Monthly Archives: September 2009

Freelancers = Cheap Cows?

Okay, I’m probably going to get myself into a lot of trouble for this, but…as I sat in my little Brooklyn studio this morning, ever the diligent worker bee for a number of different outlets, I couldn’t help but think of the age-old adage, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”

That’s kind of how I feel about my career these days. And I guess it’s not a *completely* accurate analogy as I’m not writing for free, but, I mean, think about it: The milk is cheaper.

And I’m not sure if it’s a function of the economy and that it’s REALLY that there are TONS of places out there that would love to hire me full-time if only they could (but they just got out of a serious relationship? And are just not in the right place right now? And are incapable/unable to give me what I want/need? Or have had plenty of long-lasting, meaningful relationships with writers who are comfortable with non-exclusivity?)…OR…if it’s really that these places like to get together every once in awhile but are really not looking for anything serious…and are happy to string me along as long as they possibly can until the next poor chump comes along.

And, I mean, who are we kidding? A girl’s gotta pay her rent and a girl’s gotta eat, so…until Nora Ephron turns my book into a screenplay (or Mr. Wonderfulpants falls from the sky), I don’t really have a choice. But it did sort of hit me…in a kind of Carrie Bradshaw-esque voiceover with a closeup of typing across a Mac screen: Are freelancers the trollops of the media industry?

I don’t have a ton of time to expound upon this right this red, hot minute (as noted above — I’m a working girl!), but I feel like the past couple of days have been full of epiphanies and whatnot, so let’s maybe push a giant metaphorical pause button and revisit this after my deadline?

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Filed under baseball, feminism, Javy

Well, folks, this is what four dozen cupcakes looks like.

Soon they will be on their way to 48 Lounge…

GIT Cupcakes

And, really, it was kind of an atypical LL baking experience in that there were no real crises (although maybe that’s a dangerous thing to say as I still haven’t transported them yet…I didn’t mean to tempt fate — really…)

I mean, I think the icing on the orange carrot cupcakes could probably be a little thicker and the frosting on the chocolate peanut butter cupcakes could probably be a little thinner (but I already added two extra teaspoons of whipping cream and didn’t want to go overboard, you know?), but otherwise, everything turned out pretty much okay.

The only other snafu was that I went to the grocery store yesterday and forgot to get eggs…so had to buy a dozen this morning at the bodega around the corner…and I used quarters because I couldn’t be bothered to go to an ATM. But, I mean, they were $1.79, so it was only eight quarters…so it wasn’t that bad, was it?

So…all of this is to say I don’t really have anything else to say…making this a shockingly short post, no? And with visuals, too, no less! I’m really shaking things up here. Be prepared for *anything* next time.

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Filed under cupcake, eggs, gadgets, peanut butter

My Big Baking Week

Well, wow, after such an overwhelming response to my post about maybe leaving New York, the next is sure to be somewhat of a letdown…but, those of you who have been with me from the very beginning may be comforted to see me return to my roots: Next week is going to be a BIG baking week.

At 6:45 on Tuesday, for example, I have to drop off four dozen cupcakes for an Ad Week event sponsored by Girls in Tech. I got a cupcake carrier at Target yesterday that holds 24 (I LOVE these kinds of gadgets…and welcome any excuse to scoop them up)…and I think I can make do with existing Tupperware for the other 24. The question now is what *kind* to make. I could always fall back on red velvet…and the organization seems to like pink, so I could easily dye the frosting and/or not use as much food color to instead create pink velvet. Or there’s…

Carrot Cupcakes with Orange Icing

Zucchini Ginger Cupcakes…but I don’t really want to buy crystallized ginger.

White Chocolate Cupcakes with Candied Kumquats (which, let’s face it, I would totally make just to be able to say, “Oh, those? They’re white chocolate cupcakes with candied kumquats” as if it was no big thing…)

Carrot-Coconut Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Black-and-White Cupcakes

Brownie Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cupcakes

And…Orange-Cardamom Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting are indeed intriguing…but, orange-flower water? Give me a break.

(I also just noticed you can now print a shopping list from recipes on Epicurious.com — good move, guys.)

I think at this point, I’m going to plan on Carrot Cupcakes with Orange Icing and Brownie Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting. They both seem to have the best tastiness to uniqueness to ease-of-prep to ingredients-I-already-have-on-hand ratios.

THEN…September 24 (just two short days before, you know, the 26th) is National Punctuation Day which (admittedly odd) is celebrated this year with a baking contest. (It also brings me no end of joy that there is a link on the Web site for the Official Meatloaf of National Punctuation Day…which I implore you to seek out because — related — this may be the best thing I’ve read all day: “I thought, what if someone scooped the ground beef into an aluminum tin in the shape of a punctuation mark?”)

I think this is a no-brainer though: If ever there was a time to make chocolate chip cookies, this is it. PLUS, I don’t have to settle on just one punctuation mark with these cookies…I can mix and match commas and periods to create semicolons, colons, ellipsis…and *that* is a great relief to the Libra in me.

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Filed under birthdays, chocolate, cookies, cupcake, entrees, gadgets, parties, peanut butter, red velvet

New York, We Have to Talk…

New York and I have had a good run. For more years than I’d care to admit, we’ve been really happy together.

I’ve had plenty of those Only-in-NY Moments. Take, for example, the homeless guy who peed in an empty bag of potato chips on the E train on my morning commute once. Or the Michael Jackson birthday party in Prospect Park. Stuff like that doesn’t happen anywhere else…and I guess there’s a sort of pride attached to it when you live here and you get to go to those things because you’ve made a conscious decision to be here.

I’ve had my fair share of celebrity sightings: Dianne Wiest, Gabriel Byrne (we live in the same ‘hood — he used to go to Cafe Scaramouche before it became Buttermilk Channel), Debra Messing, Uma Thurman, Steve Buscemi, Chase Crawford, Mario Cantone, and that tall guy from Law & Order SVU. Denny Doherty of the Mamas and the Papas starred in the musical that was performing at the theater where I worked my first summer in New York. And I interviewed the Naked Cowboy once…and had “Hi Lisa, it’s Naked…” on my voicemail for a really long time.

I’ve had some really good times here and I’ve met a lot of wonderful people and I’m so, so glad I did that big, scary thing and moved here by myself all those years ago.

And for a long time — whether because of work or school or my own personal dramas — I’ve sort of been gliding along here. I built myself a home. And for the first time since California circa 1994, I’ve felt like there’s this one place in the world where I belong. And, sure, I hate the uncertainty of freelancing and wish things had turned out differently post-J-school, but…for the most part, I’ve been fine. Sure, it’s a busy place that sucks a lot out of you…and I always looked forward to escaping to Alaska because it’s pretty much the exact opposite of New York in every way and I could actually slow down for a bit and breathe in new surroundings and see places that were untouched by virtually anything and come back feeling like I could face everything again.

No more Alaska though — this year I went to Arizona and New Mexico. The trip had about the same effect, I guess…but returning to New York in July was the first time I haven’t actually been excited about coming back. Usually I can’t wait to get back to my apartment and my life. But I didn’t feel that way this year. And, for the first time, I started noticing things that never bothered me before — it’s dirty; it’s crowded; it’s full of egomaniacs.

Then I went away again — and the same thing happened upon my return. I just don’t feel the same about being here anymore. And somewhere along the way in either Colorado or Illinois on my *next* trip, it hit me: I think I’m ready to leave New York. I’m happier when I’m not here.

And, granted, it’s not exactly reality when I’m away because I don’t have to spend eight, ten, twelve hours in front of a computer writing asset management stories or applying for jobs or pitching freelance ideas or working on the Great American Novel (…or copywriting)…so maybe it isn’t entirely fair to blame unhappiness directly on New York. But, at the same time, I’ve done some freelance work while I’ve been away…and I still think it’s safe to say I’m happier in other places. (A New York friend even observed that I look happier in the photos on Facebook that were taken in other cities…)

Last weekend was my first weekend back in a long time. And I made lasagna and empanadas (which turned out BEAUTIFUL because I watched one of the chefs at Xoco very, very carefully and tried to mimic what she did…). And I realized how happy cooking makes me. (That’s one bad thing about so much traveling — I haven’t really cooked much.) I don’t really have the budget or the appetite to cook every day…but on those days that I do, the act itself always makes me happy…which sort of begs the question of culinary school, but that’s a whole other can of worms I’m not really ready to open yet. (Plus, writing still makes me happier than anything. So, ideally, I’ll be able to forge out a living combining the two someday…)

For now, I’m expanding my job search…and we’ll see what happens. (It’s never a bad thing to have additional options, right?) If I get my dream job in New York, I’ll stay. I’ll put up with insane rent and try to make an agent fall in love with my book proposal and maybe someday I’ll be on The View telling the ladies what a rough spot it was in ’08-’09 before my life really took off.

Or…maybe the reason nothing has worked out here is because I’m not meant to stay. Maybe I should really be somewhere else. (The problem is that my life is in so many places…I don’t know where to go. For a long time I’ve said that I think my wedding will be the only day in my life when everyone I love is actually in the same place. Although I guess the glass-is-half-full spin is that I could really go anywhere. And that got me thinking about how happy I was when I lived in England…and that it’s crazy that I haven’t been back in seven years…so I think a trip to London is imminent.)

The sort of depressing part is that job opportunities didn’t expand exponentially when I started looking across the country. There is a pretty darn good one in Dallas…and a sort of okay one in Denver…but other than that, I really haven’t seen anything. (So…maybe it’ll be culinary school after all, eh?)

Nevertheless, I spent the good part of a morning this week looking at apartments in Dallas and realized that for less than half of what I am paying now, I could get an apartment with an actual bedroom and a dishwasher and a washer/dryer and access to pools and fitness centers and all sorts of crazy stuff. And I could finally get a golden retriever! (I even looked at breeders in Texas and found one that traced the lineage of its puppies on its Web site and the father of a litter that was due last September was related somewhere along the line to a dog named Miss Racey Lacey. Gotta be some sort of sign, right?)

If I was still exceedingly happy in New York…or if I was even taking advantage of living here anymore, I wouldn’t be looking beyond its limits. But I think I’m ready for a change. And now all I have to do is figure out what that actually means.

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Filed under Alaska, appliances, Brooklyn, Mamas and Papas

A Consistent Bacon Theme…with the Best Burgers in Chicago and Pies to Boot.

My fat-themed trip to Chicago began with K meeting me at O’Hare with a pumpkin spice latte (say what you will about Starbucks, but it’s become a rite of fall…), which was absolutely perfect as my flight from Denver left at 6:40 and I needed just a *little* more coffee to really feel like Lisa.

Our first stop was Vosges, a chocolate shop with the tag line “Haut Chocolate.” We were there specifically for a bacon bar, but discovered there were actually several to choose from — milk, dark and caramel toffee. I don’t actually remember which of the chocolates I liked better with the bacon bits (it’s sweet and salty…which is one of the reasons I used to love Take 5 so much…), but I generally like milk chocolate better, so that was probably it. The bacon caramel toffee was certainly good, but we couldn’t tell there was any bacon in it…which may defeat the purpose of actually buying bacon chocolate. But, in the end, neither one of us was compelled to buy a whole bar…in part because I could not tell how much they were…and if I had to ask, maybe I couldn’t afford it? (Turns out they’re about $7.50 each…so it might be worth it as a special treat for bacon lovers.)

From there, we stopped off at Dominick’s (…which sells Safeway products! A nice little kickback to my California roots…) for pie ingredients. K is participating in the Bucktown Apple Pie Contest on October 18 and wanted some pointers. I told her the one big thing I learned from the 2007 APC Crisco National Pie Championships — Plain apple won’t do it. You HAVE to have something unique and/or distinctive. — and we found a recipe on Epicurious for a Deep-Dish Caramel Apple Pie. (She actually used her iPhone to do it…which made me long for one even more…but then I worry that I will never be able to make calls in my apartment as the reception is so bad…and I continue to hem and haw…)

We used my aunt’s crust recipe…and, in all honestly, all I think K needs to do is practice a bit to get her confidence up…and *maybe* purchase a few tools (a pastry blender! a pie crust shield! a silpat liner!). Otherwise, the only advice I gave was the standard “make sure your water is really, really cold” and “don’t let the dough get too sticky.”

And…even though the recipe does not call for an upper crust, we improvised a bit and added one…and I think the pie was better for it. It was definitely a memorable spin on standard apple.

After baking, we hit up the Bristol…which allegedly serves a Bacon Manhattan for brunch. We thought maybe we could ask nicely and they would serve us one anyway for happy hour, but, alas, the barkeep said he did not have the right bacon-infused booze on hand. He later let me try some bacon-infused scotch (and the brunch menu says the Bristol’s Manhattan is made with bacon-infused Dewar’s, so…?)…and I told him I liked it better than regular scotch — the truth! — but I did not tell him that I do not like regular scotch. The bacon infusion sort of took the edge off of it…and totally made it drinkable. (Another bonus? They had duck fat fries…which I have been unable to try at Hot Doug’s for TWO consecutive Chicago trips. [They are only served on weekends.])

After meeting up with K’s new husband, we headed over to Kuma’s Corner for what was supposed to be one of the best burgers in Chicago. I don’t like eggs, so the Kuma Burger (with fried egg) was out, but it was really hard to decide between the YOB and Iron Maiden and Neurosis (among others). In the end, I went for the Iron Maiden and K ordered the Neurosis…and both were really, really good…on the order of not-much-talking, lots-of-eating kind of good. I was at Subway once with a guy (hey, big spender…) who was sort of shocked that I ordered a sandwich with everything on it…so, what can I say? I like lots of stuff. I actually kind of wish I lived closer to Chicago so I could try some of the other combinations at Kuma’s. Worth noting in so many words: Definitely worth the trip if you’re in the area.

With bellies full of burgers, K’s husband dropped us off at the Green Eye, where we continued to catch up and whatnot…and we were thrilled to see it had one of those collegiate banners hanging from behind the bar that said, “Bacon!” (The theme continues!) And…I’ll blame it on the bacon-infused scotch, I guess, but it maybe seemed like I had nothing to lose by contacting Wall-E at that point…although it was kind of weird when he showed up and I think I was maybe kind of mean and ignored him a little. So. There ended that.

The next day, our first stop was the Hoosier Mama Pie Company…which K had emailed me about long, long ago. We were both kind of sick of sweet stuff — we had, after all, had pie for breakfast — but they had a peach raspberry pie…which contains, like, my two favorite fruits of all time…so I couldn’t not get a piece. (K, for her part, got a slice of bacon quiche.)

We couldn’t eat it right then and there though — so we dropped off the baked goods at K’s house and headed downtown…where K had the brilliant idea of eating at Rick Bayless‘ new restaurant, Xoco. We had to wait in line for a good long while (and a ballsy woman pulled up in a Corolla and wanted someone to give her menus and phone numbers)…but it was totally worth the wait. (Plus, RICK BAYLESS HIMSELF was working in the kitchen…so we were sort of able to gawk while we waited…) K had the choriqueso, I had the milanesa…and by the time we actually had seats, it was another one of those no-talking, more-eating moments. We were approached by a WGN reporter at the end of the meal who wanted to talk about our food. Unfortunately, nerves got the better of me and I sounded like that version of myself that I hate…and even though it didn’t come out very clearly to WGN, it *is* true that my mother LOVES Rick Bayless and that my torta was really good…I just couldn’t think of any other way to describe it while on the hot seat. Perhaps I’ll give it another go here: it was kind of like a grilled cheese sandwich, but with this tomatillo sauce that gave it a little zing…or maybe you could even think of it as a Mexican spin on an Italian cutlet sandwich?

K and I did some kind of arty, shoppy stuff in the afternoon…and then, finally, we more or less ended everything with a trip to (O)enology at the InterContinental Chicago for — that’s right — more chocolate-covered bacon. One of my classmates had tweeted or Facebooked or somethinged about trying chocolate-covered bacon in Chicago…and so we knew we had to add ENO to our fat list, too. And, you know what? It had one of those menus that seems like it would be really fun to write (Another? Le Peep.) and I would totally dig a job like that…except, even though I realize they have a schtick, I might feel kind of like a schmuck with the whole “Wine. Cheese. Chocolate. Sensation.”-thing. Regardless, the chocolate-covered bacon was only available with the “Wine and Swine” Chocolate Sensation…and so that is what we ordered (along with flights called “Tickled Pink” and “Ring Around the Rose”). It also came with a shiitake truffle…which I was not sure about…but our waiter (who looked like Bradley Cooper from afar) assured us we’d wish it had *more* mushroom. I can’t say I really tasted any shroom…it was pretty much just chocolate. And the chocolate-covered bacon was, you know, good. Same sort of sweet/salty combo as before…but perhaps with more salty this time as there was more meat…and it was covered in dark chocolate…which I suppose was a nice complement to the higher chocolate:bacon ratio?

And then that was it. I had to go home and eat leftover burger and pack so I could wake up super-early and fly back to NY. (And I will share my thoughts on *that* momentarily…)

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Filed under beer, chocolate, eggs, frying, gadgets, grilled cheese, hot dogs, pie

You-Know-What-Themed Cookies

A friend is getting married in Denver on Saturday…and the thought only JUST occurred to me that maybe I should bake something for her bachelorette party the night before.

I have never used my Naughty Cakes book and, frankly, I can’t think of a better occasion to try it out for the first time…but, alas, I am a fondant novice…and, as much as I would LOVE to show up with a Greek God cake, for example, there’s the whole transportation issue. (Plus, I am only just realizing that this book is maybe better for bachelor parties. There are a lot more boob-themed cakes than anything else.)

And, so, long story short, I am kicking myself because I Googled “penis cookies” just for the heck of it and — whoa — the first hit from bachelorette.com is a set of penis cookie cutters for only $4.99! I can’t believe I didn’t think of this earlier! (Although, in all honesty, I’m not sure how I’d feel about owning a set of those bad boys forever and ever…having penises mixed in with my Christmas trees, ghosts and Statues of Liberty…)

A search for “penis cookies” *also* happens to pull up this entry…which I enjoyed primarily because she calls them “cockies” — and you have to admit that’s kind of clever.

I was also shocked to discover that there was an event at my alma mater while I was a student that included penis cookies. What’s more, “penis cookies” made it into the headline *and* the lede in the story in the Columbia Spectator. Who knew?

So…I mean, I guess I could make some sugar cookie dough easily enough and then try to shape my own you-know-whats. But I think that would make me feel kind of dirty. And, besides, I don’t really know anyone other than the bride. Do I really want to cement my reputation in Denver as the girl who baked penises?

On the *other* hand, I was thinking about someone like Martha Stewart. And if *she* was throwing a bachelorette party, she would totally do something clever. She asks you to do CRAZY stuff for every other holiday and celebration. Case in point: One of my all-time favorites is this Halloween invitation that asks you to send your guests “a plaster cast of your own index finger, nestled on a bed of preserved reindeer moss.” But, alas, Martha’s Weddings site does not provide much in the way of inspiration for bachelorette baking. (At least as far as I can tell…which suddenly makes me think of a whole new channel for her — “Martha After Dark” or some such — and this makes me laugh…)

So…I may just show up empty-handed on Friday. But! I’ll let this idea simmer…and the next time one of my friends gets married, watch out: I will be revisiting the bachelorette.com idea.

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Filed under books, cookies, gadgets, parties

Fifty Minus Two Equals…Well-Fed Tech Girls?

So…I checked out a Wii event a few months back and one of the organizers kept introducing me as the chick with the cupcake blog. This, of course, spurred everyone to say, “Oh! Are you with Cupcakes Take the Cake?” and I’d have to explain that, no, I don’t write for Cupcakes Take the Cake…and that my blog maybe started out as a pie blog, but it’s really just a mishmash now.

But…wouldn’t you know that the cupcake intro apparently resonated with one of the guests…as I got an email a few days ago asking if I’d bake cupcakes for a Girls In Tech event during AdWeek. They want 50…which, admittedly, is a lot of cupcakes for (little?) me to crank out. But, at the same time, I’ve been complaining forever about not having enough to do…so yesterday I finally agreed to it. However, it seems a lot easier to just do four dozen, so I asked if I could get away with baking 48. And I think this means I have to invest in a serious cupcake carrier.

I’m not sure what *kind* to make though. I feel like I’ve made so many red velvet cupcakes that I am actually blue in the face (note: color juxtaposition purposeful). And I feel like my red velvet always turns out kind of dry. (Aww…remember when I contemplated making blue velvet in order to get rid of all my food coloring?) And — not that I don’t love Girls in Tech, but — I’d like to do this as economically as possible. (The cupcake carriers alone mean I’m spending $40 before I even have any baked goods to transport.) Thoughts?

And, what’s more, the event is on September 22…which is just four days shy of 12 months ’til 30. I still feel like there has to be some sort of fun baking/blogging project I can do to commemorate the last year of my twenties. So…suggestions welcome. (If it nets me a book deal, you officially become my muse.)

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Filed under birthdays, blogs, cupcake, gadgets, parties