Saturday, March 30, 2013

Different ...

As of yesterday, my word for the remainder of 2013 is ...

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Oatmeal Cookies Revisited Revisited ...

I don't usually go for the solo-cookie shot but too many oatmeal cookies in the same vicinity look like a sea of lumpiness.

Beware The Baccalaureate ...

Maybe it's just me.

But I'm pretty sure it's not just me.

As our economy improves (ostensibly), as the dust settles from the crash of 2008 and we can survey the new landscape, I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one wondering what new world we're living in.

It sure as hell ain't brave. I know that much.

Yesterday, I read this piece: "Why a BA is Now a Ticket to A Job in a Coffee Shop," and I reflected fondly upon that time in my life when I was about to leave the comfort of college and enter the real world.

The job market in 1991 was reasonably crappy, just as the job market is now.

And I was graduating with a degree in English.

Friends and family, making graduation-season small talk, asked, "What are you going to do with that?"

I'd deadpan: "Park cars."

Of course, I don't actually park cars.

People park their cars themselves. And insert tickets into boxes and chase those tickets with credit cards. I couldn't even get a job as a cashier in a parking garage. Those jobs are gone, too.

But I had no real fear back in the day. A bit of "What lies ahead?" trepidation, sure. But all through college, my English professors helpfully reminded me at every turn that an English degree was a valuable degree because there would always be a need for folks who can express themselves well and who can help others express themselves well, too.

Oh, really?

That may have been true in the late '80s and early '90s, when 2400-baud modems were the rage, when floppy disks would have fit neatly into album covers.

But that was then.

The '90s soldiered on. I took a job at the Chicago Tribune in 1992. In Sports. My thinking was that I'd stick it out for six months or so, slap another name-brand entry on my résumé – along with the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago magazine – and then get a "real" job.

That was the time when folks were starting to make noise about the disappearance of newspapers. Never mind that the World Wide Web was still something I had to access through AOL. There was a whiff of change in the air.

One day, perhaps during an interview, perhaps casually, Bill Kurtis and I talked about the future of newspapers. Bill, of course, is famous for the television side of news, but he was convinced that newspapers were here to stay for a long, long time. "You can't take your laptop on the 'L'," he said.

And he was right.

At the time.

And maybe no one ever did take their laptops on the "L," but now nobody needs to; they have their smart phones and tablets instead. Far more convenient than a laptop, ridiculously less cumbersome than a newspaper, all the information you could ever want or need in the palm of your hand.

And therein lies my realization this week: The Internet is a great thing in many ways, assuming that folks are able to separate the worthy wheat from the glut of chaff. But giving everyone a platform to publish has also severely devalued those who make their living from words.

"The world has become more casual," I said to a friend earlier this week. And that's a good thing in a lot of ways. Though I really do think more men should return to the custom of wearing hats.

But with the speed and proliferation of information and opinion – and worse, the culture of texting – the rules for language have become far more lax.

And more and more people who in the past might have paid for a writer or a proofreader or an editor don't seem to have the same level of concern about written collateral or they now seem to expect word people to work for free. Or for next to nothing.

I think it's worse to be offered a penny a word than nothing at all. With an offer of nothing, at least we can delude ourselves into thinking we're offering our work pro bono. But a penny a word doesn't come off as "It's not much but we wanted to pay you something for your efforts" appreciation, it just comes off as "You should feel lucky we're willing to pay you anything at all" insulting.

And yet, I see so much money in the world. Not oil- and computing-billionaire money. That's another stratosphere of wealth I can barely begin to comprehend.

But this morning, I read a piece in New York magazine about Matt Lauer. I already knew he signed a contract for $25 million a year. I didn't realize that he works four days a week. (I don't watch "Today.")

And I spent a minute doing the rough math.

Let's say Matt takes two weeks off a year. I'm sure he takes more time than that, but it works well for my rudimentary math skills.

So, $25 million a year for 50 weeks of work.

That's $500,000 a week.

He works four days a week.

That's $125,000 a day.

I don't know how many hours he's on the air each day or how many hours he's at the studio before he goes on the air or how many hours he stays after he signs off. So I can't figure an actual hourly rate, but still: $125,000 a day. That's more than most people make in a year. And he makes it in a day.

Just for kicks, let's presume he puts in an eight-hour day, pre-show, show, and post-show.

That works out to $15,625 an hour.

Nice work if you can get it.

Granted, "Today" also once brought in $500,000,000 of ad revenue for NBC each year, so of course the talent who helps attract that kind of money should be rewarded.

But $125,000 a day?

Or worse, reality-TV stars who make $150,000 an episode. For what, exactly? Getting drunk? At least Matt Lauer has skills to which we can assign value.

Meanwhile, kids today are racking up massive debt – or their parents are shelling out massive amounts of money – to earn a degree with less and less promise that they'll find jobs that enable them to pay their own living expenses, let alone pay back the loans.

Last fall, a College Board report revealed that a "moderate" college budget for an in-state public college for the 2012–2013 academic year averaged $22,261. A moderate budget at a private college averaged $43,289.

Let's assume those numbers stay stagnant for four years. Which won't happen, but let's pretend.

$22,261 x 4 = $89,044

$43,289 x 4 = $173,156

And remember that budgets for education assistance are shrinking, not growing. So even those who can afford to go to college will emerge with debt equivalent, for many people, to the mortgage on a home.

Which takes us back to the story about a BA being a ticket to working in a coffee shop.

Not that there's anything wrong with working a coffee shop. The people at my local Starbucks are really nice. But I'm guessing the college graduates among them didn't pursue four-year degrees with the intention of donning green aprons once they took off their commencement robes.

Of course, there are kids getting word this week of their acceptances into schools who will go to those schools, learn many useful things, and embark upon fulfilling careers. (College is great for a lot of folks. I don't want untrained "engineers" designing our bridges.)

And then there are all the kids who won't.

There was never any question that I was going to go to college. Not because I had a burning desire to get a college degree but because it was simply expected of my brothers and myself.

And I appreciate that my parents placed so much value on education.

One brother is working in a field somewhat related to his degree.

The other brother is working in a field in no way related to his degrees.

And me? With my "You'll always be in demand" degree in English?

Well, I spend a lot of time baking cookies. And one day, I might even make money at that. And I will surely have really well written and really well proofread printed materials for my business.

But in the meantime, finding word clients who have any inclination to pay a living rate?

Difficult. It's really difficult.

As for the "real" jobs? The name brands on my résumé signal to some that they can't afford me. Others presume I'll get bored and move on. Interviews are elusive.

Mind you, I don't regret any of the jobs I've had. I've met some of the most amazing people in those positions.

But there are paradigms shifting all over the place.

And I need to work on my balance.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Snickerdoodles Revisited Revisited ...

The snickerdoodles needed a new glamour shot. And this grey day needed a little cinnamon-sugary oomph.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Really, Jayson? Really? Part VII ...

I've become a bit of a Jayson junkie. It's not all Jayson's fault. But when I poke through shelter magazines and see simple forms at ridiculous prices, I think of Jayson all over again. Perhaps I'll start doing round-ups of asinine pricing elsewhere. But today is another Jayson day.

This was the item that inspired this post. It's from Belgium, not France, for a change. But when I saw the price — $2,995 — I thought, "Huh. That doesn't seem like a lot of money for the Ark of the Covenant."

Yes, I know it's not exactly the same as what we saw in "Raiders of the Lost Ark," but that's what it calls to mind. For me.

Antique Carved Sideboard – $2,995

And then I saw this table. This faux-tusk table. On a Lucite base. From Paris, just in case you were under the impression that all things from Paris were obviously Parisian. Then again, around the middle of the 20th Century, maybe this was obviously Parisian. Or maybe somebody set out to make a table after imbibing a little too much absinthe. But no matter your positions on faux tusks and Lucite, I think we can all agree that $11,995 is pretty spectacular. Though not in a good way.

Vintage Faux Tusk Table – $11,995

And lastly, a castle door. An antique castle door. Salvaged from a Dutch castle. In Holland, of all places! There are two available, in case you have door frame that's 88" w x 142" h. And door jambs made out of, I dunno, steel beams?

Antique Castle Door – $4,995, set of two available, priced individually

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sunday-Morning Griping: HGTV Edition ...

There is snow on the way.

It is March 24th.

I've been in better moods.

But this post isn't about snow. (Yesterday's post was about snow.)

This post is borne out of a comment I left on a friend's Facebook page yesterday.

I wrote: "HGTV has become 20 hours of some version of 'House Hunters,' two hours of infomercials, and two hours of random bad shows made on the cheap. Any good programming that seeps onto that network is bought from Canada, it seems. Sad."

Which led me to plug this search phrase into Google: "remember when HGTV featured design shows".

Which led me to "Where have they all gone????", a message-board string discussing the disappearance of most of the shows that used to draw folks to HGTV.

You know where I found that message board?


There are other, similar strings in the forum, too.

Which made me wonder:

a) ... if anyone who works for the network ever reads the message boards, or ...

b) ... if anyone who works for the network cares what viewers think.

Because it's right there, network types. Unsolicited feedback, free for the taking. No need to pay for focus groups. No need to pay anyone $100 for their time or even buy them dinner.

Now, granted, when I do happen to land on channel 229, I see plenty of advertisements, so perhaps the thinking is that so long as you're selling all the ad slots, there's no need to concern yourselves with what programming falls in between said ads.

If the goal is that narrow, you're achieving it.

But for what it's worth, there's a big contingent of fans out here who used to tune in who have given up because if you're not going to put in any effort, why should we?

You're like a 24-hour diner that used to have a great menu but that's started serving popcorn 20 hours a day instead because it's easy and cheap to produce.

I've mentioned similar things before. There was the post about the awful new format of "Design Star," so snarky as to border on mean. And then there was the post about the network simply not being anything like what it used to be.

But now, each day is programmed in giant blocks. It's really stupid. The occasional marathon weekend? Sure, why not. But programming every day in chucks of shows, thereby giving viewers who don't like a given show absolutely no reason to tune in for seven hours at a crack? How does that make sense? Even folks who love "House Hunters" probably aren't going to watch 14 episodes in a row.

Today's schedule is rather typical. It's not Sunday-specific.

Here's what's on deck for the day, from 7 a.m. today through 3:30 a.m. tomorrow. (Infomercials happen during the other few hours):

7 a.m. – 10 a.m.: Cousins on Call

10 a.m. – 11 a.m.: Flea Market Flip

11 a.m. – 12 p.m.: Property Brothers

12 p.m. – 1 p.m.: Love It or List It

1 p.m. – 8 p.m.: House Hunters and/or House Hunters International

8 p.m. – 9 p.m.: Extreme Homes

9 p.m. – 10 p.m.: Hawaii Life

10 p.m. – 12 a.m.: Reruns of House Hunters and/or House Hunters International that aired earlier in the day

12 a.m. – 1 a.m.: Reruns of Hawaii Life that aired during the evening of the previous in the day

1 a.m. – 3 a.m.: Reruns of House Hunters and/or House Hunters International that aired during the evening of the previous day

3 a.m. – 3:30 a.m.: Rerun of Extreme Homes than aired during the evening of the previous day

You see my point. I don't much care for "Cousins on Call," so I have no reason to tune in for the first three hours of the broadcast day. "Flea Market Flip" is stupid and a fine example of programming on the cheap. The winning contestants split $5,000. Oooh. "Property Brothers" and "Love It or List It" are overexposed. (But that hasn't prevented the appearance of "Buying and Selling" [aka "Property Brothers, The Sequel"] and "Love It or List It, Too," [quite literally "Love It or List It, The Sequel."]) My gripes about the entire "House Hunters" franchise are well known to readers of this blog. (In a nutshell, house hunters need to find something more to gripe about than the color of a room or the hardware on kitchen cabinets.) "Extreme Homes" is usually a dud for me. (Look, someone built a weird-shaped home in the middle of a field!) And "Hawaii Life" is "House Hunters" set in Hawaii. Seriously, HGTV, we don't want to see another show devoted to people looking at homes. Yes, I know they're cheap to produce. But you're driving away your audience.

Speaking of cheap to produce, I ran across a press release touting four new shows in 2013. They are:

– The aforementioned "Hawaii Life," which is relatable to almost no one.

– The aforementioned "Cousins on Call," which is fine when offered an episode at a time, but don't shove three hours of it in a row at viewers.

– "Scoring the Deal," which is "House Hunters" for rich sports dudes, which is less relatable than "Hawaii Life."


– "Spontaneous Construction, on tap to premiere in February, [which] will activate a 'task mob' to help homeowners who are struggling with a renovation project. By harnessing the power of email, Facebook, Twitter, Craigslist and others, host Ricky Paull Goldin recruits a massive group of dancing, flash-mobbing strangers. Carpenters, skilled laborers and helping hands join forces to create stunning renovations - and have a ton of fun along the way."

February has come and gone. I have seen no sign of "Spontaneous Construction" and I hope to God I don't. Has there ever been a more absurd premise for a show? If the description of your construction show contains the phrase "dancing, flash-mobbing strangers," something has already gone horribly, horribly wrong.

I can appreciate trying to develop a show that's interactive for viewers. That's what Rate My Space tried to be. (And by the way, y'all know I know Angelo, who used to be on HGTV's talent roster. Consider this full disclosure. This post has nothing to do with him.) But crowdsourcing a renovation? What the hell kind of stupid idea is that? Would you want a mob of strangers working on your house? What could possibly go wrong?

OK, the coffee's kicked in. I'm feeling much better now, much less gripe-y. But one last thought, HGTV, if you're reading (and I'm sure you're not): Enough with the fake drama that's injected into the shows. If I wanted to watch bitchy people, I'd tune into some "Real Housewives of ..." franchise or "Jerseylicious."

There's a reason I never tune into any "Real Housewives" franchise or "Jerseylicious."

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Winter Needs To Take A Nap ...

This photograph was taken on March 5.

We got quite a bit of snow that day. Enough to require two hours of shoveling the next morning. The shoveling was good exercise, sure, but there's something irksome about shoveling in March.

Still, I had a lot of baking to do that Tuesday and I was happy to be in my kitchen, oven warm, KitchenAid whirring, creating part of a birthday gift for a friend.

It was cozy, actually. The aroma of warm butter and sugar wafting through the house, the snow falling outside. Martha Stewart would have approved.

It was also still winter, technically. In my mind, winter is December, January, and February. In my mind, seasons divvy up by months. Not days. But fine. Spring was not due to arrive until this week.

And so it has arrived.

And tomorrow, we're due for another winter storm.

I've seen a couple of forecasts, a couple of estimates for inches of snow. One said 1-3. Well, that's manageable. Annoying but manageable. One, though, suggested 6-8. That one is based on a map supplied by Tom Skilling. Tom seems like a very nice guy, if a little too chatty for the allotted length of his segments, but the key point here about Tom is that he's rather legendary for his accuracy. Granted, weather will do what weather will do, but Tom hasn't been a weatherman for this many years raking in that many weatherman bucks for being wrong all the time. He's no Steve Martin in "L.A. Story."

And so, it's sunny at the moment. But tomorrow, more snow is supposed to arrive.

That vexes me. I'm terribly vexed.*

Winter, you had your turn. Did Mother Nature never teach you to share? Or can you not read a calendar? It's spring's turn now. You're overstaying your welcome, which is simply bad manners.

The coziness factor has waned. I actually want to do yard work. I want to cut the grass.

When I want to cut the grass, you know that winter has gone on too long.

I need to see something bloom, dammit.

* Yep, that's from Gladiator. I'm a Joaquin Phoenix fan.

Monday, March 18, 2013

As I Was Saying ...

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Preheating ...

I began compiling this binder some years ago.

I like creating binders. Yes, I have a love of office supplies, but I like organizational-type tasks because they provide the feeling of accomplishment without actually having to take any risk.

Perhaps I depleted my chutzpah stores to dangerously low levels when I was 19.

Or perhaps I'm just someone who takes a long time to get where she's going on any particular leg of this journey we call life.

Or perhaps I just need to accept that things happen when they're meant to happen. "When the mango is ripe, it falls from the tree," as Doreen would say. Has said. Does say.

Put another way, as favored by Amy in this amazing quote:

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
— Anais Nin

At the risk of mixing metaphors, that's where I am.

Taking steps toward baking professionally is a radical shift for me. It shouldn't be radical as I've been taking very tiny steps toward it for a very long time, but I've always been a little slow on the uptake where professional pursuits are concerned.

I can't tell you how long it took me to acknowledge writing as a talent that had value in the world. From the time my mom taught me to print my name – I was 3 – I wrote. Words always came easily to me. Music, too. I'm no Mozart, but I can hear the musicality in language, which is why people respond to the way I write, I reckon. For the same reason that some songs are so hummable.

But most everyone writes. Most everyone can string together vowels and consonants into words and string those words into sentences and use those sentences to convey their thoughts.

It took me a long time to realize that not everyone can do it to the same effect, though.

And so it is with baking.

I bake. I've been baking since I was a kid. I've surely gotten better over the years, but it's always just been something I've done and so, despite people telling me for years and years that I should do it professionally, I never gave it more than a cursory thought. "Yeah, that'd be fun, I guess," I think, and then I'd move on. To nothing particularly fulfilling.

But eventually, when something's meant to be, the frequency of the messages picks up, their volume rises. Execution's perfected. And eventually, one finds oneself at a tipping point.

I'm at the tipping point.

It's teeter-y, but the thought of what lies ahead is more exhilarating than scary.

And that's what's different this time.

There are some practical needs that require my attention first, but I'm on this path with no intention of turning back. Or of finding a way out.

So here it is. In black and white. Words on a virtual page. Commitment, intention, call it what you will.

I'll let you know when the first batch is ready.

And thank you, thank you, thank you to all of my cheerleaders and angels. You know who you are.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Adornment ...

I like to wrap.

But even more, I like to ribbon.

It's a combo platter, sure. Though I know some folks who just wrap gifts and don't bother beyond that. Not even with sticky bows. Hell, I've known people who bought printed boxes and skipped the paper all together.

But I like creating presents. It's good therapy. It's one of those tasks that requires my focus, so I can shut out whatever else might be going on and channel my energy into tightly folded corners and effusions of ribbon.

I've written about my ribbon before, my true addiction, my stash.

I was amused to reread this post about perfectionism from 2008, especially this:

"So why doesn't everyone produce cookies and packages that look like Martha Stewart held a gun to their heads? I guess they're just less obsessive. And I think that's a good thing."

But within the last week, I had occasion to wrap gifts for a friend's birthday and it brought me an inordinate amount of glee.

I pondered purple to pair with a silver polka-dot paper. I pulled three shades. (Yes, I have a lot of ribbon.) I thought I might use all three, intertwined, but when I curled the lengths into piles and looked at them side by side by side, I fell in love with the ombre effect, so the ombre effect remained.

I'd never done that before. I shall be doing that again!

For the second gift, I kept the paper in the same silver family but wanted a more sophisticated treatment for the ribbon. I pulled great lengths of two shades of silver ribbon, gathered it in loose loops, pinching about a third of the way down, tied it to the package, and then snipped the loops open and ended up with something fluid and shaggy.

Sometimes, I get theme-y, like all silver paper and all white ribbon:

And sometimes, I get silly, like using race-car paper for a guy's 50th birthday (with coordinating ribbon, of course):

And sometimes, I can't decide what colors to use, so I just use every one that relates to each other:

As vices go, I'm OK with having this one.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Enticement ...

Baking sablés for a meeting. Edible aids instead of visual aids, if you will. Too bad we can't meet here. The aroma in my home is amazing. The power of baked goods cannot be overstated.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies with Dark Chocolate ...

I happened upon this recipe while on the hunt for an alternate peanut butter and chocolate cookie after a new recipe I'd tried turned out to be a bust.

I read the reviews for this recipe and marveled at the raves. Could they really be so great?

Turns out, yes!

They're magic cookies! No butter, no flour, just peanut butter, sugar, egg, baking soda, salt, and chocolate. I used dark chocolate because I like the dark chocolate Reese's cups, but you could use semisweet or milk chocolate, depending on your preference. Or you could omit the chocolate and just whip up great, simple peanut butter cookies.

They're also dangerous cookies. If you're like most people, you'll have all the ingredients on hand at all times. And there's no need to haul out a mixer, either hand or stand. You just stir the ingredients together in a bowl, portion cookies onto parchment-lined sheets, and bake.

Just be sure to let them cool for five minutes on the baking sheet before transferring them to wire racks to cool completely.

So delish!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Really, Jayson? Really? Part VI ...

I don't usually go back to the Jayson well so soon on this site, but last night, I spied something that damn near made me groan. Which in turn led me to click out of the Flea section and into the regular-store offerings and, well, here we are again.

This was the damn-near-groan-inducer. Yes, of course it's from France. It's dimensions are 11"w x 7.5"d x 6.25"h. First of all, who needs a stool that's 6.25" high? Especially a stool that looks like it's about to collapse from ennui? What use does this serve? A perch for feathers that have escaped from pillows? Could it support any more weight than that? A paper doll, perhaps? For $350? Oh, Jayson.

Vintage Stool - $350

Next, a pouf. Granted, it's handwoven. Granted, it's lambswool. Granted, it's 40 inches wide. But who is dropping more than $1,000 on this? To plop on their floor? You know this is going to become a dog bed if the buyer has a dog. And it's going to become a shag pouf if the buyer has a cat. Jayson, do you realize why you had to mark this down from its nearly $1,300 price? Because it was nearly $1,300! What is your markup on products? Geesh.

Beecher Pouf - On sale for $1,036, marked down from $1,295. You'd save 20%!

Next, a llama throw. For $695, Jayson, I don't want to know it's woven from llama wool, I want to know it was woven by a llama. You show me a llama at a loom, I will find $695 for this throw. Otherwise, no thank you.

Llama Throw - $695

And lastly, a legitimate "Oh, that's nice" find. Mind you, I wouldn't plunk down $195 for a pillow, but it's pretty.

Velvet Geo Pillow - Grey - $195

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Good Times, March Edition ...

The March cookie installment for the angelo:HOME blog features Curious George-Inspired Big Cakey Cookies with Soft Chocolate Frosting. I'll let you click through to the post to learn why.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Really, Jayson? Really? Part V ...

The forecast this morning is "grey." And since coffee is doing nothing to rouse me, I thought why not poke around my favorite online "Are you kidding me with this?" site and see what absurd offerings can be found today?

Let's start with a folding chair. Yes, it's French. Yes, it's "vintage." It has a "unique patina." Unfortunately, it does not appear to be offered with a French, vintage, vinyl-covered folding table with French, vintage cigarette burns, nor did I find any offering of a French, vintage stale ashtray. I guess you'll just have to find those somewhere else.

Vintage Metal Folding Chair - $295

Next, a metal tray. Oh, you guessed it! It's vintage! It's from France! There is no mention of its unique patina, but it has a unique patina, a unique patina that may be a design-forward combination of rust and paint drips. Or maybe the "rust" is just "grime." But the paint drips appear to be very vintage.

Vintage Metal Tray - $295

And finally, a wooden crate. Of course it's vintage. Of course it's from France. Apparently, there is nothing vintage left in France. All of it is at Jayson. But, as a bonus, you can contract tetanus from the rusty nails for free!

Vintage Wood Crate - $60

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Snow This ...

So, it snowed.

Really snowed.

Snowed like the meteorologists said it would snow.

This storm did not veer off its projected course. This sucker stayed steady on its path.

So Tuesday was a snow day. And that was fine. I was busy in the kitchen, trying a couple of new recipes, then deciding that they are not worthy of inclusion in the repertoire. And all the while, snow swirled around outside. As opposed to inside, which would have been problematic.

It was pretty. I took a break from baking to snap a few photographs. The one above was taken a few hours into the storm.

There was much more snow to come.

But I had no desire to go outside and deal with it. I would let it move out of the area and then shovel all at once.

Which is what I did. Yesterday morning.

For about two hours.

"That's your cardio for the day!", a friend wrote on Facebook.

"That's my cardio for a freakin' week," I replied.

Upon re-entering the house, I had taken two Advil, just in case.

And then I set upon baking again. I had figured out why one of the recipes came out so terribly. The blogger who wrote out the recipe and instructions from a cookbook failed to mention that the recipe, as written, calls for eight very large cookies, which means the time in the recipe is intended for baking eight very large cookies. (I discovered this by finding the recipe inside the book on Amazon. Thanks, Amazon, for that handy "Look Inside!" feature.) Logically, the time to bake 24 smaller cookies instead of 8 larger cookies would need to be adjusted. Unless one was aiming for cookies that could be used as paperweights.

So I modified one of my own recipes, figuring all I really had to lose was a couple of sticks of butter and a couple of eggs. And a bit of flour and sugar and such.

And hey! Success! Cue the theme from "Rocky"!

I finished all of my kitchening (which included pulling a tray of cookies out of the oven, touching my hand ever so briefly to the oven door, jerking my hand away as a reflex, and launching the cookies off of the tray onto, thankfully, the door of the oven; only one hit the floor), heated up a bit of dinner, did all the dishes and baking accoutrement that had accumulated on the counter, settled in on the couch to watch my beloved Rachel ... and woke up to Lawrence.

Oh, I'd fallen asleep. Sometime before 9 p.m.

I'm going to chalk that up to being tired from having shoveled for two hours earlier in the day and then from having been on my feet in the kitchen for the balance.

Either that or it's time for me to trade in my car for a Cadillac and move to Boca.

At least I wouldn't have to shovel. And I could spend my days in ironic track suits.

Does anyone have an orange lipstick I could borrow?

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Sublime ...

Like everyone else, I'm sure, I was stunned the first time I saw this image of Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln.

Day-Lewis is a brilliant actor in every role but Lincoln was truly the role he was born to play.

I finally saw the film today.

I cried when the vote was read.

And on the way home, I decided that Meryl Streep should have handed Day-Lewis two Oscars last Sunday. One statue doesn't seem enough to acknowledge his portrayal.

Brilliant. Beyond brilliant. Sublime.

And all due appreciation to Tony Kushner for his obsessive attention to accuracy on top of his eloquence.

And to Steven Spielberg, of course. The scene in the theater was perfection.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Donna Day ...

Donna has been on my mind.

I think of Donna daily. This picture of her sits on the desk in my office, so I greet her every morning and every evening, I bid her goodnight.

But lately, specifically, I've been thinking about Donna and school.

Donna really wanted to go to school. So much so that even as her weeks were waning, school was how she chose to spend her days. And even as my friend Sheila offered to stay, to help her (since her balance was beginning to falter), Donna reassured her that she would be OK.

I so admire the way children approach their lives. Unencumbered by experiences and filters that adults often employ — wittingly or otherwise before making decisions — most children simply act. I would certainly do well to apply the same approach to my life, to not let what might happen tomorrow prevent me from pursuing something that appeals to me today. I suspect many others could claim the same truth.

Donna's Mama, as my friend Sheila is also known, has written exquisitely about her daughter in Donna's Cancer Story. I encourage you to read it in its entirety.

But it is a passage in "Choosing Hope," the penultimate post in Donna's Cancer Story, that I most want to share today, for it contains a most simple but profound request:

In these days, our neighbors, Chabad Lubavitch Jews, encouraged us to travel to Queens, New York with Donna, where the leader of the Hasidic movement was buried. They believed that his burial place had healing powers and thousands travelled there daily and were cured from illnesses as critical as Donna's. If we were not to travel, they encouraged us to send a prayer via email and it would be placed at the Rebbe's grave.

We are not religious, Mary Tyler Dad and I, but I embrace the belief that no one truly knows what is and is not in our world, or what happens after we leave this world. Each day as Donna would nap, I would type the same message to the Rebbe and think about it as it made it's way to Queens, was printed, folded, and placed next to the Rebbe's grave: "May she live until she die." That was my wish for Donna. I did not ask for her healing or a postponement of her inevitable death, I humbly asked the Universe to allow Donna to live until she died. No suffering. No pain. No lingering. May she live until she die, was my mother's plea, my last wish for my dying daughter.

Donna truly lived until she died.

A four-year-old girl, whom I know only through her parents' loving words and the sweet face I see on my desk each day, inspires me. To be more mindful. To live more fully. I am nowhere near as brave as she. I hope to be someday. Because we never know what tomorrow will bring.

And because in about the same time as it has taken you to read this far, somewhere in this world, a child has been diagnosed with cancer. One child is diagnosed every three minutes.

And research for pediatric cancer is woefully underfunded, which will never cease to baffle me. Why do we not devote plentiful resources to finding cures for cancers that affect children? Why do we not give them every possible opportunity to live long, full lives?

Thankfully, St. Baldrick's exists. Formed in 1999 by a group of insurance executives, St. Baldrick's has since granted more than $100 million to researchers who are trying to find cures for childhood cancers. It is the largest funder for childhood-cancer research outside the U.S. government.

Before Donna's death, Donna's Mama and Donna's Daddy created Donna's Good Things, a charity that benefits many children in many ways. Its focus is not solely on children with cancer, but last year, Donna's Good Things hosted a St. Baldrick's fundraiser with a goal of raising $20,000.

Donna's Good Things did not raise $20,000.

It raised $79,000.


On March 30, shavees will once again offer their manes for this exceptional cause. At the moment, the oldest registered shavee is 89 years old. She is participating with her daughter, a return shavee from last year's event. If you'd like to register to participate, there's still time. You can click on the blue button on this page to join.

If you'd like to contribute instead, you can click on the green button on the same page.

As Sheila says, "Any amount will be awesome! Seriously. Many people chipping in $5 and $10 makes a HUGE difference."

Wouldn't it be a lovely bit of poetry to raise $89,000 this year, to surpass last year's total and to acknowledge the awesomeness of an 89-year-old shavee?

You can contribute in honor or in memory of someone you love. You can contribute in Donna's memory. You can remain anonymous. It's up to you.

But please do consider a contribution today.

Today, March 1 – a.k.a. Donna Day – Donna's Good Things wants to spread the word of the noble mission of St. Baldrick's and raise as much money as possible to help fund ongoing research.

Whether you're able to contribute, you can also help by sharing this post on Facebook and Twitter. Let your friends know about St. Baldrick's and Donna Day. Kindly tag your tweets with the hashtags #donnaday and #conquerkidscancer.

All of us who love Donna thank you for taking part in Donna Day.

Today and every day, choose hope.