We celebrated Favorite Niece’s birthday on Monday night with a small, last minute dinner party at my brother IT Guy’s house.  I was in charge of some vegetables, and a cake. I was crunched for time, but managed to find a cute little vanilla butter-cream cake at Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown. It would have to do, and, knew it would be delicious, just like everything else there.

But I couldn’t BEAR (har har) how impersonal it was. So I decided to decorate it myself.

I didn’t have much time, like I said, so I got all MacGyver-ey about the task at hand. I decided to hit up the weird “five and dime” store near my brother’s house for supplies and inspiration. After much consideration, I purchased the following:

1. One package of Oreo Cakesters (new to me – basically a pack of 3 small whoopie pies)
2. One tube of Necco wafers, assorted flavors
3. One 16oz bag of Toll-House chocolate chips

All those years as a pastry chef finally paid off!

I should probably mention that my niece is not a 4 year old child going through a panda phase. She is a 29 year old woman going through a panda phase.

“Panda” is the nickname we gave a guy whose real name kept eluding us last Friday night. His t-shirt had an abstract illustration of a panda. Thank goodness for that, or he’d now be “blue shirt guy”, which I’m guessing would not have inspired the cornucopia of jokes that calling him “Panda” did.

Favorite Niece boldly flirted with him that night, and then again the following night, making me a very, very proud Auntie. Jokes about sexy Pandas and the shiny things they collect in their panda dens didn’t stop for days. I don’t know why we are so weird. But we crack ourselves up.

I think the Panda jokes reached their pinnacle Monday night with the cake. When FN saw the cake, she laughed and laughed some more, and said it was the best birthday cake ever.

More Pandas, Less Pain,



Her reaction. I rock.
Not the first Panda she’s smiled at lately

Eat Thru The Pain

In a year of big changes, I’ve had a month of one big challenge after another, leaving me feeling a bit stunned. Which I guess is just fine and quite fitting for my first official blog post. I did some self soothing tonight by cooking and dining alone, followed by some quiet time now to write this post.

So. The changes. A Move. A new job. Ex met someone. I met someone. A very sick pet.

The move and the job position were welcome, though still stressful. My ex falling in love with someone else, while I saw it coming, left me crestfallen. And then I met someone one, fell hard for him, and my heart broke even more. Then my cat was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

But this year of changes and challenges has taught me to count my blessings, and to seek out the positive. My ex is a good man, and a good friend, and he deserves the happiness he’s found. There is a relief in knowing he’s moved on and is finding real joy in his life again.

The person I met and fell for was an important first step in opening my heart again, and while it hurt like hell, I know I’ll learn from it and that it will make me wiser and stronger.

Even the sadness about poor Super Kitty being diagnosed with cancer has a silver lining: I now know why she’s been so sick, and know how to offer her some relief in her final weeks.

690b7-2011summer065And tonight I counted the blessing in dining alone, at peace for the moment with myself and my life as it is. It is a good life, with great friends, a beautiful home base for the summer, and of course, the best food.

I cooked one of my favorite “alone” meals tonight. It was nothing fancy or original, but it represents the kind of cooking that I am grateful to understand: that fresh, local, seasonal ingredients need very little manipulation to make a beautiful meal of.

I made fresh papardelle topped with chopped tomatoes, steamed corn and fresh basil from Hodgkiss Farm here in Jamestown. I finished it with some fresh ricotta from Narragansett Creamery, and a little olive oil. And of course, wine. A Sancerre, pricier than I’d usually pour for weeknight. When I bought it, I thought I’d save it for a celebration or a dinner date.

But sometimes the special occasion is the one you have right there and then, on a deck in Jamestown, alone with a summer sunset. And while I usually believe that great food and wine are best when shared, that simply was not the case tonight.

More Food. Less Pain.