I spend a great deal of time driving my 13 year old around. He’s a lovely boy in general and good company, most of the time. When we ride, he’s the D.J. and has a lot of radio stations to choose from here in L.A. Somehow, we happen to end up listening to rap and hip-hop. Somehow, he happens to know all the words.
I’m trying to figure out how this lily white suburban golfer boy knows everything from Lil’ Wayne to Snoop to Kanye to Jay-Z. Being the courteous boy that he is, he skips the f-bombs in the songs, but other than that, he’s got all of it down…including the hand gestures. I guess I should start to pay a little more attention to what he’s doing, because I really don’t know how he found the time to listen to all this music. I guess my 8:00 bedtime isn’t working out as well as I thought.
I know that I should be a little disturbed by the fact that we listen to pretty aggressive music where the theme seems to be getting it on in a club with an apple bottom jean ho with boots with the fur, but there is something really entertaining about Conrad singing along to Kanye and Jay-Z (What she order?/Fish fillet?) like he’s channeling their vibe in his collared, tucked-in shirt. Cranking up LMFAO’s “I’m Sexy and I Know It” might not be really appropriate when I’m dropping him off at golf practice, but I’m going to go with the idea that he doesn’t know what all the words mean…fingers crossed…
One of my biggest goals in life is to be the kind of person who can, at the drop of a hat, whip up something like a loaf of bread without even glancing at a recipe. I know, I know. I dream big. But I think it’s a valuable life skill—one that could give me a whole lot of street cred. Okay, perhaps only a little street cred in Pleasantville, but street cred all the same.
That goal, however, is only secondary to the thought of having a set of skills that could get me out of any situation. You never know when the only way out of an obscure and/or life-threatening situation could be a basket of muffins or some chocolate cake. Personally, I would be tempted to forgo my plans of pulling off the perfect jewel heist if the museum guard offered me a fresh baguette.
Baking is indeed a science, where things need to be put together in just the right way to get the desired result. Coming up with your own recipes is a tricky business that takes a whole lot of trial and error. In attempts to move closer to my goal of becoming the most threatening character on the block in Pleasantville, I checked out the book Ratio by Michael Ruhlman from my library over winter break. The idea of Ratio is that behind every recipe is a simple ratio to describe the relationships between the ingredients. Knowing the proportions of basic ingredients like flour, sugar, eggs and butter, and how they fit together is the key to cooking by the seat of your pants. And for me, Ratio was the key to total kitchen domination.
Reading through the book, everything seemed to make sense. For example, bread is essentially a 5:3 ratio of flour to water, with some yeast thrown in to the party, that is infinitely adaptable. It makes total sense. But then I read and re-read explanations, attempting to put them to use. And unfortunately, that’s when it hit me: ratios are the only part of basic math that make my brain to feel like it was trampled over by a Clydesdale the longer I try to figure them out. The idea makes sense, but attempting to adjust the ratios to units of measurement so that I could actually make them into recipes was a daunting task.
I wasn’t willing to give up on the dream completely, so I tried out the most basic ratio, a 1:1:1 cookie. I could totally handle that. I figured this balance of butter, sugar, and flour would yield something buttery, light and crisp almost like a shortbread. I was in the mood for chocolate, so I set to work devising a chocolate shortbread.
I was a little skeptical of my choices when the dough turned out to look more like dense brownie batter than shortbread dough. But I forged on, scooped it with a melon baller onto cookie sheets, and threw them into the oven, hoping for the best.
And the best was exactly what I got. They’re not pretty, but they tasted so wonderful–the perfect mix of sweet, salty and chocolatey. And even though it was for but a brief moment, I had conquered math and was rewarded with cookies.
Chocolate “Shortbread” Cookies
These aren’t your typical shortbread cookie, but that’s the closest I can come to describing them. I’d recommend refrigerating the dough for at least an hour before baking, but I’ve made them without doing that and they’ve turned out fine. They are delicate cookies, so make them small and allow them time to cool before removing them from the cookie sheet.
½ cup butter (1 stick), at room temperature
4 oz. semisweet or dark chocolate, melted
½ cup sugar
½ cup flour (I use whole wheat)
¼ cup cocoa powder
¼ tsp salt
Beat together the butter and sugar in a medium bowl. Add in the melted chocolate and stir until combined. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, cocoa powder and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, stirring until just incorporated.
Cover the bowl and refrigerate the dough for 1-2 hours. Remove the dough from the fridge and preheat the oven to 350F. Scoop the dough out by rounded tablespoons onto a cookie sheet (using a melon baller is helpful to ensure that each cookie is the same size). Flatten the tops of the cookies using the palm of your hand and bake for 6-8 minutes, until crisp around the edges. Wait until the cookies cool for a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.
Hey, everybody, want to look at my favorite thing that I found on the internet today? Are you ready for it? You have to get ready for it. Because it’s this:
Once I got over being furious that I was not the one to come up with this campaign, I got to thinking. I want to take a few moments to break down why this is the best idea ever in the world:
1) Pizza is a perfect metaphor for love. One person is the dough, one person is the cheese, the sauce is the commitment, and all the stuff you might put on top of a pizza is everything in your life that makes your relationship great like your kids and your shared friends and the stuff you like to do together and all that shizz. See? Boom.
2) Nothing screams forever like pizza. Why, you ask? Well, stupid, it’s not just because of America’s (read: my) unfaltering love for the saucy, cheesy awesomeness. Pizza, at its very core, is simultaneously indulgent and familiar. It is special and fun to order pizza on a Friday night, but also comfortable and not a huge to-do. Pizza, in that way, represents all that a marriage should be: a love that affords both variety and realism. To expect doves and romance all the time probably isn’t reasonable. After all, no one except for passengers on the titanic eats “romantic” food like champagne and caviar every day. And, anyway, let’s look how well that worked out for them:
- Billy Zane was terrible and pretentious from the start- but do you think Rose would have Split a New York style pizza with Jack the second they got off the boat? Nod that head!
- Everybody on the titanic died.
3) I would never mean to imply that pizza isn’t romantic. It is very romantic. It’s just the restrained, acceptable kind of romance that doesn’t make me want to puke everywhere. Let’s keep anything heart shaped out of the picture.
4) Moreover, pizza, like life and love, is wont to change. Though one’s love may change and evolve from a zesty pepperoni style love to a sweet pineapple kind of love, the root of it never changes. Leave it to cheese to remind us all why we fell in love in the first place. Hm.
5) Is there anything sexier than grease? Yes. It’s watching me eat a slice of pizza. Other than that? No.
These are just a few of the hundred million reasons why I think this pizza proposal thing is an amazing idea. Plus there’s a limo! And pictures! And a professional home video you’ll never watch! Ugh, does anything sound more perfect?
Future husbands take note.
Plus, hey, it’s refundable.
Years ago, Conrad, my darling four year old, came home from pre-school with a poster he had made with some general rules for behaving. It was divided in half with “Helpful” on one side and “Not Helpful” on the other. Some of the “Helpful” list included: “say please” and “keep your hands to yourself”. Some of the “Not Helpful” items were “shouting”, “not listening to your mom” and “being mad”. This poster soon became a kind of family motto and catchphrase. Instead of calling someone a complete idiot for leaving the gas grill on all weekend, asking if you shut the garage door when you’re an hour out on your road trip, (or a good one: What do you mean by “I’ve lost my passport”) we would say “That’s not really HELPFUL right now” in a sharp, mocking tone complete with not so loving hand gestures and eye bulging.
With the family motto in mind, I feel the need to unload all that I deem “Not Helpful” this week…a cleanse so to speak. I’m going to adapt this idea to express to all of you dear readers, how many things bug the crap out of me on a daily basis. No one in the family believes that I can come up with even one thing that doesn’t irritate me. I’m going to make a good attempt.
Not Helpful…this week
1. The dog two doors down the street and its’ owners. I get the pleasure of hearing that stupid dog bark every night from 8 p.m. to midnight and then again at 6 a.m. on weekends. Here’s how it goes: LEAFBLOWING BY!!LEAF BLOWING BY!!CAR PASSING !!SPRINKLER ON!!SQUIRREL!! Each tiny sound requires a barking alert…super great!!
2. The fat smoker guy with the giant thighs who sat next to me on the 2 hour flight home. Thanks for having a rotten case of B. O. and keeping your legs wide open so that I had to occupy one tiny corner of the seat I paid for. I had to keep my head in my own armpit to keep from gagging.
3. The following words and phrases: Collaborate; At the end of the day; Basically; Think outside of the box; I could care less; I’m not going to lie; Moist; “Are you sure”?; carbuncle. I shouldn’t have to elaborate on any of these separately nor together…
4. Being told I have laser-beam-like eyes, I’m quite irritated that I don’t actually have the ability to shoot laser beams from my eyes. It would come in handy sometimes, and I would probably be less irritated.
5. Having to show my driver’s license to prove my identity before getting a horrible medical test. Really? Someone is going to actually defraud the radiology center in order to get injected with radioactive material and get scanned in a tiny, claustrophobic tube for 2 hours? Really?
6. That reminds me; my driver’s license. I guess the new style of licensing is not to smile for the picture. Therefore, I look like a prison matron at a concentration camp. Perfect for the several times a week I need to use it for I.D. purposes and have to look at it.
7. Any conversation about the weather. Unless you’re in a tornado or can’t open the front door due to snow build-up, zip it; I couldn’t care less!
1. A beer and nachos at the Montages in Deer Valley, Utah with 2 of the best people I know, Kelley and Lisa. They were quite “Helpful”…and so was the beer and the Montages.
2. My nightly reading session under the covers with my Kindle, flashlight, and this week, the book “Raylan”. I read until Jeff complains that it’s like the Aurora Borealis are on the ceiling of the bedroom…sigh…that’s so “Not Helpful”…
More soon…lots more…
Since moving home, I’ve spent a lot of time being jealous of my friends and their glamorous locations. DC, New York, LA, even Williamsburg (the quaint college town that it is) are all meccas of culture compared to my small town. And sometimes I get a little down about the lack of museums, cool concerts and comedy venues. But mostly, I’ve realized I just have to be creative if I want to stay entertained. Living in a small town as a young (not so) professional does not have to equal social suicide. You just gotta be brave. Being brave for me meant venturing past the one bar my high school friends and I ever went to. It meant befriending the kids from the other high school in town. It meant learning to Wobble…
My first journey outside the realm of my usual activity led me to Bluefox, the pool hall on the outskirts of town that I’d never been to but heard kind of sketchy things about. The first time I went to this pool hall, I was scared. Mostly because:
- I’d never been to a pool hall.
- I didn’t really know the people I was meeting there. Some crazy girl from work told me to go, and in general, new people and places make me a little anxious.
- People were doing choreographed dances to songs I didn’t know.
- There were lots of beards and leather. Those things are inherently scary.
- I was the only person wearing a cardigan. Also frightening.
But despite my worries, I had a good time. And before I knew it, I met some more new people and explored some of the other social options Winchester has to offer. And now I am not afraid when I go to the pool hall anymore! This is because:
- I’m getting kind of ok at playing pool aka I’m pretty much a shark these days.
- The people I met are pretty great. They’re real country and like doing things like bon fires and skinny dipping, but I like it. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a country music video which is neat.
- I found out that on Tuesday nights, Jerry the Bartender (a very good dancer and very gay man) teaches the steps to these dances so you can be ready to dance on Sunday night with everyone (apparently Sunday night is a popping night at Bluefox! Who knew?!). Because of Jerry, I learned how to Wobble! I now break it out at any possible occasion. (See video if you yourself are interested in Wobbling).
- Beards don’t scare me anymore because I’m now dating one of those bearded men. I have learned to embrace them (not the men, but their beards. Although, I guess I do embrace a bearded man). The leather I’m still a little iffy about.
- Ok, my friend still calls out what she describes as my “Yacht Chic” wardrobe as being a little inappropriate. But like I said, I still can’t commit to a leather vest.
If you haven’t gathered from my previous posts, I love cats. I just really love cats. Sometimes I make my friends take me to the animal shelter when I feel blue so that I can hold some cats. It’s a surefire way to help me feel better in no time, because I just love their little faces and paws and tails and slinky attitudes.
The summer before my junior year of college was pretty miserable. I was living in Williamsburg, VA, in a house with drafty windows and a broken air conditioner, so it was constantly a million degrees. My roommate was going through a bad breakup and I was on a diet where basically all I could eat was grass. There are no carbs in grass. This diet made me pretty unpleasant. So between the semi-constant crying, and the totally constant sweating, it wasn’t the fun-filled environment you might hope for if you were, say, a nice girl from Missouri just trying to take a few summer classes. Sorry, Sara. Also sorry, Jules. Just…sorry, everybody.
I worked as a nanny that summer, spending most of my days in silence as my 9-year-old charge rarely wanted anything to do with me. One afternoon, I got a text from my roommate Taylor saying she had a surprise for me later. My interest was piqued, since my carb-and-fat-free ways meant that it had to be something other than pizza, which was usually what we meant when we told the other we had a “surprise”.
Several hours later, I was weeping into a rapidly melting tub of fat-free cool whip when Taylor walked in with a carrying crate. She opened it up and a long hair torti kitten wandered out followed by the tiniest, lankiest, cutest little booger I’d ever seen. Immediately, I named the kittens Basket and Bruner, and commenced snuggling. Taylor maintains that those were stupid names, but she let me call them that because she’s a really good friend. She had found the one thing in the world that would make me happier than pizza.
Basket and Bruner had the cutest little colds and the sweetest little eye infections, but they would never get better if they had stayed at the humane society, with all the cat germs floating around there. So we gave them their little medicine and hugged them and made them chase string, and soon they were ready to go back and get adopted. By then we had realized that this rent-a-kitten thing was too good to abandon, so we got more.
Next, we got four gorgeous polydactyl tabbies who needed to be socialized. At the start of their 2 and a-half weeks with us, they all hid behind the couch all the time and hissed whenever you looked at them. By the end, I didn’t even have to chase them to get them to sit on my lap! One time, Taylor made some cheesy potato soup, and all four kittens started shouting and climbing up her shoulders to try to get to the soup. In that moment, we knew they would have no problem finding families, so extra toes and all, back to the shelter they went.
After that we had Phyllis and Angela, who also had colds. They were with us for a few weeks before they were healthy and went back to the shelter. Soon after, we brought home the detectives. Detective Elliot Stabler, Detective Olivia Benson, and B.D. Wong were about 5 weeks old and needed some socialization. They were adorable, and if you’ve ever had any doubt about how cute it is to act out scenes from Law and Order: SVU with kittens, I am here to confirm that it is very, very cute. The only downside to the detectives was that they had a serious flea issue, but they were too little for flea medicine. We gave them baths, to no avail. Soon, the whole house had fleas.
A note about fleas: fleas don’t latch onto humans, but they do bite. Also, they get into your clothes and carpet and are just terrible. Also, people make fun of you when they find out you have fleas. Also, exterminators are expensive, but DIY flea bombs don’t really work, especially when your house has a bunch of holes in it.
At that point, school was starting, I was skinny, and our sub-letters were leaving. We were getting back to reality, so the stream of kittens ended. I think of those little guys often, though, and I completely attribute my weight loss success to them, distracting me from my misery. I could try to market it, but “The Kitten Diet” sounds a little sinister. I’ll work on it. I speak of those kittens fondly, and whenever I bring them up in conversation, whoever I’m with always is in awe of my kindness for helping foster and rehabilitate kittens in need. But to paraphrase Sandra Bullock from The Blind Side, “No. Those kittens were fostering me.”
I’ve lived in Los Angeles for going on 8 months, and it’s expected that I’ve come into contact with celebrities during my time here, because naturally most celebrities live in small cul-de-sac communities out in the suburbs, 90 minutes away from Hollywood. While I, like most everyone who lives here, have had some celebrity contact, it’s not exactly what you think…
You see, whenever I see a celebrity, I only see them from the back. I’ve never really seen a celebrity straight on, only from behind, and usually from far away. I don’t know if this is a common thing here, or if it’s just me, but I’m getting scarily good at identifying people from behind. And it’s not like the celebrities I see are really famous, they’re just kinda famous.
These occurrences all started when I came home for Thanksgiving from school because I had mono (long story…). I got off the plane and I was walking to baggage claim, I noticed I was walking behind Jennifer Garner. She was very short, and had brown hair, and was nondescript but for the back of her head. It looked distinctly like the back of Sydney Bristow’s head, (Secret Agent (and Overt Badass) from Alias), that I decided it MUST be The Back of Jennifer Garner. The back of her head also looked like the back of Elektra’s head, so that’s what really gave it away. As she was whisked away in a tinted limousine by her big burly security team into the welcoming arms of The Back of Ben Affleck, I basked in the glory of my first celebrity encounter. And you can never tell me otherwise.
Another such encounter I had was at a club in Hollywood when my friend Ross was visiting. We were hanging out in this super fancy club with loud music and really beautiful people (I guess that’s a thing down here), when the crowd parted and I saw something I knew I had seen many times before, but couldn’t place my finger on it. Then it hit me. That big, black head I noticed was attached to a tall, black man, that I was SURE was Cedric Yarborough. If you don’t know him, he’s the black cop from Reno 911!. Anyways, to make a long story short, I was in fan heaven, so I made Ross’ girlfriend take a picture of me with The Back of Cedric Yarborough. It was a great night.
Of course, my celebrity encounters were not just limited to these two. I’ve had plenty of other encounters with the backs of celebrities as well:
- Paul Walker (The Fast and the Furious) – walking across the crosswalk at the Burbank Airport. He was wearing sneakers and a backpack. He was really cool!
- Brad Garret (Everybody Loves Raymond)- shopping at Barnes & Noble with his children. The back of him is as tall as it looks on screen!
- Kim Richards (Escape To Witch Mountain)- making out with her boyfriend outside of a movie theater. She had a really nice ponytail, so she must be really nice as well!
- Leann Rimes (Adultery)- sitting at a booth behind me with her adulterer, Eddie Cibrian. She was wearing a fedora. I like Leann Rimes in fedoras, she should wear them more often!
Now, there was one time that I have seen a celebrity full on, in all their glory. One of my most favorite actors of all time works out at the same gym as I do. Yes, that’s right! I have seen Cole Hauser!!!!!!!
For those of you poor souls who don’t know Cole Hauser is (like that’s even possible!), you might know him better from his formidable resume:
Good Will Hunting – Billy McBride
The Hit List – Allan Campbell
The Cave – Jack McAllister
Pitch Black – William Johns
2 Fast 2 Furious – Carter Verone
Paparazzi – Bo Laramie
So, while I have only had the fortune of seeing the face of one “celebrity” so far, I look forward to seeing what the future holds for me. Maybe one day I can graduate from seeing the fat doppleganger of Steven Spielberg to seeing his hand, or his shoes, or even the back of his hat. I don’t ask for much, because I don’t need much to get excited.
Sometimes, after mindlessly surfing the internet for hours upon hours, I snap back to reality and find myself deep in the archives of a parenting website. That’s when I wonder to myself, “Who am I and how did I get here?”
I found myself in such a circumstance a few nights ago after watching Half Nelson, a movie starring Ryan Gosling as a drug-addicted junior high history teacher. Pleasant, right? So as soon as the movie was over, I ended perusing pictures of desserts on the internet in an attempt to counteract the unsettled feeling that movie left me with. A few episodes of Cheers later, I somehow found myself on a parenting website, reading a post about something potentially magnificent: Dr. Pepper brownies.
Normally I’m not crazy about gimmicky recipes like this; I’d rather just have a really good brownie and maybe some Dr. Pepper on the side. But there was something too intriguing about this not too try. Will I like chocolate and cherry together? Will they be fizzy? And how does soda in a brownie even work? I was skeptical, but the fact remained: I like Dr. Pepper. I like brownies. So why not?
The original “recipe” consists of mixing a box of brownie mix with some diet DP and calling it a day. Somehow I just can’t bring myself to call that baking, so I had to mix up a recipe on my own, sans-brownie mix, just to see what it could possibly be like.
Perhaps my expectations were too high, but I wasn’t a big fan. They actually ended up more like little cake squares, which is fine, except for when you’ve got your heart set on eating a brownie. These tasted mostly like Dr. Pepper, whatever flavor that actually is, with a slight pinch of chocolate.
I hate for my first post to share something that was less than spectacular but that’s how the baking adventures work sometimes: lots of trial and error and being tempted into baking disaster by weird things like Dr. Pepper brownies. Needless to say, I won’t be posting the recipe because I’m not too proud of them. Brownies are one of my favorite things in the world and I’m not willing to perpetuate the existence of a brownie that is anything less than spectacular. If you want to call it Dr. Pepper chocolate cake, maaaaaaaybe I’d be okay with it. But a brownie? Not at all. I promise, on my Girl Scout honor, to share a delightful, so-good-you’d-eat-it-for-breakfast brownie soon. But until then, my adventure in soda-brownie science will have to suffice.
In preparation for my first day of classes I purchase a new spiral ring notebook, choose an outfit that makes me look intelligent, and arrive to class five minutes early. I sit down near the back of the class, not because I’m afraid to sit near the professor or want to look cool. I sit in the back of the class because I want a clear view of all of my classmates. The makeup of my class is typical of any English class at William & Mary, comprised of a handful of stock characters. After three and a half years here I’ve become quite adept at spotting them. Some are easier to identify than others. Some won’t reveal themselves until they speak.
I scan the room, hoping to identify a few of these characters and spot a gaggle of girls sitting diagonally in front of me. They chat quietly while scrolling through pictures of themselves on Facebook. I can’t remember taking an English class that didn’t have at least one girl looking at pictures of herself during the lecture. What luck! I’ve already spotted three of “The Girl Who’s Constantly Looking at Pictures of Herself.” I keep looking for the usual suspects of the English department but don’t find much. The girl and guy next to me might be “That Couple That Takes Every Class Together” but it’s really too early to tell.
Our professor enters the room and immediately assigns us the daunting task of selecting our favorite contemporary novel and sharing it with the class. Since everyone in the class will have to speak, this is my perfect chance to identify the rest of the characters. I’ll have to be careful about my response. This is a big decision. I’m tempted to choose The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera but worry this will mark me as “That Girl Who Tries to Sound Worldly By Referencing Novels by Czech Authors.” I don’t want to be that girl. No one speaks. We are all too busy over-thinking this decision.
“Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut.” One brave soul breaks the silence. I immediately identify him as “The Guy Who Tries to Relate Everything to Kurt Vonnegut.” I’ve seen a few of these guys before. “The Guy Who Tries to Relate Everything to Kurt Vonnegut” brings up Kurt Vonnegut every chance he gets, often referring to him as “Kurt,” like they’re old friends. Suddenly another character pops up. It’s “The Girl Who Disagrees with Everything for the Sake of Disagreeing” and unsurprisingly, she disagrees with the disciple of Vonnegut’s choice. This girl loves questioning anything from the norms of society to other peoples’ personal tastes. The girl speaks. “I’m not sure I agree that Kurt Vonnegut qualifies as a contemporary author. I mean, he’s been dead for a long time.” “The Guy Who Tries to Relate Everything to Kurt Vonnegut” slams his fists down on the table in front of him, whips his head around, and screams “THREE YEARS!” I readjust my assessment of him. I was wrong before. He is “The Guy Who Tries to Relate Everything to Kurt Vonnegut and Gets Angry When Questioned.”
As the class goes on I spot a few more characters.
- “The Girl Who Keeps Referencing that One Article by Foucault. You Know that One Article?” She can’t remember the name. No one knows what she’s talking about but no one wants to admit he or she doesn’t know. We all nod, knowingly.
- “The Guy Playing Tetris or Some Other Innocuous Game On His Cell Phone”
- “The Girl Who Shares Too Much Personal Information, Too Quickly”
- “The Guy Who Shows Up 15 Minutes Late and Immediately Proceeds to Fall Asleep”
- “The Girl Who is personally offended by Improper Use of Grammar”
After three and a half years of college, I’ve come to know these people and sort of love them. Their presence is comforting and when I graduate this year, I will miss them all. They are strange people but how could I not love them? I’m one of them. I don’t know what my character is but I’m sure I have one. I’m just too close to see it, I guess. I’m probably “That Girl Who Spends Class Sizing Up the Rest of the Class” or “That Girl Who Gets Sappy at the End of Her Blog Post.”