Saturday, June 27, 2009

My First Job - Part 2

I knew I was going to get this job. How could they not hire me, come on? High school girls with fresh spiral perms were practically bred to work in squeaky clean ice cream shoppes. As soon as I got home, I fantasized about my new job as I unpacked my bedroom. I planned all the things I was going to buy with my future paychecks. Number one - I wanted to buy every single Smiths tape there was. I wanted to have the whole collection and I would stack them up next to my tape player in chronological order. Two - I wanted a black turtleneck from Gap, yes even though I lived in Florida now where the heat was already pretty much unbearable, but still. Then I wanted a book about love spells because I wanted to be a witch and cast love spells on my boyfriend back in New York which would make him never, ever leave me ever. I also wanted some ballet slippers. Real ones. I wanted to start a trend where it would be cool to wear ballet slippers as actual shoes. (Now, I did actually do this, however the trend didn't catch on, people would not stop asking me if I was a dancer, which I was not, and let me just tell you, there are hard balls in the toes of ballet shoes that kill if you try to spend an entire day walking around in them, so this was a terrible idea.)

My parents were very proud that I had taken the initiative to work and they were happy to take me back to the ice cream shoppe with my filled out application.

The owner wasn't old, but he walked with a cane. It wasn't a charming wooden cane. It looked like it came from a medical supply store and was metal and grey rubber, all right angles. Something about it reminded me of when people have hooks instead of hands. The owner wore army pants and a black tee shirt that said POW MIA and had a flag on it. I had no idea what that meant. He drove a pick-up truck, which was parked in front of the store and the truck had the same stickers along with a huge American flag painted on the back window. I was used to this sort of thing though. I'd seen plenty of it in Millpond.

"You never worked before?" he asked.

"No!" I said perkily on purpose, "This is going to be my very first job ever!"

"You smoke marijuana?"

"No, of course not!"

"You sure? Because I don't put up with drug users."

"No way."

This was true of course. I had never even seen drugs before. I would in a couple of months, but at this point, I was still very innocent.

"Ok, go in the back, take an apron off the hook, put it on and you can start."

He told my dad to come pick me up at 10:30.

"Don't you close at ten?" I asked.

"There's clean-up."

I wondered what clean-up was.

He showed me where everything was: extra cones, huge cans of pineapple and strawberry topping, boxes of pre-crushed cookies, malt balls and gallon containers of hot fudge. There was a special way to stack waffle cones. You couldn't drip the hot caramel or it would get sticky and be a god damned bitch and a half to clean up. If people wanted more than one topping on a small they had to pay for a large. Most people'd want cones and you had to learn to pack the scoop into the cones without breaking them. Broken cones had to be logged and accounted for on a special chart. More than three broken cones per pay period would result in docked pay per broken cone. Cones are expensive. You just can't go around acting like they grow on trees. These things cost money and cost profits. Now, the customers would try to see what they could get away with. Customers, the owner explained to me, were out to rip you off and you had to be sharp. They'd be asking for water, but cups are thirty five cents a piece wholesale, so you had to direct people to the water fountain outside the Xtra if they wanted a free drink. Never give anything away for free, he told me. Because that's what people want, especially all these New Yorkers moving down here. They just wanted something for free and he wasn't some kind of chump. They weren't going to take advantage of him.

I figured I could manage. I was a bit horrified. I certainly hadn't pictured the owner of this lovely little ice cream store to be a redneck, but I could deal. I mean, think of it, ALL the Smiths tapes in a perfect row gleaming in their little plastic cases. I especially loved when the tape inserts unfolded like an accordion with all the lyrics printed like microscopic poems.

The one thing that really shocked me was the most important rule of all.

"Rulo Numero Uno, aside from the no marijuana, NEVER EAT THE ICE CREAM. I catch you sneaking bites of my ice cream you will be fired on the spot."

This to me, was absurd. Wasn't the whole point of working in an ice cream shopPE to be able to have as much free ice cream as you could hold? How could someone be expected to work around ice cream without actually eating any of it, ever? That was ridiculous. But, ok. I was making a whole $3.35 cents an hour. For that, I could resist the temptation. If I worked a hundred hours I would have $335.00. And that was a lot of money.

"Another rule I have is The Blacks. I don't care who comes in here to enjoy a frozen dessert, now. I'm not a racist. I fought alongside of plenty of blacks in Vietnam and didn't think nothing of it. If people want to come in here and spend their money and have a good time, I'm fine with it. But I don't want trouble and these Blacks'll try to come in here and raise hell in my shoppe and I'll not put up with it. I don't want them in here acting like a bunch of gorillas in my place of business, so if that happens, you throw 'em right out. You call the police. If I'm not here, you call me and I'll see to it they leave. This is a family establishment."

Was I actually hearing this? Did he actually say gorillas?

"Something else is the Spanish. This place is full of the Spanish and I got another rule. My shop is in the U. S. of A. We speak English here. So if you come in here and try to order in some other kind of language, you're outta here baby. You're in America, learn the GD language. I mean, if you or I moved to Mexico, we'd learn Spanish wouldn't we? I mean, come on. I don't put up with it. I don't sell El Ico Creamo. I sell ice cream! American ice cream."

By this point my stomach was cramping.

I had worked for less than an hour, and already I wanted to quit. All this and we hadn't even gotten to "clean-up" yet.

To be continued...
Friday, June 26, 2009

Wet Nuts

The term "wet nuts" has caused some readers a bit of horror, so I decided to clarify. I agree it is definitely gross sounding and I've never really been a fan. I prefer the alternative "dry nuts." Maybe this is a Millpond thing. Maybe this is a Southern thing. I don't know. Wet nuts are walnuts in syrup (yuck) and dry nuts are chopped peanuts. Dry nuts are far superior. My mother is a wet nut lover. Oh my God, that sounds terrible. I can only imagine the Google searches that will appear on my site meter from that phrase. I wanted to show you a picture and I really dreaded the results when I searched Google Images, but luckily I didn't come up with anything that would have burned my innocent eyeballs. Picture courtesy of roadfood.com.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My First Job

It was the case that did it - the double rows of pastel filled buckets under spotless glass. It was the shiny glop of hot fudge in its special warmer, the ten different toppings, including smashed Oreos and Reeses cups. I loved the aqua and hot pink neon flashing in the windows, the red vinyl stools at the counter and the black and white checkered floor. I had to work in an ice cream shop (spelled "shoppe", because the extra p and e made it sound old fashioned and therefore better).

It was August of 1989. I was fifteen and we had just moved to South Florida from the quaint Riverbank, New York where I had recently found my first love, believing him to be my soul mate, believing absolutely that we would get married and soon and live together forever listening to The Cure, decorating our house with quartz crystals and keeping as many kittens as we wanted. When my father came home, suddenly one afternoon and announced that we were moving - the next week - I was understandably a little devastated. But true love conquers all. Right? I think? So it would still be ok?

No stranger to moving by then, I didn't throw a fit or weep uncontrollably. I was sad and disappointed, but in some ways I knew a move would be good. For one thing, I'd just gotten expelled from a fancy private school that served its students brown rice and tofu burritos for lunch. I spent most of that summer stuck in a special summer program for kids with "issues" and that school was an hour and a half drive away in New Jersey. My parents were sending me there in the Fall. Had we never moved, I would have been classmates with Tara Reid. I didn't particularly want to go to this school. I liked the summer thing for screwed up kids ok, but I didn't want to wake up every day of eleventh grade at five in the morning to get to a school further away than the Paramus Mall, just to spend the day with kids who were more fucked up than I was. New York Public School wasn't an option. We'd already tried that and I'd come home in tears each day after getting slammed against the lockers by a burly girl named Stephanie whose family owned a pizza place known for its square Sicilian slices. I wasn't exactly popular in the Riverbank school system. At the end of my only year in public school there, the guidance counselor suggested to my parents that a smaller private school would probably work better for me. Except it hadn't.

But no one knew me in Florida. I hadn't screwed up everything there. Not a soul knew me in Florida. I could be anyone. I could transform my life, my image, my everything. No one would know I went to summer school or got expelled or had already been to four other high schools. I could make a change in Florida. Maybe I could be popular. Maybe, finally, I'd be able to keep my papers organized and remember to complete my homework, study for tests even. Moving would be a good thing. I wanted to go to a big public high school with pep rallies and bonfires before football games. Maybe I'd join a club. Maybe I'd be on Yearbook. There'd be homecomings and prom. I could do this. It was a new start, not just for my parents who'd just lost everything in an advance fee scam, but for me too. We all needed it.

We moved to a housing development in Coral Springs, where all the homes looked alike and were laid out in a large grid; squares on squares in squares all framed by one big square.

"Where's the town?" I asked, as we unpacked boxes.

"This is it," my mother said.

"No, I mean the down town, the Main street."

"There isn't one."

I've never been able to wrap my brain around this, even twenty years later. Coral Springs, my new home, and all of South Florida really, is just a big sprawl of seemingly arbitrarily named "towns" that overlap, oozing housing developments, strip malls, plazas, Publixes, big boxes and condo communities further and further south until you hit Key Largo and the nonsense finally ends. There are no Main Streets here. You can't tell where Coral Springs ends and Parkland, Margate or Coconut Creek begins. There are no places where you can just park your car and walk around town like there were in New York or in Millpond or everywhere else I'd ever lived. In South Florida you just drove from one strip mall to the next and all the houses hid behind high, concrete walls and gates, their barrel tiled roofs and screened-in pool covers peeking over, suggesting that inside there were people here, but not people who wanted to know you. It was so strange this place. So different, this South Florida.

But a couple miles from my house, in another strip mall next to a long gone pasture, where after a good rain hippies ran to harvest 'shrooms from cow patties, next to a warehouse grocery store called Xtra, there was a perfect ice cream shop (or shoppe rather) and my parents took me there on our second night in our new house.

"Help Wanted" hung on the glass front doors and then it occurred to me. Maybe here, in my new life, I could get a job. A real job.

"Am I old enough to work?" I asked my mother.

"Yes," she said.

"Can I work here?"

"Sure, ask if you can apply," she said, licking pineapple topping and whipped cream from her spoon, "And ask if I can have some more wet nuts on the side."

A job. Wow. All at once I felt extremely old and worldly. I could get a job. I was delirious imagining all the possibilities. I would have money and it would be my own and I could do whatever I wanted with it. I wouldn't have to beg my parents for cash to see a movie. I could buy as many tapes as I wanted. I could get clothes from the Limited Express, art supplies and blank notebooks to write stories in. I wanted colored pencils and the new Pixies. And think of how cool I would be in my new school when I could tell people to come see me at work. I could give my friends free scoops. I would be around ice cream all the time! But best of all, I could buy plane tickets back to New York to reunite with my true love. I could buy him tickets to come see me and we could make it work long distance. This had to happen. I had to get this job. I had to.

I asked the girl behind the counter if I could apply for a job. She handed me an application along with the side of wet nuts.

"It's 35 cents for the nuts. Fill that out and bring it back Wednesday after 6. That's when the owner's here."

To be continued...
Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Toblerone

My cousin Stu got home from Amsterdam (most of Western Europe actually) Sunday night and I was kind of pissed he didn't even bring me back a Toblerone. Now, I don't actually enjoy Toblerones at all, but they are the gift from Europe that you can get someone at the last possible second before boarding the plane back home, they're cheap and they require no effort whatsoever. It would have at least been something. But no. I got nothing from Stu. I predicted this would happen over a week ago.

I love my cousin Stu, I really do. I'm sure I've mentioned him on here before, though not in great detail. Our grandmothers are sisters. We grew up together back in Millpond and our birthdays are exactly one month apart. I'm older. I used that to my advantage when we were kids playing in my grandparents' pool. I guess it's not surprising that I was a bossy little kid. As Stu and I grew up we drifted apart. It was no fault of our own, just the result of both of us having chaotic families. He never knew his dad, had a few stepfathers, a usually single mom who worked all the time and drank when she was off. She'd been wild in her youth apparently, and loved Elvis. One of my first memories is of her talking about Elvis. She hung a velvet portrait of The King in her bedroom without a shred of irony. Another memory I have is when Elvis died. She was at our house crying. Aunt Janey and Mommom Jewel were drinking coffee and it was on the news. But that was Stu's life and you already know about mine.

When I moved back to Florida in 2000, Mommom Jewell told me that Stu lived down here too and gave me his phone number.

"You oughta get up with him," she said.

I did and so did Bella, who also lived here. Being younger, she always had a crush on her older cousin Stu when we were little. Back then he had this crazy girlfriend named Nettie who was out of her mind, but in a charming way that cracked everyone up. You could be having a perfectly normal conversation with her and all of a sudden she'd lose it, right in the middle of whatever you'd be talking about and burst out with something like: "Dogs are so cool! Right on. DOGS! Yeah! Dogs Rock. Girl Power! Grrr! WOOOOOT!!" It was very strange. It happened all the time.

When I first saw Stu after probably twenty something years, I couldn't believe how much we looked alike and how nice he was. We have the same distinctive nose which runs (disturbingly) on BOTH sides of my family. I think some of the families in the Millpond area got a little inbred through centuries of isolation. Stu took after the Irish more and with his dark, auburn hair he got bright blue eyes. I look a little more french and have dark eyes. Yes, I look like Anne Hathaway as an adult, as many of you pointed out from the eighth grade picture. She would definitely play me in the movie of my life, but I'm not as tall and skinny as she is. Stu and I have the same slouchy posture, the same Irish tendencies toward melancholy and music and the same artistic temperament that makes us easily bored, easily miserable and always wanting to wander.

For a little while I sold some of my mosaics in a local folk art gallery where I also worked for a short time. I couldn't believe the coincidence when I saw that they were also selling some of Stu's glass. Stu used to blow glass and he made some beautiful pieces, but he hasn't done that in a long time. I really wish he would get back into it.

For all our similarities, Stu and I have some distinct differences. For one, I grew up. I like structure and organization. I am able to channel my creative urges, my moodiness and my short attention span towards productive activities. Mainly though, Jam Bands don't do it for me. Jam Bands are Stu's whole reason for existing on this planet. My cousin is addicted to Jam Band shows.

I love and appreciate all kinds of music. My dad instilled this quality in me from the time I was very young and while I don't listen to Jam Bands, I know that these bands are filled with incredible musicians. I'm sorry though, I just can't do it. Years ago Stu took me to a show with him and except for the fantastic people watching, I almost fell asleep. I think they played one song for the entire show and everyone there was really getting into it, shaking their heads back and forth, air drumming, eyes closed, faces uplifted as if in prayer while I was standing there like "are they ever going to get on with this and start singing or maybe play something different?"

Stu lives to go to shows. He travels all over, follows bands, keeps track of how many Widespread shows he's been to and compares notes with other people he meets. He knows how they haven't played a certain song since Akron '92 and he was there and he wants to be there when they play it again because it will be so awesome and dude, how could you miss that? He goes to festivals, camps out, gets muddy and dances in circles. He gushes about how they played Cosmic Monkey Acid Storm from Mars for forty five minutes straight and then went right into Rainbow Sunrise Galaxy WITHOUT EVEN STOPPING MAN and then how they played that for a half hour before they even got to the words and you know that part in the beginning where they go OOOOHHHHH, well this time they went AAAHHHH and it was so fucking cool and then they teased Chrysanthemum Black Hole Rabbit Winder because they haven't played it since Halloween '98 when they were at Red Rocks, but then they didn't really play it. Dude. For real. You should have been there.

Stu loves Jam shows so much that he works solely to make the money to go to them. If he can't get time off, he just quits, goes to the show and gets another job when he gets back to get him through until the next show. He does electrical work. He's been a cable guy, installed alarms, been an electrician, done construction and been a handyman. Last year he installed sprinklers at my school and I used to see him around, but then he had to go to the New Year's Eve show and well, you know how it goes. I don't know what he's doing now.

It should come as no surprise that my cousin Stu is a huge stoner. That's why it was no surprise when he called me up last week with the news that, dude, he was so psyched. He was going to fucking Amsterdam. I was actually surprised that he hadn't gone sooner. It's like Mecca for his kind. As soon as he told me I decided to say my last goodbyes because I knew as soon as Stu got there he'd never want to come back. Years from now Stu would be hackey-sacking on a Dutch street corner, begging for enough Euros to pack a bowl with some hash. And he'd be damn happy. He's cute, so he'd probably get some older Russian prostitute to take care of him and cook him borscht and they'd be like something out of a Tom Robbins novel. This is what I imagined.

Stu wanted me to drive him to the airport. He wanted to leave his car at my apartment. I agreed.

On Thursday morning Stu called me and said he'd be at my place at 9:30 am. He got there an hour later, which was not my problem. I go outside and open the trunk of my car for him to put his suitcase in it and go back inside. Fifteen minutes later Stu is still rooting around in the trunk of his own car. I go outside to see what he's doing. Turns out, Stu is packing. The trunk of his car is overflowing with wrinkled laundry which may or may not have been clean. I couldn't tell. He was stuffing things into a bag and trying to fit a towel in on top of it all. He didn't want to check anything in. I asked what the towel was for and he said the Youth Hostel.

"Um, Stu man, a lot of those places you have to be under 26. You are ten years older than that."

"No way," he said. I think he was shocked at his own age, not the age limit in hostels.

I then realized that Stu was having fantasies about backpacking around Europe, Lonely Planet 1992 style. A lot of my friends did this when they were in college. I never got to and it used to make me sad. All of my friends were rich, trust funders whose parents paid for their trips and all of them were looking for "authentic" experiences. When they got back they'd compare who got sicker, dirtier and in more trouble with foreign police. I used to listen in awe at these stories and feel sorry for myself for being stuck in a hotel kitchen plating 250 mesclun salads in Banquet while my Ivy League friends hassled with Czech police and slept in a potato fields until the Polish farmer chased them away. I remember a lot of my friends returned with accents and tastes for Belgian beers.

Ultimately Stu decided to leave the towel. I convinced him that they had towels there. Then I drove him to Miami and thought I was done with it.

"If he misses his flight," I said, "he can figure it out."

Stu called me three hours later from his layover in DC. He was flipping out. He had forgotten his and his friend's Eurrail passes (he was meeting his friend who was already there). They were over a thousand dollars. He didn't know what to do. He had left them in the car and wanted me to overnight them to Amsterdam. After much confusion and many phone calls it was established that there is no over night to Europe. It would take at least three days. He didn't know where he would be in three days. I said for him to go to an Internet cafe and email me when he got his shit together and figured it out.

In the meantime, I searched his car for the train passes, which I found along with an envelope of three hundred dollars cash. I waited for the email which didn't come.

Finally, the next night, Stu calls me and says he has arranged to pick up the tickets in Paris. He gives me an address. I ask him if he's missing money.

"DUDE. OH MY GOD. I was looking everywhere for that. I thought it was stolen!!"

I told him I'd use it for the shipping and give him the change when he got back.

Somehow I managed to send the train tickets to Paris. I was highly aggravated by this time. I don't hear from Stu again. No email. No thank you. No nothing. It was at this point that I realized I was not getting a Toblerone. European chocolate was not in my future.

Sunday Stu called me from his layover in DC again to see if I could pick him up in Miami at ten that night. I told him I was too busy and that Husband had a business trip in the morning that he had to be up for at 5 am, which was true. Stu got his buddy to pick him up in Miami to drive him up to my place to pick up his beater-ass car.

They arrive at around eleven and I am in my pajamas. I give Stu his car keys and money and he gives me a hug, says he had an awesome freaking time in Europe and rushes off. Not only is there no Toblerone for me. There is no thank you at all. I am now pissed.

I lock the door and go back to bed where Husband and I attempt some mild romance before hearing noise outside our bedroom window which faces the parking lot. We look out the window and Stu and his friend are digging through his car.

"Oh no, don't tell me the car won't start," Husband says.

"No, I bet he's getting out my chocolate! Maybe he just forgot."

We were both wrong. They were getting out their hidden stash of weed. Then they were smoking it, out in the open, in the parking lot of my building!! Now I was really pissed. All I need is for the condo commandos to jump all over this. My cousin is such an idiot, I thought. But maybe they'd leave soon. Maybe they just needed one hit and then they'd be on their way. A half hour later they were still out there. All hopes of romance were ruined for me. Finally they left.

I still haven't heard from Stu.
Friday, June 19, 2009

Overheard in the Mall - Limpie el Piso

The other day I was at the mall with my friend Emma (that's where we encountered the Anthropologie window display). We were at the fancy mall which has a Bulgari store, a Louis Vuitton and a Kate Spade store and had gone there for lunch. After lunch we had time to kill so we decided to walk off lunch and window shop. We rounded the corner past the Rosetta Stone kiosk which was piled high with yellow boxed sets of cds promising to help even you learn a new language with just a few easy clicks. Two well-dressed, affluent white women were having a conversation.

Woman 1 - I've always wanted to get that and learn a new language, like french or Chinese or something.

Woman 2 - Oh my God, I know. It's great. I have the Spanish one.

Woman 1 - You do? Really? I had no idea.

Woman 2 - Yes! It's fun, like a game.

Woman 1 - Yes, but does it really work? I mean, they make a lot of promises.

Woman 2 - It totally works! I can talk to the maid now!
Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bless My Heart


One of my summer projects is to scan in the few old family photos that I have. There aren't many because often we couldn't afford a camera, film or developing. The few pictures we did have, we had a problem keeping track of. We weren't exactly the most organized family and we moved a bit more than average so things like pictures were often hard to keep track of. Still, we did manage to hold on to some pictures and I've been generously lent photos of us taken by other family members for the scanning project. Last night I came across this gem. This is one of only two known pictures in existence of the mullet. What's really sad is that this picture was taken a full year after the initial mullet disaster. THIS IS HOW IT LOOKED AFTER IT HAD A WHOLE YEAR TO GROW OUT! The mullet happened in the Fall of my seventh grade year and this is in fact my eighth grade school picture, taken in early October just before the Mets won the World Series. I was not a pretty girl. It is no wonder that boys didn't like me and the other children laughed at me. Bless my heart, I really wasn't cute at all. The sad thing is that haircut isn't the only awful looking thing about me. Note the big chin zit, the awkward, closed mouth smirk hiding a mouth of braces and rubberbands, the strawberry Swatch from the year before which already wasn't cool anymore that year and the oversized, light denim shirt. I was wearing that shirt over a prairie skirt - the kind with the light denim bottom and a dark denim top. Even worse is the large, pale blue satin bow barrette holding back half of the mullet. And the saddest thing about this picture is that I distinctly remember knowing that I looked ridiculous when the picture was being taken, knowing that I looked ugly and knowing that everyone else thought so too. But I can laugh about it now and I don't mind if you do either. I remember once running across a web site where people sent in dreadful old photographs of themselves or family members, most of the pictures were from the 70s and 80s and Olan Mills types of portraits. It was hilarious. Now I can't remember what it was called or where I found it or I would absolutely submit this picture, and no it wasn't Awkward Family Photos, although it was similar.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009

On Sale Now - Used Catheter Bags by Anthropologie


Dear Anthropologie, I was thrilled beyond all imagination when you opened a store near me. Until just recently, I had to drive a great distance north or south to visit one of your stores, or I had to just wait until I went on vacation to California or big cities. Still, Anthropologie was the store of my dreams; a mix of campy, shabby, luxurious, exotic and things that are extremely expensive but look like once in a lifetime thrift store finds. Your style is the equivalent of a woman who spends hours on her hair and makeup to make herself look as if she isn't wearing a single speck of makeup and has just gotten out of bed with perfectly tousled curls. When I shop in your stores (and I admit that I have only purchased a total of about five things in my entire life and all of them were on clearance) I feel just like Amelie, which is really the ultimate goal of every wanna-be hip, poetic woman who also loves Belle and Sebastian and shops at farmer's markets with wicker baskets. We all want to be Amelie. Ordinarily Anthropologie, I admire your window displays. All of them look like they've been crafted by art students (girls with short bangs and cats eye glasses) who also have their own Etsy stores and I love that, so imagine my absolute horror when I went to visit the new store yesterday and saw the display in the above photograph. I stopped dead in my tracks. Who decided that a window display of used catheter bags, depicting various levels of hydration as evidenced by the range of amber hues, would be a nice way to celebrate the gauzy sundresses and retro-print melamine plates of summer? I really think you need to reconsider this choice, as everyone who walks by is instantly reminded of their grandfathers' prostate surgeries - the ammonia, bleach and iodine smell of the hospitals, the patients yelling in other rooms, and Oh God, the time the full bag somehow disconnected from the plastic tubing and, well...it was awful. Please Anthropologie, I'm begging you to change this window display to something breezier, maybe with papier mache robin redbreasts, because looking at something that looks like it was recently removed from someone's urethra does not make me want to buy the Post Secret book, a Tibetan Temple scented candle or a white dress called "Acres of Indigo."
Saturday, June 13, 2009

My New Coffee Maker


I'm not going to lie to you. I've had a rough and tiring week. It had some great parts, but it also had a lot of aggravation and some wicked PMS which has not yet ended, unfortunately. Anyone know of any good, home remedies for it? But amazingly, the lap top is ok for now and the whole hard drive is backed up just in case. Even more amazingly, and I swear you are never going to believe this, after asking you guys to send me some money energy, I received a hundred dollar check in the mail for a poem I entered in a contest which won honorable mention! How wild is that? I decided to keep my word to the Universe. I said I wanted money to buy a better coffee maker and when the money arrived, I decided to upgrade the plastic cone. For a long time, I've had it in my head that pouring boiling water through plastic may not be a good idea. I dislike plastic. I try to avoid it, although that's impossible. I store my leftovers in glass containers and use waxed paper lunch baggies. At the same time, I really don't want an electric coffee maker that takes up space and is hard to clean and program. My kitchen is tiny after all and I like counter space. I also love the simplicity of the cone method. I love that I can clean it in about ten seconds and that it doesn't take electricity. I wanted a cone brewer that wasn't plastic though and I found it! It even has it's own little pot and the whole thing is porcelain and extremely affordable. I am overjoyed. I purchased it from a site called Sweet Marias and you can find it on this page if you scroll down. It's called the Porceelain #1 Filter Drip Pot Set. I wanted to share this site with you, not because I am getting paid to advertise for them, or for Mozy the other day, but just because I was amazed at the excellent service. Whenever I find something good I want to share it so other people can experience it too and so that good businesses are rewarded. Sweet Marias had good products, great prices and sent my coffee maker an hour after I ordered it. It hasn't arrived yet, but I'll let you know more once it gets here. (But if you were wondering about the whole putting ads on the blog thing, I applied over a month ago and have not yet been approved.) So this is all sincere, free advertising for a company that I was really happy to discover.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My Parents' Coffee Machine


This is my parents' coffee maker. I have love for this thing. I dream of one day inheriting it, though I'd have no place to put it.

My Coffee Maker


This is what I use to make coffee. You can buy one here. Or at the grocery store or Trader Joes.

Thank God for Mozy

Dear readers, please be advised that I am currently in a state of utter panic as this morning, my trusted, dear laptop has passed from this earth. Steps to revive it have been taken, though none have yet proved successful. I am currently writing on my parents' computer, which is in their kitchen and which is not very conducive to extensive writing. I came here because they have a really fancy espresso machine and at a time like this my cone filter thingy that I use to make coffee just wasn't cutting it. Please say a prayer for my laptop, as I can not afford a new one and because I really love it. At the same time, I'd like to make a public service announcement. Mozy is good. Use it. Sign up for it. Do it now. Do the free one. Do the one you have to pay for. No matter what, Mozy is your friend. I want to go give Mozy a lot of hugs and kisses and bake it cupcakes right now. Because of Mozy I can still graduate. That is all. And please send super lap top healing energy or lots of money energy for me so that I can buy a new laptop if need be. Or a fancy coffee maker and fancy coffee to go in it and maybe a new bathing suit as the elastic is falling out of mine and it won't stay on my butt. Thank you.
Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Offbeat Bride

I have a new official blog crush. This morning I decided to poke around the Internet and gather together some interesting, wedding related websites to complement the Wide Lawns Wedding Guide. I found the perfect one. You need nothing else. I am officially in love with (and a little jealous of) Offbeat Bride. After writing the Wedding Guide, I had this idea to maybe turn it into a book. Alas, it has already been done and far better than anything I could come up with. Offbeat Bride has a creative, fun and very original blog and book about weddings. People write in for advice and she answers it in much the same way as I would, except better. She and I would definitely be friends in real life. I'm telling you. She's great. Check out her site, even if you are already married. Today's post is about potluck weddings! It's synchronicity I say. I LOVE potluck weddings. Have I not been blathering on about potluck weddings for days now? So, someone else has already written an alternative wedding guide. This means I'll just have to continue working on that memoir about growing up with a monkey, a watermelon salesman, a sister-aunt and seven nannies.
Monday, June 08, 2009

The Wide Lawns Wedding Guide - Part 5: The Rest

Food

I believe very strongly that no matter how fancy or how simple the wedding, that the food is of great importance. It has to be good. If it doesn't taste good you have wasted your money. I've been to far too many weddings where the food sucked. I've had better meals on American Airlines Coach than I have at most weddings and I always think - Jeez, these people really wasted their money on this crap. One of the fanciest weddings I've ever been to (it had a full fireworks display people) had the most disgusting plated dinner. Such a disappointment. In general, I'm not usually a plated, sit down dinner fan. I love the buffet. That way guests can pick and choose what they want and how much they want. Of the two best wedding meals I've had one was very expensive and elegant and the other was potluck in a church fellowship hall. The fancy one was elegant in its simplicity. The bride's family were cattle ranchers who raised a special kind of cow for expensive steakhouses. They served their own steak and potatoes and some grilled vegetables. I wanted a second plate. The potluck wedding was exceptional because the bride's family was part Italian and thus everyone brought massive casserole pans of pasta and cheese and meatballs and it was sick good. Remember the wedding with the really good cake where all they had was cake, punch and spinach dip? That spinach dip kicked ass. So it doesn't matter how much food you have or how expensive it is. It just needs to taste good. Another wedding that stands out for me was a wedding I attended a few years ago where they had a baked potato bar. I thought they were going to have to ask me to leave. The passion I showed for that baked potato bar was shameful. At my own wedding, the macaroni and cheese bar will go down in history. I highly recommend this. The idea arose from my desire to serve our favorite foods in an eclectic buffet at our reception. The good thing about the mac and cheese bar is that it would work for any kind of party, even a dinner party at your house. Just make a plain mac and cheese and serve it with all kinds of stuff that would go in it that people might like. It's genius. I swear it.

Hair

One of the rules I live by is to not mess excessively with your hair or it will look awful by the time you're done. This is especially apparent at weddings where so many young women seem to think that their locks must be lacquered into shiny, flat, crunchy sculptures. I'd like to begin a movement to end this practice. A few years ago I found myself a bridesmaid in my cousin's wedding. All the other bridesmaids were gelling themselves into elaborate updos. My hair will not updo. It is stick straight and heavy. To quote Elizabeth Gilbert (who created a heroine who is the spitting image of me in Stern Men) "you could sew a button" with a single strand of my hair. It's like wire. Were I to attempt a dramatic hairstyle it would immediately fall down. Much time and money would need to be spent to get my hair to do anything and I had neither. I decided to do something completely radicalized. I did nothing to my hair except brush it and wear it down. No one had ever done something like this in the history of all Millpond weddings. It was highly shocking behavior. And I received more compliments that day than I had in years. For my own wedding I wore my hair loosely up, but by the middle of the reception it had all fallen down and I looked like a wild woman, but this was perfectly ok, as that is me and that is how I look.

Weight

I was ten pounds heavier at my wedding than I am now. At the time of my wedding I knew that after Christmas I was to have treatment on my thyroid tumor. In order to have the treatment I had to not take my thyroid medication and instead take other medications that did not alter my thyroid at all but eased the symptoms it caused (don't ask, it was complicated). The medicine made me gain weight. I knew it was only temporary. At the same time my mother was fretting about losing weight in time for the wedding too. I decided to ban members of my wedding party from dieting for my wedding. This is not fun behavior. There's nothing wrong with wanting to get healthy and look good but at the same time it's not healthy to obsess and worry and starve and crash diet to lose a couple pounds for a party. I told my mother that everyone already knows what we look like anyway. No one has ever ever ever gone to a wedding and come home to say "Gosh, the wedding was nice and all but we would have had a much better time if only the bride had been skinnier."

Flowers

I adore flowers. I really love them, but they can also be a waste of money. I had lots of flowers at my wedding because they were in my budget and I really love looking at the pictures of them now. I also encouraged all the guests to take them home at the end of the reception. But here's the deal. I didn't plan the flowers. I went to a florist a friend recommended and said essentially: "I don't care what you do. This is how much money to spend. I'd like an Autumn-ish theme as it is Thanksgiving weekend, but other than that you do whatever you want. You are the florist, not me." The whole thing took less than ten minutes. On the day of the wedding the flowers arrived and were magnificent. My bouquet ended up being a surprise and I loved what the florist did. There was one small glitch. The florist accidentally sent (I think the wrong) bridesmaid's bouquets which did not match the rest of the flowers. I think perhaps some orders got mixed up. My bridesmaids ended up with bright, tropical bouquets entirely, noticeably different from all the other flowers. Bella was aghast. She was afraid I was going to be terribly upset and immediately began damage control. This was entirely unnecessary because I decided the new bouquets were also pretty in their own right because ALL FLOWERS ARE PRETTY. Remember that as you plan your own weddings. All flowers are pretty. They don't really matter that much. No matter what your flowers will be pretty.

Bridal Party

This section will be brief. Follow this one rule. Do not make any members of your bridal party spend a lot of money on anything related to your wedding.

Then, let them wear whatever shoes are the most comfortable for them, as people with hurty feet will not have a good time.

Pictures

Take tons of pictures. If you want to splurge on anything it should be the pictures. I recommend making a video of your wedding too. Our wedding video has brought a lot of joy to a lot of people, especially because a few of the people in it are no longer with us and we now have video of them very much alive and having a good time. Encourage people to take pictures and provide them with lots of disposable cameras. We bought them in bulk at Costco and put them on all the tables with instructions to go crazy and turn them in at the end of the night. I loved getting them all developed. It was hilarious. Also, our friend Hollye is the best wedding photographer I have ever seen. She did not photograph our wedding as she was in it and we didn't want her to work, but just to have fun at a wedding for once. Still, she and her then boyfriend now husband, took a lot of pictures for us and we cherish them. Hollye will fly all over for weddings too if you want her. At the very least check out her work on her website. Link is in the sidebar.

People Acting Like Total Assholes and Other Wedding Disasters

It's probably going to happen. Something will probably go wrong in some way. I've seen it all. None of it has really mattered in the long run. Most of the glitches no one ever noticed. Many of them make the best funny stories to tell people for years. Laugh at them all.

Inevitably, someone at your wedding may act like a total asshole in some way. Bad behavior takes many forms. Often it involves disrespect, jealousy, deep dark family drama kinds of resentments that brew up at gatherings or just bad nerves. Alcohol can also often be a factor. Unless someone is being destructive and really causing a major scene, ignore everything. Remember, your relatives acting like jackasses do not reflect on you. People's bad behavior only reflects on them.

And yes, if you're wondering, some people acted like total assholes at our wedding. We ignored them. In fact, we laughed at them and so did everyone else because the people who acted like assholes at our wedding made total fools of themselves and became laughingstocks. Their bad behavior had nothing to do with us and our celebration. It was only a reflection of their own bad characters and still is.

Registry

Wedding registry makes me uncomfortable. The very idea of going into a store and deciding which things you'd like other people to buy for you skeezes me out. I felt like a bad person when we did it and we did it because so many people bugged us to do it. We decided to register at Target because it is affordable for most people and because Target has a lot of good stuff. Then some relatives requested that we register somewhere nicer, so I did. I was babysitting my friend's eleven year old daughter at the time and I took her with me and let her pick out stuff she thought we should have. She did an excellent job. I still felt like a bad person. On the flip side, when I am the guest, I love gift registries because I always know exactly what to get. It makes my life easier. When it comes to gift registry, be modest, humble and practical. Don't make people feel like they have to spend a fortune on you. Don't ever ask for something that might make someone feel badly about themselves because they can't afford to get it for you.

I have a little story I'd like to share with you. A few years ago a long time male friend of mine married a horse-faced heiress in a foreign country that I was not about to spend several thousand dollars to visit. The friend became very pretentious and went a bit nuts with his newfound social standing. The couple then registered at places so expensive that I had never heard of them and repeatedly emailed me his registry and asked over and over again if I had checked it out. He was hinting that they hadn't received a gift from me. This is because I couldn't afford anything they registered for. Two months after their lavish foreign wedding I had occasion to visit the city where the newlyweds lived. I decided to go to one of the stores from their registry to see if I could pick up a little gift pre-dinner with them. It was Christofle. I went in and looked at the registry again. Again, nothing in my budget. I looked around the store for something tiny. Still, nothing I could afford. I became so disgusted that I vowed not to get them anything. That night at dinner the horse-faced bride made a comment about how all her parents' friends were such suckers, buying them all the expensive Rosle gadgets they'd registered for, like a fifty dollar pizza cutter. I really hated this girl for this. I was so glad I hadn't bought them anything. I had never seen such an ingracious couple. Because of this, I am no longer friends with this person, who I had known since childhood and we are only superficially friends on Facebook now. Never ever be like these people.

In Conclusion

This is all the best wedding advice I have for you. I think I've remembered everything but if I've left something out, feel free to email me or leave a question for me in the comments section. I hope that my wedding guide has helped some of you planning your own celebrations.
Thursday, June 04, 2009

Busy Today

I am extremely busy today with something very important (SUPER important) and it will take most of my day, therefore I am currently unable to finish my wedding guide in a timely fashion. In the meantime, I would like to make an announcement. The Pioneer Woman has cleaned up her act and has finally posted a recipe that garners my approval. While I am off doing my super important thing today, please go and make y'all some Chicken Tikka because Indian food is good.

I'd also like to direct you to my Wide Lawns Facebook page again, where my friends get special secret mini-stories, which I hope they all like. There's a link in the sidebar or you can search my email: widelawns@gmail.com

May you all have very good days today.
Monday, June 01, 2009

Wedding Cake I Decorated Last Year


Here is a wedding cake I decorated for my friends who had their wedding reception at my parents' house last March. All I did was get some edible flowers from Whole Foods and go to town. I got organic roses for the cake because roses from the flower shops are likely sprayed with chemicals and not edible. The cake is sitting on a simple piece of cardboard covered in white paper. If you are lucky enough to live in a place where roses and other flowers grow, just go pick some for free.

Simple Cake I Made

Here is a simple cake I made for Thanksgiving a couple years ago. It was very easy to make and I just decorated it with kumquats, raspberries, nuts and lime leaves. The icing is lumpy, but if I hadn't been lazy I would have smoothed it out with damp paper towels. And now you know what my dining room table looks like.

The Wide Lawns Wedding Guide - Part 4: Cake is Good

The Cake - Cake is important to me. Of all the things I could be concerned about at my wedding, I was oddly fixated on the cake. There is only one reason for this and that is that I love cake and I wanted to eat my wedding cake. This meant that it had to taste good. I've been to so many weddings where the cake tasted like a mattress pad spackled with bathroom caulking and I always felt disappointed. I got married in a hotel and they had a whole wedding package thing, so they included the cake. I told them to keep it simple, just make it taste good. They even let me come in and try some cakes as proof that their cakes actually tasted good. They didn't, so I gave them my recipe and then they made that and it did taste good so everything was fine. It is my firm belief that wedding cakes should not be elaborate sculptures a la Food Network Challenge. They are food and they should taste good.

Wedding cakes can be absurdly expensive, but they don't have to be. The best wedding cake I have ever tasted in my life was baked by the groom's aunt who had taken a Wilton Cake decorating class. This was at a charming, modest wedding. The reception was held in the church rec room and all they served was cake, punch, cheese and crackers and spinach dip. It was wonderful. The cake was pretty and delicious and no cake has ever matched it since. I asked the aunt and she said her trick was a flavoring called "creme bouquet" which is a mixture of vanilla, lemon and almond extracts. I ordered some from Kitchen Krafts. I use it in the batter and in the buttercream frosting when I make cakes.

If you are lucky enough to live in Florida or Georgia, it is a well known secret that Publix make the most ass-kicking and insanely affordable wedding cakes around. I know many a bride who has lied about the origins of her Publix wedding cake, saying that the delicious and beautiful cakes came from secret, fancy bakeries. The trick is to ask for the almond flavoring, which makes it taste like a traditional wedding cake.

A commenter mentioned that her mom made wedding pies! I loved this idea. I was so excited when I read that and thought how fun and yummy that must have been, not to mention inexpensive and meaningful. I'm all for creating new traditions, especially when they involve desserts.

Another idea would be to have a cake potluck and have some of your guests bring regular sized, homemade cakes and then have a cake buffet. Or you could have someone make cupcakes. People go ape over cupcakes, they're easy and they look darling when displayed on one of those tiered stands and decorated with fresh flowers or fruit.

I'm going to let you in on a secret. Many years ago when I was being trained in a pastry kitchen, the pastry chef told me that you will never make a cake as good as Duncan Hines. The trick is doctoring up the mix. A basic recipe that makes the most delicious cake you have ever had is this: take a box of Duncan Hines yellow cake mix and exchange the oil called for on the box directions with an equal amount of melted real butter, use four eggs per box regardless of what the directions say and exchange buttermilk for water, then add an extra teaspoon of vanilla extract per box of cake mix along with a teaspoon of creme bouquet. Depending on what kind of cake you want you can also add nuts, chocolate chips, citrus zest, candy pieces or whatever seems like it might be good in cake.

Then find a standard American Buttercream frosting recipe and make it. While boxed cake mix is good, canned frosting is not. The recipe should not involve cooking anything or candy thermometers. Beware of European Buttercream which involves meringue and an advanced graduate degree to make. You also can't go wrong with a nice cream cheese frosting as long as your cake or cupcakes aren't going to sit outside for long periods of time.

Decorate your cake with edible flowers or small fruits and berries accented with lime leaves. Simple, pretty and inexpensive.

I do not, however, recommend baking your wedding cake if you are the bride because you will have enough stuff to worry about the day before your wedding.

Last, remember that fondant is gross. It looks pretty but it tastes horrible. If you insist on one of those perfectly smooth, fondant covered cakes, make sure the baker puts a good layer of buttercream under it to make up for the fondant which looks and tastes exactly like Sculpey.

The most important things to remember with your wedding cake are that your cake doesn't need to look like architecture, your cake should taste good, you don't have to have a traditional wedding cake at all and you should never stress out if your cake isn't perfect because you will have a funny story to tell at cocktail parties forever and you can send pictures of it to Cake Wrecks and be famous.

Remember, someone stuck a whole green apple in the back of my wedding cake and I thought it was the most hilarious thing I'd ever seen in my life.

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