Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Martha Stewart, Eat Your Heart Out

Or, how to make a cake without cake ingredients.
What is that, poppyseed? Oh, stale coffee crystals?
Interesting choice.
I’ve learned there is a big difference between meanings when people say, “There’s no food in the house! We need to get groceries.” When my mother says it, it really means, “We’re out of fresh fruit and only have three dozen eggs on hand.” Chances are her pantry could still feed a football team. When I say it, it’s closer to, “Go grab a plateful of grass from the lawn, because there is not a scrap of edible food within these walls.”

Coincidentally at these pathetic moments, I often have an urge for cake. However, if I’m too lazy to leave the house for general fridge restocking, I’m not leaving the premises just for one item. These urges have yielded a creative batch of desserts involving the Google search “cake recipe no milk butter eggs”. That’s just vegan, right? Sure, but neither do I have flax, soy, margarine, or any substitute item that could make something normal.

I’d like to put in a disclaimer here that, occasional laziness aside, I love to cook and get a rush from making a successful meal. When I’m expecting guests, the menu is carefully thought out and prepared. Something might even be presented in a ramekin (look it up!). And I make a strong effort even when it’s just me, because, duh, I like eating delicious food. However, you’d never know I have skill in the kitchen if you tasted the wrecks I’ve produced in desperation. These baking adventures have been my private shame, until now:

Monday, September 12, 2011

Coming soon to TLC: Irish Dance Wars and/or Moms

Dance the night away, live your life and
stay young on the floor.
You read it here first; the next 'great' reality TV series from TLC or Lifetime will be a reality show about Irish step dance competitions. Possible titles: My Big Fat Irish Dance Off or Next Top Step Dancer or Step Up 4: Gettin' Jiggy With It (other suggestions go in the comments section).

In my last post I mentioned that I was recently in Kansas City, MO; coinciding with that fair city's Irish fest. Included in the lineup of events was a showing of a documentary called Jig, about girls and boys of all ages preparing to compete in the 40th Irish Dancing World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland. [This reviewer says, two thumbs up!]

Wow, guys. The TV episodes would write themselves. Step dancing has all the right elements: crazy wigs & dresses, intense stage moms, barely suppressed rivalries, abrasive choreographers, and some really charming accents. On top of that, it looks like a highly difficult activity. Ratings gold.

Jig follows the stories of a variety of kids from a variety of backgrounds, but for my purposes I'll stick with the main rivalry: two ten-year-old girls, one from Northern Ireland and the other from New Jersey. Through their young eyes we learn several things:

1) A competition is properly called a feis (pronounced like "fresh" without the "r").
2) If you want to look your best, you've got to be tricked out in very expensive curly wigs and custom dresses.
3) If you're good you'll dance a first round in hard shoes, a second in soft, and a solo showcase piece again in hard shoes.
4) In the first two rounds you and another dancer compete at the same time on the same stage, each doing different dances. Remember this one for later.
5) Your family will spend all of its money (ALL of it) on your dancing expenses.
6) Irish, redheaded kids are sassy and fun. American kids act like the spoiled, entitled brats we are.

Lucky me, I was able to see a feis firsthand...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

When You Care Enough to Tour the Very Best

This past Labor Day, I took a break from my laboring to visit Kansas City, MO and some Grade A friends and creative persons, Monica and Josh. Monica has been experiencing city dangers with me since we were roommates in Boston; her hyper-talented husband Josh currently illustrates for Hallmark. 

When Monica mentioned that Josh could give us a tour of said Gold Crown company, I was looking forward to it, but sort of imagined it'd be a tour along the lines of what I'd provide at my own office... Here's my cube. There's our overstuffed office fridge. Take a free candy from the communal bowl. Head to the elevators.

Oh MY was I wrong. In fact, Hallmark HQ is a designer's paradise. Come along with me on a tour of this magical place.

I'm going to rebuild Kansas City using only
my manly, manly arms.
11:00 A.M. Monica and I kicked off our own tour at the official Hallmark Visitors Center. Highlights included a collection of company Christmas trees, an automatic bow machine, and a free recordable storybook upon exit (just the beginning of my swag-fest). I think my favorite bit was the original Norman Rockwell portrait of Mr. Hall in 1951, rolling up his sleeves to help KC after a devastating flood. Umm, Mr. Hall was a fox! And I'm sure he'd hate that I sexualized Hallmark.

11:30 A.M. All that manliness makes a girl hungry. Thankfully, Josh collected us at this point and escorted us through a delightfully swank, late '60s-style lobby to an even more Mad Men-esque company dining room. Despite the vintage wood-paneling and chandelier fixtures, Hallmark's cafeteria serves up a thoroughly modern, healthy smorgasbord. Here you can make your sandwich next to famous Keepsake ornament designers. I'll admit that I am far from an ornament aficionado, but Josh assured me that there are cliques of people in this world that would have put a Spork in my back to be in that cafeteria line. I think I might be a little afraid to meet them.