Pre-Birthday Magic

Many years ago I bought a silk slip on clearance in a beautiful teal blue color that matches my current bedroom. Because it’s a full slip, and such a strange and rich color, I never found a dress I could wear with it.

Last night I decided to wear it as a nightgown. I felt so fancy.

I was so cozy in my silk slip I didn’t want to get dressed. I thought a good way to compromise would be to wear a dress. And I got a new dress from The Attic that I haven’t worn.

I did my make-up and everything.

Now to make things more interesting I managed to convince my dad that we should have a socially-distanced picnic to celebrate my birthday and my step-mom’s birthday which are both tomorrow. I really want to cook these on the grill, and I don’t have any charcoal for mine.

And I had to order these. They sound so good! And when I ordered them from Tucker Silk Mill, I ordered fresh dill, fresh ginger, fingerling potatoes, sweet potatoes, golden beets, cauliflower, and purple peppercorns. The Vietnamese purple peppercorns were a birthday splurge.

And I never had golden beets, but I don’t really note any difference between those and regular beets.

I hung a load of wash outside and noticed so many lily of the valleys. At the front of the house my roses are finally blooming. I can’t wait to bring bouquets into the house.

At work today we still didn’t come to any agreement on when I can take my vacation.

I was working on my laptop on the sun porch when two women starting taking photos of my flowers. I heard them comment how beautiful my roses and irises are. I said thank you and started them as they hadn’t seen me.

They had been worried someone would yell at them for being in my yard. I laughed. No, I said, you are welcome. They took photos!

The teenager arrived home with the lemon cardamom cake she baked at my request for my birthday.

Recipe from Spice TrainLemon cardamom cake (click photo for recipe) On my 30-minute lunch break, the teenager and I ran down to Tucker to get my impulse buy of vegetables and then headed to Dunkin’ Donuts for my free birthday coffee which they completely screwed up. The teenager got some more of her special Dunkin stones from the side of the drive through.

(For more on the teenager’s fascination with the magical uses of these particular stones… it started here: Thank You Tucker Provisions with our last visit to Tucker. Apparently each time we go to Tucker, I let my daughter pick up random rocks at Dunkin.)

But she has always valued the power in rocks.

And honestly, I’m glad they screwed up my coffee and gave me a smaller weaker drink because I submitted four grants to my executive director today so my nerves were shot. I had just enough time to bring these goodies into the house before I had to clock back in!
My provisions from Tucker

The kittens and big old Oz gathered around me while I worked. My mother-in-law gave me a birthday card with money in it and my dad sent a really cute cupcake card with a check.

Then the teenager and I walked down to CVS to get my prescription and my neighbor who owns Sobaka, the Maltese yorkie mix, joined us. This gave the teenager a chance to try the new dog training clicker I bought her from Petco.

And I got my free nail polish from CVS for my birthday.

I came home and roasted vegetables, are cake and watched Star Trek The Next Generation with my daughter.

The Uplifting Side of Pandemic Days

There is just something about life in these pandemic times that I find uplifting.

Maybe the sense of nowhere to go or a certain carefreeness that reminds me of being on summer vacation as a teen.

Our grocery trips focus on the present more than ever. I normally only grocery shop once every two weeks but find that now I’m going once a week, buying less and rotating stores.

Today I went to a local small independent grocer, Park Avenue Market, where they are known for their amazing sandwiches and in store meats.

I treated the teenager to her first taste of olive loaf from the deli, slab bacon and their own feta spinach sausage patties. I also bought some stew beef and a small steak.

I discovered, in the middle of the store, with my order and my blind friend’s order, that I did not have my wallet. I found myself staring straight at a local cop and wondering where my wallet at fallen out of the back pocket of my jeans.

I told the teen to keep shopping and went home to look for it— it had fallen out of my pocket when I used the toilet before beginning our journey.

After the market, I took Nan her items and took the teen home before heading to Weis. There I got bananas, muffins, some discounted chicken and frozen vegetables. Half off fresh bakery products that weren’t so fresh any more. Milk, eggs, half and half and two six packs— one of Yuengling and one of a raspberry ale with a name I don’t recall.

We got some other items between the two trips: broccoli and cheese whipped into something akin to mashed potatoes, bread, mini shoo fly pies, A-Treat soda and lord knows what else.

Because suddenly life is shorter and the carbohydrates and sweets provide a taste of celebration.

I ate a vat of spaghetti squash when I arrived home and helped my daughter design a marching band show for her music assignment. Her dream has long been to play Cake’s Short Skirt Long Jacket in band. So she was ecstatic when the web sure her teacher posted had the music.

It was hard to unify songs since we didn’t have enough Cake songs to do a Cake theme. She found a lot of Green Day and thought maybe she should do all Green Day. But I couldn’t let her dream die.

She found the theme from Die Another Day— which I believe is Madonna performing in the James Bond film. I didn’t think mixing a movie theme and alternative would work. And her band director has done a Bond show.

Finally I researched early 2000s alternative rock in a Google search and we decided on Nickelback. Green Day’s Basket Case for the Opener, followed by the Cake song, closed by some Nickelback song that I’ve forgotten already.

So the theme would be alternative rock from the era in which these musicians were born.

And here’s Nala, my Goffin’s cockatoo, rocking out to Green Day.

Nala rocking to Green Day

REVIEW: The CAKE Entertainment Experience, 9/22/13

Starland Ballroom

Starland Ballroom

This essay is a rough draft of a concert review I wrote of the CAKE concert I attended last week. I put it together because I want to remember my impressions of the night. Hopefully, I’ll prepare a more polished version later.

CAKE at the Starland Ballroom, 9/22/2013

The CAKE Entertainment Experience, as lead singer John McCrea billed it to us, amused me in a way no other live concert ever has. The venue was small, and therefore intimate, and a $7 parking pass came with early entrance to the general admission Starland Ballroom. The Starland Ballroom sits beside a junk yard in what appears as an old industrial park and the drive through town brings you through some every-one-identical post World War II tiny ranch homes which heightens a sense of quasi-dilapidated creepiness.

The band had no opening act, opening for themselves at 9 p.m., and played two sets. They were hard-at-work promoting their latest album, the self-released Showroom of Compassion. The set list (see below) featured a wide array of songs from their entire discography, which kept the crowd happy and engaged.

My husband had remarked that this was the first concert where he really knew all the music of a band, and I didn’t even realize that at the time of the show we owned their five main albums. I came home and bought the one we were missing, and the only reason I hadn’t before is because it was Rarities and B-sides. When they performed a cover of “War Pigs” from that album as an encore, it wounded my heart in such a way I had to go get the missing piece to our collection.

The concert was fun and familiar and laid back like hanging out with an eclectic bunch of friends. Picture it as five guys: three dressed casually, but well, in clothes that hung nicely against them; of course there’s one guy with the sport coat and nice slacks (Vince DiFiore); and finally the crazy friend full of big personality, in his trucker hat, bushy beard, light blue zip up hoodie and burnt orange jeans with the faded batch on the back pocket from his wallet (McCrea).

McCrea’s conversations with the crowd and guidance for audience participation made the evening feel more like a party, which I suppose is the difference between an intimate venue and a large stadium concert. I’m done small venues before– college sports centers or renovated classic theaters– but I’ve never enjoyed the interaction between audience and band quite like this one.

The audience sing alongs were not only fun but became quasi-competitive with the division of attendees to sing the lines from “Sick of You” as McCrea’s “escapists” (“I want to fly away”) and those full of “gratuitous hostility” (“I’m so sick of you”) based on the geography of the room and a disappearing pizza sign, not our true feelings.

Of course, the musicians did not disappoint. I don’t even know what exactly Fiore played but I know it was more than simple trumpet and keyboard. He had at least one other percussion instrument in there and something else that sounded like a harmonica but I didn’t catch a glance of it. My husband remarked on how busy he was, and indeed that was true. My main question was how could he play so many instruments for so long and still wear a blazer. He had to be melting!

I am not a musician, in any way, but I did enjoy the solos of guitarist Xan McCurdy and watching the work of drummer Paulo Baldi. I couldn’t see much of bass guitarist Gabe Nelson although I could watch his fingers. McCrea did introduce everyone and highlight their segments in various songs.

For a people watcher, the venue offered a unique opportunity to watch the younger generation drink too much and pass out on the floor before the show even started. And I watched with captivated confusion as a very inebriated small blonde woman performed a badly choreographed bump-and-grind against her very beefy football player type boyfriend and then tried to persuade the stranger beside them, a sober woman, to join them.

The band gave away a Red Delicious apple tree at the end of intermission. The recipient made promises that she would care for the tree forever and send pictures every few years.

The Starland itself was recently remodeled after flooding in Hurricane Sandy. The ticket prices were very reasonable at $45/head after the taxes and fees. Apparently, CAKE was one of the first bands to performed at the reopened concert hall.

We arrived in Sayreville around 6 p.m. when the concert wasn’t billed to start until eight. We noticed a random dot on Google Maps listed as “Brass Monkey Sports Pub.” Everyone one in our party was not only old enough to purchase alcohol but also of a generation that can recall the words to the Beastie Boys song of the same name, so this was our reason for seeking it out.

We found ourselves in a strip mall, near a Chinese massage parlor and an African grocery. At the end unit of the strip mall, we discovered a liquor store. And almost nothing else. We peeked around the corner and there stood a woman smoking a cigarette. She confirmed that this indeed was the Brass Monkey. We headed in, and for a brief moment, based on the strange location of the place and the configuration of walls near the door that didn’t let you see in, I worried that perhaps we had found ourself at a certain kind of bar that involved dancing girls.

But no. We had a round of drinks with football on the telly. Some folks played pool in the corner. The rear wall was the back of the coolers in the liquor store which made a queer kind of sense in my mind. That killed almost an hour.

From there, we headed into the industrial park. We parked right in front of the Starland’s door. They lined us all up, gave us wristbands if we were 21, and left us there standing under the darkening sky with at least six airplanes circling in a holding pattern overhead.  They opened the doors at eight. The crowd consisted of every age, college kids, even some parents and their kids.


Sad Songs and Waltzes (cover), Fashion Nugget
Opera Singer, Comfort Eagle
Frank Sinatra, Fashion Nugget
Bound Away, Showroom of Compassion
Long Time, Showroom of Compassion
Mustache Man, Showroom of Compassion
Federal Funding, Showroom of Compassion
Wheels, Pressure Chief
Sick of You, Showroom of Compassion


Love You Madly, Comfort Eagle
Stick Shifts and Safety Belts, Fashion Nugget
Mexico, Prolonging the Magic
Sheep Go to Heaven, Prolonging the Magic
Never There, Prolonging the Magic

Short Skirt Long Jacket, Comfort Eagle
War Pigs (cover), B-sides and Rarities
The Distance, Fashion Nugget