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    The Best-Smelling Christmas Tree Is…

    Size didn’t matter. Performance? Somewhat important… but not as important as the deciding factor in picking out the ultimate Christmas tree: the smell.

    Yes, the joy a tree brought to my olfactory senses was the number one decision-making factor in picking a Christmas tree this year. I’m sure other patrons thought I was koo-koo for going around the tree farm and burying my nose in various branches. But hey, I’ve earned the right to be eccentric. I am an actor in Hollyweird after all.

    When I was little, I looked forward to presents from Santa. Now, I look forward to the smells of Christmas: the pine, the peppermint bark, the sugar cookies. It’s the reason I’ll drop $28 on a Balsam & Cedar Yankee Candle every December (ok, more like several Yankee Candles every December) (also apparently I should be buying these from Amazon and not Bed, Bath and Beyond because I just looked at that Amazon link and it’s only $16.49. Well then.)

    Last year, Steve and I nabbed a tree from the lot up the street that was the best size for our home. This year, though, gosh darn it I was going for a tree that smelled amazing.

    O Christmas trees, O Christmas trees, which one of you smells the bestest?

    We skipped the lot up the street this year and drove a little further out to Christmas Ranch Tree Farms, where we thought we’d be able to chop down our own tree (my family did this every year growing up in Connecticut, and it was always super fun… unless there was a blizzard. Then it was super fun and super cold). But when we got there and explored the trees that were still growing out of the ground, we found a selection that was less than stellar. So we just took a nice stroll through them all and then went back to the farm tent, where they had every breed of pre-chopped Christmas tree one could want. And smell.

    Noble Fir? Couldn’t detect a strong-enough scent. Aleppo Pine? There might’ve been a hint of something there. Frasier Fir? That was a little sweet and fruity. Now we were getting closer. Grand Fir? AH-HA! There it was! The quintessential, pine-y, Christmas tree scent. We’ll take this one, please.

    Bonus: It was about as tall as me; just perfect for our living room.

    We brought that thing home, stuck it in its stand, and are now basking in all its lit-up, scented glory. Photos of how we decorated it are coming soon.

    Merry holidays, y’all! And just for fun, here’s my outfit:

    Chunky turtleneck sweater: Abercrombie & Fitch (yes, really)

    Ripped Jeans: Nordstrom Rack

    Shoes: Sam Edelman, found at Nordstrom Rack

    Mini Backpack: A MiniBe by Ju-Ju-Be x Hello Kitty

     

    My Three Thanksgivings

    This past Thanksgiving, I hit peak “American.” With three full Thanksgiving dinners followed by four straight days of scrumptious leftovers, I imbibed. I gorged. I indulged. I may have unbuttoned my jeans to fit in that final mini pumpkin pie bite.

    I don’t regret it.

    I moved to L.A. knowing a scant four people… four people I barely see anymore (mostly for geographic reasons… I’m not a horrible friend, I swear.) I used to fly back east for every holiday and wax poetic weekly about my former concrete jungle lair, New York City. L.A. as a permanent home always seemed like a stretch. Until recently.

    Right now, L.A. definitely feels like my place. Getting married this year and nesting in our condo certainly helped; but Thanksgiving definitely sealed the deal.

    The first T-day celebration was a pre-game: Drunksgiving.

    This was the fourth year in a row I’ve gathered with these friends for a pot-luck, weekend-before-Thanksgiving party. It was tamer than in years past, but still just as festive and yummy. There were card games, there was pumpkin beer, there was a weird-Youtube-video marathon. There were friendly vibes and familiar smiles and that warm, fuzzy, the-holidays-are-finally-here feeling. I’m so lucky to have these friends in my L.A. life.

    The second T-day celebration was unplanned and impromptu. Some family came to visit me for part of the holiday week, and we were supposed to all go over a good friend’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. But when my family members found out that dinner wasn’t being served there until 7:30pm, they decided they wanted to make their own dinner so we could eat earlier.

    Hence, Thanksgiving dinner number two.

    To be honest, this was my favorite Thanksgiving dinner. My dad cooked the turkey and the squash and brussels sprouts and such, and every bite tasted so nostalgic. It was exactly like my childhood Thanksgiving dinners around our dining room table that he used to cook every year. I may have teared up at the first bite of cranberry sauce. I definitely stretched those leftovers for as long as possible.

    Then, after digesting, tuning in for the incredibly exciting results of the Westminster Dog Show (obviously quoting “Best in Show” the whole time), and partaking in a surprisingly competitive game of the card game Phase 10, we headed to the evening Thanksgiving dinner at our friend’s house.

    The sun had set a few hours ago, and as we walked from our car to their house, past all the open windows in the neighborhood with delicious scents drifting out from each one, carrying my homemade mini pies and Steve’s vegan sides, I had another one of those moments. It kind of felt like L.A. was and giving me a big, moon-lit, scented hug. It was so comforting and relaxing.

    Thanksgiving dinner number three was also awesome. My favorite dish: the green bean casserole. This dish had been missing from my previous two T-day dinners, which I didn’t realize until I saw it on the table. And what’s a Thanksgiving without a green bean casserole? Anyway, everything our friend cooked was ah-mazingly delicious (did I mention this friend is basically an amateur five-star chef? It’s cray). As I was sitting around the dinner table, surrounded by family AND friends this time… I felt so, so lucky to have all these people in my life.

    Merry holidays, all! I hope everyone reading this had a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving, and that you’re all able to enjoy this season in the best ways possible.

    Me on Thanksgiving morning. We took a walk to get some coffee/tea from my fav local place and it was packed with people! The owner was there, too and greeting everyone with the biggest smile. Le sigh. I love holidays.

    Outfit details, just ’cause:

    Tee and sweater: Brandy Melville

    Jeans: Nordstrom Rack

    Wallet: A Be Spendy by Ju-Ju-Be

    Shoes: Sam Edelman, found at Nordstrom Rack

    Meanwhile, House Hunting.

    Our condo is pretty cute. Two bedrooms plus a loft, a roof deck and the restaurants/grocery store a block away make it comfy. It’s pretty much in the middle of all the studios where I record, so it’s convenient. It’s just not… ours. We rent it from a guy who takes weeks to fix things that leak or break but loves to pop in with five-minutes notice (despite this being totally against landlord-tenant code). That, plus the carpet and outdated kitchen, are wearing on both of us. So, after settling into married life over the past few months, the hubz and I decided to start hunting for a place to really call our own.

    About two months and 25 open houses later, we are ready to raise a tiny white flag. Someone call in the bugle to play “Taps!” We are so done. I think it was the half-a-million dollar condo we saw today with surprise gas-station views, moldy bathrooms and shabby, outdated finishings that did us in. Or perhaps it was the 2-bedroom condo in the trendiest location we love that went for $120k over asking price (no, I’m not making this up. Foreign money, perhaps? WHO WOULD BID THAT HIGH?). Or, wait, COULD. IT. HAVE. BEEN. the one townhouse we saw that had the right amount of bedrooms, bathrooms, plus an extra office space, plus was walking distance to our favorite street… but we waited too long to bid on? Too long meaning 1 day after the first open house? You see, someone else had actually put in an offer during the open house, which was accepted. Grrr.

    Those rats.

    Oh, and if our realtor could just stop sending us listings for termite-infested houses in that one neighborhood I’ve said about five times I absolutely do not want to live in, that would be great. I even humored her by going to look at one of these termite-infested houses, but practically had a meltdown in the empty living room. NEVER AGAIN. K THANKS.

    Look, I know there is no perfect home that will check off every box on our want-list. There’s always going to be something that needs fixing or compromising on. But it just doesn’t seem right to commit to a home long-term and drain our bank accounts for a place that checks only two out of ten boxes, with those two things being “has four walls and a roof” and “has two parking spaces.”

    GAH.

    And don’t even get me started on how far our budget could get us in other cities. Phoenix? Portland? Almost any place on those damn HGTV house-hunting shows? We’d have soooo many options. In SoCal, though? Literally, you’d cry. I’m crying right now. Ok, I’m being dramatic. I’m totally not crying. But still. Both of our careers are very LA-specific so it’s pointless to torture ourselves by even looking at listings in other states. I don’t know why I do this. Maybe it’s to reassure myself that we are actually not crazy? Or perhaps it’s just some form of psychological self-harm. Either way.

    My point is, after schlepping all over L.A. County for the past two months, things are getting a little disheartening.

    I know, I know. Everything happens for a reason and timing is everything and if it doesn’t feel like the end, it’s the middle, so it’s not over yet so just KEEP TRYING, YOUNG BUCK (that’s probably not how that cliché ends, but I’m sure you get my point). WE WILL PERSEVERE.

    Just not right now, because we are tired and need a real estate break.

    If you Voted for Trump, Please DON’T Unfriend Me

    My Facebook news feed has been peppered with this phrase since Trump won the Republican nomination: “If you support Trump, please unfriend me now.” But now that he’s our incoming President, it’s tripled in appearance and become all-caps: “If you voted for Trump, JUST UNFRIEND ME NOW.”

    Friends, family, and friends that are like family: no matter who you voted for on Tuesday (and even if you didn’t vote at all), please don’t unfriend me.

    Please talk to me instead. I want to have an open and civil dialogue with you, no matter what you believe. I want to understand you, your beliefs, and the experiences you’ve had in the past that lead to your beliefs today. I want to know why you chose what you chose on Tuesday.

    If I sequester myself with only like-minded people or wear blinders when I encounter anyone who is different from me, I will only make the division in our country worse. If I reject people I was once friends with based on their beliefs, I will only aid in spreading more negativity and hate. I will be part of the problem.

    I don’t have to agree with everything someone believes in to have a relationship with them. If I only hung out with people who had the same beliefs as I did… I would have zero friends. I wouldn’t be married, either.

    I have been pro-choice since I learned what it meant at age 13. I have some friends who are staunchly pro-life. I have had questionable experiences with organized religion and do not identify as any religion, but many of my friends hold their religious communities dear. I am a registered Independent and have never voted Republican, but a couple I respect and admire went to the Republican National Convention this year. I don’t think anyone should own guns, yet some of my family members do. I believe in government, yet I dated an Anarchist for many years. I donated to and voted for Bernie Sanders, yet I’ve heard “Bernie Bros” jokes being thrown around in my company. I believe voting is important and my vote counts, yet some people I love didn’t vote and believe their vote wouldn’t have mattered anyway.

    My point is: now is not the time to further divide ourselves from one another.

    I could spend all my time ranting on Facebook or at work or at parties about how everyone should be a feminist, but if I’m only surrounding myself with other feminists, it’s not going to make a difference. I’d be preaching to the choir.

    Now, the majority of my friends are as liberal as I am. And yes, it’s important to be part of organizations and communities that support your beliefs and causes. But, I think it’s just as important to have a diverse human experience and try to understand people who are different from me. In turn, I hope they will listen to and try to understand me.

    There is a part of me that hopes I’ll be able to change some people’s minds by talking to them about my beliefs. But there’s another part , the realist part, that knows that this isn’t always possible. Either way, it’s not worth losing a friend or a family member over this.

    There have been days leading up to this election where I have wanted to throw my computer against the wall while reading comments from people I know online, or stand up and scream “BUT WHY WOULD YOU SUPPORT THAT?!” to people I know. I have cried when I learned certain people I love supported Trump, and was later overjoyed when they withdrew their support. I have rolled my eyes when others declared they were abstaining from voting. There have also been days when I’ve sat with friends and ranted about close-minded, conservative, “nostalgic” thinking.

    But, if I shut out everyone who is different from me, then I’m emulating the exact behavior I’m against. I refuse to be a close-minded, provincial shut-in.

    So please, if you and the people in your life are on the opposite ends of major issues, don’t shut them out. Practice tolerance. Try to have a dialogue. And yes, there are exceptions to this (as with everything). If they’re spewing major hate speech, threatening you or making you feel unsafe, etc., then it is not worth it. But hopefully, by opening up the possibility for dialogue, we can all begin to heal.

    Hi, I’m Cassandra. I voted for Bernie because I wanted change. Then I voted for Hilary because I saw it as a vote against Trump. I’m nervous about the next four years. Let’s understand each other.

    September Fresh

    My internal “New Year’s” is always set to September. It’s the only month of the year that I re-prioritize my day, set new personal and professional goals, and start making lists. Lists for everything! New books I want to read, new clothes to add to my wardrobe, new places I want to visit. Something about September says “endless possibilities.”

    Of course, this freshness is leftover from my school days. When I was a kid growing up in Connecticut, nothing felt as new as another academic year in a new school or with different teachers. The difference between August (long, lazy, humid pool days) and September (structured, bustling school days) felt so extreme compared to December’s days (cold and dark) and January’s days (even colder and darker). To this day, January 1st is for changing the date. The day after Labor Day is for changing your life.

    Oh sure, I always try to hold onto summer’s last gasp, especially now that I live in Los Angeles. The beach still beckons, the temps still accommodate cut-off jeans and tees, and the sun still sets just after 7pm. But… it’s not the same. The air smells different. The energy of the city feels different. Daylight Savings and lower temperatures are looming.

    Man, I miss going to school. I was telling Steve this weekend that part of me wishes I could be a full-time academic, where responsibilities include going to classes, researching and publishing papers. Of course, my career is pretty sweet, but you know, the grass is always greener…

    There have been a few years where I’ve signed up for “continuing education” classes at UCLA to indulge my nerd brain. This isn’t one of those years. But, that hasn’t stopped me from indulging in my obsession with new school supplies, backpacks, and the most versatile skirt I own: a high-waisted, pleated black one that I’ve had for years.

    Ju-Ju-Be sent me their newest fall print, “Sweet Scarlett,” in their BRB style, and I’ve been running around LA with it all weekend. It came with me to Jazz Night at LACMA, to the Echo Park Lake and to the Rose Bowl Flea Market. The colors and pattern are fall-perfect. It’s available beginning Tuesday, Sept 13th at select retailers and Shop Ju-Ju-Be online. In these photos, I’m wearing the aforementioned black skirt (Zac Posen for Target) and a J. Crew top. And yes, I’m aware that I look a little bit like a kid going back to school. Hey, ‘tis the season.

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