Birthday Girl Betsey Johnson Shows Me Up (Or It’s Time to Do the Splits)

I’m not exactly sure when it started, but there’s been this running thing for years where my friends judge whether or not we’re old by my ability to do a back bend at my birthday party. For those of you not acquainted with this kind of idiocy, here’s a mental picture: from a standing position I lean back and touch my hand to the floor while making a bridge with my body. Some years I touch both hands to the ground, achieving a full Urdhva Dhanurasana.

Other years, I just put one hand down and keep the other arm stretched toward the sky. Either version counts as long as both feet are on the ground and I get into this contortion from a standing position. I think maybe it’s cheating now that I’m all certified to teach yoga and whatnot because backbends are a pretty common practice for yogis. Doing such things in heels, though, is not a common yoga practice, so I guess maybe it’s still an acceptable test.

This pose? Was not meant to be done in heels. Photo Courtesy of Kathlynn Diary

This year I was feeling all proud of myself because I managed a rather epic backbend in a bikini. Well, that is until I saw fellow birthday girl Betsey Johnson (who turned 70 the week after my birthday), do the splits in the middle of the shoe section at Nordstrom.

I dare you to do the splits in the mall like Betsey.

See, Betsey was at The Grove (a Disney Land-like mall, complete with a trolley and hoards of irritating tourists) to unveil a new shoe commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the mall’s opening.

This is the Anniversary Shoe Situation from Betsey Johnson.

I absolutely adore her, so when I read that she was going to be at The Grove, I got all dressed up in a vintage Betsey ensemble, broke my rule about avoiding the place on a weekend, and braved the tourists for a chance to see her.

I mean I have been wearing her designs since high school! Her dresses line my closet, her bras, bikinis, and jammies fill my drawers. And her shoes? Let’s just say I have a lot of those as well. Oh, and don’t get me started on my Betsey jewelry collection. It’s a little obscene. And it involves bejeweled deer heads. For real.

So anyway, now I feel like it’s time to really step up my game. She’s 70. And she can do the splits. Challenge accepted. (Yes, I’m actually that competitive. Besides, I used to be able to do the splits, so it’s high time I get back to business on that.)

Anyway, I didn’t get super fabulous shots of her, but I did have a good excuse to break out one of my favorite ensembles and wear it to the mall, so there was that.

Here’s Betsey talking telephone bags and meeting her fans. I’m really glad I got the boom mic in the shot. #PhotoFail

Here I am in Betsey at the Eclipse Premiere. See? Photographic evidence she’s my girl.

I mean who doesn’t want to walk around the mall in 4″ heels and browse Sur la Table with a bejeweled tea set hanging from her wrist?

I bought this bracelet for Carlton Cuse’s birthday party back in the day. It’s in heavy rotation on my person. Because every girl needs a pink tea set hanging from her wrist.

And now I’m working on the splits. I need to stretch out my hip flexors anyway. They’re super tight from hiking and sitting in traffic. To ease my way into the splits, I’m going to add a lot of King Arthur, Natarajasana, and Supta virasana to my (somewhat half assed) home practice because they all stretch your hip flexors. (Flexibility with my hamstrings isn’t keeping me from doing the splits, but I should probably give them a little love too.)

Oh, and BTW, don’t take this as actual advice from a real yogi or anything because I do backbends while dancing. In heels. I may have completed 500 hours of teacher training, but I’m still kind of an idiot driven by adrenaline and hubris, and I’m known to do many ill-advised things when dared to do so. If you’re new to yoga, you should totally find a studio with smart, safe sequencing and don’t be dumb like me. (I recommend YogaWorks for a solid foundation.)

You know what else I’m working on – other than the splits? Cupcake decorating. You can check out my sharks here and my owls here.

And now, I’m going to crank up David Guetta and Kelly Rowland’s Commander and start making dinner. I’m trying to master the pollo con rajas burrito I adore from Las Fuentes. (It makes magic in my mouth.) When I do, I’ll hook you up with the recipe.

I Celebrate Shark Week (Or How to Make Shark Cupcakes)

Check out my shark week action.

It’s time to talk about sharks. Why? Because it’s Shark Week! And also ‘cuz I LOVE them. Like, you have no idea. For as long as I can remember, I wrote research papers about sharks. I mean, I wrote manifestos about conservation. When I was ten.

See, I saw Jaws 3 in 3-D before starting kindergarten and while some might say that was a serious error in parental judgment, I disagree.

The things that are wrong with me?

They weren’t caused by a rouge Carcharodon carcharias eating people at Sea World.

I promise.

So, anyway, Jaws 3 was a decisive moment in my childhood. Not because the movie was any good, mind you, but because it probably began my fascination with the Great White and sharks in general. As we settled into our seats with buckets of buttery popcorn, my 3-D glasses, slid off of my face. They did so repeatedly until my mom used my bobby pins to secure the glasses to the sides of my little head. Once we got that situation settled, I was riveted as severed legs floated toward my face and Louis Gossett, Jr. went running around Sea World shouting and shit.

It wasn’t just Jaws 3. It was everything Jaws. I read the Benchley book when I was 10. And I put the first two movies in a steady rotation during much of my childhood. I also devoured all of the information I could find on sharks.

When I was 16, I visited Washington, D.C. for a student government forum. I stood up and started grilling some political official (I can’t remember his title now — ocean something) about his stance on shark finning in front of about 200 people. (Everyone called me “Shark Girl” for the rest of the week. True story.)

And my dog? Apparently, he likes sharks too.

So, anyway, you get it. Sharks are my thing. And Shark Week speaks to my soul.

To celebrate this magical week and the majestic apex predator I adore, I made shark cupcakes.

I found inspiration in a few places. First of all, I got the idea to fill them with strawberry compote from this post on Cupcakes and Cashmere. The actual sharks themselves were inspired by Hello, Cupcake!. I didn’t exactly follow the directions because I didn’t want to buy fruit roll ups, miniature chocolate chips, or chocolate wafers, so I improvised a bit.

Here’s how I did it.

I put the Twinkies in the freezer for a while to make them easier to cut.

And for the fins? I opted for Trader Joe’s Maple Leaf Cookies. I sliced them like this.

Then I created a pointy end I could stick into the Twinkie shark for stability. Oh, and I also scraped the leaf pattern off of the other side of the cookie with my Shun Santoku knife.

I attached the Twinkie sharks to the cupcakes with some frosting. I sliced a small slit into the Twinkie and inserted the cookie fin.

Then I put the cupcakes in the freezer for about 10 minutes.

Next, I heated up the gray frosting for a few seconds in the microwave (on the defrost setting) so that the frosting was runny enough to pour over the sharks. (Hello, Cupcake! recommends dipping the sharks, but I did not find that as effective as pouring the frosting over them with a spoon.)

If you end up with excess frosting on the cupcake, you can scrape it off after it freezes.

After I covered the sharks (and the fins) in frosting, I put them in the freezer until the frosting hardened.

After the frosting had hardened, I put on a little Frank Ocean and decorated those fabulous fish. Hello, Cupcake! recommends using fruit roll ups for the mouths and small chocolate chips for the eyes, but I didn’t feel like buying those things so I just improvised with frosting. It’s totally worth buying the book, though, because they have SO many amazing ideas. Plus it’s like $11 on Amazon. Total bargain.

After decorating the sharks, I put them in the fridge for a while so everything hardened properly.

Then I pretty much dove in head first. And devoured them.

I used Amy Sedaris’ recipe for the cupcakes, but I made my own cream cheese frosting. (I did use a butter cream for the gray frosting, though, because I wasn’t sure how well the cream cheese frosting would melt.)

Soon I’ll hook you up with the owl cupcake tutorial. Remember those? From the baby shower that didn’t happen because my birthday buddy decided to arrive early?

I made the cupcakes anyway… for fun.

But now? It’s time for my other love: NFL pre season football.

I Dedicate This to Bumpa (Or I am Grateful to Receive the One Lovely Blog Award)

I am one of those terrible people who sometimes checks her phone while hiking. It should be a sin when one is among trees to consult a miniature computer, but sometimes it beckons from the pocket of one’s purse and it must be consulted so that the racket will stop.

Yesterday it was beastly hot by LA standards and it was actually even a bit humid. It was almost humid enough to make me happy, but not really. See, when you live in the desert and it wreaks all kinds of havoc on your dry hair and skin you, too, will wish for moisture in the air. And those of you who are enduring 107 degree heat with 99% humidity, I would feel sympathy for you except that your mortgages are less than my rent and the men in your state wear baseball caps instead of fedoras.

So anyway, I was having this weird hike in Griffith Park, keeping to the shady parts so my dogs didn’t die of heatstroke and whatnot. There were these two old Asian ladies singing songs at a picnic table for no apparent reason, Albus was trying to pounce on tiny lizards, Woodley was straggling behind sniffing for squirrels and other prey, and there was basically all kinds of chaos everywhere. Meanwhile, my phone was making the mail sound.

I checked it and, lo, it brought glad tidings of a blogging award! There I was among the majestic trees feeling all humbled and proud to learn that I had received the One Lovely Blog Award. Seriously, thank you Kenley of Beyond the Green Door! You are like my young Fairy Blog Mother with the Awards! I adore you!

Now I am supposed to tell you seven things about myself and nominate other bloggers. Since I am terrible at following rules I haven’t personally made up, I am going to start by telling you eight things about myself.

So here it goes:

1) I would die without music.

Here I am DJing in diapers and basically being fat.

My momma raised me on Motown. Marvin GayeAretha, and the Four Tops were the soundtracks of my childhood.

Here we are with her older sister being fabulous hippie types in the grass.

Her little sister contributed a bit of Barry White, Miles Davis, and Arthur Prysock to my musical education.

My mom’s little sister introduced me to great music and gave me my first Cuisinart.

And her baby brother rounded it out by covering Patsy Cline and the blues.

My uncle’s dog, Decca, was named after Patsy Cline’s recording label. Patsy and Decca were amazing.

All of us can trace our love of music and our brown eyes back to the Patron Saint Everything Tremendous, my Bumpa, Harold Lawrence Russell. (I couldn’t say Grandpa when I was little, and the Bumpa bit just stuck.) He taught us to love darts, dancing, and the better things in life, like cocktail hour. He is my hero, and both of my dogs are basically named after him.

Woodley Russell and Professor Albus Lawrence sit nicely for biscuits in Coldwater Canyon Park.

2) Speaking of which, I have always loved dogs.

Here I am in Athens, Georgia with my cousin, Abbott. He would later sail to St. Croix on a tiny sailboat with our Bumpa because his mommy and daddy were moving there to study coral reefs at the NOAA Hydrolab.

3) I worked in the writers’ office of LOST for seasons 3 and 4, and Carlton Cuse is hands down my favorite boss ever. He is funny, smart, talented, and a true mentor in every sense of the word. (I’m super excited about his new show, Bates Motel, on A&E. You should be too. You should also read his article about college sports here.)

My old LOST office in Bungalow 23. Note: we were NOT in Honolulu. The writers’ office was on the Disney lot neighboring “What About Brian?” instead of the beach.

I wore my NOAA Hydrolab shirt into the office during the writing of the Hydra Station episodes because it seemed like the right thing to do.

Hurricane Hugo destroyed my uncle’s lab in 1989. This shirt is a collectors’ item now or something, but I wear it to bed.

4) I psychotically LOVE football.

I am a Green Bay Packers fan because my dad grew up in a super remote part of Michigan that is actually connected to Wisconsin.

Here the Kohon cousins are keeping it classy in a fine establishment called The Rusty Saw Blade Bar. What else?

My true love is college football, though, and the Wolverines are my second religion, you know, after the Presbyterian part.

Only my friend Melissa wears a cashmere Hermes hat to the Big House. I love Melissa.

5) I quit being premed when I had about six credits left and decided to get my MFA in film producing from USC instead.

Because THIS:

is more fun than THIS:

6) There is a road called Kohon Road in Michigan. It’s not one of those coincidences — it’s actually named after my dad’s parents. It’s very weird putting your own name into the GPS. Truth.

Here I am on the side of a highway posing with a sign. It’s not weird… honest.

7) I love absolutely everything about trees.

Sitting in them.

There may be some truly questionable parenting at work here… because this limb? It’s nowhere near the ground. (Just kidding mom and dad.)

Planting them.

Bumpa planted a tree for each of his grandchildren at our cottage. This is my blue spruce as a baby — and also me as a baby.

Decorating them.

Here’s my Bumpa bringing me a Christmas tree.

Hauling them.

Here I am being an amazing helper. I exceed at helping Bumpa.

30 years later, still hauling…

And burning them.

We could sit by a fire absolutely for hours. It’s one of the few things that actually made us sit still.

We lost him in October of 2010, and nothing will ever be the same again. Ever.

I stenciled trees on my hallway wall in remembrance of him.

My birch trees are the first thing I see when I come home.

8) I spoke on behalf of the family at his funeral, and I still don’t know how I did it without crying what with Danny Boy being played in the church and all.

A year later we gathered to plant trees and scatter my Bumpa’s ashes at the cottage. We popped the bubbly and toasted the man who made all of our lives happier, richer, and so much more fun by being by our sides.

I would like to dedicate the One Lovely Blog award to him because I would not have returned to writing if it were not for his courage, his faith, and the legacy his integrity left behind, but that’s a long story for another time.

So now, I’m supposed to nominate 15 other blogs, and it’s not that I don’t want to follow the rules, but I want to be truly heartfelt today. I’m still new to blogging and I’m slowly amassing a list of blogs I love. These are the four blogs I adore right now, and I want you to read them. They speak to my soul and stuff.

But before you do that, you should listen to In the Mood by Glenn Miller because it’s a happy kind of song, it was my Bumpa’s favorite, and it’s good for dancing in your living room during cocktail hour. Even if your only dance partner is your dogs.

Peppermint Bliss. I discovered Bailey’s blog because her home was featured in a Design Sponge tour, and it was quite possibly the most amazing home tour I have ever seen. Never have I pinned more photos from a single spread. Ever. Her playful, colorful, yet sophisticated style epitomizes the aesthetic I aspire to create for myself. Plus she’s really funny, she’s a talented designer, and she has a Cocker Spaniel. You must check out her blog. She has a fresh voice, which is more rare than you might think in the blog space.

Living Luxe for Less Bucks. Sarah is hysterically funny. You will laugh at her anecdotes about ugly undies and awkward body waxing incidents, but you’ll also learn lots of money saving tips on her blog. She has not let her kidney transplant limit her life or dim her spirit. You should know about her. She’s truly one of a kind. Her courage, individuality, and beautiful spirit come through in her writing.

LindO Designs. Angela is a gifted architect and artist. She transforms furniture, knows how to install her own chandeliers, and she’s doing all of this while running a business and running after a miniature Michigan football player in waiting. (No, really.) In addition to her furniture business, she also has a prop company. She’s presently doing fabulous things involving Dr. Seuss for her prop company. I mean, who doesn’t love Truffula Trees?

Dirty Centaur Pictures. John is beyond funny. Last year, he and his writing partner wrote a web series that I produced for a compact car company that will remain nameless for a whole host of reasons. It was absolutely the most fun I have ever had at any job ever. You need to know about John because we all need more laughter in our lives.