No matter how many times I read this, it never ceases to inspire.
When it comes to making someone you love feel special, making them a homemade cake is a pretty sure bet. If someone has ever baked you a cake, chances are, they love you (or at least like you a lot).
I like to bake cakes. Well, not the actual making part. I like the giving away the cake part. But they are rarely pretty…which got me thinking. I really wish I knew how to make BEAUTIFUL cakes. The kind of cakes that make the people I love smile big and ask "did you really make this yourself…like, for real?"
So off I went to a Sunday cake decorating class at Sugar Flower Cake Shop with a friend I adore. Her days working at Carvel gave her a serious leg up. This girl can pipe Happy Birthday in butter cream like you’ve never seen. It’s intimidating.
Here’s what I learned after two hours of sugary sweet cake curriculum.
1) Piping pretty designs is hard. It takes practice. Luckily, even ugly stars, shells and rosettes are delicious.
2) If you are incapable of making pretty piped designs, adding a heart or two and the word love will save you..and make the recipient feel pretty special in spite of any aesthetic challenges you’ve encountered.
3) Cake love is meant to be shared. So, here’s a little cake love…from me to you - my favorite recipe in the universe - “ALMA’S ITALIAN CREAM CAKE” (thank you to Cat Cora).
May your year be sweet and full of cake love.
(Inspired by Red Velvet Cupcakes)
Guitar lesson #2 today. Wow. It’s so much harder than I ever imagined. Learning to read music is like learning to speak a new language. Jason, my (incredibly patient) teacher made me sing the notes outloud today before I played them. So..So…So..Re..So…Re..So…Re. It made me realize that the only song I ever sing out loud to anyone is…happy birthday, where I can safely hide my voice within a group of far more talented happy-birthday-singers. I’m definitely out of my comfort zone, but happy to be here. My dad’s old guitar is a bit to heavy for me to carry, so I had to set it down a few times on my walk …thought it looked quite at home on this bench.
Brandon, the man behind Humans of New York, inspires me daily with the human stories he captures on film. And this past week, he inspired me by using his work and passion to transform an unfortunate situation into helping others less fortunate. He is unaware that he is one of my inspirations for THE NEW PROJECT - so I’m hoping by spreading the word, I can inspire others to help support him and his goal as a small and silent thank you to him. If you have not read his story…I promise you, you’ll be so glad that you did. He has brought this beautiful African Proverb to life in big way…you make the world a better place Brandon. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Here is the link to his story…and how you can help.
The PERFECT fortune for THE NEW PROJECT. Discovered this hiding at the bottom of my tote bag today…
Thinking guitar lessons might be next on the list of 52 for THE NEW PROJECT…
I’ve always wanted to visit a Buddhist Temple. A snowy Superbowl Sunday seemed like the perfect occasion.
I chose Wat Buddha Thaivornvanaram – a modest Thai Buddhist Temple in Queens, NY. It’s one of 23 Buddhist Temples in Queens, and I had a good feeling about it. When I rang to inquire if guests were welcome and if I could speak with one of the Monks during my visit, “Tom,” a gentle, Thai man answered nearly all of my questions with three simple words – “Everyone is Welcome.” The visit was one of the best experiences I’ve had. I’ve shared a few of my favorite moments below:
(Photo: The temple and the statues on the grounds outside)
“Making Love Last”
Sunday services are conducted entirely in Thai language. I arrived just as Towin, the head Monk, was giving his “sermon.” Later he explained to me, in charming broken English, that he was speaking about how to make love last in a relationship, using the analogy of four different animals.
- "Sometimes we need to act like a camel to make love last. Camels go slowly, sometimes we need to be patient for our partner."
- Sometimes we need to act like a fish. Fish cannot speak. Sometimes our partner needs us to just listen.
- Sometimes we need to act like dog. Dogs love unconditionally, even during difficult times.
- And sometimes we need to act like a cow. Most people think cows are not smart. Sometimes it is best to keep our opinions and knowledge to ourselves, and let our partner have their moment to shine and make their own decisions.
Simple, but wise words.
“Come On Baby, Eat With Us”
Monks are only allowed to eat one meal a day, which must be finished by 12 noon. (I could never be a monk). The congregants bring food to feed the Monks and share with one another. After the service ended, everyone assembled in a small kitchen. They worked seamlessly together, arranging endless platters of homemade Thai dishes of green curries, noodles, soups, meats, greens, etc. Not wanting to intrude, I hung back in the corner waiting for everyone to finish, and hoping to ask a few congregants some questions. Despite my efforts to be incognito - an older Thai woman approached me, put her hands around my waist and walked me to the table. “Come on baby, eat with us,” she said and smiled at me with a very happy, crooked, welcoming smile. I filled my plate and joined them.
“Ringo, Barbara and Charlie”
During lunch, I sat with two lovely women Ringo and Barbara, whose friend, Charlie, was going to be indoctrinated as a Monk that day. A very special occasion. Charlie was covered in tattoos, hair that hung over his eyes and dressed in white – the customary color to wear before an indoctrination ceremony, where he would receive his robe and have his head shaved. As a new Monk, Charlie will only have to give up 10 things, and he can resume normal life outside of the temple. Senior Monks who have committed their lives to the temple must renounce 127 things. When I asked him why he wanted to become a Monk – Charlie answered “It’s a long story. But I’ll make it short. I used to be a @#$%. I used to be angry. I used to care only about myself. But I’m changing.” Then he went outside to chain smoke to calm his nerves.
(Photo: Ringo and Barbara, and Charlie’s indoctrination ceremony)
Make a Wish
The head Monk, Towin, invited me to spend time in the meditation room at the end of the visit, which was nestled at the tippy top of the temple. It was a peaceful place, and as I was having a look around, a Thai woman named “Kay” entered. She was curious as to why a Jewish girl happened upon a Thai Buddhist temple. We knelt on the floor, speaking for more than an hour about Buddhism, Judaism, Thailand….asking each other questions and learning from what the other had to say. I asked if I could make a donation to thank the congregation for the time they spent with me. She motioned to where the donation box was, and said “you can make a donation, but you also need to make a wish for yourself.”
I closed my eyes, and wished for the thing that matters most to me.
(Photo: My visit with Kay in the meditation room)
Then I tiptoed back downstairs, so as not to interrupt Charlie’s indoctrination ceremony and back out into the snow. I don’t know that I’ll be back again to visit, but I won’t soon forget this Superbowl Sunday, which I punctuated with football, nachos, Beyonce and an evening with the people I love and new friends.