15 June 2006

No Organic Ingredients Were Harmed in the Baking of this Birthday Cake

No, the message on this cake is not written in a secret language created by Nicki and I when we lived together for four years. Inverted and below the shiny saran-wrap, the message says in "elegant" yellow-red letters, "Happy 28th Birthday Nicki!"

Last week while with my little friends Sami and Jo, we read the children's book, "The Bake Shop Ghost." The story follows a baker whose cakes are much loved. Upon her death, the baker returns to haunt her bake shop and its unworthy new inhabitants. One new baker finally takes on the ghost's challenge to bake a cake that will bring tears to her eyes. After a year of baking impressive but non-tear inducing cakes, the new baker discovers that the ghost's birthday is approaching. She bakes a birthday cake for the ghost and it brings tears to her eyes. Long story short - no one bakes birthday cakes for the baker.

Bake Shop Ghost

With Nicki's birthday approaching, this book struck a chord and I decided not to let my friend (who always bakes cakes on my birthday, and other yummy things year-round) go without a cake on her birthday. My first idea was to try to bake something really fancy and use every ounce of domestic energy I have been saving up all year on this one cake. But then, we all have our gifts, and baking is not mine - anyways, I still have two scars on my hand from the last time I baked (I burned myself baking Swedish rolls for the Chrismukkah party), and Nicki wouldn't want me to harm myself in the process of showing her I care ;-)

So I decided to bake the old-fashioned way, with a box mix. Now that's more like it! But this wasn't just any box mix, it was funfetti - the white cake has food coloring inside to make it colorful! Then I covered it with a jar of "fudge" frosting, topped it with sprinkles, decorated flowers with purple, green and yellow sugar gels and my birthday greeting and wa-lah! - the perfect birthday cake for my foodie friend who appreciates slumming it every once in awhile ;-)

Happy Birthday Nicki! In honor of your birthday I decided not to blog about how months ago you gave me gift suggestions to relay to your boyfriend if he was to perchance ask me for gift advice - and how he now thinks I am materialistic for pointing him towards the Coach and Tiffany websites.

13 June 2006

Family Weekend

My sister flew in from Long Beach last Friday. We planned to immediately get on the road and head North to the family in Redding, but we were sidetracked as usual.

The previous night, Nicki had forced me to purge my closet of all clothes I had not worn in six months. What a ridiculous idea, I thought - but looking into my now managably full closet, I realize she was right, I didn't need fifty tank tops (she actually counted once a few years back). But my sister and I constantly trade clothes as we shrink things and decide our style has changed- and on this Friday, my sister had a field day in the botique o' leah that covered my couch.

Then it was off to the Nordic House. What a gem in the middle of downtown Oakland. The Nordic House is south of the MacArthur and Telegraph intersection in Oakland - not exactly where you expect to find a store dedicated to providing the Scandinavian population of the Bay Area with swedish, danish and norweigian food and gift items. I had been given a mission, to purchase Vademakem (a Swedish mouthwash) for min mormor (swedish grandma), but a stop at the Nordic House always takes longer than expected - nostalgic memories of last summer and sad attempts to translate phrases printed on magnates ensue. By the time we left, we had the two sacred bottles of Vademakem, a few precious bags of gummy candies (they aren't called Swedish Fish for nothing), marsipan chocolates to be quickly consumed by me and my mom upon our arrival home, and a new licsence plate holder for my sister that reads, "Caution: Swedish Driver." My dad thought that last one was for my mom, and was disappointed we hadn't gotten one for her too - so it looks like the Nordic House hasn't seen the last of me yet.

Below is a picture of me and my sister looking a little ragged after a day of familial visitation and errands (I got new brakes for my car - and locked my keys in my car at the shop) . But despite our fatigue - and a strong food coma that set in after partaking of my dad's enchilladas - we made it to the (in)famous Sundial Bridge for a short after dinner stroll.

Despite the craziness that ensues when the whole family gets together (my eyebrows aren't weird, Marie! and I promise to consolidate my loan, Mom! and I will someday remember to check my oil and tires, Dad!) it was really hard to leave on Sunday evening. I miss you crazy people - even you Marie-bee!

12 June 2006

Thoreau Stole My Idea, and other long overdue musings

Summer has officially started since I last posted that beautiful picture of myself working at 3AM.

Breanne got married! We unfortunately haven’t seen each other too often in the past few years (but since she just moved to the Bay Area this will quickly be remedied) but there is something to be said for knowing someone throughout your childhood – before you are cognizant of image – before you are even remotely cool. At the reception I sat next to my fifth and seventh grade teachers who recalled how Breanne and I walked around elementary and middle school as two mismatched peas in a pod – with almost of foot of height difference between us. According to Tom (formerly known to me as Mr. A.) I was extremely shy and giggled a lot. In that moment I felt both how much, and how little, has changed. My shyness is not so debilitating these days, but I am still no natural extrovert. I may be socialite material after having imbibed a Redbull Vodka or two, but my innate (and sober) inclination leads me to create close knit groups of friends wherein I feel comfortable enough to be the “loud-and-obnoxious” Leah that lies dormant around unsuspecting acquaintances.

Speaking of “L-and-O” Leah – she has been MIA of late. Following one night of debauchery to signify the end of the climate conference, I have slipped into social-scene hibernation in favor of triathlon training and familial visitation. However, with trips to DC next month, Boston in the fall and football season just around the corner, I can assure you all that my inner socialite will re-emerge soon. Tom-tom and Havhad prove too powerful to stay on my best behavior.

Recent forays into the great outdoors have been invigorating but not satisfying. I was under the impression that for weekend warriors, the outdoor adventures that comprise Saturday and Sunday were supposed to propel you through the lulls of the workweek. Upon finishing our weekend trip to Tahoe last Sunday, John and Christian shared the sentiment that after such an adventurous weekend, they would be fine working in their offices for the next month. I have not found this to be the case. One taste of the outdoors, of active travel, and I am hooked – I want to read books about training for long bike rides, to make my dad teach me how to drive a boat, to go on long river trail walks with Danika, to learn how to start a fire without a Duraflame log – and I don’t want to go sit in my office from 8-5 Monday through Friday! There is nothing satisfying for me about the traveling and the outdoors – but it is overwhelmingly compelling and addicting. Funny, I feel the same way about reading academic history books. I made the mistake of visiting the library during my lunch hour last week – it was very hard to leave. If only I could combine the outdoors and my intellectual curiosity…damn, Thoreau stole my idea.