Rosie’s Cakes

My grandmother, Rose, is a domestic goddess of mythic proportion in my mind.  She could do everything.  She made dresses for my mother that I am still able to wear.  She hosted dinners for over 50 people on a weekly basis. Everything she created in the kitchen was extraordinary and the best I’ve eaten  – even just spaghetti with meatballs (which was really the only thing I ate as a kid, earning me the nickname “the spaghetti wrangler”).  She hosted pea parties where only dishes with peas were served (and it wasn’t gross!).  She left her Christmas tree up all year long.  She could knit an afghan, read a book and watch “Days of Our Lives” all at the same time. She had a built-in brick oven in her kitchen.  She used to buy me gold lamé bathing suits and took me to the diner with her friends.  Maybe it was her special Grandma touch, but she could do no wrong.

She also used to make the most remarkable wedding cakes.  I was sorting through some old photographs with my mother this weekend and we found these pictures of cakes she made in the late 60′s to the early 80′s.  The images aren’t in the greatest condition, but you’ll get the picture.  These are the wedding cakes of yore – you’ll be hard pressed to find a baker who still makes them like this (except for maybe in the Bronx?) and, although, it’s not necessarily an aesthetic that’s stood the test of time – you can certainly appreciate the artistry that goes into them.  They have electric fountains and angels and sugar roses for crying out loud!  I don’t know who they belonged to.  I wish I did.  Even though they were promptly eaten on someone’s wedding day, I am happy that I can share them with you here.

My Parents & Their Wedding Cake…

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It happened today…

…that moment when I knew I’d been in New York for a long long long time.

I remember my 22-year old self thinking that I would have these “I used to do this” kind of conversation with someone someday…I just didn’t realize it would happen, well, now?

I was talking to a younger co-worker about going dancing. Seemed simple enough. Before I knew it I had launched into a serious diatribe about our beloved Don Hills.  Sigh.  I was recalling a “once was” time about something that is just a shadow of it’s former glory.  Sigh, again.

Does anyone remember the nights of TisWas?  When Blur , Pulp, Suede and Stereophonics ruled the dance floor (along with the Culkin brothers)?  Blogger William Gone writes “The club was also a destination for stateside fans of Britpop. In the dark and Anglophobic days of the early-’00s garage rock movement, the Tiswas party kept the Union Jack fluttering over the local club scene. Billed as an “indiepop electro dance party,” Tiswas was friendly to English bands and New York groups with transatlantic sympathies. The Strokes, Interpol, the Mooney Suzuki, A Place to Bury Strangers, The Realistics and other popular New York bands all played Tiswas before achieving international fame. Spacehog — a British band living in the United States — rocked the party, as did Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr.”

We were there…my friends and I.  We lived through that.  We had a front row seat.  This place suited us, not too pretentious, not too underwhelming. Great music, good atmosphere and fantastic people.  You felt like you belonged there.  There was a promise of a good time.  We used to pretend we were an all girl band and convinced passersby that we were going somewhere.  That they should come to see us.  That we needed to be seen.  Don Hill’s broke Jenny’s nose and prevented her from going to basic training, which, in turn, prevented her from going to Iraq.

I couldn’t have said it better…so, for now, I’ll leave you with an obituary of one of NY’s greatest venues. Or am I really mourning myself? Sigh, trois.

All about the Benjamin’s…

I just purchased these two fonts and I’m going to use them in an invitation. I typed out this quote to see an example of how they looked together.  And then I got to thinking about it.


When I was in 7th grade, Mrs. DeFelice wrote this on the board.  I have a horrid memory and I’m shocked that, to this day, I remember it verbatim. I even remember writing it down in the back of my day planner as if it were some reminder on how to behave. I know this was written as an exercise in financial frugality (and maybe it’s my New England upbringing) but these words has somehow followed me around to this day, in the forefront of every decision I’ve made.  I often felt guilty for enjoying myself, as if it were to set in motion a series of unpleasant events. I practiced restraint on the most base of levels. I made “smart” decisions and followed cerebral paths. Because if I did, I wouldn’t have deal with any collateral damage brought on by using my heart or following a feeling.

For the last few years, going back to about 2008, I consciously practiced a different exercise.  I’ve stopped holding back, started encouraging desire, if you will.  I treat every opportunity as a opportunity to treat myself and I love the opportunity to celebrate a moment.  I’ve gotten more joy out of every day since then.  I left a passionless professional field that I thought made me appear “smart, worldly and put together” (International Education) and entered a world based on something I love that thrives on beauty, vision and tradition (Paper Arts).

I am proud to have cultivated a beautiful life and I’m grateful for this quote as a reminder that, from time to time, the first action sets in motion all that follows – and sometimes that’s a positive thing.  Sometimes the desires that follow are paying homage to the first heartfelt decision one can make.

Mahna Mahna…

I’ve been thinking a lot about Jim Henson.  We would have celebrated his 75th birthday a few days ago if it weren’t for his untimely death.  It wasn’t until I started thinking about my own human-in-progress that I realized how influential he’s been in my life.   And really, how influential he’s been for a lot of people our age.

I’ve begun drafting a letter to my baby boy and opened it with a Jim Henson quote, “Love people for their differences – not their similarities”.  Seems rudimentary.  But then I think about all his creatures and how strange and beautiful they are. And they all love each other – take care of each other – and find comfort in each others unique “weirdness”.

When Mr. Vanderberg and I were announced for the first time, we walked into our reception to “The Theme from The Muppet Show”, a simple salute to letting your freak flags fly during what is supposed to be a time of tradition and reverence.  ”The Dark Crystal” has been playing over and over on some Showtime channel recently and  I will, without fail, put down the remote and watch it – no matter which point in the movie I encounter it.  I think I watched this movie daily as a kid, and I seem to be able to recall every line verbatim – which is not one of my talents.  ”Labyrinth” remains to this day a cult classic for all ladies our age – who doesn’t know all the words to “Dance, Magic, Dance“? (nor who could resist David Bowie in tights?).  Just last week my whole office broke out into “Somebody’s Getting Married” when a co-worker left for her pre-wedding high-light appointment.  We have two friends from college who we refer to as Statler and Waldorf, because of their many supposed secret and hilarious antics which often get displayed in public.

Not so long ago I was wandering around Red Hook with my pal Jane and we came across a filming of Sesame Street.  I felt a tinge of melancholy when I didn’t recognize one character…no vintage Grover or Oscar, just a fuzzy orange creature whose name eludes me.  But there were at least 10 neighborhood kids absolutely enthralled by her! They certainly recognized her celebrity.  It was heartwarming to know that Jim Henson’s legend lingers on – that he still produces magic for countless numbers of kids…and adults.   (Although, about 10 seconds after the filming we watched them toss this Muppet into a black duffel bag and pull out another one dressed in a different costume – kinda killed it for me!).

The first song I ever performed as a kid was “The Rainbow Connection” on my grandparents fireplace.  I recently bought “The Green Album” – a compilation of classic Muppets songs sung by some pretty awesome modern musicians. Weezer and Hayley Williams do a pretty heart-wrenching version of  this song, which I imagine singing to my baby boy, pretty soon. Take a listen here.

I just read a story about Jim Henson’s funeral. He asked that no one wear black and had The Dirty Dozen Brass Band play New Orleans style jazz.   At the end of the service at St. Patricks Cathedral here in NYC, the man who voiced “Scooter” got up with his Scooter Muppet and started singing one of Jim Henson’s favorite songs, “Just One Person”.  One by one, each human who voiced a Muppet got up with their Muppet and joined in.  Pretty soon the whole congregations was singing along too.  A real celebration of a beautiful life and a real testament to how influential just one person can be.  It’s said that Richard Curtis, a friend of Jim Henson who directed and wrote “Love Actually” was overwhelmed by this chorus. He claims it is the inspiration for the now infamous “All You Need is Love” wedding scene that makes us all tear up.

The new Muppet movie comes out Christmas of this year, around the same time the babe will be here too…I know he’ll be a little young to appreciate it, but I can’t wait to watch it with him.  Although Kermit’s voice won’t be quite the same thing, I’m sure it will make us all feel pretty excited the way “The Muppets Take Manhattan” did.  I particularly like the usage of Starships “We Built This City on Rock and Roll” in the preview – another favorite from my childhood – it’s like someone was trying to tell me something when putting this together, complete with a punching Miss Piggy “Hiyah!”.

My favorite Muppet was always Janice from Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem – a clueless combination Joni Mitchell and Janis Joplin, and the only girl in an all boy rock band, which seemed like fun.  Who was yours??