

What childhood favorites stick with you?

New Twitter Profile Background!

I saw so many other people on Twitter had cool, unique profile backgrounds and I wanted one too. So I created this:

(You can click on the image to see it larger.)
Too bad the pretty cup saucer doesn't show up too well on twitter. ::sigh:: But at least Toby got a fresh cup of cappuccino out of it. :)

Transitioning to Tweens

Yesterday, I attended a younger sibling-in-law's sixth grade graduation. The principal gave the typical speech about “the challenges ahead”, advising them to always think critically, be themselves, and not be pressured by their peers. As an educator and socially responsible person, I'm nodding “yes, yes, of course, sound advice that is”, but as someone who has suffered through and survived junior high, I found myself thinking I could have used an entirely different set of advice before embarking on that adventure/tragedy that is junior high. Oh, the social awkwardness. So this is the non-parent/principal-approved list of advice I wish I had gotten when I was 13. To the adults out there: what advice would you like to have gotten before going to junior high? Feel free to add your own to the list!

The (Alternative) Guide to Junior High School

1. Don't pop your zits – As satisfying as it is, you never know when you'll pick the wrong one and just get a bloody mess and scars for your efforts.

2. Yes, it's true. The social hierarchy does depend almost entirely on the clothes you wear. The sad truth is it is so easy to move up the hierarchy but the kids at the top almost never deserve it and yet the kids at the bottom don't realize how such tiny, inconsequential, superficial things determine their fate. It's not a matter of “following the crowd” like your parents warn about; it's a matter of social survival.

3. That said, it's not worth caring much about the social hierarchy in the long run. Most of the popular kids end up barefoot and pregnant before adulthood, and the nerds and geeks come into their own and end up being the really cool people you want to know right around college.

4. Avoid being in photographs at all costs. You'll only want to burn them later because a) hormones and braces are evil, and b) 7th & 8th graders are just not the best judges when it comes to make-up.

5. These are the years you discover sarcasm, rolled eyes, ineffable boredom, the joy of cussing and general negativity. Embrace it with your peers, but realize every one else finds it supremely annoying.

6. To the A students: If the choice is between doing homework and hanging out with your best friends, more often than not, opt for friends. You only need to test well to get into advanced classes in high school (and even without that, you can petition)...other than that, NOBODY looks at your grades from junior high. Fun times and hilarious memories are far more worthwhile.

7. Guys, as much as it might seem cool to act like a badass, you're not fooling anyone. Except maybe yourself and other wannabes.

8. Girls, ALWAYS have an extra tampon/pad, even if it's not that time of the month. You never know when emergency or disaster will strike you or a loved one.

9. Eighth grade dances are not like the proms you see on TV. Imagine all the girls on one side and all the boys on the other side, insert awkwardness and music compiled by people three sheets shy of cool, and you have the first half of an eighth grade dance. In the second half, when people start actually dancing, awkwardness increases exponentially as everyone realizes they have no clue how to dance. Successful slow dancing requires being able to rotate slowly in a circle, while weaving from side to side, without stepping on anyone's feet or dress. This can be hazardous when people's feet and arms are out of proportion from the rest of their bodies thanks to growth spurts and when boys are a head shorter than girls but girls must still find a way to rest their heads on the guy's shoulder.

10. Romantic relationships will probably be the most dramatic, soap operatic, and short-lived of your entire life. Two survivor rules: 1) Dating your best friends' (ex)boy/girlfriend is so not cool. No, it's not like they're not going to get married, but it is a code-of-honor issue among friends; 2) Don't freak out when your friend gets a bf/gf and spends less time with you. They'll be back eventually when they discover how much of a dweeb their bf/gf was.

And above all:
Nothing that happens in junior high is the end of the world (though it all seems like it), and so remember: This too shall pass.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Eating As We Are

I think I'm starting to believe in that old maxim, “You are what you eat”. I don't believe this in a literal sense, in that if you eat ham you must be a porker. But I do think that what we eat and our relationship to food says something about us. That “something” is probably up to interpretation. But I think it is worthwhile to take a moment and reflect on our eating habits and what we interpret our habits to say about us, because maybe some of our habits do not reflect who we want to become.

Food for thought: Do you tend to eat your meals alone in front of the TV, or perhaps in 10 minutes at your desk, with 8 applications open simultaneously? Quietly around the family table, or with the TV blaring in the background? Or are you the type of person who eats a meal spread out across a 2-3 hour time span over conversation with friends and family? (I'm sure these categories are not mutually exclusive...I'm just musing here.)

Do you eat a lot of fast or ready-made meals or are all your dishes whole-grain and all-natural?

When you go out to eat, do you always go to your favorite restaurant and order your favorite meal? Or are you always trying new places and new dishes?

Do you eat just until you're satisfied, or do you eat with a feeling that you're never quite satisfied? That there is an emotional hole that food caresses, but never satiates?

When you cook, do you follow recipes down to every letter, comma, and fraction, or do you sprinkle, twist, and tweak your recipes to suit your tastes and needs?

I am one of the folks who love to experiment in the kitchen. I love trying new recipes, new foods, and playing with new twists on old favorites. I'm not sure if that says I'm open-minded and adventurous...or just easily bored.

This weekend I pulled out the old master cookbook and made a Greek lamb pie involving phyllo dough, ground lamb, cinnamon, nutmeg, onions, tomatoes and mint. It definitely scored points with the husband so I will be doing that one again. I also made a Moroccan Chicken involving cinnamon, onions, honey, orange and tumeric, and I served a bulgar dish on the side. In the bulgar, I put almonds, orange, honey, sesame seeds, salt and mushroom broth. It sounds complex but was actually quite easy to make and definitely yummy and flavorful. Then yesterday, I found rhubarb at the Isla Vista Food Co-op (I've never seen it fresh in a store before so I had to snap it up!), so I made my first strawberry rhubarb pie. I could eat rhubarb pie every day. Please feel free to email me ( if you'd like to have any of these recipes. I'm also excited to hear of any one else's suggestions.

Do you have any food-related habits you think reflect something about you? Or any recipes you'd like to share?

P.S. The rhubarb pie recipe is vegan friendly.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Approaching the Hill

I woke up this morning and discovered it was June, the month of my birthday. Usually I'm excited for my birthday. Not quite little-kid excited when I used to demarcate my birthdays by the number of digits in my age. "Ten, mom! This year I become ten! I'll have two numbers in my age!" I used to say. Or by the introduction of "teen" into my age. "Thirteen, mom! I'm officially a teenager!" Though I'm no longer little-kid excited, I still look forward to a special day spent with family, friends, booze and good food. And of course gifts!

But this year I turn twenty-nine, which in and of itself is innocuous enough. But with twenty-nine, comes the inexorable march towards thirty. The big three-oh. This is the age where I look back on my life and evaluate what I've accomplished. And how far I still have to go.

I'm married and happy, and in that sense I'm right on track. House and kids are on the horizon, but that horizon is still a few years away and I'm happy with that. But career-wise, I have yet to still figure things out. When I envisioned my life when I was ten, I thought that by thirty I would be a high-powered executive at a top-notch advertising firm. Well those dreams are no longer my dreams, but I have yet to make my new dreams a reality. Most people I know are already settled in their careers and doing well at them. I keep making new starts. And, at twenty-nine, I'm still in college. Granted, I'm not an undergrad (thank heavens for that!), but still.

Does everybody have this evaluation point at thirty? Does it give you a kick in the butt, or does it just make you feel good to cross the third decade threshold? Are people excited to become 30, because then you're just that much more mature, more adult, more respected? I wonder if it's just a construction in my head or if maybe I'm joining the ranks of the 30-year-old bachelors who discover the party days are over and it's time to settle down and find a wife.