Monthly Archives: February 2010

On an Unabashedly Personal Note

Married With Children fountain, Chicago

It took a while to find an appropriate photo for this post, a nice one of Shawn and me together (this one is rather silly, but that just might be fitting). There is a surprising dearth of pictures of us, given the amount of time that we have been together. What I did find were hundreds of pictures of places we have been, pictures of me holding his little nieces and nephew, my own little niece in his arms, infatuated. Pictures of his family folding me in and mine his, friends, too. I found pictures of our apartment when it was new, lovely and bare bones, and our old apartment cramped and packed full. Stunning landscapes. Farmers market veggies in the sun. A goldmine of terrible pictures of yours truly lolling about the apartment, making ridiculous faces in a variety of beautiful places, pictures I would never want to share, a testament to the fact that Shawn must really, really love me to think such moments are lovely and worthy of documentation. Ah love.

After all my big talk about Valentine’s Day, platonic love, being content to be single and surrounded by love on that day, after sticky buns and ruby rosas (my version of the mimosa — pink grapefruit juice and prosecco instead of OJ and champagne — holler if you have a better name for this beverage) and afternoon coffees, Shawn suggested that we walk across the Brooklyn Bridge before dinner. Always happy to walk, I jumped at the offer. The light on the bridge was crazy — bold and golden coming in off the harbor, stormy blue over Manhattan — and I made him stop to snap a few photos as we walked. When we got to the first support towers, the Brooklyn side, he asked if I minded stopping. It was very windy. It crossed my mind to suggest moving to the other side of the tower where we would be more shielded, but I did not get the words out. Even I was able to pick up on social cues and realize that it is impolite to suggest moving when one’s boyfriend is getting down on bended knee, fumbling in his pocket for your great-grandmother’s ring, asking you to be his wife.

I was not a little girl who dreamed about my wedding day. I have always been rather opposed to the wedding industry, the vast quantities of money spent on one day, couples starting married life in wedding debt. And yet, and yet…the past 10 days have been a flurry of phone calls, emails,  DIY blog-reading, general daydream scheming. I am super excited. This will be a hippie, crafty, DIY affair. It may be a potluck, because I love potlucks, because I believe strongly that food is love, and because I want my people involved.

Time will tell. Crafts will be documented. I will do my best not to turn this here blog into a forum about how I’m obsessed with wedding planning (I vow not to go Bridezilla, but I can totally see how that happens now). But some people have been wanting a story, and this seemed as good a place as any to lay it out. So there you have it. After 4 years of co-habitation, 5 years of being together following less than a year (but my oh my did it feel like more) of being new BFFs (the kind where the boy was secretly in love with the girl), after baby-faced travels, hundreds of small adventures, amazing and heartening lessons learned, Mr. Shawn and I are opting to hold onto this relationship, this feeling of home and boundless support, this love, for the rest of our lives.

And that, my friends, is where my head has been.


Chocolate Raspberry Sticky Buns: A Sweet and Gooey Outpouring on Valentine’s Day

Valentine from my little brother, circa age 8

I love Valentine’s Day! For those of you who’d care to point fingers at my relationship and claim that this is not a day for those not in one (you know who you are), I would like to point out that I have ALWAYS loved Valentine’s Day. Due to faulty timing and a lack of long-term relationships, I never even had a romantic Valentine before Shawn, but I never felt the scrambling pressure to get myself one, always enjoyed the opportunity to sit back and celebrate love. Emotional creature that I am, I love any opportunity for the kind of outpouring that takes place on Valentine’s Day — whether it begins in a deeply romantic or a Hallmark-forced place, efforts are made, celebration is had, love abounds, and I think it’s freakin’ awesome.

I suppose it started when I was little and my momma would make us egg in a hole for breakfast on Valentine’s Day, using a heart-shaped cookie cutter to remove the middle of the bread, frying a heart-shaped egg inside, its heart-shaped center fried in butter alongside. Momma gave us little gifts. We exchanged cards in school. There were chocolates and conversation hearts. (Incidentally, this is where I learned the word “coax” at an early age. I still think “coax me” is a weird thing for a conversation heart to say, intermingled with far more straightforward messages of cheesy affection.)  A holiday of hearts and sugar — what could be better to a girlie girl child like me?

My love for Valentine’s Day even survived high school, when surliness ran rampant and I never had a date, though I had terrific friends. One Valentine’s Day at the height of my high school orneriness, one of the best girls I know got a smidge carried away with the making of Valentines, presented me with a poster-sized collage and ode to me as well as a big old bunch of roses. When I got home, my momma asked me where the flowers came from in that “who’s the special someone” voice that mommas save for occasions such as this. Experiencing a fleeting moment of shame about not dating anyone, I mumbled, “just Lauren,” my tone conveying that there was no special someone in my life. Fortunately, I got my wits about me right away and added “I guess I shouldn’t use the word ‘just’ if I’m lucky enough to have friends who will buy me flowers.” Duh. I was flung back, headlong, into my old-timey Valentine’s Day love of love. Apparently, as surly and jaded as I was in those years with my head-to-toe blue and my bitter and biting jokes, I had friends who knew that I was, at the center, still gooey and sweet. Thanks, my dears, for helping me tap into that even in the grumpiest, bluest years. I carry that thought with me on Valentine’s Day, that we are lovable even not at our best., that this is a day for everyone.

I have loved Valentine’s dates with friends, loved making cards, sipping drinks, taking walks, smiling at those in love. And I have loved Valentine’s Day with my boyfriend, five of them now, my beloved dirty gin martinis and dinner at the same cozy restaurant every year, sometimes flowers, sometimes gifts. We’re low on funds this year, so forgoing those things, but we’ll still have our dinner, a walk in the sun, full hearts.

I hope that, honey or no honey, you are able to pamper yourself today. Keep an eye out for the starry-eyed lovers, the friends commiserating over drinks and, in so doing, celebrating love in their own (hidden and potentially embittered) way. Keep an eye out for children bearing paper hearts, for those feeling loneliness on this day, for hearts on sleeves however those hearts are looking. Put some love out, some kindness, too, if you can. If you are home on this winter day, and especially if you are broke like me, whip yourself up something special — something as simple as heart-shaped toast or something as gooey, sticky, and decadently messy as these things that I have concocted.

They are raspberry chocolate sticky buns, and I dreamed them up last night, wandering the aisles of Super Foodtown, trying to come up with something special for my special guy that would not break the bank. Here’s how to make them.

Raspberry Chocolate Sticky Buns – Ingredients:

  • Your favorite cinnamon roll dough (mine is from Cook’s Illustrated, but yours could be from a can for all I care)
  • 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. molasses (or omit the molasses and simply use brown sugar instead of white)
  • zest of one small orange
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 cup raspberries (I used thawed frozen berries, which made it all pretty jammy. Fresh would be awesome)
  • 4 oz. or so dark chocolate, broken into chunks
  • icing

As always, quantities are approximate. The orange zest and little bit of vanilla and spices give the filling an almost flowery taste that is really nice with the raspberries. If you’re not a big chocolate fan, I imagine that upping the spices a bit (maybe some cardamom, too!) and swapping the chocolate out for white chocolate would also be delicious.

How To:

  1. Roll dough into a rectangle, approximately 12″ x 16″
  2. Combine sugar, molasses, orange zest, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, and a dash of salt in a food processor. Or mash them together in a bowl with a fork.
  3. If using frozen raspberries, stir them in.
  4. Spread filling onto dough, leaving a border along the long edges of about an inch.
  5. Sprinkle chunks of chocolate over filling. If using fresh raspberries, dot them over the filling now.
  6. Carefully Roll up along the long edge. If using frozen berries, this will be rather oozy.
  7. Cut into 12 equal pieces and put them, cut-side up, in a buttered 9″ x 13″ pan. I lined mine with parchment paper.
  8. Let rise for an hour or so, then bake at 350 degrees for half an hour, noting that your house smells amazing.
  9. Make some icing. A little cream cheese would be awesome, but I didn’t have any. Mine is made of raspberry juice (drained from my thawing berries), a little yogurt, vanilla, and powdered sugar. It sounds weird, but it’s not — I promise.
  10. Ice your rolls, remove them to a pretty plate, think how nice it is to have such an impossibly sticky and decadent treat for breakfast, and have a happy, sappy Valentine’s Day.