The Siren Song of Sausage and Bacon. Also, Mao.

This is one of those mornings where I feel it is absolutely vital I share my most ridiculous, unorganized, and fatuous ramblings with blogosphere, simply because I find myself with an Internet connection. (Are you excited yet?)

Here it is:

I am currently embroiled in a highly dramatic love-hate relationship with the breakfast burritos from the on campus deli.

Please understand that while I am aware there are much more significant issues in the world, and while I am more than completely occupied by five reading-heavy course loads, an essay due Monday, four roommates and their various significant others, my rapidly approaching LSAT exam that will surely change my life forever, and — more immediately — about forty more pages of Out of Mao’s Shadow to read for class later today, I choose to make my burrito problems first and foremost at the moment, seeing as I have one in my possession.

Here’s the thing about the breakfast burritos:

Most mornings, I am more than happy to check my email, sip a cup of coffee, and enjoy a bowl of Barbara’s Bakery  All-Natural Puffins cereal (I buy in bulk to save, and mix the the original and peanut butter flavors in a 2:1 ratio in a tall, pourable Tupperware container for freshness and convenience), just barely soaked in 2% milk.

A couple times a semester, however, the breakfast burritos call unto me.  Often the morning a paper is due, occasionally because (like today) I wake up to discover I am perilously low on Puffins and totally out of milk. And then I think, This is the universe telling me I must have a breakfast burrito.

And really, who am I to defy the will of the cosmos, particularly first thing in the morning, and particularly on long days like today, when I will be prepping for said LSAT and need cosmic forces on my side?

Here’s a more specific thing about the breakfast burritos:

[I hope this helps you understand.]

That’s a flour tortilla stuffed with eggs, bacon, sausage, cheddar cheese, and the most perfect breakfast potatoes ever. It also comes with pico de gallo, which happens to be one of my top ten favorite things to eat.

And these burritos, as I have said, call unto me.

They call unto me with the siren song of sausage and bacon, luring me away from my beloved, faithful Puffins to crash upon the proverbial rocky shores of burrito deliciousness and impending regret.

Because, you see, these breakfast burritos are always, always astoundingly delicious. Until I hit the exactly two-thirds mark, at which point I am instantly hit with an aching headache of indeterminable duration, and the resulting pangs of regret (and sometimes stomach pain).

And I swear to myself that the breakfast burrito was not worth the anguish, that I will never purchase one again.


Several weeks later, I will have gotten up especially early, or have worked especially hard on a paper, and I think to myself, The universe is calling me…

And suddenly I’m in the throes of joy that can only be induced by the initial bites of the USC Hospitality breakfast burrito, because the Universe has convinced me that this time only good shall come of what is inside the tortilla.

And always, I have deluded myself. And always, I instantly regret it. Though generally, I am over it by lunch. It’s a vicious cycle. A love-hate relationship.



USC Breakfast Burritos are the Devil’s candy, folks. The Universe hath joined in collusion with the Devil, in fact, to imbue these death wraps with a siren song of pure cheesy evil intended to lead otherwise responsible decision makers such as myself away from the Barbara’s Puffins path of righteousness.

Also, Chairman Mao makes an exceedingly poor breakfast date, and is likewise aligned against the forces of positive breakfast choices.


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A little chili magic

Firstly, I would like to point out that chili is just as delicious on bright, sunshine-y days like the one in the picture in the post below as it is in the bitter cold winter. Why, you ask?

Because chili is from the heavens. It is everything that was ever good and delicious in the world, simmered in a big pot (big pots make things better, don’t you agree?) and served with cheese, extra onions, and preferably a nice complementary carbohydrate. Breads, tortillas, even chips. Come to think of it, I’m not sure there is an un-complementary carbohydrate. It doesn’t much matter — I am an equal-opportunity carb-consumer.

And an equal opportunity chili lover. And maker. In the last couple months, I’ve cooked multiple versions of basic meat chili and white chicken chili, learning to throw in whatever I bought that is remotely chili-ish.

And then. I was browsing this food blog — which I do on a nearly daily basis despite their regular posts about Shake Shack Double Stacks driving me to distraction (oh, smashburger and muenster-stuffed portobello, one day you shall be mine again!) — and found this turkey chili soup recipe. The author clarifies that he calls it a “soup” to avoid the inevitable criticism that turkey does not a real chili make.

But, you see, turkey sometimes can bechili. And I shall apply the transitive property of mathematics to prove it: Because chili = everything that was ever good and delicious in the world simmered in a big pot. (We discussed this earlier.) This recipe = deliciousness in big pot, and therefore this recipe = chili. And you can go ahead and check that math yourself.

Anyways. The point is. Generally I would not advocate stepping off the beat-chili-path. Generally I would also scoff at  But I was possessed by the high-resolution food photography. Possession really is the only explanation, because the recipe called for hominy, which I know for certain has never graced a pantry I’ve known in my entire life, but I bought anyway and found it imparted a delightful corn flavor and just the slightest hint of lime to the final product. Generally, though, as I was saying, that kind of culinary bravery does not always strike, and I chicken out of adding stuff like that at the last minute. (For a second there I even thought I was going to chicken out of the turkey! Ha!)

But I am so glad that I was possessed, because guess what? Besides the hominy, I learned a magical chili secret: ancho chile powder + chipotle chile powder = magical = I ate the chili that was supposed to be frozen for later dinners in three days.

Um, what?

(But if that three days thing was true? That would be a reasonable excuse for why there is no picture. Hypothetically.)

Furthermore. For the sake of full disclosure. Earlier, when I said I was an equal-opportunity carb-and-chili-lover? That was kind of a not true. My heart will always belong to our family chili. And Marie Calendar’s bagged cornbread. And I don’t care what anybody says. (The part about extra cheese and extra onions is true and always will be).

Please excuse me while I make another chili.


Filed under Apartment, College, Cooking, Family

I Love L.A.

Los Angeles is different from Seattle. It’s the people, the traffic, the geography. The weather.

There are many, many days when I breathe in the desiccated Angeleno smog and miss the deep azure of Lake Washington, the slate gray of the skies, the light, dry rains that sustain the fresh verdancy of the region.

And then…

…and then there are the days when I don’t miss Seattle so much.

There are days in mid-January — in the depth of winter — when I wake up to the third straight 80F afternoon, only to look out the front window to the sun shining out on the pool.

There are days when I love L.A.



Filed under Apartment, Los Angeles, Seattle

Some things about today

1) I slept in until 1:00pm. It was glorious. And magnificently slothful, but I’m not the least bit ashamed to admit it. The best part was waking up on my own at nine, checking the clock on my Blackberry (who needs an alarm clock anymore?) and going back to sleep.

2) It is 81F and beautifully sunny. It’s also January, which makes me feel like a total winter-cheater. I spent last winter in Washington, DC, where around this time the view out my window looked like this:

Regardless of the fact that I am currently wearing shorts and a t-shirt and only have classes four days a week, I would trade just about anything to wake up, put on a suit, walk past our national monuments in the freezing cold, and report to work in the Capitol building at 7:15 AM. I miss the whole thing like crazy.

3) I’m reading Pride & Prejudice, for probably the millionth time. For “homework,” which is really a joke, because it is my favorite book of all time, and I’d gladly read it recreationally (and have, several dozen times). But if it’s really required, I suppose I can push through it again. (Is my dedication to my education impressing you right now?)

4) My aunt just reminded me the Miss America pageant is on tonight. Say what you want about it being shallow or whatever. I watch it every year, and fully plan to curl up on the couch with Diet Coke and watch it. I recommend you do the same.


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Westward, Ho!

This spring, I started a West Coast-centric American literature course. The professor asked us to write a one-page commentary about our first exposure to the mythos of the American West— it could be as obscure, creative, or straight-forward as we wanted.

The Oregon Trail — circa late ’80s/early ’90s — was the first thing that popped into my head and onto the page.

When I was in elementary school, I attended an after-school program that received a generous donation of a used Apple II and the accompanying 1985 edition of Oregon Trail. On a floppy disk, of course.

Oh, the waitlist would be hours (sometimes stretching into the next day’s session, even) for a turn to play, a team of three students at a time managing the controls for a single round.

It was magical, and generally fatal for the ill-named, computer-generated pioneers involved. If you went to elementary school between the late seventies and mid-nineties you know exactly what I mean.

And you know exactly what it was like in 1848 — watching that little ox and wagon blip across a black background, over a perfectly flat green field, fording squiggly royal blue rivers (and dying on them, should you happen to actually survive the trek and get sent down the River of Doom).

I will admit that while I may have been among the most enthusiastic players, at eight years old, I was not necessarily the most successful: I bought a lot of oxen, a moderate amount of food, and almost no spare parts (I figured if I didn’t know what a wagon tongue was, I probably wouldn’t need it).

Now I had a more practical friend, Eliza Thornberry (if you don’t get that reference, it’s only because you were deprived of children’s cable programming in the ’90s), who was more successful than the rest of us. She invested in wiser things a Matt’s General Store, like wheels and axles. She chose professions that were reasonable in the game-world — like a farmer. Eliza Thornberry was a survivor (sometimes).

I wasn’t always so lucky. I always chose ‘banker’, because it was the closest I could get to ‘accountant,’ and I thought if anyone could rock the Oregon Trail, real or floppy disk, it would be my accountant father. Unfortunately, the banker and the rest of his party (probably named something ridiculous like Sparkle, Barf, and Bobo, which we all found funny in instances like, “Barf has been bitten by a snake.”) generally ended up ten feet under the Oregon Trail rather than at the end of it.

I also always chose to depart in July, my birthday month, but unfortunately that four-month trip has you in middle America under the scorching summer sun, and to the West coast sometime around December — just in time to freeze to death in the Sierras. Whoops.

But let’s face it, that game was nearly impossible to win anyway. Can someone please tell me why, if I had four healthy oxen and an entire wagon, I couldn’t take more than 49 pounds of a half-ton buffalo I managed to hunt?

And then there were the diseases!

I always died of dysentery. Or typhoid. I was also disgusted when, years later, I learned what dysentery actually was. Gross.

Looking back, between the communicable deadly diseases, random injury, starvation, and river floods, the game stimulated more of a death march then westward migration. (This is why everyone lives in L.A., and no one lives in Oregon. Don’t say I never learned anything from this game.)

How ’bout you? What was your first experience of the mythos? John Wayne (I’m looking at you, Grandpa B!) perhaps? Alternatively, what was your Oregon trail strategy? Did you survive? Was it because you bought a wagon tongue?

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They Call this Homework?!

I love being an English major. Though this is only my second official semester as an English major, I already consider this designation to be a huge part of my identity. I love the classes. I love the professors. I love the experience. And I love the homework.

My first week of English classes, I gaped at the syllabi, which pronounced assignments such as: “On the Road, Jack Kerouac.” The entire novel, for the next class.

Really? I marveled, hardly believing my current fortune, You are “assigning” me to go home and read a whole book? And requiring me to discuss it in class, and then write extensively all about it? Well, if you insist, professor!

300 pages for Fridayyou say? I’ll try and manage! I suppose I could do that instead of working on spreadsheets, if you really think it is that important.

Then I would curl up on the couch with my novel for hours on end because, after all, my professor told me to. Paging through Keats or Poe or Whitman, I would occasionally shake my head in disbelief: I was doing something I loved to do — would have done on my own, recreationally, for no class credit whatsoever — and they called it homework?!

And now I want to share that “homework” with you. When you see posts titled something like, “‘Required’ Reading: Great Gatsby Edition,” I’ll be covering a piece of literature I’m reading. One entry may just be a quote, another may be a longer thought or criticism regarding the piece, but I’ll definitely be talking about books.

Because I am an English major, and I have things to say.

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The First Week of the Semester, Take 2

The first week of the fall semester is a little like camping (if you like that kind of thing). You start out psyched — it’s been awhile since you last camped, you’re seeing a bunch of your friends for the first time in weeks and, yeah, camping takes some work, but it’ll be fun, right?

And then you first get there, and it’s a party — friends, bonfires, barbecues, maybe throw a football around (but it’s laid back — what’s the point of exerting yourself if your sanctioned? *cough, cough*). And sure, you have to set up camp and all, but everyone’s so excited to be there, and even the most type-A camper (or professor) is reticent to dig in to the hard stuff immediately.

Evantually, you find yourself exhausted after hiking impossible distances, scavenging for food, and you’re sick of smelling like smoke. It was fun and all, but you are relieved when you find you’ve survived the revelry and the work and are heading home.

The first week of the spring semester is more like diving into an unheated Olympic pool — one second you’re in slapping around a bank of locker room showers in those Adidas flip-flops (well, that’s what I imagine swimmers wear pre-race, anyway), the next you find yourself standing on a block over half a million gallons of unnaturally blue water, snapping your goggles or flapping your arms (if you’re Michael Phelps) or whatever else you do in anticipation of the imminent physical extertion, and then — the buzzer.

You hit the water, and before you can even register that it is uncomfortably cold, you’ve taken off on an exhausting rat race to a seemingly distant finish back where you started.

And then, of course, you get to the end and realize it was all over in about two minutes of churning chlorine, holding your breath, and somersaulting off walls, and you feel a sense of relief even though you are not yet certain of the result.

So here’s to the spring semester.

And I guess Michael Phelps.

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Filed under Camping, College, Los Angeles, School, swimming