Friday, June 29, 2007

celebrity sighting

Yesterday as I was walking to work I noticed a doorman hailing someone a cab. For some reason he kept my attention as he walked to the cab with a hanging bag and a suitcase. The residents he was assisting was a small family - a mom, dad and I could see one child. The dad looked familiar. Then I thought "he looks like that guy from Law & Order SVU, what is his name? Maloney? Is that his character's name or his name? I know the female cop is Mariska Hargitay who is beautiful and has a great name but I can't remember his. I think it is Maloney." Or at least that is how I spelled it in my head. Thanks to IMDB I was able to confirm that his name is Christopher Meloni and the woman he was with was his wife, Sherman Williams who is also some sort of actress in movies I have never heard of - mostly in the UK.

He looked smaller than I expected.

I thought I called my mom a lot. . .

A few times a week is nothing compared to the women interviewed in this article. I often call my mom as I walk home from work, take a cab somewhere, don't feel like doing anything else or if something good, exciting, sad or even insignificant happens. But ever since college when my dad would chime into our phone calls with "do you know how much our phone bill cost last month?" I have had a slight twinge of guilt if I call too often. Even now with mobile to mobile minutes which give me unlimited talk time with my mother, I feel compelled to cut back sometimes. My first instinct is always to call my mom, whether I have something to report or not. I remember times when I would try and limit myself to one call a week so I don't overdo it. But I cannot imagine calling my mom four to five times a day!! Or talking to her for 6 hours on the phone like some of the women in the article. I'm sorry, that is just crazy. I no longer feel guilty about calling my mom several times a week.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Dinner Party

Tonight I had a couple of friends over for dinner. We had a great time cooking up my experimental dinner that turned out fantastic! We made Oven Roasted Tomatoes with Mushroom Risotto and Fresh Mozzarella, baked asparagus and pork chops. Don't let the risotto recipe fool you with its "Yield: 4 appetizer servings", this recipe makes plenty. Oh, but the 35 minute cook time is not entirely accurate either, but well worth the wait.
The final product, including the limeade/pear juice/pineapple juice/ginger ale with floating raspberries and fresh limes beverage:
After dinner we had Krazy Kake with ice-cream, hot fudge and raspberries (we ate too quickly to capture on camera). Yum! I decided I really need to do this more often.

For Autumn: Krazy Kake

I know Autumn is in search of tasty baked goods that don't require eggs, so here is my secret family recipe, no eggs, no butter, no shortening . . . who knew we had such a great vegan cake in our family repertoire. One thing I love about recipes is how the best ones get scrawled on odd scraps of paper and endure spills and carry small samples of flavoring to recommend themselves. If the physical recipe doesn't look a bit battered and well-used, you may want to try one that does. My copy of the Krazy Kake recipe is the one my mom wrote years and years ago when it was relayed to her on a long thin piece of manila card-stock. Some of the directions are smudged and you can even see some shorthand written in. After moving out on my own, I asked my mom for this recipe in person and she claimed to have another copy and she passed hers on to me. I love having it nestled in my blue 3-ring binder recipe book, stashed in a plastic page protector next to my chocolate chip cookie recipe, I carefully copied into my Franklin day planner when I moved out. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I have (complete recipe appears at the end of the post).
Whisk together the flour, cocoa, sugar and salt. I prefer to do this step in a mixing bowl but if you prefer to use fewer dishes, this step can be accomplished in the cake pan. Sprinkle in the baking soda and mix well.
Although it does not appear in the recipe, it is at this point that I like to experiment to "spice" the cake up a bit (hence the "Krazy Kake" title). In yesterday's version I added cinnamon, mace and crystallized ginger. I like to play with nutmeg and allspice as well. I wish I could give you some guidance in terms of measuring but I tend to just dump it in and taste test after the wet ingredients are added and add more if needed. If I want the cake to be a bit lighter I add 1 4 ounce package of chocolate pudding mix at this stage.
Pour the dry ingredients in to the baking pan (no spray needed!) and make three wells in the dry mix. Add oil - I use olive oil but vegetable oil works just as well.
Add the remaining wet ingredients - vanilla, vinegar and water - and stir with a wooden spoon. Sometimes as a variation I will add a cup or two of sour cream (only if I add the pudding and some chocolate chips, but only semi-sweet chocolate chips and this variation works better in a bundt pan).Bake in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes at 350 degrees until a toothpick comes out clean.

Full recipe:
3 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda

Make 3 wells in baking pan and add:
3/4 cup oil (I use olive oil but I used to use vegetable oil and it works as well)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. vinegar
2 cups water

Bake 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees

This recipe works well as cupcakes too!


Friday, June 22, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me, Part Ole!

The birthday fun continued throughout the evening. Despite my heavy lunch, I still managed to eat another one of these delectable delights (there are still more in my fridge at home!):
After changing out of the mistake of a white skirt I chose to wear to work (try and avoid wearing a skirt with snaps up the front, especially on days when you plan on eating non-stop, every time I leaned forward the top snap came undone, despite a significant gap at the back of the skirt!), I headed out for my birthday dinner. Despite being an unbelievably perfect 80 degree, low humidity day, a thunderstorm had snuck in with dark, ominous clouds and its bursts of rain and dazzling lightening. As I left the house I grabbed my small purse-size umbrella mistakenly assuming the worst of the storm had passed. I was a block from my apartment with a light drizzling rain when I decided to jump in a cab rather than risk being too late. What a great decision! As my cab slowly made its way up 10th Avenue, the clouds burst and the rain beat down in demanding stacatto on the roof. After using all of my cash on my cab and arriving a few minutes early, I decided to run across the street to the atm in Duane Reade (a pharmacy). The dash left me dripping, wandering the aisles wondering if the rain would stop before I had to run back across the street. It didn't. But when I rushed in the front door of Mama Mexico, I was greeted by my newly engaged friend Wendy holding a bunch of fragrant white lilies for me.
Two other friends Emily and Emilee were also there to greet me with hugs. Emily (in the middle below) is a talented jewelry designer and gave me another pair of her originals, which I am wearing in the photo. I love them!

Surprisingly, the restaurant seated us right away despite the fact we only had 4 or 5 of our 10 party reservation. New York restaurants are generally quite stingy on this point and will rarely to never seat you without your full party, even if your full party is 4 and 3 are there. With the often unreliable transportation that is difficult to calculate timing well, waiting for a table for a large party can often be a long and painful process, especially in a cramped waiting area with torrential rain outside. As my friends trickled in, each with a somewhat harrowing story involving the rain, pedi cabs, gypsy cabs and lost umbrellas, we snacked on the amazingly fresh made-to order guacomole that makes Mama Mexico so good. I just wish they had taken me a bit more seriously when I requested hot and spicy. After dinner, the roaming mariachi band stopped by our table with some cake to sing happy birthday to me. I declined the tequila the owner tried to drizzle down my throat and I think he was a bit surprised that the entire table turned down his tequila gift as well.Even sans tequila, things took a bit of a wild turn as the band continued to play and I was given a giant sombrero which is really just an invitation for me to get a little crazy. Some may even say it really isn't my birthday if I don't end up dancing on a table. . . Okay, so I didn't actually stand on the table, but I did stand on my seat but those photos were definitely not suitable for posting. As my brother commented last night (without the benefit of viewing the photos), "I don't want to say you aren't photogenic, but. . . " He included himself in that category and I honestly was not offended, especially since I was looking at a photo of me with mouth gaping, one eye open and one half closed. I wish I looked better when I was having fun. But I loved this cute little guy.
I didn't get any dance (or any other) offers from the boys who showed up to dinner but I did get to dance with our server:The group shot in front of the restaurant, after the rain ended and I reluctantly ended the night:Thank you Brooke for putting a fantastic birthday dinner together for me despite my bratty protests. I had a wonderful time! And I am sure I will have a great time trying out my new somewhat suggestive spices you gave me too, thanks again, you are the best!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Birthday Festivities Part I

I started my birthday celebrations a bit early last night with dinner with my friends Ruby, Joo and Katharine at a new Thai place called Chai Thai. It was excellent. I love getting together with these girls. I can relax, be myself and they say great things about me to give my ego a little boost. I couldn't believe we all managed to get away from work at a decent time mid-week for dinner. I'm not sure we have ever accomplished that before. After dinner Joo bid us farewell and we headed out to try the new dessert place I suggested Kyotofu. As we walked from 8th to 9th, we found ourselves on the corner of 53rd Street and 9th Avenue in front ofthe restaurant Mangia e Bevi where 7 years ago today I turned 25 dancing on a table shaking a tamborine. Ruby and I had to pause for a commemorative photo: I tried to upload the original photo taken in the same spot only we were all thinner and more fresh-faced but my scanner was throwing fits last night so I didn't manage to get it done. Before we were seated at Kyotofu, Ruby decided she needed to head home because she wasn't feeling well so K and I enjoyed our beautifully presented dessert concoctions. Here is mine:
I enjoyed the chocolate and the raspberry sauce, the hummus looking sauce was a bit odd as was the pinkish jelly thing. I didn't know what to do with the powders in the corner of the plate so I left them alone entirely. K had some sort of tapioca thing because it was the only thing she recognized on the menu then she discovered the jelly things on the corner of her plate were full of sake so she slurped those up happily.
As I walked home well-fed, I called my parents and asked if I could retrieve my present from them that has been sitting with the doorman for the last week. They consented and I pulled this beautifully wrapped package carefully out of the peanut-filled box.
Happily, I received the yellow melamine bowls I wanted as well as a fun Le Creuset oval dutch oven in flame.

This morning started with a call from my mom as I walked to work and a tin bucket full of reese's peanut butter cups, tootsie rolls and Take 5 bars delivered to my office from AS. She has been great with the birthday treats. I stayed occupied most of the day returning well-wishing emails, answering fun singining phone calls and taking an extra long lunch. One of the highlights was an unexpected delivery of chocolate covered strawberries and apples from Ruby. Seriously, amazing!

Then I went to lunch with a group from work to Town, seriously, that is the name. I was in food heaven. I started the meal with Tuna tart with green peppercorn glaze with muscat grapes and spicy caviar tartar - almost the best thing I have ever eaten! This was soon followed by lobster ravioli which I assumed would have just a bit of lobster stuffed in a ravioli shell. But no, it was one giant ravioli (raviola?) surrounded by chunks of lobster and the flesh of the lobster claw on top. Again, one of the best things I have ever eaten. I finished the meal with rice pudding with ginger and mango sorbet. One word - amazing! The meal finished up three hours ago and I am still basking in it.

Now I just need to close up shop here in the office so that in a couple of hours I will be ready to eat guacomole at Mama Mexico - the only real Mexican restaurant in New York. I will try and post the results of the party later.

Watch out Iceland. . .

Erin and I are booked and on our way in two months and five days! WOO HOO!!

A year or so ago I awoke from a vivid dream in which I was hiking up the side of a dark, cold mountain with a light snow falling. I was tired and alone. When I was near the top, I had to wind along a narrow path pressed against steep cliffs of lava rock which I faced as I side-stepped along the narrow ledge. I came to an opening in the craggy rocks and was startled to see the exact image pictured above - The Blue Lagoon! It was not familiar to me but somehow I was prepared so I stripped down to my swimming suit and slid into the natural hot tub as the snow fell softly all around me. Once in the soothing geothermal pools I began looking around and discovered the familiar faces of my friends and family contentedly bobbing around me. It was such a vivid image of peace and serenity, I woke up reluctantly wondering where I conjured up this calming pool. Despite the fact that I had no conscious memory of having seen or recently learned anything about these pools, I somehow knew my dream was of Iceland and I knew I needed to visit.

If you want to help make my dream more of a premonition, book your flights now on Iceland Air and I will meet you at the Blue Lagoon at the end of August. Until then I will also be dreaming of exploring these places:

a few things on my mind

  • why do I ever get lured into purchasing linen? it is only crisp for the first 5 seconds after you put it on and then it is a wrinkled mess
  • why did I iron my new linen pants this morning given my experience and knowledge that linen becomes a waded mess nearly instantly
  • why do I ever think I can make a "quick" stop into a bookstore? I stopped at Border's last night to pick up a book on Iceland and left with a book on Iceland, 2 poetry books and "The Nanny Diaries" despite the fact that I have only finished one of the 4 books I recently purchased on
  • When will my sister give me the green light to purchase our vacation tickets?
  • I am EXTREMELY excited and distracted by August vacation plans, destination: Iceland!
  • I have a really great friend at work who has dropped off a different bag of candy each day this week to celebrate my birthday week - Nuggets Truffles (with caramel pecan truffle filling), Mary Janes and dark chocolate M&Ms.
  • I wonder what my parent's got me, my mother made me leave the package that arrived over a week early with my doorman. Maybe I can just pick it up tonight
  • shoot, I need to send out an email about the ward activity today
  • work is strangely absent in my head today
  • I think I have conditioned myself to crave caffeine in the afternoon at work, specifically Coke Zero or Diet Dr Pepper
  • what do I do when someone volunteered to organize a birthday dinner for me but hasn't sent me any information on the promised festivities when it is tomorrow? other people have asked to be included but now I am worried it isn't getting planned which is why I tried to dissuade anyone from organizing anything in the first place, I hate being disappointed
  • doesn't the Blue Lagoon sound intriguing? I didn't even realize it was a real place or in Iceland until a few days ago, now I get to go there!
  • seriously, do I email someone about the lack of notice or maybe send an email with names of other people I want to invite?
  • Last year I had dessert on my birthday (the birthday dinner and dessert I planned) at a place called Room 4 Dessert and it was mentioned in this article I read over lunch today
  • my computer is ridiculously slow today
  • the aritcle also make me want to try P*Ong, ChikaLicious and Kyotofu (which is in my neighborhood), they are all dessert restaurants. Yum!
  • I should have stuck with my initial insistance that I didn't want anyone to do anything for my birthday, it would be better than thinking someone is and worrying that they will flake out
  • why the sudden surge of interest in setting me up on blind dates?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Daddy's Girl

Standing on the warming blacktop under the late April sun, watching the trunk fill up haphazardly with first a sleeping bag then a tent, someone's hiking boots and then the cooler, my skin started to crawl. They weren't doing it right. There was plenty of space in the generous trunk of the powder blue and rust Pontiac 6000 but the growing weight of the dutch oven I was holding would crush the hoagie rolls and chips and the garbage bags in which it was wrapped seemed inadequately thin if it was to be squished in next to my pillow. This isn't how it should be done. One of the campers announced everything was not going to fit and I let out a disgusted sigh and explained they just hadn't done it right. I instructed my three friends to empty the trunk, step aside and let me do it. It was that epiphenal moment in 1995, late on a Friday afternoon, preparing for a camping trip when it hit me, I was not going to turn into my mother . . . I had already begun the transformation into my father.

As I deliberately arranged each sleeping bag, backpack, the dutch oven, tent and the other long forgotten odds and ends of a desert camp-out neatly in the trunk, I remembered countless family camping trips and vacations where no one, not even my mother, was allowed to put anything in the trunk/van/truck until my dad arrived to carefully arrange it all. This was the first of many such "I'm turning into Dad" moments in my life.

As a child I was a definite daddy's girl - I was his "punky girl" long before that Brewster kid came along. I vividly remember how happy I was to see him at the end of the day and how much I enjoyed being by his side whether I was pestering him with questions as I tried to understand football, tagging along to his orchestra rehearsals or accompanying him to the office on a Saturday. My earliest memory is of my dad and me walking through a field of tall bleached grass that seemed to be as tall as my 3- or maybe 4-year old head. My small hand was engulfed by my dad's and this dream-like image has stuck in my head as a comforting piece of nostalgia, a wistful desire for something I barely remember.

I often tease my dad and complain about what he has passed along to me but there are many traits, talents and interests my dad instilled in me for which I am grateful. The first being a love of music. I can associate my dad with everything from Bach, Beethoven, Prokofiev and Rimsky-Korsakov to The Doors, Chicago, Eric Clapton and The Moody Blues. Whether it is classical or classic rock, my dad enjoys cranking up the volume of his state-of-the-art-was-worth-a-lot-of-money-in-1973-stereo with the giant speakers and asking anyone still around to "just listen to that!" His love and enthusiasm for music has been passed along to me. He is a cellist and I distinctly remember being surprised as a child that there could possibly be any cellist better than him. When I was only 9 years old he graduated from BYU and I remember him rehearsing to perform at his graduation and being disappointed that I was not allowed to go. The Bach unaccompanied cello suites made popular by Yo Yo Ma's soundtrack to the movie Master and Commander, belong to my dad. So many Sundays I remember him sitting in the living room on his rickety old piano bench he toted around for its perfect height playing one of through a couple of the movements.

My dad taught me other things. I can chop wood, build a fantastic fire, cook a dutch oven meal, put up any tent and rig anything necessary for a good camp site with some string, a pocket knife and some duct tape. I have learned to collect useless trivia to lecture others on. I was taught the importance of introspection and meditation.

Like most dads, mine has his famous lines. Probably the most memorable is "Line Up!" One of which he is probably not particularly proud. You can imagine this was not an instruction to line up for ice cream (although he may have passed along that love to me as well). No, anytime my siblings and I did something wrong and the culprit was yet to be discovered, or when we were all guilty, my dad would line us up - oldest to youngest -and lecture. Oh, the lectures! For a child it can often be a struggle to stand for 30 seconds on demand but to be forced to stand during one of his lectures - I found it to be absolute torture. Especially the anticipation of the standing torture possibly ending in a spanking.

And one last memory before I let go of the last few minutes of this father's day. When I was in 9th grade I was so excited about all the possibilities of high school. I had greater freedom to choose classes and there were so many exciting extras to choose from. I was already on the basketball team and I worked for that most illustrious paper - the Union Bobcat (or whatever it was called), I was in band and on course for AP and honors classes. I also played on a softball team and a soccer team and had aspirations for trying out for volleyball. I wanted to do everything, immediately. But my dad sat me down and explained that while he believed I could truly excel at whatever I settled on and put my full effort into, I would not be able to do all of those things. I was so upset. How could my dad not believe in me? How could my own father not think I was good enough? Slowly his lesson sunk in and I realized he was right as I flitted from one interest to the next without my full heart. In the back of my mind I always knew my dad was right, I would not excel until I focused. Whenever I allow myself to become distracted by too many competing interests, I remind myself of my father's advice to focus and I make the choices to pare down.

I am amazingly blessed to have the dad I have - one who instilled in me values, taught me not to lie (a story for another day), taught me how to have fun and how to love. My dad is the maudlin one of the family prone to random outbursts of "I just love this family", often at embarrassing times. We tease him, but there has never been any doubt in my mind as to how my dad feels about me and how much he is willing to support me.

Happy Father's Day! I love you Dad!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Red Carpet

Tonight as I was walking home from work I stumbled onto another red carpet event. I paused without much interest until I realized it was for the season premier of Entourage. Then I saw Marky Mark himself! I missed him at The Departed premier so it was fun getting a second shot. But what made me stick around was the hope of catching a glimpse of Adrian Grenier. If I was ever to make one of those lists of 5 free-bee celebrities, he would definitely be up near the top, possibly number one. Clearly my camera phone didn't capture the moment quite as well as I hoped but live, I really did get a good look at him and he looks just as good in real life.

I had a really clear view of Jeremy Piven and brief glimpses of a few of the other actors but Mark Wahlberg, Adrian and Piven were the clearest views. Summer in New York sure is fun!

strange bedfellows

I woke slower than one would expect, tossing from one side of the bed to the other, overheated and unable to overcome the impulse to scratch. When I came into consciousness from this fitful sleep, I was lying on my back, my right arm extended straight above me with my left hand furiously clawing at the warm welt I could feel spreading across my forearm. Rolling over to restrain myself my right hand flew to satisfy another burning itch just behind my left shoulder. The more I struggled against it, the greater the irritation. I could feel the tiny bites swelling bigger and bigger demanding the satisfaction of my nails grating harshly over them, contributing to the irritation.

I squinted at the clock: 3:45 a.m.

Despite the fact that the outside temperature was near 65 when I settled in to bed a few hours earlier, the room felt sultry and the window open in the next room no longer provided a refreshing breeze. In my foggy half-dreamy state, I thought I had been transported to a jungle and craved mosquito netting to hang over my bed. I wondered if I could find the mosquito repellent in my linen closet without turning on the hall light. When the amplified buzzing of my tormenter hovered near my ear, I went into a nearly involuntary thrashing that startled me into complete consciousness. I went to the bathroom to inspect the damage and counted 5 or 6 angry red pricks - larger than average mounds with the irritation fanning across the skin. When I returned I shut the window and turned on the air conditioner and buried myself under the duvet hoping that despite the fact the hour had crept past 4, I could get a bit more sleep before my alarm sounded. The mosquito struck me one more time on the forehead before I drifted back to sleep with pillows askew and sheets twisted.

This morning, the only evidence of my bedmate are a few faded bites and my drooping eyelids.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Wednesday Night Dinner: a pictorial

Staring into my fridge tonight, I wondered what I could possibly pull together for dinner that would satisfy my hunger quickly. As you can see, unlike Tiff's fridge, mine is pretty sparsely stocked. Mostly I have beverages left over from parties I hosted months ago (why else would I have gallons of ginger ale, cranberry juice, pineapple juice and pear juice?) and those potatoes in the bottom drawer are a bit too wrinkly to eat. So here is what I managed to pull together: a panini!

I started with a couple of slices of multi-grain bread I picked up as my free loaf when I bought brioche for my weekend guests at Amy's Bread (I finished off the breakfast bread pudding I made with the brioche last night).

Then fried an egg.

Slathered one side of the bread with some Smart Balance Light pretend butter with no partially hydrogenated anything and the other side of the bread with chipotle hummus and placed the bread in my panini maker.

Added some havarti cheese with jalapeno pepper on top of the hummus,

Topped that with a couple of slices of tomoato,

Then added the fried egg and a piece of bacon (left over from a similar panini from Monday night),

Added some more cheese. . . and the top layer of "buttered bread",

Closed the panini maker,

Then thoroughly enjoyed the greasy, gooey, pretend it's healthy panini with a side of carrots and hummus.

Clearly I enjoyed it.

a glimpse at the upper crust: the tale of an upper east side engagement party

The first over-anxious drops of rain were just making their escape from the over-burdened, ominous clouds while the sun still managed to shine through in scattered rays when I spotted the 122 number of my destination - The Cosmpolitan Club. I was immediately disappointed in the relative plainness of the facade given the mystery surrounding the purpose and whereabouts of this club that almost does not exist on Google unless you have a membership id and password. I sized up the building and the people making their way in after being deposited there by black cars and yellow cabs as I ducked under the scaffolding covering the sidewalk across the street and replaced my flip-flops with black four-inch patent leather shoes that served as a better complement to my cream colored dress with the vertical black vines and tiny polka-dots. As I was stashing one flip-flop in my over-sized bag, reaching for my second heel and attempting to balance on one stilleto-clad foot, an older man hurried to join me under the covering and stopped a couple of feet away facing a small garden where he abruptly stopped. I quickly fumbled to complete my shoe swap and removed the black summer-weight cardigan that dressed the slightly pufffy flutter sleeves down for the office, so as not to linger long enough to confirm my suspicion that his intent was to relieve himself there on the corner of busy Lexington Avenue on a Tuesday night at 6:30 pm. He did not look homeless. But the Upper East Side, especially this area, is significantly ritzier than the rest of Manhattan with its cleaner sidewalks and lack of garbage piled on the curb so maybe their homeless people are better dressed as well.

I was not overwhelmed by the lobby but was soon directed up a half a flight of stairs to a room I might imagine in a Henry James novel. But before I could even enter the room, a tuxedo-clad waiter offered a tray full of glasses of various shapes and sizes holding a variety of liquids. I selected a wide mouthed, long stem glass after confirming it was filled with perrier and a lime and made my entrance as I noted the ridiculous extravagance of not just having linen cocktail napkins but linen cocktail napkins with the couple's initials stitched in the center in the same font the initials were embossed on the thick gold rimmed invitation. Not a single face looked familiar. But I was not expecting the familiar, not here at an exclusive club on the upper east side. The near wall was lined with buffet tables of sushi and light sandwiches. In the center of the room stood a medium-size round table with a lavish centerpiece of branches and fresh flowers rising nearly high enough to touch the low hanging antique-looking chandelier. The ceilings were high with beautiful crown molding and elaborate detail inlaid across the ceiling. Large, soothing oil paintings occupied each of the side walls and straight ahead French doors opened onto a patio surrounded by greenery with a bar tucked at the end. The clouds were losing the battle of holding up the rain but the doors remained open throughout the evening despite the torrents that fell in sheets on and off. Intimate seating arrangements with velvet covered sofas and elegant wing-back chairs were tucked off to each side of the room and in each corner. As I completed my slow and desperate circle around the room, I landed on a familiar face - the mother of the groom. A woman I know professionally from my clerking days in Salt Lake - a fellow lawyer who has repeatedly extends me invitations to join her firm. I was here to network - awkwardly, at her son's lavish engagement party. She invited me and a number of other lawyers so she would have familiar faces to greet in this exclusive crowd of the Manhattan elite. Most of the women had flawlessly coiffed hair and wore pearls. They wore Chanel suits (or what I imagine were Chanel suits) with broaches and classic cocktail dresses. The men's suits and most everyone's attire looked expensive. Each time I was introduced to one of these women I expected her to place one hand on her chest and gesture toward me with a drawn out "daaahling" with her head tossed back. "So these are wasps," I thought as my eyes roamed around the room settling on various characters only briefly before another would catch my eye. I found it difficult to hear conversations and introductions which were generally spoken in soft and low voices for some reason. One woman to whom I was introduced had long slightly fluffy hair and seemed far too thin for her sagging wrinkled skin. Instead of a hand shake she offered the tips of her fingers as if I would kneel and kiss her knuckles. Her eyes bulged from her emaciated face and she emmitted a pungent mix of moth balls and lavender.

After I was reintroduced to a woman who looked as if she felt more out of place than I did having flown out from Salt Lake, we decided to ditch the awkward circle and head for the sushi bar. Fearing I might fail the delicate beverage/plate balance of cocktail hour, I suggested we make our way to the open setee tucked in the back corner which allowed us to eat and watch the crowd. As we were chatting, the toasts began and my peep hole into the wasp's world was widened just a bit.

The mother of the bride started out. Her hair was swept high in a fairly rigid gray bouffant with a small flip at the end and she wore a long stiff cream jacket with black slacks. She held a stack of papers as she praised her beautiful, only child "a daughter, no less" (a side comment which evoked a slight inexplicable titter from the crowd) on the accomplishment of engagement. Her speech was unremarkable and I honestly did not listen to most of it. She was followed by another excentric woman who became acquainted with the bride due to her relationship (perhaps marriage?) to the bride's godfather. She spoke a bit through her teeth and made some vague literary references I felt were too modern for me to catch and ended her toast with some well wishes that included "a dollop of serendipity!" There was cheek kissing of the bride and another woman stepped up to the microphone and when she arrived I knew I needed to somehow, slyly jot down a couple of notes to capture the experience. Luckily I was still near the setee so I used my 4 inch heels and the long line of toasts as an excuse to sit and put down my perrier.

She had a classy but frizzing triangular cut and wore a black dress with white polka-dots. Around her neck hung a multi-strand choker of pearls with a red pashmina somewhat dramatically tossed over her right shoulder. Her wrists were filled with gold bangles and her brightly floraled shoes did not quite match. She introduced herself as the bride's godmother and immediately caught my attention with her air of superiority in explaining how "many of you may know the bride-to-be as Katherine or Kat or even [curtly, articulately and somewhat disdainfully] Katie. But to me [dramatic pause] she will always be Petunia." A bit of surprised but polite laughter rippled through the room. Encouraged, the godmother pressed forward about how Petunia was her pet name as a child so she passed it along to the bride due to their special bond and despite the fact that since she always wore pearls (gesturing toward the pearls at her neck) and gold bracelets (holding up her free right arm and clinking the bracelets around as evidence) for which the bride as a baby always grabbed, she could have "just as easily called her Pearl, which young Petunia pronounced Puh-rl" with a loud and obnoxious emphasis on the first syllable which sounded more like the hee-haw of a donkey or "Goldie."

The stories went on, painting a picture of this petite brunette as a shopping-obsessed, spoiled trust funder - although no actual mention of a trust fund was mentioned, I just assumed. I was not impressed but everyone smiled and laughed at the warnings to always give her ample closet space and never deny her shopping privileges. The next woman to step up to the mic was small and bird-like and claimed to be some sort of teacher, I suspect from some elite all-girls private institution in the City. But she also seemed to be a sort of governess, if those still exist, or friend of the family because I gathered she often traveled with them. There were stories of some "camp" she accompanied the bride to at Westpoint where the poor girl was subjected to playing basketball, sleeping in the barracks (which was more stark than the worst college dorm!) and she whined but somehow survived. There were stories about summers in the south of France (I swear I am not making this up) where the small child was able to control the locals with her "pefected come hither look" and insisted everyone bend to her will which delighted the speaker. She was praised as being able to pull off and be comfortable in anything from jeans to formals "as long as it is designer."

By the last doting admirer of the bride (a male, who was subjected to endless criticism of his attire and specifically his shoes by the bride-to-be), I was worn out and could no longer listen. I was curious what the groom's parents would say. They are a wealthier family living in the exclusive by Salt Lake standards neighborhood of Federal Heights. The father is a doctor, the mother a lawyer. Successful, no? Not in this crowd, I mean, they work for a living and that seems somewhat "low." (Please read my dripping sarcasm). The majority of the people in the room appeared to be part of the "ladies who lunch" set who I sometimes encounter when I take summer associates out to lunch on the firm. They come from generations of trust fund enabled socialites where ivy league educations are collected for prestige sake, not for the job it might secure. The groom's family is a large, not quite typical (due to the working mom part) Mormon family with children (perhaps 5?) ranging from their 20s down to elementary school age. Good, friendly, open people who couldn't possibly be prepared for a daughter-in-law like this. I first met the mother when she offered her beautiful home to my friend to host a party.

The only toast came from the father - it was short, involved a somewhat entertaining story about the groom's early and enthusiastic introduction to chess, praise of the bride, a few jokes about her fashion criticism directed at him and a sweet welcome to the family. The mother explained to me later that she had no desire to get up there.

After the toasts, I stayed longer than I expected, sitting on the setee enjoying a conversation with two female lawyers, one of whom talked about her 30-year reunion with the 8 women from her graduating class at one of the women's vacation home in the Bahamas last summer. I find it fascinating to discuss my profession with women of her generation who really were among the first to forge through the male barrier. All the while I kept one eye scanning the room for people a bit closer to my age - or even the bride's and groom's ages which seem to be lagging a minimum of 5 to 6 years behind mine. I spotted only a handful. This event appeared to be primarily for the bride's mother, yet another distinction between this world and my own.

I realized this was a one time passport to a world to which I have no desire to belong - other than to sample a summer or two in the south of France. I enjoyed the glimpse but with so much emphasis on the stereo-typical and somewhat empty interest of shopping above all else, it felt hollow. There was a passing reference to her ivy-league education at Brown but ultimately she was painted as a coy fashionista who had ensnared her husband. I really hope my friends and family have more to say about me if toasts are ever called for. Although, I must admit, it would be fun to have an eccentric pearl and gold bedecked godmother. She probably gives great birthday presents.

I said my goodbyes after I noticed a lingering break in the rain and made my way to the street, pausing briefly by the door and wondering if it would be tacky and rude to swipe a clean white linen napkin as a momento. They couldn't possibly need them all, could they? I stopped myself and walked down the steps to the entrance where I paused to relieve my feet of the beautiful but painful shoes. I declined the doorman's offer to hail me a taxi and chose to walk home in the cool, clean air along the freshly scrubbed streets so I could slowly ease back into my own world.

Monday, June 11, 2007

through fresh eyes

There is nothing like your first trip to New York. Mine was the last week of October in 1999. I was still recovering from a kidney stone that landed me in the emergency room three days earlier. But with a job interview lined up for a long shot chance at an incredible opportunity, the thought never crossed my mind to reschedule. Against my urologist's advice, with the muscles on my left side still aching from the effort of expelling the stone and armed with a purse* full of prescribed narcotics, I boarded a plane for JFK. It was late in the interviewing season and I had grown used to weekly flights to California to interview with firms in L.A., Orange County and even Sacramento where my cab rides, meals and hotels were all reimbursed. But none of that prepared me for the Millenium Hilton in downtown Manhattan. The room was small but felt lavish and luxurious. When I parted the curtains I could see the twin towers of the World Trade Center rising endlessly toward the sky. I could also peer down from the window and see the Krispy Kreme doughnuts store where I would sample my first warm glazed a few months later, the Border's book store where I purchased my first map book of New York City which is nestled in a collected of New York books on a shelf across the room from where I sit now and the plaza where I would that next summer enjoy the sun sitting on a bench eating lunch with friends or where I would conspire to meet out of town visitors. If I leaned to the left I could see the yet-undiscovered Century 21 where I would later buy countless pairs of shoes, sheets, towels, sunglasses, jewelry and other various clothing items. I was over-awed by that first glimpse of the towers, by the energy that I could feel - even from so far above - pulsing on the street. I needed to get out there.
Alone, I ventured out with confidence but the sun was gone and the dark empty streets of Wall Street felt gritty and menacing so I retreated to the hotel restaurant for dinner - disappointed that I was intimidated. The next morning I managed to find my way to my interview without much delay and supressed my giddy excitement in the 53rd floor lobby where, for the first time, I saw the Statue of Liberty stalwartly standing on her island lifting her torch high for me to see. It was there that I learned to squeal and dance with joy in my head upon viewing a famous landmark when I not supposed to be a tourist. Externally, I clutched my leather portfolio in my lap and focused on the upcoming interview. I remember clearly that I was not wearing my tried and true navy suit from Dillard's with the green silk blouse. Instead, I wore my slightly less conventional black pin stripe suit with the crisp white button-up shirt I bought with it in Sydney a few months earlier. The skirt was long and fitted - so fitted I couldn't imagine ever having been able to pull it over my thighs when I finally gave up the hope of ever squeezing back into it last year. I never got over the awe of seeing this icon of liberty out the large south-facing windows of the firm the entire two years I was there. She became a part of my routine when I walked up and down the stairs between my office and the library or cafeteria, but unlike other icons, she always demanded my admiration.
After the interview I checked out of my room and met up with two fellow students who had arrived that day for their interviews the next day. I went to a Ben Folds Five concert at the Hammerstein Ballroom with one that night and he introduced me to cheap pizza and the subway at the Cortlandt Street station. I was able to change my flight without paying a fee and stayed an extra night in the other classmate's room. By sheer luck she had been upgraded to a suite with a pull-out couch so we didn't have to squeeze quite as tightly as we had anticipated. At the time we barely knew each other; now, she is one of the few classmates with whom I exchange regular emails and Christmas cards.
The next morning, before her interview and before my flight, we walked. And walked and walked. But unlike the pioneer children, we walked in sturdy shoes on pavement all along the congested streets of downtown Manhattan, careful not to stray too far off Broadway so we could follow it back to the hotel and not get lost. Most memorable was running into the Federal courthouses, specifically the long stairs and columns of the old federal courthouse made famous by the opening credits of Law & Order. We documented it all with photos - pretending we were high powered attorneys walking down those steps. Alone again, using up the last bit of time before my flight home, I used almost an entire roll of film at the World Trade Center - I took photos from the ground looking up, from my hotel room looking across, and most precious: from the observatory at the top looking every direction. The late-fall lighting was enchanting.
I did not sit down to write my first impressions of New York, but guiding two visitors through their first weekend in New York, I couldn't help but fall into nostalgic reminiscence. I introduced them to my New York, peppered with a few tourist attractions. My sister-in-law, her mother and her 17-year old sister, Kristen arrived late Friday night, ready for an evening walk after their four-hour drive from Boston. Our initial goal was to walk down Broadway to Dale & Thomas popcorn for a sweet and salty taste introduction to New York. By 53rd Street, I was regretting the decision. It was nearly 11 and the theater crowds were overloading the already jammed sidewalks. By 50th Street, it took every ounce of mental strength I had left late in the waning hours of the long work-week to fight the urge to weave and dodge around the mollasses pace of the crowd. I could feel my control weakening and the stress release of my yoga class earlier in the evening had been hastily cancelled out by the flashing neon and hordes of tourists. As I told myself this was just a one-time sacrifice for my guests I realized we would have to repeat the expedition the next evening if a Broadway show remained on the itinerary. Before we reached 49th Street, I turned to my guests and introduced Plan B: ditch Times Square and head for cheesecake at Carnegie Deli a few short blocks away from the crowd. Thankfully they readily accepted Plan B and we immediately broke free from the crowd and soon found ourselves seated around a table with two giant bowls of uninviting pickles staring up at us as we tried to pick cheesecake flavors. After the waiter ignored my request to remove the pickles which I did not want to linger at our table out of fear they would contaminate the cheesecakes, Nadia moved them to the table behind her. Which is exactly what the waiter would have done had he listened to me. On my first visit to Carnegie Deli - 4th of July 2000, with my brother and sister on their first day in New York City - the waiter swooped up our untouched pickles and plopped them in front of newly seated patrons. We were pretty horrified (or at least I was) since we could have handled the pickles, licked the pickles, spat in the pickles. . . anything (if I actually liked pickles) and now they were sitting "fresh" in front of new guests who may decide to pick them up. Who knew their history? Our bowl could have been moved from table to table all day long, perhaps even left from the day before. Once the pickles were gone and the cheesecakes arrived, everyone was happy and I returned to my pre-Broadway relaxed state.
The next morning we managed to get out of the house early enough to get a table at Alice's Tea Cup without a wait! A remarkable feat I have not managed previously given the fact that I rarely make it to brunch before noon and the hour long wait begins at 11 at Alice's. Above you can see Nadia properly (with pinky extended) enjoying her "mother-t0-be" tea we insisted she order. After brunch we wandered down to see the temple/church (and took a bathroom break there during the stake blood drive) then Lincoln Center and the Met. We then walked through Central Park and emerged at 5th Avenue where we hit F.A.O. Schwartz where I was attacked by a giant squid (see above) and we all found toys we wanted and adorable indulgences with which I would love to spoil my soon-to-be niece. I kept placing little stuffed animals, rattles and beautifully knit-sweaters over Nadia's stomach asking the baby if she wanted it - we decided she would like all of it, especially the unbelievably soft blankets in the newborn section.
After we finally tore ourselves away from FAO, we continued down 5th Avenue to the destination which I believe was Kristen's favorite - Tiffany's. To our surprise (mostly mine), Kristen had very nearly memorized Tiffany's website before coming and could recite prices and describe new designs she loved. She even knew what the cheapest item in the store was and after we patiently waited to be assisted at the silver counter, she tried on her ring. The ring she bought and received in the famous blue box wrapped with a white ribbon inside the beautiful blue bag. The girl beamed. We were all giddy from the excitement. Who doesn't get a little excited by a trip to Tiffany's?
The rest of the afternoon flew by with a stop by my office, Rockefeller Center and a little shopping for maternity clothes for Nadia. Soon we had to jump in another cabin (the second ride of the day) and get to TKTS so we could get tickets for Les Miserables - I didn't want to repeat my faux pas of a couple of months ago when I led Tiffany and her crew astray by going too late (still feel bad about that!). The incredibly long line moved much faster than I anticipated and soon we were on our way to a delicious Thai dinner, home for a brief rest and back in a cab to our show.
Amazed at all we packed in and satisfied with the sights and sounds, but not quite ready to be done with the tastes, we picked up some popcorn and discussed the show as we slowed our pace for the walk home in the cooling night air, looking forward to the caramel chocolate and peanut butter popcorn we would soon be enjoying lounging in more comfortable clothes on my couch with our feet up.
*just gave this a quick re-read this morning and I have to point out that there is no way I carried a purse in 1999 since I did not own one (unless you count the small travel wallet-type canvas "purse" I used in Europe) until I began purchasing them on the streets of New York during the summer of 2000. I probably had my black North Face backpack or some other school bag mainly utilized for carrying books.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

adding to my list

This article lists a number of books recommended by various authors - some are intriguing, others not so much. Specifically, I am very intrigued by "Boyhood" recommended by Kathryn Harrison because of the teaser that "she wanted to see how he pulled off the trick of a third-person memoir." I love memoirs and I have recently been mulling over how to write some of my own life stories in third-person. Interesting timing.

The list inspired me to make some recommendations of my own. These are fairly random, an attempt to select books you may or may not have heard of or considered:
  • I just finished (last night) reading "In Cold Blood" by Truman Capote - a fascinating and compelling piece of non-fiction. I highly recommend it, although as I read it a paraphrased quote from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness echoed in my head: "a fascination with the abomination." This idea was the thesis of my senior paper in college on the guillotine during the French Revolution. I do not consider myself particularly obsessed with abominable things and generally steer clear of the gory but I find murder mysteries and the psychosis involved both appalling and enthralling, which is why I will also look into reading "Saints and Strangers", also a Harrison suggestion.
  • Don't laugh, but I remember really enjoying "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" by Rebecca Wells. I believe I read it before seeing the movie. A fantastic summer read for the effortless way it draws you in.
  • I recommend "Marley & Me" by John Grogan principally to dog lovers. As I have stated, I love memoirs and changing up the central figure to a naughty yellow lab made this a hardcover airport impulse buy and instant read. Gratefully, my sweet black lab never had the behavior problems of Marley but that did not prevent me from identifying over and over with the author and recognizing Malcolm in descriptions such as "just speak to him with a stern voice, and he acted deeply wounded" and "[h]e more wagged his whole body, starting with the front shoulders and working backward. He was like the canine version of a Slinky." Someday I need to thoroughly write about Malcolm & Me.
  • "Their Eyes Were Watching God" by Zora Neale Hurston is easily one of my favorite books of all time. It actually improves each time I read it because it reads with a bit of nostalgia and dreamy-ness which feels like returning to the past, if that makes any sense. Just read it.
  • Some years ago , apparently when I needed "apples, other fruit?, milk, crackers, ice-cream, cheese, tomato? and cotton balls" according to a yellow post-it in the back flap and when I rode the "Westbus" for $2.20 according to a faded receipt tucked somewhere in the middle, I fell in love with "Lust for Life" by Irving Stone. It is the fictionalized life story of one of the most enthralling painters to date: Vincent Van Gogh. I eagerly pushed the book on my sister soon after I completed it and we continue to reference the book to this day - she endearingly calls me "her Theo". When we visited the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam we felt as if we were visiting an intimate friend.
  • "Falling Leaves: The Memoir of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter" by Adeline Yen Mah is both heartbreaking and inspiring. One of the reasons I seek out memoirs is to witness transformations and metamorphoses as they are discovered and experienced first-hand by the author. There are so many amazing stories out there, even in what may seem to the author their ordinary life - although Mah's life was far from "ordinary" western life.
  • Finally, I can't make any reading suggestions and omit a Nick Hornby novel. Tonight, I will recommend "About A Boy". Hornby sneaks up on you with astounding character development in the midst of a funny and compelling story without hitting you over the head with it. Love, love, love it.
I'm not sure what is next up on my reading list, after discussing the above I am ready for some re-reads but I will more likely end up reading whatever catches my eye the next time I am at the airport, but I am open to suggestions. So tell me what are you reading and what would you recommend?

Monday, June 04, 2007

a day late

On a nearly forgotten imprecise day in 1990, I first became acquainted with Emily. We were not instant friends. She sat a few desks behind me in geometry class, we were sophomores. She was cute, quiet and appeared to be friends with the more popular kids. I was nerdy and talkative to no one in particular. The teacher never managed to pronounce my name correctly and I had a crush on a senior boy in the class who probably made fun of me - I think Emily later confirmed this. She wore a winnie the pooh watch and always wore cute clothes, at least relative to what I pulled off the floor each morning.

Junior year our paths crossed intermittently but it was senior year when we fell into the same hodge podge group of dissimilar girls who became inseparable and countless memories followed, including but far from being limited to:
  • dress-ups, especially when you panicked in the parking lot of McDonald's and tried to change
  • region dances and all those other dorky dances
  • slumber parties
  • "That's Ms. Bitch To You"
  • moving in together at SUU - even with the bumpy road
  • Llama Fest
  • roller blading together
  • first trip out of the state without parents -- "is this heaven? no, just circus circus" and bob's hotel
  • trip to LA
  • Lake Powell . . .
  • introducing me to Sylvia Plath
  • lifemates
  • my lonely 28th birthday when you made the greatest chocolate cake ever and organized our friends on an expedition to Park City for outlet shopping and nostalgic Red Banjo pizza
  • helping me "accidentally" bump into a boy I liked, I think this happened more than once
  • persisting in patience with a difficult friend like me
  • being my unqualified, old-fashioned pen pal during freshman year sending me something via snail mail at least once a week, often more including music trivia quizzes, random quotes, photos, drawings, home-made coloring book envelopes, stickers, scriptures and fun cards and postcards
  • the "pink store"
  • late night TPing (and pillaging. . .)
  • the sperm in the air (don't ask, I doubt anyone remembers the origin)
  • so many shared birthday parties
  • a shared love of food, clothes, chocolate and shoes
  • the Olympic bobsled track. . .
  • countless conversations about everything and nothing at all
  • I treasure a handful of really kick ass email dating pep talks
I would love to go on and on but I used up all my energy hunting down these fantastic photos (I especially love the slip and bras! tee hee!). Thank you for being such a great friend throughout the years. Sorry my birthday wishes are a bit belated this year but that doesn't mean I didn't think about you all day . . .

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