Hmmm … is there anything better than a sweet not-good-for-you-at-all treat? No. There is not. And lately I’ve gotten to sample some especially yummy treats. On the left, how about some cake pops? My friend Susan C. was the first person I knew who ever made cake balls. That was about two years ago, and now that everybody’s got them, I sort of think she invented them. And now we’ve gone on to cake pops — fun little round bites of moist cake dipped in candy coating and sprinkles that you don’t even have to get your fingers messy when you eat them. Our neighbor brought these over to us to thank Husband JP for bringing in her garbage can when she forgets — he’s thoughtful that way. And then, on the right, we have a box of Chattanooga’s Julie Darling Donuts. These are absolutely positively without-a-doubt the best doughnuts ever — with the possible exception of a hot just-glazed plain Krispy Kreme. I don’t know what’s in them that makes them so good but they are so good. I have to slice pieces off over the course of several days so I don’t just dive in. Julie Darling even showed me how good a true jelly doughnut can be. I never liked the usual version — a glop of tasteless gel-like colored stuff in the middle — but Julie Darling’s jellies are stuffed full of the real thing and the contrast of tart strawberry puree with the sweet icing and rich doughnut is simply … perfect.
Here’s one of the things I like about Christmas: Friends and family giving you presents that you never ever would buy for yourself. And by “you,” I mean me. And by “friends and family,” I mean the wacky gift givers I hang out with. Such as my dad, whose sense of humor somehow takes a creative turn during the holidays and he picks out and wraps up items such as … a box of cereal. Specifically, a box of Nature’s Path Organic Oaty Bites cereal that he thought I might like. Because he likes it. And the thing is, I do like it. But how my dad knew I would is beyond me, because whenever I visit my mom and dad, I usually have toast or muffins or cinnamon rolls or something equally warm and yummy. But this cereal is crunchy and slightly sweet and slightly nutty and good for you. Thanks, Dad. You still know best. Then my brother and sister-in-law who live in Chattanooga gave me something I’d been entirely ignorant of but which I now find out is something everybody in the whole world knew about except for me: Wine-bottle candelabras. You save your cool bottles and then put this candelabra in one and light the candles and you’ve got instant wine-bottle chic. Plus, my bro and sis-in-law ordered mine from Sundance – one of their favorite places to shop — and whenever I’m lucky enough get something from Sundance I always imagine that Robert Redford himself packed it. It could happen!
Oh, yes! You know that any eatery that can boast this espresso maker jumps to the top of my list — and Aretha Frankensteins in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is now one of my new favorite spots. Younger Daughter, who lives and works in Chattanooga now, kept promising that I would love this restaurant and she was so right. This funky spot is in the city’s cool NorthShore area, which is full of the hip and the hungry. Well, not hungry after they’ve been to Aretha Frankensteins, home of the biggest, most filling and most declious pancakes ever. EVER. Even Rachael Ray says so. So there. And there’s all sorts of other yummy things for all-day eating, from breakfast to late-night noshing. You have to be patient, though, YD warned, as we walked up the winding stairs. And she was right again. Because you see the shot above, on the right? You see the bar and a couple of tables in the shot on the right? Add in about maybe three or four more tables, constant coffee takeout traffic, a usual line out the door and one server — and you’ve got Aretha Frankensteins. In good weather folks can eat outside and enjoy the NorthShore neighborhood vibe. You’ve got to go. Just don’t be in a hurry. And, really, isn’t that a good thing?
Have I told y’all that I’ve got a new job? Well, I use the term “job” loosely because it’s really just fun that I get paid for. And I’m using the phrase “get paid for” loosely, too. I’m the new marketing director for a local arts association that oversees an art museum and a renovated historic theatre. It’s part-time — only a few hours a week — and of course it’s non-profit, so you can see that this is not the path to great personal wealth and riches. Of the money kind, at least. Because in terms of great personal satisfaction, this job rocks. The staff offices are in the museum, so we’re surrounded by creativity, talent and general wonderfulness every day. And the folks on the staff are exactly the type of people you want to work with: Dedicated, enthusiastic, generous and fun. Plus, I get to do what I love doing: Write. My prime responsibility is writing press releases and public service announcements and getting the word out about our exhibits, theatrical productions, concerts, workshops, tours, openings, etc. I’ve been building a media-contact list, talking to artists and newspaper and magazine folks and generally learning my way around the art world — which, by the way, is a fascinating place. Fascinating. One thing I’ve been thrilled to discover is that my work clothes from two years ago when I “retired” from fulltime newspaper-newsroom room still fit — but only because all those low-waisted skirts I borrowed from my daughters now sort of hang out around my waist since there seems to be some sort of impediment in my middle zone. But it’s OK, since I now have some spare cash I can put toward a new wardrobe the electric bill. (Oh, hi, Dear Husband! I didn’t see you reading here.) Read more about tackling a new job in my latest newspaper column. And Younger Daughter sent me off to my new job in style the other morning with broiled fresh peaches served with a dollop of creamy Greek yogurt. Oh, yum.
It’s the little things that make a morning worth getting up for, such as perfect cups of espresso topped with light and yummy foam and freshly ground cinnamon. Since I officially have had to cut back on my coffee consumption (I mean, what does a gastroenterologist know, anyway???), those first few sips of the day are priceless. I love everything about the morning coffee-making process: Figuring out which coffee maker to use (French press, espresso machine, stovetop Muka?), deciding on the beans and the grind, choosing the appropriate cup and finally picking a foam method. I know it might sound complicated — I used to do Sudoku every morning but my morning coffee ritual pretty much gets my sluggish brain fired up all by itself. My current coffee-maker-of-choice is the Italian stovetop Muka, which makes a smooth and rich espresso and — supposedly, at least — foam. But it’s an iffy proposition at best and lately my foam just goes to latte. Sigh. When that happens, I supplement with a battery-powered frother that produces a thick and airy pillow of milky goodness. Salute! (Don’t be impressed — I had to look up how to say “cheers” in Italian.)
I’m like many of y’all — in that wonderful period when my kids are grown, my work-at-home freelance-writing hours are flexible and my night-owl husband sleeps late. This means I can — finally, after years of otherwise — enjoy an hour or so of uninterrupted peace and quiet with my morning coffee. No carpools to get ready for, no homework to finish up frantically, no wild I’ve-got-nothing-to-wear closet marathons. I love it! So on a recent morning when it seemed as if 10 people ended up in the kitchen all with Important Things To Do Right At This Very Minutes, it sort of threw me off. But we all got through it. Read more at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100122/ARTICLES/1225004 — and have a great weekend!