Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Delicious Thing I Make Sometimes: Chicken with Spanish Chorizo and Potatoes



This meal is so freaking good. The prep could not be simpler, it dirties few dishes and comes out pretty perfect every time.

I first saw this Nigella recipe on a web site somewhere. I pretty much do what the recipe calls for, but for some reason the version that is so posted and popular makes WAY more food than your typical family can eat at one sitting. It's more than my family of big eaters could eat over the course of a few dinners. It also makes things sound a little more involved than they really are. I don't like recipes that call for lots of measuring and instruction following. I use terms like "glug" when referring to olive oil amounts.

Here's how I make it:

What you'll need
  • Little potatoes, or big ones cut into chunks so they're like little potatoes
  • Chicken thighs WITH SKIN (for the love of God, make sure there is skin on there. If you're not into crispy chicken skin then just forget about this recipe. The crispy skin is the most glorious part of this whole meal.)
  • Spanish Chorizo, sliced up into bite sized pieces. Make sure it's SPANISH chorizo.
  • Red onion (cut it however you like it. I kinda slice mine - it's more in there for flavor, but they do soften and taste pretty good in the mix)
  • Dried oregano
  • Orange zest (from one orange)
  • Olive oil
  • S/P

Mix up your potatoes (how every many you want - I make sure I have a handful of little potatoes per person), onion and chorizo. Toss with a bit of olive oil and dump it all in an oven dish of sorts. Like one you'd use to make lasagna.

Place your chicken thighs (however many your family eats...4, 6, whatever) skin side up on top of the potato, chorizo and onion mixture. Maybe drizzle a bit of olive oil on the top of your chicken.

Grab a cheese grater and grate the zest of the orange all over the chicken, potatoes, chorizo and onion. Don't be stingy. And don't squeeze any of the orange on top. This is not the place for orange juice. Just the zest.

Sprinkle a bit of salt, pepper and dried oregano over everything (not too much salt - chorizo is salty) before placing it into a pre-heated oven at 425 degrees for one hour.

Halfway through cooking I like to pull it out for a second, toss the potatoes around a bit and kinda baste everything with the orangey, oregano-ey grease that's collected on the bottom.

My sister makes this without the orange zest ( which I would never do - the subtle orange flavor is really, really good) and will sometimes sub kielbasa for chorizo or try other kinds of dried herbs in lieu of oregano. It's a really easily adaptable dish. I make it all the time. There's nothing not to like here. Pretty bomb.



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Gapped Tooth Club

The other day I found myself thinking about teeth and how it seems that increasingly people are opting for braces or veneers to get perfect smiles. You hardly ever see anyone on TV or in the movies without perfectly white, straight and even teeth. I think it's something that people prioritize more these days.

I've had gaps my whole life (they were much more prominent when I was a kid) and honestly have never been really bothered by them. Sometimes I think about what it would be like to have a super straight Hollywood looking smile, but I've never been so curious to actually consider braces or shaving down my healthy teeth only to attach some porcelain veneers. Talk about panic attack - - I can't even imagine the horror.

So I got to Google-ing last night, as I always do when I should be sleeping, and found some pretty interesting stuff on this minority that I forget that I belong to.

Like...

TONS of hotties have gaps. Such as Lauren Hutton (one of the most major babes to ever exist), Georgia Mae Jagger, Brigette Bardot and David Letterman (haha).



 
 
 

Gapped toothed women in folklore were often regarded as having insatiable lust! Okay.

Women in regions of Africa with gapped teeth are regarded as more beautiful than those without and are paid a higher dowry when marrying. Gapped toothed African men are also thought to be more attractive than men without spaces in their teeth.

Asians are the least likely to have gaps.

The French call gapped teeth "lucky teeth".

In 1987 Les Bank created a short documentary on women with gapped teeth called Gap-Toothed Women. I really wish I could find the whole thing online.


Filmmaker Cassi Glisper's 2008 documentary Next Tooth One Mile profiles "gappers" from all over the world.




In watching what was available online from both of these movies I was unexpectedly sad when I listened to people with gaps express embarrassment over their smiles due to their gapped teeth. So weird to think that in our culture something as silly as teeth, which we have no control over (you could get braces or whatever, but you had no control over how they grow in your mouth) can inhibit people from organically expressing joy. Teeth are weird in that way.








Thursday, April 10, 2014

Van's Playlist


My little Van is a human jukebox. It's really incredible. You probably need to see it to believe it. He's got an insane ear for language and music. He can hardly throw a ball without it getting accidentally tossed behind him and he has a pretty non-existent attention span when it comes to cartoons or movies, but he can strum and sing along with whole albums when the mood strikes him. Which happens pretty often. And by pretty often I mean all freaking day long. Everyday.

Here are some of his favorites as of now (in no particular order):

Kodachrome, by Paul Simon
Van has been grooving to this one, and other Paul Simon hits, for months and months. He picked a greatest hits album from a stack of records last summer and we've been listening to that and his self titled record pretty regularly. Like, daily.



Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard, Paul Simon



Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover, Paul Simon
He calls this one "Bus Gus." As in, "hop on the bus, Gus." He's been singing this for a really long time now. My favorite part is hearing his little voice sing, "and get yo-self freeee." Too funny.

Duncan, Paul Simon
Van really turned me on to this one. I wasn't so familiar until Van had me listening to Paul Simon's Paul Simon record so frequently. Van doesn't sing this one as much as he requests it. He named this song "Girl in the Parking Lot" because of the "Young girl in the parking lot was preaching to a crowd/ singing sacred songs and reading from the Bible." He enjoys this one quite a bit and sings "do-do-do-do-do do do-do-do-do-do" along with the woodwinds between the verses.

I Do it for Your Love, Paul Simon
This is another I didn't hear much of pre-Van's obsession with it. He sings this BEAUTIFULLY but I haven't been able to capture it yet. When Van wants to hear this one he requests "Orange Juice" because of the line "All that winter we shared a cold/ drank all the orange juice that we could hold." Orange Juice - ha!

Sugaree, The Grateful Dead
This is one of the first tunes Van was really into and has been singing it since he was about 15 months or so. He calls it "Shake It." He asks to hear this one a lot and likes to look it up on YouTube and watch live performances of it. I have a 30 second video of my friends' band covering this one at the Torch Club that Van asks to watch every once in a while as well. He loves anything Jerry, but Sugaree was his first favorite Dead tune.



Bertha, The Grateful Dead
Bertha is a relatively new favorite of his. A few months ago he was singing something in the car that I didn't quite understand while we were waiting for Tony to deposit his check at an ATM machine. He was singing and singing and I still couldn't name that tune. I asked him what he was singing and he says, " Berssa! I singing Berssa!" He does it pretty clearly now. :)

Deal, The Grateful Dead
Tony's band covers this one, and it's a go-to for Van when he has his ukulele in hand. This is another one that he's been singing for almost a year.

The Wheel, Loser, Bird Song,  I Know You Rider, Going Down the Road Feeling Bad and Mama Tried, all by the Dead
I can't wait until he's old enough to harmonize with me on I Know You Rider. :)

Honeydew, The Mother Hips
This is my favorite Hips song, which I passed down to Van. He called it "Bring You Down" ("this is the sound/ let us bring you down") but now he just calls it Honeydew.

Later Days, The Mother Hips
The Mother Hips are a local-ish band so most of our friends and family aren't familiar with their stuff. I guess if that's the case then you just need to take my word for it - Van fucking nails this song. He's been singing it in pieces since last year, but only recently has been able to put all the verses and choruses together as they should be. He's loved this tune for a long time - so much, in fact, that he would inadvertently say "bye mama! see you later days!" when I would leave for work each morning.

Last month our friends played with the Hips at the Fox in Oakland. We actually got to show this video to Tim Bluhm, the writer of this song, and he was pretty impressed.



Esmeralda, The Mother Hips
Now when I tell Van "see you later days", he responds with "see you Esmeralda days." Esmerelda is the track that follows Later Days on his iPod, and he sings the guitar intro before singing the words.

October Teen, The Mother Hips
...or as Van calls this one, "Good steps in the heart." It took me foreverrrrrr to realize that this was a song he was often requesting because "good steps in the heart" are never referred to in this song. "Footsteps in the hall" are, though. We got into many a fight over this one due to me not understanding what the hell he was asking for.

Whisker River, Willie Nelson
...but only the live version.

Kiko and the Lavendar Moon, Los Lobos
The most popular bed time song, probably. He doesn't sing it too accurately, but hums and "doo doo doo's" along with the accordion.

Saint Behind the Glass, Los Lobos
This one is a weird choice, but he loves it. When he hears it he runs to grab his lap harp so he can play along with the intro. He calls this song "Hammer and a nail".

The Bends, Radiohead
Baby literally has the bends.

Fake Plastic Trees, Radiohead
He listens to Radiohead with his Dad before naps.

Poisonheart, The Ramones
Van LOVES the Ramones, who he calls "Ree-mones." He has two Ramones shirts that he asks to wear pretty much every day and thinks any kind of logo or graphic presented in a circle with text is the Ramones. He found a Starbucks gift card in my purse and told me I had a Ramones card. Circular logos on top of bottle caps are also Ramones bottle caps. He sings the chorus to this song all the time.

Blitzkreig Bop, The Ramones
The Ramones tunes are all newer loves. He listens to them in the garage with Tony and they sing and play drums and guitars.

I Wanna Be Sedated, The Ramones

Hey Jude, The Beatles
This is another one he's been singing for almost a year. He just does the chorus and the na-na-na's at the end. I was so happy I was able to take Van to Outside Lands last year to hear this one live. Just so he can say he went, you know?



Yellow Submarine, The Beatles
This one is a new favorite. I think he learned it from my parents after my boss gifted him a Yellow Submarine lunch box. He only sings the "we all live in a yellow submarine, yellow submarine" part. Which is cool. This song isn't my favorite.

I Am the Walrus, The Beatles
Van calls this one "Walrus Song"! It was one of his first favorites last year. We'd been listening to it on the iPod here and there when I received the Magical Mystery Tour vinyl in an old stack of records that was handed down to us. Van was MAYBE 16 months or so when he yelled out "Walrus Song!!" within literally 2 seconds of the song starting. Blew me away.

Down By The Bay, Raffi
Because I don't want him to be a total little weirdo genius with nothing in common with small children. And Raffi is a G, and writes and performs his own material. Sometimes Van sings "Down by the Bank" on accident. It's pretty funny.

Baby Beluga, Raffi

Apples and Bananas, Raffi

Refugee, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
"Don't have-a live like a refugee (don't have-a live like a rah-fu-jay hey)"...freaking hilarious. He sings along with the video which he makes me find for him on YouTube at least weekly.

The Weight, The Band
This one is...wait for it..."Take a load off, Vanny." Duh, right?!

Can't Hardly Wait, The Replacements
So good.



California Stars, Wilco

I feel  thankful every day that I have a kid that's as stoked as I am to hear cool songs and sing and play along with records. I'd take my kid keeping us up late singing and practicing his drums to one wanting to watch SpongeBob or Caillou or some bullshit like that. You have good taste, Vanny. I'm one grateful mama.








Wednesday, November 6, 2013

As Cool as a Cucumber in a Bowl of Hot Sauce

public service announcement:

with a little refining (using the thumbs up and down), the beastie boys spotify radio station might be the best thing to ever happen to your morning and afternoon commutes.

also, i'll be a little sad for the rest of my life that MCA died so young and unexpectedly. i give him a bittersweet mental fist bump every time his verse begins in a song.



Monday, November 4, 2013

Halloween Head

i'm definitely not big on Halloween. I don't like painting my face or wearing slutty polyester costumes that come in plastic bags. I don't have a big sweet tooth, so a pillowcase full of random fun sized candies isn't necessary. i don't like to be scared and i don't like to look at gross things.

i do like this ryan adam's song:



 and i do like the pumpkin patch tradition. this year we took van to bisphops in wheatland, just like we did last year. he had a blast. so crazy to think that last year when we went he was only 10 months old. he couldn't even walk! this year he's almost a full blown kid that could do big kid things - like eat French fries, go down slides unassisted, sit by himself on trains, pick pumpkins and attempt to smooch on goats.









we've had such a busy October that a Halloween costume for van was just not in the forefront of my mind. a day or two before Halloween, i decided he'd make a damn cute little greaser. we rolled his jeans and added some hair gel and bam! kenickie!

           

van thinks applesauce is a dessert treat, and i'd kinda like to keep it that way for as long as possible. we took him to my friend's parents house, to my parent's house and my aunt and uncle's house around the block. he shared a twix with tony and had a lollipop with my cousins. he scored handful of small bags of m&ms and some smarties which we will use for potty treats and as a special dessert on nights when he eats all his dinner.

              



hope you all had a great Halloween! if anyone has or has heard of any cool EASY costume ideas i'd love to see them. while we pulled it off this year, i'd like to maybe have some semblance of an idea for van more than two days before Halloween for next year. :)






Friday, November 1, 2013

Roman Holiday and a Day in Paris

i'm back to the grind this week after a really dope two weeks spent throughout Italy and Paris with my Tony, my Vanny, my mom and my dad. tony and I spent a week and a half in Florence, Rome and Calabria in 2010 and it was pretty special to get to relive that with my parents and van for this trip.

the trip was a nice pace and we saw a lot in our time there, considering we were towing my almost two year old along the whole time. I have to say, I think you'd be hard pressed to find a better internationally traveling twenty two month old than my son. I will give this kid props for the rest of my life for being such a rockstar on our trip. hours and hours and HOURS in a planes and trains and taxis with jet lag and luggage to lug and language barriers is never fun. it's hard enough for grown adults to keep their shit together under those circumstances and I knew that expecting my toddler to was insane. I also knew, however, that if any kid could do it, it would be my kid. were he not such an adaptable child, I would never have thought to bring him halfway across the world on vacation. somehow I just had a feeling that he could pull this off and he totally did. he is such a champ. he is the best.

our first five days were spent in FLORENCE. beautiful, beautiful Firenze. on our last trip I wanted to sob as our train departed Florence because I already missed it. I wonder if as I see more of the world if I'll still regard Florence as my favorite place. I really, really, really love it there.

highlights of our Florence stay:
  • our old world, adorable rental apartment, with it's view of the duomo from the windows
  • the food! including a new trattoria across from where we were staying. the owner was so sweet to van and gave him complimentary biscotti both times we ate there.
  • taking a night walk with tony only to find the coolest cover band in the world was playing a small club right on our same street. I was lured in by their cover of "stay with me" by rod stewart and stayed long enough to hear them cover wilco! so crazy. they were adorable.
  • watching van chase birds around the boboli gardens.
  • our dinner at café academia on a recommendation from an old friend. van pinched his fingers between the table and his high chair and the whole restaurant about stopped functioning. the wait staff rushed to bring him ice and kiss his hand! they brought him a bowl of strawberries and a cookie, and later gave him a cup of juice with a little straw. as customers filed out after their dinners (and long after van had stopped crying) they came by to pet his head and make sure his hand was okay. it was the sweetest display I've ever seen. Italians LOVE babies.
  • a day trip to pisa and lucca, where I had the best bruschetta of my life.
  • david!








next up was ROME. my italian family lives 5-6 hours south (by train) from rome. if we didn't have to essentially pass it to get to my family i would not have chosen to visit there again. i liked rome last time, but once was enough for me. i feel like i saw everything there was to see there in 2010. it's a great city, but it's really big and really busy. it's the opposite of quaint.

highlights from rome:
  • our beautiful apartment! it was located in a neighborhood pretty far from any tourist attractions, which is probably why it was so affordable. we didn't mind though, since it was literally only steps away from the metro station which takes you anywhere you need to get to. the apartment was decorated beautifully and the owner was so sweet and accommodating. we adored her and her little son silvestro, who is only a month older than van.
  • the collosseum and the roman forum. it's such a trip to be somewhere so old!
  • the capuchin crypt. just, wow. 
  • the trevi fountain - van probably threw 5 euro in there.
  • dinner at da mario. my cousin nicola's cousin works there with his brother. we had the best meal there on our last trip and knew we had to go back. marcello hooked it up once again with course after course of delicious food. my favorite part was the tempura battered zucchini flowers. 







after three busy days in rome we headed south to the region of calabria. my family hails from a rustic little village outside of cosenza called TORANO CASTELLO.

highlights from torano castello:
  • the spectacular enormous moon that shined over the village the first nights we were there. it was gigantic! i've never seen anything like it. 
  • getting to meet little angelo, my cousin's baby. van loved him too. he was a friendly little thing, and has the best head of thick black hair.
  • speeding around the village streets in nic's tiny car, going from house to house to greet family members. every place we stopped a relative attempted to give us something...wine, beer, coca cola, cookies, cake...
  • dinner at my granddad's cousin elena's house. we had salami, bread, olives and peppers first. next was the rigatoni in tomato sauce with short ribs. then out came the breaded cod, broccoli rabe, roasted potatoes and risotto balls. last was salad, followed by fruit and coffee. ridiculous! so much food, and everything was fresh and delicious.
  • dinner at my granddad's cousin sante's house. getting to meet sante's grandson and namesake who is just a little older than van. his wife prepared a huge meal similar to Elena's, only with home made pasta and meatballs instead of ribs and cannolis for dessert. nic translated sante's wife's recipe for these really delicious pickled peppers everyone there makes. I can't wait to try do it myself! we ate and drank and passed around old letters, cards and photos that my great grandfather had sent to his Italian nieces and nephews that they saved all these years!
  • on our last night in the village our family threw us a little pizza party at my granddad's cousin's bar/restaurant. a friend of the family came with his son and brought two accordions and a guitar! they all took turns passing the instruments around and playing songs.
  • a vacuum packed sopressata my cousin sidaro handed me as we were leaving, for me to enjoy back home in California. :)






video

we left torano castello via a 5 hour train to rome. we boarded our plane that evening and arrived in PARIS!

while our apartment's location was fantastic, the actual dwelling left a lot to be desired. it was up four flights of stairs that smelled like the water from a carnival ride. the apartment was itty bitty - smaller than it appeared in the photos on air bnb, and with lots more clutter. oh well. we were only going to be there for two nights and one day. we'd survive.

here our my highlights from my day in Paris:
  • literally turning the corner past our apartment and seeing the top of the Eiffel tower.
  • the Eiffel tower! duh! we went and saw it first thing and it is amazing.
  • the store fronts. Parisians take such care in making things look beautiful. the baked goods look so pretty lined up in the windows of the patisseries. the dry cleaner displayed a vintage dress form with a chic coat. the florists fill the windows and street outside the shop with flowers organized by color. the cafes and restaurants are each decorated in their unique way, with big signs out front in cool fonts. you can tell just by taking a quick jaunt around the neighborhood that beauty and style play a big part in Parisian culture. I appreciated that very much.
  • our funny waiters at the café where we had our first French meal. I had bœuf bourguignon. the bread it came with was SO good. probably the best bread ever, and i'm a lover and eater of bread so I feel pretty qualified to make that judgment.
  • taking a walk in the 9th and stumbling upon block after block after block of music stores! a store of guitars next to a store of recording equipment next to a store full of pedals next to a store of drums...it went on and on forever. tony was in heaven.
  • dinner at chartier, on a recommendation from my boss. he goes there every time he is in paris, and i'm so glad he told me to make the trip out there. I guess it's a bit touristy and doesn't offer anything mind blowing, but the atmosphere is fun and the building that it's in is totally charming.
  • taking van on the carousel at the Eiffel tower after dinner and watching it twinkle with lights for 5 minutes at the top of the hour. it was literally marvelous. I could stare at it forever.





we were there, and now we're here. things seem to different when you've been somewhere so far away. i'm glad to be home. as fun and wonderful as it all was, living out of a suitcase and relying on public transit and taxis it quite tiring and hectic, especially with a young toddler. I was sad to leave, but looking forward to a diversity of  meals, water pressure and a working hair straightener.

we arrived at SFO last Wednesday afternoon. my brother in law took us to get Mexican food on our way home. you can take the Stizzos out of California, but you can't take the California out of the Stizzos.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Freakin' (Wedding, Birthday) Weekend

This year I got to spend my birthday in lovely Santa Barbara celebrating my oldest friend's wedding. despite my kid puking in the car on the way up and crapping on the floor of our rental home (seriously...and it wasn't totally his fault. i can explain later...) it was a really fantastic weekend.

we took my sister and brother in law along with us so they could watch van while we were at the wedding. it was so nice to have them not only to babysit the night of, but just to offer help throughout the weekend. i feel so lucky to be surrounded my family and friend/family that are always around and willing to help out with van. i think that's the best way to grow up. i digress....

we got into Santa Barbara and checked in to the really great house we rented from a vacation rental site. it was awesome and quiet had an incredible view of the city. after settling in, we had a few beers and headed out to dinner.


we combed State Street and landed on this place. it was really good! the ambiance was nice, and they gave us a bomb dessert because they felt bad about accidentally adding tomatoes to my brother in law's salad. hah! van was exhausted and stayed asleep pretty much the whole time.


the next day aja and shea took van out shopping and to the beach while tony and i attended the wedding. my friend Kaitlin and her husband Matt both have ties in the wedding/event industry. needless to say, their celebration was off the chain. i didn't take too many photos, but did manage to snap these two of their stunning table décor and the area where the dinner was held. the ceremony took place at the Santa Barbara mission, and the reception was at the Bacara Resort and Spa. both venues were so pretty.

                



 in addition to all the superficial aspects of the wedding, the toasts were great and the overall vibe was really loving and warm. it was one of the best weddings I've ever been a part of.

on sunday we packed up, went to lunch and took van to the ocean once more before we hit the road. this little bugger is so fearless, i tell you. he was all up in that water.




 the drive home was LONG. we needed to stop and get something to eat, but the only place for miles and miles was Pea Soup Andersen's. if it wasn't in the middle of freaking nowhere, no one would ever go there. this place could not exist anywhere else. their specialty is pea soup, for christ sakes. the waitress was old and mean and they gave tony two bottom buns on his hamburger.




we left for Italy three days after returning from our long Santa Barbara weekend because we are crazy like that. it's been an eventful month. chaotic, but worth it. i'd do it again in a heartbeat!