Things You Learn from Ann's Birthday Dinner



Hi!  I'm back!  Waldorf school life kind of took over there for a while (May Faire: the joyful beast), but now it's summer break, the time of year when the pools are open, but it's too freaking hot to go to them.
LA life: You spend at least an hour putting on makeup so that no one can tell you're wearing makeup.
I know I promised to blog about our big trip to BC, but Ann's birthday was last week, so I thought it would be fun to share some insights that I gleaned that night.  Enjoy!

Ann can spot a fake LA girl a mile away
Ann is sure that she can pick out a local girl from an import.
Except when it's our server, who happens to be from West Virginia.
According to Ann, these are non-locals.  They're at least three hours early for cocktail dresses.
Order what Tina orders
Tina doesn’t get excited about much, but one of those things is food.  And she always knows how to order the thing that I was hoping my meal would be, but isn’t.  Not that my whole grain risotto wasn’t lovely, it just wasn’t the piece-of-heaven creamy pasta dish in front of Tina, eliciting groans of pleasure and shudders of delight.   
This is Tina, unaware of how much I hate her. (jk!)
Ann likes presents
Ann will try to pretend that she really wants to drink and eat with you, but she's actually just waiting to open her presents that are in the car. 
That, and she enjoys dressing up like a giant denim chrysanthemum.
Our blog is failing in its purpose
Despite our best efforts, apparently our blog has given the impression that our lives in LA are glamorous and well-heeled.  If only it were so.  Our lives are as puke- and Lego-filled as any other parent's, we just need to drive through more traffic to buy Bissell cleaner.
Boy, did this stuff come in handy the other day after Sebastian had a bad date with a bunch of cherries.
Tina will give it to you straight
Tina is not one for mincing words, so when you say something like, “Oh, I really need to get a haircut,” she won’t reply with a “What are you talking about?  You can’t even notice the dozens of split end shards that have fallen onto your dress!”  No, instead she’ll say, “So, when’s that happening?”  And not in a cute way.




Ann likes expensive restaurants
This bottle of water cost $16.  She's lucky we heart her so much.  
Tina likes to photobomb inanimate objects.
As a side note, it was really hard to not ask the waitress for the bottle when it was empty.  I wanted to take it home and fill it with kombucha.  It was a great bottle.  Justin could have taken kombucha to work in it.  But walking out the door with two humongous water bottles probably would have been frowned upon, by my fancy friends at the very least (and yes, I did say "two" there, because one $16 bottle of water was not enough). 

And I probably would have fallen down with said empty water bottles and died after cutting myself on the humongous shards of glass because this restaurant had the slipperiest floors in the world!  Polished hardwood floors definitely weren't enough, they had to be followed by large, glass-like Mexican tiles.  Don't they realize that half of their patrons are idiots (myself included) wearing heels that are far too high for comfort, let alone such surfaces?

Kevin does not want to move to Georgia
Kevin most definitely and certainly does not want to move to Georgia. He says "West Coast is best coast."  Ann says she doesn't want to retire with a mortgage, under the listless threat of poverty. Kevin says, "You're from Los Angeles, do you even know what poverty looks like?"
Ann says it doesn't look like Alpharetta, Georgia. 
Kevs, the ultimate contradiction: A Republican that doesn't want to live in the South. 
Tina licks the bowl when no one is looking
Okay, she doesn’t actually lick it, she uses bread.  It should be pointed out that prior to cleaning out the bowl, Tina first chose to compare me unfavorably to a member of her family for suggesting that I wanted to dip French fries in the pesto.  Suffice to say, I didn't get any pesto.

This bowl of gelatinous goo is burrata.

Ann enjoys taking horrific pictures of herself


This is a movie poster for The Bloodening: The Last Blood.



Tina and Ann are eagle eyes at spotting celebrities
Celebs are everywhere here, they're just invisible to me.  At Ann's dinner we were sitting beside a guy, and Tina's all like, "That's the guy from Veep!"  I look over and have to ask her several times which guy she's talking about because I have no clue.  Same thing happened a little later with the girl who played Amber in Clueless.  I’m still standing on my Ron Livingston rock.  He’s all that I’ve got.
The guy from Veep, who I bet you can't recognize from his better known role as...
Tina and Ann are not helpful
Though Tina and Ann are good at spying celebrities, they will not actually tell you who they see until they’ve come up with a random role that you probably don’t know, and will refrain from telling you the real role that the person is best known for, and for which you love said person.  The guy from Veep, he was also Buster Bluth from Arrested Development!  Ann and Tina both love Arrested Development.  I love that show.  I love Buster.  Why didn't they say, "He's the guy from Arrested Development!"?!  Ann and Tina are so unhelpful.
Buster!
Ann does not know how to say Oregon
Ann, there is no ‘e’ at the end of Oregon.  It’s not there.  It has never been there.
Even that seagull knows how to say Oregon.


You Do. You Do Need the Sunscreen.


My gnome is the only thing that will survive this season.
Tina called me while I was gardening today, or rather, while I was examining the scorched leaves of my gardenia and the fragrant pile of ash that was once a hydrangea. It’s summertime here in Los Angeles where temperatures reach that of a plasma beam, so naturally I was slathered in sunscreen. I don’t want to die looking like a human blister.

But apparently others do. Because Tina immediately launched into an impassioned, “You don’t understand, Ann. There are people. On Facebook. Debating—DEBATING—about wearing sunscreen. Some think it’s toxic. Some think it’s unnecessary. People don’t like science.”
I can't believe this is even an issue.
Okay. Fair enough. I’m not sure I like science either when it comes to bad science, or poorly conducted studies—the kind you’ll see in nutritional science where for one month pomegranates are touted as antioxidant saviors, and then the following month, they’re found to contain estrogen mimickers capable of turning the female body into one gigantic fibroid.

So I get it. There’s a lot we don’t know about sunscreen. Commercial sunblocks may be rife with skin irritants and chemicals that are difficult to metabolize. This may result in disease.

Better to let your flesh burn like a butane lantern.

Because the sun is so much worse. Omg. SO MUCH WORSE. Please tell me you all saw this article in the Huffington Post?
I didn't start wearing sunblock until I was 26 and now my face looks like this all the time.
The sun is not your friend. It’s not your bestie. At the most, the sun is like an acquaintance you’re happy enough to see at parties—good for ten minutes of casual talk, but then you need to walk away, maybe spend a quality hour or two hiding under the stairs, wondering why people assume you’re interested in hearing about their children’s food allergies.

But what about vitamin D? Sure, the sun is essential for kicking off photolysis, so that your body can manufacture vitamin D on its own, but your vitamin D level isn't necessarily the direct effect of sun exposure. This would require ignorance as to the complexity of vitamin D synthesis and metabolism, which is why so many elderly persons are lacking in vitamin D, regardless of their sun exposure—not to mention people with autoimmune disorders, renal or parathyroid dysfunction, those lacking in commensal gut bacteria, or persons who suffer from low cholesterol which, in the form of 7-dehydrocholesterol, is necessary for the synthesis of vitamin D.

On my best days, I look like an advertisement for Miralax.
And the argument: "People have been on the earth for thousands of years, having a swell time without sunscreen!" No. Do not think for a second that early man evaded melanoma, providing he even lived long enough to devastate his squamous cells. They probably did get skin cancer. You don’t know. We didn’t have CNN coverage back then, but what we do know is Hippocrates and Rufus were describing black dermal growths, consistent with melanoma, back in ancient Greece. Oh snap.

Basically, anyone who is trotting about saying, “I never wore sunscreen a day in my life, and here I am, at thirty-five, cancer FREE!” is pretty much akin to my friend, an avid chain-smoker, who is rapidly approaching ninety years of age and still brags about his lack of cancer even though he’s lived long enough to contract every other disease in the Merck Manual.

Stuff is brewing.

Like, congratulations on not having skin cancer at a relatively youthful age. Come back and talk to me when you’re seventy-five, but I'll bet my pants that right now, you already have sun-related freckling on your arms. Seriously. Look down at your forearms. Are they spotted? Showing signs of uneven pigmentation? Broken capillaries? Are there noticeable white splotches where your skin cells have basically just said, “#$% tha police” and refuse to produce melanin altogether?
I thought maybe changing the filter on my camera phone would make me more attractive, but that's really asking too much from this face.
You’re patting yourself on the back because you don’t have skin cancer yet, but in reality, your skin may be showing a high level of collagen alteration due to sun damage. This ages you. And maybe you don’t realize this because you also don’t live in an area with a high concentration of models or actresses where a simple trip to Whole Foods will find you picking apples next to an adequately-sunblocked Michelle Pfieffer who might be twice your age—but she looks twice as awesome, and she’ll throw you a sad glance before saying, “I’d refer you to my dermatologist, but you look poor.”

And you will feel bad. You will. You think you won’t, because you’re strong. You’re practical. You grew up on a farm, so you know the virtue of hard work. The callous beatings of afternoon sun. You bear the regal insignia of actinic keratosis on your cheeks. But when confronted with the buttercream complexion of Isla Fisher, who is 40, but looks like a fetus because she wears Supergoop, you won’t feel regal, YOU WILL FEEL BAD. You don’t know what it’s like to run into these people on La Cienega and have them look at you like you’re a massive melanomic boulder.

TRUST ME. I DO.

And only then will you realize that your skin is failing you, because you have failed it. But it’s too late, because the world’s biggest IPL laser can’t abolish the evils metastasizing on your dermis. You might as well drink 10 liters of toxic sunscreen and call it a life—truly a better way to die than the prostrate misery of premature aging.
Our lawn needs SPF 50000
You do. Trust me. You do need the sunscreen.


In Which I Till My Garden

They could barely hold the camera straight, but for the laughing.
As I’ve done with nearly everything in my life, I romanticized the idea of having a garden. I imagined myself pruning rose bushes, caught in the seduction of morning air, whistling about the outdoors while commenting on how tempered and robust the hydrangea looks, and pausing momentarily to water the annuals with my Haws copper can—its Peter Rabbit design granting utter legitimacy to my experience. And I do. I do all these things each morning, but in truth, gardening has turned out to be lackluster and, at its worst, far more treacherous than most would conceive.

Last week, while planting a gardenia, I stirred up a nest of carpenter ants that pursued me into the house. Kevin slaughtered fifty-four of these winged beasts in the kitchen before begging me to take up a different hobby, one that involves paying off my credit card. Yesterday, while uprooting a giant agapanthus, I managed to hit several tree roots, a water pipe, and possibly the underside of China, while granting passersby insight as to why gardening should never be done in yoga pants.
Making friends. Lots of them.

Last night, a man stood around heckling me from the sidewalk for over fifteen minutes as I attempted to heave my shovel under an agapanthus and leap onto the protruding end to create a lever effect that might easily pop the offending plant out of its bed. But of course, this didn’t work to my expectations, in that I didn’t expect to fall and possibly require hip surgery at such a tender age. And the man, either critical of my technique or distended with pity, gave me his business card which read, “Chester Such-and-Such, Holiday Handyman.” Said he lived just up the hill and to call him if things got over my head—which is ridiculous. I mean, that a handyman lives up the hill where the real estate is well above the million-dollar range. There must be an abundance of idiots like me, thrashing about our gardens and botching home improvement ventures, keeping this Chester in rich business.

I am not a complete failure. Though my landscaping techniques involve small amounts of flooding and a lexical restructuring of the term “beauty,” I have managed to increase my fitness by lifting a heavy Fiskar shovel and fleeing emigrate insects. It’s been a highly educational practice. Do you know what the plural of agapanthus is? Tell you what—you don’t need to. By the time I’ve finished my quest, there won’t be a single agapanthus left on earth, never mind a plurality.

In short, I can’t imagine why all of you aren’t eager to join me in these outdoor frolics. Or at least, eager to help.

You are all terrible friends.
This isn't a success. Success is when someone else is doing the dirty work and you're taking the pictures.
Certainly, gardening is the worst. I truly grieve the spoiled romance of this endeavor. Shame on me for the belief in something lasting and transformative—the magic of bees and birdhouses hovering above the Baccaras, and my children, the sleeves of their J. Crew oxfords rolled up to their elbows as they clink tea cups and talk amongst themselves about how freaking amazing I am. This picture would, however, necessitate ignorance of the beetles pinching at their ankles because I accidentally dug up an enclave. And the birds that, upon leaving their colorful birdhouses, are now defecating on our lawn. Also, the sorcerous melody of wind chimes which, like a knife beating against pork tins, attracts every coyote within a three-mile radius

Oh hell.

In Which I Am Amy Holt

It's time for convention echoes! Here's Ariel and Alexis!
I decided to uproot some bushes along the north wall. My goal, this summer, is to install something akin to an English rose garden. Right now I have three rose bushes, a sad hydrangea, some potted azaleas, and two jovial garden gnomes that have yet to be stolen by neighborhood kids—mostly because PlayStation 4 was invented.
We all took the kids to the park for three hours.
Sarah looked after 15 children.
Tina texted texts.
I took pictures of our shoes.
Dahlia was enthused.
Archer was portable.
I bought a shovel that’s nearly as tall as I am, but unfortunately, uprooting an agapanthus isn’t exactly a single “heave ho” job. In fact, our soil was so dry, my shovel made a clanging sound each time it made contact with the earth. I also decided to do this during the hottest time of the day. Not to mention that I live across the street from a fairly busy restaurant with outdoor seating. The patrons on the patio were given a cinematic view of my fool’s errand, complete with all the knuckle cracking, teeth seething, tear stained prayers I uttered while Kevin periodically stuck his head out the side door calling out, “Ready to move to Georgia yet? Lovin’ the great outdoors yet? Bahahaha.”

My entire family thinks it’s a joke that I’m begging to leave Los Angeles. My friends think it’s the comedy of the century. People have actually said things to me like, “Ann. If you move to Atlanta. Where will you shop?” As though Atlanta is some undeveloped region of nomads and roaming tumbleweeds that has yet to witness the excitement of a strip mall. As if I can’t hit up Saks from the convenience of my smartphone.

AS IF I CAN’T HIRE A GARDENER.

So really, me pulling out an agapanthus and an old azalea bush is sort of a rite of passage—proof that I can handle the forsaken wilderness of metropolitan Georgia. But after about twenty minutes of digging, perspiring, and swearing, I realized my agapanthus was wrapped up in tree roots, and I resorted to slicing it with repeated whacks using the side of my shovel. By this time, I’d garnered the full attention of everyone across the street, including one man who said something like, “Sh*t. That girl just needs to call it a day.” And combined with Kevs’ sardonic laughter and his need to call my mother and report my failings with, “She’s out there swearing like a real Southern belle!” I felt inspired to do far more with my shovel than plant a garden.

On Sunday morning, Sarah spent four hours in the convention kitchen, and Tina and I went to Starbucks. It's way more fun to be us than Sarah.
Should we park in a handicap space? Nuh-uh. We're super good people. Also, Tina said, "No."
Tina told me to buckle my seat belt a billion times, which is RIDICULOUS BECAUSE STARBUCKS IS ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE MEETING HALL.
AND BY THE TIME I BUCKLED WE WERE ALREADY THERE.
Tina asked me to order her a "Tall Flat White," which I assumed was totally racist against my people.
 
But it turns out it's the menu that's totally racist, and could describe me perfectly in a police line-up.
I wish I were like John Locke from the television show Lost—one of those, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do” types of people that rage against the highest tides and triumph duly. Instead, after hearing the words of my critics, I was prepared to quit. I mean, what do I know about landscaping? What do I even know?
When we got back, I ate half the cilantro Sarah was chopping. I also drank the latte I was supposed to bring her. Sarah hates LA.
Kevin came outside with some seltzer to watch me go belly up. As a last ditch effort, I dragged a hose over to the azalea and let water trickle into its stalwart soil for a good five minutes. Kevin, of course, was absolutely hooting over my new plan. “What’s better than digging in rock? Digging in mud. Bahahaha—Whoohoohooo.” Tears and peals and all that.

I tell you what. After that five minutes of soil soaking was up, magic happened. My shovel sank so easily under that bush, I got bold. Right in front of that restaurant full of Philistines, I yanked the entire azalea up from the ground WITH MY BARE HANDS.

There was a hearty ten pounds of soil attached to its roots, but Kevs immediately ceased his cackling and watched me dump my trophy onto the lawn. “I will plant some roses today,” I told him. 

And I’ll see you clowns in Georgia.


This is Aaron. He thought his trip to LA would involve beaches and babes. But instead he ended up in a Free Mason Lodge.
Super Bummer.
Tina asked if he was on suicide watch. And if so, could we watch?
I think it's safe to say that Tina and I are better therapists than any of our therapists.
Look. I don’t have a lot of moments like this in my life, but at almost 35 years of age, I still feel heavily underestimated. As though none of you really know who I am. Or what I can actually do.
Case in point: This weekend was the Memorial Day convention for my parents’ church. I’ve attended this convention nearly every year of my life either by choice, or through the sheer misfortune of following people into a car. Moreover, throughout the years, every member of my family has attended this convention, representative of themselves.

And each year, I go as Amy Holt.

That’s right. Even though I’ve been attending the same convention for over three decades, everyone seems to think I am Amy Holt. If you don’t know who Amy is, her blog is over here. She’s tall, and blonde, and German, and tends to marry people who look exactly like her, whereas I marry everyone else. Although I’m pretty sure everyone who has proposed to me thinks they are actually wooing Amy, which would explain why all my relationships follow the trajectory of Flight 718.

This year’s convention was no different. I did a very good job of being Amy—despite wearing a nametag that stated otherwise, as well as an expression of pure human contempt. Per usual, my weekend was overflowing with, “Amy! How’s your dad doing? How’s life treating you.” To which I fashioned a variety of responses:

“My ankle monitor was removed last month--probation officer says I’m almost ready to stand on my own.”

“Working the streets is hard, but the pay is so rewarding.”

“Most people are surprised to learn that there are over 200 species of fleas in America.”

To be fair, although Amy is at least two inches taller and I’m about two inches fatter, we are strikingly similar in that our names both start with the letter “A.” Such parallels are bound to cause confusion for the course of a lifetime. I forgive you all, for not knowing who I am, because in the end, it really doesn’t matter. It completely doesn’t matter that Amy has lived on the other side of the globe for half a decade and I’m still here, ruining both her life and my own. My name doesn’t matter. My cellular entity is completely irrelevant to the turning of the world.

Now it's craft time with Sarah.

Alexis made the best birdhouse by far. EVERYONE ELSE'S SUCKED.
That's not a birdhouse, Sebastian. It's a drive-by.

I gave birth to the child who painted this one.
The girls did marginally better on the whole.
I fear for the future of architectural design.
It only matters that my children, busy as they are, parsing the entire book of Genesis in Latin, are very well aware that Amy Holt is not their mother. Though they certainly wish she were, as do I, every time I correct their homework.
In principio creaaaaaavit Deus caelum et terrrram and all the fun has died.
This. THIS is how a good story ends. BAHAHAHAHA.



BACK TO THE BARRE!!!

All good stories start out with a young boy--a boy with a dream.
My relationship with Cardio Barre almost wasn't.

Let me take you back, ALL the way back to 2010, or was it 2011, anyway, it was during the height of the money sucking phenomenon known as Groupon. Who can forget those lovely little emails and notifications telling you that you needed, NEEDED to buy $50 worth of fro-yo for $40 and like, NOW because this was only going to last another 15 hours and then, poof, gone, bye-bye. No more cheap fro-yo.

Only I'm not a boy, and dreams are for suckers...
Once in awhile Groupon would get it right with some pretty legit deals.  I came across said deal one fine morning.  It was a $20 Groupon for $40 worth of food at "Fraiche," a nice restaurant on the west side that John took me to for my birthday that year.  I giddily texted him, "Did you see today's Groupon??!! Let's get it!!"  I recall getting a cavalier "Okay" response. "Done. Bought it."

Fast forward to us brushing our teeth before bed and this was more or less the conversation we had:

Me: When should we use the Groupon we just bought?

John: Uh, I dunno. Isn't it more for you?

Me: Uh, I thought you liked it too.  

John: It sounds interesting, but I figured it was more your thing.

Me: But you had that soup and chicken. You loved it.

John: Uh, okay what?!

Me: The Groupon to Fraiche?! 

John: That's not the Groupon I bought.

Me: WHAT. GROUPON. DID. YOU. BUY.

John: Ten passes for $20 to Cardio Barre???? 

My face bore the expression that can only be described as finding out your dog died and Santa isn't real all in the same day...while eating a sugar-free, gluten-free muffin in the presence of a mushroom cloud. 
Ah yes...this is my dream.
"But how? But why? But what about Fraiche?!" was all I could say for the next 15 minutes until we realized two things, 1) John was signed up for Groupons in the Valley, but somehow I had my Groupons set for Santa Monica/the Westside, ergo we were not receiving the same Groupon notices and 2) the clock had, indeed, run out on Fraiche.

Life is so unfair.
No. NO. This is not the dream. GET THIS OUT OF HERE.
The funny version of this story would be: If I went, tried it out, sucked at it, hated it and never went back, leaving behind the nine remaining passes as I unapologetically pay full price for a dinner at Fraiche.  But that's not what happened. I liked it. I REALLY liked it. I am, historically, a FAIL when it comes to any group class that isn't yoga.  In a room full of strangers and loud dance music, I suddenly forget which is my left leg or what "up" and "down" mean. I can't fake it. I can't make it.  And what's worse I am always, always the first one to take a water break or to think a set is over and stop early, only to find out "Okay, double time, 5, 6, 7, 8... 

But after 10 classes I knew all the moves, I had a favorite teacher, a favorite time slot, and I somehow managed to con my way into another reduced rate package of 10 passes (thank you, fundraiser.) 

And then....

The Herrera Economic Crisis of 2012-2013 hit, and just like that, Cardio Barre was a distant memory...along with my flat stomach. Sad emoji face.  

BUT NOW I AM BACK.

Turns out people DON'T like being photographed while working out.
Mostly because I noticed that my food baby is more like strong-willed adolescent. I guess you're not supposed to have a food baby at 8am, when you haven't even eaten breakfast...and you're standing up.

Can't I just do a master cleanse and go back to watching Girls on HBO? Who am I kidding? Forty eight hours and I start seeing spots.

So, I am back at the barre again. I scan the room full of young whipper-snappers and gently scoff at the twenty something next to me with her mermaid pony tail and tall, pink leg warmers.  Pssh! I doubt she knows a Tendu from a Sous-sus.

It's been awhile, but I still got it...well, sort of.  I huffed and puffed my way through the warm up. Note to self, bean and cheese burritos are definitely NOT a good pre cardio barre meal.  Turns out I am, again, the only one having a water break after our warm up and ol' leg warmers next to me can kiss her own knee while sitting...or standing. Sigh. This is going to a long 55 minutes.


The first of fifty water breaks.


So, I've gone a total of two times last month. I've whittled down .0006 dress sizes--in case any of you feared it couldn't be done. It can. This is the inspiration station. Who wants to get on the train with me?

Woot. Woot.

I'm about two minutes away from throwing up that food baby. Cardio barre works.
I'm revved up and ready to go again, but there's Chinese food. And Ann just texted to say "she can't make it. LOL xoxo!!!" And I hate soggy egg rolls. Oh well, what you are going to do?

Or not do, more than twice.