Tag Archives: Alaska

Baked Last Frontier

T and I were talking about Baked Alaska he has never had it before — and I thought, “I wonder where the name came from…” et, voila: blog post.

Per Wikipedia, “The name ‘Baked Alaska’ was coined at Delmonico’s Restaurant in 1876 to honor the recently acquired American territory. Both the name ‘Baked Alaska’ and ‘omelette à la norvégienne’/’Norwegian omelette’ come from the low temperatures of Alaska and Norway.” (Food Reference agrees.)

One of my J-school classmates invited me to an olive oil event at Delmonico’s not that long ago. So I am still enjoying my free bottle of Delmonico’s brand oil from Croatia.

I also think it would be fun to try my hand at Baked Alaska sometime (although probably only once).

If I did, I’d probably use this recipe for Strawberry Baked Alaska, but substitute raspberry sorbet and ice cream.

Or — ZOMG! — this Coffee Baked Alaska with Mocha Sauce. Wow!

Image via kimberlykv/Flickr

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Goodbye, Libby’s (At Least For Now)

This year, I carved my first pumpkin in a long, long time. The last pumpkin I carved was based on advice from Martha Stewart (or the like) when I was working at a credit union in Fairbanks. My office held a carving contest and my pumpkin was truly something to behold – I made a leaf pattern and cut out leaves around the pumpkin, carved veins in them, and then pushed the leaves partially back through the holes in the pumpkin so that when I lit it up, the leaves looked like they were floating around said pumpkin and glowed. But — story of my life — the pumpkin rotted and liquefied the night before judging and I lost.

I can’t say this year’s pumpkin was a triumphant return, but it was nice to feel festive again.

I *also* decided that for the first time ever, I would roast the seeds instead of tossing them out…and, boy, am I glad I did! It was sort of hard to find a recipe I liked…so I ended up just rinsing them, tossing them in olive oil, adding salt and roasting on a sheet pan at about 300 degrees for 45 minutes. They were perfect! My mother said it was really hard to get all the orange pumpkin gunk off of them, but I didn’t think it was actually that bad. And it turned out that T’s favorites were the ones that were a little darker because they were roasted with gunk on.

I also heard that you should consider boiling the seeds first…but I thought the roasted seeds were fine sans boiling.

Now my goal is to make a pie from an actual pumpkin. I’ve never done that before either. And even though my baking enthusiasm has dimmed considerably and may never be what it once was, I’d still like to try out real pie this year. Another friend had a taste test last year in which she made a pie from scratch and a pie from a can and asked guests to guess which was which. It seemed obvious to me — the pie made from real pumpkin was a darker color and sort of less pleasant to look at…although I don’t actually remember how they tasted (…which may actually be because I thought the canned pumpkin pie tasted better, but I am too ashamed to admit it).

But, as a general rule, I’ve been perfectly happy with Libby’s all my life. There – I said it. If that makes me Whiskey Tango, so be it.

So I’m not sure I’ll turn pie-from-an-actual-pumpkin into a holiday tradition for years to come. But, like seeing Mount Rushmore or going waterskiing, it seems like something I should do once in life.

And yet…the Web seems to be barren of useful pie-from-a-pumpkin resources. Could it be that the difference is negligible and so no one bothers?

Granted, my research was not as exhaustive as it perhaps could have been, but every pie recipe I saw on Epicurious.com (my favorite!) called for canned pumpkin. Ditto FoodNetwork.com.

And I’m surprised that given the annual food mag task of making old Thanksgiving news new again that they haven’t jumped all over this. I would think that Alton Brown of all people would have made a pumpkin pie from an actual pumpkin at least once — after all, I saw him harvest coconut using a power drill — but, alas, I cannot find a recipe from him either.

Thankfully, my go-to cookbook when the Internet fails — The Joy of Cooking — has perfect instructions. I will give it a shot soon (and maybe make a Libby’s pie, too, just for old times’ sake) and report back.

And…just a reminder: There are rumors of another canned pumpkin shortage this year…so if you don’t want to experiment with real pumpkins, make sure to pick up a can of Libby’s before the Thanksgiving rush!

Image via cardamom/Flickr

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Filed under Alaska, books, Food Network, Halloween, holidays, pie, pumpkins

Lasagna Sandwich 2.0

(Thanks to Tesco/NYDN for the image...)

Last week, a lasagna sandwich in the U.K. made headlines here in the U.S. And it got me thinking…what other main course meals would make good — or at least potentially lucrative — sandwiches?

I personally think you can’t do much wrong when you add stuff to grilled cheese or a panini…so, with that in mind, if the Tesco food development team is looking for additional entree-inspired sandwiches, I’d suggest…

– The Taco Sandwich: Some seasoned beef or chicken, pico de gallo…maybe a little guacamole and/or sour cream…and some melted cheese? A worthy experiment. (Although maybe this is actually a burrito?)

– The Meatloaf Sandwich: A slice of Mom’s meatloaf and a scoop of mashed potatoes. And, again, grill that sucker with some cheese. (And maybe have ketchup on the side for dipping?)

– The Fried Chicken Sandwich: Lest this sound like the KFC Double Down, I’d like to point out that I’m thinking of this more like Thanksgiving leftovers. I love making turkey sandwiches the next day with a little mashed potato, stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce. I’m sort of thinking of that chicken-mashed-potato-corn-bowl-thing KFC put out awhile back — something with all of those components, but in a grilled cheese sandwich. Although, then again, you might be able to get away without cheese on this one.

– The Mac-and-Cheese-and-Bacon Sandwich: When I think of basic meals and/or entrees for those first starting out cooking for themselves, macaroni and cheese is one of the first that comes to mind. But a macaroni and cheese sandwich is weird. But then I thought, “Bacon!” and it suddenly made more sense. Sure, it’s a lot of carbs…but if you grill it up or put it in a panini press and get the inside all gooey and stuff, I think it might be worth the splurge and/or less odd. (Then again, bread and pasta may just not work together…but, then again [again], if people fry spaghetti, why can’t I pair macaroni and cheese with bread?)

– The Steak and Chimichurri Sandwich: Perhaps like a Philly cheesesteak, but with an Argentinian twist?

– The Chicken Tikka Sandwich: Like Indian takeout, but between two slices of bread. (I guess I could perhaps suggest using naan, but I’m not sure how well that would grill up.) Perhaps a dab of yogurt on top and that potato-pea-chickpea mixture that comes in samosas, too?

– The Fried Halibut Sandwich: I discovered fried halibut at the Alaska Salmon Bake in Fairbanks and was completely amazed by it. I’d always been ho-hum about fish and chips, but fried halibut is crazy-good. I think if you have some cole slaw and a little tartar sauce, you’d be all set.

So, Tesco, let’s talk? I’d love an excuse to finally come back to the U.K…

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My Top 15 Wacky Cookbooks (With Bonus Optimistic Prologue!)

I love wacky cookbooks. And, strangely, despite the carnage of last week — that left me sans part-time fake-gambling gig *and* full-time job prospects *and* hope — I’m feeling rather optimistic now.

I’ve been kicking around an idea for a children’s book series (literally for years) — and was finally compelled to sketch out one of the stories early this morning when I couldn’t sleep. There’s still much research to be done about pitching kids’ books, etc., etc…and I’ve certainly learned that hard work ain’t always enough to guarantee the results you want and that future endeavors must therefore be taken with a grain o’ salt…but when talking to my mother about how on earth I was going to dust myself off after the latest round of out-and-out failure, she basically said that there *has* to be something else out there for me…I just haven’t found it yet. So…maybe it’s this kids’ book series. And — don’t get me wrong — I’m not giving up on the book-book. I’m just maxed out and need to recharge the ol’ batteries before tackling it again. (The kids’ book is also a chance to test out my drawing skills…which I find pretty exciting…although it may be short-lived when I realize precisely why I didn’t pursue a career as a visual artist in the first place…)

I also recently met up with a friend I hadn’t seen in awhile and we got to talking…and all of a sudden, a brilliant blog idea hit me. No offense to this bad boy, but, for the longest time, I’ve tried to think of one of those clever, niche-y, schtick-y blog ideas that get book deals — like, say, Hungry Girl or Save the Assistants or This is Why You’re Fat — and I think I finally came up with something good last night. I think it’s an untapped, underserved sector of the blogosphere…and I think it targets a potentially sizable market. And if I can make it clever and funny, there’s no reason why I can’t attract a decent following — even one good enough to interest publishers. And once I have a single book under my belt (and am legitimately Author Lisa Lacy), the rest should come easy. I may have to take a Web design class before launching this new blog as I have a pretty good idea of what I want it to look like and I certainly can’t afford to pay someone to design it for me…but, at the same time, mad Web skillz may make me a more competitive candidate for multimedia journalism jobs anyway, so this could really end up as a win-win-win, right?

So…after my grumpy outburst last week, I have a much more optimistic post for you. And back to those wacky cookbooks…

The Huffington Post recently put up a slideshow called “Cookbooks You Didn’t Know Existed.” This totally feeds into my passion for wacky cookbooks and I was thrilled to see it. But, while there are some good ones (and, kudos to you, HuffPo, for imploring readers to upload their favorites, thereby doing your work for you)…I think they missed quite a few “surprising cookbooks.”

There are lots of *good* cookbooks out there — I’m not sure I would have made it this far without the Joy of Cooking, for example. I consult it all the time. And how can you not love Rick Bayless? I’m sure Fiesta at Rick’s is a pure delight. But wacky cookbooks are a different breed — they’re unique and they’re cheap and they’re funny…sometimes purposely so…but not always. I’m not sure which one is better.

So…My List:

1. My all-time favorite wacky cookbook isn’t 100% cookbook. It’s more a weight-loss guide. But I love it. And I imagine I have one of the few remaining copies on earth. It is Joan Cavanaugh’s “More of Jesus, Less of Me.”

I love that the title is literal — it’s quite literally about how to make yourself smaller by channeling your faith and it is dedicated to “all of God’s children who have been called Fatso, Tubby or Two-by-Four.” I found it at my junior class rummage sale in Mississippi…and I also love it because it is a book you’d be hard-pressed to find outside the Bible Belt.

2. The Hooters Cookbook. I found this at a Barnes & Noble once in a discount bin and I did not snap it up and I am still kicking myself. Sure, I probably wouldn’t make any of the chicken wings…but it’s such a conversation piece. And it epitomizes “wacky cookbook.” Stupid, Lisa. Stupid.

3. Naughty Cakes. I *did* buy this book from the discount bin at Barnes & Noble and, boy, am I glad I did. Where else would I learn how to make fondant into gold lamé hot pants on a giant ass? Or into firefighters with hoses in suggestive poses? It’s maybe the best baking book I own. There — I said it.

4. and 5. Saucepans & the Single Girl and The Little Black Apron. Man, there’s a whole industry out there targeting Sad Sallies, isn’t there? And…if I ever want to get married someday, where would I be without “bachelor-bait recipes and dazzling ideas for entertaining” and “a single girl’s guide to cooking with style and grace”?

6. Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book. The single girl’s two best friends — get it? Because she’s ALONE! She has to eat lots of ICE CREAM! It’s a rom-com staple!

But, in all seriousness, you can’t not like Ben and Jerry. And, while I don’t own this particular cookbook, I bet it’s good for dessert inspiration.

7. Not Afraid of Flavor. This is a legit cookbook — my roommate had it — but the name makes me laugh. So formidable!

8. A Man, A Can, A Plan. Perhaps this helps balance out all the Sad Sally books out there — something for the hopeless man! The boy in Alaska I was in love with — who petitioned Fruit of the Loom to make Underoos for adults — had this book.

9. 101 Things to do with a Dutch Oven. I don’t own this book either, but I love spins on the 101-things-thing and Top Ten lists (as noted) and things of that nature. And if the sample recipe for the “Mountain Man Breakfast” is any indication of what the other 100 names are like, this book definitely gets my seal of approval.

10. Skinny Italian. I have never seen the Real Housewives of Anywhere — but stumbling upon this book changed all that. Netflix has already sent me Disc One of the New Jersey series. And even though it sounds like Teresa is going to lose her magnificent home and has lived beyond her means to an extent even I find astonishing (…because I’m bad with money — get it?), the Amazon reviews were pretty positive about this book. Perhaps I will fall in love with the show and decide I can’t live without this book…and that will be my little contribution to helping the Giudices achieve financial solvency.

11. Dip into Something Different. Who doesn’t like fondue — *especially* when the Melting Pot says that it is “from our pot to yours”?

12. I Like You. I like Amy Sedaris. I like that she shows up on the Late Show in poofy dresses she finds at flea markets and that she has a made-up longshoreman boyfriend named Ricky and that she’s obsessed with rabbits. I admittedly have not given this book the attention it’s due — although remember a friend saying how funny she thought it was that Ms. Sedaris suggested you put marbles in your medicine cabinet before you throw a party so you know without a shadow of a doubt if anyone goes snooping in your bathroom — but I’m happy it’s part of my collection.

13. Forking Fantastic! I can’t decide if I like-like this book for real or if I like it because it’s ridiculous. It’s a bold claim to “put the PARTY back in DINNER PARTY,” but I admit I’m intrigued to see how these ladies do it. Reviews sound good, too.

14. The Book of Spam. At $3.99, there’s no reason each and every last one of us should not have this book. After all, it is “a most glorious and definitive compendium of the world’s favorite canned meat.”

15. Being Dead is No Excuse. We’ve sort of come full circle here — as this, too, is not *exactly* a cookbook, but rather a “guide to hosting the perfect funeral.” It seems like these ladies have a good sense of humor…and if I myself was financially solvent (it’s not just you, Teresa!) and could afford to buy all the wacky food-related books my heart desires, this one would be on the list, too.

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Filed under Alaska, blogs, books, Brooklyn, entrees, ice cream, Mississippi, parties

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

New York, We Have to Talk…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Alaska, appliances, Brooklyn, Mamas and Papas

What do Hawaiian Tropic Zone and Switzerland Have in Common?

I’ve always associated Hawaiian Tropic Zone with bikinis and sexual harassment. (I was hoping to find a good story in the Post to prove my point, but instead of harassment per se, I pulled up this gem [still good, I think]: Uh, Ho! ‘Tropic Thunder’ War Over Nixed Bikini Gal. Also — journalists — I challenge you to craft a better lede: “Ho no, he didn’t!”)

So…I certainly never thought I’d actually dine at this establishment. And yet that is exactly what happened last week. I had to get out of my apartment (more on that later), but I also figured I shouldn’t pass up an opportunity to see what this place is actually like. Plus, my friend E said they have “totally amazing and yummy pupu platters” and that since it’s the 50th anniversary of Hawaii, there was supposed to be some stuff going on in Times Square. And, you know, I lived in Alaska for a year. I’m down with the non-contiguous states…

So. Hawaiian Tropic Zone, ho. (Yes, that was intentional. Blame the Post.)

Before you are seated, you have to show a bikini-clad hostess your ID to get a purple wristband that says, “HTZ” and proves you are of legal age. Then, another lady in a bikini shows you to your table and yet *another* woman in a bikini asks for your drink order. E was excited about a specific brand of tequila — or maybe rum? But I think it was tequila… — and there was some sort of mojito spinoff that she wanted. Our other companions ordered beer…but beer sort of felt, you know, boring. I couldn’t decide among the $12 cocktails, however…so I took the easy way out and mimicked my friend and ordered the special tequila mojito spinoff.

And…since she said it would be plenty of food for us, we ordered the pupu platter (yes, yes…I know)…and it came out with an open flame in the middle over which you could further grill your kebabs. That was one thing that surprised me — there was a lot more food on sticks than I expected. (Although I guess maybe that’s par for the course with a pupu platter?) And it really wasn’t as gaudy as I had hoped/feared. There *was* a bikini pageant in the middle of our meal in which the waitresses announced their names and hometowns and paraded by one by one…so that was definitely a first…and maybe kind of cringe-worthy. But, overall, the whole thing wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. I’m not sure if I’ll race back there again anytime soon…but, overall, I guess I left feeling neutral.

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Filed under Alaska, food on a stick