Category Archives: entertaining

Fondant Memories

The next time I agree to spend three figures on a birthday cake, someone douse me with ice water.

But that’s what happens when you combine a weird party theme, no time, and a bit of extra money.

Unable to find a professional falconer to give a talk, or a “bird guy” with a folding table and a few parakeets, or even a teenager in a bird costume, I decided to splurge on, well, the pastry. If we couldn’t have a live falcon we’d have the best fondant version you’d ever seen. On a custom made theme cake! From a highly-Yelp-rated bakery! Sure, their quote was astronomical, but they delivered! Plus, the local grocery store didn’t do raptors on their sheet cakes. No one did. I wasn’t in a position to haggle.

A huge price tag. A cake ordered sight unseen. Fifty people in a park. How could it go wrong?

“It’s a little small,” Mike told me on the phone when the cake arrived. It was the day before the party–I was at work, trying to sell yellow diamonds to people who really had money to burn.

“What do you mean, small?” I asked irritably, mouthing “just a minute” to my customers with a forced smile.

“I mean, it’s small. We may need a backup dessert.”

I felt my cortisone levels start to rise. “That makes no sense.”

I hadn’t told Mike how much I’d spent on the cake, and I didn’t intend to. I quickly changed tack. “Is it gorgeous, at least?”

I imagined something ornate and intricate. A skyscape, perhaps, with clouds, a vast mountain range. Stunning falcons soaring majestically over wide savannas. One diving, perhaps, towards a tiny rabbit on the buttercream “ground.” Multiple tiers, some scattered trees. A small village, stonework, haystacks–

“It’s…cute.”

I didn’t like his tone, inflected, as it was, with forced positivity.

“It should be amazing.”

There was a long pause. Mike cleared his throat. “Anyway. We might want to bake some cookies for the grownups.”

I took a deep breath. Stay calm. Mike tends to see the glass half empty. It’s probably fine. A work of art. And plenty big. Even if it’s not, kids don’t eat a lot of cake. They just rub their faces with frosting and then run amuck, like dogs with roadkill.

But that night, when I took the cake out of the fridge, I saw that Mike was right. It’s design, such as it was, was minimalist. Two falcons and a mountain. Period. Neither bird was flying—one was perched on a branch and the other was standing with his arms behind him, which is anatomically absurd. MJ had added a playmobile person and a toy hawk to the top to”dress it up” a bit. This irritated me unreasonably. For that much money additional set dressing shouldn’t have been necessary.

And it was tiny! I calculated the price of each slice in my head. Jesus. I may as well have just taken the kids to the Russian Tea Room. Including flights. We were looking at, like, thirty dollars a bite, here. I should trade a slice for a trip to Cabo.

I turned to Mike. “I’ve been had.”

He nodded kindly. “Looks tasty, though.”

“We’ll never know, will we?” I grumbled, stalking to the refrigerator to get butter out. I had cookies to bake.

It turned out the cake was good, and, thanks to the paper-thin slices Mike cut, there was even a tiny bit left for us to try. Everyone liked the decorations. MJ got a slice with mountain on it; it was her special treat.

I kept the cake’s cost to myself, of course, so no one laughed uncontrollably or yelled “suckah!” That was my special treat.

Still, next time I’m going to Vons and getting a plain sheet cake. It turns out MJ has a real talent for decorating, and God knows she has enough plastic birds and Playmobile people to populate an entire continent of pastries.

I’m hoping by next year, though, she’ll have moved on from falcons. They command too high a price tag, both materially and emotionally.

And clearly I can’t be trusted with a credit card when birthday time rolls around.

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The Widening Gyre

The roaches appear to be gone. We haven’t seen one in over a week; and have begun using the dishwasher again without mishap. It’s a slow journey back to recovery for some of us–OK, for me. I still jump backwards every time I open a drawer, shriek at the stray  raisin, and squeal at every shadow, but at least I’m in the kitchen. And cooking, even. After a month of eating takeout Whole foods salads and microwaved Trader Joe’s burritos, it’s nice to have home cooked food again. Although I did enjoy the burritos profusely. I could eat one for every meal and be pretty much fine.

I’m a routine eater, like my child. Left to my own devices, I’ll eat the same thing over and over again, happily, for years on end. When Mike and I started dating I had one type of food in my kitchen: an obscure brand of organic turkey chili. Of course, I had enormous quantities of it, but that’s because I ate it for pretty much every meal. I used to clear the shelves of it at Whole Foods. Until Mike and I started dating. At that point I slowed down on my consumption, and soon after discovered that Whole Foods had stopped carrying it. I soon realized that I, and I alone, had been keeping that chili company in business. It was hard to contemplate the jobs lost, the lives disrupted, simply because my love life had taken a turn for the better, but it’s a guilt I’ve learned to live with.

I digress. The point is, I could eat TJ’s burritos for every meal, but because the roaches are gone I don’t have to. It’s luxurious to have the choice. Plus, Mike would rather shoot himself in the hand with a nail gun than eat a frozen burrito for dinner once, let alone ten times; if we’re going to dine together, I have to be willing to expand my menu.

Speaking of expanding menus, I forgot to give Mina her Frontline last month, and now she’s infested. This means that in the last month we’ve had roaches, ants, and now fleas. All of them killed with pesticides. This makes me wonder, first, if we’re going to get cancer, and second, if some new type of bug is going to come into our house to eat all of the insect corpses we’re generating. I really can’t think about this, though, because I’m too busy worrying that MJ is going to get bitten by a flea and come down with the plague.

When I don’t think about that I dwell on Donald trump and become sick with fear.

And when I’m not incapacitating myself thusly? I’m planning MJ’s 7th birthday party.

This is a source of stress, too, as she’s decided she wants to have a “falconing” theme. What this means, in her little, curious, brain, is that she and her friends will hold stuffed birds, wear gloves, and run after “flesh-colored” bags filled with “carrion candy.”

What it means to me is planning hell. Let me tell you, falcon-related party favors are not a thing. There are no falcon plates, cups, or napkins. No falcon toys. No falcon anything. Google falcon party. You’ll see. Get ready for a lot of Angry Birds.

I went to Michael’s today to find flesh colored bags. There I thought for sure I’d at least find some falcon stickers to put in with the candy. After all, Michael’s has stickers in every possible theme: beer, Ireland, dalmatians, snorkeling! But not, it turns out, a single bird sticker of any kind. Except for owls. Since bringing owl stickers to a falconing party is sort of like bringing a kielbasa to a PETA brunch that’s not going to help.

I decided to try my luck in the plastic toys section. There I found packages of dinosaurs, fish, horses, kittens, even vegetables! Vegetables? Surely there would be a falcon set. Or at least a bird of prey collection. Eagles? Birds of any kind? A god damned chicken? Nothing.

So, aside, from the “find the flesh bag” game, plus an amorphous activity called “pin the falcon on the glove,” we’ve got nothing. I did, though, find a bakery that will make me a falcon cake–for an indecent, breathtaking amount of money. The sort of John-Edward’s-Haircut amount that would quickly take down my career if I were a politician.

Other than the cake, though, this party is going to be about as falcony as a DAR potluck. Which is to say, not at all. Hopefully the kids will bring their imaginations, because they’re going to need them.

In the meantime? I am dreaming of “days after.” The day after the party, the day after the election, and maybe—should Trump win—the day after the apocalypse, when the roaches will emerge from their hiding places, nibble on falcon cake, and say “who needs a theme? We own it all!”

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All the Bird’s a Stage

Another day, another zoo trip.

But today’s outing was more delightful than normal. The crystalline weather with its slightly cool breeze helped, as did the paucity of crowds. The animals were compelling–they can’t help themselves. But best of all? The World of Birds show was finally open for business!

Back in MJ’s more tender years–as in, when she was one or two–this fantastic “live bird” extravaganza was the high point of our zoo trips. Then suddenly, about year and a half ago, it shut down for “restoration” and never re-opened. Over time, MJ forgot about it entirely. Cut to the present; she is obsessed with birds. We hear the show is back up and running. But then there are further delays. Wait–there’s going to be an opening day. It gets pushed back. We are dying. The anticipation is killing us.

Then today we learn it is really, truly, open at last. Finally! Having the morning free, we race to see it.

And it’s fantastic. Not in the way you might think–it is far from the well-honed performance it used to be. In the previous incarnation of “World of Birds,” every winged cast member knew its cue, had its “lines” down, and performed its part flawlessly. Ravens sorted trash with adeptness, peregrin falcons dove fiercely for prey, and giant eagles darted gracefully from point A to point B, wowed their spectators, then disappeared into the wings. (Not their own, of course.)

Today’s “World of Birds” is more like community theater. With child actors. During try-outs. It’s a fantastic melodrama of chaos, missed cues, unplanned entrances, and unexplained pauses. I loved it. MJ loved it. Talk about being behind the scenes. There are no scenes. It’s as if Bertolt Brecht got drunk and wrote the script, then crumpled it up and fed it to his parakeet.

My favorite moment? One of the two emcees waits for a small Hawaiian owl to land on her head. The gimmick is that she will not hear it coming–an owl’s flight is soundless. She sits patiently on a rock, wearing a hat, acting unexpectant. Except that the owl doesn’t come. Oh, it comes on stage, alright, but refuses to go anywhere near her. It flits from one perch to another, from roof to parapet of the Kafka-esque set, but to her head it refuses to fly. Finally the hostess grows curious. She turns and cranes her neck to see it. The owl ignores her. He eats a treat thrown his way, then flies into a nearby tree.

“You know what they say,” jokes the other host gamely. “Never work with children or animals.”

Suddenly, from a window high up in the set, a giant bird hurls in. It is an owl. An enormous, beefy, fierce-looking owl. The Schwarzenegger of owls.  Dark grey, it swoops towards the seated hostess on silent wings. But she is still looking that way. She sees him coming. Her eyes grow wide. Into her little mouth mic she yells “NOOOO!”

Then she clutches at her hat and dashes behind a rock.

Schwarzenegger flaps lazily from one end of the stage to the other, clearly bemused by the sudden disappearance of his prey.

The other host speaks with false cheer into her microphone, which is suddenly on the blitz: “Well, you guys, that—static static–to happen. That’s Harvey, our–static–owl, and if he lands on–static static–it’ll–static static static–pretty painful.”

Eventually, with the help of a shuffling trainer from backstage, they manage to get Harvey off stage. But from that point forward nothing else goes right. The remaining birds take turns stymying their trainers in every way they can. It is awkward, confusing, delightful, and hilarious, and I can only say I wish the World of Birds would remain exactly as it is now. Talk about great theater.

“Be sure to come back again soon,” our resolute hostess said at the conclusion of the show. “We’re still teaching the birds how to do this thing, and we’re breaking new ones in literally every week.”

Oh, I’ll be back, alright. I’ll be back.

I’m hoping Schwarzenegger will be too.

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Potty Deux

I had to deal with some pretty intense “share shame” after writing my two last posts. My husband’s acerbic comment, made after reading the first one, didn’t help:

“Jesus. You’re either going to gain a lot of readers from this one…or they’re gonna desert you in droves.” Such a cheerleader, that Mike.

And it was eerily quiet after I published what I have begun to refer to, in my mind, as the “poop posts.” Very little in the way of commentary. Even from the regulars.

“I can’t wait to hear what your mom says about this,” Mike asserted.

She didn’t say anything. Crickets. Struck dumb with horror, I suppose. Very unlike her.

And speaking of likes? None. Not that I care, really. But, OK, dammit, I do. Just a bit. As to how many dozens of followers deserted me? Hard to know.

One thing I do know? You’ll find no poop on Goop. I checked. The closest I found was “The Dirty on Getting Clean.” Which sounds pretty interesting, actually. And not at all fecal. No wonder Gwyneth is so popular.

Tonight, to distract myself from my recent perceived humiliation, I hacked into my mom’s HBO Go and watched an hour of Louis CK. I’ve been obsessed with stand up comedy lately, due to the free trial of Sirius radio I’ve had in my new car. At first I didn’t like Sirius–how the fuck do you navigate through all of those channels?–then I found the Comedy Central channel and my life changed. Commute? What commute? I’m listening to people being stupidly hilarious–I don’t even know I’m driving! It’s a superb, elating way to pass the time; now that I’ve experienced it, I don’t know how I’ll ever go back to NPR.

But I will; my free trial is about to be over. And I’m too cheap to pay for it.

Back to stand up. Louis CK is my all-time favorite. I’d be in love with him, if he weren’t so gross. And masturbatory. And, yes, scatological. But these are exactly the things I also adore about him. He did a whole segment tonight on his leaky asshole. He said that sometimes he’s just sitting around, and suddenly he sniffs, and realizes he has to go wipe it. I quote: “My asshole is like a bag of leaves that no one remembered to tie up.” He utters such words. He paints such pictures in our minds. Nobody abandons him in droves. Jeez.

Feeling buoyed by my good laugh, I decided to get back on the literary horse. I know, this is hardly literature. But here I am. I’ve decided not, ever again, to discuss poop, assholes, or anything south of the waist on this blog. I leave that to the comics, who do it elsewhere–in my car, for starters!–with impunity and absolutely no shame. Me, I’m heading back to safer territory–laundry, my dog, our fucked up dishwasher, the fact that my daughter has now declared her middle name to be “Falcon,” (which sounds amazingly like “fucking'” when she says it quickly.)

And cute pictures of birds. I have tons of them. I am developing a collection. I’ll share them with you. You’ll “like” them, I’m sure.

But if you want to laugh your ass off? About shit, assholes, and other forbidden topics? Oh My God, you need to get HBO.

Or steal it from your parents.

*Cooper's Hawk Spotted Woodpecker

Friends and Enemas

I want to be a poop donor.

I know, there are many more noble pursuits, grand aspirations, lofty goals. But I’m a great believer in practicality, and this is something I can actually achieve.

The idea started, as most nutty ones do, at book club. I don’t know how the subject came up, but we took one of our many digressions from the work we were discussing and ended up talking about gut flora. Having discussed the health, maintenance, and benefits of same at great length, we eventually segued into a conversation about, well, poop. (Trust book club to find the gutter on any subject.) From there? A short hop to the topic of fecal transplants.

“Fecal what?” said one of my friends, disgust contorting her face.

Fecal transplants. Yes, it’s what it sounds like: putting healthy poop into the intestines of people with unhealthy gut flora. The healthy flora take over, like little intestinal Mormons converting tiny gut heathens. It really works. (Unlike Mormonism.) And they’re doing it more and more.

That’s the long and short of it. The details? No one knew. And no one wanted to.

We moved on. But days later I got to thinking about the conversation. Fecal transplants, huh? That must mean there are fecal donors. People with stellar intestinal flora. Who might those people be? Could they be…me?

Not to brag, but my gut is an all-star. It’s a fucking rock. If it were an athlete it would be Michael Jordan. If it were a warrior it would be Genghis Kahn. How do I know this? Two ways: one, I never, ever get sick. Two, I’m regular. I make the Staten Island Ferry look erratic.

Due to this, I’ve become rather passionate about the flora living in my intestine. I take pride in them, just as I would a prize herd of heifers. If my stomach were a barn there would be blue ribbons hanging from the stalls. As it is, I hang ribbons in my mind. My flora accept them, nodding sagely. They’ve been living antibiotic-free, eating well, and enjoying a low-stress environment for years now. They’re perfect specimens, every one of them. Coats shiny, eyes bright, hooves held high. Such as it is.

So when, recently, a gal from my book club sent out a link to a website called The Power of Poop I clicked it right away. The article in question was about do-it-yourself fecal transplants–a process that sounded both disgusting and Byzantine. But there was a link for potential clinical donors, and I found myself clicking it. I seemed to fit the criteria. Maybe I wasn’t crazy after all. Perhaps someone really could benefit from the rare qualities that my micro-livestock possess.

I decided to find out.

Look, maybe I’m nuts. Buy it’s better than drinking your own urine, right? Stay tuned. And hopefully open-minded. (;

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Salt And Pay-Per-View

A couple of nights ago I ate a jar and a half of pickles. In one sitting. A jar and a half. Admittedly, it was spread out over three episodes of “Girls,” but still. That’s a lot. Enough to make me wonder, at the time, if there is such a thing as saline poisoning. And, if so, whether I had contracted it. Turns out I was fine–just really, really thirsty. A bottle and a half of Gerolsteiner later I was as right as rain. No worse for wear the next morning, either. If salt bloats me I am unaware of it. Having eaten such ginormous quantities of it, I believe I’ve become immune to its water-retaining properties. I could ingest it the way a deer does–right off of a salt lick in the middle of a frozen woods–and be completely fine. Except for the hunter gathering me in his sights.

At least I’d die unpuffy.

All of this is to say that I’ve not written in ages. But after the pickle incident I knew it was time. One can only, after all, watch so much TV–especially when such ruinous culinary conduct accompanies the endeavor. I have, since my last post, consumed not only many high-sodium foods, but also six seasons of Sons of Anarchy, half a dozen episodes of “Downton Abbey,” and an hour and a half of “Girls.” Before I start watching–or should I say shooting up–whatever brilliant entertainment comes next, I’ve got to break the cycle. I am becoming a TV junkie. A VOD fiend. The Sid and Nancy of Amazon Prime.

You may say I’m being hard on myself. After all, I’m just doing what most people do, right? This is the American Way! I work hard, I have a plethora of responsibilities, my days are full and dizzying. This gives me leave to vegetate at the end of the day. I’ve earned it. I have sold, clientelled, fundraised, cooked, cleaned, shopped, swept, laundered, counseled, bathed, and entertained. I have played “babies” with my daughter for hours. I have read multiple dinosaur books. I have walked the dog, fed the cat, made the bed. I have stain-treated, book-clubbed, bill-payed, friend-helped,  thank-you-card written,  photo-uploaded,  battery-charged,  filter-changed,  customer-service-called,  paperwork completed, password updated, breakfast-dish-washed, lint-filter-cleaned, and toilet-scrubbed for dozens of waking hours. I have fulfilled my responsibilities. No one in my charge has gone unattended. I am done.

The last thing I want to do now is concentrate. On anything.

So I watch. And watch. And man, it feels good.

But then I think of my readers, the few, the quirky, the persistent. And the historians, the ones for whom I claim to write. And my daughter, for whom I really do. And I know I need to put. Down. The. Remote.

For just five minutes.

So I have done it. Bravo! I will again tomorrow, if I can. And the day after. For if I don’t I’ve left nothing behind. Nothing. Except some empty jars, a crumpled napkin, and the scattered palpitations of other peoples’ stories. Rape? In the servants’ quarters? How could it be???

Anyway. I’m back.

And now I’m going to go watch an episode of Boardwalk Empire. Just one. Heck, I’ve earned it.

Pickle, anyone?

Faire Weather Friend

I know. Lame. Three days since the festival, and nothing. It’s not that I’m being a jerk. I’m certainly not trying to keep anyone in suspense. I simply haven’t had a second. I went to work the day after. Worked at MJ’s school the day after that. Working now, in fact. But it’s my lunch break, and I have a few minutes to fill you in. Actually, it won’t take long, because I can sum up the entire outcome in one word:

Miracle.

But we didn’t think so at first. It poured all morning–poured!–in the hours before the Faire started. We had to set up in the rain. We threw up every pop-up tent any of us had, then rented another big one a half an hour before opening, spending extra money we were sure we wouldn’t make back. To say we were hopeless and discouraged is a massive understatement–I spent the whole early morning stomping around in a grouch so profound even the local mice knew  to stay away from me. But we soldiered on. At eleven AM we were ready.

And then, right at “doors open,” a cessation. Of the precipitation, that is. It went away, never to return that day.

In its place? People! Lots of them! Arriving in boots, slickers, and hats, prepared to participate even in a deluge. Which it turns out they didn’t have to. But God love them for being willing.

And suddenly, after days of panicking, cursing, crying, raging, preparing for the worst, knowing we wouldn’t be ready…we were. And it happened. Suddenly there was a band playing, and food being served, and kids crafting, and money–lots of it–being spent.

I won’t go into too much more detail. I couldn’t even if I wanted to, because I spent most of the event at the front table selling tickets and squealing “it’s not a disaster! It’s not a disaster!” to anyone who would listen. I didn’t even take any pictures. (Go to my friend’s blog for some). But I know fun when I see it, and happiness, and relief. And consumerism! And cookie eating! And booze drinking! And I saw all of those things writ large, in adorable pre-schooler scrawl, at our little event.

At the end of the day, as the Faire wrapped up, an explosion of deep golden sun shot through the late-afternoon clouds. Parents, drunk on homemade beer and relief, lounged at tables with legs stretched long. Kids, facepainted and nail-polished, swarmed the small stage, banging the abandoned drum set and yelling into the mics.

And I, surprised, exhausted, stunned, and happy, just laughed. 

Never again do I question that there is a God. Or that he has a twisted sense of humor. Still, I am beyond grateful. All the more so because my father won the iPad raffle. And guess who he gave it to?

Onwards to Christmas, with one more device to smooth the way!

myra jean