Category Archives: birthdays

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

Sad(der) Lisa and the Case of the Missing Books

I’ll preface this by saying I know everyone is sick to death of hearing about the Bartender. And I know I need to figure out a way to finally, officially let go and move on with my life. And — other than the fact that his bar is right around the corner from where I live and I have to walk by it/him virtually every day — I don’t know why it’s over two months later and I’m still struggling. I guess part of it is that it was the first time I really thought I was on to something good in a long, long time…and he’s somebody I care about. A lot. It’s hard for me to just turn that off and pretend it never happened.

But…I bring him up again — for what I will (try to) promise will be the last time — for two reasons: (1) It always makes me feel better to write things out; and (2) I have found no one really gives a hoot when I blog about food anyway.

My oldest childhood friend will be here tomorrow…and we have several days to pal around in New York before Costa Rica on Thursday…and I am hopeful I will return from this adventure with a new lease on life. Maybe we can perform some sort of ritualistic exorcism that will make me forget he exists. And/or maybe the guy who cut my hair was right and in another week, my life will change forever — even on the man-front.

Until then, I will write, I guess.

There were MANY things the Bartender and I did not have in common. Politics was one of them. He claimed to be a Republican…but I think he was much more moderate than he let on. Let’s face it — I have pretty strong opinions about woman-y things and I really couldn’t stand to be around somebody who told me I should be seen and not heard and the like. Granted, he had a McCain/Palin poster in his apartment, but I think part of his conservative fervor was also that he wanted to set himself up as a counterpoint to the young, urban, liberal hipster archetype.

The Bartender was also very opinionated and liked to talk a lot. In fact, once he told me on my little red couch that he liked our conversations because we didn’t argue — we had friendly debates that made him think about things in new ways. (But I will have to watch myself when it comes to making comments like that or I’m going to get nostalgic.)

And…one of my J-school professors is really into social justice-y topics and wrote a book called, “Denison, Iowa,” on — you guessed it — a year in the life of this Midwestern town. I’m not Amazon, so this may not be an entirely accurate recollection, but, basically…my memory of it is that Denison‘s claim to fame is that it’s the birthplace of Donna Reed and so for many, many years it was this wholesome, traditional Midwestern town with wholesome, traditional Midwestern people and wholesome, traditional Midwestern values…and then a bunch of meatpacking plants popped up and immigrants started moving there for jobs and the social dynamics of the town changed considerably. So…my professor spent a year living there during this period of flux and sort of sat back and watched all these changes and the related drama. He illustrated it all with a number of characters in town like the young Latino guy who wanted to start his own business — and so there was all this intrigue about whether he would qualify for the loan in the end…and there was, like, a retired schoolteacher who had lived in Denison her entire life and who started teaching English classes at night…and there was also, like, the crooked cop who hated everyone who wasn’t white. That’s basically the gist.

And so — because the Bartender and I were allegedly on opposite sides of the political spectrum, I was curious what he’d think about this book. So…I let him borrow it. But…when I gave it to him, I said, “My professor wrote this, so I’d really like it back…” and then, half-jokingly, I added, “So, you know, if anything happens while you’re reading this and you decide you hate me and never want to see me again, will you please just, like, leave it in my mailbox or something? I really want it back.” And, of course, he looked at me with a big frowny face and said, “Nooo! That’s not going to happen! You worry too much!”

But sometimes the worrier is right and — sure enough — something happened and he decided that he hates me and never wants to see me again. But not before I let him borrow yet another book…which I’ve been saying is one of my favorites, but I’m not positive that’s entirely true. I just like it a lot and would like it back, too. And you’d better believe that even in the middle of our hours-long, tear-filled, “I don’t understand why you ‘can’t'”-goodbye, I let him know that I wanted those books back. He promised he’d get them to me. That was August 20.

I sent a reminder or two. Nothing.

Then…there was the whole end-of-birthday debacle in September.

So. I decided I would give him a good month-long cushion of no Lisa and then I would make one final plea for those books.

And — this is how crazy I am — both our final fight and my birthday are even-numbered days, so I thought, “Maybe if I wait until an odd day, I’ll have better luck!” Plus, November 5 is Javier Lopez‘s birthday and I figured I could, like, channel Javy for strength.

But before I actually had a chance to send him anything that day, lo and behold, I was on my way to meet the Greeting Card Emergency guy and I saw a man walking towards me with a Yankees hat and a cigarette and I thought, “Ohmygod, is that the Bartender?” and then he adjusted his backpack and I realized that, yes, it *was* him and so I got out my phone, but I had no new messages and then we passed by each other and had an eight-word conversation — “How are you?” “Fine. You?” “Fine.” “Books?” “Okay.” — and I turned the corner and my legs turned to jelly and I hyperventilated a little.

I got a new phone post-Bartender and his number is not in it. I had all these messages from him on the old one that I couldn’t bear to delete, but…my memory was full and so every time I’d get a new message it would say, “Memory Low! Delete messages now!” and I would say, “I don’t want to delete any messages!” and so my solution was to just get a new phone. No messages from him in there. No reminders of him.

But I still have that old phone. So…I figured there was no harm in retrieving his number and using the “use once” feature to send a message to that 347-number that I cannot save again. It was perfectly friendly — just to acknowledge that we’d seen each other and it was fine and — I know this is beating a dead horse, but — I’d really appreciate getting those books back.

So, later that very same day, I wrote him something along the lines of…”Hey — I hate to be a pain, but my professor wrote one of those books and the other is one of my favorites and it would mean a lot if I could get them back.” And that’s probably all a normal person would write, but I went on to say that besides making me really happy, I would imagine getting rid of the books would be cathartic and then he’d be free of it all and wouldn’t have any reminders of anything unhappy…and I said that I hoped all was well and that I seriously meant it because I never wanted anything but the best for him…and to prove that very point, I told him how happy I was that Pettitte pitched such a good game and that Matsui hit so well and the Yankees won, in part because I knew how happy it must have made him.

No response. No books.

So…I waited for another odd-numbered day (I hope I do not get, like, institutionalized for admitting that) and sent another message: “Please, T, please? Those books? I’m leaving the country on Thursday. Can I have them back before then?” (If I have to go pick them up at his bar, it would be great to have my oldest childhood friend there with me to figuratively hold my hand…)

But, again, nothing. Radio silence.

And, okay, I guess I have a reputation for being a clingy girl and understand that maybe he’s worried that responding will only fuel the fire and it’s easier to just press “delete” and pretend it never happened. But…it seems to me that the nice thing to do would be to say, “Okay,” or “Sure,” or SOMETHING — even leaving the books in my mailbox in the dark of night. After all, he gets off work at 4:00 AM on the weekends…

And I know I threw a lot of crazy his way, but I was also really good to him — I dropped off pie on National Pie Day because he had to work and couldn’t come to my celebration and I made him cheesecake and planned an elaborate dinner (with meat!) when he was hurt and out of work and poor and sick of eating rice and beans…and I sent him postcards from all of my travels this summer and I spent a small fortune on Yankees tickets for his birthday because he turned 30 and I wanted to do something big and because he hadn’t been to the new stadium and I wanted him to see it. And, you know, I did those things because I care about him and wanted to make him happy, not for future leverage in case I didn’t get my books back…and I was really happy to have somebody to care about and to be able to do those things for, you know? But I don’t understand how it could have devolved into this. My worst nightmare is someone saying, “I can’t love you,” and walking out the door and disappearing forever…and that’s exactly what happened.

I’m not holding out hope he’s going to knock on my freakishly small door and say, “I made a huge mistake!” But it seems pretty rotten to me to just ignore me. I could understand if I was texting him with, “I miss you! Please take me back!” or “Screw you, you manwhore! And give me back my goddamn books!”

But I’m not. I’m trying to be civil…and since I was the one who was so horribly hurt in this escapade, I thought being friendly and nice now would be kind of olive-branch-y, you know? Like, saying, “Yes, I know I was a huge mess the last time you saw me, but I’m basically okay now!”

So…last night, I was debating what to do…and then I got a call from an old coworker saying, “Hey! I just had dinner in your neighborhood — are you around?” So…I met him around the corner from my apartment and he said, “Where should we go?” and I said, “Anywhere but here!” and nodded toward the Bartender’s place. So…we walked up the street to another place…and we talked and caught up and drank…and he really likes my stories, so he always laughs and tells me how funny I am (last time he praised my comic timing — how about that??)…and I hadn’t seen him in awhile, so it was really nice. And…I don’t know how many beers later, I was telling him about trying to get my books back and we had already been out for a good, long time, so we were getting ready to leave…and as I was pointing him to the Subway, the neon lights at the Bartender’s bar shone brightly in the distance and I got all nostalgic and my old coworker said, “We should go in and have one last drink there!” and I said, “Oh, I don’t know…bad things happen when I go into that place…” and he said, “Come on — it’ll be good for you. And I’ll talk to him! I’ll help you get your books back!” And whenever I’m willing to go there, I should always remember that it means I am in no shape to be making decisions like that. But I agreed to go.

It wasn’t particularly crowded…so we were able to get two seats at the bar. The Bartender was behind the bar, but he wouldn’t have anything to do with me. He’s a pretty jealous guy…and, in hindsight, I realized I’ve always gone in there with girlfriends…and so I guess it could have looked like I was on a date or something and that I was rubbing it in his face.

He was wearing a Yankees World Series sweatshirt…so — see? I was right. He *was* really excited. And his stupid boss came out at one point and saw me there and was LOVING the fact that I was there with some guy and that the Bartender wouldn’t acknowledge me.

And, really, I’ve made a complete fool of myself at that place SO MANY times because of him. So they’ve  probably come to expect it of me. And, really, comparatively speaking, this time wasn’t that bad. I didn’t talk to the Bartender. But my old coworker did. And he came back to me and said, “You’ll get your books on Monday. But we should probably go now.”

And then I wanted to know what my old coworker had said and what the Bartender had said…and my old coworker was saying that, you know, he’s no good and I need to move on…blah, blah…and somehow I ended up crying on the sidewalk outside again and blathering on about how I don’t understand how you can just throw somebody away…and that he was always so good with my cat and that even when the little monster bit him, he’d be so patient and kind and call them “love bites,” and I feel like I’m depriving my cat of a father figure now…(see how much sense I was making?)

I’m very stubborn. I need to just accept that I’m never going to understand this and that I’ve already wasted too much energy trying to figure it out. And, I mean, some good came out of the Bartender situation — I was finally able to look at my life and what I actually have control over and realized how important it is to me to finish my book…and I’m so close! I’m almost there! And I know my poor little heart can’t go through something like this again…so next time I have to be really, really careful and — like my friend says — protect it.

I just feel a little more sad than usual today about the whole situation. And it won’t be the end of the world if I don’t get these books back. But I don’t understand why things are the way that they are…and how caring about him became this horrible, unforgivable thing…for which I have now been banned from his life.

So…even after that makeover, I’m not sure if I really am New Lisa after all. I am hoping that Costa Rica and my oldest childhood friend will change that. (And, if nothing else, I will try to find solace in knowing that my hair looked damn good last night.)

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Filed under Alaska, baseball, birthdays, books, Brooklyn, cheesecake, feminism, Iowa, Javy, Palin, pie

The Great Pizza Fiasco of 2009, Entirely New Apples…and Binging Throughout Manhattan (and a Little Bit of Brooklyn, Too).

I haven’t been SO focused on self-improvement lately that food has slipped *entirely* through the cracks.

I have been meaning, for example, to blog about the Great Pizza Fiasco of K’s recent(-ish) trip. You see, she had never been to Grimaldi’s before…and if you’re someone who comes to New York from time to time — as K is (or was) known to do — it seems like the kind of place you need to go once. I took my oldest childhood friend on, like, a Tuesday in the middle of the afternoon and we were able to walk right in. So…I thought maybe if we got there *right* when it opened the line wouldn’t be too bad.

So…we arrived at 11:30. There was a *bit* of a line, but the restaurant was empty and I figured we’d be okay as long as we got in during the first wave (we had tickets to Billy Elliot at 2:00!). So…we waited. There were some folks carrying in boxes and whatnot…and I thought maybe they were running behind. And then a guy came out with a clipboard and walked down the line, asking how many people were in each party. I assumed that maybe the info on the Web site was wrong or that I had misread it and the place didn’t open until 12:00. We waited patiently — it was, after all, almost noon by then — and then, what do you know? A giant tour bus pulled up right in front…and I thought, “No! This isn’t happening!” And yet it did. An entire tour bus full of people walked right in. And that was it…we only had an hour until we had to leave…so instead, on our way back to the trusty F train, we stopped in the Dumbo General Store (which I was later told is Hecho en Dumbo at night…and is totally a restaurant I have been meaning to try FOREVER).

So, it all worked out in the end and everything, but…I don’t know, Grimaldi’s. Seems like maybe we’re getting a little big for our britches, no? Especially since it isn’t exactly the ONLY place you can get good pizza in this town. So…trying to prove that very point, I tried to take K to Lucali the following night…but, dammit, there was a power outage and they were closed. So. K did not get pizza in New York. We *did*, however, have hot dogs outside the West Side Story theater, appetizers and mojitos with orange girlie doodads at Havana Central (also a tiny little nod to our mutual alma mater…), burritos at my favorite burrito place IN THE WORLD (I can’t believe some of those Yelp reviews. I love this place and I *hate* California Taqueria…so clearly Abigail S. and I find ourselves on opposite sides of the Burrito Fence…in fact, I think the guacamole there is maybe the best part…and the Gourmet burrito makes me pretty much happier than anything else. And why do you *have* to have rice and beans in your burrito, Daniel G.? I don’t get it. If I was a braver person, I’d register and write my own review. Perhaps that will come later in my quest for Sandra Bullock Clarity), and, finally — one of the places K actually wanted to go! — Tom Colicchio’s ‘wichcraft. (Another food connection? She bought me a lewd apron for my birthday. How about that?)

The following weekend I made my way to — gasp! — New Jersey to visit another K. And I was actually pretty shocked that I only had to ride New Jersey Transit for 70 minutes, but felt like I was leaving the city far, far behind. (I was also a little bit in love with the child sitting in front of me who kept calling every body of water he saw “the ocean.”) K II lives in a very bright and airy apartment on the Princeton campus (or pretty darn close) and there are lots of trees and birds and bugs. And we went apple-picking! I was not able to get my standard pie apples, but I’m not so much of a stickler that I wasn’t willing to branch out with three new varieties. I *wish* I could remember all three, but one was definitely Macoun. And…as K II took me to a charming kitchen store in the heart of Princeton (that had a revolving cake platter that plays “Happy Birthday!”) and bought mini tart pans (that’s the difference between the two of us — my tart pan is HUGE), I was totally inspired to make an apple tart of my own. (The recipe I like most on Epicurious, however, calls for cardamom and I did not see any at my local grocery store…but Trader Joe’s in the middle of the day in the middle of the week has sort of become my new favorite place to be…and Joe should have cardamom, right?) She was *also* talking about how much she likes donuts…and she was searching for a baked good to claim as her “thing” and I really, really wanted to be able to find a recipe for baked donuts that would blow her away (she was reluctant to embrace donuts because of all the frying)…but, sadly, I didn’t see anything good in any of my cookbooks (Martha has an interesting one for pumpkin cornmeal donuts…but they, like virtually every other donut in creation, are fried)…although a quick Google search pulled up *these* baked donuts…although they are also quick to note that it’s an entirely different taste sensation. If I was a more industrious blogger, I’d try these recipes out and come back with some original reporting. Which I suppose is *maybe* still a possibility, but…

…the traveling doesn’t stop there! My mother is flying in tomorrow…and we have big plans to eat a lot: Mesa Grill, Grand Central Oyster Bar, The Spotted Pig, Buttermilk Channel…and I don’t know what else. Shake Shack? Blue Smoke? Artichoke? I am sort of the proverbial kid in a candy store here as I pick out all these amazing places I would never go if it was just me.

But, wait! There’s more! Big J and I booked our tickets to Costa Rica today! We leave on November 12. And my guidebook is patiently waiting for me at the Red Hook post office. And surely there will be *something* food-related for me to blog about between now and then. (I am tempted to sign this, “Besos! LL.” But shall refrain.)

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Filed under birthdays, books, Brooklyn, frying, gadgets, Martha, pizza, Uncategorized

Bad Boyfriends and The Lone Wolf: Or, What I’ve Learned from Amy Adams, Sandra Bullock, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Whitney Houston, Theodore Roosevelt and the Wizard of Oz.

I’ve already more or less shared my Bad Boyfriend Theory of Freelancing…but since some time has passed, it may be worth revisiting (…at least briefly)…

Let’s say for the sake of argument that I got a call a few weeks back from a publication I’ve been working with for several months…and it is allegedly looking to hire a full-time writer. Let’s also say I’ve been freelancing in the interim — and getting paid to do so — so it’s a fairly okay arrangement…but, for one reason or another, the actual hire keeps getting put off. And then — when I get a call out of the blue, asking if I can fill in on some breaking news — it hits me: This publication is a Bad Boyfriend. The people there know they can call me with very little notice and I will drop everything I’m doing because I’m looking for something serious and long-term…and they will continue to lead me to believe an actual relationship is possible…but, in reality, they’re perfectly content with the arrangement we have because they’re getting *exactly* what they want with very little commitment and they have no intention of ever making things official. And, I mean, it’s not like the analogy carries far enough that I can actually break up with them…because Lord knows I need all the sources of income I can get…but this realization *did* at least help to temper my expectations…and then it got me thinking about the other Bad Boyfriends in my life.

(Warning: This is where it gets *really* self-indulgent.)

I’ve had a lot of Bad Boyfriends in my day. Or, rather, not even full-fledged boyfriends — just men who are content to exist on the fringes of my life…and who never have any intention of taking on a more meaningful role. And it’s my fault — I’m not a helpless victim. (In fact, I’m an enabler…) Time after time, I could have saved myself SO MUCH heartbreak by directly addressing their unwillingness to be a constant presence from the very beginning…but I get so easily attached and then I have this crazy fear of losing them and all of a sudden I’m willing to sacrifice my own happiness in these crazy over-the-top attempts to convince my so-called Mr. Wonderful that he really wants to be a part of my life. And he never does! It never works! And I have literally wasted YEARS — That’s right! Years! — trying to force these men into my life when they really don’t want to be there in the first place. And I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately…and I don’t know why I’ve done it over and over again.

(So…maybe the buck stops here? [Not my only (quasi-)presidential quote. Just wait and see.])

I guess it was the impending birthday, but I’ve had a lot of epiphanies in the past week or so. This is #1: I’m going to try to be happy with me. Just me. And I’m going to be happy with me before I ever again consider being happy with anybody else. (When I am upset about someone, I have a friend who says, “Protect the heart!” And she’s right! For too long I’ve tried to give the ol’ ticker away to people who don’t really want it. So…I’m going to try holding on to it for awhile now…and to be really, really cautious about who gets it next time.)

When K was here, I was joking that instead of constantly referring to myself as “Lisa Lacy: Tragic Spinster,” I was going to try “Lisa Lacy: Lone Wolf” on for size…even going as far as saying I’d get “LONE WOLF” tattooed on my knuckles (or at least try it out in pen). (I’m not sure if I’m, you know, Tuff Enuff to pull it off. It *would* be kind of fun to see looks on faces if I could find a pen that was realistic enough…but only if I could keep a straight face…like, “Yes, I *do* have tattooed knuckles. What of it?” Sort of like the horrifying sequined top I found at a shop in Cedarburg, Wisconsin once that said, “Dear Santa, I want it all!” Oh, how I wished I could wear it to work and act nonchalant…like, “YES. I am wearing this ON PURPOSE.”)

Because, despite my best efforts to find a special someone, I always end up alone…and I’m always fine. But it always requires this, like, brute force for me to let go of someone…even when that person is a bona fide jerkface. I got really choked up in Sunshine Cleaning in the scene in which Amy Adams tells the guy who has sort of been in her life but sort of not that she can’t do it anymore because he’ll never be a legitimate presence and she genuinely cares about him and she deserves someone who feels the same way…because I know how hard that is to do — I’ve never actually *been* strong enough to let go of someone like that of my own volition. I always wait for the moment when I get hit over the head with a mallet — like, say, that roommate he’s been talking about? *Actually* his girlfriend… — and then I have no choice but to move on.

I just had to go to a wedding by myself…and I felt like such a loser because I was there without a date. And I never have dates to events like that. I always feel like I’m Lisa Who Puts on a Brave Face and Goes Alone. And, in theory, that shouldn’t even be an issue — I should just be Lisa and that should be fine. And here’s where the first of many embarrassing quotes comes in…(I should probably remind you that flying scares me [although not so much lately because I’ve done so much of it] and so my deal with myself is that I can buy trashy celebrity magazines to read on the plane)…and I was reading an US Weekly that quoted Sandra Bullock saying, “I complete me. I’m just lucky that after I completed myself, I met someone who could tolerate me.”

And say what you will about her acting skills or whatever, but I think she hits the nail on the head there. That’s it. *I* should be enough. Whatever comes next is just gravy.

And yet when I think about myself and my life, I’m not sure if I’ve ever felt that way.

And so I guess that’s what New Lisa is focusing on. I’m not sure how you end up with Sandra Bullock Clarity, but perhaps that’s what we’ll call Goal #1.

In the meantime…when my parents first moved to Alaska, I got a call from my mother after they’d purchased snow machines (they call ‘em “mobiles” down here) and snow shoes and the like, saying, “We’re spending money like drunken sailors!” And the same has sort of been true of me lately. I got a haircut…and (overshare) some fancy drawers and some (sorely needed) new bedding. And now not only is my bed super-comfy, but I feel like I’ve exorcised some bad juju.

I had a small lapse last weekend that sort of sent me spiraling and worrying that all of this is horse pucky because I’ve been telling everyone who will listen about my mission to be happy with me…but then I saw the Bartender, who — as if it wasn’t painfully clear before — REALLY doesn’t want to be with me…and I ended up sobbing so loudly trying to get in my front door that one of my neighbors came downstairs to rescue me because he thought I was in mortal danger. But I guess when you’re trying to make positive life changes, you’re allowed to stumble a few steps back every now and again? The whole point is that you ultimately move forward?

Because this is where the second of my embarrassing quotes comes in. When I was getting my hair cut, I was flipping through an old People Magazine and saw a blurb about Jennifer Aniston…which was actually about a spread in *another* magazine in which she “embraced her Lonely Girl image.” But…what really got me was that she said, “[I’m fully supportive of] anybody who is in a place that’s not their strongest [but] is ready to push forward.”

It was like Jennifer was talking directly to me! Because…the past couple of months have been rough. Between the job market and the Bartender, I’ve been struggling…and any sort of strong woman-y thing has really resonated with me. I saw Whitney Houston on Oprah and got all emotional when she sang, “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength.” That sort of kicked off this whole Whitney phase in which I revisited “Saving All My Love For You” from 1985 (which I don’t actually think sets forth a very good example with its “My friends try and tell me, find a man of my own / But each time I try, I just break down and cry / Cause I’d rather be home feeling blue…)…although she redeems herself a year later with “The Greatest Love of All” (as if I even need to say it – “Learning to love yourself / It is the greatest love of all…”). (I also joked about pulling a “Say Anything” move and standing in front of the Bartender’s bar with a stereo above my head playing, “Didn’t We Almost Have it All?” It would almost be worth it to see the look on his face. If, you know, last weekend hadn’t happened.)

And I sort of thought I had slipped back into the abyss after the latest incident, but I spent a day feeling sad and embarrassed and stupid…and, yes, I’m back to bowing my head in shame when I walk by that damn bar…but, for the most part, I have accepted that things are the way that they are for a reason (I saw a woman-y Web site with a link to Oprah.com and Steve Harvey’s 5 Questions to Ask a Man Before You Get Attached…and realized that, yes, if I had asked the Bartender Question #1, I would have saved myself a lot of trouble)…and now I’m trying to just focus on things that make me happy.

I don’t have my dream job, but I support myself with words…and that’s gotta be something, right? I have my own apartment in a great neighborhood…and I have a landlady who calls me “sweetie” and a neighbor who will come downstairs in the middle of the night in the rain to beat up someone who makes me cry. I have an incredible circle of girlfriends. (Maybe it’s a good thing I haven’t gotten married yet because I really don’t know how I’d ever choose bridesmaids…or, you know, I’d have them all up there with me and absolutely no one in the audience.) And I’m basically happy. I’ve done stuff. I’ve lived in England and Alaska. I’ve driven across the country with my mother in a giant trailer. And when I was really unhappy with my job and a career path that I felt led me nowhere I wanted to go, I quit and went to grad school to try to find something that would make me happier…and, no, it didn’t work out quite the way I expected…but, on the bright side, I’m not stuck in a job that I hate…and I *do* have a lot of freedom.

So…Epiphany #2 is to sort of embrace the freedom this lifestyle affords. I’ve spent a year shaking my fist at the universe, determined to force it to give me a job…and I’ve lost this battle of wills every time. So…instead of fighting it, I’m trying to just go with it and say, “Okay…I have a steady stream of income. And I can write this stuff anytime and anywhere…” and I’m going to try to use that freedom to travel more. I was thinking Bogota would be first for my friend’s dad’s birthday…but, in the end, I don’t think it’s logistically possible. But! My oldest childhood friend is finishing her Master’s in speech therapy soon…and so I think we’re going to Costa Rica in November. And then another friend’s family is renting an apartment in Madrid in January…so I can totally pop over there to stay with them and then get a train to London. (How about that?)

And…I’ve also used this I-don’t-have-a-full-time-job period to work on a book and have 70,000 words now. And it’s a giant mess and I really need to find an editor who can help me shape it in a coherent form…and I’ve been kind of reluctant to actually finish my proposal because it’s so scary that one document makes or breaks all the work you’ve done…but, you know, I also read Sloane Crosley and Augusten Burroughs and  David Sedaris and think, “I could totally write that.” And, heck, I may never get published…but…I’ve tried really, really hard to make it happen. And – don’t get me wrong – I’m not giving up. I’m incredibly stubborn. But – a little rally cry for myself here — I’m trying to acknowledge it’s kind of a big deal I’ve gotten this far. I wrote a damn book! It’s a mess! But it’s a *book.* (And I’m still not likely to show up at any Columbia Alumni events until I can definitively say, “Why, yes, Harper Collins *is* publishing my novel in the fall…,” but, nevertheless…at this point, I at least know that when I show up at the Pearly Gates I won’t have “But I never wrote a book!” on my conscience.)

One of my classmates just sent me an email quoting Theodore Roosevelt, actually (I told you there’d be another president)…and I think it does a good job of summing up my book feelings: “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

So…Epiphany #3 is that my life is okay. But, more than that, is Epiphany #4: I’m okay.

I know, I know…I’m OK, You’re OK…it’s so fluffy…but…it’s something I’ve never really officially declared before. I’ve told the world I’m a boob countless times — and, let’s face it — I am…but…I am also nice. And I am good at remembering birthdays. And I can bake the hell out of things. And there are plenty of people out there who I love and who actually love me back and who, unlike the Bad Boyfriends, I don’t have to force to stick around…so why waste so much time with those who don’t want to be there? More baked goods for everybody else, right?

And, you know, when K was here, we happened to catch the Wizard of Oz on TV…which we have both seen at least 1000 times…but there was a line at the end that really caught my attention this time. I *believe* it’s when the Wizard gives the Tin Man his heart. He says, “A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.” And all I could think was, “Shouldn’t it be the other way around?” I mean, seriously – shouldn’t it be about how much love you put out into the universe regardless of how much you get back? That’s the way I feel, anyway.

Or, on the Monday after Whip It’s release, there’s Drew Barrymore…who my mother saw on a talk show saying, “Happiness is a choice.” So…I guess my whole point (if anyone has actually stuck with me this long) is that I’m trying. I’m trying to be happy with me and my life and to just be more zen about things and to take them as they come and to not worry about my life not going according to plan…and once I get to a point where I don’t have to remind myself about what Sandra Bullock said in Us Weekly (or I don’t, you know, tell bartenders that I miss them and screw up a month’s worth of progress), then we’ll know I’m ready for a Good Boyfriend.

(Although – oops – I thought I had come up with a nice little ending…but if my ultimate goal is to just be happy with myself, the Good Boyfriend comment may be out of line. But, truth be told, it *would* be nice to meet someone eventually. Just after I’ve worked on myself a little bit more. But, by that point, let me tell you this: He’d better be one hell of a boyfriend.)

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Filed under Alaska, birthdays, books, Brooklyn

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