Keep Swinging, Cupcake (Or I’m Coping)

I leave for Michigan in three days. During the seven days I’ll spend with my family we’ll say goodbye to my 31-year old stepbrother and celebrate my grandmother’s 87th.

I’m making cupcakes for both occasions. Carrot for Noah’s memorial. And lemon for my grandma’s birthday.

I have to admit it took me a long time to pick out the appropriate cupcake liners this morning. After basically swapping life stories with sweet Ben at Sur la Table, I selected these for Noah.

Fall cupcake liners from Sur la Table on Dogs Dishes and Decor

They seemed right somehow.

Then I did the thing I’ve been saying I’d do.

One way to cope with grief. Dogs Dishes and Decor

I went to the batting cages. By myself.

And I absolutely ripped about 60 softballs all over the Burbank Bat Cade. I can’t bring Noah back. I can’t ask for one more day so I’d have a chance to tell him I loved him. But I can keep swinging at life.

I can bake him cupcakes and hope he’s looking down from heaven smiling his big smile as he watches us eat them.

And maybe when I’m back? I’ll take up boxing…

‘cuz I’m gonna go one more round.

#love

There’s Bourbon in My Batter (Or How to Make Chocolate Bourbon Cupcakes with Caramel Bourbon Topping)

So, my blog basically went on hiatus when perky, fun, glue gun/glitter pen-loving Anika became serious, sad, OMG-everyone-is-dead Anika. Then that Anika got all mad.

Again?

Not fun.

Since November I’ve basically been a basket case. I’ve also been really busy, which doesn’t always leave a lot of room for baking, writing about baking, or just learning to BE. The last bit is the hardest for me, by the way. When you’re a DOer, learning to be still… and just BE?

Is murder.

So, anyway, I wrapped another producing project last week and our first episode went live today. Sorry for the self-promotion, but here it is.

Now that I’m not working 12-hour days, I have been crossing things off my personal to-do list like: schedule the massage I paid for five months ago, make an acupuncture appointment to deal with my two year-old IT band injury, and write a bloody blog post.

Today I’m finally getting around to the blog post part, and for my first post back, I thought I’d write about the seriously sinful cupcakes I made for my last day on the Acuvue show. The other producers and I shared a love of bourbon, so I commemorated my last day with some boozy cupcakes. I wanted to make something chocolatey with caramel and bourbon… and a little googling led me to this recipe.

Which led to these cupcakes.

Chocolate Bourbon Cupcakes with Bourbon Caramel Topping

You need to bake these things as fast as possible because the batter is dangerously delicious. Trust me. There was an incident involving my mouth and a large spoon.

Which then led to a few declarations of undying love. (Apparently people like their chocolate soaked in Maker’s Mark.)

The key to these cupcakes (or to any cupcake for that matter) is not to bake them as long as the recipe instructs. I always go for 2-4 minutes under the baking time and the cupcakes end up being much, much better. (You want them to be moist — with a few crumbs sticking to the tester.)

Later this week I’m mixing up some cocktails for poolside festivities so look out for some Skinny Margarita recipes and a cocktail with vodka and muddled peas.

Yup, you read that right. Vodka. With muddled peas.

Stay tuned for that mess.

Something to Smile About (Or I Accept the Liebster Award)

I just wanted to take a minute to thank all of for hanging in there while I turned Dogs Dishes and Decor into Dogs Dishes and Death for a minute.

You’re here for stories about sparkles, sprinkles, and glitter. Not sadness. Sorry about that.

It’s hard to switch gears from, “I’m so sad I want to smash things” to “Hey everyone, look at these super pretty Caitlin Wilson pillows!” Luckily, I don’t have to do that today.

See, Tracy of Bits N Pieces recently gave me the Liebster Award, and I’m really honored. So, instead of trying to make some awkward segue seem smooth, I can just say, “Thank you, Tracy.”

Seriously. Thank you.

The rules for accepting the Liebster Award can be found at the end of the post. Naturally I am breaking a bunch of them because I’m me, and well… I don’t do well with rules.

Eleven Facts about Me:

1. I had an eating disorder in college. My need to feed everyone and make them happy with food is my way of turning a painful obsession into something positive. The insidious thing about an eating disorder is that you can’t give up food like you can stop shooting heroine or huffing glue or whatever else people abuse. So dinner parties — and this blog — are about taking food back.

2. I think therapy is helpful… to a point. And then it’s time to move on. Nothing has been more profoundly healing for me than forgiveness. For real.

3. I think there are usually two sides to every story. Life is complicated. And sometimes it’s just a matter of shifting your perspective. Or changing your story if it doesn’t serve you. For example, I could look at my mother’s desire to redline my short stories and poems with editor’s notes as harsh and critical. Or I could look at it as someone who saw potential in me and wanted to make me better. Someone who took the time and cared enough to push me.

photo-364

I was not the Poet Laureate of Greenfield Parkway at 11, but this poem hung (proudly?) on the refrigerator with all of its editor’s notes.

4. I think life is about creating a dance floor where there wasn’t one before.

5. I don’t really like cupcakes. I just make them because other people love them and tell me I’m fabulous for making them. I do lots of things because I want people to tell me I’m fabulous. Who doesn’t? I’m human.

photo-366

I played cupcake fairy last weekend and delivered these to my friends just to say, “I love you.” Just ‘cuz.

6. People tell me things — like super personal things. All of the time. Strangers on hikes. Random guys on chairlifts. Coworkers. My sorority sisters. My family members. I know things I probably shouldn’t, but it’s probably because I believe we all need to let go of the shame associated with “shouldn’t.”

7. The first time I fell in love I was 15. It was a spectacular mess. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

photo-367

Love makes you do weird things. Like draw pictures of people.

8. I started another blog called This American Mess because I didn’t want Dogs Dishes and Decor to bring people down. I can’t shut my head off, so I needed to do something productive with the stuff that screams between my ears at all hours. (I’ve been an insomniac since I was four, but I’m not mad about it. Napoleon didn’t sleep much either, and we have the same personality. Or so says the Myers Briggs type indicator test.)

9. I always wanted brothers when I was little, so I tried to find them anywhere I could. For some reason I convinced the little boy next door to run away with me when we were four. We even told his mother about our plan before we carried it out, but she didn’t believe us. That was probably the last time either of our mothers failed to take us seriously. (He wrote his Harvard application essay about our adventure. He got in.)

photo-365

Family is what what you make of it. I have always tried to make my own everywhere I have gone.

10. Iron Eagle is one of my favorite movies of all time, and the producer used to call my office to speak to my boss when I worked on LOST. He passed away last year, and it’s a lasting regret of mine that I never told him how much I loved the movie. I really should have told him how much this scene speaks to me.

11. I went by Ana for a while in college because I was tired of people not being able to pronounce my name. Then I realized I wasn’t myself without a weird name, so I went back.

photo-368

This was the page I created for my sorority’s pledge book. I went overboard. Obviously.

Random Questions for the Nominees:

1. Tea or Coffee? COFFEE – espresso, actually.

2. Are you a morning person or an evening person? Both – I actually hate afternoons and think we should all embrace siestas.

3. What would be your ideal job? I’m doing it.

4. If you could do volunteer work, what would you choose to do? I used to be a sorority advisor at USC. Now I volunteer with the University of Michigan Alum Club.

5. What is your favorite sport to watch? Football

6. Are you a cat or dog lover or neither? Dog lover. I feel used by cats.

7.  Who is your favorite music artist? I can’t pick one, but my short list includes Yeasayer, My Morning Jacket, Beyonce, Rihanna, and U2 (up to and including Zooropa. I even forgive them for Zooropa. For real.)

8. Do you have a bucket list, if so, what is one thing on your bucket list? I do. And it includes cage diving with Great White sharks.

9. Do you like to eat seafood? LOVE – particularly when it’s raw.

10. What is your favorite food to eat? I live for burritos, sushi, pasta, and all kinds of pig. LOVE pig.

11. What is your favorite smell? Maybe lilac, gardenia or mint, hmm. Can’t decide.

My 11 Questions for the recipients:

1. Chocolate or vanilla?
2. Favorite books?
3. Favorite movies?
4. Favorite albums?
5. Best concert you’ve ever attended?
6. Favorite artist (painter/photographer)?
7. Biggest fear?
8. Who was your first kiss?
9. Are you facebook friends with him or her?
10. Last thing you ate?
11. First thing you do in the morning?

The (not 11) blogs I want to recognize:

LindO Designs – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Angela is seriously talented. You HAVE to check out her blog. And her Etsy store.

Hey Gorgeous – Not only does Rhiannon live in Michigan (give it up for the mitten state), but she creates some seriously lovely events. You MUST check out her blog. She glitters unicorns. I mean, really….

Peppermint Bliss – I haven’t missed a single post since I started reading Peppermint Bliss last year. In the rare event that Bailey takes a day off from posting, my life feels incomplete. She’s funny, and she is beyond talented. So beyond.

Yammie’s Noshery – It’s rare I make anything from another blog, and I make things from this one. For real. Besides, it’s delightfully written.

Cookin’ Canuck – Again, it’s pretty rare I find a recipe on a blog that makes me abandon my back issues of Bon Appetit, but Dara’s blog did it. Her fish soup is amazing. Make it.

Rules for accepting Liebster Award are:

1.      Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog and link back to the blogger who presented this award to you.
2.      List 11 random facts about yourself.
3.      Answer the 11 questions from the nominator.
4.      Present the Liebster Blog Award to 11 blogs who you feel deserve to be noticed.
5.      Create 11 questions for your nominees.
6.      Leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been chosen.
7.      Copy and Paste the blog award on your blog.