Sunday, June 26, 2016

Lazy Movie Weekend Double Feature, Part 1: A Shark Tried to Eat Gossip Girl

I have a love/hate relationship with summer movies. Back in the day (which I'm allowed to say because I'm over 25), I used to go to every summer movie regardless of how terrible it might end up being. I feel like summer movie season was a simpler time back then too; Michael Bay didn't spew crap versions of cherished childhood favorites and there wasn't the same horror movie every summer with a rotating cast of the latest teen movie sensations. I like action movies, love a sappy romance (or five), enjoy animated movies every now and then, and can even get into a well made horror movie but I've been sorely disappointed the last few summers by movies. So I go to the movies less and I watch my favorites at home more. Life goes on. Hollywood is not broken because I don't go to the movies.

This summer I vowed to try a bit more to go to the movies; there are at least eleven movies that I want to see (I've seen two of them as of today; most are not out yet) and have enjoyed them in my way. I thought we'd focus this Lazy Movie Weekend on two movies that have nothing to do with one another except that I saw them within a few days of each other. Originally, I was going to combine them into one post but it's too much so you get two LMW posts this week! Consider it my birthday present to America.

Let's dive into our first feature The Shallows (pun absolutely intended). Spoilers ahead - just an FYI although I legit don't care if I ruin it for you because seriously this is a movie about a shark and a woman trying to survive. You know exactly what's going to happen.

Sharks are not my thing. I've seen the first Jaws movie since it's a requirement as a fan of movies and I've watched all three of the Sharknado movies so you don't have to (part four will be here very soon). I don't watch "Shark Week" and I've never seen any of the other well regarded movies involving a sharks vs. man plot (I'm told Deep Blue Sea and Open Water are both very good). However, the previews The Shallows intrigued me; Gossip Girl surfs and then battles a Great White. Totally plausible and obviously means someone made some excellent life choices. What could be better than that combination?

It's not a bad movie at all. The scenery is beautiful; as a non-beach person watching Gossip Girl (as I will refer to Blake Lively's character, Nancy, because that's how I think of her; she's not a Nancy) take in the secret beach for the first time, I had an overwhelming desire to go to the beach, just not a secret one. Where there are sharks. Additionally, there is a wonderful version of the Lou Reed classic "Walk on the Wild Side" playing as Gossip Girl and Carlos drive out to the beach. After he leaves her on the beach with some warnings about not staying out too late, we meet Gossip Girl's family who want her to go back to med school, realize she's come to the beach to commune with her dead mother, and watch her get ready to surf. She joins two dudes in the water and we're treated to a great sequence of them all catching waves and enjoying the thrill of the secret beach.

Then Gossip Girl ignores all of the smarts we know she has and decides to try for one more wave despite the fact that she's now alone, it's past 5 pm, and all of the other sea creatures are going away from her. Oh and there's a dead whale just chilling in the ocean not that far from her. How did any of them miss a rotting whale? Then the shark arrives. Gossip Girl is in the middle of his feeding area (or whatever one calls it) and now she is a target. The remainder of the 87 minute movie is a test of wills between Gossip Girl and the shark, who I'll refer to as Barry. She makes it to a rock and uses earrings in a way they were never meant to be used (this is the only part of the movie I had to look away during), befriends an injured seagull, watches three people get eaten by Barry, and devises a plan to make it to the buoy once high tide comes in. Barry, who has already taken a chunk out of Gossip Girl's leg, circles between her and the dead whale, with occasional forays into partially eating the other two surfers and a random guy on the beach (who sort of deserves what he gets for being a terrible human). I won't tell you how it all ends, although I'm sure you can guess, but I will say that Barry doesn't fair well and Gossip Girl shows us all what moxie really means.

The Shallows does raise a lot of questions:
  • Why does no one ever say the name of the beach? Is it because it's Spanish name translates to Shark Beach or You Will Die If You Stay Past 5 pm Beach? Suspicious.
  • Did anyone else want more Carlos in this movie? I really enjoyed him and was sad to see that he only has a little bit of screen time at the start and end of the movie. 
  • Wouldn't it have been better if Gossip Girl wore a full wet suit? I know nothing about surfing or water sports but I feel like she would have been better served if she'd had a full suit on.
  • Why didn't Gossip Girl leave with the other surfers? How was she planning on getting back from the secret beach? Did she not have an exit strategy? How did Gossip Girl all of the sudden become my cat when she jumps on top of the refrigerator and can't figure out how to get down?
  • We're all aware that Great Whites are not native to or ever seen in Mexico right? How did Barry even get there?
  • Isn't Barry stuffed? By the middle of the movie he's eaten part of a dead whale, probably some seagulls and other fish, and portions of at least three grown men. I wonder if Barry has an eating disorder or something.
  • If he's not hungry, what did Gossip Girl do to Barry to provoke such hatred? Was it because she's married to Deadpool and they have an impossibly adorable child and seem really happy? Is Barry all of our collective dislike of her because of this? (Aside: I like Blake Lively.)
  • Or maybe Barry is a metaphor for poor life choices - is that what we're being told? Gossip Girl shouldn't be on that beach in the first place; she's supposed to be in medical school. She's supposed to be teaching her younger sister how to surf. She's not supposed to be on this secret beach communing with her dead mom. 
  • Where did the oil come from? I won't say why this is important but where's the source? Is it the dead whale or is this also a treatise on pollution and our rape of the environment?
  • Is anyone else thinking that if this happened to them the arm of their wet suit would not fit around their leg? 
  • Who else wears that much jewelry when surfing? Obviously this helped Gossip Girl immensely, probably more than the flare gun but not as much as the Go Pro camera, but is that normal? 
  • How did she finish medical school so quickly? The epilogue of this movie troubles me more than any of what transpired in the previous 80 minutes.
Should you go see The Shallows? If you like sun while also being stressed when movie watching, enjoy pretty landscapes that are eventually marred by Barry's appearance, and like seeing improbable things happen to bring about the conclusion of this caper, then yes, you should see The Shallows. If you hate fun and summer and seagulls, go ahead and skip this one.

Shark image
Gossip Girl on the buoy
Steven Seagull

Lazy Movie Weekend Double Feature, Part 2: And Then There Were Aliens coming at you on Friday. Don't miss it!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Everyone else is doing yoga, so should I?

This post has literally nothing to do with The Cranberries but I've always liked this song and haven't listened to it recently. Musical introductions to a post should be a thing.*

A few weeks ago, I shared my thoughts on my fitness regime and what wellness means to me. I've spent a lot of my life listening to others tell me how they thought I should get in shape or diets that I should go on or dozens of other "helpful" tips for being a better their eyes. I have struggled with this most of my life as have most people who are "too fat" or "too thin" or "too (fill in the blank)" for whatever societal norms we've created. There are a lot of great writers out there who talk about these "standards" in more concise and eloquent ways than I ever will be able to do. Check out Lindy West, Caitlin Moran, Roxane Gay, Lena Dunham, Jessica Valenti, Rebecca Solnit, to name a few. The body positive movement is great (when it doesn't turn on itself which is often) and I'm glad to see retailers embracing diversity in body type as much as they have ethnicity or gender identity in recent years. It's refreshing and gives me hope for the universe (most days).

When I got back from my cousin's wedding in Detroit, I made the decision to add some new activities to my workouts. I go to the gym five to six days a week and as much as I like my treadmill routine (y'all, I've read so many books this year), I realized that it was time to mix it up. My gym time works really well for the work week since I naturally get up early and I have a finite amount of time in the morning before I need to be at work. The convenience factor of having a fitness center in my building means I don't have to go anywhere but downstairs, sweat it out, and come back to my apartment to get ready. I know myself well enough to know that adding travel time into this mix would mean I wouldn't actually do it. However, I also know I need the variety to stay dedicated to this plan. One of the areas I want to focus on is toning my arms so I'm currently looking for some arm workouts I can either do in my apartment or in the fitness center since there are already weights there. The other choice I made was to try yoga.

I've never done yoga before. As a theatre major, I had to take a movement class in college and there were what I'll call "yoga adjacent" sections within the course. Frankly, yoga always seemed to be one of those things that bored, entitled 20 somethings do mostly so they can buy cute clothes and be able to say "I have yoga and then a detox facial. Can we move that to 2:30?" Yes, that's stereotypical and mean of me but sometimes I'm mean. I'm sorry. Anyway, being "yoga adjacent" in class sort of turned me off from yoga as a whole. Honestly, I think my yoga aversion had more to do with not feeling comfortable in my own skin than yoga itself. There's something about being in a class in public, whether it be yoga or Zumba or something else, that raises my anxiety and self-consciousness.

Anyway, I decided that this is stupid and I need to get over it and give yoga an actual try. My friend, Emily, recently started taking classes at a studio in Crystal City that she raved about. With this recommendation, I signed myself up for a month-long pass to take as many classes at the studio as I'd like. I figured I could try a few different types of classes and see if any of them would stick. I bought a yoga mat, a yoga towel, and prepared for my first class. Emily, being the pal that she is, accompanied me to the first (and second) class to be my yoga sherpa.

I had no expectations, not really, going into that first class. I set up my mat and then Emily gave me a bunch of props (blocks, blankets, pillows) as directed by our instructor. I get the blocks but all the other stuff was foreign to me; I had no idea yoga had so much equipment. My first class was a bit rocky; I didn't really know what I was doing, the instructor was good but seemed a little scattered (she was subbing and late that day so I get it), and it hurt. I realized I have muscles I didn't even know existed and every single one of them hated me so much on that day (and the day after). If muscles could secede from a body, mine would have that weekend. By the end of the class, I was a little sweaty and finally getting the hang of different asanas, the poses or postures of yoga. There are 84 classical asanas said to have been revealed by the god Shiva, founder of hatha yoga (what most of us just call yoga). I'm going to stop my history of yoga there because that's as far as it goes. I admit that my research into yoga has been limited which is a little weird for me. I'll probably remedy that sometime in the future.

I didn't love the first two classes but I liked some aspects of both. The biggest takeaway was the idea of focus for my yoga practice. Both of the instructors started class by having everyone focus on the goal of their practice for the day; it could be a personal goal or something that you want to send out to the world or another person. I liked the idea of focusing a class or the larger practice of yoga on a goal. I'm not doing yoga to appropriate another culture nor am I on some sort of spiritual journey. For me, the practice of yoga is about focus, strength, and balance. I like being able to not think about anything but being in the moment of my yoga practice. Focus can be hard sometimes and being able to just breath and focus for an hour or is really magical.

My first two classes were not the classes for me. The instructors were good but neither class filled the yoga void. My third class, Warm Gentle Hatha, would be the game changer. Both hot and warm yoga use increased temperature to help increase flexibility (or so I've read). In warm yoga, the studio is heated to 90-95 degrees (hot yoga is usually 100 degrees). I figured I spent a large portion of my life in New Orleans so 90 degrees would be nothing. I was pleasantly surprised that I was right. Here's what I learned in my first warm yoga class:
  • 90 degrees is really not that bad - I didn't focus on the heat as much as learning the poses. It was hot but not unbearable.
  • Glasses and warm yoga do not mix. Hell, glasses and yoga are challenging in general. I don't see well without them so I make it work. 
  • Drinking when the instructor says to is a must as is coming to class hydrated. 
  • Yoga makes me hungry (this is probably because my class ends at 12:30). I make better lunch/snack choices when I come out of yoga so that's a plus. 
  • Listening to orchestra/yoga appropriate versions of "Shake It Off" and "Livin' On a Prayer" makes the class even better. 
  • The instructor makes all the difference. I didn't dislike my first two instructors but I love my third. She gives clear instructions, models the pose well, gives options to the group since we're at various levels, and made yoga accessible to me.
I left the class feeling exactly how I wanted - strong, more balanced, and in control. The second I thought "my body can't do that," it just did. Boom - here's the millionth Downward-Dog pose of class. What? Did I just do five planks in a row and not die? Yes, yes I did. Why is it called Awkward Chair? Because it's awkward and chair-like. Let's Warrior it up some more because I'm amazing at Warrior I and II. I also realized that I've been doing two poses forever - Shavasana (Corpse pose) and Vriksasna (Tree pose). When I'm stressed or have any sort of back or neck pain, I lay on my floor with everything relaxed which is Shavasana without the intention. Shavasana is about resetting at the end of practice, giving the body time to reset and rest after the workout you've just gone through. It's meant to focus a person and reduce tension. I love Shavasana both in class and at home. I sleep in Tree pose. Obviously it's not the same but that's what it is. I've always described sleeping in a four or nine when I sleep on my back but it's basically Tree pose. I also tend to stand this way when I'm chopping vegetables or cooking so there's that. Tree pose is all about balance, posture, and concentration. It's one pose I really need to work on since I do tend to lose my balance after a few seconds. I need to follow my instructor's advice and focus on a fixed point (called drishthe) which should help with this.

All in all, I've loved the first month of my yoga practice. I figured out what the intention of my practice is and found a class that works for me. I even own three pairs of yoga pants I don't sleep in! I feel like I'm improving; I'm able to hold poses for longer, am more aware of my breath in and out of class, and I was able to do more complex combinations of poses in my last class. I may not stay with the studio long term (yoga is expensive) but I feel like by the time I get to that point, I will be able to do the things I need to do at home without the heated studio but with the same intention in my practice.

One important observation: Even if I hadn't found my class and had given up after my month, I'm comforted by the idea that for 75 minutes 10-15 people in arguably one of the busiest, high stress regions in the country, come together and shut off their lives. For that time we are quiet and still (meaning not bustling about being busy). I'm fascinated by this idea and hold onto to it when I'm not in the studio and need a moment of calm.

*This song appeared on the band's debut album Everyone Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We? which is the inspiration for this post's title. #90sgirl

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Summer Fun: Pumpkin's Guide to Getting the Most Out of Summer

Whether you are a firm believer that summer begins on Memorial Day (so approximately meteorological summer) or if you're a strict adherent to the belief that summer begins on June 20th with the solstice (astronomical summer), your season has finally arrived. You're out there living your best summer life (this has become a phrase I'm partial to these days), soaking up the sun, reveling in the heat, and I assume, enjoying a frosty adult beverage. You probably have your pool/beach time scheduled and probably a summer vacation planned. But have you stopped and considered whether or not you're truly getting the most out of your summer? What could possibly make your summer even better?

I'll tell you what - Pumpkin's advice on how to get the most out of summer. She knows a lot about enjoying the sun and just as her helpful advice got us all through Snowzilla this winter; she'll make sure your summer is the absolute best it can be.

Pumpkin's Guide to Getting the Most Out of Summer

Tip 1: Moderation is the key to enjoying the sun.
Pumpkin is the literal queen of the sun patch. I once watched her sit in the same sun patch for over an hour without moving or blinking. I had to check to see if she was still breathing at one point. Sun is an essential part of summer enjoyment; we need the vitamin D after months in cold, cold weather and here in DC, fifteen straight days of rain at the end of May. Get out there an soak up the sun but do so with some care and caution. It's all about moderation since summer is a marathon not a sprint. Ways to balance enjoyment and moderation:
  • Sunscreen - Pumpkin recommends a minimum SPF of 30 but I like to take it a step further and bump that up to 45. She has fur; I'm a very white woman who "lobsters" when the sun is even mentioned. Make sure you reapply your sunscreen if you're outside for longs periods of time swimming or sweating profusely (which will always happen).
  • Shade - Find a nice tree, fancy umbrella, or building to hide in every now and then. It's cooler and may even involve finding a frosty beverage or two.
  • Invest in one of those tiny fans. Tiny fans make a lot of sense.
Tip 2: Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
Hydration is essential when spending more time outside in the broiling sun. We're all going to be sweaty messes this summer and staying hydrated will help in so many ways. Pumpkin is a master at staying hydrated whether it's drinking from her actual water bowl or finding other sources of water like the bathroom sink, unattended water glasses, or the bathtub after I've gotten out of the shower. Sometimes she doesn't even wait until I'm done brushing my teeth to get in on the sink action in the bathroom. She needs her water and will get it in whatever fashion she can.

Tip 3: Rooftop bars (or the top of the refrigerator) are great places to enjoy a cold beverage when the weather gets hot.
Pumpkin loves hanging out on top of the refrigerator. Bonus: when she stays at my parents' house, they put a water bowl on top of the fridge for her so it's exactly like her own rooftop bar. The height gives her a great view of the apartment or their kitchen. The same can be said about hanging out at a rooftop bar after work or on a sunny weekend day. Arlington and DC have some wonderful rooftop bars with great views. Be prepared to wait in line to get upstairs but it's absolutely worth the wait. Make sure that you have an exit plan; Pumpkin doesn't always remember to have one when she jumps on top of the fridge. She prefers the "meow until someone helps me" method of exiting. Doing this at a rooftop bar is not recommended but knowing your limits and having a DD or Uber on your phone are always a good idea.

Tip 4: When in doubt, take a nap.
Sun and nap - priceless.
Being outside maybe fun but it's also exhausting. Pumpkin is a master at all things napping from location to length of nap to sleeping with her eyes open. It's a skill and one that we should all learn how to do. I don't nap often but something about summer and the sun and lazy afternoons makes me want to nap all the time.

Napping by Pumpkin:
  • Comfort is in the eye of the beholder. If perching yourself on the back of the couch or one someone's arm while they're trying to read or do other things is comfortable for you, embrace it.
  • 18 hours a day is the ideal amount of time one should nap. Pumpkin is a beast when she doesn't get this much nap time in. 
  • If you want to creep out a person and nap at the same time, learn to nap with your eyes open. It's definitely a skill worth cultivating. 
  • Let your people know when they've intruded into your napping time. This can come in the form of meowing at them in disgust, scratching them for no reason, or maybe staring at them as if you're plotting a way to keep them up all night. Because they deserve to be tortured for disturbing your sleep.

Tip 5: Get your summer reading list together
Pumpkin has been a reader since way back. She loves books of all types; histories, memoirs, novels, art books. She is an equal opportunity reader and you should be too. Books are great for napping on, lounging by the pool or on the beach, or if you're stuck inside on a rainy day. Check out The Washington Post's summer book recommendations to plan your reading list. I just picked up The Girls by Emma Cline because nothing says summer quite like a book about a cult.
From her kitten days.

Tip 6: Outdoor activities can be turned into indoor activities if you get a little creative. 
So many of Pumpkin's tips involved the great outdoors but she realizes that the outside is not for everyone; she doesn't even like it that much. Pumpkin spent the first few weeks of her life on the mean streets of Honolulu before I adopted her and the outdoors did her no good. Apparently she fought with other animals and was bitten by one one of them. This resulted in her having an abscess that eventually burst and she spent several weeks with one side of her face shaved. A cat with half of a shaved face is a sad sight. There are plenty of outdoor activities that you can/should enjoy this summer but Pumpkin would also like to provide alternatives in case you're more of an indoor kid and/or want to avoid fighting with other neighbor animals:
  • Visit a winery. Sure they're pretty and picturesque and wine is delicious but you could also sit home and drink wine while wearing yoga pants and hanging out with Pumpkin. There's also less of a chance that you'll have to hang out with pretentious wine guy if you drink at home.
  • Go to a theme park. Roller coasters are amazing and awkward moments with theme park characters make for great Instagram photos but lines are the worst and the sun can be punishing. Pumpkin's alternative: make an at home obstacle course. Climb on top of your furniture, jump over the stuff everyone leaves out everywhere that you don't want to pick up, the possibilities are endless.
  • Attend an outdoor movie event. Outdoor movies sound like a great idea but they lack the one thing that Pumpkin feels is essential for movie watching: air conditioning. How are you supposed to watch a movie if your Junior Mints are melting all over the place? It's easy to replicate the big screen at home and as a bonus, you can wear your pajamas and cuddle with your pets. Pumpkin approves. 
  • Catch a baseball game at your favorite stadium. Actually, you should do this one. Pumpkin can attest that nothing is more boring than watching baseball on television except watching golf on television. Sometimes outside wins.
Get out there an live your best summer life! Pumpkin will be here, indoors, napping, occasionally moving from sun patch to sun patch, and staring at me in a mildly creepy way.

Next week: My fitness adventures continue with my first month adding yoga to my routine. There's that saying that you should be wary of endeavors that involve buying new clothes but I rather like my new yoga pants. Check it out next weekend on the Island!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Your Resident Single Friend: You're not the cat's pajamas

Today is both Hug Your Cat Day and Old Maid's Day. I'll let that sink in for a moment.

Old Maid. Spinster. Cat Lady. To say that these phrases make me rage-ful would be an understatement. I've never been fond of the idea that the only way to value women is by their marriageability or fertility; this is not a new story just another day in the life of being female.

I've been called a spinster before. Not by anyone I knew personally but by the government of Hong Kong. Yes, the government of Hong Kong. A few years ago I traveled to Hong Kong to conduct training for a school district in the city. Based on the length on my stay and the work I was doing, the school recommended that I apply for a work visa. The application included a field for marital status. I most places, the options are usually "single/unmarried", "married', "divorced", and maybe "widowed." Not Hong Kong.

This is from my actual visa application.

They couldn't just use "unmarried" or "single" which would cover both of the options included in the box I had to check. I was told that it has to do with British forms still being used but I don't know that I actually believe this explanation. I'm pretty sure there's something else here. At the time I opted to make fun of it on the Island and move on because I was going to Hong Kong and that was pretty cool. It was the first and only time I've ever had to use that word to describe myself and it will be the last.

I've been reading Rebecca Traister's book All the Single Ladies. The book takes a look at the political and social power of single women. While Traister focuses on current events and 21st century women to tell their stories, she also presents a historical look at the evolution of single women and social change in the US. It's a great read; I recommend it to everyone, not just the single ladies out there. In one section early on, Traister mentions the historical meaning of the word spinster. In its original use, from roughly the 16th-18th centuries, it was used to describe women who were employed as spinners. These were women who spun fabric and thread for home and commercial use. Many were unmarried but their status was not as important as their profession. During the 18th century, the definition shifted, mostly focusing on women who remained unmarried and were beyond the socially acceptable age for marriage (their early 20s). And of course, from there, it becomes a terrible way to describe an unmarried woman. "Old Maid" is a sister term, coming about in the Victorian era and is also the name of a card game where players are supposed to get as many paired cards as possible. Unpopped popcorn kernels are also referred to as old maids. Traister discusses the more successful spinsters in one chapter, women like Mary Cassatt, Emily Bronte, and even Elizabeth I.

What I appreciate about Traister's book is her look at how women have bucked against these limiting terms, creating single lives and married or partnered lives, on their own terms. It's satisfying to read of the experiences of other women my age (or younger or older), famous and not, who feel the same as I do: that marriage and family is not the goal; it's one of may possible options that exist out there in the world. In my post last week, I mentioned how it bothered me that Muriel only thought she was worth something and successful if she got married. What Muriel failed to realize is that she was amazing regardless of her martial status. We need to be okay with this idea and teach this girls and young women (and boys and young men too).

I was thinking about all of these things as I returned to my apartment after a fire alarm forced us all out into the night. I was getting ready to go to bed when the fire alarm went off. Not knowing if it was a false alarm or an actual emergency, I quickly threw on shoes, packed Pumpkin into her carrier, and walked down seven flights of stairs to the front of the building with everyone else. As you can imagine, Pumpkin was not amused. It turned out to be a false alarm; someone hit the alarm on accident. Once we got the okay, we all made our way back into the building. That was when Pumpkin began meowing like she was being tortured (or singing the song of her people as I like to describe it). People were staring and making comments about there being a cat. Why wouldn't someone have a cat? Other people brought their dogs with them; it's the natural thing to do in the face of a possible emergency. One of my neighbors even asked me why I brought her downstairs with me. Those of you who know me well can probably picture the face I made at this guy. I politely responded that I wouldn't leave a living being to suffer in a fire or some other emergency. I heard him say "cat lady" under his breath as we walked our separate ways. Admittedly, I was shocked by that; no one has ever called me a cat lady in a vicious way before either. Had I not had Pumpkin in her carrier and was actually wearing real clothes (I too was in my pajamas), I would have followed him to ask this: What the fuck is your problem and why don't you like cats?

This experience made me realize several things:
  1. I have now seen a fair number of my neighbors in their pajamas. I can never, ever unsee this. 
  2. This is the reason most people who live in large apartment buildings don't know their neighbors. 
  3. The words "spinster", "old maid", and "cat lady" need to be struck from our vocabulary just as "#(insert any word here)goals" and "bandwidth" need to be struck from our vocabulary.
This would be Pumpkin & my neighbor
I want to believe my neighbor is living the best life he can live and is a truly awesome human being. I want to believe that he was mad at the situation and the fact that he had to evacuate the building in his pajamas (again, can't unsee that) so he took it out on me. But I don't. I don't even think he was trying to be funny. By the time I got upstairs I was as mad as the time a guy standing outside the National Museum of Women in the Arts tried to grab my ass as I walked past. Outside of a women's art museum!

Yes, being called a "cat lady" is not the worst thing he could have done but that absolutely 100% does not excuse the behavior. I wish I had done something at the time to tell him that wasn't okay but I didn't. I forgot Ms. Norbury's words to us in Means Girls: You all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it ok for guys to call you sluts and whores. Never forget Mrs. Norbury's advice.

Up next on the Island: I'm taking next weekend off to celebrate my entry into my 37th year (my birthday is next Saturday). I'll be back the following week with a new UT Recipe and later this month I'll be sharing my adventures in yoga. You read that right - yoga. There might even be a new chapter from my novel to share. June is going to be one busy month!

Awkward Hug
Hug Your Cat Day
Old Maid's Day

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Lazy Movie Weekend: It's as good as Dancing Queen

I have a very specific memory of my 18th birthday: I'm sitting in my bedroom in lovely Burke, VA writing in my journal (because that's what we all did) and listening to the song "Dancing Queen". I don't remember if this was later in the evening after celebrating or sometime during the day. I just remember sitting there listening to that song and thinking of one of my favorite movies Muriel's Wedding. At one point in the movie, Muriel says she hasn't listened to any ABBA songs because her life is as good as an ABBA; "It's as good as Dancing Queen." I guess that's what I was thinking about that day; one day my life would be as good as an ABBA song.

I've seen this movie a hundred (probably). It's not a completely happy rom-com but it's funny and dark and sad and genius all at the same time. This is one of my favorite Australian comedies followed closely by Strictly Ballroom. The 1990s were a prime time for Australian movies that didn't involve Baz Luhrmann. 

I just got back home from attending my cousin's beautiful wedding so I thought we'd spend this long, lazy movie weekend celebrating all things love and weddings with a trip back to 1994 and Muriel's adventures in Porpoise Spit, Australia. Grab your favorite girly drink, some wedding cake, and your best ABBA inspired dance moves and settle in for Muriel's Wedding.

  • This was Rachel Griffiths first movie and Toni Collette's second. The movie was a huge international hit and would propel them both into larger roles and Hollywood fame.
  • PJ Hogan, the film's director, had to beg the members of ABBA to allow the use of their music in the film. They agreed (for a share of the profits) and were pleasantly surprised when the film was so successful. Muriel's Wedding is the reason the musical Mamma Mia!, the Broadway musical (and it's sad film sister) exist. 
  • The movie is #911 on Steven Schneider's 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
  • Let's talk about the opening sequence at the wedding - that is my nightmare. All the single women going crazy at the thought of catching the bouquet so they can be "next." It's one of those scenes that reminds us all about how ridiculous some traditions are and how primal women can be. Thank you to all my friends who have gotten married and not done this at the reception. Your resident single friend appreciates it more than you know. 
  • Muriel's "friends" are the absolute worst - apparently it's a rule that in every rom-com there has to be a group of women who are terrible. I'll refer to this group as the "Aussie Plastics" for the rest of this post (Means Girls will be a future LMW. I promise.)
  • Those bridesmaids dresses - the color, the poof, the bow, the headpiece. Bridesmaids dresses are just mean.
  • Why would you waste cake by putting it under your pillow to dream of the man you're going to marry? My future husband would know (instinctually, of course) that we don't waste cake like this. Cake is for enjoying not for napping on.
  • Someone is a bad bridesmaid and an even worse husband. Now Muriel has secrets. 
  • Are store detectives a thing? Does anyone know a store detective? I'd really like to meet one.
  • Just remember, Porpoise Spit is the jewel of the North Coast.
  • "You're terrible, Muriel." Muriel's sister, Joanie. The Heslop family is a lot to take in. The horrible dad (played by the brilliant Bill Hunter), the sad mom, the laziest children ever. This is why Muriel listens to ABBA songs.
  • "Bill Heslop - You Can't Stop Progress" Joanie: He lost. It's so funny.
  • F-ing Deidre Chambers - that's how I refer to this woman every time she's on screen. Her geisha comment is one of the worst casually racist comments in the entire film (and there are several).
  • I hate the scene at Breakers (the most cliched beach bar name ever). It's funny on some levels ("Like Chuck. He's up on my level.") but so soul-crushing on others. "I'm know I'm not normal..." and Muriel shouting "I'm not nothing!" - this is a darker rom-com than most. We haven't gotten to the plot line involving cancer yet.
  • "I'm going to be a success, Mum. I'm going to get married and be a success." I don't like this definition of success but I'm saying it in my head as I type in an Australian accent. 
  • My second nightmare: all inclusive resort trips. Mandatory fun at it's worst but Muriel seems to be having a great time. 
  • Finally we meet Rhonda (Rachel Griffiths). She is the cool friend everyone needs in their life. She's a badass, super fun, and does not give any effs about the Aussie Plastics. It's genius. "You're wicked!" 
  • "I'm not alone. I'm with Muriel." Love it!
  • That "Waterloo" lip sync is amazing. I'm hopeful that the show Lip Sync Battle will get Toni and Rachel to come on and recreate this amazing moment. Someone should call them and make this happen.
  •  Muriel: Do you ever think you're nothing? Sometimes I think I'm nothing. Rhonda: You're not nothing, Muriel. You're amazing. Of course this is followed by Rhonda talking about how awesome it is that Muriel has a fiancee, Tim Sims (fake of course). His name is based on two popular snacks in Australia, Tim Tams and Dim Sims.
  • Is Sydney really the City of Brides?
  • Muriel's haircut is one of my favorite things in the movie. The power of a flattering haircut cannot be overstated. 
  • Poor Brice. Muriel should have given him more of chance. "I'm a terrible dancer." We all are, Brice. We all are.
  • I'm fairly certain we've all had nights/dates like Muriel and Brice's minus the cancer, naked American soldier, and broken window. I don't know everyone's life so maybe this is exactly how your Friday nights go down. The thought I always have during this sequence is that Rhonda and Muriel need real furniture in their living room.
  • Rhonda is rushed to the hospital and Muriel calls home to find out that they know she stole all their money. "Dr. Farrell says he needs a holiday from us." Muriel's mom, Betty, tells her.
  • So if you best friend is in the hospital and has to have surgery to remove a discreet tumor from her spine and your family is a mess, what do you do? If you're Muriel you try on every wedding dress in Sydney and tell lies to get the sales girls to take photos of you in them so you can take the photos to your sister who's in a coma. Seems legit.
  • Muriel's pep talk to Rhonda: "When I lived in Porpoise Spit, I used to sit in my room for hours and listen to ABBA songs. But since I've met you and moved to Sydney, I haven't listened to one Abba song. That's because my life is as good as an Abba song. It's as good as Dancing Queen."
  • Of course Rhonda finds out about the wedding dresses and that Tim Sims was fake. Muriel is basically all of us when it comes to be single and hating it: "If I can get married it means I've changed. I'm a new person." 
  • F-ing Deidre Chambers. Seriously this woman. Bill Heslop cannot help himself with embarrassing restaurant business meetings.
  • Muriel's second way of dealing with problems: Enter into a marriage of convenience with a South African swimmer with Olympic hopes who needs an Australian wife to qualify for the team. As one does. She also reverts to listening to "Dancing Queen" again so maybe her life isn't as good anymore.
  • Mariel's Wedding (did I mention she changed her name?): So many things...
    • The Aussie Plastics are back as bridesmaids, looking like peach tulle nightmares.
    • F-ing Deidre Chambers is apparently Muriel's mom now.
    • Muriel's mom barely makes it to the wedding and Muriel ignores her (not intentionally).
    • Poor Brice ends up attending for some unknown, masochistic reason.
    • "Mariel, you're beautiful." - Tania (Aussie Plastic)
    • "I Do, I Do, I Do" is her entrance music - perfect. I would probably do something like this if I ever got married.
    •  David's coach, "I should have hired you some friends." 
  •  Friend breakups are the worst thing in the world. Rhonda sums it up perfectly, "Mariel VanArckle stinks."
  • David is an interesting character. He judges Muriel so much for wanting to do the same thing he wants to do: win. The problem is that she believes she can win only if she's married. Someone needs to sit Muriel down and talk about life choices. 
  • Muriel's mom makes my heart sad. She deserved a lot more than her husband and most of her children gave her. Joanie's grief is so powerful. Her father is terrible and that stupid letter from a former Prime Minister is the worst. 
  • Muriel finally realizes it's not about being married but about being her - her awesome self. David also shows up too and that's not awkward at all. "I don't love you either but I think I could like having you around."
  • She finally tells her dad what's what and it's a great scene between the two of them in the burned up backyard. "We're not nothing." 
  • The final scene with the Aussie Plastics and Rhonda's mom is one of my favorites in the movie. Tania screams, "I'm married. I'm beautiful!" and you have to laugh. Muriel and Rhonda say goodbye to Porpoise Spit as they should. The only question I have is did Rhonda's mom send her all her stuff? Is that how it all worked in the end.
I love this movie for so many reasons. Muriel is us all; looking for her place in the world and trying to figure out who she is. I like knowing that Toni Collette and Rachel Griffiths became friends during filming; you can see their actual friendship on screen. It's the best part of the entire movie. Muriel is amazing; she just has to figure that out for herself.

In need of more wedding movies for your long weekend? Here are few more of my favorites:
  • Bridesmaids
  • Monsoon Wedding
  • The Wedding Planner
  • Corpse Bride 
  • My Big Fat Greek Wedding
  • Mystic Pizza
  • The Wedding Singer
  • Rachel Getting Married
  • Mamma Mia! -  I can't help but love this movie. Pierce Brosnan should never, ever sing but I will listen to him sing "S.O.S" in this movie and love it every time.
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
Promo Poster
Muriel at the wedding
Muriel's Wedding 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Short Story Hour: The Quest

The following is inspired by a recent outing to Nationals park to watch the Nationals/Tigers game. This happened to take place on May 11 when Max Scherzer completed a 20-strikeout game, becoming the fourth player in MLB history to do so. While not nearly as significant but much more amusing, that evening I bought the last nachos in the park. Apparently. 

The Quest

Gus hated baseball stadiums. Not baseball but the elaborate stadiums and parks that make up modern baseball. He had grown up going to old school parks, spending most games in the cheap bleacher seats. "Fancy baseball" with its gourmet food and craft beers didn't sit well with him. The constant jockeying for the next giveaway, be it bobblehead or player inspired Chia pet irked him. Why didn't people just watch baseball anymore? Why was the game not enough to make it an event? Ticket prices were astronomical so he understood some of it; give the people what they paid for and all. That didn't mean he had to like it.

Gus also fell into the group of people who enjoyed a low scoring game to high scoring ones. A home run here or there rather than every at bat appealed to him. To Gus, a low scoring game showed the true power of teams; it was the game at its best focused on pitching and fielding and team dynamics not just powerhouse hitters. The rare grand slam should be just that - rare. He didn't want to sit through a game where the score was 10-0 by the fourth inning. That was not baseball; that was some weird form of reality tv.

The biggest disappointment about modern stadiums and parks were the crowds. Gus liked that people came to games but despite their modern approach to design, modern parks didn't ever seem to be designed to actually handle the crowds that came out to each game. From the park entrances to the lines for bathrooms (even for guys) to the exits at the end of a game, there always seemed to be too many people and too little space. The worst offender, by far, was the concession areas. Gus was currently on minute 20 in line for nachos, his second favorite ballpark snack. Gus had a baseball game eating system: start the game with a hotdog or two (usually two) with a beer and then get at second snack at the start of the 5th inning. His second snack rotated between nachos and a soft pretzel. Tonight was nacho night.

The game itself was a great one for Gus; low scoring so far, great effort on the part of both teams, and a few exceptional at bats for his favorite players. One of the pitchers was poised to tie or break a strike out record tonight. Gus hoped it would happen even though he was rooting for the other team. He would miss out on this amazing feat if this line didn't move faster. He watched the screens above the concession stand and could hear the roar of the crowd from where he stood but it wasn't the same as sitting in his seat. He probably should have given up sooner but a system was a system. By the time he even thought about leaving the line too much time had passed and he was too invested in the nachos.

He was next in line and approached the first open cashier. As he was about to give his order he heard the line manager say, "We're out of nachos." Almost 30 minutes in line to be crushed with one sentence. His face told the whole story. The cashier tried to be peppy and friendly but it was no use.

Gus was cool; he'd order his standby. "How about a pretzel?" he asked.

"We're out of those too. Sorry. You could try the concession stand behind home plate on this level. They don't usually run out as fast we do." She smiled at Gus.

"Thanks." Gus got out of line and contemplated his next move. He could return to his seat and his friends, snackless but less irritated or he could venture on into the belly of the park and find those nachos. Gus watched throngs of happy baseball fans rush past him with their beers and ice cream in souvenir hats. He wanted those nachos like he had never wanted any snack food in his entire life. He made his way into the crowd to find his destiny.

Dodging a family of five carrying every possible confection the concession stands had to offer, Gus maneuvered his way through the crowd and to the stand behind home plate. He avoided a near collision with a group of preteen boys engrossed in a video on one of their phones. He swerved to avoid a run in with the home team's mascot who was posing for photos with a group of opposing team fans. He nearly collided with three guys carrying enough beer to last the rest of the game (and who maybe should have stopped an inning ago). He made to the stand unharmed, ready for his snack. He walked closer to the stand, Home Run Snacks, and was greeted by a sign:

No Nachos. No Peanuts. No Pretzels.
Try Section 207.

Seriously? Gus wasn't sure if he was annoyed by the lack of nachos or the weirdness of the sign. In all his baseball-going years he had never seen a sign like this. Did he risk more disappointment and go all the way to section 207? Was it worth it? Gus was missing the game and should turn back but he could not. He had to go forward; it was his duty. He circled back to the nearest stairs to go up one level. When he got to the top he realized that he was on the opposite side of the park from section 207. He took a deep breath and soldiered on.

Gus was on a mission now. He dodged more photo ops with the other team mascots and little kids stopping abruptly in the middle of the walkway distracted by something and their parents not realizing they'd stopped. He walk right into a bacheorlette party taking selfies and stopped to take a photo for them when the bride to be asked. He walked past stands selling hot dogs, cotton candy, kettlecorn, and pizza. Shakes beckoned to him from one stand. Popcorn, peanuts, and Cracker Jacks sang their siren song from another but no, Gus would not stop until he got his nachos. 

He could see the sign for section 207. Gus wasn't sure if it was his imagination or what but the lights seemed to cast an unearthly glow around the stand like it was just him and the concessions. He imagined this was how explorers felt in the desert when they came upon an oasis. The line was short and he couldn't see a sign or any other indications of a lack of nachos. Gus quickened his pace. The nachos were so close, he could almost taste the cheese and the jalapeños. Was it real cheese? Gus did not care.

He was the fourth person in line. He could hear the orders of the people in front of him; it was oddly quiet on this level as if the game had ceased and the only thing happening was Gus finally getting his nachos. The people at the two cash registers ordered hot dogs, pretzels, peanuts, and beer. Not threat from these guys. Gus could see some of nacho trays but could not tell how many were left. He was going to be just fine. The person in front of him went to order.

"I'll take two orders of nachos, 2 pretzels, a Coke, and a Bud Lite." The smiled at the cashier.

"Jalapeños?", the cashier asked.

"Absolutely." The man took out his wallet to pay.

At that exact moment, Gus realized that this man was going to the last tray of nachos. This guy was going to get Gus's nachos. He would be completely out of options after this stand. He knew that none of the other places sold nachos. This had been his only hope. Gus took a deep breath and checked his frustration. He could be the crazy guy at the baseball game losing it over a tray of nachos or he could be an adult, order a pretzel and go back to his seat to watch the rest of the game. He did not want a pretzel but he did not want to be the crazy guy so he hung onto the last resort: there would be more in the back. That was the answer. 

The nacho thief paid for his food and walked off with a stride that could only belong to a guy who got the exact food he wanted and knew that's who he was. He nodded at Gus. Gus squared his shoulders and walked up the next available cashier. 

"Hello. Order of nachos please," Gus was as polite as possible. 

The cashier paused before responding as if she sensed desperation in Gus's overly polite greeting. She smiled and said, "One second, sir. Let me check in the back for you." She left her register and went back to the prep area. Seconds ticked by. Gus distracted himself by watching the game on the monitors. He had missed another scoreless inning and the pitcher was getting closer to the record. It was almost the 7th inning; his quest for delicious snack food had taken almost two whole innings. 

The cashier returned, " I'm sorry; we're totally out of nachos. Can I get you something else?" 

Gus paused. What was he doing? He spent two innings wandering this park trying to find nachos to keep coming up short each and every stop along the way. He passed up so many other snack options along the way for what? A silly system he put in place when he was kid? What was he actually doing except not enjoying the game with his friends and witnessing baseball history? Would this become a silly cocktail party story or an amusing anecdote he'd tell his grandkids one day? They'd shake their heads and say something under their breath about crazy Grandpa and his crazy systems. Gus embraced the crazy; he could not give up.

"Is there anywhere else I could try? Is this the only place left that sells them?" Gus tried his best not to come off as a weirdo.

"You could try one of the restaurants that have stands. I think one of them has nachos but they're fancier than what we have. And more expensive." She called for the next customer.

Of course all roads would lead him to the fancy parts of modern baseball he hated. Gus took the escalator down to the first level and quickened his pace back around to the side of the park where his seat was located. He walked past the two restaurants he thought would have nachos and both were closed. It was not in the cards tonight for Gus to have nachos. He stopped back at the first concession stand, back to where it all began. He bought a bag of peanuts and a beer. He slowly made his way back to seat and his friends.

The 7th inning stretch was just about to start. As Gus got closer to his friends, he could see the familiar white tray and the bright orange cheese in the hands of his friend, Amy. What? Nachos?! He stepped into their row as "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" came to an end.

"You're back. We worried we'd lost you. I wasn't sure if tonight was a pretzel night or a nachos night so I grabbed these for you. They're the last nachos in the entire stadium. The guy at the concession stand told me so." Amy smiled and handed Gus the tray.

"But where? And how?" Gus stammered. "I walked all over this place and there were no nachos anywhere. I don't understand."

Amy laughed, "Jake knows a guy. He saved one for us." Jake nodded in Gus's general direction. "Peanuts! I love peanuts."

"Thanks." Gus gave Amy the bag of peanuts and sat down to enjoy his nachos. The cheese was perfectly warm and delicious. It mixed with the spiciness of the jalapeños and the salt of the chips. It was the best bite of nachos he had ever had. He settled in with his snack, his beer, and his friends to watch the end of the game. History was made, the home team won, and all was well in baseball snack world. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The UT Recipes: Shhh! It's a secret.

"Instead of studying Locke, for instance, or writing - I go make apple pie or study The Joy of Cooking, reading it like a rare novel."
-Sylvia Plath

Baking has always been a form of therapy for me. The preciseness is appealing; measuring ingredients, mixing them just so, following specific instructions for baking, setting a timer. The organizer in me likes the steps and the order especially given how chaotic and uncontrollable most of life can be. When I bake, particularly old favorites like banana bread, chocolate chip cookies, or yellow cake, I don't have to make decisions or argue with anyone about a minor detail that will end up being forgotten ten minutes after our conversation ends. It's just me, Stanny (yes, I named my stand mixer), and whatever recipe I've settled on for the day. The benefit for everyone else is delicious treats and my decreased stress level.

I have friends who also find baking soothing when stressed; Jessica has written about it over at Neek Confessional and I have a conversation about this with at least three people at work every time I bring in baked goods. Some people find the same feeling with cooking but I never have unless I'm following a recipe. I'm not the type of person that just throws things together and makes a fabulous dinner. I suspect this is why I'll never be a chef but I can see myself being a baker one day.

As I started work on this month's UT Book recipe, I began researching the recipe (one I was not at all familiar with) and stumbled upon an interesting nugget related to it: the cake I've selected was a favorite recipe of Sylvia Plath. She made the cake frequently and supposedly baked one up the day she wrote the poem "Death & Co."; Plath baked when she wrote. According to author Kate Moses, Plath found baking and cookbooks a connection to "the life of the body" and kept a baking journal to log her daily baking (this is a wonderful idea). She adored The Joy of Cooking and subscribed to Ladies' Home Journal to keep up to date on the latest recipes. She wrote of her kitchens in an essay called "Kitchen of the Fig Tree" for the Christian Science Monitor, one of the first essays she had published. And before you ask, yes, I see the irony in her baking and her suicide via carbon monoxide poisoning (from the oven in her kitchen). I choose to look beyond this and simply focus on the joy baking brought her in life rather than the macabre. Moses, in her research for her novel Wintering, found the same sort of solace in baking as she worked through her fictional account of the last days of Plath's life. I understand Moses completely and feel a kinship to her baking need as she finished the final chapters of her book.

So what was this cake Plath so loved? Depends on who you ask; the cake has several names including Secret Ingredient Cake and Mystery Cake. However, it's real name and the name it shall forever have in my heart is Tomato Soup Cake.

Tomato Soup Cake has a history in the 1920s and 1930s when ingredients like eggs and dairy would have been scarce. One blog I read about the cake called it "a recipe of frugality"; it could be made with things you would naturally have at home including canned soup (made popular by Campbell's in 1897). The soup adds moisture to the cake without extra expense. Original versions of the cake didn't include frosting which makes sense given the popularity during the Great Depression. The cake was a staple of community cookbooks for decades (although I couldn't find it in either of the Junior League books I have from 1950 and 1964). According to the Campbell's article, community cookbooks were the way recipes were shared before official test kitchens cropped up; their kitchen opened in 1941. Campbell's first version of the recipe was more like a British pudding (more similar to a bread pudding or custard or both). In 1942 they released the first version of the cake more like the one in the UT Book called "Halloween Spice Cake." They would test versions of the cake from 1950-1966 until they conducted "recipe experiment #38" which adapted the recipe to use cake mixes that were popular at the time. This recipe became the first recipe to be put on a soup label and it's one of their most searched recipes today.

I have never had Tomato Soup Cake nor had I ever heard of it until I found the UT Book. I'll admit it was the recipe that caught my eye when I was flipping through the book at the vintage store. The ingredient was one thing but it's also one of the few recipes that has a specific source, Mrs. Gibson. I wonder a lot of things about Mrs. Gibson including pondering which type of frosting she would use on her version of the cake. Since the recipe mentions the frosting, it helps put the notebook into a specific time frame - the late 1960s or early 1970s. During this period, frosting finally makes it way into the recipe. The popularity of carrot cake in the 1970s and its cream cheese frosting are partially responsible for this. Many of the modern versions of the recipe pair it with cream cheese frosting rather than chocolate or lemon as the older versions reference. As I researched the recipe I found more and more people who love this cake. One person commented on a blog that he/she has this cake every year for their birthday and have been doing so for 40 years. What a great historical cake!

It's a lot like a carrot cake, specifically in the spices used for the batter. Cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg combine with tomato soup, sugar, Crisco, and other dry ingredients to make a light cake that's sort of red in color. It smelled a bit like fall as I mixed it together. No pan size was mentioned in the UT Book recipe; the ones online varied from 9x13 to 8 inch square pans. I split the difference and used a disposable 8x12 pan I happened to have; it seemed to work just fine. It was easy to mix up and took ten minutes less to bake than the recipe indicated. This is probably my oven specifically; it tends to bake things faster. Some recipes include the addition of raisins and nuts like a carrot cake but this one does not so I left them out.

For the frosting, I opted for my standard vanilla buttercream recipe because it's awesome (not to brag or anything) and because several of my co-workers have an aversion to cream cheese frosting. I don't get it but I'd rather they enjoy the cake instead of complain about the frosting. A handful of my co-workers knew what the secret ingredient was in advance because I've been discussing this cake obsessively for weeks. I didn't tell everyone though, and made a little sign using one of the other names for the cake, Secret Ingredient Cake. I asked anyone who tried the cake if they could guess the secret ingredient. Both this name and Mystery Cake were used to hide the fact that the cake included tomato soup. I wanted to hide it as long as possible from my co-workers/testers.

The verdict?

It took several people before anyone guessed the secret ingredient. One person named all of the other ingredients but could not place the secret one. Some of the other guesses included: pumpkin, applesauce, apples, licorice, and brown sugar. Only one person said that had she known what the secret ingredient was in advance, she probably wouldn't have eaten it but was glad that she was brave and had a piece. Some of the group who knew what the ingredient was in advance said they only noticed the tomato soup taste on the first bite and it wasn't even that strong of a taste; this wasn't true for everyone who knew the ingredient though. I didn't get the taste at all but maybe that was because I tried the batter before trying the cake. We also discussed the color - it's not quite red, not quite orange but it's really pretty and makes for a lovely cake. I did get two requests for cream cheese frosting despite the haters in the office. Maybe next time.

Overall score for this recipe: I'm going to give it an A. It was super easy to make, tastes like fall, and gave me an excuse to make really good frosting. I'd make this again using the UT Book recipe or using one of the other recipes I found while doing research.

In addition to finding another great recipe to add to my repertoire, I'm also looking forward to reading Kate Moses's novel Wintering and contemplating Sylvia Plath, her work, her death, and her baking.

Blog posts:
The Enduring Allure of Tomato Soup Cake
A Spicy History of Campbell's Tomato Soup Cake
Campbell's recipe
Tips for Housewives
All others by me