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 comparison the thief of joy?

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”– Theodore Roosevelt

When Corinne, from Everyday Gyann, encouraged readers to write a blog post that agreed or disagreed with this quote, I knew immediately which side I was on.

Not that there are any sides, mind you, since you can also take a “middle path” approach.

However, given I’m an all or nothing type woman, I believe comparison robs us of joy.

Before writing this post, I thought about which personal example I could use to back up my argument.

And the example that immediately came to mind was fashion magazines.

Yep. Fashion magazines.

When I was younger, I was addicted to magazines like Vogue, Elle, and Marie Clare.

These were the fashion bibles I consulted whenever I needed to know what to wear, how to look, and what to buy.

Like a starving castaway who’s stumbled upon a bunch of bananas, I gorged on the information these magazines provided; believing I was more beautiful, savvy, and trendy for following their recommendations.

Yet fashion magazines didn’t just rule my life, they ruled the lives of all my friends as well.

Every afternoon, we would get together to discuss the latest trends and styles.

Coffee cup in hand, we would pass judgement and snicker at anyone who passed in front of us wearing what we deemed to be out of style.

I would come home after these sessions to make lists of what I needed to wear, what make up I had to use, and even what I needed to eat, to look just like the models in the magazines.

The comparisons started off small.

“I could never pull off that look.”
“If only I had her ass.”
“If only I was that thin.”
“If only I had her hair.”

Before I knew it, I was convinced I could never measure up to the women featured on the glossy pages.

My self esteem plummeted.

My self confidence abandoned me and before long, I was suffering from a mild case of depression.

However, this didn’t stop me from browsing through the pages of Glamour, searching for ways to make my waist smaller, my hair shinier, or my lips fuller.

My friends felt the same sense of inadequacy at not being able to measure up to the long-legged models who resembled Barbie.

One afternoon, nana saw me lying listless on my bed; crying because I didn’t have a particular model’s long blonde hair.

“Bella, what’s wrong?”

“Nana, I’m not beautiful and that makes me sad.”

“Who told you that you’re not beautiful?”

“No one. I just know.”

Just then, nana spotted a magazine peeking out from under my bed.

“Have you been comparing yourself to the women in these magazines?”

“I’ll never be as beautiful as them.”

“You silly girl. You do yourself a disservice when you compare yourself to others. You are who you are for a reason. There is no else like you. You are unique. Enough said. Now go get cleaned up.”

As soon as I got up from the bed, nana picked up the pile of magazines and deposited them in the trash.

It was the last time I looked at a fashion magazine while nana was alive.

Fast forward I don’t know how many years and fashion magazines still have the same effect on me.

The minute I start looking at the leggy models with the perfect hair, I revert to making comparisons and before long, the joy has been sucked out of my day.

The other day I came across an online article that stated,  “A 1995 study found that three minutes spent looking at models in a fashion magazine caused 70% of women to feel depressed, guilty, and ashamed.

Could these feelings be attributed to women comparing themselves to the air brushed models that grace the covers of these magazines but have been Photoshopped to within an inch of their lives?

I believe the answer is yes.

In comparing ourselves to women whose appearance has been modified by software, we are setting ourselves up to feel inadequate; frustrated by our inability to resemble such perfection.

I think it’s time we stop comparing ourselves to others and start appreciating our own beauty, talent, and uniqueness.

In the words of nana, “there’s no one like you,” and that alone should make us feel extraordinary.

Do you find comparison robs you of joy?

Today I’m linking up to the Comparison Blog Hop on Dangerous Linda and Everyday Gyaan.

What does snow have to do with telenovelas?

This afternoon, while writing a comment on Monica’s blog, I underwent a brain zap.

You know, when blood rushes to your head, you start to feel lightheaded, and zap!

You go back in time.

It happened rather suddenly.

One minute I was telling Monica how I also wanted to be a Girl Scout and suddenly, my brain zap revealed that this never happened thanks to something called “telenovelas.”

Growing up, telenovelas, or soap operas in Spanish, were big in our house.

They started in the early afternoon and lasted until the early evening hours.

During this time, no one was allowed to speak.

Silence was pivotal if any of the spectators were to understand the complicated lives of the protagonists.

One telenovela after another, my mother sat glued to the television, quieting anyone who dared to speak with a sharp, “Shh!”

Nana, in the meantime, carried on in the kitchen, mumbling what a waste of time it was to watch fictional accounts of people’s problems.

“Hija,” she would say, “don’t you have enough problems of your own that you have to become an audience to these people’s crisis and drama?”

“Mama,” my mother would reply, “My problems hardly resemble anything as interesting and intriguing as the ones these characters have.”

And she wasn’t kidding.

During commercials, everyone was treated to a blow-by-blow description of Marianita, one of the few living virgins, who was in love with Padre Juan, the priest, who was in love with Sarita, the Venezuelan expat, who was married to Pablo, the blind welder.

Even worse, my mother didn’t think listening to her scream, “Marianita, keep your virginity until you’re married!” was enough.

She turned every situation in the telenovela into a teaching moment.

Hence, we were reminded of the importance of not engaging in premarital sex, coveting our neighbor’s wealth, and more importantly, of not falling in love with the village priest.

Not that we lived in a village.
But to hear my mother speak, anyone would think my sisters and I had a hidden agenda for attending catechism.

Furthermore, my mother did not discriminate.

Everyone was invited into our home.

Characters from Venezuela, Mexico, Spain, Argentina, Puerto Rico; they all made their way into our living room and quickly became part of the family.

We dined with them, studied in spite of them, and relied on their troubles to lessen our own.

Maria, Pedrito, Alberto, Adela, Victoria, Claudio, and Miguelito.

They were like extended family, with the exception that we only saw our “real” relatives once a year, and we saw our telenovela relatives three and four times a day.

To this day, I’m convinced telenovelas are one of the reasons I moved out.

The competition was too fierce and frankly, I didn’t have the physical or mental energy to battle the likes of Marianita and Juan.

As far as I was concerned, these people were in a league of their own and they’d lured my mother to the dark side.

However, in all fairness, I have to admit that it was thanks to Marianita, that I learned how to feign being sick, how to faint at will, and how to bat my eyelashes in that special “come hither” manner.

Marianita is also the reason I probably won’t make it through the pearly gates of heaven.

Taking the Daughter to Sunday school one morning, I met Father Salvador, a real priest, who was so handsome, I was “forced” to incur in impure thoughts.

Marianita had been my role model and the way I saw it, if she could fall in love with a priest, I could damn well wonder what Father Salvador hid beneath his tunic.

Yes, telenovelas.
The downfall of propriety as I knew it.

And all thanks to my mother and her addiction.

To this day, my mother still invests a great part of her day watching the newer Spanish soap operas.

Yet, she tells me they’re not the same.

The characters are too superficial and lack passion.

Luckily, the story line is still the same.

Nowadays, she’s able to witness how Pilar, who’s originally from Brazil but moved to Argentina to get to know her dying father, is secretly in love with her dentist, Marco, who’s really her brother, the son her mother gave up for adoption when she was fifteen, who’s secretly using his dental practice to launder money for the mob, who’ve threatened to kill him if he doesn’t do what they say.

So what does snow have to do with telenovelas?


I just wanted to share shots of today’s snow day with all of you!


Have you ever watched a telenovela or soap opera?