Wednesday, December 17, 2014

In A Suprise to Absolutely No One

Well, technically, I didn't win the office bake-your-face-off bake-off.

And, technically, I didn't bake because I brought Rice Krispie treats. And, well, if you want to get really technical, I didn't even make them. Rachel did.

What's better than bake-off cheating? Double bake-off cheating. (It's like a double oven, only much cheaper.)

I would have made them myself (maybe), but I was dying. Or nearly dead. Or at least severely dehydrated. I woke up the Sunday before the bake-off throwing-up off the side of my bed in my childhood bedroom. (We were visiting my parents for Thanksgiving.)

Ray was so pumped to be sleeping in a full sized bed (read: nearly the smallest bed possible), next to someone barfing. That afternoon he drove us back to Cincinnati while I drank Gatorade and swore-off Thanksgiving leftovers forever.

So when Rachel texted me Sunday night asking how the treats were coming along, I told her my dreams of wowing everyone were dashed.

'Want me to make them for you?'
'You have Rice Krispies and marshmallows?'
'I had a feeling at the grocery something might happen.'
'You know me too well... I'll owe you forever.'
'It takes like five minutes, dude.'
'Ok, I'll owe you until at least Christmas.'

An hour later, the cat-shaped Rice Krispie winners of 2014 were at my home, and they were pure purrrfection. (Sorry, not sorry.)

I ushered them into the bake-off headquarters Monday morning (read: the office conference room), proudly stating the obvious: 'They're shaped like cats!'

I told everyone they were no ordinary Rice Krispie treats, they had a secret ingredient.

Cat hair, I said.

No, not really. I told the truth: It's love.

Ok, not that either. The secret ingredient is better than love, it's white chocolate chips. And they're the best you've ever tasted. The treats made the barfing totally worth it.

The cupcakes, lemon bars, mousse pie and brownies limped out of their fancy plastic storage cases and left the room. 

But being a good sport, a sampled a few other desserts and cast my ballot. Well, actually, I cast two ballots - one for the mousse pie (it was crazy delicious) and one for my Rachel's cat shaped Rice Krispie treats. (It's not voting for yourself if you didn't actually make them.)

When the ballots were counted I learned that "technically" I didn't win. But I did get three votes, which means two other people either a) recognized their greatness amid the wanna-bes or b) are crazy cat people.

That cat-shaped treats consider that a win.

Monday, December 08, 2014

The Hyde Park Griswolds

We spent the weekend being so festive that when it was over, a decorated tree and Christmas lights had spontaneously appeared at our house. I filmed the occurrence as our annual offering to Santa Claus in the hopes that he brings us everything on our list.

(Ray wants an impact driver. I want Ray to make me a desk from an old door and saw-horses. Unfortunately for Ray, my gift is dependent on him being Santa Claus.)

We put up more lights than we ever have this year and to be honest, when Ray flipped the switch I thought, "Holy crap, we're the Griswolds!"

Sorry neighbors, it wasn't our intention to sap the electric from your homes... Have you met my husband Clark?

Next year, I'm thinking gigantic inflatable lawn snowman to really pull it all together.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Bring The Noise

Who needs Le Creuset bakeware and a convection oven and when you have these guys.

There is a bake-off coming up soon at my office, and I am going to win.

Granted, I don't actually bake unless it's that chocolate chip cookie dough from a tube, but I'm going to bring Rice Krispie treats to the bake-off, thereby assuring my victory.

Everyone loves Rice Krispie treats. People mistake them for being the humble underdog, but they win at everything, especially bake-offs.

My colleagues are already intimidated. I was explicitly and pointedly (firmly, even) told that I am not "allowed" to bring them because they are "not made from scratch" and because "they are not cookies and are not baked."

But I know that is really code for, "You cannot bring them because they are delicious and you will win."

As for them not being cookies, ridiculous. I will cut them into circles with a cookie cutter. Voila! Rice Krispie treat cookies.

Take that, American's Next Top Naked Cake Boss.

Rachel is an excellent baker and I considered asking her to whip me up a batch of her most prize-winning cookies and giving her the spoils of my winnings in return. (Which is probably a ribbon. Or maybe a trophy.) But that wouldn't be fair to everyone else to go up against Rachel like that. Their cookies would probably combust into a heap of flour and butter if pitted against her's, and I'm not trying to be mean at the holiday bake-off.

Ray suggested, "Just buy a bag of those Soft Batch cookies and put them on a plate. No one will know."

I told him that not only did people in my office look at me with pity and contempt when I said the exact same thing about tube cookies, but they all wholeheartedly disagreed. "Everyone can tell," they said. "They don't taste even remotely the same."

Ray scoffed. "What would they do if you brought in Oreos and put them on a plate? What, are you not going to advance to the medal round? Are they going to escort you from the building?"

"Maybe not for the Oreos," I told him. "But possibly for tube cookies, which they basically said are horrible and disgusting and shameful."

I felt shame for even bringing them up, I confessed to Ray. For about .257 seconds.

None of this matters though because I am going to win with the cookie-shaped Rice Krispie treats. Well, technically, I guess Ray is going to win since I asked him to make the treats. (The last time I made them they were terrible. They tasted like burning.) But with Ray at the stove, ain't nobody gonna have room for their salted-caramel bon-bons or red velvet cookie lumps or whatever.

Snap, crackle and pop, suckas.

P.S. Hey, does anybody have a cookie cutter I can borrow?

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

They Grow Up So Fast

Chuck Norris and Hunter S. Tomcat turned one year old this summer.

We threw them a big party with a pinata filled with Pounce. It was pretty amazing watching them hit it with tiny little bats.

Chuck Norris is a natural athlete, able to leap tall buildings - with style and grace - in a single bound. He eats shoes (awesome) and his favorite subjects in kindergarten are nap time and bird watching.

Hunter S. Tomcat is a true cat's-cat - meaning, he will prowl up on you, debate eviscerating you but then just head-butt you for affection. He favorite subject is entomology, specifically, eating stink bugs.

They've both joined a old time string band. They play at the Southgate House Revival if you ever want to see them.  

Needless to say, we adore them. And they've really grown into their ears and personalities.

Kittens, age 3 months.
One year old.

Turns out, it's much harder to hold two grown cats than it is kittens for a family portrait.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Like A Boss

Don't I look fantastic in this corner office?

I mean, just look at me. Talking on the phone, wearing glasses, drinking cappuccino.


Some people who have corner offices think they are the boss, but they don't own it like I do. They can't just put on someone else's glasses and expect to get things done (because the glasses are so thick they can't see out of them), but I can. Because I don't need to see... I can send 40 emails in less than a minute, and I can write them while holding a phone and coffee.

I write them with my MIND.

I'm so busy one computer isn't enough for me, I need two. Two computers. Two computers to send emails, give orders, write content, edit copy, retouch photos... create beauty.

All that while reading children's books, shuffling papers and printing edicts.

And I do all this with my foot up.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

We'll Always Have Paris

The first place we ate in Paris was the mall. It served steak and had a stained glass dome.

It was a kind of upscale food court with windows lining the dining room that looked out over Paris. You could see the Eiffel Tower. Which, I guess technically, was the first time I saw the Eiffel Tower - from the mall food court.

What I remember most about our first meal in Paris wasn't the food, but rather, the wine fountain. It was like a soda fountain, only instead of Diet Coke, you put your glass under the fountain and got Chardonnay, or rosé, or whatever. So we all had wine with our food court food steaks. 

Gabriel, who is well traveled in Paris and speaks French - he doesn't consider it a "good year" unless he's visited the City of Lights -  insisted we go to this mall first thing because the view from the top is a hidden gem, he said.

And he was right. The rooftop terrace rewards you with a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower, the Opera House and the Paris rooftops. 

The view from the Galeries Lafayette.   

But the first real "Parisian" meal I remember was at Le Fregate, across from the Louvre. It was the real hidden gem. The Louvre is so enormous, so many city blocks, that Le Frégate was a bit out of the way for Louvre goers, and when we went that first night we had it nearly all to ourselves. Plus, restaurants in Paris don't really stay open that late. When we arrived about 9, it was nearly empty.

It isn't the best restaurant in Paris, and we probably didn't drink the best wine. But it was my favorite because it was the first, and because we sat outside on a cool fall evening and overlooked the Seine in those classically Parisian wicker chairs at one of those round, classically Parisian tables.

Gabriel speaks French and told the waiter that I wanted my filet with no pink (well done), and I thoroughly enjoyed the waiter hardly and hilariously tolerating me pouring my own wine. (It was his job and he wanted to do it, so he stopped me when I tried to do it myself. If this is the notoriously bad French service, I'll take it, I thought.)

Gabriel and I post-dinner at Le Frégate in Paris.

Sean and Gabriel, our travel companions to Europe that trip, eat at Le Frégate whenever they go to Paris. It's their thing.

It's soon to be Ray and I's thing as well.

We went to Paris this time three years ago, and we're returning in a few weeks for my birthday. Definitely on our agenda is having dinner at Le Frégate again.

When we first went to Paris I wasn't sure if I'd ever be back, you know how way leads on to way... But, happy birthday to me! We are celebrating October 17 with a picnic at the Eiffel Tower, followed by a stroll across the famed Pont des Arts 'lovers bridge.'

On our last visit, we stumbled upon this gorgeous pedestrian bridge that links the Louvre and the Institute de France by accident.

We had hopped off the double decker tour bus at the Louvre when we idly decided to walk across. It was filled with people milling about, some of them sitting on blankets having picnics and drinking wine. (Life is better in Paris.)

Ray noticed the locks first. On closer inspection, they were everywhere, all the way down the bridge, on the fences down both sides.

Engraved. Blank. Ornate. Simple. Masterlocks. Antiques.

Locks of all kinds with names from all over the world - Alan, Stephanie, Amelie, Bikounet, Lulidle et Doudeu.

We poured over the locks - the names and dates and types.

I especially loved the message on this one.

Leaving a lock is controversial now, but stumbling upon this lover's bridge is one of my favorite memories from Paris. This time around, I hope we're one of the people on the bridge having wine.

But my favorite place in Paris is the Latin Quarter, just over the lock bridge on the Left Bank.

The famed Shakespeare and Company bookstore is right across the Seine from Notre Dame Cathedral. It gets all the ink and is a worth a visit because of its history, of course. And it makes an excellent cameo in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. (Love that movie.)

But the true wonder for bibliophiles are the outdoor booksellers in the Latin Quarter, whose bookstalls line the Seine with stall after stall of paperbacks for next to nothing. The titles are all in French, as opposed to Shakespeare and Company, which is English speaking, but I preferred the French books. Browsing titles in French was much more fun.

I told Ray I wanted a copy of something very American, in French. We opted to search for something by Hemingway, which was harder to find than you'd imagine given that Hemingway is intertwined with Paris.

Is there a Hemingway in here?

But what a great mission to be on - to find a French copy of a Hemingway among the thousands of titles in French along the Left Bank.

Finally, Ray found a copy of A Farewell to Arms. L'adieu aux Armes.

It is one of my most prized souvenirs ever. It is still covered in the cellophane that was used by the seller to protect it from moisture and wear. It sits prominently on our dining room bookshelf among the English Hemingway titles.

Me among the books.

It wasn't a few blocks from here where we had another of our most memorable meals in Paris. I don't remember the name of the brasserie but we were exhausted, hungry and needed a break, and the outdoor tables were just what our weary legs needed.

We filled up on wine, bread and an assorted cheese plate. Despite the steaks and delicious crepes we had at other restaurants and take-aways, it goes down as our favorite meal in Paris.

The perfect meal.

Before we went to Paris I had written that I didn't want to do anything but walk around and eat and drink and see the city and the people living it. And that's my goal for our trip in a few weeks.

You can do a lot when you're doing nothing.

Lying in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.
One more for scale.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Breaking A Leg

Ray and I were lucky enough to get tickets to the Lumenocity dress rehearsal this summer. I knew there would be a lightshow, but other than that, the only thing I knew about it for sure was that we needed to get there early. 

So for two hours we sat in Washington Park with nothing really to do but shovel pasta salad into our faces and look at Music Hall as we waited.

I knew there would be a light show but I did not expect everything to be so uniquely Cincinnati.

Ray’s favorite part was the Charlie Harper tribute. All of Harper's stylized animals - cardinals, mallards, lady bugs, flamingos - all playfully making their way across the building.

We giggled as alligators snapped up from an invisible swamp and looked on amazed as flocks of Harper’s birds flew 5 stories tall across Music Hall.

It was a whimsical and loving tribute to Cincinnati's favorite artist.

But it was the Cincinnati Ballet that took my breath away. Principal dancers Janessa Touchet and Cervilio Miguel Amador were staggeringly beautiful and graceful projected onto Music Hall.

When it was over, I looked at Ray and said, ‘That was delightful.’

It was understatement.

In truth, between the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's beautiful rendition of Nimrod, which I had never heard before, and the dancers elegantly pirouetting across the building, I debated tearing up it was so beautiful and lovely and sublime.

It all reminded me that I don’t see nearly enough classically trained dancers, musicians or artists.

It also reminded me, listening to the talented, hard-working musicians of the CSO, that I haven’t done anything with my life.

I do not play an instrument. I cannot dance with the poise of a Cincinnati Ballet ballerina. I couldn't have even run the light show. At best, I could have written the program for Lumenocity. (And I’ve have gladly written that program!)

And in truth, I saw Music Hall really for the first time. If there is a better way other than Lumenocity to expose people to our own unique cultural arts in Cincinnati, I don’t know what would be.

Bravo, Cincinnati.