Friday, June 26, 2015

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Talk to the moon ...

When I was a little girl, we would often be surprised around midnight or in the wee early morning by my father. He would wake us from slumber to show us a surprise in the sky or a rocket blast-off being shown on television. Dad would also come home from work in the afternoon if there was an solar eclipse, bringing with him a special pair of glasses to protect our eyes as we peered up to the disappearing sun.

Growing up, there would be full moons, looking for the "man in the moon," and witches flying their broomsticks across sky casting the shadow on the autumn moon. As a child we would watch for shooting stars and encouraged to make wishes.



To this day, I watch for alerts by NASA for special performances in our sky sponsored by Mother Nature. No doubt my neighbors must think I am odd as I sit out in my lawn chair watching the moon, the planets, and shooting stars. I am the person who can sit on the beach all day and do nothing but be mesmerized by the rolling waves going in and out, and in and out, and ...

All of us talk about the moon, we often think about the moon, and we certainly look up at the moon, yet the moon still remains a mystery to us. Because of the mystery and fascination of the moon, it contains a magic all of its own. The allure of the moon, and even the stars, has a place in our hearts, as it did in the hearts of our early ancestors. And yes, I talk to the moon. I talk to the stars. There is a calming effect when talking to our bright magical skies. 

Go outside this evening and look up into the sky. Take your favorite beverage and relax. It is one of the most calming experiences. It's the time to count your blessings, and find the answers you have been searching for; or even think about someone special out in the world who is also sharing the same big round moon with you.  


"The moon is a friend for the lonesome to talk to." - Carl Sandburg


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Let Them Eat Cake: A Cupcake

"Pie or cake?" is often a question regarding what our favorite dessert is. When asked, I will always answer, "pie." Nevertheless, every so often memories will induce a craving for those tender melt-in-your-mouth crumbs covered with a whipped creamy sweet frosting. I just want that bite, or maybe two bites, and that is where the cupcake comes in. 

There is something magical about the frosting, the size and the whimsy of a cupcake. There's a reason why the British and the Australians refer to a cupcake as a "fairy cake" or a "patty cake." 


The first mention of these little cakes  can be traced as far back as 1796, when a recipe notation of "a cake to be baked in small cups" was written in American Cookery by Amelia Simmons. The earliest documentation of the term "cupcake" was also in a cookbook, dated back to 1828. 

These whimsical little fairy cakes are meant for one person, and are as pretty as they are delicious. These small delights are affordable, and can make your day brighter as a gift to yourself or for that someone special. If you give a gift of a cupcake, go ahead and treat yourself, too. And don't forget to have your cake placed in a bakery box and wrapped up with a pretty bow. People will be envious and wondering what bit of magic is in that beautiful little pastry box. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Inspirations for the Weekend ...

"If we threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back." - Regina Brett


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Bon Appetit with Love

There are many reasons to learn to cook and bake. First of all, and most important, survival. Cooking and baking can be considered therapeutic. It is also an act of love - - from the daily meals for our family, to a dinner party for friends, and those culinary gifts from our kitchen that we share during the holidays. 

You don't have to have all of the proper culinary skills in your repertoire. You don't have to be Julia Child - - however, might I suggest that you pick out at least two recipes from Julia's Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Volume 1 or 2) - - and well - - master them

One of my favorites from Julia's book is Boeuf Bourguignon. I believe I have "mastered" it. However, I have also made it my own by using less pans than Julia. Other Julia recipes that I enjoy using: the omelette, mayonnaise, pate choux dough (for perfect eclairs), quiche, potatoes Lyonnaise (actually my father taught me that recipe for my Girl Scout cooking badge) and others.  


Julia's recipes may seem daunting, but they're not at all. You will find these recipes are the essential of home cooking using fresh ingredients and basic cooking skills that we have steered away from due to the convenience of processed foods. It is really okay if you tweak them a bit, add some of your own touches, and make these dishes your own. 

You may choose to invest in Julia's cook books, or you can usually find her recipes online. Here is a list of some of her favorite recipes. 

Cook. Put on your apron, turn on some music, relax, open a bottle of wine (even if the recipe doesn't list wine as an ingredient), sample, and did I mention to relax? Share your masterpiece with those you love. 

In the words of Julia, "Bon Appetit!" 






Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Pretty in Pink: Pastry Boxes

Pink has been one of my favorite colors as long as I can remember. Of course, any pink package that holds the contents of chocolate or pastries makes me very happy. 

I've been told that pink pastry boxes are more of a west coast thing, while the majority of bakeries on the east coast tend to use the more proper, and rather sterile looking white boxes. Now in our ecology conscious society, the natural boxes are being seen more often, but they're not as alluring as that pink pastry box. Of course, one could always tie up that pretty natural cocoa-color pastry box or the white pastry box with a pretty pink ribbon. 

For me, when I see someone walking with the pink pastry box, it always leaves me wondering what pretty pastry is hiding inside. There probably isn't a pink pastry box to be found in France. Something tells me that the French prefer the honorable white box so as not to clash with the tasty and exquisite focus that is hidden inside the box.

So where and why the use of pink pastry boxes instead of white?
The urban legend is that when the Cambodians were fleeing the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970's, they were arriving in large numbers to Southern California. They were eventually recruited for employment by Winchell’s Donuts. The white boxes, which held the doughnuts, were costly and most important the color white is the symbol color of mourning in Cambodia. It was also discovered that the buttery grease marks are less pronounced on a pink box then a white box. So, the immigrants found a company in Cerritos, CA that made the boxes cheaper and in the color pink. 

The bottom line is that while I love the color pink, I would never deny a pastry or chocolates that were given to me in a white box. Treat yourself to a pastry tucked away in a pretty pink box once in awhile. Better yet, surprise or share the bakery goodies in the pretty pink pastry box with someone special. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Happy Birthday: A Letter to My Teenage Self

This is one of those little trimmings of life that everyone should do. It's a reflection. My opinion is we shouldn't have any regrets in life. Everything that could possibly be pointed out as a regret is actually a path to something better - - if you remain open. I have actually traced those paths of would-be regrets, and sure enough, the path led to something good.  

Write yourself a letter. Write it to your teenage self, and you don't have to wait for your birthday. Write a letter to your newly-wed self. Write a letter to when you first became a parent. Don't worry about grammar. Just write.  It will be quite a revelation. Here's mine. 

Dear Me,

You probably won't believe this, and especially something you would never fathom, but last year was a very significant birthday. You graduated from high school in May, 1972 and a few weeks later after graduation, on June 8 you turned 18. Last year was 2014 - - well you do the math, even though math was not your strongest subject in high school.

Unfortunately, you didn't have time to celebrate this significant birthday as you were busy with another retail project (you've always loved retail) and you were two weeks late with a book deadline. Can you imagine? It was about a few months before you graduated, you had the English Lit teacher's assistant tell you that you would never become a writer - - and here you wrote a book - a history book, at that. 

This year will be different. You are going to celebrate your 61st birthday, and make up for what you didn't celebrate last year. That includes writing a letter to you - my teenage self. 

Unfortunately at the time, but fortunately for your own good, the folks were right about everything they suggested you should do and what you should not do. Yup, they were speaking from their own experiences.  

It was wise to listen to your mother about washing your face every night before bed and first thing in the morning with the expensive "beauty bar" she bought for you at the salon. Acne was kept to a minimum and it gave you good habits in future skin care. This is going to come off as vain, but the last facial you had a month ago, the technician pointed out that you had good looking skin for someone of the "establishment." Okay, so she didn't say - - "establishment," but I thought you could understand the word since I believe it use to be in your teenage vocabulary. 


I know that you felt out of place in the summertime because you were so pale in your bikini in comparison to your friends who were so shiny brown from baby oil and long days of baking in the sun. The good news is that it paid off that you could not stay in the sun for very long. We didn't know the harm the sun can do to us like we know now. 

Do you remember feeling embarrassed when your Dad picked you up from school in the old '49 Studebaker pick-up, instead of picking you up in one of the cool sporty cars that he bought for mom, like the new '64 cherry red Comet Cyclone or the turquoise '66 Mustang - oh, and remember the cute senior boys who often asked you for a ride in Dad's '70 AMC Javelin SST Mark Donahue Signature Edition? As an adult I can promise you, you would do anything right now to have your Dad pick you up from school in front of those cute senior boys, in that very same old pick-up that you were once embarrassed by. 

You were smart to keep your old brown suede purse with the fringe and the studded peace symbol on the purse flap. It's iconic and is still a conversation piece at most parties. I am glad you took it to your 40th class reunion.   

It was very bold of you to wear a tampon for the very first time when presented with your "monthly bill" the same day as a co-ed pool party. 

I know it was a painful experience when your high school English teacher stood by and let her teaching assistant from a local college  accuse you of plagiarism on a writing assignment and yet, the TA could not even prove the source for the so-called plagiarism. To make matters worse, the teacher allowed the TA to make mean remarks, and even agreed, that you would never amount to anything, never become a professional writer, let alone ever have anything published. Aren't you glad you didn't let their bitterness and their own imposing insecurities keep you from doing something you love? By the way, congratulations on the release of the book, last November. It was a wise decision to hang onto the encouraging words of your 8th grade English teacher when he lavished compliments on your theme about the traveling pop bottle.  

It seemed corny at the time to play "Color My World," by the band Chicago, on the oboe. All the other pageant contestants were doing "cool" cheer leader-style dances. You also wanted to be "cool" and do some cheer leading dances on stage for your talent, but your band instructor and mentor was adamant to use your talents as an oboist and perform something not so typical for a symphonic woodwind, but something that was pop and trendy. Yeah, it still seems rather corny, but you have to admit your band instructor knew best. Which reminds me ....

You learned a valuable lesson that if you ever had your own daughter you would not to make her be in a beauty pageant, no matter what the teachers or a local business sponsor suggests.

There is a reason why you still get these nightmares about being late for school or skipping out of class. Guilt has a way of surfacing when you least expect it.

It's good to hear that you do not feel any regret that you chose not to attend that expensive fashion college in California that your father worked hard to pay your first year tuition; and instead you chose to stay close to home to be with your father during his last days on this earth. 



It was shrewd of you to figure it out early in high school to remove your crush on Paul McCartney and finally understand he would never marry you. It was best to trade the grade school crush and keep an eternal flame on John Lennon instead. Both you and John looked swell wearing the same wire-framed glasses. Besides, Paul fell out of grace for awhile when he married that psychotic one-legged bleach-blonde model. Paul is forever tainted. John will live forever in your teenage heart. 

Speaking of crushes, eventually due to this thing called Facebook, which you will learn about later, you will hear from one of your high school crushes. He was a senior and you were a junior. You were the one he asked to his senior year homecoming, while many of your peers were envious, and constantly grilled you on what it was like to go on a date with "him." Today, from his messages, it sounds like he has drastically changed careers from real estate to baking pastries and writing novels. In fact, he even mentions your former business in one of his novels. It is one of these things where you will realize that looking back in time is magical, especially when it makes an "old girl" smile with a young girl's heart. 

You either had very poor judgment or truly acted like your father's daughter the day you stood up to your dad regarding your music choices and especially when your dad questioned you on the lyrics of Steppenwolf (I said God damn, God damn The Pusher man …) and also the songs of Neil Young (I've seen the needle and the damage done). You are lucky you are still alive when you mouthed off ... but then again, he probably would have done the same and fought for the lyrics sung by Slim Whitman, Dean Martin, and Patsy Cline, if needed.

You know it was against the law for you to sneak into bars while you were still a teenager, right? But good for you for not getting caught, but don't be bragging and telling everyone that I commended you for this - you little rebel, you. 

My wish for you is that you would have been more of a renegade. Perhaps a hitchhiker, a devout follower of the Grateful Dead, changing your name to Scarlett Begonias or China Cat Sunflower. Maybe traveled to Europe with other youngsters your age and drank bottles of cheap Cahors in France, and lived on bread and cheese. I wish you would have attended more peace marches and rock concerts. No worries or wishful thinking as it's still not too late to do these things anytime you want - - just remain young in your heart, no matter what your old bones may tell you.

Happy Birthday. Start taking care of yourself. 

Love Always,

Me

Friday, June 5, 2015

Thursday, June 4, 2015

All About Eve

Bette Davis (1908 - 1989) has been one of my favorite actresses since as long as I can remember. She was a classic, and there wasn't a role that she couldn't play, from the innocent victim to the heroine to the maniacal. Her leading lady role as Margot Channing in All About Eve was one of her finest, as well as she never looked more stunning.

All About Eve was filmed in the 1950's and won six Academy Awards. The leading lady character, Margo Channing, on stage and personally, feels defeated by the wiles of a younger woman, Eve Harrington. 
If you haven't watched All About Eve, it is a must for all women who have worked outside the home, whether you are a Broadway star or an administrative assistant - - you will relate. Through the working years outside the home, I have certainly met the notorious Eve. Oh hell, what am I talking about? Even when I have freelanced from home, I have had to deal with the notorious Eves'. 

The movie is very sophisticated, smart, and even bits of dry humor are spattered about. It is truly a lesson on human behavior. This is also a good movie for our male counterparts to watch as they will learn some great insights. If you have seen the movie - - see it again. All about Eve is timeless classic. 
"Funny business, a woman's career - the things you drop on your way up the ladder so you can move faster. You forget you'll need them again when you get back to being a woman. That's one career all females have in common, whether we like it or not: being a woman. Sooner or later, we've got to work at it, no matter how many other careers we've had or wanted. And in the last analysis, nothing's any good unless you can look up just before dinner or turn around in bed, and there he is. Without that, you're not a woman. You're something with a French provincial office or a book full of clippings, but you're not a woman. Slow curtain, the end." - Margot Channing, All About Eve

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Notebook

No, not the Nicholas Sparks tearjerker book and movie - - just a simple notebook. 

In my twenties, I use to sit in on seminars and read all kinds of books that enhanced that "positive power of thinking," - everything from Zig Ziglar to Dale Carnegie. Now, somewhere between all of the jungle of hyped-up words, one of the things I took away that I still apply to this day, was the power of pen and paper.


My love of pen and paper was confirmed last week by NPR's story, "In A Digital Chapter, Paper Notebooks Are As Relevant As Ever." It has been my opinion for years that everyone needs to keep pen and a notebook or writing pad on their bedside table. It's often before we close our eyes with head on the pillow, just before we leave the bed in the morning, and especially during the middle of the morning; is when we have the best thoughts, and the most provocative ideas. Trust me, sometimes the most brilliant thoughts come in the middle of the night, and if you think you will remember them when you wake up, again - there's a great chance you will not - unless you write them down. 

The paper can be as simple as a wide-ruled notebook, a legal pad, or an affordable black and white stock-bound composition notebook. It may also be as extravagant as a leather bound journal or a traditional diary with lock and key. There are no rules. I have been known to keep all types of journals by my bedside depending on what was going on in my life. If I was working on a major project, then I kept a legal pad by my bed, as well as my usual little hard-cover journal. 
There was a movement about five years ago, The Gratitude Journal, which encouraged keeping a daily record of  little blessings, insightful prompts, inspiring quotes, and plenty of reflections. While I like the idea of it, I just don't like the forcefulness of "daily."  One cannot force great ideas, let alone our reflections of our individual lives. These collection of words that I suggest that you keep by your nightstand can be done with spontaneity, or even as a vehicle to release something that has been weighing heavy on the head, and especially the heart.  

Oprah to Forbes was encouraging everyone to do the "gratitude journal," however the irony was that eventually there became computer apps with digital coaches to assist in logging in our "gratitude" with daily canned affirmations.  

 No. The point of this exercise is to write with your pen, not type. Writing with a pen is a much more intimate experience than typing on a keyboard. Writing with a pen is no different than an artist with their paintbrush.

The notebook is yours to do as you please. Write your history, a poem, the makings of a good recipe, and scribble hearts and flowers. Glue-stick a photo on a page you just ripped out of a magazine, a photo of your loved ones, and even the ticket stub of a recent favorite movie. Write your "gratitude" in the book, as much as you please. Yes, write your Thanksgiving menu and grocery list in it. Keep a list of books you want to read and flowers you want to plant. Use a pretty ribbon to mark your place, and even use the book to press flowers. Jot ideas down to decorate your house or write yourself a reminder you want a new and much fluffier pillow. When you fill up your book, start a new one. Tie a ribbon around your collection of journals. 

Write a love letter you will never mail, especially one to yourself. Just write. 


Photo from: Jenni Bick Bookbinding - jennibick.com



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