Sometimes

Sometimes I remember something that feels good to remember, and I have to write it down.

Like the time Devin and I rode home from Philadelphia on the Megabus. It was summer. I was wearing a sundress. And the A/C was turned up so high that I couldn’t feel my feet. My eyes were frozen grapes. My goosebumps had goosebumps, which had goosebumps, which had even more goosebumps––generations of goosebumps on all my limbs. I covered myself with everything in reach (my backpack, Devin’s backpack, his button-down shirt), but I was powerless against the cold. And I knew that just outside the window, it was hot. Sunny, sweaty, sniff-check-your-deodorant hot.

This cold was a man-made problem! It could be fixed with the turn of a dial. If only I could get to the driver’s seat… I pictured myself a spy: Kim Possible minus the cargo pants on a mission to turn down the A/C while the driver fumbled with the radio. But Devin napped the whole way back, and I was in the window seat. Powerless.

We got off the bus in Chelsea, which was convenient because we could catch the 2 train right there and ride it home to Brooklyn. The bus dropped us off right at the subway stop, and we started to go down the stairs, but I was cold. I was still so cold, and I knew the train would also be blasting the A/C. I turned back to look at Devin, who was oblivious to the whole thing. Angry New Yorkers scowled at us for holding up traffic on the subway stairs. I yelled, “No! I am not getting into another air-conditioned vehicle! I would rather walk home!”

And Devin, who had no idea that I had transformed into the world’s worst enemy of air-cooling technology while he slept, said, “Sure, we can walk home.”

We could have been home in 40 minutes, but instead, we walked 2 and a half hours. It felt exactly right.

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Sometimes

an anniversary video

Usually on our anniversary, I like to post a wedding picture, but I figure everyone has probably already seen all of them. Multiple times. (What’s the statute of limitations on posting pictures from your wedding? Are You There, Emily Post? It’s Me, A Millennial.)

This was also the first anniversary we spent apart, so I asked Devin if we could make a Q&A video (partly because we played a Q&A game at our wedding and partly so I could watch it on our anniversary and laugh at Devin side-eyeing me with the fire of a thousand suns).

It’s been a couple of months since our anniversary, but this has never been a timely blog, so here it is for your enjoyment/bafflement. Happy anniversary, Devin! I love you.

an anniversary video

Notes on a Surprise Party

When I introduce Devin, I like to tell people that he’s from a hippie community. “No, like a real hippie community,” I clarify. I explain that his parents grow most of their own food, that people have names like Tree, Chamomile, and Forest––and oh yeah, Devin and his three best friends were all born at home and delivered by the same midwife.*

This year, the spouses of those four born-at-home hippies decided to surprise them with a birthday party. The midwife came. It was in the house where one of them was born. And––at the height of the party––the mothers did dramatic readings of their birth stories that bordered on performance art. (OK, the last one is a lie, but I wish I’d thought to suggest it.)

 

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The four born-at-home hippies with Tree, their midwife
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The party-planning spouses

At first, the surprise party seemed easy enough to orchestrate. All we had to do was get the guys to go home on the same weekend, have them show up at the same place at the same time, and keep it a secret until then. In the end, it was less “piece of cake” and more “learning experience.” I took some notes in case you’d like to learn from my mistakes!

1) Coordinating party plans from three different states can be really confusing. You’ll probably send a lot of text messages. If you don’t want your surprise target to get suspicious about said texting, change the names of your co-conspirators in your contact list. Otherwise, your partner may see your phone light up with a text from his best friend’s partner and say, “Hey! Look who sent you a text message!” thinking you’re going to tell him that they’re coming to visit or something, and instead you’ll get cagey and mumble that he shouldn’t look at your phone.

2) Related: figure out a plan so that your partner doesn’t talk to any of his best friends in the weeks leading up to their joint surprise party (and then report back because I still don’t know how to do this).

3) How do you explain coming home with 45 pounds of cheese? You can’t. Don’t do the party prep at your place––or figure out a workaround for party prep altogether. I recommend throwing your surprise party with people who don’t mind doing a potluck. Luckily, hippies are so down for potlucks (though really, “potluck” is an understatement. We had so many cakes that we hardly made a dent in the official birthday cake! It was like a cartoon banquet come to life.)

4) This might seem like backward advice, but trust me: you don’t want to be too good at hiding the surprise party. I was so focused on keeping the secret that Devin thought I wasn’t going to celebrate his birthday at all. And he planned his own party. Oops. Miraculously, he decided he wanted it to be a brunch at his parents’ house on the same day as the surprise party, which was a dinner, so we were able to do both (back-to-back!), but it was nerve-wracking for me and confusing for Devin. So confusing in fact that when everyone yelled, “Surprise!” Devin turned to me in a panic and said, “Do my parents know about this?” because he was worried they hadn’t been invited. (They had to wait until we left their house to drive to the party.)

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Devin’s morning party with our Madison friends (photo by our friend Kate)
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Devin’s evening party with his baby friends (and their babies!)

5) The saying “two can keep a secret if one of them is dead” definitely applies in this situation. Surprising four people is impossible! By the end of our party-planning sojourn, half of the birthday guys knew about the party, and you know what? They didn’t enjoy it any less than the dudes who didn’t know.

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Happy birthday, Devin, Jackson, James, and Morgan!


I’m honestly not sure if the moral of this story is that a party doesn’t have to be a surprise to be fun OR that now I know how to do better next time. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!

*I told Tree, the midwife, that this is my favorite fun fact about Devin, and she asked me to note that she does not deliver babies. The way she sees it, the person giving birth does all the work. She’s just there to assist.  

Notes on a Surprise Party

This is the story of a happy birthday

This weekend I had my first birthday in Madison.

My friend Makeba flew in from New York, like the life-size present she is! She is a seasoned traveler, and this was her first trip to the Midwest, so you know I had show off all the good spots.

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We checked out the feminist bookstore, three coffee shops, two museums, one airy boutique, a steakhouse straight out of 1960, the State Capitol from every angle at every hour, a free yoga class overlooking the lake, and a store where you can sample absolutely everything!

We also walked on water.

Frozen water, but still! It takes a lot of courage to walk on a lake when you did not grow up doing this kind of thing.

Devin’s idea of reassuring us was to stomp on the ice as hard as he could right next to our feet. “See! It’s very frozen! Hey, look at that crack over there!” (Did you know you can have false symptoms of a heart attack?)

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We were also able to rescue some chairs that had been abandoned in the middle of the lake (but not before taking some cool pics).

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Last year Anda sent me the most beautiful gold sparkler candles in the shape of the numbers “2” and “6” and I rushed to use them on my birthday eve, before turning 27. (Numerous people later told me I could have waited until I turned 62. I hadn’t thought of that; otherwise, I might have!) By coincidence, our friend Kate gave me two chocolate pastries that were a perfect match.

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After the birthday eve blowing-out-of-candles (a new tradition I highly recommend), we went to Gib’s and saw almost everyone I know in Madison in one place. This might be the uncoolest thing to admit in writing, but I realized I have more friends here than I thought (when did that happen?), and it was super nice to see them all in one place!

Then, we went to a ‘90s vs. ‘00s music video dance party, and I learned that I am the only person I know who prefers the noughties to the nineties, at least musically. This is shocking to me. Doesn’t anyone remember Hey Ya? Paper Planes? The genesis of Young Money? Without which there would be no Nicki Minaj or Drake, and then where would we be??? I don’t even want to think about it.

One bright side of living far away from most people I know is that I got more phone calls, FaceTimes, and birthday packages than ever before. I just finished making a list of all the people I still need to thank or call back, and it is the nicest to-do list.

In conclusion, I like my birthday and I like you.

This is the story of a happy birthday

MADE: Chocolate Raspberry Cake

On Wednesday, Devin asked, “How would you feel about hosting a birthday party on Saturday?”

And I said, “A birthday party?! For whom?”

He blushed and said, “Well…me.”

Oops.

In my defense, this was the day after I locked myself in the house because I couldn’t find my keys. Where did the keys finally turn up? My purse.

Right.

Clearly, I haven’t been at my brightest lately, but once I realized his birthday was Monday (that is, two days ago), I got excited, especially after he asked if I would make a cake. Contrary to what this post might suggest, I love celebrating Devin’s birthday. Last year we had a big brunch and then went roller-skating. One year I commissioned a piñata that was six feet tall. And the very first party we threw together was a ‘60s-themed birthday party for him.

At 20, I’d never baked a cake from scratch, but I had a vision of chocolate cakes in the shape of records, complete with grooves and those round LP labels on top. Luckily, I had a very generous friend named Alison who had baked me the best cake I’d ever had. That’s the cake I wanted to make for Devin, and Alison was so generous she even gave me the recipe.

The first time I baked it, it was really hard. I thought I would mess it all up, and every single one of my roommates had to help me (to bake and to stay calm), but in the end, we had record-shaped cakes, and everybody loved them.

This past Saturday I baked that cake again. I know I would have liked it for nostalgic reasons no matter what it tasted like, but I promise you, it tasted even better than I remembered. Plus, when I made it for the first time six years ago, Devin went to the store to get drinks and came back with the September issue for me. When I made it this year, Devin went out and came back with a piano. I’m sure my imaginary lawyers would totally advise against this, but I’ll just go ahead and say it: this cake is magic.

Chocolate Raspberry Cake with Chocolate Ganache Icing
(adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz)

Chocolate Raspberry Cake with Chocolate Ganache Icing

Ingredients

* 1 1/2 cups all-purpose white flour
* 1/2 cup cocoa powder
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 2 1/4 cups soymilk (or another type of milk)
* 1/2 cup coconut oil (or another oil)
* 3/4 cup raspberry jam or preserves
* 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 1 1/4 cups sugar
* 6 tablespoons margarine (or buttery spread of your choice)
* 10 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips (1 cup and 2 tablespoons)
* Optional: fresh raspberries or sprinkles to decorate the cake

Tools

* 1 or 2 cake pans (I used two 8-inch pie pans because we hadn’t finished unpacking our kitchen, and they worked perfectly. You could also use one slightly larger cake pan and make a single-tier cake)
* 1 small bowl
* 1 large bowl
* 1 medium pot

Directions

1. First, make the ganache icing. It sounds fancy, but it’s ridiculously easy! Bring ¾ cup of soymilk to a low boil in a medium pot. Add the margarine and let it melt. Then, turn off the heat and stir in chocolate chips until smooth. Let sit for at least one hour to thicken. At that point, it should be easy to pour over your cake.

2. Next, get your cake materials ready! Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and grease your cake pan(s) with a little margarine or oil.

3. Mix your dry ingredients in a small bowl: flour, cocoa powder, baking power, baking soda, and salt.

4. Mix your wet ingredients in a large bowl: 1 ½ cups of soymilk, the coconut oil (make sure it’s liquid! If it’s solid, melt it in the microwave), ½ cup of the jam or preserves, the vanilla, and the sugar in a large bowl and mix. You can use an electric mixer or your muscles (I used just a fork and it worked perfectly). The jam should be mostly dissolved with the rest of the ingredients, but a few small clumps are okay.

5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in batches and mix until everything is mixed together. If you’re going to use two pans, divide the batter between the prepared pans. Otherwise, pour it into one pan. Bake at 350F for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick or knife comes out clean. (I baked mine for exactly 41 minutes, so make sure you check it at 40!) Remove from oven and let cool in pans.

6. It’s time to put icing on the cake! When the cakes have cooled, spread one layer of cake with the rest of your raspberry jam or preserves. If you’re making a single-layer cake, just mix the raspberry jam with the chocolate ganache. The ganache should be the perfect consistency for pouring over the cake––my favorite way to spread icing on a cake because it’s easy and looks nice.

7. Decorate it to your liking! Raspberries on top look really pretty, but so would sprinkles or nothing at all––a chocolate cake is a thing of beauty on its own.

MADE: Chocolate Raspberry Cake

Like a southbound train

flowers and suit

I can hardly believe it, but it’s been two years since Devin and I got married!

This whole thing started when I walked into the cafeteria and thought, “Who is that cute boy. And how have I not seen him before?” That was ages ago, but sometimes when I see Devin across a crowded room I still think, “Woah. Who is that?”

I think it’s because I never wear my glasses.

Happy anniversary, Devin! Here’s to two (hundred) more.

Like a southbound train

Too Legit

If you ever need a hype man for your blog, Devin is the dude for the job. I speak from personal experience.

See, one night I was walking down Broadway in SoHo when it started snowing lightly. I had just gone to the Westminster Dog Show Semi-Finals with two of my friends. We’d all worn ridiculous hats and seen A LOT of dogs.
anna and meI was having a private moment, thinking there’s nowhere else I’d rather be when this man appears out of nowhere and asks if he can give me a valentine. (I forgot to mention it was Valentine’s Day). I said sure, and guess what.

It wasn’t even creepy at all!

It had an encouraging message inside and a dog on the front. Yes, my friends, a DOG VALENTINE ON MY VALENTINE’S DAY OF DOGS! I could not make this stuff up and hope that if someone ever writes a biography of me they include this as an Important Life Moment. The valentine-giver didn’t include his email or Twitter or anything, so it wasn’t just a random act of kindness; it was a random act of kindness without self-promotion in the digital age (doesn’t that sound like a line from some hand-wringing think piece about how the internet has robbed us of our humanity?).

dog valentine

not creepyAnyway, that story actually has nothing to do with the matter at hand, except that it happened as I was walking to an ice cream shop to meet Devin. When I got there, I explained I was meeting someone before sitting quietly and looking out the window.

Then, in walks Devin. First, he asks a couple of questions about the chocolate milkshake. “I’m reviewing it for a blog,” he clarifies. Suddenly, the ice cream salesperson is falling all over herself to help us, giving us the owner’s phone number, calling headquarters to find out what kind of chocolate they use and if it’s fair trade. Things. Are. Happening.

Devin explains that he review shakes for my blog, and the attention shifts to me. “What’s it called?,” asks a girl from a small college in rural Pennsylvania.

“Smooth Liminal,” I answer, trying to channel Devin’s easy confidence.

“Oh! My friend reads that!”

I’m pretty sure “My friend reads your blog” is the 2015 equivalent of “Yeah, I loved their first album,” but I try to play it cool because hello, who doesn’t read my blog? ; )

Then, I stood a little taller and said yes when the salesperson offered to let me sample every flavor.

Too Legit