Candy and Grace

I've been on a reading streak recently and though I'm not even halfway through Shauna's Niequist's beautiful essay collection I can't help but recommend it based on the passage below. Bittersweet

So these days, I'm on the lookout for grace, and I'm especially on the lookout for ways that I withhold grace from myself and from other people. At first, showing people grace makes you feel powerful, like scattering candy from a float in a parade -- grace for you, grace for you. You become almost giddy, thinking of people in generous ways, allowing for their faults, absorbing minor irritations. You feel great, and then you start to feel just ever so slightly superior, because you're so incredibly evolved and gracious.

But then inevitably something happens, and it usually involves you confronting one of your worst selves, often in public, and you realize you're not throwing candy off a float to a nameless, dirty public, but rather that you are that nameless, dirty public, and that you are starving and on your knees, praying for a little piece of sweetness just one mouthful of grace. -Shauna Niequist from "Grace is the new math" in Bittersweet.

Let's everybody share a little candy, okay? -Em

Posted on August 10, 2013 and filed under Uncategorized.

The Carwash

The Carwash When my son was younger he was afraid of the carwash. Young toddlers , they freak out about everything. They are so cute, but also... unpredictably unpleasant. I like spending time with him a lot more now that he is almost five. He has so many fun things to say and his sincere enthusiasm for running errands with me never fails to brighten my day. Now that he is older he LOVES the carwash so the other day I took him there as a special treat for him, me and our car.

As we pulled in he exclaimed "Oh mommy, I'm so exciting!"

To which I replied. "Yes sweetheart, you most definitely are."

Posted on May 27, 2013 and filed under Uncategorized.

The Scales

I learned about the Jewish concept of "weighing the scales" in someone else's favor a few months back from a book I read with my Bible Study. "Weighing the scales" is basically an enhanced version of giving someone the benefit of the doubt, looking kindly upon their actions before assuming the worst. It comes from the practice of rounding weight to the customers favor when selling something. I have always liked the idea even if the cynic in me does not. This video reminded me of weighing the scales. It is a more beautiful way to go about your day.

Posted on May 13, 2013 and filed under Uncategorized.

Fail Big

photoComedy Improv classes are a strange thing. On the one hand it is a total blast. After a strenuous day in the office, and a crazy evening getting dinner on the table it’s both surreal and wonderful to spend the night pretending to be part of a machine that speaks Russian hip-hop (for example). On the other hand it is also rigorous. There are lots of rules to keep in mind. For example, in improv you should never asks questions. Asking questions slows down the energy of a scene. You should also always say YES or to be more exact “Yes…. And”. It’s the most famous rule; whatever someone says, you say yes to and then offer up your own suggestion. Did someone just suggest you are Charlie Chaplin reincarnated as a frog? Then get down on the floor, start hopping and maybe decide that you are also currently living in space. I mean, why not? It’s comedy improv. Anything is possible. The world is your oyster. It’s freeing and also terrifying. There have been days that I’ve struggled a lot during the classes. The overachiever perfectionist in me wants desperately to be A+ good at comedy improv, immediately of course.  I wish to be the GATE student of comedy improv. Unsurprisingly, I am not. The best way to get good at comedy improv is to totally commit and go for it. FAIL BIG they tell me!  Its another rule and one that I have trouble achieving. I fail a lot, but small style. Failing big is hilarious. Failing small is embarrassing for everybody involved. During comedy improv classes I try to get it through my thick skull “You are supposed to fail. They TOLD you to fail.” I think this has been the best lesson of all, that failing and taking risks is imperative to success, both on and off stage. I’m learning it slowly, one scene at a time.

Posted on February 26, 2013 and filed under Mighty List.

Leaving the MumbleCorps

drop-the-micUnlike many people I don’t fear public speaking. I’m generally happy to take the mic and start bossing (ahem) directing people. The problem is the mic doesn’t help if you mumble (check), speak too quickly (double-check) and have a smallish voice (three strikes-I’m out). Despite all this I’m still a relatively good public speaker, when I concentrate I can control all of those vocal issues but concentration is tricky when 100 people are staring at you. I’m a fairly good public speaker, but I want to be a great one. I want to facilitate large rooms of people with ease instead of frustration. I want to pick up a microphone with Kanye West-level confidence. So logically I'm creating a self-designed “run the room like a boss” course. First up are Comedy Improv classes. Have you ever seen people trained in improv comedy? They are amazing. They assimilate a suggestion and then immediately start performing with commitment and swagger. Rolling with the punches, fearlessness and communication with the audience is imperative for improv and if that’s not good training for running a room I don’t know what is. I’ve been doing the comedy improv classes for a little while and hope to blog about them eventually but until then I’m interested in hearing what else I might add to my coursework. Suggestions? Does anybody want to come over and yell "You have a voice!" at me King's Speech style? Be bold. :)

Posted on February 9, 2013 and filed under Uncategorized.


You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are. - Fred Rogers

Image from Nate Berkus' Book "The Things that Matter"

Something that you hear a lot from people who are older is "I wish I had cared less what other people thought". I've not overly inclined to care about others opinions. I am weird and I like that about myself. I do however have an annoying and deep-seeded desire to please people. I want the friggin gold star on my worksheet. This works well in some settings. When I'm at Crossfit, my wish to please the instructor pushes me through the last set of burpees. It works less-well in other settings where I cave to doing things a certain way to make other people happy. I am thinking in particular of a weekend I spent doing hours upon hours of preschool laundry to fulfill an expectation at my child's school. Life is too short to do that much laundry people. It was my fault too. I VOLUNTEERED TO DO IT, because sometimes I am a dumbass. A dumbass who wants gold stars.

Compromise is part of life, but I don't want to look back and be filled with regrets. Why would I waste a weekend washing laundry instead of having fun with my kid?! It applies to the little things too: I want to be cool with painting "Make tacos not war" over my kitchen sink and wearing fuchsia every day and Mr. T style jewelery if that is what suits me. One of my colleagues dresses impeccably every day for work. She told me once "I know I overdress, but I don't care. I like nice clothes and I want to wear them!" The day she told me that she was wearing a dress that I own but never wear because I'm always "saving" it for an appropriate occasion and I'm a little embarrassed that it has a giant fish print. I think that part of the year of being bold is learning to stand behind my honest opinions even when they will be unpopular, uncool or even inconvenient for other people. The trick is learning to do this gently. After all if I am really being myself I am far more interested in making tacos than war.

Posted on January 24, 2013 and filed under Uncategorized.

The Word of the Year is...

A few years ago I started picking a theme for the year instead of making resolutions. Apparently I’m not alone in this as several bloggers I read are doing the same. In 2010 the theme was “Have fun” because in the intensity of new parenthood I had trouble remembering how to enjoy myself.  I literally needed to re-learn. The next year I choose “Be kind” because I was remedial at that skill too. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Just. Be Kind. Both years were great experiences. They were such simple, applicable “resolutions”. Easily expanded to fit or contract as needed. I choose the theme in a very hippy dippy way. I sit around and “let it come to me.”  I wish there was more of a science to this matter. I wish there were lists involved! There aren’t. I sit around for a few days at the end of the year until a thought pops up.

This year I can’t stop thinking about being bold. Admittedly this could be because I haven’t blogged since October and the Be Bold Brave Robot pic has been accosting me every time I open my browser. It could be because I attended Camp Mighty in November, an emboldening mind blowing experience to be sure. It is defenitely connected to the unexpected, unpleasant turns we experienced last spring. I feel so aware that life is passing by quickly. Everyday my baby boy is bigger. Everyday I’m getting older.  People are coming into this world and leaving it with alarming rapidity. Life is happening and I don’t have time for fear, useless anxiety and my endless planning. I just need to learn to BE BOLD. I mean, seriously, even the sidewalk is telling me so. Star Trek is practically demanding it of me. I must BE BOLD in 2013 and honestly I can’t wait to find out what that will entail!

Posted on January 7, 2013 and filed under Uncategorized.

Kind and Generous Robot Army: Mobilize!

Being mighty and generous are mutually inclusive so everybody attending Mighty Camp this year is fundraising for Charity Water, a very cool organization that brings clean water to developing nations. Have you ever spent some time without clean, potable water? I have and it bites. For me it was just an inconvenience but for many it is a serious health threat and its appalling that so many still don't have access to this basic human need. I'm psyched about the work charity water does and I bet you are too. Here's the deal: Head over to the Mighty Camp Charity Water Page and make a donation. I know you want to because my blog is only read by kind and generous robots. If you give $20 or more I'll send you a print of my Brave Robot picture because being kind and generous is the work of a Brave Robot indeed. Now get to it! Be bold Brave Robots!

PS-If you contribute drop me a line and let me know so I can send you your print!

Posted on October 24, 2012 and filed under Uncategorized.

A Mighty Life

As I've mentioned briefly this has been a doozy of a year. There has been serious illness, pink slips, instability of all types and last week the incomprehensible death of a young woman I worked with and liked very much.  Christina was a "Let's saber the top off this champagne bottle and have some fun!" kind of girl and it's difficult to wrap my head around the fact that she is no longer here. How can someone so full of life be gone? After months of feeling paralyzed by the chaos around me her passing has flipped a switch in me: it lit a fire in my belly to live and love and devour life with joy. Right now I'm getting my LifeList ready for the upcoming Camp Mighty and in Christina's honor I'm trying to make it as big and fun as possible. I'm hugging my little boy, kissing my husband and not putting off fun for tomorrow when there is an opportunity to grab it today. Christina's life was far too short but she really lived it well. Today I'm writing this post to honor her and to remind all of us to follow her lead.

So tell me, how are you going to make your life Mighty? Leave it in the comments. I'm on a mission to have fun and I need some co-pilots.

Posted on October 19, 2012 and filed under Mighty List.

Tiny Food Par-tay

I usually don't care for blogger swag and review copies because it's usually dumb crap like cheetos. There is no world in which I'm going to write a blog post in exchange for cheetos. I have morals and standards people! What I will do is beg, plead and otherwise prostrate myself for a book written by bloggers whom I read regularly. Today I'm psyched to bring you a review of the new cookbook from one of my favorite food blogs Spoon Fork Bacon. Spoiler alert: I love it.

Teri Lyn Fisher and Jenny Park's new book is my favorite kind of cookbook, one written for a specific situation. I like that if I'm looking for something to bring to a party that I not only have a whole book of go-to recipes, I have a book of all super-cute tiny recipes.

I also like this book because it lists food the way I eat it, all fusioned-up. I didn't grow up eating exclusively Filipino food or "american" food for that matter. My family ate everything, chinese, mexican etc and I've always liked mixing it up foodwise.  The first recipe I tested were kimchi deviled eggs with candied bacon. They were delicious and bi-cultural just like me. I felt very emotionally in sync with the deviled eggs. Second bonus? Despite our deep meaningful connection they were still very simple to make. I got all the ingredients at Trader Joes. I had very good intentions of showing you pictures but my egg peeling skills made for some unappetizing looking appetizers. My son and husband were not emotionally in sync with the eggs but this did not prevent them from gobbling them greedily.

Next up I tried out the arepas with guasaca (avocadao sauce). Since I'm currently outnumbered by Colombians in my household arepas were a no-brainer. These were super-easy to make and ready to go in about 30 minutes. Our households chief Colombian/arepa maker was duly impressed by the creation and I could imagine making these in huge quantities for a party and letting people build their own with mixed fillings. Look out for your invite to the Tiny Arepa Party. Wha-what?!

I think the last thing to mention about this book is that it has pictures of every recipe. Some people are very serious cooks who do not need pictures. I am not one of those people. I want a big fat, beautiful picture of each dish to inspire me to get off my duff and make a recipe. Tiny Food Party will inspire you. I want to make it all: caprese skewers, tiny lemon meringue drinks, mini-chicken and waffles. It's all on the to-eat list and my crew and I are scheming about possible tiny-food parties. If you like party food, you will dig this book. It's on bookshelves now, so get to it!

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book but was not compensated or required to write this post. All opinions about the books quality and possible emotional projections of ethnic identity upon deviled eggs are my own.

Posted on October 8, 2012 and filed under Book Reviews, Bossy Pants Recommends.

Big Eat Day 16 - Empanda University

I am on a quest to know become an encyclopedia of deliciousness. As part of this quest I am eating 100 items off of 7 X 7s Big Eat list in San Francisco. It’s hard work but someone’s got to do it. During Labor Day weekend my family traveled to SF for the weekend: gluttony ensued. Going to the city? Need first hand recs? Then click here. #48 Argentinean Beef Empanadas at Venga Empanada

Empanadas are one of those specialty foods that drive people made with lust. To be in this category the food should be a) portable b) relatively hard to procure and c)something that people beg you to bring around based on your ethnic heritage. See also: Lumpia. Whenever I tell people I'm half filipino the next words out of their mouths are "Oh my God. I love lumpia. Do you love lumpia? Can you bring some over?"  If you aren't filpino you have said that to a filipino friend/ acquaintance/stranger you met on the street. Don't be ashamed, I don't hold it against you. I love lumpia too! And I have done the same thing with empanadas a million times.

It started in high school when my friend's Mom introduced the whole concept. She is an amazing cook. Even in Chile I almost never had empanadas as good as hers. I still dream of them. Each country makes empanadas differently so when my family found ourselves in the Mission we decided it was business time. There was only one empanda listed on the Big Eat but we sampled them at three places... for the blog of course.

First Stop: Empanada del Pino at Chile Lindo

Chile Lindo is a sweet little stand selling the relatively hard to come by Chilean empanda. (My first empanda love!) Chilean empanadas are large (2 would be a complete meal) and four-sided. The most common, the empanda del pino is filled with a savory ground beef mixture, raisins, a slice of hard-boiled egg and an olive. They are baked not fried.

I studied abroad my junior year in Chile and I think back on this time fondly as the no empanda left behind tour. Chile Lindo brought back some nice memories and made a solid empanda del pino. I liked the pebre (salsa) they served with it too. Recommended.

Next up came Venga Empanadas which was on the list. We had a spaz attack while ordering and tried three empanadas including the recommended argentine beef, a walnut and bleu cheese (!),  a mushroom empanada, hibiscus drinks and some alfajores for good measure.

Venga empanadas is small, cute and clean. I'm guessing it's relatively new. Argentine empanadas are generally half circles baked with a crimped edge. The empanadas were served with chimichurri (green parsley-olive oil salsa) sauce. I'd classify that chimichurri as bomb-ass delicious. That's technical food taxonomy terminology.

My friend Dahlia described the meat empanada as having more Italian spices than the Chilean del Pino which makes sense since there are tons of Italians in Argentina. My son described it as "Can I have an alfajor if I eat all my empanada?" I liked it well enough but I prefer the flavor of the pino empanda from Chile Lindo. I think the places where Venga Empanadas excelled are the non-traditional offerings such as the blue cheese and walnut and the mushrooms. I recommend the alfajor cookies too. Fresh and not too sweet. Those cookies crumbled perfectly.

Verdict: Go to Venga Empanadas for variety, kick ass chimichurri and perfect alfajores. Go to Chile Lindo for pino/ground beef.

Our last stop was El Majahual for Colombian empanadas. To get there we smushed too many people in the car like clowns and made some illegal U-turns. Arnold said this was to "complete the Colombian experience." Heh.

Like most countries Colombia has many different varieties of empanadas. At El Majahual they serve empanadas vallunas which come from Cali, Colombia. Empanadas vallunas are made with a yucca-flour based crust and filled with red meat and mashed-potatoes. They are deep-fried, delicious and fit in the palm of your hand. Usually they are served with a Colombian salsa called aji. Like most things Colombian, I love them. As K-Stew would say "I love them. I love them. I love them."

On that slightly snarky note I'll conclude South American empandas 101. Any questions? Favorite empanada-related wisdom to share?  Leave 'em in the comments.

Posted on September 30, 2012 and filed under Project EAT, SF Big Eat.

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

Awhile back a friend watched me discipline my son. The most delicate way to describe my attitude towards him in that moment might be "exasperated". She looked at us amusedly, him whining, me exhausted and said "Thank you so much for not making it look easy. I really appreciate that you don't pretend it's easy." I think some people might've taken the comment as a backhanded compliment. The kind of snipe that's emblematic of the so-called Mommy wars. I didn't. I knew my friend was sincere. I've treasured that compliment deep in my heart because it brought me comfort to remember that our imperfections can have the same redeeming qualities as our strengths. After reading Dr. Brene Brown's book I think she would agree. Her book Daring Greatly discusses the power of vulnerability, arguing that our avoidance of vulnerability does not help us to avoid disappointment and pain but rather to miss out on opportunities for love, connection, creativity and triumph. At the risk of sounding melodramatic I'd like to state for the record that I would recommend this book unreservedly to anyone and everyone. It is changing the way I see myself, my loved ones and the people who populate my world. It will be a classic that changes the way we understand vulnerability, fear and shame.

Dr. Brown is a reasearch professor in Social Work and has investigated shame and vulnerability over the past decade. Her book balances academic rigor, practical advice and compelling personal stories. While reading this book I wanted to cry and take notes at the same time. It was a very inspiring and unique reading experience.

I could tell you more specifics about the book but I think the following story will tell you all you need to know. Almost immediately after finishing this book I experienced a very difficult and charged conversation that left me dazed. The details of the conversation are not important but vulnerable seems to soft a word to describe how I felt afterwards. I was so upset with myself that I took a walk to collect my thoughts. I ended up jaywalking across two streets directly towards a policeman on a bike. Understandably upset by my blatant disregard for safety/the law/common sense the policeman proceeded to rip me a new one at the stoplight (there were a ton of people around to watch. Bonus!) "What were you thinking? The way you jaywalked is so dangerous AND it doesn't even save any time. What is WRONG WITH YOU?" As he sat there berating me publicly all I could think was "Man, if you only knew. Everything is wrong with me today."

The upside was that the wretched day became a useful pop quiz for practicing the tools in the book, which is exactly what I did after I extracted myself from the policeman's fury. And I don't mean that I did some mumbo-jumbo "affirmation" exercise and then watched TV. I mean that I literally went home after my disaster of a day, sat down with my book and started following the precise instructions of how to deal with the fallout. I struggle with perfectionism and I've often found that the kind of mistakes that led to my no good, very, bad, terrible day land me in a state of paralyzing fear. Not this time. This time I'm doing my best to remember that growth is often uncomfortable and not to fear the discomfort. I'm trying to remember how terrible it is to be the one in the wrong and to remember to be more generous and kind when I'm disciplining my child. I'm trying to be corageous and not run away or obesses about the valuable criticism I've received. Most of all though, I'm remembering that there is a very important action item for each of you:  read this book

This is a paid review for the BlogHer Book Club. All opinions expressed are my own. To join in on the group discussion on Daring Greatly click here.

Posted on September 19, 2012 and filed under Book Reviews, Bossy Pants Recommends.

Big Eat Day 16 - La Super Chile en Nogada

I am on a quest to know become an encyclopedia of deliciousness. As part of this quest I am eating 100 items off of 7 X 7s Big Eat list in San Francisco. It’s hard work but someone’s got to do it. Arnold is a teacher which means that Labor Day weekend marks the division between the easy living of a one-working parent family to a two-working parents family. Usually we spend the weekend stewing in the dread of our lives going from easy living to exceedingly hectic. Not this year. This year I got smart and booked an escape to the city. It was time to go on our very first family Big Eat.

#47-Pierna Enchilada Torta at La Torta Gorda

La Torta Gorda is a gem. It's tucked away on 24th street near the top of the Mission and from the moment you walk in its obvious that it is a restaurant run with heart. The space is sweetly decorated with a pale pink ceiling, serious San Francisco style moldings and a lovely back patio.  We elected to enjoy the outdoors and ordered the specified torta, a "vampiro" (beet-orange juice combo) and on impulse a new-to-us dish that I saw in the window called chile en nogada.

The "vampiro" came out first. Did I totally order this based on the name? Yes. The "vampiro" came in a plastic goblet larger than my child's head and was deliciously beet-y and refreshing. Also? You get to feel saintly when you drink beet juice. This is important to your psyche when you are about to get crunk with your meal plan.

Next up came the Torta. I am a torta fan and this one was good. The bread was soft yet crunchy. The fillings were fresh and on point but I believe the pork filling is what got this one on the map, it was heavenly. Crisp and fatty and salty and everything that pig aspires to be. It was mixed in with small chunk of pineapple which kept everything in perfect balance. We got the "Jr." size and it was more than enough.

It's obvious to me that the people who put the torta on the list have not tried the chile en nogada because the moment I saw it my torta became irrelevant.  I mean that sincerely and I am a person who is very reverent with tortas.

chile en nogada la super torta

Chile en nogada is a poblano chile filled with the world's most delicious picadillo of ground beef and fresh and dried fruit. On top of this amazingness is a creamy sauce made with walnuts and sherry. The top of the dish is coronated with pomegranate seeds and parsley. Chile en nogada is a dish to eat when you are ready to blow-it-out! Mexican food expert Lesley Tellez from the M'ija Chronicles described it as baroque which is perfect. It is Liberace style food. Decadent and wonderful and everything that you did not know you needed.

Verdict: Go to La Super Torta and bow down to the queen. Tell her you were sent by her most loyal servant La Notorious MLE.

PS-For a more detailed description (and recipe!) for chile en nogada check out Lesley's wonder blog here.

Posted on September 17, 2012 and filed under Project EAT, SF Big Eat.

Big Eat Day 15-House of Prime Rib

I am on a quest to know become an encyclopedia of deliciousness. As part of this quest I am eating 100 items off of 7 X 7s Big Eat list in San Francisco. It's hard work but someone's got to do it. # 46 Prime Rib at House of Prime Rib

About a year ago my friend and I were both at the tail end of lengthy and frustrating job searches. At some point during the process we decided that we would celebrate (our eventual) new jobs by hitting up a SF institution. When we both locked down great new positions we made it happen. The House of Prime Rib has been serving up insane amounts of red meat since 1949. It was time for us to find out what all the fuss is about.

The ambiance of House of Prime Rib is really interesting. It's very fancy and homey and old school but also strangely dated. Our booth sported a pink and mauve fresco featuring kitty cats picnicking in a forest green+mauve color scheme. In a way though the datedness makes it even more endearing. Fancy but not stuffy it is obviously a place for a special jtreat (many around us where celebrating family birthdays). The House of Prime Rib feels like a well-loved piece of furniture, well-made and not pretentious.

The first thing that House of Prime Rib serves you is some A+ Plus sourdough and restaurant butter. You KNOW what I mean by restaurant butter. It's the butter that compels you to slather it on with an abandon you would never use in your own home. I loved the bread. Sourdough in the city just feels right.

At House of Prime Rib you don't choose between entrees. You choose what size of Prime Rib you think you can handle. The sizes range from very large to insane. After you've eaten a loaf of bread and some (ahem) butter it's time for prime rib! The servers come by with this extremely alarming... uh meat transporter thing? Wait, it's a mobile carving station. Yay vocabulary!

Sorry for these pics, they are from my phone (camera fail). These pictures make it look really gross, it was strange but not gross. It is fun/scary to watch them slice off your Prime Rib. I am not too faint of heart when it comes to ingesting either meat or fat but I swear I felt my arteries closing up when I saw how large my serving (smallest size available) was.

Did I mention that it was served with dinosaur sized-sides including Yorkshire pudding, bakes potatoes, creamed spinach etc? I feel a little alarmed just looking at the pictures again. It was a TON of food. If you have friends that rejoice in large quantities and friendly service by all means take them here! I thought I would pass out waddling to the car.

Verdict: Overall I am really glad we went there. It was a fun outing and the staff were fantastic. I feel that it is an experience kind of like Medieval Times, a fun time, but not necessary to repeat. It's obviously an institution and I enjoyed trying it out. I think ones experience of this restaurant greatly depends on their wish to eat large quantities of Prime Rib. Me, not so much, but maybe you want to! If you do, I can't think of a better place.




Posted on August 27, 2012 and filed under Project EAT, SF Big Eat.

Nailed It-The True Story of a Culinary Cooking Monster

Most of the time when I blog about something I cooked it looks like this...

Yum. Are you jealous of my culinary prowess? You shouldn't be. There's a reason blog food usually looks good in pictures.  Most bloggers use a sophisticated strategy called "I don't take pictures of my ugly food". I know I do. I have made some appalingly ugly concotions... this week! Don't even get me started on my baked goods which almost always reflect the meme below:

This doesn't stop me from trying over and over to achieve pinterest-level baking perfection. With my mixer at my side the epic battles to make delicious and fugly baked goods continues unchecked. Since I am so good at making baked goods that come out in aesthetically unexpected ways today I am going to teach you one of the only solid baking tricks I know: how to "salvage" a good cake gone bad. Get ready for it!

Photography by Jamie Chung for Bon Appetit Magazine

Last Easter I decided I was going to make an eight-layer coconut cake from Bon Appetit magazine. When my friend Lisa expressed concern that I might be out of my league I was insulted. What does she know?! I have a mixer and a subscription to Bon Appetit. Nothing can stop me.

And bake my cake I did. Oooh, it smelled amazing. Just like heaven. Take that Lisa!

Next, I attempted to remove the cakes from the pans. I really showed Lisa who's right! Ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaarggggghhhh!

The worst part about this devastating moment was the absolute deliciousness of the cake. It was the best cake I've ever made! Light and fluffy and just the right amount of sweet. Actually scratch that, the deliciousness was the best part of that moment because facing this massacre was much easier after eating a bit of stuck-in-the-pan cake. Renewed by the sugar, coconut and southern comfort coursing through my veins I reached for my secret weapon: the trifle bowl! Do you have one? You should. Especially if you like to try ridiculously complicated recipes before important public occasions.

Armed with 1000 design blogs floating in my coconut-addled brain I decided to attempt a ombre effect with my trifle. Failure can't hold me down!

I busted out my stupid-toxic(yet somehow FDA approved) red food dye and fiddled around with my frosting until it seemed pleasing.

Then I started layering the trifle. It was, well, not as pretty as I had hoped but also not horrendous.

Culinary overconfidence restored to proper level: adventurous amateur who promises to bring cakes but always shows up with a "trifle".


There is a moment when you need to suck it up and remember you live in the real world; a place where you have a full-time job that is not entitled "baker". Would it be awesome to bring beautiful 8-layer cakes to parties? Yes! Is it the end of the world if you bring a smushy but delicious trifle instead: not at ALL. I packed up my trifle with (bruised) pride and carried on with enjoying Easter with my family and friends.

The truth is that baking can be a crapshoot. Unlike cooking you have to follow directions precisely and even then you can be sunk by an oven that is not calibrated or has hot spots, the humidity in the air or the quality of the ingredients that you use. It's not like cooking where things might just get a little charred or mushy if you do things wrong. When you bake, a small mistake or deviation can sink the recipe. Don't be deceived by how effortless the internet makes baking seem. Baking is hard and there is no shame in trying hard and not coming out totally on top. Now go bake something! I'm hungry for trifle.



Posted on August 21, 2012 and filed under Notorious Know-It-All, Project EAT.

Incendiary by Chris Cleave

This book is devastating. I started reading it a few days into our stay in Santander and after the first few chapters I was overcome with anxiety that someone was following me in order to kidnap my child. You'll be pleased to know that I shared this "suspicion" with my husband who instead of talking me down like a regular person instead joined me in the crazy. The joys of marriage.

This is an epistolary novel written from the point of view of a working class British woman whose husband and young son are killed in a terrorist attack. I am not a working class British woman but I thought the author was spot on. This picture of a woman whose life and mental health are clearly falling apart felt incredibly real so much so that I'm not sure if I would really recommend this book. For me, it was very upsetting, probably more so because it felt a little close to present reality to ignore. If you are looking for something incredibly well-written in a unique voice I suggest this to you, but be forewarned, its intense.

Posted on July 31, 2012 and filed under Book Reviews, Bossy Pants Recommends.

Taft 2012

Ludicrous and lovely, this is a great summer beach read. It's short, fun and about a president so you can pretend to look down on everybody reading "fluffier" stuff. This book presents an alternative world where President Taft wakes up from some kind of suprise coma in 2012. No time is wasted on the mechanics of why Taft is undead which is great. Who cares? He's back and lumbering his way through a changed world. I found this book to be both funny and thoughtful. Read it now. It's what Taft would want.

Posted on July 30, 2012 and filed under Book Reviews, Bossy Pants Recommends.