Is this the way Starbucks makes lemon cake?

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by Chiot’s Run

Many of you may not know this, but I love to cook.

My passion for cooking started when I was a little girl.

Every other morning, nana would march into the kitchen, don her apron, and take out the ingredients to make bread.

Nana allowed me to observe as she carefully measured the flour, prepared the yeast, and kneaded the dough.

“Bella,” she would say, “I’m convinced heaven must smell like freshly baked bread.”

Unfortunately, my love for cooking instantly waned when I moved into my new home and saw how tiny the kitchen was.

No longer did I have spacious counters, powerful appliances, or a double sink.

Instead, I had a counter top large enough to hold a bowl, a single sink, and a small convection oven.

Nevertheless, there are days, special days, that prompt me to ignore my limited resources and bring out the mixing bowls and measuring cups.

Today was one of those days.

After spending three hours preparing our humble Easter feast, the Son said to me, “Mom, do you know what I’d love to eat?”

Praying he’d say a bowl of ice cream, I heard him whisper, “Lemon cake. A slice of lemon cake; like the one they sell in Starbucks.”

I felt my blood pressure rise as I thought how I’d just spent an hour washing dishes and cleaning the kitchen.

However, what mother can say no to her son when he makes a whispered petition and puppy dog eyes?

Out came the pots and pans, the ingredients, and a copycat recipe for Starbucks’ lemon cake.

I spent the next hour sifting cake flour, warming eggs in hot tap water, and grating the zest of four lemons.

As I painstakingly removed the flesh from the quartered lemon slices, I winced painfully as lemon juice squirted into my eye.

I hurriedly reached for a rag and accidentally knocked over the bowl of sifted flour.

Clamping my mouth shut to prevent a barrage of profanity from spilling out, I rummaged in the closet for the dustpan and a broom.

However, still partially blind, I tripped over the mixer cord and landed in the sea of flour I had spilt minutes before.

I got up slowly, dusted the flour from my clothes, and recited Psalm 23 out loud.

With newfound determination, I pulled out a fresh apron, cleaned the tiny counter, and started over.

As I carefully sifted the dry ingredients for the second time, I called out to the Son.

“What is it, mom?” I’m chatting with So and So!”

“And I may have lost forty percent of my vision. Come here!”

As he walked into the kitchen, I heard him say, “What the hell happened here?”

“Your wannabe Starbucks lemon cake happened in here. But forget about that and look at me.”

“Do I have to? You look like the Pillsbury Boy sneezed on you.”

“Yes. Yes, you do because I want you to make a memory. I want you to look at me as I prepare homemade lemon cake.”

I heard him laugh.

“That’s right. In ten years, when your wife is using boxed cake mix, or worse, serving you store bought cake, I want you to remember your mother’s lemon cake.”

“But I haven’t even tasted it!”

“That’s not the point. What’s important is that I took a lemon squirt in the eye that hurt more than giving birth to you.”

“Here we go.”

“Bup, bup, bup! I want to hear you say that never again will you look at lemon cake without remembering this moment.”

“How about, never again will you hear me ask that you to make lemon cake?”

“That works too. Now hand me a lemon.”

Happy Easter, everyone!


Is it always good to avoid confrontation?

Today I had to make a tough decision.

I had to decide whether to avoid confrontation with the Daughter by pretending everything was okay or address a situation and express my difference of opinion.

I chose to do the latter.

Confrontation is never easy.

For the most part, some of us decide it’s not worth the heartache or the angst.

Nevertheless, there are times when we realize that in choosing to ignore what’s troubling us, we also pave the way for problems to fester; to escalate.

It’s been two weeks since the Daughter last called.

Some mothers may not think this is a big deal.

I’m not one of those mothers.

I remember the first time I heard the song, “Cats in the cradle.”

I must have been twelve years old at the time.

I recall thinking that in the song, the reason the son turned into his father was because it was what he learned; his father’s lack of attention taught him to be an absent son.

Even at that young age, I knew that when the time came for me to have children, I did not want to be like the father in the song.

And true to my word, I have been a dedicated mother who has always put her children first.

It is for this very reason that I refuse to be put in a corner.

I refuse to be ignored, dismissed, put on hold.

I have certain expectations of my children, even if they are adults.

This morning, I took a deep breath before answering the Daughter’s phone call.

After saying hello, I told her in a calm but emphatic manner how she cannot ignore her mother; how a mother deserves more than just left over time.

I told her it’s not okay to take life for granted and think that I will be alive and well to take her call whenever.

I mentioned that while life can leave us feeling exhausted and drained, we have to make time for the people we love.

This weekend my mother informed me that a friend of the family died in a car crash.

He drove to the bakery to buy bread and coffee and on his way home, experienced low blood sugar and slammed into a tree.

He died three hours later from internal injuries.

Indeed, life is short.

We don’t know how long we have to live.

We don’t know if today will be our last.

It’s because of this that I refuse to allow the Daughter to wait two weeks before she calls; before
I hear her voice and she hears mine.

Yes, today I chose confrontation.

Because sometimes a mother has to be tough.

Because at times a mother has to create awareness before it’s too late.

And because I was never like the father in the song.

The rule of reciprocity will be put in effect because some day the Daughter will also be a mother who wants to hear her child’s voice.

Because some day she too will ache to hear her child ask, “How are you, mom?”

Today I could have chosen to act like nothing was wrong; to justify her absence for lack of time; but I didn’t.

And while this morning’s telephone conversation may have resulted in a bit of upset, it also served to establish the importance of communication.

I want to believe that today’s conversation was more than my “filing a complaint.”

It was my way of reminding the Daughter to be the thoughtful and caring woman I’ve always known her to be.

Do you avoid confrontation or do you face what’s troubling you head on?

Note: Roxy’s photo has nothing to do with today’s post. However, I did want to start off your week with a little Roxy love.

What do you mean you saw a black cat?

My family has a flare for drama.

It’s not just me, folks, it’s every member of our clan.

The men in our family aren’t allowed to call the women “drama queens,” given they too engage in the theatrics.

Nevertheless, while at times it’s a little overwhelming, it also allows for the funniest of moments.

My mother is quick to defend her Oscar-worthy performances reminding us that while everyone else may see the world in black and white, our family sees it in “Technicolor,” whatever that means.

In order to show you what I’m talking about, I’ve decided to share the conversation we had last night.

Laughter may or may not ensue, but know that this conversation has not been embellished for your entertainment purposes.

This is us in living color.

“Ma, I saw a black cat today.”

“Mary, mother of Jesus! Did you cross over to the other side of the street?”

“Of course not. I stopped and took its picture.”

“Of course you did! Do you know why? Because you were put on this earth to make me suffer.”

“Here we go.”

“Why can’t you be more like your sisters, Bella? They have respect for these things.”

“Don’t you mean, they’re as superstitious as you are? Besides, how did we go from the black cat to the ‘you’re not like your sisters’ speech?”

“Your sisters know better than to provoke a black cat.”

“Provoke? I took its picture! I didn’t poke it with a stick!”

“And Roxy? Was she your tiny accomplice; an accessory to your crime? Did you expose that sweet girl to seven years of bad luck?”

“Mom, I photographed a cat. I didn’t break a mirror. Roxy wagged her tail and made nice.”

“That cat could have pounced on you and scratched your eyes out! You might now be walking around like Oedipus, for the love of God!”

“Mom! There was no eye gouging! Stop with the drama, already!”

“Do you think we need any more bad luck in this family, Bella? Is that it? Your aunt broke her hip a month ago and now has a plastic one, or whatever fake hips are made of nowadays. Your Uncle Lucas went wandering on his own twice this week. The police found him talking to a lamp post, asking it if it knew where he lived, and your Aunt Ursula chipped a tooth trying to gnaw on a piece of stale Manchego cheese. Do you know what that means? That I’m next! That’s what that means!”

“Your brother and sisters are older than Moses. It’s a miracle they still remember to get up in the morning. And doesn’t Aunt Ursula have fake teeth?”

“What does it matter if she has fake teeth or not? The point is she has one less tooth to chew with. Things were good. My reflux wasn’t acting up, I’m remembering the names of you and your sisters, and the doctor told me my bladder’s holding up and I won’t be needing Depends anytime soon. But now with you and the black cat, I don’t know.”

“You’re being ridiculous. In any case, any bad luck should be coming my way.”

“Not necessarily. Bad luck can befall you or your family.

“Mom, it’s a black cat we’re talking about, not the curse of Tutankhamen!”

“Go ahead and mock me. You’ve been doing it since you were a child. Lord, where did I go wrong? When did I stray from the path?”

“I’m hanging up now.”

“Even across the miles you disrespect your mother.”

“Goodbye, Mom.”

“I’ll pray the black cat doesn’t curse you, Bella.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

Are you superstitious?

Today I’m linking up with Heidi’s Black and White Wednesday. Yes, I know it’s not Wednesday but we’re trying to get through midterms, so lets just pretend it is, shall we?

Black and White Wednesday

Can someone pass the bruschetta?

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by Felipe Neves

Last night, as I carried out the preparations that would ensure an eve of much deserved rest and relaxation, I heard the worst sound a woman hell-bent on unplugging can possibly hear–the phone ringing.

Carefully placing my wine glass on the table, I hurried to pick up, all the while praying it was a telemarketer asking if I wanted to buy a time share in the Cayman Islands.

But alas, such was not my luck.

I had barely said hello when I heard my sister screech, “Do you know that So and So just got back from skiing in Austria? Skiing! In Austria! And the bitch came back with a tan! I tell you Bella, life is passing us by, sister. Passing us by!”

I braced myself and made a grab for the wine glass, certain it was going to be one of those conversations.

Taking a sip of my wine and a bite of my bruschetta, I settled comfortably on the couch.

“We’re in our forties! In our forties, I tell you! And what have we done with our lives besides ruining our shapes and acquiring stretch marks from giving birth? Nada, I tell you! Nada!”

For some reason, she was repeating the last phrase and/or word of everything she said.

I poked a breadstick into the humus and tried to chew quietly.

“And these kids! If we could at least say, my son the doctor or my daughter the rocket scientist, but hell no! We’re lucky we can say, my son the student! Really, how long is it going to take them to get their Bachelor’s degree? I’m already fifty thousand dollars in the hole! But even so, I’ll consider myself lucky if my firstborn gets a job as a manager at Best Buy.”

I inhaled the heavenly scent of olive oil as I dipped a piece of crusty bread in it.

“And you! All that slumming you do, dressing like a homeless person, and for what? Yes, Bella, mark my words. The angel of death will soon greet us and all of this sacrifice will be for nothing!”

I grabbed the tiny spreading knife and spread brie on a cracker.

“I had dreams, you know. You had dreams! You were going to win a Pulitzer! And me? I was going to discover the cure for Alzheimer’s. But the way this is going, we’ll be lucky if we get Alzheimer’s so we can forget how we pissed our lives away. Pissed our lives away!”

I slowly inched for the wine bottle and poured myself a second glass.

“I was going to live in a fancy house, drive a fancy car, dress in fancy clothes, and walk a fancy dog. Instead, I’m stuck in this money pit with a leaky roof, drive a second-hand passenger van, wear whatever’s on clearance at Target, and my idea of walking the dog is putting him out on the doorstep and telling him to pee and scratch the door when he’s done.”

I bit into another bruschetta and repositioned the cushion behind my lower back.

“And you! Your idea of action is walking Roxy in the forest wearing those hideous sweatpants and that old polar fleece jacket that’s full of dog hair! I cannot believe you’re not upset by all that is happening to us. Or I should say, NOT happening to us. We should be on the arm of men like Gerard Butler or Jim Caviezel, dining and wining on the Amalfi Coast. Instead, we’re lucky if Laurel and Hardy take us to the drive-thru at Mickey D’s!”

I slowly unfolded my cloth napkin and delicately wiped the corners of my mouth.

“Where did we go wrong, Bella? Where? We’re educated women. We speak three languages. We graduated Magna Cum Laude, for the love of God! We dated good looking men. We were good to mom, dad, and nana. Why does the Universe hate us? Why aren’t we the ones returning with our dentist husband from a skiing holiday, sporting a freakin’ tan? Why, Bella, why?”

I reached for the wine bottle and poured myself a third glass.

“Bella? Are you listening to me? Have you heard a word I’ve said?”

“Woman, I have heard every word you’ve said. Are you done?”

“Yes, yes I am.”

“Are you feeling better?”

“Much better.”


“Next week, same time?”

“You betcha.”

Does venting help you feel better?