Birthday Month

We’re in the beginning of September, the late home stretch of Summer. A few hot days left,  some warm, comforting rain coming soon. As much as I physically and emotionally despise the Winter I do look forward to early Autumn, that is at least until my birthday.

No, I’m not 6, though I often feel that way. I do act child-like  (ok kids, childish) in some ways but to me little things make me happy; especially things that I can do to entertain myself. I’m not needy, that way, I amuse myself all the time and I hope to be able to continue to do this until I take my last breath and die.

I laugh out loud to my own jokes with nobody around and sometimes I think I am absolutely hilarious. It doesn’t matter to me at all what other people think, as long as I am enjoying myself, and not hurting anyone, that’s all I need. I think I got this from my dad who often laughed at his own jokes but back then, as a daughter, things didn’t really seem that funny to me. They do now.

I celebrate and look forward to my birthday every year. I have no shame about age, I will be 58 in early October and I hope to be just as happy as I approach the so=called dreaded 60.” I admit sixty does sound OLD and it seems impossible that I will be sixty but I hope to celebrate that birthday with even more presents, laughter, family, flowers and friends. Key word : Hope.

A birthday cake

Why not? In the past, my mother always lied about her age.. For years she lied about my age and my sister’s age, we got younger every few years. She used to say and “this is my daughter.” It took us years for her to add-on  each name. She gets it now.

She doesn’t like me to tell people her age so I’ll just say she gave birth to me as a young teen mom. I’m really not coy about age or gray hair. At the moment I am trying to grow out a reddish glaze, not to cover my gray hair but to make it shiny. It didn’t work. Now my hair has three shades, all I want is for my natural brown and silver.

I buy myself little things, very little things, a few weeks before my birthday. It could be one cookie or something from a thrift shop, it by no means is expensive. It’s my birthday month and who knows better than me what makes me happy?

Think about this the month before your birthday, buy yourself something. Why not? I’m sure you deserve it. Wish yourself a Happy Birthday Month and all good things to come throughout the year.

PS Warm wishes on your special day from ME!

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We Give Thanks For Many Different Things

Cake made of chocolate mousse.

Cake made of chocolate mousse. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am the meanest person on earth, or at least the most honest and outspoken but I give thanks that Thanksgiving is over. Yep, I said it. You can judge me all you want but holidays can be stressful. Family dynamics,  emotional baggage, demons from the past, they all get rattled and those emotions escape. They slip from your unconscious like slithering snakes darting out without your permission. Filters don’t work, the id, ego and superego are all in repair.

Families members regress, the dysfunctional aspects of relationships become unglued, it seems like anything negative that you can rein in for most of the year just gets ignited during holiday celebrations. Forgive me, don’t judge me. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling this way.

I used to be the person who loved holidays the most, it WAS my favorite time of year. I sang along with every song on the radio, happily. I loved to shop for hours getting just the perfect present for each member of my extended family. Now, I beg my kids to tell me what they want, preferably with a link online. I don’t feel like celebrating, when did I become Scrooge?

I’d rather appreciate my family as I do, every minute of every day instead of on one particular day.  All the work you have done to prep and prepare and cook and bake is finally here; by the time you sit down to eat, you are exhausted and then the meal is over in literally five minutes. Tops.

You take a breather and move to a different room, everyone moaning about how full their tummies are and the tension moves with you like invisible cloaks. The young “adult” children text, the older generation talks about  people who have died or are very sick  and all I want to do is change into my soft flannel polka dot pajama pants and tee-shirt and climb under my blankets and go to sleep.

However, the chocolate cake with the layers of lighter chocolate mousse winks at me and soon we go back to eat dessert. A lot of dessert. That incredibly delicious chocolate cake with edible sugar ornaments, my vegetarian daughter grins as she eats a sugar “turkey.” There is also apple cake, strawberry-rhubarb pie, chocolate rugelach, banana bread, apple pie and assorted cookies. I’m ashamed to say that the fabulous chocolate cake, with an ice-cold glass of milk cheers me up. I can see the women of Weight Watchers “past” shaking their heads at me, tsk- tsking all the way to the scales. Sorry leaders, I haven’t gained any weight, in fact I lost more weight.

My daughter drives her grandmother home, with a care package that will last her at least a week to finish, complete with forbidden dessert since she is a not-so-so-strict-diabetic, it’s a treat for her, one bite or two at a time. The fact that my sister and her family aren’t here was felt by all, it just seemed empty without them. I missed my sister and the “cousins” being together. My husband’s parents are coming tomorrow, does that make any sense to you? Fill me in if you can figure it out, I can’t.

I see myself going away for a few days this year or next. This time I will go someplace different to be alone, to have some space, to smile at the sun and do some thinking.  It’s my turn now. I’m tired,  physically and emotionally. I need to get a good night’s rest and maybe when I wake up tomorrow morning I will feel just more hopeful. I give thanks for my family, my friends, for the food on the table. I give thanks that the holiday is over and for my pretty polka dotted pajamas. I am grateful for the sleep that is sure to come quickly. Good night.

Napoleon Dynamite And Me

Film poster for Napoleon Dynamite - Copyright ...

Film poster for Napoleon Dynamite – Copyright 2004, Fox Searchlight Pictures (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My stomach is full, round, bloated, I’m about to burst and I haven’t even eaten anything today. It’s the day BEFORE Thanksgiving and I’m getting worried about my eating capacity. I haven’t even eaten yet because I feel so full. I look five, fine, six months pregnant and statistically I can guarantee you that is just not possible. No way, no how. I’m sure being concerned about my beached whale body isn’t helping either.

I’m lying on my stomach on my bed and I feel the tension and the huge, inflated balloon, that flabby orb that once was my flat stomach three days ago. I only ate one slice of pizza for dinner last night. ( I have to admit it was really, really good.) So, I had a little extra tomato sauce, maybe a bite or two of a meatball, that should not have made me gain two pounds this morning.

The scale is my enemy and for all the naysayers who say ” don’t weigh yourself every day” sorry, no can do. Sure, I realize that there are variations but if I don’t go on the scale one day, all hell could break loose. I should know, it’s happened before more than a few times.

It’s the day before Thanksgiving, my thoughts are just imagining the smells of  tomorrow. First, the turkey and stuffing in the oven. The sweet potato and apple casserole (with marshmallows) this year, the freshness and nobility of the salad to undo the damage of the mashed potatoes laden with butter, the rolls, warm, straight from the oven. My husband’s famous stuffing, the best I’ve ever had, and look forward to every single year: Hint: add sliced water chestnuts, chopped apples, raisins.One batch is soft, moist with gravy, the other is drier, great for a sandwich. Not to mention, cranberry sauce 3 ways, apple sauce, green bean vinaigrette.

I have dreamed my way to my favorite part, dessert:  chocolate on chocolate frosted cake, the strawberry-rhubarb pie, the apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream  or “à la mo-day” as we have said ever since we saw the classic cult movie “Napoleon Dynamite.” I have seen the move about ten times.

Later, leftover turkey sandwiches with mayo, yes, Hellman’s only. I’m fine about tomorrow, the problem is tonight. I’m starving, my husband is on call for the Volunteer Ambulance until seven pm, I’ve already had some fresh vegetables.  It is six pm, we are getting hungry, one more hour to go. Time passes so slowly when you want it to go quickly. I’m ordering now. We order too much.

The only thing deemed delicious by the family is take out Asian fusion food from the local store a few blocks away. Yes, I know that there’s fat and sodium and grease. But, it is the best way for us to stretch our stomach even more for tomorrow. Can’t wait.

Eating Key Lime Pie At Midnight With My Hands

Key lime pie

Key lime pie (Photo credit: nebulux76)

Not having utensils does not stop a sugar obsessed person from eating her leftover key lime pie for dessert. Why should it? My daughter had leftovers from her chocolate cake too. “We have no utensils” my daughter mentioned politely. That, as a problem, had never crossed my mind. My mind was on the authentic, Florida, key lime pie, the half sour, half sweet piece of juicy pie waiting for me to take a large bite. The utensil issue was really just a technicality. I grinned at my daughter and said “So? we use are hands!”

It was our first vacation alone together and we were having fun. Seeing me grab my key lime pie, take a big bite out of it and looking quite pleased with myself, grinning widely, she was happy to put her chocolate cake in her hand and take a bite. Isn’t that what vacations are for? To be able to do things like this and not be judged?     (We weren’t in the restaurant, We were alone in our room.)  It was definitely one of the high points of the trip for me. So, I’m a little addicted to dessert, there are certainly worse things, I don’t smoke, I don’t drink (much to the disgust of my two teenagers) and I’m not addicted to crack cocaine. An oatmeal raisin cookie occasionally or a piece of marzipan ( I’m drooling) after a well-balanced meal just makes me happy.

I would gladly give up all potatoes and pasta in the world, ( Sorry Nona) if I could have dessert and generally that’s what I do. I pass on the carbohydrates there, which pretty much don’t interest me, and save it up for what  I really care about, dessert. The only thing I have a tough time with is if there is really good ( son-approved warm) bread on the table, then I’m down and out. Or, if I’m lucky, there will be nothing on the dessert menu that I want to order, that’s a win-win situation. I want dessert but if there is nothing on the menu I want, I don’t order it anyway. I do have my standards. I save those calories and carbs for the next time I really want something and I know, that will be very, very soon.

I  love food way too much to give some things up entirely, so eating smaller portions is key and yes, I am finally forcing myself to drink more water. I really don’t like it any more than I did but I got so sick of every doctor telling me to do it, I just gave in. Is it my drink of choice? No, but it is certainly healthier than any chemical diet soda which I now limit. Lately, if I want something to drink that tastes good I get a mixture of cranberry and pineapple juice. There’s sugar, sure, but at least there is nothing artificial.

It’s Sunday, we all need to love our dinner, it’s a tradition in our house actually it’s been a tradition since I was six years old. It’s been decided, tonight is pizza and salad (maybe some bread too) and that’s okay because there is no cake or pie lurking in the refrigerator. There’s only ice cream which for me is just a source of calcium, so it doesn’t count at all.

Hope everyone enjoys their dinner tonight.

Mellow Yellow Monday – Banana Cream Pie

Banana Cream Pie. Need I say more? Fluffy, moist, creamy. I do not like chocolate with my banana cream pie

nor do I like bananas with my chocolate cake. I like them plain and simple, each taste and texture separate. Banana cream pie. Yellow. Mellow. Delicious.

Banana cream pie and four bananas.

Banana cream pie and four bananas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Plinky: What Vice Would YOU Give Up?

  • Vice, Be Gone
  • No, No, No!
    old fashioned chocolate cake, sweet revenge patisserie
  • If I had to give up one MAJOR vice, I would have to give up sugar. SUGAR? Yup, cake, cookies, chocolate bars, ice cream, baked goods, candy, (what? No more Chuckles candy?) chocolate, chocolate and chocolate. I would cry without a piece of chocolate or coconut cake,(oh fine, ANY cake) chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies too. Sigh, I’m good with Oreos as well (I did notice they now have sugar-free Oreos).I’m sure I would lose a lot of weight if I did this but is it really worth it? I don’t want to give up sugar and I don’t want to eat it in excess (ok, that’s a plain bold-faced lie) but I would be very unhappy if I had to give it up….My physical is coming up soon, I believe they test for diabetes. I would get used to it as we all get used to new things but I certainly would NOT be pleased. Who would? Giving up sugar? Scary thought and major ouch. Please don’t make me give it up, pretty please with Truvia on top?

Cake vs. Pie

Devil's food cake with vanilla bean icecream.

Image via Wikipedia

CAKE IS THE VEHICLE FOR FROSTING

CAKE! CAKE! CAKE! CAKE! CAKE! CAKE! CAKE! CAKE! CAKE! CAKE! ….Hmm, let me think about this challenging question. OK, obviously there is nothing to think about. Hands down, CAKE! Vanilla cake with vanilla frosting, vanilla cake with chocolate frosting, chocolate cake with vanilla frosting, chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, frosting on frosting. Asking which type of cake is my favorite is like asking me which of my children I prefer; you can’t answer, you love them equally..sometimes you feel like vanilla, sometimes you feel like chocolate. The possibilities are endless….Oh dear, I just realized something maybe what I love most about cake is the frosting. Let’s face it blueberry pie and frosting just does not work.

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“Don’t Toby Me”

Chocolate Cake

Image by alachia via Flickr

In our house, we have our own kind of language. Our children, we always said, needed to take English As A Second Language when they were younger. Now? It’s a lost cause. My husband and I use a combination of words and phrases we learned from both Viennese and German parents, some real and mostly made up. My husband and I have been married for twenty-two years, we are also guilty of making up many expressions that some might consider “creative.”

I kid you not, my brother-in-law (on my husband’s side) actually published a little dictionary, for amusement, for one Thanksgiving dinner  many years ago. It was the hit of the night. People (mostly my sister) wrote to him begging him to do another edition or to add a phrase or correct one that was there. That dictionary with photos of all of us when our children were tiny is still talked about today. It was so special that there never can be a second edition, that’s how much we love it.

A bit of many different languages are included. Our poor kids used to ask us if a certain word was real or not. There’s really no way of telling but when in doubt, it’s probably not real. However, there is one expression that is famous throughout the family and has extended to close friends, acquaintances and most probably strangers. It started way back in the eighties when my then best friend and I went to dinner at an Italian restaurant in Boston. After finishing our meals, we looked forward, as always, to the main reason we went out to dinner: dessert. I remember that they had a special dessert that was called Cappuchino pie, a mixture of chocolate and coffee, that my old friend loved.  I ordered something else, I believe it was a chocolate layer cake with whipped cream, or as we used to say “real” whipped cream.

Wanting to take a break after dinner since I was getting full, I went to the bathroom AFTER our dessert came but BEFORE I took a bite. When I came back, not two minutes later, there was a BITE of MY chocolate cake missing. That’s right, you heard me. She had tasted my dessert BEFORE I tasted it and that, to me, was inexcusable. I was looking forward to that first bite, yet she ate it while I was in the bathroom. She didn’t ask permission (would so not be granted) she just ate it. Thus, her name being Toby, the expression was born. It lives on to this day and it will always be alive…..

It’s only been about thirty-one years, yet we continue to use and enjoy this expression.  My niece, many years ago, was with a friend of hers and her friend attempted to try something that my niece ordered but hadn’t tasted yet. My niece proclaimed in a loud voice “Don’t Toby Me!” She then explained what that meant to her friend and the phrase continues to be used and enjoyed in various settings by people probably unbeknownst to us.

The friendship didn’t last but NOT for that reason.  Sometimes, many years after an old friendship is over you can still appreciate a tiny detail, a golden nugget of a phrase, way past the expiration date of the friendship. Watch your dining companion closely. If he/she attempts to steal something off your plate BEFORE you have tried it, stop them.  Keep an eye on their fork  and be prepared. If they do it once, they will never do it again and yes, they will learn. The miracle continues. You’re welcome.

p.s. Jerry Seinfeld could have done a whole show on this. Just sayin…..

My Most Memorable Birthday- 25!!!

bouquet of roses

Image by Muffet via Flickr

IT was my 25th birthday, my parents, sister and I went to a fancy restaurant in New York to celebrate. The food was smorgasbord style but I remember looking at layers of thick orange lox, plump, green, salty capers and huge layers of white onions. I had no idea what I was going to eat. I had always been a picky eater so I’m sure I had bread, butter and an assortment of cheese, which is still one of my favorite meals. The only thing I do remember vividly is the end of dinner when our plates were cleared off the table.

It was dessert time, my favorite time, and my favorite chocolate layer cake had been brought in by my parents from The Homestead Gourmet Shop in Queens. Every year I looked forward to MY annual, traditional chocolate layer cake with raspberry jam filling and creamy milk chocolate frosting with perfect, pink script writing that said HAPPY BIRTHDAY. Roses, pink and green, made out of frosting, adorned the perimeter of my cake.

There were three black and white-clad waiters singing “Happy Birthday” to (an embarrassed) me. All of the waiters were smiling, each had a bright white starched napkin draped over one arm. I remember looking up after I blew out the candles and saw the waiters singing and smiling, reminding me of the penguin clad waiters from Mary Poppins. After a minute, my eyes saw something so unreal that time stood still. One of the waiters was NOT a real waiter at all. It was my beloved “Uncle Teddy” who lived far away in Israel. My father knew he would be in town and my family had arranged for him to surprise me for my birthday, waiter outfit and all. I remember the moment it registered in my brain and I jumped up from my seat and cried with happiness “Teddy!” He came towards me to give me a big hug and from behind his back he produced a bouquet of roses. I will never forget the feeling I had, the sound of my voice as I screamed his name and the sobbing as I stood motionless in time with my very own special “waiter.” He hugged and kissed me, tears streamed down both our cheeks. It was the best birthday I have ever had and one that I will never forget.

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Carrot Cake Was NOT Just An 80’s Thing, Was It?

Carrot Cake

Image by Pen Waggener via Flickr

Hubby and I went out to dinner last week and as we looked over the dessert menu (after all, isn’t that the reason I go out to dinner?) I realized that certain important items were missing from the menu. There was no carrot cake, cheesecake. vanilla cake. Or any cake except a dense, all dark-chocolate cake. No pies. Just passion fruit crème brûlée,  a brownie with vanilla ice cream, a root beer float (really? that is a beverage to me) and fresh fruit in season, (LOL) and Nutella in pastry shells. I have a big jar of Nutella at home in the closet and with a teaspoon (or 5 teaspoons) to eat right out of the jar it costs a lot less than the eight dollars THEY were charging. I had just baked brownies for my kids and husband so that was out of the question, vanilla ice cream was safely nestled in the freezer. I had been dreaming of carrot cake, cheese cake, vanilla layer cake, coconut cake but there was nothing.

Carrot cake, to me, is perfection. It is a blend of sweet, salty, crunch and creamy. I’m not a huge fan of cream cheese frosting but hey, its frosting and it is vanilla-ish so that works for me. My husband in his loud, convincing voice said: “carrot cake was just an 80’s s thing.”  Excuse me? I don’t think so but he kept telling me that we don’t see it on dessert menus very often and I just assume that we’ve been going to the wrong restaurants.

Was carrot cake a cult thing? Like a flash in the (cake) pan? Do I need to find my leg warmers and leotards and watch “Flashdance” on the, (gulp) oldies station? Look at denim, that’s been around a long time and I doubt that’s going anywhere. I don’t want to think that carrot cake is not available anymore and please don’t suggest I make it because I don’t have the patience or the talent for all the chopping, mixing and whatever 52 steps it takes to create it.  Also, it’s no use saying “don’t order dessert” because that is totally irrational.

If I can’t find it in a restaurant I really don’t want to buy a whole cake. I don’t want a whole cake of any flavor in my house, from a bakery or Costco or the frozen section of my local supermarket. If there is (non-chocolate) cake, I will eat it.   Please, don’t let me buy an entire carrot cake or cheesecake because I am the only one in the family that will eat it and I have given up on portion control or rather portion control has given up on me.  I will have to scour every bakery and grocery store to find a place that serves these delicacies by the slice. I’m just not sure if I can be trusted to only buying one.