Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Beach Walk

June-gloom no more! Finally, this morning there was no overcast – warm and long summer days are here! LA traffic is more manageable which means that I can finally spend less time on the road and more time with my boys!

Simple-pleasure-agenda for today – to take an evening walk by the beach. What a perk for living near the Pacific Ocean!

It was already around seven when we finally got in the car and drove off. We headed to the beautiful beaches of Balboa Island. And getting to the island by an old and rusty landmark Balboa Island ferry is the way to go!

A fun way to get to the other side

Row, row, row the boat...

Barefoot girls coming from the rowing practice
The moment I stepped out of the car, a cool ocean breeze hit my face and body. With its magical power, I felt, the breeze slowly but thoroughly swept all my thoughts of the day out of my head, just like a broom sweeps dust away from the ground.

What were my thoughts, you ask? Well, nothing special, I say. Today I stayed at home hoping to catch up with work, house chores, and a kid who just started his summer vacation and is already bored. I don’t think it was realistic thinking that I could squeeze a week’s worth amount of work and chores in one day. Just to get through morning mail and calls takes time, and to sort out Alex’s toys in his room and vacuum it thoroughly could take even more time, and I would never dare to estimate how long it would take me to to get through a few piles on my office desk! I got overwhelmed and got to complete only half of what I planned.

But somehow, when I stepped on the warm sand with my bare feet, and looked at the small but powerful waves of the endless blue ocean hitting the shore, and took a few deep breaths, my thoughts and frustrations seemed not as important and not worth as much frustration as I felt during the day. So what if I did not finish going through all my papers on my desk or sorting out Alex’s toys, or that there will be more stuff piling up by tomorrow.
Lucy had a blast!
Alex had a great time hanging out with girls he just met.
Where are the surf dudes?
I wonder what is he thinking.
 We waited for sun to set, and were rewarded with a beautiful scene.

The power and beauty of the big big world made my problems seem tiny. I have heard that surfers are much happier than most of us. Couldn’t we all become surf dudes? Well, I know I can’t.

I know that I came home refreshed and happy. I will sleep and rest well. And I will start fresh tomorrow, and I will remember this walk, and stay real, and will try not to get overwhelmed and frustrated… until I will. And then I will come back to the beach and take the walk again.

With love always,
xo, Zuma A.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Love and Hate Relationship With Sales

A few years ago, when I became an avid shopper, one of my very wise friends warned me not to fall for an item just because it is on sale. When I heard that, I was certain that I would never fall for this trap. But I did. Soon I found too many t-shirts and pairs of jeans hanging in my closet. They would get worn-out quickly, and I would buy more…

Then, the light bulb went off in my head. I realized that if I would get one great pair of jeans instead of three lesser quality pairs even if they were on sale, I would end up having a better pair that will last longer, and I would spend less. How could I not think of this earlier?!

From then on, my shopping habits have changed. I stopped checking out the sale racks all together to avoid the temptation, and substituted quantity with quality. That way, my closet became less crowded, and I started hanging there much nicer clothing items. And my bank account loved it too.

Recently, I got a fun red Alice and Olivia dress. It was one of those items that spoke to me, and I felt I had to get it. And last Friday, for some reason, I felt like dressing up fancy in that red dress, putting makeup on, putting on high heels and going out somewhere fun with Varuzh to have Mojtos and celebrate the beginning of summer. I needed to unwind from a long and busy week.

The night did not work out the way I hoped - no one could watch Alex, so we ended up playing games on iPad the entire evening. Fun, but not exactly fancy – I spent Friday night in my sweats.

Well, the next day I announced that I needed a deserved time for myself and went shopping. Have you heard of a retail therapy? Not necessarily a healthy way to unwind and relax!

I was in luck, though - there were sales everywhere, so I thought to make an exception to my rule and, voila, consider therapy 25% off.

Love, love, love fashion this season – fun colors, relaxing shapes, lightweight and soft fabrics, dresses everywhere!

But do you ever try on clothes that you know don’t fit you? I do all the time.

Maybe I like to frustrate myself, but that day I tried many ankle length dresses that are in this season and … don’t look good on me. Being 5’3” and having 32DD size of you know what, the dresses did not flatter my body. I felt fat and that was not therapeutic at all. As I left the dressing room, I saw a familiar bright red on the sales racks. Oh, No!!! My fun red dress was on sale 40% off! That is quite a chunk of money! Didn’t I feel stupid.

To save the day, I went upstairs to the shoe department – shoes never make me look fat!
And Ta-Da! There was a beautiful pair of designer shoes that, too, was 40% off. And they spoke to me with their modern classic shape and beautiful red color. I had to try them on, and I felt tall and skinny, and I brought them home, and they looked beautiful with my red dress.

The retail therapy session turned out to be 40% off…

With love always,
xo Zuma A.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Gimme a Burger

I love the variety of activities and lack of routine in my life and my job. Some days I may be signing books for little boys and girls in beautiful stores. Other days I may be sitting in an office, going over files, schedules, plans. And some other days I may be working on my writing or editing or designing projects. I travel quite often too.  And that, of course, is in addition to being a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend...

Yesterday I found myself driving down J Avenue, a long stretched road in the middle of nowhere with occasional trees popping out.

I was hungry... very hungry - one of the biggest signs that I was about to overeat!!!

There were no choices of healthy food on the way. And frankly, I was not in the mood for a healthy meal. I needed a burger!

Luckily, In-N-Out Burger appeared on horizon, and I turned into a parking lot.

It was a hot and windy day, so I drove to the drive-through window of the restaurant. After I finished battling whether I should order french fries with my burger or not, I made a promise to myself not to feel guilty afterwards, no matter how much of french fries I would end up eating.

I could not refuse peeking into the restaurant's Nutrition Facts information chart. Apparently, there is a 150 calorie difference between a cheeseburger and a Protein Style Cheeseburger where Bun is replaced with Lettuce. And there is more, if the House Spread is substituted with with Mustard and Ketchup, another 80 calories will be saved!

Well, I would never substitute House Spread with Mustard and Ketchup, but I was happy to replace Bun with Lettuce. And, when I ordered French Fries, I decided to not check how many more calories French Fries are than the burger...

...and I ate them all, and I ate the burger to the last bite, and I felt good.

With love always,
xo Zuma A.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Strawberry Story

Alex is always excited to find little red strawberries ready to be picked.

Around mid-morning, while still barefoot and in his pajama, he found a little berry waiting for him.

It is practically perfect - red, fragrant and sweet.


The End...

With love always,
xo, Zuma A.
Facebook / Twitter / Bloglovin / Instagram / Pinterest

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Artist Life

When I was writing The Race yesterday, I thought of all the little moments that have tied our boys with their dad forever. Then, I thought of my relationship with my dad. Interesting, while mom was cooking for us daily, I remembered very well the days when dad was cooking for us; while mom was taking my sister and me out to the park daily, I remember very well the days when dad was taking us to the park.

My dad is an artist, an opera singer, to be exact. And no matter what task he would take on, it was processed through his creative mind and turn out very different and unusually cool.

Recently, I was invited to USC to attend a lecture by the School of Cinematic Arts Dean Elizabeth Daley, where she was talking about the interesting relationship between cinematography and science. But one phrase she said stuck in my head - creative people are difficult. And it is absolutely true! It is a nightmare for structured people to understand how creative people operate – they are moody, incapable of getting up in the morning, grabbing a quick breakfast and coffee, and running off to work until 6PM. For them, taking kids to playground is close to the torture. I heard that Leo Tolstoy would not even talk to his children until they grew up! Creative people are unable to come up with the same dish every time without adding some unusual spice to it. One day they are up, one day they are down. They live and love on their own terms. But, while they are difficult, our lives would be... very pale, robotic and uninteresting without them!

I have never seen my dad as the Artashes Ayriyan the audience sees him. I knew him as the dad who baked delicious cheese turnovers on Sundays and the dad who was taking my sister and I down the rocky trail to the water stream and helping us collect wild flowers for mom. Every time I smell wild flowers in the air, I remember those walks.

I also knew him from behind the scenes of the Opera Theater. I remember watching him putting make up on before his performance, and taking make up off after it was over. I remember watching him changing costumes between the scenes. I remember watching him turning into a king, or a passionate lover, or a funny servant. I remember getting terrified watching him getting shot fearing he would not get up after the curtains would close. I remember waiting for dad finish talking to producers, directors, other actors, dancers, singers, and fans, who would visit him after his performances, and falling asleep on our way home…

Dad certainly made my childhood colorful. And if I inherited just a little bit of my dad, I am honored…

Will be giving him a big hug this Sunday. 

Signing off till Monday.
With love always,
xo Zuma A.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Race

Last bike-everywhere-Saturday morning, on our way back from Alex’s Tae-kwon-do class, we took a beautiful route through a park with a soccer field, lake, fountains, and beautiful birds.

Suddenly, Varuhz and Alex stopped once we passed a small bridge, and Alex ran to a small waterfall whose stream falls in a lake. 

Bikes Are Taking a Break

Of course, I followed them. Alex gave me a small flower and told me that we are having a race - whose flower gets under the bridge and into the lake first. Apparently, Alex and Varuzh play this game quite often. Funny, I would never come up with the idea of a flower race on a waterfall stream. 

That’s what dads are for!

We set our flowers in a row, and watched them floating down the stream. 

I bet this is one of those childhood moments that Alex will never forget. Every time he passes a waterfall under a bridge, he will remember how he played this game with his dad…

I went along with them this time, and my flower was the second make it to the finish line, because Varuzh’s flower got stuck behind one of the rocks.

I watched Alex and Varuzh leaning over the bridge waiting for their flowers to appear. Their enthusiasm was so endearing! This reminded me the cute story of Winnie The Pooh and his gang playing race by throwing the sticks from the bridge onto the river stream until they found Eeyore floating on water – I read this story to Alex many times, but Varuzh made him live it!

… Luckily no one appeared floating on water, just ducks…

With love always,
xo, Zuma A.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Tea Tasting

After I wrote yesterday’s post Tea Time, I started preparing for the tea tasting. But then, I thought of my own silliness – the answer to my quest is too obvious. I even thought of putting this project aside. But what would that teach Alex? I knew I had to finish what I started.

I better put my disclaimer from the start! I am not a tea guru, nor I am a tea expert, but I am a tea drinker – few times a week, at the very least - and I can tell the basic difference between tea qualities.

I don’t think that any one would doubt the results of my findings – no teabag tea taste is a match to the taste of loose-leaf tea.
Spring Mountain Water Is a Must Ingredient

But I did make another finding, an important one – it is very easy to brew a good cup of tea!

I boiled spring mountain water and poured about eight ounces over 1.5 teaspoon of my favorite English Breakfast loose leaf tea, let it sit for six minutes, and voila. (Could you imagine the taste of bagged tea if I would steep it for that long?!)

I was rewarded with the purifying rich aroma of the tea and the taste of malted flavor along with the gentle bite English Breakfast blend is known for.

So here is what I decided to do with my discoveries – always keep loose leaf tea in my pantry, and never bagged tea. Making a good cup of tea does not take more time than throwing a bag into a mug… ok, maybe just three minutes longer.

Thus, while at home, there is no reasonable excuse not to treat myself to a good cup of tea and take a moment to enjoy it. Breath aroma in, and breath all my problems out…

Simple pleasure it is.... and it is simple too…

With love always,
xo, Zuma A.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Tea Time

Last Saturday we had our very good friends over, Peter and Loraine. We ended up sitting around the kitchen table almost the entire time, talking, eating, and drinking wine. Even though they live about ten minutes away from us, we don’t get to see each other often enough!

As the day started turning into night, it was time for tea and vanilla cupcakes with fresh strawberries and vanilla buttercream. In my pantry I had English Breakfast tea bags. So I boiled a teapot of water, placed teabags into four cups, poured the boiling water into the cups, and placed them on the table.

The next morning I thought that when I was growing up, I had never seen my parents brew tea by throwing a teabag into a cup, pouring water in it, and voila. Instead, they would spend almost ten minutes following British traditions of tea preparation, and, as I remember, it tasted quite differently from the tea I served last night.

Being a proponent of quality everything, I thought that I had no right to serve teabags to my friends. Did I?  Today I decided to make a cup of tea brewed according to Britain traditions and a cup of tea out of a teabag, taste them both, compare, and make my judgment.

It should be easy to make a cup of tea using teabag - put it in a mug, pour freshly boiled water and leave the teabag for two minutes, no more, no less. Then, after six more minutes, take a sip. I have to say that the teabag I have is a whole leaf tea in poaches. I will also try tea from a paper teabag that, as some sources say, consists of leftovers of processed tea dust.

And then I will try tea brewed according to Brits’ traditions. As I read in several articles I found on the topic, Brits also use two ingredients – water and loose leaf tea. The quality of tea taste, though, comes from the details. And the detail number one is – getting a good quality tea from, preferably, a specialty store!

The best water to be used is the Artesian spring water, because the tap water’s municipal treatment affects the true flavor of tea. To make one cup, pour eight ounces of freshly boiled water over one to two teaspoons of loose leaf tea, and let it sit for six minutes to cool tea. 60C is the best temperature that lets the flavors flood out. And after 17 minutes or more, the tea will be past its best.

Will report my findings tomorrow.

If you are up to the challenge, taste the teas too and let me know your thoughts!

With love always,
xo, Zuma A.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Lunch Date Wednesday

Every other Wednesday, Varuzh and I meet for lunch and hang out for about two hours until it is time to pick Alex up from school. We made a rule not to talk about business, bills, kids, or anything we routinely talk about at home. Here we share ideas, interests and fun projects we want to do, places we want to travel to, people we miss seeing...

This Wednesday we met at Pain Du Monde café and bakery in Newport Beach. We have passed by it so many times, but never got to eat there!

 It was still early for the “lunch crowd” to come down from the offices around, so Varuzh and I picked a place outside near the fountains and placed our order.  The afternoon was beautiful.  It seems that summer has settled comfortably in Southern California - the sky was blue and the sun was spreading the warmth and the ocean breeze was reaching from across PCH.

I have a suspicion that we have been around each other for too long, because we both ordered the same sandwich –Our selection was great, though – eggplant sandwich with goat cheese. Ah, lately I was so preoccupied with my recently re-discovered feelings towards the fresh mozzarella cheese and Caprice Sandwich, that I totally forgot how much I LOVE goat cheese!

The combination of sautéed eggplant, red bell pepper, caramelized onions, some greens, and goat cheese on a warm ciabatta bread was delicious. You may guess what I am going to say next – I’ve got to recreate it at home! Oh yummm. 

Well, I also ordered tea and a chocolate-chip-with-oatmeal-and-walnuts-cookie – my meal can never be complete without something sweet in the end – and this time it was a chocolate-chip-with-oatmeal-and-walnuts-cookie, and a giant one too! And was totally worth it.

The giant chocolate-chip-with-oatmeal-and-walnuts-cookie is almost gone
My date did not care for the cookie

Shopping at Anthropologie followed – We had to burn those calories somehow, right?

Does trying on dresses count as a workout?.. Don’t answer that!

Love this skirt with dip - dyed tank

I can spend hours checking out tableware and fun selection of books...

With love always,
xo, Zuma A.
Facebook / Twitter / Bloglovin / Instagram / Pinterest