Chelsea + Vodka

Makes a girl wanna take a nap.

2012 began with a book that’s been on my to-read list forever.  And a day.  And a bag of chips.  A long time.

My Horizontal Life by Chelsea Handler appeared on my radar in the spring of 2008 when she released Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea. I was working at a neighborhood branch and all sorts of readers were checking out her latest. It was as if –at the mention of alcohol and the allusion to a classic teen read—even book-club grandma was ready to try out this blondie on a lawn chair.

For me, I was interested but not enough to read her myself yet. At the time, I was reading a lot of memoir-y books about having babies since that was something I was considering at the time. Conversely, I was padding such weighty reading material with Martini Mondays and Mojito Tuesdays at my local watering holes at night, so I felt I was good on the vodka front as it was.

Still, I added her canon to my ever-elusive reading list and there it stayed.

Until I had to decide what to read first in 2012.  A classic? A best of 2011 pick? Something resolution-driven seemed most appropriate, but I’m 8 months pregnant and I’m not exactly hardcore hitting the gym or eating remarkably well and I had been craving a vodka tonic for the good part of 2011, so Chelsea it was.

And thank goodness. This book was exactly what I needed after months of feeling jolly and bouncy and, you know, righteous, for having created the best Christmas ever.  What I’m saying is, the only way to get off your high horse as the domestic goddess of Christmas is to have a drunken midget in a sombrero knock you off it.

The book would appeal to women and men alike and to people who like quick reads but also to those who can stretch out a book over a year (who are you!? return your library book already; people are waiting for it, creepy!). It probably won’t appeal to your book-club grandma. I mean, unless it does. I don’t know. I don’t know your grandma.

I finished this collection of hilarious-ridiculous short stories in no time and was sad to perhaps have to move on to another author. Luckily, the good librarian in me had chosen this title based on the fact that it was Chelsea’s first and I can now read more of her books. I can read more as if I didn’t just see the minute that I put down my Kindle that her written work is being adapted into a sitcom starring Laura Prepon as Chelsea and Chelsea Handler as her older sister Sloane (which I find to be brilliant bee-tee-double-yoo).  I am thrilled to see these characters come to life on television. I have to be a nerd, though, and finish all her books before I can watch the show.

Maybe I can celebrate with a vodka tonic with extra lemon once I’ve completed Lies Chelsea Handler Told Me. Don’t worry, gasping folk, I’m kind of a slow reader.

Poker Faces & Eye Closeups

Pens, we need pens. My ideas just come to me. I'm brainstorming.

Sometime in the early autumn, this bumbling new mama was trying to do many things. Bathe a slippery baby. Not obsess about slippery baby’s state of consciousness during sleep. A plethora of things having to do with quiet and timing and patience. Also, I was trying to learn the beginning part of that newly-released Gaga joint “Bad Romance.” Lack of sleep and a colicky bundle were not going to stop me from this little pleasure of life. I’ve been learning tricky song lyrics since the fast part of Mariah Carey’s “Someday” and I wasn’t going to stop now.

Around this same time, I heard about a show called Glee. Friends and family were horrified that I hadn’t seen one episode, the fact having shaken their worlds, apparently. I was busy. I was still conspiracy-theorizing in the way of Lost. I was really, truly trying to accept the redux of Scrubs. I was almost ready to break up with Grey’s Anatomy. Oh, and that new adorable baby who ate all the time and my constant need to journal every tiny coo. I had a lot on my plate.

So, no, I was not watching that Fox show about a high school choir starring an over-the-top-type-A-drama-queen with ambiguous Middle Eastern-Hispanic looks and a penchant for cardigans. She makes “I’m Sorry” cookies. I…don’t…do…that.

Needless to say, I started watching and I haven’t looked back.

Now, anyone that knows me knows I’m obsessed with film and tv casting. I feel I missed my calling. I’m very critical of bad casting and in awe of pitch-perfect casting. I saw Miss Rachel Berry had a clear mother void and my brain got to work.

Idina Menzel was on my mind because, like me, she had a superadorable baby boy on September 2nd and since I learned “Over the Moon” from Rent and sang it up and down the halls of my dorm to work on my projection, I figured we’re the same.  She was the perfect Rachel mom.

And then, my brain spun out of control. I wanted a duet. I wanted many duets! I wanted a joyous union of voices from these two almost-twins. I even cast Rachel’s aunts (Nelly Furtado and Courteney Cox) because my brainstorming goes on tangents.

So, I called it. I swear I didn’t read the message boards! I was busy, I said.

So, come Tuesday and I felt like one of my silly little mini-dreams had come true. The addition of Gaga was just an added gold star from the music gods.

In related news, Lost ended. Not how I imagined or wanted, but how I figured. Lost was like that guy you hook up with (the old definition, not the new one, dirty birdies) because they’re mysterious and beautiful and every day you learn something new and you think “This will never get old.” And then you see the direction he’s going and you wonder “Was he always like this? Did he change or did I?” And then he gives you this one day where everything is amazing again and you don’t even mind that you had to hang out with his Spanish friend who sees dead people; you’re in love. And then you’re going down that familiar path again and all turns clear despite all the smoke. You know this will end like past loves did- McBeal, Seinfeld. You just know it. And it does. And you’re fine with it because you saw it coming. And by fine, I mean, you were fine with it by the Thursday after it ended. And that’s when you promise to stop beginning sentences with conjunctions. Because that’s wrong. Okay, starting now.

Glost Tuesdays

If Lost is the unhealthy relationship I’m in (where’s this going? who are you? who am I when I’m with you? would you rather be in your sideflash than here on the couch with me? why is there black smoke in your eyes?), then Glee is the supportive girlfriend that takes me out for froyo after Lost breaks my heart/doesn’t play along with my conspiracy theories.

I’d like to think I was talking to Eloise Hawking…

At work, I try to carry myself with a certain degree of professionalism. However, I have a pretty strong personality that frequently slips out and usually (thankfully), my customers don’t necessarily catch that I’ve, you know, quietly started singing inappropriate lyrics that are stuck in my head  (one of my most common ones is from Rent’s La Vie Boheme: “To sodomy, it’s between God and me, to S&M!” Just right out loud. At Safeway. In the soup aisle.)

Usually, though, my slip-ups don’t feature religion or sexual practices, but they are just normal, off-the topic stuff.

Like today.

Caller: Hello, I need to see if you have a book.
Me: Sure, what’s the title?
Caller: Awakening by Matthew Bolton. It’s about a paraplegic.
Me: Okay, not finding that, but I do have Awakening by an S.J. Bolton; it’s a mystery.
Caller: It is a mystery.
Me: Oh, good, could this be it?
Caller: No,  it’s a mystery because I thought his name was Matthew.
Me: (polite laugh) Oh, I see. Okay, may I read you the rest?
Caller: Sure.
Me: Awakening by Wendi Corsi Staub, Awakening by Robin Wasserman, Awakening by –that’s weird– Kate Austin.
Caller: That is weird.
Me: Sorry, I just…
Caller: No, it is! Lost! You’re a Lostie too. We’re lost.
Me: (real laugh) Yeah, sorry, but weird. Of course, it’s a romance.
Caller: That’s funny!
Me: Okay, any of these?
Caller: No… (still laughing)
Me: I’ll check Amazon. I’m searching “Matthew” and “Awaken” to get all– Whoa.
Caller: What? Did you find it?
Me: (pause) Not exactly. (another pause) I’m  not finding it. Do you think you could get a little more information and call us back?
Caller: (quietly, like she knew what I saw) Sure.
click.

This, my Losties, is what came up on Amazon. Gave me the freaking chills. Unless it was a set up. In which case, whoever you are, you’re mean.

Daddy issues...

Dharma Cupcakes

My friend Cristine is an amazing cooker. I know that makes her sound like a big pot, but she is, indeed, a lady. She cooks and bakes and makes and blogs about it and recently, she opened up her blog (which is amazing food porn) to guest bloggers and ta-da!…  I think of last weekend’s SNL sketch where my fave fellow University of Arizona alum, Kristen Wiig (take that Greg Kinnear and Craig T. Nelson!), dressed in 1930’s glam, is at a dinner party and keeps repeating “Don’t make me siiiing.”

Well, don’t make me post. (‘Cuz you know I’m gonna.)

Here is my entry for Cris’s cooking blog. My endeavor satisfied a feisty itch to get back into the kitch and I am oh-so-glad I did it.

The Dharma Cupcake’s story is a lovely one. I found myself on the cusp of my Lost Final Season Premiere Party searching for trifle recipes that would be 1) quick and easy 2) have a fruity, island theme, and 3) go well with graham crackers because the latter I planned on crumbling into a fine sand atop the trifle so that I could crash a doctored model airplane on top of it.  Foam Oceanic Flight 815 in hand, I browsed my way into 17andbaking.com and my world changed. Dramatic, yes, but hang on.

The girl is seventeen and, well, baking (read her story on her blog). In one of her recipes, she pays tribute to the all-American Hostess cupcake by adding something just as American to the mix: caffeine.

Alarm bells rang as I immediately removed the iconic Hostess swirlies in my mind’s eye and replaced them with perfect Dharma Initiative logos in espresso-spiked frosting. My dessert dilemma was over. We would have Lost cupcakes!

Now, artistic people should always challenge themselves technically as well as creatively in order to maintain their skills. I can boast that, since toddlerhood, I’ve known my way around a crayon and now have decent strengths in acrylics, ink and pencils stolen, er, borrowed from favorite sushi restaurants. I can draw a straight line like nobody’s business.

Enter piping. Is that what it’s called in The Biz? When you squeeze luxurious sugar crème from a bag, through a metal opening and onto a scrumptious treat? (Did I mention these were mini cupcakes? Holy carpal tunnel, Batman!). Yeah, I’m awful at it. There’s definitely room for improvement here.

But do you want to know the best part? They could look like rubbish and they would still be d e l e c t a b l e.

That being said, I introduce the Dharma Cupcake (I renamed it for my own tv-holic purposes). Imagine this: espresso-choco airy cake filled with espresso-sugar frosting, covered in bittersweet ganache and decorated with even more espresso-sugar frosting. All in the span of one itsy bitsy bite. Critics of sweetness will find that it is not overpowering, but delicate, yet adult in its coffee essence.

I am a fan. I will be making them again and again because I will overcome my shaky piping hand. Until then, I am fine with messing up because licking that rogue frosting is not the worst thing in the world.

Notes: I did find that the recipes for both the frosting and the ganache yielded a bit too much product, while the cake batter yielded the perfect amount.  I also found that filling the mini cupcake liners ¾-full was more effective. Bon appétit!

Recipe can be found here.