Monday, July 30, 2012

I would love to have Plato philosophize any Turner get-together.

"I begin to wonder what I am doing with my life.  Whenever I get disoriented or not sure of myself, it seems I bring my whole life into question.  It becomes very painful.  To cut through, I say to myself, 'Natalie, you planned to write. Now write.  I don't care if you feel nuts and lonely.' So I begin."
Most nights I try to read a short chapter in Writing Down the Bones (Natalie Goldberg's writing how-to) and a few pages in something else.  I'm horrible about starting three or four different books and just picking one up based on the mood I happen to be in that night.  My current assortment includes War and Peace (yes, I'm attempting this again), Michelle Obama's, American Grown, and a lovely memoir/recipe collection titled Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach (I really do love this one. Rosenstrach kept a diary for 14 years, charting dinner selections each night. This book explains both the meals and the memories to which they are inextricably tied.)

But, anyway, back to the opening quote.  These words, which seem reminiscent of the Avett Brother's "Decide what to be and go be it" mantra I try to embrace, are found in Goldberg's "Engendering Compassion" chapter.  I read this a few days ago and have kept it marked, reminding myself that a Pillow Book post was in order.  I hate the cliche "it just speaks to me," but hell, I know no better way to say it.  This passage speaks to me. 

When one thing in my life seems "out of sorts," suddenly I begin to question EVERYthing, even those moments, relationships, and ideals I know to be tangible and honest and omnipresent. I don't sleep well.  My mind is one constant, but yet scattered, debate.  I keep myself busy so I don't have to wallow in indecision and/or prioritize things that I just wish would somehow peacefully coexist without sacrifice.  I do exactly what all sorts of self-help books suggest is completely unhealthy: I get worked up over things that may or may not matter AT ALL in 5 years or even next month. 

And, as a result, I feel both nuts and lonely fairly often.  I tell myself that no one could possibly understand the rationales and motivations in my head and so I just stay silent.  I get scared that I can't commit, that I can't truly give myself over to something, because I'm constantly thinking about at least 60 other things I should be, or could be, doing.  I have trouble picking up a pen or the keyboard because I'm too busy fidgeting.  I don't have conversations that need to be discussed because I figure there's no way to clearly articulate what's in my crazy head.

Occasionally, however, I do have the presence of mind to tell myself two things:
1) Get over yourself, Liza. Everyone struggles with choices. Make one. Do something.  Decide what to be and go be it.

2) I mentioned this to a friend yesterday and my faith in the concept gets stronger as I get older: There really aren't "right" decisions.  There are simply decisions.  We do what we think is best in the moment based on what we know or what we feel.  Will we look back in a year and think, "That was exactly the thing I should have done."? Who knows?  Rationalizing and/or finding purpose in my decisions might make me feel better about myself, but it does not make a particular choice any more "right" in some Platonic, "Allegory of the Cave," understanding of ultimate "truth" sort of way. It seemed right at the time.  That's about the best I can hope for, I suppose.

Just a happy little thought on my mind this morning...;)
Well, it's not a dinner recipe and I haven't put it in a diary, but here is one that will forevermore remind me of birthdays, and matching shoes, and the classic line, "hope Bonnie doesn't poop on the wrapping paper."
Chocolate Cake (via I Adore Food blog)
  • 1 3/4 Cup of all-purpose flour
  • 2 Cup of sugar
  • 3/4 Cup of cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • 2 Teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 Teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 Teaspoon of salt
  • 1 Cup of buttermilk
  • 1/2 Cup of vegetable oil
  • 2 extra large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 Teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 Cup of freshly brewed coffee
  • 6 Ounce of good quality semi sweet chocolate
  • 1/2 Pound of butter at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 Teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 Cup of sifted icing sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon of instant coffee
  1. For the cake: (12 first ingredients) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-inch x 2-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.
  2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
  3. Place 1 layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.
  4. For the frosting:(ingredients starting at chocolate) Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.
  5. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners' sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy. Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don't whip! Spread immediately on the cooled cake.


  1. I really like your contemplative posts because they make me think about things too. I really like the concept of "there are just decisions" because I would like to think that we don't knowingly and deliberately make bad decisions. I think hindsight is what makes decisions bad ones. I also like the quote at the beginning. I haven't written in a long time, mostly because I've been busy and I haven't come up with any good ideas. I should take that advice, though... Just write.

    1. Zach,
      Thank you so much for reading and for this thoughtful comment. Your posts always do the same for me. Even if you have "no good ideas," I'd be willing to bet that your "nothing" is still interesting and fun and introspective. Give your fans more, ZSE....just write:)

  2. Oh I like this one. I like your honesty and depth. A few thoughts:

    1. I think you should elimiate "crazy" from your vocabulary. I don't think it's doing you any favors. You're not crazy. You're just smart.

    2. I bought TDP a copy of W&P for his bday. We are really doing the book club this time. The fella will keep us on track!

    3. That cake is STUNNING.

    4. Where shall we go for our next adventure? (And can Tyler and I drive down for Labor Day?)

    5. I love you I love you, LMT! (note's in the mail to you today)

    1. 1. That's sweet. But no, sorry, I'm just kinda insane.
      2. NO! He'll quiz me as though it's the state quarter game. Boys always mess up everything.
      2B. Just kidding, I'm glad the book club has been expanded:)
      3. Thank you:)
      4. YES!!!! You all drive down anytime. And, yes, we need a fall adventure! I don't know; some suggestions: grand canyon, yosemite, savannah, napa valley, toronto?
      5. Love you, CDK:)

  3. I LOVE Dinner a Love Story! This cookbook is the best, best. We've been making loads of recipes out of it. As a long time reader of her blog, I couldn't wait for the book to come out. The grilled fish tacos on p. 239 with the cabbage slaw and pineapple salsa? Amazing. Speaking of amazing, that chocolate cake looks pretty unbelievable. Loving all of these posts! Keep 'em coming!

    1. Hi, Myndi! I am loving this cookbook so much. Every page just makes me happy. She is one of those authors I just really wish I could have coffee with. The only recipe I've tried so far is the black bean burritos about 60 pages in or so; looking forward to to trying the fish tacos.

      Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment:) Oh, and thank you for the cake comment. I had fun with it:)

      Can't wait to read more posts/watch more videos featuring Miss Emerson.