Thursday, September 29, 2011

Being Seen ...

I tend to surround myself with like-minded people. But then, don't we all?

There's a reason we're friends with the people we befriend and who befriend us.

But there are those who know us in a casual way, and then there are those who resonate on a deeper level.

What a relief it is to find those friends.

I am fortunate to know a handful who know me, see me, believe in me, often better than I am able, in the moment, to know, see, or believe in myself. They are generous and patient and kind. They stay nearby, year after year, holding mirrors, being mirrors, waiting.

Some years ago, I wrote this story which featured this quote from an interviewee:

"For a lot of our folks, you have to hide a bit of who 'you' is to get along with most people. It's like falling into frosting when you can go to an event and meet people you can talk with."

I loved that imagery: falling into frosting.

(My friends, they love frosting. As do I. Who doesn't, really?)

But indeed, it is like falling into frosting, though I had never thought of it that way, had never heard that phrase before that interview. A soft place to fall, comfortable and sweet.

Of course, my friends also help me to see my unsavory side, traits I'd like to change, shift, better.

I am grateful to them. And I hope I am able to repay them in some small way, with time or favors or understanding.

Or cake.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sparkle ...

So much for plans. Again.

Yesterday, I was sure that today would consist of baking and reading. I had a recipe bookmarked that I'd been wanting to try, and yesterday, I walked to the store to pick up what I'd need.

And it was supposed to rain. So what better way to spend a rainy day than baking and reading?

The morning arrived, cloudy and grey. The rain arrived. And then ended after 30 seconds. Maybe a minute. But probably not.

Huh. Really? That was it? I checked the radar. There was nothing to be seen.

Well, fine. Baking would happen anyway.

And it did. And it was tasty. Though I want to tweak the recipe and try again.

Dishes were done. The day stretched out before me.

I checked the options on HBO. Free weekend, schmee weekend, there was nothing I wanted to see.

I tried reading, but my head wasn't in it. I got about 20 pages in, noted three questionable moments of copy editing, and set it down.

I sat at the counter, wondering what to do. Nothing leapt out at me.

I decided to get dressed.

And then I decided to leave the house.

I thought about going for a walk, but the car won out. I'd decided to go to an antique mall and if I scored big, I'd need wheels to haul home my quarry.

I stepped into the mall and smiled at the Halloween theme. An A for effort in the merchandising in the joint. I spied a faceted, round glass dish. "Coaster," the price sticker read. For a really big glass of Scotch?

No, a candle, I suppose.

Whatever. I liked it. It reminded me of a diamond choker necklace.

I nabbed it and continued on.

In the back of a display, I spied a silver, oval tray.

Nope, dish. Deeper than I need. Not that I need any of my silver, oval trays. I just love them. (Hey, a girl's gotta have a vice.) So back it went.

I continued on.

I spied a rectangular, stainless tray. It was topped with a pretty bit of fabric and assorted baubles.

I have a knack for spotting the NFS (not for sale) items in an antique store. I picked it up and peered underneath. A price tag. But more than I wanted to pay.

I set it down.

Wander ... .

Wander ... .

Liberace-esque sequin jacket anyone? I snapped a picture with my cell phone and posted it online.

Wander ... .

Wander ... .

Oh, what the hell.

I went back and slid the fabric and baubles onto the shelf.

I admired the tray's rounded corners and rectangular shape.

And then I wondered if it was used for surgical instruments.

No matter. It would have a new home now.

I headed upstairs. Bupkis.

I headed back down, to the remaining booths.

I spied a fluted, footed dish. Ideal, I thought, for a hot fudge sundae. Not that I eat hot fudge sundaes at home. But I am a sucker for all things footed and fluted.

I added it to my stash.

And then I spied two more across the room.

And then I didn't want it anymore. I prefer things that don't feel mass produced.

But oh, there was small glass tray!

The size that might hold some kind of cookies someday. For a photo shoot. For someone.

And so those three things came home with me.

A little bit of sparkle on an otherwise grey day.

Though the sun shone long enough to make them shine.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

So Much For Plans ...

I think I know.

And then, very often, I realize that I don't.

Or I didn't.

Didn't have the whole picture.

But then, who does?

The picture is always changing. Every moment is a single frame in the film of my life, and the beginning will look nothing like the end.

Still, sometimes I have an idea in my head and I think it's a good one, but then, things turn out even better than I planned.

Yesterday was one of those days.

Because of a chair.

Yes, kids, all of this metaphysical prelude is about a chair.

Let me explain.

In my living room, I have a chair. A big chair. A comfy chair. It takes up a fair amount of space, and this room does not have a fair amount of space to give. It's rather small, and it's the room that links all the other rooms in my house, so there is very much a necessity for traffic flow.

Small room + need for traffic flow + wall containing large window and front door + wall containing double closet = not a lot of options for layout

So, the time had come to bid farewell to the comfy chair. I love the comfy chair. And we've been together a long time. It's not you, chair. It's me. I've just moved on.

Still, that decision was not made without some guilt. There are people in the world who have almost nothing to call their own, and here I am, in a house, surrounded by comfort, and wanting to rid myself of a piece of furniture simply because I've grown tired of it. Oh, first-world problems, you unsettle me.

But if my life is changing, I reasoned, my space should be changing, too. And this has been a very pivotal year, and so I started to look for chairs that would work in my small space.

I love — love, love, lovethis chair from Angelo.

Isn't she a stunner?

My love of paisley runs deep, and I'm always up for a bit more black in a room.

And the castered leg? Perfection.

But ... .

In my mind, I wanted a pair of chairs, facing my loveseat. (That I want to replace the loveseat is another story for another time.)

And the paisley stunner, while stunning, is too big to use in a pair in this room.

So the search continued for smaller chairs.

I thought about these chairs, but honestly, if I bring one more brown element into this room, well, I don't know what I'll do, but I know that more brown is not what I need.

Still, the slipper chair idea was feeling right. Less visual weight. More openness. That's what this room needs, being so wee.

And then I saw these.

Some months had gone by. Angelo was back on QVC, and had placed these around a dining table (as well as in other vignettes on the set) and they looked awesome.

But they also looked like they'd be too low for dining.

Oh, Beth, Beth, Beth.

Do not doubt Angelo.

The man knows his chairs. As they are literally his chairs.

And he knows design. Inside out.

I will never doubt him again.

I bought a pair (they're sold in pairs) and they arrived and I put them together (which was simple to do) and my mom stopped by unexpectedly the next morning and stepped inside my living room and put her hand to her heart and gasped.

Oh, that's right: My mother gasped when she saw these chairs.

That's how fabulous they are. They're gasp-worthy.

She was so excited about how great they'd be in this room. (I write in my living room.)

So was I.

Big comfy chair would be relegated to the underfurnished basement and these new stunners would take its place. Open up the space. Represent a new phase in my life.

But I would need a hand to get the comfy chair downstairs, so in the meantime, I decided to put Angelo's chairs in another room (somewhere; I don't have a big house) just to get the living room back to rights. The jumble of furniture was irking me.

I walked around, thinking about where to stash his chairs (not in the basement; these are not basement chairs), and as I stood in my dining area, I thought about his stint on QVC.

"Do they really work at a dining table?", I wondered.

So I fetched one from the living room and plunked it in the dining room and ...



I love the black and off-white with the wood tone of my table!

And I love the graphic pattern with the pedestal base.

Love. Love, love, love.

Now then.


These seats of these chairs are wider than the seats of the chairs that currently surround my dining table. So, six? Not gonna happen. For dining, yes, but pushed in? No. Though I can stash one in the corner, I suppose.

But five? Five would be lovely. Four would look too sparse. And I grew up in a family of five, so I'm used to five chairs around a table. And odd numbers are just nice.

These chairs have a much lower back than the Parsons chairs I currently have around the table, and for a moment yesterday, that looked odd, but then it looked just fine. Modern.

So I need more chairs.

The current dining chairs will be reunited with their table which was moved down to the basement which is awesome for extra seating when I have a party. (Which is rarely, but still.) No longer will I have to borrow chairs from my brother.

And I will have spiffy new chairs in the dining room.

And now I need to find a new chair solution for the living room.

But I'm sure Angelo will come up with something else soon that I'll love.

And in the meantime, I'm glad to still have my comfy chair. Turns out, I wasn't quite ready to let it go.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Latest Crumb ...

I am building my cookie empire one crumb at a time.

Nearly three years ago, my cousin Patty informed me of a cookie-photography contest at Fine Cooking.

I had taken to taking pictures of my holiday cookies (which was the impetus for The Cookie Queen's English), so why not enter, right?

As I wrote then, "And if I don't win, the exposure of my photos (no pun intended) certainly can't hurt. Who knows who might discover my closeted, food-styling self?"

Who, indeed?

The staff of Fine Cooking. But they were more interested in one of the recipes, which ended up in Issue 102 (December 2009/January 2010).

Then, last year, I spied this special issue and flipped to the table of contents to see if my biscotti was included.


And then today, I received an email blast from Fine Cooking hawking a cookie cookbook.

And I wondered if my biscotti had found its way into those pages, too.

So I poked around on Google and Amazon to peek inside and see if I could find it.

Yup. There it was, in the table of contents and in the index. And there I was, under Contributors.

That's a lot of mileage out of one cookie, for a journey that began with a photo, not a recipe!

My thanks to Patty for the initial nudge.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Good Times, September Edition ...

The September cookie installment for the angelo:HOME blog features Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Cookies. And a very good reason why.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Faded ...

I still can't look at the towers on fire.

Of course, there's no need. Those images are seared into my memory.

Our memory.

I was on the phone that morning. When I hung up, I checked for messages.

There were two.

One was my friend Dave, saying, "Oh my God, turn on your TV." The other was my mother, calling to ask where my cousins worked in relation to the World Trade Center.

I had a red, fine-point Sharpie in my hand. "8:16 Mom World Trade Center," I wrote on a yellow Post-It, and then dialed her home.

I turned on the TV while the phone rang.

I saw a tight shot of something burning.

I didn't know what it was.

I stayed very close to my television for hours and days. I had long loved Peter Jennings but he was heroic to me then. I cried endlessly. I marveled that he was able to keep it together. I wondered if he slept.

He's gone now. And I miss him.

Dave and I spent the morning and part of the afternoon on the phone, watching, trying to believe. My eyes and my heart and my head tried to fathom what had happened. It was too impossible to be real. We didn't talk, Dave and I. We just witnessed it together. And we cried.

He's gone now, too. And I miss him every day.

The world is 10 years older now but arguably isn't any wiser.

And the Post-It Note is on the wall where I put it that morning.

The ink has faded from the sun.

But if you look closely, you can see the traces of what I wrote that day.

Faded but fixed.


Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Fine Wine ...

You know what's sad?

Yes, yes, "Jerseylicious," that's true.

But you know what else is sad?

Pouring wine down the drain. Spent wine. Wine past its prime. Wine that, even stopped with a vacuum-seal stopper thingee, doesn't taste good after a day or two.


Of course, such sadness is preventable. The solution is to simply drink the wine before it turns.

But I have a strange relationship with wine. Sometimes, I want a couple of glasses, and then, I don't. For some number of days. And then, for the bottle of the moment, it's too late.

This morning, I poured too much of a bottle of Cabernet down the drain, and thought, "No more."

This afternoon, I headed to Trader Joe's.

Back in July, Angelo informed me, excitedly, of the existence of Trader Joe's wine in a box.

Yes, wine in a box. Australian Shiraz. (From the people who brought you Two-Buck Chuck. So you know this is going to end well.)

The box contains three liters, the equivalent of four bottles. It's nifty bladder system keeps the wine fresh for 45 days.


A month and a half.

Six weeks and three days.

An eighth of a year.

My point being, there is little chance that this wine will end up going down the drain.

But even if it does, it won't pain me too greatly.

Why?, you ask.

Because this box equivalent of four bottles of wine retails for ... $9.99.

Oh, that's right: The equivalent of just slightly less than $2.50 a bottle.

So assuming four glasses per bottle, the box contains sixteen glasses of wine.

Factoring in tax, that works out to about 67 cents a glass.


Do you know what else you can buy for 67 cents in this world?!

Yeah, I don't either.

Angelo also recommended the Vinturi Essential Wine Aerator. (He uses it for all reds, not just the boxed stuff.)

It retails for $39.99.

Yup, I dispensed 67 cents worth of wine through a $40 wine aerator. (But not really. Hello, $10 coupon from Bed Bath & Beyond.)

And the end result?

The best glass of red I've ever had?


But drinkable?


And an end to the sadness at my sink.

Thank you, friend. I raise my glass to you.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

'The Help' ...

If you haven't already, go see it.

Bring a Kleenex, just in case.

Or, if you go to see it with me, bring a whole pack. I'll need 'em.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Makes Beth Happy, September 4 ...

The Makes-Beth-Happy Word of the Day is:

Wheedle, wheedle, wheedle!

The Makes-Beth-Happy Recipe of the Day is:

Grilled Vegetable and Goat Cheese Sandwiches

I mean, come on! Want! Now!

And the Makes-Beth-Happy Objet of the Day is:

Bow Loop Table

I love this table. When I first saw it, I said, "Ooh!" And then I immediately said, "But who would want to dust all that?" Not that there was every any doubt, but yes, indeed, I am my mother's daughter.