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.

Amy Sedaris and the Cupcake Makeover (Or How to Make Amy Sedaris’ Cupcakes)

Amy Sedaris makes me laugh. But can she make my mouth water? Oh, come on! I didn’t mean it that way!

When I heard people raving about Amy Sedaris’ cupcakes I had to know what the hype was all about. So did my mother. We both made them this week. And we both thought they were worthy of a second bakery date, but they might not be our new bakery boyfriend.

If you’re the sort of person who is accustomed to cake mixes and this is your first foray into truly homemade cake, then you will probably be much more impressed than we were. Given that my mother and I categorically despise cake mixes and absolutely refuse to use them, I was not entirely surprised that our inner bakery snobs basically had the same reaction to the recipe.

They’re the sort of cupcake boyfriend that needs a major makeover. Like, these cupcakes are tall enough and smart enough so the fundamentals are strong, but you’ll need to overhaul their wardrobe, trade in their car for something cooler, and just basically throw out all of their shoes. In cupcake terms that means slathering them with a fruit frosting, adding vanilla bean to the batter, or filling them with a surprise in the center.

I decided to go the strawberry compote surprise in the center route, and that made a HUGE difference. Once I did that I actually sort of loved them. (Are you listening LA men? I might be willing to make out with you if you buy a chainsaw, toss your skinny jeans, and learn how to drive a car with a manual transmission. K?)

Where was I?

Making out… with cupcakes?

Oh, right. Amy Sedaris.

And her recipe. It makes 24, and you should probably give it a shot even though I’ve been kind of critical. If you do make them, I’d love to know what you think.

Oh, and here’s how I filled the cupcakes with compote.

I started off with this Wilton 230 tip.

Then I stuck the tip into the cupcake and squeezed the pastry bag. It was fun. True story.

I made owl cupcakes and Shark Week-inspired Shark Attack cupcakes out of the cupcakes. More on that later.