The Day my Door Froze Shut

That day is today.

Growing up in California, the concept of “cold” has evolved for me over the last couple years. At 60 degrees in Southern California, I would frequently claim that I was “freezing.” These days, at 40 degrees, I’m like “It’s shorts weather! Hallelujah!”

Sure, I was living in D.C. during Snowmaggedon, but that was back when snow was novel and beautiful. That was back when I worked three blocks away from my apartment, a distance a careful walker could expertly traverse in 3 inch heels.

I’ve lived through a few winters now, though. Snow isn’t nearly as pretty – instead, it’s that stuff making my mile walk to the metro a danger; the stuff I’m scraping off my car; the stuff freezing the front door to my apartment building shut.

Last weekend, Mother Nature – ever the tease – blessed us with two uncommonly beautiful late-February days. It wasn’t until the sunshine sprinkled down from the heavens onto my pale, sun-depraved skin that I realized what I was missing. It might have been the most truly joyful moment I’d had in months.

What does a California girl do to fight off Jack Frost and the cold, wintery blues?

  • Use music to transport away – far, far away. Suggested artists: Beach Boys, Jimmy Buffet, Brother Iz
  • Cook goodies, then eat said goodies. You’re going to be stuck indoors wearing sweatpants for a few months, anyways. People on the East Coast find this “Winter weight” to be acceptable. Enjoy.
  • Exercise. Just because you can wear sweatpants doesn’t mean you want to test the limits of the elastic. Besides, you have to be ready for when the summer springs back up!
  • Make new friends. How do you make new friends without venturing out into the icy wild? Watch great movies, immerse yourself into a long-running TV series, and fall into other literary worlds.
  • Plan your escape. When you’re wallowing in the deep, dark, seemingly endless winter, you need a light at the end of the tunnel. A vacation to fantasize about can help keep your spirits up when all else feels hopeless.
  • Dress for success. When you have to venture out, learn to layer. And forget those “fashion” scarves that people in L.A. wear. You’ll want that hearty, thick, knit, grandma scarf when the subzero wind is burning your face. Trust me.tumblr_mtucbfRwGE1sjp8pio1_500
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Christmas Cards, So Passé?

Last week, I shared some of my favorite family Christmas cards from through the years. Each card represents a moment in our lives, and in society. Trends change in hair, clothes, and even the cards themselves. It seems that the ever-growing grasp of technology on culture has even overcome this time honored tradition. Much to USPS’ chagrin, snail mail continues to make its way towards becoming utterly obsolete. Christmas cards have devolved from handwritten notes to loved ones, to mass-typed family newsletters, to electronically ordered pictures mailed to relatives, to ecards, to a Facebook post simply stating “Happy Holidays.”

Where’s the love?

That might be a bit of an over-exaggeration. Even among my tech savvy generation, there are the few who find ways to bring a personal touch to their holiday greetings. In fact, this year I’ve creating my own original holiday greeting and annual update. Check it out:

Holiday Infographic 2013

Babies on a Plane

I love people watching. There are few places that offer a better chance to observe human nature than an airport. It’s been a while since I shared an air travel story, so put your tray tables up, your seat in the upright position, and buckle up for a story from 10,000 ft.

My flight from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles requires a quick layover in Dallas, by far one of my least favorite airports. Mostly, I find that the whole “Everything’s bigger in Texas” thing also applies to the people sitting next to you on your flight. As I get to my seat, I’m elated to see I will not have to rub shoulders with my neighbor, but little did I know that my flight would be less than comfortable.

Just as the final passengers are trickling onto the plane, I notice an odd sound coming from the row in front of me—the sound of four distinct breathing patterns. I freeze. The plane is full, there’s nowhere to hide. I close my eyes and say a prayer for peace on Earth and peace within the heart of the baby placed on her Mother’s lap. My prayers go unanswered.

Within minutes, before we’ve even pulled away from the gate, the stale air of the cabin fills with a piercing screech that would shame

even the shrillest of banshees. It’s a sign of the times that the bouncing bundle lacking joy wants to play with an iPad. But wait—there’s another child flying with them, a girl between the ages of three and five. Like a broken record accompanying the baby’s squeals, the older sister begins repeating ad nauseam, “Mommy, you’re closing your eyes.” As if that was news to her mother. At that volume and with that much repetition, it’s news to no one on the plane.

And then, something happens that I could never have predicted, and yet should have expected. The baby’s shrieks have excited another baby a few rows back. They embark on what can only be described as an all out scream off. For each round, the blessed babes elevate their screeches just one pitch higher and louder than the other.

If I’ve ever been thankful for being childless, now is the moment.

I admit I was already pretty peeved this morning. I woke up at 5am after only a couple hours of restless sleep, hindered by a long-standing fear of oversleeping and missing a flight. My exhaustion was tested when the cashier at Dunkin Donuts poured me a coffee with cream even though I explicitly ordered a black coffee. I was too far down the terminal to turn back by the time I’d taken my first sip and realized her mistake. My coffee-addicted, lactose-intolerant body has not been handling the surprise well.

As the babies test their lung capacity (and their respective mothers’ will power), the captain announces that we’d be a bit delayed because the ground crew needs to defrost the plane. Something tells me this won’t be a problem when I’m leaving LA to come back.

Just as the diva infants begin to bring their war of wails to an end, a third baby chimes in. Rather than join his peers in eardrum shattering cries, our latest entrant opts for an onslaught of coos. It’s like baby acapella of the worst possible sort. I try to find a melody in the trio’s vocal eruptions. Alas, no baby Mozart’s in this group. To my dismay, it’s simply a continuous mix of dissonant tones. Maybe it’s a post-melody, post-harmony arrangement—seems perfectly plausible.

I remember one of the first flights I look as a child. At least I think I do, though I shouldn’t be held the accuracy of my recollection. My brother and I flew with my parents to Hawaii. We were on one of those big planes with the long center rows. Our parents seated us on the inside of the row—even then I felt suffocated. The flight felt endless, but we entertained ourselves with our shiny new Power Ranger toys. I can only imagine that there was some caffeine-deprived passenger wishing my own mother had decided against taking us along.

justin_babyairplane

Baby 1’s name is Dar. I pick up this information midway through the flight when her older sister rats her out for spilling popcorn. Her mother, like a pro, continues to chat to her neighbor as though oblivious to the clear and utter chaos around her. Older Sister alerts her mother that Dar is now eating popcorn off the floor. Mother continues to chat with her neighbor (how exactly the baby managed to reach the popcorn on the floor is beyond me).

The floor-popcorn distracts Dar enough to halt the screaming. A moment of silence, but I know this glorious break won’t last long. It’s just an intermission in a show I never asked to attend. I close my eyes, welcoming the possibility for rest. Just as I’m about to drift off, Baby 2 begins to sob, surely missing his or her new companions. I’ve never been so happy to hear that the plane has begun its descent into the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.

Almost home!

Holiday Cheer Through the Years

Last year, I took you on a culinary tour of my family’s holiday traditions – from Mexican tamales to German cookies. Food isn’t the only thing I look forward to every year. Check out some of my favorites and stay tuned for more holiday pics from the archives over the next few weeks!

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Which picture is your favorite? Share some of your favorite and cringe-worthy holiday pics by leaving a comment below or tweeting them to @liane_w!

25 Fun Facts For My 25th Birthday

Today marks a quarter century since my narcissistic ego took this world by storm. That’s right, October 28th is my 25th birthday! (Take that, Mom!) You know what else that means? It’s time to start the 10-year countdown until I’m eligible to run for President of the United States. While you pull out your doomsday clock, I thought I’d take this opportunity to get a little personal. Every successful politician knows how to balance strength and vulnerability. After all, no one likes a robot, just ask Mitt.

On this momentous occasion, join me in celebrating my glorious life with these 25 fun facts for my 25 years of life:

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Did you learn anything new about me? Let me know!

Philadelphia – The Early Years from an Early Riser

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Greetings from the city of brotherly love! It’s my first time in the great Philadelphia and I couldn’t be more excited. Unfortunately I’m still waiting on my friends and city tour guides to wake up! In the mean time, I’m getting a head start on my Philly facts and history.

Did you know the city of Philadelphia is coming up on its 331st birthday this month? In the year 1682, on October 27 (just a day before my own birthday *hint*) William Penn founded the city after being given a fairly large chunk of American land in repayment of a debt the king owed William’s father, Admiral Sir William Penn. Today that land is Pennsylvania (get it?)…and part of Delaware.
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I often wonder what I would name the kingdom I was born to run, but something about Weissenbergersylvania just doesn’t have a great ring to it. Lianeville seems far too provincial. I’m open to suggestions from the crowd–an indication of my fair, just, and humble leadership style.

For a student of history, Philadelphia rivals Washington D.C. for it’s prominence in the American story. In fact, I think it’s clear that when it comes to Team USA, Philly made the team far sooner. Let’s not forget that Philadelphia’s Carpenters’ Hall housed the First Continental Congress in September 1774. It was in the Pennsylvania State House that they met again in May 1775, and ultimately in July 1776 to write and sign their official FU to England, the Declaration of Independence.

While the Nation’s capital was being built down south along the Potomac, Philly kept the seat warm by serving as a temporary capital for 10 years between 1790-1800. Congress hung out in (suitably) Congress Hall, formerly the Philadelphia County Courthouse, while the Supreme Court took residence at City Hall. The executive branch, the big GW, lived at 6th & Market Street in the donated home of Robert Morris (who is more or less the economic mastermind of the US financial system). His home was renamed President’s House-again, super creative times for naming things. I guess we can’t all have the artistic expertise to choose titles like “White House.”

A note on Robert Morris: This dude was the first guy to officially use the dollar sign. Now that’s bada$$!

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Keep checking in for history from the field!

“Philadelphia is my greatest inspiration. — filmmaker David Lynch

Baking with Bourbon

Before all my friends and family start hating me for my weird tirade on their children, I thought I’d take a step back and talk about this week’s culinary adventures. Last week, I tried my hand at a truly Mexican-American combination dish: Fried Chicken Mole and Waffles. This week, I went a little more traditional Americana.

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One of my coworkers is what I consider the definition of Southern sweetheart…with an edge. As I’ve made something of a habit of bringing baked treats in to work for notable (and some not-so-notable) occasions, when I found out her birthday was coming up, I couldn’t help myself.

I decided to make a cupcake that reminds me of her–something Southern, sweet, but definitely edgy. That’s how I came up with my recipe for Pecan Pie Cupcakes w/ Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting. I’ll warn you, when I say Bourbon, I mean mean Bourbon with a capital B!

The sweet, sticky pecan pie mixture caramelizes on the top, while simultaneously seeping into the airy, pillowy brown sugar cupcake. Then it hits you, the unmistakeable warming tingle of bourbon. Between the sugar and the booze, you may feel a little woozy for just a second. That’s to be expected.

All good food should make you take a moment. It should transport you from where you stand to another place, another time, another memory, or somewhere you’ve never been before. Good food should make you feel something–joy, love, nostalgia, whimsy, even fear or anger. In many ways, good food is a lot like a good book. If you close your eyes, and bite into this cupcake, here’s where you might go:

It’s Thanksgiving in the American South. It’s a joyful, wholesome family celebration. You’re a child, running around in a post-dessert sugar rush. In an effort to calm you, your grandfather sneaks you your first taste of bourbon. His hearty chuckle booms through the air. The drink stings a bit, but the warmth feels nice juxtaposed to the chilly winter air. You play for a bit longer, but as the night gets darker and the warmth continues to spread, you find yourself yearning for your bed. You climb into bed, feeling cozy and safe in a way that only children can. You nod off…

Then you open your eyes and you’re standing in your work kitchen, realizing that you actually grew up in Los Angeles, and were far more likely to be slipped a margarita than bourbon. But that’s the magic of it….

Pecan Pie Cupcakes w Bourbon Frosting