Thursday, May 20, 2010

Things I need to make time for

Time seems really short to me these days. I hear about something that interests me, but can't get to it and then three days later it's too far from my mind for me to go back, remember and read it. So, before I forget, here are some bookish things I hope to get to soon. Maybe this will spark your memory?

I'm interested in William Jelani Cobb's new book on President Obama: The Substance of Hope
Did you know that Dr. Cobb has been in Russia for a few months? Very interesting updates from his Twitter timeline (@jelani9). He's on his way to the U.S. right now and launching the book at the Carter Center in Atlanta in a few days.

When I'm feeling a low and needing to pump myself up, I go to Mary J. Blige. She so rocks that Black woman swagger vibe. (And yes, I believe women have swagger and I am getting better at remembering mine). So I really want to read Mark Anthony Neal's essay on Mary J. Blige as the "New American Voice." (He's @newblackman on Twitter) MJB has been cast as Nina Simone for a biopic about the singer. I have real mixed feelings about that. I have doubts MJB's acting ability for what I think is such an amazing role. But I do love MJB ...

And I hope to get The Little Black Book of Success this weekend. It's by three corporate professionals who wrote down leadership advice targeted at Black women. One of my little dreams is to read this with a group of corporate women I know and do a discussion or discussions about it.

What's on your TBR (To be read) list?

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Red Velvet Cake Day

This post is not at all about books. Consider yourself warned.

My birthday is tomorrow. It’s a big one. And for awhile I’ve been thinking I should do something big. Go back to Paris. Create a bucket list. Do a zip line experience. Throw a big party.

And I didn’t do any of it. I have lots of excuses, but they’re just excuses. With enough planning, faith and creativity I could have made those things happen. I just didn’t.

I decided a week ago that I would do something, though.

I would make a red velvet cake from scratch.

[I used Tayari Jones' amazing recipe. Wonderful.]

No, this is not a life-shattering moment. It’s not even my first time making a red velvet cake (RVC) from scratch. (And yes, my health-conscious friends, I know it is full of sugar and red dye. It’s not a staple food – I will be back to kale smoothies tomorrow).

But it’s been a long time. And I love RVC.

I’d decided that my birthday would be my own National RVC day. I would have at least one piece of RVC for my birthday.

Usually I’m a little disappointed in the RVC I buy in stores and restaurants. There are a few exceptions.

I didn’t want to be disappointed this year. Though I was really tired today and we started late (I made the cake with my kids), I persevered!

Using Tayari Jones’ recipe, I ended up with a beautiful cake. In spite of …
Not having three cake pans (used a Bundt pan instead)
Putting in the wrong amount of butter (added the last of the butter about 5 steps late)
Thinking I didn’t have vinegar – and finding it at the last minute.

What I remembered as I iced the cake after 9 p.m., I felt silly. I baked a cake for myself even though I wasn’t having a party or even dinner with friends.

I wished so to be close enough geographically to my mother an aunts so I could ask one of them to bake a cake for me. It sounds very selfish. It is.

And that’s what I remember that my great aunts and aunts do and did for each other. So many times I remember hearing one aunt say she’d gone to pick up her cake from my Aunt “L” [not using their full names]. Or being in the house when my mother was baking someone a cake or pie – or two – one for their family and one just for that person.

Baking a cake for someone is such an obvious labor of love. It takes time, a little of your own money, and skill. And the fortitude to create something wonderful that you’ll send out of your house.
As I put the icing on the cake – and I am terrible at icing a cake – I wished I had someone who loved me enough to bake me cake.

The truth is, there are many people who love me that much. I know that.

And the ones who would (and do!) bake me cakes are just too far away.

But I could do it for myself. I love myself that much.