Thursday, July 9, 2009

Tri-Cake Trial

I spent lots of time on Tuesday putting together this party for my dear friend Charlee. I wish it hadn't been my first time making the main cake, I could have made it look much prettier. But this layer cake of vanilla and chocolate genoise with mango mousse, coconut Bavarian cream, chocolate ganache and a lemon glaze, ended up tasting much better than I thought it would and was not nearly as hard as I thought it would be. So I was glad I challenged myself with this one. The coconut cupcakes were good as well but I cooked the cupcakes longer than I wanted to and they could have been a little less dry. The chocolate ganache cupcakes were good as well. The ganache was great but I was disappointed by the new recipe I tried for the cake. Should have stuck with the tried and true that I always use. It was fun though and had me thinking all over again that I should own a tiny little bakery and create all day. But then it would be work.

It was a great party and my room mate Mauri saved me at the last hour and helped make everything come together. My friend Jed came right in at the very beginning and did my prep dishes, and then stayed at the end and did the rest. Thank you Jed! I hate doing the dishes! So much so in fact, (and my mom will appreciate this) that once as a freshman in high school my mom had been asking me to do the same dishes for maybe two days. I did everything I could to find something else to do to avoid it. Finally on the second day I snuck passed the sink on my way to school hoping she would give in and have mercy on my dish hating self. Not! Second period English class, we were reading Shakespeare(you remember these kinds of details when trauma occurs). The phone rang and my teacher picked it up. She turned, looked right at me, and in front of the whole class said "Miss Jones, Your mother is in the office, she said you need to come home and finish doing the dishes and then she will bring you back to school." I was mortified, and furious, but I did those dishes. I'm sure my mom thought it was the best idea she's ever had. Needless to say my mother never had problems with my lack of attention to post dinner clean-up again. My unborn children should fear the day they refuse to do the dishes, I learned the hard way what type of motivation works. I'm not afraid to use it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Toothpick Guy

My dear friend Chuck was born 27 years ago today. This year for her birthday she wanted a party. And so we gave her one. It was a long and fun day for me. It began this morning as I awoke with my grocery list running through my head. I did three brand new recipes! After work I went over to the grocery store, it was the middle of the day. I'm never at the grocery store in the middle of the day, let me tell you, that's when you should go. Not because it is quiet, you should go because it isn't. I was walking down the baking aisle when an elderly man stopped across from me and asked; "Do you speak English or a foreign language?", "Ummm, both?" I replied, not sure why he was asking because he spoke perfect English. "Look at these toothpicks!" he said, placing the small paper box two inches from my face. "Did you know that almost all toothpicks used to be manufactured in Maine?" he asked, I did not know this, and said as much. He shook his head in dismay. "You know, the round ones, not the flat ones, they made the round ones because Maine grows the right kind of trees for the round ones!". "Look at this box!" he said again, and I looked, wondering intently as to where this was going. "They're made in China, China!" he exclaimed. "I can't even be sure these are made of wood!" Ah, there was the point, he must be trying to make a statement about outsourcing to foreign countries. He wasn't. He went on to talk about how those very toothpicks from Maine had been the cure to his wife's gum disease, and her savior from surgery; and now he didn't even know if they were really wood! It was a dilemma. "Do you use toothpicks?" he asked, I nodded, "Then you now how important they are! I need to know if these are plastic. I bet you that's what they are!" He was becoming very animated by now, and I believed him when he told me he was off to find out. I then politely excused myself as I had a long grocery list to procure and not a lot of time. I thought about the toothpick man as I wandered the aisles. He was really concerned about those toothpicks. As I turned the corner down the cereal aisle there he was. He had cornered two unsuspecting men neither of which worked at the store, telling them of his misgivings about the origins of the toothpicks in his hand. I watched the faces of these men as he spoke, they were slightly uncomfortable but seemed interested in what he had to say. I was surprised how long they both stood there listening, and it was a few minutes before one of them even looked remotely as if he wanted to escape. I, of course, was watching this whole exchange from behind a box of Grape Nuts. I saw him again in the produce section, entreating a girl who worked in the deli to listen to his cause to bring back the wooden toothpick, if in fact they no longer exist. I'm pretty sure whatever type of toothpick was in his little box, they were wooden.

The point of all of this, and yes there is one, is that four people including myself and probably others I didn't see, took the time today to talk to a man about toothpicks. They talked to him knowing there was probably no real necessity for the conversation, but engaged in it because this man wanted to talk. He had interesting stories about Maine's production of toothpicks, and his wife's oral hygiene, and he wanted to share. In doing so he invoked smiles from others, and shared unfounded facts about nothing at all really. How often do we even do that in our communities anymore? How often do we think to engage in conversation in the grocery store aisle just because someone is standing next to us? Now I know we are busy, we have things to do, and it is possible that this sweet man has little audience at home and was craving interaction. But I was most surprised at this entire string of interactions because of the novelty of it all to those of us experiencing it, when it probably doesn't need to be such a novel thing, talking to our neighbors, or random members of our community in the grocery store. Just think how much more I know about toothpicks now because of five minutes I spent in the baking aisle talking to this nice man. More importantly it was one more smile I smiled today. Humanity is a funny, quirky thing, we should indulge it more often. I'll get past the grocery store and tell you about the goods for the party in my next post. I got a little carried away with the "toothpick guy" story.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

D - Word

I wasn't really feeling the holiday buzz this year for the 4th. My family is in Iowa City today to see my grandfather, and just be together. This was not a planned gathering, my mother's father is currently in the ICU trying to recover from Legionnaires Disease. I've been spoiled having all four of my grandparents play a huge role in my life up to this point. They have always been there, teaching me, supporting me in everything I have set out to accomplish. The idea of them not being here is difficult for me to wrap my mind around.

My mom's dad is intelligent, kind, humble and the hardest worker I know. He can fix anything, and always wants to make sure everyone is taken care of. He cheats at cards when ever he can get away with it, and always blames it on my grandmother if he gets caught. He is a goofball, and loves to make people laugh. I'm pretty sure one of his many heroes is Peter Pan. His full name is Richard Leroy Unsicker, but he has been lovingly known as grandpa D-word ever since an unsuspecting ride home from Chi Chi's Mexican restaurant in 1983. My brother and I were sitting in the back seat he was almost four, which would have made me five. It is one of those stories when you aren't sure anymore which details you actually remember and which ones you know because you have heard the story so many times. In any case... The grown ups were talking up front and my brothers little voice pipes up and asks, "Dad, why does everyone call grandpa the D-Word?" I admit I had wondered the same thing at times but had never voiced my concern. Dick is a common short name for Richard and I can't really say that I understand why that is, even now. As a four year old it upset Phil that people were calling his grandpa a word for which he only knew the negative connotation. He was a sweet little boy who often took things very much to heart. For example, around the same age, when asked what he learned from the Book of Mormon he responded "Be good, or you will be destroyed." Yeah, he was kind of intense. I don't remember the explanation my mother gave us once they stopped laughing, but we must have bought it. My father still calls him grandpa D-word, or just D-word, come to think of it so does my brother. And my grandpa still chuckles a bit every time they do.

Grandpa Unsicker's family is from Germany, and for this reason only, he is pretty sure he can speak German. So on occasion, or a little more often than that, he will start in on what he considers true German dialect and sounds like, "oh schalden schpitzen schleisterator" and so forth. It normally comes out when he has stubbed his toe, or hit his head on a cupboard. He has also integrated it into his terms of endearment, as well as using it when he can't remember the name of something, or just feels like using a made up word instead of what it's really called. We have actually written a book of translation for this pseudo-German of his. It comes in handy when you first meet him. This is an example of a typical greeting when I walk in their house; "Why Emily [he comes in for a big squeeze] my little schmooglerator, sweet little {smooshy kiss on the cheek} schklabopple! [one more kiss on the cheek]How are you? Are you hungry? Do you want something to eat? We've got some nuts, or some pop out in the crotch(word he now uses for garage)! [before we can respond] Cheeks (his nick-name for my grandma)!! We gotta get something for them to eat they're hungry!"

The world is a better place with him in it. I love you gramps!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Damage control

I am realizing more and more that the world is such a different place for each individual, even the ones living down the street from me. When a child tells me he is late to an appointment because a kid got shot outside his front door that day, I don't get to think of how to get him out of that house or even that neighborhood, I get to help him want to survive another week, and help him know how. I never thought that answer would include "I know you sell drugs, and so do your parents, so if you sell, do it in a different neighborhood so people don't know who you know or where you live." I may tell them this knowing that for every week they stay alive they might come in to see me, and when they come in I might be able to help them decide that this doesn't have to be their life if they want out. And some days I might even believe what I say.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Bono, Usher, Obama. Did I mention...BONO!!!

Oh that I had A picture...alas. Still I consider one of my life quests to be practically achieved! I have always wanted to see U2 live and today it happened! I still need to go to a full concert to feel satisfied that I have had the complete experience. Still, it was awesome! Seeing Obama get his groove on was good too.

Barb, Ryan, Regina and I ventured out into the not SO cold to experience the buzz that is DC right now. I'm so glad we did. The concert could have been a bit more kickin, but they wanted to make sure and get in all of those sentimental "I love America" moments. Garth Brooks was great, Shaquira definitely represented, however I was hoping to see a few more moves out of her and Usher. Guess they were trying to keep things nice and conservative for the occasion. We were sort of disappointed Beyonce didn't show up, maybe next year. Now that the Democrats are in, Hollywood is in the house for at least a few more free concerts.

God bless America!


I went to the inauguration kick off concert in front of the Lincoln Memorial today! It was pretty great. But before I get to that there is the small matter of Spike.

We got off the Metro at Smithsonian to walk down to the concert and as we came up from the station there were people handing out flyers for Good Stuff Eatery, then I heard the words Top Chef and my ears perked up. I looked to my right and there was Spike from last season. Good Stuff Eatery is his new restaurant in Capitol Hill. It is weird to recognize famous people when they are standing next to you because I tend to initially think that I know them from somewhere and only then does it dawn on me that I know them from TV. Given I very rarely spy famous people, and when I do I generally leave them alone. But today, he was so close, and then he kept walking right behind us. I pointed it out to my friend Regina and she almost fell over, she is apparently even more of a Top Chef fan than I am. We stopped to decide if we were going to approach him.

Me: Should we just do it?

Regina: What are we going to say, we need a line!

Me: A line? Like "Hey Spike, Nice T-shirt, too bad you didn't win"?

Regina: No like "Hey Spike we loved you on the show"

Me: But we didn't, we thought he was an eee-errr.

Regina: That's beside the point.

At which point I grabbed her wrist and pulled her along with me and after "Hey Spike" came out of my mouth I have no idea what we actually said, but we got the picture and it was awesome.

I wonder what his real name is? Dang, that's what we should have asked him. But honestly how ridiculous that the rich and famous...more famous than rich in this case, can make giddy school girls out of otherwise perfectly calm and composed women.

And we didn't even really like this one. If we had seen Harold?!! Watch out!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

May I....

I would just like to say thank you to my friends and family who recently found out about this blog and have been prodding and cajoling me to post more ever since. Expectation is the price one pays when starting one of these. Don't get me wrong, I hate it when my favorite bloggers don't post. Curiosity killed the cat you know, and I don't miss that cat, so i'm obviously pro curiosity. I demand postage when it isn't there, and so it is only fair that you should too. I just have to remind everyone of the disclaimer with which I started this blog,(see first post). I say when! I say who! I kidding, I'm a total pleaser. And having said all of that, I'm back, wanting to be more dedicated to blogging bliss, and I shall try.