Category Archives: birthdays

Dead Pitch #4: Birthday Eats

Granted, the weakest of the bunch. But can I really be blamed? ‘Tis September…

No one may care about them again until they break up or until the next season of The Bachelor begins, but Bachelorette Ali’s birthday celebration from Roberto last week included a cake presented on-air during her morning TV segment for Fox 5 San Diego, dinner at Nobu and champagne at the Hard Rock Café.

All in all, not a bad way to ring in 26. I just made plans to go to Atlantic City and try Bobby Flay Steak to, err, not ring in 26. Birthdays are good excuses to let yourself eat whatever you want or to try out a new place. And…we could have asked readers about their most memorable birthday cakes or meals?

Image via normanack/Flickr

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A Letter to Lucky Brand Jeans, Regarding Its Defective Pathwork Mailbag

Anyone who has seen me in the past 3+ years knows my purse. As you’ll read below, I bought Lucky’s large patchwork mailbag about that long ago and absolutely loved it. However, when it came time to replace it, I couldn’t find the large version and settled for the smaller bag. It also came with a different handle…which turned out to snap off every so often, requiring constant repairs. It has been, in a word, inconvenient. (And if I was to give a really good scolding, I’d say, “Disappointing,” too.)

I just read a review online that warned of this defective handle — so I’m not the only one.

So — a warning: They’re cute, but be careful when considering a handbag from Lucky Brand Jeans…unless you have a leathersmith in your household who delights in fixing the shoddy handle.

I just read a story about a man whose parents had a relatively new GE stove and the glass on the front exploded and broke into a million pieces. The dad had trouble getting anywhere with customer service and so the son contacted GE via Twitter and they were enormously helpful and his dad was super-happy because the oven was fixed almost immediately.

I realize my case is in all likelihood a matter of “buyer beware,” but I was so mad the darn thing broke again the other night, I emailed customerservice@luckybrand.net *and* I called them out on Twitter. We’ll see if Lucky is as concerned about its online rep as GE was…

Dear Lucky,

About three years ago, I bought one of your large patchwork mailbags. I loved it. It became my signature bag. In fact, my mother liked it so much that *she* bought an identical bag and whenever she visited me, we walked around with matching purses…

Eventually, however, the bag became a bit worn out and I realized I needed to replace it. I wanted the same bag. Sadly, I could not find the large bag anywhere — not on the Lucky site and not on Amazon. I eventually decided to go with the smaller version. I bought it at Macy’s on September 26, 2009 — my birthday.

As you know, it is almost September 26, 2010…and the strap on the second bag has broken countless times already. At first, I was able to glue it back together and make said repair every few weeks (cheaper than taking it to a professional who works with leather, although, in hindsight, I could have perhaps saved myself a lot of grief by getting a pro to fix it in the first place). At the same time, however, it’s not like this is a cheap knockoff I bought off the street. Sure, there are lots of more expensive purses out there, but I still paid decent money for this one.

And, alas, I was out with friends the other night and the OTHER side of the strap snapped off and now the bag is completely useless again. I am tired of trying to fix this defective handle. It’s a pain to glue it and it’s a pain to take it to a repair shop and to be without a bag for several days. When I spend $150+ on a purse, I expect it to at least make it to its first birthday in one piece.

So…even though I loved my first large patchwork mailbag more than any other purse I’ve ever had before, I’m afraid I don’t trust Lucky enough to risk buying another bag that might have shoddy craftsmanship. It’s a shame, but my next signature bag will not be a Lucky. And you’ve lost what was once a very happy customer.

Images attached so show the defective handle from both sides, as well as the now-useless purse in its entirety.

Best,

Lisa Lacy

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Pop-Tarts World Beckons…But Guess Who Still Hasn’t Gotten Frosted.

As thankful as I am to have new freelance gigs, blogging for CafeMom’s The Stir has not left me with a whole lotta energy to write about even *more* food topics here.

Plus, I may or may not be gainfully employed for a bit…making it even less likely that I will have the oomph to write about food (or food-ish topics) when I get home.

Thus, my blog has been neglected. (And after conning my friends into supporting me on Facebook no less. Sheesh.) Now it’s practically September…which means Labor Day and Back to School and Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and I AM ALMOST 30.

So. A lot on my mind…but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking of you, my dear blog/readers…

I read this story about Pop-Tarts World when it was published on August 8 (!) and I thought it would make a great blog post. In a perfect world, I would have visited the Times Square location by now and would have the inside scoop on Pop-Tarts sushi, vending machines that enable you to create your own variety packs and how you can get “frosted.” But, sadly, the best I can do is tell you that it exists. And that I think the idea is pretty great (…and I applaud the Pop-Tarts marketing team…)…even though I’d probably pick Pillsbury Toaster Strudel over Pop-Tarts any day of the week.

Image via oskay/Flickr

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Ode to Big J on her 30th Birthday…

Oh, my oldest childhood friend who in junior high dubbed herself Big J; (…which my mother swore you’d regret someday…)

We’ve known each other since the third grade; and lost a plate in the oven once while Bagel Bites were being made.

You’ve been my beloved Valentine since we lost your boyfriend in Chinatown; and you’re the only other person I know who loves trying on tacky gowns.

We wrote about apes and monkeys in our sixth grade class; and you bumped a straw up my nose that same year while we were making masks.

You introduced me to the Irish Rovers and wonders of the Emerald Isle; and I will forever associate shelled reptiles with you, my little turtlephile.

We found maggots in Mississippi in a box of muffin mix; and you totally got me out of my comfort zone in a Costa Rican jungle while getting your ziplining fix.

No one appreciates James Joyce and/or Ulysses as much as you, Big J…; and so best wishes for the happiest birthday ever today!

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Ode to Jonathan on His 30th Birthday

Oh, my beloved Jonathan, you’re one of my favorite people and when you turn 30 it’s a really big deal; but what can I do to honor you and accurately portray how I feel?

I wish I could have hopped on a plane to see you in Atlanta for the real celebration; but, sadly, I’m broke and we live in entirely different parts of this great nation.

So, stuck in Brooklyn, I pondered, “What’s a girl to do?”; and that’s when I realized my only choice was to compose an ode to you…:

We didn’t have much time together in high school before we graduated in 1998; but we kept in touch — even though we went to college far, far apart — which surely must have been FATE.

I have fond memories of the 69 Boyz blaring from Javy, which is what you named your car; and you said it hurt your heart when pictures of me surfaced at a Florida Gators bar.

(I swear I didn’t know they were playing UGA that day!; I had a homesick friend from Florida, but felt like a traitor and wouldn’t have otherwise been compelled to stay!)

You were mesmerized by the Wall of Lisa in Auntie Leslie’s hall; and a waiter called me “jailbait” when I was dining at Chevy’s with y’all. (…that’s you and Katie…)

You listened to me freak out in a parking lot when a teetotaler caught me with a bottle of wine; and you helped me unearth a pink bikini in Miami that — shockingly — looked fine.

You were my date to a wedding when there wasn’t a straight boy in sight; and then I bowled barefoot and passed out on you in the car home that night.

My own father joked (to you!) that I’d have to be tackled and sedated on *my* wedding day; and, if anybody understands what that truly means, it’s you, my friend who’s gay. (I’m sorry! Bad rhyme!)

Bring it On always makes me think of you; and one of my favorite text messages of all time was when you wrote, “Wisconsin smells like poo.”

You’ll always be my buddy Jenelope; even though (or directly because?) you’ve never big-worded me.

So here’s to another decade I know will see you in good stead; Love — one of your biggest fans! — LaFred.

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Roman Holiday

My latest Big Thought? Rome. I want to go to Rome.

It sounds like maybe Japan isn’t in the cards anymore…and I was happy as a little clam going all over creation last year. I’ve been in New York now for FOUR STRAIGHT MONTHS. It’s time to plan an escape.

And then yesterday, as I was finishing Frank Bruni’s Born Round (which isn’t about Rome outright…but there *is* a brief section on his tenure as the Rome Bureau Chief and he *does* hail from a large Italian family…), it hit me: I should go to Rome.

I really liked Bruni’s latest book — and not just because I once went to a party at the apartment he talks about in the final chapters. I totally get his relationship with food — from the late-night binges as a means of self-healing and escape to the cherished articles of clothing that allow you to hide your imperfections (my beloved cardigan was at the dry cleaner for four days and I almost died. And it didn’t help that I had a claim ticket that said it would be ready on Wednesday…and when I arrived on Wednesday to pick up aforementioned-blogged-about-beloved cardigan, the woman was on the phone forever and then gave me serious attitude — “This says Wednesday!” — which made me panic for a moment and think, “OhmygodisitTuesday?” but then I remembered that I had fake-gambled that morning for the first time that week, so it was definitely Wednesday and said as much and she said, “This means Wednesday NIGHT.” And so I waited another day…). And, I mean, Dude was the restaurant critic at Times, so I suppose he has a way with food words…but, man — his descriptions of meals in and around Rome seriously made me want to go (in some parallel universe in which I have unlimited cash and speak flawless Italian…[which reminds me of an old roommate’s friend from Rome who once taught me to say, “Stai fuori come una Jacuzzi in giardino!” which, if memory serves, translates to, “You’re out like a Jacuzzi in the garden!” and basically means, “You’re crazy!”]).

Missing Italy (and, frankly, Greece…and Ireland…and Norway…) is one of my big regrets from my two years in England. (But, at the same time, I was a poor student…so it’s not like I never got around to it…[again, it’s unfortunate we don’t live in that world in which I have lots of money and speak lots of languages]). And it’s crazy to think that’s been eight years since I’ve been back (which is all beginning to sound a lot like “New York, We Have to Talk,” isn’t it?)…

I’ve also heard a lot of talk lately about Eat, Pray, Love (once from a fake-gambler who vowed to punch the next middle-aged lady he sees on the train reading it…but also from a J-school colleague). And…gotta say: I was totally with Elizabeth Gilbert when she was in Italy. Gorging yourself on pasta and practicing Italian with a charming young man are two things that make absolute sense to me. (But, alas, I found I identified with her less and less as her journey went on…and, honestly, I thought she was kind of a jerk to the guru in Bali. I know he *expected* her to abandon him and move on…but, still…seemed a little mean to me to drop him like a bad habit as soon as she met the Old Guy…)

And…so, minus the Praying and the Loving, I wanna do it, too — I want to go to Italy and eat pasta and bread and cheese and gelato until I weigh twice as much as I did before. And I want to sit on the Spanish Steps. And I want to throw a coin in Trevi Fountain. And I want smarmy men with slick hair to tell me I’m beautiful even if they don’t mean it and I want to say, “Ciao!” and “Grazie!” and to ride on the back of a Vespa with Gregory Peck. And I want to marvel at old things.

So…perhaps the Big Birthday is a reasonable goal. What better way/place to usher in the next decade of my life than in the Eternal City?

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My Fancy-Shuffling, Fake-OTBing, Hair-Scam-Avoiding, 33-Cent-Cheese-Meltdown-Witnessing, Old-Lady-Cursing Wednesday

Remember those commercials during the Olympics with the snowboarder that snowboarded right off into space while Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” played? Well…I wouldn’t call today a perfect day per se…but it was sort of strangely nice and/or memorable for a lot of little reasons:

1. I fake-gamble part-time to support myself now (…I had lunch with a friend from Martha last weekend and she said I should start a blog to debunk the myths of the New York freelance writer’s lifestyle — which sounds so glamorous! — but actually involves a lot of slapstick antics to make ends meet…) and I’ve felt that I can’t emerge from this experience without the ability to shuffle cards in a fancy way. I’ve always wanted to learn some card tricks…and I spend 18 hours a week with 416 cards now, so mastering the Fancy Shuffle (…which I Googled! And learned is called the Bridge Shuffle! And, I gotta hand it to SuperCardKid — he explains it really well…) seemed like a totally reasonable goal. And…it’s a very high-tech table that we play on and sometimes it dies and we have downtime…which is what happened today. So…I decided today was the day I was going to crack the Fancy Shuffle…and I did! I mean, I’m a long way from impressing anyone…but I at least figured out how to shift my hands to make the cards fall back in on one another after I’ve shuffled them. (Before long, people will totally be coming to my apartment for Poker Night…)

2. Some of my comrades at the fake-gambling place like to really gamble…and, like I said, we were twiddling our thumbs this PM…and one of them had one of those OTB horse guides? And we were looking at the horse names and I saw one called “Im a Mosaic Rockstar” and said, “That’s it. That’s the horse I would bet on…” and — guess what — the horse I picked totally WON. So…the real gambler then asked what horses I liked in the next race…and three names popped out at me, but I only remember two: Downtown Hottie and Lady Gracenote. And I believe my fellow fake-gambler actually *put* $6 on these choices. And part of me would really be thrilled if it turned out that I have a hidden talent for picking good horse names…but he didn’t say anything like, “Oh, man, Lisa! You hit the trifecta!” (or whatever…) so I’m assuming Im a Mosaic Rockstar was my one-time hit. (Still a little thrilling though…)

3. People stop me for directions a lot. And…today, while I was on my lunchtime constitutional, a woman stopped me and said, “Excuse me?” and I stopped because I assumed she needed help figuring out where to go…but then she said, “Where do you get your hair done?” and *that* is totally a scam, isn’t it? I’ve had people stop me before and ask that very same question and it turns out that they want money or personal information or something…(although maybe I’m wrong? I Googled various street-salon-scam term combinations and came up empty-handed…which maybe means she was legitimately wondering where I get my hair done…but…I doubt it. I had my luxurious brown locks pulled back in a ponytail today…and it may have been a nice ponytail…but it wasn’t anything that was going to stop traffic). And…as soon as I discovered that she was not a poor lost soul but rather thought she could sucker me into some hair scam, I was sorry I stopped…but instead of having a normal reaction, like, “I’m sorry — I have to go…” I pulled a Lisa and ended up blurting out, “I have to go!” with wild eyes and, long story short, if she *did* just want the name of a hairdresser, I’ll bet she thought I was a real weirdo.

4. I’ll just come right out and admit I ended up at a McDonald’s — and I know you’re all judging me now, but I had a good reason…and yet if I was to pull *another* Lisa and explain *how* I ended up at this McDonald’s, it would be very much like my old coworker Paulie said the other night — that my stories are like a John Bonham riff in a Led Zeppelin song — and/or imply that there is something WRONG with going to McDonald’s…and there isn’t. So…we’ll leave it at that. I was there. The End. (Almost…)

I ended up next to this dude who ordered two Filet-o-Fish sandwiches…and then appended his order with, “But I want them to be FRESH. And they need to be HOT.” And the guy behind the counter sort of said, “Sure…okay…” and I thought, “Wow. Yes. Right. I’m sure they’re going to go out of their way to give your Filet-o-Fishes some tender loving care…” And, I mean, I guess I shouldn’t judge either, but…it was a little high-maintenance, no? (And this is coming from ME…which really says something…) There’s a time and place, right? My mom used to (and perhaps still does…I just haven’t seen her order seafood in awhile…) ask if the salmon on the menu was farmed or not (or something)…and I understand that if you’re, you know, coughing up some change at an actual sit-down place, you can make requests like that. But…this was McDonald’s. You sorta get what you get, right? (I confess I actually really think the latest commercial is catchy…) But THEN the guy says, “And I don’t want half a slice of cheese. I want a whole slice of cheese on both of them.” And the guy said, “I’ll have to charge you extra…” and he completely lost his mind — “What are you talking about?? The cheeseburgers have whole slices of cheese! Why can’t I get a whole slice of cheese on my Filet-o-Fishes??” and he asked how much he would be charged and the guy said, “33 cents,” and he had another meltdown — “33 cents?? I have to pay SIXTY-SIX CENTS for WHOLE SLICES OF CHEESE on my Filet-o-Fishes? This is ridiculous! Ridiculous!” and on and on and on and ON. They had to get the manager. I left before I learned the outcome…but, man, oh, man…I did not envy the two guys behind the counter who had to deal with him. Yowza.

5. I had to wait for the A and the F trains this afternoon for a super-long time…and noticed a nice old lady get on the train with me at my A train stop…and, since we had to wait so long, the train was totally crowded…and as we were all sort of finding a spot, this nice little old lady says, “Give me some fucking room!” and THEN we got to Jay Street and a B train showed up on the F track…and she shouts, “This is fucking ridiculous!” and THEN she got on the train, but stood in the doorway as we all tried to hear what was going on with this mystery B train and they tried to close the doors with her still in the doorway and she says, “I can’t fucking believe it!” So. In three fell swoops, Grouchypants sort of debunked some commonly held old lady myths.

And then I came home and everything basically went back to normal. The End. (For real.)

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Filed under birthdays, blogs, Brooklyn, cheese, fish, Martha

Covet Thy Neighbor’s Wife? Heck, No! I Covet My Neighbor’s Vacuum.

It seems I have reached a stage in life in which I really want a vacuum.

And…I guess it makes sense as I have become increasingly domestic in recent years…but I’m not sure I was expecting *this.*

It all started with these little fuzzball characters that I glued to my clock radio…which I got in, like, junior high. There were originally about five of them. And my mischievous cat, in various acts of play, managed to remove all but the one that looks like an elephant that I got at Marine World/Africa U.S.A. — also likely in junior high.

And…I got a new patchwork mailbag purse for my birthday, but this one has a wonky shoulder strap and it recently broke again, but I was out of crazy glue…so I had to buy more crazy glue and then I guess I went a little — ahem — crazy and was lookin’ for stuff to glue and, after reattaching the number 9 to my Last Supper Hologram clock (also a victim of the cat), I saw my poor clock radio with only one lonely fuzzball character and two pair of feet where  his brethren used to stand.

Related: Periodically, I take a ruler and a flashlight and fish out whatever said cat has managed to lose underneath my dresser, couch and armoire. So…I figured if I did this again, I might find some of my missing fuzzball friends to glue back on my clock. And, boy, did I…in addition to a zillion hair ties, countless cat toys, a single pushpin, two pieces of junk mail and a postcard from my friend Jonathan. And dust. And cat hair. But — shame alert — not just, like, a normal amount of dust and cat hair. It was more like dust and cat hair were plotting together under said surfaces to overthrow me. And if I had waited any longer, I might have ended up a cautionary tale under a headline in the New York Post like, “Dust Might,” or “When Sally Met Hairy.” I was horrified…and got rid of as much of it as I could…while also wondering if my friends had been talking behind my back about staging an intervention.

And I admit I have tossed around the idea of getting a vacuum in the past…but I always concluded it was one of those cost-prohibitive things and that I could just sweep until my massive book deal.

But I felt in wake of the terrible discovery of what lies beneath my furniture that the vacuum went from an idea to an imperative. And then I began wondering how and when I became the type of person who really wants a vacuum. I guess age is the answer?

I have a big birthday this year…which is part of my life panic, I guess. So much was supposed to have happened by now…but who knew that it would also usher in a new life stage in which vacuums make me happy?

I found one on Target.com that wasn’t *too* expensive…and for a brief, shining moment, I was really excited as — for whatever reason — I am on some sort of I’m-getting-hitched mailing list and I’ve been getting all sorts of mail about planning my wedding…including — drumroll — an invitation from Target’s Club Wedd to register for ten items in exchange for a $20 gift card. (Although, unfortunately, it expired last weekend, so I totally blew it. Although morally I am batting 1.000, I guess.)

So. No vacuum yet. But, as noted, I still want one. This is the face of maturity?

I remember when I reached the point at which I felt I was too old to have posters — I felt I had graduated to framed art. And so I ended up taking a Van Gogh and a Monet from home that I had in my bedroom in high school. And they worked for awhile. But…I don’t really feel they fit anymore now either…and I feel a little silly with them up. I’ve  been browsing Etsy lately and falling in love with various pieces of art…but it seems like everything I find that makes me think, “I can’t live without that!” is in Europe and therefore prohibitively expensive to ship.

Part of me also really wants one of those Warhol-esque canvases with four prints of the same image in different colors. Part of me thinks it would be completely amazing to hang something like that in a prominent place in my apartment — not unlike Eva Longoria on Desperate Housewives — but the rest of me is only brave enough to do something like that if no one ever comes into my apartment ever again. Sort of hard to explain that it’s an inside joke with myself and that the intense narcissism is what makes it funny…although, then again, it’s my damn apartment and I guess I should do whatever I damn well please here.

However…I also sort of feel like Here’s-Me-In-Four-Different-Color-Schemes would only work in the height of Year of Lisa fervor…and — not sure if you’ve noticed — but I’ve tried to tone it down a little. I’m still trying to focus on the book and to hustle to come up with enough freelance assignments to keep me afloat and to be happy…but am maybe slightly less in-your-face about it. And I’m slowly but surely trying to tackle the clutter in my apartment — also a Year of Lisa goal — but I killed my shredder in the act. So. I may have to add “shredder,” to the list, too. But, luckily, a friend is going to Costco soon…so I may be able to kill two birds with one stone. What an efficient and tidy supporter of small artists I am turning out to be?

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Filed under appliances, birthdays, Brooklyn, feminism

No Candy Thermometer? No Problem!

I went to high school with a girl named Yoshi Nishibara and today is her birthday. I don’t know why mumble-mumble-mumble years after we graduated, I can still remember this. But I can. (The first boy I ever kissed celebrated *his* 32nd birthday eight days ago. I don’t know why I remember that either.)

Yesterday, however, was my friend’s husband’s birthday. And…since last year at this time, I was all about vegan baking, I’m afraid my friend’s husband (and my friend…whose birthday happens to be at the end of November) got stuck with more than their fair share of my vegan experiments. And…since I’ve had tres leches on the brain, I decided there was really no better way to celebrate my friend’s husband’s birthday than with a cake that is decidedly non-vegan — three milks *and* a whole mess o’ egg whites.

The recipe I found on Epicurious said that tres leches is a Nicaraguan cake often served during the holidays…which I suppose makes it even *more* poetic as I sorta, kinda spent upwards of five minutes *in* Nicaragua while I was in Central America a few weeks back.

I don’t think my cake pan was *quite* big enough…as the sponge cake sort of exploded over the edge, giving itself a muffin top. But…no worries, I guess…you’re supposed to cut off the hardened top layer anyway. (And, for the record, it smelled really, really good…like, almost worth eating on its own?)

I think my favorite part of making this cake was the meringue. I’ve blogged before about how meringues are my nemesis…(damn you, you ridiculously clean bowl!) but this recipe called for making it in a totally new way…and I confess I was transfixed! You get four egg whites ready in a mixer…and they sit around and wait while you bring sugar and water to a boil on the stove. As soon as the sugar/water mixture is boiling, you start up your mixer.

Now, the directions say to keep the sugar/water on the burner until it reaches “soft ball stage” on a candy thermometer…and then add it to the egg whites and turn the mixer on really high until it is shiny and cool. But, alas, I do not *have* a candy thermometer…just a meat thermometer. And, you know, sometimes my ingenious solutions work out really well…and sometimes they are absolute disasters. Luckily, this time it was the former. (I told an old coworker about this and he said, “Sure…I mean, candy? Meat? What’s the difference?”) I Googled “soft ball stage” and learned that it’s 235°F to 240°F. And my meat thermometer goes up to 220 (although the highest cooking temperature it has listed is 180 for poultry…). So…I decided that I would wait until it hit 220 and then leave it on the burner for another minute or two…and then surely it would be at 235ish. And…I gotta say I was a little skeptical about the adding-it-to-mixing-egg-whites part…but, it totally worked. Like a charm. A beautiful meringue. (I don’t think it looked *quite* as pretty ON the cake…and I briefly flirted with the idea of tossing it back in the oven to brown those peaks…but…then I decided I should maybe leave well enough alone…)

(Sidenote: Candy thermometers really make me feel like it’s the holidays. That’s because [I am told] my great-grandmother was a whiz at pie-baking and candy-making…and it was from her that my aunt learned everything she knows about pies [I think — I *may* be taking a little creative license here…] and my mom learned everything she knows about candy. And so, in the Decembers of my youth, my mother would make fudge and penuche to hand out to friends and coworkers…making this the one time of year she used her candy thermometer…)

So…fun fact: The milks in question are sweetened condensed, evaporated and heavy cream. You mix all of that up with two tablespoons of optional rum (and, who are we kidding? I *obviously* included the rum…but had to buy a GIANT bottle of it…and so will theoretically have a little Captain in me for years to come…). Then you just sort of slowly pour it all over the sponge cake with the sawed-off top and it soaks it up. I was a little concerned that I was over-liquefying it because my cake wasn’t big enough…but I didn’t actually end up sampling it in the end…so…dunno.

I made the cranberry compote, too…which I thought was supposed to be more like a sauce…but, according to another quick Google, is whole fruit in syrup. (Although I think it is crazy-ridiculous that the recipe says to add four cloves…and then to remove said cloves before serving. It’s a big fruity glob — one could spend hours searching for individual cloves. And, for whatever reason, I totally just flashed on a movie with Pee Wee Herman and the circus — Big Top Pee Wee? — in which there’s a really tall guy with a super-tiny wife…and she sings a song about being a needle in a haystack…which I can only imagine is sort of like finding cloves in cranberry compote…[why do I remember that all this time later, too?])

I *also* thought it was kind of funny that the recipe said to add just enough water to make the cornstarch “slurry.” I think I added a *little* too much and in fact made it “wet.” (Cornstarch is some crazy stuff…going from liquid to solid to liquid…it’s almost a little trippy.)

Then…my friend gave me a copy of the latest issue of Yoga Journal that has a story entitled, “The Joy of Baking,” and includes — get this — a recipe for a vegan chocolate cake. (Aww…while I was assembling the tres leches cake, I also found my disembodied Santa and snowman heads that are supposed to go on holiday cupcakes…and I briefly thought about repurposing one for a happy December birthday…but, in the end, I decided that the disembodied heads will be fine in their baggie for another year…)

So…the writer talks about growing up in a remote town and receiving cakes from church ladies who would go out of their way to deliver them to cheer someone up or to celebrate something. THEN she goes on to say that through this practice she “learned early on the joys of nourishing the heart through food.” And she quotes a yoga guy from Berkeley who says, “It’s not unlike the kind of nourishment that comes from romantic love. Food prepared with loving intention is spiritual.”

And I’d never thought of that before! (Insert the obvious joke about how I’ve been able to stay single for so long…) But, I mean…I think she’s right. There *is* something sort of deep and meaningful and connecting-you-to-the-Everyman and whatnot that happens when you bake stuff for people. It makes them happy. And making them happy makes you happy. And that makes you feel good…regardless of how often you actually flex your overtly spiritual muscles. (And surely being a spreader of joy buys you some leeway in the eyes of organized religion?)

And, I mean, I’ve long known the therapeutic effects of baking — still one of the only things that always calms me down when I’m upset — and…as I put the finishing touches on my book proposal, I am realizing that baking-as-coping-mechanism is a really big theme. No matter what’s going on, I’ve always been able to turn to it…and it *always* makes me feel better. (I am actually trying to think of a good title with a new spin on a common baking phrase. Suggestions welcome.)

And I *totally* know what she means about interacting with strangers on the street when she’s hauling around giant baked good carriers…and then the warm, fuzzy part: After baking cakes as offerings for a year, she says she learned “…when we offer up our labor, time, energy, love and craft — humble and imperfect as they might be — with no expectation of return, people respond in kind, and tenderness opens up in the space between.” (Which almost makes me think I should tackle a similar experiment in 2010…)

And, while I don’t really get the yoga connection that she goes on to talk about (I am seriously uncoordinated and exercising in public is one of the things I fear more than anything)…I really like what she says right there. It actually reminds me a lot about Julia Child in My Life in France…who says you should never apologize for any mistakes…because 1) you were nice enough to make something for everyone and they should be gracious, dammit (my paraphrase); and 2) if you’re making them eat something gross, they shouldn’t have to boost your ego, too.

And that’s something that I’m still learning how to do…whenever I offer up something, I immediately want to apologize for all the imperfections — watch out for wax paper on the bottom…and be careful of those cloves I didn’t remove…and it may be too watery…and the meringue looks a little funny… — it’s not easy to just say, “Bon appetit,” and leave it at that.

(And, speaking of Julia, my own sister just MET Julia Powell at a book signing…and she was sweet and asked ahead of time if I had any questions…and I, of course, sent over about 1,000…and, wouldn’t you know? My sister got them all answered for me. [And — hey — I suppose I could even go to the Meat Hook tonight myself…if I am feeling particularly brave.])

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Filed under birthdays, books, brown sugar, cake, cupcake, eggs, gadgets, holidays, parties, vegan

If I hadn’t been writing about Frank Bruni, I wouldn’t have known it’s Ann Coulter’s birthday…

So…I got home last night around 8:00ish and all I had consumed was coffee and water on the planes (I had, like, the perfect amount of time to get from Terminal A to Terminal C in Dallas…without a ridiculous amount of waiting time *or* having to run with my cat-in-a-bag…but it *also* meant I didn’t have a chance to procure sustenance). So. All of this is to say that I was pretty hungry by the time I got back to my apartment…but I obviously didn’t have anything on hand. (Except milk that didn’t spoil! Like magic! Coffee was SO GOOD this morning!) So…SeamlessWeb! (And, like silver white winters that melt into springs, it is one of my favorite things…)

And, you know what? I really wanted Thai food, so I ordered Thai food…and the Thai place near me is one that the Bartender liked a lot, but ordering from there didn’t make me sad *at* *all* (See?? Progress!)…*and* I saw this thing with peanut sauce on the menu that I *had* to order because I was reading Frank Bruni’s latest book on the plane(s) — Born Round…in which he discusses what it’s like to be the proverbial fat kid with an endless appetite who grows up to be the restaurant critic at the New York Times…and I’m only up to his stint at the Detroit Free Press, so I certainly don’t know how it ends yet…but he *did* have a torrid relationship with cold noodles and a peanut-y sauce that he discovered during one of two internships at Newsweek…and so when I saw the peanut thing on the menu, I couldn’t not get it.

And…Frank Bruni is fun to bring up because…I had a coworker once who knew a guy who works at the Times…and who was being relocated to a bureau outside of New York and so Frank Bruni threw a going away party for said coworker’s friend at his apartment. And…I was lucky because my coworker said I could come with him…(as if, after meeting me, Bruni would be instantly enchanted and ask me to be his #2. Or something.) So…what a strange moment it was to be in Frank Bruni’s apartment…and marveling at, you know, the framed photos of him with George W. Bush and whatnot…and my coworker and I were in his living room because there were fewer people in there (read: none. I am nothing if not antisocial…)…and Frank came in to talk to us for a little bit and that Lisa Kudrow show — The Comeback — was on in the background and I remember Bruni talking about how he thought it was an underrated show…and then his phone rang and he excused himself…and he came back and said something like, “I have this friend and I’m not sure if she’s going to show up, but I really hope she comes…and if she does, you’ll all know who she is.” And so we said, “Who is it?” and he said, “Oh, I can’t tell you that! But you’ll know as soon as you see her.”

So…fast forward a little bit. Doorbell rings. And who do you suppose it was? Why, none other than Ann Coulter! (Ack! I just Googled her and it turns out that today is her birthday! Weird, right??) And, folks, she was the most freakishly skinny blond woman I have ever seen in my life…

My old coworker *swears* that Ann Coulter proceeded to hit on him…but *my* memory of the exchange is merely that she said, “You look familiar,” or the like. And — who am I to judge? — perhaps in old, skinny, blond, conservative ladyspeak it’s the equivalent of, “What’s your sign?” (And, who am I kidding? If Glenn Beck said something comparable to me, I’d be tweeting all over the place.)

And, I mean, sadly, that’s basically the end of my story: I went to a party at Frank Bruni’s place once and Ann Coulter showed up. And peanut sauce makes me think of him now…which made me think of her. Which turned out to be on her birthday, of all days. That’s it.

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Filed under birthdays, dishes, eggs, entrees, feminism, Palin, parties