I’ve got a good parking situation. Both at home and at work, which is a rare thing for San Francisco. Usually, I can park in the building where I work at a greatly reduced fee. Sometimes, if that lot is full, I walk one very long block to park in another garage, also generously subsidized.
Paying at this lot has an unexpected pleasure. Going through the automated payment process gets you to this sentence (spoken by computerized woman’s voice: You can now pay in cash the amount…
I like this strange arrangement; a tune I can’t get out of my head. In my mind’s eye, it is unpunctuated, pure.
It reminded me of the first writing class I ever took. It was with Daphne Merkin, a writer I love and admire. There was a Japanese woman in the class who wrote these wonderfully evocative sentences, as only someone writing in a second language (with a lot of talent) could muster. I was doubly jealous, of the second language, and the sentence construction.
A colleague recently asked me if I was going to suggest a certain writing rule at my company. I said no. I like rules, but mainly so they can be beautifully broken.
This is one of the most evocative phrases I’ve read in a while. I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s the perfect way to describe the movement, curiosity and explorative behavior of children. Brilliant. It will come as no surprise then that Julian Barnes wrote it. It’s the opening of his novel, Arthur & George.
A child wants to see. It always begins like this, and it began like this then. A child wanted to see.
He was able to walk, and could reach up to a door handle. He did this with nothing that could be called a purpose, merely the instinctive toursim of infancy.”
This is more of a feeling, not yet developed into a theory, but I wanted to put it out there. It’s simple really. Text talk (tt), or whatever it’s called isn’t a bastardization of proper English and correct grammar, it’s a new language; and it’s a particularly good language at expressing love or romance or lust or infatuation or … well you get the point. And here’s why. It’s not just words, it’s an audio/text/dopamine trifecta. And that’s not counting how close we are to our little mobile devices. How most of us carry those little guys on our person most days. A little warm buzz in the pocket or against the side tucked into a purse, or strapped across the chest in a messenger bag. The cell phone. Close to the head, close to the heart.
It starts with the chime, or the ding that lets you know something’s just come in. That’s exciting to begin with, then there’s the message itself, short, compact, urgent, in some stunted form. Long sentences, pauses and proper grammar would only slow things down and distort the meaning. Because pace is important; timing is everything.
Uh, this commercial made me tear up. Twice. I’m not sure whether it was the voice over, or agony. However, an impressive piece of commerce, this is. I’ll explain why I was watching it at all, later.
I like to use birthdays as an excuse to make a new cake. Or make an tried and true cake that challenges my decorating abilities. Thus, the Tiara Cake came to be. It’s in honor of M’s 5th birthday, which is today.
Having a child turn 5 is one of those milestones, where you say to yourself, “Five years have already passed! I can’t believe it’s already been 5 years.” And 5 is big, because your child is playing iphone games, has decided to be an astronaut, and uses the word awesome. You may have even seen a glimpse of the teenage years to come and the accompanying fashion and attitude, and yet, you still have a little girl who likes her princesses.
And so, in honor of the occasion (and for the party), we decided that the cake would not be shaped like a tiara itself but have a tiara (image) on it. (I wasn’t about to start drawing Ariel herself, in frosting). A tiara, which M will likely be wearing today, seems a solid symbol of both princesshood and birthdayness, and it’s not too complicated to represent in sugar products. It had to pink, of course, although I started out thinking it would be silver, only to find that frosting doesn’t come in silver, not at any local store anyway. M had also requested that I write, I love you and put some hearts on the cake.
For her party, we are also having a pinata, which has all six princesses (I guess Repunzel hasn’t made it into the hallowed center six for good yet) hanging out at their castle. I am expecting that by next year the princess interest will have waned, and we’ll be onto something else. I think we’ll be ready.
The cake is devil’s food cake with white chocolate chunks (again, for surprise) and a cream cheese lemon frosting.
The frosting is easy and reliable and delicious:
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, softened
8 ounces cream cheese cut into 4 pieces, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar
I mix up the first two in the kitchen aid, add the second two, sift in the sugar. Mix but not too much. And it keeps in the fridge for week.
I’ll post the cake recipe if it turns out to be very delicious. Now, I’m just hoping my fairy godmother prevents it from raining…
I like surprises. I’m not gaga crazy for them, but I do seem to have a thing for a little something something in my cake batter. Today we weren’t making the big birthday cake (more on that later) but just some cupcake bites for the kids at school. M wanted vanilla so we went simple, except for a little chocolate surprise in the center. We added Guittard semi-sweet chocolate chips (these are currently my favorite chocolate chips) in the middle of each.
Actually, I wanted it to be more like a chocolately pudding bite, so I probably needed a hunk of chocolate for that (or pudding). Chips weren’t really right, but they’ll still be a little surprise for the kids, and that is always fun.
Into cold storage they went until Thursday when they’ll receive their Meyer lemon icing. M seems to be fixated on that flavor … also rainbows. We’re going to add a little candy rainbow. I talked her out of the blue sky, white clouds (that we saw on Martha Stewart’s website–too big for our “bites,” but we’ll approximate. I’ve been looking up candy stores (I may have to go south for this…) and baking stores in SF.
Apparently, Sugar and Spice in Daly City is good, but I haven’t been there yet. I’ve been looking for silver frosting (Sur la Table didn’t have it) for the big cake, but I may just give up and go with pink(s). And, yes, that cake will have a little surprise as well…
Here’s the cupcake recipe–it’s Amy Sedaris’s recipe:
- 24 cupcakes
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1 1/4 cups milk
- 1 Preheat oven to 375°F.
- 2 In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add in the eggs, two teaspoons vanilla, salt and baking powder. Add flour and milk in batches, starting and ending with flour. Stir until batter is smooth and satiny.
- 3 Fill paper-lined muffin tins with batter. Bake at 375° for 18- 20 minutes.
Um … the best part!
For a long time my daughter, M, has been drawing and creating little visual worlds. She recently made this “stage” and then photographed it herself.
And this isn’t only thing she’s photographed, once I showed her how to use my digital camera, and she’s been using it! It meant that when I downloaded the photos, there were many surprises. Like these…
M also started drawing on my iphone and she figured out how to save her drawings. So, when I down loaded my iphone pictures, I came across these:
I love seeing the world from her perspective.
And I have the pleasure of curation.
San Francisco, January 2011
I’ve been thinking a lot about my Dad lately. September is the anniversary of his death, so he’s on my mind more than usual during the fall months. While he was fighting cancer, he said to me: sometimes, ships unmoored come safely home.
When my Dad was alive, I could have asked for the reference directly (although I didn’t at the time). So I hit the Internet looking for the source. I thought it might be Shakespeare, but I couldn’t find it. I actually have the vague memory of looking up the quote some time ago and finding it and realizing that the quote wasn’t quite right and thinking, how beautiful: “ships unmoored.” Or maybe that was now, I love the idea, the phrase, ships unmoored.
Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to come safely home. How you can walk up your 12 steps and turn the lock with your key to that satisfying click, get the somewhat stale whiff when you walk inside to closed windows as your eyes go first to the couch to check and see if the cushion is turned in the way that hides the still mysterious medium-sized green stain (what was that?!). Or if safely home is really about that magical home in the sky home, where you don’t even believe it exactly but you’re hoping in some way when you die, whether you actually go home or you just feel like you go home, something (God, brain, death hormones, something) gives us the feeling that we are on our way safely home, going home, or just home.
I guess if my Dad had meant the latter, he could have said: ships unmoored always come safely home. But then he wouldn’t have been the same guy who got a good laugh out of his idea for a bumper sticker: Visualize my ass.
Near the end of his life he told me, he wasn’t scared to die, just curious. I don’t think he was worried about coming “safely home” although he did want to come home to die and he did. He also wanted to see the place where he’d be buried before he died. I’ll never forget the drive home from the hospital, maybe a week or so before he actually died, which included a drive by the lush, green graveyard. My father, leaning way back in the seat of the car, painfully sat up, looked out the window and nodded.
A few years after my father died, I wrote something about him for a class taught by the indomitable Daphne Merkin. The essay, she thought, was overly sentimental and over filled with positive adjectives (for starters) but, she said, the piece had really given her pause, and made her wonder what her own life would have been like if she’d had a father like my Dad.
Needless-to-say, I still haven’t trimmed much sentimentality out of my writing when the topic is my father. It’s probably not going to happen, so let me end, unashamedly.
My father taught a lot of classic Greek texts including The Odyssey. When I typed “sometimes ships unmoored” into Google, it linked me to The Odyssey, book 13:
Then for Odysseus they spread a rug and a linen sheet on the deck of the hollow ship at the stern, that he might sleep soundly; and he too went aboard, and laid him down in silence. Then they sat down on the benches, each in order, and loosed the hawser from the pierced stone. And as soon as they leaned back, and tossed the brine with their oarblades, sweet sleep fell upon his eyelids, an unawakening sleep, most sweet, and most like to death. And as on a plain four yoked stallions spring forward all together beneath the strokes of the lash, and leaping on high swiftly accomplish their way, even so the stern of that ship leapt on high, and in her wake the dark wave of the loud-sounding sea foamed mightily, and she sped safely and surely on her way; not even the circling hawk, the swiftest of winged things, could have kept pace with her. Thus she sped on swiftly and clove the waves of the sea, bearing a man the peer of the gods in counsel, one who in time past had suffered many griefs at heart in passing through wars of men and the grievous waves; but now he slept in peace, forgetful of all that he had suffered.