Blast the Billy Ocean and Create (Or Carrot Cupcakes for Noah)

Guys, it’s time for my Billy Ocean Pandora station. I can’t wallow anymore. I’m no good to anyone — particularly myself — if I’m wallowing.

Sure it’s important to feel your feelings. And yeah we need to acknowledge loss and embrace the sadness, but we also have to pick ourselves up and do our damn dishes… get off our couches and dance in our kitchens.

Tuesday and Wednesday seriously sucked. I’m not going to lie. I cried. So much. I still made myself go to yoga, church, business meetings and whatnot. But between those things? I cried. So much, in fact, that I could hardly wear my contacts because I screwed up the ph of my eyes. So I decided to start Thursday by hiking with my long lost Suzie who is finally back from Iran. Determined to stay in a good place, I’m now blasting Billy Ocean and blogging.

See, Billy Ocean makes me smile — and Suzie inspired me to create. Because she’s brilliant, she pointed out the importance of creating instead of consuming. (Creating has transformative potential for our souls and stuff.) So I’m doing that. I’m creating… this blog post.

Ta da!

And in this blog post? I’m giving you the inspiration to create carrot cupcakes. I made them for Noah’s memorial because my mom couldn’t find cupcakes she liked anywhere in East Lansing.

People loved them and stuff.

Carrot cupcakes from Dogs Dishes and Decor #carrot #cupcakes #fall

Oh, and for further inspiration, here’s the Billy Ocean song that’s making me smile today.

Crank it up and bake yourself some carrot cupcakes. Put frosting all over the pain and then give it all away. And by “all” I mean the pain and the baked goods; there’s no sense in getting fat because bad things are happening.

Just saying…

Noah’s Carrot Cupcakes

2 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
2 C sugar
1 1/2 C vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 C crushed pineapple, drained
2 C finely grated carrots
1 C shredded coconut
1 C chopped walnuts
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350.

Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into a mixing bowl. Set aside. Beat the sugar, oil, and eggs together in a mixing bowl. Gradually add the flour mixture. Fold in the pineapple, carrots, coconut, and walnuts. Stir in the vanilla.  Bake for 18-20 minutes.

Allow the cupcakes to cool completely and top them with cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8-oz package of cream cheese, softened
1/2 C butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 C confectioners’ sugar (or to desired consistency)

Beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, beating until smooth.

The recipe makes about 24 cupcakes, so you’ll have a lot to give away.

Don’t Give Up (Or Sometimes It’s OK to Vandalize the Kinkos Bathroom)

So I really want to wallow in self-pity today, but I’m not going to do it. I’m back in LA after a trip to Michigan, and now I’m experiencing some sort of post travel hangover.

You know, the kind that makes you want to get in the car again?

To go somewhere. Anywhere. Just so you don’t have to be in your own home facing your life again.

Because I kind of resemble a responsible adult, I’m not allowing myself to do that any more than I’m going to be all gloomy today.

See, my mother’s siblings and I went back to Michigan to celebrate my grandmother’s 86th birthday last week. While it was wonderful to be with my family, my grandfather passed away the day before her birthday two years ago, so the annual trip is always a bit bittersweet. I’ve allowed myself some time to be sad — and to celebrate with my family — and now it’s time to get back to business. This means blogging, setting calls, dusting around the TV, and other sorts of tedious activities. Well, not that blogging is totally tedious. I quite like it, actually.

I just find it hard to be all perky and witty when I’m not feeling it, but I guess life is about doing things even when you’re not feeling it sometimes. It’s about swinging at another pitch when your arms are aching. Getting out of bed when your heart is breaking. Walking another mile when your blisters burst two miles back. It’s about not giving up.

And sometimes, when you aren’t sure you can stand it another moment, someone else gives you the motivation.

I came across this graffiti in the Kinkos bathroom when I was having a bad day, and I was sort of glad someone had defaced the place with a Sharpie because I needed motivation. I also needed the reminder today when I wanted to crawl back in bed with the third Hunger Games book and avoid my life.

So, I’m going to be an adult today.

This means I’m going to turn off sad songs by The xx and blast the Billy Ocean so I can write my long overdue Foodie Pen Pal Reveal Post. I’m going to be an adult today.

Hell, I might even dust.

Carbs Fix Everything (Or How to Make Simple Fruit Cobbler)

Red, White, and Blue Berry Cobbler for the New Miss America

Yesterday afternoon I was convinced I’d discovered a level of despair that went beyond Billy Ocean’s ability to heal. I tried Loverboy. Caribbean Queen. AND When the Going Gets Tough. But still I moped. Beyond Billy Ocean? What’s beyond Billy Ocean?

Barry White?

Nope. He didn’t help either. Somehow I was immune to his bass and all of those happy strings. It was unprecendented. Prince’s Batdance almost fixed the situation, but not quite. Still I moped. Then I ate a few fists full of truffle popcorn and a bunch of fruit leather. And I was fine. It turns out my murderous sulking was just low blood sugar.

My friend Melissa will tell you about my low blood sugar-induced dark side. On outings to Fred Segal I could go from the cheerleader in the dressing room to a crabby, miserable monster who hated her thighs, her elbows, and the lighting in the store within minutes. She’d send me off to suck down a lemonade from the cafe and soon the monstrous, gray world would be back in Technicolor. I’d still hate my thighs, but maybe a little less.

So, anyway, after I was cured by the healing power of carbohydrates, I set about finding the right red, white, and blue confection to make for my friend, Suzie. See, Suzie is becoming an American this week, and I want to make a proper patriotic-looking dessert to commerate the occasion. She is one of my first LA friends, and I’m attending her oath ceremony at the courthouse downtown.

After serious deliberation, I ultimately decided to go with an old family recipe for fruit cobbler. It’s simple, it’s delicious, and it works with any combination of fruit. I selected strawberries and blueberries to give it a red, white, and blue flair. The recipe is below.

Enjoy!

Fruit Cobbler

1 stick of unsalted butter
1 C flour
2 tsp baking power
1 C sugar
pinch of salt (a little less than 1/8 tsp)
1 C whole milk
3 C fresh fruit

Preheat the oven to 350. Mix together flour, baking power, sugar, and salt. Add milk and stir until blended. Melt the butter in a 9″ square pan. Pour the batter over the butter. Arrange fruit over the top.

At this stage the cobbler will just look like a muddled mess.

Bake for 45-50 minutes.

Here I am downtown with the new Miss America. And her Cobbler.

Bread and Billy Ocean Make me Happy (Or How to Bake Bread from Scratch)

My mood rises with the yeast while baking homemade bread. True story.

The dogs and I live east of Lassie’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. We border the beautiful homes in the Hollywood Hills to the north and incredible poverty to the south. Our neighborhood just might be a metaphor for LA, which is simultaneously a city of meteoric rises and epic devastation.

A graffiti artist has drawn his own “stars” on our sidewalk. They include “Greed,” “Silicone,” and “Cocaine,” among others. This city can really prey upon you if you don’t remember where you came from or what matters most. If you’re not vigilant, the so-called city of angels will bring you to your knees. Now, I’m sure there are other cities that are much the same, but this is the one I know.

If you have time management issues, the erratic traffic patterns caused by unexpected street closures, massive accidents, and mudslides will make you late for meetings no matter how hard you try to be on time.

If you covet other people’s possessions, you’ll see more glitz, glamour, and couture in one afternoon at the grocery store than an entire month on Pinterest.

Have issues with your appearance? You’ll be competing with Angelina Jolie to find a date for Friday night. (Well, maybe not Angie anymore because she’s busy with Brad or whatever, but you get the point.)

You’ll see the wealth and beauty, but you’ll also see the poverty and the pain. You’ll get to know the old lady picking through the recycling bins, looking for bottles she can return. You’ll meet the unemployed, uninsured man with cancer who panhandles at your freeway exit. You’ll talk to the blind gardener who is struggling to make a living. It’s all here, and it’s enough to break your heart if you’re paying attention.

Because I’m out walking the dogs every day, I see a lot. And I just can’t close my eyes and pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s not lost on me that some of the sad things I see regularly are all happening beneath the shadow of the huge Hollywood Sign looming overhead.

When I’m feeling extra sorry for myself for some trivial reason, I go out and do something nice for someone else. Nothing cures a bad mood like kindness – or a little Billy Ocean. Seriously, I dare anyone to savor a bad mood while listening to License to Chill. (Go ahead, try it. It’s impossible.)

So, anyway, last week I was mopey and needed a little bit of happiness in my life, so I broke out my mother’s homemade bread recipe and cranked up the Billy in my kitchen.

The recipe makes two loaves, and as much as I loooove bread, I was never going to eat it all. So, there I was with like two monstrous loaves of homemade bread. Rather than wiping out half of the available real estate in my tiny freezer, I decided to share it with some of my neighborhood buddies.

First, I took a few slices to Jerry up the street. Jerry sits in his walker on the sidewalk every afternoon wearing pajamas and purple sunglasses. He knows everyone in the neighborhood who stops to take the time for him. Some Friday nights the dogs and I sit on his steps and he has me look up World Series stats from the 1940’s on my iPhone, and the causes of death of all of the Hollywood greats. (I dig Jerry.)

“Did you bring your computer?” He’ll ask, and we find out what killed Gloria Swanson or who scored the winning run in the 1941 World Series.

Even though Jerry is not hungry or poor, he lives alone and he doesn’t have anyone to bake him bread.

I also brought a few slices to our new friend, Dan. Dan is in a wheelchair and lives in a Winnebago a few blocks away with his white Boxer puppy, General. We first met Dan and General because Albus simply had to stop and play with the tiny puppy tied to the door of the rusty old rig. (Even Woodley was nice to General, which was nothing short of a miracle.) He’s a sweet, skinny little pup, so we also brought him a bone and some dog food samples from the pet store up the street. Dan invited us back any time, so we’re going to make him our version of Stouffer’s veggie lasagna later this week. The Roos have also promised to share their homemade doggie popcicles with General. (I’ll post the recipe for both later.)

So, this is my life and the city I call home. I’m not telling these stories so people will pat me on the back. It’s just where I am at the moment, and I’m doing my best to make the most of it. So there you have it.

If you want to bake my mother’s bread, the recipe is below.

Like I said, it makes a lot. You can certainly eat it all. Or you can share it. It tastes good either way.

My Great Aunt Betty was a nightclub singer and a painter. When she passed away at 100 years of age, I inherited some of her linens (and her paintings). The bread is doing its thing under one of her pretty towels here.

My Mummy’s Brown Bread Recipe

1/4 cup, plus 1 Tablespoon honey, room temperature
2 Tablespoons yeast
3 Cup warm water, divided
1/4 Cup oil, room temperature
1 Tablespoon salt
1 egg, room temperature
1/4 Cup molasses, room temperature
4 cups whole wheat flour
4 ½ C of all purpose flour, divided

Mix together 1 tablespoon of honey, yeast, and ½ C of warm water. Let stand for 10 min.

In a separate bowl, mix together 2 1/2 cups of warm water, oil, salt, ¼ C of honey, egg, and molasses.

Combine the yeast mixture with the egg and molasses mixture. Add 4 C of whole wheat flour and mix for 7 – 10 minutes. Stir in 3 cups of all-purpose flour. Knead in 1 more cup of all-purpose flour.

Cover and let rise one hour. Punch down and knead again (with 1/4 cup flour). Divide into balls, cover, and let rest 10 minutes. Knead again (with an additional 1/4 cup flour). Shape into 2 or 3 loaves and put in pans greased with butter. Let the loaves rise for 30 minutes or until almost double in size.

Place the loaves in a cold oven. Set the oven temperature to 400 degrees and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 350 and bake for 20-30 minutes. (If you are using glass pans, set your oven temperature at 375 and 325 instead.)

Slice. Slather with butter. Smile.