Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Reinforcement ...

Friday was a contemplative day.

Grey. Quiet. Just me and my mixer, making batch after batch of dough.

Standing there, at the counter, scraping down the butter and sugar into a pale yellow cloud, I noticed how in tune I was with the task at hand, how natural yet expert it felt, what I was doing. There was no big fanfare, no big a-ha. It was suddenly just there, in my mind.

I don't know when I'll stop expecting profound moments to be accompanied by trumpets. They never sound.

But shouldn't they?

No, I guess not.

Part of me feels like such an effortful quest for meaning should be punctuated by showy moments when meaning is found. Clearly, I've read too many books and watched too many movies. Compressed into a few hundred pages or 90 minutes, drama is easy to show. Also, there is the added bonus of the events being, you know, fiction.

It's easy to write the big moments, easy to show them on the screen. Helped along by a just-right music cue.

But these lifetimes we're living, however short or however long, are quite a bit more humdrum, I suppose.

Some days are life-changing. Some days, big news arrives, be it happy or sad.

But many days are full of sameness: get up, get ready, do some work, waste some time, go to sleep.

And somewhere along the line, if we're lucky, a moment lopes along and we realize its significance. Quietly.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Alchemy ...

I am going to spend my day whipping butter and sugar into clouds.

And then transform the clouds into rolls of unassuming dough, the color of faded khaki.

And tomorrow, I shall slice them and brush them with the barest slick of egg white and water and sprinkle them with earthy sugar and bake them into sandy, buttery, crumbly treats.

I admire their order but I am most fond of the ends, the imperfect slices that are the most perfect of all, beautiful and different even among themselves.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Treat Index ...

Many, many, many years ago, I worked at a library. I made an absurdly low hourly wage. But most of the people were fun as the library set goes.

The work wasn't going to lead me to any Nobel prizes, but I like books. I've always liked books, and so, as a part-time job went, it was fine.

One of the high points, I was reminded last night, was that the library had a rather extensive and impressive collection of cookbooks.

Oh, cookbooks. I love them. I really, really love them. More than I should. Because I want to buy so many of the ones that I see, but honestly, how many cookbooks can one person own? Especially when she doesn't use most of them most of the time?

But they're so nice to have around, aren't they?

I recently saw a recipe on Leite's Culinaria and thought, "I think I have that book!"

Yup! I do. I've never baked a single thing from it, but there it is, on my shelf, waiting for me to get around to this walnut torte.

Hello, lovely. How had we not met before?

See? I need to spend more time with my books.

Anyway, the point of all of this is that I used to peruse the cookbooks at the library and check out a stack and bring them home. And then, in my free time, I would plop myself in the recliner in the basement, position the top of a TV tray across my lap as a desk, and flip through cookbooks and write out recipes that interested me.

Which is how my recipe file turned into this:

And I haven't even added to it in years.

Instead, I've taken to tearing pages out of magazines and such, and stashing them in manila folders that I sort through occasionally, only to realize with disgust that a recipe calls for a cake mix – Really, people, it's too much effort to measure out the dry ingredients? – or that I tore something out so long ago that it no longer appeals to me.

I keep my recycling basket nearby. It gets pretty full.

In the cabinet next to the stove, I have a small loaf pan that holds my go-to recipes, the ones that I make with enough frequency that it doesn't make sense to take the time to file them away. (Hush. Let me have my delusion.)

But last night, I flipped through my mondo file looking for the Fudge Crispies recipe and was intrigued by a good number of the things I'd jotted down in my youth.

Also, my handwriting has morphed rather interestingly since then.

I kind of miss my recipe-writing days. It was a good way to unwind, to turn off my brain, to sit in front of whatever blather happened to be on TV, and transcribe.

I should visit my local library and see if there's anything worthy.

I have a lot of room in that file.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Fudge Crispies ...

Angelo made Rice Krispie Treats, and bid farewell to his lofty plans to tuck his shirt into his pants.

I suggested that, by volume, the pan in the picture contained as much air as Treat and that he'd be fine.

I am so good at rationalizing vices. Truly, it's a gift.

And I would have gotten away with it if he hadn't revealed that he sometimes dips his Treats into peanut butter and/or dark chocolate.

"Oh," I replied. "Should I tell you about the chocolate version I make?"

"No, you should not," came his reply. "Tell others."

So here we are.

I don't have a photograph of these because I haven't made them in eleventymillion years, but it was fun to flip through my recipe file to find the recipe card.

I have a lot of good recipes in there.

I should make some of them sometime.

But I digress.

Here, then, for others (that'd be you), definitely not Angelo (look away, mister), is the recipe.


You're still reading, aren't you?

Good man.

Fudge Crispies

1/2 cup butter (That's one stick, kids. No need to gunk up a measuring cup.)
1 10 1/2-ounce package mini marshmallows
1 6-ounce package semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups Rice Krispies

In a large saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Add marshmallows. Cook and stir until marshmallows melt. Remove from heat. Add chocolate chips and vanilla. Stir until chips are melted. Stir in cereal. Turn into lightly buttered 8-inch square baking pan. Chill. Cut into bars. Store covered at room temperature. (Though, with the weather here these days, I'd store them in the fridge.)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Trayvon Martin ...

I make sense of the world through words.

I write my way through confusion.

Each letter is a step through the fog toward clearing.

But tonight, the clearing won't come.

I am pulled to this keyboard yet left utterly speechless.

What is there possibly to say?

The more I learn about the death of Trayvon Martin, the more overwhelmed I become.

How can this be the world we live in?


I thought about L.A. Dave tonight, about the conversations we would have had for the past few days, since this story finally took root in our nation's consciousness, although Dave would have told me about it before. Because Dave was forever informing me, teaching me, challenging me.

And I sat down to write, thinking that perhaps I could understand some sliver of Trayvon's story through something Dave might have said, but what kept coming to my mind was a post I wrote about him last year.

I am surely no saint. I have failed throughout my life to be the best person I can be. Not failed entirely, that is to say, but I am far, far, far from beyond reproach. I judge, in the moment, things that do not matter, and later I wonder why. Who knows. Conditioning, I suppose. But then I consider that at least I am aware. Belatedly, perhaps, but maybe one day in advance. Maybe one day, I'll stop before I start, be kinder to the world, to those who are worthy, anyway.

I would like to be the person who thinks of Trayvon's killer with compassion, who thinks that we cannot know what brought him to that point that night.

But I am not that person. I want Trayvon's killer to spend the rest of his life in prison. I want his brand of hate behind bars, not gunning down innocents in the name of "safety."

I do not believe in the possibility of redemption for someone so filled with hatred that he would gun down another human being not as a person but an emblem. "They always get away." Those words chill me. "They always get away."

Trayvon was killed in that moment for being "they." Not a young man with a life story that had barely begun.

My mind keeps returning to the hope that someday, history will reveal this tragedy to be a meaningful moment in moving us toward our greater humanity.

But today, may his family find comfort in each other.

And may we all vow to do better every day.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Bonjour, Picardie! ...

When last I walked into Williams-Sonoma, my eyes instantly fell upon a shapely, wee glass. I was drawn to its weeness more so than its shape, but its shape was charming, too.

How cute, I thought, for a bit of juice in the morning.

But I didn't buy him. Because I didn't need another glass, after all, and I don't drink juice most mornings.

Today, though, as I was on my way to the store, my mind decided that I should swing by Goodwill just to see what I might find. (I like to pop in there for props for food styling.) And wouldn't you know it?

There was my glass.

Just one.

So I brought him home.

He cost me 27 cents.

You can buy him or his siblings from Williams-Sonoma here.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bald Move: The Update ...

Turns out, I am going not to have someone shave my head.

The reasons are several, the most important of which I don't feel at liberty to share.

But I know that everyone who contributed to my early efforts to raise funds in Donna's memory would have been happy to have contributed because she was an extraordinary little girl and because St. Baldrick's is an extraordinary organization. (If you've not yet met her photograph, this is Donna, our inspiration.)

So, thank you to all of you who contributed so generously. And to those who may be reading about this for the first time, the event is March 24th and Donna's Mama and Daddy and all those involved in this event have blown by the original goal of $20,000 ... by more than $30,000!

Right this minute, the total raised on behalf of Donna stands at $50,137!

The new goal is $55,000. But I see no reason why that can't be surpassed as well.

This is the link to the St. Baldrick's page for Donna's Good Things for those who would like to do their part to put an end to pediatric cancers.

And while I shan't be submitting to a shearing, I have another Good Thing in the works. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Happy Anniversary ...

The other day, I looked up the date that I started this blog, all the way back in 2005.

Appropriately, that day was March 13. Thirteen is my favorite number. But I do believe it was just a coincidence.

Except that I don't believe in coincidence.

Anyway ... .

Seven years ago, I started blathering away in this space, thanks to my friend Jeff who said, "You need a blog, woman!"

Boy, did I.

I've met some really good people through this site. It's given me a space to jot my thoughts – some profound, most inane – and prompted me to write more than I otherwise would have, I'm sure.

Just for kicks, I looked up the seventh year of wedding anniversaries to see how it's observed with gifts. One of the traditional gifts for the 7th year? Wool.

Well, duh. That explains the 7-year itch, people. Who's the genius who thought of that?

The other traditional material is copper. That's nice. I like copper. Shiny copper and patinated copper. My mailbox looks like an old penny.

The modern version 7th-year anniversary gift is, oddly, desk sets.

Desk sets? Why desk sets?

Any of you married folk out there find yourself with the urge to spend a lot of time at your desk once your seventh anniversary rolled around?


I like my desk just the way it is, thanks. Set-free.

So, here's to seven years. And however many more there are ahead.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

In My Dream ...

I dreamt about Jeff. In my dream, it was night and very snowy. I knew I was meeting him, and I could see him as I approached a little station, like you might find at an "L" stop or along a Metra line. He was inside, waiting. I saw him through the glass doors.

I walked in and I hugged him and said, "This is a dream, isn't it?"

When I woke up, I marveled at that, that in my dream, I knew that seeing him was a dream. He was there, and I could hug him, but it wasn't real.

But now I think that it was. He's not here physically, but my memories are real. And since everything is energy, he isn't really gone. I may not be able to interact face to face with the being I knew as Jeff, but the essence of him remains in all of us who knew him and somewhere beyond what we can comprehend in this form.

In any event, it was nice to see him again.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Letting It Be ...

Last weekend – not this past weekend but the weekend before – for whatever reason the timing was the timing, I decided to finally accept that the baking/photographing/writing/cookie path is what I'm supposed to do.

Enough trying to "figure out" my calling, blah, blah, blah. I know. I've known. It just didn't seem doable. Or important enough. Frivolous, I've said before. But then I really thought about the cookie I did for Angelo in September, the little peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and how it affected him, and I thought, "It's not flashy or grand, but what I do touches people. And that's all I want to do." And I thought that I should write it all down, to make it real. But I didn't get around to it.

And then this morning, a comment arrived on this post, "Quiet Epiphany," which asked: "I'm curious..2 years later did you ever have the epiphany or direction you were looking for ?"

Well, Anonymous, as a matter of fact I have. I replied: "I have, actually. Your comment is very timely. And has spurred me to write a blog post about just this topic. Look for it in the next 24 hours. Thanks for asking!"

And here we are.

The signs have been mounting, as I wrote about in "A Cookie Story," "more and bigger pieces are starting to slot into place."

But still, I resisted. Even as I wrote, "There is lot of love that goes into baking for others. It is a simple act. But it is profound," I resisted.

I wrote those words on January 22. By the end of February, the Universe had had quite enough.

I was there. I had arrived. After 42 years of trying to "figure it out," I had figured it out. But I hadn't let it in.

So much angst. So much toil. So much fervent effort to analyze and test and figure, figure, figure.

Until that weekend, two weeks ago – I believe it was on Sunday – when I sat here, in this very chair, staring at the O magazines and the recently purchased e-workbook that were my latest installments of attempted discovery.

And my brain just said, "Stop. Beth, stop. You already know. Just accept it. It'll work out."

Just like that.

Forty-two years of my own sound and fury signifying nothing. All of which ended with a single thought.

"Just accept it."


OK, then.

So I did. Without having any concrete reason on which to hang this decision, no pronouncement, no fanfare. Clouds did not part. Angels did not sing.

It was just there. It was just a relieved sigh. Sunday, February 26, 2012, the day my brain said, "OK."

Two days later, an email arrived.

Asking me to be part of a project for which is needed 50 dozen cookies.

Yes, 50 dozen.

Yes, that's 600 cookies.

Yes, that's a lot.

Hello, acknowledgment from the Universe. How nice of you to arrive so promptly.

Still, baking in and of itself isn't sustainable for me. Even with a bakery. I've written about this before.

But I said "Yes" to the project for more reasons than one, because I have no idea where this will lead but I'm smart enough to follow paths that appear in front of me.

I don't know.

But I do know that I know others who have traveled similar paths.

And, as I've said before, my network has always served me well.

So last night, I pinged one of my new acquaintances and asked him if he might have time, somewhere in his busy schedule, to hop on the phone sometime to offer some advice.

"Of course," he replied. "Tomorrow?"

Why, yes, tomorrow would be fine!

And I asked another food-type person, on Twitter, if I may tap her for advice sometime.

"Anytime," she tweeted, instantly.

I am a fortunate woman.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have 600 cookies to bake.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Ideal Beauty ...

My mom, her sister, and a family friend used to joke that when they arrived at a certain age, they were going to get a group discount on facelifts.

That was a long time ago. I was young. I may have been an age denoted by a single digit.

My mom never did go in for any plastic surgery. Hell, my mom doesn't even color her hair. A lot of people know my mom by her hair, its whiteish-silverishness and her long braid. The braid is much shorter these days. Every so often, she gets her hair cut for Locks of Love.

She is who she is, is my point. She doesn't wear makeup anymore and what she used to wear was so minimal, she was barely wearing makeup even when she was wearing makeup. I take after her that way, though I use eyeliner and she never did.

And she's beautiful. She's just entered her 70s – mom is proud of her age, so she won't mind my disclosing it – and she zips about the world in her sporty sedan and wears jeans and sweaters on her casual days and slightly dressier clothes for church, but she's never fussy. She's classic, my mom, in her own way. She doesn't look like a Ralph Lauren ad or like a mannequin at Talbots. She's just her.

All of which is a prelude to a wee post about being oneself. One's true self. Not that we should all eschew hair color and makeup and dress in sweats, but the older I get, the more I look around and I see people frantically trying to erase all evidence of aging and I'm grateful, so grateful, to have my mom as my example, my guide.

Someone recently took the time to write to tell me that I should stop using the "gosh-awful photo" that I use on here and Facebook and elsewhere. "I just know you have a better photo you could use. Something that actually looks like you--beautiful and smart. This one makes you look ditzy and it does not in any way show your looks to their best advantage!"

She went on to tell me that she had some new software to improve photos and that she would be happy to work on a picture of me to give my look "what we all need at a certain age--a little more rested, a little slimmer, teeth whiter, eyes open a little more or whatever."

So much for living an authentic life, eh?

Yes, it's true, I'm in my 40s. But I don't yet think of myself as a woman of "a certain age." I'm not sure what I'm supposed to look like in this decade, but I'm happy with who I see staring back at me in the mirror each morning.

And I've grown so weary of the Photoshopitization of women. Sure, I like the sassy feeling I get when J-D makes my hair all pretty. And yes, I brush on a coat of mascara before I run to the store. I'm not against a little beauty. But I draw the line at altering images of myself. It feels dishonest.

I'm not talking about color correction or exposure. I'm not purple in real life, so if I look a bit lavender in a shot, I'm A-OK with using the settings in iPhoto to counteract the lavenderness into a more natural hue. But I'm not about to start tinkering with my physical features.

Years ago, in my voiceover days, I had a headshot done because my producer more or less commanded it. And it was fun to have my makeup done. And it was kind of fun to have the photographer snap off shots. But the contact sheets were not a lovefest. I didn't like most of the images of me. I don't like most images of me as a matter of course. But there were a few that worked. And the one that I chose was pretty. (The photographer called it when he shot it. He was right. It was good.) And so long as I had a headshot, I used it on Match.com in those days. Why not, right? Why not use the best picture I had of myself? It was me. It was just a really good picture of me.

And one guy wrote to ask if the image I posted was really me or if it was a picture I got in a frame when I bought it.

Yes, really.

Yes, I told him, it was really me. As if I would post a picture of a different person. That would make any potential first date rather awkward, wouldn't it, if a completely different person showed up?

Someone on Facebook commented that that photo is my "Jane Pauley" look. Which is funny. But which is also true, in its way. It's a very stylized shot. Headshots look like headshots, they don't look like candid snaps. Also, I don't appear to the world in black and white.

Perhaps one day, I shall have another headshot taken if my professional life becomes more professional. If I'm speaking at a conference, say, no, I won't be using my "gosh-awful photo" for promotional purposes. But on my blog? On Facebook? Yep, that's the picture I choose to use.

I like my "egg-beatered hair." I like that I snapped that picture with my laptop one night for L.A. Dave before heading out to see a friend's band. We had been on the phone and he wanted to see how my hair turned out. He was always fascinated by my hair. So that photo is a happy reminder of that night and my friend, who is no longer here.

I admit to being taken aback that someone would write to me and offer an unsolicited assessment of a picture I chose and to tell me that I should submit to being digitally enhanced.

No, thank you. For a host of reasons.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Good Times, March Edition ...

The March cookie installment for the angelo:HOME blog
features Red-Wine Zabaglione with crumbled Shortbread. Not a cookie, per se, but cookies are involved.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The XX Factor ...

Oh, I've been so foolish.

Here I thought we deserved some respect, we proliferators of the human race.

No, no, it's no trouble, really, carrying the responsibility of perpetuating the species and making sure that your T-shirts are their very whitest. After all, that's why we're here, to birth your babies and bleach your loads.

Of course, we've been imbued with the miracle of bringing life into the world but that doesn't mean we have the good sense to make decisions for ourselves. So of course, if we participate in any sexual activity without the sole intent of creating a human being, we deserve to be branded as sluts. Never mind that two of the most terrifying words a man can ever hear are "I'm pregnant."

Forgive me my confusion – I don't possess a Republican Penis of Wisdom – but how is it that some men can want to have sex with women and want to deny them the right to birth control and recoil at the notion that they might knock up a girl or 20?

Gosh, gentlemen, you're just too virile for your own good!

But what's a handsome, brilliant, powerful man to do? You have needs.

The good news is, now that all we women know we're prostitutes, thanks to Mr. Limbaugh, the patron saint of misogynistic asswipes, you shouldn't have to pony up your hard-earned cash for our services anymore.

Supply and demand at its finest, this development. If every woman is a prostitute, that should drive down the price all the way to $0.

Actually, I think this means that we'll start paying you!

Because you know what's sexy? Almost every Republican member of the United States Senate voting for the Blunt amendment. Oh, yes, Mitch McConnell, you gorgeous turtle of a man, embolden my future employers to pass judgment on me, too. That is so hot.

What's that? Oh. Oops! There I go again, acknowledging that I sometimes have a fleeting thought about sex.

Naughty me. I'll have to practice my chastity.

I don't have any aspirin in my medicine cabinet. Will a liqui-gel do?

What a relief to no longer have to think about what I'll wear every day. I'll stock up on high-necked blouses and ankle-length skirts tomorrow. Does anyone know where I can get a deal on cameos?

Or has the GOP mandated burqas? I want to be sure to comply.

By the way, where can I donate my shoes? Clearly, I won't be needing them anymore.

And I'll sure miss driving. But think of all the money I'll save on gas.

Oh, wait a minute. I'm not supposed to be earning my own money, am I?

But I don't even own an apron, let alone pearls.

Whatever shall I do?

If anyone needs me, I'll be on my fainting couch.