I’d rather be the hammer than the nail

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Everything is connected. All the time. Don’t you think? Let me explain. My husband and I snuck off to see the movie Wild on Friday night. It was the first book I read when I joined my book club a few years ago. Great book. Great movie. Great book club. But this isn’t about the movie or the book club. This is about the soundtrack to the movie. I need to back up a few years.

In 2010 my husband turned the big 4-0. He only wanted one thing to celebrate – a trip to Munich, Germany for Octoberfest. Turned out that 2010 was a celebratory year for that event (I can’t remember if it was 150 years or 100 years). Either way it was a big year for them too. So we went, and it was a blast. Him and I are really good travel companions (not in an Amazing Race kind of way, but in a relaxed House Hunters International kind of way). We stayed about a mile from the fairgrounds and headed there the first night we arrived. It was out of control and amazing. Crowded. Loud. Did I mention crowded? Our favorite haus introduced us to all kinds of characters (we were almost lured into a tricky situation but that’s another story). We had a blast. A couple of notes for those who have never been. There are a lot of Italians there. A lot. Molto. Also, John Denver is their God. Everywhere you go – in every tent – every 5 minutes – they play Take me home, country roads. The entire place stops and all the Italians and all the brauhaus servers sing along holding hands. True story. I’m off the rails. Back to why everything is connected.

By the third night we were pretty much done with all the fest fun. My husband suggested we find a small, local pub off the beaten track and spend the evening there instead. And because he has a tracking device for such places, we found one on the other side of town. Quiet. Small. Almost empty. Dark. Perfect. We settled in with our beers, ordered some food and chatted with the two other people in there. Did you know Germans are very friendly? Did you know Germans in a bar with beers are even friendlier? They are. After about an hour of hanging out there, the doors to the pub flew open and an entire oompah band walked in. Have you ever seen an oompah band? Sorry I’m asking so many questions. Oompah bands aren’t petite. Here’s what they kinda looked liked.

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Imagine this group with those instruments walking into a small, dark, pub – you notice. Turns out that the oompah band are regulars here. And they don’t just put their instruments down and relax, oh no. They play. They play loud. By the time they got there, we were ready for some excitement and my husband started hooting and hollering as he often does and recording them with his phone. We bought them beers. We sang along. It was great fun. At the end of the night they played Simon and Garfunkel’s El Condor Pasa. My husband leaped out of his seat and started yelling and screaming. What can I say? He likes Simon and Garfunkel – and we were so happy not to be hearing John Denver. They played really well and I thought I knew the song but couldn’t remember. My husband turned to me and said,” you know, I’d rather be a hammer than the nail…yes I would, yes I would.” I nodded and smiled. Oh yeah, I said, sure I remember. Truthfully I had no idea.

Days after we got home from the trip we would play that song and even John Denver to remind us of the trip. We even made the kids listen, showed them all the videos. Eventually the videos got deleted, because unless our kids in them – they really don’t seem to make the cut.

A few months after the trip we were still thinking/talking/singing about our time away. My husband decided to Youtube videos of Octoberfest one night – that’s how desperate we were to relive our time. He watched videos of all the differnt brauhaus fun. Then he typed in El Candor Pasa Oompah band. And the first video that popped up was the one he clicked. He turned it up. It ended. He watched it again. Turned it up louder. It was a dark video of an oompah band playing the song in a small pub. No way. He called me over. He said, “do you recognize this?” He played the video and it looked kind of familiar – but it was so dark, I couldn’t make it out. Then he turned it up and pointed to the corner of the room – where there was a dude recording a video of the band and hooting and hollering. NO!! It couldn’t be!! But it was. Someone else from that bar had recorded the band too – and in the background was my husband holding up a phone and yelling. You couldn’t really make out his face, it was blurry – but it was him! Come on!! That’s fantastical no? I feel my kids rolling their eyes somewhere out there in the universe. We’ve told them the story a few million times. It’s a good story.

Ok I’m getting excited again. Back to the movie. Told you it wasn’t really a review. The soundtrack is amazing. It’s the one thing that kept my husband awake the whole time. And I know he liked the movie, even though he kept tapping me and asking,” when does it get WILD?” every few minutes. He’s hysterical.  I’ll ask one last question. What song do you think they played all throughout the movie? Yep. That’s the one.

Everything is connected, even if it involves oompah bands and book clubs.

Instagram insomnia

It’s 10:38pm. I have to wake up and go to work in about a minute. I should be tucked in and sleeping, deep in my REM cycle. But I’m wide awake, going into the rabbit hole known as Instagram. It’s evil. It’s wonderful. It compares only to the black hole of time known as Pinterest.
Lately I’m knee deep in NatGeo on Instagram. You know those annoying magazines that were all over your elementary school library? Turns out – it was full of the coolest stuff ever, photographed by even cooler people. Who knew?
Here’s a blue whale in Hawaii with a local diver, the Grand Tetons in their glory, a stare down by a young bear on the Denali mountains, a sea walrus tribe waiting for a baby to be born, a turtle in French Polynesia and an original point of view of the Pope. Take that People Magazine!
Ok. I need to go to bed. Right after I look at 1,000 more photos. All photo cred goes to the gods at Nat Geo.

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You say tomato, I say bruschetta

We had a fun weekend out on Long Island with our Aunt Kathy. Picked up our daughter from her annual visit, went to the beach and met some furry friends (and their pink gooey toys). I wish everyone had an Aunt Kathy.
She’s smart, funny and sassy. And if that wasn’t enough, her green thumb is off the hook. She could start one of those annoying, hipster farming co-ops if she wanted to. But she wouldn’t.
She loaded us up on the way home with green bean, eggplant and tomatoes. Not sure what I’ll do with the other stuff, but I know exactly how to polish off the toMAtoes.
To be saved for another day –

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To be eaten ASAP!

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Camera Ready

A couple of months ago my father-in-law gave us an old Polaroid camera.
It wasn’t for a birthday or anniversary or any milestone. As is his habit, he’ll periodically give something to one of the kids that he thinks is important for them to keep and carry on. Many times it’s a piece of jewelry that means something to him, or a pocket-knife that was passed down by his dad, or even a nifty flashlight/lantern combo (flashlights are important). Occasionally he’ll give some sort of a weapon. Nothing scary. There’s a certain bayonet that lives in our house, in case of, you know, a zombie apocalypse.
It’s a sweet tradition.
This camera came with a story. As almost all the gifts do. A family legend that involved money owed, the Montauk police, false accusations, corruption and bravery. I can’t do the story justice, you’ll have to ask him yourself. What I know is that the good guy won. And thank goodness. This camera would go on to take the photos that helped define my husband’s family. It was quite the thing to own back then. State of the art and high-end. But photos were always important to the family.

We love photos in this house too. We’ve loved them before you could take a thousand a day. They are the art in our home and the gifts that we give.
Some of my favorite photos of my husband and his childhood were taken with this camera.  I posted a few below.

The shot of him in Carl Schurz Park by the river as a baby – look at that fierce dress his mom is wearing! On a side note, for years I thought it was called Carlshultze park because of my hubbies’ thick NYC accent.
The other shot is of his dad, in Montauk, soon after he got the camera. I love that picture.
But my all-time favorite shot. The one that I still catch him looking at on a regular basis, is the one on the couch with his mom and one of his sisters. Laughing. Carefree. And completely happy.
I know it wasn’t the camera that did that. But it was there. It helped capture the moment. In that room. By the river. In the field.
So we put the camera where it belongs, right alongside these amazing pictures in our home.
I get a little sad thinking about what I’ll give to my kids. I imagine it going like this,” Kids, here’s my iPhone. The first one ever created. It’s -1G. It’s what I used to take shots without filters and without posting or tweeting. Cherish it.”
Oh well.

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Carrot Cake 101

A couple of years ago I was gifted a fantastic cookbook called “Flour”. It is based on a bakery in Boston called Flour Bakery (duh). I love this book. I’ve made many of the recipes. I even went and found the bakery in Boston. Like all pilgrimages, there was a little bit of let-down (what? you aren’t impressed that I have your cookbook and love it? I’m not the first person to come in and want to chat about it?) – but in the end I felt validated. Croissants have a way of validating me.
My two go-to recipes are the banana bread and the carrot cake.
My two biggest fails from the book are the granola bar cookies and the chocolate almond dacquoise. That’s another story.

I made the carrot cake this weekend. Try it. People will hug you for it.

As always – here’s the recipe and the visual. You know I like pictures.

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Notice I added raisins. My man likes raisins. What can I say.

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Sift the flour, baking soda and powder, salt and cinnamon. My “sifter” is a strainer that I warped in the dish washer. Just an fyi.
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Cream the oil, sugar and eggs. 

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Add your carrots. Please don’t use the pre-shredded ones. They are covered in some sort of nuclear coating so they don’t stick together. But that coating also make it impossible for them to soften in the cake. So go old school and shred by hand. 
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Add vanilla. This is a homemade bottle my little bitty sister gave me a while ago. I keep adding store bought vanilla and trying to extend the life. Poor me. If only SOMEONE would make me more. Anyhoo.

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Add raisins if you want to or if you’re maritally committed to.
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Combine the dry and wet ingredients.

Divide amongst your pans. If you are are suspicious of non-stick pans like I am – add some non-stick spray. Otherwise, be normal and healthy and skip this step. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes .
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I forgot to add pecans to the ingredients photo. So sorry. These very very important. Toast a cup and let cool.
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Then using a highly evolved Ziploc bag/bottom of a plastic bowl method – pound them into pieces.
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Make the frosting by creaming butter, powdered sugar, vanilla (poor poor me) and cream cheese together in an empty kitchen, better to do multiple tastings.
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Frost between layers and frost. You only have to make the top look pretty. 
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Take the pecans and use them like Spanx all around the cake. They push and tuck all the unruly bits into place. You have a tight, toned and together cake. 
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Refrigerate for an hour before serving and then sit back and accept all the love. 

Happy Birthday Ho Ho Ho

We spent the weekend with one of my husband’s favorite aunts. I adore her too. She lives in a beautiful home in the Pocono Mountains of PA. She invited us to celebrate both my husband’s birthday (past) and her birthday (coming up). I made my husband’s favorite, carrot cake.

Besides the fresh, cool air – the first thing that hits you when you walk into the house is….well, see for yourselves.

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Notice anything?
Here’s a close-up.

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Have you ever seen a prettier tree…in August?
We teased her about it mercilessly, as any loving family would. She gave us a very rational, reasonable reason for it. But I can’t remember what it was. The twinkling lights were distracting me.
The funniest thing is that by the end of the night, we were all gathered around it and felt completely and utterly normal! Who’s crazy now?
Here’s a pic of the amazingly sane woman with a completely done up Christmas tree in August and her beautiful daughter.

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And here’s a quick pic of the carrot cake I made. I’ll write a detailed post with recipe tomorrow. Again, I can’t focus because there’s a Christmas tree in this house and I love it. I vote for year round trees! I vote for crazy!

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Roots-Trees-Forest

That’s a mantra I heard from a speaker at our last conference. The talk was about leadership. So simple and clear. A good leader has to see the roots, the trees and the forest. Got it. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Something about the idea bothered me.
It’s a perfect concept for leadership. Don’t be stuck in the weeds. Don’t get bogged down by the minutiae.
Except that for events it’s all wrong. An event is all about the roots. The dirt. The seed. You start at the top and then you deconstruct.
You focus on every little detail.
Minutiae is my life.
You know that expression “stuck in the weeds”? I’m living in the weeds. So for all you future event planners out there – here’s the truth – Events is weeds, roots and dirt. You’ll be in it. All the time. Knee deep.
I should be a motivational speaker.
I get very reflective on 5 hour flights to the West Coast.
Here’s what I saw outside my window while writing this. Forget the roots – I’m up in the clouds. Oh the irony.

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