Sunday, September 19, 2010

Adios, muchachos

Hello, goodbye.

The time has come to say goodbye to this blog.

Why? Frankly, I feel too many people read it. It's one thing having strangers around the world reading up on my weekly exploits, but it's another having casual acquaintances check out what I've been up to or read what I think about J, our marriage, my career, or other facets of my life. I never thought I'd be saying this but I don't want the details of my life to be so public. At least not to people I kind of know.

I want to be more honest about my thoughts; I want to be more raw about my life. And so I've decided to abandon ship here on Brunette on a Budget and start over again, completely anonymous on a new blog. I get that if I want to be private about my feelings I should probably just buy a moleskin and call it a day, but ever since I've started blogging I've fallen in love with it. I get a thrill each time I hit "publish" and don't want to give that up. Instead, I'm willing to give up my online identity. On my new blog there will be no name, no picture, no location, and I'm beyond thrilled to have a fresh, anonymous start. (Is this an iota of the way Madonna feels each time she reinvents herself? Because the feeling is so liberating.)

I will miss it here, though, and I'll miss you, dear reader-friends. It's been an amazing 2+ years and leaving now feels like the end of an era. When I started this blog in May of 2008, J and I were just settling into life in DC and this was meant to be a creative outlet outside of work on those long nights when J studied in the law library and Lola and I sat home watching Grey's Anatomy. My initial focus on this site was personal finance (hence the name) and I blogged about financial matters for months until my writing morphed into more personal narrative as I figured out my life and where I was going. That led to the infamous I did it. I quit my job post, which kicked off my journey into fiction writing and now, a year and a half later, my entry back into the workforce. P.S. If you're wondering, I do still write but wish, like before, that I could commit all of my time to it (she said, longingly).

Now I feel there are too many eyes on this blog and I can't say everything I want to say, and so I'm peacing out. I have one book review that I promised to write in October, but after I post it on Oct. 18th, this blog will officially become stagnant. Over on my new blog I'll continue to write about J, The Nana and the rest of my cast of characters; I'll continue to make like Rita Hayworth and Put the Blame on Mame; I'll continue to update about my book progress (J's currently editing manuscript #1 with me); and I'll update about writing my third novel in November for NaNoWriMo (my outline is already coming together -- I can't wait!!). Best of all, I'll continue to blog about my life, but this time more boldly. More honestly.

I'm almost finished setting up my other website, so if you want to follow me into anonymity email me at and I'll let you know once it's up and running (include your blog link if I don't know you.) If not you can always still find me on Twitter.

Hopefully we'll meet each other all again on our long journey to the middle -- till then, ciao ciao!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A night with Lady Gaga at the Monster Ball

In terms of concerts, the Monster Ball tour I went to last month was definitely in the Top 5 Best Concerts of my life (dare I say she beat out David Bowie when I saw him at the Shrine in LA?)

I got decked out in tranny heels and red lipstick; my bff donned a black and white Rhythm Nation ensemble (complete with fingerless-leather glove), and we had fun people-watching in the lobby before the show started:

This Gaga lookalike (above) only wore these sequin disco boots, booty shorts and hat. The rest of her body was covered with rhinestones.

More little monsters (above).

When all 20,000 of us were packed into the pavilion and the lights dimmed, the crowd erupted into screams and cries, waiting for Gaga to emerge. But first, for the intro, a giant projected video played on a 30-foot white sheet hung above us, hiding the stage behind it:

It was ah-mazing. The visuals mixed with her looped voice saying "I'm a free bitch" over a remix of CeCe Peniston's "Finally" made for the perfect concert intro (and ringtone, if I could just find this version online). The rest of the show -- which was more a "pop-electro opera" -- was spectacular:

Holding her Disco Stick...get it?

One of my favorite parts of the show (above and below) was when she sat down and sang Speechless -- just her and her piano. As she sang the ballad the piano went up in flames.

I mean, who plays a guitar with the stiletto heel of her patent leather boot? Gaga, that's who. Loved!

Singing "So Happy I Could Die" in a moving headpiece (above, below).

What I loved most about Gaga live was that unlike any other act I've seen (and I've been to many concerts), Gaga actually succeeded in creating a connection with her audience. Between each song she'd pause to speak with us as though she and the 20,000 people facing her that night were having an intimate chat over coffee (one-way, of course). I have no idea if she actually does care for her "Little Monsters" as much as she lets on, but the point is she made us believe she cares about us. She made us believe that she wouldn't be where she is without us, her fans, her little monsters. Many stars have spun the "Thank you to my fans" spiel, but none pull it off like Lady Gaga -- her love for her fans seems genuine, and this makes us love her more.

At the concert I also loved how empowering she was to the crowd. At one point between songs, she said (verbatim):

"I've got to know so many of you and you've made me so brave. I wasn't brave before but I'm brave now because of you. So now I'm gonna be brave for you. Tonight I want you to free yourself. I want you to let go of all your insecurities. I want you to reject anyone that's made you feel like you didn't belong or you didn't fit in or told you 'No, you can't do it' or you're not good enough or thin enough or you don't have enough money or you're not pretty enough or you can't sing well enough or dance well enough or play well enough -- you remember that you're a superstar and you were BORN THAT WAY."

"Tonight will be your liberation. YOUR LIBERACION!!" (with a snarl).

That was, without a doubt, my favorite part of the whole night. I knew, right then, that I was a diehard fan.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

One of those days...

Not to be too cryptic, but this basically sums up my mood for, oh, the entire week:

I've had enough; O-Ren Ishii is now my alter ego. Not that I'm going to run across tables chopping people's heads off now...but that's what your imagination is for, right?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A weekend of copious consumption

Last week was mucho stressful at work, so I was obvi ecstatic when the three-day weekend rolled around -- and for once it didn’t fly by like weekends so often do.

On Friday night I got home and stuffed my face with Trader Joe’s frozen pomegranate seeds (aka “kernels of rapture”) while waiting for my sister to arrive (she lives in San Jose and was heading up to visit for the night). We had no real plans other than to consume brownie batter, listen to ‘80s music and hold a finger-nail painting session with my newest pink polish, but after she arrived we all decided to head over to this fabulous little Japanese joint called Shiro for happy hour. Sushi is only $3.50 a roll during happy hour at Shiro (score) but we got so carried away that we ate $100 worth, which, as you can imagine, is a whole lot of sushi. (To be fair our friend Doug also joined us, so the meal was dispersed four ways.)

We decided to make a night of it by having “tastings” at other restaurants within walking distance. First up was Modern China, a lux Asian-inspired restaurant with standard, Asian-inspired décor. The kind of place you’d expect to see on a Sex and the City set. The swank patio out front housed a dozen or so tables near a tall, trickling Zen fountain in one corner and a giant Buddha statue near the back. I had wanted to try it in forever, but apparently I’m a sucker for atmospheric cliché, since Modern China was…well…underwhelming to say the least. We had cocktails and appetizers, which basically equated to pineapple juice in a martini glass and a two pieces of cold, ill-tempura’ed tempura shrimp with what tasted like Trader Joe’s sweet and sour sauce on the side. (Not that I don’t like TJ’s sauces, but c’mon, really? I thought, guzzling the last of my frothy pineapple frappe.) From the outside the restaurant seemed hip, but if you looked past the hollow Buddha statues and Zen fountains, it was just one big, hot mess. Especially since they were playing loud latin salsa music that really didn’t go with the décor, which begged for more of a downtempo, ambient soundtrack. Clearly the Modern China folks didn’t get the memo on that one. It’s like mixing a Western theme with chop suey -- just…no. I could go on and on, but I’ll save my review for the new foodie blog, “Eat the Creek," that J and I have started.


After imbibing on food and spirits all night, I sent J off the next day to play golf with his brother while my sister and I took in some cardio went shopping! Highlights included buying a Spaghetti Western-inspired camel-colored poncho from H&M. When I saw said poncho I suddenly heard: “In this world there's two kinds of people, my friend. Those with loaded guns, and those who dig” (uttered, of course, by Clint Eastwood in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly). I knew right then I had to have it. I own a certain pair of boots that have been practically begging to be worn with a poncho.

After a few hours of shopping sis and I had too many bags to walk the five blocks home with, so my chauffeur J picked us up after golf, we plowed through a bowl of brownie batter at home, then she headed back to San Jose.

That night J and I had dinner reservations at this Vietnamese restaurant called Élevé near our apartment. The calories from the last 24 hours weren’t settling well, but I threw a dress and heels on anyway, determined not to let some poor eating choices hamper my night. And I’m so glad I soldiered on because the food at Élevé was spectacular, in every varying shade of the word. Élevé is best-known for their cocktails (I tried the Moscow Mule on hand-chipped ice – divine!) but their food was top-notch as well. We had the shrimp spring roll appetizer in soft rice paper with peanut sauce, then for an entrée I ordered the sticky rice claypot replete with thick, succulent prawns, shiitake mushrooms and sweet onions. For our side we ordered the carmelized root vegetables – carrots and other “roots” tossed to perfection in a candied ginger glaze with hints of nutmeg and other spices.

The ambiance was cool and sophisticated (the bar against the wall had backlights, giving it that contemporary urban vibe), we got to sit at a table near a window, and the service was impeccable. In the words of Travis Birkenstock, “Two very enthusiastic thumbs up. Fine holiday fun.”

Then came Sunday, wherein J and I spent all afternoon admiring furniture at Scandinavian Design, before buying a living room set on clearance ($1,200 marked down to $479, die!). The sofa and chair set are very mid-century modern -- something you’d expect to see in an office at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce -- which is perfect for me.

On Monday I visited with friends over Chipotle and a big, honking scoop of ice cream from the San Francisco Creamery (i.e., solid, delicious fat in a cone, with chocolate chips). And...Jesus, reading over this post makes me feel ill; clearly this week will be all about detoxing (that Mrs. Field’s chocolate chip cookie I had today at lunch does not count). All the food and furniture buying was delicious and satisfying, but now I feel like my stomach and my wallet need a break from all the mass consumption.

Ever feel that way?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Young at heart

That is all.

Earlier this summer, back when I hung out with The Nana every afternoon, we one day found ourselves en route to a swank retirement community to pick up her 99-year-old best friend, Gladys.

Nana had wanted to introduce us for a while and officially inaugurate me into the “ladies who lunch” club so I happily obliged, not knowing what to expect as I’d never hung out with a 99-year-old before. What would we have in common besides a love for a coral nail polish, Glenn Miller and a shared disdain for today’s youth? Turns out my knowledge of 99-year-old peeps (which doesn’t really extend beyond George Burns in that movie where he played God), was way off.

Right away I was surprised by how spry Gladys was. Sure, it had been ages since she’d driven a car and probably should have been regularly using her four-legged cane for walking, though she refused (I don’t blame her: all a cane does is date you, plus it’s much more satisfying using some nearby person’s arm if you ever need to break a fall). But “old” was something Gladys was not. Maybe she wasn’t going to be doing handsprings down her front lawn anytime soon, but she was young at heart. Though I’d only just met her Gladys still had the sharp, witty personality she most likely possessed in her formidable years -- plus she still had the energy to drag a full watering can from the kitchen to the back patio to water her hydrangeas, and still wore makeup daily. My kind of woman (age is no excuse to let yourself go).

With Gladys in tow and Nana behind the wheel of her Volvo station wagon, the three of us headed to Gladys’ favorite lunch-spot, Fresh Choice, which I was more than happy with. (Ever tried their chicken noodle soup? It’s exquisite.)

After a slight situation in the Fresh Choice parking lot that involved Nana’s Volvo lurching over a curb to nab the last handicap space from another circling car of famished senior citizens with what I can only guess was a hankering for all-you-can-eat cornbread, we arrived. During the car-ride there, when Nana and Gladys weren’t discussing ceramics projects and misplaced handicapped placards, they kept raving about the muffins at Fresh Choice.

“They’re incredible, darling,” Nana said over her shoulder to me more than once. I told her I couldn’t wait to try them.

“…Oatmeal, pumpkin, blueberry…” she continued, as Gladys nodded next to her in the passenger seat and I grew hungrier with each flavor ticked off. My flavor palate swings wide, from Taco Bell up to 6-course meals, so I knew these Fresh Choice muffins were going to be simply divine.

And they were. Until my lunching companions let me in on a little secret, or was it a ritual? Induction into the club? I wasn’t sure. I’d just brought back a plate of their beloved muffins for us to share when Nana stood up to get more food. She returned with a stack of napkins and another plate of muffins, many the same flavors I had already carted back.

Me (pointing at plate): “Oh, Nana, I already brought muffins for us…”

Nana: “I know, dear.”

Did they really expect we’d eat all these? Gladys had barely touched her salad and Nana had only one bowl of noodle soup, but thus far each had downed copious amounts of muffins. A feat in itself for a couple lithe ladies with weak stomachs.

Just as I was about to ask how we could possibly eat all said muffins, they both pulled napkins onto their lap from the stack. Without speaking, they reached for a muffin each and slyly looked around as they pulled the baked goods onto their laps and into the napkins, where they wrapped them up and slipped them discreetly into their purses.

Okay. Were we seriously doing this?

My days of poaching food from buffets stopped ages ago when I learned to get my adrenaline high from other places like robbing banks and stealing cars. (Only in my dreams.)

“Nana!” I whispered, in mock horror. “What are you doing?”

“Honey, grab a napkin,” she retorted back in a whisper.

Apparently this was how Nana lived on the edged.

“It’s ok,” I said. “I –“

“Just do it!” Gladys whispered, chiming in. “Here.” She pushed the plate nearer to me.

So that’s how these women stayed young at heart. It wasn’t that they couldn’t afford the muffins or that the delicate flavors of pumpkin spice were so breathtaking. Rather, it was akin to the rush you got as a teen from secretly nabbing an antenna ball off a parked car or sneaking alcohol from your parents’ liquor cabinet. Did you really need the antenna ball or the alcohol? (Nevermind, don’t answer that.) No, but it was the act of getting it that was the thrill.

I couldn’t remember the last time I’d taken buffet food home in my purse but I thought, “What the hell.” You only live once. And maybe that’s what I needed to feel a little young again myself (recently turning 28 did a number on me, I confess.)

Placing the napkin in my lap I peered around, straight-faced, as I picked up a muffin and pulled it slowly onto my lap with “take more, take more” being urgently whispered in the background. Once outside, our purses full of just-for-the-hell-of-it muffins, we let out a laugh over our victory and hobbled back to the station wagon, Nana and Gladys on either side of me, our arms interlocked.

It was official: I had been inducted into the club.

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