Cat calls and reflections

I ran this morning. I’ve run nearly every morning for the last two months in preparation for a half marathon in October. I hadn’t run for two years due to injuries and the fear of injuries. I’d never run in my life prior to the age of 33.

Over the course of time, I have had a few cat calls while running. Most notably I was called a “lard ass” while training for a 10K a few years ago. This morning I was called a “fatso.” The man felt it necessary to honk his horn, lean out the window of his stellar Geo Tracker as he passed me at 60 mph and scream it. To this man, this paragon of all that women want and lust after, I say “thank you.”

That’s right – Thank You.

Thank you for reminding me of how strong I am.

I am 200 lbs. and I regularly run between 4.5 and 6.5 miles. I can run 8 miles without wanting to die. I am constantly amazed by the strength this battered body has – because this body has not been treated well. In fact, I have hated my body most of my life. This body has been starved, stuffed and purged. It has suffered and it has seen its way through to better days.

I am not a swimsuit model, but I am of a model of perseverance and of strength. I have been abused, I have been assaulted by words and by fists and I am so much stronger because of it.

And that strength amazes me with every day and with every mile I run.

I am so much healthier than I was at 25, 17 or 12. I have weathered past storms, I will weather future storms. I am amazing.

So, Mr. Fatso you can kiss my round, muscled, dimpled ass because I think it’s pretty damn amazing.

 

Photo via Flickr by missjensphotos

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Cake No. 1

I have a cook book that, to be honest, I only use for one recipe – shortbread cookies. I’ve had this book for years and years and years, so long in fact that I can’t remember where I picked it up. Its bright pink cover is battered and the spine holds a remnant of a long abandoned indexing system I created over a decade ago when my mother and I owned a catering company.

I may hate rules but I love order. Actually, I’ll settle of the illusion of order.

Anyway, this bright pink baking book is The Perfect Recipe Baking Book: 50 foolproof recipes for America’s classic cakes, pies, cookies and more by Murray Jaffe. An awful lot of hype for a little pink book. To me, the cake was too sweet and too crumbly, the frosting too sweet and too hard. Basically, the result was a pile of crumbs under a hard frosting shell.

The fault may be partly mine – I used cake flour instead of all purpose – see there I go again with not following directions.

So, the cake wasn’t great but I do love the recipe for the shortbread (below).

 

Shortbread Cookies (recipe by Murray Jaffe)

2 sticks salted butter, room temperature
1/2 c. granulated sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
2 t. vanilla
2 c. all-purpose flour

 

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a bowl, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla until the mixture comes together and is light and smooth.

3. Mix in the flour until the dough is uniform and smooth. If it is a little crumbly, knead it with your fingers until it stays together in a smooth ball.

3. Scoop dough by the teaspoonful and roll into a ball. Drop them onto a baking sheet in even rows (about 4 to 5 per row). Using the bottom of a glass, dip the glass in a small bowl with granulated sugar then use the glass to flatten each cookie to about 1/2 inch thickness. Poke at least two holes in the top of the cookie with a toothpick.

4. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the edges of the cookies start to turn brown.

Baking and my problem with authority

My search for the perfect chocolate cake encompasses the first step in a long personal journey. As any family member, friend or co-worker can attest – I have a problem with authority. I cannot follow directions. I challenge pretty much everyone and every thing in my life.

So, maybe I have a few flaws.

Baking is as much a chemical experiment as an art form. You must follow instructions to a T in order for the end result to be a success. Deviation means failure. Challenging the written instructions means a god-awful mess. Baking and I have not been on good terms in the past.

So, for me to dedicate myself in this quest of baking the perfect cake – well – it’s a pretty big deal. I am going to have to give myself over to the recipes before me. I am going to have to accept failure. I won’t have the perfect chocolate cake the first time around. Recipes lie…a lot. One person’s “perfect” cake can be my dry, sweet, overwhelming disaster.

I’m going to have to go with the flow and surrender to the process and I hope that along the way I’ll find a lot more than just a cake.

 

Photo from Flikr by jbloom

In search of the perfect chocolate cake

I realized recently that I’ve started to slide toward the sour end of life’s spectrum – and it scares me. For whatever reason the truth is this: I’m not happy. I’m not miserable – yet – but if I don’t change something in my life soon I risk becoming the nasty neighbor with twelve cats and a bad word for everyone she meets.

I’m not that person. That person scares me.

So, I need to figure out how to become happy, fulfilled and a more complete person once again and I think that I have come up with the perfect solution – Chocolate Cake!

Multi-layered chocolate tiers separated by chocolate fudge frosting. The kind of cake that brings complete and pure bliss – especially when paired with an ice cold glass of milk. Yup, chocolate cake is going to be my ticket to happiness. Now, hear me out because it isn’t as simple or as crazy as it may sound. I know that one bite (or ten) of a chocolate cake won’t bring joy back into my life like a magic potion. It won’t answer any of my problems. It won’t suddenly make my soul feel settled.

But –

Studies have shown that the happiest people in the world are the ones who have found a level of expertise in one thing and that one thing can be very simple. My one thing is going to be chocolate cake. Happiness is in the complete and total focus on the act – with running it’s one foot in front of the other – it’s in the moment when you are so focused that the rest of the world fades away.

I want that.

And I literally want my cake too.

An amazingly delicious chocolate cake is harder to make than you may think. The cake itself can be too dry, too dense, too moist, too sweet. The same goes for the frosting. The ability to get all the parts to make a perfect whole, well, it requires a lot of skill and a little luck. I think that if I work hard enough and search hard enough, I may just find my perfect cake, my moment of focus, my joy again.

And this is where I start that journey.

 

Photo from Flickr – freakgirl