Wednesday, March 31, 2010


There are moments when you see something in public and feel as though you have stumbled (intruded, more like) onto something very private and not meant for your eyes. Your options are: quickly divert your eyes away from the scene being played out before you -- or, in this instance, slacken your pace, keep watching, and begin to think. In the process you are permeated with whatever emotion is being played out before you. Sadness, in my case. But let me backtrack a bit.

Saturday I went out for a 'quick run' while Miss Milia was down for her nap. There I was: running away, listening to goodness knows what kind of garbage I have queued up on my i-pod, and trying to sort out the many thoughts that were racing away in my head. Anyway, as I was reaching the end I saw (ran past, more like) these two kids who were walking down the street together. Two boys -- one was about ten or eleven and the other was, I don't know, maybe seven. The older boy had a ridiculous hairstyle, much in the manner of all the other kids his age, while the younger one was shaved balder than a cue-ball. And they looked just like ordinary kids.

I was into my final stretch of sprinting like the dickens (where I essentially run up and down our street like a moron a few times before I go home), so I managed to see these kids a few times. Anyway, as I was catching my breath and about to turn down our driveway, I happened to glance back.  I saw the older boy hugging the littler one -- tightly and very protectively. They stood like that for a moment or so and then, back to business as usual, I guess. Except that the older one ended up putting his arm around the younger boys slumped shoulders as they continued to walk. I couldn't help but to stop dead in my tracks.

And, to be perfectly honest, watching this made my heart break.

Who knows what could have been going on. The younger one could have just gotten trounced in his baseball game. He could have gotten his Nintendo wii (or whatever) taken away from him for not cleaning his room. Who knows. But it didn't look like that to me. It looked like something very sad and very serious was happening.

I have a very hard time seeing something go wrong with a child. And it breaks my heart to see another child trying to act like an adult in order to make it better. It is difficult to watch someone so small grapple with issues they don't understand (or, unfortunately, do understand) when they are still so young. Yes, there is a lot of badness in this world, and, of course, we need to be wise to it. But not yet.

At the same time, it warms my heart to see the bond between siblings. (I am assuming these two boys are brothers.) And it reminds me how wildly important this bond truly is. Brothers and sisters are meant to be there for each other. They (we) are meant to help fix things for each other, even if we don't feel equipped to do so at the time. We are supposed to listen when our parents have gone off the deep-end.  And, if need be, go to the movies while our parents are deciding whether or not to get divorced.

We are also supposed to drive each other crazy, make fun of who has the bigger spots, and yell when our absolutely horrible (yet ultra-stylish at the time) chambray shirt comes up missing (maybe I should finally just thank Kari for that). And last but not least (one of our favorite things growing up), we are supposed to shout, 'Jim is looking out my window!' for ten-hour-car-rides, driving everyone else nutters in the car. It's a beautiful thing. What more can I say?

And that is why I was filled with such sadness watching that little exchange happen in front of me. Those boys, whatever their issues happened to be, are very lucky to have one another. Our little tomato (that would be Emilia, in case you were wondering) is not so lucky. Our sweet little girl ('Mia so little! And so sweet!') is as big as our family will ever get. As much as it breaks my heart (over and over and over again), she will be our only one. And she will grow up with parents who are ridiculously in love with her, and completely over the moon for her. (I'm not so daft as to toss the importance of that aside.) But she will never have the relationship one gets with a brother or a sister (or six). Yes, she will have loads of friends, and loads of cousins, and loads of people with loads to say. But she will not have what I had growing up. (Still have, really.)

And that makes it very difficult for me to sleep sometimes.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Donkey (For Palm Sunday)

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born;

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil's walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

-- G.K. Chesterton

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Genius of a Honey Cake

It is so rainy and so very grey today. But I don't really mind. I suppose this is what spring should look like outside my window — pouring down rain and beautifully green. When I went to get Emilia out of her bed this morning, I opened her drapes and she said, 'Not going for a quick run! Not going to park!' And, alas, she was right. Instead we went to the library.

As much as Emilia loves her books, as soon as we set foot in the library she could not care less about them. Instead she deems it the perfect opportunity to 'do running!' She usually then proceeds to thoughtfully stare at everyone — close up, if you don't mind. But as soon as we get home, the girl pours over her books. I believe she is a genius in the making. As for her mama? I suppose I'm just bookish. (Although I don't really know what that means exactly. Maybe I should look it up.)

Anyway, a few nights ago Michael turned to me and said, and I quote, 'You are hot more in the Tina Fey sort of way. Not so much in the Pamela Anderson sort of way.' Now, I daresay many a fine woman would be wildly insulted by this sort of remark, and rightly so. But really, when it comes right down to it, we all just want to be complimented on our intellect and sheer genius, right? (Am I right? Please tell me I'm right.) That being said, I'm still a bit unsettled by the fact that Michael has taken to randomly saying, 'What is it you like about me, Jack?' Not so much that he says it, per se. More because, well, nevermind.

As it turns out, I am quite the genius. How else would you explain this glorious, this perfect, this lovely little cake? Once we were done, even I had to stand back for a moment of silence. It was beautiful and absolutely perfect for the first day of spring. Sticking with our theme of making cakes together, Emilia and I whipped it up after church on Sunday, while dada did the taxes. We let it cool during naptime, then frosted it and had a lovely little tea party. Who even knows when dinner was, maybe nine-ish? Nothing really sounded good after eating so much cake.

Apart from being so beautiful to look at, the cake was (is, actually, as we are still eating it) so good. The honey, butter, dark brown sugar, and rosemary made the whole house smell divine. And that is exactly how it tasted. The frosting was faintly lemon and just the right amount. The trend seems to be too much frosting these days, but it is always just that — too much. Anyway, it is perfect for springtime. Also, it doesn't hurt if your rosemary bush is flowering. (Just try and tell me those flowers don't look lovely scattered on the top.)

The recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks, Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros. Literally every time I open it, my heart sinks because it is so beautiful.

Monday, March 22, 2010


When I get overly tired, stressed, or just generally down, I have a tendency to do one of two things: shop (as evidenced by nearly every post I've done for the past month or so) or, I read a whole lot of silly and mindless books. (Yes, unfortunately, I am referring to the genre so irksomely called 'chick-lit'. At least it isn't Star Trek.) It pains me greatly to admit this, but what can I say? I have a penchant for escapism, but not just any sort of escapism will do, mind you. I tend to be rather snobby when it comes to literature of the feminine nature (i.e. chic-lit). For instance, I only read books that take place in England, preferably London. (Everything seems smarter with a British accent, after all.) And I will not go near the mass-produced-pulp-fiction-y sort you can so easily find at your local supermarket. When I have exhausted the London front, I will sometimes move to Dublin or New York City, but this is typically met with some resistance.

Since Sophie Kinsella refuses to publish a new and original work every other week for my reading pleasure, I must sometimes resort to other British writers who are attempting to walk in her shoes (4-inch strappy stilettos, no doubt, which she also happens to own in lilac and clementine). And that is how I stumbled across Hester Browne's newest book, The Finishing Touches. Yes, I have read a few of her others, and yes, they were entertaining. But they have also managed to annoy me throughout. I very much dislike when the heroine/narrator suffers from low self-esteem and needs to be either coddled and/or have her ego stroked throughout. And that nearly sums up the entire Little Lady series that Browne authored. Anyway, I digress.

I quite liked The Finishing Touches and read nearly the whole thing in a flash. Which is why I now find myself wandering around the house listlessly look for other London-Lady-Lit books. So, the point I am trying to make, albeit not very well, is that if you expect to need a lot of this sort of book to get you through whatever is ailing you, then you may want to economize and read slowly. Because I'll be damned if I'm going anywhere near Star Trek or the like. I've still got my pride. (Can you hear that sound? It is the sound of my entire[ly nerdy] family disowning me.)

Anyway, here are two quotes from The Finishing Touches. Although, really, the whole affair is chock-full of good ones, in the form of a very handy etiquette manual. The first is actually very sound advice that we should all take quite seriously, while the second happens to sum me up to a T. (What? It's not like it makes me a bad person or anything.)

'"Kathleen used to tell me that money was an umbrella. That it couldn't stop a rainy day, but it kept your head dry", I said, swinging in my chair.'

'"...I had no idea electricity cost that much! I thought it just ... flowed. What am I going to do?
Liv looked at me as if I'd just suggested she levitate.'

**As a sidenote, if you happen to be rather enamored with the pink pig you see above, then you'll have to speak with Bampa David. He bought it for Emilia on their last visit. However, if he won't take your call then you can always google it. Mudpie is the manufacturer and they are sold in only the most fabulous children's boutiques.

Friday, March 19, 2010

St. Joseph's Day Soup

'Wednesday is St. Patrick's Day', I said. 'And Friday is St. Joseph's Day! And we go to a farm! And do swimming!', responded Miss Milia. 'Yes! But instead of a farm and swimming, we'll make some soup!'

I think it is safe to say that 2-year-olds don't generally have the best grasp on time. 'In a minute' and 'in a month' are basically the same thing in the 2-year-old mind. Basically it means not right this second. But really, the memory on this girl is astounding. We mentioned last week that both St. Paddy's Day and St. Joseph's Day were coming up. We also said that we are going to go to a farm (weather permitting) on Saturday. I've no idea where the swimming bit entered into her head. It does sound nice though, doesn't it? Almost like what one should actually do on St. Joseph's Day. You know, a little swimming on a farm to truly celebrate the life and wonders of St. Joseph.

But instead, we'll have soup. Not just any old soup, mind you. Today we are having St. Joseph's Day Soup. And I've been looking forward to it since last year's pot.

Typically I would delve into the history of the celebrated saint in honor of their day, but, really, what does one say about our beloved St. Joseph? (Other than my mom's thoughts, when I told her about my yummy soup, 'Honey, you Catholics sure have a lot of holidays!') However, something should be said. Joseph never gets enough props, and I challenge you to say otherwise.

And so, today, being March 19th, is the Feast of St. Joseph. He was the husband of Mary and the adoptive father of Jesus. (My copy of The Lives of the Saints calls him Jesus' foster-father, but I find that wildly offensive. Apart from God, obviously, Joseph was the only father Jesus ever knew.) He is the patron saint of home and family. He is also the patron saint of the Universal Church, workers, and carpenters. Interestingly, today is not a Holy Day of Obligation. In fact, the Feast of St. Joseph is not even really celebrated in the United States. Everyone here is undoubtedly still recovering from their hangovers from green beer, and can't be too bothered with a saint that does not involve another trip to the pub. Unless of course it is a saint that sells chocolate and lingerie. (That would be St. Valentine, in case it wasn't completely clear.)

Italy is largely where St. Joseph's Day is celebrated, and the further south you go, the more impressive the festivities become. Apparently in Sicily families cook dish after dish after dish (sometimes up to a hundred dishes, I hear) in celebration, and hopes of intercession. Most of the dishes are fried, causing Joseph to also be called San Giuseppe Frittelaro, Saint Joseph the Fryer. These dishes range from cream-puffs to rice balls to artichokes. However, all the dishes are meatless because the day always falls during lent.

I have not dabbled with any of the fried dishes in honor of St. Joseph, namely because the idea of deep-frying is still slightly scary to me. (I really must invest in one of those Fry-Daddy's sometime.) Instead, I have begun opting for St. Joseph's soup, which is so good I've thought about making it at other times during the year. However, I like to have food traditions. For the same reason I would not serve turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and so on, in the middle of August, let's say, because that is a special menu for Thanksgiving. It is important to let certain foods be special and to have their place on the calendar. And before you start calling me some sort of bizarre and esoteric nerd, I'll have you know that some rather posh establishments celebrate St. Joseph's Day with this very same soup. Our highly revered, and rightly so, Salumi, for example.

Anyway, the soup itself is wonderful, perfect for the beginning of spring, yet still very substantial. It is also very healthy and low in fat. And in our family, it yields enough for dinner tomorrow night as well. Maybe even the next night if we're lucky. Although, really, that might be an awful lot of soup.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Musician's Bread (For Tea or Breakfast)

As I write, the wonderful smell of freshly baked bread is filling the house. It is amazing how that can instantly make one feel that all is right with the world.

Typically just the thought of making bread is a bit off-putting for me. Not only am I not a fan of kneading dough for half the day, I also am not a fan of putting so much time and energy (and flour) into something that may or may not be very good. I am the first to admit that I have not mastered the art (or is it a science?) of baking bread. Much to my chagrin, too, as my mother used to be a master bread maker when we were growing up. (She even used to grind her own wheat!)

And that is why I find myself this afternoon making bread for the second time in four days. Sophie Dahl's recipe is shockingly, almost scandalously, easy. All you do is mix everything up, give it a good stir, proof it, give it another stir, let it proof again, and bake. No kneading required — just a handy-dandy wooden spoon will do the trick. Also, thanks to the invention of instant yeast, it is relatively fast.

So anyway, as I made breakfast on Saturday morning, I thought it would also be a good time to get the bread going, with the idea that it would be fabulous to have later in the day. My newest trick (just learned on an episode of Cooks Country) is to put anything that needs to raise in the oven. All you do is this: turn the oven to 200°, right when it hits 200°, turn it off, put your dough in the middle of the oven and set about your other business. It works beautifully, too, particularly in a house that seems to run on the so cold go put a winter cardigan on even if it's July mode. While utilizing this brilliant trick on Saturday, I was also using the oven as a pancake warmer. When I reached in to get said pancakes for a very hungry little girl and her dad, I was rather annoyed, to say the least, to see that half the bread dough had fallen on top of our breakfast. I ended up tossing most of the pancakes out while trying to salvage the bread. (Thank goodness I still had lots of pancake batter left. And bacon, for that matter.)

One of the hazards (other than ruining your breakfast) of using your oven for proofing is what to do with whatever happens to be raising in the oven when you need to be pre-heating the very same oven. (I swear, I want two ovens in our next house! Oh, and maybe a bit more drawer space.) For some reason or another, it had seemed like a marvelous (and by marvelous, I mean desperate) idea to simply pre-heat the oven while the bread was still raising in it. Bad idea, I know. I'm open to suggestions. What happens is that the bread comes out terribly flat on the top and I'm sure all sorts of other scientific things happen as well. But even Miss Dahl's looks flat on the top. It just isn't so noticeable when it is placed in what looks like the middle of a gorgeous Anthropologie photo spread.

We ate the disastrous loaf of bread Saturday afternoon with lots of butter and steaming bowls of soup. Then we ate the rest Sunday morning for breakfast. Michael kept saying, 'what a nice little breakfast!', much to my vain heart's delight. And, strangely enough, I totally agreed. Despite the troublesome process, the bread was really very good. Even Emilia liked it. We toasted it with butter and jam, had little cups of yogurt, and broiled papaya with lime (also from Sophie Dahl's cookbook). Not to mention cup after cup of strong tea (for me), strong coffee (for Michael), and plenty of smiles from Miss Milia's happy and jam-covered little face.

The newest loaves have just come out of the oven. They still look slightly wonky, but I'm alright with that.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Le Chameau & Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights

Michael was thumbing through Food & Wine sometime last month when he stopped and asked me, 'What did Roald Dahl write again?' (Seriously, how can he not know that?) 'Anyway, his granddaughter has written a new cookbook.' My curiosity was piqued for about 10 seconds before I decided to just dismiss the whole thought. Yes, Sophie Dahl is a beauty, kind of in the manner of a 1920s silent-film actress — only much more buxom. And she has published a few works of fiction, not to mention writing the preface to the new edition of Stella Gibbon's Nightingale Wood (which I still have not read, although Cold Comfort Farm was spectacular). But really, why must famous people write cookbooks? It is almost as annoying as when celebrities think they should be 'political consultants' or something. Why can't they just stick with what they know? Alright, I will climb off of my soap-box now.

As I sat in front of the computer late one night using all of my cherished Amazon giftcards on cookbooks, for some reason or another, I decided to get Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights. After all, it was getting decent reviews. And what do you know? It would appear that Miss Dahl (actually now Mrs. as she just married Jamie Cullum... what? I'm not allowed to pay attention to these things?) knows quite a bit about cooking. Well, I'll eat my hat.

Speaking of hats, she may also have become my latest fashion icon. As I sat thumbing through her book, my eyes were continually drawn to the fabulous pair of wellies she is sporting throughout. Basic dark green rubber wellies, mid-calf in length, with a logo I did not recognize. Hmmm.

Over the past few years I seem to have developed an aversion to winter shoes, meaning I don't love shoes that require me to wear socks. Instead, I've become quite the fan of the ballet flat and the flip-flop, not to mention everything else in between. Otherwise my Puma sneakers have strangely done the trick. (Sorry, not chasing a 2-year-old around the house in 4" stilettos. Not this week anyway.)

What can I say? We live in the Pacific Northwest where the weather is thought to be mild. However, it does rain a bit and can get quite cold, so going sock-less in the winter months is daft, to say the least. Wellington boots are a great choice. (Miss Milia loves her ladybug boots, because she knows darn well that she is the height of fashion. Besides, she just learned to put them on herself.) Hunter have become extraordinarily (if not preposterously) popular. But I refuse to wear them until they either slip back under the radar or become terribly unfashionable. Besides, they are rather tall, and really, that's a whole lot of rubber to have round your leg. I've also seen too many girls running around in their Hunter's with Juicy Sweatsuits and little dogs in their handbags.

And so, using my carrot eyes, I managed to spy the name of the boot Miss Dahl is wearing. Le Chameau. That's right, they're French! Now I really, really love them! And they are also nearly half the price of Hunter's. (Although once you throw UK shipping onto the bill, it probably comes out even.) Anyway, they came in the mail a few days ago. Emilia helped me open them up and then we both took turns modeling them.

In the meantime, it has been pouring rain here for the past few days, so it is perfect timing, really. Yesterday we both put on our rainboots and went to the grocery store so we could stock up on all the necessary ingredients to make a few dishes from my new (and dare I say lovely?) cookbook. And even though I can't pull off the look, in the manner of Sophie Cullum (née Dahl) that is, I'm hoping I can at least pull off a few of her recipes.

Stay tuned for the recipes, I'm hoping to knock them out this weekend. In the meantime, go buy yourself a nice copy of Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights and a pair of Hunter wellies. It simply won't do having my new fabulous Le Chameau's becoming ubiquitous. If you don't mind, that is.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Let me just say this, I adore Flavia de Luce. And The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is impeccable. I had not even heard of this book before Christmas, when my lovely brother gave a copy of it to me. I quietly sat, taking off the wrapping paper, reading the back, and then, for some reason or another, I got all huffy. 'Why have I never heard of this? It makes no sense! It is completely down my alley!' Which is true. If I actually owned an alley, you can rest assured, this book would be smack on it.

And so, once I finished my other 'Alan' book (The Clothes They Stood Up In & The Lady in the Van, which was magnificent, by the way -- as was The Uncommon Reader), I picked it up. And right off, I began wondering. Must one actually be called Alan in order to be a brilliant writer? It begs to be asked. Because I was only a few pages in when, again, I got all huffy and began demanding to know why I cannot, in fact, write like that. It is very annoying! Anyway, I digress. Let's get back to Flavia, shall we?

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie takes place in a small village in England during the summer of 1950. Flavia de Luce is eleven years old. She is obsessed with chemistry (poisons in particular) and is shockingly bright. Flavia has two older sisters, Daphne and Ophelia, with whom she is consistently trying to 'get back', as it were. Nothing too terrible, just injecting Poison Ivy into her sister's tube of lipstick and then anxiously watching for the results, for example.

Anyway, without giving too much away, a death occurs late one night at Buckshaw, the old castle where the de Luce family lives, and has for centuries. Shortly thereafter, Flavia's father is taken in to custody. Flavia then sets off (quite literally, as she rides her bike Gladys practically throughout the whole of the English countryside) to get to the bottom of it. It's marvelous. And parts of the book will make you roar with laughter.

I suppose I could sit here all day recounting scene after scene in order to illustrate this point, but alas, this chair is too hard. Besides, I think you should just read the book. That being said, I cannot resist but two scenes in particular.

Mrs. Mullet is a terrible cook, which is unfortunate as that is her job with the de Luce family. She also drives Flavia batty. However, she has been with the family for so long, and so on and so forth... Anyway, while the Inspector interviews Flavia, Mrs. Mullet brings her some seed biscuits and milk. 'Seed biscuits and milk! I hated Mrs. Mullets seed biscuits the way Saint Paul hated sin. Perhaps even more so. I wanted to clamber up onto the table, and with a sausage on the end of my fork as my scepter, shout in my best Laurence Olivier voice, "Will no one rid me of this turbulent pastry cook?"'

And the scene in church (pages 114-115, if you are interested) is beyond perfect. Apparently the de Luce's have been Catholics 'since Chariot races were all the rage.' However, they go to St. Tancred's Anglican Church because it is so much more convenient. Oh, I can't do it justice. After all, my name isn't Alan, so what do you want? Just go and read it yourself. You will nearly cry with laughter. And if you don't then you have no sense of humor.

Anyway, the next Flavia de Luce installment is hot off the press. I very happily discovered my copy in the mailbox today. (The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag, with a picture of a 'cary 'keleton on the front, as Miss Milia pointed out.) And I simply cannot wait.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Rouge Coco (And a Brief History of Cosmetics in the US)

My moleskin notebook was filled up ages ago, and as much as I loved the little thing, I've taken to writing in a spiral notebook (very similar to the ones used during my university years: one subject with a fat pocket in the front). Anyway, I pulled it out a week or so ago and, as I opened it up, a whole pile of magazine and newspaper clippings showered my feet.

I used to be a magazine fiend in my earlier days, and would hoard stack after stack around our old apartments and such. I suppose it was kind of in the manner of those two crazy brothers in New York who filled, quite literally, their whole apartment with old newspapers they refused to throw out. And when they finally died, it was hard just to get into the place to retrieve their bodies. Or something like that anyway.

Luckily for all involved my penchant for magazine reading has waned quite drastically over the years, as my taste has become much more discerning. And rather than create an obstacle course throughout the house, I now tear out single pages from magazines to save, and toss the rest in recycling. (All cooking magazines are exempt from this discussion. As are Garnet Hill, Olive Juice, and Boden catalogs.) Anyway, on the top of this little stack of clippings was a very recent write-up on Chanel's new line of lipsticks that are being introduced this month: Rouge Coco. Very exciting news, indeed.

Several months ago there was a marvelous PBS documentary on the telly called The Powder and the Glory. It was all about the two women who essentially pioneered womens cosmetics in the United States: Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden. It was fascinating. First of all, the two women were vicious competitors and loathed eachother unequivocally. They even refused to ever meet, despite the fact that they lived a block or two away from each other in New York City. Aside from that, it is all about the making of the cosmetic industry in this country. Elizabeth Arden became best known for her Twelve Hour Cream, her Red Door Spas, and a rather nasty disposition; while Rubinstein became known for her Crème Valaze, art and jewelry collection, and quick-witted tongue. Despite being very upscale for the time (and therefore expensive), both businesses weathered the great depression brilliantly. Yes, they both had to close a few shops here and there, but that is nothing considering the time.

How did they do this, you ask? Lipstick. I find it so interesting that in times of recession women will consistently splash out on a decent tube of lipstick. And I'm not talking about Revlon, to be sure, but something much nicer. It makes complete sense, really. No, you cannot take that trip to, I don't know, St. Moritz or something. And it may not be in your best interest to get your hair done every other week while wearing that new Burberry trench. But a new tube of lipstick? Well, that's a different story then, now isn't it? It is a small, simple luxury that makes you feel, not to mention look, a whole lot better. Thank goodness for that. And this brings me back to the glorious Chanel.

The Rouge Coco line that has just hit the counters definitely falls into this category. It will make you feel better just seeing it in your handbag. (Try to tell me that their logo does not put a smile on your face. And I'll know if you're lying.) The concept behind it is harkening back to the days when lipstick was a huge deal; before everyone became obsessed with these silly glosses. The line takes us back to the days of Coco Chanel herself, which was not actually that long ago. They have brought back original and classic colors, and given them names that all mean something within the brand. For instance, one of the lipsticks is called 'Gabrielle', which was Chanel's real name — Coco was just a nickname. And they have reinstated the metal tube, as opposed to plastic. (This is certainly a selling point for me. However, my other Chanel's seem to look exactly the same. And no, it is not because they are originals, thank you very much.)

And so, even though I need another tube of lipstick like a need a hole in the head, Emilia and I found ourselves at the Chanel counter Monday morning. We both tried some on (glides on like a dream, by the way) and settled on two colors: Mademoiselle and Lune Rousse. The latter is my personal favorite as it happens to look spectacular on me. Red always does though. And there you go, a little bit of old-fashioned glamour (that still doesn't grow on trees), but puts a big (nicely painted) smile right across my face.

***As a side note: The movie Coco Before Chanel is marvelous and completely worth watching. I saw it one night last week while Michael had a late meeting. Audrey Tatou is perfect, and the movie is visually stunning from beginning to end. That's my two cents, anyway.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Our Little Tomato Turns Two

I can't believe it. Emilia turned two years old on Sunday. Where does the time go? (Oh dear, I am now officially in the group of old people who stand around bemoaning the passage of time all day. You know what I am talking about. The people who every time you leave the house feel it is their duty to tell you that your little one will be all grown up and moved out of the house before you can blink an eye. Very annoying, really. That being said, it is a valid question. Where does the time go?) Emilia is growing up so fast. And I cannot even begin to tell you how blessed I feel to be such a part of it. My mom always tells me, 'You'd never think there was such a girl before!'

As we drove home from our errands a few days ago, Emilia sat in the backseat of the car saying, 'Mia makes mama so gateful!' To be perfectly honest, before this little girl was born, I did not know what it was to feel truly grateful. I knew what the word meant, obviously, and I felt gratitude as much as I was apparently capable. However, it was this little life that totally, completely, and utterly changed my life, and gave me a true understanding of what it is to be grateful. In doing so, it has changed nearly every other aspect of my life.

I have always absolutely loved and adored my own mother, and have been beyond thankful for her. But even my appreciation of her has changed since Emilia was born. I suppose that being a mother has made me fully grateful for my own mother. Not to mention my lovely husband. And my dad. And my sister. And all of my family. And my religion. And everyone else in my life. (Alright, I'll curb it. I do realize this is teetering dangerously toward new levels of cheesiness, so I suspect it may be best simply to move on. But sometimes these things should/need to be said!)

And so, back to Sunday. After church we made a 'beautiful pink birthday cake.' Again, Emilia stood on the chair and was 'a very big help to her mother.' When it came to making the pink frosting, Michael and I both got very scared. Who knows how many spoonfuls she got into her mouth before the frosting was taken out of her reach. (Really, it is an awful lot of sugar [and butter] going straight into the blood stream!) However, she was more than delighted with the end result.

Once we'd finished with the cake, and Emilia opened her soccer ball ('a real one!'), a tea set, and a doll stroller from Grandma and Grandpa, we hopped in the car on our way to Aunt Kari's house for dinner — balancing a pink cake on my lap on the way. We had a grand time with the family, and Emilia absolutely worships her cousins.

As far as the cake was concerned, it was passable. Don't get me wrong, Emilia loved it and ate every bite (as did we). It was so sweet and pink and buttery, how could she not? However, I must have completely botched the recipe, because the two cake layers were like pound cake. Good, but not even close to being right. I suppose this is one of the many hazards one encounters trying to bake and be in charge of damage control at the same time. It is not easy when your now two-year-old is all hopped up on frosting, standing on a tall chair, and insisting on putting her little hands into everything, mind you. Now then, what was I just saying about being grateful?

The frosting recipe came from the Magnolia Cookbook. And the cake recipe came from Cooks Illustrated. Cooks Illustrated rated it as the best yellow cake recipe ever. Because I bombed it, I will not include the recipe here. Rather, let me try it again before I provide you with the details. You may have to wait awhile though, Emilia has had three different birthday cakes over the past week, so we may need to switch to a strict diet of green salads and lentils for awhile. Even though Trophy Cupcakes has already begun to sing our names...thanks Mom and David, 'and Yoo-gar, too!' We love you all so much.